Category Archives: Races and events

Better late than never

Oh how the title of this post applies to so many things. I haven’t written in months. Better late than never. My training could have started before it did. Better late than never. I finished my recent half marathon in my slowest time ever for that distance. But: Better late than never!

Last Saturday night was my first official race in two years. TWO YEARS! Long time coming. Injuries and having a baby will do that I guess. There’s so many running stories between last November, when I started running again after Nahuel’s birth, and now that I want to share, but for now they will have to wait. This post is simply going to be about Saturday’s race.

The ING marathon and half marathon in Luxembourg is a great big running event. The sort with helicopters, hot air balloons, DJs, an assortment of free stuff for the crowd to shake, rattle and wave, tonnes of people lining the streets in support and a route which takes in the delights of the city. Martin ran the full marathon last year and the route is famous for its inclines in the second half of both courses. He was a supporter this year, along with Nahuel.

I was nervous. The previous weekend I had run 10.3 miles along the ups and downs of the vineyards around the Moselle valley, where we live. It had been hot and tiring, but I had felt great. I had reserves and could have kept going. On that starting line a week later, my nerves led to doubts. Would I make it? I have never experienced that before. “I’m nervous,” I said to my friend who was also running. “Me too,” she replied. It was her first half marathon. It seemed to me she had the right to be nervous and I didn’t. Perhaps I just needed to start and I’d feel fine.

And then start we did. We kicked off at lightening speed. There were lots of people so you had the usual first couple of kilometres skipping past people and dodging around others. But we did it quickly, at just under 5 minute per km. This was not my half marathon running pace. But it felt good. So I carried on that way.

I got to the 12 km marker in an hour. Way too fast, knowing the up-hills that were coming on the way back. The crowd were brilliant, shouting and cheering your name at every part of the course. In the city centre, there was no way you could stop. The route was narrow and lined both sides with cheering and clapping. I felt like I shuffled the cobbled streets of Luxembourg city at that point on the wave of the semi-drunken audience with bubbly in their hands.

But after that euphoria, the roads widened again. There was space and a breeze and the setting sun behind me on the way back to Kirchberg. I had nothing in the tank. I had to walk. So I walked and ran the last part, hoping I had done enough to come in under 2 hours. I tried to buddy up with a couple of people who also seemed to be suffering, egging them on to get the same support back. But I ended up leaving them and their blisters and woes behind.

At kilometre 18.5, a friend shouted out from the void. “LAURA! Come on Bird!” There was a world out there beyond the pain and exhaustion! I ran up to her and got a kiss, some energy to get me through the last couple of kilometres. It worked.

Martin and Nahuel were also there, on the final bend before the finishing line. And so I made it. Not elegantly, or fearlessly or strongly, but I finished. My watch said 2 hours and 9 seconds. Oh well. Better late than never.

Congrats to all the runners of Saturday’s half and full marathon! And to my friend Kris, who finished her first half in 1 hour 54 minutes. Great job!

Before the start with Kris and Nahuel.

Before the start with Kris and Nahuel.

Weekend of Races

Although Laura and I are miles apart and even have an ocean in the between us, we managed to sign up for races for the same weekend without even knowing it.  Several months ago we were having a conversation about what’s to come and as it turned out she will be running a half marathon tomorrow night and I will wake up Sunday morning for a 30K trail run.

This will be her first race since adding Nahuel to the family and I have my second trail run on the docket.  Thankfully this one is a smidge shorter than the last one especially considering this was the worst training session I’ve had yet.

As always, I sat down to plan out when I would run each distance.  My goal was to hit 18 miles 2 weeks ago and then taper.  Life happened or I should say I put other things first and all of a sudden it was 2 weeks out and I still hadn’t done 16.  I also managed to go the entire week without putting my running shoes on between the 14 and 16.  Talk about feeling my legs those next Luxcouple days!  I also made the decision (both good and bad) to run in the shoes I will run in this weekend.  As it turns out I have a slightly different form with those shoes and it meant my calves felt like it was my first run in ages.

Regardless and whether we’re ready or not, this weekend we’ll both be pitter-pattering our way across several miles.  And it’s been nice to be able to talk about similar runs again even though we’re so far apart.

 

Remich Half Marathon – Anything for love

WHERE IS REMICH?! I hear your cry.

Well, go back a few posts and you’ll see this half of M&MRC now resides and runs in Luxembourg. And before you cry out that yes, you’ve heard of it, and you think it might be near Paris/Poland/Palermo here is a little map. Just so we’re all on the same page.

