Friday Finds – 29th September

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

Happy Friday! I don’t know about you, but I’ve found this an incredibly long week – couldn’t possibly be anything do to with running a marathon last weekend though 😉

While I was running my marathon on Sunday (full race report to follow) the eyes of the marathon running world were firmly fixed on Berlin, where Eliud Kipchoge was hoping to lower the mark in the men’s marathon. This result of this race was actually one of the things I checked when I was sitting down to eat after my race, and I’ll admit to a little disappointment that Kipchoge didn’t quite make it. Still, his efforts gave rise to a number of follow-up pieces from respected writers in the field looking at his training (just in case you fancy following his training programme!) and the factors which may have prevented him setting a new record. I can’t imagine the fact that I missed my goal too will cheer him up, although it’s definitely comforting to know that even the best runners don’t always achieve the times they want!

Although written before the race in Berlin, this next article is an interesting reminder of the difference between physical and mental barriers. It sets out the theory that mental barriers are much bigger than physical ones, that the belief something is possible makes it much more likely to happen. This is something I can definitely get behind: the mind is very powerful and belief can have a massive impact on achievement.

Anyone who has run a marathon knows that they are tough, however there are many runners who enjoy even longer, tougher (sometimes multi-day) races. And as with anything “out of the ordinary” to the typical non-runner, the big question is usually, why? A question academics at the University of Cardiff have attempted to answer. Interestingly, their findings suggest that the pain experienced may actually be one of the draws, along with a degree of escapism and simply having a story to tell. I may not have any desire to run an ultra, but I do understand that sort of thinking.

In other news, the “mad pooper” story I included last week continues to make the headlines. In a couple of now deleted videos, a spokesperson for the runner in question made reference to some mental health issues as a result of a brain injury, further complicating matters. It looks like this particular story is not over yet, and it doesn’t seem like we’re going to get to the truth of it any time soon.

And finally, do you ever watch a film and laugh at the unrealistic nature of any scenes involving running? Well it seems you’re not alone as Hannah Hartzell, writing for Women’s Running, is clearly fed up of the way Hollywood portrays our favourite sport. Have you got any other examples to add to her list?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

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Friday Finds – 22nd September

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

In a bid to make my preparations for marathon weekend a bit easier, I’ve written the bulk of this in advance so let’s hope there’s not some huge story that breaks when it’s too late to add it in! Theoretically, as you read this I’m getting myself organised for the trip to Inverness and/or making sure I relax ahead of the race, but there’s no way I wanted to miss sharing some finds with you.

Last week I included the bizarre story of all the runners accused of cheating at the Mexico City marathon. This week, even more has come to light around this with several sources carrying the story. I originally picked it up from Marathon Investigation, where analyst Derek Murphy now believes that the cheating was motivated by a desire for the medal rather than a BQ. Now I’ve coveted some bling in my time, but I’m not sure I could live with myself knowing I hadn’t earned it legitimately.

And the story prompted SBNation to remind us of some other tales of cheating from throughout running history:

Another race hit the headlines this past week, but for very different reasons. Perhaps you saw footage from the Copenhagen half marathon at the weekend, but if not you need to take a look at this. The race began in beautiful weather, but soon changed as storms swept in. Amid lightning and torrential rain, the race had to be stopped to help ensure safety (there were reports of people being struck by lightning) and even the timing mats were floating away. Yet some dogged souls still continued their race. What would you do?

And speaking of dogged determination, that’s definitely one way to describe marathoner Devon Bieling. After falling to the ground exhausted just metres from the finish line, she tried to crawl to the finish but was hampered by the sharp gravel…so she rolled over the line instead. Not only that, but she still managed to finish within the cut off for her BQ. Now that’s one incredible finish (but I really hope I don’t have to resort to that on Sunday!).

I couldn’t let this week go by without mentioning cyclist Mark Beaumont. Not only has he just set an incredible new world record with his around the world cycle, but he’s from my part of the world. What an adventure!

And finally, we all know running can do funny things to your insides and have probably all had to take an unintended pit stop during a run or cut a run short to answer the call of nature, but in Colorado Springs a most bizarre situation is unfolding as a runner nicknamed “The Mad Pooper” appears to be targeting some residences to leave her mark. How very odd!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Tough Girl 100 – Challenge Completed!

Exactly 100 days ago, on the 3rd of June, I published a post about the 100 day challenge I was taking on. If you missed it, you can read that post here.

To support my inspiring friend and host of the Tough Girl Podcast, Sarah Williams, as she thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 100 days, I decided to take part in the challenge she set for her Tribe – to undertake a personal challenge that would help create a habit and add value to our lives over the 100 days. For me, this was the perfect opportunity to address one of my 7 goals for this year which had not yet had much attention: to commit to more yoga outside of my classes. The chance to work on creating a regular home practice was being handed to me, so my challenge was obvious – at least 10 minutes of yoga or mobility work every day.

