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Leeds Country Way is a 62-mile route around Leeds, taking in some of the stunning countryside to be found just outside the city. The running relay version, organised by Kippax Harriers, is slightly longer at 64 miles and starts and finishes at Garforth. The route is split into six legs, and clubs enter teams of 12 – a pair of runners per leg.

I did the race last year and thoroughly enjoyed it so I was eager to sign up again. I asked to do the same leg (the second one, from Stanley to Morley) in case I didn’t find time to do a recce, and that request turned out to be very wise.

My original partner was poorly and couldn’t run, but with three teams to fill and the usual injuries cropping up our reserve list was depleted and I only got my partner the week of the race. I was about to have kittens – as well as knowing your leg you also have to coordinate getting yourselves to the start and leaving a car at the finish – so the logistics can be tricky. But Becky and I arranged ourselves with no fuss once we figured out what we needed to do, and we got to the start in plenty of time for a pee in the woods and a catch-up with our fellow Purple Posse runners doing leg two.

Actually we had almost an hour to wait – the leg one runners all set off together at 8am, but we didn’t really know what time our pair would come through. It was great to see the others handover their batons though, and we even had an early win for Kirkstall Harriers, with Ben and Jen the first mixed team to finish the first leg.

Becky and I took on the baton from our team-mates just ahead of the mass start for leg two, and we set off steadily. I found it tough going at first, and it didn’t get any easier. But we continued steadily enough, taking regular walk breaks (for my benefit) and enjoying the scenery.

Overall it was a very pleasant morning run. It took us 2:35 to finish the 11.2miles, but we didn’t get lost. It is a nice route, not horribly tough but with lots of variations in terrain. All but our purple club friends and the marshals had gone by the time we finished, and I was very glad of the Fudge I had left in Becky’s car to scoff as soon as I finished!

Then it was more car manoeuvering and home to eat and shower. The best thing about the LCW Relay is the reception at the pub afterwards. I headed back out with Emma and Becky to cheer in the leg six runners (another winning pair in Adam and Shami for the Kirkstall Harriers), pick up my awesome pottery memento and take advantage of the carb buffet.

It’s a long day with a lot of driving if you go at it the way I did, but a lot of fun with plenty of opportunities to spend time with running friends.

 

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I didn’t like London Marathon because of the crowds, the noise and the flat, but I did like the distance. So I’m very excited to be running my second marathon in 16 weeks.

Training starts today for Kielder Marathon – a lap of Kielder Water in Northumberland that is off-road, hilly and incredibly scenic. And there are only around 3,000 runners. It’s going to be amazing!

My plan this time is a Hal Higdon one. No intensive speedwork like I attempted, and mostly failed at, last time, but hill, tempo or intervals once a week. I’m very excited to get started with a proper training regime again – it has been too easy the past few weeks to skip runs, become a bit lazy and eat too much because I haven’t been training for anything specific.

As always, I have lots of races coming up to keep me entertained – everything from summer relays and one-mile track events, to obstacle races and a few 10-milers.

Two things I learnt from the Otley 10mile race this week:

  1. What goes up, must come down.
  2. Running is a great cure for a hangover!

As is becoming a trend, I signed up for this race a long time ago and didn’t do any specific training. Which is brilliant, as I have the confidence and fitness base these days to know I can just go out and run up to a half mara without having to prepare or think too hard.

Anyway, the race is organised by the good people at Otley AC and the Purple Posse turned out in force. Here are a few of us – there were 21 altogether!

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The race is all on pavements/roads, with some killer hills from miles 4 to 8. They really were tough. Given the hangover I wasn’t convinced I could start, let alone finish, so I just figured I would give it a go and try not to die!

I forgot my watch, which was probably a good thing, so I absolutely had to just run to feel. I set off at the back and settled in for a mile or two. By the time I got to the first hill I was feeling OK, so I walked up and enjoyed the views. We kept going up and up for quite a while, but the sight we were treated to at the top was well worth it.

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I plodded on and tried to not think about being sick. I was wearing my new Airia One running shoes, which are mostly comfortable but did start to rub and feel weird on my toes from about halfway. I think they need to be kept for shorter distances in future (full review to follow).

As well as some fun downhills a highlight was the group of kids at the second water station. I could hear a load of screaming and shouting up ahead, and for a minute I almost panicked thinking that people were being attacked by hornets again or trampled by cows. But when I got to the drinks stop I found that it was simply a group of teenagers having a whale of a time in a massive water fight! So funny! They were making a right racket and having a lot of fun, which made me smile too.

Just after this there was another hill, and to be perfectly honest I was quite tired by this point. The mile markers just weren’t coming around quickly enough and I was starting to get really hungry.

The real killer bit came right near to the end – being just a few places from last meant hundreds of runners had already finished, and as I ran along the high street towards the end at the cricket club I went past the chippy, which smelt amazing! I could have punched all those runners enjoying a chippy tea! And then I got to the finish area and people were stood around having a pint – bleurgh!

It took me just under two hours to finish – a career worst for 10miles – but I still got a little box of Yorkshire tea bags and some sachets of muscle rub for my efforts. And then I treated myself to a burger from the BBQ!

Without the hangover it still would have been a tough race but I think I could have put more into it. I’ll probably be back next year to see how I can cope with the hills when sober.

 

 

It’s called a trail race, but run under Fell Runners Association rules, therefore I am counting Ilkley Trail Race as my first fell race.

I signed up a week or so ago and was very much looking forward to the day. A couple of people had recommended I do it. With the big climb in the first half and a 7-mile total distance it is at the easiest end of the fell race scale. And as it is flagged and marshalled there’s no need for maps and compasses. But the terrain, and the views, are by no means diminished.

Jill and Jason drove us to Ilkley, and there we met with a few other Harriers and friends from other running clubs. There was a chilled, friendly atmosphere in the start area and I was very glad of a coffee van – hazelnut latte was just what I needed! My vague plan was to try to stick with Jill and Anne. Generally speaking I am there or thereabouts with them at many races and they are always good company.

 

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I set off up the hill on the first road (which was a killer!) and figured I would settle in as I felt able then catch up to them over the race. I walked up the latter part of the hill as I realised that my marching pace was just as quick as my jogging pace, but used less energy. And then I just trekked on through the woods without thinking too much about anything.

We came out into a field and up a track, and soon we were up on the moors. I gave a little gasp as we strode out on to the plains and smiled as I saw the snake of brightly coloured runners making their way through the land. It was simply stunning. I could hear a bird singing a gorgeous tune and spotted him briefly – I later learned (via Jill and a lady she was talking to) it was a skylark.

 

I walked a few times to try and soak in the view properly and was perfectly happy skipping along. The weather was warm but not overly bright or blazing so it was ideal.

I wore my new Inov8 Bare-Grip 200 fell shoes, which were perfect. I bought them as they are lightweight and flexible and very grippy, and I am so glad I did. I fear for my life a bit going down hills sometimes, especially when there is mud, wet grass or tree roots involved” I worry about going arse-over-tit and smashing my bones! But no need for such worries in my new fell running shoes – they gave me a lot of confidence and I could let go and not worry about where I was placing my feet. Not one stumble despite all the loose rocks and slippy grass made muddy by hundreds of runners! They were even great on the small bits of road as well – I was worried they would feel weird with the big lugs, but I raced down the final hill without concern.

 

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I can now happily say this neon Bambi loves running the moors. I felt like I was running really tall and smooth the whole way. I could feel my legs skipping along beneath me without even the slightest effort. It was truly liberating. It was a great race and will be a must-do on my calendar for next year. It was a real pleasure to be able to take in such spectacular scenery.

Best of all I wasn’t the slightest bit tired at the end. I would have happily done it over again. I didn’t feel achey or hungry or anything – I just wanted to keep going. I  felt alive and invigorated, which is surely the clearest sign of a wonderful run.

Photo thanks to Woodentops and running friends.

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Bluebell Trail is a 10mile race organised by Stainland Lions. It was one of those that I signed up for months in advance because it just sounded so lovely, and didn’t train specifically for because it was a) ages away and b) only 10 miles(!).

The day dawned soon enough, and was actually pretty decent for running. But on arrival (thanks to a lift from the ever-lovely Glover-Longfellow trio) I wasn’t really feeling up for it. I still don’t know why – I just wasn’t in race mode and could quite happily have gone back to bed and stayed curled up all day. There was no real doubt that I would run, of course, and I’m glad I did, but neither my heart  nor my head were really in it at first.

The start of the race heads up into the woods and early on you go through a little gap in a wall, so we had a bit of a wait at the back, but the pack soon spread out again as we ran on.

I turned on my feet, put them in charge and gave the instruction: “find your way”.

I detached my legs from my mind so my muscles could concentrate on what they had to do.

I filed my brain away and let my mind go where it wanted. I sang to myself, did some writing in my head (this blog post mostly), meditated and simply enjoyed the sights, sounds and smells.

I soared up to the tops of the trees and the hills to enjoy the views. I thanked the birds as they cheeped and cheered me on. I leapt about in time with the bluebells and the dandelions.

It was all incredibly joyful. Almost as soon as I started I felt much better, and the further I ran the better I felt (as is usually the case). The route and terrain was quite varied – forest, towpath, road, cobbles, field, muddy track and even river bed! Happily, I felt that I was running really rather well. Having told my body what it needed to do and allowed my mind to go where it pleased I was able to switch off where necessary and switch on where necessary. I felt that my form was good and that I adapted to the different terrain without too much hard work.

Even the massive hill of Trooper Lane didn’t faze me. I knew about it before signing up and it hadn’t put me off. I don’t mind hills. I don’t train on them enough, but I do what I can whenever I meet them. When I see a big hill in races (that is, when I can’t see the top of it) I walk. Or rather, I march. I’ve never been a slow walker, so when it comes to hills I am better off marching up than huffing and puffing and trying to keep to a run, which will inevitably become a jog-shuffle anyway.

So I smiled when I saw the Trooper Lane sign at the bottom, changed gear and kept my head up. I overtook several people marching up there, and stopped to enjoy some spectacular views over Halifax. And at the top, after a cup of water, I was able to get straight back into running. You can see what all the Trooper Lane fuss is about on this blog I came across: The Hell of the Worth.

It wasn’t quite all downhill after that – we were up and down right until the last mile, and there were many more tricky bits with loose rocks, muddy, narrow paths and so on. The section through the bluebell woods was absolutely stunning – they were everywhere and looked and smelled gorgeous. It was quite magical.

As I came back down on to the canal towpath for the final stretch I was rather warm and incredibly happy – and what better way to cool the legs and celebrate a gorgeous run out than by splashing across a river?! It wasn’t very deep so I wasn’t scared (I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with water) and it was the perfect refreshment after 10-and-a-bit miles. I strolled in to the biggest cheers I have ever heard from my fellow Harriers, who had all finished and were stood on the other side watching. The marshal in the middle of the river told me that I should run and pick my knees right up, so I did as I was told and splashed through. So much fun!

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A final scrabble up the bank and a sprint on the playing field and I was done! We got a goody bag with choccy, water and banana, plus a bar towel with the Bluebell Trail logo.

A fantastic race all round and definitely on my list for next year and beyond. Many thanks to the Lions organisers and marshals, and big thanks to Geoff Matthews for the fantastic photos of me crossing the river. What a happy runner I am!

 

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