Posted by: fitartist | June 5, 2017

A tale of two marathons

It’s been six weeks since I ran the London Marathon, having won my place on Twitter during Christmas week last year (I know, lucky me!). It’s taken me a while to write about my experience, partly because I wasn’t happy with how it went and partly because I had lined up another marathon in the meantime.

My training for London went so well, building up my long runs gradually, heading out either on a Friday morning, post-school-run or before parkrun, finishing the last 5k up at Hilly Fields on a Saturday morning. I went into London feeling great, positive and happy that I had trained so well and had reached the start line without injury. Of course, when race day came it was much hotter than it had been in the run up, so I planned my hydration carefully, knowing how easily I cramp and so as not to drink too much and end up making myself ill! The atmosphere up on Blackheath was incredible and I headed to the start with my fellow club runners Sarah, who was running on a good-for-age place and Jen, who had a championship place.

The first few miles were just lovely, I soaked up the atmosphere, tried to slow myself down a bit (it’s so easy to get swept up by the enthusiasm of those around you) and even had a good chat with a fellow runner as we merged with the blue and red starts in Woolwich. Greenwich and Deptford approached and I knew I would start to see friends, so kept my focus and looked out for them and their amazing homemade banners. First up were some Hilly Fields friends, who had strolled down from Greenwhich Park after volunteering on the baggage trucks. Around the Cutty Sark and a surge of joy ran through me, over to Creek Road, where I heard my name and saw my boys.

Chief cheerer, Hector

A little further on I was lifted by the awesome sight of my GoodGym Lewisham runners, who were waving a beautiful banner, made by Lucy. Now to focus and keep my pace steady. A few unexpected cheers along the way and I neared the halfway mark and the prospect of Tower Bridge and its wall of sound. The support on this course was out of this world, I can’t thank my friends enough for the effort they put into encouraging me.

Throughout the race I had felt crowded and slightly jostled, not a feeling I enjoyed. I had been cut up, kicked and elbowed a few times and, as I approached a drinks station, I stood on a discarded water bottle, turning my ankle. This was around mile 12 and I found myself walking. It hurt, but I wasn’t injured, but this is where my mind went ‘switch’ and the thoughts became negative. Fast (or more like slow!) forward to Mudschute, Canary Wharf and thereabouts and I found myself shuffling, jogging, walking and generally having a crappy time. I saw Edward and Hector at around sixteen miles and had a little cry. I gave pathetic little waves to my friends and was lifted briefly by Ellie, who ran alongside me at around mile eighteen, giving me a little pep-talk.

This race showed me just how much endurance running is in the head. My body could do this, but my mind had decided to have a morning off. As I emerged from the hell that is Canary Wharf, I felt a lift as I mentally turned towards the finish. Yes, there were still many miles to go, but I was actually heading in the right direction! More friends, more hugs more ‘believe in yourself!’ advice and more plodding. I spotted the Hilly Fields banner on Lower Thames Street, so pledged to run and hug the boys and give them a big smile! Some good hard shaking and encouragement from coach Adrian and fellow club runner John and I was nearing the final few miles.

Passing the GoodGym support spot outside Somerset House got me moving again, as did a super cheer from Lisa. Big Ben looked ridiculously far away, but meant I was getting near the end and could plod down Birdcage Walk to take on the final stretch along The Mall. I gave a very heartfelt thank you to the woman who put my medal around my neck and hobbled towards the baggage trucks. This hadn’t been anything like I had imagined it would be in the months leading up to this day and I felt heavy and sad as I walked to Horseguards to meet the boys.

‘You got a PB Mum!’ said Hector, happily, confused that I wasn’t dancing for joy. Yes, I had got a PB (4 hours 41, so a few minutes), but it wasn’t the ‘right’ PB, not the PB I had hoped for. Try explaining this to an almost ten-year-old and to your supporters, who think you are amazing for even running a marathon!

Exhuasted

In the week following the marathon, people congratulated me and said how well I had done and so on, but I wasn’t really feeling it, I wasn’t convinced. Edward suggested signing up to another marathon. I said October might be good, but he meant now, as soon as possible, to use the training I had done and to get over London (he knows me well!). I was in two minds about this, it seemed a bit risky trying to run a marathon during what should have been my recovery period and how on earth would I ‘train’ for it?! I signed up to a marathon that was fairly local (in Kent) and within a manageable timescale and worked out that I needed to rest mainly and do a few ‘longer’ runs to keep me ticking over.

