Monday, 1 February 2016

A Happy Running Birthday

This weekend was my birthday and as soon as I realised a few months back that my birthday fell on a Sunday I knew I would be running somewhere. After all your birthday doesn't fall on a Sunday very often so as a runner you need to grab the rare opportunity of a birthday race. 

Initially I liked the idea of taking part in the London Winter Run, a mass participation 10K event through central London with fake snow and hugs from polar bears it looked like a whole lot of fun. Then my competitive side got the better of me and I thought about doing something a bit more ambitious and soon found a Half Marathon courtesy of RunthroughUK who were holding a range of races including a Half Marathon in Victoria Park. When my two running buddies Tony and Chris were keen on a Half marathon in the early part of the year it was all set. 

Not being a massive fun of Christmas I thought having an event in January was a perfect way to distract myself from all the Christmas nonsense with lots of training and then earn myself a nice, massive, shiny birthday PB. 

Great plan right?! What could be a better birthday gift to myself?

Well it didn't go quite to plan, I had a bit of a cough and cold over Christmas which scuppered my training plans then over New Year and into the early part of January it developed into a horrible cough. To make it worse I then suffers the triple whammy of flu, an infection in my tooth requiring root canal work and a slight calf strain. So long story short I wasn't stood on the start line in great shape.

But I'm getting ahead of myself the Half Marathon was the second part of my birthday weekend running adventures.

Part one was a meet up with UK Fitness Bloggers on Saturday morning for a 5K jaunt around East London. 

An expertly taken selfie courtesy of Michael @coachmikeybee
The meet up was organised by UK Fitness Bloggers founder Helen and hosted by the Runners Works, a running shop, runners training base, cafe, treatment facility all rolled into one just a few minutes away from Liverpool Street station. 

It was great to meet up with some fellow bloggers and we headed out on our run led my running coach Mollie who got us nicely warmed up before talking us through the course she had planned out for us.

The group of us of varying abilities jogged off towards Wanstead and I soon paired up with Alin who runs a great fitness blog with his wife and Beagles over at well worth checking out for fitness tips and healthy recipes. 

We chatted and took in the sites of a different part of the city and kind of meandered our way in the general direction of our planned route. OK so we got lost and ran about 6K but hey we had fun and got a few great selfies on the way round!

Most importantly we helped support RODS a charity for orphaned children with Down Syndrome. 

Post run we all made the most of the comfortable surroundings of the Running Works Cafe, Secret Frog and a tasty assortment of hot drinks and cakes. 

I really enjoyed this little adventures on a quiet Saturday morning in the normal bustling city, enjoying seeing some great site and meeting some new people.

So back to part two of my running weekend and the Half Marathon. Originally I thought Victoria Park would be quick and easy to get to as its East London location is not too far from my Essex home, early morning Sunday transport had other ideas! So a 5.30 alarm call for me! Happy Birthday indeed! 

At Mile End I met up with Tony and Chris and we jogged over to the start area. The forecasted heavy rain had so far held off but it wasn't to stay away all morning as a light but persistent drizzle started to fall about 15 minutes before the race start and continued throughout the race.

Race wise I knew it was going to be a struggle as I have only done one nine mile I the last month or two as my only long run so I left Tony and Chris to chase PBs and I set off on my plod round. 

I set off nicely and was well ahead of both a target pace (I hoped for around 4.55min/km) and my expected pace (I thought it would be a struggle to stay under 5.10min/km) after the first 7K. I ticked off the first 10K in 49 minutes and knew it was going to be a struggle for here on in, and it was.

If you know Victoria Park then you know it's not massive and so the Half Marathon route was 6.5 laps. Mental torture for some but for me I find running repetitive laps very freeing as it allows you to focus on your running as you are not thinking about the course ahead or what's around the next corner. 

Towards 8 miles I was starting to struggle and by mile nine I was unusually for me mid race in a dark place. I had a nagging pain in my left abdomen, I was wet and as my pace had dropped I had got so cold, my legs were tired and I didn't really want to run. My mind reflected on the fact I could have been having fun in central London at the Winter Run with all the Polar bears running a gentle 10K but no here I was not in fit enough shape to comfortable run 13 miles feeling cold, wet and miserable, what an idiot! 

After a while my energy gel kicked in and my mood brightened, miles 8 and 9 seemed to take forever but miles 10-13 flew by and I was soon kicking for the finish. It was great to have Tony and Chris support me in the final straight and finishing with my last kilometer being my fastest of the race was a real positive. 

An official final time of a disappointing 1.49.56 was only brightened by massive PBs from my two training partners. A big shout out to the increasingly impressive Bramster for knicking the groups Half Marathon record, it's only on loan! 

Post race frost bite and hypothermia seemed like real possibilities so we used what energy we had left to hot foot it to a nearby Costa for much need hot drinks and some calorific refueling. 

Overall, a part from the rain it was a decent event, well organised with enthusiast, friendly marshals with homemade flapjack and a great bit of bling you can't ask for too much more.

So that was my birthday weekend of running, 29K of running, some great locations, new friends made and great experiences. What better way to spend a birthday than to spend it running?!