Friday Finds – 2nd 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.

I’m coming over all scientific this week with some rather interesting studies that I’ve come across in my reading.

But first, you might remember that last week I included a piece about ultra runner Kilian Jornet and his speed record for summiting Everest without oxygen or fixed ropes. Incredibly, he summited the peak again just a few days later! The second time may not set a record, but the feat itself demonstrates just how far we can push our limits.

And now to some science. Personally, I’m a big fan of compression tights/socks after a long run as I believe they help with my recovery, however the science on this has always been bit sketchy. According to this CNN report, there is no scientific backup at all for compression tights making us run faster. Interestingly, it is still noted that the belief that they help is just as important. And when it comes to the psychology of sport, surely that’s all that matters?

When it comes to running performance, it’s a fact that women tend to be a bit slower than men. I’ve always known it was basically to do with hormones and biomechanics, but was a little unclear on the finer points of what that actually meant. This article from Live Science helps to explain a bit more. It’s funny how subjects like maths and science, which are far from my strengths, are much more accessible when presented through the medium of running!

Speaking of differences between men and women, it turns out that women’s feet really are always colder than men’s due to differences in body temperatures in different conditions. One company used this to help engineer their socks and base layers to meet those different needs. Intrigued? Here are the details:

And finally, what if all these studies (and all the various, sometimes contradictory, studies about running and health that are published all the time) have you feeling confused about what to believe. This article from The Verge give some advice to help work it out.

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

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Preparing For Your First Ever Race

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Happy racing!
The Running Princess

So You Want To Start Running…?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

Monday Motivation – Running Through the Winter Months

Perhaps you’ve resolved to start running in 2017; perhaps you want to run off some festive excess; or perhaps it’s time to start taking your spring marathon training seriously. Whatever your reason for running, there’s no getting away from the fact that we’re deep into winter now and battling through some of the bleakest days of the year. The good news is that getting out into the fresh air and exercising will help to lift your mood, but how do you motivate yourself to get out there in the first place, and how do you keep yourself safe? Since it’s the first Monday of the year, I though I’d bring you a bit of a Friday Finds-style roundup to offer some motivation to get the year off to a great start and begin/maintain your running habit whatever the rest of the winter brings.

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As it happens, I’ve written a couple of previous posts with my own tips for running in the winter and you can catch up on them here and here, but many of my usual go-to sources have also put together their tips, and that’s what I want to bring you today.

First, some advice from Outside online, focusing mainly on running in the snow. We’ve not seen much of the white stuff around here this winter, but I know some of my readers in other parts of the world might have seen a bit more snow, and to be honest running in the deep snow of late 2010 is one of my favourite running memories (I mentioned it in this post recently) so these tips might be useful to someone:

It’s often said that “winter miles lead to summer smiles” and nobody knows this better than elite athletes who continue to train year-round. To reinforce this, Outside online also shared the thoughts of some elite athletes about what winter means to them. Yes, some of them do train indoors some of the time, but that’s usually based more on the type of workout required and judgements about safety rather than avoiding the cold! Personally I’d rather run outside than hit the treadmill, but I also won’t take any risks so if it’s too slippy for a quality run, I’ll change to an indoor workout instead. It may be dull, but definitely beats an injury!

Meanwhile, over at The Washington Post, Gabriella Boston is out to convince you that with a bit more planning, winter running is for everyone. I have to say, those Washington winters sound much tougher than what I’m used to!

If motivation to get out the door is your problem, then Runner’s World has you covered with their tips to help you embrace running when it’s dark and cold. My winter training is usually goal-focused, so that alone helps give me the motivation to get out there. Maybe one of the other tips will work for you.

A lovely complement to these tips comes from Trail Runner magazine. Sometimes when the weather is really bad, getting off-road is the ideal solution. Whatever you decide to do, these commandments should help see you through:

And finally, there’s a great chance you’ve seen this video before, but it definitely needed to be included here. To be honest, it seems like exactly the kind of thing crazy thing that Steve and I would get up to in heavy snow, but the ending provides a cautionary tale about watching your footing!

