Gade Valley Harriers’ marathon training runs: Review

First off, I am so bored running round where I live you wouldn’t believe it! It’s flat as a pancake, it’s not pretty (bypass, anyone?) and apart from the fab times when people from my running club have run with me, I’ve been on my own so when I found that Gade Valley Harriers in Hertfordshire (not a million miles from me) organise these special marathon training runs (3 a year to be exact – 12, 17 and 20 miles) I thought it would be ideal for me. Plus it was only £5 (bargain) and cake at the end – win, win!


An ex colleague and friend of mine was also going along so we decided to run together (she is a newbie runner also training for the London marathon).

I parked up at Hemel Hempstead station and immediately met up with a few of the runners and walked the short 5-minute walk to the clubhouse where we saw the 17-mile finish sign (scary stuff!). I wasn’t feeling amazing for a 17-mile run – we are having our kitchen done so I couldn’t find any breakfast (made do with some Brevita breakfast biscuits) and I was really late the bed to night before filling, sanding and plastering.

Danni arrived, and we set off on the staggered start. The first 2-3 miles were a hard slog over the muddy tow path, but because we had so much catching up to do (haven’t seen each other for about a year and a half) we hardly noticed the time going by. Quick water stop (yes, they had water stops!) at the top of one of the many hills, photo op and off we set.


The route is mostly through villages and forest, which was such a lovely refreshing change for me – not a bypass in sight!

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Up and down a few more hills we went chatting away and then I spotted the 8 mile sign – how had we done 8 miles without me noticing (particularly as between miles 5 and 6 there was an enormous hill!)? Next water stop, jelly baby refuelling (screw gels!) and off we set again.  Danni had run up to 13.1 before so up until that point we were both quite comfortable, then we said to ourselves ‘only 4 miles to go’ – by this point though my arms were cramping (clearly done too much upper body work that week!) and we were both quite quiet. The next goal was to get to the infamous jelly baby stop at mile 14. After that we were told it was all down hill and flat (phew!) which gave us a bit of a boost. We were back on the horrid, energy-sapping tow path though for the last mile where we were joined by two other ladies. We kept each other going with the promise of cake and a cup of tea.

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We finished the very hilly course in 3h 11. I was really proud of Danni as she’s a new runner and not used to hills at all. There was no medal of course, but who cares?

It’s given me a huge amount of confidence now that I can do this marathon – if I can run 17 miles up and down massive hills then flat London is totally doable! Bring it!

DIVA rating: 5/5 – awesome!


– £5 (criminal – they should charge more!)

– Amazing organisation and marshals

– Water stops

– Jelly baby stop

– Cake at the end!!!

– Interesting and undulating course (my favourite)

– Easy to get to by train (Hemel Hempstead) and car (parking at Hemel Hempstead Station)

The next training run is on 23rd March and is 20 miles. If you are at a loss as to who to run with and where to run, I couldn’t recommend this highly enough.


Brighton Half Marathon 2014: Race report

I’ve already written a proper race report for the Brighton half marathon here so this time I thought I’d share with you the highs and lows from last Sunday’s race.



– Lovely bright sunny day

– Little boy at mile 2: “Mummy, some people are sweating already!”

– Seeing a lady up ahead wearing head to toe Sweaty Betty thermals

– Completing it in 2 hours even though nearly died from heat exhaustion

– Seeing a man dressed head to foot in blue lycra and pointing out that he had matching trainers (apparently even men in Brighton don’t colour coordinate)

– Awesome pink bling!



– Unseasonably hot weather when all my training has been in cold weather

– Dressing like a ninja on a hot day = big sweaty mess

– Not eating breakfast or packing any gels

– Not checking the train times and having to grovel to my dad to give me a lift

– Two spectators commenting that they would run it in under 2 hours – go on then!

– Last minute change of plans meaning missed a meeting with friend

– Looking like I’m standing still in nearly all my race photos


Did you do the Brighton half last week? What did you think?


What kind of runner are you?

I don’t know if it’s because the weather has improved a bit and marathon training is now in full swing for many people, but I’ve been noticing a pattern of running types lately and I’m finding it really entertaining on my runs. Here are my wildly exaggerated observations over the last few weeks.

The Rocky Balboa Runner


This is an old skool runner who likes to run around the streets in the least sweat-wicking fabrics they can lay their hands on. The bigger the sweat pants, the better. In fact, this runner is so hardcore you often see them running in plimsoles or Chuck’s. The Rocky Balboa runner can usually be found running a 31-mile city loop having not run for months. Rock on!

The Sports Direct Runner


Look out for the distinctive bright pink or neon yellow Karrimor high vis jacket. This runner likes to make sure they are seen, but for all the wrong reasons. They can usually be found weeping whilst stroking the latest Sweaty Betty catalogue.

The ‘All the gear and no idea’ Runner

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This runner has a hot line to Nike Town and can usually be found at the marathon start line wearing more layers than a mille-feuille. Look out for the idiot buying a new pair of trainers the day before a half marathon because the other ones were ‘so last season daaarling’.

The ‘Pro’ Runner


It’s -20 outside and snowing, and even the white walkers (Game of Thrones reference) have thrown in the towel, but that won’t deter this runner. They can usually be found running in hot pants and sports bra all year round.

The Slow Mo Runner



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There are old ladies with zimmer frames who can overtake this runner. They don’t like to break a sweat for fear of smudging their make up or, heaven forbid, get out of breath so that they have to stop their conversation about TOWIE. They can usually be found wearing leopard print and running in threes across the footpath.

I think I’m a cross between ‘All the gear and no idea’ and ‘the Sports Direct’ – which one are you? What other running types have you seen on the streets? Hit me with it!


Marathon training week 5: I feel the need, the need for speed!

This week’s training has gone really well, I managed a mile reps session, I smashed it at Crossfit and I nailed my long run. Whilst all this is wonderful, I’ve made the decision that this year will be my last marathon year, at least for some time anyway. After marathon season I’m going back to basics – strength training, speed sessions and back on my mission to crack the 10k and the half marathon (my two absolute favourite distances). I’ve really missed a bit of speed you see. Plodding along through the cycle paths of Bicester and along the ring road at 9-10 min/mile doesn’t do it for me any more. I want to perfect my running rather than bang out the distances for distinctly average times. I’m not sure I’m much cop at distance running either. Perhaps next year I’ll have a go at a Tri too and there is no room in the schedule for a Tri and marathon training! Whilst this week I have enjoyed my training, I don’t think marathons are for me. I’m just looking forward to ticking London Marathon off my list and making the most of the incredible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

This week I bought myself the fabulous and highly coveted Sweaty Betty Velocity Run Jacket, which was so hugely popular that it has returned again this season. Quick – grab it before it goes! The fit is gorgeous and the fabric is really lovely and soft to touch. I was really pleased with it on my long run this Sunday.


In other news, running 3 times a week has been a revelation – I don’t feel like shit any more, I have more energy, my legs don’t feel heavy, I’ve got some of my speed back AND I have lost weight because I’m not eating everything in sight!

Monday: Hip stretching yoga session

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: Mile reps (x3) + crossfit that looked a little like this: 80 burpees, 100 mountain climbers, 100 sit ups, 50 squat thrusts, 3 minute static squat, 40 press ups, 40 thrusters, 40 shoulder presses, 40 shoulder press squats, 60 box jumps, 60 jumping squats, 60 cleans, 1 min side planks, 1 minute normal plank…phew!

Thursday: Hip stretching yoga session

Friday: Fast 5k with the speedy blokes from work

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: 15 miles in 2h30 – boom!



Strong is better than skinny

I’ve been thinking of doing a post on this for a while. People always ask me how I lost weight and I tell them I cut the crap and ran. Simple! No diet pill, no carb/low carb, no diary, gluten free diet – just good old fashioned not eating junk food and shifting my ass!

For me, running was as much of a challenge (the half marathon being on my bucket list) as it was a great mission to lose weight and get into size 10 skinny jeans. I wanted to run a half marathon in a respectable time, to be strong, fit and powerful. I didn’t care about bikini bodies, toning, flat stomachs or abs, I just wanted to shift the scale from couch potato towards athlete. The weight loss was just a happy side effect.


What people don’t tell you about when you transform yourself from slothful to svelte, is that your mind takes a lot longer to adjust. Well it’s been 3 years since I lost the best part of 3 stone (19kg; 42 lbs) and I’m still getting to grips with who I am now. I am still amazed at what I can do – I could barely lift 1kg over my head a little while ago and yesterday I did 60 shoulder presses of 10kg.

