Marathon Talk Run Camp 2017 recap

So this was my third time going to the Marathon Talk Run Camp in Sandy Balls in the New Forest. Marathon Talk is a running-focused podcast hosted by two genuinely lovely and knowledgeable guys, Martin Yelling (running guru for lots of publications and races) and Tom Williams (MD of parkrun).

I love listening to the podcast on my long runs and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the previous two run camps I’ve been on so I pretty much signed up straight away as soon as it became available. I knew a few others who were going, though some of them couldn’t make it in the end which was such a shame 🙁 but I still got to see my running friend, Adrian, who went to the last one and I ran Fareham parkrun with a while ago.

I arrived on Friday night and met my fellow housemates. There was a married couple and two female friends who I was sharing with. What was nice was that I got a room to myself as the friends were happy to share their twin room.The cabins have a little kitchen, two bathrooms and a lovely lounge area with a fire. It’s very cosy but fairly basic. Sandy Balls is a holiday camp set in the middle of the New Forest so the scenery is beautiful with forests all around you.

That evening we headed out to meet other Marathon Talkers around a fire pit and toasted some marshmallows.It was nice to chat to lots of different people. I got to chat to Dan from Xempo, who does all the Marathon Talk clothinig. He was so lovely. A really nice and funny guy. I mentioned to him that I was considering running to the Moors Valley parkrun the next day as I wasn’t going to be able to stay for the Sunday long run. He said that his fellow housemate, Andy, was thinking of doing the same. Funnily enough I realised I knew the Andy he was talking about from Twitter. Though I found out he was a sub 2:40 marathoner so that concerned me a bit that I might hold him up a bit!

After chatting to Andy I managed to persuade him to definitely run it…and he handily said he’d figure us out a good route (the route I’d planned was all road and a bit dodgy with the traffic, true Anna-style planning of course!). He wasn’t entirely happy about getting up earlier than he’d need to for the parkrun but I won him round 😉

The next morning we met after 7am and headed out for the 9 mile planned run he had. This run was fantastic. The route was perfect. It went pretty much all along New Forest trails so off-road and through beautiful countryside. Over styles, along a river, through boggy areas… it was fantastic! We saw lots of wildlife and even had a dodgy moment of almost getting stampeded by horses but it was fiiiiiiine.

Though it was snowing when we set off, I’d worn too many layers and by mile two was feeling rather hot. The pace was good though probably faster than I would have run on my own – but that was nice to be challenged a bit. And there were several stops of jumping over styles and things like that. Though I did worry that I was going too slowly for this marathon pro!We arrived at Moors Valley parkrun with a good amount of time to spare. My pace is all over the place due to the trails and hills.Just enough time to lose our lovely warmth and get cold again! Our smugness of being nice and toasty while everyone around us was shivering quickly disappeared.We had a quick Marathon Talk group photo and then headed to the start. Moors Valley parkrun has definitely expanded since I last did (a year ago) as there were so many people – and not just the influx of 100 or so Marathon Talkers!

Source: Marathon Talk Facebook page

I was going to run with Adrian as he was semi-injured so would be going slower than normal (he’s normally a lot speedier than me!). We positioned ourselves badly though and the first 200m we were stuck behind a lot of people who were going slower than us. This was our fault not ours and we managed to politely (I hope!) navigate past them and get into a good stride.

A lovely woman, Pippa, ran with us too which was nice as did Andy. Then Andy dropped us as he speeded ahead, then Adrian and I peeled away from Pippa, then Adrian peeled away from me! It was quite funny how that worked out. I just didn’t have a sprint finish in me at all on my heavy legs.In the end I got 24:30 (151st! So many runners) which I was happy with after the 9 miles.Then we headed to the cafe to have some breakfast. I’d already decided on a fry-up because I was really craving one. And I knew I wouldn’t be eating lunch because by the time we got back and I got sorted we’d be heading out for another Marathon Talk chat and then interval session. I wanted to do the intervals (gently) as I wanted to increase my miles for the day. I’d done 12 already but I ideally wanted 16 as I wouldn’t be doing a long run the next day.The fry-up was perfection. I got to talk to Scotland’s parkrun ambassador, Terry, which was really interesting. He’d been to a previous Run Camp so he was a familiar face. it was interesting to hear about what an ambassador does and the differences with Scottish and English parkruns.

Then I thankfully got a lift back with Pippa and her husband and then chilled in the cabin with my housemates chatting about random running-related stuff. One of my housemates, Patricia, is also doing Tokyo so it was interesting to speak to her about it. She got a good for age place which I didn’t even know existed! This would be her final Marathon Major so she’d be picking up her amazing HUGE medal as well as her Tokyo one. How cool!

Then we headed to the conference area where we had a talk from Liz Yelling and Professor Andy Lane (one of my housemates!).
It was fascinating to hear Liz talk about her training, the mental and physical sides of being an elite runner and now being a non-elite and adjusting to that side of life. Professor Andy was really interesting as well, as he was last year. He talked about the psychological aspects of training and having several goals for a marathon rather than one. And not just having outcome goals but process goals so you’re hopes aren’t stacked against one thing that is in the hands of so many elements, not just your ability. For example, run with good form (like if you know the way you swing your arms needs correcting, focus on that) or focus on having fun and taking photos rather than I MUST GET SUB-4. Because ultimately a marathon is such a long way to go and there are so many factors that are out of your control that it is really setting yourself up for a fall if you just have one time goal… good stuff!Then we headed out for some intervals. I wasn’t planning on doing a full effort session but just wanted the extra miles and to “be involved”. We headed out a mile very slowly in convoy to an area just outside Sandy Balls. The views were amazing!We were divided into groups depending on our 5k time and I made sure I sand-bagged my time so I wouldn’t be tempted to go full effort. The session was 1k at tempo speed with 15 seconds break before a 300m full-on effort, then 5 minutes break – four times.In the end though I did run faster than I would have but it was nice to have some speed on my legs, even if it was fairly tough. I did feel a little bad as everyone was in pieces around me but I was OK relatively speaking.Then we headed back for a mile cool-down back to the cabins. So a total of 18 miles for the day! I felt pretty damn pleased with myself. I had a nice hot shower back at the cabin and then chilled out again next to the fire while chatting to the others about social media, races and life in general. It was great.

I was SO hungry though by 6.30pm when we all met up again for dinner. Annoyingly though we were one of the last tables to get called to go up and get our food. I was practically climbing the walls with runger. Yes, my own fault as I should have planned food better but there never seemed to be a great time to eat something – either having just run or about to get running. I did have a few snacks but obviously nothing huge.I made up for that by piling my plate high with chilli and chicken curry (weird combination but to be honest at that point I didn’t care) with rice and salad!We then had another talk from the truly inspiring and amazing Vassos Alexander who told us all about his ultra running craziness. Like how he ran around London ALL NIGHT before heading to his breakfast radio show in the morning. He said he stopped for an espresso but otherwise just kept running. He was such a lovely, lovely guy. I’ll definitely be buying his book! And he’s currently in the process of writing another one. What I liked was how he said he was offered money to write a kind of sports “tell all” book as he’s interviewed so many sports stars but he really didn’t want to as he wanted to remain trustworthy and genuine.I went up to him afterwards to speak to him and he was just so nice. I did have a bit of verbal diarrhoea though by blurting out how I didn’t actually listen to Radio 2 but was more of a Radio 1 listener and how my dad would kill me not getting a photo with him. He found this amusing thankfully!

I also got my usual photo with Martin and Tom… I do feel awkward asking for a photo from them but they’re so lovely that they didn’t make me feel like a silly fan girl.After a fun quiz, which our team (the Camp Runners) did terribly at, I had to go home. I had lots to do the next day and I needed a proper lie-in. I was sad to leave and sad to miss the next day’s fun but it had to be done. I loved the time I did spend though. I will be signing up straight away for the next one as it’s just so good. So much fun, so much good advice and information, so many nice people and a way to connect with other runners. I love it. I fully recommend coming if you can!

Have you ever been to a running camp?

Do you often do intervals?

Marathon Talk Weekend 2016–part 1

So I don’t even know where to start really. This weekend has been such an incredible experience. This post will probably be quite long (and will be in two parts) though I’ll try not to ramble too much…

I headed to the Marathon Talk Run Camp straight from work on Friday evening. Marathon Talk is a UK-based podcast all about running and marathon training and it’s co-hosted by Martin Yelling (a fairly proficient runner in his own right but also the husband of Olympian athlete Liz Yelling) and Tom Williams, the MD of parkrun. It’s full of banter and running-related information, like training tips, news and interviews.

I went to the first Run Camp two years ago and it was absolutely fantastic. I didn’t go last year but was really keen to go again this year. It’s based at the Sandy Balls (tee hee) holiday centre in the New Forest and there’s only about 120 people (including the Martin, Tom, their families and the guest speakers) so it’s actually quite a cosy affair. You stay in lodges (a bit like Centre Parcs) and the weekend is full of lots of running, informal chats, proper chats with interesting people and food. So right up my street!

My friend, Matt, who I had first met at the first Run Camp was going again so I would know at least one person. Though to be honest runners and Marathon Talk listeners in general are so friendly and easy-going I knew I wouldn’t be sat in a corner alone with no one to talk to. Matt and me agreed to meet Friday night at the Sandy Balls restaurant, the Woodside Inn. He arrived with his lodge mates in tow (mine hadn’t all arrived yet). We pushed a load of tables together and just got chatting straight away. It’s fairly amusing because there was always the standard questions that got asked: “are you training for a marathon?”, “which one?”, “is it your first?”, “where have you come from?”… and conversation just flowed so easily.Woodside Inn

For dinner I ordered the pulled pork flat bread with sweet potato fries and followed up with a Mississippi mud pie with honeycomb ice cream. Heavenly!

There was an informal gathering in the events room next door at 8pm so we all headed there and met up with loads more of the run campers. Martin gave a quick welcome and we just mingled and chatted with each other. I met some really lovely people and it was fascinating to hear about their training and the races they’d done (one guy, Pete, had run the Death Valley half marathon!!) and which marathons they were aiming for. People had come from all over the country so the races were very varied. It was somewhat amusing that as it got closer to 10pm we started heading back to the lodge. Marathon training runners aren’t know for having lots of late nights after all Winking smile and with parkrun in the morning we all wanted to be fresh.

IMG_8765The lodge was lovely. Quite basic but perfect for our needs (though it was really cold!)

I met two of my housemates (the other two would arrive the next day), Maureen and Hannah. I really bonded with Hannah. She was just so interesting. She had lived in so many different places and done so many interesting things. I was in total awe of her amazingness. She was also so easy to chat to and just lovely to hang out with.

The next morning we all convoyed to Moors Valley parkrun, which was about 20 minutes away. I drove Hannah and a couple called Deni and Marcin who were also really nice. We all arrived just before 8.30am and there wasn’t anywhere warm to stand. So the Marathon Talkers just stood gaggled together jumping up and down trying to stay warm as it was quite chilly that morning.Moors Valley parkrun

We then all got together for a Marathon Talk team photo.

IMG_8776I’m just off from the centre to the right in a black coat (Photo credit: Helen Williams)

After a little warm-up, we headed to the start. Moors Valley parkrun has only been going since November and I think they usually have around 150 people, but we almost doubled that with our invasion!

The course is beautiful: it’s set in the Moors Valley country park and it’s on compacted dirt tracks so it’s easy underfoot and it’s fairly flat. There were some cheeky inclines but barely anything to worry about really (in fact, some of the hardy Northerner run campers laughed when anyone said there was an incline on the route). It’s pretty much the same (but shorter) route as the Moors Valley 10k I did a good few years ago.IMG_8768

It was one loop, which was quite refreshing as I haven’t done that in a while! I didn’t want to go ridiculously fast but I found myself in a good rhythm and didn’t feel like I was pushing my limit so I’m happy with how I paced it.

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There was a short section where we came back on ourselves so we could see the front runners. They were going eye wateringly fast! Martin Yelling (19:27 with the double buggy), Steve Way (18:34), my new friends Marcin (19:02) and Mark (18:05) were storming ahead. My friend Matt unceremoniously overtook me and squeaked a sub-20 by one second. We’re *sort of* around the same speed (though I’d say he’s just a bit faster than me – and definitely at the moment as he’s further in his training and a more experienced marathon runner) so I’ll let him have it. I got 21:29 which I’m over the moon about as that’s faster than Conwy’s from the other week (#progress).

My friend Hannah was doing her first ever parkrun so it was quite exciting. She’d volunteered before a few times but never actually run it! She really enjoyed it thankfully.

IMG_8775Left-Right: Marcin, Deni, Hannah, Matt and me

I wore my new parkrun t-shirt (personalised with my home parkrun, Netley Abbey). It’s such a lovely fit and has lots of the back as well. Though I wore a base layer underneath as it was quite nippy.

After the parkrun everyone headed to the quite large cafe (thankfully as it was quite full now!). The queue for food and drink was long but it was nice to chat to people so no one really minded.IMG_8772

As I knew lunch probably would be missed later due to all the things happening and timings I decided to fill up on a big breakfast to tide me over.IMG_8773The full English was really tasty. It wasn’t too greasy (though I had swapped hash browns for another tomato). Then it was back to the car where we were annoyingly we missed the car park fee cut-off by five minutes. Until 10:45am it’s free but after that you have to pay. And it was £6!!

After showering and getting sorted we then headed to the events room again for the official welcome. Some people hadn’t arrived last night (like our two other housemates, who were also very lovely) so it was the first time we’d all gotten together as a group.

IMG_8779Martin Yelling

Tom then did an interview with Liz Yelling and Steve Way which was really interesting. It was fascinating for me because they’d been interviewed at the Run Camp two years ago and that was before Steve has achieved his fantastic 2014 with qualifying and then running in the Common Wealth Games… But he was sombre in his reflection of 2015 because it had been full of injuries and set-backs and lessons learnt.

IMG_8780Tom Williams

He spoke about finding your limitations, recognising over-training, engaging in prevention not cure (he does Pilates all the time now and works on his core a lot more rather than just foam rolling himself “to buggery” when he gets a niggle). He also talked about what he calls good nutrition being simple, whole foods. He doesn’t prescribe to low carb/Paleo/Whole30 or anything like that. He just says that as the goal race gets closer he cuts out junk food (like his after dinner Magnum ice creams and sweets) and instead eats fruit or yogurt. To him it was just about making better choices, but never cutting out entire food groups.IMG_8781

This was something him and Liz were very much on the same page about. Tom made the point that he’s always known Liz’s diet, even at her peak, was never that different to other people’s. She didn’t eat slabs of cake or reward herself with cheat meals. She just ate a bit more but always protein, carbs and fats. Interestingly Steve said that though he runs up to 150 miles (!!) a week he knows he doesn’t actually burn the 1,000s of calories that his Garmin and apps tell him do because his body has become so efficient at running that it burn a very small number of calories per mile now. So to refuel what he’s apparently burnt would probably make him gain a fair bit of weight.

Another point that Liz made that really struck a cord with me was that though she could get away with eating rubbish, she’s conscious (or at least she was highly conscious during her prime running time) that everything she puts in her body has to help her achieve her goals. It wasn’t just about calories and macros, but what nutrients did the food contain that would help her recovery, keep her from getting sick and keep her running strong. Sure a cake wouldn’t cause her to gain weight, but how nutritionally-speaking would that cake help her long-term? Though she did admit she didn’t cut out cake or chocolate completely though (whew!).

After lots of questions and answers we then headed for another running session. I umm’ed and arr’ed so much whether to join in but I was sensible and decided to watch instead. A few people were injured or didn’t want to run again so I wasn’t alone and we walked down with Tom to the area where they’d be doing 1,200km reps. I was sad not to do it but ultimately made the right choice when I saw how hard it looked. As they did their loops (split into groups, wow the speedy guys were so fast!) I sat with a lovely lady called Jaz, who’s the head of HR for parkrun. So interesting chatting to her! We were also both eyeing up all the different running gear and making mental notes to do some online shopping pronto…

Jaz works very long hours for parkrun but it’s clear how passionate she was about it. She lives in Leeds (as does Tom) and I asked if the parkrun HQ was there and she said it was at Tom’s house! parkrun is still so much in its infancy and so much dependent on volunteers and donations that you forget it’s not a big corporate company. But the people behind it are just amazing. It was interesting to hear a bit about the behind the scenes stuff.

Deni joined us after one loop as she wanted to be sensible too. We were so cold sat there that we started piling ourselves with the gear people had stripped off!IMG_8783

To be honest though it was nice not running so I could talk more to Tom and the others. I was just like a sponge, absorbing everything being said and having a good old chin wag.

IMG_8823(Photo credit: Gary Derwent)

I’ll leave it there for now as otherwise this post will become more of a monster. I could go on and on about how amazing this weekend was obviously! Open-mouthed smile The next post will be about the evening and then the long run (with a race) the next day.

Have you ever been on a running camp or a fitness camp?

Do you run more than once a day ever?

What would you have asked Steve Way or Liz Yelling?