Week In Review – A Musical Interlude!

Hola! It’s been a super busy week for me, especially over the weekend, so I had to be quite creative with my time to get some workouts squeezed in. Let me share the details as I link up, as ever, with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL.

I’m keen to get a bit more focus in my workouts as I begin to build a strong base ahead of my next round of marathon training, however that wasn’t possible for all of my workouts this week. Here’s how things ended up:

Monday – rest
Tuesday – bike @ the gym
Wednesday – short run
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 10k

Yes, my week did begin with a rest day. I was quite tired from our trip to Edinburgh last Sunday, and with an after school meeting I just couldn’t summon the energy to do anything else. Aside from that, I wanted to pay a quick visit to my mum who, following a mishap on holiday in Tenerife, has torn her hamstring and is not very mobile right now. A colleague had given me some magazines to help keep her entertained and I wanted to drop those off as well as hear about her visit to the doctor that day. My mum is generally quite fit and healthy so I’m sure this will heal well, but right now she’s needing some painkillers to help keep her comfortable as even sitting is a bit tricky right now!

I did, however, get back on it on Tuesday. I’m still not sure how best to use my Tuesday bike workouts and need to get Steve to give me some kind of progressive structure to follow again, but for this week I simply set up my Kindle and pedalled hard for half an hour. I actually covered slightly more distance that the previous week with the same effort so it is still a useful gauge of fitness. I’m reading a really great book called Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell all about the factors which influence success, and I’m finding it really interesting so the time seemed to pass quite quickly (it’s also a sneaky way to maximise my time and catch up on my reading goal for this year!).

Wedneday presented a bit of a problem: I had intended to leave work at the end of the school day, but ended up staying for almost an hour beyond that. I had an orchestra rehearsal (the final Wednesday before our concert) which I definitely wanted to be at and spent some time in the car debating whether or not to go for a run. In the end I decided I had to go for it as I’ll miss out next week thanks to a parents’ evening at work. I just had to maximise the benefit of running a short distance. Basically, I had to run hard for 20-25 minutes as that’s all the time I had. I chose a route and just went for it, getting home within my target time and being very efficient with getting some food organised while I showered and changed. Miraculously I was ready for my sister picking me up and enjoyed a great rehearsal.

IMG_4694Thursday was a little less manic in that I managed to be at home for longer than 8 minutes before my yoga class. I’m so convinced that yoga has made a big difference to my running, my flexibility and my strength that I try to prioritise getting to this class and it’s rare that I miss one. I felt good throughout and since I want to progress to more than one round of Wheel, this week did it twice but for a shorter amount of time so that I could feel what it was like to push myself up into the position twice (the bit I find hardest due to the limitation in the range of movement in my left arm). I did start to drift off during the relaxation at the end though, thanks to all the rushing about in the days before!

Speaking of which, I was back to rushing around again on Friday. I had two things I definitely needed to do and one desirable extra. First, I needed to collect the cat’s medicine from the vet, then I had an appointment to get my nails done, and I was hopeful of squeezing in a PT session with Steve after that. I did manage all of it thanks to some impressive time management on my part, but it did mean that Friday Finds just didn’t happen and went out later in the weekend. Sometimes something has to give and I prioritised what I had to do.

IMG_4695The PT session was good. I asked Steve to give me some exercises to help with my upper back mobility as my right shoulder has still been feeling a little tight, and also to help me to build a good strength base to support my forthcoming marathon training. We began with the usual mobility exercises using the broom handle, then used the TRX after that, returning to some exercises I probably haven’t done since he moved studio. I found this really interesting as at one point I stopped to ask if I was doing it right as the movement felt different. It turned out that I was actually performing the movement better thanks to the improved strength, flexibility and balance that yoga has given me. Good news!

I had known all week that Saturday was going to be super busy and there wasn’t much I could do to mitigate that. The day began, as ever, with parkrun. It was a bright but chilly morning and I decided to test out my fitness. I was running comfortably sub-24 minutes before the Loch Ness marathon, but with time off and some easing back since then my best of late was 24:20. I would love to squeeze in one last sub-24 before the end of the year, but conditions tend to be less than conducive to that as it’s more likely to be windy and the half mile or so over the grass can get pretty muddy. This was all about seeing where I was and working out if this goal would be possible. Imagine my irritation, then, to finish with a time of 24:01. So close! Still, it’s an encouraging sign and tells me that although I’ve scaled back some of my training recently, I am still improving my fitness with shorter, faster runs and some hard cycling on the bike at the gym. Watch this space to see if I manage my end of year mini-goal…

IMG_4697
fullsizeoutput_22d3Post-parkrun I had time for a quick shower then headed off to get my hair done. I had all my stuff ready to go and was accompanied by my violin as I was going straight from the hairdresser to our final orchestra rehearsal before the concert that night. I was prepared to be late to the rehearsal, but actually ended up there in good time and it was great to hear our repertoire being played in the venue where the acoustics are a little different to our rehearsal room!

