Friday Finds – 8th December

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.

Hello! How has your week been? Mine has been interesting to say the least, but at long last it’s Friday and time to get the weekend started with some Friday Finds

As the year edges towards its close many of us are evaluating our goals for the year and contemplating the things we want to achieve in 2018. With that in mind, you might find this first article interesting. Writing for the BBC, Amanda Ruggeri investigates goals and what can lead to both success and failure. I’ll bear this in mind when setting my goals for 2018.

Also thinking about the end of the year is Strava. This week the social network for athletes released their annual report filled with statistics gleaned from the activities logged throughout 2017 (although I was surprised at the “average” people logging 120-130 miles for the year. That seems low to me, but maybe my perception is skewed by marathon training?). In the article below, Women’s Running pulls together some of the headline numbers. If you’re a data geek, enjoy!

Next, an examination of the ubiquitous pre-race kit photo. We’ve all been known to take those “flat runner” photos, especially when we travel for our race (guilty as charged!), but in this piece for Outside, Martin Fritz Huber argues that when it comes to the pros there’s more to those photos than simple sponsor promotion, that they have become part of a pre-race ritual that encourages focus and creates a degree of control. And that’s where they can be useful for all of us, whether we’re aiming to be on the podium or just happy to finish.

On a lighter note, two-time US Olympian Desi Linden posted an amusing tweet in which she described several American pro runners as emojis. I love this idea and it got me wondering about the emoji I would like to represent me. It has to be the princess since I’m The Running Princess! 👸🏻 What would you choose and why?

And finally, every week I like to finish with a lighter/humorous article or video. This week, Canadian Running Magazine has done the hard work for me and rounded up some of the strangest running moments of the year. I know I’ve covered some of these and remember reading/hearing about others. Maybe you remember some too…

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

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Friday Finds – 1st December

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.

Ok, ok, I know it’s Saturday not Friday. Unavoidable I’m afraid due to a retiral dinner on Friday evening and no time to get my post prepped in advance. Still, I’m here today to share a few interesting stories to see you into the rest of your weekend.

First up this week is a post about shoes. If I’m honest, I’m way more interested in running shoes than any other kind of shoe, probably because I spend so much time in them and have spent a long time seeking the “perfect” shoe for me. In this post, Jonathan Beverly examines some of the changes that have taken place in the design of running shoes over the past decade or so. Anyone who has been running for a while will no doubt recognise some of these:

Next, some interesting news from parkrun. I read recently that there were moves afoot to launch parkrun events within some UK prisons and the effect of this has been extraordinary. Because of a 5k run once a week, many participants have been motivated to adopt a more healthy lifestyle, make greater use of the prison gym and encourage others to follow suit. Since studies have noted that sport can engage prisoners in education and help prevent re-offending, this is a very positive step and one university is looking to measure the long-term effects of the initiative on both the prisons and the prisoners.

Now a quirky story from The Washington Post. As the city pilots a number of different bike-share systems, the newspaper decided to test them out with a race. The results came down to more than just the fastest cyclist: the bike itself, the pickup/parking locations and routes taken also played a big part. I love these kinds of ideas which really put various transport options to the test.

On a different topic, I enjoyed reading more about the positive benefits of yoga. It’s fairly well-know what a difference yoga can make to both physical and mental health, and I definitely noticed this when I did yoga every day as part of a 100 day challenge. Reading this has reminded me that I really need to get back into the habit of daily yoga. I think I feel a new goal coming on…

And finally, it was the headline of this final article that caught my eye -how on earth could Harry Potter help someone to run a marathon? Did I overlook something in my reading of the books? Perhaps some kind of “Fleet Feet” potion. But no, sadly no marathon-related sorcery to help someone to run 26.2 miles, more the power of having something good to listen to on the run. I’m a big podcast listener, but one day I’ll maybe try an audiobook instead.

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 24th November

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

Happy Friday! It’s the Last Friday in November (I hope my American friends had a great Thanksgiving) and the whole world seems to have gone mad for shopping deals. If Black Friday is not your thing, then here are a few articles for you to read as you settle into the weekend.

We may not mark Thanksgiving here in the UK, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy some Thanksgiving-themed articles, beginning with this humorous piece from Motiv Running to help us prepare for the season of eating ahead. These things have to be taken seriously and this advice most definitely applies to Christmas Day as well!

Sticking with the Thanksgiving theme, I thought I’d add a few stats as I know lots of you are as keen as I am on a statistic. If that’s you, then enjoy the following infographic from Under Armour, as they share stats on eating and exercise habits from Thanksgiving 2016. I found it really interesting to see how the days around the holiday compared to the average.

Next up, something I find inspiring. I’m conscious of feeling very busy at the moment, but that’s nothing compared to the routine of one of my favourite athletes, Laura Muir. Not only is she working 70 hours per week at an animal hospital as she completes her veterinary degree, but she continues to train as an elite athlete and after an incredibly successful 2017 already has her sights set on events in 2018. She must be so efficient with her time, such as batch cooking her food, and that’s maybe something I should consider in order to make my life a bit easier through marathon training.

Another story I’ve followed this year is the story of Colin McCourt. McCourt is a former world-class runner who, after retiring from the sport, stopped running and gained weight. Earlier this year he made a bet with his friends – if he could break 16 minutes for 5k, they would each have to pay him £100; if not, he would have to get each of their names tattooed on his body! That’s quite an incentive to get fit again! As the challenge began, McCourt was running 5k in 24 minutes, something closer to my average pace than that of a world-class competitor, but in the past few days it has been reported that he smashed his goal and ran the distance in 15:38!! I wish I could make that much difference to my pace in 8 months!

And finally, there’s nothing better than watching a race where the competitors battle right to the end…and that’s exactly what happened at this year’s Manchester Road Race in Connecticut. In the end barely a second separated first and second place in the women’s race as the tape was broken. Check out the video in the link below (and I suggest you keep scrolling through for the brilliant tweet from the winner of the men’s race!).

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 17th November

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.

Helllo! Thank goodness it’s Friday! I’m rather looking forward to a relaxing weekend, but first some reading material…

After her historic win in New York the woman of the moment is most definitely Shalane Flanagan. Here, Lindsay Crouse, writing in The New York Times, examines what she refers to as the ‘Shalane Flanagan Effect’:

Next up, an article with a headline featuring a word which usually prompts a sharp intake of breath from me: the word “literally”. Thankfully, this particular writer has used it correctly and it turned out to be fairly important in introducing the idea in the article – that exercise helps an area of your brain to grow. Studies therefore suggest that exercise could play a similar part in brain health as we age as things like puzzles or taking supplements. Another big plus for regular exercisers!

Now, one for the data fans. If you’re a committed Strava user then you might already have come across the heat map the company recently released. Compiled from countless hours of running and riding (over a billion activities!) it shows the most popular routes around the world and is absolutely fascinating.

On a lighter note, if you race regularly then you probably have some awareness of the sort of sights you often see when it comes to other runners. Women’s Running staff have obviously been thinking along similar lines and have compiled a list of spectator types you always see at races. I’ve definitely seen them all…have you?

And finally, we runners can be fairly easy to poke fun at, but at least sometimes that humour is spot on. Check out this cartoon from The New Yorker that really captures the modern connection between running and social media. Guilty as charged!!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 10th November

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

Welcome to the post formerly known as Friday Finds, which this week is taking the form of Sunday Stories thanks to some difficulties with fitting in everything I had to do at the end of the week (I’ll cover this more in my Week in Review so watch out for that if you want to know more about what I’ve been up to). But never mind, let’s just call this one fashionably late and crack on with some of the articles that have caught my eye this week in the aftermath of the New York marathon.

First, a follow-up to one of last week’s stories about blind runner Simon Wheatcroft and his bid to make history by using some new technology to help him run the marathon without a guide. Here’s a more in-depth article about Wheatcroft, his background and how he got on in New York:

This next article was written in advance of the marathon, however it still remains interesting for the statistics it pulls apart. Time magazine has studied finish times of NYC marathon runners over several decades and come to the conclusion that finishing times are getting slower. Not a massive surprise as this is consistent with recent studies indicating a general slowing in times, however what I liked about this article is the discussion of possible reasons behind this, all of which are dismissed by a spokesperson for the New York Road Runners who simply points out that they want to make the distance accessible to all. Hear hear!

