Monday, 23 December 2013

Running through the forest & mince pies :)

Ahhh, it’s nearly Christmas woooo :-)

I have been feeling particularly festive today. A friend from my old local running club asked me along on a trail run with a club of local runners - The Delamere Spartans - who do a lot of running on the trail. So, I got up early & he picked me up and we drove to Delamere Forest, which is about 15 minutes away, but really rural and very popular with cyclists, runners and dog walkers.

Mega sleepy eyes...

I was promised tea and cake at the end, so I was determined to join them... So, we arrived at one of the forest car parks for 8.30ish am and met all the other runners and we did a really lovely undulating 5 ½ mile run through the forest and off the beaten track. We also ran up some hills and went over some stiles and ran up by some farmland also. I had such a great time. It was so much prettier and more challenging than running up by the main road all of the time. However, I did go out for a nice run yesterday evening and I got caught in the torrential downpour, and that was pretty fun. I expected there to be lots of mud on the trail today. It was indeed pretty muddy, but there is nothing better than running off road and coming back with your legs splattered in mud :-)

There were so many nice people out and about this morning as well and friendly walkers saying ‘Merry Christmas’.

At the end of the run, one of the members who hadn't joined us on the run had pulled up his car in the car park and in his boot he had massive containers of tea and coffee, homemade mince pies and some Christmas cake. It was an awesome idea. I will definitely be going running lots more with these guys in 2014 for sure.

So, now I’m sat at home, chilling out with a bottle of Doombar. I’ve packed most of my stuff for London tomorrow, although I did have a stress before and I’m a little bit concerned about these supposed stormy winds and torrential rain that is forecast. The Virgin Trains website says there will be major disruption and my train is booked for 2.35pm, but their Twitter feed and website says that no restrictions will apply on advance tickets and that we can get any train tomorrow, preferably as early as possible, to avoid disruptions. So, I did some manic packing and I’m going to get the 7.35am train into London :-)

Well I hope everyone has a lovely and amazing Christmas, with lots of scrumptious food, some nice festive running and lots of loveliness.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Running: It's not just for Christmas...

Take a look in any women’s magazine or female targeted newspaper/ internet article at the moment and all you seem to get is advice on ‘How To Fit Into That LBD (little black dress)’, ‘How To Burn Off Those Mince Pies’, 'Planning Your Low Carb Christmas'  or  'Drop A Dress Size For The Party Season’. It all makes for rather depressing and repetitive reading...

Don’t get me wrong, I originally started to run to help me lose weight years ago. There was a lot of weight to lose. But I always told myself that I wanted to do something positive with the weight loss. I don’t believe in diets. They are simply not sustainable long-term. I didn’t want to live my life counting absolutely every crumb that I consumed. Instead, I decided to change my entire lifestyle and running became a major part of my life and who I am. 

I feel the same way about advice given to women in magazines during the summer, advising us how to ‘Look fab in an itsy bitsy bikini’. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look attractive or feel great, but quick fixes sadden me. It worries me to think of the after effects of such restrictive diets; to think of people punishing themselves, only to momentarily lose weight and then 'fall off the wagon' and pile on even more. Weight loss isn’t just for Christmas... (Or summer). I read a Daily Mail article - - entitled 'Tis the season to get jogging: Women will have to run for five hours to burn off the calories consumed on Christmas Day’ and although slightly intriguing, my main thoughts were ‘For goodness sake, it’s bloody Christmas, live a little!’ 

My other thoughts prompted me to think of how grateful I am that running is what I absolutely love to do all year. I don’t have some dreaded obligation hung around my neck. I would quite willingly go out and run for 5+ hours because I enjoy it. So I say, let’s all enjoy Christmas, eat lots of dins, be merry, make the best of ourselves, enjoy what we love and be happy. 

Sleepy eyed

And to those who don’t have an active hobby now, seek something out that you would love to try this New Year and don’t be intimidated by phrases such as ‘change of lifestyle’ – it could be the best thing that ever happens to you...

Monday, 9 December 2013

Running Under Darkness.

Now, I’m not a morning person by any means. I’m also not the most organised person in the world by any means. But, a strange thing has occurred over the last few weeks and I have found myself making lots of lists and actually (religiously) marking down things and goals in my calendar. This week I have taken it one step further by utilising a little app on my mobile and colour coding lots of tasks (and adding in lots of cute picture icons like snowmen...). 

