When I talk to people about physical activity – in both work and personal capacities – lots of them tell me they either don’t have time to exercise or can’t afford to. So when I was asked by Decathlon to review some of their sportswear and blog about how to exercise at home, it seemed like a great chance to offer a few tips for busy and/or cash-strapped people who’d like to get a bit fitter.
It may come as a surprise to hear that – wait for it – I have never been to a gym! The main reason is probably that I’m just not organised enough. But I also think it can be quite expensive and time-consuming. There’s the membership fee for a start; and by the time you’ve got in the car, driven there, done a session and driven back that’s probably about two hours of your day taken care of. One of the many reasons I love running is that it’s a very simple sport and you don’t need to go anywhere special to do it – you just get changed and go! So it’s the ideal cardio exercise to do from home. I often run past a gym where I live, and on beautiful, sunny days I see people running indoors on treadmills. I wonder why they pay to do that when they could be outside in the fresh air! Of course if the weather is bad it’s a tempting option, but if you’re properly kitted out with a decent running jacket and hat there isn’t much weather that can stop you. And it’s free!
“Aha!” you may say, “but running isn’t free – you need expensive shoes and clothes”. Not so! Obviously it’s possible to spend a fortune on fancy sports kit, but you certainly don’t have to. I’ve been really surprised at the quality of Decathlon’s Kalenji running range, and the prices represent amazing value. I have a couple of French running friends who’ve been using Decathlon stuff for years and rate it very highly. So don’t feel you have to go top end to buy gear that does the job! The jacket I’m wearing in these pics is really cool; a fab, bright colour, with some great features like a ventilation flap across the top of the back. The tights are a nice snug fit, made of very soft, breathable material with ventilation panels down the side and have a handy key pocket on the leg.
This base layer is super-warm. With its thumb holes and high neck it’s perfect for winter trail running. It would also be great for winter cycling or walking. I’m sure I’ll get a lot of use out of it!
Sometimes I run to work, which is a great way to build exercise into your day if you’re short of time. It’s only a couple of miles, so I often take a longer route home to fit in a few more. I realise I’m very lucky to have showers and a drying room where I work, but it’s also amazing what you can achieve with a few wet wipes, some deodorant and a pony tail! Cycling or walking can be less sweaty options. If your workplace is far away, try taking the bus or train instead of driving, getting off a few stops early and running or walking the rest of the way. Every little helps, and you might save some bus/train fare too. Active commuting does require a bit of organisation – ensuring you’ve got things like work clothes and shoes where you need them – but it’s an easy way to make exercise part of your regular routine. When you exercise early in the morning you can also feel smug for the rest of the day!
But what if you find it hard to leave the house to exercise? For example, if you have young children and no childcare? It can be difficult to get outside if that’s the case. I know a couple of mums who swap childcare sessions so they can go running – one looks after the kids while the other goes out and vice versa. Or you could consider getting a treadmill. Yes, they can be expensive, but there are often second hand bargains available from people who bought them with good intentions but then gave up – that’s how I got mine, although I only use it as a last resort! Or why not go halves with a nearby friend? If that’s not an option, there are lots of fitness sessions available online that you can take part in at home. Just Google ‘exercise at home’ and loads of options pop up! The NHS and BBC Get Inspired websites both have great short workouts that are the perfect introduction to exercising at home, and you don’t need any special equipment to do them; just a bit of space and some comfy clothes. Why not get a couple of friends round, do it together and have a coffee or healthy juice and a chat afterwards? Or you could simply go for a brisk group walk – with babies in pushchairs if needs be! Much cheaper and more sociable than the gym.
I love going to yoga as a complement to running, but if I can’t get to my favourite vinyasa flow class at York Yoga Studio I try to do a training session at home; usually a combination of some yoga, strength work and stretching. I’m not very good at yoga, but I do love it!
Decathlon also sent me some of their Domyos yoga wear to try. It’s really comfortable and colourful – perfect for this kind of activity – and much of the range is made from super-soft organic cotton. I was very impressed by these breathable yoga leggings, which have clearly been well thought through in the design. The material is really soft and doesn’t go see though when you bend over. There’s a nice high waistband (essential for yoga) with a tiny key pocket, plus a seamless crotch. I love the colour too. Best of all, they only cost £19.99! You’d usually pay much more for this level of quality. The vest is really light and airy – great for a dynamic flow practice – and the t-shirt is so soft and stylish I’d happily use it as normal leisure wear.
