Touch Look Check – Breast Cancer Awareness Month

We might be over halfway through it, but October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK (over 48,000 women are diagnosed each year) but more women than ever in the UK are surviving breast cancer thanks to better awareness, better screening and better treatments.

All sorts of retailers have joined forces with Breakthrough Breast Cancer and are making a donation from special Breast Cancer Awareness Month products.  There’s all sorts of things on the shelves, but on the sporty front M&S and Adidas have some lovely stuff with 10% going to Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

M&S performance top – not too pink (RRP £15)

adidas Pink Ribbon ¾ Tights – I could do with these to replace my wonky, moth eaten pairs… RRP £30 from Littlewoods, Sweatshop and JJB Sports (if it still exists)

For those of you with more of a sense of rhythm than me (i.e. everyone) there’s even a Zumba range, but I suspect that I won’t be needing that anytime soon (although 30% of the purchase price does go to charity).

Even if the shopping isn’t your cup of tea, it’s also a reminder that you should check your breasts regularly and give them a little TLC (there’s even an app to help you).

TOUCH your breasts. Can you feel anything unusual?
LOOK for changes. Is there any change in shape or texture?
CHECK anything unusual with your doctor.

Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon

Well I don’t know what all the fuss was about…

It turned out that the only thing that I had forgotten was my breakfast, a bit of an annoyance but no major worry. 6.30 saw me peeling the lid off an individual plastic pot of muesli served with milk kept cold on the window ledge overnight and eaten with a plastic teaspoon. I bet Radcliffe never has to do that. The other unforeseen issue was the cold that had been lurking in the wings all week decided that Saturday was the day to take centre stage. I dealt with this by hoovering up ginger, chilli, decongestants, paracetamol and orange juice, and generally refusing to accept the inevitable. It seemed to work and I was pleased to be able breathe on race day.*

A beautiful blue sky of a day

Pre-race there was time to meet up with the lovely Rachel (of Fairweather Runner fame) who was taking the somewhat bonkers step of treating the race as a marathon training run by running to and from Hyde Park as well as running the race itself. We parted company at the colour-coded start pens and Ginge disappeared to take up his first cheerleading post. The start of races always makes me a bit emotional. I think it’s a combination of charity runners (especially those with personal stories pinned to them), masses of people and adrenaline that does it, but I always feel myself welling up. If there was a brass band playing as well then I would never make it to the start line.

Park. Trees, grass, parky stuff.

Other than trying not bursting into tears,  I never know what to do before a race, I don’t stretch or do any kind of lucky ritual, instead settling for  earwigging on other people’s conversations, being generally nosy and getting into a swearing through gritted teeth argument with Miles. Apparently being in the country’s capital was too challenging for his little satellite link up and we had to endure three false starts and one “Are you indoors?” conversation before he found a signal.

Releasing more than 12000 runners over the start line was a relatively smooth process taking the yellow pen 14 minutes to cross the start (oh the magic of chip timing). I’d been warned to expect a bit of congestion at the start and the end of the race, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much room I had and how little people-dodging I had to do (although in an uncharacteristic bit of pushiness, I was quite near the front of the pen). I tried not to set off too fast and to find my own pace; I think I managed it despite feeling like I was being overtaken by everyone in the world and Miles telling me that my pace was somewhere been 7min/mile and 45min/mile, neither of which seemed quite right.

Park related puns at the mile markers. Each one was a welcome sight.

Buoyed by random happy tunes on shuffle, the landmarks of London and the promise of Ginge at selected vantage points, I felt happy and relaxed for the first 10 miles. Admittedly my pace slipped as the race went on, but I didn’t beat myself up about it. At four miles I was overtaken by Puff the Magic Dragon (who turns out to be a producer from This Morning) running for Asthma UK. Around 8 miles I was at the top of a slope when I saw the dragon in the distance (a seven foot lime green dragon is a bit hard to miss) and I’m not proud to admit that the thought “You’re mine dinosaur, mine” (I have only recently confirmed his dragony credentials) passed through my addled brain. I’m not proud to admit that I put a fair bit of energy into catching him up and overtaking him. I’m also not too proud to admit that I only managed this because the poor man was dressed as a seven foot lime green dinosaur (I overheard a small child asking “daddy, why is the dragon walking?”, “I think he’s a bit hot” came the reply). I’m not proud of any of this, but we take motivation wherever we can find it.

For those of you who don’t know me, I am one of those two leggy girls in the tiny shorts.
For those you who do know me, shush…

The last three miles were hard work. By this point, you’ve long left the views of the Eye and Westminster, and are on the second lap of the parks. Now I like a good park and the autumnal scenery was lovely (even in my thirties I can get giddy at the sight of conkers), but it was hard work and a few brief walks crept in so that I could gather my thoughts and refresh my legs. I’m pleased to report that they were gathered and refreshed enough to manage a proper running finish, only slowing down to grab my medal off one of the very smiley volunteers.

Proudly sporting my medal (alright, it didn’t come off for the rest of the day) I was reunited with Ginge and Hels for a brew and some restorative flapjack before we went out for beer and pizza later in the afternoon. My finish time was only 4 minutes faster than Folkestone (when I walked a lot more and felt dreadful from 6 miles onward) which in a way is a bit disappointing, but given the lack of consistency in my training it actually left me feeling quite chuffed that I could manage this with not very much practise.

Our allocated meeting point was K-P because that stood for Knitting Penguin. Obviously.

This was the biggest race that I have done and yet I enjoyed it immensely. Because of the crowds, I was never on my own or feeling as if I was watching everyone disappear into the distance. Now, I don’t know if this is the same with every big race, or if the Royal Parks is particularly well organised but it’s certainly reduced my nerves for another one. The only thing that  I was slightly miffed to discover that feeling despite feeling (a) happy and (b) as if I was running well, on my official photos I look (a) grumpy and (b) as if I was just ambling down to the corner shop. I really wish race photos would stop dismantling my mental image of myself as a runner, instead presenting so-called photographic evidence that suggests the complete opposite.

Would I do it again? Definitely. Would I recommend it to a friend? Definitely (unless them entering was going to nick my place). I’ve already registered my interest in next year and will be taking another punt in the ballot, but in the meantime….

*(In the end I was shamed by the sight of a “Baby on Board” sign on the back of a runner in front of me – if she could run with a 5 month bun in the oven, I could struggle through with a bit of phlegm

Panic on the streets of London

It’s fair to say that I’m getting more nervous about tomorrow’s Royal Parks Half.

Already I have woken up an hour early, insistent that we were catching the 6.10 train. We never catch the 6.10 train. We always catch the 7.10 train, even today when we made the train with only a couple of minutes to spare (although we did have time to admire two teeny black dress and heels walk of shame outfits at the station. If they weren’t from last night, I admire their commitment to early morning weekend glamour).

So I am on the train. That’s the first worry sorted.

I am fairly convinced that I have my race number, safety pins and Miles in my bag. I know I have my trainers. If anything else is missing, I’ve been reliably informed that London has a few shops.

This has reminded me that I have forgotten my oats for the morning.
I hope that my insides aren’t so delicate that they rebel against unfamiliar muesli. I am already nervous about my insides and needing the loo tomorrow.

What else am I nervous about? People. Thousands and thousands of people. 12,449 other people in fact, and one of them is Ian Beale off of the telly. This is the biggest race I have done and the first time I have been penned by predicted time. I’m hoping that I will be both carried along with the excitement and slowed down enough that I don’t set off at a pace that I would be happy with for a 5k.

I am probably worried about lots of things that I haven’t thought of yet and we’re not even past the Midlands. The best advice I have had has come from people who have run previous Royal Parks – admire the scenery, be lifted by the spectators and most of all, enjoy it!

From Golden Gate Park to Royal Parks Half

It’s about this time of year that I like to write a post entitled “how not to prepare for a half marathon”. Last year, September’s Folkestone Half was preceded by a tight, grouchy ITB (and accompanying knee pain) which affected my training in July and August. This year, I have adopted an approach that I am calling “reverse tapering”.

How not to prepare for a half marathon 2012

Twang your back sitting on a sofa – this really doesn’t help the preparations in any way, shape or form.

Go on holiday to the other side of the world
Two weeks ago, we flew out to San Francisco. In itself this is a really, really good thing to do and I heartily recommend it, just not three weeks before race day.

That my friends is a blue sky and sunshine. Every day was like that. We returned home to flood warnings.

San Francisco is rubbish for greedy people. Alright, it’s actually brilliant for greedy people – I am a greedy person and I didn’t meet a meal that I didn’t like while we were away. Despite my concerns that I may have turned into what the cabin crew politely referred to as “one of our broader passengers”, I was relieved to not have to ask for a wider seat on the plane.

Breakfast. Sour dough French toast. Accompanied by me exclaiming excitedly “It’s basically pudding. Pudding for breakfast. It says breakfast on the menu, but it’s pudding”.

Having been lured in by thoughts of running through the Golden Gate Park and along the Embarcadero or joining a running tour, I did take my trainers with me. They seemed to enjoy the trip, but sadly they didn’t get to see any of the city, apparently preferring to remain in my suitcase for the whole week. Ooops. However, we did do lots and lots of walking and if San Francisco has one thing, it’s hills.

Lombard Street – zig zag zig zag

And steps. Two things, hills and steps.

This wasn’t the bottom of the steps to Coit Tower. I have another 3 photos of the steps that preceded this stage.

This seemed to offset most of the lard and hopefully did something towards me not losing the fitness that I had acquired previously (albeit a little erratically). Unfortunately, this positive was neuralised by the fact that the flight home/time difference threw out my normally clockwork sleep system meaning that I couldn’t sleep until the early hours and started dozing off at four in the afternoon. Which is a shame because I don’t finish work until five.

Oh and within 24 hours of landing back at Manchester, I had managed to twang my back again. This time getting up from a sofa – if nothing else, I shall be avoiding DFS in the near future. So that was another week of ice, ibuprofen and painful massage using a bouncy ball (don’t ask), but no running.

Finally, with just seven days until the start line I have hauled myself out for a not brilliant 10 miler (I was completed under-fuelled, so I have been carb-loading ever since. Mostly on Tunnocks caramel wafers admittedly, but the thought is there) and did a giddy 3 tonight just to remind my legs that they do know how to run.

2 days, 12 hours to go. Gulp.