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Race Report- Ealing Half Marathon 2022

Happy 10th Birthday to the fabulous Ealing Half Marathon! Number one was set up to coincide with the 2012 London Olympics and has run every year since. Every year apart from one – in 2020 no race took place in real life, but there was a virtual run which I undertook on a very cold and wet day in Suffolk. I just re read that post, and oh my it was a very different experience from the one today! For a start it never seems to rain on the last Sunday in September in Ealing! The weather today was perfect for running – sunny, blue skies and not too hot.

Bright and sparky and ready to run!
Waiting at the start we found ourselves a bit too close to the 2 hour pacer for comfort so hung back a bit! All the Xempo pacers were women. Apparently the 2:05 pacer ran a half last week in 1:25 😳

As usual I knew quite a few people taking part, and also lots of the volunteers and supporters along the route. It’s always fun looking out for friends. It’s a while since I ran alongside another person (I mean apart from the crowd) but today my son Jack decided at the very last minute to take part. Later he told me that this was the only the 5th actual run he’s done in two years! So he was basically running on no specific training at all. Crazy. But it was very nice to have the company, and the encouragement. He set his fancy watch with a target of 2 hours and 5 minutes – ambitious. The first half we were on track and I managed the fastest 10km I’ve done for years! But after that the second half began to take its toll on our legs. There’s a point where the route goes quite close to our house – and his – and it is hard to run past that point when your legs are screaming STOP!

Race village atmosphere

But the fantastic support from the crowd, offering jelly babies, water and general cheering really does give you a boost. There is also plenty of music and drums along the way, with the Hanwell Ukelele Group smashing out tunes, and a fab dhol player outside the Sikh temple on Drayton Bridge Road. Click here if you don’t know what a dhol is! There were also some great drummers on the Uxbridge Road which was a great energising sound to hear at mile 12.

Happy – but knackered. We did it though!

As always superb organisation and a huge army of volunteers of all ages from Beavers to seniors made this a fantastic event, enjoyed by everyone.

Jack and I finished in 2 hours and 7 minutes. Hurray! He wouldn’t have done it if I hadn’t done it, and I certainly wouldn’t have done it that quick without him, and his ambitious target! At the end my feet, legs and back were killing me, I’m not going to lie. However, after a long soak in a hot bath and an extremely good Sunday lunch at The Green W7 in Hanwell I am feeling ok, if a little tired.

Shout out to Race Directors Sandra Courtney and Christina O’Hare. As usual you have done an amazing job. And thanks of course to the founder of Ealing Half Marathon Kelvin Walker, without whom this wonderful race would have never existed. If you have never thought about doing a half marathon then start thinking about doing this one next year!

Lovely anniversary medal – and made from wood too for extra save the planet points.
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Race Report – Ealing Half Marathon 2021

After a break due to global circumstances in 2020 the best half marathon in the world (yes, honestly) came back for 2021! And it did not disappoint.

Last year I ran it ‘virtually’ all by myself in Suffolk in the pouring rain. This year we were all back together in our thousands to run through the welcoming streets of Ealing on a warm autumn day with not a spot of rain.

I cycled to Lammas Park for the start and excitement grew as I went past the barriers all in place, and the runners walking and cycling in one direction – to the park!

Once I had left my bike securely parked I dropped off my bag at the tent and met some friends from Quit the Gym and waited for the warm up. I was feeling surprisingly nervous at this point, but I think it was mainly excitement really. I haven’t actually run 21km for quite a while, as the last half marathon I did in July was so hot that I walked most of it! And since then the longest run I have done is 18km.

However nowadays I run with no particular time goal in mind. I just like to get round and enjoy myself. And it was really fantastic to be running a proper half marathon with lots of people all around, and amazing support from the community. Because this is a run in my local area I always see lots of people I know which is great. It really is inspiring and motivating to have so many people out on the course cheering on the runners. The marshals are fab (one of my sons and several friends were volunteering as marshals this year) and always ready to encourage and help runners in trouble. It was warm today and quite a few people were overcome by the unexpected heat and humidity – I sincerely hope all are recovered.

I finished in 2 hours 5 minutes which I was very happy with. My best time on this course is just over 1 hour 58 minutes – but that was 5 years ago! I don’t think that’s going to happen again somehow.