My little legs that could barely walk a few miles, have run a marathon, 3 half marathons and countless 10ks. I still have my issues – I’m not overly keen on my legs, I have no butt to speak of and no waist, but I’m becoming happier in my own skin.


If I could give the old me two pieces of advice for how to become fit and healthy, I would tell myself this:

1) Eat a balanced diet – cut out the shit

2) Choose a form of exercise you enjoy and stick with it

This change is now permanent for me – what keeps me going is the passion to succeed at a running (that success being to beat my previous time) and the desire to be the best I can be.

I’m not saying ‘look how great I am’ because I don’t think I am, I’m just saying if little old me can do it then anything is possible – just believe it and it will happen! x


Why I’m running less to run more


As anyone who reads my blog will know I don’t have a lot of time these days. I’ve got deadlines, meetings coming out of my ears, a second job – not to mention marathon training, crossfit and yoga. Sheeesh, when you say it out loud it sounds even worse! I’m not going to lie, I’ve been cursing the marathon and telling myself ‘never again!’. I’ve also noticed the volume of running has brought back niggles and twinges that I had managed to shake last year. So, after reading Katy’s fab post here and thinking about when I have been most successful in my running is when I’ve actually had a rest.

I’ve decided that less is more.

There are so many plans out there that suggest you have to run every hour of every day: 1) I don’t have the time or will; 2) I just don’t feel like I’m getting sufficient time for my muscles to recover, which is resulting in niggles and twinges left, right and centre; 3) I don’t think endlessly pounding the pavements is doing anything for my motivation; and 4) running alone doesn’t build muscle strength and magnifies imbalances. Last year I started training for the Oxford half – I did 10 miles 6 weeks before, then did nothing for 3 weeks because I had a cold, then I tore my calf 10 days before, cycled instead and boom – I knocked 12 minutes off my half marathon time pulling off a sub 2-hour half. This is a half marathon time that I never thought would be possible for me in my life time and I still marvel at it! Is it just coincidence – not sure, but I’m willing to bet the rest and a bit of cross training meant my legs were fresh on the day.

So I’ve hunted online and I found this great article suggesting that you can run 3 days a week – 1x speed session, 1x tempo run and 1x long run. This is music to my ears as it means I can still do yoga and crossfit, and not want to poke my eyes out with sticks at the thought of another boring run around Bicester bypass!

I’m starting the plan at week 5/6 as I’m up to 15 miles on the long run. Tonight when I would normally be doing an utterly pointless and dull run, I’m actually going to do some yoga, chill, and eat my chicken curry.


Marathon training week 4: Every time you run you win

This week I discovered four things:

– I can’t have a busy career day job and a cool fun weekend job, and marathon train. It’s not possible without throwing a hissy fit and never seeing the other half.

– Running long runs alone sucks – I can’t stand my own company after about 2 hours.

– All the amazing planning in the world can’t make you less tired.

– I need to invest in far heavier dumbbells than 2.5kg!

Despite being a busy one again, I managed to squeeze in 4 runs and some arm weight training from Davina’s new ‘Fit in 15‘ DVD. However, I didn’t managed to do my long run, which I am absolutely gutted about. 😦

I had a meeting in London on Friday night and Saturday morning – I took along my kit and even managed to organise with the hotel for them to keep hold of my laptop and bags, but, despite all my good intentions, the late night Friday (11pm) coupled with the 6am start meant that I had absolutely no energy or frankly the inclination to run above 3 miles. I did get to run past Buckingham Palace though and unless you live in London that doesn’t happen every day (silver linings and all that).

Even though I have run a marathon before I can feel the doubt creeping it – ‘can I do this, or have I bitten off more than I can chew?’

So my plan for next week is to man up, replace the smaller runs with some strength training and get the long run in the diary and booked in with friends! I’m also listening to ‘Run Fat B*tch Run‘ channelling the mantra ‘Every time you run you win’.

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 3-mile run with the OH.

Wednesday: 3-mile speedy run in my new Adidas Boosts (love them!)

Thursday: 7 miles and 15 min arms

Friday: Rest

Saturday: 3-mile run around Hyde Park

Sunday: Threw a giant hissy fit instead of doing long run!