Friday Finds – 11th August

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

Have you been watching the World Championships Athletics from London this week? I’ve been loving watching world class competition every evening and there have been some thrilling performances to watch – the men’s 10,000m, the women’s marathon and the legend that is Usain Bolt to name a few. There have also been some more “controversial” moments – continuing discussion of Caster Semenya, Makwala not being allowed to race due to illness and the reception of Justin Gatlin spring to mind. All of these have been covered extensively in my news feeds this week, but rather than go over old ground I thought I would bring you a few articles I had already saved…

I’m going to start with this piece by Running Like a Girl author Alexandra Heminsley. Considering the brilliant This Girl Can campaign from Sport England, Heminsley reflects on some of the barriers we create for ourselves which hold us back from participation. I have often heard people make comments like, “I’m not a real runner,” or say that they can’t take up a particular sport or go to a particular gym class until they lose weight/get fitter/become more flexible – some of the very things that activity would help with. Heminsley herself recognises that these moments mirror her own thinking before finding sport and once upon a time I felt the same. A great reminder that whether it’s running, swimming or something else entirely, nobody is born a fully-formed expert, but participation is all it takes to be able to call yourself part of the tribe.

This next article has raised some very interesting debate. Is it more impressive to run a super fast mile or to complete a marathon (or ultra)? It seems to me that every distance presents its own unique challenges, but that doesn’t necessarily make one better than another. In the mile, you’ve got a few minutes of lung-busting, heart-thumping effort (possibly ending with a bit of “pavement pizza” if you’ve really pushed it) whereas in the marathon and beyond there are the challenges of time on your feet, aching limbs, blisters and keeping your body fuelled. Different distance, different challenge. Is running a 4 minute mile impressive? Of course it is. What about completing a marathon? Apparently only 1% of the population will ever do so, so I’d say that’s another yes. What makes a challenge impressive is the possibility of failure rather than what that challenge actually is. For me, a sub-4 hour marathon is waaaaaay more likely (and appealing!) than a sub-4 minute mile. Both would present their own challenges. What are your thoughts?

If maintaining motivation is your issue, then perhaps this next article will help. A number of running bloggers were asked for their top tips to stay motivated. Most of the suggestions are probably fairly familiar, but it can still be useful to see it written down and read about another’s experiences. Perhaps you’ll find something in this extensive list useful. Do you have any to add?

Now to some cycling. Although I’ve been completing a bike workout every week in the gym for months now, it’s been some time since I’ve been on my trusty steed Trixie. I’m lucky enough to live somewhere with plenty of cycling options, but I know that for many this is not possible which can be off-putting, and am conscious that many cities on the continent are much better equipped for cyclists than we are here. But what would an ideal cycling city look like? That’s exactly what Steven Fleming considers in his new publication Velotopia. Would you want to live there?

And finally, I’ll leave you with this poem by Nat Runs Far published on Women’s Running. There is a certain poetry to getting into the groove of a long run on a sunny day, and this really captures that moment.

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Week In Review – It’s All In The Hips

We’re still playing around a bit with the content of some of my workouts, but this has been a great week of getting to grips with some different forms of training. Not only that, but the World Championships Athletics has now started and I know I’ll be glued to that for the next few days! As ever, linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share the details.

In general, the pattern was the same as ever. Here’s how my week looked:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – 1km drills + Hatha yoga
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 12 miles

As always, the week began with a swim. I find this a great way to recover from my weekend runs, which helps to both boost my fitness and make me think about my breathing. This week, unfortunately, wasn’t such a great swim for me. The pool was busy (I had spent a good chunk of the day at work getting my new classroom organised for the start of term) so it was really hard to get into any sort of rhythm. I also think they might have adjusted the pool chemicals and my nose felt quite blocked throughout the swim, making it hard to get my breathing right. I have noticed this before, so if you’ve any tips that might help then I’d love to hear them.

Tuesday, in all honesty, was a bit of a disaster. It was really wet in the morning so I decided not to go to the gym until later on. During the holidays I tend not to use my car unless I really have to as I spend so much time driving to and from work during term time. What I’m now noticing is that in bad weather I’m more likely to either delay an outing or re-think my clothing for the conditions rather than get in the car instead. Things seemed better later, just a few brief passing showers, so I set off. About half way to the gym the rain started, but rather than ease off it quickly became Florida-like monsoon conditions. I know we get a lot of rain in Scotland, but nothing like this with drains instantly overflowing and rain bouncing off every surface. I was stranded under a bus shelter for ages until it eased off and I moved on, but I was soaked through and realised that I had a problem: all I had was the clothes I was wearing and the clothes for my workout. If I did my workout I would either have to walk home in sweaty gym clothes or put my rain-soaked clothes back on (including very squelchy shoes and socks!). Neither option was appealing!

