Driving, training, drinking (fake) bubbles

A longer running vlog today…

…not because my run was anything special, but rather because there’s been a bit of news about a couple of the postponed races scheduled for later this year. Edinburgh Marathon Festival has re-postponed from September to its usual May date, and so Geth and I will be deciding whether to apply for an entry refund or roll our entries over to May. I’m leaning towards the latter at the moment as I was really looking forward to doing the Edinburgh half – we just need to organise the diary properly, as late May/early June 2021 is already getting a bit packed with rescheduled events!

The other race news (or non-news, really) from today was that the London Marathon announced that they’ve not made a decision about whether to go ahead in October yet, and will update us again on 28th July. This was a surprise, as I fully expected them to announce a re-postponement to next spring. I have mixed feelings about this development (as I’ve explained in detail in my vlog linked above), and I still think it’s very unlikely that the October date will go ahead, but I think the best way of looking at it is to appreciate the structure that another five weeks of marathon training will give me when it comes to my running.

In non-running news, Geth and I finally got round to collecting some books from his office at the university today (he needs them for working from home, as the university won’t be back working on campus for many months to come). As we were out in the car anyway, we took the opportunity to do a big shop at Asda. It’s so much easier when you don’t have to lug it home by hand 🙂 I found a couple of bottles of my favourite alcohol-free fizzy as well!

I’ve mostly been working on my game otherwise today, though I have been fairly distracted by the London Marathon issue! Looking forward to spending some more time on it tomorrow.

Textbooks
Some of the books we didn’t take home. I took a record of them all so that Geth can remember what’s at the office.

Today’s earworm playlist:

ACE+ – ‘Engage The Enemy’
John Williams, Michael Land, Peter McConnell and Clint Bajakian – ‘Indiana Jones And The Fate Of Atlantis: Opening Theme’
Living In A Box – ‘Living In A Box’

My five-year runniversary

On the 31st of May 2015, I was sitting on the sofa, about a third of the way through my first playthrough of Mass Effect. It suddenly occurred to me that videogame characters could run forever, never getting tired or slowing down, and as Commander Shepard ran forever on my TV screen, a fleeting notion came to me. ‘I’d like to be able to run forever,’ I thought wistfully, before being launched into another space gun battle and forgetting all about it for a few more hours.

On the 1st of June 2015, I started running.

Great North 5k 2015
On the start line of the Great North 5k 2015, next to a rain-soaked River Tyne.

My first running route was a 1.1k loop around where Geth and I live. On that first day, I had to take two (planned) 50-second walk breaks; the total route took me about ten or eleven minutes, nearly twice the time of the fastest kilometres that I do nowadays.

I got home and had to sit down on the stairs for a while, my breath icy and my chest aching. I had spent 2010-2011 doing Wii Fit on and off, and had attended a Zumba class twice a week for the last eighteen months before we moved from Southampton to Newcastle in February 2015, but running was a whole new level of cardio and I wasn’t used to it. As I thumped at my chest to try and bring it back to life, Geth looked at me pityingly. ‘This isn’t going to last,’ he observed, and in that moment, I also had my doubts.

However, I’m a stubborn cow, and so I went out again to do that 1.1k loop for the next four days in a row, cutting the duration of the walk breaks down by five seconds each day. I decided to run five days a week, Monday to Friday, and do a bit of strength training at the weekends. At the end of week one, I signed up for the Great North 5k, already feeling the need for a target race to help with motivation. By the end of week two, I could run the whole loop in one go (slowly!), and by the end of week three, Geth was convinced enough to buy me my first pair of running shoes (Karrimor trail shoes, because I didn’t know anything about running shoes). For week four, I doubled the loop to 2×1.1k and started again with the 50-second walk breaks.

Training for my first 5k was not without its challenges. I was a lot heavier then, and so I suffered from a lot of debilitating hip pain that really slowed me down. I also spent a week in the south of France with my family, and every morning I diligently staggered up the steepest hill I have ever run on, in 30°C heat! I later had to take a week off training due to an attack of runner’s knee, and found this a bit panic-inducing, not yet realising that training plans can be flexible. In the event, I only managed to run my final 5×1.1k training loop without stopping once… but that was enough, and I completed the Great North 5k 2015 in 35:51, a 5k time that I wouldn’t be able to beat for nearly two years, even after I started parkrunning most weeks.

While I had big running ambitions and dreams when I started, and always hoped to be able to run faster and for longer, I’m still amazed sometimes when I look back over the last five years. I have run approximately 1,770 miles (Strava says 1,769, Smashrun says 1,771, FetchEveryone says 1,773!), which isn’t huge mileage over five years by a lot of runners’ standards, but I’m more than proud of it. I’ve completed three 5k races, 112 parkruns, ten 10k races, two 10 mile races, eight half marathons, and one full marathon – my proudest achievement, even though my time wasn’t much to write home about. In the early days, I regularly staggered in with the tail runner at parkrun, and came last out of thousands of runners in the Great North 10k 2016. I am still slow, but on my good days I’m almost a mid-packer now. On New Year’s Day 2020, I started running every day, which has massively improved my speed along with my mileage.

I can’t express how much running has enhanced my life. I prioritise health and fitness in everything I do now, and I’m not sure that I would have lost five stone or managed to get sober if running hadn’t made me more aware of my general wellbeing. I’ve made friends through the wonderful running community that exists in the north-east of England and beyond. Above all, it’s an amazing hobby that I’ve been able to share with Geth – he was inspired by that first Great North 5k that I did, and started running himself the following year.

This morning, I ran that first 1.1k route again as part of my regular 2k-ish easy run, and cast my mind back to that first difficult attempt. I think that on the 1st of June 2015, if you’d told me that I would one day be able to run that loop without even really noticing I was running, I would never have believed you.

I still can’t quite run forever. But a marathon feels like forever, and for the time being, that’s enough.

Post-run
Post-run this morning. The best way to start the day.

Stretching out

I ran with Geth again this morning…

…and since then we’ve just been in the house, hiding from the cancelled world outside. Geth went to Sainsbury’s, and came back with approximately half the things I’d sent him out for (panic-buying has officially set in here in Newcastle), but we’ll manage. I also went to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription – the outside world feels a bit odd and apocalyptic at the moment.

It’s felt like a long day, but I’m not about to complain, because extra time is my most treasured thing and suddenly having a lot more of it is a real silver lining. Sage Gateshead has now closed, so my ukulele classes are not happening for the foreseeable future, and I don’t know when they’ll be rescheduled. The UK Games Expo confirmed this evening that they are postponing the event to August; parkrun will make an announcement tomorrow.

The North Tyneside 10k has also postponed to October, so that’s the last of my spring races fallen by the wayside. I’m amazed and grateful that none of my postponed races clash with each other (or with the GNR), and also feel quite lucky that I hadn’t booked any of my planned autumn races before this all kicked off. I had wanted to run the South Shields 10 Mile and the Great Scottish Run this year, but they’ll be there for me in the future.

Keeping in touch with family as the daily situation changes is my main priority at the moment, along with keeping myself and Geth safe and sane. Running is a big help with the latter, and I’m really glad I have that in my life at the moment.

Brooks running shoes
I was able to try out my new running shoes from Inverness this morning. They’re super bouncy and did give me a slight but noticeable boost!

Today’s earworm playlist:

Lightwood Games – ‘Link-A-Pix Theme’
Ollie Wride – ‘Back To Life’
Mesh and Mechanical Cabaret – ‘Born To Lie [Duet Version]’
Koichi Sugiyama – ‘Unflinchable Courage’
EMF – ‘Unbelievable’

Quick post-race update

Ran. Ran well…

…still alive, but very sleepy.

Hoping to be a bit more with it tomorrow!

Pre-race at Inverness Half Marathon
Just before the race, when we were a lot less tired!

Today’s earworm playlist:

Vangelis – ‘Chariots Of Fire’
Justin Timberlake – ‘Can’t Stop The Feeling’
Lewis Capaldi – ‘Someone You Loved’
Katy Perry – ‘Roar’

Blogging about running again. Sorry!

One last pre-weekend ‘recovery’ mile this morning…

…before a slow shakeout parkrun tomorrow morning and then the race on Sunday. I’m so excited about this race that I’m starting to wonder if my 2019 autumn running strategy was a bit of a mistake. For context: in 2017 and 2018 I ran my last races of the season in October and November respectively, meaning that I felt a bit burnt out after a long race season each time and ended up having a ‘winter running slump’ (i.e. six to eight weeks with no running at all) both years as a result. As such, I decided to end my 2019 race season with September’s Great North Run, in the hope that I would feel more refreshed and avoid the slump this winter.

This sort of semi-worked (I did have four weeks off between late November and late December, but that was due to a really bad cold rather than not wanting to run!). However, because this last six-month period has been my longest break between races in three years, I find that I’ve really built this race up in my head and am bouncing off the walls about it. I sort of wish I could calm down a bit, because I’m nervous about going out far too fast on Sunday now.

However, it will not be my last half marathon this year – I’ve got quite a few booked – so if for any reason it does all go wrong, I do have several more chances to get it right. It’d be so nice to have a good confidence-boosting PB going into the final stages of London Marathon training though!

After that nice gentle parkrun (Geth’s 100th!), we’ll be doing some shopping tomorrow 🙂

Snowy road
I was driving up a mountain in a part of the world that’s still quite wintry today. Geth took some photos from the passenger seat.

Today’s earworm playlist:

Justin Bieber – ‘Love Yourself’
Ram Jam – ‘Black Betty’

Race Review: Great North Run 2019

I’ve had a week to digest this year’s Great North Run now!

First of all, it feels like it was absolutely the right decision for me to make the Great North Run the final race of my running season for 2019. I’ve finished on a high, at a point when I’m still really enthused about running, so I really feel like I have a good chance of avoiding the winter running slump this year, as I won’t be burning myself out training for races later in autumn.

The weather was ridiculously hot for the fifth year running. What is up with that? I first noticed it in 2015 when it poured down as I was doing the Great North 5k on the Saturday and then got stupidly warm in time for the main event on the Sunday. It’s the north-east of England – it shouldn’t be guaranteed hot weather in September!

However, it was the first time I felt properly in control during a half marathon. I went out too fast in the first two or three miles – probably due to starting in a faster wave – and I did slow down a little during miles eight to eleven, but I had planned for that, and I knew I was still on track for a PB. In the end, my time was 2:36:32, which was four minutes and seven seconds off my previous best. I was really happy with that! Next target: sub 2:35.

Great North Run 2019 medal
This one gets a little weightier and more colourful every year!

I will definitely be back next year for the 40th Great North Run!

Recovering!

I was really pleased with my race time yesterday, but it has taken a lot out of me, so I’ve just been curled up playing videogames today. Back to work tomorrow.

Nosecco
Not an OOTD: finishing the last of the celebratory nosecco from yesterday.

Today’s earworm playlist:

Mark Knopfler – Local Hero
Duran Duran – Planet Earth
Michael Land – The Barbery Coast
Michael Land – Woodtick

A muggy Friday

Yesterday did not end as well as it began. The UK railway chaos caused by the heat meant that Geth and I were unable to get from Newcastle to Durham for our race, so I had to DNS a race I’d entered for the first time since 2016 (when I couldn’t take up my place at the EMF 10k due to my brother getting married in Toronto the same weekend). Really annoyed about the whole thing! Next time I have to go anywhere during a heatwave I’ll be taking the car – the trains are just too unreliable.

I then had a bad night’s sleep due to the heat, so I’ve not really felt on top form today and haven’t got as much writing done as I would have liked. It’s been a long, muggy day – there was a heavy rain storm earlier this evening that’s made the air a little cooler, but it still feels pretty uncomfortable.

I may or may not be at parkrun tomorrow depending on the weather, but I will be in town either way as I’ve got a hospital appointment that I only found out about today.

OOTD 26th July 2019
OOTD: this outfit was highly appropriate when I put it on this morning, before the rain made it all grey and overcast! Sunglasses Ray-Ban (2019), dress Paradise (2013), shoes BHS (2016).

Today’s earworm playlist:

Martin Garrix, Macklemore and Patrick Stump – Summer Days
Daniel Bedingfield – If You’re Not The One
Arcadia – Say The Word
Cast of The Rocky Horror Picture ShowTime Warp
Kylie Minogue – I Should Be So Lucky
Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody
George Ezra – Paradise

And a bonus track that Geth was humming earlier:

Haim Saban and Shuki Levy – The Mysterious Cities Of Gold Main Theme

The hottest day of the year…I hope

Geth woke me with great excitement this morning because he’s had a paper accepted (it’s been a few years due to various things getting in the way of his research), and I was still on a high from giving a well-received performance at poetry night yesterday evening, so it was a good start to the day. Well, it was until I read all the newspaper headlines screaming ‘ARE YOU READY FOR THE HOTTEST DAY OF THE YEAR?’. Firstly, no I’m not, because I have to run 10k this evening and cooler temperatures would be preferable (the forecast is now saying thunderstorms – this could be interesting) and secondly, you don’t actually know that it’s the hottest day of the year until the year comes to an end, newspaper people.

Other than the uncomfortable heat, though, our good vibes have continued as Geth and I both had losses at Slimming World. Just hoping that the weather won’t make tonight’s race too miserable!

OOTD 25th July 2019
OOTD: shadows are not on my side when it’s this sunny. Sunglasses Ray-Ban (2019), vest top Primark (2018), skirt unknown brand (vintage 1980s, bought at vintage fair (2017), trainers Reebok (2018).

Today’s earworm playlist:

Oasis – Champagne Supernova
Gunship – When You Grow Up Your Heart Dies
Duran Duran – All She Wants Is
George Michael – Careless Whisper
Cole Porter – Too Darn Hot
Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee – Despacito
Martin Garrix, Macklemore and Patrick Stump – Summer Days

Me and my keyboard

I’m getting a lot of writing done this year, which is great.

I’m also putting a lot of it out into the world, which is…anxiety-inducing, to say the least. I’m sending out the novel I’ve been working on since 2011 to another batch of agents at the moment. This is sort of its final chance – if I don’t have any success with it this time, I’ll be putting it on the back burner for a couple of years while I focus on pitching my more recent projects.

I’m also going out to perform poetry again tonight. I was really hoping that it would get easier but I still find I’m horribly nervous beforehand!

There’s also a lot of interesting writing competitions with autumn deadlines that I’m excited about, so I’m going to be fairly busy with writing over the next few months. I don’t mind, though, ’cause it’s the only kind of busy I like.

Today I’ve finished yet another draft of my 1970s-set rock star novel and written half the prologue for a competition story, so it’s been a productive day. Tomorrow, on the other hand, will be fairly light on writing as Geth and I have Slimming World in the morning and then a 10k in the evening!

OOTD 24th July 2019
OOTD: still too warm on this uncomfortably muggy day. Top David Emanuel (vintage 1980s, bought at vintage fair 2018), leggings Primark (2018), trainers Reebok (2018).

Today’s earworm playlist:

Tyler Lyle – Lost And Found [The Midnight Remix]
Bucks Fizz – If You Can’t Stand The Heat
Duran Duran – Big Thing
Kygo and Whitney Houston – Higher Love
Green Day – Wake Me Up When September Ends
The Midnight – Days Of Thunder