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Just before the summer holidays I spend a delightful weekend at the seaside with Sharon and David. Of course, as part of the festivities we all ran at Bognor parkrun. It is a lovely course in a little park (it really is quite small – you have to do 4 laps!) with a delightful bunch of people who make a wonderful array of cakes every week, not just for special occasions. Clearly they have got the right idea about parkrun. However this was a special occasion – it was David’s 300th parkrun. This got us talking about our parkrun stats and Sharon and I discovered we had each run at 28 different parkrun locations. So I decided to visit two more over the holidays to bring my total up to a nice round (although actually completely arbitrary and meaningless!) number.

Last week there was a Bushy trip to the inaugural run at Woking, and Julie kindly offered me a place in her car. Inaugurals are always fun and this was no exception. It is a three lap course, mostly on tarmac with a short section in the woods, and a lot of corners! I don’t think the lady serving coffee afterwards quite knew what had hit her…

This week I decided to find a parkrun that was easily accessible by public transport and picked Southwark. My mum, Liz, decided to join me. It was an extremely  simple journey and I would highly recommend it to anyone who lives near the line to Waterloo. Four stops on the Jubilee line, a 5 minute walk and you’re there. Liz had helpfully printed the instructions and map, and when we came out of Canada Water station the first instruction was to head South. So naturally Liz got out her compass and we headed South! Has anyone ever navigated to parkrun using a compass before?!

Everyone at Southwark was very friendly, just like everyone at any parkrun ever! We invited the team to come to Bushy one week, but they looked a bit scared at the thought of 1000 parkrunners all at once. The course at Southwark is three extremly flat laps on tarmac, with lots of interesting landmarks to maintain your concentration. We were a little unsure about going to a pub for coffee, but it was perfectly pleasant and served delicious porridge!

When I got home, I checked those aforementioned stats… and discovered that actually I’ve now run at 32 different parkruns! Oh well, next I’ll aim for 50, but first I’m going back home to Bushy.

 

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Run and fun in the sun

This weekend the weather was absolutely fantastic – sunny, warm, just beautiful specially for the time of year, and after all the rain and wind over the Winter. On Saturday I went to Bushy parkrun as usual. As it was a lovely morning I thought I’d try and make an effort and aim for under 25 minutes again. I set off at what felt like a reasonable pace and tried to push myself all the way round. It felt like hard work but not like I was actually dying. I didn’t look at my watch at all – I didn’t want it to disappoint me when I felt like I was going well! Coming round the roundabout, I thought maybe I was on for a good time when Andy overtook me and helpfully commented ‘you’re in nosebleed territory here, Bangham!’. The final push from the last tree was hard work, but I was absolutely thrilled when I crossed the line and looked at my watch to see 23.35! The official time was 23.37, but either way it was the fastest parkrun I’ve done since 2008! And I’ve only ever gone faster at Bushy! Really not sure where that came from, but it made me very, very happy!

 

On Sunday it was the Not The London Marathon – an annual sociable training event I’ve been attending every year since it’s inception in 2008. Basically we run as many (or few) laps of the Bushy parkrun course as we like, then have a picnic. Last year this was one of my worst runs of the year, possibly of my life! The weather was revolting, cold, wet and windy, I was unfit and it was just hideous. There was crying. And no picnic!

 

This year’s run erased all those hideous memories. Over 70 people turned up. Pretty good for what is essentially a fairly pointless event. And I mean that in the nicest possible way! People had plans for everything from 1 lap to 16. I decided to run three. I ran lap one with Hayden and Peej, which meant I went a bit faster than intended. Hayden slowed down for me on lap two, so we were joined by a group of people just behind us. This included Zoe. I was very glad to run with her as we were celebrating our anniversary today – we met two years ago at this event and bonded over some marathon advice!

 

Towards the end of lap two I stopped for a drink of water so was on my own. At the end of the lap I waited for my mum and ran the third lap with her (she then carried on and did anther three). Thank goodness I’m not marathon training!

 

Then came the highlight of the morning – lounging around in the WARM SUNSHINE eating, drinking, gossiping and cheering people as they finished or continued.

 

We worked out that the weather has generally been good at this event in the even numbered years, and rubbish in the odd ones. So I don’t think I’ll bother turning up next year! Big thanks to David for organising this year’s event.

 

BTW Michael did run 16 laps. No really. He did.

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Hampton Court Half (not ‘arf!)

Several months ago everyone was discussing their Spring marathon plans. ‘Shall I enter a Spring marathon?’ I thought to myself. After not very long it occurred to me that I really didn’t want to run a Spring marathon, so entering one would have been a really silly idea! So I came up with a better plan – enter a Spring half marathon, train for it properly and try to do a decent time.

Obviously training ‘properly’ is a highly subjective concept. In this case it meant thinking about the length of my Sunday runs for a couple of months, and making more effort to force myself out the door to run after work. I don’t think Hal Higdon will be knocking on my door asking for advice on writing training plans…

I found a brand new local race that lots of friends were running – an ideal choice. One of these friends, Andy, offered to pace me to a sub 1.50. This was particularly generous of him after a failed attempt at pacing me at the Valentine 10k last year. I hasten to add it failed purely due to my lack of fitness and motivation, Andy was great. 1.50 sounded just about feasible so I gratefully accepted. Once Hayden regained some post-injury fitness, he decided to join #teamKirsty too.

