#grtwproject26.2 ‘I’m riding a rollercoaster of emotions.’

Pre marathon anxiety is now kicking in, not least what to wear. Is planning your marathon day outfit as complicated as choosing your wedding outfit?!It’s beginning to seem so for Rachel Sparkhall 

With the second four week block of training provided by Girls Run the World, Tara completed, it certainly feels like the clock is starting to tick fast and training intensity is ramping up.

Nerves are rumbling around and whilst I’ve completed all the training and hit the required mileage, I’m riding a roller-coaster of emotions.  ‘Can I get my nutrition right on the day and not need to dash to the loo?  Can I control my pace well enough so that I hit the time I think I am capable of but not blow up too early? ‘

As the big day gets closer, I find myself becoming absorbed in details such as outfit planning; wanting to look smart to  vs just being really comfy in worn out 10 year old leggings. It seems that everything associated with running a marathon is all consuming, justifiably so I guess, after all 26.2 miles is a really long way!  A niggle that can be tolerated for an hour is manageable but chafing or leggings that ride up or down is unacceptable for 4 hours and needs much more consideration.

Rachel tries out her gels and outfit for the day

 Unlike the first training block, I’ve not had one bad week where I’ve felt completely fatigued, just the odd run where I have lacked energy or motivation.  A particular tempo session stands out where even the 10 min mile warm up pace felt hard,  let alone the speed sections  But overall, I think my body and mindset has adjusted well to the format of running every other day. 

I have relaxed my attitude to other commitments I used to have with other fitness classes which has helped me to keep the balance with energy levels, life and work.  And the lower mileage week at the end of the four week block was very welcome, especially as I was hit with a really bad run of migraine which was not ideal prior to my strategically planned Cambridge Half Marathon, a stunning race setting where I was able to put some of the training and advice to the test.

   Tara had provided me with some excellent guidance on pacing strategy to use, as well as nutrition and timing throughout the race. I had a set pace to target and hold throughout the race, and to try and lift and run faster in the last few miles if I felt strong enough. 

To be honest, I’d felt so awful the 2 days before the event, combined with wet and windy conditions, I had no expectations of a fast time, even on a flat course. However, I ran strong even with all the weaving and although I struggled to lift the pace and finish strong, I achieved a PB by over two minutes and learnt some very good lessons about runner traffic congestion and what to expect on a very busy Paris marathon.

Rachel with her Cambridge Half Marathon medal

This run was a massive confidence boost and really underlines the consistency of the training plan and improvements it is bringing to my running.  On a bad day, feeling pretty crappy, I still ran a really good race. I continue to trust in the training.

I am looking forward to the final block where the highest mileage will be achieved, with more focus on race strategy and pacing so no doubt a few tough weeks ahead before taper begins.

Girls Run the World coaches provide personalised one to one virtual coaching to female runners and triathletes of all levels from around the world. From coaching women whose goal is simply to run their first half marathon or ultra, to those aiming for personal bests, we are experts in coaching women. For more details visit our mentoring page.

#grtwproject26.2 ‘Keeping a food diary has helped prevent me chain-eating biscuits’

For the first time, #grtwproject26.2 runner, Marie Knight, believes that running the marathon really is possible. And how to ensure that she doesn’t eat herself out of house and home as the miles increase 

Marie even had time to learn to ski within her training

When I was growing up, The Wizard of Oz was one of my favourite films and never have Dorothy’s words ‘I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,’ felt more true.

I’m writing this feeling very pleased with myself for having finished my long run, 17 MILES. This is the longest distance I have ever run, and more than I’d normally cover in a total of seven days running in my normal running world. 

Approaching the end of block 2 of GRTW project26.2, and with just 6 weeks to go until the Brighton Marathon, it’s not a surprise that my running mileage has increased considerably, but it is a surprise to discover how good I feel about it. Today was a prime example of waking up with a multitude of reasons for not running.

It was a perfect Sunday for staying inside with coffee, newspapers, Netflix – dark sky, horizontal rain, and gusty winds. But the great thing about having a race approaching and a tailored plan to ensure that you make it to that goal, is that you feel compelled to get out and run and it holds you accountable. 

The leap in mileage this month has been accompanied by a massive increase in my appetite. And whilst it’s been tempting to use this as an excuse to chain-eat cake and biscuits, it has made me much more mindful about nutrition, the value of what I put into my body and how this effects my running.

I’ve noticed that when I’ve had a few days of quick food on the hop, or lazy cooking that isn’t really ticking all the right boxes. As part of project26.2, we were all asked to complete a food diary over a weekend which helped me understand more about how I was feeling both during and after the different types of run that I do.

I can quite often feel headachy or nauseous at the end of a long run and looking at my food diary I could see that I wasn’t drinking  enough water on the days before a long run. Hints and tips from Coach Rachael have helped me adapt what I eat and drink, and more importantly, what time of day I am eating it.

The two big revelations for me is that I rely too heavily on sports rehydration salts to hydrate (I thought the salts were helping!), and that by bringing my meal times forward by an hour or so here and there, I can remove the need for unnecessary snacks. The result so far is feeling better fuelled and feeling more settled during and after each run.

Everyone told me that marathon training is all consuming and I can confirm that this is true – joyfully so! But as well as noticeably building up my strength and mileage in February, I also managed to enjoy a full week away from running for some much-needed holiday time. I am not sure my legs would 100% agree that the holiday was a true rest from running given that I decided to put them through a different kind of punishment instead by learning to ski.

It was amazing to go away and feel confident and fit enough to give this a go. I’m not sure I would have done this three years ago and a lot of this confidence has come about from my running and the different events I’ve done in the past, knowing how much the human body can do if you give it the chance. It was a good reminder that completing the marathon is definitely possible!

A week off in the middle of training like this would normally have felt like a ridiculous thing to have planned, and put me in a spin about what a disaster this would be for the rest of my marathon training. However, part of the point of a personalised training plan is that it works around your life and the plan was designed to work me hard in the weeks before I went away to allow me this week of ‘rest’.

My plan is giving me a new-found respect for proper rest and recovery. Despite giving my legs and feet the shock of their life by spending a week in ski boots, I came back from my week in the Alps feeling well rested and ready to get back to running. There was a 16-mile run scheduled for day after I returned which initially felt impossible, but I managed to get out there and complete nevertheless. 

Rest and recovery remain a key feature in my training now that I’m back from the mountains albeit that it sadly involves a lot less cheese-based cuisine. Sleeping is my super power; my friends often joke that I could sleep standing up and I think I’ve come pretty close a couple of times this month. I’ve noticed a definite need to sleep more in February as the miles have increased and particularly after the interval sessions which did not normally make up part of my weekly running routine. These seem to work me harder than the long distances.

Sports massage and foam rolling are also regular components which is a lot less easy to make myself do than heading to bed an hour early but are still a necessary evil. My feet in particularly are feeling tight which apparently is a result of tight calf muscles and hamstrings. I now have a whole selection of beastly but annoyingly effective foam rollers dotted around my flat so that I can roll whenever I have a free moment or chance to watch the tele. I definitely prefer the deep baths full of fancy bath oil to treat tight muscles and aide recovery, but they don’t seem have quite the same effect. On the plus side, I’ve stopped arguing and ranting at the TV and radio because I am now too busy grimacing on the foam roller.

 

How to achieve your running goals by doing less

Want to know the secret for unlocking  your perfect running year? Achieve your personal bests and stay injury with one simple tip…

You might assume that the key to having your best year ever is all to do with how you train, how often and how challenging it is. But actually it’s far simpler than this as we revealed in a recent Facebook Live in our FREE Community Group.

All you have to do is plan your year. This one simple thing enables you to avoid the pitfalls that can derail even the best runners.

Planning your year…

Helps you to avoid injury

If you avoid injury, you remain consistent in your training and that will ensure the biggest improvements.

Reduces stress

When you’re juggling training with work and relationships, it gets stressful. It’s easy to get carried away with how much you love running and enter lots of events. But eventually, you’ll get stressed about it and start thinking, ‘oh god, I’ve got this race next week, how am I going to do it? And I haven’t seen my friends for ages and who is going to look after the kids?’

You want running to be an empowering and enjoyable experience, not one where you end up stressed. Planning helps you avoid these pitfalls.

Helps you to avoid overtraining and have planned recovery

Something that has been come up a lot in the blogs by our gRTW Project 26.2 runners is the benefit of recovery, both in terms of slow runs and time off entirely.

If you’re short on time because you’ve entered so much, you’ll often see women going out and just doing the hard stuff as they think it will get them fitter quicker. It mainly just means that you’re not giving your body time to recover. It’s in recovering – which means not racing all the time, that your body adapts and gets stronger.

Ensures you maintain your #runlove and motivation

Have you ever stopped enjoying running entirely because you suddenly feel like all you’re doing is training and or racing? It happens a lot. And it just means that you’re not putting in the right effort or attention to your training anyway. Do less. Not more.

 

So, here’s how to plan…

 

Spend some time looking at which races you really want to do and decide on a few A races, the ones that mean the most to you, either because you have a target time in mind or it’s a beautiful race that you’ve just always wanted to do in a stunning location.

Now, create a hand drawn breakdown of your year, broken by months and by weeks. You can use different colours to denote fun races that are just with friends, those that are important key training races and your A races themselves.

Most importantly, don’t forget to also add big work events, holidays and family engagements which will all impact on how successful – or sensible it is – to enter a race near that kind of time.

Once you’ve done that, add your a races, and then work from that, adding events that will help you to achieve your A race goal, which can be anything from wanting to achieve a PB or simply to finish and enjoy the race feeling strong. and training on the way to that A Race.

If you write it on paper, you can see more easily whether you’ve put too many races close together – or whether you are inadvertently thinking about a race that’s very close to your holiday.

There are a lot of fantastic race websites out there. FindARace.com for example to help you plan. Improvement comes from enjoyment, consistency and not getting injured.

If you’d like to see the full video of how to have your perfect running year, join our FREE Facebook community here.

Project 26.2 – who will win our marathon training package?

In November, we launched #project26.2, which is going to provide four lucky women with the chance to win virtual marathon training and mentorship with GRTW founder, Rachael Woolston and head Brighton coach Tara Shanahan. Between them, they’ve run around 15 marathons and have seen their times drop to just under 3 hours 16 minute. 

We thought we’d share some of the entries out of the hundreds that we’ve received so far. There’s still time for YOU to apply yourself though. Entries close 17th December. To read about the terms and conditions and to enter, click here

 

 

Mona Sorenson, mum of two

Mona, is an experienced runner but with two young children, finds it hard to devote the time or headspace to achieving what she would like in marathon running.

Being a busy working mum especially means I don’t really have the luxury of time needed to really coach myself or take myself to the next level.’

 

For Rachel, it will be her first time running a marathon; ‘A marathon is my ultimate running goal and my best chance of achieving it is by committing to working with a coach to train for it. I’ve only been running regularly for three years, but if I were to win this competition I would learn what I am capable of.’

Judith: I’ve got a charity place to run London for MyelomaUK, a charity close to my heart as I have Myeloma and AL Amyloidosis.

I’m in remission at the moment. I’ve been building up my running over the past year and completed a trail marathon in the summer. Running on roads isn’t my thing so I’ll need a lot of support and advice to help me complete London in a time and way that will make all my sponsors proud.’

 

The hardest thing about running a marathon is not the race, but navigating the training and that’s where we step in with our silver and gold service packages. We write your plans personalised to YOU, taking into consideration not just your running background but what’s going on in your life too. After all, what’s the point of following a 70 mile per week training plan when you’re juggling work, family and relationships? Running should reward and challenge, not punish and add to your stress levels.

 

 

Launching #grtwproject26.2

Have you got a Spring marathon lined up next year? Read on to find out how to you could WIN our silver service training package worth £480 for  as part of #grtwproject26.2 2019…

With our training service, it will feel like you’ve got someone running and guiding you at all times

 

Signing up for a marathon is exciting, whether it’s your first or your fiftieth time of running 26.2 miles. But juggling training, family, relationship, work and lifestyle commitments can derail even the most enthusiastic and committed runner amongst us.

