Race Report: Osterley Winter 10k

Saturday 3rd December – a very cold morning, grey skies and a chilly breeze. I wasn’t feeling 100% either, having a croaky voice and sinus problems. Okay I probably should have just stayed in bed, but of course I didn’t.

Osterley 10k is always quite a busy race as it is flat, and is scheduled right after the Parkrun. In previous years I have done both, but I felt that really would be too much yesterday! I managed to find a parking spot, and went off to find my friends. We stood around waiting until the very last minute to take off the layers and hand in our bags.

Chris, Cate, Darren and me. We didn’t really want to take off our jackets, and I don’t know how Chris and Darren coped with shorts! But then they did run quite fast!

The warm up by the steps to the house was fun, and certainly got the blood flowing – why is it that you always feel exhausted after the warm up?! Then you have to run 10k!

Warm up routine by some people from GoodGym

It’s a friendly race, people chat to each other very readily, and while we waited for everyone to get into place for the start there was lots of conversation about times, mud, the cold.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas 🎄

And then we set off! The course is basically two laps, or a lap and half, but each lap is different. The route goes through the garden, and all round the grounds. There a few bits that are easier to run than others – the wide paths round the grounds are good, but the narrow pavement outside the walled part is annoying! And you have to do it twice! It wasn’t as muddy as I thought it would be, and although there were some puddles they were easy to negotiate round.

I was glad of my Santa hat to keep my head warm, although the dangling bobble was never going to be a good idea, so I tucked it in my collar. I also thought it would be fun to wear Christmas tree earrings – the jangling was quite annoying!

Lining up at the start

Even though I wasn’t feeling at my best I felt ok running. I had decided that if I felt unwell or out of breath I would slow down, walk or even stop if I really didn’t feel good. But in the end I did it in 1 hour and 28 seconds. And I really did feel all right.

However then we had to queue to collect our bags. Now I know that races rely on volunteers, and I am very grateful to all those who came to help out by marshalling, handing out water, setting up signs and organising the bag drop and all the other myriad jobs that have to be done. But. It was really cold, and we had all just got quite warm and sweaty running. This is not a good combination for standing around in a line. I think it took the best part of 30 minutes to get my bag and by the time I did I was frozen. I got in the car, put the heated seat on and the heated steering wheel but was still frozen when I got home. Then I had some hot food and got into bed. Three hours later I was just about thawed.

In the queue at the end. But before I was so cold I could barely talk! I don’t know these two women but they were very friendly and chatty. I screen grabbed this shot from the Ealing Half Marathon Instagram page.

The actual run was really great, but getting so cold did rather put a dampener on the experience I must say. At least in the queue I had a good chat with various people, including a man who only took up running a few years ago and now does ultras! (More than marathon distance.)

Osterley Park is a lovely place to visit. I wrote a little bit more about it in this post from 2019 – the year I ran the equivalent of a half marathon every month! And in that post is a photo of me in a Christmas pudding costume – and that was in 2018! So I’m sure I will be back next year. I just might find a way of keeping my bag more accessible at the end!


Look back – look forward – here comes 2021!

It’s come around again – the end of the year, and a time to reflect.

This time last year I was celebrating having achieved 12 half marathons (or the equivalent averaged out..) one per month. This year I am amazed that I have in fact done 2 actual real life, real time races! The first was in January, and I was hoping to do it again in 2021 to start the new year as I mean to go on, but it ain’t happening.

I have done quite a lot of running in 2020 even though I haven’t been able to take part in events with other runners as planned. I’m especially disappointed that two trail runs were cancelled, but hey, we all know why that was don’t we?

According to my Garmin stats I’ve run 1,171 km (727.6 miles). I think it’s a bit more than that as there were a few times when either I couldn’t locate my watch or it wasn’t charged! On Strava it’s 1,228 km but that includes a couple of bike rides. Whatever it is it’s quite a lot and I’m happy!

These 2 medals were the only ones for actual races. Both half marathons, one in January and one in August.
Two virtual runs. The first completed in January – 26.2 miles (42km) in January in aid of refugees. And another in June – running 50km in 7 days. That was tough.
Two more virtual runs, organised by the fabulous Phoenix Running. I did a half marathon on the day that would have been the London Marathon in April. And the other one was running every day for 7 days in July, which is not something I would usually do!
Three virtual runs with the truly wonderful Ealing Half marathon crew. I really loved all of these runs especially the parks one (Queen of the Suburbs) when I got to visit new places and wave at fellow participants!
And finally – a virtual Christmas Day run.

