A mile in my, er, cossie

I have been thinking I need to swim in a 50m pool ahead of my triathlon in just over a week (!!). I could have jumped on my bike – or the bus – and headed over to the actual pool I will be swimming in at Crystal Palace, but I decided to take the chance to try out the London 2012 Olympic Aquatics Centre. Once I’d made the decision I was ridiculously excited and twitched as the DLR snaked slowly towards Stratford, and there it was, Zaha Hadid’s ‘pringle’ in all it’s watery glory.

Temptingly close

Temptingly close

As I approached the building, I mingled with a group of school children, who were going there for their lesson – imagine that! The woman on the desk was friendly and directed me towards the ‘Competition Pool’, and my excitement levels rose a little bit more. The changing rooms were big, with lots of space to change and plenty of lockers (take a pound coin) and a row of hair-dryers for people who don’t have hair that goes into a frizz when meeting with direct heat. I quickly changed into my swimming gear and sauntered out to the pool, where I was told to put my towel in my locker, which filled me with slight horror because I like to minimise the time spent exposing flesh between the changing room and the water.

Competition Pool

Competition Pool

The (lovely) 50m pool was divided into slow, medium and fast lanes and swimmers quietly carved up and down, respectfully allowing faster swimmers to over-take and finding a nice space to do their own thing (none of that hanging about at the end, chatting lark here, thank goodness). I assessed the pace and opted for a ‘slow’ lane for my breast-stroke warm-up, then ducked under to the ‘medium’ lane for my faster lengths (I really should accept that I am a ‘fast’ lane swimmer and stand my watery ground there). I was worried about getting into the 50m pool at my triathlon and feeling overwhelmed by the size and depth of it all (no shallow end), but this felt great, no problem. I had to get my head round the counting lengths thing – two ‘normal’ lengths for each 50m length…it went quicker. Before I knew it, I had swum 60 ‘normal’ lengths, so did four more to make it a mile. I didn’t want to get out, it felt so good to be in such an amazing space, the pool where all those medals were won two years ago. I looked up at the diving boards as I swam, marvelling at how anyone could throw themselves off. I think I might just make this a regular trip – all that loveliness for just £3.50!

Splashy selfie

Splashy selfie


Visiting the Mizuno Performance Centre

I am a bit behind with this post, having visited the Mizuno Performance Centre way back in the days when the Olympic Games were still the talk of the town. The Performance Centre was based at Centre Point in central London for the duration of the Olympic Games and I was lucky enough to be invited along to the launch of some new shoes called ‘Be’.

Performance Centre

As it was the summer holidays I had my assistant blogger in tow, so was armed with a bag full of pencils and paper and a little bag of chocolate buttons for any real moments of need (they were quite quickly whipped out of the bag when Hector announced loudly in a hushed room that it was boring and he wondered when the man might stop talking!). The man doing all the talking was the designer of the shoes, who told us that they were not designed for running, but for times in between training sessions, to aid running strength and ability. Here is some information about how these shoes came about:

‘The Be takes inspiration from the old Waraji sandals that were worn by the samurai class and foot soldiers during the feudal era of Japan. Fascinated         by why the Waraji were shorter than the feet of those wearing them, Mizuno conducted a series of biomechanical tests to determine the benefits of the toes protruding slightly over the front edge of the sandal’

We were told a lot about the biomechanics of the foot and how the Be has an inner sock which allows the toes to spread as if walking barefoot (these are not barefoot running shoes though). I had a look at some Be shoes and tried a pair on, they are lovely looking shoes, with the women’s design having a nice grey/pink colour-way and they are certainly comfortable. I’m not sure though how many recreational runners would want to spend money on an in-between-training shoe, but I imagine they might be good for someone who has an injury and wants to think carefully about how they look after their feet at all times.

Women’s model

Once ‘The Man’ had stopped talking, we went and had a look around the Performance Centre and had a go at the various activities on offer – you could test your footballing skills and there was also a mini running track to test how quickly you can come out of the blocks.

