Cycle Map Run

Going on holiday? Pack those running shoes!

It’s officially 10 weeks until my marathon, mid-March and snowing non-stop. Yesterday I made a new plan to keep me going over the next couple of months so everything is still going to be A-OK! Those 16, 18 and 22 mile runs are going to happen as long as that snow stops and spring finally arrives (pleeeease hurry up)!

I’ve had an exciting couple of weeks as I actually managed to escape the first bit of snow the UK received and head to California. I attended a conference in Palm Springs for a week, which was amazing. The weather was beautiful, I faced some fears by taking the tramway up 8,000 ft into the mountains and made new friends. Unfortunately the most I ran was about 10 minutes on a treadmill follow by a bit of weight training where every bone in my body cracked – sitting on a plane for about 15 hours is not good for you.


After the conference I flew up to San Francisco for a few days holiday. San Francisco is a fantastic city! I was staying in the financial district, which was easy to get to via BART from the airport and I was a short walk from most popular tourist areas such as Embarcadero and Union Square.

I had so much to pack in to a few days – I had a 4.5 hour behind the scenes tour of Alcatraz which was really interesting, I rode on the cable cars up the infamous hills and took in the sights of the touristy Pier 39. There is so much I missed out on despite all of this so definitely need to go back! On top of all of that I did manage to get out running….

Windmill 10K, Golden Gate Park

 I did a bit of research before travelling and found out that there was a 10K race in Golden Gate Park on my first morning in SF. This was hosted by DSE Runners (http://dserunners.com/), one of the oldest running clubs in SF, who seem to host events every week – what a cool club! As I hadn’t really ran for a week or so before this I found it tough on my stiff legs but I enjoyed the atmosphere of being a new place and had a lot of encouragement from the women I met – huge thanks to Rachel, Carol, Denise & Paula (I hope I got those right!) for making me feel so welcome. I managed to finish in about 55 minutes and got a lovely rainbow coloured ribbon as well as plenty of snacks at the end. I even managed to meet someone else from Northern Ireland so overall I had a fab time!

Running across the Golden Gate Bridge

When I hosted the UK Run Chat hour I remember saying that one of my running dreams is to run across the Golden Gate Bridge so as soon as I knew I would be in SF I got planning this ultimate run! The easiest way for you to know what I got up to is to watch this video….

Again, I met some fab girls on this run who cycled past me and kept me motivated (thanks to Katie x2, Tianna and Mads!) and feel very happy that I have this route on my Strava!

Those two runs in San Francisco were great but I obviously didn’t just leave my hotel room and see where the wind took me…

Here are my top tips for planning a run when on holiday:

1. If you are into races, do some research and see if there is anything happening when you are there. If it’s a big event then the website is likely to have all of the information you need but for smaller events don’t be afraid to email the organisers to say you will be there or ask any questions.

2. For races, make sure you know how to get to the start on time. To save the hassle of public transport in a new city very early on a Sunday morning I got an Uber there and back. The best thing I did when away was to download the maps of both Palm Springs and San Francisco from Google so even when I wasn’t on WiFi I would know where I am and navigate myself back to the hotel.

3. Look up routes before you go. Someone has bound to have ran a similar route before so there will be advice out there. This is also a good safety recommendation as it’s best to run in populated areas (or well known trails) especially if you are by yourself. Of course we all want to explore new areas but just make sure you know where you’re going and how to get back!

4. Think about pre-run fuel. I didn’t have breakfast available in my hotel but popped to Starbucks next door for some granola and banana loaf which was fine for my own run but if you’re racing then definitely check if your hotel does the breakfast you would want to eat or whether you need to pack your own!

5. Bring a running bag or belt with you. I brought my trusty Nathan backpack with me so that I could carry my hotel key card, battery pack to charge my phone, money, a jumper for afterwards, a bottle of water and even a hairbrush so that I could look half decent in my selfies. You don’t want to end up miles away from where you’re staying with 10% battery and nothing to drink.

6. Stop and take photos or videos. You probably won’t be there again any time soon and unless it’s a race you have been training hard for, you don’t need to worry about your time. Enjoy the scenery of your new surroundings.

