Marathon Mastery Series: The Taper

Are you having the terror tapers? Join the other millions of women who are more than likely feeling exactly the same. Here’s how to handle the marathon taper and figure out what is worth being disciplined about and what you should put down to complete maranoia…

How to get to the end of the rainbow of your taper period

I feel so lardy and out of shape. I’m losing all my fitness. Argh.

As long as you haven’t just stopped running completely as part of your taper, you will NOT be getting out of shape. While volume should be decreased (and how much you should decrease mileage varies according to what level of runner you are) , you should be keeping up your fast, speed and tempo work if that is the intensity that you are used to.

If you run at a certain pace for your threshold or sessions, continue to do so. Your legs are used to running now and this turnover helps to keep your muscles tuned and primed for the marathon. Don’t be come one of those runners who suddenly feels like they need to sit on the sofa and NOT move.

However, you can be doing ALL of those things and still be feeling like you’ve just eaten the Christmas dinner. This can simply be a result of a drop in mileage for your long runs but that you’re still eating the same as if you’d run that long. It’s normal, don’t sweat it.

Oh my god, running at even my slowest pace feels hard. How am I going to run marathon pace for 26.2 miles?

We’ve ALL felt this one. When you’re one to three weeks out from your marathon goal, which you’ve been training towards for up to 20 weeks, you can still wonder how you’re EVER going to run at the pace you’ve been training for; it can seem impossible, particularly when even your easy runs now feel hard.

Why do they feel hard? I’m of the view that mentally, you spend so long looking forward to the taper, expecting to suddenly feel full of life as if you could race Jessica Ennis that when it doesn’t, it seems extra hard.

However, on race day, if you’ve done your training and completed tempo sessions and long runs with some of it at  marathon pace, the magic just happens. It feels like magic because even 15 minutes after you cross the finish line having achieved your goal, you find yourself wondering how you ever managed to run at the pace you’ve just achieved.

I missed one long training run. Surely it would be better to just do one last long run?

No, it really wouldn’t. Your legs need the chance to recover…hell, mentally you need time to recharge and be prepared for the battle ahead (and marathons are amazing, but be clear, you do need to face a mental battle). Running for the sake of getting that one last run in, is far more likely to leave you exhausted, or worse injured, come marathon day. Stick to the taper plan.

 So, tapering means I can start going out and forget about running for a bit. Hurrah!  

On the flip side, tapering does NOT mean simply sitting on the sofa and scoffing pasta and cake three weeks before the marathon or that you simply can’t run at all. Keeping up the frequency of your runs, even if they are shorter will help prevent you feeling sluggish and getting antsy, particularly when you are so used to the mood boosting hormones that come with running.

 

 

 

 

The Strava Chronicles

 

A recent article in The Times by Peta Bee highlighted the rise of online virtual training apps like Strava. 

Love it or loathe it (and she was on the fence due to being confronted when meeting her virtual followers in real life – read the article here), being on Strava creates some funny behaviour. Do you recognise yourself in any of these…? I certainly do, I’m embarrassed to say…

The one where you spell out every bit of your training regime 

No, not come across this? Or perhaps you don’t even know what it means and you think it is some kind of secret morse code. It will read something like; WU, 2m@HMP, 2m@MP x 3, WD. And that’s just a simplified version.

I’ve done it, others have done it. Why? It helps you to keep track of your training diary so that when you scroll back through your activities, you can see what pace you were hitting and what training you did. But it could equally be seen as showing off about your running know-how.

Which is silly because let’s face it, none of us on Strava are Paula Radcliffe…erm, although I do hear that Jo Pavey is on Strava.

Run with RP

The secret runner…this is the one where someone keeps their running companion a secret. Is it because someone couldn’t make the effort to write out their companion’s full name (although why bother to write at all?) or that they want to keep their running partner secret?

Perhaps they’re having an affair, or they want their other running friends to know about someone new they’re running with? Maybe it’s a new boyfriend? Or maybe it’s totally innocent and we should all have something better to do than wondering who it is?

Easy run with the kids

The one where you want to make sure your followers don’t think you’ve run really slowly, more slower than you’ve ver done before. Fair enough if you really have run with the kids. Not so cool if you actually ran by yourself and you just wanted to go on a slower run but couldn’t bear not posting it because you’d miss out on your Strava monthly miles target.

Felt awful, feeling sick, last mile my leg hurt. Then my head fell off. And I lost my running shoe.

The traumatised runner…this is the one where a runner explains in minute detail every feeling and niggle that occurred on a training run. Usually written just after a long training run when someone is still so internally focused, they don’t quite realise how much they’ve just shared via Strava because they’re still reeling – and glycogen deprived – from the run.

Sun run, feeling fine. OR, Running off the work headache. Stress. Feel like I could punch someone.

The confessional runner where someone inadvertently (or perhaps not?) shares a little too much information about what’s going in their life in general.

 

Despite all of this, we are BIG fans of Strava at Girls Run the World as a training app. It helps you to set challenges, connect with others, keeps track of your training and even gives you ideas about how to train by following other people.

Our community is small, around 3000 around the UK with a few outpost in the US and Australia but we’re growing all the time.  By joining our club on Strava, we’re creating a network of GRTW runners which means that maybe next time you’re travelling to New York, Sydney or Mumbai, there might be another GRTW local runner who could show you her city. 

Join Girls Run the World on Strava here. And if you’re worried about privacy settings, here’s a little video about how you can create privacy zones. Click here

Documentary: Skid Row marathon

If you’re a runner, you know how transformative running is; it can change your mood in all the time that it takes to run for 20 minutes. And with each goal you achieve, whether a personal best or a new distance target, your confidence to believe you are capable of achieving more encourages you to challenge yourself to be a better you in all areas of your life.

If it needed any more proof, this is illustrated by Skid Row Marathon, a new documentary that has won a slew of US film awards and launches in the UK on London Marathon weekend.

It tells the true story of a group of runners, former homeless and drug users from LA’s Skid Row, who are trained over a period of four years by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Craig Mitchell to run a marathon.

If club members refrain from drug abuse, and stay off the streets and out of prison, the judge will them round the world to run marathons. If you’re training for a marathon or any race, you probably appreciate just how much the effect of having that discipline of getting out and training has on your life, add to that the friendship groups that you make when you run, and you can probably already get a taste of how transformative the project ends up being.

The documentary screens on London Marathon weekend at 02 Cineworld and Everyman Canary Wharf, followed by general release. For more details, visit www.skidrowmarathontickets.co.uk

Twitter: @skidrowmarathon
@skidrowmarathon

 

GRTW Easter South Downs Sunday Trail Run

Escape the family melee and build up an appetite (or, ahem, create a calorie deficit to make up for those Easter eggs) this Sunday April 1st.

We have a beautiful seven mile route planned that will take in all the deans, Rottingdean, Woodingdean and Ovingdean, exploring the South Downs in Spring.

Expect lambs, daffodils and a beautiful run that will incorporate some hills for those of our runners who are training for our Get Together Events, the sold out Angmering Trail Run 10km or 10 miles.

But if you’re NOT training for anything and simply fancy exploring a new route, join us and PAYG by booking online, £10 per run.

We have one more run as part of our Spring Series before our Summer Trail Series kicks in on Sunday 29th April and runs for 9 weeks. You can save 50% off single session runs by booking the full course for £45.

For details of locations/mileage you can visit our schedule here.

All runs start at 8.30am.

How was your weekend running?

Hurrah, it seems like the first weekend in ages that we’ve all had a respite from cold winds, snow, ice and frost which has probably made for a great Sunday training run for those on their final long marathon runs or who are tapering. And then there were the races on this weekend.

 

First up is the inaugural London Landmarks Half Marathon, which lots of our Girls Run the World community ran (we have a review coming up if you’re thinking of doing it next year), and along with the London and Brighton marathon ‘sharpener’ the Cranleigh 15 and 21 mile race.

As for myself, I was out on riding following last week’s snowy Moyleman Half Marathon Relay which has left my calf muscle a little tight, so I headed out on the bike instead (plus, I’ve got two half Ironman races coming up soon!). I usually ride with other people on long Sunday training rides but with my niece and sister staying, I had to do that thing that most mums have to do every weekend, juggle childcare and training. Which meant that I had to get out EARLY to get it done and get back to be a good host. Which meant a 6am wake up call….effectively 5am since the clocks went forward.

Riding 40 miles solo reminded me once again how useful training alone can be. It is unappealing when you’re about to head out but it’s really useful as a runner, triathlete or cyclist. While training with others can help to ensure we run faster and improves your speed endurance, doing long training runs on our own occasionally is the perfect mental training.

On my ride today, there was no one to lean on when feeling tired, no one to say, ‘Oh shall we just stop for a quick coffee/photograph/tyre change/gels stop,’ and that mental endurance is as important as your body’s endurance.

So if you’ve done some solo runs this season and they’ve felt awful, don’t be down on them, they’ve probably done more for your mental training than you expect. As you begin to taper for your marathon over the next three weeks, start thinking about these strategies, which technique or strategy are you going to use on your marathon?

Look back over your training diary/Instagram posts/training memory, and write down all the amazing or positive things that you’ve achieved in your training since you began back in November or December. These are your golden fuel bullets to power your mind and body on race day, but you need to have them in your mind so that you can remember them.

It may sound cheesy/over the top to write things down but tiredness from running in marathons plays funny tricks on your brain, and makes it hard to remember. I once tried to calculate my pace per mile on to my total running time for every mile I passed at the London marathon. I lasted about five miles before my brain couldn’t do the calculations anymore. Doh!

Anyway, we’d love to hear how your running went. Where you trained, where you raced…even where and how you recovered?!

GRTW Recipes for Runners: Roasted Butternut Squad and Halloumi Salad with Coconut, Coriander & Chilli Pesto

This is one of those recipes that sounds like a total hassle and like it will take a ton of time. But it’s really quite easy as most of it can be shoved in the oven to roast away and the pesto itself takes minutes if you have a food processor. The pesto is the queen of this dish, it’s amaaaazing and you can use it with anything from fish to roast chicken so it makes a brilliant post-run meal which sorts out your protein recovery fix as well as being damn tasty.

 

Ingredients

For the pesto

  • 75 g coriander (leaves and stalks)
  • 75g of fresh mint
  • 50 g unsalted roasted cashews
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 long red chilli, roughly chopped (deseeded if you don’t like it too hot)
  • 0.5 lime (juice and finely grated zest)
  • half tin of coconut milk
  • 1 pinch flaked sea salt

 

  • Cup of cooked couscous
  • Butternut squash, cut into pieces, and roasted in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper
  • Vine tomatoes,  roasted
  • Asparagus, gently steamed
  • Block of halloumi – cut  into thin slices and dry fry in an un-greased pan, turn when browned

For the pesto, add the chilli, garlic and cashews to the food processor and whizz up. It doesn’t need to be smooth, a little bit of chunkiness from the nuts can be nice. Now add the herbs, and salt and whizz again. Lastly, add enough coconut to combine but for it to keep it’s texture without becoming runny. Taste for seasoning and add fresh lime juice, and more chilli to taste. Serve with the salad.

 

Race Review: The Moyleman

A weekend of snow and sub-zero temperatures saw road races cancelled all over the UK.  But that didn’t stop this off-road marathon and relay half marathon from taking place on the trails above Lewes ending at Harvey’s Brewery…

One by one, the races due to take part over the weekend fell victim to the snow, ice and windchill and I was expecting – and truth be told, hoping – the same would happen for this off-road trail race that has only been going for the last four years. But it wasn’t cancelled and I’m so glad because this trail race, despite it’s hills and the brutal weather is now firmly on my repeat race list for next year and is definitely a destination race worth travelling for.

The route of the full marathon takes in five high points around the historic county town of Lewes – Black Cap, Kingston Ridge, Firle Beacon and Mount Caburn which command stunning views over the Weald and south to the English Channel, and passes sites association with the Bloomsbury set, including Charleston Farmhouse and Monk’s House in Rodmell.

An excited, if apprehensive crowd of runners greeted me as I went to Race HQ in a local school hall on the outskirts of Lewes; most runners were wrapped up as if about to head out on an Arctic expedition but with good reason, as reports were of 25 mph winds with a wind chill factor of minus 25 and with at least two thirds of the 350 runners taking on the full marathon over tough, hilly terrain, safety was of importance. What’s great about this laid-back friendly event which was set up in memory of local runner, Chris Moyle (a percentage of the race profits go to the nearby Matlet’s Hospice) is that it attracts a mixture of runners from serious club athletes set on racing to recreational runners as well as runners who take part with their dog.

After a quick race brief, a cheer for the marshals we all filed out of the school to a cold, snow covered part of the Downs and fifteen minutes after the marathon runners were set off, the rest of us were off, tracing the footprints in the snow of the runners how had been before. Fearing the windchill, I was triple layered and of course, absolutely baking as I ran up the hill to meet the South Downs Way where the first of the stunning views across the snow covered Downs greeted me. From here, it headed west along the top before dropping down hill where I soon began to pass some of the marathon runners.

Friends had told me about their horrifying training runs on the route a few weeks back when it was thick of gloopy mud and so the cold weather was actually in our favour because it had frozen most of the ground making it easier to run on. A punishing climb back up to the next ridge was rewarded with another swift downhill through the Castle Hill area on the South Downs, past a field full of baby lambs sheltering from the cold near their mothers and into one of the harshest hills on this first half of the route, Swanborough Hill, a long, snaking hill of a chalk path that winds up to the top of the ridge overlooking Lewes. No chance to catch your breath because at the top the route turned into the full force of the wind which at times threatened to push me backwards and freeze my cheeks. Ten minutes further on, an amazing group of marshals were braving the top of the ridge to man a water station, where it was so cold and windy, i threw half of it on me instead of drinking it.

With my Buff pulled up to eye level, I pushed on (after taking a quick picture which nearly saw me lose my fingers to frostbite) eager to run faster just to get off the ridge. A fast downhill via a tarmac laid road which is known as the Yellow Brick road and a turn left, taking us through a valley and out of the wind before the finish line of the first  half of this relay finished at the YHA in Southease , which was packed with supporters and a brilliant place for spectators to watch and for runners to finish with a warm cafe, toilets and even a shower.

Thankfully, my relay partner, Jan, had been dropped off by a partner so while other runners had to wait for a rail replacement bus back to Lewes (thanks Southern Rail!), I was able to pop straight into a warm car and head back to the finish line at Harvey’s Brewery. And what a fantastic finish, over the cobbled stones of Lewes High Street before turning right through the arches straight into Harvey’s Brewery, where you are greeted with a free Moyleman’s glass with a token for a free beer and free food, in this case an individual, handmade hot pizza which was absolutely delicious.

This race may be small, but their organisation in terms of communication in advance of the weather, not to mention the number of marshals they had out on course, was amazing. Every part of the route is brilliantly signposted and every turn staffed by smiling volunteers, despite the freezing conditions.

I’ve finished races all over the world but I think Harvey’s Brewery with a beer and pizza even beats Lake Garda’s prosecco finish. It just needs to be a bit warmer.

This is a tough, brutal course (word from my relay partner, Jan is that she loved it but she had five miles of wind!) but it is absolutely brilliant and not to be missed. It was part of our Girls Run the World Get Together Races for 2018 and will be again for 2019, so what are you waiting for? Join us down South for this one in 2019.

 

The Good

  • plenty of toilets for the numbers – no queues (hurrah!)
  • amazing marshals
  • best finish line
  • incredible pizza (like, seriously impressive!)

The Bad

  • The windchill but actually, the weather just made this one of those ‘I’ll never forget that race when…’ kind of times…

The Ugly

  • Those hills …although, I kind of like them

For details of next year’s event visit http://themoyleman.com. For details of our other Get Together Events for 2018 and Run Away International trips click the links.

 

GRTW Recipes for Foodie Runners: Cauliflower & black kale coconut curry

Packed with protein this is a satisfying and nutritious dish fcontaining coconut milk which contains vitamins C, E, B1, B3, B5 and B6 and minerals including iron, selenium and sodium, perfect for a post run recovery meal…

Haven’t got all the vegetables you need? Mix and match with what you have in your fridge.

Serves 4

4cm ginger, peeled and chopped

4 garlic cloves

1 fresh green chilli, roughly chopped, seeds removed if you prefer less heat

Salt

Olive oil

2 large red onions, chopped

1 tbsp of tomato puree

1 1/2 tsp of ground coriander

1 1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1 cauliflower broken into florets

400ml coconut milk

100g cashew nuts

Two handfuls of black kale, roughly chopped

1/2 tsp garam masala

Fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Fresh lemon

Place the ginger, garlic and chilli into a food processor with the salt and whizz up. Add a little oil to help it become a paste.  Place to one side.

Fry the onions until just turning brown, add the paste and fry for 3 minutes. Next add the tomato puree, all the spices except garam masala and stir to mix.

Add the cauliflower and coat with spices, add the coconut milk and bring to the boil. Turn to simmer, put a lid on and leave to cook.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp of oil in a pan and fly the cashews until golden.

Finally add to the cauliflower along with kale. Sweat down and then add the garam masala. Adjust seasoning and add the coriander and a big squeeze of fresh lemon before serving. You may add water to thin the sauce out.

 

Adapted from Made in India, by Meera Sodha, Penguin

Marathon Mastery Series: How to avoid an upset tummy

As we approach peak training load for those running Spring marathons, we often hear of runners complaining of an upset stomach and/or feeling sick during and after a run. Read on for advice about how to avoid it….

Run strong without feeling ill
Run strong without feeling ill

 

For many runners, stomach pain, feeling sick and needing the toilet urgently, are all unfortunate consequences of an increase in marathon training and long training runs. There are a number of factors at play that cause this, but one could be taking on too much carbohydrate in the form of gels.

‘If you take on too many gels or sports energy products, that’s when you get into trouble,’ explains nutritionist Fran Taylor, www.thebrightonnutritionist.co.uk. ‘Your body can only absorb so much sugar and any excess accumulates in the gut and draws in extra water which all contributes to making you feel pretty uncomfortable.’

Research shows that if you want to run faster and keep going, 30-60g of carbohydrates per hour when running for up to two hours (although remember the muscles hold enough fuel for 90 minutes so you won’t need to start taking them until you’ve run for an hour), which equates to about two gels or 8-10 Jelly Babies.  For runs longer than 2 1/2 hours, aim for 90 grammes, about three gels or 16 Jelly Babies.

The above paragraph should also illustrate the benefits of getting used to gels for racing – it takes 20 seconds to swiftly swallow a gel (and we’d recommend doing it fast, they’re not something you want to savour!) compared to trying to chew your way through lots of Jelly Babies.

But there can also be other factors at play when it comes to runners’ gut.

 

‘When we run for a long time, blood flow to the stomach is reduced in favour of the blood that is powering the muscles to run, and this is  exacerbated by dehydration along with an increase in stress hormones which are released when we exercise, all which can contribute to making you feel sick,’ explains Fran Taylor.

Try to replenish lost fluids when you finish your run and do some yoga stretches (check our YouTube channel for examples) which will help the body to recover and off-set the harmful effects of the stress hormones.

 

Here’s our guide to what you can eat to fuel your runs…

The Food

Gels

Disgusting flavours (Salted Watermelon or Toasted Marshmallow anyone?) aside, gels are easy to swallow and digest, and become available for the body to use as energy almost immediately. But lots of runners avoid them because they taste horrible and this can get confused with people assuming that this is what causes an upset  stomach.

But the reason they cause an upset stomach is usually because someone is taking on too much. Your body can’t use any more than 3 gels in an hour, or 60 grams or less. Then they don’t overload the system and while not tasting great, they’ll do the job.

I can personally vouch for this, I hate gels, hate the taste and the texture, as does almost every runner of every level that I know, BUT shoot them down in one and don’t overdo them and they DO work.  I’m a fan of High 5 Isogels, which are a little bit more liquid than most.

Electrolyte Drinks

If you’re constantly battling an upset stomach and it’s not nerves, switching to liquids may be an alternative. Nowadays, electrolyte mixes from the likes of Tailwind  and Scratch Labs have been specifically designed to fuel the body while moving in the easiest, most digestible form. This can help to a certain degree, but be aware that getting enough carbohydrate in from liquid alone requires drinking a lot. So, it provides an alternative but not without supplementing with another carb source.

Bloks

Performance blocks like Clif Shot Bloks and Honey Stinger Chews (which are also vegan and use honey as their carb source) are similar to gels but come in a denser form. They provide around seven grammes of carbohydrates at a time, and so this can enable you to test at what point, your body reaches overload and you begin to feel sick.

Longhaul Endurance

These food sachets are increasingly becoming popular with ultra runners, who can’t fuel their runs with gels and sweets because it causes bonking not due to hitting the wall but crashing into a sugar wa (keep feeding the body too much sugar and your sugar levels will spike and then fall, which over a long distance race is not sustainable). They come in flavours such as Turmeric and Chicken and Sweet Potato and Sesame, and provide between 32.6g and 23.7g of carbohydrate respectively. Not easy to take on you’re racing at full pelt but worth investigating for training runs.

Sweet Potatoes

Boil or roast sweet potatoes and you’re left with a creamy, fast-digesting carbohydrate which would work well at the beginning of a race, as long as you take the skin off first which contains fibre and which could cause a tummy upset or require a sudden need to go to the loo.

Crisps

Pretty much the first thing I can even think of stomaching after a hard run marathon is crisps. They won’t fuel you as well as gels, but they break up the monotony of just eating sweet stuff and contain salt to stabilise your electrolytes and they’re great for afterwards . If you’ve ever watched or taken part in an Ironman event, you’ll see crisps and flat cola on all the refreshment stations on the run.

GRTW Food for Foodie Runners: Spicy Cambodian Inspired Salad

Packed with flavour and spice to fight inflammation and help you recover

 

This recipe is inspired by the food that I ate while in Cambodia where I was writing about taking part in the Angkor Wat Half Marathon (watch out for our upcoming December 2019 trip) for Run ABC magazine. It’s packed with mint, chilli and all important fresh turmeric which is used in so much of Cambodian food and is particularly renowned for it’s anti-inflammatory properties helping you to recovery quickly – while enjoying LUSH food.

 

Ingredients

(Serves two)

Fresh turmeric root (available from most Asian supermarkets or health food stores)

1-2 Birds Eye red chillies

Fresh mint and coriander

Kaffir lime leaves (again you can get these frozen in Asian supermarkets)

2 Fresh Limes

Palm Sugar

Thai fish sauce

Rice wine vinegar

Little Gem lettuce, chopped

2 carrots

3 large tomatoes, diced

2 peppers, diced

Dry roasted peanuts

Method

In a pestle and mortar, grind together the chopped up chillies (you may not need two, that’s just me!) with grated turmeric root (1 inch piece is great) and then add fish sauce and rice wine vinegar. Now add palm sugar to taste, along with lime juice. (You’ll have to adjust the seasoning to how you like it but it’s meant to be spicy, sweet and sour – rice wine vinegar will sweeten and the palm sugar helps to take out the fire!).

Now add the peppers, carrot, and chopped tomatoes, and lightly pound with kaffir lime leaves with the dressing. Finally add it to the lettuce and combine well, with plenty of fresh herbs and sprinkle with dry roasted peanuts. You can serve this with pan roasted salmon, a sliced beer, chicken or tofu, whatever takes your fancy.

So, this is not quite as good as Cambodian food eaten on the side of the road at a street food stall (I’ll never forget fish baked in salt crust with a banana leaf salad at a street stall!)  but it’s pretty good!