IMG_3380Steve was free so I got him to pick me up and drive me home. Once there I got dried off, put my gym clothes on, grabbed the things I needed and drove to the gym. It was a case of walk in, do workout, drive home. By the time I got there the workout was the last thing I felt like doing, but it’s good mental training to carry on when you’re head isn’t in it and I got the bike workout done.

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It’s not all glamour this marathon training!!

For Wednesday, Steve had something new up his sleeve for me. Rather than another set of hill reps, he wanted me to do some form drills. We’ve been working on knee drive in my PT sessions, so now this was being incorporated into a run as well. I had a 10 minute warm up, then it was 6x 1km drills, focusing on knee drive and arms. Basically, running with really good form. After each rep I had 90 seconds recovery. The first rep began well but as I approached a road crossing I had a most unfortunate encounter with a swarm of midges and had to stop while I hawked and hacked. Pretty sure I still swallowed a couple. Let’s call that “bonus protein”! The second and third reps were great as they were mainly downhill and I felt like I was flying. The last part of the fourth and first half of the fifth were uphill so by the time I got to the last rep I was digging deep, but this was the reason I had six to do as Steve knew from his own experience that after that the form would start to go and then the workout would have little benefit.

IMG_3395I had a short cool down after the last rep then a really quick shower and change before heading off to meet Steve. Some friends of ours are going to Florida later in the year and were feeling a bit overwhelmed with planning everything so we offered to sit down with them and talk through some things/answer questions/give recommendations over a cup of tea. I really hope they found it useful. Perhaps I should seek an alternative career as a Central Florida holiday planner/guide (I’d be happy to offer personal tours “in situ” lol!).

I finished the day with a nice relaxing Hatha yoga class up at the golf club again. I was feeling sleepy from a busy day (I ran quite early compared to what I usually do in order to fit everything in) so this was just what I needed.

On Thursday I had a little indulgence when I met Steve at a coffee shop after some errands. They were offering half price frozen drinks so we tried the double chocolate cookie mocha. I can confirm it was good!

IMG_3399My main workout was my Ashtanga yoga class. It was a small class this week and all people who go regularly so we were able to flow quite quickly through the postures and try something new at the end of the sequence. I felt good and am pleased with my progress in one of the postures that I wanted to work on.

Friday began with a PT session. More work on my knee drive, hip mobility and upper back mobility. Like last week I used both weights of Core Momentum Trainer and the broomstick. We also finished with some short hopping drills to consolidate the work on knee drive.

IMG_3402I got home to find that the medal from my July virtual challenge had arrived. I do like it when this happens!

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IMG_3407Later that afternoon I had to walk up to my parents’ house and I definitely felt some weariness around my hips after all the work this week! Whilst at the house I realised that there was tons of rhubarb in the garden so headed out (in the rain!) to pick some before I left. I usually make some stewed rhubarb with it as Steve likes it with his breakfast and I quite like it with some Greek yoghurt. It’s not good to have too close to a run though, unless a sprint finish to the loo is what you fancy lol!

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The evening was spent enjoying the first night of the athletics, including an incredible run from Mo Farah. I can’t wait to see what else is in store.

Since it was the first Saturday of the month that meant it was pacer day at parkrun. This time I was pacing 27 minutes and knew I was aiming for about 8:45 per mile. It was a beautiful, still day (great for PBs!) and I found myself slightly ahead after the first mile. No big deal as it can take a bit of time to settle into the right pace. Just before the turn I found myself alongside a runner I’ve seen a couple of times now and exchanged a few words with. She said hello and asked what time I was pacing. A couple of minutes later she spoke to me again and said that she was running parkrun as the last part of her long run but she was starting to struggle and asked if she could run with me. At that point I decided just to focus on helping her rather than getting my pace spot on. So I fell into step beside her and just started chatting (I was not even very sure of her name but now I know lots about her and her running plans). As we got closer to the finish she told me she was so glad I was there as she had been on the point of giving up and slowing right down, but having me there had kept her going. I may have ended up about 30 seconds faster than I was supposed to run, but it felt so good to know that I had helped someone. That’s something I really love about parkrun – that sense of community and meeting new people all the time. I wouldn’t be surprised if she now became one of the people I speak to regularly at parkrun.

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Steve was away all day so no photographer for my jumping shot this week!

Once home, I got myself settled to catch up on the morning session of the athletics, then when Steve got home later on we watched the evening session together. What a shame that Bolt didn’t have his fairytale ending with another gold medal, but the women’s 1500m is shaping up to be an incredible final. Even the cat was glued to the TV!

IMG_3427Sunday is all about the long run. Currently I am aiming to run every third mile faster, so 2 “easier” miles followed by a harder mile. Last week I tried to do this by aiming for a particular pace, but the route I chose for this week’s run was rather undulating and I knew a couple of my faster miles would not be on flat terrain. Instead, I focused on maintaining good form and keeping up the intensity in the faster miles, using the first part of the following mile as recovery.

Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 18.41.51As the session went on I increasingly found it harder to run the slower miles as my body was becoming accustomed to the faster pace and better form of the faster miles and although these were harder on my CV system, I actually found myself looking forward to that faster blast. I did not expect that!

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Yes, I have become so fed up of my hair that I found a way to tie it out of my face into the world’s smallest ponytail for the run. The Florida heat and humidity has sent it on a mad growth spurt and I can’t wait to get it cut at the end of the week!

I got home from my run in time to see the last part of the men’s marathon at the World Championships (an awesome run from Callum Hawkins) while I cooled down/stretched and then squeezed in a quick shower before what was a very exciting women’s marathon with Alyson Dixon leading for a good chunk of the race. A very enjoyable way to relax after my run, safe in the knowledge I had already done the hard work for the day.

And I rounded off the week with my usual “recovery bath”, accompanied by the magazines I brought back from my trip to the US. Bliss!

IMG_3459Overall, this week has had a lot of focus on form and I’m hoping to build on that in the coming weeks so that my target marathon pace begins to feel easier.

Are you watching the World Championships?
How is your training going?

Friday Finds – 4th August

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

Anyone else really excited for the start of the World Athletics Championships today? I LOVE getting settled in front of the TV for any athletics competition but this one is going to be pretty special with Usain Bolt’s final race and one of Mo Farah’s last track appearances. I’m also hopeful of great performances from Scottish athletes like Laura Muir and Callum Hawkins and it will be great to see medal ceremonies for athletes who previously missed out on medals due to competitors who were doping. So you don’t miss any of the action, here are the details of the UK coverage from the BBC:

If the athletics inspires you to get out and run a bit more, you might enjoy the wisdom of the great Kathrine Switzer in this article for Outside. It’s easy to get swept along with working hard and striving for a goal, but running should also be fun and Switzer reminds us of how we can make sure we enjoy what we do. Sometimes we need to be reminded of that!

For those who are newer to running, this article for new website Motiv Running is helpful. Like the writer, I’ve now been running for more than a decade, but can still remember those earliest runs, how everyone else seemed to find it so much easier and how a single mile seemed like such a long way. I’ve definitely learned a lot over the years, but from this article the ones that stand out most to me are number 5 and number 10. I definitely agree that you are a runner as soon as you decide to be, and running is certainly a journey. It’s a journey full of ups and downs, but its’s fulfilling and I’m glad it’s a journey I can still be on.

Something I’m particularly interested in is the impact of stress on the body. Whether that’s stress from a hard run, work stress of life stress, the body doesn’t really know the difference, hence why we can be more prone to injuries when we’re under a lot of pressure in other areas of our lives. I’m learning to identify the times in the year when work is stressful and adjust my training to account for this, so found this article from Trail Runner magazine quite interesting.

And finally, if your favourite way to wind down after a hard run is a nice cold beer, then perhaps this next product is for you. It seems you can now buy a beer specifically intended to be drunk in the shower! I’m not really sure what the difference is – surely any beer could go in the shower with you? Still, it’s an amusing concept so I thought I would include it.

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Book Review – This Mum Runs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday Finds – 28th July

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.

Happy Friday! It’s been a week of getting back into my usual training routine, as well as time to organise my life a bit. I seem to have spent so long over everything else that my post this week is a bit of a random selection again. Enjoy!

