So it’s 2022. Yay! And traditionally it’s the time to look back on the last year. I do wish I had managed to write a few more blog posts, but I have been so busy, and at times quite unmotivated if I am honest. But there have been many good things this year. I managed two trail runs which were a lot of fun. And I also did the wonderful Ealing half marathon, as well as the Ealing parks challenge which was wonderful – getting into all the corners of Ealing borough that I would never normally go to.
As always I feel grateful to live in an area where there are so many nice places to run that are in green spaces – right on the doorstep!
I was very lucky to be able to get away to the beautiful Isle of Arran in July for a walking holiday. I feel so grateful that my friend and I were able to do that, given the horrible winter we seem to be having lately. Thinking about all the lovely things that happened in 2021 certainly picks me up when things feel hard.
I also had a holiday in Suffolk, and ran some familiar routes there. The weather was good, and it was lovely to be by the sea with good friends for a few days.
I have not done so much baking this year, or perhaps I just haven’t written about it as much! I’ve made some nice things and some not so nice (!). Highlights were the apple buns and the magic custard cakes!
In May all the family managed a few days near Buxton in Derbyshire when the babies – my beautiful grandsons – met for the first time since being born on the same day in 2020!
Today was the first day of a new year, so time to start as you mean to go on – a nice easy 6km run around one of my favourite parks – Pitshanger Park. It was so warm I went out in shorts and a t-shirt and was still too hot!
I haven’t yet decided on any ‘challenges’ for 2022… right now there’s enough going in my life without any more challenge thank you very much!
I am hoping to write a bit more regularly – I’ve been sharpening the pencils and filling the inkwells in readiness.
Happy New Year to all my readers! Wishing you all good health and happiness. 😊
I entered this race way back in 2019, and it was supposed to be in April 2020. Postponed to April 2021, and then again to November I almost didn’t do it. A couple of weeks ago it just felt like too much – a 2 hour drive, possible overnight stay, 24 km, cold and wet November… I had definitely decided not to do it.
But, then I got an email from Maverick – looking forward to seeing everyone – etc etc. I had a think. Maybe it was possible. My lovely kind husband said he would drive. I could switch to the middle route – 16km (more doable), the weather looked fair. So at the last minute I changed my mind, and went!
And I was very glad I did, because it was so wonderful to be out running in proper countryside, with mud, and trees, and dogs, and pigs, and other people! As a city dweller running trails is something difficult to just go out and do without a lot of planning. And something I wouldn’t feel confident about doing on my own. But it is the sort of running that I really prefer. So thank you Maverick Race for organising such a fab run.
The run started at 10am (another reason why I decided to do it, as it meant I didn’t have to get up too early, even though we were driving there on the day). It was just outside the lovely Suffolk town of Woodbridge, which is on the river Deben. The run went through fields, along the edge of (former) RAF Bentwaters, and through Tunstall Forest. The forest was the best bit for me, I just love running through the trees. I was a bit sad not to be doing the long route which went all the way up to the River Alde. There’s always next year!
Suffolk is known for being flat, and truly there was nothing that could be called a hill. A couple of gentle slopes and some mud, but no real hazards. The dogs on the course were all very well behaved, running along with their owners, and having a great time splashing in the muddy puddles. On the way back, about a mile from the finish, I passed one runner standing next to his dog, who was lying on the ground on strike! What can you do?! That dog was not going anywhere soon, and the poor runner just had to wait until he felt like carrying on.
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!
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.
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.
Hello everyone! Yes I am back. It’s been a while, hope you’ve all been well. All good here in Ealing, and I’m glad to be back running and writing again. And you never know I might do a bit of baking too.
Yesterday I ran my first proper hilly trail run in ages. So long ago I can’t remember when. Probably back in 2019 I think. I did a race in the Chilterns, Buckinghamshire, UK, and for anyone who knows the area – it’s hilly. That is certainly part of the charm (the views) but also part of the challenge (the pain).
In 2019, when I ran a half marathon (or near enough) every month throughout the year, I ran a wonderful race with race organiser Maverick. It was also in the Chiltern hills, a different bit, and it was amazing! Doing that run in 2019 made me realise that running out in proper countryside is what I really love. So I signed up for the same run in March 2020. And then it was postponed (of course) until March 2021. And then it was postponed again until July 2021 – but a date I couldn’t do. I changed my entry and ta-da – a run up hill and down dale for which I was not fully prepared – hahaha!
This run started at the civilised time of 10 o’clock. The weather was warm but not too hot, and a fresh breeze when out in the open was very welcome. We set off in waves of 5 or 6 people at a time to maintain social distancing. The route was well signed, and the marshals were all helpful and encouraging. At times in the woods I was running alone which was peaceful and calm. At other times runners were in front or behind, and all were friendly and supportive.
We ran through woods and fields, past pretty houses and farms. We ran up hills – well, no – we walked up the hills, and some of us also walked down the hills to avoid slipping on the chalky paths, or tripping on a tree root and flying down.
We ran past Chequers, the country home of the Prime Minister. We ran past a lot of HS2 works – the controversial high speed train line between London and the North. I saw many kites (the birds) hovering overhead, and heard larks singing their heads off.
The flowers were beautiful – carpets of wild flowers on the open hillsides and tall foxgloves in the woods. One churchyard we ran through had roses all long the wall, which smelled fantastic.
Now one thing you can guarantee when running along the Ridgeway, which is a long distance path that was part of our route, is amazing views. That is certainly the case at Coombe Hill, where the views across the countryside are expansive. There is a tall monument at the top of the hill, built in 1904 to remember the dead of the Boer War. As I approached the monument I saw a woman sitting on a bench looking upset. A fellow runner, it turned out she was almost frozen to the spot with vertigo and dizziness, from the huge views from such a height across Buckinghamshire. Eventually I persuaded her to come with me, and we slowly made our way parallel to the main path for a bit, the views shielded by trees. Then we ran along, with me on the right blocking the view as she carefully avoided looking anywhere but the ground in front of her. Finally we reached the woodland where she felt ok again. It was her first trail run – I hope it won’t be the last!
I made it to the finish in 2 hours 51 minutes, and my legs were killing me! The welcome at the end, plus a medal and an iced coffee, as well as a lager for later made it all worth it. And my lovely husband was there to drive me home. Which was a good thing because my left leg cramped up half way home, and still feels sore!
After months of running in familiar places it was so good to be out exploring a different area. My experience of Maverick events is that they are friendly, well organised, welcoming and fun. Bring on the next one!
Is everyone feeling a bit ‘meh’ at the moment? I think a year in to this mess most of us are feeling a bit unmotivated, and basically down in the dumps at least some of the time. Me: “How are you feeling?” Person: “Oh well, ok, you know, [pause] ok.” That is – not really ok.
I haven’t written anything for the last three weeks, because sometimes I’m too busy, and sometimes, if I am honest, I’m just lacking the motivation. However I know that if I don’t get started again it will get harder. So today is a bit of an update, random bits and pieces of the last couple of weeks.
The last few weeks I have been trying to increase the distance of my long runs as I was due to do a real life actual 24km trail run in Suffolk at the end of April. Sadly this has been postponed until November.
Things to look forward to:
* Getting back outside for the wonderful Quit the Gym! After 29th March look out for us in Lammas Park, Ealing. Zoom gym just ain’t the same..
* Going to Suffolk (end of April) and running a half marathon, by myself…
*Running in the thirteen parks chosen by Ealing Half Marathon for the Queen of the Suburbs in April. This was such a lot of fun last September and I am so glad they’ve done it again!
*Final thing (for the moment – and the best thing) fingers crossed – end of May we get to see our eldest son, his partner and the baby who we haven’t seen since the beginning of September.
And of course, in between, lots more lovely runs watching spring springing. Keep on keeping on people!
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!
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.
Just lately I’ve got a bit bored with running the same local routes, much as I love them. Today I decided to go a little further afield and run in the woods at Burnham Beeches in Buckinghamshire. Last year I ran a half marathon here which you can read about in this post. It was one of the loveliest runs of 2019.
It’s a different time of year now but running in the woods is special in all seasons. The weather was perfect for running today, with blue skies and almost no wind. Although beech trees are very dominant there are in fact many species, including oaks and ash, and silver birch, as well as evergreens such as holly and firs.
The woods are a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) due to the range of habitats and numbers of different species, both animal and plant. One of the more noticeable habitats is the pollarded trees, mainly beech and oak. Pollarding took place every 10-15 years until the beginning of the 20th century; the branches were cut back at head height for firewood (and possibly furniture making?) which allowed trees to live longer than they would otherwise, and animals could not reach the new shoots. Some of the trees are now hundreds of years old. Many of them are hollow and semi rotten, and it is this habitat that supports a range of wild life, including fungi, mosses and invertebrates.
It was good to run on the soft surfaces of the woodland – fallen leaves and leaf mould, mud and grass. At this time of year when it’s dark in the mornings and evenings I end up running on the unforgiving pavements locally. I have already noticed the effect that impact is having on my feet, even in my most cushioned shoes. So today was a treat, to be running in the sunshine, in amongst the beautiful trees, and on a squishy soft surface. Even if I did almost twist my ankle on a tree root hidden under the leaves.
But it’s not just all the above that makes running in the woods a fab thing to do. Many studies have shown that being outside in green spaces, and especially among trees is good for mental as well as physical health. And of course you don’t have to run, walking in the woods works too! This is an interesting article with lots of links to research on the health benefits of being outside in nature.
I didn’t do a very long run today – just 8km (5 miles), although it took me a while as I kept stopping to take photos and just ‘be’ in the woods. And I came home feeling great!
This week I’m going to make a massive effort to get into a green space every single day during daylight!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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!
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!
It’s a new month! Run number 10 needed to be done, and due to various other commitments it had to be done this weekend! So only a week after Ealing half marathon I set off this morning for the Wimpole half, up in Cambridgeshire. The weather was not promising at 7 o’clock this morning, rain pouring down, and the forecast pretty much more of the same.
The drive up (thank you Simon for driving me up there at such an early hour on a Sunday!) was quick and straightforward. It actually had stopped raining by the time we arrived. There was a nice friendly atmosphere in the race ‘village’, easy number pick up and bag drop, and queues for the loos were fine too (you might think that I’m a bit obsessed by race toilets, but it’s important!).
Wimpole Hall and estate are owned by the National Trust. It has an interesting history. There is evidence of settlements going back at least 2000 years. As is often the case with these big houses and estates fortunes rise and fall. Owners have poured in cash and rebuilt the house, built up collections of books and manuscripts, landscaped the grounds – only for the next owner to gamble it all away! Now it can be enjoyed by everyone. Today we didn’t visit the house but I would definitely like to go back one day when I’m not running round the estate and see the Hall.
The estate itself is huge, and very varied terrain. We set off at 9.30 and after a mile encountered the first hill, which was very muddy. One poor chap just in front of me managed to slip and get covered in it! Another 12 miles to go all muddy 😦 – I was careful where and how I stepped… And then it started raining. However it didn’t last too long, and the weather actually continued to improve right through the race. There was sunshine by the end!
Apart from some short sections along roads or gravel paths most of the route was cross country, through woods and across fields. There were more hills than I was expecting, and going down the muddy hill was interesting as I picked up huge clods of mud on my shoes! I was glad I was wearing my trail shoes that’s for sure.
As usual around mile 9-10 my legs began to really complain. In fact my feet also started sending ‘stop!’ messages to my brain. And then at the next water stop they were handing out gels and jelly babies! It’s amazing how much it (sugar) makes a difference. And the last bit went through the woods which I always love.
The support was fantastic considering we were out in the countryside for so much of the time. The marshals were lovely too. And at the end we were given a beautiful medal, and a good chunk of flapjack. However, for about 6 miles I had been thinking about a nice cup of coffee and a big slice of cake from the National Trust cafe. For those who don’t know, National Trust cafes are famous for their cakes. My slice of coconut and lime cake did not disappoint.
This run was so different from Ealing last week, and confirmed my feeling that trails are the way to go for next year’s running adventures. I just love being out in the countryside. (But Ealing is still really special 🙂 .)
I have a bit of a break now until the next, penultimate, half marathon of 2019 – the Grand Union Canal half marathon on 10th November. And a heads up for December – on Sunday 29th I’m doing the Frozen Phoenix 6 hour timed run where you can do as little as 5.3km right up to however many kilometres you can fit into 6 hours! If you feel like joining in – sign up now! It would be great to see you. Or you can just come along and cheer us on. Happy running everyone!
It’s been a beautiful day for a lovely 10 mile run in the Surrey/Kent borders. Organised by the Lingfield Running Club, and starting and finishing at Lingfield College, the route took us through countryside, fields and woods. Although this year is all about half marathons, I have tried to mix it up a bit – May’s run was actually 16 miles, and this one is 10. I must say I think ten miles is just the perfect distance. I don’t know why there aren’t more in the calendar.
Thank goodness the weather was a bit cooler than yesterday – in fact it was pretty much perfect – sunny but with a cooling breeze. Steve (a good friend who’s training for an ultra!) and I arrived in good time to collect our race numbers, use the loo, and make our way with the other runners to the actual start, which was a little way from the College. An unwitting cyclist managed to get in with the crowd at the beginning of the race, not sure what happened to him, but I hope he didn’t get trampled over! There were two runs today – a 10 km, and 10 mile, but we all started together, and the routes divided after a couple of miles.
Although the beginning of the run was dry underfoot I was glad I had my trail shoes on as we got into the woods. Plenty of mud and puddles! We picked our way round them as nimbly as possible, and I was quite pleased not to slip or plunge my foot into the mud.
There were some long hills between miles 3 and 5, but the route was almost flat or downhill for the last couple of miles, which is good planning in my book! As well as woods there were some lovely stretches through wheat fields, and past pretty cottages and gardens.
The marshalls were great – signing the way, and ensuring safe road crossings. I am always so grateful to all the volunteers (from the running club today) who are so essential to these events. I feel especially grateful on these trail runs because I would never be able to do a run like this without the fantastic organisation and marshalling of local clubs like Lingfield.
As I ran today I was also reminded of how lucky we are in the UK to have such an extensive network of public footpaths that allow access to woodlands, and across farmers’ fields.
I really enjoyed myself today, and am very pleased with my time of 1:41:36 (that’s according to my Garmin – official results don’t seem to be out yet). I’m also feeling very pleased that I am now HALF WAY through my endeavour of a half marathon (or thereabouts 🙂 ) every month in 2019! Six down – six to go!