Breakfast with Champions

Well, I am one very lucky lady! I simply clicked ‘Like’ on the Holiday Inn Facebook page and won the chance to run with Paula Radcliffe and Shelly Woods. The strangest thing about all of this for me, other than running alongside my heroine, was peeling myself quietly away from the boys as they slept and venturing out into the commuter world in the early hours. I watched as a steady stream of regulars took up their everyday spot on the platform and headed to the doors as the train sneaked up silently in the dark. I was amazed to see that the train was full, at 6am! Emerging from Charing Cross I noticed sleepers huddled in doorways, something I don’t usually see in my sheltered south London world, and I wondered if these commuters still notice them as they pass the same shop doorways every day.

As I arrived at the Holiday Inn Bloomsbury I was greeted by other eager-looking runners who were milling about expectantly, awaiting the arrival of our Olympic stars. I was slightly disappointed that Shanaze wasn’t riding her BMX around the foyer…then Paula strolled in. She’s tiny, really, you could blow her over, and so elegant, oh how I wish I could roll up at the end of a marathon looking as fresh as she does!

We were walked over to Russell Square where we tried our best to keep warm while Paula was interviewed by ITV Daybreak (I have had a scan through on the Player, but can’t see anything, maybe it’s going to be on tomorrow’s show) while we did some ‘stretching’ and jumping up and down in the background.

Paula being prepared for interview. And yes, that's her body guard!

The event was all very well organised, with security people and even St John’s Ambulance on bikes!

Thankfully, his services were not needed!

Before we set off we did some – much-needed – warming-up with Paula and Shelly.

Warming up

We then set off around Russell Square for a mile run. Here I was, next to the woman who has been my heroine for such a very long time, and actually keeping up!

Race ya Paula!

Suddenly I found myself next to Paula and simply didn’t know what to say, but she really is as lovely as she seems and we chatted easily for a while. I was interested in what happens next and she told me she is off to the Pyrenees to train with the other athletes. I asked her when she gets to see her family in this busy schedule and she said they will be with her. I told her about how I used to run with Hector in the running buggy and we chatted about how odd it is to run with a buggy. Just like talking to any other running mum really! On our last lap of the square we took a turn down a tree-lined path and broke the tape of the finish line, arms in the air, cheers all round.

Back at the hotel we were warmed up with hot drinks and a lovely breakfast (not porridge!) and Paula and Shelly very kindly signed things for us and posed for photos (in which I look a right gormless duh) then held a quick Q&A session. I talked to other runners, all with different goals and experiences, some running London this weekend, some with 100 marathons in their sight.

Paula and me

Shelly and me!

Shelly is competing in this Sunday’s London Marathon (which she has previously won) and seemed calm and relaxed in the run up to the Olympic Games. When asked who inspired her, she said ‘This lady here’ and pointed at Paula Radcliffe.

Right now I am buzzing from this experience. I got to run alongside a world record holder, and two London Marathon winners both heading towards London 2012. What a start to a drizzly Thursday morning!

Best wishes

Distance run: 1.01 miles

Time: 9 minutes 39 seconds

Average Pace: 9.34

Best Pace: 7.22

Calories: 69

(and Shelly and Paula didn’t even break a sweat!)



Simply Sweat(y)

That was me, walking around the supermarket after this morning’s short run – I simply didn’t have time to separate the two entities so got all Travelling Hopefully, and mixed it up.

Today’s run was far more enjoyable than Monday’s and I felt less heavy-legged and tired, I think it helped that I was wearing my lovely new kit from Simply Sweat. I had been to the post office on my bike to collect the parcel I missed over the weekend, and was really pleased with my new Nike capri pants, Shock Absorber bra and 1000 Mile socks, so put them all on at once 🙂 I have been quite loyal with my online active wear shopping in the past, usually visiting Sweatshop, or buying things in the sale if I happen to see them in shops as and when I need them. If I do an online search, I often end up at Wiggle, but I find it all so confusing that I don’t think I’ve ever actually bought anything from them – the layout is so poor that it takes quite a bit of effort to find what you really want and you end up scrolling for ages before giving up hope!

Not so with Simply Sweat. I found the website to be clear and simple to navigate, with nice big photos so you can really get a good look at the product before you buy. My first port of call was the pants section because I have noticed a hole appearing in my favourite Nike capris for a while, so desperately needed to find a suitable replacement. I settled on these after browsing the images, and found the different views and text information helpful in making my decision. As I have been pretty busy recently, I decided to really test the site by seeing if I could find and order my clothes in about ten minutes, a bit difficult when you get distracted by lycra goods, but so much easier when everything is laid out so cleanly. I next went on to look at sports bras, and decided on a Shock Absorber bra because I find them comfortable and supportive without creating that awful ‘shelf’ look. One thing that did hold up my quest to beat the clock was the need to research online about how to measure yourself for a bra. Now I know it would be simple to just look at the label on my old bras, but they really are so ancient that the labels are worn smooth and bear no information whatsoever! I managed to locate my tape measure in my knitting bag, measured myself, then got on with the task in hand. So maybe a little section on measuring and sizing for bras would be helpful here.

I now decided to get some more socks as mine are all a bit worn around the heel, and decided on these in black. I wore them on today’s run and found them to be really light and breathable, and not at all bulky, which I like. The whole process of payment was very straightforward, with your basket clearly visible in the top right hand corner for you to keep track of your spending, and quick confirmation of your purchase and also information about delivery, which was prompt (other than the fact that I was away when it arrived!).

The things I like most are:

– the layout: bright, clear and easy to navigate

– the images

– the text giving information about products

– the prompt delivery

Things I think would improve the site:

– a section on sizing and measuring of sports bras

I was lucky enough to be an under-cover shopper this time, but I do think I will visit the site again when I need some more gear.


Nike Grid Crazy!

The whole of London (well, London’s running community at least) has gone Nike Grid crazy. London has been divided up into postcode areas and within these postcodes are four selected phone boxes. You run to your first phone box, dial the number, give your (pre-registered) details and start your run to the next box and so on. It doesn’t stop there of course, people can compete for various badges for frequency, speed and so on. I am beginning to think there should be a ‘nutter’ badge and an ‘obsessed’ badge.

I am running for Team Audiofuel, who are proving to be quite the running obsessives. I feel like the slower hanger-onner bringing up the rear, but being part of such a dedicated team is a real motivator, you wouldn’t catch me legging it up Green Lanes at nine o’clock on a Friday night after putting Hector to bed normally! My nearest postcode area is N4 and this means me running for about ten minutes before I even reach the first box. Now, I haven’t been in a phone box for years and, in this hi-tech age it seems a bit odd to be doing such a thing for a challenge organised by Nike, but go in a phone box I did. The first phone box was giving me jip and wouldn’t dial up, so I thought my race was over before I had begun, but things soon got going and off I went, dodging the crowds pouring out of restaurants and shops and leaping across roads to beat the green man.

It’s definitely a good interval session, and people make it into endurance, speed and hill sessions by mixing up the postcodes and trying to run every route possible in their area, something I plan to try at the weekend. I would love to have more time to try out the different areas, the Archway route looks like a doddle for instance, with three of the phone boxes being almost next to each other. Tomorrow, if the weather looks good, I might attempt a running buggy Nike Grid run, Hector has expressed and interest, as long as it includes a playground stop.


Time: 40 minutes 36 seconds

Distance: 4.15 miles

Average Pace: 9.48

Best Pace: 7.09

Calories: 432


Time: 42 minutes 44 seconds

Distance: 4.48 miles

Average Pace: 9.32

Calories: 413


Ouch! On Friday evening I went to my first Boxing Circuits class in about, ooh, five years. It was as if I had never been away 🙂 I was a bit apprehensive, knowing that I am fit but not that sort of fit and I didn’t imagine that I had an ounce of upper body strength left in me, but it seems all this picking up and putting down of a two-stone+ little boy is doing me some good! First of all I had to run the gauntlet of slimy gits on the way to the leisure centre. Do Nike do a T-shirt that says: ‘Hey! Just do it! Say something rude to me or just lick your lips as I walk past!’? No, I thought not, but I am pretty sure that’s what people were imagining was printed on my top. One bloke called out: ‘You can wrestle me any time love!’ this left me bemused, what do they imagine will happen when they shout out these things? That I will stop and ask them out on a date?

I got there a little bit early so had to do the chatting with other people thing, which was quite nice actually, and it seems most people were there for the first time, so I wasn’t alone in my newness. We were in a big sports hall, so I had visions of being made to run up and down and round and round…which was exactly what we did once the teacher had arrived. Before I left the house Edward said: ‘Take it easy, you’ve not done it for a long time’ but of course, once I was let loose in the gym I went for it big time. Up and down, round and round, press-ups here, burpees there (they are a killer). I was loving it! It was a good mix of people and levels of fitness, but I didn’t really notice what anyone else was doing, I was so focused on getting it done. I certainly haven’t lost my punch and really let out my pent up aggression when it came to partnering up and using gloves and pads. Poor bloke wasn’t expecting that. The – wonderful – class I used to go to had a lot of encouragement involved and you would hear shouts of ‘Come on! You can do it! Keep going!’ and so on, but everyone was quiet here so I felt a bit self-conscious when I enthusiastically yelled out: ‘Goawwwn!’ That chap will be avoiding me next time, I’m sure.

It was a very well-structured class, with a good balance of activities but I was conscious all the time that I needed to get back to put Hector to bed, so thought I would run home. A-ha-ha-ha! I ran as far as the car park then slowed to a gentle saunter when I realised my legs were not my own. Poor Hector was a bit upset by the time I got home, wondering where on earth I had disappeared to (he was with Edward, by the way, not home alone with a tin of beans).

Oh yes, and I had been for a run in the morning too, just for good measure.

Time: 34 minutes 25 seconds

Distance: 3.09 miles

Average Pace: 11.08

Best Pace: 8.24

Calories: 310

I didn’t really ache yesterday so was feeling quite pleased with myself but, of course, DOMS really only kicks in after two days, so my long run was cut short due to agony this morning. I don’t think I will go to Fridays’ class because I can’t see myself completing next Sunday’s half-marathon with legs as heavy as this. Now, after our run on Friday, along the canal, I noticed this article and began to feel a bit uncertain and unhappy about running along that stretch, but I have since put it in perspective. They are targeting men on bikes, trying to get the bikes off them, and mostly operating in the evening. The police are having more presence in the area (though I haven’t noticed any around, they must be very plain-clothed) so it should be safer in a way. It just feels sad and disappointing that an area that we love so much and have always felt safe in is being populated by scum like this. Let’s hope they catch them soon.

I threw caution to the wind and ran down the canal this morning, turning towards the rowing club where there are usually lots of people on a Sunday morning. I felt half-dead as soon as I set off, so it was a real struggle to get round. I had hoped to run nine miles, but it wasn’t to be, I don’t want to push it and injure myself before next week, so I cut it short at six and a bit. I did go down to where the cows should be, but they are still not there. Here I got stopped by some chavvy kids who asked me if there was a party down there (!). I had heard some loud music towards the Walthamstow end, so pointed them in that direction where they slowly headed, having a very loud row along the way. Odd at about 9am on a Sunday morning.

Time: 1 hour 6 minutes 23 seconds

Distance: 6.51 miles

Average Pace: 10.12

Best Pace: 7.56

Calories: 687

I am currently trying to work out which timing device is going to be best for my Finland project, where I will need to be able to keep track of distance and time when I go inside as well as outside. I’m on a tight budget as well. I noticed the Nike+ Sportsband and wondered if anyone has experience of using it and could let me know if it seems like the right thing for what I’m doing. Or has anyone else used something like a Garmin with footpod that is reliable and fits the bill? Thanks!

I take it back, running isn’t fun

I mentioned to my friend Nadine that I run for fun and she said she would rather put her legs behind her head any day, well she is a yoga teacher after all. During today’s run there were many points where I would much rather have got down and put my legs behind my head (I fear I would still be there in the middle of Upper Street though, with some concerned shopper trying to untangle me).

This was my last long run before the taper, hmmmm, having said that I do have a 17 miler scheduled for next Sunday, so I’ll hardly be taking it easy. I thought I needed to run in a different direction to make this one doable, so decided on a run through Finsbury Park, along Blackstock Road to Highbury Fields, along Upper Street, down St John’s Street, through Smithfield, across Fleet Street and down to the Thames at Blackfriars, I would then run along the Thames for a few miles then turn round at ten miles and run back home. Simple as that. I found this really, really hard. Not just towards the end, when you expect to feel like shit, but pretty much the whole way through. I did feel a lift when I reached the Thames – this was a route I used to run when we lived in Islington and I worked at Jerwood Space: I would sometimes do a running commute and hit the water at this spot – it felt so nice to run alongside the water on such a gorgeous day and I realised I would actually be running along here on Marathon Day. 

