Run Up To Christmas 2018

What a great challenge this was!  A brilliant way to round off a year full of running.  The idea of the challenge is to set a target distance (50km, 100km, etc) and log those miles and kilometers in your own time between 1st and 25th of December.  I set a target of 150km (about 93 miles) which was high considering the distance on my runs had tailed off somewhat following the Oxford Half Marathon in early October.  I managed to get off to a good start with a medium and a long run on the first weekend in December clocking up nearly 26km (16 miles).  The following weekend did not follow suit.  It started with some Parkrun tourism in Cardiff which was a really enjoyable course and I had a good run at it but after that the focusing switched to socialising and then ‘holiday’ mode as I stayed over in the Brecon Beacons and ended up drinking more wine than expected so didn’t manage to get the trainers on on the Sunday morning.

Cardiff Parkrun Finish Selfie

The following weekend I took myself down to the Ridgeway for some trail running practice.  That was such an amazing morning.  The forecast had been for rain but it was beautifully clear, crisp winter morning and I managed 8 miles of very enjoyable but challenging running (and photographing!).  A few less than originally planned but definitely  enough of a workout for the legs.


Although still managing to get some shorter runs logged on the weekdays I ended up getting towards the final weekend before Christmas with around 50km still to run.  That’s a marathon (26.2) plus just less than 5 miles.  Make or break time.  The organisers of the challenge are really flexible so at this point I had the option to call it quits, claim a medal based on having run 100km already and donate any extra to another runner falling short, or keep going.  I decided to keep going and just see if I could do it.  Saturday, after having taught classes and before going to get my nails done I squeezed a 6 mile session in.  Then on Sunday, suffering a horrible hangover from work drinks the night before I somehow jogged 7 miles.  On the Monday, thankfully no work so I had time, and had recovered enough, for a 13.5 mile slog up to Oxford and back.  I was gearing up to have a double run day and finish off the final 4 miles that evening but after seeing a message pop up that Christmas Day runs could be included in the total decided to save that for the morning.  A shorter, faster push to finish the distance.  Repeatedly refreshing Strava until the total for the month to date showed 151km.  I actually did it!  Now it’s time to relax and enjoy Christmas!







Long Run Mis-Adventure

Over recent months I’ve been finding myself more and more inspired to do more trail and off-road running and thanks to Instagram I have access to endless beautiful pictures to fuel the obsession.  Most of my running happens on suburban roads or on the cycle network through the park but I’ve been trying to see if I can find some nice routes from home rather than having to drive to get there.  Last month I used the Garmin connect hive mind (from the data logged by other GPS watch users) to find a lovely loop to the north of Abingdon which had some great views.  This time I decided to see what lies to the south and whether or not I could get to Wittenham Clumps (local nature reserve) which feels like a long way but is about five miles away.  Used Google maps to get a route and added in a cycle path I’m already familiar with, that follows the river out of town to a local village, before going across to the Clumps giving me a roughly 15 mile round trip.

The first three miles were easy and beautiful, town (Abingdon), river, cycle path, village, then I had to pull out the phone and figure out which way to go, one brief wrong turn then back on the right track.  Started heading out of the village onto paths alongside fields, opening out onto an end of a road looking bleak and abandoned, stony underfoot, rusty looking tanker thing and a view of Didcot Power Station.  Oh well.  Keep going.


Sounds of traffic and activity emerge and I turned a corner to find myself at a waste recycling place with huge trucks thundering past in both directions.  Drivers no doubt bemused by the site of a runner as I’m guessing no-one ever runs that way.  Tried not make eye contact and not get run over while also trying to look like I know exactly what I’m doing and where I’m going.  Start checking the phone, apparently I was on the directed route until I got past the buildings and further out along the road, suddenly I’m lost and not going the way Google is telling me to.  I think the path I needed was blocked by roadworks and, having considered scrambling through the hedges, didn’t look passable.  So, ignoring Google, I followed the road the trucks were on in the hope that it would get me out to a main road I might recognise.  It did.  The arse end of Didcot.  Not pretty, but familiar from when I lived there years ago.  Hope returned, maybe this was just a detour and I would still get where I wanted to go.  Followed the road around to the B road the map suggested.  Then, dead end. Well, sort of.  It was one of those B roads that lots of cars drive very fast on and there’s barely a grass verge let alone a footpath.  Thought about seeing if there was a way through the adjacent fields but by this point was too deflated to keep going that way.  I’d forgotten to take any money with me otherwise at this point I would have seriously considered stopping and found a bus to take me back to Abingdon (my monkey brain did wonder whether I could fake an injury and hope a kindly bus driver would take pity on me but was overruled!).  At least by this point I knew where I was and how to get home but also getting fatigued, hungry and dehydrated (so glad I thought to take two water bottles for once and, that long run staple fuel, jelly babies!).


