Wigan 10k

My magic training plan had me down for an easy hour and ten minutes on Sunday. However Sunday was the day of the sell-out Wigan 10k and I had a place booked on the start line. I was kind of ok with the idea of using the race as a training run with a medal but… oh, who am I trying to kid? I wanted to run the race as a race and try to improve on July’s Manchester 10k time. So I asked the chief training plan sorcerer and with his blessing, shifted my threshold run forward a day and went for it on Sunday.

All the running wisdom out there tells you to make sure you have a good night’s sleep before a big race. I have yet to find a book or a blog or anything that recommends being up at 1 o’clock feeding Calpol to a grizzly child. This is because it is a rubbish idea and only an idiot would recommend it. I am an idiot and even I do not recommend it.

Luckily the race had a 10am start, although Mini-Ginge had  other ideas and I was up ridiculously early, trying (and failing) to guard my breakfast from a small porridge thief. God bless toddlers and their approach of “what’s yours is mine and what’s mine’s me own”. So, with most of my porridge scoffed by me, my timing chip carefully looped through my laces, my number clipped to my #bloodnotmoney vest and Tim strapped to my wrist, we set off f’t Wigan.

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At nearly 3500 runners, this was one of the biggest races I’ve done for a while and the race organisers had gone all out with live music, outdoor bars, massage tables and a whole European food market in the town centre. After queueing for the loo, I parked myself somewhere between the 65 and 70 minute pacers, hopeful for the former but not ruling out being nearer the latter. Away I went, running comfortably, occasionally glancing at Tim and being alternately pleased and terrified by the pace he was showing. I have to confess that my glorious feeling of “I could run forever!” was probably helped by the steady downhill of the first mile and a bit.

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It was also helped by the amazing support of Wiganers. All around the route, people were out of their houses to cheer us on, children were banging pots and pans (I overheard one weary mum tell her daughters “not all of the time” as they emerged from the house with the contents of the kitchen cupboards) and on the return leg, two girls were offering glasses of water. It was brilliant – I think Autumn sums it up perfectly in her race report, describing it as being “like a mini London Marathon but with more space to run and a lot more smiles”.

On the only section without many cheering crowds (around the DW stadium) there was a steel band AND a brass band (it’s official, any run of 5 miles or more, I want my own band, or at the very least a trombonist to follow me round). I love a band during a race, it makes me ridiculously happy and you can always see a spike in my pace when I pass one.

I knew that what went down, must come up and the return uphill leg was certainly my slowest mile, but I did surprise myself by plodding all the way to the top without walking. After this, there was another bit of an uphill into Mesnes Park and then a slightly frustrating but brilliant for being cheered zigzag back and forth around all of the paths of the park. At this point I realised that I have become one of those people who high-fives small children sticking out their hands (at one point I nearly high-fived a marshal before realising just in time that he was just pointing the way). I also got a personal cheer from my own support crew, which always puts a spring in my step. 

 
Coming up to the finish, I tried to put a bit more effort in (not that you can tell from the official photos) only to be suddenly confused by someone shouting my name. There at the finish was my friend and her bloke (who had run the race a good ten minutes faster than I had) cheering me on. I looked up at the clock and was gutted to see my time as being slower than at Manchester, I was certain that I’d run way better than that. God bless chip timing though – by the time I had collected my medal, goodie bag, banana and water, my phone had binged to tell me that my chip time was 1.03.25. My fastest 10k time since having Mini-Ginge! I genuinely hadn’t realised how far back I had been and how long it had taken me to cross the line.

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Would I recommend the Wigan 10k to a friend? Definitely, in fact I already have. The race was brilliantly organised, hugely well supported and blessed with perfect weather – I absolutely loved it and will definitely be back next year.

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Liverpool Spring 10k

Today I ran the Liverpool Spring 10k. I decided to run this at about 8.30 this morning (about half an hour before we’d planned to leave) after a week of umming and ahhing. My running hasn’t been particularly consistent recently – the cold that stalked me in the run up to Blackpool decided to hang around for a couple more weeks and although I’ve now hit the second trimester when I should be blooming and full of energy, I’m still blooming tired at times. The runs that I’ve done have been enjoyable, but harder work than ever. Having said all that, I know what I’m like and if I’d weaselled out of it and didn’t finished what I’d started I would have been sulky and miserable all day.

We set off and halfway down the M6 I realised that I’d forgotten my Garmin (which had been specially charged the night before). Slightly further down the M6 I realised that I’d forgotten my shuffle. By the time we reached Sephton Park and I totted up everything I’d forgotten, I realised that I was quite pleased that I had managed to be fully dressed. We timed our arrival well for the queue for the loos and had time for a quick hello with Runningman856 before I headed off to the start line and Ginge headed off to find food (unfortunately for Ginge, my last minute decision meant that he was ripped from his bed with little or no warning. Sorry Ginge).

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I had no plan for the race other than getting round in one piece. I had no Garmin so I had no idea what pace I was running and I had no shuffle so I had nothing to distract me. I did have a bottle of water and my camera though, both of which turned out to be quite essential. Even when I’m well hydrated, I’m finding that I’m quite thirsty at the start of a run and today was unexpectedly warm. Having been promised overcast and cool, the sun was shining and I set off wondering if Hels (who has a knack of bringing sunshine and high temperatures to every race she attends) had snuck up North.

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I’m rubbish at running in the warm at the best of times and was sensible enough to realise that today was a day to just take it easy and enjoy myself. Which is just what I did.

I had time to take in the scenery and watch a small dog debate the wisdom of chasing a large football into a river (sadly I missed the final outcome).

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I smiled and “thank you-ed” all of the lovely marshalls who lined the course cheering us on.

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I didn’t feel my heart sink as I was overtaken by the front-running gazelles peeling off to the finish line as I hit the 5k mark, instead I let the cheers that were clearly not meant for me carry me through. I did a lot of run/walking and didn’t stress about it. I enjoyed a short-lived second wind at the 6k mark.

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I didn’t worry that I didn’t have a cap for my water bottle, but I did take the opportunity to decant my water station bottle into the bottle I had set off with.

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I bounced past the official drummers and the chap who was beating out some skillful tunes on what looked like pots and pans…

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I also enjoyed spotting Ginge as he popped up unexpectedly around the course.

If you look closely, you can see a blurry figure lounging in the tree like an over-grown squirred. This is Ginge.

If you look closely, you can see a blurry figure lounging in a tree like an over-grown squirrel. This is Ginge.

The race was organised by the same people as last year’s Port Sunlight 10k which I loved and I had high expectations about the organisation of the race. I wasn’t disappointed. Everything ran like clockwork, there were pens based on finishing time, the course was well signposted and well marshalled, my time was texted to me within minutes of crossing the finish and (probably most importantly) there the bling was splendid. So splendid that I had the back engraved to mark my last race until bump becomes baby. There’s actually quite a nice symmetry to today. A few years ago, when I wasn’t bothered about racing (basically before I discovered my inner Muttley) I ran the Liverpool Women’s 10k as my first ever race and today’s race has replaced the Women’s 10k in the Merseyside race calendar.

So this is it for me and racing for a bit, I’ve finished today with a few more aches and pains than I would usually have after a 10k and I think my ligaments are telling me that I should keep the distance down from now on. From this point on, I will run my races vicariously on twitter, plot my comeback for 2014 and cast longing looks at medal monkey and his hoard of bling.

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Run Forest Run – Stroke Association Resolution Run 10k

When I planned my races at the beginning of the year, I pencilled in the Cartmel 10k for March. When I actually looked at the logistics of the day, I realised that it was miles away, would mean a stupidly early start, would cost me nearly thirty quid and I couldn’t find anywhere that guaranteed me that there would be bling. For the right bling, I will travel miles, pay out good money and set my alarm clock for whatever time is needed. For no bling, well that’s another story.

Queue for the ladies - thankfully, I had just been...

Queue for the ladies – thankfully, I had just been…

After a bit of research, I eschewed the promise of scenic surroundings doing the St Helens 10k (also, no bling) and opted for the Stroke Association’s 10k Resolution Run in Delamere Forest. I liked the sound of a nice run in the woods and as a special mother’s day treat, I took mum along to be my race day support.

Start line before the organised jollity started

Start line before the organised jollity started

Like many charity races, there was a jolly warm up of bouncing around and waving arms (I think it was more choreographed than that). Now, rarely do I warm up to motivational music and even if I did opt into the bouncing, I’m so uncoordinated that I would probably punch someone in the face (by accident, obviously). For everybody’s safety I opted out of the warm up and skulked at the edge.

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The far biggest cheer of the morning went up when the race organiser announced that the route had been amended because one of the hills wasn’t safe to run. Yay!

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After a bit of a puddle-dodging bottleneck at the start, we all found our space and set off for two laps of the lake. It was all very scenic and tree-lined, and I didn’t even seem to mind that it was snowing a bit. Obviously the forest was still open to other people and we were sharing our route with walkers, non-racing runners,cyclists, horse-riders and a couple on a tandem. Overhead ran the ropes and bridges of Go Ape, an activity that I fancy doing until I remember my fears of gaps and edges.

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Being away from home and not being certain of the weather, I had hedged my bets by stuffing most of my kit in my bag before settling on long tights, my snug vest top, my thick long sleeved top and my gloves. Normally, my gloves are off by the first mile, but as I only regained the feeling in my fingers by mile four, they stayed on all the way to the end. My shiny new trainers are also now well and truly christened because of the mud and the puddles that were unavoidable throughout the route (I come from the “if you can’t go round it, you’ll have to go through it” school of thought).

Me and my murdering gloves showing off bling

Me and my murdering gloves showing off bling

Coming through the finish line there were two people handing out medals – I couldn’t get the attention of one of them and and when I approached the other, he announced gravely “I’ve run out…”. I dread to think what kind of dark expression passed across my face at that news. Luckily I spotted a woman delving into a box full of medals and went to help myself to bling (just one, I promise).

Just before I realised that there was a self-service medal box...

Just before I realised that there was a self-service medal box…

Reunited with mum (who was wonderfully easy to spot in her red anorak – it was like following Little Red Riding Hood through the woods, only she had a rucksack rather than a basket of goodies) we nipped into the cafe for some restorative cake and a sigh of relief that we didn’t end up being part of this event…

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There are 18 Resolution Runs nationwide covering 5, 10 and 15k distances – the race fee includes a t-shirt (or for an extra £2.50, a tecnhical running vest) and all help to raise funds and awareness for the Stroke Association.

Bling ahoy! Mad Dog 10k – Southport

It was cold, it was wet, it was race day. With Ginge at work, it was up to mum to stand in as support crew (in charge of driving, photography and post-race hugs) and we set off to Southport in plenty of time. The council had changed parking arrangements this year and there was a park and ride set up to get us to the start line. Unfortunately, it turns out that the council had thought that one man would be enough to collect the parking charge from a thousand people… It turns out that it wasn’t and this led to a delay in people getting to the race and a half hour delay to the start time. I’ve just read on facebook that the race organiser contacted the car park man and told him to let everyone in and he would cover the cost. This sums up the kind of race this is.

It’s twice been voted the best 10k in the country by Runners World and I have to say that it’s a well deserved accolade. Starting from a school, there were warm corridors to take shelter in, indoor loos (and plentiful portaloos outside), a clockwork-like t-shirt collection and nice volunteers who let mum have a carrier bag to keep all my stuff in. There were loads of food vans (which smelled amazing) and a man with a megaphone keeping everyone updated on the delay.

Huddling at the start line for warmth, the Mad Dog theme was unmissable on the various fluorescent signs and with the sound of ‘Who Let the Dogs Out?’ ringing in our ears (well if getting away from that isn’t going to make you run faster I don’t know what would) we were off.

