Tag Archives: half marathon

Victoria Park Half 2018: New PB.

If I had to name my worst races ever, then the Victoria Park half in March 2016 would definitely be up there. I was on antibiotics at the time for an infected blister on my toe and they had really messed up my gut. I thought I was going to have to drop out for the majority of the race, there were many toilet stops and many negative thoughts but I somehow got round- I think it’s my slowest ever half though not including trail ones.

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So when I found out my brother was signed up to do the race this weekend, I have no idea why I was so keen to join. The race has no big pull being 6.5 laps, but maybe I felt I had a little unfinished business. I got to the start super early and it was utterly freezing so I was delighted to get moving after about 40 minutes of standing in the cold. The first mile clicked over in just over 8.30 pace which I was surprised at as I felt we were moving much slower and I felt very comfortable.

The half marathon started about 30 minutes before the 5k and 10k, so it was never crazy busy on the course but there was always plenty of others around on each lap especially the middle few. Having done the race before I knew to keep track of how many laps as I had done as it can get quite confusing especially if you don’t have a GPS to know how many miles you have done.

I ran with my brother and we spent the whole time chatting, spotting dogs (4 dachshunds!!) and looking out for our cheering crew who deserve medals for standing in the cold for 2 hours. I warmed up very quickly once we got going, and although it got a bit windier later on in the race I would say it was perfect running conditions.

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The miles were ticking over, and my miles seemed to hover consistently between 8.30-8.40, again I was surprised at how comfortable this felt, especially as I had had a heavy training week and my legs had felt pretty shit since being ill over New Year.

I had a medjool date between miles 7-9 for a little energy boost, and I had my hydration pack so I felt well hydrated the whole way. As a side note the amount of plastic bottles used in races is appalling, even a small race like this produced a horrifying amount of plastic waste. I wish more races would follow Centurion  and get rid of plastic bottles/cups. Bringing your own cup to fill up on route or carrying your own flasks or hydration pack should be the rule and not the exception. Rant over.

I was surprised by how good I felt around mile 9 and I felt I was running well within myself and that I had never felt that strong towards the end of a race before. Usually I go out too hard and then the wheels come off at the end, but not today, I had a lot left in the tank.

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We had started to slow slightly from mile 9 onwards, and at mile 12 I realised I was quite close to PB and my brother wanted to slow down a bit, so I went off ahead and told him to stick behind me. The last 2 miles were my fastest of the day- I can’t believe I ran a sub 8 minute mile for the last mile and a bit of a half- and for the first time I actually felt like I was working hard. I finished in 1.53.09 which was surprisingly a PB of over a minute, which I was really chuffed with considering how easy it had felt and how much talking we had done the whole way round. It was also a 10k PB as I haven’t done one in about 4 years. It will be interesting to do a half when I actually have trained for one as I feel I can go a lot quicker and I’m still very early on in my long distance training for the year.

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I hung around for a little bit to chat and then I headed off on the canal for my extra 4 miles of my training run. I didn’t want to do the miles before and stand around in the cold getting stiff and I’m kind of glad I didn’t as I don’t think it would have been a PB either. I took the wrong canal path and ended up totally lost in Stratford and Bow, but discovered a new running path and eventually got to where I was going.

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This race has gone way up in my estimation after 2016. Yes it is still 6.5 laps, but I think if you have someone to do it with it ticks by pretty quickly. It’s great mental training too, if you can do 6+ laps of a course I think it prepares you for other challenges ahead and makes you a stronger runner mentally. It’s a fairly small but well organised set up, there were ample portaloos, race pack pick up was quick and easy and you get a decent medal for 20 quid too.

A PB is always a good place to start the year, hopefully onwards and upwards.

Val Nolasco Half Marathon O’ahu Hawaii 2017

I had arrived in San Francisco on the Thursday evening, spent two days there with the other half who had already been there for a few days for a work conference, and on Saturday we flew to O’ahu Hawaii. It seemed like a brilliant idea to sign up for a race which happened to be on while we there, and thankfully I was still jet lagged as hell and not on Pacific time as it made the 4am wake up call a lot less painful on our first full day in Hawaii.

