2017: The year without a marathon

Enjoying the Devon country lanes…

When I pulled out of Vienna marathon back in the spring, I told myself that it was just a case of life getting in the way of my training, that it was just a temporary blip, that my motivation would come back soon enough. I told myself that I could start over in the summer, make the most of the sunshine, hit some of my time goals and finish with a sub-5 in Berlin to end the year.

But work got busy, that crazy heatwave happened, and somehow my motivation didn’t come back. I was struggling to even finish my 5ks, and my pace plummeted. For the first training cycle ever, I found myself dreading my long runs to the point of making excuses not to do them. And my carefully planned buffer of cut-back weeks dwindled, the mileage stayed low, and I found myself in complete denial of my September marathon as the weeks ticked by.

In theory, at this point I still have 3 more long runs on the schedule. I could still ramp up the mileage and make my way round those 26.2 miles in September. But the tough question I’ve had to ask myself recently is: ‘do you still want this?’

On paper, of course I do. I’ve been SO lucky to secure a Berlin ballot place and I feel awful at the idea of giving that up when there are others out there who would love my spot. I love marathons, I love the satisfaction of hitting those increasingly high miles on my weekend long runs, of feeling my body getting stronger, seeing the shorter runs get faster and faster. I love the atmosphere on race weekend; feeling like a bit of a celebrity wandering round a new city with my race bag, and with my bib and medal on race day.

But right now, at this point in time, I don’t want it enough.

It’s true what they say about 90% of marathon training being in the mind. Since mentally giving up (and that’s exactly what the issue has been) I’ve been struggling with not just motivation, but with the miles. I’ve found myself taking walking breaks on 5k recovery runs, and I’ve been struggling to get my pace back down into the 9s even over that distance. I haven’t been to parkrun all year. I’ve only hit double digits ONCE since my last half marathon back in the spring.

How running SHOULD make you feel.

I know that deep down, I still love the sport. I still want to get my sub-2 half, my sub-5 full, and to push myself on the shorter distances. I want to explore some more off road trails, to try new events and to work harder with my cross training, my running form, and to feel strong again.

In the past I’ve always seen a goal race as a way to motivate myself. Counting down the weeks has got me out the door, and having a plan gives my sessions a purpose, and smaller goals to hit along the way. But this year, for some reason each event I’ve done has only led to increasing worry, anxiety, and a lack of confidence in my fitness, my ability, and my commitment.

I’ve run 3 half marathons this year. Whilst yes, I managed to complete each one, I was left feeling flat at the finish line. I’ve always thought that a DNS was a sign of weakness, of giving up, of laziness… But this year, I’ve learnt that it’s far better for me personally than finishing for the sake of it. It’s not worth pushing through the miles when your heart isn’t in it.

So in short, I’ve decided to DNS Berlin. I’ve also decided that I’m not going to book a spring marathon – or any other races in the meantime – until I can get out of this rut and find that joy again. I need to build back my weekly routine, to finally look forward to those short mid-week runs, the cross-training sessions, and to building my mileage on the trails at the weekends.

I’m sure there’ll be plenty of races in my diary next year. I just want to do them justice. And in the meantime, I’m still looking forward to a weekend in Berlin – and I’ll be cheering all of you lovely runners on from the sidelines!

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Have you ever DNS’d a big race? How did you feel?

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Handy tips for goal-setting and staying motivated!

This weekend was a bit of a special one, as Dad laced up his running shoes and joined me for his first run since his heart operation last year. We headed out into the cold and the drizzle (standard Devon) on Sunday afternoon, and managed a whole mile – up a couple of nasty hills, too! And all after a hilly 3.5-mile country walk the day before. What a legend! We’re already planning some autumn races, and Dad’s got some ambitious time goals – which my brother (bit of a fitness guru!) will be helping him to train for.

My parents have always inspired me to dream big and push myself, and seeing how far my Dad has come in the past few months really shows just how much you can achieve if you’re determined enough.

Devon Walk and Run with Dad

My lovely Dad – and a successful mile 1! Onwards and upwards from here!

It brought to mind a motivational talk I attended last month, which was all about goal setting and motivational techniques. Pretty fitting for a marathon runner, eh? 😉

The speaker – Marcus Child – raised some very interesting points, so I thought I’d share a couple with you. If you’ve got a goal or an aspiration in mind, or want a little inspiration, read on!

When you’re working towards something for weeks, months, even years on end, it’s easy to lose sight of where you’re going. For me, it’s marathon training – months of solo runs in the cold and the dark, and constant thoughts of ‘why are you doing this to yourself again!?’

To keep yourself on track over a long period of time, it’s important to keep your goal in the front of your mind. To remember why you’re doing what you’re doing – what you want to achieve, and why you want to achieve it. And the best way to do that is to visualise it.

In order to achieve big, scary goals, you need to convince yourself that you CAN. This is where visualisation comes in. But what does that really mean?

We were advised to do more than just picture ourselves achieving our goals. We were told to see it, hear it, and feel it, as if it’s already happened. To tap in to all of those senses and paint a vivid picture in our mind.

Take a marathon, for example. See the finish line, the crowds, the smiling faces of your supporters, the timing mat. Hear them cheering you to the finish, hear the commentator over the loudspeakers, and think about how it’ll feel when that medal is slipped over your head. Feel the satisfying ache in your legs, your heart pounding, the salt on your face. And if you’ve got a time goal in mind, what will that clock display as you cross the line? How will you feel when you stop your watch and catch your breath, and know that you’ve DONE it?

Remind yourself of that goal before you go to sleep. Wake up to that image each morning. Put a picture on your wall, write your goal on a post-it note and stick it above your bed, or on your fridge – wherever you’ll see it. Tell yourself you CAN, and imagine that you already have. Secure that image in your mind, and replay it over and over, as if it’s a memory.

Maintaining that purpose, that vision, that mental image over time is crucial. And whilst it can be difficult, a very simple piece of advice we were given is this:

Sleep on it.

How many times have you heard that little nugget of wisdom over the years?

But there’s a definite theory behind it, and it’s based on your ‘left’ and ‘right’ brain. As the speaker put it, your left brain asks the questions, and your right brain finds the answers.

How many times have you tried to work out a solution to a problem, only for the answer to come to you as you’re drifting off or waking up? When do you feel most inspired? For most, it’s when you’re not actively thinking about something. Drifting off to sleep, standing in the shower, running or cycling or driving or ironing…

And what do all of these situations have in common? Answer: The ‘right’ (subconscious) brain is fired up.

Based on this left/right brain theory, if you set your intention(s) before bed, your brain will then secure that image in your subconscious. By the time race day rolls round (if it’s a race you’re aiming for!), you might still feel a bit nervous, but you’ll also feel a little bit more confident, capable, and excited. (Hopefully!)

We all live under our capacity, which means we never know what we’re capable of until we push ourselves. Dare to dream big.

In the words of Nelson Mandela:

It always seems impossible until it’s done

So go do it.

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My big scary goal is to run a marathon in every country in Europe. (Gulp!)

What’s yours?

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Do you have any big goals on the horizon? How are you keeping yourself motivated?

If you like the ideas in this post, be sure to check out Marcus Child’s website – and download some of his MP3s! He presents it all far better than I do, and will have you fired up in no time!

A bit of winter running motivation

A few months ago, I signed up to the Runners World daily motivation emails – and there have been a few absolute gems. Unfortunately, I tend to read them and then just store them away; which means that by the time I need a bit of inspiration, I’ve completely forgotten them. So I decided to pull together a few of my favourites, and share them with you!

If – like me – you need a bit of a kick up the bum, a bit of a confidence boost, or just fancy a few happy thoughts for your next training run (especially at this time of year!) then take a read. And if you like these, then I’d definitely recommend signing up to the Runners World ‘Quote of the day’ emails – there’s pleeenty more where these came from 🙂

Running Motivation 1

Running Motivation 3

Running Motivation 4

Running Motivation 2

Running Motivation 5

Running Motivation 7

Running Motivation 6

Running Motivation 8

Running Motivation 10

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How do you motivate yourself to get out there in the cold and the dark? Do you have any tips or tricks?

Why running is about the journey, not the end goal

It’s really easy to lose motivation sometimes. Things get busy at work, you end up going to bed later than you planned, you hit the snooze button once and suddenly you’re 2 weeks down the line and have barely worked out at all. (Or is that just me?…)

When you get yourself into a bit of a rut, it’s easy to lose perspective on things. You find yourself stressing over pace (note to self: positive splits are NOT THE END OF THE WORLD!), and wondering why the heck you’re struggling at 10:30/mile when you were feeling comfy at sub-10 just a few weeks ago!?

At this point, everyone around you seems fitter, and faster, and you’re convinced that everyone’s finding this running thing easy peasy and you’ve become some lethargic, heavy, uncoordinated ex-running slob who will never EVER get back to their old pace and oh, forget about running a marathon ever again… (Or fitting into those marathon tights, for that matter!)

Today, I headed out for a lunchtime run with a couple of friends. We did our usual 5k loop (well, their usual – I haven’t done it in weeks!). We hit the first mile at 9:27, and then it all went wrong. I slowed right down, my breathing wouldn’t settle, and at points my friends were literally running circles around me.

Predictably, I began to freak out a little. But then something in my brain switched. Like, dude – CHILLAX. The old you would have killed to be able to run that far, regardless of the pace! You’re actually pretty damn awesome! Remember when you couldn’t manage a mile without a walking break, and 5k seemed like the moon?

At that point, I definitely couldn’t, so I dug through my old Tweets and I stumbled across this little gem:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsBack in 2011, I was super excited to have run/walked over 2.5 miles. So excited, in fact, that I shared it on social media and then for good measure, I messaged my parents to let them know. (I was on my placement year in Spain at the time). And damn straight, the old me was proud! That 2.6 miles was AWESOME! Back then I didn’t care about pace, or weekly mileage, or whatever the heck everyone else was doing. I just ran for myself; because I enjoyed it, I loved the challenge and I loved pushing myself that little bit further each time. Case in point:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsRunning isn’t about the races you enter and the medals you hang on the wall (though I love both of those things, and they do have their place!), or your finishing times. Sometimes you get so caught up in the details, that you don’t realise quite how much pressure you’ve put yourself under. Remember – running should be FUN. You’re choosing to do it, after all!

Leave the pressure at work. Let running be your ‘you’ time. Let it be a stress reliever, an excuse to explore new paths, a way to make new friends, and an excuse to buy more pretty things (you’re welcome 😉 ).

After all, bad runs are bound to happen every now and then. Just means you’re due a good one next time!

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Why do you run? Are you training for anything, or are you just doing it for fun? Ever find yourself lacking motivation?

 

Meeting Chrissie Wellington at the 33 Shake Event

On Thursday evening, I ventured into central London for the 33 Shake event at Paddington Recreation Ground. Chrissie Wellington has recently become an ambassador for their brand, so we were treated to a fab talk from her as well as a chance to try out their chia seed gels!

Did I mention that I got to meet her afterwards? Sooo awesome!

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I’m new to brand events, and wouldn’t normally go (I feel a bit out of place, as I’m not a huge blogger and don’t really do product reviews etc.) but this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up! I read Chrissie’s book ‘A life without limits‘ last year, and I loved that even as a world champion she’s completely down-to-earth and has an amazing perspective on things. One of my favourite quotes has to be:

If there is one thing I have learned, particularly in my life as an athlete, it is that our limits may not be where we think the are. And, even when we think we’ve finally reached them, the next time we go exploring we often find they’ve moved again.

The way she talks, she really makes you feel like you can do anything you set your mind to – and I’m pretty sure that she could persuade anyone to try anything once. (Especially me – I’m easily influenced!) 🙂

cwtweet

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She’s as unfailingly positive in person as in her book, and her enthusiasm is infectious – her talk was wonderfully funny, informative and inspiring. Just as you’d expect!

I can definitely see why she’s chosen to work with 33 Shake. They seem to be a really great brand, and their chia seed gels are something else! You can find more information on their website, but the highlights are:

  • 100% natural ingredients. This means no additives, no preservatives, and nothing man-made.
  • These ingredients offer a simple blend of carbs, proteins, Omega-3s and antioxidants.
  • 90 calories per serving.
  • Natural anti-inflammatories.
  • All natural and low-GI sugars for genuinely sustainable performance without the energy-sapping spikes of traditional gel.
  • A natural electrolyte blend including Himalayan Pink salt.

What makes these gels unique is that they’re delivered in dry form – it’s up to you to add water before use. (I might have ended up with some on the floor, though this was mainly because I was standing up at the time – they’re actually easy peasy to prepare, and can even be done on the go using your water bottle!)

This means that you can adjust the consistency to suit your personal taste – a huge plus, after the trial and error I’ve had with other gels. As an added bonus, if you don’t fancy adding plain water you can up the electrolytes with coconut water, or add some more carbs with fruit juice instead – meaning that you can order a pack of standard gels, but make them whatever flavour you fancy! Once mixed, the gels last for up to 24hrs in the fridge, so you can prep them the night before your training session or race. We used plain water at the event, and they tasted fab.

How do you fuel your training? Would you ever try chia seed gels?

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