An academic in (running) tights

Blogs on education and running: My two passions



Product reviews, race reviews and general running thoughts

Race to the King experience

This was my 2nd 50+ mile event. The 1st one was Gower 50 on Oct 1st 2016. This event claimed to be 53.5 miles (my fenix 3 said 54.3). To say I hit a roller coaster of emotions is a massive understatement! And the ride hasn’t stopped 48 hours later.

If any of you have read my previous posts you know that this year has been a mix of injury recovery and infections. This hasn’t meant I haven’t run, it just means I didn’t have any focus to my running. I still managed to knock out a couple of marathons, a 50k and 41 miler. I thought if I managed those with relative ease, then I should be kinda OK for RTTK. And I was OK.

So why does it feel that it was a big fat failure?

I had the right kit, I felt pretty excited at the start line, I had enough sleep and I had kept an eye on hydration and food the week prior. Even race day temperature wasn’t too bad! Humid but bearable.

I set off at what felt like a comfortable pace, walked (power walked) up the hills, stopped at the pit stops and used the portaloos. The 1st 20 or so miles were pretty fun! The scenery was great!

Then around mile 27 is I started to feel fed up. I have no idea why. It got worse. I felt I was being inhabited by ‘Kevin the teenager’. Full on moody, stubborn ‘ I won’t run any more’ mood had taken over. I was one miserable cow.

Add that with the heart palpitations and the hallucination…..(a dog about to attack me) led to an ‘interesting’ last 35 miles. Now I don’t think I was lacking fuel or hydration as I kept an eye on what was happening with urine loss. I can only put this down to heat. I actually dripped sweat and that’s something I don’t normally do to any extent. Any other suggestions are welcome!

So I carried on, stopping for lots of photos, stopping to look at the views (yes they were incredible) and took full advantage of every pit stop, including sitting down and drinking tea! According to my stats I wasted a good 45 mins on this 😀 But at the time, it felt the right thing to do.

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Around mile 35 I decided I was going to pull out of Lakes in a Day, another 50 mile event. By mile 45 I had convinced myself I useless and I should give up long distance. A volunteer at the last pit stop did her best to cheer me up and encourage me, but it was no use. I hated everything.

Until mile 51

Then I suddenly got a new lease of life and I ran……and ran….and ran! I felt good again! Obviously it was because I knew I was nearly done but that sulky teenage mood had been kicked to the ground. I actually felt like my body could have carried on running and crossing that finish line was pretty damn good.

So was the race hard? No. The route was easy (ish), there were a few good hills, the path was clear, the temp was warm but OK and I wasn’t suffering with any aches or pains and not a blister in sight. There was absolutely no reason for my mood. I can’t explain it.

I finished in 12 hours 15 mins, 18/81 in age cat, 50/171 female, 235/581 overall. For my standards that’s pretty damn good! A whole hour faster than Gower 50 and Gower was shorter by 4 miles and had less elevation.









I think I know why I’m not happy.

I really, really hate being tired! I like finishing events feeling fresh. Yes I know that means I haven’t put in the effort but it still doesn’t change the fact I like feeling relatively fresh after an event. I know I shouldn’t expect the same after 50+ miles, but I do. If I could just change this mindset and accept that ultras make you tired, then I’m sure I’d be a lot happier with my result!

I’m still questioning whether Lakes in a Day is a good idea

The Race Review

It costs £119. If you look at the price of other ultras, this seems pretty pricey! I begrudge paying anything over £45 so signing up to this was a leap of faith. Although many have said it is overpriced, I disagree. You get 7 pitstops, fully stocked with individual wrapped goodies, branded foods, full medic tent and portaloos. If anyone has every tried to arrange a race over farm land before, you’ll know what an absolute nightmare it is to arrange, and portaloos?…not a chance of sorting it unless money changes hands. So yes, it costs a lot, but you can see where the money has gone. This event and its support would not be as comprehensive without this price. Add in the discounted race entry for Save the Children, and I’d say the price was justified.

I will add that this is the 1st ultra I’ve done with full medic, loos and array of food etc at every pit stop. No grabbing of snot covered jaffa cakes at this event!

Add to the above to the lack of navigation required….I’d actually recommend this as a 1st ultra. And I’d never thought I’d never recommend anything over £50!

There are other charges to consider such as carpark and coach transfer fees but again, the carpark was on commercial farmland so I think that price was understandable. However, the coach transfer fee was seriously over priced. Thankfully I needed neither.

