#grtwproject26.2 ‘Having a virtual coach keeps me accountable – and running even when I don’t feel like it’

The final of our four winners of #grtwproject26.2 winners, Rachel Sparkhall, 43  reveals how accountability and b-run-ches have been so important for the first four week block of her Paris Marathon training…

Taking part in fun events can help to off load the stress of marathon training

Race: Schneider Paris Marathon

Target: 3  hours, 59 minutes

I read a quote this week, ‘the marathon is the victory lap’ and this struck a chord – it will be the culmination of 14 + weeks of not only running an amazing amount of miles but also the thinking time and juggling of work/life as well – I think the mantra ‘this is the victory lap, enjoy it’ might really help me on race day!

Running a marathon has never figured high on my bucket list until last year when I completed the South Downs 100KM Ultra Challenge. If I could cover 100KM with a run/walk/run method in 16 hours and survive training through the hottest summer in decades, then maybe, just maybe I could run a marathon? And so I was delighted when I won the #grtwproject26.2 competition to win a mentoring package worth £300. 

GRTW coach Tara initially loaded a four week block of runs on Training Peaks, which was brilliant as it allowed me to see the progressive mileage and speed work build up and I found the alternate run days worked well, allowing me recovery time and to also plan life around training rather than it dictating it. 

It meant some early mornings and dark evening runs, but I’m fortunate that I work from home on some days which allows me to be more flexible. Still, training for a marathon can be all consuming.  To compensate, I integrate my longer runs with coffee/cake or breakfast get together’s.  This means I have a destination to run to which is more motivating than constant laps/loops on the longer routes. 

In the first couple of weeks, I had a few issues with picking the right routes that suited the tempo and interval training and had a couple of rather frustrating watch malfunctions. All I really wanted to do was run and perform well, so I invested in a Garmin watch and I got this nailed.

Old watch vs new Garmin

If anything, the runs have been slower than I’ve been used to but with that, came more focus on tempo and interval work which forced me to actually start doing them rather than just reading about them.

I think the most important point to make about training with GRTW  can be said in one word – ACCOUNTABILITY. With all my training runs planned and any other training recorded, I’m motivated to get my trainers on and do the session, particularly as Tara can see my exact results on Training Peaks. 

The first 2 weeks flew by but by week 3 I hit a wall. I felt fatigued and had taken a lot of medication for migraines which I’ve suffered from for years, so every run became a challenge. 

Usually, running helps me feel like i’m cleansing my system of any medication but intense exercise can also trigger a migraine attack so it’s a double edge sword.  It’s very easy to curl up in a ball and drown myself in the vat of sugary products even though I know that it will only make things worse.

A hilly run on my third Sunday long run was awful and if it had not been for my coaching plan, I wouldn’t have gone.  The first hill run was truly awful and I stopped wanted to go home, but then I thought about Tara and the effort she was putting into helping me and I thought about how I’d feel if I failed to hit my goal. GOT.TO.KEEP.TRYING. Hopefully this extra little push is going to make all the difference in getting me closer to that sub 4 hour goal.

A beautiful but brutal run

Thankfully, week four has been a recovery week with less mileage and it’s been a fabulous week. Although the weather turned colder, each run was enjoyable and I ended it with the 10K London Winter run.  A fantastic fun themed event where 20,000 participants descend on London to run amongst penguins and snowmen, it was great to go as part of a group and enjoy the social aspect.

The London Winter Run 10k

I started the run, semi frozen in -4 temperatures and with the niggling doubt that I’d lost some speed with all the longer runs I had been doing but was pleased to see that I was achieving 7.30min/miles on course and ended with a PB of 48.10 on what is a flat but very busy course. 

Roll on the next block of training. Now, less than ten weeks before I stand under the Arc de Triomphe.

To  follow the journeys of our four Girls Run the World marathon training winners, follow #grtwproject26.2 on Instagram.

