Friday Finds – 13th May

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 must be in need of an adventure (or at the very least a new challenge!) as my picks this week all have a bit of an adventure theme. Not only that, but they all highlight the adventurous spirit that so many women are embracing. Perhaps something here will inspire you to go and get out of your comfort zone…

First up, some running adventures. I’ve recently been finding out more about the Marathon des Sables, often known as the toughest footrace on earth. I was following closely as Sarah Williams, host of the Tough Girl podcast, took on this incredible challenge and I became quite fascinated with everything that went into preparing for an event like this.  So here’s the story of another pretty tough girl to take on the challenge this year: Sally Orange.

Next up, a bit of girl power. You may be aware that Iran recently held its first international marathon, however women were not allowed to compete. This may sound a bit like the situation trailblazers like Bobbi Gibb and Kathrine Switzer took a stand against in the 1960s, so it was heartening to see at least one woman stand up to the ruling. I had come across a few articles about this particular event and the exclusion of women, but this one really caught my eye. Mahsa Torabi set out two hours ahead of the men, to run unsupported and complete the marathon. It makes for a great read and shows how it only takes one person to create a change.

Some more women looking to make history are the seven members of a group hoping to beat the record held by Mark Beaumont for the non-stop time trial across the North Coast 500. Not only are these women setting out to break a record, they are also launching a new organisation which aims to encourage other women to achieve their goals. This is an aim I wholeheartedly agree with and I wish them every success.

I also read this week about female adventurer Lizzie Carr who is currently attempting to be the first person to paddleboard the length of England. The 643km journey through connected waterways is expected to take three weeks and Carr is carrying all the equipment she will need with her. As well as the adventure element of the challenge, Carr wants to raise awareness of plastic pollution in our waterways, and if you would like to follow her journey then there are links in the article. Good luck Lizzie!

And finally, if this has given you a taste for adventure (or just a taste for reading a bit more about adventurous people from the comfort of your own living room!) then here’s The Guardian‘s list of women who are indulging their adventurous spirit right now. Read this, then head off on an adventure of your own…

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

2016 Goals – First Quarter Check-In

Holy moly! Can you believe it’s the end of March already? The clocks have changed, there’s much more daylight and we’re officially a quarter of the way through the year. How on earth did that happen?

I’ve had a very busy and stressful three months, but back at the beginning of the year I did set myself some goals, so in order to stay accountable I thought this would be a good time to check in and see how I’m getting on…

1.Overcome injury and return to running
When I set this goal, I was doing a grand job of keeping the injury bench warm for the next occupant. I was awaiting confirmation of a stress fracture in my foot and keeping out of trouble with time on the exercise bike, in the pool and working on body strength. In three months things have changed a great deal. The stress fracture was confirmed, but by the time I got that result I was just about ready to begin my Return to Running programme. My podiatrist had instructed me to work in 30 minute sessions of run-walk intervals, with the walk time gradually decreasing until I was running for 30 minutes straight. I was allowed to do this three times a week. On my first attempt, I abandoned the programme after about three or four sessions as I didn’t feel like my foot was quite ready. There was no pain, but I could “feel” it and my gut instinct was to stop. When I re-started a couple of weeks later, things were much better and once I was running pain-free for 30 minutes (on the treadmill – boring!) I rewarded myself with a return to parkrun. I ran a parkrun worst, but I was delighted to be back there again regardless.

Since then, I’ve continued to be sensible. I stuck to a three runs per week plan and have increased mileage very gradually. My pace has not improved much, but on Sunday I ran 10 miles so things are definitely heading in the right direction. Progress – excellent!


2.Work on learning the front crawl
This was the goal that I’ve been playing around with for a year or so and wanted to finally take seriously. I had another lesson and had some tweaks made to my form which made an instant difference to how I felt in the water. I then worked on gradually increasing the distance I was swimming each time I visited the pool. There were “breathers” at the end of a length, but I did peak at a kilometre of swimming which I was really proud of. There’s still a lot to do, but there are definite improvements.

