When I heard about the new Vale of York 10 (miles rather than kilometres) I just knew I had to enter. Not only was it being held a mere three miles from where I live, I knew it would also be a great training exercise for the North Lincs Half four weeks later. The event was being organised by Racebest. I’d done their Vale of York Half when it was held for the first time in 2014 (you can read my review of that here) and really enjoyed it, so things looked promising.
The VoY 10 started and finished at an airfield at Rufforth, a village west of York. The VoY Half has a similar venue at Sherburn airfield. When you think about it, an airfield is a great place to hold a running event – loads of flat, open space! There was plenty of parking, and by sheer chance I ended up parked virtually next to the start line, which was very handy. Race numbers weren’t posted out in advance, but sign-on was very quick and efficient. Safety pins were included in the race packs too, which was good as it’s probably easy to forget them if you haven’t received a number in advance. There were plenty of toilets in the sign-on area – a bit of queuing, but nothing too long. Everything was very close together, with a nice relaxed atmosphere.
The weather couldn’t have been better; cold but sunny with hardly any wind. As we stood on the start line I regretted wearing gloves and wondered whether I had time to go back to the car and leave them. I decided I hadn’t. In the end the start was delayed by a few minutes, so I probably could have done. I’m not sure why we were late starting – a tannoy announcement was made, but nobody could tell what was being said! Anyway, suddenly a hooter sounded and we were off. The first mile or so consists of an out and back stretch along the airfield, which is quite good as you can see all the super-fast folk speeding off in the opposite direction. Speaking of super-fast (for me), I clocked my first mile at just a couple of seconds over eight minutes, then told myself “Don’t be ridiculous, this isn’t sustainable!” and slowed down to aim for a pace of about 8:30.
We emerged from the airfield onto the public road at about 1.5 miles. It was at around this point that I decided my hands were boiling and the gloves had to come off, so I stuffed one up each sleeve! The route has closed roads all the way round, which is great, and is very rural, passing through a couple of villages along the way. I’m more used to cycling round these roads, and it did feel a bit odd to be running on them instead! But it’s a lovely, scenic route with some undulations to keep things interesting, and on such a clear day there were great long distance views at the high points. There wasn’t much in the way of crowd support apart from at the start and finish, but the lovely countryside more than made up for that.
At one point, between the villages of Catterton and Bilbrough, a horsebox appeared on the course from somewhere, driving through the runners. It was too far ahead to be a problem for me, but I can see that it might have bothered some of the runners further in front. I guess there’s always someone who thinks the closed road doesn’t apply to them! Fortunately it turned off our route after a while. There were water points at 3.5 and 7.5 miles, and the marshals all along the route were brilliant. I believe many of them came from St Theresa’s Athletics Club in Leeds, so big thanks to them for their support. As I was approaching this as a half marathon training exercise I was satisfied with my finishing time of 1:25:50. This was about a minute faster than when I did the Snake Lane 10 in February, but about a minute slower than my ten mile PB achieved at last year’s Snake. After all the marathon training I’ve done I definitely need to do more half marathon-type speed work! But I’m still grateful just to be injury-free so far this year.
There was a great goody bag at the end, containing a medal, t-shirt, High 5 energy gel, water and a Toffee Crisp. The medal and t-shirt are certainly a bit different from the norm – I’ve never had a race memento with a glider on it before! I didn’t hang around too long at the finish as I was a bit sweaty and cold. It took me a few minutes of queuing to get off the site and onto the road. Others who left later told me it took them about 15 minutes, but that’s no great hardship for such a good event, especially when you have a Toffee Crisp with you!
All in all this was a great event that I’d highly recommend. There were certainly a lot of very fast club runners there, but also many less speedy folk such as myself, with some people finishing at over two hours. I believe the Vale of York Half is on 11th September this year – I’ll certainly be entering!
First things first; I didn’t travel to Paris expecting to set the course on fire. Due to my hamstring tendon injury I hadn’t taken part in a marathon for a year and had done hardly any running at all between June and Christmas, so had taken things really cautiously this time by following a beginner’s training plan. Obviously when I got my PB at Manchester last year I was a lot fitter, having followed a specific Asics sub four hour plan. This time my aim was just to complete 26.2 miles (or 42.1 kilometres!) without my injury flaring up. Steve and I decided to make a long weekend minibreak of it, and I’d booked a studio apartment that was a convenient 5-10 minute walk from the marathon start and finish areas.
I registered at the Salon du Running on the Friday morning – a good time to go as it was fairly quiet. This was all very efficient, and participants were given a very cool souvenir nylon rucksack. I’d also registered for the Saturday breakfast run, which cost €10 but included a really nice Asics technical t-shirt and a tiny flag of your nation to carry, which I thought was a nice touch.
The breakfast run was at 9am on the Saturday morning, starting where the marathon finishes on Avenue Foch near the Arc de Triomphe. The sight of hundreds of runners all in the same t-shirt was certainly quite impressive! The atmosphere was really relaxed and friendly, and the tiny flags made it easy to spot fellow Brits, so I got chatting to a lovely woman called Ruth from Cirencester as we jogged along. The 5K route passed by the Eiffel Tower and finished on the nearby Champ de Mars, where an ample supply of coffee, croissants, bananas and water awaited. Carb loading was obviously no hardship in a country famed for its pastry and I probably consumed my own weight in boulangerie produce over the course of the weekend!
Obviously I’d been keeping a close eye on the weather forecast. Friday and Saturday were actually pretty cold, and it was hard to believe that Sunday was predicted to be sunny and up to 20 degrees! But sure enough, it dawned bright and clear, and already felt a lot warmer than the previous two days when I set off for the start at 8.30 am. I was in the 3:45 – 4:00 pen, as I’d been on better form when I’d signed up a year ago. Lining up on the Champs Elysées was quite a Thing in itself, with the Arc de Triomphe framed by a bright blue sky behind us and one of the most beautiful streets in the world stretching ahead.
Despite not having any performance expectations before the event I obviously couldn’t resist setting off at around four hour pace, i.e. nine minute miles. The course (which you can see here) curved around the Place de la Concorde and headed down the very long, straight Rue de Rivoli towards the Place de la Bastille. It then made its way out towards the huge Bois de Vincennes on the eastern edge of the city. There were refreshment points every five kilometres with Vittel water, oranges, bananas, raisins and sugar cubes. I always think oranges are a bad idea as most people are seemingly too dumb to throw their rubbish to the side of the road, so the discarded skins just create a lethal slippery carpet, but there we go – they seem very popular in Europe!
Runners got a split time every 5K and could be tracked live via the Paris Marathon app. I’ve participated in other events where this hasn’t worked very well, but I know it did this time as my brother was stalking me from the UK! I set off really well and felt very comfortable, going through halfway in 2:01. I knew I wasn’t going to break four hours this time, but it didn’t bother me. However, in the second half I did begin to slow down. I think this was a combination of the heat, being a bit less fit than usual and needing a loo stop. Full sun had been beating down on us from the start, and as time went on many people seemed to be struggling with the heat. The firemen of Paris did their best to help, pointing their hoses over the road in various places to provide a fine, cooling spray, and there were also some sponge stations along the way but it was still hard work. It was great to see Steve popping up a couple of times en route with words of encouragement to keep me going!
The course went through two tunnels by the river, where my Garmin lost signal both times, but picked it up again a few minutes after coming out the other end. There were obviously some great sights to see as we went back through the city and out towards the Bois de Boulogne. It’s hard to beat running past the Eiffel Tower as a means of distracting your thoughts from tired legs! Crowd support was brilIiant too, with lots of bands along the route. But I found the last 10K very tough and gradually started to fade. In the last mile or so I actually thought my calves were going to cramp up and had to stop for a little stretch. I’m not sure if this was caused by dehydration or lack of fitness – probably a bit of both. Anyway, much as I’d enjoyed the event I was very glad to finish!
We were funnelled through the (extremely long) finishing area and received a t-shirt, rain cape and a huge, heavy medal! As I went to get a banana I got chatting to a chap from Doncaster who said he’d suffered horribly in the heat too – his marathon PB was apparently 3:43, but today he’d come in at around the same time as me at 4:16. My slowest marathon ever! However, it wasn’t all bad news – I came about halfway down the field, both overall and by gender, and 342nd out of 1,563 in my age category – which just goes to show everyone must have been finding it just as hard!
Would I do it again? Probably not, because there are so many other marathons to try, but I am glad I did it. It’s a beautiful event with a great atmosphere, but a northern lass like me obviously performs better in the familiar cold of Manchester!
My top tips if you’re considering Paris.
Bear in mind that you usually have to provide a medical certificate for French sporting events, stating that you are fit to participate; this is essential for the marathon. Some GPs will provide these for free, some make a nominal charge and some make you have a full private medical that costs a fortune; something you may want to check out before you make your decision.
Enter as early as you can, because prices go up as time goes on. Unlike London or Berlin there’s no ballot, but the event does sell out.
It’s not a great course if you’re attempting a PB. There are some undulations, and in some places the route was quite narrow and crowded. If you want to go European, Berlin is much better for this.
Allow plenty of time if you’re dropping a bag, as the baggage area is quite a walk from the start.
There are lots of toilets around the Place Charles de Gaulle (where the Arc de Triomphe is) but not many in the starting pens, so pay that vital last minute visit to the loo at the top of the road!
There were no sports energy products along the course apart from a small cup of Isostar drink at around 30K (I think!), so make sure you bring your own if you want them.
I do think accommodation was much better value than you’d pay in London during the marathon. The apartment we stayed in is here if anyone wants to check it out.
Feel free to get in touch with me if you have any Paris-related questions!
Last week I was invited to the opening of the new Holland & Barrett flagship concept store in York. I was working that day, so was unfortunately only able to pop in for a short time, but it certainly seems impressive! It’s a vast improvement on the old store which, although not very far away, was bursting at the seams and sometimes difficult to get round.
This bright and airy new outlet is one of the largest in H&B’s portfolio, and is certainly the biggest health food shop I’ve ever seen! It stocks a much wider range of products than the old store, and it was good to see lots of healthy foods, some lovely ethical beauty brands and a great variety of sports nutrition products (although not my favourite Clif Shot Bloks!). Everything is on Buy One, Get One Half Price at the moment, so I duly stocked up on magnesium and iron to support my marathon training.
There are some novel concepts within the store such as an olive bar, a fruit/nut ‘pick and mix’ station and a bar where you can create your own protein shake to take away. You can also have a body analysis test to help you decide on health and fitness goals, and there are lots of qualified staff on hand to assist.
Sadly I didn’t have time to take advantage of the pampering treats on offer, but I will definitely be back soon for a proper mooch about when I have more time. It’s a great addition to York’s retail scene and well worth a visit.
I can’t believe I haven’t blogged about running since Christmas! I’ve been so busy over the last few months, working full time at my ‘proper job’ for six months whilst fitting in marathon training and all the other things that make up life. Must do better!
Anyway, I’m so happy to be able to have plans for spring after coming back from the injury that stopped me doing much running at all for the second half of 2015. I’m now training for the Paris Marathon, but have decided (almost certainly) to defer my London Marathon place until next year – just because I don’t want to risk setting myself back by attempting two marathons in three weeks. Yes, I did Berlin and York two weeks apart in 2014, but I was fitter then! Plus running London in 2017 will give me something to look forward to (and train for) next spring.
I must admit I was quite nervous about the first event I took part in since being injured, the Brass Monkey Half Marathon in York last month. A year ago I ran this in 1:52 even though we had to walk a few icy bits. This year I decided to err on the side of caution and run it at marathon pace, i.e. nine minute miles. I just wanted to get round and finish with nothing hurting, which is what happened, so I was a happy bunny!
Then last week I took part in the Snake Lane 10 (that’s miles rather than kilometres) at Pocklington. This is a really popular local event that sells out fast! As I was still feeling injury-free and had done some marathon training I decided to go for it and try my best, but the weather was so windy it wasn’t a great PB day for anyone. I came in a couple of minutes slower than last year at 1:26, but I haven’t attempted to run that far at that pace since last year’s Snake, so I was OK with that. My legs felt tired but not painful afterwards, so that’s more progress and a good marathon training exercise. It was also great to see my Twitter friend Katie Holmes, aka @RunYoung50.
So now it’s only five weeks to Paris. I’m really looking forward to it. I worked in Paris for a while in the 90s and know the city quite well, so it will be fab to run around all the amazing and familiar sights.
After Paris, presuming I’m still feeling OK, I want to have a go at getting under 1:50 a half marathon, so I’ve entered the North Lincs Half in Scunthorpe in May four weeks later. I wanted to do this last year, but it clashed with the Ravenscar Coastal Half (another fab event). Possibly slightly less glamorous than Paris, but there’s a stadium finish and they give you cake at the end, so that’s two things in its favour! And between Paris and Scunthorpe I’m taking part in a brand new event right on my doorstep, the Vale of York 10, which starts and finishes at Rufforth aerodrome, just three miles from where I live. I thought that would be a good training exercise for North Lincs. It’s organised by the same people (Racebest) who put on the Vale of York Half, which I did in 2014 and thought was a fab event. Unfortunately I had to pull out last year due to injury, but hope to be back this year.
That’s all for now. I don’t want to enter too many events at the moment as I don’t want to risk setting my hamstring off again. I had hoped to do another ultra this summer, but will have to see how I feel after Paris. If I do it definitely won’t be as hilly as Calderdale! I hope your running plans for 2016 are going well too – good luck with whatever you’re training for.
I haven’t written much about running for a while – the main reason being I haven’t done much running for a while! Since the Calderdale Ultra in June I’ve been injured and, although I tried to struggle on for a while, it soon became obvious that my body wasn’t going to allow that.
I’ve seen three different physios during the past six months. The general consensus was that I had a problem with my upper hamstring tendon, but they all suggested very different ways of treating it. The first encouraged me to keep running (I was attempting to train for the York Marathon at the time), whilst giving me massage treatment and getting me to do hamstring strengthening exercises. After a particularly miserable 16 mile run I decided that wasn’t working for me. The second physio had me taking a month’s break from running whilst manipulating the injured area, but after several weeks I felt no better. Then I saw Martin Higgins of ProSport Physiotherapy, who has an entirely different approach to things. He specialises in a technique called Postural Restoration, and after testing my range of motion (and thankfully not judging me when I couldn’t touch my toes!) said that the root of the problem was that my pelvis was misaligned, so one side of my body was basically doing all the work. Also, most of my running shoes weren’t giving me enough arch support, which was exacerbating the problem. After stopping running in my Brooks Adrenaline and using only my lighter, more supportive Brooks Pure Cadence, I’ve felt barely any discomfort during runs. I can still sense some tension in my right hamstring, but the difference is amazing. There were times over the last few months when I thought I might never run properly again, but now I can see light at the end of the tunnel.
Not being able to run was miserable and I’m sure that at times I haven’t been much fun to live with! I’ve tried to keep up some aerobic fitness with turbo training on the bike, but it’s not the same. I actually didn’t realise how much I loved running until I couldn’t do it. Plus I’ve had to miss several events I’d hoped to do over the last few months; apart from the York Marathon there was the Yorkshire Wolds Half, the Princess Ultra and the Leeds Abbey Dash. I did take part in the York 10K in August, but was really just jogging round to make up the numbers. I was particularly worried because I’d already entered the Paris Marathon next spring, and had also got my Good For Age place for London, but was starting to think I wouldn’t be able to do them. Now, thanks to Martin, I’ve started to train for them at last, but am being cautious and following a beginner’s programme for now. I’m so happy just to be back running and am now looking forward to the Brass Monkey Half Marathon on 17th January, even if I’ll still be a long way off full fitness. If that goes OK I hope to be able to do the Harewood House trail half marathon in February. I’m being careful not to get too carried away and count my chickens just yet, but am at last feeling cautiously optimistic.
Being able to run again is the best Christmas present I could have hoped for. I wish you all a very happy Christmas and a healthy new year, and hope all your running dreams come true in 2016 xx
Yes, it’s that time of year again… although I’m not going to mention the C word! We all know that’s coming soon, but what really interests me is the run-up to the festive season. Everyone talks about the massive consumption of food and drink at this time, but I actually think the excess starts long before the big day. The works lunches, the mince pies, the tubs of choccies in the office – and of course, the alcohol. There aren’t many of us who aren’t presented with numerous opportunities to drink more than is strictly good for us at this time of year – and sometimes, in the face of peer pressure, it seems more socially acceptable to indulge than to abstain. Nobody wants to be branded a party pooper!
The amount of alcohol people drink was highlighted to me and several of my colleagues when we attended a training recently on Alcohol Brief Interventions (or ABIs). The idea of this was that if we come into contact with members of the public that we suspect are drinking alcohol at ‘hazardous’ levels, we’ll know how to broach this appropriately and signpost them to help. Not exactly easy, but doable in the right way. What really shocked me was learning about the amount that many people apparently drink and the harm this is doing to both themselves and society in terms of crime and the strain alcohol-related illness places on the NHS. Levels of liver disease have rocketed in recent years. I used to think the type of person who gets liver disease is someone who can’t get out of bed in the morning without swigging vodka straight from the bottle, but it can actually happen with a much lower level of drinking over a sustained period of time. And, despite what we see on the telly, those who are drinking the most aren’t young people out on the lash, but middle-class affluent sorts who most nights of the week might have a G&T ‘to relax’ when they get in from work and then a bottle of wine with dinner.
The amount you drink can easily be at a harmful level without you even realising it. The recommended daily allowances are pretty small really; 2-3 units per day for women and 3-4 for men. That’s official units, not individual drinks of the size you might pour yourself at home! A large glass of wine (250 ml) has a staggering three units. And saving up your weekly units for a binge on Saturday night isn’t good for you at all. If you think you might be drinking more than you should, check out the Change 4 Life website, where there’s some really useful information, including a helpful (and possibly eye-opening) booklet called Don’t Let Drink Sneak Up On You. It also gives advice on how to relax without resorting to drink, which might help the many people who say they drink alcohol to relieve stress. The Drink Aware website is also a great resource and features the fascinating (and somewhat enlightening) alcohol unit and calorie calculator, as well as an app that allows you to track your drinking.
I’m not a Christmas killjoy. Aargh – I said the C word! I like a glass of wine (Pinot Noir if you’re buying) as much as anyone – and we all overdo it a bit from time to time over the extended break from work. But if you keep an eye on your drinking levels for the rest of the year and you’ll really be doing yourself a favour. You wouldn’t want me staging an intervention, now would you?!
It’s not often I write about things I’m doing in the course of my work on the public health team at City of York Council (maybe I should?), but I just wanted to tell you about a project I’ve been helping with recently.
Launched this week, Breathe 2025 is an initiative supported by Public Health England and various local authorities with the ambitious aim of creating a smokefree future for the next generation of children in Yorkshire and the Humber. The idea is that in ten years’ time smoking will be unusual, and hopefully a thing of the past for young people.
Breathe 2025 is asking people and organisations to show their support by going to the campaign website or Facebook page and signing up to one or more simple, practical actions. This could be pledging to watch and share the Breathe 2025 video, or promising to display a Breathe 2025 poster. There are a range of simple actions to choose from, as individuals or on behalf of an organisation such as a school, GP or local business.
Smoking is still the greatest single cause of early death, killing around 100,000 people in the UK each year – an astonishing figure! And of course, the strain this puts on the NHS is huge. As most people start to smoke before the age of 18, it’s vital to target potential smokers at an early age, before they take it up and it becomes a habit. Although Yorkshire and the Humber has the highest adult smoking prevalence in England (20.1% compared to an England average of 18%), the good news is that only one in eight 15-year-olds smoke and the proportion of young smokers is dropping. Within the next decade there could even be a generation of children that don’t smoke. How amazing would that be?
I think Breathe 2025 is a great idea and am happy to be supporting it. You can do the same by visiting its website.
A special Christmas edition of Foodies Festival, the UK’s Biggest Celebration of Food and Drink, is coming to Harrogate on the 11th-13th December, and the organisers have kindly given me two pairs of tickets to give away!
The big draw at this year’s event is Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya, who will be joined in the Chefs Theatre by acclaimed chefs from all over the UK, including local Masterchef finalist Sara Danesin Medio. They will be sharing their favourite recipes and top tips to help visitors create the perfect Christmas banquet.
Other highlights of the festival include:
It’s the perfect place to get in the mood for some festive food – there’s even a Champagne Ski Bar where parents can enjoy a chilled glass of bubbly as the kids take part in their own Elf Cookery School! I’m hoping to make it along there myself to pick up some festive treats. There’s more information on the show here.
To be in with a chance of winning a pair of tickets, just retweet any of the tweets mentioning the competition. A winner will be picked on the evening of Monday 23rd November.
Because I’m a runner people often ask my husband Steve why he doesn’t run too. The truth is he’d love to do some running, but is unable to because he has a dodgy ankle. He can cycle til the cows come home – and indeed recently did that quite literally by riding a 178 mile coast to coast route in a single day – but the impact of running on the legs means it’s not really an option for him. He has a problem with the cartilage in his ankle, and despite having had an operation on it a few years ago, which improved the situation slightly, it still gives him grief if he runs or even walks too much. So when the folks at Flexiseq contacted me to ask if I’d like to review a new product that claimed to help with wear and tear on the joints Steve seemed like the perfect guinea pig.
Specifically aimed at athletes, Flexiseq Sport is a product that claims to treat the cartilage in joints and relieve the discomfort caused by wear and tear or injury, improving impaired joint function. It’s applied topically, targeting the affected area directly, rather than simply masking the problem as oral pain relief does. This obviously also avoids the gastro-intestinal issues that some people face when they take strong pain killers. Here’s the science bit: Flexiseq contains tiny lipid phosphospheres called Sequessome vessicles. These are small enough to pass through the skin and into the joint, where they lubricate the cartilage, allegedly reducing friction, stiffness and pain. It’s supposed to be particularly good for osteoarthritis. You can read a lot more about exactly how Flexiseq works here. People generally see an improvement after a couple of days, and the difference is said to be comparable to certain oral pain killers.
So, how did the guinea pig fare? Steve’s now been on the Flexiseq for a couple of months, applying it first thing in the morning and last thing at night, and has found it very easy to use; it just takes a few minutes to dry completely before you can cover it with clothes or bedding. Although it hasn’t taken away his problem completely, Steve has definitely seen some improvement over time, feeling less pain in general – although he does still have better and worse days. I should say that Flexiseq isn’t cheap to buy – a 100ml tube is currently on offer at Treatments Direct for £29.99 – and you do have to keep using it to maintain the benefits, but I daresay if it helps you and you don’t fancy the idea of living on pain killers it’s worth splashing out on. Steve’s keen to keep using it, and coming from a Yorkshireman that should tell you something about its value!
For more information on Flexiseq, including testimonials from athletes, visit their website.
I should point out I was not paid to write this blog post or endorse the product.
Foodies Festival, the UK’s Biggest Celebration of Food and Drink, is coming to Harrogate on the 21st, 22nd and 23rd August, and I have two tickets to give away!
The festival celebrates Yorkshire produce and transforms Ripley Castle into a foodie heaven with a feast of Michelin-star and celebrity chefs, award winning artisan producers, food and drink masterclasses and more street food than you can shake a satay stick at! From experienced gourmands to amateur home cooks, there’s something to tantalise everyone’s taste buds.
Highlights of the festival include a Wine and Champagne Theatre, a Tasting Theatre, Street Food Avenue, Cake & Bake Theatre and an Artisan Producers Market.
The Aga Rangemaster Chefs Theatre will feature celebrity and regional chefs including Rosemary Schrager, Lionel Strub and Sara Danesin Medio, who will cook their favourite summer recipes. After a day of feasting and fun, foodies can relax with live music from the Entertainment Stage and perhaps a glass of bubbly or refreshing cocktail from the Giant Pimm’s Teapot or Captain Morgan Mojito Galleon.
To be in with a chance of winning the tickets, just leave a comment below telling me what is your favourite Yorkshire food or drink and why. I’ll choose the best on the evening of Wednesday 19th August.