Four Four Four Countdown!

Years ago, in the late 80’s I think, Channel Four used to show American Football highlights every Sunday around teatime.  My Dad got quite into it.  The programme was of no interest to me and I probably wouldn’t have even registered that it was on, if it hadn’t been for my Dad introducing a very entertaining game of his own, which involved yelling FOUR FOUR FOUR! at random moments and chucking his slipper at my head.

Apparently, shouting out number sequences was code to let your teammates know what play you were going to make.  Telling your ‘Offense’ guys what the ‘Defense’ were up to or some other such nonsense.  I’m not convinced Dad didn’t make the whole thing up as a ruse to lob missiles at me, and then feign bewilderment at my outrage.  Of course he’d repeat this hilarious joke two or three more times throughout the evening.  Ah, comedy dads.


Friday’s wake-up alarm

Anyway, the memory has been in my mind a lot this week because of the number relevance.  It’s now 4 days to go to my 4th Marathon, and 4th attempt at sub-4.  Four Four Four (Four)!

Ok maybe I shouldn’t include my first go because that was all about the learning experience rather than a serious tilt at finishing in under four hours.  My Half Marathon time then didn’t really indicate that a sub-4 finish was realistic, and my training had been all about getting round in the best time possible on my first go, rather than being sub-four tailored.  But on the day I did set off at 4 hour pace, figuring, ‘Why not?’.

My last three marathons have played out like this:  a 4:13:38 finish in Dubai 2014, a 4:12:38 in Dubai 2015, and then 4:13:00 in Edinburgh last May.  Barely any change from one to the next!

This time around, I’ve changed a few things.  I’ve done more weekly mileage.  I’ve been a bit more disciplined about stretching and foam rolling.  There’s been some weight-lifting.  I’ve adjusted pace / effort levels so that easy sessions have been done easy, and tougher interval sessions have been done at the highest intensity I could manage.  I’ve not been that far away from achieving the magic balance of 80% easy 20% hard in each training week.  And I’ve had tonnes of encouragement and guidance from an incredibly experienced and accomplished runner friend, who’s supported me with meticulous training plans and loads of good advice throughout the last few months.

Who knows how it will all go on Friday.  Hopefully this PB magnet* is getting buried in the desert.  And hopefully I won’t be crawling across the finish line on All Fours.


*no offence to the organizers of the RAK Half Marathon who provided the awesome magnet

Wigan 10k 2015 – or, Oops I (Didn’t) Did it Again

I love the Wigan 10k.  I really do.  And this is in spite of the fact that I’ve now had two failed sub-50 attempts here, with my 2013 effort bang on 50:00 (so frustrating!), and a fairly close run this year, perhaps closer than my final finish time of 50:37 suggests.

I love it.  Dad trolled me relentlessly from the moment he realised that my low bib number reflected just how eager I’d been to sign up.  And for almost a fortnight beforehand he gleefully threatened to hijack my spot and walk backwards in my place. (Doesn’t he know that the IAAF take a very dim view of bib swopping?)

Dad bib 4

I love this race because it’s not just a 10k running event, it’s a day of incredible warmth and positivity where you really see the best in people, and it makes me proud of my town.  And of course, it’s an absolutely crackingly well organised event.  The Wigan 10k team did yet another outstanding job.

My last competitive race was the Edinburgh Marathon on May 31st where I again missed my goal (that elusive sub4!) but had a wonderful day.  Since then, it’s been back to business, with training already underway for the Dubai Marathon January 2016, and it’s been a fab summer of mixed pace and mixed distance running.  The aim coming into this year’s Wigan 10k was to run it good and hard, and see what happened.  It would either be a jolly PB, or a decent quality threshold run.  Nothing to lose either way.

Me in bib

The race report itself can be summed up quite briefly.  I made a ill-judged decision to pop for one last portaloo break before trying to get into the start pen, and as a result I lined up about 100 people behind the 60min pacer, and nowhere near the 50min pace group which is where I’d wanted to be.   As a result I did a lot of weaving around and jumping on and off kerbs for the first couple of km’s in order to pass people.  And then I compounded my own error by not paying proper attention to my watch beeping the km’s quite a bit before I’d reached the corresponding roadside km marker.  I’m not great with numbers at the best of times, even less so when I’ve got race brain.  But I really should have thought for a moment about how much extra distance I’d created with all my zig-zagging around at the start, and the fact that I’d need to build in a cushion for this.  Instead, I just congratulated myself at each beep and at the sight of each 4:53 / 4:55 min/km split.  I’d aimed to hit 4:55 to 4:57 per km, I felt great, and I thought I was on track.  Silly girl!

Approaching finish

It dawned on me at around 8 or 9k that things were awry.  And that it was too late for me to do anything about it.  With something like 250m to go, I saw my Mum and brother waving and cheering and taking photos, and at that same moment my watch beeped for 10k and said I’d covered it in 49:46 which I’d have been delirious with as a final time.  And I just ran as hard as I could for the finish and hoped that my habit of always starting my watch early might have bought me the precious few seconds that I needed.  It didn’t, I was way off at 50:37!

BUT!  What a fabulous morning.  From the 3000+ runners there were some awesome athletes clocking some fantastic times, which I always love to see.  But there were also a huge number of enthusiastic and much less speedy people working their socks off, and giving and getting so much support and encouragement.  It gave me a real lift going through Mesnes Park at around the 8km point and seeing lots of club shirts, sub 35 and sub 40 runners, bedecked in their finishers’ medals, lining the route with the many other spectators and family groups, and cheering on all the runners and walkers, not just their club buddies.  And I love how many people simply turn out along the route to cheer for everyone.  The event is getting larger each year, yet it retains its inclusive community feel.

So no PB for me, but a third consecutive brilliant Wigan 10k experience.  As for the Sub-50, I reckon I’ll get it next time.

3 Medals


Rah Rah RAK!

About four months ago I wrote excitedly about a handful of upcoming races that I was looking forward to, and mentioned a couple of PB aims – sub 50min 10k, sub 1:50 Half and a sub 4 hr Marathon.  And now it feels like it the racing season is coming to an end already and (whisper it) it’s starting to get warm and humid again and oh no it’s too soon too soon and what have I even got to show for all this running?

Well I missed the sub 4hr marathon by more than I’d have liked.  And haven’t run any 10k’s, so no gold medals there.


Or, to express myself more articulately using real words rather than throaty Katy Perry-esque purrs and growls, on Friday I ran the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon and finally ticked off one of the season’s 3 goals.  A sub 1:50 run, and the first PB of 2015!  I’m beyond thrilled.

Ready to RAK

I hadn’t intended to pursue a PB because I’d concluded after the Dubai Marathon, with counsel from folk much wiser and more experienced than me, that my main problem is lack of endurance.  And to rectify this I need to A. run more miles, and B. run more slow miles.  And that I really should be tackling this asap seeing as I’m having another tilt at the elusive 4hour Marathon goal in just a few months’ time.

So I’d duly settled on a strategy of running at marathon pace with a strong finish.  Then I binned this plan literally as our club mini bus was pulling into the athletes’ village car park.  Real flibbertigibbet style.  I can’t even blame naughty bus buddies for influencing and persuading me to join the 1:49:59 Have-A-Go Crew.  I overheard a bit of ‘Are we trying for it?’ chat, and that was it, I was in, faster than an elastoplast being ripped off a bleeding nipple.

No time to reflect on how this approach is contrary to all sensible running advice ever, because it was less than 40minutes til Go time, and Admiral Pacer (not his real name) was set and ready to run.

So off we went!  First two miles were 8:31 and 8:21 and I was thinking “Cr*p, I can’t do this, it’s too fast”.  And I started to prepare for 11 miles of misery, and a lesson horribly learned about why only the pea-brained change their gameplans at the last moment.  Then a downhill came along, and the gravity-assisted 08:04 third mile felt a lot easier than the previous two, and made a big difference in helping me adjust to the pace and work with it rather than stress against it.  After that it was a case of settling into a rhythm and ticking off the miles at around 8:15 or so.

The race experience was fairly uneventful in a good way; warm conditions but well manned water stations every 2.5km, pretty flat apart from the one slope mentioned above, a bit exposed but quite pleasant.  However the big, nay huge, point of note was that this was my first experience of running with a pacer.  Not an official RAK-appointed pace group leader, but a pal from running club who’d generously said he’d run a 1:49:59 Half and support anyone who wanted to have a go at that target time.  Man alive, what an incredible difference it made.  Unbelievable.  If someone had asked beforehand how mentally resilient I thought I was on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d probably have said about 7-8.  I thought I was quite disciplined about maintaining focus and pace when running got tough, and more than capable of pushing myself to the close edges of my best .   And I also thought that once I’d reached this point, no amount of cajoling, charming, or outright stern shouting from anyone, would get me to deliver more.  Either you physically can or you physically can’t.  Someone suggesting that you might want to try harder won’t change anything at all.  Black and white.