The Ealing half marathon has a very special place in my heart – I have done almost all of them – just missed one. The atmosphere is amazing, and I think this is because it truly is a community event. The Saturday afternoon before the half marathon is devoted to children – there’s a family mile for under 5’s and a parent/carer, and then mile races for age groups up to 16. It’s become more and more popular each year, and places sell out quickly. I’m hoping to enter next year with my grandson (maybe even both of them!) who will be 26 months by then!

A lovely medal as usual.
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Running Tales from Ealing: Queen of the Suburbs, the final parks

Thirteen parks and 70.6km (43.8 miles) later I have completed the challenge set by Ealing Half Marathon to run to every corner of the borough!

Today the last two parks were right over in Acton. I thought it would be a lot of running on streets, and I did end up on more pavement than last week running to Northolt. However I still managed to run through several green spaces including Ealing Common and Acton Park.

Acton Park was looking particularly beautiful yesterday.

Trinity Way Open Space is a nice little park with lots of trees and a playground. On my way out I met two runners on their way in. We had a little chat and went on our way. Taking a selfie by the park sign is a dead giveaway that someone else is doing the Challenge!

The next bit was quite slow as I worked out a way along back streets to Acton Green Common. If I had been organised I could have worked out a route and downloaded it to my phone/watch. That would have involved forethought, foresight and a technical skill that I’m not sure I have at my fingertips. It was actually straightforward and went through an area called Bedford Park.

Bedford Park was the first Garden Suburb, housing planned deliberately to maintain a semi rural feel, with green spaces and trees along the residential roads. It is based around the straight Roman road that ran from London to Bath, and was developed after 1875, when the railways increasingly provided fast transport into the city.

The District Line train going towards town

Acton Green Common is all that’s left of a much bigger area of open space. It is the site of the Battle of Turnham Green in 1642, which followed the Battle of Brentford, a major conflict of the English Civil War. The Parliamentarians managed to get together an army of 24,000 to face only 13,000 Royalists. (Guess who won.)

The run back home was a bit more straightforward as I knew where I was going!

Isn’t this topiary hedge wonderful?! I just had stop and take a photo.

While at Acton Green I met the same couple I’d seen earlier in Trinity Way! And I was to meet them yet again back in Ealing, at Haven Green. It turned out they were driving to all the parks on the same day, and running a mile in each one. Great idea! I love the way the challenge inspires people to complete it in many different ways. Some people walk, some run, some bike. Some do it solo, others in groups. Some do all the parks in one go, others take their time and do one or two at a time. One woman went to every park in a day, and walked and skipped in each!

One of my favourite oak trees in Ealing, on the common

And today my week was made when I won a prize from Ealing Half Marathon from posting my Instagram photos from the challenge! I am absolutely thrilled to bits to have won such an amazing prize – or prizes I should say, as there’s a Camelbak (hydration thingy), voucher for Sunday carvery at one my favourite Ealing pubs The Forester, an Ealing half marathon sweatshirt AND a mug! Thank you so much Sandra and Christina at Ealing Half Marathon.

My next proper challenge is an actual real life race down at Walton on Thames in a couple of weeks. I am aiming to run at least a half marathon, but maybe, just maybe, I might run a bit more. I’ll let you know!

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Running Tales from Ealing: Queen of the Suburbs Take 2

Last September I took part in a virtual running challenge organised by Ealing Half Marathon, to run in or to 13 of the lovely parks we have here in the borough of Ealing. It was a lot of fun, visiting new parks as well as those I know well.

It was so popular that it’s being run again in April, with 13 different parks to visit. And this time there’s an option to do 13 parks in your local area if you don’t live in Ealing!

RUN ONE

Perivale Park

I started off on 1st April after work, with one of the nearest parks to me – Perivale Park, which I have run in many many times, and have written about here.

RUN TWO

Beautiful blossom in Hanger Hill Park

Run 2 happened on a bank holiday so I had more time in hand. I worked out a little route that took in four parks/ green spaces. First was Drayton Green, which was purchased by the council in 1866 when the area started to be developed. For centuries it had been farmland. There has been a running track on the green since 1932, and a children’s playground since the 1950’s (hopefully not the same one, haha! Remember the infamous witch’s hat roundabout thing? So dangerous but so fun!).