As I started running back I realised the road I was on was one I used to run on way, way back when I first started running and was training for my first 10k, in Lincoln, which was before the days of social media bragging so I can’t even really remember when it was (2006, I had to look it up).   Even with the hundreds of miles I’ve run since then and being roughly three stone lighter (although, over 12 years older) it seemed as though it was just as difficult as it used to.  Kept plodding on home, past the uninspiring office job I did while doing Personal Trainer qualifications, past the post-A Levels warehouse temp job I did pre-weight gain and pre-starting smoking.   During this stage of the run walk breaks were being dictated more by refueling needs rather than map checking.  Happily after all that my thoughts were focused more on the positive side of having run so far out, with all that to cover again (as opposed my default setting of multiple loops that could be cut short at any point), which was that I would hit my target distance as long as I could keep going and could get there quicker by keeping running.



The last three miles were the hardest, as they often will be, but today unusually uplifting.  The river winding in to where it gets closest to Abingdon, lots of anglers along the opposite bank, the Anchor pub and overflowing flowerpots along the wharf in front, St Helen’s church  were very welcome sights.  Even more welcome was the water fountain in Abbey Meadows for me to refill my flask and start to rehydrate during the walk home from there.  Contemplating.  Although I didn’t manage to find what I was looking for with this run, a nice route and the satisfaction of getting to where I wanted to go, there were bright blue skies, warm sunshine, refreshing breezes, and it was interesting.  And I’ve learned that I need to work a bit harder at route planning in future.  If I manage that I will let you know!


Summer Running…

… had me a blast.   Unfortunately this time referring to ‘blast’ as in the destructive sense.  Throughout April and May I was feeling inspired, energised and actually getting on with running a consistent schedule achieving slightly ahead of plan.  The excitement of this and an upcoming event, the Maverick Race Gloucestershire on 30th June, encouraged me to dream up the additional challenges of running a total of 100 miles during June and doing the Kinetic Revolution 30 Day Challenge  which I then (foolishly?) committed to Instagram.


What I hadn’t factored in while deciding ‘now’ was the time to try these goals was that I had already agreed, saved in my diary and everything, to a mindfulness workshop, a wedding, a festival weekend, oh and my birthday, all in the early part of the month.

Let’s reflect on the positive first… I more or less managed to keep following the training plan all the way through the month and added in a couple of extra short runs to try and build up the mileage to the magic 100.  However, I missed a long run of 11 miles the day after the wedding (hello, hangover!) and was about that distance short of 100 by the end of June, so not too disappointed with that one.  This challenge is on again for August – one week in I’m at 35 miles so looking more hopeful this time! 

I started the 30 day challenge and managed to get a weeks worth done then ended up forgetting one day and it fell apart from there.  I’d expected to find this one hard to maintain and perhaps that thought pattern was setting myself up for failure.  I could have been more organised I think and set a specific time for when I would get it done each day rather than just assuming I would fit it in somehow.  The other thing I started wondering was how much of it I needed to do given that I cross-train anyway through teaching classes.

The final one, the FUN one, the Maverick Race Gloucestershire.  I was so excited about this race, getting to go out on the hills, I had my parents there for support, feeling confident about the distance, beautiful sunny day, but then it all ended up working out very differently than I had expected.  There’s a possibility I may have had one to many cups of coffee during the morning leading up to the start and that, combined with nervous excitement, worry about how hot it would get (seriously hot), and not going to the loo enough beforehand, all contributed to let’s say feeling ‘uncomfortable’ almost all the way around which seriously affected my pace (but did keep me moving forward).

Starting at Sudeley Castle main car park we set off from the beautiful stately home grounds then quickly out to the surrounding roads and onto the fields.  There were a few stiles to navigate and narrow sections where we had to go single file so more walking pace than I would have liked, but, that did give time to take in the beautiful views and catch my breath.  Most of my training does not involve any elevation at all so even a gentle slope made itself felt.  About an hour in, past the turning off for the shorter route I followed the middle route I’d signed up for, past the first aid station, feeling alright even with the high summer sun heating things up, had found somewhere to duck out for a wee, then reached the main hill.  I saw everyone else walking, I decided to march/run as much as possible.  This was my biggest mistake I think.  I heard my inner voice saying ‘I feel sick’ quite a few times and kept going at it.  Eventually decided an energy bar might help although I probably needed water more I wasn’t enjoying it when I did try to drink.  The rest of the run from here was damage limitation, run/walk much slower than I’m used but as fast as I could manage, another couple of energy bars from the next aid station and managing to get some water down, some friendly support from another runner I kept meeting and passing, and even more beautiful views.  I didn’t really think about the possibility of not finishing until very near the end when the quickest way to get back was actually just to get round.  I finished.  Medal and goodies.  Toilet.  Refuelling in the shade.  Immense amount of gratitude for having mum and dad there to get me home (unfortunately with an emergency stop, my inner voice was right).  Full of determination to go back next year and do it again and see if I can improve.  Physical discomfort aside, which is not unusual when running even at the best of times, it was totally worth it.  Oh, and check out the photos… such a beautiful summer day!


