The journey to Brighton Marathon has begun - and it has been a fun start (perhaps emphasised by the amount of happy photos I have taken this week!) Commencing training on Christmas week has not been an issue for me, mainly because the mileage demands are relatively low at this point, but also because visiting family across the festive season has given me some new and different running opportunities.
MONDAY: training started on Christmas Eve with a fast-ish 4 miles, aiming for 8 min/mile pace, around my familiar Lincoln streets. I then began my typically festive and slightly cliche 'drive home for Christmas' heading back to Suffolk where my parents still live.
TUESDAY: Christmas Day and a trip to Bury St Edmunds parkrun with my sister for a special festive event. Last year I had also started the 25th December with Bury St Edmunds parkrun and had been amazed to see so many others beginning their own celebrations with a 5k - for me, it epitomised the parkrun community and the influence it has had on peoples' lives. This year was no different, with an even bigger crowd gathering at Nowton Park, where I also managed to bump into a familiar face from my home Lincoln parkrun event. I knew from last year that the course was a trail route, and I had my trail shoes on in preparation, however this year's challenge appeared to be the severe overnight frost. The ground was virtually white (a white Christmas?) and quite hard and slippy underfoot. Nevertheless I was excited to begin running, and as I stood at the start next to my sister with Santa Hats pinned to our heads, the crowd spontaneously burst into a rendition of 'Jingle Bells' before the clock struck 9am - it made me smile even more. Running was challenging at first; the gradual trail climb and the icy, uneven ground presented difficult footing, plus the cold and low winter sunshine was making my eyes water. The freshness and crispness of it all seemed fitting though, and I powered on regardless. The course is two laps, gradually climbing at the beginning and then lowering back to start the second loop. A large section of the downhill stretch is set in woodland, and the muddy ground here actually sucked more energy from my legs rather than providing relief; I was relishing the challenge though. After conquering the winter terrain I made for the finish funnel, which is set up a short, sharp final climb. I crossed the line - Santa Hat still on my head - in 22:16, which was a new course PB. Another good start to Christmas.
WEDNESDAY: Boxing Day miles with my sister, 4 miles with 2 faster tempo miles in the middle at 7.40-7.50 min/mile pace. I enjoyed pushing myself a little whilst still chatting comfortably to my sister, it told me my base fitness is good.
THURSDAY: after a week of faster miles so far, I kept my run steady today. Although it is only the start of training there is no point overdoing things so early on. I logged 5 miles again with my sister, at a comfortable 8.32 min/mile pace.
FRIDAY: Rest Day
SATURDAY: still in Suffolk, the opportunity for new parkrun tourism was one I could not turn down. I headed to Ipswich parkrun based at Chantry Park. Growing up close to Ipswich I knew Chantry Park well, having spent a few years using it at a base for football training with my team, and also being sent there with my school to run Cross Country. In my school years I was very sporty, and therefore my fitness would usually see me qualify for regional Cross Country competitions even though I did not participatory relish spending all day in a cold muddy field. Now I was back in the same cold, muddy field but this time through my own choice! My memory told me Chantry Park was hilly with minimal footpaths, and my trail shoes were thus out again.
During the run briefing I was furthermore warned of undulations, delivered with a wry smile from the volunteer marshal, which we all know means HILLS! As soon as we started running I loved the course, one big winding loop with undulations and hilly challenges galore. I was running hard and being tested by every step, legs burning, heart pounding. The marshals spurred me on, as did my mum who had come to watch, and who popped up around the route. I beamed a big smile at her each time, even when she was stood at the top of the toughest, longest climb, which even I debated needing to walk on! Along the finishing stretch I pushed myself for the final time battling against a gusty wind. As I reached the finish funnel I was spent but very happy with a 22:01 time and to finish as 3rd lady. I did not remember school Cross Country being that hard, but I loved this parkrun so much more.
SUNDAY: my final run back in Suffolk, and a longer 8 mile loop around my childhood hometown of Stowmarket. The town was again a lot more undulating than I remembered when growing up, but I ran well, too well really, finishing with an 8.08 min/mile average pace. I always begin marathon training long runs a bit too quickly, and I know when the miles build my pace will settle a little. With talk of building miles, I am excited for the challenges ahead during this training, and want to remain enjoying my running as well as striving for new goals.
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...