Cycle Map Run

Running down memory lane

I am long overdue posting a new blog post and of course I have lots to talk about, that hasn’t been the problem, I just haven’t had time. My usual time to write a blog post or at least post one is at the weekend however my last 3 weekends have included trips to Edinburgh, Manchester and back home to Northern Ireland. I managed to squeeze a run in on 2 out of 3 weekends – Manchester got the better of me unfortunately! In Edinburgh, I did a few laps of Inverleith park (see photos below), which was freezing but lovely with families out for walks and sports teams out practising. At home, I dragged my brother along to Portrush Parkrun where it was also freezing and although a beautiful part of the world, it was not lovely that morning. It was my brother’s first Park run (he would not let me tell people that on the day) and we battled against the bitter wind and incoming tide to get through the funnel in just under 30 minutes – if you were there you would understand the struggle. There were no PBs achieved by any of the runners that day.

The photographer managed to snap us before we completely froze

Now I’m back in Exeter having had 3 wonderful weekends of seeing friends and family and therefore feeling quite content. It has also made me think about how I love going to both new and old places for a run. There are some routes that really stick in my memory and I love going back to them such as:

– the forest near me at home – the hills there are a killer and I used to hate the place but when I first completed the 7km loop without stopping I felt invincible!

– My go-to run around St Andrews lead me along both East Sands where I could see the pier, the castle ruins and the beautiful West Sands. I also remember running out of the town towards Guardbridge, which always felt like a huge achievement.

– 12 mile route from my house to the coast – This also stands out because of the achievement factor but I do remember it hurting although this was quickly forgotten about once I got picked up at the other end and had an ice lolly (it was roasting that day and I ended up getting tan lines on my legs because I had been outside for so long)

There are so many more, the list is endless. It doesn’t help that I have a good memory and could probably tell you the songs I listened to on those runs, the top I was wearing or what else I bought in the shop after those 12 miles.

I sometimes think back to my favourite places when out running now and picture myself being at certain points along the route, which I think does help me sometimes. It brings back a nice feeling of nostalgia and before I know it I have another mile completed and the whole time I’ve just been thinking about the food I used to eat or people I used to know in a certain place.

I think running keeps you connected to places and can definitely provide a sense of belonging. You really get to know a town when you’re running up and down streets trying to get last quarter of a mile done. You also start to notice other things that regularly happen around you like the same people out for a walk at the same time as you starting your Sunday long run each week. It can make the town/city you live in feel a bit smaller or at least improves your spatial awareness. I have friends that haven’t ventured to areas that I regularly run through and I don’t understand because I think of it as being on my doorstep (“It’s 2 miles to Aldi?!” “That’s not even 20 minutes away, come on let’s go!”).

It is quite funny to think that probably, at some point in my life, I will be looking back at the days when I would run along the Exe Estuary and get the train back from Exmouth, or cycle to Killerton for a muddy Park run. I should enjoy the opportunities that the South West brings me while I can and of course it has better weather than anywhere mentioned above!


Post park run pose
Ready to rock & roll
Inverleith Park in the sunshine
Running off the prosecco

The race to the top

It was a beautiful, crisp, dry October morning when I left the house with my rucksack packed, bike lights flashing and Fitbit ready to go. I travel out of the city centre towards my work, avoiding the main roads but consequently having to deal with sleepy pedestrians and impatient drivers on their own commute. Half way through my 3 mile journey, I am at risk of encountering the A bus and knowing where I meet this bus is important as it impacts the remainder of my commute. On this second half of the commute, I approach a certain hill through a residential area where families walk along the footpaths to school/work, cars are parked along both sides and of course, the A bus goes up and down, resulting in the traffic coming to an absolute halt some mornings. Every day, I cycle along in quite a care-free manner, mindful of traffic and courteous to other people however, when I approach this hill I feel like should be wearing a polka-dot jersey. As soon as I take the right turn on to this road, I immediately drop down through the gears as the road inclines and I give it all I’ve got. The gradient steepens as the road veers left and I’m off my seat, absolutely smashing it. At the top of the hill the road veers right again and flattens off but I keep pushing, often shouting out in pain, to make sure I make it to the end of the road. My exhaustion is not in vain, however, as it is not just a road I’m travelling along but a Strava segment and my Fitbit has been timing my efforts. That particular morning, I raced up the hill in 1 minute and 56 seconds, which keeps me at 2nd place on the leader board for all-time females, a position which I have held for a few weeks but have fought for over nearly 60 attempts at this segment.

Each morning I arrive at work, telling my colleagues how fast I cycled and how close I am to the number 1 spot. In case you are wondering, I need to knock off another 10 seconds, which doesn’t sound like much but it has taken me months to get to where I am right now. I have friends commenting on my commute on Strava each morning telling me that they look forward to seeing how close I can get and when I phone home, I will tell them about the car that reversed out in front of me, or the strong wind that prevented me from achieving a new personal best. I am thankful for the friends that listen to me explain the daily struggles of Strava segment battles.

This fight for number 1 has made me think about whether Strava is a helpful training tool or becoming an unhealthy addiction? Of course, I am going to say it’s the former, but I have definitely thought about it.

When I’m running, I don’t worry too much about segments but that could be because I’m not near the top. I do like to see improvements on my own times for 1 mile, 5K, half marathon etc, but that’s competition on a completely personal level. Strava is great for breaking down your runs to how fast you ran each mile/km and to map out where you have been and it’s fun to connect with friends and give kudos on their runs.

For me, cycling is different. I don’t really know what a normal time to cycle 5K is and I don’t think that really matters, so personal records for distances seem a bit pointless. I didn’t realise I was in the running for a top 10 position on my morning segment battle for weeks. There is also another segment on my route, which I am in number 1 position for but I maintained number 4 for ages because I just didn’t realise the segment existed. It’s not as exciting anyway as it’s pretty flat (where’s the fun in that?!) Competing for the number 1 spot makes me cycle more often and encourages me to go faster which improves my overall fitness and therefore also helps my running. Sometimes it can seem like cyclists/runners are bit Strava-obsessed and yes, we probably are but we’re also better athletes for it!

It can be liberating to run (or cycle) without knowing your pace and split times (another blog post maybe?) but for now I’m quite happy logging my times as it’s a way I can record my progress each day. Sometimes I do forget to sync it all up but hey, it’s not the end of the world! No matter what, I’ll be back on the road again the next day, trying to knock off another second or two.

What do you think about Strava? Leave me a comment if you have any similar segment battles!

This week in running (Oct 30th – Nov 4th)

It’s Sunday night and I’m thinking back over my week of running. I usually run 3-4 times a week including a Monday & Tuesday but due to relatives visiting and a friend’s birthday my first run of the week didn’t happen until Thursday. I was more than ready for that run and ended up clocking 10km. You know some nights you just need a run or you might explode? It was one of those. Next up was Parkrun on Saturday morning. Last week I hit my PB bang on (24:56) so this week I thought I’d push myself and try to beat it. I made sure I wasn’t too far back to begin with & kept a good pace to finish at 24:37 – a new PB! I was running into the wind for the last km which was tough but I kept the 25 minute pacer in my sight and ended with the obligatory sprint finish!

This morning, I ran 1 mile (wait for it, there’s more) to Junior Parkrun where I gave out the finish tokens as well as cheering and giving high fives to enthusiastic little kids (and their parents). Once that was over, I set off again and ran an additional 10 miles out and back along the quay. It was cold yet beautifully sunny so once I got going I was pretty warm but able to keep a steady pace. On the return leg of the run I was once again battling with the wind, which meant I had to work hard for the last 4 miles. I rewarded myself with a coffee at the quay afterwards before heading home to eat everything in sight!

I’m pleased with myself for getting out and doing a long run despite not having any races to train for in the next couple of months. I don’t think I have ever kept up the long distance in the weeks after a race but I am determined to maintain it over winter so that I’m not struggling in the new year! I have signed up to Run Up To Christmas to keep me motivated in December so hopefully that will also help balance out all of the chocolate & prosecco I will be consuming!

Anyone else trying to keep motivated now that it’s turning colder & darker?