Tag Archives: pacing

Training day for Reading Half Marathon

13 Jan Reading Half training day run

Last Saturday morning, I missed another parkrun… but for good reason. I was off to Reading to take part in a training day in preparation for Reading Half Marathon. I wondered whether I’d be able to fit in a parkrun as there is one nearby, but unfortunately, it was cancelled on Saturday, so I didn’t need to worry about being late to the training day.

I arrived fairly early, so there was plenty of time to meet others who were a mix of newbies, experienced runners and bloggers. I ended up sitting next to Anna, the fab blogger behind Anna The Apple. I also met Tess from The Fit Bits and Katie & Kate from These Girls Do.

Whilst we were waiting for others to arrive we saw a montage of images from previous races. My favourite images were ones of a group of friends who had dressed up as Mario Cart characters. I’ve never properly done a race in fancy dress – I ran a parkrun in a Minions outfit, but I was wearing a running t-shirt and shorts, so I don’t think that really counts. Have you ever raced in fancy dress?

The first activity of the day was a workout with Francesca and Chloe, the Townsend Twins.

The workout was high energy and the twins were so much fun. I also loved their outfits and had to do a bit of online stalking to find out where there leggings were from (Bellum Active – starlight leggings)… if anyone has a bit of spare cash and wants to buy me a present for my birthday next month…

I’ve really not done enough exercise in the last few months, so I was a bit nervous about the workout, but it turned out to be a lot of fun (although I was seriously stiff on Sunday AND Monday!) The music was great and the Townsend Twins explained everything really well. If I learnt anything that I could take into my own fitness career, it was that smiling and being enthusiastic is really important… and that I need to duplicate myself so that one of us can talk and the other can demonstrate!

We did a good mix of exercises, including skaters, squats, jump squats and walking lunges.

We then had a quick refreshment break (water, lucozade and bananas).


It was then straight into a pacing workshop with Ali Galbraith, who leads the pacers at a number of events, including Reading Half. I’ve taken notes on all of Ali’s talk as I found it really helpful…

Good training runs lead to great pacing days:

  • Set realistic goals
  • Try to not move the goal posts
  • Practice your pace in training runs
  • You will have good days and bad days – roll with the punches
  • See long training runs as mini race days

I’m really bad at accepting that runs don’t always go to plan. I rarely cut runs short and I never do more than my plan says, so maybe I need to be more flexible.

The necessities of a great pacer

  • Good quality watch
  • Gear you can trust
  • Solid knowledge of the race
  • The ability to adapt

I’ve now got a fantastic watch and I’ll probably wear my favourite black shorts. I need to check out the route of Reading Half as I think it’s changed since I last ran it.

Pre-race preparation

  • Fuel intake – what shall I eat and drink?
  • Route planning
  • Race planning – what will I need?
  • Weather preparation

This was one of my favourite parts of Ali’s talk. When I last ran Reading Half, I tried to fuel up with a vanilla Gu, but it was too thick and my friend threw it in the gutter because she thought I was taking too long and I didn’t have time to waste. Ali said that when he is running he uses Ella’s Kitchen baby food pouches (with Spaghetti Bolognese being a favourite) and Mars bars. I don’t think I could eat something that requires that much chewing when I’m running!

The perfect race morning

  • Review your pre race preparation
  • Get to the race village nice and early
  • Warm up properly using that time to visualise the race
  • Get to your starting pen with plenty of time
  • Never lose a smile

I don’t like being stressed on race day, but I have to admit that even though I arrive early I don’t always do a proper warm up.

Race break down

  • Why break down a race?
  • How I break down a race:
    • Miles 1-3
    • Miles 3-11
    • Miles 11-13.1

Breaking down a race into segments is a good mental strategy – it’s something that I do already.

Miles 1-3

  • Holding back the adrenaline
  • Don’t weave
  • Be prepared for a slower pace
  • Just concentrate on you and getting to mile 3
  • Treat it similar to your warm up in training runs

Last time I ran this race, I definitely wasted time and energy by weaving around people. This time I aim to get myself into the right start pen to and take off at a steady pace. Starting too fast is one of my worst habits. At Gosport Half a few years back, I challenged myself not to look at my watch for the first three miles. I didn’t quite manage it, but it was helpful as it stopped me getting into a panic about going too fast or too slow.

Miles 3-11

  • Ask yourself some questions:
    • How am I feeling?
    • What is my fuel intake?
    • Do I need to slow down?
  • Join a group and interact
  • Settle into your race pace
  • Be prepared for things to get tough

I definitely think that running with others who are going at your pace helps. When I got my half marathon PB, I ran with a friend. We were both running faster than we had ever managed before, but we stuck with each other, which gave us both a mental boost.

Miles 11-13.1

  • Break down into bitesize pieces
  • If you’re looking for a PB, now is the time to start pushing the pace
  • Mental toughness is key in these final miles
  • Treat it as the party bus home

This bit always begins at mile 10 for me as then I repeat my mantra: “parkrun to go!”

After Ali’s talk there was time for a Q&A session before we went out for a warm up and a  5km run.

After a few stretches, we split into two groups. The faster group were going to go at 9-9:30 minute miles. I thought that should be OK as I can usually run parkrun at that pace with a buggy. However, I’ve really not run much since before Christmas, so I found it really hard going… also we started at a slightly quicker pace. I definitely think I needed to start more slowly and build up.

© Anna Smith-James

© Anna Smith-James

My stretch goal for Reading Half is 1:49:59, but I would be happy with anything under 1:52:19. At the moment, I think I’d be amazed if I could finish in under 2 hours, but I know that I was able to make a lot of progress in a short period of time last year, so as long as I’m focused, I should get there.

After another short refreshment break, it was on to the physio and injury prevention workshop, led by Jim Adkins from Berkshire Physiotherapy.

This was another interactive session with a combination of questions, answers, information and activity.

We learned how to warm up properly to help avoid injuries. We did lots of calf stretches, before we did some equipment work.

A common misconception is that running is a cheap sport as there is very little that is required. However, when you speak to someone who has become addicted to running they will explain that they have spent a fortune on the right shoes, socks, clothes, sports watch, other gadgets, nutrition and race entry fees. They may also have spent money on items such as foam rollers, massage balls and resistance bands. Jim introduced us to an innovative piece of equipment that I’ve never tried before…

A paper plate!

The aim of the paper plates was to place one under each foot and then do a bridge and slide your feet in and out. It’s much harder than it sounds and really works your core.

The most interesting stretch that I learnt was the ‘slump stretch’. I tried it out with my work colleagues who’ve renamed it as the bored sulky teenager stretch. It involved sitting on a firm surface with room to swing my legs. I had to slump my lumbar spine (chin to chest) and place my hands behind my back, before swinging alternate legs with my foot flexed. This exercise should ‘floss’ your sciatic nerve, which can help to relieve hamstring tightness.

Overall, this was such a helpful day that has made me feel ready to start tackling my training plan.

If you haven’t already signed up for Reading Half, why not enter now?

If you want to treat yourself, there’s a VIP package, which includes a range of ‘extras’.

There’s also the chance to enter the January competition if you sign up before January 31st.

Pacing at parkrun

15 Jul

A few weeks ago, one of my friends commented on Facebook that her 8-year-old son was speeding up and that she felt she was holding him back at parkrun. At the time, he was running at around 27 minutes, so I felt that it shouldn’t be too much of a challenge. A date was set… and then the young lad blew everyone away by running just under 24 minutes at a flat local parkrun!

I knew that I wouldn’t be able to pace someone to sub 24 (I’ve only run at that speed once myself), but I still felt confident that I could help the young man to a Southampton PB.

I met up with my running buddy before the start of parkrun and we positioned ourselves towards the front for the start. Although there weren’t as many runners as usual, it was still quite congested. We did a little bit of weaving amongst other runners and also ran on the grass at the side a bit.

At the top of the hill, we moved onto the grass at the side and I told my pacee that if he wanted to go faster then I would make sure that I kept up. He replied that he was saving some energy so that he could have a good sprint finish.

We carried on down the hill and were soon caught by Stuart and baby M. The continued with us as we went up the hill towards the crossroads. We had some support there as my running buddy’s dad and brother were there cheering the runners on.

On the second lap, the young runner pushed much harder on the downhill, so I had to work reasonably hard to keep up and talk to him.

We turned the corner for the final uphill towards the crossroads and ‘mini Mo’ started to kick. I knew that if we stayed together then I would hold him back, so I shouted to Stu to run with him to the finish.

I turned onto the final downhill section and heaved a sigh of relief that my pacee would be able to achieve a good time… and also drew breath as I slowed down to a steady jog.

After I crossed the finish line, I was pleased to see that I had still achieved a sub 25 minute run.

Southampton parkrun 15 July 2017

Massive congratulations to ‘runner boy’, who was 30 seconds quicker than me, which is an impressive performance for an 8-year-old!

Pacing at Eastleigh 10k

19 Mar Tamsyn and Heloise pacing at Eastleigh 10k ©Paul Hammond

This time last year, I was pregnant, but very few people knew, so I chose to be a pacer at Eastleigh 10k. It meant that I was able to take part in the race without people encouraging me to push myself harder than would have been good for me. I really enjoyed the experience and although my running is going well, I know I’m not on PB form, so when I was given the opportunity to be a pacer again this year, I jumped at the chance.

Eastleigh 10k is known for a being a fast flat race, so it is very popular. There are currently building works going on at the leisure centre where it starts, so we had to get there early to find a parking space.

Tamsyn and baby M

©Paul A. Hammond

I was partnered with Heloise Hunt, a fellow Lordshill Road Runner and parkrunner. We were confident that we could maintain the appropriate pace, so were determined to have fun, as these pictures from Paul Hammond show.

Heloise and Tamsyn

© Paul A. Hammond

Tamsyn posing

©Paul A. Hammond

It was also Baby M’s first race as it had been agreed that buggies were allowed to take part in the event. It was quite chilly and windy, so Stu decided to run with the rain cover on to give M a bit more shelter.

Stuart running with Baby M

Stuart running with Baby M

Despite Stu telling me that he was going to take it easy, he finished in 49:37, which is quicker than my PB!

Heloise and I managed to motivate a number of runners to keep going when they were struggling and also helped a group of runners to achieve under 65 minutes.

Eastleigh 2017 finish line

I finished in 1:04:53, so just under the 65 minutes that I was pacing… and I really enjoyed the whole experience of my first road race after having M.

Now the decision is whether I want to race Eastleigh 10k and go for a PB next year, or whether I’d like to pace again!





Southampton Half Marathon 2016

27 Apr

Although my original plan has been for this to be one of my A-races for 2016, the chest infection that I got earlier in the year put paid to that plan, so when I was offered the chance to pace sub 2:20, I was really excited. I loved pacing at Eastleigh 10k and was confident that I could support other runners to achieve that time.

I probably didn’t have ideal race preparation, but as I wasn’t ‘racing’ that didn’t worry me too much. On Saturday morning, I went to parkrun. Unsurprisingly, a lot of my friends were volunteering, but Kate was there. She had decided to take it easy and do 30-35 minutes, so I figured I’d join her for a nice sociable run. We were joined by Trevor and had a lovely chat on the way around… although yet again, my competitive genes kicked in when I looked at my watch towards the end and realised how close we were to 30 minutes. I didn’t quite make it this time!

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 20.55.28

It was my 177th run, so I should be able to reach my 200th this year, and if I keep going then I could get to my 250th by the end of 2017 🙂

On Sunday morning, I woke up early and had my usual breakfast, before we drove towards town. We then met Dave and quite a few of the others from the pacing team.

My new boiler is making my house quite warm, so I left the house wearing shorts and a hoodie, but a few minutes of waiting around meant that I had to rummage in my bag to find my jogging bottoms as it was really cold. Just after I put my trousers on, it started to drizzle a bit 😦 I don’t mind running in the rain, but I don’t like getting wet before the start of the race.

The event team treated us really well – we had a lecture theatre at Solent University to relax in before the start of the race, which kept us all warm. We also had access to real toilets with no queues, which is a definite pre-race luxury. The only slight downside was that my pacing t-shirt had gone missing, so Katherine leapt into action and penned me a new one!

My sub 2:20 pacing t-shirt

Katherine’s handiwork

My race number: 5885

I love the fact that Marafun race numbers are personalised

After some motivational talks from Matt le Tissier and Franny Benali, as well as Dave, our pacing team leader, I had a chance to chat with Sheryl and Carol, my pacing buddies. We’ve all run the route before and are aware that the first section is mainly downhill and flat (with the exception of the Itchen Bridge), whereas miles 8-11 are mainly uphill, so we decided to go slightly faster on the first half of the course (averaging 6:30/km), so that we could ease back on the steep uphill section, aiming for a course average of 6:38/km. I know that many people will argue that you should aim for a negative split, but our plan was to get as many people around the course on time as possible.

