Monthly Archives: August 2013

No Running. Just Camping and Dolphins.

So recently I wrote a post called Strong Before Long. I should also have included the words Strong Before Fast. A week last Tuesday I was feeling really happy about running again and I decided to head down to the running club at the CrossFit Box I train at from time to time. It was a session that I really enjoyed: 1km, 800m, 600m, 400m and 200m. It was hard work but I love intervals, always have, it’s how most of my training was done years ago. I completed the session and I felt kind of happy with my calf.

Next morning I was not so happy. My calf felt tight but not a normal ‘done exercise’ tightness, more like a painful ‘what the feck have I done now’ tightness. It seemed to ease after a bit of walking around but it didn’t feel right. I decided to err on the side of caution and rest off for a couple of days. By the Friday I was sure I was fine so I headed out, determined I was going to aim for around 10k.

I took it slowly, making my pace nice and steady. There was a niggle down my calf and into my shin but I was sure once the blood started flowing it would ease. I stopped a couple of times to stretch and eventually things seemed to settle. But around the 5 mile mark I felt the niggle return and then a distinct ‘ouch’ pain deep in my calf. I slowed to a jog, stretched again and aimed for home. I wasn’t limping but I wasn’t happy.

Instead of getting all emotional and upset this time I was realistic. I called myself every name under the sun and realised that maybe a hard interval session on concrete (duh) probably wasn’t the best for someone coming back from injury. Instead I focussed on getting ready for my first ever camping trip with the boys. As in MY first time ever sleeping in a tent, not just my first trip with the kids.

As always when I’m packing to go somewhere I packed my running gear. This was a positive move from me despite the soreness in my calf. I had enjoyed running along the coast in Cornwall so much at Easter that I really hoped I’d be able to do the same along the Pembrokeshire coast. After we arrived and set up the tent on Monday I noticed that there were a fair few runners around and this started to give me the itch to go out running. It’s infectious, runner see’s runners and immediately wants to go for a run. The NHS should investigate this phenomenon. I waited until the following afternoon and after giving my husband a headache, debating with myself whether to go or not, I finally went.

It did not go well. I was on unfamiliar narrow country roads. Cars whizzed past really quickly. I tried to stick to the ‘face the traffic’ rule but that rule makes no difference when the roads are so twisty turny that cars can’t see you until they’re on the corner. I tried to follow a bridle path but it turned out this was the way to someone’s house. Whoops. I started to feel my calf cramp and feeling very despondent I went back to the camp site.

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But instead of bitching and moaning I decided to get on with my family holiday. It was out of my control, I just had to wait it out again, rest it and see what happened. In the meantime there were more pressing things to be done like go to the beach, cook on the camp stove, fly kites, climb cliffs and watching dolphins.

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I think I can make running a bit more of a big deal than it actually is. It means a great deal to me but I’m not running for world peace or finding a cure for cancer. It’s just running and while it’s not great for me right now there are so many other things that are. I need to ease off the intervals and the long running for now. Focus on getting myself comfortable and ready to start training for the London Marathon next April. My first ever camping holiday has reminded me that sometimes there are things that are more important and just as much fun as running. Not running isn’t always the end of the world.

Run With An Idea Debate: Real Runner’s Don’t Walk

Welcome to another debate from Run With An Idea. This week’s debate is:

‘Real Runner’s Don’t Walk’

When I first saw this topic I was sure I’d be of the opinion that yes, of course, real runner’s don’t walk. And while it is true that many runners would eventually hope that they could complete a course or training run without walking, I don’t agree with the fact that walking makes you less of a runner.

Lately I’ve been injured and even though I’d rather I was able to run an entire run like I did months ago it’s not always possible so I use a walk break to allow me to stretch, gather my thoughts and complete my run. People who are new to running usually start with a walk/run programme, and there is nothing wrong with this. It is another form of interval training to build fitness in a safe way, a bit like a fartlek. Trail runners are occasionally forced to walk because terrain or incline mean it’s not safe or possible to run. So there are plenty of occasions when walking is valid, it does not mean that they are any less a runner. If ‘runner’ runners were really honest they would admit to occasions when they’ve been forced to walk.

