Friday Finds – 7th September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

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Friday Finds – 19th January

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.

Hello! How has your week been? If you keep up with my other posts then you’ll know last weekend wasn’t the best for me and it’s been a bit of a strange week as a result. Sticking to my routine is helpful though, so I’m here as usual with some Friday Finds for you. Here we go…!

First, an interesting thing I came across just this morning. Adidas has teamed up with Berlin transit to create a shoe with a transit pass sewn into the tongue! The pass is valid until the end of the year and the shoes quickly sold out. I suppose that eliminates the need to fumble around for a pass and is a novel idea which has scope for development. Would you go for something like this?

I also loved this next article featuring some NYC marathon photos. Photographer Eddie Cohen wanted to capture runners in the moment of “exhaustion and euphoria” at the finish, a description which I find very fitting. The photos, along with “before” photos of the runners, feature in his new book. I don’t know about you, but as I look at those “after” photos, I understand just how they feel as all those marathon finish lines come flooding back to me.

Particularly striking this week was this letter written by US Olympian Bruce Berian. We all know a little of the commitment and hard work that takes an athlete on their journey to the top of their sport, but we don’t always learn the full story. In this heartfelt letter to his future self, Berian tells us of his journey from working in a fast food chain to the Olympic village Rio. Well worth a read.

Speaking of fast food, it seems that pro runners are not all the pillars of healthy eating that we might assume. Many fuel their running with some most unexpected foods. I certainly enjoy a treat AFTER a race, but tend to be quite cautious with my pre-run food. Some of these would definitely not sit well with me during a run, much as I might enjoy them at other times! Anyone else got any unconventional choices?

And finally, I’m becoming more and more keen on regular yoga practice and am also curious about some of the more “novelty” yoga classes now available (cat yoga and Harry Potter yoga are particularly appealing!) but if you’re anywhere near Baltimore then you can go along to a yoga class at the Maryland Zoo where you have an hour of yoga alongside the PENGUINS! I love penguins! If this happened at a zoo near me then I would be straight there!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

#teamparkrun

Ah my beloved parkrun. Today, 19th August, things were made even more special by a UK-wide event in partnership with UK Sport and The National Lottery – #teamparkrun.

Here’s the gist of the event:

“On Saturday 19 August 2017, following the World Athletics Championships in London, the UK’s National Lottery funded Olympic and Paralympic athletes are teaming up with parkrun to encourage the nation to get active with #teamparkrun”

You may remember that last August, following the Olympic Games in Rio, returning athletes took part in a celebration called I Am Team GB which not only welcomed home our athletes who had performed so well, but encouraged the nation as a whole to be more active. Around 60 GB athletes took part in parkrun events that day, and this year’s event, backed by Sport England, Sport Scotland, Sport Wales, Sport Northern Ireland, The British Olympic Association and Paralympic Association as well as a number of governing bodies, was designed as a thank you from our National Lottery funded athletes for getting behind them. At parkruns across the country this morning, those athletes were right behind us this time as they volunteered as tail walkers. Nobody finishes last at parkrun so this event highlighted how inclusive parkrun is.

We’re fortunate enough to have an Olympic athlete right here in Perth – the swimmer Stephen Milne who was part of the silver medal-winning 4x200m freestyle relay team. He also won silver in the same event at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Stephen came to Perth parkrun last year for I Am Team GB and returned again today to be tail walker.

IMG_3615Our event began with a rather longer than usual run briefing as we thanked the volunteers, acknowledged those with milestone runs and heard a few words from both Stephen Milne and our local MP Pete Wishart who had also come along in support of the event. There was a huge turnout, no doubt due to a combination of #teamparkrun, a beautiful morning and the cancellation of our nearest parkrun event which brought a lot of visitors to us. We now have a new attendance record of 303!

There were also some photos taken. Everyone else was getting ready to run but I spotted the photo op and sidled in at the back – parkrun ninja lol!

fullsizeoutput_20cbSlightly late, we were counted down by our MP and were off. I had it in mind that I could run well today and found I naturally slipped into the form I have been practising during my recent form drills. I ran the first mile rather quickly and slowed a bit over the next couple of miles, but felt strong throughout. Perhaps like last year I was inspired by having an Olympic athlete around and was really pleased to finish in 23:42, a pesky 3 seconds outside of my best time this year. However I felt good and think I might still be able to find another few seconds before my marathon at the end of next month.

I really wanted a photo with our guest tail walker so waited around the finish, cheering on other runners and chatting to people I knew.

IMG_3618And then my chance came. I got a lovely photo and, as a bonus, managed to get a shot of me wearing the ACTUAL OLYMPIC SILVER MEDAL (last year I only got to feel the weight of it while its owner was still wearing it). Of course I did my standard medal pose. It’s pretty heavy so I’m not sure I’d have managed a jumping shot 😉

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IMG_3649#teamparkrun was a fantastic event. Parkrun is always friendly and inclusive, but I’m quite sure the presence of Olympic and Paralympic athletes drew more people to parkruns around the UK today – after all, how often do you get the chance to say you were faster than an Olympian haha!

IMG_3633Thank you Stephen Milne for contributing to a fantastic event today.

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Photo: Stephen Milne on Twitter

Did you take part in #teamparkrun?
Ever tried on an Olympic medal?

Friday Finds – 7th April

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

I can’t imagine it will be much of a surprise that I’m going with a marathon-centred Friday Finds this week! Due to travel timings I’m writing this (quickly!) in advance so it may turn out a little shorter than I normally like. C’est la vie!

First up, some breaking news from the elite ranks and the disappointing information that the 2016 Olympic champion (and defending London marathon winner) Jemima Sumgong has failed an out of competition drugs test. I remember watching her stunning comeback to win after suffering a fall and hitting her head during the London marathon, so am saddened to hear that this has happened.

Next up, another piece of disappointing news, this time about participation. I was thrilled to learn that women would be able to compete in the 2017 Tehran marathon for the first time, however the sting is that it has now been announced that female participants may have to compete on an indoor track rather than outdoors with the male field. This seems to be a move forward from a previous announcement that women would not be able to participate at all. It’s clearly a difficult ongoing situation, but I’d love to see women having an equal opportunity to participate.

Moving on to a much more positive story, I have been quite intrigued of late by Nike’s plans to try and break the 2 hour barrier, however in this next piece from Outside, consideration is given to the female equivalent. The record is, of course, held by my great favourite Paula Radcliffe (remember that time I met her?) with her 2003 time of 2:15:25. And now it seems that science and maths (not my strongest subjects outside of running topics!) suggests that the equivalent marker for women is 2:16, meaning that for we women, that “barrier” has already been broken! As they shout along the route in Paris, allez les filles!

While the less elite among us may not have our sights set on quite such speedy times, in all likelihood those of us with a spring marathon ahead will have a time goal in mind, but working out a reasonable estimate of what we might achieve is very difficult. The marathon is full of pitfalls and no matter how well training has gone, anything can happen on race day, especially after 18 miles. Ian Williams of Fetch Everyone has used the data available to him on his website to come up with a formula which might help.

And finally, one of the things we can’t control in a race is the weather. I’m expecting warm conditions on Sunday in Paris, which will be tricky, but I think participants in this recent 14k race in France had a much tougher time with some very different conditions. I recommend watching the video to get the full effect!

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 Bublé 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…

Friday Finds – 21st October

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 have to begin today with the amazing Ed Whitlock. I’ve heard one or two interviews with him on podcasts and have always been stunned at how well he has continued to run throughout the decades, setting numerous age group records. The reason I’m including him this week is his latest record for the fastest marathon in the men’s 85-89 age group: an unbelievable 3:56:33! The fact that he still runs so well at age 85 is inspiring enough, but when I consider the fact that he is STILL running a faster marathon than I’ve EVER run at less than half his age, I’m overawed. Now I have even more motivation to go for it and get my own sub-4 hour finish!

If I do want to run well for years to come, then perhaps I need to heed the advice of the veteran runners featured in The Guardian this week. Whenever I have any setbacks in my running, I find myself wondering if it’s all over, so it’s inspiring to read of those who found running even later than I did and are still going strong. I’ve spent some time recently thinking about how to structure my training and mulling over nutrition, so I was particularly interested in those elements of each woman’s story. I’ve been eating a lot of avocado this year, so fingers crossed that’s the secret to longevity!

One of my athletic heroes, and one I’ve mentioned on here a few times, is Jessica Ennis-Hill who this week announced her retirement from athletics. I’m disappointed not to see her compete again, but she did hint at this after the Rio Olympics and has made no secret of her desire to develop her family life. I hope she leaves behind her a legacy of inspiring more young girls to take part in sport as she has been such a positive role model in a world of “instagram perfection” and airbrushed, carefully-curated online lives. Of course the retirement of such a high-profile figure in athletics resulted in many articles devoted to Ennis-Hill, one of the best being one written by her coach Tony Minichiello. Here are some of my favourites:

Speaking of women’s sport, one of the pivotal figures in the women’s marathon movement was, of course, Kathrine Switzer. I never tire of the story of her first Boston marathon and how that helped change attitudes to women in endurance sports. I recently heard her interviewed on a podcast and it was fantastic to hear the story in her one words. I know I’ve shared Switzer stories before, but came across this one earlier this week and decided in a week of sharing inspirational athletes, I would share this one too:

And finally, if you’re in need of some inspiration of a more musical nature, why not check out this workout playlist featured in The Guardian a couple of days ago. Whose playlist? Oh, just Barack Obama’s! I’ve spotted a track on there that’s on my playlist too, so I guess we have something in common 😉

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 16th September

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

Imagine it’s race day. You’ve trained long and hard for the 26.2 miles ahead of you: early starts, punishing speed workouts and tricky weather conditions. You’re in peak form and feel ready to run a good time and qualify for that mecca of US races, the Boston Marathon. What would it take to derail your plans? Perhaps you pick up an injury along the route; perhaps you fall; perhaps you make an error with your nutrition. The last thing you expect is to be stopped on the course for some time, yet that is exactly what happened to runners in a marathon in Lehigh Valley when a slow moving train crossed the race route. Many runners were halted for around 10 minutes, which had a knock-on effect for their finishing time. As I understand it, Boston organisers have no plans to accept any adjusted times from this race, meaning that many have likely missed out on their chance to qualify for the 2017 race. Knowing how hard people work to get a BQ (or GFA for London), this must be a massive blow. Hopefully the runners affected will have another opportunity to BQ in future.

Meanwhile, the Paralympics have been taking place in Rio with further incredible feats being recorded to add to a fantastic summer of sport. You may have seen headlines around social media declaring that in the men’s T13 1,500m final (an event classified for visually impaired athletes) the top 4 finishers were faster than the gold medal winner in the 2016 Olympic games. Sounds extraordinary, yet why shouldn’t a Paralympic athlete run faster than an Olympic athlete? It all comes down to the field on the day, the tactics employed and the race that unfolds. Martin Fritz Huber, writing in Outside Online, explains further:

Someone else doing well is Ray Matthews. Heard of him? If not, then you should know that 75 year old Matthews just ran 75 marathons in 75 days to raise money for a local school. That’s a phenomenal achievement at any age, however I think my favourite part of his story is that Facebook rejected an ad about the challenge due to it “making claims that are unrealistic or unlikely”. Sounds like a red rag to a bull to me, and what better motivation to spur someone on through their final days of a challenge. Fantastic!

Moving on to calmer pursuits, two stories have caught my eye with regard to yoga. I know I feel less stressed and experience less anxiety since making yoga a regular part of my life this summer, so I was intrigued to learn that yoga can help to calm the fight-or-flight response. Furthermore, the suggestion that learning yoga and meditation in schools would benefit our young people sounds sensible. Our young people seem to find it harder and harder to switch off, to simply “exist” without a device in their hands (and if they do, they spend the whole time worrying about what they’re missing out on!) so any help they can get to “unplug” should be welcomed. It would also be a valuable resource for young people to have access to ahead of exams to help them feel calmer and more receptive to retaining information. It will be interesting to see if such practices are adopted on a wider scale.

And finally, think you know your world cities? Why not put yourself to the test with this fun quiz from The Guardian. Using heat map data from platforms such as Strava, we can see the digital tracks left by runners overlaid on street maps. Can you identify them? I spotted London and Paris, but I think the rest will be guesses since Geography is not my strong point!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

I Am Team GB

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Readers in the UK are probably aware of the I Am Team GB celebrations taking place around the country today, but for those elsewhere, or those who may not have come across it, I Am Team GB was created to help get more people active. The entire nation was invited to join our returning Olympic athletes today, 27th August, to say, “I am Team GB” and create the nation’s biggest ever sports day.

The day was brought about by The National Lottery, a main sponsor of Team GB athletes and their training, and ITV, a commercial television broadcaster. One of the most interesting things was that for one hour, at 9:30am, all ITV channels were switched off, to encourage more people to go out and get active. Sports clubs and venues around the country offered free sessions throughout the day for people to go along and try something new. People were also encouraged to do their own thing and get active by taking the dog for a walk or cycling with their kids. It didn’t matter what the activity was, as long as it got you moving.

Quite honestly, this is a fantastic idea, and to make it even more attractive, many events were lucky enough to be visited by an Olympian, something sure to provide further inspiration. And my chosen event was one of them…

Parkruns around the country, while already free, were getting into the spirit and celebrating #IAmTeamGB this weekend. Perth parkrun was one of many lucky enough to be visited by an Olympian, in our case swimmer Stephen Milne who was part of the silver medal-winning 4x200m relay team. Stephen was born in Inverness but has lived and trained in Perth since he was a young child, so he’s our local Olympian. It had been announced in advance that he would be attending so I decided this was a fine time to dust off the replica top I bought in 2012!

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I arrived about 10 minutes before the run start and spotted our visitor straight away – the Team GB tracksuit and silver medal adorning his neck was a dead giveaway! He was chatting to people and posing for photos, mainly with children. Obviously, I made sure I got a photo too!

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There were a good number of people there and the atmosphere felt different to usual. I find our parkrun, as I’m sure others are, to be very friendly and positive, but today there was even more of a buzz in the air. I spent the time before the run briefing chatting to someone I’d not spoken to before and everyone seemed really upbeat. Of course our visitor was introduced during the run briefing and everyone gathered in closer than ever, especially when we became part of an enormous selfie…

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Can you spot me? I’m in there…!

Photo: Stephen Milne on Twitter

After that, it was business as usual. My intention was to run a bit easier this week as I have a 10k race tomorrow, however as soon as we started I realised that my body had other ideas. Fuelled by coffee and inspired by the Olympic spirit, I was gliding along (or at least that’s how it felt to me) with a spring in my step, but when the first mile ticked by in 7:26 I realised I’d better slow down a little! I did, but was still running sub-8 minute miles and ended up crossing the line (which today was marked by some festive bunting) in 23:36 – my fastest time this year and the closest I’ve ever been to that lofty PB of 23:14 I ran around this time last year. Maybe we should have Olympians visit us every week!

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Post-race and floating along on a runner’s high, I was able to get another photo, and this time I asked if I could have a wee feel of the weight of the medal. One or two others had done this before the race and had reported that it was really heavy, but I was still surprised by just how weighty it was. Far heavier than any medal I’ve earned so far!

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I had to dash off for my Saturday yoga class, but had a fantastic morning, probably one of the most memorable parkruns ever, and couldn’t resist a few bonus jumping shots before I left:

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Anyone taking part in #IAmTeamGB today was encouraged to use the hashtag and post their photos on social media. In the afternoon I was delighted to receive the following response  from The National Lottery on Twitter:

What a great surprise and a fantastic way to round off what was a brilliant initiative, a brilliant parkrun experience and a brilliant way to spend a Saturday.

Thanks to Stephen Milne for coming along and inspiring everyone, and well done to all our wonderful Team GB athletes.

Did you take part in #IAmTeamGB today?
Any Olympians near you?

Friday Finds – 19th August

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

I always feel a little sad as the Olympics draw to a close. It’s been a fantastic fortnight of sport and I’ve really enjoyed watching the best of the best competing. I’m also really pleased to see such a strong performance from Team GB in our first post-London Games, proving that there is a continuing legacy of sport in this country. But away from the incredible performances, personal bests and world records, we’ve also seen a number of moments which really define the Olympic Spirit, and that’s the focus of this week’s post.

One of my favourites comes from the women’s 5000m. In case you missed it, two runners collided during the race. One helped the other to her feet then when they began to run again, realised that she herself was injured. This time the other runner stopped to offer encouragement. Both runners, sporting rivals (and strangers) before the race, finished and hugged in acknowledgement of that shared experience. For me that really embodies the ideals of sportsmanship that should be so important in events like this.

I also liked the story to come from the women’s marathon, however this one has had some mixed reactions. In brief, twins Anna and Lisa Hahner both represented Germany in the event. When they finished in 81st and 82nd place, they crossed the line holding hands, a gesture reminiscent of the inaugural London Marathon when Dick Beardsley and Inge Simonsen crossed the finish line hand in hand (we also saw this from Paula Radcliffe at the 2015 London Marathon and Meb Keflezighi at the Boston Marathon in the same year). But for the German twins, their finish line moment has been criticised on the grounds that it looks like they didn’t take the race seriously and treated it like a “fun run”. Given that they ran a 2:45 marathon on a hot Rio day, I’m not sure how much “fun” they were having (frankly if you looked at some of my finish line photos from marathons you’d think I had a fantastic time from start to finish, but I know differently!). I’ll never know what the Hahner twins’ true motivation was, some have suggested self-publicity, but I like the idea of them finishing together and sharing the moment.

Another pair of siblings to make the headlines was GB’s triathlon titans Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee. Aside from the fact that four out of the last six Olympic triathlon medals (of any colour) have been won by a member of this same family, the bond between the brothers shines through even in the face of friendly rivalry. Having successfully defended his title, Alistair slumped to the ground soon to be joined by Jonny (who upgraded his bronze in London to a silver in Rio). They clasped hands and simply said, “we did it.” They had been together through much of the race, and it was only towards the end of the run that Alistair pushed ahead to leave Jonny behind. Having watched this pair in other races, I’m certain they always wait for each other to finish, regardless of how long it takes.

Probably one of the most iconic moments of the Rio games happened between two gymnasts. In a time when tensions between many nations are fraught, gymnasts from North and South Korea, countries technically still at war, posed together for a selfie. That moment of unity quickly went viral as an unlikely friendship was forged. Like with the story of D’Agostino and Hamblin, it proves that sport can bring people together in a shared goal, even when competing against each other, much like shaking a rival’s hand at the end of a race to congratulate them on a job well done.

And finally, if all of that is making you want to go out and create your own Olympic moments, then one way to do so might be to run the marathon. Don’t worry, you don’t have to run 26.2 miles all at once, and sadly you’re not guaranteed a trip to Rio, but The Guardian‘s new interactive podcast sounds like a really cool alternative. Simply fire up the podcast on your phone, and head out. As you run, your distance and pace will determine what you hear as you are treated to an audio tour of the Olympic marathon route as well as some information about how Rio got ready for the games and a little bit of marathon-related advice. The men’s marathon takes place on Sunday, so if you have a long run to do then you could almost feel like you’re with them… in spirit anyway!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Currently…(August 2016)

The last few weeks have given me a chance to get a bit more organised and devote a little more time to the blog than of late, something I hope I can maintain as the new school year begins. So as my summer break draws to a close, I though I would update you on how I’ve been spending my time.

Walking
Yup, you did read that correctly: walking. Although my job often involves me being on my feet, wearing an activity tracker revealed that I wasn’t actually moving around all that much. I was a textbook example of the “actively sedentary” – going for a workout in the evening, but moving very little the rest of the day. What with my half hour each way commute, teaching lessons and completing all my admin, I was spending a lot of time either standing in more or less the same spot or sitting down, neither of which are particularly helpful for running well! I decided I had to do something about that. My activity tracker sets me a step goal each day based on my activity levels. If I hit my goal, it increases a little and if I miss it, then it goes down a little. I had been very inconsistent in meeting my goal. I knew for example that I would have very few steps on a Monday as it was a busy teaching day, often with an after school meeting, and my workout was a swim so no steps there. Conversely, I knew I would easily meet my goal at the weekend when I had a run each day and would walk into town for any errands I had. So I set myself a mini goal: for every FULL day of my summer break, I had to meet my step goal. This meant that as time went on I would have to be more creative about adding more walking into my day in order to do so. To give you an idea, here are my stats for the first full day of this challenge (a Saturday so higher than my average at this point). Notice that my goal was just 6586 steps, way off the 10,000 often suggested to keep healthy and a real indication of how little I had been moving:

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And here are my stats 6 weeks later, also a Saturday and captured a few hours earlier in the day. My goal is almost 6000 steps higher and my daily average has gone up considerably!