Race day dawned a little grey and windy but very mild. The 7.04 bus arrived on time (funny that) and Andy kindly picked me up at Hampton Court station. We met the others and got ready to race. Except when I was standing on the startline it occurred to me that I hadn’t warmed up at all. Oops.

We set off and it was quite congested but after a couple of miles we seemed to be more or less on track. It was great fun running with my pacers/bodyguards. They collected my drinks, looked after my shotblocks and handed them over at the right times, shielded me from headwinds and provided a constant stream of positive motivation.

After a few miles we noticed the mile markers were coming up way too early. We assumed one was misplaced and there’d be a really long mile towards the end. More on that later!

We meandered along the river to Kingston, getting some great support along the way. There was some competition over who got the most namechecks from the marshals! As we reached the turn point in Canbury Gardens I started to flag a little – this was by far the fastest I’ve raced over a long distance for quite some time. However once we were on Portsmouth Road the shotblocks kicked in and I got a second wind. We overtook a lot of people in this section which is always motivating.

The final mile or so was hard work, and the people around us must have got annoyed with the constant stream of ‘well done Kirsty! Great running Kirsty!’ from my roving fan club. Frankly everyone should have one!

Eventually we crossed the line – to discover we had only run 12.77 miles. It turned out that there had been a marshalling error early on, and once one person goes the wrong way of course everyone else follows. A little annoying of course, but it’s not the end of the world. At least I have a new PB! I do appreciate it must be frustrating if you were on target for a PB or it was your first half marathon, but it is just a race and nobody died. And it’s not like they did it on purpose. Anyone can make a mistake.

If we had run the full distance, I don’t think I would have quite scraped under 1.50, unless I’d found a superb sprint finish from somewhere. Unlikely! It probably would have been around 1.50/1.51. Either way, a considerable improvement on my last half marathon when I couldn’t even get under 2 hours.

After the race, we all headed to Carol and Jonny’s for bacon sandwiches and scones. Perfect race recovery.

Thank you to my fabulous pacers, and all the marshals, supporters, water station people etc. A great 12.77 mile race!

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When I first entered this race a year ago, the plan was to make a serious attempt at a sub-4. But things happen… In September a very stressful period at work began, and then came the never-ending Winter. It was like Narnia, always Winter but never Christmas. Well there was Christmas, but Winter just carried on and on and on… I really struggled to motivate myself to train properly. The long runs were ok, but decent training midweek just wasn’t happening. I couldn’t even make it to the track at the end of the road, let alone to Ranelagh. I did no speedwork or hill training at all. I wasn’t feeling ‘the fear’ of the marathon which is usually enough to boot myself out the door.

 

In February I ran the Watford Half marathon, where I should have been going under 1.50. I couldn’t even get under 2 hours. This was when I officially binned my sub 4 target – I knew it wasn’t going to happen. Although I was glad to have taken the pressure off myself, it had the unfortunate effect of making me even less motivated, if that was possible. Oh dear. I did some great training over half term, but you can’t catch up on 6 weeks of training in a week!

 

At the beginning of March I ran the Spitfire 20. It went really well and gave me a bit more confidence. I even bought a photo of Sharon and I running together during the first four miles – I usually look terrible in running photos but in this one we both look like we’re enjoying ourselves! Towards the end of March, as the snow continued to fall, I caught a nasty virus and missed the Cranleigh 21. This did not fill me with confidence,

 

Anyway, I’ll get to the point now. Sharon and David kindly invited me to travel with them to stay with David’s parents who conveniently live near Brighton. David cycled to the coast on Friday while Sharon and I went in the car. We went to the expo (which was decidedly underwhelming) and settled in for some serious relaxation.

 

Saturday was a funny day – we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. Eating lots of beige food, and a confusing game of Cluedo helped to pass the time though! It poured with rain all day but we were confident that the forecast was good for Sunday.

 

Sunday dawned brightish and definitely early – I was quite glad when David knocked on my door at 5.30 as I could stop pretending to be asleep. We were completely organized in our pre-race routines and arrived at the start at around 7.30 while the toilet queues were still short. Perfect. We milled about and queued for the aforementioned toilets a few times. Sharon and I were both feeing very nervous.

 

Soon it was time for David to head off to his first cheering spot. I dropped Sharon off in her start corral and headed to mine. Due to my unrealistic predicted time I was very near the front. I was a bit embarrassed about that but actually it was quite nice to have such a clear start. I made sure I kept well to the side!

 

I had an unscheduled comfort break before I’d even completed a mile – this is not usual for me! I found a handy tree which provided some cover, not a lot but I wasn’t really that bothered. It was only when I ran on that I began to wonder if it was someone’s garden… I think it was the edge of the park! Never mind.

 

I managed to spot David, Danny and my parents a few times in the first 5 miles or so, it’s always nice to see a friendly face. The course wound around the town, then along the coast to a village called Ovingdean and back again. I enjoyed this part of the race very much and felt great for the first 14 miles. I was very careful not to go too fast, drank lots of water and ate some sweeties. The water pouches were rather good, although I did squeeze too hard at one point and nearly choked to death.

