Friday Finds – 22nd March

It’s Fabulous Friday! I hope you’ve had a great week and are looking forward to the weekend ahead. I’m just stopping by to share some inspiring stories from the week gone by…

I want to begin this week with an update on a story I shared last month about a visually impaired runner aiming to be the first to run the New York half marathon with a team of guide dogs rather than a guide runner. Happily, he achieved just that, making Thomas Panek (and his dogs Westley, Waffle and Gus!) history makers. Here’s some more information courtesy of Runner’s World:

It was quite the weekend for inspiring performances, as here in the UK it was the ever-popular Bath half marathon. The biggest story to come out of this event is that of Harmonie-Rose Allen. The five year old lost all her limbs to meningitis as a baby, and was being wheeled around the course by a team of family and teachers, however the little trooper wanted to walk the final few metres to cross the finish line herself. I imagine it would have been a very emotional scene to witness and such an amazing achievement for those involved.

Speaking of half marathons, did you see Will Smith’s latest challenge? I hadn’t previously come across his Facebook Watch show Will Smith’s Bucket List (presumably because I’m old and don’t know about such things!) but the idea is fascinating – travelling the globe and ticking off personal challenges. But for his latest challenge, he had to get half marathon ready in just 3 weeks! It’s one thing taking on a last-minute half when you’re seasoned runner with plenty of miles in the bank, but quite another when you are not in your best shape and have never run the distance before. An impressive undertaking and perhaps worth a watch.

Someone else who’s no stranger to a challenge is Anna McNuff. The adventurer behind the awesome books The Pants of Perspective and Fifty Shades of the USA has just announced her next challenge…and it’s a great one. Starting in June, McNuff will run 100 marathons (yes, 100!) through Britain. Oh, and she’s going to run them all barefoot! Check out the link below to see how you can follow along/join in/help out:

And finally, if you missed last year’s collaboration between Saucony and Dunkin’ Donuts, then good news! They have worked together again to produce another pair of donut (doughnut?) themed running shoes. I still find the idea rather appealing, but I know not everyone would go for it. Would you wear them? What food would you like to see on a pair of running shoes?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

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Week In Review – Storms And Snow

Last week was a stormy week, but thankfully more due to weather than anything else. I think in terms of weather March was pretty broken last week – hard to believe people were having barbecues in February when now we’re being practically blown away and there has been snow! Despite it all, training continued:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – 4 miles
Wednesday – rest
ThursdayAshtanga yoga rest
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun sandwich
Sunday – 12 miles with every third mile faster

As ever, the week began with my Monday evening Hatha yoga class. I’d been bothered by a tight upper back/neck over the weekend which had been giving me a headache, so Steve had helped me to ease it off and relaxing in a yoga class really made a difference. Just what I needed.

The forecast for Tuesday was awful with the full force of Storm Gareth (weather with a “person name”, sigh!) due to hit us. But by some miracle it was actually not raining when I headed out for my run, which was a real bonus. Yes, it was pretty windy, but since this is really a recovery run it didn’t make much difference and I enjoyed being out.

Usually I do some yoga at home on a Tuesday, but this week  there wasn’t enough time as I had to have something to eat then pick my sister up to head into town. She was literally a few hours home from her holiday but she had got us tickets to see Brendan Cole (formerly one of the pro dancers in Strictly Come Dancing) in his new touring show. I think that’s 5 times I’ve seen him live now and this new show was probably the best so far. It opened with a number from The Greatest Showman and the first half finished with a number from Moulin Rouge. I loved it! It did mean a slightly later night than normal, but totally worth it.

After being up a bit later I took Wednesday as a rest day but did make sure to do a short yoga practice first. It was good to have a reasonably restful evening at home.

On Thursday I was up and out for another set of form drills. My plan had me lengthen the work interval and so the number of reps had dropped back down again. I actually quite enjoyed the workout, but part way through the run I began to feel a bit of tightness in my left leg, close to the ankle. It was still bothering me later in the day but Steve was able to spot the issue and correct the movement pattern that was leading to it. Phew!

