cabbage patch 10

When my sister booked a trip that came through London last weekend I immediately looked for a race for us to do. I conveniently forgot that small detail that she had just come from running the Budapest Marathon 30k the week before. Sorry legs!


The Serpentine 10 mile Club Championship race was the Cabbage Patch 10, and seeing it’s route went along the river in Twickenham I figured it would be a nice 10 mile sightseeing route if nothing else.

I signed us all up for this popular race before it sold out and set out researching recipes for cabbage in case we won one of the trophies.


It was easier than I expected to get to Twickenham for the Sunday 9:30am start (thank you 24-hour Victoria Line) and we made it in plenty of time to set up in the corner of the pub near the cucumber water (!!) while the rain poured down outside. A quick trip up to the nightclub to leave our bags and use one of the many toilets made available for us, we walked the 5 minutes to the holding street start line.



The race isn’t on closed roads so it’s a bit of a mass hurry-up-and-wait start until the volunteers lead you out to the busy road to start. I thought of it more as a parade and cheerfully waved at everyone out on their Sunday drive.


Having the sidewalk and 1 lane to run in for the first few miles was fine and it wasn’t too crowded where we were running. I saw lots of friendly faces from Serpentine and especially enjoyed the speed limit warning signs giving us the🙂 when we were “only” running 7 miles per hour.


We ran through the lovely suburbs of Teddington, through Hampton Wick, across the river to Kingston and then through Ham even running down the avenue I helped clear back in 2015!


From there it was along the river past Richmond Park, across one more bridge and back Twickenham. I was pretty happy to be only 2 miles from the finish.



There were tasty flapjacks at the water stations and just after mile 9 some kids were on the side of the path telling us, “this is about to be the best day of your life….” around the corner was the Fullers Beer team giving out shots of beer and full cans if we wanted to run with them.


The last mile went by pretty quickly (the opposite of last week’s Oxford Half) and before I knew it we were on the home straight running down the bus lane into a park to the finish line.  A quick cheers with my sister before we turned around just in time to see Helen finish super strong with her can of beer safely stowed in her race vest. Alex was right behind her and with his can of beer already open!


At the finish we dipped into the buckets of mars bars and grabbed finishers shirts (lots of sizes left but all male style & sizing).



We walked back to the pub with our drinks while the sun came out and hung out in the sunny beer garden for a while waiting for the prize cabbage giving. Previous winner, Mo Farah, wasn’t entered this year but this year’s winners were just as fast and deserving of their cabbages.


We found another sunny beer garden to grab post-race burgers and shandys (holding on to summer!) and finally made our way back to North London after a little siesta when we accidentally got on the long train back to Waterloo.


The great race photographers (gotta love one who is ready for a jumping photo)  made their photos available for £3.95 after the race. The memes of mine have already started in a few WhatsApp groups…


running in Seville

On a non-running holiday in Seville a few weeks ago I made some time to go for a run and thought I’d share the route since it was so lovely.


Seville in October is amazing. The highs during the day were around 32*C but that was only from about 12pm – 5pm. Perfect siesta (or drink beer in the shade) time. The mornings were actually quite cool and perfect for running.


Like any good holiday I made sure to eat all the food and drink all the beers. The night before my run we actually had 2 dinners, one early jamon, queso, and wine course with Alex’s parents before heading off to another restaurant for their paella special.



… and round 2

this was just the starter

this was just the starter


paella and sangria for ever

A few more beers and bowls of olives and our stomachs finally called it a night.

Word on the internet was that the river had a great path to run on so I plotted out a 7ish mile out/back route and then left the rest up to the fate of running in a new city. I woke up just before sunrise and was out the door as soon as it was light enough to run


There were lots of people out on the river path and lots of other runners too. The first guy to run past me even said ‘Hola!’ which surprised me so much I think I said something like ‘moula’ back to him.


The path on the east side of the river was completely in the shade until about 9:30/10am, making it perfect to run along, I’d still suggest bringing sunglasses as you’ll need them for the other streets.



I ran towards this big bridge, apparently built with the instructions to not even think about cost, just build something striking and beautiful. OK, then.


The bridge was actually pretty cool with a raised pedestrian walkway so I ran out and back over it just because.


There are loads of stairs leading down to the river so I couldn’t help staging a selfie stair rep session.

inevitable selfie outtake)

(inevitable selfie outtake)

Running along the river was just really nice. Nothing spectacular just a really nice and calm place to run without having to worry about anything else.


I think I ran under 4 bridges along the river.


And of course got the selfie button out again for another staged “oh look at my casual running along this beautiful scenic pathway” shot.


Fact, doing a few strides to get a good photo like this is actually good training. Adding a few bursts of strides to your runs encourages strong running and good form.



At Puente de los Remedios I left the river and ran Parque de Maria Luisa towards Plaza de Espana knowing it would be pretty empty this early and cool to see without the crowds.


One more selfie stride session at Plaza de Espanafor good measure…


And a quick text back to Alex to see if he was up and ready to meet for breakfast yet (most important).


From the Plaza de Espana I followed the tram tracks back to the Cathedral where I knew there were some good cafes.


Suitably sweaty and red faced I settled into a cafe called Genova for my post-run breakfast of champions, the €2.85 jamon tostada & café con leche



The rest of the day was spent exploring the Metropol Paraso, keeping cool with iced coffees and eating more of everything.







Not enough carbs yet? Here’s a sneaky bun!

Running in Seville was amazing and highly recommended for a great holiday run.

oxford half marathon

It’s the Higher Education league table you didn’t know you needed. Cambridge vs. Oxford: Who hosts the better half marathon? Running both this year, I consider myself highly educated and confident to present the following dissertation as an expert in the field.

The Oxford Half Marathon didn’t have the best start. Train tickets to Oxford aren’t cheap, so after getting a spot in the race from Brooks Running I quickly booked advance tickets for £6. The first train from London was scheduled to arrive at 9:12am which I took as perfect.

The race organisers then decided to put the race village (with bag drop) at a different location from the start. I had to make a choice a) jog to the start and run the race with a small pack and make it in time to get into my starting pen or, b) jog to the bag drop, hope it was still open and then jog to the race start joining the back of the starters. Because I was going for a time goal I wanted to be in the right pen and and hoped I’d find the promised 1:50 pacer (there wasn’t one, only 1:45 – race brochure lied) to stick with. I’m used to running with a big pack run commuting so my little race vest wasn’t a problem.

Another bummer of Oxford is you have to take a train from Paddington (Cambridge departs from the always convenient and now on the 24 hour Victoria line Finsbury Park). Paddington is close to nothing and impossible to get to without 3 tube changes. Luckily early on a Sunday morning, it’s a quick 40 minute cycle along the empty canal, which turned out to be one of my favourite parts of the day.

On the train with a few other time-confident runners who chose to ignore the race organisers warning of delayed trains. The one hour train ride was the perfect amount of time to eat, drink and use the toilet before arriving and jogging the 1 mile to the start as a warm up.

made it to the start!

made it to the start!

I made it into my pen with 2 whole minutes to spare, and then waited another few while the start was slightly delayed. Starting right in the city centre was beautiful and there were loads of people out cheering the runners on.

Right away I turned my watch off the pace screen. I knew I was going to have to push the pace to get to my goal, but for the first two miles I wanted to run at a sustainable effort and not start worrying about pace right away – that would make it a long long two hours. The first few miles felt fast but eventually I passed the two hour pacer (who was running very fast 8:45s to start) group and finally felt settled in to the effort pace. Being the first time I’ve raced in a while I got used to the “This is hard but I’ve got to keep going” feeling. I used a mental tip from my friend Laura to say to myself a few times, “You can slow down but you can’t stop”

I passed the 10k in 53:21, a bit fast but knowing I didn’t have the endurance base from consistent training this year I was happy for the bit of a time buffer in the second half.  I kept slowing down a little bit when it all got a bit too hard, and then pushing again when I felt OK (confession: or decided to pick someone off ahead of me!)

Just after 9 miles though after a long out and back that felt uphill both ways I didn’t need to look at my watch to know my pace had slipped down while my effort was still sky high. I think at that point I quietly accepted I wouldn’t get my goal but also felt OK (just the normal hard effort tired) so would keep pushing to the finish to see how close I could get to my goal.

The course went through lots of lovely neighbourhoods of Oxford and surrounding villages, and then the last 2 miles were through a park. The dirt path was welcome to my pavement weary feet, but it did get quite narrow and being a solid mid-pack runner this meant that it was almost impossible to push ahead even when I felt like it. The route snaked around the park too which, at this point in the race, you couldn’t help but feel like, “Ohmygod another cut back loop to here?”

I saw this guy at the end of the race. If I could have caught up to him I would have had some choice words about his interpretation of 400m

I saw this guy at the end of the race. If I could have caught up to him I would have had some choice words about his interpretation of 400m

Once out of the park it was half a mile to the finish but about 5 or 6 turns on to different streets. Again, since it’s been a while since I raced a race I forgot how badly you just want to see that finish line (no matter what your watch says). I had a few choice words for the 400m to go sign that was at least 800m from the finish (!!!) but made it to the finish without anything left for a sprint.


After the finish we got our medals, race t-shirts, and a goody bag. All you can carry bananas and lucozade too. Wrapped in the foil cape I shuffled out past all the spectators and found a sunny patch to de-race and get some dry and warm clothes on. The goody bag had a wet wipe in it which was ace. I love actually useful items you need post-race.


Suitably wet-wipped, my friend Katie took me to the most amazing brunch after at Malmaison. I almost want to keep it a secret for myself but I’ll just say that an all you can eat brunch buffet is EXACTLY what I needed before my train back to London. Cycle > Train > Run > Brunch > Train > Cycle and I was home with my legs up the wall by 4pm. It was a great half-marathon day trip from London if the organisers can figure out the train situation.


So, even with an all-you-can-eat brunch right at the end trying to sway me, I have to say that Cambridge wins top spot in the 2016 Half Marathon League Table. Oxford Half was a great race and I don’t have anything bad to say about it at all. The only thing is that as another Vitality race it all seems a bit samey-same. The same branding, similar t shirt design, almost identical medals across the series. It just doesn’t entice me to go all the way to Oxford to run a race when it will be super similar to the Hackney Half in my neighborhood. Cambridge was a great race, great organisation, great course, massive unique medal, and overall just that much better.

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Brooks UK gave me entry to the Oxford Half Marathon, these leggings above and a sports bra to wear for the race. It was too warm for the leggings but I wore the sports bra and loved it so much bought a black version as soon as I got home.  


performance kitchen

A few Saturdays ago I woke up and began the epic journey from NE London to SW by bike. Not something I normally do on a Saturday but I was invited down to Clapham Studios to watch a morning of filming of Performance Kitchen. Only 2 stops (one for coffee and one for directions, Battersea roundabouts you are HUGE) later I made it to the kitchen studio.

David emailed me a month ago via twitter with a really nice invitation to come down and see the behind the scenes of their great project. I say great because it actually is a great idea. They film elite athletes cooking the food they actually make and eat for themselves during training. None of this “you should eat, you shouldn’t eat.” Nope. Just what actually gets made by athletes who are tired, hungry, and need their bodies to perform to the best of their ability.


I arrived just as they were setting up the first guest, Katy Sexton MBE was setting up her kitchen. Katy was the first Brit to win a swimming world championship medal, so I was ready to take notes for my next pre swim race meal.


Katy made a delicious pasta bake while chatting with the host about all things Olympics and training. What I liked most about her was that it was a really simple recipe. Pasta, chicke breasts, bacon, frozen corn & peas, and a can of chicken soup. It doesn’t have to be fancy macro this or spelty that.


The filming was mostly continuous just taking a few breaks to get an instagram shot or two, and a bit of editing to avoid all that oven baking time. After the glamour shots of the food were done we got to dig in.



Katy’s episode isn’t live yet, so I don’t want to give it all away, but you can check out the other videos on the Performance Kitchen YouTube channel in the meantime.

Performance Kitchen didn’t ask that I write or share anything about the day, they genuinely just invited me down to see what it was all about. I’m sharing about it because I think it’s a great resource in a sea of rubbish online nutritional advice. I also didn’t get any freebies save for a few (big!) scoops of Katy Sexton’s pasta bake. 


trying is hard

In 10 days I’m running the Oxford Half marathon (a free entry from Brooks).

Brooks make good running shoes and cup holders.

Brooks make good running shoes and cup holders.

I think the race’s official hashtag puts it best, #OH!

I don’t think I’ve blogged about this yet, but if you follow me on Strava* you’ve seen that I’ve been training for this race. Training for a 1:49 half marathon. I still haven’t run a sub-1:50 half marathon and after 2 failed attempts in 2014 I picked some other goals to train for and left my half marathon PB at 1:52 and a bit.


I wrote myself a 9 week training plan, my first training plan as an England Athletics coach (no better test subject than myself I guess), that focused on improving my pace from what I was running at that time, a comfortable 10:00min/mile, to 8:15 – 8:30min/miles. This is the goal and not a guarantee.

The many faces of a tough speed workout

The many faces of a tough speed workout

To run a 1:49 half marathon I have to maintain a 8:19min/mile pace for 13.1 miles. I think it’s important to get a lot of race-pace practice in during training, in tempo runs and in short bursts during long runs. When writing the training plan I worked that pace into the sessions and included some faster & shorter sessions to get my legs used to quick turnovers.


I’ve learned a few things during these 9 weeks from having such a great training plan written by such a great coach (ahem).

  1. Setting a goal is easy, trying is hard. Trying to do some of the sessions and hit the paces set out for me has been hard. I started off thinking that I just couldn’t run that fast, but through the weeks I’ve realised that it’s just the trying that is hard. It’s hard to keep trying to push yourself and your efforts. Not to be all inspirational quote-y but if you are trying to achieve something it’s supposed to be hard.
  2. Running fast is hard, running easy is hard. I hear a lot of complaints about how hard it is to hit x-pace during a speed workout, but then the next day it’s OK to run easy efforts faster than planned “because it felt good”. HUH? Stick to the paces set out in your training plan to see the benefits of your training. Don’t run your race before the race! Trust the training! My easy run today is supposed to be around 9:45/10:00min/mile pace, I feel great and it’s sunny so it’s super tempting to cruise around the 3 miles in 8:00min/miles, but this isn’t the plan.
  3. Play the long game. I’ve loved the last 9 weeks of training getting back into speedier paces, and setting a time goal for this race helped that. But, I’m not expecting miracles, I haven’t focused on running since the Rome Marathon last April and know that consistency is key when it comes to getting faster or running further. I’m not going to turn off my training after this race (goal achieved or not) and have planned out some long-term goals that step up accordingly.

Looking back at my training I’m not sure I have done the work necessary to reach my time goal on race day. I’ve tried, and it’s been hard, but being realistic I know that it’s going to be a stretch to run a 1:49 half. I still want to go for it, if only to give myself a benchmark for the next training session. Even if I don’t reach my time goal for this race I think my legs and head have learned enough to count this as a successful training period.

*My strava account is private, if I don’t know you in real life you can’t see it, sorry. The creepo-weirdos on there have ruined it for everyone.

run and swim and repeat all weekend

It’s the summer of swimming.


I can’t get enough. From my first dip in the chilly Kings Cross Pond back in May to yesterday swimming in all the ponds and lido on Hampstead Heath, I think I’ve jumped in almost all the available bodies of water in London this summer.


On Saturday morning I joined 11 other members of my running club at the Serpentine Lido to compete in the annual Serpentine biathlon. Hosted by the Serpentine Swim Club it was started to bring the people in the two clubs together. Going for 33 years now (I could be the trophy!) at the beginning it was always won by the Swim Club, runners didn’t stand a chance in the water, but with the rise of triathlons more and more runners were able to at least float, and started winning the odd year.


The race is a 2.1 mile clockwise lap of the Serpentine and then an 880yrd skins-no-wetsuit swim (2 laps of the members-area lido). There were a few people like me who had never done the event before, a few swimmers who hadn’t run since last year’s event, and even a speedy runner using this in his Kona training. Even at 8am the sun was out in full force so we were looking ahead to the swim.

With no transition to speak of I ran in my cozzie and shorts and kept a quick tempo pace on the run to try to stay ahead of (most of) the swimmers. Made it back to the lido, kicked off my shoes, grabed my cap and goggles, walked out on the dock and jumped in the water. The first 50 metres I think I was kicking like I was still running 8:00 min/miles. Oops. Exhausted I tried to calm down a bit for the rest of the swim. If you’ve swam on a sunny morning in the Serpentine you know it’s like trying to sight into the sun. So, I kept mostly a straight line and did extra long arms in case someone coming towards me came too close.

Winner of oldest finisher :)

Winner of oldest finisher🙂

Finishing as a respectable 3rd female (out of the 3 ladies competing, also coming second last in the entire field) I enjoyed the post race cuppa and jaffa cakes provided by the amazing Serps hospitality. The award ceremony quickly followed my exit with the Serpentine Run Club winning the team, male, and female trophies and a box of jaffa cakes to top it all off.


Sunday saw a few of us meet up in the morning at Parliament Hill Lido for the Hampstead Heath Pondathon (now more professionally titled Duathlon, but I prefer it’s original incarnation). With £10 cash clutched in our hands ready to register we followed our trusty captain Helen who magically made it on the email list to register us in this mysterious event with no internet presence.


It was a bit of a hurry-up-and-wait style start, but eventually we were lined up at the edge of the lido for the start in our wave 1. A quiet “go” and we were off to lots of cheers. A few seconds in I was already behind everyone else by a few lengths which would have been disheartening if it was the Olympics, but this is the PONDATHON. The only way to lose is to take it too seriously.


3 laps of the Lido and we were out trying to slip trainers on to our soggy feet and run up the Heath toward the men’s pond. Being soaked head-to-toe running across the Heath reminded me of cross country Nationals, but then I realised I had my swim cap and goggles on, probably wont bring those come January.

Everyone and their dog gave us funny looks as we ran by. I can’t blame them. Shoes off, into the men’s pond and while doing a lap I was passed by a lot of the faster swimmers from wave 2. They might have been fast, but had no idea about swimming etiquette and swimming over someone during a pondathon is not the way to win. Out of the men’s pond and running up to the Ladies’ pond I was excited since it’s undisputed as the best pond on the Heath.

Jumping off the lovely new ladies’ pond deck and into the water was properly refreshing and the lap too short. Out again, soggy trainers back on and I said hi to all the runners on their way down to the ladies pond. The run to the mixed pond was the longest with all the hills of the heath incorporated into the route. Finally, down to the mixed pond dock and an enjoyable lap done (“Let me stay in and do it twice??” I asked the lifeguard) I found my shoes and had a little laugh at the guy standing there barefoot because “Someone took my shoes, this is going to cost me 3-4 minutes” HA. Poor guy, no world record pondathon for him.


Downhill from the mixed pond to the athletics track and a quick 100m sprint to the finish to meet the rest of my speedy Dizzy Dolphins team. We quickly showered the pond gunk off and then set up picnic shop right by the awards ceremony and post-race food spread. Top marks for the patisseries and sausage rolls race organisers!


The Dizzy Dolphins didn’t win any awards but we did have the most post-race food so it was a successful race for everyone.

Great Scottish Swim & Trip

Is there a more romantic Valentine’s Day present than jumping in a Scottish Loch and swimming for a mile?


NOPE! Back in February I won two entries to a Great Swim event thanks to this fish face gif tweet. Looking at our schedules we decided to make a trip out of the Great Scottish Swim and spend 4 days in Scotland over the August bank holiday weekend.

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We arrived just as the sun was setting at our little Farmhouse B&B in Balloch and the last of the 10k swim finishers were getting out of the Loch. We met Josie down at the shores and she pointed out all the important parts of the course before we walked into town to find carbs (pasta with chips and a side of garlic bread anyone?) and beers for dinner.

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Our 1 mile wave started at 12:00 so we had a huge farmhouse breakfast and then went down to Loch Lomond Shores to watch for Josie & Katy finishing their earlier races.


The sun started to break through the clouds just in time for our wave. The event was so well organised we were in the start pen for 11:30 with lots of time to get in the water to acclimatise (a brisk Scottish 14*C wasn’t quite the 20ish this southerner was used to) and do an awkward jazzercise style warmup.

I loved the land start to the race and even with a pretty narrow start most people had spread out so there was lots of room to find your pace. It feels kinda weird to talk about a “route” in a 1 mile lap but it was a nice out-and-back-and-a-bit which I liked as you could look at the different shores on each breath and let’s be honest, the scenery was worth a few extra seconds of race time.


I slapped the finish gantry (Rio inspired) even though there was still about 20m to go to the beach exit. The exit was too shallow to swim but a bit too far to take many confident steps, but a lovely volunteer came out to help me up to the sandy beach.


I swam for about 45 minutes and would have gone out to do another lap if Josie & Katy would have waited that long for a pint. After a quick change in the tents we parked ourselves on the patio of one of the shores pubs and toasted some Tennents shandys to a perfect day.



After the swim we drove up the Loch to visit Balmaha and do a quick hike up to Conic Hill summit before another pub dinner.


We were given cotton finisher race t shirts, WHICH ARE AWESOME! I’ve already worn this one more than any other 2016 race tshirt. Booo technical tshirts. Bring back cotton t-shirts!!!



We spent the rest of our time in Scotland eating lunches by lochs, eating cake in scenic places, climbing up hills and finding shelter from the one brief rain storm in a re-purposed bothy.





We snuck in one big hike on our last day before flying out of Glasgow at 5pm. We hiked up Ben Arthur in the Arrochar Alps.




Scotland you were fantastic on both land and in water.