7 For 2017 – Quarterly Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday Finds – 31st March

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

It’s finally the end of term and I feel somewhere between elated and exhausted! The last few weeks have been tough and I’m definitely in need of a break, so tonight I thought I would bring you a more lighthearted selection of finds, focusing on some of the more unusual, entertaining and just plain mad aspects of running…

First up, a new variation on a previous trend. You might already be familiar with the #race the tube phenomenon which went viral in 2014 as a runner tried to beat an underground train between two stations in London. In this latest version, a German marathon runner took on the challenge of racing a subway train for 10k across Berlin. There’s some video included in the article – I hope your German is up to scratch!

Sticking with 10k for now, here’s a story from a most unexpected source for a running blog – Horse & Hound! Including this makes me feel a little like Hugh Grant’s character in Notting Hill when he interviews Julia Roberts about her new film and says he’s from Horse & Hound magazine haha! Anyway, I’ve had my fair share of interesting encounters in races, like seeing those guys who run the London marathon every year dressed as rhinos, or that time I got chased by cows during a hill race, or last Sunday when I had a rather low fly-by from the scary bird of prey that sometimes attacks runners near here… but I’ve never found myself running alongside an actual horse! Yet that’s exactly what happened to runners in a 10k race in Trafford recently when the wonderfully named Mildred escaped from her field and joined in with the race for a couple of kilometres until she was caught! Now that’s not something you see every day!

Another unlikely source for this blog is Classic FM, and yet somehow I’ve come across a story combining both running and classical music as a student at the Birmingham Conservatoire plans to run the Liverpool half marathon this weekend dressed as a viola in an attempt to set a new world record. The current record stands at 1:26:57 so he’ll need to be fairly nippy to beat it. As a fellow string player, I wish him all the best.

Speaking of half marathon records, former professional runner Chris Estwanik set a new record at the recent New York City half for the fastest half marathon whilst wearing a suit. Why? Well, because it was a bet, of course! The Bermuda-based runner was offered a free round of a rum cocktail if he could break the record, and his time of 1:11:36 took more than SEVEN MINUTES off the previous record, so I think someone must owe him a drink!

And finally, if you fancy trying something a bit more unusual yourself, then take a look at this list compiled by The Guardian. It makes me wonder how many more totally bonkers races there are in the world (and how they came about in the first place!). If you’ve tried anything a bit different then I’d love to hear about it…

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Race Report – Inverness Half Marathon 2017

When training for a marathon the received wisdom is that it’s a great idea to race a half marathon around 4-5 weeks out from the event as a “tune-up”. This is the time to test out race day routines, clothing and paces to see where you are. Despite currently training for my 9th marathon, last weekend was actually my first ever tune up half thanks to my tendency to pick up injuries during the training cycle. The race was written into my training plan right from the start, however I held off entering until mid-February, right before entries were closing. Apparently even with training going well so far, I still retained a degree of caution!

As the day of the half marathon approached, I began to consider my plan. Since I have been running my long runs quite slowly, this was going to be my first opportunity to see if I could hold my target marathon pace for the duration of the race. But I also saw an opportunity to FINALLY get a new half marathon PB. I wanted to beat my time of 1:56:35 from Aviemore in 2012 and a little bit of runner maths showed me that if I could run at the top end of my target pace, I would finish around a minute quicker than this. The challenge was on!

With the race not starting until 12:30pm, we opted to drive up on the morning of the race, setting off around 8:30am. To save time, I organised all my kit the night before, but somehow neglected to take a “flat runner” photo, however my selection was similar to what I wore in Paris last year, just a different colour: Under Armour running skirt and top, Bondi Band calf sleeves, Lululemon arm warmers, Adidas Ultra Boost shoes and my trusty Spibelt to hold my phone. I was so beautifully colour co-ordinated that during the race a woman actually ran alongside me and complimented me on my outfit!

The drive up to Inverness was pretty uneventful. I’m not overly fond of the journey as it’s quite long and can be slow, but some of the scenery is absolutely stunning. We did, of course, make a pit stop at the House of Bruar for a “comfort break” as they have really nice toilets!

