Why I’ve stopped ‘training’ and started ‘running’

2015 is a bit of an unusual year for me – running wise at least. I don’t have any big races booked, I don’t have a marathon, I haven’t got a full year of events lined up and planned out, I don’t even have a training plan…

This is very unlike me and actually takes me out of my comfort zone somewhat. I am a slave to lists. I make a list every Sunday of what meals I will be making, from which I generate a thorough shopping list. I have lists for work (separated into colourful columns for employer work, freelance work and personal projects – honestly, it’s a work of art). I have a weekly housework schedule. I have two calendars (one upstairs, one down) and a diary, which are filled in painstakingly by hand, even though I actually only ever look at the calendar on my phone, which is synced to all my devices and with my husband. And everything has little checkboxes next to each task. I own more notebooks than running kit (and that is saying something).

I appreciate that all makes me sound a bit crazy and OCD (I’m not though; honestly, they checked me for OCD once… though it’s still possible I’m crazy). So it’s no wonder that I like to sit down and sort out what races I am doing for the year. The races get split into main events and training races, and then the right training plans can be found so I have a schedule to stick to.

The problem is that life doesn’t actually like being scheduled. You can’t plan a child’s illness, an injury, a surprise trip away (if only…). And working freelance from home around mothering duties and a part-time job makes it even more difficult to stick to an exact run plan. Inevitably, that means I miss runs, I have to swap them around – and that doesn’t sit well with my schedule-centric brain.

Last year, I’ll admit, it got a bit too much. I had two marathons so I was straight from one training plan into another. There were days when I looked at my calendar and saw ’15 miles easy’ and what I really wanted was 3 miles fast. Over time, I had somehow lost all the fun and spontaneity from my running. I still enjoyed it, but there were runs that I just hated. the ones where I forced myself to go because the ‘schedule’ told me too. And then there was the guilt when I missed a run, even if I was feeling rotten and rundown.

2015 is the year of change for me – in lots of different areas of my life, such as putting some of my personal project ideas onto paper and getting them out into the world, and trying not to care if they don’t work out. I knew I would have a lot on and I didn’t want a marathon in the middle of that. I had started to resent the training and the time it took away from me and my family.

The more I thought about it, the more I realised how much I had let the idea of ‘training’ take over my running life and that made me sad. I didn’t often run with other people, as I wanted to meet my target time and pace. Friends would come back from fun, chatty runs full of joy, and I would just be on my own, slugging it out to get a tick on my list. My routes became predictable and boring.

So, at the start of the year, and in honour of my New Year’s pledge to be ‘relentlessly positive’ I changed tack completely. This year I want to ‘run’. Not train, just run. That doesn’t mean that I won’t be racing, as I enjoy it (and I’ve already done a half marathon and a 10K, plus plenty of parkruns). I’m signing up for events as and when I feel like it. I know that my running keeps me in roughly half-marathon shape, so anything up to that I can enter last minute and just enjoy it. It also doesn’t mean that I have stopped caring about pace; I want to challenge myself to do better, but varying my running to what I feel like doing has actually made me a better runner. I am running a lot more on trails, as it’s much more fun, and that has made me stronger. I am also running more runs with others at a slower pace, so I am actually recovering between harder runs. I’m also doing the interval sessions at running club and challenging myself to go out on the longer tempo runs that always filled me with fear. The result? A parkrun PB of 22:49, which I would have thought impossible this time last year.

Me being me, I still need to have some kind of structure to my running. But it is much simpler. I want to run four times a week, but it doesn’t matter what days (although I have fallen into a kind of routine with that). One run should be faster; one run should be longer. At least one should be off-road. Other than that I want to have fun. I have entered races with friends, just to have a laugh and forget about times, but I have also entered races where I am gunning for a PB because I like the challenge. If I don’t feel like running, I don’t, but I do try and do something else instead (a walk, a swim, a strength workout). Unless I am being lazy, then I force myself to run, but I pick a pretty, uplifting route and take it nice and easy.

And the result? I am loving my running right now. I have made some fabulous new friends that ‘get’ my running life, I am trying new things and I am still improving – more than I have ever done on a structured training plan. Maybe I will follow one again when I am ready for a ‘big’ event, but for now, I’m happy with being (just a little bit) flexible.