Less fortunate was my inability to leave work in time to make it to Ashtanga yoga. I really must make sure to prioritise things for myself over work a bit more as I’m conscious that I’m leaving late quite often right now, which in turn leaves me feeling rather wiped out. Hopefully things will be a bit calmer soon! In the meantime, I opted for some home yoga again since I missed my class, then settled in for another quiet evening at home.

I did manage to leave work in good time on Friday which meant that I could make it to the studio for a training session. Steve wanted to do some work with a medicine ball to increase the range of movement around my left ankle/foot joint as he believed that had contributed to some of the tightness I had experienced recently. We also did some hip mobility work on the floor as well as some core work with the TRX.

Steve was Run Director at parkrun on Saturday morning so we did a little bit of re-jigging of our weekend. From his previous experiences of being RD, we knew it was pretty tight for him to complete his duties and make it over to meet his brother for breakfast, so this time we arranged to meet his brother on Sunday afternoon instead. This meant Steve had plenty of time to linger in the cafe processing the results. There are actually 2 cafes next to where our parkrun is and I had actually never been to the one Steve was going to use, so we decided that I should join him for some breakfast while the results were going through. To make this work, he set off for his early client with a warm top and jacket for me in his car, I ran down then did a cool down jog afterwards while I was waiting for him.

Of course the weather wasn’t playing ball and I ran down to parkrun in snow, but the paths in the park were pretty clear. It was our “winter course” of 2 laps of the park again since the weather wasn’t conducive to using our main route, and given the conditions I was pretty pleased to stop my watch on 24:24.

This marked my 150th run in Perth, and while 150 isn’t an official parkrun milestone, we often do have shouts outs for things like that. The week we went to Kirkcaldy I completed my 150th parkrun and learned afterwards that the RD in Perth that day had announced it so it was nice to get a shout for my 150th Perth run, even if it is arbitrary!

The cafe afterwards was really nice. It was cosy, full of parkrunners and they had really good bacon rolls on the menu. While Steve processed the results, I gazed around and noticed someone wearing a top from the With Me Now podcast (an independent podcast about parkrun – check it out if parkrun is your thing). I actually ended up talking to the woman wearing it and it was really nice to have a chat with someone different thanks to a shared interest, although I don’t think Steve had a clue what we were on about since it was all in-jokes and names unfamiliar to him. The whole thing felt to me like what I imagine when I read/listen to discussions of post-parkrun cafes, so I think it’s safe to say I really enjoyed my first “official” parkrun cafe experience!

But the weather did mean that my bathroom ended up looking like this all afternoon as we dried off all the kit:

Meanwhile outside:

Sunday was my long run and it was 12 miles. I had been concerned that thanks to the various interruptions I’ve had in February and early March  I was falling behind in my training and wasn’t where I hoped to be. But as I looked through my training logs to choose a route, I realised that my long run mileage is at EXACTLY the same place it was last year. Clearly I need to let go of the idea that I’m “behind”, embrace the process and keep on going. I’m probably in a stronger position than I think.

Thanks to Saturday’s snow, I had no idea what to expect on my run. I was supposed to run every third mile faster, but when I got to the third mile I was on a path that still had quite a lot of snowy patches and there was a powerful headwind, so I simply ran as well as I could then was able to pick up the pace on mile 4. After that, I decided just to run to feel and see what happened. What happened was I enjoyed the run and felt like I could have kept on going – a positive sign.

After lunch it was nice to catch up with family over tea and tiffin, then head home for a nap. Oh the rock and roll lifestyle of a marathon runner 😂

What podcasts are you listening to just now?
How has the weather been where you are?

Friday Finds – 15th March

Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/health/fitness which I’ve read recently. Some might be inspiring, some might be scientific, some might provoke debate. All are things I’ve found in some way thought-provoking.

Welcome to Friday! Has anyone else noticed that the days seem just that little bit longer of late? Perhaps a sign that spring might be on its way. I’ve had a much better week this week and am looking forward to a restful weekend to recharge my batteries. If you have similar plans, here’s some light reading to start things off.

After last week’s story about the impact breast size has on women’s participation in sport and my comments about a need for further development of suitable sports bras to allow all women the opportunity to take part, this week one of the first things I came across was a story about sports bras! This one is from the ever-popular Lululemon and is aimed at those running longer distances as it is designed to carry water and gels. Basically it’s a combination of a sports bra and a hydration vest. At first I thought it sounded a bit odd, but having read a bit more I’m now intrigued and would be interested to try one. Would you wear it?

I have an Alex Hutchinson double-header this week as his columns from two different publications are pretty interesting. First, his column for Outside examining the impact of exercise on our experience of anger. Given the established connection between exercise and mental health, this makes for an intriguing read.

The second, from The Globe And Mail examines the science of recovery. These days there are so many recovery “aids” available and Hutchinson, referencing a new book by Christie Aschwanden (which I’ve added to my list!), discusses how useful these are. Certainly recovery is important in order to build strength and endurance, and I have long held to the belief that much of what I do is probably psychological rather than a scientifically proven approach, but as long as it works for me that’s good enough. What are your thoughts on recovery?

One of my reasons for making sure I recover properly is that I want to be able to run for many years to come. I want to be one of those older people who are still out there giving it a go – one of those people like Ernie Lacroix. This World War 2 veteran recently turned 100, and what better way to celebrate than running a 5k…for the 20th consecutive year! What an amazing man and a real inspiration to keep on running.

And finally, it’s been a blustery few days what with Storm Gareth hitting the UK early in the week and forecasts of Storm Hannah joining us this weekend. Yup, that naming the weather thing again! To be honest, I haven’t noticed any point that it WASN’T windy, so can only assume there was a brief overnight hiatus at some point as one storm headed out and the other began its approach. It might make some of our runs this weekend “character building”, but however hard it gets, you can console yourself with the fact that at least you’re not running through a storm whilst dressed as Big Ben! If you haven’t seen it, here’s some footage from last weekend’s London Big Half, featuring a particularly tenacious chap who picked the wrong day to run in fancy dress!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Week In Review – Life’s Ups And Downs

Goodness me! What a week! I’ll not get into all the details, but the short version is that work is busy, life is busy and with so many other things going on I’ve been feeling a little “off”. But not to worry, things are much better now and I managed to remain surprisingly consistent with my training.

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – 4 miles
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – drills + Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun sandwich (kind of)
Sunday – 10 miles

I pulled a few longer working days at the beginning of the week to try and keep on top of things, so by the time I got to my yoga class I was DEFINITELY ready for it. Having that hour to myself to calm my mind, listen to my breath and stretch my body was just the thing to rebalance me ready for the rest of the week.

I was up early on Tuesday morning for an easy 4 mile run. After all the calf issues of the previous week it really felt like I had my own legs back under me again – thank goodness!

It was another long working day so when I got home I made sure to do some yoga so that I gave myself a mental and physical break from everything and could relax into my evening.

Wednesday is currently scheduled as a kind of rest day, the aim being that I do some yoga or some exercises set by Steve. This week yoga was what I needed, so after the third long day in a row it was good to head to the mat and unwind a bit. With orchestra finished now until the autumn, it means I have a bit of space on a Wednesday to relax a little and that’s VERY welcome right now!

Thursday was another early start for a set of form drills. It’s been a couple of weeks since I did any, but I picked up where I left off in my programme and after a 1 mile warm up completed 10 sets of 600m with a minute to recover in between. It actually felt pretty good and when I finished the run there were most definite signs of daylight! I can’t wait for the light mornings for my runs as I remember the times I tried that last June being really nice.

I managed to get away from work on time as I wanted to make sure I made it to my Ashtanga class. Another dedicated hour of time on my yoga mat was just what I needed and I noticed that my balance was much better than last week since Steve had given me some exercises to do to sort out the issue I was having.

Friday is usually a training session with Steve, but I had a few things on so wasn’t able to fit it in this week. To be honest, I probably benefitted more from the rest anyway. We did, however, enjoy a cupcake each as there had been a bake sale at school that day to mark the end of Fairtrade Fortnight. Yum!

Steve had an early client on Saturday but came home before parkrun. His plan was to drive down, go for a run, do parkrun then have a quick cool down before driving home. Since I knew we were going to be on our alternative course which is two laps of the park, I didn’t fancy adding extra laps before or after, so decided to run down and then see how I felt afterwards. I actually ended up surprising myself with my time – 24:05 is my fastest of the year so far and since the alternative course is a little longer than our usual route, that suggests that I’m in shape to break 24 minutes over the main route. Awesome! But after running fairly hard I wasn’t feeling like running 2 miles home so joined Steve for a 1 mile cool down instead then got a lift home with him. Somehow, in amongst all that I completely failed to take a photo. Clearly my brain is mush right now!

After completing our usual Saturday errands, I spent the afternoon catching up with a little more work. I had thought sitting at the kitchen table might be a bit more peaceful than trying to get this done at school, but I hadn’t considered the fact that I have 2x 10 month old kittens who find things like pencils absolutely fascinating and kept jumping onto my work!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Sunday morning I woke up fairly sharp, made a cup of tea and took it back to bed to read for a bit. Steve left around 8am to drive up to Inverness for the half marathon (I’m really glad I didn’t enter as it just wouldn’t have been the right thing for me just now) and I had 10 miles planned. Almost as soon as Steve left it began to snow quite heavily, so I looked out my “snow running” kit, zipped up my Yuki suit (you’ll get that one if you listen to Marathon Talk) and got out the door. It actually snowed for the majority of my run and I looked a bit of a state when I got home, but I felt like I ran well and was only just outside of 4 hour marathon pace. Given that I was taking it easy in the conditions (some paths were quite slushy and slippy looking as the snow came down) and recent training hasn’t gone exactly to plan, I was really pleased with that and can take some confidence from the fact that I maybe haven’t been set back as much as I thought. There’s still plenty of time to be marathon ready, I just may have to reassess my goal for race day as I see how things progress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post-run I had lots of time to myself as Steve’s race didn’t start until lunchtime and when he was done he had a fairly long journey back home again. I showered, had some food, finished my marking, ran a couple of errands and watched a little TV. It actually felt like I found a bit of space to relax and take time for myself, which is probably just what I needed. It’s going to be another busy week with another coursework deadline for some of our pupils, but I recognise that I need to look after myself a little better than I have been. Hopefully next week I won’t feel like I’ve been wrung out to quite the same extent!

How do you cope when work gets busy?
What’s your favourite podcast right now?

Friday Finds – 8th March

Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/health/fitness which I’ve read recently. Some might be inspiring, some might be scientific, some might provoke debate. All are things I’ve found in some way thought-provoking.

Happy Friday and happy International Women’s Day. If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to focus on female-related articles this week.

To start, a post from Runner’s World to mark International Women’s Day, charting key moments in the history of women’s running. So many amazing achievements in here and I look forward to seeing what the future brings for the sport.

Another source focusing on women’s sports today is Outside, with their piece looking at advances towards equality for women in sport. There have been so many positive steps made, but more could still be done to ensure EVERYONE has equality of opportunity.

One change that was announced this week was around the prize money at the forthcoming Boston marathon. There was some controversy last year after some runners in the open categories finished in prize-winning positions, but were initially ineligible for prize money due to not starting as elite athletes. This was later addressed and it looks like this year’s race will offer further opportunities for women to achieve.

And finally, let’s finish on a positive note with the latest Nike commercial celebrating women breaking down barriers. Narrated by the awesome Serena Williams, it points out many of the double standards women are often held to and reminds us to keep pushing forward with our dreams and being “crazy”. I love it!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Week In Review – Mixed Fortunes

At the end of my post last week I was definitely feeling pretty glum. I’d love to tell you that I got over myself and bounced back into the new week, but this past week was one of two parts – heavily weighted to the part where I overreact, throw my toys out the pram and imagine I’ll never run again! Melodramatic? Moi? 😂. I think the main issue for me is that my workload right now is rather hefty and without running to keep me feeling mentally balanced, I was struggling to keep things in perspective. It’s a miracle I survived the week!

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – home yoga
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – recovery run + Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun pacing
Sunday – 8 miles

For most of the week I was really struggling with tight, sore calves after my run at the weekend. I’m not often bothered with tight calves, and this was awful. The best comparison I have is that my calves felt like they had run a marathon but not invited my quads along to the party since it was only my calves that were bothering me. It was actually uncomfortable getting up to walk around and I couldn’t understand why this had happened. In hindsight there were probably a few things going on, including the time I had to take off becaseus of having that cough again, plus the fact that I basically ran the bulk of a half marathon distance on road whilst wearing a pair of fairly solid trail shoes. Not a decision I’ll make again! I got some relief from my Monday night yoga class, but there just weren’t enough postures which stretched my calves out enough to feel like it was making a big difference. On the plus side, after feeling quite “chesty” over the weekend and being worried about a relapse of the cough, my magic formula of Olbas oil in my bath, vaporub and a hot water bottle on my chest and a number of strategic lozenges had done the trick and I was feeling much better. Fingers crossed that’s me finally done with the winter cough.

The calf issue meant my Tuesday morning run was out (Sensible Head) so instead I made sure to do some yoga when I got home from work that evening. I was supposed to have a sports massage and was really looking forward to having my calves worked on, but unfortunately the appointment had to be postponed as my massage therapist was unwell. Disappointing, but no point in getting upset about it as I knew she was really ill and I certainly couldn’t expect her to be working. As an alternative, I got Steve to help me work though some exercises to try and figure out what was going on and begin to relieve the tension that had clearly built up in my calves.

I had hoped for more home yoga on Wednesday before heading to the final orchestra rehearsal of the season, but I ended up working later to help a pupil with some coursework so there was no time. To be honest, I really wasn’t feeling like heading out again but made myself go since I had missed the extra rehearsal the previous Sunday thanks to paying a visit to the Apple Store with my poorly MacBook. With a concert at the end of the week, I knew I had to make the effort and I always enjoy orchestra when I’m there, even if I didn’t feel like it beforehand.

Since I was feeling an improvement in my calves, I decided to try a recovery run on Thursday morning. Sometimes the answer really is to “run it out” but on this occasion it was maybe a bit too soon. My calves were like tender lumps of lead with every step and were showing no sign of loosening off. I ran (slowly) for 15 minutes, had a bit of a stretch then ran home as 30 minutes seemed a reasonable time to see if running made any difference. It did not initially, although as the day wore on things did begin to feel a little better and by the time I had worked through the Ashtanga sequence in class that evening, I was feeling a bit better (yes, Thursday morning was the point when I totally overreacted, declared that I was “broken” and clearly would never be able to run again since I shouldn’t still be struggling with an issue on Thursday after a Saturday run. Good thing Steve is patient!). I did, however, notice that my balance was terrible on my left leg and that is usually an indication of something being not quite right. Steve made some adjustments to the exercises he had given me to try and improve that.

I then headed down to the studio after work on Friday so I could do some really targeted work. By this point, my calves felt ok – not perfect, but like I could actually do my pacing stint at parkrun as I had been starting to wonder if I would have to pull out – but my knee had felt a bit “funny” and I knew that was caused by the way either my hip or ankle was moving and that with some mobility exercises it could be corrected quite quickly.

Post-session, I had a little job to do:

That’s right, my MacBook is back! I had someone replace the part that Apple suggested might be at fault and it came back with an operating system installed (I had been unable to get it to do that) which was a positive sign, but it was the old OS it shipped with so I needed to do a bit of upgrading. So far so good as I finalised and published this post on it. Yay!

I decided not to run a parkrun sandwich on Saturday, but to ease myself back in gently with my parkrun pacing role (28 minutes) and see how that felt. I knew that someone I knew a little from orchestra a few years ago was going to be passing through town and coming to parkun to try and lower her PB a bit closer to 28 minutes so I was keen to help her as much as I could. She did drop back a little in the second half of the run, but I was so pleased that she did get a new PB – even if she was pretty tired out from it! And we made sure to get a picture since it was our mutual love of Lucy Locket Loves leggings that connected us in the first place. (Full disclosure: I’m a LLL ambassador so if you purchase through my affiliate link then I get a teeny reward). Actually, before parkrun even started my leggings were attracting attention as a lovely lady said to me that she has been meaning to tell me that I have a great range of leggings. She particularly likes the gin ones!