Next stop Haven Green, right outside Ealing Broadway station which is having a huge makeover for the Elizabeth Line – Crossrail. Haven Green has its roots far back in Anglo Saxon times. It was at the crossroads of some major routes east to west, and north to south. Farmers would drive their cattle and sheep to market in London along the Uxbridge road, resting them on the green, while they went for refreshments at The Feathers Inn. This later became the Townhouse, and is now a bank and apartments.

Then off along the Uxbridge Road just a short way up to Ealing Common, a big open space that is used for all sorts. Nowadays football and dog walking are major activities. In the past cricket was popular, and the pub that is now called the Grange was originally called The Cricketer. It’s used for funfairs and circuses too (in ‘normal times’).

Then I made my way up to Hanger Hill Park, up the infamous Park View Road, which is the first proper hill on the Ealing half marathon route. There are lots of trees here and natural springs that run across some of the paths. There are views from the top across to Wembley and the stadium.

Altogether this run was shorter than I had anticipated – under 10km. Apart from some busy roads in some places it was a nice route.

RUN THREE

More blossom in Elthorne Park

I did run 3 on Easter Day – just a quick local run to Elthorne Park, which I’ve written about here. I saw a few people also running or cycling through the parks and along the canal for the Queen of the Suburbs Challenge! It’s nice to say hi!

RUN FOUR

In Southall Recreation Ground

On Easter Monday I did a longer run along the canal towards Southall to tick off two parks there. Wolf Fields was a bit uninspiring, although I am sure it’s lovely to have that space if you live locally. And maybe I was a bit underwhelmed because it was a very grey and chilly day. Southall Recreation Ground is nice, with a big children’s playground and some beautiful mature trees. And it’s right next to the canal.

RUN FIVE

This beautiful oak is in a field just near Horsenden Hill.

And this weekend I did run 5, which took in three parks in the north/northwest of the borough. I actually went through Perivale Park again, and Northala Fields (which I’ve written about here!) to get to Lime Tree Park. Apparently this was originally a featureless flat space, which lent itself to antisocial behaviour such as joy riding and traveller encampments. But the council, in conjunction with residents and an environmental company, developed the landscape to discourage such activities. It now has undulating grounds, with trees and pond area. There is also a children’s centre at one side. This whole area was developed from farmland in the 1950’s, and I have met many residents who have lived here from that time, moving from crowded and dilapidated housing in places like Notting Hill, Shepherd’s Bush and Hammersmith after the 2nd world war. It really was the countryside then, with farms and stables.

After this it was a short run to Belvue Park and the lovely ancient St. Mary’s church. This area has a connections to the Iron Age and the Romans, and there are informative signs around the park. (This is why some of my runs take so long – reading the info and taking photos!).

I managed to find my way easily to the canal and ran back towards Perivale and Horsenden Hill. I have often run along this way, but funnily enough I almost always run east to west, not the other way round. Everything looks different going the other way! Even though I was pretty tired by now I just had to go and find the Gruffalo before I headed back home for a second breakfast/brunch!

A selfie with the Gruffalo is compulsory!

I just have two more parks to tick off the list now, and that will most likely happen next weekend. I did make a cake today – but that will wait for a separate post.

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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.

Virtual race report – (not) the Ealing Half Marathon!

The second September challenge organised by Ealing Half Marathon was a virtual half marathon. Usually the Ealing half marathon takes place on the last Sunday of September. But as that cannot happen this year the challenge was to run or walk the distance in the week running up to 28th September. The distance did not have to be completed in one go, but I decided that I would do it as one run. It is four weeks since the last time I ran this distance, and the conditions today were a far cry from that day!

I’m back in Suffolk this week, a week in Thorpeness postponed from summer. I love it here, I love the big skies and sea, the old fashioned feel of the houses and the peacefulness of the countryside. What better place to run the not-in-Ealing half marathon? And it was a wonderful run, even if the weather could have been kinder, and by the end I could hardly move my frozen soaked feet, and my hands were so cold I could hardly take off my shoes and socks!

This morning it was all about water. Rain, sea, puddles, river, lake, boating pond. Water, and wind. Yes the weather was a prominent feature of today’s running adventure.

It was all about the weather today.

I started out at about 7.30 before the worst of the forecasted rain and wind. The relatively light rain became heavier quite quickly however, and then it was just non stop heavy rain with accompanying wind whenever I was out in the open. After a while my fingers were so cold and wet I could no longer operate my phone, and so photos were nigh on impossible. And anyway it would be yet another picture of endless East Anglian grey skies and rain.

