Cambridge Half Marathon


There is no photographic evidence of the finish, because I was too tired to lift my arms above my head to take a selfie. Finished Cambridge Half Marathon today in a chip time of 2:21:42 which is Not Exactly Speedy, but Pretty Acceptable. Bearing in mind my all-time PB was 2:04 and that was when I was two and a bit stones lighter and five years younger, and I was running 6-10 miles regularly – I don’t think it is too bad. I have really struggled to find time to run for more than 30 or 40 minutes this term. The downside of being a vicar-in-training is that Sunday mornings are no longer available for a long run… and I now live too far away from my parents to be able to run ten miles and have Sunday lunch with them. Mum’s roast chicken was always a good incentive 8 miles into a 10 miler.

The course around Cambridge has the advantage of taking you past some very scenic parts. However, it’s pretty twisty and narrow in places, making it hard to keep a consistent pace when you are running with the ‘run two abreast and have a chat’ kind of crowd. And it’s two laps. So I’m not sure how much I liked it on the second lap! It was quite fun running part of my normal commute to lectures, though. And the sun was a mixed blessing – it made it cheerful, but much warmer than I had expected. What I really hated was the finish – getting on to Victoria Avenue knowing I still had a mile to go, but being able to see and hear the finish, was tough. I knew there was a lot of zig-zagging, but it was a bit soul destroying.

It was great having Viv here and running with her again, I have missed that a lot. Even if we didn’t stay together after the first three miles… The crowd was encouraging, and the samba band was lovely… And I probably would apply to run this again next year, if I get a better routine of term-time running and energy. It’s hard to say.

I have always found the analogies between running, and ‘running with perseverance the race that is set before us’ as the Christian life. I don’t want to lose the actual running part of running life. It feels like regular long runs and half marathoning belong to a different life now. I want to keep running; I know it keeps me fit and sane in times of stress and runs are going to be a key part of my revision timetable next term. But perhaps I need to think carefully about what is achievable in the long run (pun intended).

Anyway, here are the split times from today. I’m pleased with the first 10k, actually, wasn’t expecting to be as close as all that to 10 minute miles. It is good to know that that is still my general comfortable running pace. But my long standing inability to run negative splits rears its head again…

1 (actually no idea. Had Runkeeper going for ages before the start. It said 15:29, my watch says 11:41)
2 10:23
3 10:02
4 10:07
5 9:59
6 9:50
7 10:25
8 10:42
9 11:12
10 11:34
11 11:38
12 11:27
13 11:34

Last things: Last ParkRun

I love, love, love ParkRun. Free, timed, 5k runs happen all over the country every Saturday morning. There are all sorts of runners – all ages and abilities and experience levels. Colchester Castle ParkRun has been a highlight and a priority in my week since it started last Spring.

I won’t say I have loved every single run – my first ever DNF was a ParkRun when I just ran out of energy; and the hills have seemed ridiculously tough at times. I’m starting to think more and more that my PB of 29:14 was measurement error when I’m struggling now to finish under 31minutes (I know… I remember when 28 minutes was my normal 5k time… age, cake, beer and laziness taking their toll there).

However, it’s a fantastic thing for our town. Go and join it. It’s great. I’ve now done the last one before I move. Another little milestone reached.


Janathon 2014

And so it begins. Janathon 2014 is here. The challenge: to run (or exercise) every day, and to blog or tweet about it.

Juneathon was a bit wonky on account of going to Israel. Janathon 2013 wobbled because of injury. Janathon 2014 is only going to work if I am not lazy and I walk to and from work (1.5 miles each way)… but it’s a great incentive to re-establish weekday evening running in my not-so-new work routine.

And we begin with a New Year’s Day ParkRun.

Witham BD5

It’s ages since I blogged about a race – probably because I’ve done very few this year. Today was my second Boxing Day 5, organised by Witham Running Club – now in its 29th year. I’ve not run far or fast for a long time, so I wasn’t expecting to storm round the course (all things are relative) and I was hoping to run 10min miles – my recent runs have been nearer 10.30 pace which is getting slow… blaming old age…

The smell of deep heat and the adrenaline kicks in… a brilliant bit of marshalling in the clubhouse meant no loo queue to speak of – that is a seriously brilliant achievement, as one of the downsides to many races is an interminable queue. It was chilly but not unbearable as we assembled at the start, waiting for the sunshine we’d left behind in Colchester. The route was slightly different this year so I wasn’t entirely sure where I was going, but then there would be plenty of people in front of me to follow!

The measure of a good race for me is one where the mile markers appear quickly – and the first one was there after 9.08 – I was completely surprised! I’ve not done a sub 9.30 mile for months. And I hadn’t noticed – hadn’t felt like I was working particularly hard, or anything – so I carried on. Mile 3 I was extremely glad my Inner Sergeant Major was on board today as some slight twinges suggested a return of the stomach cramps that I’ve started getting – however, we talked ourselves out of paying attention to that, and focused on the task in hand. And then as we came round the last corner at 3.5 miles, Witham and the downhill appeared in front of us – and I could see that I’d easily be able to finish under 50minutes. So the last mile was easy (except for the last 100m! I completely ran out of steam about 50m from the finish – it felt like I was walking).

In fact looking at the Runkeeper splits  it seems the last mile was actually just under 9 minutes – which I am hugely encouraged by. There was me thinking 9.08 for a first go-off-a-bit-quick mile was good, then I finish even faster…

That was one of the nicest runs I have done in a long time. I really enjoyed it (thank you Viv for the lift) – this is definitely poised to become a Boxing Day thing for future years.

According to Runkeeper:
1 9:08
2 9:43
3 10:10
4 9:46
5 8:59
overall 48:32 – let’s see what my official chip time is.

Next stop: Janathon.

Running (well, thinking about running)

This blog purports to be about running, but it’s a long time since I posted anything on that topic.

It’s a year since the truly awful Royal Parks half marathon that more or less stalled any progress I was making. It also coincided with finishing writing the thesis, and for several years weekend running and writing had been part of my routine. I’ve just today repeated what used to be fairly standard – church at 8am, then a run straight away, then back to my desk.

This morning I ran the 10k loop that I used to be able to do at the drop of a hat. I know I am slower, because my playlist ran out half a mile from home. It’s the first time in a long time that I looked at the weather (wet) and didn’t find an excuse to stay indoors.

So I think I am challenging myself. There’s a  couple of half marathons I’d like to do, looming after Christmas. I have already not run two races this autumn that I perhaps could have done. Moving jobs means that my routines have changed – no more 06:30 running when I am already on the train by then, for example. I wonder what else needs to change so I put the sanity-saving, fitness-maintaining firmly back into my week?

Marathon effort?

No, not mine. I have no desire to run a full 26.2 miles ever again. But I do like watching others, so I had a splendid Sunday out in London on 21 April cheering on runners – hundreds in general, two in particular.

I’ve been the runner, trying to keep left-foot-right-foot-left-foot going. I know how much it can help to have someone spot you, shout your name, just the teeniest bit of encouragement. Even if I know their ‘looking good, Sara’ is a massive lie – it still helps. Just by the 22 mile marker yesterday a group of lads were watching from a first floor flat. They would spot someone walking, pick their name up as a chant, and if that runner started running again gave a huge cheer. The kind of noisy, raucous cheer that only ten lads can make after a few beers. And the crowd on the pavement joined in – loving the reaction from the runners. Some waved – some were oblivious – some looked confused as if they’d forgotten that was their name – some really seemed to find new energy.

In between times – and then as the first floor folk quietened down, and those coming past were slowing – we shouted encouragement at random people. People I’ll never see again; but for a few seconds I helped encourage them on their quest to finish the London Marathon. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon. All those stories – all those individuals logging the training miles, looking for sponsorship, preparing, travelling and then finally making the distance. It’s the stock-in-trade of the commentators, talking about the ‘human interest,’ tugging our heartstrings and making us reach for our purses to donate to the charities. But honestly, up close, in the reality of the blisters and the sweat and the grimaces and the sheer determination – it’s bloody awesome.

It’s even more fun when you’re there holding a 6’ beanpole with a mugshot of your friend’s face; when you have a pint at 10:30 because the pubs are open (well, it would be rude not to), when the sun’s shining and London has that friendliness about it that we saw in the Olympics. You know, when it was OK to talk to strangers, catch people’s eye on the tube and smile (see above re carrying 6’ beanpole about the place).

Four Thoughts for Resolutioning Runners

Lots of people resolve to get fit as a new year’s resolution and plenty choose running as the means by which they will achieve this. I heartily endorse this approach – and because I know how easy it is to start well, but perhaps tail off a bit, here’s some advice for new & returning runners.

1. Get good shoes. And a good bra, if you’re a woman. Nothing else matters at the moment – you don’t need any other expensive kit. Try not to wear all black if you are running in the dark. But I think at a beginning stage, it’s better to buy the right shoes and improvise shorts than it is to skimp on shoes and have all singing, all dancing clothes or gadgets.

2. Remember it’s YOUR life, YOUR running and no-one else’s. Yes, people might overtake you. Yes, you might be slow. You are out there, doing what is right for you. I frequently feel stupid, slow, and with all the style of a sack of potatoes on legs, but I have learned to ignore that feeling in favour of knowing how good I’ll feel at the end.

3. If you lace up your trainers, go out the door running as hard as you can, you will probably get to the end of the road and feel like crap. Start gently and build up distance and speed. Lots of people swear by the couch-to-5k plan which does just that – gets you from 0 to 30min running over about 8 weeks.

4. The hardest bit is from your sofa or bed to your front door. Even if you really really don’t want to go, getting outside for a short time is worth it. I have been known to trick myself – telling myself we’ll go out for 5 minutes and come straight back. I rarely do; and have often gone on for an hour or so.

