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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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Running every day in January 2021

I’ve done 9 runs so far in 2021, a total of 27.9 miles (45km) and nearly 5 hours. It was going well, and although slightly tough getting up every morning to run before work it was actually very doable.

There’s really nobody about at 6.30am. It’s peaceful and somewhat meditative running pretty much the same route most mornings in the dark. The first 3 days were lovely, and I was really looking forward to this weekend, and running in the daylight.

New Years Day
2nd January
Back to work and running in the dark. Tuesday 5th – I didn’t take many photos this week, because it was basically dark.. and looked like this!

However that’s all changed because yesterday I received the news that I tested positive for the coronavirus – OH NO!! That means I have to isolate for 10 days – right up to next weekend. Although I felt unwell on Thursday evening and Friday morning, by Friday afternoon I was feeling a lot better. So today I though I would try a run in my garden.

Garden run.. It’s about 15m to the end. I had to go up and down quite a lot of times.

During the major lockdown last spring I read lots of reports of people doing marathons in their back gardens, and even on their balconies. Well, hats off to them! It is not easy – unless you live on a country estate I suppose. In the average town garden (and I think our garden is probably fairly average, or perhaps a bit bigger than average) there’s a lot of turning round. That really slowed me down. I managed about a mile in 22 minutes!

It was such a lovely bright day, it was so nice to be out in the sunshine. But by the end I was quite wheezy, and tired. So maybe I will give the running a miss tomorrow… Maybe!

I don’t think I will get a lot of mileage in this week however. Maybe some baking will get done instead..

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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!

Summer solstice challenge: Day Five

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

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

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

The hill – Park View Road , Ealing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer solstice challenge: Day Three

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

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

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

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

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

Grasses

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

I took this photo a couple of weeks ago

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

30/50km done!

Summer solstice challenge: Day Two

Another 10k in the bag! Today I went along the towpath between Kew and Richmond, there and back along the river Thames. It was raining quite hard when I woke, but by the time I got to Kew Green it was just a little drizzle. Actually for me it was perfect running weather: mild but damp. However not so good for photos, as they all look really dark, and it wasn’t that bad!

Kew Bridge
Elizabeth Gate Kew Gardens

The star of the run today was definitely the river. The Thames is the longest river in England at 215 miles or 346 km. It flows from Gloucestershire to the North Sea at Southend. Many rivers flow into the Thames and of course there are many settlements along its banks. At Oxford the Thames is known as the Isis, which I used to find very confusing when younger.

The river has always been home to many boats. Henry VIII sailed from his palace in Greenwich to Hampton Court Palace.

The river Thames in Tudor times

Today I saw lots of people out on the river in single sculls. In ‘normal times’ I would expect to see plenty of double sculls, and rowers too but due to social distancing these are not yet allowed. Do you know the difference between rowing and sculling? Rowers each use one oar, and scullers two oars.

Lovely detail on Twickenham Bridge.
Richmond Bridge

Another highlight of the run was the birdlife. Today I saw: cormorants, herons, swans, ducks, geese (Canada and Egyptian) and seagulls. And that was just the water birds.

A pair of Egyptian geese – more closely related to ducks than geese.

The path wasn’t too busy – I expect the weather put people off a bit. There were people walking, running and cycling, but the path felt spacious. I haven’t run along here since before lockdown and it was great to be back.

Looking into Kew Gardens.

So – 20/50km done. Next run will be Tuesday, as I’m giving my legs a day off tomorrow. Check back then! And thanks for reading.

Beautiful clashing pinks of hollyhocks and geraniums. Garden near Kew Green.