Running route – RSPB Purfleet Rainham Marshes

When going through a self doubt stage I always revert back to what I know, its safe and easy.

This going for running routes too.

So one Sunday I got up, it was raining but the weather was promising some sun.  By the time I got to RSPB Purfleet the sun was breaking through, it was going to be a good day.

RSPB Purfleet is by the Rainham Marshes, it is rich in history, an area that dates back to ice age.  Due to its location by the river and London the area was used for trade most importantly gunpowder deliveries, ships would dock there and be loaded with people and the explosives for onward sailing.  Farmers grazed their cattle along the river, the soil rich from the Thames.  Pilgrims from Canterbury would use the ferry that would dock at Rainham, making their way to London by foot or horse.  In 1906 the land was purchased by The War Office and land was used by the military for many years as a firing range, then as a dumping ground and then neglected.  RSPB took it over in 2000 and made it into what you see today; a reserve that is rich with nature, birdlife, water animals and land animals habit this Essex reserve side by side

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The start of the route from car park.

The popular route is along the Thames, its approx 5 miles full round trip but there is a path back to the start that can cut the route shorter if you are not up to 5 miles.

The route is well signposted, it is very difficult to get lost if you stick to the paths.

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One of the signposts, nice and clear.

There are also some distance markers along the route so you are able to see how far you are from the cafe in the reserve.

This is also part of a bigger cycle network that runs from before Hornchurch down.  As a result if you want to cycle then run it is pretty easy to organise and get to.  Also useful if you wish to do a bigger run – just follow this network.

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Cycle network, really useful.

The weather had really improved and had become very warm, the last half of the route for me was getting hard, the Thames was sparkling in the sunshine and the route although not crowded was busy with other joggers, cyclists, dog walkers and birdwatchers.  The air sometimes kicks up a smell, a throwback to the time it was used as a dumping ground, and every now and then you will see a tube sticking up from the ground allowing the gases that have collected from the rubbish underground to escape.  The warmer the wether the more you will smell that smell.

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The path runs alongside the Thames.

The paths are mostly tarmac with a tiny bit that is gravel, this can be avoided if you are uneasy on gravel as there is another tarmac path that runs alongside.  There are also some gates and bike barriers to consider, they don’t really slow you down they are there more for the cyclists to dismount and go through.

Most of the route is accessible if you need a walking aid or in a chair, and there are plenty of benches if you need a rest.

My run ended after one loop which amounted to a tad over 6 miles.  The visit to the cafe is always worthwhile, be prepared to mingle with bird watchers and nature lovers.  Prices in the cafe are pretty reasonable and it is always nice to recover with tea and cake.

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If you are looking for an accessible running/walking route that has plenty to look at then I would recommend this, it is industrial and nature all in one.  For more information please click here.

The Two of Me

You may have read previously that I do suffer from panic attacks and other mental wobbles.  I have been going through a phrase, running although helpful wasn’t getting to the bottom of the recent issue.

I feel like there are two of me, the face I put outwards, most times thats the pretend confident me, the one that supports others, cheers those other people on championing them, the smiles.  Then there is the hidden face, the one that is full of self confidence issues, judging myself, poor self talk.

The hidden me has been really busy recently, permeating my waking moments whether I am being active, whether I am at work or in my down time.  Work is ok, I am probably my most confident there anyway, I know what I am doing and how to do it so the doubt and fear get squashed back down.  Its the other times that it really pops up, like when at a meeting, at a race, in a gym class, out of my comfort zone, when I feel I am being attacked.

I recognised what was happening when I started to withdraw, I still want to withdraw as I do need time for myself and reflect but in doing so I feel that I could offend my friends, how can I explain to them what is happening to me?  I have been stung before when I tried to explain the situation to who I thought was a close friend only for them to twist it and it bit me firmly on the bum, after this I learned not to discuss how I felt with anyone, so how can I explain to my friends what I am feeling and what I need without offending?

I am trying to be mentally strong and carry on, exercise helps, good weather helps, having my family helps.  Recognising who is good and true is important, I cannot cope with a person who says the right thing but behind the scenes does something else, so knowing who to trust is essential.

I am trying to practice mindfulness to help, I certainly do not what to go back onto medication or those dark dark days.  I don’t want to to be all about me either, this pity party needs to end.

If anyone has any advice on what worked for them I would be grateful.

 

 

 

Parkrun review – Hockley Woods

Saturday mornings are my time, its when I log off, forget about work, tie up my laces and head out the door to parkrun.  It is truly the perfect start to my weekend and provides the boundary between work and home (even if it is only for an hour or two).

Welcome to Hockey Woods

We decided earlier in the year to get as many different parkruns as we could under our belt, mix it up a bit and ensure it doesn’t get boring.

Hockley was on the wish list, especially after my trail challenge back in March, I loved the challenge and I loved the area so going back was most definitely in order. http://www.parkrun.org.uk/hockleywoods/

Parking is easy provided you are there super sharp and early, if not you have to go to the pub next door.

The new runners briefing and weekly briefing is completed near the car park and the finish line, the start line is about 400m further into the woods. A bit of a shock if you are used to the briefings and then going off immediately but personally I enjoyed the walk to the start.

The route is all trail, two laps, and really beautiful, the trees forming a canopy overhead.  The ground could become quite muddy and churned up with rain and there was a few drops in the air but not enough for a mud bath today.

Marshalls were incredibly helpful and supportive, and the public also stood by to watch.

It is a busy parkrun with weekly numbers in the 200’s, all different levels, new runners, walkers, those with children and those with dogs (all acceptable as long as children remain with their adult and dogs are on a short lead).

The first lap went really quickly, mainly because I was looking around, avoiding tree roots and making sure I didn’t get lost.  My friend was running with her dog and shot past me, the dog keen to stretch her legs.

Roxy the beautiful boxer.

Approaching the finish for the first time is always a little disconcerting, you know you have to go round again.  Few seconds after passing the finish funnel you are back in the woods and looking at the bluebells and wood carvings as you make your way back round.

Great wood carvings to take your mind off the run

The finish approach felt hard the second time and my legs were not in a forgiving mood marshals and various members of the public shouted at me to keep going, so I did.  A quick run into the finish funnel and I was done.  I thanked the volunteers at the finish, a quick chat to the barcode scanner, all very friendly and we made our way to the cafe for a deserved tea.

Roxy spotted a squirrel, we did our best posing.

I enjoyed this parkrun, its a bit of a way to go for it to be a frequent trip but I will go back again.

Next parkrun will be my 50th, I never expected I would ever say that, I guess This Girl Can after all.

 

Day of the double

Sometimes I reflect at what I have done and think I am quite mad.

Beachy Head, taking up running, changing careers are three mad moments I can think of, these changed the way I looked at life in their own special way.

After helping my friend round parkrun hubby and I shot off to the gym, we normally follow parkrun with a class, today was no exception.

Spin had been booked but this was no ordinary spin class this was a double, two classes back to back.

I have been enjoying this class ever since I did my first session back at Easter.  Would I be able to complete two classes though especially after a parkrun?

The class started well and I was in a rhythm pretty soon, pushing what I had achieved the week before.  Sweat dripping from me moments after the start I kept up (just). The class was busy but nobody was looking around, all were just concentrating on their own thing.

All too soon part one ended. Those unable to do the double left and a few more joined.  I stayed put, legs throbbing but willing to go on.

Part two started, I thought the instructor would go a bit easier, what larks!  It was just as hard as the previous session.  Sweat now cascading down my back and from my forehead, I glugged water at any opportunity. By the penultimate track my legs were begging to give up, I couldn’t, I wouldn’t not now.

At the end of the final track I gasped a sigh of relief, it was over, I felt tired but I felt great I never thought I would be able to do a run followed by two heavy going cycling classes.

My legs wobbled as I got off and I made sure I stretched, my t-shirt was sticking to me.

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I look back and yes, I feel mad but I am also secretly pleased that I decided to go on a fitness journey.  I was proud that I was able to take part in this double session.

This girl can and continues to do!

Support is everything

I had a wobble after MK.  I really felt that I could not face running again any time soon.  Something changed in the latter part of the week that changed that and although running is still difficult this week it was made easier due to the people I had around me.

I didn’t run at club night Tuesday, I felt I needed to heal myself physically and mentally.  I wasn’t keen to run Thursday but I headed to track reluctantly, I almost turned round and went home.  I am glad I didn’t go home as I had the one of the most enjoyable runs in a long time thanks to a new running buddy.  We covered just under 4 miles at the track and it felt good and it felt easier than runs had been feeling recently.  At parkrun on the following Saturday I offered to pace my new running buddy, a steady jog meant that I enjoyed the run with no pressure and she got a time that she was pleased with and had little pain too.

Sunday morning I decided to join the club over at the country park, Spitfire was looming fast and the wobbles I was currently having needed to be squashed.  The morning was chilly but fine for running in.  I had decided I was going to do a walk run, my head was pounding and I felt pushing it would make it worse and me feel like giving up.

The large group naturally split with the ‘elites’ at the front, followed by the fasties, the middles, the plodders and the walkers.  I plodded round the route actually enjoying myself, having a conversation and just being relaxed about the whole thing.

After 5 miles I stopped, everything felt good, we all headed to the cafe for cake and tea.  It was so nice to see everyone together it had been a long time since I was out on a Sunday run with the club and I felt so proud to be part of this group on this Sunday morning.  This to me is what being part of a club was all about, no politics, support, conversation and friendship.

Support is everything.

Running family

City of the Concrete Cows

After my epic run of 19 miles a few weeks ago my legs had been suffering with the return of shin splints.  The pain was not as severe as last year but was enough for me to take a step back from running and look to other exercise for a week.  I had the Milton Keynes half and I really wanted to get round that without more issues.  This also meant that I missed the last few key training sessions and the knock on effect would be a knock to the confidence I may have had leading up to it and on the day.

A Scottish cow
Blingy
My favourite design

 

After arriving at Milton Keynes off the M1 we easily found the MK Dons stadium, many roundabouts in Milton Keynes but all very well signposted.

We parked up, a 5 minute walk away from the stadium, we had not pre booked parking, had we had done so we would have been even nearer.

Grabbing our bags we headed over to the entrance. A quick comfort break, time to sort ourselves out in space and relative comfort and a very swift and easy bag drop meant that heading to the start was stress free.

Before the off

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The marathon and half were going off at the same time, but hubby and his running buddy moved to the front of their pens whilst my friend and I stayed back.

The race started in stages so it was a good 15 minutes before it was my turn, although I had warmed up I was now chilly and stiff so getting going was difficult. About a mile into the run my calves cramped and I had no choice but to stop and stretch by the kerb, it was ok as the pace was slightly quicker than I wanted and therefore it made me ease off a bit.

I felt good for the first 5 miles a steady jog but then I started to fall apart, hamstring was making itself known to me, my shin was aching from the shin splints, it was warm and my focus was lost. I had called out to a club mate who I spotted at the side of the road with her shoes off, she was surprised to see me but joined us for a few miles.

The next 5 miles was a blur, I plodded on but it was difficult. We had helped another runner to an aid tent, so that took my mind off things somewhat. With just 3 miles left I really wobbled, I had taken a gel at mile 6 but nothing since and I felt shaky, panicking I asked my mate for a jelly shot block and quickly ate it. I had left my energy intake too late but there was not much I could do about it. A walk run meant that I had a chance to calm myself and within minutes the stadium loomed in front of us. Other club members then spotted me and cheered us in. With 200 meters to go I once again had a panic, I knew I had to get into the stadium and run a bit around the pitch, this was in front of those seated in there, my private running journey was to be a public spectacle. My mate grabbed me by the hand and pulled me on. The noise was like a wall, whistles shouts, cheers were booming and echoing, people up in the stands shouting for their friends. Some of the marathoners were also coming in at this point and they were still racing round.

The approach to the finish line

 

The finish line beckoned and I crossed it relieved to get in under a target time but disappointed that I did not meet my other target time.

Medals were handed out along with a bottle of water, a guy in front wobbled and looked as if he was going to faint, I shoved my opened bottle at him and told him to drink.

We walked round and collected our goodie bag and our bags from the bag drop. A few moments later hubby came in, disappointed with his time (I would have been ecstatic if I could get anywhere near a marathon time like that) he joined us and sat down. We all stretched and got changed ready to shout in the last of our last friends from the stands.

 

Bad points from the event:

  • The waiting in the pens, seizing up as a result.
  • Although others got a text with their time, I didn’t but that could be user error from me.

Good points:

  • Bag drop swift and easy. Easy to drop and easy to collect and in a building so if the weather was against you at least your stuff would be dry.
  • Goodie bag was one of the best I have had from an event like this.
  • The finishers t-shirt was really nice, was already in the goodie bag with plenty available in my size, take note Thorpe Park half.
  • The medal was fab, take note Thorpe Park half.
  • The route was lovely, take note Thorpe Park half.
  • Atmosphere.
  • The number of water stations, every 3 miles perfect.
  • Plenty of first aid if it was needed.
  • Plenty of toilets, they were clean and you were able to get changed in them with no issues. This is a huge benefit from having the event in a stadium. However, the Newham 10k have a lot to learn from this as they have the stadium but would not allow people in at the start or linger at the end.
  • Merchandise available to purchase before and after the event.
  • Parking could be booked for peace of mind.

Would I do it again? When does it open for 2018?

Our bling

London 2017

There were quite a few members of the club running the Virgin London Marathon 2017 and as always many club members who were not running were up at mile 19 1/2 supporting not only our club members but many other runners.

Since joining the club I have always enjoyed VLM support, the atmosphere is amazing and I find the whole day stressful, exciting, invigorating, inspiring and emotional on many many different levels.

The day dawned and after sending out best wishes on the club Facebook page to those running, hubby and I met our pals and travelled up to London.

I had some dear friends taking part and I was determined to cheer them all through.

Waiting for our club runners, watching the elites.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


At mile 19 1/2 we set up our base.  Some club members were preparing oranges to give out, some were cheering the elites though whilst others were unpacking jelly babies ready to put into pots for those who needed a sugar hit.  Our first running buddy zooming past in super quick time (he finished in 2:53), we cheered on all as soon running buddy after running buddy arrived at this check point.  Some stopped to take refreshment or pats on the back, some waved as the went past not wanting to slow down their pace.  The sun was out it was getting warm.

Our best friend was due in next and his wife was with us (also one of our best friends), already worried as he had set off too quick (by the tracking app) we were concerned on how he would be by the time he got to us, soon he arrived, relief flooded through me, he looked ok and he gave his missus a hug she too looked relieved. A quick pep talk and he was on his way, he looked tired but still strong.

A few more friends came through, one really lapping up the attention and stopped, selfies were taken and cheers all round.  An amazing moment in a day of amazing moments.

We were waiting for our final running buddy, one of my good mates and I had been training with.  It was getting late and we were worried.  The tracking app showed she was nearby so myself and 2 friends walked up the course, there were few runners now so we knew she needed a boost.  In the distance we saw her just as she saw us, tears from her and I felt glad we had made the effort to meet her.  We grabbed her and hugged her, then taking her hands we walked her first to the water station grabbing a drink then down to the support group.  I felt so proud, I always believe nobody gets left behind and today of all days I wanted to prove that to all. I gave the painkillers over as requested, and she was on her way.

April 2017 marathoners

Running isn’t always about pounding the streets, counting the miles or PBs sometimes its about pure raw support and being there for others, cheering people on, basking in their glory and celebrating their achievements. If you have never been to London to see the marathon I would recommend it, its one of the few times you get to see people in the capital cheering others on, people talk on public transport and the atmosphere is just brilliant.

Roll on 22 April 2018!