Another miraculous thing to come out of this is that I have been going running at 6am many mornings. I know you’re all shocked, you should be.  I am. And more alarmingly I have found that I absolutely love it. I love running when it’s dark outside. Its one of the best bits of ultra-running, that night section followed by the glorious sunrise.

I’m no stranger to evening running, but I find that as much as I love running, getting myself through that door and out into the cold evening air later on in the day can be a struggle. So, morning running has been my best form of defence against my reluctance to un-snuggle myself off of the sofa. Fellow runners also seem to be pretty friendly in the morning – not that I normally always encounter grumpy runners – and it’s a nice start to the day to exchange a simple ‘Good morning’ whilst out running. 

This morning's 6am-er was full of interesting bird noises, like all the birdies were talking to each other. One bird sounded like a ringing telephone and another boisterous group of birdies sounded like they were wolf whistling. Lots of smiles were brought to my face. So, my thoughts for today are that early morning running is a brilliant way to go. Try it. I love it and I’m a nocturnal night runner ;-)

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Canadian Adventure & Vulture Bait 50K Trail Race

Canada was absolutely amazingly wonderful. We did so much in such a short space of time. And, like everyone told me I would, I fell in love with the place. All the leaves on the trees were beautiful changing colours and we had pretty great weather. I packed my case expecting it to be really chilly, but the first week was scorching hot. The skies were blue and it was sunglasses, ice-cream and shorts weather. On the ice-cream note, I had the biggest and tastiest ice-creams ever. The Canadians sure do love their food. So, I won’t give you a day-by-day account of our adventures, but I will give you a mismatched excitable account of things that spring to mind:

·         I am still having Tim Horton’s withdrawals. This convenient bagel, doughnut and coffee provider is something of a Canadian heritage (or so I have been informed). It was great for a very cheap coffee and I loved the novelty of it.

·         Muskoka Harvest Ale and Flying Monkey IPA are some of the best ales I have tasted – I’m so sad we don’t have them :(

·         When walking around trails, look out for weird orange and black furry caterpillars and cute snakes.

·         Ice Hockey is awesome!  I didn’t know what was going on and then about five minutes in, I was hooked. The atmosphere is great and our team won on penalties, yey!

·         Halloween stores are so much fun. They take it all so seriously over there and I love that they make such a big effort. There was a particularly fantastic advert from a company called Value Village, which is still stuck in my head and cracks me up and went like: ‘You can be anything, even a zebra with a big green moustache. You can be a duck. You can be a ref. You can be a duck that’s also a ref. You can be anything, a steampunk pickle or a zombie hotdog! Sexy Ben Franklin, funky future Ghandi lalalalaaa’ You have to witness the video on YouTube:

·         Root Beer (yep, all the healthy stuff...) is very addictive and yet strangely medicinal- tasting. And A&W burger was also a guilty pleasure...

·         Beagles are the cutest doggies – we helped look after a Beagle called Emmet and he was the cutest thing ever. He didn’t bark, in fact, he didn’t make any noise. He had the most adorable big floppy ears and friendly temperament.

·         Niagara Falls impressed me much more than I thought it would. It is amazing to see such a vast amount of water plummeting over the edge like that! However, the casinos and various amusements bewildered me...

·         Poutine (see: is such a simple, yet strange foodstuff. Imagine chips covered in strange gravy and cheese curds = really unhealthy, but really tasty carb loading food.

·         Canadian Thanksgiving is crazy. I have never been so full in all of my life. Also, pumpkin pie is delicious and who knew that cheese went so well with apple pie?!

·         We went to Canada’s Wonderland Theme Park for their ‘Scare fest’ /  Halloween night and if you run a 50k the day before visiting, you really do blend in pretty well with the people impersonating zombies (well, my walk was pretty spot on!) Also, wooden rollercoasters and runaway train rides are much scarier in Canada. They are also very rickety and they hurt.

·         I wish we had a Bulk Barn, because it is such a great place to go and pick up snacks before an ultra, which me and George did before Vulture Bait 50k.

·         I learned/ rediscovered (I should know this by now, I’ve run around enough lakes!) that not all runs around lakes are flat and that the clue is often in the name. ‘Vulture Bait’ was definitely tougher and muddier that I thought!

