Category Archives: running

How to run your first 10K!

The sun is shining, finally, which means it’s the best time of year to think about new fitness challenges! Whether you’re stepping up in distance or putting your trainers on for the first time, here are my five easy steps to completing your first 10K

Have you recently completed a Race for Life 5K or parkrun? Or are you new to running and looking for your first challenge? The natural progression is to train for a 10K.

With 28.5 per cent of women taking part in sport two or three times a week, and 4.8 per cent of women trying either jogging, cross-country or running, more and more 10K races are springing up in a town near you. If training, and completing a 6.25-mile race appeals, here’s how you can ensure success.

It’s all about the training
If you’ve recently completed a 5K, well done! Even if you’re new to running, it’s worth knowing that moving up to your first 10K isn’t about speed, it’s about completing a new distance. Get ready to add time on your feet. ‘The more you extend the time on your feet, the closer you will get to your 10K goal,’ says running coach and Olympian Liz Yelling, who regularly trains new runners in her hometown of Poole, Dorset.

Training for a 10K is similar to a 5K, however the distance of your long run will double. ‘Slowly building your long run will help your endurance or ability to keep going when your body starts to tire,’ says Liz. A common misconception is that you need to have run the distance in training before race day: you don’t. If you’ve run five miles, the occasion will pull you through the last mile.

Kate, Amber and I after we finished the 10K

Very hot 10K in Barbados

Don’t think you need to be running every day either. It’s better to train smart, than train too much. There are three key sessions you should aim to include every week – a long run, a 30-minute steady run and an interval session. Interval running is about running faster over a short distance, then recovering before you repeat the effort. This helps your body get used to the feeling of running fast, and helps your heart and lungs adapt to let you do this.

‘One of my most popular sessions with runners aiming for their first 10K is running fast for 60 seconds, then walking for two minutes to recover, before repeating between six and eight times,’ says Liz.

When it comes to race day make sure you give yourself enough time to warm up. ‘Don’t waste energy on a really energetic warm-up,’ advises Liz, ‘at this stage, a brisk 10-minute walk will loosen your muscles.’

Pacing is key
When you first start to run, you can quickly become out of breath, which can feel scary if you haven’t done this since school. But it is normal. Training allows you to understand how to make your body run faster, and you shouldn’t be afraid to push yourself gradually, at small intervals.

The biggest pacing mistake for new runners is going off too fast in a race. How do you know you have done this? Think of the perceived effort you are running at, on a scale of 1-10. One is walking, 10 is running as fast as you can. If you are at 8-10 it’s too fast! You should be aiming for 6-7 to be able to finish comfortably.

Recognise that if you can’t keep running you have probably started too fast, and don’t be afraid to walk. Break the remaining distance down into periods of running, then walking for two minutes to recover, before trying to run again for two minutes.

Muddy 10K

Muddy 10K

Nail your pacing on race day by monitoring your breathing, and ability to talk while moving. For a first 10K, it’s unlikely that you are chasing a time, so you won’t be running flat out. Aim to be able to speak 8-10 words with the person next to you before you have to take a breath, and before you know it that finish line will appear.

Balance your diet
Can what you eat really affect your race? ‘Yes!’ says nutritionist and endurance runner Emma Patel. ‘Your daily training diet should be a consistent balance of natural unprocessed whole foods. Fill your body with processed junk and it will feel like you’re running on junk!’

A body loaded with junk is too busy detoxifying to thrive, leading to fatigue and low energy levels, and faster burnout when it comes to race day.

Try cooking with grains that have a low glycaemic index and aren’t processed, such as amaranth and quinoa. Both offer a vast quantity of carbohydrate, proteins and micronutrients. Processed, refined sugary foods such as white bread and pasta don’t offer much nutritionally other than carbohydrate and “empty calories”.

‘You also need healthy fats (free-range eggs and organic avocados), quality proteins such as sustainable organically farmed chicken and fish like salmon, plus an array of seasonal fruits, vegetables and spices,’ adds Emma. These are anti-inflammatory and are rich in antioxidants, aiding the recovery process after vigorous training.

Christmas 10K

Christmas 10K

Iron-rich foods are also important, especially if you are vegetarian or vegan, as they can boost performance. ‘This group of powerhouses includes dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, broccoli and dark coloured berries,’ says Emma.

Eat your pre-race breakfast two to three hours before your run to allow the food to be digested. ‘I recommend a go-faster breakfast of brown rice, blueberries, a dash of maple syrup and some healthy nut butter on race day,’ says Emma.

It’s also important to refuel and rehydrate as quickly as possible after to reduce muscle soreness and boost energy levels. Even though you may not feel like it, eating within the first 15 minutes of finishing will kick-start your recovery.

Avoid recovery drinks with large quantities of sugar, sweeteners and additives; a homemade smoothie will be more nourishing and cheaper. Try making your own with banana, almond, coconut milk and strawberries.

Finally, if it’s going to be hot, you sweat a lot and your race will take more than 60 minutes, sip on an electrolyte drink on your way round to remain hydrated.

Sort out your kit bag
With the right gear you can avoid injury, which could halt your training. Buying untested shoes online could mean running in the wrong type of trainers. You need to get both your feet and your gait analysed in a specialist running shop, to get the right shoe for your running style.

Videos on the Internet may help you work out whether you have high arches or over-pronate (think of your knees rolling inwards), but it’s difficult to assess your own running style.

Any specialist should match your running needs with your budget, and give you plenty of options; your first trainers don’t have to be expensive.

Mountain 10K in Mauritius

Mountain 10K in Mauritius

The majority of runners over-pronate and need a little support in their shoes, but as the overall trend is towards natural shoes, even if you need support you can expect your trainers to be lightweight.

If you don’t wear a properly fitted, supportive sports bra when you run you could suffer permanent breast damage – even if your breasts are very small.

Also, when you’re buying gear to run in, your best option is modern polyester fabric, rather than cotton, as it’s breathable and wicks away sweat. This fabric doesn’t get heavier as you sweat and the more expensive items will have an odour control element, worth investing in!

You CAN do this
The surest way to ensure you achieve this goal is to work out why you are running. You need to find out the core “why” or motivation for running: the bottom-line reason behind your effort. For example, if you are running with a friend, ask yourself why? If it’s to support her as she’s raising money for charity, why do you want to help?

If the charity is linked to a specific cause, why is this relevant to you? Keep going until there are no more questions – this is your core motivation. ‘The more you can drill down to the core “why” behind your challenge, and get to the bottom of why you took it on, the easier it will be to keep going when it gets tough,’ says emotional wellness coach Janet Smith.

When this is your reward why wouldn't you train for a 10K?

When this is your reward why wouldn’t you train for a 10K?

If you are running to raise £1,000 for a breast cancer charity as you lost your mum to the disease, this is your core motivation. As you run you can then build on this motivation to keep going. ‘Each 1K you complete can become £100 raised towards your target, or a chunk of whatever goal you have set yourself,’ says Janet.

‘Keep thinking big: if you raise your target what will the charity do with this money? How many lives will be saved by this charity? This becomes your biggest goal: to help save peoples’ lives.’ If it helps, contact your charity to ask what your fundraising target will achieve.

When last minute nerves kick in, don’t let them stop you achieving success. ‘Either connect with others, via blogs or Facebook, to get external energy to boost your confidence, or journey inwards to do this. Renew your energy by spending time with yourself, whether you enjoy swimming, walking, meditation or art,’ says Janet.

Here’s my beginner’s 10K training plan!
Beginner's Training Plan 10K

Emma Patel’s ideal breakfast, lunch and tea:
Breakfast: Amaranth porridge with fresh mango and chia seeds. Start the day with hot water with fresh lemon and ginger.

Lunch: Mackerel and brown rice with an avocado, spinach and watercress salad, and a tahini dressing (rich in calcium).

Dinner: Roasted turkey breast with roasted veggies, celeriac, butternut squash, aubergine and peppers. Add melted feta cheese to the veggies.

Don’t forget to drink filtered water throughout the day (aim for six glasses).

Let me know how you get on with your first 10K!

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Wimborne 20 and the benefits of hills

20 miles – I don’t think I’ve actually ran past this distance since completing the Rome Marathon back in 2012. Edinburgh Marathon I started walking about Mile 19, London Marathon last year everything started to go pants at Mile 20.

Find a hill, some steps, a steep road - anything to make a session harder!

Find a hill, some steps, a steep road – anything to make a session harder!

I’m a paradox, a marathon runner who hasn’t been able to run a marathon for several years. If anyone asked me what type of runner I am I would say long-distance. Then I feel like I’m cheating as I’ve not been able to do this recently. Who the hell am I?

All of us, every single last one, juggle many things and struggle in our marathon journeys with different issues… nutrition, cramps (anywhere, stomach, legs, back – brain!) time to train, weather, the ‘I’ word (I’m not saying it), new and unexpected niggles, rising physio costs. It’s not one thing that can go wrong; it is, of course, many. But, sometimes everything can go right, and if this doesn’t happen so be it. You have to come back another day to fight again. And try not to cry about it at the time. Cake and wine are good at soothing a disappointed marathon soul.

Doing a hilly 20-miler has got to be one of the best long runs you can plan into your marathon schedule. Why?

Let’s talk about hills…

There is no better way to build your leg strength than running hills – it’s that simple.

Team running with ladies who love hills

Team running with ladies who love hills

Doing a long tempo run, or race, on rolling hills, will increase strength AND running efficiency. The ultimate aim, whether it’s a 5, 10 or 20 mile outing, is to finish faster than your average pace. You don’t want to start these runs fast, then slow down. Your aim is to start steady and slowly build the pace.

This gives you plenty of chances during a training cycle to work on pace awareness. Being able to run the second part of your run/race faster than the first (a negative split) teaches you to start steady and finish strong. You’ll reap massive improvements in fitness, and also feel mentally strong if you can run long this way. Your heart will also become more efficient as it increases the amount of blood it can pump with each stroke (especially during short hill repeats).

The finish of Wimborne. this bit was downhill

The finish of Wimborne. this bit was downhill

You think hill running is all about going up? Nope. If you focus on correct form on the downhills,  you can prevent muscle damage and also make up valuable time (think relaxed form, slightly forward lean). Your quadriceps will become stronger and you’ll achieve better knee lift.

If your next marathon includes rolling hills, training on rolling hills will mimic the race, and allow you to practise improving your form over long distances as well as maintaining pace up and over the hills. The best way to approach a hill in a race is to maintain the same effort as you go up and down. Get this right in training and you’ll save yourself wasting energy come race day.

At the weekend I was booked into a hilly 20-miler, and expected to not make the distance, thinking that either my hip would make me shuffle in, or a foot injury from my last marathon cycle would get me. And for the last 3 miles of my 19-mile run a couple of weeks before I was moaning like a lonely elephant seal looking for its mate.

Looking for hills on the beach

Looking for hills on the beach

I kept telling my running buddies Mel and Paula that I would be shuffling in the last few miles, would never be able to keep up on the last few hills and they were to power on (there’s some hills in their legs and no one is stopping them on their road to Brighton Marathon).

A three lap course can be so demoralizing but I really enjoyed it, well, I say that, I didn’t actually *like* the hills third time round but I found the laps and miles, and hours, passed quickly. Really friendly and supportive marshals helped, as well as running in a team. It brings you outside of yourself and I’ve got into a really bad habit of running inside my limits, fearful of body breakdown if I don’t. I turned into a running wuss a while back.

I asked the horse if he liked hills, too

I asked the horse if he liked hills, too. He was undecided

What is it about female runners and self-doubt? You think you’ll never make it round while at the same time telling everyone else they are going to be awesome! Having someone beside you lovingly say ‘Shut up and get on with it’ is a great motivator.

There I was, beaming at the end thinking: what’s going on with my body? I felt OK during. I felt OK after. I went to my friend Sarah’s Back on Track group the day after. My legs felt OK. No aches, no limp, no dread, no resignation (though my stomach is feeling a bit sensitive). What’s happening? This isn’t the body I’ve been struggling with for years. A big part is a very good physio, so skilled at his trade that I always want to vomit when I see him. Yes Andy, that’s you. I’m also convinced that just by luck I’ve come across some incredible trainers that feel like they were made for me.

Getting ready for hills in Portsmouth this week and it was still daylight. Just

Getting ready for hills in Portsmouth this week. I was so excited that it was still daylight. Just

My adidas Ultra Boost X have been amazing to run in these last few weeks, especially for the ends of my toes that normally are rubbed raw from pushing up against my shoes during longer runs. The tight knit of the upper means my whole foot can move forward each time I strike the ground but without pushing against a dense surface. After 20 miles I had no issues with my feet. This is unheard of!

I’m still in shock I ran the whole 20, I was so mentally prepared not to and how that would be completely fine. Although, after some hills yesterday I have a niggle in my right ankle. Bum. I’m trying to ignore it while I ice it. Being a bit of a psycho-competitive-with-myself type I’m now hyper about how far I may be able to go without stopping, and will I be able to actually run a whole marathon again? This is exciting beyond belief. I even want to go out and try one this weekend, just to see. (No, I’m not going to…)

Looking for hills in Whiteley

Looking for hills in Whiteley. Goddamnit, where are they?

* If you’re hill training make sure you allow your muscles to recover adequately after your session or race; just as hills force our muscles to work harder, they will then need an increase in recovery time. Be kind to yourself.

QUESTION: Do you LOVE hills as much as me? Maybe we could start our own Let’s Love Hills group?

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Spice up your spring training with some new sessions

Running is just as intellectual as it is physical. How can you keep your motivation up if you’re doing the same old warm-ups, sessions and races? It’s very hard. Adding variety into your training is essential – to push your body and your mind. It will keep you tuned up and ‘fresh’.

I asked some coaches for their favourite sessions, and have added in one of my own. Hopefully trying out something new, and different (and hard!) will see your spring running soar!

TRY ME:  Acceleration run
“This is one of my all time favourite sessions,” says Andy Blow, international level triathlete and founder of Precision Hydration (precisionhydration.com). “Basically you start at a jogging pace to warm up and either each mile or each kilometre you lift the pace in a linear way to a degree that means by the end of the session the final mile or kilometre is run at a hard effort (usually between 5K or 10K race pace).

On my way out I always ask Rosalind what she thinks of my sessions - she's useless at feedback

On my way out I always ask Rosalind what she thinks of my sessions – she needs to work on her feedback

“You need either a measured loop, or a GPS watch, to give you real time access to your splits to make it measurable and repeatable. The session can be anywhere from three to six/seven miles long, depending on your fitness level and training goal. I used to start at three miles in the late winter and build up to six over a period of about two months to allow for some progression in the level of endurance required. The differential in pace from mile (or KM) to mile depends on how long or short the run is and it really does require (and therefore train) good pace judgement to get it right.

Why do it?
“It also teaches you the value of starting relatively conservatively in races and picking up the pace as you go, as this is opposite to what seems to come naturally to most people. It’s a tough session but also very rewarding when you get it right and manage to hit your splits as intended and see each one being ticked off faster than the last.”

TRY ME: Short sets of speed
“Planning to do a parkrun? Have a 5K coming up? This is a tried and tested session that I think will be great for you,” says James Thie, performance director of athletics at Cardiff Metropolitan University (@TeamThie). “Aim to do the session on the Tuesday before a Saturday event (or equivalent number of days before). You can use a road or a good trail surface, a measured loop or go out and back.

“The breakdown is 5 to 6 x 1km with a light recovery jog between. Recovery will range on ability (e.g. 2min rest for 15min goal time, 2.5min/17:30, 3min/20min, 4min/25min). The recovery should be slightly shorter than the time you run, which is based on your current and goal pace.”

Find a hill, some steps, a steep road - anything to make a session harder!

Find a hill, some steps, a steep road – anything to make a session harder!

When you are more confident, you can increase your speed, says James, with something around five seconds per kilometre faster than goal pace being optimum. “The key is to think about the rhythm, feel and pace,” he adds. “Keep your full exertion for the coming weekend effort. It should be comfortably hard…but don’t leave all your best running out there in training! Then, run easier into the weekend; your legs, mind and body will be ready to roll at the event. Remember, be realistic with your current fitness. Training should be specific to what you are trying to achieve.”

TRY ME: Fartlek fun
“Fartlek in a local woodland park, which has a hilly loop of about 1350m, is at the top of my list,” says Olympian and Level 3 performance coach Penny Forse. “There is a 200m gradual hill, a 100m steep hill and a flat path for sprinting. After the warm up I ask my group to do four, five or six continuous loops followed by a cool down.

“The warm up includes the loop and I explain the paces at various points plus some technical aspects of hill running. One loop is roughly 200m steady, 200m fast uphill, 150 steady down, 100m sprint, 100m steady, 100m fast uphill, 150m recovery jog and 350m steady slightly downhill.

Even a tiny hill, run in a continuous fast loop, can dramatically influence your fitness

Even a tiny hill, run in a continuous fast loop, can dramatically influence your fitness

“I stress the change of pace they should run, otherwise the session can become just another steady run. If fatigue sets in slow the ‘steady’ efforts in order to maintain quality. The venue is popular with us all as it is attractive, the terrain is varied, it is away from traffic and the paths are a mixture of earth and gravel, so it’s low impact on the joints. This session works on endurance, strength and speed and is ideal preparation for cross-country races.”

TRY ME: Teamwork
“Work in teams of three, A, B and C,” says Steve Nolan, a coach leader at Fitmums & Friends (fitmums.org.uk) and international tutor for UK Athletics. “A runs round an oval of about 400m. When A gets back to the start B runs with them and ‘pushes’ A to run harder. When they get back again, A drops out and C ‘pushes’ B. Next round A ‘pushes’ C and so on. The number of reps depends on the fitness of the participants and the focus is on running faster than ‘normal’, not a steady jog.

“The frequency and intensity can be varied by changing the size of the oval, or by including more in the team. It’s important that the runners are of similar ability otherwise this session won’t work. When the runner is doing the ‘pushing’ they should not run away from the other runner.

Running with friends makes you run outside of yourself

Running with friends makes you run outside of yourself

Why do it?
It’s fun to run in teams as so much running is done on our own. It encourages runners to go out of their comfort zone and really push themselves. The focus of ‘just’ running around the oval is taken away as you are listening to someone else.”

Try me: It’s a hill, get over it!
Sarah Gardiner is the resident coach at Back on Track Runners, based at Hilsea Lido in Portsmouth. “I love leading my group in a hill session. The hill we use has three distinct parts to it, with linking roads and different gradients. After a dynamic warm up we do an easy run to the hill (1K) and then some drills on the slight incline focusing on triple extensions, ‘bouncy’ drive with knee lifts, foot flexion and arm drive.

“I follow this with a time trial hill climb (1K from bottom to top), times are recorded to monitor progress and then we do an easy jog back to the second section of the hill. We then do 2-3 hill repeats, with a climb of 300m, followed by a slow jog back to recover. You can add team efforts as a relay on this section, or run the hill in reverse (using the linking roads) or do another 1-2 intervals on an easier gradient.

My fav hill, Butser, along the South Downs Way. Him and I have history

My fav hill, Butser, along the South Downs Way. We have history

“Finally we take a slow run back. The session is 7K and takes an hour. Options are always available to do different reps, change directions, focus on key technique points, do shorter efforts and work on anaerobic fitness. Hills are great training for all abilities, they develop strength in key muscles such as glutes, quadriceps and calves. Very few people enjoy them but the payoff soon shows!”

TRY ME: Tough it out on the track
“My absolute favourite session is a tough track 300m repeat session, done in pairs,” says Peg Wiseman, co-organiser of the Women Can Marathon (womencan.co.uk). “I match my athletes for ability. Both start on the start line, one running anti clockwise at a good pace (mile pace) whilst the other jogs 100m clockwise slowly in the outside lane aiming to arrive at the top of the home straight at exactly the same time as their partner. Runner two now turns and runs at mile pace for 300m whilst runner one recovers by jogging back 100m.

“They continue until they are no longer able to hit their first 300m time, when they then take a full lap recovery before setting off again. The full session would be 12 repetitions. The key is to get the right pace and recovery, so the time stays consistent.

Why do any of these sessions? The cake after, of course

Why do any of these sessions? The cake after, of course

The recovery starts off feeling easy but the pressure soon mounts and a quality lactic/aerobic session also aids pace judgement.

The pairs element adds fun and focus. It’s suitable for all abilities and if you have an odd number just partner up two number ones.”

TRY ME: Shingle and steps
Obviously not everyone lives by the beach – maybe you can find a local track or trail. Ideally you want some steps or a hill – it doesn’t matter how small the incline is, even a tiny hill, run in fast repeats, counts. On my Friday morning we start a figure of eight loop – along the shingle (great for core and proprioception, tough on your legs though) then up some local steps, recover on the road at the top, head back down to the beach for another shingle stint that leads back to the steps, then up again to recover on the road in the opposite direction at the top. This is not an easy session but it works your whole body. Find a similar path or track with an incline in the middle then loop round it – try to push up the steps/hill to the top, recovering once you’ve made it. Don’t give up and aim to do a 20-25minute block of effort  in your loops around your steps/hill/incline.

Me running backwards down Butser. Why? I have no idea

QUESTION: What your fav session?

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Running away stress

I am so grateful for going for a run today. It wasn’t spectacular, nothing happened, I didn’t see anyone, run fast. Or slow. Two weeks ago I ran a sub-seven-minute mile in the first mile of a cross-country race – today, at one stage, I was doing 13-minute miling along the shingle. Since the cross-country I’ve not really run and everything. Has. Nose-dived.

20161115_115910_001-animation

I’m feeling broken. After every race. Which is worrying as 1. I’m not ready to give up on my goals, and 2. I’m only 45…I figure many issues are only going to get worse. My body no longer behaves like a 23-year-old’s body. My mind and it are starting to become strangers. Most of the time I hope everything will go OK at races, rather than knowing the training is in the bag.

I think I am going on to the next phase. I never knew there was one, as the first one was being young and not giving a f*ck about any phases as everything could be conquered, visited, finished, done. The second one started when I had children – life became about them, not me.

The wet bit

The wet bit

In this new one, there’s a new me (not that I asked for one) and a whole lot of issues that I would never have thought would have been part of my life 20 years ago. I’m living in someone else’s body. Don’t really know if I like her.

Lying down on the beach in the winter is very therapeutic

Lying down on the beach in the winter for a nap is very therapeutic

Then there’s the germ merry-go-round in our house. Is it the germs that have slowed me down? Something else?

I’ve been getting more and more frantic and stressed, and more and more burnt-out. Being pulled in so many different directions. Perspective. Lost. Awful aches across my back, so tired, really stressed and in the background consumed by a kaleidoscope of worries. Being the provider for my three children. My accountant keeps asking me to do my accounts. Every time he does I start crying!

There’s no point worrying about everything but you do anyway. Worry has become alive, inside my head. Laying down to do 30 minutes’ mediation doesn’t take it away. A glass of wine – doesn’t work. Going for a run…I have no energy for it.

20161115_115828-effects

I put on my running bra when I got dressed knowing it was a little movement in the right direction. I was determined to get out today even though I felt terrible. My body language must have looked strange as I hit the track around the field behind my house. Even the air, as I squelched around the field, felt heavy – almost menacing. Do I have to battle against even the air? I kept my head down. Just go slow. The field became a road. A footpath. Legs were heavy, shoulders hunched, I shouldn’t have worn my Garmin – was I really going twice as slow as two weeks ago? Stop looking at the Garmin, stop torturing yourself. I knew I didn’t have a long run in me, I just wanted to get to the beach and the shingle. It’s so hard to get there.

20161115_121705

Closer. It’s crunching under my feet and I feel OK, calmer. I’m going to do two miles along the shingle. What? the voice in my head said. Sshh. I’m going to do two miles slow. I have to. Bloody minded stubborn head. 13-min miling, even on the shingle. Slow. This is my place. I run along that bit of beach and feel so lifted. First mile out and the little wading birds were jumping along the water line. The tide is really high which makes the ridge where I run harder. There’s a tree in the way; when the tide is high you have to get your feet wet. The water sloshes in my trainers, I don’t mind. My toes feel alive. The end of a mile and I turn back and it’s starting to happen. The voice inside my head that goes over and over the stresses, the worries, is starting to quieten. I’m going to pound it out. I’m dragging myself along but knowing I have to do this, to let go. Look down…the stones slip away. My worries slip away too. The massive tension, the 20 bricks I am carrying, in my shoulders, is melting away and even though I feel so tired I feel amazing too. My dad is running beside me. Thinking about him makes my throat feel weak. For a while he’s there saying… shoulders back and down, chin in, just relax. RELAX. OK, I WILL! Why haven’t I done this for so long? Why have I let the worries and stresses take over and become me, inside my head?

When the weather reflects your mood

When the weather reflects your mood

Two miles and I jump back onto the coast road and it’s like it’s made of thick, syrupy pancakes. Twitchers are listing today’s birds. The swans in the small harbour aren’t interested, I haven’t got any food today. So hot; the sweat soaks through the layers until I am squelching in my own clothes.

Love running in my ON Cloudsurfers

Love running in my ON Cloudsurfers

The last mile back, I make contact with a seven-minute mile. It’s temporary. Everything you fear is lost isn’t really, it just isn’t there right now.

The huge weight isn’t off your shoulders; there are more worries to face, but that place I go to changes me every time I run there. It takes so much from me, the worries melt through me into the stones, and it gives far too much back. For this I pay no price. I will need to go back; my head will take back control. I will need to march myself along the shore-line to banish the demons. Hopefully not too soon. Hopefully a tr-million heartbeats before I have to melt into the shingle.

20161115_114415_012-animation

Every minute that takes me further away from my run I’m feeling more positive. The endorphins are doing their job; my mind is a symphony of neural transmitters creating their own masterpiece. An invisible chemical filter that makes the worries unimportant.

20161115_121527

I am so grateful for going for a run today.

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7 very important reasons why you should wear makeup when you run…

1. Just in case you’re running a marathon and you get overtaken by some gorgeous celebrity like James Cracknell and as you look at him as he speeds past you can flutter your eyelashes (pretending you always run this fast and have LOADS of breath to shout ‘Go James!’) cos now you’re BEST friends (well, if you run in the same race as a celebrity you’re nearly BFFs aren’t you?).

2. So that when you pull that face during a race that you’re finding really hard, the one where you’re trying to make it look like you’re just out for a jog and are finding the pace really easy – well at least you’ve got some definition around the eyes for the pics you’ll put up later on social media.

3. That point in the race. You know it – when you’re cruising and starting to think I can do this, I can, I can, well, now I’m not so sure, in fact now I’m really struggling with every fricking step, and a man in his 60s-70s pulls up alongside you and takes pity as he can see you’re struggling and that you’re the one who thought you could run faster than you actually can. When he starts chatting you up as he’s cruising and has nothing better to do than have a full blown conversation all the way round a really long race as he’s so ridiculously race fit even though he’s twice your age, and even though you haven’t got the breath to reply you can at least smile desperately through your beautifully made up eyes your thank you for his support (cos you know he’ll stick with you till the bitter end – he’s a pro, you’re the amateur).

4. We live in England. Half the year it’s dark. We all take on a pasty vampire look. If swooshing a bit of glamour glow lifts your spirits before a race, and makes you look more alive then dead, do it.

5. Because when you go out to get a PB you just gotta look your best, you put on that makeup girl, you’re going to look fantastic in that pic as you look up at the camera with your arms raised at you cross the line… oh no, the race hasn’t gone to plan and you went off WAY too fast, AGAIN, even though you PROMISED yourself you would never, ever make that mistake, and now here’s the line, I’m a state, my body isn’t doing what I want and those stomach cramps are getting really bad, nooooo, I’m going to throw up and cry at the same time – yes it’s a *cr-vomit* – oh God I forgot about the camera, damn, it got me, snot, tears and vomit – but did my mascara run? No? Really? Ah well, it was all worth it…

6. Cos when you were younger, hell, you didn’t need one drop of make-up you were just so gorgeous, and you knew it, then you’re training away and 15 – yes 15 years have just disappeared and now when you catch the first glimpse of yourself in the mirror you’re initial reaction is, who the hell is that really tired old looking woman, then you realize it’s you and while for years you thought if you just got more sleep you’d stop looking so tired, now you are reconciled to the fact that you don’t look tired, you look OLDER. Which is truly horrifying. How can this have happened to me? So you go out and spend £200 on products that you think will undo this damage (even though they can’t) and you put on the concealer for the under-eye wrinkles AND dark circles, and do not one, but two applications of mascara in the hope that no one will say… ‘You’re looking really tired today.’ Again. And you go out with this temporary mask on and in your head you feel just like you did when you were 20 and had energy and got lie-ins and more than two minutes to get your kit and bag ready for a race – and you go out and you believe in yourself for the duration of your race. And no one can take that feeling away from you, but some really rather expensive fluids that work out at about £5,000 per gram, if cleverly applied THEY can give you it. For 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon… And that feeling, it helps you to step back into your life, when you get home from your race, like someone from Ghostbusters with the ability to deflect the 50 requests you get in the first five minutes for food, for something to do, to tell off a sibling who hit someone else and the ambulance nearly had to be called. Even though you got up at 5am to travel, run a marathon, and you came straight home so you can get the roast dinner on and help everyone with their homework (because your 16-year-old is swinging off your umbilical cord, even when you’re 40 miles away, and your nearly 14-year-old wants you to come up with all the answers and she knows exactly how to get you to do this even though you say I’m not doing your homework for you then 30 minutes later you realise you’ve done it), as why would anyone want to rest after a marathon anyway?

7. You are a warrior princess. Never forget this. As you put on your kit before your race and your nerves give you caterpillars and butterflies in your stomach, get out whatever make-up you need and apply it. You are now battle-ready. This is your war paint. You are going to do battle with your body (this could mean losing control of different parts at different times and never knowing which part and when), your mind (you will be pounding the voices in your head every step as well as the ground beneath you) and the world. That world that laughed when you tried to run at school. Or told you you’d never lose your baby weight. Or you couldn’t possibly run 26.2 because you’re not a real runner. Or sighs every time you put on your trainers and say you’re going out for a run, as if it’s some crazy teenage phase you’ll grow out of soon. Put on your paint and show them YOU CAN – and actually, I don’t mind if I look good while I do.

Remember, she who dares…runs.

Addendum… my 10-year-old has done her homework since she was two, even though she wasn’t at school I made her do it. I ain’t making that mistake three times.
Disclaimer: you do not have to wear make-up to be happy or a runner; this applies especially to men
I get my make-up tips from my 13-year-old; she started young

I get my make-up tips from my 13-year-old; she started young

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Is it time to change your mindset?

