Invader half marathon race review: Trails and tribulations

Invader half marathon, White Star Running

Given my extreme tardiness in writing this up, I figured I’d skip the review and jump straight into the race report…

This was my first foray into the world of White Star Running, and my first ever trail run. I’d heard so many good things about White Star races that I was trying to manage my own expectations going into to it, while also preparing myself for what I knew would be a tough race.

I wasn’t wrong. Race day was extremely hot and sunny, so my first port of call was the merch stall to buy a hat. After a quick layering of sun cream and a trip to the loo it was nearly time to get going, so up the hill to the start line we went.

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I had heard that the Invader was started by someone on horseback, but it was still rather surreal to see! Off we went, and within 10 minutes I had lost everyone I knew. I wasn’t too bothered though, as I was enjoying the scenery!

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At about mile 3 I bumped into Claire, another Westbourne RC runner. As a non-local member of the club, I don’t often get to see the rest of the club so it’s always nice to get to know someone new! I wasn’t feeling 100% either so I was very glad to have good company. It always makes such a difference to have someone to chat to to help the miles tick by, exchanging stories of past races. Claire also shared a few tales of spectacular race falls and injuries!

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I was still feeling quite sluggish – I’d had a bit of a cold and was finding breathing more of a challenge than it should have been – so I was very glad when we approached the Lovestation at around the halfway mark. A legendary feature of White Star races, the Lovestation features an array of drinks, snacks and booze. I grabbed a brownie and some coke, had a bit of water and declined the booze – I was finding it tough enough as it was!

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Off we went again, with more hills, fields and views. It was glorious.

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The main issue with an off-road run is the lack of smooth surfaces, so I had been religiously keeping an eye out for rocks, sticks and other potential hazards. Unfortunately at around mile 10 I was so pleased to see the shade continued around the corner that I took my eye off the ball momentarily. The next thing I knew I was flying through the air, landing with a thud. I managed to share the weight between my elbow and my knee, so while I was bloodied and bruised I was OK to continue. My knee was soon pouring with blood, but luckily I am not particularly squeamish, and at least I now had my own race fall story to share with Claire!

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The rest of the run was even more of a run/walk, with my cuts stinging and knee hurting. Still chatting with Claire and just enjoying the day, I was loving the views too much to worry too much.

Knowing I had been a while, I thought when I finished I’d be met by the whole family, wondering where I had been. Instead the family repatriation point became the first aid tent! While I had the woodland debris cleared from my knee, Jacqui had neck, knee and head seen to after a nasty fall. Luckily it was nothing serious. After the drama I was able to fully appreciate the very cool race bling and the tasty jam contained within my finisher’s bag.

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Even with a personal worst and a chunk out of my knee, I still had a great time and my first White Star Running experience lived up to expectations. Which is good because I’m already signed up to the Bovington Marathon in December…

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Poole 10k race review: Always hot, always worth it

Poole 10k

My first ever running race was a one miler, at the age of nine, at the Poole Festival of Running. Roll on a few years, and I got back into running and completed my first ever 10k at the 2013 Festival of Running. So it’s fair to say this race is quite close to my heart!

COST

£13 EA registered runners, £15 other runners

PRE-RACE ORGANISATION

Register online, or visit race HQ the day before. Race numbers aren’t posted out – you pick them up at race HQ the day before.

TOILETS

Public toilets and quite a few Portaloos, so nothing to complain about from me!

 

 

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THE RACE

The race is two laps, starting in Poole Park, going around the edge of the harbour and back into the park. It’s a nice route, and one as a London dweller I try not to take for granted, especially the view of Brownsea Island as you come around the harbour.

With the minithons and 5k taking place in the morning, the 10k isn’t until the afternoon. This invariably means the race takes place in the sweltering heat. Seriously, if you ever want to guarantee a sunny day in Poole, opt for the first Sunday in June.

As such, I struggled to get around in my target time – while I started off fine, the heat soon got to me and I found myself slowing down. I decided to just relax, soak up the views and enjoy it. I ended up finishing a couple of minutes outside of my target time, but wasn’t too bothered!