I’m not saying nobody should ever go to the gym – far from it! I’m sure there are lots of people who attend regularly and get good value from their membership. But for anyone with little time or money, it’s good to know that you can go a long way to keeping yourself fit without leaving home or spending lots of cash.
Do you have any top fitness tips for saving time and money? I’d love to know.
Ooh, there’s less than a month to go now til the London Marathon. Are you excited? Nervous? Terrified? Any (or indeed all) of those three are acceptable and quite understandable. I ran London for the first time last year. It was my ninth marathon and, although never terrified, I did alternate between excited and nervous in the run-up. After several unsuccessful ballot applications I’d worked really hard to get my Good For Age place, and I think I was worried I wouldn’t do it justice on the day. I really wanted to get another sub 4, but in the end I didn’t quite make it; you can read how it went here. I thought I’d only do London once, but when I realised my Good For Age was still valid for 2018 I couldn’t resist coming back on unfinished business!
To be honest, running the actual marathon was the least of my concerns as the big day approached last year. I was more worried about transport and logistics. Being a simple northern lass I am unused to the ways of the Big Smoke, so had to plan everything to the nth degree. I find I feel less nervous if I’m well organised. So here are my top tips for the VLM if you’re running it for the first time, and especially if you aren’t a local.
If you need to book transport and accommodation and haven’t done it yet, DO IT NOW! Otherwise there probably won’t be any hotel rooms left. And be prepared to pay upward of £150 for a Travelodge/Premier Inn room that would normally cost about a third of that. That’s just how it is I’m afraid. I must say, when I ran Paris and Berlin accommodation wasn’t the massive rip-off at marathon time that it seems to be in London. If you’re wondering whether to stay near the start or the finish, there’s no perfect solution. My advice would be to stay near a tube or railway station that makes your journey to the start as stress-free as possible. Last year I stayed at a Premier Inn near Cannon Street station, which was perfect. This year I’m going straight back up north afterwards, so I’m staying near Kings Cross, then I can pick up my bags and make a swift getaway when I’ve finished. And, of course, train tickets cost more the closer to travel time you buy them.
You might also want to consider booking somewhere to eat on Saturday evening in advance. Obviously there are no end of restaurants in London, but if you want Italian (for carb loading purposes) near your hotel at a particular time, I say you might as well find one and book it. One less thing to worry about.
You’ll need to pick up your bib number at the race expo at ExCeL before Sunday. This may sound obvious, but someone I know who’s running London for the first time this year recently asked me “When do they post out the numbers?”. They then had to change their train ticket to allow time to get to the expo before it closes on Saturday! So I’m just putting it out there to be on the safe side, because under no circumstances will you be able to pick it up on the day. The earlier in the week you visit, the less busy it will be. And while we’re on the subject of the expo, think very carefully about whether you really need to spend loads of time there looking at stuff, especially if you’re visiting on Saturday. It’s a fair schlep out there to start with, and you really need to be resting your legs as much as possible the day before. It’s great to browse all the lovely, shiny running kit, but think about why you’re there. Same with sightseeing; it’s tempting to do loads of walking around town, especially if you’re there with non-running family/friends, but you really shouldn’t if you want to be at your best on Sunday. Something to consider.
Make sure you know which start area you’re on and plan your journey there before the day itself. Trains and the Tube are free for runners, so it’s the obvious (and quickest) way to travel. And allow plenty of time to get there, as trains can get very crowded and it’s a bit of a walk from the stations to the start areas. When you get there, if you’re dropping a bag do that before you get in the toilet queue. I encountered several people last year who were in the loo queue with their bags when the final baggage call came; it’s quite a while before the start time. They then had to abandon the queue to drop their bags, then get back in it again! Bring an old fleece or jumper that you don’t mind throwing away to keep you warm before the start, then you can drop your bag straight away.
Don’t set off too fast! The whole atmosphere is really exciting, including seeing the elite start on the big screen, so the temptation to go for it like a greyhound is huge. Follow a pacer to keep you on track if it helps. If you don’t rein it in, you’ll really regret it later on. You should get to at least halfway feeling comfortable with your pace.
Don’t drink too much. It’s tempting to keep sipping at a drink when you’re hanging around in the start area just for something to do. From mile three there is a water point at every mile along the course, so there’s no need to overdo it before you set off. Unless it’s a really warm day you might not even need to drink at every station. Otherwise you’ll be slowed down by toilet stops!
People often say at races that ‘the crowd will get you round’. Nowhere is this more true than London! The crowds are huge, noisy and amazing, so there’s a wall of noise all along the course. Some people actually find this a bit oppressive, but I loved it. For this reason, don’t assume you’ll be able to see or hear your supporters en route. Last year my husband said I just ran straight past him at two separate points, even though he was shouting my name, simply because I couldn’t make him out amidst all the stuff going on! But at least there’s plenty to look at when you start to flag.
