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#Week 18 – Race day arrives!

To me London Marathon every year means heading up to the expo to meet everyone in our wonderful running community and helping out on the Women’s Running stand. I did very little running in my last week before race day, a three mile easy run on Tuesday last week, with some light strength and conditioning after, and 5 x 1 min reps on Wednesday. I did these quite fast, to boost my confidence. Thursday was crazy getting myself ready. I was really worried I’d forget an essential piece of kit as my head was already on the streets of London.

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It was also the launch last week of the new Mental Health Ambassadors campaign, #runandtalk, by England Athletics, and I am really, really proud to be one.

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I bet there’s not many tiny mental health ambassadors out there

We are here to promote running as a way to help you with your mental health – if you need to talk, running is the perfect medium to do so (unless you are doing hard reps on a Friday morning, in which case you talk on your walk recovery). That was my wish when I set up my Friday morning group – to give women (and men) who can’t train in the evenings a chance to do so with like-minded souls, and a chance to talk about the weekly stresses we all live with.

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Thursday afternoon I was just about ready; my kit was packed and the girls sorted. I had one last thing to do, which I’d been waiting to do for a long, long time. I wanted to listen to the answer phone message my dad have left me before he died, which was on the day of London Marathon three years ago.

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It wasn’t there. There was one message, as there has been these last three years, but it was just white noise. I wasn’t expecting this. I didn’t have a chance to listen to it that last time. Even though it’s been there for three years I only listened to it once a few weeks after he died. I couldn’t do it again as it made me feel too sad. In my mind I had thought I would listen to it one last time, run on Sunday, then erase it – I would be saying my final goodbye in the race and it would be time to let go. Even as I’m writing this the tears are streaming down my face.

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I could only just get my face up to the ribbon – there was no extra step for small people

But I took it as a sign that it was time to remove the message. Time to cut the ties. I kept thinking of recording it on to my phone, but I couldn’t listen to it, so I didn’t. Now I don’t have that last message, and I don’t have the security of knowing it’s there if I do want to hear my dad talking. I guess it doesn’t really matter as I can hear him in my head all the time, and I always feel him running with me.

The lovely Jenny and Ashleigh

The lovely Jenny and Ashleigh

Sometimes it’s such a strong feeling I can almost see him, running next to me as he did when I was 15 shouting at me ‘WHAT DO YOU CALL THIS! PUT SOME GUTS INTO IT!’ He would do this to all the men he trained on his field gun crew. It made me feel like one of the guys.

Ready to go

Ready to go

I dedicated the last mile of the marathon on Sunday to my Dad. Without him, I may have never run a marathon.

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My dad;  we have exactly the same gait (and the same legs, mine are less hairy)

Friday was very busy! After the school run, I went straight to see my emotional wellness coach, Janet. We went through the race, and dedicating the last seven miles to my special people. This was really important to me, as I know I would need to draw on them to pull me through. Nerves were getting to me a bit, and I didn’t sleep well on Wednesday or Thursday night. I felt jaded on Friday, but after seeing Janet I had an overwhelming sense of calm. It’s the marathon – what will be, will be.

Liz working a knot in her back

Liz working a knot in her back

Friday night I didn’t sleep well again, and so I was beginning to dread race day – I was too tired to run! I asked my lovely friend Caroline to send me some Reiki, all the way from New York City, and we agreed a time for me to find a calm spot and ‘receive’. Just talking to Caroline on Saturday helped calm my nerves, as it always has, always will. Your oldest friends know your faults, and your strengths, and can drill down to them instantly. I felt reassured once again.

The amazing Lisa

The amazing Lisa

Saturday at the expo I met up with the incredible and lovely Lisa Jackson, author of Your Pace or Mine? and member now of the 100 Marathon Club. It was also a precious chance to see my faraway friend Emily – we were both nervous and emotional about what Sunday would hold for us.

I get my love of cross-country from my dad

I get my love of cross-country from my dad

Saturday evening was feet up in the hotel room, then, with the alarm going off early Sunday I was in marathon mode. We got to the Green Start (a little later than planned but within time) and the overwhelming feeling was one of being a tiny ant amongst a vast swathe of people.

The lovely Emily

The lovely Emily

The Race
Once the gun went off it only took about 1.5 minutes to get over the line. Hold back I told myself over and over as I constantly checked my watch through Miles 1-3. The volume of runners takes you back – you have to focus to keep your place and keep upright, more so when you’re petite. Despite feeling tired I felt OK and the miles passed quickly. I kept up my target marathon pace until Mile 10 then Mile 13. Each mile after that I checked my watch and I was surprised when I kept hitting my target pace. The wall of noise follows you through every mile. I spotted Marie, my ladies captain from my club and it made my spirits soar – it made such a massive difference to see someone I recognised amongst thousands of strangers.

Who said runners were crazy?

Who said runners were crazy?

