About The Running Princess

Teacher and runner. Always striving to be better.

Friday Finds – 20th April

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.

I don’t know about you but I am gripped by marathon fever. Since last Friday we have had the Commonwealth Games marathon, the Boston marathon and, this weekend, the London marathon. I’m so excited and pretty much have marathons on the brain right now. Unsurprisingly, that means this week’s Friday Finds is a marathon special.

I have to start with last Sunday’s Commonwealth Games and Callum Hawkins. As a Scot, I was backing Callum to perform well, so was shocked to see the footage of how his race ended when I awoke on Sunday. Quite the controversy ensued, however I found this piece by Tom English for the BBC worth a read:

Soon, news feeds were taken over by the Boston marathon on Monday. It was the coldest on record (I think), with wet conditions to boot and the results were, in some respects, unexpected. While the eyes of the world were on the US women challenging for the win, there were several surprises thrown in along the way, which is exactly why I love marathons. Here are some articles I enjoyed to round up the key stories:

Of course now the London marathon is right around the corner and there have been plenty of articles looking forward to the big event on the UK sporting calendar. The BBC really summed it up with these compilations:

I for one will be comfortably ensconced on my sofa with a cup of tea taking it all in – the stellar elite fields, the possibility of records being broken, the icons  – whilst willing those I know towards the finish line. But if you need just a little more cheer this evening, then here’s a video of a therapy dog supporting runners in Boston. You’re welcome!

Happy reading. And if you’re racing this weekend, happy running!
The Running Princess

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Week In Review – Here Comes The Taper!

Yes, taper time once more. It’s funny, but I never really mind the first week of the taper, in fact I’m usually pretty keen to have the cut back in my long run, but with the rest of my training throughout the week not particularly changing, I don’t really notice the taper until the second/third week. Given that this first taper week has coincided with the second half of my spring break, it’s been great to have the chance to continue with my relaxing routine. As a result I not only feel rested, but feel a bit mentally sharper and like my creative juices are flowing a bit more (which means I have loads of ideas for posts but probably not enough time to write them all while they’re still relevant. Oh well, c’est la vie!).

Monday – rest
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – hills
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 16 miles

I decided I quite liked last week’s strategy of starting the day with a cup of the and my book in bed. This week’s reading material proved to be absolutely fascinating and I highly recommend everyone reads this book.

zt2pHCUrQR6UaTv3f+VjowOnce I was organised on Monday I took a walk to the gym to sit in the hot tub for a bit. My legs definitely needed the movement after running 20 miles on Sunday, so walking for a bit and having the time to relax in the warm water definitely made them feel much better. By the time I got home I was feeling pretty good – in no hurry to run for a day or two, but good!

Then on Tuesday I had to coerce my legs into a bit more activity. I walked to the gym once more, but this time to conquer another set of intervals on the bike. I was a little worried that I was going to struggle this time with the cumulative fatigue setting in, but actually I was able to get it done and that gave me a real sense of accomplishment. Yes, my legs were a bit weary, but the real battle was a mental one to convince myself to do it and I did. Job done!

IMG_6261My Wednesday run this week was hills. Goody! The thing about hills is that the efforts are short, but oh so tough. I don’t know if it was the different time of day, being better rested or further improvements in my fitness, but I felt like I was performing better and a comparison of the stats from the 2 activities shows that I was quicker over the harder (i.e. longer) intervals, so that’s more good news.

3+uXazOlSaGCPX66Ubl2ugIn the afternoon I had an appointment in town so headed in a bit early so I could potter about the shops for a while. And then I got hungry and ended up with the most middle class snack ever! Thank goodness for M&S 😂

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Seriously! Quinoa waves? Who am I???

By Thursday I was looking forward to another Ashtanga yoga class. The hardest sessions of the week were done and it was time to do something a bit more relaxing. I felt like I was really strong in “wheel” this week, but not quite so amazing in my headstand work. I did manage a supported headstand though, and I know I’ll not get it every time so I’ll just go with what happens week on week.

On Friday I headed down to the studio for a personal training session. This time a bit of mobility work using my old friend the Core Momentum Trainer. Some of the exercises were a bit tricky as they involved both movement AND balance (not my strong suit!) but once I figured out the best way to fix my gaze point I found I was able to do them much more easily.

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It was a Disney leggings kind of a day.

That night on the way home from dinner I decided to work on my balance a bit more. There’s this strange brick thing in our development that I just can’t understand. It almost looks like a plinth for something, but it’s been left like this for ages so who knows! Our running joke is that there should be a statue on it, so I thought I would demonstrate what that would look like. Can’t take me anywhere haha!

zbp16UVqTyGhSj6FCjvdGgAnd then Saturday came around. Earlier in the week I had ordered some new leggings and was keen to debut them at parkrun.

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Unicorns for the win!

Having been a little frustrated a couple of weeks ago when I narrowly missed out on a sub-24 minute time, I wanted to have another go. Being in that kind of shape gives me confidence as I approach a marathon and I realised that this would likely be my last chance as I’ll be using the run slightly differently for the next couple of weeks.

