Wings for Life Run 2017

I had read about the Wings for Life run a few years ago, when it was held at Silverstone. Last year and the year before I couldn’t make the date, but when I saw it advertised this year I was free for the weekend so decided to go for it.

If you are not familiar with it, I shall try to explain. The Wings for Life charity raises money for spinal cord injury research, and as the event is supported fully by company sponsors, all of the entry fee goes to the charity, which is a major bonus point.

The events happen all over the world (Australia, Florida, California, Chile, Dubai, Norway….), and start at the same time, so the UK one was to start at midday. Basically you start running, and half an hour after you begin, a catcher car starts driving. The car gradually increases in speed, and when it overtakes you, your chip records the final distance that you reached. The person who runs the furthest wins. There are then buses to take you back to the start area. (If you win your country, I think the prize is to do any of them next year, so there were a lot of previous year winners in Australia this year!).

They didn’t send out packs in the post, although they did send out a can of red bull (which annoyingly came the day before our holiday, did not fit through the letterbox, so when I got the note through the door I thought it would be our National Trust membership pack- I was very confused when I opened up a tube and found a can inside..)- not sure why they could not send out the numbers with the can of drink? Anyway, you had to collect your number on the day before 11am. I had originally looked at trains (the 8.30 one got in at 9.30, but the 9.30 one got in at 11.05..) but in the end Andy said he would come with me and drive, so if we could not find parking at least he could drop me off and then find somewhere. We ended up parking fairly centrally and walked to the start (a big park in the middle of Cambridge) at around 10.30.

There was a lot of conflicting information- some said you would need your registration and ID, whereas other info said you just needed your number. The numbers were emailed out, but also they had a large board in the park with all the numbers on it. Anyway, the queues were sorted out by number, although before that you had to queue up and sign a disclaimer (not sure why the sign up didn’t count as this?). Of course they told you not to use headphones, but also in the information they told you that if you had headphones you could keep up to date with where the car was.

I was in a bit of a grumpy mood I am afraid! I think the build up was strange as I wasn’t sure how far I would run, and then I didn’t know what to do about food- I ended up having breakfast at around 8.15am, and although I packed a small nakd bar to eat before the start I didn’t fancy it.

Also, I don’t normally need the toilet before a race (well I do, but I know it is just nerves, and I really hate port-a-loos, so I usually just distract myself and once I start running I am fine). The atmosphere here led me to really panic- it was meant to be “buzzing” and “lively” with a big screen showing the events around the world, but also a person live on a tannoy (which made it hard to focus on one or the other). The queue for the bag drop was huge, and even at 10.45 the guy on the tannoy was shouting about how huge the queue was, and how we had better hurry up, and how we needed to be in the start pens by 11.30, and that the time would go by in no time…. Andy decided to keep hold of my bag (even though he had his own rucksack as he had some work to do while I was running) because we thought that the queues would be equally as long when I finished (correct). I also really felt like I needed the toilet (grrr to the tannoy man). I’d seen some toilets at the corner of the park so we walked back there, but they had a huge queue too by this point. There was a hotel opposite and some guys headed there, but I wasn’t brave enough to be that cheeky. I was totally panicked at about 11.30 when I still had 2 people in front of me in the queue, but of course it was fine and I had loads of time in the pen.

David Coulthard was driving the catcher car, so he was on the start line, and I could hear the tannoy man announcing that he was taking a selfie with the crowd.

The race started at 12 exactly (they had to be co-ordinated as there is a global champion) and as I ran past the car I was a bit peeved that it was empty, only to realise too late that DC was stood on front of it, high fiving people as they ran past.

Image may contain: 18 people, people smiling, people standing, crowd and outdoor

From their facebook page.

The first section of the race threaded through Cambridge centre, and it was very narrow so it was quite stop-start. Normally with a chip timed race this wouldn’t matter, but of course here if you crossed the line later you would be closer to the car. I was still feeling fairly grumpy at this point, although there were lots of crowds out in the centre of the city which made me decide to smile a bit and try to enjoy it.

