Spitfire Scramble 2017

The Spitfire Scramble was exactly 4 months to the day after my ankle operation…

I’d signed up as part of the lovely Scrambled Legs team almost a year ago, and obviously had no idea that when I got to the start I would have done almost no training due to injury, in fact quite the opposite, I had vowed to train and train well for this event. Best laid plans hey?


But on Saturday I started this event with some of the most amazing ladies I know, and I knew that whatever I managed would be accepted as ok, so there was really nothing to lose.

We had signed up as a team of 8, so that meant that following each lap we would have between 6-7hrs to recover whilst the others ran.

I was 3rd to go in our team so I started at about 1.30pm. I was quite apprehensive, I have only run a handful of times since my operation, and 5km had been the longest distance, each lap of Spitfire Scramble was just over 9km. Almost double the distance I had tried to run since the op.

I started my lap and had only gone a few hundred meters when someone shouted ‘is that you Helen?’ And running up behind me was Dave Sherman! He had completed a full distance triathlon the previous weekend at Challenge Roth, so I was quite surprised to see him out running an event so soon. Dave decided to run my lap with me, I was so glad of the company as I really wasn’t sure I could run a whole lap, but at the same time I didn’t want to slow Dave down. He is a very fast runner (super speedy when compared to me) but he reassured me that he didn’t want to go too fast as he was still recovering, so on we went.


The route was slightly different this year as they had moved the camping field to a bigger one. This massively improved the camping area and also made the run seem a bit easier as the section at the beginning was the bit I had found tough when it was at the end last year, getting it over and done with early suited me.


Running along next to Dave, chatting, taking awful looking selfies and not thinking too much about whether I could or couldn’t make it meant the lap past quite quickly for me, and just under 53 minutes later I was back in camp! Lap 1 completed successfully! No one could have been more shocked than I was!

A few hours of eating, relaxing with the girls and cheering people on and some glitter application later and it was time for lap 2…


I was super lucky with my lap times and lap 2 coincided with sunset. I managed to keep up an almost identical pace during my 2nd lap which shocked me, I had been prepared to be a lot slower, apparently not! Towards the end of the lap there is a hill, described by our team as the hill that keeps on giving… this is because it climbs and turns and climbs and turns and climbs and turns again… you get the idea? Evil as this may be the hill does provide some stunning views once you get to the top! And I managed to take some photos of the view during this lap…


Gorgeous hey? Following the hill it was approximately 1km mostly down hill back towards the start/finish area.

After my 2nd lap it was time for some more food, and to try and get some rest as without any the early morning lap would be super tough. Turns out sleeping in a tent when it’s warm and lots of people are running or waking up to run isn’t actually that easy, but I managed a 2-3hours of snoozing before getting up at 3am!

I started my final lap at 4.20am, just as the sky was starting to lighten and I finished it just under an hour later. This time the view from the top of the hill was the sun rising and it truly was a beautiful sunrise!


This was my running done for the day as there wouldn’t be a need for me to run a 4th lap, I was quite pleased about this as my third lap had been a few minutes slower than my previous 2 due to me walking a few sections and I am sure a 4th lap would have resulted in more walking than running! 2 amazing ladies in our group (Danielle and Sophie) did run 4 laps however, and they are incredible!

As a team we completed 26 laps during the event and this put us in 6th place in a very tough field of 13 all female teams. We are all very proud of ourselves and each other.

After the camp was packed away I had a long nap yesterday afternoon, this was followed by a lot of food from Dominos!


This was then followed by a very early night, I was in bed by 7.30pm! But I woke up this morning feeling surprisingly ok and still very happy!

The Spitfire Scramble is done… Until next year of course!

Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire

We did it…on the hottest day of the year! 


Staffs has been our combined A race for 2017 and one we signed up to circa 10 months ago. Jenni’s first middle distance and Helen’s second. 

Bikes racked and kit packed we headed to Staffordshire early on sat. Registered, attended the race briefing and started setting up transitions. This took all day due to it being a split transition set up and the crazy heat made it a sweaty job. There was a huge emphasis on the temperature and everyone was advised to forget their race times and listen to their bodies.

After checking out the swim course and driving some of the bike route we hit the local pub for a much needed dinner and retired to our rooms for an early night. 

4am breakfast. Great set up by the Holiday Inn as pretty much all guests were competitors but it was a struggle eating so early. 

Then we headed off to the Shugborough Estate, boarded the Athlete bus and started driving towards Chasewater. Everyone was relieved to find tyre pressures were ok when attaching nutrition to the bike, massive relief!

Gathered on the grass everyone was waiting until the last possible moment to get into wetsuits as it was super hot even at 7am. Quick change before our wave was called and we were off.

8am the swim started for us. No acclimatisation so a bit of a shock diving in. The course consisted of one lap. The water was pretty murky and with dazzling sunshine I was glad to have mirrored lenses. Bit choppy compared to some of the smaller stiller lakes we’re used to swimming in but we both got through in circa 50 mins. 

Long run to transition, quick change and out onto the bikes. The route was pretty technical in the first few miles; very narrow lanes that had sharp concealed bends. We came across an accident early on  and knew it was necessary to slow the pace down to ensure safe riding. Beautiful bike course, undulating hills and amazing scenery. There was a long gradual hill towards the end which was quite tough and slowed everyone down but more so because of the heat. Then we were done. 

T2 we took our time to apply suncream etc and headed out on the run. The support was amazing from spectators and a really great atmosphere. So many had rigged up hoses to spray water over us to keep us cool and bands were playing outside of pubs. The run was a disaster. Everyone was walking or adopting a very slow shuffle. The heat was just incredible and the casualtys started to come thick and fast. Lots of people collapsing, being sick and suffering with cramp. At this point I think everyone knew it was better to be safe than get a great time so we’re running very short distances and certainly walking up all of the hills. Great opportunity to chat to fellow athletes and really enjoyable.