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And yes, I have met my goal every day, as you can see from these graphs. (The eagle-eyed among you will spot that my stats on the 1st of July, when school finished at lunchtime, were terrible. I spent much of that afternoon in a hot tub and didn’t wear my watch. I was celebrating the end of term after all!))

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It’s been fun. I pretty much ditched my car and have walked everywhere I possibly could. On a couple of occasions, I went out for a short walk in the afternoon as I knew I was going to come up short. As a result I now feel, fitter, stronger and healthier both physically and mentally. I’ve really enjoyed walking around and taking in more of my surroundings, even when walking on a route I often run as the slower pace meant I would see much more:

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Walking to Steve’s studio for a workout. I love walking along here, saying good morning to all the dog walkers!

Discovering that there's an archeological dig taking place on the site of an old monastery!

Discovering that there’s an archeological dig taking place on the site of an old monastery about a mile or so from my front door!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It would be great if I could remain more active day-to-day as I return to work, but I know it’s just not feasible to allow my step goal to continue increasing. At the start of term I’m going to set my watch to a fixed goal of 10,000 steps and see if I can manage to fit a bit more walking into my daily routine. Watch this space!

Listening
One benefit of all the walking has been extra time in the day to listen to podcasts (I wrote about my favourites here). Usually I listen to podcasts when I run, but like the radio in the morning and a podcast on my drive home from work. Most of my walking was at least half an hour each way, so I could listen to one podcast and a bit of a second. I then often finished the one I was in the middle of whilst doing bits and pieces around the house. Sometimes I even listen to one in the shower as I have a waterproof bluetooth speaker that I can take in there with me! Listening to the Runners Connect Run to the Top podcast in particular has given me a great deal of food for thought and I feel much better informed about some running-related issues as a result of all that listening!

Running
Don’t worry, there’s been plenty of running happening too! I’m still sticking with the three runs per week I was doing when I returned to running after my injury and making sure each serves a purpose (no junk miles here!). My main goal is to bring my short distance times down (I can track this with my parkrun times) and build up some endurance over longer distances so that I can head into my spring marathon training feeling much stronger. What this means in practice is a midweek tempo run, Saturday parkrun and longer, slower run on Sundays. So far I’m pleased with the improvement in my parkrun times and I’m enjoying running more slowly on Sundays.

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Watching
The Olympics of course! Much like in 2012, I’ve been glued to the TV overage and can easily get sucked into watching absolutely anything that’s on. Diving? Watched it. Gymnastics? Watched it. Dancing horses? Yup, watched that too! And now we’re into the stuff I really like (athletics, velodrome cycling and the climax of the tennis) it would be easy for me to spend literally hours in my comfy chair enjoying that shared viewing experience afforded by social media. It’s a good thing the time difference means it’s later in the day before the live coverage comes on, or my step goal would have been in serious danger over the past week!

Preparing
For the new school year. For a variety of reasons, last year was tough for me. Work aside, there was a lot going on in my personal life that seemed to conspire to make everything difficult and I know my health was suffering because of it. Fast forward a few weeks and spending time relaxing in the Florida sunshine, getting well rested and using my time to feel fit and healthy in all senses, I want to continue to feel this way. Of course, teaching will always provide its challenges, but in the year ahead I need to make sure that while I keep an eye on my pupils, I also keep an eye on how I’m feeling and take steps to make sure I end the year feeling a bit less exhausted than I did this year. Please someone remind me of this in February when work is busy, daylight is limited and the end of term seems a million miles away!

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What have you been up to?
How do you make sure you stay fit and healthy all year round?