As we ran out of Cambridge, it became more rural. Some of the route was on country roads, but it also went through little towns and that was great as there were a lot of people out watching and cheering. I like the races when local people are supportive of it, and it makes it more interesting when you are running too.

We kept passing km signs (which also had the miles- eg 6k, 3.7 miles. This didn’t help me, as I much prefer miles. Yes, the kilometres go by more quickly, but seeing that I was still on the same mile for the next sign made it drag a bit.

There was a pace calculator on the website- you could slide along the bar to show the distance, and it would tell you how long you had to run each distance (something like 35 mins for the first 5k, 62 mins for the first 10k)- I couldn’t remember the first few, and when it got to 12.30 and I realised that the car had only just left, my enthusiasm waned a little (told you I was feeling grumpy!). All I could remember was that I had 90 minutes to get to 15k. I’d looked at longer distances but the 20k was something like 1hr50, so I knew I would be overtaken well before then.

Motorbikes kept driving past, some with cameras on them, so you kept looking over your shoulder to see what was approaching. At one point we ran through an airbase, and although it was good to run by fields, there were no members of the public allowed so it felt fairly lonely. Lots of people were running in groups so I listened to the conversations going on- it seemed that a lot of people had run it last year and were aiming to beat their distance.

At around 12 or 13k, we were told that the car was around 800m behind us. I was surprised and decided that at least I had run a 10k so it wouldn’t matter if I didn’t get to the 15k point. However, the car took a long time to catch up. It was weird because some marshals were telling us time (e.g. the car is 10 minutes behind) and some distance. It’s hard to work out as they know the speed of the car, but they don’t know our speed I suppose.

I had a very dry mouth and I was hungry, so I decided to stop at the next refreshment station (which, by the way, also stocked Red Bull, and some people were actually drinking it in the race…)- I was going to have some water and a bit of orange, but I chose the wrong side, so I only got water- it was on a wide bit of the course and it seemed too much effort to cross the runners in the middle to get one bit of orange.

I’d passed the 14k point and thought that the car was right behind me, so I sort of gave up on the distance. However, one of the motorbikes pulled alongside and talked to me (the person on the back talked to me, it wasn’t a Knight Rider situation), saying that I could get to the 15k point if I pushed on. At that point a wave of people started running past me- as the car was getting closer people were speeding up for the end, so I joined with them. I got to the 15k sign, but the car didn’t go past. It felt weird as in my mind I was aiming for that sign as a sort of finish line, but of course the finish  line was constantly moving.  The faster you run, the longer the race takes to finish! As the car went past I tried to take a photo, but as you can see I was a bit slow!

My official finish was 15.17km. I don’t think you get a time but it was around 90 minutes.

Then it was time to find a bus stop. I had passed a couple, and every now and then you would pass a sign saying “nearest bus stop now ahead”. Now, I didn’t think I had seen one of those signs since the last bus stop, but there were so many signs (loads in the air base saying “stay on the route through airbase”, loads about drinks stations), so I wasn’t sure if I had just missed one. Everyone stopped after the car went past, and followed the route forwards. I ended up running fairly slowly, as I didn’t know how far it would be. Annoyingly a bit later I saw the sign saying “closest bus stop now ahead”- I should have trusted myself! I think I was right in the middle though so it wouldn’t have made much difference.

Lots of people were taking selfies next to the signs.

I ended up getting to here (17km) before I saw the next bus stop, so even though my race had finished earlier, I had still run over 10 miles. I was glad of my top then- they had recommended bringing something warm to wear when you finished, and even though I was super sweaty, I started to cool down as it was fairly windy.

There were loads of buses lined up and it was really efficient- as soon as one bus filled up, it drove off and they started loading people onto the next one. Bottles of water were available as you got onto the bus so I gladly took one and had a drink. By this point it was probably around 2pm, and of course the bus had to drive back to the centre of Cambridge. I looked on google maps and it thought it was around 25 minutes away, so I messaged Andy so he knew when to expect me.  The bus ride was rather stinky! Someone joked that they felt sorry for the next people who would use the bus!

Andy had offered to get a drink, and I was fairly warm when I finished so I said some kind of iced drink would be good- he met me at the finish area with an iced tea, but by then the wind had picked off and my sweaty clothes were making me really chilly. I had to queue up to get a finisher pack, but after that we didn’t hang around (I was wishing we had shared a hot drink instead!).

A quick photo and then off to find something to eat- we’d seen a Nando’s close to the car park (and they validated parking to make it cheaper) so we headed there. Once we had ordered I went to the toilets to wipe my face and change into the top from the finishers pack. I went for a beanie wrap and sweet potato wedges- the wedges were so good, and very much needed as it was probably gone 3pm before we had some food- that toast was a long time ago!

After walking back to the car and driving home, it was about 4.30 before I even got in the shower!

The finishers pack was OK- a weird magazine, Red Bull, bottle, beer token (which I would not have used, and as Andy was driving he couldn’t have it either), a technical top (in fetching yellow), a pretty pants medal and a Meridian peanut butter bar (which I should have eaten on our walk to Nando’s really). But as all of the entry fee went to charity, all of these bits were provided by sponsors so it isn’t too bad. I think it only cost £25, which compared to some races (e.g Brighton half at £37 for 2018) isn’t too bad either. Also, I will get some use out of the technical top, so that’s always a bonus.

All in all, I am glad I did it. I don’t think I would do it again as it felt more pressured than other races (for example when I did the Cakeathon the finish distance was up to you, but if you ran slowly you could still carry on). I think if I lived closer it would be more tempting, but the time made it a bit more awkward too. Pretty cool to see DC in the flesh, and be part of a global running event.

Have you ever run something like this before?  Would you be tempted by it? 

My “old favourite” trainers, and trying to find a replacement

I’ve been through many trainers in my running career so far. When I started out with my run/walk sessions, I just wore my normal leisure trainers (most probably skechers), and then I swapped over to Nikes as Andy got me a Nike+ wrist watch (you put a little sensor in the sole of the shoe and it tracked your distance).  It was a long time before I plucked up the courage to go to a shop (I don’t look like a runner, what am I doing in that sort of shop?) and have the gait analysis.

I started on some Mizunos, and I totally loved them, but after a year they were less springy. I went back to the shop and the salesperson said that as I had no problems with them, I should stick with them, but the same version was not available so I got the newer one. Alas, the newer ones just never felt right, I could not put my finger on it, so I took a chance and ordered some pretty looking shoes online. They were Asics Gel DS 19’s (and in fact I had to swap them as I originally ordered size 5.5 and needed a 6).

I still have them. I loved how comfy they were, and they saw me through many races including the Brighton marathon. After that they felt pretty flat so I went back to get gait analysis. I was between a pair of Brooks and a pair of Asics, but as I had loved these so much, I stuck with Asics, and the new pair (Gel Kayano 21’s) were fab, so when I got the parkrun monthly prize I got a second identical pair.  Since then I have mainly bought shoes online in the sales, and I have pretty much stuck to Asics (including for trail shoes). My current favourites are Asics GT2000’s, but they are reaching the end of their life (464 miles according to Strava- my Kayanos got to 590 and then 470 before I replaced them), so it was perfect timing when Millet Sports offered to send me a pair of Asics. Even better, the newest version of my favourite ever ones, Gel DS 22’s were on the list.

They are so pretty! More importantly, they are so comfy. As with all trainers I wore them around the house for a bit, mainly to sort out how tightly to tie the laces (and also to admire the colours before they start getting muddy), but I don’t think running shoes should need breaking in. The first outing ended up being a 9.5 mile run out to Panshanger park and back. It was a fairly slow run as my back had been sore (my fault for doing my work on the sofa the day before instead of sitting at my desk), so I ended up stopping in the middle to stretch out my back and admire the view. There’s a bench on a hillside so I enjoyed the view for a bit before heading home.

The Millet Sports website lists that these shoes have:

– Flytefoam midsole
– Propulsion Trusstic
– Impact Guidance System
– External Clutch counter
– PU Duosole
– Wet grip rubber forefoot
– Rearfoot GEL cushioning
– Ortholite sockliner

But I have no idea what most of those things mean. All I know is that they feel supportive but also very light and springy. I do overpronate a bit (I tend to flick one leg out to the side) but I don’t like the feel of the really chunky trainers. These seem a good middle ground to me, and so far they are going well.

I think these may be my new favourites! I shall need to keep an eye for the Gel DS in the sales next time I need to add another pair into rotation.

Onto some general bits:


On my way home from the long run I tried to take a photo of the alpaca (or llama) but it was hiding behind some bushes- how inconsiderate!


Since we moved we have not liked this huge tree, (it towers over the house and you can see it from the front of the house). We had to apply for permission to have it cut down as there are tree preservation orders in our town, but we were granted permission provided we replace it with a different tree (apple, cherry, basically nice trees that blossom).

This week it was finally taken down- hooray! It makes a huge difference to the amount of light upstairs and also means we have a much bigger garden now.

Funny Facebook stuff from April:

This was actually for the Easter weekend, and it made me laugh a lot. We didn’t quite have that for this past weekend, but I love the idea of it still.

Cake and National Trust visits:

I made a carrot cake (in fact, two, one to take to work) as it was my birthday this week. It’s fab having my birthday around the time of the May Bank holiday as it means I get a long weekend to celebrate- after going to Winchester and Southampton we visited a few National Trust places in Surrey on the Sunday, before coming home.

Polesdon Lacey National Trust house and gardens (complete with fluffy llama toys to spot in each room in commemoration of a trip that the owner made to South America).

Claremont gardens- loads of goslings about.

The ultimate marzipan combination!

On Monday after my long run, we walked into town for breakfast, and later Andy’s parents popped over for tea and cake, ending a long weekend in a very relaxing way.

Car annoyance:

I had not driven my car all weekend, and as I went to go to work on Tuesday morning, I had a completely flat tyre. What bad luck! Any other time I would have spotted it over the weekend.

The AA person changed it and found a screw in it (I’d already had the same tyre patched fairly recently, but it wasn’t in the same place)- luckily Kwik Fit had the right size tyres in stock but I was late for work which was a very stressful start!

I was running a meeting after work, but after that was finished I popped over to see my mum for a bit before coming home (and then, my mum had given me some eggs in a bowl, so after driving home carefully with the bowl on my passenger seat, when I was putting them away I dropped one and somehow it fell under the fridge and then smashed. As I was crouching down trying to see it, my hair got caught on the lace hooks of Andy’s walking shoes- it wasn’t my day!)- anyway, Andy had ordered this canvas for my birthday- photos from our trip to South Africa last year. I loved seeing the penguins so much, and of course the safari was amazing, so to have a reminder up on the wall is just fantastic.

Do you go for gait analysis or do you buy online? What did you get up to over the long weekend? Do you print many holiday photos? My dad always makes lovely photo books now, and they are lovely to look through. We have a couple and I think we should make some more but they do take a while to make.

*I was provided the shoes for free in exchange for a mention on my blog. All opinions are my own.

Winchester parkrun

On Friday night, after having dinner at home, we drove down to Winchester (this took longer because it was hard to find out online if the M3 was closed- it was)- we’d booked a Premier Inn in the sale a while back- handily it was about 0.8 miles to the start of the parkrun, so that was my plan for the morning.

After Harrogate-gate (can you have a double gate?) I had checked and re-checked the map several times. The start was easier to find, as it was by a leisure centre, which in turn was close to the town centre.

I got there in plenty of time- I came across a couple of people setting out the markers, and then I had to walk through the car park (I saw lots of runners heading that way) to the actual start in the middle of a cricket field.

I loved their sign too- I have seen these at a few places (we just have a sign on a clipboard, although lots of people notice it).

I had time to wander around and look at the long finish funnel- the cones they use remind me of PE lessons at school, and Sports Day. I also chatted briefly to a first-timer who had decided to join up, and the tail runner who was reassuring all the new runners that they wouldn’t be left behind.

It was fairly chilly first thing (you could see your breath) but I took my long sleeved top off as I knew I would heat up as I started to run, and I wanted something warm to put on after. Andy was going to meet me in town so I messaged him and asked him to bring my raincoat as I thought I might want another layer.

The first timer briefing was great- the guy tried to explain the course (I had thought it was three laps, but it was more like two and a little bit repeated, although I read later on that it was a trial so maybe they were changing it a bit)- it sounded so complicated though as there are four fields that we would run around, doing hairpin bends to join the adjacent field, as well as running along by the river for a bit. Basically, the rule is “follow the person in front” as per usual.

At the start we were reminded to watch out for the “cricket things” (I have no idea what they are called either)- they had marshal standing by them as they are these huge white board things with legs sticking out on either side- you would not want to run into one of those.

I really enjoyed it. Even though it was busy (they broke their attendance record with 373 runners) apart from the first few metres it didn’t feel busy. The course was super flat, going around the edges of grassy fields- at a few points you had to watch your footing as there were roots growing out of the ground, and then you had a little bit on tarmac by the river.

There were some brilliant marshals, including one lady with pom-poms! I shall be stealing that idea and borrowing some from work for next time I am a marshal- it takes it to the next level.

Both feet off the ground!

They had a photographer out on course (all put on flicker) – he was at a few different places so managed to capture people at the start, at the mid way point and going for the finish.

I felt like I had gone fairly fast- I was overtaking people most of the way, but as I had started my watch at the hotel I wasn’t sure of the speed. I had to stop just short of the finish line as the queue was backing out onto the course.

It was still like that after I had scanned my token in- there were marshals and the RD trying to get people to move on, and they have posted on their facebook page that they are going to make the funnel longer for next week- they clearly weren’t expecting such a huge amount of people. I saw lots of people in the Southampton 10k and half t-shirts- I am sure there was a marathon too but I didn’t see any of those. Anyway, someone else commented that maybe it was the “marathon effect”- eg people see London on TV and decide to sign up to parkrun. It’s all good, whatever the reasons.

One marshal saw my orange top and asked me how I had found it. I really liked it. I think as it wasn’t straight laps- they were complicated- it added more interest. I also didn’t get lapped- I thought I would, but I think because you did 2 big laps and then one smaller one (or something) it meant I was past the finish line before the speedy ones came in.

It felt very Southern-English, with the cricket stuff going on, and a sort of village green feel. It was nice and flat, but varied scenery added to the interest.

Time for a quick photo before heading into town.

That was my 18th UK parkrun, and I managed to finish in 27.14- pretty quick for me.

Then, not my finest hour. I had messaged Andy and he was already in the Starbucks waiting to get breakfast. I looked at my phone, saw where the town was (I had passed the turning on my way to the park) and headed that way. It was all going fine, but I got to the main high street and could not see Starbucks. I could see a Pret, a Nerro, even a Costa, and I had started mumbling to myself about why wasn’t he in Pret. I got up maps on my phone, and tried to follow the dot, but whichever way I went I seemed to be getting further away. I messaged Andy to say I was lost, and then noticed that on the map the Starbucks was opposite Whittards- I had been stood outside Whittards as I messaged him. So I walked back down, and yes, Starbucks was pretty much right where I was when I messaged to say I was lost. Ooops.  parkrun tourism is making me work harder at using maps, but I am still not great!

We had a little wander around Winchester- it seemed a really nice place- nice and small but with some good little shops.

Then it was a quick walk back to the hotel for me to shower as we were then off to Southampton.

What are those cricket things called? Did you do any racing this weekend or last? Do you know people taking up running or joining up to parkruns?