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. Good luck!
I love breakfast. It might even be my favourite meal of the day. I love it so much I sometimes have two breakfasts when marathon training is at its peak! But I’m not a big fan of breakfast cereals, mainly because they generally aren’t very healthy. I like porridge and muesli (with Greek yoghurt), especially as you can always ‘pimp’ those to make them more nutritious, but most cereals are made from highly refined carbs and contain added sugar; sometimes, unbelievably, more than 30%. Not only does this give them a very high glycaemic index (GI), but they don’t keep you satisfied for very long. I once checked in my local supermarket to see which cereals didn’t have any added sugar, and it pretty much came down to Shredded Wheat. So when I was offered the chance to test a new breakfast cereal claiming to be much healthier than the norm I was very interested to try it. Apparently two years of research has gone into the development of new Keep Me Going from Freedom Cereals. Its aim is to be a wholegrain cereal with a low GI plus added health benefits that actually tastes good!
You certainly can’t argue with the health credentials of Keep Me Going. It’s composed mainly of whole grain barley, oat flour and rye, so is wheat-free (for those who are concerned about that sort of thing). It also has added vitamins and minerals, including chromium (which helps to balance blood sugar), magnesium and biotin. I was particularly pleased to see the magnesium content, as many people are deficient in this important mineral, which can cause fatigue. I usually take a magnesium supplement myself when I’m marathon training. Even the salt used in it is a special low-sodium sea salt. Yes, it does contain some sugar, but far less than most cereals, and this is probably offset to some extent by its low GI of 50 (compared, for example, to a GI of 82 for cornflakes). If a food has a low GI it releases its energy more slowly, so keeps you satisfied for longer. Out of interest, here’s how Keep Me Going compares nutritionally to some other popular cereals.
There’s lots more information here on the Keep Me Going website if you want to explore this further. Here’s what it looks like out of the pack.
But what does it taste like? Actually it’s surprisingly tasty in a malty sort of way. The texture is quite crunchy, but not too hard. I liked it. And does it really keep you going? I tested it by having it for breakfast on a morning when I knew I’d be really busy and probably wouldn’t get a chance to have elevenses, and it was probably about four hours before I began to feel peckish again. I wouldn’t say it kept me as full as, say, muesli and Greek yoghurt, but it certainly contains a lot less fat than that. If you’re trying to moderate your fat intake it’s probably a decent option for breakfast.
A lot of people seem to give their kids cereal for breakfast – probably because it’s quick and easy on a school morning – and the manufacturers of Keep Me Going have gone to some trouble to try and make the product appeal to children. Each pack contains some trading cards that can be used to play a Top Trumps type of game based on countries of the world, and you can go onto the Keep Me Going website to download a world map and mark the countries you’ve collected. There’s also a secret code cracking game to play.
I wouldn’t say Keep Me Going is a cereal children would choose for themselves, but if you’re the sort of family that already eats quite healthily I’d say they’d probably enjoy it. Weaning kids off the likes of Coco Pops or Frosties might be more of a challenge!
At the moment Keep Me Going is available via Ocado, priced at £2.65 for a 375g pack. Not cheap, but it is made with top quality ingredients. Apparently there’s a high protein version called Keep Me Strong in the pipeline, so it will be interesting to see how that turns out.
Does anyone else have any thoughts on breakfast cereals? What are your favourites and why? I’d be interested to know.
Being able to do what we usually do is something we probably all take for granted until we’re unable to do it. I’ve been running for six years now, and in all that time I’ve never had any problems doing it. But recently a couple of things have happened to interrupt my running. Nothing major, but enough to disturb my training, making me frustrated and annoyed.
After the Calderdale Ultra I went on holiday to Cyprus and didn’t run for about two weeks. I thought a rest would be good for recovery and I’d just pick things back up afterwards. When I got back it was 16 weeks until the Yorkshire Marathon, so I decided to restart the Asics Sub 4 plan that had served me so well at Manchester. But on my first post-holiday run I felt a tweaking in my right buttock. It didn’t get any better as the run went on, and I could feel it with every step. I thought I was just a bit rusty, massaged it and carried on as normal, but it didn’t go away. I saw my sports therapist, Colin at Muscle Management, and he suggested it could be either a hamstring insertion or piriformis problem. Frankly I didn’t like the sound of either of those, especially when someone at my yoga class told me it had taken her a year to get over a hamstring insertion problem!
