London here I come

So the London Marathon. It’s funny because whenever I tell people I’ve never run London they’re always quite surprised.

I mean I guess it is a bit odd. I’ve run eight marathons.I’ve run Paris, Berlin, Boston, Tokyo… I’ve run Bournemouth, Chester, Liverpool and Cheddar Gorge. But not London. And it’s not just non-runners (“yes there are other marathons out there than London”) but runners who know me. Apparently it seems like I’ve run London. But I assure you, I have not.

have had a place for the last few years though. I’m lucky that I’ve got Good For Age so can avoid the ballot. Yes, the male and female times are unfair when you compare them. My sub 3:45 time goal is nothing in comparison to a sub 3:05. It just doesn’t seem right. But those are the rules and I’ve been able to get a place.

It’s a very cheap marathon, all things considered. There are UK-based non-marathon races that are more expensive! It’s around £35? Which I guess is why I’ve deferred a couple of times and ultimately never done it. The GFA is fairly achievable for me (without meaning to sound arrogant, it’s the truth) and the cost of it means I can be a bit blase about it (for now anyway). Tokyo cost an arm and a leg with minimal money recuperation if I was to bail on it, so come hell or high water I was doing it. When you add in a holiday to the scenario, the pressure somewhat mounts exponentially I can tell you.

London has always been a marathon I want to do. It’s one of the Marathon Majors, which I’m trying to tick off. But even before I knew about the Majors it’s one I wanted to do. I think every British runner who runs marathons wants to do London (or at least has considered it) at some point. It’s iconic. It’s our capital. It attracts huge crowds – crowds of people who may never have run, have no idea how far a marathon is and are just out to have a fun day cheering. It’s a tradition on the television… Brendan Foster, Paula Radcliffe and all the fancy dressed fundraising heroes. It’s part of our culture.

I applied last year and got my place (there is no ballot for GFA) and quietly wondered if I would do it 2017 or 2018. As my training for Tokyo didn’t go as well as I wanted I put to bed the idea of doing another marathon in 2017. Long runs were a drag. I was dreading the actual marathon and not looking forward to the trip (yay let’s go eat noodles on my own!).But then I went to Tokyo, thoroughly enjoyed myself and had a whale of a time at the marathon, exceeding my expectations in so many ways. And the marathon bug was ignited again. Before Tokyo I told people I wasn’t going to do any more marathons for the year and they laughed and said “yeah right”. Well I’m a joke of myself I guess.

Like always, I say I’m going to do London but it’s never a guarantee because I’m such a pathetically frail runner. An injury or niggle could creep out of the woodwork and knock me down. But providing things go smoothly and I try to be just a little bit sensible, then hopefully I can turn up to London on April 23rd uninjured. OK not in the best shape of my life, but ready to see what all the fuss is about and finish with a smile on my face.

That’s the plan anyway.

Have you ever run the London Marathon before?

What races are on your bucket list? 

Do you agree with the GFA timings?

Running Lately and the Orlando parkrun

Soo I’m off to Tokyo tomorrow. TOMORROW. I can barely believe it.

I’m going on my own, though with a marathon tour group so technically not alone alone. Though I know no one. I know of people who’ll be there from social media but otherwise it’s just me, myself and I. What could possibly go wrong, eh?

Let’s just talk about my running of late as it seems pertinent to do so considering I’m running the Tokyo Marathon on Sunday.

I mentioned in my Orlando recap that I ran while I was out there. On the first day, as the jet lag worked in my favour gifting me five hours, I woke up ridiculously early Orlando time but actually normal time UK. This gave me lots of hours to play with in terms of getting in a long run right at the start of the holiday so I could chill for the rest of it without having a long run looming over me.

Dark and a little chilly at 6am

It was funny because I had two different people comment that I must be freezing with my vest and shorts on as I headed out to run. I told them I was from the UK and the current temperature was positively balmy! It was probably 16 degrees C. The Hard Rock Hotel concierge said there was a 4ish mile route around the hotel and I was a little disappointed to find that was actually just a road. And a very boring road following along some busy large roads (though I did get to pass near City Walk, see the Hulk in the distance, the new Toothsome restaurant and see Harry Potter on the horizon, so actually pretty good!).