My run started from the Airbnb house where we are staying and I headed towards Aldeburgh. Just before the town on the shingle beach is Maggi Hambling’s (controversial) sculpture of a scallop shell called A conversation with the sea, dedicated to Benjamin Britten. The words are from his opera Peter Grimes:

I hear those voices that will not be drowned.

It’s an interesting sentence to reflect upon.

Personally I love this sculpture, and find it hard to believe that some people still want it removed…

In Aldeburgh there’s a boating pond where, in good weather, lots of children (and a few adults) love to spend a happy hour sailing toy boats looked over by the faithful dog Snooks.

Snooks – kitted out for Covid-19 🙁

I headed through town in back streets to avoid the wind, and then got blasted at the estuary, with its wide open space. Past the allotments, now looking very autumnal, with dahlias and chrysanthemums, sodden in the rain but still bright and cheerful.

The river Alde estuary. Bleak today.

Next was the railway path. The railway was dismantled in the 1960’s. During ‘lockdown’ I came across a beautiful soundscape of the railway path by sound recordist Chris Watson which you can listen to by clicking here. Put your headphones on, shut your eyes and relax. It really is wonderful.

I’ve run along this path so many times! I think this has to be the wettest though. I wasn’t even half way through yet… 😂

I did a loop off the railway path that took me round the marshy area and through the woods. Seriously wet now and long past trying to avoid any puddles, my feet were completely soaked. In fact everything was soaked. I cheered myself up by thinking that at least it wasn’t hail. (When training for the London marathon in 2016 my longest training run ended with rain that turned to hail about a mile and half from home. Never forgotten.)

I was then back in Thorpeness, but still had about 7 km to go before the distance was complete, so I headed for the coast path. An obstacle lay in the way – flood alert! It really was beginning to feel like Britten’s Noye’s Fludde!

I did manage to find a relatively dry way round this the first time round, but when I came across it a second time just metres from the ‘finish line’ I couldn’t be bothered and just sploshed through ankle deep in icy water.

On I went along the coast path, past the place where the sandy cliff has recently collapsed onto the beach, and then down onto the beach itself running towards Sizewell. Everywhere seemed deserted. Sensible people staying indoors.

Finally, after another little lap of Thorpeness to complete the 21 km, I got back 2 hours 15 minutes later – drenched. To be honest I did not feel good at that point! Pleased, but not exactly happy! However after a warm shower, bacon and egg sandwich and a cup of coffee I felt a great deal better!

Not exactly smiling am I?!

Thank you Sandra and Christine at Ealing Half Marathon for organising two fab events. I have loved these September challenges. Even though it was a completely different experience from previous Ealing half marathons I still got that #ealingfeeling here in rainy Suffolk!

Running tales from Ealing – Queen of the Suburbs Challenge

September is usually the month of the Ealing Half Marathon, which takes place on the last Sunday of the month. But of course sadly this year it won’t be happening. At least not in its traditional form.

Starting and finishing in Lammas Park: 2017 Ealing Half Marathon – oh happy days!

However the lovely people who organise the Ealing half marathon have turned their hand to organising a couple of virtual events this month. First: the Queen of the Suburbs Challenge. For this challenge you have to run or walk in or to 13 of the many parks in the borough of Ealing. They have picked parks right across the whole borough from Northolt, to Southall, to Ealing to Acton. One of the best things about living in Ealing are the parks. I love the fact that from my house I can access so many different open spaces within 1km. I have already been to many, but this challenge has introduced me to some that I have never visited, and some that I didn’t even know existed.

It’s a a challenge that’s flexible – as long as you complete it within the month of September. So some people have done all the parks in one go – a run of approximately 20 miles (32km). Others are walking them with their families. My plan evolved – I decided I was definitely not going to attempt all parks in one go. I started with two that were nearby, and then another couple, and then decided that I would try and do them all on consecutive days…

But how do the organisers know that you actually did do the runs? For this challenge we had to upload our Strava data for each run to show that we had been to each place, and on which date. (Strava is an activity tracker with GPS for those that are puzzled.) Another aspect was taking selfies at each park and sharing them on social media. One of the things that I think most people really miss about doing ‘proper’ organised runs is that sense of community, and lots of people being together for a focussed activity. Sharing stories on social media has really helped bring back a little of that feeling. I don’t like taking selfies at the best of times, and I don’t think many people look their best when out running, but hey – I’ll do my bit!

