Bonking, bogs and beating my nemesis: Hell Up North

  
I’ve never done any kind of obstacle course race, but I do love my trail running and have also tried out a few fell runs this year so I thought Hellrunner would be a nice mix of the two. The northern version in Delamere Forest, Cheshire – Hell Up North – bills itself as the toughest half marathon in the UK and my limited research into it seemed to suggest it was a challenging trail run where runners encounter natural obstacles such as mud, hills, bogs and a lake. If I’m quite honest, I thought the marketing about it being hellish was overhyped – I’ve worked in marketing and copywriting myself for a long time! – so I took reference to Lucifer’s Lido, the Bog of Doom and the Hills of Hell with a pinch of salt. 

I’ll admit the photographs and videos the organisers posted in the few weeks preceding the event did get me feeling a bit nervous about the obstacles I would encounter, but I thought it would simply be good training for the cross country season which is just starting. 
The start was well organised with easy, free car parking, and an athletes’ village with a changing tent, baggage, food and drink, samples from sponsors Clif Bar and gait analysis from Brooks. I had opted for Wave 1, anticipating that I could avoid most queues for obstacles setting off first, and a rather geriatric looking masked Lucifer on stilts set us off on the start line with red smoke. 

The first mile was immediately up to the top of Old Pale hill (176m) but after that the next 5 miles or so were like a really nice trail run along paths and weaving in and out through the forest. There was one steep valley to descend into followed immediately by a climb up the other side, with a very small queue as people took it tentatively down the steep dusty slope. The climb back up was really steep and involved digging fingers into the dirt and grabbing hold of tree roots to get some grip. I remember thinking to myself that this section was tame, apart from a section where we had to cross a lake basically balancing on tree branches and sticks. The arrow suggested that we go straight the middle of it but I followed the pack and managed to keep everything except my left foot dry. I kept consciously scolding myself for skirting around the edge of puddles and muddy sections instead of going straight through them, and as we crossed the road through the forest into the second section I was still very clean as I smiled for the first camera man. Oh how the irony of my mud avoidance will come back to bite me later on.

There was a water stop at around 5.5/6 miles. I didn’t carry any tech on this run for obvious reasons so it was impossible for me to tell what distance obstacles were at, and the organisers intentionally do not display distance markers to make it more of a mental challenge. After a drink, the obstacles started and we descended a hill straight into a deep bog. There was no way around and it was around 30m wide and waist to chest deep. There was a queue to cross via the right hand side of it, but our group splashed straight in and made two new crossings. I surprised myself by actually getting straight in, and it was surprisingly warm but the smell was disgusting! Sulphurous, gloopy mud. I got a bit hysterical with laughter at this point because I had made such an effort to keep myself clean for the past hour and now I looked and smelled like a bog creature. Thanks to the chap who lent me a helping hand as I tripped over a tree root in there and nearly went face first into it. I hauled myself out the other side and carried on running. From here on in my memory is a bit blurred, but I remember there being lots of thick deep mud – I’m talking knee deep if you stepped in the wrong bit, and ankle to shin deep if you went around the edge. I nearly lost my shoes a few times. There were stream crossings too but for the most part it was very runnable.

  And then came the hills of hells. The route basically took us to the side of a very steep, almost vertical, banking and made us run down and climb up several times. I felt a little like Sisyphus, the Greek guy of legend who got punished by being made to eternally roll a boulder up a hill only to have it roll down and have to start again. At this point I had no idea how far I had run – I guessed about 8.5/9 miles – and absolutely no clue how long I had been out for – it felt like eternity – and I was totally out of fuel. At the top of that last hill I bonked, and remember shouting ‘I need sugar!’ to which a woman just behind me miraculously produced a gel out of her waist pack and offered it to me. Sweet, sweet nectar. Thank you! I shared it with a friend who was also in a similar fuel-depleted state and I internally cursed myself for not having brought any fuel with me. It didn’t even occur to me as I can quite happily run a half marathon in training usually carrying no food or water, but this was different. 

The marshall at the top of the hill assured us that the next water station was about 2 miles away so on we walked/ran, to be faced with my biggest nemesis, Lucifer’s Lido: the lake crossing. Now those who know me, know I chickened out of an open water triathlon last year because it involved an 800m swim in a lake. I can swim, but am not confident, and as we waded into the cold water here, my stomach was churning. The lifeguard from Cheshire Search and Rescue, who was standing at the water’s edge, asked: “Are there any non swimmers here, because the water level is much higher than usual?” and I immediately started to panic. I surveyed the situation. I couldn’t see the other side of the lake. There was a clear route through it, and those people I could see in it looked to be wading through it about chest deep in the water, but there were many trees growing out of the water, and it could have been my imagination but it looked foggy and misty. Was I in my worst nightmare? 

