Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Manchester Half Marathon - Race report

After the baggage issues at Manchester Marathon earlier this year, I was in two minds about running the inaugral Manchester Half Marathon this weekend. But as it's on my doorstep, and the final race in my running club's Summer championships, I thought I'd still give it a go despite my reservations. And boy am I glad I did!

Having had a good run a couple of weeks ago at the Disneyland Paris half, finishing close to my best half marathon time, a little seed had been planted and I decided I was going for a PB. I have been running pretty well recently and running faster and longer in training than I'd really realised, so I thought I'd try and go out with a bang at the last road race of the season. And if I didn't get it, I had nothing to lose.

An early alarm gave us a gorgeous sunrise, but this wasn't to last. I checked my stuff into the bag drop, met up with my running buddies and we made our way to the start line. Just as the race began, the rain started to fall and in true Manchester style it didn't let up for about 6 or 7 miles. It was WET! But this didn't deter the crowds and I felt more sorry for them than us runners - as least we were moving and keeping warm! The race was well supported throughout with choirs and bands along the route. An out and back section towards the end also meant you saw supporters twice which was great.

Start line
I set off pretty fast, too quickly really, but I'd decided to run without my running watch after I'd enjoyed it so much in Paris, so I didn't really know how fast I was going. I liked running on feel and realised that the 1 hour 35 pacer hadn't yet overtaken me which was both nice and worrying in equal measure. Then right at the 9 mile mark, just as the going got tough, that pacer effortlessly glided past me. Although this was much faster than I was aiming for it was still really disheartening and I thought I'd totally lost my chance of a PB. I tackled the rest of the race just trying to run as fast as I could. There were a few little inclines which were not what I needed after 12 miles of running hard, and I felt like a lot of people were overtaking me towards the end, probably because I'd started in a faster group than I should have. But I just kept telling myself to keep going.

Soon enough I could see the finish line, but it was AGES away and took me forever to get to. I was happy with my run and felt like I was giving it my total all. I couldn't go any faster - until I saw the clock. It was SO close to my PB time that I couldn't not pick up the pace. Feeling sick and really going for the last 100 metres I finally ran over the line with a new PB of 1.36.59!

It was tough, and the course wasn't the most scenic, but the atmosphere was great despite the weather and the organisation was really good (apart from the lack of portaloos at the start!)

A good run, well organised race and a shiny new PB - not bad for a Sunday morning's work.

Obligatory beer and medal shot

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon - Race Report

Another weekend, another early alarm where I wake up asking myself  'what am I doing?!' I always said I would never wear fancy dress to run a race, but this all changed when I entered the Disneyland Paris Inaugural Half marathon. If there is ever a race to dress up for, one through Disneyland is surely it?!

With Ariel from The Little Mermaid decided on,  I chucked a shell bra and some mermaid print leggings into my bag for a weekend in Paris, and off we went!

Mermaid kit throw down
The race started at 7am with corrals closing at 6.30 - pretty early but no additional buses were put on to transfer those staying outside of the Disney parks. We ended up getting an extortionate taxi but saw plenty of runners walking the 30 min+ route bleary eyed through the dark towards the start line. Thank goodness for Starbucks! Stood at the start in the dark with the search lights going was pretty exciting, but I was glad I'd had some middle-of-the-night running practice at Equinox24 the week before!

It was late starting and despite being in the first corral we ended up crossing the line at about 7.15. They did however stagger the start in about 2 or 3 minute intervals, which I thought was great as it meant that the course was never congested and everyone had plenty of room to run. This was brilliant for us at the front, but looking at social media this strategy meant that people further back didn't start until gone 8am, and were then rushed through the race and not allowed to take photos or stop because the park was opening! Not cool Disney, not cool.
Start line selfie - Ariel & Captain America

