F*** YEAH RUNNING!

So this basically sums up how I felt about doing Royal Parks on Sunday.

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dublet0 on Flickr.

This was at 12 miles at the Mind cheering point when I was high fiving everything that moved. It was an AMAZING day. Amazing. I realise that saying “amazing” and “running 13.1 miles” together requires a complete absence of logic, but I was just so thrilled during the run that I didn’t really notice. I ran the whole distance, all the time, except for three seconds when I stopped at Lancaster Gate to take a picture of a woman holding a sign which made me scream with laughter. Continue reading

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Sara’s half-marathon tips

YAY SARA!

YAY SARA!

My friend Sara, her of the sports jelly beans and witchcraft chatting-while-running, sent me the most wonderful email the week before I did Royal Parks (more on that story later). She had just done her first half marathon in Ealing, and had lots of marvellous advice which she’s said I can put up here. My favourite, obviously, was “Remember you’re allowed all the carbs now.”

Also good, because I came down with SODDING FLU five days before, so never did do my two three mile runs – “It doesn’t matter if you don’t run this week. You’ve been ready for this for the last month, a week off at the end won’t change a think. I did two very short runs but I think it’s more important to rest. Don’t do anything after Thursday!”

What was really wonderful was this picture which she posted shortly afterwards. A bunch of her friends trekked up to Ealing in the middle of the night (or, 10am on Sunday morning which is much the same thing) and surprised her as she came round the final bend with this UTTERLY amazing sign. Bravo Sara’s friends. And bravo the Sara!

Sara’s half-marathon tips:

The Ealing Half was fantastic, I loved it so much. I want to do another one now! Here’s what I learned on the day:

– Find a pacer and follow them. You won’t have to look at your watch, so you can take in the scenery and crowds. It went much quicker for me as I wasn’t checking my watch and thinking “we’ve only done FOUR miles, WTF?” It also meant I didn’t shoot off too fast.

– Chat to nervous looking people at the start, who will probably also be first timers. I ended up running the whole thing with a lovely girl called Jen as we found we were both aiming for a similar time.

– High-five any children on the route! They all had their tiny hands out in Ealing, and were counting the high fives they got.

– I found thinking of it as a ten mile run helped. I knew once I got to 10, I could definitely do another 3. 3 miles = Parkrun = fine.

– Drink at every water station, even if it’s just a tiny bit. Splash water on your face. Don’t worry about how you’ll look in the photos.

– Stretch! Like your life depends on it! I went for a short walk yesterday and did lots of stretching afterwards, and today I feel fine. I should have stretched more on Sunday instead of sweatily hugging everyone.

– Parade around all day in your medal. It’s your right. Loudly say “oh – this? Why it’s just my HALF MARATHON MEDAL” if you feel people are making insufficient fuss.

Sara, you are a total legend. Check out her equally legendary Tumblr, Life! Death! Top Tips!

Cava > Lucozade

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Six days til Royal Parks – bugger me that’s gone quickly. Last Sunday I did my last long run, and then started getting a bit restless, which wasn’t helped by the fact I did precisely no exercise all week. I had good intentions, all scuppered by textbook examples of how not to run, such as getting changed and then realising I’d forgotten my sports bra, or just sitting on the sofa and going “Ooh, I quite fancy watching Bake-Off with a San Miguel.”

So as compensation this weekend I did my first parkrun. Park Run, or parkrun, or park run, or whatever the formatting is, is a free-to-enter 5km run organised by volunteers each Saturday in parks around the world.  I’ve had the barcodes in my wallet for months.

I timed it pretty well as it turned out to be Burgess Park parkrun’s first anniversary. I don’t believe in fate, but as I do have a socking great weakness for coincidence it made the day feel jolly special, not least because BP  holds some good memories.I spent 18 months living in a colossal marzipan townhouse on Trafalgar Avenue with my brother before he emigrated. It was where I was walking, in a slough of post-Job Centre despond, when I got the call asking me to come and work at The Times. And it’s where I started running at the start of this year AND YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENED THEN.

It had to be Burgess Park for all these reasons, but also because whenever I’ve crossed Brockwell Park’s parkrun on one of my morning lollops, it’s been filled with people who appear to have been entirely hewn from rock.

I ran off in the direction of Albany Road feeling comfortably like a smug prick in lycra. I arrived sweating like a sad pig. “Ooh, you look like you’ve already been running,” said another first-timer. “Phaaaar,” I replied, intelligently.

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I have got used to running quite far, quite slowly, but 5ks are fast. They’re the sports day of unpleasant physical activity and oh God I can’t do fast. I duly set off at a near sprint, and got a stitch after about 10 minutes. I didn’t stop, but at one point it looked as though I was going to get overtaken by a duck.

I finished in 29.33 which I was very happy with, and then we all had cake and coffee and cava, because they’re frankly light years better than Lucozade. Someone had made a cake!

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I bumped into someone from – I think – that running club I went to once, who was very sweet, and also met a girl who was beside herself with joy at having run it in under 25 minutes. “I was at 30 last year!” So maybe next year that’ll be me.

The rest of the week, I’ve got to do two three mile runs (“the work is in the barn, slow and relaxed” WTF Runkeeper?), and then it’s a 15 minute amble on Saturday before the actual run on Sunday. I’ve bought myself some new shorts in preparation. I can’t wait. I have literally no idea who I am anymore.

