Week In Review – Christmas And The In-Between

What a week! We kicked off with Christmas Day then, with both Steve and I not at work, soon found ourselves lost in the “in between” limbo where most conversations seemed to revolve around food, drink or whether we were supposed to put the bin out! The week wasn’t entirely bereft of activity though, so this won’t just be pictures of Christmas turkey haha!

Here’s how my week ended up:

Monday – Christmas Day parkrun
Tuesday – rest
Wednesday – 6 miles
Thursday – rest
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – rest

After all the excitement of running my 100th parkrun just a couple of days before, I was really keen on the idea of a Christmas Day parkrun. We’ve not had a Christmas Day event in Perth before so for the team this was a bit of a test. Our festive RD was very open in saying that he would have been happy if 30-40 people turned up, so imagine his surprise when we had 217 parkrunners in an assortment of festive finery! The course was pretty muddy which made for an interesting run, but it was Christmas, I was dressed up and a Christmas elf gave me a sweetie at the end, so what’s not to like? And by some weird coincidence I ended up with exactly the same finishing time as on Saturday. I’m nothing if not consistent!

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IMG_9237Post-parkrun we headed home to change and get started on the rest of our celebrations. This year was a Christmas Day à deux so I saw absolutely no reason to make any further effort with my clothing: cue me spending the rest of the day in my cosy Christmas onesie! We opened the Bucks Fizz, made our bacon rolls (with Christmas spiced bacon which was DELICIOUS) and got down to opening presents.

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Guess who was interested in the bacon!

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Steve was thrilled with his new trisuit and dry robe (Santa must’ve got his email 😂) whilst I was happy that Santa got my “subtle” hints about wanting to see the touring production of Wicked when it returns to Edinburgh in the spring. Oh, and there were gin baubles so that made my day!

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IMG_5031And if you follow me on social media, you may have seen that we managed (not for the first time) to buy each other the same Christmas card!

IMG_5011As for the cat, she doesn’t need much these days as she really just likes to sit on my lap and sleep (and her health conditions rule out any food-related treats) but the fleecy lap blanket I saw in a pet shop over the weekend turned out to be a big hit. (My mum bought some pouches of the food she used to enjoy as a special treat and told me to donate them to a local cat shelter on her behalf, and I was delighted to do so. It breaks my heart thinking about pets without a warm and comfortable home like my little fur baby has).

IMG_5015Christmas dinner didn’t happen until much later on as we were on a pretty flexible schedule. I had made a pot of French onion soup for our starter then the main course was turkey and all the trimmings. For dessert, Steve made his (in)famous sherry trifle, which I enjoyed in front of the TV after a short break while I descended into a food coma!

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IMG_5026It was a gloriously relaxing day, and although Christmas seemed to sneak up on me a bit this year, I was perfectly content.

On Boxing Day we decided we should really get out of the house so took a walk into town. Some shops were open and I ended up buying a Fabletics gift pack in the sales to re-stock my gym bag for the new year. I’ve never tried any of their products but was tempted by the half price offer.

IMG_5111Other than that it was Christmas dinner leftovers and hot drinks in front of the TV while I placed a couple of online orders. First, I was so impressed with the quality of the Christmas running tights I had for Christmas Day parkrun that I decided to jump at the chance to buy a second pair in the sales. These ones feature my childhood favourites the Little Miss and Mr Men by Roger Hargreaves. It will be next Christmas before I wear them, but I’m already looking forward to it!

IMG_5112My other purchase was my own pair of “the pants of perspective” as featured in Anna McNuff’s book by the same name. I loved this book when I read it earlier in the year (I’ll write a review soon) and thought it was brilliant that I could buy my own pair from her website. After all, as Anna herself says: “because everyone needs a unicorn and a robot having a fight under a rainbow, on their legs.”

IMG_5113The day after that was Wednesday (I think!) and I wanted to get a run in to build on my consistency of heading out every other day since getting back to running last week. It was pretty frosty so I decided to stick to main roads and wore my all-terrain shoes which have a pretty good grip. 6 miles without falling on my bottom was definitely a good run!

