The Rundown: Reykjavik Half Marathon

Warning: this is a long one. Feel free to skip ahead to the result 😉

This weekend just gone, I headed to Reykjavik, Iceland, for my first ever half marathon!

Race Goals

As always I had three goals when it came to this race:

Plan A: Finish under 2:00
Plan B: Finish under 1:55
Plan C: Enjoy the day and don’t make my calf injury worse

If we’re being honest, part of me did want to try to hit sub 1:50, but given that I’d never raced a half marathon before, I wanted to be conservative. After all, there’s nothing quite like getting your ass handed to you at a first-time race!

Pre Race

I was pretty knackered the day before from the 5am wake up for my flight, and then a day of sightseeing by foot and the 4 mile round-trip to the expo. Oops. But I had some big meals and headed to bed nice and early. Come race morning I woke up at 6am, purposefully before anyone else, to make coffee and breakfast, and then headed out to the garden of our Air BnB to sip on my coffee whilst everyone else made breakfast, showered, etc etc.

I ended up doing about 40 minutes of glorious yoga on the deck- I was completely out of sight of everyone else and just got to chill, loosen up my muscles, and meditate on the challenge ahead. We were only two blocks away from the start of the race itself, so with about 10 minutes to spare we all jogged down there together, and did a few loops around the nearby streets to get the legs going.

The Race Itself

I started with the Sub-2h pace group, but soon realised I was actually feeling very fresh and ended up surging ahead to catch up with the 1:55 pacer. From then on, I could feel myself running a good pace with minimal effort, but really tried to rein it in a bit, since I still had a long way to go! The route took us along the coastline, and conditions were perfect- sunny but crisp, without much wind! The halfway point was weirdly in quite an industrial area, and there was a big song and dance about the whole thing, but I hit it without much ado.

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Following the halfway point, things started to get hard. The route took us along the coast again, but there was an undulating, never-ending out-and-back section that just went on forever. Once I got to mile 8 I started to wain, remembering that I still had 5 miles to go and starting to feel the strain in my hip flexors. I kept myself occupied by looking out for other LCAC runners passing me on their way back to the finish, and they were on top form, which motivated me. But still, the turnaround point didn’t seem to get any closer. Fuuuuck. I wanted to stop, either to walk or “stretch” and just take a break, but thankfully I managed to summon some willpower and made it to the 10 mile turnaround point.

Realising I only had a 5K left didn’t actually help me at this point, as I was starting to get slightly existential and angsty, knowing that I had to go back along the never-ending section that had almost broken me. But then my Garmin beeped at mile 12, and the thought of running any further just killed me. About half a mile later I stopped to walk. I wish I hadn’t, and I knew even at the time that I would regret it, but it was inevitable at that point. Mentally, I was done. I knew that I could literally walk the last mile and still hit sub-2h; a realisation that probably didn’t do me any favours. I walked briskly for about a minute, before kicking myself up the butt, and reminding myself that yesterday, sub 1:55 had seemed achievable.

The last mile seemed to go on forever, but thankfully there was a ton of support, and I managed to summon the strength to not stop again, at the very least. Then, as the finish clock started to come into focus, I saw that I was nearing 1:55, and so, with legs that felt like lead, I picked up my sorry ass and made the best attempt I could at a sprint for the last 400 metres or so. Half marathon: done.

 

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Deep in the Pain Cave at this point

 

I felt relieved to have finished, and later realised I’d smashed my goal, with an official finish time of 01:53:01. Yay!

My splits:

  • Mile 1:  8:51
  • Mile 2: 8:19
  • Mile 3: 8:28
  • Mile 4: 8:22
  • Mile 5: 8:22
  • Mile 6: 8:23
  • Mile 7: 8:19
  • Mile 8: 8:33
  • Mile 9: 8:43
  • Mile 10: 8:45
  • Mile 11: 8:45
  • Mile 12: 8:40
  • Mile 13:  9:13
  • Last .1:  8:05

 

Post Race

I mulled around the finish for a while before having a stretch by the lake. Weirdly, some negative thoughts started to creep in as I did this- mainly about the minute or so that I’d lost whilst walking- but I decided to try to block those out, and focus on how far I’ve come. Last March, I signed up to a half marathon, and the whole endeavour seemed entirely out of the realm of possibility, even with the six months I’d have to train. (I ended up getting injured, and didn’t do the race, which kind of reinforced my negative thinking). To think that I’d travelled to a different country, on a whim, to run a half marathon without any training- and that I’d actually finished, and within my time goal, gave me great sense of satisfaction.