Trees in Montpelier Park. It’s not a large park, but it’s very pretty.

Day One – Thursday

I ran before work to Montpelier Park and Pitshanger Park. It was a beautiful early autumn morning, cool and bright. I’ve been to Pitshanger Park countless times but although I’ve run past Montpelier I’ve never actually been in it. There are many mature trees making it shady and pretty. Pitshanger was lovely as usual, beginning to look quite autumnal.

The first park I visited.

Day Two – Friday

On Friday I ran after work, through the Bunny Park, which is officially called Churchfields Recreation Ground, to Southall Park. I have walked in Southall Park lots of times as it is quite near one of the places I work from sometimes, and is a good place for a lunchtime stroll. However I have never run there before, and my route took me through a new place that I had never heard of – Dormers Wells Moated Manor.

Dormers Wells Moated Manor – not officially on the list, but I would never have known about it if not for the challenge.

Dormers Wells Moated Manor is now a fairly wild space given over to nature. Five hundred years ago there was a manor house complete with moat, and a well was recorded as early as the 13th century.

Day Three – Saturday

On Saturday afternoon I drove over to Acton for the two parks over in the east of the borough. I felt a bit bad driving over there, but I calculated that running there and back would be over nine miles, and to be honest that sounded like a bit too much! North Acton playing fields were new to me, and so I ran right round them. It’s basically what it says on the tin – playing fields. There are some tennis courts, five-a-side football pitches, a large open air gym, and a big children’s playground at the southern end. And then the rest of the space is playing fields. A lovely wide open space in a built up area close to a major road, with some old oak trees and a wildflower meadow space along one edge.

One of the wildflower areas in North Acton playing fields.

Acton Park is more familiar because it’s another space for lunchtime walks when I’m working in Acton. Acton was opened as a public park in 1888, which must make it one of the oldest in Ealing. It has lots of trees, and a very classy mini golf place, which was packed on Saturday. I keep meaning to book to go there – it looks like a lot of fun!

You can see from the map on the sign that Acton Park is quite big. It is a lovely space for a walk. Or a run!

On the way back everyone had to stop at the level crossing to wait for the train to go by. I have been wearing my Ealing Half 2020 t-shirt for all the runs so it’s pretty clear I’m doing the challenge, and next to me was another runner also doing the same thing! We had a chat about which parks we had done already. And just before I got back to the car I managed to persuade a very drunk person lying on the ground to at least get his legs out of the road and onto the pavement – it’s a very different experience going for a run on Saturday afternoon compared to early in the morning!

Day Four – Sunday

Originally this was going to be a classic Sunday long run (15km) taking in four parks on the west and north of the borough. However, by Saturday evening I seemed to have developed a bit of a left glute strain and was almost limping. Yikes! I think this may have been precipitated by some over enthusiastic ‘donkey kicks’ at my outdoor gym class in the morning, and then running in the afternoon. So I decided to slightly change the plan.

The plan still included four parks, but I drove to each one, and ran at least 2km in each. This meant that I covered just under 10km altogether but had a a short break between each section. In fact it was better, because I actually had an opportunity to do proper circuits of the parks, instead of just arriving and leaving.

First was Spikes Bridge Park, which I have never been to before, although I now realise that I have passed it a few times on my runs down the canal. It was very busy considering it was only just past 8 on a Sunday morning. Lots of people walking and running, and a group of young people getting ready for a cricket match. As I was leaving children started arriving for another sporting activity- football maybe? There used to be a running track here, which has been converted to a path, with 5 a side football pitches in the middle. It felt like a friendly park, people smiled and said hello as they went by.

Lovely countryside views at Spikes Bridge Park.

Next was Northala Fields, which I’ve written about before here. It was also very busy, people walking, running, doing a very jolly outdoor exercise class, boxing practice on the top of one of the hills, fishing, cycling. I saw another runner in an Ealing Half 2020 top in front of me, but I couldn’t catch up with him to say Hi! Looking on Instagram later I think there were quite a lot of us out running in the parks on Sunday!

View from the top!
I love that spiral pattern!

The third park was Islip Manor Park, which I’ve never been to before. It’s quite small, only just over 1km all round, but that meant I could do a couple of circuits and have a proper look around. There are mature trees, including a yew walk. Islip Manor has its origins in the 14th century, but the grounds as they are now were laid out in the 19th century, and were opened as public gardens in 1929. As I went round on my second circuit I spotted someone taking a selfie at the park sign – none other than Sandra from Ealing Half Marathon herself! She was doing the rounds on her bike, and said she had already seen lots of people out and about doing the Challenge!

There are still signs of a more formal garden/ park at Islip Manor Park. This group of trees are quite striking.

Finally I went to Ravenor Park in Greenford. I used to live in Greenford, and go to this park fairly regularly. If I’m being totally honest I find it quite a boring park. There is a meadowy bit which is nice in the summer, and a large multi use games area, where people were playing basketball. In the spring there are very pretty displays of flowers. But overall it’s quite uninteresting really. (Sorry to those who love it!)

Maybe if I run more round Ravenor Park I’ll get more inspired by it!

Day Five – Monday

Well, if the challenge began with a cool autumn feel it ended feeling like high summer! For the last run the temperature went up to 29 degrees C. It was so hot! I’m not a fan of running in warm temperatures – give me a cool, crisp morning any time, but once I started thinking that I would do it on consecutive days I felt I just had to get out and run the last three parks.

First was Walpole Park. As it was such a beautiful afternoon the park was busy, and most people were obeying the new Rule of Six, although I did see one group of about twelve…I have written before about the park here, so I won’t go into details in this post.

This photo was taken on 1st April 2019 in Walpole Park.

Next was Lammas Park. This park is the centre of the Ealing Half Marathon. The starting pen forms down the avenue of horse chestnut trees. And the finish line comes after a loop of the west side of the park. It’s not particularly hilly, but after 13 miles the last gentle slope feels like a mountain!

Two years ago in Lammas Park – sub 2 hour half marathon! I don’t think that’s going to be repeated any time soon!

The next and final park was a Blondin Park, which I have written about here. I really like this park, it’s a shame it’s not nearer to where I live. Especially on such a hot day, when I had to run another 4km home. In the end I walked/slowly jogged back, and by the time I got home I was as red as a tomato!

The Final Park! Done!

Total distance covered = 38.4 km/ 23.8 miles. In five days. I’m very happy with that!

This challenge has been a lot of fun. I have really enjoyed having a reason to explore some new places, and re-visit some others that I haven’t been to for a while. I could have spread it out over more days, or not done so much each time, but I am very happy that I’ve finished it now! I can have a bit of rest before part two – running 13.1 miles in the last week of September.

Thank you Ealing Half Marathon for organising such a brilliant challenge – I loved it!

Race report – Ealing Half Marathon

As usual – a brilliant day at the Ealing half marathon, in spite of the rain. The forecast was for heavy rain but in fact the rain kept mainly away, just a shower at the start and a few drops during the morning. Personally I prefer running in cooler conditions so I didn’t mind at all.

The Ealing half marathon is run as a Community Interest Company, and aims to put back the surplus money into community projects that promote health and fitness. The first half marathon was in 2012 – the year of the London Olympics – what a great year that was! I think the huge community involvement is a major reason why this half marathon has such a good vibe feeling about it – hence the hashtag #ealingfeeling!

Up early even though it’s local, to eat breakfast two hours before the start. I had a bowl of cherry-chocolate overnight oats to fuel me for the ninth run of 2019. My lovely husband gave me a lift to Lammas Park where the race village and start was, even though he didn’t get home last night until 2am. The bag drop took seconds, and even the queues for the loos were quick. Everyone got into place under the chestnut trees to wait for the start. Being under the trees was good when there was a heavy shower just before the 9am start.

Waiting for the start
Running through Pitshanger Park

The time honestly flew by up to about mile 8. I don’t know if this was because I know the route, or because I was looking out for people I know along the way, or because it was just a lot of fun! Probably all of it! However it was tough from mile 8/9, as it always is. But the fantastic support from strangers and friends alike really does help you get through the hard bits. Shout out to everyone from Quit the Gym, especially Kath and Maria who have put us through our paces in interval sessions in Lammas Park for the past few months. Lots of the QtG people were running – but even more turned out to shout out encouragement. Also everyone from Questors Choir who came out to cheer us all on. And of course friends and neighbours, and my husband who took a great photo of me in action! The atmosphere all around the course was not in the least bit dampened by the weather, it was as noisy and upbeat as always!