IMG_4699Usually my Saturday evening is spent in my pyjamas, curled up with the cat and a cosy blanket watching TV. This time I was scrubbed up with my hair done (I’m usually pushing it a bit on hair washing by Saturday!) and make up on. I felt tired when I went home to eat between the rehearsal and concert, but as soon as we went on stage the concert adrenaline kicked in and I was ready to go.

IMG_4700I really enjoyed playing so need to work out how I can continue to fit in my weekly rehearsal and my training up to our final concert of the season in February.

After all that activity I allowed myself a bit of a lie-in on Sunday morning, then got organised for a run. Steve’s still having an issue with his calf so a trail run together was out of the question. Instead, I decided it was time I went for a slightly longer run (i.e. longer than 4 miles!) at a steadier pace so came up with a loose plan for 10k. This put me in town just as the High Constables were lining up for the council officials to walk from the council chambers to the Remembrance Day service and it looked quite a sight! (The High Constables are a society dating back to 1830 with a common interest in upholding the history and traditions of Perth and all of whom have sworn allegiance to the Queen. Their primary duties involve parading on civic occasions at the request of the Provost and Council of Perth and Kinross).

IMG_4709
IMG_4710I also stopped by to see my favourite riverside pals as I made my way home again.

IMG_4711I had covered my watch with the sleeve of my top so I would have no idea of pace and could just run however I felt. This was interesting as I probably ran much faster than I would have done if I’d been looking at my watch. My average pace was just outside of 4 hour marathon pace, however this was skewed by the last mile being uphill and most of the run was much faster than that. An interesting experiment that I may repeat some time.

IMG_4715Thankfully I found some time in the remainder of the day to relax a bit. It was a rather full-on week and I can’t see that changing much in the last few weeks of the year. I shall have to be vigilant about finding time to relax whenever I can.

Do you play a musical instrument?
What are your current running goals?

Advertisements

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

IMG_1397
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

IMG_0815

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.

IMG_4038
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.

IMG_4070
IMG_4073
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 Zéro, 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!

IMG_4113
IMG_4120
IMG_4155
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.

IMG_4333
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 Musée 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 Musée 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.

IMG_4186
IMG_4187
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.

IMG_4188
IMG_4194
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 café.

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 Elysées before walking along to the Trocadéro 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!

IMG_4208
IMG_4223
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!

IMG_4239
IMG_4240
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.

IMG_4247
IMG_4255Soon, we passed the Moulin Rouge and got off the coach to make our way up the 270 (I think) steps to the Sacré Cœur. 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, cafés and souvenir shops. The staff sat at a café by our meeting point and I ordered a delicious bowl of soupe à l’oignon gratinée.

IMG_4259
IMG_4280
IMG_4260
IMG_4262
IMG_4272
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.

IMG_4299
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.

IMG_4376
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.

IMG_4406
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?

Book Review – This Mum Runs

img_0905

Jo Pavey was forty years old when she won the 10,000m at the European Championships. It was the first gold medal of her career and, astonishingly, it came within months of having her second child.
The media dubbed her ‘Supermum’, but Jo’s story is in many ways the same as every mother juggling the demands of working life with a family – the sleepless nights, the endless nappy changing, the fun, the laughter and the school-run chaos. The only difference is that Jo is a full-time athlete pushing a buggy on her training runs, clocking up miles on the treadmill in a cupboard while her daughter has her lunchtime nap, and hitting the track while her children picnic on the grass.
Heartwarming and uplifting, This Mum Runs follows Jo’s roundabout journey to the top and all the lessons she’s learnt along the way. It is the inspiring yet everyday story of a mum that runs and a runner that mums.

Quite frankly, I loved this book. In recent times I’ve become captivated by the fortunes of Jo Pavey, particularly in her quest to qualify for the Rio Olympics, so when I saw that her book was suggested for The Runner Beans Book Club I was thrilled as it gave me just the excuse I needed to order a copy and get stuck in.

The book begins fairly recently with Pavey’s race at the 2014 National Championships – dubbed the ‘Night of the 10,000m PBs’ – which was a trial for the European Championships in Zurich that summer. I enjoyed this as an opener for the book as it set the tone perfectly – Pavey juggling her running around being a mum (and the occasional spanner in the works thanks to family life!). What follows is a history of Pavey’s running career, from her earliest days with Exeter Harriers, right through to winning gold at the European Championships in 2014.

Throughout the book Pavey comes across as down to earth and humble, but perhaps what resonated the most with me is that her career has not been straightforward. Pavey has battled through injury and on many occasions has wondered if she could ever truly demonstrate her potential. That certainly sounds familiar to me! And interestingly, her greatest successes came from taking a more unconventional approach to training such as when she and her husband took time out to go travelling or, as a new mum, fitting training in around the needs of her children. Perhaps something for us all to consider when we’re obsessing over our latest training plan!

She also writes very humbly about the mass participation nature of running, offering advice for those who might want to take up running for the first time and writing of how privileged she feels to be part of a sport where the elite and the amateur can line up together. She heralds parkrun as a great weekly event (I definitely agree with her there!) and mentions her enjoyment of the camaraderie of running, the family-friendly environment and the experiences that have enriched her life. Reading this book feels like a chat with a friend, and I think that’s why I enjoyed it so much.

And as such a relatable writer, there is much we can learn from Jo Pavey:

  1. Resilience. Despite being plagued by injury, she never gave up. There may have been disappointments along the way, but Pavey bounced back and focused on what she could do to improve her running for the next race.
  2. Determination. Whatever she set her sights on, she did everything she could to make it happen. Even when injured Pavey continued to train in any way she could, whether through pool running, strength training or running on different surfaces. She was prepared to travel great distances for the facilities she needed and wouldn’t let anything stand in her way.
  3. Learn from experience. Albert Einstein reportedly said, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” Pavey and her husband Gav (who is also her coach) use the knowledge and experience they have gained over the years to know what works best for her training. Although she says she wishes they’d known some of this when she was younger, I guess there’s sometimes nothing for it but to learn things the hard way, make the training mistakes and come out the other side stronger.
  4. Age is just a number. Yes it’s a cliché and Pavey acknowledges it as such, but it’s certainly true for her. Pavey may now be considered an “older” runner (in fact she jokes that since turning 40 she may as well have a double-barrelled surname as she is always referred to as “Jo Pavey-forty” in the media!) but she is still running phenomenal times, with some of her greatest performances taking place over the past few years. She is a little older than me (although I’m catching up rapidly!) and the older I get the more I thrill to see Pavey showing the world that “older” female athletes can still give the next generation a run for their money (pun intended).
  5. Find balance. It is since having her children that Pavey seems to have found the key to successful training for her. By training whatever way she can around the needs of her family, and feeling much more relaxed than previously going into competitions, she has been able to perform really well. In addition, she has been much better at listening to her body and prioritising rest, as she knows she needs to conserve enough energy to run around after her children. It’s clear that family life is important to Pavey – indeed the title of the book This Mum Runs prioritises her kids over her running – and that seems to have unlocked fantastic potential. Whether you have family or not, there is always a balance to be sought between work, training and life in general. It’s something I’ve been working hard to find as well.

Of course there are darker moments in the book, and I don’t mean the sections describing the disappointment of injury. Pavey devotes a chapter to the doping scandal that broke late in 2015 and we see the heartache caused to those who missed out on medals due to the cheating of others. It’s not just about the loss of a podium finish, but everything that goes with that: the disappointment and anger at missing out on a victory lap, of a moment in the spotlight; the impact on an athlete’s confidence as they struggle to comprehend how they can match up to others putting in phenomenal performances; the risks they may take in training in order to “catch up” to others. Since publication of the book Pavey has called for those who have since been awarded medals that were robbed of through cheating to be given the opportunity to have the ceremony they missed out on at the time, something that is now going ahead at the World Championships in London this month.

Reading this book was a really enjoyable experience for me and it was great to find out more about an athlete I’ve come to admire greatly. If you think being an elite athlete is easy, then I encourage you to read this book and see that the “elites” are really just like the rest of us.

You can read an interview with Jo Pavey and an extract from the book here
You can read more about Jo Pavey as an “older” runner here
You can watch an interview with Jo Pavey here

7 For 2017 – Half Way There!

Wow! Halfway through the year means it’s time for another check on my 7 goals for 2017 to see if I’m on track and what progress (if any!) I’ve made since my quarterly check back in the spring. Theoretically I should now be half way to achieving my goals…

  1. Set some new race PBs
    At this point in the year progress on this one tends to be at a bit of a standstill. I already have my new half marathon PB under my belt from the Inverness Half, but have only run in one further race since the Paris marathon (and I didn’t really race that one). My main target remains a marathon PB and I will be taking on the Loch Ness marathon at the end of September to have another go at this one. Hopefully my marathon training will also result in a new 10k PB later this summer as well…
    Progress: 1/3 achievedIMG_7263
  2. Run my 100th parkrun
    This one is all about consistency and I have been really consistent with parkrun this year. The only weeks I have missed have been planned (one when we were in Paris and the two following weeks while I recovered) and I have now completed 82 parkruns. That means I have to run 18 in the second half of the year to reach my goal which, so long as I continue to be injury-free (cross your fingers!), is achievable even with further missed runs whilst on holiday and after Loch Ness. As a bonus, my monthly pacing duties also have me on track to earn my 25 volunteer T-shirt before the end of the year as well 🙂
    Progress: On Track
    IMG_8045
  3. Maintain my Step Goal Streak
    I set two goals here. First, I wanted to reach a full year of meeting my daily step goal target (a mini-challenge I set myself during the summer holidays last year then continued with when the school year began). As of the first of July, I achieved that. Next, I wanted to complete a full calendar year of hitting 10,000 steps per day. With over a year of meeting my goal (initially it was less than 10,000 per day) under my belt already, this looks achievable. Getting my 10,000 steps per day is now a daily habit and I’ll write a separate post soon with some of the details of how I achieve this.
    Progress: Partially Achievedfullsizeoutput_1e8a
  4. Read at least 30 books
    According to Goodreads, where I am tracking this goal, I am 3 books behind schedule to reach my target. However with the school holidays upon us I know I’ll read lots more – especially when I’m away on holiday – so will easily get ahead of this one again. I am currently reading my 12th book of the year, and it will be interesting to see where I am with this one by the end of the summer.
    Progress: Needs Attention
  5. Make more time to relax and prioritise rest during the work week
    I actually did quite well with this one during the first quarter of the year, however in recent weeks I’ve probably not given this as much attention as it deserved. A combination of marking exam papers and trying to finish everything off before the end of the school year meant I often found myself pushing on through when I should really take a step back and rest. This was abundantly clear when I found myself needing a 2 hour nap one Saturday afternoon, and I’m certain the niggling tightness I’ve experienced in my right leg recently has been my body’s way of getting me to slow down and take a break. The summer holidays will give me a great chance to recharge, then I will need to make sure that I prioritise rest right from the start of the new school year so that I remain well-rested rather than playing catch-up when it all gets a bit too much.
    Progress: Needs AttentionIMG_1870
  6. Commit to more yoga outside of my weekly classes
    I’ve finally taken control of this one and thanks to my Tough Girl 100 challenge to complete at least 10 minutes of yoga or mobility work every day, I’m finding some time for a bit of yoga each day. I still have my Ashtanga class on a Thursday evening (Saturday morning Hatha is finished for the summer) and on the other days have been using a mixture of Jasyoga videos to help “reset” particular parts of my body that feel like they need attention, and Yoga with Adriene videos which I have found enjoyable. I’m looking forward to spending even more time on this over the summer to help create a useful daily habit.
    Progress: Much ImprovedIMG_1992
  7. Blog more consistently
    My target was to publish at least one post per week in addition to my Friday Finds post as I was conscious that in busy periods of 2016 there were a number of weeks when Friday Finds was all I produced. But in 2017 it’s so far so good. I’ve actually managed to publish all my Friday Finds posts on Fridays (no late ones so far) and have published a Week in Review post every Monday. Most weeks have had one further post, although this did tail off a little towards the end of term. Now that I’m on holiday, you can probably expect to see a bit more from me and I’ve plenty of ideas in my drafts ready to work on…
    Progress: On TrackIMG_1529

Overall I’m pretty happy with my progress towards my goals so far. One or two things have lapsed a little recently, but the next few weeks should allow me to sort that out and get everything fully back on track.

How are you getting on with your goals for the year?
Any yoga video/app recommendations for me?

7 For 2017 – Quarterly Review

At the start of this year I set my 7 goals for 2017 and at the end of March we were already one quarter of the way through 2017! But am I a quarter of the way towards achieving my goals? Today I want to check in with them and see what progress I’ve made.

1. Set some new race PBs
I’ve only raced twice so far in 2017 and achieved a PB at one of those races (the Inverness Half Marathon) so I guess that’s a 50% record. My main target when it came to this goal was a new marathon PB, but the hot conditions in Paris put paid to that one. Watch this space for my future plans as this is one goal I’m not ready to let go of yet!
My second target was to finally better my 2012 half marathon PB which I achieved in Inverness. I wanted to get a bit closer to 1:52:XX and with !:53:03 I came pretty close over a hilly course, so that’s definitely a big tick!
Finally I thought I might have a go at breaking 50 minutes for 10k. That one is more of a summer/autumn goal when I tend to enter more 10k races so that will be on the backburner for now.
Progress: 1/3 achieved

IMG_72602. Run my 100th parkrun
To achieve this I simply need to be consistent in participating in parkrun every Saturday. So far, this has happened. I missed one parkrun while I was in Paris (I did the Breakfast Run instead) and am currently taking a couple of weeks off to recover post-marathon so am missing a further two, but with 73 parkruns under my belt now I still have a little leeway there to achieve 100 by the end of the year so long as I can continue to be healthy and injury-free. Fingers crossed!
Progress: On Track 

IMG_72953. Maintain my Step Goal Streak
At the end of 2016 I had a step goal streak on my activity tracker of 6 months straight, so my goal for 2017 was to take that initially to 12 months, but to ideally take at least 10,000 steps per day for the full year. As I write this I’m on day 292 so am closing in on the milestone of 300. Getting my steps has become habit for me now and I incorporate extra walks into my day which really make me feel better, so this one is currently looking good.
Progress: On Track

4. Read at least 30 books
I have this one set as a challenge in Goodreads so I can keep a close eye on how I’m getting on. In 2016 I managed 27 books (but one of them, rather ambitiously, was War and Peace!) so 30 should be do-able when I consider I’m likely to read several books during my relaxing summer holiday. At the moment I’ve read 8, which Goodreads tells me is 27% of my total and puts me comfortably ahead of the quarter-way mark.
Progress: On Track

5. Make more time to relax and prioritise rest during the work week
This was one I knew I had to really work on as I’m a natural night owl but have to rise quite early in the morning. During marathon training I got better and better at getting to bed early, and I’m trying to be a bit more conscious of going to bed when I feel tired rather than sitting downstairs longer for no good reason. On Saturdays I’ve become used to an afternoon nap, and I even had a short nap after one of my long runs as I felt too weary to eat! What I learned in this last marathon training cycle is to prioritise rest and early nights much sooner in the process. For the first month or so I was quite busy but since my runs were still fairly short, I felt ok. When the accumulated training load started to take effect, I really noticed the difference in how tired I felt. Next time I’ll make sure I’m well-rested from the start.
Progress: Much improved 

6. Commit to more yoga outside of my weekly classes
Perhaps the one I’ve done least about. I have continued with my two yoga classes per week and not only have I noticed the difference in my flexibility and strength from this, but my Ashtanga teacher commented that she could see the difference in the way my body moves. Both of these are really positive for my running. Unfortunately I’ve not done quite as much outside of these classes as I would like. I’m still to work through my Hit Reset book from Jasyoga, but I have incorporated one or two things from the associated videos into my post-run routine, most notably lying with my legs up the wall for 10-15 minutes which I am convinced is making a difference to my recovery. I also include some mobility work in this routine and my gym routine, however I’d still like to find a place for more frequent yoga practice in my day to day life. Perhaps now my marathon training cycle is complete I can turn my attention to this one.
Progress: Working on it!

IMG_13287. Blog more consistently
To develop from my 2016 postaweek commitment, in 2017 my aim was to write at least one post per week IN ADDITION to Friday Finds. So far, this has gone well. Friday Finds has actually gone out on time every week and I have published a Week in Review every Monday. Many weeks have seen other posts go out too, so to date I’ve met my goal on this one and still have plenty of things up my sleeve which I’d love to write about. I have gained some new followers along the way (hello to you all!) and since I’m fond of statistics, it will be interesting to look at my stats at the end of the year and see how they compare to 2016.
Progress: On Track 

IMG_1461When I sat down to write this post I wasn’t actually sure I’d made much progress towards my goals at all, but writing it all down has given me a great opportunity to reflect and realise that I have. Several of my goals require long-term commitment, and that commitment is there. I’ll check in with them again in the summer to see how things are going.

How are you getting on with your goals for 2017?
Any book recommendations or topics you would like me to cover in a post?

The Daily Post – Shelf

This past Thursday was World Book Day, and while I would love to have posted this on Thursday, it just didn’t work out that way. Still, it’s given me a great opportunity to finally write this post based on a Daily Post prompt I saved about a year ago!

The prompt “shelf” really got me thinking. As an English teacher I have A LOT of books, in fact it was the main thing everyone commented on when we moved house last year as we roped in loads of friends to help us and the least popular job was lugging my boxes of books around! I’m one of those people who finds it hard to give books away, although I have had one or two clear outs whenever I’ve moved. Still, I just can’t help myself and permanently have a pile of books waiting to be read, a Kindle loaded with titles I’ve spotted on offer and some hefty wish lists on a well-known internet retailer! Safe to say that I’m a bit of a book worm…

For me, my passion for books goes right back to childhood. Bedtime stories were a real highlight for me and I ALWAYS knew if someone got it wrong despite not actually being able to read for myself yet! Visiting grandparents were regularly treated to a big pile of books I expected read to me and my reward for good behaviour during the weekly shop was a book, usually one of the Mr Men or Little Miss books. And I loved it!

Once I was able to read I was one of those children who would be constantly getting a telling off for staying awake too late to read, so sometimes I would read under the duvet with a torch instead (great for helping to feel safe during “scary” parts!). I loved mysteries, adventures and school stories, with a particular penchant for Enid Blyton. I still have my Enid Blyton collection and went as far as to buy a small bookcase to shelf them in my spare room (they’re double-stacked so there are more behind!).

IMG_0931My more “grown up” collection is a feature of our living room and still tends to draw comment, usually “have you really read all these?” Yes. Yes I have. There are a couple of shelves where I keep the books I’ve not read yet (behind my comfy chair), but all the rest have been read. When I moved into Steve’s flat there wasn’t room for all of my books so about half were put into storage and I really missed them. What can I say? I took an English degree and pretty much spent 4 years reading books in order to achieve it. And as an English teacher, I’m not going to stop any time soon! I read every single day and my favourite time to read is when I go to bed. It relaxes me and gets my mind ready for sleep. I’m often so tired that I only manage a couple of pages, but I would never even contemplate getting into bed without a book to read.

IMG_0904I have one more book shelf in my house and that is actually built in to the frame of our bed. Buying a new house we had to be quite clever with storage, so found this great bed frame that had shelves on the headboard. Genius! Mine, of course, has one shelf dedicated to books. This is where I keep all the books about running, cycling or people taking on awesome physical challenges that I’m still to read. Above that, one or two other books – usually ones I’ve just purchased or that people have lent to me – that I plan to read soon, with my current title on top so it’s easy to grab when I get into bed. I even keep a spare pair of my reading glasses on a shelf below that so I always have my specs to hand ready to read!

IMG_0903For me, my book shelves are really important. Each title represents a new world explored, an adventure experienced vicariously or an inspiration to try something new. Some books are an anchor to a moment in time that I can remember clearly and re-reading that book would evoke that moment for me once more – a bit like hearing a song that you associate with a particular experience. I long ago accepted that I’ll never read everything I want to, but I’m prepared to give it a damn good shot. I do my very best to transfer that enthusiasm to my pupils and hope that by discussing books, reading together and showing them what reading means to me, I might inspire them to further their reading journey.

