It’s behi-i-i-i-i-nd you

Something else I’ve learned from my new running format (as well as it all being in the hips) – it’s all about what’s going on behind you.  I used to envisage (not deliberately, that’s just what my body seemed to be doing and I was observing it) my quads pulling my legs forward and up, ready to go down and hit the ground, pulling me forward to my next step.

Wrong. So, so wrong.

Running is a push thing. I’d read about it being a push thing, especially in relation to hills – you know, push the ground away and below you.

I’d read about being light on your feet, and brushing or stroking the ground away beneath you.  But it had never computed. I was always stomping and pulling, or so it seemed. In reality it can’t have been all that bad (I hope. Surely somebody would have said something).

Aside: if ever there was a BRILLIANT book about running it’s Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (tho’ I can’t actually get that title in my head, I always call it Running Free for some reason). Not that I’ve read many. In fact, my sample size (books on running I’ve read) on which I base this profound judgement is, um, one.

I even know (I think) what I need to do to run faster. I need to lift up my heels – strengthen my possibly too flexible hammies.

The whole ‘lever’ thing has fallen into comprehension too. Back to hips.  Stand on one leg, lift the other one in a straight-ish fashion. Extend it behind you. Now, to move it forward, it’s a long, heavy thing, and you kind of have to swing it in front of you. Lots of (excessive) hip work.

Now stand on one leg, lift it behind you. Now bend the knee so that your heel is about level with your knee (lower leg parallel to ground), or even higher. You’ve shortened the length of the lever that you need to bring forward for the next step. Less hip work.

I been watching the elite sprinters with all the brilliant athletics we’ve had on the telly this summer (suddenly I’m obsessed with athletics). They bring their heel all the way up to their bum. Ergo, I reckon, to go faster (not sprinting, obviously), I ‘just’ need to pick up my heels a bit. I know it sounds simple. It’s a lot of hammie strengthening work though, I’m thinking. I guess that’s winter strength training sorted. My point is, I think I don’t need to change much in my new run technique if I want to try to build some extra speed. With the old run technique I was already going as fast as I could, I had no idea how I might begin to try to get faster.

Gotta build bigger lungs though, blimey.


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Learning to run

Dog stretching hip flexors after a run?

Dog stretching hip flexors after a run?

It’s amazing how penny-dropping moments make so much difference.

One. I repeatedly read, and view videos, about the importance of extensive hip extension – which seems to be how far backwards your leg extends after your foot has hit the ground before it then comes forward again to take its next step. Hip extension without arching your lower back or tilting your pelvis backwards. Gotta keep the pelvis static. Bucket of water analogy from club drills. I’ve understood the words since I first heard them, but I think I may finally be beginning to join up some of the dots.

OK, pelvis fixed, hip extension good. However only the other day did I realise that the glutes are the main muscles that cause hip extension. I know, I know, doh! Everyone says how important glutes are. You have to realise, I’ve only just, knowingly, started using mine, with the new run technique. Anyway, my realisation was a quick succession of reading it – glutes are hip extensors – somewhere (why it hadn’t been in all those other pieces I’d read about hip extension I don’t know) followed by my physio saying it. Light bulb.

Two. I’m thinking a lot about what happens to my body when I’m running (I definitely reverted to calling it jogging whilst I was in hip rehab.) Everything was, still is, slow and deliberate and conscious. Anyway, I mentioned something about adductors to my physio. She immediately plonked me in (yoga) bridge pose and told me to ground my big toe.  The only time I’ve thought about my big toes before is when reading about ‘toe-off’ and thinking I’m not sure I really do that, not sure my big toe does much at all.

Anyway, back to bridge pose – then I’m supposed to distribute my weight between my heels and my big toe. Definitely not done that before in bridge. My weight is always in my heels.  Lo and behold. Distributing weight between heels and big toes brings my adductors into play. Suddenly they’re having to work. Wow, this biomechanics stuff is weird.

Three. The whole hams versus quads thing.  I was definitely using my quads to run. Never felt a thing in my hams, they never got sore after long runs. They’ve been getting sore now. In my old run format, after my foot hit the ground, I’d use by quads to haul my leg back and up in front, ready to go down again for the next step. ALL WRONG. The ham should be doing this.

