Friday Finds – 5th October

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.

Phew! This is one of those Fridays that feels like it’s been a long time coming around. After 8 weeks of school term, it’s time for a break here in Scotland and I’m looking forward to a chance to rest, relax and recharge. To start us off, here are some articles that caught my eye this week.

For the parkrun fan, this weekend is an exciting one as parkrun celebrates its 14th birthday. That’s right, tomorrow is International Parkrun Day. Not only that, but last week the 5,000,000th person registered for their parkrun barcode. That’s incredible! Here’s the always excellent Sean Ingle with a roundup of how parkrun has grown and developed over the past 14 years.

It’s also that time of year when everyone (and I’m including myself in this) goes a bit marathon mad – the results of the London marathon ballot are due to drop onto doorsteps in the next week and this weekend sees the next of the Marathon Majors take place in Chicago. With marathon fever tightening its grip, my attention was caught by these musings on the distance. I’d love to know your thoughts.

Speaking of Chicago, the elite field is looking exciting with appearances from Mo Farah, Gwen Jorgensen and “Citizen Runner” Yuki Kawauchi. Fans of the Marathon Talk podcast have been familiar with Yuki for some time and he became better known as a result of his Boston win earlier this year. With that in mind, you may enjoy this piece exploring Japan’s most well-known marathoner.

Following some high profile reports of cheats in marathons (most notably in Mexico City) race organisers in China are finding new ways to crack down on cheats. Having used facial recognition software in a half marathon last year, the software is now to be used in a marathon early next month. Good to prevent cheating or another layer of potential complication for runners? What are your thoughts?

And finally, I love those “expectation v reality” memes that pop up from time to time so this article appealed to me. It’s another classic from Canadian Running which has gathered together a variety of stock images related to running and compared them to the reality. I think my favourite is the one about winter running!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

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Week In Review – Remembering the Magic

To be honest, I’m not sure how to follow last week’s review! I didn’t really do much at all as the packed weekend away during term time left me quite tired so I opted to take the week off from training (except yoga) and get some rest to make sure I didn’t overdo things. I did, however, spend most of the week floating along in a post-Disney bubble. Turns out there’s nothing quite like a weekend of fairy dust and Mickey Magic to lift the spirits!

rybjuRqVSKeF5pb8N6EeFAAs a result, I suspect this post will be quite short:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – rest
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – rest

Yup, lots of rest. Both of my yoga classes were exactly what I needed but on the other evenings I didn’t do much at all other than gradually unpack/get the post-trip laundry done, watch some tv and read a bit. I didn’t go to orchestra again on Wednesday as I wanted to have a restful evening and was just too tired for that level of concentration.

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Good job I had an expert to help me rest!

There was some mid-week excitement when I secured tickets to see Take That on tour next year. April seems so far away but I’ll no doubt have a spring marathon to train for which will make the time pass incredibly quickly!

fullsizeoutput_27b4By the weekend I was feeling restored and glad I took the time off (realistically I didn’t need recovery time from the running, just the chance to catch up on my sleep!). Good thing too since I had quite a lot of plans and didn’t want to feel exhausted.

The Women of the World festival returned to Perth for the second year. I had intended to buy a weekend pass but held off since I wasn’t sure how I would feel the week after being away. Then a couple of weeks before the festival my sister won passes so gave one of them to me. That meant I could go along to the sessions I wanted without worrying about having to “get my money’s worth”.

This year, one of the festival activities was to go along to parkrun so that suited me just fine. To avoid having to worry about parking my car all day, I ran into town (Steve had left earlier for a client but had my bag with a change of clothes in his car) and met the group heading over to the run.

fullsizeoutput_27b9It was great to be back at parkrun and I felt I ran fairly well given I hadn’t run all week and had felt pretty tired and sluggish.

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Steve suggested a “Disney Special” jump 😂

After the run I grabbed my bag from Steve and walked back to the theatre (the festival venue) to get changed and have some breakfast before the first session I wanted to go to.

DMxWljRQSpiVWtLMCFC01gI went to several interesting sessions during the day then Steve picked me up to head home to eat and chill at home for the evening.

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This looked like fun!

4jYqJ+9dSrSMgLGqtlu8MgThe first Sunday session was at 10:30am so rather than squeeze in a super short run and/or get up really early, I opted to take another day off training and take my time getting ready (although I did walk into town to get some movement).

DNud5pD+TuqiSF7kTfTRBgThere were some further interesting and thought-provoking sessions during Sunday then when the festival finished in the afternoon Steve came to meet me to get the food shopping sorted. Oh the glamour!

So overall not the most exciting or active of weeks, but it was what I needed it to be and gave me time to reflect on my Disney experience. The school holidays are coming up so I’ll be able to write my race report in the next week or so. Promise!

Have you ever attended a WoW festival?
What are your priorities right now?

Friday Finds – 28th 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.

Hello Friday! I must admit, I’ve spent this week floating along in a bit of a bubble after my amazing weekend away and nothing I have planned for this weekend can ever be quite as exciting. Whatever you’re up to, here are some interesting bits and pieces to dip into.

First, I’ll touch briefly once more on Eliud Kipchoge and the new marathon world record. Now that a new record has been set, attention inevitably returned to the idea of the sub-2 hour marathon and one of my favourite columnists, Alex Hutchinson, spoke to physiologist Michael Joyner and compiled his thoughts on this for Outside.

Also from Hutchinson, this time writing in The Globe and Mail, the fascinating results of studies into identical twins which show that while our genes matter in terms of what we might achieve, what we do with those genes is also important. Basically both nature AND nurture matter. Always an intriguing topic.

Related to this is this response by evolutionary biologist Rowan Hooper to a short story called Lions and Gazelles (which sounds intriguing). This response considers various aspects of sporting performance and how science might help to enhance it. There are certainly times when I wouldn’t mind a boost to my motivation!

Another interesting study I came across, reported by Canadian Running magazine, caught my attention as it concerned smartphones. One of my goals for this year was to think more carefully about my use of my phone and social media, with the intention of being a little more mindful in using them and not getting caught up in the time-suck of infinite scrolling. My sense that it wasn’t that good to use my devices too much is supported by results showing that those making more use of smartphones exhibited fewer approach behaviours e.g. smiling. What does this have to do with running? Well next time you acknowledge another runner only to be ignored, perhaps overuse of a smartphone is partly to blame.

And finally, running is one of those topics that elicits (often unsolicited) advice from a wide range of people. Sometimes that advice is good, but often it is terrible. Here, Canadian Running has rounded up some of the best examples of poor advice to runners, some of which sound insane! What’s the worst running advice you’ve ever been given?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 21st 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.

A very happy Friday! All being well, when this post goes live I should be on my way to Disneyland Paris for my magical running adventure, therefore this week I’ve written my post in advance.

To be honest, all of my usual sources are deservedly full of news of the Berlin marathon and Eliud Kipchoge’s amazing run for a new world record, therefore I’ve decided to make that the focus of this week’s post. So in a slight change to my normal format, here’s a roundup of some of the articles I’ve been reading since last weekend:

And to finish, a picture that has been fairly prominent on social media this week. How long could you keep up with Kipchoge?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 31st 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.

How can August be over? I don’t think I’m quite ready to be done with summer but there’s most definitely a nip in the air first thing in the morning now. At least we’ve had plenty of good weather (and I’m on time with my post this week haha!). Here are the things that caught my eye over the past few days.

We’ll start with a serious one as the Mexico City marathon is once more attracting attention for the number of alleged cheats claiming medals without completing the course. The number of alleged cheats is staggering, however the problem appears to be arising from a desire to collect the medals – each year being one letter to ultimately spell out MEXICO. Looks like there will have to be much tighter measures in place to ensure those who claim a medal have genuinely run the course, otherwise it makes a mockery of those who put in the work to run.

As someone who has recently celebrated a milestone birthday, I was inexorably drawn to this next piece which has been getting some traction on social media this week. Some of the statistics about runners/triathletes in their 40s are incredible – numbers and speeds compared to other age groups – and the writer is comprehensive in exploring some of the motivating factors leading to this level of participation. As an added bonus, it was actually published on my birthday! Guess I’d better go and come up with my next crazy idea…

I also enjoyed this interview with Desi Linden, winner of the women’s race in this year’s Boston marathon. I know there has been plenty written about her since her historic victory back in April, however what’s interesting about this interview is that it was conducted by the US women’s marathon record holder, Deena Kastor. Worth checking out to see how two friends and olympians interact.

Moving to a more recent race, did you see this footage from the Diamond League steeplechase final this week? Conseslus Kipruto came through to win the race (dipping his opponent on the line) despite losing his shoe early in the race. Incredible! If you’ve not seen it, be sure to watch the clip.

And finally, this last article seems fitting as my weekly orchestra rehearsals began again this week. I’ve thought for a while it might be fun to put together a concert featuring well-known sporting themes (definitely The Trap) and look – Classic FM only went and produced the ideal list. What would you like to see on a list like this?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

The Daily Post – Bridge

After my visit to South Queensferry this past weekend, I’m inspired to make this month’s prompt a photo response.

Somehow, I’ve never before visited South Queensferry, and I’m so glad I’ve been now. It has fantastic views of the famous Forth bridges – the new Queensferry Crossing, the Road Bridge it replaced and, of course, the iconic Rail Bridge (technically known simply as just The Forth Bridge).

It’s become a recognisable symbol of Scotland and UNESCO World Heritage Site. On a sunny day like this past Saturday, it looks amazing. Imagine having this view from your back garden! Just stunning.
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Friday Finds – 17th 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.

Thank goodness it’s Friday! The first week of term is always a bit of a shock to the system and I’m definitely ready for the weekend! Time to get things started with the articles that have caught my eye this week.

You might remember that last weekend I took part in the Great Perthshire Tattie Run – lugging a sack of spuds around a course of just under a mile. Part of the race “swag” was to keep our potatoes, so Steve and I have ended up with quite a lot of spuds to get through (we’re willing to share if you need any potatoes 😂). I actually couldn’t believe it when this first piece showed up in my inbox during the course of the week – a great encouragement to include potatoes with pretty much all our meals for the foreseeable future!

On a rather more jaw-dropping note, did you see the European Championship women’s marathon? Winner Volha Mazuronak experienced the stuff of anxiety dreams when she not only suffered a nose bleed (and ran much of the race covered in blood!) but took a wrong turn and had to backtrack before finally crossing the finish line in first place. Some real grit and determination there.

Also catching my eye in today’s edition of The Guardian was this piece about Ethiopian runners. Writer Michael Crawley, who is currently writing a book on the subject, reveals some of the things he discovered whilst in Ethiopia and explains why there’s more to the success of runners from the country than living at altitude and seeking a way out of poverty. A very interesting read.

An entertaining piece I came across was this one, in which the writer marvels at the results of a survey that suggest people are more intimidated by organising their home than training for a marathon. The writer is definitely having a tough time training for her first marathon, however I may actually agree with the survey participants – I would much rather go for a long run than tidy out my kitchen cupboards! What about you?

And finally, something to listen to this week. In my last Podcast Picks post I highlighted Running 4 Real as one of my favourites, and this week I’m thrilled to have featured in the episode – fame at last!! You can access the episode via the link below (I’m around 33:15 but please do listen to all the other amazing guests and their stories). It’s a little cringe-y hearing my own voice, but I’m putting myself out there and sharing the episode – please be kind!

Happy reading (and listening!),
The Running Princess

Book Review – Tricurious

Laura was a self-certified couch potato. Until six years ago she couldn’t run for more than a few minutes at a time. Since then she has completed eight marathons and is now a committed triathlete. But Laura couldn’t have achieved what she has without her mentor and friend Katie. A life-long runner, fair-weather cyclist, and born-again swimmer, the more experienced Katie helped Laura through the ups and downs of training for a triathlon. Their triathlon journey gave them the opportunity to break boundaries while forging a life-long friendship. Tricurious tells Laura’s and Katie’s story, with energy and humour. Filled with anecdotes and advice about the trials and tribulations of preparing for a triathlon, this inspiring book will leave you hungry to experience the joy (and pain) of swim, bike, run.

You may know Laura Fountain from her book The Lazy Runner which documented her journey from couch potato to marathoner. As with many runners, Laura asked herself, “what next?” and the answer was triathlon. While triathlon may not (yet) be on the cards for me, I enjoyed reading about her journey towards the iron distance from being a complete beginner.

What drew me to this book, apart from my knowledge of Laura from her previous book and her blog, was how accessible the it was. When trying something new we all experience fears and doubts, we convince ourselves that everybody else was somehow born knowing how to do it and that we are going to make complete fools of ourselves. This book takes us through the process of getting to grips with each of the disciplines (including learning to swim pretty much from scratch – usually the most intimidating aspect of triathlon for beginners) and is filled with amusing stories of mishaps and mistakes, as well as answering all those questions that we’re too afraid to ask, about the things no one ever tells us.

Throughout the book we get Laura’s perspective as a beginner, as well as Katie King’s perspective as the more experienced triathlete, so those with a triathlon or two under their (race) belts can still get something from this book. We get a glimpse into training for iron distance events as well as some advice on how to ensure a balance between training and our “real” lives.

We are also shown, crucially, that it’s ok not to succeed the first time – whether that’s swimming a length, clipping into our bike pedals or making the cut-off time in an iron distance event. A great example of this was Laura’s first iron distance tri in which she didn’t feel great during the swim and lost too much time. As a result, she didn’t make one of the bike cut-offs and her race ended. It would have been easy to wallow in self-pity, but instead Laura set up her own personal event not long after. With no fanfare, just her watch to give her the distance markers and the support of her loved ones, Laura completed the iron distance triathlon she had trained for (her “Iron Person”) and did so within her own meaningful cut-off times – completing the swim within the session times at the reservoir, being off her her bike before her nieces went to bed and finishing the run in time for last orders in the pub! Amazing!

I loved the interplay between the two writers and the “turn about” approach to chapters. I also loved the honesty, sense of humour and practical advice they both give. I’d say it’s the ideal book for women keen to try triathlon, and should I ever decide to give it a go I’ll be re-reading this book as it shows quite clearly that anything is possible.

Tunes on Tuesday – The Greatest

Many studies have shown that working out to music can have a number of positive effects and help us to push ourselves further. Music is also strongly linked to personal memories and hearing certain tracks can transport us to a particular moment in time. In this occasional series of posts, I’d like to introduce some of my favourite tracks from my workout playlist and share some of the memories they have given me.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a Tunes on Tuesday post, but a parkrun experience earlier this year inspired me to write about this particular song.

The Greatest – Sia

Picture the scene: it’s 2 weeks before my goal marathon, I really want to run a sub-24 minute parkrun to reassure myself that my fitness levels are at their peak and it’s the last opportunity for me to do so before the race. 2 weeks prior to this, I had narrowly (and frustratingly) missed it with a 24:01 and had since continued to ramp up the miles (and thus fatigue) in my legs with 18 and 20 mile runs on consecutive weekends. Could I do it?

On that particular occasion, we were still running on our alternative course due to the condition of the grass on our main route. With the intention of pushing the pace, I positioned myself near the front and shot out like a rocket as soon as the RD said go! I’ll admit, I thought the pace was a bit nippy and fully expected to pay for a first mile at 7:33, but was still hanging on as I embarked on my second lap of the park. It was during this lap, as I wondered if (when?) my legs might turn to jelly some time soon, that my iPhone shuffled serendipitously to this song and I knew I could keep digging in to reach the finish line.

Uh-oh, running out of breath, but I
Oh, I, I got stamina
Uh-oh, running now, I close my eyes
Well, oh, I got stamina

When you’re pushing the pace hard, breathing equally hard and willing the finish line closer, hearing, “I got stamina” is a great boost. I remember thinking, “yes, I do have stamina,” gritting my teeth and pushing on. I actually smiled to myself at the uncanny ability of the Apple device to play just the right track for the moment even when on shuffle. How does it manage?

