Friday Finds – 20th 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.

I don’t know about you but I am gripped by marathon fever. Since last Friday we have had the Commonwealth Games marathon, the Boston marathon and, this weekend, the London marathon. I’m so excited and pretty much have marathons on the brain right now. Unsurprisingly, that means this week’s Friday Finds is a marathon special.

I have to start with last Sunday’s Commonwealth Games and Callum Hawkins. As a Scot, I was backing Callum to perform well, so was shocked to see the footage of how his race ended when I awoke on Sunday. Quite the controversy ensued, however I found this piece by Tom English for the BBC worth a read:

Soon, news feeds were taken over by the Boston marathon on Monday. It was the coldest on record (I think), with wet conditions to boot and the results were, in some respects, unexpected. While the eyes of the world were on the US women challenging for the win, there were several surprises thrown in along the way, which is exactly why I love marathons. Here are some articles I enjoyed to round up the key stories:

Of course now the London marathon is right around the corner and there have been plenty of articles looking forward to the big event on the UK sporting calendar. The BBC really summed it up with these compilations:

I for one will be comfortably ensconced on my sofa with a cup of tea taking it all in – the stellar elite fields, the possibility of records being broken, the icons  – whilst willing those I know towards the finish line. But if you need just a little more cheer this evening, then here’s a video of a therapy dog supporting runners in Boston. You’re welcome!

Happy reading. And if you’re racing this weekend, happy running!
The Running Princess

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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 – 30th 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.

Hello! I hope Good Friday has been good for you. The weather here has been pretty miserable, but a day off work was definitely welcome! So as you relax into your (long) weekend, here are some bits and pieces for your reading pleasure…

Last week I included a piece with the startling news that caffeine might not make everyone run faster, so to counter that here’s an article from Runner’s World to remind us of all the benefits having a coffee. Just don’t drink it too late if you want to get a good night’s sleep!

Also from Runner’s World, the results of a study into the effects of stopping exercise on our mental health. Certainly any runner who has ever been sidelined by injury can attest to how their mood changes, but up until now there has been very little research done on the subject. Unsurprisingly, the study notes changes almost immediately in many cases, but what was most surprising for me was that females seemed to be affected much more. Perhaps that explains the way I have reacted to past injuries compared to Steve! I’d be interested in your thoughts on this.

If you’re needing something uplifting after that, then I have the very article for you. Sometimes the person who finishes last in a race is the most inspiring of all, so here are the stories of 8 runners who found themselves doing just that.:

This week’s near-obligatory article about Strava is a cautionary tale for those who pore over the data too much – but perhaps not in the way you think. Most of us (read: me!) like to geek out over the copious amounts of data the app provides, but for one user the only data she was interested in was who her partner was working out with. Can you guess what happened next…?

And finally, the tagline tells us that “America runs on Dunkin'” and now we can take that literally as Saucony’s latest running shoes to celebrate the city of Boston have a Dunkin’ Donuts theme. It may seem an odd partnership, but there’s something appealing about running shoes covered in sprinkles 😀 If you could design a pair of running shoes featuring food, what would you choose?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 15th September

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.

For the first time this year, I just didn’t manage to pull my Friday Finds post together while it was still actually Friday! I tried, but was just too tired after a busy couple of days to finalise my article choices and finish it off. So this week, let’s call it Saturday Stories – sorry!

As marathon day edges ever closer (one more week – eek!) my thoughts inevitably turn to the big day. The result? Some reading material with a marathon slant this week…

First, something rather disappointing. While I understand the strong desire to set a BQ (Boston Qualifying) time and secure a coveted place in the Boston marathon, I find it appalling the lengths some people will go to in order to claim that place, often depriving more genuine applicants of their chance. This week it came to light that thousands of runners have been accused of cheating at the Mexico City marathon, many of whom were recorded as having BQ times. I find it incredible that something like this could happen on a large scale, but am pleased that the vigilant Derek Murphy at Marathon Investigation is always looking out for such things. Here is his analysis of the results from that race:

Speaking of Boston, race director Dave McGillivray finally managed to stage an event that first entered his mind decades ago and which he has been planning for years – a marathon entirely inside a Major League Baseball stadium. Just 50 runners were accepted into the 100+ lap (!!!) USATF certified event at Fenway Park which took place as I was pulling this post together. The winner? The one and only Mike Wardian, of course!

This next article had me intrigued. It’s a report on a study of language learning and whether or not exercise could help. Findings suggest that working out can improve our ability to memorise, retain and understand new vocabulary, giving further weight to the theory that exercise boosts brain power as well as physical fitness. Perhaps I should switch to language-learning podcasts on my training runs. I could be much more adept with foreign languages after a cycle of marathon training!

For me, one of my favourite things about marathon training is the eating I can do. I LOVE my food so being able to put away huge meals without any difficulty is a real joy (I just have to remember to stop once the race is over and I’m not training so hard anymore!). Funnily enough, it’s not just me and I enjoyed this short piece from Women’s Running which beautifully sums up my feelings up with regard to food:

And finally, not a new video by any means, but I recently came across this again and with a marathon on the horizon, found it rather entertaining.

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 9th June

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.

Unbelievably, for the third week in a row I’m going to lead with the story of Kilian Jornet and his Everest summits. No, he hasn’t gone and done it again, but he has now returned to “civilisation” and many media outlets have been interested in speaking to him. Here are some the articles I’ve come across, one featuring a short video charting his journey with a voiceover from the man himself:

Next up, one for those of you who are stat geeks like me. It never fails to amuse me how I can totally understand STEM subjects when put in a running context, but have little hope in other situations! In this article we are given some of the key numbers that demonstrate what is driving the running market right now, from participation to brands to record times. Enjoy!

Speaking of science, here’s an informative article from Outside which explains a little more about how exercise benefits our brains. As runners we’re well aware of how much more alert and productive we feel after a run – even the long ones! – and it’s long been recognised that the mind and body grow together. Here’s a bit more of the detail:

A little more science comes to us from Athletes Weekly who this week reported on the findings of a study into why some people can physiologically cope better with the demands of the marathon than others. As an injury-prone runner I found it fascinating to find out that there’s an excellent chance I can blame my parents as it turns out there really are different genetic markers that contribute to how our bodies respond to hard workouts. Having that understanding would really help athletes to better target their strength training to target those specific issues and become more resilient runners.

And finally, you might remember in my Boston special I mentioned that two guide dog puppies were to be named after the race winners. Now, the adorable Edna and Geoffrey are ready to meet their public. Caution: they are way too cute!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

The Spirit of the Marathon

I often get asked what it is about the marathon that keeps me going back for more. Why do I voluntarily put myself through weeks of hard training for a race I know is going to hurt? Surely there are more sensible things to do with my time! But there’s just something about running 26.2 miles that is simply magical:

It’s the participants united in their quest for a common goal.

It’s the friendly, supportive atmosphere in what is usually a big city full of anonymity.

It’s the conversations with random strangers, bound together by the marathon.

It’s that feeling like no other when you cross the finish line.

It’s the knowing looks from fellow runners as you walk gingerly through the city that evening and the morning after.

And it’s the amazing stories of commitment, compassion and courage that reach us after the event. Stories which define the Spirit of the Marathon.

Right now, spring marathon season is in full swing and in the space of just a few weeks I’ve come across so many incredible marathon stories. By sharing some of them in one post, I hope to go some way towards helping explain why I love that mythical distance so much.

In what other sport can the average weekend warrior line up alongside the elites? I’ve taken part in the exact same events as greats like Kenenisa Bekele, Mary Keitany, Jo Pavey and David Weir. Of course those at the front are applauded and celebrated for their victories, but those further back in the field are made to feel like rock stars too thanks to spectators screaming their names and offering encouragement. But what about every runner’s worry: what if I’m last? Well in the recent Rotterdam marathon it turned out to be a moment akin to actually winning the race, as shown in the amazing video which swept social media earlier this month. To be honest, if that had been me I would have been a blubbering puddle of tears for that entire final stretch!

While that was happening, I was on the streets of Paris watching the magic of the marathon unfold around me. I saw runners coming to the aid of others who were struggling in the heat, I saw spectators lining the streets with hands outstretched for high fives and others holding signs that made me smile. My favourites included “smile if you’re not wearing underwear” (that made EVERYBODY smile!) and “finishing is your only f***ing option”. When I finished I checked my phone to find so many words of support and congratulations from those who had followed my journey, runners and non-runners alike, who wanted to connect in that moment. And I also discovered the wonderful quirk of this year’s event which saw a married couple take the top spots in the men’s and women’s elite races, a fact which suited Paris’s reputation as the City of Love perfectly!

Just a week later, runners were lining up in Hopkinton for the start of the Boston marathon. Always a special event, this year’s race was made even more special by the fact that the first woman to officially run the race, Kathrine Switzer, was running again to mark the 50th anniversary of that now-iconic run. Amazingly, at age 70 she was just 25 minutes slower than in her first race in 1967! She wore the same race number (261) which has now officially been retired so no other runner can ever wear that number in Boston again. I listened to a fantastic interview with Switzer on the Marathon Training Academy podcast recently, which I recommend if you’d like to hear more about both the 1967 race and the 2017 one.

But this wasn’t the only story to emerge from Boston. In the days after, the media was full of stories that, as the quote from Kathrine Switzer further up this page declares, will reaffirm your faith in human nature. There was the wounded veteran who not only completed the race on a prosthetic leg, but spontaneously picked up his guide and carried her over the finish line with an American flag, an action which soon went viral. Then there was the Northern Irish runner who stopped to help an exhausted runner and carried her to the finish line where medical personnel were waiting. And 8 hours after starting, there was the emotional moment one of the last runners crossed the finish line. The timing mats had already been taken away (there are no official times after a certain point) and while there might not have been the confetti cannons and music of Rotterdam, there was still fantastic crowd support as she was cheered every step of the way to that finish line where her medal was waiting.

And then there was London. Oh London what an emotional rollercoaster you gave me, and I was only watching on TV! The stories from this year’s London marathon have been well documented almost every day for the last week, but here are some of the ways the London marathon epitomised the Spirit of the Marathon.

Josh Griffiths
Josh Griffiths was the runner who showed us that in the marathon, anything is possible. A club runner in his first ever marathon, Griffiths ran a superb race and finished in 2:14:49, beating the best British runners to the finish line and guaranteeing himself selection for the World Championships in London this summer. Not bad for a debut! Dig a little deeper and you soon learn how different his race weekend was to that of the elites he ultimately raced alongside, and I enjoyed hearing a bit more about this when he was interviewed on the Marathon Talk podcast this week.

Matthew Rees
Funnily enough, Matthew Rees runs for the same club as Josh Griffiths, but has shot to fame for very different reasons. Those watching the coverage on TV were captivated by Rees’ selfless act when he stopped to help stricken fellow runner David Wyeth. Seeing acts of kindness like this always makes me wonder how I would react in the same situation. I’m sure we’d all like to think we should stop and help, yet many ran by Wyeth, no doubt seeing how close they were to dipping below 3 hours for their finish time. Rees, of course, did the right thing, and the members of Wyeth’s club are so grateful that they’ve offered to pay for him to run again in 2018. That’s the Spirit of the Marathon right there.

The Royals
As part of their campaign for mental health charity Heads Together, Kate Middleton, Prince William and Prince Harry were the official starters of the race. I expected to see them stand on the raised podium to the side to press the button, politely clap for a bit then disappear, maybe for some interviews. How wrong I was. Shortly after starting the race, the young royals made their way down to the sidelines to encourage runners at the start of their journey, before making their way to the charity cheer point where they were on hand to wave foam fingers and hand out water (getting soaked by one cheeky runner). Finally, they went to the finish line and stood in the finish funnels shaking the hands of those exhausted, sweaty runners and personally putting medals around their necks. I was really impressed by their willingness to get involved and mingle with the runners and there will be many who now have a unique memory of their marathon.

The Tears
Another part of the Heads Together campaign was Mind Over Marathon, a project where 10 people with mental health issues trained for the marathon to see how running might aid their mental health. The second part of the programme was broadcast a few days after the event and it was astonishing to see the impact the process had on those involved, but the runner who caught my attention the most was Rhian Burke. Tragically, Burke lost her one year old son and her husband within a few days of each other and has struggled with her mental health ever since. Watching her cross the finish line and experience not only the surge of emotions that comes with that momentous occasion, but the emotions of everything she has been through and the strength she has had to find was just heartbreaking and had me in tears. I truly hope her achievement helps her to move forward with greater confidence.

The Quirks
And then there are the things that only ever seem to happen in London, like the policeman dressed as a gorilla who crawled the entire marathon course on all fours, finishing six days after it started.  Or the cryptic crossword setter who challenged himself to create a clue during each mile of the race. Stories like this demonstrate that the marathon is for everyone and capture public attention long after the elites have gone home.

All of these stories are the reasons why I love the marathon. As a challenge it’s daunting yet accessible, and that’s what brings out the best of humanity. Marathons bind people together, whether that’s the training partners who become friends for life, the new friends made at a race who remain in each others lives or the countless volunteers, supporters and organisations who help to make race day special. Marathons motivate people to raise funds for good causes, to test their limits and to take on a new challenge. They inspire strangers on the tube/metro/subway to actually talk to each other. They drive people to stand for hours by the side of a road screaming themselves hoarse for people they do not know. They are days fraught with emotions where anything can happen and we can switch from highs to lows and back again in a heartbeat. They are an epic journey, both literal and metaphorical, where amazing things are achieved and the average person can become a hero. Put simply, marathons change lives.

I’ll leave you with one final article from The Independent, written during last Sunday’s London marathon, in which the writer explains her love of this “strange, but wonderful phenomenon”. For me, this says it all.

The Spirit of the Marathon. Hard to define, but unforgettable for those who experience it, however they experience it.

What makes marathons (or any other event) special for you?
When have you seen the Spirit of the Marathon demonstrated?

Marathon Monday

Right now it’s Monday morning. All my social media, blog and news feeds have been filling up all weekend with posts from Boston and articles about the Boston marathon. Me? I’m going back to work for the start of the new term and even though it’s really only been a week since I ran a marathon, I’m still feeling just a teeny weeny bit envious of everyone who will go left on Hereford, right on Boylston today. So this morning I thought I’d bring you a post dedicated to some of the articles I’ve found on the Boston marathon recently. Think of it as a kind of Monday Morning extra edition of Friday Finds for this Marathon Monday…

There’s something special about the Boston marathon, it’s a kind of holy grail of events thanks partly to the need to run a qualifying time (BQ) to get in. But that’s not the only reason it’s such a special race, and in this article from Competitor, Toni Reavis explores some of the reasons why.

If you’ve ever wondered what goes into putting on a race like Boston, then this article from Women’s Running might help. It includes stats from the 2016 race that reveal just how much is needed, from the safety pins to the volunteers and everything else in between. Some of the numbers are incredible!

And for the stat fans (like me) this next article reveals some further insights about Boston marathon participants based on data provided by Strava. Given the need for runners to qualify for this race, I would be interested to compare this data to the stats from another race with a more “diverse” field.

This year’s race is particularly special as it marks 50 years since Kathrine Switzer first ran. Pictures of that event have become iconic in representing the fight for women’s inclusion in distance running. This year, Switzer will once more toe the line to celebrate the progress that has been made. If it wasn’t for her, then women like me wouldn’t be able to run marathons today, and that deserves celebration. Here are two articles I’ve come across which cover this pivotal moment:

It might be a little late for those running today, but it’s still interesting to learn a little more about what the elites eat during race week. I know in the days before a marathon I think very carefully about what I consume to make sure I avoid any potential difficulties, but some of these answers might surprise you!

And finally, this year’s male and female winners will find themselves the recipients of a bonus prize. No, not money or a trophy, but a name. That’s right, a name. Two guide dog puppies, expected to be born on Marathon Monday, will be named after the champions. What’s more, it is hoped that the pups will ultimately become running partners for their handlers. I think that’s fantastic.

Good luck to everyone racing in Boston today. Please stop by and share your stories afterwards.
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 21st 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.

I have to begin today with the amazing Ed Whitlock. I’ve heard one or two interviews with him on podcasts and have always been stunned at how well he has continued to run throughout the decades, setting numerous age group records. The reason I’m including him this week is his latest record for the fastest marathon in the men’s 85-89 age group: an unbelievable 3:56:33! The fact that he still runs so well at age 85 is inspiring enough, but when I consider the fact that he is STILL running a faster marathon than I’ve EVER run at less than half his age, I’m overawed. Now I have even more motivation to go for it and get my own sub-4 hour finish!

If I do want to run well for years to come, then perhaps I need to heed the advice of the veteran runners featured in The Guardian this week. Whenever I have any setbacks in my running, I find myself wondering if it’s all over, so it’s inspiring to read of those who found running even later than I did and are still going strong. I’ve spent some time recently thinking about how to structure my training and mulling over nutrition, so I was particularly interested in those elements of each woman’s story. I’ve been eating a lot of avocado this year, so fingers crossed that’s the secret to longevity!

One of my athletic heroes, and one I’ve mentioned on here a few times, is Jessica Ennis-Hill who this week announced her retirement from athletics. I’m disappointed not to see her compete again, but she did hint at this after the Rio Olympics and has made no secret of her desire to develop her family life. I hope she leaves behind her a legacy of inspiring more young girls to take part in sport as she has been such a positive role model in a world of “instagram perfection” and airbrushed, carefully-curated online lives. Of course the retirement of such a high-profile figure in athletics resulted in many articles devoted to Ennis-Hill, one of the best being one written by her coach Tony Minichiello. Here are some of my favourites:

Speaking of women’s sport, one of the pivotal figures in the women’s marathon movement was, of course, Kathrine Switzer. I never tire of the story of her first Boston marathon and how that helped change attitudes to women in endurance sports. I recently heard her interviewed on a podcast and it was fantastic to hear the story in her one words. I know I’ve shared Switzer stories before, but came across this one earlier this week and decided in a week of sharing inspirational athletes, I would share this one too:

And finally, if you’re in need of some inspiration of a more musical nature, why not check out this workout playlist featured in The Guardian a couple of days ago. Whose playlist? Oh, just Barack Obama’s! I’ve spotted a track on there that’s on my playlist too, so I guess we have something in common 😉

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 16th September

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.

Imagine it’s race day. You’ve trained long and hard for the 26.2 miles ahead of you: early starts, punishing speed workouts and tricky weather conditions. You’re in peak form and feel ready to run a good time and qualify for that mecca of US races, the Boston Marathon. What would it take to derail your plans? Perhaps you pick up an injury along the route; perhaps you fall; perhaps you make an error with your nutrition. The last thing you expect is to be stopped on the course for some time, yet that is exactly what happened to runners in a marathon in Lehigh Valley when a slow moving train crossed the race route. Many runners were halted for around 10 minutes, which had a knock-on effect for their finishing time. As I understand it, Boston organisers have no plans to accept any adjusted times from this race, meaning that many have likely missed out on their chance to qualify for the 2017 race. Knowing how hard people work to get a BQ (or GFA for London), this must be a massive blow. Hopefully the runners affected will have another opportunity to BQ in future.

Meanwhile, the Paralympics have been taking place in Rio with further incredible feats being recorded to add to a fantastic summer of sport. You may have seen headlines around social media declaring that in the men’s T13 1,500m final (an event classified for visually impaired athletes) the top 4 finishers were faster than the gold medal winner in the 2016 Olympic games. Sounds extraordinary, yet why shouldn’t a Paralympic athlete run faster than an Olympic athlete? It all comes down to the field on the day, the tactics employed and the race that unfolds. Martin Fritz Huber, writing in Outside Online, explains further:

Someone else doing well is Ray Matthews. Heard of him? If not, then you should know that 75 year old Matthews just ran 75 marathons in 75 days to raise money for a local school. That’s a phenomenal achievement at any age, however I think my favourite part of his story is that Facebook rejected an ad about the challenge due to it “making claims that are unrealistic or unlikely”. Sounds like a red rag to a bull to me, and what better motivation to spur someone on through their final days of a challenge. Fantastic!

Moving on to calmer pursuits, two stories have caught my eye with regard to yoga. I know I feel less stressed and experience less anxiety since making yoga a regular part of my life this summer, so I was intrigued to learn that yoga can help to calm the fight-or-flight response. Furthermore, the suggestion that learning yoga and meditation in schools would benefit our young people sounds sensible. Our young people seem to find it harder and harder to switch off, to simply “exist” without a device in their hands (and if they do, they spend the whole time worrying about what they’re missing out on!) so any help they can get to “unplug” should be welcomed. It would also be a valuable resource for young people to have access to ahead of exams to help them feel calmer and more receptive to retaining information. It will be interesting to see if such practices are adopted on a wider scale.

And finally, think you know your world cities? Why not put yourself to the test with this fun quiz from The Guardian. Using heat map data from platforms such as Strava, we can see the digital tracks left by runners overlaid on street maps. Can you identify them? I spotted London and Paris, but I think the rest will be guesses since Geography is not my strong point!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 19th 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.

I always feel a little sad as the Olympics draw to a close. It’s been a fantastic fortnight of sport and I’ve really enjoyed watching the best of the best competing. I’m also really pleased to see such a strong performance from Team GB in our first post-London Games, proving that there is a continuing legacy of sport in this country. But away from the incredible performances, personal bests and world records, we’ve also seen a number of moments which really define the Olympic Spirit, and that’s the focus of this week’s post.

One of my favourites comes from the women’s 5000m. In case you missed it, two runners collided during the race. One helped the other to her feet then when they began to run again, realised that she herself was injured. This time the other runner stopped to offer encouragement. Both runners, sporting rivals (and strangers) before the race, finished and hugged in acknowledgement of that shared experience. For me that really embodies the ideals of sportsmanship that should be so important in events like this.

I also liked the story to come from the women’s marathon, however this one has had some mixed reactions. In brief, twins Anna and Lisa Hahner both represented Germany in the event. When they finished in 81st and 82nd place, they crossed the line holding hands, a gesture reminiscent of the inaugural London Marathon when Dick Beardsley and Inge Simonsen crossed the finish line hand in hand (we also saw this from Paula Radcliffe at the 2015 London Marathon and Meb Keflezighi at the Boston Marathon in the same year). But for the German twins, their finish line moment has been criticised on the grounds that it looks like they didn’t take the race seriously and treated it like a “fun run”. Given that they ran a 2:45 marathon on a hot Rio day, I’m not sure how much “fun” they were having (frankly if you looked at some of my finish line photos from marathons you’d think I had a fantastic time from start to finish, but I know differently!). I’ll never know what the Hahner twins’ true motivation was, some have suggested self-publicity, but I like the idea of them finishing together and sharing the moment.

Another pair of siblings to make the headlines was GB’s triathlon titans Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee. Aside from the fact that four out of the last six Olympic triathlon medals (of any colour) have been won by a member of this same family, the bond between the brothers shines through even in the face of friendly rivalry. Having successfully defended his title, Alistair slumped to the ground soon to be joined by Jonny (who upgraded his bronze in London to a silver in Rio). They clasped hands and simply said, “we did it.” They had been together through much of the race, and it was only towards the end of the run that Alistair pushed ahead to leave Jonny behind. Having watched this pair in other races, I’m certain they always wait for each other to finish, regardless of how long it takes.

Probably one of the most iconic moments of the Rio games happened between two gymnasts. In a time when tensions between many nations are fraught, gymnasts from North and South Korea, countries technically still at war, posed together for a selfie. That moment of unity quickly went viral as an unlikely friendship was forged. Like with the story of D’Agostino and Hamblin, it proves that sport can bring people together in a shared goal, even when competing against each other, much like shaking a rival’s hand at the end of a race to congratulate them on a job well done.

And finally, if all of that is making you want to go out and create your own Olympic moments, then one way to do so might be to run the marathon. Don’t worry, you don’t have to run 26.2 miles all at once, and sadly you’re not guaranteed a trip to Rio, but The Guardian‘s new interactive podcast sounds like a really cool alternative. Simply fire up the podcast on your phone, and head out. As you run, your distance and pace will determine what you hear as you are treated to an audio tour of the Olympic marathon route as well as some information about how Rio got ready for the games and a little bit of marathon-related advice. The men’s marathon takes place on Sunday, so if you have a long run to do then you could almost feel like you’re with them… in spirit anyway!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess