Beat the evil weevil

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Mother Nature can throw a lot at you when you are a runner. Look at the hideously hot weather we are experiencing at the moment in the UK… OK, autumn may feel way too close at the moment, due to the persistent rain and darker evenings, and the reality it that September is only days away. Even though we will hopefully be running for a good few weeks yet in shorts and t-shirts, there’s no doubt that there is a tinge of ‘summer is nearly over and the leaves will be dropping soon’ in the air.

September is a beautiful month, full of the smell of bonfires. For me, it’s always going to be associated with conkers dropping from the trees. Each of my three girls have started their own shoe-box collection of conkers as the new school year starts throughout their primary education. Some have reached hundreds in numbers. We all associate with the changing seasons, and autumn heralds colder evenings, the hazy smoke of wood-burners being fired up and the creation of a little ball of excitement in your stomach that grows until Christmas arrives in December. I love autumn. Almost as much as I love spring.

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The arrival of cooler autumn weather and darker evenings also means we tend to start to spend much more time indoors – resulting in greater exposure to house dust allergens. For the 5.4 million asthmatics in the UK, me included, this is often associated with worsening of my asthma symptoms. At first I start coughing more at night time (even more so on days when I’ve done a long run). Cold days that are also rainy are the worst. You soon forget how open and breezy your house is in the summer, as the windows stay shut against the cold. Put damp washing on the radiators – more coughing. Failure to hoover regularly – also more coughing.

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It seems that what your body can cope with, or easily bounce back from, during the warmer summer months, can quickly spiral down into a chest infection. This is the worst case scenario – not because you are ill. But because you can not run. Last winter I couldn’t run from early November until late January. I’m hoping that never happens again.

Airborne allergens expert, Max Wiseberg, gave me some tips on reducing the amount of allergens getting into your body. Arm yourself now, and you will continue to run throughout the autumn and winter, ready to wow others and yourself with your strong base of fitness in the spring. Consistency, as with all things running, is crucial.

“The symptoms of indoor allergies caused by dust can be very similar to cold-like symptoms,” explains Max, “such as a runny nose, sneezing, coughing and sinus pain. In fact, many people think they have a caught a cold, when actually they have an allergy. So they either treat the wrong thing, or don’t bother at all.”

“In reality, their symptoms are the result of spending more time indoors amongst dust allergens than in the summer. Dust mite allergy is actually a reaction to proteins in the excretion of the dust mites; yes, that’s right, you’re allergic to dust mite poo! When these proteins are breathed in or make contact with the skin of an allergic person, their body reacts with typical hay fever symptoms.” This truth is quite disgusting!

These little critters have a lot to answer for!

These little critters have a lot to answer for!

All homes in the UK have dust mites, and due to their tiny size (around ¼ mm) and translucent bodies, they are almost invisible to the naked eye. But don’t worry – unless you have a dust mite allergy, they are harmless. Max continues: “Dust mites thrive in warm humid environments, our beds being one of their favourite spots. We spend about a third of our day in bed, shedding skin cells and creating moisture with our breath and bodies which the microscopic mites need to live on. So using allergy friendly mattress covers and bedding can help allergy sufferers – Allergy UK has a good range. Vacuum under beds daily, and try not to keep lots of things under beds as these will collect lots of house dust mite allergens. And vacuum mattresses and pillows regularly.

“To reduce the amount of allergens getting into your body, make sure you dust with a damp cloth and get to all those easily forgotten places like the tops of picture frames and door frames. Vacuum as often as possible; every day if possible, and remember to vacuum the furniture at least once a week – twice a week is better. It may also be beneficial to install “Allergy Friendly” flooring.”

The cold air of winter is a nightmare for asthmatics

The cold air of winter is a nightmare for asthmatics

Other useful tips to reduce the humid conditions dust mites and moulds thrive in are to avoid drying clothes inside over a radiator – this increases the humidity in your home and can result in mould, which releases tiny spores into the air that you breathe – and to keep the humidity in your house between 40% and 20% to control allergens. In addition, be careful when using harsh chemicals for cleaning, as the fumes can exacerbate breathing problems and cause skin irritation.

“Many people take anti histamines to cope with their allergy,” explains Max. “Histamines, as well as being the nasty things that cause our horrible symptoms, are also very useful things which keep us alert, attentive and awake. That is why anti histamines can make us drowsy and can go on to affect our performance at work.”

“An allergen barrier balm like HayMax can be used to help trap the allergens before they enter the body, reducing or helping to prevent symptoms. Applying the balm around the nostrils and/or the bones of the eyes can help reduce or prevent the symptoms of dust allergy.”

Hard to believe in August that this actually happens!

Hard to believe in August that this actually happens!

HayMax traps dust allergens in the air before they enter the body. As long as this is enough to keep the sufferer below their sensitivity level, the symptoms won’t be triggered. Applying the balm two or three times a day provides a highly effective, invisible barrier to airborne allergens.

So there you have it – such a simple solution to a huge problem for anyone who is allergic to house dust mites. Both my eldest highly atopic, asthmatic daughter and I use it.

As one pot lasts for months, it’s also cost effective (at £6.99). View it here.

Give triathlon a go…

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Don’t get me wrong, I love running. But when you’re a runner you can easily become distracted (*obsessed*) with each and every run and forget there is a whole new world of other sporting events out there waiting to be discovered. Last year I tried both a duathlon (run, cycle, run) and a very short triathlon (swim, cycle, run). My biggest hurdle to this goal is the fact that I am not very good at swimming. I only faced my fear of putting my head underneath water and learning how to do front crawl two years ago – in swimming terms this is like being a toddler in the pool (especially compared to other triathletes my age who have been swimming for over 30 years). When my youngest daughter finally grasped the front crawl, aged six, I felt shamed into manning up and facing down. I have never looked back.

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Do you, like me, watch in awe at how fast triathletes can swim? Unlike these awesome dolphin-esque athletes, I squirm as I swim, grasping at the air and the water like Gollum searching for his precious. And yet I crave my weekly swim as much as I look forward to my next run. The stress relief swimming has provided was completely unexpected. I also love the technical challenge, after all, running is just one foot in front of the other, right? And just because I am not very good at it makes me want to get better.

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I knew I had to start small, and so signed up to the new Triathlon Pink series that has come to the UK from Australia, where it has raised over $1million to fight breast cancer. Triathlon Pink (www.triathlonpink.co.uk) offers British women the chance to try out a triathlon in a relaxed, non-competitive and fun environment – and it really does deliver.

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The University of Bath provided the stunning backdrop for my event last year; the course wound its way around the university grounds with the swim leg held in the pool at the Sports Training Village. Everything – EVERYTHING – was incredibly well organised. The parts I was worrying about, transition and racking, that left me sleepless the night before, were seamless and thoroughly explained. With hundreds of women gathered in the pool for the first wave, there wasn’t just excitement in the air, but a sense of inspiration. Many women – some in remission, some fighting cancer, some participating in memory of loved ones – were tackling their first triathlons to raise money for Breakthrough Breast Cancer. I felt humbled.

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The best thing is you don’t have to be experienced triathlete, and it really doesn’t matter if you don’t have any of the gear. A pair of trainers, a bike (anything goes, including shopping baskets on the front) and a swimming costume will see you round. Looking to the future, and the health of our nation, this event series ensures it offers something for the whole family; Triathlon Pink for the ladies, Triathlon Pink Kids and the Pink Pyjama Fun Run for any men who wanted to be part of the day.

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This year I did my local triathlon at Fareham Leisure Centre. I definitely don’t shine in the sport, especially as I didn’t do any bike training, and despite the best of intentions, managed very little swimming leading up to the day. I’d like to say my run was super swift, but it wasn’t. What could I expect, with so little training? I know lots of people at my running club who manage to fit in multiple activities during the training days, whereas I struggle to fit in one bike (not very far) and one swim every week. Over the holidays this reduces to nothing. I don’t expect to get better, even though I wish I would! But it really inspired me to give sea swimming a go. This is truly scary for a swim-phobe like me. So scary I almost cry every time I try it, and yet I love doing it once I get out of the water. The truth is I’m not a water babe, and swimming in the ocean petrifies me; I try not to look in the water for fear of spotting any type of marine-based animal moving towards me. Even though I only swim when the sea is calm and the tide is high, open water swimming remains a massive challenge. This is exactly why I keep trying it. Earlier in the summer I tried an aquathlon in a local lake, but pulled out half way round the first (very short) lap. I was so cross at myself I nearly broke down and spent the whole evening going over and over why I just couldn’t swim in water that is shallow enough for me to stand up in. Obviously there was no question as I have an irrational fear of water.

So I have forced myself to swim in the sea, cautiously and with my lovely triathlon-busting friends David and Sandra close by. The first few times Sandra suggested I try to swim out to the local buoy and back I said no way. It looked like it was miles away – half way to the Isle of Wight at least. In fact there and back is only about 8 or 900metres. So when I last went out, and said “Let’s go for it” I was trying to do something I never have thought I could achieve. And yet I’ve done it now. There was a bit of a swell on the way out, and I did start to struggle as we got near to the buoy, but the tide was with us, which greatly helped in ensuring I didn’t make a complete fool of myself. I still haven’t conquered an open-water triathlon; I’ve got lots of opportunity during the rest of the summer to give one a try. I keep stalling though.

A lot of us runners are reluctant to try new events – after all, we love running so much we wonder if there is any more room in our lives to love anything else. And yet the more you cross-train your body, the less injured you are likely to become, and the longer you will hopefully be able to continue running, enjoying improvement and strength and not the disappointment of recurring niggles. Something I have always dreamed of doing, I have now achieved, and it really wasn’t as scary as I thought it was going to be. Well it was, but I did it anyway. I bet there are lots of you reading this who were pretty good at swimming when you were younger. If you gave yourself a chance to reconnect to the sport, and then mix up your training with the odd cycle, as well as your running training, I know you would be sooooo much better at triathlon than I ever could be.

Questions: Have you done a triathlon? Is triathlon something you fancy giving a try? What’s holding you back from giving it a go?

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Essential women’s running kit for autumn

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It’s unbelievable… the Women’s Running office is already getting kit in for autumn/winter when it’s in the 20s, we’re in July and the summer holidays haven’t even started! I hate to say it, but before we know it the summer will be over and we will be eating our Christmas dinner! Eeek – I don’t know if that’s exciting or I want to cry!
What is for sure is that time has a way of dissolving… I’m hoping summer stretches out till the end of September at least (last year we were wearing shorts when we decorated our house on Halloween, so warm weather may you remain forever) but at some stage we are going to have to think about colder weather kit. Make sure you beat the chill with my sneak preview of what I think is going to be flying off the running shop shelves, as well as a few old favourites that are worth buying, and why I think the kit is great.
I’m refusing to wear capris until the end of September! Full tights are not allowed before the end of October, but there’s something for everyone here, and for whatever our beautiful British weather throws at us from September onwards. I’ve reviewed, and run in the kit, but I asked my 12-year-old daughter Amelie to model the pieces as she is a bit taller than I am; all the kit she has on is a size small. She’s a dancer not a runner – it was easier to let her ‘pose’ to get the pictures taken and avoid all-out war!

Shoes
Merrell Allout Terra Trail, £100, www.merrell.com/UK
I couldn’t wait to get my feet in this brand new shoe from Merrell: I’ve always found Merrell’s trail shoes offer brilliant stability whether you are tackling mud, snow or rock. I love the hybrid sock-like tongue that prevents debris from the trail entering the shoe and causing discomfort. It seems lots of brands are offering this addition to shoes this year, and now we have it I wonder why it wasn’t thought of before: it’s so effective and means no more bending over to flick out those tiny stones that seem to find their way into the top of your socks and are so irritating. The lugs are really chunky and feel very grippy underfoot. I also found the shoes to be super light due to the UniFly cushioning system, which consists of soft EVA foam that Merrell tells me is 20 per cent lighter than standard EVA foams. There’s also a small rock plate in the forefoot that works to protect against the toughest debris lurking under our feet. The upper is tough, too. All round, one of my favourite trail shoes so far, and I can’t wait for a muddy cross-country race to really put them to work.

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Salomon Speedcross 3, £100, salomon.com/uk
These aren’t new but I’ve loved running in them so much in the last month or so I wanted to include them anyway! I first raced in them for the South Downs Trail Half Marathon in June, having only been out in them for a few short runs and they performed brilliantly. For comfort and stability I really rate them; even though they may look like they are rigid or heavy they are very deceptive. I’m not a fan of trail shoes that are too solid/inflexible in the upper, or if they are heavy as you begin to feel like you’re dragging a heavy mass of mud around on your feet. These feel strong and sturdy but aren’t heavy or rigid.

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There’s plenty of padding around the ankles that makes these shoes feel extremely comfy, even after you’ve been wearing them for a few hours. And they are so robust! I feel a couple of inches taller in these shoes and find them springy: the lugs give you a powerful grip. Salomon are clever designers and when they first bought out their ‘lace garage’, to allow us to tuck away our laces and prevent snagging on the run I thought it was so clever. Yes, for me and the Speedys it was love at first sight.

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INOV-8 TERRACLAW 250, £120, inov-8.com
I haven’t had a pair of these come in for review yet, but weighing just 250g, the Terraclaw 250 promises to be a lightweight and agile shoe. It’s one of those shoes that will serve you well whatever distance you are training or racing. It has multi-directional outsole lugs for great grip, while the fit has been engineered to keep the foot stable yet still allow the toes to splay. May suit runners with slightly wider feet as I’ve always found the toebox in Inov-8’s to be quite generous.

Terraclaw 250 W Blk Berry Blue side updated

Terraclaw 250 W Blk Berry Blue sole updated

Capris/tights
Saucony Bullet Capri, £45, www.saucony.co.uk
Over the last few seasons I’ve become quite a fan of Saucony women’s running kit. These capris are going to be one of my kit choices in autumn as I like the way they finish just below your knee (the inseam is 16.5inches) compared to mid-calf, as many do. For me the longer length is just irritating, as my legs don’t like the pressure of seams mid-calf. And with these you can run in them all year – saving you money! There’s a zippered back storage pocket as well as side cargo pockets, so you get plenty of space for essentials. The scalloped reflective trip on the side pockets and the back covers safety, and the wide waistband is a winner for any size.

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VAARA Sports Leggings, £55  vaara.com
Vaara’s capsule collection is aimed at the busy working woman, mother and gym goer who is just not prepared to compromise on technical performance or style…so it’s right up our street. The range includes cashmere knits, but I was lucky enough to review the sports bra and sports legging in black/coral.

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Amelie is also wearing the Vaara sports bra which is included further down this blog

The waistband of the sports legging really sets it apart as it puts such a pretty finishing touch; I thought it was very unique. It sits just above your hip bones and crosses over at the front, creating the ‘Vaara diamond’ – both flattering and a bright pop of colour for your winter wardrobe. These are leggings that will allow you to feel comfortable all day, regardless of whether you’re out on a run, or just flying around at work or doing chores. The soft material has great stretch, too.

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BoomBoom Athletica 26.2 Leggings £98, boomboomathletica.com
One of many new brands that are offering cross-over kit that you can workout in but also head out in (whether it’s to the shops/school run/cafes), these sleek black leggings are meant to feel tight to provide the benefits of compression technology. So you may have to struggle in to them, but once you’re in they feel like a second skin. I’ve also recently reviewed the elite tank (Amelie is wearing the blue version in this picture… you can find it here), which I loved, so I had to give the leggings a slot.

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What you get with these brands offering fewer items that are multi-functional is much better quality than some of the global brands with a vast collection of kit.

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Why pay so much for a pair of leggings? The texture of the fabric against your skin is very soft and smooth; it feels luxurious! I really liked the hypoallergenic silicon strip on the inside of the waistband that helps prevent the tights riding up around your waist. It’s a strange sensation at first, but it’s effective. You’ve got mesh panels behind the knees, which definitely help with ventilation. Overall the fit was just about perfect (I tried a small). There’s also a subtle reflective logo on the right ankle. I personally would like to see a bit more reflectivity for the really dark months. If you were going to invest in one pair of decent leggings for the winter months I would put these on your wish list.

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Ilu Compression Leggings, £60, ilufitwear.com
Turning up to a race and feeling relaxed is important, right? These compression leggings are designed for comfort.

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Amelie is wearing the Ilu pants and chic seamless jacket

There are lots of details that make them stand out though, it’s not just the overall style. The deep ribbed waistband allows them to sit gently against your hips and tummy, and I really like the way the ruched ankles fitted.

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Great to wear whether your training, gyming or racing.

Tops/jackets
Ilu Chic Seamless Jacket, £70, ilufitwear.com
This jacket is available in three distinctive colours, blue (my pics), coral and grey; to be honest, I think all of the colourways work. This isn’t a heavy jacket, it’s a zip-up you can either wear whilst running when the temperatures do start to drop a bit, to give you that extra layer (until the true winter cold sets in), or you can just as easily wear it before/after your races, or casually as you are out and about – that’s why I’ve included it.

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It doesn’t look like a traditional running top/jacket, and that’s the beauty of it. There are mesh panels under the arms and along the sides, thumb loops so you get mittens built-in, and beautiful ruching all over the garment. It’s uber cosy. This is a jacket I will be happy to throw on to run in until the cold forces me into thermals. I also know it will look great when I’m dashing out the house, as I’m prone to do about 10 times a day.

Odlo Flender Down Vest, £130, www.odlo.co.uk (Available from mid August)
My sample hasn’t quite arrived – once it has I’ll update this blog. Odlo are one of my favourite brands, especially when it comes to running gilets as they always seem to get them right: warm enough, light enough and stylish. I’ve run in very similar vests for the last two winters so I know this vest will keep me warm, and I always use mine to layer up on the way to/from races when it gets really cold, as well as using as a layer against the cold when I’m running.

Odlo Flender down vest

They feature ‘Pertex Soft Micro’, a ightweight and soft microfibre material that is perfect for insulation. The fabric wicks sweat away from the interior, while providing excellent weather protection on the exterior. There’s also a mesh fleece back. This is also lightweight, very soft, micro fleece, brushed on both sides, with an anti-pilling finish. I love my Odlo vests, and will wear them around the house in the winter as they are so cosy and so effective at heat retention.

Glofaster Light-up Jacket, £99 www.glofaster.com
If you like to be ahead of the game when it comes to technology then the new range of Glofaster kit is for you. Their new light-up running jacket will be a great hit during the darker months, especially as you can link it up to a heart-rate monitor and your smartphone to make it flash in time with your heart rate! How amazing is that! In the quest to become more visible technology is also becoming much more fun. You can programme them to work a variety of ways, for example if you want your heart rate to reach a certain level you can programme the jacket’s lights to be on solidly when this is achieved, or change pattern when you are ‘in the zone’. If you are a runner who likes to get into their music when they run, the jacket can flash in time to your playlist! The LEDs can be seen 200m away, so there is the added benefit of being seen while you train. I don’t know about you but even though I hate the dark nights during winter I can’t wait to wear mine!

Here is a short video showcasing the jackets:

Gore Mythos So Light Lady Vest, £89.99, www.goreapparel.co.uk
I put in this piece of kit with my practical, mum head on as it’s so reflective and fluoro, yet retains the understated simple style I expect from Gore. I really like that it has two pockets as I tend to travel on foot with a few accessories. Also, being able to zip up the collar to keep the cold out is a bonus for me as I hate the first 10 minutes of running in the autumn/winter when the cold air somehow always finds a way of sneaking in through your kit.

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I am quite tiny, so the Gore XS fits perfect, and I know with this vest I will be running with a base-layer on underneath. It’s also made with a tapered fit, so it is definitely flattering. I know Gore kit is a bit more expensive, but none of my Gore running gear has ever got holes in or worn out (yet!) and I can never part with it.

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If I want to be sure to be warm in the winter I will always wear Gore. Every year Gore tweaks it’s running kit and I’m always excited to see what they have on offer each season.

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Saucony Reflex Jacket – white, www.saucony.co.uk
Saucony’s new range offers quite a few jackets, but I’ve picked the Reflex as my favourite as I think it’s the most practical/stylish offering for the darker months. What do you get? 360 degree high reflectivity with through little bubbles that are all over the jacket. It’s like being covered in tiny cat-lights. If there aren’t any lights shining on you the pattern is hardly noticeable. The fabric is also coated so it also provides the wind and water resistance you know you’re going to need. And there are mesh panels under the arms for ventilation, and freedom of movement. There’s more than enough storage space with zipped pockets on the front and one on the back right. I’m waiting for a sample, so for now this is what it looks like.

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Socks
Bridgedale Active Compression Sock, £28, www.bridgedale.com
I’ve become a convert to Bridgedale socks after spending the summer favouring their Speed Diva, due to the extra cushioning they offer. I really like thicker, cushioned socks, even in the heat, not just for protection from blisters but also for cosiness. These compression socks have just been launched and will help aid blood circulation and improve oxygen supply to muscles to increase stamina. The close stretch fit of the socks also reduces muscle vibration and enhances recovery. You’ll stay dry with Coolmax fibres. I also think the Black/Fluoro colourway is stylish.

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Bridgedale Speed Trail, £15, www.bridgedale.com
Staying on the theme of thick winter socks, the Speed Trail is a variation on the Speed Diva, which offers more underfoot cushioning, and warmth, whilst at the same time keeping over foot ventilation. It’s also slightly longer so will keep the winter chill away from your ankle. I love the padding in vulnerable areas. Just about perfect for autumn.

635 RUN Speed Trail Wmn 413 Turquoise shadow

Sports Bras
VAARA Sports Bra, £35  vaara.com

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Offering mid-support (the bra is available in sizes 6-12), this sports bra will suit women who are a smaller cup, or are heading to a yoga or Pilates class. For me it was perfect to run in, though I have to admit I need little support in this area being an A cup (three lots of breastfeeding seemed to cause my boobs to shrink away to nothing! So I blame my three girls for this!). It was comfortable during running, as well as when I’ve been wearing it all day after returning from the gym, largely due to the wide band that sits just beneath your boobs. I loved the cross-over straps as they were adjustable to get a really tight fit. There are removable cups – I decided to leave mine in of course! As I said above, this bra is definitely suitable for smaller ladies.

Running Buggy
Bugaboo Runner, £583, bugaboo.com
Bugaboo’s first foray into the running stroller arena is loaded with intuitive functionalities. Practical features include speed control brakes, high spec suspension systems, mudguards, adjustable handlebars and a fixed front wheel for stability that are built to deliver whether heading out for a leisurely jog on your local footpath or taking on the trail on untrodden paths.

Bugaboo

 

Standard Chartered Great City Race 2015

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It took an eight-hour round journey, I ran with 5,000 others (many were very, very fast) including 1,500 other women and one man dressed as a zebra (he must have lost half his weight in the heat!), I’m sure there were at least one million other people walking in the opposite direction to the one I needed to go in to get to the race (London’s tube strike… bad timing for a race day) there were many bends to negotiate and historic monuments to admire on the closed streets of London: yes, I was lucky enough to run in last night’s Standard Chartered Great City Race.

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This is a 5K race – but don’t balk at it being *just* a 5K. As you snake round the closed roads of London (this is the second of only two races in which London’s roads are closed, you know which is the other one) hemmed in with thousands of others chasing their own PBs, the energy of everyone competing against the clock, to outrun their work friends, and secure their company as the winner of this prestigious city race – well, it’s like having a constant jolt of electricity hammering through body and brain.
You have to give in to the pace and go for it in this 5K – from the moment the gun goes off. Elbows have to be out, you have to stand your ground as glory chasers stampede past, and you have to be brave. I knew it was a PB course as I was lucky enough to run it two years ago. After my first Great City Race experience I was addicted.

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It was unfortunate that London Underground staged its 24-hour strike on the same day as the race – and maybe this accounts for the numbers being below 6,000 – but there was a feeling in the air of people needing to get to their destinations, and nothing was going to stop them.
Anyway, there’s nothing quite like a 40-minute hike through London’s streets, fighting the skateboarders, scooter-babes, bike riders, and thousands of other people marching along the streets, all mixed up with hot exhaust fumes from bus after bus to warm up your body (and clog up your lungs).
It’s a privilege to be able to run in this race, not just because it’s a corporate event for companies from the accountancy, banking, media, insurance and legal sectors, packaged up in a crazy atmosphere, with a furiously fast course with inspiring sights peppered along the route. The real beauty is that this event is staged to raise money, and awareness, for the charity Seeing is Believing.
Seeing is Believing tackles avoidable blindness across the world – this year, all funds raised through the race will be used to support the ongoing East Africa Child Eye Health Programme. Standard Chartered also promises to match £10 from each runner’s entry fee pound for pound, to maximize the amount raised.

The perfect location
The location is perfect for thousands of people to converge. The start/finish is situated in the Honourable Artillery Company, Armoury House on City Road, where, in the time you take to hop across the road to enter the site, you can feel respite from the rush of the city.

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Our team (both Men’s Running and Women’s Running) were fashionably late, which meant we had to hurdle a few barriers to get our numbers and dump our bags, with just a few minutes to spare before the gun went off. This extra warm-up gave us a distinct advantage. We had approximately 1min30 seconds to get our kit on – but it was just long enough to view the opposition, the Runner’s World team, across the media room and make just a momentary eye contact. Having got this out of the way, we charged to the start. Not ideal preparation, but all of us were willing to give this race our best.
When you take just a few minutes to think about what the impact of blindness is for children you realize what a huge success this event is. It is estimated between 8,500-10,000 children are blind in the East Africa region. The impact of blindness and visual impairment on children is far greater than for adults. In terms of the impact on reducing years lived with disability, curing a child of blindness is, on average, equivalent to curing 10 adults with cataract blindness. Blindness and visual impairment have serious effects on the educational and employment opportunities of children (less than 10% of blind children attend school).

Following the zebra
As you power through the streets of London you feel humbled by the efforts of so many people to end avoidable blindness. There were roars from the crowds of Londoners soaking up cold beers as the sun beat down on us all. I really benefited from these as the man in the zebra costume was just ahead of me – the roar followed him all the way round.

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The Men’s Running team powered home, but we knew they would. Then came Women’s Running. Jenny, our digital writer was not going to let a sub-25 minute 5K get away from her and she beat her target by over half a minute. I also managed a PB and slipped in under 21 minutes; we were both pleased/relieved to finish. It’s such a blessing to be part of a great team of people.

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Mr Zebra finished to huge applause; if you imagine that each of his stripes represented £1,000 then his costume, totaling up to over £100,000 encompassed the efforts and generosity of all the runners. This 5K is a great event whether you participate, or are associated with it, and getting a PB makes it just that little bit more special.

 

Stats: Every team of four who entered this year will provide enough funding to train one health worker in Primary Eye Care.
Around 39 million people in the world today are blind, most of them living in the developing world. Yet, in eight out of ten cases, blindness can be prevented or treated with proven, cost effective interventions.
Seeing is Believing was launched in 2003. As of December 2014, we have raised more than $80 million, reached more than 78 million people, funded 3.4 million cataract operations, trained more than 173,306 health workers, supported 98 eye health projects, and distributed 776,200 pairs of spectacles.
Entry costs is £30 of which £10 goes to Seeing is Believing (with Standard Chartered £10 match this is a significant amount for one race to raise).
There’s a range of talent involved. At the front end of the race the pace is blistering: Phil Wicks (Team Allianz UK) was first male in 14:43. Lara Bromilow was leading lady in 17:38 for HSBC.

You can donate to the official race page at www.seeingisbelieving.org/help-us/donate-now and help to eliminate avoidable blindness.

 

Balancing your blood sugar

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Are you like me? My blood sugar can drop at any time… even though I try to manage what I eat as I’ve always suffered from this. I don’t have a serious blood sugar disease like diabetes, but I do have that kind of ‘Porsche’ metabolism where I struggle to put on weight. I’m slim, petite and maybe a little wiry (that’s quite hard to write as all women want to be curvaceous, don’t they!).
Whatever I eat, my body seems to burn it off quite quickly making me want more. I can feel hungry within half an hour of having a roast dinner! Leaving the house without some form of snack, just in case my blood sugar plummets leaving me shaky and spaced out, just never happens. I always have to be prepared when I travel, or if I’m out and about – in fact anytime I’m not at home where I have instant access to food.

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In a jam? Donut eat this!

Obviously I try to avoid sugary foods and drinks, though I am a woman and I do like cake! My body, as if in silent cooperation, doesn’t tend to crave sugar (except in cake!). I also get into trouble when I’m running long; I have to carry nutrition as I am also hungry, but if I take too many gels I feel spaced out and nauseous. What to do!
Nutritionist Henrietta Norton (www.wildnutrition.com) believes understanding how  certain foods or methods of eating effect our blood sugar, will help us optimize our energy, essential to running.

Why does the food we eat make a difference?

When we eat foods containing sugars, the pancreas responds by releasing insulin to push the blood sugar into the cells. If we eat foods higher in fast releasing sugars, insulin will be used to remove that sugar quickly because it’s not safe for us to continue experiencing high blood sugar. However, sometimes this process can cause a sudden ‘high’ in blood sugar levels followed by a more dramatic drop or ‘low’.  Symptoms of low blood sugar may include not being able to go for more than 1-2 hours without food, not experiencing fullness from meals (being more prone to snacking after meals) and experiencing dizziness, nausea, fatigue and mood swings when feeling hungry.  Another sign of blood sugar fluctuations may be sugar cravings or a ‘sweet tooth’.  We can moderate this process by eating foods that support this process better.

What can we do then to help limit and manage any fluctuations?
“Be your own sugar-detective,” says Henrietta, “high sugar foods are not always obvious.” Here are just some of the hidden sugars Henrietta says you may be eating daily.

White flour products: These are often both nutrient poor and release glucose quickly into the blood stream. Avoid all white flour carbohydrates such as white bread or pasta. Switch to brown rice, quinoa, oat or buckwheat. Ideally stick to a fist-sized amount of carbohydrates and have generous servings (ie half your plate) of vegetables and salad and proteins like meat, fish, eggs, beans and legumes. Avoid white potatoes and switch to sweet potatoes instead. You can also use vegetables as a starchy carbohydrate replacement. For example, a raw carrot and beetroot salad instead of brown rice.

Fruit:Getting the right ratio of fruit and vegetables in your diet is also important. Try to stick to 2 pieces of fruit per day to minimize fructose (fruit sugar) and choose fruit lower in fructose such as pears, apples, plums and any berries. If you do suffer from blood sugar fluctuations you may wish to avoid bananas, mango and pineapple. Dates have become enormously popular with health food blog recipes but they are very sweet, so you only need a few (not 10 or 20)! A good trick to slow down the release of sugar is to combine fruit with nuts and seeds so you might eat 1 apple alongside 4 almonds and a small handful of pumpkins seeds. All vegetables are great but be careful to either moderate your intake of starchy vegetables such as parsnips and pumpkin and preferably eat them with plenty of protein and healthy fats (see point no 2). Generally try to avoid fruit juice, as the fruit sugar will be released more quickly than when eating whole fruit because fruit juice lacks the fibre.

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Sugars: If you want to sweeten a hot drink, try a little maple syrup, natural stevia root powder or coconut sugar. Honey is OK if local or manuka (some bees are fed sugar to make commercial honey so avoid these where you can). Be vigilant about checking snack food labels for glucose syrup, dextrose syrup and high fructose corn syrups, as these types of sugars will cause blood sugar levels to soar. We recommend avoiding sweeteners, as even these have been show to affect blood sugar levels as the sweet taste still signals insulin production in the body. Watch out also for sugary drinks and alcohol which often contain quite a lot of sugar too.

These are Henrietta Norton’s top tips to be on top of your blood sugar levels:
Eat protein and healthy fats with every meal: All meals should include protein (e.g chicken) and healthy fats (e.g avocado), as these food groups take much longer to break down in the stomach and provides a slow and steady source of energy – imagine a dripping tap of sugar rather than a tap turned on full blast.

Managing your stress levels: When our adrenal glands produce stress hormones such as cortisol, our liver also releases stored glucose called glycogen. In more primitive times, this was so we would have the energy to fight or run away from danger. However our daily ‘stresses’ are more desk bound than mammoth based which means that the released glucose is now circulating in the blood stream and more likely to be converted into unwanted fat in the body. Simple tips to improve this include getting enough rest, eating well and cutting down on caffeine containing drinks.

Supplementing your diet with magnesium and adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha as well as practicing calming exercise such as yoga or Pilates can be very supportive too. Supplement with chromium. This mineral is required for normal blood glucose concentrations and the maintenance and achievement of normal body weight. Research has shown that chromium works by supporting insulin sensitivity by optimizing the receptor sites on the cell wall. Back to our analogy, this is basically all about helping to get our ship with sugar cargo get into the harbor by the aid of the lighthouse and lighthouse keeper. Chromium may also be really helpful taken alongside a healthy diet for weight management.

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Eat breakfast: Research has shown that those who eat a good solid breakfast each day are less likely to experience blood sugar fluctuations throughout the day. Aim for a balance of food groups rather than just a plain piece of toast or cereal. Try a bowl of wholegrain muesli with full fat milk or full fat yoghurt with nuts, seeds and berries or sliced pear on top OR wholegrain (or rye) brown toast with scrambled eggs, half an avocado and a green smoothie.

Get your ‘Z’Ss: Research has shown that getting enough sleep can improve blood glucose levels and how effectively our body uses insulin. Practice winding down earlier in the evening and aim form 8 hours sleep, preferably between 10.30pm-6.30am. If you find it a challenge to fall asleep try chamomile herbal tea or a valerian based natural sleep aid.

Wild Nutrition stockists include Space NK, WholeFoods UK and online. Henrietta Norton’s new book ‘Your Pregnancy Nutrition Guide’ will be published 8th August 2015 (Vermilion).

 

Run with CEP

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Do you, like me, love your CEP socks/calf guards? I’ll be giving them a good wash so they’re sparkling clean ready for next week’s launch of RunwithCEP, a series of fun, informative running events throughout London. Starts next Tuesday, 7th July in Broadgate shopping district. These are my faves, my orange ones…

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What colour do you like? ‪#‎RunwithCEP‬

 

Beat the heat (….and keep running!)

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Are you melting as you read this? Is worry about spending another night kicking off the covers making you itchy about your sleep prospects during this heat wave? And did you know this summer is set to be the warmest in 135 years? As we celebrate the great yellow orb’s return you can throw out your fears of sleepless nights, say goodbye to grumpy mornings and get ready for work with a zing in your step with these great tips, shared by Silentnight sleep expert, Dr Nerina Ramlakhan (and don’t be stingy and keep these to yourself – save your loved ones from broiling in the bed and share them! They will be easier to live with, too!).

1. Stop your bedroom over-heating during the day by keeping curtains and
blinds closed

2. Wash your feet with cold water before getting into bed, and run your
wrists under cold water

3. Use light bed sheets and a summer duvet – 4.5 Tog recommended

4. Try a Geltex mattress from Silentnight, with an innovative combination of an extremely elastic gel and air-permeable foam offering unparalleled breathability to prevent the body from overheating

5. Finally, it is essential to stay well hydrated during the day and most importantly, don’t fret too much if you can’t sleep. Use the time to rest and think positive thoughts, then you will be extra productive the day after (I particularly like this one, as often you just can’t get to sleep, for many different reasons: now you can use this time productively!)

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Not enough? You’re already doing all of the above? Well, firstly, well done on being so on the ball, and secondly, here’s a few more quirky tips for you to try….

Use a fan and place it so that it is blowing the air over a tray of ice – this will cool the room down as the ice melts

Keep a plant mister containing water by your bed to spray on your face during the night

Place a wet flannel in the fridge for an hour or so before getting into bed and lay it on your forehead to help you drift off

Sleep in cool wet socks or even a damp T-shirt

Chill your pillow case in the freezer before getting into bed

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Good luck! You can get even more sleep tips from Dr Nerina by visiting the Silentnight Sleep Toolkit at: http://www.silentnight.co.uk/sleep-matters/dr-nerinas-sleep-toolkit/#22662

Have you got any tips you can share?

Womens summer running kit essentials

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Here’s my nine summer must-have kit essentials!

Sunglasses
DHB PRO TRIPLE LENS SUNGLASSES
Why I rate them: You can’t beat these for value, as you get clear, smoke and orange lenses with each frame option. I’m really light sensitive and found the large lenses blocked out all peripheral light. You get 100 per cent UVA and UVB protection, plus I think the quality/fit of the frame is excellent.
£29.99, www.wiggle.co.uk

Style rating: 4/5
Value for money: 4/5

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Vest
HELLY HANSEN W VTR MESH SINGLET
Why I rate it: I loved the vivid colours of this singlet; I went for the pink option even though I’m not really a pink gal! It’s quite long in the body which I really liked as it felt comfortable but also looks good with leggings. It’s also super soft material, and the style on the back is very flattering.
£20, www.hellyhansen.com

Style rating: 4/5
Value for money: 5/5

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If you have a bit more money to spend…
GORE SUNLIGHT LADY PRINT SINGLET
Why I like it: Yes it’s quite a lot of money to spend on one vest but you get such excellent quality with Gore I think it’s worth having the odd essential item in your running wardrobe. None of my Gore kit has ever worn out (yet!). I really like it that Gore has stepped up to the line and delivered more feminine/stylish kit this year. You get draped fabric at the sides and a very distinctive, flattering print. It’s lightweight with stretch material, giving you function that really does looks fantastic! Remember, you’re worth it!
£54.99, www.goreapparel.co.uk

Style rating: 5/5
Value for money: 3/5

GORE RUNNING WEAR Sunlight Lady Print Singlet

Tee
ADIDAS CLIMACHILL TEE
How could I not put this inventive tee on my list? When you first feel the aluminium-silver dots on the inside of the back it feels like tiny fingers are tickling your skin. The mesh-like fabric is also unbelievably lightweight. With a heat-wave forecast I know I am going to be grateful I have this tee to throw on.
£30, www.adidas.co.uk

Style rating: 4/5
Value for money: 4/5

Adidas Climachill

Shorts
SAUCONY PE SHORT
I really love the flattering, athletic cut of these shorts. They were comfy on the run and very breathable. Their greatest feature is the comfortable elastic waistband, and you also get a zipped storage pocket. I don’t know about you but I want my pockets to have zips so I don’t have to worry about losing my front door key.
£30, www.saucony.co.uk

Style rating: 4/5
Value for money: 4/5

Saucony copy

Or if you’ve got a bit more to spend…
FALKE HOT PANTS
These are much more expensive but I really love the super soft and light elastic fabric of these shorts. The material is incredibly thin so you don’t feel anything rubbing against your skin. There’s a handy, secure zip pocket on the rear as well. These are the shorts I grab when I don’t have time to think about what I’m going to wear, as I know they fit perfectly and are the most comfortable summer shorts I have at the moment.
£55, www.net-a-porter.com

Style rating: 4/5
Value for money: 3/5

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Sports Bra
MOVING COMFORT FINEFORM BRA
I’m a petite lady so I find it quite hard to find sports bras that fit me properly. This bra did exactly that, and the Drilayer Adapt straps, which will stretch to fit the wearer, impressed me. I really loved the back j-hook, which can be used to change to a racer back, which I think looks much prettier.
£34, www.movingcomfort.co.uk

Style rating: 4/5
Value for money: 5/5

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Accessory
FLIPBELT
If you haven’t yet invested in a FlipBelt, get one now! It’s amazing! There’s space to stash everything you need (I like to take lots with me on the trails and managed to fit four gels, my car keys, a packet of tissues, a flapjack, my inhaler and even a lightweight jacket in mine!). Stuff it all in then flip the whole belt over to keep your essentials secure (I didn’t do this the first time I ran and lost a couple of gels!). If you couldn’t get so much in it I would say it’s a bit expensive for what it is, but you can – and there’s plenty of colours to chose from too.
£25, theflipbelt.co.uk

Style rating: 5/5
Value for money: 5/5

Flip belt

Nutrition
HONEYSTINGER CHEWS
I find too many gels make me quite nauseous, but I tried out these chews as I was training for the my South Downs Trail Half marathon and now wont run without a pack stashed in my kit. The best thing about them is you don’t actually have to chew them – just pop one in your mouth and it slowly dissolves. Saving precious energy for your running.
£2.25, www.honeystingeruk.co.uk

Style rating: None!
Value for money: 5/5

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What about your summer essentials? I would love to hear what you couldn’t run without this summer…

 

 

Half marathons abroad

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Just how far are you willing to go for a half marathon?
Are you sick of doing the same old races? Would this year see you celebrating your 17th running of the Bumbleton Half? Then it’s time to think about breaking out of the old routine – and considering an overseas half marathon.

There’s definitely something to be learnt from the phrase “a change is as good as a rest”. Looking further afield than the next postcode for your next half marathon race could see you stepping on a plane to an exotic clime, combining a well-earned holiday with some foreign racing or even going to that romantic city you always dreamt about.

‘I did the Jamaica Half Marathon (baby sister to the Reggae Marathon) in 2013 and it was absolutely worth it,’ says Rachel Leach. ‘I had a week of relaxing before the big day, enjoyed the pasta party the night before, then ran the half on the middle Saturday of my holiday. The race was incredible. It started at 5.15am with a torchlight parade; there were steel drums along the route and fabulous support from the locals. At the finish you got a beer, fresh coconut milk and a dip in the ocean.’

‘To say it was pretty warm while running would be an understatement, but this was part of the experience,’ adds Rachel. ‘After the run we had a week of properly letting our hair down (in a lovely all-inclusive resort!), and did lots of touristy things too. It’s one of the best holidays I’ve ever been on. We decided to run this because of the marathon initially, but as it turned out a couple of us did the half and a couple did the marathon, but I think that even if we had all done the half we would still be recommending the experience.’

Hopping across the Channel
I myself had a look at the Paris Half Marathon on the Internet and thought, OK, I want to try this. Marathons require a lot of training and so much can go wrong (and often does for me!) before race day. Fitting in a cheeky half abroad, however, as part of a fluid marathon training schedule seemed very appealing. With a record 35,314 other participants, including a host of UK club vests spotted en route, other Brits obviously had the same idea. Unlike a marathon you feel like you are part of some crazy charge to take in a city’s history and culture without inflicting those microscopic muscle tears that a full marathon entails, and you can walk away at the end pain-free!

Run for fun
If you are goal driven, and are wondering what should come next on your running calendar, a half may pull you through training without those daunting feelings of “how am I ever going to do this”. This year Sarah Booker has decided to run in the Riga Half Marathon purely for fun. ‘Every year my company promotes a half marathon for the staff that want to run. It’s always somewhere interesting but this is the first year I’ll be taking part,’ she says. ‘It’s not been too expensive – about £160 per person including flights, accommodation and entry.

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For Sarah, knowing she is taking part in an organised trip means fewer worries regarding navigating a new country or negotiating the language barrier. ‘I’ve not been to Latvia before and we’re going to use the opportunity to explore Riga and try some of the local food – not before the race though!

‘I’m looking forward to doing the half marathon as there’s not so much pressure for me as doing a full marathon. There will be less training involved and I’ll be able to relax more as this will be a run for fun, not for a PB as I’ll have tackled the Thames Path 100 miler two weeks previously!’ she states.

Is there a pattern emerging? Perhaps planning or organising or targeting a big city half becomes more attainable when you place your race within a holiday. This will instantly make it seem less expensive, and you never know, just like Rachel’s Jamaica Half, it may add extra to that holiday experience creating lifelong memories.

‘I’m always open to running outside the UK,’ says Sarah, ‘and will certainly be keeping an eye out for more races in the future. My running friends love the idea of destination races; one has just come back from completing Malta Half Marathon, another is doing Ironman Japan and another good friend is flying out to Mallorca in May to do a Half Ironman.

‘I’ve also got into the habit of planning races into UK holidays too. It’s brilliant, I ask my husband if he wants a holiday then mention offhand that there’s a race in the middle of it. He’s wising up now though and has started asking why I’ve suggested a particular destination!’

Hop over the Channel to do the Paris Half
Hotel: Best Western Allegro Nation Paris, £120 per night for a double (www.hotelallegroparis.com)

Eurostar: Prices start from £69 return (www.eurostart.com)

Race entry: 49 Euros (you may have to pay extra for mandatory medical certificates)

www.semideparis.com

 

Man, I slew you!

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Ultra running novice Francesca Eyre took on the Manaslu Trail Race in Nepal, a multi-day 220K race, and ended up finishing fourth female

After watching her sister, then brother, die of cystic fibrosis (CF), Francesca Eyres, 44, was determined to find a natural remedy when she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2010.

2008 and 2009 had been tough years for Francesca. ‘My brother Nick had been very ill due to suffering from CF since birth. Whilst he was waiting for a heart and lung transplant he passed away in March 2009. Our business partner was also very ill and died with me by her side in December 2009. Then the banking crisis hit and we were in a tough financial position with our business.’ Francesca runs a ski chalet hotel in the French Alps with her husband Paul.

Francesca’s body broke down. ‘I started suffering chronic back pain – I couldn’t even put on my trousers in the morning. Then a growth was found on my thyroid, which had to be treated with radioactive treatment, and finally I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2010.

‘I left the clinic that day and have never been back. I looked into a more natural approach to coping with my diagnosis, as I didn’t want to go on medication, and so I changed my diet. I stopped drinking alcohol, came off gluten and dairy and stopped eating inflammatory foods such as potatoes, tomatoes and aubergines. I cut down my meat intake and eliminated caffeine.

Rediscovering my running

‘I had started running when my youngest child, Jamie was a baby, ten years ago. With three children and a hotel to run, I needed some headspace. To make sure I trained I entered a 10K race; I had never done any competitive sports prior to this and I was amazed at the buzz at the race.’

The other massive change Francesca’s diagnosis bought about was deciding to live life to the full and do as much sport as she could, while she could. ‘I needed to add more challenges into my life,’ she says. ‘Running helped my stress levels but hurt my joints too much, so I started trail running. There is nothing more beautiful or more humbling than reaching a summit; running up the mountains meant I could get further, faster!’

During the winter it’s impossible to run in the Alps, so Francesca took up ski touring, where you use skis to run up a mountain. ‘The first ski randonée race I ever did was the Montée du Crot – an 800m run up the mountain over a 4K distance from just outside our house to the centre of Avoriaz. It took the world champion 24 minutes and me nearly an hour.

‘I decided my next big challenge would be the 70K Classic Quarter Cornish Coastal Trail (www.endurancelife.com), in June last year. Even though I had never run a marathon, I smiled the whole way round; the scenery, the people, the terrain was all incredible and when I reached the finish line as the ninth woman, I knew that I had to challenge myself to something even tougher and harder!’

Subhead: I do because I can

Francesca’s motto is “I do because I can”. Feeling fit after her first ultra she wanted to find a race that would give her two points towards the three you need to enter the CCC race (part of UTMB trail race that takes place in Chamonix in August). ‘To gain your three points you have to run in at least two ultra marathons. I scoured the Internet and found the Manaslu Trail Race in Nepal (http://manaslutrailrace.org). This, I decided, would be my next race.’

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‘It was really hard to find the time to train but a race organiser suggested little and often,’ says Francesca. ‘I tried to run at least 40-80K per week, which doesn’t sound like a lot but 10K over the mountains takes me an hour and a half, depending on the vertical ascent. I entered into a couple of 22K trail races and also did a small amount of road cycling to cross-train and avoid injury.

‘As a woman, mother and someone who has her own business, I put so much pressure on myself re training and I have to remind myself that I’m doing this out of choice. You have to not pressure yourself into thinking that you are a highly tuned athlete whose living depends on it.’

Francesca insists she is just a mum of three that has a competitive spirit and runs the best she can. ‘I have very good endurance, above speed, so if the views are beautiful around me, I am very happy to keep on plodding. I always look around and appreciate how beautiful everything is. I also realised that it is impossible to run the whole distance and that most ultra runners walk up the hills, over a certain distance and incline.’

Feeling petrified!

During the briefing for the race Francesca got to meet the other runners, including many elite athletes. ‘We all stood up to give a short talk about ourselves and the races we had competed in; I told everyone that I was absolutely petrified and wondered what on earth I was doing entering a race like this! I’m 44 and have a business and three kids – what was I thinking?!’

Yet Francesca went on to finish fourth female, and 17th overall (behind Holly Rush in second, in 20.52.48, who represents Great Britain and ran in the Commonwealth Games) in a time of 26.26.08. ‘And through this adventure I raised £6204.56 for cystic fibrosis,’ she says very proudly.

‘Next I’m going to do the UTB (http://www.ultratour-beaufortain.fr) in June, a 104K race with 6400m of ascent. Am I completely and utterly nuts?’

A very inspiring mum of three with a competitive spirit who just runs the best she can.

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How tough can it get?

‘The toughest parts for me were running 46K in the heat with a lot of ascending (day 2) and our “rest day” (day 7), a 21K trek up to 4998m to have a picnic on the Tibetan boarder. I had a chest infection and was really shattered that day but knew it was a “one off” that will probably never be repeated, so a must do.  I had also promised a very spiritual friend of mine that I would collect a stone for her from the boarder and promises are promises!  It was worth every step as the views into Tibet were breathtaking.’

 What is the Manaslu Trail Race?

This is a 220K race around the eighth highest mountain in the world at 8163m. You ascend over 15000m, the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest twice. The highest ascent is 5200m. ‘The first stage was 28K; a long slow gentle climb of around 1026m,’ says Francesca. ‘Stage 2 takes in 46.4km with 2156m ascent. Expect 29.6K and 1954m in elevation on Stage 3. Stage 4 involves 24.8K with 1396m ascents, Stage 5 is 30K and Stage 6 is another 12K with 727m ascent. A rest day is followed by two further stages of 22K and 31K.’

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