The Winsome Run

a running blog


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Holiday run in Tasmania

It is, I’m sure, obvious that  I’m not participating in Janathon this year, I have just returned from a three week holiday in Australia where I spent the first 9 days of the year sitting in the sun, swimming in the pool, eating apricots, strawberries, peaches and raspberries still warm from the garden and visiting friends and family. Not much time for exercise and definitely no time for blogging.

Most of the holiday was spent in my childhood home in Launceston, Tasmania with my parents, brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews (only missing my London based sister and her family). It was wonderful, and when I had heard “I want a hippopotamus for Christmas” enough times I was able to escape to visit friends and cousins.
 

Tasmanian Devil at Tasmania Zoo


“Where’s my lunch? “

  

I have spent the last six months telling my colleagues here in Glasgow that hot weather is not guaranteed fo Christmas in Tasmania, but this year it most definitely delivered: Blue skies most days and lots of days in the high 20Cs and low 30Cs. Lovely weather for holidaying, not so enticing for running. Luckily my brother is hardier than me and he dragged me out for an early morning run on Christmas Eve. He sweetened it by offering to drive us somewhere flat so that we would not have to run back up the hill to our parents’ house.

After that it was easier to fit the runs in, and I braved leaving directly from the house. I got steadily stronger over the three weeks, managing a little bit further up each of the hills on each outing.  I even visited two parkruns, but will write about them separately.

I took my camera on my last run of the holiday, most of my runs involved a loop through the Cataract Gorge, just 10 minutes from my parents’ house to the start of the path. I was so fortunate to grow up here and it was lovely being home. 

   
  

A pademelon on the path

  

Proving I was really there!

    
  

There are 2 peacocks in the middle of the central tree!

 


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Portobello parkrun

I love autumn, I love the clear blue skies with a chill in the air, the lengthening shadows, and most of all the colours. And since parkruns usually occur in parks, and parks usually have trees that blaze in autumn colours, I particularly love parkrunning in autumn (sometimes parkruns occur on playing fields – these are less alluring, even in autumn). Yesterday’s visit to Portobello parkrun did nothing to convince me otherwise.

 

Arthur’s Seat from the start line of Portobello parkrun

 
Portobello is Edinburgh’s second parkrun.  Held in the oddly skinny Figgate park, it is into its sixth month. The course is 3 laps along a tarmac path, round a pond and along a burn (creek) with several bridges to cross. The path is narrow in places which is really only a problem for the first 5 minutes until the pack stretches out, though if the run grows too much it may cause problems for the whole event.

 

I started towards the back of the pack, not too bothered by my time, but after a little while I realised my pace had crept up towards the 9 min/mile mark so I decided to try to maintain it. I had once again failed to find a toilet before the start but bafflingly this turned out to not be an issue (how can this be so unpredictable? ) and managed to stay on track for a sub 29 minute run. I thought it was going to be faster, but the finish line was further away than my watch predicted – my watch is a known liar.
My 15th Scottish parkrun done (of 20).

After the run I headed off in search of Breadshare, a cooperative bakery featured on BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme a few months ago. I came away with a walnut sourdough cob loaf, almond sweet roll and a very yummy brownie. All in all a successful morning out!

   
  

Walnut sourdough for lunch

 


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The Great Scottish Run Half Marathon 2015

Last Sunday I lined up with 25 000 other runners for the Great Scottish Run in Glasgow. I ran this race in 2013 and had a fairly rubbish time. The problems started when I spotted the 8 mile mark then realised it was for the runners coming in the opposite direction and I was only at mile 4. It was downhill from there and I nearly cried when we crossed the Squinty Bridge and instead of turning right towards the finish line we turned left for a lap of the Riverside Museum. In hindsight I had unrealistic expectations and was not as fit as I thought. With two years more running experience I had a much better idea of my fitness for this race and so my goals were:

  1. Run the whole way
  2. Enjoy myself
  3. Sub 2 hours 20 minutes
  4. No nausea after the race

The race starts in George Square, in the centre of Glasgow. I met up with some of my club mates but before the group photo was taken I went off to find the bag drop then line up for the toilet which ended up being such an epic queue that I wouldn’t see my team mates again until the finish line.

I was in the last wave, and by the time I had been to the loo the front of the wave was already moving across the start line. The course begins with a steady uphill, and at the top I was rewarded with my first cheer from my Glasgow FrontRunner club mates. Various team mates turned up five or six times on the course and their support was so cheering that it made me grin, shout and wave back every time. 

The course quickly heads over the Kingston Bridge to the south side of the city before winding its way through the suburbs and in and out of the parks. A much more scenic route than two years ago but also hillier. I had hoped for a 10:15 minutes/mile pace but the hills made this difficult, so I readjusted and aimed to keep on 10:30 minutes/mile. As the miles ticked by and I passed each of my mini milestones (4 miles, half way, 8 miles, 10 miles and just a parkrun to go) I found myself still smiling, feeling good, and still enjoying myself. 

We crossed the Squinty Bridge just after mile 11 and this time we turned right, straight along the Broomielaw towards the finish line. My time was 2:18:47.

Ten minutes faster than my 2013 time. My second fastest half marathon time (though 7 minutes slower than my PB). I was happy with myself until I met up with my club and discovered a club mate who struggled to keep up with me during interval sessions, and who had missed weeks of training due to injury had finished in a time of 2:11. Grrrrr! (I am far too competitive for my own good).

So, I achieved goals 1 to 3, but what about my 4th goal? 

I had decided to drink slightly diluted sports drink during the run, as this is what I had used during my first half marathon in 2012, the only one where I have not suffered from post race nausea. Also because of the late start of the race I had time to drink well and eat well through the morning. As usual I felt well during the race itself, but by the time I got home the nausea was starting to set in. After a shower I slept for an hour then threw up. The nausea continued until about 8:30 pm before disappearing completely at which time I ate a plate of eggs and chips! As I said after the Coniston Half Marathon in June, it really takes the shine off the whole day, and at this point completely puts me off doing another long race. But as with childbirth (or so I hear) the memory of the pain and nausea will fade and I’ll start eyeing up that PB again.

  
As for the goody bags, I’m not bothered by them and would be happy to never get another one. A race with a decent medal and t-shirt however, are worth travelling across the country for. The Great Scottish Run is not one of those races: I find the medal and t-shirt disappointingly same-same from one ‘Great’ run to the next and the 10k and half-marathon medals are the same. But on the whole, the race itself was wonderful, and that is why I run.


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Ayr parkrun

On Saturday I returned to my quest to complete all the Scottish parkruns with a trip to Ayr on the south west coast of Scotland. I had planned to run this course during Janathon, but discovered minutes before walking out the door that it had been cancelled for several weeks – I went to Edinburgh parkrun instead that day.

Ayr parkrun is held in Rozelle Park which forms the gardens of a former country house with a trail course that skirts the boundary of the park, forming a shape that reminds me of a boxer holding gloves up to celebrate victory. I completely failed to read the course instructions so was surprised to discover that the first arm is actually completed twice! 

Though not particularly hilly, the mud, tree roots and gravel mean this is not a parkrun for a fast time – and this is my excuse for my time of 32+ minutes though I suspect the slow time was more to do with me also failing to find the toilet before the start of the run. Despite my time I still managed to finish 29th – my highest ever overall placing – woot! 

Yes. It was also the smallest parkrun field, what’s your point?

It was a gem of a parkrun however the highlight of the morning was when at the start line I was approached by a man who asked if I happened to be an Australian runner. “Why, yes, I am” I replied, trying to work out what I could possibly be wearing to give me away. But no, he had found this blog when researching Eglinton parkrun, and recognised me from the photos! This is without a doubt the first (and most likely last) time I will be recognised from my blog. So thank you nice man, you made my day 😊.

I have now completed 14 of the 20 Scottish parkruns. When I set myself this goal in January 2014 there were only 12 parkruns in Scotland, their expansion shows no sign of slowing down, so it looks like I will have blog material for some time to come.

  

  


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Strathclyde parkrun with Abradypus

A few weeks ago I had a DM on Twitter from Abradypus; Ultra runner, blogger, ‘Athoner and parkrunner extraordinaire. She was planning a trip to Scotland and did I want to meet up? I certainly did and offered her a bed for the night prior to a trip to Strathclyde parkrun. 

It is possibly weird offering a bed for the night to a complete stranger but fellow bloggers are not really complete strangers are they?! I don’t think so and to prove the point I had no trouble spotting Louise when I met her at the station, even though her skin was not quite as yellow in real life as it is in her Twitter avi.

We headed to Strathclyde parkrun this morning. My last visit was in January 2014 and provided my first lesson in parkrun tourism: Always carry warm clothing for after the run. Today, however, it was mild and overcast but dry. Louise paced me for the first 2/3 of the run, asking me questions that I strongly suspect were more to test my effort level rather than satisfy her interest in the difference between physios and occupational therapists. I couldn’t keep with her for the last third, but I still took a minute off my previous Strathclyde time.

Apart from it being lovely to meet Louise in person, she has re-sparked my enthusiasm for parkrun tourism and I have started plotting my tours of the last 5 Scottish parkruns still to be crossed off my list…can I manage it before the end of the year?

Abradypus and me (I need to practise standing up straight)


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Half-Marathon Training

The Great Scottish Run is on the 4th October, 3 weeks away today, so I am in peak training and it seems to be going well (*touches nearest block of wood* – which happens to be my head). 

After a rubbish summer, we have been granted a few weeks of sunshine and I have got used to running in the dry. So much so that when I was met with the prospect of heavy rain for yesterday’s parkrun I nearly returned to bed. Of course I did not, and of course it did not actually rain during parkrun. 

I have had lots of company for this training cycle: One of my club mates has been joining me for my Tuesday night interval sessions and I have very bravely joined the club’s half-marathon training group for some of the Sunday long runs. I have had mixed feelings about this, but on the 4 or 5 runs I have been on, I’ve had comapany for at least some of each run.

Today’s long run was to be 13 miles and I had planned to join the club for the whole run which was an out and back along the canal. However at parkrun yesterday I was chatting to my club mate Heather and she told me her plan to run from her house, along the canal to the meeting point, then run back with the club. Thus avoiding a commute, and getting the run over and done with earlier in the day. She invited me to join her, so this morning we headed off at 9:30 am in glorious, if slightly chilly, sunshine for a run along the Forth and Clyde canal. 

A year ago Heather was a 30min+ parkrunner. Since the start of this year she has slashed her 5k time to 27 minutes, run a half marathon in 2 hours 3 minutes and runs circles round me in most training runs. Today she kindly ran with me for our journey into town and we got to the club meeting point after 6.7 miles with time for a toilet stop before heading back to the canal for our return journey (and everyone else’s out journey). 

The return journey was considerably lonelier. Everyone sprinted off within metres of the start so I ran 7 miles on my own, cursing my slowness, cursing my club that is not able to accommodate slow runners, mentally composing an email cursing being the rostered jog leader for the half-marathon group next week, but grateful for the company for the first half of the run.

Heather had waited for me at the point where we left the canal, and we ran the last mile back to her house together. In the end I was happy with the run: 13.7 miles in total and I hit the 13.1 mile mark in 2 hours, 20 minutes which is 8 minutes faster than I ran the Great Scottish Run in 2013. 

This week I have an illustrious visitor coming to stay who I will be joining for some parkrun tourism…stay tunedπŸ™‚


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April, May, June, August…

Someone appears to have stolen July. I swear it was only last week that I finished a month long effort of daily exercise and blogging!

Hmmm, maybe it was the week before last.

In truth I have been very low on blogging inspiration and may have even forgotten that I have a blog. I was about to write that running has been equally uninspiring but on consideration I realise that is not entirely true. I have been running regularly and managing 20+ miles each week. I’m still doing my Tuesday night interval sessions and even though I’ve felt quite tired, my times have been gradually improving. 

My cross training has disappeared into the ether: No spin classes, no core strengthening, not even a token nod to my physio exercises. But August is a new month and tonight I started back on the planks and bridges – just a few of each to ease myself back in.

I’ve been to Victoria parkrun most weeks and though I’m not getting to within a bull’s roar of my PB, my times have really not been that bad. Last week I had a great excuse for going a bit slower as I accompanied my friend Debs on her first ever parkrun. She has very impressively taken herself from non-runner to parkrunner via the NHS Couch to 5K app and even overcame a micro fracture and soft tissue damage in her ankle after falling down a flight of stairs the day after her first session. 

A post parkrun reward πŸ˜€


There have been a couple of great long runs, one with the club to Mugdock Country Park where I was reminded once again how great trail running is, another with a friend that canal, parks and an awful lot of chat. Other long runs have been a struggle but on Sunday I joined my club for the first of our half marathon training programme in preparation for the Great Scottish Run in October. 

This month I have my parents visiting from Australia, a week off work, my club’s 5 mile race and a 10k race (which I’ve not yet entered but I swear I will!). Plus half marathon training. Plenty to keep me busy πŸ˜€.

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