 

A feature of this course that I enjoyed very much is the way it doubles back on itself a lot, so you can see all the people in front of you, which I find quite inspiring; and then all the people behind you. It’s always reassuring to know you’re not last! I loved seeing lots of my friends and clubmates and cheering them on. On the way out to Ovingdean I saw the leaders on the way back – that was exciting. Everyone on my side of the road was clapping and cheering. Possibly a waste of energy but never mind.

 

At half way I got another cheer from my parents, and headed off the other way towards Hove. I got to 14 miles and suddenly my legs felt completely knackered. I panicked slightly, because this seemed far too early to feel this bad! Oh dear. I made a pact with myself that however much I had to slow down, I was not going to walk until 20 miles.

 

I don’t think about much while running marathons, but get myself through the miles by thinking about the next exciting thing that’s going to happen. I use the word ‘exciting’ loosely – for example ‘one more mile til the next water station’ counts as something exciting to look forward to. Well, I was very much looking forward to getting a shotblok at 17 miles, I like shotbloks. But disaster, at 15 miles where they were giving out gels, I only processed after it was too late that they were giving out shotbloks too and I didn’t take one. I sensed impending doom for mile 17… and indeed there was nothing. The bastards. I had a couple of jelly babies instead. (Thankfully I did get a shotblok at about 22 miles, but by this time I was sick of all the sugary shit I’d been eating. I still ate it though).

 

I passed Sharon going the other way in Hove, she wasn’t too happy either. I got another cheer from David too. I stopped at St Johns somewhere around here for some vaseline – bliddy arm chafing. My arm hurt so much for a mile or so before the vaseline that I forgot about my legs!

 

I got to 20 miles and decided to carry on running to the turnaround. It was the last turnaround so I thought that was a good target to aim for. It was further than I thought. Then I decided to get all the way round the turnaround. It was around a fish factory or somesuch and very stinky and horrible so I really didn’t want to walk around it. I finally caved in and walked at 22 miles. It wasn’t much nicer than running but my legs were utterly dead.

 

I devised a plan and walked from the time it took my garmin to beep each mile until I got to the mile marker where I ran again. (The garmin always beeps too early). I say ran – I was managing 12/13 minute mile pacing by this point! This strategy got me through the hell from mile 22 – 25, and I ran from there to the end. I got a huge cheer from my parents at the finish, and managed a ‘sprint finish’ at the dizzy heights of 10.30 minute mile pace!

 

I think I was smiling for my finish photo because I was so flipping relieved to get there. I burst into tears when I crossed the line though – again I think it’s just the relief. My time was 4.48.03 – nothing to write home about but I’m not really bothered, I had no time goal. I’m sort of happy I went under 5 hours though.

 

I trekked through the finish area- medal, foil, goody bag, kit bag blah blah blah and eventually fought my way through the crowds to the meet up point, where I was very happy to see my parents and David and even happier to sit down, take my shoes off and eat my marmite sandwich!

 

Note to self – next time, train properly!

 

 

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Green Belt Relay 2012

Early on Saturday morning everything was in place for another fabulous GBR weekend. Two buses, smiling runners, both stage one runners keen to get going, everything packed carefully into two bags. Cathy was so efficient she even packed two tins of cake – one for each bus. Even better than all of this was the fact that the weather seemed to be behaving itself – neither cold or hot and amazingly, not wet! So the race got off to a pretty perfect start – Phil J and I even found a secret luxury toilet!

As soon as the race began we were off. It was into the odd bus for me, to Thames Valley Athletic Centre. Pesky Olympic time trail rehearsal got in the way at the start of stage 1, and some Jubilee jamboree prevented us from going to Windsor. So a few route changes were in place. We stopped in Eton on the way – people wanted coffee and loos, and Sandra P wanted a closer look at the scholars of ‘Slough Comp’. Here we had an early contender for strangest quote of the weekend. We were eating Sandra P’s homemade hot cross buns, when Phil A mused that he hadn’t had any this year, due to spending Easter in Camden!?

 

We arrived at the start of stage 3 where we met a brace of Chris’s – C and R. Chris’s C and B were running this stage – Chris B was all fired up to win it, and it later turned out he should have done, but a navigational error saw him finish in 4th place. They’re like buses these Chris’s – moments after we’d sent two of them on their way along came Chris O, finishing stage 2 in 3rd place. Nearly as exciting was the fact that the sun came out at this point! I helped out the timekeepers by giving out the stage winners t shirts (closest I ever get to one) and then a bit later along came Tamsin with a sprint finish and a smile.

 

We then headed off to Great Kingshill for a complicated switch over of bus personnel. En route we saw some of the race, including Chris C following a lady wearing very small shorts. I had to educate my fellow travellers as to the meaning of the phrase ‘pace booty’, but Chris C certainly seemed familiar with the concept!

 

Marie, Iain and Sandra F had all arrived safely at stage 5. Once we’d figured out who was going where we set off to find our marshalling spot. It was nice and easy with very little traffic, but we still found it a struggle to count up to 36 so we’d know when everyone had gone by. Marie and Iain both seemed happy enough when they went past.

