8 down, 4 to go

Right, the day of the race is getting really close now! But I’ve had a great week of running, and I’m looking forward to the big day.

Two Dogs Running

On Tuesday I tried something new.  My big dog, Max, is my usual running mate.  Except for parkruns, where the crowds freak him out.  But I also try to exercise my little dog, Mini.  She’s allowed at parkruns as long as the weather’s good.  I can just about walk them both together, using head collars, but the thought of running with them together is just a bridge too far.  But I chose a shortish route, and ran it twice, once with each dog.

Thursday morning was a bit damp, but I did my run round the river before breakfast.

Saturday dawned dry and sunny, so it was looking good for Mini to accompany me to Wallace Park.  Having broken the 30 minute barrier last week, I put all thoughts of speed and pace out of my mind, and instead just ran for the sheer joy of it.  The sun was shining, Mini behaved herself impeccably, and my shuffle gave me Daft Punk’s Harder, Faster, Stronger, which I think is my fitness theme song.

When I started Parkrunning 10 weeks ago, I was very despondent that out of a field of 33 runners, I was 30th, and was finding it really difficult to improve my time even by seconds. Today I finished 51st out of a field of 107 runners (ie in the top half), was the 7th lady, and once again broke my previous best time, coming in at 28:46.  It did occur to me that the more I run, the less I weigh, and the less I weigh, the faster I can run.  So being a stone lighter than I was at Christmas is undoubtedly bringing benefits.

I know an old lady…

Sunday was Max’s turn to come with me on my distance run.  I chose the same route as I’d done the past 2 times, as it’s basically the last section of the race route, and added on an extra loop at the end to take me past the finishing line.  It was lovely.  I was running without my usual jacket (same as yesterday) so instead my little pouch came in handy, holding phone, house key and poo bag.m&s food 001

I had a huge grin on my face as Taio Cruz’s Higher was playing.  But I had to stop singing along, as all that lovely burgeoning spring wildlife means there’s lots of flies around, which managed to get in my mouth, up my nose, in my hair….and yes I know insects are full of protein, and could be the answer to the world’s food shortages, but bleurgh!

Anyway, that’s 3 Sundays that I’ve run about 10 miles.  Following my training plan, I have a 6 mile run to do next week, then the longest run pre-race, or 12 miles, and then we’re into a taper week.  Still time to donate to a great cause!


7 down, 5 to go

OK, one month to go before the race. For the first time, I didn’t manage to get all 4 runs done, as I was out every evening, and on my day off I was at the Balmoral Show. But the 3 runs I did manage were good.

a pair of Nubian kids at the Balmoral Show

Tuesday morning – 3 miles round the river. It’s so lovely watching the signs of spring burgeoning, the colours and smells of the trees and flowers never fail to put a smile on my face.

Saturday Park Run. My best time had been 30:12, and I was getting my head in the right place to shave off those 12 seconds. It had been raining, so the ground was a bit wet, although thankfully the showers stayed away while I was actually running. I set off strongly, and tried to keep up with some of the faster guys. I did my usual approach of slowing down for the hill (3 times) before sprinting along the flat section to the duckpond (3 times). I leaped for joy when the official results were emailed that afternoon – 29:57, 6th lady overall!

For Sunday’s long run I chose the same route as last week, with a little extra loop added at the start.  This was to make sure that I’m increasing the distance of my long runs each week, and also to minimise any running on the same section of road.  It was slow, especially near the end where I was tiring, and suffering form some digestive problems, but I’m confident I can run the 3 additional miles that would take me to the half-marathon distance.

Over £100 raised so far for Clic Sargent – still time to donate!


5 down, 7 to go

Gosh, I’m nearly half way through this training programme! Running 4 times a week has just become a way of life for me now. This week, I have been mostly Running in Beautiful Places.

Tuesday: Run, (through the) Forest, Run!