IMG_0954Not long after Bruar we were at the Drumochter Pass where the view really opens out to some spectacular hills.

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IMG_0958Once in Inverness we opted to use a multi-storey car park in the city centre then walk along to the Bught Park, an area we are pretty familiar with from marathon-related trips. To register, we had to walk through the Bught to the sports centre on the other side, and this is where I began to get a bit irritated. We had plenty time until registration was closing, but we immediately found ourselves in a queue. There were people trying to register for the half marathon, people trying to register for the 5k, people trying to get in to the toilets: people, people, people and no real order. I felt like there were too many people in the available space and nobody there to manage it so we couldn’t really be sure we were even in the right queue! By the time we got in to the sports hall, I was pretty grumpy and this wasn’t helped when I was told they were out of small T-shirts so I had to take a medium – and a “unisex” medium at that, which is basically a men’s top that’s far too big for little old me! I always wonder why race organisers can’t sort things out so that people are given the T-shirt size they requested on their entry, rather than whatever is left when they collect their race number – if you have to show ID to get your number, then your T-shirt size could be part of the same process to save disappointment. Grrr!

IMG_0970By this time I also wanted a pre-run toilet stop but was feeling so claustrophobic that I just couldn’t face heading back into the queues of people we had fought through. Instead, I found a different exit and located a different toilet. Still a queue, which I fumed my way through, but a little easier. I then stomped my way down towards the start area, still in a bit of a mood!

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Steve has antlers. I seem to have a head sprouting from my shoulder!

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IMG_0960I stood just to the front of the 1:50-2:00 section, still grumping about how busy it was, and waited to get underway. There was that heartbeat music that seems to be de rigeur at big races these days, followed by the obligatory countdown to the the start, huge cheer…and no movement whatsoever. Soon, though, I was moving towards the line, starting my watch and settling in.

The start, which is the final part of the marathon/10k in September, is fairly narrow so I found it difficult to settle into a rhythm. Already grumpy, I caught myself muttering about preferring training by myself so I can do my one thing. On the plus side, I was quite disciplined about not wasting energy weaving around people, knowing when the field stretched out a bit I would have plenty of room to run. There had been lots of announcements about record numbers, so perhaps the race is becoming a victim of its own success and organisers now need to consider ways to streamline registration and perhaps using a wave start to help ease congestion.

By the time I was about a mile in I had space to settle into my pace and began counting down the miles. Target marathon pace is between 8:50-9:00 per mile so my plan for this race was to have each mile average out at, or faster than, my target, taking account of the fact that I would be slower over hills. I found myself keeping a very close eye on my Garmin to see how I was getting on and right from the start was running faster than marathon pace. I wasn’t sure how this would pan out, but just let my body dictate the pace.

fullsizeoutput_1cb9I sustained a pace quicker than marathon pace through the first 8 miles, but then as I began the 9th mile, the rain began, I found myself running uphill into a headwind and there were a couple of tight turns. It was a bit of a miserable mile with the rain washing sweat into my eyes and it feeling harder to keep up the pace. Mentally, I checked out a bit and had to refocus myself on what I was doing. Steve had told me that there was a great downhill section at 9 miles and I clung to this information to get me through. Sure enough. towards the end of the mile I turned a corner and saw not only the 9 mile marker, but a fantastic swooping downhill. I leaned forwards and went for it. I might as well have been screaming “wheeeee!” as I went!

By the 10 mile marker we were retracing our steps from the start of the race. I was feeling much better thanks to the downhill section and a gel, so was ready to keep on going to the finish. The only thing was, the finish was NOT at the start line, but about 1/2 a mile or so further on behind the sports centre. That last mile felt absolutely endless and I have a recollection of a headwind. I also wasn’t entirely sure how far I still had to go. I trusted the distance on my Garmin, but since I couldn’t actually see the finish line it was hard to judge. At long last, however, I entered the running track which formed the finishing straight. I had half a lap on that lovely, bouncy surface before crossing the line.

I stopped my watch at 1:53:03, a time confirmed almost immediately with a text containing my official result. And what a result it was! At long last I had a new half marathon PB, and a much faster one than I had anticipated. I’ve often thought I might be capable of a 1:52:XX so those pesky 3 seconds were a little irritating, but I soon forgot that in my joy at running so well. Every mile except the 9th was faster than target marathon pace, and that was a very positive result.

fullsizeoutput_1cbaI made my way though the finish area to collect my medal, as well as a banana, Clif bar, packet of pistachios, water and somewhat ironically, suncream! Given that I was a bit of a bedraggled mess from the rain earlier on, this item was probably a bit superfluous on this occasion. Perhaps it will come in handy for another race where there is actual sunshine rather than “liquid sunshine”.

IMG_0961Steve, who had also run a PB, was waiting for me and we got some photos before I headed off to get changed into some warmer clothes.

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A “Highland Spring” tiara!

IMG_7260 IMG_7264We were both starving thanks to the lunchtime start, so made our way to McDonald’s to refuel (with me eating a protein bar on the way!). McDonald’s may not be very healthy and normally I would turn my nose up at it, but I must admit I don’t mind it after a race. Once refuelled, it was back to the car (via a quick stop for a takeaway coffee) for the journey home. We had to pull in a couple of times for Steve to stretch and get some air, so we were glad to get home and inhale the steak pies and rosemary potatoes we had waiting for us. Then it was time for a bath and bed, worn out but happy.

IMG_0962 IMG_0969Overall I have mixed feelings about this one. Obviously I’m delighted about the PB and the race itself was really nice. The negatives for me were the crowds that I think the organisers need to look at as the race continues to grow in popularity. There’s also the long journey there. We would have happily got the train, but there wasn’t one early enough on Sunday morning to get us there on time so we had to drive. The only other option would have been to go the night before, but that would have added to the expense with the need for a hotel. If we could have been earlier at registration I would have felt much more relaxed, but that just wasn’t possible for us. Still, I would recommend this event, with the caution that it is very popular and there will likely be crowds.
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Week in Review – Time For A Tune Up

Things continue to be busy at work as the deadlines for coursework loom, but somehow I’m still managing to fit in my training around it all. Here’s my regular week in review, linking up with Jessie at The Right Fits and Jess at Jess Runs ATL.

Believe it or not, I actually managed to complete all my workouts on the planned days this week with no changes or omissions – I think that means a grand total of two “perfect” weeks since the start of January! I keep mentioning this as a reminder that sticking rigidly to a plan doesn’t always work, but I know I’ve made progress and am now stronger and fitter even with some shuffling around of workouts each week.

Here’s how this week looked:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps at the gym
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – PT session plus Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun plus Hatha yoga
Sunday – half marathon

Monday was the morning after the run before. I was tired (18 miles at the busiest point in the school term will do that to you!) but my legs felt ok. Weary, of course, but not really achy which was good. Still, it was nice to get in the water at the end of the day. I did find it a bit harder to get into a rhythm with my breathing though, probably because I had worked my body hard the day before, but felt much more refreshed for getting in the pool and having a swim anyway.

Tuesday is bike reps day. Nothing of note to report here, it was just two more reps onto the workout I did last week. It’s tough, but I’m tougher and I know I’m much stronger now because of working through these reps each week since late last year.

My Wednesday hill reps also formed my entry to a virtual race organised by Women’s Running magazine for International Women’s Day. There was something so inspiring about listening to my favourite podcast (The Tough Girl Podcast which had a special episode for IWD) and thinking about the #BeBoldForChange message for IWD that gave me that extra oomph for the one final rep that I’ve now added to this workout. Basically it’s the same workout as before (5-4-3-2 reps to a series of lampposts) but by adding one rep to the final lamppost I now run right up the hill. Even saving a little something for that last rep, I still managed to run some of the earlier ones a bit quicker again which is really pleasing.

IMG_0942On Thursday I asked Steve to take me through some exercises for my hips. I’ve had a sensation that there was an imbalance between them and wanted to make sure I addressed that given my history of problems with my left hip. The issue seems to be less that my left hip was weak, more that my right was taking over, so we worked through some movements to help even things up. After that I had a really good Ashtanga yoga class. There were just two of us again this week and I felt really strong and centred throughout my practice. Just what I needed!

