The final races of the EMGP and a new PB

So, I wrote a post a little while back about entering the East Midlands Grand Prix weeknight series of races which took place during the final half term of school (very inconveniently timed with my return to work!)  There are eight races in total.  I wrote about the Silverstone 10k, Blisworth 5m and the Rugby 6m (PB) in my first post about the series.  I’ll jot down some notes about the second half of the series below.

I wish I’d had a chance to blog about the events sooner though, as I always find it hard to go back and write about a race later on, especially if I race several events in quite quick succession.  I’ll do my best to remember as much as I can about each race, but if you want the events summed up in a few bullet points, see below.

* There were eight races, of which I ran six.

* I PBd twice during the series (at 6 miles and 10k).

* I nearly missed the start of every event bar one due to traffic/leaving late/getting lost.

* Once my watch died before the beginning and once I forgot my heart rate monitor.

Those four bullet points pretty much sum up my last six races!  But if you are after a little more detail, then read on…

Corby 5m

What sort of sadistic Race Director starts a 5 mile road race on a steep hill, and then finishes the race on that same hill too?

The Race Director at the Corby 5 race, that’s who!

If a race starts with a steep uphill, you can usually fairly safely assume that you will be finishing on a downhill, in order to get back to the same spot.  However, the Corby 5 runs up a steep uphill at the start, then has a nice, fairly flat/slight downhill couple of miles, before throwing in a couple of hills and ends by running back up that same steep hill that featured at the start of the race before running through into the car park and across to the finish.

I had only run the race once before – in 2012 before I began blogging – but I still remembered those hills!

Nevertheless I planned on giving it my best shot.  There is a nice downhill section into the village in mile 2, and I took advantage of this, knowing that my legs wouldn’t enjoy the steep climb back up to the finish for the final quarter of a mile!

Corby 5m

Towards the end of mile 4 I hit a hill and couldn’t maintain my heart rate, so decided to walk a short portion of the race.  I chatted to another runner as I broke back into a run again.  The other runner hadn’t run the event before so was quizzing me on whether there were any more hills.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that final hill is tough so close to the end!

As always, my club was super supportive and were all there crowded around the finish cheering everybody in.  It’s much easier to produce a finishing kick when you have everybody in front of you screaming your name!

Official time: 48:14
Garmin time: 48:13
Position: 319/360
Gender position: 96/129
Category position: 24/33

More than a minute faster than when I had run it back in 2012.

Banbury 5m

The Banbury 5m event fell the day after I returned to work full time (I had been in for odd days only before the half term holiday).  Oscar had started full time at nursery the day before and, unsure yet of what time I needed to get up each morning to ensure that I was round and ready to leave Oscar in a state suitable for nursery and me fed, showered, and looking presentable with food for the day meant that I was getting up at 4:15am.  Two days in – by the Tuesday evening – I was already absolutely exhausted from lack of sleep.  Oscar gets up once during the night, and I had been going to bed late to try and get my work complete before morning.  It left me without much sleep and within minutes of arriving home from work on Tuesday I announced to Dan that I would not be driving the 55 miles to Banbury (the furthest distance to travel of all the races) and promptly fell asleep on the sofa, where Dan woke me several hours later!

Harborough 5m

This was a new-to-me event, as both times I’ve raced the series in the past I believe it has fallen on parent’s evening.

For some reason Oscar was super tired when I collected him from nursery.  He whinged and whined every time I tried to put him down so that I could get changed or go to the toilet.  Dan arrived home from work at about 6:20pm and I madly dashed around trying to collect everything I needed for the race and get out of the door.

Unhelpfully, as well as leaving late, one of the roads the satnav sent me down to get to the race start was shut and the satnav wasn’t picking up any alternatives, with the diversion signs being no help whatsoever.  I am so reliant on the satnav when it comes to getting anywhere, so I rang Dan and got him to quickly talk me through what alternative route I needed to take.  Luckily, as navigationally-challenged as I am, Dan is the opposite, so he managed to get me to the car park for the race with three minutes to spare.  I dashed out of the car desperate for the toilet, pinning my race number on as I ran over to the mob of green vests I could see by the start.  Somebody called out to welcome me and I screeched back “Where are the loos?!” before rushing in the direction I was pointed towards!  What a welcome Mary!

Quickest wee in the world (only possible because so many people abandoned the line fearing they were going to miss the race) and I managed to make it to the back of the pack just in time to hear the starting shout.

Not so lucky when it came to my watch though.  I had switched it on to find signal as I arrived, only to see this screen…

Harborough 5 Garmin time…it never even made the start line.  :(

The aim for the race had been to run to heart rate (170bpm) but now I would have to go entirely on feel alone, something which I still haven’t been able to judge very accurately since returning from pregnancy.

