Week In Review – Shaking Things Up

With the new term beginning this seemed like a good time to shake up my training routine to try and make the most of the time available to me without being completely exhausted! With no race to train for in the near future, I’ve got a bit of room to try out something different. Here’s an idea of the routine I’m working to:

Monday – rest
Tuesday – 4 miles
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – 4 miles + Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – rest
Sunday – 8 miles

From next week I will have yoga on Monday evenings again, but for this week I had a rest day as I was a bit shellshocked from the first day back at work (which was pretty busy) and I had an appointment once I got back to Perth so it was good to get home and totally switch off for the remainder of the evening.

Before bed I laid out some running kit as my new plan is to try and run twice through the week, but in the morning rather than the evening. It’s something I’ve played with occasionally in the second half of this year and I want to see if this creates a bit more space in my week by cutting down some rushing about. Now seems like a good time to try it out so that a routine can be established.

w1Khcv9XSke2Wi%MhqXATQI was out the door by 5:30am and had originally planned to run a loop of a little over 3.5 miles, but within the first mile I realised that my light had come off my shoe. I’m quite fond of that light and toyed with turning back to locate it (I mean, it was obviously on the pavement somewhere flashing away!) but then decided simply to run 2 miles then turn around and retrace my steps to run another 2 miles home. Shortly after this I actually met Steve who was heading back from his run so mentioned it to him and when I got home empty-handed a while later I discovered that he had found my light and taken it home. What a guy!

That run made me feel pretty good for the rest of the day and I achieved a lot, arriving home a little after 5pm to unwind with a short yoga practice before settling down for the evening. So far so good!

By switching my training around I created space on Wednesday which meant I wasn’t rushing to squeeze in a workout before orchestra. It was really nice to have a bit of time to myself and a chance to enjoy my dinner without having to bolt it down, which made me feel much more relaxed for the rehearsal.

Wednesday was also notable for the homemade apple crumble we had. My dad was given a big bag of cooking apples by one of his friends and my parents passed some on to us. Steve had a bit of time on the afternoon so made a crumble. It was delicious!

Nculz5vAQH+CKBcqBA1xLwI had another early run on Thursday morning, opting once more for 4 miles but running a loop this time. I’m actually surprised at how good I’ve felt running first thing, and knowing I have my workout done for the day is great! I think the endorphins keep me going for the rest of the day and where I had expected to feel really tired, I’m feeling ok. It will be interesting to see if that remains the same a few weeks into the term!

Pyd0+MhER+GgZYGdHR0k5wThanks to some heavy traffic I was a bit pushed for time after work, but did make it to my Ashtanga class. For those who have been following, yes I did manage another headstand and my teacher noted how quickly I’m moving into the posture now compared to my hesitation before. Now to work on holding it for a bit longer.

On Friday I headed down to Steve’s studio after work for a session. This week it was the TRX for upper body/core and a little bit of mobility work around my left ankle. It’s no longer causing me any discomfort, but I have noticed that it doesn’t feel as stable as the right one, which is having an impact on my balance postures in yoga. By working on the range of motion we should be able to address this.

I listed Saturday as a rest day, but only in so far as I didn’t do any training. In a highly unusual move, I missed parkrun (gasp!) in order to attend what, for me, was a very important event and the logistics of fitting it in around a parkrun – even tourism – were just too complex. Steve dropped me off at the station on his way to parkrun and I hopped on a train to Glasgow, coffee in hand.

E+yzFwCZRVuqGeYdTJixQwThe reason for my trip this time was to take part in the march and rally organised as part of the teachers’ pay campaign in Scotland. I don’t want to get into all the reasoning behind the claim, etc here as I don’t think it’s the place for it, but I do believe very strongly that some things need to change as teachers are feeling overworked and underpaid. I’ve never taken part in anything like this before, so it was quite exciting and I had no idea what to expect (and the fact that I was prepared to miss my beloved parkrun says a lot about how I feel on this one).

Arriving in Glasgow it was pretty clear that this was going to be a huge event. Organisers had been worried about low numbers and had thought maybe about 5000 would turn up…the lowest estimate made of the numbers is 20,000! Almost everyone leaving the station and heading into the underground was on their way to the march and the muster point in Kelvingrove Park was packed! I found my colleagues, donned a campaign beanie hat (it was a pretty chilly morning) and someone from my school who was involved in the organisation asked me to be a steward. I wasn’t particularly looking for a “job” to do, but she said all it involved was wearing a high vis top and walking on the outside of the march. High vis? No problem!

5avs3yRzRd+I70B5%BzwggThe march took us from Kelvingrove into George Square in the centre of Glasgow. I think it was 2ish miles and took us about an hour to cover as it wasn’t exactly a brisk pace! As we marched it was great to see the sort of support I tend to associate with racing in Glasgow – drivers tooting their horns and waving, shop owners cheering us on and residents hanging out of windows calling out and making noise by banging saucepans, etc. We ourselves were making plenty noise with whistles, horns and rattles so it was pretty cool.

YdXqjzsKQE6fsWP0mENY6gWhen we got to George Square there was a rally so we gathered to listen to the speakers and make sure the numbers in the square remained high. It was only at this point that the real scale of things became apparent as we were told that an hour after we had begun marching, the last of the marchers were only just leaving Kelvingrove Park – that’s basically a 2 mile snake of marching teachers moving through Glasgow! Very powerful and hopefully it will help to make a difference.

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9dGPfgfCR1yS49Fb3FcbbgAs things came to an end I headed off to meet Steve who had completed his parkun business (shadowing the RD ahead of taking on the role himself next weekend) and jumped on a train to Glasgow. He couldn’t really join us as he had a small procedure on his foot during the week and has to be careful about spending too much time on his feet while the wound heals but fancied spending a bit of time in Glasgow. I was, unsurprisingly, pretty hungry by this point so we went to get some food at Bar Burrito. It’s one of those places with a similar setup to Subway, but with Mexican food. Reasonable prices and pretty tasty so we often go there when we’re in town.

Ie0ble10Q9+FpY4PN14XUwAfter that we had a quick look in some shops then went for a hot drink at Hotel Chocolat (of course!) before our train. I do enjoy their seasonal specials so had their autumn hot chocolate. I can’t remember now what the autumn ingredients were – I have a feeling it was something like maple and pecan notes – but it was delicious.

F05a6sIUT2eQ6DrVcFwE0wI was pretty tired by then after being on my feet all day so we got the train home, ran a couple of quick errands and were home in front of the tv ready for the Strictly Hallowe’en special. Perfect!

I didn’t set an alarm for Sunday, instead allowing my body the chance to get whatever rest it wanted and enjoy a potential extra hour of rest. Of course, I was woken by the kittens who were full of beans thanks to the recent full moon. Anyone know how to set their clocks back an hour? 😂

The weather was cold again and I could see a layer of frost on the cars. Time to get the winter kit out! I got myself dressed in my winter finery (plus sunglasses since it was actually quite bright) and set off for 8 miles. It was a really enjoyable run and I got just what I wanted from it – to keep my mileage ticking over while I build a solid base to head into the new year. No need to bust a gut over the pace, just run comfortably and listen to my podcast. It was lovely.

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Zu6QfOvIQkSOTzvjEDLOIAThe rest of the day was pretty chilled. We had to get some food shopping done since we hadn’t done it on Saturday, then a chance to relax and recharge before the new week. One down, eight to go…

Have you ever taken part in a march/rally?
What’s your favourite winter kit?

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Week In Review – Lots Of Yoga!

I know, I know. Things are slipping on the blog a bit right now as the rest of my life is just so busy and my time for writing posts seems to have disappeared. Thank goodness I will soon have some time off to sort myself out! Thankfully I am still managing to fit in a bit of training, but am listening carefully to my body so I don’t overdo things. This past week actually ended up being pretty heavy on the yoga. Here’s how it worked out:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – SUP yoga
Wednesday – short run
Thursday – Astanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun then SUP yoga
Sunday – 10k

For a variety of reasons, Monday was a pretty challenging day for me and despite REALLY needing my yoga time, I found it really hard to focus my mind and kept noticing my thoughts drifting. It was a great class as ever, but my head just wasn’t in the right place throughout and that irritated me.

Thankfully, I was a bit more focused on Tuesday and a session of SUP yoga was exactly what I needed. My friend Ella came along and there were some others new to SUP yoga so it was good to have a range of experiences out on the water. Having made great progress with the yoga postures across the classes I have done so far, I was keen to try standing up to paddle back afterwards, however right at the end of the class the wind suddenly whipped up as if from nowhere and we actually had to do a “self rescue” – lying on our stomachs on the board and paddling back with our arms. Kind of like swimming front crawl but with a paddle board under us.

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IMG_7260On Wednesday things were really busy and once more I felt a little unfocused. Steve suggested a run to clear my head, but I was wary of piling physical stress on top of mental stress so stuck to a short route and easy pace. I definitely felt much better when I got home again!

iHwMM0G3S4mtiSsZZbibMgThursday saw me at another yoga class, this time Ashtanga. My focus was back and I felt like I moved well through the postures. Still working on that headstand but I like having something that I want to improve on and am waiting for that “a-ha” moment that helps me to finally realise what to do.

On Friday I had an appointment to get my nails done but not until a bit later than usual so squeezed in a personal training session with Steve first. We did some work with the TRX and Core Momentum Trainer as well as some mobility work to really test me out. It’s been a few weeks since I went down to the studio and I really enjoyed it.

r0EnpOIlR%CmvcAF+nXzrgThe weekend, whilst much needed, was also really busy. I began on Saturday with parkrun. I really wasn’t sure how I was feeling after a tiring week so decided just to see what happened. And what happened was I ran a sub-24 minute time for the first time since the marathon at the end of April! I said recently that I really wanted to be back in that sort of form before going away on holiday so I guess I’ve achieved that now. It will be interesting to see if my time improves any further in the next couple of weeks.

t4SMTI0eTlKa7ue8637OlgPost-parkrun I was back on the paddleboard for another SUP yoga session. It was raining but with a wetsuit on that didn’t really matter. It was, however, still rather windy so that affected the postures we were able to do. All that yoga, especially the SUP sessions, really worked my core this week!

I had to get myself organised fairly quickly afterwards as we were picking my sister up and heading over to Glasgow for the evening as she had got us tickets to see comedian Michael McIntyre at the SSE Hydro. There aren’t too many food options in that area (and I’m not a fan of the food in the venue) so we grabbed some food at a nearby hotel. I had a pizza which was fine but pretty average compared to the ones Steve makes.

gjqqWgB8S0mtRcPHpJ+PBQThe show, however, was brilliant. I wasn’t a massive fan of the support act, but Michael McIntyre was hilarious so I’m glad we were able to see him, even if it did mean a late night!

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bIp%I7dDRzi7vxNIjP%1kgAs a result, I was pretty tired on Sunday morning so decided to head out for 10k rather than trying to increase my mileage any further. I was pretty tired and sluggish for the first mile but then my body woke up and remembered what it had to do and the rest of the run felt great.

IMG_7302The rest of Sunday involved a number of errands followed by a visit to my parents since it was Fathers’ Day.

How much longer until the summer holidays???

Other than running, how do you combat the stresses of life?
Are you going away this summer?

Week In Review – Fun! Fun! Fun!

It’s been an unusual week – another day out of school for exam marking duties, a couple of more unusual days in school and a full-on weekend of fun events to round it all off. Plenty of training in there too (including a massive leap out of my comfort zone!) so here’s what I got up to:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike @ the gym + swim
Wednesday – sports massage
Thursday – run + Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun + SUP yoga
Sunday – beach race

The week began pretty much as normal, but with the weather still beautiful I spent some time marking in the garden before going to my yoga class – got to make the most of the sunshine when it puts in an appearance in Scotland! It was the first yoga class in a block that will see us right up to the summer holidays and due to it being a UK bank holiday (not a holiday for me) and the weather being so nice, it was a quiet class but I don’t mind that at all. We worked on a new posture and it was fun to try something different and see how far my body could progress into it right now. It will give a great measure as I continue to work on it.

Tuesday was also pretty straightforward. Work then right to the gym. With my exam marking duties I wanted to be fairly swift so went with a steady cycle for about half an hour then headed down to the pool for a few lengths. Already my swimming felt so much better than last week and I enjoyed being in the water to cool off a bit.

cIUb%3rGQQ2xPg+vPKmIMQIt was from Wednesday that things were a bit more out of the ordinary. First of all, I was out of school for an exam meeting. I was back on the early train to Glasgow and heading to a different hotel for the day (no overnight stay needed this time). It was a beautiful morning and Glasgow is always lovely in the sunshine so I opted to walk to the hotel. A few people had raised their eyebrows at this, but with the logic of a runner, I knew it wasn’t that far since the venue was at the far point of the Santa Run course which is a 5k loop from right by the station I was arriving at. I therefore knew it would be a little over 1.5 miles away and probably only a 30 minute walk. I had plenty of time and really enjoyed the walk.

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H5+roKLuT5+I+BM+7d9rigSince it was so nice I headed out with a friend from the marking team for a walk at lunchtime and everything looked amazing.

8vKvDuouRb2H3GvTSZlVGAThen after the meeting I walked back to the station for my journey home. By the time I got back I had walked a fair distance but still had a run on my schedule. However I also had a sports massage booked and realised I wouldnt be able to squeeze a decent run in before heading along there (it was 6pm and the massage was at 7pm) so began to wonder if I could possibly get up early and run in the morning. I actually laid out my running kit and mentioned to a couple of people that I might do this as that would keep me accountable…

…and I did it! Out the door just before 5:30am for a 4.5 mile run. Waaaaay out of my comfort zone to be running so early but I felt so energised afterwards that I began to wonder if I could do it more often, but as a natural night owl it’s not really best for my rhythms. Still, I know it’s there as a possibility if I need to fit a run in again in future.

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DRnwc0c2TQa+T9UnpLfPQgI rounded off my Thursday with Ashtanga yoga. I was feeling good and surprised myself by managing TWO full rounds of Wheel for the first time. Now I can tick that off as something I have progressed to in the sequence, next up is to keep working on my headstand as I’d love to be able to do this unsupported.

By Friday I was exhausted from 2 early starts and a tiring work day on Thursday and Friday as the pupils were off timetable for our health/activity days. I took a rest day and caught up on myself a bit ahead of a busy weekend.

Saturday was pacer day at parkrun and I had picked the 28 minute slot this month. It was a pretty humid morning so I was pleased not to have to slog it out for a faster time. I also got my first opportunity to wear my new 25 volunteer T-shirt which had finally arrived.

2GUQXPpNTCqdMajUjZRblQI had a group running with me, some of whom were looking to run a faster time than they had been of late, and at least one who was hoping for a PB. I always find it so strange to run along with a group bunched around me – like having an entourage! Despite the heat and the group working hard, we managed to smile for the photographer so it looked like we were all having fun!

34201958_1794687760625242_8411694200835276800_nI came in at 27:52 so everyone wanting sub-28 was fine and there was definitely a PB in there for someone. It’s always so nice when this happens. The runner has put in the work to get that time, but it’s nice to feel like setting a steady pace has helped them to reach that goal and seeing how pleased someone is to run a new PB is fantastic.

Y98W47jTRS2KUjcaIDe3SwPost-parkrun I got myself organised for another session of SUP yoga. It was feeling warm and I was in two minds about the wetsuit but just couldn’t face the idea of going in the water without it so decided to sweat it out in the wetsuit. It was a fantastic session and I was able to stand not just in Mountain pose but in Warrior this time (I only managed this for about a millisecond last time!) so I know I have made progress on the board. Towards the end of the class there were a couple of people in the water so I decided to slide in off the side of my board as I was conscious that I needed to get in the water to overcome my fear of falling in. It felt really nice and I loved just bobbing about with my floatation device on. Now I’ve been in, I’m less scared of the thought of a fall. I’m, also considering buying a “shorty” wetsuit for warmer days as I know I can borrow Steve’s full length one if I need it.

On Sunday I headed to St Andrew for the Chariots of Fire beach race. I’ll write a separate post on this one, but it was a great event and although they suffered a couple of hiccups on the day, I would happily go back again as I really enjoyed it. I mean, dressed in all white, running on the beach to the strains of Vangelis, what’s not to like? A great day out!

g0lx95HSTS+THhuBgfhcvQI do love this time of year when I don’t have anything imminent to train for and can keep my training up but without too much pressure so there’s room for a bit of fun. With all that exam marking to fit in, it’s a welcome distraction!

Do you like early morning runs?
Ever run on a beach?

Week In Review – Signs Of Summer

It’s the end of May and we’ve had a decent spell of weather here in Scotland – hard to believe that it was only last month that I was still running in snow! My week has been a little different as the exam marking period has kicked in, but that is always one of the last hurdles to overcome in the school year before the summer break comes into view. It can’t be long now!

My main goal this week was to keep some consistency in my training despite a few unavoidable changes, so here’s how it ended up:

Monday – yoga at home
Tuesday – bike at the gym + swim
Wednesday – run
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – swim at hotel
Saturday – rest
Sunday – run

I mentioned last week that I wouldn’t have my usual Hatha yoga class this week as my teacher was taking a well-deserved holiday, so I made sure to do an at-home practice instead. I started a new Yoga with Adriene 30 day journey (I don’t do these in 30 days as I work around my other classes and don’t necessarily practice every single day, but there is no expectation of consecutive days – it’s all about showing up and taking time on your mat regularly). It’s always exciting starting these and getting into the flow of postures that will be the focus throughout the videos.

On Tuesday I was back at the gym for a cycle. This time I stretched the duration a bit then carried on for a few seconds more to hit a round distance. I probably eased off on the pace a little compared to last week’s shorter effort, but I also knew that I was going to follow this with a swim so that was ideal. It struck me recently that I haven’t really swum much this year so am intending to get in the pool a bit more in the last few weeks of term. In actual fact my swimming was ok, but I did feel like I was kind of congested from the pool chemicals which definitely affects my breathing. If anyone has any advice on this then I’d love to hear it. Once home, I did some more yoga since the videos tend to be an ideal length for me.

Wednesday, of course, is a running day for me and I knew I needed to make the most of it as I wouldn’t get another run until Sunday. It was a pretty warm evening so it was great to be outside, even if I was rather red-faced afterwards. I’m not going to complain though – after the winter we’ve just had I’m looking forward to some warmer runs so fingers crossed the good weather is here to stay!

FGYyd4MbRQ6Zw05pNsByFQThe run itself was a slight stretching of the route I did last Wednesday, coming in at around 4.33 miles. It wasn’t planned to be spot on 4 and 1/3, I just chose a loop to run, but it’s fun to see the result.

It was so good to be back at Ashtanga yoga after missing it last week. I was feeling good and was particularly pleased with how strong I felt in Wheel after working so hard on it. I also managed another supported headstand but really want to make more progress on this one. I will be patient though as I know it will come in time.

After yoga I went to get my nails done as the friend I go to for this is going on holiday and I had to squeeze an appointment in before she left. She was running a bit late which was fine, but it did mean I was home a bit later than I thought and didn’t really have much to eat. Thank goodness I’m not marathon training!

FpDeRpTLRJaT+0c3A670XAFriday was an early start as I had to get a train to Glasgow for the first part of my exam marking duties. We were meeting in one of the city centre hotels and I had a booking to stay over that night rather than go back and forth. I quite like getting the train as it gives me some time to read/listen to a podcast/blog and feels quite relaxed when the train is quiet.

Wzvyz%dAQZexzZqcF1nqKQWe always eat really well at these events so I soon made up for the light eating the night before! Lunch was awesome as it was all the various bits and bobs to build your own fajitas, plus a salad bar and selection of desserts. That evening I ate in the hotel bar with one of my friends from the team and had a pretty amazing burger followed by a double chocolate brownie with hot chocolate sauce and ice cream. Yum!

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fullsizeoutput_2576Fortunately, I did have the foresight to get a bit of activity into my day as well. I knew we would finish around mid-afternoon and since it was a glorious day (the west coast of Scotland gets the best weather) I took a walk into town with my friend and we treated ourselves to a drink at Hotel Chocolat. I picked the salted caramel chilled chocolate.

DGiY+wQaTRmNVRJuZW2CGAOnce back, we located the hotel pool and I had a bit of a swim before we headed into the steam room for a bit of a blether. It was good to have a bit of chill out time around all the work (and forthcoming marking!).

GDqIYao3TpmU2LljyGGqnwSaturday was more of the same and sadly no chance of fitting in a parkrun, so I consoled myself with a selection of food from the breakfast buffet (it’s a hard life!). I started with a selection from the cooked breakfast foods, then saw someone with a pancake and chocolate sauce. I investigated and realised that there was maple syrup so treated myself to a pancake with bacon and maple syrup. Not something I have often but oh so tasty!

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uB3DN4P3TwWYNzKJlvIO6AWe had another great lunch where there was a selection of foods and I just went for a mad selection of a little bit of everything. My plate seriously had rice, ratatouille, ham, veg, fries, spaghetti and salad all at once! I then “double-desserted” as there was mini key lime pie and profiteroles. How was I expected to choose!

When we finished work for the day I loaded up with some sweets from the selection in the hotel lobby (awesome idea!) and walked back into town to get the train home. There was a bit of time to fill and I was warm so I went back to Hotel Chocolat for one of their ice creams which they call ‘Ice Cream of the Gods’. It was yummy!

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3ouxwATxSz2FlnyhIXwhrgThe train journey flew by as I bumped into some others I had been working with and discovered that one of them is also a runner so we chatted about races all the way back. Steve had offered to pick me up but I was needing to move so opted to walk home. It was a nice surprise about half way up the road to find him walking down to meet me. I didn’t do much else the rest of the day as I was feeling tired and actually went to bed quite early. What a party animal!

My plan for Sunday was to not set an alarm and just wake naturally…so I woke up at 6:45am! It must have been how light it was and I had slept for a good long time. I got up, got organised and headed out to run 10k before it got too warm (for us poor Scots who aren’t used to it!).

a8n69qojQm6TeyYbA646YwPost-run and breakfast I took my work into the garden and got down to some exam marking while Steve was out for a long bike/run brick session.  We had a few errands but once that was done I headed back into the garden to make the most of the sunshine since there’s no guarantee of it lasting around here!

And now, the next three weeks will be dominated by exam marking, but I will be making sure to get my workouts in as well to keep me feeling fresh.

How are you making the most of the weather where you are?
What’s your favourite ice cream?

‘Your Pace or Mine?’ Follow Up: A Running Record

In my recent review of Lisa Jackson’s Your Pace or Mine, I noted that the final section of the book is given over to the reader to use as a record of their running. I really liked this idea, but since I read the book on my Kindle rather than in paper format, I didn’t have the opportunity to fill my record in. Instead, I thought it might be fun to write up my record book (to date) as a blog post. It’s going to be a long one so put the kettle on!

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Favourite Race Photo
I have a few photos that I like: some from mid-race, some post-race medal shots and some of me leaping around like a loony after a run. But when it comes to actual race photos, my all-time favourite is this one from the Paris Marathon in 2016. I was undertrained thanks to being stopped in my tracks by a stress fracture at the end of 2015, but on race day I was injury-free and determined to get out there and enjoy a self-conducted running tour of my favourite city. I ran it my own way, stopped to take photos and enjoyed a buffet of orange segments, sugar lumps and that pink sports drink they hand out that acts like rocket fuel! When the photographers snapped me in the finishing straight, I looked like I’d had an awesome time, even though I was completely exhausted and my legs were begging for mercy. Sometimes you just have to forget your race goals and go out there to have fun.

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Name
Allison a.k.a The Running Princess

Date When Started Running
I don’t have the exact date for this one as my diaries from that part of my life are not all that detailed. That said, I can remember the day itself clearly. It was the beginning of term in August of 2005. We actually started on my birthday that year and it’s entirely possible that it was actually on my birthday that I went for my first run. My friend who is a PE teacher (and at the time we were car sharing for work as well) took me to the local park and told me to start running at the pace I thought was about right. Predictably, I set off far too fast and didn’t get very far at all. My friend then sorted out my pace and so began weeks of building up the length of time I could run before having a walk break (which had to be shorter then the running time). The first time I ran all the way round the park (about a mile and a  half) without stopping was my first big running milestone.

Age When Started Running
I was just about clinging on to my twenties when I took those first tentative steps, however I was in my early thirties before meeting Steve and venturing beyond the odd slow 5k plod.

Reasons Why I Run
My first ever blog post was all about why I run, but I suppose that was really only about why I started, not why I run now. At first it was all about a personal challenge and wanting to raise funds for charity in memory of my gran; now, running is a habit. In many ways it continues to be a personal challenge as I look to improve my times or push myself in new ways, but even without that challenge I would still want to run and it only takes a spell of injury to remind me of how important running is for clearing my head, helping me to manage stress, releasing endorphins and giving my thoughts some clarity. I love how running makes me feel both mentally and physically as it helps me to keep sane as well as fit. Running makes my body lean and strong. And it also makes me hungry! I love the appetite running gives me and surprising people with exactly how much food I can put away!

IMG_0605Proudest Running Moments
Running has given me lots of opportunities to feel proud of myself, so narrowing it down to just a few was a bit challenging! Here are some of my highlights:

  1. Completing my first ever marathon in Paris in 2010
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  2. Running my first ever sub-2 hour half marathon at Aviemore in 2012
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  3. Topping the podium for the first time ever when I won my age group at the Cool Summer Mornings 5k in 2013
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  4. Running my marathon PB in Paris in 2014
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  5. That time I ran 4 races in one weekend at the Edinburgh Marathon Festival 2015
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  6. Finishing as second female and ninth overall!) in the Caped Crusader 5k in 2016
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‘Dreaming Big’ Goals (Races, Places, Times)
I love this heading. A chance for me to think about the things I would do if there was absolutely nothing to stop me. I would love to run all the marathon majors, something which isn’t an option for me right now as they don’t all fit in with my school holidays. I’ve run London, but would love to go back again with a Good For Age time. Right now that would be sub 3:45, a full 20 minutes faster than my current PB. We are dreaming big though! I would also love to do a Run Disney race. I know there’s a half marathon at Disneyland Paris now, but my ultimate dream would be the Walt Disney World marathon. My sister has done this, but again I’m held back by my school terms. Finally, there’s this year’s goal of some race PBs: if I’m dreaming big then it’s a sub-4 marathon, a sub-1:55 half marathon and a sub-50 10k. My other dream is to run in Central Park. It doesn’t have to be a race, I’d just love the experience of lacing up my trainers and heading off for a run in such a famous location.

Most Memorable Races
I’ve got a lot of wonderful memories from racing, but I think I’m going to pick my “firsts”:

  1. My first ever “proper” race – the Kinross 10k in 2009
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  2. My first ever half marathon – Aviemore in 2009. Memorable because Steve proposed the night before so all I can remember of the race is running along lost in thoughts of wedding dresses, possible venues and the most fun way to tell my parents later that day!
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  3. My first ever marathon – Paris in 2010
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  4. My first ever experience of the Paris Breakfast Run in 2014
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I’d also like to include running around the race circuit at Knockhill for the Graham Clark Memorial race, running over the Forth Road Bridge as part of a 10k race, and, of course, that time I ran a 10k PB (by one second!) at the Great Scottish Run then proudly announced my achievement to one of my running heroes, Paula Radcliffe!
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And although not technically a race, I’m including an honourable mention for parkrun during the I Am Team GB weekend when I got to meet a local Olympian and see a Rio medal up close.

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Favourite Running Motto/Mantra/Race Sign/Motivational Quote
My favourite mantra is “I can, I am, I’m strong” which I came up with for my first marathon. I had picked up an injury and seemed to be surrounded by people telling me that running my marathon was impossible. My mantra was a way to fight back against all the people saying, “you can’t” and remind myself that anything is possible.
I don’t often remember race signs, but I do love seeing all the firemen out in force in Paris with signs slung from their ladders declaring “les pompiers sont avec vous” (the firemen are with you). As for a motivational quote, it has to be this one:

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Funniest Running Moments/Favourite Stories Heard on Runs
Well, there was that time I got charged at by some scary looking cows whilst taking part in a trail race. Unfortunately the race route was such that I then had to run back through the same field on my return. Thankfully the cows had moved on to another part of the field by then!
There was also the time I did the Edinburgh Winter Run around Arthur’s Seat. It was freezing cold and as I came down off the hill it started snowing. I thought this was absolutely hilarious so the official photos showed me laughing like an idiot in the middle of a blizzard!

Favourite Medals/Race T-shirts
Funnily enough, I have a fair few of these! After a bit of thinking, I’ve decided on the medal and finisher’s T-shirt from Paris in 2010 (my first marathon), my London Marathon medal and, as a collection, my 4 Paris Marathon medals and the commemorative T-shirt I bought to mark the 40th edition last year. As a bonus, I’m also going to include a medal from a virtual race – the Platform 9 3/4k from the Hogwarts Running Club, an event I’ve participated in 3 times now.

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Charities Fundraised For and Amounts Raised
Since I began running to raise funds for charity, you’d think I would know exactly what my total is. But I don’t. Back then donations were made by sponsorship form, however I think across the 3 times I’ve run the 5k Race For Life I’ve probably raised around £150 for Cancer Research.

An early example of my signature "medal pose"!

In 2011 I pledged my support to a local charity, PKAVS (Perth & Kinross Association of Voluntary Services). They provide support to a number of different groups, perhaps most especially known for supporting young carers. I was inspired to help as a friend works for the charity and listening to her describing the challenges some people faced made me feel I should do something about it. Working alongside the charity, we set up the idea of “going that extra mile”, with participants joining teams for the Edinburgh Marathon Relay. Most were new to running and Steve put on weekly training sessions (often aided by moi) to help everyone prepare. For me, it was actually an extra 26.2 miles as I committed to running both the London and Edinburgh marathons which were just a few weeks apart. It was my first really big challenge which I completed, with a PB (since beaten) in Edinburgh and a total of £800 raised for a good cause. It was a real family affair as Steve also ran the marathon while both my dad and my sister were in relay teams.

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More recently, Steve and I took on an even bigger challenge when we decided to fundraise for Macmillan Cancer Support following our experiences of seeing family members and others close to us battling cancer. In 2014 I was supposed to run 3 marathons (Paris, Edinburgh and Loch Ness) however injury forced me to withdraw from Loch Ness and replace it with an all-new challenge: cycling! I took to two wheels and completed Cycletta Scotland which had Macmillan as the title sponsor. In 2015 I decided to take care of my unfinished business by running the Paris marathon for Macmillan in order to complete that triple marathon challenge I had set. But, being one who never does things by half, I also decided to go bigger with my cycling and take on the Etape Caledonia. I then rounded off what was basically a spring challenge by taking on the Edinburgh Marathon Festival – 5k and 10k on Saturday then half marathon and final leg of the relay on Sunday (logisitcs meant it wasn’t possible for me to go from the half to the full marathon). With over £5000 raised in 2014 (with massive thanks to my friend Ian and his clients for their support) and a further £1000 in 2015, that made a grand total of over £6000 raised for Macmillan. Phew!

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Biggest Challenges Overcome in Races
Generally speaking, my biggest challenge is injury. I have completed marathons despite being in a great deal of the wrong kind of discomfort (I’m looking at you Lochaber Marathon of Pain!) and also when undertrained as a result of injury. This is why I believe I’ve never truly demonstrated what I’m capable of over 26.2 miles.  But the fact that I’ve completed those races demonstrates that I can overcome challenges, usually with an altered goal.

Races With Best Snacks/Entertainment/Crowd Support
Without a doubt the best snacks have been at US races, particularly the Cool Summer Mornings 5k which often has post-race hot dogs, pretzels, beer, etc despite the fact that these will be consumed around 8am! The Chocolate Sundae Run, while a bit of a boring route, did have the draw of ice cream at the finish line! I also enjoy the on course “buffet” at the Paris Marathon as they lay out raisins, sugar lumps, sliced banana and orange segments. I can say without a word of a lie that those oranges have been the greatest thing I’ve ever tasted and a sugar lump late on the in race provides a fantastic boost to get you moving.
IMG_6102 When it comes to both entertainment and crowd support, the title needs to be shared by both London and Paris. I run with one earphone in so I can tune into my music if I need to without having to faff about, but I have absolutely no recollection at all of actually listening to my playlist in London thanks to all the various places blaring out music along the route, the wall of noise in Canary Wharf and the unwavering crowd support in the final stages along the Embankment when every fibre of your being is screaming to stop but every time you do, someone shouts at you to keep on going. In Paris there has always been phenomenal support from “Les Pompiers” but perhaps not as big a crowd as in London. That all changed in 2016 when, probably in an act of defiance at the atrocities that have taken place in the city in recent times, the streets were lined with supporters cheering the runners on and fighting back against those who commit such terrible acts. Paris also prides itself on the huge number of “animations” (entertainment) along the route. There are an assortment of bands in just about every genre you can think of from rock and pop to a bit of German oompahpah and the always fun samba bands. Many have dancers as well and the lift the entertainment gives the runners is visible.

Favourite Fancy-Dress Outfits
Running in fancy dress is not really my thing, but it has happened:

  1. Taking part in a Santa Run every year
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  2. Wearing my kilt for both the Perth Kilt Run and the Paris Breakfast Run
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3. Celebrating our parkun’s birthday with fancy dress. So far a beach party theme (in November!) and a superhero theme. To be honest, I quite enjoyed running as Supergirl!
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Most Beautiful Places Run In
I live in Scotland so beautiful places to run are often just a few minutes away and I love nothing more in nice weather (it can be a bit miserable and lonely when the weather isn’t so good).
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Away from my standard training runs, the Lochaber Marathon was beautiful, even if I didn’t really enjoy the race thanks to an injury flaring up. And of course, there’s my beloved Paris. What a beautiful city to run in !
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Countries I’ve Run In
Scotland (obviously), England (London Marathon), France (Paris Marathon), USA (training runs and events in Florida every July). I’m really going to have to work on adding to that list!

Cities I’ve Run In
6/7 of the Scottish Cities: Perth, Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, Inverness
London
Paris
Davenport, Florida
Winter Park, Florida
Tampa, Florida
Clermont, Florida

Marathon Majors Completed
Only London. One day…

Friends I’ve Made Through Running
Running has brought a lot of people into my life, from those I’ve trained for marathons with (connected for life!) to those I consider my “parkrun family”. Running also led me to blogging and there are several people I’ve come into contact with through blogging that I would probably never have met otherwise like Jaynie, Danielle and Kyla. It’s also what ultimately brought me to the Tough Girl Tribe and the fantastic women there. Running is such a fantastically inclusive community and provides a shared experience to base a friendship on or just start a conversation. Just one of the many reasons why I love it.
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Personal Bests (Time/Date) 5k, 10k, 13.1, 26.2, Ultra, Tri
I’ve got these listed on my Race History tab, but here they are again:

5k – 23:14 @ Perth parkrun 2015
10k – 50:14 @ Great Scottish Run 10k 2015 (aka That Time I Met Paula!)
13.1 – 1:56:35 @ Aviemore Highland Half Marathon 2012
26.2 – 4:05:07 @ Schneider Electric Marathon de Paris 2014

Race Record
This is a list that could go on for a while! All my race reports since I started the blog are under the Race Reports tab, but to summarise (and account for those pre-blog years!):

5k x 33 (inc Christmas events)
Parkrun x 66
5 mile x 2
10k x 20
10 mile x 3
Half marathon x 13
Marathon x 8
Other distances (e.g. EMF Relay, CHAS Devil Dash) x 10

Total = 155 events (89 if you don’t count parkrun) – phew!

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And now it’s your turn! Either write a post of your own to create your record book or share some memories in the comments below. I can’t wait to read them…!

The 2016 Glasgow Santa Dash

For me, this year’s Santa Dash had a lot to live up to. Taking part in at least one Santa run per year has been our habit for years now, but after the disaster that was being struck down with a stress fracture last December, I missed out on (or had to modify) all my festive fitness plans. I distinctly remember consoling myself with the reminder that the events would still be there in December 2016, so now that we’re here I’ve been determined to make the most of things!

With work being busy for us both, we’re making sure to enjoy our weekends in December, particularly since this will be our first Christmas in our house. I’ll write a separate post soon with all our other festive fun, but this one is all about our Santa Dash experience.

We first took part in the Glasgow Santa Dash in 2013 when there were around 3000 runners and returned in 2014 when it had grown to around 5500! This year, the event actually sold out in the week before (we were a little later than intended in entering so I’m pleased we were able to secure places!) and this time there were 7500 Santa signups for this 10th anniversary event. That’s a lot of Santas!

Despite the expanding numbers, logistics were much the same as ever. Online registration was easy and race packs were available for collection in one of the main shopping malls in the days prior to the event. We’re a bit too far away for that so instead we take our own Santa suits (we’ve done a few of these events now!) and get our numbers on the day. This year, the event began at 10am so we left Perth around 8am, giving us plenty of time to drive to Glasgow, park, go to the toilet and get ready to run.

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One change this year was to the start. In the past this has begun in George Square and headed straight up St Vincent Street (also how the Great Scottish Run starts) but this year it started on the other side of George Square so we were funnelled around to St Vincent Street from there. I found this a bit narrow so finding space to run was tricky. We were also set off in waves, and while we hadn’t managed to make our way right to the front, we were in the first wave to set off.

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The remainder of the route was just as it has been in previous events and once free of the congestion at the start, I was able to run well and enjoy the atmosphere. I do love races in Glasgow as the support is always fantastic. Often there are places where only one side of the road is closed so there are cars on the other side with drivers honking their horns and shouting encouragement. And for this event it’s great to see so many kids running and people taking part as families.

Having run parkrun the day before, I didn’t all out race, but I did run comfortably hard and felt pretty good. Coming onto the last stretch up Buchanan Street to make the turn to the finish line (in previous years also the start line) in George Square I still felt that I was speeding up and though there was no official timing, I was pleased to cross the line and stop my watch at 26:21, my fastest around this course so far despite the first mile taking me over 9 minutes as I weaved through the slower runners and made my way up the hill. Very pleasing.

Crossing the finish line we were directed to keep moving forwards to collect our medals (the usual snowflake but with a ribbon denoting the 10th anniversary) and a bottle of water. I then found Steve and we headed into the square to take some photos by the decorations.

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Happy with our photos, we headed off to get a coffee and I couldn’t resist giving my name as “Mrs Claus” when asked by the barista. To be honest, those NOT dressed as Santa were in the minority during our time in the coffee shop!

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Finally, we headed off to have a look around the shops and the Christmas markets. A few years ago I recreated an iconic moment from Elf after the Santa Dash and having watched that festive favourite again the night before this year’s event, I couldn’t resist doing it again whilst in a department store (and yes, we did try out our “singing” whilst in the store!)

Love the people behind me not even looking as they're so obsessed with their phones!

Love the people behind me not even looking as they’re so obsessed with their phones!

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It was, once more, a great day out and a fantastic event which I highly recommend. There’s some video and a photo galley here, and if you’re in the mood for a festive game of Where’s Wally (or Waldo to my American friends) then check out this BBC article. I’m in the picture at the bottom. Have fun…!

Currently…(June 2016)

Despite my best intentions, I’ve just not managed to write as many posts as I would like recently, so I thought this would be an ideal time to fill you in on what I’ve been up to lately…

Running
Since my recovery from the Paris marathon, I’ve been pretty sensible about my running. I decided to stick with the three runs per week that I was doing during my post-inury return to running, rather than the four I’ve scheduled previously. My thinking is that if I had an injury based on repetitive high-impact, then reducing that impact would be a good idea. Those three runs all have a different focus so that I can continue to build my fitness and gradually stretch my mileage a bit again (I don’t want a sudden leap in mileage as that will inevitably result in some kind of bodily breakdown). At the moment that means a tempo effort during the week, parkrun on a Saturday to get some speed in my legs and a longer, slower run on a Sunday to build endurance. I’ve probably been guilty in the past of running too fast on my long runs, so I’m really focusing on keeping that pace down and running comfortably. My parkrun times have come down and I’m almost back to where I was pre-injury; my longer runs are up to 8 miles, although I know I could easily do at least 10 and I’m generally running 4-5 miles comfortably hard during the week. In terms of racing, I ran the Great Women’s 10k in early June and have a couple of summer 5k races on the horizon, but other than that it’s been good to just run with no pressure of time or distance to constrain me.

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Training
The change from four runs per week to three was part of a complete overhaul of my training plans. When I thought about what I had been doing in the past, I realised that there was just too much impact on my body: four runs, one or two Metafit classes and a PT session which involved lots of hopping drills. There were very few days with low/no impact and that had to change. I spent a lot of time thinking about it and consulted with Steve over some of the details, to arrive at my new weekly plan:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – tempo run
Wednesday – bike intervals at the gym or a cycle
Thursday – run specific PT session plus ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest day
Saturday – parkrun plus hatha yoga
Sunday – long slow run

The eagle-eyed among you will have spotted a couple of yoga sessions in there, something new to my weekly routine. Yoga didn’t feature in my goals for the year, but I’ve believed for a while that adding yoga to my training might be really beneficial to boost my flexibility (especially around my hips) as well as strength and balance. I began a weekly ashtanga class at the start of May at a local yoga studio and am absolutely loving it. I can already see some differences in my flexibility and can’t wait to see how much more I progress. Recently, a friend of mine completed her yoga teacher training and has started a Saturday morning hatha class at her studio. Since I felt that one yoga session wasn’t quite enough, I decided to go along to that as the timing is perfect to grab a quick shower and change after parkrun then head along. I’ve found the combination of parkrun followed by a really good stretch in yoga feels fantastic and helps me to recover before my Sunday run. In an ideal world I’d like to do much more yoga during my summer break from school, so fingers crossed that works out for me. So far this new training plan has felt really good. A bit of me misses that fourth run, but I also know that this is best for my body and it makes me enjoy my other runs all the more.

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Listening
Regular readers know that I’ve become a big fan of podcasts. I listen to the Tough Girl podcast on my Tuesday run and Marathon Talk on my longer Sunday run (if you see me laughing during my run, that will be why!). I also like to listen to podcasts in the car on my way home from work so am always on the lookout for something else I might like. Recently I began listening to the Runner’s Connect Run to the Top podcast hosted by elite athlete Tina Muir and have really enjoyed it so far. The interviewees are really informative and it’s been interesting to get a bit of an insight into the training of an elite along the way.

Celebrating
So many celebrations recently, ranging from a number of significant birthdays in Steve’s family to the imminent retinal of one of my colleagues. This month also sees Steve and I celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary. That’s right, we’ve managed to put up with each other for six whole years filled with madcap schemes and some utter lunacy like Steve “doing a hairy” and my 4 races in one weekend adventure. We’ve not done anything truly mad in a while, preferring to be a bit middle-aged and talk about things like garden sheds, lawn mowers and watering the freshly laid lawn at our new house, but I’m sure we’ll come up with something else crazy soon!

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Planning
With the end of the school year almost within touching distance, it’s time to start thinking about the summer and all the possibilities it offers. We’re making plans for our trip to Florida, plans for the house and plans for our ongoing training. It’s not been an easy year, and I really can’t wait until I can lie on my sun lounger with the pool in front of me, sun above me and my Kindle in my hand. Bliss!

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What have you been up to lately?
Any exciting plans for the summer?

Race Report – Great Women’s 10k 2016

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The Women’s 10k is one of my favourite events in the race calendar. I first took part in 2013 then returned in 2014 for a PB, however couldn’t manage last year as the date just didn’t work out for me around my other training/racing commitments. This year, however, the date moved from mid-May to early June, and with nothing else in particular to train for, I thought I’d give it a go. I knew I was nowhere near 10k PB form, but I also thought it would be a useful benchmark of where I am right now (as well as a chance to earn a bit of bling!). I left it fairly late, only signing up a couple of weeks in advance, and my race pack only arrived two days before the race, but these days I’m reluctant to sign up for races too far ahead, just in case!

As well as the change of date, there was also a change of route this year, so it was exciting to see how that would work out. Instead of running through residential streets and a couple of Glasgow’s parks, the route would now begin near the University (my alma mater), making its way down to the riverside then snaking back again. Like the previous route it would be almost a loop, starting and finishing at different sides of a park. Knowing Glasgow, I knew this would mean a fairly steady uphill to get from the river back to the university and so a good test of my fitness.

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With the race due to start at 10:30am, an 8am departure from Perth was in order. Steve was originally going to drive me through however amid some logistical wrangling to allow him to fit in a run too, I was offered a lift through with some other runners I know so decided to go with them and let Steve have his run. We met at the Park & Ride not far from my house and set off for Glasgow, chatting all the way as we had not all seen each other for ages, which made the journey pass quickly.

Soon, we arrived in Glasgow and parked right by the building I used to have my lectures in! We were meeting someone else there, so there was time to pop to a well-known coffee chain for a pitstop before sorting ourselves out and walking the 10 minutes down to the race start where we joined the toilet queue then headed off into the park to find the bag drop. It was forecast to be a warm day, but under the shade of the trees it still felt a bit cool as we walked back to get into our starting wave.

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In the past, participants have been assigned to a wave based on their predicted finishing time. This has usually seen me in the front wave with my predictions of below 1 hour (this race attracts a lot of first-timers and groups just looking for a fun day out). This year, that changed with the novel idea of “musical” start waves. Instead of time-based waves, participants could pick a wave based on the music they would like to set off to – 80s, 90s & 2000+ – as well as a “time focus” wave for those wanting to take things a bit more seriously. We were all in the time focus wave, but even then we soon realised that this would mean runners of all different abilities would be in every wave, meaning that there would likely be a bit of weaving to get started.

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There was, of course, one of those awful mass warm-ups where 5000-odd participants attempt to join in whilst squeezed into a space the size of a postage stamp! It’s a wonder we didn’t all end up with squished toes as we jumped around and tried in vain to follow the instructors who were on a raised platform just slightly too far away. Still, it passed the time and the choice of music was good. There was then a few more minutes to wait as the course was checked one last time, then some intense music was played to get us all focused and excited before the horn sounded.

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Unsurprisingly, the start was a little crowded and I did notice a few women who began walking within the first kilometre, causing a bit of weaving. The first couple of miles were undulating, with a few out and back sections. The temperature was rising, but there was a fair amount of shade and I kept a decent pace, feeling pretty comfortable. But the closer we got to the river, the hotter it became and from halfway we were running in direct sunshine (which was also reflecting off the water) with no respite. I had been averaging around 8:30 per mile, but this soon began to slow as I got hotter and hotter. I grabbed some water at 6k, drank some and poured the rest down my back to cool me down a bit.

Around 8k there was a bit more shade and the welcome sight of a water mister. A few runners avoided it, but I made a bee-line straight for it, knowing it would be refreshing and give me a bit of a boost for the last of the race. As I ran through the mist all I could hear was the other runners around me letting out grunts and sighs of relief as the cool water hit their warm skin. It fogged up my sunglasses a bit, but it was definitely worth it!

From there, we had to gradually make our way back up hill again. There were also some more switchbacks and out and back sections which sometimes made it difficult to work out if the runners you could see heading the opposite way were ahead or behind. Fortunately, there were also lots of spectators along this part of the course shouting encouragement to keep us going.

With all the twists and turns, I could hear the finish before I could see it, but eventually turned a corner to be faced with one last uphill burst to the finish. I crossed the line in 54:23, with one of the other women I travelled with just a few seconds behind me. Given the conditions, I had expected to be around 54 minutes and I found the second half really tough with the heat, hills and a headwind that felt like running into a hairdryer! I did see someone in a social media group comment that they didn’t find it particularly hilly, but my data begs to differ:

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On a cooler day it probably wouldn’t have bothered me so much, but we Scots aren’t really conditioned to running in the heat as the weather is so changeable. I have been running in warmer weather, but not racing, so that made a difference for me. Still, I was 511th out of around 4750 finishers and 110th out of around 1000 in my age category. Can’t be too upset with that!

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Our group had pre-arranged a meeting point and had no trouble finding each other. There was lots on offer in the park including food trucks, massages and yoga sessions which sounded pretty tempting, but we were keen to get home so after a group photo we collected our bags and headed back to the car. One last coffee chain pitstop for the road and we were on our way.

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Lovely view of the University from the park

Once home, it was time for the requisite check of the goody bag: water, Lucozade, food, foil blanket (DEFINITELY not needed!), multivitamin sample, magazine, leaflets.

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And of course the medal and T-shirt, which this year was a tech T-shirt instead of the previous cotton ones (side note: despite being a women-only race, the T-shirts were unisex so my small will still be fairly roomy)

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I’m not yet sure how I feel about the new course. On the day, we all agreed we found it tougher than the old one, although it was also a much hotter day which had an impact. I think a part of me missed running through the leafy parks and there were also some parts where the support was a bit sparser compared to the residential areas we used to go through. I’m also not sure about the musical waves. It’s a nice idea for those out to have fun, but for those looking to get a good time (which could be anything from 35 minutes to 2 hours depending on the individual) this setup may not be the most conducive as each wave seemed to have the same range of pacers. That said, the event was very well organised, the start/finish areas were well signposted, the marshals and other staff were very good and the goody bags were decent. Overall, I think the race is good value for money and would have no objections to taking part again. In fact, entries for next year are already open if you fancy it…!

Friday Finds – 15th January

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

So once more it’s been a Big Week in athletics, with the publication of the second part of the WADA report into alleged doping. You have no doubt seen some of the extensive coverage of the report over the last few days, but if not then the following article provides a neat roundup of how various newspapers responded. Most noticeable, is the treatment of current IAAF president Lord Coe:

Prior to the publication of the report on Thursday, UK Athletics put forward a number of proposals to help clean up the sport. The proposal which attracted the most controversy was the one suggesting a “clean sheet” for world records, which would effectively mean all existing records would be cancelled. There are, no doubt, records which have been set by athletes who were doping and it’s only fair that they no longer receive credit for those performances, however there are also plenty of records which have been set by clean athletes and it seems unfair that they should have those feats “cancelled” due to others not playing by the rules. It seems that the intention in publishing these proposals was to provoke debate, and debate is certainly taking place, with marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe putting up strong opposition. This will certainly be an interesting debate to follow in the coming weeks, as any decision will likely have a huge impact on the future of athletics.

But I don’t want this post to be taken over by all the negative news of the week, so let’s take a look at some other things that caught my eye.

An interesting story published today surrounds food labelling. Opinions are constantly changing as to the best advice to give with regard to what we eat, however I was interested in the idea presented today by the Royal Society of Public Health. This latest proposal by the health body is to introduce new labelling on foods which would show how much activity would be required to burn off the calories in the product. Now while I know that health and fitness is not as simple as “calories in and calories out” and that telling people how many minutes of running would be needed to burn off a bar of chocolate does not necessarily equate to that activity actually taking place, I still wonder if presenting the calorie content in this manner might go some way to making a difference in people’s choices. It would make for an intriguing study.

More heartening news came from the This Girl Can campaign which was launched a year ago. Figures published by Sport England suggest that the campaign is having an impact, with more women now exercising regularly and crediting the campaign with motivating them to do so. Even more encouraging is the news that the campaign has been talked about on social media every single day since it’s launch in January of last year. That’s a lot of #thisgirlcan hashtags and having been a fan of the campaign from the start, I think this is fantastic news.

And finally, if all the doom and gloom of January is beginning to catch up with you, here’s some interesting news for runners (and would-be runners) who enjoy the odd “adult beverage”. A new 10k event in Glasgow this September will offer participants samples of wine rather than water at the aid stations. I wouldn’t normally advocate drinking wine whilst running (although I have to say the Marathon du Médoc holds a certain appeal…) but I may be tempted to give this one a go. Anyone else?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

2015: An End of Year Report

Unbelievably, another year has ticked by and now we are all locked in “Crimbo Limbo”, an odd time of year when we’re not entirely sure what’s going on and most small talk (after the obligatory comments about the weather!) begins with, “did you have a nice Christmas?” then segues seamlessly to, “anything planned for New Year?” ( in case you’re wondering, my answers are “yes, thank you” and “no, just a quiet one”). It’s a time of year when we inevitably begin assessing what we’ve done with our lives over the past 12 months and consider how we might make the next 12 even better, so what better time than now to look back over my challenges from 2015 and think about some of my personal highlights..

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I suppose it all started this time last year when I set out my challenge for 2015: one marathon (hopefully with a PB), one cycling event, and a frankly crazy weekend of multiple races, all completed by the end of May. After being hampered by injury in the second half of 2014, I didn’t want to plan any further ahead than that, preferring a cautious approach to my race plans, and it paid off – despite a strain to my left quad affecting the final weeks of my marathon training, the only plans I had to change were my expectations of a marathon PB, instead setting out to simply complete the race and have fun. It may not have been my greatest ever marathon finish time, but I finished it, had fun and, in the words of one friend, “became the selfie queen of Paris!”.
Paris Marathon done and part one of my challenge complete √

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Next up was the cycling event, and with my strained muscle preventing me from running, I got a bit of bonus time in the saddle, even going so far as to enter an extra event as a warm-up the week before. I may sound quite flippant about it all now, but in reality this was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. You may recall that I only began cycling in the summer of 2014 and bought my first road bike that autumn just before my first ever sportive, now here I was contemplating an 81 mile event which went over a mountain! I found the whole thing really daunting – the distance, the climbs, the risk of mechanical failure and the risk of rider failure(!) – yet somehow I managed it. The weather was apocalyptic (up on that mountain was particularly horrendous!) but both my trusty steed Trixie Trek and I held it together to cross the finish line of the Etape Caledonia and complete the second part of the challenge.
Cycling, done! √

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But I think the real stand-out moment of the year for me has to be the third part of the challenge. Back in 2014 Steve became infamous for his challenge to complete all 4 races of the Edinburgh Marathon Festival, a feat involving lots of running, a very swift half marathon and a willing friend with a motorbike. I was incredibly proud of what he achieved that weekend, but also intrigued. It may have been a long, long way to run, but Steve seemed to really enjoy it and get a real buzz from the experience, so when I was looking for something new to do, my thoughts turned once more to Edinburgh. I knew that my race pace versus the event logistics would rule me out of mimicking Steve’s challenge, but thought a variation might be possible: rather than going from the half marathon to the full marathon (the bit the logistics made impossible for me), what if I then went on to complete a leg of the team relay instead? From that seed of an idea, the concept began to take shape, and at the end of May it all came to fruition: I ran four races in one weekend, I got treated like a rock star by Macmillan, my chosen charity, and do you know what? I loved it all!
Four races, two days, one challenge completed!! √

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Edinburgh challenge completed 🙂

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The spoils from the cycling part of my challenge…

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…and the running bling from Paris and Edinburgh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In taking on this challenge, I learned that I am even more tenacious than I knew. Funnily enough, the marathon was the “easy” bit (not often one calls a marathon “easy”!), with the cycling posing the greatest challenge and Edinburgh being a journey into the unknown in terms of keeping on going. Yes, there were tough moments, that’s what makes it a challenge, but the pride in knowing I completed it will stay with me forever. Why did I do it? For one thing, I felt I had unfinished business from my 2014 challenge, so decided to extend it for another year. I feel a sense of satisfaction in completing what I set out to do, and am thrilled to have raised a further £1000+ to add to my total from 2014, bringing my grand total raised for Macmillan Cancer Support to over £6000! That’s £6000 that will make a huge difference to the lives of those affected by cancer and I want to thank everyone who has supported me in any way as I completed my challenges over the last two years.

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But this year wasn’t just about the challenge, I also had a lot of fun: I discovered the joy of parkrun; I continued to dabble in learning the front crawl; I completed both the Jantastic and 5×50 challenges; I had a fantastic trip to Florida, where I even won running prizes; I ran lots of real and virtual races (as well as creating my own!); I won some competitions; I tried out some new training ideas; and there was that time I met Paula Radcliffe, a real highlight!

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Oh yeah, and there was A LOT of bling!

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Top L-R: Great Winter Run 5k, Cool Summer Mornings 5k, Chocolate Sundae Run 5k, Perth Kilt Run 5k, Perth 10k. Middle: my prize for being in the top ten female finishers at the Chocolate Sundae. Run Bottom L-R: Scottish Half Marathon, Great Scottish Run 10k, Mo Run 5k.

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Virtual Runs L-R: 4th July Weekend 4 miles, Platform 9 3/4k 2015 (and the 2014 equivalent I was able to acquire later), Back to the Future Day run

Another mini challenge I set for myself was to complete at least one Virtual Runner UK event per month. With a final haul of 14 medals, I’d say I definitely achieved that one too!

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In total I’ve run 648 miles this year, my highest annual mileage to date, and cycled 270, a bit less than last year. I also found a great graphic to represent my total mileage for the year at Veloviewer, which uses your Strava profile to collate the information:

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Apparently. I climbed Everest this year!

All in all, I’ve had a fantastic year. I hope you’ve enjoyed following it all on the blog and will continue to follow my adventures into 2016. Remember you can also connect with my page on Facebook and use the links on the right hand side of my homepage (if you’re viewing this in a browser) to subscribe to the blog and never miss a post. But for now, I wish you all a very happy new year. Here’s to 2016!

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What have been your highlights of 2015?
Do you have any challenges lined up for 2016 and beyond?