However the New York Times seems to suggest that the popularity of the NYC marathon (probably the biggest marathon in the world when we look at participant numbers) flies in the face of a US trend for declining participation in races. I’m sure I’ve come across this kind of thing before, however I would shy away from saying that the running boom is “over” as race participation does not necessarily correlate with the number of people running. I see more and more runners out and about when I’m training and numbers at parkrun continue to grow. Perhaps the decline in racing has more to do with costs and/or an increase in available revents which inevitably thins the field. What are your views?

History buffs may enjoy this next article which gives details of a marathon distance race in New York in 1896 – quite a bit before the NYC marathon as we know it which was founded in 1970 and a year before the inaugural Boston marathon! I do love having random facts like this up my sleeve!

And finally, everyone loves a high five as they run a race. Usually these high fives come from children lining the route but in New York one spectator went one better and positioned their dog to give runners a high five. That would have made me smile for several miles if it happened to me!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

 

Friday Finds – 3rd November

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.

Hello and happy Friday! With the New York marathon coming up this weekend (I know some of my readers are running so good luck!) there’s no shortage of interesting stories in my news feeds this week. Here are some that caught my eye…

I’ll start with the most negative of the stories I’ve seen of late…one about cheating. We are all by now familiar with the ongoing doping scandal in sport and I have previously mentioned the work of Derek Murphy at Marathon Investigations as well as how some runners make use of social media to cheat. Yet even with all that I hadn’t considered the scale of cheating among amateur runners until I read this piece from The Telegraph. Cutting a course or getting someone else to run on your behalf is a mindset I just don’t understand. Is a medal or a finish time really as important as all that? For me, these have to be earned and I couldn’t feel comfortable knowing I had acquired them some other way.

At the other end of the scale we find the inspirational runners, those showing us that nothing should stand in the way of what we want to achieve. One such runner is Simon Wheatcroft who lost his sight in his teens. We usually think of blind/visually impaired runners working with a guide runner, however this Sunday in New York Simon Wheatcroft will be a pioneer as he runs the marathon solo thanks to new technology which will help him detect obstacles. It’s an amazing advancement and I look forward to finding out he gets on.

And now for some science! If you have a race coming up then it may help you to know that you can run more efficiently (and hence feel better) if you smile. Sound strange? Well it’s apparently a strategy employed by Eliud Kipchoge during the Breaking2 marathon. The research behind this claim is broken down by Alex Hutchison in this piece for Outside online, and while further research needs to be done on this subject, it is absolutely fascinating that a simple smile can improve your running.

Some further research this week looks at the issue of how best to recover post-run. It’s a controversial topic and it seems that every new study alters the advice. This latest study plays right into my hands as it suggests that muscles recover best when they are warmed rather than chilled. I must admit I’ve never taken to the ice bath but am very fond of a nice soak in a hot bath on the day of my long runs. Perhaps I’ve been getting that part right all along!

And finally, one thing we all know is key to running well is to be relaxed. Unfortunately, keeping calm when you’re about to run 26.2 miles is not always easy, so runners at the NYC marathon will have access to therapy dogs to help the pre-race tensions melt away. So they get to play with puppies then run an iconic marathon route? I want to do that!!!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 27th 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.

Hello! It’s Friday once more so that means it’s time for some Friday Finds. I’ve written this one in advance as I’m out and about this weekend, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that no big story broke during today 😉

This week, I’m going to start with every runner’s worst nightmare – getting lost during a race. We’ve all been there, more than likely before our first ever race and certainly before a first marathon. It feeds our anxious dreams even though in reality we know that we’re not exactly elite and will have more than enough people to follow around the course. But what if you are an elite athlete looking for a win and you take a wrong turn? That’s exactly what happened in the recent Venice marathon when the leaders were led the wrong way by the lead motorbike. They did get back on track, but it was too late and the race was won by a previously unknown local runner. Oops!

A fun companion to this is this piece from Runner’s World. Whilst acknowledging that the majority of races are well-managed events, the writer considers some of the main mishaps that might result in runners having a less than ideal experience. I’ve certainly encountered a few of these in my time (if you have to give your T-shirt size when you enter, how can there not be one for you when you finish???). What about you?

On a happier note, I really enjoyed this column in The Guardian in which the writer describes, in vivid detail, the experience of running in a new place for the first time, before breaking down some of the science behind why those memories are so much stronger than those of our other runs. Yes, there’s the break from routine, but there’s also an argument that it could be evolutionary in nature, related to our minds noting landmarks as we ventured into new territory. Whatever the reason, I enjoyed the way this piece was written and it got me thinking about some of my more vivd running memories.

In a similar scientific vein is this piece on “flow”, that state of mind we experience when we’re so engaged in an activity that we no longer notice time or effort. It’s that part of a run when we feel like we could go on for ever and ever. It’s a moment of optimal performance and heightened mental awareness that we are always seeking, but which is not always easy to find. Perhaps armed with a bit of science, we might find it more often…

And finally, if you think running a marathon is hard, how about running whilst juggling FIVE balls? Well that’s what “joggler” (yup, that’s what it’s called!) Michal Kapral attempted in the Toronto Waterfront marathon. Sadly, things did not go according to plan, however Kapral already holds several “joggling” world records, including the one I mentioned in this previous post. I’m sure that’s not the last we’ve heard of him!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 20th 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.

Happy Friday everyone! I hope you’ve had a great week and are looking forward to an awesome weekend. I’m here as usual to kick things off with a selection of interesting articles I’ve come across recently.

I’m going to start with the sort of data analysis I love to geek out over, so if you love stats and cool graphs, this one’s for you! Back in July I drew your attention to a study suggesting American runners are getting slower. Now, the same team has dug a little deeper to see how each US state compares, with some interesting results. Although I’m in the UK, I do love this kind of thing and often wonder how other parts of the world compare. What I found of particular interest was the comparison of male and female times in different states, and the breakdown of participation – there are some states where more women participated in the studied marathons than men – awesome! There is a calculator at the start which allows you to plug in your times and see how you compare, and I’ll admit to being quite pleased with mine! Have fun checking it out!

On the subject of marathons, I’ve previously written about Derek Murphy from Marathon Investigation whose mission it is to seek out and challenge people he believes to be cheats e.g. those who cut courses (like in the recent Mexico City marathon) or those who have faked data or bandited a race. And banditing is the subject of this next article. For those unfamiliar, it’s the practice of copying someone’s race bib from those excited, pre-race social media posts then making their own to gain access to the race. The piece is interesting in that it gives the “bandit” point of view and includes some comments suggesting it’s not that big a deal. Ok, so it’s not a major crime, but a marathon place can be expensive so I’d be pretty upset if I thought people were avoiding that, and even more so if the presence of so-called bandits led to a shortage of medals or other race goodies for those who had paid for a place and were therefore entitled to them. Definitely a debate that could rumble on, and I’d love to know your thoughts.

My next find is one of those ones that comes from a fairly unlikely source for a running blog – music. Regular readers may know that I dabble a bit in playing the violin, an instrument I learned at school and in recent years took up again in order to play in a local symphony orchestra. This past week I came across this piece reporting on an article written by jazz musician Wynton Marsalis. In it, Marsalis sets out his twelve ways to practice and notes that this can apply not just to music but to studying, sports or any new skills. I have to say, from reading this I can see the connections. In a way, it’s the kind of thing I try to do when trying to help a pupil see how they can transfer skills from their hobbies or other interests into their school work. The article contains a link to the full original text:

One of the things that running is guaranteed to give us is stories. Chat to any seasoned runner and they’re bound to be able to regale you with tales of all kinds of triumphs and mishaps. With that in mind, I really enjoyed this piece from Motiv Running by ultra runner Dakota Jones. It tells of a mishap when language, race waves and chocolate croissants collide…

And finally, I make no secret of the fact that the treadmill is not my favourite piece of workout equipment, only to be used when running outside is absolutely not an option. But one runner has taken treadmill training to a whole new level. Don’t try this one at home!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 13th 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.

Bonjour! I’m back from my trip to France and a little incredulous that it’s Friday again. Last Friday actually feels like weeks ago, and even the first days of the trip seem like they were much longer ago than they really were! Despite being away, I still have several finds to share with you tonight.

First, a story that struck a chord with me as it reminded me of some of my own experiences in marathon running. Dan Kapinus was keen to break 4 hours in the Chicago marathon and used his own data to help refine his training. What he hadn’t banked on was the hot conditions on race day, and no amount of technology could solve that for him. Having now made sub-4 hours my own goal (and suffered in the heat at this year’s Paris marathon) I can completely understand where he’s coming from.

One of the next big events on the marathon calendar is, of course, New York. This year the New York Road Runners have a new campaign featuring the slogan It Will Move You to promote the event. It’s designed to capture the emotions around the marathon experience, and I have to say that having watched the 30 second video in this article, I think it’s done that very successfully – I may not have run New York, but I’ve enough marathon experience to feel that familiar stirring of emotions as I watch the clip. Definitely a race I’d love to do one day…

This next piece fascinates me. I’ve always been fairly certain that I must look awful when I finish a marathon – tired, emotional, and aged. Looking at the before and after shots of runners at a 125k race, I can see that’s very much true. Everyone looks tired and their faces are more drawn, but the emotions of completing the challenge, of conquering physical limits, is written all over their faces. These pictures really do tell a story of everything that has happened in between and I love them!

Another video, this time from a most unlikely source for a running blog – US gameshow Jeopardy. In a recent edition marathon legend Ed Whitlock, who sadly died earlier this year at the age of 86, was featured in one of the “prompts” (for those unfamiliar, the “answer” is given first and contestants respond in the form of a question). Fortunately, the contestant knew the correct response!

And finally, we runners certainly do enjoy a challenge, but I for one have no plans to give this latest craze a go. American runners have started the “porta potty” challenge, which involves fitting as many people as possible into a portable toilet and filming the exit sequence. Apparently, upwards of 30 people can fit in there. I’m trying REALLY hard not to think about how they’re managing that as spending time in a portable toilet is not one of the most appealing parts of race day. I hope they’re trying this out before the toilets see too much use!!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 6th 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.

Happy Friday! It’s the end of term and I’m packing for my school trip to France, but never fear as I managed to put this week’s post together in advance!

This week is a big one in the calendar of runners here in the UK as the results of the London marathon ballot come out. For the majority, it was a rejection as the numbers entering the ballot far outweigh the number of available places, but given this one event has dominated my news feeds and social media this week, I’m going to begin with a potentially controversial article. I’m not sure if the writer is entirely serious in the ideas he puts forward, however the comments below it certainly made my blood boil. I’d love to know what you think:

Ok, so we might not all be troubling the top marathon runners any time soon, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take on a marathon (or marathons) if they make us happy. And what isn’t to love about the Marathon du Medoc – “for drinkers with a running problem”. I always think this sounds like a great event, so enjoyed reading this account of it in Runner’s World.

And speaking of the top marathon runners, have you ever wondered what it would be like to follow their training regime? Matt Fitzgerald decided to find out and became an honorary member of an elite team. Despite sustaining an injury, he is now tapering for the Chicago marathon this weekend and it will be interesting to see how he gets on. In the meantime, this piece is provides some reflection on the process.

Next up, an intriguing suggestion around age groups. While this is a US article and age groups vary a little here in the UK, the origin of this setup is something I’ve never considered, nor is the question at the centre of the article about what would happen if we could choose our age group based on how we felt. In reality I suspect that would cause chaos, but there are certainly days when we feel more energetic than others (and days when we feel like an 80 year old with a walking stick could go faster lol!).

And finally, dogs aren’t usually allowed on the Chicago marathon course, but an exception is being made for Gordon, a paralysed miniature Doberman who will complete the course this Sunday in his owner’s backpack! It’s all part of their fundraising for a an animal charity. I hope they both do really well.

Happy reading,
The Running Princess