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Post-Marathon Re-Focus

In the first couple of weeks post-marathon – brimming with renewed enthusiasm for running and training ‘properly’ this time – I kept my runs to short distances of 3-4 miles and focused on going out regularly and consistently.  I also took the opportunity to do some non-running sessions to give me some different movements to play with.  Getting to another instructor’s class has is also helpful in giving my brain a break and allowing me to concentrate more on what my body is doing.  In the first week I went to a yoga class where, happily, the instructor was in need of some de-stressing so it was a lovely gentle stretchy twisty class that really helped revive the legs.

Something I noticed during excessive Instagram browsing was that a lot of other runners seemed to be running marathons really close together or ramping the milage back up again much more quickly than I was.  My competitive streak is almost non-existent but it is there and was triggered by this so that I started looking at whether an autumn marathon this year would be possible.  New Forest being a particularly appealing option for location and not overlapping too closely with the already booked Oxford Half Marathon.  On reflection I decided against.  Races are not that cheap to enter, especially the longer distances and factoring in travel times and taking time off work (yep, Sunday classes).  This gives me loads of time to focus on building up the intensity and distance of my training sessions gradually without the pressure aiming to be at a certain level in a short amount of time.  Also, for me, I think the excitement of a race might fade with frequency so spacing them out gives me something to really look forward to.

May’s training went really, really well.  I ticked all the planned sessions off as scheduled.  This included 7.5 mile ‘pace’ session, a steady but fast tempo run to increase speed and endurance, and a 10 mile ‘comfortable’ session also for endurance but at an easier sustainable pace.  The pace session was on such a hot, humid day and I was determined to challenge myself with it and ended up feeling really queasy for a few hours afterwards which has never really happened before.  Based on that I’ll aim to get future runs done earlier in the day when possible.  The 10 miler felt great, there is a magic moment in the longer runs where I zone out and running feels endless but in a weirdly good way.  Then stopping feels disruptive somehow.  Really looking forward to more of those and pleased to find that now, at the end of the month, I am still as excited and motivated to train as at the start.

Hello, June! Let’s see what you’ve got for me…

2018 Training Plans

Over the past couple of years a lot of my focus and physical energy has been on gaining new fitness instructing qualifications (e.g. BodyPump, BodyCombat) but with all that starting to tick along nicely I decided it was time to set a different challenge and revisit what got me really into fitness in the first place – running.  Having run several 10ks and a few half marathons it felt time to move up to full marathon distance.  26.2 miles.  Twenty six point two MILES. Yikes.

I entered Brighton Marathon with a WWF charity place and set myself up with a training plan.  [I use for this and would recommend to site to anyone looking for guidance on how to structure their running training.]   When the longer training runs started to appear on the calendar I struggled with them a lot more than I’d imagined in various ways.  For example, fitting it in the weekend around a social life, and then needing energy to have recovered enough for work, not knowing quite how to layer up effectively against the freezing cold.   The couple of snowy weekends we had limited how far I was able to run when I was supposed to be increasing mileage and throughout the couple of months leading up to marathon day (15 April) I swore I would not be putting myself through any of this ever again and couldn’t wait for the whole thing to be over.

Once the tapering phase, reduced mileage and reduced weights in BodyPump, kicked in I started to be able to look forward to a trip to Brighton and was determined to enjoy the whole experience as much as possible.  In hindsight I must have been more anxious about being able to actually complete the thing than I realised.  When it actually came around I had an absolutely brilliant day.  Getting up, fed, and on my way to the start line was relatively stress free, given I was in an unfamiliar place, and from there it was easy: dump the bag, queue up, and just… run.  The running almost continuously for five hours was about as hard as I’d expected, certainly not too much worse, and at times even felt really good.  Crossing the line was emotional.  I realised that I hadn’t been convinced I would be able to finish.  But I did.  I did it.

After the event I slept so well – a combination of the physical activity and the release of the stress of having been worrying about it – that the next day and for the rest of the week I somehow felt so much better, more motivated calmer, and more ‘myself’ than I have done for a very long time.  Perhaps, ever.  So of course I immediately started researching other marathons.  Less than a month after swearing “never again”.

In the last month since the event I have briefly entertained the idea of attempting an autumn marathon this year but decided to hold off until I can take more time to build up to it more gradually.  Post-marathon running volumes are comparatively low, doing 3-5 miles per session rather than the 7 milers and 13-16s that I had worked up to beforehand.  The next big focus for me now is to run the Oxford Half Marathon in October which will my fifth go at this event.  High on the sense of achievement from Brighton I’m looking for a personal best – to beat my 2014 time of 1:48:40.  This will mean I need to be to be around 45 seconds faster per mile (for the 13.1 miles).  So, the focus for training over the summer will need to include practicing speed work as well as building back up to longer distance runs.

To help keep me focused and on track with this, and in the hope that my readers might find it inspiring or at least interesting, I will be sharing my training progress and thoughts on the process here on this blog.  Watch this space!



Easter Weekend – Recovery Time!

The first bank holiday weekend of the year approaches and for me that will mean some much needed rest and recovery time as the gyms I work at switch to a reduced timetable and cut a couple of my classes.  One of the things I think people only tend to learn about exercise once it becomes a regular thing is that having a week off the usual routine occasionally to really allow the body to rest and re-energise is absolutely essential! 

 Why is that?  Physical activity puts a certain amount of stress  [FUN stress :)] on the body and the higher the intensity of the workout (think BodyCombat, BodyPump, ten mile run) the more demand is placed on muscles, tissues, hormones.  After the workout is over it takes time, perhaps as much as 48 hours, for the body to rebuild muscles, restore fluids, and reset energy levels.  If, like me, you enjoy working out frequently and regularly you may be going into a new session not quite fully recovered from the previous session.  Although regular, consistent training is necessary to maintain and improve fitness, over time it can result in accumulated fatigue.  You might notice a general sense of tiredness, finding it harder to get going in the morning, feeling like eating more, and if it gets too much noticing changes in mood.  Giving yourself some extra time off occasionally is a good chance to reboot the system and a useful opportunity to reflect on how you’re progressing with your training or perhaps to try something different.


 One of the best ways to keep yourself feeling strong and energised is keep a sufficient and consistent sleep schedule of around 8-9 hours per night.  Not always easy, I know, but plan for this as much as possible.  Then give yourself ‘rest’ days during the week where activity is kept at a low to moderate intensity.  If you regularly do high or maximum intensity workouts then it’s also a good idea to plan in a ‘recovery week’ every few weeks where you can do the same session perhaps but for a shorter time or with lighter weights to reduce the stress to the body and so increase the benefit of your rest days.  People who follow progressive training plans, building strength or for an event like a marathon will notice ‘low volume’ weeks built into the plan.  

Recovery can be active or passive.  Active recovery might be going for a walk, gentle swim,  or a BodyBalance session, perhaps even baking, where the body is still moving but at an intensity level that you could keep going for a while and leaves you feeling fresh and uplifted.  Passive recovery could be anything non-exercise and not overly stimulating.  Sleep being the most passive.  The idea is to relieve stress, physical and mental, so do something you really enjoy and helps you switch off.  For me this might be reading a book, having a sauna, or meditation.  It can be difficult to claim some time for this, particularly when family members or friends want to socialise, but I find even 15 minutes to half an hour can have a wonderfully restorative effect especially if you’re able to really switch off and get absorbed in whatever it is you’re doing.  The really important thing, I think, is to learn to listen to your body, notice your energy levels and moods, be able to adapt your routine or add in some extra downtime when you need it and to ENJOY your workouts and feel good outside the gym as much as possible. 

NEW BodyCombat Class

A week late owing to being snowed in at the start of the month, yesterday I took on a new BodyCombat class at Leys Pool Leisure Centre.  This is a great next step for me as instructor, having two regular BC classes a week and with different groups of people can only help to strengthen and develop my coaching skills (and fitness level!).

 I was full of nervous excitement beforehand and that energy helped me deliver what felt, to me, like a great class.  There was a decent turnout which was nice to see, hopefully that will continue, some positive feedback at the end and a few people were even willing to join me in a sweaty photo!

 Come and join us….!  Thursday at 6pm, pay as you go options are available at this gym (click to see their website for details).  I also teach the double of BodyPump and BodyBalance there on alternate Saturdays at 9am and 10am if that’s more your thing.


“Stay with the fight!”