Friday was my rest day. I always look forward to this as I’m so tired at the end of the work week, especially right now as so much coursework is due and we’re close to the end of a very long term. This week I had a few errands then, as usual, Steve and I headed out to eat. I DEFINITELY needed my beer this week! Usually I have a curry to eat with it, but this week there was a ribeye steak on the specials menu and I really fancied that instead. It was delicious!

IMG_0946Parkrun this week was a little different as the team had opted to switch to the alternate route since the grass section has been getting so boggy. The weather hasn’t really helped it to firm up, so giving it a rest for a couple of weeks should help a bit. The alternate route is two laps of the Inch which, as regular readers may remember, is a route that always makes a little piece of my soul die! On the plus side, it’s a flat and fast route and the conditions this week were grey but still, offering the opportunity to run well. Parkrun rules state that alternate courses should be a little longer than the regular route so that there are no PBs set that will be too difficult to beat on the regular route, but I was still presented with a bit of a dilemma: on the one hand, I knew I had a half marathon the following day so didn’t want to overdo it; on the other hand, I was really curious to know what sort of shape I was in over 5k as I knew the state of the grass had been slowing me down recently. In the end I decided to treat it as a tempo effort and run comfortably hard but with the knowledge that I could speed up at any point. I was therefore delighted to run each consecutive mile a little faster and to finish with my fastest parkrun time since August (23:39). A very encouraging sign for my fitness!

IMG_0947Next up was my Hatha yoga class which I always really enjoy as I find the stretching really helps to reset my body after my week’s training so I feel ready for my longer run on Sunday. I then continued the relaxing vibe with an afternoon on my recliner watching TV and taking a nap with the cat (she’s in charge of rest and naps, remember!).
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And then it was Sunday. This year we decided to enter the Inverness half marathon as a tune-up for Paris. Steve actually did this race last year, but I wasn’t at that point ready for the distance after my stress fracture so didn’t go up there. Like Saturday, I was unsure what to do. If I want a sub-4 hour marathon then my goal pace needs to average out faster than 9:09 per mile, so my target is 8:50-9:00 per mile. Since this was my tune-up, I wanted to make sure I could hold that pace, however I also knew that my half marathon PB of 1:56:35 averaged out at 8:58 per mile, so saw the opportunity to FINALLY run a new PB – it’s been my PB since 2012 after all! In the end, I decided to run to feel with the aim of running each mile at, or faster than, goal marathon pace. This would allow for slowing on hills but some faster sections downhill over the undulating course. I’ll be writing a separate race report, but spoiler alert, I got a new PB with my 1:53:03 finish! Delighted doesn’t even come close!

IMG_7263The race starts at lunchtime so despite a big breakfast and pre-race banana, we were both starving and made a bee-line for McDonald’s afterwards. Not exactly healthy, I know, but ok as a post-race treat for some fast energy until we got home. It was a long drive back so we finished the day tired but happy (Steve got a PB too).

IMG_0962So as weeks go, this has to be a good one. I recovered well from my 18 miler, ran a solid time at parkrun then followed it up the next day with a half marathon PB. Now to see if I can convert that into a marathon PB next month…

How has your training gone this week?
Any PBs to share?

‘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…!

Friday Finds – 10th February

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

7 for 2017 – My Goals for the Year

It’s that time of year again. If you’ve been with me for a while then you’ll know I don’t hold with all that “new year, new me” stuff as I believe that pinning all your hopes for change on one particular day (a day when, let’s face it, many aren’t feeling at their best!) is doomed to failure. If there’s something you want to change, change it now. If there’s something you want to achieve, start taking steps towards it straight away. Why wait? Too many people try to make massive and unsustainable changes on the 1st of January then feel miserable when they fail. Surely it’s better to change one small thing at a time or develop habits that have already been created than to try and completely reinvent yourself? So rather than resolutions, I prefer to set myself goals – things I would like to achieve over the course of the year that will help give focus to what I do and bring me one step closer to where I want to be.

I’ve already shared my final roundup of my 2016 goals and was, for the most part, pleased with how those went. I am aware, however, that a couple of them weren’t SMART enough in that they lacked clear cut ways to measure my progress, nor did they all have tangible deadlines to work towards. Those that I achieved tended to have something very clear and time-focused to strive for, so this year I’m going to try and address that a bit more.

And following the example of Sarah Williams at Tough Girl Challenges, I’m going to have 7 goals this year. Sarah has been encouraging the members of the Tough Girl Tribe to create and share 7 for 2017, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do. As ever, sharing those goals and sharing my progress throughout the year will help to keep me accountable and make me reflect on how I’m getting on. So here we go…

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  1. Set some new race PBs
    The last time I set a big running goal, I kept it quiet. Not this time. This time I’m putting out there exactly what I want to achieve, and I want to achieve the big ones! This year I want a new marathon PB. My best currently stands at 4:05:07 from Paris in 2014, and in 2017 I want to better that. Ideally, I’m going to FINALLY achieve my dream of a sub-4 hour marathon, and that’s what I will be training for. I’m entered into Paris again, so that will be my primary target, but I’ll keep the idea of an autumn marathon in reserve just in case!
    As well as that, my half marathon PB has stagnated at 1:56:35 since the autumn of 2012. I find half marathons tough as they’re somewhere between the speed of a 10k and the endurance of a marathon, and I never quite get my pacing right. I think I could get closer to a 1:52 and this year I’m going to have a go at achieving that. I don’t yet know what my target race will be, but hopefully something will work in well with my marathon training.
    And in for a penny, in for a pound, I also want to have a go at breaking 50 minutes for a 10k. I ran 50:14 in the Great Scottish Run 10k in 2015, so I’m within touching distance. Let’s see what 2017 brings there…
  2. Run my 100th parkrun
    A very tangible goal. I ran my 50th parkrun at the beginning of November, and have continued to participate regularly ever since. Assuming my New Year’s Day goes as planned (I’m writing this in advance!) then I will be sitting on a nice round 60, leaving me the whole rest of 2017 to complete 40 parkruns. Even factoring in a post-marathon rest and being away on holiday, this is still achievable. I just need to keep myself as healthy and injury-free as possible.
  3. Maintain my step goal streak
    Back in the summer I set myself a mini-goal of achieving the step goal on my fitness tracker every day throughout my summer break from school. For an added challenge, I allowed that goal to increase incrementally and finished the summer feeling so much better for being away from my car for so long, getting more fresh air and walking everywhere. Unwilling to stop once the new school year began, I reset my step goal to a fixed 10,000 steps per day and came up with some creative ways to fit extra walking into my daily routine. The end of 2016 saw me reach a whopping 183 days (or 6 months) in my streak and there’s no way I want to stop yet. While I keep setting myself interim goals (100 days, 150 days, to the end of the year…) realistically I’ve come so far now that the only thing that I could really allow to stop my streak is to be incapacitated in some way such as illness or injury. My mini-goal right now is to reach the summer and make it 365 days, but what I would really love is to get my 10,000 minimum every day of 2017. Watch this space!
  4. Read at least 30 books
    One of my most successful goals in 2016 was to read more books, and I used the annual challenge on Goodreads to help me out. My goal (based on a bit of guesswork!) was 15 books, but I finished the year with 27 completed books so I’m making my minimum target for 2017 a nice round 30. I’d love for more of these to be running/cycling/adventure books as well as an assortment of fiction. I’d love your recommendations!
  5. Make more time to relax and prioritise rest during the work week
    I’m terrible for being on the go all the time. Work is busy, there’s training to do, and I often don’t find time to sit down and relax until about 9pm. Steve and I have worked together to create a training plan that has my longest workouts at the weekend, and I need to manage my work commitments a bit better to allow me to have a little more time to myself. I’d love to be sitting down (in my pyjamas!) a bit earlier in the evening, and if I can do that then I should be able to find more time to read, watch tv or even write more for the blog. I might even try getting to bed earlier on weeknights to help me rise earlier and achieve more in the early part of the day (a tough one since I’m a natural night owl) so will work on that in the new term.
  6. Commit to more yoga outside of my weekly classes
    2016 was the year I finally started going to yoga. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and I really love that time out in my week to help me stretch, settle my mind and get stronger. At present I go to two yoga classes each week – a midweek Ashtanga class to really complement my other training and a weekend Hatha class to help me stretch and unwind. Now I think the next step is to commit to a more regular practice outside of those classes. That may be as little as once more per week, even just 10 minutes to help me unwind in the evening. There are plenty of online videos to use and I also have the Hit Reset book by Erin Taylor from Jasyoga, so will use these to help me on my journey.
  7. Blog more consistently
    I’m hoping that success in my other goals will help me with this one. In 2016 I committed to the WordPress challenge of a post per week, which I have achieved, however there were times in the year when I felt like the blog was limping along on nothing more than a Friday Finds post per week. And while it never fails to amaze me when people tell me how much they enjoy these (by their nature they invite less interaction) I’d prefer to put out more of my own content – training updates, life updates, thoughts on various running/fitness topics – and connect with more people. In 2017 I’d like to try and publish a post per week IN ADDITION to Friday Finds. You may notice a flurry of posts whenever I’m not at work, so what I’d really like to do is even things out a little bit and find some more time to write posts in advance so I can schedule them for specific dates or have something in reserve if I know I’m not going to have much time to write. I think this is going to be a challenging one, but I really want to give it a go and see if I can grow my total views in 2017. Any tips from more prolific bloggers than me would be gratefully received, as would your comments on any topics you’d like to see covered.

And that’s my 7 for 2017. Stay tuned for updates throughout the year to see how I get on.

What are your views on resolutions?
What are your goals for the months ahead?

Friday Finds Extra Edition – 4th November

Me again! I already posted my Friday Finds for this week, however with the New York marathon taking place on Sunday my news feeds have been packed with interesting marathon-related articles which I wanted to share. I posted a marathon special recently so didn’t want to have another so soon as I know that’s not what everyone is interested in, but equally didn’t want to miss the opportunity to share some great content. And so, this week I’m bringing you an extra edition – think of it like bonus content on an album or dvd – for those interested in reading a bit more marathon goodness…

Outside
The Great Slowing of the American Runner – an intriguing investigation into why the times of the best amateur marathoners are slowing.

The New Yorker
The New York City Marathon Quadruplets – the story of what is believed to be the first quadruplets to take part together in the marathon’s history.

The First Five-Borough New York City Marathon – the story of how the event as we know it today came about.

Are Smartphones Ruining Distance Running? – a look at how technology has changed the marathon experience over the years.

The New York Times
Diary of a New York City Marathon, Now With a Finishing Kick – a detailed breakdown of the course, in case you want to feel like you’re there!

NY Mag
Why the Fastest Runners are Astonishingly Chill – further evidence of how taking it easy can boost finishing times.

Runner’s World
Sole Sisters of ’72 – a piece from the RW Selects series featuring the 6 women who lined up for the 1972 event and how it was about so much more than running a race.

Two sources looked at the costs of running the marathon:
Here’s How Much it’s Costing Me to Run the NYC Marathon (Time)
Think Running is a Cheap Sport? Check Out What New York City Marathon Runner are Spending (MarketWatch)

And for those who are fed up of trying to explain why they HAVEN’T run a marathon, Sports Illustrated has you covered:
The Case for Not Running a Marathon

And with that, I promise I’m done with Friday Finds for this week! Good luck to everyone running New York (or any other race) this weekend.
The Running Princess

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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?

A Super(ish) September

Although September began on a sad note with the funeral of Steve’s mum, having that closure meant that we both felt it was time to get back to a normal routine and return to regular training – after all, we had a half marathon fast approaching! I still had some lingering remnants of a cold, but I was certainly able to run (so long as I carried a few tissues!). The weather remained very pleasant for the time of year and I enjoyed sticking to running in my summer kit for a bit longer:

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I also had a bit of virtual running to do. First up, a September virtual 5k which I completed at parkrun:

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And then, something very exciting. I recently discovered the Hogwarts Running Club, which can be “joined” simply by liking their Facebook page. They organise six virtual races every year with a Harry Potter theme, and I found myself particularly taken with the Platform 9 3/4 km event. I paid my registration fee and downloaded my custom race bib:

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The race could be completed at any time, however participants were encouraged to run on the 1st of September as that was the date Harry returned to Hogwarts. I wasn’t able to run that day, so my trip on the Hogwarts Express was delayed by a week, but it was definitely worth it for this really cool medal depicting Harry and Ron’s eventful journey in the 2nd book:

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Front

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Back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The medal actually arrived on the same day as the Scottish Half Marathon, a race I didn’t particularly enjoy for a variety of reasons, so arriving home to find a medal waiting for me was great. It’s a fairly hefty bit of bling, and holds its own nicely next to the frankly huge medal I got from the half marathon:

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Since the half marathon took place on a Saturday (highly unusual!), the following day afforded us a rare Sunday off, so we decided to make the most of it by heading out for breakfast – yum!

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A half marathon the day before meant we had earned this!

Then that evening we headed to Perth Concert Hall to see Twin Atlantic, a band from Glasgow, who were playing as part of the 10th anniversary of the venue. They’re not a band I know terribly well, but the show was great. I thought they were talented musicians and they played my favourite song of theirs as part of the encore, which made me happy.

Another highlight of September was the annual Macmillan fundraiser, the world’s biggest coffee morning, which my school has supported for several years. I’m not much of a baker so my contribution was some bits and pieces from my Macmillan fundraising kit (which somehow resulted in me standing in the home economics department ironing sashes the night before the event!), but the pupils put on an impressive spread and raised over £500 for the charity simply through selling tea, coffee and cakes to the staff. A fantastic effort!

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But I think my September highlight came the following Saturday. I took a few days off running after the half marathon in order to allow my body to recover, so parkrun was my first run in a week. As I walked over to the start, it struck me that conditions were perfect for a good time – cool and still. I had been posting some decent times recently and began to wonder if this was the day to try and shave a few more seconds off my 23:49 PB. I decided that I would go out hard, try to hold on and see what happened. If I got a PB, great; if not, I would know I had given it my best shot.

I got myself in a good starting position and set off at a fairly brisk pace. Glancing at my Garmin, I really wasn’t sure I could maintain it, but felt reasonably comfortable so got myself “locked in” to the pace and kept going.

Mile 1 ticked by in 7:28 (7:28?!?)

Mile 2 over the grass was a steady 7:32.

Mile 3, tiring somewhat, I clocked 7:36. My previous PB was based on a 7:40ish average so all I had to do was keep going to the line and a new PB was mine…

And this was when it got really difficult. I could see the finish line and my natural instinct was to speed up, but I had finally found my maximum effort level, so there was nothing else left. Despite slowing in the last 100m or so, I took a whopping 35 seconds off my PB, setting a new best of 23:14 (an average pace of 7:32 per mile). I couldn’t believe it! Actually I really wanted a lie down and had to have a nap that afternoon to recover! I still can’t believe that my legs moved at that pace – I never think of myself as someone who can put in mile splits like that. Not only that, but I somehow managed to claim 3rd female overall in the field that day – a triumph indeed!

The following day, conscious that I’d asked a lot of my body, I opted for an easy-paced recovery run and enjoyed the sunshine by the river rather than churning out “junk” miles and risking injury.

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Sadly, after the joy of a new PB, the fates weren’t quite done with me and September finished on a sour note with the news that my dad had been involved in a car accident. Thankfully there were no serious injuries, but he has done some damage to his knee so he’ll be in a knee brace and using crutches for a while, meaning golf and running are both firmly off the agenda. He’s also got loads of bruises from his seatbelt and airbag and, unfortunately, his car is beyond repair so there’s a lot of insurance stuff to sort out. And none of it was his fault – another driver shot out of a side road right into him as he was driving home from a round of golf. It just goes to show how things can change in the blink of an eye. As you can imagine, we all got a real shock, especially when he had to be taken to hospital to be checked over, and it’s awful seeing him unable to do the things he loves. Fingers crossed for a speedy recovery or I can predict him getting rather grumpy!

Hopefully, that’s me done with misfortune for a while – I’m certainly ready for some more positive experiences and October looks set to bring some fun. Watch this space…

How was your September?
Any exciting plans for October?