During our 2018 Girls Run the World® Runuary™ Challenge, over 500 women across the globe participated in running a tiny bit every day of January to help boost their own health, fitness and well being and to help inspire and encourage others. We also ran several competitions that were only open to those who registered for the event. Here are the winners – congratulations girls!
There were so many brilliant entries to our prize to win a running jacket and run leggings with Sundried. We asked people to share why they loved running but we thought the best was from Helen Monk, whose instragram picture and reason why she loved running summed it up. Congratulations Helen (or Molly as she is on her IG!)
And we are awarding Fi Thomson a three month subscription to The Protein Ball Co. for her posts which best sum up the ethos of support, inspiration and motivation through GRTW community, #bettertogether. And quite frankly, because her posts were so damn funny! (And yes, they really did create a Strava route in the shape of boobs!)
Do you find all your best laid race plans go to pot because you panic on race day? Here’s our guide about how to stay calm from the night before the race right the way to the finish line…
Go out You may feel like you want to be alone the day before your race, but socialising could work as a distraction, helping you relax and disengage from the pre-race nerves. An early dinner or film with friends or family could be the perfect solution.
Write your own confidence story, recommends sports psychologist, Josephine Perry, Performance in Mind. Split a piece of paper into two columns, write your goal for the race on the top left, and your mantra on the right. At the bottom left, write your strengths, which you can take from all the training runs that went really well, while on the righthand side, write down three sessions that you did in training where you felt you could nail your goal. ‘It works to remind you of all the training that you’ve done where you have achieved your goals and will help to calm your anxiety by boosting your confidence,’ she explains.
Get prepared the night before It sounds obvious, and it is. But how many times have your found yourself running around the morning of a race looking for your socks or your safety pins? ‘Lay out your kit, pin on your race number, fasten your chip, prepare your breakfast, plan your journey,’ advises GRTW running coach, Tara Shanahan. ‘Then try and relax, listen to some soothing music, read a book, anything to distract you from thinking about the race.’
Take a deep breath – Anxiety tenses your muscles and shortens your breathing, limiting the amount of oxygen available for your brain to think clearly. ‘Find a quiet place and focus on your plan, your mantras, all the stuff that has got you through to this day,’ advises GRTW running coach, Tara Shanahan. ‘Remember, it’s just running, something that you’re doing because you love it; think of the race as the ultimate opportunity, time to do all the things that you’ve done so well in the lead up.’
Have a mantra – smile with the miles ‘In every Ironman I’ve ever done, I’ve wanted to quit,’ says Ironman champion, Chrissie Wellington. ‘That little voice in one ear that says, ‘pull to the side, it’s not going to be your day,’ but I’ve pushed through repeating my mantra, Never Ever Give Up and smile. You’re only as powerful as your mind.’
Devinder Bains, now 39, was a magazine features editor on a busy weekly magazine, more used to press launches and cocktail bars than running through the Sahara Desert without showering for a week. But that didn’t stop her taking on the Marathon Des Sables, an arduous six day multi-stage race of over 155 miles on just 12 weeks training that has a tiny 14% female entry level.
Whatever your goal, to complete GRTW Runuary, to train for a marathon to reach your first 5km, read these tips from these four inspiring, every day female runners who took part in GRTW Runnual – to run every day of the year – in 2017…
Hildi Mitchell, 47, teacher
Why did you decide to do it?
It was New Year’s Day when my friend, Emma told me about Girls Run the World Runuary 2017. I’d been ill all holiday and was feeling despondent but she persuaded me that it would be a great way to get back to running (I’d had to take 2 months out of my training for Brighton marathon due to injury and illness), on top of which we were at La Santa, it was sunny and there was a running track on my door step. By February, I was loving the challenge and decided to carry on.
I almost gave up when…never although there were hard days when I was ill and super busy. I had to run on a morning of my sister’s wedding after a gruelling two day interview, and once at 5am in the morning before packing all the kids suitcases to dash to the airport to fly home from holiday. Only once did I nearly not run and that was in January when I went out in my pyjamas, coat and wellies to walk the dog because I wasn’t feeling the running vibe. Then I thought, ‘What the hell!’ and ran a kilometre holding my hands over my boobs because I wasn’t wearing a running bra! It was then I realised I’d probably been making too much fuss about the effort required in ‘going for a run’ in the past.
The biggest surprise was…that I didn’t get injured because I learned to listen to my body in new ways. I adjusted my route, distance and time of day to reduce grumbles. Plus I got a 5km PB after five years, which I think came from the discipline of running every day.
My friends and family …were really supportive although my husband thought I’d get injured or make myself seriously ill. I did most of my runs with my cockerpoo, Pippin, but it also meant I ran with my sister and my daughter who did her first park run with me. We all ended up running the Edinburgh marathon relay with my daughter doing the final leg which was really special.
The best thing… about it has been all the amazing sunrises and sunsets, and the experience of the changing seasons, the light, the weather and the world around me, a special gift which I’ll never forget.
If you’re considering doing it in 2018 here’s my three best tips…
1. Commit to a minimum distance and route: it’s 1 km from my door, round the half of the field over the road that is lit by street lights, and back again. That was my go to run on bad or busy days – and it doubled as a quick dog walk too.
2. Stop washing your hair after every run. Anything you can do to reduce the time it takes means it’s more likely it will happen. Get some dry shampoo and an attitude instead.
3. Get another challenge ready for After You Finish. You’ll be setting yourself the expectation that you WILL do this, but you’ll also have something ready to keep you motivated once you’ve achieved it. I’ve signed up for a 12 mile relay swim – better get in back in the pool!
Ruth Farnell, 56 IT Project Manager
Why did you decide to do it?
I didn’t I just found myself carrying on after runuary. After a few months, people started asking me “when are you going to stop” and I had to have an answer so I said “after a year”
I almost gave up when…. I got back from a long day at work and had to go out for a short run at 11.30pm. I’ll be forever grateful to my partner for sticking my trainers on and pushing me out the door because he knew the streak was very important to me.
The biggest surprise was… finding some beautiful running routes in parts of the country and in cities where you would least expect to and the joy of running in the rain.
My friends and family…were really supportive, my four adult kids are really proud of my running in general but particularly with runnual and completing my first 2 marathons. My partner has thought me barking mad but has also been quietly very supportive.
The best thing about it has been…
1. Meeting lots of new people, especially Anne-Marie D, a quiet dignified lady who let me share her runs in a beautiful part of Belgium, South of Brussels who i met through GRTW Runuary.
2. The sunrises, which set me up for my day and helped get everything into perspective. We are tiny specs in the universe with such a short time on the planet so enjoy your running and as many sunrises as possible.
3. introducing me to a community that stretches across generations and brings you together with people you wouldn’t normally meet.
If you’re considering doing it in 2018, here’s my three best tips…
1. Use the internet and find out where people run in places you might be visiting.
2. Plan when you are going to run and do not be put off by the weather – get out there at the time you said.
3. Keep kit at work so you can nip out at lunch time if possible and to generally give you some flexibility.
Runuary has changed my running – or me – …..I’ve have developed muscles running 1300 miles this year – little and often suits me and all my times have improved and I’m much braver. Statistically women are relatively safe going out at night (women are more likely to be attacked in their own home). I’ve run places I wouldn’t have considered before and found them perfectly OK. I have also dealt with my phobia of big dogs.
Jenny, 46, project officer
Why did you decide to do it?
I split up with my husband in autumn 2016 and was looking for a new challenge to kickstart my health. Being part of Girls Run the World Runuary gave me a good reason to get out of the house every day, to run off some of the stressful emotions and to have a little time focusing on me.
I almost gave up …. on day 282, it was October, the days were getting shorter and I was working on a deadline at work so time was limited. The year was a long way in and I was feeling tired and it just felt pointless to run a joyless 1mile but fortunately my kids pushed me out the door and I’m glad I went.
The biggest surprise was… how much of a difference running every day has made. I no longer negotiate about whether I’m going to run, I just find the time slot each day that will be most convenient.
My friends and family …have all been very encouraging.
The best thing about it has been…the stress-relief, just one mile per day and the fun of discovering new places and sights to enjoy.
If you’re considering doing it in 2018, here’s my three best tips…
1. embrace those 1-mile runs – they are basically a rest day and help you stay injury-free and stop the injury risk of increasing your mileage too quickly
2. Find new timeslots in your week to run (I now run in the 30 minutes between dropping off and picking up my daughter from her flute lesson; also I drive past a park on my way home from work so once a week or I change into my running gear and get in a couple of miles before I get home.
3. I’m now a massive fan of taking running pics. They’ve helped distract me from thinking about the actual running and it has been really useful to look out for new/interesting/photo-worthy things, particularly on those local 1-mile runs that would have become very monotonous otherwise.
Runuary has changed my running – running every day means that each run matters less, so when you have one of those runs where you feel like a tortoise trudging through treacle happen, I don’t worry about it any more. Tomorrow is another day and will be different.
Wendy Davidson, Administrative exectutive
Why did you decide to try and run all year? I’d had a terrible 2016 and the idea of runnual inspired me. I thought that running was unlikely to make me feel worse, and would probably help.
I almost gave up when…. Believe it or not, apart from the odd day when I thought “Oh no I’ve got to run”, I never thought of giving up. I’ve run in rain, snow, ice, with hangovers, once I make my mind up I rarely give up.
The biggest surprise was… how much I enjoyed it and how much better it made me feel, so quickly.
My friends and family thought …I was crazy but they were really supportive.
The best thing about it has been…running with some lovely people, especially my partner in crime, Liz Shand, who was the one who suggested we do runuary and who also did runual. We’ve both lost our mojos at different times but we’ve been able to get the other one back into it We only run together 2-3 times per month but following each other on Strava has given us that support.
Runuary has changed my running – in that now I enjoy it, so much that sometimes I’d go out and run twice. IT’s also made me a much happier person and stopped me spiralling into depression. It’s lifted me further up than I’ve been in a very long time.
If you find it a battle in training, let alone on race day, the key to unlocking improvement may all be in the mind..
Don’t forget to join us for our Facebook Live Mental Strategies for the Female Runner, Friday 19th January, 7pm, £4.99. Secure your space via our booking page and join us in our special Run Like a Pro Facebook group wherever you live in the UK for our live event.
Whatever goal you set yourself, whether to achieve a promotion at work, build a business, gain a personal best at a race, lose weight or just get to the end of your first 5km, having a firm grasp of your why is key.
Why is this so important? Because when things get hard, such as weighing up whether to scoff a cream cake or resist, or when it comes to running, push your body to run faster in training when it hurts, your brain is constantly weighing up how hard it feels against WHY you’re doing it. If your perception of how hard it feels outweighs your motivation, you slow down or stop. If the opposite is true, you keep you going.
So, there are two ways to improve – train more so that you get used to the feeling and it feels easier OR, increase your motivation so the drive to do it will aways carry you through.
Easier said than done, you might be thinking. But there are some simple tips that will help you to define your motivations so they help carry you through.
Love what you’re doing
One of the world’s foremost experts on human behaviour, Edward L.Deci, psychologist at the University of Rochester argues that the strongest motivation comes not from some sort of external reward, like more money, increased social standing, losing weight etc, but ‘from the satisfaction that one experiences in doing an activity itself.” So learn to love your fast pace work, do it with people you enjoy training with and even turn it into a social occasion so that after your weekly ‘hard’ session, you go out for a drink together so it becomes associated with a fun pastime that you enjoy doing in and of itself, not just because you’re aiming for a PB.
In my own experience, the more I love the process of what I’m doing and embrace it as a way of improving rather than doing it for the end result, the more I enjoy it. Try to frame whatever it is you are doing as a personal quest to get better—to improve and beat yourself—and focus on the satisfaction you gain from doing just that.
Think of others
Fear, discomfort and tiredness are the most common reasons why we slow down, walk or pull out of training or a race all together. Yet, people achieve incredible feats of superhuman effort, such as lifting cars, when helping others in danger. So it stands to reason that thinking of others when you’re feeling in discomfort could help to pull you through.
In fact, when Shalane Flanagan, who became the first American woman in 40 years to win the New York City Marathon last November when asked how she’d pushed through the pain barrier, she said: ‘I was thinking of other people when it started to hurt.’ So try that next time you’re on a hard training run and see if it works.
Turn on, tune in, drop out
Mindfulness and meditation are the big buzz words nowadays and for good reason – if you can meditate and learn to let go of distracting thoughts, you feel calmer, less anxious and gain better focus. It can work to improve all aspects of your life, and the same principles can apply to running. Like meditation where you learn to ‘watch’ thoughts pass through your mind without attaching to them, so too, you can try this method when running. It can help to disassociate from voice telling you to stop running if you’re just starting out, and help to keep you focused to that finish line. This is one that worked for me in February 2017 last year dong the Seville marathon. And as you can see from the picture of me when I’d just finished, the pain was real but I managed to disassociate from it long enough to get my PB.
Want to hear from some of the most inspirational female runners in the UK today? Do you want to find out all the latest kit info? Then you need to get yourself to the first National Running Show at the Birmingham’s NEC on20th and 21st January
Girls Run the World will be at the show and hoping to bring you some podcasts and interviews with some of the incredible female runners who will be presenting, including Jo Pavey, Dame Kelly Holmes and the amazing ultra running mum, Susie Chan, who has completed the Marathon des Sables three times, and tackled running through a jungle for 5 days self-sufficient – a true Girl that Runs the World.
Plus, you’ll get the opportunity to have your gait analysed, which really helps you to see where you have biomechanical issues that strength and conditioning, flexibility and a different training shoe could improve. Plus, chat nutrition with the brilliant Anita Bean and visit the Nutrition Advice Zone, who will be offering valuable advice on what you should be eating and drinking as a runner..
And if that’s not enough, there will be plenty of running products and clothing to browse and purchase, with the likes of everyone from Vibram to Hoka One One and Saucony at the expo.
If you are considering entering an ultra, or even contemplating your first marathon, these tips from the GRTW ultra coach, Sarah Sawyer are well worth heeding…
Be a Tortoise not a Hare
There’s a reason why you’ll often see female runners perform better than men at ultras, and that’s because we pace ourselves like tortoises and not hares. My 100 mile PB is faster than some of my male friends who are sub 3 hour marathon runners, and that’s all down to pacing. I tell coaching clients that they should get to the halfway point of a 100 mile race feeling like their race hasn’t even started; do this and in the second half, you’ll tortoise picking off all those hares who have gone off too fast.
Learn how to walk
Don’t be afraid to take walking breaks in ultras; even the elites walk at times. On a hilly course, you’ll get natural walking breaks on steep up hills; on a flat course, I always take a short walking break every 30 or 60 minutes which uses different leg muscles and refreshes my running legs. However, when I say walk, I mean ‘power hike’ and not a Saturday afternoon amble round the shops! (anyone who has taken Sunday runs with us will be familiar with our ‘Be in control of that walk – stride it don’t slump it).
Eat little and often
After pacing, the second biggest mistake I see people make in ultra marathons is not getting their nutrition right. My rule of thumb is to start eating after 30 minutes and eat little and often from there onwards. People often make the mistake of waiting until they’re hungry before they start eating, but this means they’re going to be in a calorie deficit and will be trying to play catch-up all day. I aim for a minimum of 200 calories per hour and I get this from a combination of Mountain Fuel Extreme Energy drinks, Longhaul food pouches, GU Stroopwafels and 32GI Sports Chews. However, one size doesn’t fit all, so test out different things in training and find what works for you. And whatever you do, don’t try anything new on race day…..I’ve done that and it wasn’t pretty!
Deal with problems straight away
Things might go wrong in ultras. You can train and prepare, but there may be things that are outside your control on race day, such as adverse weather conditions, stomach issues, blisters and more. In an ultra marathon, everything is exemplified. So however much the temptation is to wait until the next aid station, where you can, deal with things straight away.
I ran the CCC (100k mountain race in the Alps) this summer and as I was climbing up to the highest point, the weather turned and I was subject to strong winds, freezing rain and snow. I wanted to keep moving and the last thing I wanted to do was stop and get my warm top, waterproof jacket and gloves out of my rucksack on the side of a freezing cold mountain, but I knew that if I didn’t, I’d be cold, wet and potentially hypothermic by the next aid station.
Ultras are like life
Sometimes everything ticks along perfectly, and other times, curveballs get thrown at us. As in life, the most successful ultra runners are those who deal the best with what ultras throw at them when things go wrong. I’ve had races which have gone like a dream and I’ve finished on the podium, and I’ve had races which have fallen apart and I’ve had to slog out a finish. In the latter, the easiest option would have been to quit. However, sometimes the races which go wrong and we have to slog it out to the finish are the ones we learn the most from, and the ones we end up ultimately the most proud of.
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…
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.
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.
The Race in Brief
Flat, wide, route excellent for a PB (although I didn’t!)
Excellent goodie bags
the warmth – cycling to a race in October in shorts?!!
Not enough toilets. But when have you ever been to a race with enough?
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.
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.