Archive for May, 2012

What Next?

For the first time in 2 years I’m not in the process of training for one race or another. I thought it’d be a refreshing feeling, and would liberate my schedule with time to meet some of my own goals, but actually I feel quite frustrated! I’m itching to get to another starting line as soon as I can!

The question is: what next? Another marathon is already very tempting (I seriously didn’t think I’d be feeling this way back on mile 21!), but for the sake of both my physical wellbeing and my relationship*, I think I need to put that to the back of my mind right now!

Working in a running shop means I get to meet all sorts of amazing people every single day. One guy came in last week to get some shoes for the Bob Graham Round, which he is doing to raise money for prostate cancer. Then there are the people doing ultra marathons and adventure races, triathlons and sportives. One customer offered me his number for the Swaledale Off Road marathon, which he is unable to do on 22nd June; if it had been a 13-miler I would definitely have taken him up on the offer, but another 26 miles seems a bit much right now!

I’ve been out on my bike a couple of times over the past week, and I’m also itching to get back on the long roads around North Yorkshire – I’m not particularly bike-fit at the moment, and it’s going to take some work to get back to how strong I was on a bike this time last year.

So the answer seems pretty clear to me, actually. I want a new challenge, I want to spend more time on my bike, and, most of all, I want to get out there and get sweaty! A new challenge it’s going to be, as I’m going to try out a duathlon! After only a very quick search, there seem to be loads of opportunities around for those who love to run and cycle, and they don’t seem too daunting, either.

My mind is racing with the possibilities for where this might go – adventure racing is something I’m seriously keen to try out (I want an all-girl group – any takers please get in touch!), and though I’m not much of a swimmer, I do like the idea of taking lessons and trying out a triathlon one day. And fell running, of course; I already have big plans for next year, and am already looking forward to the winter cross country series which I’m hoping to take part in.

It seems that the more I do, the more I can do, and the more I want to see what I can do. Pushing the limits and breaking through boundaries is so addictive, and I’m eager to see what else I can do when I really put my mind to it!

Have you ever tried a duathlon/triathlon? Are you tempted to try out other events?



*I owe my taller half big time for his amazing and consistent support over my 16 week schedule – couldn’t have done it without him but daren’t put him through it again just yet!!


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The only thing I could face eating for lunch on the day after my marathon was a hearty, salty soup. I didn’t want bread, peanut butter, salad, pasta…I looked through the cupboards and found some noodles, and suddenly I just had to have this wonderful bowl of rescue remedy!

Rescue Recovery Noodle Soup
Serves 1

1 bunch of noodles (I love egg noodles)
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 can chickpeas
1 cup of mixed frozen veggies: I use sweetcorn, green beans, peas and broad beans
1 tsp miso paste*
1 tbsp soy sauce
Handful of cashew nuts

1. Bring the stock to the boil and add the noodles, chick peas and frozen veg.

2. Meanwhile, heat a dry pan and roast the cashew nuts – keep an eye on them as they burn very quickly!

3. After about 5 minutes, stir in the miso paste.

4. Pour into a bowl and stir in the soy sauce and cashew nuts.

Quick, easy and delicious! Though this is pretty high in salt so watch the soy sauce if you’re not in desperate need of anything salty!

*I found this in my local health food grotto. If you can’t find it, you could use a miso soup sachet, or just your own preferred mixture of soy sauce and spices.


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I always thought myself to be a quick ‘recoverer’, almost disappointingly so! After long runs in the past, I’ve been a little stiff that afternoon, and maybe a bit tired the next day, but other than taking my running down a step or two and eating and drinking slightly more, everything has gone back to normal almost instantly.

Of course, 26 miles is much further than 21 miles, especially at a higher speed, and with all the added factors of a race. But even so, three days later and I’m still not myself, and yesterday I was so far from myself that I didn’t really function properly all day!

I promised myself to take it really easy this week: to eat what I want when I want it, to drink lots of tea if I feel the need, and to take a break from all things active until my energy levels come back to normal. To my mind it is best to wait until energy returns 100% than to push, at this stage; after all, my body has been to the very end of what it can handle, and I’m so grateful to it for taking me there, and then bringing me back.

But things haven’t all worked as I’d expected. On Monday morning I was aching all over, but it was that nice ache that reminds you that you’ve done something good, and that you’ll be back even stronger in a couple of days. I did some yoga in the amazing B&B gardens looking over the valley, and then tucked into a really huge breakfast, with plenty of vitamins, carbs and protein.

Other than the aches and pains, the one thing to really bother me on Monday was dehydration. My mouth was dry all day, even though I sipped water constantly, ate melon and grapes in the car home, and generally sat still. I was craving salt, too, and cooked up an amazing soup, which I will post on here soon.

Come Tuesday I felt physically ill. The aches had worn off for the most part (other than one of my toes, which is currently the most painful part of it all – I think the nail is going to come off soon!), but I was left without a dredge of an appetite, My stomach was upset, my head hurt, and worst of all I couldn’t think straight – as if part of my mind was missing, would be the best way to describe it! I did a decent amount of walking and worked that afternoon, and the movement seemed to help drain my body of the strange feeling, but in reality I just wanted to lie down inside and sulk!

I’ve also been sleeping like a badger in summertime (is that an appropriate analogy?), and whereas I usually wake up with plenty of energy and anticipation for the day ahead, it has taken me a long while to come around in the mornings and find my feet in my routine. In an effort to combat this, and as an attempt to get some adrenaline and seratonin pumping in my blood, I took an early morning bike ride today just for an hour or so. It was a wonderful morning (good to get it in before the heat kicks in!), and I was loving the fresh air and the views, but my legs and lungs were hating it. Still, I think it has helped to shift me a little closer to my normal self, as I do feel much better today.

So three days later I feel as if I’ve run a marathon and then pushed myself through a sieve backwards. My knees are clicky and uncomfortable, my calves feel swollen and incredibly tight, and my second toenail on my left foot is going a strange purple colour. I can’t work out what my appetite is doing, but actually it seems to be quite normal, which is a little disappointing! I knew that this week would require some real care – marathon running isn’t a normal activity for the human body to undertake, and it needs treating with respect and full attention both before and after the race itself. I expected to feel like I’d been hit by a bus for a couple of days afterwards, so then I was surprised to find myself quite comfortable physiologically on Tuesday, while also equally surprised to find that my internal organs all seemed to be giving in at the same time!

Apparently it takes one day per mile to recover fully from a race. I’m not sure when I’ll get running again (I’ve read you should wait 6 weeks but that seems a little over-cautious to me – my colleague has advised taking a week off running long distances but to get a few jogs in before then if possible); for now I’m craving fresh air and an outlet for my overload of endorphins, and cycling really did the trick this morning. My body doesn’t seem to really want to run at the moment, and who can blame it?!


Green monsters are helping me get back to normal!

Do you have any good recovery tips? Please do share as I need all the help I can get!

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So, I did it!

Yesterday I ran my first ever marathon! People had warned me otherwise (too hilly, apparently), but the Brathay Windermere Marathon turned out to be the perfect place to start with marathon running.

I’m still on a blow-out of a high: my mind is in the clouds, back on the roads around Windermere, anywhere but here. I will try my best to summarize it appropriately – watch out, this post could be longer and more winding than yesterday’s race!

We decided months ago that driving up from Yorkshire to the Lake District and back in one day, plus running our first marathon, wouldn’t be a sensible thing to do. So I left my Mum to arrange accommodation near enough to Brathay, as well as booking a couple of decent places to eat before and after the race.

My parents picked us up on Saturday afternoon and we hit the roads, the car loud with conversation and rattling with nervous energy – I had put in hundreds of miles of training, and had invested so much in one race, while my Dad (also running a marathon for the first time) had been injured from day one, and had done practically no training other than a couple of half marathon races in the run-up to Windermere. I kept nervously asking him if he was ok, worried that he might not really be ready for such a bit physical ordeal.

We arrived in the Lake District and headed straight for the Expo to pick up our numbers and goodie bags. The Brathay 10 in 10 was going on at the same time (the last race coincided with the full marathon on the Sunday), and so the atmosphere was already quite pumped and exciting. The 18 amazing runners were hobbling around in towels with their legs strapped up with tape; seeing them boosted my confidence a little, as it reminded me that everyone here was actually just a normal person with a day job, a family and a love for running! We collected our numbers and had a chat with some of the people holding stalls at the Expo: one lady who was a running coach and had written a book about people who run over 100 marathons, and a couple who were providing the energy drink for the run. I was reassured that it’s only really hilly for the first 17 miles, after that it’s an easy ride…!

Huuge map of the route!

We piled back in the car and headed to the B&B to check in and then head out for some food. It turned out that this would be a luxury marathon experience, as my Mum had booked us in at a 5* guest house and asked for superior rooms! Far from the hostel accommodation that I’d had in mind when I’d asked her to look into it for us! The place was absolutely stunning in every possible way, and set me in a really relaxed mood for the first time in days. It had a massive, 5 acre garden, which I roamed around that evening to stretch my legs after the journey. We then headed out to a vegetarian restaurant in Ambleside, and again my Mum had come up trumps when we were faced with a menu of carbs! I had gnocchi with a tomato sauce to start with, and then spaghetti pomodoro as a main. Delicious! We arrived back quite late, but I took advantage of the complimentary camomile tea and ginger biscuits while I wrote in my diary before bed.

As I had been expecting, I slept reallyreallybadly that night. It took me ages to drift off, and then I woke up at 3am and didn’t really get back to sleep. I watched the sun get brighter through the curtains, and just waited in nervous anticipation until it was time to get up and get my running kit on! It was the first really beautiful day in ages; the birds were singing, the sky was faultlessly blue, and the mist over the valley was rising and promising some warmth for the day. Daniel went out for a run at 6am, while I sipped a peppermint tea and ate some Soreen, and worked out how exactly I was going to arrange myself. Running kit on, bags packed and hair clipped and waxed into place (my hair is always a point of trouble for me when I run – I never know how best to arrange it), we went down to an amazing breakfast buffet of cereals, juices, fruits, yoghurts and the option of a full veggie English breakfast. I reluctantly refused all the decadence, and stuck to a huge bowl of porridge made with water, with loads of honey and a banana. I didn’t even have tea as I didn’t want any reason to stop unnecessarily during the race. We then got straight in the car and headed back to Brathay, ready for the run of our lives!


The atmosphere was instantly wonderous, as soon as we arrived into the massive field of a car park. Everyone was in a good mood, the sun was shining, and the lake stretched out for miles behind us. It felt fantastic to actually be there, after all those months of training! The 10 in 10ers were due to set off for their 10th marathon in 10 days at 9:30, so we went to watch them have their pep talk and set off on the last leg of that massive journey. It was incredibly emotional, and I wasn’t the only one to find my eyes welling up as they huddled together in lycra, strapped up and ready for one last massive push. Little by little the atmosphere and adrenaline was working its way into my bloodstream, and I found myself looking forward to getting going on that amazing course!

Windermere is behind me

I faced the dreaded Portaloos with as much bravery as I could muster (“Daniel, quick, hand sanitizer please!!!”), had the first few swigs of energy drink and put on my running shoes: we were ready to go! I kissed Daniel and my Mum goodbye and we set off to the starting field to warm up. We heard the pre-race announcements from the organizers and then an amazing drumming band started up, and lead the march to the starting line on the main road. A lady from my running club came over to say hi, and we walked down together, enjoying the atmosphere and excitement that was surrounding us and welling upwards in a massive frenzy.

Ready to go!

I was stood a little too close to the front for my liking, but as the roads were closed I was confident that it wouldn’t really matter anyway.  My Dad asked whether my shoes were done up ok, so I tied a triple knot in the laces (which are a little too long), just to make sure. The drumming stopped and everything fell silent, the way it always seems to do just before a race, and then ‘beeeeeep’ and we were off! I wished my fellow Strider a good race and reminded my Dad to take it steady, and then there I was, running a marathon! Crossing the starting line is still so vivid in my mind; I was so aware that once I was through that was it, no turning back and, as far as was possible, no giving up. The drummers were playing again and the crowds were roaring and clapping, but I was so overwhelmed with panic, fear, and the realization that my shoes weren’t done up right, that I couldn’t relax into it and enjoy it.

The first couple of miles were always going to be warm-up miles – just to set the pace and to find my ‘running zone’. However, I found myself running as I would a half marathon; my pace was way too fast, and I was trying to keep up with the crowd, which was hurtling past me alarmingly. I was also very conscious of my shoes, which felt as if they were slopping around on my feet. As I hadn’t done a warm-up jog (the field was too bumpy and the prospect of 26.2 miles seemed to not warrant a quick jog around the car park!) I hadn’t tested how my shoes felt, and I couldn’t rid my head of the fact that they were too loose. I was uncomfortable, running too fast and massively overwhelmed, and for the first couple of miles I felt like a rabbit in headlights. I ran past Daniel and my Mum on the wrong side of the road, too, so they were unable to get a decent photo of me passing by.

I’m in the black cap at the back of the photo

At about mile 4 I had come back down to a more steady pace. I had planned to run at 10;30/mile, but I was running at 10/mile and felt comfortable – I was worried that a slower pace would actually feel less easy as I had so much energy, and so much training behind me. The route was incredibly hilly, not so much with big ascents, but more continuous ups and downs, as well as a lot of long, mild inclines that were quite hard work. We arrived in Hawkeshead and I was starting to really enjoy myself, so I finally decided to make the feeling complete by stopping to tie up my shoes – those triple knots didn’t help matters and loads of people shot past as I frustratingly fiddled with my laces! I got started again, and set my pace back up nicely, running close behind a couple of women chatting happily as they ran. I always prefer to run alone, and never ever with music, but during a race I do like to hear other people chatting away around me – it sets a good, sociable mood without me having to take any part in it!

The miles seemed to simply fall behind me, and there appeared to be a mileage sign or a drink stop around every corner! There were refreshments (water, energy drink and Kendal mint cake!) every 3 miles, and I had planned to take on water at each of these points, as I didn’t have any of my own. I took my first gulp of energy drink at mile 6, just before the biggest hill of the race which stretched right from mile 7 to mile 8. At this point I was the only one around me who wasn’t walking – I find that jogging lightly on my forefeet takes up less energy than a striding uphill walk, and morale remains high as you reach the top without stopping, too! At mile 8 my knee started to twinge, and I remained conscious and nervous of it for some miles ahead. Still, I knew things were going to hurt more with every mile, so I tried my best to enjoy being relatively pain-free while it lasted!

Energy started to wane a little at mile 9, so I took my first energy gel, which left me feeling fantastic again. The first real discomfort started at mile 10, when my feet were aching from the road. I always wear the lightest possible socks when racing, but they do tend to leave my feet feeling raw after about 10 miles, and this was no exception. Still, the miles kept coming, and I was running very comfortably behind a group from Ripley AC, who helped me keep an absolutely solid 10/mile pace.

Up until now we had run through countryside and woodland, and right down the western side of beautiful Esthwaite water, but I hadn’t had a glimpse of Lake Windermere since changing in the car park! At mile 13 we reached Newby Bridge, and here the tip of the lake shimmered out behind buildings as we ran past. The streets were lined with people clapping and cheering – it really was absolutely incredible, and I was amazed at how much I’d enjoyed myself so far, especially in light of the wobbly start! I was also feeling incredibly confident in my running, and 13 miles in I still felt as strong as I had at mile 5.

