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.

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:

 

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.

 

 

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!

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

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!

 

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 🙂

 

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!

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?

 

A Letter to Santa

It’s Christmas Eve and, according to the NORAD Santa Tracker, Father Christmas is already well underway with his deliveries on his big night.

Clearly it’s far too late for him to make any changes to what he’s got on his sleigh for me this year (or at least I hope he has something, I’m quite sure I’ve been a good girl!) but I thought I might share a list of one or two items I have my eye on. I may not find these under my Christmas tree tomorrow, but I’ll be looking out for them in the sales to see if I can pick up a bargain!*

 

Making the top of my list this year are all the pieces of running kit that will help keep me warm and dry. I distinctly remember spending what felt like an eternity marathon training in wet and windy weather last January/February (and when I say wet, I mean WET!) and after one particularly memorable run where my gloves were drier when they came out of the washing machine than when they went in, waterproofing is a big priority for me as the next cycle of marathon training approaches.

I’m really keen to try Sealskinz products as I’ve heard a lot of good things about them, so I’ll be hoping for some waterproof socks and gloves. They also have a waterproof beanie hat in their range which looks quite appealing too.

I’m also intrigued by the Adidas Climaheat range (I got a pair of the Climaheat Rocket Boost shoes when I was in Paris and on a trial run recently I did notice my feet keeping nice and warm) so another great option would be the Climaheat fleece gloves for cold days and the Cheat Hoody (a running top with a built in face guard for added warmth). Steve got some Climaheat trackies for work and he said it was like running in an electric blanket! I’m also rather fond of the Adidas running tights I bought in Paris and would love either another pair in pink or green, or another pair of equally funky running tights (I’ve seen some by several other brands such as Nike and Hind).

 

Speaking of funky, I love wearing compression tights/sleeves/socks on my longer runs so I’d love to add to my collection of bright/patterned ones. This year I’ve bought compression socks and sleeves by Bondi Band, ProCompression and Zensah which I love, but I’m also quite drawn to these! Wearing compression gear really helped my recovery during marathon training so as I see it, one can never have too much!

And so my wishlist seems to be all about the marathon training this year – kit to keep me warm, keep me dry and help me recover faster. What’s on your Christmas list?

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*Disclaimer – these are all my own totally independent ideas. Quite simply, it’s just a list of all the stuff I want right now. Fingers crossed!

Race Report – Glasgow Santa Dash 2014

Last year, we continued our tradition of taking part in a Santa run by heading to Glasgow for the first time and we had such a great time that we were determined to take part in the event again this year. The 2014 race was scheduled for the 7th of December, the day after the inaugural Perth Santa Run, so we decided to go for it and make 2014 a Santa Run double-header!

Like last year, race entry was very simple via the Glasgow Council website and the price remained the same at £15 (including santa suit and medal). Unlike last year, we weren’t sent our race numbers in advance so planned to collect those when we arrived. We decided to just wear our Santa suits from the Perth Santa Run rather than collect new ones in Glasgow as this meant we would be able to get organised by the car rather than in the middle of the International Santa Convention (aka George Square) before the race, which is much more convenient.

So with our suits and a change of clothes in the car, we set off for Glasgow around 7:30am (racing in Glasgow is always an early start) to allow plenty of time to get parked, collect our numbers and join the throng of Santas in George Square. The weather was AWFUL on the way through with torrential rain and heavy grey skies around Stirling which made me very glad of the change of clothes I had packed (I didn’t think the man-made fibres of the Santa suit would provide much protection from the rain!) but fortunately by the time we got to Glasgow the skies were much clearer.

We arrived in plenty of time to get organised and headed straight for the toilets at Buchanan Galleries. Everybody else in there was dressed as Santa and everyone was saying good morning and being very friendly even though we were all complete strangers. That’s the thing about Glasgow, it’s always so friendly. I had carried my stuff along to the toilets with me and this pit-stop gave me a chance to get properly organised before heading down to George Square.

And what a sight we were greeted with when we got there – Santas as far as the eye could see! Tall santas, small santas, padded Santas, slim Santas, even some four-legged Santas! George Square was packed and what appeared to be thousands of Santas were already lining up behind the start line enjoying the pre-race entertainment (I heard later that over 5500 Santas had registered for the event). We headed into the City Chambers to collect our race numbers and came out to find it was snowing. That’s right, snowing! It didn’t last long, but it made the day feel so much more festive and as we joined the massed gathering of Santas in the start area, everyone was in great spirits.

Soon, there was a countdown and the Santas in the front got under way. For the rest of us, however, it was like one of those slightly anti-climactic marathon starts where the countdown ends, everyone cheers and nobody moves. Not even a step! But after much stop-start shuffling we eventually reached the start, waved to the real Santa (who had taken time out of his busy festive schedule to see us all off) and set off up St Vincent Street.

This start up St Vincent Street was one of my most abiding memories from this event last year as the road begins to head uphill and all that can be seen is a sea of red bobbing up and down. We had started quite far back so I could see this incredible sight stretching ahead of me and despite having intended to race, I was finding it tricky to get properly underway in the crowds so stopped for a moment to take a couple of photos as the crowd of Santas by now stretched right out to the horizon both ahead and behind me:

I decided at this point that I wasn’t chasing a time (having run hard in the Perth event the day before) and that since it was a fun run I would simply relax, run easy and soak up the atmosphere. I had no music so had no distractions from what was happening around me and I was glad of this as in many ways it was like the atmosphere during the Paris Breakfast Run. The high spirits from the start had continued into the race with people chatting to each other, calling out greetings to marshals and police officers and responding to the encouragement from the crowds (including a lot of horn honking both as we crossed a bridge over the motorway and from some council workers in a  van). If I had been listening to music then I would never have heard the small boy who shouted out, “look, a building made of cheese!” as we passed the car park for the SSE Hydro. I can kind of see where he was coming from:

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Perhaps the most heart-warming thing I saw during the course of that run was the guy who was pushing his daughter in her wheelchair, however the chair had been modified with decorated wood panels so it looked like Santa’s sleigh. Everyone who ran alongside them commented on it and it reminded me just why I love events like this – absolutely anyone can take part and have a blast (although you do have to be careful of the leads attached to those four-legged Santas!).

Although the weather was a bit colder than the day before, I had worn fewer layers under my Santa suit so wasn’t melting quite as much this time, but it was still getting a bit toasty in that suit so much as I was enjoying myself, I was ready for the finish line when it came. I had the advantage of knowing the route since it was the same as the year before so was able to pick up the pace a little and was delighted to stop my Garmin on EXACTLY 3.1 miles (5k)! I was slower than the day before with 29:19 (not including my photo stop) and slower than last year but I didn’t care as I set out to have fun and that’s exactly what I had.

Once over the line I was handed my snowflake medal and directed to a table to collect water. Steve was waiting by the table so we headed into the square together to take a couple of photos.

The lack of wicking fabric in the average Santa suit means that when you stop moving you get cold very quickly so we didn’t hang around in the square too long and instead headed back up to the car to change our clothes (which really meant removing the suits and adding some further layers) before going for a well-earned coffee and sweet treat before having a look around the shops (where I made a new festive pal!).

 

Once more, we had a fantastic day out in Glasgow and I really do recommend the Glasgow Santa Dash if you’re able to get to the city. Next year is their 10th anniversary and I heard the announcer mention that they are aiming for 10,000 Santas. We certainly plan to be there, and it would be great if you could join us.

Race Report – The Inaugural Perth Santa Run

For a few years now, there has been talk of establishing a Santa Run in Perth and this year it finally happened. And with a Saturday lunchtime start, we were both able to take part on the 6th of December to kick off a weekend of “Santa running”.

Normally on a Saturday I would get up and run first thing, but with the later start time and no need to travel to the race, I found myself with a bit of time that morning and used it to get into the festive spirit by putting up our Christmas tree while listening to my favourite Christmas album!

 

Steve had collected our Santa suits and numbers the day before so we were able to get ready at home (which made a pleasant change from donning the red suit in a car park!) and I was quite content with my race number: se-VEN (to be said in your best Len Goodman voice!)

 

The race started outside Perth Concert Hall, so we just had a 5 minute walk to get there (and no queuing for toilets – luxury!) Stepping out of the flat, however, was one of those interesting moments when ABSOLUTELY NOBODY ELSE was wearing a Santa suit, so we stuck out a bit, but by the time we reached the concert hall there were Santas EVERYWHERE. I half expected to see Santas crawling out of drains and emerging from windows as people seemed to be arriving from every direction! There was a stage set up and everyone was gathering ready for the warm-up and announcements. We manoeuvred through the crowds and, despite everybody being dressed the same, we somehow defied the odds and spotted some people we knew to chat to!

After the warm-up, we were directed to the start line to get ready to run. Despite being reminded several times that it was a FUN run (including lots of wee ones) I still had my Garmin on as I like to keep a record of my running, even in events like this. As I lined up, a guy beside me glanced at the watch and, amused at my approach to a fun run, asked what would be a good time for me. To be honest, I wasn’t overly bothered by my time, but I did want to use this event as a marker to show where my running was a month into my comeback and measure my progress.

Soon, I could hear the Provost giving us the official countdown and the race was underway. As expected, I spent the first part of it dodging round slower runners in front of me, but in races like this it’s not worth getting upset about it. I had suspected I might be a bit too far back in the start area and in a mass participation fun-run it will always be harder to get underway if you’re not right at the front.

The route itself was nice, involving some road closures to give us a bit more space. I actually found it a bit weird to be running along the middle of such familiar roads as I’ve never done that in Perth before!

From the concert hall we headed along Mill Street, took a left then another left onto the High Street which had been taped off to keep those not involved to the sides. It was great to see how many people had turned up to cheer on the Santas and I had a big smile on my face as I ran down the street past the Christmas market stalls and festive shoppers.

One of the best parts of the race was reaching the bottom of the High Street by the River Tay and seeing the sea of Santas beginning to stretch out across the bridge. We were running on the pavements here (as opposed to the closed roads up to this point) so it was a bit narrower, but everyone was in great spirits and there were a few familiar face out marshalling so I was able to call out to them and hear some encouragement in return.

We crossed the bridge, took a left then left again further along to re-cross the river on the old bridge. There were still Santas on the first bridge at this point so I enjoyed the view as I glanced across before looping down under the old bridge and joining the North Inch.

By this point, I was absolutely roasting! Those Santa suits are not exactly a technical fabric so even though they are quite thin, it gets warm very quickly. Added to this was the fact that Steve had told me it was cold and I should wear an extra top underneath, so as I began the second half of the race I was cursing him as it was just too complicated to start removing layers. Nothing for it but to keep going and deal with it!

As I ran along by the river I was glancing across to the other side of the Inch in the hopes of seeing the lead Santa approaching the finish, but there was no sign of them just yet. I did, however, get a chance to see some of the other Santas as there was a short out-and-back section at the top end of the Inch with a turning point so I was able to see who was ahead of me and say hello to people I knew.

The final push was along past Bell’s Sports Centre on the path I have been using for my running drills recently. I was absolutely melting and my Santa jacket was hanging off one shoulder so I must have looked a bit of a sight, but it was time to dig in and head for the finish. Just beyond Bell’s I heard someone shouting out, “come on number seven!” and turned to see a good friend from work who was visiting Perth for the day along with another of our former colleagues. They had decided to come along and watch the race as part of their visit and it was a nice surprise to have somebody I knew there to cheer me on.

Finally, the finish gantry was ahead of me, just off the path on the grass. I was worried about slipping in the mud so my ‘Santa sprint” was curtailed a bit, however I crossed the line with 27:52 on my watch and was handed my goody bag and bottle of water before heading off to find Steve. I found him clutching a gigantic cracker and having his photo taken – he had won!

I hastily located my medal inside my goody bag and made sure I got my post-race photo taken too:

 

The race organisers had agreed a number of offers and post-race treats with some local businesses, so after chatting to a few running friends, we set off clutching our list of offers to see what we could acquire. First up, a free cone at Janetta’s!

 

Going for an ice cream in December wouldn’t normally be on my list, but it was delicious. I had Scottish tablet flavour and Steve went for mince pie flavour. I’m guessing it was good as he devoured it so quickly that I didn’t even manage a wee lick to taste it! Funnily enough, there were quite a lot of people at Janetta’s (only the first 50 were getting a free cone!) so we had a chat to some friends and I admired the amazing festive desserts that were on display:

While eating our cones we headed over to Lakeland where there was mulled wine and a mince pie on offer for Santa run participants who were still in their suits. I love mulled wine so we weren’t going to miss out on that one – I think we might have been among the first to get there!

Finally, since it was a Farmers’ Market day, we went off to see if we could claim a couple of the vouchers for money off food (there were only 50 available) and we were in luck. Our friends from a local Indian restaurant were making street food so we opted to try some of their curry which was delicious!

There were an assortment of other discounts available, however these were the ones which most interested us, so curry in hand we headed home to get changed and inspect our goody bags:

There was the all-important medal (there had been two designs on offer so it was pot-luck which one you got), water, the discount/offer list, a candy cane, some Haribo, a mini-cracker and a voucher for a podiatrist/running shop in Fife. Not too bad for a fun run!

The Inaugural Perth Santa Run was a great start to our Christmas celebrations. The event was well-organised, the route was good with plenty of support, there was a decent goody bag and the local offers were a real boon. I even managed to run my fastest time since starting to run again last month – bonus! Hopefully this race will be back on next year and if you’re in or near Perth then I definitely recommend it.

Ho ho ho!
The Running Princess

Best (or Worst) of my Racing History – Link Up

For this post I’m linking up with Jessie over at The Right Fits. She is on a quest to run a marathon in each of the 50 US States (which is pretty cool!) and had this great idea for runners to share the best and worst of our racing histories on our blogs. Hers are drawn from across the marathons she has completed so far; I will be including races of various distances…
”Best

 

Best Finisher’s Shirt

The Paris Breakfast Run & Paris Marathon 2014 are my current favourites. To take part in the Breakfast Run all participants had to wear the technical T-shirt issued at registration. We teamed ours with kilts as we were encouraged to dress to represent our countries. It was amazing to see all the different ways this was interpreted.

 

I also really like my finishers’ top from this year as it is a female-specific fit and I actually got the right size (unlike in 2010 when they had run out of small by the time I finished and I had to take a medium).

 

Worst Finisher’s Shirt

The Edinburgh Marathon in 2011 definitely stands out for this one. Due to some disorganisation at the finish line, I was given the generic top intended for relay finishers rather than the one for full marathon finishers. I was promised one by post, however what eventually arrived was a cheaply printed replica in a completely different material and shade of blue. It was also far too big. Very disappointing.

The London Marathon also gets a mention for its “one size fits no-one” cotton T-shirts included in the goody bags. Generally speaking, I would expect to at least have a choice of size or fit (unisex or female-specific) from one of the Marathon Majors.

 

Best Finish Line

There’s nothing quite like the finish of the London marathon. Turning onto the Mall from Buckingham Palace and seeing the finish line ahead is simply amazing, and everything runs like clockwork once you cross the line – medal, goody bag, photo, baggage truck, meeting area. Brilliant! I recently re-visited this area and felt some of the race day emotions flooding back.

 

I also enjoy the finish in Paris with the Arc de Triomphe ahead, however you only see this at the last minute after winding through the Bois de Boulogne so the effect is not quite the same as in London.

