parkrunday: Town Moor #516

It was back to the Moor today as Geth and I had new race t-shirts to show off. My sciatica issues from last week seem to have quietened down for now *looks around anxiously* and I’m not suffering too much stiffness. As such, it’s really just lack of energy and speed training that’s making me slow at the moment! I need to put up with that for a couple more months, though, as I’m determined to have a proper break from hard training until the next marathon training block starts in January.

However, I was about three minutes faster than my last parkrun on the Moor two weeks ago! This was despite some tough wind conditions. I’m finding that I have enough energy to go a bit faster on the last mile, so in future weeks I’m going to try pushing back the point at which I speed up and seeing if I can sustain that pace for longer.

Post-parkrun
Colder than it has been but fine when running. The hoodies went back on fairly quickly though!

I haven’t made a decision about next week’s parkrun location yet. Will have to wait and see what fits in best with Hallowe’en weekend…

Race Review: North Tyneside 10k 2021

I hadn’t done the North Tyneside 10k before, but it was a while coming. Geth and I originally booked our places nearly two years ago for the 2020 race (it normally takes place on Easter weekend), but of course the race got postponed… three times. Anyway, we finally got to run it today, eighteen months later than originally planned. I wouldn’t normally schedule a 10k race a fortnight after a marathon (even though it did work out quite well once before), but due to all the COVID postponements and reschedulings, race season was not planned out this year – everything just had to fall where it fell.

Pre-race
There was a lot of hanging around before the start as the baggage had to be checked in really early!

On my gentle jog to parkrun volunteering yesterday, I found that my sciatica was playing up badly for the first time in years. (I was told years ago that it wasn’t sciatica, but earlier this week a doctor described it as such, so I feel vindicated… anyway.) I hoped that it was just a one-off as I have been absolutely religious with my post-run stretching and daily foam rolling for weeks and weeks now. However, I slept badly with it last night, and woke up with a fairly useless leg that could barely bear weight, so I was more than a little worried about today’s race. I took an ibuprofen just over an hour before the race, and that seemed to ease it up a bit.

Running in North Tyneside
My form doesn’t look too bad here considering how much my leg was collapsing under me! Photo from Coastal Portraits by John Fatkin.

The first mile or two were fine, but over the course of the race, my leg got weaker and weaker and I am amazed that I didn’t fall over at any point during the later stages. I used to call this ‘collapse-y leg’ when it happened a lot before I lost weight, because that really is what happens – my upper leg just starts to collapse under my weight. I generally avoid falling over by quickly shifting to my other leg, but obviously this isn’t great for my form or my leg health. I am hoping that a combination of losing the lockdown weight, physio treatment and an ongoing hospital referral will help to mitigate this issue.

I finished in 1:20:18, which is my slowest 10k time in years – but that’s fine given today. I do feel like I could run that race a lot better, so I expect I will try it again sometime – when I’m in better shape and not coming straight out of a marathon training block!

parkrunday: Jesmond Dene #35

The monthly parkrun volunteering slot happened to coincide with Jesmond Dene parkrun’s second birthday celebration this morning! Geth and I were marshalling, and I found myself at yet another marshal point I hadn’t done before. Gotta catch ’em all… and there are a lot of marshal points along the Jesmond Dene course.

We had attended the inaugural Jesmond Dene parkrun two years ago (it’s our closest parkrun so attending the inaugural was acceptable within current parkrun etiquette), but of course there was no first birthday celebration as parkrun was still on COVID hiatus this time last year, so it was lovely to attend an anniversary event. There was cake at the end! Geth and I only stopped for a quick piece, though, as it was a very cold morning and I wanted to get home in time to attend the afternoon sessions of the TechUp opening day.

parkrun volunteering
A bit of a chilly morning! We’ll be taking gloves for tomorrow’s race…

We’ll probably be back at Town Moor next week, but don’t hold me to that!

parkrunday: Town Moor #514

Back on the Moor this morning for my slowest parkrun in years. My legs are still fairly unwilling to move and I’m taking close to forty minutes to get round at the moment. This isn’t just post-marathon stiffness – it’s been the case for a few weeks, and my daily foam rolling doesn’t seem to be improving things, so I’m going to try and book in for a sports massage as soon as I can.

It was really nice to be out though! Lots of people to chat to, and a few other London Marathon shirts to spot en route.

parkrun
The bright orange of the London 2021 shirt made it easy to spot other London Marathoners! …or it would have done if the Kielder Marathon (also last weekend and a lot more local to Newcastle) hadn’t used the exact same colour for their 2021 shirts.

Back to Jesmond Dene for the monthly volunteering slot next week!

Race Review: London Marathon 2021

After months of worrying about various ailments, struggling with long runs due to the hot summer, mental games, highs and lows, and readjustment to a world that contained races once more, it was finally marathon day. I accepted the place for my second London Marathon nearly two and a half years ago. That is a long time to think about a single race. I don’t really know how I’m going to adjust to NOT thinking about it.

But on Sunday, it was time to stop thinking about it and actually do it.

I had a three-goal sequence for this race, as recommended:

  • Goal A: sub-6:30
  • Goal B: beat my 2019 time of 7:13:44
  • Goal C: finish

(The idea is that if it all goes wrong and the wheels fall off, you can still hit the second or third goal and feel like you succeeded.)

Geth handled the London travel logistics on the day. This is an important part of his crewing role in these situations because it means I don’t have to waste mental energy working out tube times and so on. We got off at Maze Hill, which was the station recommended by the official app for the green start, but it would probably have been quicker getting off at Greenwich. I’m noting that here so that if either of us ever do the London Marathon again, we might have a chance of remembering!

The walk to the start was well signposted…

Warning sign
These ‘please do not pee’ signs were everywhere on the way to the start. Some people forget basic manners when it’s race day, unfortunately.

We arrived about half an hour later than the app told us to, which was quite deliberate. Most runners like to use the portaloos a couple of times before the start, so they need lots of extra time! My magic bladder is a bonus in these situations… Anyway, I didn’t want to be hanging around getting anxious for too long, so we aimed to arrive about ten minutes before my wave pen opened, which was perfect. We spent a few minutes watching some of the red start runners getting underway before I said bye to Geth and headed into my pen.

London Marathon start
I looked as nervous as I felt.

I only had to wait about ten minutes before my wave got going, which was such a contrast to 2019 when I was shivering in the queue for over an hour! It was fairly easy to find my comfortable marathon plod pace as well, as most other people in the wave were also ‘back of the pack’ runners from 2019 and lots of them were walking. This was a big improvement on my GNR start three weeks previously, when I went out far too fast for the first mile due to a surplus of adrenaline!

We quickly joined the faster runners from the blue start after a mile, which really increased the atmosphere, and mile two was just as fun as it was in 2019

Humps!
The hump marshals at mile two are one of my favourite parts of the whole race. Their call-and-response warnings are endlessly imaginative.

We even had a GNR-style ‘oggy oggy oggy’ chant from the marshals at hump seven! I’m so glad I was able to switch from the red start (I’ll explain more about my pre-race logistics in a later post) as I would have missed this bit if I hadn’t been on the blue/green route.

The first quarter of the race (slight downhill into Greenwich town centre, slight uphill towards the meridian) was really just about comfortable plodding and taking it step by step, as there’s still a long way to go at that point (though I absolutely was not thinking about that. Mile at a time – that’s the only way to think during a marathon, otherwise you’ll go mad!). My foot pain showed up between miles four and seven, but I stayed calm, as I knew from training that it would go away after a while (I think this is because it eventually goes a bit numb). Better to get that out of the way in the early part of the race, rather than it being a problem in the later stages when also dealing with other issues.

Cutty Sark
The skies behind the Cutty Sark were a lot brighter than the last time I did the race!

After the Cutty Sark point at mile seven, my foot felt a lot better, and I was able to continue ticking off the miles using my practised strategy of fixed-distance walk breaks and refuelling at every mile marker. Miles eleven and twelve were recognisable because we’d walked along the same route for parkrun the day before, and I was really looking forward to the nearly-halfway point at Tower Bridge because I knew I would be able to see Geth waving from our hotel room window!

Marathon from Tower Hotel
Geth took this photo from our hotel room window. I’m on the far left.

The bit after Tower Bridge is one of the toughest, because you can see all the faster runners going through the twenty-three-mile marker when you’re only at mile thirteen! I was looking out for our friend Ed at this point but I didn’t spot him. He did apparently spot me though!

Halfway
That is the ‘halfway’ sign in the background. Mixed feelings here certainly – it had already felt like a long day out at that point.

I knew the bit around the Isle of Dogs (roughly miles fifteen to nineteen) would also be tough, because it’s a fairly depressing area and there’s not as much crowd support. However, there were enough people around me that there was still a good atmosphere (something that was not the case in 2019), and while I was getting very tired, none of the issues that had plagued me in training were acting up. I was really pleased to get through Canary Wharf and past the twenty-mile marker, though I did have a bit of a mental stumble at that point, as six point two miles is roughly 10k and so it sort of felt like there was still a whole long race to go! I really had to focus in order to keep hold of my ‘one mile at a time’ thoughts.

I was also starting to feel really nauseous by mile twenty-one, for a couple of reasons. In the run-up, the London Marathon organisers had encouraged runners to carry their own water so that people would use fewer water bottles at the stations, and so I wore my hydration vest for the race as I had done in training. However, because it was such a long day out, I was getting more and more bloated from the water intake, and so the straps on my pack were getting very tight (though I didn’t realise this till later!). I was also taking a lot of energy gels – eight in total, as I take them every three miles – and I’d only taken five maximum during training runs. All of this extra gel was really upsetting my stomach.

Due to feeling a bit sick and faint, I took an extended unscheduled walk break for parts of miles twenty-four and twenty-five. I was really, really tired by this point, and the only thing that got me running again close to the twenty-five mile marker was the knowledge that if I ran the rest of the way, I would be able to get the sub-6:30 time I wanted!

Big Ben
I was disappointed in 2019 to find that Big Ben was covered in scaffolding, but even more disappointed in 2021 to find that this situation hadn’t changed in 889 days!

Big Ben was the last photo stop. After that, I ran. I ran past all the phone boxes I’d photographed in 2019, and I ran past Geth cheering me on from St James’ Park, and I ran past Buckingham Palace without taking a picture (still don’t have a picture of that! One day when I’m not on the finish straight of a marathon, maybe…). I’d expected to speed up a lot at the finish, but I just didn’t have much of a sprint in me. That’s a good sign, to be honest – it means I gave it my all during the race.

I finished in 6:26:41, smashing my A goal and beating my 2019 time by 47 minutes and 3 seconds. I know I can build on that in the future and keep getting my times down, but I am so, so thrilled with that time for this race, especially as I had such a tough training block this time round.

Edinburgh Marathon is the next big one, and I will start training for that in January. But first, I am going to have three very well-deserved months off from marathon training. I have two 10k races left in 2021 (neither of which will be PB attempts, just keeping the race legs ticking over) and that is more than enough.

I did it!

Very short post today – I’ll update properly tomorrow. Just to say that I DID IT, I ran the marathon and I got my desired time and I am really, really happy.

So much to tell you when it’s not late and I’m not sleepy!

parkrunday: Southwark #342

I had expected to do Highbury Fields again as my pre-marathon shakeout parkrun, but Geth and I were moved from our usual hotel to a different one due to the first hotel being closed this week. There were a range of parkruns we could have done, but Southwark was the closest, and it looked nice and flat for a gentle trundle round.

It’s a leafy three-lapper with a lake, meaning it was reminiscent of both South Manchester and Gateshead for me, as well as last week’s location, Leazes, to a smaller extent. There’s a good out-and-back section for keeping track of how other runners are getting on, and a short extra loop that you only do on the first lap.

I can tell that it’s a fast course, so if I’m in London some weekend when I’m not doing a marathon the day afterwards, I’ll maybe give it another go and get some speed up!

Southwark parkrun
With Ed, who was also down from Newcastle for the marathon!

Next week I’ll be back home at Town Moor, hopefully wearing a very special T-shirt…

Being careful

I have finished work for the week and am all packed up for London this weekend! I am very excited and very nervous. I wonder if marathons will always feel like this. (Last time I did this, I was certain it would be my only marathon. I now feel very differently!)

I’m panicking about lots of things I don’t really need to panic about, but one of the main things is that I obviously don’t want to pick up a last-minute injury or illness! I’ve been doing my short runs on the treadmill for the last couple of weeks as it’s gentler on my legs; I’m doing lots of yoga stretches and foam rolling after every run to try and get rid of all the niggles from training; and I’m being very careful every time I go up and down the stairs and get in and out of the shower. So paranoid I’m going to injure myself! Only a few days left to worry about it, thankfully…

Foam roller and spiky ball
Implements of torture / miracle tools that will get me to the start line in one piece.

Maranoia

It was absolutely right for me in this marathon training block to take a five-week taper rather than the standard three-week one, but it has certainly given me a lot more time to worry about the race. I’m worried about various issues with my legs and feet and how they’ll hold up on the day; I’m worried about various logistics around the weekend; I’m worried I’ll have blown my stamina by tapering too early… Objectively I know it’s likely to be absolutely fine (though of course it will be tough), but I can’t stop thinking about all the things that could go wrong. One of the things that I am most looking forward to in October is NOT worrying about all this stuff anymore. I’ll be taking three months to enjoy running a bit more aimlessly before the next marathon training block starts in January. (In the future I am only going to do one marathon training block at most within a twelve-month period, but pandemic rescheduling has meant that I’ll be doing Edinburgh Marathon about eight months after London. I’ll be glad to settle into a more regular schedule of exploring different spring marathons going forward!)

With one week to go, it is also getting so close now that I am quite excited about the non-scary parts of our trip to London. Geth and I have identified a nice Italian restaurant for carb-loading, are planning some interesting routes for short runs, and will be choosing a non-challenging new parkrun to visit the day before the race. It’s all coming together… I just hope that the marathon itself will be (at least mostly) a good experience!

London Marathon medals
My London Marathon medals from 2019 and 2020. In just over a week’s time I will have a third… and it may be the most precious one of all, because it will mark the end of a London Marathon saga that started for me in 2016.

parkrunday: Leazes #37

It’s been a while since I was at Leazes parkrun!

It’s one of the three parkruns actually within the bounds of Newcastle upon Tyne (which is a surprisingly small part of the Tyneside metropolitan area), but I tend to forget about it a lot of the time as Town Moor and Jesmond Dene are what I consider my joint home parkruns. I did event #2 back in summer 2019, while Geth had never done Leazes until today. He was a bit concerned there’d be a lot of students there as it’s Freshers’ Week (and Leazes is the closest parkrun to the university campus), but it was fine – just over a hundred participants, and it felt fairly quiet.

I am getting slower and slower with my parkruns as my legs refuse to do anything except marathon plod pace at the moment. Post-marathon I am really excited about getting some speed up… eventually!

parkrunday
Nearly got it lined up! The sun was too bright for me to see what I was doing with my phone camera.

Next week, though, there’ll be one final pre-marathon parkrun…