Tag Archives: weather

the new adidas adizero XT boost trainers: my review

It’s still (just about) summer, but with the recent rain off-road running has already become a bit soggy – cross-country races will be here before we know it.

I received my pair of adizero xt boost trainers about a week ago, and thought it would be a while before I took them out for their first run. However, a few days ago, when I ran my loop around the fields behind my house I was surprised how wet and muddy the lower part of the closest field had become. Dog walkers were wearing their wellies – always a sign that the ground underfoot is changing.

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Do my feet look big in these?

So today I knew, even though it was warm, muggy and 23 degrees, that there would be mud waiting for me so I decided to give the xt boosts a try. Needing to work on a bit of speed, which I’ve really neglected over the summer, I decided to do my 10 x 1minute reps around the field rather than on pavements because I just couldn’t face running on the road! Tarmac exhaustion.

I knew this session would be tougher on the field, as I’m running along grassy edges, through a lot of mud and puddles, some areas of more compact mud where the sun bakes the ground and a few kinder stretches that are almost trails. It’s quite a rutted route around the field though, and there are a few little inclines – all perfect for blowing out some speed and doing a hard session when you are short of time.

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The xt boosts felt comfy when I put them on and they definitely didn’t feel too heavy, which some trail shoes can. They also didn’t feel rigid around the cuffs – another feature that I don’t like in some trail shoes (especially when they’ve been caked in mud a few times and start to resemble the texture of wood). Unlike traditional trail shoes, the fabric of the high-cut collar flows from the shoe up your ankle, rather than stopping with a rounded top. They were much more comfortable in this aspect than I expected.

I have small, narrow feet; size 4 in normal shoes. I usually go up one size for trainers, but with adidas I go up 1.5 sizes as they always come up a bit small. I thought the laces for the shoes were a bit too long, as even doubled up they were still flapping around my feet and swinging up and catching the skin on my ankles. Obviously I have small feet so had to pull the laces tight, but I think even someone with much wider size 5-5.5 feet would find this too. The fabric around the laces was quite bunched – this wasn’t a fault; as I said, I have narrow tiny feet and am used to this on most of my trainers.

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I’d had a sneak preview of the shoes during the London Marathon expo week back in April, when I was invited to view the adidas autumn/winter collection and I was really impressed with the look and the advancement in technology they offer. When I first took the trainers out of their box I was again impressed with the design and I love the high-cut collar they give you. Acting like an in-built gaiter, this keeps out dust, sand, mud, stones, or other debris – which really annoys me when it somehow finds its way into your trainers then rubs causing irritation. The collar also provides extra support for your ankle, so crucial in off-road running where the terrain constantly changes. I also realised after my first run that it helps wick away sweat, which I seem to produce a lot of, even – bizarrely – around my ankles! I’m sure this will be beneficial in the really colder, harsher weather when your feet are freezing as you run.

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Sweaty betty ankles

The shoes are easy to put on (the collar is very stretchy) and they felt snug. There was no rubbing from the cuffs of the trainers, which I think is another distraction we can all do without.

My youngest asked me why I was lying on the grass. She's never done off-road intervals

My youngest asked me why I was lying on the grass. She’s never done off-road intervals

My run went through plenty of mud, puddles, grassy banks and a little bit of a drier pathway, and there was no slippage as I hit the wet ground underneath. When I ran a few days ago in normal trainers around the field my feet were soaked after the first lap, though I think the higher midsole lifted my feet up a bit so I didn’t notice them feeling wet as I ran.

 

Not too caked in mud after the run

Not too caked in mud after the run

These shoes have a boost midsole, which helps to transfer your energy back up to you through your legs, and I felt as if I was zipping along nicely in them. The fact they are so light also helps with this. They felt flexible underfoot, as well as stable. I’ve had a knee injury on and off for a few years, which meant I cautiously avoided most cross-country races last winter due to worrying that the terrain would cause the injury to flare up. However this year I’ve done a lot more strength and conditioning exercises on my left side to strengthen my glutes, thanks to doing six sessions at Southampton Running School earlier in the summer, so I’m ready to give cross-country races a go this season. I don’t want to feel my fit are slipping away as I hit wet conditions underfoot, as I think this constantly jolts and aggravates your knees, and I felt today that my ankles and knees felt stable in this shoe. The true test will be a few months down the line when conditions are a lot worse than they are now.