We were running anti-clockwise this time. The grass still isn’t recovered enough for us to run over it en masse, or at least it would be for one run but then we’d be right back where we started! There was a poll on social media to decide on the direction and it was a draw so anti-clockwise was chosen for a variety of reasons. Having learned my lesson I made sure I was fairly near the front so I could get a bit of space and shot off and soon as the RD said go! The pace felt hard, but achievable, and I got a bit of a shock when the first mile clocked in at 7:33 – a bit spicy for me!

Somehow I held on and mile 2 came in at 7:28. Still going! By this time I was doing the sums and realised I could be well within my goal time, it was just a case of hanging on. My legs, which I was expecting to turn to jelly at any moment, felt strong so I knew this was going to be all about keeping my head in it and pushing on.

A slight dip in mile 3 at 7:40, then a burst of speed in to the finish line to clock a time of 23:26!! Having thought I might manage just inside 24, that was a big surprise and, for stats fans, my 3rd fastest parkrun EVER! A very pleasing place to be at this stage in my preparations for Stirling and probably the confidence boost I needed that all the parts of my training are coming together.

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He just can’t help himself!

The rest of the day was pretty chilled, and when Steve headed off to spend the afternoon with some friends I spent some quality time with my good friend Adriene.

5tP7pebsQ2mshYSEX9R%GQSunday was “just” 16 miles (you know you’re at the end of a marathon training cycle when you add “just” to ridiculous mileage that’s beyond many people’s commute!). While I have no specific time goal for this marathon, preferring to remove the pressure and simply perform my best under whatever circumstances there are on the day, I do still want to formulate a plan for how I’m going to approach the race. Do I want to aim for a specific “feel” or pace? Or do I want to do something like I’ve done in my longer training runs with a mixture of faster miles and recovery miles?

To help me decide, Steve suggested that I try running my 16 miles at a steady pace, somewhere around my dream finish time of 4 hours. That’s 9:09 per mile. I knew I would have some hills in my route, but thought I could maybe balance it out a bit as there would be both uphill and downhill sections.

It was a beautiful morning with the sun out once more so my shorts got another airing. I wore a super-light long sleeved top but soon wished I had gone for something else as the sleeves were quickly rolled up and I was quite sure it was much warmer than the forecast had suggested. While I was trying to focus on how I felt rather than hitting a specific pace, I was checking my watch for a bit of feedback as each mile ticked by and it was looking good. Hitting 10 miles on 1:30:XX meant I had averaged a 9 minute mile thus far and the biggest hill was out the way.

KP5ijD3kRuKULbUw9viorgThe longer I went on, the harder it felt as I was getting warm, there was a strong wind in places and I had a long, steady incline in the last mile or so home. To be honest, I thought I had lost it by then, but pushed on to give myself another “win” in the mental battle. I was therefore thrilled to see when I stopped my watch that I was bang on the average pace I wanted to see. I don’t think I’ll be running the marathon quite like that, but it is valuable information in helping me formulate a race plan (and backup plans – always have a backup!).

IMG_6361So now there are just 2 weeks to go. Next weekend I’m going to rearrange my running a bit so I can get my miles in but still work around some other commitments. This means I’ve managed to give myself a rare day “off” on Sunday, so if you want me I’ll be in front of the TV, still in my pyjamas and clutching a cup of tea while I watch coverage of the London marathon. I can’t wait!

IMG_0495If you’re running London, then I wish you all the very best. It’s an amazing race and a fantastic experience.

What impact can you see in your training right now?
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A Runner’s Alphabet

As I get closer to race day (and spring marathon fever tightens its grip) I find myself more and more obsessed preoccupied with running and all it entails. Soon, I’ll be running 26 (point 2) miles once more, and by a happy coincidence for this post there are 26 letters in the alphabet. So just for fun, here’s a (marathon) runner’s alphabet.

The Running PrincessA is for Athlete. Because that’s what you are. It doesn’t matter if the pinnacle of your athletic achievement is parkrun or the Olympics, if you are taking active part in an athletic endeavour (i.e. running) then you are an athlete. End of story.

B is for Blisters. We’ve all had our fair share of these and somehow the marathon always seems to result in at least one of the little blighters for me, even when none have raised their heads during training. Gah!

C is for Chafing. Again, we’ve all been there. Often we don’t know we’ve chafed until we get in the shower and then the full extent of the chafe is unleashed. In a word, ouch!

D is for DNS/DNF. Never letters we want to see next to our name. You’ll certainly find DNS (Did Not Start) in my marathon history, but so far I’ve always been able to finish every race I’ve started. Let’s hope that continues *touches wood.

E is for Electrolytes. When we sweat, we lose salts so it’s important to replace them, especially in marathon running. My choice is to add electrolyte tabs to my drink as taking too much water on board is not a good idea thanks to its tendency to dilute those all-important electrolytes.

F is for Fartlek. If you can say the Swedish word for speed-play without sniggering, then you are definitely a runner! Playing around with different paces and effort levels is a great way to improve fitness and speed. If you want to run faster, then you have to run faster!

G is for Gels. Ah yes gels, my sticky marathon friends. Our bodies have enough energy for around 90 minutes or so of running, so anything longer than that needs a top up. My preference is gels and I’ve found the ones that work for me, but it’s always best to experiment in training so that any “issues” can be avoided.

H is for Hills. Speedwork in disguise, these short, sharp battles against gravity help to make us fitter, stronger, faster and improve our form. Hard work but worth it for benefits like those.

I is for Injury. If you’ve not suffered an injury at some point, are you even a runner? A high percentage of runners will be sidelined with an injury every year. My advice: don’t ignore it and hope it will go away, seek advice from an appropriate professional (not Dr Google or strangers online!).

J is for Jogging. According to TV, the activity being done by someone who finds the body. For me, jogging is the easy-paced effort you might do to warm up. It is NOT a word to be used to describe someone giving it their all and running – just because they’re not moving at world record pace doesn’t mean they’re not trying just as hard. Rant over.

K is for Kudos. The validation we hope to receive on Strava after our run!

L is for Laps. You might run laps of a particular route in training, you might run laps of the track as part of your speedwork and you might ultimately run laps of a course during your race. This is not my favourite kind of race.

M is for Medals. It’s all about that bling, right!

N is for Niggles. Often the precursor to injury. Best not to ignore!

O is for Off-Road. Hitting the trails is a great way to build a solid base. The terrain can be kinder on your body, the changes keep you alert and also help to strengthen your ankles. I recommend a pair of specific trail shoes to get the most out of this.

P is for Parkrun. Oh I do love parkrun, A weekly free timed 5k that’s open to all and happening in a park near you this Saturday morning. Great to test yourself over a short distance and a good way to sharpen up before a race.

Q is for Quicker. What we all want to be. Even just by a second!

R is for Race. A chance to test yourself out over a measured distance. Also how we earn T-shirts, medals and free bananas.

S is for Strava. The social network for athletes. If it’s not on Strava, it doesn’t count!

T is for Training Plan. Something worth having to structure your training, but make sure it fits your life rather than you trying to fit around it. And while a training plan is important, you don’t have to be a slave to it. Flexibility is key when life (or Mother Nature) gets in the way.

U is for Undulating. Runner speak for hilly as f&@#

V is for Variation. Vary your terrain, vary your shoes, vary your training. It is the spice of life after all.

W is for Watch. You don’t need to have a fancy GPS watch that does everything bar make your post-run smoothie. But as soon as you start to take this running lark seriously, it’s top of the shopping list! Just don’t get too obsessed with the data.

X is for X-Ray. Ignore the niggles and injuries and you might just find yourself needing one of these to figure out what’s going on.

Y is for Yoga. Great for runners as it stretches muscles, builds strength and improves flexibility. I definitely think yoga has improved my running.

Z is for Zzzzz. Ok, ok, but you think of something else that starts with Z!! Sleep is super-important for runners as it’s when we rest that the adaptations from our training take place. Sleep resets our minds, heals our bodies and boosts our immune systems. We should all get more of it.

What would you include?

Friday Finds – 13th April

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.

Marathon season continues to march on and I am in my element getting a constant round of reminders that people from all walks of life are taking on the mythical distance. But have you ever stopped to wonder what it is that makes someone decide to run a marathon? According to new research from Run Repeat, age has a lot to do with it. As someone approaching a milestone birthday, I can definitely understand why that would be a galvanising factor in making someone decide to do something different and take on a challenge. The research findings make for pretty intriguing reading and I’d love to know what you think:

Interestingly, choosing to run a marathon can also make us take better care of ourselves not just physically, but mentally. Rhi Willmot, PHD Researcher in Behavioural and Positive Psychology, posits that the way training for a marathon changes our mindset leads us to have greater self-compassion. This makes sense to me. Training for a marathon has always had an impact on the way I take care of my physical health, but given the importance of a positive mental attitude in performing well, other elements of self-care have become just as important. I would also say that running in general has given me greater mental strength and positivity. Is the same true for you?

Of course for the elites, the drive to run a marathon may be a little different e.g. the pride at winning, the glory of setting a record or the satisfaction of earning money to support family. Any of these may push a runner to their very limits. One runner reaching his limits was Kenyan Michael Kunyuga who raced the Hanover marathon this past weekend. Despite falling, he still narrowly managed to hang on to second place and a personal best! What would you have done?

Next up, some photos. I’ve previously included a similar photographic project at the NYC marathon, but I just love the concept. At last weekend’s Paris marathon (a race I know very well!) photographer Flavien Prioreau took before and after photos of some of the runners. I just love to see the difference between them. Yes, they look tired but there’s also that unmistakeable undercurrent of joy at completing the gruelling task. Brilliant!

And finally, a little light-hearted humour to poke fun at myself. It’s no secret that I love my leggings and would spend my entire life in them if I could. Recognising this trend, Saturday Night Live put together this brilliant spoof video that really captures the way many of us use our leggings these days. It made my day when this was sent to me!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Week In Review – Reaching the Peak!

