The Nitty Gritties – Gear

I thought I’d do another marathon training post, this time focused on gear you might need whether in training or for the actual race.

To catch up on previous posts in this series you can find them here:

Also if you want to request a topic, let me know!

Loads of non-runners I speak to (yes, I do socialise with them occasionally Winking smile ) just think that all you need for running are trainers. And any old trainers at that. Runners, however, are wryly well aware that you need a lot more than that. And “just” trainers can cost quite a chunk of money anyway. But what do you really need for running a marathon? Is it any different to just normal running or running something like a 10k?


Well, it really depends firstly on which marathon you’re doing. If it’s a big marathon, like London, Manchester or Berlin for example (to name but a few), then water and carbohydrate water (like PowerAde or Lucozade) are going to be readily available. In the Paris marathon there was water and PowerAde every 5km. At London I think it’s every mile. You really don’t need to carry water with you – unless you want to.

Bare in mind it can be stressful and difficult to get to the water stations in busy marathons. If you’re concerned that you will need water regularly and don’t want to keep making a dive into the water area (it can be a crazy area where people randomly slow down, stop or change direction without warning) then carrying your own might be a good idea. Personally I don’t tend to drink a lot during races unless it’s very warm so for Boston I won’t carry anything as I know I can grab some if I need it and risk the mayhem.

Hydration preparation

For my trail marathon last year at Cheddar Gorge it was a really small race (less than 100 people) and there were only three aid stations if I remember rightly. It took place in mid-August so I knew I’d need to carry water with me. I used my iFitness Hydration Belt and at the aid stations and made sure I topped up the bottles as well.


Similar to hydration, some marathons will offer gels or food at the aid stations. Check where the fuel will be, what it will be and how many of them will be available during the race. If you want to use gels and your marathon is offering them, test out those gels in training. Never try them for the first time during the race – they might not agree with your stomach. The Cheddar Gorge marathon offered sweets, biscuits and fruit – but I’d never trained with that sort of thing so I took my own fuel with me.


My stomach’s generally quite good with gels so I don’t really have an issue with different ones, though I know I prefer it if they have caffeine in them. For me, I tend to have a breakfast of porridge, a black coffee and then three gels (at least one of those being a caffeine one) during the race. But you don’t have to use gels. You could try things like chopped up cereal bars, dried fruit, salted cooked potato chunks (an ultra marathon favourite apparently), jam, and even baby food (like fruit purees). Basically what you ideally want is an easy source of carbs so your body can use it quickly. Just make sure you trial it during one of your long runs.

But you don’t have to use any sort of fuel during the marathon if you don’t want to. If you know you can last an entire marathon without fuel then there’s nothing to say that you have to have anything! Some people can last on a good meal the night before and a good carb-based breakfast on the day of the race. Though if you’re new to marathon training I’d probably advise against this.

Running belts/bags

If you do decide to take fuel or hydration with you you need to find a way to carry it with you. I actually don’t mind holding gels in my hand and I’ve also been quite lucky to have had my dad at three of my marathons handing me gels (he told me where he’d be at what mile). Obviously at a very busy marathon like London this would be nearly impossible.

IMG_5023I love this photo as it literally shows my dad handing me a gel at the Bournemouth marathon

Some people use belts that you can attach gels to or running belts like the Flipbelt. Again, you just need to get used to wearing something like that for a long period of time. Some belts bounce or ride up, or even chafe. Be careful with your selection. I recommend the Flipbelt – minimal riding up issues and no bouncing. It can also hold a phone, gels and keys.

For liquids, you could consider whether you want a full-on rucksack like a Camelbak or a belt like I’ve shown above. Or whether you fancy carrying a bottle for the race (I don’t recommend this, it could give you an imbalance while you run – and 26.2 miles is a long way to hold a bottle for!)

MP3 Players

Does your marathon allow MP3 players? Some smaller marathons could disqualify you for wearing headphones because it’s a safety hazard if the roads haven’t been closed. The worst thing that could happen is you get a DQ at your marathon for something as silly as wearing headphones, so do check! If your marathon doesn’t allow headphones then make sure you’ve done a lot of training without music or podcasts. If you depend on that sort of stimulus it could be a shock to suddenly have to entertain yourself for several hours.

