Friday Finds – 14th 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.

What a week! Work continues to be busy right now so the weekend is definitely a welcome sight. Let’s get it off to great start with a little bit of reading material:

This week, something different to start us off. Normally I would begin with an interesting or topical article, but this time I have a poem for you. Yes, a poem. It’s a poem written by former pro athlete Lauren Fleshamn (you might know her from her “Believe” training journals). I think my favourite part is the second stanza. What about you?

Next, an article that enjoyed a fair bit of discussion when it was published earlier this week. The headline How to Stay Fit Forever was guaranteed to attract some attention, and I must admit I opened it fully expecting to find all sorts of suggestions that I didn’t agree with, so was pleasantly surprised to find advice to find your why and to have a purpose. What would your tip be?

Moving on, a couple of articles related to races, beginning with the hotly debated topic of plastic bottles. The subject of plastic bottles has formed part of the discussion around how to minimise the environmental impact of races, and now London is about to stage a half marathon that pledges to be free from single-use plastics. It will be interesting to see how this progresses.

The other race-related article is on the subject of the Berlin marathon, which is coming up this weekend. Berlin always holds a certain fascination as the nature of the course means several world records have been set here and Eliud Kipchoge, star of the Breaking2 project and favourite for this year’s event, has made no secret of the fact that he is out to set a record. I hope to be able to catch some of it as it could very well be an exciting race.

And finally, do you think you could spot a runner when they’re going about their daily lives? If it’s as simple as watching out for the signs in this article then I could be identified as a runner easily! How many apply to you?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

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Friday Finds – 7th 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.

Welcome to September! I hope the month has started well for you and you have something great to look forward to in the coming weeks. Perhaps an autumn (fall) race? Unbelievably, we’re already half way through our school term and my autumn half marathons are hurtling ever closer! But for tonight, let’s take a rest and settle down with something to read:

First, a very seasonal piece from Outside extolling the virtues of running at this time of year. I have to admit, generally summer is my favourite time of year and I love warm weather, but when it comes to running I love the slightly cooler air and crisp leaves. What’s your favourite time of year to run?

Another interesting recent read from Outside focused on age – something I’ve been a little preoccupied by myself of late! Here, Brad Stulberg examines some of the harder to measure benefits of ageing and experience, pointing to the age of recently successful athletes as proof that you don’t have to be in the first flush of youth to have your best performance. That’s a message I shall be hanging on to!

We all come to running for different reasons and at different ages. Some begin running in school, others find running as adults, but everyone who embraces running finds that it changes their life in some way. With that in mind, I enjoyed this piece in which the writer details the ways in which running has helped her and improved her life. For me, running has helped me to understand that I’m capable of more than I ever believed and widened my social circle. How has running helped you?

For many of us, our reason to run is to have a bit of an escape, some time to get away from the stresses and strains of life. But for one runner, that escape went even further when he decided to live “off the grid” for 4 years. You can read more about it in this piece, and it sounds like the book is going to be pretty interesting too.

And finally, if you think the marathon is tough now, imagine taking part in the 1904 Olympic marathon when conditions were far more gruesome than your average mass participation event now. Don’t believe me? Check out this article for the details:

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

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

Friday Finds – 10th 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.

I’m not sure how it happened, but it’s the last Friday of the summer holidays. I was just getting nicely settled into my summer routine (to be fair, mainly watching the kittens, but they answer back waaaaay less than your average teenager!) and now reality is threatening to force its way back in. Oh well, I suppose it couldn’t last forever. Let’s kick off this final weekend of freedom with a few interesting bits and pieces I’ve found this week.

First, a couple of pieces from Alex Hutchinson’s Sweat Science column. I’m currently reading Hutchinson’s book Endure and am finding it fascinating to learn more about the impact of our brains on our endurance. In this column (also featured in The Guardian today) he examines how emotional intelligence can impact on our performance. The key finding looked at is the notion that emotional intelligence can be a better predictor of race times than training. Could it really be true?

The second Sweat Science column looks at how a machine was used to differentiate between “competitive” and “recreational” runners. While those labels may not necessarily be helpful, the results from the machine were interesting in identifying aspects of stride patterns which could be used to learn more about (and perhaps prevent) injuries. Anyone else now wondering what the machine would say about their running form?

Still in a scientific vein, this piece from Canadian Running magazine looks at the link between athletic success and academic success. Do athletes perform well academically because running improves their cognition, or is good academic performance a result of positive habits and mindset brought to studying from training? What do you think?

Moving on, I also came across this report on a US study into the effects of exercise on mental health. There have been so many studies now looking at various physical and mental benefits of exercise, but this seems to be the biggest such study to date. What was interesting here was that team sports seemed to have the most positive impact. While running is more of a solo pursuit, there are plenty of opportunities to spend time with others e.g. on group runs or taking part in parkrun. Whatever your choice, regular exercise definitely seems to make a difference to our mental health as well as improving our physical health.

And finally, I do love when people create their own quirky events and challenges, so this last story caught my eye. Readers in the UK will no doubt know of the bakery chain Greggs, well-known for its sausage rolls, but it’s not normally somewhere we would associate with healthy living. Enter a group of students who have taken their love of Greggs to a whole new level by plotting their own marathon route taking in every branch of the bakery chain in Newcastle to raise money for charity. That’s a lot of sausage rolls!

Happ reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 3rd 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.

Friday? I swear I only just wrote a Friday post a couple of days ago! Time definitely speeds up towards the end of the summer holidays! The week has clearly gone by in a blur but I’ve still got a few articles to share with you…

First, an update on the I Move London relay which I mentioned in last week’s post. This was a Guinness World Record attempt and at the beginning of the week the relay ended successfully by setting a new world record. It must have been an amazing thing to take part in/support. I wish it had been a bit closer to me so I could have been involved.

Speaking of records, I also spotted this crazy story from the US. A runner got stung on the mouth during an ultra yet still went on to not only win the race, but actually beat the course record…set by Scott Jurek!

Something that appealed to the tech geek side of me was the news that an app allowed runners in the recent San Franciso marathon to visualise the course ahead of the race. This app went further than looking at a map (that’s meaningless unless you know the area) and seeing an elevation graph, this actually let runners see how wide the street was and if there might be any obstacles like bollards or other potential hazards they should avoid. Being able to visualise a race is a great way to mentally prepare, so anything that might add further detail sounds like a potentially useful tool. Would you use it?

On a lighter note, I enjoyed this piece from Canadian Running in which readers reveal their experiences of running helping them out in their day to day lives. Several of these made me smile. Do you have any similar stories?

And finally, it’s a cute story about a dog! I love reading stories where animals randomly join in a race and I’m certain that there will be a long line of people wanting to adopt this particular pup now that he’s completed a half marathon and been awarded a medal!

Happy reading!
The Running Princess

The Daily Post – Animal

I really wanted this month’s blog prompt response to be something cat-related (since the wee floofs are very much on my mind right now) so when I found the prompt Animal it seemed ideal. Ok, so I often think about cats (actually, I think I might be becoming one 😹) but this year as a whole has been very cat-centric: I said good bye to Morven, I ran the Stirling marathon for Cats Protection, and now I have welcomed two new furry friends into my life.

Recently I was asked to write a piece for the local Cats Protection “Newslitter” (see what they did there?) and having received my copy this week, I wanted to share it here as well…

Bk3K8MwbT3C6+WBAqsnOdgMiles for Morven
It all began back in the summer of 2000. Fresh from university and embarking on the adventure of an independent adult life, I knew I wanted a cat to complete my cosy little world. Enter Morven, a tiny bundle of fluff and love I adopted from Cats Protection. Right from the start she was a mummy’s girl and she brought joy to my life every single day, staying firmly by my side through the very worst that life could throw at me.

Fast forward to 2016 when it became clear that something wasn’t quite right with my beautiful little girl. She was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, a condition that affects many older cats, but with a prescription diet and daily medications we were able to manage the condition and Morven continued to enjoy a good quality of life with plenty of love, comfortable places to sleep and a clear preference for curling up on my lap – even when I went to bed!

Morven’s condition was further complicated by the discovery of a mass in her small intestine midway through 2017. Again, medication helped her to sustain her quality of life. She was happy and fought bravely through every health issue until, in January of this year, her journey came to an end quite suddenly.

IMG_6660As it turns out, there is no preparing for the loss of a pet, even when you know in your heart of hearts that the end is near. As I came to terms with the loss of my best friend and companion, I knew that I wanted to do something positive in her name, to honour all those years of loyal, loving friendship she gave me. And what better to do than to support the charity that gave me that loving friendship all those years ago – Cats Protection.

I have been told many times that Morven was a lucky cat: she was loved, she had everything a (spoiled) cat could want and when she became ill I made sure that she received all the treatment she needed without question. I was her dedicated nurse administering daily medications, giving her subcutaneous fluids at home and becoming a bit of a “frequent flyer” at the vet!

But I know that not every cat is as lucky as Morven and the thought of a cat without a fur-ever home breaks my heart. If I could, I would adopt them all, but that isn’t possible. What is possible is raising funds for cats in need in this area. Cats who need food, litter, toys and veterinary care. Cats who deserve to be loved.

And so a plan began to take shape. I already had a place in the 2018 Stirling marathon and, at the point when I said goodbye to Morven, was beginning to train. The day after I lost her I went for a run. I no doubt looked a state with tears running down my face as I snivelled my way around the streets, but when I returned I contacted Fiona at Cats Protection Perth to tell her I would like to be a Cat Champion, to do what I could to raise money for the Perth branch though my running in 2018. #milesformorven had been born.

Becoming a Cat Champion was probably the best thing I could have done. At a time of year that was dark and gloomy, a time when I was grieving for Morven (how could such a small creature leave such a huge gap in my life?) I had a focus. Every mile I ran in training was another mile for Morven. Every penny I raised was going directly to Cats Protection to help them make a difference to the cats in their care and the thought of this was soothing. On race day, remembering how brave she was helped me to dig in when things got hard and I used the rhythm of my mantra – “Morven’s tough, I’m tough” – to keep my legs moving steadily. Crossing the finish line I knew I had done my best and done Morven proud.

YDBkbIBmRMW9SVArj30AGARunning the Stirling marathon provided the closure I needed to let me remember those years with Morven fondly rather than with sadness. More importantly, all the wonderful people who donated to my cause helped me to raise over £680 for Cats Protection Perth, funds which I know will help boost the “kitty”.

In October I will run the Aviemore Half Marathon as a Cat Champion and hope to increase that total further. In the meantime, I’m thinking it’s time to bring another furry friend (or two!) into my life and I know exactly where I’ll turn…

IMG_5348Of course, as my mum pointed out, the story will now have to continue with Sooty and Smokey…

EZnNyD9uReyRGYVBOdH1BQWant to help? You can donate here:JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Documentary Film Review – Skid Row Marathon

IMG_6565I don’t normally include reviews of films, but after seeing a screening of Skid Row Marathon earlier this week I feel inspired to share a few thoughts.

I first heard about this film last year on the Marathon Talk podcast as host Martin Yelling had been instrumental in bringing the film to the UK for a screening in London. Sadly that was a bit too far for us to travel, but we were both really keen to see it so when we heard that selected cinemas around the country would be showing a one-off screening this month, we made sure to get tickets.

The film follows four runners from LA’s Skid Row who, under the guidance of criminal court judge Craig Mitchell, rise from the streets to run marathons around the world. We see them battle their demons, form friendships and, ultimately, find dignity as they strive to fulfil their potential.

Those of us who run already know how empowering running can be, how life-changing. I know for me running, and marathon running in particular, changed everything I previously believed about myself and made me stronger (both mentally and physically) and more confident: if I can run a marathon, I can do anything.

When Judge Craig Mitchell was approached by a defendant he had previously sentenced and invited to visit the Midnight Mission, a homeless shelter which was helping him back on his feet, he decided to start a running club. The judge hoped that by getting these people running, he could help them to get their lives back on track through applying the lessons learned from running to their personal lives. The premise is simple: stay clean and out of prison, and Judge Mitchell will take his runners around the world to take part in marathons. Indeed we are shown scenes of him calling contacts to raise the massive amount of funds required for this undertaking. The fact that so many are willing to support the endeavour is truly heart-warming.

The runners followed throughout the film have all been homeless, were former addicts and one had committed murder in his youth and served many years in prison. One of the incredible things about the way filmmakers Mark and Gabriele Hayes have put this film together is that we ultimately side with the runners. We want them to succeed in their goals and can see the difference being part of the Midnight Runners (the name of the running group) has made to them. If we were being honest, would we really say that we would feel that way had we been told of their past history separately to the running? Sadly I suspect we would not, we would cast judgments and assume they had no potential. Yet a theme which was prominent in this film was that no single act defines a person and that everyone deserves a second chance. This was certainly true of the runners featured in the film and is a lesson we should all embrace.

Yes, this is a film about running, but not the physical act of running, this is about the transformative power of running and the psychological battles. When former addicts are faced with a challenge, do they have the strength to spur themselves on or will they be defeated? Finding the inner strength and community support to make the right decision is what sparks change and gives them new hope.

Sitting in the cinema I truly ran the gamut of emotions: I cried, I was shocked and I even laughed as there were light-hearted moments which, in a cinema full of runners, generated a lot of laughs e.g. runners smoking or vaping before and after runs, or the scene where two of the runners were getting vaccinations ahead of travel to Africa and were told to stay away from the monkeys – their reactions were priceless!! But at the end of the film, I was speechless. I couldn’t believe how inspiring, uplifting and empowering the film had been. I found what Judge Mitchell had done extraordinary and was both moved and humbled by the scenes of the runners taking part in marathons for the first time. For one-time addicts and homeless people to be running marathons in Africa and Italy was amazing. It was a real reminder that everyone has goodness within them, and that the act of running wields powers of redemption, empowerment and transformation.

In addition to the main film we were also treated to a 10-minute short focusing on that transformative power of running and featuring running luminaries such as Jo Pavey, Paul Sinton-Hewitt, Vassos Alexander and, of course, Martin Yelling talking about what running means to them, how it has shaped their lives and provided inspiration. It was a wonderful start to the evening and the short film ended with a fantastic poem written and performed by Molly Case which you can listen to on her website.

Sadly this was a one-time screening, but hopefully the film will become more widely available soon. If you have seen it, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. If you haven’t, I really hope you get the chance to. It’s the sort of film that everyone should get the chance to see.

You can read more about Skid Row Marathon here.

Friday Finds – 11th May

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

Welcome to the weekend! If you had Monday off work for the UK bank holiday then hopefully this has been a nice short week for you, so let’s kick off this shiny new weekend with a bit of reading:

This week I had the privilege of going to a screening of the inspiring documentary film Skid Row Marathon. If you are a listener of the Marathon Talk podcast (I was mentioned – twice! – in episode 434…) then you have no doubt heard host Martin Yelling talking about this film at length, and now I fully understand why. Having been captivated by the film and the individual stories within it, I was drawn to this article from The Guardian, which references the film as a lead-in to discussing how running really can change people’s lives for the better. It’s worth a read.

Moving to another marathon, it was announced this week that the London marathon has once again beaten its own world record for the number of people entering the ballot for the next race. An increase of over 7% in a ballot where the odds were certainly not in your favour is not encouraging as an individual looking for a place, however the statistics relating to the types of people who have entered the ballot are certainly interesting. Of particular note, the number of female applicants:

This year’s edition of the London marathon remains in my news feeds due to the record temperatures and sad death of a participant. It was clearly a tough day out there and according to Derek Murphy of Marathon investigation, it looks like a number of runners may have cheated by cutting the course. I find it fascinating how Murphy works all of this out and the evidence he produces has helped catch out a number of marathon cheats in the past. Here’s his report on London:

Upon entering a marathon (or any other race distance) for the first time, a common fear is to come last. But how bad would that actually be? You would still have covered the distance, put in your best effort and (hopefully) enjoyed the experience. With that in mind, I found this next piece interesting as the writer completely re-thought his attitude towards finishing at the back of the pack.

And finally, it’s common knowledge that I’ve become quite the fan of yoga and am fascinated (often bemused!) by the assorted variations of yoga that can be found now, such as kitten yoga, goat yoga and Harry Potter yoga. But pizza yoga? Turns out it’s just a fun video, but I must admit if someone advertised a pizza yoga class, I would probably go. Yum-aste!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 4th May

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

May the fourth be with you! (I’m not much of a Star Wars fan but I always love that joke!). It’s a bank holiday weekend here in the UK so if you have an extra day off then I hope you have something great planned. Personally, I’ll be enjoying the downtime after last weekend’s marathon. But to get the weekend started, here are some bits and pieces for your reading pleasure…

Being less than a week on from a marathon (race report coming this weekend!) I found this first article particularly interesting. On Monday and Tuesday, walking was definitely “interesting”, especially stairs, and I could feel every one of those 26.2 miles in my legs. Today, my legs feel just about back to normal and already the memory of those sore, tight muscles is fading, so I read with interest this explanation of why we soon forget the pain and discomfort of the race. What really stands out to me is the reference to the “episodic” nature of our race memories and that is certainly true for me – for all of my marathons I can remember particular moments clearly whilst there are other parts of the course lost to the mists of time. Even from Sunday there are no doubt details missing, yet I have incredibly strong memories of particular parts of the course where I got a shout from someone I knew or a landmark stood out. The human brain truly is a wonderful thing!

Also of interest is this next piece about marathon running and colds. The received wisdom has always been that hard workouts can lower the immune system and marathon runners often report getting colds soon after their race. But according to some latest research, this is not necessarily true. If you feel like you often get ill after a marathon or tough race/workout then this might be worth a look.

One of the things that I believe helped me to run well this time was working on my mental strength. I knew my legs could carry me 26.2 miles but wanted to make sure my mind wouldn’t give up before the finish. In this article we learn a bit more about this from US elite Deena Kastor, whose book I am currently reading. I’ll write a review for the blog once I’m done, but I would DEFINITELY recommend it from what I’ve read so far. Here are some insights:

I was also pleased this week to read the confirmation of what we runners pretty much knew already – running makes us happier. Research amongst users of parkrun and Strava (two of my favourite things!) reveals that those who run regularly score themselves higher on the happiness scale than the general population. What’s particularly interesting is that the social aspect of parkrun and sharing runs on Strava contributes to this greater happiness. As a massive parkrun fan, I can definitely see how that would happen as I always look forward to my Saturday morning parkrun fix.

And finally, if you’re always looking for the perfect food to fuel your adventures, perhaps a peanut butter and jelly (jam here in the UK) sandwich is worth a try. Based on this article, it’s the perfect fuel and there’s perhaps something in that as Scottish cyclist Graeme Obree famously set records after fuelling with his favourite jam sandwiches! One to consider…?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess