Monday, 2 December 2013

The TomTom Runner watch: is it happily ever after?

Once upon a time there was a Freckly lady who spent many a day tormenting her loving boyfriend... 

Freckly lady: "I’d really love a GPS watch for marathon training..." 
Bf: "Yeah, that'd be cool, you should get one." 

Freckly lady: "it’d be so great if I didn’t have to carry my phone out with me to track my distance and pace when I’m running..." 
Bf: "yeah, probably would. you should get one." 

Increasingly exasperated Freckly lady: "I really want THIS watch" *dances around in front of bf with to TomTom Runner watch on laptop screen* 
Bf: *sigh* 

After much hinting and leaving of leaflets in strategic places around their flat, the lovely bf had the wonderful, independent *cough* idea to surprise freckly lady with the fantastic and generous present of a TomTom Runner watch. What a hero! *swoon* 

TomTom Runner watch arrived in shiny boxed glory: 

On Freckly lady's hand: 

Left: time (6am - ooft!). Right: summary screen on pause
Freckly lady found this beautiful watch very easy to work. First of all she downloaded the TomTom connect software to her computer, then plugged in TomTom and off they went! (The TomTom software can be connected directly to a MapMyRun account if you have one too, which is ideal.) All actions are controlled from the 4-way control pad, to start a run you just go right, right, wait for GPS signal, right and - complete with a mini fanfare - GO! 

Unlike some fairytale heroines (whatev's, Cinderella), Freckly lady DID go to the ball - well, the Write This Run conference at the Running Show, so just as good :) She headed by the TomTom stand to show TomTom Runner watch off and demand extra chocolates given her dedication to their brand!

The TomTom man on the stand explained the ‘laps’ function: you can programme the watch to buzz and tell you when a certain distance or time has passed, and it gives you a breakdown of you average pace over that time or distance. Freckly lady put this function in to action at The Running Show 10k, where she liked the buzz from TomTom reminding her that she was another km down, and let her quickly check her average speed quickly. Back home with TomTom runner watch plugged in to the computer, the data on time, speed, splits and elevation were all updated automatically to TomTom connect and MapMyRun. 

On top of all that new watch giddyness, Freckly lady earned a 10K PB! As you can see, Freckly lady was very happy about this... 

Freckly lady gives the thumbs up. Random guy she sprinted with looks less happy...
Image, in it's glorious moment-capturing genius, courtesy of +Jen Slater 
Is the conclusion to our fairy tale that the TomTom runner watch has super make-you-go-fast powers??! Possibly not, but it did give Freckly lady the info she needed on how far she'd gone and reminded her of my pace every km without having to ask it. TomTom Runner watch likely also has many other secret powers that Freckly lady is yet to discover. The full magical working of TomTom can be examined here. This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship... 

 *Freckly lady skips off into the sunset with TomTom Runner watch* 

The End.

Monday, 25 November 2013

What's in a warm up?

OK, hands up if your idea of a pre-run warm up is a cuppa then a half-hearted hop around on the toes, with a side-to-side bouncy motion (y'know, that movement you do in the pens before a race, which does not warm you up at all)? 

*hand flies up*

See, the thing is, when I'm up at the crack of dawn to fit in my morning miles the last thing on my mind - or I have time for - is 'warming up'. Running IS a warm up, isn't it??

Strangely, while I'm happy to skip the warm up (as in give it a miss, not skip for my warm up...) I LOVE a bit of post-run stretching and quite enjoy Kara Goucher's pro-runner stretches on the Nike Training Club App. It has some nice yoga-esque stretches, takes about 15 minutes to complete, and you feel lovely, long and lean at the end. If only life could be one long cool down...

Alas, this post is about warm ups! 

At the track session I went to there was a good 15 minutes spent on warm up - 2 x jog round the track plus dynamic stretching - but I'm usually pushed for time so the warm up tends to get bumped down the priority list, and maybe it's just me, but I kind of feel a bit silly doing walking lunges along the main road in Clapham... 

Lately, however, as a number of my runner friends have been rendered sofa-bound due to injuries - get better soon guys! - I've started to think more about injury prevention. Thanks to recommendations from NY marathon runner extraordinaire Charlie, I've started listening to podcasts on my walk to work. One such podcast from Runners Connect seemed to fit the bill for my recent worries: Intelligent and Injury-Free Training. You can download it here.

In this interview, Jeff Gaudette outlines how important warm ups are. He says you should NEVER miss out on the warm up, even if it means you have to run a shorter distance if you're pushed for time. If time is an issue, he suggests the 'lunge matrix' - a 5-mine warm up featuring 5 types of lunge that can, if you're shy like me (haha!), be done in the comfort of your own home before stepping out the door. Here it is, from the wonderfully American Coach Jay Johnson:

Instead of making my excuses, I'm going to try to do at least this before I head out on a run - I'll just need to set the alarm 5 minutes earlier!! 

How do you warm up and cool down? Is the lunging enough? Could someone invent an awesome warm-up dance to a fabulous 80s track that I will never want to not do, please? That'd be lovely, thanks :)

Katy | City Girl Fit

Saturday, 23 November 2013

My first attempt at: track training sessions

To run fast you must practice running fast. 

OK, that’s pretty self explanatory. But I’m running a marathon, where I’ll be running long and slow, slow, slow so running fast isn’t for me, right? WRONG! 

If you look at any marathon training programme these days there is a lot of emphasis on adding in at least one session a week that involves increasing your pace - tempo runs, hill work – anything that gets you out of your comfort zone and breathing a little bit harder. This approach apparently makes you a more effective runner and will help you to run faster even when you run slow. Even if speed isn’t your no. 1 goal let’s face it – we’d all like to be a little bit quicker and see some progress on those race times! 

Now, I’m not a ‘lazy’ person, per se. I’ll happily kit up and hit the tarmac for a trot round the park and, if I’m training for a longer distance, dedicate my weekend hours to get some decent mileage in. But push myself to the point of hard breathing and inability to chat as I run (say what now??) – no, sorry, it’s not really going to happen on my watch alone. And if I ever try, I do a few short bursts of speed, give myself a pat on the back and then trot on home for a crème egg and a cuppa. 

My marathon training programme, however, says otherwise. As the teachers at school used to tell me, if you can’t be trusted alone then you require supervision! So, I had the bright idea to head along to a track session. Back in the day I was actually a track runner at school and, unbelievably, I used to do track training 2-3 times a week. Sometimes just for fun! Ah, to be young...

Through tips and advice from fellow twitterunners (did I just invent a new label for runners who tweet?? Trademark pending...) I found a session with run coach Karen down at Battersea track on a Wednesday evening. I’d already convinced my friend Josie it was a good idea too, and she’d gone along a few times already – a guinea pig of sorts, in the nicest possible way! – and fed back that it was quite good and she hadn't died yet: always a good sign. So I decided that this was the week to make my return to the track. Ah, dammit! I now have the classic 90s song ‘Return of the Mack’ inside my head... I digress (as always). 

I’d had my first post-school track experience when I went to Battersea stadium as part of my Run to the Beat training and – despite it being really tough – I loved it! The only difference was than back then it was in August, 20-odd degrees and sunny. As I walked to the track on Wednesday it was November, pissing down and freezing cold! 

As I walked along I gave myself a pep talk: “you’ve played numerous seasons of hockey in the Scottish winter, woman! You can do this!” And I’m glad that the voices in my head prevailed... 

At the track there turned out to be 8 of us plus Karen, and the rain died down so it was only freezing cold now and not wet. Relentless positivity, anyone? To try to explain just how cold it was, I had three layers on and an ear-warmer headband, and not one item of clothing was removed over the course of the session! 

A short ‘warm’ up of two laps round the track, some drills (walking on toes, walking on hills, high knees, bum kicks etc.) Karen explained the session. The regulars told me that each week was different and you don’t get told in advance so nobody knew what to expect... Karen paired us up in a two-man team, and told us we were to do non-stop 400m relays. For 25 minutes. Yup. 25 minutes solid. Ouch! 

Once we got going though it actually didn’t seem too bad. That is until after our 3rd or 4th lap of the 400m track when the legs really got tired and the lungs hurt from the cold air. For some reason I always seemed to die at 200m and had to spend the remainder of the lap screaming: c’mon stupid legs, work!! 

Battersea track in sunnier times!
We kept pushing through, supporting and cheering each other on the rounds and getting some tips from Karen while we recovered. For example, it’s much more efficient to run with short, fast strides than with long slow ones – my preferred mode of ‘bounding’ around the track. I tried the shorter strides out on my next few laps and, while I can’t vouch for efficiency or graceful technique, I certainly felt like I was running much faster! 

Team Josie & Katy managed 9 laps each in the 25 minutes, averaging around 7min mile pace. We were knackered at the end, but with happy, rosy-cheeked faces :) Time will tell how much these sessions will help my running, but it was great to mix up the training and to meet some new people; I really enjoyed it and will definitely be back: ‘Wednesday track’ is now a solid fixture in the marathon training plan! 

If you fancy channelling you inner Usain Bolt and getting down for some track action then get in touch with Karen – the sessions are held on Wednesdays at Battersea Millennium Park, cost £8.90: £3.90 to the track and £5 to Karen. 

Have you tried track training or other forms of speed work? Did it make a difference to your running? 

Katy | City Girl Fit

Friday, 15 November 2013

The week in training - too much (in one day) too soon?

So last week training took a bit of a back seat in favour of some fun stuff, and I'm still not quite in to my 18 week marathon plan. Nevertheless, I'm already I'm finding that fitting my not-yet-at-full-marathon-mode training in around work is tough. As I couldn't fit in my 4 runs this week I decided to push it hard for a few days. Not advised! Here's a breakdown of training this week so far: 

  • Sunday - crazy day: think I just about ran a marathon in 4 parts!
  • Monday - yoga
  • Tues & Wed - away for work trip
  • Thursday -6 miles + hills
  • Friday - yoga

Last Sunday turned out to be an epic adventure of non-stop movement in one day. 

It began with a 6am alarm call: up, quick shower, get in to running kit (this took a bit longer than usual - it was cold-ass morning, so extra layering required!) I love it when you get rewarded you for an early rise, and this Sunday my reward was a beautiful sky lighting up the London skyline... 

Good morning, London!
I was at Clappy J (oh god. I've been watching too much MIC, haven't I...) to catch the train to Putney to meet up with Stephanie and Jess, who were kind enough to let me tag along on their 12-13 mile run along the Thames path. I hadn't yet run this route, so was quite looking forward to some new scenery and a bit of trail action. 

It was also a great opportunity to try out my new New Balance trail shoes and test out approaches for eating/hydration for longer runs. I ate a coconut and macadamia Bounce ball on the way over (a treat from my Zero Calorie Advent goody bag!) and had a glass of tri-berry nuun - I love this stuff for pre and post run hydration. So tasty! - before I left the house at 6.30. There was a gel in my run bumbag - yeah, bumbag. Super, sexy, cool, I know - should I feel the need to use it. 

Shiny (not for long!) new shoes
Bounce ball: lovely protein-y goodness
After meeting the also layered-up Jess and Steph we set off along the river towards Kew Bridge. Now, these two are speedy girls, so I was a bit worried that by trying to keep to their pace I'd collapse in a heap of sweat and phlegm before we reached half way. Thankfully, the girls were happy to let me set the pace. I've only ever done this distance once before and that was at Run to the Beat half marathon, so I'm not really sure how fast I should run 13 miles in training, but we settled at a speed that, for me, was comfortably difficult, and turned out to be slightly faster that I would have normally - the good thing about running with faster runners than you!

As we were up so bright and early the path was almost empty and it was lovely to see the river so peaceful bar the odd group of rowers: the only other nutters up this early on a Sunday morning. At Kew Bridge - half way - we joined up with Lissy for the return leg. We looked like twins with our earwarmers, neon run jackets, run bumbags and leggings. Well, twins if you ignore the fact that Lissy is half my size and has white-blonde hair... I warned Lissy about the mud - and it didn't disappoint. With the downpours on Saturday the trails were super muddy - I was so glad of my trail shoes! Once you got over the fact that mud was inevitable it was quite satisfying to squelch in to a big muddy puddle :) 

A muddy Thames path run with Lissy and (in the distance) speedy girls Steph & Jess
I also noticed half way along that while Jess and Steph's feet were muddy their clothes were not covered in mud splashes like me. Lesson learned: if you want to stay clean then you have to run faster and IN FRONT of other runners! I earned a few sideways glances on the train home, which I responded to with my best "yup, it's 9am and I've already banged out 12 miles of trail running, suckas!!" look. Otherwise known as 'smug face'.

Home, fastest shower and change in history, off to opticians for an eye test, home, lunch, out the door at 1pm towards Clapham Common for my Sunday touch rugby league.

Some people have been asking about my Touch Rugby team, when we play etc. I play for Maigic Touch - It's a mixed team, and the rules of Touch Can be found here on the in2touch website. Magic are a great bunch to play with and to socialise with - you can catch up with our on-pitch and off-pitch our shenanigans on the Magic Touch blog.
Magic Touch: Greek goddesses & spartans

Magic Touch: super heroes!
Our main season is on Wednesday evenings at Regents Park, which run from April-September, and we are always keen to have new players, so get in touch in the spring if you're interested. We're currently playing in the Clapham Common Sunday Late Summer League. On Sunday we played our league match (lost 8-4 against the unbeaten team in the league) but then also another game against London Moths - like London Wasps, but at night - as their oppo didn't show (we won that!). THEN we had a third game of the Magic 'old skool' players vs us 'new skool' players (a draw - winners all round!). 

Magic Touch - old & new (& non-playing children)
I might be smiling in the post-game picture (above) but after three 40 minute games and a 12 miler in the morning - oh my god - the legs really hurt!! My knees were in agony and I hobbled for a good two days afterwards. 

I realise now that this approach to do everything in one day was probably a bit silly and I'm lucky that I'm not injured. In future, I maybe wont run an almost half marathon in the morning if I know I have sprint sessions in the form of touch rugby later in the day! Thankfully - well, actually, sadly - the Touch season ends next Sunday 24th Nov, so my weekends will be free for long runs and then afternoon resting. My goal over the coming months will be to slow down and take small steps to increase my training each day rather than almost killing myself by trying to take a thousand steps in one!

Have you hit training too hard too soon? How are you finding fitting training in to your schedule? Do you have a plan to work training in around work, Xmas parties and travel? If you've got any good tips then please share!!

Katy | City Girl Fit

Monday, 11 November 2013

Scottish adventures and an early Xmas party

It's been a busy old week for this city girl, but mostly it's been fitness-associated fun!

At the weekend I headed back to Scotland with the boy to visit the parents, which meant fitting in some fitness around home-cooked meals and wine in front of the fire (it's a hard life, eh?!). I headed out for a run in the sun on the Saturday on a nice 5 mile loop from the house through Uddingston and Bothwell. It was a lovely crisp day, and the autumn colours were beautiful.

On the Sunday we went for a walk around Chatelherault country park which has some beautiful ancient oaks and fantastic trails. I've earmarked these for my training runs over the Christmas holidays. It also means that I need some trail shoes, so went for some retail therapy in Glasgow and got some new shoes :)


The legs were feeling a bit tight and tired after an 8 hour drive back down from Scotland so on Monday night I decided to do a bit of yoga. It was a cold and wet evening, so didn't fancy heading out, but I remembered that I'd signed up for I selected a 20-minute free yoga for runners class, downloaded the audio and pose guide and off I went! The perfect solution for tight hip flexors and calves.

On Tuesday I decided to try out the Nike Training Club at Covent Garden. This class, unlike Nike Town, involved outdoor training rather than on the shop floor! The instructor, Kezia, was really friendly and the class was pretty fun. We jogged from the store down on to the riverside and along to Westminster where we encountered the a mass protest in front of the houses of parliament with hundreds of people wearing the V for vendetta Guy Fawkes masks. Running through that was quite an experience, but we stuck together and found a spot further down the river to do our class. We had six exercises recommended by athletes, ranging from one-legged lunge-hops to squat jumps and modified burpees, each to do hard-out for 1 minute. Then we jogged back to store for some stretches. I really enjoyed this class, particularly taking in the sights of London and seeing the fireworks over the Thames while we worked out. I'm planning to head back on the 19th when my blogger friend Elle will be taking the class - fancy joining? Sign up here.

On Thursday I was invited along to the launch party for Zero Calorie Advent Calendar, a great initiative to have a fat-free Christmas, which is being run by bloggers Mollie, Becca and Christine.

The party was held at Lululemon in Covent Garden, but in true fit-blog fashion we had to earn our prosecco first by taking part in Good Gym. The idea behind Good Gym is that you incorporate doing something good for the community - from helping with a local project to visiting isolated older people - into your fitness session. On the night we ran from the store to Somerset House where we worked as a team to dismantle radiator covers and move some wood for Makerversity.

Afterwards we had a 3km race along the Thames towards Tate Modern before heading back for some well-earned prosecco and cake! The chosen charity for Zero Calorie Advent Calendar is A Mile In Her Shoes - a great charity that supports women in crisis by helping them to get fit and stay healthy. If you have any old trainers or sports clothes then get in touch with these guys and they'd be happy to take them off your hands!

It was great to see some friendly faces down at the launch party, as well as meeting some people in real life for the first time such as #sub50project runner Sian. Mollie, Becs and Christine have done such a great job to pull the event and calendar together and I can't wait until December to begin the countdown to Christmas! It'll be helped along all the more with the lovely goodies and free classes in our goody bags - looking forward to trying out Good Vibes studio in particular.

Marathon training took a back seat this week - was great to do some fun things other than just run. Next week I start to build up the miles again though!

How is your marathon training going? Have you started yet or still in the planning stages?

Katy | City Girl Fit

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Overcoming the 'run funk'

After the excitement and exhilaration of getting a place in London marathon I descended into what can only be described as a ‘run funk’. My morning runs and solo evening runs were becoming a real slog and, while running usually lifts me out of any work- or life-related ‘funk’, it was no longer taking me to my happy place. 

I began to get a bit panicked about whether I’d be able to commit to training in this state and wondered if I could even complete a full marathon. But I’m not one for self pity and am a firm believer that if something isn’t right then swift action is needed. So, here’s my action plan to get out of the run funk: 

Action 1: Mix it up 

There’s still 24 weeks to go until London marathon. If I only focus on running for 24 weeks I am sure that when (if?!) I cross the finish line, I'll throw off my running shoes and be happy never to see them again for the rest of my days! So, ok, the drama queen rears her ugly head again – but you catch my drift: if I only run up until April then I will go mad. Oh, alright. Mad-er. 

Full-body/strength training 

On Monday night I headed down to Niketown London to take part in one of the Nike Training Club (NTC) classes. If you’ve not tried this out yet then I suggest you get on board – ladies only (sorry boys!) FREE fitness classes, run by world-class Nike trainers. I’ve been to the outdoor classes in Regents Park with the amazing Gil and Clapham Common with the ab-tastic Crossfit machine that is Gemma, but this was my first experience of Niketown NTC and I was in for a few shocks. 

First shock: the class took place on the shop floor while the shop was still OPEN. Cue bemused shoppers watching as I sweat my ass off! Second shock: it’s really hot on the shop floor – Niketown is certainly no air-conditioned, temperature-regulated gym (I think I’ve only sweated more at bikram yoga). Third shock: although we worked bloody hard through high-intensity style training, I loved it! Disclaimer: as the class is in the store it’s hard to leave without making a purchase. It took ALL my willpower not to treat myself to these purple beauties: 
Hot Nike kit. Want, want, want!
The NTC trainers really push you to your limits, but that’s what we’re there for, right? I’m definitely the kind of person who works harder under supervision. For those of you with self-motivation there’s also the NTC App, which contains loads of workouts tailored to your goals and fitness level:


The NTC App is available on iTunes and you can sign up to the NTC classes for FREE (did I mention that already?!) through the Facebook page – they take place in parks across London and Nike stores UK wide, and they also have the odd sessions that come with the chance to win free kit or receive goody bags :) 

Track sessions 

The dreaded sprints. I know that they are a necessary evil in marathon training if you want to do yourself justice, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. As mentioned above, I am unlikely to push myself hard enough if working alone, so I am planning to head down to Battersea Track with run-coach Karen. If you’re interested in joining the sessions then check out the details here. I’ll let you know how it goes once I’ve faced up to the inevitability of having to run so fast you can taste blood. And then repeat. I know, sounds fun, right...


The Twitteratti of running have been telling me that I need to crosstrain – that is, do some other form of aerobic exercise other than running. As marathon-running supremo Hal Higdon posted on Twitter today:

Does strength training qualify as ? I endorse lifting but crosstraining needs to be aerobic. Nevertheless, lift away!

I’m a big fan of the pool and so I’m planning to make swimming my crosstrain event, and hope to get at least one swim in a week on my training plan. I recently discovered the new(ish) Clapham Leisure Centre just off Clapham High Street, which has a lovely clean pool (hard to find!) and opens at 6.30am – plenty of time for me to get a swim in before heading to work. I can currently do about half a mile fairly hard out, non-stop, so I’m going to try to gradually increase that distance as time goes on. 


Another approach to mixing up my training is to incorporate yoga into my plan at least once a week. I’m not one for too much of the ‘om’-ing and spiritual side, so I’m yet to find a yoga class that is more about flexibility and fitness and is also accessible to me in the south of London. I’m going to try out flow yoga at FRAME Shoreditch this week – the hunt for my marathon-training yoga class begins! 

Action 2: Run with Friends 

A few weekends ago I got up at ridiculous o’clock in the morning to run 8 miles around Kingston in the wettest conditions known to man (note: not an actual fact). Sounds grim, right? Well, if you look at this picture of me (in the pink top) at the finish line you will see I am sporting not a grimace but a big cheesy grin! 

Wanna know why? To the left of me, also cheesing it out, is my blogger and runner friend Leah. This race taught me that nothing whiles away the hours spent pounding the tarmac and can distract you from negative thoughts like running and chatting with friends. This, dear readers, IS an actual FACT! 

Continuing my ‘friends + run = happy days’ approach, last Sunday I made the most of an extra hour in the day and met up with my friend Josie for a morning run. We first met at a track-training session back in August and are both running London, so thought a little run date was in order. I took her on a 4.7 mile loop from Clapham Common to Battersea Park in the pre-storm sunshine – a beautiful morning, nice steady run (with a tiny, but sort of not so tiny, hill at the end – sorry Jose!), although I think we both overdressed and suffered from the heat! Our plan was to run and then catch up some more over coffee and cake, which leads me on to my next action... 

Action 3: Rewards! 

If can drag my ass out of bed in the cold and dark at 5.45am or pull on my trainers even when the heavens have opened then I’m damn well going to reward myself for it. I know there’s folk out there who decry food-based post-workout rewards as ‘it defeats the purpose of exercise’ but let’s face it – I’m not here because I want to shift a few pounds. I’m here because I’m training for a marathon. And this is MY plan. So I WILL have my cake AND eat it, thankyouverymuch! 

Do run, get cake. Simple!
If you don’t fancy cake-based rewards (do such people exist?!) then perhaps have your eye on a nice new piece of running kit and set a goal distance to hit in training to reward yourself. Or you could take my lead and use both reward strategies in tandem :) 

From the twitter response it sounds like a lot of runners out there love a bit of post-run cake. #RunCakeClub? Watch this space... 

So that’s it! Action ‘out-of-run-funk’ is in progress. Josie’s pearls of wisdom rung true with me – I’m not yet in to the 20-week training programme for the marathon so I’m probably struggling as I can’t yet visualise my end goal. Once full training mode kicks in I’m sure I’ll switch on. Perhaps I need to pick me up one of these fab vests from Fierce Fizique to show others that my fierce mode is well and truly ON!
Have you ever hit a run funk? What do you do to keep training interesting?

Katy | City Girl Fit
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Friday, 25 October 2013

Running my first marathon: HOW?!

After getting my head round WHY I had decided to run a marathon, the question remained: HOW do you even begin to be ready for the assault on the body that is 26.2 miles of tarmac?

Let me be honest: I have never run more than 13.1 miles (once), and I have no idea how to run a marathon. ‘Just put one foot in front of the other on the day’ clearly isn’t going to cut it.

Fortunately for me, there are plenty of people who have survived such events and who have lots of advice to give. Even more fortunate is that, thanks to the world of Twitter, these people can hear my cries for help from The Tower of Marathon Terror and, with their advice and support, swoop in as my virtual knights in shining armour. Eat your heart out, Rapunzel!

It’s 25 weeks until London marathon and I know that I want to give myself the best chance of injury-free training success and get started ASAP. So, I hollered at my Twitter homies:

Runners! What marathon training plan have you followed? What training plan advice would you give to marathon 1st timer?

Here’s some of the responses:

I followed one from Runners World (free download) with the last one I ran. Always tailor to suit your own needs though!

I made up my own :) Increased the weekly long run every week and had 1 short run + 1 medium run a week + 2 crossfit sessions
I believe the strength training keeps me injury free and it helps that Crossfit is a lot fun too :)

@melissawebb_ (this girl is gonna be taking Paris marathon, 2014, by storm!)
I'm going to be using this Hal Higdon one for Paris:  There's more advanced ones on there too.'s a bit standard, so I'll make some of the sessions speedwork too. Will def go crazy if I can't continue yoga as well!

@Cat_Simpson_ (an Ultra-marathon runner, no less!)
take an online one (lots @runnersworlduk) & make it your own to fit around what you can realistically do training-wise...
:D It's all about making it work for you, not complicating things & enjoying it as much as poss-you'll get far more out of it

the weekly long run is so, so important. Stay within a weekly increase in mileage of no more than 10%

run consistently. Cross train too. Keep stretching as much as possible. I stretch 2-4 times a day.
Reply from @UKRunChat: 
great advice, also core work will improve your running massively and your tummy tones up. #result!

I used Hal Higdon novice for my first one and currently using his next step for my second!

LSR [long slow run] is absolute key to your training plan each week. Don't be a slave to the plan. Drop back weeks are key. Stretch!

From these pearls of wisdom I have deduced that the key steps to marathon training are:

Cross training (i.e. swim, bike)
Long slow runs
Stretching (hello yoga!)
Tailor the plan to your own needs
Have fun & try to enjoy! (Eh... we'll see!)

So I’ve taken the advice, downloaded an online plan and modified it around my life. As Rhianon says: “don’t be a slave to the plan!” I really want to get the most out of marathon training without losing heart too much as it takes over my life, so I’ll listen to this sentiment and aim to make this plan MY bitch, not the other way around! Yeah, yeah, you’re right: I’ll believe it when I see it too...

Have you run a marathon or are you training for one? What’s your approach? What would you change if you had to do it again?

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Running my first marathon: WHY?!

A few weeks ago I arrived home to this:

My initial reaction: I'm in? I'm in?! Oh my God - I'M IIIIIINNNN!! *tweets, Facebooks and makes phonecalls until the WHOLE WORLD knows that I’m doing the London Marathon*

My delayed reaction: Uhoh. I’ve told everyone about it so now I’m actually going to have to do this. 26.2 miles of what can surely only be described as self-inflicted pain. WHY?!

Obviously I WANT to run a marathon: I entered the ballot. Well, I watched the London marathon last year and thought it looked like fun (!) so I threw my hat in the ring. Nobody gets in first time, right? I know people who have applied 8 times and haven't got in... and now li'l ol' me is in! I'm not gonna lie - this realisation fills me with both excitement AND dread. Let me tell you why... 

why I should NOT run a marathon

Yes, I’m a runner. I can declare this because I run about, sometimes for fun, sometimes in a race. However, I’m not anywhere near what you would call ‘a proper runner’. Y'know, one of those runner kinds that need to be in the brackets; one of those lithe, lean individuals who make running look like a breeze. Who nimbly overtake you on your slow Sunday slog and, as you watch their tiny arse and slim-but-muscular calves disappear into the distance, drive you to think: that’s OK. I could never run like that. They look like they’re 'a proper runner’. Although I still feel my chunky calves burn with envy. Well it's either envy or it's the lactic acid - who can tell?

Running for me is hard but I do enjoy it; even if I don’t enjoy it during the run I love the feeling of having been a run AKA ‘the post-run smug-fest’. This smug feeling usually ensues within minutes of finishing 5-10K and can be known to last for days beyond if a medal was achieved at the end.

Just-finished-10K smug-fest

Beyond 10K, however, or – to be precise – 8 miles, my body begins to ache. My knees are notorious pains in the ass. Body-movement logistics meaning that, obviously, this is a figurative statement rather than a literal one. The ladies of my family have a history of knee troubles and it seems I am following suit. In fact, the knee issue is why I stopped running about 3 years ago and have had to build up again over the past 6 months or so.

Surely running 26.2 miles – 18.2 miles beyond my ‘knee comfort zone’ – is a bad idea?! Hmm...

So, here’s why I SHOULD run a marathon

I’m 29 for christ sake. I should NOT be letting my knees stop me running (unless medically advised to stop, as has happened to one of my friends who no longer runs over 10K – if concerned about any aches or pains then please check with your doctor and physio, peeps!). Perhaps in the long term I will have to stop, but for now I’m fortunate that my knee issues can be counteracted through joint supplements, good running trainers, strengthening the muscles that support my knees while running and – importantly – ensuring I have a good running technique.

Focussing on technique, I attended a Marathon Masterclass talk at Sweaty Betty last week where Mike Antoniades – founder of The Running School – took us through his tips for effective marathon running. 

Technique is top of his priorities, and I learned a few key things that I need to think about in my running, such as to stop swinging my arms across my body and to run from my glutes and hamstrings rather than my quads and hips. My friend Zoe put together a nice list of the key points from the talk here – thanks, Zoe!

I also have a few personal driving forces to run a marathon.

I love the London Marathon. I’ve watched the coverage on the telly box every year since I was a wee girl. As those who know me can testify, I’m not a ‘crier’. Droplets do not form easily on these ol’ eyes very often (well, unless I’m fuelled with wine, in which case the floods can be biblical); however I blub my eyes out when I see the joy on people’s faces as they cross the finish line and I  well up reading about other blogger's achievements, like getting new PBs. But cry at Bambi?! Pah! Bambi needs to get some miles in before I’ll shed a tear!

I'm also stubborn, so when people tell me it'll be ‘too hard’ or ‘too far’ it makes me want to go and do it just to prove them wrong. I want to be crying along with the other finishers and feel that sense of collected survival – we did not succumb to the road! We made it!

In all honesty though, more important that my selfish desire for long-term bragging rights and race bling, I want to run this marathon for the same reason as so many other runners of marathons: 

I want to run it for someone else.

Be it through illness, disability or absence, there are many who can’t run a marathon, for whom the decision to run a marathon is not there for the making. My friend Sarj is one of those people. 

We spent three years as desk buddies during our PhDs at Edinburgh Uni – Sarj ‘affectionately’ referring to me as his ‘bench wench’. We had some good times:

Sarj was knocked down on his way home in October 2009 and did not recover from his injuries. He was 27 and had just qualified as a teacher. I can’t explain how tragic this loss was to everyone who knew Sarj; he was a beacon of fun and full of mischief. Our lives are better from having known him and I feel sad for those who never had the chance to meet him. 

Inspired by Sarj's outlook on the world and his approach to life I moved from a small town in Scotland to London, and I try to live my life to the fullest. Which, evidently  means throwing yourself head-first into a marathon and giving it a bloody good shot!

Wherever he may be, looking down on me and waving a banner he’s made – I imagine it says ‘Run, Bench Wench, Run!’ or some borderline-offensive, politically incorrect, cheeky comment - I know it will amuse Sarj greatly to see me break myself while running around London on his behalf. It is this belief that, in my hours of pain during training and in the race itself, will remind me just exactly WHY I’m doing this: I’m doing it for you buddy.

So! Knee pain or not, I WILL be completing 26.2 miles around our great city next April. Now I just need to work out the small issue of how...

Katy | City Girl Fit