My revelation, and now my visualisation, is, after my foot has hit the ground, hip is extending (maybe a little, I hope), ham is curling the leg up behind (foot to bum), then actually the whole leg-forward thing kinda happens automatically as the ham rebounds and uncurls/relaxes. It seems to sort of ping the leg forward. Quads not so overtly involved. And boy, I have weak hammies.

I’m definitely going through the conscious competence learning model…good to have goals.
·         Unconscious incompetence – old run technique. Got me from A to B for a while but was a bit dodgy.
·         Conscious incompetence: new run technique. Minute repeats utterly exhausting and requiring every iota of possible concentration. And really difficult.
·         Conscious competence: new run technique. Trying to embed it and build both mind and muscle memory, so it becomes automatic and I don’t revert to old format, even when fatigued. Not working on speed, just on form, and form over increasing time.
·         Unconscious competence: gotta dream. The model calls this ‘mastery’…

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Running rehab … run-hab?

Retrospect is a fine thing isn’t it. I probably shouldn’t have attempted at 50 mile ultra just 18 months after having taken up running.

My hip really hurt after that ultra in Feb. I mean, you expect to hurt when you’re in a long run don’t you? So you keep going, optimistic that after a few days’ rest things will start to ease up.  Everything but my hip eased up.

This was a bit of a bugger in more ways than one. In the immediate future, well six weeks later, it meant I had to pull out of the London marathon. Acknowledging there’s a problem is half the battle to sorting it out, or so the saying goes.

So that was six weeks of rest. There was plenty of pain reduction over time. I was probably still doing too much walking though. I hadn’t made the connection they might be related. Later I got permission from my physio to start running again.  Well, if you call 60 seconds’ jogging repeats, with 60 second recovery, repeats. For 10 minutes’ run time, at most. The hip still hurt, even at low intensity and time.  Frequency was two or three times a week. Mind you, if my watch had a 30 second alarm, I’d have started off at 30 second repeats.

At least, I was told, it’s not actually the hip, but likely soft tissue attachments being tight / sore. And so I kept plugging away at low intensity, low frequency, low time stuff.  After 16 weeks (the end of May) I had built up to about 45 minutes. Very slowly. Slower than ever I was when I first started running/jogging two years ago now. It’s kinda like I was back there, starting from the beginning again. Except I don’t weigh as much (though weight is piling back on), and my hip hurt was hurting, more after than during.

At the same time as I started 60 second repeats I did the gait analysis thing. I decided if I just rested then started running as I had been before, this might fulfil Einstein’s(?) definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” There’s already enough insanity in my life without adding extra!

If the analysis said my running form was perfect, then fine, I’d have carried on.  Obviously it didn’t. Have you got a while, it’s a long list:

·         Left hip dropping
·         Leg crossing the mid-line
·         Over-striding
·         Using hips/quads rather than ‘posterior chain’ i.e. hams and glutes

And, do you know, most of this wasn’t much that I wasn’t already thinking, if I’d only have known how to put it into words.  I already knew I wasn’t really using my hams/glutes, they just didn’t seem to get too involved, really. Hams and glutes were rarely sore after runs. Hip dropping and crossing the mid-line (an imaginary vertical line straight down one’s middle) appear to be connected. Once I was told this I realised, yes I do this. I once even called time on one of my long runs because I was kicking myself, literally, with almost every stride. Well my left leg was kicking my right leg. Seems to concord with left hip dropping.

Over-striding: well I know from club drills I’m supposed to land as near under my hips as possible. I just kinda thought I wasn’t doing too badly on this one. Obviously I was wrong. Of course over-striding is effectively braking, so putting even more pressure and compaction on the hips.

Running really is all in the hips.

And so, eight weeks after the ultra, at the very end of March, I had signed up for a six week running gait re-evaluation and re-training. I’ve been unlearning my old ways, and learning new ones.  I guess I’m lucky in that I’d only been running for 18 months, so maybe not so much engrained stuff to unlearn.  And I can say my hams and glutes very soon began to join the party, well they came and they went but at least they were joining for part of the time. I know because they’d be sore!

During the whole learning to run thing in April, May, June, my hip still hurt. But it was getting better and better all the time, which is always good for the motivation, and, I found, surprisingly, the patience. I found I could be patient when I could see just a small indication of improvement. Then I started to wonder if I was experiencing a different pain with new running method, possibly more soreness, as if it was muscles adapting (with new running format), rather than injury from February. Surely if I’m focusing on using and strengthening hams/glutes, which have hitherto been lazy, idle, weak and apathetic, then there’s bound to be some sort of repercussion elsewhere in the system, and learning in the ‘new’ muscles being used? This made sense to me at the time, and I reckon has been borne out by experience. As we know, my hip is now hunky dory and I’m a happy bunny. Still embedding new technique, but now working purposefully (well, when I actually start the training programme) towards a half marathon in the autumn.



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Trail de Sancerre

Trail de Sancerre - route

Trail de Sancerre – route

Well, so much has happened since my (first) ultra on Feb 1st. The pain in my hip didn’t really go away. Not for a long time.  It’s now five months, and a long, really constructive, journey later, and my hip is better. I’ll back track on that process – learning to run – later. But first, the Trail de Sancerre!

I’ve jogged a bit. I stopped calling it running to take the pressure off. Mind you, when I was finally first ‘allowed’ to run for a minute, rest for a minute and repeat for a total of ten minutes, even calling it jogging was ambitious. And if my phone had had a 30 second timer, I’d have started at 30 second repeats.

Anyway, my hip is officially better. My final bit of rehab (after which I really have no more excuses not to run, not to go to track, not to train), on the day of the summer solstice, was to run – more realistically attempt to run – the Trail de Sancerre. And only the little one, which they disparagingly call “la fillette”. Let me tell you there’s nothing girly at all about this trail:  14.8km with 500 metres of ascent, including a couple of 45° slopes.  And on the day, it was a rocking 28°C. The silver lining is that it was a dry heat, none of stultifying, air-sapping, humid heat we have in the UK.

This is first race I’ve done where I’ve been puffing along, look ahead, see something euphemistically called a slope and think, oh good, I can walk up that and catch my breath a tad. Let me tell you everyone was walking up those. It wasn’t me being a (not really any more-)rehab wimp. Probably the winner ran up, pretty much everyone else was walking those bits.

Race prep!

Race prep!

What a glorious setting for a trail. Sancerre is pretty town on a hill (as I found out, a very steep hill) in the middle of some of the most wondrous sauvignon blanc vineyards in the world. Probably the most famous sauvignon blanc vineyards in the world (do I hear dissent from Marlborough, New Zealand?)

It’s always good to have a few targets: (a) just finishing would be good, (b) finishing without injuring myself would be even better, (c) finishing without walking (yeah, okay, that was just sheer naivety that one, and (d) ambitiously, finishing in around two hours.

Cul de Beaujeu

Cul de Beaujeu

I felt a bit sacrilegious scree-sliding down the ridiculously steep Cul de Beaujeau, just outside Chavignol, of goats’ cheese fame, (wouldn’t want to work that vineyard) from one vine post to the next so I didn’t go completely A over T.  Pleased to report the vineyard posts are well embedded. Next we ran through the winery of Henri Bourgeois, in Chavignol, where a hosepipe was on full blast. I gratefully dived under.

Up the Monts Damnés vineyard (damned slopes indeed), and I’m sure we were bagpiped into Verdigny. Was I hallucinating by then? It was only half way. And I’d just been imagining I must be well beyond half way at that stage. That was just pie-in-the-sky thinking.

We zig-zagged across – I use the word loosely, most it felt like it was up – the vineyards north of Sancerre to re-enter the town by the most precipitous path possible. We still had to climb (walk) to the very top of the town, through the Maison des Sancerre, with info on all the wines of the region, and down again through the town centre winery of Domaine Vacheron. I didn’t know it was their winery until we visited it the next day … “ooh, I ran through here yesterday”. Gotta do the day job, after all.

It was, retrospectively, great fun, really hot, a huge challenge, and well supported, even in the remotest vineyard locations. Allez, allez. Even my French stretches to this!

For the record.
Finish time:  1:54:24 (how totally chuffed am I!)
8 / 43 in my age group – top 20%
66 / 289 women – top 23%
515 / 1038 runner – inside top 50%

Ce n’est pas mal!