You also get a really rugged outsole which I think makes you feel you are getting protection from harder knocks, such as when your feet hit against a larger rock. This is especially noticeable around the toes. I also thought the Continental Rubber lugs were strong and effective. You get four biting surfaces for both lateral and linear traction.

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Your feet are going to get wet once you are running in the rain, as there’s a mesh upper – but if you are worried about this you wouldn’t be running on the trails or in cross-country races. Also, I know the shoes will soon be caked and covered in mud, but I would really like to see more colour in them, so that they look distinctively like women’s trail shoes rather than unisex.

As far as the session I did, I managed 9 x 1 minute reps off a 75 second recovery; after five I was ready to give up! Running off-road stretches you so much more than on paths – I find this session easy and a bit boring when I do it on the road, and only give myself 60 seconds to recover. I tried to focus on keeping my chin level, with my arms pumping, especially during the inclines (another gem I’ve learnt from the Running School). As soon as I get tired my arms begin to pump across my body instead of forward, so if you decide to do a session like this make sure you are looking forward about five metres and pump your arms (held at a 90 degree angle) to help propel you forwards as you tire. And you will tire quickly!

Random photo - just as important as running is being an embarrassing parent

Just as important as running is being an embarrassing parent

I haven’t done as much running as I hoped to over the school summer holidays, so am not as fit or as fast as I would like to be. So, if you’re feeling like me it’s also worth taking each rep at a time. After five intervals I didn’t think I would make it to eight, but I just put in the effort, and said one more each time. I was surprised I did the ninth, and happy – I didn’t go for the 10th as I was feeling really tired and weak by that time. As I mature into my running I’ve come to realize it’s not always worth doing the whole number, if you are slowing down dramatically. I would rather do eight or nine reasonable efforts then stop, then carry on to the bitter end and do a slow effort. I think really struggling on when you know the speed has gone really negatively impacts on me after the session – I always feel better about myself when I’ve said ‘That’s enough!’

 

It’s been hard to fit in much training over the summer, and I didn’t think I would make it out for a run today, so I was chuffed to get round the field, with some speed thrown in, and it helped me get through this afternoon. Doing one thing for you every day is so valuable, whether it’s for fitness or mental health. I am really looking forward to running in the mud this winter – if you would like to give it a try I’ve written a feature on giving cross-country a go in the November issue of Women’s Running mag, which will be on sale 26th September. There are some top tips from Liz Yelling in it too! I’m sure all cross-country runners are slightly madder than normal runners!

Has anyone else tried the adizeros yet? Who else is looking forward to the cross-country season?

adidas.co.uk  £105

Warning: take care if you are doing efforts off-road. There’s a risk you may get seriously faster

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?

A lifelong addiction

noo noo girl running for David

I am like a wild animal that roams this world, seeking extreme terrain and weather systems and other creatures who inhabit our beautiful oblate spheroid.

Being in possession of a treadmill in this life is a blessing – I have three young children – but it only takes a nervous glance out of my window at black clouds, trees almost bent to the ground with the wind, and the odd splat of water and there I am, running for miles along what seems, at times, the stormiest coastline in the world.

It’s never planned; it never should be. Any of us can take the easier option – to wait, to run inside. But this week the distant rumble of thunder drew me outdoors, and what an explosive experience I had. I switched off the headlines about the coastline of our island flooding and headed down to my local beach to check out the lie of the land for myself. Breathing? I couldn’t. The first three miles out the wind was against me and I was slow. Coming back it sliced through me, a westerly wind from an imaginary world more grim than the Ash Mountains of Mordor in Middle Earth.

My iPod flicked on to Madonna’s Immaculate Collection, music I hadn’t listened to for years. It transported me back to my school days when I would run the same route, fighting the same battle with the relentless wind. Which ever direction you run, it’s always there. In the run up to my O levels, my form tutor Linda (also my P.E. teacher) would suggest that my grades would get better if I spent less time out running, and more revising. But then, like now, I couldn’t stop myself from venturing out. It’s been a life-long addiction.

On my stormy run I thought about how, despite living and running all round the world, there were deep constants in my life. After spending half of my life trying to get away from where I grew up. I then spent half trying to get back. That tutor and P.E. teacher is now training my youngest as she takes small steps towards becoming a gymnast. When someone from your past reappears you can’t help but ask both why they have come back into your life, and what message life is sending you by the reunification. Thoughts began to flood back and I remembered I still had all of my school reports. I went up into my loft and found my battered old suitcase that holds the memories of my 40 or so years, and dug them out. Having told my girls that their athleticism is down to me (which of course they sniggered at) I found myself in tears within minutes as I read my form tutor’s words. “Could try harder” then “gymnastics is her weakest area” and finally, from my last year of school “…giving up athletics is such a waste of talent”. Those words winded me.

