Running without a car

Sometimes I get a bit down about the fact I don’t have a car.

This is a topic I have been mulling over a lot recently. I know what you are thinking, of course you don’t need a car to go running. You just need to put on some running shoes and head out of your front door. Easy.  But what about all the times when a car is almost essential to being a runner.  In fact the only times I ever wish I could drive and had a car are usually running related.

This is a moaning post. In my head I’m stamping my feet and crying ‘it’s not fair’ because sometimes I feel a bit lonely and left out of being part of the running community where I live.

Not having a car is rubbish for running…

When you want to go to a running club.

When you want to go to parkrun which is miles away and public transport is at the wrong time.

When you want to go run a race that starts early on a Sunday morning.

When you want to go to a running club.

When your running club decides to go meet somewhere else for a change of scenery.

When your running friends start going to track nights but it is miles away with no public transport.

When you want to go do almost any race not in a city centre.

When you fancy being a parkrun tourist.

When you want to recce a race route.

When you feel really guilty about always being that person that needs a lift.

It is my own choice not to have a car or a driving licence (well the valid driving licence bit is partly down to being rubbish a driving lessons and running out of money). Most of the time it is fine. It doesn’t bother me. I just adapt. I never planned on moving out to a village where having a car is more limiting though. Always thought I would be a city dweller and never need a car for anything.

Not having a car means being more creative about how and when you run. It means being good at timing runs to far away places that fit with bus timetables. It means being good at carrying spare clothes and getting changed in pub toilets. It means running is less about club training, races, cross country season and track nights.

I still probably won’t ever learn to drive unless I really have to.

A Long Weekend in the Lake District

For my Dad’s 60th birthday at the end of September he decided he wanted a week away in the Lake District, and we were invited to join my parents for a long weekend in Windermere.

This trip is a great example of how accessible the Lake District is by public transport, especially if staying in Windermere itself. We set off from Huddersfield on the train at 4.30 in the afternoon and arrived in Windermere just before 7, changing trains twice along the way.  Advanced purchase tickets and a two together rail card made it cheap as well.

Old Man of Coniston

On the Saturday we decided on a family walk up the Old Man of Coniston. Well my Mum decided and I’m not sure everyone realised how big a walk it was going to be. As we were with the family we drove to Coniston for this walk. Whilst I love exploring the Lakes by public transport, and Coniston is completely accessible by bus, it was quite nice going in a car. It was little strange though, I’ve never been in a car in the Lakes before. It was certainly nice at the end of the day not to have to wait at a bus stop!

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The walk was wonderful and we were VERY lucky with the weather.  Steep in places and tough on the legs. Not much peril, with no exposed edges or scrambling but it wouldn’t be a mountain walk for me if there weren’t a couple of moments of mild panic and fear.  The views were stunning from the top.

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Walking up a mountain with the whole family was a very different experience for me. For starters there was a little picnic at the top. My Mum even made sandwiches! My brother brought a selfie stick so there was also a family portrait. Usually my mountain walks don’t include much time for hanging about at the top. As we were with my parents the pace was gentle and we took plenty of rest stops. I definitely want to do more family walks as it provided the perfect opportunity to spend time together away from the chaos and distractions of everyday life.

Snowdonia Marathon Eryri: Those hills hurt (part 2)

Race: Snowdonia Marathon
Location: Llanberis, Snowdonia
Distance: The big 26.2 miles
Time: 05:04:07

Read part 1 of the Snowdonia Mararthon write up here

Miles 14-20

This is where it starts to get really really tough.  Looking back at Strava miles 14 and 15 were actually one big hill. I powered on up and resisted the nagging temptation to just walk. Along this section of the race I wanted to see a steam train. The Welsh Highland Railway passes alongside the road but being a train nerd I had checked the timetables in advance and knew there wasn’t one due. A steam train would have been a nice boost along this quiet section.  Mile 18 has always been a big milestone marker in my mind in  the build up to race, as reaching 18 miles within 4 hours was the official cut off for this race.  A month ago this seemed to be a worrying target but I made it with lots of time to spare.

Miles 21-26

Everything hurt now and it is time for the final hill and the toughest climb of the day. I started walking at 22 miles and I’m not ashamed to admit I didn’t attempt any running for two miles. The hill was tough. Starting at about 415ft and reaching 1230ft over a couple of miles. The cloud was down. Everyone was walking. I took the opportunity (also actually had some 3G!) to check the race tracker and text people to let them know where I was up to.  I heard the steam train down the valley and got very excited resulting in telling fellow runners all about the steam trains. The sight of the feed station at Mile 24 was wonderful, with a Halloween theme fitting the atmospheric surroundings. Big thanks to all the feed stations but especially those brave souls in the middle of nowhere up there.

We reached the highest point of the race at mile 24.5, so not far to go however Llanberis is a long way down in the valley.  Descending nearly 900ft in less than 2 miles at the end of a marathon is actually just as tough as the hill climbs. Especially when it is off road and all the grass has been churned up by the thousand faster runners who have already finished. I normally enjoy a fast off road hill descent but not this one.

The Finish

The finish line for Snowdonia is amazing. The race ends on Llanberis High Street and the crowds were amazing. As a slow finisher, you expect a lot of people to have gone home or to the pub, but not here. It was amazing running down the finish with everyone shouting my name. Then I got a foil blanket which was exciting as I’ve always wanted to run a race where they give these out.

The Aftermath

Wandered round it a daze. Went to collect my bag and sat down in a corridor then couldn’t get up again. Warm clothes on and to the pub for a much-needed drink. Nothing tastes better than a post race ale and some salt and vinegar crisps. We went out to cheer on some more runners then on the bus back to Caernarfon for some food. We managed to find the last free table in Weatherspoons (the only reliable place in town for vegetarian pub grub), which was packed with a mix of runners and locals out for Saturday night partying.  We were at the Travelodge in bed by about 8.30 with tea,

biscuits and in need of lots of sleep.  I didn’t sleep too well as my legs were aching however I actually felt good the next day and managed a 4 mile walk along the coast.

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Snowdonia Marathon Eryri: It helps if you like hills (part 1)

Race: Snowdonia Marathon
Location: Llanberis, Snowdonia
Distance: The big 26.2 miles
Time: 05:04:07

At the end of August I had given up all hope of making it to the start line of this race, nevermind the finish. Here I am now, a Snowdonia Marathon finisher with a slate coaster to show for it.

Registration and Pre-Race Nerves

We arrived on the Friday to collect our race numbers in advance, after a train from Huddersfield to Manchester, then a train to Bangor, followed by a bus to Llanberis. We didn’t actually stay in Llanberis, opting for Caernarfon instead.  I had the foresight to make reservations for dinner Friday night, lucky because Caernarfon was busy. Once fuelled up on pizza, pasta and chips, it was off to the pub for a quick half before bed (I gave up on no alcohol before a run after getting my half marathon PB the morning after two glasses of prosecco!). I didn’t sleep much Friday night thanks to nerves…

Getting to the start line

After much fretting on my part about the bus not turning up or breaking down, we caught the 8.30am bus from Caernarfon to Llanberis. I was surprised that no other runners were getting the bus actually, but I guess most people do drive to this sort of race. Looking at the traffic queues for parking I think that is a good assumption. The bus is brilliant. It only takes 30mins and costs £2.50 return. Cue all the usual pre-race faffing about in a very chaotic race HQ. Took us at least half an hour to find the bag drop as you could barely move for people. Then it was time to walk up to the start line for a 10.30am start.

Miles 1-6

We are off and its all up hill from here for the next 4.5 miles to Pen-y-Pass with about 900ft of elevation gain. So it’s a tough climb to start a long race. So important it was important for me to remember to go easy on the first section.  In reality I went off a lot quicker than planned, but felt reasonably ok and just wanted to get up the hill.  As most of my running involves hills I didn’t find the climb up to Pen-y-Pass too horrible or tough. The scenery was fantastic and the atmosphere amongst runners was jovial.

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Miles 7-13

This section of the race started off fun with a wonderful downhill trail section. Unlike other runners around me who were complaining about the terrain I could have happily stayed on that for the rest of the race. Give me rocks, stones and trip hazards any day over boring tarmac. Fair enough it was steep and road shoes are not ideal for trail running but at least this section was a dry one. One runner I chatted with said they hate this type of terrain as it means you have to pay attention to running. I  think that’s why I like it as it gives the mind something to focus on other than the fact there are still 20 mile to go.  Alas, it was back to the tarmac and this time on open roads. The long plod to Beddgelert. This section was saved by the friendly runners that I chatted with to pass the miles and the family handing out orange segments. Running through Beddgelert was awesome. Another runner described it was a Tour De France moment. I’ll agree with that. The huge crowds lining the streets cheering everyone on gave me such a boost as the halfway fatigue and pain set it.

In part 2 I’ll write about the 2nd half of the marathon and the aftermath…

Running after dark: the rural edition

I have never been that put off by the dark winter nights when it comes to running. I’ve generally lived in very urban areas where street lights are in abundance and pavements are wide so safe routes are easy to come by. I used to think that head torches were a bit over the top unless trail running and all you really needed for night-time running was some high vis clothing so cars and pedestrians can see you coming.

Then I moved to a village and got a taste of what the dark winter nights mean for runners living out in the sticks.  The arrival of dark evenings means altering your route choices because those favourite winding country lanes become a lot more dangerous in the dark.

Even though dark evenings are only just arriving, my new running group doesn’t meet until 7.30 so I have already experienced after dark running in my new village.  Night running in a rural setting has so far proved to be lot of fun, at times exhilarating and other times a little bit scary. We’ve done running up on the edge of the moors, busy unlit main roads with no pavements, wonderful undulating dark lanes, and some rather terrifying muddy trails.  There is something quite exciting about running in total darkness with looming Pennine moorland all around, although the other week I was a little freaked out shapes ahead that appeared in the road until I realised it was just some sheep.

As this photo illustrates, there aren’t many lights down there in the village where I live!

I wouldn’t ever go out to run some of the routes we have done on my own. It would feel too mad and dangerous. This isn’t about being afraid of people lurking round dark corners like I used to sometimes get with urban night running but fear of speeding motorists on country roads. Running with a group provides extra visibility and gives me the extra freedom to run routes that would otherwise feel impossible in the dark.

Living in a village with one main road in and out, the dark nights definitely limit route options. Tonight I went out for a short couple of miles to stretch my legs out but forgot my head torch and wore the wrong top which wasn’t bright and reflective enough. Even though I stuck to the village residential streets and main centre I felt anxious at times.  Pavements kept ending, road junctions involved sharp corners with poor visibility and there were cars everywhere with it being early evening. It wasn’t an enjoyable run.

Note to self. Always remember to be prepared!

A head torch is a must, quite literally to be able to see where you are going. Reflective clothing is also essential. I have a running tights with reflective patches down the legs, a reflective running bag and usually a reflective jacket. I need to remember to get a light for the back of my running jacket too so cars can see me up ahead.

Marathon training is back ON!

I didn’t want to speak too soon but I’m finally starting to feel confident about marathon training again.  Especially after a wonderful long hilly run in the rain this weekend. If I can do 2300ft of hills over 17 miles then perhaps Snowdonia will be achievable after all. This weekends hills have given me much needed confidence.

It’s been a month since my doom and gloom post about sprained ankles and low iron levels getting in the way of training. But my ankle made a good recovery and I’ve managed to fit in a couple of long runs, regular week night runs and even some trail running.

Since the ankle disaster caused the training schedule to be thrown out of the window I have done a 16 mile run and a 17 mile. I didn’t even need to resort to a run/walk plan for either. Hurrah. Definitely did not expect to get through those unscathed.

The 16 mile run which I did 3 weekends ago was hellish. I don’t recommend stepping up from running an average of 10 miles for a long run to 16 miles in one go, especially off the back of an injury, but I needed to do it. I was hurting by the end.  It was mentally tough as well as physically tough.  Running an unfamiliar route along roads and ugly industrial canal paths did not help matters. But I did it.

This weekend I ran 17 miles and it took 3hr 13mins with a lot of hills. Snowdonia has a cut off of 4hrs at 18 miles. My goal in training was to feel comfortable with that time limit so I am ready.

Bring on the hills and the Welsh rain.

When marathon training goes from bad to worse

Clumsy runner plus broken stile equals busted ankle.

I’m having the most disastrous lead up to running a marathon ever. I thought last year was bad but this is getting ridiculous. Marathon at the end of October and my training has so far been quite pathetic.

I signed up for Snowdonia at about 10 minutes past midnight on New Years Eve. Normally I’d be up the hill watching fireworks but this year I was glued to my laptop, eagerly trying to secure two places at the Snowdonia Marathon. I was full of good intentions about running my best year yet and I feel like the whole year has been one long battle against various problems.

The latest saga is this. We were out for a long off road run over the August bank holiday weekend.  Along the Kirklees Way between Marsden and Holmfirth there is a stile in a bad way. The side we were on way falling apart and very wobbly. The other side had no ladder left at all. I’m rubbish at climbing over things so this was never going to go well. I landed badly on the other side and twisted my foot.

The pain was terrible but I got myself up, tested it and thought I’d be ok to carry on. Well I was going to have to carry on being a few miles from home and a few miles from the destination.  Somehow I managed to hobble 4 more miles to Holmbridge where I was able to inspect the damage and put a support bandage on (what good luck to have one of these on us!). Then get a bus onwards instead of running any further. The rest of the weekend was spent with ice on a swollen foot. I did go to A&E after the bank holiday weekend however they took an extremely brief look at it and sent me away again.  I think I set a record for being in and out of A&E within 5 minutes.

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I wish we had gone to find an alternative way round but these things happen. I feel like an idiot for messing up marathon training over something so silly. Two weeks on and I’ve not really run since. I’ve been walking and swimming and yesterday I took on the role of tail walker at parkrun. However I really don’t think my ankle is ready for running yet which is worrying with a marathon fast approaching.

The ankle is just one in a serious of misfortunes this year. First my stupid foot pain. Then the anemia which still isn’t fully resolved and I still don’t know what is causing it. Over the summer I’ve not done as much running as hoped due to getting ill a couple of times and the stress of moving house definitely hasn’t helped.

I’ve been obsessively reading race reports about running Snowdonia with an injury and running in general after this kind of injury.  Trying to reassure myself that I can do it because I’ve got nearly 500 miles of training in my legs already this year. Going to need to decide very soon if I should be offering our places to other people. It’s a tough one as Snowdonia has been a big goal this year and I don’t want to give it up if there is a chance I can do it.

At the moment I feel like saying roll on 2018…

Did Not Start

Tonight I did not make it over the start line of a race.  I’m not injured. I’m not broken. But I didn’t feel I had enough in me to race and feel pleased with the result. So I didn’t run.

Was that a weak and lazy option to take?

Probably.  But I’ve run a lot of races recently and pushed myself hard. Tour of Tameside, Round Sheffield, that trip to the Lakes, King of the Hill. Lots of big runs. Work is proving busy and stressful at the moment plus we are dealing with never-ending house buying anxiety.  I’m tired and run down. Everything is a bit of a mess.

I was contemplating running up until yesterday. Although I knew I probably wouldn’t after feeling exhausted and achy all day at work.  By last night I could barely move thanks to a headache that was on the verge of straying into full-blown migraine territory.  My neck and shoulders were seized up and painful. I spent the evening lying down on a hot water bottle, rubbing my head with a menthol stick. I’m completely worn out.

Choosing to look after yourself instead of doing a race isn’t always the weak option. It is the sensible option.  Rest is what I need.

Of course I felt guilty for not running. So I went for a little 3 mile plod down the road and back. Nothing exciting. Nothing groundbreaking but it was enough.  Maybe I’ll go out tomorrow and go a little bit further. Not far but far enough.

Time to put my feet up, drink a beer and try to not to beat myself up over that did not start.

Tour of Tameside Race 3: Hero Half Marathon

Race: Hero Half Marathon

Date: 17/06/17

Location: Longdendale Trail, Hadfield

Finish Time: 02:18:55

The third race of the Tour of Tameside was definitely the toughest. Up until this race I would’ve said that half marathon was my favourite race distance. This race changed my opinions on that. It was hot, it was long (read as slow) and it was boring.

Getting out of bed on the Saturday morning was the first challenge. My lower back seized up after the Friday night race, probably because I do not have enough core strength for running fast down steep hills.  I went to bed covered in deep freeze gel and with an ice pack for comfort. I just about managed to stretch out, force down some breakfast and get myself ready for day 3, whilst wishing I was still asleep.

The race start is in a big field (that doubles as a car park) on the edge of Hadfield somewhere. Thankfully a running friend gave me a lift meaning I didn’t have to attempt to get there on a train and two buses! The queue for the toilets was massive and they probably could have done with more toilets for the number of people.

My legs didn’t want to work for the first mile or so. Very painful and stiff.  However once warmed up, I settled into a comfortable pace and tried to just focus on ticking off the miles.  The course was reasonably flat and although it was trail it was a good solid path so no need for trail shoes. My feet were thankful for the cushioning. The main problem was the heat. I am not a fan of running in the heat so dropped the pace and just tried to get through it.

The course is an out and back down the trail, towards the end of the Woodhead Reservoir before turning around somewhere and running back. It is such a boring, straight route that the race website doesn’t even have a full route map! I think I reached 5.5 miles before the lead runners came back the other way. Then it was a long stream of people running back the other way  for the next 2 miles. It seemed to go on forever and was very disheartening. Turning around the run back was the best feeling and provided a short term boost.

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Proof that it was hot! I don’t usually wear shorts for running

One the return leg, I ended up running alongside a guy from Liverpool for a few miles. We definitely kept each other going. My pace probably would have dropped off at that point due to fatigue and the heat, however having someone to run with kept me going.  I couldn’t keep up in the end, but we met up again afterwards, and both expressed our gratitude to each other.

Eventually the finish line arrived.  I’ve never been so happy and I’ve never felt so broken after a race either. The heat took everything out of me. I kept standing up and realising I should probably just sit back down again and sip a cold drink.  Tough going and very slow compared to my best half marathon attempts.