Cycle Map Run

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.

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

Reasons to run a marathon

It’s currently a pre-race day for me but my thoughts in the lead up to the Great West Run have been slightly overshadowed by my recent Edinburgh marathon registration. So before I put a pasta bake in the oven and lay out my kit for that all important Instagram, I thought I would share my reasons for choosing to a run a marathon. I should say that I might change my mind about these in the future as I haven’t even ran a marathon yet so how should I know how good it will feel or what would make other people also run one? I guess these reasons can be applied to any race distance and for running in general. Have a read & let me know what you think!

  1. To achieve a goal. I have already ran a few half marathons and I have got to the stage where I can run past the 13.1 mark in a training run so I think it’s time to up my game!  I love that feeling when you have ran further than ever before and suddenly feel invincible. Then you push hard for the last mile, pain hits and you start to question everything again! Seriously though, that sense of achievement is a fantastic feeling and you’ll not only get that when crossing the finish line of a race but with each long run that you do.
  2. To get fit/be healthier. I think running is one of the best ways to stay in shape and running a marathon is going to make you think more about your body and what it is capable of. I feel quite fit as it is due to recent half marathon training but I know full marathon training will make me think more about what I’m eating and the different types of running sessions that I am doing.

    Royal Mile, Edinburgh
  3. Travelling / visiting a place you love. I’m happy that the race I am doing tomorrow is within walking distance from my flat but sometimes the adventure of travelling to a race makes the whole experience even more exciting. I have chosen to run the Edinburgh marathon because I went to uni in Scotland and have a lot of family & friends living there so it is a place very close to my heart. I have ran the Edinburgh half 3 times and loved every second of it (apart from in 2015: post-dissertation meant very little training and a lot of toilet stops – maybe more on that in another post?) so I know going back for the full thing will be fantastic. I also didn’t get into London but hey, what can you do?
  4. To raise money for charity. I absolutely love running a race and reading the names of charities and the special messages people have written on their t-shirts. I raised money for Helping Hands – the charity to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children in 2014 and the support I received was wonderful. Recently, at the Great North Run, a friend ran for Sue Ryder and we arranged to meet in their tent afterwards. They gave me such a warm welcome despite having not ran for them myself and I thought how great it must be to be in the community of people running for the same charity. You can motivate each other and celebrate together.

    Post-Jurassic Coast 10K with running group pals
  5. Making new friends / joining a group. I am lucky to be part of 2 great running groups in Exeter and the combination of long runs, sprints and hill sessions make it easier to get training in during the week – especially in winter when it’s raining and all you want is a glass of wine in front of the TV. I am hoping that marathon training will make me more committed to the club sessions and really value what we are doing. Of course, as time goes on and I chat to more people who have actually ran marathons I hope to make more friends who I can ask questions to and find out what it’s really like.

Now it’s pasta bake time!

Happy running,
Rachel.

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