Of course as a cat owner, there are also times when one of my shelves actually just looks like this:
thumb_IMG_8929_1024

And true to the cat code, she sees it as her civic duty to regularly stuff herself into the empty shelf I’ve kept for my collection to expand into. Typical!

Reading over this post, it seems that “shelf” really was an interesting idea to consider. Somehow I’ve managed to encompass my love of books, my love of running and my love of cats into one post. That’s pretty good going!

But now that you know what “shelf” means to me, I’d love to hear about what it means to you in the comments below…

Book Review – Start With Why

thumb_img_8783_1024

Why are some people and organisations more inventive, pioneering and successful than others? And why are they able to repeat their success again and again?
Because in business it doesn’t matter what you do, it matters why you do it.
Steve Jobs, the Wright brothers and Martin Luther King have one thing in common: they STARTED WITH WHY.
This book is for anyone who wants to inspire others or to be inspired.

If I’m honest, this is not normally the sort of book I would choose. It’s largely aimed at a business market – from the big multi-national to the small one-person enterprise – and I feel like my working life operates in a rather different way. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t valuable lessons for me to learn from this book, so when Steve selected it as “a book chosen for you by your spouse” as part of my reading challenge last year, I was interested to see what I would get from it as it’s a book he returns to again and again, recommending it to anyone and everyone!

Based on his 2009 TED Talk, Sinek’s premise centres around what he refers to as the “Golden Circle”:

aaeaaqaaaaaaaawkaaaajdvmzwe4ztk0lwnimtitndg4ys1hmtm3ltm3ntk0zjyynzhjyw

Using Apple as an example, Sinek explains that every single company in the world knows WHAT, they do, some explain HOW they do it (usually by giving information about their USP), but very few clearly explain WHY they do what they do. Yet it’s the WHY that people buy into. If our beliefs are the same as those of the company, we will buy their products even if they are not necessarily the “best” on the market by other measures. WHY is about building trust, sharing values and stimulating emotions rather than simply appealing to the logic centres of our brains. When the WHY is clear, loyalty grows; when we lose sight of our WHY and focus instead on WHAT, failure is more likely. Throughout the book Sinek charts this through examples of success, failure and comeback, linking each closely to how firm a grasp a company or leader has of their WHY.

So what can I take from this either in my working life or as a runner?

In teaching, I need to have a clear sense of WHY: why am I teaching this topic? Why am I taking this approach? Why is this pupil not meeting their potential? and so on. Young people frequently ask WHY, they need to understand the reasoning behind what they are being asked to do, particularly if it is a task they find challenging. If I lose sight of WHY, then learning and teaching in my classroom will suffer.

Sinek also devotes a chapter of the book to trust, something which I consider important in my classroom in order to build positive relationships and make behaviour management easier. Teachers are leaders of learning, and leading means creating an environment where others willingly follow (as opposed to being a leader which is the status of holding the highest rank). How can I possibly get a room full of teenagers to follow my instructions and advice if the trust is not there? My pupils, like everyone else, base their trust on the sense that someone else is driven by something more than their own self gain. If the WHY is clear, the trust emerges and hard work happens.

And this is also true in running. It’s all very well to go for a run, sign up for a race or set a goal; knowing WHY these hold importance leads to a much more positive experience. WHY could be the difference between positive training and junk miles, between racing for the sake of it and targeting an event, between meeting a goal and sitting on the injury bench. Sinek’s clear message is that if you don’t know WHY then you can’t know HOW. That make sense to me: it’s all very well knowing WHAT my goal is, but knowing WHY it’s my goal gives me the added motivation to overtake it. If I know WHY then I can work out HOW to make it possible – the workouts I need to do, the paces I need to hit, the timing of events, etc. Knowing my WHY will lead to great success than simply knowing WHAT.

WHY is also important in thinking about those we surround ourselves with. We have evolved to form groups, or cultures, who come together in a shared set of values or beliefs, that’s why in times of great debate we don’t always see both sides of that debate reflected in our social media feeds as those we follow tend to believe what we believe. In business, this means employing people who share your WHY and will be inspired to be productive. In running and other sports this means surrounding ourselves with people who will be positive and encouraging. When I picked up an injury in training for my first marathon, I lost count of the number of people who told me it would be impossible to complete the race on the mileage I had completed, but I chose to listen to those closest to me who believed it was possible and adapted my training because I was clear on WHY I wanted to achieve this goal. The result? I completed the race and got the marathon bug!

These days I prefer to train alone, but I still find those who share my values and beliefs through social media. WHY is the reason I believe so strongly in the message of Sarah Williams of Tough Girl Challenges. She wants to motivate and inspire women and girls by sharing stories of women taking on incredible challenges, fighting through adversity and achieving amazing things. I became a member of her closed Facebook group the Tough Girl Tribe because I saw the opportunity to connect with other women who share my WHY. I may never meet many of those women, but I know they are joined through a culture of support, encouragement and positive belief. Our WHYs are in line with each other and that will help us all to succeed in whatever personal challenges we set.

If I’m honest , I did become a little frustrated by the book as I felt the point became a bit repetitive. Perhaps as a business leader I would feel different, but for me it just became a few too many examples of the same thing. That said, I still think it had a positive message for me and as a result of reading this book I do think about WHY much more often, both in work and in the rest of my life, and have a much greater awareness of those who also consider WHY. I may not be a leader in the sense of a CEO of a huge global organisation, but I am a leader in my classroom and a leader of my own life. Both of these can be much more successful when I remember my WHY and use it to influence HOW I approach things. And that is where the magic happens…

You can learn more about Simon Sinek here
You can read a useful summary of Start With Why here (although I would really recommend reading the whole book).

Friday Finds – 10th February

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.

After a sleep special and a mindfulness special, this week it’s time for something much more firmly rooted in the act of running. As winter continues to hold us in its icy grip and all those goals set with such optimism just a few short weeks ago seem so far out of reach, I thought I would bring you some finds all about inspiring people who will hopefully lift your spirits and provide some motivation.

First up, the recent news that legendary runner Ron Hill finally ended his running streak…after over 50 years!! I know lots of people commit to running streaks for a variety of reasons, although I must confess it’s never seemed like something I wanted to do as I know that running too much, for me, tends to lead to injury. I’ve known people take on running streaks throughout December and by the end of the month they’re exhausted and looking forward to a day off, so it’s with real amazement that I consider Ron Hill’s achievement. It’s quite incredible to think that for over 50 years he was never once too ill or too injured to manage his run, and that’s a real testament to his commitment. That commitment only ended due to a health issue (and he still made sure to complete – and time! – his last run) so I wish him well in his recovery.

Another runner who has earned a day off is US Olympian Ryan Hall who recently completed the World Marathon Challenge of 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days. Yup, you did read that right! This endeavour was Hall’s farewell to running and, in a poignant symbol of closure, he left his marathon shoes on the finish line of his last race. I read several stories about this event over the week it was taking place, but what I really liked was seeing Hall’s Fitbit stats which he published at the end of the challenge and which show a grand total of over 308,000 steps. That definitely blows my 10,000 per day out of the water!

Closer to home, I was thrilled to hear that Scot Callum Hawkins set a new Scottish half marathon record in Japan last weekend. Having recently heard that the record time he thought he had run at the Great Scottish Run in the autumn would be discounted since the course was found to be short, setting a new record was the perfect response and continues to show the strength of elite Scottish athletes right now alongside fellow record-setter Laura Muir and speedster Andy Butchart. I can’t imagine I’ll be troubling their records anywhere other than in my dreams, but it’s inspiring to know that Scotland can produce world class athletes and that as a nation we have a bright running future.

But enough of all these men, now it’s time for some inspiring women. One of my first book reviews on the blog was of Alexandra Heminsley’s Running Like a Girl and I’m excited to read her second book which focuses on her journey as she learned to swim and took on a mammoth challenge. All this set against the backdrop of IVF treatment and heartbreak. In this edited extract, published in The Guardian, Heminsley demonstrates the resilient spirit and mental strength needed not only to face her swimming odyssey, but to take on everything life throws at her. It’s a longer read, but well worth it.

And finally, if body image is something that holds you back, then why not look to Kelly Roberts aka Run Selfie Repeat for the inspiration to embrace a strong body rather than a “perfect” body. Kelly’s blogs are always honest and are never hidden beneath a veneer of “perfection” for a social media world – if she’s having a tough time, if workouts are hard or a race doesn’t go as she would have liked, she shares it. That’s so refreshing and reminds us that (as I often tell my pupils) it’s ok to find things difficult; it’s not ok to not even give it a go. Earlier this week the Run Selfie Repeat Podcast was launched and I’ll be having a listen to get more of that trademark honesty and reality. In this article, she tells us more about the #sportsbrasquad which was such a big hit throughout last summer.

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Book Review – Your Pace or Mine?

*Updated Feb 2017*

9781783727926-270x414

Lisa Jackson is a surprising cheerleader for the joys of running. Formerly a committed fitness-phobe, she became a marathon runner at 31, and ran her first 56-mile ultramarathon aged 41. And unlike many runners, Lisa’s not afraid to finish last – in fact, she’s done so in 20 of the 90-plus marathons she’s completed so far.

But this isn’t just Lisa’s story, it’s also that of the extraordinary people she’s met along the way – tutu-clad fun-runners, octogenarians, 250-mile ultrarunners – whose tales of loss and laughter are sure to inspire you just as much as they’ve inspired her. This book is for anyone who longs to experience the sense of connection and achievement that running has to offer, whether you’re a nervous novice or a seasoned marathoner dreaming of doing an ultra. An account of the triumph of tenacity over a lack of talent, Your Pace or Mine? is proof that running really isn’t about the time you do, but the time you have!

One of my goals for 2017 is to read at least 30 books (an extension of last year’s goal to read more books, which evolved into a goal on Goodreads of 15 books in the year) so when I saw that Charlie Watson aka The Runner Beans had suggested an online book club, I jumped at the chance to be involved. What a brilliant opportunity to read some great books, share my thoughts and connect with others. After a vote (which I found a bit tricky as I wanted to read just about all of the choices!) the first book was chosen as Lisa Jackson’s Your Pace or Mine?. I knew about this book as Jackson is a contributing editor to Women’s Running and I also listened to her on a recent episode of the Running Comentary podcast, so I had an idea of what to expect.

The book is divided into 11 chapters. The first 9 have intriguing titles beginning, “What Running Taught Me About…” followed by a chapter focusing on what Jackson can teach us about running and finishing off with one final chapter for readers to use as their own running record book (although I read it on my Kindle so would have to keep my record elsewhere!)

What I enjoyed about this book is that Jackson highlights the sense of community among runners. She’s not an elite who was running fast times practically from birth, she’s a “real” and inspirational runner who found running a bit later in life (as did I, indeed I was a similar age to Jackson when I ran my first marathon) and who prides herself not on her finishing times, but on how good a time she has at each event she goes to. And that makes a world of difference. Jackson’s trademark is to run each marathon is some kind of fancy dress or crazy headgear, and while there will be an elitist few who might turn their nose up at her “chat-run” approach, there’s no taking away from the fact that she IS a member of the 100 marathon club, she HAS run Comrades (more than once) and she HAS run the Boston marathon. How many of us can say the same? The over-arching message is that you don’t have to be fast to run a marathon, you just have to be prepared to give it a go.

“St Francis of Assisi summed it up perfectly: ‘Start by doing what is necessary. Then do what is possible. And suddenly you’re doing the impossible.'”

Throughout the opening chapters we learn more about Jackson and the supporting cast of characters around her. We learn of her triumphs and setbacks. Most importantly, we learn about the amazing people she has met along the way. As a confirmed “chat-runner” (her term for it) Jackson has come into contact with all manner of people, all taking on the same quest as her – to cross that finish line and have an experience that will change their life. She has picked people up in their toughest moments and kept them company to the finish, dished out chocolate to keep spirits up and laughed her way to many a finish line, sometimes long after the official cut off which doesn’t bother her at all. She’s even run naked (and for once I don’t mean leaving her watch at home!).

Each of these chapters also finishes with stories from the runners she has met along the way, and while inspiring, this is probably my only issue with the book. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed reading what these people had to say, but I felt that it interrupted the narrative of Jackson’s running journey. I think I would have much preferred that these were collated as a chapter of their own or an appendix at the end so that I could read them AFTER I had read everything Jackson had to share. Given Jackson’s conversational, community-focused approach there is definitely a place for these stories, I would just have liked them organised differently. But perhaps that’s just me.

And what can Jackson teach us about running? Actually quite a lot. For the beginner, the debunking of many a common running myth that may halt running dreams in their tracks before they really get started. For the more experienced, a reminder that there’s so much more to running a marathon than how long it took us, that time only tells part of the story. And as I discovered on my “tourist run” of the Paris marathon last year, sometimes taking your time and soaking up the atmosphere leads to a far more memorable experience than pushing yourself to the limit in your quest for a specific time. For all of us, Jackson provides the inspiration to never give up, to pursue our dreams no matter how ridiculous they might sound to others. If we can dream it, we can do it.

“My headstone isn’t going to say: ‘Here lies Lisa Jackson. She watched every hot new box set. Twice.’ It’ll read: ‘Here lies Lisa Jackson. Marathoner. Trailrunner. Triathlete. Ultrarunner. She’s reached the final finishing line – and this time, she isn’t last!'”

This was also a book peppered with comedy moments, from Jackson’s stories of mid-race mishaps to the list of T-shirt slogans that have made her smile. I may not have taken quite the same approach as Ms Jackson to my running, but I know the experiences and memories I have make my running story all the richer. Jackson clearly revels in being part of a running community, and the affection the runners she has met hold for her is clear. Running can be a solitary pursuit, especially if, like me, you train alone, so feeling like part of a community though my blog, social media groups and good old parkrun are really important to me, and when I think of it like that I can understand why Jackson takes the approach she does.

Overall I really enjoyed this book (slight bugbear about the arrangement of the stories from others aside). It was an easy read and I felt a connection with Jackson through her conversational style (hardly a surprise for a writer who is also a chat-runner!). I could relate to so much that she wrote, particularly about starting out and refusing to give up, messages I’m always keen to promote to my pupils. So if you have any interest at all in running and are looking for an easy read for these dark January evenings, then Your Pace or Mine? might be just what you’re looking for.

You can read more about The Runner Beans Book Club here
You can read Charlie’s review of the book here
You can read more about Lisa Jackson here

***Update Feb 2017 – here is what Lisa Jackson herself shared with me about the structure of the book. I completely understand and to be honest, my comments were entirely based on personal taste – I was enjoying her story and wanted to stick with it for longer before reading these other stories. What I find really interesting, however, is that since writing this review I have seen a paperback copy of the book and the stories from other runners seems to work so much better in this format than on the Kindle. The Kindle is great for quick access to content and is brilliant for travelling, but sometimes there is just no substitute for a real book!***

screen-shot-2017-02-02-at-21-33-16