 

Best Overall Swag/Gear

Got to be the Smokies ladies-only 10 mile race which I ran in both 2011 and 2012. At this time, there was a mini bottle of wine in the goody bag and usually some full-size toiletries such as bath foam or deodorant. Fantastic!

Best Crowd Support

Crowd support in the London marathon is amazing. There are crowds lining Tower Bridge, a wall of sound in Canary Wharf and the support along the embankment in the final 5k is fantastic. Flagging runners are carried along by crowd support and anyone who stops to walk is given so much encouragement from people shouting their name and spurring them on to the finish. I remember my legs screaming at me to stop and walk, but I knew I had to keep going when so many people were willing me on.

 

Hottest Race

No contest here. We regularly take part in 5k races during our summer trip to Florida, however the Run Thru Hell is always the hottest. It has the latest start time of any of the races we do (usually around 8am) and takes place in a park over in Tampa which is nearer the coast. As a result it is much more humid with 100% humidity almost the norm and a number of sections through tree-lined trails which seem to hang on to all the moisture in the air. The first time I did this race I found it tougher than a marathon and sometimes I’m convinced it is more of a swim than a run!

Coldest Race

The Edinburgh Rock ‘n’ Roll Half marathon in 2013 takes this one. It was a wet day (although it did stop raining by the time the race started) and blowing such a strong gale that the porta-loos were blowing over and the race start was delayed as some signage along the route had blown down so it wasn’t safe enough to start on time. I’m picking this as the coldest not because of the temperature during the race, but the temperature after. The windy conditions meant that changes had to be made to the baggage collection area which really slowed things down, and even wrapped in my foil “victory cape” I was shivering after racing in shorts and having to hang around without quick access to warm clothes (some of which were wet anyway!).

 

Wettest Race

I’m adding an extra question to my round-up as I have to include the half Kilomathon in Edinburgh in 2012. It was absolutely pouring and by the time I finished in Murrayfield stadium I was totally drenched, but still had a brilliant time.

 

Most Beautiful Course

I’m going to pick the Aviemore Half marathon here for the absolutely stunning views as the course descends towards and alongside Loch Morlich. I’ve run this race 3 times now and set my current half marathon pb there.

 

Hilliest Course

The Stonehaven Half marathon is run over a very hilly course in early July. The year I ran it the race happened to fall on probably the hottest day of the year in Scotland so it was a tough slog and water stations were running out of water. Not only that, but I was really just relying on the last of the miles I had banked in marathon training to get me round, rather than training specifically for it. A hard run, but the free entry to the Stonehaven outdoor pool afterwards was brilliant to cool off and help the legs to recover!

 

Race That Took the Most Mental Strength

For me, the Lochaber marathon in 2012. I picked up an injury right at the end of my training, but my physio encouraged me to start anyway and see what happened. The first 16 miles were fine, but the last 10 were a lonely run hobble/walk back into Fort William for the finish. There was little crowd support along the out-and-back countryside route and quite a small field. At points all I wanted to do was sit at the side of the road and cry so it took a lot of mental strength to keep going. I usually feel like crying at the end of a marathon but hold it together as I tend to be by myself, but this time Steve was waiting at the finish and as soon as I crossed the line I burst into tears. Not an experience I am keen to repeat!

Finished!

Most Disappointing Finish

The Edinburgh marathon this year found me in a similar situation to Lochaber in 2012 with an injury rearing its ugly head. Both my physio and my podiatrist gave me the ok to run, but I knew it would hurt despite the strapping around my lower leg. I had a bit of a meltdown before the race, knowing it would be a tough and painful run. Mentally, it was easier than Lochaber as there was a much bigger field so I never felt alone, but I was disappointed in my finish as I had originally intended to aim for a pb at this race and instead found myself limping over the line. In hindsight, I know it was a mistake to go ahead, but I have learned a lot more about listening to my body and making tough calls as a result.

Best Start Line

I love lining up to start the Paris marathon on the Champs Elysées with the Arc de Triomphe at my back, the Place de la Concorde ahead and 26.2 miles of amazing Parisian sights awaiting me. Nothing beats a running tour of my favourite city!

 

I also enjoy the start of the Glasgow Santa Dash as it initially takes us uphill. The sight of a sea of Santas bobbing up the hill ahead and turning to see something similar behind is quite something!

 

Most Organised

Easily the London marathon. Everything runs like clockwork from the race expo to getting to the start area, from entering pens and getting underway, to the finish line. It feels like the whole city is supporting the runners and London on marathon day has an amazing atmosphere.

 

Flattest Course

The Edinburgh marathon is billed as being fast and flat – indeed one of the fastest in the UK – so it most definitely has pb potential. I felt it was my best chance to nail a sub-4 hour finish this year, but sadly injury put paid to that.

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Best Finish Line Food

The Watermelon 5k fun run in Winter Park, Florida. I LOVE ice cold watermelon after a hot run and this race has watermelon in abundance for all finishers alongside smoothies and sno-cones. I don’t like anything heavy immediately after running, so this one is ideal for me.

But if it’s a post-race bbq you’re after, head over to the Run Thru Hell in Tampa where you can tuck into a burger before 9am!

Coolest Medal

The medal from the Paris marathon this year is pretty unusual. It is designed as a continuous loop (including the ribbon) to represent the loop of the Paris course.

 

I also really love my Rock ‘n’ Roll Half marathon medal which is a pretty weighty bit of race bling in the shape of a guitar with a sparkling tartan effect behind it.

 

Most Emotional Finish

Every marathon finish is emotional, but I’m choosing both the Lochaber marathon in 2012 & Edinburgh marathon in 2014. The only times I have actually cried at the end of a marathon (rather than just thinking I might). On both occasions because of injury which not only caused physical pain but forced me to relinquish dreams of a pb. Both taught me a great deal about myself.

So there you go. If you fancy joining in and sharing the highs and lows of your racing history, then you can find out everything you need to know in Jessie’s original post. I’d love to read all about it!

 

Dear Santa…

How are you? I do hope you, Mrs Claus and all the reindeer are well. It was very good of you to take time out of your busy schedule last month to help out at the RNLI Reindeer Run and it was lovely to receive my medal from you at the finish line, although I’m quite sure none of us were quick enough to challenge your super-speedy sleigh-pullers!

I’m probably a fairly easy person to choose gifts for, however just in case you’re still looking for any ideas, I thought I’d make you a list of my top picks of gifts for runners me. I’ve been extremely mostly good this year and it would be lovely to find one of these little treats under my Christmas tree on the 25th*:

The “High End” Gifts

You have to aim high on a list like this, right? I may already have a perfectly serviceable Garmin watch (actually, I have two!), but top of my list this year has got to be the new Garmin Forerunner 620 with heart rate monitor. As a running addict and gadget geek, nothing would make my day more than combining running and tech into one fabulous piece of kit.
The 620 records just about every single piece of running data it’s possible to record (distance, pace, time, ground contact, cadence, bounce, VO2 max, race predictor…) as well as allowing friends to track your run live and then telling you how much recovery time you need post-run. Cool, huh? And all of this in a lightweight, colour touchscreen device with wireless connectivity. I definitely want one of these!

Next up, a running jacket. I have many of these and probably don’t need another one, but the one I’d love this year is not just any running jacket, it’s a Gore Air GT ASjacket in shiraz red and hot pink. Pricey, but I’ve found that nothing beats the elements quite like Gore (I’ve been wearing a great pair of Gore gloves which keep my hands nice and toasty) and this little beauty sports a feminine cut and fitted hood, has an integrated media pocket and a secure hook for a key. A pretty zippy colour too!

The Mid-Price Gifts

First up, the Helly Hansen Warm Freeze half zip top. I love a good base layer on colder days and this one can be worn on its own or with another top over it if the temperature plummets. Designed to be both insulating and moisture-wicking (essential to regulate body temperature), it comes in a range of funky colours – my favourite is magenta with the festive snowflake print.

I could also do with a new pair of trainers for the gym. I don’t like to be overly supported during my workouts so that my feet and ankles can be strengthened too so I’ve found the Nike Free 3.0 to be ideal for this. A really comfortable shoe, but my current pair (which I love) could probably do with being replaced. Even better, they can be customised with NikeiD to really reflect the owner’s personality. Awesome!

Stocking Fillers

I love my Yurbuds earphones which are comfortable, never fall out and allow me to hear noise around me (like traffic – I need to know if a massive lorry is heading my way!) while keeping the quality of the sound. I’ve been using Yurbuds for the last couple of years since I discovered them on holiday in the USA and now they’re available here in the UK. I recently noticed their new Race Case which looks great for using my phone on the go. It has a handstrap for a tight grip and a shell that offers impact protection in the event of a drop. Great for easily taking race photos to stick on my blog without fear of dropping my precious iPhone!

Another thing I love is compression calf sleeves. During the winter months I wear compression tights on my long runs, but in the summer when I’m in my shorts or skorts I still like to know I can have some compression when I need it so calf sleeves are brilliant for this. Wearing sleeves also means I can stick to my favourite socks rather than trying something different which might cause blisters. Recently, I’ve been keen to get some more unusual designs and my attention has been caught by Bondi Band’s argyle patterned sleeves. Black or block colours are great, but sometimes I just like something a little more unique. Just because I’m going to get hot and sweaty doesn’t mean I can’t put an outfit together!

It wouldn’t be Christmas without socks, and my favourites are the Balega Enduro socks. Really comfortable and I’ve never had blisters with them so I tend to stick with these. With my big running challenge next year, a couple more pairs wouldn’t go wrong.

Christmas Novelties

Everyone’s wearing Christmas jumpers these days and I’m certainly no exception. I recently came across this little gem and couldn’t resist – a tech top that looks like a Christmas jumper! It’s most certainly a novelty, but I’d love one of these for winter running.

So there you go Santa. This stuff is all available from a variety of running shops and online retailers, or you could get your elves to make them for me (I’m sure Mrs Claus would manage a tech Christmas jumper!). I’ll be sure to leave a cookie out for you and a carrot for Rudolph. Safe travels on Christmas Eve.

Love,

Allison

*Disclaimer: all of these are my own, totally independent ideas. This is quite simply a list of the stuff I’ve spotted and would quite like – you can never have too much running gear after all and you never know, Santa might be reading!

What would be top of your list for Santa this year?

Santa Claus is Running to Town!

The festive season is getting well underway. There has been some recent dabbling in Christmas activities such as the Reindeer Run and last week Steve and I ventured on to the outdoor ice rink in Perth for our annual reminder that we are most definitely NOT Torvill & Dean!

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This weekend, however, the festive spirit truly took over. Saturday was spent putting up our Christmas tree (under the watchful eye of my tree supervisor, Morven) and in the evening we cracked open one of our favourite Christmas movies: Elf.

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All of which really put us in the Christmas mood for today’s excursion. Can you guess?

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That’s right, a Santa run! It has become a tradition for us to take part in a Santa run every December. For the last 3 years, this has been in Edinburgh and we have combined our run with a visit to the Christmas Market. This year, for a variety of reasons, we decided to check out the Glasgow Santa Dash instead, which was taking place on the same date as the Edinburgh Santa Run. We’ve never been through to Glasgow at Christmas time so were keen to see what they had to offer, but we do still plan to visit Edinburgh next weekend since we really enjoy the market there and seeing the nation’s capital all lit up for Christmas.

The race cost a very reasonable £15 (which included a Santa suit, but we didn’t actually claim ours as we had some from previous races so decided to save time by taking our own with us) and we were able to sign up via the Glasgow City Council website. On Friday, our race packs arrived with our race numbers, race info and sponsor forms if we wanted to raise money for the chosen charities (this was not compulsory and we opted not to since we will be asking pretty much everyone we know to support our fundraising activities next year). We had already checked out the route map on the website and were looking forward to the 5K loop which started and finished in George Square.

With the race starting at 9:30am, it was an early start, leaving Perth around 7:30. With a quick “pit-stop” en route, we were parked and suiting up around 8:45. Since it was early, pretty much everybody in the car park was also wearing a Santa suit and anybody who was not was most definitely in the minority! There was enough time for a final toilet stop in the Buchanan Galleries (again, all Santas!) before walking down to George Square.

Now I always feel like the start of a Santa Run looks like some sort of crazy Chris Cringle convention, but this was incredible – over 3300 Santas, Mrs Santas and Santa juniors all gathering together as far as the eye could see.

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The start line was on St Vincent Street, the same as for the Great Scottish Run, which of course meant an opening half mile straight UP St Vincent Street!

As the Santas massed behind the start line, we were first treated to a warm up (although it was a bit of a squeeze!) followed by some words from a local councillor who welcomed us all but, quite rightly, also drew our attention to the tragic events at the Clutha just a week ago and a silence was observed out of respect to the victims and all others who had been affected. Soon after that, we were counted down and the event began.

In an event like this there will always be some good-natured jostling and weaving at the start to get some space, but since that start was uphill and not a “serious” event, that didn’t bother me. One thing that did amuse me was all the discarded bits of Santa outfits strewn along the road, particularly hats which seemed to be every few paces. I could feel the bobble on the end of mine bumping lightly against my head and my beard was flapping around my neck (I can’t wear it across my face as I end up choking on the synthetic fibres – not a good look!). There were photographers on the hill and lots of runners were stopping to take photos of their own. I had started fairly near the front, and as I reached the top of the hill turned around to take in the view behind me. Sadly I didn’t have my phone handy to capture the sight of a 3000+ sea of Santas, but you can take my word for it that it was fantastic!

From the top of the hill we continued along St Vincent Street, crossing one of the bridges over the motorway and heading briefly downhill as we made our way towards the junction with Finnieston Street and a left turn at around 1.25 miles. I wasn’t particularly paying attention to my pace as it wasn’t that important to me, but I think the first mile was completed in just over 9 minutes, which given the uphill half mile was pretty good.

We followed Finnieston Street for roughly an quarter mile, before again taking a left turn onto the Quay and running along by the river and back towards the Broomielaw and the city centre. Somewhere along there we ran under the Kingston Bridge which was pretty cool! By this point I had a good amount of space and was trotting along at a decent pace, despite feeling somewhat toasty in my Santa suit! Mile two in roughly 8:25.

With less than a mile to go we turned left for a brief stint on Brown Street before a right turn onto Argyle Street towards the Heilanman’s Umbrella. For the uninitiated, this is local nickname for the glass-walled bridge which carries the platforms of Central Station across Argyle Street. There were quite a few people out cheering along this section and as we reached the St Enoch Centre and the left turn onto Buchanan Street, I spotted a wee girl with a sign which simply said, “Go Santa”. Indeed!

The final section of the route took us along the flattest part of Buchanan Street and past the Tardis. Yes, The Doctor is a frequent visitor to Glasgow!

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I seemed to be getting faster – mile three was about 8:17 and I was still picking up the pace as I turned right onto St Vincent Street and back towards the gantry for the finish, finally crossing the line in about 26:29. Not bad given the crowds and fancy dress! As we crossed the line we were encouraged to keep moving forward to collect our medals and a bottle of water. I really like the medal which is snowflake shaped with a picture of a running Santa on it!

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Steve was waiting for me and we headed over to the big Christmas tree in George Square to take some photos:

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Following this, it was time to continue our Santa Run tradition by heading to a well-known coffee retailer for a festive beverage whilst in our Santa suits. We both love the fact that on this one occasion we can wander around in the suits like it’s perfectly normal and absolutely nobody will bat an eyelid! On the way there, I couldn’t resist a little homage to Elf:

Still under the influence of last night’s movie, I opted to stick within the 4 main elf food groups as detailed by Buddy the Elf – candy, candy canes, candy corn and syrup. For me, this meant an orange mocha and a candy cane. Very festive!

Suitably refreshed, it was time to go and check out the Christmas market down by the St Enoch Centre. This is a smaller market than in Edinburgh, but we were still able to enjoy a Glühwein and a bowl of goulash for lunch before setting off for a quick look around the shops before heading home tired, but happy.

To my mind, the Glasgow Santa Dash is a superior race to the Edinburgh Santa Run. In Edinburgh, the route is confined to a couple of laps of Princes Street Gardens, which is not particularly long, and the 2nd lap is generally spent shuffling along behind walkers and families. The Glasgow route, on the other hand, is a full 5K loop with roads closed and a much better atmosphere. It is a bigger event and throughout the route there are opportunities for spectators to cheer on the participants and often there were drivers tooting their horns in encouragement as we ran by. I definitely prefer the christmas market in Edinburgh, but for festive running, it will definitely be the Glasgow Santa Dash from now on.

Have you taken part in any festive races or got any coming up?

Do you enjoy running in fancy dress?

Doe, a deer!

“Fun run season” is well and truly underway with this morning marking the first of the annual festive runs and an excuse to wear some daft Christmas accessories!

The last time the RNLI staged their fundraising Reindeer Run at Glamis Castle was back in 2011 and I remember really enjoying the event as it was a lovely day which really showed off the stunning surroundings, so when I heard that the event would once more be taking place at Glamis this year, I was keen to take part again.

My plan had been to wait until after my run last Sunday before signing up, that way I could ensure there was no obvious problem with my calf before committing to another event. Since Sunday went well, I spent some quality time that evening entering one or two races for next year’s challenge (more on that soon!) and entering the Reindeer Run. Unfortunately, some technical issue with their entry system meant that on Monday evening I received an email out of the blue saying that my payment had been inexplicably refunded. Unsure what was happening, I emailed the event organisers and got a really lovely reply apologising for the problems, confirming my entry (with race info attached to the message) and the very trusting promise that the payment could be sorted out at a later date. When I arrived at race registration today, somewhat unsure of my entry status, they did indeed have my name on their list and I simply paid by cash – no problem (and they would have been happy to sort it out later if I hadn’t taken cash with me). It just goes to show that when problems arise it’s how they are dealt with that’s important. This one was dealt with very well and for me, set a positive tone to the event.

The format this year was that the 10K would start at 10:30am, the Santa Saunter for the little ones at 11:45 and the 5K at 11am. The route itself is a 5K loop through the stunning castle grounds, therefore the 10K runners were doing 2 loops.

I had travelled with Kirsteen as we were both running the 5K but knew others who were going for the 10K. We arrived around 10:20 but by the time we registered and nipped to the toilet, the 10K was already underway so we didn’t get a chance to catch up with our friends. An imminent warm-up was being announced so I took a couple of photos while we waited.

As you can see, it was a beautiful, crisp autumnal day but there was a definite chill in the air so aside from my standard winter kit of long tights, base layer and long-sleeved top, it was time to try out the new Ronhill bobble hat I bought on a recent trip to Glasgow and the Gore gloves I won in a Facebook giveaway. I found these gloves to be excellent as they were the right thickness to keep my hands warm without getting too warm (I don’t like really bulky gloves but nor do I like cold hands so for me these ones were just right) and they have material on the fingers to allow the use of a smartphone (I took the photos whilst wearing the gloves). The left glove also features a small zipped pocket suitable for keys. A very pleasing win indeed!

There was a short delay to the warm-up beginning as the gantry began to collapse and staff were sorting it out, however it was obviously crucial to the smooth running of the event that we started on time because as soon as the clock began to chime 11, the warm-up was halted and we were moved to the start line where a countdown began. Before I knew it, we were running.

I knew that the terrain this week would be a little different from last week’s flat 5K around Perth’s North Inch so I set out nice and easy. My pre-race preparations had also included a Metafit class last night so I wasn’t even sure if my legs were going to work! The first mile is mainly on good solid trail (although there were a few slightly squelchier sections!) and we were running uphill fairly quickly. Somehow I had forgotten this hill, although I had remembered that there would be a hill on the main castle drive towards the end of the race. I had neglected to pick up my iPod before I left, but I wasn’t bothered as it was a short distance and the scenery was beautiful. I ran the first mile in 8:58, getting my money’s worth out of that scenery!

One of my favourite parts of the route is the section that leads to a huge fountain which, during this morning’s run, was on. The fountain just seems to suddenly appear before you as you emerge from one trail section, then before you know it you’re crossing a short bridge and rejoining a trail (where Santa himself took time out of his busy schedule to help out and ensure runners were warned to watch their footing!).

By this point, we were starting to catch some of the 10K runners on their second loop and actually caught up with the friends we had missed earlier. We exchanged a few words before emerging back onto concrete road and beginning the steady climb up the main castle driveway. Mile 2 in 9:14 – still enjoying that scenery!

I felt I ran quite strongly up the hill and passed a number of runners, although it was hard to tell if they were 5K or 10K runners as most were wearing the event T-shirt and antlers so everyone looked the same! The turning point in this section came at around the 2.5 mile mark at the castle gates. This was further up the drive than I remembered from last time, but provided a great opportunity to see runners still running up the hill and call encouragement to/high five friends! It also meant that I would get a nice downhill run to the finish and could pick up the pace a bit. I settled into a rhythm and fixed my eyes ahead on the view of the castle at the end of the drive:

Photo by Agnes Callanan

Photo by Agnes Callanan

The start/finish gantry was around the bend to the left so I just kept my pace up, making sure to save a little something for a sprint finish! Mile 3 in 8:20.

Kirsteen had been right behind or beside me throughout the race and we crossed the line together in around 28:26. My Garnin measured the course a bit long at 3.26 miles, but I’m not really bothered by that since it was a fun run. I was pleased to see that I ran that last quarter mile at 7:14 pace!! Wow!

Santa was once more on hand to pass out medals to the finishing reindeer and there were photographers taking pictures of us all. We waited for our friends in the 10K to finish then moved away from the finish line where we were able to collect a bottle of water, cereal bar, banana (which I declined – I’m not a fan!) and mince pie – my first of this festive season. There was also a tent with hot drinks, sandwiches and chocolate bars in return for donations, but my money was in the car and it felt wrong to take anything without making a donation at a charity event. All this was in addition to the Tshirt, antlers and flashing noses we had been given before the race (but opted to leave in the car as we felt they might be a bit awkward to run with). A pretty good race haul.

Sadly the mince pie didn’t make it into the photo as I greedily gobbled it up straight away!

Since we hadn’t taken photos with our antlers, etc before the race we decided to do this once we headed back to the car, so here we are sporting the crazy festive look most of the runners had this morning:

 

Someone also got a candid one of me, clearly laughing at my own ridiculous appearance!

We also managed to get a photo of the whole group:

Anyone know the collective noun for a group of reindeer? 🙂

I recognised our photographer, who turned out to be Danielle Sasaki whose running blog, I Eat Therefore I Run, I have been reading recently – go check her out! I hadn’t met Danielle before so it was nice to meet another running blogger and have a bit of a chat about races and blogging. Introducing myself to a complete stranger whilst wearing antlers and a flashing nose may be one of the weirder things I’ve done in my life, but we runners are very accommodating and don’t let little things like that bother us! I enjoyed meeting someone new and having a chat before getting back in the car for the journey home.

I had a great morning at Glamis. Everybody was really friendly, the setting was beautiful and it was a gorgeous morning for a run. There was something for everyone with 2 race distances open to runners, joggers and walkers, and the Santa Saunter for the wee ones (which was actually led by Santa and the RNLI mascot) all in aid of a deserving charity. I hope they return to Scotland again next year.

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With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles, his coursers they came,
and he whistled and shouted and called them by name:

“Now Dasher! Now Dancer!
Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid!
On, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch!
To the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away!
Dash away all!”

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Rather alarmingly, another year has gone by and we’re just one weekend away from Christmas Day, so this week’s short post will be on Allison and Steve’s now-traditional festive jaunt to Edinburgh which took place last Sunday.

Ever since we had our first official date of a trip to the Edinburgh Christmas market and ice rink in 2008, we have taken a trip through to our capital every December for a bit of seasonal magic. This year was our 5th festive trip and the 3rd year in a row that we have also taken part in the Great Edinburgh Santa Run. If you haven’t come across it, this is an annual event organised by children’s charity When You Wish Upon a Star to raise funds to take youngsters to Lapland to meet Santa. It involves 1000+ Santas gathering at the Ross Bandstand in Princes Street Gardens to participate in a bonkers Zumba warmup then complete 2 laps of the gardens whilst trying not to choke on their own false beard! It’s great fun, all in a good cause and there’s a medal as well as the Santa suit to keep. It’s also the only race I’ve ever done where I’m REALLY aware of my top lip sweating!

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For the rest of the day Edinburgh remains full of people going about their business in a Santa suit. Our favourite is always to go for a post-run coffee, acting as if wearing a Santa suit is the most natural thing in the world! Others head for the market or the ice rink in their festive garb and nobody ever finds it strange.

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After this, we de-Santa and head for the Christmas market, this year enjoying a bacon and maple syrup crêpe in addition to the obligatory glühwein, both of which were delicious.

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Edinburgh itself looks fantastic at Christmas, so a trip through is well worth it. It’s been a couple of years since we went on either the big wheel or the ice rink, but seeing them always brings back memories of previous trips and we always end up reminiscing about the time our friend had to get first aid after falling on the ice and the rest of us stood outside taking photos, or the time the same friend squealed like a girl on the big wheel! There are lots of wonderful memories and every year new ones are created.

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All in all, this was another successful trip, not just for the fun we had but for the fact that I was able to run after spending the previous few weeks addressing a glute problem. I had no discomfort while running, although afterwards it did flare up a bit for a few days so obviously some more work needs to be done there, however this experience was enough for me to really feel the desire to get out running again. I think I shall add a fully functional gluteus medius to my list for Santa…!

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Merry Christmas everyone!
The Running Princess x