7. Check the weather! This is probably a good idea before you leave home and on the day of the run. I managed to experience beautiful sunshine, fog and torrential downpour in SF so I wasn’t overly prepared but it meant I could buy a jacket as a souvenir! Sometimes, there isn’t much you can do but at least check if you need shorts or leggings as that can affect the whole run.

8. Have fun! This could possibly be a once in a lifetime opportunity so enjoy yourself, smile at others and reward yourself with some delicious local cuisine afterwards!

Happy running
Rachel

Your Pace Or Mine? – A review

Running in the nude, getting cheered on by a group of “hoody-wearing teenagers” and practising ‘toilet tactics’ on a beach in France are just a few of the highlights from the hilarious book, “Your Pace Or Mine?” by Lisa Jackson. I finished reading this book during the week and thought, without giving too much away, I will write a quick review.

Firstly, yes you should read this book. Whether you are completely new to running, you want to increase your race distance or you have years of experience on the trails, you will laugh at the anecdotes of races from across the globe and say “I totally get that!”

The book is split up into chapters which start with “What running taught me about…” and Lisa covers topics such as fear, laughing, lifesaving and death. Each chapter ends with stories from Lisa’s friends, relatives and people she has met at races, some of which made me smile, others made me a bit teary but all of them are pretty inspirational. There are also some tips and tricks and a log book at the back so that you can fill in your favourite races and funniest stories.

One of my major goals in life is to run the Boston marathon and of course Lisa not only achieved this but also had the opportunity to interview Kathrine Switzer (first female to run Boston in 1967) – what a lucky gal! Lisa’s experience of Boston has not put me off so hopefully some day I will achieve the qualifying time and attempt those hills!

I loved reading about the Comrades ultra marathon in South Africa, a 91K or 56.5 mile race, better known as ‘the world’s toughest ultramarathon’. I am not sure if I will ever make it out to SA for this event but it has definitely made me think about running an ultra where time doesn’t really matter and everyone is supporting you, no matter how experienced you are.

I’ll leave you with one last quote; a line that really stuck out to me and one I actually heard in another audio book this week. An old Zambian proverb, which you can relate to running or really any aspect of life…

If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together

If you have read this book or have other recommendations for me then let me know on Twitter (@raachel712)

Smile and wave, boys.

Hands up who ran! Also known as me in emoji form

Hands up who ran today?

Hands up who smiled/nodded/waved/spoke at a fellow runner?

I hope that if I was on a stage asking all of you this then I’d see an audience full of waving hands. It seems pretty simple to say hello or even just a quick nod to someone you pass by but apparently some people find this quite difficult. Today I ran 10 miles along the Exe Estuary so decided to carry out a little experiment in which I said hello to every runner (as well as most cyclists/walkers coming from the opposite direction). It was raining so I don’t think I had a very large population under investigation but I think I could still discuss some of the outcomes.

Waiting at Lympstone train ‘station’ at the end of my run today. No one to smile at here!

I did initiate most of the greetings although as I approached my finish point I was in a bit of a daydream thinking about how much time I had before my train back that I nearly ignored a lady passing me, thankfully I managed a quick hello! I think there were 2 or 3 people who didn’t respond with one lady keeping her gaze at the path in front of her. It made me think; maybe this is her first run ever and just wants to get it over with? Maybe she was in the zone and didn’t register that I was close, which is a bit strange considering the path is probably wide enough to have no more than 3 people run side by side. A man I passed at the very beginning did look at me (I think) but no acknowledgement. I’m going to assume he was nearly finished his run and was concentrating on a sprint finish.

A lot of people go out for a run to escape from what’s bothering them and clear their heads. That’s definitely true for me some days and I’ll put my earphones in and try not to think about anything at all. Perhaps, some people like to zone out completely and in doing so they don’t notice or care to acknowledge others? I would like those people to know that there are lots of us out there who also feel the same and a little smile or nod is a good way to show support.

Of course, most people did say hello or good morning and I got the odd wave from some. Last year, I got a high five from a fellow runner and that made my day. It definitely made me run a bit harder and put a smile on my face for a mile or two. If I was running along the main streets of Exeter I wouldn’t be saying hello to every single person I saw, that is definitely a step too far but when you’re along the estuary you aren’t usually surrounded by crowds of people and a cheerful “good morning!” can help you feel a little less alone. Even cyclists gave me a smile this morning and I was hoping that people were really saying “Hello! You’re all the way out here? You must have ran far, well done!

I do not advise waving like this.

Due to the weather today, I think a lot of the good mornings also had an alternative message of “Are we wise?!”. When you are running in the rain, early in the morning or perhaps on a special holiday e.g Christmas Day (no experience of that one) then you make an even greater connection with fellow runners. You are both out there at a ridiculous time for who knows what reason so therefore you must say hello. That hello actually means “we are both equally as insane because we are outside before the streetlights turn off but also we are fantastic and can both feel smug for the rest of the day”. I don’t often have that kind of hello but when I do, I feel great, like I have been accepted in to some sort of special club for people who can get out of bed when it’s still dark and freezing outside.

I wonder if location has an impact on this and I don’t just mean urban v rural routes, I mean your region or country that you live in. I have only lived in the UK but my experiences in Northern Ireland, Scotland and now England are slightly different (I’m not going to say where I think is the friendliest but you can guess!).

I think it comes down to showing a bit of solidarity to other runners that are clearly working hard & doing their best. I don’t get annoyed when someone doesn’t smile back but rather I wonder what they could be thinking about that means they don’t even look at me. Next time you’re out running, see if you notice any trends in how people greet you. If you’re someone who doesn’t like to interact with others that is fine but why not give a nod and see if the response from the other runner makes you feel good. I can almost guarantee that it will.

In the words of the clever penguins from the film Madagascar, if you see a fellow runner just
smile and wave boys, smile and wave!

Have a great week everyone,
Happy running!

Words of wisdom

Hello 2018

We are a week into 2018 and I am just getting round to finishing a blog post I started on New Year’s Day. I am hoping it isn’t too late to reflect on 2017 and the novelty of New Year’s Resolutions hasn’t worn off just yet. First of all, I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and weren’t too hungover on NYD. I spent NYE with my family, introducing them to the UK Run Chat hour on twitter and planning races for the upcoming months. 2018 is set to be the year of new challenges and hopefully smashing some PBs but before I get into all that, I will take a look back at 2017…

2017

After the GWR smiling because I surprised myself with a new PB.

I wasn’t running too much at the start of the year as I was finishing my Masters dissertation alongside my full-time job. Looking back, I don’t know how I fitted it in but I completed it, presented a poster on my work at a conference in Vienna, passed with distinction and had a lovely graduation back home. Having free time again in summer meant I could really enjoy getting out running again! The first race of the year was the Jurassic Coast 10K in August, memorable for the hills, heat and my first insight to off-road running. The Great North Run in September was a fantastic experience. I will never forget running across the Tyne Bridge just as the Red Arrows flew overhead and I definitely won’t forget the pain in my quads which forced me to walk a bit at around mile 9 (tip: don’t cycle 50 miles the weekend before a half marathon). With a half marathon PB of 1:56 gained at GNR, I felt relaxed as I lined up for the start of the Great West Run in October. Clearly having a carefree attitude is the way to go as I powered up those hills and achieved a new PB of 1:52! Lastly, I took part in Run Up 2 Christmas with my club UKRC Exeter and collectively we ran nearly 1000km (that’s the target for this year!) and despite having a cold and all the usual Christmas distractions, it was good to have motivation to get outside.

New Year, New Me?

 I like throwing that phrase around to wind people up when discussing resolutions, however I did tweet recently that I am very much pro resolutions because why not try to make some positive changes in your life? Sure you can decide to eat healthier in June or try spin classes in September but the start of the year seems like a good time to start afresh. I do have some personal goals to achieve this year but I know you just want to hear about running so I will get to it!

2018 is the year of the marathon.

I am just a bit terrified. I tell people that I am now officially in marathon training and it tends to sound quite casual and generally in a calm tone. Then this happens:

Friend: Oh a marathon, how far is that again?

Me: twenty six point two miles

Friend: TWENTY SIX MILES?

Me: twenty six POINT TWO

Friend: WHAT! That is so far, how on earth can you run that?!

I know it will be ok. I have very supportive friends and family, no other major commitments (outside of work) and plenty of shorter races to run between now and the end of May including a few 10K races in Exeter and a half marathon in Taunton.

Of course, I will then be running the marathon at the end of May. That’s ages! Isn’t it? Isn’t it? Currently I feel quite motivated and ready to tackle the training but I’m sure that will change over time. I am sure you will all agree that the best thing to do is not get too worried, keep up consistent training and enjoy the challenge. I will try to listen to that (plus any other advice) over the upcoming months.

Before my first run of the year! Smiling on the outside, crying on the inside.

I guess now (finally at time of writing and posting) I have finished week 1. My first run was on New Year’s Day and it was horrific in the rain & hail at a hilly forest at home. Since then, I have been back to my running club (@UKRCExeter), been to the new Exmouth park run & completed everyone’s favourite – the long Sunday run! I ran a total of 38.8km this week (I do not like leaving it so unrounded but I’ll live) and not had a drop of alcohol or a bite of chocolate (chocolate ban only started on the 2nd) so I am feeling pretty pleased.

Just in case you’re a bit nosy like me, my other goals/thoughts for the year ahead are:

  • Read more books. It takes me forever to read a book unless I am lying on a beach in 25 degree heat. I want to read/listen to more this year to stop myself looking at a screen all the time and maybe it will give me something else to talk about other than PBs and negative splits.
  • Drink less alcohol. I am taking part in Dry January just to give myself a bit of a boost and yes I probably will have a glass of wine as soon as February hits but I am going to try to not drink so much this year. I can tell this one might not go to plan…
  • Work hard. I’m currently listening to What Happened by Hillary Clinton (she even reads it herself, it’s fab!) and it has filled me with motivation in nearly all aspects of life but especially my working life. They key thing here is to not doubt yourself and what you can achieve.
  • Save money. Yes another typical one but to be fair this already happens, I just need to maintain it and that’s what direct debits are for.

I’m sure I will come back to these in a few months time and think “How did I think I could give up alcohol, are you mad?!” but at least it’s all written down and that means I will at least try to focus on the list above. I’m going to go drink a nice cup of tea now and read my book (see, I am already a better person).

I hope you all have a productive and successful week ahead!

Here’s to 2018!

Rach x

Exmouth Park Run. It was freezing!!!
Post-long run selfie today. I managed 8 miles in the freezing cold after helping at Junior Park Run.

It’s the most run-derful time of the year

December is my favourite month. I absolutely love Christmas and it’s my birthday this week so what’s not to love?!

I am currently sitting in my cosy flat with a little Christmas tree on the table, because there isn’t enough space for an actual tree, & there’s a box of Quality Street sitting open and being very, very tempting. I could easily sit in every night enjoying strawberry creams & drinking Baileys but I have a marathon to run next year and I don’t really want to start back at square one in January. My plan is to keep the miles ticking over until the New Year then I’ll get focused on a training plan but it’s pretty tough when it feels like -1 outside and it’s dark before 5pm. I’m sure most people experience the same dip in motivation over winter so here is my list of things to do/ways to keep both the running and Christmas spirit alive…

Headband, Unilite head torch and Buff – the essentials for a run home from work in the dark!

1. Embrace the drop in temperature and treat your self to some warm winter clothing. When I buy new running clothes, no matter what month, I always get a boost. Use this to your advantage and get some long sleeved tops, gloves and a buff etc. If I could wear my buff 24/7 I probably would. I wear it as a headband when running to keep my ears warm & to stop my hair blowing around my face when it’s windy. As well as clothing, equipment like head torches and hi-vis arm bands can come in pretty handy if you aren’t always running along lit up roads.

2. Prepare some good food. I am not very good at this and really need to find some new recipes instead of relying on pasta or cheese on toast. I did make a lovely spag bol last night alongside a big pot of soup to get me through the next couple of days AND I do have something planned for later in the week. I guess most blogs/magazines etc would say that a good filling meal will stop you from snacking on rubbish. That may be true but I also like to believe that eating something nutritious (plus doing some exercise) means I can also have chocolate. Enjoy the selection boxes, Christmas puddings and prosecco while you can. Just have some brussel sprouts too.

3. Sign up to a race. I encouraged the rest of UKRC Exeter to sign up to Run Up To Christmas, which means we are all trying to run as much as we can from Dec 1st-25th in aid of Mind, the mental health charity (http://runuptochristmas.com/). It’s only the 3rd and we are already clocking up the miles, and a little bit of competition never hurt anyone! We also took part in a Santa Run this morning, which is another great excuse to get moving!

4. Try to get some sunshine when you can. I am lucky to work somewhere with flexible hours and lots of showers so I can pop out for a lunchtime run. I will probably need to do this over the next couple of weeks as the mornings can be a struggle and my evenings will be spent in the Christmas Market. It’s all about balance, right?

5. Be inspired. On the nights when it is really pouring down or you just can’t face putting your trainers on why not pick up that running book you bought but haven’t got round to reading or watch a documentary on Netflix (Finding Traction or The Barkley Marathons are my top choices). Soon you will want to be out there. I can usually have a flick through Runner’s World and read something that makes me lace up and head out the door.

This probably hasn’t convinced anyone but I’m pretty sure we can keep up fitness whilst indulging on the sweet stuff over the festive period. I will be out with my running club, wearing my buff & thinking about all of the chocolate I will eat afterwards.

Enjoy the festivities,
Rach

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?

What, there are other people just as keen as you?!

I moved to Exeter in 2016 and prior to moving I had already looked up running groups and found out that there was a half marathon in October, so of course I wanted to train for that. I had been part of a club at home and I knew it would be a good way to meet new people in a new city, give me something to do in the evenings and keep up my fitness. You might expect a blog post like this to be about someone who thought running clubs were scary & they needed a friend to drag them along only to find out it was amazing and it changed their life. I already knew it was going to be a good decision to along to a club night because runners are very supportive & friendly! I also like meeting new people but I don’t like running in the rain so if there are people out there that can convince me to do that then it can only be a good decision!

When your running group meets Jo Pavey #hero
All about the glutes

I don’t remember when this happened exactly but I started following @UKRunChat on twitter. One day I realised they were advertising a run around the Rhino statues in Exeter. I thought this would be amazing! There would be hundreds of people out for a run, what a great thing to be a part of! I told my friend Pip about this and we decided to go along. After waiting a while at the wrong Rhino statue (typical!) we found our fellow runners – all 6 of them! Turns out this was not the huge event I imagined! This was a run organised by UK Run Chat Exeter, a relatively newly formed running group. It’s now over a year old and there are 26 in the Whatsapp group.

We like to do sessions that you wouldn’t normally do by yourself like banana hill sprints or relay races on the quay. We meet for Parkrun on a Saturday morning followed by coffee & cake and a lot of us help out at Junior Parkrun on a Sunday. Just like UK Run Chat as a whole, it feels like a community rather than a club you go to once a week.

First night with UKRC Exeter
Post run pints – always a good idea

Outside of work, joining UKRC Exeter is probably the best thing I have done since moving here. I have met wonderful people who I think of as family more than friends, pushed myself to achieve new personal bests in races and have co-hosted the UK Run Chat hour on twitter – the account that brought me to the club in the first place. I feel very fortunate to be part of such a supportive, hilarious and welcoming running group.

Of course, I could write lists upon lists on the reasons to join a running club but you have probably heard it all before and trust me, it’s definitely all true! Instead, here’s what some others in UK Run Chat Exeter think about our club (it’s pretty much along the lines of “If Carlsberg did running clubs…”)

“UKRunChat brings a general love of running to one place. UKRCEXETER takes this love and brings a real mix of people together. Old/young, fast/slow but all with a common love for fun and running!” – Matt Upston (run club leader aka the boss!)

“I enjoy going to UKRC Exeter because I have made lots of new friends and my fitness has improved. It’s great to come home and chat to Rachel about our running plans and not just about our work days. It’s great that we can go to the club together and both of us have made a fantastic group of friends. The club is good motivation and an excuse to get away from my desk at a reasonable time!” – Sarah (my flatmate, agony aunt & fellow Netflix-binge-watcher)

“UK run chat is an amazing group of people, who have made running more fun and enjoyable for me and the reason I keep going is that it’s a great chance to talk to people and to keep improving my running….” – Rob (he sneaks in 5 mile runs before the club because he is extra keen)

“The activities at UKRunChat complement my normal running perfectly and the people are so great. Its so much fun and I look forward to it each week. I think I have found some running buddies too” – Darren (as well as being a great running buddy, he helped me move house earlier this year!)

“UKRCExeter is an an inspiring group with a passion for running. Though, as the leader enjoys telling newbies, “we don’t run in this group!” We do the training you probably wouldn’t do on your own, like hills or sprints. The motivation of the other members and the dedication of the run leader make me want to go and do those things. They’re awesome.” – Matt (my voice of reason when I contemplate doing something ridiculous and all round cycling/running buddy)

So there you have it. You might say we enjoy going to our running club and without a doubt you should join one too. If you live near Exeter then join us! Find us on twitter for more information @UKRCExeter

 

Have a good week everyone,
Rach

Parkrun Selfie!
Pre-Parkrun Selfie!
Smiling on the outside, crying because of sprints on the inside

Great West Run: A Review

On Sunday 15th October 2017 I ran the Great West Run, a half marathon through the streets of Exeter. I had a great time and managed to achieve a new personal best of 1:52:59 so while I am still reeling over this achievement I thought I’d write a quick review!

Registration & pre-race organisation

I signed up to the Great West Run in August when it cost the full price of £36 (early bird prices are already available for 2018) and I received a lot of information in the run up to the event. Thankfully, I didn’t need a shuttle bus ticket but those were also available to take you from the city centre to Exeter Arena. I think all races are expensive but I think this might be one of the cheaper half marathon options (please tell me if you know of cheaper races in the South West!). I received my bib number about a week or two before the race so everything was under control and I was feeling prepared!

The route

See for yourself! Symbolised according to elevation, this map shows the low-lying roads close to the River Exe in pale yellow and higher ground (university climb) in dark purple. Click on the mile markers to find out more.

The route was different this year than last and having chatted to friends that have also ran in both 2016 and 2017, I have heard mixed opinions. As you can see from the map above, the race starts and finishes in Exeter Arena, home of Exeter Harriers, where Jo Pavey started her running career. With speedy flat roads through the city centre, challenging uphills and a testing out and back section, I think the Great West Run really does have it all. There are plenty of supporters there to cheer you on but with the start/end being out of the city centre, you might need a bike if you want to cheer at multiple points. I enjoyed ending on a downhill and the out & back section wasn’t as bad as I anticipated as I could watch those right at the front speeding past me on the other side of the road. You also finish by doing a lap of the track so you can feel like the professional athlete that you truly are!

Let’s go! Running up Pinhoe Road.
Cheers from the crowds in the city centre

The Goodies

Now to the good stuff. On finishing the race you are awarded a medal, t-shirt and a goodie bag. The t-shirt this year was white with purple writing, definitely one of my new favourites and the medal is now proudly hanging up in my bedroom. I have to say the goodie bad was disappointing in comparison to other races I have done. It contained a Clif bar (I did not actually pick one of these up but I am sure it would be lovely), a bag of popcorn (which I also did not pickup because the flavours sounded terrible) and an ginger flavour energy drink (which tasted strange but also healthy).

Will I run the Great West Run again?

Yes I will, mainly because this race is on my doorstep but also because it gives you a challenge without being an absolute killer. I wouldn’t say a PB is always guaranteed because of the hills but it definitely provides an interesting route. Exeter is a city with a small town vibe so if you are looking for a friendly place for your next race then it’s for you.

If you ran the GWR last weekend let me know how you got on and what you thought of the race!

Rach x

 

 

Race ready the night before
Medal + bib number

Bitnami