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.

 

If you are interested in our mentoring and training plan service, click here to find out more.

Race Review: Berlin Marathon 2017

Berlin Marathon, a running street party…

Marathons are a fantastic way to explore a city and culture and Berlin is one of the best, giving you the opportunity to run through it’s history as you run between east and west as Irene Maulenda reports…

Waking up on the morning of the marathon in Berlin, I was both excited and terrified. It was my first ever marathon, one that I’d wanted to do for years and I’d finally got in on my fourth ballot attempt with some of the other girls from Girls Run the World.

We’d travelled out and were staying separately in different areas which meant we all made our own way to the race start line, although i was with my parents who’d flown from my home in Spain to watch. But even after saying goodbye to them and going off to my starting pen on my own, I didn’t feel like I was alone. It was like being part of a big party from start from finish.

I’d arrived at the race at 9am for my race start at 10am (editor’s note: the race starts at 9.15am but is a staggered start with those with proven fast finish times going off first), had handed my bag in and spent the usual amount of time queuing for the toilet. With approximately, 43,500 runners, Berlin has a busy start area so it’s good to give yourself plenty of time – an hour is enough – to sort yourself out and walk to your start area.

The starting pens are staggered so you don’t all start at the same time – just leave yourself plenty of time to get into your pen

Everybody in my starting pen wore the same excited look that must have been on my face too, and the atmosphere was electric. To keep myself calm while I was waiting to race , I read a few texts from my friends and thought of other runners who inspired me, such as my fellow runners in Girls Run the World, who were at that moment also taking on their own challenge doing the Ragnar Relay, a 170 mile run over the Kent Coast and my best friend who’d been the first person to inspire me to start running time seven years ago.

I didn’t have to wait long though before we were off, running down the streets of Berlin in a group like a huge street party.

The Berlin marathon, like one big running party

I’d decided to ignore my intended race pace and to run to enjoy the experience, rather than trying to stick to a pace which would have been impossible to do in such a crowded group. It meant that I was able to chat to other runners, including  Jaime and Javier, both Spanish, who told me that they were running their third marathon. I told them it was my first. “You’re going to experience things you’ve never felt before,’ they said. ‘But you will love this day.”

I lost them at the next water station, where I managed to perfect my technique of drinking while still running. Without an official pacer to follow, I spied a tall guy who was running a similar speed and decided to follow him to keep myself motivated. That said, the atmosphere was so amazing I felt buoyed up simply running along with so many others from around the world.

I was running for MacMillan Cancer and when I passed another runner who was also running for them, I said hello. Her name was Danielle, and she told me she’d also done London and LA and that I’d love London if I ever got the chance to run it. I wished her luck and set off after my unofficial ‘pacer’, through the 10km mark, where I high fived all the kids holding their hands out on the side of the route.

My German is rusty but I managed to say a few things “ganz toll” (great), genau (genius) and fantastisch (fantastic) to other runners, which helped to keep me distracted up to the half marathon point where I met a couple from Bilbao in Spain. “This is the second time I’ve run in Berlin and it won’t be the last, I love this race!’

Leaving them behind, I started to notice other runners were beginning to slow down and cramp, but I focused on sipping water at every station and taking on a gel every five miles. That and the iconic scenery kept me occupied as it started to feel harder. The route wound past the iconic Rathaus Schöneberg, the city hall for the borough of Tempelhof-Schöneberg which had served as the seat of the government of West Berlin till 1990. It’s where President J. F. Kennedy had proclaimed his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner”, and where so many people had gathered when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. The sense of running through history as I ran through just gave me goosebumps.

As I approached the 20 mile mark, I began to feel a bit anxious as I’d only ever ran this far once before when I’d bonked. Training for Berlin, my biggest fear was that I’d hit the wall but suddenly, I was past the point and reaching 21 miles feeling tired but good. Having my printed on my bib so that people could shout my name really helped encourage me and kept me going. And when I saw someone else struggling, I’d call out their name and say, ‘come on mate, you can do it.’ I don’t know whether it helped or annoyed people but it helped take my mind off the discomfort!

By the time I started my last 10k, I had my parents to look forward to seeing who’d arranged to wait at the next water station.  AS I turned the corner into K’damm, music blared out and I could see my dad’s red raincoat (Editor’s note: get your supporters to wear something bright, or hold a colourful sign on a tall stick so you can spot them) and started waving like a mad woman.

I managed to blow them a kiss and as I ran past I began to feel even stronger. ‘Was I crazy if tried to run a bit faster?’ I thought. I checked my running form, mentally scanned my body for anything that hurt, and I decided I felt good and I was going to go for it.