Before the start of the race, we were given pacing flags to carry out onto Guildhall Square before heading to the star zones with them. I hadn’t seen the buzz outside, so it was great to see how many people had congregated. My friend Inez spotted me and snapped a terrible photo!

Tamsyn carrying the 2:20 flag

Flag bearing © Inez Walker

After we took our places with the flags, we were able to go back inside for a while to keep warm. Fortunately, the earlier rain clouds had gone and the sun had started to come out.

Carol, Sheryl and I lined up on time and had a bit of a chance to talk to fellow runners.

Soon we were off. It was a very slow start, but we were able to start jogging within a couple of hundred metres and managed to hit our pace by the time we were 1km in. The crowds out on the streets were amazing and I saw so many people that I knew.

Most of the runners had heard about the Itchen Bridge and some of them were nervous of tackling it, but the weather was kind to us and it wasn’t windy, which made a big difference. There were also quite a few spectators on the bridge and we got to watch all of the faster runners going past on the other side. I had assumed that I would see Stuart, but the 1:30 pacers were just coming down as we went up and Stu must have already been ahead of them. We had to put a bit of work in to get the spectators clapping and cheering, but I think it helped the people running with us.

There were quite a few photographers on the bridge, so I kept reminding the group to smile!

Crossing the Itchen Bridge

Crossing the Itchen Bridge

Crossing the Itchen Bridge

The next highlight of the race after the Itchen Bridge was running through the Saints’ stadium. before the race some of my friends had voiced concerns that it would be a pinch point, but I thought we would have thinned out enough by that point and I was correct. We approach the stadium with a large group of runners from Pompey Joggers, which led to a lot of good-natured banter (Portsmouth are Southampton’s biggest rivals!) A lot of people paused to take selfies, but it’s a shame that there were no spectators in the stadium.

The next part of the race was crossing the Northam Bridge towards Bitterne. We passed the 10k point in 1:04, so we were feeling confident.

Then we turned off towards Riverside Park. A German student started chatting to us – although she’s been studying here for a couple of years, she’d never seen this part of the city before, so we told her a bit about the area.

When we got to Riverside Park a few of the runners started asking us about where the nearest toilets were – I wasn’t sure whether there were any portaloos there, but luckily for the desperate runners, there were some. Further on in Riverside Park, there was an aid station with bottles of water and energy gels. I don’t like energy gels, but I had a bit of water.

It was then on past Woodmill, and the first of four climbs. Although this is a short climb, it’s fairly steep and we had to encourage a fw runners to keep going at this point. We then had a flat section before the main hill on the race: Burgess Road. The crowd support there wasn’t quite as good as last year, but we had a bit of time in hand, so were able to take it steady and encourage runners to stick with us.

After Burgess Road, we ran past the University. Last year I recognised a lot of staff members and students out supporting, but there wasn’t as much of a crowd, and I was trying to pay attention to the poor road surface and the water station.

It was then onto a downhill, followed by another climb. yet again, there was a good crowd of supporters out by the church and some words of encouragement chalked onto the road. After a couple of turns we were onto the Common.

It was a quick run through the underpass (made quicker by everyone’s desire to escape the toxic fumes from the guy sparing graffiti tags on the wall – I won’t call him an artist as there’s no merit in just spraying in your name!) and then the final uphill climb.

It was getting quite warm but as we were still a little ahead of schedule, we were able to ease off through the Common. Sadly, we passed a couple of people who had passed out, which is always really sad to see.

Finally, it was the home stretch. We kept our pace steady down London Road, feeling confident that we were going to finish dead on our target time…

220 pacing

Reaching the final mile with Sheryl and Carol © Ken Grist

Sadly, our final race results didn’t quite tally with what we had expected.

Tamsyn's Southampton half results

We hadn’t realised that the start mat was not under the finish gantry, but 60m before it, so we walked for 30 seconds before we started our Garmins. My watch had stated that our finish time was 2:19:49 and Sheryl had the same result, so we thought we’d done a great job. I hope the confusion didn’t spoil anyone’s race.

Southampton half certificate

So it was my slowest ever half marathon, but the great company from Carol and Sheryl and the feeling that I had helped others to achieve their goals means that it was also one of the most enjoyable races I’ve run.

2016 Southampton half marathon medal

We received a great goodie bag at the end of the race, including the latest issue of Men’s Running or Women’s running.


We were also given a great finishers t-shirt, but as mine is currently in the washing machine, I haven’t got a photo of it 😦

We were also given a water bottle and a banana – I’m always grateful to have something to eat and drink after a race. A lot of people were enjoying Erdinger Alkoholfrei, but one of the main reasons why I don’t drink ordinary lager is that I don’t like its taste, so I decided to pass on that! We were also given mini boxes of Alpha Bites cereal (‘multigrain cereal letters’).

Alpha Bites and Ahmad teabags

I’d like to give a mention to my friend Kim who was the sub 1:10 pacer for the 10k. She got the runners around on time and got herself a PB – great work 🙂 Also, my husband Stuart managed to get himself a new PB of 1:23, despite being ill recently.

A video of the race has already been edited and shared online:

After the race, it was great to meet up with a number of friends, including Liz who finished 4 female overall and 1st V40, which is a fantastic result.

I also had a chance to chat with Chris, the mastermind behind the event – congratulations on organising a gret event, Chris!

Chris had ensured that there were enough goodie bags, t-shirts etc for people, which meant that he had some left-over items, so thank you very much for the box of bananas! Hopefully, my new kitchen will be fitted soon and I’ll be able to bake some banana bread.



My first race as a pacer – Eastleigh 10k

22 Mar

I had been hoping that I could go for a PB at Eastleigh 10k as it’s renowned for being a fast flat 10k (and it’s where I set my last PB), but I’ve been fighting a chest infection since February, so I had to let go of that dream. Fortunately, I’ve got an understanding GP (the Garmin on her wrist was a giveaway) – she said it would be OK for me to continue running, but that I shouldn’t race. With this in mind, I decided that I would take the race easy and would try to find one of my slower friends and see whether they would like me to help them get a PB. Before I posted anything on Facebook, I noticed a message in a running group that I’m in, saying that a female pacer was required to do 60 minutes. Excellent! I quickly replied to the message and stated my interest.

I received a very speedy response welcoming me to the pacing team, which meant that I no longer needed my race number. There was just enough time for me to do a legitimate transfer to my friend Verena 🙂

Because of various building works, we were warned that parking would be hard to come by, so I decided to cycle to the race as it’s only a few miles away. When I got there I saw my friend, Paul… or at least, he was my friend until he started sharing images like this!

pre Eastleigh 10k

pre Eastleigh 10k ©Paul A. Hammond

I met up with Dave who was organising the pacers. He had arranged for us to have access to a couple of small rooms to change in and store our stuff and had also picked up our numbers, pacing t-shirts and race t-shirts for us.

I had just enough time to get changed and then headed out to the field where a Lordshill team photo was being taken:

Lordshill Road Runners at Eastleigh 10k

Lordshill Road Runners at Eastleigh 10k

Eastleigh pacers

It was then time to start. I had a really lovely run, chatting with my co-pacer (Jo Nash) and encouraging the people around us to keep going at a steady pace.

Easteligh 10k 2016 pacing Eastleigh 10k 2016 1 Eastleigh 10k 2016 2 Eastleigh 10k 2016 3 Eastleigh 10k 2016 4

In the final kilometre, we encouraged runners around us to start picking up the pace a little bit and then when we got within sight of the finish we urged people to go as quickly as they could to finish in under 60 minutes.

Our final time was 59:18 😀

Eastleigh 10k 2016

Eastleigh 10k 2016

It was great to read some feedback in Southampton Echo on Monday: “They were pacers with personality who made sure people ran with a smile on their face” as relayed to the Echo reporter by the Organiser of the 10k Steve Collins. There was also some great feedback on Facebook after the event:

Eastleigh 10k feedback

I’ve paced at parkrun before, but this was the first time I’ve been a pacer at a paid-for race and I can honestly say I loved every minute of it. If you ever get the chance to be a pacer, I’d recommend that you do it!