Talking of Vulture Bait 50k trail race, here is a quick ramble about that... Well, we got up pretty early and set off, with Emmet the dog in tow towards London, Ontario. We stopped off at a Tim Horton’s on the way & got a much needed coffee and breakfast bagel, which Emmet tried to eat. Arriving at Race HQ was all very strange and different; none of the usual suspects here! We registered and got our numbers and timing chip and goodie bag. Interestingly, the goodie bag was full of chewing gum and teeth related stuff like floss and toothpaste and a toothbrush. Well, I guess ultra-runners do need to brush their teeth a fair bit after all the sugary energy snacking. Vulture Bait consisted of two laps around a rather expansive ‘lake’, which looked more like the sea... Runners were made up of those running the 50k and those that were running 1 lap. The course was marked by little flags in the ground.

Before I knew it, we were off. The first lap was pretty tight packed, because there were obviously more runners on narrow trails and so everyone was bunched together. This was good in some ways, because I got into a steady consistent pace and I was running pretty well. Having said this, the trails were a lot tougher than I had though they would be. They were so narrow and winding. The run did encircle a lake, but we didn’t actually get to see too much of it. However, a memorable moment with regards to the lake came about six miles in when I saw a really huge deer go for a swim! Its head and antlers were poking out of the water and it was a great sight to witness. And, all I could think was that I didn’t know deer could swim haha! I also saw a deer about 1 mile into the run when it ran across the trail just ahead of us...glad we missed that!

So, the run made its way through narrow and very leafy/ rooty/ muddy woodland paths. It really was a beautiful course, with tall trees and nature surrounding us and every now and again you would catch a glimpse of the water. However, because there was a lot of potential for tripping, you really had to be vigilant and pay attention to where you were putting your feet. Therefore, I found that my eyes were often focused on the ground, instead of relaxing a bit and taking in the wonderful scenery.

Now, before the race started we were told that there was a 30% of rain forecast for that day. And the Canadians reassured us that this meant that it basically wouldn’t rain. However, 17 miles into the run the heavens opened and the second lap was a mud bath. Fortunately, I didn’t slip over until about the 27 mile mark and it was a good ‘body plant’. The whole right side of my body was literally covered in mud. However, I wasn’t hurt and that was the main thing, I was just extremely dirty. Fortunately, there was a stream crossing where we had gotten our feet wet in the first lap and this time around it was a very welcome sight. I stopped for a few minutes to wash my face and onwards I went.

Aid station-wise, everything was great. They had pretzels and various sweeties and chopped banana and Hammer Nutrition stuff. The marshals were also super friendly! I was wearing my 100 Marathon Club top with my name on the back and whenever anyone wanted to get past or you were at a CP, people actually used my name. There was one particular lady who was so friendly and was driving around the accessible bits of the course to offer support and on Lap Two, she was shouting ‘And here’s Liz, Go Liz!’ as I ran towards her. It was just so friendly, considering my name was on my back and she had obviously remembered it from Lap One. Made me smile.

So, it was a beautiful, yet tricky and very muddy 50k. I was so happy as I legged it towards the finish, as I thought it would never arrive at one point and it had now gotten really chilly. Running across the finish line, there was the same fantastic support that had greeted us all the way around the course. And of course there was George, who had not long finished and his sister and her boyfriend :). 

At the end there was a really nice buffet of food for runners to pick at and I felt like I had earned it. Normally I just think, ‘Well a 50k is not much more than a marathon, it’s just a long marathon’, but it is easy to forget that even marathons can still be tricky and this was definitely that, so I felt like I put in a good effort. I also got talking to an English guy at the finish and it turned out that his wife was from my hometown! It is a small world indeed.

After the race, we drove a short distance to Brandon’s parents’ house (George’s sisters’ boyfriend), where his parents cooked us the most massive post-race steak. This was accompanied by Caesar salad, jacket potato, beer and wine :-) This was possibly the best post-race meal I have ever had.

And so, this ramble concludes my Canadian adventure.  I realise that it mainly consists of talking about food and that my adventure largely consisted of eating lots of food and drinking lots of coffee and beer. For all of these reasons, I really miss Canada. I had such an amazing time with George and I couldn’t have asked for a better holiday or a better travel companion :-)

The End.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Chester Marathon & Lovely Things...