Uh oh, I neglected my blog… but I have been running (honest!)

Every so often I seem to have to do one of these posts. I get really, really good at regular updates and my blog goes along quite swimmingly then I lapse and it’s months and months between posts. So for that, I apologise. This is a blog I write about running, and I have been writing and I have been running – just not in the same place. The writing side of things is not really relevant – it’s what I do to pay for bills and races – and I’ve been a busy girl (which given I am freelance is pretty much the way I like it).

Running-wise, I’ve also been busy. In fact, in 2014 I have clocked up 21 races, which is the most I have raced in one year. Since I last posted, I have done another marathon (Bournemouth), as well as lots of local events from 5K to 10 miles. I’ve set a few PBs too… my 10K time has come down to 48:30 and my 5K is now 23:00, which pretty much smashes the targets I set for myself in these distances at the start of the year.

It’s not the end of the year yet, but I have been looking back at the targets I set for myself in January.

I wanted to improve my pace, with specific time goals. I have done the 5K (I wanted sub-24mins) and the 10K (I wanted sub-50 mins). However, my half marathon goal (sub-1:50, but I’ve done 1:53) and marathon goal (sub-4, I did 4:19) are unmet. In hindsight, I am actually quite pleased. I have been working more than ever and I have been enjoying every moment I have with my toddler. I am confident that if I gave it my full attention I could meet those goals, but I haven’t and I am pleased with what I achieved.

My next goal was to get to 1000 miles in 2014 – well I’m not there yet, but I’m feeling confident! I have done another 5 miles since, so I actually have 39 miles to go. As I am doing the Advent Streak again, I should be fine.

Garmin yearly goal


I wanted to stop competing and comparing myself to others, which has been tough, but I think I am improving in this area. I do push myself hard, but my motivation is self-improvement. Although most of my recent PBs have been chasing someone.

I wanted to stay local and not do any races outside of a 25-mile radius. 20 of my races have fulfilled this goal. The one that hasn’t was the Totness 10K, but I was visiting my family in Devon, so I shall allow it. I have definitely learned that there are so many races locally and they cost a lot less – this is one goal that is going to become habit.

Finally, I wanted to be more active outside of running, using my FitBit to monitor my steps and upping my daily goal to 15,000 rather than 10,000. I’ll be honest, it’s not happened. I have really good days, but when I am chained to the desk and getting work done, I just don’t have the extra time to get steps in on top of squeezing a run in. One to carry forward then.

So that’s me facing the end of 2014, pretty happy in what I have done in running this year. I still have goals for next year, but looking at it all I would say it’s been my best-ever running year – and that will take some beating.


Marathon recovery and staying motivated

I’ve done four marathons now (and one almost-marathon) and my recovery from each has been quite long, full of pain and misery, and characterised by a distinct lack of enthusiasm to ever run again. Of course, I have always got over it, given that I didn’t just run one marathon and quit. But I really feel like this time, I have  managed to get it right (for me).

For my first marathon, back in 2009, I had no idea what to expect and I booked the next two days off work. I finished the run (which was stupidly hot) and sat down. Big mistake, as when I started walking again, my legs had turned to lead. I also didn’t eat or drink much, so by the time I got home from London, I was pretty much a gibbering wreck. I went to bed after a quick bath and woke up in agony the next day. Everything ached, I felt weak and I slept a lot. I didn’t feel like myself until a few days later, and I didn’t run again for at least a month. I also didn’t race at all, over any distance, for the rest of the year.

Marathon 2 in 2010 was a little better. I kept walking straight through the finish line at Brighton and into the pub where my family were. Warm clothes, water and food were pretty much instantaneous. A little stretch and a cider (I’m not recommending this of course, but it tasted amazing!), followed by a proper meal and gentle walking back to the hotel came next, and I managed to go out that night and celebrate  – well, until about 9:30pm, when I went to bed. I ached for a day or so, but nothing too bad. But again, I lost my running motivation with no goal in sight.

Marathon DNF in 2013 was my first attempt at a big race after my son was born. Well, it just went horribly wrong and I pulled out at 16 miles. That’s a whole other story, but I spent the next few days feeling miserable and disappointed and poorly. The only plus point was that I had good reason to be put off running for a while, but also had the motivation to want to do another one to put it behind me – so I promptly signed up for a marathon later in the year.

Marathon 3, later in 2013, was a chance to put everything behind me and prove I could still run a marathon. I was woefully undertrained, though, as I just wasn’t feeling it at all. 2013 was not my year for running. It was hot and slow and emotional, but I finished. I still felt pretty rough for a day with achey legs, but physically it wasn’t too bad. What was really different was my attitude. I had proved I could still run 26.2 miles and that was a huge leap for me. I had thought that becoming a mother meant I couldn’t have hobbies that took up my time, like running. So I did something that is probably a bit silly and entered a 10K race for two weeks after the marathon. Having that short-term goal keep me moving forward. I focussed on stretching, resting and gentle running to keep my body moving, and I felt amazing.  I went into that 10K full of energy and got a PB. I then did the Great South Run a week later, and got a 10-mile PB. A couple of weeks after that, I did another 10K and, yes you guessed it, got ANOTHER PB.

Since that period of awesomeness last year, I haven’t really stopped. I felt motivated, inspired and full of running passion. I have gone on to get PBs in every distance since then – and significant ones as well. I also changed my nutrition (a much cleaner diet), my race fuel (no more gels for me!) and my long-run recovery (smoothies and ice baths). I experimented and experimented for months during my marathon training to ensure that a long run didn’t wipe me out; it actually invigorated me to continue running.

Marathon 4… which was 10 days ago at the time of writing and it’s been my best recovery yet! I am feeling amazing, no post-marathon blues, lots of motivation and I’m running. Plus I didn’t ache, not even a little bit, despite a PB on the day. So, what did I do differently?

1. Start post-race recovery straight away

I crossed the line, got my medal and immediately put my head into recovery mode. That meant a little sit down (just for a minute!), water, some sports drink and food (a Mars bar, because I wanted one!). I headed home not long after finishing (the joys of a local race) and made a smoothie, which I drank sat in a bath of ice cold water. My smoothies are made with frozen berries, full-fat Greek yoghurt, Chia seeds, flaxseed and honey. I dried off and started a hot bath running, while I ate something more substantial and stretched a little. Finally, a hot bath and popped on my compression socks. I felt fresh and well fuelled, and the best bit – not a single ache the next day!

2. Light training in first week

Week 1 of recovery was also week 1 of my next 16-week training plan for my October marathon. I didn’t want a complete zero week, but I also wanted a fairly easy week of recovery. So for the first two days I did nothing except for gentle walking, a little foam rolling and stretching. On the third day I was getting jittery and needing to do something, so I went to my normal Insanity class (50 minutes of plyometrics, balance, core, ab work and sports training). I took it easier than usual, but still got a good workout. I took another rest day on the Thursday. Friday I went out for my first run – a slow 5K to see how it felt. It felt like running through molten lava. I took that as a sign I wasn’t ready yet and rested for the entire weekend, again with just walking. By the Sunday, a week after the marathon, I felt completely rested and back to normal.

3. The reverse taper

My plan was always to have one light week, then spend three weeks slowly building my mileage back up in a reverse taper, so that four weeks after the marathon, I was ready to get on with marathon training round 2. The Monday, 8 days after the marathon, I ran 10K – again at a slow pace. I just wanted to complete the distance as I am racing 10K at the weekend (two weeks post marathon). I took a rest day again on the Tuesday and today, Wednesday, I am going to do a gentle 5K, followed by Insanity class. My plan is then to rest until parkrun on Saturday and my race on Sunday. The next two weeks will be a mixture of easy runs and slow runs that start to build distance back up with the aim of hitting around 10 miles by the end of the first month.

4. Book another race

The best motivation for me is to have other races on the horizon. If there is nothing booked in after my marathon, I just stop. So I have a 10K two weeks after the marathon, which I will either run or race, depending on my recovery. I also have another marathon to focus on. This has been the biggest factor in keeping my post-marathon blues at bay, but also it meant that I had less pressure on the first marathon, as if I didn’t do well, I had a second chance. This isn’t right for everyone, but it works for me.

I do need to point out that this is my recovery and in no way am I recommending this. Common advice dictates that you need to rest one day for every mile, and also that returning to training too soon can increase the risk of injury. I know my body and if I feel tired, I rest. If something niggles, I stop. Hal Higdon has some great post-marathon advice that is worth reading.

Does anyone else have post-race rituals that make them feel better?

Littledown Marathon – 15 June 2014


My first small-scale marathon and the one that I approached with the most apprehension… I mean 26 laps around a grass field isn’t most people’s idea of fun. I scouted the route out a few times in advance, even the day before, walking it round and figuring out any tough bits. It’s a dead flat route, but there are some narrow points where it’s single file only with a few tree roots to navigate. My biggest concern at the time was due to the fact that there was little cover, and it had been a scorcher of a week.

Luckily, marathon day dawned under cover of cloud. While still warm, just a respite from the searing sun was more than I could have hoped for. I did sun lotion up and wear a hat regardless, which I think really helped on the brief occasions when the sun did poke through.

I only live a few miles from the race start, so I left in time to arrive, get my number, warm up and start without any hanging around. It was great to receive the goody bag at the start of the race with my number and chip – a technical t-shirt and some running socks.

It was quite a casual start to the race, with a briefing by the race director, pointing out some of the very notable names involved in the race, including Steve Way and Steve Edwards among others. I felt honoured to be in such a small race with these talented runners (only 69 finishers on the day). We wandered over to a point 0.2 miles away, which was the start leading into the 1-mile loop. While there is chip timing, this is to keep track of the loops so there is no chip mat at the start line, meaning you lose a couple of seconds here. The chip mat marks the start of the laps.

I took the first lap at a comfortable pace and found my rhythm – it seemed to fly by and I might have felt a tad overconfident at this point! It was great to see my family every mile (more in fact, as my dad and husband would pop out at random points at the loop!). They also passed me water and sports drinks at my request (I put my orders in on one lap, collected them on the next!). I didn’t really need this, as there was a table to place drinks on at the start of the lap as well as water, gels and sports drinks, so I couldn’t possibly have gone lacking. There were also sponges soaked in water – a blessed relief as the heat was definitely on.

Things went well for me up until mile 16. Then I just lost my focus – my physical stamina felt okay, but my head just broke down and I thought I couldn’t face another lap. That’s when my sub-4 disappeared and is started looking at 4:15. As the miles trudged on, I thought I would never finish and couldn’t care less about time.

However, somewhere around 21 miles I managed to find some mental strength and gave myself a good talking to. I knew my target time was gone, but a PB was still possible (under 4:23). I took on some more fuel, drank some water and gave myself a virtual slap before picking up the pace again. Those last 5 miles were much better and I got my rhythm back. I felt a little emotional on that last lap and really gave it my all.

I crossed the line in 4:19:02, which was a PB. I gratefully received my medal (and it was a good one!) before plonking myself down with my family and watching other runners looping on around.

Bar those few miles in the middle, I really enjoyed this event. It was small, local and friendly, which is everything I have come to love about racing this year. I know what I need to work on if I am ever going to get that sub-4 (but that’s another post). I will be back!




Flat course
Small but friendly field
Lapped route means all abilities mixed in together
Amazing medal and goodie bag
Good support throughout
Well organised


No cover from sun
It’s 26 laps!
You will get lapped (unless you’re Steve Way)

Marathon training update: It’s taper time!

I haven’t really been blogging non-stop about my marathon training this time around, but I have been training – honest! In fact, given that this is my 5th lot of marathon build up (resulting in 4 finishes and a DNF), you’d think I had nothing more to say on the subject, but this time things have been a bit different.

First, I haven’t been focused on the marathon completely for the last 16 weeks. I was actually training for a half marathon in March (the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon) and I only switched to a marathon plan with 11 weeks to go. This meant that I was entering marathon training in the best shape I have been in running-wise, probably ever. I had been focusing on speed since the Bournemouth Marathon last year after I was disappointed with my result. In the last 6 months I have set new PBs at 5K (23:41), 10K (49:39) and half marathon (1:53:04), and I am fully intending on doing the same at the Littledown Marathon in June. As the marathon was kind of a late entry into my plans for the year, I didn’t really have time to get stressed about it, and I was used to putting the time aside to get my 4-5 runs a week done.

I chose a slightly more difficult training plan than I have before, though still one that I can fit into my hectic life! I am more or less following the Hal Higdon Intermediate 1 plan (although I have never completed a plan perfectly to this day). So far, it’s going really well, although I worry about being overconfident! In my Bournemouth Marathon training my long runs were run at a pace of 10-10:20min/mile. But I have had some cracking (for me!) long runs this time around…

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Now I know that is not going to be setting any marathons alight, but I’m happy. My original target was 4:20, but I am now thinking that I might – might – be able to edge a bit closer to that magic 4-hour mark. I’m not sure if I can do it this time around, but who knows? I could get close. I’m hoping for around 4:15 if I can maintain my training pace, and I am hoping a little faster on the day in the right conditions.

The second big change has been in my nutrition. I have always been an on-the-go fueller, with gels tucked in my waistband and Lucozade Sport stashed in bushes. However, I have been trying to switch to a cleaner way of eating in my normal life and I wanted to expand that into my running as well. It has taken a lot of experimentation to find what works for me, but I think I have it right.



90mins-2 hours pre-run

A large bowl of my homemade granola 

Two tablespoons of Total Greek 0% yoghurt

30mins pre-run

A Trek Protein flapjack or a Chia Charge flapjack 

During the run

One Nakd bar at 14 miles and water (so far I haven’t run over 20 miles, but I haven’t felt like I needed more yet)

Around 200ml of Lucozade Sport


A smoothie made with frozen berries, more Total Greek 0% yogurt, almond milk, flaxseed, Chia seeds (from http://chiacharge.co.uk/) and honey


I just want to kick that mid-run Lucozade, but I don’t want to try anything new pre-marathon. However, I have a sample pack of products from Chia Charge, part of which is a drink I want to try, and I have also been recommended a fruit juice/water/salt mix.  I’ll be following the same strategy for the marathon itself, though I will carry a couple of bars, rather than just one. Something must be working though, as my pace is improving. Another big difference is in my recovery – I am feeling fresh after my runs and haven’t yet had a bout of muscle ache (possibly due to the ice-cold post-run bath and the funky compression socks I own!)

So now I am entering taper and for once I am not dreading it. I have some confidence in my training this time; I honestly don’t think there is any more I could do (not with two jobs and a toddler anyway! I won’t be resting on my laurels though, as I am going to be keeping up with a little bit of pace work in the next two weeks, although dropping the overall mileage. I fully expect to get ill, as I always seem to in taper, but I am hoping that if I can keep up the clean eating and training, plus maybe even get some sleep (if the little one lets me) I shouldn’t suffer too bad.

And that’s my update… 15 June is getting a lot closer now, but I really can’t wait. Even if I am running 26x 1-mile loops around a park for my next marathon. If it’s good enough for Steve Way... (side note: anyone want to take bets on how far I will get before I get lapped by him? I think two thirds of a mile – if I am lucky!).







Grand Shaftesbury Trail Half Marathon – 18 May 2014

This race was suggested to me via a fellow runner in the Run Mummy Run community, and I have to admit I had never heard of it. The Grand Shaftesbury Run is a series of events over the course of a day, held at the picturesque St Giles House on the Shaftesbury Estate. It offers half-marathon, 10K and 1K events, and this year had an aquathon as well (750m open water swim and a 5K run). Each of the runs takes place around the grounds and off-road. With such a vast estate to utilise, the half marathon is a single loop.

I’d not run a trail half marathon before; I’ve done a 10K earlier in the year, but that was at a country park that I am familiar with. This was completely unchartered territory for me. Finding the venue was easy enough given that my husband was driving and I was directing – I’m not sure I would have liked my chances as much if I’d been on my own without SatNav! From Bournemouth, it was around a 40-minute drive to Wimborne St Giles.

Once there, signs led us into the parking field and to the race start, which was a 10-minute walk away. We had our toddler with us, as he quite enjoys spectating and it was a glorious day. Almost too nice by my standards, as it was hot and with little shade. The race start outside of the main house was filled with stalls, tents and a bouncy castle, which the little one quite appreciated! For such a small event in terms of runner numbers, there was certainly a lot going on.

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The race started bang on time; so much so that there were still a few people coming into the finish funnel (which was also the start) from the aquathon, who must have been rather intimidated by a herd of half marathoners running at them. The first two thirds of a mile was on a long grass avenue, exposed to the elements, which made me realise that, 1. It was scorching hot and 2. Grass running takes some getting used to! The course turned into the fields around the estate and then into the woods, which offered some respite from the sun. Mostly, the terrain was woodland trails, with plenty of tree roots to dodge, just to keep you on your toes. A lot of it was run in the tyre depressions on the path, so it wasn’t very wide, making it essential to concentrate – not something I do a lot of when racing.

The field thinned out as I ran on. I did find myself with a small group of men for a while, but eventually some fell behind and some went ahead, until I was pretty much alone. At this point I figured that I had to start actually looking for the signs that directed me around the route, rather than blindly following. As long as I paid attention, it was easy to find my way – I was very aware that there were long stretches between marshals and I didn’t want to get lost (there were rumours that some people did, but if I can follow a route, then it’s usually pretty well marked!).

I knew that time was not a priority quite early on; it certainly wasn’t a PB course for me. I took it easy and just enjoyed it – which I did, immensely. Turns out I like trail running, judging by the stupid giddy smile on my face when I found a nice boggy mud patch to run through. I’ll be signing up for more.

The finish straight was that same grassy avenue, which I pushed on to get a sprint finish (of sorts). It was a great race, but the best part, for me, was getting back to find my little family having fun. I worry when they come to watch in case of boredom, but they’d gone back to the car to get the sun tent, pitched up in the field, ate pizza and played football – it’s a hard life. It’s the first time I have done a run, kicked my shoes off and sunbathed with pizza and cider within minutes of finishing, in a festival-esque atmosphere. Really impressed.

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Nice medal

Great trail route

Really good setup for spectators and runners



Not a PB course



East Cliff Rotary Easter Quarter Marathon – 19 April



This race was a bit last-minute (for me anyway), as I only decided to enter it about a week and a half before the day itself. I was struggling with my longer runs in marathon training, and fancied an event to take the focus off logging miles and finding some speed in my legs instead. The distance was a new one for me – a quarter marathon, which is 6.55 miles or 10.5K – so I was going to get a PB regardless!

The race takes part along the seafront in Bournemouth, starting just beyond Boscombe Pier, heading out to Southbourne, a loop around a residential area and back along the cliff top all the way to Boscombe Pier, with a sharp decline and a turn back along the prom to finish. All in all, a nice, flat and scenic route. It was a nice start to the day; a little windy along the prom, but warm and sunny. This is lovely for running in, but it is also nice weather for cycling, walking, taking the dog out, and playing football – all obstacles to dodge when running the popular stretch of seafront. It was a big enough event, however, that people did generally let the runners pass by.

I was feeling pretty comfortable coming into the race – I’d done my 16 miles the week before and that had just about left my legs, and I had done a couple of leg loosening runs in the week by way of prep. I’d already registered online, but I still needed to collect my race number on the day – a simple process, with friendly organisers. The seafront is well served by facilities like toilets and changing rooms, places to eat and drink and so on, so it’s perfect for racing. Parking can be a problem on nice days – I managed to get a space about ten minutes walk away on the clifftop for free (it helps to know the side roads!).

The race started on time and went off at a fast pace – there was definitely a lot of club runners, but a good helping of runners of all abilities made up the field. My plan was just to stay under 8min/miles the whole way and run hard. I pretty much did that, with my trusty Garmin beeping away happily to keep me on track. I know the route well (in fact, it’s pretty much the second half of the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon I did a few weeks before), so I know where the ups and downs are, which helped me to keep a pretty even pace throughout.

The organisation, as with all of the local runs I have tried recently, was flawless, with a well-manned drinks station about halfway around. The only small fault was the finish funnel, which backed up when I came in as we waited in a queue to get the goody bags that were being hastily put together. The temperature had dropped a fair bit by now (very suddenly) so it was a cold wait. Still, I was happy enough to get my medal and Creme egg!

I crossed the line in 52:03 (not chip timed), but my Garmin clocked me a new 10K PB of 49:29 as an added bonus, so I was pretty happy with that. I enjoyed the race and I’m really glad I entered. It gave me back some running mojo, as marathon training can really take over sometimes. I’ll be back again!


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Well organised

Good facilities

Nice route

Interesting distance



Finish area needs a rethink

Not a pedestrian free route

Headwind to consider in first 2 miles