My impetus for this was the 1.5km Swimathon earlier this month. Unfortunately, due to some difficult personal circumstances, I didn’t make it to the event this time, but dauntless as ever I’ll continue to work on my swimming and try again next year. Progress – good.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

3.Get out on my bike more
So far, this just hasn’t happened. Hopefully there will be some better weather coming and I’ll manage some cycling, but so far the closest I’ve come is the stationary bike in the gym. Poor old Trixie will need a bit of TLC before we head out, but I’m happy to give her that attention and fingers crossed we’re out on an adventure soon. Progress – disappointing.

4.Be more organised
This one began ok back in early January, but then the house move happened, work got crazy and I never really established a routine. Things are beginning to improve now and I’m hoping that by the time my two week spring holiday is over, I’ll have a better handle on life in general and be able to establish a more effective pattern to my week. If not, I may not make it through next term in one piece! Progress – could do better!

5.Read more books
This is probably the goal I’ve done best with. I set myself a target of 15 books in 2016, so to be on track I should have read 3 by now and be most of the way through book 4. In actual fact I’ve completed 7 books so far and am over halfway through book 8, giving me a bit of room on this one. My favourite book so far is I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh. If you like a bit of a thriller then this is a real page-turner with lots of twists and turns all the way to the end. It was recommended to me by one of my pupils and we had great fun discussing it and choosing what to read next (we both ended up with The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins which was a bit slower to get going, but still had loads of twists). I’m looking forward to continuing with this particular goal and if you have any recommendations for me, then I’d love you to add them in the comments. Progress – excellent!


And there you have it. A bit of a mixed bag, but some good progress nonetheless and some things still to work on (it would be over-achieving to nail them all in the first quarter anyway!). So let’s see what the next three months have in store..!

How are you getting on with your 2016 goals?
Any book recommendations or other tips to help me reach all my goals?

2015: An End of Year Report

Unbelievably, another year has ticked by and now we are all locked in “Crimbo Limbo”, an odd time of year when we’re not entirely sure what’s going on and most small talk (after the obligatory comments about the weather!) begins with, “did you have a nice Christmas?” then segues seamlessly to, “anything planned for New Year?” ( in case you’re wondering, my answers are “yes, thank you” and “no, just a quiet one”). It’s a time of year when we inevitably begin assessing what we’ve done with our lives over the past 12 months and consider how we might make the next 12 even better, so what better time than now to look back over my challenges from 2015 and think about some of my personal highlights..


I suppose it all started this time last year when I set out my challenge for 2015: one marathon (hopefully with a PB), one cycling event, and a frankly crazy weekend of multiple races, all completed by the end of May. After being hampered by injury in the second half of 2014, I didn’t want to plan any further ahead than that, preferring a cautious approach to my race plans, and it paid off – despite a strain to my left quad affecting the final weeks of my marathon training, the only plans I had to change were my expectations of a marathon PB, instead setting out to simply complete the race and have fun. It may not have been my greatest ever marathon finish time, but I finished it, had fun and, in the words of one friend, “became the selfie queen of Paris!”.
Paris Marathon done and part one of my challenge complete √


Next up was the cycling event, and with my strained muscle preventing me from running, I got a bit of bonus time in the saddle, even going so far as to enter an extra event as a warm-up the week before. I may sound quite flippant about it all now, but in reality this was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. You may recall that I only began cycling in the summer of 2014 and bought my first road bike that autumn just before my first ever sportive, now here I was contemplating an 81 mile event which went over a mountain! I found the whole thing really daunting – the distance, the climbs, the risk of mechanical failure and the risk of rider failure(!) – yet somehow I managed it. The weather was apocalyptic (up on that mountain was particularly horrendous!) but both my trusty steed Trixie Trek and I held it together to cross the finish line of the Etape Caledonia and complete the second part of the challenge.
Cycling, done! √


