Arethusa mile

I may have made a tactical error.  Running an Arethusa mile has been a velleity* of mine for a while and after my Strava timeline exploded with mile races last weekend, I decided to add it into the notes column on my training plan.

Knowing me as he does, my long-suffering coach queried my cryptic “(Arethusa mile)” as he assumed that the one thing it definitely wouldn’t be was a mile race.  I confirmed that it was indeed a mile race, and added that it was both local and weekly…

…and when I next looked at my plan I saw that it was included not once, not twice, but three times.  Which given that I was only looking at the new three week block meant it was in every week.  Eek.

I texted a friend to ask for some information.

“When?  Where?  How?”**
“Then.  There.  Like that (with added bug spray because the midges are fierce)”.

I told everyone I knew that I was going to give me no chance to back out.

I went***.  It was lovely****.  I’ll be back*****.


* A mere wish, unaccompanied by effort to obtain.

** These were the questions I asked, but what I really wanted to know was “What are the unspoken rules?  How will I know what to do?  Will I stick out like a sore thumb?  Will everyone look at me witheringly for daring to presume that I am welcome at a race for fast athletes?”******

*** Stupidly early.  I mean, stupidly.  I left two hours for a twenty minute journey and a fifteen minute warm up.  I was nervous.

**** The mile itself hurt rather a lot and the uncontrollable coughing afterwards was distinctly unpleasant, but the chatting to familiar faces beforehand was lovely.

***** If I’m allowed.  My mostly dormant competitive streak came out and I may or may not have elbowed two people out of the way as I dipped for the line.

****** The usual runner ones.  Someone (or rather several someones) will tell you.  No you won’t.  Of course not, don’t be daft.



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C is for Company…

…and Cake and Cheshire-Cat-Like-Grins (though I’ll be the first to admit that the last one is perhaps a slight stretch).

This morning, in a bid to turn a dull-as-ditchwater flat road training run into something a little more bearable*, I decided to set my alarm for stupid o’clock** and run to Surbiton junior parkrun to meet up with a friend.  Once there I offered my services to the ED, (none other than Mr Danny Norman) who found me a cushy little role counting the adult runners as they passed on lap one and then cheering the children through the finish funnel at the end of lap two, all of which kept me occupied and staved off the ‘fish out of water’ feeling I’d been dreading.

It was my second stupid o’clock start of the weekend, as I’d headed down to Hastings parkrun yesterday to meet a couple of friends for a catch up and a teeny tiny sliver of berry and coconut cake***.  I haven’t been doing a great deal of long-haul parkrun tourism recently (though I did end up at Reading parkrun last weekend partway through course marking the Henley to Whitchurch stretch of the Thames Path 100****) but apparently I still have a little bit of left over wanderlust as I still see travelling 70 miles to a parkrun for a little bit of company as a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

Two mornings + two parkruns + two great sets of company + one teeny tiny sliver of cake = many Cheshire-Cat-Like-Grins.

* beerable?

** Yes.  Pedant.  Technically the decision to set my alarm was made last night, but the alarm went off this morning, so I. Don’t. Care.

*** This is not a side plate.


*** A serendipitous piece of timing which required neither logistical manoeuvring nor an absolutely revolting o’clock alarm call.

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3 of 42

The Financial Code of Ethics of The Ohio State University (bear with me) pulls no punches.  I stumbled across it many years ago when I was updating some financial policies and procedures, and its opening paragraph is one I return to time and time again.

“Financial ethics is a fundamental and vital principle based on the expectations of individuals to do their best to distinguish between right and wrong and to always try to do what is right.  Ethical behavior is not simply a matter of character.  It is a matter of decision making, and ethics are advanced or depleted one decision at a time.  Every individual is capable of making choices and is accountable for the consequences of those choices.”

42 women toed the line at the Thames Path 100 last weekend.  34 of them went on to cross the finish line and three of them, the Judiths and Joanne Turner, blew me away.

The Judiths ran together from start to finish.  They arrived at Henley an hour and a quarter before the cut-off at a point in the race when it was becoming statistically unlikely that a finish was possible.  Of the seven runners who came in behind them, only one made it to Oxford.  One.  And yet, when they came into Henley, the Judiths looked as though deciding to carry on was the easiest decision of the day.  They looked similarly determined at both Reading and Whitchurch and by the time they arrived at Oxford they’d overtaken more than fifteen runners and had just under an hour in hand.

Joanne came into Thames Path 100 off the back of the Marathon des Sables and by Henley it showed.  She lost fifty minutes against cut off between Reading and Streatley and another fifty minutes between Streatley and Abingdon but she didn’t give up.  At every decision point, she opted to carry on and she walked away from the weekend with a buckle and a shiny new tee.

Joanne’s gutsiness and the Judiths’ steadfastness are the qualities that I would bottle if I could.  And as I can’t, I shall adapt the Financial Code of Ethics of The Ohio State University.

Ultra-running is not simply a matter of physical fitness.  It is a matter of decision making, and ultras are completed or abandoned one decision at a time.  Every runner is capable of making choices and must accept the consequences of those choices.”


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Smug cometh before a splat

It’s been a good, solid week of training, culminating in a 20-mile run which started at 6am and finished at parkrun.  20 miles in the bag before breakfast and a whole day cleared for OU study.  My level of smug was at 10/10 and rose to 11/10 this lunchtime when I went out for a recovery run only to find that I didn’t feel as though I had anything to recover from.

Then I ran into a tree.

Current level of smug: -1/10

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Based on an original idea by

It’s been an odd seven days.  Instead of the nice, neat, “Done. Done. Done. Done. Done. Done. Done.” that I like to write in my training plan (with some added text because apparently “Done” by itself doesn’t give my long-suffering coach enough feedback), my plan has read “Shortened. Done-ish. Bailed. Modified. Modified. Modified. Done.”

Barring the “Bailed” outing (a run which had all the right ingredients for a cracker, but which felt revolting from the outset and was ditched less than four miles into the planned sixteen) the week itself has been good and has featured new trails, no particular niggles, less procrastination than usual, and even some unexpected company, but it hasn’t been as written, and that bugs me more than it should.

The shortened run fell foul of traffic and ended up being shoe-horned into a slot slightly too small for it.  The done-ish run was meant to be easy but featured a panic-jog to make a 9am parkrun start.  The lack of long run meant that I couldn’t justify Monday’s easy cycle recovery, so I ran Tuesday’s run on Monday, attempted Wednesday’s run on Tuesday (getting lost and running long), went for an off-the-books pootle on Wednesday, and finally ended up back on plan today.

How long I’ll stay there is anyone’s guess.



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Losing focus

There was a time when I couldn’t repeat parkruns.  I ran my 51st parkrun at my 50th different venue less than a year after running my first parkrun at Wimbledon.  The journey was more than a little obsessive, huge amounts of fun and laid the foundations of my touring community.  It was also exhausting.

Fast forward five years and I’m on the cusp of running my 200th different UK parkrun.  I’ve been on the cusp for 8 weeks, having run my 199th different UK parkrun at Homewood in early February.  Since then, I’ve run two hard efforts at Dulwich, met friends at Reigate, stayed home at Wimbledon under the pressure of an OU deadline, snuck in Kingston before a family wedding, joined some friends at Burgess, and coerced another friend into joining me at Nonsuch.  With Worthing planned for this Saturday, another hard effort at Dulwich on the cards for Easter Saturday, a “can’t justify the travel time because of an OU assignment deadline” local repeat the following Saturday and Reading-as-part-of-a-long-run-before-TP100-volunteering on the April/May bank holiday weekend, I’ll still be on the cusp this time next month.

On the cusp and enjoying every moment.  Except possibly the eyeballs-out effort at Dulwich.

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Fleet Half Marathon

Given how much I dislike large road races, Fleet Half Marathon was surprisingly pleasant.  Granted, it’s not London Marathon large, but there’s a fair crowd of runners, and enthusiastically loud supporters can be found on large chunks of the route.

It started at 10:30, though runners were asked to arrive by 9:15, presumably to avoid the road closures.  We were warned not to park on the streets around the park and told to use the town centre car parks, for which there would be a charge.  I dutifully took along a handful of shrapnel, only to find that the car park in the main shopping centre is free on Sundays.  Bargain.  It also, the shopping centre, not the car park, had toilets, a fact a fair number of runners were taking advantage of.

I followed the trail of runners towards the park, passing several banks of portaloos on the way, and took refuge in the baggage tent.  At 9:45, we were called outside for a warm-up.  I ignored the call and continued loitering in the relative warmth of the tent, chatting first to a runner returning to half marathon distance after two years off running with plantar fasciitis and then to some club mates who were helpfully sporting club vests.  Memo to self: wear club vest to races.

As 10:30 approached, we wandered over to the start.  I’d decided that I didn’t want to spend the race clock watching so I lined up behind the two (two!) 2:00 hour pacers.  What followed was 20 minutes of me reeling them in, 10 minutes of basking in the knowledge that I’d overhauled the pair of them and was feeling goooood, a horrible realisation that I wasn’t all that good as the leading one reeled me back in, another twenty or so minutes spent telling myself that I hadn’t slowed, he was pacing way too fast and thirty five minutes of knuckling down, staying with him and reassuring myself that at least I was way ahead of the other two hour pacer.

And then, 85 minutes into the race, with just over a parkrun to go, the second two hour pacer came flying past and vanished around a corner.  Damn.

I reached mile 10 with less than 30 minutes in hand, on the back of a 9:40 minute GPS mile which was nearer a 10 minute on-the-ground-not-quite-running-the-racing-line mile.  Suddenly my sub-2 (the weakest of my three goals going in) did not look good.  Telling myself that I was not NOT NOT! going to accept a 2:0x time, I drew a line under the first 10 miles and set out to run a 29 minute parkrun.

I did it.  I think.  Official results are either not yet out or just very well hidden*, but according to Garmin, I did it.  It was touch and go and needed a sprint (sic) finish, but I think I snuck in just under the 2 hour mark.

It wasn’t a PB, but it’s only 20 seconds per mile off my PB pace, it’s my first solid sub-2 in two years and it’s one of the few races I’ve managed to keep plugging away at until the bitter end.

Just don’t ask me to tell you about the big metal tower, gigantic canal, large white folly, or ferris wheel that we ran past in the last couple of miles because I didn’t spot a single one.  Just the mile markers, supporters, marshals, and very, very welcome finish line.

* EDIT.  Gun time 2:02:00.  Chip time 1:59:13.  Phew!

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