5 excuses I’ve used for not running recently – and why they’re rubbish!

My parents really know how to pose for a photo… 😀

Dude, where has this year gone!? How is it December? How is it CHRISTMAS next week?!

The past few months have flown by. I’ve been to Devon for some family time; to Nottingham to see some Uni friends; James and I went into London to see the Christmas lights and markets; I’ve been out and about to meetings and work events…

It’s been manic, and I’ve reached the point where running has slowly but steadily been nudged out of my schedule. Fail.

Next weekend, my marathon training plan will officially start (you didn’t think I’d defer Dublin and not have another one in the pipeline, did you!?) and I’m determined to finally get that sub-5. I’m also working towards a very (!) optimistic sub-2 half, which my little brother is helping me to prepare for. He’s even going to pace me on the day, so I really have no option but to make it happen! Gulp! (I mean, I can’t let him get a better time than me all the glory, right!?) 😀

I’ve decided that it’s time to ‘fess up to my rubbish excuses, and get myself back into a proper routine. Here are the five I use most, along with some counter-arguments that I need to use more! Who’s with me??

1. I don’t have time.

Uuugh, this old chestnut. Back in October, my daily commute went from 20 minutes each way to 1h20 each way. This means I now get up at 6h45 and get home between 6 and 7, and my days suddenly feel extreeemely short. But if there’s anything I’ve learnt over the years, it’s that there’s always a way to fit exercise into a work day – I just need to commit myself! Whether that’s getting up 30 minutes earlier (doable!), making the most of my lunch break or skipping an episode on Netflix in the evening, I definitely have time.

2. I’m tired.

With a longer commute, lots going on at work, busy weekends and preparing for Christmas, my energy levels are pretty low. But ironically, whilst running is the last thing I feel like doing, I’m guaranteed to feel better for it – more energised, more positive, and more productive. The tricky bit is just getting myself out the door!

3. I don’t have my kit.

Back when I was training for Barcelona, on busy days I would make sure that I had my running/gym gear with me from the minute I left the house in the morning. This meant that no matter how hectic the day got (having to be in the office early, last-minute meetings scheduled over lunch, finishing late), I knew that I could fit in some sort of workout at some point around my other commitments. Since the office move, I haven’t packed my gym kit into the car ONCE, always telling myself I’d just ‘run when I get home’. Famous last words…

4. There’s no shower/lockers/changing facilities.

The office move didn’t just mean a longer commute – it meant switching from a tiny office with a dozen people to a huge open-plan office with over a hundred (most of whom I don’t know, and wandering past them in sweaty lycra isn’t the best first impression!). Stupidly, I immediately used it as a reason to not work out at lunch – something that I used to LOVE doing. But I’ve hunted around and found a gym half a mile from the office, which means that showers and changing facilities are sorted! 😉

5. I’ve lost my fitness and it’s hard.

This is a vicious circle, and I’m sure we’ve all been there. You skip a couple of runs, and suddenly it’s been 2 weeks and you’ve not laced up your trainers once. Then you go out and try and run your usual pace, but it feels way harder than you remember. You don’t enjoy the run, and put it off for another 2 weeks – at which point it’s going to be EVEN HARDER. You’d think I’d have learnt my lesson by now – consistency (regardless of the distance or pace) is key!

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Are you finding it hard to keep yourself motivated? What are your excuses, and how do you get yourself out there?

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Dublin Marathon: Decision Time

box-hill-walk

Gorgeous views from Box Hill last weekend!

I’ve drafted and re-drafted this post sooo many times, and then I dithered over whether or not I should even publish it. But here it is.

I have a habit of setting big goals, and putting quite a bit of pressure on myself to meet them. And I’m pretty hard on myself when things don’t go to plan.

So this decision was really hard.

A few weeks into my Dublin Marathon plan, I caught a nasty cold and was out of action for a couple of weeks. When I finally got back into my running shoes, things just… didn’t feel quite right. My breathing wouldn’t settle, my legs were heavy, and even the shorter ‘easy’ runs felt like a struggle.

I hate to say it, but I kind of fell out of love with running.

I blamed it on taking a break, I blamed it on the freakishly hot weather we’ve had, I blamed it on work… But what I eventually realised was that for whatever reason, my heart just wasn’t in it anymore.

I feel a bit crap admitting it, if I’m honest!

The thing is, when it comes to marathon training, it’s not enough to just tick off the sessions on your plan. As the long runs get longer, it’s that mental drive that will keep you going – pure stubbornness and determination. And somewhere along the line, I lost mine.

I love running. I love races, and I love big city marathons. Standing at the starting line of an event I always get butterflies, and crossing the finish line is the best feeling EVER.

But I think I need to listen to my body, and accept that maybe 2 marathons (plus that little hike across Exmoor…) are enough for me this year.

So I’ve decided to DNS Dublin, and postpone my sub-5 marathon attempt to 2017. I’m going to work towards a spring race, which means training will start again a little later this year.

I feel like a bit of a failure for giving up. But I’m not going to stop training completely – I’m going to get back into parkrun; I’m going to work on my swimming; I’ll be exploring more walk routes in the Surrey Hills (suggestions or company are both welcome!), and I’ll of course be spending some quality time with friends and family.

It’s time to take some of the pressure off, and get back into running for FUN, not for finish times.

Next month I’ll be heading down to Devon to join my lovely parents for the Great West Run. It’ll be my Dad’s first race since his accident last year, and I’m really looking forward to running it with him.

Dublin, I’ll see you next year.

Have you ever DNS’d or postponed a big race?

Dublin Marathon Training: Week 1

Hot 5k Run

Me and my smug lovely pacer 😀

How’s your summer going, you lovely lot? Are you training for anything, or just enjoying the sunshine? I can’t believe the events that people have been doing recently! Such a motivation! 🙂

As for me, today marks the end of the first week on my Dublin Marathon training plan. I think I’d gotten so used to NOT following a plan – running where and when I fancied, cross training here and there, hiking a bit – I’d let myself slip a little when it came to keeping a routine (or any kind of structure or discipline, whatsoever).

Luckily, I’ve been able to rope James in to join me on a couple of my sessions. I say luckily, as I probably wouldn’t have pushed myself so hard if I’d been alone, but I’ll admit that I was naive enough to think that he might just take it easy on me.

HAHA nope.

We set off for my third 5k of the week yesterday (it was meant to be 10k, but heat + humidity = nah), and I managed to persuade him to start slowly – by his standards, at least. Unfortunately, this meant that he then ramped things up for miles 2 and 3, taking the pace from 9:39 to 9:13 by the end. Ouch.

No pain no gain, right!?

Dublin Marathon Week 1 Training

Highs and lows: Enjoying a mocha frappe after Sunday’s cycle, and ready to keel over on Saturday’s 5k…

As I cut Saturday’s run short, I decided to get some miles in on the bike today to make up for it a bit. We found a new route along a trail we’d never heard of before (the ‘Christmas Pie’ trail, apparently!) and followed it to Farnham.

This only gave us 14 miles, but after fighting our way through brambles and nettles and hugely overgrown wooded bits (parts of which we had to walk our bikes through), we decided against an out-and-back, and got on the train instead.

We weren’t complete cop-outs, though! We jumped off at Woking, and cycled the last 6 miles home on a lovely smooth stretch of road, rounding us up to 20. Not too bad!

Surrey Cycle Finish

Enjoying the sunshine after 20 tough miles.

Overall, I’m just glad that my legs seemed fairly happy with 3 runs and some cross-training! And I’m looking forward to adding on some miles next week. Though looking at the weather forecast, I think I’m going to have to force myself out of bed a little earlier. The heat isn’t my friend!

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Week 1 summary (weeks to Dublin: 15)

Planned sessions: 3 miles easy + strides / 3 miles steady / 6 miles easy

Sessions completed: 3 miles easy + strides / 3 miles steady / 3 miles progression

Cross training: 20 mile cycle

Race Review: Rome Marathon 2016!

Rome Marathon 2016 Race Review

Sooo I ran another marathon – SURPRISE! 😀 I managed to accidentally book it for the weekend of our 7th anniversary, too. (Ooopsie).

Rome Marathon Start Area

Happy anniversary to us!

Romantic, me? Always! 😉

Luckily, the whole trip was eeepic, and we both loved Rome. So I think James will forgive me 😉

We seriously lucked out with our hotel location. A 15-minute walk brought us right to the Colosseum, where we followed the sea of blue backpacks around the side to the start area. (The mandatory drop bag rucksack was SUCH a brilliant idea!)

I dropped my rucksack at the luggage lorry, gave James a hug and headed off to the start area. Despite my estimated 5-hour finish, the organisers had put me in Wave 1 (with the super speedy 3:00, 3:15 and 3:30 pace groups). In my dreams, mate! Luckily, faster runners are allowed to move back to the later waves, so I snuck into the slowest corral as planned.

The first few miles were pretty crowded, and there were quite a few faster runners passing on both sides (often with a warning pat on the shoulder, which was a new experience for me!) The route took us past loads of Rome’s monuments, and it was hard to absorb everything – the cheering crowds, the sea of runners, the gorgeous views… It all became a bit of a blur at times! And it definitely felt like there were a lot more than 13k runners.

We were told to expect 7km of cobbles, which I was initially a bit concerned about – but it turns out that the cobbles in Rome are fairly smooth and flat, and once the crowds thinned out a little it was easy enough to avoid the bumpy bits. I imagine things could get quite slippery in the rain, but we were lucky enough to have glorious sunshine for the whole day!

Rome Marathon Smile

You can’t help but smile during Rome Marathon!

Within a few miles it had started to get quite warm, but there was plenty of shade under the trees along the course (who knew Rome was so green!?) and sponge stations had been set up at 5km intervals from about 7.5km. This was the first race where I actually used the sponges, and oh my days, I’ve been missing a trick – they were heaven! (It was also quite surreal to see a sea of multi-coloured sponges lying on the road afterwards)!

James Spectating Rome Marathon

When in Rome… on your anniversary… and your girlfriend has abandoned you to run a marathon… 😉

I started to flag quite early on. To be fair, having run a PB at Barcelona just 4 weeks before, and slacking on my training in between the 2, it wasn’t hugely surprising. I had started to take walking breaks from about 9/10 miles (a few miles earlier than Barcelona) and by about 16 miles the arch of my foot had started to hurt quite badly.

Luckily, the route was fairly flat and the crowds and the sights took my mind off it for the most part. And to make it even better, I got chatting to a lovely lady called Karen just after the 20m mark, who stuck with me to the finish! This made SUCH a difference psychologically, and really kept me going. She’s going to be running 10 marathons in 10 days next month for her local charity – what an inspiration!

Rome Marathon Finishing Straight

Eyes firmly on the finish line!

We walked quite a bit over the last 10km, but when we hit 25 miles we got ourselves properly running again – and pushed all the way to the finish!

I think that’s the first time that I’ve ever run the whole of mile 26 in a marathon. If you’re reading, THANK YOU Karen, you lovely lady!  And good luck for next month!

Rome Marathon Finish Line

SURPRISE ROMAN GLADIATOR AMBUSH!

Rome Marathon is also the first time I’ve ever walked through the finish line arch and into a barricade for a photo! All the LOLs. It was a brilliant touch, though – and the best marathon finish photo I’ve had so far! 😀 Yay, Rome!

I also got interviewed by the commentator (another first), so there’s that. Having a microphone pointed at you seconds after finishing a 26.2 mile run is… an experience!? I don’t remember quite how I responded to their ‘Oooh, English! Did you just travel to Rome for the marathon!? Where are you from!?’ But I think I probably spoke in full sentences? Maybe?… 😉

Grazie, Roma!

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Have you ever run Rome, or is it on your bucket list? I think this is the first race I’ve been tempted to enter again! One day… 😉

Barcelona Marathon and City Guide Part 2: Marathon Day!

Barcelona Marathon and City Guide Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of my Barcelona Marathon and City Guide! If you missed part 1, go and check it out here for tips and tricks on getting around the city, navigating the expo, and a few fun things to do the day before (without nackering your legs!).

– Pre-Race Breakfast

Barcelona Marathon Expo Goodies

I tend to have toast and a banana before a marathon, so it was lucky that one of the stands at the Expo was handing out free loaves! 😉

If you don’t manage to score a free loaf of bread (LOL), Barcelona has lots of little ‘markets’ or ‘mercados’ dotted about (i.e., newsagent-like shops that have fruit and veg outside and tons of random odds and ends inside!) where you can stock up on things like bottled water, bananas, bread, Nutella (a European staple which can be found in most EU countries and doesn’t need any translating!), crackers, honey, etc. for breakfast.

One thing I couldn’t find was peanut butter – so you might want to bring some along if this is your sort of thing! Also, if you like porridge before a big race I would recommend bringing the little ‘just add water’ pots in your suitcase, and filling them up with your hotel kettle. For some reason, porridge oats can prove elusive in Europe!

I made good use of the free bread and a big dollop of Nutella, and took a banana along to the start area. Job done!

– The Start Area (Loos and Bag Drop)

Barcelona Marathon was one of the most straight-forward events I’ve been to. The best thing about it was that the Expo, start and finish were all in the same place: Plaça d’Espanya. This means that you can familiarise yourself with the area before race day, which takes some of the stress away.

Barcelona Marathon Bag Drop

The whole process – from stepping off the metro, to the bag drop, to the loos, to the corrals, was well sign posted and easy to follow – and took almost no time at all!

The slowest bit was the bag drop, as they wouldn’t let runners in until they were ready to race; so lots of people were stripping off layers and sorting themselves out right outside the tent, resulting in a slight bottle neck. Whilst this didn’t add more than a couple of minutes to the whole process, I would recommend sorting your kit out and zipping up your drop bag before you get to the tent – just out of courtesy if nothing else!

– The Corrals

Once through the bag drop, the corrals were clearly signed as part of a simple one-way system round the side of the tent (left or right, depending on which corral you’re in).

Barcelona Marathon Start and Finish Area Maps

There were a few lines of portaloos, which are all cearly indicated on the start/finish area maps (photo above – you’ll see these at the expo) and I didn’t have to queue for more than a few minutes. After that, it was just a 2-minute stroll over to the corral!

The corrals themselves were nice and wide and not too crowded, and thanks to the colour-coded race tops (which plenty of people chose to wear), you can just follow the sea of runners in your group colour. Easy peasy! However, there are NO loos in the corrals, so make sure you go beforehand!

– The Marathon Course

The marathon itself was one of my favourite races, ever.

As far as the start goes, I was in the last corral and it took about 15-20 minutes to get over the start line. Each corral was showered in a cloud of confetti, and sent off with a huge cheer, which was EPIC!

Barcelona Marathon Arc de Triomf

There are a few things to consider with regards to the marathon course:

    • The course is extremely flat, but there are a few very gradual inclines and downhills, especially in the first few miles. Pace yourself, and don’t shoot off with the masses.
    • Aid stations are every 5k, and as with most European marathons they offered bottles of water, fruit slices (orange and banana) and nuts. Later in the race they also provided bottles of Powerade – however I would check the race info ahead of time to confirm the exact sponsor and therefore the exact drinks/gels on offer. This year, it was Gu gels.
    • This race was extremely spectator-friendly, and the course map lists the best metro stops for various points along the route. The best spots are where the course doubles back on itself – this year, it was at km 4/10, km 18/22, and km 26/31. My boyfriend managed to spot me about 5 or 6 times, which is a new record! There were also minimal barriers on the course, and spectators could cross the road at lots of points, which made things easier.
    • The roads in Barcelona are wide, straight, and long. This means that you need to zig-zag a bit to reach the aid stations, so I would inch towards the side of the road shortly before you reach them to avoid hindering runners around you. As with other races, they’re located slightly after the 5k markers, so don’t expect to see them straight away. Having said that, they were well stocked and not too crowded! 🙂
    • As the roads are quite wide and straight, there isn’t a whole lot of shade on the course – almost none in the second half, especially on the stretch along the coast. Make sure you wear plenty of suncream, and hydrate well if it’s warm. They did have a sprinkler set up around km 30/31, which was looovely!
    • Get ready for high fives! The crowds in Barcelona are magic, and will shout, whoop and cheer you round the entire way. There are also tons of drummers and singers and dancers. Make the most of it, and have fun!
– The Finish

The finish area is the same as the start, so it’s nice and simple to find your way around. After the finish line they give you water/Powerade, your medal, and then you’re funnelled back into the bag drop tent. I had my bits and was off towards the meeting point in less than 10 minutes!

The designated meeting area is back on the Plaça d’Espanya, which is a nice wide open space and right next to the metro! I wouldn’t meet your friends and family any closer to the finish area, as the space around the bag drop tent gets pretty crowded.

– Refuelling, Barcelona-Style

Barcelona Food Market on La Rambla

The food market on La Rambla was my happy place. Dozens of fresh fruit juices for a euro each, take-away fruit salads, sweets, meat, olives… The selection was endless!

For a post-marathon meal in Barcelona, it has to be paella, paella, paella! And Tapas. Most restaurants in Barcelona offer a fairly standard menu, at a reasonable cost. We headed down to Barceloneta, which is on the same line as Plaça d’Espanya (so it’s easy to get to). There are tons of little food places towards the beach, which offer set menus of tapas, paella and sangria – all the good stuff!

Alternatively, there are plenty of places to eat near La Rambla. You’re pretty spoilt for choice! But I highly recommend that you make the most of the huge variety of tapas on offer, and try the seafood paella – it’s delish! Plus, sangria. No brainer, right? 😉

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Are you running Barcelona next year? Is there anything else you’d like to know, that I might have missed? Add a comment below, come find me on Twitter, or ping me an email at envierose@gmail.com 🙂