Raising awareness for MNDA

St. Neots Half Marathon – Race Recap

Race Information:

St. Neots Half Marathon Route.
  • Course: A figure of eight, undulating course, on the country roads on the outskirts of St Neots.
  • Elevation:
St. Neots Half Marathon elevation map
St. Neots Half Marathon elevation chart.
  • Other information: There are food outlets on the school playground for refreshments before and after the race. They do not send out race numbers, they have to be picked up on the morning of the race. Race photos were added to their Facebook page for you to take for free. they were uploaded very quickly too.

I asked on my IG post what people like reading in race recaps and to answer some questions:

What was my fuelling strategy?

Well, as I have said I wasn’t so prepared, so I picked up some Tangtastics and had some at mile 8 as I was feeling a little hungry!

How do pace your race?

In this race we just ran and chatted, not even looking at watches, so it was really on feel.

Usually I will have a goal time and then work pace from that.

How do you know what layers to wear?

I really don’t like being cold so usually layer up too much. But I think you just learn what you feel comfortable in the more you run. I still get it wrong ALL the time!

My Race:

I felt I may have been the least prepared for this race. There was no flat lay the night before, I hadn’t even thought about what I was going to wear. I didn’t know what the weather was going to be like, as I hadn’t been on weather watch for the week previous. I didn’t even know what time St.Neots Half Marathon started. The only organising I had completed, was to arrange to meet with Christine and Mike to travel to the race together! At least that way I knew I would get there on time!

As we drove to the race, there was fine rain and I can’t say that I was looking forward to running. I was glad I had opted for my long layer under my MNDA vest. There was plenty of parking on a school site, although you parked on the school field and I saw a few skidding on the way out as it was so muddy.

We headed into the hall to collect our race bibs and you get a race long-sleeve top too. From there, you are ushered through to the sports hall, where you could get your things sorted and drop your bag. This was good as it mean that we could keep warm and dry.

Pre race selfies at St. Neots Half Marathon 2019.
Keeping warm in the sports hall selfie!

I was in need of a toilet break and headed to the changing rooms, hoping that would be the shortest queue. The queues didn’t seem that long until someone told me there was only one toilet working! I think there were about 15 people in front of me, so I decided to wait and use the portable toilets outside. Well, that was a mistake.

Keeping ourselves warm and dry meant that we didn’t head out of the sports hall until 20 minutes prior to the race start. Great I thought, toilet time! It was cold outside and we headed for the toilets. The QUEUES were snaking all over the playground, so again I gave it a miss.

Toilet queues at St. Neots Half Marathon 2019.
Toilet queues zig-zagging around the playground.

It was a 5-minute walk to the start, I spotted 2 portable toilets. Yes! Oh and then I spotted the queue. The race was about to start, so I again didn’t queue. Let me just let you in on a little secret; I needed a wee for the entire race! I mentioned it a FEW times to Christine and Julie, but it was just too cold to stop behind a tree. When finished I ran straight from the finish line to th toilet and I only remembere to stop my watch once I come out of the Toilet!!!! The moral of the story is; go to the toilet before the race, as running with a full bladder didn’t make for the most comfortable race.

So back to the running, well, run/walking. Julie has been injured for a while and her physiotherapist had said that she had to adopt a run/walk strategy so as not to aggravate her knee more. When she said that she was doing a 7/1 run and we didn’t have to wait for her, I knew that wasn’t happening. It was going to be 7 minutes running and 1-minute walking, repeat. I’m nowhere near PB shape, so I really wanted to enjoy this run with friends. I also thought this meant I could take lots of photos and possibly Insta-Story a lot of the race!

We crossed the start line only 1-2 minutes after the klaxon had gone off. I tried to video the start, but ended up taking a photo of the start gantry and then desperately tried to start my Garmin at the right time too! Fail on the Insta-Stories number 1!

Seven minutes running and it was time for our walk. Out comes my phone for a photo and, oh where are they. Julie was like a rocket and had power-walked ahead. I had to run to catch up, take a quick photo and then we were off. Where did that minute go?

Mid Race selfies at St. Neots Half Marathon 2019

I had thought about taking a photo each walk break, but on the second walk break, I had to concentrate on just walking fast enough to keep up. The minute went so fast and Julie’s power walking was pretty intense that my photos didn’t really happen! Hehe. Fail on Insta-Stories number 2!

We were out in the countryside pretty quickly and the miles were ticking by. The race started with an incline and then a short sharp hill around mile 3, but nothing too bad. The scenery on the route as you run along quiet country roads with vast fields for company is lovely. There were lots of marshals on the route and pockets of support at various places.

Views at St. Neots Half Marathon 2019

The course does a figure of 8, so the mile 9 sign is between miles 3 & 4, so you know you have that hill to look forward to again.

Some spectacular houses lined the route and there was always things to look at. Not all roads were closed, but traffic was very light. There was a unpleasant hill at mile 5, but we were lucky that it coincided with a walk break. Were we really that lucky???

Mile 5 at St. Neots Half marathon

Completing run/walk intervals meant that we passed and was passed by familiar faces, so by about mile 7/8 we had a little chat with the people around us. Motorbikes passed at frequent intervals and we always got a tutu shout from one of the riders. Our MNDA vest and matching rara’s seemed to get quite alot of attention.

Mid race selfie Photo at St. Neots half marathon 2019

I recognised where we were around mile 8 and 1/2 as we conquered the familiar incline, but at the end of the road instead of turning left like last time, we turned right. Both Julie and Christine have completed this race a number of times before, so they happily informed me that it was all downhill from here.

I was feeling quite strong and enjoying the run and was surprised how easily the last few miles ticked by. The road became much busier from mile 12 to 13, so you had to be aware of your surroundings. When you see the mile 13 marker, make a left turn and there is the finish gantry. I tried to Insta-Story crossing the finish line, yep you guessed it. Fail on Insta-Stories number 3!

I really don’t know how people manage to Insta-Story races. I didn’t attempt the run and talk, I thought I was doing the easy things and failed at them! How Anna managed to Insta-Story her way around NYC Marathon and record a video for running channel at the same time is beyond me!!?? Crazy #Lifegoals hehe

We finished all together which was brilliant and we got round in a time of 2:19:36, but today was certainly not about times.

So that’s it for 2019 races. Check out my races for next year here. Let me know if you are running any of the same races.

Finish Line  Photo at St. Neots half marathon 2019
Finish Line Medal Photo at St. Neots half marathon 2019

Positives:

  • Running with friends is the best.
  • Finishing with friends is the best.
  • Having fun with friends is the best.

Less Positive:

  • More toilets would be nice.
  • I think the hills would not have been nice if I was running flat out, but for a leisurely run it was a really nice course.

Have you run St. Neots Half before? Thoughts? Also, what questions do you like answered in a race recap? Let me know below.

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Northampton Half – Race Recap

Race Information:

  • Date: Sunday 29th September 2019
  • Start Time: 9:30 am
  • Entry: Via website and I think they still had places quite close to the race and possibly on the morning too.
  • Cost: £30.45
  • Race Website: http://northamptonhalfmarathon.co.uk
  • Race Mementos: Medal and t-shirt.
  • Course: Starts in the town center of Northampton and is a mixture of town and then surrounding countryside. There is a large hill between mile 6 and 7, but the rest of the course is pretty flat.
  • Elevation: Mostly flat, with one awful hill!
Elevation of Northampton Half Marathon
Elevation of Northampton Half Marathon
  • Other information: Pacers were available, there were plenty of marshalls. Registration took place in a pub, so I used the toilets in the pub and there was NO queue! Bag drop was the back of a van next to the start, which was easy and efficient to use.

My Race:

When I saw the schedule for my last few weeks of marathon training and saw that I had 13 miles on the plan the same weekend as the Northamptoon Half Marathon, it felt like a no brainer. I needed to bank the miles so why not collect the bling and run with lots of people too.