Does it sound stupid – using your mind to run faster? Surely it’s harder reps, longer long runs and the odd hill session that normally does this? Well of course, training your body will improve your times. But what about training your mind?

NLP stands for Neuro Linguistic Programming. It’s the art of getting consistent results using the language of the mind to positively influence our attitude and therefore our behaviours. It’s something I’ve used in life, and sport, over the years.

“NLP is an approach that is underpinned by a high performance philosophy that on its own will improve performance dramatically,” advises Janet Smith, an Emotional Wellness Coach. “NLP provides a series of techniques that assist in changing negative mindsets or removing blocks to performance that have been created through bad habits or as a result of negative past experiences.”

I'm not going to argue with Jack

That means NLP techniques can be used to seriously focus your mind. No more wandering off mid-race thinking about what you’re going to prepare for tea, or which homework task will be tackled first. An end to standing at the start line and saying to yourself: ‘Actually, I’m not going to race today, I’ll just take it easy.’

“Changing limiting self beliefs and negative self talk will increase personal success as a runner and also increase happiness as unresolved negativity is released,” Janet says. Believe me, my negative self talk can be so loud it’s been known to reach Australia. “Performance in any sport can be broken down into the components of knowledge, skill and attitude. With running, the attitude or mental approach is often paramount in achieving success. Think of the runners that you admire: what qualities do you notice? It is often attitude which allows that person to put in the dedication to achieve their goals; knowledge and skill become secondary.”

My view is always if they can do it, so can I. Maybe not to the same degree as an elite, but you/I can give it a try.

How can NLP benefit my running though, you ask
By working with NLP it is possible to challenge your long standing beliefs through ‘mental modelling’. Using a series of questions you can start to work at getting to the root of the problem that affects performance. “You may also wish to break down your running technique into components which can be looked at individually. Often what we believe about a problem is not where we end up finding the solution,” continues Janet. “We can begin by asking ourselves simple questions such as: What do I believe about my ability to reach my goal? Is there anything that will stop me? Do I commit 100 per cent or do I self sabotage?” Just be asking yourself a few tough questions, and giving honest replies, you can shift the stereotype you’ve been carrying around in your mind about yourself/your running.

Will it really NLP affect my performance?
Success begins with the right attitude. For all of us we have to look at ourselves as a whole. “It’s never just about the running; outside stresses influence our ability,” Janet believes. “Negative emotions and anxiety can drain our energy and cause under performance. Similarly being too relaxed and not focused will lose us ‘our edge’.” Janet stresses how it is, therefore, important to create the best attitude around running. “Begin by thinking of a time when you were off your game and under-performed. What emotions were present? How was your behaviour influenced by those emotions? It is most likely that negative emotions of anger, fear and anxiety were present in some capacity or they even stopped you from going out running in the first place.”

The reps hurt but I didn't stop

The reps hurt. Did I give up? No

We can all raise our awareness of our own peak performance by recognising when we are on our game and things are going well. If we can just stay out of our own way then we will perform to the peak of our capacity! Increasing our self awareness provides us with the motivation to achieve our aims.

“Numerous coaches believe that the next big steps in human performance will come from how we harness the mind and this is where NLP will come into its own as we step into the future of sport and competition,” adds Janet.

OK, I get it – but what do I do about it?
Here’s some NLP strategies you can do at home

Janet suggests you:
Listen to the stories you tell yourself and others about your running. Do you constantly discuss your fears over a previous injury? Do you play down your ability? Are you frightened of achieving success or failure? Change the stories – change the results!

Focus on what you do want and not what you don’t want.

Ask yourself what do you believe about your ability to achieve your goal? If you believe it is impossible or that it will take a long time, you will be right.

Imagine yourself having the best run of your life, what would need to be happening? How would it feel, look and sound? Use this as a visualisation exercise.

Take time to focus your mind by using visualisation. Relax, breathe slowly, close your eyes and imagine yourself achieving your goal, is there a colour or sensation connected to it? Now make that colour or sensation more vibrant and more compelling. Do this everday to install new behaviours.

Ask yourself are you literally running away from your problems? How happy are you with your life? Are there negative situations that you should be addressing?

Listen to your inner voice, do not allow your ego to push you towards an injury.

To find out more about how NLP and how Emotional Wellness Coaching can benefit you, visit www.emotionalwellnesscoaching.co.uk.

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The GREAT South Run, 2016

Back in 2000 I had my first daughter in New Zealand. We came back to live in the UK in the summer of 2001. My brother-in-law Phil was turning 40 and thought it would be a good idea for my big brother Paul and I to run the Great South Run with him. Did they notice that having a baby had turned me into a different person; sleep-deprived, chore-driven, in need of a goal? I think my brother-in-law Phil couldn’t stop laughing at me, and my new-found role, and took me out for a run as ‘there-there’ therapy to help me. It worked. So there we were the three of us, a little crew, for a while. The big issue was both of them were way, way faster than I could ever be. It was so annoying. Being blokes they had a distinct physical advantage. Being one foot taller than me (well one was) meant their stride length was so massive that even during our warm-ups I would be sprinting to keep up. Phil laughed at me a lot. I laughed at me a lot.

Me, Paul and the lovely Phil, 2001. What was I wearing? Not much!

Me, Paul and the lovely Phil, 2001. What was I wearing?

Back then running was slightly different. Primarily, it was fuelled off red wine fumes. I hadn’t quite progressed to whisky. When I came back from NZ I lived with my brother. He had no choice; I was his little sister and if he didn’t give my family a place to stay I guess I would have tried to throw a punch northwards to make him do exactly as I wanted. Having two sisters must be horrible, especially when one is extra feisty even though she is extra small. (Isn’t this usually the way?).

I had to sneak this pic from my mum’s house without my brother knowing. I think this was the year of the chest infection…

We would often have a mid-week glass of wine, but never two days in a row. I don’t think. Or maybe we did a few times. I can’t believe it now, but I think we even had a few drinks on the night before some of our early Great South Runs. The thought makes my stomach churn today. What were we thinking? Well we weren’t thinking as we were able to get away with it. I can definitely remember dragging my body round the streets of Portsmouth with a hangover on a few occasions. I wasn’t really a real runner back then.

Big bro and me, I loved those Ron Hill socks

Laughing all the way to the finish line through the alcohol fumes. I loved those Ron Hill socks

The three of us would hang on for the whole 10 miles, get our medals, then usually head off to a local pub to have another glass of celebratory wine. These were the good years. There are memories on those streets, especially in Eastney, the backwater before you finally come round into the long road back to the finish. We set up a tradition – every time I had a baby I ran the GSR that same year, in some crazy bloody-minded belief it was really important to show my girls that just because you have a baby doesn’t mean you can’t still have personal goals. Even after #numbers 1 and 2 were born, and I had had blood transfusions, I was trying to run around my nearest park 6 weeks later.

Don't you love how cool Paul from Men's Running looks in this?

Paul from Men’s Running always looks this cool

I’ve had some truly shocking GSRs. But I did what I aimed for and always managed the next GSR after each birth. The three post-birth races were really awful. But the worst one was when I’d had a chest infection but forced myself to run (raising money for Alzheimer’s Society, couldn’t let them down), coughed so much all the way round that I had to stop each time. I was in constant danger of wetting myself. For the first six miles I did that run where you cough and try to not stop but pull your legs together, trying to control your bladder so you look like your running off red wine fumes…

Some of my GSR bling

Some of my GSR bling

Phil died in his 40s, losing his battle with diabetes, just before #3 was born. I ran the GSR after her birth for him. It was awful. I know he would still be laughing at me and my running, the way it goes up and down, just like the support of the American people of Donald Trump. I know he would say: ‘Tina, just enjoy yourself, don’t worry,’ and then laugh his massive donkey laugh at me all the way round. I loved that man.

I snuck in at the front - imposter anxiety!

I snuck in at the front – imposter anxiety!

Plenty of times my brother’s beaten me, too. Goddamn it, I hate that. Thing is I figured out years ago how to beat him. All I have to do is train. Because he doesn’t. He’s so laid back he eased himself out of our mother’s womb making the peace sign. I’ve been doing reverse psychology on him for years, and he has no idea. It’s OK, don’t worry, he doesn’t read my blog – none of my family do – so he won’t find out. Every week I ask him the same question: Are you coming to my running group? Every week he says: I’m too busy. So. He thinks I really want him to come. Whereas I know the more I ask him the more he won’t come. We have this weird-psychic-crazy-brain connection where I know exactly what to do to make him not do something. You only have it with the souls who were there the day you came home from the hospital, wrapped up warm and tiny, who look at your bundle of life and instantly, with their 18-month-old brain deduce ‘I know exactly what that crazy piece of life is all about.’ That’s what he’s got with me. That’s called being truly blessed.

Sorry Paul, are you still running at this stage?

Sorry Paul, are you still running at this stage?

He can still rock up to this annual 10-miler with no training and run close to 80 minutes. It’s so annoying I want to slap him every year. I have to keep up my training just to beat him. What a motivation. And the best bit is he has no idea that he’s not running because I want him to, so I can beat him. Crazy life magic right there.

We found this one waiting for his prize after we finished

We found this one waiting for his 2nd place prize after we finished

Some people write such sweet things about their brothers….

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Isn’t it so cute? Oh sorry, I was looking for a lovely poem about how great a brother he is and this one kept popping up… Is it about me?

So, so pleased I spotted this one on the ferry. I'm the proudest coach... she's my superstar

So, so pleased I spotted this one on the ferry. I’m the proudest coach… she’s my superstar

Then when the race is over I say: ‘Oh, did I beat you? Ah, I didn’t realise…!’ Knowing full well I did as the moment I get over the finish line I pull out my mobile and go on to the GSR results page, punch in his name, see his time and run round that whole lower field in a glory lap, singing ‘R.E.S.P.E.C.T, all I’m asking is a litt’l respect!’ Even though something like 10,000 people finished in front of me. It doesn’t matter as I beat my brother. That’s what true victory is.

This year the GSR magic weaved its way through the streets of Portsmouth. The elites were out, the supporters were out, the sun was out. There was a bit of wind, but racing conditions were set for thousands of glorious PBs. The whole of the south coast was there, nearly every runner I know – either skipping over the cobblestones in the historic dockyard or shouting on their club mates. The support is priceless and makes the quite hefty price tag of the race (expect to pay over £40) melt into a big gooey mess of happiness and love.

I set myself quite a big target this year, 72.5 minutes and I didn’t quite make it. A duathlon last weekend finished me off. I finished with a chip time of 74.42… I ran 10.11, my watch time for 10 miles dead on was 74.03. But it was a GSR PB; on that first one in 2001, aged 30,  I did 84 minutes. So I was 10 minutes quicker even though I am 15 years older. Can’t complain about that.

I have one, and only one tiny gripe – the t-shirts are always so massive. Please, Great Run, please, can we have an XS?

Did I beat my brother this year? Stupid question…

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You can enter next year’s race here

I’ll see you there.

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The 401 Challenge marathon #392

You know how the water in a sink will swirl one way down the plug hole in the northern hemisphere and the opposite way in the southern hemisphere, but it doesn’t really matter which way the water travels; gravity always wins. That’s how it is running with Ben Smith from the 401 Challenge. When you run with Ben on one of his 401 marathons, wherever you run in the pack, you just want to swish yourself this way or that, so you can be near him. Ben draws people to him. His force is strong. You want a little bit of him to rub off on you, which is selfish as running hundreds of marathons back to back has got to be quite tiring. I mean, how many people have you met who have run (just about) 401 marathons in consecutive days?

Running alongside Porchester Castle

Running alongside Porchester Castle

Ben – in picking running as his massive challenge – made a canny choice. He’s a clever man. Every village, town and city in the country has a running group of some sort, and have you noticed how a lot of people in these groups are, mmmmmmm… how do you say it, slightly *different* (…crazy/bonkers/sometimes out of the ordinarily, unbelievably mad…) in that once you draw them in then you’ve got them for life. I mean, have you seen this group of mad people in the winter? Are we at home getting our Christmas presents wrapped early just before we brush a wet cloth over the blinds/radiators/skirting boards so that we can go on to clearing out the garage, raking away the winter leaves and checking we have enough loo rolls/packets of pasta and tinned rice pudding in case of a national emergency? Before we hoover the car.

Love Laura's face, whatever...

Love Laura’s face, whatever…

No, we’re up at the crack of dawn driving with droopy eyelids to some wood or forest or other place in the middle of God knows where to run around a muddy, frozen track for about five miles and then after, after we stand in a large space (usually quite chilly and definitely not toasty) and talk about how wonderful the whole experience was as our fingers slowly defrost at the same time as the mud on our legs claggily dries so that we know even after the first shower when we get home it won’t come off. These are not average human beings. It’s a tribe; all shapes and sizes, backgrounds, ages, but with a strange and steely obsession about getting from one line to another and low and behold anything or anyone who prevents them from doing so (and don’t muck with our GPS signals either as there’s this really crucially unbelievably important element of time from one line to the other that can lead people to do crazed things). We are family. We look after each other.

We are DIFFERENT. Be proud as being normal is over-rated. Then one rises above the rest. He’s got a REALLY big beard. He looks kinda cool in a bandana. He’s obviously not only been born with the ACT1 gene (no, that doesn’t mean he’s good at drama, it’s what makes you an endurance king), he was also delivered in to our world with an extra something tucked away in his soul. He wouldn’t have known it was there. I’m sure his mum and dad had no idea (or maybe they did). Life gave him a few knocks – and he had choices, some very tough. He made them and this shaped who he became. Then a flicker of an idea must have grown, as these things do, probably silently at first, just thoughts starting to stick together like the ends of sellotape do, when you don’t want them. They created their own glue that held the thoughts together so they could become something greater, and a challenge was born. Did Ben create the 401 Challenge, or did it create him? His life was probably hurtling to the moment, in about one week’s time, when he finishes his 401th marathon, right from the first breath, whether he wanted it to or not.

Some of the Gosport Road Runners contingent

Some of the lovely Gosport Road Runners ladies

When you’re a runner a marathon is a BIG challenge, whoever you are, however fast, thin, fat, tall, short… there is no easy marathon. Who would ever think of running 401 on 401 consecutive days? No one of course. Because it’s madness. What a ridiculously large challenge to ask of one body, its 700-odd muscles and 206 bones. Your Neanderthal grandmother and grandpa had already genetically evolved to run about 10K (that’s six miles) a day to fetch food. Why would they have added an extra 20 miles on top when they had Stone Age chores to do like sweeping the cave and hanging out the newly laundered bear skins?

Taking instruction from the BBC on how to run round a corner. It was very useful

Taking instruction from the BBC on how to run round a corner. It was very useful

We’re not meant to do these miles every day. It’s not just worrying about dodgy knees and a tight ITB band, either. How do you get the brain and heart, the physical and emotional engines, to keep driving those muscles and bodies day-in, day-out, over and over and over and over? You don’t. I don’t. Ben does.

The Fareham Crusaders

The Fareham Crusaders

He can’t say ‘I just can’t do this today. I’m ill. I’m tired. I’m lonely. I’m just fed up. I don’t want to run any more. What was I thinking when I thought I could do this? I want to go and sit on the beach all day long with my mates. I want to pull on my compression tights, pour a massive glass of wine and just spend all afternoon cosied up with Mr or Mrs Netflix. I just can’t be bothered today.’

The gorgeous Anna and Sarah

The gorgeous Anna and Sarah

Ben has to turn up and smile at a big bunch of people who just gaze at him with a slightly dumb look on their face when they say ‘Wow, you’re really amaaaaaazing,’ like silly love-struck teenagers with their first girl/boy crush. He’s got so much better at dealing with that since I ran with him a year ago.

The Boss... this man bravely guided us along new trails

The Boss… Tony from Portsmouth Joggers bravely guided us along the trails

We know that when our excuses create our daily boundaries, we’re not really living, we’re existing. If you stand at the end of any race and you see…feel…taste that life doesn’t happen in our comfort zone. Force yourself out of it and, like an explosion of magic dust before our eyes we see sharply how beautiful life can be (and painful, but it’s always a good pain, right?). Then we realize we can share this beauty. We can do something that somehow helps someone else see it, and their lives are then changed forever. This is what Ben has done for us all. He shares this life-love. Surely we should all be giving him money just for this as we say: ‘Thanks. You made me realise there is so much more than just me in my life.’

Sarah representing Run City! Portsmouth

The gorgeous Sarah representing Run City! Portsmouth

All of us can bring that brightness into other’s lives; we can sharpen the focus so that new paths become clearer, and other choices can be made. We live in the age of empathy, and the only way through is to respond. Each of us may be but a grain of sand on the beach. Ben – and pioneers like him – they are the moon that can help us turn the tide. People… if we let these challenges sweep us together, between us we can be deeply powerful. Raising massive amounts of money together, by donating just a few precious pounds individually, can help build a beautiful palace, free for all to live in.

I cant even run two marathons in a row so I’ve no idea what it can feel like to run more, again, again. Again. Ben has though. He doesn’t complain. He listens. In fact, no one could have been more inclusive and supportive for those who were struggling to carry on yesterday. No jaded looks shine from his eyes. Coach/mentor/motivator/life shaper/life changer.

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Just a quick note for Ben’s support crew. I’ve figured out a way Ben can double his quarter million to a half. It’s easy! Do the 401 Challenge all over again, and make people pay a fine (£5, £10?) for being privileged enough to join in one of the runs. It’s got to be a winner.

The school run and normality called us back… but we escaped for a whole five hours

Come on, you’ve done 401 marathons Ben, you can’t tell me this isn’t possible…And I’ve also figured out a way I can do this with you, without feeling let down by my inferior, slightly smaller very less hairy body. Yes, I’ll not have a bath for 401 days. It will be tough, but it’s the least I can do to support you.

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He’s nearly there! You can help Ben in his final push to raise the last thousands he needs to make his £250K total by taking part in the 401’s virtual challenge, either 10K, half marathon or marathon, which you can run on your own, any time, any place. The closing date is 8th October. Enter here

Support Ben by donating here

Buy a 401 sweatshirt/tee shirt here (I quite like the blue…)

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Get ready for your autumn running with my kit preview

In our house we have a sweepstake to guess the date when we will clean out the woodburner for lighting the first fire of the autumn. My money is on October 5th, although I would love it to be much later than this date! The sun is still shining and hopefully we’re going to get many more warm days before we have to think about digging out our baselayers and throwing on a rain jacket. With a few canny investments in just a couple of key autumn wardrobe staples you will be pounding the trails and paths whenever the weather deteriorates (and we both know it will…!). Here’s my preview of the newest, loveliest and best running kit that’s in the shops and online this autumn.

LEGGINGS
Xinx Caribbean leggings
xinx.co.uk, £80
Sports luxe at its best, you can tackle any activity with these eye-catching Caribbean leggings. You get a deep , soft waistband, they don’t wrinkle as you run and there’s no bunching at the ankle. Flat-locked seams ensure maximum comfort, however hard you push yourself. You’ll want to wear these all the time, even when you’re not active.

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Manuka Life star stirrup legging
£45, manukalife.com
Slip into these luxury leggings with stirrups to make your feet feel extra toasty. Your legs will also thank you as the heritage cotton fabric wraps around them. And if you fancy an autumn run along the trails the star print is sure to get into the mood.

There's no way your feet are going to be cold this winter!

There’s no way your feet are going to be cold this winter!

Zaazee Eve leggings
£70, zaazee.co.uk
How can you not feel like a million pounds in these premium two-tone leggings? Their figure hugging SUPPLEX fabric will make you feel amazing as you relax into your day and a wide waistband means comfort 24/7. They are very distinctive with a bold stripe – and very flattering!

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Threo London Fields leggings
threo.co.uk, £55
Versatile leggings for any activity, you’ll love how easy you can roll them up or take them off due to the bright ankle zips. There’s a flattering high cut waist and the two-way stretch fabric feels supportive as well as stretchy. A double lining at the back prevents transparency and the long rear pocket is also nifty as it fits a Smart phone. You get a lot for your money!

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New Balance impact premium tights
newbalance.co.uk £51
The design of these latest leggings from New Balance is distinctive. They’re not too dark, have long reflective strips, mesh, ankle zips and silicone grippers. This is premium kit but not ridiculously expensive.

Shewhodaresruns short-sleeve technical tee
£18,
swdrshop.com
This ladies cut tee blends modern fabrics with a perfect fit and old-school looks. You get a flattering fit, the fabric is very soft against your skin and it’s 100% breathable – make a statement now!

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Howies light merino s/s baselayer
howies.co.uk, £45
When you don’t want your kit to bunch up throw on this slim-fitting Merino top that will keep you warm, and dry, until winter. The flat-locked seams won’t irritate and it stays put due to shaped armholes; you can’t tell you’re wearing this top. It’s breathable and odour resistant.

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Manuka Life pullover love hoodie
£65, manukalife.com
The softest, most comfy kit I’ve reviewed this autumn so far. As you snuggle up inside this beautiful oversized hoodie you can relax and reflect on just how far your running has come. Tuck your hands into the front pocket and let the super soft, brushed cotton, and the Love graphic, help you drift off as you focus on love: love for all things running of course!

My fav piece of kit at the moment

My fav piece of kit at the moment

JACKETS
New Balance Newbury Jacket
£60, newbalance.co.uk
A fashion jacket with a cute, cropped fit and a touch of cool-girl faux leather on the inner arms and sides. You’ll love the high neck, boxy fit and luxe, stretchy faux leather accents. Wear it to your workout then keep it on for your warm up – the thick ribbed fabric flaunts sweat-wicking NB Dry technology.

Howies Shewaddywaddy jacket
howies.co.uk, £79
The perfect jacket for the cooler evenings, or to pack down and stash in your backpack all year round. It’s unbelievably lightweight and has the bonus of a windproof ripstop outer. The slim line Primaloft front panels will battle the wind and I love the high collar plus elasticated cuffs and waist for cosiness. Protection from Mother Nature without bulk or feeling restricted.

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Ultimate Direction Ultra jacket
betaclimbingdesigns.com, £130
If you’re not sure whether to pack a wind or rain jacket, worry no more – this jacket is both waterproof and as light as most windbreakers. There’s a nifty internal chest pocket so you’re phone will never get wet. There are also mittens at the end of the arms for extra protection plus vents under the arms and in the hood (which has a stiffened peak for optimum visibility). A superior jacket for ultimate protection.

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BRAS
Shock Absorber active multi sports support bra
figleaves.com, £33
Rock your crop with whatever challenge you face in this Shock Absorber sports bra that gives extreme internal, cup-sized support. The mesh back allows you to stay cool and we loved the thick, padded straps, which we found easy to adjust. It’s not just comfortable; the vibrant colourways are perfect for layering so you stay stylish as you sweat.

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Odlo padded sports bra
£40, odlo.com/uk
It doesn’t matter whether you’re going to yoga or taking in a gentle run, this versatile bra, with wide, adjustable and stretchy straps, will support you. Removal pads provide extra support and coverage. There’s also a comfy under-bust strap; I think you won’t even notice you’re wearing this, it’s so soft.

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TECH
WATCHES
Suunto Spartan Ultra
suunto.com, £509-£559
This watch is a lot of money, there’s no denying that! But for the dedicated sportswomen out there you can use if for running, all-day activity tracking and 80 other activities like skiing and triathlon (as well as in-sport options such as interval/obstacle race and treadmill for running). You get a colour touch screen and lots of nifty add-ons such as guided route navigation. What’s the battery life? 26 hours in training mode. Pay a little more you can get a heart-rate monitor version. It’s an impressive piece of tech.

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Kavson Besiter Eclipse
amazon.co.uk, £9.99
A brilliant gadget for when you’re out and about, the Eclipse has one of the most powerful batteries available, which means your phone need never lose charge again! Tablets will charge incredibly fast and it can also be used as a torch. Ideal for off-roaders and ultra runners.

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Accessories
Ultimate Direction’s The Clutch
betaclimbingdesigns.com, £30
This is a sleek, easy to carry handheld bottle. Designed by women for women it features soft breathable mesh straps that won’t chafe. I love the small, secure pocket for valuables, and there are plenty of reflective accents for visibility.

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BAGS
Under Armour The Works tote
£38, underarmour.co.uk
Let the rain begin – with Storm technology this bag will repel water and protect your kit until you’re home. With a removable laundry bag your dirty kit can be kept separate, and there’s heaps of space for your winter kit and jacket. Being lightweight and spacious – with subtle style – you’ll find this bag perfect for races, the gym, weekends away or work.

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Ron hill commuter xero 5L/10L
ronhill.com, £80
This is a fantastic multi-purpose kit bag that can be used for anything, but it’s especially geared up for your run commute. The waistcoat attached to the bag consists of soft, thick mesh for cushioning. There’s a substantial internal zipped pocket at the top and separate section at the bottom to discreetly hold dirty clothes, and it features a rear light for safety. There are numerous pockets for storage on the waistcoat, including two large zipped ones.

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New Balance Vazee Breathe
£80, newbalance.co.uk
Technically these were launched as summer trainers, due to the cooling open-air mesh throughout the upper that let’s the air weave over your feet. I’ve starting running in them over the last few weeks and am loving them, and will be wearing them through the autumn. Why? They feel like a slipper yet inject energy into your running; they give you a cushioned ride without feeling bulky/heavy/clumsy. If you do find yourself running through a heatwave, the Heat Foil surface underneath the shoe will reflect road surface heat away from your foot. All in all, I think they’re the cleverest shoe on the block, and will really boost your running.

May your autumn running be full of beautiful paths and trails, and some PBs along the way!

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AR Summer 5K Series – a small race with a big heart

Reeling from a not-so-successful London Marathon at the end of April I got stuck in that place we go when we feel nothing’s going right for us, while everything is going right for ‘them’ (whoever they may be). The first few days after a marathon are such an emotional rollercoaster, even when you’ve run OK. Feeling a bit low I entered a local 5K race series, as it’s the only way I know to cope…create a new goal.

The last race of the series was run under a beautiful moon

The last race of the series was run under a beautiful moon

This series was a perfect match: extremely close, exceptional value (I caught the early bird price) very friendly and well run. It’s been going for a few years and I’d only heard good things about it. I also wanted to support the race organiser, local runner and owner of the award-winning Absolute Running shop in Gosport as he is a top bloke. Last year I had every race of the series on my calendar and didn’t make one of them. A mid-week evening 5K race can be tricky if you have kids and accompanying taxi duties. But doing a short race series over the summer can show you how your fitness is improving, so I really wanted to make it this year. It’s also a welcome break from your winter long, slow runs.

GRR turning out in force to support the last race

GRR turning out in force to support the last race

Then the first one came, and it went. Nope, I didn’t make it. It just happened that both my mum and my partner were away and so on that night it was only me home alone with three girls and too many car trips to fit in any sort of run. I was proper grumpy. This really fired me up and I was going to make the next four, no matter what.

Me and Karen, second lady

Me and Karen, second lady

Boy I had the wind taken out of my sails on the next race, the second of the series. One thing I hadn’t factored into my race plan was the hideous wind you get along the south coast, which, whatever direction you run in seems to swirl against you.

We all flew for the first mile (wind-assisted), did our two laps of the top field then had to put our heads down on the way back to the finish. The same for races three and four. In fact, on the day of the July 5K I really didn’t want to run. It wasn’t windy, it was hurricane weather – well it felt like it was all the way back into the finish. My third mile split was nearly a minute slower than the first two. I think I was proper grumpy again after that race. But we all know you never regret a run…

I won wine!

I won wine!

By the August 5K I was expecting balmy conditions, a perfect, still summer evening where I may even get within touching distance of my 5K PB. Well, the weather had other plans for us runners and yet again we had to battle 25-30mph winds coming into the final third of the race. Can’t say I was ebullient after that one! Then something amazing happened on the final race, on Tuesday night.

Presentations for the overall series winners

Presentations for the overall series winners

It was incredibly warm – maybe even too warm – for racing a 5K and the wind that was building gently during the day dropped to a whisper. You’ve never seen a couple of hundred runners so uplifted. When I arrived to pick up my race number we were all rejoicing – no wind! It was going to be a breeze (sorry…). We all gathered for the pre-race photo and there was such a good vibe. If you’re looking for your running tribe this is the place to come and find the best. Nick is the perfect ambassador for running and the running life. He’s probably one of the most authentic people you could hope to meet, pretty important when you’re looking for new trainers that you know are probably going to cost you at least £100. You can trust his opinion and pick his brain on anything – the fact that Absolute Running has won awards two-years running, at the Running Awards, shows the depth of community behind him, and how much they trust and respect him.

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He has made some powerful differences to the community he lives in, both through the 5K summer series and the Gosport Golden Mile race, which has become a big hit with local school children. As Nick says: ‘It’s all about the youth.’

Perfect running conditions

Perfect running conditions

I was really chuffed for Nick that so many of the local run club, Gosport Road Runners, were out to support him in the last race of the series. I know most of them only live down the road, literally, but it would be easy not to bother – all of us have busy lives. After the race I spoke to three separate people who told me how they had dashed, hell for leather, from work to make the last event. And at a coaching event earlier in the year held in the other side of the county runners from Surrey told me they were hoping to come down to one of the races.

ethangeephotography.co.uk

ethangeephotography.co.uk

Every year the numbers taking part in this series are growing impressively, and will continue to grow not just because good news travels quickly, but, if the wind is calm, it’s a completely flat and potentially fast course. There’s a kids 1K race before the adult race each month, so you can take your youngsters for a dash along the prom. All finishers get a medal, plus there are prizes in each race through the age categories, as well as a substantial prize to the overall male and female winners of the series. There’s also chip timing. All this is just by-the-by though, as it’s the welcoming, all-inclusive and friendly atmosphere that you will remember. Presentations only take place when the last runner is in and the marshals are fantastic. Plus there’s the perfect opportunity to take your family down for a fish and chip supper after the race. On Tuesday it was nearly dark by the time the last runner finished, the moon was out and it was a beautiful evening. It was lovely to sit on the beach after the race with my youngest, rather than dash home.

The lovely Nick and Kim Carter - thank you for a great race series!

The lovely Nick and Kim Carter – thank you for a great race series!

I am so chuffed that I finally made this race. Yes I moaned and grumped along the way; we all want perfect conditions for every race, but this rarely happens. Maybe if every race in the series had been calm it wouldn’t have been such an achievement to persevere to the end, or the last one wouldn’t have felt so magical.

You can enter next year’s Gosport Golden Mile here