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 email@example.com) 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.
Running can get you fit, help you meet new people and explore the world. But as #milesformatt has shown, it also has the power to do a whole lot of good and drive positive change and action…
Looking at our Strava club, this weekend was not about races or parkruns (although there were a fair few of those around too) but about running 3.7 miles in memory of the 2017 Masterchef finalist, Matt Campbell who collapsed 3.7 miles before the end of the finish line at last weekend’s London Marathon.
What most people already knew about the 29- year old from the TV show, was that he was a likeable and extremely talented chef and that he’d sadly lost his father, suddenly and unexpectedly in 2016. But then The Brathy Trust, a charity who work to help inspire disadvantaged children and whom Matt had been helping raise money for, released a press release.
It revealed that Matt was not only a fantastic chef and runner (he’d run the Manchester marathon two weeks before in under three hours) but a pretty amazing human being full stop, setting up the Martin Campbell Memorial Fund in memory of his father, which had raised £14,000 to help young people with mental health problems. He’d been planning to run his third marathon, the Windermere Marathon next month to raise even more money.
So far, £250,000 has been raised in his memory but runners across the UK and beyond running the last 3.7 miles of his marathon. It doesn’t change the fact that a young man has lost his life, tragically leaving behind a family who will miss him terribly. But if anything positive can be drawn from this, it is the power of a running community coming together virtually.
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.
For many of us with our sights set on a Spring marathon, we’re already twenty weeks away from our goal race but how do you find the right training plan for YOU?
Generic plans off the internet and magazines
There are thousands of them all over the internet, printed in magazines, handed out my charities that you may be raising money for but, which one is good? All training plans are generic and we hazard a guess that 85% of them will have been written by men, who don’t have to juggle multiple responsibilities such as work, family, kids and everything else. Regardless of gender, few take into account running history, how many miles you are currently running NOW (i..e your running base), your lifestyle, or work/life commitments. Recognise this FIRST so that you can acknowledge in advance that it will feel like a clunky fit. It is.
If you go down this route here’s what we recommend
Choose one that includes at least four runs per week and starts NO LESS than 16 weeks away from your race goal. Only if you’re very fit, and regularly run marathons should you look at a 12 week plan.
Write out your plan – and add your own sessions print out your plan, or re-write it and plan in other sessions that are ESSENTIAL to help you avoid injury during your marathon training. This should include yoga/foam rolling/basic strength and continuing and sports massage at least every three weeks. Whoever said running is cheap had never run a marathon!
There are numerous training apps on the market, including Runner’s World’s MyRunPlan, and Training Peaks where you can pay for a plan, which again is generic, but it loads to a calendar as an app on your phone. It’s easy to log in, see what the run is, do it, and mark it off as done. The calendar will reward you by turning green once you’ve completed. Fail to do the session and you get a red square. Training Peak plans are good because you can see clearly what you’ve got to do but suffers the same problems of any of the generic plans that you get anywhere else – except you’ve paid for it.
Personalised training plans
Many running coaches, ourselves included, will write training plans specifically for you. We tend to send you an in-depth questionnaire, followed by a chat on the phone and then we deliver a training plan, specific to your goals, your current fitness, life-work balance. The advantage is that it’s exactly for you. The cons are that if you get injured, fall ill, etc, the plan does not change to accommodate this in the same way as anything generic doesn’t. However, with it being written specifically for you in the first place, the likelihood of injury occurring due to a plan that does not reflect your specific running history is minimal.
Mentoring & Coaching
If you can afford it, and you want to run a marathon and enjoy it, race mentoring is the gold service for any runner. It doesn’t matter whether you’re interested in achieving a certain goal time or simply want to achieve a sense of satisfaction with each training session you do, not just the final ‘race’ goal. We charge £100 per month (some companies charge more, some less) but it means you have a personalised plan that can adapt and change week by week, according to how your training is going or the unforeseeable life events that can derail your training for a week or so, leaving you unsure how to proceed.
Plus, wherever you live in the world, your training is tracked via Strava or Garmin so we know what you’re doing – or not doing. It helps to hold you accountable and to help you feel like you’re achieving something with each session, because this method if training is so closely matched to helping to challenge and progress you as an individual; if you’ve ever struggled with a generic plan, you’ll appreciate how frustrating or disappointing it can be when you’re following something too easy or too hard. Where we differ with our plans is that we have a holistic approach, recognising the many elements must be balanced when you’re a woman training for a marathon juggling multiple tasks.
THE most important thing, no matter which option you choose is to start thinking about it from about 20-24 weeks away from your marathon goal. And follow a 16 week plan as an absolute minimum.
You can read more about our marathon mentoring service here. Read about one woman’s experience of mentoring here.
We all know how amazing morning runs can be for how they make you feel, the sights you see, the people you pass…yet our morning run-meet today beat them all as our path crossed the amazing Rosie Swale-Pope, who spent five years running across the world…
If you live in Brighton and Hove and run regularly, you may have noticed a little red cart on the seafront of late. Look a little bit closer, and you may be aware that there is often someone sleeping in there, cooking, reading or just generally keeping warm. That woman is the inspirational Rosie Swale Pope, MBE, the only person in history, man or woman, to have undertaken an epic solo, unsupportedrun around our world.
It took five years and 20,000 miles and as she told me this morning on Hove seafront, she slept in conditions of minus 46 degrees in some places and faced extreme dangers – but through it all, she learned lots and met so many amazing people.
She’s currently staying on the seafront in Brighton and Hove, where she spends her time writing a new book – and training for her next adventure, running solo from Brighton to Berlin. Of course, we asked if she’d like some company on the run ….
In the day and age of Instagram and YouTube runners, Rosie Swale is a true original – and is a role model for all us Girls who Run the World.
Her tip for getting your feet warm if you’re about to go out running and are on an adventure? ‘Boil some water, fill up a small plastic bottle and put them in your trainers and socks to warm them up before you go out running.’
Remember, look around you when you run, say hi to other female runners, explore not just your location but the people within it – you never know who you might meet.
Next year, we’ll be bringing you podcasts from ordinary female runners who have done extraordinary things – along with online workshops which will help you learn new techniques from heart rate training to mastering mental techniques to improve your running and your racing.