Week in Review – A Cheeky Half!

Another week, another week in review! As ever, linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to bring you my weekly roundup.

From the title of this post you might have worked out that there was a half marathon in there, but here’s how the rest of my week looked:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – Rest
Saturday – Loch Leven half marathon
Sunday – rest

At this point I’m in a bit of an odd place training-wise. The furthest I’ve run since Paris is 8 miles, but still have decent fitness from my marathon training cycle. I’m looking forward to capitalising on this over the summer, but right now am amused by having sufficient fitness to complete a half marathon without any specific training. Just another reason to be grateful for marathon training!

I began my week, as ever, in the pool. I’m really enjoying my Monday swims lately as I’m beginning to feel a bit more confidence in the water and can find a rhythm more quickly. What I need to work on is having more continuous swimming i.e. not stopping between lengths. It will come!

On Tuesday I was a bit pushed for time but still managed to squeeze in a set of intervals on the bike at the gym. No time for any mobility work or anything this week though as I had plans with my sister. We were seeing the second instalment of the trilogy of First World War plays which began last year with The 306: Dawn. This year was The 306: Day and where last year the focus was on the stories of some of the 306 men who were executed for cowardice, deception and mutiny, this year the focus was on the women at home. Three of the women were connected to characters from the first instalment and some of the same music was woven through to give greater impact, so while you could have watched it in isolation without having seen last year’s production, it was definitely more powerful if you had. Dawn had me in tears, but Day had me torn between tears and anger as I felt driven to start a revolution 100 years too late as I watched the way women were treated for standing up for themselves and the men in their lives. Shocking that this was seen as acceptable and I’m so glad there has been progress since then.

I was a little distracted during the performance as I recognised the male actor who appeared but couldn’t quite figure it out. Checking the programme he had a Casualty credit (but then most UK actors do!) and I thought he might have been a regular. It was only afterwards that I was able to look him up and remembered exactly who he was!

fullsizeoutput_1e00Wednesday was a repeat of the same hill reps from last week. It felt tougher this week and I’m still not sure if I was a bit sluggish or if it was because every time I turned to run up the hill I found myself running straight into a headwind. Tough, but I know it will make me stronger and hill training is definitely going to be key in preparing for the Loch Ness marathon which is an “undulating” course with a hill at 18 miles, exactly when you don’t want it!

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IMG_1845On Thursday I enjoyed a fantastic Ashtanga yoga class. It’s been about a year now since I began my yoga journey and every week I love it more. This week was special because a lovely lady who used to be a regular at the class returned as an observer as she is just finishing her yoga teacher training course. Having an extra instructor meant more opportunity to be adjusted, not because of issues in how I approached a posture, but to help me move more deeply into it. It was so nice to see her and at the end of the class she commented on how much progress she could see in my practice, which is really good to hear.

Then it was Friday, perhaps the most exciting day of the week. Not because it was scheduled as a rest day, but because the reason for that rest was a trip to Glasgow to see TAKE THAT live in concert! I’ve been looking forward to this for ages and as usual they didn’t disappoint. The band is renowned for the theatricality of their live shows and this one fetaured a cast of dancers and acrobats performing in the round with a set that changed levels and with props that flew around the stage and awesome lighting effects. I was on my feet throughout belting out every song and loving every moment.

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The thing about a concert, though, is that it’s inevitably a late night and heading through after work meant we only had time for food at the venue (pizza with a base apparently made of cardboard!). None of this is particularly ideal preparation for a half marathon, but that was the prep I had so on Saturday morning, after less than 7 hours sleep, I was off to Kinross for my race. Anticipating that I wouldn’t be at my finest, I had decided in advance to simply treat this as a training run with a medal and just take it easy rather than racing. This turned out to be a good strategy and I was pleased to find that even when at less than my best I was able to finish in just a little beyond 2 hours and feeling comfortable. I’ll write more about my experience of this race in a separate post, but I enjoyed it.

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Post-race we grabbed some food then had a relaxing afternoon of napping and reading before treating ourselves to a takeaway since we knew Sunday would be a rest day to allow our bodies to recover from a late night and a race. I even pushed the barrel out and had a Saturday night bath with Epsom salts, bubbles, a running magazine and a glass of wine. Lovely!

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It was nice going to bed on Saturday night and not setting an alarm (little chance of sleeping in anyway when you have a cat!) and waking when her majesty demanded food. It was then an easy day of coffee, food shopping (usually done on a Saturday) and a visit to my parents (there was cake again!). This must be what the non-runners do with their Sundays! It was nice, but I think I would get bored of this after a couple of weeks and be desperate for something different.

In the week ahead I’ll probably ease off training a little for a lighter week to make sure I recover well, then I’ll be back to my preparations for Loch Ness. September will be here before I know it!

How is your training going?
Any exciting events in your life?

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Tunes on Tuesday – Could it be Magic

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.

Could it be Magic – Take That

It was only a matter of time before a Take That track made its way into Tunes on Tuesday. There are actually a few in my playlist, but I’ve picked this track today because I do have a story to tell around it.