The thing I have always loved about running is it’s accessibility to all. I love that anyone regardless of ability can put on a pair of trainers and get out the door to get fit. Running snobbery like this can really irritate me as running is not an elite club. Elite running is an elite club but not running itself. I can see now the type of runner who gets annoyed by walkers and thinks that they don’t belong: male, club runner, checks their watch a lot, tuts at other runners, you know who I’m talking about. There would be no reason for them to tut if race organisers would place people in pens according to their predicted time. Or maybe they could have separate pens for runner’s who know they’re going to need walk breaks.

If you run you are a runner, whether you need a walking break or not. People should not be discouraged from a hobby that keeps them happy and healthy to satisfy running snobs. What would we rather? That runner/walker’s stayed at home and became sedentary again? No, they are runners and they should be supported for doing everything possible to keep them active and moving.

And just so we’re not down on all walkers: Rob Heffernan from Cork, the winner of the 50km Race Walk World Championships, completed the course in 3 hours and 37 minutes. Two minutes faster than I ran my marathon (42km) last year. Walking isn’t necessarily something to be sniffed at.

Strong Before Long.

‘If you’re struggling with injuries learn to run strong before you run long’ @BrianRunCoach

This tweet appeared in my timeline over the weekend and it really resonated with me. Getting rid of all these niggles has been hard and I’ve clearly been making many mistakes. I’ve been doing things that deep down I know are wrong for me and I should know better.

The list of mistakes I’ve made is long:

  • In my desperation to get back up to my previous volume of training I’ve increased my mileage too far too soon.
  • I’d only been doing long steady runs.
  • I ignored a pain in my calf, continued to train over it and made it worse.
  • I eventually rested by calf but didn’t give it enough time, returned to running and set myself back.

These things are mistakes that many other runners make and I’m sure I won’t be the last. Then there are other little things that are personal to me too, like just doing steady runs when I know I don’t get my running buzz from just doing long runs. I love intervals and running fast, always have. I had started to run with music. Something I never used to do, knowing deep down it wasn’t for me but doing it anyway because people seem to be really surprised that I don’t listen to music while running (all my long training runs for my marathon were without music).

So what am I doing to make things right for me and running?

Backing off.

That is what I’m doing. I’ve gone back to an old favourite route of mine which takes me about 40 minutes. This run is comfortable and I’m not getting any calf pain while I do it. I’m also sticking to every other day for the time being. The calf seems to be a little bit tight the day after a run but is resolved with stretches. Still I would rather this tightness eased before I even considered doing runs on consecutive days.

Ditched the music

and I am so much happier running for it. Running has always been my time to zone out and focus on my running, and probably without realising it, my breathing. I’ve run since I was eleven years old and I wonder if suddenly introducing the music (at age 33) upset my rhythm and distracted me too much. After a few runs I’ve already found that I feel more fluid and natural without the iPod.

I’m mixing it up

I’m going to try and mix the steady runs with some interval sessions. I find that even though the steady runs give me my endurance base and my engine, the intervals and faster sessions help me to improve. I’ve read so many running articles advising that runners should stick with long and slow to see improvement, but I don’t think my biology responds to that. My original base is from middle distance and I’ve always found that I thrive on this type of training and I find it strengthens me above all else.

This is the new plan. Marathon training for London is a few months away yet so the aim is definitely to be strong and niggle free before I go long. I am going back to what feels comfortable and natural, building my running foundations again before I try to ramp up the miles. Strong before long will be my mantra for now.

Thank you to @simon_lamb who retweeted the original quote in his time line. It gave me the much needed running inspiration I needed.

Run Your Own Race: Lessons in life and running from Mo Farah.

This evening I sat down like many athletics fans to watch Mo Farah go for his second double double in the men’s 5000m at the World Championships. I usually get butterflies before watching Mo race but tonight I felt worse. I felt nauseous and unwell as the field lined up. The feelings of unease continued and didn’t really settke as the race started.

Since his double win in London you just knew that Mo was going to become a marked man. Teams of athletes from around the globe including the dominant East African nations would be watching him, waiting to see what he did. They were ready to pounce on any moves he might make, talking to each other, possibly boxing him in to stop any tactical change in pace by the Olympic champion.

At one point early on in the race tonight one of the Kenyan athletes, I think it was Koech, tried to inject a bit of early pace and I immediately thought that this was how they were going to beat him: throw in some fast laps and run the finish out of him. A lot of the field seemed to panic and go with it. But not Mo. Mo sat back, unphased, doing his own thing. An Ethiopian athlete and South African athlete sat just behind Mo seemed to look at each other perplexed. Why wasn’t Mo Farah going with this injection of pace?

After less than 800m of the faster pace Koech seemed to realise that Mo wasn’t game for it and the pace slowed. And then all of a sudden Mo was at the front. The Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes, running as a team tried to respond, maybe trying to box him in, but every time they tried he drove forward again. He had an answer for everything they tried. They had no come back.

In the final lap I was worried that the athletes around might come back at him. But the hard work that he has done this year, such as fitting in sessions with his training partner Galen Rupp straight after winning the London Anniversary Games, just took him to another level above the pack trying to chase him down in the final straight. It was lesson in hard work and commitment. It was a lesson in running your own race.

The field tonight ended up dancing to Mo Farah’s tune. He didn’t panic, he didn’t get flustered and he stuck with his race plan. He didn’t worry about the form or the training of anyone else. He did what he had to do.

We may not think it but Mo’s race has lessons for even the most amateur of runners. Don’t worry about anyone else’s PB. Don’t worry about how many miles someone has told you they run every week. Care not that someone has run more races than you. On the day it’s all down to you. Run your own race and you will be rewarded for it. Lesson over.

The Baby Faced Destroyer

Earlier this week athletics fans were given a master class in long distance track running. The tactics were perfect, the wind up of pace unrelenting and the blistering final 400m (59.93 secs) wouldn’t have been too out of place in a club level 4 x 400m relay. I sound like I’m describing Mo Farah’s 10000m the other night. Well, I’m not. I’m talking about probably one of the greatest female distance runners, nay, possibly THE greatest ever female distance runner, Tirunesh Dibaba AKA: The Baby Faced Destroyer.

Picture from supersport.com

She has perfect running form. She glides effortlessly and gracefully after 24 laps as she does after 2 laps. Her record is beyond compare with 5 World Championship track titles, 3 Olympic golds and 5 World Cross Country titles. She did the 5000m/10000m double at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a whole Olympiad before Mo succeeded in his attempts. She is dominant and few can challenge her.

Now I don’t want to seem down on Mo (I’m not, I’m a massive fan) but someone on twitter pointed out that during the women’s 10000m the commentators talked about Mo Farah a fair bit without referring to the race that was unfolding before them. Frustrating and a tad disrespectful to the women who were racing their hearts out. After the race they also mentioned the presenters mentioned that they never tend to interview her ‘because she doesn’t speak English’. Hello! Interpreters?!

And lately I’ve also noticed a trend in women’s distance running where we only seem to laud those whose careers are already over, like Joan Benoit and Ingrid Kristiansen. But the men are always talked about in the present and their achievements are raised aloft but not so of Dibaba.

Maybe it’s because we don’t know her story. Maybe Dibaba prefers it that way. Maybe she doesn’t want the fuss and is happy for bigger personlaities like Usain Bolt to take centre stage, but I really think more should be made of this unbelievable distance running legend of our time. This diminutive athlete is one of my running heroes and it is always a pleasure to see her in full flow. Bow down to the Baby Faced Destroyer!

Run Wild!

I am a big fan of animal print. Not in a really obvious Bet from Coronation Street way (I hope) but in that a little touch of animal print can really help an outfit to pop a bit. I have a muted grey leopard print cardigan, three pairs of animal print shoes in different styles and a couple of tops (ok I do sound like Bet).

However I’m very pleased to say that some of the running retailers seem to agree with me regarding animal prints. I’m a huge fan of something a little bit different on my bottom half and it turns out that this post has ended up with a slight lean towards the well dressed legs department. Here’s some of the really wild gear that I’m coveting (just coveting, I’m trying to be good!).

Adidas have a number items in animal print, including their higher end Stella McCartney range but I think the less expensive items are just as nice. They’ve brought out their ‘perfect fit’ three quarter length tights in new prints and shades. I have two pairs of these capris from a previous range and I vouch for them. They are possibly the most comfortable capris I’ve ever trained/run in. Here are a couple of my favourites.

Ok, I don’t think these are strictly ‘animal print’ but the graphic print from a distance and in this grey hue looks a little bit like snake print

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Check out these capris. Zebra print. ZEBRA PRINT! You can pretend you’re galloping across the savannah in Africa during your runs.

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Women’s Techfit Perfect Fit Three-Quarter Tights available £25.00 at http://www.adidas.co.uk.

Nike are always in there with the trends and they have a splash of animal print in their running collection.

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I have these tempo printed boyshorts (£22 from http://www.store.nike.com) and I love them. I bought them in a small but I think if I had them again I would buy them in extra small (actually I did, but the courier company lost the package and Nike were EXCELLENT in dealing with the problem and giving me a refund). The fit came up a bit big on me round the waist band and it gaped, so I would suggest trying them on and committing to fitted and then some. I have to admit the shape of the shorts and the print did make me feel a bit hot stuff. Perfect for a speed session.

Puma have a wild cat as their logo so why not some wild cat themed gear. They have a few items in animal print including these sweat pants (£40 from http://www.shop.puma.com), perfect for cooling down after a hard session…..I guess. Not entirely sure I could go for strolling down the street in these but lounging about at home in them I could possibly manage. Their lifestyle shoe collection of trainers and high tops also have splashes of animal print. And to celebrate Usain Bolt’s World Championships win, Puma have an offer on: buy 2 items and get 50% off the second item with the code bolt100. 

Animal print does tend to have it’s negative associations style wise but I think these pieces are fun and not too in your face. And let’s face it, a splash of animal print in the middle of a tough run will just make us ladies look all the tougher. Like Tarzan’s Jane if she took up marathon running. I definitely fancy saving up for the zebra print capris but I may have to start a one in, one out policy with the running gear like I do with my shoes. Why do the running gear giants do this to me? (I love it really).

It’s Not All About Me

On Saturday I managed to get out running for the first time in ages. I was staying with my parents in West London and I had optimistically taken my running gear should I feel brave enough to test my calf out. It just so happens that on Saturday I felt confident to try it out, mainly because I’d run around with my children on Friday afternoon with no calf pain retribution. This odd little subjective measure felt like it was a green light to get out again.

As I got changed into my running gear on Saturday morning my Mum spotted me and asked if she could come running with me. I looked at my watch and worked out that I could take my Mum to the park across the road, do her walk run with her and still have time to jog up to the start of the Crane Parkrun.

Mum had kindly loaned me one of her sports bras as I had been a doofus and forgotten mine (interesting situation considering she’s an ample 36D and I’m a 32 *whisper whisper*). The least I could do now was help her with her running. We walked across the road to the park and we got jogging. We did a minute on, minute off and during the minute on I would chat to her, making sure she could still chat to me and wasn’t going to quickly. At the ten minute mark she was ready to quit but I suggested one more go, I stretched this minute to a minute and a half without telling her.

‘That was a long minute’, she said when we stopped to walk.

‘That’s because it wasn’t a minute’. She laughed and we walked for a minute. Then we jogged another minute, walked and then when we were nearing the gate I got her to keep going until we’d run another minute and a half. All told my Mum had managed 17 and a half minutes of exercise. I was thrilled for her and so so proud. My Mum is 64 and from a generation where exercise was something that men did. When she was at school she wasn’t allowed to do sport because of her asthma and when I was a teenage athlete she was always perplexed that I enjoyed running, fascinated that I wanted to train rather than stay at home. Maybe now she’ll see why I love it so much.

I walked Mum home and then headed up to Crane Park for my first Parkrun there. I joined 68 runners in a lovely park tucked away in suburban West London, an event that is shadowed by it’s much larger and more established neighbour in Bushy Park. It was a pleasure to help support a smaller event and I really enjoyed it, despite feeling the burn of having done so little running of late. I even slowed to help a young lad who had a stitch. His thanks to me was to run ahead of me in a burst of speed.

When I got home I felt the glow, not just of running but of the fact I’d been able to share running with other people for the morning. I’ve got so used to training on my own I’d forgotten how good it feels to help someone who is getting into running or to be surrounded by the running community at Parkrun. Saturday’s running wasn’t all about me and it felt good not to be looking so inwardly, something of a bad habit of mine as a runner.

If you want more information about Crane Parkrun, perfect if you’re living in Whitton, Hanworth, Feltham, Hampton (take the 111 in the opposite direction to Bushy) or Twickenham then go to http://www.parkrun.org.uk/crane/. I also heard that they’re desperate for volunteers at the moment (they had no marshalls on the course) so if you want some good running karma then maybe try and help them out (bit far for me in South Wales but I might give them a shout when I’m next up).

P.S I managed a 23.40 5k on Saturday. So chuffed after my lack of running lately.