Yards With Friends

Ordinarily I subscribe to the Greta Garbo school of running, but the last three weeks have been very weird and sociable. Not the running club – for an assortment of reasons (“I’ve got a screening” “It’s a bit cold” “I’ll go when I’ve got better” “There’s a – a thing, somewhere”) I never did go back and now choir’s started up again so my Tuesdays are done for.

A couple of weeks ago my friend Sara, of Life Death Top Tips fame, asked if I wanted to go on a long run as she’d got massively bored of trolling round the streets of Streatham on her own. We roped in another Domestic Sluttery friend, Frances, and headed off in the direction of Vauxhall and Chelsea. As is evident, I have yet to master taking a picture while running without getting your fingers all over it.

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Bit idyllic

Continue reading

For the faint at heart, a new start

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RUNNING COUNTRYSIDE DISCO!

If I haven’t posted something Labrador-ebullient about running and how it’s making me totes emosh and my legs totes amaze for a few weeks then it’s a fairly good sign that the running has been going extremely badly.

Or just…not happening very much, which was what was happening when I went back to Hampshire to see my parents at the weekend. I’d been for one five mile run the previous Saturday, and just lost interest en route, so enjoyed a little amble down Herne Hill before bothering to pick my feet up and trot on home.

This weekend was serious though. It was serious because I was going sailing with my dad for the first time in a bajillion years (this was amazingly good fun). It was serious because I was going to dinner at my parents’ friends’ house and there would be highly competitive parlour games, and it was serious because I was finally going to do my first 10 mile run, and the longest I’ve done so far has been about 7 miles.  I’ve already fallen slightly behind in my overambitious half-marathon training programme, so I should have been out doing 12 miles but let’s not get ahead of ourselves because that’s basically an ultra-marathon.

According to the legend on my Runkeeper app, these long runs are a chance for me to practise my hydration and nutrition. Blank face. I don’t want to use gels as they sound disgusting. I don’t have a fancy water bottle. What sort of nutrition? Can I take crisps?

As it turned out, I was far too monstrously hungover to go out on Sunday morning, so spent it sitting in bed with the paper feeling very, very quiet. I finally kicked myself out of bed, took a small bottle of tap water and one of my mum’s small and pointless post-tennis chocolate bar snacks (the sort where you need to eat five to tell you have in fact consumed any chocolate at all), merrily picked a 10 mile loop round Hampshire, and set off.

hampshire summer run (3)It all went rather well at the beginning. I clambered the hill out of the village and had this great sense that, actually, today’s run wasn’t going to be a problem. It went VERY WELL at the four mile point when I came across this tree shaped like a dinosaur. Or Nessie. Or a sock puppet.

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And it really was a stunning day. Not too hot, not too windy, and the farmers were all out in force harvesting wheat and doing all kinds of chaff-y things with their massive tractors. Every time I looked left or right I was confronted with the true brilliance of the English countryside in summer, and for someone who used to be borderline agrophobic whenever she returned home after university holidays, it was such a treat to see it at a leisurely pace rather than whizzing past it in a car.

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I mean, really. Ridiculous.

I ended up doing something of a detour when I accidentally missed my turn off and spent a good mile merrily running parallel to the A3, at which point I broke open the Pointless Not A Chocolate Bar and rewarded myself with “practising my nutrition.” At this point the water had reached boiling point due to being clasped in my volcanic hand for six miles.

hampshire summer run (7)When I finally got back on the right route, I started to feel a bit off. I finished my water, obviously couldn’t find anywhere to put it as country lanes are not usually decorated with recycling bins, and was immediately confronted by a series of REALLY LONG HILLS. Oh good lord, the hills. I did quite a lot of walking up these, mixed with some rather lacklustre jogging every few minutes just to remind my legs that this was a run, yes, really.

I realised my mistake when I started passing signs pointing to Butser Hill Picnic Area, and realised that when I had merrily banged out my Runkeeper loop, I’d failed to notice the fact that the last third of it took place up a gigantic bloody great hill. Huge applause for me! I nearly had hysterics laughing, but then I got to a flat bit – and oh my, then I got to this.

hampshire summer run (8)HELLO VIEWS! This is fairly crap when reduced to an iPhone picture, but the sight of my village nestled across the way, the huge deep landscapes, the fluffy crema of the clouds and those gorgeous rich colours almost took my breath away. And as a massive plus, this signalled the start of a really long downwards hill, which I duly ran down laughing, waving at sheep and singing along to Fenix TX’s excellent Phoebe Cates at breathy volume.

(I am one of those people who can’t pass livestock without doing one of those wiggly finger waves and trilling “HELLLOOOOO!”)

And then, this!

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Oh hello your majesty, how beautiful are you. (More trilling followed.)

I soldiered on for two and a half miles more before staring at my phone until the golden sight of “10.0 miles” appeared and then immediately stopped. My hips and legs ached. I felt fairly sure I’d turned into a broken pepper mill. I texted my brother to apologise but that there was absolutely no way I was going to make the family Skype as it was going to take me at least half an hour to walk home. But my God, I had done my first 10 miles.

AND I FELT LIKE A BLOODY GODDESS!

Time til The Bloody Great Run: Seven weeks and three days. You can sponsor me here if you like.