Bucket List Fun part 1

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I love history and in particular all things Anne Boleyn and palaces so when I read about the triathlon at Hever Castle I was keen to include it on my ‘things to do in my 50th year’ bucket list. However its September date is likely to clash with daughter’s university starts for the next few years so was quickly scratched.

A few weeks later I found out that another of Anne Boleyn’s homes, Hampton Court hosts a half marathon in March and having forgotten all my ‘never agains’ after my only other attempt at a half in Blackpool in 2015 I decided it would be a good bucket compromise.

I mooted the idea of a running weekend to my group of running friends and amazingly nine agreed to also run and two decided they’d come down and support so a girly weekend away was put on the calendar.

Last Saturday after weeks of long run weekends or Monday nights for some we jumped on trains from Manchester and made our way to our Premier Inn base in Kingston upon Thames. Trains at an unGodly hour meant that we had a full afternoon to play with so a few of us set off for an afternoon of horse racing at Kempton Park with the rest of the gang choosing to make the most of a fine afternoon by walking from the hotel to Hampton Court.

I chose the races and managed to lose money well although did celebrate one winner during the day courtesy of Max Ward (names being my only method of horse choice with this one having a link to our parkrun event director’s son Max). I also celebrated as my partner in crime managed a win on the place pot having selected a placed horse in the six first races.

We all dined as a group in the hotel restaurant and risked indigestion with a relatively early night.

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Race day when your event is only 2 miles from your hotel and when you already have your race bib and timing chip is surprisingly calm and I didn’t get the usual pre-race jitters and nerves so an early breakfast was palatable and the Premier inn supported us with porridge on request. In fact the hotel couldn’t do enough for us, providing a couple of late check out rooms for post run showers, reserved table for dinner and ordering our cabs to get us to the race.

Hampton Court Palace is just beautiful and seeing it on our arrival along with almost 3300 other runners and their supporters was amazing.  The morning was dry and bright and we spent the 30 mins before the race wandering between the start and the event village admiring the topiary and daffodils and taking plenty of photos and attempting to find a loo without a queue!

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We had been allocated various start times and expected to be in pens, however it was far less formal with wave numbers being called out and and expectation that runners went in the correct wave.  When you’re a relatively slow runner there is always a concern that being in a late wave will leave you last on the course and a desire to just get going, so as a result people were definitely in waves far too fast for their ability.  In the main our group held out until wave 5 (I think officially we were in wave 6 but by that time it felt a bit like a free for all) and we were off.

I won’t go into details about the race, 13 miles is a long way especially when you are complaining about your hamstring, knee, numb toes etc etc from mile 5 with a route that wasn’t quite as pretty as I’d hoped (the river part was good, the run through the town not so).

To sum it up, I had a great weekend with fabulous friends, and whilst I finished with a time of 2:31:49 and didn’t achieve the sub 2:30 that I’d hoped for I wasn’t disappointed, just glad to have completed it. I’ve tried two half marathons and I know I won’t be doing another instead I want to concentrate on getting better times for short runs and having fun whilst I do it!

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Runs in the family

For the past 27 years, since I first met my hubby, I’ve known that running was part of his psyche. I’ve never quite understood the all-consuming need to run, but I do know it’s part of who he is. For all of these 27 years, Burnden Roadrunners have been a big part of our life, and I’ve spent many years on the side-lines, watching and supporting him in races, on social events and with his weekly training. Our children have grown up spending their Saturdays and Sundays travelling to sometimes obscure places to support him.

Three years ago, this understanding of the benefits of running led hubby to suggest it as a way of supporting our son, George, through his tough A level years, as a means of stress relief. Following a particularly arduous first parkrun outing, where George took around 38 minutes to do the 5K route, complained most of the way round, dressed in two tracksuits and carrying a water bottle, something ‘clicked’ and the running bug bit hard.

The rest, as they say, is history. Both of us joined Burnden, with George not taking many months in being able to beat his dad in races (which dad was more proud of than aggrieved), and we’ve spent some really special moments all running in the same races and enjoying the camaraderie that being part of a fantastic club like Burnden can bring.

Precious memories, at New York 5th Avenue Mile road race 2016

Fast forward three years, and how things have changed. George is off at University, enjoying his running with a new club, and the meeting of like-minded students, has made the transition to living away from home a far easier process. Our daughter, Alice, who has always felt herself immune from the running bug, was asked to join the committee of a new running club, Ramsbottom Running Club, and started running on a regular basis. She has now run her first 10k and 5k races and is loving both the health and social aspects of running. I’ve moved from Burnden to support her at her new club and we are enjoying meeting lots of new friends and exploring new running routes, both on and off road.

Last Sunday was a special moment, when Burnden hosted their annual club race, Trotters 5, and Ramsbottom Running Club had 24 members entering the race, bringing together two fantastic clubs for a few hours on a wet Sunday morning.

New #ramouflag photograph courtesy of Dawn Evans

Running brings more benefits than the increase in fitness for us as a family. It’s a shared interest and a way of spending time together away from the pressures of everyday life. As parents, we have hopefully given our kids a way to stay healthy, both physically and mentally, for life.

If you don’t already run for a club, check out one close to you. It’s not all about the elite, fast runners (although its fantastic to be amongst them too, as their energy is inspirational) but it’s a way of getting fit, meeting new friends, setting yourself goals and exploring new places.

