Snow, speed and two parkruns.

After my sickness bug I took things easy for a week. No running, no gym, not as much dashing around as usual. I let other people do things for me, which I’m not always good at.

I returned to running at last weeks parkrun. It felt hard, I couldn’t keep up with the 30 minute pacer past the first k, and I really struggled to keep going, even after slowing down a lot, in the last k. So I was astonished when my official time was a new PB.

photo from Newcastle parkrun’s Facebook page.

Only by 3 seconds, but progress is progress and it so contrasted with how I thought I’d done, I was delighted.

Also that weekend I signed up to SCREAM if you want to run faster, online running training by Julie Creffield of the fabulous Too Fat To Run. This has been one of my go to websites since I started getting fitter. I am just slightly too old to be comfortable with the idea of online training, but so much of the advice on Julie’s website has served me well that I thought I’d give it a go. I’m using my parkrun PB as my base time, aiming to improve it by 5% over 8 weeks, which would see me break that 30 minute barrier. And it’s another really friendly and supportive running community helping keep me going.

I started this week well, with an early morning run on Monday, knowing I’d miss running group through working late. Following the #TFTRScream guidance I included lamppost sprints, which I managed for roughly a mile, although the sprints were coming less often towards the end of the mile.

…I don’t want to give away all the #TFTRScream guidance. I’m sure the course will run again in future for those who want to take part. So let’s just say following it all certainly spurred me on…

Then on Tuesday the snow hit. Wednesday the roads were chaos, no chance of even getting to the gym. But the Facebook running groups I’m part of were discussing running in the snow. So on Thursday, as I was working from home, I went for a lunchtime run. It was bitterly cold, so I found a sheltered street and ran up and down it. But it felt great. And I felt positive about doing three runs this week again.

My running shoes were purchased ignoring every bit of advice written. I went for what was cheapest, not even understanding the different types available. As chance would have it I ended up with trail shoes which have never given me a single blister and have really good grips in the snow.

Yesterday my local parkrun was one of the few still on. But the police were still saying essential travel only (Is parkrun essential? Discuss) And the buses weren’t operating a full service. So I ran to parkrun. Then I ran parkrun. Then I had a cup of tea, but after that I ran/walked home. (I would have liked to have got the bus home, but none came).

What a difference a week makes!photo from Newcastle parkrun’s Facebook page.

Despite the snow and having already run two and a half miles I did parkrun in 34.46, which I’m really pleased with. And including the run/walk home I did eight and a bit miles, which certainly makes up for missing my run commute. But next time I run home from parkrun I won’t break for tea in between and let my body cool down!


Friday not wanting to, Saturday parkrun…

I didn’t want to go for a run on Friday. It was sleeting and windy, the sort of day for staying in the warm with a book and many mugs of tea. I got dressed in my running gear to try and convince myself.

I almost froze taking the dogs for a walk, the sleet was trying its best to turn into snow and the wind was almost painful. I had second, third and fourth thoughts about going for a run.

I can only assume Ranulph Fiennes is not plus sized! (Image from Pinterest)

I am large, large with Xs in front when buying running gear. Sportswear manufacturers seem convinced large people either don’t run or don’t run in bad weather – I have tried in vain to find a running jacket that fits me and is weatherproof. Thus when it rains, or sleets or snows, I get wet and/or icy. Why would anyone subject themselves to that?

I went anyway. As I set out my iPod shuffled to “Can I Play With Madness?” And I pondered coincidence.

My aim was to run 10k. My first 10k race is next weekend, and although I’ve gradually been increasing the distance of my run commutes I still hadn’t done a full 10k. So the plan was go steady and see how far I could go on a relatively flat route.

It was cold and wet and the first couple of miles were hell. I only saw one other runner and three cyclists, everyone else was sensibly in warm cars, buses or metros.

After the second mile I settled into a rhythm and hit that all too infrequent zone where I feel like I could keep going forever. I even deliberately took a longer route back to see if I could make it to 7 miles.

And I did.

Bring on the 10k next weekend 🙂

– – – – –

Saturday morning was just as unpleasant, but parkrun beckoned. It was the monthly session with pacers and I was hoping for a PB. I was meeting friends from running group and my partner was running for the first time. Not only did I want to go for a run, I even had a backup plan in case it was cancelled due to the ice!

At some point this year I’ll manage parkrun in under 30 minutes. This week wasn’t it. I kept up with the pacer for the first 2.5k, but then my legs reminded me how far I’d run the day before and it was all I could do to keep moving. Despite that I only missed getting a PB by 5 seconds, 31.23. My best time this year. I know I can do better.

My partner described his first parkrun as “not terrible” which I consider high praise. He did it in under 36 minutes, much faster than my first time. I’m sure he’ll be back.

Image from Pinterest, by parkrun.

Sand, sea and stairs. A visit to Newbiggin-by-the-Sea Parkrun.

I’m part of a Facebook group called This Girl Parkruns North East, a wonderful supportive and friendly bunch of women who play a major part in keeping my running going on those cold winter mornings when I’d much rather be curled up in bed. Once a month we do a tour, where those of us who can meet up at one of the many local parkruns. Today we were at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea. It was, to say the least, bracing!

Official time 33:42, not bad at all.

It was my third parkrun of the year, and the first I was able to run all the way since being poorly at Christmas. Well, I ran all the way except the short, sharp uphill section of sand, stairs, tarmac, stairs and muddy grass which I think almost everyone walked up. I think that section was my least favourite bit.

Apart from that, and the cold high winds it was a lovely course. It was my first time running on sand, although the sandy bits are short they are challenging. Most of the run is on the Promenade which I liked. I think I’d have taken in the beautiful views and public art a bit more had the wind not kept my hair in my face most of the time 🙂

Flying feet and face of concentration! Photo from Newbiggin-by-the-Sea Facebook page.

I had my iPod and listened to music as I ran. I only ever put one headphone in so I can hear what’s going on, but I find my music can spur me on if I’m flagging. I can get my legs going in time to the song, and if I notice I’m singing along I know I’ve got breath spare and can put a bit more effort into my running. When I first started running I struggled to keep a steady pace without music. Now I occasionally do run without any, sometimes because I forgot to charge my iPod and sometimes on purpose. Some of the official runs I’m planning to do later in the year don’t allow headphones, so I need to get used to occasionally doing without it.

Afterwards we went for chat and cake in Cafe Bertorelli, which is lovely but has some of the creepiest wooden dolls I’ve ever seen. I’m only allowing myself one cake a week as part of my healthy eating, so I have to make sure it’s a good one!

I swear that one in the middle blinked!!!

Hills. Take 2.

It’s 8 days to the 6k night run at Gibside, and I’m aware that one visit for the parkrun is the only practice I’ve had at running on hills. I’m not particularly worried about it, I know it’s a event where it will be perfectly acceptable to slow to a walk, but I do want to keep challenging myself. It’s not 100% flat where I run regularly, but there are gentle slopes rather than anything dramatic enough to count as a hill. So today I decided to pop back to Gibside for a practice.

With hindsight doing this immediately after a two hour walk with the dogs was not my best idea ever. I was thinking my legs would be well warmed up when in fact they were well on the way to tired out.

But I did it. I started running the parkrun route, but where it turns back continued on to circle back to the car park. I didn’t have a lot of time, and wasn’t entirely sure how far this would be, but decided some hill practice was better than none.

It is a beautiful place to run. I didn’t see anyone else running, but there were many walkers who greeted me cheerfully. A few months ago I would have felt horribly self conscious, avoiding eye contact, but now I smile and return the greetings.

It turns out that I’m still not great going uphill. I need more practice! There were still a few places I needed to walk, although only one where I had to exceed my long 30 count before running again. It didn’t feel as slow or difficult as my parkrun there.

My other challenge was keeping a steady pace on the downhill sections. The temptation was to barrel down as fast as I could, but I knew I needed to both conserve energy and stay upright.

Despite having to walk in parts, and it turning out shorter than I’d expected, it was a good run. There were more bits where I felt strong and confident than bits where I wheezed and wondered what the hell I was doing 🙂

I’m looking forward to the night run.

