My first two weeks of April as well as being my birthday (yay!) started with two races. My first was the Lincoln 10k. I had my eyes on the Lincoln 10k for a while. I am from Lincolnshire and a proud yellowbelly, and having missed the race last year it was on my list for this year. The race route was flat and the weather conditions were really good, I was aiming for a PB in the 10k (under an hour).

The route started from North Lincoln, it was essentially a run around the Ermine Estate and was meant to finish outside Lincoln Cathedral but due to construction works the route finished to the side of the cathedral with a long walk round to the castle where I collected the race medal and goody bag.

The race was pretty standard, the only thing was there was no Portaloo’s at the beginning. I was busting for the loo, it was awful. We started and I was feeling pretty uncomfortable, about 500 metres in they cut the route in half and there was a back-log of people who had to walk. It was frustrating and I wasn’t the only one frustrated! There was plenty of crowds and after waving at my Dad in the crowd at mile two, at mile six I was so happy to see a single Portaloo!

Afterwards I kept going to the end, I I had missed the 50 minute pacer that I was keeping up due to my loo break, so just wanted to keep going and try and keep it under an hour. I managed to set a new PB and I set new PBs in everything else (5k, 1/2 mile, full mile). The medal is amazing! It has everything that Lincoln is famous for and pretty special to me. The goody bag was pretty good, as the event was sponsored by the ASDA Foundation there was plenty of food (Protein bar, chocolate bar, High5 energy gel, Protein drink, some dried fruit and a bottle of water).

Would I recommend the 10k? To be honest, unless you want a flat course, and an opportunity to visit Lincoln, I wouldn’t bother! It isn’t the most scenic of routes but that said I think it is a good route to get a PB!

Cannock Chase Trail Half

I did the 10k a couple of years back and I felt that this run would really be a challenge for me. I know Cannock Chase very well and know that it isn’t always flat! It was run by a local company so I was also keen to support them and as a bonus it was literally down the road for me as well so no early start for me!

I got my race number on the day and was ready to move. The route cut through some of the bike trails and it was so much fun! It felt like school. There was a slight bottleneck at the beginning where we were walking and a couple of bottle neck on the bike trails. It isn’t a route if you want a PB! There was three water stops and two of the stops you could also grab some jelly beans, which was very welcomed.

Unfortunately problems started at around mile ten, I noticed that my Garmin didn’t match up with the mile ten marker. I didn’t think anything of it because usually the Garmin watches are slightly off. As I was on the final stretch running through the side of the car park where my car was I realised that I was heading towards the finish line. I finished but my Garmin said 12.7 miles, I picked my medal up and was just confused to be honest.

By the time I headed into the house I was fuming, I was thinking back about the route and I had followed all the signs and I saw people all along the route. There was one part where three guys peeled off but I thought they were nipping for a wee in a bush haha! and the sign pointed in the opposite direction to where they were running and everyone else was running in the other direction. I looked on the Facebook page and apparently someone moved the directional signage so some people ran eight miles, others 16 miles and for the majority just getting under 13.1 like me.

According to the Facebook page the organisers want to put another race on again for free a new date has been set for the 29th June so I am excited!! My next races, in May, are the Birmingham 10k which I am running as part of Team UoB and the Hackney Half which I am running with a friend!

Race deets:
Date: Sunday 17th March
Location: Stafford, Staffordshire, England
My time: 2hr 15 minutes
Organiser: Freeform Leisure and Stafford Borough Council

This time last year I had sold my Stafford Half bib. After running the 10k in 2017 I really wanted to ‘complete the Stafford series’ and get the half medal. But after snow moved the date and me being plagued with a chest infection for a lot of last year, I wasn’t fit enough to run it. This year I was determined to run the half and even better I was running it with a friend!

For those of you who know Stafford, the race started this time near the leisure centre rather than the Market Square. In regards to the route, if you want a mixture of city and countryside running, flat and a bit of gradient then Stafford delivers. I arrived in plenty of time to park (park in the Waterfront multi story as it is only a £1 on Sundays) and get the race shirt when you get to the square rather than waiting at the end. For those of you with bags, the bag drop was at the theatre – no need to chase buses! There were pace markers running so I started with the 2hr 15 minute marker.

The race starts in town and works its way into the winding Staffordshire countryside. There are lots of crowds which is always a nice boost. Especially further to the end where there were copious amounts of jelly babies given out! One stand made me smile as someone had brought out their home brewery and was giving out small plastic cups of free alcohol! I think I would have thrown up if I drank any!

The weather was crazy to say the least. It started really clear, sunny but freezing cold. I wore shorts and a shirt as I knew that if I wore my leggings and under armour I would get too hot, and I was right.
About four miles to the end, however, it started hailing! It was awful having small balls of ice whipping my face and it spurred me on faster just to finish the race so I could get out of the weather!

The booklet that came with the Stafford Half race number says that you have to run 11 minute miles. Having done two half marathons before (Birmingham and Great North) which are both run by the Great Run company. I definitely noticed a different with the smaller Stafford Half where I would say the majority of runners were part of a running club so were used to running very regularly and less people were walking!

For those of you that are local to Stafford the race starts just next to the leisure centre and loops round past Rowley Park and up the A34 and I really started to feel it a little as I was gradually going up hill and out towards Baswich. From mile eight, where I was running on the path on Beaconside where the MOD building is based, was where I was starting to continuously check my watch and started to get a bit fed up trying to keep the momentum going.

One of the best scenic parts of the route other than the run through Baswich is between miles 11 and 12 which is the Isabel Trail. Isabel Trail (named after the locally built steam engine that used to travel along the line) is where the old railway line is and is used as a cycle and walkway with beautiful view of the marshes. I definitely want to go back and run the Parkrun there or even take the bikes down!

The finish of the route works its way back into town passing the train station running though to the Market Square. There weren’t many freebies (maybe I have been spoilt with doing lots of Great Run races!). But the medal was really good quality and the yellow ribbon is really striking.

Have you ran the Stafford Half Marathon? If you ran the half in 2019 I would love to know your thoughts.

Image of gym joggers

As summer draws to a close, the weather gets colder therefore it can be harder to have the motivation to exercise. I am more of a cold weather runner myself. I hate getting too hot and having the sun beating down on me also frustrates me. Running in the dark also does grind me down after a while, as I cannot run all of the routes I want to run. That all being said, here are some tips I have found to keep me motivated whilst running in the winter.

Make sure you wear the appropriate gear

Running in winter is going to be a lot easier if you are appropriately dressed in the first place, to help you stop thinking that you are constantly cold. This is the time to dig out the running leggings (I like Gymshark and Adidas), thermal top, gloves, hat and buff.

Keep yourself hydrated

Its easy to think that you don’t need a drink as your body doesn’t feel it needs one as it hasn’t sweated as much… Think again. Make sure you drink as normal otherwise you end up with a headache.

Run with a group or friend

If you are worried about your safety with less people being out and about now that it is getting darker. Join a running group or grab your partner. This helps keep the motivation going when you are thinking about changing your mind on going on that run.

Change the time of your run

If you run usually at the end of the working day (like I do) then if possible run at lunch time where the weather is lighter and warmer.

Swap the outdoors for the gym

If you are worried about safety, hate just being cold or getting nervous about running when the frost hits then swap running for the paths for running on the treadmill. I do have a pass to the Nuffield Gym which I use fairly often. However I tend to use the pass for weights rather than running but I am sure I will become more acquainted with the treadmill once winter roles round.

What are your winter running tips?

Images of the Great North Run and Birmingham Half marathons

I have ran two half marathons now and unlike 5 and 10ks where you can get away with very little to no training you do need to put some effort in for the half marathons. Preparation is key to get you through the 13.1 miles and will make running the distance easier to handle and also to complete safely. This is what I do to prepare.

Practice in the kit you are going to run in

Race day isn’t the day to try a new piece of kit out. Try the new trainers or item of clothing on a training run.

Don’t try new food before race day

Again you don’t want to make yourself ill by trying to eat something new on or the day before race day. Test your energy gels or food on the day and don’t try a new meal the night before just eat bland food.