The weekend was absolutely amazingly lovely. The end (only joking). Not joking about the amazingly lovely bit... :)

I’ve been looking forward to October for ages, not only because all the best people are born in October... ahem :-p but also because lovely George had entered me into Chester Marathon and we are also going to Canada tomorrow and then when we get back from Canada it’s my birthday. So, it’s just all so exciting at the moment.

I’ve not been on a plane for years, so I’m pretty excited – I really like the buzz of airports & planes. I’m easily pleased. I’m finally packed, although I’ve probably forgotten something. At least I know I have packed my running kit, which I’m going to need as we’re doing the Vulture Bait 50k in Ontario next weekend.

Anyway, here’s a little ramble about Chester Marathon:

Chester is my home marathon and it was two years to the day since I had done my 100th marathon there at Chester. I’d not done a race for ages and it had been even longer since I’d done a city marathon with support and goodie bags and things.

We got to the start in loads of time and I really liked the layout of everything. Top marks for porta-loos. I don’t think I have ever seen so many portable loo’s lined up like that before. There were thousands of people everywhere, so they were obviously definitely needed, but it was still good to see top notch organisation like that. The baggage drop-off points were really well organised also, as was the little ‘race village’.

I got to see some of the usual suspects, but there were so many people everywhere that I didn’t get to see as many as I would have liked to.

Me and George had decided to run this one together and cross the line holding hands, awww (bleeeurggh ;-) ). However, he is a lot faster than I am. But, having done a lot of ultras lately he assured me that he wanted to take it a little easier. We positioned ourselves – well, I positioned ourselves - near the 4.30 pace marker. I started my Garmin as soon as the gun went off, as I find it gives you a cheeky little psychological ‘advantage’ when you look at your watch later on in the race and give you a few minutes to play with. Well, it makes some sort of weird sense to me. So, we were off and started to run from the race course, running into the city and skirting round past Chester Cathedral and lots of familiar places for me. Passing under the clock and past some of my favourite pubs, we now headed out of the city.

I felt pretty knackered for a little while if I’m honest. We had been to the zoo the day before and had a few carb loading drinks in Liverpool on Friday night and I didn’t sleep much in the week from all the anticipation of actually doing fun things and a marathon again. I had decided in advance not to look at the pace on my Garmin, so I changed the screen. I’d look at it towards the end of the race to make sure I wasn’t going too slooowwly, but other than that, I didn’t want to be a slave to my Garmin. 

We started at 4.30 marathon pace and to my delight; we had caught up with 4.15 marathon pacers by 8miles in. I was running well until about 15 miles in and we even managed to outrun the 4.15 pacers, yey. However, I hadn’t anticipated the weather being so nice. Okay, it’s not Spain or something, but it felt so warm out there. My body was so warm, but I was so sweaty that my arms started to go cold and then I just felt disorientated a bit and I decided to break my run for the first time in 15miles and run/ walk for a bit. I was so thirsty and I made the most of the drinks stations. I was even pouring water down my back and on my head, which I never do. I just felt so overheated somehow.  The race was sponsored by Lucozade and prior to the start, I had been hesitant at the prospect of taking any Lucozade gels or drinks as I used to find that they were horrible and sickly. Yet, on seeing all the swanky new packaging and really in need of an energy boost, I gave in. I’m glad I did. The orange Luzcozade drink on offer was really rather tasty. It just tasted like a really nice orange juice and it definitely helped perk me up a bit when I was really in a bit of a lull.

Once out of the city, the majority of the race was run on lovely scenic country roads, passing through idyllic villages. There was so much lovely local support out there, which was really nice to see. Maybe it’s because we ran near Farndon, where I ran one of my first ever races and one of only two 10k races that I have done (I hate running 10k races), but I started to get a little ‘bored’ with the country roads. I wanted some sights and city-ness. I kind of needed some distractions to take my mind off my limp and energy-less self.

At around Mile 23, I perked up again and pulled myself together. We were still on pace for a 4.30 marathon time, but I was definitely holding George back, who was running much better than me. In the last few miles, I saw a couple of runners receiving medical attention. One lady had an oxygen mask over her face and was being stretched out by paramedics on the pavement and one man looked like he had collapsed. It’s always startling to see these things, because I’m not used to seeing it at the usual, smaller scale events that I do.
With two miles to go, I was in a good frame of mind again. I love the ending of this race and I love running past the river and ultimately, back onto the race course. Approaching the race course was actually quite emotional. There were so many people and so much support! The sprint was on and me and George crossed the line hand in hand, whilst the commentator over the speakers was like ‘And here come two runners, hand in hand’ – made me chuckle.

The medal and finishing area was so well organised also. There was no confusion and so much friendliness from the marshals. They were shaking people’s hands and congratulating them and I just thought it was a really nice touch. Goodie bags were given out efficiently and I got my long sleeved technical t-shirt no problem. Sorted. And then we found a spot of the grass and decided to have a little lie down.... Ahhh.
All in all, I had such a lovely day. And then we proceeded to find a pub and seek out Guinness.

So, there we go, a bit of a rushed blog there, but I have to go get my train now and then my bus to London town. There are likely lots of spelling mistakes in this too...

Oh, and we finished in 4:25:46 – This is the fastest time I’ve done in so long and now I know I can run faster than this again on a better day. Pretty emotional after being so slow for so long...even if I did used to be a consistent 4hr something marathon runner...but, slowly, I’m clawing back the speed :)

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Becoming more logical...

“The Paradoxical Commandments

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.” 

― Kent M. Keith, The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council


I’ve really felt the need to clear my head this last week. I was just feeling in a rut, lacking in social interaction and bored by the monotony of not having work, but looking for jobs constantly & then being so far away from those that I care about. I like to be busy and I like a challenge and I’m not being challenged...well, my patience is a little. I know positive mental attitude counts for a lot, but I’ve been really lacking in that of late. You reach a point and you start to get a bit whiney and forget all the positive aspects of your life. And the thing is there are a lot of positive aspects.

For starters, I’m going on holiday to Canada with my lovely boyfriend in October...I’m so incredibly excited and I absolutely cannot wait. And despite the on-going job battle, meeting him this year has been amazing. Also this year, I completed my second Grand Union Canal 145 mile race & Thames Path 100 miler. Lots of great things have happened. I think sometimes, I just get too excitable and I constantly like to have things to look forward to and I’m like ‘what’s next, what’s next...?’

So yesterday I got a lot off my chest and I sat myself down and I decided that being this down-trodden moaning misery isn’t me and I don’t want to be that. There are lots of amazing things out there and I need to cast my mind and my eye on the good stuff. Consequently, I got proactive and I searched for lots of jobs, renewed my ‘enthusiasm’ for applying for jobs and applied for things. I also de-cluttered my junk and things I don’t use or wear and ebayed lots. And I will continue to do all these things, to take all these steps, to get to where I want to be.

Of course, one of my main grievances was that I can’t do any racing at the moment, because I simply can’t afford to do it. That hurts, because it is so much a part of me.  Now, I’ve spent a few days not running which has been partly down to feeling down and unmotivated, but also down to a hurty knee – which is funny because when I’m doing lots of races and things I never seem to have these aches, but now I’m not I do. However, today I decided to get out of that door and go and run.

I put my sunglasses on, because the evening sun was so beautiful, but glaring and I ran to The Wirral Way.  I took my phone with me and took some piccies to remind myself of how lovely this run is and how much I like this trail.

I saw cyclists, walkers, and horse riders and on the way back home I saw a friendly runner. It always strikes me as calming and just lovely (I can’t think of the words, but lovely describes a lot of nice things...) to see friendly people out and about, enjoying the same surroundings as you are. I like this mutual appreciation of the outdoors and of nature.

So, today has been a nice day. It hasn’t been super eventful, but it’s not been bad and I’m getting out of my rut. And to top it off I had a lovely run.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Missing DOMS

Yep. I'm missing that aching, the sort where you have to walk tentatively down the stairs backwards or sideways like a crab. Treasure those aches and pains fellow runners, for they are a sign of great achievement and an adventure well-lived...

So, it’s been a while again, but on here seems to be my only form of company, for what has been a really lonely week of complete and utter boredom. I guess that's just the price you pay when you don’t have any money or a job or seemingly any friends that live within close proximity to you. And my car is off the road. This isn’t a rant as such. I’m just clearing my mind...I think it’d be less constructive to not express any of this. I think I’d just go out of my mind.

I need a sense of achievement, to do something again. I actually miss DOMS. It was Ridgeway 85 this weekend, but I just couldn’t afford to do it. It got me thinking back to 3 years ago when I did Ridgeway85 – I was working in retail at the time (not a profession that I went to uni for, but at least it was a job), which wasn’t amazing, but at least I got to do races, eh... I remember going into work on the bank holiday Monday, the day after Ridgeway, where I had to stand up all day and spray my feet with cold spray to lessen the discomfort...yep I used to be hard-core. 

I guess my point is that I no longer feel ‘hard-core’, and I’m missing the thrill of the long distances. Not trying to be overly dramatic, but honest about it, it’s like a drug and I simply cannot afford my next fix. And what the fix entails is an adrenalin buzz, a sense of achievement, an adventure, an experience, a sense of self and social interaction all manifested in that one event. I keep all of my race numbers and it’s sad to look at them all; the crumpled, weathered, mud-splattered, gel drizzled race numbers that all went on that journey with me and are now all holed up in some dingy bedroom. It’s hard to remember that I ran with them. I’m probably a little too sentimental. I just feel out of it and I don’t want to be.

I am applying for jobs and things, so I’m not, not doing anything about this. I’m just missing my running spark and my calendar is looking decidedly empty. I don’t feel like an ultra-runner anymore.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Happy trail training :-)

I went for a really lovely run today. I ran a new route that I always think about doing, but today I finally thought, ‘why not, why haven’t I done this before, what’s stopping me?’ (Sounds quite dramatic haha) So, I’ve been a bit lazy on the run/ training front of late. I do a lot of weights and cross training stuff, but I’ve been a lazy runner. So, whilst I have been occupying my days with a mega job search (someone give me a job, please...), I have told myself that I have to run at least 5 miles a day, most days. This is good chance for me to get mega fit.

Alas, my Garmin is still broken (although I know some people don't like Garmins *cough*, George...) & so I have to ‘mapmyrun’ everything. This is okay and I had weaned myself off wearing my Garmin in most events and training runs, but it’s always good to have it on me because it’s so easy to see how far you ran afterwards. Anyway, I got myself out of the door and I went for a run. I’m glad I took my sunglasses with me, because I kept getting dive-bombed and kissed by June-bug type insects and flying things. So I ran to Hooton railway station & then I met up with the Wirral Way footpath.

The Wirral Way is a path on the track of an old railway that goes from West Kirby to Hooton in mid-Wirral offering superb views over the Dee Estuary to Wales. Originally the railway formed a circuit of Wirral and this is the missing link.

It is situated within Wirral Country Park. Wirral Country Park is a place of contrasts. Birds nest in the dense hedges or feed on the berries in winter, and you may see up to ten kinds of butterfly in summer. From the boulder-clay cliffs look out over the Dee Estuary across its 31,500 acres to the Welsh shore, 5 miles away, and on a clear day you can see the familiar outline of Moel Famau in the Clwydian Hills. The estuary's ever-changing light, broad vistas and westerly sunsets reflected in the mudflats and the sea are a constant delight.  (I totally stole this from the LDWA website: ).

I think the reason I never run a lot along the Wirral Way on my own is because I get really paranoid about dogs...I am a bit of a scaredy cat. I know that I run all sorts of public footpaths on my own during organised events, but somehow I convince myself that this is somehow safer, because there are lots of us out there all at once. Anyway, I pushed this paranoia and scaredy-cat-ness to the back of my mind, put on my brave-girl face and went running.  It was a couple of miles up to where I joined the footpath and then I clocked up about 3 miles out-and-back along the path itself. I ran as far as Willaston and then I ran back. However, I got to thinking that I can run so much further along here. I could run to West Kirby or Parkgate; so many possibilities. And there were no scary doggies. It was actually very quiet along the path. It was lovely to get out there in the countryside, away from traffic and cars and really take in my surroundings. I very much enjoyed this run. Overall I did almost 8.5 miles, so I exceeded my ‘at least 5 miles a day’ target. Hurrah!

I was so hot and sweaty afterwards that I had a lovely orange ice lolly :-) Happy Friday everyone...

