Race report: Spitfire Scramble

  
Last year, I visited Spitfire Scramble in my unofficial role as chief-bringer-of-banana-bread to the Team Naturally Run and Run Dem Crew teams. This year, after what I can only assume was a bump on the head or a large glass of red (let’s be honest here, I’m going with the latter), I agreed to be on one of the three teams that RDC again took along to the race. 

In an astonishing feat of organisation, I managed to retrieve my sleeping bag from my parents’ house and buy myself a new tent several weeks ahead of the race. All that was left was to fling ALL my running gear into my housemate’s borrowed rucksack (apparently you can’t turn up to a campsite with a suitcase, *cough* Alex *cough*) and trek on out to Hornchurch via an hour long stint on the District line. 

The weather turned out to be wonderful – we had sun and clear skies for the entire weekend, which undoubtedly made the whole thing much more enjoyable. In fact, lolling around in a park in Essex was a lovely way to spend a couple of days. For me, it was a shame the running had to happen. 

Spitfire Scramble is a 24 hour relay race in which teams of one to eight people aim to complete as many 6-ish mile loops as possible. We were three teams of eight, which due to illness, injury, parenthood and fatigue slowly dwindled to three teams of five as time wore on. 

The course, which was largely gravelly, then a bit fieldy and ended by being a teeny bit foresty, was entirely within Hornchurch Country Park. I don’t really love running off road so this was a bit problematic. I did my first lap around four hours into the race, at 4pm when it was still pretty warm, but at least it was daylight. I sort-of enjoyed it, taking just over an hour to complete the lap.    

 

By the time my second lap rolled around, it was past 11pm, dark (really dark) and there’d been reports of kids hanging around in the park and generally making a nuisance of themselves. Our teams agreed to run all their night laps together (so in mini teams of three), but I still wasn’t keen so decided to give up on my laps until it was light. 

After this, I managed a broken 7 hours sleep (probably one of the only people in the park that night able to say that), only waking up to find myself more and more freezing and having to wrap myself in more and more layers. By the time 5am came, I was so cold I wasn’t getting out of that sleeping bag for love nor money. Running didn’t have a chance. 

I finally ran (read: mostly walked) my second and final lap as the penultimate one for our team, around 10am on the Sunday. One of our teams had managed to keep going all through the night, and as a result were our highest placing team in the overall competition by quite some way. The rest of us were feeling a little less competitive and favoured sleep and mid-table obscurity.

 
This was a great event – it’s still small enough to feel inclusive and friendly, but had built on some of the feedback from last year with better catering and more and closer toilets. I had a great bunch of teammates, and for me hanging out with them, getting to know them better, chatting running and drinking beer was the best part. 

It was interesting to also have some teams that were going for the win taking part too. Every so often, you’d here them talking tactics in the information tent, although I’ll ignore that they got a bit sexist by the end of the race, for fear of a full blown rant. 

All in all, SS was a really sociable way to enjoy running, it was something different and it (and my new awesome little tent) made me remember I actually quite like camping. Where shall I take it next…?  

I ran the London marathon…

Yesterday I ran the London marathon.

Despite the fact the medal is laying less than a metre from me, when I look at that sentence it still doesn’t seem real.

Yesterday was an absolute slog and an absolute blur at the same time. I ran for 5 hours and 17 minutes – that is a bloody long time, but there are big stretches of the race I already don’t remember.

To say that I enjoyed running the London marathon would be lying. And I hate that that’s the case. I’m sorry to anyone who would’ve run it and loved every step. I hated every minute of training for this race – once I got injured and I couldn’t do many of my long runs, the whole thing just made me really stressed out.

Yesterday was hard. I had been having stomach ‘issues’ in the few days leading up to the race and on the day itself they didn’t go away. I ran from 8 mile onwards with my stomach constantly cramping. From half way I had to adopt a walk/run strategy as it was so uncomfortable. Stress does funny things to your body.

I wouldn’t have got through the race without two people – Stephanie and Michelle. Steph was with me at my house before the race, made my breakfast, taped up my knees and escorted me to the start. She was then at 14.5 miles, exactly where I needed her and got me round the bleak Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf section and in to mile 21. She was my marathon saviour.

Michelle then took me from mile 21 to the finish, and was pulled out by a lovely and understanding marshall with 400m to go. She took me through the miles where I just wanted it to be over and reminded me to just take it all in and enjoy the moment – “smile, you are running London”. By this point, I was much happier walking, so we did. We walked a lot of the Embankment stretch and she helped me appreciate the spectacle I was a part of.

For the first 8 miles, I was flying. I was tucked in a few metres behind the 4:30 pacer, I passed through 10k at 1:03 and I loved running around Greenwich and Cutty Sark. But after that, it was just tough. After a loo stop, I never really found my rhythm again. There were several moments where I did not know how I was going to make it to the finish line. But somehow I did.

I’m really, really glad I’ve run the London marathon. I’m so grateful I got pulled from the ballot and I’m over the moon I got to experience my hometown run from the other side of the fence.

But I’m also content knowing that marathons aren’t for me. I’ve run two and although I’m proud of myself for doing them, I have no desire to do another one anytime soon. Maybe that will change at some point in the future, but right now, no.

I’m really thankful I knew I loved running before training for this race. If I had been through all the training and running the marathon in isolation, it would have put me off running for life. Running a marathon is hard. And it’s really quite far. I can’t wait to just stick to halves.

Today I feel a bit dazed and a lot broken.

I’m so glad it’s done.

———-

Massive shout out to everyone who I saw on the course:

Sarah in Rotherhithe and then right at the end

Angharad from my work

Laureen and Lawrence in Bermondsey

My mum at mile 13

Gosia who had loads of balloons for me at Tobacco Dock (so sorry I didn’t see you!)

Charlie who managed to get my attention from the other side of the road

Vicky for the hugs in Canary Wharf

Kiera, Beki, Becca, Jen and Elle – the TNR ladies at 23.6 who gave me a boost for those final couple of miles

Leeanne for the call out over the megaphone at the final corner

And of course my amazing Run Dem family at mile 21 – it was a total blur of noise, tears and confetti but knowing you had my back made my race

Race report: Royal Parks half marathon 2014

I was one of the (very few) lucky ones who scored a ballot place for the Royal Parks half marathon. I say very few, as when I picked up my race pack, about 85% of the people on the list had ‘charity runner’ next to their name. And I do feel very lucky to have run this race.

When I found out I had a place in Royal Parks, I toyed with the idea of going for a sub-2, which would mean taking off almost 15 minutes from my current PB. As usual for me, I did not have the competitiveness nor the bother to train to run quicker than my default plod, and so I went into this race off the back of quite a few really bad, quite panic-laden runs.

But this run turned out to be everything I needed it to be. It really was brilliant.

Here’s the lissyruns formula for making a near-perfect half marathon experience…

Pick your kinda race

This was exactly the type of race I know I love – big city, big field, lots of plodders (thanks to the high number of charity entrants) and this time it had the added bonus of being IN MY HOME CITY.

Oh, and this is a super organised race too. Flawless bag drop, loos on the course, loads of water stations – I literally couldn’t fault it.

Run with friends

I ran the first 9 miles with my ace friend Cara, until her ankle injury flared up and she very kindly let me go on. I loved running with her and we will definitely be running a whole half marathon together in the future.

Soak up the cheers

There was a lot of support at this race, and I found that it really helped. I loved that I saw Emma from Hilly Fields parkrun on the Embankment, I loved the wall of noise from all the charity teams when we first entered Hyde Park at about mile 6 and then I was SO happy to see Leah and Billie deep into one of the quieter sections of the park route later on. Leah takes a cracking race photo…

Photo by Leah

And then soak them up some more…

There was also a very strong presence from my Run Dem Crew family at the race which was nothing short of incredible. Knowing they were coming up at mile 10 got me through a couple of tough miles and going through the wall of noise was one of my favourite ever running experiences. I stopped for a hug and a bit of jumping around with Charlie, had some high fives and was on my way. The final 5k was brutal, but was made so much easier by that boost of love.

Photo by Charlie

Photo by Charlie

Photo by Chevy

Photo by Binta

Pace yourself

Although this wasn’t a PB race for me, I was really happy with my time of 2:22 given how negatively I had felt about running beforehand. But the part I am most proud of is how consistently I ran. Each 5k split was between 33 and 34 minutes and in the six other half marathons I’ve run I’ve never had the stamina not to crash after 10k. It was slow but it was consistent.

Celebrate in style

Charlie met me at the finish line (well she tried but I managed to wander off and get myself lost in the race village) with a bottle of mini Champagne (best cheer person ever!) That, along with her fantastic photography skills, managed to grab me an amazing prize courtesy of Fitness First as I entered and WON their #FinishLineFace competition! Putting embarrassing photos of myself on the internet finally paid off!

Then I went for a massive burger and ALL THE BEER. Beer is always, always my favourite way to celebrate a long run.

Paris marathon heroes: Shane

You know what makes training for your first marathon really enjoyable? Other people. I don’t think I would have got this far without having so many brilliant people also taking on the craziness of 26.2 alongside me.

Some I’ve run with, some I haven’t, but they’ve all been there to share stories, moan about aches or even just remind me to get a damn medical certificate (which I’ve finally got around to, 10 days before the race).

So, with race day practically around the corner, I just wanted to feature some Paris marathon heroes of mine. I am in total awe…

First up, it’s Shane. I met Shane pretty much exactly a year ago. He was one of the first people I met at RDC West, when I went along when I first moved to London, after months of not running. Shane immediately made me feel welcome – he is friendly, encouraging and completely and utterly humble (as you will see from the below!)

The journey that he has been on and transformation we have seen in Shane over the past 12 months has been incredible. Inspiring isn’t a strong enough word. Twelve months ago, I could more or less keep up with Shane. Now he is burning up the streets with the Elites each week and I don’t have a chance.

I was there when Shane completed his first half marathon last year – I witnessed him so nervous before the race but saw him earn a medal to be proud of. I know he’s nervous about Paris too, but his training has been thorough and consistent and I know he’s going to own it. Since September last year, Shane has been encouraging everyone else around him in their training for Paris, and I am so pleased I’ll be lining up on the same start line as we both take on our first marathon.

Why a marathon and why Paris?

I’ve decided it’s time for me to make the next step in the running world, and the next step after a half marathon is a full marathon, to which I’d admit now I’m kind of dreading, actually getting butterflies in my stomach thinking of it now. But on the day it’s going to be great. The reason why I’ve chosen Paris is I didn’t register in time for London. And what a great city to run your first marathon. It will also be my first trip to Paris as well.

What are you most looking forward to on race day?

Meeting up with fellow Run Dem Crew members before the race, and just seeing the smiles and joy on everyone’s face before the run. I believe it will lift my spirits up as well. I’m so grateful to be in the RDC family. I believe it lifts so many people on race day to know you’re in a crew that won’t leave you behind.

How is your training going?

Training has its ups and downs. When it has it’s ups it’s lifts your spirits really high. When the training is down, I say to myself marathon training sucks.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known before starting training?

Don’t change your food diet 6 weeks before a marathon. Also go easy on your long runs, and explore more of London on your long runs.

Yeah don’t run with elites 6 weeks before a marathon. I ended up bruising the sole of my right foot and couldn’t walk on it for a week. But thank God my sole is better now.

Cara’s photo

Paris marathon training update: 12 weeks to go

This has been a glorious week of training! Yay, I do still maintain the ability to be positive!

Sure, there were a couple of minor (heartbreak related) lows (I’ll shut up about that soon, I promise), but generally, this has been a smashing marathon training week.

I’ve completed all four planned runs, and I’ve been to four yoga classes. Not a single run was on my own, and three of them involved post-run eating and drinking. Can every week be this good please?

(ps. I’m still in for Janathon! I’m posting all updates on my Tumblr – head on over or even add it to Bloglovin‘)

Monday 6th January1 hour session at The Power Yoga Co – as I have said before, my favourite class I’ve found so far.

Tuesday 7th January – the return of Tuesdays with Run Dem Crew isn’t until next week, so I headed out for a Bridges run (6 miles) nonetheless, with the awesome Cara and Lucy, followed by chicken, halloumi and milkshakes at GBK. Winning combo.

Cara’s photo

Wednesday 8th January – Wednesdays are my one official and total rest day a week. But I did walk at lunch.

Thursday 9th JanuaryTRACK! (4 miles)

Friday 10th January – 75 minute Yang & Yin yoga session at Good Vibes

Saturday 11th JanuaryFulham Palace parkrun in the morning (3 miles), followed by 1 hour yoga session at Good Vibes

Sunday 12th January – Another Team Naturally Run meet up for the LSR (long slow run). This time it was me, Leah, Charlie and Billie. We attempted the same route as last week (Waterloo, over Westminster Bridge, through St James’ and Green Parks to a loop of Hyde Park before heading back to the river and a quick extra loop to Blackfriars Bridge and back to Waterloo). But this time, we managed to run a whole loop around the outside of Hyde Park, I didn’t throw a paddy outside Kensington Palace and I made it to 9.5 miles. Success!

Leah’s photo