I don’t know about you but, 2019 has been a funny year. It’s simultaneously felt like it has flown by, and yet at the same time felt like a never ending year where a lot of stuff has been crammed it. Marathons, triathlons, adventures and adult stuff like buying our first home- 2019 has had it all and picking a top 10 has been tricky so here’s a top 12!
My 100 parkruns and 25 volunteer milestones: Not one but two parkrun T-shirt’s earned this year. It feels like it’s taken a long time to get to the magic 100 runs (mainly because I’ve volunteered much more over the last 12 months) but I finally reached the century milestone on Christmas Day which was very special. I started parkrun back in 2016 to help give me some much needed headspace space whilst I was grieving after a pretty rough start to the year. parkrun became a Christmas tradition that year, mainly as a distraction and way to fill the time on Christmas morning, that we otherwise would have spent with my aunt (she passed earlier that year). It’s now become a firm Christmas favourite in our house and reaching my 100 milestone on Christmas morning was just perfect. I’ll be ending the year on 101 runs and 28 volunteering stints.
London Revolution: I had never tried a multi day ultra cycling event but was enticed by the opportunity to participate in the 185 mile London revolution held over two days in May. Feeling a tad nervous I took Sarah along with me and we had an absolute blast. Although our road cycling proficiencies were at opposite ends of the scale (Sarah is very experienced whilst I get nervous if a car comes anywhere near me and i’m VERY esily lost) we worked as a team and I’m so glad I had Sarah there supporting me. We shared miles of laughter, dined like queens at the aid station buffets and drank cider in our pjs. It’s definitely an event I want to do again, just unfortunately clashes with family plans in 2020! Next year’s route is slightly shorter too which makes it the ideal experience for your first multi-day cycling event. If you’d like to read more about the event, click here.
Joining a Tri Club: I put this off for ages and ages, but I’m so glad I eventually took the plunge. I’ve loved being part of a club and learning from those more experienced than me. I’ve made new friends and I’m really getting stuck into the coached sessions- especially swimming. I now swim more than ever before and I’m getting stronger as the weeks go on. If you’re ever thinking about joining a tri or running club I’d urge you to give it a go!
Race to the King: my first ultra marathon and an experience I got to share with one of my best running pals Livvy. I thoroughly enjoyed the two days we spent out on the trails, it’s just wonderful running in the British countryside and something I don’t get to experience much of living in London. We ran, snacked, laughed and had a close encounter with an exploded creme egg. This event certainly didn’t disappoint and exceeded any expectations I had! An ultra marathon had never been on my radar but the stars aligned and the timing felt right. I’m not sure if I’ll do another ultra in 2020, the training requires incredible dedication and the recovery is a long process, but I’m so glad I chose this one for my first. You can read my full race review here.
Pacing the ASICS London 10k with Livvy and Rach: my second time pacing a big race and a real highlight of 2019. The ASICS London 10k is a great event through central London taking in loads of the sights including Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Trafalgar Square. Getting to pace 60minutes was so much fun and we helped a few runners to some well deserved PBs. If you haven’t paced a race yet I really recommend it, I think it’s actually more fun than running! Getting out and doing more pacing is definitely on my list for 2020.
Sub 4 at Manchester Marathon: After chasing the elusive sub 4 for over a year my hard work paid off at Manchester Marathon in April. I gave this race everything I had. I trained so thoroughly, from 1:1 speed sessions, to getting in a particularly tough 15 mile training run in whilst we were on holiday in the states. I missed my boyfriend’s birthday for this race so there was no way I was coming home without hitting my target. I snuck over the line in 3:59. The marathon distance has never been easy for me, it’s been really hard work and there’s been a lot of frustration when it comes to learning how to stay focussed and cope with pushing through the mental challenges 26.2miles bring. At present 2020 doesn’t include any plans for marathon number 5. After four marathons in two years I’m ready for a break from this distance to focus on triathlon. Having achieved my dream sub 4 time I feel totally at peace with the marathon and ready to make progress elsewhere. You can read my Manchester Marathon experience here.
Munich OCR and trail running weekend: In July I headed to Munich with members of the global ASICS FrontRunner team for their international meet up featuring some epic trails and insane OCR fun. Obstacle courses in Germany are VERY different to those in the UK, there was lots of mud, lots of swimming and some rather scary heights which I managed to navigate with the help of my lovely team. The trail running was incredible too, being out in nature is simply wonderful.
Completing my first triathlon: From the moment I sat in the very first ASICS FrontRunner UK team meeting in Manchester back in 2017, and heard normal everyday people talking about how they do triathlons I knew I wanted to do one. This year my dream became a reality and I completed my first ever triathlon- London Tri Olympic distance (and then went on to do another after that!) I love the variety training for three disciplines brings (swimming is actually my favourite!) and I feel like I’ve found a sport that just gets me. In 2020 I want to not only complete my first half Ironman but I have some big goals for London Tri which I really want to work as hard as I can towards. There are loads of ways to get into triathlon and if like me you’re feeling a bit curious I’ve left some hints and tips in my previous beginner FAQs blog.
Waking up in the mountains with Albera Expeditions: In June I was lucky enough to be invited to join one of the very first runcations with Albera Expeditions in the Pyrenees. We spent the week enjoying incredible scenery, great wine and even better food. One particular highlight for me (although it was hard to pick just one as the week was epic!) was the night we stayed in a mountain refuge high in the Pyrenees. Waking up and watching the sun rise over the mountains was just magical and something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. It was also a chance to meet new people and forge new friendships and I’m so grateful for the people who have come into my life this year and supported me. You can read my update on the week here.
Buying our first home: It was a very long, very stressful process but after 8 never ending months of legal adult home buying ‘stuff’ we finally moved into our very own home. There is nothing quite like coming home to somewhere you love after a run.
Barbados Marathon Weekend: What an incredible few days visiting a part of the world I’ve never seen before. Barbados is just perfect for anyone who wants some relaxation whilst enjoying lots of varied activities, gorgeous beaches and friendly vibes. The marathon weekend was fantastic, offering a variety of races and distances all with a great atmosphere. I’ve come back from the trip feeling so healthy and relaxed- and I definitely will be returning in the future. I can’t quite believe I got to experience this adventure and I’ll be forever grateful, you can catch up with my highlights video here.
Visiting Iceland for the first time since completing my PhD: In April we visited Iceland for the first time since September 2015, as part of a trip that was partially sponsored by Stance for their Women in Adventure campaign. From 2012-2016 I studied my PhD at Lancaster University, where my time was split between Lancaster, at a scientific instrument company in Manchester and out in Iceland collecting field data. My area of study was the biogeochemistry of Icelandic glacial meltwaters, or to more simply describe it- using water from melting glaciers to learn about climate change.
This is my top highlight of 2019, simply because left a real lasting impression on me. I previously struggled to find my place in science, especially geology and environmental sciences, which are very (senior) male dominated. I started my PhD at 21, which in the academic world is very young and I went straight from my degree to PhD, skipping the usual masters route. I didn’t come from a hardcore scientific background (I’d previously studied physical geography not geology) but I had an interest and passion in glaciology and was championed by a supervisor who saw my potential. Navigating the environmental sciences as a young woman is difficult, and often intimidating- and even though I was lucky enough to study at a University where I felt really valued and supported, my time outside the Lancaster Bubble, particularly at academic conferences wasn’t always the most enjoyable. I found fieldwork difficult, especially only having male field assistants (who were all lovely but just didn’t get me as a woman), and there was a real element of loneliness being away from home and loved ones for so long. Whilst I cherished much of my time in Iceland during this period, I struggled with feelings of imposter syndrome, I put myself under a lot of personal pressure to work every hour of every day on fieldwork (and subsequently wore myself out) and mental fatigue from spending weeks/ months on end camping in a tent in the most testing of weather. I left my own scientific research behind in 2016, first working for a scientific society then moving into my current role in environmental research support, where I get to do really interesting things with real world value (like sitting on lots of climate change groups) and working with top scientists at a leading institution in London. My passion for the environment has always been there and I’ve wanted to go back to Iceland for years, but always felt a bit nervous to return. Through the Women in Adventure Campaign I was given the opportunity to not only visit and share some of the really cool things you can do there, but also speak about my research passions, and highlight environmental issues, all whilst trying to help change the face of adventure (ever walk into an outdoor shop and just see pictures of men everywhere? Yeah me too).
The campaign has been life changing for me: It’s helped me find my place in science; given me the confidence to openly speak about environmental issues which I’m not only passionate about, but qualified in; and given me the space to share these with the world. But most importantly for me I was able to combine my love of the great outdoors with my love of fitness and it’s kickstarted a whole world of trail running for me. I’ve grown as an athlete and as a researcher and in return I really hope I’ve been able to make a difference, not just to women in the great outdoors, but anyone who wants to learn more about our rapidly changing world and the threats our planet faces. Being back in Iceland was quite bittersweet. Seeing how much the landscape is changing always creates a sense of sadness, but it was truly magical to be back and I even got to visit my old weather station and do some checks to make sure the next generation of scientists using it can continue to get accurate data so we can keep monitoring environmental change. This was such an incredible highlight of 2019 and I hope to continue to build on all the things I’ve learned from this experience. If you ever get the chance to Iceland- GO.
SO…. that’s it for 2019. There have been loads of other highlights ( Including Liverpool marathon with my family, featuring in Women’s Running Magazine and far too many to mention) and i’ve been so lucky to have some incredible experiences this year. As with any year there have been bumps in the road, but these are there to test us and help us grow. For 2020 I’m looking forward to getting stuck into triathlon training and turning 30 (although i’m not sure if i’m looking forward to that!)
I hope you all have a happy and healthy 2020 and as always thank you for taking the time to swing by and visit my site, your support is always appreciated.