Overall a great day. Helen did amazingly given she’s only a few months post op. We are both happy to have finished in such challenging conditions! Bring on the next one!

Chase the Sun


Last night was my first event since my ankle operation and I headed to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford to join my friend Robbie and take part in the Run Through Chase the Sun Event. I’d never done a Run Through event before so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. But it turned out to be a really good race! 

It started under the ArcelorMittal Orbit There were options to run either 5km or 10km with the course being a loop of 2.5km, so 2 laps for 5km and 4 laps for 10km.


We arrived nice and early, collected our numbers easily and sat on the grass enjoying the sunshine whilst all the other runners arrived. It was a nice organised but relaxed atmosphere and the marshalls were wandering in and out of he participants asking if anyone had questions and checking that timing chips had been correctly fastened. 

A quick group warm up and then everyone was lined up in pace order, then we were off! 

I had opted for the 5km as I am only just starting to run again following my operation, Robbie was doing the 10km, so we set off together but separated after about 1km.


The route was really well marked with tape, cones, marshalls and signage for turns and km markers, in addition to a few motivational slogan signs too! 

The marshalls were awesome, most had some kind of musical instrument maracas or tambourine and they were very cheery and encouraging! One Marshall ran along for a bit cheering everyone on and I recognised him from the Run Tatton race I did last year, I was unsure at first as surely a Marshall from a race in Cheshire wouldn’t be at a race in London but I asked him and he was indeed the same person, full of boundless energy! 


It was a really hot evening but the organisers were well prepared, there was a water station at the lap point, so it was possible to take water every 2.5km if you needed it! I wouldn’t normally need water on a race of 10km or less but I did this time! A combination of the heat and my body having to work harder as I’m not as fit as I used to be, I genuinely needed a drink and the water was a welcome treat! 


A very reasonable 31mins later I crossed the finish line. I was really pleased with that for my first race back! The medal is awesome and they had water, bananas, flapjacks (really really tasty flapjacks) and Pip n Nut Almond Butter at the finish line! 

All in all a fab race, I will definitely be doing another Run Through event! 

Liverpool Rock and Roll Half Marathon


This weekend was a rare weekend that Jenni and I actually spent together. After a swim on Saturday morning in a local lake (Tri Farm) I headed up to Liverpool on the train as we were both taking part in the Rock and Roll Half Marathon on Sunday.

For Jenni it was her first running only event of the year and for me it was my first event post ankle operation, I’m not actually back to running properly yet so I had said I would go along and run/walk with a friend who had entered it as her first half marathon as it sounded like a lot of fun. 


Sunday morning arrived and we headed to the Echo Arena and joined a mamouth queue for bag drop, I understand bags need to be searched, but 4 people searching thousands of bags and one extremely long queue does not seem the most effective way of doing this? It was cold outside and windy and all in all not the best way to prepare for the race ahead. 

Once through the bag check in (40mins later) we headed out to find our start corral, these were grouped from 1-20 depending on your expected finish time… We were supposed to be in 20, except that didn’t exist, after about corral 15 there were no barriers, then there were signs up to 19, but no 20, and everyone from 15 onwards was just stood around in a muddled group… 

9am start time came and went… no announcements to explain the delay, just cold confused athletes standing around… eventually the race got going and we crossed the start line at approx 9.40am. The start had no atmosphere, no warm up, no music or mc, no announcements, it was dull and lacked atmosphere. 

Then we were off, past the stadium and onto the streets of Liverpool, the course was gently rolling up and down hills and we were walking the ups and jogging the downs, about 3km we were caught by the back marker but then we made an extra effort to get moving and ensure we remained in front of him as we didn’t want to miss the cut offs and be removed from the course. 

Successfully in front of the back marker and with quite a few competitors behind us it should have been a pleasant experience however at about 4-5miles we found ourselves being chased by 2 small road sweepers, I understand they need to keep the event tidy but we weren’t at the back, they were driving quite dangerously close to us and as they swept up the bottles the caps were bursting off and could easily have caused an injury! They also overtook us, this was not a pleasant experience. 


There were apparently lucozade aid stations on the course, these were all closed by the time we got to them, bottles strewn all over the road were the only sign that they had been there…

There were also some bands and music stations along the course, some of these were fab and fun and encouraging, others weren’t playing, hadn’t set up yet (presume only bothered about the marathon runners?) or were just testing their systems, as far as rock and roll goes that wasn’t the experience I got… 

Hey ho, it is what it is, we were in good spirits and continued on, the route then went through some lovely parks and it truly was very pretty. Then in a section between some parks 2 full sized road sweepers were at work, one had managed to get caught in the barrier tape so it was unclear as to where we should go, they were driving pretty fast, again bottle lids exploding off as they swept up the bottles and this was an unpleasant experience, we were not at the back, we were still on the course, they shouldn’t have been driving around us and they could potentially have injured us. If a race has a cut off point and a back marker then all competitors in front of that should get the same experience, this was certainly not the case.

Still, on we went, back into some more gorgeous park land with lots of gentle down hills, some lovely charity supporters offering bananas and then we were over halfway, spotting other runners in the distance and catching up with them became great motivation. Then with 4 miles to go the course turns alongside the Mersey and runs in a straight line for almost the last 4 miles, by now a number of marathon runners (very fast marathon runners – sub 3hrs) were starting to run through so we cheered and encouraged them as they passed and they were very encouraging in return… 10miles, 11 miles done, we were going to make it and not a back marker in sight! Yay!!!! 


