About The Running Princess

Teacher and runner. Always striving to be better.

Race Report – Aviemore Half Marathon 2018

It’s been a few years since I last ran this race, but those of you who have been reading this blog for a while may remember that this one holds a special place in my heart, not just because it was the first ever half marathon I ran (back in the pre-blog days of 2009) but it was also where Steve and I got engaged – that was quite a way to relieve my pre-race nerves! Further to that, in 2012 I ran a PB here which proved stubbornly difficult to beat for quite some time – all the way to early 2017 in fact! But for the last few years I haven’t been up there as I had different autumn priorities, and when Steve signed up back in the summer I initially wasn’t sure if I wanted to run the half or the 10k, eventually deciding that it would be worth capitalising on the training I was doing for the Disneyland Paris half and “properly” running a half marathon to round off my racing year.

In the past we have stayed in Aviemore the night before the race, but this time decided we would get up early and head up first thing in the morning. This meant leaving between 6 and 6:30am, times which seem increasingly reasonable the more I run!

It was still pretty dark as we set off on the 80ish mile drive north into the Highlands which meant we didn’t get much chance to appreciate the beautiful scenery. We had the latest episode of Marathon Talk playing in the car and had a pretty easy drive, arriving at the race HQ just before 8am.

The race itself starts at 10am, however the logistics are such that runners are taken by bus to the start (only about 10-15 minutes away) and the course returns us to the MacDonald hotel complex which is used as the race HQ and car park. The buses begin at 8am and the last one is at 9am so we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to collect our race numbers, go to the loo and get in line for a bus.

s6tVq4+ARuSFinP1VTwu%wWe were up at the start at the Badaguish outdoor centre not long after 9am. It was pretty chilly, but the organisers have a good set up with teas and coffees available (with donation buckets out for those who have cash at the start line) and a sheltered area to gather in. I had a cosy top on that I was going to put in Steve’s bag (we usually do this since he will finish first and can collect the bag before I finish) but had chosen one I was happy to throw away if I just couldn’t bear to remove it soon enough!

We had a cup of tea then got in the queue for the toilets around 9:30, so by the time we emerged it was time to hand in our bag. I was shivering a bit, but didn’t have too long to wait until I got underway and I knew I would be absolutely fine once I got moving.

DtHG+BLvRxaWOtnFMuJoZgAs runners line up there are markers with approximate times on them and I set myself up next to the “sub 2 hours” marker. Realistically I had no idea what I could do, but with a PB of 1:53 and previous long-standing PB (from this race) of 1:56 I was fairly certain I could squeak under 2 hours.

Before I knew it, we were being walked towards the start and past a piper. Steve took some photos as I couldn’t be bothered to pull my phone out and I was instructing him as to the photos to take!

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AFkyVosFSzuzu8JxGouiCAThere was a moment of confusion when we could see through a  break in the trees that the runners at the front had started and, of course, those further back started to run even though we hadn’t reached the start line yet. I never understand this. Surely we’re going to run enough during the race? And the confusion was created by the fact that so many people were running and I could hear lots of folk asking if we had crossed the start line yet, but since we had race chips on our shoes I knew that even though there was no gantry, the start line would be when we crossed a timing mat slightly further on so stayed calm and started my watch as I hit the mat.

The first half of the race, which is net downhill overall, takes place on trails which can be a little narrow at points and thanks to the recent rainy weather there were quite a few puddles. I knew from previous experience that it wasn’t worth worrying about pace in the first half of the race as the chances are you will be way off, particularly with a steep hill at the start of the 4th mile, but will make up lots of time once the course emerges onto the road as it’s pretty much all downhill through the second half of the race. I actually set my watch to show me the average pace rather than the current pace and amused myself with some “runner maths” to try and work out if I was on track for a sub-2.

fullsizeoutput_28faA fun moment came towards the end of the trail section as I became aware of runners backed up around a corner. It turned out that there was a puddle of such magnitude that there was absolutely no avoiding it and people were looking for the best way to approach it. Most were going around the edges (which were pretty squelchy) as there was clearly a deeper hole in one part of it and lots of people were falling down. Not wanting to hurt myself by stepping on something uneven that I couldn’t see (or have an impromptu ice bath), I also went around the outside, but still ended up in cold water up to my knees and with icy cold feet – a good incentive to run faster in the second half to warm up again!

Thanks to my choice of attire I was getting lots of shouts (everything I was wearing was actual running kit, I just thought I would have a bit of fun and embrace the feline theme of running for a cat charity!). Early in the race as we had a brief section on a road I heard a little girl say, “she’s dressed up as a cat!” and as we ran by Loch Morlich shortly before joining the road for the home stretch a spectator shouted, “well done pussy cat!” Most of the marshals also commented on my cat ears and gave me a big smile. It was really nice, if a little unusual!

Once out on the road around 7 miles in it was time to get myself moving a bit faster. My average pace had been showing about 9:27 and I knew that 9:09 would be 2 hour pace. With the slight downhill it felt easy to push on and although it crossed my mind to wonder if I could sustain a faster pace, I dismissed the thought and focused on running to feel. I was passing people and feeling good. I even managed to take my gels (I had one on the trail at mile 5 and planned a second at mile 10 with “a parkrun to go”) without choking myself!

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Splits from the trail section

I was noticing my average pace falling until it dipped under the 9:09 I was looking for and at that point I knew I could keep my legs turning over all the way to the end. An interesting thing about this race is that the mile markers are actually “miles to go” so they are counting you down to the finish. I had noticed in the second half of the race that the markers were a bit off compared to my Garmin and suspected the route was going to come up a little short. Thanks to my knowledge of the route, I decided to trust the markers and keep on pushing as my pace felt ok.

There’s a short, sharp hill to take us from the path we are on up onto the main road and back into the hotel complex, and as I came off the hill I glanced at my watch to see that it read 1:55. I knew my previous best time from this race was 1:56 something, but couldn’t remember what the seconds were. I tried my best to speed up as the finish line was in sight but the last 100m or so are over grass which was a bit soft and uneven so I couldn’t get quite the sprint finish I wanted.

I heard the announcer call my name as I crossed the line and headed through the chute to collect my water, shortbread (such a Scottish race haha!) and medal then return my chip.

NpnukYlNToyy7NRYe2SBdQI met Steve and we headed back inside to sort ourselves out and I took advantage of the opportunity to look up my previous time (1:56:35) and confirm that I had indeed beaten it. My chip time for this year was posted as 1:56:02. Those 2 seconds are a little irritating, but given I had only expected a squeak under 2 hours (and there were some slight holdups on the trail) I’ll take that. This now becomes my 2nd fastest half marathon time and only the 3rd time I have run sub-2. Pretty pleasing for someone who was certain she wasn’t in fantastic form! I suspect the lack of pressure or expectation meant that I ran well, felt comfortable and enjoyed the event. I felt really strong in the second half and looking at my splits that strength is confirmed so I definitely got my strategy right.

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Splits from the road section – definitely a negative split!

UntitledAnd so this remains one of my favourite races. It’s well organised, has a fun route and is very friendly. There are always people there that I know and the sections where there are spectators always have great support. It’s nice to run a race with a more local feel to it. I’ll try not to leave it another 5 years before I go back!

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4wGXTmvsReqkWr+0x7yOkAYou can read about my previous experiences of this race here and here.

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Week In Review – Always Have a Plan B…!

The first week of my October break presented an opportunity to press reset and get caught up on a few things. Yes, it would have been nice to go away somewhere, but on this occasion it was good to be at home. With a half marathon to run at the weekend, I took the chance to mix up a bit of training with some decent rest:

Monday – rest
Tuesday – 5 miles
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – 4 miles + Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – half marathon

Start as you mean to go on, I say. I don’t generally like to sleep in (although obviously don’t set my alarm for as early as a school day!) but it is good to have a lazy start to the day and I decided I wanted to spend the first week of my holiday getting back into a habit I had back during my Easter break. So when I awoke I headed for the kitchen to make a cup of tea which I took right back to bed to read for about an hour. The kittens quite liked this and after running around daft for a bit they settled down at my feet for a snooze. Bliss!

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Nothing better than a long lie with Gary!

I then spent some time on the afternoon on my “homework”. I’m studying this with my Advanced Higher class and felt in need of a re-watch of my favourite adaptation of my favourite novel. Such a hardship lol!

fullsizeoutput_28ccOn Tuesday I followed my tea and book in bed with a run – not totally lazy! I set myself up with a kind of “mini taper” into my race so headed out for 5 miles. It was nice to get out in daylight after early morning runs last week, and the weather wasn’t too bad either.

RAHqgPkQRIGW3ynzZZhW5AWhen I arrived home I could spy a red package through the glass and knew exactly what it would be – my annual subscription to the London marathon rejection magazine. At least the running jacket I got with it is pretty good.

zTGJBzEOSzWboebQdiEYVwGiven the numbers in the ballot I didn’t expect to get a place, but until that magazine arrives there is always a glimmer of hope that this might be the year. Still, with 7 rejections (and counting…) I know to have a Plan B in mind for what I’ll do when that inevitable “nope” arrives, and for 2019 I knew my Plan B would be to sign up for the Stirling marathon again. I really enjoyed it this year and liked how conveniently close to home it was, so by the time the day was done, this had happened:

fullsizeoutput_28cfWednesday was another rest day. I had a few errands in town so clocked up loads of steps walking there and back (after some time spent reading with my cup of tea, of course!). At least my mail was more pleasing as I got some new casual leggings – and got photobombed by the kittens when I tried to take a picture!

fullsizeoutput_28f8On Thursday I doubled up – run in the morning and Ashtanga yoga class in the evening. My self-styled “mini taper” called for a 4 mile run and this time it was even pleasant enough to break my shorts back out of hibernation. I do love it when I can still wear my shorts without freezing to death!

IMG_9861Yoga was, as always, great. I had been curious to see how I would get on with the headstand after my breakthrough last week – was it a one-off or could I actually manage the posture by myself? As it turned out, there was no need to be concerned as I once more moved into the headstand on my own. I didn’t hold it for as long, probably because  I rushed to straighten my legs out before I had my balance feeling as secure as last time, but now I know it wasn’t a fluke I’ll take more care to move into the posture more mindfully as I go forward.

Steve offered me a training session on Friday morning (at a time which still allowed me my “soft start” to the day with my book and tea!) so I headed over to the studio. I was reluctant to do anything that would make my legs feel heavy on the Sunday, so we used the TRX and Core Momentum Trainer to do some work on my arms and upper body instead. Somehow I neglected to take a picture during the session, but did manage to take a photo of the coffee I had afterwards. Not sure what that says about me haha!

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The new “cordusio”. I think I ordered it because I thought it was a funny word!

The rest of the day was about as busy as things get during school holidays. First I had my flu jab (definitely want to avoid getting the flu!) and then I had my nails done which meant a good chat with my friend who does my nails.

Saturday, as ever, began with parkrun. I’m not always good at taking it easy when it’s not pacer day, but I was determined not to overdo things and risk having weary legs for the following day. I started out at a fairly steady pace and allowed myself to push on a bit as the run went on (securing a nice Royal Flush Negative Split) but still coming in at a slower (for me) time of 25:44. I had thought averaging 8:20-8:30 pace overall would be ideal so that was perfect.

IMG_9884Steve’s brother was away on holiday, but the Steve and I still went for a post-run bacon croissant before getting the food shopping done (such Saturday glamour!).

5xGLC%9CReanCYiH2wKjugI actually felt a bit “off”, kind of like I was going to get a headache but without actually having a headache. Not sure if that makes any sense, but I could feel my body telling me to have a nap so once home I had some soup then settled down for a nap. I did feel a bit better after that, but decided to take it easy and spend the afternoon watching a film. Time to break out Beauty and the Beast, because sometimes only a Disney film will do.

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As the evening wore on I began to realise that the reason I felt “off” was because my upper back and shoulders were tight and this was travelling up my neck and into my head. I got Steve to work on it a bit and began to feel a lot better. Good thing too since we were getting up early for our race!

We had decided not to stay in Aviemore the night before, and instead get up early to make the journey north into the Highlands – only about an hour and a half away and the roads are pretty clear at that time of day. We were away before 6:30am and got into Aviemore just before 8. I’ll write a separate post with all the details of the race, but it was all pretty familiar even though I hadn’t been up there since 2013.

This was my last serious race of the year. Anything else from this point will be more in the “fun run” category, so I also made it the last hurrah for my fundraising efforts. I teamed my Cats Protection running vest with paw print leggings (actual running leggings) and a hairband with ears (an actual running headband). It got me a fair amount of shouts and made a few people smile along the route!

DrgrJJvKTpCFm6VK7VXaegPost-race we tidied ourselves up a bit and on the way home called in to see a lovely couple Steve trains. They are in their 70s and so fit! I had never met them before but they had insisted we call in on our way home for a cup of tea, and despite being “race fresh” they were perfectly happy to sit and chat over some refreshments for a while and were so kind, waving away my apologies for not being at my most presentable! It was a nice way to break up the journey home and the cups of tea and choccy biccies were definitely appreciated!

The remainder of the day was pretty chilled and I headed to bed feeling really tired from the combination of an early start, racing a half marathon and having the long-ish car journeys as well.

When was the last time you needed to call on Plan B?
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Friday Finds – 12th October

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.

Where has the past week gone? Funny how holiday weeks go by so much faster than work weeks!

At this time of year there really is little other than marathons in the news, what with Sir Mo’s awesome win in Chicago at the weekend (did you see it?), excitement building ahead of next month’s New York marathon and, of course, continued discussion of Eliud Kipchoge’s incredible word record, there’s little room for anything else!

Speaking of Kipchoge, let’s start with a couple of articles looking at his record-breaking performance. To start, some consideration of what it could take to break 2 hours. Kipchoge himself came tantalisingly close in the Nike Breaking2 project, and a recent study suggests that a team of runners with similar ability to him could make it happen. Personally I’d love to see someone go below the 2 hour mark, but who knows how long that might take.

On a slightly lighter note, attendees at the Chicago marathon expo had the opportunity to test themselves on an extended treadmill set to Kipchoge’s record breaking pace. Funnily enough, there was a lot of falling!

Related to this, a bit of discussion surrounding pacers in marathons. I’m never sure how I feel about this, I mean the runner still has to actually run the pace, so having the pacers would reduce the mental fatigue of working out what speed to run at as it’s “outsourced” to someone else, leaving them free to “just” run. But for the men, it’s not easy to find someone fast enough to run the desired pace for long enough – especially if Kipchoge is part of the race – whereas there are plenty of speedy male runners who can pace women, and some see this as an advantage, hence changes to the way women’s records are classified. What are your thoughts?

Leaving the marathon aside, the other notable topic this week was World Mental Health Day. Of course I have frequently included links to articles extolling the mental health benefits of running, so it comes as no surprise that Runner’s World (among other sources) published material to coincide with the day. I certainly recognise the boost that comes from a run, particularly when I have gone for a short run before work as my mood is better throughout the day. How about you?

And finally, I don’t know about you but one of my favourite things about running, especially deep in marathon training, is being able to eat lots, but this caused problems for an Ironman triathlete who visited an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant in Germany. Apparently there is a limit to how much you can have!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Race Report – The Disneyland Paris Half Marathon 2018

This is going to be a long one and full of photos, so put the kettle on, get comfy and prepare for a bit of pixie dust!
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Imagine having a wish: a wish you knew would fill you with magic and joy; a wish so strong you felt envy whenever someone else had that wish come true; a wish you wished for so hard, for years and years. Then one day, that wish was granted

"All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them."It may sound like the plot of a Disney movie, yet it’s how I felt about taking part in a Run Disney event. For years I had yearned to create a costume, run through Disney parks and meet a host of characters. I coveted one of those HUUUUUGE Disney medals and was determined that one day I would achieve my dream. A couple of weeks ago “one day” became “today”.

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My awesome wrist wrap created by Nicky Lopez @ Run Bling

Our day began super early with a 4:30am alarm call so that we could have breakfast at our hotel at 5am (one of the benefits of staying in a Disney hotel was the early breakfast and late check out provided for runners). I would usually associate such an early start with a marathon and spend breakfast time forcing down food (and hoping not to see it come back up again!), but not this time. This time I was excited and, despite legs that had that telltale weariness of a day spent in a theme park (no regrets – it was an amazing day!) I was desperate to put on the rest of my costume and head over to the expo to wait until it was time to get into the start corral.

We actually got to the expo in great time, giving us time to take a few photos, chat to some other runners, admire the costumes and, crucially, join the massive queue for the toilets before we had to head around to our corral.

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As close as I could persuade Steve to a costume. It’s amazing what you can find online!

We were in corral C and we knew we were supposed to be in our corrals about 30 minutes before the estimated start time for our group (corral A began at 7am and we got in our corral just before that so we could experience the beginning of the race. It was about half an hour later before we were to get started, but the time seemed to pass really quickly. The weather was mild, even so early in the morning, with a little drizzle in the air so it was going to be a humid morning.

Since the event had a “villains” theme, the start of the event was handed over from the Disney hosts to Cruella de Vil and her henchmen. It was great watching things get started and moving closer and closer to the start gantry.

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g7EijkMFQk2MlLUJioRZTgAt long last, it was our turn. We were counted down (I started my watch a little before the start line as I wanted my hands free to shoot some film) and I ran across the start line grinning from ear to ear.

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The first part of the route took us under an archway announcing we were entering Disneyland then on into the Walt Disney Studios where we had spent the previous morning. We looped around different areas of the park, passing through “Studio One”, an enclosed area of shops and restaurants where all the cast members were out in force to cheer us on. It reminded me in many ways of the famed “disco tunnel” in the Paris marathon.QH9AnyyQRhWSqTzFLTUA5g

785007481Emerging from the studio, I glanced to my right and spotted the first of the character stops. I had actually wondered about skipping the first couple in order to get ahead for some later stops, but when I saw who it was I realised I was definitely going to stop here after all. I was dressed as Belle and the first character was…Gaston!

AZP7alUrQDSoEx9eIvW99wFrom here, the route took us towards the main Disneyland park, and I did skip a couple of character stops as the lines were really long and they weren’t ones I was massively bothered about. For me, it was all about running around the different “lands” of the park and through the castle.

As we hit Main Street I realised that this section was an out and back – first running away from the castle, looping around the town square then running the full length of the street towards Sleeping Beauty’s castle. This was my iconic moment and I made sure to film, take photos and stop for an official photo to mark the moment.

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780503394We actually ran around to one side of the castle, via Adventureland, and into Fantasyland (pausing only for a photo with Jafar).

788343590It was at this point that I found myself hit with a wave of emotion: I was actually running in Disney, I was running my dream race. The cast members were out in force and they were shouting “allez” in that rising way spectators do in the Paris marathon as well. Perhaps it was a combination of all of these things that made me feel so happy I could burst – I very nearly cried with happiness and this remains a really vivid memory of the race for me as I looped around and through the iconic castle with an accompaniment of Disney music.

Once through the castle, I really was in photo mode. It felt like I was stopping for photos, shuffling a few steps as I put my phone/Go Pro away then immediately stopping again for the next one. During this time I chatted with others and was struck by how well organised these photo stops were, especially for someone running solo (I had told Steve he could run on at his pace. I mean, I was running in Disney, what else did I need!). Our package included a Photopass for the race and our bibs had a barcode on them which was scanned by a cast member before the photographer took our photos. There was also always another cast member on hand who took photos using our own phones so we would have photos right away. I was actually sharing some of these while I was waiting to see various characters so some of my friends on social media could experience the event along with me. I was having such a lovely time that I clocked a 37 minute mile. Nope, not a typo, it really did take me 37 minutes to cover a mile. My goal marathon pace is usually around 9 minutes per mile and I can walk a mile in around 16 minutes, so clearly I wasn’t in much of a hurry at this point!

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788344247Eventually, I made my way out of the park and embarked on the next section of the route which took me out into the French countryside, through a small town and around a reservoir before heading back to Disneyland. I know some people find this part rather random, but I quite enjoyed it. It was good to get my legs moving at a regular pace for a while and have some more consistent running without having the constant stopping and starting (except for stopping briefly to take a photo of each kilometre marker) and the scenery was quite pleasant. The part I found random was the fact that so many runners were in some kind of costume which pretty much looked normal within the magical bounds of Disney, but once outside I couldn’t help thinking that this must look like the weirdest parade ever 😂

Even in this section outside of Disneyland there was some entertainment – bands, breakdancers, cheerleaders – and lots of spectators, so the time did pass quite quickly. Because there were a number of out and back sections it also gave me a great opportunity to look at some of the costumes other runners had put together. Some were really elaborate and I’m not sure I could have run in them without feeling irritated, whereas I had put together something comprised mainly of actual running kit, with a sparkly skirt on top (the sparkly skirt was crucial as I had wanted to wear one of those for ages!).

The last part of the route brought runners over a road bridge from which we could see the traffic entrance to Disneyland, before heading in by the Santa Fe hotel and through part of the Cheyenne hotel (where we were staying. Thankfully I didn’t have to run past my room!).

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GOPR0064From there, we followed the same path we had walked in by before the race that morning, around by the Sequoia Lodge and into the Disney Village which was packed with spectators, shoppers and those on their way to the parks for the day. It was so noisy with loads of shouts and cheers, yet at the same time a little bittersweet as I knew there was hardly any distance left to run. Yes, my legs were weary from being on my feet all weekend, but I didn’t want the experience to end so did my best to keep soaking up every moment.

Bur all too soon I could see the finish line ahead of me. We had retraced some of our steps from the early part of the race to finish behind the Hollywood Tower in the Walt Disney Studios park. I ran triumphantly over the line, collected my medal from a volunteer then walked over to the stage where Sorcerer Mickey was welcoming runners back. Sadly he was on a stage so there was no specific photo op, but I did get a cast member to take a photo and took a few seconds of video.

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IMG_0526There were several Photopass photographers stationed in front of some of the Marvel statues in this area so I got a photo then began to make my way towards the exit to meet Steve. Along the way I collected all my goodies – a bottle of water, an iced coffee drink (it was pretty good), a box of snacks, a banana and a space blanket. There was also some Powerade but I managed to miss that (gutted – blue Powerade is my favourite!).

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fullsizeoutput_27afOnce I met Steve, we had some more Photopass pictures taken outside the Studios before making our way back to the Expo to collect our bags (and take a few more photos because clearly we didn’t have enough already ha!).

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CjCn0Pv9QXyTbfhe%cxgkgI don’t think I ever stopped smiling throughout the race and had such an amazing experience. I had joked to Steve that I might take 3 hours and wasn’t too far off with 2:51:09. Near enough an hour slower than my half marathon PB! I did look at the results just out of interest, and my age category was won by none other than Paula Radcliffe, who is an ambassador for the event, but at 1:23:18 I suspect she didn’t stop for any photos haha!

I, however, stopped every kilometre as I wanted to make sure I had a picture of each marker. They were in keeping with the theme and were quite entertaining.

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UntitledFor me, this event was my fairytale, my chance to fulfil my wish of creating a costume, running through the parks and meeting a host of characters. Some wishes are for a once in a lifetime experience, but I have a funny feeling this won’t be the last time we take part in the Disneyland Paris Magic Run Weekend…
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Week In Review – Up And Running

After a pretty lazy week training-wise (not sorry – it was EXACTLY what I needed!) last week it was time to get back in to some more “normal” training again. It’s a real eye-opener about what I consider normal now when rearranging things in my week to make sure I can get a run in counts! Here’s how things looked:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – 4 miles
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – 4 miles + Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun pacing
Sunday – 10 miles

I tried to really savour my Monday yoga class as I knew it would be the last for three weeks.  Since this was the last week of term I was feeling pretty tired and although I’ll miss having the class during the school holidays and first day back, I know I’ll be able to do some home practice in its place. I felt really relaxed at the end of the class and ready for the rest of my week.

Another thing I was quite keen to do was fit in a little more running this week since I have another half marathon coming up mid-October. I was also really determined to make it to my Wednesday orchestra rehearsal, so decided that a little bit of re-arranging was in order to make sure I could manage both without having to cut my run short, arrive at rehearsal late or feel really flustered. The obvious solution was to have another go at the pre-work running I tried back in June. Back then it wasn’t too bad as the mornings were light and with the heatwave (such a distant memory now!) it was far more pleasant to run in the cool morning air. At the time I enjoyed it but wasn’t sure if it was sustainable for me on darker mornings. Time to find out. So I laid out some kit, set my alarm and did it – without any prior announcement to Steve or anyone else to keep me accountable! I was out the door by 5:30am (!!!) and although I felt a little sluggish on this run, I wasn’t too bothered and enjoyed an active start to my day. I actually felt pretty good for the remainder of the day afterwards as well.

f%9uXt%dTwWXicTm9NZ0RwThis meant that I had no pressure to get a workout done on Wednesday and so didn’t have to rush away from work. Instead I got a few bits and pieces done, did a little yoga before my dinner and was ready for my sister to pick me up for the rehearsal. She was feeling pretty tired and needed to go home when we took our rehearsal break, but we probably only missed about half an hour so that was ok with me and meant I got to bed nice and early.

I was pleased with the early night as I had planned a SECOND early run. Clearly it can’t have been too bad on the Tuesday! I was out the door about 5:30am again and ran pretty much the same route but this time I wasn’t feeling so sluggish and with the same effort level covered the distance faster. This was very pleasing.

YBOlAJdRQR6gNIP5Ue3IKAI’m not sure if it was the run, the routine or the fact that the holidays were nearly upon me, but I felt great in my Ashtanga class that evening. I was moving well with my breath, felt strong in Wheel and – drumroll please – managed my very first totally unsupported headstand! If you read these weekly reviews regularly then you may be aware that this is something I have been working on during this year. I’ve been doing headstands with my teacher there to support me, but recently have noticed her starting to try and give a little less support. Perhaps that gave me some confidence, but since she was supporting someone else first, I decided to see if I could take my feet off the ground and find balance with my legs still bent. I expected that would be all I would manage, but felt so good that I thought I would try and straighten my legs after a few breaths to see what would happen…and I held it! I had to work hard not to get so excited about it that I lost the position, but as I moved into child’s pose afterwards I was grinning from ear to ear. I did it! Hopefully that will now give me the confidence to keep working on the posture independently because I will always know that I managed it, therefore I can manage it again. I was so pleased!

Friday was the last day of term and I stayed after work to finish up some marking. After a busy week I took it as a rest day and enjoyed a relaxing evening to start my holidays.

When I got up on Saturday morning it was cold. Thin layer of frost on the windscreen cold. Base layer and gloves cold. Steve had an early client then returned home to change and pick me up for parkrun where as well as being International Parkrun Day, we were having our monthly pacer week.

IMG_9809I had 28 minutes again and after coming in slightly after the time last month, I was keen to do better this time. I settled into pace and soon realised I had some parkrunners with me who were hoping to break 28. I offered advice, tips and “encouragement” which saw them over the line with great new PBs and I was so happy to have been able to help them. I finished in 27:45 – a little faster than the goal but this was mainly because I settled into pace beside the runners I was helping and that’s fine. They were all really pleased and I got a nice message that evening from one of them to say thank you. Definitely my favourite volunteer role as I still get a run but also get to help other people to run their best.

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Photo by Roy Mitchell for Perth parkrun facebook page

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IMG_9796Post-run I was able to join Steve and his brother for a bacon croissant for the first time in ages. Saturdays have clearly been very busy for most of the first term so it was good to get back into my previous routine of post-run breakfast, food shopping and a relaxing afternoon.

T3DUSvIDR8mp5QBxLt98tgThe evening was spent in front of the TV as it was movie week on Strictly and I had some furry company too.

kM3u3edgQOmjh47FzSe28wOn Sunday I knew I needed a longer run as my half marathon was just a week away. My last longer run was the Disneyland Paris half, but I was in no hurry then and had lots of photo stops so my most consistent long run before that was a 10 miler about a fortnight before. I decided it had best be a 10 mile run and got myself ready at a fairly leisurely pace. The weather was cool, but not cold like the day before so no gloves were necessary and I enjoyed catching up on the Marathon Talk podcast as I ran. Even more pleasing, I completed the route a bit faster than the last time so am feeling good ahead of next weekend. I don’t think I’m in PB shape, but I’m still curious to see where my fitness lies right now after losing a bit of momentum over the summer when my ankle was bothering me (it’s fine now – total mystery!).

IMG_9836I actually spent the rest of Sunday in a fairly lazy fashion (read: I hardly moved!) as I watched coverage of the Chicago marathon. Did you see it? Such a great race for Mo Farah! I even got lots more kitten cuddles as I lazed about – I could get used to this!

V3WXPwa7TlexLbi929WtbwHow do you make sure you can fit everything in?
Are you working on any yoga postures right now?

Race Report – The Great Perthshire Tattie Run

I suspect it’s an indication of how busy the first term of the school year has been that it’s only at the start of my October holidays that I’m getting round to writing about an event I took part in the weekend before term began. That said, the October holidays in Scotland are traditionally known as the “tattie holidays” (when children would pick potatoes in the fields) so it does feel appropriate to be writing this now!

I think I first noticed this event in Facebook posts and was intrigued by the novelty of running with a sack of spuds on my back. Since entry was free (and easy to sort out online) we decided to sign up and a few days before we received race numbers in the post. (I remain undecided as to whether it was on King Edward Street because we actually have a street with the same name as a potato, or if it was just a happy coincidence!).

fullsizeoutput_272eThe premise was simple: turn up, collect a sack of spuds (10kg for women, 20kg for men) and run 4 loops around St John’s Kirk to make approximately a mile. There was also the option of forming a relay team and running a lap each as well as a “spud and spoon” race for kids.

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q6bZJbgHQZm+WjgBD66LXwWe were fairly last minute getting there as I had been at a SUP yoga session beforehand, but there was enough time to find our tatties, get organised, then the women were set off for their event first, leaving Steve in charge of getting some action shots.

The first lap felt pretty straightforward, but by the second the lack of extra propulsion from my arms was becoming noticeable. We do tend to think that most of the effort is coming from our legs, but when we can no longer use our arms it becomes apparent just how important they are in our running.

By the time I was on the final lap I was definitely ready to be done – who knew a mile could be so tricky! My Garmin (yes, I recorded it out of curiosity to see how it affected my pace) clocked about 0.85 of a mile and I ran at a 9:45 pace. Overall I was running for about 8.5 minutes but I definitely worked hard in those minutes!

Once finished I was given a medal (not bad for a free event) and all finishers got to keep their potatoes. Needless to say, potatoes have accompanied A LOT of meals lately! All the potatoes that were leftover were donated to foodbanks and charities, which I highly approve of.

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fullsizeoutput_272dOverall it was a great fun event. Sometimes it’s good to do something a little different and although my shoulders ached a bit right after, I would definitely do this again if the event returns to Perth next summer.

What’s the most unusual race you have taken part in?

Friday Finds – 5th October

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.

Phew! This is one of those Fridays that feels like it’s been a long time coming around. After 8 weeks of school term, it’s time for a break here in Scotland and I’m looking forward to a chance to rest, relax and recharge. To start us off, here are some articles that caught my eye this week.

For the parkrun fan, this weekend is an exciting one as parkrun celebrates its 14th birthday. That’s right, tomorrow is International Parkrun Day. Not only that, but last week the 5,000,000th person registered for their parkrun barcode. That’s incredible! Here’s the always excellent Sean Ingle with a roundup of how parkrun has grown and developed over the past 14 years.

It’s also that time of year when everyone (and I’m including myself in this) goes a bit marathon mad – the results of the London marathon ballot are due to drop onto doorsteps in the next week and this weekend sees the next of the Marathon Majors take place in Chicago. With marathon fever tightening its grip, my attention was caught by these musings on the distance. I’d love to know your thoughts.

Speaking of Chicago, the elite field is looking exciting with appearances from Mo Farah, Gwen Jorgensen and “Citizen Runner” Yuki Kawauchi. Fans of the Marathon Talk podcast have been familiar with Yuki for some time and he became better known as a result of his Boston win earlier this year. With that in mind, you may enjoy this piece exploring Japan’s most well-known marathoner.

Following some high profile reports of cheats in marathons (most notably in Mexico City) race organisers in China are finding new ways to crack down on cheats. Having used facial recognition software in a half marathon last year, the software is now to be used in a marathon early next month. Good to prevent cheating or another layer of potential complication for runners? What are your thoughts?

And finally, I love those “expectation v reality” memes that pop up from time to time so this article appealed to me. It’s another classic from Canadian Running which has gathered together a variety of stock images related to running and compared them to the reality. I think my favourite is the one about winter running!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

The Year of Me!!! – September Update

September! 9 months of the year done and my Big Birthday has gone by. I should probably stop celebrating it some time soon! 😂 Time to check in with my goals for the year and see how things are progressing.

1.Run 1000km (621 miles)
Goal achieved! I’ve been aware for some time that I would reach my goal distance before the end of the year (assuming no significant time out) and my final run of September took me just beyond the distance. I’m pleased to have achieved this with so much time to spare, but that time gives me the opportunity to now find out how much more I can add to the total. Place your bets…!

2.Commit to a minimum of 5 minutes of yoga on at least 5 days of the week
I started the month spot on with this one, but with my trip away I managed to miss a couple of home sessions in the weeks wither side, which I’m not terribly proud of. What I’m finding with my current routine is that 4 sessions of yoga is easily achievable but sometimes the 5th eludes me – more out of laziness/carelessness than anything else. I have been trying to combat that with a short routine before bed to help me relax and unwind so hopefully things are back on track again.

3.Read at least 30 books
Another goal achieved! At the end of the month I reached 30 books and was rather stunned to find that I had managed to read so much this year. With 3 months of the year to go (and some holiday time) I wonder what my final total will be? I’ve been really enjoying my reading this year and part of that is because my involvement with some online/social media book groups has given me the opportunity to read things I might not otherwise have chosen and kept me on track with my reading in order to contribute to the discussions.

4.Be in bed by 10pm at least 3 times per week
I think I’m still doing ok with this one. I certainly tried to be in bed at a reasonable time before my trip and needed plenty of sleep the week after so although I don’t keep specific note of this one, I do keep an eye on the time on “school nights” and try to be heading for bed before 10.

5.Watch at least one Ted/Ted X talk per week
I had fallen off the wagon with this one over the summer but am back on track now. I’m taking part in a 100 day challenge with a Facebook group I’m in and my choice was to watch a TED talk every day for 100 days. This has really helped to get my focus back on this goal – an activity I have really enjoyed – and I am doing well so far. I did miss a couple of days when I was in Disney, but have since “caught up” by watching a couple of extras so I am still on track for 100 talks in 100 days. Any recommendations?

6.Listen to at least 8 podcast episodes per week
On the basis that I listen to a podcast per day on my drive home (and usually one or two extras across the week) this one is still going well. I have fallen slightly behind with my regular podcasts again with my extra rest days, but I’m sure I’ll catch up during the school holidays as I’ll have more opportunities to listen.

7.Respond to at least one WordPress prompt per month
My most last-minute one yet as I responded to the prompt It Builds Character on the last day of the month!

8.Be more mindful in my phone/social media use
The rigours of the school day mean I’m back on track with this one too as my time to even touch my phone during the day is so limited. Beyond a quick check of emails at lunchtime, I don’t really use my phone much at all. I’ve also got back into the habit of checking it when I get home then getting on with other things for the evening so I don’t get sucked in. Social media etc definitely have a positive place in my life, but it’s too easy to be distracted by the more frivolous elements so a balance has to be found.

This first term of the school year has been busy (I know they’re all busy but it has felt busier than this term usually does) so I’m really pleased with how I have approached my goals this month. Roll on October!

How are you doing with your goals for the year? Anything achieved? Any goals need reset?

Week In Review – Remembering the Magic

To be honest, I’m not sure how to follow last week’s review! I didn’t really do much at all as the packed weekend away during term time left me quite tired so I opted to take the week off from training (except yoga) and get some rest to make sure I didn’t overdo things. I did, however, spend most of the week floating along in a post-Disney bubble. Turns out there’s nothing quite like a weekend of fairy dust and Mickey Magic to lift the spirits!

rybjuRqVSKeF5pb8N6EeFAAs a result, I suspect this post will be quite short:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – rest
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – rest

Yup, lots of rest. Both of my yoga classes were exactly what I needed but on the other evenings I didn’t do much at all other than gradually unpack/get the post-trip laundry done, watch some tv and read a bit. I didn’t go to orchestra again on Wednesday as I wanted to have a restful evening and was just too tired for that level of concentration.

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Good job I had an expert to help me rest!

There was some mid-week excitement when I secured tickets to see Take That on tour next year. April seems so far away but I’ll no doubt have a spring marathon to train for which will make the time pass incredibly quickly!

fullsizeoutput_27b4By the weekend I was feeling restored and glad I took the time off (realistically I didn’t need recovery time from the running, just the chance to catch up on my sleep!). Good thing too since I had quite a lot of plans and didn’t want to feel exhausted.

The Women of the World festival returned to Perth for the second year. I had intended to buy a weekend pass but held off since I wasn’t sure how I would feel the week after being away. Then a couple of weeks before the festival my sister won passes so gave one of them to me. That meant I could go along to the sessions I wanted without worrying about having to “get my money’s worth”.

This year, one of the festival activities was to go along to parkrun so that suited me just fine. To avoid having to worry about parking my car all day, I ran into town (Steve had left earlier for a client but had my bag with a change of clothes in his car) and met the group heading over to the run.

fullsizeoutput_27b9It was great to be back at parkrun and I felt I ran fairly well given I hadn’t run all week and had felt pretty tired and sluggish.

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Steve suggested a “Disney Special” jump 😂

After the run I grabbed my bag from Steve and walked back to the theatre (the festival venue) to get changed and have some breakfast before the first session I wanted to go to.

DMxWljRQSpiVWtLMCFC01gI went to several interesting sessions during the day then Steve picked me up to head home to eat and chill at home for the evening.

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This looked like fun!

4jYqJ+9dSrSMgLGqtlu8MgThe first Sunday session was at 10:30am so rather than squeeze in a super short run and/or get up really early, I opted to take another day off training and take my time getting ready (although I did walk into town to get some movement).

DNud5pD+TuqiSF7kTfTRBgThere were some further interesting and thought-provoking sessions during Sunday then when the festival finished in the afternoon Steve came to meet me to get the food shopping sorted. Oh the glamour!

So overall not the most exciting or active of weeks, but it was what I needed it to be and gave me time to reflect on my Disney experience. The school holidays are coming up so I’ll be able to write my race report in the next week or so. Promise!

Have you ever attended a WoW festival?
What are your priorities right now?

The Daily Post – It Builds Character

Funnily enough, I’ve been thinking a great deal about characters (or les personnages Disney) of late. So when I found the prompt It Builds Character I knew this was the one for this month.

Tell us about a favorite character from film, theater, or literature, with whom you’d like to have a heart-to-heart. What would you talk about?

My favourite character is Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Many love her because of that scene in the ballroom with the gold dress, but my love for Belle goes deeper than that. First, she has dark hair and is therefore a princess I feel represents me rather than the plethora of blonde princesses out there. As a child I was only interested in dolls that bore some resemblance to me and those were few and far between. Belle would have been perfect!  I know Snow White is brunette, but I’ve always found Belle to be a much stronger character – she’s feisty, independent and knows she wants “so much more than this provincial life.”

Second, Belle loves to read. She finds adventure in the pages of a book that transport her to magical lands and it fuels her innate sense of adventure. I’ve always been a bookworm so this is something else we have in common.

Finally, she’s French – La Belle et la Bête – and I frankly wish I WAS French. I love to be in France, to speak French and would perhaps even want to chat to Belle in French. I can hope!

4B4B6D97-27FC-4879-AB5A-12DF07C54B3ESo if I was to have a heart-to-heart with Belle these things we have in common would be the basis for the conversation. I would start by asking her about books – her favourite stories and writers, the magical tales she returns to again and again, the genres she loves. We could perhaps read some favourite passages to each other and revel in the chance to speak with a kindred spirit.

From there, we would talk about adventure. My adventures are running-related but Belle had a wondrous adventure involving an enchanted castle and a prince who had been cursed. I would tell her about the places I have travelled to, the races I have run and the adventures I still want to have. In return, I would ask her to tell me more about the Beast’s castle, the enchanted characters within and the range of emotions she experienced when around the Beast.

Finally, I would have to ask about the beautiful ballroom in the Beast’s castle, her gorgeous gold ballgown and their wonderful dance together.

IMG_3031I’m a MASSIVE Strictly Come Dancing (Dancing with the Stars) fan and I would be curious about how she learned to dance so beautifully and what it was like to dance with such an unusual partner. I might even share some Strictly clips where that scene was re-created.

In my head, Belle and I would soon be firm friends. And if I was really lucky, she might even let me try on her ballgown for my very own princess moment…

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52I6N3BlS8mR5tWnFwX+2g
ilEFsND9Qg6HnRs18UxRZwWhich character would you like to talk to and what would you talk about?