But I think the real stand-out moment of the year for me has to be the third part of the challenge. Back in 2014 Steve became infamous for his challenge to complete all 4 races of the Edinburgh Marathon Festival, a feat involving lots of running, a very swift half marathon and a willing friend with a motorbike. I was incredibly proud of what he achieved that weekend, but also intrigued. It may have been a long, long way to run, but Steve seemed to really enjoy it and get a real buzz from the experience, so when I was looking for something new to do, my thoughts turned once more to Edinburgh. I knew that my race pace versus the event logistics would rule me out of mimicking Steve’s challenge, but thought a variation might be possible: rather than going from the half marathon to the full marathon (the bit the logistics made impossible for me), what if I then went on to complete a leg of the team relay instead? From that seed of an idea, the concept began to take shape, and at the end of May it all came to fruition: I ran four races in one weekend, I got treated like a rock star by Macmillan, my chosen charity, and do you know what? I loved it all!
Four races, two days, one challenge completed!! √









In taking on this challenge, I learned that I am even more tenacious than I knew. Funnily enough, the marathon was the “easy” bit (not often one calls a marathon “easy”!), with the cycling posing the greatest challenge and Edinburgh being a journey into the unknown in terms of keeping on going. Yes, there were tough moments, that’s what makes it a challenge, but the pride in knowing I completed it will stay with me forever. Why did I do it? For one thing, I felt I had unfinished business from my 2014 challenge, so decided to extend it for another year. I feel a sense of satisfaction in completing what I set out to do, and am thrilled to have raised a further £1000+ to add to my total from 2014, bringing my grand total raised for Macmillan Cancer Support to over £6000! That’s £6000 that will make a huge difference to the lives of those affected by cancer and I want to thank everyone who has supported me in any way as I completed my challenges over the last two years.


But this year wasn’t just about the challenge, I also had a lot of fun: I discovered the joy of parkrun; I continued to dabble in learning the front crawl; I completed both the Jantastic and 5×50 challenges; I had a fantastic trip to Florida, where I even won running prizes; I ran lots of real and virtual races (as well as creating my own!); I won some competitions; I tried out some new training ideas; and there was that time I met Paula Radcliffe, a real highlight!


Oh yeah, and there was A LOT of bling!

Another mini challenge I set for myself was to complete at least one Virtual Runner UK event per month. With a final haul of 14 medals, I’d say I definitely achieved that one too!


In total I’ve run 648 miles this year, my highest annual mileage to date, and cycled 270, a bit less than last year. I also found a great graphic to represent my total mileage for the year at Veloviewer, which uses your Strava profile to collate the information:


Apparently. I climbed Everest this year!

All in all, I’ve had a fantastic year. I hope you’ve enjoyed following it all on the blog and will continue to follow my adventures into 2016. Remember you can also connect with my page on Facebook and use the links on the right hand side of my homepage (if you’re viewing this in a browser) to subscribe to the blog and never miss a post. But for now, I wish you all a very happy new year. Here’s to 2016!


What have been your highlights of 2015?
Do you have any challenges lined up for 2016 and beyond?

Friday Finds – 7th August

Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/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.

Athletics is experiencing a very sad time right now as allegations of doping and new stories of alleged/confirmed cheating emerge almost daily. In this past week, a new crisis unfolded as test results were leaked to The Sunday Times and the German broadcaster ARD/WRD. Much like with the recent allegations agains Alberto Salazar and the Oregon Project, many claims about doping were made in a new documentary. In the days since these new allegations came to light, we have seen reactions from coaches such Tony Minichiello, athletes such as Lisa Dobriskey and Eilidh Child, IAAF presidential candidate Lord Coe and, most importantly, the IAAF itself, who branded the allegations”sensationalist and confusing”:

It’s also worth reading Dan Roan’s piece for BBC Sport which covers the story so far, including the main points of the IAAF statement, and raises questions for the future:

I don’t believe we’ve reached the end of this story yet and it saddens me to think that there are probably many more stories/allegations to emerge. As I write this, news is breaking that Liliya Shobukhova, already serving a two year ban following irregularities in her biological passport (the method used to identify athletes who are doping), has now been stripped of her 2010 London Marathon title. Not only that, but the six World Marathon Majors have also reached agreement with the IAAF to carry out an increased number of out of competition tests on athletes taking part in their races. As far as the London Marathon is concerned, those finishing behind Shobukhova have been elevated by one place. Since she was 2nd in 2011, the year I ran the London Marathon, I guess that means I now more up one place to 17724th 😉
In all seriousness though, I can’t imagine what it must be like to to lose out on prize money, prestige and the chance to stand on the podium, all because someone else broke the rules, and I look forward to seeing how the world of athletics responds to this to ensure that the sport is clean.

On a more positive note, I was pleased to see that the initial findings of the UK Athletics review into the Oregon Project found “no evidence of wrongdoing” when it came to Mo Farah. The double Olympic champion has had a hard time recently in the media, no doubt causing a great deal of stress as he prepares to defend his World Championship titles in Beijing later this month. Mo might not always get things quite right when it comes to dealing with the media, but his performances on the track make him the one to beat these days and he’s always exciting to watch.

With so much scandal going on, it might have been easy to miss the news that there’s now just one year to go until the Olympic Games in Rio. There are all the usual worries about soaring costs and venues being ready on time, but as far as the competition itself is concerned, attention is beginning to turn to Team GB’s projected medal haul. No host country has ever gone on to increase its medal tally at the next summer Games, however this aspirational goal is being discussed as a possibility. I love watching the Olympics and there is a great deal of talent in Team GB. It would be a fantastic achievement to win more medals next summer, and just one more reason to ensure that our athletes are clean.

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

A Jolly June

After an eventful May, June brought with it a much-needed chance to rest and recover. I enjoyed a few days of light training (no running) to begin the month and recover from Edinburgh, then kept training ticking over with some shorter runs (10k max) alongside some strength and conditioning work. But the real feature of June was the chance to enjoy myself a bit after so many months of focused training to start the year. So let’s see what I got up to…

First up, I had a lovely meal out to mark the retiral of one of my colleagues. We had spent weeks planning the “entertainment” and part of this entailed us wearing sunhats and sunglasses when our colleague arrived – she’s a real sunshine girl and will no doubt be spending lots of time topping up her tan somewhere exotic in future. We looked ridiculous but it was all good fun!


Next up, in the middle of June, Steve and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. I can’t believe it’s been 5 years already as we seem to have crammed a lot into our time. I think my choice of card summed it up:

We enjoyed a fairly indulgent weekend which started with a trip to the cinema for a live screening of the Take That concert (yes, the one we went to in May!) live from the O2 in London. It was an unusual experience to be singing along and jumping about in a cinema, but great fun nonetheless. Since it was our anniversary, we got a ticket package which included a prosecco and canapé reception beforehand, in order to set the celebratory tone, before rounding off our evening with a cocktail on the way home. Lovely!


The following evening, we headed out for a more traditional anniversary meal at our friend Graeme’s restaurant which is our favourite place to eat. The evening featured more prosecco, some wine and an indulgent steak dinner which was absolutely delicious:

And our month of treating ourselves was rounded off last weekend with a family gathering to celebrate Steve’s mum’s birthday. We took her to the same hotel where Steve and I had our wedding reception and enjoyed high tea. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, “high tea” is a little different from what you might think of as a traditional “afternoon tea” as it’s served a little later and is a bigger meal. High tea is basically a cooked meal (the sort of thing we might think of as “pub grub” i.e. gammon steak, fish and chips, scampi, etc) served with tea and toast then followed by the things you would associate with afternoon tea such as cream scones and meringues. It’s a treat we rarely have but is always delicious. Since it was a milestone birthday, we also had birthday cake (although we saved our slices until the following day!).

All in all, June was about treating ourselves with good food, good company and good times. Oh, and I hit a blogging milestone too:


We trained hard through January to May, and having a bit of downtime was important in order to keep us injury-free and enjoying our running. I can’t believe that’s us halfway through the year now, and we certainly made the most of the past month in celebration of that. Let’s hope the second half of the year is as much fun as the first!

How was your June?
Any exciting plans for the second half of the year?

A Mad May

What a month! April may have been awesome, but May did its very best to maintain those high standards as I got back into some “proper” training, took on some big challenges and made a pretty serious addition to my bling collection in a month of utter madness!

