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Chester Half Marathon on Sunday 18th May was yet another of those races that I didn’t really train specifically. Way back towards the start of the year I had half a mind that I would go for sub-2, but I knew that would be unachievable as the day got closer given my post-marathon slowness. So the revised plan was to go with the 2:10 pacer and just sneak a PB. But on the morning, given the blazing sunshine and the fact that the pens were so crowded I couldn’t get anywhere near the pacer, I let it go and decided I would start off easy and take it from there.

I didn’t put in much effort to get going and didn’t look at my watch until the first mile marker, focusing instead on just settling in. But it wasn’t until about mile 5 that I actually began to feel properly settled. It is still taking me a while to get into my rhythm, which is fine for longer and hilly runs, but is not so conducive to PB attempts on flat roads.

Anyway, I plodded on. My mum lives just over the border in North Wales so she came out to cheer me on. I saw her at about 1.6miles and ran over for a hug and to grab some jelly babes. They ended up getting all sticky in my bumbag when I came to eat them later on, but they were still nice.

A little bit further on I was delighted to get a surprise cheer from my friends Clare and Steve and their daughter Lucy. I had no idea they would be there and it was lovely to get a hug and a kiss. I saw them at the end too, and Lucy asked me if I had won. I said no, I wasn’t fast enough, then after a few minutes she asked if I came second! Such a cutie!

I kept plodding on and eventually, just before the halfway mark, I began to feel like I was running well. For reasons unknown though I had decided not to wear socks, and I could feel my toes rubbing a little with the sweat. At the end I had a humongous blood blister. Otherwise my New Balance Minimus shoes felt amazing and helped me run light and easy. I walked through each water station and had my gels to schedule.

There were some lovely marshals and some pockets of support. We passed several pubs which provided a good base for supporters, and most had live bands outside. There was also a very young band, complete with drum kit and keyboard, randomly along one of the lanes (they were with their dad at his marshal spot). I particularly liked one marshal who told a couple of runners near me who were chatting away: “no laughing on the course”.

I was looking forward to getting back round to see my mum again and decided I would walk with her for a bit as she had to get back into the city anyway so we could get a coffee after I finished. We had some nice chats, but I struggled to keep up with her marching pace by this point.

Then I realised there wasn’t actually much further left to go, so I gave my mum a hug and ran off up the short slope towards the finish line. I put in an incredible sprint finish and I was done in 2:22:56. My career worst half marathon time, but that’s OK.

Through the funnel I collected a bottle of water, medal, tech t-shirt and goody bag, which had an excellent food:leaflet ratio of 6:2 (three small bags of Haribo, one Mars bar, one sachet of porridge, one cereal bar: one leaflet for another race, one coupon for a free gym pass).

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Then I found The Fieldings again for a proper catch-up and wandered with my mum for coffee and a cake and back to the racecourse to collect my bag and inspect the feet. Chester Half is a very well organised race right from sign-up. The emails that organisers Chris and Andy¬† sent were informative and friendly, and the race instructions were clear and demonstrated that they understand runners’ needs. I was a little worried when I got to the park and ride in the morning and saw a massive queue, but I got to the racecourse at 8.30am and had exactly enough time to go to the loo, get changed and drop my bag off.

All that said though, I don’t think I’ll be doing this race again. I couldn’t really fault it in any way but I am not very keen on flat, mass participation road races at the moment and will probably look to limit their appearance in my race schedule. The thing that really tired me out was the constant ducking and diving and weaving around other people. According to my splits I got past about 100 people in the second half of the race, and each time it’s ‘mirror, signal, manoeuvre’ to ensure I don’t get in anyone’s way (for me at least – some runners just weave all over the road as if they’re the only ones there). Anyway, all this thinking is tiring when you’re trying to run!

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I’m starting to run out of ways to say “oh my, only X weeks left until the marathon”! It’s all getting very real, and very close.

Week 10 has been a step-back week in terms of mileage, but I have raced hard and put in some quality sessions.

I started the week with two rest days, which I really needed after an intense weekend. I probably should have run, or at least gone for a swim, on Tuesday, but nevermind. On Wednesday I led Jill’s beginners’ group as she was away so had a good natter for a few slow miles, and Thursday was a race-pace session in the glorious sunshine. On both days I wore my New Balance Minimus, which I’ve not worn for a while, and they felt amazing.

To start the weekend  rested again on Friday and, miracle of miracles, turned down a free takeaway! This never happens! Saturday I headed to Roundhay parkrun to set a time for the Leeds Race Series, and I got to meet two ace friends of Twitter, so that was fab. The weather was beautiful too Рspring was certainly in the air.

And Sunday was the Silverstone Half Marathon. Full race review to follow, but I pushed hard into the wind and got a PB.

I have one more race before the marathon (East Hull 20 this Sunday, although I won’t be racing it), and then a further two long runs – 18 miles and 20 miles. Then, I taper!

Total: 24.7 miles

(all distances in miles)

Week 11

Monday: rest

Tuesday: 5

Wednesday: 5 (race pace)

Thursday: fartlek

Friday: rest

Saturday: 3 (Cross Flatts parkrun)

Sunday: 20 (East Hull 20)

My name is Gemma and I am addicted to running shoes. I own 10 pairs. To be fair, three of these pairs were freebies. I have seven in use (for road running, road racing, and trail running) and three are waiting in the wings as like-for-like replacements. I keep track of how many miles I have done in each via an app on my phone.

But just how in the name of Pheidippides am I supposed to choose which ones to wear for my marathon next April? And when should I decide?

My heart wants to run those 26.2 miles in my favourites – New Balance Minimus. These are my road racing shoes – super-light and super-quick. They fit and feel like socks, and there’s not much more to them. I have a spare pair of these.

New Balance Minimus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But in my head I think I should use something at least a bit more substantial. It is a very long way after all.

So how about my Nike Free 5.0 shoes. These are so comfortable. It feels like running on clouds.

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Or the Asics Gel Noosa Tri, which I love because they look like the 80s threw up on them. They are triathlon shoes officially (apparently you can swim in them) and have a bit more structure, but are still responsive racers and feel great.

Asics Gel Noosa Tri

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One problem is that I will be doing my training over winter, when the paths are likely to be icy and slippery, and as I do most of my solo training on the towpath I’ll probably need to wear trail shoes, which I won’t be wearing on race day.

And I guess I should have two pairs of whichever shoes I decide so that I don’t put ridiculous miles on just one and have them fall apart on race day. Two pairs that I can alternate throughout training means both are broken in and ready to go for the big day.

Should I decide now which shoes I want to wear, get two pairs ready and wear them as often as I can through the 16-week training plan?

Should I wear whatever suits for training, and use my chosen marathon shoes for races in the build-up and long runs, so I can be (reasonably) sure they will not cause any problems over 26.2 miles without putting too many miles on them?

Should I buy more shoes??

Should I stop worrying about it and try to calm down a bit?! (I am a bit excited about this marathon malarky – can you tell?!)

I think I probably already know the answer – choose shoes that I know are comfortable, get two pairs, use them both (without wearing them out) and then grab either pair when I pack for marathon weekend.

I’ll put in some longer runs in my New Balance Minimus and see how they feel, and if I’m not sure then I think I’ll revert to the Nike 5 Frees. I only have one pair of these so birthday money in February could go towards a second pair. And the really good thing about these is you can customise them on the Nike iD website. I have already designed these in anticipation.

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Thoughts and advice, sensible or otherwise, are much appreciated!