 

Back on the road to St Albans and time for some pre-race faffing for me and Sandra F, as we were up next. I was feeling rather nervous and Sandra suffered from some pre-race… er… issues. Seven of them in fact! I plied her with drugs and off we went, 12 miles to Letty Green with my dad popping up here and there to offer support. Unfortunately I would say this was my least favourite stage of GBR so far. The first 5 miles were along a disused railway – boring! The next part seemed to involve a lot of main roads. Then we went into some woods which was more interesting – but then we got lost. I don’t know what the locals thought of it – me, Sandra, a nun and a woman in a yellow tutu, standing around discussing the map and eating sweeties. We were soon back on track thanks to an arrow that had fallen off a tree. The nun found his/her second wind in the last mile, leaving me to finish in the honourable position of last. That was fine, but what was annoying was that my run time was good, but on the results it looks like I was rubbish, because that of course includes my ‘standing around looking at the map’ time! Ah well.

 

Onto bus 2 and off to High Beach. Or is it High Beech? Who knows. We sent Mark and Ally on their merry way, collected Tony and Phil J and then it was marshalling time again. Now as a club we really seem to have drawn the short straw with this particular marshalling assignment. Not that it’s difficult, just a road to cross. However, the crucial thing is that it’s a mile before the end of the last stage of the day. So while we’re stood around freezing our bits off, all the other teams are in the sodding pub! It was pretty cold but I’d managed to take my own advice for a change and had lots of warm clothes. After some divine intervention that just saved us from losing a nun, we also headed to Blackmore, the pub and dinner. I was very much looking forward to eating my dinner in The Leather Bottle having failed to do so in 2010 when I felt so ill. It was delicious!

 

Every year we organise GBR to what feels like the finest detail, but we always seem to fall apart on the same thing – how the hell do we get from dinner to the hotel, and where on earth is it anyway?! Somehow Satnav never solves the problem either… as ever I unhelpfully went to sleep at this point and we soon arrived at the Campanile. This was booked on the basis that I stayed there in 2007 and couldn’t remember it – I decided if it was that awful I would have! Well it was fine (it had showers and beds – what more do you want?!) except the woman on Reception was like a bulldog chewing a wasp. In all fairness we weren’t adding a great deal to the ambience of the place, but just give us some rooms please we’re exhausted! Eventually we all made it to our rooms – Sandra F was not happy that this involved more arrows to follow!

 

Sunday rolled around seemingly about 5 minutes after we went to bed. It was cold, but amazingly still not raining. We all went to Blackmore first, a journey that took half the time than it did the night before. Today the buses were not odd and even and I found this most confusing. I got in a bus and went to Thorndon Park, where it seemed to be my turn to run again. My legs felt pretty ok and I enjoyed this one a hundred times more than the day before. Apart from anything else it all seemed to be downhill! Lots of woods, mud, nettles and interesting footpaths. Towards the end I began to wonder if I might squeeze in under an hour (it was 6.9 miles). Despite 2 stiles, 2 kissing gates and a double track railway line in the final mile, I just managed it!

 

Back in the bus (no, hang on a minute, this was the other bus) and we went to Davy Down to collect Tom and Tony. I think we went to Tatsfield next, I’m looking at the little yellow book but it’s not helping. I need odd and even buses! Anyway, I know we had some food in Tatsfield, and I helped move a car that was parked by the village green where we weren’t allowed to park. On the dashboard was their little yellow book, open to the page that said do not park on the village green at Tatsfield… (While all of this was going on, Marie was busy winning stage 15, our only win of the weekend). We dropped off Ben who seemed to be suffering more pre-race nerves than me if that’s possible. We then went to marshal a very exciting corner. It was on a very steep hill, the runners were going down and round an extremely sharp bend with loose gravel underfoot. Just to add to the fun, several hundred cyclists (there was an organised event) were going up the hill! With the help of a random old man (not you, Phil J) we managed to get everyone through safely and even gave out water and jelly babies.

 

Next we sampled the new Olympic standard road surface on the zigzag up to Box Hill. A few things went wrong here! 1. No time for cake. Tragic. 2. People with expensive cars shouldn’t park them on corners where minibuses need to turn round. Oops. Luckily any damage was invisible to the naked eye. 3. Sandra P appeared… and we realised we’d forgotten to collect her at Tatsfield! She was most gracious about it but I felt really guilty. However there was no time to worry about it as we had to go straight back down again to marshal a very tricky spot at the bottom of the zigzag. We were stopping buses and all sorts. Once that was done, and I was reassured that no one else was stranded anywhere, we headed to Ripley, where we found Mike, Lee and Michelle. Sandra F and Mike set off and we went to see Mark finish… but we were too late. Or he was too speedy. Tamsin finished smiling again. Then before we knew it, time to head for the finish. It goes soooo fast. (I haven’t even had time to tell you about Sandra P’s bra delivered by Porsche courier, but that’s another story…). On the way to the Hawker Centre I reassured Ted that he had found the right place for stage 22. Can you see Walton Bridge? Yes. Lots of weirdos in lycra? Yes. Then you’re in the right place!

