Running has taken over my life

Sounds like a pretty obvious statement, right? Especially for someone who writes a running blog and whose Twitter bio starts ‘Mostly just running’.

But it wasn’t until last week, when I found the photo below, that I realised how much it’s become the case.

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I’ve been a runner for four years. I can say this with certainty, because it wasn’t a gradual process. I never ran, not really even at school. Then one day, I signed up to my first race, and I ran. I pretty much became a runner overnight. Simple.

That photo up there is my medal rack as it was after We Own The Night in 2013. Just five. Now, one year and one week later, this is what it looks like.

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I’ve gone a bit crazy, huh? But like I said, I genuinely hadn’t realised quite how much. In the last year I’ve run a marathon, four half marathons and countless other shorter races. But running is the least important thing. People, experiences, travel, friends, support. That’s why running has taken over my life.

Race report: We Own The Night 2014 (aka the most perfect day of food and fitness)

The weekend kicked off early on Saturday morning, with a trip to Southwark parkrun. This is technically now my ‘home’ parkrun, as it is the closest to me, but I am also in fairly easy Overground distance of Highbury Fields, Hilly Fields and maybe even Crystal Palace too (but am yet to venture there). I decided to walk the relatively short distance over the river and along Jamaica Road to Southwark park to meet up with Charlie and Laureen who had also volunteered.

Charlie’s photo

Steph, ever the parkrun tourist, joined us from SW London as she edges to within touching distance of her 50 tshirt (just checked – she’s on 48!) I was given barcode scanning (it took me a while to get the ‘knack’ of it and at one point quite a queue had built up!), Charlie on finisher tokens and Laureen was marshalling out on the course. It was a really miserable, cold and wet morning, but it was great fun and we headed for brunch on the promise that we’d all be back soon.

Brunch was at Village East over on Bermondsey Street. Fairly quickly I recognised a lot of similarities to The Riding House Café on Great Titchfield Street (where I went for a ‘nice’ lunch with my mum a few months ago) which were in no way a coincidence as a quick Google search told me they are part of the same company, along with The Garrison, also on Bermondsey Street.

I had the bacon sandwich with avocado and chilli jam (£7) with a side of oh-so-creamy scrambled eggs (£2). Avocado is always a winner for me, and I do like a menu to make a bit of an effort wih staple brunch items such as sandwiches or a full English. Speaking of which, Charlie had the Village veggie breakfast (£10) which was one of the most inventive non-meat breakfasts I’ve come across with halloumi, egg, mushroom, tomato, quinoa, chilli and carrot. (As a side note, the Bill’s vegetarian breakfast (£7.95) is pretty ace on this front too.)
Laureen’s photo
After this, we decided we wanted brunch pudding, so headed to Del Aziz. All of us have been there before, and we decided on a pot of fresh mint tea and three cakes to share between the four of us. We went for baked cheesecake, banana and walnut cake and apple and walnut tart. I am LOVING apple tarts at the moment! The cake was massive, the tea delicious and we spent almost three hours lounging on the sofas in the corner. Devine.
Charlie’s photo
Finally, I get to the race report part. I went home, had a cake-induced nap and woke up grouchy with the rain lashing down against my window. Going to run around Victoria Park was the last thing I wanted to do. Nevertheless, soon I was stood freezing at the start line, and instead of a plan to take it easy, Charlie had somehow got me and Harry to agree to try (for as long as we could) to go sub-50. Umm, what?!
Charlie’s photo

We were the closest to the start of a race that I’ve even been, so we were off very quickly. We settled into a 8:45 pace for the first two miles, with me and/or Harry saying “I could slow down” at fairly regular intervals. We passed the awesome Cheer Dem at 4k, and despite speeding up after coming through the cheers, it become obvious by around halfway that sub-50 was off the cards.

Photo by Ash Narod

Did this mean Charlie let us step off the gas? HELL NO. She was the ultimate cheerleader and pacer all in one, tearing her way through the crowds and for most of it I literally felt like I was clinging on. It was super congested by the second lap, but somehow we managed to gain speed. Round two of Cheer Dem was even better than the first, and boosted us to a fastest final mile of 8:07. This was followed by the final few hundred metres at a pace of 7:30!

Unfortunately neither Charlie or Harry beat their PBs, but their fantastic pacing, dragging, chat and encouragement helped me take almost 3 minutes off mine (which still stood from WOTN last year), coming in at 53:15. I am absolutely chuffed with that time, and it has given me the confidence to think that one day, I might be able to conquer sub-50 (Charlie’s definitely got it in the bag).

After the race, we found a few of the TNR girls (in the tent handing out free Prosecco, natch) and we headed to Shoreditch for Pad Thai. A perfect end to a perfect day.

Charlie's photos
Charlie’s photos

Despite being really dubious beforehand and really not wanting to run at the time, this was a really, really good race. It’s come on LOADS since last year (bigger race village, speedier bag drop, more starting waves, less windy and narrow course) and I had a really great time. I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending people sign up. For me to have broken my PB at this race two years running it must be doing something right, eh?!

Scared of racing

Today I will run my fifth half marathon.

The last two were part of marathon training, so they were 'just' training runs. They were at a time when 14, 16, 18 mile runs were the weekly norm.

The furthest I've run since the marathon six weeks ago is 7 miles. I've run a lot since then, but I've run short and I've run fast.

I feel very blasé about today's race, but at the same time very apprehensive. For the first time ever, I'm going to race on what I would call an injury. I'm very sensible normally and wouldn't usually have chosen to run, but today I'm running with my 59 year old Dad and 22 year old brother. It will be my little bro's first race, so there's no way I'm not running.

It's also forecast to be very hot. And the race doesn’t start until 11am, so we will literally be running in the beating midday sun. I hate running in the heat. I am not a hot weather person. Yesterday we panic bought new vest tops, white tshirts and hand held water bottles. At least I have my visor.

And then there's the route. The field is 339 runners, it's all primarily off road, it's rural, it's a little but hilly. Just look at the map.

Wish us luck!

A weekend in pictures: running adventures in Geneva

Checking out the route at the expo. Realising I was running off out towards the French border!IMG_8311

Water fountain at the expo. It turns out Geneva is very proud of it’s water – I got a free water bottle at the expo and at the end of La Genevoise 5k on the Saturday. I loved that there were drinking water fountains ALL OVER the city centre.IMG_8312

Harry and I celebrating our races with a beer on the Sunday evening.IMG_8387

Post race refuelling at it’s finest at the Grand Duke Pub.IMG_8392

Cocktails and Dreams. And medals. And awesome runner friends.IMG_8394

Legs up the wall fun. Our new recovery saviour.IMG_8399

Some more of that gorgeous Swiss water.IMG_8416

But… but, why?!IMG_8418

Our last day in Geneva was blue skied and sunny, so we climbed the tower of the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre.IMG_8426

Doesn’t the fountain look like it’s been Photoshopped in?!IMG_8427

At the top of the Cathedral tower.IMG_8434

Caramel ice cream by the lake…IMG_8440

…followed by the last lunch of fondue at Au Petit Chalet. It had to be done!IMG_8446

Very strong wine and cheese fondue with bread AND the scrummiest new potatoes! ALL. THE. CARBS.IMG_8448

Charlie and Harry sampling the cheese!IMG_8457

I really, really wanted to buy a MASSIVE cow bell for race cheering duties.IMG_8459

A massive thank you to all the TNR ladies for a brilliant running adventure. Me, Laureen, Beki, Leah, Kiera, Harry, Charlie, Laura and Sian.Medals at the airport

Bye Geneva, you were an absolute beaut!IMG_8471

Race report: Geneva marathon relay 2014

I think a marathon relay is a great idea. You get to experience the occasion and atmosphere of the marathon event, without the effort or pressure of training for the whole distance. But, after running in a marathon relay, I also think they might be quite a lot of faff that isn’t worth the effort.

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I’ve got quite into lists on here of late, so here’s some not so great parts of the Geneva marathon relay:

The buses

The half marathon, marathon and relay marathon all start at the same place in Chêne-Bourg, a 15 minute tram ride out of the centre of Geneva. The relayers, then head to a park and ride site a further 10-15 min walk along the main road. Our bus for the second leg was supposed to leave at 8:15, it eventually left over half an hour later. It was all a bit boring and I don’t love spending my Sunday hanging out next to a multi-story car park. It didn’t help that the half marathon started at 8:30 so I was sat on the bus (not moving) thinking ‘I could’ve just been running by now’.

The ‘start’

The start of leg two was at FC Choulex, a small football club in a rural town outside of Geneva. There was one toilet, no cover and it was ruddy freezing. We had over an hour wait. I was happy to run off out of there.

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The atmosphere

We didn’t get the start line atmosphere or finish line glory. There were around 300 people starting our leg together, but all at different times. The ‘finish’/swap over at leg four was even more sparse. We just got to a sort-of ‘lay by’ set up in the middle of nowhere… then just stopped.

The relay

I entered the relay as a team, but in reality I saw less of the three girls in my team than I would’ve done if we’d all just ran one of the other distances as a ‘regular’ race. Leah handed over to me, then I handed over to Kiera, but the few scrambled seconds in between legs was all I saw of them. (I was then a rubbish team mate and missed Beki doing the finishing leg as I was desperate for a shower.)

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The good stuff

The good thing about this race was running my leg with Billie, from the second Team Naturally, Run team. We had leg 2, which was 10k-21k of the marathon course. If I was running on my own I probably would have hated it. The route was through fields, woodland, vineyards and small villages. The only supporters were families out at the end of their drives. The scenery was stunning in parts – mountains and little castles flying Swiss flags off in the distance. There were some points with slightly soul destroying 90 degree turns, where you were running out along one side of a field and then turning and running along the other.

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The actual running part I enjoyed. 7 miles was a pretty perfect distance, and exactly 4 weeks after the marathon, it was the first time my legs didn’t feel absolutely and completely mashed up. The actual race was fairly well organised (other than the super late running shuttle bus at the start, and having to wait a while to get one back to the finish in the city centre after our leg), with the usual stuff such as expo, aid stations and medals all being top notch.

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I don’t think I’d run a race as a relay again, for me it meant I lost all the parts I enjoy about racing – the city centre location, the crowds, the atmosphere. But it meant that I got to run through some of the Swiss countryside that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise and it was a different racing experience. I don’t think I would’ve enjoying running the half marathon distance so soon after the marathon anyway. This was just a very small part of a brilliant running weekend away with friends.