I had assumed that this would be a leisurely run, as I am now tapering for the Chicago Marathon, yet when I spoke to my coach last week, he told me to go for it! What?!? That wasn’t what I was expecting. Having run a PB at Bedford Half Marathon at the beginning of the month I did think that maybe this could be my sub 2 attempt.

I spent the next few days panicking about this race. What if I went for it and didn’t get a good time? Would this knock my confidence for Chicago? But then what if I had a blinder and went into Chicago raring to go?

I was still contemplating going with the 2-hour pacer about 5 minutes before the start. Then, I decided that my main aim of this race was to enjoy it. I feel like I am losing my enjoyment of running lately, so I needed to enjoy this.

It was forecast for horrendous weather, but just as we were about to start the sun came out. So the Northampton Half Marathon actually ended up being really humid and hot.

Ruth & Christine before the start of Northampton Half Marathon
All smiles before the start.

So, I set off with Christine so we could natter away and enjoy the run. I felt like I was constantly trying to slow us down, but we probably still started to fast. By mile 3 we were running along by the river, it was pretty, my legs were feeling fine, but I looked at Christine and said: “I’m bored”. It sounds stupid, but I could have easily given up and just cheered everyone else on. This worries me for my forthcoming 26.2 miles!

All smiles after the race.

Around 5 miles, Christine started to slow and I decided to try and stick to a 9:45 pace. Just to see what it felt like. Great timing as a big hill came up. There were lots of people walking it, but I tried to run it all. Three-quarters of the way up and I started walking. I only walked a short time and then set off again. Around mile 8, I actually felt like I was in a rhythm and I was enjoying it. I decided that at mile 10, I would push on and really attack the last 3 miles.

Not sure what happened with this idea, as my two slowest miles were mile 10 and 12!!! I liked that I was passing lots of people in the last few miles and I had a sprint finish, but I couldn’t say that I finished full of confidence that I would be able to repeat that distance again. What is going on, I have trained harder than ever for this marathon, yet for some reason, I don’t feel as confident about it! Let’s hope there is a miracle in these next two weeks! This is the second time that I have completed the Northampton Half and I would definitely do it again.

If you want to catch up with all my Chicago Marathon training, please click here.

Positives:

  • Local
  • Reasonable race size, so not much queuing.
  • Easy parking next to where you finish.
  • Race photos are reasonably priced.

Less Positive:

  • Some narrow sections on the course which can make it hard to overtake.
  • Finish section is on grass which is quite bumpy.
Northampton Half Marathon vest, bib and medal
Northampton Half Marathon vest, bib and medal

Do you use races to help train for other races? If you have any questions about this race, please comment below.

Bedford Half – Race Recap

Race Information:

  • Date: Sunday 1st September 2019
  • Start Time: 9:00 am
  • Entry: Via website and I think they still had places quite close to the race.
  • Cost: £29
  • Race Website: https://www.bedfordrunfest.co.uk
  • Race Mementos: Lovely medal, finishers tech t-shirt, goody bag (Crisps, sweets, banana) free alcohol-free beer.
  • Course: Mostly flat, a few undulations over bridges. Loops around lakes. A mixture of terrain, with paths, grass, gravel paths and through trees.
Starts/Finishes at Priory Park, Bedford
  • Elevation: Mostly flat
  • Other information: They started in waves, but runners could choose their own wave, so they were overcrowded. I started in wave 2, which was 1:46 – 1:59 predicted time and within the first mile I saw people stop to walk. Some of the paths were narrow, making it hard to overtake. Especially, on the second lap as the lead runners were overtaking on the right, so you had to keep left. The official car parks were about a 10 minute walk from the start.

My 5K Race:

The week prior to this race, I had been away on holiday and my running routine went out the window. I ran twice, both around 2.5 miles! Silly really, but I felt like I had forgotten how to run!

