How was your weekend running?

This was a big weekend for running, with Rome, Rotterdam, Manchester and Paris marathons setting off the Spring marathon series, along with some more unusual races such as the 24 hour track race

 

Paris marathon was only my third marathon back in 2013, and so it holds a special place in my heart.  Although it was freezing cold on the start line when I ran, so much so that I couldn’t feel my feet (you can read about it here), I know from other participants who that it can often be unseasonably warm, which appears to have been the case this year with temperatures hitting 22 degrees.

We had runners in both Paris, Manchester and the Berlin Half Marathon and all but one of these races (go on, guess which one?) looked baking hot, so well done to ALL you runners who reached the finish line.

And spare a thought for Lizzie Roswell, who ran the Paris Marathon today and will continue running ‘In the Footsteps of the Fallen,’ via the Western Front finishing with the London marathon – that’s 360 odd miles in about two weeks!

If that inspires you but makes you run for your slippers, what do you think of Girls Run the World Ultra marathon coach, Sarah Sawyer who won first female at the Crawley 24 hour track race this weekend, running a total of 127.5 miles in 24 hours. Crazy, huh? Once she’s had a chance to recover we’ll be interviewing Sarah in a podcast about the mental strategies she used to get her though it. But running doesn’t HAVE to involve big long distances to create an enjoyable challenge that works you hard to give you that endorphin buzz.

This weekend, I missed my Half Ironman training (oops !) to take part in the Sussex Road Relay Championships, a 2 mile, flat-out, bust-your-lungs, eyeballs-out relay race. Just because they’re shorter, they’re no less anxiety provoking at the start but they are over much more quickly. And they’re fun. Yes, it hurts but there is something absolutely exhilarating about trying to go as fast as you can over a short distance.

So, if you have just finished or are just about to do a marathon and are wondering what your next goal is going to be, don’t assume it always has to be another marathon or a longer distance. Taking time out and moving your body in a different way – which it does if you run faster, can be a good way of pushing the reset button.

Well done to all your fantastic finishers of whatever race or training you did, including all our GRTW runners who came together for our Girls Run the World Get Together Parkrun this weekend all over the UK.

 

If you are in town for Brighton to support friends or to run, please let us know by commenting. We will be at mile 19/22 so if you want to join us in support or want us to give you a special cheer or call out (and those miles can be crucial) comment with your name and race number. 

Marathon Mastery Series: The Mental Game

We’re now just a few days away from the start of the marathon weekend extravaganza that is Paris, Manchester, Brighton, ending in London. You’ve done the physical stuff, now it’s time to ensure you’ve nailed your mental game..

Seville, the one where I managed to avoid the cracks!

Some of what you’re going to read now is going to see so obvious, you’ll be thinking, ‘Jeez, I’m not THAT clueless.’ But really, it’s amazing the impact that pre-race marathon anxiety can have on your mind so do everything you can NOW to nail  your mental game.

Race pace

So, you’ve probably been training using your race pace for certain parts of your training for between 12-20 weeks by now. But write it down anyway, and keep repeating it.

What to do: Perhaps even write it down on the back of your hand on race day. Seriously, I can’t remember the amount of times I’ve stood on the start line and had a panic about what my race pace is because I suddenly can’t remember it.

Prepare for the marathon mile crunch points

I’ve run about ten marathons and every event I’ve had crunch points at the same mile markers. These are where a chink appears in your mental resolve, which can quickly turn into an ever widening fault line if you don’t have mental strategies in place. Personally, my crunch points are mile 15 (‘Oh jesus, I’ve got to run nine more miles at this pace?‘), mile 18, (seconds after you think, ‘Wow, I’m flying,’ you realise the remaining miles are going to feel like a 10km race and there’s no flying feeling going on with that) and mile 24, when you’re SO close but suddenly calculate those miles into pace and how much time that means is left on your feet (personally, two miles seems less to me than calculating time).

What to do: Everyone has their own mantras and strategies for getting through the battlefield that goes on in your brain when you’re running. If you don’t, write them down now, whether it’s a memory of a training run that you didn’t think you were going to get through, a reason for why you’re running or even organising someone to be at what you think will be  your crunch points to help get you through. Mine is very boring, I just count backwards from 100 to filter out the voice telling me to stop.

Beware the wormhole

You can get so deeply introspective when running a marathon, it’s easy for one negative thought to send you down a wormhole until you feel like you’re legs are like lead and you’ve convinced yourself that you’re crap and you won’t ever finish.

What to do: Break the pattern, look outward and talk to someone else. In fact, if you pass someone who looks like they’re struggling, encourage them. It can take your mind completely off your own struggles and you’ll probably be fine within a few minutes.

The positive panel 

So many women do this; they think of all the miles or the training sessions they didn’t do, or the runs that went badly and have all this shored up when they stand on that start line. Bin this. You all rock, you’re on the start line!

What to do: Write down all those training runs where you felt fantastic, where things went to plan, the tuning races that you did to get where you are, the friends you’ve made along your training journey. Have this front and foremost when you hit that start line.

 

What mental strategies do you use when running a marathon. We’d love for you to share them so do comment below and help others.  

 

 

 

 

South Downs Trail Run, Sunday 8th April

Work off that Easter chocolate frenzy this weekend with a beautiful off-road eight mile route from Rottingdean

This is a challenging but stunning route with as many lovely, recovery downhills as uphills to build your strength and endurance on hills (particularly beneficial for those of you joining us for the Girls Run the World get together at Angmering BlueBell Trail Races or the upcoming Snowdonia Maverick Race in September.

The hardship will be rewarded with stunning views, gambolling baby lambs and a route that overlooks Breaky Bottom vineyard (who produce some delicious sparkling wine!) before heading down through Saltdean and along the cliff for a stunning sea side finish.

Will it be 8 miles, or will you add some more at the end to really fire up your face finish for the Bluebell 10 mile trail race? Remember that dastardly hill? Whether you’re taking part in the event or just joining us for the runs, this is a beautiful run that takes in Downs, sea and even a glimpse of Breaky Bottom vineyards!

Location: bottom of Bazehill Road, Rottingdean here/ Parking free.

Footwear: Road shoes will be OK but trail shoes are preferable!

The run is open to all as long as you are regularly running this kind of distance. This is our LAST run before the BlueBell Trail Race. Summer Season starts Sunday 29th April when we drop distance again.

Book online under weekend runs. Lift share via our Girls Run the World Brighton and Hove Facebook group. 

How was your Easter weekend of running?

So, how did you run off the chocolate eggs this Easter? 

From special Good Friday runs like the Easter Victoria Park 10km in London to the numerous Bank Holiday Monday events, there were lots of opportunities to enjoy some shorter distances runs this weekend. Frustrating though for all the marathon runners out there… you get FOUR days to fit a long run in and you’re on your taper!

This was my last weekend taking it easy before my training kicks into a more intense phase for Half Ironman triathlon training and a strength phase for some autumn mountain races, including the Girls Run the World Get Together event in Snowdonia, September 29th (read our newsletter in your inbox for details – or sign up for the newsletter via our front page).

My usual weekly running regime involves five or six runs per week, including a long run, tempo,interval or hill and some easy runs. But I’ve had to take a step back while I rehabbed a tight calf – and at the beginning of the year, a kickboxing injury (don’t ask…I forgot that I was 46 for a minute not 18!).

Injury or niggles can drive you mad but they can also be an opportunity, the chance to try something different and learn a new skill. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post about what to do when you’re injured but need/want to stay in running shape, what you replace it with should be something that creates the same or as similar a physiological effect as running has on your body…and gives you that same mental buzz!

And this weekend, that was road bike track race training for me. In pairs, we set off with a time handicap between teams, the goal to catch the people in front and avoid capture from those behind. Has anyone ever tried it? It’s brilliant, all the fun and challenge of interval running but without that stress on the part of your body that you’re rehabbing.

The other thing about not running and returning to it, is that it reminds you once again of just how fantastic running is, how it makes you feel to just get out and run. And through a daffodil strewn wood on Easter Sunday, empty but a lone mountain biker, that’s just what I did.

How was your Easter weekend of running?

 

 

Marathon Mastery Series: What to do when injury strikes

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.

Don’t fear weights, they are your friend

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.’

If you don’t have your own turbo at home, try spinning at your local gym or the excellent Sufferfest training available at David Lloyd gyms or MyRide at Virgin gyms or Freedom Leisure.

 

Cycling is a great way of keeping run fit – if you ride smart. This is me hiding at the back of the shot after the 312 Majorca...that’s the former Tour de France winner, Miguel Induráin

 

Leap In

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.

You don’t have to get a wetsuit and all the gear, but you do need to be smart about your training

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.

 

 

How to choose the right training plan for a marathon

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?

If you’ve followed a great training plan , consistently marking off each session, this is how you should feel at the expo – excited and raring to hit the race start line!

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!

Training Apps

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.

 

5 Must Read Tips for Running Ultras

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.

Sarah Sawyer is part of our coaching term and can provide one to one virtual coaching and mentoring for ultra marathons wherever you are in the world.

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.