How to thrive, not just survive a Ragnar Relay

Want to know the best way to approach a multi-stage team relay event? GRTW Co-owner, Dawn Buoys reveals all …

A few months ago I got a call from my friend Tom asking if I fancied taking part in a relay team for Ragnar in Hamburg. Our last event in 2013 had been in San Francisco, where I’d run over the Golden Gate Bridge so, to be honest, the box was pretty much ticked with bells on. But since I’m currently training for a 38 mile ultra event, I thought at least it would be a good training weekend.

I didn’t realise I’d totally missed the point.

You see, Ragnar is not really about running, it’s about everything else that goes with it; it’s an adventure with your friends where you get really tired, probably lost, and go a bit feral. And if you get the right team, you spend most of the time struggling to speak not because you’re out of breath due to running but from laughing so much.

To get the most out of the weekend it’s all in the planning. Think about how best you can look after everyone on the team so that they can enjoy their experience. Our team leader knows what he’s doing so he matched each relay legs to each individual’s running ability based on distance (each relay leg can vary in distance), running experience and who would be best to run in certain areas in the dark. For instance, some of the relay legs are van supported and so, while they can be a bit longer, suit runners who prefer the security of a van nearby.

Sorting out a buddy system over night so that everyone has company when they need it is also vital – and most importantly, get an extra, non running person to drive.

Needless to say, in Hamburg we had no driver so were doing it all ourselves which unfortunately meant a few mess ups, like turning up at the wrong checkpoints at the wrong time. It meant one of our runners, Will was left stranded at the end of his leg but he fortunately made friends had eaten chips and got chatted up while he was waiting for us.

Also, keep the van tidy – I can be terribly messy but it’s exhausting if you can’t find what you need when you need it, especially at night. We kept a food, drink and lie down section at the back of the van, wipes, loo roll, bin bags in the passenger door and all the high viz and lights in the driver’s door. On that note, any extra head torches, or lights of any kind are super useful at night.

As a physiotherapist, I’d also recommend you try and keep moving. Once it gets cold at night it’s really tempting to hibernate in the van but your legs will stiffen quickly. Get out, walk around, support the others runners and do a few stretches; your legs will really appreciate your efforts.  And eat!

Realistically, sleeping is unlikely so keep fuelling your body so it can keep going. Try and rest but don’t be upset if sleep doesn’t happen, your adrenaline will be pumping and it’s hard to totally switch off. Even if the day is warm you will get cold, I thought I had over packed in Hamburg but was so grateful for all my extra layers and especially my beanie hat and waterproof.

But most important of all, bring the right attitude. We vowed to never mention if we were cold or tired, as it’s pointless. That’s the challenge and that’s the bit that makes it worthwhile.

There are big highs and big lows often in the same mile. I was running through a cabbage field at three am panicking that it looked like an episode of Wallander when suddenly the clouds cleared, a huge moon appeared and shone so brightly that I found myself singing my heart out to Razorlight feeling like the luckiest girl in the world to be there.

So am I pleased I went to Hamburg? Of course. Was it better than San Fran? Actually it was, because I made some amazing new friends, had the biggest adventure and enjoyed so many belly laughs and that’s what a Ragnar is all about!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How was your weekend running?

While we were exploring trails and yoga postures to improve recovery at our Girls Run the World retreat, this weekend was a big one for running events, not least, the biggie, the Berlin Marathon where Eliud Kipchoge smashed the world record with such effortless grace

 

Last year, I saw the Richmond Running Festival and thought, ‘I must put that in the diary for next year,’ and promptly forgot until I saw everyone’s posts about it this weekend on what was perfect late summer weather for running. This event offers a 10km flat race in Kew Gardens on the Saturday and then you can switch to a Half Marathon or Marathon on the Sunday (again, it’s flat apparently). This is in addition to all the other kids events and a 5km Pirate themed race.

It’s a beautiful place to run and by all accounts, a great place to get a personal best offering both a flat course and – crucially if you get bored of road running – great views due to it’s location.  Another great trail event of multiple distances was the Maverick Kent race in the beautiful grounds of Groombridge near Tunbridge Wells in Kent.

Maverick races are the scene of our Get Together event this year in few weeks in Snowdonia, and they seem like an event company to watch offering something a little bit different from traditional running event companies with a manageable number of runners so it feels friendly and – crucially – it means that you don’t have to turn up hours in event to queue for starting pens, bag drops and toilets.

The same of course can’t be said of the Berlin Marathon, one of the World Abbot Majors (which includes Chicago, Boston, New York, Tokyo and London) where queueing before the race is all part of  such a massive event. Lots of you ran it this year, many for the first time, (well done Sarah Shaw) and got to share the day when the World Record was smashed by Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge in 2 hours, 1 minute and 39 seconds beating the last record by one minute.

Most of you will have seen his final mile by now and the effortless grace in which the 33 year old strides – well, sprints – into the record books. Yes,  he’s an elite athlete and yes he trains all the time. But there is something truly inspiring about watching a runner break a record in such a way. I for one woke up this morning feeling inspired to sign up to another marathon in 2019.  Have you?

 

 

 

 

How was your weekend running?