There were lots of runners along the Victoria Embankment and what a grumpy lot they were too! I would like to say ‘urgh’ to the man wearing a Camelpack who I was just gearing up to say ‘morning!’ to, who promptly turned towards me and did one of those disgusting blowing-your-nose-without-a-tissue things, gross. Most of the people I saw were running with drinks belts and the like, so were probably doing a very long run too, but it doesn’t hurt to nod or smile at fellow runners does it? When I reached the Houses of Parliament, I decided to go across the bridge and run on the south side for a bit. This was quite lovely and was going really well, with a turn in the river offering the magnificent view of the Battersea Power Station: ‘Ah, look, there’s the Battersea Power Station!’ I thought to myself. I got a bit irritated when the path came to a complete stop due to some riverside development causing it to be blocked off, I didn’t fancy finding  my way round for the sake of half a mile, so ran back to Vauxhall Bridge and crossed back to the north side to run towards home. Here I did meet some smiley runners, a fairly big group of them all running together. I saw some more further along, then a chap with a little drinks station at the side of the road near Tate Britain. I figured maybe Nike Town are doing some marathon training runs, because there were a few Nike tops amongst them.

Quite quickly I found myself at Blackfriars, but it felt too soon to turn off, so I decided to keep going to London Bridge and turn off there as I know my way from there too. Unfortunately the path along this part of the river is really rubbish: it stops at numerous points where you end up running along the road then trying to find a way back down. In this confusion I suddenly found myself at Tower Bridge! I felt a combination of dispair and amusement here: in three weeks I will welcome the sight of Tower Bridge, but right now it was a pain in the arse. So, here I was, not exactly lost, but not where I wanted to be, running around in a circle around the City, with no Garmin signal due to the tall buildings and the Lucozade Sport running out very quickly. I usually have 50p in my bag for these runs, not sure why because you can’t get a lot for 50p these days, but I didn’t have anything at all, just my depleted LS supplies and some jelly babies, which were quickly becoming too sweet and cloying to give me any satisfaction. I remembered how I felt this in the Edinburgh Marathon and just wanted cold water to quench my thirst, but I didn’t have any and felt pretty dreadful. 

After a few turns around the City I found myself at Bank so knew my way up City Road back to Islington. By now my ankles and knees were beginning to hurt and each stretch was a real effort, I promised myself the last bit of LS if I could make it to Upper Street. I don’t carry my Oyster Card on these runs and it’s a good job, because I think I would have been tempted today. When I got to Angel I decided to be really cheeky and went into Starbucks to ask the nice man if he would put some water in my bottle, which he did, thank you lovely man. I gulped loads of it down, so definitely needed it…it’s pretty hot today. Weaving in and out of the Upper Street Tourists, as we used to call them when we lived there, I noticed I only had about three more miles to go, so decided to break it down into one mile sections. On hitting Highbury I really thought I was going to throw up, this was when I felt like crying, things were not going well, everything hurt and to throw up would finish me off. I didn’t, I kept going.

Just Finsbury Park, then the streets back home to contend with now. I started to feel like I was crawling now, plod, plod, plod. My mindset was truly negative, just convincing myself I simply won’t manage the extra six miles required to make it a marathon. As I got closer to home, I was trying really hard to think: ‘up and light, tall and strong’ which would help for a few steps then I would be grimacing again at the knee pain. Eventually, the clock ticked it’s way to 20 miles and I pressed the on/off button, I wasn’t running another step. I walked the last five minutes to our house and got myself into an arnica bath and had a delicious smoothie made with banana, blueberries, yoghurt and milk. Mmmmmm.

So I have this seventeen miler next Sunday, my last chance to get it right. I think some gels should be tested as I don’t think the jelly babies are cutting it, and additional fluid is needed, even if it means carrying another bottle with me. 

Time: 3 hours 27 minutes 34 seconds

Distance: 20 miles

Average Pace: 10.23

Best Pace: 7.44

Calories: 1902

Conversations with self

I often wonder what other runners think about when they are running, the conversations they have with themselves and the mind games that take place. Apparently Paula Radcliffe just counts (I used to do this and a lot of ‘left, right’ when I first started running). Nike have produced a series of short films looking into this subject and you can see one about the sprinter Nicola Sanders here:

I like the idea that the different parts of your body have a little arguement, well, I guess that’s not so far from the truth in a way! I also like the subtitles on the film as I don’t have any speakers connected to my computer 🙂