Billboards and bright lights.

Nothing jolts you wide awake on a Monday morning like spotting yourself on a billboard as you drive through the rush hour! This morning I spotted the Newcastle Can ad above the central motorway. As I was driving I couldn’t take a picture, it’s the same photo as was used on the metro ads last year only now lit up on an electronic billboard! Such a crowd of people that you’d only spot me if you knew me, but a strange feeling to see myself up there.

The ad on the metro. Can you spot me?

I still think I’m fairly ordinary. I don’t feel like I’ve done anything particularly exceptional. I’ve started doing all the things I knew I should have been doing for years but hadn’t got round to enough – exercising, cooking healthily from scratch, cutting back on sweet treats. It’s been a challenge and I haven’t always kept to it – yet there I am on a billboard. I hope it shows people that if I can do it anyone can.

This evening I attended my first running group. This was one of my aims for the year and it’s good to get it ticked off in January! I already know a few people who attend the group, so I didn’t feel as anxious as if I was going somewhere completely new and unknown. And my confidence for trying new things has grown a lot over the last few months.

Everyone was really friendly and welcoming. It was great to set out running in a friendly group of women, with trainer and arm lights shining brightly in the dark. I have added several things to my running wish list having seen other people’s kit!

For the first meeting of the year the group was taking it gently, which suited me well. I managed the running, even the brief speed work (although my fast is not that fast yet!) The biggest challenge to me was the 3 minutes of squats, which I imagine I’ll still be feeling tomorrow. I’m very glad I went, and will be making every effort to attend regularly.

Taking it slow

Having accepted that my recent running hiatus has affected my stamina, a conclusion I drew partly due to my failure to run one of my regular routes on Wednesday and partly due to how much my legs ached after the attempt, I’m going for a slower return to running over the next few weeks. Initially I’d planned to be straight back to 3 runs a week plus gym, but it’s clear I need to take it a bit easier and be more realistic about what my body can do.

So instead of a run today I took my teenage son and dogs out for a long walk. We did 5.6 miles in 1 hour 37 minutes, punctuated with a break for lunch. And that was with the dogs stopping to investigate every new smell and my son slowing dramatically towards the end!

It was a lovely walk, despite the cold. We sailed my son’s boat on the lake in the park, had lunch at Cafe in the Park, who gave the dogs sausages and helped me work out how to pay with my phone when I realised I’d forgotten my purse. It was cold, but not too cold while we were moving, and I definitely felt I could have gone faster.

Old dog standing guard while young dog relaxes in the Cafe.

Tomorrow I’ll be doing parkrun, possibly as a parkrun tourist elsewhere if I’m up early enough. I think two runs is plenty for my first week back at it.

I’m still keen to build my stamina and distance though. I’ve put my name into the ballot for Great North Run places, and am intending trying to get a charity place if my ballot’s unsuccessful, so I have a definite goal to aim for.

Back to it.

Today was my first run of 2018. Having spent Christmas and New Year with a rotten lingering bug I’m desperate to get back out there, knowing that the longer I go without running the more likely I am to slip back into inactivity. Although I’m still a bit sinusy I no longer feel like it’s an effort to be upright, let alone moving, and have managed a couple of days of normal activity. So on with the trainers and back to the streets!

It didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, and with hindsight I should have started with a shorter distance. My first run of the year turned into a run/walk as it turned out my lungs weren’t as recovered as I’d though they were.

But I ran the first three miles, with only the occasional leap over or detour around branches left by storm Eleanor.

After that it was walk/run to home. And given I’ve had 2 weeks out with a bug, closely after 2 weeks out with an injury I think I did comparatively well.

I always feel bad about walking though. Running is so much a battle with yourself, and once my body knows walk is an option it just doesn’t want to run any more. It becomes a struggle to go every the shortest distance at a jog. I’d rather keep running, even if it’s very slowly, than walk, because I know how hard it is for me to speed back up again. Today I couldn’t do that. I need to work on building my stamina.

And work on it I will! Next week I have my first session with a running group, and I’ve already signed up to a 6k night run in February and 5k International Women’s Day Run in March to keep me motivated.