IMG_5044To be honest, I had to ask Steve what we did on Thursday as I had no pictures and all of the days have merged into each other! It turns out that we went into town for a bit to have coffee with some old friends of his who are here from Italy for a short time. Given that I can’t remember anything else, I probably spent the rest of the day watching TV, reading and working on blog posts!

On Friday we had considered a trip to Glasgow, but by the time we had been out for our New Year food shopping it was beginning to snow quite heavily and we thought it best to stay close to home (as it turned out, Glasgow airport was shut for a while and several Glasgow parkruns were apparently cancelled on Saturday so it seems like we made the right decision). Since we were out, we went out to the farm shop for a couple of things and went to the cafe while we were there. I had a cinnamon hot chocolate and mince pie whilst watching the snow coming down.

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IMG_5058I also enjoyed their display of the gin baubles:

IMG_5055Once home I got started on another pot of French onion soup (a great winter warmer), then we had a relaxing afternoon before going out for our usual Friday food at the pub down the road. This week we both fancied the not-very-festive chilli burger!

IMG_5062Saturday was parkunday again. I didn’t realise until afterwards that this was actually my 100th in Perth (102nd overall since I have a couple of runs elsewhere in my history). The snow had mostly melted but the paths were slippy in places, the grass section frozen solid and it was pretty chilly. I donned my warm kit and chose my all-terrain shoes again to give me some confidence on the paths but kept the pace down so I felt a bit more in control of what I was doing – no point in starting the new year injured! Fortunately, I remained upright the whole way around, although I did clock my slowest time (outside of pacing duties) for 2017. Oh well!

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Fun fact: whilst setting up for this photo a dog ran off with one of my running gloves. The dog was on a lead though so we were able to retrieve it! 😂

Post-parkun it was another bacon croissant with Steve’s brother. Good job too since I got a text from my mum later declaring it to be National Bacon Day. There’s a holiday I don’t mind celebrating!

IMG_5101We then had a few errands and I came across a very tempting book:

IMG_5106I amused myself that afternoon by joining a linkup about my year of running and claiming my Instagram Best Nine for 2017. Mainly running and some epic food = quite a year!

princessallison78_fullWe also decided that since we have plans to repeat the New Year Triple on Monday, we should have homemade pizza (aka running fuel!) on Hogmanay, so had our awesome Dine-In deal on Saturday night: salmon royale (basically a blini topped with a poached egg wrapped in salmon and served with hollandaise sauce. Delicious!), steak with peppercorn sauce and chips, then profiteroles for dessert. Yummy!

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IMG_5109Sunday was pretty chilled to save energy for Monday. Steve did brave Storm Dylan to get in 5 miles since Strava told him he had 995 miles for the year and he wanted the round 1000! While he was out I tidied up a bit around the house and we finished the chores together later on – we even hung some pictures we’ve been meaning to get to! Then an evening in front of the TV with nibbles and a couple of drinks before getting to bed early ahead of our New Year running. Don’t worry, we plan to celebrate the New Year after we’ve completed the challenge!

To finish, I want to thank you for joining me in my weekly roundups this year. Much more to come in 2018 I’m sure!

Have a wonderful New Year, however you spend it.
The Running Princess

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A Gift Fit For A (Running) Princess…

Dear Santa,

I hope you’ve had a good year. Mine has been pretty good, despite beginning the festive season with a nasty virus. I’ve had to stop running and it’s making me pretty grumpy, but I know my mood is going to be so much better when I can start working out again so I was hoping you might bring me a few running treats to help motivate me as I begin training for the Stirling marathon. I’m pretty sure you leave all the running to the reindeer, so I’ve taken the liberty of making a list of things I’ve had my eye on or feel I need. Perhaps, if I’ve been good, you might leave one or two of these under the tree for me on the big day…

I’ve got plenty of nice snuggly running tights, but I would love some new tops to add a bit of variety. I’ve got my eye on a couple that would be great for those long marathon training runs: this one by Odlo which looks ideal for those really cold days, and this one from the New Balance x J Crew range which feeds my love of a Breton stripe. You brought me a different top from this collection last year and I LOVE it!

I’m loving patterned running tights lately and have bought a few great pairs, but I’d really love my own pair of the ones Anna McNuff called The Pants of Perspective (they feature on the cover of her book by the same name). I’m also very tempted by the signed copy of her book to go along with them. They would be a great motivation during tough times in a run. I also love the ranges here.

Something I take super seriously is recovery and I LOVE my Oofos recovery sandals. Sadly they’re not so appealing during the winter so a pair of their new shoes would just do the trick and make my feet feel amazing after those long runs.

There are also a few accessories I could really do with right now.

First up, a new Spibelt. Mine is pretty old now and a bit snug for my iPhone. I love these ones which are a bit roomier so I can carry and access my stuff more easily.

I could also do with a new hat. My favourite is a bobble hat so another similar one would be ideal.

For those chilly days, I really fancy a pair of the new Runderwear merino range. Their regular underwear is now my go-to for long runs as they are so comfortable, so having a cosy pair is really appealing!

I’ve also become a real convert to wearing a light on my shoe when I’m running in the dark (I guess it’s the closest I’m going to get to shoes with a light-up sole!) and would love another one so I don’t have to keep moving my one around different pairs. Perhaps even something similar for my arm?

And finally, I could really do with some more space to hang all those hard-earned medals. My current hangers are full so I’d love to extend them with some additional ones. To match the ones I have already I would need additional hangers in black and sparkling plum then I could get all those un-hung medals on display at last!

So there you have it Santa. I certainly don’t expect all of these, but thought a range of options at different price points might be a good idea. None of these are sponsored or affiliate links, so hopefully you have a few contacts up your sleeve to get a good deal!

Love to Mrs Claus and all of the reindeer.
Merry Christmas,

The Running Princess

‘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…!

‘Tis The Season (Part 2)

(If you missed it, you can read part 1 of my seasonal roundup here)

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Everyone has their festive traditions. It might be a particular meal, an activity or spending time with a special group of people. One of our festive fitness traditions is to take part in a Santa run during the month of December, however our most important tradition involves a bit less fitness and a bit more indulgence…

Steve and I first met back in the spring of 2008, but it was not until later in the year that our paths crossed again and we met for coffee. That “coffee date” being a rousing success, the following weekend we went on our first “proper” date and, it being December, Steve organised an appropriately festive day out to Edinburgh with skating on the outdoor rink, browsing the Christmas markets and sampling the glühwein. These were pre-smartphone days so I only have a couple of pictures from an ancient camera to record the moment for posterity!

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Neither of us are going to be troubling Torvill and Dean any time soon, but there’s something so special and Christmassy about ice skating surrounded by all those beautiful lights, so every December since then we’ve headed back to Edinburgh for a pre-Christmas day out (and confirmed that our skating has not, in fact, improved!). On a couple of occasions other friends have come with us, but more often it has just been the two of us and over the last couple of years we’ve fallen into a pattern of skating, drinking and eating lovely food. Without this trip, our Christmas would feel incomplete…

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(For some reason I couldn’t find pictures of us both from 2011 and 2013, but we definitely went to Edinburgh those years. Apparently we were more interested in glühwein on those occasions judging by these shots!)

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This year, our trip took place exactly a week before Christmas. I still had a week of the school term ahead, but it was still a fantastic day out and really made us feel like Christmas was just around the corner.

Steve had booked us on a train at about 9:15am, but despite an impromptu bonus run to the station when we mistimed our departure, we still managed to miss it. Fortunately there was another train a few minutes later and a lovely rail employee, filled with Christmas spirit, allowed us to to travel without having to pay a fee to change our tickets. I do hope she had a lovely Christmas after being so kind.

Arriving in Edinburgh we made our way straight to the ice rink as we had booked our slot in advance. I always feel kind of nervous as I exchange my shoes for ice skates and there are definitely a few wobbles until I find my balance, but soon I’m whizzing reasonably confidently around the ice (until I see someone fall, then I’m straight back to hugging the barrier!). One of these years I might even learn how to stop without having to head for the barriers at the side! Steve is less adept on skates as he didn’t do any skating at all (ice or roller) while growing up, whereas my sister and I had roller skates so there’s still some muscle memory in there. Poor Steve has spent so much time training himself to run, that the motion of skating goes against every instinct he has, however this year he did start to improve his form a bit and manage a PB of 5 laps of the rink without having to hold on to the barrier! That’s Olympic-qualifying standard, right 😉

They don’t let you take photos on the ice (we got a row for that last year) so we had to take our photo just before stepping onto the rink.

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A great feature of this rink is that once you have finished skating and retrieved your shoes (which after a half hour or so of skating feel very strange!) you have to exit through the bar. Funnily enough, we’ve never been in a rush to leave here and like to celebrate a successful skating adventure with a festive adult beverage. This year, we chose a sloe gin hot apple toddy and it was delicious!

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After our drink, we headed over to the Christmas market. This year the layout was a bit different as the whole Christmas experience in Edinburgh is constantly being refined. The market is always busy, but the new layout and management of the entrance/exit did help. The stalls were full of the usual types of gifts and foods, but I did find a couple of fun photo opportunities as we wandered around:

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Showing off my new Elf-inspired T-shirt!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were also some reindeer visiting from the Cairngorms:

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And then, I spotted it…

img_0166Obviously, we had to try something, but since we were on our way to have some food we opted for a Nutella hot chocolate instead of a crepe. Good, but not quite as good as that Nutella coffee I had in Paris. Yum!

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Our favourite place to eat on our Christmas trip to Edinburgh is the Chocolate Lounge on the Forth floor of Harvey Nichols (yup, it is the 4th floor but is spelled like the river that flows nearby – see what they did there!). There’s always a bit of a queue as you can’t book, but it’s totally worth it. You sit on a high stool with a conveyer belt going around in front of you like at a sushi bar, but instead of sushi, it’s examples of the chocolate products you can order. It being Christmas, we ordered a glass of champagne each to go with our food. Steve has a sweet tooth so always orders some kind of dessert, whereas I prefer savoury and my favourite thing to order here is the dipping plate (don’t worry, there’s still some chocolate, it’s just mixed in with the balsamic vinegar. Sounds weird; tastes amazing!).

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It’s quite clearly a dish for one, but when it was brought out the waitress, rather inexplicably, asked if it was “just” for me or if I was sharing it. As if! All I could think of was this:

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After eating, we still had plenty of time before our train so since it was getting darker we set off to see some of the amazing Christmas lights, starting with The Dome then heading along to the Street of Light display:

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There were some further stalls by the Street of Light, and we finally found exactly the kind of emporium we were looking for:

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Yes, there were samples and yes, we ended up buying some gin!

After which there was just enough time to grab a coffee before getting the train home (we were in plenty of time for this one!).

So there you have it. Our most important Christmas tradition of them all. We had another fantastic day out to Edinburgh enjoying some festive indulgences and creating more happy memories. Roll on the 2017 edition!

What is your favourite festive tradition?
Any exciting trips recently or in the near future?

‘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?

The 2016 Glasgow Santa Dash

For me, this year’s Santa Dash had a lot to live up to. Taking part in at least one Santa run per year has been our habit for years now, but after the disaster that was being struck down with a stress fracture last December, I missed out on (or had to modify) all my festive fitness plans. I distinctly remember consoling myself with the reminder that the events would still be there in December 2016, so now that we’re here I’ve been determined to make the most of things!

With work being busy for us both, we’re making sure to enjoy our weekends in December, particularly since this will be our first Christmas in our house. I’ll write a separate post soon with all our other festive fun, but this one is all about our Santa Dash experience.

We first took part in the Glasgow Santa Dash in 2013 when there were around 3000 runners and returned in 2014 when it had grown to around 5500! This year, the event actually sold out in the week before (we were a little later than intended in entering so I’m pleased we were able to secure places!) and this time there were 7500 Santa signups for this 10th anniversary event. That’s a lot of Santas!

Despite the expanding numbers, logistics were much the same as ever. Online registration was easy and race packs were available for collection in one of the main shopping malls in the days prior to the event. We’re a bit too far away for that so instead we take our own Santa suits (we’ve done a few of these events now!) and get our numbers on the day. This year, the event began at 10am so we left Perth around 8am, giving us plenty of time to drive to Glasgow, park, go to the toilet and get ready to run.

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One change this year was to the start. In the past this has begun in George Square and headed straight up St Vincent Street (also how the Great Scottish Run starts) but this year it started on the other side of George Square so we were funnelled around to St Vincent Street from there. I found this a bit narrow so finding space to run was tricky. We were also set off in waves, and while we hadn’t managed to make our way right to the front, we were in the first wave to set off.

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The remainder of the route was just as it has been in previous events and once free of the congestion at the start, I was able to run well and enjoy the atmosphere. I do love races in Glasgow as the support is always fantastic. Often there are places where only one side of the road is closed so there are cars on the other side with drivers honking their horns and shouting encouragement. And for this event it’s great to see so many kids running and people taking part as families.

Having run parkrun the day before, I didn’t all out race, but I did run comfortably hard and felt pretty good. Coming onto the last stretch up Buchanan Street to make the turn to the finish line (in previous years also the start line) in George Square I still felt that I was speeding up and though there was no official timing, I was pleased to cross the line and stop my watch at 26:21, my fastest around this course so far despite the first mile taking me over 9 minutes as I weaved through the slower runners and made my way up the hill. Very pleasing.

Crossing the finish line we were directed to keep moving forwards to collect our medals (the usual snowflake but with a ribbon denoting the 10th anniversary) and a bottle of water. I then found Steve and we headed into the square to take some photos by the decorations.

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Happy with our photos, we headed off to get a coffee and I couldn’t resist giving my name as “Mrs Claus” when asked by the barista. To be honest, those NOT dressed as Santa were in the minority during our time in the coffee shop!

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Finally, we headed off to have a look around the shops and the Christmas markets. A few years ago I recreated an iconic moment from Elf after the Santa Dash and having watched that festive favourite again the night before this year’s event, I couldn’t resist doing it again whilst in a department store (and yes, we did try out our “singing” whilst in the store!)

Love the people behind me not even looking as they're so obsessed with their phones!

Love the people behind me not even looking as they’re so obsessed with their phones!

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It was, once more, a great day out and a fantastic event which I highly recommend. There’s some video and a photo galley here, and if you’re in the mood for a festive game of Where’s Wally (or Waldo to my American friends) then check out this BBC article. I’m in the picture at the bottom. Have fun…!

A Runner’s Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

Wow, another year gone by already! I hope you, Mrs Claus and all the reindeer are well. Did you enjoy the protein bar and electrolyte drink I left out for you last year? You need to fuel properly for an endurance event like your annual trip around the world! I do hope you’ve recovered well, trained sensibly and had a good taper for this year.

I’ve been really enjoying my running lately and am looking forward to all the festive runs I missed out on last year due to an ill-timed injury. With a spring marathon on the horizon, I’m working hard to get my body ready and am trying a few things I’ve not tried before like yoga and trail running. Since it’s December now, you’re probably anxious to start getting the sleigh ready for your trip (now there’s a strength workout getting all those gifts loaded up!) and since I’m sure I’ve been very good this year, there are a few things I’m hoping you might have on there for me…

Something I’d find really useful is a new yoga mat. I bought a very basic mat to get started with as I didn’t want to spent lots of money until I knew yoga was something I wanted to commit to. Now, I’d really love a higher quality mat like this one from Lululemon. It comes in really nice colours, like my favourite purple/pink shades, and looks like just the thing to help me continue my yoga journey.

On the running front, there are so many things that would help me to feel good when I’m hitting the roads and trails. I’ve got my eye on the new J Crew for New Balance kit, especially this top which comes in my favourite striped design (and would pair beautifully with these tights from the same range). There’s nothing like a Breton stripe to get me in the mood for running in France!

If we’re in for a cold winter (and we’ve already had a particularly cold snap) then keeping warm is crucial. Last year I spotted this Odlo top with a built in face mask when I was perusing some kit reviews and have really fancied it ever since. I’m also interested in the new parkrun jackets which have just been announced. I wear my parkrun Tshirt to just about every parkrun I do, but if it gets super cold then a jacket would be a brilliant way to keep showing my support for parkrun.

And speaking of cold weather, one of my biggest worries is always slipping on icy, frosty paths. I certainly don’t want to take any risks, but if trying out some different shoes means I can avoid the treadmill on icy days then I’ll be very happy indeed. Recently I tried the all terrain version of my go-to 5k/10k shoe the Adidas Glide Boost, and now I’ve discovered that there is an all terrain version of my favourite long run shoes, the Ultra Boosts. I found the all terrain soles really grippy and was able to complete my workouts with confidence that my feet wouldn’t slide around – they even helped me to a good finish in the parkrun points competition – so it would be great to have another pair so I can continue to rotate my shoes and ward off injuries.

With all the changes I’ve made in my training, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to race a bit more in 2017 than I did this year. I love trying to improve my times and have amassed quite a collection of medals. Each one is a memory and I love being able to display them all on hangers in our new home. Unfortunately, I’ve run out of room on my current hangers so need a couple more to give me a bit more hanging space. I will use new hangers to extend my current displays so my requirements are quite specific. This one in both black and sparkling plum will be exactly what I need to match my current hangers and the extra space will give me the motivation to earn some new bling and fill them up!

So that’s my Christmas wish list Santa. I do hope you’re able to bring me something from on there and make me smile on Christmas morning. I’m off to choose a healthy snack to leave out for you so you can refuel properly and avoid hitting the wall on your most important night of the year.

Love to everyone at the North Pole,
The Running Princess

PS No sponsored content or affiliate links here, Santa. These are the things I would truly love to find under my tree this year. What are you hoping to find under yours?

A Disastrous December

Ok, so “disastrous” might be laying it on a bit thick, but December certainly hasn’t gone to plan and all running has come to a complete stop. Allow me to explain…

When I finished my last parkrun at the end of November, I was aware of something going on with my right foot. It felt a bit niggly and tight, a bit uncomfortable but not really painful…until I stopped moving! As the day went on my foot seized up more and I was hobbling about in a most uncomfortable way. So I did what any sensible (ahem) runner would do – I rested. A whole week without running and it felt much better, but a tentative treadmill test run had me hobbling once more so it was time to see my trusty podiatrist for further advice.

Diagnosis? Query stress fracture. That’s ACTUAL BONE DAMAGE!! I was referred to my GP so I could be sent for an X-ray (all of which is a pretty long-winded process in December!) and told that the treatment for a stress fracture is rest and six weeks(!) off running before a very cautious return.

Right.

My plans for December included 2 Santa runs, weekly parkruns and a gradual increase in my mileage in order to build a base for my marathon training, and instead I had a foot that looked like this:

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The taping was to take the pressure off a bit while my foot settled down.

December was now looking a lot more sedentary, a less than ideal situation in a month synonymous with lots of indulgence! Luckily for me, I was told that I could do any activity that didn’t cause pain, so some quality time on the bike at the gym and a chance to work on my swimming were on the cards. So while I had to miss out on my December running plans, I still had plenty to occupy me while I waited for enough time to pass until I had my X-ray (stress fractures only show up on X-rays once they start to heal).

The month began with Steve’s birthday. He had planned to be at parkrun, but for the first time in its two years, Perth had to cancel due to flooding – runners are pretty hardy, but when the floodgates are being closed, things become a bit more tricky!

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We celebrated with a lovely meal out then a walk along by the river, where there was continued floodgate action and the further step of one of the bridges being closed, something neither of us can remember happening before.

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Closing off the bridge

 

Thankfully although the water levels were high, there was no damage to property. Sadly many in other parts of the country were not so fortunate, and my thoughts go out to them as flooding continues (at the time of writing, our flood defences have been used three times in one month, and the bridge has been closed twice due to high water levels).

With conditions continuing to be poor, parkrun organisers put a back-up course in place which was used twice before Christmas (Boxing Day, unfortunately, was another cancellation due to the floodgates being closed). Since I couldn’t run, I decided to keep involved by acting as a volunteer and enjoyed stints as timekeeper and issuing finish tokens. These events felt particularly festive as one took place on the same day as the local Santa run, and the last one before Christmas featured a few fitter-than-usual Santas and lots of sweets being given out. Yum!

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But the main focus of December, injury aside, was to celebrate the season. I may not have been able to participate in the Santa run, but I did have fun supporting Steve who had his Fastest Santa in Perth title to defend (he was 2nd this year after running out of steam at the end). Who wouldn’t enjoy watching hundreds of people dressed as Santa doing a mass warm-up then trotting off round the streets of Perth?

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From the only Santa in town…

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…to one of many!

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And to complete my festive day, that evening I went to the pantomime with my sister. We had Christmas dinner beforehand, and I even scored my favourite Christmas cracker prize, the fortune telling fish (French edition). Result!

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We also took our annual trip to Edinburgh to enjoy the festive offerings (read: we go ice skating then have some festive adult beverages!). It was a brilliant day, and I even managed a bit of skating as the boots were pretty supportive for my foot. We had booked our time on the ice before I got injured, so I figured I might as well give it a go and could always stop if I had any pain. My foot was feeling a bit more settled by this point, so everything was fine.

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Skating selfie. Moments later we got a row and were told we couldn’t have phones on the ice. Oops!

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Warming up post-skating with a Pimm’s winter cup. It was delicious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A chocolate mocha cocktail at the Harvey Nics chocolate lounge 🙂

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And a delicious tasting plate to go with it.

 

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And with a bit of time before our train home, a mulled wine to round off the day.

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Met a new pal on the way back to the station. Not sure what happened to his other ear!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My luck also improved a bit when I won two different prizes in the UK Run Chat daily advent competitions on Twitter. On day 2, some ladies Runderwear, and on day 16 a copy of Nell McAndrew’s running book. I’m looking forward to reading it.

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When Christmas Day itself came around, my injury once more caused a change of plans, but having rested for almost a month by this point, my foot was pretty comfortable. This meant that rather than our planned Christmas Day run, we were able to go for a walk instead and I was still able to earn my Christmas Day virtual event medal, which is for any activity beyond eating, drinking or opening presents!

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December may not have been everything I wanted it to be, but there’s always next year and I still managed to have some fun. For now though, I’ve had my X-Ray and will get my results next week. In the meantime, I’m hoping  that in a couple of weeks I’ll be able to slowly and cautiously begin re-introducing some running into my training (I’ll be following my podiatrist’s instructions on this to the letter!). Fingers crossed that I’m well on the mend as I’m really missing running and finding myself rather jealous of those I spot out slogging through the wind and rain – even the “dreadmill” is beginning to look appealing!

Onwards and upwards!

What was the highlight of your December?
Do you have any fun festive traditions?

Festive Friday Finds – 25th December

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.

Merry Christmas to all my readers. I do hope Santa has been good to you and you’re looking forward to a relaxing day with loved ones. Whether you choose to go for a Christmas Day run or take a well-deserved rest day, here are a few festive-themed articles to help you enjoy the season:

Festive Motivation
It can be difficult to fit in fitness around hectic festive schedules, so if you need a bit of a helping hand, here are some tips that might help:

Food
Pretty unavoidable right now. There are all sorts of temptations and indulgences around at Christmas time and it’s ok to treat yourself. Just try not to go overboard!

Drink
Another indulgence around Christmas is the plentiful supply of “adult beverages”. No need to totally abstain, but if you’re heading out for a Boxing Day run, make sure you have plenty water to rehydrate first or it might be the toughest run you’ve ever been on!

And with that, I’m off to crack open the Bucks Fizz!

Have a fantastic Christmas,
The Running Princess

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Christmas Capers

I love Christmas. As a child, Christmas Eve was my favourite day of the year and I would spend it watching Christmas movies and getting excited about all the treats Santa would place under the Christmas tree. A bit materialistic, I admit, but as an adult I’ve learned that Christmas is not so much about presents, but about having a chance to switch off, spend time with family and, of course, have lots of delicious things to eat. The 25th of December is just one day, but the days leading up to Christmas can often be even better than the main event as anticipation builds and a plethora of festive activities present themselves for our enjoyment.

Apart from our adventures at the Santa Run in Perth and Santa Dash in Glasgow, we had a particularly festive day out to Edinburgh which formed my Christmas present this year. We had a fantastic day enjoying the Christmas market, ice skating (well, wobbling round the ice on skates!), having a cocktail at Harvey Nics and most exciting of all – a trip to see Wicked at the Edinburgh Playhouse. It was an amazing show and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I left the theatre with a smile on my face and songs in my head feeling like a very lucky girl indeed.

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But just because I’d already had my present didn’t mean I wasn’t excited for Christmas Day. Oh no, I was excited! We began our celebrations on Christmas Eve with a nice meal at home, Christmas movies, a visit from my sister and a FaceTime chat with my parents before tucking ourselves up in bed (leaving the cats to look out for Santa). Christmas morning began with the luxury of a lie-in followed by a quick check to see if Santa had been:

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No presents were unwrapped at the this point, however, as we had planned a Christmas Day run together so it was off to get organised. The lovely people at Run 4 It recently sent us both a running top and water bottle branded with their 10 year anniversary logo as a mark of our achievements this year, so we decided to wear those for the first time and set off to run TOGETHER (something we very rarely do) at a comfortable, conversational pace and stopped to take a few photos along the way.

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Yes, we are wearing Christmas hats!

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Unbeknownst to Steve, I had entered us in a Christmas Day Virtual Activity event so when we arrived home I had medals waiting for us too!

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After which I couldn’t resist trying my Santa hat on my sleepy cats!

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The remainder of our day was spent in time-honoured Christmas Day fashion…opening presents and eating! By the time we actually opened the presents under our tree it was after 12 – I don’t think I’ve EVER made it to the afternoon before without opening a single parcel – but despite already arranging a fantastic day out to Edinburgh for my Christmas, Santa still managed to put a couple of new running goodies under the tree, including a couple of items I mentioned in my letter!

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We spent a lovely afternoon with Steve’s family, but one of the highlights had to be Steve and his nephew turning up in the same Christmas jumper 🙂

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We had a delicious meal but I declined seconds as I didn’t want to over-indulge. There was also the annual board game hilarity, this year provided by 4 artistically-challenged competitors attempting to play Pictionary!

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The mince pies failed to improve our drawing skills!

What with the morning run, a post-dinner walk and walking to and from Steve’s brother’s house, Christmas Day turned out to be quite active. Boxing Day, however, was far more sedentary with another long-lie, some online sale shopping and only the briefest of trips out to the shops for some fresh air. However one day off is not a big deal and I was straight back to training the next day. Now all I need is for the new kit I ordered in the sales to arrive so I can try it all out. It will be like Christmas Day all over again and I can’t wait!

How did you spend Christmas?
Do you run or rest on Christmas Day?

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