If you are interested in having a personalised training plan written by Girls Run the world or our mentoring package, please email info@girlsruntheworld.co.uk

#grtwproject26.2 ‘Having different training zones has transformed my running’

Our third #project26.2 runners, Kerrie Flippance, shares how recovery runs and training zones has transformed her running…while she contemplates a 5am start as she juggles marathon training and motherhood 

Kerrie at her weekend cross country race

Manchester Marathon will be my first marathon and I ‘panic entered’ last August after reading a friend’s Facebook status which led me to believe it was about to sell out. To date there are still places left!  After I entered, I tried to forget about it, ignoring all my friends’ excited social media messages about who was training on what days and where could we run to vary our training.  I was in denial. 

Until I received an email from Girls Run the World, informing me that I had won one of their amazing marathon coaching packages. I never win anything, well except four tickets for a gig from a phone-in competition in 1992.  I was filled with excitement and utter terror.

 

My first thought was, ‘If I have a coach, I’ll actually have to run 26.2, I can’t make an excuse on the day that I’m not well enough or or fake an injury.’ And I also knew that I’d have to stick to a plan and I was scared I wouldn’t be able to. A month into my plan, it has been the best thing to have happened, having Rachael from Girls Run the World as my virtual coach.

Receiving my first two weeks of the training plan (they’re delivered in two week blocks to help accommodate what may happen within a fortnight), it was great seeing all the varied sessions and to be given ‘zones’ based on my pace, something I’d never thought about before. 

Although I’ve always done a variety of training runs, a long slow run and a weekly track interval session, I’d never really thought about what my pace was and the importance behind knowing different zones and how they impact progress and recovery; for instance, there’s a pace for recovery runs, one for interval work, tempo work, etc. Now I can really bore my husband and non-running friends with even more talk about running! But, more importantly, I now understand how training can improve my running.

BUT over the first two weeks, I was shocked at seeing five rest days in my training diary and that made me panic! I knew the importance of rest days, I’d read about it time and time again, and been told so many times by running friends that I needed a rest day, after I’d moaned about how tired I felt.  But FIVE days off running? 

This has been one of my biggest learning exercises so far.  I’ve followed the plan to the letter and the rest days have been tangible.  I use them wisely by following the stretching, yoga or core work that’s been set on the plan or go for a swim.  For the first time ever, I’ve never felt tired on a run, a first in ten years of running.

I know this may not be the case throughout my marathon journey but I am surprised by how good I feel and this is down to a plan that is personal and allows my body to recover ready for the next run. 

I felt pretty rubbish for a few days during week three of the training block after competing in our county cross country champs, but I’d raced hard.  And whereas usually, I get to the point where I want to slow down, and feel like the hills and the mud are breaking me, I was able to keep pushing.

My two running pals, who normally catch me at the half way point, still caught me but rather than the distance between us growing, we stayed together. It was the most consistent performance I’d put in for a cross-country race, and I believe this is down to a carefully tailored plan.                                    

My high so far was my long 15 mile training run last weekend. I’d been dreading it as I had only ever run that far once before. Plus, the training plan specified to run the final three miles at my marathon pace! No way was I going to be able to do this, I thought, not after already running 12 miles. Rachael warned me that it would be hard and I really thought that this run was going to be my first ‘fail’ on the plan. 

But I ran the 12 miles at the easy pace recommended by Rachael, and I felt pretty good.  I’d run with my husband for the first four miles and a friend for the next seven miles, but told her that I wanted to run the last four on my own so I could focus.

My watch beeped to let me know when to change pace and it was like someone had fired a starting gun or given me a huge slap on the backside. I instantly changed mind set and went for it and my legs went from feeling tired and sore to feeling great, they wanted to run at this pace. 

AT first I thought I was probably running too slow  when I looked at my watch, I was running at 30 seconds per mile faster than my marathon tempo pace.  The shock of feeling so in control with a good amount of energy in the tank really spurred me on, although Rachael has told me that I need to be more disciplined on future runs or risk undoing all my hard work, but it was a great confidence boost.

So far, I’ve loved my training butI live in a  beautiful part of the country with lots of trails that pass by castles, canals and cycle paths. And my training hasn’t interfered too much with life, although this will change over the next few weeks when my children’s social lives will interfere with my weekend runs (I’m envisaging having to get up at 5am to get my long run done, or worse still, doing it after they’ve gone to bed). 

So, four weeks in and I am no longer in denial, I’m excited and ready for the challenge.  I love not having to think about what training I should be doing, and whether I am doing too much or too little!  I’m not having to think very much at all which is amazing when you have a very busy life.  Rachael and my carefully devised training plan think for me and all I have to do is lace up my trainers and run.

#project26.2 ‘Marathon training is the same as any other running, just longer, right?’

In her first block of virtual marathon training as part of Girls Run the World Project26.2, Catriona Ward Sell, 31 has learned that running longer distances requires a totally different mindset…

 

Catriona, volunteering at junior Parkrun

I recall, at about age 8, going to football practice with my wee neighbour, John. Unable to kick the ball hard and fast, he became frustrated. “The trouble with practising...” he exclaimed, booting the ball away, “is that you have to practice and practice and practice, just to be any good at practising!”

Surely no truer words have ever been said about marathon running, either.

I am a middle distance runner. In my year-and-a-half of club running, I’ve reached a decent local level; I can consistently run a sub-20 parkrun, am knocking on the door of a sub-40 10k, and perhaps slightly fluke-ishly, qualified for a Club Championship place at the London Marathon by running two sub-1:30 half marathons.

I perhaps clicked “apply” to the London Marathon too light-heartedly. How different could marathon training be? You just run for a bit longer, right?

Oh, you naïve former self. Marathon training, as I have discovered with Tara, my excellent coach from Girls Run The World, is a whole different ball game.

Firstly, there is a lot of slow running.  I’m an adrenaline junkie; I like doing intervals as quickly as I can, turning the treadmill to a level where I risk flying off, or putting my pride on the line by challenging the guys at work to a race (to contextualise, I am in the Army, so extreme physical challenges are pretty much encouraged in my vocation).  Marathon training does not appeal to adrenaline junkies. Marathon training requires slowing down.

Secondly, there are a LOT of kilometres to cover in a week. This was expected but I thought the bulk of the distance would be in the once-weekly designated Long Slow Runs (in runner’s jargon and Insta-hashtags, LSRs). Nope. The distance of every run during the week will increase.

And lastly, at this stage, the types of training runs aren’t ending with my lungs on fire. This might seem like a welcome break to some of you, but I love the feeling of a hard run. It gets the endorphins flowing, and, yes, I feel more justified in reaching for an extra doughnut when I’ve reached that maxed-out zone.

Getting used to longer, slower runs has meant I’ve had to work on my mental game, find a space to put my mind.  Because, on longer slower runs, you have a lot of thinking time, and depending on how the run is going, your head can take you to some downbeat places.

Learning to focus on mental strategies with the miles

For the first few weeks, I felt frustrated and bored. The first run which I enjoyed was my second LSR. I’m new to the area in which I live, and I found a beautiful wooded trail which goes on uninterrupted for miles. I did 16 kms here after volunteering at Junior Parkrun, and both experiences helped me to remember a different side to running – its inclusivity and offers of exploration.

Neither of these are better or worse motivations than chasing PBs, which I expect will always be my main goal. But is a different side of the same medal, and deserves equal recognition within the sport.

I was also worried. My speed seemed to be zapped from my legs. A Cross Country outing with the Army in the middle of week two wasn’t in my training plan – but when, in the military, your boss tells you to run, the only acceptable response is to ask “how fast?”. Although I finished second female, I was slower than usual.

This week, however, has been much more positive. Within a couple of runs, I’ve managed to glimpse my old 10km time (4:00 min/km). Although in time I aim to be faster, for this marathon training cycle, I was scared that I was just getting slower.   Perhaps, as was first feared, that isn’t happening. Perhaps it’s just my body getting used to the extra miles.

But back to the task in hand: I’m not sure yet if I’m looking forward to the actual marathon, nor if I’ll do another one again. It’s too early within this training cycle to say, and frustrations, fears, anxiety and – just this week – some kind of nervous hope has created mixed emotions. But one thing’s for sure: John, you were definitely wiser than your 8 years. Mentally, physically, and emotionally, even feeling like you’re training for running takes a lot of practise.

Target: To finish fast

Goal finish: 3 hours, 17 mins

To follow the progress of our #grtwproject26 runners, search for the hashtag on Instagram. 

Girls Run the World offer personalised virtual coaching for all distances and all levels. For more details click here

 

WIN! Welcome to our Queens of Speed giveaways

Fancy getting your hands on some of these fab prizes? Read on to find out how you could win some Girls Run the World booty, including a goodie bag of Pukka Herb products or our top prize, the HokaOneOne Mach 2 road shoe, which hits the streets in March**

The HokaOneOne Mach 2

launches in the UK this March and is perfect for road running, being both responsive and cushioned so that it absorbs the impact without sacrificing the ‘feel’ of the road to help you maintain your pace. It’s a low weight shoe and has an upgrade from last season’s Mach with the addition of a dual density ProFly midsole, which means a softer heel with a more responsive forefoot for a better take off. Perfect for all your Spring road marathoners out there.

And the amazing people at HokaOneOne have offered the Girls Run the World Queens of Speed participants the chance to win a pair. (If you’ve missed out on our Queens of Speed virtual challenge this year, read more here and make sure you’re ready for 2020).

How to win the HokaOneOne Mach 2: 

Run 5km with each 1km being progressively faster than the last, ending with a final 1km at your 5km pace PB, or as close to it as you can. You will need to share an image of yourself with your post run glow, and a screenshot revealing your kms split to us on Instagram with the #grtwqueensofspeed plus @g_r_t_w and @hokaoneone. The winner will be the runner who most accurately showed a progressive run consistent with their running ability.  Closing date: Feb 14th 2019.

 

Pukka Herbs Goodie Bag

Win a goodie bag containing Feel New Tea, £2.99, a Pukka mug, £11.99, Turmeric Active Tea, £2.99 and Turmeric Gold Latte, £4.99.

This goodie bag contains the kind of drinks that are perfect for winter running, with delicious ingredients like turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and saffron which can help relieve inflammation and hence your recovery after exercise. Plus, these ingredients are delicious and warming too, perfect for post winter runs.

How to win the Pukka Herbs Goodie Bag  

All you have to do to get your hands on this bounty is share a picture from one of your runs or post runs, and tell us how running makes you feel. Include the hashtag #grtwqueensofspeed, and tag us @g_r_t_w and @pukkaherbs. Best response will be awarded the prize. You can enter as many times as you like. Closing date: January 31st 2018

Badger Sleep Balm

Running is fantastic for your mind, body and soul but fitting it in can be tricky, which is why we often find ourselves having to run after work or just before bed. Which is not great as it gets the adrenaline pumping and the cortisol levels rising. Which is where the fantastic Badgers Sleep Balm can be useful, containing Lavender and Bergamot to help you relax and sleep.

Apply to your pulse points and add some of our Running for Yoga stretches and workouts from our channel YouTube and it could help even more.

How to win the Badger Sleep Balm 

Share a picture on Instagram which sums up your way of relaxing post run. Include the #grtwqueensofspeed and @g_r_t_w @badgerbalmUK. You may enter as many times as you like. Closing date: 31st January 2018.

Bare Biology Lion Heart Pure Omega 3 Fish Oil, £47.50

The Daily Telegraph dubbed this oil ‘the Rolls Royce of fish oils’. This is because, unlike many other other fish oils on the market, this contains high grade fish oils from wild fish meaning that it gives you over 2000mg EPA and 1000mg Dha per teaspoon dose.

It’s perfect for runners because it works as an anti-inflammatory, is great for mental health, heart and blood pressure.

How to win BareBiology Lion Heart Pure Omega 3 Fish Oil

Let’s have fun with this. Share an image on Instagram or Twitter from your run that illustrates best your courage on a run or route – your lion’s heart! Include the #grtwrunuary and include @barebiology and @g_r_t_w.

 

**Please note these competitions are only open to participants of the Girls Run the World Queens of Speed virtual challenge. 

 

 

Introducing our #grtwproject26.2 runners

At the end of 2018, we ran a competition to win a virtual marathon training package with us. These are the four women who won and who will be sharing their marathon training journey with the GRTW community over the next four months…

 

Kerrie Flippance, 43, legal executive and mum of three, Warwickshire 

Instagram: @kerrie.runs.26.2

Goal race: Manchester Marathon

Target finish: 3 hours, 50 minutes

Why Kerrie applied: Support in juggling training with being a mum of three

It’s my first marathon and I so I’d love some help and support to know what to do and how to train, particularly around my job and juggling family life.

This will be my first marathon. I am scared but excited. I am worried about hitting the wall, about being away from my family for far too long whilst training and also whether I actually get to cross the finish line without being taken away in an ambulance. I also thought these things for my first half and now it’s my favourite distance.

My dream goal would be to one day get a good for age for London.  I want to do something for myself but hope that this will also inspire my children.

Current PBs

  • 5km 22.12
  • 10km 49:02. 
  • Half Marathon1:49:01

Marie Knight, 40, export manager wine industry from Brighton 

Instagram: @wightyknighty

Goal Race: Brighton Marathon

Target time: 4  hours, 35 minutes

Why Marie applied:

I have a busy work schedule that involves travel and time away from home so I need help with a flexible training plan, that will offer support when things change at the last minute! My previous training plans for half marathons have fallen down when I’ve become ill and slipped behind and lost confidence.

I have always said I would never run a marathon and I now find myself 16 weeks away from race day. It honestly still feels like something I could never do despite having watched so many fantastic runners of all different levels complete the Brighton marathon this year. I’m genuinely terrified and that in turn makes me even more determined to train properly, complete the 26.2 miles and enjoy every moment! I was also asked by a friend of mine to join in fundraising for their 3 yr old daughter who needs a life changing operation to give her the chance to walk. Little Ufi was born 3 months premature and suffered severe brain injuries which mean she cannot walk amongst various other learning disabilities. There’s a little girl determined to walk, and it feels like there is no good reason for me not to show the same determination to complete a marathon to give her the chance to walk. 2019 is the 10-year anniversary of the Brighton Marathon and having started running in 2016, I would be super proud to be running my first marathon in my home town. Running has been an important part of settling into a new life in Brighton, making new friends with an amazing and inspiration group of women of all ages and fitness. I’ve been lucky enough to run with the GRTW runners at a huge variety of events and always been encouraged to give everything my best shot and supported even when I was one of the last runners the finish line. It would be great to start 2019 with a clear and focused ‘end in mind’ plan to get me to the point of crossing the finish line feeling strong, happy and knowing that I’d raised money for a fantastic cause.

Obstacles: Work travel often puts pressure on ability to train / run as I planned. Usually week days with tempo / speed sessions but occasional weekends which then impacts long slow runs. Previously with half marathon training I’ve struggled to ensure strength training happens as well as the running part of the plan.

Strength – enjoy speed work / tempo sessions. Weakness – technique on hills, overstriding, can talk myself out of a long run when on my own.

Personal Bests

  • 5km, 27.38
  • 10km, 1:00:43
  • Half Marathon, 2:12:45

Catriona Ward Sell, 31, a soldier in the British Army, Ipswich  

Instagram: @_thiscatcan_

Goal Race: London Marathon

 

Target time: 3 hours, 17 minutes

Why she applied: Wants to get faster

 

I started running more seriously last year, and improved quickly with a 19:18 5km, 40:28 10km and 1:29:15 half marathon. Now, I’ve stalled and I don’t know how to progress.

Also, I wanted to be part of a female running community as only 9% of women in the Army are female. I can give the guys a run for their money, but ultimately their training styles, intensity and routine is different to my own. They don’t understand what it’s like to have short legs and a faster cadence, nor do they understand certain monthly cycles that we females have to deal with.

Personal bests

  • 5km, 19.18  
  • 10km, 40:28
  • Half Marathon, 1:29:15

 

Rachel Sparkhall, sales and marketing manager, 43, Bedfordshire 

 

Instagram: @rachel.sparkhall

Goal race: Paris Marathon

Target: 3 hours, 59 minutes

Why she applied: How to juggle training with work and migraines

‘Running my first ever marathon and would like to do really well, but I suffer from migraines and juggling work commitments so need  guidance to get me there.’

I enjoy it but it has also really helped with my general well being, having suffered with chronic migraine for +20 years. Exercise helps to keep them under control.

Recent PBs

10km, 49 mins

Half Marathon, 1.47.48

 

These women will all be sharing their trials and tribulations with us via their Instagram channels and via our blog once per month. 

If you are interested in receiving virutal marathon training with us, please get in touch. Rachel and Cat are being coached by Tara Shanahan and Kerrie and Marie by GRTW founder, Rachael Woolston.

 

How was your weekend running?

As the clocks went back this weekend, the wintry temperatures moved in but there was still lots of great racing around the UK…

Top of the races on the South Coast it seems, was the Beachy Head Marathon and 10km, which starts in Eastbourne. We had lots of runners from the community taking part in one or other of the distances. If you’ve not heard of this race, look it up for next year (Oct 26, 2019) because it is a stunning route (particularly the longer marathon route) which takes in the beauty of the South Downs National Park in the Autumn.

Picture: Jo Prior

Renowned for spectacular scenery, steep ascents, punishing descents and a fantastic friendly atmosphere (even a music band and a tabletop  of currant buns and sugary tea at some of the refreshment stops), this is a fantastic bucket-list event. Or you can use it as training for an ultra.

In, fact, we were  on a 50 mile bike ride the following day with the third placed women’s marathon finisher, Bethan Male, who got to the podium with a time of 3 hrs, 21 minutes and was using the event as training for an ultra race in about a month’s time which involves a double – almost-ascent of Pen Y Fan!

As the clocks go back, this was the weekend that saw the launch into the night trail races, with Maverick Silva Dark Series in  West Sussex (try their Surrey one on 10th November if you’re in the South). But  our favourite of the weekend was definitely an event that one of our Scottish GRTW contingent ran this weekend, the Illuminator Night Trail Race, a 15  mile route with four big ‘ole climbs, lit by your head torch only. Well done all those who ran it, it looks beautiful and tough.

Which brings us to another race that we  missed mentioning last weekend when we missed our regular debrief, The Dramathon, which offers a marathon, a half or a 10km, with the full route tracking the Speyside Way from Glenfaricas Distillery to Glenfiddich and ending, of course with a dram.

Scotland, we salute you! Definitely winning hands down on the variety of the races offered, both in terms of challenging terrain and exploring!

 

 

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)

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.  

 

 

 

 

The Strava Chronicles

 

A recent article in The Times by Peta Bee highlighted the rise of online virtual training apps like Strava. 

Love it or loathe it (and she was on the fence due to being confronted when meeting her virtual followers in real life – read the article here), being on Strava creates some funny behaviour. Do you recognise yourself in any of these…? I certainly do, I’m embarrassed to say…

The one where you spell out every bit of your training regime 

No, not come across this? Or perhaps you don’t even know what it means and you think it is some kind of secret morse code. It will read something like; WU, 2m@HMP, 2m@MP x 3, WD. And that’s just a simplified version.

I’ve done it, others have done it. Why? It helps you to keep track of your training diary so that when you scroll back through your activities, you can see what pace you were hitting and what training you did. But it could equally be seen as showing off about your running know-how.

Which is silly because let’s face it, none of us on Strava are Paula Radcliffe…erm, although I do hear that Jo Pavey is on Strava.

Run with RP

The secret runner…this is the one where someone keeps their running companion a secret. Is it because someone couldn’t make the effort to write out their companion’s full name (although why bother to write at all?) or that they want to keep their running partner secret?

Perhaps they’re having an affair, or they want their other running friends to know about someone new they’re running with? Maybe it’s a new boyfriend? Or maybe it’s totally innocent and we should all have something better to do than wondering who it is?

Easy run with the kids

The one where you want to make sure your followers don’t think you’ve run really slowly, more slower than you’ve ver done before. Fair enough if you really have run with the kids. Not so cool if you actually ran by yourself and you just wanted to go on a slower run but couldn’t bear not posting it because you’d miss out on your Strava monthly miles target.

Felt awful, feeling sick, last mile my leg hurt. Then my head fell off. And I lost my running shoe.

The traumatised runner…this is the one where a runner explains in minute detail every feeling and niggle that occurred on a training run. Usually written just after a long training run when someone is still so internally focused, they don’t quite realise how much they’ve just shared via Strava because they’re still reeling – and glycogen deprived – from the run.

Sun run, feeling fine. OR, Running off the work headache. Stress. Feel like I could punch someone.

The confessional runner where someone inadvertently (or perhaps not?) shares a little too much information about what’s going in their life in general.

 

Despite all of this, we are BIG fans of Strava at Girls Run the World as a training app. It helps you to set challenges, connect with others, keeps track of your training and even gives you ideas about how to train by following other people.

Our community is small, around 3000 around the UK with a few outpost in the US and Australia but we’re growing all the time.  By joining our club on Strava, we’re creating a network of GRTW runners which means that maybe next time you’re travelling to New York, Sydney or Mumbai, there might be another GRTW local runner who could show you her city. 

Join Girls Run the World on Strava here. And if you’re worried about privacy settings, here’s a little video about how you can create privacy zones. Click here

How was your weekend running?

Hurrah, it seems like the first weekend in ages that we’ve all had a respite from cold winds, snow, ice and frost which has probably made for a great Sunday training run for those on their final long marathon runs or who are tapering. And then there were the races on this weekend.

 

First up is the inaugural London Landmarks Half Marathon, which lots of our Girls Run the World community ran (we have a review coming up if you’re thinking of doing it next year), and along with the London and Brighton marathon ‘sharpener’ the Cranleigh 15 and 21 mile race.

As for myself, I was out on riding following last week’s snowy Moyleman Half Marathon Relay which has left my calf muscle a little tight, so I headed out on the bike instead (plus, I’ve got two half Ironman races coming up soon!). I usually ride with other people on long Sunday training rides but with my niece and sister staying, I had to do that thing that most mums have to do every weekend, juggle childcare and training. Which meant that I had to get out EARLY to get it done and get back to be a good host. Which meant a 6am wake up call….effectively 5am since the clocks went forward.

Riding 40 miles solo reminded me once again how useful training alone can be. It is unappealing when you’re about to head out but it’s really useful as a runner, triathlete or cyclist. While training with others can help to ensure we run faster and improves your speed endurance, doing long training runs on our own occasionally is the perfect mental training.

On my ride today, there was no one to lean on when feeling tired, no one to say, ‘Oh shall we just stop for a quick coffee/photograph/tyre change/gels stop,’ and that mental endurance is as important as your body’s endurance.

So if you’ve done some solo runs this season and they’ve felt awful, don’t be down on them, they’ve probably done more for your mental training than you expect. As you begin to taper for your marathon over the next three weeks, start thinking about these strategies, which technique or strategy are you going to use on your marathon?

Look back over your training diary/Instagram posts/training memory, and write down all the amazing or positive things that you’ve achieved in your training since you began back in November or December. These are your golden fuel bullets to power your mind and body on race day, but you need to have them in your mind so that you can remember them.

It may sound cheesy/over the top to write things down but tiredness from running in marathons plays funny tricks on your brain, and makes it hard to remember. I once tried to calculate my pace per mile on to my total running time for every mile I passed at the London marathon. I lasted about five miles before my brain couldn’t do the calculations anymore. Doh!

Anyway, we’d love to hear how your running went. Where you trained, where you raced…even where and how you recovered?!