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!

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.

Rebecca holding up her medal from the Great Birmingham Run 2017

I ran a half marathon.

I have officially joined the half marathon club!

On the 15th October 2017 I completed the Great Birmingham Run in a time of 2 hours 34 minutes. I am so incredibly proud of what I have achieved. I knew that I would be able to do it mentally but physically I wasn’t sure if my body would hold up. I know it is a cliche but I enjoyed every mile and it really didn’t feel like I had ran a half, it felt like a 10k! Today I am going to chat about my preparation leading up to the half, what I took with me, my thoughts on the day, how I am recovering and what my next challenge will be.

Why Brum?

I had decided on Birmingham for my first half, because it is a city where I live close by so there wasn’t much travelling involved. In the past year I had started spending more time in Brum getting involved in a couple of blogger events, a few concerts and eating out- so it seemed natural to try and run it. The Great Birmingham Run is run by the Great Run company. The Manchester 10k was also run by them and it was really well organised so I knew it would be well organised – large event (read here on my experience of running the 10k).

Preparation

Moving from 5k to 10k is a lot smaller jump than a 10k to half. When I had booked this challenge back in August, I was fully aware of this. I had the Stafford 10k and a Go-Tri Duathlon beforehand but knew I had to get the miles up. I started running in the week after work more but then I started to stop as I was getting a nagging feeling in my right knee and foot. Around the same time I also stopped going to circuits as my favourite circuit session was in Stafford and when you work in Wolves I was not just going through one town in one rush hour – I was going through two. It was just too much. As it was getting closer I was getting more panicked, the duathlon in Newcastle-Under-Lyme I completed in an 1hr 1min 22secs, I found it tough and my legs felt like lead.

In the final week going into the half marathon I decided to focus on my mind. I downloaded a brand new playlist (ironically called the survival playlist) memorised the route so I knew in my mind certain points I could work towards and just reminded myself that I could least to get to 10k as I had ran 10k before.

The day

With the race starting at 1.40pm I had plenty of time to get ready. I took with me my running belt, three race gels, my debit card, phone, headphones and two bottles of water. I had joggers and sports jacket over my shorts and race top. I took the gels every 5k and every water stop I drank all the water. I learnt a lot from doing the Manchester 10k earlier on in the year. I hadn’t drank all the water properly and I was so dehydrated at the end that I had a banging headache. So now I drink at every opportunity even if I don’t want any.

When I started I didn’t have a time in mind, I just wanted to complete the half. I started off a bit slower than usual because I didn’t want to start at full pace and knacker myself out.I felt so good all the way round, everyone was fantastic coming out of their houses and cheering people on. I always enjoy the local support.

I have heard that the course was difficult with the ‘hills’ but I didn’t find it that challenging at all. I personally think it is the perfect beginner half really.

The day after the run before

As I am writing this up my legs are stiff. I decided to take the day off so I could sleep and give my legs the chance to relax and I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel afterwards. I am weary that staying still isn’t healthy so I will be giving myself the fun task of cleaning the house.

Were you at the half marathon or did you run the full? Are you planning on running one? Let me know below.

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