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Thunder (literally...and lightning) Run

Note: You are about to read a bit of a long and winding ramble. It might go round in circles, much like the race in question. It will probably come across as quite negative, but I’m just being honest from my perspective. From what I could tell, a hell of a lot of runners out there has a fantastic time & well done to everyone who did participate. There was definitely camaraderie going on for sure. Now, brace yourself for my undulating bloggage...


I love running long and I love running trails and I’m pretty comfortable with staying awake for long periods of times and enduring bad weather and sleeplessness. However, I also really like to go somewhere; I like to go on a journey. I like to travel from point A – Z and end up in some place new from where I started, knowing that I got so far away with my own two feet. I love it. I love the adventure and above all, it’s exciting.

I think it is true to say that I have rather avoided the whole ‘24hour race’ scenario. Like track marathons and lots of laps, this scenario fills me with a sense of running-dread. However, I was willing to give Thunder Run a try. The advantage of this course is that each loop is 10k in length and on off-road trail, through grassy paths and woodland. There were also a few hills in there, which added variety. For me personally, I need that variety. Sure, I’ve done the Brathay 10in10 and I’ve done marathons with multiple laps, but for a 24hour race, I wouldn’t just want to be running around a track. Hats off to the running nutters I know out there who do amazingly at 24hour races and just keep on and on, but I know that running around the same course repeatedly for a full 24 hours just isn’t where my main strengths lie.

So, whilst contemplating this event, the course offered some positive points to me. Furthermore, I was in a female pair with Sarah Aston, so it would be a fun experience and I wouldn’t be in it alone. There was a sense of camaraderie and ‘let’s do this, let’s go for it, rarrrgh!’ After all, there were only a small number of female teams and we were anticipating that we could in theory, do quite well.

We arrived on the Friday night and camped, ready to get going at midday on Saturday. Sarah did the first lap since she had done thunder run last year and knew how it all worked, whereas I was a bit clueless, but I soon picked it up. You basically wait in a cordoned off ‘holding area’ and spot your runner as they are running back in. Then, they give you the wrist band and off you go on your lap. At first it was hard to spot your runner coming in, as there were so many people all crowded around at the same time and lots of hustle and bustle, but I definitely got into the swing of things.

For most of the day it was boiling hot. It was so warm out there and we took a little longer at some loops that we had planned, but nothing too slow and it didn’t really matter because we had a full 24hours. By 7.30pm, the weather had changed dramatically. Thunder Run was living up to its name and there was quite a sustained thunder storm. I love thunder storms, but I’d rather have not been out running in it. I think it must have rained for the next 7 hours and the lightning was a little scary. Needless to say this drastically transformed the course and pathways became flooded. It was a mud bath out there.

You know that bit in Jurassic Park, when that big dude is out in the rain, with that canister full of dinosaur sperm (or something like that...) & it is pouring down with rain and he can’t see, and he loses his glasses and then that scary dinosaur starts attacking him and all the pathways are really muddy and rainy and scary....?! Well, that film clip kept popping into my mind!

Ultimately, I think my main grievance was that it felt to me that there were hundreds of different people all out there at once all running entirely different races. Yep, it was a race, but it was more of a rush for some than others. If you’re in a team of 8, you’re going to be able to run faster than those in a team of 2 or a solo runner. I love running through woods and I love the trail, but I couldn’t enjoy it. Some of the paths were very narrow, with exposed tree roots etc. I wasn’t plodding along, I was going at a fair speed, but obviously, teams wanted to win and were going hell for leather. That’s fine, but I constantly felt pushed to the side and in the way. On a few occasions I felt like I had to keep stopping to let people past me. But it’s difficult, with there being so many different sizes of team on the same course at the same time and I’m not sure how it could be rectified, but I just didn’t find it enjoyable.

It got much worse later on in the day, following the mega thunderstorm and monsoon style rain. Much of the course became a mud-bath and flooded and tree roots became hidden, running became slippery and with the low-light, some bits got a little treacherous out there. I don’t mind rain so much and I did GUCR last year in the pouring rain for 40+ hours, but it started to become dangerous in places. I was taking it easier because I couldn’t see properly and the paths were so narrow and now very muddy, but there was still a constant stream of speedsters itching to overtake. Again, this is all well and good, but a few times these speedier runners were flying all over the place and stumbling and because they were just throwing themselves about I nearly ended up falling into bushes and tripping also.

I just got fed up.

Things came to a head for me after my double-lap, which I finished at around 11pm-ish. All together I had run 30 miles. It was okay. Actually, we were in second place out of five female only pairs for quite a while. Mysteriously, during the night an extra team that had not been on there all day appeared. I think we eventually got pushed down to fourth, but we had basically given up by then, so all was ok.  We definitely deserved our medals though – we put in some hard work.

So, there I was after my last lap. I was soaked to the skin. I was beyond soaked. I was shivering uncontrollably. I was so cold that my whole body was aching, purely from shivering so violently. Stood in the food tent, I came across some solo runner friends who had changed into normal dry clothes. They had decided to rest and sleep until morning and then go out again when it was daylight and hopefully no longer raining. In my mind, I knew that I just didn’t want to go back out again. My original plan had been to run 50-60 miles, but that just wasn’t going to happen. I was running around the course, cursing it. My mind and heart wasn’t in it and then my body followed. I started to feel quite nauseous and whilst I was in the food tent I bought a baguette. I forced some food down because I really didn’t feel too good. Then I summoned the courage to walk the five minutes or so back to where we were camped. I just didn’t want to move, and yet, I was just stood there shivering.

I got back to camp and my pop-up tent had flooded. This wasn’t a surprise to me and fortunately Sarah had given me here car keys before she had gone back out to run her laps. Once in the car, I just sat there, you guessed it, shivering – shivering like a mad woman! I must have looked quite funny and mental now I think about it. I was shaking my head and muttering to myself that I didn’t want to go back out there.  I managed to rummage through my bag and dry myself with a towel and put on some dry clothes. My towel was soaked. I tried to snuggle down for a snooze, but at this point, I was still dreading the possibility that I might have to go back out. I didn’t want to let Sarah down. Near the end of her first lap, she came by the car, since where we were camped was on the course route, just past the 9K mark. There was still a possibility I could have to go back out, so I set my alarm on my phone, but deep down I knew that I really, really didn’t want to go back out there. A little while later, Sarah came back around, on the end of her second lap. She had some ‘bad news’, she said; she just couldn’t go back out there, it was muddy, it was dangerous, and we just weren’t running to anywhere in particular that would make it somehow purposeful, just running around in muddy circles. This news was far from bad for me, I was the happiest I had been in hours. I was so happy that the decision not to go back out was mutual.

So, right now, I’m sat here and I’m wondering, now that I’m writing about this around 4 days after the actual event whether or not my opinions of this event have changed. Was it all as bad as I had thought at the time? Could I have done more and gone on to enjoy it? Well, I guess you can always do more. I could have run further and kept on going. But, at what cost? I really think it got quite dangerous out there and although I had wanted to do well, it just didn’t matter that much to me that I wanted to cause myself serious injury. Also, a lot of it just became un-runnable, it was that muddy.

It got me thinking about GUCR in 2012 and how wet and miserable the weather was on that weekend. I was soaked to the skin and I had to wear a binbag and I knew from the very beginning in Birmingham that I had 145 miles ahead of me and that those miles would likely be very wet. Yet, I was so willing to endure this and I never once contemplated giving up. As extreme as it sounds, I would have done anything to finish. Similarly, a few years ago, I ran Hardmoors 55 in Yorkshire. This 55 mile trail race passes through open moorland and pretty high ground. The terrain is very rugged and we were faced with patches of snow, biting wind and torrential, unrelenting rain. It got so bad that more than half the field dropped out and many ended up with hypothermia. Yet, I was determined to finish it and indeed I did. 

So, I know I have the mentality and strength to overcome tough weather conditions and distance and keep going. I think the difference is that on other events, I had a clearly defined goal: to reach that finish line. Furthermore, everyone else running those races had the same goal in some respect, to go on a journey and reach the finish. On Thunder Run, I didn’t have that sense of purpose and I just grew frustrated, because even though I was trying to do well, I wasn’t going anywhere and I wasn’t going on a journey. I was running around in miserable circles. I think I’ve learnt some valuable lessons from this event and I know now that 24 hour thingy-magigs really aren’t my thing...