A Runner’s Alphabet

As I get closer to race day (and spring marathon fever tightens its grip) I find myself more and more obsessed preoccupied with running and all it entails. Soon, I’ll be running 26 (point 2) miles once more, and by a happy coincidence for this post there are 26 letters in the alphabet. So just for fun, here’s a (marathon) runner’s alphabet.

The Running PrincessA is for Athlete. Because that’s what you are. It doesn’t matter if the pinnacle of your athletic achievement is parkrun or the Olympics, if you are taking active part in an athletic endeavour (i.e. running) then you are an athlete. End of story.

B is for Blisters. We’ve all had our fair share of these and somehow the marathon always seems to result in at least one of the little blighters for me, even when none have raised their heads during training. Gah!

C is for Chafing. Again, we’ve all been there. Often we don’t know we’ve chafed until we get in the shower and then the full extent of the chafe is unleashed. In a word, ouch!

D is for DNS/DNF. Never letters we want to see next to our name. You’ll certainly find DNS (Did Not Start) in my marathon history, but so far I’ve always been able to finish every race I’ve started. Let’s hope that continues *touches wood.

E is for Electrolytes. When we sweat, we lose salts so it’s important to replace them, especially in marathon running. My choice is to add electrolyte tabs to my drink as taking too much water on board is not a good idea thanks to its tendency to dilute those all-important electrolytes.

F is for Fartlek. If you can say the Swedish word for speed-play without sniggering, then you are definitely a runner! Playing around with different paces and effort levels is a great way to improve fitness and speed. If you want to run faster, then you have to run faster!

G is for Gels. Ah yes gels, my sticky marathon friends. Our bodies have enough energy for around 90 minutes or so of running, so anything longer than that needs a top up. My preference is gels and I’ve found the ones that work for me, but it’s always best to experiment in training so that any “issues” can be avoided.

H is for Hills. Speedwork in disguise, these short, sharp battles against gravity help to make us fitter, stronger, faster and improve our form. Hard work but worth it for benefits like those.

I is for Injury. If you’ve not suffered an injury at some point, are you even a runner? A high percentage of runners will be sidelined with an injury every year. My advice: don’t ignore it and hope it will go away, seek advice from an appropriate professional (not Dr Google or strangers online!).

J is for Jogging. According to TV, the activity being done by someone who finds the body. For me, jogging is the easy-paced effort you might do to warm up. It is NOT a word to be used to describe someone giving it their all and running – just because they’re not moving at world record pace doesn’t mean they’re not trying just as hard. Rant over.

K is for Kudos. The validation we hope to receive on Strava after our run!

L is for Laps. You might run laps of a particular route in training, you might run laps of the track as part of your speedwork and you might ultimately run laps of a course during your race. This is not my favourite kind of race.

M is for Medals. It’s all about that bling, right!

N is for Niggles. Often the precursor to injury. Best not to ignore!

O is for Off-Road. Hitting the trails is a great way to build a solid base. The terrain can be kinder on your body, the changes keep you alert and also help to strengthen your ankles. I recommend a pair of specific trail shoes to get the most out of this.

P is for Parkrun. Oh I do love parkrun, A weekly free timed 5k that’s open to all and happening in a park near you this Saturday morning. Great to test yourself over a short distance and a good way to sharpen up before a race.

Q is for Quicker. What we all want to be. Even just by a second!

R is for Race. A chance to test yourself out over a measured distance. Also how we earn T-shirts, medals and free bananas.

S is for Strava. The social network for athletes. If it’s not on Strava, it doesn’t count!

T is for Training Plan. Something worth having to structure your training, but make sure it fits your life rather than you trying to fit around it. And while a training plan is important, you don’t have to be a slave to it. Flexibility is key when life (or Mother Nature) gets in the way.

U is for Undulating. Runner speak for hilly as f&@#

V is for Variation. Vary your terrain, vary your shoes, vary your training. It is the spice of life after all.

W is for Watch. You don’t need to have a fancy GPS watch that does everything bar make your post-run smoothie. But as soon as you start to take this running lark seriously, it’s top of the shopping list! Just don’t get too obsessed with the data.

X is for X-Ray. Ignore the niggles and injuries and you might just find yourself needing one of these to figure out what’s going on.

Y is for Yoga. Great for runners as it stretches muscles, builds strength and improves flexibility. I definitely think yoga has improved my running.

Z is for Zzzzz. Ok, ok, but you think of something else that starts with Z!! Sleep is super-important for runners as it’s when we rest that the adaptations from our training take place. Sleep resets our minds, heals our bodies and boosts our immune systems. We should all get more of it.

What would you include?

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Friday Finds – 30th March

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

Hello! I hope Good Friday has been good for you. The weather here has been pretty miserable, but a day off work was definitely welcome! So as you relax into your (long) weekend, here are some bits and pieces for your reading pleasure…

Last week I included a piece with the startling news that caffeine might not make everyone run faster, so to counter that here’s an article from Runner’s World to remind us of all the benefits having a coffee. Just don’t drink it too late if you want to get a good night’s sleep!

Also from Runner’s World, the results of a study into the effects of stopping exercise on our mental health. Certainly any runner who has ever been sidelined by injury can attest to how their mood changes, but up until now there has been very little research done on the subject. Unsurprisingly, the study notes changes almost immediately in many cases, but what was most surprising for me was that females seemed to be affected much more. Perhaps that explains the way I have reacted to past injuries compared to Steve! I’d be interested in your thoughts on this.

If you’re needing something uplifting after that, then I have the very article for you. Sometimes the person who finishes last in a race is the most inspiring of all, so here are the stories of 8 runners who found themselves doing just that.:

This week’s near-obligatory article about Strava is a cautionary tale for those who pore over the data too much – but perhaps not in the way you think. Most of us (read: me!) like to geek out over the copious amounts of data the app provides, but for one user the only data she was interested in was who her partner was working out with. Can you guess what happened next…?

And finally, the tagline tells us that “America runs on Dunkin'” and now we can take that literally as Saucony’s latest running shoes to celebrate the city of Boston have a Dunkin’ Donuts theme. It may seem an odd partnership, but there’s something appealing about running shoes covered in sprinkles 😀 If you could design a pair of running shoes featuring food, what would you choose?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 16th March

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 2nd February

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

Hello and welcome to February! I hope you’re ready to attack the new month with enthusiasm. I’m here to bring you your first instalment of Friday Finds for this month…

I think we have to kick off with the story everyone has been talking about this week – Strava. Back in November the popular app/website (if it’s not on Strava then it didn’t happen, right?) launched their latest heat maps, an interactive map showing the most popular running/cycling routes worldwide. To be honest, it looks really cool! But this week it became apparent that military personnel were inadvertently revealing the location of their bases by uploading their workout data, leading Strava to release a statement. It seems to me that some users’ privacy settings might need a bit of attention!

There’s more news from the London marathon this week. UK readers will likely remember the big story from last year’s race came not from the elite race but from the club runners right behind them as Matthew Rees stopped to help David Wyeth, a complete stranger who was struggling in the finishing straight. The moment was televised and drew a lot of attention, including Wyeth’s running club offering to pay for Rees to run in the 2018 race. And run it he will, but alongside Wyeth. The two have become good friends since their paths crossed in London, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them featured on the TV coverage this year. I love when running brings people together and makes good things happen.

Another runner with a challenge ahead is Colin McCourt. If the name seems familiar then it’s because his 2017 challenge to break 16 minutes in the 5k featured in a post back in November. Now, he has set himself the new challenge of a sub-2:30 marathon by the end of 2018. He may be a former GB international competitor in the 1500m, but the marathon will be a very different experience for a man who has never run longer than 90 minutes before! His first marathon will be London, so I suspect he’ll also make it into the TV coverage – I’m already so excited to watch this year’s event!

Speaking of challenges, many people have set themselves the challenge of walking 10,000 steps per day. In fact, with so many people using fitness trackers/apps, it’s something the majority of us are keeping an eye on. But journalist (and doctor) Michael Mosley, in a programme for the BBC, claims that perhaps this isn’t the measure of health so many believe it to be. That may shatter the illusions of many, but I must say I feel much better when I move more and that must be important too. I’d love to know your thoughts on this.

And finally, runners often find strange things when they’re out putting in the miles, prompting Runner’s World to ask readers to share some of theirs. Some of them are truly bizarre and you have to wonder how these items came to be left/lost. What’s the strangest thins you’ve ever seen on a run?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 12th January

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

I imagine you’re back into the regular routine now and the recent festivities seem like a dim and distant memory. Never fear, I still have some Friday Finds to get your weekend started.

Let’s start with something inspiring. You may have seen the headlines that US marathoner Molly Friel recently qualified for the 2020 Olympic marathon trials. On first reading that doesn’t sound like anything special…until you find out that Friel is 50! I LOVE seeing “older” athletes still performing as well as younger competitors as it reminds us all that age is just a number.

One of my goals for this year involves getting a bit more sleep as I know that I will perform better in all areas of my life if I’m better rested. With that in mind, I read with interest the findings from studying all the sleep data gathered by Fitbit. While  some of it is US-based, some of the basics are bound to be true for everyone else and are very revealing about how poor our sleep in general can be. It certainly inspired me to think more about this basic, but important part of life.

Of course one of the benefits of running is that it helps us in other areas of life, including improving our sleep. If you’re new to running, or your running has taken a back seat lately, here are some reminders of how it can help you (beyond fitness):

It wouldn’t be Friday Finds without some stats, so here are the results from the Running Shoes Guru reader survey where participants were asked a variety of questions about their running habits. I don’t know about you, but I always like to see where my answers fall compared to the others…

And finally, it’s the return of Strava art! London cyclist (and Strava artist) Anthony Hoyte created a fantastic festive design which involved 88 miles of cycling through busy city streets. Making this story even more appealing is the fact that he actually intended to do this a year ago but had to postpone due to illness. Definitely worth waiting for!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 29th 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.

Hello! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. Another week has gone by and now we’re somehow teetering on the brink of a brand new year! Since this time of year is all about reflecting and setting goals, this week’s Friday Finds brings you a selection of articles looking back over 2017 in running and looking forward to 2018…

Runner’s World shared their roundup of the best running stories from the year. I certainly recognised a few in there:

Similarly, Outside shared their best running moments from the year. Some degree of crossover, but still a great reminder of some of the awesome things that happened this year:

Canadian Running magazine shared both the moments they found most jaw-dropping and a roundup of some of the best running-related books and movies to come out this year. Perfect if you’re still looking for something to do in this weird post-Christmas limbo!

And of course Strava published their year in stats – enjoy geeking-out over the numbers!

When it comes to looking ahead, Motiv Running is helping us with our goal-setting (including some useful questions to ask ourselves to aid reflection on 2017 before planning for 2018).

Canadian Running magazine suggests some running resolutions to give you inspiration:

And Runner’s World is making some predictions for the trends we’ll see in the year ahead. It will be interesting to see if they are right!

However your 2017 went and whatever you have planned for 2018, I wish you the happiest of new years and look forward to sharing more with you in the coming months.

The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 15th 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.

Phew! Another Friday in the bag and another Friday closer to the festivities of the 25th. Let’s take a look at a few bits and pieces that have caught my eye in the last week…

I’ll start with one of the hot topics of the year, Nike’s Vaporfly 4% shoes (aka the Breaking2 shoes). Since I love a stat, I was fascinated to find out that 19 out of the 36 possible top-three podium places in World Marathon Majors this year were occupied by athletes wearing Nike’s ground-breaking (some would say controversial) new shoes developed for the Breaking2 project. I have come across a number of articles suggesting the shoes really do make a difference to finishing times, so Tim Huebsch at Canadian Running magazine did his sums and added 4% to the finishing times of the athletes wearing the shoes to see what they could have been otherwise. Interestingly, they are probably a bit slower than one might expect for this level of athlete so I think it’s fair to say that there’s more to a speedy time than a pair of shoes, but I wonder if there was a psychological impact too?

Taking a slightly different approach to research is Alex Hutchinson in his Sweat Science column. Rather than provide details of the latest study related to running/fitness, the column this time looks at smaller studies that didn’t produce the “right”result and therefore didn’t hit the headlines.

Meanwhile over at The Guardian, Kate Carter is taking a look at the Strava Year in Sport report that I highlighted last week. Rather than looking at some of the more “serious” statistics, this time things are brought to a level of far more importance to many (all?) runners – food! Once those miles start racking up then I can say with absolute certainty that food becomes one of the most important things in my life, but what would your guess be for the most popular food mentioned in Strava activity titles? You can click through to see if you were right:

Another fascinating idea from Canadian Running magazine pits a number of world leaders against each other in a hypothetical 5k. Funnily enough, their own leader takes the top spot but he does have the advantage of actually being a runner. Some of the others can certainly hold their own so imagine if this race actually took place…

And finally, whether you’re a seasoned yogi able to twist yourself into a pretzel or someone who struggles to touch their toes, these illustrations of yoga expectations versus reality are sure to raise a smile. This was probably me when I started doing yoga, but it’s amazing how quickly you improve.

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 8th 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.

Hello! How has your week been? Mine has been interesting to say the least, but at long last it’s Friday and time to get the weekend started with some Friday Finds

As the year edges towards its close many of us are evaluating our goals for the year and contemplating the things we want to achieve in 2018. With that in mind, you might find this first article interesting. Writing for the BBC, Amanda Ruggeri investigates goals and what can lead to both success and failure. I’ll bear this in mind when setting my goals for 2018.

Also thinking about the end of the year is Strava. This week the social network for athletes released their annual report filled with statistics gleaned from the activities logged throughout 2017 (although I was surprised at the “average” people logging 120-130 miles for the year. That seems low to me, but maybe my perception is skewed by marathon training?). In the article below, Women’s Running pulls together some of the headline numbers. If you’re a data geek, enjoy!

Next, an examination of the ubiquitous pre-race kit photo. We’ve all been known to take those “flat runner” photos, especially when we travel for our race (guilty as charged!), but in this piece for Outside, Martin Fritz Huber argues that when it comes to the pros there’s more to those photos than simple sponsor promotion, that they have become part of a pre-race ritual that encourages focus and creates a degree of control. And that’s where they can be useful for all of us, whether we’re aiming to be on the podium or just happy to finish.

On a lighter note, two-time US Olympian Desi Linden posted an amusing tweet in which she described several American pro runners as emojis. I love this idea and it got me wondering about the emoji I would like to represent me. It has to be the princess since I’m The Running Princess! 👸🏻 What would you choose and why?

And finally, every week I like to finish with a lighter/humorous article or video. This week, Canadian Running Magazine has done the hard work for me and rounded up some of the strangest running moments of the year. I know I’ve covered some of these and remember reading/hearing about others. Maybe you remember some too…

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 17th November

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

Helllo! Thank goodness it’s Friday! I’m rather looking forward to a relaxing weekend, but first some reading material…

After her historic win in New York the woman of the moment is most definitely Shalane Flanagan. Here, Lindsay Crouse, writing in The New York Times, examines what she refers to as the ‘Shalane Flanagan Effect’:

Next up, an article with a headline featuring a word which usually prompts a sharp intake of breath from me: the word “literally”. Thankfully, this particular writer has used it correctly and it turned out to be fairly important in introducing the idea in the article – that exercise helps an area of your brain to grow. Studies therefore suggest that exercise could play a similar part in brain health as we age as things like puzzles or taking supplements. Another big plus for regular exercisers!

Now, one for the data fans. If you’re a committed Strava user then you might already have come across the heat map the company recently released. Compiled from countless hours of running and riding (over a billion activities!) it shows the most popular routes around the world and is absolutely fascinating.

On a lighter note, if you race regularly then you probably have some awareness of the sort of sights you often see when it comes to other runners. Women’s Running staff have obviously been thinking along similar lines and have compiled a list of spectator types you always see at races. I’ve definitely seen them all…have you?

And finally, we runners can be fairly easy to poke fun at, but at least sometimes that humour is spot on. Check out this cartoon from The New Yorker that really captures the modern connection between running and social media. Guilty as charged!!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 8th September

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

Happy Friday! Hope you’re looking forward to an awesome weekend. Let’s get things sorted with a few bits and pieces to read…

First, something from a source I never expected to be including in a running blog… the Times Educational Supplement (TES), yet the core of the article sums up beautifully what my life is like. I often think there are many parallels between teaching and being a runner, but that’s usually the sort of talk that has my colleagues rolling their eyes at me and thinking, “there she goes again, banging on about running!” Yes, the article is ostensibly tips for navigating the school year, but the comparison of teaching to an ultra marathon is perfect. Check it out to see what I mean…

Fancy being part of a world record attempt? All it takes is a Strava account and a bit of time on Sunday as Strava partners with the Great North Run to attempt the world record for the most half marathons run in a day. Personally I have a little further to run that morning, but I’ll be adding my run to the attempt and keeping my fingers crossed that I become a world record holder!

At the other end of the distance spectrum we have London’s newest running track. What’s so special about a track, you ask? Well this 150m track is on the roof of an office block, 16 floors up. Sounds great in theory, but with 10 laps to complete to reach a mile and a whopping 281 to complete marathon distance, I think the novelty would soon wear off!

A novelty that NEVER wears off is cake, the weakness of many a runner. Nothing quite like a long run then a slice of cake to “refuel”. Aware of this habit, Runner’s World has selflessly put lots of different cakes to the test to see which ones might actually provide the tiniest of benefits to runners. What’s your favourite?

And finally, you know that episode of Friends where Joey wears all Chandler’s clothes? Well think of that, but a bit more sporty and you’re part way to getting this next video. Basically this guy in Canada decided to take on a decathlon whilst wearing 100 T-shirts (yes, you did read that right). It has to be seen to be believed!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess