Cool Runnings

February has thus far seen Kings and Greens cover 143 miles as we hurtle towards the big ultra, due to bring fresh misery to our lives exactly a month today.

Today we took part in the Great North West Half Marathon with our mum and friends Rachael and Lorraine. Sandy and Rache in particular have been working really hard to prepare for today – it was Rachael’s first ever half and she had a baby just 10 short months ago, while Sandy hasn’t competed at that distance since doing the Great North Run 12 years ago. We were all geared up for a day to remember – but as we flung open our respective curtains circa 7am this morning we realised it may be for all the wrong reasons.

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13.1 miles in torrential rain and 40mph winds right on the seafront on a pretty relentless multi-loop route made for five very miserable runners and it took a huge amount of wine and pizza-related visualisation techniques to keep morale high enough to take us over the finish line.

Before: all smiles in the toasty foyer of the Blackpool Hilton

Before: all smiles in the toasty foyer of the Blackpool Hilton

After: grimacing with glee that the ordeal is over

After: grimacing with glee that the ordeal is over

Amazing efforts all round – as is often the case we met some inspiring people on the way around and running that distance is always an incredible achievement even in the nicest of conditions, so big pats on the back to everyone who managed that brutal experience today.

Sidenote – it was my first run in my new Montane Minimus waterproof smock and I cannot recommend it enough – on sale from £64.99 on SportsShoes.com right now, it kept me dryer than anyone had any business being on a day like today.

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Rachael has a fundraising page going to raise money for Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, so if you could spare any cash it would be hugely appreciated! You can find it here.

Weekends for Kings and Greens have become a seemingly never-ending cycle of long runs, cake-based refuelling trips and evenings spent falling asleep with a glass of red wine in hand so while we’re reluctant to bore you with the ins and outs, we know a lot of you are runners too and may be interested to hear how the training is going.

I’d be lying if I said it was all cool runnings.

Last Saturday we ventured out on the longest run in our Canalathon training to take on the Preston Guild Wheel, a 21-mile greenway around the city frequented by many a lycra-clad cyclist and (somewhat wisely) far fewer runners foolhardy enough to attempt the entire loop.

My third attempt at the run (Chaz and Jak’s second) turned out to be the hardest to date and it was far more of a mental struggle than a physical one. Despite Jak’s motivational soundbites, Chaz and I both completely failed to get our heads into the right mindset to overcome the challenge which made for a largely gloomy morning.

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The route itself is great for marathon or ultra marathon training – it’s practically all flat, really well signposted and has handy mile markers for photo opps and countdowns as well as the odd coffee shop and petrol station en route (during a quick pitstop we were impressed to discover UCLAN’s Final Whistle Cafe stocked coconut water, MOMA porridge and Nakd bars). Some parts of the route are residential or industrial, but for the most part it’s quite picturesque with farm tracks, riverside views and even a pleasant detour into Brockholes Nature Reserve.

All in all, we were mostly glad to tick it off the schedule and wolf down a giant sandwich to celebrate (apologies to any Saturday afternoon shoppers who were disturbed by the sight of two bedraggled dayglo-sporting women and a far-too bouncy Jak and Bernard meandering through the centre of town on a carb-hunting mission).

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This weekend we decided to do our big run on Friday to give ourselves a day of rest before today’s half marathon (not that Saturday turned out to be especially restful after poor Bernard was attacked by a Dalmation on a leisurely morning stroll through Foxhills Nature Reserve…)

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Bernard’s Bandanas – coming to a pet shop near you

I digress – but thanks for all the get well messages, he’s recovering nicely and enjoying Internet notoriety after a tweet about the ordeal went semi-viral.

After hastily booking a day off work Friday morning saw us dropped off in the Pendle village of Barrowford with a pre-trauma Bernard to make our way back home with only a couple of energy bars and a week’s worth of gossip for sustenance.

Trek yo'self

Trek yo’self

I’d like to say we extended it to 20.8 miles out of pure love of the game but in truth we got lost somewhere in Burnley (seems impossible I know) where the canal path throws you out onto a busy roundabout. But if Chaz’s boyfriend Ric asks, it was plain sailing because who in their right mind is dumb enough to get lost on the canal??

Running 20 plus miles is never anything less than a massive struggle and we really had to push ourselves to make it home in a slow and steady four-ish hours. But I have to say, I’ve realised preparation is everything when it comes to these gargantuan long runs and the mental side of this is more important than any amount of limbering up those legs.

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On Friday, we both had a big bowl of porridge to set ourselves up for the challenge and made sure to keep sipping water and nibbling on bars all the way to keep our energy levels up but the biggest difference was in our attitudes.

Unlike the previous weekend, we had accepted the mission fully and made a conscious effort not to grumble our way along those long and muddy miles, preferring instead to navigate the boredom and aches by staying upbeat and encouraging each other along. Which surprisingly turned out to be way easier than actual navigation.

For us, it’s rare a run is actually easy and every single one requires a massive amount of psyching ourselves up, searching for any excuse not to do it and stomping around the house like an elephant with a hangover until the inevitability descends and we just get on with it.

This is truer than ever as we count down to the ultra, but we are finding ourselves feeling stronger by the day and amazing ourselves every time we manage a huge run or approach a 10, 12 or even half marathon with a casual can-do attitude that would stun our former selves.

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Physically, the biggest change we’ve noticed in the last couple of weeks is how insanely hungry we are ALL THE TIME. As naturally greedy people, it’s taken us a while to listen to our bodies and not just ignore it assuming it’s the usual urge to eat everything in sight for no good reason. This is actually tricky for us, because while we’re more than capable of stuffing our faces our gut feeling is that eating more than usual is a throwback to the bad old days of binge and regret, but we’re currently doing OK at eating more of the right things and fuelling our bodies in a way that enables them to power through these hideously long training sessions.

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For now, it’s time to sign off and enjoy a Prosecco-powered wind down from another action-packed weekend. Happy Sunday everyone.

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All images taken by us or from Pinterest.

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