I was snapped out of my hellish hallucination by a woman in front of me who offered us (my husband, friend and me) a cola bottle which we happily accepted. I took a deep breath and waded in. It was cold. Icy cold. Knee deep. Many tree roots to trip over and bruise your shins. Then my husband fell forward with a huge splash. “Careful! There’s a big drop there,” he warned. He was now chest deep. I let myself carefully fall forward into the dip, treading water, and the cold on my chest immediately took my breath away. I panicked. Grabbed hold of Dan’s hand. Grabbed a tree root I could see out of the water. Shouted a lot of swear words. (Apologies to fellow waders!) The presence of the search and rescue chaps with their lifeboats was however very reassuring – I think there were 4 of them positioned across the lake, and I asked one how far it was. “About 200 metres of deep water,” he reassured me, so I composed myself and decided to swim across rather than risk tripping and drowning in the icy hell. Dare I say I actually enjoyed the brief rest and the icy chill on my legs? Then I stood up, smiled for the camera man, and ran out of the other side to warm up again. 

I was still out of fuel and was walk/running, I just had no energy. I kept thinking it was interminable. I had lost all sense of time and direction. My legs didn’t want to run at all and I was just trying to conserve every ounce of energy I had left. I told my husband to stop talking to me because it was using energy for me to even listen. I thought I was hallucinating at one point as I could see black shapes and shadows floating in front of my eyes. Then I heard dance music. And there appeared an angel, resplendent in a white tutu and a halo, proffering shot blocks. Was I in heaven? It appeared I was. I took two shot blocks and a bottle of water, ran through a disco tent, waved at an angel on the decks, and composed myself for the last few miles. There were more bogs, more hills, more trees and logs to clamber over, more streams to wade through, and then finally we crossed the road again and I could hear music from the drummers in the athlete village. Nearly home. Nearly. Just the small matter of the Bog of Doom to get through. 
This section was actually fun as it was around half a mile from the finish, if that. The bog was around waist deep and nowhere near as smelly as some of the others we had encountered, but the water was very muddy and concealed many tree roots under the surface attempting to trip you up, bruise and scrape your legs so it was very slow progress. There were a lot of spectators here, marvelling at the brown, stinking, unrecognisable creatures wading past and then with the helping hand of the last marshall who hauled us out, we were through and we simply had to run around the final field to the finish line. Three of us, Danny, Will and I, crossed hand in hand after 3 hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds. I gasped as I saw the time and realised how long it has actually taken – no wonder I had completely hit a wall! – but we had been through hell and made it to heaven and back again. 

  

The medal and the goody bag were top quality, and the technical t-shirt was great too. The charity hose down by the Fire Service was also very cold but welcome!

  

All in all a great race, but a lot more challenging than I was expecting. It was very well signposted, and my only gripe was that two water stations wasn’t enough. Ideally I would have liked one around 4 miles, 8 miles and 11 miles. A great challenge, and I feel I’ve learned a lot about myself this weekend. I also promise to never skirt around the edges of a muddy puddle again. The bogs have changed me. 

  
Would I do it again? Maybe not this one, but I wouldn’t be afraid of trying something similar. I still don’t think you’d ever get me doing an Obstacle Course Race though. 

I wore Brooks Pure Grit trail shoes for this race which performed excellently – really light, grippy, and good to feel the ground beneath your feet. 

Stats: 

Distance 13.1 miles (approx. – I wore no tech remember but one of my teammates assures me it was 21km)

Completed in 3:52:49

146th lady out of 346

802nd overall out of 1202 finishers 

Why it’s ok to fail sometimes

I had a bad race today. Those who know me, know I’ve been chasing that holy grail of a sub-50 for an entire year now. Gradually I’ve been knocking a few seconds off here and there, and this year I have been focused on 10k training to really hone my middle distance speed endurance. Parkrun times have been improving, but I’m still finding the 10k distance difficult to pace well but I have been seeing some small improvements and I ran a 50:43 in June.  

