The Great British Challenge

It was my friends birthday and as it was school holiday we thought it would be a great idea to spend the at an event.

We chose the Great British Challenge run by Saxons, Vikings and Normans (SVN), you know I love these events, Ranscombe was my last one and I was really looking forward to this.

It was an early start (aren’t they all?). We made our way into Kent for the 8am start.  IMG_7212

The start was in a wooded area called Kings Wood, beautiful but hiding a secret.


The hills!  I knew there would be some hills but I was not expecting to step elevations and quick drops.


The theme was British and therefore we were all encouraged to dress up in red white and blue.  The sun came out in full force and I met up with friends I had met via SVN events and local clubs before the start.

The event started and my friend and I went off.  Due to the steep hills I recorded my quickest mile, I was chuffed.

In my mind I wanted to complete between 1 lap and a half marathon, my friend said she wanted to do a lap and as she had fairly recent knee surgery I was not going to push her to do anything she didn’t want to do.

After the first lap I felt good, I restocked at the aid station and waited for my friend to come in.  She came in and said she wanted to go out again, cool I was happy for her.  I went off, this time running the downhills and flats and walking the very steep uphills.  The elevation map below will see how the elevation differed.

After the second lap I was ready to go again, the third lap meant this would be a half marathon.  I waited for my mate to see if she is ok.  She came in and said now she had completed 2 laps it would be foolish to give up before the half.  I decided to support her and not go off.  The sun was out in full force and we set off.  Some gentle running to start with but the hills soon become too much for her and we walked and chatted, it was lovely.  We came to the finish and rang the bell to indicate that was it for us, collected our medals and goody bags and sat waiting in the sunshine for the rest of our party to come on in.

The next event for us will be the SVN cakeathon at the end of August, looking forward to it already but my legs need a rest first!


Prudential Ride London

Myself and hubby were asked if we would be available to help with baggage for the Prudential Ride London.  You know me, I love helping and volunteering so we jumped at the chance, especially so when I wanted to see up close what Ride London was all about.

Welcome to Green Park
The biggest bike I have seen

It was an early start, having to be at Green Park for 7am but we were able to catch a glimpse of those early riders going past the Ritz, amazing to see these riders cruse past me outside an ionic part of London.

Iconic Ritz
London Street filled with bikes

We walked down to Buckingham Palace, collected our volunteer packs and awaited the baggage lorries to roll in.  Our group have 4 trucks to clear and sort into order before the riders came in to collect their belongings, the stopwatch was primed and ready.

A quiet moment
Ready to rock and roll

The lorries pulled in and then it was all hands on deck.  This task needed a logical and methodical approach and rushing it without a thought was not the right way.  I grouped with 3 other ladies, we looked like we had a clue and bit did we show the others, clearing our part of the lorry and sorting into number order in super quick time.  It was hard work, bags were heavy and I was on a harness on the back of the lorry climbing about getting the right bag and sorting as I went.

Due to our speed we were asked to help clear the next section of the truck.  We jumped to it and set about sorting just as we did before, team work at its best.


No change for a break as the first of the riders were coming in, wanting their bags so they could get on with their day.  Handing out bags where we sorted was easy, they were in order after all they were in order.

More to sort

Chatting to the participants always makes my day, understanding why they did the 100 miles, what went well and their reflections on the event.  Suddenly I was called away, there were issues further down the truck they needed the dream team back.

Inspirational riders and a great crew.

We gathered and looked at the sight before us, there were still bags on the lorry.  We snapped to it and started to unload, sort and hand out bags all at the same time, great communication and camaraderie.  It was hard work, legs and back certainly getting a good work out.  I saw a few people I know and congratulated them, some had completed the full 100 miles and some the smaller even of 46 miles.

It was such a fun day, hard work but filled with huge laughs and joy with new friends being made too.  I was asked about the “This Girl Can” campaign as one of my friends mentioned I was an ambassador and through chatting about it one of my lorry buddies will be coming with me to run this week, I look forward to sharing my role even more going forward.

As for Ride London, I am seriously tempted to try this one day, seeing riders of all shapes sizes and ages with bikes that cost thousands to bikes that were borrowed was all the inspiration I needed.

A Little Local Event

After Hockley parkrun the other week my little group of running buddies, hubby and I decided to mix it up a bit.  The RAT runner in me liked the location, trails and not too far away from home.  A short distance event that means a quick shake up of the legs mid week in a new location.

Welcome to Skylarks, a 3k event in Wickford organised by a club I know really well so I know it was in good hands.

