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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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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.

Race round up 2019

The following is a summary of the official runs I did in 2019. All times are the official finishing times from the event websites. First the long runs: 10 miles (16 km), half marathons (13.1 miles or 21 km) and 16 miles (25 km).

JANUARY – Start Me Up at Hillingdon Cycle Circuit. Half marathon in 1:58:12. Ran with Jack. Fab medal and loads of chocolate bars!

FEBRUARY – Richmond Half Marathon at Richmond, mainly along the towpath. Half marathon in 2.10.02. Boring medal but lovely morning for a run.

MARCH – Maverick Original Series Buckinghamshire at Princes Risborough. Trail run across fields and woods – really hard work but brilliant fun. 22km in 2:55:41. I was super slow, partly because it was tough, and partly because I had a great chat with a lovely lady about Type One diabetes. Steve ran too – he was way faster than me!

APRIL – Fullers Thames Towpath Ten-Mile at Chiswick, along the towpath again. Ten miles in 1:28:10. Fun run but I really wanted to do under 1.5 hours so by the end I could hardly feel my legs! Ran with several friends from Quit the Gym. No medal but the coolest pint glass.

MAY – Lingfield Tens at Lingfield College in Surrey. The run went just across the border into Kent. Ten miles in 1.41.58. Such a beautiful sunny day, in lovely countryside. Steve came along too.

JUNE – White Peak Trail (long route) at Ashbourne, Derbyshire. 16 miles in 2:49:32. Loved this run! And what a beautiful day to be out running in the English countryside. Tom ran too, and Rob and Jess. Oh and – BEST medal ever, designed and made by Tom!

JULY – Run Heaton Park in Manchester. Half marathon in 2:07:06. Wet day and laps made this a bit of a slog. But Tom cheered me on, and we met up with one of his old school friends after for lunch which was really nice.

AUGUST – Burnham Beeches Half Marathon, near Slough. Half marathon in 2:05:12. Running through the woods mostly, peaceful and beautiful. Very friendly event. Nice medal and good T shirt too.

SEPTEMBER – Ealing Half Marathon. The best fun because it’s local! Half marathon in 2:00:00.9. I can’t get over that time! If only I hadn’t stopped to take photos! Lovely medal, and fantastic support all round.

OCTOBER – Wimpole Hoohaah Half Marathon, at Wimpole Hall near Cambridge. Half marathon in 2:12:52. This one was truly hard only a week after Ealing, and it was super muddy. But the post run cake was delicious!

NOVEMBER – Grand Union Canal Half Marathon, from Uxbridge to Watford. Linear/ point to point half marathon in 2:02:35. Jack ran this too. Fun and friendly, and lovely medal with a boat.

DECEMBER – Frozen Phoenix 6 hour timed event in Walton-on-Thames, along the Thames towpath. I did 5 laps, which was 16 miles, in 2:43:54. Tom and Jack ran this one too, doing 21 km. Even though this was laps up and down the towpath it was fun, because everyone was so friendly! Biggest, chunkiest medal ever, but actually not my favourite.

I also did two 10 km races, just because! The first one was up in Aldeburgh in August, because we happened to be there at the right time. The second was at Osterley Park in December – local, and some friends were doing it too – so why not?!

I have had a lot of fun this year, not just running and baking, but also writing this blog. I have enjoyed doing little bits of research on local history, baking traditions and finding new recipes to try, as well as writing about Type 1 diabetes and how it affects people. When I first started a year ago I thought I might just do it for 2019. But people have been so kind about it and I have really enjoyed it – so on it goes! Thank you for reading, and very best wishes for a happy and peaceful new year.

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!