The route wound its way through the two Disney parks for the first 5k, with plenty of support from Disney workers and characters on course. There was music playing and the atmosphere was just really really FUN. Loads of runners would dash over to a character stop on the course, have a quick snap, then race off - it was pretty hilarious to watch. Turning on to 'Main Street USA' was pretty cool and we even ran through the castle itself. I didn't think I'd actually like it all as much as I did!
Mid run blurry Main St USA shot 
I'd checked out the route online so knew that after the first 5k we would exit the parks and run on roads around the french countryside. I was dreading this and thought it would be pretty boring, but there were still bands and lots of support on course, especially from the marshalls at the water stations and the fun fun fun atmosphere continued. There were also some spectators out and watching the sun rise while running was pretty bloody lovely. The course was quite hilly in places with a couple of out and backs which I like, especially on this course as you could look at everyone elses costumes! I also kept an eye out for Paula Radcliffe who was leading the pack and I yelled a very energetic 'GO PAULA!' at her which made her laugh. I bet she's not had a mermaid cheer for her before...

After a couple of long road stretches, we made our way around a lovely lake and then back towards the park and through it again for the last 3k. These last kilometers were the hardest as the route back inside the park was really windy and twisty with lots of turns. Then for some reason we were taken out onto an empty car park for the finish, where Donald and Daffy Duck were cheering you over the line.

I was so glad I wore a costume for this race, as there were loads of 'Go Ariel' and 'I love your outfit' which really made me laugh. I basically had a great run and really enjoyed it. I had decided that I wasn't aiming for a PB and so didn't wear my running watch which meant no pressure and no constant checking of distance or pace. My aim was to enjoy myself and I really really did. I thought I'd be happy with a time of 1.45 but on course I thought I was on for 1.50 so was very surprised and happy when I finished with a time of 1.38 - just a minute away from my PB! I think the lack of self inflicted pressure really helped me and made for a much more enjoyable race. Im thinking I might do this more often...we'll see!
'Go Ariel!'
All in all I'm really glad I ran this race, although there were faults with it. The bus situation at the start; spectators had to get special bands from the expo which wasn't made clear and could only watch at certain limited spots (and were also at the mercy of the travel situation); the results were not available until 3 days after the event (3 days!!); and who knows what's happening with the official photos - they are no where to be seen! For £60 I think these things need to be ironed out for future races.

But I loved the atmosphere and the route way more than I thought I would; the race t-shirt is great and actually fits and the medal is amazingly chunky. It was a great experience and really good fun, and a wonderful excuse to spend the rest of the day screaming our heads of on roller coasters.

RunDisney medal

Friday, 5 August 2016

London 2017 here I come!

I wouldn't usually appreciate anyone describing me as being 'good for my age', but when it comes from the people at London Marathon, it's actually really nice to finally, finally, hear!

In April I ran the Manchester Marathon in 3.40. I was really happy with my new 11 min PB, despite it being 5 minutes later than the Boston Qualifying time I'd been hoping for (currently 3.35 and under for my age group). I was disappointed that I'd not achieved a BQ but soon realised that missing this goal meant I had something to aim for next year. Every cloud and all that.

But I did begin to wonder whether it would ever be a realistic goal...could I ever really run that fast?

Then I remembered my first marathon in Berlin back in 2012. I was ecstatic to finish in under 4 hours (I scraped in with just 20 seconds to spare) and really really wanted to run the London marathon. Unsuccessful in the ballot, I ran it for charity in 2014 and it was the most fun I'd ever had running. It was brilliant. And I wanted to do it again.

I always looked at the Good For Age qualifying times but dismissed them as unachievable by little old me. But with a few years of solid running under my belt I finally did just that. In the midst of trying for a BQ in Manchester, I'd almost forgotten that I could potentially get a GFA for London. Just because I missed one goal didn't mean I didn't get another. So I was ecstatic when I received the holy grail of emails from London Marathon telling me that my GFA application was successful and I would be standing at the start line in 2017, having got there under my own hard work.

So it just goes to show, goals might take time to achieve, but it doesn't mean they're impossible. So maybe, just maybe, that Boston Qualifier time isn't so inconceivable after all.

Get ready London, I'm coming for you!

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Finishing first and returning to my running roots

This morning, five years after running my first ever race, I came first in the Race for Life 10k in Cardiff!

I'd entered that first race (also a Race for Life) to raise money for cancer research when my mum was ill, so it felt nice running well on her birthday today. I wouldn't usually enter the RfL but I wanted to run while I was home for the weekend, and do a run with my sister who is in training for her second half marathon in Oct. So we ran while her husband and kids were our supporters.