So yes, it’s a cracking event and yes I’d certainly recommend it even though I was miserable for the majority of the race 😀

I’m a fickle bugger!


An after thought

I don’t think I was that bothered about this event to begin with – I have had a rough few weeks with work and all I wanted to do was disappear. This might explain the extreme moodiness 😀 A few words from Matt (Running Adventures) has given me the kick I needed to change my mindset. Not only has his online coaching provided me with training to complete these ultras with relative ease, but he also gives me a mental kick when needed! For that I thank you.

So now for recovery and start to appreciate my ultra performances are improving. I have also arranged to recce part of Lakes in a Day route. The road is long….and long is good.


A Wannabe Ultra runner (the things I have learnt)

I don’t consider myself to be an ultra runner (yet) but I am working towards it. I started running from couch to 5k 3.5 years ago. This is hardly enough time for a sufficient running base to develop let alone Continue reading “A Wannabe Ultra runner (the things I have learnt)”

Brooks Ravenna 8

I received* some Brooks Ravenna 8 to test. Now I loved the Glycerin 13 and 14 but admittedly I knew nothing of the Ravenna. I decided not to research anything of this shoe before testing it. All I could tell you at the start was Continue reading “Brooks Ravenna 8”

Dukeries 40 and what next?

This year I blogged about training for Paris Marathon in April. If you’ve seen my blogs, you know it didn’t go to plan, but overall I was happy with my finish.

So what’s been happening since? Well I ran another marathon – Newcastle Way Trail marathon 6 days after Paris Continue reading “Dukeries 40 and what next?”

Two marathons, trail running and inner peace

It’s been 6 days since Paris marathon. If you read my race report you would have seen it broke me. So 5 days of rest and recovery followed.

Then Newcastle Way trail marathon was today. I signed up to this last year and I had no idea if I could even complete half of it!

So 8am at the Ash Inn at Mow Cop I set off on the trail. The plan – to run at a pace that felt right for my legs. And that’s exactly what I did. Unfortunately this also meant leaving my club runners behind. But I needed to keep the legs turning over at the right pace. 

Within the 1st mile I was so piggin’ happy! It felt like I was back home, on the trails, away from the pavements. Life felt good. I was a little nervous about the trail as this was my 1st proper trail run since spraining my ankle back in early December. Thankfully, all was well. 

The route was a mix of fields, lanes, woodland with a evil Lane just past the Swan with Two Necks (around mile 15?). I hated this Lane last year! This year it felt a lot easier. In fact the whole route felt a lot easier. 

So I carried on plodding along, running with Steve, a fellow TT and Trenthamer. By the time we reached the end of the lane I was feeling good. I knew the end was only about 12 or so km away. I could have quite happily picked up the pace. My legs felt loose, I had energy. But I didn’t pick up the pace.

I carried on running with Steve. If I’d have picked up the pace, I may have ended up running on my own and I certainly wouldn’t have felt good about leaving behind my running partner. So we carried on together. I did run off ahead in the last few hundred metres. I had to have that sprint finish. Never not had one yet. 

And I crossed the line with a time of 5:51 which puts me in around mid-field. 

This wasn’t an easy race. After all its a marathon! It has about 100 stiles and over 2000 feet of gain. But it’s certainly the easiest trail marathon I’ve done. Comparatively flat. And it’s 26.2 miles. Trust me, that’s really unusual for a trail marathon. My last trail marathon was 32 miles  (no it’s not an ultra). So relatively speaking, it’s a nice easy one to do. 

Couple that with the easy pace of 13mm and good cool weather, I finished feeling I could have carried on.

Which was a massive relief.

These last few months I’ve really questioned my running ability. Injuries, illness and sporadic training. I didn’t think I had any endurance in me. But finishing this race fully capable of running more has put a lot of fears to rest. 

I feel more positive about entering my next phase of training in preparation for Lakes in a Day. 

And I’m back on the trails. I intend to stay there.

Paris Marathon: 12 weeks of training.

Paris Marathon took place on Sunday 9th April at approximately 9.15am for the 4 hour wave runners. That would be me. If you have read my past weekly posts, you’d know that my training has not gone smoothly – namely due to sprained ankle recovery, a couple of infections and antibiotics…blah, blah, blah. The list goes on.

Based on everything that had happened over the 12 weeks, I revised my original goals of 3.50/4.00/4.10 to getting close to my Manchester Marathon time of 4:23. Deep down I still hoped for something between 4-4:10. After all, I had come off the antibiotics a few days prior to the marathon and I felt OK. I felt optimistic! Continue reading “Paris Marathon: 12 weeks of training.”