It’s been a lovely, restful week off work (despite yet more snow!) and it’s been nice to have a chance to recharge the batteries while still maintaining my training. This week saw me take on my longest run in this cycle which seems ideal when I’m pretty well rested! Here’s how it all turned out:

Monday – rest
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – form drills
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 20 miles

I began my week the same way I ended the last one – reading my book in bed. It was such a lovely, relaxing start to my day that this quickly became my routine for the week: alarm at 7:30am, kettle on, then back to bed with a cup of tea to read until around 8:30am. Bliss, and so good to take the time for myself.

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I highly recommend this book

Since I knew I wouldn’t have my Hatha class in the evening (it’s term time only) I was happy to continue my home practice, however was saving that until the early evening. To get a bit of movement into my day I walked down to the gym to relax in the hot tub and sauna then spent the rest of the day chilling out at home. With term time always so busy, it’s important for me to have some quiet time and catch up on myself a bit. There was a bit of a spanner in the works later in the evening when we had a couple of power cuts, but thanks to some battery-operated lights and some candles, things were pretty cosy and I was able to read a bit thanks to my trusty head torch!

n5AhHhVATLmjWDLhA9xTDQTuesday began much the same, but this time I had an actual workout to do as there were more bike reps on the schedule. I got these done in the morning so I could enjoy the rest of my day (and take my time having a sauna afterwards!). It was quite chilly though and I spent a good part of my walk home wondering why I STILL needed to wear my hat and gloves! Definitely ready for some better weather.

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Working hard!

6AtKhEC2RZmGUm1i5B9H6QSadly that better weather seemed pretty far away on Wednesday as I awoke to MORE snow. Thankfully not too bad this time, but enough to disrupt my run. I had planned to warm up then run 10x 1km drills. I toyed with waiting until later in the day but there was no guarantee things would improve so in the end I bundled up and went for it.

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fullsizeoutput_2471For the first half of my run the roads and path were pretty slushy so each drill was more an exercise in not falling over, but some of the later drills were a bit more as they should be as I hit some paths that were much clearer. Typically things did clear up a bit later on but when I’m on holiday I always prefer to get my workout done in the morning. Oh well, yet another “character building” run in the snow!

GLldtfZcTfWYrRp7ILOvKgAnd Steve took me to the farm shop cafe for a malteser slice and hot chocolate in the afternoon. Yum!

1O1mLmOYSoeCS6h34iHHFwThursday saw me back at the gym for my morning hot tub/sauna then in the afternoon I took a walk about mile up the road to meet Steve for a coffee. A new branch of a coffee shop chain had opened in the business park there so we thought we would take a look and have a coffee. The interior was nice and they have a drive through, but I think they have a bit of work to do on staff training as it took several different people to work out how to put the correct order through and a queue quickly formed behind us – oops!

Later in the day I had my Ashtanga class which I always really enjoy. We worked on our headstands a bit again and this week I managed to briefly hold my balance (without my legs straightened just yet) before taking a tumble. Don’t worry, I was fine as I realised I was going over so was able to land safely and the teacher was there. I definitely felt more confident with moving into the posture thanks to having done it with support in previous weeks, so I guess I’ll have to expect a few tumbles while I work on perfecting this one. Definite progress through.

On Friday morning Steve was able to fit me in for a training session so I headed down to the studio with my boxing gloves again. It was a tough workout of punches, ducks, press ups, burpees and sit-ups, but I did notice that I was performing better in my boxing than before. Yet another marker of progress, but I knew I was going to feel it the next day!

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This was after, hence my tired face!

Thankfully it was pacer day at parkrun so I “only” had to run 28 minutes, a comfortable (for me) time. We had hoped to maybe be back on our main route but the grass is still sodden so it was another week of laps. Clockwise again. Hilariously, despite taking several photos of the pacers before the start, we didn’t get a single one where we were all facing the same direction 😂

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There’s always one 😂

It took me a while to settle into the pace as the trees on the first part of the route stop my watch getting a good signal, but soon I was on course and had plenty of energy to pose for the photographer.

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I had a great time chatting to people, giving advice and helping them to run a bit better, crossing the line in 28:04 – pretty close!

IMG_6203When I got home I was pleased to find some interesting post. I had been following the incredible story of a cat called Meatball and when a virtual run was organised in his name to raise funds for the same local Cats Protection branch that I am fundraising for this year (details in the link at the bottom of this post) then of course I jumped at the chance to do my bit. And the good news is that Meatball is now doing well.

UntitledThen Sunday was The Big One. My 20 mile run. I got a bit distracted over breakfast as I found a live stream of the Paris marathon coverage and got caught up in watching that – in French! I followed a good bit of the commentary and was amused to note that as I looked at the footage and distance markers, I knew EXACTLY where on the course the runners were and could picture the scene. An interesting thing they did was set the women’s race off first for the first time in this event. Then started the men’s race 16 or so minutes later. It seems an odd gap, but it was the difference between the winning male and female times last year. This meant that both the male and female races finished together – in fact the lead man passed the lead woman about half a kilometre from the end and there were only a few seconds between them reaching the finish line. Instead of one lonely male runner finishing, there were several athletes running in at the same time which made for great viewing. I really liked the way this was done and the coverage which had a lot of split screen so you could watch both races at once. It will be interesting to see if other big races follow suit.

Once the elite races in Paris were finished I was ready to head out the door for my own run – and I FINALLY got to run in my favourite skirt that I like to race in. Without gloves!!!

bfXpB4MzRX6WvRtmS9pwSQThe plan this time was a 2 mile warm up then 3 sets of 4 miles at marathon pace/effort with 2 miles recovery. It did feel harder than my 18 mile run last week, but then I ran that after a couple of “easier” weeks so taking on 20 just one week later (and with my Friday workout still in my weary muscles) it’s quite right that this felt harder. That’s no bad thing since I’ll need to be ready to run on tired legs come race day. There were actually only 2 “harder” mile splits that I missed and both of those featured an incline, so overall I’m pleased with how it went and am now hoping that with fresher legs in 3 weeks I’ll be able to perform well.

IMG_6253Post-run (and lunch!) Steve and I headed out to the farm shop for some eggs and figured we might as well have a scone in the cafe while we were there – it would be rude not to! I’d love to tell you how is tasted, but I gobbled it up pretty quickly…

G4hsWGTDTd+K+MkxKNkOSQThen as soon as we got home we had the oven on ready to replace all those calories burned with another fine plate of carbs and chips 😂 Got to love the marathon appetite!

v83oSWIKQ%K%%KPztTg3uQDefinitely a good week of training. A hard week, but a good one nonetheless as I was able to keep going even with the accumulation of fatigue in my muscles. Now let the taper commence…!

IMG_0492Have you had any more snow?
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Book Review – The Pants of Perspective

“When I ran, I ran for pleasure. I didn’t run for times, to win, to impress: I ran for me. When I ran my bum cheeks rubbed together, so much so that if I was going on a long run I’d have to ‘lube up’. I maintained that I was not a ‘real’ runner – I just liked to run so that I could eat cake.”

Anna was never anything like those ‘real’ runners on telly – all spindly limbs, tiny shorts and split times – but when she read about New Zealand’s 3,000-kilometre-long Te Araroa Trail, she began to wonder… perhaps being a ‘real’ runner was overrated. Maybe she could just run it anyway? Travelling alone through New Zealand’s backcountry for 148 days, she scrambled through forests, along ridge-lines, over mountain passes, along beaches and across swollen rivers. Running up to 52 kilometres in a day, she slept wild most nights, and was taken into the homes and hearts of the kiwi people in between. The Pants of Perspective is a witty, colourful and at times painfully raw account of a journey to the edge of what a woman believes herself to be capable of. It is a coming-of-age story which will lead you on a roller coaster ride through fear, vulnerability, courage and failure. For anyone who has ever dreamt of taking on a great challenge, but felt too afraid to begin – this story is for you.

Back in the summer of 2017 I decided to explore the trails of the world vicariously. Whilst basking in the Florida sunshine I traversed the Appalachian Trail with Bill Bryson in A Walk in the Woods, joined Cheryl Strayed on her voyage of self-discovery along the Pacific Crest Trail in Wild, and finally I took to New Zealand’s Te Araroa Trail with adventurer and “mischief maker” Anna McNuff in her book The Pants of Perspective.

I first came across Anna McNuff when she was interviewed on the Tough Girl Podcast. I was drawn to her sense of fun and adventure, the way she wanted to speak to school children and inspire them to go after their dreams, so when I saw that she had written a book about her New Zealand adventure, I was quick to grab a copy and devour it straight away.

And I certainly want disappointed. Anna (it somehow feels right to use her first name rather than be all correct and write”McNuff”) is such an engaging writer. I mean, even from the title and cover art we can tell that she is going to have a sense of humour. There are certainly times when the going is tough, but we are rooting for Anna all the more because her warmth and enthusiasm come through on every page, fostering a connection with her. Reading the book almost feels like a catch up with a good friend.

We join Anna as she undertakes a 148 day run from Bluff, at the southernmost tip of New Zealand, to the lighthouse at Cape Reinga, 3000km away in the north. Yet this is not really a book about running, per se. For me, it’s more a book about the journey (both literal and metaphorical) that Anna undertakes and the unforgettable “trail family” she creates along the way. Despite her taking on what feels like an overwhelming challenge, Anna is very “real” and somehow makes the whole thing seem so much more accessible. We are shown that even with some oversights in planning, taking on an adventure like this is possible and through the cast of characters she bonds with along the way, we are reminded of the inherent good in people when complete strangers look out for each other and provide support.

Yet Anna also lays bare some of the low moments, the times when it is a struggle to keep putting one foot in front of the other because she’s exhausted, or hurt, or the weather is awful (or all three!). We are inspired by her mental strength and fortitude when fear takes hold, and we celebrate her successes along with her. At times I almost wished I was there, sharing a slice of cake (there’s quite a lot of cake/chocolate consumption) before hitting the trail once more in a pair of ludicrous leggings.

Yes, the leggings (or “pants”, used in the US rather than UK sense). We’re around half way through the book when the significance of the title is revealed to us:

“Setting my empty coffee cup down beside me, I rummaged around in my bag until my fingers found what I was looking for. Pulling out the mess of brightly coloured Lycra material, I laid it flat so I could see the entire pattern. Moments earlier, over another morning’s serving of cold porridge, I had remembered something. I’d thought in spending over five months on the trail that perhaps, just perhaps, I was going to have one or two days when I didn’t want to get out of my tent and run, and instead I might just want to curl up in a ball and cry. For this situation, I had packed myself a secret weapon – a pair of magic Lycra pants.
One leg was adorned with a unicorn, the other with a robot. Both were engaged in a fierce battle and above them was a star-spangled night sky. Naturally, across the sky was a bright rainbow.”

Basically, the “pants” are Anna’s mental safety net. She may not have planned every other detail to perfection, but she had recognised the importance of mental strength in undertaking a challenge like this and had found a way to give herself a boost when the going got tough:

“Everything around me, the facts, so to speak, would indicate that I should be miserable, but it was scientifically impossible to be miserable whilst wearing these pants. They were a sheer act of defiance, flying the flag of ridicule in the face of what should be a serious and grave situation. I laughed, and immediately felt more like me.”

I loved this idea, and as someone with a penchant for more “unusual” leggings, the discovery that I could buy my very own pair of THE pants via Anna’s website was fantastic. Yes, I did buy them (and got a very lovely email from the lady herself as part of the process!). As such, I can confirm that Anna’s right – you really can’t be miserable whilst wearing these beauties!

IMG_5334If you haven’t already read this book then I highly recommend it. Not only is Anna easy to relate to and engage with, but she is also a very good writer. Sometimes books about adventures can have a “detached” feel about them, or they read a bit like a series of notes. But not this one. This one takes you along on the journey (whether you have the pants or not!) and leaves you feeling like you’ve made a new friend. I believe Anna has been writing a new book about one of her other adventures and I, for one, can’t wait to read it.

You can find out more about Anna McNuff here.
You can watch Anna’s TED talk here.

Friday Finds – 6th April

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.

April means spring marathon season is upon us with highlights including Paris, Boston and London in the next few weeks alone. My feeds are jammed with stories of elite competitors, epic challenges and incredible inspiration, so I think that’s where the focus will be this week.

An interesting feat is Loren Zitomersky’s aim to run the Boston marathon backwards. That’s right, backwards! Personally I find it hard enough to cover 26.2 miles facing forwards and imagine I would probably fall over if I tried to run more than a few steps backwards! What I hadn’t considered was that in this endeavour the runner facing backwards will be actually facing other competitors (assuming they are not dead last!) and will be treated to all the strange looks sent in their direction for the duration of the race. I bet he gets a few interesting comments when he’s training too!

But in this day and age it seems the marathon is becoming “too easy” for some and bigger challenges are being sought. Thus the stratospheric rise of the ultramarathon. But what is it that’s driving more and more people to take on huge distances, inhospitable terrain and epic multi-day events? Adharanand Finn asks that very question in this column for The Guardian.

Sometimes, of course, that challenge isn’t an organised event but an individual challenge from someone brave enough to not only dream up the idea, but to make it happen. One such idea comes from Peter Thompson who this summer aims to run the Tour de France. That’s 30 miles per day for 70 days with the aim of finishing before the cyclists begin. That’s some challenge!

A very different kind of challenge is to continue running for years to come and inspire others. When centenarians Orville Rogers and Julia Hawkins set new records earlier this year they became an instant sensation, so here’s some of their advice to enjoy a long and healthy relationship with running.

And finally, whether you’ve got a spring marathon coming up or have been through the process before, here are some reminders of the weird and wonderful quirks of marathon training. I’ll admit to number 5. What about you?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Weekly Photo Challenge – Rise/Set

Another photo prompt caught my eye recently, this time inviting us to share our favourite sunrise or sunset. As a night owl, you would probably expect me to share a sunset photo. For me, there is nothing more stunning than a Florida sunset filled with beautiful, vibrant colours. But I actually shared a photo of that last time so today I’m going to share a sunrise.

2010 was a big year for us: I ran my first marathon, we got married and Steve celebrated a milestone birthday. So to mark our special year, we made a decision to begin it a little differently. Getting up early, we walked to the top of a nearby hill in time to watch the sun rise. There had been snow on the ground since the end of November, giving everything a crisp, wintery feel and although there was some cloud in the sky, the colours were wonderful. Everything was peaceful and it was lovely to watch as the light spread and our big year began. The perfect start and worth the early alarm call!
IMG_2677IMG_2680Tell me abut your favourite sunrise or sunset…

Week In Review – Made It!!

The term from January to Easter is always the hardest in schools – there are mock exams to mark, copious amounts of coursework to support, final exams to prepare for and all this takes place in seemingly endless darkness. It’s a pretty long term, even with those “bonus” days off we had thanks to The Beast from the East and sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever make it to the finish line But his past week was the last of the term. I finally made it to our spring break!

If you’ve been following my training since the turn of the year then you’ll know that the weather has not always made it easy, but I’ve managed to be both consistent and flexible. As a result, I’m starting to feel like all the pieces are slotting into place. Read on for more about my training for the final week of March, which looked like this:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 18 miles

My Hatha yoga class is only on during term time, so this was the last class in the block before the two week break. So nice to stretch out and re-balance after my long run the day before and the accumulated stresses of the term. Since the turn of the year I’ve been doing a lot more at-home yoga to complement the classes I go to, and I think that’s one of the puzzle pieces that is contributing to how strong I’m feeling right now. I’ll miss the class during the break, but will definitely be doing some yoga of my own to maintain the habit.

On Tuesday I was back at the gym adding a couple more reps to the interval workout I’m doing. I’m still always staggered by the fact that something I would not have been able to do in January is now achievable (tough, but achievable) for me. It’s a great way to get a measure of progress as a similar effort yields stronger results and I love being able to track those improvements.

s0bIvegFQxyd31MfEGLN8wWith the clocks changing in the UK last weekend, Wednesday was the first evening run in this training cycle that took place in daylight – and it was hill reps. That’s right, life and Mother Nature have allowed me to string together some consistent Wednesday night training for at least 3 weeks in a row and I need that now to ensure I keep finding improvements in my strength and fitness. I continue to have a love/hate relationship with hills – I love that it’s a reasonably short workout, but boy are those uphill bursts hard work. If you ever find me wheezing at the top of a hill, it’s safe to assume I ran there hard!

5g76J9dZRC2ooUgJXz4JIgThursday was the last day of term. I’ll admit I was really digging deep for the energy to get there and as I drove home at the end of the day I could feel a tiredness I hadn’t felt in a long time. I suspect this was my brain letting my body know I could finally relax and acknowledging how tired the term had made me (as a side note, I once tried NOT training for a marathon during this term, expecting to feel a bit less tired and if anything I felt WORSE without the time for myself and regular hit of endorphins. An interesting observation!). Luckily it was a yoga night and it felt great to round off the term on my yoga mat. The class was small so we did a little more work on headstands (I can do it with support but am not yet able to hold a headstand by myself. One day!). Post-yoga I had made an appointment to get my nails done and decided to change things up a bit with a more neutral colour (I usually go for deep reds and purples). I did ask to have a shimmery topcoat on the ring finger of each hand just to keep things interesting, though!

lSfTmckMTB+h8NIF9GgjqgThe following day was Good Friday, hence it being the first day of our break. I decided to take things easy and gave myself permission to be a bit lazy. I made myself a cup of tea and took it to bed with me to spend a little time finishing off my book. I then tidied up a few bits and pieces before taking a walk to my gym. I only wanted to use the hot tub and sauna, but walking there meant I got a bit of fresh air and movement in my day.

ysvZ8ql+TAmCtQEWKgOkfQI had originally planned to head over to the studio for a PT session later in the day, but due to the combination of Easter weekend traffic and an accident, the roads were gridlocked and Steve said it wasn’t worth trying to get over there. Instead I had a nice chilled afternoon and did a bit of yoga. I also came across this while scrolling social media. Your Running Princess is in an advert again. I feel internet famous 😂

fullsizeoutput_2458And in other news, my race number for the marathon arrived. Eek!

uipLxz3uRdasNq5b10UKNQSaturday morning was a bit miserable looking, so I decided to brighten things up with my asymmetric leggings for parkrun. After a good run in Perth a couple of weeks ago, I had thought I might be in a position to run a bit better so was ready to go for it. We’re still on our alternative course as the grass on our main route remains far too boggy to use given the numbers we have these days, and this week we were running the laps clockwise. Last time we did this there was a pretty strong headwind but this time it felt a bit better.

HZANdVo2Tca4Eq6cOXNwRAI thought I was lined up quite near to the start line, but somehow ended up stuck behind some slower runners and it took a bit of time to find some space at the start. After that, I felt like I was flying. I kept waiting for my legs to turn to jelly or my CV system to give up, but it didn’t happen and I was able to pass a few people (mainly guys, some of whom didn’t seem to like being passed by a girl in mad leggings!). I had hoped to maybe sneak under 24 for the first time this year, but with the slower start this was not to be – 24:01 so just missing out. Oh well! A little irritating, but still my fastest this year and another Royal Flush Negative Split. I’d says that sub-24 is in there and it would be great to be back in that kind of form before the marathon at the end of April. Watch this space!

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IMG_6086On Sunday I had 18 miles on my schedule and it was a cold but bright morning. I decided to repeat the same route and workout that I did for my previous 18 mile run earlier in March so I would have a point of comparison. The first 2 miles were a warm up, then it was 4x cycles of 3 miles at/faster than marathon pace and 1 mile recovery. Last time I just missed my pace on two of the faster splits as those miles included an incline, but this time I not only got it on all of them but some of the splits were faster. I was surprised at how achievable the whole run felt overall and as I stopped my watch at 18 miles I definitely felt like I could have gone on. I don’t know where it came from, but it’s a great reminder to trust the process and allow all the training to come together. Hopefully it’s all coming together for me at just the right time as I only have one more long run to do before I cut back for my taper. Where did that come from already?!

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IMG_6106Post-run I enjoyed some time chilling out with my free coffee (thank you Fitness Rewards!) and cracked open my chocolate bunny. I think I earned it!

enaBpDLuSyyvGezHMJaGVAAnd I replaced the calories I’d burned with this awesome plate of carby goodness 🙂 Gotta love marathon training!

o2v+tkOVSK+bWLzFwBgulgTell me how your training/racing has been going lately.
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The Year of Me!!! – March Update

It hardly seems like any time at all since I was setting my goals for the year – this year focusing on process over outcome and looking at ways to create positive habits and add value to my life – yet here we are at the end of March already! I’m checking in each month to keep me accountable and reflect on how I’m getting on.

1.Run 1000km (621 miles)
I have, once more, completed all the runs on my training schedule, but thanks to some pretty insane weather this month there were a few tweaks along the way – most notably when we were hit by The Beast from the East. Running in the snow seems to have made me stronger and has made some of my longer runs actually feel a bit easier! With increasing mileage I come in at 107 miles for the month and Strava tells me I’ve now at 250 miles for the year. That’s 97 miles ahead of schedule, but I’m not going to get over-excited about that since I don’t anticipate particularly high mileage in May as I take some time out to recover post-marathon.

2.Commit to a minimum of 5 minutes of yoga on at least 5 days of the week
I think this is the one I’m loving best of all. I’ve easily fallen into the habit of an at-home yoga practice on 3-4 days of the week (and go to a yoga class on 2 days). Far from the minimum 5 minutes, most of the home practice has been around 30 minutes long. Still using the Yoga with Adriene videos and having completed one 30 day journey, I went back and began a previous one so I maintain the consistency. I’ll confess to one week where I only managed yoga 4 times, but that was due to time constraints in a super busy week. Had I known, I would have planned around it better but one yoga session isn’t something to get worked up about and I can’t expect a perfect result with my goals all the time!

3.Read at least 30 books
Somehow I’m still ahead of schedule here with 9 books completed. This time last year I had read 8 books, however by the end of June I was only at 11 books and I never quite got things back on track. I’ll need to keep making sure that I set aside time for reading as the days get longer as I’ve really been enjoying my reading so far this year.

4.Be in bed by 10pm at least 3 times per week
I really didn’t expect to be very good at this one, but getting to bed a bit earlier is now becoming a habit. I’ve set the “bedtime” function on my phone to give me a nightly reminder and that usually galvanises me to head upstairs and get settled in to read a few pages of my book. Yes I feel tired from the combined effects of a busy school term and marathon training, but overall I do think I’m a bit better rested than usual. The real test will be to see if I can keep this habit up while I have my spring break as the lure of it not being a school night has tended to keep me up later in the past!

5.Watch at least one Ted/Ted X talk per week
This has been great! To fit in with my schedule I’ve been watching reasonably short talks (including one delivered by the author of a book I read – look at my goals crossing over!) however I’m hoping to find time for some longer ones while I’m on holiday for the first two weeks of April. Let’s see how that goes…

6.Listen to at least 8 podcast episodes per week
Having been quite far behind with episodes, I’ve now managed to just about catch up. I’ve generally been listening to a couple of podcasts every day across my morning walk, commute and training, then the longer training runs on a Sunday are often another 3. It’s great to feel a bit more up to date with the shows I listen to regularly and I no longer feel like I’m missing out on information being shared. I might even try listening to something different if I keep going like this!

7.Respond to at least one WordPress prompt per month
This month I chose a photo prompt and published my response to I’d Rather Be… I have a couple of others lined up too for the coming weeks so it’s so far so good on this one.

8.Be more mindful in my phone/social media use
I began the year really well with this one, however the weather issues at the start of March sucked me back in a little as this was where information was being shared the quickest. Since then I’ve noticed some slippage into random scrolling, however I figure that my awareness of it means I’ll be able to do something about it. I suspect I’ll use my phone a bit more while I’m not at work, but I’ll also be careful about making sure I don’t lose precious time to a mindless time suck. A lapse, but not a serious one and I can easily get back on track again.

Overall I’ve not been too bad at maintaining the positive habits I introduced in the early part of the year, even with some pressures on my time. I’ve spotted a couple of snags to iron out, but for the most part I’m really happy that the choices I’m making are adding value to my life and are worth continuing long term.

Which of your goals for the year are going well?
Any setbacks you need to overcome?