Tag Archives: Reading Half Marathon

Getting back on track for Reading Half Marathon

19 Feb

It was really nice to be back running at Southampton parkrun. I’m feeling stiff, tired and unfit, so I decided to do my best to enjoy my run as I know my fitness will come back when I get into a more regular programme of exercise.

About 500m in, I caught up with my friend Sergio who was running with his daughter in a buggy. We’ve known each other for several years and got to talk quite a lot when we were in Wales for Long Course Weekend. We’ve not spoken much recently, so I took the opportunity to settle into a conversational pace. We had a great time chatting and I didn’t look at my watch, so I was OK with my time:

Southampton parkrun 17 Feb 2018

After running, we headed over to the Bellemoor for a cuppa before running home.

As you can see, I was running with a different buggy. Last year I blogged about using Thule Chariot Lite, and I have to say that after using it at least twice daily 4 times a week for 5 months, I’m still enjoying using it. It is easy to convert, although I invested in a Thule Axle- Mount EZ Hitch, as I was having problems with my quick release undoing every time I removed the trailer. We also bought a second one, so that Stu could have one on his bike. We also bought the Thule baby supporter, which just gives M a little bit more padding. I couldn’t afford the Thule footmuff, which looks really cosy (it has a hood), but I had a spare cosytoes, so we put that in. It’s not the easiest to do up as M sits in a more upright position than in her buggy, but it helps to keep her cosy as it’s been icy in the mornings recently.

M’s nursery is next to my workplace, so I cycle with her every morning. Unfortunately, it’s really awkward for me to get into the bike shed with the trailer, so I go to the nursery and detach the trailer outside. I then store the trailer in the nursery’s buggy park. I could convert it, but as it’s just a short walk through the building, I save time and leave it as a bike trailer. This also saves Stuart time as he collects M in the afternoon, so he’s able to hitch the trailer straight back onto his bike.

Anyway… we’ve enjoyed being able to cycle somewhere with M and then convert the trailer into a stroller, but really we’d like to get back to cycling to parkrun, so we bought the jogging kit. It uses the VersaWing system, so is really easy to install. The only minor frustration that I have is that the documentation all shows the Thule Chariot Cross, so it shows how the jogging kit can be stored. The Chariot Lite is slightly different and I haven’t yet work out how to store the jogging kit when using it as a bike trailer – if anyone knows the answer, please let me know!

We had originally intended to cycle to parkrun this weekend as there are major roadworks and road closures near to where we lives, but then we remembered that we had offered to transport various bits of parkrun kit. It would have been awkward to put take the kit on our bikes, but with a bit of juggling (and some tolerance from M who had a couple of bits stored in with her!) we were able to run down to parkrun. This had the added advantage of adding to my training miles as I’ve really not been doing enough running for Reading Half Marathon recently.

Stu and I took it in turns to run with the Chariot. It feels significantly different from running with the OutNAbout Nipper Sport. An advantage is that it’s easy to see the front wheel, but a disadvantage is that I can’t see M at all when running. She seems very happy in it as the side windows give her a better view, and also there is plenty of room for her soft toys and a couple of books as well as snacks and a drink… and with the front flyscreen down, she is unable to jettison anything!

The large wheels mean that it rolls smoothly and the adjustable handle height meant that Stu and I were both able to find comfortable positions, although we agreed that the shape of the handle meant that we weren’t quite sure where to place our hands. The Chariot is heavier than the Nipper, which is an advantage when going downhill (as long as it’s not too steep), but makes going uphill a more challenging workout. I’d love to have a go with a Thule Glide as that’s often recommended as the best running buggy on the market, so I’d like to know how it compares with these two.

You can also see that I was wearing the GearBunch leggings that I mentioned recently. I’ve now run in them a few times and have been really pleased with them. I absolutely love the colours and am pleased that I can wear almost any t-shirt with them as there are so many hues in them. I slightly prefer the colours on the back (the front is more lime greens and blues), but each leg is made of a single piece of fabric, so although there is an inside thigh seam, there is no seam on the outside.