I had Tuesday off, so I had the luxury of taking the time to drive to nearby Hillsborough Forest, and running with Max there.  It was a cracking day, the only other people about were fellow runners and dog walkers, and I thoroughly enjoyed my run around the lake. I rather underestimated how long it would be though, and I did a mere 3 km in 19 minutes.  I discovered recently that bluebells are rare outside of the western shores of Europe, so I was feeling very privileged to be able to run in such colourful splendour.

Thursday: In the gym

My usual Thursday run on the treadmill in the gym – I felt I was getting in the zone, and was able to run at my target 10 kph for longer periods of time.

portrush parkrun 007

Saturday: Portrush Park Run

Having recorded a PB of 30:12 at last week’s parkrun, I’d remarked to my husband how it was a shame I’d miss this week’s as I was at a Scottish dancing weekend school on the north coast.  He suggested I check and see if there was one nearby, and lo and behold, there’s one on Portrush strand!  I believe it’s the only one run on a beach.  My nephew, who lives nearby, was doing a leg of the Belfast Marathon on Monday, so I invited him to join me, and we were made to feel very welcome by the volunteers organising the run.  There was even someone dressed up in Star Wars gear, as it was May the Fourth.  The lack of hills was a relief, and the view was stunning – golden sand stretching to the white rocks, the Skerries out to sea, the waves lapping the shore, a group of horses thundering past – I could almost hear the strains of Chariots of Fire as the 107 runners pounded over the hard sand.  On the down side, to get to hard sand, you have to cross some soft sand, which eats into the time terribly, and the sea breeze on the return leg was strong.  No PB, but a reasonable 31:21, and my nephew recorded a brilliant 25 mins.

portrush parkrun 008

Monday: Long Run

I’d usually do my distance run on a Sunday, but having been dancing at a ceili on Friday night, done the Parkrun on Saturday morning, followed by a dance class, and then a Scottish dance evening , punctuated by an afternoon of serious shappin’, I thought it best to have Sunday as a rest day, and do my long run on the Bank Holiday Monday.  I have 4 loops that go from my house, each about 3-4 miles long, and I planned to link 2 of them to give me a 7 mile run.  In fact, it was a bit short of that, at 6.72 miles, but I incorporated some of the actual route, and managed to achieve the impossible – tire Max out!

Why do I run?

There are many reasons that I’m getting more into running.  I love the extra calories it gives me (for wine….), I enjoy the runners’ high that follows as the serotonin is released, I really like the lean muscles I’m building, but I’m also fund-raising for Clic Sargent.  My fundraising page is here:


4 down, 8 to go.

Wow, a third of the way through my training plan!

I did my Tuesday morning run round the river, which was very pleasant. The only tricky thing is trying to cross roads as the rush hour traffic builds up.
Thursday was my indoor treadmill run, and technology was failing me here. My shuffle was already playing up, and the right earphone wasn’t working, and about 5 minutes into the run the battery gave up.  I knew that it would get really warm in the gym, so I was trying out the sleeveless top that Clic Sargent had sent me with their fundraising pack, but it absorbed the sweat really quickly and became sticky and uncomfortable.  It might be better out of doors.

clic sargent thsirt 003

Without music to spur me on, I had to play mind-games with myself.  Every 30 seconds I put another click on the speed, until I was running at 10 km/hr.  I held that pace for a minute, then dropped back down to 7.5 and started again.  So it wasn’t a brilliant run, but it was OK.

Saturday mornings are now ParkRun time.  Having tried my big dog, Max, at one a few weeks ago, where he was completely freaked out by the crowds and the adrenaline, I bravely attempted to take Mini, my cocker spaniel.  My logic was – if I recorded a slow time, I could blame her, and if we managed a strong time, then it would be a case of Girl Power!  She was an angel, behaved beautifully the whole way round, sat neatly in the queue to scan our bar code, and let other runners admire her without jumping up on them.  And we knocked another minute off my time to come in at an incredible 30 mins 12 seconds!  Just a sniff away from that 30 minute mark that 2 months ago I’d have said was never going to happen.

ipad 027

My one-eared shuffle came up with the goods too, with Matty Graham’s “Crazy” spurring me on.  Running is mental – running with dogs is excremental (though Mini was very good, and didn’t do anything that would have required me to stop….)


