December – Merry Christmas Virtual Half Marathon

Happy New Year everyone – and as we say goodbye to 2017 – Gill and I wave farewell to our 13.1 x 12 challenge!  With some sadness (Gill may say differently) as it has been a great experience!  Our December challenge was a virtual – Christmas themed – half marathon from Heathfield to Eastbourne ending up with roast dinner at the Toby Carvery!  It was a relaxed and jolly affair – leaving Heathfield on the morning of Saturday 16th December at roughly 9.30am.

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There is no starter’s siren today – so there are unlimited opportunities for trips across the road to use Waitrose’s facilities and stock up on jelly babies before we head south.  We have quite a few people waving us off and Nicola and Matthew (from HRR) run with us for some of the way.  Julie (who has actually run a quarter of the 12 with us) and Ely (one of our couch to 5k graduates running her first half marathon distance) run the whole way with us and join us for lunch.  Olivia sets off from the Toby Carvery and meets us at about 10 miles and runs back with us.  It is a relaxed run – rather than race – with a comfort stop at Tesco in Hailsham.  We are greeted and waved along the way – sometimes by people we know and some we don’t – perhaps encouraged by our Santa hats, dresses and the Christmas playlist we have with us.  Its fair to say we didn’t break any records but we had a good time and a lovely way to finish the challenge – in great company and with surprisingly good food.  Rosie meets us in Eastbourne to join us for lunch and drive us home!

So this is how it went……………………………….

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January:  Farnborough half marathon – certainly the coldest – with a dark and early start.  Still traumatised by the garage fire.  Cobbles on the roads and some off road stretches – but a great start to the challenge – we are excited and enthusiastic.  2 hours 11 mins.

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February:  Tunbridge Wells half marathon – I’m injured – sore hip that I never fully understood – but probably related to falling off a (breakfast) bar stool!  One of the best half marathons – I’ve done it 5 times – with Spring Hill in the middle to kill all conversation.  Had to take it easy and nurse the hip round. 2 hours 24 mins

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March:  Hampton Court Half Marathon.  Certainly the most flamboyant medal – a big field which was fun – fairly flat but a headwind for the last 2-3 miles.  2 hours 10 mins – my best time of the 12!

 

 

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April:  Paddock Wood Half Marathon – flat and fairly warm – but Gill is injured this time – her back is hurting – probably not fully recovered from March.  We ran together. 2 hours and 24 mins.

 

 

IMG_2249May:  The Weald Challenge Half Marathon.  Actually 13.6 miles – mainly off road.  A lovely run – tripped on a tree route at 10 miles and broke a rib but didn’t really notice until I was finished. 2 hours 39 min – the slowest of the 12 but very different to a road race and still 10 mins faster that the last time I did this race.

 

 

IMG_2250June:  A virtual run this time as we struggled to find a run that was local and that we could both do.  Very hot today – so we started early and ran 7 miles and then joined the Heathfield 10k to make up our 13.1 miles.  2 hours 24 mins

 

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July:  Richmond Park Half Marathon – laps – need I say more?  The first 2 were okay and then began to become repetetive and hard work as I began to anticipate the hard stretches.  But a lovely setting.  2 hours 13 mins.

 

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August:  Canterbury Half Marathon.  The hardest, hottest and hilliest………………….  on August bank holiday Monday with soaring temperatures when we were expecting an English Bank Holiday of rain and chills.  The one I will NEVER do again! 2 hours 29 mins.

 

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September:  Barns Green Half Marathon.  Local (ish) so we ran with other HRRs – a nice route – just made the start – getting a bit complacent…………………… 2 hours 25 mins

 

 

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October:  Tonbridge Half Marathon.  Another familiar one – really enjoyed this one – met some old friends and felt strong.  Only a week after the last one 2 hours 15 mins.

 

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November:  Bedgebury Forest Half Marathon.  Another off-roader and very muddy indeed.  But a lovely, frosty winter’s day in bright sunshine with good company.  Another favourite – possibly number 1………………………… No pressure because of the conditions – and actually a bit short on the distance (12.77 miles).  2 hours 28 mins.

 

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December:  Well you know this story……………….. 2 hours 26 mins.

My reflections on the whole experience are still to come.  And I’m going to have to find something else to blog about.  But if any of you out there are tempted to do the same then……. Just do it!  You won’t regret it and we have a great pile of bling to show for our efforts!

So farewell 2017!  You’ve been great!  Loved the running and all the support along the way.  Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this journey.  And I’ll sign off with my favourite running Christmas song!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November – Bedgebury Pinetum Half Marathon

Half marathon number 11 is now done and dusted – here’s how it went……….

I’ve always enjoyed running at Bedgebury – mainly in the forest on the cycle trails – well drained forest roads and trails. Sometimes a bit stoney and rutted – and definitely hilly – but lovely running. Julie and I had done a recce a couple of weeks before – and the conditions were lovely – comfortable running even in road shoes. We met Jo – one of the employees at Bedgebury – who talked us through the route and was interested to hear about Gill’s and my 12 in 12 challenge. She kindly took our details and put a post on the Pinetum FB page to let people know that we are collecting PANTS for “Smalls for All” as a celebration of our 12 races. The charity collects new pants for women and children living in Africa in orphanages, slums and IDP camps – or in hospitals. They can make a difference between a girl accessing education or not and so finding a way out of poverty. I, for one, take access to clean underwear for granted and can’t begin to image what life must be like – so I hope that our 12 in 12 challenge can make a small difference!

So I was looking forward to the first running of the Bedgebury half marathon and 10k – with just 500 runners in total – a small, friendly race. On the Friday before the race emails came round from Nice Work (race managers) recommending the wearing of trail shoes given three patches of muddy ground (3, 8 and 10 miles) – “we recommend approaching the areas with caution and keeping to the left and you should be okay! No rain is forecast so conditions shouldn’t deteriorate…….” That was on Friday…….. On Saturday it rained. A lot. All day in fact! So the decision was made – trail shoes it is!

Sunday morning is cold – but dry – and Gill and I leave Heathfield at 7.45am for the 9am start. Julie is there just ahead of us and we meet Dave and Tony from HRR – also running and destined for good times. Paulette has come along and plans to run with Gill. There are plenty of puddles in the car park and the ground is covered in frost – but it is a lovely sunny day. The walk to the start is through long, frosty grass and it is soft underfoot. We start on time and the first few hundred yards are quite soft and slippery so the shoe decision is well made. And before long we are on the Pinetum paths and the forest trails – less slippery but cobbled and hilly. It is a small field so its not crowded and everyone is friendly. There is a Marshall at the first muddy patch – warning us to take care – but there is no need really as it would be reckless to do anything else. We walk, jog and hop through the mud until we are back on the tracks. Gill and Paulette are just ahead of Julie and I and they are proceeding with caution too.

At 6 miles those running the 10k peel off and head for the finish. There are just a few of us running now as we head out on a second, slightly longer lap – that has a further patch of mud……….. But is is a lovely race – there will be no PBs today so we just take our time and walk/hop when we have to. The weather is perfect – very cold – I never take off my long sleeves – but bright and sunny – just delightful! And even better – the course measures slightly short by my calculations – so we finish slightly sooner that I thought. Dave and Tony have both waited (quite a long time as it turns out) to cheer us home – thank you boys – and well done on your times – don’t know how you did them through those conditions!! Gill and Paulette are smiling – they have enjoyed it too! Nice medals – shaped like pine cones (how appropriate) – overall one of the best and most fun of the races so far………..

So there is just one race left. I must confess to feeling rather sad at that. It has been a great experience. The next one will be another virtual half marathon as there are so few organised races in December. It will be Christmas themed and we hope that a few people will come along and join us!