Today however, the Leeds 10k didn’t go to plan at all. Run for All had very kindly given me a place in the Hull, Leeds and York 10ks, so this race wasn’t on my original PB race list. However, I had been assured the route is flat and fast so I was positive going into it. 
  
My plan was to start off steady, and gradually build the pace up each kilometre to conserve energy and finish strong. I started well, at my goal pace, but by the 3rd kilometre, I had slowed down, and by the 4th kilometre at the first water station I was struggling with the suffocating heat. As I hit 5k, my throat closed up and I could feel myself starting to hyperventilate so I slowed to a walk while I tried to regulate my breathing. I’m not sure why that happened really; it’s never happened before during a run. I don’t know whether I was too hot, or whether it was just an extreme physiological reaction to the disappointment I felt that my legs weren’t moving as fast as I wanted them too. 

By the turnaround point at 5.5k I felt OK so by this point I had fallen too far behind to attempt a sub 50 so I settled for aiming to keep going at a tempo pace and just get back. As the route is an out and back, it was nice to see all the runners on the other side of the carriageway, and got a boost around 7k as I heard my club buddies Nicki and Jacqui shout my name. I was approaching the 8k mark and felt stronger again as we neared the finish. There were still lots of runners on the other side at 3k; it’s a huge race!! We peeled off the dual carriageway at 9k to head back into the city centre and my legs struggled to even get up a tiny incline; I just had no energy. I crossed the finish line eventually in 53:55 and felt a bit flat. 

So what happened? How was I over 3 minutes slower than my best time today? 

I have plenty of excuses:

  • Insufficient warm up. 
  • New shorts (fear of chafing)
  • Haven’t trained enough
  • Set off too quickly
  • Very humid (20.5 degrees and cloudy)
  • Wrong time of the month 
  • Didn’t eat enough for breakfast
  • Terrible night’s sleep. 
  • Mindset in wrong place
  • Hurty glutes from a new strength workout on Friday. 

Shall I go on …? 
I could make many more excuses, and today’s performance was probably a mixture of some or all of them, but it’s also important to accept sometimes that we can’t physically – or even mentally – be at our best all of the time. Nor can we expect to PB at every single race, which is why I’m ok with this. We are human, and no matter how much we advocate positive thinking, or how rigidly we follow a training plan, we are all fallible and things can sometimes not go to plan. Failure is part of experiential learning, and we learn so much more from failing to do something than we do if we get something right first time.  

So I’ve already picked myself up from this, and have learned what didn’t work for me today, so that next time I’ll perform better. 

  
York 10k is next for me, on the 6th August. 

OOFOS – walking on air

As a runner, the prospect of airing my feet over summer is always a terrifying one. Not for me, necessarily, but for those observers who have to witness blisters, and missing or black toenails. However, when I was offered a pair of OOFOS to try, I jumped at the chance to trial them. I’d heard good things about how comfortable they were from other runners in my networks so I was excited to try a pair out. 

I chose the Women’s Ooriginal in Melon – the brightest colour, you know, just to draw attention to my running-battered feet all the more! OOFOS do also come in a sport version if you don’t like the thong style, which are useful if you wear compression socks after a run. 

  

After a quick pedicure and coat of nail polish my feet looked surprisingly ok apart from the blisters leftover from my previous half marathon so I slipped into my new OOFOS …

  
“Oooh, aaaahhh!” They were the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn. I felt like I was walking on air! Having suffered from Achilles issues in the past I have to be really careful about my choice of shoe now; I can no longer, for example, wear flat shoes. The arch support in these, however, is great, and they have quickly replaced my slippers at home as my everyday footwear when I’m at home. 

OOFOS market themselves as recovery footwear, and promise that their shoes “are engineered to help your feet recover more quickly than other footwear” so o was of course keen to try them out after a race. I had the Conti Lightning Run coming up, so this 12 hour trail event seemed like the perfect opportunity to give them a thorough test. 

Sadly the weather was not the type of weather where you wanted your feet exposed to the elements, but actually I discovered the Ooriginal style worked in perfect harmony with my Injinji socks. I got a few strange looks, but hey, my feet were walking on air, remember? 

  
I really like these shoes, and putting them on after a race, being able to air your feet and slip into something comfortable, really is a luxury! The arch support feels really good for tired feet and legs, and the foam is really comfortable so I can see how they help with recovery. 

  

You can browse the OOFOS website here: www.oofos.co.uk

Don’t run commando – My Runderwear review

  I’ve been wanting to try Runderwear for a while, so I put it down to pure serendipity when I won a competition with Oh My Quad magazine for some stunning pink Runderwear.

Confession time: I generally don’t wear underwear when I run because stopping to pull pants out of a hungry bum is neither a good look, nor conducive to a PB, but Runderwear promise “maximum comfort while you run” and “chafe free” so I was keen to give them a thorough testing.

  
A great test opportunity came up at the Conti Lightning Run, a 12 hour endurance event, so I slept in one set of Runderwear (the low rise hipster and crop top in pink) ready for my 3am alarm and drive over to the race start in Derbyshire for a 6am start, and packed my other set ready for a change later. The first thing I noticed was how unnoticeable it was. It was so comfortable, I completely forgot I was wearing it. Runderwear boldly calls itself “the most comfortable running underwear in the world” and I wholeheartedly agree. There are no seams to rub or chafe, and the briefs and crop top genuinely do not budge while you’re running.

  
I was a little nervous about how much support the crop top would provide, as I am usually a big advocate of a properly fitted sports bra. However, I ran a 10k trail that morning with no discomfort and again, I forgot I had it on. I did have to change my crop top after my first lap; while Runderwear promises that its “technical fabric is moisture wicking – keeping you drier, longer” I found the crop top had soaked up sweat easily so would have been uncomfortable to stay in it. However, the hipster briefs stayed put all day and are the most comfortable running pants I own! I’ve had my runderwear now for just over a month and have worn them so much, they are fast becoming a piece of kit I couldn’t live without – the crop is also great for wearing on its own for a workout, and they wash great.

Thank you once again Runderwear and Oh My Quad magazine. Highly recommended.

You can purchase your very own Runderwear here: www.runderwear.co.uk

Please also check out Running Dutchie’s Simply Runderful challenge to run the entire length of the Netherlands in pink Runderwear to raise money for the Pink Ribbon Foundation, a UK breast cancer charity. Runderwear are donating 10% of the sale of any pink hipster brief and crop top to The Pink Ribbon Foundation.

Valencia 10k – Why am I travelling to Spain for a race?

Valencia Marathon runnersUp until mid April my year was happily planned out as a simple year of no racing and no pressure. I did plenty of running (every day, in fact) and set PBs at 5km, 10km and half marathon distance; life was good. However my training became aimless and I felt that I needed a goal.

My friend, Gemma, was planning a 10k every month, and I thought this seemed a good way to get me focused so I began to look for 10k races. As if by magic an email landed inviting me to take part in either the Valencia Marathon or the 10km.

I have previously run the London Marathon twice, and while I loved the experience, the training had taken me away from time with my family. As I had promised my husband that I would ease off on the marathons for a few years, the prospect of a 10k in the beautiful city of Valencia really excited me.

This is a chance to combine my relatively new passion for running with the chance to revisit an area of the Europe I fell in love with during my formative years.  Many years ago, while studying Spanish as part of my marketing degree, I was fortunate enough to live a little further south along the Costa Blanca in Elche, and I had friends who lived in Valencia so I have visited the city on a few occasions to soak up the rays on the wonderful beaches and see the famous Las Fallas festival. My lasting impression of the city is one where historic melds with modern and I have goosebumps at the idea of running around it as part of a huge race. My husband was also fortunate enough to accidentally stumble across the spectacular finish of the Valencia Marathon while there on a work trip in 2012. The setting for the finish line, surrounded by the mind-blowing architecture of the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, was, according to my husband, like running a race in a utopian sci-fi film set. Ever since then it has been on my bucket list.

This will be the first time I have ever taken part in a race in a different country – the fact I can speak Spanish comforts me that I will be able to find my way to the start easily, but I do know plenty of runners who have run Valencia before and have told me it’s a fantastic event. I am also looking forward to some winter sunshine – last year when I raced a 10k in November (you can read my Rockingham blog here) it was cold and very windy, so I’m hoping Valencia’s weather will be kind.

I will be blogging on a monthly basis in the lead up to the event but you can read more about the Ciudad del Running here: http://www.valenciaciudaddelrunning.com/en/

A hilly surprise! Nottingham 10k Race Review

ASDA Foundation Nottingham 10K

I did the Notts 10k by accident, after I ended up not being able to do my home Lincoln 10k and the organisers kindly let me transfer to the Nottingham race 3 weeks later. And am I glad I did!

I got a lift into Nottingham from a fellow club runner and we parked easily at the Victoria Centre (£4.50 all day) and walked the easy 15 minutes to the start. The race village was easy to find and nicely laid out in the attractive market square. We had arrived in good time so headed for a coffee and to meet some fellow UKRunChat runners who were also racing.

The race was due to start at 9:30, nice and early which meant I could get back in time to spend the afternoon with my family, as well as avoid the hottest part of the day. I did a quick warm up run up the first hill and back then headed to the starting pens. The sub 50 pen was already overflowing so I decided to stand in the sub 45 section where I bumped into Rob Jones who was pacing. The start was delayed ever so slightly due to a parked car in the route but communication during this delay was good.

Then we were off! Around the market square and straight up a small incline as we got warmed up on the first kilometre. Turning a corner just after the 1km and seeing the biggest hill in the route was a bit of a shock – why did I think Nottingham was flat??! – but there was a nice downhill on the other side to compensate for the loss of pace uphill.

The route wound around the castle and through the streets and was very scenic, before heading out towards the river. There was one water station on the route at the 5k point, where I was hoping to get a drink. It was a very hot day, even at 10am, and as we rounded a corner the water station was suddenly upon us. There was a bit of chaos as runners tried to get a drink, and a marshall shouted – “keep moving, there’s plenty of water further down” – so not wanting to lose pace I kept onwards as instructed, except there was no water further down. I was gasping in the heat as we ran onto the Victoria Embankment, and a little cross at the marshall who had made me miss the opportunity to grab some water. It would have been easy to spread the water station out a little to make it less chaotic. Not putting it directly after a 90 degree bend would have made it better organised for starters. But I let it go, and carries on as we headed back into town. There were plenty of ups and downs, and at 9k a marshall shouted – “all flat and downhill now”. Music to my ears! Except as we turned the corner he was standing on, another incline! But that was the last one, and it was a nice flat return back to the market square and the finish line.

I have to say the crowd support, particularly at the finish line, but also around the course, was very welcome. The goody bag contained a medal, a Mars Bar, some very welcome salty snacks, glucose tabs, and a bottle of water and an electrolyte drink. And the organisers were offering free medal engraving too. Although I had ran a PB on this course, I decided not to get my medal engraved, as it wasn’t the exact time I wanted, but I’m doing 3 more Run For All events over the summer so I’m sure I’ll hit that magic sub-50 very soon!

I was also impressed to see a family craft area inside the race village to keep families entertained if they were waiting.

All in all a great, well organised event, and a lovely route. Just needed a little more thought about the positioning and layout of water station.

 

It’s a long road to sub 1:50 (the Liverpool Half Marathon)

I wasn’t meant to be doing a half marathon this year. After last year’s London marathon, I swore off distance running for a while to focus on bringing down my 10k time and somehow discovered a love for speed. In the intervening months I ran 2 10k races and managed to PB at them both bringing my current 10k time down firstly to 51:46 (Liverpool – July) then to 50:55 (Rockingham – November, thanks to super pacer SPFC_2014). 
Somehow in the meantime I had decided to enter the Mablethorpe half marathon in October. Seduced by my improving speed I reckoned I could finally get under the 2 hour mark for a half marathon so although I had swore off distance running, off I went, and came in at 1:55:26. So the competitive person in me immediately decided I could go under 1:50. However! There were no plans for another half in 2016, until Fitness Rewards ran a competition for places to the Liverpool and Bath half marathons. I’m a very competitive person, and the competition was all about earning my weekly activity points as part of my life insurance policy and tweeting evidence to them in the #RacetoGold so I was thrilled when I won, except it meant I had to run another half marathon. 
In the meantime, at the end of October, I had started a runstreak with my husband so although I didn’t follow a specific half marathon training plan, I did a few long runs and was building strength and endurance through running every day so I decided to go for it and aim for under 1 hour 50 minutes. 

