Friday Finds – 8th February

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

Happy Friday! I hope you’ve had a good week. It’s pretty stormy here right now so I’ll be hunkering down for the night and keeping cosy, which gives me plenty of time to write this post and give you some reading material.

Let’s begin with an update on a story I recently shared about the London marathon and happily a positive change has been made to the policy surrounding guide runners. Now, those who take part to support visually impaired runners will receive a medal as well as a chip time so their marathon achievement is recognised. Good news for those who selflessly take on this role.

On the subject of London, you might enjoy this analysis of some of the Strava data on the 2018 event. I do love a bit of data, and this confirms what we likely already know – the fastest marathoners run further and more often in training than those with slower finish times. Simple, huh!

With that done, there’s now going to be a definite theme to my remaining Finds this week: animals. Following last week’s story of the women who ran most of a marathon carrying an abandoned puppy, I came across a number of other stories featuring animals. First, something in a similar vein. The story of how elite runner Stephanie Pezzullo was “adopted” by an abandoned dog she encountered during a training run is just beautiful. I feel sad that the dog wasn’t wanted by its previous owners, but it brings joy to my heart to know that she found just the right person to give her the love she deserves.

Sticking with dogs, it seems that some runners in the New York City half marathon will be making history as the first to complete without a human guide…because the event has become the first long-distance race to allow the use of guide dogs for visually impaired runners. Even better, the article suggests that as official participants, the dogs will also earn a race medal. That only seems fair!

And finally, you may already have caught this week’s big story around running and animals, but in this one the animal sadly didn’t come off so well. In a quite startling story, a runner in Colorado was attacked by a young mountain lion and managed to kill it in order to protect himself. It is sad that this happened to the big cat, but I do totally understand why it was necessary. I know how scared I was that time I was attacked by a buzzard, so this must have been terrifying!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Advertisements

Week In Review – Foiled!

Sometimes it’s just when things are ticking along nicely that life throws a spanner in the works. This week I somehow went from feeling great to having a cough, and after the experience of last year, I made sure to take a step back and look after myself so it doesn’t linger. It was the end of the week before the cough put in an appearance so I still got some training done earlier in the week:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – 4 miles
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – 4 miles
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – rest

I began my week with one of the”bonus” Hatha classes my teacher is putting on prior to the holidays. Another lovely chance to take some time for myself and stretch.

When I woke up on Tuesday morning it was REALLY cold and our street looked quite slippery, however I was certain it would be ok on the main road. I dug out my all terrain shoes once more, wrapped up and walked out of our street to find it was, indeed, better on the main roads so I was able to run 4 miles on an out and back route, but at an easier pace so I felt in control and generally running on the roads rather than the pavement to avoid any slippery patches. Despite that, I still enjoyed being out in the bracing air and getting some exercise.

gp0Z+ae6RMaHYbNp%wcuUAHowever when I got home Tuesday night I wasn’t feeling too great. My throat was a bit scratchy and my body felt achy, but it felt like how I get when I’m really tired so I was fairly certain I could sleep it off. I ate my dinner, took a couple of paracetamol and had an early night. As it turns out I did sleep it off and woke up on Wednesday morning feeling back to normal. I did, however, opt for another restful evening since it was Steve’s birthday and I thought we should spend some time together (read: I wanted a slice of birthday cake!).

MCT17ysaQGWn1O47MGbjPA
LJQg9jqIR+CcOqSk3L3GzAThursday was always going to be a long day as I had a parents’ evening which was chockablock with appointments, but I still decided to get up early and have my 4 mile run as I knew I would feel better for it. After being a bit off earlier in the week and knowing I would be tired by the evening, I kept the pace nice and easy and just enjoyed the comparatively milder temperatures after my chilly run on Tuesday.

wcI3NPe8SCmGmEGRvBmDIQBy the timeI got home it was quite late and I just wanted to grab a snack then head to bed. I did take a moment to open the more interesting-looking mail I had – the medal from my November virtual event. I entered this one back in about July as I thought the medal was so cool!

%7lNIUIfS1eziYrgzOEiMwI rounded off the work week with another PT session down at Steve’s studio. I had been really sleepy in the morning so it wasn’t a circuit this time, just some basic TRX exercises to keep developing strength and mobility.

IRb5W8JcRsWXxG13TV6Faw

He just can’t help himself!

eNIerb5zQ66Lm4U1DHp3LgAnd then it was parkrunday once again. We were still using the alternative course we were on last week, but this time I could run however I chose. What I chose, was a reasonably steady pace as since the parents’ evening I had been coughing a little as my throat was a bit irritated. Not sore at all, just something tickling a little from time to time, so I didn’t want to overdo it. I actually lost a little time as the loose end from one of the drawstring “laces” on my trail shoes worked its way free and I was worried about catching it on something and tripping, so took a moment to sort it out. I finished a little over 25 minutes which, given that this is only the third run of our new “parkrun year” earned me a “congratulations on your fastest time this year” comment in my email. I love when that happens!

