We’ve never had a summer quite so hot, although one way to steer clear of the heat this weekend was to take part in the Lunar-tic Marathon River Marathon which ran through the night. But we thought it was the perfect conditions for our inaugural GRTW Run Wild trail and yoga retreat. How did you fare this weekend in training or racing?
Over the weekend, we spoke to lots of runners at our GRTW Trail and Yoga retreat and opinion is evenly split – some people love warm summer running, others much prefer the cooler conditions of autumn or winter. Whatever the case, a little nifty trick for you – put your running vest in the freeze for 15 minutes before you go out…it will keep you cooler for a little while.
On our trail weekend, we kept our runs to the early morning or late afternoon with a route through Houghton woods for one of the steamiest runs of the weekend on the Sunday. And even on those hotter, hillier runs the reward was stunning views and a delicious breeze on the way back to base. And of course, nothing feels quite as good as yoga after a run, particularly outdoors in the shade.
Elsewhere this weekend, was the Lunar-tic Marathon, a 3 lap night trail along the River Adur, the perfect antidote to the day’s heat and perfect conditions.
We’d love to hear where you trained or raced over the weekend, particularly further afield in Scotland, Wales or further north. Let us know.
Summer is a time of trail races and those with a bit of a twist…
I didn’t race this weekend as I was busy checking out more routes for the Girls Run the World Trail and Yoga Retreat this coming weekend (July 20-22), and it sure was a hot one! Which is why I headed off for an open water swim in the beautiful Weirwood Reservoir rather than run again.
But elsewhere, there was lots going on in the trail running stakes, not least the spectacular Gran Trail Courmayer, with distances of 30, 50 and 105km to choose from…the winning woman of 30km took 3 hours 50 mins, 47 seconds while the 102 kms took 18 hours, 51 minutes and 12 seconds. That says it all about the elevation, eh? Still, it’s a race that’s on my bucket list.
Closer to UK shores, literally, was the Beat the Tide 10km in Worthing on the South Coast. This is a great concept, where you run an out and back along the beach, trying to beat the return of the tide to avoid getting wet feet. One GRTW runner who took part, Tanya Taylor said this about the race: ‘It’s always fun when you do a race that’s a little bit different to the norm- and running with a few hundred people across the sand definitely felt more fun than not. Well organised, relaxed & beautiful scenery- win, win.’ One thing to remember though, wet sand…it’s a little tougher to run on but definitely not as tough as soft sand! And of course, this weekend saw the 100km Race to the Stones, along The Ridgeway. Did you run it?
And for those The other big race of the weekend was The British 10km in London, which goes right through the heart of London. Did you run it?
Mountain running and park runs , I’m a little late with this weekend post from 7th-8th July but my excuse? Holding running in the lovely Italian Dolomites and Lake Garda…
If you ever fancy a DIY running holiday, I can’t recommend Lake Garda and the Dolomites enough. I was there last week, firstly in the Dolomites to take part in an arduous but absolutely amazing cycle sportive, Maratona Dles Dolomites. I then stayed on and just ran the trails that I could find. Hilly, hard but absolutely stunning with nothing but the babble of mountain springs and the gentle ring of cowbells through the clear air.
The amazing thing about this area, Alta Badia is that during the summer, they even put on regular weekly runs for five euros, that you can just join and they’ll guide you through amazing mountain trails. I didn’t have time but I definitely plan to return. Details here
Running is big in every country now but, until I went to Italy I had no idea just how huge the trail running scene is, not to mention fantastic ultra trails. Just a weeks before, was the Laveredo Ultra Trail Race which The Guardian’s Adharanand Finn wrote about last week (read it here).
A few days later, I travelled from the Dolomites to Lake Garda, where I kept coming across placards on the mountains and billboards advertising incredible races. On one hike, I saw signs for the Lake Garda Mountain Race. Sounds amazing, I thought. The clue was in the name though, this is a race that starts on the lake level at the beautiful Malsecine and climbs from 68 metres to 2128 metres. Bearing in mind I had DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) for 48 hours from walking down, you can imagine how crazy fit you’d have to be.
But this area holds a special place in my running heart, as it is Lake Garda that was my very first marathon – it was hot, it poured with rain, the race refreshment included biscuits (which I tried – doh!) and there was Prosecco on the finishing line. (You can read the article I wrote about the race here). It was also the location of one of our busiest race trips with over 32 Girls Run the World runners joining us for the 10km and 15 mile race.