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The night before we had arrived to an absolute monsoon, our mobiles kept getting emergency flash flood messages sent to them, which I’ve never experienced before. Anyway, it ruined our dinner plans, and we ended up in a ramen place where I can only describe the food as inedible- after picking at a bit of rice, we went to the supermarket and picked up some snacks for an in-room picnic, not the ideal half marathon prep.

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The start in Kapiolani park was about 15 mins walk from our hotel, so we set off in the dark to the start where we picked up our timing chips and waited for the race to get under way. Thank god the race started at 5.30am (an hour before sunrise) as it was already 23 degrees and extremely humid.

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This was Nick’s first race, and we ran it side by side, I let him set the pace and push when he felt good. It was completely dark for most of the first half, so we couldn’t actually see the ocean, or most of the scenic views. There were police officers marshaling and closing off the roads along the route. There were water stations every couple of miles, most of which we poured over our selves rather than drinking.

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There was a little more elevation than I expected as we wound round the outside of Diamond Head crater- thankfully not up it though. From about mile 3 onwards, Nick started to go a bit faster, and I was finding it really tough going but we stuck together. We maintained a steady pace as we headed into a long out and back on a highway between miles 5-9, this is where we ran past Zoe who I had no idea was in Hawaii, or running the same race as I had deleted social media for the trip- small world!

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This section was a bit of a soul sucker, though the occasional mizzle shower provided welcome relief and there was at least something to look at with the other runners heading the other way. It was light by this point, though the sights weren’t all that scenic most of the time. My personal highlight was seeing a wire-haired dachshund at mile 9, the same dog we have, they aren’t all that common so it made my day.

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We had to really start slowing down for the last 3 miles and just try and hold on for the finish. There was a little more incline and it was so hot by this point we just wanted to finish. We went past some very nice neighborhoods and properties and before long we were winding back round the park and towards the finish with a little kick at the end to make it in under 2.05. Not bad for a hot, hilly half and especially not for your first-and last-half marathon on your home island for Nick.

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Hawaii was an incredible trip, and this was a brilliant way to kick-start our holiday.

North Down’s Way Half 2017

Over the weekend I did my first race since the NDW50 in May and ironically I was returning back to the North Down’s Way. To be honest after the race I didn’t think I would want to see the NDW for a long time, but when I saw this race, I couldn’t resist signing up.

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The race started in Reigate, which involved an early start for me (I left at 6.10am for a 9.30 race) with a 10 min walk, bus, tube, 3 trains and a 27 minute walk up Reigate hill to get to race HQ! Next time I am joining zipcar and driving. The registration was quick and pain-free in a hotel alongside the very busy main road. After a short walk, we got to the start and after the race briefing headed off at 9.30am.

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The race was an out and back along the worst section of the NDW50 from Reigate to Boxhill- I think the 7 mile section including the Boxhill steps took me about 2 hours during NDW50. There was also a marathon race on the day, and they set off 30 minutes before us half runners and had to do two laps of the out and back. The race started from the top of Reigate hill so as we were already up the first few miles were mostly flat, with a few gentle inclines and that savage downhill down Colley Hill, I’ve never run down it only walked up it, and I didn’t realise quite how steep it was until I tried to run down it. I’m a pretty terrible descender, and as I had gone for road shoes, I didn’t have much grip so tip toed or walked down the steeper bits, being passed by those who were braver on the descent. I was already dreading having to come back up it later on.

The first few miles featured a lot of single track, and as it was busy-ish towards the start, we just sort of fell into line, and just went at the pace of the person in front. The route was incredibly overgrown, I couldn’t believe how much everything had grown since May- a machete would have been useful- and sections of the course involved running through nettles and other foliage that was across the route, or ducking into it when another runner was coming the opposite way.

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After about 4ish miles, the quicker marathon runners started coming back towards us, this was a little tricky on some of the single track, but I just stopped and moved off to the side if anyone was coming back towards me. Miles 4-6 involved a little climbing as we headed to the turn around point and the Box Hill lookout point. I wasn’t sure if we had to go down the steps at the other side of Box Hill and come back up but thankfully we didn’t.

There were aid stations around mile 3.5 and mile 6.6 at the turnaround point, I just stopped to refill my flasks on the way back which was probably around 9ish miles. I was very thirsty, it was much hotter than I expected it to be (26c) and even with the cover of the forest in places it was still hot, and on the short road section it was hotter than hell.