Photo courtesy of Simon, my husband. The Hanwell ukelele band played on tirelessly on the corner under the yellow tent.

Although I didn’t finish quite under 2 hours in the end (2:00:00:9) I was more than happy with the time. It’s quite a hilly course, and it’s the NINTH half marathon this year folks! Only 3 more to go!

It’s my friend Michelle’s birthday today – happy birthday Michelle! So we went to the pub for a very tasty roast dinner, and some beer to celebrate.

Time for a few days of rest, to get ready for next weekend and October’s half marathon at Wimpole Park. I’m looking forward to this one, as it is all around the National Trust estate, which will be a contrast to today’s mainly road run.

Once again dear readers – thanks for reading, and thanks for your support. I am raising funds for JDRF via this link.

Intervals

No! Not THAT kind of interval!

There are two types of intervals in my exercise life. Interval running sessions and high intensity interval training (HIIT). In this post I am going to try and explain why interval training is beneficial for heart, bone and muscle health. First an explanation of what interval training actually means. Basically it is a short period of very hard work – either running or doing some other exercise like skipping, jump squats or burpees – followed by a very short period of recovery. Repeat! And repeat again! And again! Typically interval sessions are not long, and sometimes very short. I have found that even 10 minutes of HIIT has a positive impact.

The aim of HIIT is getting muscles to work anaerobically rather than aerobically. Aerobic exercise is where oxygen initiates the production of energy in the cells of the body (aerobic cellular respiration) – the more energy required the more breaths you take, your heart beats faster to pump oxygenated blood around to all the muscles that are working extra hard, and you feel hotter as energy is converted from chemical to mechanical. The waste products of aerobic exercise are water and carbon dioxide – which are easily eliminated. There are many benefits of aerobic exercise including strengthening the heart muscle, improving lung capacity, reducing risk of Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, improving mood, and reducing cholesterol. Weight bearing exercise also strengthens bones. Aerobic exercise is any activity that raises your heart rate and increases breathing rate – walking a little faster is a great start!

Anaerobic exercise is the next stage. When the energy requirement is way more than than the body can deliver aerobically – for example when sprinting – glucose is converted to energy without oxygen in a process that is far too complicated to explain in this post (;-) ) but you can look it up here! The main waste product of anaerobic cellular respiration is lactic acid, and a build up of lactic acid in muscles can result in painful muscles and even cramps. During recovery periods you breathe in loads of oxygen and the lactic acid is oxidised and excreted as water and carbon dioxide. Anaerobic energy production is less efficient than aerobic which is why you can’t do it for so long. Aerobic respiration is 19 times more efficient than anaerobic! However practising high intensity intervals regularly helps muscles build up resistance to lactic acid, allowing faster and/or harder work for longer.

That’s why HIIT or doing fast intervals in running is good for increasing speed and reducing fatigue.

So what does a running interval session look like? There are many variations. This is what I will be doing this week: 5 sets of this – 1.5 minutes fast; 30 seconds recovery; 3 minutes fast; 60 seconds recovery. That’s only 30 minutes altogether, but it will be hard work!

And how about a home HIIT session? The great thing about this is that you don’t have to have any equipment. Sometimes I do skip or use a resistance band but not always. I have an interval timer app on my phone which is really useful. This is what I did today: 40 seconds activity followed by 20 seconds rest – 2 sets of: running with high knees on the spot; plank; right leg lunges (forward/back); left leg lunges as before; press ups; sit ups; jump squats; up/down plank; bridge; burpees. I hardly ever do the same routine for this and often change it as I go along depending on what I feel like!

There is quite a bit of evidence that short intense periods of exercise are as useful for fitness as longer, more gentle exercise. Here is an interesting link to Dr Michael Mosley’s findings about high intensity interval training.

I think interval training in running is not only a good way to make training more interesting , but also more efficient. And HIIT sessions are a great way to fit hard work exercise into short spaces in your day, and still know that it’s making a difference.

Can’t wait!

It’s only a few days until the Ealing Half marathon. I’m raising money for JDRF on this link. They fund research into a cure for Type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an auto immune disease that typically manifests in childhood, and is a lifelong condition requiring several insulin injections a day and constant monitoring of blood glucose. It can lead to limb and life threatening complications. Let’s help find a cure! Thank you for all your support so far – I’ve only got 4 more half marathons to run in 2019!

And there’ll be one more on Sunday!

Where shall I run next?

Deciding where to go for a run is sometimes easy, sometimes not so straightforward. When I am just practising (I like that word – it sounds less serious than ‘training’!) I have certain local runs that I do very frequently. This is because generally speaking I know how long they are and therefore roughly how long they will take. So if I am going out early before breakfast I do about 6-8km; I have a dark morning route and light morning route.  The light morning route is through a park and is much more interesting than my winter route, which is quite boring and hard on my feet because it is all pavement. For longer runs I have a few different options – down the Grand Union Canal to Brentford (about 11km), or the Thames (about 15km), or for a very long run to Richmond (about 21km). Then there’s what I call my ‘Three Parks Run’ which is almost exactly 10km, and does what it says on the tin. Or for a longer run I sometimes go along the Paddington branch of the canal to Northala Fields in Northolt (16-17km). I feel very lucky that I can do so many runs from my doorstep that are through green spaces. (Except on winter weekdays…)

Northala Fields, September 2017

But where to do a Race? In past years when I have done maybe one or two half marathons there hasn’t been a problem choosing which to do really. For the last few years I have run the Ealing Half Marathon because it is literally on my doorstep, and because it is fantastically well-organised. It is a community enterprise company so the entry fee doesn’t just help put on the event but also goes to support local community projects.  I love doing it, and that will be September’s run this year. I have a JDRF place for the Royal Park’s Half, which I have done before with them, so that will be fun. October sorted.

What about all the other months?! This week I thought I really should get on and book runs for June, July and August, as summer runs will get booked up fast. It’s not easy to choose. First – when? Already there are weekends when I am away or busy. Second – who with? Both my sons like running, and it’s fun to go with people you know, but trying to coordinate other people is not straightforward even with group chats ;-). Third – where? This is the most interesting bit. Part of the ‘where’ is also deciding what kind of run – road or trail, flat or hilly? Because I am doing 12 runs this year I don’t want them all to be similar. Although I could run along the Thames path almost every month it would get a bit boring.

Low tide at Isleworth, October 2016

I still haven’t booked for the summer, but I did book one for November – a canal run along a part of the Grand Union Canal that I don’t know well, from Cowley near Uxbridge to Watford. I’m looking forward to that – fairly flat and new scenery. And I found one for December along another canal! Down in Surrey it goes along canal and river paths, and the timing is good too –28th December right at the end of my half marathon ‘marathon’. More on those later.

June: at the moment I’m looking at Saturday 29th June and 2 options. Either a slightly crazy one that starts at 5.30pm and is a trail up the Brecon Beacons. The full marathon distance is truly bonkers and is part of the ‘Fan Dance’ route that the British Special Forces use as part of their selection process. The alternative is a tamer run round the Lee Valley Velopark – home of the 2012 Olympics. Mind you the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is a lovely place to run, and I wouldn’t have to camp after! It all depends on who might be around to run with.

For July there are a few options too. The most attractive at the moment are Saturday 14th July in High Wycombe – the Hell Fire Half, or Sunday 28th July Run Heaton Park, Manchester. Again it depends on who’s around to run with. July actually has lots of fun sounding choices – 14th July there is a run that takes you through two disused railway tunnels that have been developed into shared use (bike/pedestrian) paths right under the city of Bath.  And I have always wanted to visit the model town of Saltaire near Bradford where the fabulously named Sir Titus Trot takes place on 21st July. If I don’t do this run in 2019 I definitely want to do it next year!

August – well – on the 10th there’s another run along the Thames, but I really don’t fancy paying for another run along a path that I do for free several times a year. So I think it will probably be Sunday 11th at Burnham Beeches, which I know a bit having walked there sometimes.

Aldeburgh beach, Suffolk

If any readers have ideas or suggestions I am very happy to consider them! Or if anyone fancies meeting up at any of the above let me know. Meanwhile the next one definitely in the diary is next Saturday 23rd March in Princes Risborough, running through the beautiful Chilterns. I am looking forward to seeing the trees just beginning to come into leaf.

Happy running everyone!