Now get out there and get running!
The Running Princess

My Year of Running 2016 (Link Up)

Today I’m linking up with Courtney at Eat Pray Run DC to share some thoughts on my running in 2016. I first saw this idea in a post from Lucy at Paddle Pedal Pace, then more recently one from my blog friend Jessie at The Right Fits (we linked up on a post earlier this year too) so decided to join in as getting involved with linkups can be good fun and help you to find great new blogs to read. So here we go…

  • Best race experience
    I actually didn’t race all that much this year thanks to the stress fracture I suffered at the end of 2015. I guess I didn’t want to push my luck, so limited what I entered to make sure it was races I REALLY wanted to do. That said, anyone who knows me well (or has been reading my blog for a while!) will likely guess that I’ll pick the Paris Marathon here. I may not have been at my physical peak for the race, but nothing beats running through the Paris streets, taking in the famous sights and soaking up the atmosphere from beginning to end.
    Can't stay away from Paris - back for more in 2016!
  • Best run
    At first I thought this was going to be a tough question. Would it be my first parkrun after my injury (a personal worst time-wise but I was just so damn thrilled to be running again that I loved every second!) or one of those beautiful trail runs that Steve has been taking me on in recent weeks? But I’ve decided it has to be that August parkrun which formed part of the I Am Team GB celebrations. Meeting a local Olympic medallist before the run was awesome and inspired me to run my fastest parkrun time of the year. A fantastic running memory!

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  • Best new piece of running gear
    I’m a bit of a running gear addict, so this one is probably a bit trickier, but I think I’m going to choose my new earphones. I love to listen to podcasts when I’m running but finding ways to tuck the cables out of the way can be a bit irritating, so this year I decided to get myself some wireless ones. I tend to only put one of the buds in so I can hear the ambient noise, so that influenced my choice, but as a long-time fan of Yurbuds, I opted for their female-specific wireless version. They’re easy to use, comfortable and the controls are easily accessible. Perfect for me.
  • Best running advice you’ve received this year
    Take your time. I don’t mean running slowly, but returning to running post-injury. It’s tempting to try and rush straight back to where you were pre-injury (I’ve probably been guilty of this in the past) so when the time came to start reintroducing running once my stress fracture had healed, I listened VERY carefully to the sage advice of my podiatrist. I put my super-sensible head on and when I wasn’t happy that I was fully ready to run, backed right off for another couple of weeks. I then followed his plan to the letter and made a gradual return to running. It’s now more than a year since I suffered that injury and so far so good!
  • Most inspirational runner
    I’m inspired by so many different people from the elites, to the everyday athlete. Often, it’s those everyday people just striving to do their best that are the most inspirational, so that’s the sort of runner I want to choose. It’s also really important to me to choose a female runner for this particular answer, so it has to be Sarah Williams from Tough Girl Challenges. I’ve written before about how much I love her podcast, filled with inspiring women taking on incredible challenges, and this forms the motivation for my midweek runs. But Sarah herself is a real inspiration, quitting her 9-5 city job to do something she truly loves and which can make a real difference. This year she ran the Marathon des Sables having come back from some health issues which had caused her to defer her place from last year and I loved following her journey. I’ve never met Sarah, but from chatting to her online and listening to her on the podcast every week, I kind of feel like I know her (hopefully that doesn’t make me sound like a creepy stalker!) and am definitely inspired by her.
  • Favourite picture from a run or race this year
    Without a doubt, it has to be this one from the finishing straight in Paris. Looking at this always brings a smile to my face as I’m quite clearly loving the experience, even though I wasn’t able to train as much as I would have liked to do the race justice. A great reminder that running does not always have to be about being the best but about having the best time!
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  • Race experience you would repeat in a heartbeat
    Hmmm. There are a few options here. I was tempted to pick the Paris Breakfast Run, but it’s not technically a race, so I’m going to pick the Caped Crusader 5k. This was a small, newish race I took part in when I was in Florida and am picking it a) because it’s a great memory from our Florida trip and b) because the small nature of the race meant that I got a really great finish position – 2nd female and 9th place overall! Probably one of my best racing achievements (and the main reason for picking this one over my other Florida race experience this year).
  • If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be?
    New discoveries. I finally started going to yoga (which I love), tried out some trail running (love that too) and actually listened to my body properly, backing off when I had to. Hopefully this has all made me a stronger runner as we head into 2017…

Phew! What a lot of great running memories. Despite a late start to my running this year I’ve still crammed in a lot and had a blast running, blogging and connecting with people. I wonder what 2017 has in store?

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Fancy joining in? All the easy peasy instructions are here. Enjoy!

