Phew! Another week has come and gone and I’m still standing! Actually, I’m surprisingly mobile given the 20 miles I ran yesterday!

Anyway, the week has been full of lots of running, but also lots of friends and good stuff.

On Monday I recovered from Silverstone with a walk into town with Bethan and Vikki for a pie and a pint. It was perfectly perfect! Tuesday I enjoyed a jog along the canal in the afternoon sun, and Wednesday I rested again with chats with Ems and Gary and a very useful running workshop in the evening. Thursday was the running study so a bit of “free” activity and Jill’s hills in the evening, which weren’t too intense (I took it steady).

Friday was a particularly good run – I did four miles along the canal (into the wind) at slightly quicker than marathon pace, then finished with a slow mile barefoot. Which reminds me, I need to ask the doctor for a tetanus booster just in case I stand on something nasty! It was awesome though – I felt like I really made a connection with the world.

Saturday was a very easy and enjoyable Cross Flatts parkrun with my friends from South Leeds Community Radio and Lift a Finger.

Then Sunday was a potential killer of a 20-mile race – East Hull 20. I will do a full review this week, but I did it and I didn’t die.

Total: 36.45 miles

(all distances in miles)

Week 12

Monday: 5 (easy)

Tuesday: cross train

Wednesday: 8 (race pace)

Thursday: mile reps

Friday: rest

Saturday: 3

Sunday: 18



Sunday I headed down to Silverstone, home of British motor racing and of my first half marathon, to tackle the 13.1mile course for the second year.

In 2013 I travelled down on the train, stayed in a hotel in Northampton the nights before and after, and made the most of a sort-of weekend break on my own. This year I cajoled some of my fellow Kirkstall Harriers to join me, so there were two cars driving down, each with four keen runners.

My lovely friend Alix did her usual nice thing and lent me the car for the day, so I drove my very good friends Sam, Bethan and Vikki. With a CD selection that included Disney, a poptastic compilation and Eddie Stobart Trucking Songs, we headed off bright and early. Getting to within a few miles of Silverstone is very straightforward, but the last five miles along the A43 and into the car park took us an hour. Not good. But still, we arrived with just the right amount of time to pee, get changed, insert contact lenses and drop off our bags.











The weather was looking a bit iffy. We’d had a few spots of rain on the way down, and the skies were decidedly grey in places, but the main problem was going to be the wind. Anyway, we had dispersed by now and headed to the grid in our own fashions. I met James on the way to the start area   he had driven down with Shami, Kieran and Scott –  and we had a natter and jumped around as they played The Chain for the start.

I set off just behind the 1:58 pacer, thinking I could go for a crazy goal and smash my first sub-2 half. It was all fine for the first few miles – it didn’t feel horribly tough although it was quite busy. But after about four miles the pacer was suddenly gone, so I just pushed on. Up to about halfway I was feeling fantastic. I love Silverstone and it just feels so cool to be running on the track. But as I got to the 7-mile marker I just wasn’t feeling on it anymore. My watch read 7.25miles, and it stayed a quarter of a mile up to the end, but at least I knew not to rely on it for distance between the markers (which are every mile anyway with a big digital clock showing gun time).

Anyway, I had another gel at mile 8 but as I kept getting buffeted by the wind I was losing speed and enthusiasm. I tried to draw some energy from other runners, and had another gel at mile 10 simply to make sure I wasn’t going to flag from lack of energy. Nothing hurt, I didn’t have tummy cramps, my legs weren’t screaming horribly or my head telling me I couldn’t do it – it just felt so tough because of the wind. At least with the twists and turns we got the occasional bit of respite, and for the most part it was coming head-on, so I could stay upright and going forward rather than wobbling around side to side. I think it was also colder than I realised.

Bethan came up on me about mile 11 so we said hi and then off she went. I battled on and seeing the mile 12 marker was the best feeling ever. I thought about finishing strong and talked myself round the final corners. I also considered the amazing will of the people all around me, all just so determined to get to that line.