 

Ted and Chris O both finished well at Hawker, bringing to an end another successful Ranelagh weekend at GBR. After the prizegiving I went home and deleted 230 emails about GBR. Much as I have enjoyed it, I am officially retiring from team captain duties. Someone else can do it! I’m just running next year. I’m happy to give top tips though – make sure everyone in the team has a different name! No one called Chris is allowed!

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Green Belt Relay 2011

I shall begin with three apologies: one – for the ridiculous length this race report is bound to run to. Two – for the fact that I am writing this without the aid of my little yellow bible which I seem to have lost, and not all the results are on the web yet, so I am not going to remember exactly who did which stage. I might just make it up as I go along! Three – I saw much more of some people than others, so sorry if you don’t get a mention (or you do!).

I spent Friday evening doing two very important pre-GBR jobs: 1. packing my stuff from two lists into two bags (I was determined everything was going to be on the right bus at the right time!) and making flapjacks.

I woke up on Saturday most unimpressed by the sunshine and clear blue skies – not what was required! However it was not nearly as hot as last year thankfully. Got to Hampton Court to find two buses, odd and even, and two teams, all was good. Could this be the year everything was going to go well?! The Golden Joggers were rather subdued this year in giant blonde wigs and fluorescent legwarmers, and there were a few running nuns about. All the usual GBR crew. My personal support team came to wish good luck, Sharon sprinted from Bushy Park to get there in time!

We went to watch the start and cheered Colin and Chris C off on the way to Staines. The even bus headed straight there as well to drop off Sue and Jar. Nearly the entire crew of the bus needed the loo all ready! Sue was feeling a little nervous but had a good run, as did Jar.

We didn’t have time to watch the start as we had some marshaling to do at Runnymede. We pooled our knowledge of the Magna Carta (poor) and I discovered the first thing I’d forgotten that I’d told people to bring – National Trust card. However Phil had listened to my advice and brought his so we saved ourselves £3 in the car park.

Our task was to get the runners across the very busy road and give them water. We were super- efficient – Sandra pointing the way, Tom and I stopping traffic, Phil and Mark handing out water and Iain collecting cups. All the drivers decided to be in a good mood so it went very well.

Next stop was Little Marlow, with a coffee and loo stop in Big Marlow on the way. There seemed to be plenty of time for this, and then suddenly there wasn’t and Mark and I, who were due to run next, started to get twitchy. So takeaways all round!

I was scared about this run, due to it being graded 10 out of 10 for difficulty. According to team captain Jo, I had specifically asked to run it, I don’t really remember that….! However I was well prepared with water, jelly babies… oh and I had done quite a lot of training too. Soon we were off and even sooner the entire field disappeared from sight before we’d made it to the first corner. All apart from a a lady from West 4. She ran along ahead of me but started to walk within the first two miles. We played hare and tortoise for a bit and then I got ahead on a hill and that was the last I saw of her. So this hill, it was very big and went up to Handy Cross. (at the top were my parents handing out water and support). It was also the first of many. I ran up all the hills on page one of the map, and walked them on page two. I even had to walk down one hill, it was so steep! The route was absolutely beautiful and so well marked that even someone stupid like me couldn’t possibly get lost. I went down country lanes (not to mention up them), through forests, past a National Trust property, along the motorway (well, next to it) and who knows where else. I felt like I’d been gone for days!

The last mile or so was hard work but overall I enjoyed the run and it wasn’t as hard as I feared. Moral of the story – face your fears! (And you too can jun the 10 club. Jo, Jar, Marie and I were thinking of getting tattoos. GBR 10. Not really).

Because I ran so incredibly slowly, the odd bus had already zoomed off to it’s hot date in St Albans, but all was well because Helen and Martin collected Mark and I in the car. (Mark had a great run and came 5th). I realised the second thing I’d forgotten – wet wipes. Luckily Mark remembered them. We got to Stage 7 with seconds to spare to see the start, but we struggled to break into the required jog to get from the car park to the start in time to give Vicci and Kate a shout. I then missed the finish of stage 6 due to being selfishly more interested in getting changed and eating some food.(All of which was on the right bus!) Sorry stage 6 runners.

Next stop Dobbs Weir, which seemed to be the first time I’d actually stopped all day! We arrived with loads of time to spare so looked at the results, chatted and generally lolled around for a bit. Helen and Wiebke set off, and for the first time things went slightly wrong. Nothing drastic, but some major map/arrow/marshaling malfunctioning caused several runners to go astray, apparently running up to 6 extra miles in some cases. Ah well, it made me feel better about getting lost on this stage last year!

We picked up Phil and Tom who both ran well, headed to Toot Hill to drop off Jo and Andy, and then went straight off to find our marshaling spot. We had this down to a fine art by now – road, pointing, water, yellow bibs etc, and even added jelly babies into the mix. A Serpie man came zooming along at top speed, accompanied by Pete Kennedy on his bike. That’s nice we thought, he’s got a lead bike. The n we noticed Pete appeared to be maniacally throwing sawdust over his shoulder as he furiously cycled through the undergrowth trying to keep up with this elite athlete! It turned out that he was course marking, and this Serpie guy was so fast that Pete couldn’t keep ahead of him on his bike! We were also most impressed by the Frontrunner who grabbed three jelly babies at high speed and didn’t drop one!

Finally we were able to go to the pub for some much needed food, drinks and chats about the day. We were all knackered so it wasn’t too long before we headed for the B and B, an interesting journey that seemed to go from A to B via X, Y and Z. We eventually arrived to be greeted by not one but three big fat chavtastic weddings. However the noise did not infiltrate and most people had a decent sleep. Iain had an extra little journey down a country lane to accost a woman in a dressing gown, but that’s another story…

So, (if you’re still with me, well done), on to Sunday. Nice early start to discover it was absolutely pissing down with rain. However it soon blew over and the wind turned out to be a much bigger weather issue. I was on the even bus again so headed back to Blackmore, where we found Marie (cold) and Colin (full of cold). This was also the point that I noticed Iain’s Ranelagh vest was clearly a bit last minute just like his place in the team. On the back was written – display copy only – do not remove. Oops! We made some complicated lift arrangements with some Stragglers and some 26.2ers and Colin and Iain set off. Then it was marshaling time again. I don’t remember ever doing so much marshaling at GBR before – was there more than usual this year? I certainly appreciated them on my stages. This one was by the windmill in Mountnessing. All was well when the runners passed us, but later many of the leaders, including Colin, went horribly wrong and got rather lost.

Our next stop was Thames Chase where we found a very nice visitor centre with possibly the best cafe of the whole weekend. Jo and I had a lovely bowl of porridge, which was my 3rd breakfast of five that morning. I was too busy eating it to see Kate and Mike finish. Sorry! I was up for eggs on toast for my next breakfast but time was ticking and we had to get to Lullingstone Park, where we found Jar. I was just glad to get out of the bus and away from Mike’s socks. Not such a good cafe so I just had a piece of toast. (Interestingly, Mark, who ran the same stage as me, consumed nothing all morning except for a bottle of lucozade. He finished 23 minutes ahead of me. Is there a lesson to be learned here?!)

We were marshaling again on this stage, can you believe it? And only two miles in so had to find it quickly. Unfortunately it was not easy to find. We followed a horse round and round the village of Shoreham, Mark did some fantastic 3 point turns and eventually we found our spot… sadly it was 10 minutes after all the runners had gone past. We felt really bad about it but thankfully it was not a danger point, and it wasn’t too hot so hopefully no one was too desperate for water after only two miles. Sorry stage 16 people. If that was the biggest thing to go wrong all weekend we decided we could live with it.

Next stop was Merstham where it started to rain again. I had a little snooze in the bus and waited for the rain to stop, which it did just before the start. Mark and I then got told off for not signing in early enough. Oops.

We set off up a hill, that made a change – not. However, I think I was not the only one with tired legs, as this time I could actually see other runners around me! There were two Dulwich Park Runners behind me at the start and I soon passed a West 4 lady, a nun and a few others, and caught up with a Golden Jogger. We ran together for a few miles, not only was he a fantastic pacer and map reader, but he also opened a gate for me that I could not figure out. So I felt a bit mean when I dropped him on the final hill, but by that point I just wanted to get to the end. It was a lovely run with great scenery and I ran up all the hills this time! The best thing about running from Merstham was that I missed out Tatsfield which was the scene of all the bad news last year. I had a fantastic reception from my fan club on Box Hill, who had had a bit of a nightmare getting runners and marshals to the right places at the right times. But had got it all sorted in the end.

Next on the list was Ripley, the end was nigh. But we could not relax yet as this was Vicci’s leg, and Vicci’s day two track record is not good! Andy was also running from here and decided flat coke was his pre-race nutrition of choice. We all agreed this was a good choice, recommended by ultra runners and doctors, but then he went to the shop unsupervised and came out with Irn – Bru. I don’t think anyone would recommend that!

Andy and Vicci set off on stage 21 and the odd bus headed for the finish. I don’t think I’ve ever got there so early before. But it wasn’t long before the runners started arriving, led by a Serpie man of course. Chris O and Chris C both finished strongly, and we heard that Andy and Vicci had both finished with all arms and legs still attached. We had done it – both teams safely round the entire course. I think that is a huge achievement regardless of finishing places or times. (Although I must mention that Marie won her stage on Saturday and set a vet course record both days). Most of the team, plus several supporters, gradually arrived and we had a quick drink but decided to save the celebrations for a future date. We were exhausted. Another fantastic GBR weekend was over. Kate summed it up beautifully I think, and I hope she doesn’t mind me misquoting her – who knew how much fun two really hard runs and two days in a minibus could be?!

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The plan was that 2010 would be the new 2007 in terms of running – basically 2007 was my best year ever of running, 2008 started well then tailed off and 2009 was a total disaster. Looking back on this year it hasn’t quite been as good as 2007 – I got absolutely no pbs for the second year running for example – but what has been good is that I have trained consistently without making lame excuses, and really enjoyed running again. So that’s a result.