Eat Pray Run DC Year of Running 2016

Magical Milestones

One of the wonderful things about running is that when you first start out the milestones come thick and fast. There are the positive milestones: the first time you run a whole lap of the park, the first time you run a race, the first time you run double digit mileage; and there are the less positive ones: the first time you get injured, the first time you hit the wall hard, the first time you have to DNS or DNF. But the longer that running is part of your life, the less frequent those milestones become, and that’s kind of where I am now. I’ve had my share of injuries, I’ve had to DNS a few races and the only way to hit a distance milestone now would be to run an ultra! Thank goodness, then, for parkrun and their system of milestone runs.

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I became part of the parkrun family at the beginning of 2015. At this time there had been a parkrun in my city for a little over a year, but I had not yet tried it out. I did, however, know that it was a wonderfully welcoming commmunity and as soon as I finished my first event I was hooked, something I’ve written about in more detail before.

The wonderful thing about parkrun is that their ethos always remains “it is a run not a race”. Sure it’s timed and points are awarded, but it’s always done in a friendly spirit with the faster runners cheering on those finishing later. It’s a place where you are welcomed with open arms and can strike up easy conversation with a complete stranger, and where it’s perfectly OK to run eyeballs out one week and take it easy on a social run the next. While finish times might be important to an individual looking for a PB, as a community simply turning up to run on a Saturday morning is celebrated.

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Which brings me to the milestones. In the parkrun community, that commitment to running regularly is a big deal, with the opportunity to earn the coveted milestone Tshirts to mark your achievement. Adults earn their Tshirts after 50, 100, 250 and 500 runs (that’s as far as anyone has gone so far, so who knows what comes next!). When you complete your milestone run then you are able to order your milestone Tshirt thanks to the generosity of the event sponsors. Steve achieved his 50 before we went on holiday in the summer, but thanks to my injury-prone nature, it’s taken me a bit longer than I would have liked to get there. But I’ve finally done it.

That’s right, at the beginning of the month – the 5th of November to be precise – I competed my 50th parkrun. I got my spotlight moment in the run briefing (those going for milestone runs are always highlighted) and a round of applause from the other runners. I then made sure to run at a pace that I could just enjoy the experience. What made it even more special was that another runner I had previously only interacted with via a social media running group was visiting our parkrun so we were able to meet up and have a chat. I even persuaded her to join me in my trademark “jumping shot” to celebrate the day.

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The only downside is that due to low stock levels, I’ve not yet been able to order my milestone Tshirt, but am hoping to get it soon. In the meantime, I’m underway with my “second 50” and the road to that 100 Tshirt has begun. I”d love to get there before the end of next year, so hopefully my body will cooperate and I’ll be able to keep running well. Keep your fingers crossed!

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Are you a parkrun regular? Any milestone tees?
Have you recently reached a running milestone?

A Runner’s Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

Wow, another year gone by already! I hope you, Mrs Claus and all the reindeer are well. Did you enjoy the protein bar and electrolyte drink I left out for you last year? You need to fuel properly for an endurance event like your annual trip around the world! I do hope you’ve recovered well, trained sensibly and had a good taper for this year.

I’ve been really enjoying my running lately and am looking forward to all the festive runs I missed out on last year due to an ill-timed injury. With a spring marathon on the horizon, I’m working hard to get my body ready and am trying a few things I’ve not tried before like yoga and trail running. Since it’s December now, you’re probably anxious to start getting the sleigh ready for your trip (now there’s a strength workout getting all those gifts loaded up!) and since I’m sure I’ve been very good this year, there are a few things I’m hoping you might have on there for me…

Something I’d find really useful is a new yoga mat. I bought a very basic mat to get started with as I didn’t want to spent lots of money until I knew yoga was something I wanted to commit to. Now, I’d really love a higher quality mat like this one from Lululemon. It comes in really nice colours, like my favourite purple/pink shades, and looks like just the thing to help me continue my yoga journey.

On the running front, there are so many things that would help me to feel good when I’m hitting the roads and trails. I’ve got my eye on the new J Crew for New Balance kit, especially this top which comes in my favourite striped design (and would pair beautifully with these tights from the same range). There’s nothing like a Breton stripe to get me in the mood for running in France!

If we’re in for a cold winter (and we’ve already had a particularly cold snap) then keeping warm is crucial. Last year I spotted this Odlo top with a built in face mask when I was perusing some kit reviews and have really fancied it ever since. I’m also interested in the new parkrun jackets which have just been announced. I wear my parkrun Tshirt to just about every parkrun I do, but if it gets super cold then a jacket would be a brilliant way to keep showing my support for parkrun.

And speaking of cold weather, one of my biggest worries is always slipping on icy, frosty paths. I certainly don’t want to take any risks, but if trying out some different shoes means I can avoid the treadmill on icy days then I’ll be very happy indeed. Recently I tried the all terrain version of my go-to 5k/10k shoe the Adidas Glide Boost, and now I’ve discovered that there is an all terrain version of my favourite long run shoes, the Ultra Boosts. I found the all terrain soles really grippy and was able to complete my workouts with confidence that my feet wouldn’t slide around – they even helped me to a good finish in the parkrun points competition – so it would be great to have another pair so I can continue to rotate my shoes and ward off injuries.

With all the changes I’ve made in my training, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to race a bit more in 2017 than I did this year. I love trying to improve my times and have amassed quite a collection of medals. Each one is a memory and I love being able to display them all on hangers in our new home. Unfortunately, I’ve run out of room on my current hangers so need a couple more to give me a bit more hanging space. I will use new hangers to extend my current displays so my requirements are quite specific. This one in both black and sparkling plum will be exactly what I need to match my current hangers and the extra space will give me the motivation to earn some new bling and fill them up!

So that’s my Christmas wish list Santa. I do hope you’re able to bring me something from on there and make me smile on Christmas morning. I’m off to choose a healthy snack to leave out for you so you can refuel properly and avoid hitting the wall on your most important night of the year.

Love to everyone at the North Pole,
The Running Princess

PS No sponsored content or affiliate links here, Santa. These are the things I would truly love to find under my tree this year. What are you hoping to find under yours?

I Am Team GB

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Readers in the UK are probably aware of the I Am Team GB celebrations taking place around the country today, but for those elsewhere, or those who may not have come across it, I Am Team GB was created to help get more people active. The entire nation was invited to join our returning Olympic athletes today, 27th August, to say, “I am Team GB” and create the nation’s biggest ever sports day.

The day was brought about by The National Lottery, a main sponsor of Team GB athletes and their training, and ITV, a commercial television broadcaster. One of the most interesting things was that for one hour, at 9:30am, all ITV channels were switched off, to encourage more people to go out and get active. Sports clubs and venues around the country offered free sessions throughout the day for people to go along and try something new. People were also encouraged to do their own thing and get active by taking the dog for a walk or cycling with their kids. It didn’t matter what the activity was, as long as it got you moving.

Quite honestly, this is a fantastic idea, and to make it even more attractive, many events were lucky enough to be visited by an Olympian, something sure to provide further inspiration. And my chosen event was one of them…

Parkruns around the country, while already free, were getting into the spirit and celebrating #IAmTeamGB this weekend. Perth parkrun was one of many lucky enough to be visited by an Olympian, in our case swimmer Stephen Milne who was part of the silver medal-winning 4x200m relay team. Stephen was born in Inverness but has lived and trained in Perth since he was a young child, so he’s our local Olympian. It had been announced in advance that he would be attending so I decided this was a fine time to dust off the replica top I bought in 2012!

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I arrived about 10 minutes before the run start and spotted our visitor straight away – the Team GB tracksuit and silver medal adorning his neck was a dead giveaway! He was chatting to people and posing for photos, mainly with children. Obviously, I made sure I got a photo too!

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There were a good number of people there and the atmosphere felt different to usual. I find our parkrun, as I’m sure others are, to be very friendly and positive, but today there was even more of a buzz in the air. I spent the time before the run briefing chatting to someone I’d not spoken to before and everyone seemed really upbeat. Of course our visitor was introduced during the run briefing and everyone gathered in closer than ever, especially when we became part of an enormous selfie…

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Can you spot me? I’m in there…!

Photo: Stephen Milne on Twitter

After that, it was business as usual. My intention was to run a bit easier this week as I have a 10k race tomorrow, however as soon as we started I realised that my body had other ideas. Fuelled by coffee and inspired by the Olympic spirit, I was gliding along (or at least that’s how it felt to me) with a spring in my step, but when the first mile ticked by in 7:26 I realised I’d better slow down a little! I did, but was still running sub-8 minute miles and ended up crossing the line (which today was marked by some festive bunting) in 23:36 – my fastest time this year and the closest I’ve ever been to that lofty PB of 23:14 I ran around this time last year. Maybe we should have Olympians visit us every week!

