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

 

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Week In Review – Winter Begins…

With the clocks going back last weekend and the calendar turning over to November, I guess I have to accept that winter has officially arrived. I don’t enjoy colder weather, but I do enjoy snuggling up under a cosy blanket and looking forward to the festivities of December. In the meantime, I’m continuing to get back into the swing of regular training, but without any pressure. There needs to be some downtime after two marathon training cycles this year, so while it’s important to train, if something else comes up then I’m not going to stress about it. Join me now as I link up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL  (they’re both ran the NYC marathon this weekend so I hope they had an awesome race!) to share more about my week.

After being so busy in the week before, here’s how this past week worked out:

Monday – rest
Tuesday – bike @ gym
Wednesday – short run
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – Edinburgh trip

I decided on Monday that rest was the most important thing as I was feeling tired. I was at work later due to a meeting then rather than go for a swim I headed straight home to get comfy. I was actually so tired that I went to bed before 9pm and was asleep shortly after. Wow!

As a result, I awoke on Tuesday morning after 8.5 hours of sleep. I was refreshed and ready to go! When I finished work I went to the gym and got set up on the bike with my Kindle again. I started a new book and pedalled fairly hard for half an hour. Often I like to go down to the sauna after this but this week preferred to head right home and spend some time with my cat as she was a little under the weather again. This also meant that I could be in bed at a reasonable time once more.

Wednesday is still a running day, even if the distance has been a little shorter of late. This week I had longer to fit in my run before orchestra so decided on a similar loop to the one I had done the previous Sunday (a bit under 4 miles). It felt good, but was the first run of the winter that was properly dark from start to finish. Time for a bit more high-vis!

IMG_4570By Thursday I was really looking forward to Ashtanga yoga, but found myself a bit behind schedule and was worried I might not make it. By some miracle (and spending less than 10 minutes in the house to get changed!) I got there in time. It was great to have some quiet time after rushing, and I was pleased to hold “Wheel” for the full 5 breaths again. Definitely improving at that one!

Friday was another rest day, this time because the cat had a check-up scheduled at the vet. She was much better than earlier in the week, but she hadn’t been in to see the vet for a month and I wanted to review her meds as well as make sure she had a check to see if there had been any change in her health conditions. We did make a small tweak to one of her meds, but other than that she was about the same which was good news. After that I enjoyed a relaxing evening of heading out for some food with Steve then relaxing in front of the TV with a glass of wine (and the cat!).

IMG_4573I awoke on Saturday to a crisp morning for parkrun. As the first Saturday of the month it was pacer day and I was the 28 minute pacer. I was also volunteering for the 25th time which means that I will shortly be able to claim my 25 volunteer T-shirt 🙂

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IMG_4577As usual I was a little bit quick, but by less than 20 seconds which is not too bad, and had a lovely run. It’s nice to run at an easier pace and I enjoyed chatting to several others as I made my way around the course. It was a bumper event with 336 runners (a new record for us) which was great to see.

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IMG_4620Post-run Steve and I got changed then headed into town to get some shopping (after a scone and cup of tea that is!).

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It was an early start on Sunday to drive through to Edinburgh as Steve had a place in the men’s 10k. It was a chilly morning but bright so we had great views as we drove over the new Queensferry Crossing.

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IMG_4648Safely parked, we made our way over to the Royal Mile via Starbucks for a caffeine hit and toilet stop.

IMG_4651The plan was for me to set off as soon as Steve was ready, but before the race began, in order to reach the finish line at Murrayfield Stadium before he finished. I set off with a podcast playing but wasn’t even past the castle before I got a call from Steve.

IMG_4653It turned out that as he warmed up he was getting a problem with his calf and had decided not to race. Probably a sensible decision. I returned to meet him and suggested that since it was just around the corner we (really I!) should pay a visit to the Harry Potter shop Diagon House which had opened in the summer. It’s on the street that is thought to be J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley and I’ve been desperate to visit, but back in the summer the queues were massive!

IMG_4654Inside, I was spellbound and passed some happy time taking photos and browsing the merchandise. I bought a cloth bag with a picture of Harry Potter in cat form, as well as a couple of postcards for my classroom.

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IMG_4660After that we went for a coffee (and the first mince pie of the season!) then had a look in the Apple Store before heading over to our favourite place – Hotel Chocolat. Their products are amazing and there’s a nice cafe. They also had festive drinks on and we had the most amazing salted caramel and clementine hot chocolate. Yum!

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IMG_4683Then with all that chocolate goodness inside us we headed back to the car for the drive home as we were both in need of a nap after the early start (and I hadn’t slept too well the right before).

All in all, a pretty good week rounded off with a brilliant weekend, at least for me!

Are you a Harry Potter fan?
Any exciting plans for the festive season?

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

Week In Review – A Busy One!

Some weeks are pretty quiet, others are super busy and this week has definitely been a busy one! Join me as I link up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share more.

Part of the busy-ness came from the start of the new school term which began with some observations by a team visiting from the local authority. Not quite an inspection, but an opportunity to prepare for future inspections. On top of that I had some things in the diary but still wanted to fit in some training to keep things ticking over. Here’s how it looked:

Monday – sports massage
Tuesday – bike @ the gym
Wednesday – short run
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – short run

After getting back to the pool last week I had to skip it this week as I had a sports massage scheduled. Normally I would squeeze in a quick swim beforehand, however I needed to use this time to have some food as I was heading straight from the massage to meet my sister at the cinema to see a screening of The Princess Bride. It was so good to see it on the big screen, and everyone there clearly knew it well as we were all reacting ahead of some of the lines, but I’m trying to gloss over the fact that it was being shown to mark the film’s 30th anniversary, as that makes me feel really old!

F9FB4E95-CDCC-472E-A577-2BD650E33C42I was back to it on Tuesday with another 30 minute cycle on the bike at my gym. I quite enjoy getting myself set up with my Kindle and pedalling hard while catching up on some reading. I can’t do that when I”m doing intervals so take the chance when I’m not. sometimes you just have to multi-task to get everything done!

Wednesday was one of those super busy days. I’m committed to going to orchestra rehearsals each Wednesday until our concert but am keen to fit a run in as well. Usually this will be fine (it’s only in the short term) but this week I had an appointment in town so it was after 5:30pm before I got home. Somehow I needed to run, shower and eat before my sister picked me up a little after 7pm. Challenge extended…! I was changed and out the door super fast with a loop in mind. I knew it would be less than 3 miles but planned to attack it hard since there was time pressure. I wanted to be back by 6:15pm and was home at 6:12! I stuck my dinner in the oven while I showered and changed, then finished it just as my sister texted to say she was on her way. Yes it was rushed, but I was impressed by my own efficiency.

IMG_4511After all that I was grateful for my Ashtanga yoga class on Thursday evening. It was a busy class this week but it felt great to stretch and relax. Even better, I managed “Wheel” for a full 5 breaths, which is what I’ve been working towards. After managing to hold the posture for 4 breaths last week I felt confident I could manage more – perhaps it’s all about belief rather than strength? Next is to manage more than 1 round as at present I switch to yoga bridge after that.

Usually Friday is pretty chilled but this was another busy day for me. As soon as I got home from work I Changed and headed over to the studio for my session with Steve. My right shoulder was still feeling a bit tight so I wanted to do some work around that. I had also noticed something in my right foot/ankle that needed a little tweak. Nothing painful, more a minor functional movement issue. We did some exercises to address it as well as doing some work on the TRX.

IMG_4518Afterwards I was straight home to change (again) and headed out to grab some Chinese food before heading into town. It was the opening night of the Women of the World (WoW) Festival with Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, in conversation with the founder of WoW and some teen girls who were very articulate and had thought carefully about the issues they wanted to discuss. The focus was on gender issues rather than political ones. I really enjoyed it and am hoping to write a bit more about the festival overall.

IMG_4520I had bought a weekend pass for the WoW Festival and wanted to attend sessions throughout both Saturday and Sunday. The first one I wanted to go to on Saturday was at 10:30am, so I had some logistics to figure out to make sure I could get to parkrun as well. To avoid car parking issues, I walked to parkrun carrying a bag with a change of clothes which I kept in Steve’s car while I ran (he had been away earlier for a PT client). I ran hard, but was a little hampered by strong winds. On the plus side, only losing 3 seconds on last week’s time tells me I was running better and it was the conditions that prevented a further improvement. I’d love to manage another sub-24 before the end of the year, however conditions now can make that tricky.

IMG_4522As soon as I finished I grabbed my bag from the car and headed over to the festival venue where I had a very glamorous change in the toilets and made it into the session with time to spare. Not bad! I then had a great day listening to discussion of various women’s issues and browsing the stalls from an assortment of organisations. My favourite was the one selling “empowerment pants” and I couldn’t resist buying a pair – like superhero pants but for wearing when you need a reminder to be strong, I loved the idea!
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Sunday saw me awoken early by the cat, who was having an empty for bowl crisis! The clock by my bed said just after 6:30am so I got up and fed her in a bleary-eyed state before returning to bed as I didn’t need to be up just yet. I awoke naturally around 7:15, well-rested but a little confused as my phone alarm had not gone off…until I realised that the clock by my bed had not gone back when the clocks changed overnight, unlike my phone which knew the “real” time was 6:15! After a busy week I was going to benefit from an extra hour of time 🙂

I used that hour to sort out a few bits and pieces in the house before heading out for a short run. Steve needed to do a road run as he has a race next weekend, but I just wanted to get out for half an hour or so, as I knew overdoing it after a busy week would be a bad idea, especially since I was heading back to WoW afterwards.

IMG_4549I had plenty of time to run, shower and have a good breakfast before heading into town for the first session of the day at 10:30am. I then enjoyed a second fantastic day of talks, debate and workshops, as well as connecting with someone else I only previously knew from a Tough Girl connection.

It was (mostly) a brilliant week, especially the WoW festival, but I must make sure to prioritise some rest in the week ahead to make sure things don’t get on top of me in the coming weeks. Any excuse to put my feet up for a bit!

How has your week been?
Have you ever been to a WoW festival?

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

Week In Review – Back On It!

For the second week of my break from school, I had two main aims. Firstly, to get a bit of rest and recover not just from the term before but the jam-packed trip to France (not that I’m complaining about that one!) and to re-establish the routine, if not the intensity of my training. As usual, I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share the details.

With no immediate races on the horizon, I can enjoy a bit of easing off, but at the same time don’t want to lose loads of fitness. This week I wanted to get back to my usual routine, but keeping the intensity down for now. Here’s how things ended up:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike @ the gym
Wednesday – easy run
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – trail run with Steve

Monday was a funny day. It was wet, unusually dark and thanks to a combination of debris from forest fires in Spain/Portugal and Hurricane Ophelia bringing Sahara sands north, the air had a strange, almost apocalyptic orange hue (which was even stronger the further south you travelled in the UK). All I wanted to do was curl up and hibernate, but I forced myself out the door to get moving and decided on a swim. I actually couldn’t tell you the last time I went for a swim. For a variety of reasons, I just haven’t been to the pool lately so I had no idea what to expect as I headed there (walking to make sure I got my steps for the day!). My swimming can be questionable at the best of times, however it felt not too bad and didn’t take me long to settle into a rhythm. It felt nice to be in the water again, and it helped my calves which were a bit weary from my return to running over the preceding weekend. Once home I had a lovely relaxing afternoon catching up with some TV.

On Tuesday I took myself back to the gym, this time to use the bikes. During my marathon training cycle I was doing intervals on the bike to help boost my fitness, however I didn’t want to jump straight back into those just yet. I did, however, want to feel my legs spinning round under me so decided on a half hour cycle. I got all set up with my Kindle in front of me (I wasn’t aiming to set any speed records!) and the time just flew by. I was actually enjoying my book so much that I decided to follow my workout with a coffee stop so I could read a bit more before heading home.

IMG_4412Despite really “only” having this one week to myself, I opted to sacrifice Wednesday to the greater good and headed in to work. I was conscious that I still hadn’t done anything about my wall displays since moving to a new classroom for this year and knew that if I didn’t go in we would be at the Christmas holidays with the walls still bare. My good friend was also going in so I took the chance to have a catch up with her too. I stripped the old backing paper off the walls, put some new stuff up and put up a few bits and pieces to make the room feel a bit more “mine”. It’s not quite done, but the hardest part is sorted out so it won’t take much to finish it off. The highlight was having a nice break at lunchtime when my friend and I headed out to a new cafĂ© that opened up in the town and had a delicious lunch to power us through another hour or so of work.

Of course this meant that my run was delayed until the evening, just like during term time. What with my post-marathon time off and being away, it’s been a while since I had an evening run and despite it still being mild enough for shorts, I hadn’t realised it would be getting quite so dark before I was home. It will soon be time to dig out the high viz kit again!

IMG_4413In contrast, Thursday was fairly chilled. I took a walk down to the gym to start my day with a hot tub and sauna then went for a coffee to read my book again for a while.

IMG_4428Once home, I got settled on my comfy chair and got lots of cuddles from my cat (I think she missed me when I was in France last week!) until it was time to head out to my Ashtanga yoga class. I missed the class last week as I wasn’t home in time and was really looking forward to getting back to it. I thought I might feel a bit stiff and tight, but I actually felt really strong. I’ve been working on “wheel ” rather than yoga bridge and have previously only managed to hold the posture for a breath or two before lowering back down. This time, I managed 4 long breaths and felt fairly strong throughout. Great progress! This posture has been a challenge for me as I have a limitation in the movement of my left arm after breaking it as a child. Generally it doesn’t cause me too much bother (I’ve had more of my life with the issue than without) and I can adapt around it, but there are some things it makes difficult, and the initial set up for wheel is one of them. I am pretty tenacious though, so I won’t let it beat me!

IMG_4432On Friday I had another relaxed start to the day catching up with a few bits and pieces around the house before going down to the studio for a PT session. My right shoulder had been a bit tight all week so I wanted to work on my upper back mobility (we used my old favourites the broom handle and Core Momentum Trainer as well as a bit of TRX) on top of some work on my knee drive and hip mobility. Again, it’s been a while since I worked on these so it was good to get back to things. Steve, of course, has not forgotten how to disrupt my post-workout selfie!

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IMG_4434Later that afternoon I headed out for a walk as I knew I hadn’t taken enough steps and maintaining my streak is one of my goals for the year. The weather was nice but I was a bit lazy and wasn’t really feeling like going anywhere, but as soon as I got outside with my podcast I was quite content to keep on walking until it was done. Who wouldn’t enjoy beautiful scenes like this right on their doorstep?

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Saturday morning began in comic fashion. I was lying awake, not quite ready to get out of bed yet, with the cat snuggled on top of me when Steve came upstairs. He had brought the cat her medicine and I made a joke about how I had hoped he was maybe bringing me a nice cup of tea in bed. A few minutes later he returned with a cup of tea so I stayed in bed a little longer to enjoy it before getting up and organised for parkrun.

IMG_4450Parkrun was a bit more “cross country” this week. There was a huge puddle across the path that was unavoidable and the grass section was generally pretty soft. I think it will probably be like that for a while now as we head into winter. I actually don’t mind it like that anymore and go splashing through all the puddles, resulting in mud splattered up my legs and the need for a towel on my car seat before I drive home! I was pleased with my result though as I ran a fairly even pace and was about 20 seconds faster than last week. Not quite back to peak form, but I’m happy with where I am right now.

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IMG_4452Once home I had a really nice chat with Sarah from Tough Girl Challenges. I’ve written a few times about my involvement with the Tough Girl Team and how listening to the podcast has helped me, so it was great to have a catch up with Sarah. We’ve never actually met but kind of feel like we have. Maybe one day we’ll manage!

Next on the agenda was getting my nails done as they had really grown out (this seems to be a pattern for me!) and I wanted the polish freshened up ready for going back to work.

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Sunday began with another cup of tea in bed (that husband training is going well lol!) then I got up and dressed ready for an early-ish run. Last autumn Steve and I got into the habit of going on a trail run together on a Sunday morning. With no looming races on the horizon, it was a great way to round off the year, spend some time actually running together and make use of the huge benefits of trail running – change of terrain, strengthening of the ankles and a great way to build a solid base ahead of spring marathon training. From our front door we can be on a trail in about two minutes. The route we picked for this first outing was 2 miles more or less uphill to a mast (not very attractive sounding, but the views are stunning) then a blast back down again to get home.

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IMG_4479A bit of a lung-buster in places, but a great run and I love seeing all the autumn leaves on the ground and splashing through the muddier sections. We’ll no doubt do a bit more of this in the coming weeks, probably venturing across the river for a hillier run (with an even better view!) as we progress. It’s a great way to change things up and get off the same old road routes for a bit, whilst also providing benefits for the next phase of training. I can highly recommend it.

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IMG_4484The rest of Sunday was pretty chilled. The earlier, shorter run created a bit more time in the day to relax before my return to work the next day. Things are going to get busier again!

How do you mix up your training?
Do you prefer roads or trails?

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

7 For 2017 – Nearly There!

Well hello there October! Where did you sneak up from? It hardly seems like any time since I was setting my goals for 2017 and here we are three quarters of the way through the year. Time to check in and see how I’m doing (you can read my previous updates here and here).

1. Set some new race PBs
This one has been at a bit of a standstill since my success at the Inverness half marathon back in March, and with no race plans for the remainder of 2017, I suspect I’ve done all I can here. My main aim was to set a new marathon PB and beat that 4:05:07 that’s been hanging over me since Paris 2014. Unfortunately it was not to be, although I did make some positive progress. Back in April I was thwarted by the Paris heat, however did manage to run what was then my second fastest marathon time of 4:32:07 (yup, my PB is somewhat of an outlier!). I followed this up at the end of September with another try at the Loch Ness marathon, and while I still didn’t crack that elusive 4 hour mark, I did lower my 2017 performance to 4:18:10 (now my second-fastest). I’m not giving up though, and have already entered a spring marathon to have another try.
I had thought I might have a go at a new 10k PB (sub-50) but have not actually raced a 10k this year. I did, however, come tantalisingly close to my 5k parkrun PB of 23:14 when I ran a 23:19 a couple of weeks before Loch Ness. This was really pleasing as this was also a real outlier in my performance history so it was good to prove to myself that it had not been a fluke, even if the time is two years old! Now onwards into 2018!
Progress: 1/3 achieved; Improving picture

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IMG_39502. Run my 100th parkrun
This goal relies on consistency. I’ve missed very few parkruns this year, mainly planned misses due to post-marathon recovery, and still have enough of a cushion to achieve my 100th run before the end of the year. At present I’ve completed my 93rd, so just 7 more to go. Definitely achievable, perhaps by the start of December.
And my bonus parkrun goal is to achieve my 25 volunteer T-shirt. Thanks to my pacing duties this year I only have one more to go before I have that one all wrapped up.
Progress: On track

IMG_37133. Maintain my step goal streak
Back in July I achieved the first part of this goal – one full year of taking 10,000 steps per day. Now, I’m working on completing the second part of the goal – a calendar year of 10,000 steps per day. I’ve not yet broken my streak (currently at 472 days) so continuing the habit for now should be achievable.
Progress: On track

4. Read at least 30 books
This is now the goal that needs the most attention. I’m tracking my reading on Goodreads this year and, with 19 out of 30 books read, am 4 behind schedule to complete this one. This is an advance on the 25 books I read in 2016 and I did set this goal knowing it would push me. I had hoped the summer might bring me up to speed, but I now need to try and set aside a bit more time for reading. Watch this space!
Progress: Needs Attention

5. Make more time to relax and prioritise rest during the work week
The summer break allowed me to reset a bit on this one, and as soon as term began I made sure to prioritise rest right from the start. This meant trying not to allow my natural night-owl tendencies to take over and stay up too late on week nights, as well as scheduling an afternoon nap into my Saturday routine to help counter the busy week. It’s not always easy to fit in everything I want to do, but I am getting better at this one.
Progress: Much improved

IMG_38546. Commit to more yoga outside of my weekly classes
I’m really pleased with this one. Thanks to the Tough Girl 100 challenge I was able to make regular yoga much more of a habit for me, and enjoyed doing so. Things have faltered a bit of late thanks to the time pressures of being away on a trip, but now that I’m getting organised again I’m looking forward to adding some more yoga to my days. My favourite is some bedtime yoga to help me unwind and rest well, helping me with that goal too!
Progress: On track

IMG_41967. Blog more consistently
Another one that’s going well. I wanted to improve on my 2016 pattern by publishing at least one post per week IN ADDITION to Friday Finds. So far, so good. I think I’ve only had one late Friday Finds, but it has gone out every week. I’ve also published a Week in Review post every Monday, as well as many additional posts when I can. I’m trying to use school holidays to work through the ideas in my drafts and have posts scheduled in advance, but it definitely feels much more consistent than last year. Very pleasing.
Progress: On track

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A bit of a mixed bag right now, but then goals are there to be a challenge rather than a guarantee. I’ve definitely made positive progress towards each of these, and will do my best to achieve those I still can. Hard to believe that the next time I write about my goals will be a review at the end of the year! I wonder what I will achieve…?

How are you getting on with your goals for 2017?
What would you still like to achieve this year?

Week In Review – Vive La France!

Bonjour! I’m back home from France. It was a great trip, but definitely tiring!

As usual, I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL, but since last week’s post didn’t cover the full week thanks to my travel commitments (and lack of wifi to update the weekend’s events) I thought I’d begin this week’s post by filling in the gaps. Unsurprisingly, I have plenty of photos to share – this might be one to enjoy over a cup of tea!

The trip began in Normandy then we headed to Paris. Once home, it was time to get back to my regular routine (whilst also making sure to rest from the demands of a full-on itinerary and 40 pupils to keep an eye on!). Here’s the itinerary:

Saturday – travel to France
Sunday – explore Normandy
Monday – explore Bayeux then travel to Paris
Tuesday – Paris
Wednesday – Paris
Thursday – travel home
Friday – rest(!)
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – easy run

Saturday was a travelling day. While France is not really that far away, we had an early start to ensure we were at the airport in plenty of time (45 people to get checked in and through security!), then once in France we had a coach journey north to Normandy. An early highlight for the pupils was the presence of the Scotland football team in the departure lounge (a few were able to get photos). For me, arriving at Charles de Gaulle airport felt really familiar – I’m losing count of how many times I’ve been there now! – and I was pleased to find we had a great coach driver who not only drove us north, but provided some commentary and information about various things we passed as we left Paris, including the Stade de France.

IMG_4015Once in Normandy we headed to our base for the first couple of nights which is a youth centre opposite the most beautiful church tower.

IMG_4024We were hustled right in to dinner as we were a little later arriving that usual. The teachers had a most welcome arrival drink awaiting them, but I found the food a little strange – edible, but an odd combination. Fortunately, the meal was rescued by dessert which was these delicious pastries:

IMG_4017Our knowledgeable coach driver, who had stayed for dinner, told us they are known as Paris-Brest. Shaped like a bicycle wheel, they were created to commemorate the cycle race of the same name which began in 1891. I can confirm that they are delicious!

By the time we’d finished eating and been shown to our rooms, there was really only time to unpack the things we would need then start getting ready for bed. Of course the pupils were excited, and many had slept on the coach so felt wide awake, but I know how busy and tiring the trip is so was keen to get everyone to bed at a reasonable time.