It was a little less congested once we started heading back, the first few miles were spent saying hi to the other half marathon runners heading to the turnaround point, there was a really nice atmosphere throughout the whole race, very chilled and friendly. As people were more spread out on the way back, it was a little easier to get into a rhythm. I enjoyed the few flatter miles before we got to Colley Hill, which was an absolute slog to get up, I was really struggling and walking incredibly slowly up the never ending hill. I knew it wasn’t too far once we got to the top, and I couldn’t wait to finish then, as I was hot, and my legs were knackered after the climbs.

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The final mile and a bit were flat and runnable, and as we headed across the lookout point in Reigate I knew we were nearly back to the finish. My plan had not been to race this, just to get miles and elevation in the legs, and I was happy with how the race went, and how my body coped as I have only run two eight milers and a 10 miler since early May.

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It was a really enjoyable race, and was nice to take in the scenery and views. I was glad I was only doing the half- the elevation across 13 miles was nearly half of what it was over the 50 so it was pretty tough going, the full marathon was over 5000ft elevation. I’ve done a few of the Hermes race events in the past, and they are always well organised, in nice surroundings and have a great atmosphere too. I really enjoyed my shorter jaunt on the NDW, and I’m going to try and get back out there frequently as it’s such a beautiful place to run, and for me in South East London pretty accessible too. The Hanson’s marathon plan doesn’t include races or recommend racing that often, but sometimes you’ve just got to go off plan and go with your heart.

Thoughts during 13.1

On Sunday I ran the Brighton half, it was my first time running the race and I was excited having heard rave things from those running it last year and also a little nervous at how my shin/calf would hold up after 18 miles less than 48 hours previously and the return of a little bit of niggly calf/shin pain that morning. I had a great race, here is my race report, in the form of mental chatter:

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Bloody hell it’s icy, hope I don’t slip over.

Oh great my camelbak has leaked all over my shorts and headband, making it looked like I’ve either fallen over in aforementioned ice or had an accident of other sorts.

Am I overdressed, it’s quite warm, I think I’m overdressed. Should of gone without the jacket.

Bloody hell I’m so far back in the pens I can’t even see the 2.00 pacer.

I don’t want to see the two hour pacer anyway, I want to run my own race.

Here we go then, it’s race time, come on legs.

Shall I try and run a sub 2, I’ve done no speed work in ages, and have lost a bit of endurance after my recent injury hiatus, sod it let’s see what we can do.

Shit this is a bit congested, going to have to make this time up later.

Actually that’s not a bad pace for the first mile considering the congestion.

Oh there is Tess, bit early for a high five but I’m going in for one.

I need to run 9.09 min miles for a sub 2, let’s try and put the hammer down early and bank some time for later.

Man I love the seaside.

I thought this course was flat?

Hmm that’s not a bad mile time considering the uphill section, what goes up must come down.

Oh wow those people are super speedy, I wonder how Steph is getting on, on her PB quest and if I will see her going past.

I’ve overdressed, I’m so hot, I can’t take my jacket off as my number is pinned on. Why didn’t I just wear shorts, I’ve worn shorts all winter.

Down to single figures in mileage.

Hm this is going rather well.

Ok I’m going to count the miles up to 7 and then count them down.

Bet the fast people are finished by now.

Jesus this is a really bloody long mile, oh there’s the mile marker.

Hm legs starting to feel a bit shit on any slight incline, just try and hold the pace and try and run as close to 9.00 min miles as possible, and pick it up when they feel better.

Oh there’s the 12 mile marker, cannot wait to see that later.

Oh it’s George’s 80th, I wonder who George is and if he is running. That is awesome if he is.

Ok that was my slowest mile but it was still under the 9.09 min cut off and I’ve banked some time, I might do this, I just need to hold on.

No negative thoughts, go away.

Why is the arch of my foot hurting?

Not sure the stomach is feeling massively ok, please hold out.

I’ll have a bit of nakd bar, that might settle my stomach.

Hm, this is getting harder now, just need to see through these middle miles.

God I wish I hadn’t run 18 miles on Friday.

Oh there is Lucy, it’s nice to see so many familiar faces.

Just get to the turn around point and we are on the home straight.

Wow this is actually just one really long road.

God I’m so hot, this is ridiculous. I’m roasting.

I quite fancy a pint.

I’m pretty sure that guy just cheated, you’re only cheating yourself.

Just a parkrun to go.

I haven’t drunk much water, but I don’t want my stomach to feel all sloshy.

Bit more nakd bar, I’m going to have a little bite of it every 0.5 mile.

18 minutes max to go, I would have to have an epic fail to mess this up now.

Hmm I wonder how far under sub 2 I can go.

If I run a 10 min last mile I will beat my pb. Do-able.

Is this the longest last mile ever?

Great crowd turn out in the centre, where the bloody hell is the finish?

Let’s finish this, I’m going to get a bloody PB.

Sprint, every second counts.
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1.57.27, how the hell did that happen?

Shit I just ran a PB after missing a few weeks training, a really heavy mileage week and not being in the best shape ever, does that mean I can go faster?
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I don’t really want to go faster, I like a plod, do I want to run any faster?

Nice medal, shame about the goody bag.

God I wish I didn’t have a replacement bib, I’m at the furthest bag drop away.

Oh dear god, stairs of death.

Bloody hell, I’m absolutely freezing.

Give me all your Vegan food. Oh brilliant runner portion. Yes I am going to eat all of that, I’ve just run 13 miles and I am hangry.

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Surrey Badger Trail Half Marathon 2014

I made a pretty last minute decision to enter this event, having never even heard of it until reading about it on Jen’s blog. I immediately set to googling it, and finding as much about it as possible before deciding I was going to run it.

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It was a pretty early start for me at 5.30am, taking around 2 hours to get to the Denbie’s Wine Estate in Surrey and register on the day, which was fuss free and for ¬£25 seemed like a bit of a steal too!

The first mile or so took us around the estate, on the grass, this was relatively flat other than one short sharp incline. We then headed out of the estate and onto the main road for a relatively flat section, with a downpour of rain thrown in too!

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After a short while we were heading off road, and what I had really come for- some serious trails! From 4 miles on the serious hills began and there was a really long climb from miles 4-6, I had a little walk for 3o secs or so somewhere around the 5 mile point, when my legs could no longer run up the hills. If this was a longer race I would have walked the hills, but as it was a half I gave it a shot to run as much of them as I could, which given that I hadn’t run up anything resembling an incline for the previous 2 months was a bit mental!

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Mile 7 was downhill- thank god, the legs and lungs were seriously burning. I had a Nakd bar at this point, and it was the only fuel I had during the race as it was so hot/humid/muggy and I felt a bit sick and I was either gasping for air going up, or gasping for air coming down when trying to speed up! It took me a while actually to get into a rhythm with my breathing, as I couldn’t quite catch it on the flat after the huge effort on the hills.

The next section was undulating along a really nice wooded trail before it wound up to a savage hill around mile 9-10 point, I had another little walk towards the end of this one. My tactic on the hills was just to run as much as I could, until I couldn’t any longer- simple really!

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Mile 11 was largely downhill and my knees really started to niggle here- I always find running downhill so much worse on the legs. Around this point, we came out into an open area, the views were amazing, and I just looked around me and started smiling- this is why I run, and this is why I love trail running.

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The final hill was leading up to mile 12, and then there was a downhill/flat stretch back into the estate for the finish. I had absolutely nothing left to push hard on this final section, and thankfully it was one of the only sections out in the direct sunshine as it was very hot- the humidity was enough to deal with on it’s own! I finished in 2.17.55, which I was quite pleased with considering the course/conditions.

Credit to Jen for this

Credit to Jen for this

I absolutely loved the race but I was more than done by the time I reached the finish, I was delighted with the Badger t-shirt, beer, mammoth fruit platter and the handshake at the finish! It was such a friendly event, incredibly well organized, and the marshals were amazing all around the course.

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After reading some hideous recaps of the London 10k which was on the same day, I was happy to have made the decision to make the trip to Surrey for the Badger. Races like this are what running is all about for me, small, friendly, well organized, amazing scenery and course. I will definitely be back in the future, and I’m jealous of everybody doing Bacchus which is also organized by Events to Live.Picture 3