2013- thanks for the #crewlove

Run Dem PixlrChevy

2013 has been a year of huge growth for me and so many others through running with Run Dem Crew. Today I’m going to pick out some of the many highlights of an amazing year. Thank you all for being part of the journey.

#CDCML

Charlie

The day we gave back to Run Dem Crew founder Charlie Dark, who has given so much to all of us, was a special one. Charlie was presented with his own hard-won marathon medal, and we gave speeches explaining how he has changed our lives. Big shout out to Paul Bains for organising it all without word getting out. This day will live long in the memory.

The night the Olympic Park was our playground

Run Dem Playground

It meant a lot for us to finally be able to run to and through the field of Olympic dreams, and as dusk fell our inner children escaped for a few glorious Peter Pan moments as we took over the adventure playground.

#dibabalife

Track

What went down at Paddington Rec this summer was nothing short of beautiful. Every week we arced like shooting stars across the same cinder track that Roger Bannister trained on to break the 4 minute mile. Massive props to Jeggi Elinzano, Cory Wharton-Malcolm and Knox Robinson for the training plans and  Tirunesh Dibaba for the inspiration.

#dibdablife

Dib Dab Life

A certain member of the crew had us cry-laughing  this summer when he asked “What’s all this about dibdablife?” It was the hash-tag dibabalife that he was referring to. The term dibdablife has now become synonymous with The Only Fools and Horses approach to training.

Housekeeping

Paulie

Always the most important part of Tuesday evenings at 1948, housekeeping is our opportunity to remind ourselves why we run as we come together as a community. The medal speeches are always a highlight but special mention goes to Paulie Roche for his New York Marathon epic, combining comedy and tragedy in equal measure. To quote him:

“Make pain your friend and you will never run alone.”

Targets, PBs and Medals

2013 Medals

We all have our own goals in running. I’m grateful that, through a lot of hard work, I was able to meet all the targets I’d set myself at the start of the year. These are the medals (and fridge magnet) I was able to win in 2013. Each of these achievements is special to me in it’s own right, but I would never have found the determination to achieve all this without the crew. My victories are your victories. Thank you.

5K target- sub 20. I managed 18:55

10K target- sub 40. 38:31.

Half marathon target- sub 1:30. 1:26:45

Marathon target- sub 3:45. 3:21:10

Cheer Dem Crew

Cheer RTTB6

Cheering on other runners is one of the most rewarding things you can do. I’m particularly grateful to everyone who had our backs in the East London Half. It was a pleasure to be part of the Cheer Dem massive on other occasions, especially the London Marathon and Run To The Beat. Big ups to Chevy Rough and Paul Bains for being Cheer Dem organisers extroardinaires.

#teamorange

Orange

In February, Chris McLeanClaire McGoneglePaul Bains and I shared an apartment decorated entirely in orange as we took on the Barcelona Half Marathon. There were PBs and good times all round. Bridging the gap never felt so good.

When we chased the sun to Greenwich

Greenwich Run

An inspirational route on a beautiful day.

These guys

Junior & Jason

I knew Junior Robbani and Jason Lawrence before Run Dem and I owe my running journey to Junior, in particular. He dragged me round Clissold Park when I was out of shape and at the beginning of my transformation. They’ve both come a long way as runners in 2013 and have been making positive moves in their work and personal lives, inspiring me with each decision they take. They ran in Barcelona, too,  and I can’t wait to follow their exploits when they take on the Tokyo Marathon next year.

The Elites

Elites

I’ve got so much love for the Run Dem Elites. Each week we push each other to be the best we can be, and there’s a special camaraderie that develops between you and the group you run with. For me, no Elite has been more inspirational than Sorrell Walsh, blazing a trail for other women to follow and ready to take on the Country to Capital Ultra in January.

Flatline 10

Swains Group

10 laps up and down Swains Lane of pain. Ouch. Maximum respect to all who have tamed this beast.

Bournemouth Marathon

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This was a special one for me. The last time I ran a marathon I hated it so much I didn’t run again for 5 years. I was privileged to run this hilly course with Noushi, Nathaniel ColeTim JacksonPistol PeteEmma HancockRicky Diaghe and Dave Cregan. On a course with many double-backs the #crewlove kept us going. The picture shows a guy called Michael I met during the race. We didn’t know each other before, but we bonded over those 26.2 miles and crossed the finish line hand in hand.

Ghostpoet gig

Ghostpoet

As Charlie says, “When you do well, I do well”. This was never more evident than when Ghostpoet took the stage at his triumphant homecoming gig at the Village Underground. As he surveyed the crowd, ripped and confident, I wondered how much of a part Run Dem had played in Ghostpoet’s personal and artistic development.

Blogging

Angel

2013 for me was the year of the blog. I greatly enjoyed reading other crew-member’s blogs, in particular http://www.bangsandabun.com and http://www.runangelrun.co.uk In April, I took the plunge and started my own blog. My post on #crewlove proved most popular and I wanted to say thank you to all my readers for dropping by.

https://anotherwisemonkey.wordpress.com/2013/06/30/crewlove/

Ain’t no party like a Run Dem party

Party

When Cory Wharton-Malcolm picks up the mic,  Josey Rebelle is on the decks and shot dem crew are on the dance floor, there’s no better place to be than with the crew. The family that plays together, stays together. Berlin, here we come.

Thank you all for an amazing 2013. Here’s to 2014.

1948

Down Tow Up Flow Half Marathon Race Report

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The Down Tow Up Flow half marathon is a scenic multi-terrain run along the banks of the Thames. Multi-terrain in this case included running through fields, along trails and on road. It is run in opposite directions each year, hence the name. This year, it was run “Down Tow”, from Marlow to Windsor. I’d heard good things about the beautiful setting, and had never run a a multi-terrain race before, so when Dave Cregan suggested it, I agreed.

My weekend began with Charlie Dark’s excellent remix of The Hare and the Tortoise. This was a children’s show which took place in the Olympic Park as part of the Open East festival, which marked the handing over of the park to the public. For me, the highlight of the performance was the “Big Belly Man” poem, which had me cracking up and the kids and their parents fully engaged. However, the wisdom in the old fairy tale was something I should have heeded more carefully, as I set out for this race like the hare but finished like the tortoise.

I found myself getting out of bed at 6am on the Sunday of the race, which shows how much my life has changed in a year. I had my usual pre-race breakfast of porridge and fruit toast, and set off at 7am to Paddington, where I met my friend Richard. We boarded the first of two trains and on the second one Richard took the opportunity for a power nap, impressively keeping my coffee upright. This proved to be a clever race strategy, and I’ll try to incorporate it into my routine in the future.

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We arrived in Marlow and promptly set off in the wrong direction from the station, followed like lemmings by all the other runners and supporters. After a few minutes, my Spidey-sense started tingling, and a quick look at Google Maps confirmed we were going the wrong way. Cue amusing mass turn-around of people.

On arrival at the start line, the main down side of the organisation became apparent- there were huge queues for the toilets. Picking up our race packs was easy enough, but the PA system wasn’t working properly, so it was hard to make out what was being said. A fairly lame aerobic warm-up followed, so we spent most of our time chatting to the birthday boy, Dave Cregan- and My-Ha, who was returning to the scene of her first ever race a year on. Those are my only gripes with the race organisation, however. Once the race actually got underway, it proved to be an excellent event.

As I set off after the gun in the first wave of runners, I was feeling good. Various people had said that this wasn’t a PB course, and that had only made me quietly determined to try to prove them wrong. I quickly settled into 6.30 min/ mile pace, knowing that if I could maintain it for the whole course, I’d get a PB. I felt comfortable, avoiding the temptation to run the suicide pace of the front pack. 6.30 is roughly the average pace of elite runs with Run Dem Crew on Tuesdays, so when the adrenaline of race-day is pumping, it’s pretty easy to cope with. The difficulty would come later, when running beyond the usual Tuesday distance. We sped out across a field before hitting the path beside the river, negotiating several kissing gates with relative ease. I hadn’t heard the expression “kissing gate” before this race, so that’s one of many things I learnt from the experience.

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The field was competitive but quickly stretched out into a line, so there weren’t issues with trying to find space early on. However, I quickly realised how much harder my legs were working compared to normal in order to cope with the uneven running surface. Running on uneven roads in Hackney, I thought I knew all about challenging surfaces, but this was another level. My calves and thighs felt like they were getting a serious workout, akin to the feeling in the gym when you’re lifting weights at your threshold. I wondered how this would affect me later in the run.

Mile 3 was a little trickier, as we ran along a dappled trail and safely overtaking became impossible. I was mentally prepared for bottlenecks like this, as the race organisers had explained that this would occur on their website. Although I was forced to drop below 6.30 pace for this mile, I didn’t worry about it. I’d resolved not to try to make the time up elsewhere- I’d just get back to 6.30 on the next mile if possible.

We then hit the first of two bridges on the route. This was a big surprise. I’d never encountered bridge climbs in races before, where you have to actually run up the steps before you can cross the bridge. We do this very regularly when running with the crew, but we often stop at the end of the bridge to allow others to catch up. Stopping wasn’t an option here, and it made a big difference, tiring me out. I’ve just done a bridge session working on cadence with Barbara, my coach, and I’m going to incorporate these into my runs as often as possible now.

Still, with that mile behind me, I was able to resume normal service for miles 4-6. I was enjoying the beautiful scenery and in a good place physically and mentally. It felt good to be racing along the Thames, and I was looking forward to passing Eton Dorney, scene of the Olympic rowing competition, later in the run.

Nevertheless, the bright sunshine began to bother me a little, so I was thankful for shady areas when we ran through them. I have a vague memory of possibly seeing some balloons tied up along the route at this point- more on this later- but I didn’t pay much attention and just continued focusing on my running form and pace.

Miles 7 and 8 proved to be somewhat harder. Despite my best efforts, my pace began to slow. I tried to focus on my cadence and form, moving my legs as quickly as possible, but 6.30 pace was beyond me. I accepted this and thought that it would be alright if I could stay at 6.36 or so for the rest of the race. I’d not been able to do many long runs in my training for this half marathon, as I’d had a succession of bugs, so on reflection, it’s not surprising that my body began to slow down once I’d gone beyond my usual six mile distance. In a way, that makes the achievement of completing this race even more special.

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However, from miles 9 to 13 my pace got slower and slower. At this point, I have to be honest and say that no matter how tranquil and beautiful a course is, when you’re suffering, you don’t really notice or give a damn. I didn’t even notice Eton Dorney. I was getting overtaken with increasing regularity, and I began to worry that Richard, who had set off in the second wave five minutes after me, would overtake me. I wryly reflected on the moral of the hare and the tortoise and felt like a living example of it.

Mile 11 was a 7 minute mile, and I have to admit that at that point, I really considered stopping and walking. I was physically tired and my legs felt like lead. It was just no fun as the sun beat down ever stronger. However, knowing that I’ve entered the Bournemouth Marathon, which takes place in October, I was able to take this humbling experience on board as a warning sign. I knew that I had to get my long run training up to scratch from now on, because the marathon distance will be on another level entirely. I also remembered a conversation that Charlie had had with Simon Freeman when running a PB at a recent marathon, that went something like this:

Charlie: It hurts!

Simon: It’s meant to hurt!

(Suddenly, it all falls into place for Charlie and he speeds home like a veritable running god).

Somehow, I managed to keep going, but I slowed still further on lap 12 and 13, to over 7.30 min pace. However, when I came to a sign that said 400m to go, I briefly rallied. Looking at my watch, I saw that if I ran a 60 second 400 metres (practically impossible, I know) I would still be able to PB. I picked up the pace as much as I could, but rounded a corner and found that we had to climb two sets of stairs in order to cross another bridge. The 400m started after that. I knew a PB was now out of the question, so I just kept picking my legs up until the finish came in sight.

A really nice touch in this race was the organisers call your name out as you’re approaching the finish. I’ve never experienced this before and I have to say that it really gave me a lift as I hit the home straight. I may have finished like the tortoise, but I was still smiling as I crossed the finish line. I picked up my rather fancy medal and gulped down several cups of water. I’d completed the race in a not too shabby 1:27:51, and was more than happy with that, all things considered.

About 5 minutes later, Richard crossed the line in a very similar time, and we lay down on the bank beside the Thames enjoying the sun and rehydrating. Dave finished a few minutes later, and was pretty whacked- he’d found it really challenging in the heat. We chatted with some other runners and I was able to buy ice creams for me, Richard and Dave. Then, like an angel from Heaven, a friend of Dave’s arrived with a cool-box full of food for the birthday boy, and we eagerly dug in- except for Dave, who was not feeling up to it, sadly.

It later emerged that this friend had gone to great lengths to help Dave celebrate his birthday. She had tied balloons on every mile marker on the course, and had even phoned the race organisers the day before to find out where would be the best spot to put a large banner (see below). Unfortunately, Dave, Richard and I had all completely missed this, presumably because we were so focused on the race. It was an absolutely lovely gesture, and we all felt a bit sheepish about not having taken it in properly. Once Dave had recovered, he was driven out to go and appreciate the efforts that had been taken.

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My-Ha finished and we all posed for a picture on the winner’s podium. The race winner came through in a beastly 1hr 14 minutes, and I had come 20 places behind, averaging 6.45 pace. I learnt a lot from the race. I’m looking forward to doing more off-road running, more long runs, and working on my cadence on those stairs.

All in all, this is an excellent event. The organisation at the start could have improved, particularly in terms of toilets, but the race is lovely and the marshals and the organisation at the end was as good as I’ve experienced. The medal is clearly all kinds of awesome. I suspect that I would have enjoyed the race more if I’d been able to do more long runs, and am on the case with my preparations for Bournemouth. I whole-heartedly recommend this race if you’re thinking of doing it next year, when it will be run in the opposite direction, “Up Flow”.

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