Category Archives: Running

Calling female runners

A friend of mine is a lecturer at London South Bank University and we were at a birthday dinner a couple of weeks ago when we got chatting. She knows I’m a runner and mentioned a project that her students are doing with A Mile in Her Shoes.

If you don’t know, A Mile in Her Shoes is a charity that helps homeless women to find their feet through running. They organise running groups with qualified run leaders and work with the women to support them in a variety of issues around homelessness.

I knew of the organisation and was already following them on twitter – @InHerShoesHQ – so was excited to hear what they were doing.

They are investigating ways the runners can help the organisation, and to start with have put together a survey for female runners to complete. Please take part here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/5Y25GBV

A Mile in Her Shoes is part-funded by UnLTD (a social enterprise organisation) through LSBU, but they rely mostly on donated clothing.

Please get in touch with them if you have any spare running shoes or kit that could be used by the women or sold to raise funds for the project. For more in formation, visit their website at http://amileinhershoes.co.uk or email run@amileinhershoes.org.uk

Fear of getting caught short on the course

I don’t know whether it’s my age, the cold, that I’m drinking too much water on the way round, or just that worrying about it makes you want to go more, but these days, my long run routes (and, sadly, currently my shorter runs too) are determined by a series of park / public toilets and even a 24 hr garage that I know has a loo.

Or at least, that’s the theory. I had a nightmare the other day, I was doing my interval session, so there is a bit of slow recovery time, it was chucking it down with rain – that may or may not be related – and no one had come to open the park toilets. Of course, this only exacerbated the situation, knowing that I couldn’t go.

Through gritted teeth, I did my intervals, lots of extra deep breathing and concentration. Then, just after I’d finished and was heading off for the cool down run home, a man arrived in a van. My heart lifted, I ran over and asked, all expectant, if he’d come to open the toilet block. He said that he hadn’t but could if I wanted, but wouldn’t I rather use the facilities in the community hall?

What, the place with the shutters down, no lights on and looking about as closed as possible? Yes, I was told, apparently it had been open the whole time. Aaarrrrgghhhh!

I think the longest gap between toilets on my long runs is about four miles, about the same as longest gap on the Brighton Marathon route, which makes me feel more relaxed. Hopefully, knowing they’re there will be enough to make me forget about them and concentrate on the running!

Four firsts and a failure

Ok, it’s official, I’m knackered.

This has been a big week of firsts for me, and I’ve loved every minute of it, though my body is now crying ‘enough!’.

My first first, was a trip down to London Bridge to have a session at the Hot Bikram Yoga studio. I’m relatively new to yoga, I only started in October, so I was a little bit anxious about the intensity of the heat and the workout. That was once I’d worked out what to wear of course (not much).

For those who don’t know, the class is carried out in a room at about 40 C and is a series of 26 postures.

I got really sweaty – which is the general idea – and I liked it far more than I thought I would, that heat did seem to make me more flexible than I usually am. As soon as I got home I signed up for more sessions.

My second first was a new approach to my interval / speed session. I’ve been doing 200m sprints at full pelt and repeating, but after my weekend session of marathon training with the Run Doctor, I decided to have a go at Yasso 800s.

The idea is you run 800m fast, then however long it takes you, you recover for that amount of time by walking or light running, then go for the 800m again. This is then repeated until you’ve done 10 sets of 800m, all completed within a five second range.

I found the idea a bit daunting to be honest and set out to do six, but then the fifth felt really good and positive, so I thought, ah, go on then, lets do eight, then of course by the time you’ve done eight, you might as well go on and do 10. Or so I persuaded myself.

The theory is that if you can do the 800m in, say, four mins, give or take five seconds either way over all ten laps then this predicts your marathon finish time to be 4 hours, give or take five minutes either way.

I’ve read lots of conflicting stuff on the internet about whether or not this is an accurate prediction and whether or not there not there is any real benefit of speed work for marathon runners. To be honest, I quite enjoyed doing something different to normal and it can’t do me any harm, surely?

New thing number three was getting out the foam roller. There’s one at home from when my husband dislocated a shoulder, but I’ve never really thought about using it before. I’ve still not quite got the hang of it, but thank goodness for YouTube, all makes a bit more sense than reading about it. Hamstrings were very grateful.

My last first of the week was finally getting round to doing a strength session. Probably the bit I’d been least looking forward to, all the repetitions are a bit, well, dull, and I was stuck inside. Even trying to distract myself with music, radio or TV couldn’t really brighten it up. Still I did it, and here’s hoping I’m getting some benefit from it.

That’s it, one new thing a day, till today. Can’t really claim that I tried anything new today, had planned to try an energy gel on my long run, but failed to get round to buying any, still a bit unsure about which one to go for.

So next week’s new things are hill sprints and I will seek out some gels to try. All good stuff.

Marathon training with the Run Doctor

There always seems to be more to know or learn as a runner. I’m forever thinking that I don’t know enough about this or that, so when I saw an email for a Marathon Running workshop with The Run Doctor, Ed, that was my Christmas present sorted out and I didn’t have to drop a ridiculous amount of hints.

Because I’m – ever so slightly – addicted to parkrun, I left early to run the two miles to the nearest one to where the workshop was taking place. I know, I cheated on my local parkrun, but there was no chance of a PB so I felt like I could be forgiven. I did come to slightly regret this, more of that later.

I enjoyed the new, hillier challenge and felt all fired up as I arrived for the day.

After a brief introduction about how the day would go, we were taken off to be filmed running on the treadmill for analysis later. Oh dear, I hate running on a treadmill and being filmed, brrrrrr. Still, it was all in a good cause, just had to not think too much about it.

The course took us through training methods, essential elements to include – long, tempo, recovery runs, intervals and strength work. We looked at nutrition, recovery tips, planning a training schedule, the importance of tapering and running technique.

To help with our technique, we went to a nearby running track and did some warm up exercises and simple exercises aimed at improving our posture and running style. Then it was laps of the track, two – or 800m – at a time. The aim was to run fast and then rest before repeating, hopefully at the same pace, up to ten times.

Sadly for me, that was where the earlier running took its toll. By now it was nearly 1.30 and I was soooo hungry! Managed three lots of 800m, but that was enough! Lesson learnt – don’t do all that running without a snack at some point.

After (a very much wanted on my part) lunch, Ed went through the treadmill clips, critiquing everyone, suggesting areas of improvement. Some things I’m definitely going to work on.

We finished the session with a Q&A, before heading home, all inspired and raring to go. I would definitely recommend the workshop (take snacks), it was very relaxed, warm and friendly as well as being packed with information and advice. There was a booklet to take home too, with some exercises modeled by the lovely Ed himself.

I was going to run back, but thought, forget that, I’m getting the bus, so I had a nice sit down all the way home and then some well-earned pizza for tea.

Back to normality

Normality has finally returned to the house. The kids went back to school yesterday and I’m getting along nicely with week four (really, week four already?) of my marathon training programme.

I admit that I was really anxious about the school holidays as often it’s hard to find time to go running but this year was the most successful yet. I only missed a couple of days running over past few weeks, and, given that one of them was Christmas and the family had banned me from going out that day, I don’t think I’ve done too badly.

It all started well, with my last parkrun of the year, I was pleased to finish ahead of Santa fascinator lady, but just behind tinsel fascinator lady! I think I might have passed a couple of Santa hats too.

The next day there was a bit of a hiccough, I pretty much lost my voice and developed a lovely chesty cough. Still, didn’t stop me running on the Monday, whoops. Got home and nearly collapsed, so took Christmas Eve off.

I convinced everyone I was better by Boxing Day and there was clear blue sky so headed out for a refreshing 10k, including a bit of the parkrun route. It was a bit weird doing it on my own and felt slightly naughty, like climbing over the gate to play in the school playground.

The next few days went according to plan, including a 13-mile long run.

I made it the New Year’s Day parkrun! It had been a very late night on New Year’s Eve and there were a few scoops drunk, but it was the best way to clear my head and sneak in a nine-mile run.

Two more 6am starts followed, getting used to it now, then up north. I got to take in a run along the river Dee and the Wirral Way which I like – apart from the big hill at the end. Then I got to see a completely new bit of Manchester for me, running along the canals there.

So, I’ve surprised myself by remaining on track with my training, sprints yesterday and then back in the pool this morning. First yoga session for three weeks this afternoon too, teacher broke us back into it gently but my body was still a bit shocked by what it was being asked to do.

Finished the class feeling all enthused about my up coming training and planned my long route for Friday as I cycled home.

I think a soak in the bath and some Christmas chocolate is called for tonight.

First run done

Happy New Year! So far, so good.

Woke up just after nine, and pretty much threw my clothes on and headed out of the door to make it to parkrun for 10am. It was raining seriously cold rain, and the wind was, well, biting, but the sight of my fellow parkrunners waiting to get going made everything warm and tingly.

Hats off to the few who were on their second parkrun of the day, they were easy to spot as they were already sporting mudsplashed legs.

I have no idea what my time was today, I forgot to start the Garmin going so just ran. It felt like a decent pace and the cold rain was an incentive to go faster anyway.

It was great to chat to some of the regulars at the end before heading home on the last leg of my nine mile run. Back in time for a perfect hangover / post run refueling breakfast of scrambled eggs and beans.

What a great start to 2014, looking forward to a good year of running.

So that was 2013…

As we’re about to start 2014 and a tough set of running challenges, including three marathons and a duathlon, I’ve been trying to think what my running highlights have been for the past year.