I had planned to write about the challenge at various points throughout the 100 days, but that just didn’t happen. But today, on day 100, I want to reflect on my experience and consider what it means for me going forward.

As the challenge began, I was in the final weeks of a testing school year. My life felt chaotic and I knew I needed to be on holiday. Finding even 10 minutes to do some yoga seemed a step too far, especially since I wasn’t entirely sure what I should do, but my commitment to the challenge helped me to overcome this.

To begin with, I relied heavily on the sources I was already familiar with. I used some of the videos from Jasyoga, then gradually began to explore other avenues, starting with Adriene Mishler’s youtube channel Yoga with Adriene. I found that I really enjoyed the relaxing bedtime sequences that helped me to unwind before bed, as well as some of the post-run sequences to stretch out my body. Of course I was also going to 2 yoga classes (1 Ashtanga and 1 Hatha) per week, and some days I was more focused on mobility work, especially around my upper back and hips. I wanted to explore more, but knew this would have to wait until the school holidays.

Once in Florida, things were a little different. I had time. I tried some new YWA videos (I really liked the Travel Yoga energising flow when I was feeling a bit jet lagged and the Yoga for Digestion sequence after that amazing afternoon tea at the Grand Floridian) and often rolled out my mat by the pool to do some sun salutations or part of the Ashtanga sequence. When my right shoulder became problematic (probably from lying face down on a sun lounger and trying to read – there’s no comfortable way to do this!) I switched my focus to mobility work to improve this and Jasyoga videos to reset my shoulders.

UntitledAnd of course I did take advantage of the opportunity to inject some magic and fairy dust into my yoga!

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IMG_3019When I returned, I had the perfect opportunity to take things even further before the new term started. I began to try morning yoga sequences (these were lovely on days when I was in no rush to do anything else) and went to a midweek Hatha class which, on one memorable occasion, took place on a golf course in the evening sun!

IMG_3524For the final month I was back at school and bedtime yoga tended to feel right for me again for the most part. My favourite is a 7 minute sequence on YWA, but I did try one or two others and found a couple of channels I’d like to look at a bit more.

So what can I take away from all this?
Firstly, that finding a little time to incorporate some yoga into my day isn’t all that hard. During term time a morning sequence doesn’t really suit me, but I love to unwind with some yoga before bed as it helps tell my body that it’s time to sleep. It makes a difference for me both physically and mentally.

Secondly, I’m now finding that when something is “off”, yoga is where I turn. Just like when I had bother with my shoulder when I was in Florida, if any part of my body felt tight or in need of some love, I could easily find a yoga sequence to help. And just last week when I picked up a cold, I searched for some videos to do which would help me to feel better and focused on yoga to help boost my immune system, fight the bugs and help me to combat my symptoms. This is something I can definitely see myself continuing.

Thirdly, that I still want to do more. I constrained myself a little bit by saying I would do a minimum of 10 minutes each day, as some sequences are a bit shorter, but moving forward that constraint is gone. If I want to do yoga for 5 minutes, I can. If I want to investigate how I can build a bit more yoga into my work day, I can. If I want to work on just one pose, I can. One thing that did happen as a result of this challenge is that I finally managed to do wheel in my Ashtanga class rather than yoga bridge. I have a limitation in the movement of my left arm thanks to breaking it when I was younger, and this affects poses such as wheel. I couldn’t really do it at all before, but now can hold it for about 3 long breaths and I’d love to keep improving this. There are some other postures I’d like to work on too.

Will I carry on?
Yes. Absolutely yes. It may not be every day and it may not be 10 minutes, but thanks to this challenge yoga has become a big part of my life. Steve is even talking about creating more space in the smallest bedroom (he was using it as an office, but has now moved the desk to his studio) for me to roll out my mat and do some yoga there rather than in the middle of the living room. He has seen this habit develop and is keen to support me.

IMG_1328I would really encourage you to try something like this. It doesn’t have to be yoga, heck it doesn’t even have to be something physical, but 100 days is a great challenge and by the end you will have developed a habit that adds value to your life every single day. Maybe you could read a set amount of a book every day; maybe you could watch a TED talk every day; maybe you could try a new podcast every day (check out my favourites here and here). The possibilities are endless,  and if you start now, you will reach day 100 around the 19th of December. A perfect way to round off the year and totally worth it.

 

Did you take part in #toughgirl100 ?
What challenge will you take on for the next 100 days?