For nearly two  hours, my life revolved around this image (as well as the vineyards, obviously). My mantra was “blue arrow, blue arrow”. The red one would have taken me on the ‘big brother’ run, a humungous run of 35km, with 1,100 metres of ascent.

Route markers

Route markers

My hip did tweak a tiny bit after the trail, less than I thought it might with all that ascent, and descent, we did end up at the same point. It tweaked little enough that in the week since the race that I ran 3.5 miles on each of three consecutive days. I’ve not even considered any consecutive-day running since Feb 1st. No twinge. No tweaks, nothing. That’s what I base my decision on – my hip is officially better.

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Setbacks only make you stronger, right?

So my first ultra was on Feb 1st. Haven’t run since then. Well tried, once, at track. Was stopped in them. Hideous hip pain. It’d been developing during the ultra, but I kind of just thought, well I’m running a long way, stuff’s bound to hurt.

It’s six weeks later and I can’t even walk more than 40 minutes. Saw my physio before I went away for three weeks who said to rest for at least five days. I rested for ten. Went for 20 minute jog. Cut it short. Done nothing since – that’s another three weeks.

Back home now. Saw physio again. Still no running. Some tiny exercises, which already I don’t think I’m doing right. Supposed to be engaging my glute medius. Seem to be engaging the top of my hamstring. I kinda don’t think they’re the same thing. Sighs.

Obviously I’ve deferred my place at the London marathon ‘til next year. Really not feeling so ‘good for age’ just now. Sighs again.

It’s hardly the end of the world, but running kind of got quite important, quite quickly, in my life. I want it back.


Not my strong suit.


Goes off to wallow in front of rugby, with running and triathlon magazines.

Have been swimming at a nice beach though

Have been swimming at a nice beach though, Orewa, New Zealand

Can’t all be bad.

Five minutes later … Marathon News magazine, programme and final instructions, has just arrived in the post.


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My first ultra

As ready as I'll ever be

As ready as I’ll ever be

It’s been a while since I posted.  Been a bit busy finishing writing a book. My first book. Hopefully not my last, though it’s been quite a journey in itself.

I’ve also completed my first ultra marathon race. It’s a bit difficult to envisage that I’ve moved from being a sedentary, amoeboid blob in mid-2012, to a first-time ultra runner in February 2014. If anyone had said back then, blah blah.

I raced the Thames Trot 50. On February 1st. With all the huge amounts of flooding the race became (a) mostly a road race, and (b) was reduced to 45 miles because of the re-routing. But the race was run, so all credit to the organisers.

I ran 45 miles.

That seemed to deserve its own paragraph! Though ‘run’ may be a bit of an optimistic term. In planning being collected at the end, various calculations were made as to how fast (slow) I might run. So I’d calculated it would take around 8.5 hours (best/consistently fastest possible case scenario) to 11 hours (the cut off). I didn’t want to let myself think it might take me longer than 11 hours.

But in doing the number crunching I simply hadn’t imagined actually doing the running, or even being on my feet for that length of time. It was simply a numbers equation. I think my brain just disconnected from reality (well, more than normal). What I might be actually doing between race start and finish was all something almost unmentionable, certainly unthinkable. If you had to think you’ll be running for 9 hours, well it’s just not imaginable. Is it?

The day was dry. It didn’t rain. That was enough to keep me happy all day. The sky was even blue to start with.

The race was tough. No understatement. It hurt.

In the end the 45 miles took me 8.5 hours.  Eight and a half flipping hours. 8hrs 32 mins to be precise.  If it had been 50 miles, those last five miles would have taken me another hour, so I would still have made it within the cut off.

I distinctly remember being most of the way round thinking I’m never going to do this again. I still have the hip injury to remind me how painful my body got as the day wore on (and my body wore down). But already I’m thinking I might do it again. Not soon, I hasten to add. I guess it’s like childbirth. Everyone says if you remembered the pain you’d only ever have one child.

Learnings: have more clothes. It gets cold and I got cold towards the latter half of the afternoon. Especially with a walk uphill strategy. Body temperature drops really quickly.

Already the memory of pain is fading. There are other stories to tell about those 45 miles, but I’ll keep them for another time.

Can I stop now?

Can I stop now?