This was the year I ran as part of the Write This Run team at the Women’s Running 10k, discovered – and fell in love with – parkrun, completed the Paris Marathon and notched up a few new PBs.

I’m really proud of completing the Paris Marathon, there was one point when I thought it wasn’t going to happen after twisting my knee in training, but a few days of intense resting and icing and it was ok again. I loved starting on the Champs Elysees and running through that beautiful city.

In October, I finally got my act together and registered for parkrun, completing my first in Edinburgh. Since that first one, I’ve knocked two minutes and three seconds off my PB at my local event and feel that Saturday isn’t complete without my 5k race, which often comes in the middle of an 8-10 mile run.

It’s great to chat with other runners at the end and I’m getting to know a few regular faces. One week even led to a spontaneous hug at the end with a fellow runner as we’d been pushing each other on during the race, which helped us both.

This was also the year I started this blog and tweeting more, which led me to a blogging workshop held by Write This Run and their conference at the Running Show. These events have been fantastic, inspiring and fun, best of all though was getting to meet lots of other fabulous runners, putting faces to twitter handles and blogs. I now feel part of a community that is supportive, informative and entertaining.

Now, as the year ends, I’m in the third week of marathon training for Brighton in April, which is followed six weeks later by Liverpool. It’s been going well, especially since it is school holidays and my usual routines are all over the place. I’m really excited about my challenges for next year, my most full on so far.

Happy New Year to all!

Shopping, shopping and a bit of running

It all started with the Write This Run conference at the Running Show last month. It was the lunch break and I wandered around looking at all the stuff to buy, ‘One little running skirt won’t hurt,’ I said to myself, and ‘Well, you can’t not need laces.’

Skip to three weeks later and my small, but perfectly formed, purchases at the Running Show have been joined by a thermal base layer and running vest from Sweaty Betty (it was my birthday, ok), new Asics running shoes (essential item), three pairs of socks (it was three for two, how could I not?), a pair of Kalenji running tights (after @Cat_Simpson described them soooo toasty (and super comfy)) and a pair of thermal gloves (absolutely essential in my case).

Oh, and a new blue jacket, so I’m slightly more visible in the dark.

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My credit card is exhausted and has taken itself off for a well earned rest. I’m not usually one for shopping but I found myself in a whole new kind of zone, I think it’s over, for now.

Back to concentrating on the running again, it’s suddenly week one of the 16 week training schedule for Brighton Marathon, and my new kit is going to be thoroughly put through it’s paces over the next few months. My new shoes are already a bit muddy and have lost that brand new look. Let’s see how they look in April.

Swanning around

I saw a mink on the way back from parkrun on Saturday, yes a mink. I’d never seen one before, but there it was just sitting by the side of the path. Very cute it was too, it looked at me, then hid in a pile of leaves, poked it’s head out a few times, then bounded off.

It was one of those, “Wish I had a camera,” moments. That was the second time in a week it had happened.

There are usually one or two swans hanging about on the canals as I run past, but not this day, there were two groups next to each other, all stood on the bank too, not in the water, the first bevy had 11 adult swans and 3 almost adult cygnets. A few metres away, there was another group, this one had 9 grown swans and one almost adult cygnet.

I was so thrown by this I had to stop running, a cyclist rode past me, “I know, weird isn’t it,” he said, and it was. I’ve been back to that bit of the canal since, and the flock seems to have dispersed. Back down to just one or two.

It’s funny the things that you see when you’re out running, I’ve been a bit guilty in the past of zoning out and not really noticing what’s going on around me, but I’m making an effort to engage a bit more with what’s going on.

Who knows what I’m going to see next.

A Saturday well spent

What a great way to spend a Saturday. The alarm went off at ridiculous o’clock in the morning, and I set out for the Write This Run conference at the Running Show (only stopping briefly at Waterloo station to marvel at the number of Doctor Who fans already in full fancy dress waiting for the big moment).

The day didn’t disappoint, there were lots of truly inspirational speakers, including, Sophie Walker, who found running and blogging helped her and her daughter cope with a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome.

She asked the question that we runners don’t ask, “What are you running from?” But I think that’s for another day.

There was a session on brands and building relationships with them, tips from journalists and bloggers about improving your writing – just do it seems to be the best way – and advice from experts on injury, rest and recovery.

Aside from the sessions, it was lovely to meet so many other running bloggers, there were a few familiar faces, and even more familiar names from twitter and blogs. It was a real pleasure to be in a room with so many enthusiastic people, all passionate about running and blogging.

After a day of sitting and listening it was a treat to be taken out for a training session led by the Running School.

On top of all this, there was the chance to wonder round the Running Show and buy lots of new kit and other goodies.

So a huge thank you to Laura and Liz, the Write This Run team, for putting on such a fantastic event, if you missed, make sure you catch the next one.