Which is why we have created our one to one virtual silver coaching package, which provides you with personalised training plans written for YOU by one of our team of qualified and experienced running, yoga and strength and conditioning coaches, including GRTW founder, Rachael Woolston and head coach, Tara Shanahan. Plus, god forbid anything goes wrong, co-founder and qualified physiotherapist will provide the support to help you get back to training.

We write a plan that fits YOUR lifestyle, your goals and your running background and experience.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced runner who would like to achieve a personal best, we’ll deliver your training via our software partners, Training Peaks, one of the world’s best training software packages,  with your progress reviewed weekly and a monthly coaching call via Skype, telephone or email.

Training plans and workouts delivered direct to your phone with email reminders

We don’t just help you with your running, but your mental approach, nutrition, stretching, strength and more, enabling you to train without the stress and anxiety of being unsure of what you’re doing or how you can fit it in. Plus, if something goes wrong – illness, injury or a holiday and your training is derailed, our plans change to accommodate this and get you back on track.

So, no stress, no injury causing you to crash out of your A race, and progress that you can measure and see to help you build your confidence day by day, ready for race day.

To launch our silver service, we are now offering FOUR women the chance to win our mentoring service taking you from January right the way through to your Spring marathon race day.

In order to be in with a chance of winning our special #grtwproject26.2 2019, worth £480, enter below and like our Facebook or Instagram channel, where we will be sharing stories of our entrants and inviting votes from our community. ENTRIES CLOSE 17TH DECEMBER 2018.

 

 

ENTER #GRTWPROJECT26.2 HERE

 

 

Terms and Conditions 

  • Only open to women 18 or over
  • You will need write a short weekly post for our blog, detailing your training to help inspire and motivate others – even when training is NOT going right
  • You can be any level, beginner or experienced
  • If you are currently injured and unlikely to be able to start training in December, please do not enter
  • The judges decision about the winners is final
  • Training will start in January
  • You must be able to commit to doing a minimum of four training runs per week
  • You will need to have a Garmin training watch
  • Training Peaks Premium account is not included

 

 

 

Marathon Mastery Series: Secrets from the Frontline

So, this weekend is the big one, the London Marathon. We asked for the top tips from the pacers to the sports photographers to help you to have your best marathon ever…

The Race Marker

Ever wondered why you can run the same race as a friend but they have run a shorter distance? It could all be due to the magic line. At the Virgin London Marathon, you will notice a line marked on the road which shows the exact 26.2 mile distance. Stick to this for the most direct route. But be aware, a lot of runners try to do the same so it can make for a busy line!

Portable loo provider 

No matter how many times you go to the toilet before a race, you always feel you need to go again just before the race when there’s a big line. The trip to skipping the queue? Get running.

‘If you are uncertain whether you really need to go, wait,’ advises Abi Sweetman, www.loosfordos.com, who supplies portable toilets for events including the Virgin London Marathon. ‘Most big races have toilets on the course, there won’t be a queue and they’ll be cleaner.’ Study the route map for toilet locations and making a mental note before the race. ‘They are often just before or after a water station, so it’s a natural place to slow or stop anyway.’

 

The Pacer

‘If you want to follow a pacer, begin at the start line,’ explains ultra-marathoner, Susie Chan, www.susie-chan.com who has paced at the Virgin London Marathon three times. ‘If you join a group later, their pace will be different as they may have started before or after you.’ Be particularly wary in London, which has multiple starts and different pacers for each start which will be denoted by a flag of the same colour as the colour of your start area.

The Physiotherapist

It’s every runner’s biggest worry, getting injured on race day. The best way to overcome this is to  see a physiotherapist before the race if you have a niggle so that you can prepare and make an informed decision about what you’re going to if it flares up. ‘If you have ITBS, a common runner’s knee injury or instance, running will hurt but it won’t damage your knee and so you can decide if you want to push through it on race day,’ says Dawn Buoys, founder of www.bodyrehabstudios.com. ‘If it’s something more complex, make a plan in your head before the race about where you’re going to stop enroute if it flares up. This will help you feel less anxious and enable you to focus on enjoying the race.’

The Race photographer

‘Marathon photographers use telephoto lenses so you need to be ten metres away and in direct eye line contact to give them the chance of getting the best shot,’ explains Bob James, www.bobjames.com official commercial photographer for the Virgin London Marathon.

