Mo Santa Olympic Park thingy 

Yesterday I took part in the Queen Elizabeth OR Mo Santa Olympic Park 10k race (I have no idea what the actual official name of this race is/was!). I signed up a while ago because a lot of friends wanted to race it. Originally the plan was to dress up and do it for fun but as the event got closer I wanted to see what time I could get. Myself, Jonny and Alan were going to dress up as Mary, Joseph and Jesus but Alan didn’t race in the end. I decided to wear a Santa hat and some tinsel to get into the festive spirit as well as race. Lorna, Emily and I got on the tube to head over to the Olympic Park, due to the weather we were not looking forward to the run. However knowing the rest of the Bartpack were going to be there we knew it would be fun even in the cold and rain.

Racing in the 10k was Lorna, Emily, Freya, Mary (I mean Jonny!), Toni, Greig, Michalis, Eilidh and a very weary Steve, 11 days into Advent Running. A lot of the group signed up to the race aiming for certain times. With tinsel attached to trainers and a Santa hat squeezed on my head we made our way to the start line. Queue a couple of pre-race photos:   

Greig, me, Lorna, Freya, Eilidh, Toni, Michalis, Emily and Mary… I mean Jonny.  

Due to wanting to see how fast I could run the 10k, I snuck my way towards the front of the field. Once near the front I bumped into a runner that has been reading my blog, it’s quite strange when you meet people that know you via social media. Joe had stumbled across my blog when researching the Thames Meander Marathon and he did really well in the November race finishing in 3:06. I’d done the August race which I loved, mainly because I got a personal best and finally went sub 3. We had a quick chat and then the race started. My legs were feeling a little ropey from the trailscape marathon the previous Saturday but I was hoping after a mile or two I would settle into a good pace and be able to do a time somewhere around 36 minutes. Luckily this ended up being the case; the route was nice and relatively flat. Also the weather was good for running in, just not standing around before and after the race. I set off at around 6 minute mile pace aiming for that 36 finishing time. I was in about 10th place or so and made it an aim to chase as many runners down as possible. In recent races I’ve found it much nicer to chase people down and move forward as the miles go by. In order to achieve a PB in shorter races I’ve found you have to enter the suffer zone as I like to call it. I spent a long time in that zone for Bristol 10k when I did 35:31 earlier in the year. Due to going to track for the last few months and racing a fair bit my fitness has improved quite a lot and therefore holding a pace of sub 6 minutes per mile felt relatively comfortable in the early stages of the 10k. As the race went on I felt strong and focussed on overtaking the runner in front. I enjoyed the route as it was two laps and due to zig-zagging around the Olympic park you got to see lots of other runners and give them a shout.

The first lap went to plan and I felt I still had a lot left in the tank to go through the gears over second 5k. Mark was feeling a bit under the weather (maybe hungover from last Saturday like Alan!? Haha) so he was there supporting instead of racing. It was good to see him at halfway; he got some good photos of everyone. Here’s my mobot:   

 I had a couple of runners to chase down and with 3 miles to go I started thinking about how many minutes I would have left to suffer for. I kept thinking “the quicker I run the quicker I’m in warm clothes and eating food” ha. I quite enjoy routes that are two laps, probably because I’m not the biggest fan of surprises, especially surprises like massive hills around corners on races (you all know what I mean). I also enjoyed the route because it weaved around the Olympic park; I find it boring and tedious running long straight sections of road, so this broke it up in to chunks.  

I managed to pick up the pace quite a bit and finished 7th with a time of 34:58 on the chip. This meant I’d got a new personal best by 33 seconds. I’m really happy with that result, especially after the trailscape marathon in Cuxton the week before and I’d done a relatively high number of miles in the week due to the Advent Running streak. After finishing, I caught up with the cheer crew (Mark). We cheered in the rest of the Bartpack; they all did really well. A lot of them got personal bests, well done Lorna, Emily (knocked a massive 3 minutes off her PB), Freya (went sub 40 mins for the first time), Toni (finished first female) and Michalis. Greig and Jonny also had really strong races. Jonny went sub 40 which is a great effort in that attire:   

 Mary and Freya on sub 40 pace

 Post race selfie with Lorna (@lorns_runs)

Overall the race was well organised, Run Through always do things well. My only constructive criticism would be for them to put a sheet under the bags in the bag drop tent, as afterwards when I wanted to be in warm dry clothes I ended up having to wear wet jeans, not great. I would also try and position the finish line on a straight so runners don’t have to change direction when sprinting through the line and over the timing mats. This is something that I have found a little frustrating when doing the Battersea races but overall the route was good, the marshals were really supportive and the finisher’s tees and race medals are great.  
That’s my racing for 2015 done; it’s been great fun doing races from one mile to 100k and everything in between. Thanks to all of you that I’ve run and raced with this year. Here’s the medal collection:  

 Which of these races have you done this year and what is your favourite race and/or medal? Comment on here or contact me on Twitter/Instagram @StephenSkinner6.

I will be writing a blog post soon about which races and events I’m doing next year and what goals I am setting. See a lot of you soon


Photos courtesy of Mark and Lorna. 

Trailscape Marathon – Cuxton, East

Over the last three weeks or so I have been taking it relatively easy. It took me a while to recover from the Bristol + Bath and North trailscape marathons. On Saturday I travelled with the Advent Running lot to Cuxton in Kent to run the second marathon in the rail to trail series. Being a trail race I hadn’t really given it much thought and knew not to worry about pace or finishing time. Knowing the course was 27+ miles and included 3,000+ft of elevation gain I knew it was going to take a while to get round. The winning time from last year was 4 hours and 51 minutes which says it all.

In the week leading up to my second trailscape marathon I increased my mileage a little. I ran two 14 milers the previous weekend, this was because I wanted to run one of my favourite routes along the canal, up Primrose Hill, up Haverstock Hill, up Swains Lane and up Parliament Hill. The weather was awesome: 
 The next day I ran another 14 miles along the river with Lorna, Freya, Jonny, Bart, Emily and Caroline. The weather wasn’t great that day but as Bart said “It’s cold, windy and pissing it down with rain but look how happy we are because we are running!” He had a good point; the miles went so quickly because we were all having fun despite the weather. The key to keeping motivated through December is to give yourself a strong enough reason to get out there and run. I’m lucky to have great sights to run around and great people to run with in London, I want to be running pretty much all the time. A big reason I will be doing high mileage in December is Advent Running. I run almost every day normally but this month is going to be particularly special as James and Claudia have loads of great events lined up. It all kicked off on Tuesday, we ran from Redchurch Brewery to the Olympic Park and that big RUN sign. 

  The group was massive; it was a great get together. Lots of different people from various running clubs showed up to start their month of running in style. Fast forward to Wednesday, I went to the “Fall in love with running seminar”. We got to hear from Holly Rush (ultrarunner @rushbynature), Vicky Gill (triathlete @vickster_tri), Simon Freeman (Freestak & Like The Wind mag @simonbfreeman) and Alan Murchison (triathlete @performance.chef). 

It was great to hear about their racing, experiences and achievements. I always leave Like The Wind and Advent running events really inspired. On Thursday I got my 30 minutes of running in with The Running Works Run Club: 

 On Friday I had the day off to go to the London Illustration Fair and chill with Lorna. I could’ve had a nice lie in but knowing there was a crazy gang of runners meeting up at Beigel bake on Brick Lane with amazing Christmas jumpers on I had to get involved.  

 Ok so this is supposed to be a race recap, my bad I got side-tracked with all the fun events/running last week. So, Saturday morning I woke up at 6am to get my stuff together and get to James and Claudia’s to travel to Cuxton in Kent. Having not done many trail races I was a little apprehensive knowing the distance and elevation gain. I was confident I would finish but knew it would be a long slog. Being competitive it was hard to hold back at the start but I knew that I would never be able to keep up with a lot of the runners in front. It was good to be running through some beautiful countryside and not having to worry about pace. After a few miles I ended up running alongside a guy called Nick Butcher. We had a good chat about our running; he has completed 94 marathons and is looking to join the 100 marathon club soon. He had taken part in Race to the Stones and finished 30 minutes or so ahead of me in that. He recently did the Druids Challenge which was a race I was thinking of doing. We chatted for a good 10 miles or so about various races, training etc. Just after we started the second loop of the marathon I started to feel good so I picked up my pace a little to get the miles done. I paid the price in the latter stages of the race and in hindsight probably would’ve been better running with Nick the whole way. 

 I quite like two lap courses because you can break it up into chunks and I like to know what to expect. I was enjoying the run but then hit a bit of a rough patch around mile 23. To be fair it was all a bit of a rough patch with how muddy and windy it was but anyway (such a fair weather, road runner!). Around mile 23 my left quad start playing up, this wasn’t ideal with lots of stiles to negotiate but I took my time and waddled my way round the last four miles or so. My legs were battered and the hills were horrible near the end. I definitely need to do more trail miles and hill sessions to keep doing more races like this. Once I got to mile 26 I was so relieved as I knew the ordeal was nearly over. What I didn’t know was how long that last mile or so would take; the answer is a long time.

I was within half a mile from the finish running down a nice trail towards a gate. I was starting to feel pleased with myself knowing I was about to finish the race and then a massive gust of wind blew my Advent Running trucker cap off my head. A few girls doing the 10k flew passed and straight through the gate with no problems. I on the other hand turned so quickly to chase after my cap that I tripped over some long grass and aggravated my right hamstring. I then hobbled down the hill, that my cap had just rolled down, to collect it whilst trying to stretch my hammy. I turned back round to head up the hill, I initially didn’t have to climb, where two runners glided through the gate; they were both looking strong and had clearly paced their runs well. One of the runners was Nick. I went through the gate and shuffled down the hill to the finish. I was a little annoyed I had slipped (pun intended) from 9th to 11th within the matter of seconds but it was one of those things. I crossed the line and was relieved to complete the race. I feel lucky to have got through it and not get injured. I learnt a lot! 

 The trucker cap made for adventure 

Well done to everyone that raced at the weekend whether it was the trailscape race, endurancelife, a various santa run or parkrun etc (oh yeh parkrun isn’t a race, my bad!). Next up for me is the Mo Santa Olympic Park thingy next Sunday. That will be my last race of 2015, should be fun. I hope everyone else’s Advent Running is going well too.

See a lot of you soon 


P.s. I’m now stocked up for Advent Running and training for Paris, London & Edinburgh marathons