For the record, here are my stats:
104th to finish out of a field of 262 (234 finishers).
16th woman to finish out of a field of 57 (48 finishers)
Fourth woman in my age group (40+), out of a field of 18 (15 finishers). Top quarter. Not too shabby.

Checkpoint splits

Checkpoint Segment miles Segment time Average segment pace Average cumulative pace
CP1 8.7 miles 1:14:52 8.57 8.57
CP2 17.4 1:29:37 10.27 9.45
CP3 25 1:34:01 12.37 10.34
CP4 31 1:10:43 11.74 10.94
CP5 40 1:52:25 11.36 11.04
Finish 45.2 1:10:35 14.07 (walked 0.5mile uphill) 11.38

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Pink is not the colour

This is not a joke:  woman walks into a run shop with money to spend… I’d like new running gear please, but not pink … sales assistant … in that case, sorry we have nothing for you.

Why is female running gear nearly all pink? For most of this year, it seems. How boringly stereotypical is that. Are buyers, across the brands, all misogynists or women who are just taking the piss?

Men’s gear has some great, glaring green and optimisitic orange. I want anything that’s not pink.  Or purple.  And purple is my favourite colour. I just don’t want to wear it all the time at the exclusion of any other colour. And apart from one short-lived, mid-life crisis relapse, pink has not featured in my wardrobe since I was old enough to tell my mother not to buy it for me, probably about four, then.

Get a grip designers and buyers. Seriously. What is wrong with you?

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Silva Runner 550 lumens head torch – a review

I spent last winter carrying my bicycle headlight when running.  I did buy a head torch thinking it can’t be great for me to be carrying a torch in one hand, making my top half more asymmetric and potentially unbalanced. I’d noticed that I would hold my shoulder slightly differently. Interestingly my right shoulder is the dodgy one, and I could only carry the torch in my left hand. Perhaps that was why.

Anyway, I bought this well-hyped “running” head torch, not really thoroughly reading (or perhaps understanding) the specification, or more likely not knowing what questions I should be asking of a head torch. Fortunately the first time I ran with it, I thought I’d apply the precautionary principle and take my bicycle headlamp along too. Thank goodness I did, because I couldn’t see in front of my nose.  I later discovered two things: the head torch was 30 lumens, and my bicycle light was 300 lumens. Bit of a difference. Now it made sense.

This year, I’ve been waiting and waiting for the magazines (hard copy or online versions) to review head torches ahead of the nights drawing in. But to no avail. I haven’t seen a review anywhere.

I’d done a bit of my own, minimal, research.  In fact I’d tried out this very head torch at the exhibition before the London marathon. I was looking for a bright light with a battery pack I could wear on the headband, so everything was neatly contained. I didn’t buy the torch there and then, because there was no way the battery pack can be worn on the headband.  You have to use the extension cable and put the battery in a pocket or bumbag.

I did like the otherwise compact size. And at 550 lumens I thought it would be pretty bright, but this was impossible to test at the exhibition, despite a rigged-up ‘dark room’.

Six months on, I haven’t managed to find a brighter light. I’ve acknowledged that, actually, in winter, I’m likely to have a pocket or a bumbag readily available. And so I’ve bought the thing, at great expense.

Predictably its first outing was accompanied by my bicycle headlight. Despite the lumen count, it’s not as bright as my bike light. However, I’ve decided this is because the light of my bike has a brighter, but smaller field of vision.

The head torch has some light pointing forward and other light going laterally, so the available brightness is dispersed over a wider area. There’s width to the beam, essentially.

I seem to recall the gubbins saying it’s trying to recreate a zone of ‘daylight’ (it’s quite a way off that aim, but there we go). This may be related to the difference between lumens and lux, lux being the number of lumens per square metre. I guess if all the light from the head torch pointed forwards, it would be brighter than my bike light. I’m no light expert though. All I can say is the head torch is relatively bright, rather than very bright, and over a bigger area than my bike light.

The head torch doesn’t get near its stated 90 metres beam length. It’s more like 30 metres. However, that’s enough for my running, and I’m coming to appreciate the width of light as well as the forward light. It’s bright enough for my pace of running. The width is especially useful for trail running where you may need to do a bit of side-stepping to keep solid footing.

Bottom line on this expensive head torch? It’s quite bright, bright enough for my training. But don’t even think about running with the battery pack on the head band. It’s really easy to operate – just one button. I’ll only ever use it on its maximum brightness setting, which means, according to said gubbins, the battery life will be about two and a half hours. Plenty enough for me.

Oh, and the colour is just fab.

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GSR – not gunshot residue

My first binbag jacket - works!

My first binbag jacket – works!

Well it’s been quite a week, newbie running-wise. More big learning curve stuff.

Eight days ago (nine days, given that this will publish the day after the race) I went down with the beginnings of a chest infection … here are mid-week musings…

OMG am I even going to run the GSR (not gunshot residue, which, as a CSI fan, I can’t help but run through my head). This week has been without exercise, at all, and with a lot of sleep, going to bed early, getting up later. It’s involved a trip to the docs (thanks L, what would I do without you!) for antibiotics … colds have a propensity to bypass my head and go on straight to infect my chest, oh joy.

I so want to run. I’ve been googling ‘running with a chest infection’, ‘running on antibiotics’ etc. I know the above the neck/below the neck rule of thumb. I’ve been taking my resting heart rate when I wake up. Back to its normal level by Friday, from about 10 beats above (which I’ve also read is the number above at which one shouldn’t run).

Actually where do these rules of thumb come from? Is there any scientific basis to them at all? Or do they just gain currency by volume of repetition (which of course wouldn’t necessarily make them correct)?

I shall do a 2 mile jog on Saturday, probably with the dog, just to see if can cope on two feet, or actually one foot (at a time), and I guess make a decision based on that.

Is there a difference between running and racing? Could I just run in a race? Or would I be compelled to race? There’s a question to which I already know the answer.  Hmmm.

Ok, I jogged the dog for a couple of miles on Saturday morning, to see if my lungs might cope with the race.  Well, I reckon I can run, but I’m not sure about racing (hideous, windy weather forecast not withstanding). So I’m going to turn up and see what happens (see previous par…at least I know in advance, I guess).

The forecast (24 hours in advance) isn’t great: winds at 25 to 30mph, humidity 70%, chance of rain about 50%, temperature about 14°C. What do those conditions do to one’s running capabilities? On Southsea, there’s nothing to protect against those south-westerly winds whipping up from across the Atlantic. Layer up against the wind? Or dress for a muggy, mild temperature? Oh, it probably won’t make any difference. Is it going to be so windy one of my dreams becomes reality – where I’m trying really hard to run, but I don’t move forward, at all. I’m just stuck on the spot?

So now it’s Sunday evening. I ran.

It was windy.  I walked out to recce the start position, right on Southsea common, no protection from the elements. It was blowing a gale. Actually it might have been blowing an official ‘near gale’ on the Beaufort scale. Flipping windy, anyway. And about 30% of the course was straight into the wind. The first mile, and the last two miles (sadistic route planning, or what?).

Southsea Common - sports field of my schooldays

Southsea Common – sports field of my schooldays

My blog has come full circle today.  In my very first post I wrote of my only experience of running – at school – “in the freezing cold to get BACK from the sports fields which were exposed to icy blasts and razor-rods of rain off the English Channel at Southsea.”

I’m relieved to report it was temperately warm, and NOT raining. I think running into the headwind would have been simply ghastly if it had been accompanied by horizontal rain to the face.

The first mile was into the wind. Actually I don’t remember it being so bad. It was the beginning, you’re finding your feet and pace and position.  For me the wind from the side was the worst, worse even that the headwind at the end. After I toed-off the ground with my foot, the wind side-swiped my leg, so that bringing my leg forward for the next step had to be a sort of diagonal then forward motion. Never needed to do that before. Probably only a couple of different half-mile stretches when that happened.

As for those last two miles into the core of the sou’ wester, they were something else. Even some bits of salt spray reached my palate from what looked like quarter of a mile to the water.

I decided it was kind of like running up hills. And I do plenty of hills running round Winky. Can’t not.  I tried tucking in behind a couple of people to draft, which is completely legal, I’d like to add.  But if I tried to tuck in they weren’t going fast enough.  And I couldn’t keep up with anyone in front to draft off them. I run hills on my own in training. Lot of folk overtook me though.

At the start of the race, I got a position right at the front.  This is SO much better than having lots of folk in front of you.  I’m really happy about having people overtake me. I’m not tempted to try to speed up or race with them. I know I’m only competing against myself. Well me and the clock. Folk can overtake, and leave clear space in front of me so I don’t have to worry about being tripped up. I think later on I might have overtaken a couple of people back.

I do rather begin to think I’m a one pace pony though. I ended up doing almost exactly my Bournemouth 13.1 mile split time, calculated over 10 miles. Within a minute of it.

I suppose what is encouraging is I did that time with 30% of the race into a fierce-feeling headwind. And whilst still taking antibiotics coming out of a chest infection.  So overall, I guess I’m pretty happy with my time; can’t complain.

Interestingly my lungs felt better here than they did three weeks ago running the Bournemouth marathon. I know it was 20°C in Bournmouth, and about 14°C at Southsea, but I’m beginning to wonder for how long one can gestate a chest infection before it presents. Could I have been harbouring it then for it to present two weeks later? Am I clutching at straws for a disappointing performance at Bournemouth? At Bournemouth someone even turned round to me at about mile 11 and asked me if I was alright because I was breathing so noisily and raspily. (I’m typically not the quietest of breathers). Oh well.

As for my stats.  Either I’m not using the search function well enough, or they don’t provide simple figures such as the size of each category. I’ve emailed the organisers to ask them e.g. how many women in my age-group were running. Fourth out of five would be pretty useless, but if there were 100 in that age group, that wouldn’t be too shabby. These things are important. Well, actually, not that important, in the scheme of things.

Anyway: stats that I can find:
Time: 1:14:53
5k split: 21:43
10K split: 44:40
Overall position: 1079th
Of women in my age group (45-49):  4th
Of all runners in my age group: 105th
Of all women runners: 74th

Surely these stats make much more sense / have context only with the total numbers in each group?

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Great South Run

Back in early summer, when I was so much running-greener than I am still now, as well as signing up for the Bournemouth marathon, I signed up for the GSR, taking place this coming Sunday, on October 27th.  The latter being just three weeks after Bournemouth. Plenty of recovery time, I thought back then. And maybe it should be, especially as I finished the marathon thinking my legs had more to give, it was some other part of my physiology that let me down – lungs? gut? (or am I just making pathetic excuses?). Except, as I write this is, I am thick and slow (some would say my normal state) with a sore throat that’s kept me up half the night, on its way to thickening my head (more than its normal state) with cold.

In the last couple of weeks, I have done a bit of running, well jogging really, jogging the dog in fact. So hardly serious, though she might beg to differ (very short legs, the dog’s, not mine). Normally it’s me who stops, turns round, waits for the dog to come back into sight. This morning I wasn’t moving so quickly, only tentatively walking the dog, shuffling the dog even, well wrapped up against the half-hearted elements. She the one who stopped, turned round, waited for me to catch up. Several times. Not a good sign for positive fitness.

Assuming I shake this thing off in the next couple of days, I might nonetheless be at risk of failing this run. “It’s only 10 miles” is what everyone is saying, myself included. That’s just not respectful, is it? Ten miles is still a long way. It’s a seriously decent-sized run. And because it’s shorter, I know you’re supposed to run faster. It’s nearly half a marathon for goodness’ sake.

Well, I may as well lay it out in all its gory glory: my 13.1 split at Bournemouth was 1.37. On that basis (mentally running 26.2 miles), I should run 10 miles in 74:05. If I were to run 5% faster I should come in at 70 minutes. Is that a reasonable target? Actually I genuinely don’t know the answer to that. How much faster is one expected to be able to perform for shorter distances?

Added to which I’m not actually sure I can set out faster than I did at Bournemouth (though then I had rather hoped my pace was going to be sustainable. How utterly wrong can one be?).  I reckon if I come in anywhere between 70 and 75 minutes I should consider that a good race (whether I would is entirely a separate issue). The course is supposed to be totally flat, after all, so no excuses on that front. Ah, but there may be sou’wester blowing, so I’ll take that as hindrance!

The race is going to be a bit of a trip down memory lane for me. I was schooled in Pompey. In fact I wonder if that might make me faster – running away from all those school-time memories! The route doesn’t quite go past my alma mater, but near enough to spur me on a little, I suspect.

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