I have never loved running more than that moment. People were shouting my name, and I couldn’t stop waving and smiling, it felt so AMAZING. By now, I was passing people and when I ran past the last aid station at the 40 km point I felt like I was flying. Finally, I could see Brandenburg Gate in front of me, and started to sprint. It nearly finished me off when I then realised that the finish line was a further 400 metres but I found the strength and pushed through to cross the finish line in 4.18.21.

When the race volunteer hung my medal around my neck, I was so overwhelmed I burst into tears and was still crying in the race picture. Heading out to meet my parents, I spotted the unofficial race pacer I’d followed for most of the race standing with his family. “Thanks so much for your help, I’ve been following you most of the race, you kept me going.” It turned out that it had been his first marathon too.

Berlin is renowned as being an iconic race and all I can say is that it lived up to and surpassed expectations. As a trail runner, I’d been worried about whether I’d enjoy a road marathon but the Berlin marathon is fantastic, for the scenery, its history and the support and sense of camaraderie amongst the other runners.

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Here’s where we break down the race and give you our nuts and bolts assessment…

The Good

  • Amazing atmosphere and organisation
  • The expo was fantastic, packed full of fantastic new products like a foam roller with three vibration modes that is already in my Christmas list!, definitely worth going
  • A fast, flat course

The Bad

  • Although each pen apparently has official pacers, it’s so busy in the pens at the back, I never saw any. If your aim is to get a good time, then having an official pacer to follow would be good.

The Ugly

  • It may be a flat course but it is difficult to get a personal best if you don’t start near the front because it’s so busy; in places the roads are not wide enough for the crowds and runners, and the water stations are a nightmare with cups all over the road.
  • No race finisher’s t-shirt.

 

How to get into the Berlin Marathon

The Berlin Marathon is very difficult to get into on the ballot which is why so many people enter via running travel companies like 209events.com. The other ways to do it are as a fast runner which affords you automatic entry, or enter the ballot as a team. It doesn’t mean that you have to run together, but it means that you ALL get in together if accepted.  We don’t know whether it improves your chances but Irene had tried three times separately without success. It was fourth time lucky for her and first time success for all of those she entered with who were all women. Worth a try!

The Berlin Marathon takes place on 16 September 2018. Registration is open until November 8th 2017. For entries visit https://www.bmw-berlin-marathon.com/en/

 

 

WIN free entry to Trick or Treat Run London

Fancy taking part in a spooky run where you can opt for a Trick or Treat finish? In conjunction with Human Race Events, we are offering two places for a winner and friend to take part. Read on for how to enter…

It’s the third year running for the Trick or Treat Run London, where thousands of runners will get the opportunity to run 2.5km or 5km in fancy dress  on a traffic-free route just ten minutes from London Waterloo at  Southwark Park.

Taking place on Saturday 28th October 2017  (choose the Afternoon Spooky Run or the Evening Scare Run in the dark) the course features several Halloween themed zones, along with a number of spooky surprises around the route, such as the skeleton grave yard and the wicked witches. Best of all, it features a unique dual finish, with runners having to choose their final path, which will result in either a trick or treat as they cross the line.

This year the Evening Scare Run will lead into the Trick or Treat party, hosted in the event village which will include a DJ and Halloween themed bar and everybody who takes part will receive a bespoke Trick or Treat Run medal, with fancy dress highly encouraged and head torches recommended for the Evening Scare Run.

It’s open to children as well as adults. For more information visit trickortreatrun.co.uk.

 

FANCY WINNING TWO ENTRIES? Click here to enter. The winner will be picked at random on Wednesday 18th October and notified via email.  

 

 

Race Review: The Maverick Inov-8 Original Kent 

Fancy taking part in a beautiful trail race in inspiring surroundings? Sarah Crosier gives us her lowdown on Maverick Kent, one of a series of trail run events held in spectacular locations around the UK…and the race refuel stops aren’t bad either…

 

Ever fancied running a trail run with your pet dog? Sarah Crosier In September last year, I adopted a Border Terrier puppy called Alfie. The kids thought he was coming to live with us for their entertainment, but I’d secretly been doing some extensive research on dogs with stamina to keep me company on trail runs. And so this September, I entered our first race together, the Maverick inov-8 Original Kent.

The race is set in a beautiful location in Groomsbridge, Tunbridge Wells, a moated manor house dating back to 1662 and home to the Bennet Family in Joe Wright’s film adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”. It was a damp Saturday in September and I hadn’t realised how wet the ground was until we arrived in the grassy, and muddy car park. We probably should have read the race instructions and worn trail shoes but after lots of friendly chatter with the other runners, we forgot our soggy feet and set off on the 14k race. This was a middle distance route, with a shorter 7km and a longer 21km to choose from.

There was a complete mixture of runners, some with their dogs, some attempting a personal best and others, like myself, just happy to take part. We started close to the back as Alfie was barking with excitement from being around all the other dogs. Because of the dogs, it meant that the race was a little slow to get started because we had to queue to climb over a few stiles but we kept ourselves amused by chatting to the people around us. Today was more about having fun and enjoying the views.

After the first 1k, the runners spread out and we could enjoy the beautiful Garden of England scenery, including pine forests, open heathland and Harrison’s Rock. The terrain was varied with an uneven woodland floor, some rolling hills and a few fallen trees to jump over. The whole route was well marshalled and signposted.

At about the 5k mark, we found a water and feeding station, where there were slices of banana, watermelon, orange segments, cola bottle sweets and cola drinks plus a water bowl for Alfie – amazing! After our impromptu picnic and natter with the marshals, we headed off again.

Some of the pathways were quite narrow and as we weren’t worried about time, we stepped aside to let the faster runners (who were running 21k) overtake us. But when we met another woman running on her own and struggling at the 6k mark, we gave her a honey energy gel and some encouragement. The route was very muddy in places and it wasn’t always easy to run without slipping/falling over (definitely should have worn trail shoes!) To make things a little harder, Alfie started to tire and refused to walk through the final muddy pathway so I had to carry him for a few metres! Thankfully, when we reached the final field  he was happy to sprint to the finish. A few minutes later, we cheered when the woman, we had met earlier, crossed the line.

Both Alfie and I received a medal each, which also doubled up as a beer bottle opener. And the goodie bag included some  Maverick homebrewed ale and a Tribe bar. Ice tea and coffee was also available. It was a fantastic, well marshalled race in beautiful surroundings with the best race refuel stations I’ve ever encountered.

Event in Brief

The Good

  • Incredible scenery
  • Water and a fab food station. Plus a nice coffee/cake stall at the start/finish
  • Inclusivity and atmosphere
  • Ale and beer opener/medal

The Bad

  • The bottleneck at the start of the race
  • The mud – don’t expect to get a PB

 

Race Bag Haul: Haul or Hoard

You don’t get given a race t-shirt, although I’m not bothered as I have a drawer full, which I never wear but some people may be disappointed. But the rest of the race items were great quality.

For more information

Maverick offer a big series if races around the UK and Girls Run the World are partnering with them to offer exclusive discounts to Girls Run the World runners. We will be announcing our Girls Run the World Race Get Together in the new few weeks. Prices start at £20 while children are free if under 16.  To find out more visit Maverick Races.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have a race review you’d like to share?

Nowadays, there are thousands of races from fun 5km to fiercely fast ones, and from glorious, awe-inspiring trail running races in the UK to nail-biting, challenging for life changing trail races in Iceland or India. Whatever the case, WE want to hear about them.

If you have participated in – or about to participate in a race and think it is one that could help to inspire other women to start training in order to take part themselves, please write to rachael@girlsruntheworld.co.uk, outlining the event and including the website link. This could be one that you’ve already done or one that you have lined up.

We are hoping that in sharing our event reviews as female runners, we’ll build up a fantastic inspiration database for other women, not too mention including the details that us women like to know.

If you’ve already had your race event suggestion approved, download our guide to writing it here.

We look forward to hearing about all your amazing, life affirming race experiences from the UK, Europe and worldwide!

Learn to Run Beginners, Weds 13th September, 7pm Hove Seafront

Smash Your PB course, Hove, starts Sept 6

screen-shot-2016-10-23-at-16-10-52

Whatever speed of runner you are, if you are a Parkrunner or run longer distance, even if you only think of yourself as a jogger not a runner, this course will help you learn new techniques, help you improve your speed and your confidence.

Every woman who has completed this course has gone on to beat their personal best in their chosen distance. If you’re ready to take the next step in your running and to add some variety to your running, this course is for you.

It doesn’t matter how fast you are compared to anyone else, it’s all about helping you to achieve your running potential.

For those who do have their sights on the Bright10 event, this course will be perfectly timed for this event.

It costs £48 for the six week course which is non-refundable/exchangeable. However, we are introducing a new monthly membership in September which will allow you unlimited access to our running and boot camp sessions although you will be required to commit to a minimum of two months. If interested, please get in touch.