Category Archives: Races

The Paras 10

Known as the ‘ultimate 10 miles,’ The Paras 10 was something I just had to try. If someone was to describe a chocolate bar as ‘the ultimate chocolate bar’ – I would want to try it. If somebody described a holiday as ‘the ultimate vacation’ – I would want to go. ‘Ultimate’ suggests the best of the best. Or, in the case of a 10 mile off-road race…The toughest of the toughest?

My Dad used to be in the Parachute regiment. I remember going to watch the Paras 10 race when I was younger and when I had no interest whatsoever and thinking ‘wow, those people are silly.’

Guess I’m silly now (always have been really) – because on September 6th I entered the race.

There is the option to do the TAB race (with a pack weighing 35lb) or just the run. I have never trained / ran with a pack before, so just running suits me fine… (excuses, excuses – maybe next year!)

My Grandparents (who unfortunately, I rarely see) and my parents both came to watch and support me. It was beautiful day – the perfect running conditions – a crisp freshness to the air and a glowing sun that beams so confidently, few clouds are brave enough to show.

I felt really good the morning of the race. 2 hours before I had my usual big bowl of porridge with honey and cinnamon and a mug of green tea. Then, 1 hour before I had a banana and sipped on a drink with added electrolytes.

The course was all off-road, mainly uphill with some absolute stinkers of hills – very, very steep. I hate to admit it sometimes (because it sounds like I’m bragging) but I actually love hills. I love the feeling of strength and power that they bring when you tackle them. They make me feel invincible.

I hung onto to the group of women in the lead, kept pushing, and enjoyed the gorgeous Northern countryside – rolling avocado green hills stretching further than the eye can recall.

It was a pretty quick pace, but I could see one woman WAY in front, in the distance, running not so far behind the leading men. ‘How the hell is she up there?’ I thought. She must be some kind of machine.

This woman was suddenly my inspiration and I wanted to catch her.

I gave it all I had to peel away from the group I was currently running with. Stride by stride, hill by hill, mud puddle by mud puddle, I edged closer and closer to the ‘super woman.’

Now on mile 8, feeling strong, I was almost with her!

WAIT…

IT’S NOT A HER.

IT’S A HIM.

IT’S A MAN.

I REPEAT.

IT IS A MAN.

THIS IS NOT A DRILL!

I couldn’t believe it. The slender, toned legs in the multi-coloured short shorts and the pony-tail swishing from side to side was the make-up of a forty-something male.

Was I annoyed for wasting all that energy catching up to the lady who isn’t even a lady? Good heavens, no! Thank you man-not-a-lady. You helped me secure my place as first female!

Hearing my Dad’s bellowing cheer amongst the crowds and seeing his watery eyes at the finish was a very special moment. Even the fact that I had entered made him very proud, but to win… Well, words can’t describe.

Run to get fitter, run to get faster, run to feel happier.

All the best,

Liv

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California Part II

Shall we do a half marathon today at altitude? Why not.

I realise this spontaneous attitude is actually a little cocky. In hindsight, it could also have been sheer stupidity. I had not been training for a half marathon (I was doing mileage geared around the 10k). However, I was fit and well and knew that my body could cope with 13.1 miles – it may just be rather slow, but hey ho.

‘Remember it’s at altitude. GO EASY’ I kept reminding myself.

I woke up at the crack of dawn and it was beautiful sunshine. I had carb-loaded the night before with a mountain of red pepper & tomato pasta. I gobbled up a hearty bowl of porridge in the morning (2 hours before race) and then 1 hour before the race it is my routine to have a banana and start to sip on a liquid with added electrolytes.

There was also a 5k race happening that day and at the start line of the half, the man with the microphone made me laugh so much when he said “IF Y’ALL SIGNED UP FOR THE 5K RACE, Y’ALL IN THE WRONG PLACE.”

TUMMY BUTTERFLIES ALERT. JITTERY FEET. Aaaaand the 13.1 miles at 9,000 ft begins!

I started off slow, holding myself back, taking deep gulps of fresh piney air and admiring the glistening sun on the lakes tucked between the rocky mountains. One man who was running alongside me said “pretty spectacular, huh?”
I agreed.
“WOW, you’re from England!?” He had instantly recognised my British accent.
“WOW. So do you, like, do many international races?”
(That sounded so cool).
I laughed and said no. I then proceeded to tell him that I had only ever done one half marathon before and I spontaneously signed up to do this one yesterday.
He literally couldn’t believe it. People train to do a half at altitude for yonks.
“Y’all the craziest fool I’ve ever met.”

As the lovely chatty American began to slow, I still felt fresh, so pushed on ahead.

Around mile 3.5 I was bored of holding back. Yes, this isn’t always the wisest thing and I’m not necessarily advising it – but I wanted to go – so I did.

Let the over-taking begin. I felt brilliant. Mile 4 to the finish, I didn’t get over taken once and it was an amazing feeling. I cannot explain why I felt so good. I think it was a combination of adrenaline from the beauty and excitement and the fact that I am on my own in California – I’m running a half marathon in the mountains – this is what dreams are made of…Let’s not forget I’ve also been training hard this last year. Not for a half marathon, no. But all those speed sessions / leisurely 10ks on the weekend must have helped enormously.

Mile 8-12 were my favourite. Speedier than ever, I was on some kind of running high.

The last mile hit me like a tonne of bricks and was hard. But I was so close!

When I saw the finish line, I wanted it so bad. The speakers were calling out names from “LA” “San Francisco” etc. When he got to my name, the “Thirsk in North Yorkshire” confused him so much. Brilliant.

Unfortunately, crossing that finish line and falling into Joe’s ecstatic hug wasn’t as happy as I had hoped. Like a sudden car crash, I, without warning, felt terrible.

I wanted to be celebrating with my medal and taking photos. Instead, I was on my knees, head over the toilet, trying to be sick. Not the glamorous glory I had imagined.

I then slumped, feeling sorry for myself in the medical tent. I was severely dehydrated. The buzz and adrenaline had completely masked it the whole way around. I didn’t even want to drink, but had to force it. About 3 hours later, after a tonne of electrolytes – I suddenly brightened up. THANK GOODNESS. Time to celebrate.

So, even if having the best experience of my life wasn’t enough. I found out some awesome news. Out of over a thousand runners, I came 2nd in my age category (13th woman over all).

HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?!

When I arrived home in England, they had posted me an award! I’m now dreaming of my next trip up in the mountains. I will return.

Run to get fitter, run to get faster, run to feel happier.

All the best,

Liv

Lose the Garmin

On the 12th July I did the Kilburn 7 – a 7 mile Road Race incorporated in annual Kilburn Feast. The route through historic Coxwold, Byland Abbey, Oldstead & finishes in centre of Kilburn.

It was a hot day and I was warned that it was a very hilly course.

Getting out of the car, I saw a sea of neon. Brightly dressed athletic figures paraded around doing warm-up lunges and strides.

‘Why does everyone look so pro?’ I thought to myself. Usually at these sort of races you’ll see a select few that look really keen, but the majority will look like Sunday-afternoon-fair weather-joggers, or people maybe doing it for charity.

Not here. Everyone looked the absolute bees knees.

I’ve had some great success at local races, but judging by the sort of people that were running in the Kilburn 7…’top 10 for my age category? Maybe?’

‘You know what, it’s a beautiful day – let’s just go with no pressure and enjoy the run, enjoy the scenery.’

At the start line I met a lovely man called Phil – a keen member of the Stockton Striders running club (and a brilliant runner!) He knew my Aunty and had promised her he’d ‘look after me.’

A few at the start line asked me – “why aren’t you wearing your Garmin?”

The reason for my bare wrist was that I didn’t want to be bogged down by timings and pacing. I am very grateful to own a Garmin (it was a generous Christmas present – thanks Mum and Dad!) but I also often find myself resenting it. Those annoying little beeps every few minutes – often telling you that you’re falling short of your target. It can be pretty crushing.

“I just want to enjoy the run” I told them.

Plus, with all the hills, I was bound to be running at a slower average pace. I’d rather just go with the flow and listen to my body, rather than listening to those, let’s be honest, rather interrupting, disheartening beeps.

I set off with Phil and it was a very, very fast pace. So fast that I was with the fast men at the front.

By mile 3 (still at the front) I was exhausted and could no way keep up that pace for another 4 miles, so I slowed down considerably.

Quite a few men over-took. Then, out of no where, a sudden burst of energy came to me just before mile 5. I was able to run much quicker for the last two and a half miles and over-take a few again. I felt like I had wings – it was incredible.

With a mile to go, we were offered wet sponges. Sprinting past, dripping with sweat in the July heat, I grabbed one and shoved it in my face. My mouth was open a bit and I got a mouthful of what tasted like Dettol – mmm, tasty.

I didn’t care. I felt glorious. I had no idea if a woman was very close behind me or not – even so, ‘second place would be incredible’ I thought to myself.

For the last stretch I felt even stronger, and all that was going through my head was: Run like Emelia Gorecka.

(Emelia is one of my good friends and she is also spectacularly inspirational to me).

Crossing that finish line as the first lady was amazing. My Mum couldn’t believe the result. Dad wished he could have been there but said he was very proud.

I found out during the results that the next woman to cross the finish line was 4 minutes behind me – I could’t believe it! I honestly don’t think I would have done so well if it wasn’t for Phil. Although I slowed in the middle, trying to keep up with him would have shed minutes off my overall time, I have no doubt about that. So – thank you, Phil.

Run for the moment and push yourself!

Run to get fitter, run to get faster, run to feel happier.

All the best,

Liv x

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Surprise can be the greatest feeling

A few months ago I did my first ever indoor track event (3000m) and was ever so surprised to walk away with the bronze medal.

Next up for the RHUL team was an outdoor track event. It was part of the London Athletics series and held at Tooting Bec Athletics track.

I thought, seeing as the 3000m went so well, I’ll do that one again… However, this event wasn’t on until later on in the afternoon, meaning that I wouldn’t get back in time for the Sports Awards Ball that night. Now, I couldn’t miss that, could I!?

The 10,000m was the first event. Doing this would mean I would get back in time for the party.

Did I want to run 25 laps of a track at race pace?

No.

Did I sign up?

Yes.

Why? – it was going to be my last ever competition, competing for RHUL so I was desperate to do something. Who cares if I come last, I thought. I just want to give it a go…

Turns out (because of the awards) no one else from RHUL entered. Just me. But my lovely friend Kate (secretary of the club) joined me for moral support.

“So what event are you doing?” another competitor asked. I replied with “unfortunately the 10,000.”

They then looked at Kate, waiting for her answer…

“I’m her coach.”

Her quick wit made me burst with laughter – but the girls from the Kings College team didn’t quite know what to say.

I warmed up and slowly felt my stomach fill with churning nerves. “What am I doing?” I thought to myself. This has the potential to be very embarrassing. Everyone else had big teams, cheering them on in the stands. I had lonely Kate, doing the odd ‘woop.’ I was very grateful that she had come with me, but the fact that only two had shown up to represent RHUL and the fear of coming last would make RHUL a laughing stock…

Thoughts turned to my Dad.
“You can do it lass.”
“Give it your all.”
“Pain is just a weakness leaving the body.”

I’ll be blunt – being such an ‘under-dog’ spurred me on to really, really give it a shot.

The gun went.

First lap I was third. Then thoughts turned to the potential of also getting a PB…I went with the tactic of constantly checking in with myself, asking: ‘am I running the best I possibly could be, right this second?’

If the answer was no, I ran harder. Who cares if I end up burning out. Sometimes you’ve got to be brave and really push yourself in order to achieve what you never thought was possible.

I realised that, right that second, I could be going faster than the two girls in front. So I overtook.

I then tried to forget about anyone else and just think about how I was running at that very second. I tried not to think about what was to come, or how far behind me the other girls were.

Everytime I went past the crowd I would hear Kate’s little cheer. A few seconds later a roar would burst out for the girl behind me. But each lap, the seconds between the little cheer and the roar grew and grew.

I could win this. I thought to myself. But I also didn’t allow myself to get too excited because I just couldn’t quite believe it – surely she will have some sprint finish at the end and over-take me. But the louder the cheers were for her, the harder I pushed.

When the 25th lap finally came, I enjoyed ever millisecond of pain that sprint finish gave me.

I took home the gold for RHUL and achieved a PB of 39.44

The element of total surprise and feeling of true accomplishment made that possibly my favourite race to date.

Of course, I couldn’t have done it without Kate. The thought of making her proud at the end, really helped me keep pushing. And, what good is winning if you’ve got no-one to give you the biggest hug as you cross the finish, squeezing your ribs. And seeing their eyes glisten with true pride.

Run to get fitter, run to get faster, run to feel happier.

All the best,

Liv x

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Bushy Park

It’s the last London XC league of the season.

5k for women, 10k for men, pretty flat loop.

I had a truly glorious day. The sun was shining, Wayne the bear (our mascot) came along for the ride and everyone was in a great, joyous mood.

The race itself was fab – I felt good and strong and managed to cross the finish line smiling. It was one of those races that was very satisfying because even if it wasn’t a PB, you just know that you couldn’t have done better. You know you had a good race and your body really tried it’s best for you. You can congratulate your mind for good race tactics – you played it well rather than crossing the finish line thinking damn it, I went off too fast / didn’t give it enough on the hills, etc, etc.

Of course, we can always learn from races though. And what I learnt today is that by having the goal of ‘just enjoying the experience’ can be extremely rewarding.

It was also a tad emotional. Seeing that my team, as individuals, had improved so much since the first league made me extremely proud. Charlotte looked teary as she thanked me for being such a good President and said how much she would miss me when I leave. It made my eyes start to water too and I gave her a massive hug.

Run to get fitter, fun to get faster, run to feel happier.

All the best,

Liv

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Fast n’ flat

This XC race was short (under 4k for the women) and pretty flat.

Most would jump for joy at the thought of less distance and fewer hills. Not me.

For me, this course was too flat and too short and therefore too fast. Just because a course is ‘easier’ on paper, certainly doesn’t make it any easier in real life. In fact, in my opinion, these kind of races are more difficult. I am not a sprinter and I found the extremely fast pace difficult to keep up with.

I also found it a rather lonely race. There wasn’t a girl very near ahead of me that I could focus my energy into trying to over-take, neither was there a girl close behind me, breathing down my neck – so I wasn’t really getting pushed on at all. I was behind the amazing runners, and in front of the average runners. I was in my own little bubble. I know I would have got a better time if I had felt like I was in a more competitive environment.

Speaking of competitive, we had a fantastic sprint finish from RHUL’s very own Jack Jakins. It was so exciting to watch and we were all screaming for him at the top of our voices. I love that feeling of excitement and true joy you can feel for a team-mate.

Despite the course being too short and too flat for my liking – no shoes were lost as it wasn’t too muddy. And a quicker race means back home earlier for dinner. Happy days.

Run to get fitter, run to get faster, run to feel happier.

All the best,

Liv

BUCS!

BUCS is the big one. I had been excited about it for months. I was honoured to represent my university and couldn’t wait to spend the weekend in a hotel in Brighton with my team-mates Grace and Emelia. Both Grace Baker and Emelia Gorecka are exceptional runners – it was so cool I was going to be running alongside them.

But disaster stuck. Three days before we made the journey to Brighton I got injured.

Alongside running and doing my degree, I was in the production of Romeo & Juliet. I had several fight choreography rehearsals a week and it was during one of these rehearsals – a dodgy fall injured my lower back. It really hurt to walk and running was a no – go.

I was upset but also determined. If I stretch and do yoga and foam roll in every spare second of the day, maybe I’ll be alright by Saturday?

I was going to still go as the hotel was booked for and there was no reserve.

I’ll do it even if I have to walk over the finish line, I thought to myself.

Brighton was super fun. Me and the girls get on so well – we had such a laugh and went for some nice meals out. I don’t think I was quite myself though. I just wanted to run. I just wanted it to be magically better.

Saturday morning arrived.

I ran.

It hurt. A lot.

I didn’t do great but I finished. “I’m so sorry” I said to the girls. They said they didn’t mind at all but I did. They were amazing. Emelia WON (this is every university in the country competing, it’s kind of a big deal). And Grace came in the top 10. If only I had been fit and well, our team would have done well.

I could only put on a brave face for so long. Not long after the finish, my independence and strong, motivated-self vanished. I snuck off from the rest of the group, phoned my Dad, and had a pathetic little sob.