RACE BLING

Normally the Poole 10k just gives out a t-shirt, but this year we got a medal too. The t-shirt wasn’t quite as good as previous years – it was quite nice to see the local scenery incorporated into the t-shirt – but this was more than made up for by the addition of a rather nice medal.

OVERALL VERDICT

Is it hot? Yes. Is it a bit annoying to be running at 2pm? A little. But this isn’t just a 10k, it’s a family event, and it’s difficult to see another way to balance all of the other races. I actually think it’s quite nice that the children’s races are given such prominence – it certainly gave me a positive first impression of running when I took part. Always well organised, the addition of medals this year was a nice touch and I’ll definitely be back again.

Vitality 10000 race review: A fun 10k with a great atmosphere

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I’ve been pretty caught up with longer distances in the past few months, so my last proper 10k had been the RunThrough Brixton 10k back in January. I was looking forward to a nice, short race!

The day before I had lost my first toenail, which hadn’t quite managed to pull through after 2 marathons and one half marathon in 5 weeks. I’d also managed to lose my watch, so would have no idea how fast I was going. This would be a gentle, soak-up-the-atmosphere race for me.

COST

£28

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PRE-RACE ORGANISATION

Entry was nice and simple online, with chips, numbers and info packs sent out well in advance. On arrival at Green Park, plenty of signage made it very clear where the race was!

TOILETS

Big queues for the toilets closest to the start, but there were plenty of portaloos about 2 mins away in the main runners’ area.

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THE RACE

With no watch, this was very much a training run for me. I just decided to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy a nice jog on a bank holiday Monday.

The route was reasonably flat, with plenty of people out supporting. While I’d given myself a reasonable estimated time, it was still very congested along the route so I spent a lot of time darting and weaving. While I wasn’t exactly aiming for a PB without a watch, I definitely was running slowly than I would have liked.

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That said, the atmosphere was great and the route was fun. It was very surreal (in a good way) to be running down the streets that are normally totally rammed, especially the parts that form my running route home from work.

Running down towards Buckingham Palace for the finish was pretty special, and served to make me more determined to run the London marathon one day…

But for me the most moving part of the race was around the halfway point, when I overtook paraplegic Claire Lomas, who was completing the race in a bionic suit. She had started the race at 5am, and was being applauded by all runners as they went past.

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Nice race medal, featuring the race route on one side and ‘London 10,000’ on the other. Goody bag was decent, with various snacks and goodies.

T-shirt was a really nice Adidas shirt – but unfortunately they ran out of my size as I got there. One staff member said they had run out of that size then simply walked off, leaving a group of us standing there trying to find somebody else just to give us a goody bag. I often get a bit annoyed when t-shirts run out during big races, particularly when you have to state which size you want beforehand. It might not seem like a big deal, but I see the ‘reward’ as part of your entry fee, so it’s annoying when you can’t have it because of poor planning. When I was getting my goody bag, it was announced that 4,000 people were still running. I imagine quite a few of them would have been a little annoyed to find their size had gone – especially if it was their first big race.

OVERALL VERDICT

A great race if this is your first 10k, but not ideal for a PB. Well organised, great atmosphere, but the lack of t-shirts was disappointing.

Milton Keynes Marathon 2016: From personal worst to personal best

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I’m running four marathons in 2016 for Stroke Association and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. You can check out my fundraising page here

When I originally decided to run two marathons in the space of a month, I had intended to a really go for it in Paris and then just ‘get round’ Milton Keynes four weeks later. But Paris turned into a bit of a nightmare race for me, culminating in me clocking up a ‘personal worst’ by some margin, so the MK Marathon ended up being a second shot at breaking my two-year-old PB. Would my legs be able to take another marathon so soon? Would I be doomed to see my first marathon remain my fastest forever? And would I regret choosing Milton Keynes for my first marathon on UK soil?