Well, old me was talking rubbish.  Proper delusional nonsense.  Admiral Pacer (not his real name) was a wonder.  No crazy dramatics, just steady, even, comfortable running with the occasional positive update on progress to goal – ‘20seconds ahead of target’.  Passing extra water bottles to me so I didn’t have to disrupt my stride.  And occasionally asking ‘All ok?’ with a sideways glance to check that my form was alright and to make sure my gurning face contortions hadn’t reach haunted levels.

From the 10mile point, I’d have started to negotiate with myself re sub 1:50 if it wasn’t for this reassuring yet challenging presence alongside me.

The last 3 miles were that standard horrible “I don’t want to, I can’t, who says I have to anyway” kind of running that we’ve all been through at some point.  I wasn’t allowed to take my foot off the gas for even a few seconds.  Admiral Pacer (not his real name) moved ahead of me with just under a mile to go and effectively forced me to chase him to the finish line.  He didn’t even turn his head as he shouted (in tones that made it very clear that non-compliance wasn’t an option) “COME ONE!  DON’T SLOW DOWN!  RUN FASTER!  KEEP GOING!  YOU CAN GO FASTER THAN THAT!”

In this last few hundred meters, all I could think was – “I have to do this.  I can’t let my friend down now” (my second thought was, “I’m definitely going to throw up when I stop”, but I digress).  And that was so interesting for me.  I felt awful, my legs and feet were sore, it was hard to breathe properly, and I was increasingly nauseous.  But my overriding feeling was, I didn’t want too disappoint this person who’d paid their race fee, got up insanely early, travelled quite some distance  and put their own race aside to support someone else.

Not startling at all that in running, as in so many areas in life, you don’t want to let other people down.  But it was an interesting personal learning for me that I’m clearly a lot more willing to push myself harder and embrace more pain when in the supportive company of others than I am when I’m solo, which I wouldn’t have thought was particularly the case. Not enough to make any kind of significant difference at least.  There we go.

That said, there’s no way I was sharing my finisher’s Mars bar.  Are you kidding, after all my hard work?


Two Time Marathoner

As of 11:12:38 on Friday morning, I’m a successful two time marathoner!

And in keeping with my All The Twos post from a couple of weeks ago, it was Goal 2 which I achieved in the end, not Goal 1.  So no sub-4 finish, not this time, but a PB nonetheless.  And I’m happy with this.

A regal wave

A regal wave

A ‘race report’ style summary is redundant because very little changed from last year’s marathon.  Same course – down a big long road, up a big long road, some more road, done.  The good parts were again phenomenal  – noisy support from club pals also racing, tonnes of enthusiasm from water station volunteers.  Limited spectators, but unrelentingly positive, which is mostly a good thing (sidenote – the less gracious part of me went to dark place around 33k and I wanted to swear everytime someone sang out ‘Keep going, you’re almost there!’ – I WASN’T almost there, I was nowhere near feckin’ there, I was 9 bloody’ kilometers away from being there).  But that’s a very unappreciative digression, and I honestly do applaud the spectators and wellwishers, they make a huge and positive difference.  Mostly.

Even my personal race experience was almost identical – yes I PB’d, but by the skin of my teeth, coming home just one minute faster than last year.  1 measly minute, after having trained since October!  And that was only because I had personal running companions from the 30km point, an amazing running club friend and her buddy who ran alongside me from there to the finish, supporting, cajoling and bullying me home.  The credit really is theirs.  Like last year, it all went to hell in a handcart from 29km, and was a battle just to keep moving forwards to the end.

Sunburn Boulevard

Sunburn Boulevard

However, there were 2 notable differences.  Last year I made a tremendous hash of the early pacing, and suffered accordingly.  This year I stayed on target at 5:41min/km right until I couldn’t hold it any more.  I still fell apart at 29km of course, but at least I can rule out daftie pacing as the reason for this.  And the second thing I’m pleased about is the fact that I felt physically brilliant within 24 hours of finishing.  A bit stiff with some sensitive chafing that we won’t dwell on, but really, pretty much back to normal.  So the weights sessions and stretching and other things I’ve added into weekly training have paid dividends.   Athlete science works!

Of course all of this is jolly lovely, and it’s nice to focus on the positives and pat oneself on the back etc, but what on earth went wrong?  Why 13km of misery?!  I’m still reflecting on this.  I think I’m just not quite there yet.  Simple as that.

So, what to do?  Build in more sessions that are so hard I might weep?  Weekly lungbusters where it feels like my eyes are going to fall out of my head?  Less breaks in my long runs?  Slow the pace right down?  Certainly I need to change the training if I want to change the outcome.

Oh, a third awesome thing – I’m raring to go for the next training cycle.  No despondency here.

Edinburgh May 31st, here I come.


All the Twos

The Dubai Marathon takes place exactly two weeks today, Fri 23rd January 2015.  Two weeks doesn’t feel like much time at all!  Here’s how things are lining up for marathon number two:



Two trainers pre-loved

and good to go,

two breakfasts sorted




IMG_20150108_184832Two pre-race essentialsIMG_20150109_110441

ready,and two post-race

crucials chilling



 IMG_20150109_145118Two gels selected, andIMG_20150109_152050

two plans prepared




And two words for everyone running the Dubai Marathon – Good Luck!


Not Sweating What I Can’t Change

It’s 23 days until the Dubai Marathon.  I haven’t done any running for the last 9 days.  I’m not likely to be putting my trainers on for another 2 days.  Yet somehow I’m not in a complete tailspin.

This short post is really just a small moment of reflection for me on the fact that I’m not in a state of abject panic at having had to skip training for a few days.  I’ve had a cough and cold.  It’s going away now.  I’ve missed one long run.  Tomorrow I’ll be missing another when many of my running club buddies head out for their final 35km biggie.

There’s absolutely nothing I can do about any of this.  So I’m not sweating it.

What I am focusing on is how to get the most of the next 23 days.  How to get to the start line feeling fresh, energised, and ready.  And how to enjoy the first race of what I hope will be a fantastically enjoyable 2015.

Happy New Running Year everyone!

Racing Season is Here!

When I was sidelined in spring and summer, desperate to get my trainers back on, it felt like the weeks and months were dragging so slowly.  I thought my leg would never be pain-free, the weather and temperatures would never improve enough to get back outside, and that the non-running limbo misery would go on forever. Then I managed a few runs, and then a few more, and now all of a sudden, BOOM!  It’s racing season!

And MORE BOOM!  it’s over 2 months since I blogged anything!  I’ve been too busy running to do any blogging!  I’m a neglectful blog girlfriend.  My blog has changed our facebook relationship status to “It’s complicated”.  I was happy to take comfort and solace from this comfy online diary when things were all a bit *sigh* but I dropped it like a stone as soon as the real running deal was back on.

So let’s even things up and get some running chat and race goals right out there, front and centre.

I’ve signed up for some cracking events in the next wee while.  Some will be competitive, serious PB attempts, and some will sociable, enormously enjoyable ‘catered training runs’ as they say.  Here are a few of them:

Abu Dhabi Half MarathonDonut 10 Nov 2014

Dubai Creek Striders Half Dec 2014

Desert Road Race 10k Dec 2014

Dubai SCB Marathon Jan 2015

RAK Half Feb 2015

Edinburgh Marathon May 2015

Plus a scattering of other 5k’s and 10’s in spring.  I’m targeting sub 50mins 10k, sub 1:50 Half, and sub 4 hour Marathon.  Putting the goals out there!  And last week I ran my first UAE event of the season, the Abu Dhabi Striders Half Marathon, and was delighted with how it went.  I didn’t hit the magic sub 1:50, but was thrilled to manage a PB at this earlyish stage.

Races and targets aside, just going out and running is wonderful.  It does me no harm to pause and reflect on this every so often.  Thank you, blog.

Medals and Minty Balls – The Wigan 10k

On Sun 7th September I did something I haven’t done for over 7 months. No, not defrosting the freezer (although it did involve chilling a bottle of bubbly just in case). I pinned on a bib number, attached a timing chip to my right trainer, and toed the start line of the Wigan 10k

Weeeeeeh racing!!! How I’ve missed it!

Ok not technically racing. I never had any intention of going full tilt at this one. After PB’ing here last year then being out injured for a while, 2014’s event was all about the sheer enjoyment of running in my hometown in a busy, noisy, race, with the fun extra frisson of trying to pace my sister to a PB of her own.

My little sis had registered but been unable to take part last year. Having run just one other 10k race before (which funnily enough was also with me, here in Dubai in 2013), she was excited, anxious, and excited again all in equal measure. And she swithered most entertainingly beforehand re an appropriate goal, before settling on sub 1hr. I agreed it was challenging but not unrealistic, and on a personal level felt reasonably ok that I’d be able to fulfil pacer duties. Not an easy trot, but doable all being well.

The Wigan 10k route is pretty flat and fast, and whilst the event is only in its second year, the organizers sure know what they’re doing. 3000+ runners were beautifully co-ordinated, catered for and well looked after throughout the morning. Entry to the start ‘funnel’ was nicely managed, with pacers holding aloft signs for target times of 40 up to 75+ mins in 5 min increments to guide you to the right zone. Me and sis lined up just alongside the 60min group and took a mental note of the various t-shirt colours and slogans of other runners in the group in case we lost sight of the diminutive, very fit looking pace group leader. Wigan Rugby legend Andy Farrell counted us down, and off we went.

Racing in the sunshine, crowds ROARING as we hurtle past the chippy

Racing in the sunshine, crowds ROARING as we hurtle past the chippy

We crossed the mat in fine spirits but were both immediately a bit disconcerted to see the 60min group power away from us. My inner sensible person was screaming ‘Too fast! Too fast!’, but I also wondered if maybe they knew something that I didn’t. Should we chase? I’ve never paced anyone before so this was a new pressure for me, and I desperately wanted my sis to achieve her target. We had a quick confab, and agreed to stick to the strategy of steady 6min/km all the way round. We wouldn’t worry if we lost the pace group.

From there we just settled in and got on with it. The course goes out to the DW Stadium then comes back into town, so we were able to enjoy the marvellous spectacle of seeing the race leaders running towards us after an indecently short amount of time. I do love seeing the front runners while you’ve still got the energy to raise a whoop and a cheer for them. A massive highlight for me was the Pemberton Old Brass Band playing their hearts out at the roadside, loads of fun and such a lift. I almost cried laughing when we passed them the second time and they were belting out the Rocky theme tune. Brilliant cliché, loved it. At 4km we saw the first dropout from the 60min pace group and I was sorry to hear her say they’d done the 1st km in around 5:20 which had been too much for her.

My sister was awesome. She’d defaulted to full on Determined Face the moment we set off and she never faltered. 10k isn’t an easy race distance for anyone, and I could see throughout that she was working hard to keep her pace consistent and to hold the belief that she could do it. We came across my aunty and uncle spectating around the 7km mark and I shouted to put t’kettle on because we’d be done soon. My sister didn’t miss a beat yelling in horror “KETTLE?! I don’t want any T unless there’s G in it!”. And from that point she had it in the bag.

The final couple of kilometres take you on a jaunt through Mesnes park, with welcome shade and a big increase in spectator family groups, lovely and vocal in their encouragement. Then it’s foot down to the finish line. And I swear, the moment my sister saw the digital clock, she was away at such a pace that I couldn’t catch her. And I don’t mean that in a pretendy way, that really I was just letting let her finish ahead of me. Not a bit. She belted off and I couldn’t catch the little monkey!

Her official time was 59:16. I was very very proud of her. We had an emotional moment of hugs and high fives and then we went to the pie shop.  Wigan bling

Running Like an African

No I’ve not lost my mind, or gone all ‘peas above sticks’ as my Dad would say.  I’m not deluding myself that a couple of months’ worth of training runs and a few desultory planks have given me a gazelle-like gait and a loose and fluid running motion that would make you weep.  Basically I was in Africa and I went for a run.  Like an African.

It totally counts!

En Route to the Church

En Route to the Church

I spent the weekend at a wedding in Malawi, a beautiful country in the southeast which more than lives up to its nickname “The Warm Heart of Africa”.  Most of the time was spent in wedding related activity, culminating in an overwhelmingly exuberant and joyful day of singing, dancing and celebrating.

Cycling's a precarious business in Lilongwe

Cycling’s a precarious business in Lilongwe



The next day, I got chance to take my danced-out legs on a little run around Area 43 in Lilongwe, near the hotel where I was staying, and it was brilliant.




Ladies carrying bundles on their heads

Ladies carrying bundles on their heads


Lots of hopping on and off the tarmac onto dusty roadside clay to give a wide berth to cars, cyclists and chicken buses; an encounter with a couple of angry wild dogs which a stern shouty pedestrian soon saw off; and too many cheerful Good Morning!’s from roadside traders and folks in the back of pick-up trucks to even mention.


A great way to end a wonderful couple of days.  And the best part, aside from my new irrefutable African Runner credentials which can’t be challenged?  NOBODY LAPPED ME. No-one.

(I should perhaps point out here that no-one else was actually running)


Last night I had my first ‘squelch’ run of 2014.  I first heard mutterings about this phenomenon last summer, when veterans at running club talked about defying this curious squelch and continuing to run outdoors through the summer months regardless.  Others in the club were a bit less gung-ho, and a bit less ready to charge headlong into squelch battle; they planned instead to move indoors for  couple of months to enjoy the temporary respite of the air conditioned running track (only available for a short period each year at the peak of summer).

Yep, it did indeed feel more like 46 degrees than a mild 36

Yep, it did indeed feel more like 46 degrees than a mild 36

I assumed ‘squelch’ was a reference to the level of humidity in the air in general.  And that probably, the July and August conditions would be so hot and sticky even at 6am that before you’d run very far at all, you’d find yourself pretty wringing with your own sweat.  “But I bet it’s kind of like when you run in good old fashioned UK rain”, I mused to myself, “once you’re soaked you’re soaked, it’s not like you can get any wetter.”

Naively I didn’t realize that the squelch experience is in fact a literal one.  Yes you have sweat dripping into your eyes, trickling down your arms, and streaking your sunblock within a mile.  No surprises there.   But the penny drop moment for me came on a group run last year when I noticed that a couple of the fellows running in front of me were tracking wet footprints along a dusty boulevard.  “Huh?” I thought, “I haven’t seen any puddles?” (Puddles!  How very foolish of me!)  And I realized that what had happened was, they’d soaked their trainers from the inside out.  They were sweating so copiously in such humid conditions that it just wasn’t possible for their sweat to evaporate efficiently from their skin.  And there was an audible sound of Squelch! with each footfall!  Right squelch left squelch!

In the interests of candour, let me be clear, I wasn’t exactly wafting along myself in fragrant powder puff dryness.  A quick look backwards showed I’d squelched a non-too-delicate Hansel and Gretel trail of my own size 7.5’s all along the sandy pavement.

Not dripping but distinctly soggy

Not dripping but distinctly soggy

Bogfoot!  Revolting!!

So, last night’s run established two things.  First, it’s now officially track time for me.  And second, the cliché is so true – men sweat, ladies perspire, brides glow, and Striders Squelch!

The Joy Index

Running Happiness is… tearing up the rule book and redefining what the idea of ‘goals’ means to you.  

I would never have believed it could be so exciting to design and follow a training plan that’s all about getting back to running comfortable, easy-pace 5k’s / 8k’s / 10k’s.  Not a plan to nail a sexy race PB.  A plan that’s all about a gentle return after a 4 month lay-off.  Careful, sensible, but with the right level of challenge, and of course including as much enjoyment as possible.

And whilst sticking to this plan is serving many purposes, mainly preventing me from going too far too fast too soon, it’s surprised me by also being a humbling and valuable reminder of something that I understood clearly when I first started running, but which I seem to have lost sight of over the last 12 months or so.  It’s very easy to get sucked into measuring your progress exclusively against an accepted and widely-understood but pretty restrictive set of standard runners’ goals.  A sub 1hr 10k, a sub 2hr Half Marathon, a sub 4hr Marathon etc.  Different for everyone of course.  But these are not the only goals.  They’re not the only goals.  And as I tick off each training session one at a time from my current plan, scoring out mini goals that are meaningful only to me, I’ve realized that I spent too much time last year measuring my success directly against target race times and on-the-day results.  I think by doing so, I unintentionally diluted some of the pleasure of training a little bit.

Now, I’m not saying that from this day forwards, I’m doing away with race times as absolute goals.  Far from it.  I’m a competitive creature, I want to improve on previously posted times, and I understand that the best way to do this is to identify a desired race outcome, and have a clue about a sensible approach that offers a good chance of getting me there.  And I don’t mind coming out and stating categorically that this season I’m chasing a sub-50min 10k, a sub 1:50min Half, AND a sub 4hr Marathon. 

However, there needs to be a subtle rebalancing.  I’ve been guilty of having a bit of a blinkered focus on progressive goals, always forwards forwards forwards, faster further better etc.  Some degree of this is necessary given that I’m a time chaser.  But 2014 is going to be the season where I introduce the Joy Index as a qualitative measure into my training and running.  Runs where you run just because you can, just for the sheer pleasure of it.  Runs where the goal isn’t about shaving seconds off a chip time 12 weeks from now, it’s about putting a massive beam on your face right this minute.  Runs that don’t have a recognizable label of Tempo, or Hill Work, and you don’t have to analyse numbers to rate their effectiveness.

Won’t bag me a 10k PB, but scores very highly on the Joy Index

Won’t bag me a 10k PB, but scores very highly on the Joy Index

These aren’t junk miles.  And this isn’t an excuse to congratulate myself just for putting my trainers on.  It’s a reminder about why I wanted to learn about training plans and improvement methods in the first place – because I really like running.  Every now and again I’m going to set myself the goal of finishing a session grinning like a loon.  And if I succeed in this aim, I’ll consider it training time well spent.


Look! A run!

Finally, on my running blog, A RUN!  A real life honest to goodness run!  With a hill and everything!

Not a nervous run-walk with 80% of my brain focused on sore bits, gait, number of walk versus

Up Windy Arbour Hill, high fives with my sister at the top

Up Windy Arbour Hill, high fives with my sister at the top

run minutes etc.  A proper out of breath, heart pumping, red-faced, sweaty, challenging run.


Ok, levels of joy might seem disproportionate to the level of effort, but I’m over the moon about this.  It’s is the first true “run” I’ve been able to manage since picking up an unpleasant groin strain injury early in February.  And it felt like a run.

There was mild pain for the duration of the whole thing, but it remained consistently low throughout.  I knew the real story about whether or not this outing had been a success would become clear in the following 24 hours, via how the pain behaved.  And I was euphoric that very same afternoon to realize I wasn’t experiencing any increase at all in discomfort.  Quite the opposite; a gentle but tangible reduction back to almost zero ache by night time.

I ran the route again a couple of days later at more or less the same pace during this lovely UK break (my Not Edinburgh Marathon holiday), and was delighted to experience exactly the same outcome.  Some mild twinges, and definitely not sensible yet to push on speed, but overall a huge improvement on where I was even a month ago.

Things aren’t perfect.  I’m still very aware that a bunch of tendons have been injured for a wee while and they aren’t 100% healed.  They nag to make sure I remember this when I’ve been stationary at my work desk for too long.  But it does look like I can now legitimately make the following claim, without being massively previous…

“I’m back”.


Edinburgh Marathon May 2014

…or, a list of things I expected to be doing this week.

  • Dithering over the suitcase vs hand luggage packing debate, and finding that every item is crucial.  Contact lenses, trainers, club vest, favourite carb chomps – Dear Emirates, can’t I just check-in my small bag, and take the massive one on board, for safety?
  • Sourcing 2 bananas at optimum Goldilocks ripeness levels, not too soft, not too firm, but just right.  It’s a grave and genuine concern
  • Staring into the WC after each bathroom visit as if there’s a Dulux paint chart in there.  Pale straw?  Hay?  I don’t know, what am I, some kind of farmer?
  • Pinching my tummy flesh and cursing my Taperworms.  Tricksy little b*stards.  They’re to blame for you having the appetite of a champion after running just the gentlest of 3milers.  It’s not lack of dietary discipline, its Taperworms
  • Selection of the Sacrificial Garment – that most solemn of pre-race ceremonies.  Choosing which scabby t-shirt from runs of yore will receive the honour of becoming Race Day Extra Layer.  One final wearing of glory before being chucked to the gutter
  • Calibration Fixation.  I love my FR70 footpod combo but the calibration process can be an OCD nightmare.  What if I reach the first mile marker and my Garmin says I’ve run less than a mile?  Or more?  Should I speed up or slow down?  By how much?  I don’t know, I can’t be expected to run AND sum, this is pure Numberwang!

Plus all the other stuff like angsting about the race time target you’ve set for yourself, wondering if you should have devised a Plan C as well as Plans A and B, worrying that somehow you might have completely forgotten how to run by race day…  

As it happens, all of this is moot, because Sunday is DNS day!  And I’m absolutely fine with that.  I knew a couple of months ago that I wouldn’t be running due to injury, so I transferred the place through EMF’s official process (really easy by the way).  And I’ve re-written my list of Things to do during Edinburgh Marathon Week.  It now looks like this:

  • Fly to Edinburgh
  • Have a marvellous time with friends and family
  • The End

BEST OF LUCK to everyone running at the weekend whatever the distance.  Hope you all have safe, happy and successful runs!


See you next year!

Gym Bunny or…?

I don’t often feel like a fanny in the gym.

There are plenty situations in life where I still waste more energy than I’d like, by being overly-concerned about what other people might think, but doing my stuff in the gym isn’t one of them.

Today though, I felt a bit foolish. And I on top of that, I felt conflicted.  Here’s why.

photo (8)I know!  So very pink!

Some context… This week I’ve enjoyed what’s considered a significant birthday.  “The new 30!” has been a welcome cliche that I can’t hear enough right now.  Especially after the rather less gushing “It’s half way over” message written in one of my birthday cards.  Anyway, ahead of a couple of fancy pants dinners out, I decided to ‘Get My Nails Done’.  I’ve never been a person who ‘Gets Their Nails Done’, or anything other bits of themselves done for that matter.  I’m low maintenance and that’s fine.  But the milestone birthday merited a bit more effort, and I have to confess that the pamper experience was quite pleasant.  As was subsequent glamming up and having a proper good birthday celebration.

However, whilst glossy and pink looks quite the thing when swirling a delicately stemmed wineglass by candlelight, it looks full-on weird picking up a 10kg weight to do sumo squats. Or does it?

That was the thing that troubled me.  Who’s even looking at my nails in the gym? Absolutely no-one, that’s who.  Are you more serious about your workout if you do your deadlifts with dry-ish hands and picked-at cuticles as opposed to polished, brightly coloured fingertips?  Of course not.  The fact that you’re there and doing stuff trumps everything else.  I really believe this and it’s why I’ve never felt like a fanny in the gym, no matter how inexpert my plank efforts are, or how scant a number of crunches on the ball I manage before needing to pause for a break.  

My nails looked strange to me.  But they were an irrelevance.  I was the only person in there thinking about them.  Maybe this tells me I’m not quite as relaxed as I thought I was about how I look when working out.   Maybe I need to check my own attitudes a bit.  More likely, it’s an odd and temporary novelty which I’ll have forgotten about entirely in a day or two.

On the plus side, I managed a Treadmill Walk-Run containing more Run minutes than I’ve achieved in any other attempts to date.  Acceptable pain levels too.

Pink Power!

Girl runs 2mins pain-free, is ecstatic

Check me and my 15min mile!  It’s a serious contender for Happiest Mile of 2014!

Friday is usually Long Run day, given that the weekend is Friday and Saturday in Dubai.  I haven’t done a run, long or otherwise, since early Feb.  Or more accurately, I haven’t been able to finish any that I’ve started.  Even the gentlest run efforts have had to be abandoned part way through due to injury pain.

So this morning, after a couple of weeks of minimal pain levels, I went down to the gym for a bit of a strength workout, promising myself the reward of a treadmill run-walk if the session beforehand went well.  But ONLY if the session went well and everything felt ok. This was partly so that I’d have some meaningful feedback for the next physio session, and partly because I reeeeaaally felt like it wasn’t a daft, overly hopeful thing to try.

Squats, clams, one-legged things etc were all despatched fairly comfortably; not easy, but any aches were the good kind, confined to the places being worked as opposed to stresses creeping into places that they shouldn’t.  And the idea of a run-walk wasn’t ludicrous.

IN YOUR FACE Sir Roger Bannister!

IN YOUR FACE Sir Roger Bannister!

I got on the treadmill.  I walked for a few minutes.  I ran apprehensively for 1 minute.  It felt awesome.  I walked for 4 minutes, ran for 2.  It felt amazing.  I walked another 4 minutes, ran 2, and felt delirious with happiness.  Pain levels minimal and unchanging throughout.  This seemed like plenty for one day, so I did a cool down and quit while I was ahead.

Lordy, I could have skipped out of that gym!  This feels like such a big deal.  Obviously the next 24 hours will tell me if this really was all ok, but for now I feel like a big step forward has been made.

In fact I was so happy, I didn’t even throw a judgey “Dude, really?” face at the moron wearing flip flops whilst lifting heavy weights and looking at himself in the mirror.  And to think I worry about black toenails.