Douro Ultra Trail (25km) - race report

11 October 2017, 13:30

This weekend I flew to northern Portugal to run down a mountain, and it had been three years in the making. You may remember that back in 2014 I ran the entirety of Berlin Marathon with a guy named Luis who I only barely knew at the start, but by the finish line had become my brother. For the past three years he’s been trying to convince me to come and visit him in Porto, and this year I finally made it over, with my friend Alex in tow. I chose the Douro Ultra Trail race from a shortlist of Luis’s suggestions because the scenery looked beautiful, there was a 25km option (as well as 15km, 45km, and 80km) which seemed to be a good distance for having a good chat and not suffering too much. Alex has only been running for about a year and never raced a half marathon before but was keen for an adventure, which seemed to be the right spirit for this race!

Melissa race number selfie

I signed up over the summer, when entries for the 25km were a bargainous €20 (plus an extra €3 as I wanted the long-sleeved race tee). I honestly don’t know how they can put on a race for so cheap, as we ended up with the aforementioned technical tee, huge feed station, decent race medal, and a bottle of local wine, too! Having arrived in Porto on a delayed flight, we only arrived at Regua just as the pre-race briefing was starting, and to our amusement, was entirely in Portuguese! Luis and his friends translated what we needed to know, which was really only that there were some irrigation holes about 4km into our race that we needed to be aware of (in reality, the other runners were great about shouting out and indicating at each of them). Everything else was really already stated on their Facebook page and website, so if you’re travelling to this race in future years, don’t feel like you need to kill yourself to get to the briefing on time.

Alex and Melissa at the start Luis and friends at the start

We then headed downstairs to register, which was super quick and casual – each of us got a bag with our number (& timing chip), race tee, apple, and some local honey boiled sweets (hard candies). Our group then headed to an extremely nice local restaurant for dinner then to our hotel just before their midnight cutoff, ready to wake up at dawn to make the coach to the start in time. The ultra course is circular, beginning and ending in Regua, but the other distances start at other points on the route, with coaches ferrying runners to the start. The coaches for our race were super organised, each setting off once full and taking us up hugely steep and very narrow winding roads to the top of a mountain (making me very glad I didn’t choose the marathon or ultra races!). At the top of the hill was an open area with scenic views, bandstand, toilets (with no queue, omg!!), and two groups of traditional Portuguese drummers giving the whole thing a bit of gravitas. After basking in the morning sunshine for a half hour or so, the starting firecracker was pulled, and we were off downhill!

25km start area

And downhill… and downhill… actually, the first 10km were almost entirely downhill, with a mix of loose rock, scree, pavements, and even thick, fine dust that wouldn’t have been out of place in the Sahara. Alex brought along his gaiters, which I thought were ridiculously overkill but actually worked out great, and I’d recommend them if you have them. The course elevation for the route this year looked to be almost entirely downhill or flat, but in reality there were still a LOT of hills. Not just steep hills, but downright ravines in places – I lost count of the number of times I had to use my hands to steady myself on trees, rocks, and the ground itself to scramble up or down a hillside, with only a few places having stone steps carved into the slope to help us out (and again, glad I wasn’t doing the ultra, where runners would be negotiating these in the dark!).

Melissa in vineyards

The result of the first 10km was to exhaust the brain, having to concentrate continuously on where the next footfall should land as well as attempting not to brake with your quads and knees (spoiler alert: my quads were wrecked anyway!). We went through several small towns along the way, wound through narrow, steep, and terraced vineyards, and absolutely stunning vistas. My photos don’t really capture the full beauty of the Douro Valley – every single scene we saw as we turned a corner could’ve been sold on a postcard or printed in a coffee table book.

Melissa and Luis official photo

Eventually we rounded a playing field and entered a larger town, where crowds of people lined the streets – we’d reached the start of the 15km “hike” option, where we got a boost from the runners waiting to start their race, but apparently missed the water stop that must’ve been there (at least we had our CamelBaks – on such a hot day, many others also missed it and were caught short before the only other pit stop).

Melissa posing

I’ve mentioned the heat, but it’s worth noting that it’s not usually 28C and sunny in October in the Douro – we hit upon a rare heatwave, so slathered ourselves in suncream, ran in our sport sunglasses and caps, and wore shorts and vests as a last celebration of summer. I wore my trusty Vivobarefoot Trail Freak shoes, which I hadn’t race in since the Transylvania Bear Race last year. These served me ridiculously well in the Transylvanian (and English) mud, but on the dry, dusty, and rocky Portuguese trails, something with a sturdier sole would’ve been a bit better (and I know understand why Vivobarefoot now make trail shoes for soft or firm ground!).

Melissa and Luis in vine canopy

In any case, Luis, Alex and I stuck together throughout the race, chatting to ourselves and the other runners throughout the race. I got very good at my two phrases in Portuguese (Hello and Thank you!), and I really liked that even with a small field (350 runners on the 25km, plus some of the faster 15km runners), there were no real stretches where you were alone, and the course was incredibly well marked with plastic tape at regular intervals so you really only just needed to follow the person ahead, or glance to see the next piece of tape. At the start, the three of us decided to take a casual pace, chatting, enjoying ourselves, and taking plenty of photos and GoPro videos to enjoy the day. There were definitely points where things got tough, but never any real low points where we stopped having fun.

Melissa and Alex in tough times Melissa and Alex selfie

When we reached the only feed station at 16km, we filled our CamelBaks and set upon the impressive array of snacks with abandon. As a salty sweater, I went straight in for the crisps, but kept coming back to the watermelon slices, too. I swear watermelon has never tasted so good in my life, so I thank the local boy scouts who spent the whole time chopping up fruit in the feed station building! Feeling fuelled but not full, we set off to conquer the final few kilometers back down into Regua, and seeing the Douro River was a big boost, even though only minutes later the course cut through a large section of vineyards that had recently been burnt by the wildfires that plagued this part of Portugal.

feed station

The whole race was a treat for the senses, but smelling the charred vines were in sharp contrast to the fresh air, flowers, and eucalyptus we’d enjoyed earlier in the day. Several other races in the area had been cancelled due to the wildfires, and indeed, we witnessed a fire with our own eyes on the drive back to Porto, so this part of the race really made us feel thankful for the unspoiled countryside we’d witnessed for the bulk of the race.