Checking out the track

You were given some rather nice spikes to try on and could race a friend or try your time against the clock. We just watched because they didn’t have children’s spikes – much to Hector’s annoyance – and were given a good view of the ‘race’ start from the top of the stairs:


I was also given a lovely pair of Mizuno Wave Rider shoes whilst at the centre, and have really enjoyed running in them since – I’ve had lots of comments about how lovely they are, they certainly stand out! I hadn’t run in Mizuno shoes before, and found them a little firm at first, but they have softened up after a few runs and I now find them just right for the road and a bit of trail – though I wouldn’t want any mud spoiling the lovely shiny toes! I found a page of nice colourful Mizuno shoes over on the Activinstinct website, and they now have the Be in stock as well.

Whilst at the Performance Centre, I was lucky enough to see some beautiful paintings by Hidekichi Shigemoto, and these have now been made into a moving image piece with brush-strokes capturing the movement of the Mizuno athletes in action.

Inspire a generation

I love this line I keep seeing around London as we visit the various Olympic events, and I see evidence of this legacy around me all the time. On Friday evening I dragged myself away from the Olympic coverage to the gym (where I was delighted to discover I could watch the women’s 5k final whilst stepping up and down on a machine), as I walked alongside the running track on my way in, I was delighted and slightly amused to see a family making use of the track, little future Mos or Usains. On Saturday I went out for a run (in my gorgeous new Mizunos – more to follow in the next blog post) and immediately felt a stronger running presence as I covered a hot and sticky four miles. During those four miles I counted a total of eighteen runners and a group of Nordic walkers, far more than I would normally encounter on this run, the Olympic effect in action. It’s a shame that I also noted that out of these eighteen, only three acknowledged me with a nod or a smile, so not entirely buzzing from the glow of the games. Someone who is buzzing is Hector – everything is a competition and results in awarding gold, silver or bronze to us for our effort in getting dressed, eating breakfast and other everyday activities. I decided to go with this enthusiasm the other day when he said that he really wanted to go running with me. We took it slowly, and I had to try and hold him back a bit as he tried to sprint the first few minutes. We jogged, walked, ‘stretched’ (I must film this, it’s very funny) and picked blackberries, always best to take it slowly at first 🙂

Last week were in Poland on holiday, where a walk up a hill rewarded us with this view:

Fresh air

Our descent was slightly less taxing, as we took the chair lift silently through the tree-tops:


This was quite a challenge for me as I have an irritating fear of heights and had already decided I wasn’t going on the chair lift but, when I got there, and Hector was really keen, I decided to stop being such an idiot and went for it. It came round really quickly and the little Polish chap shoved it behind me – cue yelp – and I tentatively shuffled my way back in the seat and held on tight. I was suddenly confronted with a steep drop ahead of me and found myself taking deep breaths and looking at the tree tops. Eventually I acclimatised and overcame  my terrors slightly by tentatively turning my head and loosening my grip on the hand rail. It was quite lovely gliding silently through the trees, feeling like we were the only people in the world. I did feel like I was the only runner in Poland. I dutifully packed my running gear and, as we had spent time standing on our bathroom scales with our luggage in an attempt to avoid being charged for over-stuffing our bags, I felt I should at least pull on my kit once during our stay; I managed two runs. Each run was done before breakfast, while everyone else faffed around with bathrooms and the like, and I took myself up a steep hill in the heat. Not one runner crossed my path. In the park, no runners were to be seen on the nice new paths that had been recently laid, and no runners were seen gasping for breath as we took in the views ahead of the white-knuckle chair lift ride. On our last evening in Poland, we found ourselves in Krakow (that’s ‘krakoof’, by the way, not ‘krakoff’ or ‘krak-oww’ – I was repeatedly corrected each time I attempted to say a word in Polish, and this one I got right) and as we drove away from our parking spot near the city park, I could see some dark figures circling the edge of the grass in the cool evening air, runners! It seems, yes, there are runners in Poland, but they have the sense to stay inside when the weather is blisteringly hot, that’ll explain the look I got from a Babcia carrying her shopping up the hill.


Popping out

It’s been an exciting sporting week in the Prince Hill household, with two viewings of the Olympic Torch as it made its way across London. First we went to our local relay, outside Lewisham Hospital, with a warm and welcoming crowd, bubbling with excitement. Then we went to support the Southwark leg as it passed close by Edward’s work on Thursday. It was interesting to observe the difference in support there, where office workers poured out of tall buildings, filmed the whole thing on their iPhones, then went back to work, all quite quiet and with very little excitement.

The Lewisham Torch

After the Southwark Torch

On Friday we became more and more excited as we watched the most incredible opening ceremony, trying hard to keep Hector awake long enough to see at least a bit of it. He did very well and got a second wind during the musical/dance section, dancing around the room and trying turn up the volume. Yesterday the real fun began when we trekked over to Kensington to witness the athletic might of the men’s road race. I had to step back from the road as they passed en masse and at speed, the feeling of power was immense.

Tour de Londres

This morning I remembered that I, too, have sporting goals of sorts, so pulled on my running shoes to tackle a short run then hard gym session. Imagine my crestfallen expression as I noticed the little toe of my right foot poking out of the side and the big toe of my left foot popping out to say hello. My faithful Asics Gel 1160s! I suppose I can’t complain, they have seen me through training for a marathon, a half marathon and numerous distances in between (yes, I know the shoe people say you should change them every so many miles, but I’m rebelling a bit here). Time to look around and see if I can find a bargain online.


I trawled around for a bit, trying to find the exact same shoes, but realised I actually yearn for something a bit more funky, yes, you read correctly, I am fancying a bit of colour, gasp! I’m very much a black tights and plain top kind of runner, with a practical-looking shoe to finish the look, but I found myself on the Northern Runner website staring at these lovelies. I know they are not a replacement for the Asics 1160s, but I just love the way they look, the sexy, earthy upper and the flash of colour underneath. Maybe it’s just something about trail running shoes, but these caught my eye too, look at their zig-zaggy bottoms! I think, if Asics want to keep my attention, they need to get creative with colour in their everyday running shoes.

My thirst for colour led me to have a little shufty at t-shirts – a quick look at my running pile shows a penchant for black, faded black and grey. I found some colourful options which also boast UV protection in the fabric, oh how happy I am that it is now sunny enough to be concerned about such things! Some also have anti-bacterial qualities and, having recently resorted to throwing all of my running tops in the wash on a very hot setting in an attempt to eradicate the wet dog smell, this definitely gets my attention. Ahem.

Distance: 1.85 miles (I said it was a short run!)

Time: 19 minutes 18 seconds

Average Pace: 10.25

Best Pace: 8.01

Calories: 228

Followed by some good hard weight pushing/pulling/lifting at the gym.


I’m sitting here looking at the pouring rain and thinking I’m rather glad I got my run out of the way earlier! I am finding that my running has been slightly neglected lately, not in terms of frequency, I am still getting out at least four days a week, but in terms of distance. When I go to the gym, I tend to rush my run so I can get there and get stuck in, so I have been running around three miles at the most. Today I decided to give the gym a miss and run a bit further, just to make sure I still can! A quick run to school with speedy bike boy and up the hill I went, turning for a moment at the summit of Blythe Hill and admiring the gorgeous view (I must take my camera some time) then carrying on along the Waterlink Way, taking a breath at the far reaches, while a passing walking lady said: ‘You’re not running back?!’ then reaching home at the five-mile point.

I found it interesting that this walker was surprised that I was turning and ‘running back’, since she had no clue as to how far I had already run. Maybe she was taking her clues from my panting and my dripping brow, but to her this appeared to be an achievement in itself that she felt she should comment on. I have recently been talking to a fellow school-gate mum who also runs, the difference is though that she has three children, one of whom is just ten weeks old! She has far more in her life to juggle in an attempt to fit a run in, so I wasn’t surprised to see her passing our house this morning as we ate our breakfast. Last week I saw her in the park and we ran part of the way together. She was telling me how she had measured herself and found that her waist was now 27 1/2 inches, I dream of such neat girthage! So, she sees me and admires the fact that I run a little further than she is managing right now, I see her and admire the fact that she is a master juggler who is back in her skinny jeans just weeks after giving birth and other parents at the gate admire us both for getting out at all!

Soon we will be enjoying the spectacle of the Olympic Games, admiring those who are achieving international greatness in their chosen field then, further into the summer, we will admire those athletes who have overcome disability to compete in the Paralympic Games. I’m beginning to tire of the negativity being shown towards the Olympic Games, when I see many positive outcomes such as celebrations at school where the children are given the opportunity to try new activities, enthusiastic sports days at the running track (I heard loud cheers this morning, even though the rain clouds were coming in) and a little group of pre-school children in the park earlier with Olympic flames made out of tin foil and cardboard. If the presence of the games in London increases participation in sports at all levels and encourages otherwise inactive people to get out and try something new, it has to be a good thing.

Distance: 5.07 miles

Time: 50 minutes 51 seconds

Average Pace: 10.02

Best Pace: 5.23

Calories: 267

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!)


Past halfway

This morning I ran 14 miles, that’s more than halfway through a marathon. Did I feel like I could do the same again? Nah. I am also halfway through my training for the marathon, only two months, three days and fifteen hours to go. There are some things that I seem to have ironed out since last Sunday’s long run. After a few weeks of dodgy stomach troubles, I felt fine this morning. I am wondering if it’s because last night’s dinner was eaten much earlier than usual…it was a fine marathon training dish of fish, chips and mushy peas, eaten on the beach in Southend 🙂 It was a gorgeous day yesterday so we decided to get on the train and go for a day-trip to the seaside. We walked along the ‘longest pleasure pier in the world’ (it’s a mile and a third), played in the sand, looked at shells and ate the greasy treat whilst watching the sky turn to a beautiful golden pinky glow.


This morning the boys ventured over to the swimming pool in Stoke Newington, the one that opened then closed, then opened again years later. It is rather lovely. Edward had admitted that he felt a little nervous about taking Hector on the bus as he’s never done it on his own before. Distraction, that’s the key, and tangerines. While they wallowed and splashed and kicked and scooped, I ran along the canal and enjoyed the view as lots of rowers pulled themselves through the water. I thought there might be some sort of competition at first, but it was just very busy. Not so many runners today though, so less of the ‘being overtaken’ stresses of last week 😉 To deal with the task of completing a 14 miler, I thought it might be a good idea to reverse my run, so turned right and headed out towards Hackney Marshes for a change.

I hadn’t managed to get any gels, so asked Edward to buy me some Lucozade Sport and jelly babies from the corner shop, but he was only able to find jelly beans. I had been rather ambitious in stuffing a little bag full of these neon-glowing sweeties in my belt because, when I got round to trying one, I found it really challenging chewing them enough to get them down without choking! They were then, of course, stuck in my teeth and driving me nuts, but I swished my mouth out with the bright orange sports drink and all was well. Ouch, my teeth ached after all that sugar. This is not the kind of ‘food’ I normally include in my diet, but it does seem to do the trick and my energy levels were pretty steady throughout. I will try and get hold of some gels for next week’s long run though.

Somehow, I then found myself at the fence of the Olympic site. I had run alongside the Hackney Marshes and instead of turning left when I should have, I kept going to see where it took me. It was all high security and no peeping, so I ended up running along the duel carriageway until I could get back to the marshes. This little diversion was good in distracting me from the  miles I was clocking up anyway. As I rejoined the football pitches I saw the Sunday morning men gathering, ready to chase a ball around…and eat pies: they have those fast food vans there to keep them going! The run along near the riding school is always lovely, so much to see from up there. When I met up with the canal again the rowers were still going strong.

My idea of reversing my usual Sunday run was good until I had to go up towards Ikea, this started to feel like hard work. I also became a bit disorientated when I was faced with all those paths in the opposite direction: I found myself pausing a few times, uncertain about which fork to take. Eventually, I neared home and casually looked down at my Garmin to see I had passed the 14 mile mark. Smiles all the way to the door.

Time: 2 hours 25 minutes 12 seconds

Distance: 14.11 miles

Average Pace: 10.17

Best Pace: 8.35

Calories: 1617

And here are the stats for a wheezing asthmatic plod I did the other day:

Time: 33 minutes 25 seconds

Distance: 3.14 miles

Average Pace: 10.40

Calories: 390