The month began in style with a trip to the SSE Hydro in Glasgow to see Take That live. The “boys” always put on a fantastic show and I thoroughly enjoyed myself singing along to all my favourite songs!


My concert experience left me on a high as I found myself up sharp the next day and on my way to Pitcairngreen for the 46 mile Tayside Challenge. This was my longest bike ride to date and I was glad to have the company of my friend Debbie, a much more experienced cyclist than me, as we pedalled (mainly uphill it seemed!) in strong winds, rain and, at times, hail. Let’s just say it was a “character building” experience. There was a brilliant cake stop at half way though – very civilised – and it was a very well organised event overall. I would definitely recommend it to you.


I used this event as my May virtual race so a few days later a medal popped through the letterbox for me. Brilliant!

A week later, I was back in the saddle again for The Big One aka the Etape Caledonia. I was so intimidated by the idea of an 81 mile cycle that I didn’t really mention to anyone that I was doing it. I actually felt fairly confident I could cover the distance, given plenty of time, but was conscious of the infamous “sweep bus” and was quite convinced I would end up on the back of it before long. Nobody was more surprised than me when I actually completed the event, especially given the particularly apocalyptic weather Mother Nature blessed us with that day. It’s not a distance I’m in a hurry to cycle again, and even now I can hardly believe it was me who did it (I actually keep looking at the photos to confirm it!) but that hasn’t stopped me feeling particularly hardcore for taking on such a huge (for me) challenge!









Cycling events done, it was time to turn my attention back to running as I had just two weeks to prepare for the final part of my 2015 spring challenge. My previously injured quad muscle was feeling ready to go, and after a week of much more gentle exercise to allow my body to recover from the Etape, I was lacing up my trainers once more. I’d be lying if I said it was easy, because it wasn’t. Cycling had maintained my fitness, but I was lacking conditioning in my legs for running and while I had no problems from my quad muscle (I had done A LOT of strength work there), I did have all the usual issues of tight calves and some tension around the top of my quad to keep on top of as I re-introduced running into my training. It was great to be running again, but I mourned the loss of the form I had earlier in the year.

Yet somehow, it all worked out. The niggles miraculously vanished as race weekend rolled around, and despite my own misgivings about being able to get up and run a half marathon with the 10k and 5k already in my legs, I felt pretty good throughout. Not bad given the less-than-ideal training time.

Completing 4 races in 2 days (10k, 5k, half marathon and Hairy Haggis Team Relay) was an unbelievable experience. I truly didn’t know what to expect, but it turned out to be a very special weekend. I had fantastic support from the team at Macmillan who looked after me throughout (and made me feel like a bit of a celebrity) and there was something very satisfying about walking around with 4 medals around my neck! For me, this was probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I will no doubt run in the EMF again, but to take on this particular challenge again would probably be a mistake as it just wouldn’t be the same. I want to remember my Epic EMF Extravaganza for the special experience it was: an incredible way to round off my challenge and a fabulous way to finish May with a bang!








What a month indeed! A month I’m incredibly proud of and which is sure to be a highlight of my year.

How was your May? Did you take part in any events?
What are you most proud of?


Friday Finds – 26th June

Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/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.

The biggest story in athletics continues to be that of Alberto Salazar and the doping allegations against him. Hardly a day goes by without yet another story hitting the headlines, culminating this week with his long-awaited response to the allegations. Not only does he refute the claims made against him, but also uses the almost 12,000 word statement (summarised in The Guardian here) to include supporting evidence. Clearly this is a story that is set to run for some time, especially with the news that the USADA will now be conducting its own investigation, and there may still be difficult times ahead for many.

And in the wake of last week’s stories of Mo Farah missing a doping test when he failed to hear his doorbell (and some other athletes telling of near-misses), now cyclist Chris Froome has shared his experience of missing a test when on holiday in Italy this year thanks to some over-zealous hotel staff. This admission has led former heptathlete Kelly Sotherton to call for greater “openness” about missed tests, while revealing that she also missed two tests during her career.

I also found it helpful to read this BBC piece which not only explains the ‘whereabouts’ system which is used for drugs testing in sport, but also documents the experiences of their chief sports writer when he spent a month on the system. From his account, it’s easy to see how mistakes might happen in times of stress or emergency, even for the most organised of people. That said, when it is your “job” to be tested regularly, it should theoretically become an ingrained part of an athlete’s lifestyle. Still, we’re only human and mistakes can happen.

A more uplifting story this week is that of US teenager Candace Hill whose time over 100m has set a new world youth record. Not only is this a new record, but her time would have seen her finish 7th in the women’s final at the 2012 Olympic Games. Definitely one to look out for in the future!

Another superb performance came from BBC Breakfast presenter Louise Minchin who has qualified to represent Great Britain in the Age-Group Triathlon Team. She will head to Chicago for the ITU World Triathlon Championships in September. I remember hearing Minchin being interviewed on the radio a few weeks ago and was struck by how down to earth she was about her training. She only took up the sport of triathlon a couple of years ago and I felt it was easy to relate to her tales of fitting in training around a busy work and family schedule, as well as overcoming fears and making mistakes as she found her way into a new sport. I wish her the very best for September.

This week’s inspiration comes in the form of Michael Westphal, a 58 year old carpenter, whose time of 3:32:56 has earned him a place in the Boston Marathon. Why is that inspirational? Because Westphal, a keen runner until about 20 years ago, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2006 and believed he would never run again. Now, he not only has his BQ, but he has also raised around $32,800 for the Michael J Fox Foundation, roughly $1200 per mile! An incredible achievement.

Those of us who find our inspiration in movies may be interested to read that the much-loved classic Chariots of Fire is set to have a sequel thanks to Chinese backers. Hands up who now has that iconic theme tune in their head!

And finally, if you’ve ever cycled past a fast-food establishment and lamented the fact that you fancied a burger but had no way to carry it, then McDonalds has come up with a solution: the McBike. Originally created as part of a one-day event, but now possibly being trialled in Amsterdam and Tokyo, McBike offers a handlebar-friendly way to carry your Big Mac meal home. I’m not sure how this particularly encourages a healthier lifestyle, but I still found the concept amusing. I wouldn’t recommend trying to eat the meal whilst cycling though!

Happy reading
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 19th June

Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/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.

It’s been another pretty serious week in the world of sport. Allegations against Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar rumble on, with news organisations continuing to investigate in-depth. Sadly these allegations of doping are casting a shadow over athletics which some have compared to the situation that arose in cycling in light of similar revelations a few years ago. Only time will tell what the full impact of this is going to be, but there are certainly some difficult questions ahead for both the coach and those associated with him, particularly Mo Farah who is increasingly finding himself under scrutiny.

In cycling, too, controversy has arisen this week, this time over the subject of podium girls. A women’s race in Belgium has been overshadowed by the outcry surrounding the use of women in bikinis to greet the podium winners at the end of the race. It both saddens and angers me in equal measure that at a time when many in women’s cycling are looking to bridge the equality gap in road racing, and we are becoming more attuned to instances of everyday sexism in general, that there are still those who think scantily-clad women at the finish of an event is in any way appropriate.

A good news/bad news story this week surrounded gym usage. It seems that for the first time in a decade, the number of people regularly using a gym has fallen. This has led to speculation about the failure of the Olympic legacy of a healthier nation, however it’s not all bad news. The good news to come out of this survey is that we are in the midst of a running boom, with the number of people running regularly increasing by 73% in the same period. What the survey doesn’t reveal, however, is the reason for the shift. Are those who are running more the same people who are going to the gym less, or is it a different group altogether? Is cost a driving factor in the changing fortunes of gyms? Has the rise of parkrun helped motivate more people to run? Sometimes the bald statistics aren’t enough to tell the whole story.

Another study which made the news this week unexpectedly suggested that chocolate may be better for us than previously thought (and not just the high cocoa solids dark variety either). Based on the results of following the snacking habits of 21,000 people over 12 years, the study discovered that those who ate higher amounts of chocolate when they were younger tended to weigh less and exercise more. This also reportedly led to a 25% lower risk of cardiovascular disease as well as reducing stroke risk by 25%. But before you reach for the nearest family-sized bar, consider that once more the numbers might not necessarily tell the whole story, as this writer in The Guardian reminds us. Raw data is great, but often we really do need the finer detail behind the numbers in order to reach an informed conclusion.

On a lighter note, you may already be familiar with the concept of Strava Art, in which users create a picture or message out of their running/cycling route:


Image from Twitter

Now, budding Strava artists can download an app called Trace which will create a route based on a hand-drawn image. Perfect for those of us who could spend all day staring at a map and still never create a picture out of it! I might even give it a go some time…

And finally, you may have already come across this viral video which has been doing the rounds on social media, but just in case you haven’t, here’s footage from a half marathon in Tennessee where a bluegrass band “heckled” runners and played that well-known music from the movie Deliverance. Something to bear in mind on my forthcoming trip to Florida…!

Happy reading
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 29th May

Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/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’ve been thinking a lot lately about female participation in sport, especially since the last three days have been the annual activity days in my school for the junior pupils (seniors are on study leave for their exams). After accompanying a trip on Wednesday, Thursday saw me in school supervising some health and wellbeing workshops. Just after 9am, I found myself in the hall with a huge group of girls who had opted for a body combat session. Entering the hall, I noted them all standing around the perimeter of the room, trying to shrink out of sight. There were smiles, some waved nervously to me, and they glanced warily at the instructor who was finishing setting up. As he beckoned them forward to find some space, there was the usual hanging back that comes with being at an age when self-consciousness is prevalent. The girls watched the other staff present pulling up chairs to sit and observe, then the eyes all fell on me: what was I going to do? Well there was no way I was sitting this one out – I’d worn training kit and was ready to get stuck in! Just as the girls hoped, I headed for the middle of the floor and they quickly joined me.

From that point on, I was conscious that I had to set an example. Fortunately, I’m not one to hold back when it comes to exercise classes, so with Beast Mode fully engaged, I got stuck right in! Just like in the This Girl Can campaign, I wanted the girls to see that working hard, increasing my heart rate and getting hot and sweaty are good things and things that I was prepared to do. They know that I run, but are more used to seeing me smartly dressed at the front of the classroom discussing literature than sweating it out in a gym class, so I hoped that my participation might encourage them. I was pleased to see lots of girls working hard too and felt that I had done my bit. I had great fun and was amused to be told by some of my pupils that I’m “a machine”! They’re obviously easily impressed 😉


So this week, I want to focus on a bit of Girl Power. I feel really strongly about encouraging more women to have a go at sport and I know I am not alone. We have plenty of fantastic role models, but as this article published in The Guardian highlights, there are inequalities in the pay, opportunities and attention given to women’s sport. I’m pleased to see the author, a male, making a case for equality and noting some of the advances that have been made, however there is still a long way to go and some sports are lagging far behind others, as the article points out.

A great role model for women’s sport is Jo Pavey, who consistently proves that age and motherhood are not barriers to performing at a high level. Earlier this week, she once more proved her tenacity by winning the London 10k despite being unwell the night before. I read recently that Pavey will miss the World Championships in Beijing in order to balance her focus on qualifying for the Olympics in Rio next year with her commitments as a mum. She also understands what is best for her body in order to prepare well and peak at the right time, something we could probably all pay a bit more attention to!

But as I’m always keen to point out, great role models and inspirational figures don’t have to be elite athletes, there are plenty of everyday people doing amazing things all around the world. One such woman is Haneen Radi, an Arab-Israeli woman who has been fighting against tradition in her hometown to allow women to participate in a marathon. Feelings and conservative religious traditions run deep and plans for a marathon have resulted in a great deal of conflict. For now, Radi is taking a step back, however she is keen to continue promoting women’s running as she knows how much better she feels when she is able to run.