As ever, I really enjoyed pacing. I know some runners got a new PB thanks to following me and I enjoy the chance to just settle into a comfortable pace and chat with others. Really happy with my time too. I timed it at 27:59.9 which rounds up to 28 minutes but the official time came through as 28:01 😏. Still, I know I did it! More importantly, I was able to actually run and although there was a little tightness in my calves, it was just the same when I finished  as it was before so it didn’t make things any worse. What a difference from Thursday!

The remainder of Saturday was super busy as we had our usual post-parkrun breakfast with Steve’s brother, then I had an appointment at the hairdresser before heading straight to an orchestra rehearsal in the concert hall. Steve picked me up from there to whisk me home, feed me, then get me back down the road suitably attired for the paying public. Somehow I contrived to overlook taking a photo, perhaps because my sister (my usual concert photographer) wasn’t there, but the concert went well which I was pleased with given the programme had some pretty tricky corners and I had missed some rehearsals. Yes, I am still very much of the Eric Morecambe school of instrument playing (all the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order) but I felt I played as well as I could and didn’t commit any dreadful clangers. Happy days!

We both made sure to get a bit of a lie-in on Sunday morning before heading out for a run. Apparently Steve was “tired from the concert” so didn’t want to overdo it. Yes Steve, it’s really tiring sitting in the audience having a doze and eating an ice cream at the interval. I feel your pain. Much easier rehearsing for 3 hours then playing through a full concert programme 🙄.

Anyway, Steve suggested I head out on a 10k route that could be extended to 8 miles if I felt good. I interpreted this as “run 8 miles” (of course) so headed out, in the strong winds delivered by Storm Freya (that naming thing AGAIN!), to run a favourite 8 mile loop. Some of it was definitely “character building” thanks to the wind, but I felt good and actually my calves felt better after the run than before so I think I’ve reached the stage where I really can run it out. Hopefully in the week ahead I can get myself properly back on track. Just 8 weeks to go until marathon day…!

How do you cope when you can’t run?
Have you ever learned to play an instrument?

Friday Finds – 1st March

Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/health/fitness which I’ve read recently. Some might be inspiring, some might be scientific, some might provoke debate. All are things I’ve found in some way thought-provoking.

Well hello Friday! You took your time this week! This time of year is always really busy in school, making the weekend a welcome sight. Let’s start it off with a few articles to read…

Can you believe it was a year ago that we here in the UK were brought to a standstill by The Beast From The East? I enjoyed running around in the snow, but it was terribly disruptive to training, so when I came across this piece about a revolutionary approach to pavement clearing in one US city, I was stuck by what a great idea it is. I wish we had something like this here for those frosty, slippy mornings!

Next let’s have some science. The debate about barefoot running/heel striking/forefoot striking has raged on for some time now, but more recently researchers have returned to the original graphs plotting impact forces and considered what that means for runners. If this is something you’re interested in, then here’s the ever-reliable Alex Hutchinson to explain more:

Another study reported on this week surrounds another favourite topic in the world of running: the marathon world record. Based on prediction models, the conclusion is that a sub-2 hour marathon (by a man) is possible, but at current rates of change the prediction is that it will be 2032 before we see that happen. Is it just me or does that date sound waaaaaay more futuristic than it really is? Also interesting is that the same study suggests the women’s record, which has stood since 2003, could still be lowered much more. Given that no one else has really come close to Paula Radcliffe’s time of 2:15:25, I am astounded that a much lower time has been suggested. Still, I guess you never know in the world of sport.

Also turning to science is Claire Maldarelli, who has written this piece for Popular Science charting her training for her first marathon. Setting the science against the reality of her training, it makes for an interesting read about the demands of a marathon training schedule, especially for someone taking on their first marathon.

And finally, if running and food practically go hand in hand for you (and let’s face it, we runners do love our food!) then how about a new way to show your passion for insta-worthy dishes whilst out on a run? If that sounds good, then Saucony has you covered with their new trainers inspired by avocado toast. Yes, you did read that right! It sounds a little weird, but actually the shoes themselves look pretty cool. Would you wear them?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess