Week In Review – The Corona Chronicles Part 54

Holidays at last! Obviously options are pretty limited right now in terms of fun things to do, but I was just looking forward to a couple of weeks without work, especially knowing that next term is going to be pretty full-on. I also wanted to enjoy running just a little later and having the space to stretch the distance a teeny bit. Here’s how it went:

Monday – 4 miles + Hatha yoga via Zoom
Tuesday – 5 miles + living room workout + home yoga
Wednesday – 6.3 miles + home yoga
Thursday – 5 miles + home yoga
Friday – 4 miles + home yoga
Saturday – 6.3 miles
Sunday – 10 miles

Having realised over the weekend that I was actually super tired (that tends to happen in teaching – we keep on going and going and going then as soon as we stop for the holidays it all catches up on us) I promised myself a really easy day to begin the holidays. That meant no alarm and taking my time in the morning to read in bed with no rush to get out on my run.

This was doubly useful as I still had “lunch time run” to cross off on my bingo card so this was the perfect day for that one. As it turns out, I don’t think lunchtime running suits me. Perhaps I could adapt to that in the same way that I adapted to running before work, but I definitely noticed as I set off that I was hungry and in need of my lunch (I had eaten a light breakfast earlier) and wasn’t sure how I would feel as I ran, but it did improve as I went along.

I made sure to eat something as soon as I got in as I wanted to get showered and changed before lunch, then the rest of the day continued to be an easy one. I caught up on some tv and vlogs and finished up my book. I really enjoyed this one, which I’ve been meaning to read ever since I read Michelle Obama’s a while back.

I also headed out for a short walk in the early evening to get a little more air and movement before my yoga class. By the time I was heading to bed I was feeling pretty good so this easy day was definitely what I needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Tuesday I did have an alarm to wake up to (not as early as a work day, but I don’t want to fall into bad habits over the holidays) and discovered I had over 80 messages in WhatsApp. Whaaaaaaat? It turned out to be the group chat with my sister and her friends who are Disney fans. One of them had spotted an ad for special screenings of The Muppet Christmas Carol with a live orchestra this coming December and they were organising tickets. Thankfully I didn’t miss out by being asleep (quite late the night before) as they had gone ahead and got a ticket for me on the basis that if I didn’t want to go they would easily find someone else who wanted it. I’m hoping that by December events like this are possible again, but for now it just feels nice to have something a little different in my diary to look forward to – a little treat after all the craziness of the past year – and this is one of my favourite Christmas movies. I suspect I will be singing along!

All this meant I was already in a good mood before I even got up and that good mood continued into my run as this time I was crossing off “listen to music”. I couldn’t tell you the last time I listened to music on a run (other than music being played at a race) as I prefer to listen to podcasts these days, but I had decided to download a Disney playlist to my phone and it led to a really fantastic run which I wrote about in a bit more detail here.

Once home it was another reasonably easy day: I took care of a bit of life admin and some quick things I wanted to sort out (one being that I added some additional tracks to my Disney playlist since I hadn’t updated it in a while) then spent some time with Smokey sleeping on my lap while I worked on that blog post.

Steve was also having an easy day as he had his first dose of the Covid vaccine the day before so had set the time aside in case he experienced any side effects. As it turned out, other than a sore arm he just felt a bit tired so he went out for a walk in the afternoon. When he returned he took me through a workout using the resistance band and some press up variations (my arms were dead afterwards!) then I did my yoga session before dinner. We’ve had a few tv shows on the go so having already watched the latest Line of Duty on Monday, we opted for the last episode of the current series of Unforgotten followed by an episode of Keeping Faith.

I actually felt quite tired again in the evening, so we both headed to bed fairly sharp and while Steve fell asleep really quickly, I read my book for a bit.

I felt much more refreshed on Wednesday morning, despite some time awake in the night (thanks Sooty – another middle of the night hairball 🙄). Again, I began my day with some reading in bed as I was close to finishing my book, then got ready for my run. The final challenge to cross off on my bingo card was “draw a Strava picture”. Uh oh! DEFINITELY not one I would find easy! I had left this one until I was on holiday so I would have the headspace to think about how to do it. Steve had been keen for me to “freestyle” it by going to some park space and having a go at drawing something, but it seemed to me that the logistics of something like that would be tricky as I felt like I would need markers to make sure I was going to the right spots to create different parts of the picture. Instead, I wanted to use streets so I would have a bit more control. I spent AGES staring at different parts of the map of town and squinting my eyes a bit to see if I could make some kind of shape jump out at me, but to no avail. In the end, I decided I could probably manage some letters so found a place I could trace out TG (for Tough Girl, the source of the challenge). I used the markup function on my phone to work out how to draw out the letters without any funny extra lines, then decided to record it as a separate workout so it would be really clear.

As a result, my run was in 3 parts – a run to the spot where I would trace out the letters, the letters themselves, then a further run to loop home again. I did some basic sums while I was out and realised I was at around 3.25 miles after I finished drawing my picture, so figured I’d record a further 3 miles as I wanted around 6 miles for the day. Typically, it also rained more heavily than it has on any run for a while so I got a bit of a soaking, but I still had fun. Drawing out the letters required a lot of checking of my saved map to make sure I went to the right places, so hats off to anyone who has managed a more complicated design. Nonetheless, bingo card completed!

I spent some time during the day working on blog posts and finished up another book. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one and for a while in the middle I felt like it slowed a bit, but it really picked up towards the end so I’d say it’s worth persevering.

I also got wind from my sister that it was National Wear Your Ears day (I remember this from last year). Always happy to oblige!

A slightly random moment came in the early evening. I was pulling together a batch of chilli for the slow cooker when Steve said there was a post in our area’s Facebook group that the mascot for the football team was going to walk around here (one of our neighbours is, to put it in Disney parlance, a friend of his) and we couldn’t resist joining everyone else outside our front door to grab a couple of pictures. Just the sort of weird moment that really makes a difference in your day. I headed upstairs after that to do a little yoga before dinner.

We rounded out our day by finishing up the most recent series of Keeping Faith. Time to choose a new box set again! And our viewing was accompanied by Steve’s latest bake: coffee cake.

Thursday was April 1st so not only did I get to start my day with some reading in bed, I also had the fun of looking out for all the April Fool jokes from various companies and news sources. My favourite running-related one came from parkrun and the “floral poi” shade for a future milestone T-shirt. I’ll admit there’s a teeny bit of me that’s disappointed this isn’t true since I love the colour!

The run itself was good. There’s nothing quite like the freedom (and extra rest!) of being on holiday to make for an enjoyable run – no pressure to get out the door, nothing specific to be back for. I really enjoy going just a little further than I would have time for before work so this was a very pleasant 5 miles. I actually arrived home right as the courier was delivering my Shop Disney order. Since they now take a photo of the parcel being delivered rather than you signing for it, I got a fun post-run delivery photo to add to my collection of random feet and legs at the front door 😂

As ever, the kitties were pleased since my delivery meant a new box for them to play with (I think they really like the Disney ones because they are a good size; I like them because they’re a bit more “decorative” to have lying around the house!).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next on the agenda was a quick project. I once again had the last of the wax in a couple of candles with burnt out wicks and an empty jar, so I wanted to melt that wax down and pour it into the empty jar to start creating my own mix ‘n’ match layered candle.

I kept things pretty chilled after that – some work on a blog post, reading and a late afternoon walk with Steve before my yoga session. For our evening entertainment we picked Grace. This is a new series where each episode is standalone and it looks like one will be released every so often. It’s another one based on a book and was pretty good.

Steve had quite a lot on on the Friday morning so I enjoyed reading my book in bed then got ready for a run. The sun was shining but the temperature had dropped overnight so it felt pretty chilly at first (it did warm up later on). I kept to a fairly easy pace and just enjoyed the time out and about.

The mail was a little later on Friday (it was Good Friday) but brought with it two things for me. First up, the last of my princess-themed medals so I now have the set:

And, much less fun, my latest antibody test for the Public Health Scotland Antibody Survey. Steve was out again for a bit, but once he was home we just took care of the test right away then headed out for a walk together to put it back in the post. There was then time for a little yoga before dinner.

For our Friday night movie we continued with our new (but fairly short) project. 

I have seen the original 3 movies a number of times before but didn’t fully remember what happened in this one. It was fun to be reminded of some of the key moments.

My Saturday run brought with it a bit of excitement as I had a little event to take part in. Last year I was invited to join in with the Easter World Run, a free event organised on Facebook, and recently got a message letting me know that the event was happening again so I could sign up. The idea is really simple: you “register” by messaging the organiser with your name, where in the world you are and your timezone. On the designated day (the Saturday of Easter weekend) you run at 9am for an hour then share your proof (a screenshot from e.g. Strava) on the group page to show that you ran. The idea is that with everyone running at 9am, the run should move like a kind of relay around the world, without anyone ever having to meet or hand over any sort of baton. Like with the recent virtual semi marathon de Paris en duo, it brought a fun new element to my run, even though I still ran my usual Saturday route. For the purposes of the event I recorded it as one run this week (rather than my usual warm up, (not)parkrun, cool down) but still wanted to record a (not)parkrun time so I just noted the time I had at 5.1 miles then took off the first 2 mile splits since I usually run a 2 mile warm up. I was running at a steady pace for the whole thing, rather than the variety I usually have on a Saturday, so that was close enough.

I love this tree – it gets decorated at Christmas too and must be some kind of community thing.

I pretty much chilled out the rest of the day – tv, Disney quiz on Youtube and I started series 3 of The Crown (the one where the cast changes which felt so weird after getting used to the original cast) – all accompanied by my faithful (sleepy) boy.

I also enjoyed a relaxing bath and some time reading.

The book I was reading was really interesting. My dad lent me it and I wasn’t sure what I would think but it was very well written and I’m now keen to read others by this writer (pretty sure I bought dad one of them for either Christmas or his birthday). I had made my way through it quite quickly and finished it up on Sunday morning before heading out for my run.

It was a super windy morning but I wanted another run out to the woodland park, this time as part of a 10 mile loop which includes a fairly steep hill. I ran this loop a few weeks back and feel like it might happen more often in the weeks ahead now the weather is better).

Again, the rest of the day was relaxing with tv, reading and a bath before bed. A lovely way to end the first week of the holidays and I was definitely feeling a bit fresher by this point.

Have you ever tried to create some Strava art?
What was the best April Fool you spotted?

Tunes on Tuesday – The Disney Edit

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

Well hey there! It’s been a while since I’ve shared a Tunes on Tuesday post since these days I tend to focus on podcasts rather than music as my listening material of choice when I run, but after an experience this morning I felt inspired to write a little something.

My Disney playlist

Throughout the month of March 2021 I have been taking part in a Daily Mile challenge. No big deal there since I have been running every day for just over a year now, but alongside the challenge I have been ticking off mini challenges on a bingo card each day. Today, it was listen to music.

Sounds simple, right? But for me this posed more of a challenge than I expected.

Since I no longer listen to music when I’m running, I don’t actually keep any music on my phone so I was going to have to download something. I had plenty of space on my phone so there was no issue there, but what would I actually download? I still have a running playlist but it’s super long so I would probably have to be a bit selective. Yet when I started to think about it I didn’t feel a huge draw to this option as I remembered having tired of some of the songs in there after listening to them one time too many. This was when inspiration struck: I have a Disney playlist.

For the last year since Covid began to impact our lives, Disney has been my go-to, my happy place. I’ve watched Disney movies, shared my ear collection on instagram, listened to podcasts, watched vlogs and just generally immersed myself in the House of Mouse. What better thing to do on my run than listen to some uplifting Disney tunes?

Decision made, I had a quick scan over the tracks in my playlist to make sure they were all songs I wanted to listen to, then hit download. I gave the whole thing no further thought until this morning when I was getting ready to run.

Maybe it was because I’m on holiday this week so feeling rested. Maybe it was because the sun was shining and the temperature had crept up to T-shirt weather. Whatever it was, rather than just grab whatever kit I spotted in the drawer, I realised that I should match my kit to my music to create a theme. Cue my 2018 Disneyland Paris half marathon top paired with my favourite Minnie-inspired shorts:

With everything in place, I hit shuffle on my playlist and headed off. I expected to have a nice run in the sunshine listening to some of my favourite Disney tunes, but what I got was something more.

So caught up was I in listening to the songs, I hadn’t considered the way that Disney knows how to manipulate our emotions. This is true of the movies, the music and the theme parks. Added to that, I have a lot of memories tied to Disney, including running memories, which are sure to come to the surface when I’m running and listening to Disney music. As a result, I experienced a range of emotions during this run.

At first, I felt really happy. I was out in the sunshine, feeling fresh and mouthing along with the lyrics (at least I hope I was only mouthing the lyrics and not singing out loud ha!). The fates delivered me Hakuna Matata first and that’s such a cheery song.

In the second mile I had the steepest hill of my planned route and my phone decided this was the perfect moment for Let It Go. Actually every moment is the perfect moment for Let It Go, but it certainly does put a spring in your step to run up a hill. Yet as I tuned into those lyrics, I did feel a moment of high emotion, the kind where I might just cry but then am fine again right away. THAT is the emotional effect of Disney for me.

During my third mile it was Hercules who got me. Go the Distance is a classic for any Disney-themed running playlist as the lyrics are perfect inspiration:

I’ll be there someday, I can go the distance
I will find my way if I can be strong
I know every mile would be worth my while
When I go the distance, I’ll be right where I belong

Yup, I CAN go the distance. It reminded me of the mindset for long training runs for marathons past and digging in to reach the finish line of tough races. Not necessarily Disney-related this time, but it still connected me to strong emotional moments.

And that was how things continued. As my phone shuffled through the tracks in my playlist I felt happy, I felt sad, I felt nostalgic. I remembered Disney trips of the past. I remembered the emotions of running in Disneyland Paris. I remembered the emotions of visiting Disneyland Paris last summer when Covid cases were sufficiently under control not just to allow travel, but to persuade someone as risk-averse as me that it would be ok to be away from home for a couple of nights. I remembered my 2020 experiences of creating my own homemade magic in May and September. So many memories and so many emotions.

By the time I arrived home I had run 5 miles, listened to almost an hour of Disney music and was riding a high of endorphins that had me thinking about the impact that playlist had on my emotions – so much so that I did a bit of internet searching to see if I could find out more about what it is that causes it. I’m sure far more knowledgeable people than me can explain it better, but I’ve got my own theories:

  • Disney is all about fantasy, a place where young and old can be distracted from the realities of the real world for a while. We need this more than ever right now.
  • Our experience of Disney is often rooted in childhood and nostalgia. The films don’t shy away from heart-rending moments (Bambi’s mum, Mufasa) and we accompany characters through the best and worst of times. That creates those extremes of emotion that keep us coming back.
  • The films are anchored by their music and that music tends to stand the test of time e.g. the music of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves is over 80 years old but I bet you’re singing Heigh Ho now that I’ve mentioned it!
  • There’s some kind of “secret sauce” in the way the music is composed. It’s what creates the perfect blend of lyrics, key changes and soaring crescendoes. This, too, gets tied to our emotions and hearing a song again will trigger a similar reaction to when we have heard it before.

All of this to say, it was a run that felt different to any I’ve had for a while. It was nostalgic, it made me smile and it led to a welling up of emotions… I loved it! Safe to say that as far as I’m concerned Running + Disney = Perfect!!

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

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

Friday Finds – 8th 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.

As if the world wasn’t confusing enough right now, today (Friday) in the UK is the early May bank holiday which is usually on a Monday but was moved this year as part of the plans to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Right now, I was supposed to be in Disneyland Paris getting ready for the inaugural Princess Run weekend and instead I’m at home finding ways to amuse myself. All for good reasons, but I’m still feeling a bit odd today so keeping up with my Friday post will hopefully add a sense of normality.

As has become my habit in these strange times, I’ll start with a few topical pieces, starting with the issue of face masks which is cropping up everywhere right now as different parts of the world are giving different pieces of advice on this one. Please make sure you abide by any rules wherever you are.

First, a piece in The Guardian:

And one from last month in Outside:

Also in Outside, Martin Fritz Huber examines the state of play with marathons this year:

And in Runner’s World an interesting insight into how Garmin users in the UK are adapting their training and workouts as the lockdown continues:

Delving into the articles I saved but didn’t get a chance to share, perhaps you missed this Strava survey into any we run. I suspect many have found their reasons shifting as the world has changed around us and I would be curious to know what some of the answers might be now.

This piece was written at the start of the year, but for me it has greater resonance right now as I am running more, so perhaps worth returning to as a reminder that running more can ultimately help performance (when structured the right way). Are you running more or less at the moment?

And finally, Cosmopolitan wouldn’t usually be a source I would expect to include in a post about running, but I came across this a while back and was intrigued: a running song created scientifically to help boost performance. Personally I no longer listen to music when I run, preferring podcasts or my own thoughts, but I’d be interested to know what those who like to have music think of this one.

Stay safe. Be kind. Wash your hands.
The Running Princess

 

Week In Review – Fun, Sun and Holidays Done!

The second week of my spring break gave me a chance to get a bit more consistent training in as part of my inverse taper, as well have a bit more fun to set me up for the long term ahead. My training ended up as follows:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – 4 miles
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – 10k + Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun sandwich
Sunday 17 miles

It was great to be off on Marathon Monday as it meant I was able to watch online coverage of the Boston marathon in the afternoon. If you haven’t caught it already, I suggest taking a look at the finish of the men’s race – so exciting! The timing worked out perfectly as not long after the elite races finished it was time for me to head out to my yoga class. It’s a term time class, but the new school term already started in the area where I live (they came off on holiday a week ahead of the school where I work, in a neighbouring area). I already felt pretty relaxed, but it was still good to get back on the mat and start a new block of classes.

Before heading out to the class my sister had sent me a message telling me about the fire at Notre Dame in Paris (I hadn’t seen any news since I had marathon coverage on) and when I arrived home I was shocked to see the extent of the fire and the impact on the cathedral’s infrastructure. Regular readers know that Paris is my favourite city and a very special place for me, so anything that affects Paris tends to touch my heart. I ended up watching rolling coverage of the terrible blaze for the rest of the evening as there seemed to be some doubts about whether or not the fire could be contained and the building saved, so as soon as they announced that it was under control I breathed a sigh of relief and headed off to bed.

With Paris still on my mind, I pulled one of my Paris marathon tops out of the wardrobe to wear for my run on Tuesday morning. It was a very pleasant 4 mile run on a staple route, but what really struck me was how good my legs felt after my 16 mile run on Sunday. I had commented to Steve that my legs had felt fine afterwards and through the Monday, so a run was a real test of how well they had recovered. I’ve no idea why this is – maybe the additional running that is now part of my average week has conditioned them a bit better – but even with the time I had off, my legs are recovering well from my longer runs. Whatever it is, I hope it lasts!

On Tuesday evening I went to the concert hall with my parents and sister as she had got us tickets for the production of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw which was on. I know it’s a book I’ve read, however there is a degree of ambiguity around some of the action (and it’s kinda creepy in places – I believe it was an inspiration for The Woman in Black) and I couldn’t remember it very well as it’s been so long since I read it. It was a good production, but it does irritate me when the ending is a little too open to interpretation.

I took Wednesday as a rest day and spent the morning relaxing at home. I think I might even have watched a film! In the afternoon Steve and I headed into town since we had another code for a free coffee in Caffè Nero and I had a few errands to run. The sun was out so I walked into town and Steve joined me a little later for coffee. It’s nice to do things like that when I’m on holiday.

Thursday morning was a bit cooler again, perfect for a run. I decided on another 10k since I had the luxury of time. Nothing special, just a fairly standard run and more time on my feet to keep things consistent. That’s the most important thing right now.

I popped out again in the afternoon as I had a couple of errands that needed me to have the car (bags of cat litter are a bit hefty to carry home!) and I came back to find the kittens like this:

I then had my Ashtanga class in the early evening. Despite having all the time in the world, I was nearly late thanks to some heavy traffic but I made it in time to get set up right before class started. Yet again, I felt I was strong in Wheel but it wasn’t a good Headstand week for me (it happens!) and I only held it for a couple of breaths before I felt I was losing my balance. No big deal, I know I can keep improving it with consistent practice.

Friday was my most exciting day of the week. It began in a fairly nondescript fashion with a workout down at Steve’s studio. We’re mainly working on arms and core right now so he has been giving me lots of exercises using the TRX, hand weights and my own body weight. He varies things each week so I never know quite what I’m going to get.

After that I had a bit of time to myself, then around 3:30pm we were in the car and en route to Glasgow to see TAKE THAT!!! We got the tickets back in about September so I had been really looking forward to another opportunity to see my favourite band.

We learned the hard way that parking out at the SSE Hydro is not a good idea as it takes ages to get out of there afterwards, so now we park closer to town and walk in – it probably doesn’t take any longer than sitting in the queue to leave the venue car park and at least we are moving. This time we had a booking for a meal in town so parked in one of the city centre car parks. I hadn’t been to the restaurant we were booked at before, but the menu looked ideal for what we wanted that night and we had found a deal to save a little off the bill.

Loads of really American-style dishes on the menu – mainly burgers and ribs and things like that – so I opted for a classic burger and it was really delicious.

Appetites satisfied, we walked along the River Clyde out towards the Hydro as I was keen to get there in time for the support act: blast from the past Ricky Astley (yes, I am old enough to remember him from back in the day!). It’s only about a half hour walk (if that) and on arrival I headed straight for the merchandise stand to get my tour T-shirt and programme before finding our seats in the auditorium.