For my readers not in the UK, Take That is a pop group formed waaaay back in 1990. I guess you could say they were one of the 90s “boy bands” and were created out of a desire to emulate groups like New Kids on the Block in the US. The band split in early 1996 while I was in my final year of high school and teenagers around the country were bereft – there was even a telephone helpline set up to help fans deal with the announcement! 10 years later, in 2006, the band reformed for a reunion tour and have continued to produce new material (and tour) ever since. To date, they are the most successful “boy band” (more of a “man band” now lol!) in UK chart history.

Basically, I’m old enough to to have loved Take That the first time around, but never got a chance to see them live until 2009 when Steve surprised me with concert tickets. In fact, the video above is taken from that tour. If you had told my teenage self that one day the band would get back together and I’d still be getting to see them live at my age then I’d have laughed in your face!

The song I’ve picked today is their cover of the Barry Manilow classic Could It Be Magic, the track which gave them their first big success. Not only is it a great song, but it has gained its place here thanks to the last time I saw then tour back in 2015.

The day after the concert, perhaps not feeling my most rested, I took part in the Tayside Challenge, a cycle event which I was using as a warm up for the Etape Caledonia the following week. My head was, unsurprisingly, still full of Take That songs so it was a bit like having my own playlist as I pedalled, but without the inconvenience of earphones (something I never use when cycling as I’m so conscious of safety). I was cycling with a friend, but at one point I was alone on a downhill stretch. We had been talking about the concert so as I swept down the hill, enjoying the sense of freedom, I began singing away to myself. Loudly. The song I picked? Could It Be Magic. I was having a great time, so it was only marginally embarrassing when another cyclist overtook me, no doubt having heard me singing to myself like an absolute madwoman! Oops!

The song itself featured on Take That’s first album which was released in 1992 (yes, I am that old!) so this year they are celebrating their 25th anniversary. The original lineup of 5 may now be reduced to 3, but my favourite (Gary Barlow) is still there and what better way could they have found to celebrate than to go out on tour? So on Friday of this week I’ll be heading through to Glasgow to see my “boys” performing live for the 4th time. Frankly, I can’t wait!

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…

London Lore

This has been a great week for marathon fans with Boston on Monday and now the London marathon to round it all off. Here in the UK, London is THE big marathon event of the year with around 40,000 lucky ones taking part (those ballot odds just get tougher and tougher) and another 3 million or so watching at home. I may have only started running in my late 20s, but the London marathon has definitely always been a part of my life. I can’t think of a time when I didn’t spend the morning watching the TV coverage – little did I know that one day I would not only run, but actually enter a marathon. And if you’d told me that one day I would be one of those bobbing heads on the TV screen on a Sunday morning in April I’d have laughed in your face. But in 2011, that happened, and now every year I feel the same stab of envy as I sit at home when really I’d like to be on that start line.

Lon-DONE! VLM 2011

As this post is published, I will no doubt be getting comfortable with a cup of tea and some tissues, for as soon as that iconic theme tune starts I’ll feel the sting of tears in my eyes as the memories come rushing back. They won’t be tears of sadness, but of the emotions attached to the race and the distance, triggered by that music. I’ll watch the pre-event build up with all those emotive profiles of everyday people running for great causes; I’ll watch the elites battle it out for glory and marvel at how fast they’re moving; and I’ll still be there watching as someone dressed as a rhino is interviewed on Tower Bridge. Frankly, I’ll be watching for longer than it would take me to actually run the race!

And unsurprisingly, as soon as the Boston marathon articles began to fizzle out from my news feeds, the London marathon articles began to get more and more frequent. With that in mind, here’s a roundup of some of the more interesting ones that caught my eye for a Sunday morning, London-focused version of Friday Finds. Let’s call it Sunday Stories ūüôā

For those wondering about what it takes to run the London marathon, this piece from Kate Carter at The Guardian (fun fact: I was listening to a podcast featuring her when I finished the Paris marathon a couple of weeks ago!) goes into the detail and explains why London is such a special event. I know she’s aiming for a sub-3 hour time this year so fingers crossed she reaches her goal.

For those interested in some of the figures behind entry to the race and its history, this next piece breaks down some of the numbers and different options for entering. Debate surrounding entry to London resurfaces every year both when the ballot opens and when the results are sent out, but it remains a difficult topic with no easy solution that will please everyone.

Up at the sharp end, world records have been set at London – indeed the women’s marathon record was set there and has remained unbroken since 2003. For those who enjoy the competition of watching those who are the best in the business going for glory, this preview of the contenders from Sports Illustrated could be of use. There’s a lot of interest surrounding the men’s marathon world record this year so it will be exciting to watch and see if any of this year’s field can lower the mark a little further.

In that elite field I will be particularly interested in watching the performance of one of my favourite athletes, Jo Pavey. Pavey has run the London marathon on one previous occasion, the same year as me in fact, but she was a little quicker with a time of 2:28:24! Jo Pavey is an inspiring athlete who is a great example of making things work around family commitments, and despite being older than many of her competitors she can still deliver world class performances. In this article, she also talks of the 2007 World Championships and the medal she will finally be awarded a decade later.

For many runners, regardless of pace, Strava is an integral part of training and the activity tracking site recently released data about those training for the London marathon. They also did this for Boston (included in this post) so the real stat geeks among us can compare how two very different fields prepare for the demands of 26.2 miles. Exactly the kind of running geekery I enjoy!

And finally, the London marathon has become synonymous not only with charity fundraising, but with world records. No, not Paula Radcliffe’s 2:15:25, but records like the fastest marathon dressed as a superhero or the fastest marathon dribbling a ball. Check out this video for some of the highlights over the last decade.

To those running, the very vest of luck. You can read my tips for marathons here, but my best advice is to relax and enjoy it. Soon, you’ll have a medal to wear with pride and a memory that will never fade.

In 2017 the London marathon charity of the year is Heads Together, spearheaded by the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry who want to increase conversations around mental health. As part of this drive to raise awareness, the BBC challenged ten people with different mental health issues to run the marathon. The first part of the two-part documentary following their progress aired on Thursday and if you are able to access it, I highly recommend watching it.

Tunes on Tuesday – Marathon

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.

Unsurprisingly, I’m in a marathon frame of mind this week and this song seems ideal to capture the mood. I really have no idea how I first came across it, but it’s a great one for a marathon training playlist and one I look forward to hearing during a long run.

I have to say, Rush is not a band I would usually listen to, but this song ticks the box of having lyrics that I find meaningful or motivational, one of the criteria for making it onto my playlist. On the surface the lyrics describe how someone would feel while running a marathon, however the deeper meaning of the song uses the marathon as a metaphor for life: just as a marathon is an extreme challenge undertaken to fulfill a goal, so it is that life is full of obstacles and is all about achieving our ambitions. Indeed, in an interview the lyricist Neil Peart said, “Marathon is a song about individual goals and trying to achieve them. And it’s also about the old Chinese proverb: ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step’.” A marathon may not quite be a thousand miles (although it feels like it somewhere round about mile 18!) but it does begin with just one step, whether that’s a runner’s first run ever, the start of a training cycle or the first decisive step over the start line of the race. Whatever way you look at it, a marathon is certainly a journey in both the literal and metaphorical sense, an idea that this song captures perfectly.

“It’s a test of ultimate will
The heartbreak climb uphill
Got to pick up the pace
If you want to stay in the race”

And as a track dating back to the 1980s, with a lot of synthesiser and guitar, I guess it sounds a bit like my childhood and the kind of music around as I was growing up. Listening to it now, however, I’m transported to all those Sunday long runs preparing for spring marathons and completing mile after mile with my music for company. The lyrics help to provide the focus and motivation to keep going in the tough moments, particularly the chorus which I find particularly powerful (in an 80s kind of way!):

“From first to last
The peak is never passed
Something always fires the light that gets in your eyes
One moment’s high, and glory rolls on by
Like a streak of lightning
That flashes and fades in the summer sky”

With these lyrics I can visualise myself running the race, a process that’s all the more vivid when it comes to Paris as I know the city and the race so well. They remind me of what I’m trying to achieve and spur me on to strive for my goal.

“It’s not how fast you can go
The force goes into the flow
If you pick up the beat
You can forget about the heat
More than just survival
More than just a flash
More than just a dotted line
More than just a dash”

On Sunday I will once more be running those 26.2 miles around my favourite city. I’ve been working towards this goal for such a long time and striving to achieve that goal will be the ultimate test of my will. Hopefully the training I’ve put in, the atmosphere in the race and songs like this one will be just that something to fire the light that gets in my eyes, just like the chorus says.

Bon courage.

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…

Tunes on Tuesday – Cut, Print… Movin’ On

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.

Cut, Print… Movin’ On – Katharine McPhee (Smash)

From some of my previous Tunes on Tuesday posts you have no doubt got the idea that I enjoy a bit of musical theatre, so a few years ago when I learned that NBC was making a TV show based around musical theatre I was thrilled. Not only was it going to be full of catchy show tunes, but it had a stellar cast of established names and rising stars. What wasn’t to like?

I loved Smash right from the start and followed avidly the tale of the ing√©nue battling the experienced actress for the role of Marilyn Monroe in a new stage musical. I watched every single episode to see the coming together of a Broadway show and how the cast must balance their personal lives with the demands of that show. I watched the competition, the desire and, in some cases, the playing dirty to achieve a dream. When the show was cancelled after 2 seasons I was devastated. How come my favourite shows are alway cancelled? (I’m looking at you Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip).

For a musical theatre fan, this show was jam-packed with exactly the kind of music I like, with the added bonus of some songs being included time and time again as part of the journey from page to stage. The song I’ve picked for this post comes from the start of the second season. The show, titled Bombshell, has had a successful test run in Boston and now the team is heading back to New York to try and fulfill their Broadway dream. The song reflects on the time spent in Boston, the memories created, the hard times experienced and the need to now move forward in order to achieve a dream.

I could be twee and suggest that this is a bit like running: we create memories, we have struggles and sometimes we need to draw a line under things and move on. Realistically, I just like the up tempo feel of this song as it rises to a crescendo with the lines that will always stand out to a runner:

“Get up cause the rat race never ends
As life is a marathon
And I plan to run
So much more than a sprint”

What can I say? An uplifting, “you can do it”, “we’re in this together” or “let’s get on with it” musical theatre number will get me every time. I actually don’t have many show tunes in my running playlist, but I love it when one pops up as it makes me feel a little bit like I might be part of the show as I run along.