Sisters doing it for themselves
In a sea of pink I made my way towards the front and set off. These runs are non chipped and the emphasis is on taking part and raising money - as it should be. There are plenty of other races to get your competitive spirit on! That's not to say I wasn't running hard though.

As we set off, two girls were ahead of me and totally pegging it. As I was admiring their strength and running clobber (a distraction tactic I often employ) I thought they must also be doing the 10k option and looked forward to running the rest of the race with them. But just as I was about to take the 10k turn off, they sped on straight through, leaving me with no company other than the bike leader who was waiting for some 10k runners, but was greeted by just little old me. He mounted his bike and off we went, him thankfully guiding my way through a very twisty turny and confusing route, whilst I pretended I was Paula Radcliffe leading the marathon.

I usually hate a 10k, it's too long a distance to go hell for leather but it's too short to run more comfortably. But I enjoyed today, despite the long sections of running on grass and running the whole course alone.

As I hit an out and back section I kept my eyes peeled for my sister - not easy when everyone is dressed the same. But I saw her! We did a high five and both kept going. Then I was soon running towards the finish as the bike in front radioed in to say the first 10ker was coming through. I couldn't believe it - I laughed as I saw my time (42.20!) and then collected my medal before meeting up with our support crew.

Katie had told me to run without her but I said I'd run back and find her after I was done, so we could finish together. I met her at about 8k, and as we ran towards the finish we laughed about me finishing first and celebrated Katie achieving her goal of not stopping. Just before the finish line, my little nephew joined us to run the rest, while Gav ran alongside us with my little niece in the buggy. It was a right old family affair and a good laugh.

It was the longest Katie has run since before having her first baby, and the only time I've ever crossed a finish line first - so it was only right that we celebrated with some prosecco at Mum's for lunch.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

6am raving with Gloryville Manchester

It's been a long time since I've seen the wrong side of 6am - my days of drinking and partying until long after the sun came up are very much over and have been left in my (rather too late) twenties...

But this morning before work, I found myself at an actual real life rave....albeit one fuelled by coffee and smoothies after a full nights sleep, rather than alcohol and partying on through to daylight.
Morning ravers

I'd been invited by Gloryville Manchester to experience their pre-work sober clubbing experience and 'rave my way into the day'. They are on a mission to shake up the usual morning routine and get people dancing before their working day.

I'd arranged to meet some girls from running club there at 7am - not your usual social engagement hour but as runners we're no strangers to doing ridiculous things and often find ourselves in situations asking each other 'what are we doing?!'  This morning was no different and this thought was certainly going through my head when my early alarm went off. But as I got dressed in my loudest running gear, I was feeling pretty excited! I had no idea what to expect but on arrival at one of my favourite bars, Gorilla, I was greeted with a hug and directed through to the dance floor.

Once inside you could have mistaken it as a club night still going strong. The dance floor was full of people and more ravers arrived as the morning went on. The music was loud and the coffee was strong. People were dressed to the nines; sequins, glitter, head dresses and light-up hoola hoops were all on show, and we cracked out the face crayons and sunglasses, and partied on stage. I bumped in to a couple of yoga friends and everyone kept agreeing how mad it was and how much fun we were having.

The event blurb promised 'music, dancing, dress up, super food breakfast, smoothies, coffee, yoga and massage'. The yoga seemed to be just a few mats on the edge of the dance floor for people to practice on but not a teacher-lead class as such - whilst the super food breakfast, smoothies and coffee were all at an extra (pretty high) cost - which for £16 on the door I thought was a little steep (advance tickets were £10-£16).

I like doing things a little out of the ordinary and waking up early to spend over an hour and a half dancing your heart out with your mates first thing in the morning, is a brilliant way to start the day. It was mad, and we kept saying so. As Jill pointed out, it was better doing this sober! We revelled in the craziness and felt really energised. I noticed people occasionally glancing at their watches while on the dance floor, almost forgetting that we all had to work to go to.

Stepping outside into the morning light while people were making their way to work was similar to my long gone clubbing days, although instead of an almighty hangover already kicking in, I left to make my way to work with an enormous grin on my face, feeling like I'd been let in on an almighty secret. A rave for breakfast is the way forward.

I was invited to go the Gloryville for free and they knew I would be blogging about them. 

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Chester Half Marathon

I wasn't aiming to get a PB at Chester Half Marathon this weekend. I didn't want one. I hadn't trained much since the marathon 5 weeks before and only managed to get one run in the double digits since, mostly as I was concentrating on recovery and enjoying not marathon training.

My reasons for running Chester were basically to do a half marathon, get a long run in with some mates from the running club and enjoy it.

Medal selfie
However, I promptly forgot all this come race day. Instead I managed to get swept up in the race atmosphere and set off in sub 7 min miles and on PB pace. OOPS! The uphills were much more frequent (for some reason I thought it was a flat course!) and much sharper than I had anticipated. My mind said slow down but my legs kept going. What was I doing?! This lead to me hating the first 5 miles of the course and fighting an internal struggle. I really had to remind myself why I was running (whilst also cursing my mate Jill whose idea this had been). 
Mid way through and I had to have a stern word with myself. I reminded myself I didn't want to PB nor did I deserve to on so little training, and should slow down so I could achieve what I'd actually come to do.

After a little self ticking off, and at a slower, more reasonable pace, I began to enjoy myself - even despite running near a man who annoyingly breathed like Darth Vadar.

The route starts at the racecourse and heads out through the town centre, towards the countryside before a little loop and heading back. I must say the whole race was really well organised (take note Manchester Marathon) - barely a queue for the toilets and a really great atmosphere at the race course. The route itself was not only challenging with the hills, but also featured stretches of quite long boring roads which was pretty unexciting. But two bands on the course really stood out and kept spirits lifted, as did the heroic man at about mile 11 showering everyone with a hose. (This is not a euphemism).

The last mile was the worst - all uphill and seemingly never ending. But then finally, finally the finish was in sight. Louise Minchin off of BBC Breakfast gave me my medal at the finish line, and the post race goodie bag had actual useful things in it - sweets, 9 BAR and the best tasting Double Decker I've ever eaten in my life.

Finish line Medal from Louise

We stayed on course until the very end to cheer through all the last runners, and the organisers were on hand and came to chat to us to ask our opinions of the race.

It wasn't my best or most enjoyable run but that was due to my own legs and lack of prep. I think the fact that I eventually enjoyed it, despite the tough course speaks for itself.

Good job Chester.

Harriers on tour

Friday, 6 May 2016

An unexpected award

Last night was my running clubs annual AGM. As well as a look back at the club's achievements, this is also the night where two trophies from the past year are awarded; the Benidorm Cup, for Best Overseas Achievement and the Morris Kaplan Trophy for Most Improved Runner.

The former was awarded to Jill for her stellar achievement of completing her first marathon in Paris a few weeks ago. She promptly and heroically filled it with gin. The second was awarded to little old me!
Unexpected trophy

Although we recognise and revel in our PBs when we get them, it's not often that we stop and take stock of our full achievements. It was only when our captains, who decided on the recipient of the award, mentioned it in the prize giving that I realised I'd recently gotten PBs in at least three distances this year; 5k, half marathon and the big one, the marathon.

This wonky trophy might look like it's been sat on or dropped on the floor, but it's been around since 1968 and clearly been very loved! Or maybe someone did actually sat on it after a few beers....who cares?! I've only been running with the Harriers for a year and a half, so I feel very honoured to be recognised among some pretty amazing runners.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Eat Pasta Run Faster at Vapiano

I do not need any encouragement to eat more carbs, or more of any food for that matter. I literally think about food all day long, so when I was asked by Vapiano to pop in and try some of their new menu designed specifically for runners, I of course said yes.

It's now been three weeks since the Manchester Marathon and I'm still eating a lot! At the end of my two week taper, I really did feel that I'd misjudged my food intake. I think I ate WAY too much in the lead up to the marathon and I did feel sluggish as I stood at the start line.

It's a tricky thing to get right and your nutrition when training is very personal to each and every runner. Vapiano's new 'Eat Pasta Run Faster' menu has been devised by nutritionist Dr Sarah Schenker especially for runners to provide the right amount of carbs, protein and healthy fats to keep runners feeling fit and energised. You can read more about the menu here.

So how was it?

The food was really nice. Everything is prepared freshly on site that day, from the pasta to the homemade sauces, and pots of growing herbs litter each table allowing you to add to your food as you like. We started with the caprese salad to share which was enormous but tasty, and the freshness of the ingredients really shone through.

From the runners' menu plan we opted for the Risotto Funghi with Chicken, and the Vapiano Salmone pasta. The risotto was amazing, really creamy, rich and tasty but if I'd been paying for the Salmon pasta I would have taken it back. Although it was nice, our chef was way too heavy handed with the fresh chilli and sadly this was all you could taste. Word to the wise. go easy on the chilli here!

The concept of the restaurant took a while to get used to. Each diner is given a card which keeps track of everything they order so you pay for only what you eat and drink - a great idea for big parties. You take your card up to each station and wait while your food is cooked to order in front of you. This means you can add various different flavours to your meal, or leave out ingredients which you are less keen on. It does however mean that you are standing and waiting mid meal which is a little different and does impact on your dining experience. I think this would be a great place to go for families, or a large group for a relaxed lunch.

The next day I went for a run and felt the best I had since the marathon. This could be down to any number of factors; a successful recovery period, enough sleep, or even a tasty Italian meal the night before. I'll let you decide.

We were kindly invited to Vapiano to dine for free and they knew I would be writing a blog about my experience.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Manchester Marathon: Race Report

I moved to Manchester about four and a half years ago. Yesterday, I ran my fourth marathon, 26.2 miles through the streets of my adopted home city and had a total blast - coming in at 3.40 with an 11 minute PB to boot.

PB and a Pint
The week before the marathon the nerves began. Despite a great run at the Cardiff Half World Marathon Championships (where I ran a PB of 1.37) a couple of weeks before, I began to doubt myself. I felt sluggish and full during my taper and I felt like I'd forgotten how to run. Oh, how the taper plays with your mind.

I had decided pretty early on in my training that I was aiming for 3.30 and a Boston Qualifying time, and in the week before really began to feel the pressure. Thankfully a couple of days before the run I had an epiphany and realised that I was the only one putting this pressure on myself, and that if I didn't get it in Manchester then I could just bloody well try again next year. After all, my marathon PB stood at 3.51 so this jump was a pretty big ask.

Phew! Once I realised this, I relaxed a bit and began looking forward to getting out there, enjoying myself and seeing how my training would pay off.

The day of the marathon arrived with a glorious sunrise and I felt like a kid at Christmas, all full of nervous excitement. After dropping my bag off and popping to the toilet three times (just to be sure) it was time and soon we were off! I was actually running another marathon! The first few miles were congested and my legs felt a bit heavy and tired, but I was bang on for the 3.30 time on my pace band and I enjoyed the atmosphere and running through streets I knew.

As always my champion supporter boyfriend, Jamie was at multiple stops on route and I almost tripped someone up running up to him for a quick kiss around mile 9 - sorry about that runner! My brilliant running club pals also traveled all over Manchester by bike so I had lots of unexpected cheering posts along the course which was brilliant. I even saw my physio Trev at around mile 23 - at which point I REALLY could have done with an on route massage.

The first half of the race was fine and pretty uneventful, I was just enjoying the run. Through Sale the crowds really increased and I was looking forward to getting to halfway. At this point it was still pretty congested and the sun was getting stronger. The strong breeze was a welcome relief and thankfully there were loads of water points along the route. By about mile 14 the dream of 3.30 began to slip but around mile 17 I was still on for about 3.32/34 which I was happy with. I actually couldn't believe I was already this far along the course, the time seemed to have flown by. By mile 22 however my legs were screaming at me. They were tired and on the cusp of cramping. I kept collecting water at the stations and pouring them on my battered quads which really helped. By mile 23 my new goal was to just keeping running and not stop and walk, which a lot of people were doing by this point. I was determined to run the whole thing and knew I could run it no matter how slowly it felt.
Finally there was less than a mile to go, and after seeing Jamie one last time for a final boost, I could actually see the finish line. But man alive, it was far away! The crowds in the home straight were amazing and I felt like a total rock star as I pushed and pushed and ran over the finish line at 3.40.

It was at this point I promptly burst in to tears as I have done now at all four of my marathons. I put it down to the sheer relief.

A few points to note on the organisation of the Manchester Marathon. Whilst I had a great run, this was down to the support on route and my training, while the organisation left runners with a lot to be desired. The start line was quite far from the race village; the start line was not clear at all, even as you crossed it; and do not get me started on the baggage fiasco at the end. I queued for over an hour for my bag and was absolutely freezing after running, but I know people queued for well over two hours for theirs. The organisation of that was dire. Queuing for almost as long as you ran, with no food or drink or word from the organisers is appalling. I also read online that there were huge problems with parking, and many runners missed the start due to this. It was absolutely ridiculous and really left a bad taste in the mouth to an otherwise great day. I don't know what happened but they really need to sort it out for next year. I'll be astonished if they collect 'Best Marathon' again this year in the Running Awards, they really don't deserve to.

But enough of that. Thanks to everyone who sent me their good luck wishes - they came from near and far, from family, friends and people I've never even met. It was overwhelming. And thanks to everyone who came and yelled and cheered and supported on the day - it is such a boost to have people on the course there as your own personal cheerleaders, and just as important for the post run beer celebrations - it really means so much.

As always after a marathon, my heart is lifted and I feel all in love with the world.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Coniston 14 - Race Report

When I signed up with my running club last year, I heard a lot about the Coniston 14 race, and after running it this weekend, I can certainly see why it was so raved about!

This race has it all: amazing scenery around Coniston Water in the Lake district; hills, hills and more hills; great atmosphere and support and did I mention the hills? Also, with a 14 mile distance to cover, you're pretty likely to get a distance PB!

Coniston 14

Starting in Coniston the race starts and finishes at a school and takes in the entire of Coniston water giving you a pretty awesome view as you run. We drove up in the morning, and after a quick warm up we were off on our way and immediately climbing the first of many hills. There were lots of ups, but with those came a lot of downs too which I had loads of fun on! It had a great atmosphere and there were little pockets of support throughout the race. The climbs were certainly tough, especially at the 11 mile mark, and I was really pleased we'd been doing some hill running during our marathon training as this definitely put me in good stead. I managed to run them all and even managed faster than 7 minute miles at one point. Oops! I was meant to be taking it steady, but I quickly got caught up in race mode and managed to keep pushing through.

I was really glad when a fellow runner pointed out the amazing view to me at around 7 miles as I'd been looking down until then. What a mistake!

The final mile is a quick one too as you run back into Coniston to lots more support and cheering. There was a lot of pushing to be done in this final leg, especially when a lady over took me from nowhere! I kept going and managed to overtake her again to finish in 1.45.06 - which has really boosted my confidence for the marathon in three weeks time. Maybe my goal of 3.30 might be achievable after all!

Its a tough course, but the hilly route makes it interesting. Ill be back next year for sure!

It was a successful run for the club as we came 1st Men's team, and 2nd ladies team. We were so shocked, we didn't quite believe it was true and almost missed our prize giving on stage! We also had two individually placed men so a good day for the Harriers all round! We celebrated with a LOT of beer and a LOT of food.
Successful Harriers
The worst bit of the race was definitely the fact that after I was finished, I had another 6 miles of training to do. Phew - these were TOUGH! But I'm glad I got them done as that's it for the long runs for the marathon. It's time to taper. Hurrah.

Next up - Cardiff Half marathon. Fingers crossed it's as much fun as this weekend.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Winter Run 10k - Race Report

Marathon training makes you do odd things. Odd things to other people, but things that make perfect sense to people trying to fit in training around their life. This weekend I planned to do an 18 mile training run, but I also had a place in the inaugural Manchester Winter Run 10k. I'd seen the London race all over social media last year and was keen to give it a try, so obviously I ran 9 miles there, ran the 10k race and then ran 3 miles home.

So how was it?

A few races were on offer to runners on Sunday; two 10k waves, a 2,5k and a 5k. Starting near the Eithiad stadium, I was a little apprehensive about the route as previous races I've run there before left a lot to be desired. Whilst this route was better, it was still pretty dull - two laps of a 5k course around the car parks of the Eithiad Stadium, with a lap of the Regional Athletics Running track thrown in for good measure. I've grown to quite like lapped courses as it means you know what's coming and I do understand that these types of route mean little to no road closures, but it wasn't very inspirational. 

What did check the 'inspiration' box however was the atmosphere. Pre-race the DJ reminded us runners that ultimately we were running to raise money for Cancer Research, and I realised that the Race for Life and raising money for this charity is the reason why I got in to running in the first place. Essentially the Winter Run series is the winter version of Race for Life, and a lot of people running both the 5k and 10k had chosen this as their first ever race. There was excitement and a good fun atmosphere.

The race blurb promised 'snow zones', polar bear hugs and a ski themed water station (which if you ask me was placed a little too early in the route, especially for the 5k-ers). I didn't really appreciate the fake snow blowing in my face whilst trying to run and breathe - and I found the offer of a sweaty hug from a stranger at the finish line a little odd, dressed as a polar bear or not. But if you're looking for a first race with a fun and inclusive atmosphere, or something to keep your training ticking over in the cold months, then you could do worse than enter the Winter Run next year.

I was kindly given a free place in the run and they knew I'd be blogging about the race.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Marathon training - halfway through

My eyes are now firmly fixed on the Manchester Marathon in April, and my goal of 3.30 is a pretty tall ask for me. That's more than 21 minutes off my PB which I set in London in 2014, so I've had to make sure I train slightly differently than for my previous marathons.

Having just finished Week 7 of my training and almost halfway through I thought I'd take a look at the story so far.

Part 1 - The Running Bit
The first 5 weeks were great! Long runs were around the 15 mile mark and I was feeling strong during these and my track sessions. My weeks were generally shaping up to look like this:

Monday - Yoga to stretch after Sunday's long run
Tuesday - Track speed session
Wednesday - recovery run 4/5 miles
Thursday - Club run 6-8 miles
Friday - Rest day
Saturday - Parkrun (speed) or XC race (although these are pretty few and far between for me!)
Sunday - The Big One - a long Sunday run.

So my weekly mileage was already way bigger than it had been in previous marathon training - I finally feel like I'm doing different types of running sessions rather than just looking at the distance on my training plan and running all my runs at the same pace. This is thanks to running with the club - I would never have dreamt of going to track or doing hill sprints alone.

Also, in previous training cycles I didn't ever build on the base I had already made for myself, I just started my training at the same point each time. I was basically letting myself off the hook for more long runs but this kind of thinking is why my 3 marathon times are all pretty similar!

Having had a year off from marathoning last year has definitely helped me mentally too. Although my goal is bigger, the pressure I'm feeling for Manchester isn't. I feel like I've made a good running base over the last year from running with the club and feel way stronger than I have in my other training. So although I'm aiming for a fast time and I'm going to try my best to get there, I know that I'll have worked as hard as I can and if I don't quite manage it, it won't be the end of the world. As long as I try.

So all shaping up pretty well huh? Well that was all until about two weeks ago...I jetted off on holiday to Hong Kong (which was AMAZING!) with grand plans of going out running whilst I was there and continuing my training. Jetlag and holiday vibes got the better of me and the only running I did that whole week was a token 5k on the treadmill. Oops!

I thought it would be fine and I could just pick up where I left off, so after a steady 4 miles that Saturday I jumped straight in to an 18.5 mile run. NOT GOOD. I basically ran too far after no training and picked up an injury. I still attempted a track session the following Tuesday and had to abandon it after two reps and literally hobble home in agony. This meant no more running for another week. Annoyed with myself I went for a swim and tried to tell myself a rest would be good. Thankfully my brilliant physio Trevor worked his magic and gave me the go ahead to run. I did a steady and tentative parkrun to test the leg and although I could feel a niggle I wasn't in pain. So I am REALLY glad that I was able to complete my long Sunday run today, again at a slow and steady pace. I woke up this morning with not even a niggle and although the 16 miles felt tough at times, they weren't painful. I also dutifully stretched properly and got on the foam roller so fingers crossed I will be OK for the coming week. My priority this week is taking it steady so as not to injure myself again, but still get all my training in.

Part 2 - The Eating Bit

I've also been trying to eat and fuel my runs better. I've been attempting to eat more protein to stop the mad eat-everything-in-sight-hunger I get from my long runs. This seems to be working and I haven't woken up hungry at 4am since I made a conscious effort to do this. A good little trick I've found to keep the mad runger at bay are boiled eggs as a snack (the people in work LOVE it), and I seem to be jumping on the 'everything Nordic is cool' bandwagon and devouring Skyer for breakfast like it's going out of fashion. Protein ahoy! I have no idea if this is what I'm meant to be doing so don't follow my lead - but it seems to be working for me.

The nice people at Natural Balance Foods also sent me a job lot of Trek Energy Bars which are tasty and actually fill me up which not all snack bars do. They are packed full of protein and good stuff to fuel my body and I like to eat them before a heavy session like track, when I know I'll need loads of energy. The peanut ones are yum! And they are a tasty (and healthier) substitute for the continuous chocolate that abounds in my work.

Which brings me nicely on to lent. I do not believe in denying yourself food things and think if you run a lot then you can pretty much eat whatever you god damn like. But I did notice that I was eating loads of chocolate in work, just because it was there. I didn't particularly want it, I wouldn't have gone out and bought it, but I was still eating it. A lot. So for the first time I've given up chocolate for lent. It's surprising how much chocolate is in EVERYTHING. But I noticed that by cutting out chocolate I've been opting to eat things like those Trek bars, an orange or a yogurt, essentially things which will fuel me better as well as get me my sweet fix. This doesn't mean I'm on a super health fest though and deny myself everything nice. The extra food you need to eat is the best part of marathon training, and I still eat pudding. I'm not mad.
Hopefully just by being a little more conscious about eating better, I might run better too.

I guess the next 8 weeks will tell...

Sunday, 24 January 2016

You know you're marathon training when...

Today I finished week 4 of marathon training, and with Manchester still 10 weeks away the tell tale signs are already beginning to show. Here are my top 5 things that happen to you when you are marathon training - sound familiar?

1. Runger
The hunger is real. Last week I woke up at 4am HUNGRY. It was not good. I'm basically hungry all the time. Word to the wise: it is inadvisable to leave any food unattended near me from now until mid-April, unless you are not at all interested in eating it yourself. Time to reintroduce the double breakfast methinks. Stuffing your face with gay abandon is hands down the best thing about marathon training.

2. My washing is out of control
Forget about all the running, keeping on top of washing my kit seems like a full time job in itself at the moment. This has resulted in me heading out the door looking like a toddler has dressed me on more than one occasion recently. But florescent green, purple, bright pink and blue do look good together...right?

3. Marathon brain has reared its' ugly head.
When my mate Ellie and I started training for our first marathon we discovered 'marathon brain'. I expect this is like what pregnant people refer to as baby brain, but with more running. Too tired to hold an actual conversation you still give it a go, but that word you're looking for is just out of reach. Blank spots take over your brain and your words get muddled up. Too tired to get the words out? You've got marathon brain, my friend.

4. My social life is basically just running
'What did you do this weekend?' is of course a normal question, but I can tell you what I'll be doing every single weekend from now until mid-April. Running, eating and napping. On repeat. That's it.
If I do venture out on a school night (shock horror) my standard response will be 'Sure, but I've just got to do a run first so I'll meet you there'. That's right, run before work, run at lunch, run to dinner - just get your run in so you can pretend to have a social life amid all the marathon mayhem.

5. I'll definitely have told you
The easiest way to tell if someone is marathon training is by speaking to them - they DEFINITELY will have told you. Re-read my first sentence of this blog. If I've spoken to you in the last 6 weeks I will have said the words 'marathon' and 'training' to you at least 47 times. Us runners like to tell everyone, all the time. Man in the shop? Told him. Hairdresser? Told her. Basically, as the legend goes, no one ever ran a marathon and kept it quiet.