Friday Finds – 2nd 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.

How is it November! I actually don’t know where this year is disappearing to and I’m definitely noticing the difference now the clocks have changed. It’s looking chilly this weekend so let’s keep ourselves cosy and settle down to do a little reading.

With the New York marathon coming up this weekend and the autumn (fall) marathon season in full swing, a lot of what I’m seeing in my feeds is marathon related. Did you catch this particular gem from last weekend? Venice does have an association with water, but I can’t imagine participants in the Venice marathon expected to be wading through flood waters in order to complete their race. It makes the puddles I encountered in Aviemore look like a mere splash!

Speaking of New York, I came across this piece in Runner’s World about training for NYC taking over the writer’s summer. I just love the tongue-in-cheek way he suggests it’s all doom and gloom….but then reveals that he loves it! Anyone who has ever trained for a marathon can probably relate.

You may also have seen that a new half marathon world record was set last weekend as the previously unknown Abraham Kiptum lowered the mark set 8 years ago by Zersenay Tadese (one of the runners in last year’s Breaking2 project). But what is more interesting is that this same runner, now the proud owner of a world record, was unable to gain a place in the recent Chicago marathon as his credentials were “not good enough” to earn him a spot. This article sets out a few points I hadn’t thought of before when it comes to elite runners having a breakthrough. I wonder how many more undiscovered stars are out there…

While we’re on the subject of breakthroughs, I was fascinated by this piece from Brad Stulberg in Outside about what it takes to have a breakthrough in running or any other aspect of life. If the breakthrough performance is the result of many small, perhaps unnoticed actions, then I am once more reminded that focusing on the process over the outcome is what will ultimately yield results and that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it as sometimes it takes time. What are your thoughts?

And finally, there’s nothing quite like crossing the finish line of a marathon and knowing you’ve accomplished something amazing, but in the days afterwards there are a few things that almost every marathoner does. I think I’ve done just about everything on this list bar the day drinking (mainly because I’ve never run a race that started early enough for this to be an option!). Which ones have you done?

Happy reading!
The Running Princess

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Friday Finds – 26th 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 don’t know about you but I’m definitely ready for a weekend – the first week of term is always a shock to the system. So let’s kick things off with a few articles to read.

I’m going to start with a couple of more scientific pieces from Outside. To be honest, I’d never heard of the CMAH gene before, but it seems to be pretty interesting. Not only does an ancient mutation in that gene account for an increased risk of some ailments, more recent studies have revealed that it may also have made humans better distance runners. More interestingly, we don’t actually know if distance running was the reason for the evolution of that gene, or if that is simply a happy by-product. Fascinating!

Secondly, a recent offering from the always-brilliant Alex Hutchinson who has been examining a study into training data which aimed to ascertain which form is best. The headline point is that our own internal systems are just as sensitive as any high-tech gadgetry we choose to use and is another valuable reminder that we should tune into our bodies and learn to listen to the signals they are giving us with regard to effort level rather than always off-loading that job to a gadget.

I also enjoyed this letter to running from High School athlete Kate Cox. I love her reflection on the highs and lows of the sport as well as how it has helped shape her. To be honest, it’s exactly the kind of thing I’d love some of my pupils to write when I ask for some reflective writing!

With Halloween coming up lots of little (and not-so-little) girls and boys are planning their costume. With all the traditional ideas still popular – ghosts, superheroes, princesses, etc – it’s refreshing to see this article about two little girls who have decided to dress as their sporting hero, Shalane Flanagan! I think this is just the most amazing idea and only goes to show what an inspiring role model Shalane is for little girls as she is so visible and demonstrates that anything is possible. Love it!

And finally, did you catch Des Linden’s brilliant tweets about the reality of marathon training? I love how real she is and there are definitely a few things in there we can relate to! Which one is your favourite?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess 

Friday Finds – 19th 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. The second week of my break seems to have whizzed by and I can’t believe it’s Friday again already. Here are a few bits and pieces that have caught my eye as the week has gone on.

Let’s start with good old Mo Farah. Not content with winning the Chicago marathon, he’s now championing the Daily Mile project which was started in Scotland. Now he’s encouraging primary schools across London to take part in a bid to make London a Daily Mile City. Sounds like a great idea to me.

Next, a great article from Brad Stuhlberg at Outside about mindset and how our incessant drive to excel might actually be holding us back. As someone who has embraced process over outcome, this provided some real food for thought and I’d love to know your thinking on it.

Next, something from a rather unusual source. I can only assume this hit my feeds because it references parkrun. Church is not for me (although I respect everyone’s beliefs on this) but some of the points made about the sense of community and ethos are certainly valid. I guess we often joke about worshipping at the alter of the long run, but I’ve never considered the ways in which a parkrun community might mirror the church communities of previous generations.

To follow that, an interesting piece about the recent running boom in China. I had no idea that attitudes to running had previously been so different to here, or how much more expensive race organisation might be. But one of the most fascinating parts of this is the indication that running is part of a bigger cultural change in the country. Running really is powerful!

And finally, if you’re as intrigued as I am by the Nike 4% shoes (although not intrigued enough to meet that hefty price tag!) then you’ll probably enjoy Martin Fritz Huber’s look at how the shoes have been received by various different groups. They’re a bit pricey for me, but I’d still like to try some on…

Happy reading!
The Running Princess 

Friday Finds – 12th October

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 31st August

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.

How can August be over? I don’t think I’m quite ready to be done with summer but there’s most definitely a nip in the air first thing in the morning now. At least we’ve had plenty of good weather (and I’m on time with my post this week haha!). Here are the things that caught my eye over the past few days.

We’ll start with a serious one as the Mexico City marathon is once more attracting attention for the number of alleged cheats claiming medals without completing the course. The number of alleged cheats is staggering, however the problem appears to be arising from a desire to collect the medals – each year being one letter to ultimately spell out MEXICO. Looks like there will have to be much tighter measures in place to ensure those who claim a medal have genuinely run the course, otherwise it makes a mockery of those who put in the work to run.

As someone who has recently celebrated a milestone birthday, I was inexorably drawn to this next piece which has been getting some traction on social media this week. Some of the statistics about runners/triathletes in their 40s are incredible – numbers and speeds compared to other age groups – and the writer is comprehensive in exploring some of the motivating factors leading to this level of participation. As an added bonus, it was actually published on my birthday! Guess I’d better go and come up with my next crazy idea…

I also enjoyed this interview with Desi Linden, winner of the women’s race in this year’s Boston marathon. I know there has been plenty written about her since her historic victory back in April, however what’s interesting about this interview is that it was conducted by the US women’s marathon record holder, Deena Kastor. Worth checking out to see how two friends and olympians interact.

Moving to a more recent race, did you see this footage from the Diamond League steeplechase final this week? Conseslus Kipruto came through to win the race (dipping his opponent on the line) despite losing his shoe early in the race. Incredible! If you’ve not seen it, be sure to watch the clip.

And finally, this last article seems fitting as my weekly orchestra rehearsals began again this week. I’ve thought for a while it might be fun to put together a concert featuring well-known sporting themes (definitely The Trap) and look – Classic FM only went and produced the ideal list. What would you like to see on a list like this?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 24th August

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.

So. Yeah. Today is Sunday. I’ll admit to making no attempt to write this on Friday as I was out at a friend’s birthday gathering then had a packed Saturday to navigate whilst feeling slightly delicate! So for this week we’re having some Sunday Stories 😂

Let’s start with a bit of science from the always engaging Alex Hutchinson (if, like me, you enjoy his columns, I can recommend his book which I am about to finish reading). This time Hutchinson digs into the recently published study on exercise and mental health, getting to the real science behind the headlines and debunking some of the more sensationalised elements. Worth a read if this is an area of interest for you.

An excellent companion piece to this comes in the form of Brad Stulberg’s column, also published in Outside, in which some pro athletes share their own mental health journeys and the strategies they use to cope when issues arise. It’s always useful to be reminded that those at the top of their game are no different to the rest of us, and we can learn a lot from their stories.

Another study which caught my attention concerned our memories of P.E classes at school and how they affect our attitudes to exercise as an adult. For me, P.E was a chore and I tried to avoid it as much as I could. I liked the idea of fitness and being able to take part in sports, but the setup when I was at school was quite off-putting and my strongest memory is of being absolutely freezing on the playing fields on a miserable day. Not overly encouraging! Yet as an adult I found activities I enjoy, hence why I happily run around in all sorts of weather conditions – I expect to have fun. What are your P.E. memories?

Since this is actually coming out on Sunday, you might fancy a longer read. How about this piece from National Geographic which examines how technology is helping athletes to push the boundaries of their sports? There are even some cool graphs, for those who like such things!

And finally, one of my favourite quirky events is the beer mile (although I’m not sure I’m fond enough of the idea to actually try it!) so was amused to find that at a recent event, the winner was ultimately disqualified…for not drinking enough beer! Now there’s a headline you don’t see every day!

Happy reading!
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 17th August

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.

Thank goodness it’s Friday! The first week of term is always a bit of a shock to the system and I’m definitely ready for the weekend! Time to get things started with the articles that have caught my eye this week.

You might remember that last weekend I took part in the Great Perthshire Tattie Run – lugging a sack of spuds around a course of just under a mile. Part of the race “swag” was to keep our potatoes, so Steve and I have ended up with quite a lot of spuds to get through (we’re willing to share if you need any potatoes 😂). I actually couldn’t believe it when this first piece showed up in my inbox during the course of the week – a great encouragement to include potatoes with pretty much all our meals for the foreseeable future!

On a rather more jaw-dropping note, did you see the European Championship women’s marathon? Winner Volha Mazuronak experienced the stuff of anxiety dreams when she not only suffered a nose bleed (and ran much of the race covered in blood!) but took a wrong turn and had to backtrack before finally crossing the finish line in first place. Some real grit and determination there.

Also catching my eye in today’s edition of The Guardian was this piece about Ethiopian runners. Writer Michael Crawley, who is currently writing a book on the subject, reveals some of the things he discovered whilst in Ethiopia and explains why there’s more to the success of runners from the country than living at altitude and seeking a way out of poverty. A very interesting read.

An entertaining piece I came across was this one, in which the writer marvels at the results of a survey that suggest people are more intimidated by organising their home than training for a marathon. The writer is definitely having a tough time training for her first marathon, however I may actually agree with the survey participants – I would much rather go for a long run than tidy out my kitchen cupboards! What about you?

And finally, something to listen to this week. In my last Podcast Picks post I highlighted Running 4 Real as one of my favourites, and this week I’m thrilled to have featured in the episode – fame at last!! You can access the episode via the link below (I’m around 33:15 but please do listen to all the other amazing guests and their stories). It’s a little cringe-y hearing my own voice, but I’m putting myself out there and sharing the episode – please be kind!

Happy reading (and listening!),
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 20th July

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.

Hola! Friday once again (edit: it’s now Saturday – blame the jet lag!) and this time I’m back home in Scotland. It’s kind of weird to think that just a couple of days ago I was in the Florida sunshine! It was a great holiday and I hope you’ve had a great week. Let’s kick off the weekend with a few interesting articles…

First up, an interesting story about prize money as one ultramarathon is offering a financial incentive to set a new course record. As the article notes, money is likely to either motivate more people to enter, or provide a strong reason to train hard. But could it also lead to more underhand methods of performing well, something that so far seems to have stayed out of such events? What are your thoughts?

Related to this, Martin Fritz Huber’s piece for Outside examining why we attach such importance to time “barriers”. It’s funny how we can become obsessed with these times, whether elite or not – note that recreational runners who are close to a time e.g. 4 hours in the marathon are recorded as slowing less than others during the final kilometres. From my own experience in Stirling earlier this year, I can see how that would be true as I pushed on when in the past, with any hope of the time gone, I definitely slowed more. Times certainly aren’t important to everyone, but to those for whom they are, it’s easy to become obsessed!

And on the subject of time, I was intrigued by this piece from The New York Times about the Nike Vaporfly 4% shoes. From their analysis of Strava data, it seems that the claims of a 4% improvement in race times may actually be accurate, and for me, that could equate to shaving around 8 minutes off my marathon time! Of course that only works if a) you can actually get hold of a pair of the shoes, b) are prepared to pay the hefty price tag and c) they actually suit you, but that’s mere detail! I must admit, I’d be interested in trying a pair on to see how they feel.

Another interesting study came from the IAAF who analysed biomechanical data from the 2017 World Championships in London. It’s fascinating to read about the differences between and within athletes which lead to their success and I’d love to learn even more about this.

And finally, since it was World Emoji Day earlier in the week, Canadian Running magazine put together a week of marathon training in emojis. Sunday definitely looks like my favourite. What’s yours?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 6th April

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 23rd March

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.

Did you miss me? I’m afraid scheduling meant there just wasn’t a way to get my Friday Finds post written and uploaded on time this week so for one week only I’m bringing you Saturday Stories instead…

Let’s start with coverage of an event I definitely wouldn’t want to take part in – an indoor marathon. That’s right, 211 laps of a 200m oval track (with a change of direction to break up the monotony!). It would probably be pretty interesting to watch, but what a lot of mental strength it must take. Nevertheless, both male and female world records were set at the most recent attempt, however – and this is my favourite part of the story – neither of the victors ran a lap of honour!

On the subject of world records, I also came across this piece which considers the importance of figures like the late Roger Bannister whose historic sub-4 minute mile provided the inspiration for more runners to reach the same mark. It seems to be true that once one person achieves a big goal like this is the running world, the belief that it’s possible leads to a flood of similar achievements and I’ve no doubt that once someone runs a sub-2 hour marathon there will be several more soon after. It just goes to show how powerful the mind can be, proving the adage “the body achieves what the mind believes”.

When wanting to run at our best, many of us try to caffeine for a little extra boost. It definitely works for me, but it seems that there are some people for whom caffeine actually leads to slower times. Here’s Alex Hutchinson to explain the science:

Another topical issue concerns plastic – both the amount of it in our oceans and the way it is used in races. Adidas has been trying to make positive use of ocean plastics by recycling them into shoes, and it seems that they have been popular:

And finally, if you love getting out in nature and following your feet then you might enjoy this new music video from singer-songwriter David Rosales. An ode to trail running which really captures the highs of getting out there.

Happy reading,
The Running Princess