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I celebrated with another strong cup of coffee and a rundown of everyone else’s race- we had four PBs, and one of our runners finished 6th, as you do. We all had a celebratory drink, despite it not even being midday, and headed off for naps. Don’t say runners don’t know how to party!

What did you learn from your first half marathon?

Lots of love,

 

Pippa

 

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The Rundown: Sri Chimnoy Battersea Park 5K

London has been taking full advantage of the extra sunlight hours that Summer affords us, with a plethora of after-work races taking place in the capital. After having to miss several that my Athletics Club participated in, FOMO got the better of me and I decided to do a Monday night 5K courtesy of Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team.

As a disclaimer: I’ve never really raced a 5K before. I’ve done Parkrun a handful of times, but between the hilly course of my local Parkrun and the fact that it’s a Saturday morning, I’ve never really given it my all. And so I decided that I’d give it a go, if for no other reason than to practice racing and work out where I’m at fitness-wise.

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Plus Battersea Park is pretty beautiful

I made it to the start line, slightly sweaty already from my commute- I took two trains, and then got lost so had a mad dash to the start line. I was aiming for 23:39, which according to Runner’s World, was a reasonable time to expect, given my 10K PB. Nonetheless, it seemed daunting.

The race itself was low-key, but in exactly the right way-with a small but dedicated field of runners. I went out too fast, despite trying to rein it in- it’s just tough when there’s a pack! I wanted to give it my all, but not to burn out halfway through in a sweaty, panting heap. Here are my splits:

Mile 1: 7:26
Mile 2: 7:31
Mile 3: 7:25
Last .1: 7:44

Finish time: 23:02

I’m pretty happy with that performance, if I do say so myself- over half a minute faster than the intimidating goal I’d set for myself. I’m annoyed with myself for slowing down right at the end; it was entirely my fault, and entirely mental. My vision started to go slightly blurry towards the end, and I saw the yellow signs of the start line, mistaking them for the finish. Whilst I realised my error in plenty of time, I kind of lost my momentum and drive in that last .1 of a mile as the finish seemed just that much further away. But still, pretty damn pleased with my effort, and my shiny new PB.

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What I learned from this race:

– 5K races are really hard. They hurt the whole way round.
– But they do feel very gratifying- I was walking on air the morning after!
– Stress and a long day at work probably played a factor in my mental tiredness
– I’m made of tougher stuff than I’d realised 😃

What’s your favourite race distance? How do I make 5K races hurt less?!

Lots of love,

Pippa

50 Things I Learned Whilst Training for a Marahon

As a caveat to this- I don’t know much about running and certainly don’t claim to be an expert by any means. However, I learned a lot whilst training for my first marathon- both personally and about my sport. So here’s my take on lessons learned.

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  1. You’re capable of more than you think
  2. Tempo miles are never going to be fun, no matter how good you get
  3. Fuel is so so important. You can’t train for a marathon on shitty nutrition and expect to be performing optimally
  4. Good shoes make a whole lot of difference
  5. Sometimes I can’t be bothered is a perfectly valid excuse, especially when it comes to things that aren’t training-related
  6. Comparison is a thing of evil
  7. Self-care is always important
  8. Maybe, just maybe, accomplishing something great is more important than the number on the scale
  9. I get on really well with having a structured training plan and schedule
  10. Having a goal is a great motivator
  11. That goal should be audacious and hairy
  12. Taking time out of training is equally important as logging the miles
  13. Making sure to see friends does a lot for your mood
  14. When socializing during training, it helps to pick events that involve being sat down
  15. Sometimes taking a day off to sleep is just necessary
  16. You know it’s going to be hard, but you can’t quite appreciate how hard
  17. Your feet are going to look gross
  18. Some days, you’ll just feel gross
  19. Investing in pretty workout clothes or manicures will help you feel a little bit more human
  20. It will be the best of times
  21. And the worst of times
  22. Hissy fits in the loos at work are completely acceptable. You’re putting yourself through a whole lot.
  23. Keeping snacks handy at all times works wonders for hunger
  24. Some days, the brain fog will get too much
  25. And on those days, you just need to write everything down
  26. You need to make sure your friends are on board to support you, even when you’re cranky
  27. Check your crankiness. Take a step back when you’re moody and stop (and/or apologise)
  28. Playlists, podcasts and audiobooks will become your best friends
  29. Getting used to racing is really important. I wish I’d raced more during training.
  30. Training helped me get through the dark of winter (I’m a summer baby!)
  31. Procrastination doesn’t actually get the job done
  32. You have to get used to being out of your comfort zone
  33. Invest in your running shoes, but don’t leave it too late (like I did!)
  34. Don’t try to be everything and do everything during your training season. Sacrifices will have to be made.
  35. Having short term goals and rewards really helps – for me, cinema trips and eBay splurges
  36. Make your morning routine idiot proof- I essentially did a capsule wardrobe (accidentally), and wore m hair in the same style for 2 weeks straight
  37. Celebrate your successes
  38. Laugh at your failures
  39. Surround yourself with people who get it
  40. Instagram is a great source of inspiration
  41. Lunchtime and morning runs are great. They free up your evening so you can see your friends (or zonk out in front of Netflix)
  42. Don’t overdo it! I was definitely overtrained on race day
  43. Make sure you don’t set your alarm to silent on race day (I definitely did this…)
  44. Do your strength training and listen to your physio
  45. Everything will hurt
  46. Some runs will suck, and some will be the embodiment of awesome
  47. Nice shower gel and body scrubs will make you feel a world better
  48. Some days, there is not enough coffee in the world
  49. Self-doubt happens
  50. But so does awesomeness. You got this!

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Do you have anything to add to this?

 

Lots of love,

 

Pippa

Rundown: Manchester Marathon aka My First Marathon

Phew. 

I decided to take last week off from adulting, following my first ever marathon. Granted, I still had to go to work, but I decided to sack off just about everything else- blogging, socialising, grocery shopping- you name it. So now I’m back, let’s talk about that marathon.

Oh my days. That’s the only way to describe it.

The Course: 26.2 miles round Greater Manchester- flat, friendly and fast.

The Goals: 

A. Hit sub 4h
B. Hit sub 4.30h
C. Don’t die and/or poop pants

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Pre-Race

I was very nervous the day before, and I could hardly sit still. But by race morning I was feeling much calmer, and even excited. We got stuck in traffic on the way to race village, so I had to get out and walk 20 minutes. Then there was bag drop- a huge, uncoordinated mess of runners, essentially. It was about 10 minutes till the start and I hadn’t been able to leave my bag yet, and I needed to pee very badly, so I left my bag with a complete stranger (and fellow runner) who checked it for me. Final stop at the loo accompished, I had to run to the start line to find my corral. And the start line was about half a mile from race village. Ugh.

Having finally got to my corral with about a minute to spare (literally), I didn’t have time to warm up, stretch, eat something small, or even fix the wonky insole in my left shoe. Oh well…

The Race Itself

The race started with very little fuss, and we got going. During the first three or four miles, my legs felt tight and heavy, like ugh this is so much effort do we really have to do this? By Mile 6, and old climbing accident flared up: it’s a loose SI joint caused by impact, which causes an inflamed piriformis, which in turn causes a trapped sciatic nerve. I haven’t suffered from this injury for 6 years, not even through training. By mile 6 the entire side of my left leg was in spasm and I was in agony, and so I had to stop to stretch. I was still hitting my paces, and somehow despite the pain, I felt okay. I was high-fiving kids, whooping and cheering at other racers, and generally enjoying myself.

Rock "n" Roll Dallas Half Marathon
(Photo by Peter Larsen/Getty Images for Competitor Group)

I hit the halfway point at 2:01:00, so with negative splits in mind (and how I naturally race), I could have (very tentatively) hit sub-4. But by that point, the pain was overwhelming, and I just knew it was out of the question. Despair arrived just after that point, when I realised there was still half a marathon to go.

Miles 13-16 were a blur of pain, with alternating stretches of walking, running and stretching the away. When the cramp dissipated and I was able to run, the pace was actually quite respectable- but then the spasm came again. By Mile 18 I was in full-on meltdown mode. All I kept thinking was how I’d let everyone down, especially since I’d put my everything into training for the past 4 months, and chewed everyone’s ears off with my endless marathon talk. I’d sacrificed so many things in those past few months, and it all felt like it was for nothing.

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At Mile 20 I said a little prayer and hoped just to finish. By this point I really couldn’t move very well, and so I knew I would have to get over my ego and high expectations. But luckily, we were headed back into the city and the crowds were phenomenal.  I ate as many jelly babies and fruit pastilles as I could carry and used the pure sugar as a much-needed boost. I stopped for a long time somewhere around Mile 22, and only started moving again when I could see the 4:30 pacer closing in on me. At Mile 25 I saw two of my closest friends, Ben and Josh, who’d come to support me, and that gave me a huge boost. They were outside a pub, screaming excitedly as I ran past (because at this point, thankfully, I was at least mustering a jog). Their punny, personalised cheers helped me no end, and I finally made it to the top of the hill where, I was told, I’d be able to see the finish line.

Finish line my ass.  I mean, I could see the finish line, but it was bloody miles away (not literally…obviously…it was probably half a mile!) It felt like a mirage- it never seemed to get any closer! I kept wanting to stop because of the pain shooting down my leg, but honestly the crowd support towards the finish was so phenomenal I couldn’t bring myself to do it. And so, in a blur, I somehow made it to the finish line- I honestly can’t remember it!

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There was no clock at the finish line, so I had no idea how I’d done. But frankly I didn’t care- I got my medal and my space blanket, and sent a quick update to my colleagues, who’d all been tracking me and cheering via our Whatsapp group. Stopping turned out to be a bad idea- apparently my legs preferred to be mobile by that point! So i found a place to stretch, and meet Ben and Josh. There was a palava with the baggage collection (more on that to follow), but Ben and Josh bought me a chicken burger and chips, and we sat on the tarmac in race village to eat. And I’ve never felt happier, or more loved, or more relieved.

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My finishing time, I later discovered, was 4:34:14. I was really disappointed with this- I’d had to come to terms with not achieving my A goal which even I knew was lofty. But I was sure I’d finished before the 4:30 pacer- really, it didn’t make a lot of sense. I’ve been feeling a bit low in the aftermath of race day, but I know it’s just a barrier I need to get over in my head. I need to find a way to recognize that 26.2 miles is an achievement!

So there we have it; my first marathon. It wasn’t the result I was hoping for by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m glad to have at least achieved it. Not everyone wakes up one morning and decides to run a marathon, so at least I’ve got that.

Lots of love,

Pippa x

Twas the night before…

My first marathon!!

How did this happen so quickly?

Here are some pre-race reflections… I’m thinking out loud here. I feel very nervous, but very excited. I’ve been shaking all day- restless, agitated, and unable to stomach my food. My appetite’s gone completely! I’m snacking away after having a small dinner, gradually tying to get the carbs in. Flapjacks are my friend- I’m making my way through 3 Trek bars, which are keeping me very happy.

 

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I’m trying to take my mind off things by watching crap TV with my family. It’s so nice to be able to switch off for a moment.

I’m incredibly grateful for this training season. I’ve had some incredible highs and some shocking lows. To overcome my nerves and try to relax a little bit, I’m trying to be a wee bit philosophical and remember the reasons I’m doing this marathon. After all, everyone who runs a marathon has a story.

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I honestly have no idea what to expect from tomorrow, but I’m hoping to enjoy as much of it as I can. After all, you only get one shot at your first marathon!

Wish me luck for tomorrow guys!

 

Lots of love,

Pippa xx