IMG_0543

Unfortunately as the evening wore on I found myself coughing more and more, to the point that I actually slept in the spare room so as not to disturb Steve. I had already decided before bed that I wouldn’t go for my Sunday run so didn’t bother setting an alarm. It was almost 10am before I woke up so I must have needed that! I actually felt a lot better and enjoyed a relaxing day cuddling the kittens and watching my favourite Christmas movie.

bRQMKKxSTAOyrpBcFTjXSAIt’s frustrating to pick up a cough at this point, but probably better to get it out of the way now so I can be fit to get stuck into marathon training properly in January. Fingers crossed it shifts quickly.

What’s your favourite Christmas movie?
Any tips for warding off the winter coughs and sneezes? 

Race Report – The Disneyland Paris Half Marathon 2018

This is going to be a long one and full of photos, so put the kettle on, get comfy and prepare for a bit of pixie dust!
788004674

Imagine having a wish: a wish you knew would fill you with magic and joy; a wish so strong you felt envy whenever someone else had that wish come true; a wish you wished for so hard, for years and years. Then one day, that wish was granted

"All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them."It may sound like the plot of a Disney movie, yet it’s how I felt about taking part in a Run Disney event. For years I had yearned to create a costume, run through Disney parks and meet a host of characters. I coveted one of those HUUUUUGE Disney medals and was determined that one day I would achieve my dream. A couple of weeks ago “one day” became “today”.

fullsizeoutput_27b0

My awesome wrist wrap created by Nicky Lopez @ Run Bling

Our day began super early with a 4:30am alarm call so that we could have breakfast at our hotel at 5am (one of the benefits of staying in a Disney hotel was the early breakfast and late check out provided for runners). I would usually associate such an early start with a marathon and spend breakfast time forcing down food (and hoping not to see it come back up again!), but not this time. This time I was excited and, despite legs that had that telltale weariness of a day spent in a theme park (no regrets – it was an amazing day!) I was desperate to put on the rest of my costume and head over to the expo to wait until it was time to get into the start corral.

We actually got to the expo in great time, giving us time to take a few photos, chat to some other runners, admire the costumes and, crucially, join the massive queue for the toilets before we had to head around to our corral.

Za++YDKETyeuGEKem6ocfg

As close as I could persuade Steve to a costume. It’s amazing what you can find online!

We were in corral C and we knew we were supposed to be in our corrals about 30 minutes before the estimated start time for our group (corral A began at 7am and we got in our corral just before that so we could experience the beginning of the race. It was about half an hour later before we were to get started, but the time seemed to pass really quickly. The weather was mild, even so early in the morning, with a little drizzle in the air so it was going to be a humid morning.

Since the event had a “villains” theme, the start of the event was handed over from the Disney hosts to Cruella de Vil and her henchmen. It was great watching things get started and moving closer and closer to the start gantry.

zS5jN2xtTvKTuB9ksUvdhA
g7EijkMFQk2MlLUJioRZTgAt long last, it was our turn. We were counted down (I started my watch a little before the start line as I wanted my hands free to shoot some film) and I ran across the start line grinning from ear to ear.

QeJCZf69RbaiAqCGxssmLgOlvE8uP0Txi3Oyfgqpil5g

The first part of the route took us under an archway announcing we were entering Disneyland then on into the Walt Disney Studios where we had spent the previous morning. We looped around different areas of the park, passing through “Studio One”, an enclosed area of shops and restaurants where all the cast members were out in force to cheer us on. It reminded me in many ways of the famed “disco tunnel” in the Paris marathon.QH9AnyyQRhWSqTzFLTUA5g

785007481Emerging from the studio, I glanced to my right and spotted the first of the character stops. I had actually wondered about skipping the first couple in order to get ahead for some later stops, but when I saw who it was I realised I was definitely going to stop here after all. I was dressed as Belle and the first character was…Gaston!

AZP7alUrQDSoEx9eIvW99wFrom here, the route took us towards the main Disneyland park, and I did skip a couple of character stops as the lines were really long and they weren’t ones I was massively bothered about. For me, it was all about running around the different “lands” of the park and through the castle.

As we hit Main Street I realised that this section was an out and back – first running away from the castle, looping around the town square then running the full length of the street towards Sleeping Beauty’s castle. This was my iconic moment and I made sure to film, take photos and stop for an official photo to mark the moment.