Marathon Part Two

Last Saturday morning we jumped in a taxi (yes, it worked out to be the best way to get there!) very early and arrived promptly at the Cyclopark in Gravesend. This is a road cycling circuit, meaning my second marathon would consist of 21 laps, yes, laps. I really wasn’t sure how this would feel, would it drive me nuts, would I lose count, would I hate every second?! The race is small, with around 500 participants, many of whom seem to be part of the 100 Marathon Club circuit and many ultra and multiple marathon runners. I met up with my Hilly Fields friend Tinu, who was running her 67th marathon(!) and saw Ruth, who was running her 500th! Amazing! Registration was quick and easy (and super friendly) and I was delighted with my race number, featuring Pocahontas (who was buried locally 400 years ago) and my surname across the bottom. I was also pleased to find a box of wristbands, 20 of which I popped on my arm, to keep count of the laps.

Counters

A really special thing about this race is that you can set up your own aid station. So we opened up our camping table (which I shared with Tinu and another runner) and set out drinks bottles and gels, that we could collect as and when we needed them (we would pass this table on each lap). I quietly got on with my dynamic stretches and we headed to the start. You might expect this cycle circuit to be flat, but it’s not! We ran up towards the finish arch and started our first (shorter lap), soon coming through again, to discard our first wristband in a big bin. This is where the clouds were broken by a fork of lightning and the thunder rumbled, throwing down a huge but cooling shower. The forecast had been for scorching weather, so this was a welcome break from the heat.

My plan was to set out conservatively and to stick to a slower pace, enjoying the race and feeling in control. This is exactly what I did. for the whole marathon.

Controlled

I listened to conversations around me, looked at the ground ahead (I had borrowed Edward’s running cap, to keep the sun off my head, but it turned out to be like blinkers, keeping me focussed!), smiling at well-wishers and JUST GETTING ON WITH IT! After a few laps, I had worked out where to push, where to hold back and noticed many people had a routine of walking up THE HILL then running the rest…I ran up that hill every time πŸ™‚ I grabbed my drinks bottle from my ‘aid station’ and kept on keeping on. The marshal at the far end of the course was a continuous support point, he was just wonderful, cheering, commenting, calling me ‘Princess!’ and dancing around on the spot for the whole race.

So, I had only told Edward and Hector about this race and also my friends Siggy and Stephen. It had been weird keeping it from people and I felt a little awkward when people kept asking me ‘what next?’ I had to do it like this though, because I didn’t want any pressure at all. As time went on Siggy and Stephen appeared at the finish area, giving me encouraging cheers. My support crew sat at the camping table, having a picnic and passing me drinks and gels and moving around the course to give (gentle) encouragement. During training, I had often had ‘GI issues’, so was reassured by the presence of a line of loos each lap…which I did have to visit partway through (grrrr).

What I found good about the laps was that miles seemed to tick by quickly. I looked at my pace and counted down the laps, ignoring the miles largely, only looking every so often, so I knew when to take on fuel (after the rain, the sun came out and it was very hot). I felt relaxed as I passed the half-marathon mark and pleasantly surprised when I passed the twenty mile mark. I grabbed my phone and headphones and plugged in some motivational tunes for the last six miles, feeling a surge of energy. The wristband system worked well, as did having a commentator occasionally shouting out your name as you passed and telling you how many laps you had run. I was confused then, when I looked at my watch and thought I must have only one more lap to run, but was told I had two – cue dip in energy and spirits!

When I was sure I was on my last lap, I did a little ‘running man’ dance for my crew and danced around to the finish, a HUGE smile on my face. I hugged and high-fived as I showed off my ENORMOUS medal and gave a jump for joy when my Garmin told me I had run 26.2 miles in 4 hours 29 minutes and 15 seconds (the course measured long for me and my official time was 4.35, but I’m going to go with my watch πŸ˜‰ ). We sat at the picnic tables outside the cafe and Edward handed me my favourite post-race refreshment, a bottle of Erdinger Alcoholfrei. So this is how finishing a marathon should feel!

HUGE bling!

What did I learn?

I definitely know now that big, crowded, noisy marathons might not be my thing! The support I felt around London Marathon was outstanding, but I was emotionally drained and unable to focus on what I needed to do. I learned that I can do this, knocking around fifteen minutes off my original marathon PB and feeling in control and comfortable. I learned that it’s OK to relax in marathon week and you don’t necessarily need to put life on hold to have a good race (I worked, ran and ate normally, even doing a fast track session on the Tuesday!). I learned that I can run around and around and around for hours and actually enjoy it and that I have amazing friends and family, who are not bothered by how fast I run, but (I think) get that I need to sometimes do these things for myself. Will I sign up for marathon number six? Probably, but I have a few other things lined up that I want to enjoy in the meantime.

Posted by: fitartist | April 21, 2017

Swimathon 2017

When I took on Swimathon in 2015 and 2016, I made sure my time slot was nice and early. I do like to tackle my activities first thing, finding my energy levels are good and I can then float around in a fuzz of endorphins for the rest of the day. This year my Swimathon wasn’t until 3pm, so I was up on Hilly Fields, Run Directing junior parkrun and cheering on eager 4-14 year-olds around our 2k course. Once we had cajoled, hi-fived, timed and applauded our runners, I was free to head up to the Olympic Park with Edward and Hector, to enjoy a pre-swim lunch in the sunshine and to soak up the Swimathon atmosphere.

Like last year, I was swimming at the Aquatics Centre, my favourite pool and, when I arrived, it was tantalisingly empty!

Dreamy

I was signed in, handed a swimming cap (bright yellow) and wristband and asked to get changed and be ready at the poolside for the 3pm start. I had my usual numerous visits to the loo (totally unnecessary, but nerve-induced) and gathered at the edge with the rest of the swimmers. I was in lane 8, so made my way over to meet my lap-counter. Not all pools provide a lap-counter, so it’s best to check before you head over (in my first year, I was very lucky to have my friends Emma and Susan counting my 5k swim). I met the other swimmers in my lane, a mixture of 5k and relay groups, with my 2.5k seeming a little cheeky! As I mentioned previously, I had decided to ease back to the 2.5k this year due to the commitments of training for the London Marathon, which I think was a good decision, given that so much of time has been spent on the road, pounding the pavements!

As we chatted, Duncan Goodhew appeared and made his way round, shaking hands, being in selfies and giving people last-minute pep-talks. He wished me luck and we were soon gearing up to jump in. Yes, JUMP IN. Those of you who read my blog regularly will probably have gathered that I’m not a natural jumper-inner and certainly not a diver. My lap-counting assistant told me I was first in and, no, you’re not allowed to climb down the steps and duck under the lane divider. Oh dear. I surveyed the drop and considered the depth of the pool, stepped from one foot to the other and, at the last minute announced ‘I can’t jump in!’ He wasn’t impressed, but didn’t have much choice, as I skipped over to the steps, climbed in and ducked under. I know, I know, what a rebel! So, maybe there’s my next challenge, right there, get over my fear of the jump! Any advice/help/encouragement most welcome.

One good sign is that I wasn’t too flapped by my unconventional and slightly stressful start and quickly got into it, finding a nice rhythm, as my fellow swimmers caught up and overtook. The great thing about doing your Swimathon in a 50m pool is the space, you very quickly make your own path and everyone has enough room to stretch out and enjoy the water. I was definitely the slowest in my lane, with the others swimming at a very similar pace – this resulted in them bunching up and, every so often, catching up and overtaking me en masse! In previous years, I have been very methodical about my swim, breaking it up into manageable chunks, pausing every twenty lengths to take a sip of water. This time I just got on with it, reasoning that ‘it’s only 2.5k’. It certainly felt easier, swimming half the distance, but I still had to focus, readjust my form and think about my breathing.

At one point I lost count a bit, so it was great to know that my lap-counter (I’m sorry, I didn’t get his name) would be giving me a ‘two lap warning’. As I neared this point, I sensed a slick swimmer gliding through the water and up popped Duncan, giving me a few words of encouragement – there’s nothing like an Olympic swimmer easing up alongside you to make you kick your legs a little harder! One more length and I had finished! As my fellow swimmers continued, I felt a bit ‘lightweight’ climbing out at what was their halfway point! I think I will go back to the 5k distance next year, a real challenge for me. I picked up my lovely medal, gave others a cheer and got dressed, before meeting the boys, who were swimming in the training pool. I will definitely be back next year, with Swimathon now a big part of my training calendar, motivating me to get in the pool through the winter and try and beat my time. Don’t forget to read about the experiences of the other #blogsquad members too and maybe sign up next year…:)

Medal!

Posted by: fitartist | March 28, 2017

Swimathon 2017, training with Duncan Goodhew

Yes, how exciting?! The other week, I was delighted to be able to pick the brain of gold medal-winning Olympian, Duncan Goodhew. I was invited along to the St Pancras Square pool, just up from King’s Cross station, along with Tamsyn, another member of the Swimathon 2017 #blogsquad. It was great to meet a fellow swimmer and to hear about how she is fitting in training alongside bringing up her gorgeous little girl – I feel lucky to be able to choose a time to swim, now my ‘little one’ is that much bigger!

First of all, Duncan asked us a bit about how our training was going and what it is we would like to focus on in the session. For me, it’s all about getting faster, I just seem to be stuck in a swimming rut, carving up and down the pool at the same pace each session.

Pre-swim chat

We were quite soon in the water and swimming up and down to warm up, with Duncan’s critical (but ever-so-supportive) eye on our swim stroke and any little quirks that might need ironing out. My stroke is OK, it seems, but I do have a habit of lifting my head up a little, thus lowering my legs (a result of swimming in usually busy lanes, maybe?), so I worked on this for a while, in the luxury of a quiet lane, following the line along the bottom of the pool.

Smiley coach

Now the revelation…to get faster, I need to train faster! Hmmmm, you would think, with my experience as a running coach, I would could have worked this out for myself, but no, it hadn’t even occurred to me! Of course I need to do sprint drills and push myself harder, but I go along to the pool each session, plod up and down and wonder why I’m so slow. Duncan had me swim some lengths with a kick-board, firing up my legs and engaging them fully so that I could drive through the water. I soon realised what an easy time I have been giving my legs, as the lactic acid built up and I felt the burn!

Kick!

This added power also saw my legs lift a little and my head dip, all good stuff if you are trying to be more streamlined! I worked on alternating the kick-board work with some flat-out sprints…which had my heart pumping and my breathing increase, something you never see me do down at my local pool! Taking a quick look at the clock during these sprints, I could see a marked improvement on time; so this is how it’s done! All it should take is incorporating this work into each session, making sure I do some sprints, really pushing myself and, over time, my speed should increase.

Time for a warm-down and some photos.

Relaxed swimming!

We only have a couple of weeks to go now so, if you haven’t already signed up, you can do so here, with distances ranging from 1.5k to 5k, with relay/team options available too.

Posted by: fitartist | March 17, 2017

London Marathon, five weeks to go!

I woke up this morning and instantly started talking about triathlon. I don’t know if it was the sun streaming in through the window, the birds nesting on our neighbour’s jasmine, tweeting with great enthusiasm, or the fact that I was slightly envious of Edward heading off for a pre-work swim, but triathlon was at the front of my mind.

People keep asking how my training is going. I know they mean my London Marathon training, so answer with this in mind, ‘So far, so good’. It is going well, weekday runs are a combination of leading GoodGym Lewisham, track/hills or evil mile repeats with Kent AC, my GoodGym coach run, something longer and pacier and, of course, the LOOOOONG run. In the past few weeks I have built up gradually to last Friday’s 20-miler. It was gorgeous, sunshine (and a bit of unexpected drizzle at one point), river, canal, zoo, park and a slightly mis-judged, but tired run down Regent’s Street. I say it was gorgeous, the scenery was gorgeous, but it was definitely one of those runs where you doubt you will ever be able to run a marathon at pace and find yourself frequently giving yourself a good old talking to. Edward and I looked at my stats on Strava in the evening, ‘What happened here, in the middle? You went much faster for 3k?’ ‘Oh yes, that’ll be where I put some music on’. Consistency? I’ll get there. I hope.

So where does triathlon fit in with this? It doesn’t! Since I won my place in the London Marathon – on Twitter – before Christmas, my mind has been taken over by it. My usual week of running, cycling and swimming (with a bit of strength work thrown in) has been cut to running, running and more running (with a tiny bit of swimming and strength). Last week, I thought ‘I’m finding marathon training irritating!’ I look at my schedule and decide ‘I mustn’t swim that day because it will make that run there much harder. I mustn’t go on the turbo trainer, my legs won’t carry me through the half-marathon I have to do then’. I’m being a bit precious about it and I don’t like it.

The last time I ran a marathon, back in 2011 in Brighton, Hector was much smaller, I wasn’t part of a running club and we hadn’t set up Hilly Fields parkrun. I printed a schedule and did my best, having an enjoyable race. This time I have so much support around me, friends who have run multiple marathons, coaches who know what works and what doesn’t and everyone telling me I should aim for a certain time. The pressure is on! It’s important to focus, but it’s important to have some fun too. Time to plan something beyond the Big Day.

This morning I received an email from OSB Events, the people who organise the wonderful Holkham Triathlon I took part in last summer. This morning, Edward was saying that of course I should be doing an ironman, with all this marathon training in place but, when I reminded myself how far the swim is, I quickly dashed that idea! Maybe though, a half-ironman wouldn’t be such a bad idea after a marathon? I found it incredibly hard last July, it is a very tough thing to embark on, but maybe it’s what I need to focus my mind beyond London.

All suggestions most welcome!

Posted by: fitartist | February 23, 2017

Swimathon 2017 #blogsquad

Cast your mind back to March last year, when I swam 5k at the London Aquatics Centre. Well, I am delighted to announce that I am once again #blogsquad ambassador for Swimathon. I’m so happy to have this goal to work towards, following a bout of (proper) flu, then a chest infection in December and January, my swimming has fallen slightly by the wayside – stripping down to a swimsuit and getting into a slightly cold pool isn’t that inviting when you’re feeling under the weather!

FOCUS!

So now it’s time to focus and build up my swim strength again. After taking on the 5k challenge for the past couple of years, I have decided this time to go for the 2.5k challenge. You might wonder why I would choose a shorter distance, knowing that I can swim the 5, but I really want to get faster! I have found that, when I increase my distance, I get slower. With a summer of triathlons and swimming events lined up, I would love to build my speed and my confidence. On Monday morning I did a post-school-run swim, which felt blissful, it’s such a positive start to the week! I did feel slow though, but this swim was about finding a rhythm and enjoying the water, the pace can pick up later.

Are you signed up to swim the challenge? Why not share you stories in the comments section and tell me about your goals?

Posted by: fitartist | February 23, 2017

Hot Yoga at Marshall Street Leisure Centre

It’s February, one of the hardest months in the Spring marathon training calendar, the time when the distances get longer and your muscles get tighter. Ouch. The perfect time then, to try a Hot Yoga class! It’s been a while and I knew I would be feeling a little inflexible, but this class was just the ticket.

I hadn’t been to the Marshall Street Leisure Centre before, what a hidden gem! Just off Carnaby Street in the centre of London, you can take any number of classes, use the fantastically equiped gym and swim in the most gorgeous 1930s swimming pool, complete with the original marble floor!

1930s swimming

1930s swimming

There was no swimming for me this time (look out for another post soon), but an induction at the gym and some lovely, deep, Hot Yoga. My gym induction was fun, a chance to look at machines and equipment I hadn’t seen before and to reacquaint myself with areas of the gym I haven’t used for a while. There are two gym spaces, one 100 station gym and another, with treadmills, circuit training and stationary bikes (the spin and HiiT classes take place here). Once I had worked out my goals with the trainer and been shown how to access all the resources on the website, it was time to head upstairs to the Hot Yoga studio.

Relaxing

Relaxing

I met the teacher going in and she told me all about this amazing space. It’s brand new, with special flooring and heating, which allows your body to stretch further and for you to take your yoga to another level. The heat hit me as I went in and I became anxious about being too sweaty. I needn’t have worried though, because the class moves gently and you ease into the yoga poses at a pace that lets your body adjust to this environment (you should take a towel and water though, because you will need them). It’s been quite a long time since I did a yoga class, so I felt a little self-conscious as the other bendier class members twisted themselves easily between the poses. Once again, I shouldn’t have been so silly, as the teacher turned down the lights, allowing us to focus on our own bodies and to enjoy the class at our own level.

Child pose

Child pose

I was really intrigued to see how different Hot Yoga is from other classes and it really was evident, in how comfortable I felt getting into positions that I wouldn’t have thought possible (I did have to step aside at one point though, to deal with cramp, an ongoing problem I have to work through!). I felt quite safe pushing myself deeper into the stretches, knowing that my muscles were fully warmed up; I could imagine this being incredibly effective over time. I travelled especially to the class but, if you work or live nearby, this would be a real gem of a place to find yourself on your lunch break!

Have a look at the Everyone Active website here, to find out about membership and the many classes available to explore.

Posted by: fitartist | January 19, 2017

A round-up and look forward

I know, I know, it’s the middle of January and I’m only now rounding up my year, tsk! It’s been a busy time, but in a good way, with numerous volunteering opportunities, coaching and leading runs. I guess another delay to writing this post is the sheer scale of what I have to round up from 2016! It was a fantastic year, with big changes and big challenges.

Family volunteers

Family volunteers

I started my year by qualifying as a UK Athletics Coach in Running Fitness and starting my role as trainer for GoodGym Lewisham, running to do good in our community, making a difference and growing our friendships and fitness at the same time. With my birthday present at the end of 2015 being a place in the Outlaw Holkham Half-Ironman, my goal for the year was pretty clear, leading to many sessions on the turbo, hours of laps at the pool and a continuation of the consistent running that happens anyway. My ongoing goal to improve my swim speed and to overcome my open-water and race panic saw me proudly swimming my 5k Swimathon at the Aquatics Centre, my favourite pool.

Medal moment

Medal moment

In September I dived straight in (or rather schlumphed heavily into the Serpentine with hundreds of other people) and went for it with the first ever Swim Serpentine. I can’t say I’ve particularly progressed much with the open water swimming, having pootled, heads-up all the way round, chatting to each and every marshal en route! There’s a lot of work to be done, so I’ll be back this year and swimming it with my head down and with determination (my favourite bits were the hot tub and sauna at the end. Ahem).