No matter how tired you are, enjoy that final stretch when you turn right at Buckingham Palace and run towards the finish line along the Mall. I deliberately slowed down last year to try and take it all in. Also: I was knackered! The crowds, the music, the commentary, the flags… it’s a unique experience that you might only have once in a lifetime. Don’t rush it, you’ve earned that big finish!
If you’re meeting people at the end, arrange a specific point to do that. There will be thousands of people milling about in the finish area, so it could take a while to find each other if you’re just randomly seeking each other out. You can’t totally rely on phone contact, as the network often gets overloaded with calls. There is an official meeting point, so make sure in advance you know where you’re going to be. Otherwise you might be like me and the OH the first time I did the Great North Run – wandering round for an hour and a half before you finally find each other!
Do you have any top tips for London? I’d love to hear them. Whatever you do, have a brilliant day!
If you (like me) are following a standard kind of 16-week raining plan for the London Marathon (or indeed any other marathon at around the same time) you’re probably now just into what’s known in running circles as ‘Monster Month’ – the four week period where you do your hardest block of work, before you start to taper. It’s a time when you can build on the previous nine weeks of training to give yourself a bit of a beasting before you start to back off a bit in the three week run-up to the big day.
It’s also a time when you might think either a) “I’m starting to feel really good now” or b) “Why in the wide world of sport did I ever sign up for this?” I’ve done quite a few cycles of marathon training now, and I’ve felt both ways at various points! But I haven’t run a road marathon since London last year, so feeling I’m slightly nervous about this year. I’m not a running expert by any means, but I have learnt that Monster Month is a time when you have to look after yourself if you want to make it to race day feeling on top form. So here are my top tips for surviving it!
Listen to your body and don’t be a complete slave to your training plan. If you pick up a niggle or feel ill, don’t try to push on through just because the plan says you have to run today. Better to take a couple of days off than have to give up completely because you aggravated something by ignoring it. Nobody gets through a whole plan without missing a few sessions – that’s just life.
If you do have a niggle that doesn’t go away after a couple of days, or gets worse when you run, see a physio. They’ll probably be able to help you find a way to manage it if it’s not serious. The longer you leave it and the worse it gets, the harder it will be to deal with.
Look after your immune system. Hard training puts a huge strain on it, and will make you more susceptible to any bugs floating around. I sometimes take an Omega 3 supplement after a long Sunday run for its anti-inflammatory properties. If I feel like I might be coming down with something I take some immune-boosting echinacea. Pay attention to hand hygiene too, which is how most bugs get passed on.
Get plenty of sleep. Sleepy time is when your body can rest and recover from all the stress you’ve put on it in training.
Look after your feet – they deserve a bit of pampering. I absolutely love the Body Shop’s Peppermint Intensive Foot Rescue Cream. And if you have any issues with your shoes, sort them out now – don’t wait til two weeks before the event to get new ones!
Eat well – plenty of protein, good carbs and lots of fruit and veggies. This really will help to fuel your training and recovery. Monster Month isn’t a time to diet, but neither is it an excuse to eat lots of junk, especially if you’re looking to lose a few pounds. Although I do like a bit of cake after my long Sunday run!
Keep booze to a minimum; it makes more difference than you might think, even if you don’t feel hung over. I know from personal experience this can be hard if you have the sort of friends who think it’s weird not to drink alcohol when you go out, but it really is worth it. I find if I drink on Friday and/or Saturday I don’t run as well on Sunday. Although I do like a glass of red with my post-run Sunday dinner. Well it’s got antioxidants, hasn’t it?!
Get a sports massage halfway through the month if you can. Your legs will deserve and appreciate it! And make sure you do plenty of stretching and foam rolling – but not too hard with the roller.
Most of all, enjoy it! I always think an event is as much about the training as the big day itself. Embrace the challenge and be proud of what you’re doing, especially if it’s your first time. Don’t look upon a long run as punishment. Get your tunes going (if you like) and settle in for the ride.
