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7 Runs in 7 Days – Christmas Week!

At the beginning of December I was feeling quite unmotivated when it came to running – it’s hard to get out there on a dark, cold and sometimes wet morning/evening. So what better incentive than a virtual challenge set by the inimitable Phoenix Running. I have done this challenge before – you can read about it here – but it was in the summer, when it’s easier to feel that motivation to go out.

But there’s something about signing up and committing yourself to something that’s really highly motivating. Why should that be? Usually I am intrinsically motivated to go out for a run, knowing that I will always feel better for doing it. But sometimes I need a little nudge to keep me going in the right direction. Real in person runs/races are probably the best kind of extrinsic motivation, but it’s not always possible to find a convenient race to enter. So the next best thing is a virtual run or challenge. Here’s a link to an article about motivation that explains a bit more.

So in the week up to Christmas I ran every day (7 days) plus an extra run on Christmas Day itself just for good measure. All the following photos were taken during or at the end of the seven runs.

Winter tree silhouettes
Front door wreath
Early morning mist on the canal

The next photos were taken in Olde Hanwell of the Advent Windows. Local residents decorate their windows for each day of Advent. Last year was impressive and this year did not disappoint!

This is my friends Tim and Elaine – who have a very furry cat!

And then I ran a 5km on Christmas Day just because why not?!

And finally – in case you think it’s all running and no baking – there have been plenty of these Best Ever Mince Pies coming out of the oven!

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Run report – The World’s Largest Medal!

First let me say that I am using the word ‘run’ as applied to yesterday’s race very loosely. I don’t think I have ever walked as much in a race/run as I did at Denbies Wine Estate in Dorking with Phoenix Running. Why? The heat! It was so hot, already 17 deg C at 7.30am when I started, and rapidly rising to about 28 deg. In the baking heat of the sun – very welcome on a vineyard I am sure, but not so great if you’re running – a couple of hundred foolhardy/ brave/ plain crazy people ran laps to earn the biggest medal of all time!

I managed four laps, a half marathon, and by the last lap I was pretty much walking the whole time. In spite of drinking over a litre of fluids my legs were cramping so much I could hardly even walk, and I decided that no medal and no run was worth collapsing for. So ended the slowest 13.1 miles ever – my official time was 2 hours and 57 minutes!

Where’s the shade?!

The great thing about the Phoenix events is the friendliness of everyone, from Rik Vercoe the organiser, to the volunteers helping at the aid station, to Paul handing out the enormous medals from the back of a truck, to every participant. Absolutely everyone is there to offer encouragement and support, and try and make sure that a good time is had by all.

Race village. I found out later that the lady in the red hat just completed her 100th half marathon!

When I finally finished I practically inhaled an ice lolly from the tuck shop/ aid station and then got an iced coffee and a panini to refuel. And then it was time to take advantage of the vineyard shop to buy some sparkling wine, before heading home.

English sparkling wine is really very good!
Seriously bonkers medal 😂
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Sunday Long Runs

Last weekend I was in Suffolk. I stayed in my sister in law’s static caravan which she very generously shares with the family, for a couple of nights so that I could do a trail run nearby which was then postponed until November! Oh well I thought, I will just do a half marathon by myself on routes that I know well around Aldeburgh. A plan. Then I remembered another run postponed from last year happening today (May 2nd), and not relishing the thought of two half marathons on consecutive weekends I decided to shorten the Suffolk run to around 12km.

Last September I ran a half marathon in this area which I wrote about here. It is an area I know quite well by now, and a lovely place to walk or run.

Pathways:

And the sea!

What a beautiful run it was. So peaceful.

And then today I ran the first half marathon I’ve done since last September, and that weather dominated half in Suffolk when I ended up soaked through and frozen!

The run today was organised by Phoenix Running and was a repeat of the route I did last year in August (blog post here). Four laps out and back along the towpath at Walton-on-Thames equals a half marathon. I did wonder about doing another lap as it’s an event where you can do as much as you like in 7 hours. However after 21.1 km my legs said No! It was a another beautiful spring morning and there’s always lots to see along the river. People on paddle boards, rowing boats, motor boats and narrow boats. And of course lots of people cycling and walking.

I didn’t take a lot photos today but it was a really beautiful day as you can see.

Double the Force! Or two medals for the price of one!
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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.

Real Race Report – Party Train!

Today was my first foray into a post-lockdown organised running event with Phoenix Running. It was an interesting experience. Instead of lots of runners all congregating together before the run, registering in the leisure centre, gathering on the towpath and setting off together as it was when I was last down here in December, there was a very different system.

Base camp

The first big difference is that the event started much earlier than usual time of 9 or 9.30. Because runners started at staggered times in groups of six the first group set off at 6.45am today, and then subsequent groups at 10 minute intervals. My start time was 7.45, which was a bit more acceptable than 6.45 to my mind! To avoid contact as much as possible we did not register in the usual way but as we arrived just told Rik who we were. Then we had to stand 2m in front of an infrared camera set at 37.5 deg C. As long our temperature showed less than that we were ok to run. Then we stood on yellow discs spaced 2m apart to wait for our start time.

It’s a private house now, but I’m guessing this was the lock keepers house once.

As you may know I have a ‘thing’ about race toilet facilities 😉 and was very concerned because in the very detailed email we received a few days ago NO mention was made of toilets! Yikes! However it was ok because the pub The Weir, which is right next to where Rik sets up his base, had opened its doors really early to allow us to use the toilet! (But not to have a drink..)

On the first lap I was in a bit of a dream and managed to miss the turning point – luckily I realised after about 25m! So that’s an extra 50m!
Sunbury lock

Although I have not run 21km since 7th June I decided that a half marathon distance would be my goal. That’s four laps, out and back. Of course I started out way too quickly! The first 10km I did in 57 minutes. It was all downhill from there (figuratively speaking – the towpath is totally flat!). The second half was really hard work, and I ended up walking bits, and stopping to take photos just to give my legs a rest. Final official time was 2:16:40. That’s ok!

Sunbury lock
Wouldn’t it be lovely to live over there?

It was perfect weather, and so lovely to run along the riverside, especially a part that I don’t know. The lap went east along the river from Walton on Thames towards Hampton Court, past Sunbury Lock. There is always lots to look at when running along a river, and this morning was no exception: several boats went through the lock, lots of scullers and rowers, and even some paddle boarders. I also like to look at all the beautiful houses whose gardens run down to the river, and imagine myself living there!

The main reason I did this run. Such a cool medal. There’s another Party Train run in Sept 13th – I could pick up a carriage to link onto the engine.. tempting!

Thank you to everyone who has read my previous post about Joseph, and thank you so much for donating. I will get an update next week on how much has been raised to help with Joseph’s health costs.

Race Report! NOT the London Marathon/Half right here in Ealing!

So. Today should have been the day of the London marathon, which I would NOT have been running. However I always like to watch bits of it on television, and this year I knew a couple of people running it, so I might have even travelled into town to cheer them on. But of course none of that happened.

Back in December I ran the final run of my 12 half marathons of 2019 with a running organisation called Phoenix Running. It was such a lot of fun, and everyone was so friendly that I entered another half marathon with the same company in May. That’s been postponed until next year. Then up popped a virtual NOT the London marathon – or half! Something that we can all do with careful social distancing and some planning. So I entered. Now it might seem a bit strange to pay money for a medal and a Freddo and then run by yourself… but it actually it was just what I needed to get myself going again. The last few weeks of running have sometimes felt a little bit aimless. Last year I was very focussed on a race every month. This year I didn’t want to do so many, but I already had three booked in, and they were all abruptly cancelled. I do love running simply for its own sake, but I also like to have something to aim for. So this virtual run came at just the right time!

Perfect day for a long run!

The normal London marathon raises a lot of money for charities. Last year £66.4 million was raised. Due to the current COVID 19 situation charities are unable to raise funds in the same way that they are used to. The 2.6 challenge was devised as a way to try and raise awareness and money for charities. JDRF, who fund research into a cure for Type 1 diabetes, will double your donation until 30th April if you donate at their website. Please consider making a donation if you can.

Last week I started planning the route. I didn’t want to go too far from home, and I wanted to do a route I knew well, so there wouldn’t be any stopping to check a map! I decided on two local laps of a route I’ve done many times and know is almost exactly 10km. I added a loop on the first lap to bring the total up to 21.1km. I knew I would have to start early to miss as many walkers and runners as possible.

I wanted to make it as much like a proper race as possible. I designed a bib with a number – 2.6 for the #twopointsixchallenge. I added the JDRF logo.

I packed a goodie bag! First in went the Freddo from Rik at Phoenix. Then a banana because you have to have a banana. Then a packet of crisps – salt replacement. Then a beer – fluid replacement;-) Although I didn’t actually drink that at 8.45 am! And of course the medal itself.

Ready to run at 6.30 am

I planned to start at around 6.30. Up early to eat some toast and almond butter for breakfast. The race village (aka My Street) was very quiet – nobody about at all in fact. Except my loyal supporter/sister Charlotte! By now regular readers will know that I am a bit fussy about race village toilets.. well no need to be concerned today – spotless, no queue and very close to the start line!

Still a layer of mist over the grass

The first 11km were very quiet, just a few dog walkers and other up-with-the-lark runners around. It was easy to keep away from people. The birds were singing and the air was fresh and cool, the sun shining low through the trees. In a few sheltered places there was frost on the ground. I heard a cockerel crowing – quite incongruous as I was barely a quarter of a mile from the A40 and could also hear the hum of traffic from what is usually a busy road.

I love this view from the bridge near St Mary’s Perivale
I don’t know what this tree is but the pink against the blue sky is beautiful.

As I approached home at the end of the first lap I could hear the merry sound of a cowbell – my sister ringing it as I ran up the road. Goodness knows what my neighbours were thinking – it was only just gone 7.30!

The drinks station!

After a quick drink of water I was off again for the second, slightly shorter lap. This time there were a few more people around, but it was still easy to avoid them by stepping off the path and into the grass. I imagined I was doing a proper trail run (which I should have been doing yesterday in Suffolk 😦 ) as I tried not to twist my ankle or step in something horrible. It really was perfect conditions for a run, sunny but not yet hot, and beautiful blue skies with a very light breeze. Back up the road home I could hear the cowbells again (!) and my cheering team of supporters! Post run breakfast was bacon/egg/black pudding roll and a coffee. Perfect!

All in all it was a great run, with a fab medal at the end. The Phoenix Facebook page has had plenty of stories on today of other people doing the same challenge – it has been a lot of fun reading them. A couple of people have done marathons up and down their streets! 400 plus laps! That is some determination. I would like to give a big shout out to my friend David, who was supposed to be running the Real Thing today and instead ran a marathon locally in just over 3.5 hours! And he wasn’t even going all out!

Such a great medal!

Doing a ‘virtual run’ isn’t the same as doing it with everyone around, and getting the encouragement and motivation from runners and spectators. However it really is the next best thing. I would definitely consider another, just to give myself the motivation.

Beer and banana – best goodie bag ever!

Now where’s that beer?

Oh yes!