Sunday was all about Normandy. We began the day in the beautiful town of Caen exploring the Sunday market and the castle which was built for William the Conqueror. We had our packed lunch in the castle grounds then headed on to Arromanches, at the heart of the D-Day landing sites (Jour-J in French). We were there to visit the 360 cinema which has a powerful 20 minute film which gives a real flavour of events in June 1944. The cinema is above the town and from the elevated position we could see the remains of the Mulberry harbour which was created to bring cargo ashore during the D-Day landings. We then took the short walk down to the town and had a look around for a short time before heading on to our next port of call: the American cemetery at Colleville.

IMG_4036The cemetery sits above Omaha beach and was featured at the start of the movie Saving Private Ryan (two of the brothers whose story inspired the film are buried at this cemetery). We didn’t have much time there, but I found time to watch a short film in the museum which I had not previously seen, before having a look around the cemetery itself. It’s a very sombre place and the mood can be felt in the air. It always really brings home the scale of the sacrifice made by allied forces as over 10,000 crosses are in this location alone.

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IMG_4043We began Monday still in Normandy with a visit to Bayeux and the famous tapestry which depicts the events around the Norman conquest of England in 1066. It’s quite spectacular and intricate, 70 metres long and 50 cm high. I remember learning about the tapestry at primary school, and always remember the part where Harold is killed with an arrow through the eye. Ouch!

IMG_4065After the tapestry there was some time to explore Bayeux before our packed lunches. There’s a beautiful cathedral in Bayeux and overall it’s a very attractive town.

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IMG_4079After lunch we were back on the road and heading to Paris for the remainder of the trip. Again, staying in a youth centre but more modern than the one in Normandy. We arrived in time to have a little time to relax before dinner, then it was time to head out.

Our first evening was spent in the Notre Dame area. We allowed the pupils some time to explore in their groups, so I opted to pay a visit to the nearby bookshop Shakespeare & Co. It’s a famous independent bookshop, traditionally English-language. Its location is close to Kilometer ZĂ©ro, the point from which all French road distances are measured. The shop is part of the rich history of ex-pat literary Paris in the 1920s and was a meeting place for the likes of Joyce, Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Eliot. Today it’s still full of nooks and crannies inviting visitors to get comfortable and read. There’s even a resident cat whose favourite sleeping place is well defined!

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IMG_4124I absolutely adore this place and could easily spend hours (days?) there, but contented myself with a couple of books. You can ask to have your purchases stamped with the store logo, which is a nice touch and something I recommend if you ever visit.

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fullsizeoutput_229cTuesday was probably the most tiring day as we had no coach so were both walking and using the metro. It was also a day when there were public sector strikes, which ended up affecting our itinerary.

The first visit on the agenda was the MusĂ©e d’Orsay, a one-time railway station now home to a number of exhibits including Impressionist art. In the past we have visited the Louvre, so this was new. Unfortunately, just as we got there the museum was in the process of closing as the strikes meant they did not have enough staff. We gave our pupils some time to themselves to look around, take photos, buy food, etc while we made alternative plans and I drew on what turned out to be far more impressive knowledge of Paris than I realised I had as I was able to look at my map and come up with a plan almost immediately. All those Paris marathons were good for something!

IMG_4172We needed to do something that would not incur a cost (including additional metro tickets) so I created a tour of the area we were in. From the MusĂ©e d’Orsay we walked along the Rive Gauche past the bouquinistes to the Pont des Arts. This is the pedestrian bridge which attracted controversy due to the number of “love locks” attached to it. The locks have now been removed due to safety concerns, but it’s still a great bridge to cross as it’s quite spacious and there’s no traffic so you can take some time for photos.

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IMG_4231The bridge leads into the Louvre courtyard so we spent some time there taking photos around the iconic pyramid (and I decided this would be the the ideal location for some yoga photos!). I had thought of maybe heading into the Tuileries gardens next, perhaps even along to the Place de la Concorde to see the obelisk, however we needed to start heading to our lunch at a quick service restaurant close to the Pompidou centre so we made our way along Rue de Rivoli to get there.

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IMG_4196The afternoon was devoted to some shopping so we walked the group along to the Forum des Halles, a huge underground shopping mall. There has been a lot of work going on remodelling the area and it was fascinating to see how much it has changed. I didn’t really do much shopping, but did enjoy the chance to slow down a bit and spend some time in a nearby cafĂ©.

Unfortunately, our evening was also affected by the strikes. We had been due to climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, but it was also closed. We had a bit longer to think about alternative activities and I suggested going along anyway to see the monument from ground level and spend some time on the Champs ElysĂ©es before walking along to the TrocadĂ©ro to see the Eiffel Tower all lit up. This turned out to be an ideal solution – another score for all that time I’ve spent exploring Paris on foot!

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IMG_4219The pupils were pleased to see the coach again on Wednesday morning as they were so tired from the day before. Wednesday began with a visit to the Eiffel Tower. I ended up waiting at the bottom with a pupil who was unable to go up because of a fear of heights. I amused myself with a coffee and pain au chocolat for second breakfast!

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IMG_4241Once the group was back on the ground we walked across the road to the Port de la Bourdonnais where we had a one hour cruise on the Seine. I’ve done this a few times so didn’t bother listening to the commentary and instead just enjoyed the Parisian scenery and chance to relax for a while.

Back at the coach we had a quick packed lunch (it was a little chilly) before heading off again. We asked our coach driver to go around the Arc de Triomphe, which he did, then took a fairly scenic route to our next port of call all the while keeping up his very knowledgeable and interesting commentary.

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IMG_4255Soon, we passed the Moulin Rouge and got off the coach to make our way up the 270 (I think) steps to the SacrĂ© CƓur. I had to go up them fairly briskly as some of the boys raced up and a member of staff needed to be up there to keep everyone together as they arrived. After a pause at the view point, we walked around to the Place du Tertre to enjoy the artists, cafĂ©s and souvenir shops. The staff sat at a cafĂ© by our meeting point and I ordered a delicious bowl of soupe Ă  l’oignon gratinĂ©e.

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IMG_4397Our evening activity was a visit to the Montparnasse tower and its panoramic observation deck. We made our way there on foot, and it was well worth it for the stunning views of Paris by night.

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IMG_4297Thursday was, sadly, the day we had to go home. I was up early to take one of our pupils to the airport as a family funeral required her to be on an earlier flight than ours. It was actually quite nice to have a couple of hours to myself and not constantly hear my “teacher name” followed by Are we…? Can we…? When are we…? Where is…? etc.

IMG_4307Back in Scotland our journey home took us over the new Queensferry Crossing (my first time) which was exciting, but by the time I finally got home I was exhausted so Steve treated me to a Chinese takeaway for dinner before I went to bed.

IMG_4320Unsurprisingly, Friday was a very quiet day. I slept a little later then usual, got unpacked and paid a visit to my parents before going out to eat with Steve. Even better, my favourite special was on so I had a lovely steak dinner 🙂

IMG_4335By Saturday I was ready for business as usual. What with my recovery weeks and the trip, I hadn’t trained since the Loch Ness marathon and was keen to get started again with a parkrun.

IMG_4336It was a lovely autumnal day, perfect for running. I had no expectations of time, but enjoyed moving my legs and pushing my body again. I ended up running really evenly and was quite surprised to finish in 24:41. Not too shabby after three weeks off!

IMG_4343The rest of the day was pretty relaxing as Steve was away, so I chilled out with the cat and caught up on some TV.

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IMG_4409Sunday was another return to the usual routine as I headed out for my second run of the weekend. Nowhere near as long as my marathon training runs, but a nice 5.5 mile loop at an easy pace to start reminding my body of how to run again. I felt sluggish at first, but by the end I could feel everything clicking into place.

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IMG_4408What a week! So strange to think that I started the week in France and ended it on my usual running route. Life is so funny sometimes! It was great to have some time in Paris, but now I’m ready to re-focus and get back to some regular training again.

Have you been on any trips recently?
How is your training going?

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