So what next for 2021? The two cancelled trail runs with Maverick have been postponed until spring, and we’ll see what happens. But next on the horizon – in fact starting tomorrow – is a whole month of Running Every Day (RED)!! Yes I decided that a week of running every day in the height of summer was not enough, and I must do it for 31 days straight. And for extra punishment 😉 I must do it in the coldest, darkest month. Hahaha, I hear you laughing!

I will be documenting this as an incentive to actually do it. I may not (almost certainly won’t) write a post every day but I will of course take lots of photos and let you know how it’s all going.

In the meantime – Happy New Year to all my lovely readers around the world. May 2021 bring us all peace and health. I shall continue to run and bake, and maybe occasionally post about some of the other things I like doing in my spare time.

Summer solstice challenge: Day Five

I have done it! This morning I finished the challenge by running the final 10k of the 50k. Just a reminder – the challenge was organised by Maverick Running and was to run 50km within 7 days. Some people ran ultras on one day and completed the challenge in one go. Others ran shorter distances such as half marathons over a few days. I wanted something that would be a challenge but doable, given that I am actually still going to work! So I split the distance into 5 x 10k runs. I also thought my legs would need a couple of rest days so I ran on Saturday and Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday, with the final run on Friday. I also decided that I would do a different route every day.

The sky as seen in Pitshanger Park this morning. One of the reasons I run outside is to look at the sky, the trees, the flowers.
Ealing Half Marathon 2017 – happy days

Today I was up very early and out of the house at 5.45. I did a route to celebrate the wonderful Ealing Half Marathon, which I have done 6 times. Very sadly they have decided to cancel this year’s event because of COVID-19. I was actually hoping to volunteer this year, and give back to an event that has been so enjoyable every time I’ve run it. So this morning I did some little sections to remember the good times! One such section is quite a long hill. At one point half way up I did think why was I doing this at the end of the week, and not the beginning!!

The hill – Park View Road , Ealing

In fact all the way round I did quite a lot of thinking about why I was doing this at all? I’ve decided – I am a person who likes a challenge.

Challenges. There are those that are imposed on us, like school exams. At the time I probably moaned as much as the next person, but actually I have to admit that I don’t really mind exams. As long as the preparation has been done ( a very big qualification I will admit!) then the exam is half done. That’s not to say I didn’t get extremely nervous. Very, very nervous – one violin exam I did my hand shook so much the bow was actually bouncing off the strings!

2016 – truly the biggest running challenge of my life – the London marathon

However there are also self imposed challenges, and those are the ones that I love best! Last year my challenge was running 12 half marathons (or equivalent) in 12 months. In 2016 my challenge was running the London Marathon. In 2018 I did a great team challenge at work – the Virgin Pulse Global Challenge. My team and I had a lot of fun trying to beat the other teams in our area in terms of racking up the steps and activity levels.

One of our ‘awards’ our team got on the Virgin Challenge! I had such a great time doing this!

Races and trail runs are challenges too, and that’s what I have missed since lock down. Individual challenges are good fun, it sometimes it’s nice to feel that you are part of a group challenge, and everyone around you is feeling it too. So for the moment it’s going to be virtual challenges instead.

Throwback to the last actual race I did with my son Jack. January 2020.

The thing about self imposed challenges is that when an external one comes your way you are prepared. You know you can take it on. It gives you confidence in your ability to prepare and plan a strategy to deal with it. After all what about all those training plans? Those revision timetables? Those index cards….! But the stakes are lower so you can have fun too. With a self imposed challenge it doesn’t matter if you change it a bit, revise the training plan, postpone a run.. Just don’t abandon it forever.

So what now? At the moment I don’t have anything planned. I’ll have a little rest and then get out there for a recovery run or two. And I’ll look around on the internet, and have a think about what challenge to set myself next. Ideas welcome in the comments box!

Summer Solstice Challenge: Day Four

I’m not going to lie – today was tough! Firstly getting up early to go for a long-ish run was quite hard, although to be honest I wake up early anyway. But my legs were definitely feeling it after 30km in 4 days, and felt quite lead like.

A beautiful oak tree on Drayton Green. The council bought the land for public use in the late 19th century. The running track on the Green has been here since 1932!

However I am so pleased I went out then, when the heat was still bearable. Later it went over 30 deg C and running in that would have been tougher than tough!

Walpole Park – the land belonged to Sir John Soane and was bought by Ealing Council in 1899.

My route today took me through local urban parks – Drayton Green, Walpole Park, Lammas Park, Blondin Park, Elthorne Park, and then Brent Lodge Park (aka the Bunny Park) by way of the canal towpath. It got me thinking about the importance of local parks to communities, especially in recent months, when we have been so restricted in where we can go.

Lammas Park – home of the incomparable Ealing Half Marathon! The start pen is all along this avenue of chestnut trees. Lammas land was where tenants of the manor in medieval times could graze their animals for free after the harvest on 1st August.

Ealing was largely developed in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. The Victorians were responsible for the development of urban parks and recreation grounds. The urban population explosion resulting from the industrial revolution meant that society was confronted with health and social problems on a larger, and more concentrated, scale than had been seen before. One way this was addressed was by the promotion of outdoor pursuits, including gardening, and the idea of clean air and the supposedly civilising effects of strolling around beautiful gardens and parks. Starting in the 1830’s land was given, or purchased, for turning into public parks and gardens. They were laid out by some of the greatest designers of the time.

Wild flowers in Blondin Park

Acts of parliament in the later half of the century ensured that local councils had greater powers to purchase and maintain such spaces. Of course although the principles behind such philanthropy and effort appeared noble and true, there is always another side. They hoped that these public gardens would exert a positive influence on the behaviour and attitudes of the ‘lower classes’. I read an article here that highlights the fact that human nature is what it is and has always been, and children in particular were just as likely to be a bit naughty in Victorian times as they are now!

Elthorne Park a slightly random deer statue…

There is a great article here that has a more detailed ( but very readable!) article about the history of urban parks and open spaces.

And finally into the Bunny Park before heading for home and some breakfast!

One more 10k to go – probably on Friday. Thanks for reading!

Summer solstice challenge: Day Three

This morning I went out for 10k run number three, so now I am more than half way through the challenge! The weather is getting hotter and hotter this week, and as I really don’t like running in the heat I went out early – just before 7am.

Across the Grand Union Canal to get to Jubilee Fields towards Warren Farm

I went down to the canal, and across it to a place called Warren Farm. Quite amazingly this is a recent discovery, since lockdown in fact. I kind of knew it was there, but had never actually been across the canal and field to find it. It is quite famous locally because the council basically tried to give it away on a 200 year lease to Queens Park Rangers football team for a training ground. The area would have been ruined, and access denied to the thousands of people who enjoy the fields for leisure and sustainable commuting. Several years of vigorous campaigning by local groups has resulted in the abandonment of the scheme – announced last month.

And across the single track railway line – it is rare to actually see a train here

One of the most vocal groups to campaign recently is Hanwell Nature. Their argument against development was focussed on the wildlife that is found in this area. The first thing I noticed when I went there a couple of months ago was the sound of skylarks. I couldn’t quite believe it. I associate larks with open countryside, not semi urban landscapes with major motorways within earshot. It is truly fantastic. I have also seen kites hovering above the fields, and I saw a kestrel sitting on a fence post one morning too.


This morning the sound of larks was strong even before I crossed the single track railway that serves the industrial zone near Brentford. Right round the field is approximately 2km, and it’s 2km to get there. So I did 3 laps – twice anti-clockwise and once clockwise (just for a slightly different view!). As well as the usual dog walkers and runners, there was a man sat on a little stool painting the view, and some people from the council collecting 40 bags of rubbish litter-picked by volunteers at the weekend.

I took this photo a couple of weeks ago

I was glad I went out early as even by 8 o’clock it was getting very warm. I think I will have to be up even earlier tomorrow!

30/50km done!

Carnival time!

Part One – Sunday

I’m in the lovely county of Suffolk in the seaside town of Aldeburgh, and it’s Carnival time! Part of the fund raising and general festivities is a 10km run on the day before actual carnival day, which is Monday. As I would have gone for a run anyway I joined in the fun and went for a run with a few hundred others.

A blurry shot (sorry- running!) of the railway path between Aldeburgh and Thorpeness

Starting at the civilised time of 11am I had time to check out the beautiful carousel and the delicious looking products at the bakery stall. But eating just before a run is not a great idea so I just looked at the sausage rolls, the samosas, the buns and tarts – the list could go on but it will make you hungry!

Running past the Country Club in Thorpeness looking towards Aldeburgh – this was about 3/4 of the way

The route is one I know pretty well, as I have done a lot of running around here. It went along the disused railway track which is now a nice flat path. The tree lined path is edged with blackberries and sloes. Butterflies flutter around, and earlier in the summer honeysuckle scents the air. The path then went through Thorpeness and on to the shingle beach. This bit was pretty hard – although most of the shingly bit was fairly packed it’s still hard work, and coupled with a head wind it was tough running. I just kept thinking “it could be worse – it could be up hill too”. Mind you once on to the path it felt like I was flying in comparison!

Shingle and a head wind – and running towards a rain cloud! But what a stunning skyscape!

I finished in about 56 minutes, but both my Garmin and my running app Endomondo said it was 9.8km so…not sure if I can say it was the speediest run ever! I wasn’t really expecting anything, but we did get a medal. Thank you very much!

Back of the medal

Post run – beer, pizza and ice cream (well actually the best gelato outside Italy, in my opinion). Well it is a holiday!

A chilled half pint of Adnams Broadside went down very well thank you!
Followed by a tasty crispy pizza!
And finally a big dollop of blackcurrant cheesecake flavour gelato
from Harris and James on the High Street

Part Two – Monday

Where is everyone?! I love outdoor gym equipment. Beautiful views, fresh air – and no gym fees!

Today is the actual Carnival day, and the sun was shining in a beautiful blue sky when I woke (early as usual). Deciding I might as well make the most of being awake at 6.30 I went for a very gentle jog. First stop – the outdoor gym at the nearby playing fields. I did some upper body stuff, and sit ups, interspersed with a couple of short runs across the field. Although I wasn’t really meaning to do anymore than that it was such a lovely morning I could not resist a slow jog through town, which at 7.30am was pretty much deserted, apart from the traffic people dropping cones all along the route of the carnival parade.

Aldeburgh town centre at 7.30 am – nobody about, calm and peaceful before the crowds for carnival descended

In the morning the local lifeboat put on a show for the crowds – launching the inshore lifeboat Susan Scott and the all weather lifeboat Freddie Cooper to demonstrate how they are launched from the steep shingle beach by tractor. One of the crew then set off in an inflatable duck to show just how dangerous these inflatables can be – within 5 minutes it had drifted far from shore. The lifeboats demonstrated saving the ‘casualty’. The crews also demonstrated saving someone fallen overboard. Hours later, just as the parade had finished we saw several people – some still in costume – racing down the street. There was a real call out and the lifeboats were launched for a second time but this time it wasn’t a demonstration. The terrible irony was that they were going out to someone who had drifted off in an inflatable. The RNLI rely completely on charitable donations to carry out their work. And the crews are all volunteers. Amazing.

Here’s the Freddie Cooper going out on a real call out today. I hope the person was ok.

The theme this year was ‘Lights, Camera, Action!’ to celebrate 100 years of the Aldeburgh Cinema. Led by the Band of the Royal Logistics Corps (brilliant!) the floats were very imaginative. Trailers were transformed into cinemas complete with seats and human sized popcorn containers! Lots of Minions, large and small, accompanied the cast of the Wizard of Oz and Some Like it Hot, amongst many others. Sorry no photos of it all, I was just enjoying myself 😉

I love brass bands 🙂

Just after the parade finished the heavens opened and it bucketed down. One of the reasons I love this coast is the changeable weather. You can see it coming from miles away because of the flat landscape. I’m hoping the rain stays away this evening for the firework display on the beach!

Yes! I got that ride on the carousel!

PS. My cover photo was taken just on the edge of Aldeburgh from the marshes along the estuary of the river Alde.