Burnden Roadrunners (burndenroadrunners.co.uk) meet at 7pm every Monday night at Smithills Sports Centre and have sessions to suit all abilities.

Ramsbottom Running Club (ramsbottomrunningclub.co.uk) meet at 7pm every Tuesday night at Irwell Brewery, Ramsbottom, and usually have three routes to choose from, to suit all paces of runner.

It’s a mad mad Mad Dog world

So today Ann and I did our first joint race of the year, taking part in the 7th MAD DOG 10K. Organised by the Round Table this event is badged as ‘a great fun event that takes place along the Southport shore line’ ‘a great run for runners of all types regardless of your experience, everybody is welcome’

 

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I’m a pretty mean runner (when it comes to entry fees rather than being a great runner!) and so took a sharp intake of breath at the entry fee of nearly £27 for affiliated runners. But the event now in its 7th year must be doing something right as it has been named THE BEST 10K IN THE UK by various running organisations over the years (including Runners World and for the last 3 years at the National Running Awards).

So Ann and I forked out our hard earned cash and along with a group of Burnden and Ramsbottom Running club buddies including Ann’s daughter Alice making her race debut we waited patiently for the 2017 race to be announced and signed up quickly (thankfully before it sold out in just a couple of days).

An unnamed storm threatened to spoil our fun with high winds forecast for the day and we debated all week what clothing we’d need. We needn’t have worried as on the day the weather was exceptionally kind with blue sky and a total absence of wind and rain.

Logistically the event was just perfect, with race bibs mailed out beforehand and central parking with free buses to the registration area. Once we arrived at registration we noted all the directions and signage and the number of portaloos available!

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On the race bus
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Just some of my goodie bag!

Feedback on previous races called out ‘brilliant goodie bag’ and wow, what a goodie bag it was with bespoke T-shirt, buff, race clips, rucksack, gym towel and lots of samples and snacks all handed out efficiently and with minimal queuing.

The race itself was equally well organised with start pens (dog named of course) determined by expected finish times. Pre-race announcements that could be heard by all runners and most importantly chip timing.
The course was flat, really well marshalled and signed and we had the bonus of bands, choirs and singers (including Elvis) to distract us and provide a good beat to run to.

I’ve learned recently that my once favoured flat road races aren’t actually as nice as I’d thought and after a decent start struggled in the second half of the race walking a few times in an attempt to ease aching calves and try to persuade myself it wasn’t actually a long slog! Looking back I’m slightly irritated with myself for letting my mind win at times especially as I still finished with a time just over 1:02 and with a bit more effort could have achieved only my second sub 60 min 10k. It wasn’t to be, and there’s always next time so it’s all the more reason to crack on with my training, run more (better miles) and do some strengthening and conditioning exercises (and that might just have to be a blog post for the future!)

Overall it was a great day out and our group saw debut races, debut 10ks and PBs but most importantly friendship and fun.

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Friends and family do MAD DOG 2017

Dusting the vest off

Sunday saw my first race of the year and more importantly the first opportunity to don my club vest in 2017.

After a somewhat lazy 2016 I’ve promised myself that I’m going to do much more running in 2017.  I’ll never set the world on fire with times or distance but I do want to improve.  I have some time and distance aims, but I also have a desire to appear less often on the last page of the results!

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Burnden Ladies before the Hill Runner U.K. Mast 10k Courtesy of the Bolton News

The race was the Hill Runner UK Mast 10k. An out and back run with three solid miles of uphill running to the TV transmitter at Winter Hill Bolton then a glorious three mile downhill return.

With a one thousand metre climb (starting with the seemingly endless slog up Smithills Dean Road) it was a tough race to start the year.  It was however a race that gave me immense pride having avoided all club training runs up to the Mast as ‘it’s too hard!’

An icy mist had settled over Bolton during the night and we couldn’t actually see the Mast from the start point (although that was perhaps a good thing!). As the route transitioned from the main road to the tarmac and gravel side road and trails I experienced just how cold it was, with patches of ice making for some hazardous sections. By luck or maybe judgement I didn’t come a cropper, but some of my fellow club runners did manage some spills. We saw bloodied knees, face and elbow (all on one runner!) and a broken rib and finger.

The faster runners skipped up and down like mountain goats with the winner taking just over 36 minutes to my one hour 22!  The fact that I hadn’t even run two miles when he passed me on his downward leg blew my mind! Some of the route was on narrow paths and wooden bridges and I’d been quite concerned about possible comings together but on the day everyone was really courteous and because it was an out and back we got to see all our running friends and teammates throughout the race  giving support, high fives and even a hug off a fellow parkrun run director!

The turning point was a welcome relief and was manned by the fabulous Bolton Mountain Rescue who benefitted on the day from a £250 donation from the organisers and sponsors.  Many of the marshals on the course were from my own running club (Burnden Road Runners) and it was great to get personalised shoutouts from them along the route.   I could have hugged Carolyn at the road crossing when she shouted ‘runner coming through’ and there was no one around but me!

The dreaded Smithills Dean Road isn’t so dreaded when you’re on your way down but it’s also a memory wiper, with my mantra changing from ‘never again’ on the up to ‘next time’ on the way down!

All in all, a well organised race from Phil and Melissa from Hill Runner U.K.

A big challenge for me personally and one that has taken away the fear of the route when it’s offered on the training schedule.   But what about the results? It was close, very close, but I have the evidence, I wasn’t a last page lady!

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The after!