Category Archives: training

Serpentine New Year’s Day 10k

Serpentine NYD 10k medal

I began the new year as I mean to go on, by getting up at the crack of dawn (9am) for my first race of the year – the New Year’s Day 10k organised by Serpentine Running Club.

This is the third time I’ve signed up for the NYD 10k, but only the second time I have bothered to have turn up, as last year the lure of getting a bit drunk then staying in bed proved more appealing. Had I not had the marathon coming up, I certainly would have done the same this year, as race conditions were grim. The morning offered the full triumvirate of runner’s favourites: cold, wind and rain.

The timing and almost guaranteed bad weather means the NYD 10k attracts a different crowd from other races – very few fun runners and slow plodders like me, and lots of Proper Serious Runners with athletic bodies and running club vests. I’d been told to expect a personal worst, but that 90% of the battle was getting to the start line.

This year seemed less well-organised than previously, with long queues for registration and bag drop. They also ran out of safety pins well before the start, leading to a bizarre threat to penalise anyone using more than two pins (!).

I bumped into two people I know around the start, my colleague (and fellow marathoner) Jeanette, and a friend from a running forum, which made me feel a little more at ease.

I made may way to the start line, where all the runners huddled together for warmth like emperor penguins in the face of the cold wind. At this point I wished I’d worn my jacket, but by then it was a bit late. Two people behind me discussed whether they’d break 40 minutes for the last time before they turned 40. I felt like a fat, slow fraud of a runner.

A little after 11am, we were off. The race runs on narrow paths through the park, so for the first 2km or so there’s a lot of jostling to get ahead as people find their space and pace. I started well; I looked at my Pebble and saw I was doing 5.36/km, but I was being overtaken by almost everyone else nonetheless.

The route is a winding one through Hyde Park, doubling back on itself a couple of times and including a loop which has to be run twice. By the time I got to the start of the loop at around km 4 there were people just finishing. One of them stepped in a massive puddle and splashed me from the waist down. In yet another sign that I am being comprehensively beaten at this game, this is the point where I started to feel dreadful and slow down, while the puddle-splasher sped on ahead as if it hadn’t happened.

From here on I slowed down to over 6mins/km for the next 4km. The loop is the worst bit of the course anyway – being lapped by speedy people running it for the second time – but this year was especially bad as there was a strong headwind and at one point I think there was even hail.

The water point here was very welcome, and after that I felt a little better. The 6km mark led me to do a little mental fist-bump at having got halfway, and after that the 8km mark seemed to come around quickly. From there it was the home straight. I glanced at my Pebble and realised that if I gave it some welly I could make it round in under an hour.


My first medal of 2014!

I started to power though, and my speed upped a little – did km 8 in 5:53, and the final kilometre in 5:48 as I pushed myself to get over the line before the hour mark.

My chip time was 59:05 – pretty respectable, I thought, and certainly no personal worst. But it was a strong field of Proper Runners so I was 439th of 582 runners to cross the line.

After the finish I got a medal – hopefully the first of several in 2014 – and a t-shirt (not a technical one, but still decent swag given the £17 entry fee).

What made this race great were the volunteers who were up early on New Years Day to make this a great race for everyone and get the running year off to a good start.

Finding my feet


After feeling a little despondent about my training so far (or the lack of it) and resolving to up my game, I finally did.

I live by the river Thames, which is an excellent place to be (until the sea levels rise, when it won’t be). Amongst the many great things about where I live is that the Thames towpath is right on my doorstep. It’s a brilliant place to run; there’s no traffic, it’s peaceful and quiet, and you get to see the different birds as the seasons change. I know it sounds wanky, but it makes me feel much calmer and more connected to the seasons when I get out along the river.

I have a regular route from where I live in Barnes down to Hammersmith and beyond, and back again. Whenever I want to add a bit on to my distance, I just add another bridge on to my route on either the way out or back again. The Hammersmith-Barnes loop is a nice 7.5k – a good lunchtime distance – but I hadn’t been further than that in a while.

Today I reached Hammersmith and still felt like I had plenty more in the tank, so I kept going, all the way down to Putney, across Putney Bridge (see photo above), and back down the north side, around 14k in total.

It was an absolutely beautiful day. Cold but sunny. There were cormorants and herons on the shore, and rowers out on the river. I felt fit and strong and happy, and as I made my way back home, I felt like I could have gone on longer were it not getting dark. For the first time I felt like I can really do this.

I can run a marathon.

Festive fail

running santas

And so this is Christmas, and what have you done? The short answer is: not a lot.

Last year I bucked the trend by having a super-fit Christmas; we were away on holiday, staying somewhere that could hardly be better suited to running. We ran every day. I even started Christmas day with a nine-mile jog in the snow along the riverside, leaving me feeling smug right up until I stuffed myself silly over dinner.

This year I’ve been less successful. I’ve been for two short, plodding runs since getting back from holiday. Between post-holiday blues, and the string of festive drinking invites, running in the cold and wet has slipped down my list of priorities.

Christmas is a time to spend time with family, and enjoy food and drink together. But it’s also one of the rare occasions on which one gets a few public holidays off on the trot, making it an ideal opportunity to fit in a run or two to balance out the overindulgence (and prevent me going completely stir-crazy).

I really enjoyed last year’s Christmas running streak. So as I’m now winding down for Christmas, I’m planning to take advantage of the days at home to refocus and get my marathon training back on track.

Photo credit: nance coleman

Planning, not doing

Image by Tung Pham (Creative Commons)

With less than four months to go until the big day, it’s fair to say my training is off to a slow start.

In my defence, I have been on holiday. We spent two and a half weeks in Argentina, on a really active break which saw me hiking, climbing, swimming, rafting… but not running.

I’ve become quite obsessive about my Fitbit, clocking up an average of 22,000 steps a day pounding the stunning countryside in Patagonia. On one day we did over 35,000 steps, which is about 14 miles – more than a half marathon. I’m trying to tell myself this is progress, but I’m probably not convincing anyone else.

Likewise, my nutrition strategy – lots of steak and red wine – has been sub-optimal.

If I’m going to make that 26.2 miles it’s time to take charge of the situation: it’s time to make a plan. As the old army adage goes, fail to plan and you plan to fail, right?

On the recommendation of a marathon-running friend, I’ve started reading Run Faster, Run Less. This advocates a strategy of running three times a week, combining one long run with two shorter ones aimed at improving speed. In truth this about all I can realistically fit around my job anyway, but it’s nice to have some confirmation that this is a workable plan.

So with that in mind on the plane home I sketched out targets for the months ahead, starting with getting my long runs up to 10 miles by year end, then working upwards from there by adding a couple of kilometres a week.

I’ve scheduled in long runs and target distances for all my weekends between now and April. I’m aiming to combine these with a weekly run home from work, and an hour’s interval training on my working from home day.

I popped this all in to a Google Calendar, colour coded by run type. I’m pretty proud of it. My other half is less impressed: “If I were you I’d put more effort into the actual running”.

He might have a point. I slipped on my trainers and went for my first post-holiday jog. 6.78km, around where we live. It was hard. All that steak and Malbec, lovely though it was, has taken its toll.

I may need more than a plan. I need to up my game.

Photo credit: Tung Pham

First thing’s first

barnes towpath

On Monday night we went out for dinner to celebrate our anniversary – two years of marriage, and ten years together.

And what better way to celebrate than at Hawksmoor, with a giant steak and triple-cooked chips (plus some extremely creamy spinach, to give the impression of a balanced meal).

Over dinner I told D about my marathon plans.

“I need to buy a domain and sort out my hosting. I was thinking of creating a widget for the sidebar which shows miles run in training, and something clever to encourage donations…”

“Umm, don’t you think you ought to, you know… do some running?”

I don’t think he’s taking this seriously.

So, this happened

clean trainers

“Oh crikey” was my first thought when I opened the email from work saying I’d won a place in their London Marathon ballot.

Ok, so anyone who knows me knows that isn’t really what I said. A stream of expletives too rude to publish on a PG-rated blog went through my head and I screamed “SHIT” at the top of my voice. Fortunately I was working from home, or I’d have had some odd looks from my colleagues.

I ran through to my husband in the room across the hall and told him the good news.

“Congratulations!” he replied “I guess that means you need to get back on the training, eh?”

That bought me back down to earth with a very hard bump. I don’t really like running. I see it as a necessary evil, something to burn off a few calories and help in my endless battle between fitness and fatness. I tolerate it, and sometimes it even feels good. But training, to run 26.2 miles, well that’s a different story altogether, isn’t it?

You see, I’m 33. I’m a 5’0″, dumpy, slightly overweight woman in my mid-thirties. I’ve run three half-marathons before, but the last one was in March. Since then my running habit has waned. I developed a reasonable early morning gym habit over the summer, but as the mornings have got colder and darker and that’s been less appealing than staying in bed and reading the entire internet on my phone.

My recent lazy patch, together with my fondness for chocolate, means I’m tipping the scales at 63kg today. And I have to run a marathon in five months and two days’ time. Shit.

“I need to do something” I thought. So I did what any sensible runner would do: I posted the good news on Facebook so my friends could have a good laugh.

Then I toddled upstairs, and put on my running kit and trainers. My most recent run was barely 15 minutes. I could have gone further, but I couldn’t be arsed. But now I have to be arsed.

“Half an hour. Just keep running for half an hour,” I told myself as I strapped on my Pebble smartwatch and fired up Runkeeper on my phone.

And so, I ran. Through the recreation ground, past Barnes station and through the common all the way to the Spencer Arms in Putney, by some odd back route I’ve never come across before. Putney was where we had our wedding reception, and it was our wedding anniversary, so I kept going all the way to the riverside venue, where exactly two years ago we celebrated our marriage.

After that I looped back down the river towards home. 9k in total. 45 minutes. And it felt pretty good.

As I was running, I started to think “I can do this. I can run a marathon.”

In my head, I started making a plan. I need a training plan.

But more importantly than that, I need a website.

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