January – 73 miles

The year began with two Bushy parkruns in quick succession and then the Henty relay. Winterswim continued and in January I went swimming eight times! This enthusiasm did not quite continue all year but a good start nevertheless. I also went out on my road bike three times, this is usually unheard of in winter. However I never reconciled myself to cycling in the cold, it’s just unpleasant. I know that winter miles make summer smiles, but they are just too horrible at the time. I was however inspired to buy some new cycling gloves, waterproof trousers and neoprene overshoes! I did one of these bike rides as a brick session, which made it even more horrible! Heather and I continued with our new arrangement of her picking me up for Ranelagh each Tuesday. It makes me go and it makes her go too. Perfect. This has made a massive difference to my training consistency compared to last year. In the second week of January it snowed quite a lot. I enjoyed a couple of snowy runs in Bushy Park and a sledging session on Petersham Hill. Total carnage! In the middle of the month, I had some problems with my big toe, where I had a bursitis couple of years ago. It caused me a slight problem on and off all year, but nothing to get excited about. It’s just kind of ‘there’ some of the time. I did a couple of long (ish) runs this month of 8 miles or so, went to track most Thursday and did 5 parkruns. One of these was on tour to Black Park which was absolutely beautiful. The lovely surroundings inspired me to run my fastest parkrun for 6 months! The only ‘proper’ race I did this month was a challenging one – the Southern xc at Parliament Hill. I’d had a terrible run here the year before so was rather apprehensive, but I really enjoyed it and was pleased with my time.

February – 44 miles

This very low mileage was due to the month getting off to a very bad start – I had a really horrible virus, incorporating sinusitis and laryngitis, and did not train at all for 11 days. Which is quite a lot if a short month! Thankfully I was feeling better by half term, and enjoyed a session at Ranelagh up and down Nightingale Lane on pancake day, where we equated each rep with a pancake. I couldn’t eat as many as I ran! I went swimming four times and took my road bike out once; I really disliked every minute of this in the cold and decided enough was enough until the spring. I did one race, a mob match in Richmond Park, but I wasn’t racing at all, just participating. I did one long run that again was not very long. (8 miles or so). The most surprising news is that I only did one parkrun, and it was a new venue for me – Bedfont Lakes. I was very pleased to finish third lady!

March – 87 miles

This was a pretty consistent training month except for missing a couple of Tuesdays due to work reasons. We went on parkrun tour again, this time to Greenwich – the first event there. It was a very small field which would account for the fact that I was the first lady! I was very excited to win a parkrun and especially to set the course record! It may well have been the slowest course record in parkrun history, but I held on to it for two or three weeks. We also went on tour to Kingston parkrun where I was second lady and really pleased with my time. We followed this with a trip to a very strange cafe that claimed to have run out of teaspoons… I only went swimming once and also took my road bike out once, struggled to maintain the enthusiasm here. But keeping the running consistent was always my main target. I did a couple of long runs this month which were actually properly long ie over 10 miles! Really pleased with that. We had two handicap races at Ranelagh – the Clutton Cup and the Baker Cup. In the Clutton I somehow managed to be a minute faster than last year. The Baker Cup was the first time this year I really raced hard. I was thrilled to come second but slightly disappointed to miss out on the super lovely shininess of the Baker Cup itself. And by trying so hard, I ruined my handicap for the rest of the season!

April – 102 miles

My first 100 mile month since August 2008! I was really pleased to reach that particular milestone. This was a really good training month – the fact that I was on school holidays for the first two weeks obviously helped a lot. I did some really good long runs, getting over 12 miles a couple of times. Swimming was a bit lame again with only two trips, but my road bike had four outings this month, all of which I enjoyed. I do like cycling really, I just need a bit of warmer weather to convince me. I cycled to Virginia Water and Bedfont parkrun amongst other places. No races at all this month, generally over the year I cut down on the number of races I was doing in order to concentrate more on some focussed training. I did run four parkruns – 1 Bushy, 1 Richmond (which was a Stragglers/Ranelagh mob match – always a slightly awkward moment!), and two Bedfonts, I managed another podium finish at one of these (second lady). We entertained ourselves afterwards by watching people fall off their waterskis into Bedfont Lake. I watched the VlM with my family from a spot we always used to go to in Narrow Street. It was very pleasant to be in a less crowded place compared to the last couple of years.

May – 100 miles

The running highlight of May was the Green Belt Relay. I missed this for the past two years- 2008 deliberately as I fancied a break, 2009 by mistake as it clashed with a holiday to New York. So I was really looking forward to this one. Also it was my first ‘Ranelagh Road Trip’. Well the weekend certainly did not fail to deliver it’s fair share of thrills and spills. We were hindered in many ways by the very hot weather that seems to follow the GBR every year (except the times it rains of course…). Earlier in the month I went on a bike ride to Box Hill, I enjoyed it but struggled on the last 10 miles… and then came down with a nasty virus the next day. This month also saw my only foray into open water of the whole year – it just didn’t seem to come up. We went to Bedfont lakes and I did enjoy it even though the weather wasn’t very nice. There was no other swimming or cycling to be seen in May… The last day of the month was a Monday but it was half term and bank holiday. I wouldn’t normally run on a Monday but I sneaked one in to get to 100 miles for the month. This gave me the idea to try a mini running streak for the duration of half term. Three Bushy parkruns and one at Bedfont for their first anniversary.

June – 99 miles

I continued and completed my mini running streak for half term. I found it quite hard work – much respect to proper running streakers. My streak included a birthday run, a long run to Wimbledon Common where we got lost, and the Twickenham Stadium family fun day 5k, which was a complete shambles as we expected. My advice – if you know nothing about running, don’t organise a running event! The parkrun tour continued this month with visits to Crystal Palace and Frimley Lodge, both really nice events that I’d like to visit again. I ran two Bushy parkruns too. I also took part in The Longest parkrun, a tour of eight local parkruns on a really hot day. Some crazy fools ran all eight, but after suffering in the heat at the GBR I know my limits and just did three – Bushy (which we ran the old way round), Kingston and Wimbledon. I went swimming once when I remembered I entered the aquathlon later in the month! Clearly this paid off as I completed the swim section 4 seconds faster than last year! Despite a lot of hot sunny weather I did not get out on my road bike at all this month, not sure why.

July- 86 miles

July is usually a poor month for me training-wise due to it being incredibly busy at work, so I was really pleased to equal the mileage I’d done in 2008, which was more than I’d done in 2007! There was one entirely random trip to the swimming pool ,and another bike ride to Bedfont parkrun (where I was second lady again. It’s really quite sad that making the parkrun podium never fails to please me, no matter how few runners there are or what crap time I finish in!). My long runs were going a bit free form again, but I pulled it back with a decent ten miler while supporting the Elmbridge 10k. I did three Bushy parkruns plus the one at Bedfont. The Coad Cup at the beginning of the month went better than I had expected, as did the Wedding Day Race at the end of the month. Although I was slightly annoyed to be outsprinted by two clubmates in the final straight! As ever the picnic afterwards with family and friends was very enjoyable.

August – 79miles

There should be no excuses for August as I’m off work for the entire month. However I was at Woodcraft camp for a week which does not include time for running. Very energetic though! I went cycling at Hillingdon Cycling Track a couple of times which was fun. One day I cycled there with my dad following a route he devised. I swam a couple of times at Hampton Pool in preparation for the Turbot triathlon at the end of the month. I think I could have done a bit more swimming though considering I was on holiday. I began the month with great intentions of reintroducing a Wednesday run into my schedule, sadly this soon tailed off again. Four times a week is so much more manageable than five. There was not much in the way of long runs this month, although I started with a great one along the river to Hammersmith. One Bedfont parkrun, two at Bushy, two of them in a reasonable time. I had a really enjoyable run with Kath at the Burnham Beeches half marathon – we ran a lap in the opposite direction. Always more fun than running the race. I did three races this month but none of them were a bog-standard running race. One orienteering/trail race, the Ratchford relay and the Turbot tri. All fun in different ways. The triathlon was particularly notable for the fact that I didn’t get in a fight with any fellow competitors in the swimming pool for a change!

September – 73 miles

Nothing much to report on this month (thank goodness for that I hear you say). No races but fairly consistent training all month. I did three parkruns all at Bushy. I had a weekend off from running when I went to support at the Vitruvian half-ironman triathlon at Rutland Water. I id not make it to the pool once and my road bike went into hibernation!

October – 104 miles

My biggest monthly mileage of the year! This was helped along by my doing another half term mini running streak. The xc season got off to a great start with a steady run in the Page Cup, the Surrey League on a tricky course at the Kingston end of Richmond Park, and the first mob match of the season, also in RP. I did well with long runs this month, fitting in four, three of them over 10 miles. I went on parkrun tour again to Old Deer Park, and was second lady again. I only fitted in one other parkrun, at Bushy, due to all the xc. I ran a km at school with my class one day, in order to demonstarte the relative distance of 1km compared to the distance from the Earth to the sun (150 000 000 if you’re interested). The track was shut at this time, first for the pope’s visit and then because it was being resurfaced. We still ran on Thursdays but perhaps with slightly less focus than track sessions! I went swimming twice purely because winterswim has started again.

November – 83 miles

Track still closed, xc season continued, blah blah blah… but the important thing was the Brighton 10k, my target race for the year. The weather, which is often a feature of this race could not have been better. Not too cold, dry and no wind at all which is virtually unheard of. I had a great race and was really pleased. Usual fun and games on the pier afterwards too! Later in the month the track reopened and we were treated to a special training session led by Mick Woods, Steph Twell’s coach. It was a bit scary but we really enjoyed it and worked extremely hard. I had one trip to the pool. Towards the end of the month the weather got very cold, icy, frosty and a bit snowy. Just a taster really…

December – 77 miles

This month started much as November ended – with ice, frost, snow and freezing (actually well below freezing) temperatures. Did a lot of very slow runs due to the weather conditions, but it was certainly different. After a few weeks of it I was sick of the sight of my trail shoes though! Did a very muddy mob match in Epping Forest followed by a lovely evening at the Ranelagh Christmas party. Which in turn was followed the next day by a Straggler/Ranelagh mob match. I kept up with winterswim with three trips to the pool. We had a really fun pre-Christmas session at Ranelagh with the long-awaited return of the Christmas cracker relay. Christmas came and brought with it a lot of running as usual – but it made a festive change to be doing this running in the snow and ice. In the last few days of the year I was very pleased to run my 1000th mile of the year.

So overall a much better year of running (swimming and cycling marginally better too). Unfortunately I was unable to achieve my goal for the year which was to run a pb! I did not manage a single one again. Maybe next year… Speaking of next year, I’m starting it with three races in one day tomorrow!

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