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

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

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

Manchester Medal

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



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

Paris Marathon Finish

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


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

 New Shoes

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



Carb Loading

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



Giant Reese’s

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




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



The Little Prince

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

Little Prince



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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

York Mara

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

My Yorkshire Marathon Race Number

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

York Mara


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

Autumn in York

Yin Yoga

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


Bargain Leggings

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



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




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

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



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

Le Caveau 63

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

Ampleforth Abbey 64


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

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


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

The Vale of York Half

I love this event! I did it when it was first held two years ago, but was unfortunately unable to do it last year as I was working on the day. When I went back for the second time last weekend it had really grown, and deservedly so. I was only trotting round for marathon training purposes rather than going for it on this occasion, which was actually really enjoyable. As well as bling and chocolate at the end there’s always a really cool t-shirt!


New Socks

I love my Nike Elite compression socks, and have just bought a new pair to wear at the York Marathon in just over three weeks. I tested them at the Vale of York Half and they were as comfy as ever – and a great colour!



I love autumn for many reasons, but one of the main ones is figs – I can’t get enough of them! They remind me of when I once worked in France for a few months during the autumn many years ago, when I’d buy them on the way home from the office. I just eat the whole fruit as it is – delicous!


Baby Food

I’ve been trying to think of some different snacks to eat on the hoof, and recently saw someone on Twitter recommending baby food pouches. My local supermarket was having a baby event recently, so I picked up these special offers. Will report back on the results!

Baby Food

Indian Summer

What about the weather this week?! A final blast of summer before we start with the cold weather, dark nights and slide downhill to (dare I say it) Christmas. Think this is probably the last week I’ll be able to cycle to work without a jacket though!



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

It’s been a while since I wrote a post about running, so just thought I’d give a quick update on what I’ve been doing this summer and what I’ll be up to during the autumn.

I had three main goals for this running year: to regain my sub four hour status after the Manchester Marathon fiasco, when I lost the official record of my Good For Age time; to run a sub 1:50 half marathon; and to run a sub 50 minute 10K. When I trained for the Paris Marathon in April I followed a beginner’s plan, as I was coming back from my hamstring tendon injury. I didn’t think that would result in a sub four time, and I was right! But Paris was a great experience nonetheless. Two weeks after Paris I ran the Vale of York 10 (miles not km), a great new event just on my doorstep. I thought that would be good training for the North Lincolnshire Half Marathon a month later and I was right again! I achieved my sub 1:50 half there in May. Since then I’ve done the Mont Blanc 10K on holiday, the Yorkshire Wolds Half in July, the York 10K, the Minster to Minster (Ripon to York) 30 mile run in August and the Vale of York Half just last weekend.

VoY 2

But my main focus has been training for the Yorkshire Marathon in October, for which I’ve reverted to the Asics Sub 4 plan that served me so well at Manchester last year. However, the week before last, when I ran 51 miles, including the Minster to Minster, my tendon decided to make its presence known again, so I think I’m going to have to scale things back a bit during my taper. As we all know, better to be a bit undertrained than injured on race day! I’m going to cut running down to three days a week and maybe do a bit of cycling, which I’m not really happy about as autumn is my favourite time of year to run. Hopefully I’ll then be OK for the marathon and for the Leeds Abbey Dash 10K in November. I had been dreaming of maybe doing another ultra next year, but I’ll have to see how things go with the old tendon over the winter. Sometimes I forget I’m not a spring chicken any more!

So those are my plans for the rest of the year. What are you up to? I’d love to know!



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


Last weekend our team at work took part in the North Yorkshire Sport Netball Challenge. We were pretty bad (coming second to last out of eight) and, never having played netball, I was particularly useless. But it was great fun and we got a nice t-shirt and a hog roast at the end! I’ve always been bad at ball games, but sometimes it makes a nice change to step outside your comfort zone

Netball 1

Viennese Whirls

While I was playing netball my step-daughter, inspired by the Bakeoff, had a go at Viennese Whirls. I have to say they were pretty good, and as I’d run 51 miles, commuted by bike four times and played netball I think I was entitled to indulge!



Autumn chez Shepherd means cyclocross! Not for me, but for the OH who always takes part in the Yorkshire Points Series, which runs from now until January. I’m usually on pit duty and it’s great fun to watch the racing at the same time, shouting out for all the riders I know. It was a great start to the season this week at Skipton.


The North Yorkshire Cookbook

I’m a big fan of local food, so I was delighted when this book was sent to me this week. It’s full of brilliant recipes from lots of restaurants, delis and food suppliers in our area. I’m going to review it and give it away on the blog soon, so watch this space!



Another foray into the kitchen by the step-daughter – I’m all for it! I haven’t eaten tofu since my brief flirtation with vegetarianism when I was a student (again, many years ago!). The SD isn’t a massive fan of meat, so came up with this marinated tofu and nooodle dish, which was great. Not so sure Dad loved it, but he was outnumbered!



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

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

Minster to Minster

I was invited to join Ripon Runners on their annual run from Ripon Cathedral to York Minster, which is about 30 miles. What a brilliant day! We were about 40 in number – such a lovely bunch of people and a fantastic run. Tourists in York high-fived us, applauded and took photos as we arrived at the Minster – and we finished off with lunch in the pub! Brilliant. I’m lurking at the back in this photo as I was just a guest.


Celebrating Ability

Celebrating Ability is an annual sports day for disabled people organised by one of my work colleagues, where the whole team helps out on the day. I always find it a humbling and inspiring experience. This year we were privileged to have paralympic cyclist Craig McCann as our guest. Here he is showing us his amazing racing trike!



I love coffee! Although never instant, of course. This used to worry me a bit, but nowadays the thinking seems to be that moderate coffee consumption is a Good Thing – and it also helps sporting performance! This week I’ve been enjoying Morrison’s Signature Colombian, which just goes to show you don’t have to spend a fortune on it.



Sadly, I always get a bit excited when Runners World plops through the letter box. I recently took out a subscription to Trail Running too, and they both arrived on the same day this month! But which to read first? Well, there was an interview with the fab Jo Pavey in RW, so there was no contest on this occasion!


Naughty Nuts

I was recently handed a free pack of The Co-op’s Salted Caramel Nuts in the street a few days ago, so I ate them at work the other day when I had an afternoon attack of runger! It’s basically mixed nuts with chocolate chips and tiny bits of caramel fudge and salty pretzel. Maybe not the healthiest snack option, but very nice and probably better than a choccy bar!



That’s it! Because living well is sometimes just about enjoying the simple things around us.

Feel free to tell me your favourite things this week, I’d love to hear about them. Have a great weekend!

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

La Vuelta

La Vuelta is the Spanish equivalent of the Tour de France. I love bike racing anyway, but this is currently doing a great job of helping to fill the gaping hole left in our lives when the Olympics finished. Still, not long til the Paralympics!



Bike Commuting (this week)

I love cycling, but if I’m honest I don’t usually enjoy my bike commute to work much. It generally features a range of bad drivers with little regard for cyclists and/or inconsiderate geese who flock and poo all over the riverside bike path. If I get to work in one piece it’s already a good day! But sometimes, on a summer morning during the school holidays, when the traffic is quiet and the geese are on the river, it’s actually lovely. Here’s a pic from one of my rides into York this week. Not the one where I got drenched on the way home!



Turkey Burgers

I made these for dinner this week for the first time. I can’t believe I’ve never made them before, they’re so easy, tasty and healthy! Basically you just mix up 500g of turkey mince with an egg yolk and whatever herbs/spices you like, chill for half an hour and fry. Simples! And great with the sweet potato wedges. We’ll definitely be having them again.




SiS Go Gel (with caffeine!)

I read an article recently about how caffeine helps sports performance and decided to experiment with it. However, I don’t really want to drink a coffee just before a race (for obvious reasons!) so at the York 10K I experimented with one of these, taking it about ten minutes before the start. Having knocked over 40 seconds off my PB I now feel I need one before every event!




Chocolate (again!)

More chocolate this week! This time from Morrison’s, where Lindt was on special offer. I love the chilli, but the sea salted caramel is amazing! When I’m trying to be good and avoid puddings I love to have a square of this in the evening.




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