Run at least eight miles comfortably

Six miles was an easy run for me as I aimed to run that distance in most runs I did as a minimum and that massively helped my frame of mind when I couldn’t run two weeks before the Great North Run due to illness. I had also done one run that was eight miles long and knew that 13.1 was achievable. You do need to do the training beforehand.

Make sure you keep yourself hydrated during the run

I learnt the hard way whilst running the Manchester 10k how if you don’t keep yourself hydrated you can easily make yourself ill. I had a large headache by the end because I didn’t stop and drink at all of the hydration stations. Make sure you drink even if it is just a tiny bit at each hydration station.

Memorise the route

I always look at the map of the route beforehand and pick out some key points. This means on the way round I know roughly how long I have left.

Turn up early

It is not fun to start a race late or even worse finding that the baggage bus has already gone by the time you are putting your bags in (I saw plenty of people running for the moving baggage buses at the Great North Run). Arrive early and it will help with the stress.

Pack the night before

Or if it is a day trip out make sure your kit and nutrition is ready the night before. Again it avoids the stress of finding clothes in the morning or finding out that the shorts you were going to wear are in the wash.

Bring some support

It was lovely to have my Mum there for my first half marathon. Having friends or family there make it a bit easier (plus they can help you out at the end!).

Cross-train

When my right knee was niggling a few months back I completely stopped running and took up swimming instead. It gave my knee the rest it needed but still kept me active. I also did weight training. It all helps.

What do you do to prepare before race day?

Image of Rebecca and James with their running medals

It is the Wednesday of race week. I had a ten hour sleep the night before and for the past two weeks I have been feeling rough and have not ran at all. I have been running consistently however the longest run I have done is eight miles two miles short of the ten I wanted to be at, at this stage. I am unsure if I will be fit enough to run or not. I entered the ballot back in January so have been waiting all year and don’t want to miss out.

I decide on the Friday, after feeling much better, that I will least start the race, I have done enough runs in the Great Run series that I know I can pull out at any point. I will also walk part of the run if I need too. Race Day- after spending the Saturday travelling up to Darlington via York where we met James’ friend for a drink (non-alcoholic for us!) we got the train from Darlington to Newcastle in the morning to meet my Uncle beforehand and run the race.

The Great North Run is the flag ship of the Great Run series. Having participated in Great Runs in Manchester and Birmingham, I had my eyes on the Great North Run for a while. Having always seen it on the telly the 13.1 mile route starts in Newcastle and finishes in South Shields with the best part running through the Tyne Bridge. It is the largest and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the most popular half marathon in the world, I mean how many half marathons have the Red Arrows fly over! So many people enter it has to go through a ballot.

Race Day. Very early start for myself and James, we drove to Darlington train station and got the first train out. The train was busy with people for the Great North Run and the atmosphere was really good with everyone in high spirits. Just the little things like the conductor wishing us a lovely day was great.

After meeting my Uncle (who lives in Newcastle) we made our way to the start line. Like every Great Run the race is split up into groups. I was in the green group which was the second from the back (I used to be in the pink group which is the back group so I have made process!). It took about thirty minutes before we even got through the start line. The route is fairly flat not like Birmingham where there are some hills (especially the uphill finish). The Tyne Bridge is quite early on but the end of the route in South Shields over looking the North Sea. I live in the West Midlands so I don’t live near the beach and don’t go to the beach often at all, so a finish alongside the beach is a treat for me.

Image of Rebecca and James at the start of the Great North run

What did I think of the run?

I loved the Great North Run and it was my favourite race in so many ways. The crowds giving out free sweets, water and juice slices or just cheering us on. As the route isn’t a loop, I hadn’t planned transport for the way back however there were constant buses taking us back to Newcastle city centre. The bus back isn’t free and cost I think about £3.00 for each person, so make sure you bring money with you. It is worth factoring that time in as it took us about forty minutes to get back. The route is great, it isn’t taxing, no hills really.The Great North Run isn’t the run if you are looking to get a personal best, there were times where I wanted to run but couldn’t as everyone was just walking. The Tyne Bridge is a big part of the route and as it is quite early on, it does feel a bit, oh thats it now… but seeing the Red Arrows as I was running was a real treat.

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