Week In Review – A Less Than Fresh Start

This past week was one of ups and downs. On the one hand I had a day off work on Monday, but on the other hand I returned on Tuesday to the start of our new timetable and the final stretch to the summer holidays (schools in Scotland do this so that the senior pupils who are returning from their exams can begin their new courses rather than marking time for a month in subjects they may not be continuing with). Starting fresh with new classes is refreshing, but takes a great deal of energy to establish boundaries etc right from the start. Future Me definitely needs this to happen, but Present Me is exhausted and finding the energy for those new classes is a big ask! Somehow I still managed to squeeze in my training, so I’m once more joining the link up with Jessie @ The RIght Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share my weekly roundup.

Sticking to my well-established pattern, my plan for the week was:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Fridaymobility rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 10 miles

And around all of that I also maintained my commitment to to my Tough GIrl 100 challenge to complete at least 10 minutes of yoga or mobility work every day. On the days when I don’t have a yoga class I have been using a mixture of my usual mobility work alongside videos from Jasyoga and Yoga With Adriene. At the moment I have been using shorter sequences as my time is so limited, but as the challenge progresses and I have a bit more time available over the summer, I’d love to try some longer sequences as well as turning my attention to some postures from my Ashtanga class which I would like to work on further.

As I mentioned at the top of the post, Monday was a holiday in the region I work for so the school was closed. I used the time to catch up on some household chores and get some more of my exam marking done. Around mid-afternoon I walked down to the gym for my swim then walked home by a rather circuitous route to go the supermarket for some fresh fish. That made sure I reached my step goal for the day as well as enjoying my time in the pool when it was a little less busy.

Despite the day off, Tuesday was exhausting. I met a succession of new classes and there are always a few kinks to iron out to make sure everybody is in the right place at the right time. By the time I got to the gym for my bike reps I was feeling pretty weary, but was unsure if this was a mental or physical tiredness. I got stuck into my bike reps and the first few felt hard – I even wondered how I was going to manage the full set – but as I went on my body adapted and I was able to complete my workout feeling strong. After my stretches and mobility work I headed to the steam room for a few minutes to relax and unwind before heading home to get stuck back into my exam duties.

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Wednesday meant more of the new routine, but at least when it was time to head out for my run the sun was shining (the weather this week was so awful I thought I might have to build an ark!). I was still feeling a bit weary but again my body knew what it had to do as soon as I got my hill reps started. It felt tough, but I don’t think my performance was overly different to previous weeks, so I’ll put that down to the end of term exhaustion! A great way to celebrate Global Running Day.

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Thursday’s Ashtanga class was a much-needed moment of calm and me-time in a hectic week. Far from the outdoor class in beautiful sunshine a couple of weeks ago, this week we were watching the most awful rain through the studio windows! The class really helped me to stretch my weary legs and calm my mind which had been whirling with exam papers and new classes. Phew! I wasn’t so enamoured with the almost wintery weather though. It was so nasty that someone whose house I passed on a post-yoga walk when the rain finally stopped seemed to have decided it was time to put their Christmas lights up 😉

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Usually on a Friday I have a mobility session to complete, but with Steve away on a course I decided to take this as a rest day. I caught up on some exam stuff then walked the mile or so to pick up some Chinese food to eat – step goal met and a delicious dinner as a reward!

I awoke on Saturday to the most awful weather. On Friday night I had seen pictures showing flash flooding in the car park and parts of the path in the park where we have parkrun. The event was going ahead, but we were all warned we might get our feet wet!

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Picture from Perth parkrun on Facebook

I opted for my “winter parkrun shoes” as I thought a wash for them might be in order, and made sure to take a jacket as it was POURING! It turned out the worst of the flooding had gone, but I was still greeted by the sight of over 100 runners gathering in the foyer of the nearby sports centre questioning their sanity! After the quickest possible briefing we headed off…right into the wind! As we left the park to join the riverside path the rain did stop and conditions felt quite nice, but as soon as we hit the turn it was BAM! Straight into a headwind that we battled all the way back (and it was STILL raining in the park!). It was a strange one as I felt I was working awfully hard but couldn’t decide if it was the conditions or how tired I had been feeling. I was passing people, but my pace wasn’t spectacular and I fought hard for every second of my 25:03 finish when I know that realistically I’m in around 24 minute form. Looking at the results later I noticed that most runners were 30-60 seconds off their best times so I think this one was mainly the conditions. I headed home looking pretty bedraggled (with a bonus stop at the vet to pick up some supplies for the cat – God knows what they thought of me!)

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There was no Hatha yoga class this week, so after a shower and some marking I headed out to get some food shopping then settled in for an afternoon of marking interspersed with some other short tasks to force me to move about a bit and refresh my mind. Still, by the time it got to early evening I’d had enough so made my dinner (pizza – not up to the usual standard since my personal pizza chef was away and I had to settle for shop bought) then settled down with the cat to finish watching the latest series of Once Upon a Time on Netflix (with a cheeky G&T since it was World Gin Day – it would have been rude not to!)

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Sunday was slightly nicer. I was still feeling tired so decided that I wouldn’t necessarily push the pace on my long run but just run to feel. I also decided that I didn’t fancy another run around the same route I’ve used the last few weeks so opted for something different which would have no steep hills but a couple of longer, shallower inclines and the likelihood of some headwinds.  It would also take me here:

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I took this photo whilst sheltering under a tree to put my jacket on as the rain had come on again and was really heavy. Typically, it had cleared by the time I got to the other side of the path a mile further on so I had to stop again to take the jacket off. That’s Scottish summer time! In the end I ran quite well and was happy with my 8:53 overall pace for 10 miles as that’s at the quicker end of my ideal marathon pace and over a route with a lot less downhill to let me really go for it!

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The remainder of the day was, again, spent on my exam duties. It will all be finished in the next few days though and I’ll suddenly feel like I’ve created lots of time!

Next week my mileage cuts back a little to allow for some recovery, and I think I’m definitely needing that right now!

How has the weather been where you are? Has it affected your training?
What is your current goal or challenge?

Week in Review – A Break From Routine

Like last week, this past week hasn’t exactly followed my normal pattern, but I’m pleased to report that I still completed all my planned training. Go me! As ever, I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL for my weekly recap.

The structure of my training is now pretty well established, but here’s how this week looked:

Mondayswim Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike intervals @ the gym + swim
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – mobility
Saturday – parkrun + Hatha yoga
Sunday – 9 miles

The week began with a degree of training uncertainty. As part of my exam marking role I was required to be out of school again on Monday for a meeting in Edinburgh. I got the train so I wouldn’t have the stress of driving into the centre of Edinburgh on a weekday, but this meant I wasn’t sure when I would get back to Perth. Steve dropped me off at the station as my train was at 8am and I walked from the station in Edinburgh to the meeting venue (about a mile) so was already more active than usual for a Monday. The trains are about once an hour so I couldn’t be sure what train home I would get. In the end I arrived back in Perth around 5pm and walked the mile or so home from the station. This meant there wasn’t enough time to squeeze in a swim before going to yoga (I had another missed class to make up), but had the bonus of reaching double step goal on a day when I normally have to be quite creative to meet my goal at all! I enjoyed the class and really appreciated the time to myself after another day focusing on the intricacies of exam marking, but sadly it wasn’t enough to help me drift off to sleep that night and that poor sleep set the tone for the week.

Tuesday was a bit of a struggle as I was feeling really tired from not sleeping enough, but I still went to the gym for my bike reps. I was perfectly prepared to back off a bit and go by feel, but the reps actually made me feel a bit better. I used the chance to also do a bit of mobility work before hitting the pool for a swim. I really like having a swim after the bike session but don’t always manage to fit that in. I had hoped that this would mean a good sleep, but I made the mistake of working too long into the evening and just wasn’t in bed for long enough. Oops!

Wednesday was warm, but not as much as last week so I felt much better during my hill reps. I’ve had the same session for the last couple of weeks so it’s easy for me to compare my performance week on week and consider the impact of factors like weather and how I’m feeling. Although tired, I felt my performance was better than last week so I was pleased. Still not enough sleep that night though – I just didn’t learn my lesson!

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On Thursday my day was a little different. I was in school, but only with one year group (the seniors were still on study leave and two year groups were out on various activities). It was a bit of a weird day and for various reasons I just didn’t achieve as much as I had hoped. Heading to Ashtanga that evening was a welcome relief! We were back in the studio again as the weather wasn’t as good, but it was a great class, despite my tiredness making my balance a bit iffy in some of the postures! Afterwards I (yet again) got caught up in some exam stuff and worked a little too long. Not ideal, but it’s only once a year and the marking period is relatively short so I can cope.

Friday was another different day for me and I really enjoyed it. As part of our annual health promotion week the junior classes are taken out for a day on an organised walk. I had been assigned to accompany the year group heading out on Friday and was pleased to find myself with a really nice group of 50 pupils. Their walk was taking place at Loch Leven (where I recently ran the half marathon) but on a portion of the heritage trail. Our starting point was where we had registered for the race and we were led from there onto the path which we followed for about 3.5 miles around by the loch to reach our lunch venue. Fortunately it was dry (in fact, conditions were ideal for walking – dry and mild but not too hot) so it was really nice having our picnic on a nice grass area. We spent about an hour there and the pupils had a group activity to complete about responsible behaviour in the outdoors. After lunch we set off again for a slightly longer stretch (not quite 4 miles) to our bus pick up point (there were two other groups out walking around different stretches of the trail so we were a bit more spread out and unsuspecting walkers wouldn’t have 200 young people suddenly descending on them!). The kids were brilliant: super behaviour and no complaints, although I was amused at the fact that they had covered less than half a mile before they started asking when lunch was ha!

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Once back at school I had a bit of a chat with my colleagues (we had all been on various activities over Thursday and Friday so hadn’t all been together) then drove straight to the studio for a mobility session with Steve (I had spent the day in workout gear so there was no need to change). We worked through a series of exercises targeting the usual spots: upper back, hips and core. The temperature picked up during the day so I did have to clean myself up a bit afterwards before I was fit to be seen in public when we went out to eat lol!

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I had been hopeful of a longer sleep, however the cat decided to allow me just half an hour extra before declaring that starvation was imminent and I had to get up and fill her bowl. I did manage a short doze afterwards, but it wasn’t quite the same.

It was pacer week at parkrun so I was down sharp to collect my pacing bib. I had 29 minutes this time and to be honest I found it pretty tough to settle into the required pace and ended up finishing in 28:39! Oh well, I can’t imagine anyone would complain about getting a faster time than they wanted! I ran most of the course with a lovely woman who is quite new to running. Turned out she had met with Steve during the week to discuss some training and we had a nice time chatting while I gave her a bit of advice on her running. It was only her second parkrun and she did brilliantly, sprinting off in the last kilometre while I tried to keep the pace even and encourage some others around me. Much as I love to run a hard parkrun, I also really enjoy pacing as it gives me a chance to chat to new people and run at a more leisurely (for me) pace. I would definitely recommend it if you ever get the chance.

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After parkrun I had a quick change then headed off to my Hatha yoga class. I really feel the benefit of that post-run stretch and it sets me up for the rest of the day which, right now, is mostly centred around the exam marking and my team management duties.

On Sunday Steve headed off on a long cycle as part of a brick session for his forthcoming half ironman. I, meanwhile, had a bit of a tidy around the house then got ready for my 9 mile run. It was sunny but not too hot, so shorts and a vest were ideal. Of course the weather suddenly became very changeable and I got soaked in a midrun downpour, but it was still a good run. I have been running a very similar route every Sunday, with slight tweaks to vary the distance, and my plan remains the same: capitalise on the endurance I’ve built by running a bit faster so that after my holiday I will (hopefully) find marathon pace feels a lot easier as I build up the miles again towards the Loch Ness Marathon. Given that my route features a pretty big hill, I was pleased to finish with an overall average of 8:46 per mile, only a tiny bit slower than last week, but with much more of a headwind through large chunks of the route. Needless to say, by the time I was finished I looked pretty bedraggled!

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Next week I’m hoping to get my sleeping pattern back under control. The marking process should level out a bit, with my team perhaps not needing quite as much input, and I’ve changed my bedding as I know clean sheets help me to sleep better. A day off work on Monday should help too! I’ll let you know how it goes…

How has your training gone this week?
What is your next event?

Tough Girl 100

Ever since I first listened to the Tough Girl Podcast back in 2015, it’s safe to say that it’s become a huge influence in my life. Listening to all the amazing things the women interviewed have achieved inspires me to keep chasing my dreams, and being part of the Tough Girl Tribe (a closed Facebook group for female listeners of the podcast) is incredibly refreshing in how supportive and inclusive it is.

I’ve written before about how much I love the podcast (did I mention that I was interviewed for the Tough Girl Daily Podcast after the Paris marathon? 😉 You can read more about that here) and often encourage others to listen to it. I believe so strongly in what its creator, Sarah Williams, is aiming to achieve that I not only listen each week, but support the show as a patron and have become a member of the Tough Girl Team supporting Sarah behind the scenes with various aspects of social media, especially while she is away taking on her latest challenge: Thru Hiking the Appalachian Trail in 100 Days!

And that is where today’s post comes in…

Sarah’s hike started today (3rd June 2017) and to help involve her listeners more she has encouraged us all to take on our own 100 day challenge. The idea is that we commit to doing something positive every day that will create a habit and add value to our lives. It could be absolutely anything like drinking 2 litres of water every day, getting 10,000 steps every day or reading 10 pages of a book every day. As soon as the challenge was announced I knew I wanted to take part and it wasn’t long before I knew EXACTLY what I wanted to do: yoga.

One of my goals for this year is to commit to more yoga outside of my classes, and so far I’ve not really done much about that. I am going to at least one yoga class every week, but haven’t created the habit of doing yoga at home. This challenge gives me just the push I need to start doing exactly that and make yoga part of my daily routine.

And so, for the next 100 days I am committing to at least 10 minutes of yoga or mobility work every single day. I kicked it all off with a Hatha yoga class this morning and intend to make more use of Jasyoga and other online resources (as well as working on some postures I’d like to progress in) to help me reach that goal. By writing it here I’m making myself even more accountable and will chart my progress in various blog posts. I’m really looking forward to it!

Fancy joining me? It’s not too late to commit to just one thing that you’re going to do each day to improve your life. I’d love to hear what you decide…

Week in Review – An Easy Week

Despite treating last weekend’s half marathon as a training run rather than a race, I still felt it worthwhile to cut back my training in the week afterwards since I had jumped up my mileage a little in order to take part. Yes, I recently ran a marathon so have all that training “in the bank” but I still prefer a sensible build up in mileage to help avoid injuries. In this post I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share my post-race recovery and training.

Last week‘s race, unusually, was on a Saturday so I’d already enjoyed a rest day on the Sunday. Here’s how the rest of my week went:

Mondayswim sports massage
Tuesday – rest
Wednesday – 4 miles
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 10 miles

I actually fully intended going for a swim on Monday as I find getting in the water after a long or hard run really useful. Unfortunately I was too late getting away from work and needed to nip home to check the cat had enough food so didn’t quite have enough time to squeeze in a swim before my sports massage. I have a sports massage every month as part of my strategy to help me recover and to spot any issues before they become problems. I was really pleased to find that my legs were in pretty good shape and they felt even better after Katie had massaged them. Thanks Katie 🙂

Tuesday was a complete rest. If I’m honest, I would have been OK to train but I had a commitment to meet a friend for coffee after work and the logistics of that meant there was no time for a workout. Since it was a nice evening, I took a short walk when I got back before settling down to eat and relax.

By Wednesday things were back on track, but rather than go for another set of hill reps, Steve advised sticking to a simple run. No particular pace, but around 4 miles. I decided just to let my body tell me how it wanted to run and while I felt a little sluggish at the start, by the end of my 4 miles I was feeling much better.

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Thursday remains by far my favourite workout of the week. I feel such a difference in my body (strength, flexibility, movement) after a year of Ashtanga yoga and I still notice improvements all the time. The class covers about half the Ashtanga primary series, led by a teacher, so we don’t do exactly the same sequence every time. This week we did a posture we haven’t done for a while (I’m still not great with all the Sanskrit names!). It’s quite a tricky one and I was able to get much closer to being able to do the full posture than I’ve ever been before. I was quite amazed as I wasn’t expecting that to happen.

It was another rest day on Friday. I had initially wondered about fitting in a swim here, but the cat was due a checkup with the vet (you’ll remember she’s pretty old for a cat and with an age-related health condition) and Friday was the most convenient. They were running a bit behind due to an emergency so while the cat quietly seethed in her basket, I enjoyed watching the other pets in the waiting room, my favourites being the cutest little sausage dog I’ve ever seen and the the tiny turtle with an infection (absolutely no idea how they could tell!). It was a positive visit as there was no need for further medication or tests and she’s even put on a little weight! Once home, I headed out for a walk since I had been sitting around for a while then it was time to head out to eat. According to Facebook, Steve and I have now been friends for 9 years so we marked the occasion with a delicious steak dinner. I’m so glad steak was on as a special that night as I was really craving it!

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On Saturday the cat decided to give me one of her famous early wake up calls, so I wasn’t sure how I would perform at parkrun. As soon as we got underway my legs decided they wanted to run fast and I was waiting for the rest of my body to mount a protest, but I managed to not only sustain my pace but actually get a little quicker with each mile to complete the Royal Flush Negative Split and finish with a time of 23:49 (7:51, 7:46, 7:40 and the last nubbin at 6:43 pace!). That means the three parkruns I have done since Paris have been progressively faster – 24:15, 24:05 and 23:49. In actual fact my fastest this year is 23:39, so it looks like I’m not too far away from that and hopefully I can improve on that time over the summer. Saturday was also a pretty wet day so I didn’t look my finest when I finished!

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No Hatha yoga for me this week as I had an appointment, but I plan to go on Monday instead. It will be a lovely way to end my Monday.

My four-legged friend provided another early alarm call on Sunday, but I took my time getting ready for my run. I had 10 miles on my plan and have made a decision about my training for the next few weeks. Through the winter I was running slowly on Sunday mornings to build endurance, however now that endurance is in place I need to work a little more on my pace. I won’t run any more than half marathon distance before heading off on my summer holiday, so it seems that the best way to use those runs to capitalise on my endurance base is to run them a bit faster. On this run I was aiming to run at or faster than marathon pace, with the target of completing 10 miles in 1:30 or less (approx 4 hour marathon pace which is 9:09 per mile). I also included hills towards the end as I know that’s what I can expect at the Loch Ness marathon. Despite Mother Nature providing yet another free shower, I was well within target with 10 miles in 1:28 and an 8:53 per mile average. Perfect! Hopefully this approach will help develop my pace in the next few weeks then when I return from my holiday I’m going to use my long runs in a different way, a bit more like fartlek-type runs.

IMG_1938The rest of the day was spent relaxing. We had a chicken to cook and guess who took it upon herself to act as guard? Shame she can’t have any due to her dietary restrictions!

IMG_1942All in all, I think my decision to have an easier week definitely paid off in my performance over the weekend. I’m feeling excited now about the weeks ahead and am already visualising my finish at Loch Ness. Now to make it happen…

How do you like to recover from an event?
What are you training for just now?

Race Report – Loch Leven Half Marathon

Ordinarily I wouldn’t have been in a hurry to sign up for a half marathon at this point in the year: not only did I know that I wouldn’t quite have worked my way back up to the distance again in my post-marathon training, but on this particular occasion I was going to a concert the night before. Not what you’d call ideal race preparation, but having been lucky enough to win a place in this race through the parkrun points competition last year, I figured I could take it easy round the 13.1 miles safe in the knowledge that my endurance base was up to the job – it’s funny how a month after a marathon you can just turn up and run a half marathon without any particular difficulty!

Actually, the last time I ran this race (in 2010, pre-blog) I did something similar: Paris marathon in April (my first marathon and hampered by injury during training) then the Loch Leven half marathon around a month later. At that point the course was very slightly different (minor alterations to the start and finish as well as a stretch which now takes place on the trail which opened more recently) but the bulk of the route remains much as it was.

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To be honest, I was a bit of a bad blogger this time. I left out some kit on Friday night (the race was 11am Saturday) but changed my mind about some of it when I saw the weather on Saturday morning. Being quite tired from my late night, I neglected to take a pre-race “flat runner” photo before I put it all on – oops! – but I opted for Nike twin shorts, a short sleeved Tech T-shirt, lightweight gilet, 2XU calf sleeves and my Adidas Ultra Boosts. On the drive through to Kinross, about half an hour down the road, I began to wonder if I should have brought my “emergency hat”!!

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Registration for the race takes place at the high school and we were able to park right across the street. We collected our numbers and race T-shirts then headed back to the car to sort ourselves out before returning to the school for a quick toilet stop. The start was about a mile from registration so we had to leave plenty of time to walk/jog there (they were transporting bags etc back to the start but we headed to the start line ready to run).

We chatted to one or two others en route to the start and once there I decided to have one last toilet stop before the race began – I had just enough time to join the short queue, nip in and line up at the start before the gun went off.

The race itself was quite nice. An undulating route around the perimeter of the loch with some hills in the second half. I gave myself the first mile to settle into a comfortable pace then switched on the latest edition of Marathon Talk to listen to and got a real surprise about 3 miles in when I heard my name mentioned in the “Rate Your Run” section!

I followed my usual strategy of a gel at 5 miles and 10 miles, but to try and avoid the slump I often experience around the 10 mile mark I decided to count DOWN the miles from the start, which psychologically made a difference.

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Running at a comfortable pace rather than racing meant that when I reached the steepest hill around 8 or 9 miles, I had plenty of energy left to start overtaking people who had gone out hard and for a good while I was passing other runners. Only a few overtook me in the last mile, which was on the trail, as I had developed a blister under my toe which was a bit nippy when I landed on it!

I also found time to pose for the photographer I spotted on a nice downhill stretch. Looks like I’m having fun (and doing a phenomenal balance manoeuvre!).

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Photo by Gordon Donnachie

[Source]

I wasn’t 100% sure where on the school grounds the finish line would be, but I also knew that since this was a smallish race (471 finishers – I was position 322, 97th out of 200 females and 43rd out of 94 in my category) my watch had been pretty much in line with the mile markers so I could trust how much there still was to go. Coming off the trail and around the final bend I began to speed up a bit to finish in 2:01:55. It would have been great to run just sub-2, but the second half was just a little too hilly for that. Still, I’m really pleased to run so close to 2 hours when I was tired and taking it easy as that means I wasn’t much slower than the pace I will need to run a sub-4 marathon and I still have plenty of time capitalise on my current form.

Once over the line I was handed my medal, a bottle of water and was able to collect a snack (there were bananas and that Scottish staple the caramel wafer). There was also a tent nearby where you could key in your number and get an immediate printout of your chip time, which was really good.

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I milled around taking selfies and chatting to folk until I was able to find Steve as he had my bag with warm clothing for the drive home. As soon as I’d sorted that out, we headed back to the car to get home for some food.

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Overall this was a great race. Well organised by Kinross Road Runners and with a lovely route (thankfully we were spared the midge cloud which had been in the news!), gender-specific tech T-shirt and nice medal. Definitely worth entering if you ever get the chance.
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Week in Review – A Cheeky Half!

Another week, another week in review! As ever, linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to bring you my weekly roundup.

From the title of this post you might have worked out that there was a half marathon in there, but here’s how the rest of my week looked:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – Rest
Saturday – Loch Leven half marathon
Sunday – rest

At this point I’m in a bit of an odd place training-wise. The furthest I’ve run since Paris is 8 miles, but still have decent fitness from my marathon training cycle. I’m looking forward to capitalising on this over the summer, but right now am amused by having sufficient fitness to complete a half marathon without any specific training. Just another reason to be grateful for marathon training!

I began my week, as ever, in the pool. I’m really enjoying my Monday swims lately as I’m beginning to feel a bit more confidence in the water and can find a rhythm more quickly. What I need to work on is having more continuous swimming i.e. not stopping between lengths. It will come!

On Tuesday I was a bit pushed for time but still managed to squeeze in a set of intervals on the bike at the gym. No time for any mobility work or anything this week though as I had plans with my sister. We were seeing the second instalment of the trilogy of First World War plays which began last year with The 306: Dawn. This year was The 306: Day and where last year the focus was on the stories of some of the 306 men who were executed for cowardice, deception and mutiny, this year the focus was on the women at home. Three of the women were connected to characters from the first instalment and some of the same music was woven through to give greater impact, so while you could have watched it in isolation without having seen last year’s production, it was definitely more powerful if you had. Dawn had me in tears, but Day had me torn between tears and anger as I felt driven to start a revolution 100 years too late as I watched the way women were treated for standing up for themselves and the men in their lives. Shocking that this was seen as acceptable and I’m so glad there has been progress since then.

I was a little distracted during the performance as I recognised the male actor who appeared but couldn’t quite figure it out. Checking the programme he had a Casualty credit (but then most UK actors do!) and I thought he might have been a regular. It was only afterwards that I was able to look him up and remembered exactly who he was!

fullsizeoutput_1e00Wednesday was a repeat of the same hill reps from last week. It felt tougher this week and I’m still not sure if I was a bit sluggish or if it was because every time I turned to run up the hill I found myself running straight into a headwind. Tough, but I know it will make me stronger and hill training is definitely going to be key in preparing for the Loch Ness marathon which is an “undulating” course with a hill at 18 miles, exactly when you don’t want it!

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IMG_1845On Thursday I enjoyed a fantastic Ashtanga yoga class. It’s been about a year now since I began my yoga journey and every week I love it more. This week was special because a lovely lady who used to be a regular at the class returned as an observer as she is just finishing her yoga teacher training course. Having an extra instructor meant more opportunity to be adjusted, not because of issues in how I approached a posture, but to help me move more deeply into it. It was so nice to see her and at the end of the class she commented on how much progress she could see in my practice, which is really good to hear.

Then it was Friday, perhaps the most exciting day of the week. Not because it was scheduled as a rest day, but because the reason for that rest was a trip to Glasgow to see TAKE THAT live in concert! I’ve been looking forward to this for ages and as usual they didn’t disappoint. The band is renowned for the theatricality of their live shows and this one fetaured a cast of dancers and acrobats performing in the round with a set that changed levels and with props that flew around the stage and awesome lighting effects. I was on my feet throughout belting out every song and loving every moment.

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The thing about a concert, though, is that it’s inevitably a late night and heading through after work meant we only had time for food at the venue (pizza with a base apparently made of cardboard!). None of this is particularly ideal preparation for a half marathon, but that was the prep I had so on Saturday morning, after less than 7 hours sleep, I was off to Kinross for my race. Anticipating that I wouldn’t be at my finest, I had decided in advance to simply treat this as a training run with a medal and just take it easy rather than racing. This turned out to be a good strategy and I was pleased to find that even when at less than my best I was able to finish in just a little beyond 2 hours and feeling comfortable. I’ll write more about my experience of this race in a separate post, but I enjoyed it.

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Post-race we grabbed some food then had a relaxing afternoon of napping and reading before treating ourselves to a takeaway since we knew Sunday would be a rest day to allow our bodies to recover from a late night and a race. I even pushed the barrel out and had a Saturday night bath with Epsom salts, bubbles, a running magazine and a glass of wine. Lovely!

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It was nice going to bed on Saturday night and not setting an alarm (little chance of sleeping in anyway when you have a cat!) and waking when her majesty demanded food. It was then an easy day of coffee, food shopping (usually done on a Saturday) and a visit to my parents (there was cake again!). This must be what the non-runners do with their Sundays! It was nice, but I think I would get bored of this after a couple of weeks and be desperate for something different.

In the week ahead I’ll probably ease off training a little for a lighter week to make sure I recover well, then I’ll be back to my preparations for Loch Ness. September will be here before I know it!

How is your training going?
Any exciting events in your life?

Week In Review – Oops, I Did It Again!

With running back on the agenda again this week was all about returning all my workouts to their usual intensity and moving on from the lighter workouts of late. I’m linking up again with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share my training week.

My post-marathon recovery involved a gradual progression from complete rest, to light cross training, to easy running and now my regular training schedule. Here’s how that looked for this week:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps at the gym
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session
Saturday – parkrun + Hatha yoga
Sunday – 8 miles

Monday was a bank holiday and the schools were off too so I was able to have a leisurely start to the day. Steve had an early client so I was unsupervised which, as it turns out, is perhaps not the best idea. First I did this:

Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 08.37.05Yup, that’s my ballot entry in for the London Marathon. Again. The odds are pretty slim for getting a place, but you’ve got to be in it to win it!

But I wasn’t done at that. Next, I did this:

Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 08.53.35I can now announce that I have entered the 2017 Loch Ness Marathon which takes place at the end of September. This will be my third time entering this race, and hopefully this time I will FINALLY reach the start line. My quest for a sub-4 time is back on (although perhaps after the weekend’s events in Monza I should call it #Breaking4 lol!).

It’s ok, I stopped there before I got carried away entering races! The rest of my day was spent catching up on some household chores before heading to the pool for a swim. I really enjoyed being in the water again and felt that I was swimming well. Unfortunately it was busy so I kept having to stop at the end of my lengths to allow those ahead of me to get further up the pool before I could start my next length. Still, I’m pleased with how my swims have felt lately.

I rounded off my day with a last-minute opportunity to watch a private screening of a play I saw wth my sister last year. It was part of the 14-18 Now project which is marking 100 years since WW1 and we are seeing the second instalment in a few days. When we saw the play last year we had to travel to a converted barn outside the city and the play itself was incredibly emotional. As soon as the screening started all those emotions came flooding back, the lump in the back of my throat formed and I was in tears by the end. At least there was popcorn!

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Tuesday was my first time back to the bike reps at the gym. The last time I did this was in the week before the marathon and since then I’ve had a couple of half hour cycles so I was unsure about how this would feel. Steve had me stick with the same work/rest intervals as my last cycle of these and kept the intensity level the same, simply dropping back to 10 reps to basically repeat the last cycle before considering how best to progress this. My legs felt weary from the re-introduction of running, but I soon got into the way of it and completed the workout feeling quite strong so I must have retained some of the gains from all the reps I’ve completed over the last few months.

When I was finished on the bike I did some stretching and mobility work before heading to the hot tub to relax before walking home. I’m really enjoying having so much daylight as it makes me feel like I have so much more time to enjoy my evenings.

IMG_1708Wednesday also had me switching from a light workout to a more intense session as I headed back to my “favourite” hill for some reps. I have been using the lampposts on this hill for my reps, most recently I was completing decreasing reps to each successive lamppost (i.e. 5 to one, 4 to the next, and so on). To progress this, we cut out the first two lampposts and focused on the reps to the last three. I have to say, it felt tough at first but just like with the bike reps my body soon remembered how to do it. The weirdest thing was not running the reps in the dark. Instead it was sunny, warm (for Scotland in May) and I had shorts on rather than base layers and gloves 🙂

IMG_1724On Thursday we had the local council elections and it was another sunny day so when I got back from work (it was an inservice day so no pupils and a different venue meant I was a bit earlier) I got changed and took a walk to the polling station. Civic duty done, it was off to Ashtanga yoga where I enjoyed another great class. It’s coming up to a year since I first went to this class and I can’t believe the difference it has made to my body. Every week I notice something different, even when working through the same sequence of postures.

I finished the work week with a PT session at Steve’s studio. It was the usual mobility work which I know is key in keeping my body moving as it should and helping to prevent injury. I then had a short walk to enjoy the last of the evening sunshine before going out to eat.

IMG_1766Saturday was, of course, parkrun day. I began my day with the results of the Breaking2 run – I can’t believe how close Kipchoge came to running under 2 hours! I also began my day with a bit of a scratchy throat and feeling a bit below par, however I was fairly sure this was the result of not sleeping enough recently and not drinking enough over the couple of days before, so still wanted to go to parkrun as that often sorts me out. I didn’t expect to run overly well and did feel the run was tough, yet I still finished 10 seconds quicker than last week so that’s a positive sign that my fitness levels are returning to where they were in the weeks before the marathon, at least when it comes to shorter distances.
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My Hatha yoga class re-started this week and it was great to stretch out and centre myself after the run. I really think it makes a difference to my recovery before my longer run on Sundays. My other excitement was the arrival of the tab to put on my Paris marathon medal so the back of it is now complete. It wasn’t the time I wanted it to say, but I remain proud of my achievement as I know how much training went into it and how tough it was on the day.

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IMG_1825Sunday was another sunny day – May in Scotland can be beautiful – and I had 8 miles on my schedule so donned my shorts and shades to head out into the sunshine. I hadn’t really paid attention to my splits last week as I was running relatively easy, and only noticed at the end of this run that something was a bit off. I knew I had been running fairly briskly on the flat and downhill sections, so was surprised by the average pace that flashed up on my screen when I pressed stop. Turned out I still had the autopause feature off from racing in Paris and I usually have it on when I’m out on a training run as I often have to stop to cross roads and don’t like the watch ticking away while I’m not moving. I’ve rectified that now!

IMG_1816And with that, another week of training comes to a close. Overall I feel pretty good and can sense my body getting back into the groove of regular training again. It still feels a little tough to hit faster paces or begin more intense training, but that’s to be expected coming off a marathon and having some time out. Now I officially have a target to aim for again it will help me to focus and build on the fitness I’ve already gained this year. Bring it on!

Did you enter the London marathon ballot?
What is your next target event?

Preparing For Your First Ever Race

There’s been a lot of talk around here about marathons lately, and while I’ll always find them a big deal, I’m conscious that some of my readers are at a very different stage in their running journey and might be turning their attention to racing for the first time. Perhaps it’s a charity 5k (mine was), perhaps a local 10k, or perhaps you’re going all-out and running a half or full marathon. Whatever you’re preparing for, I thought I would share some tips to help make your race day as smooth as possible.

Your first ever race is bound to bring with it both excitement and nerves. You’ve spent weeks putting in the miles to get your body prepared, but in order to vanquish any pre-races stress and prepare your mind, it’s worth taking a bit of extra time to plan the details which will see you to the start line relaxed and ready to enjoy the experience. Here’s what I suggest:

  1. Read your race pack…then read it again! Make sure you’re quite clear on all the arrangements, from transport and parking to the facilities along the route. Check directions, double-check the start time and remember to check the finish line instructions too, including what you can expect to receive (medal, T-shirt, banana, etc) so you don’t miss out on any well-earned treats.

  1. Sleep is always good, but in the days before a race getting plenty of rest will help you to feel energised on the big day. I often find it hard to sleep the night before longer races, but if I’ve slept well in the preceding days then I know I’ll be ok.

 

  1. Eat well. The night before a race is probably not the time to have a spicy curry or try something new which might see you racing for the loo mid-race! Best to stick to whatever has worked well for you in training. And remember to stay hydrated too!

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  1. Lay out your race kit the night before. Check the weather forecast but be ready for any eventuality – layers can be easily added or removed when needed. Stick with tried and tested kit that has worked for you in training and avoid anything new as a race is not the time you want to find out that your trainers rub or your shorts chafe! Make sure you have your race number and/or timing chip and it’s worth packing a bin bag or old top to provide an extra layer when you’re waiting to start which can be thrown away when you’re ready to run (I buy cheap disposable ponchos for this and keep them in my race bag). Remember essentials like safety pins, gels and water bottle. I’d pack some extra tissues too – those portable toilets can run out of paper quickly at a busy race! And speaking of portable toilets, I usually keep some hand sanitiser in my race bag too.

  1. Check your tech. If you plan to use a running watch, make sure it’s charged up and set as you want it. If you like to run with music (and it’s allowed at your race), create your playlist and charge up your phone/mp3 player. Remember to pack your earphones (fully charged if, like me, you like wireless ones!).

 

  1. Plan for afterwards. Just because you’re finished running, it doesn’t mean your day is over. I usually pack a bag with a change of clothes (including spare socks!) or some warm layers, a snack and some extra water, especially if I have a longish journey home. If you are meeting supporters after the race, make sure you plan where to meet them, as finish areas can be crowded. Many races have designated meeting points so agree on yours before the race and you’ll appreciate it afterwards when you’re tired.

  1. Arrive early. If you’re anything like me you’ll feel much more relaxed if you’re there in plenty of time – nobody wants to add an extra couple of kilometres to their race with a last-minute sprint to the start line!

 

  1. Use the loos! The queues can get very long very quickly, so make a trip to the toilet your first port of call, especially if you’ve been hydrating en route. If it’s a busy race and the queues are long, get straight back in the queue when you come out – by the time you get to the front you’ll probably want to go again anyway.

  1. Remember to soak up the atmosphere. You may be feeling nervous, but this is supposed to be a fun experience and you want to have positive memories of your first race. I was on edge before mine, but lots of people reassured me and gave me encouragement, which helped me to enjoy the event. Breathe deeply, keep calm, and remember why you signed up in the first place.

Finishing my first 10k

  1. When the starting gun goes off, reign in the pace. It’s easy to get carried away and go out too fast, but better to save that energy for later on – a sprint finish is far more impressive than a sprint start!

There’s no other feeling like crossing the finish line for the first time, so if your first race is approaching, remember that this is an experience to enjoy. Taking the time to plan the details will not only help you to get the most out of your day, but to finish with a smile on your face ready to sign up to your next event.

Happy racing!
The Running Princess

Training Talk Part 3

During my recent marathon training cycle I was twice inspired by the Training Talk section of the Marathon Talk podcast to write a post (you can read those here and here) and it’s happened again. I had begun a draft of a post about not reaching my goal in the marathon and how I was able to accept that by reframing the experience, however since this became a topic of discussion in the first episode I listened to after the marathon, I thought I would use the points raised as the basis for my own post…

Three Simple Ways To Feel Good About Your Race When It Didn’t Quite Go To Plan:

  • Remember that it’s only you who really cares
    This was something I really learned throughout this process. Back in the autumn I kept a goal race a secret, for a variety of reasons. It was a kind of experiment to see what difference, if any, there was if I wasn’t talking and writing about my training all the time. Would I perform any better free from that pressure? In the end, it was a moot point as a hip issue led to me missing the race, but for my last training cycle I was very public about my goal of running sub-4 hours. That, of course, meant that if I didn’t meet my goal, everyone would know. And do you know what? It didn’t matter in the slightest. When I posted across social media that I’d had a tough race and missed my goal time, I got nothing but positivity back. The non-runners were simply impressed that I had completed a marathon; the runners understood not only how difficult that is, but how the hot conditions changed things. Nobody cared about my time, other than to ask if I had a good time.
    And the discussion on Marathon Talk was very similar. It was pointed out that sport can be tough in the moment, but in the end it’s just sport. How you perform doesn’t define you as a person. While we may think others might care about our time and judge us for it, in reality they care that we’re happy and a nice person, not how long it took us to run an arbitrary distance. All those people congratulating me on finishing a marathon proved that to be true, and my initial disappointment at not yet reaching my goal was soon replaced by pride that I had finished the race.fullsizeoutput_1cf9
  • Stop thinking about your outcome and identify the good things from the process
    In other words, what worked in your life with this race and why? Ok, so it took me half an hour longer than I wanted to complete the marathon, but there are still a lot of positives to take away: I entered a race during the school holidays so I could enjoy a slightly extended trip; I got to spend a weekend in my favourite city in the world, taking part in my favourite activity; I got to run the always amazing Breakfast Run the day before; I got to meet up with people I hadn’t seen since last year’s event; I got to soak up the atmosphere on race day and form unspoken connections with those around me, regardless of nationality; and I got to wear my medal with pride whilst celebrating with new found friends. What’s not to like about that?
    All of these things worked to give me a fantastic weekend away. The numbers on the clock are but a small part of that and the race was the culmination of many weeks and months of successful training. Training which I enjoyed and through which I could see the changes in my strength and speed. Those will still be there to capitalise on as I resume training.

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  • What did you do that actually surprised you?
    By thinking about the race differently and what was surprising in the build up, we can soon see things differently to the finish time. For me, this race really was a celebration of my training as I actually completed that training buildup successfully. As someone who is prone to injury, that’s something that surprised me. Another surprise was my performance at the Inverness Half Marathon. I knew I was in PB shape and estimated that if I ran at marathon pace I could complete the race in around 1:55, but on the day ran faster to achieve 1:53. Definitely a very pleasant surprise.

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The key thing to take away from all this is that not reaching a goal isn’t a disaster. There are only so many things we can control and many more that we can’t. There’s a fine balance in endurance sport between caring enough about something to try hard, and caring so much that we take it too far. That can be potentially destructive. There will always be lots of “what ifs”, and often there is a perfectly simple answer:

What if I don’t make my goal time?
I’ll pick myself up, dust myself off and enter another race to try again. 

Finish times are not the only way to judge the success of a race. One of my most successful was the same race last year when I was just so pleased to be able to take part after an injury that the whole race felt like a giant party. Being able to run and do so consistently was my success. This year, my success was having the courage to recognise that my goal was out of reach that day and reframe my marathon as a long training run for my next one. For there will be a next one, and maybe next time that sub-4 will be mine…IMG_1388

So You Want To Start Running…?

Perhaps you watched the Boston or London marathons on TV this week. Perhaps you have friends who have been encouraging you to join them for a run. Perhaps your children enjoy Junior parkrun and you’d like to set them a good example. Whatever your reason, at this time of year there are often many people who make the decision to start running.

For me, it was the spring of 2005 and the loss of my grandmother to cancer. I wanted to do something to make a difference for others, and having never run or done anything sporty before in my life, signing up to a charity 5k seemed like a great challenge.

The problem was, I knew nothing about running and had no idea how to get started. I was lucky that I had a PE teacher friend to help me, but not everyone is so fortunate. So if you’re feeling inspired to begin your running journey, today I’m sharing my tips to help make it a bit easier.

NB Remember I’m not a running coach. These tips are simply based on my own experiences and things I wish I’d known when I started.

  • Get fitted for some proper running shoes. Running shoes should be bigger than your usual shoe size to avoid pinching and blisters. It can be confusing seeing rows and rows of different brands and shoe types, but the most important thing is that they feel comfortable. You shouldn’t feel like they need to be “broken in”. If the shoe doesn’t feel good when you try it on, then it’s not the one for you (even if it is a bargain!). Ideally you should be able to try them on before you buy and have a run either in/outside the shop or on a treadmill. Running in the wrong shoes is definitely a mistake I made and it took me a long time to backtrack and find a shoe that suited me.

  • Ladies, your other essential pieces of kit is a sports bra. This is vital no matter what size you are as there are no muscles in this area, only very delicate ligaments which stretch easily through exercise. A good supportive sports bra will keep things in check and help prevent pain when exercising. Again, there are lots of different brands and styles so try a few on to see what feels most comfortable for your size and shape. Just make sure it’s a sports bra designed for high impact activity to give you the best support.

 

  • There’s no need to kit yourself out in expensive clothing right from the start. The most important thing is that you wear something you feel comfortable in. I know I’ve changed how I dress to run over the years as my confidence has grown and if running becomes part of your life then buying some new kit could be something to look forward to. Wicking fabrics are great at moving moisture away from your skin and if you do want some new gear then there are plenty of budget buys available. Check out High Street retailers and discount supermarket chains.

  • If you don’t want to go it alone then find a friend to run with you or consider looking out for a beginners’ group to join. There are plenty of friendly groups running programmes to take you from zero to 5k in a few weeks and many people have success with smartphone apps doing the same thing. Here in Scotland a JogScotland group might be useful. I did almost all of my early running by myself, but it would have been nice to have company. Even just having a friend alongside you to chat can make it much more manageable and can be a good way to have a good old catch up.

 

  • Keep it simple. If you sprint off then you’ll be out of breath in no time. I DEFINITELY made this mistake and it’s a common one when often our only experience of running is sprints in PE at school, or we’re used to high intensity classes and are chasing that same feeling. Instead, focus on how you feel. You should be able to hold a conversation and speak in sentences rather than gasped words. At this stage, time and distance aren’t important. Lay the foundations and get comfortable with your running first.

 

  • It’s ok to be “slow”. Speed is all relative. A new runner might look at my paces and think I’m fast, but my average pace is naught but a warmup for an elite athlete! Even if you feel like you’re moving only slightly faster than a walk, you’re still on your way. Find your rhythm and stick with it. As you get fitter, your pace will naturally quicken with the same effort level. Run your own run and forget about what anyone else is doing.

 

  • Be consistent. Unsurprisingly, going for a run then leaving it for weeks before you try again won’t lead to much improvement. Put your runs in your diary as you would any other commitment and stick to it. I run 3 times per week and 3-4 runs per week is about average. A good pattern might be to run every other day, being sure to leave rest days in between to allow your body to recover and get stronger. If anything feels sore, back off and consider seeking advice from a physio.

 

  • Set yourself targets. I started running in a local park and was using run-walk intervals. I used to aim to increase the length of my run intervals and decrease the walk breaks each time, until eventually I reached the huge milestone of one lap of the park (about 1.5 miles). I was so thrilled you’d have thought I’d run a marathon! I suggest targets like the next lamppost, a certain amount of time, a lap of the park, and so on. Ultimately you might aim to complete your local parkrun – a great place for a beginner to find like-minded people and a supportive, welcoming community.

  • Avoid getting bogged down in detail. You don’t need to be in head-to-toe lycra or wearing a massively expensive running watch. There’s plenty of time for that in the future if you want it. All you need is that pair of running shoes and some comfortable clothes. If you must know your time/distance/pace then there are plenty of free smartphone apps available.

 

  • Remember it’s supposed to be fun! Exercise isn’t a way of punishing yourself for something, it’s an expression of what our bodies can do. Take your time, run your run and enjoy being out in the fresh air improving your fitness. Running benefits not only your physical health but your mental health too. It clears your head and helps sharpen your mind. If you’re not enjoying your run then the chances are you’re running too fast. Ease off the pace, stand tall and repeat a positive message like  “I CAN do this”.

If you are at the beginning of your running journey, welcome. I hope you find everything you want on the roads and trails. Do stop by and keep me up to date with your progress.

What is your reason to run?
Any other tips for beginners or questions to ask?