The chorus, too, has just the right message for running a hard race:

Don’t give up, I won’t give up
Don’t give up, no no no
Don’t give up, I won’t give up
Don’t give up, no no no

And it was exactly what I needed to hear. With less than a mile to go, the temptation was there to slow down. I was running fast enough that a slight slowing would still see me reach my sub-24 goal that day (runner sums for the win!), but a big focus for me through this cycle of marathon training had been to improve my mental game, to make sure I didn’t mentally give up when the going got tough. The repetition of don’t give up spurred me on as it emphasised just the message I was needing at that point.

The remainder of the lyrics also have a distinctly celebratory feel to them. They’re the kind of lyrics that put you in mind of a big, movie-style finish of rousing music, heart-stopping (possibly slo-mo) action and cheering crowds as you defy the odds to reach your goal:

I’m free to be the greatest, I’m alive
I’m free to be the greatest here tonight, the greatest
The greatest, the greatest alive
The greatest, the greatest alive

I know, I know, parkrun isn’t exactly the Olympics, but in that moment it was special to me and this is a great soundtrack to a visualisation, something I try to make use of as part of my mental training for an event. Even now, writing this a few weeks (er, months!) later, I can still picture exactly where I was on the parkrun course when this song began to play, still remember exactly how I felt and hearing the lyrics once more brings it all into much sharper focus. The mind is a powerful thing, and training it to believe that success will happen is a fantastic tool in your race armour.

Did it work? It most certainly did as I finished with a time of 23:26 that week. Running sub-23:30 is fairly exceptional for me (I’ve only done it on 2 previous occasions) and it was exactly what I needed heading into my marathon taper. And while I know a big part of that success was the consistency in my training and the hard work I put in over weeks and weeks through the winter, some credit also has to be attributed to this song, as without it I may have backed off the pace and allowed my mind to give up once more. Instead I learned a valuable lesson about the importance of mental training and the tools we can use to help us out.

Please note that under UK Athletics rules, racing with headphones whilst on open roads is banned. If you choose to train with headphones, please be careful and make sure you are aware of your surroundings at all times.

Feel free to share your favourite workout tracks in the comments below…

Friday Finds – 27th 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.

How can it be Friday again already? It feels like no time at all since I last wrote a Friday Finds post, yet here we are again. I’ve had a pretty chilled week and am looking forward to a weekend of running and yoga. Hope you have some great plans too.

Let’s begin this week by returning to the Nike 4% shoes that I included last week. Unsurprisingly, the revelation that the claims of a 4% improvement in performance may actually be true have attracted a lot of commentary, so I wanted to share a couple of other pieces I came across this week which look at the shoes from a more wary standpoint. First, Sean Ingle from The Guardian considers how fair the shoes are in terms of creating a level playing field, then Brian Dalek (I wonder if he likes Dr Who?) writing for Runner’s World discusses what is holding him back from trying them himself. Interesting food for thought.

Sticking with Runner’s World for now, and an update on a challenge I first mentioned on here back in April. Peter Thompson set out with the aim of running the entire Tour de France route and finishing ahead of the cyclists. Well he’s only gone and done it – and 3 days ahead of schedule! That’s a remarkable feat and I’m sure we’ve not heard the last of Thompson!

Speaking of challenges, those of you who are avid parkrunners may have come across this intriguing notion – 2 parkruns on the same day. Yes, it is possible in many areas to do two on New Year’s Day, but this challenge is a little more complex involving flights, the international date line and a lot of determination. Anyone up for it?

Speaking of challenges, I also came across this great idea for creating a challenge much closer to home. It’s a fantastic reminder than we don’t have to travel great distances or spend lots of money to create a new challenge – we can simply look to what’s around us and get creative.

And finally, you may have heard about the I Move London relay which is taking place this month as an attempt to set a new world record for the longest non-stop relay, but you perhaps didn’t hear about the “divine” intervention that took place a few days ago. Relay runner Max Livingstone-Learmonth chased down and stopped a purse snatcher – all while dressed as a bishop. I think my favourite part of this is that not only did our hero apprehend a criminal, but he kept hold of the relay baton the whole time. Brilliant!

Happy Reading,
The Running Princess