The London Marathon? Who Needs It!

Did you get the ‘Sorry’ magazine or email from the London Marathon this week? I know how you feel – I’ve had a few of them myself! London is high on the bucket list of most marathon runners, and you get so excited at the prospect of getting a ballot place. But for most of us it’s a ‘no’, just because of the sheer volume of applications they receive. Apparently the odds of getting a ballot place are around 7-1, so they don’t stack in your favour. And it’s even more annoying when some people seem to get in year after year and others never get lucky.

Of course the ballot isn’t the only way into London. In the end I got a place via the Good For Age system. The only benefit of being old is that for V50 women the GFA qualifying time is sub four hours, and I finally managed to achieve that last year, so I’ll finally be lining up next April after years of bad luck in the ballot. I’m always surprised that many people don’t seem to know about Good For Age, but it’s worth checking out if you’re prepared to put in some effort to get there. Obviously you could get a charity place, but most of them have a very high minimum fundraising target for London, which is a lot of pressure for runners. I guess it’s an option if you have lots of generous friends!

And you know, London isn’t the only cool marathon. I’ve done a few other spring ones that have been really good. If you’re chasing a PB (or a Good For Age qualification!) I’d recommend Manchester, which has the flattest course in the UK; and apparently it’s even the right length these days! It’s where I got my first sub 4. This year there were some issues with baggage reclaim being very slow, but hopefully the organisers will have sorted that out for 2017. I’ve run and reviewed Manchester twice, in 2013 and 2015.

Manchester Medal

In 2014 I did the Milton Keynes Marathon, which is a bit later than London (in May) but a really good event. Well-organised, with an interesting course that takes in some lovely parkland, and a finish in the MK Dons football stadium where you can see yourself on the big screen! There’s also a half marathon option if you have friends/family who’d like a shorter challenge. You can read my review here. Although I didn’t get one in 2014, they apparently now do a very cool cow-shaped medal, so I may have to go back for that one day!



In April this year I ran the Paris Marathon, which was a great experience. The only problem (for me) was that it was really warm and sunny, which is apparently the norm at this event  – I do much better in the cold! Although I didn’t perform particularly well, I did enjoy it, and there was also a really chilled and friendly breakfast warm-up run the day before. Running past many of the best-known sights in the city was fantastic, and there was even a rave tunnel! You don’t have to go through a ballot to get a place, but it does sell out, so get in soon if you fancy it – entry is already open. You can read my Paris review here.

Paris Marathon Finish

So don’t despair if it was a ‘no’ from London this time. There are lots of other great marathons out there – these are just a few – and they’re all 26.2 miles long. I actually know a couple of people who’ve done London in the past and not really enjoyed it; they actually found it a bit overwhelming. Hopefully your turn will come one day – and if not, get training for that Good For Age!


Friday Feelgood Five 7.10.16

The Friday Feelgood Five had a day off last week as I was celebrating my birthday, but it’s back! Just some of the little things that have made me happy this week.

 New Shoes

New shoe alert! My OH treated me to some new trail shoes for my birthday last week. I’ve never been really happy with any of the trail shoes I’ve had, so we went to Accelerate in Sheffield where they have loads of different brand that you can try. After some expert advice I settled on these Inov8 ones, and I’m really looking forward to trying them out after the York Marathon this weekend.



Carb Loading

The best thing about preparing for a marathon is obviously the carb loading. I’ll be starting today, and have bought a great big bag of pretzels to munch on. I like these because they’re carby without being fatty, and also have a bit of salt which can be handy if the weather forecast is quite warm – which it is! Carb loading is also a good excuse to have fish and chips for Friday tea!



Giant Reese’s

I haven’t featured any chocolate on here for a while, so let’s put that right now with this beast of a bar my step daughter bought me for my birthday. I love peanut butter and Nutella on toast, and this is like that without the toast – naughty but nice! And of course it will also help with the carb loading.




I wouldn’t say my Old Man is unromantic, but he hardly ever buys me flowers. He is a Yorkshireman after all, and probably can’t see the sense in buying something that costs a fortune but only lasts a few days! So it was nice to get some free flowers at Morrison’s, where your points card knows when it’s your birthday and gives you a present! Just a tiny thing, but a nice surprise at the checkout.



The Little Prince

I’m a massive fan of The Little Prince; it’s one of my favourite ever books, and I have it in both the original French and English. I found out this week that a Little Prince shop is opening in Paris, so I definitely need to visit again as soon as possible. A good excuse to do the Paris Marathon again maybe?!

Little Prince



That’s it! Because living well is sometimes just about enjoying the simple things around us. Feel free to tell me your favourite things this week, I’d love to hear about them. Have a great weekend!

Marathon Top Tips

Running your first marathon at York this Sunday? Starting to feel a bit nervous? Imagining you’re coming down with all sorts of ailments, aches and pains? Wishing you’d trained more and eaten less cake over the last few months? Don’t worry – this is all perfectly normal! It’s sometimes known as ‘maranoia’ or ‘tapermania’ and we all get it – even those of us who’ve been through this a few times. When I stood on the start line of my first marathon in 2013 I had no idea whether I’d make it to the finish; but I did, and you probably will too. Running your first marathon is a huge learning curve, and there are lots of things I know now that I wish I’d known then. It would have made things a bit easier, although running marathons never gets easy! So although I’d never claim to be an expert, I have a few tips that might help if you’re a first-timer. I’ve learned some of them the hard way, so maybe you won’t have to!



Hopefully your training has gone well, – but if you’re behind for any reason, don’t try to make up for it this week; it’s too late to reap any fitness gains now. The best thing you can do is just have a couple of short, gentle runs to keep your legs turning so you’re as fresh as possible on the day. If you have to readjust your time goal due to missed training, so be it – there will always be other marathons.

Eat a healthy diet this week to fuel your efforts. Personally I like to eat more protein, fruit and veg at the start of the week, then more carbs and less fibre in the last two or three days. I find if I eat too much fibrous stuff it can have (ahem) digestive repercussions, so I stick to very simple foods in the last couple of days, with no fruit other than bananas. I’ve only ever had the runner’s trots once, in Berlin, but I never want to go there again! But that’s just me – obviously everyone’s body is different. On a similar theme, keep off the booze if you want to perform at your best. The effects of alcohol can still be felt by your body a few days after drinking, so even if you don’t feel hungover it can still be making running harder than it needs to be. You can celebrate when you’ve crossed that finish line!

Get plenty of sleep. Most of us with busy lives never really get enough, but catching a few early nights this week will help your body to prepare for the effort ahead. You might not sleep well the night before the race if you’re nervous, so it’s good to get a few extra hours’ kip in the bank.

Sort out your race day logistics well in advance. The last thing you want on marathon morning is to be stressed by having to organise things at the very last minute. Make your transport arrangements, and if you’re planning to meet up with people at the race finish (which may be a bit chaotic) settle on an actual meeting point. Also, lay out all your kit the night before so you aren’t running around looking for things in the morning. Make a list if it helps. And don’t forget to fill in the back of your race number!

Carb loading the day before the marathon is important, but you don’t need to go crazy with it. It’s more about changing the composition of your meals than eating loads more than usual. Eating steadily throughout the day is better than having a massive pile of pasta for your evening meal. Here’s how I would normally prepare for a marathon food-wise.

Day before: toast or bagel for breakfast with peanut butter and Nutella; banana for elevenses; fish finger sandwich on white bread for lunch (nice, light protein); cake for afternoon snack, pasta with tomato sauce and just a bit of chicken for dinner and maybe a small pudding. This is certainly not a day when you want to be feeling hungry. If I feel I need an extra snack I like pretzels, as they are carby and salty, but not fatty. In general, just aim to eat plenty of carb-rich foods, but not to the point where you feel stuffed. I’ll also have an electrolyte drink at some point, especially if the weather forecast is warm, in order to try and prevent cramp, which I suffered from once in a marathon.

Marathon day: as soon as I get up I have a pint of electrolyte drink to get me well hydrated. My breakfast is always porridge with maple syrup, because I find porridge much easier to digest that wheat-based things. If I’m away from home I take instant porridge pots. I have breakfast at least two hours before the start, preferably a bit more, as I like to make sure I have plenty of time to visit the loo in a number two fashion(!) before I leave the house. If you’re reading this I’m sure you’ll appreciate how important this is! I also have a coffee. After my breakfast I don’t drink anything else until about ten minutes before the start of the race. I’ve found this is the best way to avoid having to stop for a wee en route. I think if you’re constantly sipping on drinks in the hour or so before the start you’ll need to stop and go to the loo at some point; but if you have a drink just before you set off you’ll sweat it out instead of storing it in your bladder. There’s always plenty of water on the course anyway. About an hour before the start I might have a very small snack like a tiny banana, depending on how I feel.

Having a fuelling strategy during the race is important if you’re going to avoid hitting the dreaded wall. Obviously everyone has their own favourite energy products, and you will hopefully have been practising with them in training. Your muscles can store enough fuel to keep them going for about an hour and a half, so you’re going to need to take on more energy before you run out. I like to start about an hour into the marathon. My favourite fuel is Clif Shot Bloks, mainly because I find them easier to carry and deal with on the run than gels. As a general rule of thumb, you should aim to take on a gram of carb for every kilo of your body weight per hour. So, for example, if you weigh 65kg you’ll need to take on 65g of carb per hour. This sound boring, but it’s very effective. The first time I ever bothered to actually work out how much fuel I should be taking on during a marathon I took about ten minutes off my PB, so it’s definitely worth doing the maths! All energy products will tell you how much carb they contain on the pack. An important point to note is that taking extra gels etc is not a subsitute for lack of training. If you take on more stuff than your stomach can process you’ll just end up feeling sick.

Lastly, stick to your race plan. At the beginning of a marathon you should be both trained and rested, so you’ll feel great. It’s tempting to set off like a greyhound, but if you do you’ll pay for it later – as I did in the first York Marathon, when I ended up with a stitch at mile 18 that wouldn’t go away, meaning I had to jog/walk the last six miles. If you feel really good at about mile 24 – which, to be honest, is doubtful – feel free to go for it in the last couple of miles.

Please remember all of this isn’t gospel – it’s all just what works for me. What works for you may be different, but the above advice might be worth a go if you don’t have a clue – as I didn’t the first time I ran a marathon! I hope some of it has been helpful to first-timers anyway. Feel free to add your own top tips below. Best of luck if you’re running at York this Sunday – do come and say hi if you see me!

York Mara

Friday Feelgood Five 23.9.16

Here’s my latest Friday Feelgood Five – some of the little things that have made me happy this week.

My Yorkshire Marathon Race Number

This arrived in the post yesterday. I’m very excited about the Yorkshire Marathon as I had to miss it through injury last year. My aim is to regain the Good For Age time I lost when the course at the Manchester Marathon turned out to be short in 2013-15. Only just over two weeks to go now!

York Mara


I love autumn and it’s finally properly arrived! I love running in autumn – especially on sunny, crisp days when you can kick leaves as you go – and I love apple crumble. Bring it on! Here’s a lovely autumn view of York’s walls.

Autumn in York

Yin Yoga

I’m ashamed to say I haven’t been to yoga for ages, and that’s something I want to change this autumn. This week, to ease myself back in, I started a four week yin yoga course taught by Chloe McKay at York Yoga Studio. It was so relaxing! I’ll write a proper blog post about it at the end of the course. Here’s a pic of Chloe, who is lovely. BTW, there is absolutely no way a stiff-legged runner like me could do what she’s doing here!


Bargain Leggings

I love a charity shop bargain, and was delighted to find these very cool Nike Drifit leggings in perfect condition in a shop in York. Great for winter! Of course I now need to buy a new black top to go with them…



I just found out about Pieathlon yesterday and am very tempted to enter it for a bit of fun. It’s 6K of trail running with three pie stations at Huddersfield on 11th December. Running and pie – what’s not to like?!




That’s it! Because living well is sometimes just about enjoying the simple things around us. Feel free to tell me your favourite things this week, I’d love to hear about them. Have a great weekend!

Competition – Win The North Yorkshire Cookbook

I love food. More than that, I love Yorkshire food. And even more than that, I love local, North Yorkshire food! I really believe that good, simple, seasonal produce that hasn’t travelled far to get to your plate tastes better – and is better for you and the environment – than food that’s been transported hundreds or even thousands of miles. So I was delighted to be sent a book to review that celebrates some of the best food and drink from God’s own county.



The North Yorkshire Cookbook features not just manufacturers of great food and drink, but also the places that serve and sell it such as restaurants, cafés, delis, pubs and markets. It’s good to see a few of my personal favourites in there: Betty’s tea rooms (fat rascals!), the Haxby Bakehouse (proper bread) and No 8 Bistro in York; the Black Sheep Brewery in Masham (where I used to live), Quayside Fish and Chips in Whitby, plus many more. I now feel I need to make a trip to Harrogate to try Baltzersen’s Cinnamon Buns, which I have been obsessed with ever since I read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and discovered that Scandinavian people apparently mostly exist on cinnamon buns and coffee.

Le Caveau 63

There are also over 40 mouth-watering recipes from some of North Yorkshire’s top chefs for you to try at home. I’m very tempted to have a go at the Grange Hotel’s Yorkshire Curd Tart and Le Caveau’s Slow Cooked Yorkshire Rabbit in Cider (pictured above). The foreword is by Andrew Pern, who owns the award-winning Star restaurant at Harome, as well as its sister eatery, the Star in the City (of York). Special occasions only for my budget(!) but well worth it.

Ampleforth Abbey 64


This is a great read for lovers of Yorkshire food, being part food guide and part recipe book. There’s something for everyone! To share the love I’m going to give away this copy. Just leave a comment below telling me what’s your favourite Yorkshire food or food outlet and why, and I’ll pick a winner this Friday, 23rd September. Bon appétit!

The North Yorkshire Cookbook is available to purchase in all of the businesses featured, as well as in select local gift shops, book shops including Waterstones and online at RRP £14.95.