I had missed my midweek tempo run, so had planned to do that session as part of this race. Whilst driving to the race, I planned to start with 4 easy miles and drop the pace to tempo pace for the last 9. Once I saw the chaos at the starting waves, this plan went out the window. I started nearer the front and thought I would see how it went. After going through mile 1 with a 9:03 mile, I decided that my tempo would take place up to 10 miles. I tried not to panic when miles flashed up beginning with an 8, thinking I could walk at mile 10 if I needed too. This wasn’t a goal race! Around mile 7, the course was less shaded and we had to run up and over the bridge. I felt my pace drop a little, but I just kept thinking about getting to 10 miles.

When 10 miles clicked over, I started to walk. I looked at my watch and tried to calculate what it would take to finish sub 2. I then heard someone say, only a 29-minute park run and you can do it. Park runs are hard, but this made me think, why not give it a go. So, that was it, head down and gritting my teeth, I decided to try to achieve a sub 2 half marathon.

I was actually feeling ok, right up until 12.5 miles. It was running on uneven grass and my legs were fading. I really really really didn’t want to get so close and miss out, so I kept pushing. I knew it was going to be VERY close. As I crossed the line I stopped my watch on 1:59:59.

I really wanted to be excited, but I just had a feeling that the official time would be different so I waited. And waited, and waited. Everyone else was getting text messages with times, but nothing came through. As soon as I got home, I checked the results and just as I though 2:00:01!!!! I can’t be disappointed as that is still a PB, but 2 PESKY seconds! Why did I have to walk? hehe

What a beauty!

Positives:

  • Local race, in lovely surroundings.
  • Very relaxed vibe at start and end, with a real festival vibe about it.
  • GOrgeous medal.

Less Positive:

  • Loops.
  • I am not a fan of running on grass.
  • Missing out on a sub 2 by TWO seconds!

What’s your favourite distance to race? Let me know in the comments below.

Bedford Park Elevation Chart

Doug Anderson 5k – Race Recap

Race Information:

  • Date: Wednesday 31st July 2019
  • Start Time: 7:30 pm
  • Entry: Via website, and usually has places available on the night.
  • Cost: £10 for affiliated members, £12 non-affiliated
  • Race Website: http://www.bedfordharriers.co.uk/bedford_park_5k.asp
  • Race Mementos: Medal, but no goody bag. But they do provide cakes at the end of the race.
  • Course: 5K – 2 and 1/2 laps of Bedford Park. The exact same course as Bedford Parkrun
  • Elevation: It has the smallest of inclines that you have to run three times. By the third time, it feels like a mountain! hehe
Bedford Park Elevation Chart
Bedford Park Elevation Chart
  • Other information: There is a limit of 500 people and most people are from the surrounding clubs. It can be congested at the start, and the timing is gun to chip, which means that you time can be out a little if you start towards the back.

My 5K Race:

This 5K race is part of my running club championship races, so I have run it twice before. It is also the exact same course as Bedford Parkrun, so I know the course well. Even knowing the course well, I was a little apprehensive, as I have been training hard this marathon cycle and I really wanted this to show in my race time.

5K distnace is hard! My biggest fear was going off too fast and then fading at the end. But I was also concerned that I would hold back too much at the start and then feel like I should have given more.

Running action shot.
Well, it looks like I enjoyed it!

When I thought about the race, I had thought about starting at 8:30 pace and then progressively getting quicker. Sounded easy in my head! When my first mile flashed up at 8:30, great I thought, exactly to plan. For me to run at this pace I have to really concentrate and all I kept thinking was to keep pushing. Trying to work hard on the inclines and relax on the decline.

My second mile was 8:28, which was not where I had hoped it would be, but I was working hard, so that was all that mattered. One of my club mates was just ahead of me, so my focus was to not let her pull away. I gained a little, but as we hit the 4k sign my legs felt like they had nothing left. Running up the incline for the last time felt like running through treacle. My legs were heavy and I just wanted to give up. Having my club mate ahead really kept me motivated. If she could push on, so could I!

I thought I was aiming for sub 26:34, as that’s what I THOUGHT my PB was. So, when I turned into the finishing straight and I saw the clock show 26:20 ish, I knew I had to just dig really deep and try to sprint.

Running action Shot
Not as smiley now! Obviously towards the end.

I stopped my watch as 26:30. I was relieved it was over, but also I a little disappointed as I really thought I could go to the lower 26 minutes. But it’s a PB I thought, so that’s good. Well, that was until I checked what my PB was to find that my actual PB is 26:29!!! I felt so deflated!

5K Running Action Shot
Head down and get to the finish!

After a good nights sleep and some wise words from the running community via Instagram, running that time on tired legs from my accumulations of miles from this training cycle is good.

Positives:

  • Local race, with lots of great support and a huge turn out from my run club.
  • Cheap entry fee
  • Cake at the end.

Less Positive:

  • 5K hurts.
  • 5K is hard.
  • 5K makes you feel sick!
Doug Anderson 5K Medal
Doug Anderson Medal

If you have missed any of my weekly updates from this marathon cycle click here to check them out.

Thanks to Andy Brayford and Tracy Gibson for the photos.

What’s your favourite distance to race? Let me know in the comments below.

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ASICS London 10k – Race Recap

Race Information:

  • Date: 21st July 2019
  • Start Time: 9:30
  • Entry: Enter on their website. It did sell out about 4 weeks prior to race.
  • Cost: £50
  • Race Website: www.virginsport.com
  • Race Mementos: Medal, t-shirt, a goody bag and another bag which you had to use for bag drop.
  • Course: The course is very flat and in the heart of London. It starts on Picadilly, but after bag drop they walk you along the Mall and then along the perimeter of Green Park to get to the start. It’s a really pretty walk. The course has lots of out and backs, which I know some people dislike. I LOVE them, as I love watching other runners.
Route map of ASICS London 10K
Route taken from my Garmin Connect
  • Elevation: Flat. It has real PB potential, although the tight turns will effect pace.
Elevation map of ASICS London 10K
This look deceiving, but check the scale
  • Other information: Although the ASICS London 10K is expensive (I had to think twice before entering, and I know lots that didn’t because £50 for a 10K IS expensive) I would def consider it again. It’s just such a nice atmosphere. There are so many bands and music venues on the course. The t-shirt, medal and goody bag are very nice. Also, if you are the kind of person that buys race photographs (and they can be expensive!) this race gives them to you free. So, I suppose your race entry is paying for race photos upfront too.

My Race:

I signed up for the ASICs London 10K, without actually really thinking about the fact that I would be deep in marathon training. I was lucky that it ended up falling on a drop back week and when I was originally talking to my coach he said he thought I’d need to do a run around 8 miles. Perfect I thought, 2 miles warm-up and then race.

Even though I dread my tempo runs, I have actually been feeling ok in them, so there was a little part of me that thought I could maybe aim for a PB in this race. Exciting!

Then the day prior on a run, I had a little bit of a funny turn. I felt lightheaded and dizzy. I hadn’t been feeling too great the week before. Well that put a spanner in the works. Still I thought I may be able to run fast. Typical runner! Then I missed my train, after getting up at 5 AM to get an early train. I was stressing as I thought I would miss the bag drop and the start.

Start of ASICS London 10K
Pen D

When I got to bag drop it was still open, there were lots of people behind me and I had plenty of time. Making my way to the start pen, I thought I may have to start further back. I was one of the early ones in the pen!

A message came through wishing me luck and I replied that I didn’t know how to approach the race. It then dawned on me, this wasn’t my A race! It was hot, I hadn’t been too well, I still had many weeks of training to put in, why would I jeopardise it now. So that was it, this race was to be part of my long run and even though I knew I would struggle to stick to long-run pace (I can’t help but be competitive) I was just going to enjoy it.

I started with the quick runners, so it was quite hard to hold myself back. Also, a little soul destroying with everyone streaming by, but I told myself not to worry.

I always think about videoing and taking photos in races, but in reality I am pushing too hard to think about getting my phone out. Well, today was different. I made myself slow down and get my phone out. The atmosphere was incredible so I wanted to take it all in.

I was lucky enough to Robin and Al on the course which was really nice seeing some friendly faces. I think I smiled all the way round (not the race photographs ever show this)

It didn’t seem as crowded as it has in past years. They had plenty of water stations on the course. The whole race was plastic bottle free, so water was given in cups, which I didn’t mind as I just walked when drinking, but if you were going for a PB, this may have been different. It was a hot day, so there were mist showers on the course to cool you down too. There was also nice amount of supporters out on the course cheering the runners on.

Positives:

  • I LOVE running in London.
  • Out and backs are good for me. I know this isn’t for everyone, but I love watching runners on the other side of the road.
  • My Gin Stitch running skirt was SO lovely to run in.

Less Positive:

  • Cost of entry
  • Having to get up SOOO early to get to the race – not the organiser’s fault, stupid trains!
  • The queue to collect t-shirts was rather LONG. I sneaked ina different way, otherwise I think I could have been there for at least an HOUR!

If you haven’t already, check how this race fitted in with my Chicago Marathon Training, by checking out Week 4 of training.

Did you race the ASICS London 10K? What did you think? Let me know your thought below.

Team Balancise

Colworth 5 Miles – Race Recap

Race Information:

  • Date: FRIDAY 21st June 2019
  • Start Time: 7 pm
  • Entry: Via website, and usually has places right up to the day before. It is part of the Colworth Marathon Challenge
  • Cost: £12 for the Friday night, £45 if you want to take part in all three races over the weekend.
  • Race Website: http://www.colworthstriders.org.uk
  • Race Mementos: Medal, but no goody bag. I am sure there are other mementos if you take part in the full challenge.
  • Course: A 5 mile, multiterrain, undualting course.
  • Elevation: It is an undulating course.
Elevation graph of Colworth 5 mile race.
Elevation Colworth 5 mile race
  • Other information: There is camping available for those that do the whole weekend marathon challenge. They also have junior races on Friday night or varying distances. The junior races are only £1 to enter on the night, and they all get a medal at the end.

My Race:

I have never run this race before, even though I have been to support club mates. I’ve avoided it as I am not a fan of trail running (says the girl that is writing the second race recap in a week, both trail events! Read my last race recap here)

I signed up this year as they announced that this race was to be our 5-mile club championship race. I thought I’d just go along and take a leisurely run around. Well, that was until I got a message from my coach telling me that I needed to give it everything so that we could use the result to set the training paces for my Chicago Marathon training that I am about to embark on!

The pressure was on! Not from anyone but me, but I then started to dread the run. My mind started to play tricks telling me that I couldn’t do it, I would be slow, that I would embarrass myself, so on and so on. Does anyone else do this to themselves?

So, after beating myself up all day, I was pretty nervous by the start of the race. Luckily, Victoria from my club said that she would help pace me, which helped lots. The race starts by running on grass, then it heads up a gentle incline, but on really uneven ground. I started fast and kept working hard. It didn’t feel too bad, but had I known the course I would have eased back. As I started to tire, I seemed to find ALL the hills. I think I was ready to give up around 3.5 miles and I just had to grit my teeth and hang on. There was a bend which incorporated another hill which I really thought I was going to walk. I didn’t, but I really wanted too.

When I entered the field for the final stretch, I knew that my club mates were going to be there supporting, as well as my family and would have loved to have attempted a sprint finish, but I had nothing! My sister videoed my finish and the only thing that came to mind when I watched it was ‘every day I’m shufflin‘ hehe

Girl running
Smile or a grimace in the finishing stretch. Photo credit T. Gibson.

I finished in 45:33. I can’t say I enjoyed it but it’s job done. Now onwards and upwards to cycle 5 of marathon training

Positives:

  • Local race, with lots of great support.
  • Cheap entry fee
  • BBQ and a bar available at the end of the race.

Less Positive:

  • Trails
  • Hills
  • Uneven surfaces

Do you enjoy trail races? What’s your next race? Let me know in the comments.