Another inspiration is Helene Neville who, since 2010, has been systematically running around the perimeter of the USA in solo, unsupported stages. As a cancer survivor, Neville aims to inspire others to “rethink the impossible”. I know my idea of “impossible” has changed since I started to run, and I hope Neville can inspire the same change in others.

Finally, this article from Total Women’s Cycling reminds us that in endurance events, age is no barrier to achieving great things. This rundown of women who took up cycling later in life serves as an excellent reminder that anything is possible, whatever our age!

Happy Reading!
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 22nd May

Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/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.

Sometimes I find that there’s a bit of a theme in the articles I come across in any given week. Recently, with spring marathon season well underway, almost everything I saw was marathon-related; other weeks I can’t move for articles about incredible challenges. This week, it seems, my news feeds have been full of stories of inspiration.


Following on from last week’s find about the man who cycled from Amsterdam to London on a trike adapted to accommodate his two cats, here’s another animal-related piece. Some of you might already have come across the story about 65 year old Maggie Scorer who is cycling 5000 miles around the coast of the UK for charity. And as if that wasn’t enough, she’s accompanied by her dog Oscar who she tows behind her. Maggie is becoming quite the seasoned “adventurer”, having previously sailed halfway around the world and cycled the Great Wall of China. At an age when many are hoping to retire and settle down for a well-deserved rest, Maggie’s continued commitment to physical challenges and fundraising is an inspiration. I wonder what she’ll do next!

Another fantastic story I came across this week on the BBC has its roots in the 2012 Olympics. At that time, 29 year old Jen Offord was pretty sceptical about sport, but all that was set to change. By the time the last Olympic medal was presented, she was inspired to get active by trying not just one, but all 38 of the women’s olympic sports. Yes, you read that right, 38 sports! Not only does she embody the Olympic legacy to “inspire a generation”, but she’s a shining example of how exercise and a sense of adventure can change your life. Had it not been for this post-Olympic challenge, Jen would still be grinding away in a job she didn’t really like. Instead, she had the confidence to make some huge changes and is now undertaking her next big challenge, a 2500 mile cycle in the USA. Jen is also working hard to raise the profile of women’s sport, something which I am a strong believer in. I wish her luck with her challenge and will be checking in on her blog for updates.

Speaking of Olympics, one of my sporting inspirations is heptathlete (and face of the 2012 Games) Jessica Ennis-Hill, so I was thrilled to see her announce that she will be returning to competition later this month with a bid to accumulate the required number of points she needs in order to defend her Olympic title in Rio next year. There had been some doubt about whether or not she would be ready to compete thanks to a niggling Achilles problem, but following some recent competitions in individual events, the signs are looking positive for a return. It will be great to see Jess competing again and I truly hope her injury woes are behind her now. That said, she has faced injury difficulties before and come back stronger than ever. I think her grit and determination are part of the reason I find her so inspiring and I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for a successful comeback.

Another inspirational figure in athletics in Roger Bannister, the first man to break the 4-minute mile in May 1954. An amazing feat in itself, but perhaps even more so when we consider that Bannister was not a professional athlete, but a proud amateur: he was at the time a medical student and ran for recreation. These days, record-breaking athletes train full-time and often have a degree of celebrity status about them, but Bannister is proof that with a bit of determination, anyone can achieve what they set out to do. Much was made of the 60th anniversary of this feat last year, and now Bannister himself has decided to put the shoes he wore on that historic occasion up for auction, with some of the proceeds going to neurological research and other charitable causes. Best hope you win the lottery though, as the shoes are expected to go for a pretty hefty sum!

Finally, one of the most inspiring “fat to fit” stories of recent times is that of Steve Way, whose journey from being an overweight smoker to 2:15 marathoner and 100km record-holder has been well documented. Featured in today’s Guardian running blog, Way chats to Kate Carter and recounts his journey from sofa to ultra runner, offering advice and motivation for the rest of us. I enjoyed reading this as it’s yet another reminder that anything is possible. Way will be running in this year’s Edinburgh marathon and I’ll be hoping to catch a glimpse of him at some point over the weekend to give him a shout of encouragement.

Happy reading
The Running Princess