Friday, 27 April 2012

I only ran the London Marathon!!

I am very happy to be able to say that I ran 26.2 miles!

After all the training, the build-up, the sensible eating (and all the chocolate eating) the big day arrived last Sunday, and boy weren't we lucky with the weather? I managed to get a good nights sleep and woke up surprisingly calm. As usual, TFL and the actual train companies seemed unable to communicate with each other so the trains that the Internet told me would be running weren't running, but even that turned out ok. I have to thank Sheena Patel, a complete stranger but fellow runner who picked me up from the bus stop and dropped me off at the tube station. There did seem to be a something in the air, an excitement that everybody was feeling, and it made London feel nice!

We had all been given red bags to put our stuff in whilst we ran, and as my journey to Greenwich progressed there were more and more red bags. It was like a flash mob was forming, a huge group of 37,500 runners!

As I stood waiting to start I wasn't nervous, it actually felt unreal. Here I was, about to tackle the challenge of a lifetime but it also felt like a great day out too! It took over ten minutes of walking to reach the actual start and then we were on our way, and people were shouting out my name already! The first 10 miles went by so quickly that I was starting to think that it may be easy (hmmm!) I had a huge team of supporters waiting for me at the 12 mile mark and it was great to see them all, waving orange streamers and pom-poms! One of the highlights was crossing Tower Bridge and I felt so proud that it actually gave me goosebumps.

I missed seeing my supporters in Canary Wharf as they were having lunch (!) but things continued to go well...up until mile 18. I stopped to go to the loo (there are portaloos throughout the course, in case you were wondering) and it was so hard to get going again. My legs felt like they belonged to someone else! Once I got back into my stride they felt ok, almost as if they were on autopilot. I decided then I wouldn't be stopping for anything until I'd crossed the finish line!

I don't think I actually hit a 'wall' but it was definitely tough going between 18 and 22 miles. I remember clearly the sign that said "in 2.5 miles you will have finished" and that really spurred me on. By this stage there were lots of people walking but my legs just kept on running.

My husband was at the 25 mile mark, and my mum, brother and friends were at the '300m to go' sign. It was such an amazing feeling to see them (screaming their hearts out along with everyone around them!) and then turn the corner and see the finish line. Out of nowhere I got the energy to speed up and sprint for the finish!

I'm not sure if I'm smiling or grimacing in this finishers photo but I was very happy to have my medal! My official time is 4 hours 30 minutes and 40 seconds, which placed me in 18782nd place overall. I'm pretty happy with that.

I want to say a huge thank you to everyone that supported me throughout this massive achievement - all my friends and family, my colleagues, twitterfolk and bloggers but also the hundreds of people who helped to organise and run the event and especially the thousands of people that turned out to cheer us all on. You have no idea how much it helped every runner to see you all lining the entire route. I felt like a superstar!

I've been asked many times this week if I'd run a marathon again........ and the answer is yes! It wasn't as hard as I'd imagined that it might be, and the worst 'injury' I had was sunburned shoulders. However, that said I won't be signing up to another one just yet. The training did take up a huge chunk of time especially at the weekends and I think that my family and friends might want to see a bit more of me now. I do hope that some of you have been inspired though and maybe I can pass the baton on? There are loads of races of all distances that you could take part in, but if you do fancy London in 2013, the Ballot opens on Monday 30th April. Good luck!

I can't write a post about this marathon without expressing my sympathy to the family of Claire Squires. She seems to have been an inspirational woman, and it's so sad that her life ended too soon. The money that has been donated in her name to the Samaritans will help many, many people and keep her memory alive. Rest in Peace.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Everybody Wants to Run the World!

A week today I will have run the Virgin London Marathon. Eek! I'm feeling nervous, and excited and immensely proud to be taking part in one of the most iconic runs in the world.
I am in the 'tapering' stage now which feels a little odd after so many weeks of fairly intense training. Along with reducing the mileage I have been running I am meant to be busy carb loading, which sounds appealing but actually it feels a bit piggy to me now. Throughout the training my appetite seemed to go through the roof, and I was eating little meals between meals, but the hunger has reduced along with the miles. I'm trying to make sure I eat well in the last week though, and will continue with my tried and trusted porridge before running. (I can confirm that poached eggs and Easter eggs do NOT make a good breakfast before exercise, just in case you were wondering!)