Thankfully as I was leaving another lady was leaving to start her run and she invited me to join her as I wasn’t entirely sure where to go. She only wanted to do one ‘lap’ of the route and I was intending on doing 13 miles or maybe more depending how I felt.That first lap was great as she set a nice pace and we chatted about races and politics (she had a long moan about Trump – she’s from San Francisco so it was interesting to hear an American’s perspective up close). Then before I knew it we were parting ways and I was heading off for lap number two. I listened to a podcast and plodded on. I quite like laps because there’s a level of monotony that means you can switch off, and a great way to segment the long run into smaller easier chunks.

I felt so accomplished by the end of the run and so thankful that I’d gotten 16 miles under my belt before the holiday had really begun. I wanted to do one more long run later but as long as I hit 10 miles I’d be happy so nothing too daunting.I ran 4 miles a few days later and then 13.1 miles on the Thursday. Both runs went well. Though I have to say the food I was eating was not entirely conducive to feeling good on the runs! And it did feel like I slog sometimes. But it had to be done (both the eating and running…).

My favourite run was of course the Clermont Waterfront parkrun, which is about 30 minutes outside of the main Orlando tourist area. Originally Kate and Jamie were going to run it as well but Kate had come down a cold and wasn’t feeling it and Jay was only going to run if Kate did. Thankfully though they were still up for taking me there (I was dependent on them for driving). Even with a 6.15am leaving time!Of course I got the time wrong though. I thought it started at 7am but it was actually 7.30am. This was quite handy as we got there about 6.50am and still had to park. In the end Kate and Jay dropped me off and I raced tot the start…to find them still setting up. I was a bit bewildered until they explain it was a 7.30am start. Ah.

The course had slightly changed to the previous time I’ve run but essentially it was still the flat course that wrapped along the waterfront. You run one mile out, one mile back, then past the finish 0.5 miles out the other direction and back again.

Photo Credit: Clermont Flickr group

I felt quite good setting off and tried to maintain a speedy (for me) pace. I was overtaken by a number of females and was somewhat disheartened but decided to run my own race and just see what I could do.The sun was rising as we were running so I couldn’t help but fish my phone out of my running belt and snap a few photos. Some things have to be done!On the second mile, I starting catching up with the females who overtook me and this spurred me on to keep going and catch them. As I ran past the start I saw Kate and Jay had parked and were standing cheering me on which was nice. Apparently they were the only ones cheering, despite lots of people watching. They said it was ironic that in the UK you can’t clap enough at parkrun (at the start, before, after) whereas in the US it didn’t seem to be a thing…despite Americans being a lot more vocal and “good job”tastic compared to us reserved Brits 😉

Photo Credit: Clermont Flickr group

I managed to squeeze in to second female and had a cool sprint battle with a guy right at the end which definitely made me feel somewhat sick!

Photo Credit: Clermont Flickr group

I got 22:03 which annoyed me sooo much as I so desperately wanted to see 21:xx. But it wasn’t to be.I gave what I could. Thirty seconds(ish) faster than the last time I was there and a negative split so I’m happy with that!So back in the UK my running has continued to go well. I did my last long run on Sunday. Ideally a week before a marathon I’d do 8-13 miles… but as my training hasn’t been entirely stellar in terms of hitting long runs due to my pesky niggle, I decided to go out with the intention to do at least 13 but hopefully hit 16. I had a good route that would, at the last minute, decide how far I wanted to go so I could play it by ear.

Really I knew I was going for 16 miles but I tricked my brain a bit so the night before I didn’t worry too much. I’d had quite a late night and had made some poor food choices on the Saturday (a donut for lunch, then an early dinner…) which meant I felt tired and sluggish from the get-go. Mentally and physically otherwise I felt great though and just stuck with it.

As I reached my 13 or 16 point on the route I knew I’d push on to do 16… part of me hoped to do 18 miles as my legs felt so good – no niggle whatsoever! And in general I felt strong, but it was that awful lack of fuel and energy that ultimately made me take the sensible route of doing 16. I don’t normally feel like this on a run and I guess I’ve been very lucky with never hitting a wall before but it felt pretty rubbish. Especially as everything else felt amazing. I was also very thirsty so made the snap decision to stop at a petrol station and grab a water. Luckily they accepted Apple Pay as I only had my phone and keys with me.(Paces are everywhere as it was mildly undulating). I felt really tired after this run. Definitely down to fuelling. Normally I do all my long runs fasted and have no issues – and this is because the night before I eat dinner at a normal time and have something fairly substantially.

I ate dinner about 5pm, which is a lot earlier, and it was quite light as I was heading out that evening for drinks. Then getting back late… recipe for disaster. I felt a WHOLE lot better eating breakfast. It was literally like I was a Sim and my little energy bar was topped right up after eating (OK that analogy doesn’t work as that would be the hunger bar not the energy bar but you know what I mean!).

Like so many of the marathons I’ve done, I won’t be aiming for any specific time. Around 3:45-4 hours would be good. I imagine anything over 4 hours would mean something has gone wrong (dodgy sushi ;-)) as I’m pretty sure I can at least master 9 minute miles, and I believe the course is relatively flat. I’ll give it my best shot! I want to take some photos and take it all in rather than watching my watch. God I’m so exciting but so nervous. Twelve hour flight? Nine hour time difference? Only five days out there? Yep, not one of my greatest ideas! Wish me luck!

Are you training for any races right now?

Have you ever done a race abroad?

Do you eat before you run?

A parkrun fail and trying new things

This weekend gone I headed up to Cheltenham. I’ve only been there once before for like a day to see my friend Shell so it was nice to see it again for a bit longer. It’s a lovely place – though strangely has lots of white buildings and lots of buildings with columns on, which to me is the height of poshness 😉

And clearly Cheltenham is very posh as they even have their own Wholefoods! Wholefoods is obviously a lot more popular in the States, but we have a few mostly in London and this random one in Cheltenham. Obviously I had to pop in there for lunch on Friday between working.

The salad bar was obviously a lot smaller than the amazing America ones and I was told the burritos were amazing so that’s what I went for. There was a little Mexican food stand where you could have burritos or quesadillas made up for you there and then with your choice of fillings. I went with a chicken, rice and extra guacamole burrito and it was HUGE. It was jam packed full of filling. So tasty. I also had a cheeky rocky road slice afterwards as well. I pretty much needed a nap afterwards though I was so full…but back to work I went!

On the Friday night I did a (beginner’s) salsa class. This is a bit crazy for me as, being ridiculously clumsy and generally an awkward person, I’m not a natural dancer. That said, I did ballroom dancing at school (in preparation for our prom) and I loved it so I was quite excited to give it a go.

Awful photo sorry but I tried to take it discreetly at the beginning!

Well, I wasn’t terrible. I was surprised at how quickly the instructors went through the steps but after a few attempts it was easy to pick up. I mean, I was rigid and awkward but I didn’t step on any toes. I think that’s a success! The guys stood in a circle and the girls would dance with one and the move on to the next after performing a certain move (very basic moves!). One guy, who later told me he was actually another teacher, laughed at my “furrowed brow of concentration”. Well I was concentrating! I might need to aim to not try and look at my feet the entire time I suppose… I’m keen to try a few more lessons, but we’ll see!

Then Saturday morning was going to be the Cheltenham parkrun. Annoyingly though I woke up to -5 temperatures and a Tweet from my Cheltenham-based friend saying it was cancelled. I’m very grateful for his Tweet (thanks Mat!) as otherwise I would have just gone there without checking and then been disappointed and very cold. So instead, a bit of shopping happened instead. I re-planned the run to be after lunch so I had a nice light Greek salad lunch in Patisserie Valerie, which I’ve never been to before but was really lovely (though can I just say, the salads are not filling for lunch. Not for me anyway. I was still hungry and would easily have had one of their very tasty looking cakes afterwards had I not needed to be careful of my run later).

I hate leaving my run until later but realistically it made sense with fitting it in the weekend and the fact that in the morning the paths everywhere were so icy and dangerous. I’m pretty sure I spent quite a significant portion of Saturday cold. At first I thought I was going to wear my compression socks and shorts but after feeling so cold all day I decided to go with leggings and compression socks. Luckily my leggings were long enough to cover my knees so I didn’t have that awkward knee exposure look 😉The run went well. I didn’t really intend to go very fast but as I was so cold I just wanted to get warm so I pushed the pace. I got to two miles and found I was really struggling though and thought maybe best to slow down a bit! I slowed a little and told myself I could take it easier.It did feel good to get a bit of a tempo run on as I had intended to blast parkrun that morning. I’d heard that Cheltenham parkrun was really flat and I was sad I missed out on seeing what time I could currently do. It wouldn’t have been crazy fast but it’s always nice to have a “check in” run to see what paces I’m hitting. I need it have a long think about how I’m going to approach Tokyo and this would have been handy. But I got in a longer run and was able to pick up the pace so that was good. I guess that just means another trip to Cheltenham to eventually do their parkrun! 😉

I ran around Pittville Park which is where the parkrun is located anyway and it was a really lovely run. I did a couple of laps and aside from dodging dog walkers and small children it was a perfect runner’s route next to a lovely lake (pond?) and trees.

That evening I saw the new M Night Shyamalan film, Split, with James McAvoy in it. It was brilliant. Well, I know that his films have never reached the lofty success of the Sixth Sense but I actually really like his films (though there are a select few I haven’t seen like Lady in the Water and the Light Bender thing…). I loved The Village, Signs, Unbreakable and The Happening. And I love James McAvoy. There also might have been a tub of Ben and Jerry’s (Cookie Dough) that was snuck into the cinema…thankfully outside was cold enough for it not to melt prematurely in my handbag!

The next day I left to drive home and, because I needed to get a long run in, decided that I would do it as soon as I got in to stop any temptation to avoid it. I also cleverly bought a whole chicken from Waitrose from a services and popped that in the oven so when I got back it was pretty much done and my flat smelt amazing.The run went really well. My shin only very slightly niggled (progress, progress). I was worried that having run the day before might cause my shin an issue but it felt alright. I also felt really good in terms of my fitness. I effortlessly remained around the 8min pace without feeling it was a push so that was comforting.I won’t be running at that speed for the marathon but it was nice to feel comfortable for 10 miles at that pace. I planned my route so that it was my usual 6 mile route and then another usual 4 mile route so I could break it up in my head. It worked perfectly. Then I got home and enjoyed carving up the freshly cooked chicken. A food coma promptly commenced 😉

When do you prefer to get your runs/workouts done? I always prefer the morning.

Have you ever been to Cheltenham before?

Have you ever done a salsa/dance class?

The madness of a looming marathon

There’s nothing like an impending marathon to get you going. Even when it’s chucking it down with snow…

I must have been the only person in the UK who was unaware it was supposed to snow on Thursday evening. Sure I’d heard about the “thundersnow storm” but I hadn’t really connected it with reality – I mean surely that’s just in Scotland, right? So when I packed my gym bag in the morning to take to work I merrily threw in my usual pair of shorts and didn’t think twice. I normally wear shorts, I normally warm up. Totally fine.

Then I got to work and everyone was talking about how at 4pm snow was going to start. Er, what? And lo and behold, as 4pm hit so did buckets of snow. But when you have a marathon very soon (February) and you’re hugely under-trained (longest run 6 miles at this point) and you need adequate spacing of runs to not re-niggle the injury you’re only just getting over…well, you have little choice but to put those tiny shorts on and get out there and run.

It was fully throwing it down as I headed out, to the point I couldn’t really see as I had to blink so much due to the big fluffy snowflakes hitting my eyes. And the floor was already coated in a a thick dusting of snow. So foot placing was precarious, as were corners. I was soaked and cold very quickly and this encouraged me to run a bit faster, but not too fast to risk falling over.

I got several odd looks from people sheltering under bus stops waiting for their bus and commuters in their cars. But I strangely quite enjoyed it. I felt like a warrior. My legs were freezing, which is never happens to me, but it wasn’t terrible. I was only going three miles so I knew it would be over soon.When I finished and walked the last bit to get to my office, a guy sheltering near the door stared at me incredulously and said, “you’re absolutely mental”. I pretty much agreed.
People left in the office laughed at me when I said it was a bit nippy out. My legs were so pink and I was drenched! It took pretty much my entire commute home (an hour’s journey) to warm up again. I stood in my shower on full blast and full heat basically searing off a layer of my skin to get warm again. But I’m glad I went out. It was a good run. I felt strong, my shin felt good and it’s all miles towards Tokyo (albeit only three but hey it’s all relative here for me!).

There’s nothing like a big goal or deadline to get you motivated and focused. And I’m being really sensible (I think!). I’m only running three times a week, and two of those runs are three miles. I might bump one of those up to four (ooh go crazy, eh!). And then I have a longer run at the weekend, and no consecutive running days. It seems to be working.

I go to Florida with friends in two weeks and I really have no idea how the running will go but I’m going to aim to do two big runs out there. I say “big” runs but we’re talking 13-16 miles, though it could all change. Basically I’m fully winging it. I hope to do the parkrun in Orlando again as well. The two friends I’m going with are the friends who have just got into running and parkrun. And incidentally they are the friends that laughed at me for doing the Orlando parkrun the last time we went. Ha! How the tables have turned now 😉

But I’m still feeling positive – if not maybe in denial? Either way it’s all good. At least when I’m running Tokyo I can look back fondly on this 3 mile snowy run and remember what I warrior I am 😉

Have you ever run in snow?

What’s the worst weather you’ve ever run in?

What do you wear during winter exercise?

Training for a marathon on minimal running

Over Christmas and New Year I didn’t do a whole lot of running. While it’s super frustrating to still have this shin niggle, I wasn’t too bothered.

It helps, obviously, to have a lot of distractions going on with meals out, seeing friends, going to the pub and spending time with people I care about. I’ve never felt so – what’s the best word? – indifferent about an injury before. Yes it sucks and of course I’d love to run but it’s kind of an annoyance that I keep batting away as I get on with other things.

Like I’ve said before, I’m not entirely sure this is a great way to think considering my impending marathon in February but hey ho. I’m enjoying a”putting my head in the sand” kind of mentality because there’s not much else I can do.

I am running but I’m not running nearly as much or as consistently as I should (for marathon training). Ramping up quickly and steeply would frankly be very stupid. So I’m pootling along doing the odd run here or there. I’m supplementing my lack of running with cross training so it’s not all doom and gloom but it’s the pounding on the legs that I kind of need to experience. All the cardio fitness in the world won’t help if my legs get tired and worn out after 10 miles.

That said, the running I am doing seems to be going OK. I left it a week after the Christmas parkrun to run again as I wanted to be super sensible. I got some acupuncture and a massage from my friend Kyle which definitely seemed to help. Instead I went on the elliptical machine and bike – either doing steady state cardio or short sharp sprints with recoveries. I quite enjoyed being at the gym and not having to rush about like I do when it’s super early in the morning.I could do my cardio first and then do my usual weights. It meant for a longer period in the gym but seen as how I wasn’t running it made sense. Plus I really enjoyed it. I like the gym and feel like it’s my “happy place” right now. And a lovely woman gave me a really nice compliment one day by saying I had a fab body and clearly worked hard. That was nice because, well, yes I do kind of work fairly hard so it’s nice someone doesn’t just assume it’s good genes or not eating – like so many people have said to me before. Cue dramatic eye roll whenever someone says that to me.

On New Year’s Eve I headed down to Netley for parkrun. My leg felt really good and, though I was nervous, I was keen to get out and run. I pushed the pace more than I did at Christmas. It felt quite tough and towards the end I was near my limit.

Photo credit: Glenn Tyreman

I found the hills tough going but luckily I had a few people around me to keep me going – though they did sprint off at the last bit effectively ditching me! 😉

Photo credit: Glenn Tyreman

I was quite pleased with my time: 23:13 (the fastest since August, but that’s not a particularly good feat seen as how inconsistent my running has been for the past few months!).I was more impressed with my negative split. I mean the start was fairly awkward because I was stuck behind lots of people, having positioned myself too far back, but then that helped stop me going too fast. I did feel fairly shattered by the end. My niggle felt fine though the entire run and at the end so I was more pleased with that than anything to be honest.

My next run was Monday. I had a great weekend of eating lots of good food and celebrating New Year’s Eve but felt ready to go in the morning after breakfast and doing some chores (those oh so fun “back to work” style chores that get left to the last minute). The run felt amazing! My legs felt smooth and it felt comfortably tough but enjoyable. I listened to some random music and just felt in the zone. The weather was crisp and cold but lovely and sunny.To be fair, the route I took was fairly flat so it was easier to push the speed but I was really pleased with being able to maintain a faster pace. I mean, I couldn’t have run much further at the pace I was going but it was nice to blast out some speed. Probably not entirely sensible I guess with the old niggle but it felt fine during and after so I’ll take it!

So basically my plan of attack for this looming marathon is to try and run three times a week. Probably two of those runs 3-4 miles and then a longer run at the weekend…But we’re not talking any crazy 18 milers. I’ll be lucky to get to 16 miles I think. I’m just going to take each run as it comes. The goal is to be able to run the marathon – at what pace I frankly don’t care, but just to not be injured or suffering through any pain or discomfort (asides from the usual marathon-induced fatigue). It’s a big ask but I’ve just got to be sensible!

Did you run over the holidays?

Have you ever had to do a negative taper for a marathon? Which is effectively what I’m going to be doing!