My current preferred method for a marathon is have nothing for the first 10 miles as the atmosphere is all go-go-go and the crowds cheer you along, then for the next 10 miles I’ll put on a podcast as I find these the hardest miles. The atmosphere has died down a bit and mentally it’s the toughest part for me as I’ve still got so far to go but have run a fair way already. Listening to a podcast helps take my mind off of things.

Then for the final 10k I’ll switch to some high tempo music and go for it. I don’t have it on really loud as I like to have the atmosphere of the crowds and other runners but just loud enough so I can feed off of it. I also make sure that the “Final 10k marathon playlist” is a playlist I never touch any other time. I won’t listen to any of those songs at any other point so to maximise their effectiveness and magic.

Tissues, tablets, plasters

Small but some may say potentially essential items. Tissues are a very handy item for the obvious nasal-related reasons. But also if there are portable loos on the course they may not always be adequately stocked with loo roll…

Ibuprofen tablets might be handy to have just in case. Worst-case scenario, a niggle crops up. My advice is to evaluate whether it’s going to become something so much worse or something you could potentially run through. I’m not advocating running using painkillers, but we all know that if we’ve trained for a marathon for 12 or more weeks we’re bloody well going to try and finish it. Come what may.

Plasters in case a blister occurs and you really need to sort it out. The likelihood of actually stopping, taking off your sock and trainer to sort it out is probably slim but a plaster weighs next to nothing and for me it’s more to settle my mind than actual use.

And like everything, the most important thing is to try nothing new on race day. Test things out, have a dress rehearsal at a half marathon race or a long training run. And set things out the night before so in the morning you’re not stressed running around the place trying to find what you need.

What gear do you usually take with you during a marathon?

Do you use gels? Which ones and how many?

Do you listen to anything during a marathon or race?

Rants and Raves #15

How the weeks are flying by! I know it’s such a cliché but everything is just moving so quickly. And with another week I have another set of rants and raves…

Rave: I entered a competition with Brooks a while ago and forgot about it. If I remember correctly you had to talk about why running makes you happy and upload a photo of yourself “running happy”. I didn’t win but they did send me a consolation prize.

Brooks Run Happy TShirt

A very nice Brooks t-shirt. It’s made from wicking material but it’s not a ‘proper’ technical t-shirt if that makes sense but it’s still good for short runs, gym visits or just general wear. It’s lovely and soft and fits nicely.

Rant: My gym has been renovated which has just been *so* much fun trying to find an area to work out in that wasn’t a building site. Though I can understand their issue as it’s open 24/7 so it must be hard to do any sorts of improvements without closing the gym.

But anyway, they’ve created a new door system to get in and out. Before it was like a caged turnstile. Now it’s like something out of Star Trek.

IMG_1755 You type in your code, one part of it opens, you step in, it closes before opening the next part. There is about two very long seconds where you fear you’ll never be let out. What a way to spend the rest of your life…locked in a glass cage with only your own sweat smell to comfort you.

Rave: Speaking of the new gym renovations, it has meant that we’ve had loads of new equipment and weights. Including a proper stepper machine! I was quite excited as previously we’d only had that annoying step machine that when you put your foot on each step it sinks down. I tried it once and it was awful. I just didn’t get on with it as I couldn’t work out if I was meant to do shallow little steps or big deep steps. The real step machine however is far better.

Stepper machine

It’s actually like climbing stairs and you can get a good rhythm. Great for the glutes and legs! And for towering over the gym and people watching 😉

But I honestly have no idea what this new machine is…


On closer inspection it looked like a rowing machine, but upright…very strange.

Rant: Hot running! Though it is nice to be warm when you’re doing your warm-up…oh those days not so long ago I was standing in the car park in my tiny shorts absolutely freezing doing my leg swings while people were coming out to their cars wrapped up in coats and scarves looking at me like I was mental. But it does make for harder running.


Sweaty, uncomfortable and harder efforts for the same speeds…it’s tough! And even more so when you come back to the office and find…

IMG_1757 NO cups for the water machine. I did consider putting my head under the water release bit and drinking that way but I thought perhaps this wasn’t proper office etiquette, even if it was past normal working hours 😉 Luckily they had another one in another corridor that I had to hunt for in my heat-induced delirium.

Rave: Pretty purple Nike capris! I’m clearly a bit obsessed with capris right now. I don’t tend to wear them running as it’s too hot but I love wearing them to the gym.

Nike Capris

These are really comfortable and nice fitting. Normally I’m not one for crazy patterns but I just love the colour! I can’t remember where I got them from, otherwise I’d post the link as well.

Rant: Dropping your hair dryer on yourself while blow drying your hair is painful. And further proof of the accident prone idiot I am.


And also gives the impression that you’ve been mauled by a small animal. Very painful burns from the grating in the hair dryer!

Rave: Alfie just makes me smile every single day. This is him not wanting to get up one morning.


I reckon he thinks he’s invisible if he can’t see me 😉

Rave: I’m very excited about being sent these 33Shake products. I haven’t tried them yet as I’m waiting for a good time to test them out on (I have the perfect event in a week or so to give them a good testing – but more on that soon). I was sent three All-in-One Shake blend which are ideal after hard sessions as they contain great ingredients like hemp seeds and flaxseeds, natural antioxidants (which I’ve found I really need after hard sessions!), protein, and anti-inflammatories like turmeric and green coffee (oooh er!). They’re 100% natural, meaning no additives, no preservatives, and nothing manmade.


I was also sent Chia Energy Gels which will provide energy during a hard workout. And again contain all natural with a blend of carbs, proteins, Omega-3s and antioxidants.

So I’m fairly excited about testing these bad boys out!

What are your rants and raves this week?

What do you look for in sports nutrition, whether that’s before, during or after?

Where do you buy your workout gear from?

Excuse my French…

Shiiiiiiiit I’m running a marathon in less than three days.

I still don’t believe I’ll make it there. I still don’t believe, if I do make it there, that I’ll finish. A conversation like this happened last Friday with Ben:

Me: “How many Euros do we need?”

Ben: “Not sure…let’s work out how many meals we’ll be having and go from there”.

Me: “Yeah and if I’m not going it’ll be half that.”

Ben: “What?”

Understandably Ben gets frustrated with me. I get frustrated with myself. But I feel embarrassed even admitting to people I’m off to run the Paris marathon. The look of surprise (and pity) when I say my longest run has been 15 miles.

Two 11 milers, three 13.1 milers, one 15 miler…


Can I count a 17 miler and 16 miler in November…? No…damn.

But it’s all about positive thinking. Like many people have said, you can walk 26.2 miles with no major issues (just a bit tiring). It’s all about the ego really. And understanding the pacing I go out at. It’s not like a half marathon where if at 8 miles you feel a bit rough you can reassure yourself you’ll be done in five miles. If I feel rough at 8 miles I am screwed. But back to that positive thinking…

I have so many arguments prepared in my head to argue with the girl inside who starts to struggle. I have a lot of pride and will power to keep going. The only thing that will stop me finishing is if I’m in genuine pain from an injury. Otherwise, JUST KEEP RUNNING.

I know for me this is mental thing as much as a physical thing (though I’m pretty sure by mile 18 it will feel pretty much all physical 😉 To combat this I’ve got my race planned out so it doesn’t feel like one miler after another.

First ten miles (a gel somewhere at 8 miles?) I will be ‘soaking up the atmosphere’ and warming up (I like to say ‘warming up’ to convince myself 10 miles isn’t that long).

10-20 miles potentially another gel and if I fancy it, I’ll pop on a podcast.

I KNOW. I KNOW. All you running purists out there will be shaking your heads at me for doing something as sacrilege as listening to something while running a marathon around a beautiful and spectacular city race. But this is my race and I know I’m going to need every little bit of help I can get. Listening to my favourite podcast (BBC 5 Live Film Reviews) will allow my mind to stay calm, my pace to stay even and keep me from panicking. It’s not like I’m throwing a bag over my head.

20-the end (another gel at 20) – this will very much depend on how I’m feeling. If I’m feeling good and the pace is still doing OK then I will soak up the atmosphere again. If things are looking shaky and I’m struggling then I’ll pop some music on and try and hang in there.

In defence of my iPod usage…I use music for nearly all my races. I love listening to music. I see it as a race soundtrack. I can still hear the shouting and cheering but there’s something special about hearing music as I run. It flavours the race and whenever I listen to a certain song that was on during that race I get memories.

But anyway, it will all depend on the day I think. Obviously I do have some ambitions for the race BUT I am also very realistic in what I can actually achieve. These goals are nothing like my previous ones and ultimately my only true goal (that I’ll be sad if I don’t hit) is finishing. It’s my first marathon and let’s be honest my training has been pretty rubbish. This is not the end of the line, just the start of something exciting I hope!

Au revoir! See you on the other side – in one piece I hope!

For races, do you plan out your ‘game plan’ beforehand?

If you do, do you stick to it or have you been known to go ‘off piste’?

Do you listen to music when you run or work out?

Exciting (and scary?) times ahead

Can you believe March is almost over? This is crazy. I love this time of year though – each warmer day is a blessing and there’s such hope for better weather. I actually think I prefer spring to summer. Summer can be either very disappointing (too much rain or far too hot).

I am so excited about the coming weeks. OK I am also filled with a huge sense of foreboding and dread because of the marathon. But it is quite an exciting time regardless. I’m intrigued to know how I’ll do running 26.2 miles – will I blow up at 18 or 20 miles? How will I cope? What will it feel like?

Not just my marathon though, Ben’s running his second marathon and he’s had a good amount of training, getting in an 18 miler and consistently running in the week (and PB’ing left right and centre in half marathons and a 10k).

There are also people at my club running Brighton, London or the Dorset marathon. And so many bloggers are training for marathons. And Marathon Talk’s Martin Yelling and Tom Williams doing Manchester.

Let’s also not forget the big one. Mo Farah (Farrrrrrrrahh as that American commentator called him) and his marathon debut. I really hope he wins (but I think Geoffrey Mutai will do it).

To say I’m excited is a bit of an understatement. I think I might just glue myself to social media for the next few weeks (hmm, what’s new I suppose?).

Last night I went for a 10k run after work in Basingstoke and just decided to try as hard as I could. The route is two loops. Unfortunately it includes a fair few uphill’s, but also some downhill’s.


The ‘GAP’ figure is: “Grade Adjusted Pace estimates an equivalent pace when running on flat land, allowing the runner to compare hilly and flat runs more easily. Because running uphill requires extra effort, the Grade Adjusted Pace will be faster than the actual pace run. When running downhill, the Grade Adjusted Pace will be slower than the actual pace”. (I use Strava to upload my runs).


Not too bad but not flat. This run was about giving myself confidence that I haven’t lost everything. For definite I have run faster 10ks, but considering my injuries and lack of consistent training I am more than happy with where I am right now.

It’s hard to know what I should be doing in these two weeks before the marathon. This week I’m going to go to running club, Parkrun and then do a 12-13 mile run on Sunday. Maybe this long run is stupid so close to ‘M Day’ but I think I need to do it mentally. Then next week will be one shorter speed session and the rest easy shorter runs.

I haven’t even finalised my thoughts about fuelling during the run. Or where to put gels as I won’t be carrying a bag or anything. These things are keeping me up at night. I think I’m just going to take four gels with me, in my hands I guess, and just go with how I feel.

I think I probably speak for everyone when I say I can’t wait for this marathon to be over!! 😉

What would be your fuelling strategy for a marathon? (Or what have you done in the past?)

How do you mentally prepare yourself for something Big and Scary?

Will you be watching (or running) the London marathon?

Week’s Workouts

Howdy, howdy! Hope you had a great weekend. Ours was nice and quiet, which was definitely needed after last week’s London adventures.

Maybe it’s the sunshine pouring through my bedroom window or maybe I’m changing but honestly I never sleep in anymore. Obviously I can’t during the week due to that annoying but rather essential thing called work, but at the weekend I’ve been known to snooze in until 9am. OK that’s not a huge lie-in, but since university I haven’t been able to sleep later than that unless I went crazy with a late night. These days my lie-ins don’t go past 8am, but quite frequently I’m awake by 7am. Well, I’ll have to see when the lovely sunny mornings disappear I guess.

So this week gone has been crazy in terms of varied workouts for me. Who am I?? Previously I would just run five times a week. Not even a sneaky core or stretching session. Ergo, I got injured. But things are a-changing!

Monday: body pump


In case you weren’t aware of what that might look like Winking smile

This kicked my butt. Literally I was an achy mess after this. My puny muscles quivered in pain.

Tuesday: for some inexplicable reason I thought running five miles would be a good idea the next morning. Just to ‘shake out’. I was running 30 seconds to one minute slower than normal. But I finished it and felt good.

Wednesday: rest

Thursday: running club in the evening (eight miles off-road). It felt tough but I felt like I was back on form. I’m definitely aware that my speed has diminished slightly. I’m still speedier than I was months ago, but definitely not top form like I was during the height of my races.

Friday: spinning. I was nervous about doing spinning in the morning considering I ran the night before. However, apart from being a bit tired I was fine. So much less stress on my legs. And I felt great for the day.


Yep that’s a spinning bike

However, spinning was TOUGH. Jeeze I am so out of practice. The demon guy that was running the session was like “Come on! Push it harder! Get those RPMs to 125” and I was spinning as fast as my little legs could go and only reaching at most 110. Sweat literally poured off of me. One girl next to me was on fire. I was pretty sure she was going to cycle that bike off it’s stand if she wasn’t careful. Teacher’s pet.

Just shows really that you can be good at one thing and suck at something else. Fitness is not a universal thing. It can be very specific to the sport or workout you choose.

Saturday: Parkrun (5k informal race). I was nervous about it beforehand and did a little warm-up (new thing, let’s actually warm-up before racing. Well done, Anna). But once we got going it was fine. We were on the slightly harder course (only three laps with a hill, rather than a flat five lap course) so I knew PBing was very unlikely. However, I did beat my previous time for this course from a few weeks ago.


I came second girl and 20th overall (out of 142). Not bad! And the best part was that I enjoyed it. It was tough and I felt the burn, but it felt like a normal run. No discomfort or twinges or feeling held back. The only thing holding me back was my stamina and running ability.

And check out Mr Volunteer doing his thing as he’s still sadly out of the game Sad smile


Time-keeping – a very pressurised job

Ben was keeping the time of the runners finishing. Quite an important job, I think you’ll agree. I did try and bribe him to give me a good time. Haha, so joking. He wouldn’t be that nice to me!

Sunday: long run. Did I mention I’ve got a half marathon in about three weeks? 18th August Cheddar Gorge Half Marathon. We signed up to it ages ago. Anyway, this is not a race to even consider getting a good time for. We’re talking 1,600ft elevation. It’s on a gorge. It’s off-road. Help.

For the Reading Half Marathon (way back in March) I didn’t take any gels or fuel because I didn’t need them. I felt fine. However, for this half marathon it’s not just a simple road race. It’s hilly like you wouldn’t believe. So I plan on taking a gel at mile six as I know it’s going to be intense. This run on Sunday was therefore to practice what having a gel on a run would be like. I’ve never tried gels before and wasn’t even certain it would sit well with me <—never try something new on race day, always practice beforehand!

Long run survival guide

Long-run survival guide (my water bottle collapses – I love it)

My plan was to run 13 miles but make sure I do a route that if at 11-12 I felt tired I could cut it short.


For whatever reason, the big Running God in the sky smiled down on me and I had a brilliant run (even notched on the .1 because it would be rude not to). Whether it was because I made sure I ran at a nice easy pace, or the gel at mile six, or just because it wasn’t so blinking hot: it was a great run. One of those highly coveted runs.

Like I said, I took the gel at mile six. Apart from the texture (like warm weird yogurt…yuck) it was fine and I honestly think it helped speed me up. The only annoying thing was despite passing a million bins before taking the damn thing, there wasn’t a bin in sight after taking it for like a mile, which meant I had to carry the empty sticky packet for a while.

Anyway, I felt brilliant after the run. After eating a big bowl of oatmeal, I quickly headed out (yes, before showering. I’m disgusting) in search of ice to have a nice ice bath. I went to four shops and they had nothing. I did buy apples though so not a complete fail Open-mouthed smile

Later I then had body pump again. I am crazy I know. But it seems Sundays are the only really good time for me to do pump (as I only managed on Monday as I had a day off). Strangely it was fine! Obviously afterwards I was quite tired and after finding ice (woohoo!) promptly went home to have an ice bath and do nothing all day. Fabulous!

So this week has been a great mix of running, spinning and pump. Alongside this I’ve tried to do my stretches and strengthening exercises three times a week. I won’t be aiming for two pump sessions a week but I definitely want to do one pump and one spin and only run four times a week.

How’s your weekend been?

What workouts have you been doing?

What’s your favourite gym class to do? I really want to try kettle bells soon but it’s always on a Saturday which is an issue for my long run the next day.

What’s your experience with gels?