I set off by following the Grim Reaper  (who incidentally was accompanied by Tigger, which has to be the best his-and-hers fancy dress combo ever) until I overtook Death around the 2k mark. This point was also marked by a team of drummers who could be heard for about a kilometre either side of them (and there’s nothing like drummers to put a smile on my face and a spring in my step).

At 4k I high-fived Elvis.

Well-manned drinks stations between 5 and 6k, then ‘It’s raining men’ blasting out from route-side speakers, a fabulous marshal telling us we were on our way home, the sound of drummers getting louder as we reached 8k and then it was 9k and the end was in sight. After crossing the line we were handed a very weighty goody bag, fruit and more water if needed. Oh, and my chip time was texted to me by the time I found mum (less than five minutes after finishing. All this and I beat Death.

The support along the route was amazing, from the marshalls to the cadets to the staff from Chicquitos huddled under a gazebo, it was never-ending. Add to this the fact that there seemed to be something going on around every corner and this race passed quicker than any I have done.

And there’s also bespoke bling…

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And the goody bag was heavy for a reason…

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And there was a rather special technical t-shirt…

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Fingers crossed I’ll be running with the pack again next year.

Thank you to mum for being brilliant support, taking a photo of me where I look like I am actually running and bringing a flask of tea and a box of biscuits. She has made a rod for her own back with this one…

I may or may not be a weasel.

Viceathon. Yes. Um. Well… If I’m completely honest, I’m not sure whether or not I’m still aboard the Viceathon bus and if so, for how much debt. Last week, I introduced the concept of ‘time shifting’ – this is an ethically grey area in which I weaselled out of time shifted two runs from the time that I was supposed to do them to the next morning. So technically I didn’t weasel. The run was still done (in fact maybe I should apply for bonus points for getting up early in the morning AND ending up doing a hat trick of run, yoga, weights on Wednesday) just not at the allotted time.

Whether or not time shifting is acceptable to the Viceathon gods, I’m not sure, but I suspect that the second half of my excuses will be dismissed without thought. Basically, I haven’t weaselled from Saturday to Tuesday because although I haven’t done any exercise in that time, I didn’t plan on doing any. Alright, so I may have had a misguided idea about going to the gym on the Saturday after my friend’s wedding but that’s only one weasel, the other three days were exercise-free because that’s what I chose to do. So there.

Since coming back from our yarntastic weekend (did I mention the crab sandwich knitted from elastic bands on the pic-knit blog? No? I am an idiot) I have yogaed (Wednesday), done treadmill intervals and weights (Thursday), ran a very heavy legged 6 miles today and declared tomorrow a rest day. I’m hoping that the heavy leggedness is because of Wednesday and Thursday’s exertions because on Sunday I will be doing the Bolton 10k. I signed up for this in what can best be described as a fit of foot stamping. Basically, I went for a run in the morning and was spotted by a friend. Later in the day, Ginge was on the phone to that friend and I suspected that my running efforts were being mocked. Unfortunately, I was looking at the Bolton 10k at the time so I entered it in a “ha, that’ll show you” frame of mind. Even more unfortunately, it turned out that at worst my friend was guilty of affectionate teasing and was actually being quite positive about the sight of me lumbering along the main road, but by this time I was fully paid up.

I did consider ignoring the race (it’s also the first one that I will run without Ginge there as my cheerleader) but have been shamed into it by all the London Marathon talk on twitter. If so many people are going to run 26.2 miles, I can hardly sulk about doing 10k (even if it is a bit hilly) at the same time.

Good luck to everyone running London on Sunday, but in particular these lovely and inspiring people; Mark, Jay, Carla, Julie and Jo who have all worked bloody hard and deserve to have a fantastic race. Incidentally, I am equally in awe of everyone who I know who has run/is running marathons whether they are in Brighton, Liverpool, Manchester, Lochaber or wherever. A marathon is a marathon is a marathon and 26.2 miles is 13.1 miles more than I ever want to run – I salute you all.