Monday, 7 December 2020


The last few months I've been getting ready for a half marathon. As with most events this year, it was a behind closed doors, invite only sort of thing. It so happened that the guy organising it was the old coach at the school that hosts the sandshark cross race, where I ran every year with SCAD, and he knows my cureent coach and so it all came together that I was offered a spot to race (hurray!) I was a bit worried about the weather; in December and right beside the Atlantic- if it was the UK you just know it would have been peaceful until race day and then blown up a hurricane, but in South Carolina the weather was kind to us. It was pretty chilly but calm and sunny and maybe just a degree or two short of absolutely perfect. It was a looped course with as little elevation change as feasibly possible, which suited me too. I was hoping for some competition, but on the day I ended up running alone after about the 3 mile point, but I had the lead car and a guy on a bike for company so it wasn't too lonely. I ran pretty fast. I'd been hoping for and talking about a 72 minute time but I wasn't convinced it was actually possible, so I was pretty happy with the result!
My boyfriend, Alex also somehow found himself in the race, and having never raced anything further than 8k before he did a really good job - 68.28! One day I'll be that fast... The poor guy has had to drive me all over the place recently, run crazy far at a crazy early time in the morning (8am start?!) and somehow still had the energy to stop me falling over at the finish.
I also got to be reuinted with Anna, who some of you might have seen from the IRun facebook interview, but if not, she's a fairly incredible runner. She's a mid-distance specialist, but also runs a killer 5k, and an awesome half. We ran against each other a few times a couple of years back before she graduated, and she kicked my butt. The last time we ran alongside each other was XC Nationals in 2018, but we were next to each other for about three miles on Sunday so that was a really nice experience.
We've been back in Atlanta for about the past two weeks, and I think this past term block has been the longest span of time in the last four years I've been away, so it was weird but nice to go wander around some of my old haunts again. I especially enjoyed being at liberty to walk, rather than run aroun Piedmont Park. I guess absence makes the heart grow fonder, I'm really not a big city person, but it was nice to be back.
If you follow the American calendar, it was also Thanksgiving recently, and I did some cooking! That was an interesting experience, but I made this pie, which I was pretty proud of. It turned out unexpectedly well, so you should all admire it. I doubt I'll make one that nice again!

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Running, running and more running

Not to do with running at all, but I write this on election morning. It's about 11am and the result is still way too close to call. Last night I thought there was no way Biden could make up the ground needed to the necessary 270 electoral college votes, but it seems there's a slim possibility he might. The mail-in ballots and other non-traditional votes are new innovations in most states this election, which seems to have complicated the counting process, and it's possible we may not have final results today even.
This was the sunset last night. I'm pretty bad at remembering to take photos, except of the sun over the hills, so I'm sorry, there will probably be a lot of those. We had our time change this weekend so now it's very bright very early and very dark similarly early. Not every state uses the system, and a lot of people seem to think it's a nonsense.
It was Halloween a few days ago. We were banned from doing much of anything by Coach, who is fighting as hard as he can to keep our team covid free for the sake of our season. I did take a few photos of different decorations though, and these were my favourite. Painting, rather than carving pumpkins seems to be the fashion around here, and how cute are these guys. Alarmingly, one of the houses near here has what look like nooses hanging from a tree. I'm sure there's a sensible explanation but they're pretty creepy looking.
Covid continues to make a nuisance of itself. Last week the team's race got cancelled short notice for covid reasons, which was deeply frustrating. We did an intrasquad dual meet instead; Orange and Black teams for the men and the ladies with a combined point score. It was arranged so the teams should be as equal as possible, and in the end my Black lot just about edged it. We had some fantastic times. I ran 16.06 for the 5k, Avery ran 17.10 (a significant lifetime best) and we had seven women run under 19 minutes, which was pretty amazing given that it was just us legging it down a local path.
There's me closing in on the finish. We run on this path a lot, and it's almost identical to the Wirral Way. The Americans call them 'rails to trails'; old train lines turned into crushed gravel paths. This one goes for about 10 miles, and then connects with some other parks and paths. One day I'll explore the whole thing.
So yesterday I did something pretty awesome. This beautiful track belongs to the local high school (how?!) so that was cool enough but it gets better. My coach here also has a professional running group, including Hannah Segrave, who does 2.00 for the 800 and Abbey Cooper, who's run 15.03 for the 5000 and represented the US at the Rio Olympics. Pretty serious company for me to try and keep up with for about a million 400s. It's probably fair to say it was the hardest thing I've ever done, but I think that's what I need to get to the next level.

