Winter Run Liverpool 10k - 49mins 14secs
An early entry into racing for the year. I had chosen to take part in this 10k to help get over the January blues and also as it was a perfect excuse to visit my sister in Liverpool and run with some of her running club members. In suitably arctic weather conditions I aimed to run sub 50 mins and achieved this, so I was happy, plus what other race do you get to run through snow zones and receive a hug from a polar bear at the finish line?!
Manchester Marathon – 4hrs 56mins 24secs
Where to even start with this race… I had trained hard for the event; my second marathon after the joy of running the London Marathon in 2015. I wanted to go sub 4hrs and there was a small part of me which believed I may even be able to push for nearer to 3hrs 45mins. But at mile 24 my body fell apart and I crashed directly into that metaphoric wall. My determination carried my through to the finish, but I also would never have made it if it had not been for the incredible human kindness of others out on the course who supported me in my vulnerable state. I feel emotional reading back my account of this race, and I would say that it has only really been in the latter stages of this year that I have been able to look back on the Manchester Marathon with some sense of pride and accept it is another marathon under my belt. A tough day, but one which has made me stronger.
Lincoln 10k – 51 mins 2secs
A 10k the week after a marathon is probably not hugely advisable, let alone after the experience I had in Manchester, but I knew I needed to get back out on the road. I was realistic about my capabilities; I was sore still and my confidence was at rock bottom, but I was not going to miss my hometown event and my fourth consecutive year of running the 10k. My legs were heavy, and my time is nothing to write home about, but I crossed that finish line with the biggest smile on my face and was able to enjoy a post run drink with my friend, and that’s all that matters.
Liverpool Rock n Roll Half Marathon – 2hrs 2mins 29secs
Despite the happiness and relative success of the Lincoln 10k, after the Manchester Marathon I seemed to struggle to recover and get back to my usual running fitness. My legs were constantly heavy and tired, and it was really getting me down. I entered this event with zero expectations, I knew I was going to struggle around the course and I pretty much did! Over 2hrs is a very poor time for me, but it was still a race I strangely enjoyed. Liverpool’s Rock n Roll Half is a super event with a great course and fantastic atmosphere; you simply cannot fail to enjoy it. Cheering on the marathon runners afterwards with my sister’s running club also helped fill me with extra happiness.
Round Sheffield Run - 1hr 57mins 30secs
I had never heard of this event before; a trail race comprising of eleven timed stages of running, totally 20km, with 4.5km worth of recovery breaks in between the stages. I certainly had never done anything like it before either. My friend spotted the race and encouraged us to enter as a female pair – and I am so glad she did! I was nervous as my legs were still not in a good way, but despite this we somehow managed to finish as 31st female pair. The course is challenging but beautiful, the walking breaks allow you to chat to and meet other runners, and it was wonderful to be able to complete a race side by side with my friend. Round Sheffield Run is one of my standout memories of the year, and so wonderfully unexpected.
Nottingham 10k - 51mins 55secs
Three months after the Manchester Marathon and I was still struggling. Despite the success of Round Sheffield Run, my legs were back to being horribly heavy, and virtually any form of incline was now reducing them to lead. The Nottingham 10k was not a good run for me at all, as my time reflects, and although I still enjoyed being able to experience another race day with my friend, my body was beginning to frustrate me now and I was starting to feel something was wrong…
Great Newham Run 10k - 53mins 58secs
Running around the Olympic Park in London and finishing inside the Olympic Stadium was simply an incredible running moment. It was a very warm day which meant a PB was virtually going to be impossible, let alone the fact this event was only a week after the Nottingham 10k and I knew my legs were not in a good way at all. I ran as well as could be expected on a surprisingly hilly course, and the whole experience left me with goosebumps. My legs were a mess after the 10k – so sore and I was in a level of pain which was just not normal after a 10k. This event was the final straw for me and I then sought to find out if anything was wrong, leading to being diagnosed as anaemic.
The 401 Marathon, Lincoln
The opportunity to join Ben Smith as he brought one of his incredible marathon runs to my hometown in Lincoln was something I could not miss. Ben’s challenge to run 401 marathons in 401 days had been uniting people all around the UK and I wanted to support him and be part of the community he was creating. Running with Ben actually turned into me unintentionally running my first ultra-marathon, with thirty miles recorded for the day – needless to say my body felt strong for the first time in a long while.
Bassingham Bash 5m - 37mins 17secs
This was an event which seemed to signal that my legs were finally back to their usual levels of functioning. It was my second time running the Bassingham Bash and I left with a new 5 mile PB. I ran hard from the gun, enjoying the challenge of racing this slightly in-between distance, and my legs did not fail me. My faith was being restored.
Berlin Marathon - 4hrs 44secs
In complete contrast to the Manchester Marathon, running in Berlin was a truly wonderful experience. I loved going abroad for the first time in a very long while, I loved exploring a new city, I loved spending some time away with my friend, and I especially loved the marathon. I ran the streets of Berlin with a totally different mind-set to when I was in Manchester; I was not solely focused on the clock but instead on enjoying every step of this incredible experience. I finished so close to going sub 4hrs, but I did not feel an ounce of disappointment. I left Berlin with a medal, a PB, another marathon under my belt, new experiences and many treasured memories.
Lincoln Half Marathon - 1hr 46mins 10secs
If running the Lincoln 10k a week after the Manchester Marathon seemed mad earlier in the year, a week after the Berlin Marathon I now found myself stood on the start line of the Lincoln Half Marathon. This was a brand new event for Lincoln and as I felt reasonably good post marathon, I decided to try run it – and I was so pleased I did! It was not easy, but as the finish neared and a PB crept into my sights, my legs refused to let me down. PB achieved.
Royal Parks Half Marathon - 1hr 45mins 44secs
In what can only be described as utter madness, the Royal Parks Half fell a week after the Lincoln Half Marathon, and thus still only two weeks post the Berlin Marathon. What I was thinking when I entered this trio of events I am not sure! But here I was at my third race in three weeks. The question was, could I make it three PBs in three weeks? I had this notion in my head and just went for it, running a bit of a dangerous PB or bust strategy. This race was hard, my legs were definitely feeling the effects of everything now, but in the glorious setting of London’s parks I dug deep and clinched my third PB. A good way to sign off my final race of 2016.
Another of my highlights of 2016 has been being able to embrace the phenomenon that is parkrun more frequently. I have enjoyed running and volunteering at my local Lincoln event incredibly, and have managed to fit in some other parkrun tourist trips. My 5k times have also been wonderfully unexpected. During my spell of heavy legged running post Manchester Marathon I was stuck in a 24 minute rut, no matter how hard I tried I could not improve my time, and I was on the verge of thinking I would never get near my old PB of 22 minutes 37 seconds again. I enjoyed my Saturday morning experiences too much to give up though, plus there is so much more to parkrun than just a time. However, my determination feels rewarded in that I now find myself with a PB of 21:34 – which is faster than I could ever have imagine running before!
So that’s my 2016 in running terms – and to be fair this is not far away from being a strong description of my year in general since running is such as huge part of my life! This year has been a battle at times, but I’ve made it. Thank you to those who have contributed to these memories, whether that's cheering me on, encouraging me, running with me, listening to me talk about running, picking me up when things have not been so good - or those special people who have done all of these things and more (you know who you are); I literally could not have done it without you.