Rick Astley is, of course, best known for the song which gave rise to this meme:

And of course he saved it for last, at which point everyone in the place leapt to their feet to sing and dance along. It was brilliant!

Take That were, as ever, amazing. Their shows are always so theatrical and this was no exception.

They even had ACTUAL LULU for Relight My Fire!

I loved it!

Post-show we joined the throngs walking back into town, headed to the car and drove home. A late night but totally worth it. It was only when I woke up the following morning that I realised that’s 2 years in a row I’ve seen Gary Barlow on the exact same date: last year to was his solo tour which visited Perth and this year as part of Take That. I’m perfectly happy to set aside the same date next year for another evening with Captain Barlow 😂

Needless to say, I was not feeling at my freshest on Saturday morning but I knew a run would soon wake me up. I opted for another parkrun sandwich and was delighted to find that the forecast of good weather for the Easter weekend was true – I even got my shorts out for the first time this year! To put that in context, on Tuesday evening it was pretty cold as we were returning to the car after the play and on my Thursday run I wore leggings and a lightweight long-sleeved top to beat the chill, so this warm weather was a big increase in temperature for us.

Despite my tired body and the warmer conditions, I actually ran fairly well and ended up less than 20 seconds slower than last week. I expected to be much slower than that! As an added bonus, one of the local churches has a running group which is at parkrun most weeks and it being Easter, they had a little post-run treat for all the runners.

I was a little concerned about it melting on the way home, but also couldn’t face eating chocolate and then running a couple of miles, so stuck it in my Spibelt (I looked like I had a hernia haha!) and hoped for the best. I can confirm that when I ate it later in the afternoon it was perfectly fine, having been out in the fridge as soon as I got home.

After our usual Saturday routine of breakfast with Steve’s brother and getting the food shopping, I decided the weather was too good to waste sitting inside (who knows when we’ll get this again – it is Scotland after all!) so slapped the sun cream on and spent the afternoon reading and dozing in the garden. It was lovely.

I also looked at the parkrun photos from the morning and discovered I had been upstaged by a gorilla. Not something you see every day!

Photo: Roy Mitchell for Perth parkrun Facebook page

Sunday was my last chance for an “inverse taper” run before the marathon next weekend and I had originally planned to run 18 miles, however the weather was still warm and this led to me making a mistake. I really should have set my alarm a bit earlier to be out quite sharp while it was still cool, but I’m just not in the habit of that right now and I ended up going out a bit too late. I also had this kit difficulty to contend with:

The temperature wasn’t too bad when I set off, but by the time I was coming to the later miles it was getting pretty warm and that was making the run harder than it needed to be. Conscious of the need for good recovery, I cut it short by a mile. Hopefully next Sunday is a bit cooler!

And after 17 miles, the rest of the day was pretty much devoted to eating all the food! We did go out to claim our free coffee from Fitness Rewards, but with the sun still shining it seemed like the perfect week for the first Frappuccino of the summer. Delicious!

The week ahead will mean a return to work, but I will have to be very conscious of getting plenty of rest to make sure I’m ready to run on Sunday. I fully expect it to be hard work and reckon I’ll be doing well if my time is in the 4:30s (I won’t be troubling my 4:05 of last year any time soon!!) but that’s ok, as sometimes it’s about completing rather than competing. This is one of those times.

How have you made the most of the weather this week?
What was the last concert you went to?

Friday Finds – 16th November

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.

Another week done! I do hope it’s been a good one for you. Here in the UK it’s the annual fundraising behemoth that is Children in Need so perhaps you have been involved in some fundraising or are looking forward to a night of entertainment on tv. Whatever you’re planning, here are a few bits and pieces to read to kick things off.

I was really inserted in this first piece which I came across in Outside. For me, it stands to reason that women’s bodies will respond differently to men’s and will therefore need to be approached differently, yet largely any sports research to date has been conducted on men. I’m pleased, then, to read that this situation is beginning to change and curious to know what impact that will ultimately have on performance.

If you are struggling with your running in any way right now, then this next piece is for you. I’ve certainly had my fair share of setbacks before so can relate to much of what is in here, and sometimes it’s good just to have a reminder that this too shall pass. Perhaps you’ll find something helpful here.

Next, an interesting piece about leaving the headphones behind when we run. When I first read the headline I thought it was going to be a piece reminding us of the dangers of becoming distracted by music and not giving our full attention to traffic and other potential hazards around us, however that was not the case. This piece is about how overloaded our brains are by content and suggests that running without headphones gives us a chance to disconnect for a while. I can totally understand that and do occasionally run without headphones, however I enjoy taking advantage of that time to listen to podcasts and take that as some time for myself. I’d love to know your thoughts on this one.

As a counterpoint to that, this fun piece from Runner’s World. I’ll certainly admit to being a fan of show tunes and have included some in previous workout playlists, so this definitely got my attention. There’s something quite appealing about having a blast of Broadway while I’m running or working out, however there is also a VERY high chance that I would want to sing along, which in a hard workout might not go so well 😂 Would running to show tunes appeal to you?

And finally, if the idea of a beer mile is something you find intriguing, but you’re less attracted by the high possibility of “pavement pizza”, then perhaps this new video game is for you. The game seems to involve controlling a runner as they make their way through a beer run experience (with threat of throwing up very real!). What will they think of next?!?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Week In Review – Music and Remembrance

Another week, another week in review! Things are just ticking along for me training-wise right now and we’re coming into that time of year when there are all sorts of other things going on that take up time, so I’m not putting any pressure on myself when it comes to my training, I just want to aim for consistency. Here’s what I did last week:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – 4 miles
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – 4 miles + Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 10k

My week got off to a good start with a Monday which did not have a staff meeting at the end of it. I couldn’t believe the difference that made to how much less tired I felt at the end of the day, but it created a little more space to get organised before yoga. I was really pleased to get some post which included a fun new T-shirt and the medal from a virtual race I had been taking part in during August, September and October to cover 140 miles (mostly done in September and October as my August mileage was low).

Yoga was nice and relaxing. I’m enjoying the new space our class is in (within the same building) but it was unusual to be moving into yoga postures to a soundtrack of fireworks since it was bonfire night and we weren’t too far from an organised display!

I was up early on Tuesday to get out for my run. My intention is to treat this one as a recovery run, that way when my Sunday long run mileage is much higher during marathon training, my body will be used to an easier effort on a Tuesday. Right now, this means a 4 mile loop at a reasonably easy pace to build some base miles and a little bit of endurance.

The rest of Tuesday was pretty busy. It began with me observing a PE lesson out on the school playing fields so I went in wearing my kit and had a change of clothes in a bag for afterwards. Right before leaving the house I glanced in the bag to see that the kittens were sending me to work with one of their toys which they had added to the bag 😹

Wednesday, however, was very different. I had a parents’ evening after work which made for a very long day. It was always going to be a rest day from any training, and a good thing too since I was pretty tired by the time I got home and had very little time for myself.

Despite this, I still got up on Thursday morning and headed out for my run. I decided to repeat my loop from Tuesday and see how it compared. Interestingly, with no particular change in my effort level I was actually a little quicker. Perhaps the difference of longer recovery time since my Sunday long run.

That evening I was at my Ashtanga yoga class and my usual teacher was back. I found that I felt really strong and when we got to the backbends (when I usually do one bridge, one wheel and one final bridge) I started with a bridge then held two strong wheel postures. Any time I’ve tried that before, the second one wasn’t great so that’s a pleasing indication of developing strength. I was also really pleased with my headstand after not having the chance to practise it last time. This week I flipped up into the headstand reasonably easily and held for 10 long breaths – the longest I’ve managed so far. At the end of the class I felt fantastic.

Steve was able to fit me in for a training session after work on Friday so I was back at the studio again. This week he had me working through a circuit of exercises (mainly using the TRX but with one using the Core Momentum Trainer) with 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off for 3 rounds. It was actually quite hard work! Hopefully this will continue to help me build strength and improve my running.

The weekend itself was a packed one. I started on Saturday morning with parkrun. It was quite a nice morning and I was curious to see where my fitness was as my morning runs have been at an easier pace. Although I slowed very slightly with each mile, I was pleased with my finish time of 24:18 as that’s the fastest I’ve run since mid-September. We’re heading into the time of year when a hard effort doesn’t always result in a fast time due to the weather/course conditions so it was good to get a decent time in just now as testament to my recent training.

We did go for our usual post-run coffee/bacon croissant with Steve’s brother and squeezed in a food shop before I was due at the concert hall for my orchestra rehearsal.

After 3 hours of rehearsing Steve picked me up to get home for food and a change of clothes before returning for my concert. Some of our music this time presented some challenge, but with the full forces of the orchestra in place, I thought we sounded fantastic. I was pretty tired afterwards though!

On Sunday I headed out for my run a little earlier than usual (for a Sunday) as Steve and I had some plans for later. I’ve been building mileage over the last 3 weeks so decided to mimic the pattern I follow during marathon training and cut back this week to 10k. It wasn’t the nicest of mornings weather-wise, but I enjoyed the run.

Once showered and changed, we drove down to St Andrews to be part of the Pages of the Sea event to mark the centenary of the armistice. At selected beaches around the UK, film-maker Danny Boyle was encouraging communities to come together to say goodbye to various individuals who left these shores during the First World War. In St Andrews, this was Elsie Inglis, a pioneering surgeon and suffragette. The image of each individual was created in the sand while the tide was out, then gradually washed away as the tide came back in to say a final goodbye. There’s some great time-lapse footage of the image of Wilfred Owen being created on the beach in Folkestone on the BBC website.

Photo Credit: National Theatre of Scotland Facebook page

As well as the main image, there were stencils available so individuals could create the image of a soldier to add to a kind of “army in the sand” which would also be washed away with the tide. These could be dedicated to someone from your own family that you wanted to honour. Mine was for my great great uncle who died of cellulitis from the wound sustained after being shot at the Somme in 1916. His memorial is in Rouen.

It was quite chilly and about to rain so we headed off to warm up with a coffee and cake before returning to the beach to see the images being washed away.

When we got back, the volunteers who had been leading the event were gathered by the remainder of the stencilled soldiers and reading aloud the poem specially commissioned for the occasion. It was written by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, whose work I have been studying with my seniors this year, and I have been stressing to them how incredible it is to be studying the work of a living poet who is recording the same world they are experiencing. I really like this poem and loved the fact that copies were available at this event, all printed on the back of an image of someone being commemorated. The whole thing was a remarkable and unique tribute and I’m so glad we made the effort to go.

Arriving home, it was finally time to relax in front of the TV and get some kitten snuggles.Phew!

What have you had a breakthrough with recently?
Did you go to any events marking Remembrance Day?

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

Tunes on Tuesday – The Greatest

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

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

The Greatest – Sia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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! 🙄

Tuesday 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.

It 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!

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


Of 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.

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.

I 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.

In 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?

Friday Finds – 16th March

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.

Ah, Friday! What a time it’s taken to come around this week! Things are still pretty busy for me at work, but I hope you’ve had an awesome week and are ready for some Friday Finds to kick off your weekend…

This week I’m going to start with a bit of inspiration in the form of Ida Keeling. Miss Ida (as she’s known) is 102 years old and, having only started exercising at age 67, now holds a world record in the 100m for her age group. Life has thrown a great deal at her, and her resilience and positivity is astonishing. I LOVE her advice to younger runners “Stay strong, love yourself, and do what you need to do, not what you want to do” and hope that if I live to 102 I can be as inspirational as her. Best start drinking cognac 😉

Let’s follow that with a bit of Strava-related humour. I’ll confess to having found myself diverted by my times over certain “segments” before (there’s one in particular near my parents’ place in Florida that I once had the top spot for but have since lost it and only have one two-week window per year to try and contest it again!) but it seems that getting even more carried away with the quest to claim the crown is possible. Here’s what happened when one Outside columnist set out to do just that:

Now a different topic: the always controversial “running with music”. Personally, I like to use my running time to listen to podcasts but am equally happy without my headphones (unless I’m pretty deep into a reeeeally long run and then I want something else to focus on!). I actually ran the first 10 miles or so of my last marathon sans headphones and wouldn’t use them on a trail run, but I know plenty of runners who always prefer to run without music/podcasts and focus instead on their own thoughts and the sounds of nature. Here’s one runner explaining why:

Like the writer of the above piece, I would DEFINITELY want my headphones if I was running on a treadmill (something I try to avoid!) but I think perhaps I would ditch them if the treadmill was like the one created by Nike to promote their latest running shoes. Located in a pop-up shop in Chicago, it looks like great fun and waaaaay more exciting than the treadmill at the gym!

And finally, interesting news for those who, like me, have a penchant for leggings. I hadn’t previously been aware of how the UK Office for National Statistics calculates the cost of living, but it seems they create a “basket of goods” which “reflects contemporary habits and technology to calculate the changing cost of living, as measured by the inflation rate.” This year, women’s leggings have been added to the basket and, given the further addition of action cameras and last year’s selection of speciality gin, this is increasingly sounding like a basket of goods I would rather enjoy! What would be in yours?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess