Event Review: Valencia Half Marathon

Sunshine, a bag of oranges in the finish bag and a beach on which to recover after the race, this is half marathon is hard to beat for the route, the support and the fantastic goodie bag…

Sunshine and race shorts in October. No wonder we’re smiling!

In October, we took a group of women to the Valencia Half Marathon for the tenth of our Girls Run the World Run Away trips  (we’ve taken groups to Istanbul, Lake Garda, Palma Half, Berlin, Paris and many more) and what an amazing race it was.

Valencia is a city that is made for running (although perhaps not in the heat of mid-summer!) with beautiful wide boulevards shaded by trees, the beach and the fantastic Jurida Del Turia, a landscaped park that has been created in the bank carved out by the old river that once flowed through the city and which means you can run or cycle right the way around the outside of the city.  Add to that, fantastic food, a beach and incredible support from those lining the roads and this is one international race that we shall be returning to for future trips.

The day of the race dawned a little cloudy but still warm enough to allow us to adopt the novel approach of hiring the hotel’s bikes to roll sedately and anxiety-free down to the start line (hurrah, no panic about trains not running on time or taxis not getting through the roads). After dropping our bags, we each headed to our respective pens and then, we were off.

Parking up the bikes

Thankfully, the morning was cloudy so it was a little cooler than the previous two mornings as we ran down the Aveniguda Del Port to the Jurida Del Turia and then headed back to the start line on the first 9km of the race. The route then heads out on the final loop in a different direction which sees taking runners through the centre of the city. I usually don’t like having to run past a finish line before I’ve finished but this time, it didn’t matter. The side of the road had been set up with grandstand type seating and the Spanish were all cheering loud, ‘Vamos’ ‘Go Chico, go,’ so it added to the atmosphere and buoyed me up for the second part.

This section of the route is more interesting because of the sights,  winding it’s way over the stunning 16th century, Puente del Real, which once connected the Palacio del Real to the walled city, (Real comes from the Arabic word, ‘Rahal’, which means orchard or garden). From there, we ran through the city centre with it’s designer stores and funky tapas bars.

The route sticks to the main avenues so there is plenty of space to run, as well as navigate in and out of the plentiful water stops. You can catch glimpses of the more traditional Valencian city down the narrow side alleyways, deliberately built this way to help keep residents shaded and cooler in the summer. Then it was time to head back to the port area and the finish line with the crowds of supporters getting bigger and louder the nearer I got. Then came the countdown road markers, 800m, 700m, every 100 metres marked off as I sped over the finish line.

I’ve raced in many different countries in the world and on big name races, but this finish line was very well organised as I was directed out of the immediate finish area with a big goodie bag, around to a finish recovery area where you could line up to get your big gold medal engraved or grab an lemon flavoured beer (delicious). At the race expo, I’d already picked up a fantastic complimentary race vest and a bag of useful products and the finishing bag was just as good.

Best thing of all about the finish area is that you can see the finish line, so I was able to cheer in my fellow Girls Run the World runners, then it was off to the beach for paella, beer and a swim in the  sea.

We ran, we drank delicious cocktails and enjoyed a few cervezas with some amazing tapas and food.Valencia as a city escape is fantastic. As a race destination, it truly rocks.

Post race beer and paella

The Race in Brief

The Good

  • Flat, wide, route excellent for a PB (although I didn’t!)
  • Excellent goodie bags
  • Fantastic organisation
  • the warmth – cycling to a race in October in shorts?!!

The Bag

  • Not enough toilets. But when have you ever been to a race with enough?

The Bad

  • Nothing

Our next Girls Run the World Run Away Trip will be to the Lisbon Half Marathon in March 2018. Our next Valencia trip will be in December 2018 for the 10km and marathon.

 

Even the race expo is worth going to – lots of great brands

 

Race bag included a race vest, skin cream, beer, snacks, chewing gum….

 

 

Kit Review: OOmg Recovery Shoes, £110

In the summer, we reviewed the OOfos sandals and loved them. Now, for the winter they’ve brought out a shoe. Here’s what we thought…

 

When it comes to running, their are so many claims about shoes that help improve your running or prevent you over-pronating but few products that focus on helping you to recover. Step forward Oofos. According to the manufacturers,  these recovery shoes absorb 37% more impact than other shoes thereby helping to support the body after a hard training run or race. While not scientific studies have been conducted, on anecdotal evidence alone, these make a huge difference.

I’ve worn them after the Berlin Marathon, the Valencia Half Marathon, park runs, trail running,  pace runs, you name it and they enable me to walk lightly and fluidly as if I’m a mere twenty-years old again. Remember, your legs and feet take two and half times your body weight with every stride you take when you run. Which, personally, leaves me exhibiting a slight wince as a walk (or mince, perhaps?) after a hard race as my calf muscles and  Achilles struggle to recover.

My only note of caution would be not to wear them ALL the time. It’s tempting, because they are as comfortable as slippers except you can wear them outside without attracting strange stares. However, the soles are so cushioned, I personally think you could be in danger of overworking the stabilising muscles in the ankles if you rely on them too much.  But as a recovery shoe, which is what they are intended as, these and the Oofos sandals have been a revelation.

For further information visit www.oofos.com

How to plan your running season

Autumn is here and most of us are fully in the swing of running now but now is when a little strategic thinking about your running ‘season’ is vital, particularly if you’ve  signed up to a Spring Marathon (London is 24 weeks way come November 6th!) ….

 

So, you’re a busy woman, juggling a career, social events, motherhood, or ALL of the above plus more. Running? That’s your way of keeping fit, having some me time, socialising and blowing off steam right?

But within this mix of factors as to WHY we run, how many of us enter races left, right and centre, particularly when fuelled by post race endorphins (or wine?) or because your running buddies are doing them?

I put my hand up as having done this in the past. And I understand it. It’s fun to have things to aim for, to motivate and inspire yourself (I once found myself signed up to five marathons in 14 months, from a trail race to road marathons spanning the globe from Mumbai to Istanbul and Italy). But it is when our running goals and targets end up injuring us, leaving us chronically fatigued, or always feeling like we’re not doing enough, that it becomes a problem.

How many times, for instance, have you run yourself ragged training for a race, trying to fit it around work, family, and generally having a life? You end up feeling guilty when you are running and guilty when you aren’t running. Or, perhaps you are someone that finds yourself limping from one race to the other, never quite recovered, carrying an injury or running through it until finally, it takes you out. Sound familiar?

To help you avoid this – and to ensure you end up a stronger, happier, more fulfilled runner, these are our tips to ensuring you have a fantastic running season or year ahead.

 

  1. First, pick your goal race. You can have more than one of these per year, but make sure you follow the principle of progression for each of them. If you can’t, it means you are entering too many of them close together.
  2. For every goal event, have a training plan. It can be one off the internet, designed for you personally, or  one that you’ve written from your own experience. Whatever it is, here’s what we’d recommend in general; 8-12 weeks for 10km, 12-16 weeks for a half marathon, 16-24 weeks for a marathon and 24 weeks plus for an ultra.
  3. And within EACH of these plans, they should have three components;
    • Base phase – 4-8 weeks focusing on endurance/strength and conditioning to prepare you for harder workouts and help you prevent injury.
    • Race specific – 4-8 weeks where workouts become more difficult and specific to your event. So, if doing a marathon, runs including faster sections at race pace, if doing a hilly trail race, runs that replicate this.
    • Taper period – this includes 2-3 weeks of reduced mileage and increased intensity.
  4. Plan in ‘tune up races’ – once you’ve chosen your ‘A’ race, you can and should enter other events but these should be events that help support your main goal, where you can practise pace, your race strategy etc. For marathon runners, this should be a half marathon 4-6 weeks from your race, for a  half marathon, these could be 2-3 races of 10km to 10miles in length, while 10km runners can choose some park runs.

And most importantly, within your training cycle for an individual race – and over a year, there should be recovery periods. If you keep on racing, or have events after events, your body has no time to recover. And it is in this recovery period that your body builds and gets stronger. Ignore this – which is what happens when you follow a scatter gun approach to entering races – and you will eventually find yourself injured. Perhaps not in the first year or even the second, but it gets everyone in the end.

 

Does this ring any bells with you? What’s the most events you’ve ever entered in one year? We’d love to find out so comment below.

 

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