I am a big believer in Parkrun. For those of you that may not have heard of Parkrun it is a run that happens in parks all over the world every Saturday at 9am. People from all walks of life and all levels of fitness come together and run 5k, you have a bar code which you have to get scanned at the end, this is to record your run but you also get a plastic barcode which is also scanned to record the position you finished with. It isn’t a race, I mean someone has to come first (and last) but you don’t get any recognition for coming first or second or third for that matter. The aim of Parkrun is everyone coming together and running.

To be honest running wasn’t my first love. I didn’t really run in school (other than representing my school at cross-country in year 7) and I did join a cross country running club at school in sixth form which looking back, made me incredibly fit!

After Uni (where I played on the lacrosse team for three years) being inspired by the ladies team pursuit team in London 2012 I decided to make the jump into cycling. Although I loved and still love cycling (I even went to track lessons!) I found myself not fit enough to keep up in the beginner track sessions (beginners often rack up 80 miles a week at least) and found I was getting left out in the conversations about running as my friends and work colleagues were entering in races or running in parkrun. Hence I decided to get in on the action.

I turned up to my first Parkrun in 2016 in Wolverhampton as Cannock hadn’t set up a Parkrun at this point. I remember it well as I was getting constant stitch in my right side, my body just wasn’t used to running! By New Year 2019 I decided that this year would be the year I get my fiftieth shirt. By January I had only ran 23 parkruns so still had quite a few parkruns to go.

So how am I getting on?

By the time I am writing I am on 34 Parkruns. If I could have run every single Saturday this year so far I would be on 42 parkruns, so I have missed eight weeks worth of parkruns which does make me feel a little sick! If all else goes to plan I should run my fiftieth parkrun on the 26th October as I have a couple of prior commitments meaning I will miss a few but that feels scarily close to the end of the year.

I do feel somewhat that I have been on a parkrun journey. I have managed a PB this year and getting under thirty minutes was something really special as I had been trying for almost six months to break that 30 minute barrier and at one point thought it was going to be impossible!

This year I have ran in three different locations (Aylesbury, Keswick and Finsbury Park). Aylesbury was my favourite out of the three, as it is such a beautiful route. Keswick parkrun was an up and down route (2.5k there and 2.5k back and started from an old train station. At Finsbury parkrun I ran a 27.53 which I am so proud of and my fastest yet. I did wear too many layers for that parkrun and thought I was going to throw up due to overheating that warm February day took me by surprise!

Below I vlog on what running a typical parkrun in Cannock on a Saturday. is like for me with footage of me running the parkrun!

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 a pair of trainers on top of a sports vest

I do enjoy fitness but like everyone I go through stages where to be honest I am sick of working out. With a little over a month to go until the Great North Run it is crucial that I keep my preparation and motivation going. Today I am sharing my tips for keeping the motivation going when you feel like giving up.

Think about the end goal

For me being motivated to finish the week or thinking about the finish line of a race reminds me why all the running and time spent at the gym will be worth it. People so often see the finish product but not the times when you were running and got caught out in the rain or donning the thermals because it was freezing outside.

Set mini goals inbetween

I still remember really well wanting a Pure Gym water bottle when I first started working out there. I decided until I had gone to the gym five times I wouldn’t buy myself one. Buying pieces of kit or something else I find keeps the motivation and persistence going. Funnily enough I don’t buy that much kit my last piece of fitness kit I did buy was two pairs of shorts from My Protein and that was because I didn’t have enough pairs in the first place. Certainly do not buy new kit at the beginning of starting a new sport unless you absolutely need it. You hear so many stories of people forking out hundreds for new kit and then not using it.

Switch it up a bit

Sometimes just listening to a new playlist or going cycling instead of running keeps you away from the couch and motivated to finish the workout.

Plan your workouts

For me just seeing what I want to workout on paper, makes me more likely to complete the workout so I can tick it off.

Get your gym bag or clothes prepared

By having your gym stuff laid out or in a bag in the car ready makes you less likely to give up on going out because you cannot find your stuff.

What do you do to keep yourself motivated?

Wolf Run shirt

So I completed the Summer Wolf Run in Stanford Hall, Leicester this weekend which was tricky but good! The Wolf Run (Wolf stands for Woods, Obstacles, Lakes and Fields) is a running event which is 10k filled with wading through mud, crawling through trees, swimming through water, and climbing over obstacles and running! There is the opportunity to bring your family members to watch and there are loads of food stalls to get your burger and pint after the race and amusements to keep the kids entertained! To enter in the Wolf Run, you sign up online and collect your race number on the day once you have handed in your disclaimer form. There is a key drop for your car keys and a bag drop for those that travelled by public transport. If you complete each Wolf Run (Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter) then you get the Alpha Wolf Medal and shirt. Once you have completed the Wolf Run, you receive a goody bag consisting of a Wolf Run shirt, water bottle and a Cliff bar snack before you run off to the shower facilities to get the worse of the mud off!

The obstacles

I cannot remember all of them but here is a list of what to expect if you run one:

  • Crawling through overgrowth
  • Climbing obstacles ranging from climbing walls to the climbing nets.
  • Mud swamps (lots of them)
  • Swimming in open water and a lake
  • Wading through ditches
  • Climbing over tyres
  • Crawling through a tube

The training and my Wolf Run experience

I hadn’t trained much beforehand because my knee was so sore, so running was swapped for swimming. I could tell there was something up with my knee because I could feel it clicking loads in the pool! As I am not a strong swimmer, the swimming did not replace the running like for like in terms of fitness. And my god I could tell that I had lost some of that fitness.

Regarding my experience of the Wolf Run, I have literally no upper arm strength and that is where I struggled as there was a lot of wading through mud swamps and oh my god that mud was horrendous. Everyone was getting stuck, it felt like quicksand, I literally had guys pulling me up onto the log. At one point I nearly fainted I think it was just with all of the adrenaline and maybe the shock of being stuck in the mud for so long threw me a bit. After walking 2k and missing a couple of obstacles for my own safety and so I could gain some strength back I was off again. I did miss the two swimming ones just because I am a weak swimmer and I didn’t want to put myself or anyone else that would have to rescue me in danger. The race was well thought out with obstacles spaced out evenly giving you the chance to recover from a few of the tougher obstacles. The obstacles were various levels of challenging with the chance to run round if you didn’t feel up to it.

So what did I learn from completing the Wolf Run?

  • For gawddd sake don’t take any valuables. It was a last minute thing for me to take of my engagement ring and I am glad I did as that would have been long gone in the mud.
  • Running and obstacle running are two different things. Obstacle running requires a lot of upper arm strength, something I didn’t really think about until I was actually running the course. I would recommend putting in some upper strength training before the run.
  • I don’t think it is a beginners or a fun run like Pretty Muddy (but it isn’t timed so you can take your time). Personally I would get some fitness in as it will help you in the long run.
  • Wear old clothes, yes the mud did wash off after putting on the washing machine TWICE but since you will be crawling through trees.

Have you done a Wolf Run?

Images of medals with text overlaying the top saying Latest Marathon Training Update

If you read this blog often you will know that I was going to run the Birmingham International Marathon in October and I was documenting it on my little corner of the internet. I was so excited to run the Birmingham International Marathon, I had ran the half last year and I also work in Birmingham so it really meant something to me. I didn’t just want to run a marathon in a random place that I didn’t care about.

However unfortunately the Birmingham International Marathon has been cancelled. It was cancelled due to ongoing building and road works. I was gutted when on the same day the Stafford Half Marathon was rescheduled due to poor weather.

Turns out it was probably for the best, before the cancellations I had been off sick the last week with a very bad cold. I am not usually off sick with a cold but I just felt terrible. The next week after I was off sick again and since then I have just been ill. I have an upper respiratory tract infection, which is just a fancy name for a cold but my lungs are painful, my glands hurt and I generally feel unwell.

I have not been able to exercise for over a month now, in a way it is a good thing the marathon has been cancelled as it would have seriously dented my training schedule. Due to this I have also decided to not run the Stafford Half Marathon. Again something I am gutted about, but I am just not fit enough and I really do not want to get ill again.

I have been asked whether I will run another marathon but I am not sure now. I have other projects that I am currently completing but what is most important is that I want to run on a route that means something to me. I haven’t even started looking at other marathon’s yet because I feel so poorly the last thing I want is to look at marathons.

However I do have some challenges lined up, I have put my name in the ballot for the 40 mile RideLondon, I am also going to do the Wolf Run in June. I am still going to do the Great North Run and Great Birmingham 10k. I am going to try and cycle a lot more by going out on my mountain and road bikes.

It is a disappointing blip but I will get there.

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