Mega medal

Mega medal

As always, my favourite sporting moments have been those shared with others and, in June, we took Hilly Fields parkrun on tour to Paris, enjoying the beautiful course, cheering on friends to super finish times and, best of all, encouraging and cajoling Hector around his first ever full 5k! What a wonderful weekend, running, eating, socialising and sightseeing!

On tour

On tour

Other highlights have been supporting and facilitating others to push themselves and reach their goals. Our wonderful parkrun and junior parkrun are growing all the time and, with the introduction of a tail-walker, we welcome runners, joggers and walkers every week, with nobody finishing last. Once again, we put together a massive team, to take charge of the baggage trucks in Greenwich Park, taking care of the belongings of the many nervous runners, about to embark on the Virgin London Marathon. One of my favourite days of the year (more on that later…).

Top team

Top team

In July I gritted my teeth and tackled my first half-ironman in the beautiful surrounds of Holkham Hall. We had an incredible family and friends weekend, enjoying camping in the grounds, playing on the beach, fuelling up with fish and chips (yup, I’m such a pro) and slipping in a couple of little sporting events for good measure.

Knackered

Knackered

The summer was an active one, with coastal runs and sea swims in beautiful Cornwall and a real family treat, a trip to Club La Santa in Lanzarote. What a dream! Massive swimming pools (often all to myself), classes on tap and group runs and rides to keep us happy…I think we’ll be going back (Hector hasn’t stopped talking about it!).

Representing

Representing

In September I returned to the excellent London Duathlon, where I had my best experience in my three years of this race (though not a PB, so close, next time!). My race report was featured in 220 Triathlon magazine, which caused my Mum to squeal in W.H.Smith πŸ˜‰

Spread

Spread

My last post was all about getting out, whatever the weather and volunteering certainly encourages that! As a family, we always try to embrace whatever the weather throws our way and our Christmas holiday involved getting out, being active and making the most of what’s on our doorstep, with a brilliant day in the Olympic Park.

Family fun

Family fun

To round off what was a great year, I realised that, if ran as much as I could at Hilly Fields parkrun in the run up to Christmas, I could reach my 100th run on New Year’s Day. With some incredible support and juggling from my fellow run directors and a few slow-paced, flu-ridden strolls, I made it – Peckham Rye parkrun AND Hilly Fields on New Year’s Day, making it to 100!

The double

The double

An epic start to 2017! In the run up to Christmas, I was in bed, totally knocked out by ‘proper’ flu, none of this ‘man’ flu, proper, can’t move a muscle flu. As I lay there, I scanned twitter to see that the London Marathon were running a competition to win a place in the 2017 race. Typing in the answer to the question, along with probably hundreds of others, I thought ‘That would be nice, but I doubt it will happen’. Weeeeeellll, I won! There’s nothing like a marathon on the horizon to focus your training! It will be my fourth marathon, but it’s been a while. When I ran previously, I wasn’t part of a running club, or part of an amazing running community, so this time will be very different. Not sure I’ll be able to work on the baggage trucks this year, but hey!

Posted by: fitartist | November 23, 2016

Get outside and fight the winter blues!

I’m finding it very, very tempting right now to ignore my planned sessions, being pulled back inside by the call of the sofa, a cosy blanket and a mug of steaming tea. I know though, that if I don’t get outside, get some fresh air and have a change of scenery, I could start to succumb to the winter blues. Some days it doesn’t feel like the sun will ever emerge…

Where's the park gone?!

Where’s the park gone?!

My strategy for coping with the colder, darker months is to get outside each day, rain or shine. I like to try and do this early on, so I don’t have a chance to talk myself out of it! A good way for me to fit it all in, is to do a ‘School Run Run’, which usually involves heading up and down some hills…

Hilly (Fields) Hills

Hilly (Fields) Hills

Two of my weekly runs happen in the evening, not my favourite time to run (I find it difficult to fuel evening activity) but, as I lead the GoodGym Lewisham group run on a Monday evening, I have to be there, perfect, no excuses! I can also guarantee that, after running with a friendly group, chatting as we go, then making sure everyone is engaged with the task, I come home feeling a warm glow and with a big smile on my face. My other evening run is on a Tuesday with my running club. Again, I have to be there to coach the girls’ group first of all, but I have been known to slope off before my own session starts (gasp!), but the pressure to stay is strong and this doesn’t happen very often. It seems sticking to a run is much easier if you ‘make an appointment’, put it in your diary and, even better, do it with friends – you won’t want to let them down.

Another weekly ‘appointment’ is at parkrun, either running or volunteering. I’m coming up to my 100th run and, if I stick to it over the next few weeks, it will coincide with our New Year’s Day run at Hilly Fields πŸ™‚ I hate missing my parkrun and it’s about way more than running 5k, if I miss the bit in the cafe afterwards, I feel very out of sorts! Sundays often involve some volunteering at junior parkrun, so encouraging little ones to take part and getting out in the park to blow the cobwebs away.

It doesn’t have to be an outside activity either, a brisk walk (or ride) to the swimming pool for a quick swim does the trick too – I started the week with a Monday morning swim and felt much better for it (it helped that there was only one other person in the lane though!). And, if you can’t get out to run/ride/swim, a walk will definitely do the trick. At half-term, we jumped on a train and had a day out at the beach and had it pretty much to ourselves. As you can see, the ever adventurous Hector is immune to the cold and took his body board, trunks and enthusiasm to make the most of what turned out to be a beautiful day.

Enjoying an October paddle

Enjoying an October paddle

What do you do to arm yourself against the pull of the sofa?

Posted by: fitartist | October 3, 2016

Shine Night Walk 2016, I did it!

Last weekend was pretty epic. On Saturday morning I was up bright and early (and it was bright, an absolutely beautiful day) to Swim Serpentine (I’ll post about this later in the week, it needs a space all of its own!) then, once I’d refuelled, recovered and fuelled up again, I was off out to take part in the Shine Night Walk. As I wrote about previously, I had initially signed up to walk the full marathon, but realised I would be unlikely to make a volunteering commitment the next morning, so went for the half-marathon option instead. I popped on my official Shine t-shirt, along with some quite, erm, eye-catching tights a friend gave me and headed off to Southwark Park.

Clown pants

Clown pants

The train was crammed full with people heading off out for the evening but, when I hit Surrey Quays, I discovered where the party really was! I was greeted by brightly-coloured marshals, pointing everyone in the right direction and found a park full of groups of friends and family, helping each other pin on numbers, adding fairy lights to rucksacks, fitting hairbands with LEDs and adding a splash of colour to faces with neon paint. There was a lovely buzz of excitement and anticipation as people got ready to walk.

Welcome!

Welcome!

I collected my rather cool flashing, lit-up wristband, prompted by seeing everyone else waving their arms in the air and headed over to meet #TeamSole in the backstage area. It very quickly went dark and the air became cooler (though conditions at this point were perfect) and crowds gathered to warm up and watch some short films, reminding us why we were doing this. The park looked so pretty, with lights twinkling and sparkling and a Mexican wave swept the first group out towards the start area and off out onto the streets of London.

Wave!

Wave!

A quick catch-up with my team, some final adjustments to my outfit, a last-minute sugar-boost with an orange Club biscuit and it was time to join in ourselves.

Is it Christmas?

Is it Christmas?

Now, I have run very many races (some with a bit of swimming and cycling added in for good measure), of varying distances, but I can’t recall having a done a walking ‘race’ since school, so I was unsure of what to expect and how to pace it. A very practical and motivating goal was to be able to catch the last train home (I know), so I estimated I would need to pace myself to finish in three hours. I take just under two hours to run a half-marathon, so this would take quite some brisk walking! There was a bubble of excitement as we headed out of the park, lots of chatter and a lot of strolling. The race is walked on open roads (apart from a short stretch outside the park), so you have to use your common sense and negotiate other pedestrians and obstacles. This is easier in some places than others of course and, it being Saturday night in London, became more challenging in the centre of town, where there was a fair bit of encouraging banter going on!

All that marching kept me lovely and warm and I found I really did need a bottle of water when I came to a fuel station (and the chocolate-covered biscuits were welcome too!). One of the things I enjoyed most about walking through London at night was seeing everything lit up (not just us walkers), with the London Eye being a rather warming shade of red.

Red eye!

Red eye!

With a few bridges traversed, we got to enjoy sweeping views of the Thames to boost our energy when we might be flagging.

River view

River view

My photos turned out to be quite blurry, due to the blistering pace I was going at, though I wasn’t at all bothered by blisters, wearing my Sole double layer socks (they’re lovely and toasty too, perfect for long walks). I found myself walking largely by myself, tagging on the tails of speedy walkers, who paved the way through the crowds, but never felt alone, dipping in and out of overheard conversations. The miles ticked down steadily, marked clearly by big signs and it wasn’t long before we made our way through the slightly maze-like Victoria (what is going on there?!) and took a turn towards the finish. Of course, there were still a few more miles to cover, but psychologically, this was a lovely turning point.

Landmarks caught my eye, Big Ben struck eleven (I had passed by earlier, when he was striking ten!) and I kept on keeping on. A walk across Westminster Bridge, the Saturday evening strollers along the Southbank to negotiate and the end really was in sight! By now, I had a feeling I wouldn’t make that last train, but this didn’t slow me down at all! I skipped along, eager to cross London Bridge and, when I did, I smiled as I saw a row of balloons bobbing at the edge of the river. Another friendly marshal (they were all so super and encouraging around the course) told me ‘Not long now! You’re so close!’ and I swept along, boosted by this touch of friendliness.

Nearly there!

Nearly there!

Turning a corner, I saw Monument ahead of me and leapt down a short hill to this sign:

13!

13!

Outside the Old Billingsgate Fish Market were crowds of supporters, a red carpet, a tunnel of twinkling lights and lots of music. I thought I had finished, so stopped to take some photos, then realised the finish line was actually inside! I passed through, hands in the air, looking around the vast space to see many walkers, now warming themselves back up with hot drinks, taking group photos and hugging family and friends. Such a friendly and supportive atmosphere! I was presented with my medal and soon heard a voice I recognised…

Bling!

Bling!

I turned around and saw a friend who lives nearby, a big hug and she introduced me to her team (they all work in an intensive care unit), telling me they have done this for years now, having also tackled the full marathon, check out all these medals!

Medal-tastic!

Medal-tastic!

It really does seem like people come back to this event year after year, loving the organisation, the support, the route, the atmosphere and the opportunity to raise money for a good cause, remember those who have been lost and, best of all, celebrate those who have overcome cancer and are maybe even taking part themselves. Entries are already open for next year, why not get a team together and start training now?!

Posted by: fitartist | September 28, 2016

Everyone Active – The Castle Centre

I’ve been enjoying making use of the recently reopened Castle Centre in Elephant and Castle, run by Everyone Active. It’s not my closest leisure centre, but is the nearest Everyone Active venue. My bike ride there takes me alongside leafy Peckham Rye and I ride through Burgess Park to the recently redesigned Elephant and Castle roundabout. This whole area seems to be undergoing a huge level of redevelopment, with flats popping up all over the place and an enticing-looking ‘Elephant Park’ being constructed. These changes are gradually bringing in chains such as Pret a Manger – just by The Castle – and the area feels very different!

Castle entrance

Castle entrance

The Castle is easy to spot as you cross the busy road, with its bright neon sign and contemporary style. The foyer is big and welcoming, with desks straight ahead, to join, book classes or pay your entry fee. A quick wander through the automatic gates and you enter an open area, with seating and a small soft-play area for younger children. From here, you can see the swimming pool and, upstairs, the gym and studios. Navigating the centre is easy, with big, clear signage and I found the changing areas clean and well-stocked with lockers (which take a returnable Β£1 coin).

Changing area

Changing area

So far, I have used the swimming pool, which I have always been lucky enough to find quiet, so didn’t have any problems negotiating a space for myself. I was very pleased to see a pool-side sauna and steam room, which are quite small, but new and clean and they get nice and hot, perfect after a swim or training session (I *love* a sauna!). There are plenty of showers, with two next to the pool, with adjustable settings, so you can get it really cold post-sauna, one of these showers has a seat and is accessible. There are also showers outside the changing rooms and private cubicles in the ladies changing area (I assume this is the same in the men’s) – the good thing about these is the shower adjustment, you can get it to the right temperature and switch it off when you’re ready, none of that having to press the button every few seconds!

As well as the pool, I have also used the gym. This is really well equipped, with two areas, both with the same cardio machines, so no need to queue. There are treadmills, stationary bikes, Nordic ski machines, rowers and step machines. There is also a great range of resistance training machines, with fixed weights and a really good free-weights area. In the free-weights area there are also kettle bells and weighted bags, a TRX and various other things I’ve never seen before! I decided I should book an induction, to make sure I made good use of everything and didn’t miss out! This was a group induction, so we were shown around the whole gym, looking at all of the equipment to see how it works (it’s all very simple and there is always a fitness instructor on hand to help if you need it). After the induction, I got stuck in, warming up on the rower and heading over to the free-weights. I didn’t find it intimidating and saw that there were actually more women than men in this space.

I am yet to try any classes, because they don’t really fit in with my schedule; it would be good to have more classes in the daytime, I’m sure they would be popular.

Studio

Studio

If you want to try The Castle, the opening hours are Monday–Friday: 06:30 – 22:00, Saturday: 07:00–18:00 and Sunday: 07:00–22:00. Check the prices here and the timetables here.

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