Warts n all: Week 11/12 of 12

If you read week 10 then you’d know that week 11 may not have been to good. Fate stepped in yet again and gave me a jaw infection. Seriously, who gets a jaw infection?? 

Week 11, I should gave done 5 shorter runs but with the same intensity as previous weeks. That didn’t happen.  If you’ve ever had toothache….imagine that but across the whole lower jaw. This meant no walking let alone running! (Or sleeping and eating).

So I entered the final week of Paris marathon training…still on antibiotics and feeling pretty crap. 

I managed 4×2 min sprints as a leg loosener but that’s it. 

But you know what? I didn’t care. I felt ok revising my initial goal, knowing there’d probably be no pb. Life happens. Scrap that…shit happens and sometimes it’s a headwind.

So reflecting back on the 12 weeks:

I entered training with a sprained ankle, I’ve had two infections (chest and jaw), I’ve had a week of heart complications, work kicked off, I lost my passport, my doctor wouldnt sign my form (probably not surprising), my eurostar tickets got canceled due to a system glitch and my cat ran off meaning no cattery services over Paris. 


Now the tears from the cat trauma have stopped and a friend stepped in to look after my (stupid) cats, I’m a lot calmer. In fact, I don’t think I care anymore. I’m going to run this race,  get it over and done with and get back on those trails. Screw the time, screw the stress, screw all that negative crap. 

In the words of a wise woman…..

Warts n All: week 10 of 12 marathon training

Well what a strange week it has been….scrap that……it hasn’t been strange, it’s been eventful in a non-eventful way. This week was about fine tuning and then tapering. So what happened? Students full of germs is what happened! This week Continue reading “Warts n All: week 10 of 12 marathon training”

Warts n all: wk 9 of 12 marathon training

This post is a lot later than anticipated. I’m already half way through week 10! But let’s ignore that for now. Week 9 was post Ironbridge Half marathon so this week was mainly race recovery with some tuneup sessions. Here is what I should have done:

  • Monday – rest
  • Tuesday – 40 mins easy
  • Wednesday – 60 mins with 30 min tempo @8 pace
  • Thursday – 40 min easy
  • Friday – 40 min easy
  • Saturday – rest
  • Sunday – 3.5 hours with 1h 15 min at faster pace

And here is what I actually did!

  • Monday – rest
  • Tuesday – 32 mins easy @9.41 pace
  • Wednesday – warm up with 28 min tempo @8.10 pace
  • Thursday – 5.4 miles @9.23 pace
  • Friday – rest
  • Saturday – 6.8 miles @11.29 pace
  • Sunday – 3.5 hours @10.40 pace (the running part)

Well the easy and tempo runs went well. If anything I think I went to easy on the tempo as it felt easy! Thursday’s run was my 1st run at my running club since I sprained my ankle over 3 months ago. I was petrified of being too slow but thankfully it was a short run at an easy pace so I didn’t slow any one down 😀 I still didn’t feel comfortable running in the dark – too paranoid about my ankle!

Saturday’s run was purely for my sister, Liz. She took up running in October and this was her first ever distance over 5 miles! She wanted to recce the Newcastle 10K route (Newcastle Staffs Athletic club road race). I was very proud to accompany her on this. And she smashed 10k in 1 hour 12 mins….at a conversational pace! We even survived the horrendous wind running up Black Bank. I think I need to up my game! 😀

Then came Sunday.

And oh boy, what a run that was!

I chose a new route along the Macclesfield Canal. I read up on the terrain and it said compacted trail/path. I thought it would be a good taster/practice for Paris as it has similar elevation and a few uneven bits. I even wore my road racing shoes….Oh how wrong was I!

It was 17 miles of mud. And not just any old mud, it was that slippy mud that clings to your shoes that only a blow torch or pick axe can remove. I spent more time slipping and falling then I did running! It took me 3.5 hours to run about 18 miles. 0.5 hours was spent walking through unrunnable sections. Not the best practice run for Paris. Yes I do realise that as soon as I hit the mud I should have stopped and went on my usual Mow Cop route….only 1 mile away. Especially as I was wearing my road racing shoes. But I kept thinking ‘it’ll get better, it can’t be all like this’. Then there comes a point to which you’re committed to the route and you stick with it.

Even though this was only 18 miles, my goodness did my glutes ache after this! This should have been at least 22 miles of decent running based on the time stated on my plan so I have no idea what impact this will have on the quality of my training. If nothing else, I got a good ass muscle workout 😉



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