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!

In Search of the Big Sur

I have always felt rather embarrassed that I didn’t really “get” the Big Sur!  What is it exactly?  It sound very American and “Uncle Sam” like – but people rave about it.  “Have you been to the Big Sur?  Isn’t it wonderful?”  Well I’ve driven down Highway one a couple of times so my answer is usually something like…….. “Oh yes! It is spectacular” all the time wondering quite what I am talking about……..  Is it the coastline? Or Route 1 itself? Or a National Park?  It doesn’t seem to be a place or have a centre – but maybe I have been missing something.  So finding myself in this part of the world again – rather unexpectedly- driven south by wild fires in the North of California – I decide to try and get to grips with it.

The original Spanish- language name for the unexplored mountainous terrain south of Monterey was “el pais grande del sur” – literally “the big country of the south”.  It was Anglesised by English speaking settlers as Big Sur.  So the rather negative connotations that I have carried with me of Uncle Sam, and a macho American life are somewhat unfounded.  And it is a rather ill-defined area of coast – south of Carmel by the Sea – where the land rises very steeply from the Pacific Ocean.  It has no clear centre.  It is not Highway 1 – but the road does pass though it.  And it is better appreciated by stopping and enjoying its peace and quiet – rather than simply driving the road and stopping, with the other tourists, at its highlights to take a look. Although that has its merit too! 

We leave Carmel and drive south – the road starts to climb and wind and – despite the mist – the coastline emerges and is wild and dramatic.  But the highlights of these early miles are the art-deco style bridges built in 1932 – The Rocky Creek bridge and the iconic Bixby Creek bridge.  Amazingly beautiful feats of engineering.  Man made structures that somehow improve rather than detract from the environment – in the same way that Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings settle into the landscape and become part of it.  I read somewhere that the bridges were built by convicts in exchange for shorter sentences.

A few miles further south and we reach the first of the State Parks in the area – The Andrew Molena State Park where we walk down to a rugged and wild beach – littered by driftwood that has been built into structures by early visitors.  It is quiet and beautiful with the pounding waves and seabirds for company.

Occasionally it is possible to see cormorants here – we are not so lucky.

Driving on we visit the childhood home of one of my heroes Kaffe Fassett – famous for his knitting and quilting and use of colours in his designs.  His father Bill bought a log cabin on the coast from Orson Wells – and Nepenthe is now a restaurant and gift shop still run by the Fassett family.  The views are unsurpassed (although wild and still misty) and go well with eggs and home fried potatoes.  The gift shop is full of colour – some of Kaffe’s designs as well as other jewellers and artists. – and the smell of incense.  Dream catchers, scented soap and books about yoga.  It has only been possible to drive here for the last week as winter rains destroyed a bridge closing route 1 to traffic.  It is still closed further south due to mud slides which have destroyed the road.

We turn and head north again This time stopping at the Pfeiffer State Park.  Very quiet – almost deserted – we struggle to find a trailhead but eventually find ourselves on the Buzzard’s Roost Trail – a mere 3.5 miles but steeply uphill to the summit and panoramic views – and then just as steeply downhill again. 

On re-reading my guidebook it tells me that the Big Sur is “more a state of mind than a place” – I think that I am beginning to “get” that.  Once away from the viewpoints – however beautiful – the place is remote and rugged, colourful and beautiful and totally unspoilt.

October – Tonbridge Half Marathon

Out with the old (September) and in with the new (October) in rather quick succession – just one week apart – the closest-together of our twelve halves this year.  We wondered how we would manage with just a few days to recover.  Just one short training/recovery run each during the week and some walking to stretch out tired muscles.  As it turns out our experiences last week meant that it all went rather smoothly…………………..

An eight o clock departure from Heathfield – we are travelling separately as Gill is meeting an old friend for lunch after the run (Tonbridge is her old stomping ground) – so no banter along the way – and we are parked at West Kent College just after eight thirty for a ten o clock start.  Our numbers are pinned on our vests and timing chips are on shoes…… So we have time to visit the very pleasant indoor flushing toilets as many times as we want before the off……………. and have several trips back to the cars………… and pop to the Running Hub’s stall for a chat with Cheeky where I could even have bought Shot Bloks – but I didn’t need them as I had my own bag of Percy Pigs with me.  And Valerie is organising the sports masseurs for the event – so we pop in for a chat with her too!  As I say – we had learned from last week…………..