First, some exciting news for marathon geeks like me. Eliud Kipchoge is going to run this year’s Berlin marathon and has his sight set on the world record. This will be an exciting race to watch as Kipchoge has proven his marathon credentials in previous races (as well as his Breaking2 run earlier this year) and Berlin is often the course on which new records are set. I’ll also be running a marathon that day (Loch Ness) but Kipchoge will likely be home, showered and have his feet up with a cup of tea before I’m even half way round! Perhaps during the time I’m out on the course a new world record will be set…

If you’re anything like me then you probably already follow some of the big names in running or other sports, but Outside decided to flip that around and find out who those big names like to follow. The chain makes for an interesting who’s who of the running world and highlighted some names to keep an eye out for when it comes to the latest news and advice. Any you would add?

Another example of how important community is to runners comes in the form of The Guardian‘s Running Blog, edited by Kate Carter. Every Monday I read the weekend debrief and always enjoy the other articles shared throughout the week (some of which I include in my Friday Finds posts) but I have never joined in, never commented on a post or shared my ideas in this particular forum. But a recent post from Carter demonstrated just how big and supportive a community has grown from that blog. While she writes with this particular community in mind, in my experience the same is true of many other groups around the internet and finding a group of like-minded individuals can be a game-changer. Well done Kate and everyone else who has established a successful and supportive running group, whether online or IRL.

We all run for different reasons, and sometimes it’s easy to forget that a new PB, a distance goal or racing regularly might not be everyone’s motivation to lace up their trainers. In this article from Refinery 29, a number of women share their (very honest) reasons for running. I bristle a bit at the phrase “herd of joggers” in the introduction, but I really like all the different reasons the women give for making running part of their lives (and if I’m honest, some of them definitely ring true with me as well!).

And finally, if you’re currently training for a marathon (or have done in the past) then you’ll enjoy this fun post from Women’s Running. Sometimes a GIF (or emoji) is all we need to communicate our feelings about something!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 23rd June

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

This week (19th – 25th June) is the third Women’s Sport Week, “a national awareness week providing an opportunity for everybody involved with playing, delivering, working in, volunteering or watching sport to celebrate, raise awareness and increase the profile of women’s sport across the UK” and this year has the theme of “More women, more active”. In both 2015 and 2016 I marked the occasion with a selection of women’s sports articles in Friday Finds, and this time around is no different. Since a number of sources have featured articles related to WSW2017, I’m including some of the ones I found most useful.

BBC
The BBC has published a number of articles throughout this week highlighting women in sport. They kicked this off by publishing the results of their study into prize money, and encouragingly it does show a definite narrowing of the gender gap since their last study in 2014, however until there is 100% equality there is still work to be done.

Of greater concern is the report highlighted today which looked a little further into recent studies suggesting girls are turning away from sport as young as 9 years old. Clearly, if we want more women to be active then this worrying issue needs to be addressed so that young girls get involved in sport for life.

The Telegraph
This newspaper asked a panel of influential women in sport who they thought had the greatest impact on sport in the Britain. They could interpret this in any way they saw fit, but each woman nominated 10 others (excluding themselves!) and these nominations were used to compile a list of the 20 most influential women in British sport. The results are very interesting and I would find it even more interesting to carry out the same exercise with everyday women to see who they consider the most influential. Would they create the same list? I’m sure there would be some crossover, but I suspect there would be some other names in the mix.

The Independent
Another newspaper, this time highlighting the issue of a lack of female coaches in professional football. They use the story of Rachel Yankey, who at age 8 shaved off all her hair in order to pretend to be a boy so she could join her local football team. The article contains some quite staggering figures comparing the number of male coaches to female, and is another example of how something has to change at grass roots level for more women to see that sport is an option for them, especially in traditionally male-dominated sports.

Huffington Post
The online newspaper focused on the everyday, ordinary women and some of the reasons why so many are put off being active. They highlight the findings of the This Girl Can campaign and everything they are doing to inspire more women to get involved. Clearly Women’s Sport Week and This Girl Can complement each other beautifully.

This was followed up later in the week with a powerful piece outlining some of the key statistics when it comes to women’s participation, before making the important point that in a time of great uncertainty sport is a unifying force – and that’s exactly what we need right now. In order for all of us to reap the empowering benefits of physical activity, we need to remove the barriers that are preventing so many from taking part.

Tough Girl Challenges
Over on Sarah Williams’ website, the Tough Girl Team (including me!) has been working hard this week to promote WSW2017 with a number of articles designed to encourage more women to try something new. You can check it out here (and read more about my involvement with Tough Girl Challenges here and here)

Finally, if you are inspired by WSW2017 and would like to read more, the resources section of the Women in Sport website contains links to a number of useful articles and studies into women’s sport and some of the issues that need to be addressed to help get women and girls more active.

Get out there and try something new!
The Running Princess

Global Running Day

Happy Global Running Day!

Global Running Day is a day for people around the world to celebrate the joys of running. Participation is easy—just pledge to take part in some type of running activity on June 7, 2017. It can be a solo lap around the block, a long run with friends, or even a game of tag with your kids. The key is to share your passion for the sport and inspire others to get moving.

Since Global Running Day conveniently fell on a day I have a run in my training plan (hill reps!) I pledged to run 4 miles to help reach my marathon goal. I would have loved to follow that up with a heartfelt post about what running means to me or pen an ode to my trainers, but the exam marking beckons and sadly there’s no time to devote myself to anything else. Instead, I thought I would share a couple of articles I came across today that celebrate the day. Enjoy!

Running is a big part of my life – I’d go so far as to say it changed my life – and I hope Global Running Day helps others to find their passion for running and begin their journey.

Did you pledge to run for Global Running Day?

Friday Finds – 26th May

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

I’m actually typing this whilst lying on a blanket in my back garden – a new experience for me! The last few days have been warm here and I hope you’ve had good weather too. Given the Scottish heatwave my first find this week may seem a little incongruous, but it’s something that’s really captured my attention and I want to lead with it this week. I recently read a Kathy Reichs novella featuring an Everest adventure which taught me much more than I ever knew before about what it takes to summit the famous mountain. So when I read that Spanish ultra runner Killian Jornet claimed to have summited the peak in the fastest known time (without oxygen or fixed ropes) it really caught my attention, particularly given that the area above 26,000 feet is known as the “death zone” as the air becomes so thin. An amazing feat!

Another amazing feat was achieved by María Lorena Ramirez, a Mexican Tarahumara woman, who won a recent 50km ultra race whilst wearing sandals and ordinary clothing. The Tarahumara are the indigenous community who came to prominence in Christopher McDougall’s now-ubiquitous book Born to Run, in which he shared the “secrets” of what made the Tarahumara run so well. I always find it interesting to learn about those who naturally run well, without all of the technology and fancy gear the rest of us are so reliant on.

But what about those of us who aren’t setting out to achieve amazing feats, but to simply run, race and enjoy? A few days ago I came across this report on the state of running in the US and thought it made for interesting reading. The first thing that jumped out at me was the dominance of women, with female runners accounting for 57% of finishers. The other thing I noticed was the popularity of 5k races. I know from my summer visits to Florida that there seems to be a 5k somewhere just about every week, and I would imagine it’s similar in other States. I would love to know how these figures compare to other parts of the world, particularly since the Paris marathon continues to have just 25% of its field made up of female entrants…

I’m going to pair up the next 2 finds as their subject matter is kind of related. I was drawn to these because of how they resonated with my own life. Because Steve and I both train and race regularly, we are often asked if we do these things together. The short answer is no, we don’t . Our goals, paces and available time are quite different and although Steve writes my plans and sets me up with one PT session per week (his time allowing), the bulk of our training is done separately – we really only run together on Christmas Day and in the Paris Breakfast Run! But what if we did try working out together? The writer of the first of these articles tried exactly that with her husband and shares the outcome. And in the second article we learn a bit more about Charlie (The Runner Beans) Watson’s experience of pacing her fiancé in a marathon. I’m not sure that’s something I’d ever manage to persuade Steve to do…!

And finally, if the summer weather is making you crave a gin and tonic in the garden then fear not – it just might be better for you than you thought! I wouldn’t recommend drinking the whole bottle, but at least you can claim some health benefits, however tenuous!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 19th May

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 been a funny old week in the world of running and fitness. The biggest spring marathons are naught but a distant memory, the Breaking2 experiment is still generating some comment (more on that in the promised separate post soon!) and with the (mostly) better weather people are getting their summer training schedules kickstarted. For that reason it really is a bit of a mishmash of finds this week.

I’ll start with a story from the world of triathlon. You might remember Jonny Brownlee’s dramatic finish to the World Series finale in Mexico last September when his brother Alistair carried him over the finish line. Back in action for the first time since then, he once more demonstrated his grit and determination when a crash in the bike leg rendered his bike useless. Rather than give up, Jonny picked up the bike and ran barefoot to the transition a mile away so he could still head out on the run. Despite being almost 7 minutes behind the winner, he still finished the race, saying, “I had not come all the way…not to finish.” What would you have done?

While Jonny Brownlee may not have had quite the comeback he was looking for, what about the rest of us? Taking time out of training for any reason inevitably means a lot of hard work to regain previous form, something I’ve noticed even from taking a little time off after a marathon. With that in mind, I found it really interesting to read this piece from Outside in which a number of high-profile athletes discuss their approach to a comeback and what they learned from it. Some even went on to perform better than before!

At the other end of the scale, what happens if we run too much (yes, it is possible). This is a topic I’ve come across a few times recently, both in print and on podcasts, and I think it worth highlighting. It’s easy to fall into the trap of only running because it makes us feel good, but it’s important to find a bit more balance in our workouts in order to be create the strength we need to support our running and to be a bit more resilient. Getting the balance wrong is a fast track to injury, as I’ve learned to my cost, and if I could give myself as a beginner one piece of advice then this would probably be it. In this post the writer discusses how easily our running can become an obsession, and what we should do about it if that happens.

Possibly the coolest thing I’ve come across this week comes from Nike. The sportswear giant, fresh from their Breaking2 endeavour, has created a running track shaped like a running shoe. What’s so cool about that? Let me tell you. The track is also lit by LED lights and is integrated with a sensor worn on your shoe (a bit like a timing chip) which then allows you to race against your own virtual avatar. If you’re anything like me then as soon as you’ve watched the video you’ll want to give it a go. Shame it’s so far away!

And finally, here’s one for the ladies. Posts on social media lamenting the struggles of putting on (and taking off!) a sports bra are a regular occurrence (and a struggle our male counterparts will never know). For those in the know, this tongue-in-cheek set of instructions for putting on a sports bra is sure to raise a smile:

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 12th May

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.

To be honest, it’s been another week full of Breaking2 news, however I intend to write a separate post on that in the next few days, so instead I’m bringing you a selection of other bits and pieces I’ve come across this week.

The 8th -14th of May is Mental Health Awareness Week, and mental health is something I’m growing more interested in. I now come into contact with so many young people who are struggling with their mental health and while I do what I can to support them, I always wish there was something more. For me, running is what I turn to in difficult times to help clear my head and refocus. I’ve also found yoga really beneficial in helping me feel calm and settled through the controlled breathing and slow movements. So it was with interest that I read of Matthew Rees, the runner who shot to fame after his selfless act at the London marathon, and how he has used running to help combat depression.

An interesting take on the mental side of running is covered in this article from Outside which deals with boredom and how we might channel that into improved performance. In this day and age people find it increasingly difficult to just “be” and accept boredom as something that might drive creativity. Instead, we tend to reach for our phones as a distraction. Perhaps as runners we can use it to our advantage?

Stories like those of Matthew Rees gain most of their traction these days on social media, and runners are particularly guilty of sharing everything about their runs, sometimes to the irritation of their non-running friends! But why are we so obsessed with sharing every run be they good, bad or indifferent? The writer of this next piece shares her theories and I have to say it makes sense to me. These days I tend to keep my running chat for my blog’s Facebook page or dedicated running groups so I know my ramblings (and photos of me leaping about like a loony!) will be seen by those who are interested in running and simply “get it”, but I think I’m still driven by the same factors suggested here:

Of course social media last weekend was all about Eliud Kipchoge and the Breaking2 project, but in the days afterwards another speedy runner came to light, this time in a half marathon. 18 year old Benjamin Pachev ran a 71 minute half marathon. That’s speedy, but not pushing any boundaries…until you learn that he did so whilst wearing Crocs. Yes, Crocs. Those funny shoes with the holes in them that are often the butt of jokes. Not being a Crocs wearer I’ve no idea how he kept them on his feet and am impressed not just at his speed but that he did so in footwear far from traditional. I can’t see Kipchoge looking to race his next marathon in them though 😉

And finally, you may remember me sharing the quirky story of the crossword compiler who challenged himself to create a clue for each mile of the London marathon. For the crossword fans among you, here’s the finished puzzle (for the impatient, the answers are in this post about the process itself):

Happy reading,
The Running Princess