Sunday was supposed to be a 6 mile run, though the route I chose was a bit short of that.  I wasn’t running particularly fast either, at about 7.31 minutes per km, but I was really enjoying myself.  I reminded myself how lucky I am: in my 50s, I’m able to go for serious runs, in the beautiful countryside, with a pawsome dog by my side, and a supportive husband cheering me on. The signs of spring are everywhere – cheery chunky clumps of primroses on the verges, adventurous daffodils breaking free from their structured gardens, the lacy haze of blossom on the trees, and vibrant gorse and flowering currant bushes.  There were some steep hills on this route, which I walked up, but the reward for the struggle was always a stunning vista of the Lagan valley and the hills beyond.

I did go down to the Apple store to see if they could sort out my earphone problem.  I was persuaded to buy the newer shuffle, but it was only when I got it home that I realised this one is all controlled from the device itself, rather than on the headphone wires – a point I had specifically asked about.  So sadly, it’ll have to go back to the shop tomorrow, while I source a set of headphones that DOES allow me to pause, fast forward, change volume etc all without having to hoik inside my T shirt to find the device.  I shall leave you with that charming image, and a reminder of why I’m doing this.


3 down, 9 to go

Week 3 of my training for the Lisburn Half-marathon, and I got my 4 training runs in.

Monday started the week in a sombre mood, as news of the tragic events at the Boston Marathon shocked the world. All those runners and supporters, trying so hard to make the world a better place, under attack from as yet unclear people and motives.

On Tuesday, I did the Hillhall Road loop to the East.  My shuffle came up with Beautiful People, which was very apt – it’s my daughter’s theme tune, and she was flying in from London today, but I also dedicated it in my head to the beautiful people of Boston.

My next run would usually be on Thursday evening in the gym, but I had planned to go out for dinner that evening with my daughter. So I took Max for a short run round the block instead. In the rain. The distance and time was much shorter than I’d thought, so it was only a 15 minute run, at a pace of 7.10 mins per km, exactly the same as Tuesday’s pace.
On Saturday morning I was taking part in the Chartered Accountants ireland charity weekend. This was taking the form of a Park Run, though it wasn’t in my usual venue. Instead I headed to the Queens sport facilities at Upper Malone. I hadn’t been here for a while, and I mistakenly went to the old buildings, but I soon spotted a group of runners hangin around at a newer pavillion. There were about 30 of us CAs running to raise money for Aware, and I managed to catch up with a few people I hadn’t seen in a number of years. No chance of catching u with them on the course, though – twice round the Trim Trail, no very steep hills, thankfully, but I managed it in EXACTLY the same time as last week’s Parkrun = 31.15. I’m a wee bit annoyed at myself that I didn’t push just a little bit harder and knock even one second off my time, but hey, I’m consistent!

Sunday was my long run, and I’d signed up to do the Titanic Quarter 10k.  I’d done this race last year in 1 hour 15, so I was aiming to beat that time, though I knew from my Parkrun 5k times that a one hour time was very ambitious.  I’d carb loaded with spelt pasta and 4 cheese sauce the night before, and had a breakfast of oats soaked overnight in orange juice, with some added flax seed and dried sour cherries.  The free TQ10K Tshirts were a lovely mesh material, so I chose to wear that one, with my long trousers, as the weather was looking a bit mixed.  We headed downtown in good time, called into St Georges Market en route to pick up some bacon and black pudding bread for friends, and I didn’t eat anything more, apart form the wee samples of cheese, curry sauces etc.  I sipped on a Herbalife energy drink.


Over in the shadow of Titanic Belfast, I did a bit of last minute adjusting to my wardrobe – I wanted to have my name and number displayed, but I also wanted to wear my jacket, as it had the zipped pockets where I carry my phone, and hence my MapMyRun app.  So in the end I pinned my number onto the back of the jacket.  A quick warm-up provided by Fitness First, a moment of silence to remember Boston, and we were off!  I tried to keep my pace steady, about what I’d do for the Parkruns, and tried not to worry about everyone passing me.  Once we’d passed the 5km mark, I was able to pick off a few runners who were starting to fade.  I slowed down at the water station to catch my breath, and then continued at a good pace.  I identified a good pace setter, and used her to guide me home for the final 2 km, where I was pushing myself hard.


I didn’t catch the time displayed at the finish line, but MapMyRun suggested it was MUCH faster than last year, and when the official time was texted to me later that day I was thrilled that I’d done it in 1 hour 3 minutes!


My shuffle was on excellent form too:

Phoenix – Run, run, run

Terrorvision – Do you wanna go faster

Silhouette – I Can’t Keep Up

This last one is my TQ10k anthem, so it put a smile on my face when it came on.

Thanks so much to all those who’ve donated so far – I also have a  sweepstake going to guess my finishing time – pay a pound/ a euro, closest to actual time wins a bottle of wine!  If you’d like to have a go, let me know.


2 down, 10 to go

Second week of full-on training for the Lisburn half-marathon, and I successfully completed my 4 runs.

On Tuesday morning I did a quick half-hour before breakfast, and my time would’ve been better if I didnt have to cross a rush-hour traffic-laden road!  Ran 4.56km at a pace of 7.14 mins per km.

Thursday was a fasting day, but I still managed to run for 30 minutes on the treadmill at the Leisure centre.

Saturday was the 5km Wallace Parkrun, and having smashed my PB last week I didn’t know if I could match that this week.  I started off quickly, but after the second lap I was finding my breathing difficult, and I even slowed down to walk up the hill section on the final lap.  But I did shave a whole minute off last week’s time, and ran it in 31.15, an average pace of under 10 minutes a mile, which I never thought I’d achieve.

soggy 001

For Sunday’s long run, I joined up 2 of the loops that radiate from the house.  I started with the Waterloo Road southern section, and came home via the Lagan tow-path.  This run was punctuated by many stops – Max-pee-stops, re-attaching my wayward iPod shuffle, and chatting with the viszla that lives round the corner.  It was a damp morning – you know what they say, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only badly dressed people?  Well, these were definitely the wrong trousers, Grommit.  Jersey is too absorbent a material to make running in the rain a pleasant experience.  Still, I did 10.29 km at an average pace of 7.10 mins per km, a total of 1 hour 13 mins.  Since I ran the Titanic Quarter 10 k last year in 1 hour 15, I’m pleased with this progress.  We shall see what next Sunday’s race brings!


This week’s fave running tracks have been

Spek – I’m a Hippie (but I got a tattoo)

The Smiths – What Difference Does it Make?

Thicke – Get You Alone

A big thank-you to the nice people at Just Giving – I’d stupidly managed to set up 2 pages, so they quickly helped me to delete the wrong one.  The right one is


and thank you to the generous donors to date.

Half-marathon: 1 down, 11 to go

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to complete a half-marathon. I’ve done a few 10ks in the past, so this seemed like the next step, and I’ve signed up for the Lisburn Half-Marathon in June. That’s 12 weeks away, so the “beginners” training programme that I’m following kicked in this week. Prior to this, I’d been running 1 or 2 times a week, but that’s now upped to 4 times.

I have several routes that I run from my house, which is on the edge of the city. Heading North, I can run on the tow-path and cycle paths by the river, which is a very pleasant environment for running, is dead flat (once you’re there, although there’s a hill back home), and I love seeing the signs of spring.  One day maybe I’ll get to see a kingfisher!  Most of this is within the Lagan Valley Regional Park http://www.laganvalley.co.uk

Heading east is the Hillhall Road.  This is a fairly busy route, but at least there’s a footpath to keep out of the way of the traffic.

If I head south, there’s some quiet country roads to run on.  If I take the short 4 mile circuit anti-clockwise, there’s a steep hill early on, but after that I have gravity on my side for the most part.  Doing this in the other direction means a long slow slog uphill, and a very fast descent at the end.