Stormy clouds over the park
Finish line ready to greet us

This event is a twice yearly event and uses Wick park for its location.  The terrain was a mix of gravel paths, grass and trails and there were runners and walkers of all ages ready to take part on a look Wednesday evening.

There was a lady there with her daughter, the daughter was running with her dad.  I was asked about “this girl can” as I was wearing my ambassador t-shirt, I explained the concept and encouraged mum to go out with her daughter next time, i indicated that exercise was for everyone, nobody should feel that they are no good enough, fast enough or whatever the concern was.  Exercise is personal and everyone is different.  I wanted to make sure I was back in to cheer the daughter on, it was a big deal for this young lady to take part and I wanted to be there to congratulate her at the end.

With my £2 entry fee paid I was ready to run, I felt good, it had been a cracking week at work and although tired with end of term preparations I was ready to get some fresh air into my lungs and get the legs moving.

I was near the back of the pack ready for the off. Go was shouted and I felt myself surging forward, I was overtaking people.  I became worried I had started off too quick but I pushed on, I wanted to see how long I could maintain the pace over the trails.

One of my running pals was up ahead so I pushed on again overtaking again and I came up beside her.  Breathing heavily I was concerned my breathing would put her off, we smiled at each other and a took my foot slightly off the pedal allowing her to surge forward.

At one point on the course the front runners are coming back on themselves so you get to see them.  I saw one of my faster mates, he looked and gave me the thumbs up.  I looked at my watch at this point and was surprised at my pace.  Sweat was dripping from me despite the cool evening.

All too soon I rounded a corner and could see the finish up ahead, I spotted hubby and some of my mates so I needed to finish strong.  I crossed that finish line excited and breathless I felt great. I ran up to my mate I had briefly caught up with earlier and congratulated her

I looked at my watch and could see that I had recorded my fastest mile yet, I was chuffed.

Soon the young lady and her dad approached the finish, I was please to be there to cheer them in, and also able to shout encouragement to others coming through.

A nice cup of tea and biscuit, prizes were given out for the first man, lady, boy and girl and it was time to go.

Details about Wick Park can be found here there is also a link on this page to Skylarks.

Disorganised Events

I had chosen a 10k event for part of the club GP series over in Gunnersbury Park for the last event before the summer break.  There were a few races to choose from but Gunnersbury appealed as I had heard good things about the park and the organisers seemed all above board running a number of events around London.  Gunnersbury appealed as it was also fairly easy to get to by public transport so those without access to a car could still take part and weather permitting it could be a nice day to take the family.

Late the day before I decided I would not go along to support, I was behind slightly on my training and I needed to get a long run in on the Sunday which I would not be able to do had I go along to the event.

I may have regretted this decision the next day.

So the Sunday dawned, weather was good for all doing their thing, whether racing, training or doing another sport.  Hubby and the rest of the club set off to Gunnersbury and I set off for my long run.

Everyone taking part int he GP arrived safely, always a good thing but the confusion started from there as reported back to me after.

Firstly the web site stated it was just two laps around the park, laps are not great and can be boring but two laps in a new area would be ok as a one off.  The organisers explained that due to recent hot weather there would be five laps not the two as it would be easier to deal with any issues.  The day was a lot cooler than recent times but I guess they didnt want to take chances.

Secondly, there was a heck of a lot of confusion over the start time.  The web site said 10am but one of the marshals said it started at 10:30am.  This meant many felt they could not warm up and was hanging about then suddenly being told that actually the start time was in fact 10am causing last minute panic and rushing about.

Thirdly, I understand that they had started to pack up the course whilst the last runners were still out there.  This is one of my biggest pet peeves I hate that with a passion.  Being a slow runner myself I would have felt very unhappy seeing the packing away, what on earth is that all about?  If you are organising a race you wait until the last person is through the finish.  Had I been there I would have certainly had said something and kicked up a fuss.  Disgraceful behaviour.

Lastly, the communication with the organisers had been appalling.  I had contacted them leading up to the event and after to clarify some things and the responses were incredibly slow at best.  Others said non existent communication was what they got.

The bling wasn’t special the souvenir t-shirt cotton so can’t be worn for exercise but we did win the team prize, I guess we can share the trophy around everyones homes.

Organising a race is not hard, I have done it myself and I did it part time on top of my day job, this organisers job is organising events – no excuse.

I won’t name and shame the organisers here, they have been called out on the club Facebook page and I certainly will not be picking another of their races.



A RAT runner

After hearing a not so nice comment one night at club that left me feeling quite negative I decided I needed to do some of my training either on my own or with people I could count on with similar goals to myself.

This has resulting in me becoming a little bit of a RAT runner (road and trail) as I discover little routes and trails near home or work.

I am really beginning to love trails especially when it is a warm day.  The trees and coolness of the ground can help keep focus which in turn takes your mind off anything else.  I am incredibly lucky living where I am with lots of green spaces nearby to use as part of my training.  The air may not be pollution free but it is cleaner than running by a main road.

As a result of mixing things up a bit I have felt stronger in myself mentally and physically and I have realised that as much as it is fun to run with others it is also quite a relief to have my own company and mash through what I need to do whilst reflecting on work and all the other things that get queued up in my head.

I will go back to club at one point but I need to steer clear of negativity and to be really honest the club have nearly 200 members and not all 200 turn up to club nights, at most 60 people so I am not alone in not always needing the club to run.  Being part of a club does benefit people but clubs also need to evolve and nurture the current members whilst still looking to increase numbers.  If they don’t numbers will decrease and there are many ways of joining EA without having to physically attend a club night.

Being a RAT runner has meant that I have revisited Hockley Woods parkrun recently and gained a PB on my more recent outing there. It is so pretty there it is always a joy to run around there.

If you have always been a road runner why not mix it up and look to run on trails especially whilst the evenings are still light.

Running clothes

As my running has evolved I have found what I wear and want to wear has also changed.

When I first started learn to run, a big baggy tracksuit was the go to, it covered me up kept me warm (as it was January) and it allowed me to blend into the background (something I still need to do).

I am very picky when it comes to what to wear when exercising, this will never change.  If I don’t like a brand, if it does not make me feel good I will not wear it.  If I don’t like the ethos of the brand I will not wear it.  If it rubs and chafes I will not wear it.  My charity shop drop offs are littered with failed exercise clothes purchases.  For running clothes need to move but support, look nice keep me cool and not clash with other clothing.  For weight training clothes need to be light more fitted but also keep me cool.

When I realised that tracksuits were heavy and cumbersome to run in I moved onto leggings.  Fabletics was then my go to, cheap and functional but you had to be careful not to get stung with their direct debits.

Brands like ADIDAS and Nike are great but also expensive and a recent TV programme showed that the cheaper brand such as decathlon were just as good if not better, if you want to know more about that check it out here.

Decathlon is currently my go to for tops and trail skirts and 2XU for my leggings and shorts (great compression) with CEP or 2XU for compression socks or calf sleeves.

Having tried this combination several times I find this works very well for me when completing harder events like at Ranscombe.

Running clothes are not always feminine though so I like to add something every now and again, tikiboo have some really funky feminine leggings that are also seasonable linked here. If trail skirts are your thing then I would recommend Running Afrock linked here.  I had Liz who owns Running Arock make me up a daisy skirt for Ranscombe, Daisy being my nickname but also as Ranscombe was a nature reserve I thought it apt.  I was pleased to meet with Liz at the even and many other ladies who had also had the same idea.

For the summer challenge I had a sweaty betty vest top on with 2XU shorts under my daisy skirt.  The skirt kept me fairly cool, was very floaty and flattering.  With my number pinned to it, it stayed in place.

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Myself and the fabulous Helen Cleary (the daisy gang) sporting our daisy outfits.

It was so lovely meeting Liz and others from the Daisy gang. Since Ranscombe I have ordered another outfit to break out at my next event.  If you fancy something different and made to order with colours at your request plus made in Britain please check Running Afrock out.

Spitfire Scramble 2017 edition

It was the return of Spitfire Scramble, its fourth year at Hornchurch Country Park and the fourth year the club had a presence there. It was also my second year in attendance and my husband’s third. This should indicate before anything else how great this event is.

Last years review can be found here and my first take on this event can be found here.

2017 heralded a slight change to the previous years, keeping it fresh but also reflecting on how much the event had grown in the four years.

Firstly, the event was a month early, normally this was halfway through August but due to school summer holidays it always meant getting volunteers to marshal and set up was difficult. This meant for me that I was reliant on others to set up the tent on the Friday and my recovery would have to take place when back at work on the Monday, not having the luxury of being able to book time off work.

Camping was in a new field that was on the route before but was very overgrown and could be quite soggy. This was initially a worry for me but as the weather had been fairly dry and hot and the grass recently cut I thought it should be ok. The field is large and this was picked due to the sheer number of people wanting to take part last year and could not get a place with plenty of room for future expansion. The next field along was used for vehicle parking and again this took the pressure of the country parks own cark parks and therefore ensuing locals and other park users could park without issues.