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So, landlocked yes I am. But far from water I am not. For we are now living along the Moselle river, which borders Germany (the lower half of that frontier on your map above) and heads on into France. Remich is a town further south along the river. It is another picturesque little place of around 3,000 inhabitants that basks in its vineyards and wine-making glory.

DSCN0523So, where better than to do a half marathon? I can think of none. The route itself follows the Moselle, so it’s beautifully flat. On one side you have the river and Germany’s rolling hills opposite; on the other side are slopes of vines, bursting with green, their rows straight and perfect.

This year was Remich’s 52nd half marathon. Other good things before the starting gun: you get a bottle of local champagne and some fruity booze-free beer; and there are only about 2,000 runners so you can park easily, see supporters easily and easily not get lost. My Achilles injury prevented me from training for it, so Martín was running solo. Not getting lost in the crowds is an important point to make, if you know Martín.

So, I was there with my bike and became Professional Supporter, cycling up ahead to take pictures, make videos and clap. There was plenty of room for me to do this, pedalling alongside the runners while shouting and filming. I thought about stealing a judge’s sign for my bike I was so on it.

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But I didn’t. I focused on supporting and not colliding into runners as I filmed. Martín was doing a splendid job, although he set off way too quickly. I realised this at 4kms when he had arrived at around 18 minutes. Turns out another thing about the Remich Half marathon is that 95% of people are fit. Like, running fit: not I kinda jog fit. Luckily, Martín realised he was going too fast to make it the champers at the end and slowed down to a pace he’d worked on in his training. I won’t say the rest of the run was a breeze for him – I didn’t run it – but he did brilliantly as Team Argentina and always had a smile and something to say in the interviews I made him do en route.  Here’s one interview we did on the 13th kilometre (click on the image to watch the video):

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Martín finished 21.1kms in 1 hour 45 minutes and 55 seconds; ten minutes faster than he did his half marathon in Ealing on the same weekend last year. Am I jealous? Very. But more than that, I am proud. When we met, he wasn’t a runner and I convinced him to run one of the famous Nike 10k with me in Buenos Aires (followed by a gin and tonic in Plaza Serrano at 11am on a Sunday morn – ah, those were the days).

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Team Argentina supported by Team London

You do anything for love.

Even run.

For more information on the Route du Vin, see http://routeduvin.rtl.lu/

The summer squeeze

I finally have chance to sit down and write. Sorry we’ve been missing. I wish I could tell you it’s because we’ve been traversing mountain passes and running through wind torn valleys. But no.

Ouch, actually. I’m feeling a bit tight in the quads. I guess that’s what happens when you put all your training for an up-and-coming 10 km into the six days beforehand.

Last Sunday we (the royal married ‘we’, not Maria and I together unfortunately) ran the Grand East Anglia Race (GEAR), a nice and flat 10 km around King’s Lynn, Norfolk. Here was my training plan:

Monday: Go for a fast 1.5-mile run to remind legs what running is and how it feels. It had been 12 days.

Tuesday: Run 4-mile route through fields, along cliffs and up little hills. Nothing like King’s Lynn.

Wednesday: Marvel as legs don’t feel too bad. WooHoo!

Thursday: Run the 4-mile route the other way round and with sun on my face do it in under 33 minutes. That hasn’t happened for a while! So chuffed with myself, I deserve a glass of husband’s home-brewed beer.

Friday: Fannying about at work means don’t get to the pool in time. Ah well, there’s always tomorrow.

Saturday: Get up and swim 1 km in the pool. Imagine it’s the sea and I’m on a tropical island. Leave the pool and need a coat.

Sunday: Run 10 km in 52 minutes and 14 seconds. The route sidles along the river, through the park and finishes in a flourish with a samba band motivating us through the final 400m. Celebrate with eggs, beans and bacon.

And, having got through it all swimmingly, running is back as its own thread of my week. I went out yesterday to keep the legs working, but I know I didn’t stretch enough, hence the tightness.

It feels good though. My mum is also back to her training for the Cambridge Race for Life (you might remember her being a running virgin last year) so our hallway is full of trainers. The sun has been shining and the wind is blowing at less than 80 mph. This bodes well; it makes us want to get out there.

The first race is out of the way. Nerves shivered through our bodies on the start line. The sun has arrived on the scene. Summer is not long – what can we squeeze out of it? How many runs do we have to reduce our times/actually get a new pair of running shoes and test them out/simply keep going? I remember last summer we started our half marathon training and squeezed as much out of the longer days as possible. We are starting to do that again. But what next? (Apart from a massage and some yoga stretches?)

There are so many options for summer running: trails, fun runs, marathons. I spoke to a very old school friend on Sunday who is off to try out the Edinburgh marathon at the end of this month. And a couple of weeks ago we had the runners shining on our television screens as they pounded the streets of London for their chosen charities; a warming sight, especially after the tragic events just days before in Boston. It is inspiring. Should I sign up? Should we sign up? Should we pledge our winter to training and have a fun summer just… running?

I’m not sure I can even plan that far in advance, but there’s no harm enquiring is there, via the charities I’ve already worked with (the ballot has already opened and closed!)? It’s just one email.

Blimey, one beautiful, sunny run quicker than expected and the need to squeeze in more is palpable. But that’s what summer is about.

P1060211 Sod the tight legs.

Gear Up!

Sorry running fashionistas, this post is not going to be about gorgeous running gear that makes you look fabulous when you feel like a tired, sweaty mess.

It’s about signing up for the GEAR 10km: the Grand East Anglian Run in King’s Lynn, which takes place on Sunday may 5th. Husband and I are signed up. After my post a few weeks back on which runs to do, I’ve kept it close to home and there are some reasons for this.

Life, at the moment, is unpredictable. We are currently living in Norfolk with the hope of moving away next week/month/soon. We don’t know where and we don’t know when, which makes it difficult to commit to things in advance in places which could be down the road/miles away/need a plane to get to.

So, as the GEAR was only a month away and just down the road it fitted the bill perfectly. Without shocking the world or getting a PB, I can get out of bed and run 10kms without any problems, but it’s something that means my runs between now and then with have an added oomph.

Also, some familiar faces will also be running the GEAR and there’s nothing like a bit of competitive spirit to shake things up.

Bikereide2So, I better get out there. Trouble is, on the subject of gears, I got my bike fixed last week and it’s a big draw for me, living in Norfolk. I used to ride these country lanes all the time when I lived here as a teenager. And last weekend I loved being out on my bike for the first time this year, with gears and brakes and wheels all working. The sun was shining and the pedal power worked to lift my mood out of a desperation to live somewhere with an average temperature over 4 degrees. Yesterday my mum and I biked to our yoga class. Now, where else can I bike to?

I guess it’s all good, though. The pool I swim in has been unavailable for the last three weeks, so having this extra workout all helps.

But the GEAR 10km won’t need me pushing through my bike gears to get round, it’s my legs that have got to do the work: road, foot, road, foot. The trainers are on and the bike is in the garage. It’s my own gears I’ve got to move through today.

For more information on the GEAR 10km or GEAR mini fun run, visit http://www.grandeastangliarun.co.uk/

Signing up, up and away

Sometimes your inbox is trying to tell you something.email

Yesterday I got four emails about running events, different ones around the Europe: a woodland 10km in the south-east; a hilly affair in the west; an exciting half marathon in a city best known for shopping rather than running; and a lovely little jog around a park in the capital.

They will only keep coming, I know that. The weather is no longer a danger to limbs and lungs and it now gets light before you get up, which helps. These race organisers know that now is the time to whet the competitive spirit, thrust a challenge onto the unsuspecting new runner and lay down the gauntlet to running heroes and villains. It’s the time to sort out those training plans and work out just how many weekends you can dedicate to charity runs in places where you know people. Now is the time to set a goal.

I say now, in February, because January is filled with so much pressure on doing/not doing/target-setting/changing that now all that waffle is over, you can be realistic and pick stuff that you want to do; that you’re going to do. In the fever of January (and this has happened to me before) you can sign up for all sorts and then forget about them until they come knocking one week before and you are in no way prepared physically/economically (how much?)/practically (how do you get to those woods in Wales on a Sunday morning?)

So, now the idea is making your neurons dance and legs twitch in anticipation, the dilemma is: which race? Fun and for charity? Something for a distance personal best? A route with mountains to distract you? One to combine with a holiday/city break? The choice is endless.

And once you’ve signed up, what then? The adrenalin kicks in, the planning starts, the trainers get on, maybe a new piece of kit gets bought. You work out how to get there. You let everyone know you’re doing it, so there’s no wimping out. Perhaps you get a mate or loved one involved for support and inspiration. Or maybe you go it alone: it is your challenge, your personal quest.

In life as much as in running, we need something to aim for, to look forward to; a date in the diary for something we have chosen. And when the moment comes, we soar. From the start line, up, up and away we go. We’ve worked towards it. It’s our freedom as livers and runners and we must enjoy it, remembering the joy at the click: SIGN UP HERE.

So, back to my inbox. Where do I go? How far? Who with?

Ping! And there’s another running event to put into the melting pot.

 

What running events are you doing this year in the UK, USA or anywhere? Let us know, tips and recommendations welcome!

 

 

 

Venga! The Behobia to San Sebastián 20km

“VENGA! VENGA!”

This word more than others got me through the Behobia to San Sebastián 20km run last November. The terrible weather didn’t help. The hills certainly didn’t help. But all those people, lining the route and often in the middle of nowhere, shouting at us to “COME ON!” was one thing that put a smile on my face.

IMG_1974The day started early, up before dawn eating toast and peanut butter in my friend Jenny’s apartment and driving through the mountains as the sun rose to reveal a wet, grey day. We parked up and took the train and bus to Behobia, a small town on Spain’s border with France. We were early, though the crowds were already forming: a brightly coloured bunch as everyone was wearing plastic ponchos to protect them from the downpour. For some, bin liners were enough as we all huddled together in cafes, under shop fronts and petrol stations. Despite the weather, the atmosphere was buzzing. This is the Great North Run of Spain, popular and fun for both seasoned runners and newbies alike.

Despite the lack of training, I was confident of finishing smiling and without too many problems, though there was the worry of the 2km climbs dotted throughout the route. There were so many of us, we had to wait an hour after the ‘start’ for our section to kick off. Despite the puddles, we danced and cheered our way to the starting line and we were off. Jenny had other friends who had been training with her running as well, though everyone was running their own run.

The first couple of kms were all about skipping over puddles and finding your rhythm and place, like every busy race is. Then a sneaky hill came as we hit km 4 and my mind went backwards. Shit, I thought. Then I remembered that I’m always rubbish in the first few kms of a long run. By the sixth km I was checking the watch and calculating making it in under two hours, which I would have been happy about at the start. Then I started to focus. Hill training or no hill training, I could get in under 2 hours and I was bloody well going to.

The rain still battered us, although there was no wind – a complete saviour. The first real climb was km 8 to km 10. It was one of those -just-keep-putting-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other moments. Actually, that’s a lie: it wasn’t a moment, it was more like fifteen minutes. But the end was always in sight, and that helped me. That, and knowing that turning that corner on the lip of hill was a downhill. Usually, I don’t like downhills, but they helped me make up time after slowing for the climbs. At the top, the heavens well and truly opened. Ignore the leg burn and the rivers running down the roads and go for it. The crowds were and didn’t thin. They had big umbrellas and they stayed throughout. Venga! Venga!

Towards the end after the last climb and on last 4km to the finishing line along the sea front in San Sebastián, I was running side to side along the route clapping those supporters back and high-fiving all the kids. They really had been amazing. Some even provide chocolate, fruit, water, handing them out to runners as they pass. Others open their windows and blast music, or take a huge speaker to an isolated spot on the route and blast it out from their car.

On that last climb, the steepest of them all I had to dig in. Walking I wasn’t. Half way up a man of about fifty patted me on the back. “I’ve been following you the whole way,” he told me in Spanish. “You’re running really well. Keep going.” He passed me, but that was the boost I needed. The rest of the hill passed in a glow of determination and it was down and flat to the end. The sea and its big, crashing waves came into view.

The finishing line was in sight, although there were lots of those inflatable line markers that it was a bit disappointing getting to one and realising it wasn’t the final one. I clocked in in 1 hour 50 minutes and was quietly pleased with myself. Not being a full half marathon, it wouldn’t have beaten my half marathon best, but all rain, hills and lazy training considered I happily took it. And more than the time I clocked, I enjoyed it. Running alone, without music and not having a clue where I was going or what was really coming next was a real pleasure. Sometimes I think we find out too much about new runs instead of taking it as it comes.

Afterwards we all celebrated together in a restaurant with fine wine and food, everyone pleased with their efforts whether they had finished or not. For some it was another day at the running office, speeding along the route with ease. For others it was too many kms that time. But for all of us who ran that day, there was a ringing in the ears…

IMG_1959VENGA! VENGA!

And a big thank you to Jenny, reader of our blog, and fellow runner Nando for their fabulousness!