Thursday, 31 October 2013

My Morning Run

The folk over at Women's Running HQ have restarted 'my morning run', where you can email, Facebook or Tweet them your morning run pictures and they choose their favourite each day.

There is nothing quite like seeing the waves breaking on the beach in Cornwall, or someone experiencing a lovely sunrise on their run, to inspire you to drag yourself out of bed, pull on your trainers and get yourself out there.

That is, until you step outside and remember that you actually live in the city centre and the majority of the sights you seen on your run are abandoned shoes/umbrellas/booze (delete as appropriate) or if you're really lucky, someones sick from the night before. Mmmm what a treat.

However, undeterred by these beautiful memories I set off with #mymorningrun in mind and was pleased that Manchester managed to throw up some autumnal goodies this morning.
The canal

Autumnal river

And if that wasn't enough, it appears that Nike+ reward you with a little pumpkin trophy if you run on Halloween...

Happy snapping!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Race Report - Cardiff Half Marathon 2013

A few weeks ago I ran the Cardiff Half Marathon. Although not my first half marathon, it was a first for me in many ways. It was the first time I'd run in my hometown, first time I'd run the same race as my super speedy Brother in law, and it was the first time my mum, sister, boyfriend and nephews had been to watch me race. And it was amazing, the sun was shining, the route was great and the organisation was fab too. I even went as far as to say this was my favourite that race I'd ever run. And the medal from my hometown wasn't too shabby either.

So without further ado, I introduce you to my Cardiff Half 2013 Race Report:

Race Organisation
Good! I had heard reports that in previous years it hadn't been that great, but the organisers had clearly listened to their feedback. The communication via email leading up to the day was full of useful information and Race numbers and chips were posted out to runners so there was no need to collect these on the day, which I much prefer.

The start was well organised and it was clear where each colour wave should go. Lots of volunteers were able to help if you had any questions, and most crucially there were plenty of loos near the start which didn't have massive queues! The only problem was finding somewhere to park, but apart from that it was all pretty straight forward and hassle free.

Starting Location
You can't really get a more iconic location in Cardiff that the Castle. The early morning sun was shining and the start line was buzzing, even if I did feel like the only lady surrounded by big burly men! 
In previous years, the race has started in the bay and again the organisers had listed to problems runners had had with this, and moved the location. I thought it was a great place to start, in the centre of town outside the Castle entrance, and this set the tone for the rest of the race.

It begins...
Maybe it's because I know the city so well that I enjoyed it so much, or maybe I'm just biased, but either way I loved the route! I love running Cardiff when I'm home visiting my Mum and this race really did our city proud. The route takes in all the sights, from the castle, out to the lovely Penarth Marina, over the barrage and into Cardiff Bay, past the Norwegian Church and the Millennium Centre before heading through studentsville and over to Roath Park and then back to the Civic Centre finishing not far from the National Museum of Wales.

Despite billing itself as the second largest half marathon in the UK, it's worth a note that there was little congestion on the course. Sure, it was busier in some parts than others, but there was plenty of room for everyone. The best part of the course was through the bay and Roath Park, where the support was best and the atmosphere was great. I also love running near water and greenery (it's rare up in Manchester!) The most challenging part of the course was between miles 11 and 12. You were almost at the end and then you turn a corner, just to see the mile 12 marker. Good right? WRONG. That marker is sat at the top of a short, but very steep incline. I looked at the guy next to me, we both swore a little, laughed and got on with it. The little old lady cheering me up that hill was the best!

I have never ending respect and appreciation for people who get up on a weekend and give up their time to cheer on strangers when they run. From the students stood on the street in their pjs in Roath, to the little old lady cheering me up that hill, and of course my own special cheer team, Mum, Katie, Jamie, Dafydd and Jonah - the support was brilliant. This was especially true of the bay and through Roath but the whole route was well supported, particularly the crowds at the end. Great stuff.

Some of my Cheer Crew

On Route Drinks and Snacks
There were plenty of water stations, and again lots of volunteers were on hand to give out bottles to us thirsty runner. They also handed out gels, which I didn't use, and there were lots of people handing out jelly babies which are always well received!

Official T Shirt
As always, this was a little on the large side despite me getting an XS size. I mean, these are being given out to people who run - its safe to say we are not all gargantuan, yet race Ts are always huge! But its a good technical Brooks shirt, nice colour and I'm sure I'll wear it when I'm layering up on my runs in the winter.

A round, gold coloured medal depicting the mighty Cardiff, with a red ribbon. Some lovely race bling.

Marks out of 10: 9/10
A great race, amazing atmosphere and lots of support AND I got an unexpected PB of  01:46:08 - what more could you ask for?! Im already planning on signing up for 2014. You should too,

Sunday, 20 October 2013

The Shoe Review: Nike Zoom Structure + 16

Goodbye old friends. We've had some good times, we've had some bad. You've seen me, quite literally, through blood, sweat and tears. You've been there for me at the best of times, carried me across finish lines and kept me moving when I thought I could go no more.

But these times are over. I just don't feel supported by you any more like I once did.  Its not me, its you. You've passed your prime and there is someone new in my life. I've traded you for a new model...

Enter the Nike Zoom Structure + 16

Swit swoo!
OK these may not be the newest Nike structure model on the market, (there is now a + 17 model), but they are new to me this week so I thought I'd review.

Having had my old faithful Nike Zoom + 14 for over a year, and covered some pretty decent mileage in them, I knew it was time for some new kicks. My old shin niggle started flaring up again and I realised I've probably had the best out of my old runners.

I took a bit of a gamble on this new pair. I'd not even tried them on before I ordered them online from the Nike sale. However having been to a physio and had my gate analysed at the brilliant Sweatshop online (if you're new to running and never had this done, go and visit them and get kitted out properly. Its a brilliant, free service - seriously go. Now! It will change your running life), I'd been told many a time that I was flat footed and weak ankled. Well fine, I guess we all have our crosses to bear...

So, I knew I needed a structured pair of running shoes, and I wasn't unhappy with my old zooms, they had just been run in too many times.

As much as I wanted to succumb to the marketing ploys and get involved with the Nike Free, Adidas Boost or Nike Flyknits, I was a good running girl, stuck with what I knew and ordered the newer model of what I already had from the Nike website sale.

And Im glad I did. Not only are they super comfortable but they feel supportive and structured. The most noticeable difference from their trusty forerunner however is the weight. My god they're soooo light. This was my first thought as I sunk my feet in to them, 'the lightness, oh my the lightness'.

So after a couple of short runs and a long run today, I can confirm that these are a good running shoe if, like me, you're in the 'need for structure' gang.

They also look pretty good too and incidentally happen to go pretty well with my favourite running shorts.
Matchy matchy

So lesson learnt: stick with what you know, and an older (read: less extortionate) model  is no bad thing.

All in all I'm a happy runner in my new shoe relationship.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Welcome to the blog!

About two years ago I started running.

My brilliant Mum had found out she had breast cancer so I thought I really ought to raise some money for Cancer Research and tentatively entered a 5k 'Race for Life' in Hampstead Heath.
It was hard, I'd never done anything like this. I was in the 'oh yeah, I'd love to run a marathon one day' camp, rather than the person who actually gets up and willingly spends their spare time exercising.
That 5k felt like forever but people were so supportive and it was, shock horror – fun! AND I managed to raise loads of money for a cause which really meant something to me. FAB.

As I huffed and puffed my way around the heath I decided there and then that I really needed a bigger race, with lots of people supporting and cheering me on. As I happened to be making a big life move from old London to rainy Manchester, I thought what better way to mark the occasion than running a northern based race. The day after that first 5k I somewhat apprehensively entered the Great North Run. A whole half marathon.

I diligently followed a training plan. I dutifully went out in the pouring rain and explored my new city on foot, pounding out the pavements. Fast forward 11 weeks and lots of blood, sweat and tears later, I ended up finishing the race in 2 hours and 43 seconds.

And there it was. I was hooked.

Turns out I'm pretty competitive. Those 43 seconds bothered me. I knew I could run faster and I had never experienced the joy of wearing a well earned medal until that day. I bloody LOVE a medal!

Since then I've run the Berlin Marathon, a number of 10ks and a few half marathons. Running has changed my life - people think of me as a runner, (which still surprises me) and its now what I do on a day off, BEFORE work, or even on holiday. How the hell did that happen?!

So with a place in the 2014 London Marathon I thought I would start a blog and let you lovely people read about my running rambles. And this way I might relieve the boredom of my nearest and dearest who have to constantly endure my geeky running chat.

So here I am. This is my blog - about me, training and more than likely eating. So join me as I hit the streets and run my way through life, training and other adventures.