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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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Geography has never been my strong point, but I’m pretty sure Hull is in the north east of England, not the Mediterranean. Apparently the sun was confused on Sunday, and took a wrong turn somewhere over the continent to put in an appearance for the East Hull 20mile race, organised by East Hull Harriers.

I was quite apprehensive about the race. It would be the first time I had run 20 miles (my longest run previously was 18 miles three weeks earlier) and I was nervous about crashing and burning and having my first DNF on my running record. Fortunately I had some good friends also doing the race – Rose, Richard and Steve from Kirkstall Harriers and Ben from Hyde Park Harriers – so at least I had company and reassuring words at the start while I was feeling sick.

I woke stupidly early, had a basic brekkie (PB on toast) and got ready. I had laid everything out the night before so all I had to do was write my race mantra for the day. I knew this was going to be a toughie so I took inspiration from Kieran who told me earlier this year to run the first third with my legs, the second with my head and the third with my heart. At least, I think that’s the right way round!

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After a slight detour me, Rose, Ben and Richard got to race HQ and bumped into Steve. The facility was spot-on – no queue to collect numbers, proper toilets and refreshments available. We weren’t quite sure where the start line was, so when the time came we followed the crowd and loitered by the side of the road. After a short while people started to walk on to the road, and, still chatting away, we heard a gun shot and then off we went! It was quite a good way to start a race actually – no time to get nervous!

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The first two miles were on busy main roads and then we peeled off into the country lanes. With the sun shining down and open fields all around it was glorious, and warm. We followed some gorgeous little paths and tracks and it was incredibly beautiful. By mile 3 I was alone and only a few places from last, which was fine, but it did make for a very lonely race.

Having looked at the route map I knew where to expect water stations and they were exactly where they said they would be. But, more importantly, they were manned by some very lovely people and had jelly sweeties too!

I was absolutely loving it for the first half. I was running quicker than I should have been, but I was putting no effort into doing that, so I didn’t worry about it. The fast runners came back past me at about mile 6 so I cheered them on and at mile 9 I had a good old sing-song with myself when Fleetwood Mac came on my iPod. I waved to a man on a GSXR who came flying along the road and was generally loving life.

I had chats with a lady who passed me at about mile 10, but as she pulled away I was on my own again. Then it started to get tougher. I knew I should have made more of an effort to slow down earlier, but I think mostly it was just the on and on and on and the loneliness that got to me. I was passed by the occasional cyclist and horse rider, but I only had myself for entertainment. I turned off the music and chatted with the world for a bit. Then I walked and shouted at my legs. Then I swore and started running again. I found a quid at mile 14.5 (I bought a scratchcard with it the next day but I didn’t win!) and made it on to mile 16 and eventually 17.

By this point I was done in and delirious. I put the choons back on and belted out a slightly breathless version of China In Your Hand to the open fields then willed myself to just push on for another two miles. I stopped and explained to my legs what was happening – “you just need to keep going” I said, “you know what to do so just do it”. The pep-talk worked, and I was soon weaving through a housing estate with less than a mile to the finish.

Back on the main road I passed fellow runners who had already finished and they gave me some very welcome encouragement, and I shuffled over the line in 3:55:54.

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I collected a bottle of water and a commemorative towel and sat down inside with my friends. I then made the most of the excellent facilities and impressive buffet and began my recovery with a cold can of Coke, a massive slice of chocolate swiss roll and a hot shower.

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I did a few half-arsed stretches but I didn’t feel too bad considering I had just run 20 miles! I got changed and we headed back to the car. I did stiffen up a bit when sat on the motorway for over an hour, but it was nothing that a cup of tea and a cream donut didn’t solve when I got home!

East Hull Harriers are to be congratulated on organising a great race – not only for the scenic course and the excellent marshals and helpers, but also for ordering perfect weather! I was sixth from last but I didn’t feel that I was putting anyone out by being slow or that I was not welcome. I will definitely do this one again, whether or not I do another spring marathon.

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

 

I often sing and talk to myself. I spend a lot of time alone with only my thoughts and the radio for company, and sometimes I just have to say things out loud. Vocalising makes it easier to think things through or solve problems. I have even been known to have full-blown conversations or arguments with myself. I sing along with what’s on the radio or my music player too. I love a good karaoke session and can belt out a power ballad along with the best.

So if you ever see me walking or running around Leeds do not be surprised if I’m warbling away and pretending like I’m in my own music video.

I’ll sing anything, and it keeps me occupied and entertained. I don’t sound that great, and I’m sure that the people I pass are not as amused, but I enjoy myself.

One song that has grabbed my attention on recent runs is Imprint by doubleDrive. I don’t think I know any of their other work, but this tune is a current running favourite of mine. The lyrics really speak to me and it always makes me smile.

Imprint by Doubledrive

One step I make an imprint
Two steps it’s a commitment
Three steps I’m not done yet
Draw my other leg up and the pace is set

Gotta believe in what’s real
You gotta go with what you know
You can leave here with a good feeling
You let them know you told them so
Jesus Christ
And heaven’s always been there

Gotta believe in what’s real
You gotta go with what you know
One step I make an imprint
Two steps it’s a commitment
Three steps I’m not done yet
Draw my other leg up and the pace is set

Gotta tell you what I feel
Although your tank is running low
Over the split line for real
Pat the hood…you’re good to go
Hear you now
You’re cut from the cords of the wicked

Gotta believe in what’s real
You gotta move on down the road
One step I make an imprint
Two steps it’s a commitment
Three steps I’m not done yet
Draw my other leg up and the pace is set

PS I was even on karaoke dating show Sing Date. That’s how much I like singing and making a fool of myself.