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Post-race and floating along on a runner’s high, I was able to get another photo, and this time I asked if I could have a wee feel of the weight of the medal. One or two others had done this before the race and had reported that it was really heavy, but I was still surprised by just how weighty it was. Far heavier than any medal I’ve earned so far!

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I had to dash off for my Saturday yoga class, but had a fantastic morning, probably one of the most memorable parkruns ever, and couldn’t resist a few bonus jumping shots before I left:

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Anyone taking part in #IAmTeamGB today was encouraged to use the hashtag and post their photos on social media. In the afternoon I was delighted to receive the following response  from The National Lottery on Twitter:

What a great surprise and a fantastic way to round off what was a brilliant initiative, a brilliant parkrun experience and a brilliant way to spend a Saturday.

Thanks to Stephen Milne for coming along and inspiring everyone, and well done to all our wonderful Team GB athletes.

Did you take part in #IAmTeamGB today?
Any Olympians near you?

US v UK Running Lingo

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I’m always intrigued by linguistic differences both within the UK and between other English-speaking countries. I notice this most when I visit Florida, and for the first day or so my dad often reminds me to “speak American” so I can be understood! And it’s not just me. Earlier this week I got an email from my blogger friend Jessie at The Right Fits with an idea about working together on a post looking at some of the differences between US and UK running lingo. Jessie ran the London Marathon this year and her experience there, combined with reading UK-based running blogs like mine, really made her notice differences in the way those in the US talk about running compared to here in the UK. We put our heads together to bring you this post – US v UK Running Lingo: A User Guide!

(You can read Jessie’s version of this post here)

London-Marathon-finisher-2016
PR/PB: Personal Record vs. Personal Best!
Jessie may hear some Americans call it a PB, but generally it seems that PR is the preferred noun to discuss a personal record. PR is even used as a verb: “She PR’ed at Boston!”
Of course PB’s are the lingo in the UK, including as a verb: “She PB’ed in her race!”!

I ran my biggest PB at the Paris Marathon in 2014:IMG_2863

Tank/Vest:
To Jessie, when she thinks of a vest, she thinks of a down winter gilet, not what she calls a tank top. But in the UK, a “vest” is your sleeveless running top: “He was wearing his club vest.”

Sneakers/Trainers:
Jessie says she really loves the term “trainers” and is hoping to bring it to the US! Yet currently, if she mentioned trainers to her friends, they’d think she was talking about a personal trainer who’s helping her with strength training, not the Brooks on her feet!

Gear check/Bag drop:
Runners in the US drop off their post-race stuff at Gear Check. In the UK, it’s Bag Drop!

Packet pickup/Registration:
At the expo, our US friends head to packet pickup ahead of a race. In the UK, you just head to registration.

Boston (and BQ)/London (and GFA = Good For Age):
I commented on this on Jessie’s “What it Means to Run Boston” post that in the UK, Boston isn’t the big deal. Rather, the “big” deal is the London Marathon, and here, you want to run a “Good for Age” time in another marathon in order to get in. In the US, it’s all about the “BQ!”

Bib/Race number:
To non-runners, the term bib probably means something a baby wears when eating in a high chair, but to US runners, the “bib” is what you pin on your “vest” with your race number. I just call it a race number!

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Corral/Pen:
In the US, runners are grouped into starting corrals. Which corral you end up in depends on your qualifying time or your predicted finish time, but in the UK, it’s the starting pen!

Sweatpants/Trackies (tracksuit bottoms):
Chilly before a race? Americans don their sweats. You put on your trackies or trackie bottoms in the UK!

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Portapotty/Portable Toilet:
In this post, Jessie discovered the existence of the female urinal! But even the regular facilities have different lingo- in the US, these are portapotties. We refer to them as portable toilets or portaloos (although this one is a brand name and I know they can be quite protective of it, so let’s stick to portable toilets!).

Spandex/Lycra:
Those tight fitted shorts? Jessie calls them Spandex. I call them Lycra.

Register/sign up for a race, vs. ENTER a race:
In the US, they register for a race or they sign up. In the UK we enter a race!

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OTHERS:
Since some of my family lives part of the year in Florida, I’ve had the opportunity to run races in the US as well as the UK, like this one last month:

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I’ve noticed that at almost every race I’ve done in the US, the national anthem is played at the start. There’s nothing like that in the UK, it’s just any announcements from the race director, then you’re on your way.

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Jessie has also noticed from my blog and from following UK runners on Instagram how huge parkrun is here. When she ran the London Marathon she saw a sign that read “Wave if you love parkrun!” and felt “in the know” about what parkrun was from my blog. While there are some parkruns in the US (currently 6 compared to over 400 in the UK), it’s still very much a new thing and unfamiliar to most, whereas for me the last 5k of a marathon is “just a parkrun to go!”. Where Jessie lives they have Flapjack Friday, which I understand as an early morning run followed by some food. Sounds pretty good to me!

One last difference- Post Race Food:
Jessie found this one really interesting. I’ve noticed that there tends to be a difference in post-race food. I don’t mean in the goody bags [or SWAG bags in the US] but the food laid out. In the UK we really only have food laid out if the race has been organized by a running club and it will likely be sandwiches (using the UK term meaning the filling is between slices of bread) or filled rolls (what Jessie would probably call a “bun”) and home baking (cakes, biscuits [that’s “cookies” in the US, we only call them cookies if they have chocolate chips!], etc) and any fruit is pretty much bananas or maybe apples whereas races I’ve been to in the US lay out a lot of BBQ, potato chips [“crisps” in the UK], pretzels, watermelon, etc.”

Jessie agrees, having noticed this at the London Marathon. The post-race food wasn’t quite as extensive as she sees at US marathons. Though they did have Jack Link’s beef jerky (straight from Northern Wisconsin!) which made her feel a bit more at home!

Huge thanks to Jessie for sharing her thoughts for this post!

If you haven’t started following Jessie, definitely do so! And with the helpful lingo in this post, you’ll actually know what she’s talking about! 😉

You can follow Jessie on BlogLovin and Instagram!

Friday Finds – 29th April

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.

Over the past few weeks I’ve saved a number of articles that I haven’t had a chance to share with you yet, and now seems like the ideal time. With that in mind, this week’s Friday Finds will be a bit of a mixture, but hopefully there will be something here to grab your attention.

My first pick this week is an article from online magazine The Pool in which Lauren Laverne discusses the importance of sport to women’s equality. She argues that far from being the preserve of the “already fit”, sport should be open to all and beneficial to all. Like the writer, my time at school was defined by academic achievements rather than sporting proficiency, but I found a love of sports as an adult. Now, I often discuss the importance of fitness and exercise with my pupils, particularly the girls as I’d love to see more of them getting involved in sports. Perhaps I should share this with them too…

Also in The Pool, I found this article by Alexandra Heminsley (author of Running Like a Girl) very interesting. In a world where we are constantly bombarded by technical details about fitness clothing that promises to give us all sorts of benefits, we’re often just as well buying much cheaper options for many items. I, for one, am quite fond of compression socks from discount supermarket Aldi for after a long run and if I see a pair of decent quality leggings with an unusual pattern in a High Street shop, then there’s a good chance I’ll be tempted. While some items (running shoes, sports bras, maybe even running socks) are worth spending a bit more on, with anything else it’s really just about what makes you feel comfortable and what will make you WANT to go for a workout!

For those of us who are running regularly, it is likely that those runs are being recorded via a GPS watch or smartphone app. One thing that I often hear is people comparing their measurement of a course with others, then declaring that it must be either too short or too long (occasionally, as was the case with the previous Manchester marathon course, there is indeed a discrepancy), thus putting all their faith in the accuracy of their watch/app. In this article for The Guardian written by Ian Williams from Fetch Everyone, we can learn a little more about how the readings from our precious watches may not be quite as accurate as we might like to believe.

I was also intersted to read about a new programme launched by England Athletics to improve mental health through running. As part of #runandtalk, a  number of volunteer Mental Health Ambassadors have been appointed to help build links between mental health services and running clubs, the idea being that running can act as great therapy. I can certainly attest to the fantastic bonds that can be created between those who train together, and the power of a run to make us feel calmer and more focused. I hope that this initiative is a success and extended to other parts of the country.

And finally, if you’re anything like me then you might on occasion get a little carried away whilst out running and forget that far from being in your own little world, others can actually see you! I’m certainly guilty of the odd air punch when the Rocky soundtrack comes on my iPod (yes, my playlist is that cheesy!), or laughing out loud at a particularly funny portion of a podcast. Take a look at this list from The Running Stories and see if you’re guilty of any of them…

Happy reading,
The Running Princess