This camping base change meant that although the route itself did not change the start and finish changed. The start and finish was always in the same place as the camp. This now meant that the dreaded Ingrebourne Hill part of the course was now towards the end of the route instead or part way through. This change resulted in me feeling happier about the parts I dreaded last year eg the two farmers fields that were such a long drag last year were actually ok this time round and Ingrebourne Hill, always my nemesis was almost a joy now as it indicated final part of the route.

Camp set up opened for us lucky people lunchtime Friday and hubby was able to pitch our tent as he had the day off work. We set up with the rest of the club on a corner of the field by a path that was the 4 mile point of the course. We would use this as base and a cheer point to not only cheer on our own club runners but all those taking part.

T-shirt and runners pack was collected once registration was open late on the Friday and then it was time to go home, do last minute preparations before a much needed early night, knowing there will be little sleep once spitfire starts.

Packing is always difficult for this type of event. You need enough clean clothes to ensure that you have something dry to put on after a run especially if you sweat a lot or if it had been raining but, space is at a premium in a tent. For me I always like to have a change of shoes, recovery shoes to walk about the camp when not running and a choice of road or trail to meet the conditions of the route. Some people pack food and that creates more packing as you then have to take plates, cups etc. I had decided to go for the food wristband option as I remembered not eating healthily last year and I felt jacket potato or pasta would be more benefit for me therefore I didn’t need much in the way of food but packed up a cool box of various drinks and fruit. Head torch or hand torch is a must have for this event, you could not go out on the night run without one. I always pack up a mini first aid kit that contain pain killers, tape, chafing balm, plasters and other bits that are not always used but the one time you don’t pack them is the one time they are needed, lessons learned from the previous years. The nights get chilly so my dry robe and a woolly hat was also packed up (and used believe it or not).

Saturday I was woken early by the cats but nerves had also kicked in. We packed up the car and made our way over.

Time flew very quickly and although we had left early we run out of prep time before the runners briefing. Many did not get team photos done and our whole club photo was taken once the race was underway.

The briefing completed and then it was time for the race to start. Those going out first lined up at the start line, those cheering them on to the sides. So much pressure on the first lap so many people watching but such a great atmosphere and lovely way to start.

Once the race started I went back to the tent and unpacked the rest of our stuff and started to prep for my lap.

The walk back and forth from our camp to the start was quite a distance and as a result we did not walk team members to the start to send them off. For me this wasn’t really an issue as I like to go out quietly but I felt bad for the others.

My first lap started, I had decided to wear my “this girl can” Essex ambassador shirt, my decathlon skort, CEP compression socks and my road Hokas. It didn’t look pretty but it was all about feeling comfortable and making sure nothing went wrong on the first lap. The Hokas held up well but after running Ranscombe the weekend before I realised that they were near the end of their life and had actually started to rub my feet. The Hokas did not make reappearance during this event, thank goodness I had a spare pair.

Handover went smoothly and it was back to camp for something to eat, rest and support others.

My next lap was in the dark, so with headtorch on and a change of clothes I was back out there, it was fantastic running the lap with the darkness around me. No music on (I didn’t have music for any of the laps) I could hear the sounds of the wildlife in the park mixed with the sounds of the runners around me. At the top of Ingrebourne Hill I once again looked over London lit up. Feeling proud of what I had completed so far I made my way back down the hill and back to base. Handover done I went back to bed.

Lap 3 was difficult. I was woken from a not so restful sleep. Disorientated, not eaten and not hydrated enough I went out again. I was just getting my head down and getting on with it. Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed this lap, it was right on sunrise and it was wonderful seeing the park come back to life with the light but I found it difficult to keep motivated. Legs felt fine it was my mind that was the problem. I was relieved to get to mile 4 alert my team mate who was out next to start getting ready. I came in handed over the baton and gingerly made my way back to the tent and tried to sleep. Not being able to sleep I just laid there and listened to the club cheer on runners as they went past, lovely to hear.

I was ready to do a fourth lap if needs be, all the team lap times were quicker than last year so I dressed in my running gear just in case. Team mate went out and it became obvious that the forth lap was not going to happen. Therefore as my team mate got to the cheer point I run the last 2 miles with her, met with the rest of the team at the corner of the field after the hill and we ran in together. All done!

Medals collected, tropies given to worthy winners and camp packed up it was time to head home. Tiredness was all consuming, it felt like jet lag and once home I realised that I had not eaten much since the last lap. A quick unpack, bath and dinner and it was time to catch up with the sleep.

Spitfire 2017 was all done. Would I do it again? Oh yes! Once again lessons learnt from this year and I will be back.