781005247
780503394We actually ran around to one side of the castle, via Adventureland, and into Fantasyland (pausing only for a photo with Jafar).

788343590It was at this point that I found myself hit with a wave of emotion: I was actually running in Disney, I was running my dream race. The cast members were out in force and they were shouting “allez” in that rising way spectators do in the Paris marathon as well. Perhaps it was a combination of all of these things that made me feel so happy I could burst – I very nearly cried with happiness and this remains a really vivid memory of the race for me as I looped around and through the iconic castle with an accompaniment of Disney music.

Once through the castle, I really was in photo mode. It felt like I was stopping for photos, shuffling a few steps as I put my phone/Go Pro away then immediately stopping again for the next one. During this time I chatted with others and was struck by how well organised these photo stops were, especially for someone running solo (I had told Steve he could run on at his pace. I mean, I was running in Disney, what else did I need!). Our package included a Photopass for the race and our bibs had a barcode on them which was scanned by a cast member before the photographer took our photos. There was also always another cast member on hand who took photos using our own phones so we would have photos right away. I was actually sharing some of these while I was waiting to see various characters so some of my friends on social media could experience the event along with me. I was having such a lovely time that I clocked a 37 minute mile. Nope, not a typo, it really did take me 37 minutes to cover a mile. My goal marathon pace is usually around 9 minutes per mile and I can walk a mile in around 16 minutes, so clearly I wasn’t in much of a hurry at this point!

ToJvd7NVQtGgURk78Jez5A
wh9j47MmRgidC8ELTL7Xig
788592831
exj2j9dBQ8G4UOnV6YCTuw
788344247Eventually, I made my way out of the park and embarked on the next section of the route which took me out into the French countryside, through a small town and around a reservoir before heading back to Disneyland. I know some people find this part rather random, but I quite enjoyed it. It was good to get my legs moving at a regular pace for a while and have some more consistent running without having the constant stopping and starting (except for stopping briefly to take a photo of each kilometre marker) and the scenery was quite pleasant. The part I found random was the fact that so many runners were in some kind of costume which pretty much looked normal within the magical bounds of Disney, but once outside I couldn’t help thinking that this must look like the weirdest parade ever 😂

Even in this section outside of Disneyland there was some entertainment – bands, breakdancers, cheerleaders – and lots of spectators, so the time did pass quite quickly. Because there were a number of out and back sections it also gave me a great opportunity to look at some of the costumes other runners had put together. Some were really elaborate and I’m not sure I could have run in them without feeling irritated, whereas I had put together something comprised mainly of actual running kit, with a sparkly skirt on top (the sparkly skirt was crucial as I had wanted to wear one of those for ages!).

The last part of the route brought runners over a road bridge from which we could see the traffic entrance to Disneyland, before heading in by the Santa Fe hotel and through part of the Cheyenne hotel (where we were staying. Thankfully I didn’t have to run past my room!).

uRU2VSwmS9az3jL7l56KcQ
GOPR0064From there, we followed the same path we had walked in by before the race that morning, around by the Sequoia Lodge and into the Disney Village which was packed with spectators, shoppers and those on their way to the parks for the day. It was so noisy with loads of shouts and cheers, yet at the same time a little bittersweet as I knew there was hardly any distance left to run. Yes, my legs were weary from being on my feet all weekend, but I didn’t want the experience to end so did my best to keep soaking up every moment.

Bur all too soon I could see the finish line ahead of me. We had retraced some of our steps from the early part of the race to finish behind the Hollywood Tower in the Walt Disney Studios park. I ran triumphantly over the line, collected my medal from a volunteer then walked over to the stage where Sorcerer Mickey was welcoming runners back. Sadly he was on a stage so there was no specific photo op, but I did get a cast member to take a photo and took a few seconds of video.

I1R9W7u5RgeoQDMwjtBBJg

IMG_0526There were several Photopass photographers stationed in front of some of the Marvel statues in this area so I got a photo then began to make my way towards the exit to meet Steve. Along the way I collected all my goodies – a bottle of water, an iced coffee drink (it was pretty good), a box of snacks, a banana and a space blanket. There was also some Powerade but I managed to miss that (gutted – blue Powerade is my favourite!).

788461013
6ewwJmy+RWKq7%ZCJB1QwQ
fullsizeoutput_27afOnce I met Steve, we had some more Photopass pictures taken outside the Studios before making our way back to the Expo to collect our bags (and take a few more photos because clearly we didn’t have enough already ha!).

788460534
CjCn0Pv9QXyTbfhe%cxgkgI don’t think I ever stopped smiling throughout the race and had such an amazing experience. I had joked to Steve that I might take 3 hours and wasn’t too far off with 2:51:09. Near enough an hour slower than my half marathon PB! I did look at the results just out of interest, and my age category was won by none other than Paula Radcliffe, who is an ambassador for the event, but at 1:23:18 I suspect she didn’t stop for any photos haha!

I, however, stopped every kilometre as I wanted to make sure I had a picture of each marker. They were in keeping with the theme and were quite entertaining.

Untitled
Untitled
Untitled
Untitled
UntitledFor me, this event was my fairytale, my chance to fulfil my wish of creating a costume, running through the parks and meeting a host of characters. Some wishes are for a once in a lifetime experience, but I have a funny feeling this won’t be the last time we take part in the Disneyland Paris Magic Run Weekend…
b276uzRLS6q+9FFXqvgcaQ

Week In Review – The Magic Of Disney

What a week! I can’t believe my magical weekend finally came around and there will be a post on the Disney race itself to follow as soon as I have some time to sit down and think about it properly. In the meantime, here’s my regular week in review post with how I spent my week as a whole (fair warning: there are LOADS of photos here!).

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – run + sports massage
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – travel
Saturday – Disneyland!!!
Sunday – half marathon

My main priority throughout the week was to be as rested as possible as I knew the weekend would be tiring. This meant cutting back some of my workouts and making a point of maximising sleep by getting to bed at a reasonable time and cutting out anything unnecessary in the morning so I could sleep a little later. I also made sure to include some yoga each day to help me unwind, starting with my usual Hatha class on Monday night. As ever, the perfect end to my busy Monday.

I had already decided to move my midweek run to Tuesday so I could have Wednesday completely free to pack. As it turned out, this was most fortuitous as Storm Ali paid us a visit on Wednesday and running would have been pretty challenging. It was actually quite windy on Tuesday, but I was only looking to run at an easy pace and this was perfectly achievable. I followed this up with a sports massage to make sure my legs were in tip top shape for a weekend of theme parks and running.

gP8GtmpQRrOQVgblNat%9wAs well as a rest from any training, I also skipped my orchestra rehearsal on Wednesday so I had the night free to get myself packed and organised for the weekend. This made me feel much better as I knew I had little time the following evening and had to leave straight from work on Friday.

sAWFVKu5TlWE3F0j5QCPVA

My packing “helper”. Mum was on kitten care duties over the weekend so they were spoiled rotten!

It was then really important to me to get to my Ashtanga class on Thursday after missing it the previous week. I wanted the chance to calm my mind and stretch my body before the busy weekend. Unfortunately, due to some heavy traffic I was a few minutes late and this affected how I felt as I joined in with the class. Still, it was much better than not getting there at all and I did feel a lot more chilled by the time the class finished. I then went straight off to get my nails done to match my running costume.

P9QXZm8qThedGcgpzrPqpg

Can you guess…?

And then it was Friday. A colleague of mine very kindly offered to take the last few minutes of my class at the end of the day so I could get changed and get out of the car park ahead of all the school buses and parental pickups. This put us at the airport in good time for our flight and we got some food while we waited in the departure lounge.

EaU0qkeiR7qPQgjNOvQ61gThings began to unravel a bit when our flight was delayed (without much by way of explanation) for a little over an hour. By the time we moved an hour forward to Paris time, this meant it was getting quite late. We had always known we would be too late for any of the trains or coach transfers to Disney, so had booked a shared taxi but with the delays we ended up missing our slot and it took some time to get things reorganised – not helped by that laid back French attitude towards such things! By the time we got to our hotel it was 1am local time and had been a looooooooong day! We were booked into the Cheyenne which had a wild west/Toy Story theme and our room was ideal for our needs.

XAr8Es4bQ%+aMqQpANDUOg
+poMDiMqRc6QoaVNe3AvvwWe were up sharp on Saturday morning as we had loads we wanted/needed to do. But first, breakfast. The buffet in our hotel was pretty good with a selection of hot and cold items. But the best bit was while we were eating there was an announcement that Disneyland was open! I think I squealed!!!

Vl+gN9dJSy+A6NVeGMP+fQ
YVgWmmQRQ66iSDvwtCyRqA
xsfqfrjNQo2TjNsbMxS6xwOur first port of call after breakfast was the expo to collect our race packets and the items I had preordered. This part of it was easy enough, leaving some time to explore the merchandise. I may have bought one or two all the things!

7sJPPqU4QTar6Hj0tguCRw
ajXH+CKGRmuMhhugpqMV3Q
%3Y%tQYkTqiJy4SX%t+UzwFinally, we went to check out the exhibitors but there were very few. I think perhaps I’ve been spoiled by bigger expos so found this a bit disappointing. I did enjoy finding my name on the wall of runners and taking some photos to mark the beginning of the weekend.

+iT8MkbcS3SD7eLI0rV7eA
EG9F4WEEQEafDdx4qPGd6A
76vF2EVqRXqLKRMo61%+tAWe took our things back to the hotel then it was time to hit the parks!

kfyuY8hzSIWEr6PhsWAOZwFirst, we headed into the Studios as I wanted to devote much of the latter part of the day to the main park. In the Studios our priority was to get on the Ratatouille ride since this was new to us and is currently under construction at WDW in Florida. We got a Fastpass but had some time to wait so went shopping then got in the queue for the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. It’s been a while since we’ve done that one since we haven’t been in the Studios in Florida for a while and it was brilliant!

6IM2esyqQWOQ9c85QjGxMA
6dEQN3UNScmj7Cyb35V62w
Hq9MdPDkRiOvd0Tdlh4KrARatatouille was amazing! It was a ride where you needed 3D glasses and were “shrunk” to the size of a rat. Doing something new was fantastic and it was a real highlight of our park day.

FZZpf3HJRRqbKPTbxC1uoQFrom there, we headed into the main Disneyland park. I found it quite confusing as it was similar to the Magic Kingdom in Florida, yet familiar things were in different places so it felt like being in a weird dream. Here, we wanted a Fastpass for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad as I knew it was different to the Florida version. We headed straight there, admiring the seasonal decor on the way.

CjrYhbuyQG2cC5TQgUmeSQ
N%6EJlY9QlK3DnaudFEb+w
2WNrshI2QK23AFKuVRZOYg
fZfsNc8xTKelJTxOamaAPAIn Frontierland, where Big Thunder is located, it looked like being in the movie Coco as there was a Day of the Dead theme.

S0H9RTliT%edfHvNvI14mg
VmnsqdnCQ9+%68DANMdI0A
7YTlCD78SwK2aJUmw9YuWAWe knew the parks would be busy and didn’t expect to get on loads of rides, hence our priorities (the others were Hyperspace Mountain, which was having a technical issue and Phantom Manor which was closed for refurbishment. Next time!). Given the long queues, we walked around soaking up the atmosphere and trying to get our bearings. We also needed some lunch so, on my sister’s recommendation, chose a place in Discoveryland (which I think of as Tomorrowland) that did burgers. I chose a chicken burger with fries and an ice cream for dessert.

6XAfgOrwQBmwCfiQ2GNi9wThroughout the remainder of our day we managed to get on Pirates of the Caribbean (again, different to the Florida version), used our Fastpass for Big Thunder (which was brilliant!), watched the afternoon parade (Disney parades are the best!), bought souvenirs, took a million photos and found some more food before getting ourselves ready for the fireworks.

IMG_9316
Q+MVQaP4TZyw2hRl85Gj4A
%WhstCk1TiO59XRhIlfBWA
XWKD4agjSoqyMYyc6Srx1w
wmHAHB6SSk2d2%WYRYaSfw
nYnvCDFERV2j+MwAtA8qAg
Vpu+AD74RcSpCckXTejaYQ
rtgGMTuVTtquJIFWoQK6Qw
IMG_9383
tezcaVYPRDePIB5XmEJEKQ
UvfmsSsHTWeqSwdO7R4gNQThere was some rain in the area so the actual fireworks were removed from the evening show, but the projections onto the castle (similar to what I saw in Florida last year) were so good that I barely even noticed. It was all set to Disney music, some in the original version and some in French. Pretty sure the words to Let it Go were a bit different in French…

mVG5J5KPQlOlbOoNxd5o5Q
iKJ7PZ4FR2aABdIvSePLIw
KrcfqeOhREuFamriaLD2Pw
WWiUTEmTQNm9SagBcmOX6wWith that, our day came to a close and we headed back to the hotel to get our race things ready and try to get some sleep.

When our alarm went off it felt like the middle of the night…because it pretty much was! We got dressed and headed for breakfast which was laid on from 5am. We were actually given a wristband which meant we could go back for a second breakfast after the run, presumably because what we would eat before a run would be different to what we might prefer to have. We actually didn’t use this because of timings, but it was a great idea and we had been aware of loads of 10k runners coming in for breakfast while we ate the previous morning.

fullsizeoutput_27b1From there, it was final organisation in our room then over to the expo where the start corrals were and the bag drop. It also meant we could wait inside, where there were reasonable toilets, until we had to get into our corral.

I’ll write a more detailed race report to cover everything else, but the short version is I had THE BEST time! It was my slowest ever half marathon by far, but probably my favourite race experience EVER! I think it’s safe to say we’ll be doing this again in future. I’m already mulling over costume ideas…!

sqAvuFYPR6KyXHms0O3DNQPost-race we nipped back to our hotel for a quick freshen up and to drop some things off, then made a whistle-stop visit to the main Disneyland park so we could take some photos with our medals and buy a couple of last-minute souvenirs before leaving.

inkUzbuzR6603Xq8unAEiA
52I6N3BlS8mR5tWnFwX+2gThe hotels gave runners a 1pm checkout so we had a quick shower, packed and were ready for the shuttle to the airport at 1:15. Perfect!

c4%SrrxiRMWitc7Nx8%jCQ

A Beastly “stowaway” in my carry-on bag!

The journey home was much more straightforward and even with a stop for some food, we were home and organised in time to watch the finale of Bodyguard on tv. I even think these cheeky faces might have missed me!

p5WhqWM6T6KaOiIu0aigMwI really truly loved my weekend, I mean what’s not to like about a Run Disney event when you’re a runner who loves Disney? It was perfect! Look our for my race report (which will contain LOADS MORE photos!) to find out more about my experience.

b276uzRLS6q+9FFXqvgcaQWhat’s been your favourite race experience ever?
Have you/would you run a Disney race?

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

Race Report – The Stirling Scottish Marathon 2018

If you’ve been following along with my training since the beginning of the year you will probably know that I didn’t specify a time goal for this race. I was tired of constantly putting pressure on myself to achieve a time and then coming nowhere near it for a variety of reasons including injuries, weather and, for my last marathon, the stress of a very poorly cat and an emergency visit to the vet the day before. This time I wanted to enjoy the process (it is The Year Of Me after all) so my goal was simply to train as well as I could and then do my best on the day. That meant adapting to the circumstances and adjusting as I went rather than burning myself out chasing a time.

But I’m a runner. I had lots of data from my training so had an idea of where I might be and the last thing I wanted was to not do myself justice. And so I set myself “standards” rather than specific goals, benchmarks I could consider once I had a finish time rather than an extra pressure on the day. I wanted to have fun, to enjoy the race I had spent time training for rather than limp across the line ready to chuck my trainers in the bin.

  • With a PB of 4:05:07 from way back in 2014 (and I’m not getting any younger!), my “unicorns are smiling on me creating rainbows in the sky” 🦄 🌈 goal had to be a PB. And if the stars really aligned 🌟 a sub-4 has long been my ultimate goal. I didn’t honestly think this was realistic just yet.
  • Since setting that PB the absolute closest I’ve come is my time of 4:18:10 from my last race – the Loch Ness marathon in September. Everything else has been in the 4:30/4:40 region so my B goal 🏅 was to beat that time. This was the one I thought was most realistic and anticipated something between 4:10 and 4:15.
  • Finally, my “the wheels have totally come off and everything has gone to 💩” goal was to finish smiling. I was going to be running on a beautiful route and I do love marathons, so why would I want to make myself miserable? I knew I could finish, so just had to make sure that whatever happened I chose to enjoy it.

Within all of that I had one sub-goal: no walking other than to take my gels (it just works better for me to walk for a moment then carry on running). In the past I’ve lost the mental battle a bit and allowed myself to walk in the latter stages of the race, especially once I knew my time goals had gone. This time I wanted to eliminate that and run my best time, whatever that may be. I knew I needed to keep my pace under control at the start so I would have a bit of energy for later then dig deep in the latter miles to the finish. To help me with all this, I changed the settings on my watch so I could see my average pace and make sure I kept it steady at the start. My basic plan was to keep it steady to 20 then see how I felt (wiped out, obviously, but if there was anything left to push on then I was going to try and push on).
2017-09-29-cm-Stirling 2018

Screen Shot 2018-05-01 at 19.30.43The night before I got my kit organised. Since I was fundraising I had my charity vest and paired it with my favourite Under Armour running skirt that I usually save for marathons as well as a couple of special extras. I had ordered a pair of bespoke trainer tags from Lucy Locket Loves, one featuring my blog name and one with the name of my 2018 charity challenge Miles for Morven. I had also ordered a beautiful silk wrap from Run Bling by Nicky Lopez. I had asked her to engrave it with Miles for Morven and add some paw prints and I was so delighted with it. I wanted to keep my reason for running close by and have something to inspire me simply by glancing down at my wrist during the race.

KcAAk30YTEShARkyD8rauw
X9UxGR3zQzKYcV0yPWM5Mw
S1a70fuwSTK66ERWetx1MgRace day dawned and the weather was exactly as expected from my stalking of the forecast all week: dry and cool. Perfect. All my kit was ready so I got up, had my porridge, got dressed then had a second bowl of porridge just to make sure I was well fuelled. After a quick coffee we hit the road for the half hour drive to Stirling.

jeZ6wZPYSi+Ht3H1I3DK4QWe parked in the event car park (basically some empty land) with Stirling Castle in the background and walked from there to the start area. This was well set up with lots of toilets and the baggage buses. I actually got straight into a toilet (unheard of!) then reluctantly removed my layers, put my bag on the bus and, since there were now queues, waited to get into the toilet again.

We had to make our way a short distance from there to the actual start line where one of those god-awful mass warmups was underway. We were both in the red (front) wave and there were officials shouting at everyone to get into the pens, but sadly they didn’t actually tell us HOW (this is my one quibble with the setup). There was no obvious way to get in and lots of people waiting so we did what many others were doing and scaled the barriers! I’m not a fan of doing this since I’m terrified of hurting myself right before the race is due to start, but I took my time and as I turned to step into the start pen, I felt the steady hands of another runner help guide me safely there. Runners are nice like that.

By this time it suddenly dawned on me that we were getting underway. I hadn’t switched my Garmin on and still had my throwaway top on (it was cold and I knew these were being collected for charity) but I miraculously got it all sorted out just as the countdown began – no hanging around at this race!

Despite all that I didn’t feel stressed or worried (although I did miss out on a start line selfie). I was calm and ready to settle into my pace, soaking up the atmosphere through those first few miles when everyone is in high spirits and there are conversations going on around you.

I settled into a comfortable pace, holding back so I wouldn’t go too fast and use up all my energy. I was steady and enjoying the first few miles, legs feeling good. We passed by the entrance to Blair Drummond Safari Park at the 4 mile mark, where we were greeted by this fun cheer squad:

IMG_6530

Photo from Blair Drummond Safari Park on Facebook

The next landmark was Doune Castle which is generally known for being used as a film location in Monty Python and the Holy Grail as well as, more recently, Game of Thrones. I did catch a glimpse of the castle and it looked really pretty.

Through Doune the crowd support was brilliant and I was still feeling good. I remember laughing at a sign saying, “If you collapse I will pause your Garmin” before heading back out onto the country roads towards Dunblane. There was a bit of a climb in this section, then a glorious downhill stretch through Dunblane (where Andy Murray grew up). I had really wanted to see the gold postbox that marked “Our Andy’s” Olympic gold, but I missed it. Steve thought there were people standing around it hence why I didn’t see it even though I was looking.

20x30-SSMJ2693

I can’t remember where this was, but I really like the photo.

From Dunblane we followed the road towards Bridge of Allan and there was another nice downhill stretch before things levelled out. I was still averaging around 9:05 per mile and felt comfortable. The temperature was ideal, I was happy with my electrolyte drink and my gels (I actually didn’t use any of the on-course drinks or gels), there was a nice mix of sections with great crowd support and quiet sections where I could just enjoy the scenery and think my own thoughts (I had my Aftershokz headphones around my neck, but hadn’t yet bothered to listen to anything even as I went through halfway). It was simply a lovely Sunday morning run.

On the other side of Bridge of Allan is the University of Stirling where my sister studied for her degree. The route took us on a loop around the campus, starting with a bit of an uphill slog before a nice downhill run back out. That uphill felt tough, but as I left the campus and rejoined the road at around 16.5 miles I was doing ok and knew I would get my next gel at 20 miles so that was my target. It’s funny how these things become quite exciting during a marathon and I find myself strangely looking forward to the next gel, especially the double espresso one with caffeine I take at mile 15 – like having a mid-race coffee!

About a mile later, things felt a little harder but I was prepared for the mental battle this time. I had thought that I might put a podcast on when things felt tough, but instead I did something different. I had said that I was running this one for Morven and that when things felt hard I would remember my reason for running, the funds I had raised and the people who had supported me. My thoughts turned inevitably to Morven and I felt like I was drawing on her and the strength she had when battling illness in her last year. I know it’s hard for people who have never had a pet to understand, but Morven and I had a very strong bond so there was a lot of emotion tied up in this for me. As I ran, I developed a positive mantra which I kept repeating to myself in time with my foot strike and it helped to keep my cadence up. Before I knew it I was another mile in and gaining on a runner I knew from parkrun. I kept the mantra going until I took my gel at mile 20 then decided that I needed to get outside of my head for a bit. The weather had changed and it was raining so it was finally time to start my podcast to see me through the last 10k.

IMG_5348By this point, of course, I had no real clue where I was geographically. There was a sort of loop that we ran that took in some kind of bike path then we rejoined the main road and I remember a corner where there was lots of crowd support and I got a boost from a runner I know from a social media group giving me a shout. Since I had no on-course support with me, it was so nice at one or two points along the route to see people I knew and to get a shout from them to cheer me on.

From here, the road was on a slight incline. Ordinarily it wouldn’t have been too bad but at this stage in a marathon it felt quite tough. I spotted a race photographer so made sure to try and look like I was still running strong for the photos I would see later!

20x30-SSMH5842

Trying not to look like I’m dying (and probably doing a better job than the guy beside me!)

I always break the last 10k into “2 parkruns” with an extra gel in between. I opted to take my last gel at 23 miles then told myself I just had to keep moving forward through the last parkrun to the end. My average pace had been stubbornly drifting outside of my PB pace, but not too much so I was feeling confident that I could comfortably achieve my B goal by some margin.

At last the route brought me into Stirling and the final stretch to the finish. My legs were heavy and I felt like I was wading through treacle but I was still running. The hardest part was through the centre of Stirling (which reminded me very much of Inverness) as there were cobbles. People often express concern about the cobbles in Paris but I’ve never been bothered by those as they are actually pretty smooth and even. In contrast, the cobbles of Stirling were uneven and there were big ruts in some sections that made it difficult for weary legs, but I knew I had to be close to the finish as my watch had been fairly accurate to the course signage throughout and I was trusting that information.

Steve’s cousin had told us she would be at a cheer point for the Citizen’s Advice Bureau not far before the 26 mile mark and I spotted her leaping out to give me a big cheer as I turned a corner to be faced with what looked like a mountain. Yes, someone thought a 600m uphill finish would be the perfect grand finale to the route! I was willing my legs to move faster but I think the Central Governor had taken over long before and was refusing to let me go any quicker until an actual finish gantry was in sight. I could hear everyone around me react to seeing the hill and we were all exchanging a few words and groans about it. I had stopped my podcast when I got into Stirling as there was a lot of crowd noise and that meant I could soak up the atmosphere in the final sections of the race.

As I got closer to the finish I began to spot some familiar faces from Perth in the crowds and got a few shouts then, praise be! The finish gantry! The Central Governor relinquished control and my legs began to move again. As I ran into the finishing straight the opening bars of the YMCA began to play over the loudspeaker and hilariously both the girl ahead and I saw fit to join in with the actions as we ran along. I could hear a roar from the crowd each time we flung our arms up into the ‘Y’ and I just loved that atmosphere as I ran to the finish.

20x30-SSMC3090Crossing the line I had the usual wave of emotions, but managed to keep it together as I exchanged a few words with the girl who had been ahead of me as I had been using her as a kind of pacer for the last part of the race. I was grinning ear to ear from a great race and keen to get my official time as I knew it would be a few seconds faster than my watch.

I was handed my goody bag which contained my T-shirt, medal and assorted other bits and pieces, including a packet of spaghetti!?!

KMc6yjxlS9mV00k%yfyrFQ
jR1NmIv%R5+J7jGWZKh59gSteve was waiting at the end of the finish funnel and he had already collected my bag from the bus so I didn’t have to shuffle across the field to get it. The sun was shining so I fished my disposable poncho from my bag and spread it on the ground so I could sit down, have my recovery drink and gather my thoughts. I even managed to get up again all by myself (thank you yoga!) to get a couple of photos.

IOkyOUlBR4WkiB+zNkOm8w
YDBkbIBmRMW9SVArj30AGAAnd that official time? In case you’ve somehow missed my shrieking about it in my last Week in Review or all over social media, it was 4:05:40. A mere 33 seconds outside of my PB, making it officially my 2nd fastest marathon ever, and well inside that B goal I had set myself. I’d say that’s a good morning’s work. One or two people have asked if I’m disappointed not to get a PB and my honest answer is no. This race was never about a PB, it was about a process. It was about seeing how I would run when I listened to my body and removed the pressure of time. To run that time whilst still enjoying the race and never feeling like I was really struggling or that I couldn’t do it is testament to the training I have done and the approach I took. I also met my sub-goal of no walking other than to take my gels whereas in the past I would have taken walk breaks as soon as I realised the chance of meeting my A goal was gone. When I reflect, I truly believe that in many ways this is my best performance ever even if it isn’t my fastest result. It doesn’t always have to be about the time on the clock, but it should be about the time you have.

fullsizeoutput_252cOverall I really loved this race. I used to only want to run big city marathons but this was a wonderful experience for me and I would happily sign up to this race again in the future. It’s well-organised, has a fantastic route, great support and, crucially, is close to home. I do love the opportunity to travel for a race, but nothing beats home comforts when you’re preparing to run 26.2 miles.

Stirling marathon: you were great.

IMG_6499
JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

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