Hmmm. I wonder what a musical about marathon running would be like…?

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…

Tunes on Tuesday – Defying Gravity

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.

Defying Gravity Р Kerry Ellis

I do love a show tune, and this one I find particularly inspiring! Back in December I shared a Tunes on Tuesday post on that omnipresent behemoth Let it Go sung by Idina Menzel and the song I’m writing about today is probably better known for being sung by Menzel when she formed part of the original cast of hit musical Wicked. I love that version too, but this version by Kerry Ellis lends itself so well to running that this is the one I keep in my playlist.

My relationship with musicals goes back a long way. When I was a child we used to always take a family trip to the local pantomime at Christmas time, but as my sister and I got a little bit older our parents started to take us instead to Edinburgh to see whatever big musical was on there. I can remember seeing Cats, Chess, Barnum, 42nd Street, Jesus 
Christ Superstar and soon enough any road trip meant show tunes in the car with my sister and I singing along. I’m sure my parents loved that :-O And I’m pretty sure we only wanted rolled skates because of Starlight Express!

Since then I have always loved going to see a musical whether locally, in a bigger city or somewhere more “exotic” like London’s West End or, as part of one very fortuitous school trip, on Broadway! I find it hard to pick my favourite – Phantom of the Opera which I’ve seen several times, Miss Saigon which always makes me cry, or¬†Les Mis√©rables which stirs such powerful emotions. Perhaps it’s one of the newer shows like The Lion King which was truly amazing, or something I’ve not even seen yet like Hamilton which gets such rave reviews. Wicked is certainly in the mix…

I first became aware of Wicked not long after it opened. I was given a copy of the soundtrack and, with the advent of wondrous modern technology, was able to watch some clips online. To help me piece the storyline together I read the original novel by Gregory Maguire and dreamed of the day I would finally get to see the show live.  Listening to the soundtrack endlessly, Defying Gravity soon became my favourite track thanks to some of the lyrics about throwing off constraints and forging your own path:

“Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through with playing by the rules
Of someone else’s game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It’s time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes and leap!”

Later, the song encourages us not to accept limits others impose on us and to fight for what we want, something else I really believe in:

“I’m through accepting limits
’cause someone says they’re so
Some things I cannot change
But till I try, I’ll never know!”

Exactly how I feel when it comes to taking on a challenge or striving for a goal. And I especially love the sentiments of the chorus:

“It’s time to try
Defying gravity
I think I’ll try
Defying gravity
And you can’t pull me down!”

So why not pick the original version for my playlist? I think because the version by Kerry Ellis focuses more on the lyrics rather than worrying about some of the dialogue that is also set to the music. I also love the rock guitar sounds, played by Brian May from Queen! Overall it just feels slightly faster and is a better fit for the kind of song I like in my running playlist. Hearing those opening chords and anticipating those uplifting lyrics never fails to put a spring in my step!

I still love the original though and was thrilled to finally see the show (sadly without Idina Menzel) when it finally toured to Edinburgh at the end of 2014. It’s coming back next year though, so I’m already dropping hints…

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…

‘Your Pace or Mine?’ Follow Up: A Running Record

In my recent review of Lisa Jackson’s Your Pace or Mine, I noted that the final section of the book is given over to the reader to use as a record of their running. I really liked this idea, but since I read the book on my Kindle rather than in paper format, I didn’t have the opportunity to fill my record in. Instead, I thought it might be fun to write up my record book (to date) as a blog post. It’s going to be a long one so put the kettle on!

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Favourite Race Photo
I have a few photos that I like: some from mid-race, some post-race medal shots and some of me leaping around like a loony after a run. But when it comes to actual race photos, my all-time favourite is this one from the Paris Marathon in 2016. I was undertrained thanks to being stopped in my tracks by a stress fracture at the end of 2015, but on race day I was injury-free and determined to get out there and enjoy a self-conducted running tour of my favourite city. I ran it my own way, stopped to take photos and enjoyed a buffet of orange segments, sugar lumps and that pink sports drink they hand out that acts like rocket fuel! When the photographers snapped me in the finishing straight, I looked like I’d had an awesome time, even though I was completely exhausted and my legs were begging for mercy. Sometimes you just have to forget your race goals and go out there to have fun.

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Name
Allison a.k.a The Running Princess

Date When Started Running
I don’t have the exact date for this one as my diaries from that part of my life are not all that detailed. That said, I can remember the day itself clearly. It was the beginning of term in August of 2005. We actually started on my birthday that year and it’s entirely possible that it was actually on my birthday that I went for my first run. My friend who is a PE teacher (and at the time we were car sharing for work as well) took me to the local park and told me to start running at the pace I thought was about right. Predictably, I set off far too fast and didn’t get very far at all. My friend then sorted out my pace and so began weeks of building up the length of time I could run before having a walk break (which had to be shorter then the running time). The first time I ran all the way round the park (about a mile and a ¬†half) without stopping was my first big running milestone.

Age When Started Running
I was just about clinging on to my twenties when I took those first tentative steps, however I was in my early thirties before meeting Steve and venturing beyond the odd slow 5k plod.

Reasons Why I Run
My first ever blog post was all about why I run, but I suppose that was really only about why I started, not why I run now. At first it was all about a personal challenge and wanting to raise funds for charity in memory of my gran; now, running is a habit. In many ways it continues to be a personal challenge as I look to improve my times or push myself in new ways, but even without that challenge I would still want to run and it only takes a spell of injury to remind me of how important running is for clearing my head, helping me to manage stress, releasing endorphins and giving my thoughts some clarity. I love how running makes me feel both mentally and physically as it helps me to keep sane as well as fit. Running makes my body lean and strong. And it also makes me hungry! I love the appetite running gives me and surprising people with exactly how much food I can put away!

IMG_0605Proudest Running Moments
Running has given me lots of opportunities to feel proud of myself, so narrowing it down to just a few was a bit challenging! Here are some of my highlights:

  1. Completing my first ever marathon in Paris in 2010
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  2. Running my first ever sub-2 hour half marathon at Aviemore in 2012
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  3. Topping the podium for the first time ever when I won my age group at the Cool Summer Mornings 5k in 2013
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  4. Running my marathon PB in Paris in 2014
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  5. That time I ran 4 races in one weekend at the Edinburgh Marathon Festival 2015
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  6. Finishing as second female and ninth overall!) in the Caped Crusader 5k in 2016
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‘Dreaming Big’ Goals (Races, Places, Times)
I love this heading. A chance for me to think about the things I would do if there was absolutely nothing to stop me. I would love to run all the marathon majors, something which isn’t an option for me right now as they don’t all fit in with my school holidays. I’ve run London, but would love to go back again with a Good For Age time. Right now that would be sub 3:45, a full 20 minutes faster than my current PB. We are dreaming big though! I would also love to do a Run Disney race. I know there’s a half marathon at Disneyland Paris now, but my ultimate dream would be the Walt Disney World marathon. My sister has done this, but again I’m held back by my school terms. Finally, there’s this year’s goal of some race PBs: if I’m dreaming big then it’s a sub-4 marathon, a sub-1:55 half marathon and a sub-50 10k. My other dream is to run in Central Park. It doesn’t have to be a race, I’d just love the experience of lacing up my trainers and heading off for a run in such a famous location.

Most Memorable Races
I’ve got a lot of wonderful memories from racing, but I think I’m going to pick my “firsts”:

  1. My first ever “proper” race – the Kinross 10k in 2009
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  2. My first ever half marathon – Aviemore in 2009. Memorable because Steve proposed the night before so all I can remember of the race is running along lost in thoughts of wedding dresses, possible venues and the most fun way to tell my parents later that day!
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  3. My first ever marathon – Paris in 2010
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  4. My first ever experience of the Paris Breakfast Run in 2014
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I’d also like to include running around the race circuit at Knockhill for the Graham Clark Memorial race, running over the Forth Road Bridge as part of a 10k race, and, of course, that time I ran a 10k PB (by one second!) at the Great Scottish Run then proudly announced my achievement to one of my running heroes, Paula Radcliffe!
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And although not technically a race, I’m including an honourable mention for parkrun during the I Am Team GB weekend when I got to meet a local Olympian and see a Rio medal up close.

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Favourite Running Motto/Mantra/Race Sign/Motivational Quote
My favourite mantra is “I can, I am, I’m strong” which I came up with for my first marathon. I had picked up an injury and seemed to be surrounded by people telling me that running my marathon was impossible. My mantra was a way to fight back against all the people saying, “you can’t” and remind myself that anything is possible.
I don’t often remember race signs, but I do love seeing all the firemen out in force in Paris with signs slung from their ladders declaring “les pompiers sont avec vous” (the firemen are with you). As for a motivational quote, it has to be this one:

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Funniest Running Moments/Favourite Stories Heard on Runs
Well, there was that time I got charged at by some scary looking cows whilst taking part in a trail race. Unfortunately the race route was such that I then had to run back through the same field on my return. Thankfully the cows had moved on to another part of the field by then!
There was also the time I did the Edinburgh Winter Run around Arthur’s Seat. It was freezing cold and as I came down off the hill it started snowing. I thought this was absolutely hilarious so the official photos showed me laughing like an idiot in the middle of a blizzard!

Favourite Medals/Race T-shirts
Funnily enough, I have a fair few of these! After a bit of thinking, I’ve decided on the medal and finisher’s T-shirt from Paris in 2010 (my first marathon), my London Marathon medal and, as a collection, my 4 Paris Marathon medals and the commemorative T-shirt I bought to mark the 40th edition last year. As a bonus, I’m also going to include a medal from a virtual race – the Platform 9 3/4k from the Hogwarts Running Club, an event I’ve participated in 3 times now.

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Charities Fundraised For and Amounts Raised
Since I began running to raise funds for charity, you’d think I would know exactly what my total is. But I don’t. Back then donations were made by sponsorship form, however I think across the 3 times I’ve run the 5k Race For Life I’ve probably raised around ¬£150 for Cancer Research.

An early example of my signature "medal pose"!

In 2011 I pledged my support to a local charity, PKAVS (Perth & Kinross Association of Voluntary Services). They provide support to a number of different groups, perhaps most especially known for supporting young carers. I was inspired to help as a friend works for the charity and listening to her describing the challenges some people faced made me feel I should do something about it. Working alongside the charity, we set up the idea of “going that extra mile”, with participants joining teams for the Edinburgh Marathon Relay. Most were new to running and Steve put on weekly training sessions (often aided by moi) to help everyone prepare. For me, it was actually an extra 26.2 miles as I committed to running both the London and Edinburgh marathons which were just a few weeks apart. It was my first really big challenge which I completed, with a PB (since beaten) in Edinburgh and a total of ¬£800 raised for a good cause. It was a real family affair as Steve also ran the marathon while both my dad and my sister were in relay teams.

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More recently, Steve and I took on an even bigger challenge when we decided to fundraise for Macmillan Cancer Support following our experiences of seeing family members and others close to us battling cancer. In 2014 I was supposed to run 3 marathons (Paris, Edinburgh and Loch Ness) however injury forced me to withdraw from Loch Ness and replace it with an all-new challenge: cycling! I took to two wheels and completed Cycletta Scotland which had Macmillan as the title sponsor. In 2015 I decided to take care of my unfinished business by running the Paris marathon for Macmillan in order to complete that triple marathon challenge I had set. But, being one who never does things by half, I also decided to go bigger with my cycling and take on the Etape Caledonia. I then rounded off what was basically a spring challenge by taking on the Edinburgh Marathon Festival – 5k and 10k on Saturday then half marathon and final leg of the relay on Sunday (logisitcs meant it wasn’t possible for me to go from the half to the full marathon). With over ¬£5000 raised in 2014 (with massive thanks to my friend Ian and his clients for their support) and a further ¬£1000 in 2015, that made a grand total of over ¬£6000 raised for Macmillan. Phew!

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Biggest Challenges Overcome in Races
Generally speaking, my biggest challenge is injury. I have completed marathons despite being in a great deal of the wrong kind of discomfort (I’m looking at you Lochaber Marathon of Pain!) and also when undertrained as a result of injury. This is why I believe I’ve never truly demonstrated what I’m capable of over 26.2 miles. ¬†But the fact that I’ve completed those races demonstrates that I can overcome challenges, usually with an altered goal.

Races With Best Snacks/Entertainment/Crowd Support
Without a doubt the best snacks have been at US races, particularly the Cool Summer Mornings 5k which often has post-race hot dogs, pretzels, beer, etc despite the fact that these will be consumed around 8am! The Chocolate Sundae Run, while a bit of a boring route, did have the draw of ice cream at the finish line! I also enjoy the on course “buffet” at the Paris Marathon as they lay out raisins, sugar lumps, sliced banana and orange segments. I can say without a word of a lie that those oranges have been the greatest thing I’ve ever tasted and a sugar lump late on the in race provides a fantastic boost to get you moving.
IMG_6102 When it comes to both entertainment and crowd support, the title needs to be shared by both London and Paris. I run with one earphone in so I can tune into my music if I need to without having to faff about, but I have absolutely no recollection at all of actually listening to my playlist in London thanks to all the various places blaring out music along the route, the wall of noise in Canary Wharf and the unwavering crowd support in the final stages along the Embankment when every fibre of your being is screaming to stop but every time you do, someone shouts at you to keep on going. In Paris there has always been phenomenal support from “Les Pompiers” but perhaps not as big a crowd as in London. That all changed in 2016 when, probably in an act of defiance at the atrocities that have taken place in the city in recent times, the streets were lined with supporters cheering the runners on and fighting back against those who commit such terrible acts. Paris also prides itself on the huge number of “animations” (entertainment) along the route. There are an assortment of bands in just about every genre you can think of from rock and pop to a bit of German oompahpah and the always fun samba bands. Many have dancers as well and the lift the entertainment gives the runners is visible.

Favourite Fancy-Dress Outfits
Running in fancy dress is not really my thing, but it has happened:

  1. Taking part in a Santa Run every year
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  2. Wearing my kilt for both the Perth Kilt Run and the Paris Breakfast Run
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3. Celebrating our parkun’s birthday with fancy dress. So far a beach party theme (in November!) and a superhero theme. To be honest, I quite enjoyed running as Supergirl!
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Most Beautiful Places Run In
I live in Scotland so beautiful places to run are often just a few minutes away and I love nothing more in nice weather (it can be a bit miserable and lonely when the weather isn’t so good).
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Away from my standard training runs, the Lochaber Marathon was beautiful, even if I didn’t really enjoy the race thanks to an injury flaring up. And of course, there’s my beloved Paris. What a beautiful city to run in !
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Countries I’ve Run In
Scotland (obviously), England (London Marathon), France (Paris Marathon), USA (training runs and events in Florida every July). I’m really going to have to work on adding to that list!

Cities I’ve Run In
6/7 of the Scottish Cities: Perth, Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, Inverness
London
Paris
Davenport, Florida
Winter Park, Florida
Tampa, Florida
Clermont, Florida

Marathon Majors Completed
Only London. One day…

Friends I’ve Made Through Running
Running has brought a lot of people into my life, from those I’ve trained for marathons with (connected for life!) to those I consider my “parkrun family”. Running also led me to blogging and there are several people I’ve come into contact with through blogging that I would probably never have met otherwise like Jaynie, Danielle and Kyla. It’s also what ultimately brought me to the Tough Girl Tribe and the fantastic women there. Running is such a fantastically inclusive community and provides a shared experience to base a friendship on or just start a conversation. Just one of the many reasons why I love it.
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Personal Bests (Time/Date) 5k, 10k, 13.1, 26.2, Ultra, Tri
I’ve got these listed on my Race History tab, but here they are again:

5k – 23:14 @ Perth parkrun 2015
10k – 50:14 @ Great Scottish Run 10k 2015 (aka That Time I Met Paula!)
13.1 – 1:56:35 @ Aviemore Highland Half Marathon 2012
26.2 – 4:05:07 @ Schneider Electric Marathon de Paris 2014

Race Record
This is a list that could go on for a while! All my race reports since I started the blog are under the Race Reports tab, but to summarise (and account for those pre-blog years!):

5k x 33 (inc Christmas events)
Parkrun x 66
5 mile x 2
10k x 20
10 mile x 3
Half marathon x 13
Marathon x 8
Other distances (e.g. EMF Relay, CHAS Devil Dash) x 10

Total = 155 events (89 if you don’t count parkrun) – phew!

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And now it’s your turn! Either write a post of your own to create your record book or share some memories in the comments below. I can’t wait to read them…!

Friday Finds – 17th 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.

I’m enjoying a couple of days off work for our half term break and have been able to sleep a little longer and take some time to sort out all the pesky little details of life that can get overlooked during a busy term. So in the spirit of tidying things up, here’s a bit of a random selection of articles I’ve had stored up ready to share but not yet found the opportunity to…

First up, something for those who like to use races as a reason to travel – and who wouldn’t want to run a race steeped in such history as one taking place in Athens? Looking out at a slightly grey evening, some sunshine certainly sounds tempting right now, but instead I shall have to live vicariously through Adharanand Finn’s account of the Athens 10k which appeared in The Guardian this week.

Next up, a slightly tongue-in-cheek account of one man’s relationship with running. I love running, but there are definitely times when love is not what I’m feeling – usually when its’s freezing cold, pouring with rain, my fingers are freezing in my sodden gloves and I still have several miles to go! If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably find some comments in there which resonate with your own feelings about running. But be warned, there are a couple of F-words in there!

After several cycles of marathon training (not all as successful as I would have liked!) I feel like I’ve learned a lot about the process and have made a number of changes to how I train to see if I can get it “right”. I’m certainly not an expert on training, but I am the world’s foremost expert on me and one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that what works for others won’t necessarily yield the same results for me. That’s why I now run less (and make sure each run has a clear purpose when I do) and incorporate a range of activities into my training in the hopes of avoiding¬†disaster injury. And it seems it’s not just me. Reflecting on my own experiences meant that this next article really spoke to me as the writer sets out the lessons she has learned and how that now impacts on her training choices.

Something else that spoke to me was the opening paragraphs of this next article from The Guardian. The writer’s description of what he found out as he progressed along his running journey is certainly true, but it’s what he writes about music that really jumped out. It was the power of music that led me to start my Tunes on Tuesday series and there have now been a number of times that hearing a certain song has jolted me quite powerfully into a running-related memory. The article includes comment from three different people from differing walks of life, but it was the first one that seemed most on my wavelength. Perhaps one will resonate with you…

And finally, as the miles creep up in my marathon training I find I’m more and more likely to be met with incredulity from non-runners when my response to their perfectly innocent question about whether or not I “still run much” is something involving a number bigger than 10. I do get it; I understand that running isn’t for everyone and people can think of plenty of things they would rather do than run 26.2 miles (never forget the .2!!) for fun. But it was with some incredulity of my own that I learned some of the things that came up in a lighthearted US survey about what people would prefer to do rather than run a marathon. It makes for some rather interesting reading!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Tunes on Tuesday – Rise

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.

Rise – Katy Perry

As our lives begin returning to “normal” and reality hits us hard after the festive season, it’s easy to feel bit down. Not only does work have a little less shine to it without the tinsel festooning every last inch of the room and the dulcet tones of a certain Mr Bubl√© filling the air, but the festive excess is probably catching up a bit. So to help us along as we try to get work/life/training back on track in this fresh, new year, here’s a song I find uplifting and motivational. Hopefully it will give you a boost too.

This particular track is a newer addition to my playlist. I first came across it back in the summer when US broadcaster NBC used it prominently throughout their coverage of the Rio Olympic Games. At the time it was shared prolifically on social media and I remember it featuring in one or two blog posts I read. And while there is an official video for the song featuring Perry herself, I much prefer the promotional “Olympics” version at the top of this post as it pays tribute to a variety of athletes including some very familiar faces such as highly decorated swimmer Michael Phelps, extraordinary gymnast Simone Biles, speed demon Usain Bolt and Team GB favourites Chris Hoy and Mo Farah. Even now, watching some of the footage from London 2012 included in the video brings back fantastic memories of being glued to my sofa during those historic moments (I had to be forcibly removed on Super Saturday to get some fresh air!), and a lump once more takes root in my throat seeing the pride on the faces of the athletes. This is what makes me feel inspired to keep training hard to improve my own performance. I won’t ever be going to the Olympics, but I can still become fitter, stronger and faster than ever before.

It’s the sort of track that really epitomises my ideal running/workout track, with its slow build, strong beat and lyrics which speak of victory, rising above an opponent and triumphing in the face of adversity. I like to choose upbeat, motivational songs, songs with a good tempo and which speak to me through their lyrics, particularly themes of survival, thriving, not letting others define you, fighting back and toughing it out through difficult times:

“When the fire’s at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They’re whispering, “You’re out of time,”
But still I rise”

If this track comes on during a race or training run, it helps to give me that focus to keep working hard, push on and try my best. It reminds me why I’m out there and what I’m striving for. I might even have been known to imagine myself as an Olympic athlete during the chorus!

“Oh, ye of so little faith
Don’t doubt it, don’t doubt it
Victory is in my veins
I know it, I know it
And I will not negotiate
I’ll fight it, I’ll fight it
I will transform”

Just writing about it gave me the motivation to get today’s workout done, so if you’re in a bit of a slump about returning to work or worried you’ve bitten off more than you can chew with your goals for this year, let Katy Perry and this fine selection of Olympians help to set you on the path to success.

“I won’t just survive
Oh, you will see me thrive”

Let 2017 be the year that you Rise

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…

‘Tis The Season (Part 1)

Around here, the festive season kicks off in mid-November when the city’s Christmas lights are officially switched on. From that point on, just about every weekend is filled with fun activities and our own traditions that help to make this time of year special. 2016, for all its ups and downs, was no exception, so if you’d like to know a bit more about how we’ve been celebrating the season, read on…

I have to say, in previous years I was never too bothered about the Christmas lights being switched on. I don’t know if it’s because there are so many people about or if it’s because when we were living in the flat I could basically look out of the window and see the lights, but actually making the effort to go out was never something I really fancied. But this year we decided to brave the crowds, check out some of the performances and get into the spirit of things – this being our first Christmas in our house, we really wanted it to feel special.

It was probably one of the coldest weekends we’ve had this winter, with freezing fog and frosty paths, so we were well wrapped up against the elements (this was the weekend we managed to arrive at parkrun looking like a “his and hers” catalogue page in our matching winter kit!). Once in town, we went to see some reindeer and what was possibly the cutest donkey I’ve ever seen in my life!

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But what we were really interested in was taking place on the children’s stage (or “chidrens” as the signage said – oops!). That’s right, we had ostensibly ventured out to see an act from our childhood. – Basil Brush. You probably have to be UK-based and of a certain “vintage” to get that one, but I can confirm that the audience was mainly made up of adults around our age, accompanied by some token kids to make it look a bit more acceptable! I can also confirm that it was hilarious.

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We also enjoyed a browse of the market stalls that formed part of our chocolate festival (yum). No photos since it was so busy, but I don’t think we’ll ever forget the sample of VERY strong mocha gin we tried!

The following Sunday our city was celebrating again, this time St Andrew’s Day. It wasn’t quite so cold, but definitely got chillier as the day went on. We began the day with a short trail run before meeting up with Steve’s cousin who was visiting from the US (she’s Canadian but now lives in the US) and going for a walk up Kinnoull Hill together.¬†img_9847 fullsizeoutput_1b79

After that we needed some hot drinks to warm us up, then Steve and I headed off to see the real draw of the day – The Red Hot Chilli Pipers. They’re always fantastic and it’s great to have something like that happening in the middle of town. I was already enjoying the festive season and it wasn’t even December yet!

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But as if that wasn’t enough celebrating, the following weekend I took Steve out for a meal ahead of his birthday (which was inconveniently on the Monday!). We had a delicious tasting menu and wine flight, neither of which made for the most fleet footed running the following morning!

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We also put our Christmas tree up that weekend, leading me to declare our first Christmas in our new house officially underway!

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And in an odd twist, the weather in the week after this became very mild. On the Wednesday it was still 15C in the evening, which wouldn’t be out of place in the summer, so I decided to go for my midweek run in shorts. It seemed really strange to be running in the dark in a pair of shorts, but I definitely wasn’t cold, in fact I regretted having worn a long-sleeved top! Taking my photo next to the Christmas tree afterwards was, of course, obligatory in order to mark this unusual occurrence!

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Then just four days later, still in fairly mild weather, I was dressed like this for what has become an important tradition for us: a Santa run.

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You can read more about our Santa Dash experience here.

With two weeks still to go before the big ho ho ho, there was still plenty of fun to be had! Coming up in part 2 – our most important Christmas tradition of them all…

 

What are your traditions at this time of year?
How does your town/city celebrate the season?