Race Report: London Winter Run

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A few weekends ago I took part in my first race of the year, the London Winter Run, with my cousin, B. It was a gloriously sunny morning with blue skies, though utterly freezing temperatures, but we were raring to go come race morning. Both of us had been suffering with various injuries leading up to the event so it was touch and go as to whether we would compete, but after agreeing that we would just run the 10K for fun and whilst trying to listen to our bodies throughout, we decided to just go for it and enjoy. We took a rather laissez-faire approach on race morning, waking up in Marylebone about an hour before our wave was due to start in Westminster, which is incredibly unlike our usual control-freak personalities, though still allowed time for a quick bowl of porridge before hopping on the tube to the start line (first time in my life that I have ever been glad to catch the toasty Bakerloo line!).

My first impression of the race was that it was incredibly well-organised with plenty of enthusiastic helpers ready to point you in the right direction. Hardly surprising considering Human Race were the organisers. My second thought was that there were so many competitors, and so it was clearly not going to be a fast race or one for a PB – I think approximately 15,000 people took part. B and I decided to run together throughout the entire race, which was the first time we had competed together since the London Triathlon in 2010 (which was quite frankly a disastrous race for me), and meant we could be our own support crew as our partners were occupied with other things.

And so there we were, in the starting pen, surrounded by hundreds of other really enthusiastic runners and with music blaring and various warm up exercises happening around us. Whilst this was all very nice, we just wanted to get running as I was struggling with the freezing temperatures at this point. We gradually made our way closer and closer to the start line, expecting to start – only to be stopped once again and then having to wait another 5 minutes before they finally allowed our wave to cross the start line.

The start was slow…very, very slow. We seemed to be in with a complete mix of abilities, some people were choosing to walk right from the very start, and some resorted to walking after 1K. All well and good, however it would have been nice if they had moved to the side to allow a clear path for those of us who were running. Unfortunately the entire race was a case of people-dodging, however this really was the only downside. At about the 6K mark I could feel a few niggles creeping in but I was expecting this to happen and it wasn’t anything significant enough to make me want to slow down or stop, in fact, all I could think of throughout the entire run was how great my body was feeling. I suspect it had something to do with the epic carb-loading session we had the evening beforehand, as usually my downfall with running is the fact that I struggle to fuel my body properly for mid-distances. We ran through a few snow zones, which were fun in terms of the gimmick-factor, but not so fun when you ended up with a mouthful of snow. The race seemed to go incredibly quickly, although that perhaps had something to do with the fact that we were enjoying talking to each other throughout the entire route.

Soon enough we were at 8K which was the furthest I had run in training (I adopted the marathon approach by not actually running my full distance, and even stopped running entirely for the 7 days before race day due to aches and pains) and I still felt very strong. Then the 9K marker appeared and a huge feeling of pride came over me as I knew that my legs had plenty more miles in them and that I was nearly at the finish line. As the finish line came into view, B grabbed hold of my hand and we went in for our usual sprint finish, and my gosh, it felt spectacular. Our time was 1hr3 (I technically came in a fraction of a second before B, which sufficiently fuelled our ‘sibling rivalry’) which we were incredibly satisfied with.

My aim was to run a solid 10K whilst enjoying every moment, and that is precisely what I did. Placing that medal around my neck made me realise just how far my running and frame of mind has come and I knew that I could have easily pushed myself to run a sub-1hr run if I had really wanted to. My next 10K race is at the end of March which I will push myself in and am already really looking forward to.

 Shortly after crossing the finish line, we met our uncle in Trafalgar Square who treated us to a hot chocolate to help us warm up. And then we headed back to the house in Marylebone for a shower before indulging in the most wonderful brunch at Daisy Green’s – we both opted for The Bondi, which was utterly delicious.

All in all, a fantastic race, and one which I intend to run again in 2016.

Oh, beautiful Oslo!

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 (All photos from my Instagram and taken on my phone)

Last month I visited Norway for a few days of work, and what a spectacular place it is! I only spent time in Oslo but already know that I will return for pleasure in the near future as there is plenty to explore both in the city and further inland which would suit our adventure-lust perfectly. Oslo itself has to be one of the best European cities I have ever visited; it has amazing infrastructure, the friendliest of people and is just so beautiful and cosmopolitan. Of course it helped that it snowed whilst we were there so everything was glistening in the dull light that stayed with us for just a few short hours during the day.

On the first day we visited The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design where I was lucky enough to have a very informative tour with one of my colleagues (a Professor of Architecture, no less!) before heading to work for the afternoon. The next day was a rather full on work day where I met some wonderful Norwegian students who were so engaged in education and an absolute pleasure to speak to, before collapsing into bed after a quick session in the hotel gym. The gym was actually more glamorous than it sounds; it was on the top floor of the hotel with panoramic views over the city which looked absolutely stunning at night time with everywhere lit up. The third day involved more work before heading off to explore the city with another colleague – we started off at the Opera House just as twilight was setting in and took the most stunning photos before traipsing in the snow along the coastline (in suits and smart shoes, not an easy task) to The Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, where I had yet another private tour with my colleague who’s a History of Art lecturer, so again, I was in the best company for absorbing some culture. The modern art museum was in the wharf area of Oslo which certainly had a Canary Wharf vibe to it, though felt much more serene and well-maintained. All I could think about whilst there was wanting to have a dip in the ocean as it looked so inviting, though the freezing temperatures and the almost-definite onset of death deterred my adventurous soul this time round.

All I can say is that Oslo is a magical little city and certainly one worth visiting. The more I visit Nordic countries, the more I fall in love with them and their relaxed lifestyle. My mind and body felt so at peace whilst I was there, it definitely felt like an escape from the rat race.

New Forest Adventures

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Another December tradition of ours is to head down to my family’s holiday cottage in the New Forest. It’s a little chocolate box cottage situated in a tiny hamlet just outside of Lyndhurst and is so wonderfully festive at this time of year. I just adore the New Forest – it is perfect for outdoorsy people like us with wonderful routes for walking, trail running, cycling, and even locations for sailing, open water swimming and kayaking. It really is an excellent little retreat and I think we’re planning on spending some more time there during the warmer months of 2015.

A Festive Skate

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After finishing work last Friday, I met up with Sahdya to take part in our annual festive ice skate at the Natural History Museum. This has been a tradition of ours for three years now and one which always puts me in a cheerful Christmas mood. We started the evening with a light supper at Muriel’s Kitchen (South Kensington branch) which I can highly recommend for fresh, healthy and wholesome food, before wandering along the road to skate. I much prefer skating here to Somerset House because it doesn’t feel quite as touristy or busy. We only ever spend half an hour on the ice before growing bored of the crowds and heading off to get our shoes and bags early to avoid queues, oh, and of course to visit the Lindt Chalet. Whilst the Lindt Chalet was a little disappointing, we did end up engaged in some great conversation with the people working there (and we may have given them an education on Jesus and the Middle East as they were oh-so-misinformed – we just cannot help ourselves, apologies). All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable evening!

A Day in Bruges

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 photo 1913436_10154920605410557_7007614600580198301_o_zpsff2c2b93.jpgI know, I know, I am a terrible blogger – I simply don’t have the time to update regularly anymore, however this week I’m on medical leave from work (read: seriously bored) and so I have a little more time on my hands than I’d like, hence this post.

Each year to celebrate our anniversary, G and I catch the train to Bruges to enjoy the Christmas market and a wander around the historic city – it’s a trip that can be done in a day and leaves us feeling sufficiently festive. On Sunday we wrapped up warm (I resorted to THREE pairs of tights, a merino base layer and a running base layer under my very woolly jumper) and braced the freezing temperatures of Belgium. If you have a sweet tooth I would highly recommend a visit to this lovely medieval city as there are chocolate shops every few steps, broken up only by cake shops and restaurants all adorned with wreaths and sparkly Christmas lights. It really is a festive foodie heaven and somewhere I’m already looking forward to returning to next year.

 

A few days in Paris

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Last weekend, my fiancé and I packed our bags for a few days of business and pleasure in the city of lights, Paris. Paris is my spiritual home and I adore it with all my heart, unfortunately G had only experienced Paris via the metro whilst travelling to the centre of France for his year abroad whilst at university many moons ago – and needless to say, that was not an experience he enjoyed. I knew that I could show him the delights of Paris, but also knew I would have my work cut out in converting him to city-life as he is a coastal boy through and through. We stayed in the Parisian district of Passy which is lovely as it is home to one of the best shopping boulevards in all of Paris and is still relatively undiscovered by tourists.

After dealing with some business on our first day, I took G over to the Eiffel Tower for some lunch on the Seine in the glorious sunshine. It was Paris fashion week and an Indian Summer had well and truly set in which was an unexpected treat. We spent the majority of that afternoon strolling around the area, occasionally stopping for refreshments and to people-watch before heading home for an evening picnic.

I had a full itinerary planned our for our second day in the city…and I wanted to do all 25K of it on foot. We started our day strolling past the Eiffel Tower again and along the Seine towards St-Germain-des-Prés for brunch at Ladurée. This is by far the most beautiful Ladurée in the world and a trip to Paris never feels complete without a visit. After brunch we strolled along to Notre Dame on Île de la Cité, and then onto Berthillon to indulge in some ice cream. As we were in the 3rd arrondissement I decided it would be a good idea to detour to La Chambre aux Confitures to buy some lavender honey and strawberry and rose preserve. Honestly, if you have not visited this little boutique please make sure you do on your next visit – customer service is exemplary and who doesn’t love to spend half an hour tasting preserves? Heavenly. After making our purchases we strolled back along the Seine to the Louvre which was basking in the golden late afternoon sunlight, we stopped for drinks and then walked along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe before looping back down to Passy for another evening meal at home. An incredibly full day with plenty of walking, but I certainly think G was exposed to all the best parts of Paris on our little meander.

On the Sunday I thought it would be a good idea to show G the other side of Paris…as in, Montmartre. Montmartre is incredibly arty and is slightly less-refined then the other areas we had visited during this trip – I know G felt uncomfortable at times in this district as it certainly isn’t as safe and clean as what we are used to. However, I think he was impressed with the Sacré-Cœur which was our main reason for this excursion and made up for the downfalls of the area.

I am heading back to Paris next weekend too and am hoping for a slightly more autumnal visit this time round because the only thing I really want to do is drink hot chocolate in Angelina and stroll around the Jardin du Luxembourg with my family. But we shall see what mother nature has in store for us.

On another note, I realise I haven’t blogged for a terribly long time – but life gets in the way and there just aren’t enough hours in the day, and so something has to give and that, unfortunately, is this blog. At the moment I’m working full-time as a recruitment manager at a university, am in the 2nd year of an MA in International Security and the Politics of Terror, am attempting to build a house (and buy another), trying to cram in 6 days of sport each week, plan a wedding, and have the best possible relationship with my fiancé as we made a commitment not to live together until we’re married and therefore have 30 miles of travel between us. So, life is certainly not easy but it is an awful lot of fun at the moment and I feel like I am really growing into the person I want to be. I am constantly met with the issue of having to prioritise things however, and the main compromise I seem to be making is documenting all the fun I’m having – but I wouldn’t want it any other way, because I would rather be living my life to the full than living a half-hearted life in front of a camera at all times.

I seem to approach everything at 1000mph, and there’s certainly no slowing down this year.

Final Days in Reykjavik

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Our final few days were spent relaxing in Reykjavik. We visited the cathedral and the university and spent a lot of time wandering around the harbour and the beautiful concert hall. On one of the particularly sunny evenings we had, my fiancé, his brother and I decided to go deep-sea angling to catch our supper. We ended up catching a great variety of fish, including a monstrous catfish caught by me (but we had to let go – its teeth were enormous!), and took it all back to our harbour side townhouse to bake on the BBQ with lemon and salt – yet another perfectly delicious, fresh and healthy meal for all of Team Iceland to enjoy whilst sat at our dining table.

Reykjavik is a very strange city – it doesn’t have the buzz of other European cities I have visited and I have to admit I was a little disappointed overall. I definitely couldn’t have spent more than a few days there as we were soon running out of things to do and suffering from the cold. On the whole though, it was a very pleasant stay and the people were incredibly friendly – I’m certainly glad that I went as we all had a thoroughly relaxing break and an excellent adventure overall.