As we approached the riverside path, we looked at our GPS for the first time that day and saw we were several kilometers short, and were concerned that, even though we could see the race village, we’d have to loop around the town or something first. On reflection, our GPS measurements came up short because it’s measuring from the top down, as the crow flies. But we’d run through such elevation that the diagonal route we’d taken down and up created a discrepancy to the top-down view, meaning we’d actually run ~3km more than we’d tracked. You can tell I don’t run mountain races often – this is probably obvious to many people!

Luis, Melissa and Alex at the finish

We crossed the line at the race village, were awarded our medals and local wine bottles, and immediately the emcee started interviewing me and asking about my race and my world championships and how my health was! Turns out Luis tipped them off that we were coming and they’d clearly seen my number and put two and two together very swiftly, hahah. The race village itself was quite small, but had a good selection of food and drinks (free) as well as a bar (paid) for anyone who fancied something stronger after their race.

In the tradition of ultras, our race was held on a Saturday, which meant we were able to head back to our hotel to wash the copious dust, sweat, and salt off before heading back to Porto and exploring it the next day. We spent the morning hobbling about, exploring the city, marvelling at the vistas, and drinking or well-earned wine along the same river we’d run to the day before.

Melissa and Alex drinking our race wine

Having never been to Portugal before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but Alex and I both utterly adored our time there. I’d recommend the Douro Ultra Trail to anyone who’s interested, but do not underestimate the toughness of the course. As someone who can run a 1:45 half marathon without too much effort, I expect to run this 25km downhill in about 2-2:15ish but in reality, we finish in just over 3 hours! I’d imagine if I’d done the 45km it’d probably have taken me around 5 or 6 hours, so be sure you prepare and (if possible) get some trail experience on hard, rocky ground, which I think would’ve really helped me.

In terms of enjoyment, adventure, and value for money, you really can’t beat the Douro Ultra Trail. I’m only sorry it took me three years to actually take Luis up on his offer!

Douro Ultra Trail (25km), 7 October 2017, 3:04:18

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Surrey Badger half marathon - race report

22 March 2017, 09:57

I didn’t mean to run this race.

When Events to Live made an announcement a month or so ago that, after ten years of putting on races, this race would be their last, I was really quite sad. ETL are one of the very few events companies that I would go and enter races from specifically because they were putting them on. They always chose fantastic, interesting routes around the Surrey Hills, yes, but you could just tell that the organisers cared deeply about the people running it and there was always a family feel to each one. Their best known race is undoubtedly Bacchus (which I’ve run twice and will carry on, organised by Denbies Winery in the future), but their smaller races have been just as enjoyable for me, and I know that I will have a fabulously good time whenever I sign up to an ETL race. I just thought I’d have years to try them all!

When they announced that Surrey Badger half would be their last, I didn’t think I’d be able to run it, as it was only a few weeks after Cambridge Half and the day after a big Team GB training session in Coventry, where I’d be running a hard track session. But as it turned out, I just ended up doing some easy miles on the track with my teammate Ruth instead (another trail runner and Bacchus alumni), and after I got home that evening I was still feeling good, but unsure about where I fancied heading for my planned “two hour trail, HR zone 2” run in the morning.

Badger selfie

And then I saw ETL tweet that on-the-day entries would be available for the Badger. And miraculously, engineering works had spared the Waterloo-Dorking line so I could get down there for the start. It seemed like the Universe was pointing towards me moving my planned trail run to the Surrey Hills instead, and so I got up early and hopped on a train for the second day in a row.

Usually I race in a Run dem Crew tee to pay back my crew for everything they’ve done for me, my health, and my running, but this time around I wanted to run as a celebration for everything ETL had done for the running community and my growing love of long trail runs (if it wasn’t for their runs, I doubt I would’ve signed up for Transylvania, for instance!). So instead I wore my Bacchus 2013 tee, paired with my Steeplechase capris made in fabric designed by Laurie King, who designs all the medals and shirts for the ETL races and is well known in the area (prompting lots of compliments from other runners!).

Melissa and Laurie at the Badger half
Myself and Laurie King, who designed both my capri fabric and my Bacchus race tee!

I’d never run this particular course before, but, having studied the route on the train ride down, it appeared to be fairly similar to the 2nd lap of their Three Molehills race, which I’d run a few years back in biblical weather. The Badger takes a nice loop around the vineyards to thin out the field, then a few straight miles on a tarmac path along the motorway – easily the most boring part of the race, but it meant I was able to get some decent speed in and also meet a nice chap named David, who was running it for the third time and hoping to break 2 hours. That’s the other thing – I always end up chatting to people more in trail races than road, and I kept catching up with David throughout the race and saying hello.

As I meant to treat this as a training run rather than a race, I set off thinking I’d keep the pace relaxed and just enjoy myself and the gorgeous scenery and spring flowers. I wasn’t vigilant about staying in heart rate Zone 2, but I didn’t want it to go too high either, mind. Once the route finally left the motorway, it was all trail and logging roads, and a ton of hills!

Badger elevation

Now, I’ll take an undulating course over a flat one any day as I just think the variation is more interesting, but in the spirit of keeping my heart rate down, I opted to walk up nearly all of the hills. This meant that I was passed by a few stalwarts chugging away up the hill, but in every single occasion, once I reached the top of the hill feeling fresh as a daisy, I’d blow past them and never see them again. So what started off as a “preserve the HR” strategy actually ended up being a speed strategy! For years I was that runner who thought that walking was giving up, but seriously, I’m won over to the ultra mindset now – walking up hills frees you up to be able to run harder on the flats and downhills, plus gives you an opportunity to eat or drink and actually get it down. It just makes sense.

What started off as a training run mindset gradually ended up morphing into “just let the legs do what they want to do” run instead, so at times that meant walking, but at other times it meant just letting loose like a Kenyan. I think this freedom from a set pace goal plus the gorgeous woodland scenery went a long way towards this being one of my most enjoyable runs for ages. I also noticed that, just like in Cambridge, I caught a second wind around Mile 10 or so and just flew, really easy strides, passing people left and right (including David, who I’d been just behind for most of the race) and just feeling like it had all come together. I continued that streak into a sprint across the finish line with 1:56 on the clock, then turned around to cheer rather than join the teeshirt queue just to see if my new friend would make it in time. I waited what felt like an eternity, cheered in a few more runners, and there he was, finishing in 1:58 with a massive grin on his face.

Badger tee and beer

There weren’t any medals for this race, but instead we got a lovely teeshirt (which I’ll actually wear and cherish!), plus a bottle of beer and chocolate and biscuits galore (not seen in photo – already eaten!). Which isn’t quite the post-race hog roast and wine that Bacchus delivers, but an awfully fine end to a fine, fine race.

Badger beer selfie

And if Events to Live had to pick a final race in order to move on to new things, then they couldn’t have gone out on a bigger high. They’ve created quite a legacy in the Surrey trail running world, and they will be sorely missed.

Post-race Badger pose

Spring Surrey Badger, 19 March 2017, 1:56:26

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Cambridge Half Marathon 2017 - race report

8 March 2017, 10:52

I never quite got around to giving you all a winter training update (what can I say, running your own business whilst marathon training really leaves little time for anything else!), but the short version is that it’s been going well. After putting on a few extra pounds over Christmas and generally feeling “blah”, I returned to my good friend Maffetone in a big way. Low-carb isn’t the enemy of endurance training, it turns out, and I highly recommend the book Primal Endurance as a good blueprint for how to maximise training gains while eating low-carb. I even bought a copy of it for my coach so she can adjust my marathon training plan a bit, as I’ve been struggling with interval work in the meantime.

I only mention this as it’s tangentially important to lessons learned during the Cambridge half. Much more relevant, though, is my medical history, as I’ve had two separate illnesses during training – a head cold in January that miraculously only lasted a week (since my transplant, I’m lucky if I’m over a bug in 3 weeks!), and a sinus infection that left me in bed and hopped up on Night Nurse the week leading up to this race.

Granted, I did start to feel a bit perkier on Friday and Saturday, but earlier in the week it was looking like I’d not even be able to party pace it, let alone gun for the PB as I’d hoped. But with my energy levels back up to about 80% and some well-planned nose blowing the morning of the race, I had re-aligned my expectations again to try and treat it as a solid training run. The weather forecast deteriorated as my health improved, however, leaving us with freezing temperatures (6C), pouring rain, and high winds on race morning. Luckily I came prepared – full leggings, thermal long-sleeved top (with hand mitts!), and RDC shirt to run in, plus a sacrificial jumper and hat for the start as well as the ever-chic binbag to keep the wind and rain off (don’t knock it til you’ve tried it!).

Binbag at the start

A sub-1:45 predicted finish placed me in the fastest start pen with the bulk of the club runners, so I positioned myself near the back and mentally prepared myself to be overtaken a lot. The rain came lashing down almost the second we started, which helped to keep me from getting too excited in the first few miles, as did the general crowding through the one-lane sections through the city centre. Since my AppleWatch (running Runmeter) was under my long sleeve, I generally ran this race on feel for “comfortably hard”/tempo pace, and only pulled up my sleeve to check my actual pace a handful of times (and was generally pleased that I was going faster than I’d thought).

When I previously ran this race in 2015 it was comprised of two loops, mostly through town, but last year they switched to a single-loop course to increase the numbers (as single loops can take the full width of road instead of splitting in half for Lap One / Lap Two runners). The route now starts and ends on Midsummer Common, goes through the city centre and past Kings College, then heads out into the countryside to Trumpington and back around before taking some nice twisty-turny bits through town and then repeating the first 2-3 miles of the race to finish at Midsummer Common again.

I personally give the new route two thumbs up – I really like two lap courses in unfamiliar towns as I visually know how far I’ve got to go the second time around, but repeating the first/last few miles of the course serves the same purpose for me, and I quite liked seeing a bit of countryside and fields, even if they were really windy and sparsely supported. Speaking of support, my favourite cheerer of the day was a little dog riding in its owner’s front bike basket, barking support as his owner rode alongside the runners! Very Cambridge.

As for my race, I continued along at my “comfortably hard” pace for the first 7 miles with no real issues. I ran into my friend Ben from RDC just before Mile 6 and ran with him for a few minutes before he needed to stop and stretch out his ankle, but I was otherwise on my own and without headphones (as per race rules). I only grabbed a few sips of water at the stations at Miles 2 and 6, but when I hit Mile 7 I could feel myself dimming and knew I’d need to grab a gel at the Mile 8 station (thankfully they were High 5 isotonic, a brand I’d tried and liked in the past). My months of training under my cardio heart rate threshold had done wonders for my fat-burning ability, but at the pace I was going I know my body would be consuming a mix of fat and glycogen, and at Mile 7 the glycogen stores were just a bit too low. But the gel at Mile 8 (and half of another at Mile 10) really did the trick, gave me a sugar high (it’s been so long since I’ve eaten anything sugar that carrots honestly taste sweet!), and helped me to glide on through to the finish maintaining that same pace. So now I know that I can easily go a good 6 miles at slightly-faster-than-marathon-pace without the need for fuelling, so I can plan my nutrition for London marathon accordingly.

Cambridge Half medal

Even though I was overtaken quite a bit at the start of the race (and the 1:45 pacers when I stopped to open my gel packet at Mile 10), I ended up passing a ton of people in the last few miles, as normally happens when you pace a race well. This is always a terrific boost no matter what the distance, and I sprinted the last few hundred meters to eek out a time of 1:45:59. Now, this is a full 9 minutes slower than my PB (set at Bath Half in 2014), but considering I was still nursing a sinus infection and fiddling with low carb training, I feel that’s a time I can really be proud of. Coming into the race, I’d felt that my planned marathon pace of 5:00/km (8min/mi) was still nowhere near comfortable, yet during this race I maintained an average 4:50/km and felt good. So on top of the nutritional lessons, I’m feeling much more confident that I can maintain my planned marathon pace, especially with another month and a half of training, strength work, and a bit of weight loss, besides.

In fact, the only downside to the entire race was after it ended. The race numbers were allocated based on estimated finish time (so low numbers = faster runners) and the baggage tents were organised based on race number… meaning that everyone finishing at the same time had to join a massive queue for one or two handlers, while the rest sat empty. This would’ve been merely frustrating if not for the fact that it was freezing, we were all wet, not given space blankets, and the VIP area placement made it impossible to distinguish any of the queues from each other. A whippet-thin runner in front of me was literally convulsing with cold and everyone was getting numb in the 30-50min wait to get to whatever dry clothes they’d packed in their kit bags. I don’t know how the organisers could’ve done the bag check so brilliantly in the past yet made such a stupid mistake this year, but seriously guys – BAGGAGE CHECK BASED ON SURNAME. Or assign race numbers randomly. One of the two – it’s not difficult.

Cambridge Half medal

It’s a real shame that the frankly dangerous baggage chaos put a downer on an otherwise excellent race. Assuming they’ll take my advice above for next year, it’s a race I can definitely recommend. It’s great timing for spring marathon training, close to London, cheap (so long as you can snag a place the second they go on sale!), well organised, with a hefty medal, and great pubs nearby to warm up in afterwards.

Cambridge Half Marathon, 5 March 2017, 1:45:59

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Run Hackney 2016 - race report

9 May 2016, 12:20

When I’d originally signed up to Run Hackney again this year, I was hesitant because, not only was it two weeks after London marathon (same as last year), but it’d also be four weeks before the Transylvanian Bear Race, which would mean I’d be running 2.5 marathons in 6 weeks. This didn’t seem particularly wise for my recovery and ability to run another marathon (a mountainous trail marathon, no less) in quick succession, but then I got offered a place, realised that 150 of my Run dem Crew friends would be running it, plus I really enjoyed it the past two years… and, well, I could always just party pace it, right?

Well, plans changed somewhat when I was so ill for the first three months of the year – I had to cheer the Cardiff World Half Championships instead of trying for a PB (measly goodie bag for £56, and it turned out the weather was comically awful), and I had to defer London marathon to next year, leaving my original plans for Run Hackney a bit up in the air. Should I try for a PB on only a few weeks training? Or just enjoy it and have fun with friends? Or use it as a long run and an excuse to test out some new tactics for Transylvania?

Hackney Half kit

Well, another cold (low level, thankfully!) plus a scorching weather forecast put paid to any hopes of a PB, plus my running hasn’t felt entirely up to my usual standards since I restarted in April. It’s clear I’ve lost fitness while I was ill, and even my former marathon pace is a bit of a struggle, so to be perfectly honest, I didn’t really even have a finishing time in mind. I mostly ended up using the race to help keep others’ spirits up, but also to refresh my race memory ahead of Transylvania, and test out my new homemade flax gels in a race setting, too.

Me at Cheer dem
Photo credit: Caz Craig

Let’s get the obvious out of the way from the start – it was a brutally hot day. Even worse was that we’d been still having freezing temperatures right up until the week before, so it felt even hotter. Last week I ran in a merino long sleeved top and thermo leggings – today it was a skimpy vest and my short shorts. It was so hot that the organisers laid on weather advisory flags throughout the course, and by the time I was leaving, they were actually advising anyone still running to walk instead for safety’s sake. I drank about three times as much water during the race than I normally would (plus 3 bottles of electrolyte, 2 bottles of water, and a recovery shake afterwards, and my pee still told me I was dehydrated!), and the 5 or 6 misting showers on the course were downright compulsory.

The people of Hackney also stepped up, with quite a few hoses and super soakers turned on the runners, in addition to the usual tubs of jelly babies. The crowd support is definitely getting better year on year for this race, too – I remember the first year seeing residents walking down the street looking at us runners like we had three heads like “what in the hell are they doing??”, then last year really getting in the spirit of it, and this year there seemed to be a big step up in the number of crowds. They weren’t the loudest of crowds, mind – in several spots I had to do the universal hand gestures for “Come on and cheer us!!”, but I did get a lot of individual shouts for me in my Run dem Crew vest.

Me and Vicky
Myself and Vicky in the start pens

In terms of how my actual race went – I started out with a group of about 5 ladies from RDC, informally paced to 1:50 finish by my friend Vicky. The first few miles were pretty dense so there was a lot of stressful ducking & diving to keep with the group, and I always knew that the 8:20ish/mi pace was going to be unrealistic for me to maintain in my current state of fitness. So I’d always planned to fall off the group at some point and aimed to probably keep somebody else company who couldn’t maintain that pace in the heat, either. I ended up hanging on until halfway, but then I could feel myself really needing both nutrition and a bit of a cooldown as I could feel my face going hot and then goosebumped, which really wasn’t a good sign. So I opted to walk as I ate my flax gel (like a banana porridge goo – totally delicious, and I’ll share the recipe later this week!) from my baby food pouch and then when I started running again after eating I settled into a more comfortable pace.

Just slowing my pace by a few seconds and taking on nutrition made such a difference – I ended up having the best 3-4 miles of my entire race after the halfway point, really enjoying the atmosphere and feeling alive. It was also around this point, I believe, that I chatted with a guy, Julien, who I’d spotted in the start pens wearing an Anthony Nolan vest, and told him they saved my life 7 years ago. It turns out his mum is having a transplant this week, so I offered him/her all sorts of advice, and even ended up finishing within seconds of him. I like to think that even just seeing a lady like me run a half marathon will give he and his family hope that she can get through this and gain a full and healthy life afterwards.

Hackney Half cheer dem
Photo credit: Melany Rose

But back to the race – I felt my gel starting to wear off around Mile 10 or so, and I wished I’d either packed another or thrown in some shot bloks from my backpack, so it was absolutely perfect timing that Run dem Crew’s cheer point appeared in front of me! I’ve witnessed the power of “Cheer dem” at Mile 21 of London Marathon, and this was like its little sister – just as powerful, but in a shorter stretch of road. Honestly, this was such a needed boost – lots of cheers, high fives, and shouts of encouragement were just what I needed! I knew from running the course previously that the last few miles through the Olympic Park were the hardest of the whole race due to the lack of shade and crowd support, and the cheers from my friends were what powered me through.

I say “powered”, but really those last few miles were just a slog to the finish! It was a tradeoff between pushing myself to “just get it done”, and holding back to keep from getting heatstroke. Heatstroke was a very real possibility – I saw another runner collapse just in front of me at Mile 11 and, after myself and another runner helped him onto his feet, he couldn’t stand up on his own and we helped him to the curb where a group of spectators took over. While the casualties were in no way as bad as the 2014 race, St Johns Ambulance were certainly kept on their toes today and I wanted to avoid becoming a statistic.

Post Hackney Half

But eventually I saw Hackney Marshes and the finishing straight, and I even managed to pick up the pace a bit when I saw the gun time clock read “1:58:something”. Even though I knew I could subtract 6 minutes from that, there’s nothing more like a red rag to a bull for a runner than to see a clock so close to an hour like that! Then it was a matter of collecting my goodies (Hackney always lays on a decent goodie bag – this year it was cola bottles, beetroot shot, popcorn, yoghurt raisins, oystercard holder, bananas, flapjacks, water, and nice tech tee), and then collecting my bag from the bag check, where I had my own goodies in store. You see, I got the grand idea that since everyone tends to laze around in the sun afterwards, it’d be awfully nice to have some chilled fizz to celebrate. So I took a bottle of sparkling rosé from the fridge, inserted it in one of of those bottle-wrap frozen gel things, placed a frozen bottle of electrolyte next to it (another stroke of genius, I might add!) and wrapped them up in a chill bag and put it in my backpack.

Wine bottle post race

So after the race, after I’d had my recovery shake, done some stretching, and downed a few bottles of electrolyte, I opened up a cold bottle of fizz and shared it round! And yes, I’m pretty proud of Previous Me for both thinking of it and remembering to pack it all at 6am! It really helped to add to the celebration atmosphere in the race village afterwards, with the bhangra bands, group photos, hugs, and congratulations.

The founder of Run dem Crew, Charlie Dark, often says that race day is a celebration of all the hard work you’ve put into training, but as I ran around the streets of Hackney today, I realised more that for me, today’s race was a celebration of health and happiness. I didn’t get the opportunity to really train for this race, but instead I was just thankful to be healthy enough to run it at all.

Run Hackney, 8 May 2016, 1:52:21

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Run Hackney 2015 - race report

12 May 2015, 11:54

I ran the inaugural Run Hackney half marathon last year, and, despite the extreme heat and a few organisational issues, I really enjoyed it. Instead of chasing a PB, I helped a friend through her first ultra-distance training run (having run 30km prior to the start line that morning).

This year, the race was moved to mid-May instead of June (presumably to reduce the chance of a swelteringly hot day again), but this also meant the race was only two weeks after myself and a lot of others had just run London marathon, which wasn’t exactly ideal. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t erred on the side of rest and not run this at all were I not offered a place, but since it was one I enjoyed so much last year, I couldn’t really say no.

So I found myself on race morning having run only 6km since London marathon and not really knowing what I wanted to achieve in the race. I grabbed the very first Jubilee line train to Stratford, and ran into a friend on the walk across the Olympic Park to the race village. My first order of business at any race is to drop off my bag, and I was pleased to see that they’d broken up the bag drop significantly further this year, so that I walked straight up to the tent instead of the 15-20min wait I remember last year. Toilet queues were the usual “Is that the queue???” pre-race length, but appeared to be moving briskly. I caught up with the hundred-or-so other Run dem Crew members for a group photo, and then went off to join the 1:30-1:45 pen, figuring I’d let my legs decide what they wanted to do.

The start pens were super disorganised last year, with nowhere near enough space for people to join, resulting in a massive scrum for the first few miles. I’m pleased to report that the organisers clearly took feedback on board for this year (a common theme for this race!), and the start pens were clearly labelled, with only the 1:30-1:45 one not being quite big enough to get everyone inside (I’m guessing they looked at last year’s finish times, which would’ve been far slower than normal due to the heat). Happily, I saw my coach/trainer/physio/guru/shaman, Barbara, inside the pen so I jumped to barrier to join her. She was pacing an old friend to 1:45, and asked if I wanted to join them – working out that this was 5:00min/km pace (or, exactly my London marathon pace!) I jumped at the chance to both have some company and some direction to my race.

We started off at a comfortable pace, and chatted away happily. The forecast was for cloudy and cool weather, but it ended up being sunny again, and I was really glad I opted for shorts, though I didn’t think to apply sunscreen at all, boo. The crowds throughout the town section of the route were great – lots of ordinary people out cheering on the runners, and I even got to see my friend Rosie hanging out her front window, cheering her head off for me when I ran past! In fact, the only portion of the route which was lacking in crowd support was the Olympic Park section at the end, which was pretty much devoid of anyone but runners…

During Run Hackney
Photo credit: Claire McGonegle

The organisers had clearly listened to feedback from last year, and the experimental, eco-friendly, but prone-to-exploding water pouches were replaced by bottles at the water stations, supplemented by at least one corner shop handing out their own bottles from their own supply. It’s community involvement like this that really gives a race personality, and for most of the course, Run Hackney really feels more like a local race rather than a “Big City London race”.

During Run Hackney
Photo credit: Claire McGonegle

The course was largely the same as last year – starting in Hackney Marshes and winding through Hackney, hitting a lot of little parks and local landmarks along the way – not places you’d necessarily see on postcards (hello there, back of the Weatherspoons!), but more places you’ve seen on the bus, or been to on a night out, or round a friend’s place and haven’t necessarily pieced together as being right next to each other. The big change for this year was the last portion through the Olympic Park, which was baking hot last year, with zero shade and runners dropping like flies. This year the course went through the park and out the other side, rather than a circular route back out the way you entered. This meant we only got the Cheer Dem Crew treatment once, but felt a lot better on the run. I’m still not sure they’ve totally nailed this portion of the route – I love that we run past all the stadiums, but the lack of crowds and shade this late in the race make it a hard slog – perhaps it’d be better if the route was reversed and you ran through the Olympic Park first?

Run Hackney finish selfie
Photo credit: Barbara Brunner

In any case, once you’re through the Park, there’s really only a mile to go, and unlike Cambridge Half, the finishing chute really is a short and straight 100m dash! I met up with Stephen (cursing me again as this is now the second race in two weeks where he’s apparently been chasing my back but unable to catch me up!) and then Barbara and her friends, who I’d unknowingly left behind at around Mile 11 or so as they’d slowed down a bit.

Run Hackney race medal
Nice of them to match the medal to my Duathlon Shorts!

We got a quick selfie, then collected our medals (great design, and nice of them to coordinate with my shorts!!), goodie bags (absolutely bursting with stuff I actually want!), and technical teeshirts (in a variety of sizes, and again, a nice design). Some might balk at paying £40-odd for a half marathon, but the swag alone was totally worth it. Seriously top notch, and I couldn’t really fault the organisation, marshalling, or general atmosphere of this race, either. With other London half marathons practically as impossible to get into as London marathon, Run Hackney is a great opportunity to run a half marathon without having to splurge on a hotel room (which would cost far more than the entry fee here anyway!).

After Run Hackney
Photo credit: Barbara Brunner

I’m not sure how they quite managed to get another warm and sunny day two years running – they might start to get a reputation for being the running carnival! Plenty of steel bands, a nice laze in the park with friends after the race – a girl could get used to this (if only she remembered her sun screen!!). And if you’re into a bit of forward planning, you can even pre-register for 2016’s race now.

Run Hackney (half marathon). 10 May 2015. 1:45:06

Full disclosure – I was given a complimentary media spot at this race but all views are my own. I didn’t use the media starting pen, because I don’t really agree with that – better to be in with the paying punters!

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Cambridge Half Marathon - race report

9 March 2015, 13:36

I’m overdue with about four posts I want to write about, but since January I’ve been working two jobs, marathon training, taking evening classes plus all the usual social and home commitments, which meant that, unfortunately, blog writing has fallen by the wayside even though I’ve had no lack of topics to write about! I’m hoping to catch up on those soon…

But because of all of the above, I’ve also not felt 100% on track with my training. I’ve been fitting in four sessions a week, running a couple of hours at the weekend, running to and from Run dem Crew on Tuesdays (meaning I often cover 16km on a week night), but still in general I felt quite sluggish and slow. In other words, just not “race ready”.

When I’d signed up to run Cambridge Half last year I was excited to get a coveted spot in a race that sells out within hours every year, thinking it might be a chance to try for a sub-1:30 finish and it’d save me a bit of money over a foreign race, too, since I’m saving my pennies for Argentina in August. But rail replacement services from London in the morning meant I’d nearly had to book a hotel, until an old work colleague stepped in and very kindly put us up for the night. Apart from having a great evening chatting with him and his wife, seeing Jupiter(!!) through his telescope, he has also run this race over the last few years and was able to give me some great local knowledge about the course, plus know exactly which car park would be empty on a Sunday morning for easy race access!

Cambridge Half - kit layout

We got to the start in plenty of time, and I even managed to run into Ben, the only other RDC member running it (as the vast majority of the Crew were running Paris half on the same day), and we trundled off to the fastest (sub 1:45) pen to get the last few shivers in before the gun. Even though it was super sunny and I’d worn a sacrificial sweatshirt until the last possible second, my hands and feet were completely numb and the first 3 miles felt like I was running on cloven hooves. I wouldn’t recommend this as a race approach, but it did help to slow me down and keep my pace in check for those crucial first few km where I tend to speed off into the abyss.

Cambridge Half - wave

Since I wasn’t feeling anywhere near ready to attack my current PB (1:36 from Bath Half last year), I decided my approach would be to channel Berlin marathon and try to run a really well paced race instead, and just see how I felt. This was my first race running with my new Garmin watch (a topic for another day!), so I made sure I kept my pace between 4:30 and 5:00min/km, but in general I tended to hover around the 4:40-4:45 mark. This was also the first race that I used Salt Stick capsules to try and minimise the dehydration I get in longer races, no matter how much water I take in. As a really salty sweater, taking these at about miles 5 and 9 really helped, no matter how dodgy I felt pulling a little dime bag with white pills from my leggings’ back pocket!

Cambridge Half - side view

The course itself was really interesting, super flat, and with lots to look at en route – a plus since it was a no headphones race, which also worried me as I prefer to run with one earphone of music for speed sessions and I wasn’t sure how I’d cope. Instead I sang songs to myself in my head, mostly “Audition Day” by Oh Land and Beastie Boys’ “Intergalactic”! I’d made a new pair of running leggings especially to appeal to the boffins of Cambridge – my upcoming Steeplechase Leggings pattern (with no inseams!) made with FunkiFabrics circuitboard printed lycra, which got lots of compliments on the course, both from spectators and other runners. There were a few little bridges to cross, some narrow winding streets, but lots of crowd support in clusters, which is how I prefer it, really. It was a two lap course, which I’ve found I really like, as I have a much better sense of where I am and how far I have to go on the second lap around when I tend to flag a bit. But thanks to my pacing strategy, once I hit Mile 10 I was still feeling pretty good so I made the conscious decision to ramp up my pace a bit and try to target 4:30min/km, and I’m pleased to say that you can see this in my Strava pace analysis!

Cambridge Half - final push
Pushing through the longest “finishing straight” ever…

I learned in Berlin that if you can save a bit for the last 5km, it really makes a massive mental difference in the way you finish a race. Once again I got to pass a lot of exhausted runners in the end stages of the course, and it meant that by the time we crossed through the Start line (with announcers repeating over and over that it wasn’t the finish, agh) and turned back into the park towards the Finish, I looked at my watch, saw it was 1:34, and that I could actually manage a PB if I really pushed the last few hundred meters, so I started sprinting…

…only to discover that the finishing “straight” twisted and turned, took us around the perimeter of the park, turned again, and then approached the finish line from the opposite side! So my finishing sprint lasted an agonizing amount of time – 4 minutes, which means it was probably closer to a kilometer in length than the 200m I was expecting! So I didn’t manage a PB, but considering I didn’t think I was anywhere near capable of achieving it, it’s no big loss anyway.

Cambridge Half - finish Cambridge Half - finish
Yes, just like in Berlin, you get alcohol-free beer at the end…

I learned in Cambridge that I am way stronger, both physically and mentally, than I thought I was right now, and I’m feeling much better about running London marathon in a few weeks because of it. Perhaps burning the candle at every conceivable end is great endurance running training somehow?

Cambridge Half - finish

Cambridge Half Marathon, 8 March 2015, 1:38:28

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Run Hackney - race report

24 June 2014, 14:56

I love that there are suddenly a bunch of new races cropping up in London, because it means there are more races that I can run after sleeping i my own bed and without paying a fortune for travel. I didn’t sign up for the inaugural Run Hackney race (aka “the Hackney Half”) immediately, though, because the £40 entry fee seemed pretty steep and I was holding out to see if I could get a place through someone dropping out instead. But then friends decided they’d come in from Copenhagen to run it, and if they were staying at ours, then it’d be nicer if I could help them with the transport by running it too – so I caved and paid up anyway. It turned out that offering a local race like this meant it was a popular choice for London runners – over a hundred members from Run dem Crew also signed up to run! There were so many of us in RDC shirts that people were jokingly calling it the “Run dem Half”…

It’s also nice to have a half marathon in the summer instead of being just one stepping stone in a marathon training plan, but it did mean that I really didn’t have any expectations for this race, nor any clear goal from what I wanted to achieve. I’m still not really 100% back on form, so a PB was never on the cards, so instead I decided that I just wanted to enjoy a race for once, and run it however I felt like.

