Bushy Park 10k: The sub-60 attempt

I’ve been working on improving my running pace since the summer. Back in August, my 5k PB was 29:59 (9:40/mile), and had been exactly that for nearly 2 years. A couple of weeks ago I finally got myself into the 28s, and decided that it was now¬†time to work on my 10k. Gulp.

My last 10k race was at Bushy Park back in 2013, where I crossed the line in 1:01:59. My goal was to average sub-10:00 – nailed it! But I decided that I really wanted to get down to sub-60. This would mean running at an average pace of 9:39/mile, which was a pretty daunting thought.

I have a very understanding boyfriend. (Also, I might have paid for his place and then bribed him with stew). Whatever the reason, I managed to persuade him out of bed at stupid o’clock on a Sunday morning, to run 5k in the freezing cold, and then wait another half hour for me to finish the 10k (at which point it was STILL freezing cold). He got a medal, a protein shake, and a lot of cheers for his sprint finish, so I think it did him some good ūüėÄ

Bushy Park 10k Final Stretch

The final .2 was SO hard. I couldn’t even muster a smile – all James got was a half-hearted thumbs up. But it waaas an 8:17 sprint finish, so I’m sure he’ll let me off!

As usual, I set off too fast at the start, but managed to slow myself down and hit 9:38 for the first mile. I then accidentally stayed at the slower pace, clocking 9:45 for mile 2, so I had to get a bit of a move on for mile 3! This hurt, and keeping it up through slippery mud and a thick layer of leaves was pretty hard work. I think I did the first 5k in over 30:00 (at which point a lot of the people around me headed off to the finish – not that I was jealous, or anything!)

Mile 4 was my favourite, and I settled into a comfy pace that I managed to keep up until about 8k. This was when I hit the muddy leafy bit again, at which point I wanted to cry and/or walk/sit down on the floor and strop. But instead, I channelled my inner adult, and got the f*** on with it. And then I nearly ran into a gorgeous stag, who chose that moment to wander into the path about 2 feet away. Pretty good time for a distraction, to be fair!

Bushy Park 10k Sprint Finish

The elusive mid-foot strike! It exists!

My inner adult got me through mile 6 in 9:26, which made me glad that I hadn’t walked or stropped, after all. But then I discovered¬†that pushing yourself through 10k at what was recently your 5k PB pace can REALLY hurt. When I saw the finish line I¬†pushed a little bit harder (I think I stopped breathing for a second or two), crossing it with a sprint finish of 8:17. Result!

Bushy Park 10k Medals

D’aw, isn’t he lovely? And the medals have Christmas puddings¬†on!

After I caught my breath a little, and decided that I wasn’t going to throw up (it was a close call), my smile came back. And then a few happy tears, because 59:23, you are (provisionally but I’ll take it) MINE! (Edit: The official results are in, and I did it! 59:23!)

I wangled a 2:36 PB. Yes, I did.

Bushy Park 10k Bobble Hat

And then I broke out the bobble hat. Because, bobble hats. And it was still freezing.

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Did you run this weekend? How did it go? ūüôā

My Vitality health check results might surprise you

As part of my Vitality health insurance plan, I get a¬†free health check at a local Lloyds pharmacy. The check is fairly high-level, and will give you a breakdown of your cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugars and BMI (though I don’t take¬†much stock in the last one). If the results are good, you earn lots of points which means more goodies¬†like free Starbucks drinks, cinema tickets and half price running shoes at Sweatshop – win!

For a bit of background, I’m 25 years old. I’m fairly fit and healthy, if I do say so myself. I don’t eat many takeaways, I’m not smoker or much of a drinker, I work out multiple times a week, and I’m not overweight (unless you go by my BMI, which is always¬†completely skewed thanks to my¬†quad muscles. Tall, I am not). I have a relatively low resting heart rate, I do lots of cardio, and day to day I feel absolutely fine.

Most people like me wouldn’t really bother with a¬†formal¬†health check without the added incentives. It seems a bit irrelevant when you’re young and active and pretty healthy, right? High cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar is for older people, surely. Smokers, drinkers, people who are overweight?…

Vitality Health Check

Or at least, that was my thinking. But despite all of this, in light of what happened with my Dad a few months back, I recently took the plunge and made an appointment. I can honestly say that if my Dad hadn’t fallen ill, I probably wouldn’t have bothered. In fact, I had the same opportunity last year, and never took it. Just goes to show, really!

Due to a family history (recently discovered as it was) of heart disease, I was advised early on that I was at higher risk of developing heart disease myself, and got my cholesterol checked out independently by my GP a few weeks ago.

I’ll tell you what, trying to wangle free blood tests on the NHS was an absolute faff – but 100% worth it, and if you have any doubts or concerns, make sure you speak up and ask for a check-up.

The Viltality check was far more straight forward. I logged in, picked my appointment time, and my friend and I headed up to the pharmacy one afternoon. The pharmacist took us into a little office, did us at the same time to save us waiting around, and was lovely and friendly and informative.¬†The experience was pretty positive, although the results were less so. (In fact, they kind of blew my mind, and if I hadn’t been checked out by my GP beforehand I think I would have been fairly shocked).

Vitality Health Check Numbers

Due to the stereotypes¬†associated with these sorts of results, I was a little bit embarrassed – and maybe ashamed? – to share them, and I’ve been in 2 minds as to whether I should publish this post. But I wanted to share my experience as it really goes to show that if we spend our time focusing too much on the outside – comparing ourselves to others, and obsessing over aesthetics¬†– we overlook what’s really important.

I’ll admit that it’s a little unusual to have these sorts of issues in your twenties, and my readings are heavily influenced by my genetics – but whoever you are, and whatever your lifestyle, it’s definitely worth being mindful.¬†We’re not invincible, and we need to look after ourselves.

That doesn’t mean we should all start running marathons and lifting loads of weights and calorie counting and loading up on kale and smoothies and cutting out every ounce of fat and salt and sugar… Hell, I’m not! If I want a black forest hot chocolate from Costa (because OMG, heaven in a cup), then I’ll flipping well have one – but I’ll also think twice when I find myself looking at the¬†Chinese takeaway menu¬†because I’m feeling too lazy to cook the food in my fridge, or I feel like skipping a workout because there’s a new series on Netflix.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a size 8 or a size 18 – if you treat your body well, you’ll reap the benefits. But whilst I’ve accepted that numbers on a chart aren’t the be-all and end-all, the reverse is also true.

Be kind to your body, treat it as it deserves, and it’ll reward you. (I’m working on it!)

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What do you think about health checks/body MOTs? Have you, or would you ever have one?

Barcelona Marathon 2016: The game plan!

Marathon Training Week 0Do you set yourself time goals when training for a marathon?

For my first marathon, I didn’t dare put a time – I didn’t even know¬†if I could¬†manage the distance. I just wanted to run with my parents, raise some money for charity, and cross that finish line. Tick, tick, and triple tick!

For Paris, I tentatively decided that I wanted a PB. I upped the cross training and strength work, stuck to those mid-week runs, and clocked a personal worst on the day. (I might have overlooked¬†the whole speedwork thing!) But on the plus side, it was sunny and beautiful and I enjoyed every mile… So I¬†decided I was happy regardless of the time.

For Barcelona, I’ve finally decided to set myself an actual time goal: 4:59:59.

At the risk of sounding like a loon, my A-goal would be 4h40, though that seems a bit ambitious given my current PB of 5:16. Goal B would be sub-4h50, and Goal C is anything under 5h00.

Whilst I’m still a little bit dubious – 26.2 miles is a long way, and anything can happen – I’m feeling pretty optimistic. I’ve been picking up the pace over the summer, whittling¬†my 5k PB down from 29:59 to 28:52, and I have a 10k PB attempt in a couple of weeks at Bushy Park (sub-60, I’m coming for you!). I just hope¬†that I can hold a faster pace as the miles increase!

It’s worth a try, right!?

I’ll be logging my weekly progress on the blog, so stay tuned ūüėÄ

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How do you feel about marathon time goals? Have you hit any new PBs lately?


10 tips to help you stick to your marathon training plan

Marathon Training Plan

If you’ve signed up for a 2016 spring marathon, you’ll either have started training already, or very soon will do.

I’m a bit of a geek, so I¬†love this bit. I love spreadsheets, and bright colours, and sparkly star stickers (gotta motivate yourself somehow, right!?) and calculating training paces and mileage and different running routes.

But  marathon training is nothing if not a learning experience (read: 16+ weeks of trial and error), and over the past 2 years there are a lot of things that have changed the way I structure my training and plan my race goals.

Hopefully you’ll find some of them¬†useful – and if there are any other tips and tricks that you know of, I’d love to hear them ūüėÄ

 1) Prepare everything the night before

If there’s one thing that is guaranteed to make me hit the snooze button, it’s waking up at 6am and realising that I forgot to sort out my running gear in advance. Stumbling around in the dark, half asleep, trying to find¬†your socks/jacket/gloves?¬†Ain’t nobody got time for that¬†ūüėČ Instead, make sure your Garmin is charged, organise your kit, fuel, hydration and gadgets the night before – and even better,¬†put your gym kit on the radiator before you go to bed. Toasty running gear is THE BEST.

2)¬†Don’t just plan the time – plan the whole workout.

It’s all well and good telling yourself you’ll go to the gym at 6am, or you’ll run for an hour. But if there’s no specific goal/purpose for a training session, it’s all too easy to hit snooze and sleep right through it (or binge-watch Netflix, instead…) What do you want to achieve? Intervals, tempo run, strength session, marathon pace run? How far, how long, what pace, how many reps? Plan it out beforehand, so you don’t have to figure it out on the go.

3) Have breakfast ready.

Runger is real, people. And there’s nothing better than having a seriously tasty breakfast to reward yourself with after an early-morning workout (or an epic dinner, if you’re more of an evening person!) Whether that’s a smoothie, a big bowl of porridge, or eggs and bacon (NOM), you’d be surprised how much it can motivate you to keep going. Or maybe that’s just me – I do like my food ūüėÄ

4) Make yourself accountable.

Go with a friend, book a PT session or a class, stick that training plan up where your other half can see it, or tell your coworkers or family to nag you if you don’t go. If you’re going to get some slack for, well, slacking, you’re far less likely to do it! And we all know that whilst you might grumble a bit at the time, once you’re out there you’ll be glad for the hassle.

The only workout you’ll regret is the one you didn’t do.¬†

We all know¬†there’s some truth to¬†that little clich√©…

5) Get into a routine!

Studies show that it takes 21 days to form a habit. That means that whilst it might feel like a great idea at the time,¬†hitting the snooze button will just make it harder to get up for that next early workout. If you’re not a morning person, plan your workouts for the evening; but try and keep things consistent. If you always run at 7pm on a Tuesday, for example, eventually it’ll become a no-brainer – and you’ll be laced up and out the door before you know what’s hit you!

6) Be flexible.

It’s a given that there will be good days and bad days. Don’t be surprised or disheartened if you smash your PB one week, only to struggle at a slower pace the next. Marathon training is tough on your body, and¬†the fatigue caused by building your mileage over the weeks and months can have an effect on your pace. Above all else,¬†listen to your body.¬†If you need to shorten a run, switch one for cross-training, or take a day off, do it. Trust me, tweaking the plan is much better than pushing through a niggle to hit your mileage goals. Life happens – roll with it ūüėČ

7) Make the most of your rest days.

During my first round of marathon training, I assumed¬†cross-training was the same as recovery, and continued to cycle commute almost every day. I soon learned the hard way that as far as my body is concerned, it’s definitely not! Regardless of your fitness levels, give yourself at least one day a week to rest and recover – and leave cross training for another day. Rest is¬†just as important as every other session on your schedule, and you should treat it that way. It’s the time when your muscles repair and get stronger!¬†Plan it into your schedule like any other session, and enjoy putting those¬†feet up ūüėČ You earned it!

8) Set a realistic goal

I didn’t set a target time for my first marathon because, simply put, I didn’t even know if I’d be able to finish. But regardless of¬†whether your goal is to get round comfortably, or nab that BQ,¬†it’s important to be realistic.¬†Because let’s face it, if you decide you want to run a sub-4 marathon¬†but are really more comfortable running at 11:00/mile, you’re just going to feel down and demotivated (and probably injure yourself!) when you try and fail to¬†hit the pace¬†in training. If you’re not sure where to start, Runners World offers a great race time predictor, which gives you a target finishing time based on a recent race. (There’s also a training pace calculator, which you can use to tailor each of your sessions). Much better than picking an arbitrary time goal just because the entry form told you to!

It’s¬†also a good idea to book a half marathon part way through your¬†training, to test out your target marathon pace under race conditions.

9) Keep a training log

It’s easy to get into the habit of judging each session in isolation, but it’s important to remember that marathon training is a long process, and you won’t necessarily¬†see progress day to day (or even week to¬†week). Keeping a training log is a great way to get some perspective on the hard work you’re putting in. If you want a benchmark,¬†you could use¬†a session that you repeat on a regular basis (I do a weekly 5k, for example). Being able to look¬†back over your training when you get to the big miles will remind you how far you’ve come – and also give you the confidence of knowing that¬†you’re capable of much more than you’d expect!

10) Remember why you’re doing it.

When things get tough, there’s no better motivation than reminding yourself of¬†why you signed up in the first place. Are you running for charity? To lose weight? In memory of someone special? Whatever it is, write your mantra¬†down and stick it on the fridge, print it across the top of your plan, write it on your hand, and repeat it to yourself in those tough later stages. Trust me, running is 90% a mental effort, and having something positive and inspiring to repeat to yourself through the miles will give you just the boost you need.

Let’s do this marathon thing!

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Are you training for a spring race? Which one?