The weather is almost perfect – cool with occasional light drizzle – nothing at all to moan about.  The race is well organised – so 10 am arrives and we’re off.  I remember Tonbridge being a hilly one – but it’s actually not too bad.  Gill and I run the first four and a half miles together and then our paces begin to vary so we gradually separate.  And to my surprise I feel very strong and begin to enjoy the run – quite a lot actually – it is great to run through 5, 6, 7 and 8 miles and know that you’re going to make the distance comfortably – the last three miles are my fastest (well they are mostly downhill at the end).   I’ve run Tonbridge twice before – this wasn’t my fastest or my slowest.  At first I thought the medals were the same each year – but careful comparison shows that somewhere between 2014 and 2017 more runners have appeared. 

And it’s interesting to compare how it feels in October with the blog from January this year – when the Farnborough half marathon wiped me out for the rest of the day.  This time I’m fine – I barely notice that I’ve done it.  I have learned a lot thins year about pacing myself for repeated long runs ans I’m tempted to start reflecting here – but instead I’m going to wait until all twelve are done to bore you all with my thoughts on the matter………..

One thing that has struck me this year though is that regular running keeps you outside and connected with nature and the changes in the seasons.  I remember the cold and wet of winter, the joy that spring and then bluebells brought – and outdoor yoga – and then how hard it is to run well through the heat of summer…………. And now autumn is with us – this year is all about fruit and berries – how prolific they are – and how beautiful the cuckoo trail looks at this time of year!

So now there is just two to go – November will be at Bedgbury – a bit of trail and a few hills.  Training will be light and warm in Southern California – so it could be a tough one – we’ll have to wait and see!

September – Barns Green…………. vincit qui patitur

They taught Latin at Gill’s school so she should appreciated the moto on the Barns Green medal – vincit qui patitur – (s)he who endures conquers………….  Well this was half marathon number 9 this year so the moto does seem fitting!  And with memories of Canterbury still in our bones we set off from Heathfield with Niki in support this time!  Actually the race is a Sussex Grand Prix race so we are wearing our red vests with pride and join the 7 other Heathfield Road Runners at the start line!  Once we get there……………  Barns Green is a tiny place near Horsham – West Sussex and there are well over a thousand runners in the half marathon and there is a 10K race too.  So our plans to arrive with plenty of time to spare are rather scuppered by the queues to get into the village and the parking.  We end up in a field of long wet grass – well driven Gill – I wouldn’t have fancied it!  And as always there is a tense walk to get to the portaloos…….. we have not anticipated that length of journey (enough said?).  I think it is probably fair to say that we have become somewhat blazéBarns Green 2 over the last nine months (long enough to have a baby……….) and timing chips are not on our shoes – Gill’s in fact is still in the car – but she is unaware at this stage.  The queues for the loos are very long and slow moving and so there is much hopping on one leg whilst my chip is attached.  And I shovel in my breakfast (yogurt and malt loaf remember?). And time is really getting on now so my number and four safety pins are produced and with the help of Niki and a very nice man (Gill helpfully taking photos) attached to the red vest.  When we finally get to the loos (with about 15 mins to go) you would think our moods would start to improve – but by this stage Gill has remembered the location of her timing chip (that well used swear work **** erupts) and she is off on a mad dash back through the long wet grass.  At this stage Niki, wisely, heads off for the start line and I take Gill’s and my bag to the bag drop and look around to find a stall where I can buy some shot blox or something similar (I told you we were getting blazé) – but no such luck (**** – it’s catching).  So I head for the start to see Gill flying back (to the portaloos – where she crashes the queue of 10K runners) and she is with me at the start as the siren goes.  That was a close one…………..

And we’re off – Gill like a rocket – she well warmed up from her car park dash – and me puffing to keep up.  And it is a lovely race!  It is hot – and I feel it – but not as hot as Canterbury.  And hilly – but actually not too bad.  All the roads are closed which makes for comfortable running, the route is very pretty and there is entertainment in the form of various musical offerings along the way.   The route takes us through Christ’s Hospital School – a lovely building in spectacular grounds where the pupils all wear the renowned long blue coats, knickerbockers (I kid you not) and yellow socks.  Established in London in 1552 to offer education for those of potential irrespective of their ability to pay.  It moved to its current location in 1902 and as a charity still offers scholarships up to 100% to able pupils dependent on a means test.  Sadly, its famous band is not out playing in the quad today but it is still lovely to run through the school and it’s grounds.

At the water station at 9 miles I take on rather too much water – and regret it (and I suspect the lack of shot blox) almost immediately.  There is no way of putting it nicely – so I’ll leave it to your imagination………  That’s never happened before – mental note to self for next week – get some shot blox and just little sips of water!  Thanks to Gill for hanging around at a discreet distance!  But I quickly recover and we are on our way again.


We are the last 2 Heathfield Road Runners to cross the line but the others have waited to cheer us home – and a team photo to finish the day!

So that’s nine races done and the tenth is the Tonbridge Half Marathon – next week……………. We really must be a little bit bonkers!

IMG_0001As a bit of an aside – I ran my very first half marathon 32 years ago from the village of Whalley, near Clitheroe in Lancashire.  My mum was there to watch.  I was 26 years old and had never run more that 6 miles……….  I wore red shorts and I have lost the medal!  But I remember the time – 2 hours and 8 minutes (I was very proud and very sore!!)   There followed a 25 year gap before I ran my next half marathon on 22nd September 2010 – the first anniversary of my lovely mum’s death – run in Folkestone with Julie in her memory (she would probably have hated it to be honest but I had to do something).  And my time was 2 hours and 8 minutes!!  So this weekend’s run was almost exactly 7 years after resuming my racing (sic) career……………..  Since then I have run 20 half marathons, twelve 10k races, three 5k races, one 10 miler, one very silly 24 hour relay race in which I covered around 19 off road miles – through pitch black, migraine, thunderstorm and no sleep, 2 marathons run as a member of a relay team and 2 full marathons!  Phew!

Three more halves to go this year.  My mum is never far from my mind…………………

Running track for this month has to be Green Day – Wake me up When September Ends – in memory of lost parents.


August Canterbury – The Runners’ Tale

Pilgrimage noun – 

an important assignment given to a person or group of persons typically involving travel. A strongly felt aim, ambition or calling.

When that April with his sweet showers has pierced the drought of March unto the root and bathed every vein in such liquor that engenders the flowers, and when the West Wind Zephyrus with his sweet breath has inspired the tender crops in every grove and heath, and when the young Sun has run half his course in the sign of Aries the Ram, and small birds that sleep all the night with open eye do make melody (so does Nature prick them in their hearts); then do folk long to go on pilgrimages, and pilgrims for to seek strange strands, the shrines of distant saints in sundry lands; and specially from every shire’s end of England to Canterbury they wend, the holy blissful Martyr Saint Thomas à Beckett for to seek, he who has helped them when that they were sick.

By chance did they fall into fellowship, and pilgrims were they all, and toward Canterbury would they ride. 

Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales: The New Translation by Gerald J. Davis (Kindle Locations 105-115). Insignia Publishing. Kindle Edition.

So Chaucer’s Pilgrims set off for Canterbury from Southwark in April – very sensible – a beautiful time of year to be leaving London and walking through the Kent countryside! Their aim – to worship at the shrine of Thomas a Beckett – murdered by supporters of the King on 29th December 1170 (my birthday by coincidence a few years later).  I wonder how long the journey (roughly 55 miles by my calculation) took them – rather longer than our 13.1 mile run on 28th August 2017.  But Gill and I head off for half marathon number 8 and so by the end of this day we will have run just over 105 miles – not a bad effort – further than the length of the South Downs Way (Winchester to Eastbourne).  A pilgrimage of sorts  And we are joined this fine day by Julie – journeying from Hythe to accompany us on this path…… lap eight in our twelve month mission…………..

In retrospect (and isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing) this is probably the half marathon that we were – in some unspoken way – dreading…………….  There had to be one – the one that was the toughest – that we were tempted to stop somewhere around the 8 or 9 mile mark – the one that makes you shake and wobble and hyperventilate.  If you’d asked me beforehand I’d probably have said it would be the Weald Challenge.  I was expecting that one to be hard.  But not Canterbury.  Although it was described as “challenging” – I’ve come to see that description (similar to undulating) as a bit of runner’s bravado.  Almost all the halves we have signed up for this year has attracted one or other of the labels along the way and we managed those alright.  So is this going to be any different?

As I’ve said before – there are not that many half marathons to sign up for in June, July and August (I now understand why not….) so Canterbury seemed a good option.  My thoughts were:

It’s local (reality – still 90 minutes away)

Canterbury is a nice city – with a Cathedral – we’ll see a few sights (reality – wasn’t really in Canterbury – we saw the Cathedral in the distance in our last mile or two)

August Bank Holiday Monday – its bound to be chilly and probably raining (reality – baking sunshine and 28 degrees C)

Kent – the Garden of England it must be flat (reality – don’t even go there)


It was actually quite a relaxed start – 7.45am in the daylight compares favourably with some of those 6.15am (and dark and freezing) starts.  Slight panic when the satnav said it was going to take almost 2 hours to get there – but a re-route took half an hour off the time (phew!).  We arrive at the start and see Julie almost immediately – she’s a couple of minutes ahead of us – parking is somewhat chaotic and we are pleased to have arrived with 45 minutes to spare.  Momentary panic when we mislay Gill briefly (she’s behind a hedge removing certain items of clothing) and we are off to the portaloos before the start.  It’s hot.  I have brought my Paddock Wood sponge – which I position and fill with water.  Julie has followed suit.  And before we know it we are through the start and climbing…………………….

It’s funny – what goes up – must come down – but this race honestly didn’t feel like that.  It felt like it went up. And up. And up……..  And it got hot. and hotter. AND HOTTER!!  it was a very pretty race and the finish (which I confess did run back down one of the hills) did have lovely views over the city and the Cathedral.  It was my hardest, and slowest half marathon ever (trail half marathons excepted).  I started to walk at about 9 miles – something I don’t usually do – and then ran and faded – ran and faded……………  Something of a light moment along the way was the lady – stood outside her home with a bucket of water and a measuring jug – who caught Julie full in the face with a jug full.  Not quite what she was expecting…………………..

The water stations had plastic cups rather than bottles – I hope they were recycled – and at the end of the race they were running out of cups so filling up runner’s own bottles – surely a much more ecologically sound alternative.  There must be an answer to the plastic problem somewhere………………..

And we are done!  Number 8 out of 12 complete – the endorphins kick in and we sing our way home…………………..  Its a great medal – the closest we got to the cathedral……………………


So here we are – two thirds of our way through this pilgrimage.  Thank you to Julie for joining us on this one – it is great to have fellow travellers along the way.  How are we feeling?  Well still going strong…………….. I think!  No longer racing – but pacing ourselves through the challenges.  A half marathon holds no real fears anymore – although I do wonder how I ever ran one 25 minutes faster – and only last year at that.  These regular long distances do take a different toll.

And the summer is definitely not the time to be covering this distance – so beginning to think about the autumn is exciting.  Come and join us at one of the following:

September – Barns Green

October – Tonbridge

November – Bedgebury – Trail half marathon

December – promises to be a bit of a treat………………………………………

Not really a running track this time but a lovely piece of music which is very much in keeping with the theme of a pilgrimage.  The Mission – film music by Ennio Morricone- enjoy!

Heathfield Road Runners C25K

Running makes you feel better.

That is where this blog started back in November 2016.

My newspaper, only this week, tells me that 40% of middle aged adults take less than 10 minutes brisk walk a month. This is despite the paper published in February 2015 by the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges – which examines the evidence and concludes that:

“Regular exercise can prevent dementia, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, depression, heart disease and other common serious conditions – reducing the risk of each by at least 30%.  This is better than many drugs.”

I feel fairly passionate about this and increasingly committed to trying to help people get – and keep – moving.  But how to do it?  When I became a Run England mental health ambassador for Heathfield Road Runners – it was with some woolly notion of sharing this message.  The club has been very supportive of the role and many members have talked about their own reasons for running.  But to be honest I’ve not done a lot – raised a bit of awareness here and there – and not much more.  One of the problems is that I am preaching to the converted – they are a pretty healthy bunch the road runners – and non of them need telling that running is good for them.  The worst that can happen (and it does) is that they get injured and can’t run…………  Then the trouble starts!