  
The day arrived and the competition place included hospitality from Vitality, so I wasn’t even standing nervously near the start line, I was in a VIP area with Dan my husband, who had also won a place, thinking about my race strategy – which was essentially very simple. Find the 1:50 pacer and hang on for dear life! A strategy which may or may not have worked, but became irrelevant because I made the start line with one minute to spare by leaping over the fence into the pen, startling two ladies, just before the airhorn went off. Luckily we had done a mile warm up 20 minutes previously so we could practice the finish – it was cobbly!! 
So we were off. I had no pacer to gauge my speed so instead I kept a close eye on my watch (I’m currently testing the Epson Runsense SF-810) to ensure I was running at 8:19 minutes per mile. The first mile or so of a long race is always a bit frantic as runners settle into their comfortable paces, and this was no different with runners zig zagging in and out, trying to find their own space to run in, particularly around the traffic islands. There were 6500 of us at Liverpool so not a massive race but still a fairly crowded start. 
The first mile included a short hill up to Upper Parliament Street which slowed my pace a little but I still did the first mile in 8.26 so was pleased to see I wasn’t far off pace. I tend to take a few miles to warm up properly, so concentrated on my cadence as I usually do to make sure my pace didn’t drop too much and I had the view of the magnificent Anglican cathedral to enjoy. The hill had taken a bit out of my legs but by mile 3 I was back to a comfortably hard 8:17 average. 
At the 3.5 mile point we began our circuit of the beautifully green Sefton Park. I had run my July 10k PB here so was looking forward to coming back and running here again, as it’s a beautiful space. Th route took us around the edge, through the middle, and then back around the other side and it’s quietly undulating so you don’t really notice an incline, it just feels more of an effort to maintain your pace. I knew I was slightly off my 1:50 goal pace and would have to work hard the last few miles but I knew they were flat. However, I also had the niggling beginnings of blisters on my big toes which I was trying my hardest to ignore. 
Mile 8 was my quickest mile at 8:14 and looking at the elevation graph later it’s clear to see why – a lovely downhill through Otterspool park, another beautiful green valley through the city which spits you out in dramatic fashion on the Mersey. What a view greeted us as we zigzagged out of the little green oasis to suddenly see the sun glinting off the river and turn into the Promenade for the last 4 miles. 

  
By this point in the race I was flagging as I had forgotten to pack any gels. Normally at the 8 mile point in a half marathon I would have taken a gel to give me a boost for the final few miles. I didn’t know how much of this is placebo or whether they actually help me, but I gradually started to slow down. A combination of the self doubt demons, the heat (I was so uncomfortably sweaty I was tempted to dive into the Mersey to cool off – not recommended!) and my blisters which were verging on the painful edge of uncomfortable. 
My last three miles were my slowest of the race, at 8:34, 8:36 and 9.05! However I think this is because as I passed through the 10 mile mark at 1:24, I told myself I could still PB even if I ran a 30 minute 5k which I knew I could easily do. So I gave myself permission to give up on the 1:50 goal for today, and just focus on a PB. I even stopped briefly for a little drink at the last water station. 

  
The last mile always feels so far, and I didn’t particularly appreciate the cobbles underfoot on the waterfront, or having to dodge bollards (one bloke just behind me ran right into one – ouch!) and watch out for lots of kerbs and speed bumps – there were a lot! However, I could now see the Albert Dock and knew I was home, so a quick burst of speed and I round the corner at the museum of Liverpool. The crowd was amazing there! I had no idea what time I had run by that point, but just concentrated on picking up my legs and rounding the last corner. What a surprise when I saw Dan waiting there for me, just before the finish line. He grabbed my hand, and we did a strong finish together, smiling for the camera! I was done!!!!

  
A PB of 1:51:12 – that was a whole 4 mins off my previous best. I was happy with that. I had done the best I could have done on the day – sub 1:50 can wait. 

  
 
At the finish I saw Erica, who I hadn’t seen since last March at the UKRunChat Anglesey weekend. So we had a lovely catch up while we collected our medals, a lucozade sport, a bottle of water, a goody bag, and a tshirt (our second of the day as we had also been given Vitality tshirts to run in as part of our prize).
We then headed back to the VIP area where there was a feast of sandwiches and cake laid out. I had a cup of tea first though! 

  
All in all a wonderful day out. The sunshine made the city even more beautiful than it already is, and although there wasn’t much of a crowd along the route, there were nice pockets of cheering at the park and along the promenade. The route was quite winding and included a few tight spots, my least favourite of which was the underpass at Aigburth Road where we had to slow to a walk to get in and out. There also seemed to be an awful lot of kerbs and street furniture to have to look out for. And my poor blisters didn’t appreciate the cobbles at the end. 
All in all though, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you Liverpool for having us, and thank you to Fitness Rewards and Vitality for making us feel like VIPs. 
It was also lovely to see lots of fellow ukrunchatters there on the day – Chris, Nic, Helen, Rob, Mike, Jon – and a few others who saw me but I didn’t see.