The only saving grace was the last dash to the finish line where we had a tail wind. BEST THING EVER. I put in a massive sprint finish (no idea where from) and hobbled over the line in 2:09:05. That’s a PB by 3m 7s and an improvement over the same race last year of 12m 54s.

At first I felt a little deflated that I didn’t smash my PB by more, but given the tough conditions and the fact that I haven’t trained specifically for this race I know I did bloody well. It was hard work, but I enjoyed it.

Best of all, we got an absolutely brilliant medal – it’s a tyre! This makes me super happy. The t-shirt is also cool, and the goody bag contained nice things like peppermint tea and arnica gel!

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Aside from the car parking fiasco, which happens at every event at Silverstone it seems, and the mess-up with changing my address for my race pack to be posted (they said they had updated the system, but they hadn’t) this is a well organised race on the day. There are stands for coffees and burgers etc at the start, many toilets, easy to understand bag drop system, a few shops and charity stands. And once again I was pleasantly surprised by the number of spectators at some points around the course. Not many of them shout for runners other than their partners/parents/children etc, but it’s still nice to see and hear them.

For me, this is definitely a must-do race each year. The potential for a PB is massive and, even with the travelling either side of the race, I didn’t find it too knackering as a day out.

And anyway, it’s Silverstone. GO, GO, GO!!!

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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 – spring 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)

Sunday was the Snake Lane 10mi, hosted by Pocklington Runners. I had in mind to get a massive PB, but it all went very wrong. My current record at the distance is 1:38:46 from Harewood 10mi Trail last year, so I figured there would be a huge margin to knock off on a flat road race. Nope.

The temperature and the colour of the sky were pretty much perfect for a race, but the wind was a complete nightmare. I wrote myself an appropriate race mantra.












I went to the race with my good friends Vikki, Bethan and Jill and we had a lot of laughs along the way, not to mention much support for each other before, during and afterwards.

The start was simple enough – off we went and settled in. Vikki was soon off, and although Jill, Bethan and I were targeting similar times they were ahead of me quite quickly. But not to worry, my first few miles were slower than the ultimate dream target but still good enough for a PB, so I just got on with it. Miles three to six were also steady enough and I was skipping along, but then the wind hit.

As we wound our way through open fields we were blown in every direction. At times it was all I could do to stay upright and going forward, let alone get any speed going. I quickly realised it was hopeless to keep thinking of a PB and I felt pretty awful. By mile 8 I had had enough and just wanted a cup of coffee and a sit down. I did a lot of meditating (my headphones had died by this point so no banging choons to distract me) and kept bringing myself back to my feet and my breath. I felt wonky and all over the place with the gales battering me, but I just had to keep going forward, no matter how slow the progress.

I fought back tears in the final mile and, after what seemed like days, got to the finish line. It wasn’t quite a personal worst, but not far off.

The course was fab and the marshals lovely, but whoever ordered wind is off my Christmas card list! I cheered myself up with a massive four-shot skinny hazelnut latte from the Costa and scoffed my peanut butter KitKat Chunky in about three mouthfuls.

We all got a lovely mug as a memento and headed home looking quite disheveled! Once again I have to thank Jill for being an absolute rock. She kept looking back to check I was OK, and every time I got that thumbs-up I chuckled and felt a little better.

I will definitely be back to tackle this one again, but hopefully the wind will stay away next year.

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Sunday was the Leeds Abbey Dash – a 10k out-and-back road race that is flat, fast and perfect for PB chasers. This was the second race I ever did last year and although I hadn’t really been that fussed about doing it again, circumstances conspired to take me to the start line.

It’s fair to say it’s not the most exciting, interesting or picturesque race. It starts in the city, goes out along the A65 Kirkstall Road, turns round at the Abbey, and comes back again to finish at the Town Hall. The surface is good, the weather can be just right, and the support is pretty good for most of the way. It is a massive race though – somewhere around 10,000 entrants I think – so can be a bit busy.

When I got to town for the start last year I was cold, terrified and alone. This year I was cold, excited, and surrounded by friends. I also had the good wishes of all sorts of people, some I know in real life and many I don’t, going round my head.

My race mantras:

mantra #1f1f82d580ce6af2dd3ad mantra #2











As you can see I was targeting an average of 8:51/mile to get me round in under 55 minutes, and I was fully expecting it to hurt.

Before the start I chatted with some of my lovely Harrier friends and vented some of my excitement in the silly mass warm-up.

rock it warm up











The start was just behind Wellington Street this year, and apart from the walk from the baggage tent at the finish area, it worked well. The pens were clear for each time group and well separated, which meant everyone was in the right order and there wasn’t too much jostling along the run.

It was chilly waiting around, but I don’t think it was as cold as last year. It was cloudy and there was no wind – absolutely perfect.

I had made arrangements to run with my friend Graham from Harriers and his mate Kevin, who said he would pace us to a sub-55 finish. I couldn’t find them at the start though so I just had to set out alone. I did bump into my friend Karen though. She also had a race mantra written on her hand. This made me laugh a lot.

alternative mantra









I went off without really having chance to think about things. I started running, checked my watch after quarter of a mile or so, was right on target so carried on. I could tell already it was going to be tough, but I just kept on putting one foot in front of the other at the same rate.

Graham and Kevin came up behind me around the 2k mark, so then we stuck together pretty much the next few miles.

The route had a little kink through Cardigan Fields leisure complex this year because of the different start, and that was a bit annoying, but apart from that it was up the A65 Kirkstall Road as usual. To the Abbey, turn round, grab a drink, and head back. The kink did mean that I missed seeing the leaders come back past, which was annoying, as I do enjoy cheering them on.

I made it to 5k in 27:40, which was right to schedule, but was really feeling it by that stage. I knew the Harriers support crew were just down the road, and my friends were a little further on, so I just had to dig deep and keep going. I kept checking my mantras and thinking about my form to get me through. Most of the race from 2k to 7k is a bit of a blur – I think I just embraced the pain and went with it. The data shows that my pace was reasonably consistent, and my cadence stayed nice and high at around 176 steps/minute.

I happily told my non-running club friends that I hated them on the way past, and then when I got to Cafe Enzo, where Alix, Helen, Stevie and Sam go for brekkie and then to cheer, they weren’t even ready for me! No pom poms out or anything! I shouted at them to “look lively”, grabbed my water and sped off, shouting back that I did love them really! I hope this amused rather than annoyed my fellow runners.

Now things were getting really tough. Kevin kept me honest, and as we got to 9k he dropped back to gee Graham along as my friend Shami had said she would be there for me at 9k. Shami is a little rocket. She had done her race (in 40:43) then walked back to help me through the last bit. It was much-needed and appreciated, and having Shami run alongside and shouting at me helped to keep me upright and going forward for the final few minutes.

For once there was no real sprint finish. I had used up every single drop of energy and just managed a slight gear change thanks to a final talk with myself about running tall, strong and smooth.

I passed a load of people in those final few minutes, got over the line and managed to not fall over. I crossed the line with absolutely nothing left in me.

Chip time: 54:41. That’s a new PB by 1:16 and a massive improvement of 15:12 over the same race last year. Yes, more than 15 minutes quicker in 12 months of training.












As soon as I got through to collect water and my tee there were friends everywhere smiling and congratulating me. It was fun to bump into so many happy and knackered people. I then went to the pub with the Harriers and recovered with a double gin and slim. Heaven!

It really was a tough race – I felt on the limit with every single step. As one of my friends pointed out I maintained my current quickest 5k pace for twice the distance, which is no easy task. But this does mean that I should be able to get a quicker 5k done soon!

A lot of people don’t like the Abbey Dash. It’s not pretty, and it’s not the cheapest. It’s busy and it can get a bit dull.

But it is perfect for a PB attempt. And it is the first race I have done for two years in a row. Both of these things mean I’m going to have to keep doing it. And I do enjoy it, although my legs beg to differ.

By the way, I do run normally most of the time, it’s just that I’m always so happy to see friends that I have to wave to them.

1 2 3

On Sunday I ran the Harewood Trail 10mile race, organised (superbly) by Valley Striders. It has gone straight on to my list of all-time favourite races (one day I will do a post on the list).

The day had dawned beautifully clear, but by the time we got to Harewood and met up with fellow runners it was very cold and very blustery. And then the rain came in. Sideways. Just as we crossed the start line. It was actually good fun, and there was nothing we could do about it anyway so I sucked it up and embraced it.

We were soon in the forest and sheltered from the weather, and by the time we emerged it had stopped being quite so nasty.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was targeting (and got) a PB on this course, so I was a bit “head down, arse up” in my approach (that’s the biker chick in me coming out). I wrote my goal paces on my hand along with the word “hips” to remind me to run up and tall. These notes, plus the stunning scenery and fun course, came together to create the ideal race, and I loved every single step.

The route took us past Emmerdale, through some gloriously boggy fields and woodland paths, over a lamb skeleton, round Eccup reservoir, through cow fields and culminated in a couple of killer hills and, of course, a sprint finish on the grass. We got all four seasons in one race, plus a rainbow!

And I did get my PB despite the massive and varied challenges of the race, so overall a very good event!

Oh, and the race memento was a bottle of ale. Which went down very nicely that afternoon.

With thanks to my fellow Harriers and Andrew Thrippleton for photos.

Harewood rainbow Navigating the bogs Huddling for warmth at the start Yay! Sprint finish

Happy runner Race ale Harewood Trail 10

I took up running around 18 months ago, and my first road race was a year ago today. A lot has changed since then!

My inaugural race (not counting the Spartan Sprint in August as there was very little running and a lot more mud/climbing/crawling) was the Yorkshire Coast 10k in Scarborough. It was cold, damp and breezy and I was incredibly nervous, but it turned out to be great fun and afterwards I was immensely proud of myself (and bored Helen silly with a mile-by-mile review). I completed the race in 1:13:18.

Scarborough 10k 2013









Since then I have improved a lot with my running, thanks to putting in some serious effort with training, joining Kirkstall Harriers and racing at almost every opportunity.

One of the ways I keep track of my progress is via the RunBritain Rankings handicap system. I don’t completely understand the mathematical formulae behind it, but essentially it’s a bit like a golf handicap – the lower the better. Each licensed race is given a difficulty rating depending on the course, weather, and so on. It then looks at your time in comparison to this and the other runners and decides whether you were quicker or slower than expected, given previous times. At least, I think that is how it works!

The point is this – as of October 28th 2012 my handicap was 33.7. This morning it is 19.8. That’s a reduction of 13.9 in 12 months. And a pretty graph.

RB handicap RB graph







This seemed like a good opportunity to look at some very early stats too.

From May 17th 2012, which will have been one of my very earliest, if not the first, jog/walk session on the Couch to 5K plan:

May 17 2012 run







A total of 2.33km, that’s around 1.45mi, in 22:46. As you can see I was going round and round the park next to my house.

On July 31st 2012 I did 3km, 1.86mi, in 29:52.

And on November 17th 2012 I did 3mi in 36:34, an average pace of 12:10 per mile:

Nov 17 2012 run









By this time I had begun to venture further afield and was running along the canal. My friend Alix would often come with me for a walk, and I’d loop back to her and report on how much further along the towpath I had got in the same time as a week before.

As I reported yesterday, my parkrun (3.1mi) PB is now 26:44 – about 10 minutes quicker than a year ago.

“They” say that new runners can expect several years of improvements before they level off, so here’s to plenty more stats and PBs!