Ballymena Academy 5k

For the second successive year I took part in the Ballymena Academy Charity Race, a 5k around the grounds of my eldest daughter’s old grammar school and the traditional ‘graduation’ race for the latest intake from the club’s very popular Cosy Sofa to 5k programme.

Last year – in fact, a year to the day to be precise – it was a wonderful Spring evening, numbers were good and the race itself was run in very pleasant conditions.

Fast forward twelve months to tonight, a gale was blowing, the rain was falling and a hardy few gathered in the foyer of the school Sixth Form Centre questioning their sanity for daring to venture out on a night like this.

But us runners are a tough breed so after the pre-race instructions and safety briefing we somewhat hesitantly headed outdoors to assemble for the start.

The race is four laps of the school grounds, downhill at the start before levelling off and then uphill on the other side. The wind was blowing in our face on the way down, which hopefully would mean it’d push us back up the hill.

And that’s how it was at the start. Despite the wind working against me I darted down the first descent, and instantly regretted it when I got to the bottom when the wind came at me from the side, almost taking my legs from below me. Marvellous, I thought.

Knowing I had to go back up the other side I knuckled down and tackled the climb with the help of the wind behind me. All was going well, I completed the first mile in just over ten minutes which I was happy with. My only objective for tonight was to beat my time from last year and at that first mile marker I was well ahead.

Back down the hill again with the wind in my face and, again, at the bottom, it hit me side on … I think you can see a pattern developing!

But I was going well given the conditions, and was happy with how I was adapting. Yes, there was burn in my legs because I purposely set off fast but they were gradually settling down the longer I went on which is what I hoped/expected would happen.

I felt I had enough in me to keep going for another few laps but, that said, I was also glad to see the finish and knock 1 minute 31 seconds off my time from last year. As I said, that was my aim so I was pleased to have done it.

Next up is the Spar Craic 10k on Saturday morning. I set my old PB there last year until I beat it twice recently, so it’ll be interesting to see what I can do this time around.

Relive my run


Heaven’s above!

I do it every time. Every single time. Do what? Doubt myself, that’s what.

Before tonight I hadn’t run for three days. I know, I know … a whole three days! But that’s how little time it takes for my self doubt to creep in.

It’s ridiculous really. I’m running better at the minute than I have ever done and feeling fitter than I’ve done for ages, so why does my confidence waver after a few days off?

Anyway, it’s Monday night so that meant club night. Walking up my legs felt in excellent condition, so much so that I was very tempted to run there. I’m always wary of doing this because I never quite know how the club session will go and I don’t want to use any more energy than is necessary in case things go badly.

As usually happens now, I went with the session that most of my running buddies decided upon so, tonight, it was 45-minutes. I was happy enough with that, and could easily have gone with the 30s or the hour group … but 45 it was.

Walking up, it was a lovely, clear evening – quite warm, with no need for gloves or a buff. But something changed whilst we were waiting in the leisure centre for the weekly announcements and for the groups to be split up because, when we emerged back outside, it was cold, dark and raining heavily! The heavens had well and truly opened, it would have been so easy just to retreat back indoors.

However, we had a run to do, it was time to pull up my big boy pants and just get on with it. We started off quite briskly – squelching all the way, I think I need new trainers! – to the extent that I actually stopped at one point to look around me, just to make sure I was in the right group and I hadn’t somehow drifted off into another quicker group!

It was indeed the 45s, so I knuckled down and got on with it. For a few moments I thought I wasn’t going to cope but, no, the more we ran the more comfortable I became.

Whilst this was good it also surprised me. I was running in a fast group, and managing to hold a conversation at the same time.

The route took us up the Fry’s Road which, whilst not terribly steep, is a long, steady incline and quite often tough enough going. Tonight it didn’t trouble me and, indeed, I actually recorded my fastest time up it according to Strava.

As usual, when we had finished I elected to run the rest of the way home. In total I did 4.5 miles and, on another night, would have been tempted to make it up to five miles but I was cold and wet so thought there’d be no point running the risk of picking up any bugs for the sake of half-a-mile. It had been a successful evening, and I felt good about it, so I was more than content.

Relive my run

Just one of the … girls?!

Sometimes the best runs are the most unexpected or the most unusual … and me going for a run to mark International Women’s Day definitely fulfils both criteria!

A group chat suggestion by Parveen that we commemorate the occasion with a 5k Virtual Run was eagerly agreed to by Judith, and I was persuaded to tag along as an honorary lady for the day! The promise of a bit of bling and a donation to Women’s Aid only sweetened the deal.

At least I didn’t have to dress up or anything like that, other than wear my pink glasses for a picture at the end. Phew!

So, with that in mind, I made my way from Ballymena to the location of Antrim parkrun to wait for Parv and Judith coming from work from the other direction in Belfast.

The forecast threatened rain but, thankfully, it didn’t materialise. Indeed, it was gloriously sunny day, albeit quite cold but this made it perfect conditions for a run.

We had decided just to follow the parkrun course, which I was more than happy with. I hadn’t been out for a couple of days so a gentle run was just the ticket ahead of a longer outing at the weekend.

My legs felt ok beforehand, but I was a bit concerned of a delayed reaction to my exertions in London so I started off quite gently just to ease myself in. Everything was going well but I still made sure I stayed comfortable.

However, moving into the last mile, I thought I would open up a little or at least in sections just to test my legs with a bit more pace … and I’m pleased to report they responded very well, I covered that final mile a full two minutes quicker than the couple before it. It felt easy and it felt good, just what I was hoping for.

I continue to be running well, I continue to grow in confidence in my own ability and, hopefully, I’ll continue to push on and make real progress.

Relive my run