In actual fact, I think the first three miles of the race were run at parkrun PB pace (8:35mm ish).  It resulted in a really bad stitch, meaning I had to break into a walk, and then even slow that walk down for perhaps quarter of a mile!  That fourth mile would definitely have been nothing to shout about so perhaps it’s a good thing I don’t have any Garmin evidence of it!  My last mile was strong though.  There was a fairly long, drawn-out gradual hill in the final section, and playing it sensible, I was able to pass several of the runners who had zoomed past me during my feeling-sorry-for-myself walk.  I haven’t had a stitch in years, and it was so, so very painful!

Both the start and the finish of the race were a lap around the grassy field – always difficult to remain strong when your legs are tired, you go from road to thick, long grass and you have everybody watching, but somehow I managed to overtake three runners during the lap to finish in 47m 32s.

Position: 280/312
Gender position: 84/107
Category position: 16/21

Weedon 10k

The one and only event where I made it with plenty of time to spare!  Although as I stood waiting to go, somebody asked if I needed to collect my number, as I wasn’t wearing it!  Quick jog back to my car to find it required!

I hadn’t been able to find my heart rate monitor anywhere in the mad rush before leaving the house.  I normally hang it over the bed post at the bottom of the bed, and when I arrived home that evening I discovered that it had fallen off and gotten tucked under the bottom of the bed annoyingly.  I threw my old heart rate monitor in to my kit bag in a hopeful attempt to be able to have some sort of data to base my pace on, but it is my old heart rate monitor for a reason, and it refused to pick up on my Garmin at all, so I ended up offloading it to another club runner’s husband at the start instead of running with it and annoying me the whole way round.

It was another hot day and it wasn’t until we were stood on the start line receiving the race briefing that the Race Director told us all there would be no water station on the course, as there had been a few marshaling problems.  It didn’t really affect me, as I wouldn’t take any water on for less than 10 miles anyway, but there were a few restless runners around me despairing and wishing they had brought water with them for the race.

Weedon is a race known for it’s tough hills, with a large hill at both 2 miles and 4.5 miles.

Weedon 10k hillsThe first hill always seems short and sharp, and there are people stood at the top cheering, so it’s hard to slow down too much as you have an audience!  I find the second one tougher mentally though – perhaps because it’s getting towards the end of the race by that point.

Weedon 10k(Photo by Barry Cornelius)

A few of the runners around me seemed to struggle a lot with the hills, and one guy asked me after the first hill if there were any more hills on the race.  I told him there was another tough one, although I couldn’t remember if it was at mile 4 or mile 4.5 at that point.  Two marshals stood up by the water tower were also asked by a nearby runner if there were any more hills, to which they responded “See the water tower?  That’s the highest point on the course!”  Although the top of the tower might have been fairly high, we didn’t run up there, and there was still a pretty tough hill to come!

Weedon 10k(Photo by Barry Cornelius)

The end of the race is all downhill though, and once you hit the downhill it’s easy running until the last 200 metres, which head up a steep hill towards the finish funnel.

Weedon 10k

Poor form in this downhill shot though…

Weedon 10k 3

…but clearly I perfected my spot-the-race-photographer smile during this race!Weedon 10k

Official time: 61:22
Garmin time: 61:20
Position: 290/324
Gender position: 73/97
Category position: 18/24

My initial plan had been to run to heart rate (170bpm) but unable to do that I was then happy on a hilly course, on a hot day to come away with a sub 10mm pace time, which I achieved.  It was also a time more than 3 minutes faster than the previous time I had run the event back in 2014.

Weedon 10k 2014 recap

Milton Keynes 10k

This was a stepping stone ‘target’ race for me.  Milton Keynes 10k was where I had achieved my previous 10k PB (58:27) and where I knew I had the best shot of improving my 10k time this year.  The course is fairly flat (if you don’t count the numerous redways) and is not overly crowded with a fast, flat, open finish.  I knew that I was in with a shot of coming away with a PB if I ran a smart race and didn’t get carried away at the start.

It was back to my usual problem of getting there on time though.

Leaving late, combined with a bad road traffic accident on the way meant that once again I arrived with just minutes to spare(!)  The start line is a short walk from the race HQ, and I arrived with just enough time to nip into an empty loo as I passed and tag along with a group from my club who were then walking over to the start.  One of the runners hoping to get under an hour asked me what time I was aiming for and I admitted that I was hoping to PB, but that my current time was 58 minutes.  I got the impression that they planned on staying with me, and I secretly hoped nobody would try chatting to me during the run – I wanted to focus and run strong!  I started chatting to one of the club’s membership secretaries and all of a sudden everyone started running forwards.  The race had begun, without our knowledge and so we hurriedly pressed buttons on Garmins and leapt into action.

Like several of the races, the start line is on a field, and so a wide path of runners set out, before narrowing as we came out onto the road.

I counted steps and also kept checking the numbers flashing up on my Garmin, trying my hardest to ensure they stayed between 165-170bpm.  I was struggling to run fast enough to bring my heart rate up to 170bpm, so decided to aim for 165, and reassess at the halfway point if needs be.

Mile 1: 8:45 – 146bpm
Mile 2:
8:51 – 168bpm
Mile 3:
9:08 – 167bpm

Milton Keynes 10k

(Photo by Barry Cornelius)

I was still feeling strong.  I passed a few runners from my running club who have finished other races in the series ahead of me.  I knew I was on target for a good race, and really did not want to spoil it.  My head kept trying to work out the sums over and over, but I can never work out timing math when I’m trying to run!  At least it kept my mind busy!

At mile 4 a bus drove past quickly through a deep puddle and soaked me and another lady that was running alongside me.

Milton Keynes 10k

(Photo by Barry Cornelius)

Mile 4: 9:20 – 168bpm
Mile 5:
9:06 – 164bpm
Mile 6:
9:12 – 165bpm

As my watch ticked over to 6 miles, I pulled alongside Margaret and puffed out that I was heading towards a new PB, as way of explaining why I was overtaking a runner from the same club.  She pushed the pace up a notch to challenge me further and I managed to keep with her, pushing past just before hitting the final field and managing to finish six seconds in front of her.

Milton Keynes 10k

Nubbin (0.27m): 8:11mm pace – 170bpm

I was obviously super happy and crossed the finish line beaming!  It was several minutes before the crowd I normally finish with began to trickle over the line.  I had PBd by nearly two minutes!

Official time: 56:40
Garmin time: 56:36
Position: 394/456
Gender position: 96/136
Category position: 28/35

My watch shows that I ran an average of 9:01mm pacing over the whole distance, so the obvious challenge to set myself for MK10k next year in 2018 will be to get the pace down to something starting with an 8:xx!

A great way to finish the series!

MK 10k 2014 recap
MK 10k 2015 recap

Overall standings:

11th senior lady (out of 16) with 105 points.

To score, runners must take part in at least 5 events out of the eight.  You are given scores relating to your age category for each race.  So, the first Senior lady is given one point, the next two points, and so on.  At the end of the series, each runner’s lowest five scores count and the lower your total score, the better.  (The winner of the series actually only scored 5 points, as they won all races they entered within their age category.)

EMGP resultsBecause I ran six events, my highest score (Silverstone) was disregarded when working out my total.

When was the last time you PBd?  Was it by much?
What is your favourite race distance?
Have you ever missed the start of a race before?

A day in the life of a full time working, training for a marathon Mum

This is an updated ‘Day in the Life’ post, as my routine has changed so much since writing my last one.  These timings are from one day last week, and this day is actually a pretty standard weekday since I returned to full time work back in May.

2:45am – Oscar usually (but not always) wakes me up by calling out to me at about this time.  He wants a feed and so I go and collect him from his room before bringing him back to the comfort of my bed where I can feed and play a quick logic puzzle game on my phone whilst waiting for him to finish drinking.  If he doesn’t fall asleep on me during this feed he still tends to be very sleepy, and after about ten minutes or so I can usually transfer him back to the cot in his bedroom where he drifts off fairly quickly again.  I try to stay awake in my bed until I can no longer hear him rolling around or chatting and then I turn my bedside lamp off before instantly falling back to sleep.  On a good day I might only be up for 15 minutes in total.  On a bad day, it could be an hour in the middle of the night.  On this occasion Oscar was fairly quick and I was able to switch my bedside light off 20 minutes after having initially woken.

5:00am – I set my alarm for this time to give myself a chance to get ready without Oscar in the morning.  I never appreciated in the past just how easy it was to get round when there wasn’t a baby around to slow me down!  I get dressed and grab my own breakfast at this point.  My go-to breakfast at the moment is stodgy porridge topped with blueberries, as it only takes three minutes to prepare.  Anything which is quick and easy at the moment is a winner!

Porridge with blueberries and raspberriesI also nip outside to water the plants in the greenhouse.

5:25am – If Oscar hasn’t already woken by this point, I push his door ajar and then chat to him quietly from outside his room so that he wakes ‘naturally’.  He won’t eat breakfast immediately upon waking, so once I’ve changed his nappy I take him downstairs, place him onto his playmat and pull out a selection of toys for him to play with.  (Nothing too noisy, as Dan is still fast asleep, and I’m nice like that! 😉 )  I spend a little time playing with Oscar so that he is nice and settled before breakfast.  He is usually in the best mood in the mornings and I resent having limited time with him before I have to leave.

Oscar playing6:00am – After feeding Bella (our cat), I make breakfast for Oscar and then pack up lunches for both Dan and I.  I try and vary Oscar’s breakfast every day.  On this day I cut up some fresh strawberries and spread them along with some almond butter over a warm slice of toast which I cut into thin strips to make it easy for Oscar to pick up.

Toast with almond butter and strawberriesOscar is going through a phase of hating being put into his highchair, and unhelpfully tries to make himself as spread out as possible with both his arms and legs, whilst squawking loudly at me.  Eventually I manage to strap him in and he spies the toast, immediately falling into line and reaching out for it.  Whilst Oscar is eating his breakfast I organise his nursery bag and a backup set of clothes for the day, pulling a bag of breastmilk out of the freezer to defrost if required.  On this day there is enough already expressed in the fridge, so I don’t need to defrost any more.  I pile up my lunch, phone charger, Dan’s lunch and Oscar’s nursery bag, milk bottles and coat by the front door, before expressing and placing fresh milk in the fridge for the following day.

6:30am – Dan emerges from the staircase and takes my spot at the table whilst Oscar finishes up his breakfast.  I kiss both of them on the head, confirm the dates for the milk so that Dan can let nursery know when he drops Oscar off at a little before 8am and then drive into work.  When I first returned to work I aimed to leave home by 7am each morning, but leaving that half an hour later resulted in an extra hour or more of travel time, so I gave that up rather quickly!  My journey in is rather dull.  I tend to listen to Heart radio most days as the radio presenters are Blue Peter presenters from my childhood.  (I actually met Katy Hill once!)

7:15am – This is usually the time I arrive at work.  The first 5-10 minutes after I’ve arrived is spent switching on the classroom computers and, at this time of year, opening the windows and turning on the fans in the classroom, before checking my emails and prepping for my lessons that day.  If I don’t have a high volume of lessons, I might be able to sneak 5-10 minutes of Twitter/blog reading time in, but this is very rare nowadays.  I don’t manage any blog time on this particular day.

8:15am – Students from my form start arriving from this point, so I bring up the activity planned for form time onto my computer screen and then jot down a list of notices which I need to share with my form.  There are two teaching periods before morning break, and this morning I am only teaching one of them – a year 7 programming lesson to a lovely group of students.  I love teaching, but I especially love teaching programming, as I find it so satisfying when students ‘get’ how to write the code.  Programming is like one big puzzle which you have to solve!

10:45am – As all year 11 and 13 students have finished for the year, year 8s and 9s have exams and year 10s are off out on work experience placements for the next two weeks I don’t have any further lessons today.  The time is needed to prep for the next academic year within the department though as there are so many changes being introduced to the school in light of the new 9-1 GCSEs.  (Grades A*-G and levels 3+ will no longer be referred to, and instead all of our resources and worksheets must reference the new 9-1 system.)  It feels like a lot of changes in paperwork for the sake of it to be honest, especially when the first set of files (out of hundreds of the resources in our user area) all mention curriculum levels and final grades, requiring an hour of checking and changes just to themselves.  With three new courses in our department next year, there are also a whole load of new resources to be created and with only a few weeks before the end of term I briefly wonder how we are ever going to fit all of the required work in before the holiday.  I really hope I don’t have to work over the Summer.

1:05pm – A quick ten minute break for lunch, – although I’ve already picked at most of mine by now.  It’s rather nice to have some adult conversation.  I did miss that whilst I was off on maternity leave earlier in the year.
Lunch is standard since returning to work.  My lunch ‘requirements’ are that it has to be something which will keep me full and something I can pick at for long portions of the day.  I am all about the variety…and picking!

Healthy lunchbox with salad, fruit and nakd barWe have two ‘work experience’ students with us this week (students whose actual work experience placements fell through at the last minute).  Luckily, as well as being Core Computing students, they also both take ICT as an option, and so I use the rest of the afternoon to help them improve their coursework in the subject.

3:00pm – As students start to leave the site at the end of the day I fight my way back upstairs to my classroom, where I give it a quick tidy, shutting all windows, turning off the projector and wiping the board clean.  The worst part about being a Computing teacher is that other teachers always use your room and they never leave it how they found it!  I used to stay in school until 5:30pm before having Oscar so that I wouldn’t have to take work home with me, but now I try to leave no later than 3:10pm as otherwise there is a high risk of not arriving back to pick Oscar up from nursery in time.

3:50pm – Traffic has been awful along the A14 just lately and I can often be seen rushing madly from my car to the nursery doors hoping that I haven’t interrupted the babies in the baby room during teatime (4pm).  When I collect Oscar he grins excitedly and starts chatting away, lifting his arms up high above his head for me to pick him up.  Nursery fill me in on his day, telling me that he had adored playing in the water table that afternoon (taking his sunhat and filling it with water over and over again!) and had also been out in the buggy to see the farm animals earlier in the day.  They also give me a quick run down of the times they gave him his milk bottles, what he ate for lunch and the fact that he had given them an explodapoo at lunchtime, so they’ve popped his dirty clothes into a bag inside his nursery bag.  I thank them, collect his nursery bag and lift him into his old baby seat in my car.  Because Dan drops Oscar off in the mornings and then continues on his way to work, it doesn’t make sense for him to return home in order to leave the car seat for me to collect after I finish work for evening pick up.  I’d never make it on time then anyway.  So Dan keeps Oscar’s current car seat in his car and his old baby car seat is strapped into my little Ibiza.  I think we’re going to get away with this arrangement for the remainder of term but when I return in September for my final few weeks I fear I’m going to have to walk the 2.5 miles home with Oscar in the buggy each night before then running back out to collect my car later in the evening.  (Our initial plan.)

4:10pm – Depending on what activities Oscar was involved in at nursery that day he tends to be rather tired and irritable by this point.  A horrible whingey sound comes out of his mouth until I can get him into his sit-in walker in the kitchen.

Oscar in his walkerIt’s then a race against time to try and keep him amused whilst making tea as quickly as possible so that I can get him fed before he decides that he’s waited too long for his dinner!  He managed to make it until about 4:35pm today before the whinging begins.  I cut him a couple of small strips of cheese which seem to keep him occupied for a few moments whilst I quickly complete all tasks where I need both hands!  After that I pick him up and place him on my hip to finish the cooking.  It’s not ideal, but I can’t listen to him whinge all evening!

4:45pm – Tea time!  I have always had my dinner on the late-side since starting running.  Often it would be 9-10pm before I sat down to eat in an evening.  This obviously isn’t practical now that we have Oscar though, and I want to do my best to demonstrate good table manners when possible, so I now have my tea at this super early time with him.  I also get Bella her tea at this time.  Tonight Oscar has spaghetti with mushrooms, broccoli, sweetcorn, chicken and chopped tomatoes.  It all disappears rather quickly!

Oscar tea5:15pm – Once Oscar has finished his tea (usually indicated by sweeping his arm across his highchair through all the food) I get him out and roughly brush him down on the plastic mat we lay underneath the table.  He then walks holding onto my hands for support to the bottom of the stairs where I pick him up and carry him upstairs to the bathroom and place him into the bathtub.
Oscar loves bath time and any playing with water in general.  I always place a selection of plastic balls, a mini watering can and squirty animal toys into the bath with him and I am sure that he would literally stay in the bath all night long playing if I let him!

5:50pm – After drying Oscar down and getting him changed into a clean nappy, vest and sleepsuit it is time for a story on our bed.  At the weekends Dan reads to him and I love sneakily watching them from the doorway as Oscar is always so captivated by the book and the voices which Dan puts on.  My voices are never as good it seems!

7:00pm – After a little more playing it is time for Oscar’s last milk feed of the night.  If he’s had a busy day at nursery he often falls asleep during this feed and I can then transfer him to the cot in his bedroom.  Tonight it’s not so easy and it takes me half an hour to convince him to go to sleep.  Dan has the knack of always getting him to fall sleep within minutes.  I think I am often too impatient at this time of the evening as I know just how much I still have to fit in before bed!

7:30pm – Dan arrives home just in time to help me soothe Oscar to sleep and then I quickly whizz around the house trying to complete as many basic housework chores as possible.  During the week I stick to the necessities – mainly washing up and washing/drying clothes.  I also clear away Oscar’s toys from earlier in the day, clean down his high chair and mat, and sometimes hoover if it’s been a particularly messy meal!  Tonight I just quickly use a bristle brush to sweep the worst of the food away.

8:00pm – Anywhere between 8pm-9pm I head out on my run for the evening.  I aim to run 4 nights during the working week, but it’s much tougher to slot them all in than I first thought it would be, and I often end up running twice on a Saturday to make up for a run I missed out earlier in the week.  Tonight I get changed and am out of the front door by 8:30pm, but I only have a 6 mile easy run (10:50mm-11:40mm pace) on my training plan so this is more manageable than the days where I’m due to run 8 or more miles.  The run goes well, and although I’ve been finding it hard to keep my runs this slow and steady, these sessions have definitely been paying off and I can feel that my endurance has improved no end just lately.

10:00pm – I always grab a glass of milk on arriving back from my run, and take 5 minutes to upload my run to Strava and just chill for a brief moment before grabbing a shower.  I hate not showering in the mornings, but I just don’t have time at the moment, so I wash my hair and quickly plait it to sleep in so that it doesn’t look too wild in the morning!

11:15pm – I like to be in bed by this point and on this occasion, I manage it with ten minutes to spare.  Rather than an extra ten minutes of sleep (which is probably what I should have used the time for) I scroll through my social media channels quickly before turning my bedside lamp off and waiting to hear Oscar calling out for me a few hours later.

****

So that’s what I get up to on weekdays just lately.  I do wish I had a little more ‘free time’, but I get the opportunity to head out for a run most nights, so I can’t really complain!  I know that I definitely would not be able to maintain this lifestyle permanently though and I’m very glad that the end of term is now in sight.  I have returned as a full time teacher until the end of August, although after handing in my notice and negotiating some pay, my contract has been extended slightly until the end of September, so that I may help the new Second in Department to settle into the school and department.  Had the four weeks I am returning for been immediately on the back of the seven weeks I initially returned for, I would have outright turned down the extra work, but with the Summer holidays off in the middle, I hope that I will be able to muster up enough enthusiasm and energy for my final four weeks in September.
Major kudos to anybody who does manage to work full time and parent successfully around that whilst maintaining hobbies, seeing their partner (notice the lack of any time I get to spend with Dan during the week!) and keeping on top of housework!  I am hoping that once the Summer is here, I will be able to complete a couple of my easy runs whilst pushing Oscar in the buggy during the morning, so running won’t take over every evening during the week.  It’s so hard juggling everything and maintaining a healthy balance in life.  Is a healthy balance even possible any more?

Do you have any tips for fitting everything in to each day?!

Weeks 3 and 4 of the Hanson’s Marathon Method

Last week was my fourth week following the Hanson’s Marathon Method* training plan.  Although I’m trying to slot in my runs as best as possible I haven’t stuck strictly to the plan, tweaking it in a few places from time to time as required.  My return to work with a young baby and house improvements still to be made has meant that these first few weeks of the plan needed to be fairly flexible to fit around my schedule.  Once school finishes for me at the end of July then training should become a little easier to slot in though.  (Hopefully!)

The main structure of my training week comes from the book, and I try to follow all advice given from within the pages, with all my paces based on a 4h 15m marathon finish time.  (I am aiming for a sub 4h 30m marathon in October.)

Week 3 planned: (5 runs)
Monday – Off (extra rest day as racing the following day)
Tuesday – Weedon 10k (run to heart rate – 170bpm)
Wednesday – 6m trail run with friends
Thursday – 6x 800m with 400m recovery
Friday – Off
Saturday – 3m easy, followed by parkrun (10:50-11:40mm)
Sunday – 8m easy (10:50-11:40mm)

Week 3 actual: (3 runs)
Monday – Off
Tuesday – Weedon 10k
I accidentally picked up my old heart rate monitor as I madly rushed out of the door.  Old, as in it no longer sends my heart rate data to my watch and so, despite planning to run to heart rate for the race I ended up needing to run on feel once again.  Weedon 10k is a ridiculously hilly course, with two particularly big hills at miles 2.5 and 4.5.  Luckily the race finishes with a long downhill, but the first proper hill of the event really took it out of me for the rest of the run!
Total time: 61:22, which I was happy with on such a hilly course!

Weedon 10k(Photo by Barry Cornelius of Oxon Races.)

Wednesday – 6.19m trail run (12:43mm)
Pace includes all stops and stile climbs!
Thursday – Off
I just did not have the energy or drive to get out for speedwork on Thursday evening.  I replaced speedwork with a two hour nap once Dan returned home from work.  That nap did me wonders.
Friday – Off
Saturday – 2.07m easy (10:45mm), followed by parkrun (28m 53s), then 0.69m easy (10:59mm)
I headed to Huntingdon parkrun on the Saturday, slotted in a warmup and then a cooldown to try and get in some extra miles.
I really want to continue attending parkrun throughout marathon training, but I really struggle to keep the pace consistently easy at parkrun at the moment unless I have somebody to chat to.  I feel like I am constantly battling with myself to not end up racing against previous times I’ve run.  This week I ran parkrun at 9:10mm pace, which is way too fast for my prescribed easy pace of 10:50-11:40mm, and definitely wouldn’t have done my legs any favours.
Sunday – Off
On Sunday I headed to Norfolk for the day with Dan and Oscar to see my parents.  We ended up setting off from Norfolk to return home again a little later than originally planned.  That, combined with a diversion on the way home meant that we didn’t arrive back in Northamptonshire until fairly late, with washing still to be washed and bags still to be packed for the following day.  I felt like I’d already had a fairly rubbish week of training, and so skipped the workout.  (Which I obviously immediately regretted as soon as I got into bed.)
Next week is another week…

Week 4 planned: (5 runs)
Monday – Off (extra rest day as targeting a race the following day)
Tuesday – Milton Keynes 10k (run to heart rate – 165bpm)
Wednesday – 7m trail run with friends
Thursday – 5x 1k with 400m recovery
Friday – Off
Saturday – 3m easy, followed by parkrun (10:50-11:40mm)
Sunday – 12m long (10:29mm)

Week 4 actual: (5 runs)
Monday – 5.19m (11:24mm)
Tuesday – Milton Keynes 10k (run to heart rate – 163bpm average)
PB, PB, PB!!!  I didn’t want to all out announce it beforehand, but I was fairly confident that I would be capable of PBing at Milton Keynes on the Tuesday night.  All the recent extra runs I’ve been fitting in and base building at slower paces has seen my running improve.  My running was set at 8:xx pace for quite a lot of the time that I stuck to my 165bpm goal.  I would never have believed how easy 8:30-9mm pace could feel over a 10k distance this time last year!  My previous 10k PB had also been set at Milton Keynes 10k, two years earlier.  That time I had PBd by 8 seconds, and was ecstatic on the night.  So – imagine my beaming smile last Tuesday evening when I crossed the line in 56m 40s – giving me a PB of nearly two minutes!

MK 10k with Margaret Wednesday – 6.93m trail run (11:48mm)
Thursday – Off
I start off with such good intentions at the beginning of the week, but by the time Thursday rolls round often all I want to do is curl up on the couch and sleep.  This Thursday involved housework until 11pm though.  Boo. :(
Friday – Off
Saturday – Off – we headed to Dan’s parents in Wolverhampton on the Saturday and so it ended up being a rush in the morning to get round in time.  Dan had left his car in Northampton following a work night out on the Friday, so I had to load Oscar up and drop Dan off to pick his car back up again before we headed to the Midlands.  Had Northampton parkrun been on in the morning, all would be fine and I could have slotted my run in, but as it was, the Racecourse where Northampton parkrun is held was being used for something else, so no run was had. :(
Sunday – 5.86m with Oscar in the buggy (12:46mm) AM, 8.05m (11:02mm) PM
The AM run was a substitute for missing the Saturday run, and the PM run was a shortened version of Sunday’s run.  Although annoyingly, heading out in a rush I didn’t check my training plan properly and missed that it was supposed to be run as a ‘long run’ rather than an ‘easy run’, and I should have run at a pace 30 seconds quicker per mile than I did.  Never mind, – can’t win them all!

How was it this sunny already at 7:30am on my run this morning?! #buggyrunning #stanwicklakes #10k

A post shared by Mary (@ahealthiermoo) on

So weeks 3 and 4 complete now.  My biggest challenge is keeping the momentum going by a Thursday evening, especially as that is a speedwork night and one that I should not really be missing.  I have been racing for the past few weeks though which luckily does keep my legs ticking over, but the East Midlands Grand Prix series has finished now, with Milton Keynes being the last race of the series, so I am on my own again!

My second biggest challenge is keeping the pace slow and steady at parkruns.  It is so, so easy to get carried away and drawn along by everybody else at parkrun.  I can easily zone out and happily run my easy runs at 10:50-11:40mm on my own back at home, but when there are people around, it instantly becomes so much more difficult to do and I end up running too hard on what should be an easy run day.  I plan on getting some parkrun tourism in over the Summer and hopefully I will feel less pressured to run hard on unknown courses with people around who I do not know.

My easy runs are definitely paying off, and are absolutely not ‘junk miles’ as proven by this week’s PB!  Whenever I think about how much effort it is to get out late at night (when my runs so often are nowadays – seriously, if you follow me on Strava you will see that the majority of my runs are 9-10pm!) I look at how much my running has improved and how much easier it is to hit faster paces than it initially was and it gives me that extra little bit of incentive to get out there.

Do you find it difficult to run ‘easy’ runs as slowly as prescribed?
What time of day do you tend to head out for a run?

A parkrun catchup

It’s been a while since I posted any details from the parkruns I’ve run.  Over the past few months I’ve gradually ticking off more parkruns, getting ever closer to that magic number 100.  I have just 16 left to go now before I can apply for my 100 runs t-shirt.  I haven’t made much of a dent in achieving the parkrun tourist status this year though.  In total I have run 12 different events, so still have another 8 to go before I can buy my cow cowl.

I did just find an amazing parkrun tourism tool which has whet my appetite for more tourism.  It allows you to enter your parkrun ID and postcode and then shows you the nearest 10/20/30 parkruns to where you are based.  You can also choose to not include those parkruns which you have already run so you can see where your best options are to head to next.

parkrun tourism toolI’ve already run the nine closest parkruns to me so it looks like Rutland Water will be featuring on my results list next!  Wimpole Estate is another one I need to tick off in the near future as well.  I’ve had lots of good feedback about the event just lately.

Here is where I’ve been on my six most recent parkruns…

parkrun #79 – Northampton
6th May

Northampton parkrun is a great course for running with the buggy.  The paths are wide and although it is a super crowded course at the start, the numbers toward the back soon start to thin out.  There are wide grass verges for most of the distance, so even if I feel rather uneasy about pushing the buggy along the path at the start of the run for fear of clipping somebody’s heels, I can always stick to the safer option of running on the sidelines until the crowds start to thin.

Northampton parkrun with the buggyI use my parkruns with Oscar to catch up on all the gossip(!)Northampton parkrun with the buggy(Photos by Martyn Haworth posted on the Northampton parkrun Facebook page)
Official time: 32:55
Position: 459/609
Gender position: 148/256
Age category position: 21/36

Magic Mile #4 – Northampton
6th May

I completely ran out of time to write about this event back in May but for the first time ever I WAS FIRST LADY across the finish line!  Something which I am sure will never happen again and was purely down to the luck of no fast ladies being around to run the mile that day.
I am counting it though.  I didn’t even realise until the results were published the following day that I had been the first female through the finish!  Granted, there weren’t a huge number of runners.  But first lady = first lady…right?!

Official time: 8:09
Position: 18/29
Gender position: 1/7

I finished in the exact same time I had during my previous Magic Mile back in March, which was much better than I thought I would do.  My legs had a marathon and a 50 mile ultra in them from recent weeks, and I had completed very little work at any speed since the previous event.  I would like to think I could beat this time now though.

parkrun #80 – Corby
13th May

So, when I said that Oscar-parkruns are used to catch up on gossip, I haven’t actually stuck solely to this lately.  Most of my parkruns have been gossip runs!  An easy run at chatty pace to keep the legs ticking over and to keep my social side happy on a Saturday morning.
Official time: 29:40
Position: 64/131
Gender position: 16/58
Age category position: 5/8

parkrun #81 – Sheringham
3rd June

I woke up to this on the Saturday morning…

Bruised knee

My knee had been a little sore to kneel on for the past few days, but had not been sore when walking or running and there was no evidence of any bruising or damage at all.
…until the Saturday morning.  The day before I was due to run the Shires and Spires 35 mile ultra.
I quickly snapped this shot and posted it on my Facebook wall alongside a brief paragraph detailing the above information.  Immediately afterwards I switched off my phone and chose to ignore any advice given until after I’d tested out my knee at Sheringham parkrun.  (True runner stubbornness right there!)

The Sheringham parkrun is tough – there’s ‘Heartbreak Hill’ at mile 3 and the course is run through woodland, over lots of lumps and bumps!

I ended up hanging around for my Dad in the morning as he was going to take Oscar for a walk in the buggy so that I could run child-free for a change.  He made us late though and the engine was barely off in the car before I was yanking the running buggy out of the back of the car, giving Dad the fastest lesson in how to steer and brake with Oscar strapped safely inside and then legging it down to the start line.  I wasn’t the only one and despite several minutes of flat-out running I still managed to turn the final corner just in time to hear ‘3-2-1′ and see the runners shooting off into the distance.  The woman who had been a few metres in front of me slumped into a defeated walk at this point.  I eventually caught the back runners and began picking runners off along the way.

When I ran through the finish, Dad was there eagerly telling me that he must have run at least three miles with Oscar as he had walked so fast during the last half hour.  I did point out to him that parkrun is only 3.1 miles, of which I had run all the way and that he had been there at the finish waiting for me to cross the line, so I doubted that he had walked as far as 3 miles, but I don’t think I got through to him!

Official time: 31:20
Position: 108/201
Gender position: 25/73
Age category position: 3/6

I had several responses to my Facebook knee query by the time I turned my phone back on again, including a message from a physio associated with the club who informed me that it was very easy to catch the structures in the knee without really noticing at the time.  Even though it was most likely only a very small catch in the knee, because I kneel on the floor so much as a new Mum it ends up looking much worse as the bleeding inside the knee spreads over much greater knee surface from repeated kneeling with Oscar.  Because Dan had been away during the week I had bathed Oscar alone every evening, likely putting the extra pressure on my kneecap, distributing the blood further across my knee surface.  (I went on to run 35 miles the next day without issue.)

parkrun #82 – Corby
10th June

Corby parkrun with Laura Laura was volunteering at the track in Corby again, so I decided to head over and join her for a social chatty run before her shift began.Corby parkrun with LauraOfficial time: 30:27
Position: 95/182
Gender position: 20/81
Age category position: 3/13

parkrun #83 – Kettering
17th June

Several runners from my club were planning on running over to Kettering for the parkrun and then back again to make up their long run for the weekend.  Since having Oscar I can’t really commit to running long runs at the weekend with others so I said I would meet them over there for the parkrun part of the run.  Running the group long runs isn’t fair on Dan, or Oscar whilst he is in nursery all week (since I’ve been back at work).  I want to see some of them both at the weekend!

Kettering parkrun with OscarOfficial time: 32:25
Position: 230/367
Gender position: 83/176
Age category position: 9/14

A lady from Oscar’s ‘Stay and Play’ group was there running without her baby and I chatted to her briefly at the start, and again as I passed her out on the course.  She muttered at me as I ran past her pushing O in the final mile, but I hope us running past helped her to achieve the course PB she achieved a few minutes later. :)

parkrun #84 – Huntingdon
24th June

I still hadn’t fully made up my mind as to which parkrun I was headed to by Saturday morning last week.  I had put a shoutout on Facebook for parkrun recommendations but despite several suggestions, none really took my fancy.  I set out intending to run Kettering parkrun but when it came to it, my body went into work-mode when I got into my car and I found myself heading in the direction of the school I work at, so Huntingdon became the new plan.  I hadn’t run the course in a while anyway, and I knew there would be some new, pretty trails for me to run the extra three miles I needed to tack onto my parkrun that morning in order to make up the six miles on my training plan for the day.

I ran the parkrun much harder than intended in the end.  I should really be running parkruns at 10:50-11:40mm pace, as Saturdays are one of my ‘easy run’ days.  I’m finding it so hard not to push myself around others when I’m running solo though.  I really must make an effort to run slowly this coming weekend.  It’s much more important to make it to the start line of the marathon in October at the moment than to cut a few seconds from my parkrun time.

At the end I got my barcode scanned and was about to start jogging back to the car when a familiar face looked up from the grass and waved hi.  I automatically smiled in response and returned the greeting, whilst racking my brains as to who this person was!  Lately I’ve chatted to several people at events who I follow/follow me on Instagram/Twitter, but I couldn’t place this lady at all.  Later that day I eventually worked out that she was one of the TAs from my school.  I just hadn’t connected her with running, as I have always seen her in a school environment before!

Official time: 28:53
Position: 157/297
Gender position: 37/118
Age category position: 3/14

Have you seen people you know from outside of running at events before?
What is your parkrun tourism total?