How was your weekend running?

So, I’m a bit behind with our #medalmonday post – while most of you were running fantastic races like the Two Castles Run (from Warkwick to Kenilworth) and the St Alban’s Half Marathon, I was taking time out from the purity of just running to participate in the 113 Cotswold Half Ironman

 

 

Graeme always has terrible weather at his events,’ confided one of the marshals the day before the 113 Cotswold Half Ironman, as I eyed up the lake I was due to swim 1.9km in the following morning. The next morning, I stood there again, having awoken at 4.30am to rack my bike in transition by the cut-off at 5.40am and to be ready to swim. Except we didn’t. The fog was so thick, you couldn’t see 100 metres on to the lake, let alone the buoys to swim to. And so we waited, all 1000 participants, for 90 minutes until it was safe to get out on the water.

This was my second half ironman distance triathlon this year, which comprises a 1.9km swim, 56 mile bike ride and a half marathon.

If you’re a runner who feels like they need a bit of a change, or you’re injured and need your ‘fix’ without running, or you value the importance of an all over body discipline, then triathlons are a great accessory to add to your running arsenal.

Running is my first love but I decided to take six months out of just ‘pure’ running to help my body grow stronger in different areas, try something new and give myself some ‘mental’ space from chasing marathon PBs. And triathlons have certainly given me that – as well as providing me with new mental strategies that I will now take forward to my final half of the year, focusing on my next ‘A’ race, the Girls Run the World Get Together at the Maverick Snowdonia off road race.

When you’ve got a swim, a bike and THEN a run to do, it’s easier to keep focused and not get overwhelmed by expectation, which can tend to happen with running after you’ve spent 16 weeks training for just one event. Triathlon teaches you to break everything down into manageable segments. On the bike, instead of thinking, ‘Jesus, this is so hard, I’ve got 20 miles to go,’ I focus on eating every 20 minutes, keeping my legs moving and thinking of the strategy for my run.

And on the swim, I just enjoy the vibe and think about what I’m going to do when I get out of the water as I transition on to the bike. (To be fair, I haven’t mastered this and generally tend to faff about!).

And like many triathlons of a longer distance, the runs are almost always broken into laps. As a runner, I used to HATE laps, thinking it was so boring. But when you’re focusing hard, laps have a curiously comforting element to them. This weekend, I focused on one lap at a time, putting the thought of the pain and discomfort of the entire distance away in a box.

Although a great thing about triathlons if you’re runner is that you’ll find that you often get overtaken on the bike, and then you’ll reel them all back in on the run. So,  rather than succumbing to the heat and discomfort on the run, I decided to count every person that I passed and those who passed me. I counted 346, which means that I passed over a third of the field on the run, with only two passing me.

How can I apply this to running, when it really isn’t so easy to pass people? If you tend to go off too quickly in a running race, being secure enough in your running to let others go in front, keeping your pace in check and then reeling people in is a great race strategy. I’ll be trying it.

As for the Cotswolds 113, I’d recommend it if you’re after a longer distance triathlon, friendly, and flat for great PB potential – plus some GREAT pubs to celebrate in!

Thanks to all those who kept me entertained virtually on Sunday morning by sharing where you were running, from the Chew Valley 10km to the Stanwick Lakes Half Marathon to the Parkrun mile to the Hull 10km. We’d love to hear how your running went the past weekend. Let me know!

Psst, if you like the vest design, they’re our limited edition ones, if you want to get your hands on them, give us a shout. They’re £15 plus P&P.

 

How was your weekend running?

The weekend just passed had us thinking a lot about motivation and will power to push through when training or racing gets tough…

Perhaps this was partly due to my taking on Grafman, a Half Ironman event, which comprises a 1.8km open water swim, followed by a 56 mile bike ride and rounded off by a half marathon at the end. But it was also because it was a weekend of running events that require a lot of mental reserve, such as the Night of the 10km PBs and the North Downs Way 50.

Fittingly enough, the Girls Run the World ultra distance coach, Sarah Sawyer, took home first place this year at the North Downs Way 50 (for coaching advice and mentoring with Sarah, email info@girlsruntheworld.co.uk) and another reason my focus was on mental strategies due to a podcast that I did with her last Friday. After all, who better to ask about mental strategies than a woman who came first in the Crawley 24 Hour Track Race a few months ago, running 127.8 miles in 24 hours around a 400 metre track?

You can listen to the podcast later this week, but what was most interesting about our chat is that Sarah didn’t say ANY of the usual things when it comes to mental strategies. Instead of counting, music or mantras, her main approach is grounded in the fact that she loves running and whenever anything gets tough, she reminds herself of how lucky she is to be running. That and switching up her events so that her ‘journey’ to that final event destination goal stays interesting and enjoyable seem to be her main strategies for staying strong.  At the beginning of this year, she focused on the 24 hour track race, then she switched from flat running to the hills to take on the North Downs 50, which leads her on to the Global Limits 200km Stage Race.

So, when I was running my final six miles of my Half Ironman this weekend, with the sun belting down, I reminded myself that ultimately, I choose to do this, as we all do. At any time, any one of us can say, ‘That’s it, I don’t want to do this any more,’ and stop.

We take part and participate because we enjoy the challenge, the camaraderie and the sense of achievement. And if we remember this, that when we train and it feels tough on a tempo run, or a long run when we’re just not feeling it, try to shift your thinking to accept that that discomfort is simply part of your end goal, making you stronger, and helping you to get to the fantastic end feeling of achievement. If it wasn’t challenging, none of us would feel quite so good at the end of it. Besides, it makes the celebratory beer feel even more amazing.

We’d love to hear about your weekend racing and any strategies you use when the going gets tough. Comment below.

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.  

 

 

 

 

5 Running Hacks

Whether you are a seasoned runner or just starting out, sometimes it’s all to easy to allow your mind to talk yourself out of running and then staying the course when you finally are out there… Not with our clever running hacks that will help you reach your endorphin post run high

Barcode laces

So, how many times have you done this? It’s Saturday morning, you’ve got about ten minutes to spare before you absolutely HAVE to get out of the front door if you have any hope of making it to parkrun but you can’t find your barcode? Or even worse, you have to get online, find your login details, download it and print it out.

Sounds familiar? What’s worse is that deep down, you kind of now that you may have thought about this the night before but leaving it until the morning means you have a get out clause if you want to. It’s crazy isn’t it? You know that you LOVE parkrun when you do it and feel fantastic afterwards but still we sabotage it. Well, here’s a way you simply can’t.

Invest in a Parkrun barcode, which costs as little as £4.26 for three and thread one through your running shoe laces. That way, you have no excuse and you won’t spend ten minutes storming round the house in a flap getting even more anxious.

 

 

Work to Run Wear

If like most women you are always  having to rush to either pick up the kids or to work via a commute, chances are that fitting in a run before or after work/school drop-off can seem impossible. The whole thought of having to schlep in an entire change of wardrobe to work or going home, changing and then heading out is just a no-go. But nowadays, it’s so easy to wear something that will pass as office attire and all you need to do is to have a sports bra and trainers to hand so that you can run home from work, or at least be changed within 30 seconds when you get home so  you don’t give your brain enough time to self sabotage.  Check out the range of running leggings at www.hipandhealthy.com, which come in a range of great prints which could be teamed with funky pumps or boots and a plain top and jacket. Obviously, if you work in the financial sector then perhaps not so easy to get away with but there are options.

Make it playful 

We hear from so many women that they get out to run and just can’t seem to get past running for two minutes or that it never gets any easier. The trick is to switch up your workouts and don’t think of it as  ‘Oh, I’ve got to run for 10 minutes non-stop.’ It’s actually far more beneficial to your running development to have a mixture of running workouts, such as a long, slow steady run (and long can be whatever that is to you – one mile or ten) a short, sharp run where you try to run 3-5km as fast as you can at the same pace. And then you can also do Fartlek runs, which simply means choosing a landmark – it could be a lamppost or a bin, and sprinting as fast you can to it (warm up first!) and then recover and repeat 10 more times. In between, you can do bodyweight exercises like push ups or step ups on benches, anything to just make it a little bit more interesting.

Relive the Summer of Love

OK, we don’t mean that literally! But why not try listening to music with a 120 beats per minute or higher. Studies have shown that makes exercise seem easier and elevates your mood as you run. Use SongBPM to work out the BPM of your favourite tracks.

 

Start using Strava

Unlike other running apps, Strava is fantastic at adding extra motivation. It not only keeps track of your own personal records, providing a first, second or third best time notification on any routes or parts of routes that you run regularly but you can also compete for crowns (Queen of the mountain) or cups on parts of routes that everyone else on Strava has run. You may not think you are that competitive but you’ll be amazed at how motivating it becomes once you start using it. Plus, you’ll get to be part of the Girls Run the World UK 900 member club on Strava too where you could find more runners local to run with and some extra motivation from us.

What are your best tips to make running easier? Share them by commenting below.