The fabric is soft and silky. It’s fairly lightweight, but feels reasonably supportive. I think they are fine for spring/autumn activities, but think they probably wouldn’t be warm enough for really cold weather (although I tend to run in shorts all year round). I didn’t think my legs looked too bad in them, but I think that if you have bad cellulite then it might be visible in these leggings. There is no drawstring, but I found that the elasticated waist was enough to hold these tights up. I also thought the length was perfect for me (I’m 5’5″/166cm). These tights have a front seam and no gusset, which has the potential for ‘camel toe’,  but they have a reasonably long body, so shouldn’t need to be pulled up too high.

GearBunch have an amazing selection of designs and colours. If you’re interested in skulls/Day of the Dead imagery, then there is plenty to whet your appetite. There are also lots of themed leggings for events such as Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, Christmas, Chinese New Year and so on. There are also some realistic human muscles leggings. I’ve seen these in ‘the flesh’ and was a little freaked out by them! Here are some of my favourite designs:

colourful splash leggings Jellyfish leggings Lightning leggings neon stripe leggings

Some of the designs made me feel a little uncomfortable, such as the religious ones (Christian and Hindu). Wearing religious icons on sportswear just doesn’t seem right to me:

Mother Mary leggings Lord Ganesha leggings Jesus leggings

I’m also not keen on political allegiance and lycra and I’m guessing that’s common with Brits as there were no Corbyn/May leggings, but there were various American political figures such as George Washington, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. There didn’t seem to be the option to buy Obama tights!

Ronald Reagan leggings Donald Trump leggings George Washington leggings Bill Clinton leggings

What are the most unusual leggings you’ve seen?

After running 11km on Saturday, I met up with Liz for a run on Sunday. Liz is known as Queen of Selfies, but we both failed to take any photos on our run – probably because we were too busy chatting. I ran down to The Common to meet Liz and had M in her buggy. We meandered around the Common and its environs, managing to cover 14km (8.7 miles). It wasn’t as far or as fast as I’d hoped to be managing at this point in my training, but I have this week off work, so as well as catching up with blogging, I’ll be aiming to rest, eat well and get some quality training in. I’ve managed 25km in the past couple of days, so that doesn’t seem too bad.

What are your plans for this week?

Need a last minute Valentine’s gift?

13 Feb

It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow, which doesn’t leave you much time to find the perfect present for your loved one/Galentine/running buddy. Why not buy them a race entry?

Anyone who buys a Valentine’s gift entry to Reading Half Marathon will be entered into a prize draw to win £50 Sweatshop vouchers. That’s got to be worth a shot!

A week where I managed to swim, cycle and run (at last!)

11 Feb

Wow – what a week!

On Monday, I wasn’t feeling motivated to get in the pool. I think M knew that Stu was out with his friends watching the Superbowl on Sunday night, so she decided that she’d also like to be up partying. I got very little sleep and did not feel like going swimming, but I know that ‘you only regret the workouts you didn’t do’, so I agreed with myself that I would go to the pool and then see how I felt.

Don't mistake my cutness for weakness. I will terrorise you and turn this house upside down like the tiny tornado that I am.

This perfectly describes M!

When I got in the pool, I decided to do a 20 minute time trial. I swam at a steady pace and was pleased to see that I covered 850m in that time. As long as I can sustain that pace then I should meet my goal of 2.5k in an hour 🙂

Strive for progress, not perfection

This sign on the gym wall seemed perfect

On Wednesday, I was going to run with a work colleague, but we both had a lot of meetings on, so it just didn’t work out in the end.

I’m so excited to have learnt that I’ve got a place in RideLondon again this year. It should tie in nicely with the other challenges that I’ve got lined up.

RideLondon 2018

I’ve also been trying out a few new products, so there will be some reviews posted soon.

I’ve received a couple of products from New Wave Swim Buoy – a supersoft towel and a ‘launchpad’ – a neoprene mat that can be used for triathlons and on pool changing room floors.

New wave products

I’ve also been trying to squeeze in some reading around the training that I’ve been doing…

This Girl Ran Run Mummy Run book

Plus I’ve been trying out some gorgeous new leggings from GearBunch

Gearbox leggings

On Friday, I went out for a run with Rachel and her baby. It was great to have a full day to myself. Whenever I get a day without M, I start getting on top of things, but she’s been ill so often that I never seem to catch up.

Trying out my new Gearbox leggings

I ran from my house to The Common and was disappointed by my pace, but I decided to ignore it as I know I’m not as fit as I’d like to be. My training for Reading Half definitely isn’t going the way that I’d planned. This time last year, I was so much fitter. I had originally hoped to be aiming for a PB (sub 1:52:19), but now I’m desperately hoping I’ll be fit enough to run sub 2:00.

I ran around The Common with Rachel and F. We went down every side path to try to make the distance as much as possible. When we stopped, I was horrified to find that I’d only run 5.5km in 55 minutes. I’ve never been that slow before. It just didn’t seem right as I’ve walked parkrun (5km) in 40 minutes.

I then ran home. When I got back, the final distance was 12.5km, which is the longest I’ve run for many months. I had a look at my Garmin data online and was relieved to find that somehow my watch settings had changed and the distance shown was miles, not km. Phew!

I’m now starting to feel like I can get myself back on track and can at least finish Reading Half.  Have you entered yet?

reading fc comp

There is currently a fantastic competition on:

Enter Reading Half before 13 Feb to win a great hospitality package for one of Reading FC’s remaining games this season:

Prize includes:

  • VIP match seating on the North West corner
  • One course gourmet burger menu
  • Cash bar facility available
  • Matchday programme and team sheet
  • Place at a shared table
  • Matchday entertainment

I didn’t manage to get a run in this weekend as I was Run Directing at parkrun again. It’s a role that I really enjoy, but I wish that I could be in two places at once as I also love running.

If you’ve ever wondered how difficult your nearest parkrun is, you might be interested to have a look at the Run Britain Rankings. Southampton is a relatively easy run at #38 and Penrose (my local run when I go home to Cornwall) is at #340. How does your local parkrun compare?

Stu and M watching the ducks

As I wasn’t able to go running today, I figured that time on my feet would be a good compromise. I had the most amazing lie in this morning (after several nights of very poor sleep), which has helped me to feel much better. In the afternoon, Stu, M and I went for a walk down to the university and around the campus. M was fascinated by the ducks.

Overall, this week started off badly, but I managed to turn it around an am now feeling totally inspired ready for a new week 🙂

Planning for 2018

6 Feb Planner with the words 'Make it happen'

Planner with the words 'Make it happen'

I usually spend some time on New Year’s Eve planning my races for the following season, but of course I start thinking about what I want to achieve before then. This year was no different, but I’ve been so busy that it’s taken until now for me to write down my plans…

Swimming

  • Swimathon – swim 2.5km in under an hour.
  • Get in the pool at least once a week for the whole year and to make it to some open water swimming sessions.
  • Take Baby M swimming once a week

Cycling

  • I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll get a place in RideLondon again this year
  • Get involved in cyclocross this year

Running

  • Reading Half
  • London Landmarks Half
  • Southampton Half
  • Do my 250th parkrun

Multisport

  • Long Course Weekend – do the full event

Other

  • Qualify as a Personal Trainer

 

I’m trying to be realistic about what I can achieve as I’m really busy at work and M is a high-maintenance tiny human. I’m sure there will be some other B & C goals that will come along throughout the season, so watch this space!

 

A fortnight of exercising

19 Jan Running track

After the Reading Half Marathon workshop, I was determined to start my training for this year’s races. I still need to sort out a proper half marathon training schedule, but at least I’m making a move in the right direction.

I’ve been out running with Sarah for the past two Wednesdays. We did just over 5km the first week and 6.5km this week. I’m starting to feel a bit more comfortable again, but I definitely need to start doing some speedwork.

Running track

Photo by Austris Augusts on Unsplash

I’ve also been out running with Rachel and Felix, then on Saturday I took part in Southampton parkrun, so I ran three times in a week for the first time in a long time. I found parkrun really challenging, partly because of my fitness levels, but also because it was so busy. I had M in her buggy, so it was really hard for me to pass slower runners. I started off with Inez who was doing her 100th parkrun, but I couldn’t run alongside her, so I slowed down a bit. Then Linda and her baby caught up with me, so we had a lovely chatty run. There are a lot of stressful things going on for me at the moment, so I’m really enjoying the chance to clear my head either by running on my own or by chatting to friends whilst running. I also loved seeing Tuba Libres at parkrun, there to celebrate Laura’s 250th parkrun.

Southampton parkrun Jan 13 2018

Of course the other big challenge that I’m training for is Swimathon. I’m so excited to be an ambassador again this year – check out my profile. Last week I swam with Stuart on Monday. My arms were aching in the first few hundred metres, but  kept going and managed 1000m. I would have swum more, but I didn’t have enough time. Then this week, I swam on Tuesday and did 1200m. I’m determined to keep building up my strength, speed and distance until I’m back to comfortably doing 2km in an hour… by which  stage I should be ready to start my proper training programme.

Swimmers doing front crawl during Swimathon

Swimmers doing front crawl during Swimathon

I’ve been cycling to work (as usual), but I don’t have any cycling challenges at the moment, which is probably just as well as I’m still getting to grips with balancing work, training and family life.

I’ve also been doing a lot of gardening as it’s finally a bit drier. I spent 2.5 hours raking my garden two weeks ago and last week I spent another 2.5 hours raking. I would have continued with the theme, but there’s no room left in my garden waste bin and it’s wet and cold here. Hopefully, I’ll manage to do some more gardening next week.

Have you got a detailed training schedule for this year?

 

 

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.

Returning to my favourite (and fastest) ever race

5 Jan Reading Half training morning
I am so excited to have been selected as a Blogger Ambassador for Reading Half Marathon. The race takes place on Sunday 18th March, 2018. 
I first ran Reading Half in 2012 and was thrilled to achieve a PB of nearly 25 minutes, finishing the race in 1:52:19. I’m fairly confident that I could have smashed that time last year, but my training has suffered, so it will be interesting to see how it goes this year. I absolutely loved running Reading Half in 2012, but I’ve never returned as I’ve been afraid that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. I still don’t really know how I did so well in 2012 – I sometimes wonder whether it was down to the bottle of Lucozade that I drank before the start of the race!
Reading Half 2012

With team-mates from Lordshill Road Runners after Reading Half Marathon 2012

Some of the things that I enjoyed about the race were the enthusiastic crowds who turned out to support the runners, the music along the course and the finish inside the Madejski Stadium. I also enjoyed running with my training partner, Irene.
After being ill over Christmas, I’ve not been running as much as usual at all, so I’m keen to get back to training. Tomorrow, I’m attending a Training Morning in Reading.
Reading Half training morning
    The morning will start with a workout led by the Townsend Twins, who will also be leading the warm up on race day. I’m still thinking about studying to become a Personal Trainer, so I’ll be seeing whether I can pick up any tips as well as having some fun!
    Next up will be a seminar on pace management led by Ali Galbraithe. I’ve run as a pacer for several events, and it’s a role that I’ve enjoyed, but it’s much easier to run at a consistent pace when you’re within your comfort zone. I’ll be keen to learn how to improve my pacing and maybe even how to go for that elusive negative split.
    After a group run, Berkshire Physio will be leading a cool down and giving an injury prevention talk. I’ve been neglecting my stretches recently, so this might push me into taking more care of myself.
    Overall, I’m so excited about this opportunity. I’ll do my best to take loads of photos and will be reporting back on what I’ve learnt.

     Have you thought about signing up for Reading Half? There’s a competition to win some great kit for anyone who enters during January, so what are you waiting for?!