Run To The Beat race report

Yesterday some 18,500 runners descended on the O2 arena in North Greenwich, along with scores of supporters, charity workers, race volunteers, DJs and interested (or otherwise) local residents for the Run To The Beat half marathon. Billed as ‘London’s music half marathon’ the course weaved around (and up and down) Greenwich, taking in residential streets, buses  royal artillery grounds, the observatory and the beautiful Greenwich royal gardens along with 13 or so music stages dotted around the course.  I ran with headphones on, so I didn’t really hear too much of what was on offer, but I imagine the effect would have been a little like hearing a snippet of a song every mile or so.

The course itself was nothing amazing. In fact, parts of it were exceptionally boring and I ran down the kilometers thinking about the suitability of certain areas in Greenwich to a certain friend who is considering buying a house there in the new year (shame I can’t really remember where the good parts were!). Having said that, I think half or full marathons that have no boring parts at all are probably few and far between. There was one hill pretty much half way that I had heard a lot of bad things about.  I tried, honestly, not to demonise this hill in my mind.  I really thought I was going to get there and it was going to hurt ten time more than it should because I had really built it up.  In the end the opposite happened, we got to the hill and I thought, ‘Is this it?’ – I expected it to keep going around the corner but it kind of just flattened out and that was it.  No big deal.

So, here’s my race:

I had three time goals in mind when I started.  Gold was sub-2:15, silver was sub-2:20 and bronze was sub-2:30.  I knew right away that I wasn’t near running sub-2:15, so I am really happy to have run 2:17 on the nose.  Actually, my Garmin measured 2:16:58 so I think a two-second difference is pretty accurate!  What I’m most happy about, however, comes when you compare my graph with that of the overall average:

See the difference?  That’s right: I ran my fastest at the end of the race!  Although, my pace was fairly consistent the whole run, hovering between 6:10 and 6:30, with one or two anomalous instances, mainly from having to walk though water-stations because I (like many others, I suspect) have not yet mastered the running-while-drinking-from-a-cup.  You can see that my average pace is 6:23 per kilometer, and my pace hovers fairly well around there.

But the point is: I ran a negative split.  And that’s what matters (to me, anyway)!  I was overtaken by a lot of people who jumped out of the gate, but you can see from the average that most people ran their fastest at the start.  Not that I’ll ever be close to claiming one, but world records are beaten with negative splits!

Overall, I’m really happy.  I felt pretty good the whole way around with my predictable walls at around 3km and around 8km.  I hit another snag around 18km when suddenly 3 kilometers felt like an age of running, but that soon cleared up and I got through pretty easily.  Another thing I can take away is that I now know that I can get into a nice rhythm and maintain the pace even when I feel as though I am struggling – maybe that signifies that my wall is much more mental than physical (but, aren’t they all really?)  I sprinted though the finish and, around fifteen minutes later when I finally got to see Mr. Neon and baby Neon I ran over to them, and a little later ran a few circles around Mr. Neon just being excited!  He was less than excited about how much I still had left to go.

But, that’s not to say that I think I could have pushed more during the race.  I really don’t think I could have – but I did feel as though I could have kept going.  I know that probably makes no sense, but it made perfect sense to my body at the time.  I think it certainly bodes well for next April’s marathon, and any future distance races I will do.

So, here’s the final result!

Please stop by my fundraising page and, if you can spare anything please donate – every single penny counts and War Child do truly amazing work for kids who are stuck in war zones.


‘Ave a whinge, love, Facebook’s the place for it

I find it quite entertaining to read the Facebook pages of races after they have finished, just to see what kind of silly things people are complaining about. As you may know, today the Run To The Beat half-marathon was held in Greenwich, London. I ran, but more on me later. Of course, because there is probably big money in sponsorship for an event like this (and other reasons, I’m sure…) bigger events often have their own Facebook pages* that inevitably posts something like ‘You guys are amazing! Like if you ran x today!’ alongside a picture of very good looking and non-sweaty people at the finish line, with – suspiciously – no other runners in the background. Now, that’s all well and good, but the real fun is to be had in the comments section.

Common complaints from today ranged from water in cups (a worthy complaint, I feel, it’s a silly idea and no one can run and drink from a cup at the same time!), to buses being incorrectly numbered in the race guide, or buses named that were not running (no sympathy at all for runners who had this issue, here’s a tip:!).  The most common complaint seems to be ‘my Nike+/Garmin/fob watch says the distance was too long/short/pink/fuzzy’ leading me to believe that there are a lot of people who don’t get that races are measured by shortest possible route by very accurate means and that wrist/arm mounted portable GPS systems aren’t reliable to the exact millimeter.

People seem to think that they are owed something, especially when they have paid for an event.  Of course, I think that these people don’t consider the cost of the putting the event on when they think they haven’t got their £50 worth. Security, road-closures, bus diversions, venue hiring and the insane number of things that go along with a large scale event of any kind.  These things aren’t cheap.  Having said that, if a small locally run half-marathon can manage water in bottles, so can you!

Any way, whinge about whinges over. Race report will follow soon!

*Smaller events do as well, of course, but I have personally found that they are more likely to be used to get information to runners, spectators and volunteers, as well as for runner-encouragement, rather than as blatant advertising space for one major sponsor.


ImageHow hilarious, given my recent immigration-status related conundrum, that I should get this emergency compliment.  At any rate, I have finally kind of come to terms with the fact that we won’t be having Christmas with our families this year, and now the hope is that we don’t have to pay too much to change our flights to some other time.

But, what other time?!? It can’t be too early in the new year, because we’ll be in the same situation as we are now.  We need to have enough time for my indefinite leave to be granted.  It can’t be April or May – I’m running the Vienna Marathon on April 14th and I don’t want to do the last of my training while away, and I certainly don’t want to run my first marathon jet-lagged.  After the marathon, Mr. Neon’s mum, dad, sister and sister’s partner will be in London, and not long after that my mum will be in London for my 30th birthday.  Which leaves mid-May at the earliest.  Given that I want to submit my PhD thesis on September 30th, I’m not sure I’m going to have the time to go away.  And, if I do, I will be working.

So that’s where we are.  In limbo.

The week that was.


I have been feeling like life is kicking my arse a bit recently, and I am spread so thin that everything is only getting the very bare minimum to pass. But, looking back on the week it seems that’s not at all true.

I came painfully close to running 50 kilometers last week! It was definitely my biggest training week so far, which is understandable when you consider that I had a 16km long run on Tuesday followed by a 15km long run on Sunday. That’s way more than half my week right there. I started tapering today, just as I am starting to feel excited about running again so limiting myself to two short runs this week will be tough, I think. But, I am super excited for my first half-marathon on Sunday, and I feel more than ready for it, even though I will run at a blisteringly slow pace! My gold time is sub-2.10, silver is sub-2.20 and bronze is sub-2.30. So rather than kicking my arse, running is on the up-and-up.

My teaching and tutoring are both going okay. I could often be more prepared for both, but I am feeling pretty happy with it all. One of my students asked me to write them a recommendation! Of course as an under-paid sessional staff member I’m not allowed to do anything of the sort. This actually promotes the best possible outcome for me – getting the glory of being chosen without having to do the work! Win-win-win.

My thesis could be going better, but quite honestly it could be going much worse. I have discovered a section I need to write in a chapter I thought I’d finished ages ago, bit it was actually borne out of a conversation in which I convinced someone of the overall argument of the chapter. In doing so, I realised that the chapter doesn’t say it as clearly as I would like. I need to meet with my supervisor about things I need to do in my last year. I’d like to graduate with a publication, preferably two. And I’d like to win the Grote Prize this year. All that will take a bit of work, but I’m feeling rather optimistic about it.

Finally, the most important part of my life: Mr. Neon is finding his training groove again and is feeling good after signing up for next year’s Ironman UK. I worry about his running, but that’s what I do. You can, if you like, follow his progress at Tin Man Adventures. Baby Neon took her first independent steps today. Two of them. I almost cried!


I can’t believe my little baby girl is growing up so fast! I am still in shock that her first birthday has been and gone!

The only part of my life that is really frustrating right now is my immigration status. It looks as though we will have to postpone our trip to Australia to see our families over Christmas. I am in the process of applying for indefinite leave to remain and it’s not called a process for nothing! Oh my.

But, I really can’t complain. Things are good, and reflecting on the week that’s been makes me see that.

Posted on-the-run on my HTC One X

Disconnect and connect (or, how does one get more for their GPS watch)

I did it. Yesterday, in fact. After a lot of back and forwarding, a lot of reading reviews on DCRainmaker, a lot of talking with Mr. Neon, and at least one other blog post.* I want to make sure I don’t end up in this situation again. I want to buy something that suits the runner I am now, but also the runner I think I will be in four or five years. I think that runner will be running ultras.** Given that, I wanted a watch with a long active battery life and while there are ways to charge-on-the-run, so to speak, it seems easier to start with something that’s at least 12+ hours.

So, what did I buy? Not the Forerunner 610. Although it has all the features I want in a watch the 8 hour active battery life turned me off a little. So, I ended up with a Forerunner 310XT. It also covers me in the (unlikely, I think) event that I follow Mr. Neon’s lead and wind up swim-bike-running through life (and, hey, my dad ended his career as a marathoner with a few years of sprint and olympic triathlons!)

So, now the wait. And then trying to get to grips with a new watch before my first half-marathon in 9 days!

*I say at least one other because while only one was published, I did write a full follow-up that was eaten by the sometimes unpredictable Word Press app (for Android, to those who.are interested) and I started another at home that was abandoned in favour of playing with baby Neon.

**This ‘prediction’ comes off the back of three main things. First is my interest in ultra marathon, second – and related – is that I enjoy running a long time, and what constitutes a ‘long time’ is getting longer and longer as I get fitter. I am always much more excited and motivated by a distance PB than a time-related one. Third is that there is really only a few possible places that runners go after the marathon: to the couch, to triathlon, to trying to better their marathon time or trying to better their marathon distance.

An open letter to Nike

I have blogged before about my Nike+ SportWatch GPS and how much I love it. And, that’s still very true, but there are a few things that have been troubling me lately. On the back of these concerns I strongly suspect that I will end up replacing my SportWatch with a Garmin (probably the 610, so the comparison is a little unfair I suppose).

I bought my SportWatch when I was a brand spanking new runner. Only my first few feeble runs are not recorded on it. But, I have become a very different runner than I thought I would become and I have found that I have outgrown the capabilities of the SportWatch. I want things like Virtual Pacer, and to be able to program sessions into my watch. I don’t just want to run a casual 5k three times a week to stay fit, I want to push my own boundaries and get fit, fast, and be able to run for a really long time (speaking of, I’ve also been looking at the Suunto Ambit, which has a great active battery life but lacks some of the run-specific features I’d like).

So, I feel stuck. I love my SportWatch, but I am getting more and more frustrated with its lack of features. This is all the more enhanced because Mr. Neon uses a Garmin 910X and doesn’t use even half of the super-cool features (though does use the swim and bike features, so its still the best watch for him, plus it was a first marathon present from baby Neon and me). All this isn’t helped one iota by the cool new.white and blur 610 that’s been released.

It looks like I’ll become a Garmin wearer sooner than I ever thought…

Posted on-the-run on my HTC One X

How to organise your life around two-hour runs.

I’ve mentioned recently that my motivation has (had?) been flagging a little bit recently. I honestly believe that this has a little bit to do with me losing a load of washing (yes, I know, it’s a little bit of a ridiculous notion losing a load of washing, nonetheless I managed it). In this load of washing were my two favourite running shirts – the shirts I pull on because they inspire me to run, because the memories of runs completed in them spurs me on and because they make me feel great.

The first is my Nike Lunar Run shirt. It’s a black, Nike Dri-fit t-shirt that I was given for participating in the (shock) Nike Lunar Run. It was the launch of the new Lunarglide and Nike ran a competition for Nike+ users to come to a special event run to celebrate. At the run – 5km around London’s West End – the 60 winners were each given this shirt and a free pair of Lunarglides, pre-release! In one way it is the knowing that only 65ish (winners and pacers) runners from that night who have this t-shirt that motivates me. I ran most of that run at the very back, but I was still there running.

The second, and hands down my absolute favourite running shirt, is from another Nike event. This time it was slightly more people – 500 runners plus pacers – and was called the Legends Run Forever run. It was the culmination of a project run by Nike after the amazing Paula Radcliffe pulled out of the London 2012 Olympic Marathon due to injury. Runners spent weeks dedicating mileage to Paula and she appeared for a Q and A (along with Carl Lewis) at the run. The shirt is a white Nike Dri-fit that has Legends Run Forever emblazoned across it in gold. You cannot be unmotivated wearing a shirt that says that. You just seriously cannot.

Finding these shirts has made my motivation explode! Last night I was a horrible 50 meters from 9km, and this morning did a really great 16km. I’m feeling wonderful, and I’m excited about running again.

Today’s run was, itself, fairly boring. Multiple laps of each of our three local parks. It’s the longest run I’ve done with baby Neon in the running buggy, so I naturally came up a little slower than I had wanted to run but I’m not concerned. I had wanted to run 20km, but a mixture of my bad time management and baby Neon’s current unpredictable nap schedule meant I left the house later than I needed to and had to cut the run short at the 16km mark. After that I bounded up the stairs (ouch), whizzed through the shower and was out the door and on the bike within 20 minutes of getting home from the run. And, I haven’t really stopped since. I am looking forward to Mr. Neon cooking dinner and letting me lounge on the couch. After rolling out my legs… which is going to hurt!

Posted on-the-run on my HTC One X