Heading west I cut through the back of Dobbies car-park, to some more quiet roads, some of which are on the actual half-marathon route.  Each of these can be done in a circuit, can have little bits extra added on, and will link together when I get to the stage of seriously long runs.

On Tuesday I took the river route, for a “30 minute easy” run.  I took 38.37 minutes at a pace of 7.34 mins/km.

On Thursday, I did the west short route, managing 34.03 minutes at 7.40 mins/km.

I was aiming to do the Wallace Parkrun on Saturday morning, a timed weekly 5k.  But in the middle of the night, I got up to tell Max off, tripped on the stairs in the dark, and badly stubbed my toe.  Max himself has been in the wars recently, and had just had a bandage removed from a badly gashed paw, so we were sore-paw-pals together.

sore toe 003

I did wonder about the wisdom of running on it, but was keen to try incorporating some sprint intervals.  The parkrun is 3 circuits, and I had picked out a flat 100m section which I wanted to try really increasing my speed over.  Bruised or broken toe notwithstanding, I just got in the zone for the run, and smashed my personal best time with a 32.21 – an astounding 70 seconds off last week’s time!

On Sunday, since Max is still out of action as my running mate, I decided to try Mini.  However, this was her first time jogging with me, she’s inclined to get excited every time she sees a bird, and her long hair gets very mucky and matted.  But we managed to get round the south route and do 6.49 km at a pace of 7.32 mins/km.  Sundays will be my distance run each week, increasing by about a mile each time.

My favourite running tunes this week have been:

Kasabian – Club Foot

Led Zeppelin – Moby Dick

Annie Lennox – Little Bird

Oh, and I’m not just doing this for the good of my health, you know!  I’m raising money for Clic Sargent, who do wonderful work for children with cancer.  You can sponsor me at



Or you can give me a pound/ a euro and have a guess at my finishing time – closest to the actual time gets a bottle of wine (supplied by me).

Rest day tomorrow – thank goodness!

Half-Marathon: 1 Starting Out

Well, having come to running late in life, I managed last year to complete and enjoy a couple of 10ks, as well as a relay leg of the Belfast marathon (about 6 miles). So I set myself a greater challenge this year – a full marathon is beyond me yet, I’m sure, but I think I could have a go at a half-marathon at 13.1 miles. I found that entries for the Lisburn half-marathon opened in January, and so I have duly paid my fee and downloaded the training plan!

Another of my resolutions is to average a mile a day, which really translates to a pretty feasible couple of good 3 mile runs per week. And with a half-mar in June that average should be as good as in the bag. I’ve just completed my 3rd run of this year. I actually ran on New Year’s Day, which was a great start to the year! And last week I found a new route which I absolutely love – it’s nice and quiet, mostly footpath when its on a main road, not too many steep hills, is part of the half-mar route that I’ll be doing later, and is only 400m from my front door (out the back of Dobbies car park, for any locals.) I ran it again today with one minor change – I’d cut through a muddy field on the way home last time, which was a mistake, so I wanted to do it properly again to set a base time against which I can measure my improvement.

I’m using MapMyRun to record my routes, speeds, pace etc, and I find it excellent. The only thing is I cant work out how to automatically tweet or facebook after the run, but I shall investigate the settings.
christms 12 031
christms 12 033

I invested in the January sales in a proper running top. The temperature is barely above freezing out there, and I wanted something that would keep me warm. This grey and pink number from MPG is great – the long sleeves have little thumb hooks to keep hands warm, it’s really light, body-contouring, and most useful of all it has a little zippy pocket on the back for keys, phone, some change etc.

It’s a real motivator to see my pace getting better each time, even if only by a small amount. I’d love one day to run 10k in under an hour, which would be a pace of 6.00 min/km. I’m a bit off that so far, but heading in the right direction. My last 3 runs were:

1.1.13 7.19 min/km

5.1.13 7.15 min/km

9.1.13 7.12 min/km

I have my iPod shuffle on to keep me motivated – today’s surprisingly upbeat track was The Feeling “Fill my little world”.

And my big dog Max is a brilliant running mate – not much in the way of witty conversation, but unbeatable at pulling me up hills!