I followed a 16 week marathon plan (but tweaked it slightly!) and feel pretty happy with how it has gone (fingers crossed!) I started on New Years Day and I have run in deep snow, in the sunshine and in lots of rain. I've had lots of early morning runs which have actually been a great wat to start the day. I've had some highs (running 18.9 miles across South London) and lows (the boredom at about week 8, and missing the start of The Human Race Half Marathon!) I've changed shape physically and have actually started to feel like a long-distance runner, although I always wonder why on earth I am doing it for the first mile of every run!

I've also raised a large sum of money already for my charity, ARC (this post explains why I chose them) so thank you all who have kindly and generously donated money. Huge thanks go to my employers and collegues at RSH+P who took part in the Quiz Night and Raffle.
I took part in the 16 mile Human Race Breakfast Run on the 1 April, and despite a hectic start to the race I felt really comfortable throughout. It was a beautiful day and the double loop route around the River Thames between Kingston and Hampton Court Palace was very scenic (plus there are tons of shops for after the race!) Here a some of the photos of me taken by the official photographers on the day:

So with just a week to go, I have done all I can and now only time will tell how it goes on the day. If you are planning on coming along then do let me know; I and the other 30,000 runners would appreciate as much support as possible, and if the rain holds off then it will be a great day out. You can check the route here. And if you can't make it then don't worry, I'll be posting a summary of the day just as soon as I'm able. Wish me luck!

Vital statistics: Total miles run (so far): 276.4 Total Hours run (so far): 43.34

If you would like to donate some money to a great cause you can find my Just Giving Page here

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Foraging with the Wild Garlic, Dorset

Time is racing by (how is it April already?) and I've only just found a moment to sit down to blog about the amazing couple of days I had in Dorset last week, foraging with Mat Follas. Mat won Masterchef in 2009 and opened his restaurant, The Wild Garlic in Beaminster soon afterwards. Be prepared - there is no crafting in this post but it may well make you hungry!

My good friend and self-confessed foodie (@chuchibum on Twitter) arranged this little trip for us; we were going to be staying in the stylish apartment above the restaurant for two nights, joining the foraging course on the first day and enjoying lunch at The Wild Garlic on the second. Yum!

After a fantastic nights sleep in the HUGE bed we went down to the restaurant to meet our fellow foragers over a glass of freshly squeezed apple juice. We were about 12 in total - a wide range of ages, some locals and some city folk like us! The weather was unseasonably hot, and the Beaminster countryside was glorious.

Mat and his friend Theo took us on a leisurely stroll through the countryside before driving us to the coast, and pointed out all manner of tasty edible plants. And taste was the key here - there are lots of plants that you could eat and while they wouldn't do you any harm they wouldn't really be worth your time either. Mat is a chef first and foremost, and he enjoys using fresh, local and seasonal ingredients in his dishes. The things we spotted and tasted included: Hairy Bitter Cress (like watercress), Jack-along-the-hedge (mild garlic and wasabi taste), Wild Sorrell (fresh lemon), Meadow Sweet (Root-beer flavour), Sea Kale (crunchy broccoli), pretty edible flowers and of course....Wild Garlic by the bucket load!

Despite nibbling all morning we had worked up quite an appetite so we were all grateful to return to The Wild Garlic where we were served a fantastic three-course lunch featuring some of the ingredients we had been learning about. The starter was Nettle and Wild Garlic Risotto, followed by fresh Mackerel with the most delicious Rhubarb sauce, and a Lemon Curd Eton Mess for dessert. The picture below will tell you what I thought of that (and how long it stayed around!)

We spent the rest of day feeling very contented: a stroll along West Beach at sunset and an evening in a local pub topped of a perfect day. 

I managed to haul myself out of the comfy bed in the morning to have breakfast and go for a little 7 mile run through the fields. I'm glad I did as it made me feel a bit better about the enormous lunch we devoured! My starter was Brill Cerviche, followed by 12 hour Pork Belly with Crackling. Both me and my friend are big dessert fans so it seemed rude not to try the taster plate featuring all the sweets on offer: lemon creme brulee, violet panna cotta, cinnamon shortbread, chocolate brownie, salt and pepper ice cream, milk chocolate with lemon and chilli and dark chocolate with salt. All of them amazing! Just look at the pictures to see how beautiful each dish at the Wild Garlic is...

A huge thank you goes to Mat and Theo for leading such an interesting and enjoyable course. I do feel that it is good for the soul to get out and experience nature, especially living in London. We should all try to be in contact with our food a bit more too, and although I would not be able to live off the land as Theo does, I do try to live as responsibly as I can. And if it can taste this good too, then why not?! Thanks to Katy too: the wonderful front of house who looked after us and showed us the night life!