Podcast Picks Part Two

Last summer I wrote a post highlighting some of my favourite podcasts. Since then, my love for podcasts has continued to grow and I probably listen to at least one a day now, often more. I listen to podcasts when I’m running, completing my bike workout at the gym, when I’m walking, on my drive home (I still like the radio in the morning) and when I’m doing bits and pieces around the house if I’m by myself. All that means I go through podcasts quite quickly, and while I still listen to (and love) all the ones I highlighted before, I’ve now added a few more to my regular rotation, so thought it was high time I wrote a follow-up post:

Running For Real
In my previous post I mentioned that I had begun listening to the Runners Connect Run to the Top podcast, hosted by elite GB athlete Tina Muir. I ended up listening to all of Tina’s back catalogue and found myself following her blog closely as I found her so relatable and “real”. So when Tina announced earlier this year that she was leaving Runners Connect to start her own business, which would include a podcast, I knew I would be a  listener. The new podcast follows a similar format of having a guest interview, with some comment either side from Tina, but the focus is very much on the realities of running and wellness, the ups and downs we all encounter and how we can overcome them to become stronger. Tina is always very honest so listening to the podcast feels reassuring, like a chat with a friend, and I look forward to downloading a new episode every week.

You can find out more about Tina and Running for Real on her website

Marathon Training Academy
This is one that I often saw referenced in other blog posts about podcasts to listen to, and I was aware that husband and wife hosts Trevor and Angie had a big following so decided to give it a go. Then, in a strange coincidence, they did a crossover episode with Martin and Tom from Marathon Talk (my favourite long-run podcast) and I became a regular listener from that point. Angie is a registered nurse and running coach, while Trevor is a much newer runner so it is an effective pairing. They produce three podcasts per month and their format includes some recent running news, updates from listeners, a feature interview or race report segment and some training tips. Great for learning new things or highlighting an interesting guest to look into further and I love their tag line, “you’ve got what it takes to run a marathon and change your life.”

You can learn more on the MTA website

Sparta Chicks
On the surface, it may seem a little strange that I find myself listening to a podcast hosted by an Australian coach/PT, but I was led to this one through my interest in Tough Girl Challenges. Host Jen Brown was an interviewee on TGC and she mentioned that she would soon be starting her own podcast. I enjoyed the interview so took a look at her website and signed up to her email list so I would know when the podcast launched. I love it because like TGC, the focus is on sharing inspiring stories from women (and the occasional man) who have chased their dreams. A regular discussion topic is how we can overcome fear and self-doubt, in particular the imposter complex that makes us feel like we’re not good enough, when we most certainly are. If you’re a fan of Tough Girl Challenges and looking for something else in the same vein, then this may be one for you.

Visit the Sparta Chicks website for more information

Dirt In Your Skirt
I think this is another one I discovered through Tough Girl Challenges as host Margaret Schlachter was an interviewee. Margaret is an OCR runner and while many of her guests come from the obstacle racing field, it’s certainly not all of them and OCR is not always the focus of the discussion. Interviewees are always female and the tag line of the show is to “explore new topics, conquer old fears and inspire those around us”. I’ve not yet managed to listen to all of the episodes, but am really enjoying the different topics discussed as I catch up. I’ve learned all sorts of things I was unaware of about tiny houses, bee keeping and coffee! And of course I’ve heard from inspiring women who have taken on male-dominated fields and been successful.

The Dirt in Your Skirt website can be found here.

Run Selfie Repeat
You may already be familiar with this blog from New York-based runner Kelly Roberts, however earlier this year she started a podcast to accompany it. Kelly is very honest and often uses her own experiences of grief, shame and self-doubt to help encourage others to overcome these barriers and move forward positively. If you read her blog then you will notice some overlap, however she also invites guests on to give advice on mental strategies, training plans and other running-related matters. Kelly is a strong voice in the running community, having started the #sportsbrasquad in the summer of 2016 and her own #bqorbust campaign to try and qualify for the Boston marathon. Being a strong character means that she can ruffle some feathers and it seems people either love her or hate her, but she is doing a lot of good and is a really positive role model for women.

You can read Kelly’s blog and find out more here

Run Eat Repeat
Another blog I’ve read for a while is this one from California-based Monica Olivas. The blog does exactly what it says in the title, discussing running and eating (both VERY important to me!) and I love Monica’s conversational style. The podcast is a new departure for her as she looks ahead to how she can continue to add value to her blog and share her ideas within the running community. There are usually a couple of episodes a week featuring chat from Monica, some guests, training tips and encouragement. They’re a good length for a commute ( the Fast Friday episodes are usually around 10 minutes long) and while the podcast is in its early days, is developing steadily.

Check out Monica’s website for more information

So there you have it. Six more podcasts I’ve added to my weekly rotation and listen to regularly in addition to the ones I highlighted last time. I’m always on the lookout for new podcasts to try, so if you have any suggestions for me, why not add them in the comments below…

Are you a podcast fan?
When do you like to listen?

NB Nobody has offered me any incentive to write this. It’s simply an honest post highlighting more of the podcasts I enjoy.

Friday Finds – 25th 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.

And just like that, Friday came around again! Here are some of the articles that caught my eye recently…

First, one of those amazing feats of endurance we hear about from time to time, and a double one at that. Ultra endurance athlete Mike Wardian first took on the Leadville 100 mile race, an incredibly tough ultra with over 4800m of climb at altitude, where he placed 10th. That in itself is impressive, but just a few hours later he was lining up at the start of the Pike Peaks marathon, another race at high altitude. With over 20 hours of racing in a 27 hour period, all I can say is wow!

So what makes the likes of Wardian capable of achieving such incredible things? One scientist believes it could be due to gut bacteria. His research has noted elevated levels of bacteria which break down lactic acid in ultra endurance athletes, leading to the longer term aim of creating a probiotic pill for non-elite athletes. An interesting premise, although I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it. What about you?

But we’re not all quite such elite performers as the likes of Wardian. For most of us, running can feel hard. There are good days and bad days, days when we float along gazelle-like and days when we trip up over our own feet. With this in mind, I enjoyed this article from Motiv Running which highlights why that’s ok and how running can help teach us a wider lesson about tenacity and resilience.

In a similar vein is this article from Popsugar which considers how yoga has helped the writer to become a better runner. Nothing unusual there I hear you say, but this is not an article about the benefits of greater flexibility, instead other benefits of yoga are considered. Given my increasing interest in yoga, this resonates with me.

And finally, kitten yoga. Yes, i know we’ve been here before, but I’m in the mood for a cat video and those kittens are just so darned cute. I HAVE to do a class like this some time (although I would more than likely adopt one of the kitties!).

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

#teamparkrun

Ah my beloved parkrun. Today, 19th August, things were made even more special by a UK-wide event in partnership with UK Sport and The National Lottery – #teamparkrun.

Here’s the gist of the event:

“On Saturday 19 August 2017, following the World Athletics Championships in London, the UK’s National Lottery funded Olympic and Paralympic athletes are teaming up with parkrun to encourage the nation to get active with #teamparkrun”

You may remember that last August, following the Olympic Games in Rio, returning athletes took part in a celebration called I Am Team GB which not only welcomed home our athletes who had performed so well, but encouraged the nation as a whole to be more active. Around 60 GB athletes took part in parkrun events that day, and this year’s event, backed by Sport England, Sport Scotland, Sport Wales, Sport Northern Ireland, The British Olympic Association and Paralympic Association as well as a number of governing bodies, was designed as a thank you from our National Lottery funded athletes for getting behind them. At parkruns across the country this morning, those athletes were right behind us this time as they volunteered as tail walkers. Nobody finishes last at parkrun so this event highlighted how inclusive parkrun is.

We’re fortunate enough to have an Olympic athlete right here in Perth – the swimmer Stephen Milne who was part of the silver medal-winning 4x200m freestyle relay team. He also won silver in the same event at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Stephen came to Perth parkrun last year for I Am Team GB and returned again today to be tail walker.

IMG_3615Our event began with a rather longer than usual run briefing as we thanked the volunteers, acknowledged those with milestone runs and heard a few words from both Stephen Milne and our local MP Pete Wishart who had also come along in support of the event. There was a huge turnout, no doubt due to a combination of #teamparkrun, a beautiful morning and the cancellation of our nearest parkrun event which brought a lot of visitors to us. We now have a new attendance record of 303!

There were also some photos taken. Everyone else was getting ready to run but I spotted the photo op and sidled in at the back – parkrun ninja lol!

fullsizeoutput_20cbSlightly late, we were counted down by our MP and were off. I had it in mind that I could run well today and found I naturally slipped into the form I have been practising during my recent form drills. I ran the first mile rather quickly and slowed a bit over the next couple of miles, but felt strong throughout. Perhaps like last year I was inspired by having an Olympic athlete around and was really pleased to finish in 23:42, a pesky 3 seconds outside of my best time this year. However I felt good and think I might still be able to find another few seconds before my marathon at the end of next month.

I really wanted a photo with our guest tail walker so waited around the finish, cheering on other runners and chatting to people I knew.

IMG_3618And then my chance came. I got a lovely photo and, as a bonus, managed to get a shot of me wearing the ACTUAL OLYMPIC SILVER MEDAL (last year I only got to feel the weight of it while its owner was still wearing it). Of course I did my standard medal pose. It’s pretty heavy so I’m not sure I’d have managed a jumping shot 😉

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IMG_3649#teamparkrun was a fantastic event. Parkrun is always friendly and inclusive, but I’m quite sure the presence of Olympic and Paralympic athletes drew more people to parkruns around the UK today – after all, how often do you get the chance to say you were faster than an Olympian haha!

IMG_3633Thank you Stephen Milne for contributing to a fantastic event today.

Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 15.45.52

Photo: Stephen Milne on Twitter

Did you take part in #teamparkrun?
Ever tried on an Olympic medal?

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