If your friends are on the route, arrange a hand signal.

‘If you arrange a sign that you’re going to make at a certain landmark, friends or family can look out for this and be ready to get you for a perfect personal race day photo as you pass.’

The Race Finish Organiser

When all your focus is on getting to the start line and running 26.2 miles, organising the end is often neglected.

‘Finishing a marathon can be a disorientating experience,’ explains Andrew Smith, who has worked as the Finish Director at the London Marathon for the last 14 years. ‘I always recommend you print out where you have arranged to meet friends and family and put it in your race bag because it’s easy to get confused or forget when you’re tired.’

As for the London marathon itself, the finish funnel is half a mile long and  ‘At London we have meeting areas signposted with letters of the alphabet for your surname, but if you walk to XYZ, it will be less busy.’  

 

 

(this is an abbreviated version of an article that GRTW founder, Rachael Woolston wrote for Women’s Running magazine. click here for the full article)

How was your weekend running?

This weekend saw the second up in the weekend series of marathons with the Brighton marathon taking part in the HQ city of Girls Run the World. Were you there?

 

This weekend is a big one in the Brighton running calendar because of the Brighton Marathon. It’s now in it’s ninth year (expect something special next year for the 10th anniversary) and it has grown in popularity year on year, partly due to it’s proximity to London and the fact that it’s a draw for those who don’t get a London place.

Add to that the fact that there is also a 10km race at the same time, along with the Kid’s Mini Mile races the day before, and the entire city turns into a running metropolis for the weekend.

We had lots of runners taking part this weekend, as well as a few of our mentoring clients (well done Verona and Kellie!) and so we were out in force cheering and supporting. (Sorry if we didn’t spot you, it’s hard if we’ve not met personally – although I’m sure I saw Vix In Lewes from Instagram!)

Well done to every single one of you who ran the 10km or the marathon, but particularly to all the first time marathon runners. You learn a lot about yourself and your running when you do 26.2 miles for the first time (er, and the second, fifth and tenth time!) You may not realise those lessons the afternoon of the race or even the next day, but over the next week, things about your race will begin to sink in, what you executed brilliantly, what you realise in hindsight that you would do differently next time. (If, of course there is a next time).

If these lessons do filter through, don’t waste them. Write them down. Because after a week has passed, you’re likely to forget them and you don’t want your race day experience to go to waste.

One of the biggest lessons I have learned from doing marathons (I think my next one will be 10th or 11th) is that the race really doesn’t start until the last 10km. That’s when you need to dig deep and really focus mentally. Of course a marathon is tiring physically, but mentally, it’s exhausting!

But as so many of the runners out there showed today in the final stages, a smile goes a long way of lifting your spirits.

Well done to you ALL and particular kudos to our first timers out there today, Verona, Vanessa, Demi, Ellie and Verona, and to all the many 10km runners who took part too.

Of course, there was another big marathon taking place today too…Boston! Did any of you run? One more biggie go to next weekend …VLM!!

Whatever distance or wherever you ran this weekend, we’d love to hear about it. AND If you ran a marathon today, what is the single best piece of advice you would give to any runner who is about to take on London next weekend? Comment below.

 

Marathon Mastery Series: Race Day Tips

This week, we chatted with GB Endurance Coach, Tom Craggs about tips for marathon race day….

Keep your nerves in check

As you’re eating your pre-race breakfast or walking to your starting pen or think about five to ten key positive statements to help you keep calm. It doesn’t matter what your training was like, there is alway something that you did well in the 16-20 weeks, whether it was a good core exercise or hill session. Focus on that.

Let everyone run away from you

The first 10km will feel REALLY easy. Stick to YOUR race. Let everyone run away from you. Then, they become targets for you later in the race. Just because it feels easy, this is  NOT a reason to go fast. If you’re really gutsy, run the first 10km slower than your race pace.

GRTW add; – sticking to your pace is CRUCIAL. Running faster doesn’t mean you’ve ‘got miles in the bag’ as we’ve heard so many women say when they first start racing. It means you’ll find it much harder at the end. Be disciplined.

Don’t allow the crowds to push you past your pace

Through Cutty Sark, there will be so much noise and the atmosphere is so amazing, you’ll be pyschologically pushed out of  Greenwich and  then you’ll hear Tower Bridge about a mile away. And suddenly, you’ll find you’re running the second 10km faster than you should. Enjoy the crowds but HOLD back.

GRTW note: Likewise if you’re running Brighton marathon and it’s your home town and you know so many people who are out there to cheer you on, watch you don’t start running faster when you go past them. AT the latter stages of the race (final two miles) it can be helpful but NOT when you’re only mid or even three quarters of the way through. 

It’s going to get tough

At some point in a marathon, it’s going to start feel tough, that’s why you’re doing it. The so called wall? No one builds a wall at mile 20. It’s created by you going too fast at the beginning and not fuelling properly or your head.

GRTW note: Accept that the marathon is a huge battle. You don’t escape the fight, no matter how fit you are. No one escapes the mental struggle that you will face. How we do differ as runners is how we decide to handle that struggle.

You have a choice

You will come to a point on a race day where you have a choice to keep going, to keep pushing, or to slow down. Tests show that the key limiter in endurance is not our body and our muscles, it’s our minds. You need to build your mental strategies and that you’re going to go to when you get to that stage. I use runners 20 to 30 metres in front and work on overtaking them. This helps  you to apply your focus away from the pain that you will be feeling.

 

You CAN do this

Every single one of you can get to the end of 26.2 miles.  If someone you love needed your help and they were 26.2 miles away, you could make it.

 

 

Marathon Mastery Series: The Taper

Are you having the terror tapers? Join the other millions of women who are more than likely feeling exactly the same. Here’s how to handle the marathon taper and figure out what is worth being disciplined about and what you should put down to complete maranoia…

How to get to the end of the rainbow of your taper period

I feel so lardy and out of shape. I’m losing all my fitness. Argh.

As long as you haven’t just stopped running completely as part of your taper, you will NOT be getting out of shape. While volume should be decreased (and how much you should decrease mileage varies according to what level of runner you are) , you should be keeping up your fast, speed and tempo work if that is the intensity that you are used to.

If you run at a certain pace for your threshold or sessions, continue to do so. Your legs are used to running now and this turnover helps to keep your muscles tuned and primed for the marathon. Don’t be come one of those runners who suddenly feels like they need to sit on the sofa and NOT move.

However, you can be doing ALL of those things and still be feeling like you’ve just eaten the Christmas dinner. This can simply be a result of a drop in mileage for your long runs but that you’re still eating the same as if you’d run that long. It’s normal, don’t sweat it.

Oh my god, running at even my slowest pace feels hard. How am I going to run marathon pace for 26.2 miles?

We’ve ALL felt this one. When you’re one to three weeks out from your marathon goal, which you’ve been training towards for up to 20 weeks, you can still wonder how you’re EVER going to run at the pace you’ve been training for; it can seem impossible, particularly when even your easy runs now feel hard.

Why do they feel hard? I’m of the view that mentally, you spend so long looking forward to the taper, expecting to suddenly feel full of life as if you could race Jessica Ennis that when it doesn’t, it seems extra hard.

However, on race day, if you’ve done your training and completed tempo sessions and long runs with some of it at  marathon pace, the magic just happens. It feels like magic because even 15 minutes after you cross the finish line having achieved your goal, you find yourself wondering how you ever managed to run at the pace you’ve just achieved.

I missed one long training run. Surely it would be better to just do one last long run?

No, it really wouldn’t. Your legs need the chance to recover…hell, mentally you need time to recharge and be prepared for the battle ahead (and marathons are amazing, but be clear, you do need to face a mental battle). Running for the sake of getting that one last run in, is far more likely to leave you exhausted, or worse injured, come marathon day. Stick to the taper plan.

 So, tapering means I can start going out and forget about running for a bit. Hurrah!  

On the flip side, tapering does NOT mean simply sitting on the sofa and scoffing pasta and cake three weeks before the marathon or that you simply can’t run at all. Keeping up the frequency of your runs, even if they are shorter will help prevent you feeling sluggish and getting antsy, particularly when you are so used to the mood boosting hormones that come with running.