But back here in the UK, it was a super hot weekend with lots of our runners reporting suffocatingly hot park runs from Scotland to Southampton. Did you run?
And if you are off on holiday soon, what do you do about running? Do you still run, how do you explore?
We’d love to hear from any of you who race, where you ran, what you thought, would you recommend it? Comment below or in our Facebook group.
From fun runs to the Decathlon 5km series and Race to the Kings, this weekend summed up the beauty of summer running…
During the winter, many of the athletic clubs take part in cross country races, fast, fierce and tough races, short in distance, usually extremely muddy, and fierce in hills and weather conditions. They do it to pitch themselves against other clubs for points. Come the summer, many of these clubs hold summer ‘fun runs’, those same types of short distance races – 3 – 5 miles – on off road conditions but in beautiful sunny, warm weather. Plus, they have beer tents at the end. A win-win in our book the Downland’s Dash 5 miler! Do check out your local club wherever you live and see if they are holding any summer races as the adult races are often preceded by one mile races for the youngsters. Great fun.
Here in Brighton was also the first Decathlon 5km, a slightly under distance free event put on at Preston Park. It is one of many free running events that the French based sports superstore is putting on in an ambitious UK expansion plan. The verdict from one GRTW runner was: ‘OK but same route as park run and only 2.9 miles rather than 3.1. The emphasis is on it being a fun run, with music and a warm up but it’s not timed. ‘
So, it sounds inclusive and perhaps less intimidating that a park run as it’s not timed but perhaps not going to help you progress your running if you’re already a runner. And as for the free goody bag? Apparently, you have to go into the store to pick it up. A clever marketing ploy but then again, we do quite like Decathlon stuff, it’s well made and at a good price point.
Elsewhere this weekend, the big event was Race to the King, a UK based two day ultra with day one covering 23.4 and day 2, 30.2 miles. It’s a great introduction to ultra running, a long a beautiful stretch of the South Downs and during a stunning part of the year. What’s even better is that you can choose to do just one day, rather than the full two so you don’t have the pressure of going straight into a full 50 miler race. This is a way to hone your technique, get experience at what it feels like to be amongst runners who are well versed in ultras and take on some tips for future races.
But well done to GRTW runner, Florence Theberge , who is being trained by our ultra marathon coach, Sarah Sawyer who placed first on day one. She’s looking good for her ultra marathon goals.
So, did you run Race to the King? What did you learn? And if you didn’t run there where did you run?
So, I’m a bit behind with our #medalmonday post – while most of you were running fantastic races like the Two Castles Run (from Warkwick to Kenilworth) and the St Alban’s Half Marathon, I was taking time out from the purity of just running to participate in the 113 Cotswold Half Ironman…
‘Graeme always has terrible weather at his events,’ confided one of the marshals the day before the 113 Cotswold Half Ironman, as I eyed up the lake I was due to swim 1.9km in the following morning. The next morning, I stood there again, having awoken at 4.30am to rack my bike in transition by the cut-off at 5.40am and to be ready to swim. Except we didn’t. The fog was so thick, you couldn’t see 100 metres on to the lake, let alone the buoys to swim to. And so we waited, all 1000 participants, for 90 minutes until it was safe to get out on the water.
This was my second half ironman distance triathlon this year, which comprises a 1.9km swim, 56 mile bike ride and a half marathon.
If you’re a runner who feels like they need a bit of a change, or you’re injured and need your ‘fix’ without running, or you value the importance of an all over body discipline, then triathlons are a great accessory to add to your running arsenal.
Running is my first love but I decided to take six months out of just ‘pure’ running to help my body grow stronger in different areas, try something new and give myself some ‘mental’ space from chasing marathon PBs. And triathlons have certainly given me that – as well as providing me with new mental strategies that I will now take forward to my final half of the year, focusing on my next ‘A’ race, the Girls Run the World Get Together at the Maverick Snowdonia off road race.
When you’ve got a swim, a bike and THEN a run to do, it’s easier to keep focused and not get overwhelmed by expectation, which can tend to happen with running after you’ve spent 16 weeks training for just one event. Triathlon teaches you to break everything down into manageable segments. On the bike, instead of thinking, ‘Jesus, this is so hard, I’ve got 20 miles to go,’ I focus on eating every 20 minutes, keeping my legs moving and thinking of the strategy for my run.
And on the swim, I just enjoy the vibe and think about what I’m going to do when I get out of the water as I transition on to the bike. (To be fair, I haven’t mastered this and generally tend to faff about!).
And like many triathlons of a longer distance, the runs are almost always broken into laps. As a runner, I used to HATE laps, thinking it was so boring. But when you’re focusing hard, laps have a curiously comforting element to them. This weekend, I focused on one lap at a time, putting the thought of the pain and discomfort of the entire distance away in a box.
Although a great thing about triathlons if you’re runner is that you’ll find that you often get overtaken on the bike, and then you’ll reel them all back in on the run. So, rather than succumbing to the heat and discomfort on the run, I decided to count every person that I passed and those who passed me. I counted 346, which means that I passed over a third of the field on the run, with only two passing me.
How can I apply this to running, when it really isn’t so easy to pass people? If you tend to go off too quickly in a running race, being secure enough in your running to let others go in front, keeping your pace in check and then reeling people in is a great race strategy. I’ll be trying it.
As for the Cotswolds 113, I’d recommend it if you’re after a longer distance triathlon, friendly, and flat for great PB potential – plus some GREAT pubs to celebrate in!
Thanks to all those who kept me entertained virtually on Sunday morning by sharing where you were running, from the Chew Valley 10km to the Stanwick Lakes Half Marathon to the Parkrun mile to the Hull 10km. We’d love to hear how your running went the past weekend. Let me know!
Psst, if you like the vest design, they’re our limited edition ones, if you want to get your hands on them, give us a shout. They’re £15 plus P&P.
What running or events did you take part in this weekend?
Down here in Sussex, the first weekend of June is always the renowned South Downs Way Relay, a lung-busting, leg sapping relay race involving six men, women or mixed teams all racing their way from Eastbourne to Winchester over 100 miles. It’s an invitation only event and a hotly contested race every year. I was very fortunate to be part of the winning Arena ladies team last year, who amazingly have gone on to win it again this year. And what’s most notable about that is that ALL of the women in the team are over 40, showing that age does not necessarily mean slowing down.
Instead of racing hell for leather across the Downs though, I spent the weekend experiencing all the very best that makes up Parkrun. Because Parkrun is for EVERYONE, for the very fast and competitive, to the very new and just starting out, to the older athlete who wants to keep moving and the mums who want to get moving again.
I ran it with my sister, who has only just started getting into running at Maidstone Parkrun (beautiful course, very narrow though!) and the following day, ran junior park run with my five year old niece, for whom it was only her second ever park run. It’s a reminder just how rewarding running can be, helping EVERY runner, new and old feel a sense of achievement.
And I tell you something else, kids can be great training partners and you can be great partners to them too. While kids tend to go off like rockets and then often splutter to a halt, mums can do the opposite. So, here’s what you should do to help both of you improve for park run. Do some fast, short interval training sessions with your kids where they make YOU run faster over a short distance of 50 metres, with walk recoveries. And then YOU become their coach and force them to go slower over a longer distance to learn to pace themselves. Win, win.
We’d love to hear from anyone out there who knows of any long distance relay races. Plus any park run or race successes you had this weekend.
Oh, and ps. it was great to meet Lucy Jayne Barratt, at Maidstone Parkrun who took part in Runuary this year. Hope some more of you met up with fellow GRTW runners.
The weekend just passed had us thinking a lot about motivation and will power to push through when training or racing gets tough…
Perhaps this was partly due to my taking on Grafman, a Half Ironman event, which comprises a 1.8km open water swim, followed by a 56 mile bike ride and rounded off by a half marathon at the end. But it was also because it was a weekend of running events that require a lot of mental reserve, such as the Night of the 10km PBs and the North Downs Way 50.
Fittingly enough, the Girls Run the World ultra distance coach, Sarah Sawyer, took home first place this year at the North Downs Way 50 (for coaching advice and mentoring with Sarah, email firstname.lastname@example.org) and another reason my focus was on mental strategies due to a podcast that I did with her last Friday. After all, who better to ask about mental strategies than a woman who came first in the Crawley 24 Hour Track Race a few months ago, running 127.8 miles in 24 hours around a 400 metre track?
You can listen to the podcast later this week, but what was most interesting about our chat is that Sarah didn’t say ANY of the usual things when it comes to mental strategies. Instead of counting, music or mantras, her main approach is grounded in the fact that she loves running and whenever anything gets tough, she reminds herself of how lucky she is to be running. That and switching up her events so that her ‘journey’ to that final event destination goal stays interesting and enjoyable seem to be her main strategies for staying strong. At the beginning of this year, she focused on the 24 hour track race, then she switched from flat running to the hills to take on the North Downs 50, which leads her on to the Global Limits 200km Stage Race.
So, when I was running my final six miles of my Half Ironman this weekend, with the sun belting down, I reminded myself that ultimately, I choose to do this, as we all do. At any time, any one of us can say, ‘That’s it, I don’t want to do this any more,’ and stop.
We take part and participate because we enjoy the challenge, the camaraderie and the sense of achievement. And if we remember this, that when we train and it feels tough on a tempo run, or a long run when we’re just not feeling it, try to shift your thinking to accept that that discomfort is simply part of your end goal, making you stronger, and helping you to get to the fantastic end feeling of achievement. If it wasn’t challenging, none of us would feel quite so good at the end of it. Besides, it makes the celebratory beer feel even more amazing.
We’d love to hear about your weekend racing and any strategies you use when the going gets tough. Comment below.
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….
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Injury happens to even the most seasoned of marathon runners, but it doesn’t mean you have to sit on the sofa stewing and panicking about your diminishing fitness and not being able to reach your marathon goal…
The reality is that being injured very rarely means you should totally rest*. Ninety nine percent of the time, it means NOT running but keeping up your running fitness and strength to ensure that once you’ve recovered, you can get back on track to your goal without losing your hard run gains. All you need to do is find the right run replacement (check with your physiotherapist FIRST) and perform it correctly to you stay marathon fit and prevent you from slumping into the doldrums.
Hit the pedals
If you can’t run, spinning or using a turbo trainer is a great way to keep up your running fitness and marathon training. But the cycling must be intense enough to create the same physiological effects as running, or as close to this as possible. Which doesn’t mean cycling serenely to the shops or going on a casual ride.
Emily Proto, a Sussex runner and massage therapist, who recently came third at the Brighton Half marathon explains what she did when she broke her fibula.
‘I broke my fibula during the Brighton Marathon 2015 and had to pull out at the 10k point which was devastating,’ she explains. ‘I’d worked so hard in my marathon training, I didn’t want to lose my fitness and so I started using a stationary bike with my focus being on keeping my heart rate as high on the bike sessions as i do when I run.
‘I did things like five minutes easy, 10 x 1 minute really hard, with 1 minute easy rest between and a final five minute warm down. It took 30 minutes and I added strength training. I had eight weeks off and it took me only five weeks to get back to fitness afterwards.’
So many runners opt to swim when they’re injured, which is a great way to keep the body mobile and stretched. BUT to make it as specific to run fitness, you need to get your heart rate up and that means swim interval sets, just like you do with your running pace work. Try warming up for 100 metres, then do 50 metres at 8/10 effort, 50 metres recovery, x 10. Warm down. If you find swimming boring, this will help to keep it interesting and work your body in a way that’s more consistent with running. Your alternative is to do resistance running in the pool with a buoyancy belt on.
Row, row, row the boat
Not gently down the stream. Yes, you guessed it, rowing is a fantastic way of keeping up your run fitness and involves all the major muscles of the body (in fact, it could even improve your running arm strength!) but be cautious. As with all of these suggestions, seek the advice of your physiotherapist, BEFORE you decide on which cross training to do. If you have a calf or foot injury, rowing will put a similar pressure through the foot with flexion and extension as you push to row. If it’s OK to row, then this is one al over, heart rate soaring workout. There’s some great suggestions here to keep it interesting.
Ring the bell
Kettle bells are a fantastic way of keeping your strength and cardiovascular fitness for running, particularly transferable physiologically to pace and tempo work. Originally invented in Russia, these metal balls with a handle are swung, with the drive coming from the hips and bottom which helps to build stability and prevent injury in the first place. As the bells swings through the air, your core has to kick in to stabilise the body in the swing trajectory. So, that’s one tick for strength, while all the muscular effort required to drive the correct weighted kettle bell raises your heart rate hugely, tick number two.
If done correctly, with a weight that challenges the body, kettle bells are a fantastic way of keeping up your fitness and don’t take long – a TABATA session of eight rounds of 20 seconds, 10 seconds rest works wonders. We would advise you to get correct tuition in kettle bell swinging before picking it up yourself.
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.