Giant’s Head

Yay!  The smoke had cleared, so this morning, Abradysis and I hiked up this…

The local hill.

…until we reached this…

Abradysis waiting patiently for me at the top.

… to admire the rather super view.

I was here.

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The big smoke

Tomorrow, my training plan suggests* that I climb the local hill.  There’s just one fly in the ointment: there are wildfires galore in BC at the moment and though they’re miles away, the smoke has travelled.  This morning I played it safe and swapped 80 minutes of rolling trail for 80 minutes of eye-rollingly-tedious treadmill, and looking at the air quality index that might be the wise choice for tomorrow.

So many fires

So much smoke


* I’m on holiday. I’ve promised to stick to the spirit of the plan but given no assurances about following it to the letter.

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Dirty Feet: Vernon 10k

I don’t often want to slap strangers in the face with a wet fish but from time to time I’m tempted, and as the first thing to greet us as we arrived at the race venue was a trail runner saying “of course I’m running the 21k! Who would think it worthwhile to run anything shorter?”, I was sorely tempted yesterday.  Fortunately, customs regulations prevent me from bringing my own supply of wet fish into Canada, and I haven’t had the chance to stock up since.

It wasn’t an auspicious start.  I had entered the 10k on the basis that however hot the day, gnarly the trails or debilitating the jet lag, it was a short enough distance to remain fun.  My sister had entered the 5k to kill time while I deserted her.  The 21.1k, though admirable, was not for us.

We wandered down the hill from the car park to the beach to pick up our race packs, and then pootled back up the hill again to the car.  Smugrunner was still there, still boring on about the pointlessness of the lesser distances, so after we’d pinned on our numbers, we headed back down the hill again to wait.


As 9.30am approached, I left Abradysis (whose 5k was setting off at 9.45am) and went to listen to the race briefing.  Think standard UK trail race briefing with the addition of the wild fire and snake warnings. Eek!

Lumpy. I stopped to take a photo halfway up the last big climb.

The route was beautiful, if a trifle lumpy, and as well marked as they come.  The field was large enough to always have someone in sight, but small enough that passing and being passed didn’t break up the flow.  I paused to admire the view on the last long climb…

… and then set about trying to catch up with the young lad just in front of me.  I managed that about a quarter of a mile from the end, though his sprint finish meant a photo finish to decide who came in first.

Photo courtesy of Abradysis, who finished about 10 minutes before me.

After I’d caught my breath, we hauled our aching bones back up the hill to the car, picked up our picnic lunch, and returned to enjoy the finish line atmosphere, which came complete with a prize draw (I snaffled a gloriously green North Face dress despite being one of the last numbers drawn).  One last trek up the hill to our car (had I mentioned that there was a hill between the beach and the car park?) and it was goodbye trail race, hello craft gin distillery.

Smugrunner aside, this was a fabulous race.  Friendly, varied and organised in such a way that you could run different distances to others in your party but still share the same experience.  I’m only sorry that the venues are so far away from London.

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Calgary: Nose Hill parkrun

I landed in Calgary at 2.40pm on Friday and flew out at 2.10pm on Saturday.  I never made it downtown, hadn’t even realised that I would be visiting during Stampede week and was so tired on Friday evening that eating a falafel wrap in the University of Calgary food court was as much culinary excitement as I could stand.  What can I say?  I’m a rotten tourist.

I’m also an extremely lucky one.

After waking up at stupid o’clock, I opted to take advantage of the cool early morning and run up to the start of the parkrun.

I said goodbye to the university…

…ran up and over the bus station…

…wished the humongous hares good morning…

…and crossed over the footbridge into Nose Hill park.

I then followed the regional trail up the hill, taking advantage of every photo opportunity going…

…and made sure to admire the views…

…read the “you’re not in Richmond any more” sign

…and slog up the hilliest hill of the morning.

That was the fruit cake.  The parkrun was the icing.

The course covers a tiny fraction of the overall park but captures the flavour of all the bits I’d seen.  Underfoot is a mixture of firm gravel path, loose gravel path and grass track taking you through the wide open grassland and past the mini clusters of trees.  There are some gloriously runnable downs, some enjoyable flats and a few reasonably benign ups.

And a finishing straight to die for.  Or rather to die on. Because that hilliest hill of the morning I mentioned?  That forms part of the final sprint.  Whichever evil mind devised that ending to the course deserves shooting. And then awarding with a medal, because if anything is going to make people hang around at the finish chatting, it’s being physically unable to walk away, which gives everyone lots of time to hear about the great post-parkrun cafe and the vacant slots in next week’s volunteer roster.

Thank you to everyone who made me feel so welcome, to Suzanne for taking some photos of me that I actually like and to Kim for her very kind offer of a lift to the airport.  You have an incredible parkrun and it was a pleasure to join you.

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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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