Monster Month is also a great time to experiment with different running fuels. The more I run long distances, the more convinced I am that keeping well fuelled is as important as training to success. Obviously different things work well for different people. Personally I’m happy to eat ‘real’ food in an ultra, when I’m running slowly, but I can’t do that in a faster road marathon. I used to always take Clif Shot Bloks in marathons, but struggled to eat them at London last year, and I think that’s why I slowed down near the end and didn’t quite hit my four hour target. This year I’m planning to take gels, although I’m not sure which ones yet. I like SiS isotonic gels, but find them really difficult to open on the run. Last weekend I tried an OTE gel, which was much easier to open and tasted good, so I might take those – but I’ll try some others in training first. One thing’s for sure, nailing your nutrition will definitely help you to avoid the dreaded Wall!
Do you have any top tips for Monster Month? I’d love to hear them. Good luck with it anyway!
I’m now halfway through my training plan for the London Marathon, so this seems a good time to take stock of where I am with my running at the moment.
After being injured for most of the second half of last year, I’ve only been back to what I’d term ‘proper’ running since I started marathon training on New Year’s Day (appropriately!). I usually follow an Asics Sub 4 plan, which has served me well in the past, and resulted in a sub 4 time twice; but coming back from injury I felt I should be a bit cautious and follow my beginner’s training plan, which is from Women’s Running magazine. However, I have been mixing things up a bit between the two. Possibly not the most scientific way to train, but it gives me options depending on how I’m feeling. I think it’s important to listen to your body when you’ve been injured to avoid a relapse, and bar the odd twinge I seem to be OK so far – fingers firmly crossed!
Despite turbo training, I definitely lost some cardio fitness and put on a few pounds while I was injured, so I’m trying to fix that in the run-up to London. I’ve done a few great events in January and February, which I think have definitely helped me to get a bit fitter and stronger; the Temple Newsam Ten, the Hardmoors Saltburn Half (a killer!) and the Harewood House Half – all hilly courses that I hope are building leg strength as well as fitness. I’m also paying a bit more attention to my diet, cutting out snacks and wine – well mostly anyway!
To help prevent my ankle injury returning as my mileage increases, I’ve invested in some super-cushiony road shoes – Hoka Claytons. They’re very different to my usual Brooks Pure Cadence in that they’re really bouncy, but they have a similarly small drop so have been easy to adapt to. I’ve always been put off maximal shoes in the past as I thought they’d make me look like an ageing Spice Girl(!), but I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised at how light and comfy they feel. Hopefully they’ll serve me well though marathon training and London.
I don’t have any more events on the cards until the end of March, when I’m doing the Daffodil Dash, organised by It’s Grim Up North Running. This is a great event held at Temple Newsam, where you can choose to do up to four laps of the course, with four laps being marathon distance. I’ve taken the 20 mile (three lap) option, as my training plan has a three hour run on it that weekend anyway, so it seemed a great way to do that run off-road in beautiful surroundings with support en route. And last year there was a fab goody bag too!
If you’re training for a spring marathon I hope it’s going well. I’d like to have a crack sub 4 (Good For Age) again at London, especially as I didn’t quite manage it last year, finishing in 4:05; but as I’m not at my best it currently seems a bit optimistic. I guess I’ll just have to see how I feel in a few weeks’ time. Never say never!
I did my first Hardmoors event, the Wainstones Half, last summer and really enjoyed it. When I entered Hardmoors Saltburn I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to run it, as I was still suffering with my ankle tendon problems after Race to the Stones; but Hardmoors events are very popular – if you don’t act quickly when entry opens you don’t get in – so I took a chance, and I’m very glad I did.
The Hardmoors trail races take place throughout the year and usually feature a 10K, a half marathon and a full marathon. They’re famed for being tough and a bit longer than the standard distances – but that’s all part of the fun! On this occasion I’d gone for the half, as I knew I wouldn’t be fit enough at this point to tackle a hilly marathon. There was quite a bit of rain in the couple of days beforehand, so we were warned to be prepared for muddy conditions. The weather on race day was cold and windy, but gloriously sunny – unlike last year, when conditions were apparently Baltic! I was prepared for a tough day out, as I’m far from fully fit at the moment, but knew it would be great marathon training.
The races started and finished at Saltburn Leisure Centre, which also offered a good place to shelter from the biting wind before setting off. There is a mandatory kit list for the half and full marathons, and kit is checked and approved before you can pick up your race number. Spot checks apparently also take place at the end, so don’t think you can check in and then leave half your stuff in the car! The marathon started at 9 am, with the half at 10 and the 10K at 10.30.
We started with a pleasant trot through the Valley Gardens in Saltburn, then it was down to the sea front before the first climb up Cat Nab. Everyone walked this! Up on the cliff top – the Cleveland Way – the view was spectacular, with super-blue sky and sea; and the wind wasn’t too bad, coming from the right hand side.
At this point I felt hopeful that I might finish in about three hours, as the Wainstones half had taken me about 3:15. But the path gradually turned very muddy underfoot, and stayed that way for most of the race. It was quite deep and wet in places, really taking a lot of energy to get through and slowing us all down. There were some grassy and Tarmac sections, but the real challenge of the day turned out to be remaining upright. Somehow I managed not to end up on my backside, but it was a close call a few times!
After nearly 5 miles the route went downhill into the village of Skinningrove, where the first checkpoint was. There were three checkpoints along the way, each stocked with water, Coke, jelly sweets, peanuts and marshmallows – which are now my new favourite race food, by the way, so easy to eat! There were also Jaffa Cakes at the final checkpoint. After Skinningrove there was a huge climb that seemed to go on forever. Everyone I could see was walking this one too. I imagine only the top athletes ran it! Proper leg-busting stuff. At around the halfway point the route left the Cleveland Way and turned inland (although we could still see the sea in places) and we started to head back towards Saltburn along a path called Cleveland Street. We were now running into a headwind, which made things even harder! A few of us took a slight detour just before the second checkpoint, having missed one of the yellow markers – probably about half a mile in all – but in general the course is very well marked and marshalled, and all the marshals were lovely and encouraging.
There were ups and downs in the last few miles of the route, but nothing like the two big climbs in the first half. We approached Saltburn through the village of Skelton, and then headed back to the Leisure Centre with a climb up and down Valley Gardens again. We ran right into the sports hall to finish, where our times were clocked at the desk. My official time was 3:29:43 (including the little detour!) and I was 101st out of 187 finishers. I was fairly pleased with that, considering I’ve only really been running properly again since about Christmas. There was a great medal, and as a bonus the t-shirt is in my favourite colour!
There was some food provided at the end, but it wasn’t up to much. Maybe it would have been better if I’d finished quicker, but there were just a few cheese sarnies and some little bits of cake by the time I got there. But hey, it’s not about the food – Hardmoors events in general seem to be great value for money and well organised. I’ve already signed up for two more events later this year: the White Horse marathon in June and the Rosedale one in August. Entry for the Hardmoors 60 in September opens soon and I’m so, so tempted to enter, as I seem to have overcome my injury now (touch wood).
This was a tough but fab day, and (considering how much my legs hurt the next day) great marathon preparation. Onwards to London!
Happy new running year – hope yours is going well so far! My running year started with Week 1 of training for the London Marathon. Having been injured for pretty much the whole of the second half of last year, and not doing nearly as much running as usual, I feel distinctly unfit coming into this and am still unable to run much on Tarmac due to my tendonitis, but I’m giving it a go for now, as I can feel some improvement. I’m still doing all my runs on either the treadmill or trails for now, which isn’t exactly great preparation for a road event! I’ll see how things progress over the next few weeks and will defer my London place if necessary, as I don’t want to go there to just pootle round.
Normally the Brass Monkey Half Marathon would be my first event of the year, but last Sunday I had ten easy miles on my marathon schedule, so the Temple Newsam Ten on the same day seemed like a perfect training exercise. It was the first time I’d done any event – or indeed run up and down any hills – for about three months, so I rocked up with no expectations other than to plod round and enjoy it.
The TNT is organised by Leeds-based St Theresa’s Athletics Club. There are about 1,000 places available and the event was sold out. For those not familiar with Temple Newsam, it’s a country estate between Leeds and York consisting of a 17th century house set in around 1,500 acres of parkland including gardens landscaped by Capability Brown – a fabulous location to stage a race. Even though it’s about a half hour drive from where I live I do sometimes go and run there, as the undulating trails make for great training. However, because I’m horribly navigationally challenged I usually run an ‘out and back’ route, so was looking forward to running a ten mile circular route with direction along the way.
Race day weather was dry but cold, with a nasty chilly wind. The event starts at the very civilised time of 9.30, and there is plenty of parking on site. Race numbers are picked up on the day, and I was a bit concerned when I saw the length of the queue for this, but luckily it moved very quickly. The toilet queue wasn’t bad either considering we were just using the estate facilities rather than portable race loos. With both of these important duties out of the way I retired to the car to keep warm until about ten minutes before kick off; fortunately I’d managed to park very close to the start/finish area. At the start I met a couple of women I’d only previously known ‘virtually’, so it was great to meet them in the flesh and have a quick chat.
The route sets off round a huge flat, grassy area in front of the big house, then winds its way around the estate, with a mixture of trail, grass and a few short bits of Tarmac. The first couple of miles are pretty easy, then things get steadily harder. There are some stretches of single track, so don’t bank on gunning for a PB here unless you’re at the front, but as I was just using this for training I wasn’t bothered, and chatted to some lovely folk en route. There are a couple of long, draggy hills in the second half and a short, cruel one just half a mile from the finish. I’d made the mistake of wearing my Hardmoors t-shirt, and some random spectator shouted at me “Come on Hardmoors, this isn’t a hill to you!”. Harsh but fair – I was a lot fitter when I earned that t-shirt last summer!
The many course marshals were all cheerful and enthusiastic, and St Theresa’s had also provided ‘run buddies’ near the end, who offered support and encouragement as people started to flag – a great idea. There was just one water point at around halfway, but it was such a cold day we didn’t really need any more. I was pretty slow, averaging just over ten minute miles, but considering the terrain and my current state of fitness I was happy with that. At least I had plenty of time to admire the scenery!
There was a great knapsack-style goody bag at the finish, containing a really nice technical t-shirt and a fab medal (bling lovers take note), as well as crisps, chocolate and Haribo. I really like the TNT motto – Tough Not Timid! The whole event was well-organised and brilliant value and I’d highly recommend it. You have to get in early if you want to take part though, as it sells out fast. I’ll definitely be back next year!
I followed my usual Asics Sub 4 training plan for London. I wasn’t massively bothered about achieving sub 4, as I’d already done that, gaining a Good For Age time in the process, at the Yorkshire Marathon in October 2016. However, on the day I had a good crack at it, but struggled to take on fuel in the second half and paid the price, coming in at 4:05. It was still an amazing day though. You can read my review of London here.
Race to the Stones in July was EPIC! Having only ever run half of that distance before, I had absolutely no idea how it would pan out. It was hard work towards the end, but I was satisfied with my time of 13:36 and amazed to be third V50 woman. My review of RTTS is here. I also raised £1,000 for Cancer Research UK; you can read why I was running for them here.
During training for these two goals I took part in a few events for fun; The Temple Newsam 10, Brass Monkey Half Marathon, Harewood House Half, Temple Newsam Daffodil Dash and the Hardmoors Wainstones Half. I also ran up and down as many big hills as I could on holiday in France in June as training for RTTS!
So those were the highs. Unfortunately since RTTS I’ve been suffering with tendonitis in my ankles – tibialis posterior to be exact – so the second half of the year has been a bit less exciting! I shuffled round the Run For All York 10K in August and did the Cancer Research UK Tough 10 in Leeds as I was an ambassador for the event; but I also had to miss a couple of events I’d really been hoping to do, like the Yorkshire 10 Mile in September and the Leeds Abbey Dash. I’d really been hoping to knock a few seconds off my 10K PB there to go under 50 minutes for the first time, but it wasn’t to be this year. For the last few months I’ve been in rehab, doing some turbo training on the bike and yoga as well as some short runs. I’m now at the stage where I can run OK on grass or the treadmill, but stepping onto Tarmac seems to set my ankles off again. I’m really missing running longer distances at the moment!
So what’s on the agenda for next year? I have a Good For Age place in the London Marathon – but will I be able to train for it if I can’t run on the road? I guess I might have to defer, which would be disappointing – I want to run London with Mo! I’ve entered the Hardmoors Saltburn Half in February and also their White Horse Marathon in June, as well as the Snowdonia Marathon in October – all trail events. I would really love to do another ultra next year, but first need to work out how to do that without getting injured again. More strength work? Different shoes? I’m thinking of consulting a podiatrist for advice. I have enough UTMB points from RTTS to enter the ballot for the OCC, the (relatively) short race that’s part of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc festival in August. The course looks brutal but beautiful! I’m considering it, but only have a short time to decide.
So things are a bit up in the air for me at the moment. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see how things develop over the next couple of months. I hope 2017 has been a good year for you. Happy Christmas and happy running in 2018!
As I explained in an earlier post, my late summer/autumn running hasn’t exactly gone to plan. I’ve been suffering from tendonitis in my left tibialis posterior since Race to the Stones in July (only correctly diagnosed about a month ago), which means I’ve done hardly any running since then.
The Not Running thing has been hard to bear as autumn sets in, because it’s my favourite time of year to run. Cool sunny days, trails awash with crispy leaves etc… If I’m honest, it made me a bit grumpy (sorry husband) and also drink more wine, because if you can’t run on Sunday you might as well! But now, after physio, lots of special stretching and some cross training (mostly yoga and cycling), I think I’m finally leaving it behind – fingers crossed!
After my fundraising for Cancer Research UK at Race to the Stones I was asked to be an ambassador for their Tough 10 series of 10K events, so was determined to do that a couple of weeks ago, come what may. You can read my review of the event here.
I was pleasantly surprised to come out of Tough 10 unscathed – I was convinced I’d need to start walking at some point – and have also managed three short runs a week over the last fortnight with no ill-effects. So now I think it’s time for me to get back onto some sort of training schedule! I have my Good For Age place in the London Marathon and ideally need to be able to begin training for that with 16 weeks to go, which starts conveniently on 1st January.
So basically I’m in training to be able to start training – if that makes any sense! I think I’ll be OK to build up the distance again gradually, but will really need to work on getting some speed back. Spinups on the turbo trainer are all well and good – and certainly a lot better than nothing – but somehow not quite the same as running intervals. I had a go at some intervals on the treadmill (soft surface) earlier this week and it wasn’t too bad, so I’ve now worked out a rehab plan. This consists of two days of running speed work a week (one of which may be Parkrun), one day with a slightly longer run to increase distance (ideally with some hills thrown in), two days of turbo training, one day for my Yoga for Strength class at York Yoga Studio and one day off.
Obviously training plans are never carved in stone – I’ll just have to see how the ankle responds – but at least I’ve got something to work from to give me a bit of structure. I’m sure the festive season will interfere with it a bit too! But that’s life. If I can be running comfortably a few days a week by Christmas I’ll be happy. One thing I have realised recently (mainly because my physio told me!) is that I need to do more strength work to prevent injury in future. I haven’t done enough of that in the past, so that will be an important part of my training going forward, even if it has to be at the expense of missing one of the weekly runs. If I want to become an ancient ultra runner it will be essential! If all goes well I hope to be at the York Yuletide Trail on 9th December and maybe some festive Parkruns. Oh, and I’ll be drinking less wine on Saturday nights from now on too!
So that’s where I am for now. What are your running plans a we head towards the festive season? I’d love to know.
I haven’t blogged about running for a while, and there’s a good reason for that; I haven’t done much running! I’ve had a niggling problem with my foot since I did the Race to the Stones 100K in July. Every time I’ve tried to run since then I’ve had pain in the arch of my left foot after about half a mile, and also around my left ankle. I was told it was plantar fasciitis and had been doing loads of rolling and stretching to try and relieve it, but it just wasn’t getting any better and I couldn’t run at all. I’ve been doing some turbo training on the bike to try and retain a bit of cardio fitness and slowly getting more and more frustrated. The thing that annoyed me most was that Cancer Research UK had asked me to be an ambassador for their Tough 10 event in Leeds after the fundraising I did for them in the summer and, while I was persuading other people to take part, I wasn’t actually sure if I’d be able to do so myself!
Then last Friday I went to see another physio (recommended by a friend), who finally diagnosed me with tendonitis. It’s in the tibialis posterior tendon, which apparently runs from somewhere behind the shin, round the ankle bone and along the bottom of the foot. I had some ultrasound therapy and was given a special stretch to do, which I could feel working the exact bits that hurt!
Apparently it’s OK for me to do a little running, as some light loading can actually help with recovery… so obviously I took myself off to Tough 10 the very next day! I reasoned that if my foot started hurting, I’d simply start walking. I just really wanted to complete the event for CRUK. The good news is that my foot was absolutely fine. Maybe it was the time off, maybe it was the magic ultrasound, or a combination of both. I don’t know, but I was a very happy bunny!
So what was Tough 10 like? Well, it certainly was quite tough (unsurprisingly), but I really enjoyed it. It probably felt harder than it should, as it was my first run for over two months! The event was in beautiful Roundhay Park in Leed. The course was a mixture of tarmac, woodland trail and grass, and featured some great scenery – and, of course, lots of hills! It was pretty wild and windy on the tops too. Participants included runners of all abilities, from speedsters who finished in well under an hour, right through to those who were clearly doing it for fun – a really inclusive event. And it was great to see and chat to various friends who I’d signed up as part of my CRUK ambassador activity, including the lovely Run with Rachel.
The last bit of the course was particularly harsh – up and down the same hill three times. I’ve never finished a race with hill reps before! But I didn’t mind walking a bit, and was entertained by a group of lads just ahead of me all running together in various hats. “Are they a stag party?” I asked a spectator who obviously knew them. “No, just idiots!” he replied. Great fun anyway. It felt sooo good to be running again, even though I could feel I’d lost some fitness. Inclines I would have run up three months ago during Race to the Stones were a bit of a challenge! But I was delighted just to trot round and finish pain-free. At the end we received the all-important bling, an energy bar and a bottle of water. Even though I was pretty slow I wanted to cheer and punch the air, I was so relieved!
I feel a lot more positive about running now. I’ve been injured before and I know now I’ll be back in action soon. I still need to be a bit careful for a while, but the only Christmas present I really want is to be able to start proper training for the London Marathon in the new year.
Well it’s been a funny old time since I last posted on here – in running terms anyway! I initially thought I’d recovered from Race to the Stones pretty well, but it seems I have a niggling little injury that just won’t go away. And all those plans I wrote about in my last post have gone a bit belly up as a result.
I took a week off after RTTS, then just had a couple of very short, gentle recovery runs to ease myself back in, which were fine. However, a couple of weeks later I went for what was supposed to be about an hour of gentle trails in Yearsley Woods, got a bit lost and ended up doing more like two hours – way more than I should have done. (Anyone who’s read my review of the Calderdale Way Ultra will know I’m a bit navigationally challenged!) My left foot was hurting by the end and has been a bit dodgy ever since. Four weeks ago I went to see my physio, who had a good prod and poke and said he didn’t think there was anything serious wrong with it; probably some irritation that just hadn’t had a chance to calm down yet. He said it was fine to run a bit if it felt OK, but it didn’t. After running for about 5 minutes I start to get a bit of pain going up the ankle. The right foot is absolutely fine! I had a couple of runs where I set off but ended up walking after about a mile. Then a friend recommended a sports therapist to me who’d helped him with a problem, so I thought there’d be no harm in getting a second opinion. She thought I had a bit of the dreaded plantar fasciitis and said I should massage the area every day and roll my foot with a spiky ball, which I’ve been dutifully doing. At this point I realised I had to stop fooling myself that I could actually run at the moment and take a couple of weeks off.
I’ve been doing a bit of cycling and core work since then, but (like most runners) I absolutely hate it when I can’t run; especially as autumn is my absolute favourite time of year to get out and about. I can feel myself losing fitness and muscle being replaced with fat and being a bit grumpy at times if I’m honest. It’s a good job I have an understanding husband. On the plus side, I’ve had plenty of time to support him at his cyclocross races, which are great fun to watch.
So my autumn aspirations are pretty much up in the air for now. I was supposed to be doing the Vale of York Half this weekend, but have given my place to a friend. I’m not entered into anything else this year at the moment, but would love to do the Yorkshire 10 Mile in October. I hadn’t entered an autumn marathon as I really wanted to have a proper crack at going sub-50 for the first time in the Leeds Abbey Dash 10K in November, but I’m not sure I’ll have enough time to get myself back to that level of fitness now. But enough moaning; there are people being killed by hurricanes this week. I’ll just have to wait and see how things go. I’ve come back from injury before and I’ll do it again!
On another note, two other things have been playing on my mind recently. Firstly, whether I should apply for the Boston Marathon when entry opens later this month. It would be great to do but a) it would be a very expensive trip and b) there’s no deferment option if you happen to get ill or injured. With my foot in its current state I don’t know yet whether I’ll be able to train for a spring marathon, so I might have to give this one a miss. I am entered into the London Marathon 2018 through the Good For Age system though, so I guess one solution might be to try and achieve sub-4 there to give me the option of entering Boston next year!
I was also really inspired by seeing all the amazing ultra athletes at the Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc last weekend. The UTMB is the ultimate trail event – over 100 miles with around 10,000 metres of ascent/descent – and the cream of the ultra-running community takes part. The winners finish in around 20 hours, but the cut-off time is 46.5 hours; a gruelling test of endurance, which about a third of the participants didn’t finish this year! I became totally absorbed by the online coverage and amazed by what these athletes achieved. You can’t just enter UTMB, you have to qualify by gaining points in other ultra events. And while I don’t think I’d ever qualify or take part in a million years, I do have enough UTMB points from Race to the Stones to allow me to apply for one of the shorter events during UTMB week, the OCC, which is 56K and mere 3,500 metres of ascent(!) The course looks scary but fabulous. Earlier in the year there is also the Mont Blanc Marathon festival with races of varying distances. I did the 10K there on holiday last year and it was great. I’d definitely love to do more running in the mountains when I’m up to it – hopefully next summer.
By the way, for anyone interested in Race to the Stones, entry for 2018 has just opened. I’d really recommend it as a first 100K as it’s so well organised and supported. I had a brilliant day – you can read my review here. I said never again at the time, but you never know…