The support of the crowds as we entered the final section was incredible! The finish was loud and exciting and gave us the encouragement to make the final run down to the finish! 13.1miles done, and another medal earned! It was an amazing medal as well! 


All in all I enjoyed the course and I imagine for the masses the experience would have been very different, however for a race that says it caters for runners and walkers and has a walking back marker I firmly believe that more should be done to ensure the runners at the back of the field have a good time, know where they are going, have access to the same aid stations and motivational support as the faster runners. Closing sports drink stations and sweeping the course whilst people are trying to continue their race is poor form! 

Jenni here – Helen and I had very different race experiences on the day. For me the actual race was great with tonnes of support and a fab atmosphere in my home town. Loads of people turned out to cheer us on and hand out jelly babies. I also really enjoyed the music at each mile marker, particularly those with a nod to the Beatles classics such as Penny Lane played on penny lane. Running past some iconic music venues such as the Cavern Club, through the stunning Sefton park and to the Albert Dock was amazing. I had only run 6 miles to date so just wanted to plod and get through the distance as this was going to be my longest run before Staffs so I’m really pleased with a steady time of 2:22. Not fast but it was quite easy and a confidence builder. The highlights were the concert at the end and beer tokens. I’m a big fan of a beer post race! So great race for me but I would agree with Helen, if advertised as catering for those walking the distance it’s a shame the support wasn’t there for those that actually deserve it more than most. 

My first triathlon – Southport Tri (Olympic Distance)  

 In October 2015 I secured a charity place for the VLM and started running. Then exactly a year ago today I bought a bike and started cycling and a couple of months later, in August we signed up to do IRONMAN 70.3 Staffordshire so the only thing left to do was swim which I started doing in Feb this year. I had booked a Sprint distance Triathlon as my first event in April, however, at the time had (unknowingly) entered a super speedy time for the swim and the thought of being chased and having my feet tickled in the pool was enough to cause a huge confidence crisis resulting in me dropping out! So fast forward to yesterday and my first ever Triathlon, an Olympic distance consisting of a 1.5km swim, 40km bike and 10k run.

 

I’ve done hardly any running since Chicago marathon due to injury yet knew mentally I could cover the distance and I’m a fairly strong cyclist so hadn’t been too concerned about that, it was all about the open water swimming. So two weekends ago I went to the Lake District and swam for the first time in Rydal Water, which was beautiful. I noticed that the buoyancy from the wetsuit made me much more streamline and , therefore, more efficient in the water. I then attended the Endurance Store’s Open water swim time trial event to get used to swimming amongst other people as I was terrified of the washing machine effect. 


And finally a last minute swim clinic with Jo Jackson the day before the event for some useful hints and tips. Key learnings which I found very helpful including reaching forwards as if you were stretching over a barrel and having your fingers enter the water with your palm facing towards. Also rotating from the hip and keeping a continuous steady kicking motion and finally positioning the water line at your temple with nose perpendicular to the floor.

 

For me a triathlon is a logistical nightmare requiring a lot of thought into kit, transitions, fuelling, where to put all the stickers and tattoo placement! After a few phone calls I had prepped everything, including gels tapped to the bike, which if you haven’t tried is a fantastic and efficient way of fuelling on the bike. 

Other top tips include taking your wetsuit off when it’s soaked, therefore, easier to remove and having a fizzy drink in transition one to stop the dizziness and take away the taste of the lake! I had a big bowl of pasta in a last ditch attempt to carb load and went to bed early.


5:30 alarm and trying desperately to eat porridge and drink loads of water and electrolytes when your stomach is doing somersaults is most tricky but I donned my tri-suit and drove the short distance to the event. Racked my bike, laid out all equipment and then wrestled to get into my wetsuit, which I have to say I think is the hardest thing about a triathlon. We then gathered for our wave race briefing at which point I was desperate for a wee but couldn’t face trying to get in and out of the wetsuit so put it down to nerves and danced about instead. I got talking to some of the other girls of which for many it was their first Olympic distance and some were even training for Staffordshire which was great to see. We made our way into the water and I positioned myself at the back knowing I would rather have the space than a good time. 


And we were off! At first I really struggled to regulate my breathing as the water was very cold but soon got into a rhythm. I then started getting cramp in my arm and was freaking out that so many people were ahead of me. We had to loop an island twice and after the firs loop I was thinking this was a big ask but just tried to stay calm and keep pushing forwards and 41 mins later I was done. Quick jog to transition, gulp of coke, dry the feet off and I was on the bike, relived to be back in my comfort zone.

 

The bike route was flat but exposed so quite windy at points. I was overtaken by so many people on the most amazing bikes I have ever seen and felt as if I wasn’t moving but was actually doing about 17mph which given the wind I was quite happy with. The bike portion was the opportunity to hydrate and refuel. I’m not great at doing this but made a conscious effort to drink/eat every 9 miles ready for the run. The only thing I found with the cycle was not being as comfortable in a tri suit as I’m used to having lots of padding in bib shorts and there’s next to nothing in the suits so I was shifting my weight around trying to get comfortable.

 

Cycle done, quick change of shoes and I was off on the run. This is where it all went wrong. I have never done any brick training (big mistake)! I felt like a drunken octopus with zero control of my feet and legs. I had numb feet and literally couldn’t get them to do what I wanted them to. I was also running too fast. I even tried to walk at one point and had even less control then. It took 3 miles to feel normal by which point I was hungry and noting the lack of running training. Also, I was being overtaken by all the University teams who were tonnes faster and mentally I felt a bit tired. But I shuffled along and finally made the turn and ran over the finish line to be awarded with a massive medal by Jo Jackson which was very nice. Total time 3:29:11! I had three friends also competing and they got great times so a fab day for all. Awesome experience and really well organised event. 

 

 

Body confidence, a barrier to sport? 

We are currently designing new kit and received some samples from 2XU to try for size. I was perplexed when the large cycle jersey was very snug and yet I was a small tri suit. Standing looking at myself in skin tight lycra I suddenly felt very self-conscious and hyper aware of how alien my curves were vs a typical triathletes slender toned body. I have my first ever triathlon in 2 weeks and rather than the obvious concerns, namely the fact I have never swum in open water or currently due to slow return from injury am only averaging 4 mile runs my main concern is actually about how fat I feel and uncomfortable in my body (in skin tight lycra).


I noticed at the Maserati Tour de Yorkshire last weekend that I hardly saw any women cycling. In fact, looking at the results for the 100km there were only 150 women vs 2350 men! It’s very rare I see many females at any of the cycle sportive I enter. It got me thinking about the barriers to entry for this sport amongst others. Is it the initial outlay of cash, the fear of mechanical failure or body image in a male dominated sport? 


Helen and I recently applied to be ambassadors for Specialized to encourage more women to cycle as it’s a fantastic social sport but unfortunately were unsuccessful, which is a shame as it’s something we are both very passionate about but we wish the chosen ambassadors the best of luck and will do everything we can to support them. It’s good to see the bike manufacturers are recognising a whole demographic that are not currently involved in cycling and making an effort to get engagement. Giant Liv have been particularly good at this but it’s still slow to gain traction.

Swimming is another minefield. Ladies Are under the perception they have to be waxed within an inch of their life and then they have to make the walk into the pool under fluorescent lights highlighting every flaw. This takes some confidence! 

So it got me thinking about my goals and how they conflict. In order to achieve the perfect body from an aesthetic perspective the focus would be on HIIT training and weights and having tried this approach in the past I know it delivers fantastic results. However, when training for an Ironman, the focus is predominantly on the cardio and long distance at that. Of course cross training is important including strength and conditioning exercises, however, given the already huge time commitment one would always prioritise practicing one of the three disciplines over the aforementioned strength training.

Actually, in the gym this is very evident. I know from my own experience I would shy away from the free weight area. I remember being perfectly happy there with my PT and then when following his plan on the days I was alone I would skip bits in favour of the cardio machines where I felt more comfortable. Weights are integral to a fitness program and yet you find mostly women on cardio machines and men doing weights, is this again due to confidence?

So we end up in a chicken and egg situation. With hindsight I would have trained to achieve the body I want and then started training for the endurance events but as it stands I’m out of time with only 6 weeks until the Ironman 70.3 event and with several challenging endurance events before this. It’s daunting feeling underprepared and then having body image concerns. I wonder how many women feel the same and are reluctant to enter these events because they don’t feel comfortable donning a wetsuit and skimpy tri suit surrounded by tonnes of super fit men with single digit body fat %? Is this down to stereotypes and societies expectation for women to always look beautiful and glamorous?

Helen here now – Following on from Jenni’s thoughts above I felt this was a good time to add something that has recently been highlighted in a number of ways – women’s appearance or expected appearance whilst taking part in sport. 

There was a recent article in the Evening Standard with tips for acing the London Marathon! Great right, everyone needs some advice in the lead up to a big event? Except some of this advice was exactly the opposite of helpful and in fact probably added fuel to many women’s fears. The article states “𝕐𝕠𝕦𝕐𝕠you might have a finish line to cross but you do not want to look like a troll doing so. You need sweat proof make up” ummmm really? If I can run a marathon I’m damn proud, regardless of whether I look like a troll… and hang on a minute are we seriously comparing makeup less women to trolls?? 

To be fair I have made this comparison between myself and a troll previously…


But this was in 2015, and I hadn’t just run a marathon, I had just woken up with crazy hair and despite ‘looking like a troll’ I didn’t feel awkward or embarrassed. 

Anyway, I like to think women and sport are moving on from the whole picture perfect perception, surely the Evening Standard article is an exception? After all, campaigns such as This Girl Can are working hard to persuade all women regardless of background, body shape or body confidence to get involved in sport. Their adverts showcase a fantastic array of women demonstrating sport in its raw realistic sweaty form. So this must be having an effect right? 

Apparently not, imagine my dismay when attending an event recently that was supposed to be about encouraging women in sport when one of the workshops was a hair and make up demonstration?? Oh dear… Perhaps these campaigns aren’t working? The session began with a lady saying you might want some tips for make up to use straight after a gym session, fair enough, but went on and suggested that no woman should be without concealer, stating that whilst everyone has dark circles under their eyes using concealer will make you feel better?! Ummmmm nope… I feel just fine without concealer thanks, it doesn’t affect my performance in sport or outside of it… Some days I chose to wear make up, I get up in the morning, have time to apply it and chose to do so, or maybe I’m going out for the evening and want to ‘glam up’ a bit, but I certainly don’t feel like I need to wear it?! The session went on to explain that eyeliner is good for making your eyes look better but it can be hard to apply?! 


At this point I took a selfie of my eyes and sent it to another lady I knew in the workshop, just as the conversation moved on to contouring, then I left… 

I had attended this event under the assumption that as we were supposed to be working towards addressing the barriers that women in sport face there wouldn’t be any of this sort of stereotypical ‘women must look good at all times’ promotion, as surely that’s exactly the sort of thing we are working to evict? Women don’t need to feel like they must look immaculate every minute of every day, people aren’t immaculate, that’s unrealistic. Dark circles under my eyes and non prominent cheekbones are natural, and are the last thing I think about when working out. I wish every woman could feel the same.

I respect people’s decision to wear or not to wear make up, whilst working out or not working out, what I dislike is the perception that if we don’t wear it we won’t ‘feel good’ or we will look like a ‘troll’. 

Girls out there, if you love your sweat proof make up that’s brilliant, we love seeing your inspiring gym pics, but if one day you don’t want to wear it you should feel like that’s ok. Girls working out taking realistic sweaty selfies, you are fab! Well done for being confident enough to do so. Girls scared to work out because of how you look either without make up or in your gym kit, we are here for you, and so are thousands of other women! You can do it!!! Regardless of shape, skin tone, eyeliner, go out there and show yourself how awesome you are, the rest of the world will soon see too! 

Moving the Goal Posts?

WMM-cities

This week the announcement about Abbott World Marathon Majors partnering with Wanda Group was released.

I am proud to be on a journey to complete my 6 marathon majors and having got half way through (Tokyo, Chicago and London complete) I fully intend to finish the journey and complete New York, Berlin and Boston Marathons.

Wanda Group own the Ironman series and as our followers will be aware we are planning on completing 4 Ironman events. So surely this partnership should be good news for us? Brands we love coming together to work on events?

Then why am I less than thrilled at the development? Well I have geared myself up to run 6 world marathon majors, I know where they are, I’ve researched how to get into them, I know what I need to do to achieve this goal… But then this happened, and depending on the article you read there will be 3 further marathons added to the series.

An article in Chinese press states that the agreement includes 3 Asian marathons being added to the Abbott Series. You can read the article here. Suggestions are that this will take a few years to come to fruition so perhaps 2019 or 2020. What does this mean for runners taking part in the current 6 star journey?

Abbott currently state that:

“The Abbott World Marathon Majors is a series consisting of six of the largest and most renowned marathons in the world. The races take place in Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and  New York City”.

So therefore will Abbott be changing their whole ethos by embarking in this partnership? If they currently consist of the largest and renowned marathons will adding others bring this prestige to a lower level?

There was a lot of speculation on social media following the announcements. Some people were understandably excited at the prospect of the marathon majors expanding and adding new places to visit to their running tourism bucket list. Others however were voicing concerns. What does this mean for people already on their 6 star journey, will the award continue to be celebrated? Will it become a 9 star award? Will the new races become a separate series? Is this purely a money making partnership that hasn’t considered the effect that will be had on the runners themselves?

Abbott had a blanket response when questioned on social media which stated

“Abbott World Marathon Majors is committing to continuing to recognize runners who are Six Star Finishers.  If a runner completes the Tokyo, Boston, Virgin Money London, BMW BERLIN, Bank of America Chicago and TCS New York City Marathons, AbbottWMM is thrilled to celebrate his/her accomplishment via our Six Star medal, recognition on our website and other avenues.”

A fair response? Many appeared pacified by this. The 6 star will continue? But will it? Previous evidence perhaps suggests otherwise. In 2013 Abbott expanded their 5 star award to include Tokyo, the 5 marathon majors became 6… You can no longer be recognised for being a 5 star finisher. Therefore can runners reasonably assume that once further races are added to the series that the 6 star award will become obsolete? The press release from Wanda acknowledges that Tokyo is the only marathon to have joined the majors series in the 11 years of operation and adds:

“Wanda will get the exclusive right to hold a WMM race in China in a city jointly selected by Wanda and WMM.”

So that’s at least 7 stars then? The information in the press is conflicting. With some articles saying the deal includes a definite 3 additional races joining the series, but Abbott say that the team will be looking to expand the series only when suitable races are identified:

“We have confirmed we are looking to expand our series. We are beginning the process of considering and evaluating races — and only those events that meet our criteria, or that we can help meet our criteria, will be added to the AbbottWMM family.”

This doesn’t sit well with me, how can they have guaranteed a further 3 races will be added if they aren’t sure that there are 3 races that will meet their criteria. The article I linked earlier from a Chinese source states 3 races in Asia will be added. Abbott state that they are considering races across Asia and Africa?

If a further 3 races are identified and added to the series what then? If Abbott honour their word then apparently runners will be able to still complete a 6 star journey, but will this feel like a lesser achievement, if the goal posts have moved and there are now 9 races in the series is 6 an achievement? Or have you only completed two thirds of the journey? 6 marathons is a fantastic achievement and has been proudly celebrated by many, Abbott currently do a fantastic job of recognising the effort that goes into training, running and not to forget the logistical planning involved to participate in these marathons across the globe.

So if there are 9 races in the series in total and you complete the first 6, do you stop there? Or would it be like having an option to run 20 miles of a marathon race and stop there, you will get a medal, you ran 20 miles, but you didn’t complete the course?

The cost involved in taking part in a further 3 events will be significant, travelling to Asia (and/or Africa depending on the article you read) will not come cheap, and costs will rocket. The journey is already a significant financial commitment, will this take it even further out of reach of many?

Not to mention the difficulty in obtaining the race entries in the first place. The ballot/lottery systems are notoriously difficult to obtain places through with many runners having to use expensive tour operators in order to gain a race entry or needing to raise very high amounts for charities with entry places. Again, I have nothing against entering via charity, I have run London Marathon twice for Action on Hearing Loss and I am fully behind using these events to help to raise awareness and funds for charity. But with the charities aware of the high demand for places and the fundraising targets hiking year on year entering in this manner adds a lot of stress to the already difficult task of training for and running a marathon.

I have contacted Abbott for response and despite a lengthy email exchange, beyond the items stated above I did not find that their responses answered my questions. Will the 6 star become a 9 star? Will the series expand or will the new races become a separate series, what races are being considered? If I complete the 6 star in 10 years time will it still be a recognised award? I can only guess that perhaps the logistics have not yet been fully thought through and perhaps when the press releases were prepared the organisations were not expecting the level of interest and concern from their current audience of runners.

In the meantime until I know otherwise it is back to training and planning on how to complete our 6 star journey… But I for one will be unlikely to expand my challenge to conquer a 9 star journey if this is the eventual outcome, the financial and logistical elements will likely prevent me from considering expanding this challenge.

Have you completed the 6 star award? Are you working towards it? Would you expand your challenge to include further races if added and how would you feel about this?

Sources:

https://www.worldmarathonmajors.com/news-media/latest-news/wanda-group-announces-exclusive-ten-year-strategic-partnership-with-abbott-world-marathon-majors/

http://www.china.org.cn/sports/2017-04/26/content_40698943.htm

https://www.wanda-group.com/2017/latest_0426/1651.html

Running a marathon…

I’d just like to say I’m no expert here… I have run 4 marathons to date and I have learnt something new about running, marathons or myself each time I have run one…

Therefore with spring marathon season well and truly under way I thought I would write a post about my experience of running marathons.


My first marathon was London in 2013! My sister Sarah got a ballot space so me and one of my other sisters – Katie, entered as well so she would have some company both training and running. Our other sister Emma was in China for the year so she escaped!

Katie got a space through our local running club at the time (Newham and Essex Beagles) and I signed up to run for Action on Hearing Loss as our Mum is hard of hearing. We all fundraised together for the charity and did a lot of our training together, especially me and Katie as we lived close to each other. Sarah was in Portsmouth so we only ran a few times with her, including the Portsmouth half marathon that ran through the harbour with the tide out?! That was fun!


Anyway, on race day I was in a different start to the others which wasn’t ideal, I had done almost all my training with Katie so I wasn’t used to running long distances alone…

Also it had been really cold in the lead up to the marathon and on the day it was really warm so I was totally confused as to what to wear?!

By 8 miles in I had already had enough… We had run up to 20 miles in training I knew I could go further but I didn’t want to, I had started out too fast, I was demotivated by running alone, this was not a good day. The first half took me 2hrs, the 2nd half took 3!!! I struggled a lot, I didn’t notice any of my friends or family out supporting on the course. The best thing that happened to me was at mile 17 a spectator gave me a mini Mars bar… I was so hungry this was amazing and definitely helped me to get through… I finished the race in 5hrs 0mins and 52seconds, I was disgruntled, disappointed and I genuinely did not enjoy the experience.


Everyone says London is great, fantastic atmosphere etc, I hadn’t felt like this was the case… So I signed up again for 2014! I wanted to understand what it should feel like!

This year would be different! With the help of some amazing friends at work we made a plan! In 2013 I had struggled from 8 miles with motivation, so we decided to try and avoid this happening we would have people stationed every 2 miles to cheer me on… And to make sure I could spot them they would all be carrying giant helium filled balloons in a H shape, to ensure they could spot me I would also run with one of these balloons… Crazy? Maybe? Would it slow me down? Yes! Did I mind? No! I was out to enjoy this race!


Me and my balloon headed to the start, some balloons had been left with my mum and sisters and others had been put in our work office at Canary Wharf where the others were meeting up to pair up and head out onto the course!! We had guesstimated how long it would take me to get to each stage and they would get their balloons and head to position in plenty of time! They were also taking mini Mars bars and flat coke in little bottles (recommended by my physio) small bottle, tip a little out and add some water, this was instead of gels or a sports drink and it actually works really well!

The plan worked amazingly! Mile 8, Janet and Rhiannon, with their balloons, I spotted them easily in the crowd and ran over for a hug! Mile 10, Abi and Arthur! Again, easily spotted! This was working well. We hadn’t stationed anyone around the half way section as the crowds at Tower Bridge are very busy! But my friends Caron and Gary were at Mile 14! Then Polina at Mile 15, my mum at Mile 16, Polina again at Mile 17, just as I approached her passing South Quay station disaster! My balloon got caught in a massive gust of wind and blew away! So Polina gave me her balloon and on I went! Mile 19 my sisters, Mile 20, all the friends had met up and were together, Mile 21 my mum again, then it was 5 miles on my own to the finish! I plodded it out with a big smile on my face ( and Polina’s balloon).


I ran slower, stopped to chat, I also walked for approx 1minute at every mile marker after 15miles, but I was faster! 4hrs and 50mins later it was over! And I had loved it! A well deserved picnic in the park followed with my epic support crew! So this was what a marathon should feel like?

2015, no marathon for me, I was taking a break from long distance running and doing a lot of cycling instead… 2016, Jenni ran the London Marathon and after supporting her our blog dream and 6 marathon majors target was born!

During a chat on the phone one day we decided to enter Chicago marathon! One long phone call later we had signed up! We don’t really get to train together as we live so far apart but I did make it up to Southport to run the half marathon with her! Then October came and off we went. You can read our blog post about it here.


We had both arrived in Chicago with various injuries so reluctantly we decided to run it separately so as to be sure one of us wasn’t pushing to match the others pace etc… This wasn’t terrible, we had both trained alone so this time, unlike my first marathon I was prepared for a long run on my own!

In the most part I enjoyed Chicago, it was my quickest marathon to date 4hrs and 35mins (and 15 seconds if we are counting seconds?)

I started well and it went downhill from about 18miles when I started to lose motivation, I was finding it harder and the last 8 miles was tough for me. I chatted to people in the crowd, took a gel every 5km and battled through!  We did it, slowly but surely I was getting the hang of this marathon running!


Then my most recent marathon! Tokyo! You can read the blog about it here. I arrived in Tokyo very injured with an ankle operation planned for as soon as I returned home! I had no idea if I would make it round but I wanted to try!


This marathon taught me I have more mental grit than I ever knew! Thanks to a fantastic guy Michael who ended up running the whole course with me! I genuinely was considering stopping at 10km, in incredible pain and struggling immensely, but thanks to Michael I didn’t! Please do read the blog as it tells the story and I don’t wish to repeat it for those who have read the story already.

Chatting away really does help the miles go quicker! So if you are struggling, chances are someone else is too, have a chat, cheer each other along! It makes a massive difference! 4hrs 41mins (and 23 seconds later) we had survived the Tokyo Marathon. Potentially my biggest achievement to date.


So, in summary what have I learnt?

Self motivation, you need to motivate yourself, don’t rely on crowds or atmosphere. Chances are you will be running alone, regardless of if you have planned otherwise… Get comfortable with this, train alone, learn to zone out and just keep going…

Friends and family are amazing! If you can get people to support you do so! They will be a massive boost! That quick hug and a friendly face for a few seconds does wonders!

You will likely get hungry! Plan for this and try to ward it off… practice nutrition and hydration before the event, by the time you know you are hungry it’s too late…

Make friends! Smile, chat to and encourage other runners as you never know when you will need the support in return!

Enjoy the day, don’t beat yourself up over time, pace, form, as that will start to waiver your motivation… You signed up for a marathon, that’s daunting! You trained for it, that takes incredible dedication. You made it to the start line, you are amazing! You can do it!!!

For everyone running spring marathons, or even any marathon this year, good luck! You will be awesome! Let us know how you get on!

When not training is harder than training… 

So I am now 5 days post op… that’s 5 whole days of not being able to get up and go anywhere unless someone takes me… struggling to get in and out of the shower and then sweating by the time I’ve hopped nervously down the stairs so I kinda need to shower again…


Most of you will know that on Wednesday last week I had an operation to repair a tendon in my ankle. Don’t get me wrong, pre-op I was in a bad way and the tendon needed fixing. The recovery period was supposed to be 2 weeks in a cast, 6 weeks in a boot, 3 months until I can try to run again… This sounded horrendous to me, but I’m a pretty tough cookie, I was sure I would survive…

I had the operation on Wednesday last week and it went better than anticipated! Yay! Straight into a boot, therefore technically taking a couple of weeks off my planned recovery. My boyfriend collected me from hospital the next day and I was home to start resting and recovering.


I didn’t feel too bad on Thursday, not too painful, probably still some lasting anaesthetic I came home, had a nap and managed to go out for a few hours in the evening to a Specialized womens event in their Chelmsford Concept Store. (Adam took me as I obviously can’t drive), a lovely evening with some awesome ladies and pretty bikes, just what I needed!


Friday I was tired, and it hurt!!! My ankle is swollen so the boot feels like it’s squeezing the swelling, the boot is heavy, really heavy and feels like more of a hinderance than a help! Friday was a day for sleeping and trying to cope with the pain!!

Saturday, was a long and boring day! I finished a book I started, my mum popped over to make me lunch, and in the afternoon my sister came and took me to my mums so I had some alternative company and they made me dinner!


Sunday! Adam took me out to watch the finish of the Brentwood half marathon, I had run this race last year with friends and I knew lots of people running so we headed out to see them finish! It was great to be out and about and Brentwood is a pretty hilly course so I wasn’t too sad to not be running. We had coffee at our friends James and Laura’s house afterwards (it was quite a long hop to the house my biggest challenge yet) but it was lovely to be with friends.

You would think having been out in the morning the rest of the day would pass quite quickly? But it doesn’t… I’m aware of almost every minute of every hour, and 2 movies later I was super frustrated! My weekends are normally a flurry of activity, running, cycling, horse riding, walking the dog… Not this one! With hopping limited to 5-10mins at a time getting to and from the bathroom is about my limit!


At least I have the dog to keep me company! In order to recover properly I need to find a way to stay calm whilst being inactive, I’m going to try some adult colouring today! I’m also thinking if I lie on the floor with my legs on the sofa I could maybe do some sit ups, maybe even some press ups from my knees if I hook my legs up behind me? I may wait until Adam gets home from work to trial these in case they go spectacularly wrong and I end up stuck on the floor!

Now I know I’m lucky, there is nothing seriously wrong with me, I should recover fully and therefore 6 weeks of being on the sofa with my foot in the air shouldn’t be too traumatic. There are an incredible number of inspiring people who live with very severe injuries and learn to adapt their lifestyle accordingly.

I attended a conference recently where one of the facilitators was Clare Griffiths, a wheelchair basketball athlete for team GB at the Paralympics, Clare had been a keen sportsperson when she broke her back in a horse riding accident and was paralysed. She went on to take part in 5 Paralympic Games! I sat next to Clare at dinner and her story truly is inspiring… Therefore I feel like I should not grumble.

But for now I am finding it tough, the sudden change in my lifestyle albeit temporary is affecting my mood and making me grumpy, I will try to rectify this over the next few days and I’m sure as the pain subsides and I become more mobile this will become a bit easier…

Hopefully il be back up and running in no time…

Silverstone – There’s a First Time For Everything

So this weekend unfortunately neither Jenni nor me could participate in the Silverstone Half Marathon, I was devastated but my injury is too bad to run through and with my operation this week it was a bad idea! 

So in a first for us I asked my friend Chris if he would like to do a guest post for our blog! So everyone please meet Chris, he is taking part in some amazing challenges, I hope you enjoy his post. 

It was such a shame when Helen told me she wouldn’t be running the Adidas Silverstone Half Marathon but in the long run (excuse the pun) maybe it was for the best. I’m sure she’ll be back on her feet competing again in no time. And it was lovely for her to ask me to write a guest entry for this blog so I’ll do my best. 

I’ve been raising money on and off for The Lullaby Trust over the past five years in memory of my son Tyler who passed away in 2012. They research into the cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (cot death). 


I’ve completed a Football Stadium Road Trip visiting every English League football stadium across 5 days whilst living in the car. The following year I did the same in Scotland meaning a total of almost 150 stadiums. In 2015 I completed a 160ft bungee jump, 10,000ft skydive, and my first ever 10k run. I’ve come a long way since that race, which took a full 1 hour and 18 minutes! You can read more about these on my own blog – Wadeyschallenge.wordpress.com

In June of 2016, I made a decision to make my next fundraiser my last one for a while so I wanted to step it up a notch from previous years. Originally it was going to be 4 big(ish) challenges, which quickly changed to 7. Currently my target is at 33 challenges… with the potential to add a couple more before 2018 appears!

First up was to reach the summit of a mere 3,718m high active volcano. Mount Teide in Tenerife was the setting. I reached the summit in 5.5 hours, whilst battling against the heat, altitude and my own stamina levels.


Then came two 10k runs in quick succession. The MoRun in Greenwich Park, and the Kelly Holmes Trust 10k in London’s Olympic Park. On both occasions I managed a new PB.

Then came my first Obstacle Course Race, Mud n Madness in Upminster. I used this as an eye opener to OCR’s and to help me with my future challenges.


My final challenge before I conquered my first half marathon was another 10k run in Greenwich Park which I once again achieved a new PB which stands at 53:53.

Next up…. Silverstone


My training for this had wavered a little in the previous couple of weeks so I wasn’t in the best possible shape so I was slightly nervous, especially as I hadn’t run more than 10 miles in one session before. 

The day didn’t get off to a good start due to the torrential downpour of rain whilst driving along the M1. Visibility was minimal so a steady stroll along the motorway was needed. Maybe this helped with my pacing during the race? Who knows.

I pulled up in the car park in awe of the grandstands at this iconic circuit. As a big Formula 1 fan, to run here was the perfect setting for my first half marathon. Along with my partner Becky, and children, Ruby and Bella we waited for the rain to ease off a little before heading to the track. Thousands of people were all heading in the same direction so we just followed them, hoping they were heading towards the Pit area. 


At 11.15am they all gave me a kiss and wished me luck as they headed towards the grandstand at Copse Corner, and I headed into the track. The rain continued to pour and a light breeze made it seem a lot colder than it actually was. My warm up consisted of a couple of small jogs and stretches followed by strolling around trying to pass the time. 

The Pit Straight was broken into sections for our estimated finish time so I took my place between the 2:10 and 2:20 signposts. I thought I was being slightly unrealistic and would more than likely finish closer to 2:30 but I like to push myself past my capabilities. Although my confidence took a major blow when I heard that around half of the people racing were using this race as a warm up for The London Marathon in April.

At 11.56am I heard the klaxon for the wheelchair race to begin and then us runners all shuffled forward towards the start line. My nerves were off the scale at this point thinking I’d bitten off a lot more than I could chew but the was no way I could back out.

12.00pm on the dot and as the legendary Formula One theme tune “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac was blaring out, the klaxon sounded again. It took a couple of minutes to start moving due to sheer amount of people running. When I finally crossed the start line when the race had already been underway for almost 3 minutes. I started my stopwatch and away I went.

The first 2 miles through Maggots, Becketts, Hangar Straight and Stowe Corner were slightly downhill and I managed to keep an 8:50/mile pace. I realised that I wouldn’t be able to keep this up throughout the race but decided on the ‘worry about it later’ strategy and pushed on.

I was feeling quite good and looking at the grandstands and picturing in my mind legends like Schumacher, Senna, Vettel & Hamilton all whizzing round the same corners that I was, was exhilarating. The only difference being they average a speed of 180mph…. and I was averaging 6mph!


After we passed through the pit lane and onto the 6 mile mark I slowed to a walking speed to have a drink and a quick recovery period. I had just recorded what would turn out to be my fastest mile of the race at 8:38. The sun was now out and drying the track so thankfully the annoying ‘squelch’ sound from hundreds of trainers around me had finally stopped. 

Miles 7 to 10 really seemed to drag as the course took us around the footpaths on the outside of the circuit. No scenery, no iconic bends and not many spectators to cheer us on. Just a long winding pathway with grass verge that was being used as a makeshift toilet area. As we passed the 10 mile point there was hoards of people cheering us on but I kept hearing,

“Well done Gavin”

“Keep going Gavin”

“Blimey! This Gavin has got some fans”, I thought.

Then all of a sudden a bloke dressed as a great big Royal Mail Postbox came running past with the word Gavin written on it. That explains a lot! But there was no way a bloody Postbox was going to beat me!


We finally got back onto the track for our final lap when I hit a bit of a wall. Not from exhaustion but from shooting pains up my legs and in my right foot. There was only 2.5 miles to go and until that point I was on course to finish in under two hours. I had to change my running style into a strange shuffle in order to keep moving. But the sub two hour time would prove to be elusive. 

With the finish in sight, there was an ambulance on the track and a man lying on the floor being treated. This just highlights the dangers of not hydrating enough or preparing properly. This could easily have been me. As I shuffled past the 13 mile point, I broke into a sprint finish. I do not know where the energy came from or where the pain went, but it did. People were cheering me on as I burst through the pack of runners approaching the finish line.

And waiting at the finish line with beaming smiles and bursting with pride, was my family. What a perfect way to end my most challenging run so far.


Helen again here – I would like to say a massive well done to Chris on his first half marathon and a huge thank you to him for writing this post for us! 

If you would like to sponsor Chris his fundraising link is here