While many of you all seem to be making a final escape to European shores with some beautiful holiday running pictures being posted, back in the UK there have been some equally stunning races taking place from the Sussex Hardway 13  (yes, it was hard!) to the intriguing sounding Two Tunnels Half Marathon… (18-19th August)

Why would you run up tank tracks ascending 419 ft with a gradient of 13% on a August summer Saturday? This is the very start of the appropriately named The Hardway Half, a just over half  marathon (13.7 miles)  event from Sussex Trail Events. It’s an evil start to a stunningly beautiful route that follows the South Down’s Way at a time of the year when the fields are full of golden wheat and you can see as far out to the Seven Sisters.

A group of GRTW runners took part, mainly as training for the upcoming Get Together Maverick Snowdonia. As my glutes felt like they were on fire on the return leg of this out and back race, all I kept thinking  is that the Snowdonia event will be a great deal more difficult, climbing to over 3,000 ft in the first five miles (agh!).  But then, that’s the beauty of doing an event as a training run; it pinpoints EXACTLY what you need to focus on in your next block of training and helps focus the mind.

The GRTW ultra coach, Sarah Sawyer placed second lady in this weekend’s event and her secret for getting super strong on the hills? Lots of hiking up hills with 8kg of dried chickpeas in her backpack (her A game is the Grand Raid des Pyrenees, a 123km races with 7000 metres of ascent which takes place over the August bank holiday – good luck Sarah!)

And one more thing to add about The Hardway Half…I thought it was called this because it was a hard trail half marathon. However, it could equally have been called this because actually, the second half of this race is MUCH harder than the first. Bear that in mind if you do it next year!

Elsewhere, we loved the sound of the Two Tunnels Half Marathon by Relish Running Races in the beautiful West Country around Bath. Taking in the gorgeous countryside of the Limply Stoke Valley, the route is on mixed terrain footpaths and trails, taking in the beautiful city of Bath before going to the riverside and traveling through the Combe Down Tunnel, which at 1672 metres long, making this event the one with the longest underground section of any race. Through Monkton Combe village and along the Somerset Coal Canal before merging with the Kennet and Avon Canal, this sounds like a truly stunning route.

They also have half marathons in May and July, so it may be worth checking out their events for 2019.

 

But over to YOU! Where did you train or what event did you take part in? Anyone run Parkrun abroad this weekend?

Based in Brighton? Don’t miss our Adventure Runs every Thursday this summer. Details of all Brighton events can be found here

 

 

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

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!

REVIEW & GIVEAWAY – Oofos

If you’ve ever run a marathon,  you’ll appreciate how much your feet feel pummelled by the end. Which is why you’ll love Oofos recovery footwear

 

Even if you haven’t run 26.2 miles, chances are that you finish a run, perhaps stretch your legs on a good day while your feet barely get a look in.  But there are 34 muscles in your feet, and those muscles get tight just like everywhere else. Except when they get overused and tighten, it restricts ankle mobility, which affects your calf muscles, which affects you knees and so on, right the way up your body. (Or it starts from the top and travels down – but more about your biomechanics in our online course coming soon).

Suffice to say, you SHOULD be looking after your feet if you want to stay injury-free and running long into your old age. Which is why we LOVE Oofos footwear.

My feet have taken a massive battering of late; in 2017, I ran every day of the year, which included a half Ironman distance triathlon, marathons, off road triathlons, you get the picture. My feet had begun to feel as though someone was regularly taking a hammer to them. And that was even WITH all the massage and ball rolling under the feet that I do regularly.

But these sandals – I have been trying out the Ooriginal Sport Graphite, £48 have been so amazing (and really, I am pretty rigorous in my reviews – I won’t say something is good if it’s not) that I’m so relieved it’s summer, because I’m wearing them all the time. Well, other than when I’m running.

The footwear are part of a move by many sportswear manufacturers into recovery wear – products that can help you recover more quickly so that you can lead a full, active, athletic life no matter what level of runner you are.

They are super light and consist of a special foam that is engineered to absorb 37% more shock than traditional footwear, so helping your feet and calves recover after a run. They also have great arch support so, unlike flip-flops (and in the past, this is what I usually wear straight after a race in the summer) they really help to support the foot, helping to minimise ankle, knee and back pain.

Without any scientific studies to prove that these work, there is only anecdotal evidence to go on. And on the evidence so far from my feet, these are fantastic. I’ve run a tonne of races lately, have been cycling hard for a big ride in Majorca and have been pounding the trails uphill and down as part of training for a race across the South Downs Way. So, my feet need some care. And these have been amazing.

If you’ve ever got out of bed and walked a bit like a robot because your feet and calves are stiff, then pop these on the feet and they help to make you feel less Tin Man and more Darcey Bussell.  And they look good too, coming in a variety of pretty shades.

 

If you fancy trying a pair for yourself, then you’re in luck because we are giving away a FREE pair of your style choice. All you have to do to enter is click here to fill out the competition entry form.

 

Terms and Conditions

  • One entry per person.  Any repeat emails or email addresses that appear to be from the same person will be deleted.
  • Entry closes midnight April 21st 2017.
  • The winning entry will be chosen at random. The prize can not be exchanged, refunded or sold.
  • The competition is only open to residents of the UK.

Oofos footwear start from £40. Available from www.oofos.co.uk