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Like the majority of teenagers I left my sport behind for what I thought were much more exciting options: going out, boyfriends, the pub… Regret is a heavy feeling that no-one wants to carry around, but sitting in our dusty, cold and still loft it’s what I felt. I’m not saying I could have reached any heady heights within athletics, but if I had at least persevered I could have discovered how far I could have gone. And would know now. Instead I stopped running for nearly 20 years.

Yet running came back in my life, and it still brings the ups and downs that athletics did when I was younger. Now I seem to seek many different things from running, one of the most important being connecting with other people. There was a time, when my children were tiny, when I desperately needed to go for a run, and ventured out to a club session, for ‘me’ time, but if anyone asked how I was I would hold back the tears. Now I want to talk to everyone; any runner I see I say hello to, but some are zoned out and I have to admit, this bugs me! Is a quick smile or wave of the hand wave so much to ask? Yet I know that once this was me, so caught up in myself that perhaps I didn’t have the time to reply, respond, or react.

Still, I look for eye contact now, and even though it’s sometimes hard to get this, I will keep trying.

What’s up?

noo noo girl running for David

Are you one of those runners who suffers from mood swings post run, becoming grumpy and irritable with those around you? Do you often fail to take on enough fluid during your exercise? The two could be linked, with dehydration being the root cause of your mood fluctuations…

Graham Bell experienced one of the worst possible outcomes to any runner in any race; he collapsed at mile 26 in the 2007 London Marathon. “Conditions were exceptional in 2007, and I basically didn’t take this into account,” he recalls. “I did hydrate, both before and from the start of the race. It was cool to start with, but the temperature seemed to rise very quickly.

“I probably hadn’t properly realised the effect of running in a city environment when the heat is rising, compared to the sea breeze I experience when running at home. And I certainly didn’t take this into account in my pursuit of the elusive sub three hours. This led to collapse, and for several hours my wife Tracy had no idea where I was, causing her considerable worry. We concluded dehydration was the route cause, as the only treatment I received was an IV saline drip, both in the St John’s ambulance and at hospital. Just as soon as my core temp had reduced I was free to go, and managed to walk to the tube station and get the train home. There were no after affects, apart from the pride issue.”

Graham’s problems didn’t end there; dehydration when running and after is a problem he constantly battles with. “I am not the best at hydrating and really have to force myself to drink fluids. I now have a pre-race day ritual of drinking plenty but it is a struggle. During a race I just can’t seem to find the right technique for taking fluids on board,” he continues. “The effect of all this is that I seem to use up all my reserves, and if I don’t rehydrate properly post-race, or reward myself with a beer or two instead, then I suffer the side effects.

“There are two other elements to this,” he adds. “Firstly, as I get older it takes longer to recover from a race, and this sometimes leaves me tired and irritable. Secondly if the race hasn’t gone to plan that leaves frustration and causes irritability! But the thread that joins them is the dehydration factor. Tired and irritable, with a tight feeling in the head means that it best to keep out of my way! I think this is partly born out of frustration from wanting to go for a run. After a recent 20 mile race I tried a new tactic. Instead of feeling sorry for my poor aching limbs and letting them rest I decided a recovery run would be good. Just by myself so no pressure and no chatting. It kick started the recovery and I drank plenty afterwards. I would say that it worked for me. I got back into running quicker, which was pleasing, and this generally made me happier than I had expected to feel.”

As for impacting those around him, Graham can’t deny that sometimes everyone in the family is affected by his post-race mood. “Living in a house where both parents work full-time, with two sons full of testosterone can be frustrating! When my energy levels are low, and I am aching and tired, the dehydration is just the icing on the cake in the recipe of a frustrated runner.”

“I can certainly say that immediately after a long training run or race Graham can be fairly grumpy,” says his wife Tracy. “I initially put this down to blood sugar levels as there is a family trait of grumpy when hungry. (“We can all relate to this!” Ed) If it is a big race we often have a fews days where he is low, however the impact on the family is less now our two sons are aware of the situation, but we do tease him and pull his leg to lift him out of it.”

Emotional connections
In Graham’s case, the link with dehydration, unpleasant mood, and unsatisfactory performance stems from the 2007 marathon. “If he suspects he is de-hydrated, even a hint, unpleasant emotions come flooding in mainly due to the link between not completing the 2007 race,” states Andrew Lane, a Professor of Sport Psychology at the University of Wolverhampton, and an expert in emotion regulation in sport. “Graham probably pushed himself greatly to complete the event below three hours. He would have required fluid after running for that time in the heat, and so it’s not surprising that he received a saline drip. It’s a strong connection that is reinforced by the fact that he struggles to drink during races.”

Prof Lane believes that developing a plan has helped Graham. “I suggest he sets a goal of being able to drink more during races. Most people learn to drink in races and not in training. I would advise learning to drink during training; treadmill running is the easiest way of doing this as your drink is already there. You can gauge how much you need to reduce speed to drink. Like with all goals, you start at one level and then look to improve. In long duration events its worth taking a drink at each feeding station, even just a slurp. Graham admits he finds this a struggle. Most people who miss three hours do so over the last few miles; they can run 6.40 miles easy enough early on, but during the last few miles the pace drops to 7.30, 8.30, or even slower. You only have to look at marathon splits from any race to see the second half is run a great deal slower.

“If hydration is factor, and if you have strong beliefs that hydration is a factor, then if you don’t drink, it will be. Your beliefs have a powerful influence on how you operate. If that describes how you perform, then try strategies to get better at drinking during running. If one week you have to slow to just above walking pace for 60 seconds but the next week you drink the same volume in 40 secs, you have made a 20 second saving.”

How sweaty are you?!
There is also a huge range in sweat losses between individuals. “However, many runners don’t appreciate this and simply drink fluids whilst running without structuring the amount they drink around the weight loss they experience through running and sweating (this can be worked out by weighing yourself before and after a race),” advocates Dr Charles Pedlar, Director of the Centre for Health, Applied Sport and Exercise Science (CHASES) & The St Mary’s Clinic at St Mary’s University College, London.

“For example an elite runner could loose four kilograms an hour due to sweat loss whilst running, while other runners don’t even loose 600 grams in the same time period. On top of this, some people are more salty sweaters with elevated electrolyte loss . If you don’t ensure that you replace sodium, as well as water, you can suffer from hyponatraemia (an electrolyte disturbance that is defined by lowered sodium levels in the blood).”

A sweat check to find out how much electrolytes you are losing may be invaluable to future performances, believes Andy Blow, an ex-GB international tri and duathlete and director of sports science at the Porsche Human Performance Centre at Silverstone. “If you do suffer from high volume losses of sweat your net sodium loss could be massive and learning to supplement this correctly would definitely help any runner to perform better.”

What’s the link?
How much dehydration can affect your mood is not well understood physiologically. “Research provides many different explanations as to how dehydration influences mood,” states Hannah MacLeod, a Lucozade sport scientist. “This may be due to hydration levels in the brain, increased levels of stress hormones such as cortisol or changes in the way chemicals are transported to the brain. The human body is made up of around 65-70 per cent water. Any significant loss of body water, such as when you sweat during a race, causes multiple physiological and psychological problems. If you manage to make it to the finish line, but fail to replace any sweat losses incurred, you may experience headaches, confusion, reduced reaction time and changes in mood in the hours post race.”

“Anecdotally the evidence suggests that dehydration can affect mood,” continues Dr Pedlar. “Mood is a very good measurement of fatigue and overtraining, and often pre-empts physiological responses. As a holistic measurement of how you are feeling after running, your mood can often summarise for you how your body feels. If your exercise has gone well there are many positive effects on mood; you experience the release of endorphins.” Don’t forget that endorphins are endogenous opioid peptides, a morphine-like substance that function as neurotransmitters in the body which act on the same receptors in the brain as morphine, producing analgesia and a feeling of well-being. “You also release endocannabinoids,” says Dr Pedlar,” substances produced from within the body that activate cannabinoid receptors, promoting a feeling of euphoria.” We all crave the runner’s high, don’t we?

“It is likely this feeling is linked to hydration,” suggests Dr Pedlar, “so the better hydrated you feel, the better you run, and the better your mood.” Surely it makes sense that greater levels of dehydration will negatively impact on mood?

“If you are performing well and think you will achieve your goals, then its likely you will be in a pleasant mood,” continues Prof Lane. “If things are not going so well, then the reverse might occur and you will be in an unpleasant mood. That sounds obvious I know. Sweating gives an indication of work load; if you are sweating more than usual, this will send a message to your brain saying ‘I need a drink’ – if you do not have a drink then concern over being able to sustain your running speed will build. If you become concerned there will be a physiological response, which could contribute to further sweating. We know we sweat when we are nervous. Hence, your emotional state in response to feeling that you need to drink becomes an additional issue.”

Research also indicates a link with sodium replacement in drinks and improvements in cognitive function (suggesting the opposite could also be true). “We’ve also seen similar results in our own testing which suggest that insufficient sodium replacement in hydration drinks used during exercise can lead to compromised cognitive function,” adds Andy Blow. “Whether this is directly related to mood swings it would be hard to say (usually low blood sugar and over training are more likely to be linked to mood swings) but it would not be fair to rule it out; anything that affects the brain negatively could affect mood.”

What to do?
So, considering the above, what is the solution? “Firstly, you need to develop a mindset that you can cope without drinking and that excessive sweating is a normal part of running hard. You accept that you will take fluid on when it is available, and will plan to take on enough fluid to match your needs,” says Prof Lane. But how do you develop such a mindset?

“A feature of training in the heat is that you get used to altering sensations of hydration needs. When you first start running, you feel you need a drink all of the time. After a few runs in the heat, you start adapting. Part of this adaption is psychological; you re-interpret bodily symptoms. Warm weather training is possible for some athletes but not all. Running in gyms usually involves running in hotter environments than outside. Alternatively, wear additional clothes to create the sensation of feeling hot.”

Another great tool in the fight against dehydration, and possible mood swings, is using an isotonic drink regularly. It is important that you replace the sodium and potassium you lose through sweat, so your drink needs to include electrolyte levels similar to the levels you loose. How should each individual runner know how much fluid is enough? When training, you can weigh yourself before and after a long run. The difference will be mainly fluid. There will be a range of weight loss where you feel fine. If you run at your race pace until you feel you need to drink, you can then weigh yourself to see how much water you have lost. Once you know this, you can calculate how much you need to drink. “One pound of weight loss should equal one pint of fluid intake approximately,” advised Prof Lane. “If you were already hydrated at the start of your run, your bodyweight would need to reduce by more than five per cent to have a meaningful effect.”

Are you a sweaty Betty?
So how do you know if you are one of those really salty, sweaty runners? Most of us have a good idea of whether we are sweaty runners or not (our damp clothes are a basic sign), but if you see salty deposits on your black lycra it could be a sign of excessive salty sweating. Tasting your sweat it is also a good gauge, though not an accurate guide. A sweat patch is much more accurate and can be analysed to give you a more scientific reading. However, it is also important to be aware that your sweat range can change over time, especially as you become more fit.

What is a sweat check?
At Precision Hydration they measure your sweat and tell you how much electrolyte is in and then match you with the right sports drink giving you optimal hydration. It is a simple test. No exercise is required; you sit down, have electrodes placed on your arm, a sweat sample is taken with a sweat check analyser and within 20 minutes you get your results.
For more information about sweat tests visit www.myh2pro.com
Learn more about Andy Lane’s work at www.virginlondonmarathon.com/training-centre/training-centre/music-and-motivation or www.winninglane.com

Andy Blow: www.votwo.co.uk

Trapped! My running nomansland

noo noo girl running for David

 

Do you remember when takeaways started coming in those sealable plastic tubs, instead of foil containers with lids? Suddenly, the night after a takeaway, you had numerous tubs to do whatever you wanted with: store sandwiches, hold leftovers, even stuff with the kid’s craft leftovers. There were hundreds, even thousands of possible uses for them. It was truly exciting. I began to save them, so that it wasn’t too long before every time I opened the cupboard under the sink a stack would fall out. After every weekend treat, they were added to the collection. It became a compulsion, to add more and more. Then I got to the stage where I realised I had hundreds of tubs that I didn’t really use. But could I throw them away? No. I knew deep down in my heart that they were just plastic drift wood. I wanted to liberate my cupboards and throw them out. I wished they had never been invented.

Looking at my running kit, I think I may be following a similar pattern. Plastic containers no longer provide that moment of Scrooge-like pleasure when looking and just knowing they are there is enough. Now it’s compression socks, baselayers, running bras and tights (and hats are going that way, too). Perhaps none of us can ever have too much kit. My worry is that I may have had my running peak, and all this wonderful apparel will never fulfil it’s manufacturer’s dreams. I am in my 40’s – who would expect you to start churning out PBs at this age? I didn’t really like running at school, but I did jog through my early adult years. Then the epiphany came after having children and jogging morphed into a kind of alright-style of running where I felt I wasn’t too bad… considering. But was it just a fleeting experience?

I’ve had an OK winter of training – no records set, but consistent weekly running, with my club and on my own, has left me feeling I have gone some way to building a strong base. Yet that is all I have done for months now. The energy or fitness to take it to another level is gone. Mentally, more than physically, I am finding my running tough. If I could jog along at a happy pace for the next three decades I think I would be fine. I don’t want to though! When I run at a faster rhythm, one that my body loves as much as my winter dressing gown and fleecy slippers, I feel right. It really is one of the few times in my daily and weekly life that I do feel completely ‘me’. Less effort is still rewarding and relaxing and soothes my soul, but if I don’t get up to my natural rhythm, the buzz just isn’t there.

Once you’ve felt the joy of being able to run at a comfortable pace that is still stretching you, other running, just like those plastic tubs, becomes meaningless. I thrive on the social aspect of running, but that flash of competitive spirit has to be fed in all of us and seven minute miling is my running fodder. Once you’ve been running for a while you begin to understand that in order to improve you need to race.

Therein lies the rub. Children’s activities during weekend mornings, an overstretched week and an unwillingness to commit to pushing myself in a race scenario has turned me into a mouse. Having thrived on racing for the last two years, now I fear it. The desire to stand with all those other lovely runners on the start-line, feeling ready and able to race, has deserted me. All I can do is hope it will return. None of us want to race when we are not fit and speedy, but also, you have to get out there and just compete. This nomansland I washed up on this year is starting to make me feel lonely.

Something, or someone will somehow flick a switch in my head and will see me step back into my old shoes, or trainers. When it will happen, none of us knows. Life sends us down different paths for it’s own reasons, and hitting PBs isn’t one of the great lessons we must learn. The incessant rain seems to have returned, again, and I must admit, I have started to dream of owning a treadmill. Just imagine – no wind, cold, rain or snow. Did I just say that? There really must be something wrong with me at the moment.

 

Seen any green ogres out running recently?

noo noo girl running for David

Watching a great family favourite, Shrek, with my kids recently bought home how subversive stereotypes can be to young minds. There we were, witnessing a princess realise her ‘outward’ beauty was not enough for true love; only when she becomes an ugly, fat, green ogre does she really realise her true desire. Have you ever noticed how women always get the rough end of the deal in fairy tales and children’s films? In Nemo, the mother is brutally murdered at the beginning of the film (my three year old daughter, upon finishing watching this film at the cinema when it was first released, burst into tears. “They killed the mummy,” she cried, as all the other parents and kids filed out of the film, happily content that Nemo had been re-united with his dad. She’s a perceptive one). Think of grannie in Little Red Riding Hood, or Sleeping Beauty, or Snow White etc etc. All are punished, brutally murdered, or portrayed as dysfunctional. Were all of these films made by women? I guess not…

It’s not just the media that toys with our perceptions with it’s surreptitious messaging to our unconscious minds. Doesn’t running allow us to throw off our own stereotypes of ourselves? Why would we even consider running in freezing mud, with icy rain pelleting our skin, our fingers like frozen sausages, other than to overturn the stereotype of our daily life, which, lets face it, is pretty full of routine and monotony whoever you are or whatever you do. What about the chance to, literally, make someone you don’t like at work ‘eat mud’ as you speed ahead of them in an off-road race. Whose the boss then? Or the shy runner who has heaps of undiscovered talent, discovers this and has to walk up to receive a prize post-race. There is a split second of a flash of ‘look what I can do that you can’t even though you have all the gear and endlessly boast about every single run you’ve ever done’. Not just anyone can see it; catch the light right though, and it’s there. There are runners who have lost themselves in relationships, careers, families, yet can rediscover their inner journey simply by having the courage to pull on some trainers and step outside.

Don’t we all share the need to run to escape from our own self-imposed limits? How many runners do you know who have only taken to the sport either mid, or later life, compared to those who have always run from childhood? Running, and sport is amazing that it has health benefits, but the psychological lift it can give is off the scale. Every time you begin a run it’s your own chance to create one of those mini-videos in your head of who you are, and who you would like to be. Finishing a race in a certain time allows you to reward yourself for achieving something. This is not to be underestimated! A PB, even of one second, can allow another day in paradise to become a secret success story. The problem being that the unavoidable bad days, whether they be at training or in a race scenario, can become extremely hard to manage, especially when the mini-highs come to mean so much.

Stand on any start-line and you can see similar scenarios being played out, by young and old, men and women, speedsters and plodders. In those moments of excitement and anticipation, dread and sometimes worry, all the routines of daily life are thrown off for a set period of time. I know one person who definitely starts each race believing that it will be his chance to fly like Roger Bannister. Even if the body doesn’t comply with the mind, believing that anything is possible is the carrot on the hook that we throw out to ourselves when we go for a run.

Now transport yourself to the other side of the finish-line. How many princess or ogres, smiles or grimaces, do you see? Where are those runners right at that point in their lives? The more you look, the more you can spot who has had a successful day. Stereotype subverted. Unfortunately, some of us – both men and women – still go home to a waiting ogre!

Everything changes

noo noo girl running for David

Some people are predicting a heat wave this summer…. This column, I wrote a while ago, sprung to mind….

On Monday morning I pulled the curtains: “It’s raining,” I said. On Tuesday morning I pulled the curtains: “It’s raining,” I said. On Wednesday morning I pulled the curtains: “It’s raining,” I said. By Saturday morning I was feeling slightly hysterical. We are all becoming increasing au fait with the malfunctioning of the northern polar jet stream, and experiencing first hand what happens when this jet stream meanders far from its usual course: by passing south over Britain, leading to record-breaking rainfall, no sign of summer – and mounting concern for the London Olympics – we have become a new breed of twitchers. Not looking for rare species of birds, but spending anxious hours, days, weeks in search of the rare summer phenomenon known as sunshine.

A summer without much sunshine isn’t the end of the world. Really. However, the weather we are having to combat during our running week is starting to wear very, very thin. This weekend I set out for a long run, after about 50 minutes thought about cutting my run short to get home (exhaustion getting the better of me) then didn’t take the turn: I carried on. Something inside pushed me to not give in to my ego. I’m not going through a good patch with my running, but a few people, whose advice I treasure, have stressed to me that I just have to work through this stage. “It will come back,” they tell me. So despite my slow pace, I just kept going. The road I chose not to divert from led me onwards to the sea, and as the swelling ocean emerged before me, sheets of raining started falling. Mid-summer, and in less than 10 minutes I started to feel cold. The ear facing the sea became so waterlogged with the near horizontal rain that my ear plug wouldn’t stay in, so there I was, running, no, jogging, into a storm front, soaked, in my sun hat and sunglasses (eternal optimist am I), one earplug dancing a merry dance around my head, wanting to cry! It became a battle between me and the jet stream.

I could either give in, instantly divert my route and find safety from the strange summer storm that seems to have been raging for months, on and off, or carry on. My stubborn streak, the fault-line that runs through my personality, took over. I ran on, and on, and on, along the promenade, into the weather, until my trainers were full of puddles and I was ridiculously soaked. Can one woman take on a global weather weirding phenomenon? Yes. Can she win? Of course. Well… umm… I didn’t stop, turn round, detour, hitch a lift or sit down and cry at the ridiculously tough wind that was hurling insults in my direction every mile. I battled on. I must have looked truly pathetic, if anyone saw me – I can’t say I noticed other people out enjoying the weather. And when I got home, my offspring asked me: “Mummy, did you have fun?” My answer? “I really enjoyed it.” I think I did, any way.

The (relative) day of calm that followed my mammoth effort tells me that even global weather systems can’t beat a woman with determination. This summer has left me a much wiser person; I have become more expert at lighting a fire through extra practice; I have learnt that buying summer garden furniture in the spring can be considered extravagant; I have learnt to go out running with sunglasses plus gilet, thus being fully prepared for both real rays of sunlight that I remember can be punishing to one’s eyes plus hideous downpours of rain: the two have become synonymous in our weather-riddled isle; but the wise Buddha that stands beside me during my journey in life, to whom I often ask advice, confirms that the greatest lesson learnt is that everything changes. Our journeys, our running, our summers (remember those endless hot summer holidays of our youth spent sweltering in the presence of the yellow god of the skies?). Knowing that nothing ever stays the same, I predict that the sun must reappear!