And some random ideas…Have fun. Be proud of yourself. Judge yourself by your progress, not anyone else’s. Ladies – don’t underestimate the effect your hormones have on your ability to run. Keep at it. Don’t beat yourself up for having an off day. Record progress. Track miles, but also how you feel. Vary places to run – park, pavement, trail. Enjoy.

Royal Parks Half Marathon – worst race ever

Well, OK, not an unmitigated disaster. I finished, but 19 minutes outside the 2hr mark I had been hoping for. A real catalogue of disasters, the least of which included needing to stop for a loo break T 4 miles and a new pain in my right foot appearing at about 6 miles. I could list all sorts of external reasons why things weren’t great, but what it boiled down to today was being tired, and stressed, and having absolutely no oomph in my leaden legs. And after about 3.5 miles my inner coach gave up and went for a pint, leaving me with my inner critic. “You’ll never catch the pacemaker now. You’re rubbish. You think you can help people run, but you can barely do it yourself. Who the hell do you think you are putting yourself out there for sponsorship? You shouldn’t have bothered. Look at that person overtaking you, they’re much better than you, and they’re older. Your knees are about to give in. You should have trained more.”

All that, and to the earworm of Dolly Parton’s Working 9 to 5, bearing in mind I only know half the chorus…

So it turned from ‘let’s do this in 2hr’ to ‘just-get-round-the-course.’ A shame; a lovely sunny day to be in the arks. It did have nice bits, running across London streets is always interesting, and the other Christian Aid runners were relentlessly cheerful and encouraging as they all overtook me (bloody Christians).

At 8 miles I was never running again. By the time I was halfway home, I’d set myself the target of finding a way to train for Great Bentley in February – it would be nice to just have one sub-2hr half to my credit.

If you’ve seen the Runkeeper mile splits, they’re less dramatic than the watch times I have. They show the full extent of the post-loo break failure:

1 9.09 (bang on pace!)
2 8.37
3 9.37
4 9.44
5 11.47
6 10.18
7 11.29
8 10.40
9 10.45
10 12.52
11 10.30
12 11.48
13 11.41

Closing Panel at SLA Chicago – updated


This is the image I would have spoken about at the closing panel had we had time. It’s last year’s Great North Run. Here’s the fuller version of the thoughts I had about how this relates to me and to our profession.

(I am in the picture – just left of the Stig, blue shirt, beige cap, but it is a bit of a Where’s Wally/Waldo? kind of game).

I used this image because I like to run. I am not fast and I have finishers’ rather than winners’ medals. But I can also draw some parallels here with the wider world of work which hopefully aren’t too hackneyed.

We all have to run our own race and play to our own strengths. I think we need to remember that a natural sprinter would struggle over a longer distance – that we all have natural talents and gifts. The challenge is to find the role that lets us play to those; to understand what we can work on and improve and what other things we’re just best off living with. I think this is a point Mary Ellen Bates made: Work on making your strengths stronger and don’t invest energy into your weaknesses that you cannot change – learn to live with them.

Be aware of the competitive advantage that others have – even if it’s not exactly your ‘thing’ – do they have better processes, resources? Are they keeping up with the race because they’re keeping up with the industry and if so, what tools are they using? Who are they coached by? Friends, family, professionals, membership organisations – all have a part to play at various times. If you have been mentored, when in turn can you mentor? Who can you encourage today?

Sometimes we’re in teams and sometimes we’re on our own – can you adapt your style to deal with both? I’ve recently been running with a friend who, for the first few times, apologised for being slower than me. Now that to me is daft – I wouldn’t have invited her to run with me had that been a problem; and the benefit of an early morning buddy far outweighs the disadvantage of a slightly slower pace. I’ve adapted to a different pace and to enjoy that run for what it is. In Chicago, I was the one slowing the group down.

Nothing is permanent. Everything is for a season, and expecting to be able to progress by standing still isn’t going to work. If I stopped on the Tyne bridge because I liked that view, pretty soon all the other runners would have moved on and I’d be out of the race. If I never invested in my own development and training, I’d soon be an ineffective or limited information professional.

Updated July 23 2012

Juneathon #1 & #2

So… part of the Juneathon challenge is to blog every day on the running. In the interests of, well, interestingness, I direct you to RunKeeper which is where I automatically log my runs using the GPS on my iPhone.

I don’t have a summer run to work towards (I’d say train for, but that would be over-doing it) so Juneathon, the idea of running every day for 30 days seemed like a good idea at the time. We’ll see how it goes. Yesterday I ran early morning, which is good for several reasons. First – it gets the run done and out of the way so whatever else I have to do, I don’t have to fit it in; it also saves a round of showering. Also, I can run in the town centre without dodging shoppers. Today I didn’t run early and in fact went at a strange time for me – 5pm – but an enjoyable, rabbit-hole free loop round Highwoods Country Park, chasing squirrels.