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! šŸ‘øšŸ» 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

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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 itā€™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 RunningĀ 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

Friday Finds – 1st 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.

Hello September! Where on earth did you suddenly appear from? I hope everyone has had a great week. Here are some articles I’ve come across this week for your reading pleasure…

First, a bit of research into the prevalence of knee arthritis in our modern world. We runners are constantly subjected to non-runners declaring running to be bad for our knees, but as this article points out, there really isn’t much in the way of research to support that. There is, however, plenty of research showing that osteoarthritis is becoming increasingly common. In a bid to shed some more light on why, researchers studied skeletons from a number of different periods and developed some theories as to why arthritis is more common now. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but based on their theories I would suggest that those of us who run are actually doing the best thing to take care of our knees.

Some further interesting research sought to settle the question of whether marathon training or iron distance triathlon training was harder. Sound like a pub debate? Well to an extent the researchers were trying to find answers to the very questions they explore with friends. I’ve never trained for an iron distance tri, but I have trained for marathons so know what that feels like. With that in mind, the results of that study turned out to be rather intriguing…

I also enjoyed this article from Trail Runner magazine about Strava. I know I’ve included plenty of articles about Strava before, but they have tended to be related to road running or Strava art. This considers the implications and etiquette for Strava on the trails in a bit more depth. That said, some of the etiquette definitely transfers to other activities e.g. coming up with a better name than the stock option for workouts (I don’t always do that terribly quickly, but do take some time at the weekends to change “Afternoon Run” to something a bit more catchy!).

Also discussing trails (albeit in a rather different context) is my next article taken from Motiv Running. By now you’re probably familiar with the concept of the beer mile, but what if that mile was taken to a whole new level by being run at altitude? Well apparently that is a real event that people take part in. Not only do you have the challenge of keeping 4 carbonated beers inside your stomach as you run laps, but the altitude works against you by making the beer even fizzier and your body less able to take in oxygen. Sounds like a pretty difficult challenge to me! Anyone tempted?

And finally, you have to check out this amazing shoe art. Yujia Hu, a Milan-based restaurant owner, is instagramming his amazing sushi in the form of various running shoes. Dubbed “shoeshi”, his creations are certainly attracting interest. Definitely too good to eat!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 30th June

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.

Despite some distinctly unseasonal weather this week, summer is finally here…or at least my summer break from school! I always feel a little lethargic for the first day or so as my body realises that it can FINALLY stop and get some rest, but I’m still here to share some interesting articles I’ve come across recently in a bit of a mish-mash of topics…

I’ll start with this piece from Runner’s World on recent research into fitness and exercise. The main idea was to look into the key variable in longevity – exercise or fitness (based on VO2 max).The evidence seems to suggest that fitness is key, however those acquiring that fitness through exercise rather than genetics seemed to fare better. I got a little bogged down in some of the explanations, but it makes for an interesting read.

Some more lighthearted research came from Women’s Running who surveyed their readers to find out more about their running habits and preferences. Despite occasional evidence to the contrary, comparing my answers to those given here I seem to be perfectly normal! šŸ˜‰ How do your habits compare?

One of my favourite sources right now is Outside, who regularly provide me with all sorts of interesting reading material. One that caught my eye recently was an examination of what we know as “the pain cave”. It’s that hard 5k effort that never feels comfortable; it’s racing a half marathon and trying to balance speed with endurance (something I’ve traditionally struggled with); and it’s the final 10k of a marathon when every fibre of your being is screaming to stop, but you doggedly shuffle on. Of course in an ultra the experience of the pain cave will be even longer, and this is what prompted the writer to pen this particular piece.

A slightly different pain can come from losing a segment on social app Strava – heck, seeing an ominous graph telling you that you’re “trending slower” over a route or been beaten by a rival can do it too. Personally I love Strava as it gives me a place to share my runs and progress free from the eye-rolling of non-running friends, but I’m equally aware that an obsession with the app can go too far. Total Women’s Cycling has therefore created this handy guide to help you work out how healthy your relationship with the Strava world is (although I think it’s perfectly legitimate to consider a complete stranger who holds a segment – or beats yours – a sworn enemy lol!).

And finally, I know I’ve mentioned cat yoga before, but what about yoga/pilates with KITTENS?! Watching the video in this article (and, frankly, knowing what I’m like for chatting with every cat I meet on a walk or run) I think I would have to be forcibly removed from this studio at the end of the class (and have my pockets checked for “stowaways”!). Someone near me needs to start a cat/kitten yoga class soon…

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 5th May

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.

The biggest stories this week seem to be all about records. While one of the biggest news stories is the Breaking2 project, world records hit the news again with the announcement that world and European records set prior to 2005 are likely to be struck from the record books as athlete samples to combat doping have only been stored since that date. This of course means that athletes like Paula Radcliffe, who has always fought for clean competition (and successfully argued to retain her world record after previous attempts to change the criteria) stand to lose their record. I can certainly understand that something needs to be done as there will be many records set by athletes who were doping, however it angers me that clean athletes are set to lose out. Whatever happens, Paula Radcliffe’s 2:15:25 will remain the standard I compare other athletes to as it is a phenomenal feat of endurance that has stood unchallenged for over a decade.

Another controversial announcement surrounded the “exercise pill” which scientists have been studying for a number of years. It is claimed that the pill could provide some of the benefits of exercising, without actually having to work out. This could be of benefit to some groups of people unable to exercise, however it seems to me that it would also be open to abuse as the compound involved was banned by WADA in 2008 and concerns persist around the long-term prognosis of taking it regularly. Fitness benefits aside, exercising is about so much more than just gaining fitness: it’s about fresh air, endorphins and the simple feel-good factor of knowing you worked hard to improve your strength or stamina. No pill can really offer that, can it?

Something that’s really caught my attention is a new feature being rolled out by popular fitness app Strava. Their new Athlete Posts feature will initially be available to a small number of select athletes, but there are plans to roll it out to all users over the summer. Keen to delve even deeper into the social networking aspects of the platform, the new feature will allow users to write longer, blog-like posts to share in the Strava community e.g. tips, kit, training updates, etc. I can already see how this would really easily suck me in to spending more time in the app than I do at present, which may or may not be a good thing, however I will be very interested to see how this new feature develops and how it is used by different groups of people such as elite athletes, everyday runners and bloggers.

Phew! I don’t know about you but after all those serious stories at the start of this post, I’m in need of something a bit lighter, and fortunately I’ve found the very thing. Those of us of a certain “vintage” will well remember the opening credits of TV show Baywatch, with all the slow motion running. Well to celebrate the release of the new Baywatch movie a unique event was organised: the slow-mo marathon. Yup, it’s exactly as it sounds. If you’re in need of a laugh then I definitely recommend watching the video in the article below:

And finally, if even the thought of slow-mo is too much for you, then how about a gym class that’s all about sleeping? That’s right, sleeping. Designed to combat that scourge of modern life, a chronic lack of sleep, classes consist of a 45 minute afternoon nap. Now there’s a fitness trend I could get in to!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 28th April

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

Can you believe it’s the end of April? It’s been such a great month in the world of sport, at least as far as marathon running is concerned, and you can look out for a post from me over the weekend about why marathons are so special. In the meantime, here are some other articles that have caught my eye lately.

This week saw our senior pupils finishing school for study leave as the exams here in Scotland are about to start. Most are (hopefully) heading off to to sort out revision timetables and spend big chunks of their day with their heads in their books, however one piece of advice I always like is to take time to exercise as well – even if that’s a simple walk with the dog. On that topic, my first article this week features former Ireland rugby captain Fiona Coghlan explaining why exercise is so important for young people, particularly in an exam year.

Next, a reminder about the power of positive self-talk. Many endurance athletes use mantras or other mental tricks to help them when the going gets tough (mine is, “I can. I am. I’m strong”) and this article explains the difference using self-talk can make to performance. Since the mind will give up before the body, mental training and having a strategy ready for tough moments (and in endurance challenges there will ALWAYS be tough moments!) is as important as the physical training when it comes to pushing limits.

Someone who took on a really huge endurance challenge for charity is Rob Pope. Originally from Liverpool, Rob decided that, like Forrest Gump before him, he would run across the USA. He has already run from Alabama to California’s Santa Monica pier where, like Gump, he simply turned around and kept on going! Judging by the pictures, he’s even starting to look a bit like Forrest Gump!

Another endurance athlete with his sights set on a major challenge is cyclist Mark Beaumont who recently announced his plans to beat the current record for cycling around the world (123 days) by attempting to complete the circumnavigation of the globe in just 80 days! With his imagination fired by Jules Verne, Beaumont will set off from Paris in July with his support crew and will be raising money for charity through this epic challenge. All I can say is wow!

And finally, these days we’re all guilty of using apps like Strava to record our runs and share them with others. But what if your run doesn’t go as well as you would like and it’s out there for all to see? This tongue-in-cheek post takes us through some ways to use the name we give the run to account for any issues encountered. I found it pretty amusing and will definitely be remembering this the next time I have a bad run!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Marathon Monday

Right now it’s Monday morning. All my social media, blog and news feeds have been filling up all weekend with posts from Boston and articles about the Boston marathon. Me? I’m going back to work for the start of the new term and even though it’s really only been a week since I ran a marathon, I’m still feeling just a teeny weeny bit envious of everyone who will go left on Hereford, right on Boylston today. So this morning I thought I’d bring you a post dedicated to some of the articles I’ve found on the Boston marathon recently. Think of it as a kind of Monday Morning extra edition of Friday Finds for this Marathon Monday…

There’s something special about the Boston marathon, it’s a kind of holy grail of events thanks partly to the need to run a qualifying time (BQ) to get in. But that’s not the only reason it’s such a special race, and in this article from Competitor, Toni Reavis explores some of the reasons why.

If you’ve ever wondered what goes into putting on a race like Boston, then this article from Women’s Running might help. It includes stats from the 2016 race that reveal just how much is needed, from the safety pins to the volunteers and everything else in between. Some of the numbers are incredible!

And for the stat fans (like me) this next article reveals some further insights about Boston marathon participants based on data provided by Strava. Given the need for runners to qualify for this race, I would be interested to compare this data to the stats from another race with a more “diverse” field.

This year’s race is particularly special as it marks 50 years since Kathrine Switzer first ran. Pictures of that event have become iconic in representing the fight for women’s inclusion in distance running. This year, Switzer will once more toe the line to celebrate the progress that has been made. If it wasn’t for her, then women like me wouldn’t be able to run marathons today, and that deserves celebration. Here are two articles I’ve come across which cover this pivotal moment:

It might be a little late for those running today, but it’s still interesting to learn a little more about what the elites eat during race week. I know in the days before a marathon I think very carefully about what I consume to make sure I avoid any potential difficulties, but some of these answers might surprise you!

And finally, this year’s male and female winners will find themselves the recipients of a bonus prize. No, not money or a trophy, but a name. That’s right, a name. Two guide dog puppies, expected to be born on Marathon Monday, will be named after the champions. What’s more, it is hoped that the pups will ultimately become running partners for their handlers. I think that’s fantastic.

Good luck to everyone racing in Boston today. Please stop by and share your stories afterwards.
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 14th April

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

I can hardly believe that this time last week I was in Paris getting ready to run the marathon and now I’m back home trying to type this with my cat draped across my arm! What a difference a week makes! Still, it’s the Easter holiday weekend here in the UK, so whatever you’re doing I hope you have fun. Let’s kick it off with a little bit of light reading…

One of the stories I included last week surrounded the Tehran marathon and the disappointing news that female entrants had been told they would not be allowed to run the marathon course. Instead, they were offered the chance to run on an indoor track. I continued to follow this story while I was away last weekend and was thrilled to see many women stand up to this order either by creating their own route or, in a couple of notable cases, running the official route alongside the men anyway. I do love to hear of people standing up for what they believe in, particularly when it comes to equal opportunities for all.

There have been many studies in recent years looking at the connection between exercise and life expectancy. This week, details of a new study emerged which suggested running to be much more powerful than other forms of activity at increasing life expectancy, with an average of 3 years added to a runner’s life. Apparently 1 hour of running can add 7 hours to someone’s life (and not because that run feels like it takes 7 hours lol!). That seems as good as reason as any to lace up and get out there!

For those of us who like to race, water stations can present a bit of a difficulty. Cups can be awkward to drink from on the move (I usually manage to choke!) and while bottles are much easier, they’re not the most environmentally friendly. Step forward the new edible bottle you may have seen shared on social media this week. I watched a video on this product that showed people simply popping this edible bubble of fluid in their mouths, and the creators believe it could be used successfully at races. The article here suggests it will be piloted at the London marathon, so if anyone is running it I’d love to know if they get a chance to try this out.

In a week when science delivered the news of the increased life expectancy in runners and the edible water bubble, perhaps one of its best achievements was in working out just why shoelaces come undone. We’ve all been there, tied them nice and tight then looked down mid-run to see a lace flapping about with every stride. It all comes down to inertial forces it seems, and while some knots might be better than others, sadly no definitive solution has been suggested. Science, get on that one next!

And finally, we’ve all seen those pictures of Strava art and marvelled at the time and planning involved in creating a simple outline or forming a few words, but this week two runners from Cardiff definitely won the prize for the best Strava art ever…a Welsh dragon! The advance planning and 8 hours of running involved certainly reveal their dedication and I’d love to see if runners from the rest of the home nations have a go at something similar. Any takers…?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 20th 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.

Nike’s ambitious project to have an athlete break two hours in the marathon has never been far from my news feeds since its announcement towards the end of last year. The idea is regularly touted as holding a similar significance to Roger Bannister breaking the 4 minute mile, so it wasn’t a huge surprise to find an article comparing the two events. Written by Michael Crawley, who also wrote about the motivations behind another project with the same aim, it gives an interesting insight into how some of the same principles can be applied. I still find the whole idea intriguing and am curious as to how the project will unfold.

One thing breaking two hours will require is commitment, and that’s something that high school runner Quinn Schneider has in spades shovels. If you missed the story, 18 year old Schneider awoke to find 8 inches of snow had led to his school being closed. I have to say, my pupils would love a snow day, but for Schneider it offered a new challenge. Channelling the mind of an Olympian, Schneider set about shovelling the snow from one of the lanes at his high school running track so he could run laps! Now that’s a workout!

The next find caught my attention because of the interesting premise it suggests: that with Strava running is no longer a solitary activity. For the writer, this seems to be a bad thing. He longs for the uncomplicated days of heading out for a run with nothing more to accompany him than the sounds of nature and the thoughts in his head. Strava, he suggests, has turned every run into a group effort as we share our routes and our times, compete over segments and give kudos. I can see his point, however as a runner who does tend to run alone, it can be nice to know that I’m still part of a wider community out there, that people care about my workouts and encourage me when I need it. A bit of healthy competition over a segment can be fun, while at other times it’s just not worth it. In the end, the writer concedes that he can’t stay away from Strava and notes that with it, running is changing. I’d love to know what you think.

In a similar vein, the writer of this article in Runner’s World enthuses about the almost poetic beauty of a solitary run. I like this because I have become used to doing my own thing, running when I want to run and, unlike the writer, enjoying the opportunity to listen to a podcast. If you generally run with others, then I would recommend a solo run from time to time just to enjoy the time with your own thoughts.

And finally, as I type this enjoying a Friday evening gin, I can’t help but be captivated by the news that there’s going to be a series of “gin runs” in London. A run which, among other things, features a free G&T? If only London was a bit handier for me! I bet I know some other people who would run for gin too…!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess