A look at my year in running – without a doubt the best so far – through the medium of my medal rack…

1. Energizer Night Run, April

My first race this year and my first race for over a year. I stupidly wore the massive race cotton tshirt (it’s like that in a year I forgot what not to do whilst running). And then it rained. Hard. So that was nice.

2. We Own The Night, May

Somehow, in 5 weeks, I managed to knock off 9 minutes from the April race and land a 10k PB – which is still standing. I drank the free Prosecco within about 17 seconds of crossing the finish line, then felt really sick for the rest of the night. So that was nice.

3. Wimbledon Common 10k, June

At this point, I’d lived in Wimbledon for four months and hadn’t set foot on the Common. I did not realise it had mud and hills and trees like an ACTUAL FOREST. I came about three from last. And, despite being less than three miles from my flat, it took bloody ages to get there. So that was nice.

4. British 10k, July

Waiting for what felt like forever (I think it was actually about 40 minutes) on the hottest day of the year, to then run 10k on the hottest day of the year. My least favourite race ever. Oh, and then I went to run The Colo(u)r Run that afternoon. I was so grumpy, so very grumpy. So that was nice.

5. Copenhagen half marathon, September

I was still so grumpy from the double runday Sunday in July that I decided not to run for most of August. I went to Copenhagen and had a really lovely time in a great city with some ace people. Then I ran a half marathon after nowhere near enough training, cried throughout the last 3k and had to be escorted over the last kilometre. So that was nice.

6. Whole Foods Women Only Run (5k option), October

Again proving that just because something is in South West London, it doesn’t mean it’s anywhere near my flat – which is also in South West London. I walked further to the race than the rest itself, but despite having the previous two days off work sick, I smashed my (albeit ancient) 5k PB. Now that one was actually nice.

7. Mo Running Battersea Park 5k, November

I now think an HP Sauce van pumping out the smell of freshly cooked bacon is the secret to race success. Because I was so bloomin’ hungry at the beginning of this race, that despite promising Leah I was in it to ‘take it easy’, I literally did race back to the manwich goodness. And broke the previous month’s 5k PB in the process. Another quite nice one.

8. The Running Show 10k, November

On the surface, this race was back to not-so-niceness, what with the boring course (and the three glasses of wine the night before). Oh, and the migraine that came on in the last mile or so. Bleurgh. But, I ran sub-60, showing that 9-something minute miles were now my new norm. Nice!

9. Mo Running Greenwich Park 10k, November

Blimey, to think I thought Richmond was far away. Greenwich is something (or rather, somewhere) else. But a beautiful day, a course on the right side of challenging, and 70+ other RDC runners made this a perfect race. I loved it.

10. CAFOD Nativity Run 5k (oops!), December

On a chilly, but clear and gorgeous December morning, me and 14 other lovely running ladies decided to dress as elves and go for a little run around Clapham Common. I felt awful and the course was the windiest I’ve ever run, but it just goes to prove that this running thing is about far, far more than just the running. I was surrounded by brilliant, like minded people, none of whom I knew a year ago. And that made this the nicest race of them all.

Oh 2014, you’ve got a pretty big racing year to top…

Drinking three glasses of wine at the Write This Run post-conference social. Seeing the train we needed leave the platform and therefore missing it by seconds. Eating a gross ready meal with virtually no nutritional value when I finally got home. Not laying my kit out. Forgetting to charge my Garmin. Having absolutely no food in the flat. Relying on Costa for pre-race breakfast.

This was my brilliant, perfectly executed preparation for The Running Show 10k. If I’d had my way, it would have been a lot worse, but thankfully I made it back to day two of WTR at Sandown Park to tackle 2 laps of the boring, undulating, out and backy course. Dorky route and elevation maps to prove my point:

Crap course aside (I guess there’s only so much you can do within the confines of a racecourse), the organisation, marshalls, timing and markings were flawless. Seeing so many familiar running/blogging faces from the previous day around the course definitely made the race, as it was hard and hilly and the short shorts crew were out in force (meaning 86% of the field finished in 65 minutes or less).

Team WTR – photo from Write This Run

On the plus side, I ran 59:32. Not a PB, but if this means my fitness is now at a level where I can knock out a sub hour 10k on a not very good day, I am more than chuffed. Consistency in training has always been an issue for me, but I feel it’s starting to get better and starting to pay off.

I’m happy with the medal I earnt at this race.

Possibly the only time I’ve actually looked better after a race

Progress is a great feeling, huh?

Just a super quick one for a super quick race (and also because I completely forgot to take any good photos)…

I only decided to run this race about a week before, which I don’t think I’ve ever done before. It was good as it meant to anticipation or expectations. I met Leah on the bus to Battersea Park – we got there super early, but just soaked up the atmosphere and decided to take it together at an ‘average’ pace. After admiring the many mo’s and costumes, we set off promptly at 10am.

For the first half of the race, I felt like I was being pulled along by Leah, but then I decided that maybe we were just going at her average pace. Half way through we sort of realised we were in fact going quite fast for a race we were supposed to be taking easily, but only slowed down for probably a couple of minutes. I’m convinced it was the smell of food at the beginning, I was so hungry…

After coming through half way round the second lap, I realised I could PB if we kept it up and so I even sped up a bit… (sorry Leah for the 8:31 third mile, definitely against the original plan!) We came in a second apart at 27:03 and 27:04 – a new 5k PB for me! Next time, we are gunning for Leah’s PB for sure!

Didn’t quite hit ‘start’ at the start…

A great little race, flawlessly organised, with a cracking medal. Perhaps a little on the pricey side at £17 for a 5k, but at least there was a free bacon sarnie at the end to soften the blow. Bring on the Mo Running 10k in Greenwich Park in just under two weeks…

Who else is Mo Running this year?

A few weeks ago I entered a competition on Charlie’s blog, The Runner Beans, for a place in the (very snappily titled) Whole Foods Market WomenOnly Run in Richmond Park. There were three distance options – 5k, 10k and 15k – plus each had a ‘with buggy’ option. Having hurt myself (I’m not saying injured as it’s not quite that bad) during the Copenhagen half (I don’t think I’d mentioned?!), I decided on the 5k race as my physio has suggested I stick to runs of only a few miles whilst I work on some strengthening exercises.

Not that I’m one to moan or seek sympathy (*ahem*) when I’m feeling ill, but the last two days before the race I spent off work on the sofa feeling achey, hurty and just grotty. However, I’d perked up considerably by the time I went to bed, so set out my kit ‘just in case’. Having had ALL THE SLEEP over the previous 36 hours I woke up feeling fresh, so took ALL THE DRUGS (okay, just Ibuprofen, Lemsip and extra strength Strepsils) and decided to GET THIS DONE.

I had a lovely little (almost four mile) walk from my flat to Richmond Park, which was actually quite nice and a great warm up, despite getting a bit lost and a bit chased by dogs.

Look at that for a fairisle sock/flouro orange trainer combo.

My strategy for this race was definitely GET THIS DONE. I had a ‘the quicker I run, the sooner I can stop running’ attitude, which saw me set of at a fast (for me) 9:30 min/mile pace… and then sustain this for the whole 5k! (Or rather 2.94 miles, according to my Garmin.) Despite the shortness of the course, it still would’ve been a PB if I’d run to 3.1. Apparently, lots of sleep, two pre-race Nuuns and some painkillers (not actually advised!!) make for a good race. For a distance that I’ve always avoided, I bloody loved it.

The race was great – started at 10am on the dot (they literally counted down to. the. second.), flawless organisation and marshalling, a brilliant race village (including post-race yoga sessions), lots of goodies in the definitely reusable Whole Foods bag and other freebies around and about.

If it wasn’t for the fact I won my entry, I wouldn’t have paid to enter the 5k at £16 when there’s a parkrun across the road for free, but the 10k or 15k would be surefire options for me next year.

After a quick wander, I returned to the course to see some other Twitter/blogging/Team Naturally, Run lovelies who were running the 15k.

Here’s Charlie, who was literally flying around her last long run before she’s off to the NYC Marathon next month.

Next up I saw Leah (smiling as always!) and Kiera, who were about to embark on their third 5k loop.

And then there was super speedy Jess, who came 5th in the 15k, and who I tried to snap again a little closer, but she was just too damn quick.

It may have only been 5k, but I am still on a high from how much I enjoyed this race. It was definitely the kick I needed to start the training for something a bit mega that I’m about to embark on… it may involve the M word…

Wow. What a weekend. I could go on for an age about what a brilliant city Copenhagen is, but I’ll stick with saying that everyone should visit immediately. And hire bikes whilst you’re there. And visit Louisiana. (And hop over to my Tumblr/Instagram for more pictorial evidence of Copenhagen’s awesomeness).

Bikes for days…

The teeny tiny famous mermaid lady

But for now, the race. A story of good and bad. So let’s get the crap out of the way first shall we…

The bad: my awful Copenhagen half marathon

This was going to be the race that was amazing for me. Back in June, I visualised myself on the start line, gazelle like, the fittest I’ve ever been, my legs ready to power myself round 13.1 miles with relative ease.

Kit. Ready. Feet. (Sort of) ready.

Obviously, this did not happen. Obviously, I have some excuses (the main one being the brilliantly hot summer, closely followed by general laziness, distraction and the ongoing battle of finding running hard and therefore avoiding it altogether). So, I found myself on the start line a bit nervous, a bit excited, but otherwise (after several pep talks from lots of other lovely runners who probably would have rather told me to (wo)man the heck up) confident that it didn’t matter how slow I went, as long as I just got round.

This plan was all good until about 15k (yes, this being a European race means that – confusingly – all mention of distance will now be in kilometres). I had one loo stop at 8k, but otherwise was managing a fairly consistent pace. I spend the first half of the race nestled between the 2:20 and 2:25 pacers, which would mean a new PB, if only by a few seconds.

Once we got deep into the second hour of running, the field was pretty sparse, the spectators were pretty bored of waiting by the side of the road (and so mostly just wandered into it) and I was firmly in ‘straggler at the back of the pack’ territory. And then the pain hit.

I’ve been suffering with some lower back pain on and off for a few weeks now, which I’m convinced is from poor form in a couple of spinning classes. The short story is, I thought it would be okay and it wasn’t. By 18k, I couldn’t run for more than 50 metres at a time. By 19k I was on the verge of panic with tears in my eyes. By 20k, two frankly AMAZING people (Siobhan and Martyn) were either side of me walking me over the finish line. Then I attacked anyone and everyone nearby with a sweaty, sobbing hug and some muffled thanks through falling tears. I’ve never been in that much pain whilst running, wanted a race to be over so badly and felt such a wave of relief when it was. But it was. My second half marathon and a PW of 2:34.

The good: the brilliant Copenhagen half marathon

I do not want my bad race experience to be any reflection on the actual race itself. My poor preparation is in direct contrast to the excellent organisation I experienced in Copenhagen.

The expo was open for two days leading up to the race. It was small but race pack pick up was friendly and efficient. I stayed near to the race start, and along with the leisurely 11am start time, meant race morning was a stress free walk down from the apartment. A lot of people had hire bikes for the whole weekend and used these to get to and from the race – a great idea in such a cycle friendly city.

At the start, there was a HUGE bag drop (split by bib number), a few food and drink stands and loads of portaloos. Getting into the road to line up was again hassle free, with loads of space around each pacer group and no barriers to battle over or around to get into a start pen. The start was again prompt and hassle free. Gold stars all round.

I’d linked my Facebook page up to race updates, so when I set off and then at 5k intervals and the finish it posted my progress up on my wall. Great for friends and family back home to keep a track of how I was doing. (I was less happy it posted my actual time splits as I went, but that will teach me for running so slowly.)

At the end, it was again very efficient and friendly, with medals, water and cereal bars all on hand. As I was struggling to stay upright, the quick (and VERY painful) sports massage that was on offer did absolute wonders for my back. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to dance away for hours that night without it.

The only remotely negative thing I would say about this race (and again this is a result of me being quite slow rather than anything the organisers did or didn’t do) is that this is a relatively small half marathon as city half marathons go. It attracts serious runners, that run the fast and flat course in fast times. There were under 10,000 runners and from what I saw the vast majority of them will have run around 2 hours or less. If I had been in a PB smashing place pre-race, this wouldn’t have been a problem. But for this race, I missed the charity runners. I missed the people in mad fancy dress. I missed the people who had done less training than I had. In this race there was no one guaranteed to be slower than me and that was a massive mental drawback. No one likes feeling like a city is waiting for you to hurry the hell up so they can get on with their Sunday. All clearly my own fault, but it made me realise I do like the security of running in a big race, which then attracts all kinds of runners.

My lesson learnt: it is important to train, and train properly, for a half marathon. Despite the back pain, deep down I know I wasn’t strong enough. Undertrained = in pain.

Race report in a sentence: I had an awful race, but an amazing weekend. Copenhagen (and the Copenhagen half marathon) are both beautiful and I would recommend them to anyone.