But it’s not easy to join a running club – however friendly!  I have run for most of my life – so joining a club should be a breeze – but I remember turning up one freezing Thursday evening in February 2015 – new to Heathfield – new to the club and terrified!  “They’ll all know each other”, “they won’t want a new member”, “they’ll all be good runners”, “they’ll all be faster than me” (they were – it was a Thursday night – fast run night!).  We set off up a hill (well it is Heathfield) and I thought I might die………..  Everyone was lovely, and friendly (runners are very huggy people), and welcoming – but it took every ounce of grit and determination to ever go back.  Of course,  I’m glad I did.  I have learned to cope with the hills.  And found that the Monday group is more my pace.  And made good friends – even with some people that I will never keep up with…………  But non of this changes the fact that it is not easy to join a running club.

Over the months I have seen people come along to the club – total beginners – and despite our reassurances that we will wait and run with them – many of them don’t stay.  And I don’t blame them – I know that feeling that you are holding everyone up and how sapping it is to your confidence and enjoyment – so how do you help people along the way?  And that is how the idea for a couch to 5K course was born – a way of helping people get to the point where they could join the club and want to stay!  The NHS has put together a pretty foolproof programme that runs over 9 weeks – getting people moving from running for just 60 seconds and walking for 90……………………… up to being able to run for 30 mins and so be fit enough and experienced enough to tackle a 5k run.  I am already a UK Athletics run leader – so put the two together and we had all we needed to get going.

But actually starting a c25k group is not that easy either………………  I have turned procrastination into something of an art form so – haunted by questions like “when shall we do it?”, “how do we advertise it?”, “will anyone help?”, “will anyone turn up?”…………… not much happened ……………. again……   And so in the end I just set a date…………………

One Monday night at our usual run in Waldron a couple of new people turned up – who had not really run before.  We dragged them round with us but it’s not easy to manage different paces out in the countryside where short cuts are few and far between – so that was it – if we want new people to join we have to put something on that will help.  The committee agreed and a couple of the run leaders – Gill and Niki also offered to help – so we set a date and got planning.  No time for posters, or contacting GPs or all the other things I was going to do.  Just word of mouth and posts on the local Heathfield social media pages.  I set up a FaceBook page (thank you Gill and Rosie for suggesting this – I didn’t have a clue!) to gather and communicate with interested people – and people started to join it.

I decided I could offer two groups a week – one in parallel to our usual Monday run and one on a Thursday evening.  Gill offered a Wednesday morning group – and Niki welcomed people to her usual speed session on a Wednesday evening – but tailored sessions to suit the newcomers.  And many other Road Runners added their support by attending the sessions to help manage the numbers – special thanks to Nicola who turned up to most Monday and Thursday sessions – and also to Vicki, Diane, Sharon and Zoe who came along when they could.  Members were welcome to come to one or more session each week – but the expectation was that they stuck to the programme as close as possible which meant running (and walking) for 30-40 minutes three times a week.  Altogether 14 people (all women) came along to the sessions.  Two have had two drop out – one injured and the other joining a little too late in the process to be able to keep up.  But both are keen to come along next time…………………

Our 7 new C25K graduates – more to follow soon!

The other 12 have made it through to the end – 7 of them completed their first 5k run this morning at the Eastbourne Parkrun.  The other 5 couldn’t make it today as they had holiday or other commitments – but we will get them through over the next week or two.

I want to find out more about how to keep this all going and make it work for people – so my next step will be to talk to our new runners (many of whom have joined the club) and find out what has worked for them – what we could have done differently and how to continue to support them.  But what I have learned about putting together the course so far is as follows:

  1. Just Do It (now where have I heard that before) – forget all the ifs and buts and maybes – it is really worth it and the NHS programme really works.
  2. Runners are fantastic people who will always help out and fill in and share their enthusiasm.
  3. Sometimes runners can be a little too enthusiastic and need reminding that we are following a gentle programme……………………. (mentioning no names!).
  4. People do get minor injuries and need advice – some of which was beyond me – so it was great to be able to draw on people who knew more – Gill was a great help and especial thanks to Bev for her advice and sports massages along the way.
  5. In future I would arrange a session on injury prevention and foam rolling as part of the programme.
  6. The FaceBook page was a great success as members could chat to each other, get support between sessions and arrange to run together.
  7. Those who joined the programme absolutely made it – their enthusiasm and support for each other was what got them all through.
  8. It was great to finish with an actual 5k – a Parkrun is ideal and we were lucky enough to turn up to the 300th Eastbourne Parkrun.  Thanks to Dave the Run Director for the mention at the start.
  9. All runners do like a medal…………… Thanks to Niki for arranging those and Gill who remembered to bring them (just………….).

I feel the need for a running track to sign off – so especially for all our new runners…………..  Welcome Home – by Radical Face

July – Richmond Park

So – how do you keep a blog about half marathon number 7 (out of 12) interesting and a good read?  Keep it short – I hear you say – but the distance isn’t getting any shorter, or faster, more elegant or even easier……..  We’ve done all the toilet jokes – and Gill and I are still speaking to each other – so there is not even any drama.  Except that we are still going – and by the end of Sunday 23rd July 2017 we have raced 92.2 miles this year (don’t forget the Weald Challenge was an extra half mile).  Gill is looking fantastic – she’s lost a stone along the way.  And I am much the same – though rather more suntanned than in January!

So we head off to Richmond Park with cries of  Fenton   ringing in our ears………..  Actually there was a bit of drama in the lead up to this half marathon.  As I have mentioned previously – half marathons are a bit thin on the ground through the summer months and when we found this one back in April it seemed ideal.  Relatively nearby, easy to get to, off the roads and in a lovely setting……….. What more could we want?  Gill got her place – and I thought I did – but it turns out that I forgot…………………  By the time I got round to applying – the race was full and entries closed.

Thinks: “Gill is a very reasonable person and will understand…….. (OMG! She’s going to kill me)”

As it was – of course Gill is a very reasonable person (did the word “muppet” come into our conversation? – or was it a little stronger??) – she just explained to me that I WOULD be in Richmond Park on said day – carrying her shoes and water bottle…………………….  Fortunately the lovely people at RunThrough – who were organising the race finally buckled when I sent them a string of emails explaining what we were doing – and links to my blogs.  Bored into submission they offered me a place!  Thank you RunThrough!  Turns out Gill DID need someone to carry her shoes – or at least remind her to bring them with her!  Another early start – she picked me up at 6.15am and we are on the road.  Four miles into the journey and Gill’s favourite swear word erupts……………………. ****          Have we set off on the wrong day? Run out of petrol? Brought the wrong race number? – Whatever it was her tone of voice told me it was not good!  And sure enough she was wearing sandals and her running shoes were back in Heathfield on her kitchen floor!  **** **** **** !!  Nothing for it but to turn around and retrace our steps with a quick phone call to Colin (I’m sure he was delighted at 6.30 on a Sunday morning!) – to get the shoes ready.  In the end a comfort break was required back in Heathfield and we were on the road again – with some concerns about lateness/parking/toilet behaviour – non of which were founded in reality.  We arrived in plenty of time, parked easily – close to the start, with enough time for repeat visits to the portaloos!  Not entirely sure the Vietnamese meal yesterday lunch time was the best idea………………….

So what about the race itself?  Four laps (a little over 5k each) through the park.  I’m not sure how I feel about laps…….  The route itself was pretty  with plenty of deer to watch and no cars – so headphones were allowed.  And it’s great to know about that long downhill stretch when you know you can relax and make up a bit of time.  But you also know about the hills and those bits of uneven ground you need to watch out for.  And they can get into your head and start eating at your brain (“Oh no – not again – I hate this bit – I can’t push through it”).  And then – at the end of lap three – lots of runners are already finishing – and you have one more to go – suddenly it seems a very long way to the end.  But we did it – we got there!  Not the quickest (about 2 hours 13 mins I think from my watch – my chip didn’t work) and not the slowest – but another one done!

My only sad note – not just this race – but every race I have done this year – is the IMG_1727hundreds of single use plastic bottles involved.  Regular readers will know that my niece Beth ( Plastic Free Hobbit ) has been raising my awareness of the environmental disaster (some say more serious than climate change) that we are facing with a million bottles a minute being produced worldwide and not being recycled.  Gill and I brought our own drinks with us – I just love my hydroflask and it keeps the water cold too!  But we saw untold numbers of bottles being discarded and gathered up by the organisers.  There must be another way – anybody got any ideas?

So race number seven is done and the bling is mounting up.  Come and join us next month in Canterbury……………………  Gill has promised to learn some new swear words……


I feel the need for a running track – not had one for a while – so it’s got to be George Ezra – Blame it on Me (I won’t forget again Gill – honest!)