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.

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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

Week In Review – Here We Go!!!

Yes, indeed. Race week has rolled around once more, and with it a whole new level of maranoia in which my Pocket Bac was attached to me (because the germs wanted to hunt me down), I thought my calf hurt (it didn’t), I thought I was getting a cold (I wasn’t) and I generally wanted to be enveloped in bubble wrap and shut off from other people 😂

IMG_0497Sadly, that wasn’t possible so I had to go to work as usual in the germ factory of many many young people (hence the Pocket Bac lol!) as well as complete my last, gentle workouts ahead of the marathon:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – form drills
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – RACE DAY!!!

For me, taper weeks are all about continuing with the routine of my workouts but dialling down the volume a bit as the race gets nearer. That way I don’t go totally crazy but make sure I feel fresh and ready to go on race day. All my key workouts were in place this week, but the running was much more minimal so as to save my legs for the big day.

I began the week with my Hatha yoga class, which is always a gentle stretch out but with options to add a bit more intensity or work on strength. I often do choose different options, but I imagine my class the day after the marathon will see me choosing all the easiest options there are. Maybe spending the whole class in savasana?

On Tuesday I headed for the gym straight after work. My bike reps have been increasing in number by 2 reps per week up to 20 before changing the resistance level of the bike, and this week was 20 reps at my current level as a finale to this cycle of training. While that sounds like a lot, it was still early in the week and was a non-impact workout so it was fine to do this given that the rest of the week was going to be pretty gentle. There was something very satisfying about completing this set and rounding off all the hard work I’ve been doing – 20 reps at an intensity level I would barely have managed 1 at back in January (and for those wondering, yes I did get the bike I like!).

7qb9STY4RamPdw43%andpwI usually alternate form drills and hill reps on a Wednesday, but this week stuck to the drills. Last week I did 10x 1km so this week dropped it back to 6x 1km. Including my warm up and cool down that gave me less than 6 miles so was an ideal workout to keep my legs ticking over and allow me some sections of faster running to satisfy the urge created by having fresher legs. I’ll admit the first couple of reps felt a little hard, but they were mainly uphill and it was a bit windy so I felt great after that.

IMG_6423Even better, I got home to find that one of Steve’s clients had baked him a carrot cake. Cake = carbs so I had a slice with a cup of tea after I ate. It was delicious!

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ABzSp9IJQySiLBgFpMFEeQThursday was Ashtanga yoga. I was pretty last-minute getting there thanks to some unusually heavy traffic, but soon settled in and enjoyed the class. I was super careful not to overdo things and asked for support in my headstand as I didn’t want to risk taking a tumble, but I really wanted to stretch things out and clear my head so this was ideal.

By Friday a rest day was in order. I had as restful a day as possible then did a short Yoga with Adriene video so I would feel like I had a little activity. We then headed out to eat as usual and I decided I fancied the curry this week. Yes, that is a beer you see but I always have a beer on a Friday and it’s important to do everything the same in the days before the race, right?

P5pvTi1RQPmx0I77c4JftgBefore I knew it, parkrunday was with us once more. I knew I shouldn’t do too much so drove there, paid for a parking space at the park rather than walking/jogging from a free space further away and treated the run as a shakeout run. I decided that averaging out around a 9 minute mile would be good and so a time absolutely no faster than 27 minutes (but probably nearer 28 minutes) would be ideal.

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National Superhero Day = Wonder Woman leggings

I positioned myself a bit further back behind crowds of people with the strict instruction to myself not to weave about, then tried to settle into my pace. I felt fresh and ready to go, so the taper had done its job. I actually managed 9:08 for the first mile (well done me!) then caught up with someone I’ve not spoken to in a while so ran with her for a bit to have a chat. This took in the grass section (yes, we were FINALLY back on our main route!) and kept my pace down to 9:20. I did speed up a little in the last mile to 8:50 and allowed myself to kick it up for the last tiny bit for a faster finish, but overall I did get my planned average with 9:03 and a 27:55 time. Perfect!

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Photo from Perth parkrun facebook page. No, I didn’t spot the photographer 😂

I spent the remainder of the day sitting down/relaxing as much as possible and got all my kit sorted out for Sunday morning as I knew it would be an early start so wanted to be as organised as possible.

KcAAk30YTEShARkyD8rauwDinner was carb loading with some of Steve’s amazing pizza (he used to be a pizza chef before he trained as a Personal Trainer – useful!).

GQ0+1AHHTuyAIak76RHv6QThen I had a nice bath to help me relax and sleep well. It felt so strange actually being at home the night before a marathon. Almost like I wasn’t really doing it, which was good as I felt relaxed.

N4LTpq5eQGaRUjfbpkyidQI’ll write a separate post soon on the race itself, but anyone who follows me on social media or knows me in real life will probably already know how it went. My main goal was to do the best I could under whatever circumstances presented themselves on the day. Turns out my best was 4:05:40. That’s only 33 seconds slower than my PB (set in Paris, a much flatter course than Stirling!) and I really wasn’t expecting that. Had you twisted my arm last week I would have suggested between 4:10 and 4:15 as my likely finish time so I’m absolutely thrilled with this. I guess it just goes to show what’s possible when the pressure is removed and you trust in the process. More on that in a future post.

IMG_6499Post-race it was nice to be home quite quickly, showered and enjoying some food. Chinese really hit the spot!

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M+nb6+u1SfyoL8KQLkNQCwThen we shuffled to the pub down the road for a celebratory beer before heading home so I could have a nice hot bath with epsom salts before bed. Rock and roll!

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Rehydrating like a pro!!

As marathon weekends go, it was a great one!

8wkBqBnaR86Qh+sG9Dr0mAWhat’s your favourite post-race food?
Would you prefer to be in a hotel or at home the night before a race?

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Friday Finds – 27th 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.

Did you watch the London marathon on Sunday? What an exciting morning of racing it was! And what incredible fortitude was shown by the masses running in such hot temperatures. Thanks to high-profile incidents and extremes of weather, recent marathons continue to dominate my news feeds, and with my marathon now just 2 days away (eek!) I think I’ll stick with the marathon theme this week.

Let’s start back on the Gold Coast and that awful moment when Callum Hawkins succumbed to heat exhaustion. There have been so many opinions on what happened/should have happened and I’m not going to get into that now, but I did want to share some follow-up stories I read the week, starting with some reflections from Hawkins himself who shared his recollections of the event:

Sadly the eventual winner of that race, Mike Shelley, came in for some criticism for not stopping when he saw Hawkins as the side of the road. Personally, I find that criticism unfair given that at this point Hawkins was receiving attention and there would have been little Shelley could do to help – stopping would have lost him his place too. So it was refreshing to read this piece (by an Australian) to defend him:

Given these events and the subsequent conditions during the London marathon last Sunday, I found it interesting to read the latest offering from Alex Hutchinson’s Sweat Science column, in which he investigates the effects of heat exhaustion and how it is influenced by our own desire to push ourselves.

Speaking of London, I enjoyed several columns about the event this week and thought I would share one This was published ahead of the race, but I like how it captures some of the spirit of London that makes it such a special event.

Unfortunately I also have a less positive story to share as one runner was apparently not allowed to cross the finish line after losing his race number (as per the race rules). However it seems someone DID take his number across the line and claim the medal. If this is true, then it’s an awful thing to do and I hope that the investigation into this is able to resolve things and allow the correct runner to have his hard-earned medal.

But on a more uplifting note more in keeping with the marathon spirit and inherent good nature of runners, people around the country are pledging to “finish” the marathon for chef Matt Campbell who collapsed 3.7 miles from the finish line and later died in hospital. It’s always so sad when things like this happen, yet seeing people turning out in support of a stranger and donating to their chosen charity really does restore your faith in humanity. I hope it gives his family and friends some comfort.

And finally, if all this talk of marathons is too much for you and you’re looking for something a little more sedate, then I may have found the event for you. This race in Texas gently pokes fun at the more traditional races, yet I have to say there’s something quite appealing about the idea!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

 

Week In Review – Music And Excitement!

Oh what a week it’s been! It may have been the first week of a new school term, but from Thursday to Sunday everything was so exciting it was like Christmas for me! It was also the second week of my taper, the one when I tend to start noticing that sluggish feeling creeping in, but there was still a decent week of training (and some extra “rest” to combat a busy week). Here’s how it all looked:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – form drills
Thursday – rest
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – rest

A new term at school meant a new block of my Hatha yoga class. Although I have cultivated a decent home practice this year, I still enjoy going to my classes and miss it when it’s not on or I can’t go. It was so nice to be back on my mat in the lovely studio and I marked the occasion by giving my new leggings a whirl. I had a “whale” of a time! 🙄

ekUjbTiQQwqC5YKWYSe7tgTuesday had me back on the bike at the gym. Someone was on the bike I like (surely not just me that has preferences?) so I had to go on one I’m not so fond of. I know technically the bikes are all the same, but I’m sure the tilt of the seats differs a bit and the resistance doesn’t always feel the same even at the same setting. I’m still not sure if my workout felt tough because I was on a bike that feels “harder” or if I was just feeling a bit sluggish and tired. The important thing is that I got it done, event though my legs and my mind were telling me I couldn’t. Tenacious is my middle name!

Then on Wedensday I had a set of form drills to do. This time it was 10x 1km and I definitely felt sluggish. My calves were weary and my right hip was bothering me a little (it’s fine now, just a mobility thing I had been working through and a bit of phantom taper tension). At one point I thought I might bail out early but felt better as the run went on so completed the set.

3tRee26CTCeyXgtH1B4kSQIt was a super-quick turnaround as I got in the door at 6:30pm, showered, changed, ate and was ready for my sister to pick me up for an orchestra rehearsal that started at 7:30pm. Someone in my section had seen me out running and was most impressed that I had managed to juggle everything. To be honest, squeezing in a rehearsal at this point wasn’t ideal, but it was a one-off due to our concert from early March being postponed because of The Beast From The East. I figured I could manage one rehearsal plus I knew I had factored this into some extra rest and recovery at the end of the week to balance things up.

Thursday was probably the absolute highlight not just of the week but of my year so far. Back in October it was announced that GARY BARLOW would be performing in Perth as part of his solo tour and, since everyone knows he is my favourite, there was no way I was going to miss this. My sister sorted the tickets out and I was prepared to forego Ashtanga yoga for one night in order to see my beloved Gary (although I did some at home before I went). Oh boy was it worth it! I don’t think my sister really appreciated how good it was going to be, but there is just something so special about an artist who usually commands massive stadium audiences and huge venues to be in a far more intimate venue. We had seats but I was on my feet throughout and managed to notch up around 2000 “steps” just dancing and waving my arms about at my seat! I LOVED it!

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Yes, we bought the same T-shirt!

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fGA90h7vSwWCCFAfe7pTIwEven better, I appeared on Gary’s Instagram. Sort of😂:

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fullsizeoutput_24c1Of course this meant that I probably had the least amount of sleep I’d had all week, despite being home at a reasonably civilised hour, yet I felt amazing on Friday with songs going around my head and still on a high from the concert buzz. I took a rest day and went to get my nails done all ready for the race next weekend.

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All about the bling!

Originally my plan for the weekend had me doing parkrun on Saturday then 8 miles on Sunday, but since I was so excited about watching the London marathon, I knew I would need to move things around a bit. I contemplated getting up early to run my Sunday miles before the TV coverage started, but with the concert on Saturday night (and an afternoon of rehearsals beforehand) I knew I would want to rest so decided on getting some solid miles in on Saturday instead. I duly ran the scenic route to parkrun, took part in the run, then rook a different scenic route home. 10 miles total for the day.

Fb%Cfn5jQTGlNRBJB3giRAI definitely felt better than on Wednesday, but felt like “marathon pace” was about all I could manage on my run down. Perhaps because in my mind I was running much further, or because I was listening to Marathon Talk, my standard “long run” podcast, I just didn’t seem to have much more oomph. I really expected to run about 26-27 minutes for parkrun, but rallied a bit to get a 25:15, having been getting gradually faster throughout. I’ll take that!

Steve and I ran home together (he had left before me to go down as he wanted to do some drills) and at first my legs felt a bit heavy form the faster running, but I soon settled in and felt comfortable by the time I got to my front door (which I ran past twice to make sure I got my 10 miles – runner problems 😂)

I spent the afternoon rehearsing on the same stage Mr Barlow had been on two nights previously. Sadly no evidence remained of his presence, but it was still cool to think about it like that. Then after a short break to go home and eat, etc, it was back for the concert. We played a great programme including some movie music – The Magnificent Seven, The Jungle Book, Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter. Great fun!

Choosing a rest day on Sunday meant I got a decent sleep then transferred myself to the sofa in time for the coverage to begin. What an incredible morning of racing, despite less than ideal conditions for it. Now I’m feeling inspired to go out and do my best when it’s my turn next Sunday.

IMG_0496In case you weren’t aware, I’m running for the charity I got my cat Morven from back in 2000. I still miss her tremendously after saying goodbye back in January and decided to do something positive in her memory. When I find myself in a rough patch, I will be remembering Morven and using this to help me push on. If you would like to help, you can read more here. Every penny makes a different to the lives of cats without a fur-ever home.

Did you watch the London Marathon?
What was the last concert you went to?
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Friday Finds – 20th 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.

I don’t know about you but I am gripped by marathon fever. Since last Friday we have had the Commonwealth Games marathon, the Boston marathon and, this weekend, the London marathon. I’m so excited and pretty much have marathons on the brain right now. Unsurprisingly, that means this week’s Friday Finds is a marathon special.

I have to start with last Sunday’s Commonwealth Games and Callum Hawkins. As a Scot, I was backing Callum to perform well, so was shocked to see the footage of how his race ended when I awoke on Sunday. Quite the controversy ensued, however I found this piece by Tom English for the BBC worth a read:

Soon, news feeds were taken over by the Boston marathon on Monday. It was the coldest on record (I think), with wet conditions to boot and the results were, in some respects, unexpected. While the eyes of the world were on the US women challenging for the win, there were several surprises thrown in along the way, which is exactly why I love marathons. Here are some articles I enjoyed to round up the key stories:

Of course now the London marathon is right around the corner and there have been plenty of articles looking forward to the big event on the UK sporting calendar. The BBC really summed it up with these compilations:

I for one will be comfortably ensconced on my sofa with a cup of tea taking it all in – the stellar elite fields, the possibility of records being broken, the icons  – whilst willing those I know towards the finish line. But if you need just a little more cheer this evening, then here’s a video of a therapy dog supporting runners in Boston. You’re welcome!

Happy reading. And if you’re racing this weekend, happy running!
The Running Princess

A Runner’s Alphabet

As I get closer to race day (and spring marathon fever tightens its grip) I find myself more and more obsessed preoccupied with running and all it entails. Soon, I’ll be running 26 (point 2) miles once more, and by a happy coincidence for this post there are 26 letters in the alphabet. So just for fun, here’s a (marathon) runner’s alphabet.

The Running PrincessA is for Athlete. Because that’s what you are. It doesn’t matter if the pinnacle of your athletic achievement is parkrun or the Olympics, if you are taking active part in an athletic endeavour (i.e. running) then you are an athlete. End of story.

B is for Blisters. We’ve all had our fair share of these and somehow the marathon always seems to result in at least one of the little blighters for me, even when none have raised their heads during training. Gah!

C is for Chafing. Again, we’ve all been there. Often we don’t know we’ve chafed until we get in the shower and then the full extent of the chafe is unleashed. In a word, ouch!

D is for DNS/DNF. Never letters we want to see next to our name. You’ll certainly find DNS (Did Not Start) in my marathon history, but so far I’ve always been able to finish every race I’ve started. Let’s hope that continues *touches wood.

E is for Electrolytes. When we sweat, we lose salts so it’s important to replace them, especially in marathon running. My choice is to add electrolyte tabs to my drink as taking too much water on board is not a good idea thanks to its tendency to dilute those all-important electrolytes.

F is for Fartlek. If you can say the Swedish word for speed-play without sniggering, then you are definitely a runner! Playing around with different paces and effort levels is a great way to improve fitness and speed. If you want to run faster, then you have to run faster!

G is for Gels. Ah yes gels, my sticky marathon friends. Our bodies have enough energy for around 90 minutes or so of running, so anything longer than that needs a top up. My preference is gels and I’ve found the ones that work for me, but it’s always best to experiment in training so that any “issues” can be avoided.

H is for Hills. Speedwork in disguise, these short, sharp battles against gravity help to make us fitter, stronger, faster and improve our form. Hard work but worth it for benefits like those.

I is for Injury. If you’ve not suffered an injury at some point, are you even a runner? A high percentage of runners will be sidelined with an injury every year. My advice: don’t ignore it and hope it will go away, seek advice from an appropriate professional (not Dr Google or strangers online!).

J is for Jogging. According to TV, the activity being done by someone who finds the body. For me, jogging is the easy-paced effort you might do to warm up. It is NOT a word to be used to describe someone giving it their all and running – just because they’re not moving at world record pace doesn’t mean they’re not trying just as hard. Rant over.

K is for Kudos. The validation we hope to receive on Strava after our run!

L is for Laps. You might run laps of a particular route in training, you might run laps of the track as part of your speedwork and you might ultimately run laps of a course during your race. This is not my favourite kind of race.

M is for Medals. It’s all about that bling, right!

N is for Niggles. Often the precursor to injury. Best not to ignore!

O is for Off-Road. Hitting the trails is a great way to build a solid base. The terrain can be kinder on your body, the changes keep you alert and also help to strengthen your ankles. I recommend a pair of specific trail shoes to get the most out of this.

P is for Parkrun. Oh I do love parkrun, A weekly free timed 5k that’s open to all and happening in a park near you this Saturday morning. Great to test yourself over a short distance and a good way to sharpen up before a race.

Q is for Quicker. What we all want to be. Even just by a second!

R is for Race. A chance to test yourself out over a measured distance. Also how we earn T-shirts, medals and free bananas.

S is for Strava. The social network for athletes. If it’s not on Strava, it doesn’t count!

T is for Training Plan. Something worth having to structure your training, but make sure it fits your life rather than you trying to fit around it. And while a training plan is important, you don’t have to be a slave to it. Flexibility is key when life (or Mother Nature) gets in the way.

U is for Undulating. Runner speak for hilly as f&@#

V is for Variation. Vary your terrain, vary your shoes, vary your training. It is the spice of life after all.

W is for Watch. You don’t need to have a fancy GPS watch that does everything bar make your post-run smoothie. But as soon as you start to take this running lark seriously, it’s top of the shopping list! Just don’t get too obsessed with the data.

X is for X-Ray. Ignore the niggles and injuries and you might just find yourself needing one of these to figure out what’s going on.

Y is for Yoga. Great for runners as it stretches muscles, builds strength and improves flexibility. I definitely think yoga has improved my running.

Z is for Zzzzz. Ok, ok, but you think of something else that starts with Z!! Sleep is super-important for runners as it’s when we rest that the adaptations from our training take place. Sleep resets our minds, heals our bodies and boosts our immune systems. We should all get more of it.

What would you include?

Friday Finds – 13th 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.

Marathon season continues to march on and I am in my element getting a constant round of reminders that people from all walks of life are taking on the mythical distance. But have you ever stopped to wonder what it is that makes someone decide to run a marathon? According to new research from Run Repeat, age has a lot to do with it. As someone approaching a milestone birthday, I can definitely understand why that would be a galvanising factor in making someone decide to do something different and take on a challenge. The research findings make for pretty intriguing reading and I’d love to know what you think:

Interestingly, choosing to run a marathon can also make us take better care of ourselves not just physically, but mentally. Rhi Willmot, PHD Researcher in Behavioural and Positive Psychology, posits that the way training for a marathon changes our mindset leads us to have greater self-compassion. This makes sense to me. Training for a marathon has always had an impact on the way I take care of my physical health, but given the importance of a positive mental attitude in performing well, other elements of self-care have become just as important. I would also say that running in general has given me greater mental strength and positivity. Is the same true for you?

Of course for the elites, the drive to run a marathon may be a little different e.g. the pride at winning, the glory of setting a record or the satisfaction of earning money to support family. Any of these may push a runner to their very limits. One runner reaching his limits was Kenyan Michael Kunyuga who raced the Hanover marathon this past weekend. Despite falling, he still narrowly managed to hang on to second place and a personal best! What would you have done?

Next up, some photos. I’ve previously included a similar photographic project at the NYC marathon, but I just love the concept. At last weekend’s Paris marathon (a race I know very well!) photographer Flavien Prioreau took before and after photos of some of the runners. I just love to see the difference between them. Yes, they look tired but there’s also that unmistakeable undercurrent of joy at completing the gruelling task. Brilliant!

And finally, a little light-hearted humour to poke fun at myself. It’s no secret that I love my leggings and would spend my entire life in them if I could. Recognising this trend, Saturday Night Live put together this brilliant spoof video that really captures the way many of us use our leggings these days. It made my day when this was sent to me!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Week In Review – Reaching the Peak!

It’s been a lovely, restful week off work (despite yet more snow!) and it’s been nice to have a chance to recharge the batteries while still maintaining my training. This week saw me take on my longest run in this cycle which seems ideal when I’m pretty well rested! Here’s how it all turned out:

Monday – rest
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – form drills
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 20 miles

I began my week the same way I ended the last one – reading my book in bed. It was such a lovely, relaxing start to my day that this quickly became my routine for the week: alarm at 7:30am, kettle on, then back to bed with a cup of tea to read until around 8:30am. Bliss, and so good to take the time for myself.

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I highly recommend this book

Since I knew I wouldn’t have my Hatha class in the evening (it’s term time only) I was happy to continue my home practice, however was saving that until the early evening. To get a bit of movement into my day I walked down to the gym to relax in the hot tub and sauna then spent the rest of the day chilling out at home. With term time always so busy, it’s important for me to have some quiet time and catch up on myself a bit. There was a bit of a spanner in the works later in the evening when we had a couple of power cuts, but thanks to some battery-operated lights and some candles, things were pretty cosy and I was able to read a bit thanks to my trusty head torch!

n5AhHhVATLmjWDLhA9xTDQTuesday began much the same, but this time I had an actual workout to do as there were more bike reps on the schedule. I got these done in the morning so I could enjoy the rest of my day (and take my time having a sauna afterwards!). It was quite chilly though and I spent a good part of my walk home wondering why I STILL needed to wear my hat and gloves! Definitely ready for some better weather.

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Working hard!

6AtKhEC2RZmGUm1i5B9H6QSadly that better weather seemed pretty far away on Wednesday as I awoke to MORE snow. Thankfully not too bad this time, but enough to disrupt my run. I had planned to warm up then run 10x 1km drills. I toyed with waiting until later in the day but there was no guarantee things would improve so in the end I bundled up and went for it.

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fullsizeoutput_2471For the first half of my run the roads and path were pretty slushy so each drill was more an exercise in not falling over, but some of the later drills were a bit more as they should be as I hit some paths that were much clearer. Typically things did clear up a bit later on but when I’m on holiday I always prefer to get my workout done in the morning. Oh well, yet another “character building” run in the snow!

GLldtfZcTfWYrRp7ILOvKgAnd Steve took me to the farm shop cafe for a malteser slice and hot chocolate in the afternoon. Yum!

1O1mLmOYSoeCS6h34iHHFwThursday saw me back at the gym for my morning hot tub/sauna then in the afternoon I took a walk about mile up the road to meet Steve for a coffee. A new branch of a coffee shop chain had opened in the business park there so we thought we would take a look and have a coffee. The interior was nice and they have a drive through, but I think they have a bit of work to do on staff training as it took several different people to work out how to put the correct order through and a queue quickly formed behind us – oops!

Later in the day I had my Ashtanga class which I always really enjoy. We worked on our headstands a bit again and this week I managed to briefly hold my balance (without my legs straightened just yet) before taking a tumble. Don’t worry, I was fine as I realised I was going over so was able to land safely and the teacher was there. I definitely felt more confident with moving into the posture thanks to having done it with support in previous weeks, so I guess I’ll have to expect a few tumbles while I work on perfecting this one. Definite progress through.

On Friday morning Steve was able to fit me in for a training session so I headed down to the studio with my boxing gloves again. It was a tough workout of punches, ducks, press ups, burpees and sit-ups, but I did notice that I was performing better in my boxing than before. Yet another marker of progress, but I knew I was going to feel it the next day!

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This was after, hence my tired face!

Thankfully it was pacer day at parkrun so I “only” had to run 28 minutes, a comfortable (for me) time. We had hoped to maybe be back on our main route but the grass is still sodden so it was another week of laps. Clockwise again. Hilariously, despite taking several photos of the pacers before the start, we didn’t get a single one where we were all facing the same direction 😂

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There’s always one 😂

It took me a while to settle into the pace as the trees on the first part of the route stop my watch getting a good signal, but soon I was on course and had plenty of energy to pose for the photographer.

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I had a great time chatting to people, giving advice and helping them to run a bit better, crossing the line in 28:04 – pretty close!

IMG_6203When I got home I was pleased to find some interesting post. I had been following the incredible story of a cat called Meatball and when a virtual run was organised in his name to raise funds for the same local Cats Protection branch that I am fundraising for this year (details in the link at the bottom of this post) then of course I jumped at the chance to do my bit. And the good news is that Meatball is now doing well.

UntitledThen Sunday was The Big One. My 20 mile run. I got a bit distracted over breakfast as I found a live stream of the Paris marathon coverage and got caught up in watching that – in French! I followed a good bit of the commentary and was amused to note that as I looked at the footage and distance markers, I knew EXACTLY where on the course the runners were and could picture the scene. An interesting thing they did was set the women’s race off first for the first time in this event. Then started the men’s race 16 or so minutes later. It seems an odd gap, but it was the difference between the winning male and female times last year. This meant that both the male and female races finished together – in fact the lead man passed the lead woman about half a kilometre from the end and there were only a few seconds between them reaching the finish line. Instead of one lonely male runner finishing, there were several athletes running in at the same time which made for great viewing. I really liked the way this was done and the coverage which had a lot of split screen so you could watch both races at once. It will be interesting to see if other big races follow suit.

Once the elite races in Paris were finished I was ready to head out the door for my own run – and I FINALLY got to run in my favourite skirt that I like to race in. Without gloves!!!

bfXpB4MzRX6WvRtmS9pwSQThe plan this time was a 2 mile warm up then 3 sets of 4 miles at marathon pace/effort with 2 miles recovery. It did feel harder than my 18 mile run last week, but then I ran that after a couple of “easier” weeks so taking on 20 just one week later (and with my Friday workout still in my weary muscles) it’s quite right that this felt harder. That’s no bad thing since I’ll need to be ready to run on tired legs come race day. There were actually only 2 “harder” mile splits that I missed and both of those featured an incline, so overall I’m pleased with how it went and am now hoping that with fresher legs in 3 weeks I’ll be able to perform well.

IMG_6253Post-run (and lunch!) Steve and I headed out to the farm shop for some eggs and figured we might as well have a scone in the cafe while we were there – it would be rude not to! I’d love to tell you how is tasted, but I gobbled it up pretty quickly…

G4hsWGTDTd+K+MkxKNkOSQThen as soon as we got home we had the oven on ready to replace all those calories burned with another fine plate of carbs and chips 😂 Got to love the marathon appetite!

v83oSWIKQ%K%%KPztTg3uQDefinitely a good week of training. A hard week, but a good one nonetheless as I was able to keep going even with the accumulation of fatigue in my muscles. Now let the taper commence…!

IMG_0492Have you had any more snow?
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