After the frustration of Paris I had managed to get back into running pretty quickly, although I was still didn’t feel fully well and my legs weren’t feeling pretty fresh. On the Saturday before the marathon my parkrun had felt fairly sluggish, while on the Sunday I had such bad back pain I was struggling to move. All in all, I didn’t have particularly high hopes for Monday morning! I knew I was fit enough to get round, so decided to just see how I felt on the day and not worry about anything else.

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PRE-RACE ORGANISATION

By booking online early I didn’t have to worry about picking up my race number, as it was sent in the post a few weeks before the race. There was a small mix up with the printers – all were sent out with the same start zone colour – but I couldn’t fault the response by the race organisers. An email was sent out before I’d even noticed there was an issue and a small sticker was sent out to cover the incorrect start coloured circle. However, Paul never received his race number for the half marathon and had to pick up a replacement on the day – this may have been an issue with the race organisers, or an issue with our postman! Not a major issue as we stayed in Milton Keynes overnight (in a hotel that was actually part of the stadium – very convenient!), but would have been a pain if we’d been travelling up the morning of the race.

I thought correspondence before the race was good, their website was pretty informative, and their Twitter account was very responsive if you had any questions. So far, so good!

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THE START

The half marathon and full marathon starts in the same place at the same time, so I headed over with Paul shortly before 10am. We’d left it to the last minute to avoid the cold, so by the time we got there it was a little crowded and we ended up in a pen near the back. There was a nice atmosphere among the runners and spectators, although my main recommendation would have been a bit more music! When you’re feeling a bit antsy and waiting to start a big race, I find the sound of some uplifting tunes really helps. No worries though as it wasn’t long before we were crossing the start line. Only 26.2 miles to go…

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THE RACE

0-6 miles

The first mile was mainly spent darting and weaving as I’d started quite far back, but still managed to run at a comfortable pace. It was nice to run with Paul briefly, but after a mile he went ahead so I was on my own. This is probably the most boring part of the course visually – it’s just roads and roundabouts – but as it’s central there were plenty of people out supporting which made the miles fly by. I had vague hopes of a 4:45 finish, and knowing how I tend to fade in the second half I’d decided to aim for 10:30 miles in the first half and 11 minute miles in the second. However, after a slow first mile I found myself dipping below 10 minute miles. I was conscious of not pushing too hard too soon, but was finding it surprisingly smooth going and before I knew it I’d reached the 6 mile mark in under an hour. While I was still just hoping to keep to 10:30 miles, I figured I’d go at this faster pace as long as I felt comfortable.

6 miles – halfway

Having started fairly far back, I eventually overtook the 4:45 pacer and set myself the goal of catching and staying with the 4:30 pacer until the halfway point if possible. I ended up catching the 4:30 pacer at about 7.5 miles – the point where the half and full runners finally separate. I had panicked about somehow accidentally going the wrong way (a week of marathon-related dreams hadn’t helped), but the division was very clearly signposted and marshalled – you would have to make a real effort to go the wrong way! Still feeling comfortable with 10ish minute miles, I actually ended up overtaking the 4:30 pacer. I still didn’t feel like I was pushing myself very hard though – it felt 10x easier than Paris had at this point!. I ended up crossing the halfway point at 2:12:33 – a new half marathon PB for me!

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Halfway – 18 miles

At halfway I was entertaining wild notions of dipping under 4:30, which I consider my long-term marathon target time, but realistically this was never really on the cards. A couple of miles on and I was dipping a little, but felt ok with 11 minute miles and with the time I’d banked in the first half was hopeful of 4:45. I was also loving the course – after the first few miles in the city centre we’d headed out to lush countryside and lakes. I was having the time of my life, enjoying the views, the enthusiastic marshals and spectators and generally feeling on good form. I was dipping slightly but still feeling pretty fresh. Although I was starting to need the toilet. I figured my options were either a) lose a couple of minutes at the next loo stop or b) carry on and ignore it, knowing I would become increasingly distracted and probably end up drinking less for the rest of the race. Given that it was a pretty hot day I knew it was stupid to potentially cut back on water, so at mile 18 I nipped to the loo. There were portaloos at every drinks station (every three miles) and this was communicated in all the pre-race literature. This was great for someone like me who always panics about needing the toilet!

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18 miles – FINISH

Most people had failed to hide their sense of bewilderment when I told them I had chosen to run 26.2 miles around Milton Keynes, with a fair few jokes about the volume of roundabouts. I must admit I had been pleasantly surprised by the marathon route, which was on the whole pretty lovely. Lots of green stretches, lakes, villages, a windmill and even some Roman ruins had made this a very pleasant route on the whole. But in those final miles the underpasses kicked in. The route boasted ‘60% less underpasses’ than last year, so can only imagine what the route was like before! While it was hardly unbearable, the number of underpasses made for a fairly undulating second half, which was tough on my very tired legs and now-achy back. I felt myself slowing and I was soon failing to keep under 11 minute miles – then it started raining. The rain wasn’t too traumatic as it was a bit of refreshment in the heat (I ended up horribly sunburnt), but the blustery winds were horrible. The final mile I was just running straight into the wind, my legs were shot and I genuinely felt like I was running on the spot. While I already knew my 4:45 dream was gone, by the time I was in sight of the stadium my chances of a PB were looking shaky too. Entering the stadium I forced myself to run as fast as I could, knowing after my strong first half I would be bitterly disappointed not to get a PB. Thankfully my final burst of ‘speed’ paid off and I crossed the line in 4:52:02 – only a minute and 25 seconds off my 2014 Paris time, but I’d take it!

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RACE BLING/T-SHIRT

Slightly shattered, I wandered over to collect my medal and was pleased when a marshal congratulated me and put it round my neck. It’s only a small thing but I always think it’s nice when you’re ceremoniously handed your medal! Nice bit of bling with a bit of sparkle, and I like the fact it reflects the race with the stadium on both the full and half marathon medals. The t-shirt is a little on the generous side but looks fab – a cow wearing a pair of shades (I assume this is a tribute to the concrete cows of Milton Keynes, passed at around mile 20). I must admit I barely looked at my goody bag, but was absolutely ecstatic when I realised they were giving away Yazoo milkshakes. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a strawberry milkshake quite so much.

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FINAL VERDICT

I absolutely loved the first half, and the lack of scenery in the first few miles was made up for by crowd support. From what I’ve seen and heard they’ve clearly made a big effort to improve the route, but there are still plenty of underpasses towards the end which make those final miles tougher and more dull. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find plenty of enthusiastic supporters even in the quieter bits of the route, with local residents out in force. The marshals were absolutely fantastic – as somebody wearing my name on my vest, I think pretty much every marshal I passed shouted ‘come on Daniella!’ Refreshment stations were frequent and adequately stocked, there were plenty of loos, the course wasn’t congested after the first mile and the finish area was very smooth to get through. It has enough crowd support to keep you going throughout, but isn’t as overwhelming as a big city marathon. A welcoming, friendly atmosphere and a surprisingly pleasant route overall make this a great marathon experience.

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Paris Marathon 2016: In which I discover ‘the wall’

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I’m running four marathons in 2016 for Stroke Association and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. You can check out my fundraising page here

3rd April, 2016. Almost two years after my first marathon, I was returning to Paris for my second go at the course and my third ever marathon. This one would be a little bit different as I wasn’t the only person running – my dad was making his marathon comeback, his partner Jacqui was also running and my boyfriend Paul was running his first ever marathon. His parents were coming to watch, so all in all it was quite the family affair.

While my build up to the Berlin marathon had been a little sluggish, my training for Paris had been much better and a half marathon PB a couple of weeks ago had given me confidence I could beat my Paris time from 2014. Of course marathons are a little different from most races, with a good race often relying on so many things outside of your control. During my first two marathons I’d managed to avoid the dreaded ‘wall’, and until a few days before I had no real reason to think this race would be any different. But the week before I got ill, so I flew out to Paris hoping with enough medicine and a bit of luck I’d be ok come Sunday…

ExpoTHE EXPO

I flew into Paris first thing Saturday morning and headed straight to the Expo. It’s slightly out of the way – which seems fairly typical for big city marathon expos – but easy enough to find. Bags were searched before you headed in, but things were still speedy and efficient. It didn’t take long to get my medical certificate stamped and to receive my bib number. In Paris you always seem to get a bonus running gift when you pick up your number too. In 2014 I got a head torch, this time it was a running rucksack. Another nice touch was the display of all the past Paris Marathon medals, culminating in the 40th alongside this year’s finisher’s t-shirt. I didn’t hang about very long, but there was everything you could want from a big expo, from gear to info about other races around the world.

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THE START

I didn’t drop off any baggage, but my dad and Jacqui did and seemed to find it very straightforward. They also had the advantage of finding plenty of loos there, as the queue for the toilets just outside the pens were pretty lengthy. I had plenty of time to kill so didn’t mind queuing, but Paul ended up missing his designated pen’s start time.

After a few family photos I said goodbye to Dad and Paul, who were both in different pens. The pens, grouped by expected finish time, were pretty organised and well policed – you could move back, but you couldn’t move forward. I had opted for the 4.15 pen and did start there, but on race day I was actually hoping to get under 4.45, or at least beat my PB of 4:53:27.

dad me startI headed into the pen with Jacqui, where we enjoyed the warm-up music to get us in the mood. Before we knew it, we were heading across the start line. Time to begin!

startTHE RACE

0-10k

Jacqui and I started off running together, although I knew her pace would be a little quicker than mine. We agreed to stick together as long as it was comfortable for both of us – which turned out to be quite a while. Having run both of my marathons solo, it was nice to have some company! As well as taking in the place de la Concorde and Louvre, the first 10k has a great atmosphere, with plenty of support (including a few firefighters!) We reached the 10k mark at around 65 minutes – I hadn’t felt uncomfortable despite the increasing heat, but this was ahead of where I needed to be at this point. So far, so good.

10k-20k

More scenery as we headed past Chateau de Vincennes, before heading into the park. Unfortunately I was starting to feel tightness in my chest and when I took on some water I was struggling to swallow properly – the effects of illness combined with the heat. I had hoped to keep with Jacqui until the halfway point but realised I was going to be pushing myself too hard, so urged her to push on at about 12k. I was a little disappointed to lose my running companion but I was no stranger to running alone, so tried to just stay comfortable and soak up the atmosphere.

20k-30k

While my legs felt fine, my chest and throat did not. I was struggling to breathe properly, and more than once found myself on the verge of hyperventilating and had to slow down to a walk. I forced water down but it was painful and seemed to have no effect. I reached the halfway point at 2:21 – I’d hoped to be here at 2:18, but obviously 4:45 was still more than achievable. But I knew I was falling away and was struggling mentally as well as physically. At about 24k I stopped, went to the toilet and had some water and energy tablets. I decided to mentally start the race again – a PB was still achievable at this point. The next mile was back on my target pace, and a few ‘go on Daniellas’ were spurring me on. But it didn’t last long. Breathing just felt too difficult and before I knew it I was walking again. I checked my phone and saw that Paul’s parents were waiting for me at 30k, so I comforted myself with the thought I had some friendly faces coming up! The tunnels also provided some much-needed respite from the sun. By 28k I knew a PB was definitely out of the window, so was just going for sub 5 hours.

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The picture above shows just how happy I was to see Paul’s parents! I finished my water, grabbed another energy tablet and had a quick chat before setting off again, powering through the 30k mark with a smile on my face. Only 12k to go – nothing really. Or actually quite a lot. Once the PB was off the table I knew the priority was to get round comfortably, and the combination of seeing people on the side of the road receiving medical attention and my continuing struggle to take proper breaths convinced me it wasn’t worth pushing myself too hard. If running felt too hard, I’d stop and walk. I felt so frustrated knowing that 2 years ago I’d been on such a high at this point, running along scarcely able to believe how brilliant I was feeling! But safety was the priority. With 3 more marathons already booked in this year, I knew I had other opportunities for a good time (and needed to keep myself in decent shape).

Mentally I was finished the moment the 5 hour pacers overtook me. Once I gave up on any personal ambitions for the race beyond finishing, I just tried to relax and enjoy things. I know a lot of people say the atmosphere in Paris is nothing compared to London, but I absolutely loved the crowd and found both the locals shouting ‘allez Daniella’ and English speakers shouting ‘go on Daniella’ a massive boost throughout. In the park I laughed at a sign simply saying ‘don’t be shit’, with some Brits shouting encouragement as I approached. At this point I was in so much pain I was near tears, so appreciated both the cheers and a reason to laugh! When one of the group offered me a small glass of wine I said “f*** it” and gulped it down gratefully.

More walk/running ensued, but I forced myself to run at 41k knowing that the photo was being posted live to Facebook! I jogged the rest of the way, lapping up the cheers as I finally made it to the finishing stretch. I didn’t shed a single tear when I crossed the line two years ago after my first marathon, but I must admit I was pretty emotional this time around. While my time was disappointing – over half an hour beyond my PB – I know I made the right call to prioritise getting round in one piece. I was also overjoyed to see everyone else I knew had made it round too, particularly as my Dad had worried he wouldn’t be able to finish. Some things are a little more important than race times!

blingRACE BLING/T-SHIRT

When the medal was unveiled a few days before the race, I saw quite a few people complaining it was an ugly medal. While I think last year’s looked slightly more impressive, I think this is a great bit of race bling! The t-shirt’s nice too – and I was very glad they still had my size by the time I finished!

FINAL VERDICT

While I didn’t quite have the race I’d hoped for, I still absolutely loved Paris. I’d always wondered whether my love for the race was more because it was my first ever marathon, but having taken part again I stand by my original verdict. It’s well organised, has an absolutely beautiful route (complete with signs pointing out the major landmarks) and has fantastic crowd support for most of the way. And it’s flat! I won’t be entering next year as I’d like to try a few different marathons, but I have no doubt that I’ll be back here again.

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2016 Classics Challenge, March: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

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When I discovered this classic

A long time ago… But for some reason I hadn’t read it.

Why I chose to read it

See above! The 2016 Classics Challenge has provided the perfect opportunity to tackle the classics I’d somehow never managed to read and Jane Eyre was one of the books at the top of the to-read list.

What makes it a classic?

Mr Rochester, mad Mrs Rochester in the attic… It’s such a classic most people know the story even if they haven’t read it.

MORE: January 2016 Classics Challenge – War and Peace

MORE: February 2016 Classics Challenge – High-Rise

What I thought of this classic

This book is so much more than the love story of Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester – although that in itself is pretty brilliant.

I may have come to this a little late, but Jane Eyre has to be one of my favourite protagonists of all the books I’ve ever read. She deals with all the crap that comes her way without feeling sorry for herself, and refuses to allow the men in her life to tell her what to do.

While Jane is brilliant, the story is gripping and the first person narrative is wonderfully engaging.

All in all, I absolutely loved it.

Will it stay a classic?

Undoubtedly.

Who I’d recommend it to

Everyone!
2016 classics challenge, #2016classicschallenge

A tale of two halves: Vitality North London half marathon 2016 race review

 

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Just one week after Dartford half marathon I was ready to tackle 13.1 miles again. Despite the challenging route I had been disappointed with my time the week before, but a speedy 9k run in the week convinced me I had more in me. Inspired by the prospect of achieving a PB in Wembley Stadium, I decided to at least have a crack at breaking my two-year-old personal best of 2 hours, 14 minutes and 24 seconds. Whether I’d achieve it was another matter…

COST

£40 affiliated (£42.40 including booking fee), £42 unaffiliated (£44.52 including booking fee)

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PRE-RACE ORGANISATION

Booking was fairly straightforward online, although the entry form seemed slightly on the long side and having a booking fee on top of the already fairly pricey cost of entry felt a little cheeky to me. That aside, the entry pack was posted out ahead of race day and even came with safety pins, as well as a leaflet containing all the pre-race essential information. On the day everything was well signposted from the station, baggage drop was straightforward and route to the start was simple.

TOILETS

The queue at 8.30am looked slightly on the insane side, but there were plenty of portaloos and it actually moved pretty quickly. Shout out to the toilet stewards ensuring all empty toilets were used… and shooing off people attempting to cut the queue. There were also plenty of toilets on the route which is always good to see. I didn’t actually use them but it’s nice to know they’re there!

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THE RACE

It took about 15 mins to actually get to the start line, giving me plenty of time to try (and fail) to use MapMyRun on my stupid replacement phone. I had a watch so would be fine keeping track of time, but I was frustrated I wouldn’t be able to look at my splits after the race. It also meant I wouldn’t have my pace shouted at me as I went round, so I’d be reliant on my own maths to work out if I was sticking to my target pace or not.

The first few miles aren’t particularly inspiring, but luckily I found they were going quite quickly. The route is an out and back so before I knew it the winner was passing by on the other side of the road. Cue clapping from us slower runners and a few ‘f***ing hells’ at the sight of his speedy running (he eventually finished in 1:02:41). There were a couple of sights on the way, as we ran past the RAF Museum at Colindale.

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At about halfway we entered Allianz Park – last year’s end point. I didn’t do it last year, but  I can imagine it felt a bit of an anti-climax finishing here after going through Wembley Stadium halfway through! As a halfway point it was quite fun though, looping round the athletics track before heading back, especially seeing your name on the big screen.

After exiting the stadium I started to pay closer attention to my splits, knowing that I was currently on track for to beat my PB. I knew if I kept to roughly 10:10 miles I’d be ok and so far things were bang on track. The advantage of the out-and-back nature of the course meant I knew a few more hills were on the way, but things were going to plan so far.

By the end it seemed like there was a hill around every corner, but I powered on knowing that eventually I’d be on the final downhill stretch to the finish line! While the hills were a little tricky, none of them were so steep as to force me into walking. At every mile marker I was checking my watch to ensure I was around that 10:10 target and I was still on track for my PB. It also helped that on the way back the crowds of spectators were a little more enthusiastic and a few high fives helped keep my spirits up as we headed down to Wembley.

 

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The weather had been slightly miserable for most of the race, but the sun came out at pretty much the exact moment I reached the downhill stretch towards Wembley. Running down Wembley Way was pretty special, while finishing inside the stadium was fantastic, especially once I knew I was definitely getting my PB. My final time was 2 hours, 13 minutes and 14 seconds. Hardly a speedy half marathon for most people, but for me shifting a 2-year-old PB was a nice confidence boost before the Paris marathon.

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BLING/T-SHIRT/GOODY BAG

Bling is reasonably hefty, with a nice stylised image of the Wembley arch. The technical t-shirt was a nice design, with ‘I crossed the line’ on the front and ‘Finisher 2016’ on the back. It was also good to see plenty of t-shirts in stock – I had no trouble getting the size I wanted. The t-shirt was rather generously sized, but I guess you can’t have everything! The goody bag was great – popcorn, dried fruit, cereal bars and water as well as something I think is a sticker but I’m using as a bookmark. The cat was impressed, anyway…

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OVERALL VERDICT

The route isn’t the most exciting in the world, but the start and middle are pretty good and the finish is pretty amazing. Excellent organisation, challenging but not impossible course and a good goody bag. Would I do it again? When I crossed the line I thought ‘absolutely’, but coming to write this blog I remembered just how pricey entry was. Given that last week’s half was only £23, had a more scenic route and a nicer medal, it does seem like you’re paying an extra £20 just to finish in Wembley Stadium. That said, it did feel pretty amazing to be running along the pitch knowing I was getting a PB. The price alone would put me off doing it every year, but I certainly could be tempted to do it again.

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