In the meantime I’d been called up by York Hospital to go and have a wisdom tooth removed. I’d been on the waiting list for a while, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise, but it was quite short notice when the appointment came. Anyway, I thought it would be good to go and get it over with. I was a bit apprehensive about the general anaesthetic and had no real idea how it would affect me, but it had to be done! In the end it wasn’t bad at all. A couple of days later I attempted to go for a gentle trot, but felt a bit dizzy after about a minute, so thought I’d better return home rather than risk faceplanting on the pavement! About a week after I’d had my tooth out I found I’d picked up an ear infection somewhere, for which I was prescribed antibiotics – another setback! Because of all this I had to miss the Yorkshire Wolds Half Marathon last week, which I’d really been looking forward to. I was gutted when I saw the souvenir mug, which was turquoise – my favourite colour!
So my marathon training has been pretty much derailed for the last couple of weeks, and I feel like I’m losing a little bit of fitness every day. It’s missing the speed work that’s bugging me the most, as the York 10K is coming up on 2nd August, and I always like to have a good crack at that, even though it isn’t a great course for a PB. I certainly won’t be breaking any records this year! I hope that if I’m sensible about recovery I can get back to proper marathon training soon, but I’m also thinking of the bigger picture – I have Paris and London marathons to look forward to next spring, and I certainly don’t want to jeopardise those. I’d also really love to do a longer ultra next summer – perhaps 100K – and a couple of shorter ones along the way. I’ve been inspired by reading people’s accounts of the Race to the Stones this month, and am thinking of entering – all being well. And I do fancy the Hardmoors Princess Challenge in September! I think I’ll possibly just be doing the York Marathon for fun in October, but don’t feel too bad about that now I have my Good For Age qualification.
So that’s where I am for now. If anyone has any tips for dealing with the frustration of not being able to run properly I’d love to hear them. Me, I’m off to stretch my piriformis – again!
Last Saturday was a big day for me – I ran further than 26.2 miles for the first time, so am no longer an ultra virgin! I did this at the Calderdale Way Ultra. It took me a while to decide which ultra to enter as my first. I eventually settled on Calderdale because it’s not too far away from home and, at 28.5 miles, the short version is billed as ‘a great introduction for runners looking to make the step-up into running and competing in ultra-marathons’. Spot on! I knew the course would be very hilly, so after completing the Manchester marathon in April I tried to do a bit more hill work. We aren’t exactly over blessed with hills in York, but I did some hill rep sessions at Holgate Windmill and also took part in the Ravenscar Coastal Half Marathon about a month ago to get in some practice. Probably not enough to prepare me properly for the inclines of Calderdale, but the best I could do under the circumstances! As the day approached I realised that the thing that was worrying me most was not so much the distance or the profile of the course, but navigation and the possibility of getting lost. Still, nothing ventured… I like to get out of my comfort zone now and again!
You can view the route map here.
The long version of this event (50.5 miles) is a circular route starting and finishing in Todmorden, beginning at 6am. For the short version you sign on at Todmorden, then decamp to the village of Shelf, which is about halfway along the course, to set off at 12:15pm and finish back in Todmorden. A bus service from Todmorden to Shelf is provided for those who need it. Around 30 of us lined up at the start. I thought there would be more – I don’t really know why! I believe there were about 48 entrants in the long version, but by this point they were almost all in front of we ‘short’ runners. Weather conditions were dry, but there was a really strong wind blowing. A friend who lives in Shelf came to see me off and warned that there would be quite a wind chill on the tops of the hills. After a short race briefing we were away bang on time. Aware of my rookie status, I started at the back, not wanting to get in the way of other runners, who mostly looked like hardcore trail folk! After a mile or so I settled into a group of half a dozen or so people all running at around the same pace. It was nice to have some company.
The first section of the course is a good warm up, with some downhill and gentle undulations; but after a while there are some BIG hills! It’s certainly not an event for the faint-hearted. The first checkpoint is at around eight miles, and it was well stocked with sweet and savoury snacks, Coke and water. I filled my bottle, ate some flapjack and took a couple of Jaffa Cakes for the road. I saw a guy who’d been leading our little group using a map setting off fairly quickly, so I decided to leave too and stick with him for as long as I could to minimise my chances of getting lost! Of course I had a map with me, but to read it I would have had to get out my reading glasses too, which I can’t run in, so this just seemed like an easier option. This lovely man, who I later discovered was called Paul Feasey, was an Absolutely Top Bloke who assured me he didn’t mind me tagging along with him and actually quite liked navigating as it gave him something to think about along the way. Last week I read somewhere that your aim for your first ultra should just be to enjoy it, and I must say if I hadn’t found Paul on Saturday my race wouldn’t have been half as enjoyable as it was. With only 30 folk in the field we were very spread out, and it could have been a very lonely day – but perhaps that’s just part of ultra running?
After some long climbing and welcome descending we arrived at the second checkpoint at just over 14 miles. I must admit I was feeling a bit tired already by this point. We’d had a cross wind to start with, but now it was hitting us full on, and it was hard work to move against it! Obviously we’d done some walking on the steep bits, but at times even that was tough. Moving in a predominantly westerly direction, the wind would be against us all the way to the finish. However, it’s amazing what a difference a couple of minutes’ rest with some Jaffa Cakes and flat Coke can do to revive you! It was brilliant to have Paul for company, chatting on the hard bits where we had to walk and trotting along in silence where the terrain and wind allowed. Paul had done around 30 ultras, so it was great to benefit from his experience and interesting to note that he considered this one quite hard. Just after halfway it started to rain, and continued to do so on and off until the finish. I was really glad of my jacket; as my friend had warmed, it was indeed quite chilly up on the moors in the wind and rain.
I actually felt a bit better as time went on. After the third checkpoint at 21 miles the finish seemed quite close, even though we weren’t actually moving that quickly due to the energy-sapping wind! My fastest mile split time for the day was 9:30 and the slowest was over 18 minutes, which tells a tale in itself! The course plays a cruel trick near the end, taking you into Todmorden and then out again, up and down a massive hill that’s a bit like a fell run – harsh on tired legs! But at least you know you’re nearly there at this point. I thought I’d finish in about six hours, but in the end it was 6:39. I’m sure we’d have cracked six hours without that wind though! Boy, was I pleased to be back. However, I did enjoy it, which was the aim and – as a bonus – I wasn’t last! In the end I was 20th out of 25 finishers, less than an hour behind the winning lady and the only V50 woman to finish – I’m happy with that for this particular event! As another bonus, I got a t-shirt that is actually girl-sized, rather than just a men’s small.
So, was the Calderdale Way a good introduction to ultra running? I’d say it was more a baptism of fire! If you’re considering it then make sure you a) do lots of hill training and b) are good with a map. There are parts of the route that aren’t particularly well marked, especially through towns, and you will need to orientate yourself – unless, like me, you’re lucky enough to be with a Paul, but you can’t really rely on that. I am so thankful to Paul for all his help and encouragement, and would have loved to buy him a pint at the end, but he had to drive home. Would I do Calderdale again? I’m not sure, as there are so many other events to try and my old legs can only take so much. I actually quite fancy trying another ultra that’s a bit longer but maybe not quite so hilly, perhaps in September. Am I glad I did the Calderdale Way Ultra? Definitely! Even though my quads are still hurting so much I’m considering moving into a bungalow…
As you may know, I’m undertaking my first event of beyond marathon distance this weekend, the short version of the Calderdale Way Ultra. I’ve been feeling slightly apprehensive about it – not so much the distance as the navigational aspect and the possibility of getting lost! Whatever happens, I’m sure it will be a big learning curve. So to inspire me (and maybe others) here’s a guest blog from my friend and super-runner Kirsty Harvey – a review of the recent Dukeries Ultra in Nottinghamshire. Enjoy!
Under new management this year Dukeries offers a choice of three distances: 10, 30 or 40 miles and I chose to do the 40 – partly for the challenge but also because I’m doing a multi-day in July where the long day is 42 miles, so I felt that this would be great practice. My race started at 7.30 so I stayed in a nearby Travelodge (so I didn’t have to get up too early) and with a surprisingly sunny morning (why do I ever check the forecasts?). Everyone was in very good spirits on the start line.
The circular course meanders through Sherwood Forest, where you get a glimpse of the famous Major Oak tree, visits the beautiful Cresswell Crags and also goes through Clumber Park before working its way back to the start/finish at Walesby Sports Club. There were checkpoints at 7, 18, 24 and 34 miles with snacks, water and juice available and lovely helpful marshals. The weather remained perfect for running and I found myself enjoying the run and gradually catching up and even overtaking several runners who had set off quite a bit quicker than me which was a lovely boost. Whenever I saw someone in front it encouraged me to try a bit harder to catch them – it wasn’t always successful but you can always hope! The course was very dry but with about 13 miles to go I took a little detour round the only bit of mud on the path and promptly fell over a tree root, stubbing my toe very hard at the same time. Fortunately it didn’t stop me running although the air was a bit blue! After the last checkpoint at 34 miles I realised I was slowing down a bit and despite my best efforts it took me a bit longer than I hoped to do the final few miles, finally finishing in 7:15 – about 30 minutes faster than last year, so I was still happy with the time.
The new organiser Ronnie had promised a well marked course with no navigation issues, and he certainly delivered – I missed one turning which added about five minutes but it was entirely my fault as once I retraced my steps there was the red and white tape, clear as day! There were also marshals on some of the less obvious turns just in case. The race is changing its name next year and will come under Hobo Pace I understand, but if you fancy a very scenic tour of Nottinghamshire then choose your distance and give it a go next year.
I must admit I was a bit apprehensive about the Ravenscar Half, which is an off-road event on the Yorkshire coast. I’d entered because I thought it would be good training for the Calderdale Way Ultra, but as it was only three weeks after the Manchester Marathon I wasn’t quite sure how to prepare for it. In the end I decided to take it easy for a couple of weeks, then took myself out for eleven miles the Sunday before just to make sure I could still cover the distance! My main concern was the hills, as I’d spent the last four months training for a flat road marathon. The event website says Ravenscar is ‘not for the faint hearted’ and the second half features a ‘killer of a down and uphill section that will make your legs and lungs burn’, so my main aim was just to enjoy it and not be last!
This was probably the smallest event I’ve ever entered, with around 160 runners of all abilities taking part. It’s organised by the Scarborough & Ryedale Mountain Rescue Team, and all proceeds go to them. The race starts and finishes at Ravenscar Village Hall. Parking was really well-organised (Harewood House Half, take note!) and there were plenty of toilets. I was dithering about what to wear as it seemed a bit cold, despite predictions of up to 16 degrees from the weather forecast. In the end I plumped for capris rather than shorts and even took a top layer, as did many other people. Luckily you can wait inside the hall before starting, which was nice, as a bit of a chilly wind was blowing. I perused a giant OS map of the route and noted a place called Beast Cliff, which did nothing to make me feel any less nervous!
We set off at 9.30 sharp, heading straight to the Cleveland Way along the cliff edge. Many years ago I walked the Cleveland Way over several days, and couldn’t quite believe I was now running along it! The views for most of the route are absolutely spectacular, but as you’re running on trails you do also need to keep an eye on your footing.
After a while we turned onto a disused railway line for a couple of miles. The first half is actually pretty easy, on good trails with a lot of downhill. The fun starts in the second half! We turned back towards the coast and it was up and downhill all the way home – but great fun! There were a couple of places where most of us had to walk a bit, but I coped better than I thought I would. I actually feel better going uphill than downhill, as I’m not very good on steep, technical descents, and there were some sections with smooth, slippery stones that were a bit dicey! I definitely need to get better at that. I felt stronger than I’d expected towards the end – although the last half mile, uphill into a headwind, was a bit of a killer! I finished in 2:13 and was 96th overall (out of 165). It’s certainly made me feel more optimistic about Calderdale.
At just £10 for entry this was certainly the best value event I’ve ever taken part in – no unnecessary bling or t-shirt, but some very welcome tea and flapjack in the village hall at the end! It was also really well marshalled by the mountain rescue folk. There were even running marshals carrying first aid kits, so we really did feel pretty safe despite the sometimes tricky terrain. All in all I’d highly recommend Ravenscar if you like a bit of trail, and I’ll definitely be back next year.
So next up is my first ultra, the Calderdale Way, on 6th June… just over three weeks away – eeeek!
I seem to meet a lot of people who suffer with IBS with varying degrees of severity, and they sometimes find it very difficult to deal with. This guest post from Carly Trigg of My Well Being Journal has some great advice on dealing with IBS naturally – including running! You can read more from Carly at www.mywellbeingjournal.com and follow her on Twitter at @MWBJournal.
Who needs supplements, probiotics and tablets when you’ve got the great outdoors, good food and a great mindset? After trialling everything known to man for dealing with my IBS, I’ve found that doing it naturally is always the best way. So take a look at my top 5 ways to deal with IBS and see how easy it is to implement it into your own lifestyle.
1. Exercise early
If you suffer with IBS-C, you’ll notice that your body likes the digest food in your gut continually throughout the day, but the end product is just never there. You might then notice you become a VERY regular person (such that the only time you CAN do anything in the toilet, it’s first thing in the morning). This is because your body is given ample time without food to break down everything eaten in the day, given more time to properly come together and form more evenly. This makes morning my favourite part of the day. So, whilst you’re in high spirits with a great level of digestion going on, it’s worthwhile to fit in your exercise now. If you leave it til later you might find that the foods you’ve eaten have caused tummy problems and bloating and you won’t want to exert your body any more. Get up earlier, go for a run, feel the burn, and forget about the IBS.
2. Eat your breakfast
After your early morning run, you’ll be feeling pretty good. You might not feel that hungry though, or if you may not feel you have any spare time if you’re heading quickly out of the door for work. But making the time, even if it’s a quick 10 minutes, is necessary if you want to start your bowel movements right. You’ve been to the toilet and you’ve done your exercise, and now you need fuel, even if you don’t crave it yet. Otherwise you’ll be ravenous after an hour or so and your metabolism won’t be working half as fast as it does first thing in the morning, or after a workout.
3. Avoid meal-skipping
When you have IBS, a lot of the time you’re suffering with so much abdominal discomfort after food you consumed several hours ago that you really don’t want to do it again. You decide you’d rather skip the meal and let your bowels churn away privately without any interruption. This sounds fine in theory, but the ‘churn’ doesn’t stop. And, although it might usurp your appetite, your body still needs vital nutrients to keep going. Plus, you’ll probably be making up this lost eating time with drinking more, which needs to be digested anyway too. So don’t let the abdominal discomfort put you off your eating three basic meals throughout the day (minimum) and always keep a watchful eye on the ingredients in your foods.
4. Walk more
Because strenuous exercise can be a torturous feat when you have painful abdominal cramps, doing lots of walking can be really beneficial to your digestion, easing your stomach and seeing that you get outside and get moving. Rather than getting the bus, take a brisk walk. Go for a wander on your lunch break. Do it all and get your feet moving!
5. Stretch often
This might sound like a strange one (because who walks down the street, stops, and does a lunge?) but stretching is necessary for IBS sufferers, especially if you’re sat crouched in front of a computer all day. All that’s going in your stomach can continue to feel tight and unpleasant the more the day goes on, so make it a priority to stretch whenever you go to the toilet – this way you’re doing it privately and not provoking suspicion! By simply raising your arms above your head and tensing your stomach, holding your hands behind your back and pushing your tummy out, and twisting from side to side can ease your discomfort ten-fold.
Yesterday I ran a sub 4 hour marathon for the first time. I say this not to show off, but because I surprised myself by doing it. Sure, I’ve been chasing this for a couple of years, but I really didn’t expect to do it this time at Manchester – not least because I’d had a cold last week! But somehow, yesterday was The Day It Finally All Went Right.
Regular readers will know that each time I’ve tried to do this before, something went wrong.
1. Manchester 2013 – going well, then got calf cramp at mile 23.
2. York 2013 – got a stitch at mile 18 that just wouldn’t go away.
3. Manchester 2014 – DNS, due to getting a tummy bug the day before.
4. Milton Keynes 2014 – just seemed to run out of steam on a very warm day.
5. Berlin 2014 – severe attack of runner’s trots, resulting in three loo stops!
6. York 2014 – only two weeks after Berlin, this was never meant to be a sub 4 attempt.
So it’s not for want of trying!
In the middle of last week I was wondering whether I should run at all. I came down with the cold on Tuesday and felt rubbish on Wednesday and Thursday. However, I took all the echinacea and vitamin C I felt I could handle and managed to get the worst of it over quite quickly. By Friday I was still pretty snotty, but feeling OK. Echinacea is wonderful stuff! On Saturday I ran for a slow couple of miles and decided to go for it – invoking the above/below the neck rule – but thinking I probably wouldn’t perform at my best.
Conditions on Sunday were perfect for marathon running – cold and dry with barely any wind. I decided to set off with the 3:58 pacer and see how things went. I reckoned if I started to feel bad I could just slow down and treat it as an ultra training run with some goodies at the end! Off we set, and after a few miles I was surprised at how well I was feeling. The course at Manchester is fantastic, nice and flat, and the crowd support is amazing almost all the way round, which really helps. There’s a bit of an incline up to Altrincham at halfway, but as that’s an out and back section you get the benefit of it going downhill on the other side. I always like to take advantage of a bit of downhill, so sped up a bit there and overtook the pacer. I reasoned that if I started to tire later on I’d have a few bonus seconds in reserve. But that was the last I saw of the pacer! I ploughed steadily on through the second half and have never enjoyed a marathon more. I actually found myself smiling to myself at times! But I still couldn’t allow myself to think sub 4 was achievable until I’d passed the point where I got cramp two years ago. Then I really started to enjoy myself, even when a strong head wind seemed to appear from nowhere for the last mile. I eventually finished in 3:55:39 and was stunned – that’s 11 minutes off my previous PB. All through my training I thought I’d be more than happy with 3:59:59, so this was a real bonus!
After I’d crossed the finish line a man touched me on the shoulder and said “Thanks for pacing me home over the last mile or so. I was following you because you looked really strong”. Me? Strong? I suddenly realised I had felt strong, much stronger than in any other marathon I’d ever done. Why was that? What had made the difference this time? I believe it was these things.
That’s all I can put it down to I think – although the perfect weather was certainly a bonus. Or maybe the running gods were just smiling on me yesterday. Either way I’m very happy, and am now officially Good For Age!
Manchester is a great event and a perfect course for a PB. There’s also fantastic crowd support along the route and a pretty good haul of swag at the end – they even do an extra small t-shirt that actually fits!
Highlights of the day:
In short, a pretty perfect day and one I’ve been looking forward to for quite a while. I think it goes to show you should never give up on your dreams and goals, but try to keep finding new ways of working towards them. Good luck with your running aims this year, whatever they are – I’d love to know.
Thank you Manchester, you were great!
I have a friend who recently ran his first marathon in under four hours. As someone who’s been chasing the elusive sub 4 for a couple of years now I was a) very jealous and b) eager to know how he’d done it. What training plan did he follow? How did he hydrate and fuel for the race? His answer regarding fuelling surprised me somewhat – buttered malt loaf. “Malt loaf?” I thought. “Running at nine minute mile pace? Is he having a laugh? Did he take a flask of tea too?!” Now I’m not averse to a bit of malt loaf. My dear old Irish nana was a great fan of the stuff, so I was weaned on it as a nipper, and it’s still often my go-to afternoon tea snack of choice (unbuttered) instead of proper fatty cake. I love its squidgy fruitiness, which goes down a treat with a big mug of Yorkshire Tea. But I’d never considered eating it on the run – couldn’t imagine coping with anything other than gels during a marathon.
However, when I recently entered my first ultra I realised I was going to have to suck it up and find some real food I could eat en route, because your stomach can only take so many gels before it starts to rebel. Then by sheer coincidence the lovely people at Soreen sent me a hamper of their wares to test and review. It was a sign – a sign that I should go forth and fuel a long run with its fruity goodness.
The Soreen box of delights contained various types of loaf, as well as a Soreen pen and notebook, plus something that looked like a house brick on legs wearing pants, but which turned out to be a replica of the Soreen Loveable Loaf mascot. It feels a bit like a stress toy, so now I keep it on my computer and squeeze it very hard when I see people on social media running sub 4 marathons.
My husband, who like most cyclists, is a total cake monster, couldn’t get into the box quickly enough. We tested the Orange Fruit Loaf and Apple & Sultana Fruit Loaf, which were both really tasty and made a change from the classic Original. The orange one has a nice tang to it, and the Soreen website recommends having it toasted with chocolate spread. With my love of Nutella this was a must-try and turned out to be divine! The apple one is really nice and cinnamony, great with coffee. However, for my run I stuck to good old Original, wrapping a chunk in greaseproof paper and tucking it into the front of my Camelbak.
I had a long slow run of 18 miles to do, so thought that would be a good opportunity to test eating on the hoof. The Soreen actually went down really well and I had no digestive repercussions. I’ve since heard that quite a few ultra runners eat malt loaf because they find it gentler on the stomach than ordinary bread, and it gives slow release energy due to the dried fruit and fibre. A tenth of a loaf (a smallish slice) apparently contains about 15g of carbohydrate, so I guess a couple of slices an hour would be enough to keep someone of my size ticking over. Depending on what’s on offer at the Calderdale Way Ultra I’ll certainly consider taking some Soreen with me – possibly the lunchbox loaves, which are conveniently wrapped in small portions. I must say I’d never thought of Soreen as food for athletes before, but it seems to fit the bill nicely.
I would love to know what real foods other people eat on long runs, so please let me know if you have your favourites.