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Johnson City, Tennessee

Well it's been a little while, but this summer just passed I graduated from SCAD with a BFA and have now moved myself to Milligan, of all places. Having spent the last four years treating this school as my deadly rivals in all things running I guess I've lived long enough to see myself become the enemy. Every now and again I catch myself wearing a buffalo logo and have an awful case of imposter syndrome, but it's been more or less a smooth transition in reality. For those of you back on the Wirral, the move from SCAD to Milligan is something like if I were to jump from Wirral to Harriers, with the slight mitigation that graduation meant I couldn't stay at SCAD even if I'd wanted to.
So now I am in very northeast Tennessee, on the border with North Carolina and Virginia. America is so big that on a map the distance between Atlanta and here looks very small, but it's still about a four hour drive! I'm up in the mountains, in the junction between the Blue Ridge and the Smokey Mountains, both branches of the larger Appalachian range, and happily the hills are both blue and smokey. Nobody knows why they smoke, or why they look blue when you know they're covered in green and brown trees, but it's just one of the mysteries of this place. It is spectacularly beautiful.
As a concept it works for me too, I very much like the idea of hiding away in the mountains and then coming out and doing something impressive when the moment is right. I'm here to run, obviously. Over the last few years it's developed from something I do to more or less my whole way of life. It's not for everyone, but we are pretty isolated here (especially if you don't have a car) and in all honesty I love it. My days are just reading, writing and running, and the occasional hike.
Milligan is very different to SCAD. Similarly to Arran's college, it's a small, private, Christian school. I am pursuing a Masters of Arts in Humanities, a pretty broad-based programme that brings together parts of literature, history, and the arts. A lot of my classes deal in some way with the culture of Appalachia, this mountain region of parts of the southeastern states, which is really interesting for me, having lived in the area for four years, but having been in the city where I was largely shielded from the regional traditional culture. Out here, the old farming way of life is still alive and kicking. Probably the most typical Appalachian view would be rolling fields with a run down barn slowly reverting to vegetation with some blue mountains in the background. There is a general feeling that the hills have never been entirely conquered by man, that nature is always creeping back in overnight. Sometimes we have bears on campus.
I am running quite a lot. Sadly I have no cross-country eligiblity remaining, but the sole silver lining to this whole covid situation has been that the cancellation of track last summer meant I could eke out one more year of college running, so come March most likely with luck I shall be burning track once more. Covid has put a fire blanket on most of my racing plans in almost a year now. I seem to be plagued at the moment with long courses whenever I do get to run. I am very grateful to the organisers managing to host events at all at the moment, but I ran a local '5k' here lasy week and was massively frustrated to find it about 300m long. From my GPS data in all likelihood I ran a 5k pb, possibly even a sub 16, but the course meant I then ran almost another minute and so finished with a very disappointing time. Oh well, at least I'm making some sort of progress.

Sunday, 14 October 2018


This year I'm just refusing to smile at people pointing cameras at me. Apparently this really is intimidating...

We're back!!! It's XC season (best season, of course). And we're wearing all black, like the New Zealand rugby team, for extra intimidation points. We need those. Average team weight, probably a shade over 50kg. Distance runners are not physically imposing. I have been utterly terrible at updating this, article but in my defense my laptop went and broke, and Maddie very kindly lent me her IPad so then I could type, but had no pictures, and then I got some pictures but it was midterms so had no time. It's been a busy few weeks.

Our season this year is a little different. It felt like we started really really late. School kicks off in the second week of September, and usually we have our season opener the weekend before, around the 6th, but this year our season opener wasn't until the 22nd, and even at that meet most of the team was just doing a tempo run. Then, two weekends ago we ran at the Louisville Classic, which was AWESOME!

An accurate representation of what me trying to run away from, and then being mercilessly overtaken by all my midterm coursework looked like.

Louisville is in Kentucky, which was a whole new state for me. We drove up there, which took about a million years, but we got an overnight trip, and we got to run in the top division race at one of the biggest weekends of running in the States. And, even more amazingly, there was mud! Nobody at home believes me about this, but I had to (1) wear spikes, and (2) wash them afterwards. Wild times, that was a whole new experience for me. I got to run with the magnificent Anna Shields, and she kicked my arse but at least I was closer to her than I was in the 1500 at track nationals (I could actually see her this time... that girl is FAST). I also rather cunningly scraped into the top ten and won a lovely present. They gave us bags with four vertical compartments inside so you can store muddy shoes without making a terrible mess everywhere. Wonderful stuff.

Emily Kearney, Louisville Classic First Mile Champion

We had our second full-on race this Friday, at the more familiar stomping grounds of McAlpine Creek Park in North Carolina, home of the Royals Challenge. We actually had our annual hurricane this past week so I was a bit worried the course might be underwater, but it turned out to be alright- just a bit soggy at the start. I was hoping to run well, given that historically it's been a fast course for me, but it wasn't to be on the day. I don't know what's up- the last two weeks I just haven't been right one way or another. Either sick or just tired and out of it. I blame the midterms. I ran really sub-par, but there is definitely a silver lining in that the team performed incredibly. Everyone else ran a pb or a season's best, and we posted an absolutely phenomenal team average and cumulative time.

In the words of Jeremy Clarkson: behold the speed of the (wo)maaaaan

I'm sure I must have said before about how much the Americans like stats. Well. To get to nationals, you run at your conference match. For British people, your conference is sort of like your county championship. Depending on how many schools are in your conference, either your first and second teams at conference, or just the first team if you have less than 12 get an automatic qualifier to nationals. Most teams qualify this way, but then there are 'at-large bids' which make up the rest of the nationals spaces, and those are based on your in-season rankings- so how you performed in season. And the in-season rankings are pretty much based on who you ran against, who you beat and your team average and cumulative times. We are currently ranked third nationally, and the team ranked first has not been performing to their ranking. They keep running like a 19 minute+ average... which doesn't look like national-winning stuff to me. But. We ran a 17.56 team average time, and a faster cumulative team time than anything they've managed by very nearly three whole minutes. This is a really exciting year for us because if we can keep this up, we stand a very real chance of taking the win at nationals!

Dunno if anyone else has noticed this (and I totally haven't custom picked my photos to reflect my own propaganda here), but my form has totally improved recently. Not so much at Royals, but we won't talk about that. I might be a long stretch from looking as impressive as my baby sister does when she's galloping around the place, but it's much improved on the graceless duck-style waddling I used to be guilty of. Possibly because over the summer I made some training routine changes. Most notably (and this was 100% Dad's fault), I started going to the gym. Me and Arry started going to the UTS in Hoylake, where the lovely Alex had many fun hours despairing at my total inability to perform normal human actions, like jumping. When we first went he did an assessment thing on me and I think he was genuinely impressed I could stand up unassisted given how pathetic I was.

-transcript taken from UTS Hoylake, August 14th, 2018-

Alex: Just relax and jump as you would naturally.
Me: Naturally, I do not jump.

Struggle was real. But I think it's done me good, even if I still can't jump.

And I got some new shoes! I'll be forever grateful to Nigel Crompton from the Runner's Hub in Heswall for introducing me to On Running. He's a really great guy who knows so much about running shoes and how they relate to different runners and different types of running, if you're at home he's definitely worth talking to if you need shoes! But last Christmas he'd ordered in a pair of the uber-fancy, all round incredible On Cloudflash by mistake, and ended up showing them to Dad, and I got a pair for indoor track and they were the best thing ever, and then got the Cloud X for my 10k adventures outdoor. Well these the Cloudrush, and they are my XC flats, and I love them! These Ons have been making noticeable inroads into the running world recently and I am so glad because I think they're fantastic. I know I wore my spikes at Louisville, but I am resolved to wear spikes as little as possible because really they give you nothing back (except sore calves), and for 90% of the running I do, the added grip isn't really a necessary consideration. So I've got these instead! So much more comfortable, so much more supportive, and the absolute best thing about the Ons is that they have a kind of springboard built into the sole, so they feel so much more responsive and springy than another boring pair of spikes. These Cloudrush are extra fab because they're strong enough that I don't hurt my toes or break the shoes if I kick a rock, but are by far and away light enough to be racing shoes, and (helpfully) are in my team colours so they match my racing kit! 

In very sad news, RIP the Hoka Clifton 4. I have a pair of the Clifton 5s, and they're honestly not that different, but it made me very sad that they felt the need to mess with something so wonderful at all. I also got a pair of the Bondi 5s, which I don't like to run in at all, but they are so so so so comfortable to just walk around in. I realized very recently that I'm actually shorter than Maddie, but I'm normally wearing orthopedic shoes around here so until last week I thought I was the tall one. Crazy stuff. 

And here we are! We've been doing some crazy stuff recently- she's been trying to inflict American experiences on me. On Labour Day, back in September, we went swimming in the river and I nearly drowned under a waterfall! ...okay it wasn't quite that dramatic, but we did get soaked. This is us outside the enormous new super expensive Mercedes Benz stadium, where we went to watch Atlanta United play football! Football! In America! (That's soccer to Americans). They weren't great, the match was more or less won on fouls, but the whole experience was unbelievable. The size of that stadium is basically incomprehensible. And we had American sports match snacks! Peach ice cream, nachos, pretzels and popcorn! Fun fact, the stadium is huge and fancy, but the snacks are cheap. This is not true of the Atlanta Braves stadium, where the snacks are pricey. Baseball is a mystifying experience, I had pretty much no idea what was going on, and the crowd would sing or clap or start chopping (that was quite scary) at seemingly random intervals, but it was fun! 

But the absolute best American thing I've done recently was actually only last night, when we went to the rodeo!!!!! Oh my God, I've never seen anything like it! It was completely wild. Cowboys and cows and wild horses and all sorts of crazy rednecks and more crazy snacks.. funnel cake anyone? My throat still hurts from BBQ smoke and screaming, but it was awesome! Even crazier, in some places (like Texas), they do it as a college sport! You'd be the coolest person ever being a cowboy to get a degree paid for. Complete madness. Yeehaw!

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Somebody told me when I came to Nashville...

Introducing this blog's alternative title; Running like a Boy

Guys, I've been to Nashville! This immediately makes me quite a bit cooler than I used to be. Last weekend was outdoor nationals (we're not going to talk about that disaster), but a guy called Dave who runs a really cool meet (the Music City Distance Carnival) in Nashville got in touch to ask if I wanted to run. For complicated reasons, Coach couldn't really take me, so through Dave found someone to drive me, and someone to host me. It was a little stressful basically going hitch-hiking on a 600 mile round trip to a place I'd never seen before, but it turned out to be the coolest trip I've ever done. 

Kevin, the guy who drove me, was a really cool dude. We met up with one of his friends in Chattanooga (a really cool place, it looks like a cowboy town) for dinner on the way up and a run on the way home. He took me to Waffle House (kinda like the American equivalent of the Little Chef, but more infamous) for the first time... we survived! 

Obviously not as bad as everyone says after all #salmonella

And then he and his wife took me swimming for the afternoon in a lake just outside ATL on the way home. The lady I stayed with was called Mary Ann, and she is just how I want to be when I grow up. She was so sweet, she had a beautiful house, she fed me lovely things, she gave me coffee, and she took me running with her running friends (they all do marathons- they're incredible). One of her friends, Chris, also has a beautiful house with a pool so she was very kind to us and let us hang out at her house all Saturday... so I have a tan! Miracles do happen. Chris was also hosting runners, and in her house she had the guy who won silver at the 2012 Olympics in the 1500, so I have shared a swimming pool with an Olympic medallist. Pretty cool, right. 

This was the really awesome thing about the race- it seemed pretty low key and chilled out, but a fair few of the event winners were Olympians. The men's 600 was won in a world-leading time (faster than the British record). The women's 800 had the first three all run 2 minutes flat. Hannah Segrave ran, she did 2.02 and she was very far near the back. A kid called Brodey Hasty ran the second all-time fastest time for a high-schooler in the 3k; he did 8 minutes flat, and he had the Olympic 1500 guy as one of his pacers. I ran the 5k, I was very slow, it wasn't very good, but honestly at this point I've done so much track I don't mind. It was an amazing experience regardless, and I think I made some really nice friends. 

You're not seeing the one straight after this where I fell on my face

So, track. I've done some cool stuff. Outdoor is definitely my least favourite season, but this year has been more successful than last year was so that's a nice thing. Obviously I finally broke 17 for the 5k, although I still think I could be quite a bit faster. I also took up steeplechase! Briefly. It's pretty good fun, but I don't think I'll do it next year. Hilariously, my 800 has probably been my biggest area of improvement this summer. I ran 2.14! In terms of 800s it's not that quick, but it's a lot faster than I ever thought I'd run! Even funnier, that actually won me the 800 gold at conference. 

Looking like a boy interloping on the women's race

I also ran a pretty good new 1500 pb at the Atlanta Track Club All-Comers where I made my debut as an elite 2k runner last summer. They didn't have a 2k this year, so unfortunately I was unable to pursue my preferred event.... I did 4.28, which was nice because I had been frustrated with the 4.33 I'd run earlier in the season. I shaved my head! I have no hair! Opinions vary on that, but I think it's pretty cool. I kinda thought if I run faster than half the boys I know, what does it matter if I look a bit more like them?

When the boy behind you looks more like a girl than you do...

So here I am, blending in. This was a really good race for me. Track 10k, I ran 35.03... sort of annoying because the dude on the inside of me just ducked under 35, and I ran a 20 second negative split, so I know there's more to come. Wirral AC Endurance Series, be very afraid! 

The plan for the whole season had been to try and win the South Region runner of the season piece of glass, hence the wide variety of different events I was doing. I hit the A standards in the 800, the 1500, the 5000, the 10,000 and the steeplechase, and in all of them bar the 800 I was ranked top five, but in the end I didn't get it, which was a bit upsetting, but there we go. Dad will tell me off if I do any more complaining about that. 

Maddie and I both qualified for outdoor nationals, so we got to do the super long drive down to Gulf Shores, where there's nothing vegetarian to eat. Since last year, they'd opened a new diner, which was about as American an American diner as anyone could ever imagine, and we had our food in a car! It was really nice having Maddie to train with this post-season, I got very lonely last year. 

Don't go to Gulf Shores, this is as good as it gets, and then it hurricanes

Before I start writing really serious stuff, I think the thing I've learned this year is just how important other people can be to your running development. Maddie is a constant inspiration to all of us; she works nearly full-time every morning, then does school, then does training, then has an internship, still has fantastic grades, is still an amazing runner and a wonderful person, and still manages to get enough sleep. She's incredible. Kalie also is a little tiger. Last year she really struggled with injuries and illness and it's been a fight to get back to running well this year, but she's been fighting like crazy and is still doing amazingly well. I read an article about Shalane Flanagan and how she built herself the team at the Bowerman Track Club to train with, and now they win everything, and I really think having a squad that you care enough about to work hard for has probably been the most critical factor in the success I've been having recently. 

This year has been fun, and I can hardly believe I've been here two years (I'm sat in the airport waiting for my flight home writing this), but it's definitely had some ups and downs. And the downs have been huge, not for me personally, but I think I've written before about how college sport over here is much more like a job than anything else, and some of the events this year have definitely hit that home. 

Cross country is a team sport over here. Track is too, but not quite as much. Cross country has individual winners, but you are judged by your team, you work with you team, you succeed with your team, you fail with your team- ultimately you are only as good as your team. And this year, our team was definitely lacking. I don't really want to sit here and whinge about certain people, they've messed up for themselves and hopefully will eventually come to realise how stupid they've been, but the point is that if you're being paid to run, you are expected to run. If you treat your opportunity like a good chance for a paid holiday and partying trip, you will lose your scholarship. If you decide going drinking the night before a major race is a good idea, you will lose your scholarship. If you fail your classes, you will lose your scholarship. Anything that would get you in trouble at work will probably lose you your scholarship. We lost five people this year (from a team of less than 20), some of whom I'm not sure deserved it, and some of whom definitely deserve worse than they got. 

I know this all sounds hugely serious, and it's been really sad for us to deal with. Running out in the US is a load of fun and most of us have a great time. And it's college; we all do some crazy stuff. But we are also being paid tens of thousands of dollars to do a job, so we have to take it seriously. No-one is saying in college you can't go out if you want to, but you do have to be prepared to work that around when you have to run. If your social life is your priority, college sport is not for you, and frankly if you just want to party and then do go take a space on a team, you are wasting it for someone who would work harder than you and you don't deserve it. 

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Breaking 17

Desperately needing a haircut here...

          Since Christmas, we've had indoor season, which is loads of fun. Maybe the novelty will wear off eventually, but I hope not. This season was extra-exciting because we found a blue track of 200m in distance with banks to run on! Last year was something of an eye-opener for me finding out there were other sorts of indoor tracks... This one was really cool though, it's a travelling track; they just build it in the sports hall and then go somewhere else with it next week! There was a great big gap between the track and the infield on the home straight, which might be why I look so concerned in the pictures, I was worried about falling off the track (it was raised quite a bit off the ground!).

My face trying to work out lap splits on the move

We don't do much indoor track, which is sad, I prefer it to outdoor. Here is another track, this one is flat and not blue....crazy stuff. This year for the first time ever our conference had an indoor championship, so here I am running the championship 3k, looking at the clock and wondering why I'm going so slowly- this one wasn't a great race. I blame the track, I ran well on the blue one. This indoor conference meet was a fateful day. For some reason they didn't have a 5k, which was a pain because nearly half our squad run the 5k, but there was a meet starting pretty much directly afterwards which began with a 5k so we stayed around to run that, and I ended up running in that race as well. I did 9.50 in the 3000 and 17.29 in the 5000, neither of which were amazing times (I wasn't really racing racing either race), but together convinced Coach I should run the 10k outdoors...... lucky meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. Probably as a result of that though, I won both conference runner of the season, and South Region runner of the season. A little bizarrely, the coach from Brenau (one of the teams in our conference) put in the bid for me to be conference MVP; he said it was important to see quality distance running being recognised as much as the sprints, which usually win track awards because sprinters tend to do multiple events- it was very, very kind of him, I definitely wasn't expecting to be getting whole-meet awards (so much so that I hadn't even kept my SCAD gear on and so look like a ridiculous artist, not an athlete in the photos), and the South Region honours were an even bigger surprise.


But before outdoor season, we had indoor nationals! And my Hoddie came to see me! This indoor season was a little frustrating, the NAIA does this very annoying thing where it adds huge amounts (9 seconds for a 5k!) onto your time if you run on certain kinds of tracks, making it quite a bit harder to qualify for nationals, so I ended up being the only one of us to qualify, so it was just me, Yin and Coach in Kansas, but it was a fun trip anyway. They really need to get rid of that added-time rule, the quality in the distance events was generally much lower; only the men's mile and the women's 5k even had prelims, compared to last year when every event had heats to qualify for the finals.

Kansas is a cool place. We flew into Kansas City, which weirdly enough is actually in Missouri, and then drove for nearly two hours to get to Pittsburg, and in that whole two hours we saw one single town. Kansas is EMPTY! And so, so flat. As the aeroplane was landing the sun was setting and the ground was so flat the sun looked like it really was falling below the horizon- it was pretty cool. Hoddie drove through the 'city' of Everton, population about 300. He said it was like a place time forgot. Pittsburg, where the race was, was another strange place. A small town in the middle of absolutely nowhere, with a uni with a massive collection of amazing sports facilities! Pittsburg looks like an old cowboy town, with the high-fronted buildings with flat roofs and awnings. Pittsburg State (the uni) has a gorilla as its mascot, and there are statues of gorillas all over town. Dad said there were gorillas all over town and I thought he was being rude about field event people, but it turned out he literally meant big gorillas.

I was a bit worried about my race, because I hadn't been feeling all that great in training and had sore shins and things and wasn't convinced I'd run well, and that caused stress because who wants to go all the way to Kansas as the sole representative of their school just to run badly- that'd suck! The facility at Gorilla Nation was really cool, it was a beautiful 300m track, so the 3k divided neatly into 10 laps. Coach had told me to look for about 58 second laps to be on pace for a good pb, but I very quickly completely lost track of laps and times and everything, I was just trying to hang onto Aminat, the ridiculously fast girl from Oklahoma City. Finishing the race I was really upset because I was convinced we'd slowed down a lot and I was wondering why it hurt so much to be running slowly and why I was running a rubbish time and still not even winning....but I didn't do a rubbish time! 9.38! My first ever Grade One! I didn't find out about that for about five minutes after the race when Coach told me, and I didn't really believe him- I was convinced I'd done maybe 9.50-something, and I still don't really believe it, but apparently it happened!

Desperate fan girl face. I've never hugged someone that fast before!

Nationals was really cool because the post-season is the only time I get to meet the really awesome people I stalk on results pages and college track websites all season... like this girl! This is Anna Shields, who will probably be in the Olympics at some point soon. She ran the 1000 and the mile, and won both very easily, but her mile was incredible. My pb in the 1500 is 4.34; not amazing but not exactly slow. She runs a whole 109m further than that in 4.37, and she ran that entirely by herself. She blitzed the field. She made the girl who kicked my arse in the 3000 (a girl who has 9.33 3k and 16.24 5k pbs and who had never been beaten until that point) look very slow.... and she came to say hi to me! Dad got a whole series of pictures of me looking hugely star-struck. She's got to be the coolest person I've ever met.

Me, trying to ignore the problem of imminent squashing by team FSU

And now we are doing outdoor track! We're about two weeks into the season, and it's already been a rocky one. My first race was at Georgia Tech, and they could win prizes for having possibly the ugliest track ever. It's not so bad at night, but during the day the pale yellow reflects the sun and gives you a headache, and it really needs to be resurfaced. The craziest thing about this race was the number of people in it though. 47 of us! They had to do that thing where they waterfall half the field off in lanes 4-8 and make them run around the bend, and we were still squished in three deep! And lucky me got lane 1, so I had to get out quick or get squashed. Obviously I was going to try for sub-17 (about time, right), so I was aiming for 80-second laps. There were a few girls in the race who I knew had run 16-somethings so I was hoping for some company up front, but that didn't happen. A solo effort resulted in 16.54, which I can't be hugely unhappy with, but I still KNOW I am faster, but trying to endlessly pb by myself is really hard work.

Pretty sure 5k is my least favourite track race anyway. This past weekend I was supposed to be doing the 10k. I started the 10k, I did not finish it. I'm really upset, it's been quite a long time since I didn't finish a race and no matter how terrible I felt at the time it still feels like a failure, and worst of all I wasn't even running badly, but I was going to be sick all over the track... It's easy to second-guess yourself afterwards. Either way, 10k is a tough race. I ran 8k feeling awful, and that's further than I've ever done on a track before, and I still had a way to go.......but I'm going to do it again in a few weeks!!!!!!!!!! Watch this space.

Aren't they beautiful?

In other news, you might have noticed in all these photos I'm wearing the same shoes. These things are properly, properly cool. They're made by a company called On, and they are the best shoes I've ever raced in. Much, much more comfortable and supportive than a pair of spikes. And they look amazing. This model, the Cloudflash is designed for maximum performance on harder man-made surfaces (roads, ideally), so they were really good for indoor where the tracks aren't usually covered in normal squishy track stuff. I've now got a pair of Cloud Xs as well, for my longer 10k adventures and I love them. Nigel at the Runner's Hub has some of them at home, and I'd definitely recommend their performance models- I'm not sure I'd do much training in them, they're fairly pricey and I imagine they'd wear down quite quickly, but they are wonderful for races. I feel like I'm becoming a terrible running nerd... a few years ago I just ran in the cheapest whatever I pulled off the discount shelf in the Nike outlet, and now I have Hokas and Ons and nearly bought another pair of race shoes from a brand called Altra- all these shoes I feel like nobody's ever heard of! Every time I come back here I try not to bring many shoes because they weigh a lot in the suitcase, and now I have about two pairs of normal shoes, one pair of boots and a cupboard full of all these weird trainers!

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

So here is really a tale of two cross-countries; the yankee sort and the Manchester sort. Having not long arrived home after a busy season in ATL, I got dragged out of my nice warm bed (too much of that going on recently) to go leg it round some muddy field just beside the motorway in Manc-land. It was cold, it was rainy, it was grey. Lovely stuff. Not quite what I've acclimatised to - you can see the difference between the conditions in the photographs. One is lovely and sunny, pleasantly warm, not an inch of mud in sight.

The other is some sort of Northern wasteland suffering from classically northern winter weather. Both have their merits, and honestly I prefer British XC, but I can't pretend that as I shivered on the soggy starting line I wasn't just a little nostalgic for my American stomping grounds.

But yeah, XC at home is much more fun, and much more hardcore than the sort across the pond, and I think the longer distance and emphasis more on being fit than on being speedy suits me more. So I won the Manchester League! That was unexpected! Taking the front halfway round the last lap came as a total surprise to me, as did the girl behind's reluctance to hurtle past me in the finishing section, but there we go. Who'd have thought I'd ever do that?

I confess, I've gone weak and wussy out there in Donald Trump land. I thought the course was pretty muddy and quite difficult to run properly on. My mother has reliably informed me that I am an American wet lettuce, and the terrain was wholly run-able. Having seen Arrowe Park after the race last weekend, I'm starting to think she might have a point....

Even so, here I am post-race. Looks pretty muddy to me. 

So, our season. A bit of a mixed bag, to be honest. The guy's team had a pretty good one I think. They finished well at Conference, and Dax placed high enough to come to Nationals with us! He ran really well at Nats as well, finishing inside the top 100, which is really great for a fresher. His family are the sweetest as well, they've come to nearly all our races and bring us nice treats for afterwards (so obviously they're very popular). 

On the girl's side we didn't win a single race as a team- even ones we did win last year when (on paper at least) we had a weaker team. 

This is us, second at UNG....won that last year. I think it's fair to say that some of us were lacking in team unity and combined work ethic.

I had a pretty good season. I won some stuff, I set some course records. I broke the school record twice. I think the highlight of the season was running 17.05 at Sand Shark, which took 9 seconds off the previous course record there. That's quite good, because the record had been set by Hannah Segrave last year, who came third at the European U23s this summer in the 800. It was dead annoying though, because I finished over a minute ahead of the next girl, and I totally would have run under 17 if there had been any sort of person to chase or to try and escape from, or anything! Also very annoying because I'd been so close to breaking 17 a few weeks before when I did 17.07 at Royals. It's a bit ungrateful to be mad about winning, but I was cross.

We ran a 6k this year, that was an exciting adventure. Most of the NCAA schools do 6ks because that's their championship distance (bit random). 6k is a rotten distance. It's fast like a 5k, but you have to go further. Coach absolutely terrified me beforehand talking about how one time he'd been at the course we were going to and there had been deer all over the starting field as the race went off. Scary stuff, having to charge down the deer. There weren't any that day, but we did run into a herd of them one time when we were out doing our long run. There are a load of trails behind the main path at the river and we toddled off along one, turned the corner and crashed into these animals. Very worrying indeed when you're not expecting them to be there and then they are there, bouncing all over the path and flashing their antlers (I survived).

Last year's XC season seemed to fly by, I guess because it was all new. This year's seemed to drag on a bit, probably because I knew exactly what was coming.

 A lot of the courses were the same as last year's schedule, but of course not all the same people enter and hopefully some of the runners are in better shape than last year, so the races are never the same. Like this one, a snazzy picture of me looking absolutely exhausted. I was. This was the 17.07 race, a solid 14 seconds off my 5k PB, so I think I was allowed to look a bit knackered. This is Royals, in North Carolina, which last year I won but in a much slower time. This year, the other girl here got just a second ahead of me- I just could not move any faster at the finish.

Conference was not in the same place as last year, which was quite upsetting. It was in fact in the same place as our very first race last year, which is not a brilliant course. Here are me and Maddie making a spirited attempt to break into Milligan's social media. People might remember from last year; Milligan are our sworn rivals. They're lovely girls, but we must try and beat them at all times. Last year we edged them at Conference by two points. This year they battered us (team work ethic disaster), but I won it and Maddie had a fantastic run for third, so that was good. The rest of the first seven, who get 'All-Conference' prizes were Milligan's counting team, so obviously we didn't stand a chance in the points.

Luckily, even in second we got a bid to go to Nationals, ranked 16th in the nation. Last year we went in ranked 10th, our place having moved up and up all season. This year we'd gone steadily down the rankings, but at least we were getting to go. And go all the way to the other side of the country! Vancouver, Washington State! Very exciting.

It's a bit sad, but for me one of the coolest bits of the whole trip was stopping over in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was AMAZING. The city huddles against the back of the Rocky Mountains, which are just these enormous, harsh, spiky things that go on for ever ever, like it's trying to hide from the massive lake but can't run back any further. It doesn't look like it ought to be there- the whole thing looks like something from a SciFi film. Awesome. And then there are mountains coming out of the lake, and the whole thing is just crazy. How did people survive trying to cross that landscape without aeroplanes or cars or anything?

We got to Portland, which is basically the same place as Vancouver, just across the state line, and we did some exploring. We'd all chopped our hair off, possibly in honour of the occasion, or possibly just because, so we are now the SCAD ATL boy's XC team, and here we are at Nike World HQ! It is such a beautiful track.

We had a little run around it, and I did some balancing. Greta, who ran with us last year is now at uni in Oregon, so she came to visit. The US is so enormous it has multiple time zones, so we were all very confused as to why we were feeling very tired at 7pm, but really it was more like 9 or 10 for us.

Very exciting news though. I got voted the Southern runner of the year for the NAIA, and got a massive piece of glass for it. The people in charge of the event at Nats had organised a massive dinner the night before, so they called you up to get these things in front of nearly everyone who would be running the next pressure at all!

So here's me doing something attractive with my face not long after the start of the race. The girl directly beside me went on to win it. I had a bit of a shocker. Not long after this photo was taken I think I must have twisted my ankle and spent the rest of the race limping with a stabbing pain in my calf. Very, very upsetting. On the plus side though, Maddie ran a brilliant race to finish within a few seconds of being All-American, and somehow the team pulled through to 8th, which was something of a nice ending to a disappointing season.