My nutrition was covered by SIS, who kindly donated my gels and protein bars. They are my favourite brand as they are much thicker then some gels, and my Porsche metabolism burns energy quicker than I can put it in to my body.

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Mile 15 my left foot started feeling a bit twingy and I could feel my left quad too. I think I knew what was coming but I had been in total denial about it for two years! Since my last marathon.

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Mile 17 and my foot was hurting now, as was my quad and my left hip – but I think I was in a gel delirium by this point as I couldn’t work out where the pain was. Miles 18, 19 and 20 my left leg seemed to be seizing up and I think I assumed it was my hip, but in fact it was probably my quad and foot. I got to about 20.5 and started walking, knowing that my leg was done in (that’s my highly technical evaluation). Once I started walking I was battling back the tears. My target time and a chance of a PB was instantly gone. I knew it would now be about getting to the finish line without stepping out of the race and finding a tube back to my meet up point.

Oh dear! Not happy!

Part of me wanted to stop and cry, but of course you can’t as hundreds of people are willing you to keep taking that next step. I’m so relieved I didn’t see anyone I knew at a tearful point. Jenny from Women’s Running spotted me and shouted so much support, and lucky at this point I was resigned to my shuffling. Thank you to every person that shouted me on, and there were so many of you I simply couldn’t cope with all the attention! After a few miles of shuffling, walking slow (16-min-miling) and trying to jog just a little I put my headphones in.

The finishing straight - I wasn't happy!

The finishing straight – I wasn’t happy!

I walked the last third at Edinburgh Marathon and swore I would never do it again. Of all the issues I thought might prevent me running the whole way this time, I hadn’t bargained on it being my hip. I was gutted but what can you do? I carried on.

We're only as good as our support crew - mine was the best! (However, note that neither offered to pace me...)

We’re only as good as our support crew – mine was the best! (However, note that neither offered to pace me…)

That took about an hour and 15 minutes. I felt cold. But I’m stubborn and I just kept going, and even managed to almost jog the last mile. I finally saw my partner David, and our friend Simon, on that last stretch before you turn on to The Mall. They were shouting at me – I wasn’t very happy as I tried to shout back about my dodgy hip.

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Once I got across the finish line and retrieved my bag it was easy to find them. I didn’t take any pictures at the finish against the #oneinamillion posters as I was a bit devastated. I kept thinking of my dad. Well, it was his send-off marathon, it didn’t go to plan – which goes to show how life sometimes doesn’t. I wasn’t going to get upset about it as I knew there were so many factors out of my control. All I could think about was did Emily get her sub 3 hour time? When the text came through from her that she came in at 3:03 I was more devastated for her than for myself.

Oops!

Oops!

So what do you do when your best friend running sometimes isn’t your best friend? You turn to your other best friend sugar of course! Cake and chocolate help. God I love them.

I finished in 3.59 – it wasn’t the time I was hoping for, but I still finished. I wasn’t going to get upset about it, then I did a bit on Monday, then yesterday I felt like I had really let everyone down. Today, well, every day feels different after a marathon and as the aches subside you make your peace. But there’s only one thing that helps you put a bad marathon to rest. Yep, I’ve just entered my next one…

Did you run London Marathon, or another spring marathon recently? Did your race go to plan?

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What Mara Yamauchi talks about when she talks about running

If you get a chance to meet Great Britain’s second ever fastest woman marathon runner, whilst you are marathon training, it’s obvious that a lot of your questions are going to be about…marathon training. The opportunity to meet Mara last week was one I just wasn’t going to miss, for anything. Being able to sit and listen to her advice at a Run England leaders workshop was so timely. She had so much interesting advice for everyone to take away.

Mara receives the highly coveted Run City Portsmouth t-shirt

Mara receives the highly coveted Run City Portsmouth t-shirt

For everyone taking their first marathon journey Mara’s story about finishing her first marathon, which didn’t quite go to plan, and feeling ‘I knew I could do a lot better’ was so reassuring. Our first marathons are always a journey into the unknown, and even though anything can go wrong in any marathon, none of us know how this is going to feel in our first.

Mara really wanted us all, as runners and Run England group leaders to think about how crucial it is for all runners to undertake regular strength and conditioning work to prevent injury. It took me years to accept this, and several persistent injuries; for this year’s marathon cycle I’ve done my S & C exercises every week, plus cross-trained on the bike and in the pool, and so far (here I’m just reaching out to touch my wooden floor) I haven’t had any niggles. Even though for years I’ve had issues up and down my left leg.

How to do leg raises the correct way

How to do leg raises the correct way

Why didn’t I do these exercises religiously from when I first re-started running when my youngest was about three-years-old (six years ago)? I don’t have an answer for this, but it took walking/shuffling for the last seven or so miles of the Edinburgh Marathon in 2014 to force me to change my approach to running. The changes I made, from last summer, have been transformational as far as my recurring issues are concerned. At least I finally took all the advice on board. I could still be out there pounding the pavements, overdoing it, getting injured, not being able to run, feeling miserable and so on and so on, as this cycle only ever repeats itself unless you intervene.

“Ten to 15 minutes once or twice a week can make all the difference,” Mara told us. All you’re doing is allowing your body to support your running, which, when you break it down, is repeating exactly the same patterns thousands and thousands of time, especially in longer runs. It’s no wonder we often breakdown.

Mara was happy to show us how to do the simple exercises every one of us should be doing weekly, correctly. These are squats, single leg squats, glute bridges, clams, planks and working with a medicine ball.

A display of a reverse plank

A display of a reverse plank

Another great snippet of wisdom came when Mara talked about running with an injury or niggle. We’ve all done it, felt our body sending us signals that all is not right, but ignored these and carried on running until the area in trouble breaks down. Mara suggested we think of a scale of one to ten. If your niggle or pain is only a three or four, it’s probably OK to carry on running (sensibly…that doesn’t mean run a marathon on it!), but if the level is above four it’s time to book in with a physio. One of the most pre-emptive things any of us can do to avoid having to live that miserable existence when we are forced not to run is to catch a problem early, and quickly. So, if you’re running on an injury that really makes you yelp you should stop, get advise and rest.

Do you ever run without your GPS watch? No? Do you take laps on every session, every run, every route? Does it make you wonder how any one trained before Garmins flooded into the sport market? Mara was quite adamant about all runners not being slaves to their Garmins. Wearing a watch isn’t going to make anyone any faster. It’s a tough truth for techno-freaks to let through their well-built up, laced with silicon and highly charged curtain wall defences.

I make a point on my one club session a week, on Monday nights, when we trawl up and down hills until our lungs are busting and we think we are going to a) faint, b) throw-up and c) need lung/heart or both replacements NOT to press any buttons or look at my watch. I know we always cover about five miles in the whole session and that is enough for me. I put in as much effort as I can manage on the day, which the reading on my watch just cannot measure. Mara suggested we all try at least one session without a watch, then go further – and train for a few months without one, where we all run free and see what happens. I love the sound of this, and having the freedom to just run to feel, not to time. Why don’t you try it.

Here’s a harsh truth, I’m getting older and changing up into the V45 category in a couple of weeks. Yes I am embracing my 40s and I love this ever growing feeling of really fitting into my skin, but I’m also a bit shaky about reaching half way to 50. Mainly because I am just not sure where the whole of my 30s went, and why it took me until my mid 40s to realise that a whole decade of my life was gone. Really gone. Not half of the next one, too. I’m a slow learner.

Mara made time to chat to everyone

Mara made time to chat to everyone

What I am really connected into now is that I take far longer than I did even three years ago to recover from a race, or sustained effort in training. It really scares me, so much I can’t talk about it to anyone else as I fear everyone else my age doesn’t feel this. Which would make me feel even worse. I wanted to know how Mara had coped with her training as she got older.

“As I got older I took eight or nine days off between each long run,” she told me. I need to take 10-14. It’s intimidating when you see so many people knocking out long runs every weekend. I was so reassured to hear Mara say this. She would complete her longest run about four weeks before race day (of about 25 miles), with a two or three at 23 miles before this.

“It’s really important to get the balance right between a really long run, that takes a lot out of you, and a slightly shorter long run you are able to recover from more quickly,” she said. I’m opting for lots of the shorter long runs approach to marathon training. Fingers crossed.

Another crucial part of marathon running came up; race day breakfast. Mara refined her pre-race nutrition to include meso rice and a boiled egg three to three and a half hours before the race started, sipping on a sports drink after this.

We all wanted to know, what’s the most important thing you can do to improve? “Rest,” replied Mara. “And maintenance, especially as you get older.” Nine hours of sleep a night would be topped up by a nap in the day (I am so jealous!). Mara insists we all should focus on the quality of our running, not quantity, as well as time to recover; having been besieged by endless foot injuries in her latter career she is the expert on preventative training.

Southsea parkrun with Kerry, WR cover star, Phil, Mara and my clubmates

Southsea parkrun with Kerry, WR cover star, Phil, Mara and my clubmates

“Making good decisions early on in your running career will see you running for longer,” she said, with a nod to Jo Pavey and Meb Keflezighi. Mara also believes that the greatest coaches put themselves out of a job, as they create athletes who can train to the highest standards by themselves.

We all should be able to look at ourselves and our own weak spots, and take responsibility for managing them ourselves. It took me years to accept this. Whatever distance you are running take Mara’s advice; make good decisions and use every race as a learning experience. With a PB of 2:23:12, we would all be fools not to.

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The Road to London #Week 2

How can the cracks already be showing when I’ve only done two weeks of marathon training?! Week 2 is already gone…but there’s such a long way to go and I’m already in bits! I knew this would happen. Still, if it’s just tiredness I have to deal with I can welcome it into my life with open arms. Illness can get the hell away from me.

I’m trying to allow this block of marathon training into my life and deal with what it brings, or what it doesn’t bring. I’m taking the pressure off by not expecting a PB… that doesn’t mean I may not get the time I want, just that I’m not running my next marathon chasing it.

Getting off-road
Monday was still the school holidays but I managed to escape at the beginning of the week for a gorgeous run through the tracks, mud and trails of northern Hampshire in the Southern League Cross-Country race at Lord Wandsworth College.

It was five miles of deep, sticky mud and a sharp hill on each lap (which I am proud to say I ran up both times). Last time I ran this XC I had been ill over Christmas so was chuffed with taking over six minutes off my previous time. It’s still a tough race!

Job done!

Job done!

I was knocked to the ground with a big thump by a stocky bloke on lap one, which not only saw me covered in mud, but really winded me, but this is what XC is all about. I love the total unpredictability of racing on trails. Overall I finished 17th lady (our club had four ladies in the top 20 and placed fourth ladies team).

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The mud got everywhere

On Wednesday I was somehow talked into doing three minute reps with David and Simon from our club – both much faster runners than I. It’s fine, I thought, I’ll just run at my pace and do one less than them. Again, trying not to pressurize myself to run to anyone else’s agenda. That didn’t happen as we did a large loop away from where we live, so I then kind of felt pressured to keep up as best I could. We all flew during the first three as the hideous coastal wind that keeps giving was behind us; the last three were far less impressive. Fighting against 30mph winds is never easy, but I hung on for six reps without vomiting or getting lost/left behind. Five more miles towards London and an average pace of about 6:30min/miling (when not against the wind).

New Year’s Eve
Thursday was NYE and I partied hard – training didn’t get a look in. That’s a total lie. I was asleep by 11, partly came round with the midnight chime of multiple fireworks, then was straight back asleep. Life has moved on and I seemed to have missed the party. For the last five years!

All I could manage to squeeze in on Thursday was a cycle to my leisure centre in Fareham, a short swim (time ran out: my nine-year-old loves swimming but gets cold after about 30-40 mins and as my partner did his swim session first, Sienna’s blue lips put an end to my efforts) then a cycle home. The wind made sure this was still a challenge and I had jelly legs by the end.

Gorgeous Pog

Gorgeous Pog

My long run on Saturday was severely hampered by more wind along the coast. When will it ever end! The gusts were over 35mph. I battled this for three miles on my way to my parkrun at Lee on Solent, ran the parkrun with a friend Dave from my club, catching up with his news, then was turbo fuelled home with the 35mph gusts behind me. My lungs were sore for the rest of the day.

Sue and I trying to pretend we didn't mind the storm

Sue and I trying to pretend we didn’t mind the storm

A slightly fuller wind-assisted me

A slightly fuller wind-assisted me

Sunday was the last day of the holidays – they always rush by too quickly and everyone in our house always wants at least another week, especially me. Most of the day was stormy, though the sun did appear for a short while. We all rushed down the beach for some fresh air, plus cake in our local café.

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This friendly little fella came to say hello

Number 2 on the all-time best cake list, lemon drizzle

Number 2 on the all-time best cake list, lemon drizzle

Opting for the turbo
I couldn’t face more stormy weather so sat on the turbo for a quick 40-minute session:

Warm up:    
3mins in a small gear
3mins one gear down
3mins one gear down

2mins easy

5 x 30secs hard with 30secs recovery

2 mins easy

5 x 2mins working my way up to a heart rate of 150, holding it for
about 15secs, then recovering back to HR120

5 mins easy warm down

I followed the bike with 20 minutes of strength and conditioning (single leg squats, calf raises, moving single-leg lunges, glute activation stretches). For week two I did more than I would usually, but that’s what marathon training is about. Also, it was just so easy during the Christmas holidays to fit in time for me. Next week will be much more challenging!

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What are you working towards? How’s your training going so far?

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You’ve got to be kidney-ing me

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “You’ve got a rare congenital kidney disease, but there’s only a 10 per cent risk of morbidity.”

“What? I can’t die yet!” I have three daughters and the youngest is only nine-years-old.” That was my first thought when my urologist gave me the diagnosis for what was ‘wrong’ with my kidneys. The second thought that poured out of my mouth was: “Is this going to affect my running?” The third – I’m only 44. “I need at least 10 years,” I replied – the youngest will be old enough to fend for herself then.

“Your kidneys have managed for 40 years, there’s nothing to worry about,” he said (he obviously doesn’t know that women with multiple children have three things in common: guilt, worry and the ability to cry at anything, even an advert about chocolate).

“People with this condition – Cacchi Ricci disease (isn’t she an American actress?) – often have problems with absorption of calcium or potassium citrate. We’ll need to do further tests,” the doctor said. I really didn’t care.

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Finding new ways to keep my body strong – and new faces at the same time

All I could think about was how unfair it would be for my kids for me to die when they’ve already been through divorce and all the rubbish this heaped on them. I didn’t give a flying toss about whether I wasn’t absorbing one mineral or another, or the consequences (potassium citrate inhibits the production of kidney stones, so if I’m not producing this I’m in trouble as I’ve got hundreds of tiny crystals all waiting and ready to go/grow).

I suddenly understand though – the reason for the increasingly painful urinary tract infections I’ve had all my adult life, and the kidney pain. And the kidney infections. When the pieces of your biological puzzle are suddenly slotted into place by a deep body scan you are given a gift. Knowledge. This brings relief. So now I know why this happens. Still, I don’t care about it.

But wait, I thought, driving home, I forgot to ask you doc, does this explain why my bladder also doesn’t want to work sometimes? Yep, it’s not just that I can’t sleep through the night without getting up to pee, I can’t sleep for two hours. Oh and what about the leaks – oh yes, I’m getting them more when I run (that’s right, in public where everyone can see me). Especially if I am putting in some effort. Is this going to get better/worse/disappear? And doc, did I tell you I’m only 44? I’m just not ready for this. I need 30 years more to get prepared.

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It’s not all been bad this year, I got a bronze in the England 10-mile championships as part of the third placed ladies team

So now I had the name (though no one else has heard of it and I’m already bored of repeating it), I obviously had the condition, but I knew it wasn’t going to be part of my life. I didn’t own it and tell everyone about it because even though it’s there I don’t care that it is. If I was born with it what can I do? So why make it important to me?

I felt lucky – this was my chance to prove that despite *this* (you get to insert whatever you’ve got into this sentence here) any of us can still knock out a PB if we believe we can and adapt our training. It’s also called bloody mindedness (something to do with having Taurus somewhere in my chart). You tell me I can’t do something. I then try to do it.

The moment when you realise you've got a PB, and beaten the zebra!

The moment when you realise you’ve got a PB, and beaten the zebra!

First I changed my training to one week of effort, one week of slow running.  Next I had to try for a PB. I needed to prove to the disease it’s not going to slow me down. And I mean lifetime PB not age group. The hardest distance for me, as a long distance runner, is 5K. This was my target.

When the next set of tests came back they showed (of course) that my body doesn’t produce enough potassium citrate, so I’ll be taking it every day from now on.

Some weeks I can’t run. It’s like being burnt out, where the flame I need to fire my fuel is so weak that energy is not a by-product. And my kidneys scream with pain. So what. They are extra rest weeks. I’m having to skip lots of training. I can’t compete with those who are knocking out the miles, reps, races. But why would I want to? They aren’t me.

Photo on 30-08-2012 at 17.38

This is how I feel when I run

But every single run I make feels like biting into buttercream. And each one gives me the chance to meditate for a while on having strong, clear kidneys that restore health to my body. The mud that flicks up into my mouth and eyes is the earthy reminder of the beauty of that very moment, right there. The friends who I run with become soldiers beside me who share the fight against apathy and acceptance of what is or what could be. Together in our sweaty march we show ourselves and the world we still can. Despite. Something.

A spring marathon number is waiting for me. With less training and less effort my kidneys and I plan to be at the start, lining up with thousands of others running despite of ‘something’. My two speckled organs won’t care what time we finish in. Neither will my three girls.

I’m not going to die. Well, I am but you know what I mean. I’m starting to feel I don’t really know this body that’s mine (I’d just like to point out to my biological self that travelling through the crooked and weird journey of early menopause was challenge enough for this year). The last appointment I had with my doctor I asked two very important questions: can I still train hard, and is drinking alcohol forbidden? I did get my PB and no I didn’t wet myself when I did it (though there have been a couple of other times this year when this isn’t strictly true). And the answer was a yes. And a no.

One of the reasons I run - I did the GSR after the birth of each of my girls, just to show them you can!

One of the reasons I run – I did the GSR after the birth of each of my girls, just to show them you can!

What are you battling against? Tweet @shewhodaresruns how you run despite something

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Paris to Versailles 10: Crazy, chaotic…unforgettable!

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The Paris to Versailles 10-mile race was an unknown entity to me. After missing the Paris Half Marathon in the spring I was determined to return to the city to experience a race there and the next obvious choice was this one. Life is busy, so I didn’t get round to looking up the details of the race. My partner booked our hotel and travel on the Eurostar – all I had to do was turn up. Traveling to Paris in early autumn was beautiful; the warm weather made everything we did an extra pleasure. We arrived on Friday evening after a speedy journey from London St Pancras and made our way straight to the race expo. That’s when we both got a major shock.

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We thought we would be taking a leisurely Sunday stroll along a relatively flat course that starts at the Eiffel Tower and ends at the Palace at Versailles 10 miles away. As soon as we entered the expo there was an area where you could sit down to watch a video of the course. We were in weekend holiday mode so got comfy in our chairs and waited for the next viewing.

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The course looked leafy and beautiful as it wound its way around the Paris streets. Then it didn’t look so flat and for quite a while (we were starting to get uncomfortable in our seats by this stage) we watched last year’s runners bravely ascending quite a big, long hill. We both looked at each other…we hadn’t been expecting such a mammoth of a hill.

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I always think being prepared for tough hills before you start a race gives you a mental advantage, and once the colour had returned to my face I was already starting to feel positive about the hill. I love hills after all. I may not have done much hill training over the summer but that didn’t matter. I would just take it slow. In my mind I was already sorted. So on to the rest of the weekend and enjoying the relaxed bistro culture. Saturday was spent wondering around all day taking in the stunning architecture surrounding us.

Breakfast - it was gross!

Breakfast – it was gross!

We didn’t really get to bed early the night before the race, though we weren’t late either. Still the alarm went off far too early. Dragging myself out of bed for races at the weekend is getting harder and harder. I’m a firm believer that your pre-race nutrition is essential for a good race. Unfortunately mine was shocking.

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I hadn’t been able to find a porridge pot for breakfast in our local super marche; all I could manage was an instant pot of noodles. At 7:30am on a Sunday morning my stomach didn’t want the noodles. All I had left was a flapjack bar and this had to do. We had given ourselves plenty of time to get to the race so we could hand in our bags. However, I hadn’t factored in the complete chaos of the race start area.

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Where were the large baggage trucks? There were 25,000 runners in this race, equating to many bags. Ah, there they were; I could spot some white vehicles behind the warm-up track. Wait a minute…as we got closer we saw the trucks were quite small white vans, and the queues to get to the first few were at least 40 people deep. I’m British and so I queue, but in front of me was a mad mob of desperate runners who were starting to panic that they may be running with an extra 10 pounds or so in their back. The. The van doors shut. Full. Sorry, try some further down.

OK… Let’s just move down, with approximately 10,000 other runners. People were pushing forward trying to find a van that was still taking bags as if they were fleeing a major catastrophe. Patience was key. As we waited hopelessly in the thrall around one van another began to reverse. A swell of people pushed forward towards the new hope, myself included. But this process had taken half an hour longer than anticipated and we hadn’t even joined the massive crowds queuing around the few portaloos that needed to facilitate the urgent needs of 25,000 bladders.

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Sometimes I don’t queue. After the stress of baggage drop off we found some beautiful bushes and made sure come the spring those bushes will be flowering unlike any others in Paris. Along with thousands of other people. Bushes watered we still found ourselves with minutes to spare before the race started at 10. We’ll just walk over to the start, we thought, and ease ourselves in somewhere near the front.

I’ve run the Great South Run many times. I know exactly how to do this. Yet we were by now behind approximately 14,000 other runners who have obviously done the race before and knew you have to get to the start super early to get a good place. There aren’t waves of starters, it is first come first served, with a process of 350 runners being set off every minute until 11am. After this cut-off point you can’t run, whether you’ve paid or queued or not. So we had an unexpected 40 minutes of waiting penned in by thousands of other runners. It was fresh so everyone was shivering. Eventually we were off and the first few miles were busy, with hundreds of runners of any ability around you. Bands en route kept our spirits up and the early route was a pleasure.

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Due to the crowded streets I couldn’t get up to speed which suited me fine as I expected the last few miles to be a struggle due to slight under training. There was a great atmosphere on the road. Runners hollered in the tunnels and spectators willed us on. I knew the big hill would start about mile five so I was happy to tick along, head up, absorbing the wonderful urban architecture and atmosphere.

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I started to run off-road, on the track beside it, to try and move through the crowds. The hill was waiting round a corner, and it just kept going. As it was a mile long people began to walk, especially during the middle third where it was steepest, creating a wall of walkers to further impede your progress. By the end I felt the hill and I had a relationship, hopefully one of mutual love.  I wasted a lot of energy in the first seven miles weaving through the crowd. But at the top of the hill we were greeted with a sign saying altitude 180m and the worst was over.

From that point on the course was beautiful as we weaved through tree tunnels in a forest. There were downhill parts as well as a few extra uphill. Overall there was 750ft ascent and 400ft descent.

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It would be useful to think of this race as a 10-mile off-road race: your time estimates would then be more accurate. After mile six I really settled into my pacing as the crowds seemed to ease a little, though I still ran the majority of the race on the track beside the road, occasionally almost stumbling into the forest area to try and find a route through.

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I really enjoyed the last three miles, probably because I hadn’t been able to run fast in the first five, and my last mile was my fastest in 7:11. My slowest mile – the hill – was 9:44! I finished in just over 80 minutes which I was really pleased with due to the hilly course. Strangely collecting our bags at the finish was incredibly easy.

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Obligatory pic to embarrass my daughters

* Warning! This is not a PB course! *

Amazing Mo

This is an interview I did with Mo Farah before he won his first of his ‘doubles’ at London 2012 (he’s just completed a treble double!). How much has he achieved in such a short time since then…

“Obviously this year has been the breakthrough year for me, and I have been really surprised. Early on, six months ago, if you had said to me you could have one world medal I would have been happy with that but to come away with two, a gold and a silver, is amazing,” Mo told me. “Moving to America has been a big change but I was always there, or thereabouts; in the past I have finished sixth or seventh, but I was only one half of a second behind the medals at the 2007 World Championships and then in 2009 it was one and a half seconds.”

This is called an Aries smile (Photo: Mark Winterbourne)

This is called an Aries smile (Photo: Mark Winterbourne)

I asked how the move to the US influenced Mo. “The facilities are incredible,” relays Mo, “as well as having Alberto [Salazar] as a coach. I am really enjoying it out there; training is going well and it offers me the chance to get away from everything.” On his motivation to go for gold after his silver in the 10,000m at the World Championships last year, Mo said: “Obviously on the 10k I wanted to win the gold but didn’t. I came close but not close enough. As an athlete you are disappointed and you think about how hard you have worked so you say to yourself this time it is the 5k and I want to get gold, which gave me a lot more confidence. I knew I would have to work hard for the 5k though.

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Mean Mo!

“Last year (2011) was very good but you have to forget about this and keep training hard to be on top of your game. I am planning to double up at the Olympics. It’s not going to be easy but I will give it a go. I believe the 10k is before the 5k so I’ve got to take care of business in the 10k and see how the body recovers and then go into the 5k.” The world will wait with baited breath to see how Farah’s games pan out.

Photo: Mark Winterbourne

Photo: Mark Winterbourne

Mo is cagey about his training; he doesn’t want to give his secrets away. Here’s what he told me he does every week (remember this is pre-2012. I expect his training has done a double-double since then, too!).
“I probably run a 100 miles a week, maybe just over. This involves three types of session a week – running twice a day, with gym sessions added in three times a week. I start off on Monday running 12 miles in the morning and another five miles in the evening. A track session will follow in the morning on Tuesday and another run in the evening, maybe with some weights as well.
“Wednesday will be two runs again and on Thursday another track session plus an evening run and some weights. Friday I run twice. Saturday’s track session in the morning will be followed by a run in the evening and then I always do a long run on Sunday.
“Throughout the week we try to cover every angle – long, short, speed, fast. It just depends what the coach says. We break down the sessions, so sometimes we have a long session, sometimes a speed session, sometimes medium and then we have the long runs as well.”

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What? It’s the wrong Farrah?

Mo has achieved so much in the last few years. The question is, does he want to continue his doubles through to Rio? Can we push the realms of the believable and imagine a quadruple double? With a new baby on the way, and training to the extent and degree he does this represents a huge physical and mental effort. Such success isn’t possible without sacrifice, as well. Whatever he decides, the world adores him. And rightly so.

Run with CEP

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!)

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?

Too busy to train? You are not alone!

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Here are my 10 easy ways to sneak in running time, regardless of schedules, commitments or distractions

1. Get up early
“Running before breakfast is a brilliant way to get used to running when a bit tired plus when you are low on fuel, as you will be during the latter stages of a half or full marathon,” says Steve Robinson, an athlete, personal trainer and sports therapist specialising in exercise rehabilitation. Even though the thought of getting up before the alarm should be going off may send many of us into hyperventilation, especially in the winter, by fitting in your run whilst the rest of the house sleeps means it’s ticked off your to-do list, and cannot be put off later in the day. It may at first be a struggle, but give yourself the chance and you will soon be buzzing from your early-morning exercise.

2. Run to and from work
If your commute to work is the same distance as a normal training run, why not run to work instead? “I used to bicycle into work when I was a submariner,” explains ex-marathoner Bryan Head, “then run home at the end of the day. The next day would be a run into work, then cycle home. The cross-training benefits were amazing.” You may even find that running is quicker than your usual commute. If the distance is too long to run, either bike, or park your car further from work and run the last part.

3. Run during your lunch hour
“Don’t forget that in winter this gives you a chance to get out in daylight, providing vital boosts to your health and wellbeing,” says Steve. The research shows that individuals are more productive during afternoons when they have left the office, compared to eating lunch at your desk. Make this the most productive 60 minutes of your day.

4. Take your kids with you
Tanya Brady represented Great Britain in the Women’s Lightweight Quadruple Scull in 2004 and 2005. After retiring from rowing she took up running. “The best investment I made whilst my daughter, Orla, was a baby was saving to buy an American BabyJogger 3 wheeler with 20 inch wheels and suspension,” explains Tanya.

“I did steady runs, interval sessions, tempo runs and even hill reps with her watching the world go by as I puffed and panted pushing her along! On weekdays, I trained in the daytime using the BabyJogger. At the weekends, I would either train early in the morning before anyone else was awake, or mid morning. It worked really well for everyone and I had a bit of ‘me’ time again, time to organise my thoughts.

“I still take the BabyJogger out for a spin along the seafront,” says Tanya, “however, this is now so much harder as my daughter is three years old and not nine months old. She is now also very chatty and expects a full running commentary (excuse the pun) for the duration of the run!”

5. Run with your dog
Again, this could be vital time for running, with health benefits for your pet! The more your dog runs, the fitter it will become, and soon they will be dragging you along. There are many events out there for runners with dogs; together you can find a new dimension to your relationship!

6. Invest in a treadmill…
If getting out running is just not on the cards, then why not run indoors? It may only take a garage clearance and some research on the internet to get you up and going, and treadmill prices have come down considerably making them more available to all today. Once the children are in bed you can turn on the belt and let yourself go; you will have to rely on your imagination to make the miles melt away, though an iPod will be invaluable. If you are stuck in doors though, this may well be a worthy investment; just make sure that the one you buy fits your spec.

7. Fetch a pen and a piece of paper
“As not only a professional athlete but personal trainer I get bombarded with the same old question time and time again: how to fit your running training around your busy work and family life and not lose the quality and quantity of the training,” says Mike Buss, who specialises in ultra running. Mike suggests writing down columns for work, family time, shopping, watching TV and housework.

“Then have a column for per day and a column for per week and tot up the hours you do these activities. You might be surprised, but when I sit down with my clients, I will often find several hours free to train once everything is set down on paper,” he says.

“Then you need to look at your training. Many of us believe it’s alright to just go for a run three times a week and not put anymore thought into it other than putting one foot in front of the other. So it’s important to look at each session; are you just going out for 30 minutes or an hour run? Look at what you are running for, is it weight loss? Is it for your first marathon? Then look about tailoring each session around your goals and your lifestyle.

“Commitment will be key to your successful training in the rat race,” believes Mike. “It may mean that you have to get up at 6am to go for a run before work or go out at 8pm after the kids have gone to bed, but there are ways of getting your training in without too much loss of your relaxing time.”

8. Socialise on the run
Instead of having lunch or coffee with a friend, try catching up during a run. By setting regular dates with running friends, you’ll be more motivated to run, as it’s harder to let down someone else than it is yourself. Running clubs are a great way to meet new people as well; many runners join a club looking for social runs, rather than training and competitive ones. There is bound to be someone of your fitness at your local running club, so why not give this a try? Remember, strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet!

9. Run to and from…
… the gym, the garage to pick up your car, the shop, a friends, school, college, the post office, the mail box, to see a friend at the weekend; see, if you just look at your calendar, there are boundless opportunities to run just waiting for you to notice them. Not only does this give you health benefits as well as being more economical than taking a car, it allows you to run through the seasons and your community, instead of these whizzing past you year in and year out, without you noticing.

10. Keep a spare set of kit in the car…
You never know when the opportunity to run may arise. By always being prepared you are able to seize the opportunity to lace up your trainers, should it arise unexpectedly. Choose appropriate times to run though; Charlie Spedding relays a tale in his book, From Last to First, how during a date with a girl he left her to chat with a friend whilst he went for a run. So pick your moment! Or alternatively, go on a running date … it could be the best thing you both ever did!

Your top tips:

Graham Bell: “You have to find an excuse to run, not an excuse not to run. If need be, get up early while the rest of the house sleeps. On a day out get dropped off 10k from home, and run it. You’ll be home only a few minutes after the rest of the family, and they won’t have missed you.”

Emily Foran: “I used to run with both my two young boys in our Phil and Ted’s pushchair with them shouting ‘slow down mummy!’. I also always run to collect the car from the garage, if it has been left overnight . And with marathon training, at weekends I used to get up, eat breakfast at 6:00am and then go back to bed for half an hour before heading out running at 7.30am, so that my runs weren’t eating into family time. It’s a juggling act every week!”

Caroline Baker-Duly: “For me, I have to run with my kids. Its like a corral! I’m the lone ‘wagonner’ running round in circles whilst they are trapped in the park!”

Melanie Charlton: “In the park, round the outskirts, while the kids play on the apparatus.”

Lucy May: “My dad used to run for an hour when I was at swimming lessons. Recently I’ve been getting in from work and getting my kit on so I don’t sit down and start relaxing, otherwise I don’t go. I also have a motivational poster on my wall. One of my friends works through their lunches (eating while at their desk) to build them up so they can be taken together at once to fit in a longer run/cycle once a week.”
Sharon White: “I often go while my two boys are in their karate class which saves me driving home and back again. I also often set off half hour earlier for my Pilates class and do a tempo run first. It really is lovely to have a real good stretch out afterwards.”

Stephanie Gardiner: “In between drop off and pick up from cubs….an hour is just about right!”

Nicky Cole: “I struggle with childcare so sometimes my kids have to come with me on my runs. They are about the right pace on scooters and I make sure we end up at the park. I think they quite enjoy it!”

My experts:

Steve Robinson, Runability, Bury St. Edmunds, www.runability-runningshoes.co.uk

Mike Buss, www.mike-buss.com