Most of us, on occasion, write cheques our body can’t cash. With me it’s become habitual.   Getting an early night over Christmas I entered a triathlon. (I swim like a hippo). I once struggled to finish a double parkrun (6 miles for the uninitiated) and entered a marathon with 12 weeks to train.  To be honest it’s not a bad plan.  I rarely succeed with any grace, dignity or speed but I finish and in the process drive myself on towards my goals.  So, last October, lying by the pool on holiday with  spare tyres hanging over my bikini I hatched the genius idea to go running in Moroco.  I’d met Howard from Right altitude on another trip and was massively jealous of the photos he kept posting. 

I’d had a few months off exercise and the horror that was New York 2015 was still fresh in my mind. This would surely inspire me to get fitter and work on …. Well everything! And what’s the worst that could happen? I could end up as the only other person on a trip with an endurance runner who has completed amazing triumphs  like running across America. Surely not?!? 

You guessed it. That’s precisely what happened.  And actually it wasn’t the worst thing in the world.  There are runners out there with a chip on their shoulder about speed and being held back by slower people in the group.  But luckily that wasn’t the case with my fellow traveller.  Plus Howard had arranged a local guide to run out in the front and he hung back with me. 

Maybe if the ability gap had been smaller I’d have felt more pressure to keep up but it was so dramatically different  that there was only one thing to do, keep my head up and enjoy the views. I’m not going to lie and say there weren’t moments when I had some doubts about the wisdom of this holiday but usually within a few minutes there was some amazing view or distraction that made me sure I made the right choice.  On one particularly bad climb we played the alphabet game and once we’d got to the top the views were incredible. 


The trip is incredibly varied considering it’s a running trip fundamentally based on running! We stayed in the kasbah a few nights and experienced their hospitality, we went to local villages ad met with local people who shared tea with us.  Marrakech is  a very different experience entirely.  We did yoga on the terrace in the mountains, sun bathed, read and the trip wasn’t just about the running. 


Some easy learning points (and tips for anyone planning on taking this amazing trip with Right altitude  or a similar type) 

Take all the socks. Literally, pack the number of socks you think you will want and double it. 

You can’t over estimate the pleasure of putting on a clean pair of socks when everything else you own stinks. Depending on where you’re going (and certainly in moroco) the sewerage system is a little relaxed so if you’ve crossed a stream or muddy road you should really burn those socks or at least not put them back on just yet. 

* don’t burn the socks, see next point. 

Carrier bags. 

I totally missed this and only took one with me. Your kit will stink (you’re running and its hot) plus … You know the whole drainage system. You will be thankful to have some nice disposable wrappers to bundle everything in until you can get to a washing machine/ disposal unit.

Squats

Before you go work on your squats.  Most nights there was a sit down toilet but not always.  You’ll also probably need to pee on the trail at some point.  Being able to hold a squat will help prevent you from peeing on your own foot.  Do not under estimate the joy of not peeing on your own foot. 

Wet wipes, tissues etc

These are really important. You should take some! 

First aid kit.

In my packing panic I managed to pack cold meds instead of ibuprofen (in my defence it did contain ibuprofen) and the compeed for cold sores not feet (no excuse for that one).  There aren’t stores on trails most of the time and if you get blisters or a cut you’ll wish you’d taken a few minutes. 

Pack light 

Your luggage is transported for you from place to place but you’ll still need to carry it on occasion.  You’ll also experience much less guilt when you see the mule headed up the mountain if he’s not carrying a whole load of useless products you dragged along.  For the same reason take a hold-all or rucksack rather than a hard suitcase. My bag got really bashed around during the trip.  Having a wipe clean interior was also a blessing (see notes re burning socks). 


Trail running

Go trail running and enter all the trail events you can find. Find hills and run up them.  If you have no hills (unlikely) get on a treadmill and hit the incline. I can’t emphasise this enough. The trails are really good in the mountains but they’re precisely that. Trails! A n element that I totally failed to account for. I was totally unprepared for the for the gradient and terrain. On the first major day out I turned my ankle over while face planting on a trail. I spent the rest of the week with a swollen ankle that felt like hot knives every time I landed on an uneven piece of ground.  Accidents happen but I could have prepared better for it. 

I’m sure I’ve missed some hints and tips so feel free to comment below with ideas.  

Maidenhead Easter 10 

Posted: April 14, 2017 in Uncategorized

I have a habit of entering races without reading the information properly.  Which is exactly what happened with this one.  A friend suggested we run it so I signed up without doing any research. It was only when I arrived at the race and saw the masses of local club shirts that there was a sobering moment.  However it was the presence of the local clubs that really made this race for me.


I don’t think I’ve ever been at a race with so many marshals or supporters in such a small event. There were so many people cheering in and the marshals were really engaged.  I was initially worried that I was going to be running loops around the business park but just a few loops in the route spins out into the countryside.  The loops were actually a great plan as it gave the runners access to the toilets for first few miles which is always a bonus.  The toilets were some of the best I have ever seen at a race. 

Parking was so fantastic because there are so many car parks surrounding the route.  It’s free and just a short walk from the finish.  The goodie bag was just two bottles of drink which actually I was very happy with. I normally end up throwing most of it away.  The medal was great and that’s the thing we take the photos of anyway! 

I managed to run the whole thing so that’s my longest continuous distance this year and I really enjoyed it. There was a range of abilities from super speedy to the much more relaxed.  The supporters cheered everyone with such enthusiasm.  I’d thoroughly recommend this to anyone whether they were using it as a prep for the London marathon or as a target race of its own. 

Some nights you get home with your veg box and you need muffins.  So many muffins. 

This Makes six muffins. Don’t eat them all yourself.  You’ll be able to but don’t. Trust me on this. 

The what…  

1.5 cup self raising flour 

1 tsp baking powder 

1/2’tsp salt

2/3 cup dark sugar 

1/3 cup oil

1/3 cup almond milk

1/2 cup apple sauce 

1 tsp vanilla 

1/2 cup finely diced rhubarb 

Zest of orange 

Juice of half an orange 
The how… 

Preheat to 150c

Mix flour, baking powder and salt 

In another bowl mix everything else together

Add wet mix to dry and split between muffin cases 

Bake 20 mins
The why.. .

This has taken me months to actually write up. Partly laziness, partly because I wanted to give the belt a really good test and also it took me getting a fairly bad cut from an alternative to make me appreciate how good this is.  

For a while I’ve been looking for something to put my phone in when I run.  I’ve been using an arm band whic has been giving me issues for a while. On a run a few weeks ago I was using the armband and it gave me such a bad friction burn I was left with a sizeable graze.  Other alternatives, like back packs, feel too bulky and just too much hassle. 

This belt is comfortable and can be easily adjusted to fit any size.  It’s a good size and fits my phone and key which is basically all I need when I run.  Inside the main pocket is a clear plastic pocket the size of a credit card so perfect for running with money or your parkrun passcode. 

The drawbacks to this product aren’t many but I wasn’t a big fan of the Velcro fastening.  The belt is Velcro which worked well enough and meant that the belt stayed put. However I felt worried that things would bounce out of the pocket.  Admittedly I am the kind of person that worries about things escaping a zipped pocket so this might be just my concern. 

I also managed to rip the pocket trying to get out my bar code to scan it. 

Overall this is a good product, comfortable to wear and useful. I definitely think I will be using this over an arm band going forward. 

I hadn’t realised my last post was titled “New York, my nemesis” but it was not much of a surprise.  I haven’t really run since New York, it broke me mentally and physically. I didn’t run a step Til Christmas and told family not o buy me running related gifts.  I was done. I just didn’t feel like a runner any more. 

At Christmas I brought myself a cool new garmin and felt like I was ready to get out there.  But it has been a slow road back and it wasn’t until our vitality rep contacted me and offered me a place in the London 10,000 that I started to take it a bit more seriously.  Even still I didn’t run any further than 5k until today.  I lined up this morning with no idea if I still had the capability to get further. 

At 7k I realised I was comfortable and feeling strong. At 8k I briefly thought I might throw up. I was back! 


I was also really lucky to have two tickets for hospitality tickets which meant not only did I have a free lunch with cake but also persuaded a friend to come with me.  This was really important as I was pretty certain that I was going to collapse and it’s always nice to have someone to hold your hair if you’re going to hurl. Luckily neither of these things happened and we just got to eat cake. 


Vitality events are great because they’re so well organised. They’re are plenty of staff and marshals about. The signs are clear and I was able to find everywhere I needed to go (I get lost really easily so that’s not always the case). There were some really tricky logistics, including directing thousands of people across paths that over lapped, and they managed it with a smile and without too much disruption. The route is great. It starts outside Buckingham palace and heads down the strand.  There are several points where the runners pass each other which I love. It gives an apportioning for spectators to catch you at various moments as well as for fellow runners to cheer each other. 


The route covers some really I conic parts of London and it’s incredible.  The bands are fantastic and at regular points. I run with headphones but I took them off because the bands were so great.  

From my perspective the race is great as it’s pretty flat. It was pretty crowded at the start but it’s a pretty common issue with popular races. The crowding wasn’t too bad however and actually helped me settle into a pace. For the first time I managed to run a negative split which was pretty great. I also ran faster than I run parkrun but I think thats more a testament to my ridiculous need for crowd pleasing. 

The goodie bag is pretty great (as vitality events tend to have). The tshirts are really nice and I can see myself actually wearing it again.  The medal is big enough to feel sufficiently bling worthy. This years bag had sun cream, lots of snacks and drinks. Basically everything I want from a goody bag (except the sweets which weren’t vegetarian friendly). 

So I’d really recommend the London 10000 and will be definitely trying to work this into the plan next year. As for my running I entered another 10k while I was simmering in the bath so hopefully I will continue to build the miles. 

New York, my new nemesis 

Posted: November 3, 2015 in running
Tags: , , , ,

I came to New York to run a sub five hour marathon and qualify for the comrades marathon in South Africa next year. I’m flying home without managing either of those things. 
What went wrong? 

I have no idea. I was on pace until mile 8. Then I felt a pain in my stomach and dashed into the first toilet I could find. Without being too graphic I made 16 toilets stops (1 per mile between mile 8 and 23 plus a really lovely garage whose customers gave me a round of applause as I left). By mile 11 I was broken and texted home. When my family rang me I cried pitifully. However they wouldn’t let me quit on this.  Yesterday was the culmination of months of training and to come home without a medal wasn’t an option. 

I carried on and settled into a rhythm. Find a toilet, run until I got cramps then walk to the next toilet and repeat. When my brother rang me at mile 19 I was hurting and getting sick of portaloos but pretty cheerful. I’d been upset that I wasn’t going to hit my time and was going to run closer to six. As I saw the 5:45 pacer fly by while I was queuing for the toilet I’d come to terms that just finishing was going to be my victory today. 

I finished. It wasn’t fast, it wasn’t pretty but I dug deep and I finished. Given the choice obviously I wouldn’t have gone through that but I learnt some cool (and gross lessons). 

  
It’s a question of perspective. 

It was hard to be whiney that I was slower than I wanted when walking next to a guy that is totally psyched that he’s going to come in at sub 7 for the first time. Or when You’re seeing a guy pushing himself backwards in a wheel chair. I finished the New York marathon which is physically, financially and mentally outside of many peoples reach. The rest is just details.

  
Some People are disgusting 

New York is not a cheap race.  It’s also an international race which means many people have spent a considerable sum in getting there. In my mind I’d assumed the kinds of people with that level of disposable income were capable of using a toilet, or at least getting their ass over a hole. I was wrong.

That bothers you less when you really need to go 

At the start of the race I wouldn’t use one of the cubicles because someone had peed on the seat. At mile 18 I made it to a cubicle with seconds to spare.  Someone had missed the toilet (how that happens I still have no idea). Faced with the decision I jumped in and just hovered. I’m pretty sure I’d have simply discarded any clothing that got touched with it but luckily I managed not to and was able to complete the race fully clothed. 

Some People are awesome 

I was on that course a long time. Those crowds stayed out that whole day. From the choirs that were on every corner to the preacher who stood on the bridge welcoming us to his district and telling us that our pace looked great to him to  the woman who screamed “last damn bridge” at every runner (she was telling the truth). 

It really mattered, especially when I was beating myself up for being rubbish having someone scream from the crowd helped me pick up my feet (even if it was just to the next toilet). And you know what, I really do got this! 

So what next? 

I’d love to say that I’d learnt my lesson but I already have a ticket for a marathon in April. I’ll train harder and take Imodium. After all I still need to get below the 5 hour mark.  

  

Windsor half marathon 

Posted: October 1, 2015 in Uncategorized

Normally I have period of reflection after race, I usually find it best to help me get my thoughts in a more coherent order, but tonight I can’t sleep so I may as well blog.  Sunday was Windsor half marathon. It’s pretty awesome. 

  
I did the Great North run run a few weeks ago And got myself in quite a state worrying  about times.  This week I decided to relax and enjoy it (as much as I can enjoy a half marathon).  The conditions were bizarrely similar for both runs, 20c so pretty warm which worried me as the heat really got to me last time. I decided I’d just use it was marathon prep so I wore my outfit and tested out nutrition. 

  
I was in a pretty good mood at the start because I knew I just had to get round and I knew I could do it. The course is two laps but the laps are mostly different.  there’s a bit of cross over but it doesn’t feel dull. The course is undulating, or bloody hilly depending on how you put it. For a smaller race there’s a fair bit of support and the last mile is amazing.  The sides are lined with cheering crowds and the view of Windsor castle behind the finish is incredible. 

Despite the course being tougher and deciding to just pace myself I ran exactly the same time as I did at GNR. 

If you’re thinking of doing it next year, it’s a great run.  The crowd are really supportive and there are loads of water stations.  The goody bag is really simple, as you walk through the finishing funnel you’re given a medal, mars bar and bottle of water.  Then someone takes your picture. There are tshirts available for sale if you want them but I have too many as it is.  Because of the location the race doesn’t start Til 1 (apparently so the queen can go to church if she wants to… Unsure how true that is). But that means you get a lie in or plenty of travelling time. 

On the negative side some of the logistical elements aren’t great. There were massive toilet queues and it took me well over an hour to get out of the car park. I’d still do it, just queue for toilet early and be resigned to getting caught on the way out. 

It’s an awesome atmosphere and the medal is great!