Hackney Half mid race
Photo by Michael Adeyeye

It’s a good thing I wasn’t chasing a PB, as the day itself was swelteringly hot and sunny – literally my worst possible running weather (give me downpours any day!). I thought I might run with my visiting friends, but then I ended up next to my friend Maja at the start.

Maja is training to run her first ultra in 4 weeks time – the 100km Race to the Stones, so she’d already run 30km just to get to the starting line, and she really needed someone to keep her company as she ran the half. This was the first time she’d gone beyond marathon distance, and once we settled into a comfortable 5:15min/km pace, I told her I was happy to stick with her and help her out.

Maja & I at Hackney Half
Photo by Michael Adeyeye, Maja in orange to my left. Notice how I am considerably perkier, having only run 12 miles in searing heat!

The first half of the race was mostly me chatting at her, swerving into the shady side of the streets, and giving high fives to kids. The second half was a lot harder for her, so my role switched into motivational speaker, water carrier (LOVE those water pouches!!), and Bringer Of Perspective. We saw an awful lot of runners collapsed at the side of the road (more than I’ve seen in any other race), but I was determined this wouldn’t happen to her, so I kept an eye on her hydration and nutrition, too, and let her know exactly how amazing she was and how much harder 50km on hard surfaces is on her joints than 100km on soft trail!

Post Hackney Half
Me, Maja, Emily, and Christina at the finish area

This race could’ve been just a “stick the headphones on and suffer through the heat” experience for me, but helping Maja through her own achievement gave my run a purpose. I felt good from having helped a friend, and despite ending up with a PW time (first time over 2hrs!) I had one of my most enjoyable races ever. There may have been some issues with the starting pens, and the route wasn’t all parks and canals (running round the back of a Wetherspoons was particularly memorable), but I still think Run Hackney was better organised than a lot of races which have been going for years. I love that it was put together by Hackney Council themselves to promote fitness in the community, and that local people really did come out to see what was going on (although many just to stare rather than cheer – let’s work on that next year, folks!). All in all, it’s a race I really feel good about running.

Run Hackney (half marathon). 22 June 2014. 2:02:16

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Bath Half marathon - race report

3 March 2014, 14:29

I haven’t raced since Bacchus half in September, but I’ve been training non-stop since November for the London marathon, and Bath Half yesterday was my first real chance to see whether it had been paying off.

If you recall, I managed to PB at Bacchus despite it being a super hilly, off-road course, and at the time I wondered what my time could’ve been had it been on a fast, flat course. So when selecting my spring half marathon, I was looking out for those with PB potential, and I settled on Bath since I’ve got two friends there and the course looked great. It’s a big city-centre race with 11,000+ runners and fantastic crowd support along the route. Some runners may be put off my the two-lap course, but I actually really appreciated this since I’m unfamiliar with the town and the second loop felt like it went way faster than the first as I already had a mental image of where I was going.

I’d gone to my trainer on Friday for a sports massage and to discuss race strategy, and I came away with a plan to run fairly comfortably (upper heart rate Z2-lower Z3) for the first 10 miles, then gun it for the last 3. I’d take in 2 Shot Bloks or a gel every 20min, but as the course is entirely in miles, I found it easier to remember to eat at miles 3, 6, 9, and 12. (I also came away with the feeling of Brand New Legs!!)

Kit laid out for Bath Half
Even the night before I wasn’t sure if I’d need the long sleeved top!

The weather forecast had changed several times throughout the week, from bright sunshine to mixed snow to 10 degrees, but in reality it ended up being my perfect racing weather – cool, cloudy, and slightly drizzling. The first mile or so was quite crowded with a fair amount of jostling and overtaking (as per usual), but the white pen seemed to be pretty even pacers as I ended up running with quite a few people for the entire race. But I made my classic mistake of starting out too fast – my first few kilometers were at 4:10-4:20 pace and my heart rate monitor was telling me I was in Zone 3 (high 170s-low 180s for me). So I tried to ease off the pace a little to bring my heart rate down a smidge, trying to think to “run comfortable”, but as I ran, my heart rate pretty much stayed put no matter what my legs did, so there came a point around Mile 6 I just thought “eh, fuck it!” and carried on with my pace, ignoring what my heart rate was saying.

On paper, this might seem scary to a lot of runners (myself included), but I ran through my mental body checklist and the lungs, legs, and head all felt okay, the pace felt a little tougher than comfortable, but certainly easier than my Tuesday runs with the RDC Elites, so I just tried to cling on and run based on all my other feedback and not let my heart rate overrule them all.

Bath Half photos
The final push to the finish line over the last few hundred meters…

My Bath-based friends were out cheering on part of the loop, so seeing them twice was a real boost, and I even had a chat with two fellow runners – one man came up to me specifically to compliment my forefoot-striking pose (a little weird, but nice!), and I spied an Anthony Nolan vest just ahead of me at one point so I said hello and found out he’s also running their 10km Marrowthon next week as well as London marathon.

The course profile definitely wasn’t as pancake flat as, say, Amsterdam marathon, but the few undulations just gave a bit of variety to the course – the very last mile is uphill, however, and while the gradient isn’t much at all, its placement at the very end of the route meant that the last mile felt about 5 miles long!

After Bath Half
Pardon that I’ve scrunched up my own-design PB Jam Leggings here – they weren’t like that while I was running!

In the end, I crossed the finish line in 1:36:28, which is a sizeable new PB for me (previous was 1:43), and though I failed to stick to my race strategy, I think I learned a lot more from listening (and not listening!) to my body and taking a gamble during the race.

I will also say for anyone considering this race next year – the VIP entry was totally worth the extra money. Honestly, I’d only gone for it since regular entries had sold out, but for £40 more, having a warm, dry place to go afterwards, plus private bag check, proper toilets, hot showers (though communal), unlimited food and drink for myself and two friends really made a huge difference on the day when I came through the finishing gates in the (now steady) rain, shivering, and very low on brain power. Not having to queue to get into warm dry clothes or perch in the mud waiting for other friends to finish was well worth it.

Gunfinger pose after Bath Half

Big thanks and congrats to Winnie who also ran this yesterday despite her training not going to plan! And for fuelling me up with a massive pasta dinner the night before…

Bath half marathon, 2 March 2014, 1:36:28

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Half marathons in preparation for London

8 November 2013, 11:56

The cornerstone of marathon training is undoubtedly the long, slow run (LSR), but nearly every marathon training plan you’ll find also incorporates a half marathon race a 4-6 weeks before the full marathon. As my next big race is London marathon on 13 April, I’ve been looking around trying to decide which half I should enter.

Having spoken to others also running London, this seems to be a common topic of conversation now as everyone starts thinking about their 2014 race calendar, so I thought it was worth sharing my shortlist…

16 FebruaryBrighton Half (registration now closed except through charities), Brighton, UK

23 FebruaryHampton Court Half, Surrey, UK

2 MarchBath Half, Bath, UK
2 MarchSemi-marathon de Paris, Paris, France (Great race, but I’ve gone the past two years running!)
2 MarchSilverstone Half (Is it just me, or does the course look really dull though?)
2 MarchReading Half Marathon, Reading, UK (No way am I running this after Sophie’s review of last year!)
2 MarchEastbourne Half, Sussex, UK
2 MarchTunbridge Wells Half, Kent, UK
2 MarchRoma-Ostia Half, Rome, Italy

9 MarchCPC Loop The Hague, The Hague, The Netherlands
9 MarchMilton Keynes Festival of Running, Milton Keynes, UK
9 MarchCambridge Half (registration now closed except through charities), Cambridge, UK. (thanks to StrayTaoist in the comments!)

16 MarchSpitfire 20 (Miler) and its sister race, the Tempest 10 (Miler), Surrey, UK
16 MarchLeith Hill Half – plus a “Wife carrying race”!! the same day. (thanks to GoodGym for suggesting this on Twitter!) Dorking, UK

Anyone ran any of these that they could sway me one way or another? Have you signed up to any of these, or one I’ve missed? Right now I’m kinda leading towards either Surrey/Guildford, Hampton Court, or the Spitfire 20, but I could be persuaded…

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Bacchus half marathon - race report

10 September 2013, 10:45

If you’re not familiar with Bacchus, it’s a fancy dress, off-road, hilly half-marathon (or full marathon if you fancy doing two laps) with wine tasting every two miles and free wine and hog roast at the end. Yes, it is exactly as much fun as it sounds!

I first ran it last year in 2012, and having sewn my sailor girl costume in wicking lycra to great success but not having had much cause to wear it in the intervening year, I decided I might as well wear it again this year too! The nice side effect of that is that you get to see a nice comparison between my body since last year (and I was deep into training for Amsterdam marathon then, too!)

Bacchus half - comparison

With all the mention of wine, you may have missed a crucial word in my description: hilly. The race starts off in Denbies’ vineyards, then briefly through Dorking and then for the remainder of the race it snakes through woodland trails and up the sides of hills, until you get a blissfully steep downhill on the last 2km which lets you sprint finish pretty much by gravity alone.

I plotted the elevation again this year with my GPS app, which I’ve cleaned up so you can see exactly how hilly I’m talking about…

Bacchus elevation

You’d be mistaken if you think the sharp blip at around 14km is the one to be concerned about – look again at the relentless uphill climb from approximately 3km-9km – this is the one that will turn your legs and spirit to jelly! I had the advantage this year of already being through the course the year before, so I was mentally prepared for it, but the big difference was that last year I was essentially “fun running” it as my reward for getting through my marathon training.

This year I had different goals in mind:

  • To beat last year’s time (1:58). I felt fairly confident I’d be able to do this, since I hadn’t hill-trained at all last year, and this year I’d been hill running every Saturday (including Swain’s Lane), plus I’d switched to forefoot running and just come off two months of track training.

  • To earn a new PB. My current half marathon PB was set at my first ever half, in Paris 2012 (1:47), and I thought I might be able to beat this despite the hills, but that was only if I could maintain a 5min/km pace throughout, which seemed iffy.

  • To win a prize. The first three males and females win a prize, along with the first from each age category. I was the 5th female last year, but there were far more runners this year, so this was the toughest goal, and not one I’d admitted to many people.

Bacchus composite

I set off at the front of the pack, with about 20 men ahead of me, but maintained my position of lead female up until about 4 miles, when I was overtaken by a very friendly Barnes Runner lady, and we had a great chat for a few minutes before she moved on ahead. The great advantage to having a strict “no headphones” policy plus fancy dress is that the runners actually talk to each other during the race, with the costumes providing great conversation starters! I got to chat to quite a few runners in the first half (even during the rain!), but I was on my own for long stretches of the latter half of the race, so it wasn’t quite as easygoing as last year.

My husband brought along the DSLR again this year, but thought to bring his bike, too, so he was able to zoom around the shortcut trails and snap me at a few points along the route. I must admit, though, that I was fairly annoyed to see him at about 4km into that relentless 6km climb, when I was feeling well and truly spent, chewed up, and spat out by the monster hill. I remember trying my hardest to smile, but looking at the photos afterwards, I’m so glad he decided to take these photos where he did.

Bacchus - long climb

The vista over Dorking and across to Box Hill is spectacular, but you can see every ounce of effort and sheer determination in my face and legs. In short, you can see exactly how hard I worked for this race.

I used a lot of the same mental tricks I learned during my recent track race – I find when the going gets really tough and my brain starts to let doubts creep in, counting to 20 over and over in time with my breaths really helps me. I also used the few flat and downhill segments to mentally refresh me – nothing more complicated than thinking to myself “Look, this is flat and the forest is lovely. Isn’t this refreshing? Let’s pick up the pace to make up for the next climb!”

Nutrition-wise, I went very minimally this time around, with only one pack of margarita Shot Bloks and a few sips of water from about half the water stations. I’d normally take at least one extra gel in there to be comfortable, but having practiced with less on my long runs, I knew that 3× 2 bloks would be enough to fuel me around.

So, back to those goals – how did I do? Well, I am absolutely over the moon to report that I achieved all three!!. My official time was 1:43, meaning that I beat last year’s time by over 15 minutes, set a new PB by almost 5 minutes, and ended up as the 3rd female over the line, meaning I won a prize!!

Bacchus shirts

The prize itself was almost inconsequential – for me it was the act of winning it – but I ended up winning a very nice Gore long sleeved running top that is very me indeed – dark purple with hot pink seaming and it’ll get lots of wear in a few months’ time! On the left above is the official race shirt, designed by my friend Laurie King. Isn’t it fantastic? It’s great to have a take-home technical tee that I love every bit as the race itself.

Bacchus is such a friendly race, with the warmest organisers, volunteer marshals, and other runners, and even in the rain and cold this year it managed to maintain a great village fete atmosphere. If I could give this entire race a giant hug, I would.

Bacchus half marathon, 9 September 2013, 1:43:19

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