Running has felt very up and down since the marathon. I was absolutely loving it for about a month, but since my 10k PB at We Own The Night in London, it’s all gone a bit lacklustre.

So I went into this race with absolutely no expectations – I was in Amsterdam for the weekend to enjoy myself, I wasn’t going to hold back on what I ate, drank or did in favour of a better race. But this was a thoroughly enjoyable race (despite me being in a massive grump about my time afterwards and Charlie having to tell me off).

Myself, Charlie and Laureen were all running, with Laureen’s sister Alice also along as support. We knew very little about the race before we got there, the route map was in typically minimalist Nike style – with us knowing nothing about the layout of the city, it gave very little away.

We were also completely unaware that the race began at 22:30 until the day we arrived in the city. This was a bit annoying to start with, as I’d hoped to experience some Amsterdam nightlife, and such a late race was eating into this, but it was so hot during the day that a late start was appreciated.

After sitting down for dinner at pretty much the same time we were running the London race (that felt very odd!), we made our way out to the Olympic Stadium via bus. On the way we saw so many girls in their turquoise shirts travelling there by bike. I was very jealous of the ease and elegance of just jumping on a Dutch bike to go run a 10k.

As we got to the stadium, it completely clouded over and started to rain (I’d just bought some new sandals about 3 hours earlier as it was so hot. Typical). This did nothing to dampen the brilliant vibe in the stadium and we managed to easily while away the time before the race start by visiting the portaloos, playing around in the Vogue Nederland photo booth and having our picture taken by their photographer, finding our names on the WOTN wall and meeting up with the girls from Running Junkies.

In fact, we got a bit carried away, and before we knew it, pretty much everyone else was in their pens ready for the start. I’d told a very small sub-50 fib when picking up my wristband so I could be in the same pen as Charlie (who wasn’t telling any lies when she said she could run a sub-50). We jumped a fence to get into our pen, but accidentally found ourselves in the one for VIPs… in front of pen 1. OOPS!!

The atmosphere in the starting pens was the best I’ve ever experienced at a race. The DJ was awesome and the music was actually LOUD. I’m sure the time of the evening also helped, but we were RAVING at that start line and ready to GO! And then it all went silent, a bloke came on stage and wittered on in Dutch for a bit, before the DJ came back on and pretty much had to recreate the previous 15-20 minutes.

The race didn’t actually get going until nearly 23:00, by which time I have to admit, I was definitely in the ‘let’s just get this over with, shall we?’ mindset. I lost the other girls almost immediately, and didn’t have any music, Nike+ or Garmin with me (shocking, I know), so had no choice but to take in and enjoy what was going on around me.

I thought that running in London we have a lot of ‘street furniture’ to contend with. HELL NO. This course took in big bollards, wide bollards, and worst of all, shin height bollards. As well as steps, cobbles, low hanging trees and of course, bikes. Some parts were very dark and very uneven. There were street parts, but a large chunk of the course took place in Vondelpark.

Also along the course was a giant little up arch with music pumping and dancers (much more impactful that the light tunnels at the London race, I thought), quite a few cheering crowds (most drinking!) and topless guys on light up podiums (not sure that would’ve gone down in London…?!) I think 10k continues to be my favourite distance – long enough to earn a medal, not so long that it turns into a slog.

Finishing in the Olympic Stadium was pretty cool, we ran through and onto the track to be handed the usual coconut water, brown paper goody bag and necklace medal, designed by The Boyscouts.

Other than the annoyingly delayed start, I had a brilliant time at this race, and in Amsterdam. Obviously you have to get there and pay for accommodation, but this race was only €20 to enter – an absolute steal for an event like this. The flight over is super short (less than an hour) and pretty cheap, and I’m sure we could’ve got a better deal on a hotel if we’d booked a bit more in advance. Would I travel abroad for ‘just’ a 10k again? Absolutely!

Read Charlie’s absolutely brilliant race recap here too.

Everyone has races where time is important. We all have times where we train hard for a race, and are desperate to beat a PB or slip under an illusive but ultimately arbitrary milestone. And everyone has races where time could not matter less. This was one of those races. There were parts of it I really didn’t enjoy, like the heat (remember that one really hot Sunday we had a couple of weeks ago?!), the hills, running over sand, loose gravel and lumpy grass, but ultimately, none of that matters. I ran this race alongside my Dad and my brother, so I’m going to let them tell you how it went…

Kevin/Dad’s Race Report

NORTH NORFOLK HALF MARATHON – Sunday 18th May 2014 

I awoke early on the morning of the race with a mixture of feelings ranging from trepidation to concern with a very small amount of excitement, bordering on anticipation. Looking out of the window, the sun was already shining brightly. As forecast, it was going to be a nice, very warm day. Just what we needed!

Arriving at the start, it was noticeable that a large percentage of the participants were members of running clubs but I found it somewhat reassuring to note that there were a few competitors who actually appeared to be older than me. Or was that just wishful thinking resulting from unrealistic optimism?

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The training in the preceding weeks had not gone smoothly. A number of rest periods were needed to enable me to recover from calf injuries and, as a result, less than a third of the planned miles had been covered. It had become obvious that my warming-up routine was somewhat lacking, i.e. no stretching and very little in the way of warming-up before running. Over the last three weeks of the training, this had been rectified and, as a result, I had remained injury-free.

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We had thought about the tactics for the race and had come to the conclusion that discipline was required from the very beginning. It was important not to start too quickly. As we set off, I glanced at my brand new Garmin watch and pressed the button. We were away. I would look at that watch at least 500 times during the race (or so it seemed). As we set off, a quick look over the shoulder revealed a few runners behind us, but not many. It dawned on me that I was actually running with my son and daughter.

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It soon became evident that, due to the ever-increasing temperature, our planned times per mile would not be achieved. Thankfully, there were watering stations every two miles or so and full use was made of these. A number of runners were feeling the effects of the heat at a fairly early stage. They were walking, possibly having started too quickly. The route took us along the coastal path and then through the centre of Wells which was rather crowded. We had planned to run together but agreed that if any of us felt able to go quicker, they should do so. Over the last three miles, it was obvious that Marcus had more fuel in the tank and he soon disappeared into the distance. Melissa soldiered on with great determination despite suffering from the heat and running with an injured knee.

After about 10.5 miles, we received a welcome boost as Alison, Hollie and Freddie were waiting to cheer us on. I think they had been there for quite a while, enjoying a snooze in the sun. The final two miles of the race were uphill and on the roughest terrain but finally Holkham Hall came into sight, just as I overtook Sydney the “dog”. He had been blatantly cheating by carrying his head! A quick look at the watch revealed less than a mile to go but, rather frustratingly, the course went past the finish and away from it, before doubling back in a loop. As the finishing line was crossed, the button was pressed and a time of 2 hours, 38 minutes and 53 seconds showed – a personal best! (First ever half marathon).

Freddie the real dog...

Freddie the real dog…

...and Sydney the not-so-real dog

…and Sydney the not-so-real dog

It was an absolute joy running with my son and daughter. Dare I say it? I am already looking forward to doing it again.

Dad at the finish line!

Dad at the finish line!

Marcus/little bro’s Race Report

The North Norfolk half marathon was my first proper run. I have always played sport, predominantly football and cricket, and have therefore stayed (fairly!) active. This run however felt another step up. Looking at the weather forecast on the days running up to the race, it looked as though it was going to be a hot and sunny day! And as Sunday arrived, it didn’t disappoint. I had gone for a last pre-race run on the Friday prior to the Sunday in very warm temperatures. This may have been a bad idea! I struggled, and in turn casted doubts on my ability to run the half marathon.

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When it came to race day, I was running with my sister and father. We took it easy for the first half of the race. I think we all felt pretty good. For me anyway, surprisingly good. It was very hot and on differing terrain. With it being such a hot day, hydration was paramount. The organisers had numerous water stations along the route. I think originally we had been given every 3 mile stop offs as our water stations. Thankfully they turned out to be much more frequent!

So we carried on until 2 miles to go. At this point I increased my speed slightly, as I still felt ok. Again, against what I had expected! Overall I found the run enjoyable, and as I finished, after thinking about what I was going to get from the fish and chip shop, my thoughts went straight to planning my next race.

Marcus at the finish line!

Marcus at the finish line!

Can you believe they have both finished saying they want to do it again?! *proud face*

And I’ll leave you with a few more shots that make it a proud AND a happy face…

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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?!

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.

Hello from Geneva!

After getting up before 5am, an hour long wait on the runway at Gatwick, but then a super quick and painless flight, yesterday we arrived!

After checking in, grabbing some pasta with an obligatory petite bière, hunting out a local supermarket for Swiss treats and heading to the expo to pick up race numbers, it was time to head over to Ashley and Bo’s gorgeous Geneva apartment. They kindly offered to host us all for a couple of hours of cheese, wine and chat to welcome us to the city.

Myself, Harry and Charlie then wandered around the centre for a while on the way back to our hotel, stopping off for frites and another petite bière at the Lord Nelson pub on Place du Molard.

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This morning, after the ace little breakfast buffet at our hotel, we went for a wander around the city again, taking in the sights and beautiful buildings. The women’s only 5k race that’s part of the Geneva marathon weekend, La Genevoise, is held at 2pm at the afternoon, possibly the strangest time of a race I’ve ever taken part in. I didn’t want lunch before the race, so instead fuelled with a pain au chocolat and coffee.

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After more wandering, we met the rest of the girls near the start and headed across the bridge to the start. It was a sea of very enthusiastic ladies in frankly hideous pink v-neck t-shirts (probably won’t be wearing that one!) and some very loud dodgy dance. It was a really fun atmosphere though.

Soon enough, we were running through the inflatable arch and off to the left towards the lake. The first half mile or so of the course was super busy, narrow and congested. The race was full of all kinds of abilities mixed together (as was the point of the race) so required quite a lot of weaving. I said to Leah about how I had considered trying to PB at this race, but it clearly just wasn’t going to happen.

The route was an out and back along the side of the lake, and the sun came out whilst we were waiting at the start, so running along the water was really lovely.

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Just before the turn back, the course opened up a little and I sped up. By half way, I could really speed up and decided to see how fast I could go. I ran the last (almost) mile at 7:45 pace and crossed the finish after running down the brilliantly noisy and spectator filled final straight in 25:42, well over a minute faster than my previous 5k PB. The course came out at 2.95 miles, but even still I’m taking it. I’d heard that post marathon is a good time to get a shorter distance time, and today felt really good for it.

A lovely little race with a lovely little view and a great way to shake out before more running tomorrow.

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Tonight, we’ve been going through the race prep motions proper in readiness for the half marathon and marathon relay tomorrow, not that you’d be able to tell from our dinner…

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