The roads had been closed to cars for most of the first 13 miles, but the second half took us up the eastern side of Lake Windermere, right along the A591 and A592. The roads were coned off at the side to make room for us, and though the traffic was passing regularly, it was all very respectful of the runners, and most cars cheered and beeped as they passed, which was very encouraging! From here much of the course is a blur, though I know I still felt strong at mile 15 as I was thinking about the first 15 mile run that I did, which was a killer fell run over Ilkley Moor in the rain and wind! Things couldn’t have been any more different on this race!

What I do remember is the long hills, and the realization that I didn’t have enough gels on me to get through without hitting zero. I remember desperately searching my bag for an energy bar and coming out with a block of dates, and I remember gnawing on them like a complete animal! Mile 17 came and the lady from the Expo was right, as the roads flattened out and houses lined the route, with massive rhododendrons in a range of amazing colours bursting from almost every garden. People were in their gardens clapping and cheering, but my humour was long gone and all I could focus on was the increasing pain in my entire body, and the many miles which were still there ahead of me.

By mile 19 I was starting to feel really bad in my knees and hips, and every step hurt. I stopped at the drinks station and the relief felt like angels singing inside my chest and legs, and the more I stopped the more difficult it was to start again. I gnawed on an energy bar and dreamed of orange juice, recovery shake and ginger beer.

At mile 21 I was set to give in. Seriously. My brain was mush, I felt sick, the muscles in my entire abdomen – from my diaphragm to the top of my groin – were burning with every breath, and somehow I couldn’t seem to get any air into my lungs. I decided to give in to my last precious energy gel, and then to the last drops of energy drink. I knew I was taking on too much water, too, but it was addictively refreshing, and I kept pouring it over my head which sent shocks down my spine and woke my mind up a little. We came to a downhill in Bowness on Windermere and I remember calling out in agony as my knees crunched under my weight. At the penultimate drinks station I topped up my bottle with energy drink – it had bits floating in it from the road and tasted horrid, but I didn’t care at all! I knew that if I didn’t get my mind back I’d be giving in very shortly, so I filtered through some subject matter to see if I could find anything that my brain would allow me to focus on. My up-coming wedding, Daniel, university, work, friends – none of these things that I so often think about on long runs triggered any sort of spark in my brain. So I decided instead to remember a time that I had felt this bad in the past. And the one person that got me through that agony got me through this one, too: my Uncle Rob, and how amazing he was, and how much I miss him.

So I continued running, and the mileage signs started to get huge. 23 miles?! No way! I passed a couple who had given in to an ice cream van en route – brilliant idea, and a shame I didn’t bring any money or I’d have joined them! I was in so much pain that it couldn’t get any worse at this point, so I kept going, one foot painstakingly placed in front of the other. 24 miles, my word. By this stage we were approaching Ambleside, and I could actually see the finish across the lake – there was a huge hot air balloon on site which we’d watched being fired up that morning, and I had a clear view of it between the trees. I ran ahead of the man in front of me and pointed it out – he grunted in recognition.

I ran through Ambleside, groaning with every curb and cobble, and almost knocked over a group of old ladies who were intent on crossing the road right in front of me. It turns out that absolute exhaustion turns me into a social nightmare. By this point I knew I had to make it, and that I’d do it much more quickly than I’d anticipated, too! I was expecting to complete the race in around 5 hours, though had optimistically paced myself for 4;30 – from my watch I could see that I’d be comfortably between the two times, and I was delighted and rather impressed with myself!

Mile 25 came, and I reminded myself that this mile was the reason I’d put myself through all of that – this was the mile I had to enjoy. And I guess I did, to some extent! I particularly enjoyed seeing the number 25 on the sign, and knowing that I’d run incredibly far! The road ahead seemed to go on forever, and helpfully (not) there was a long ascent ahead, up which I could see runners struggling even to walk in the last few hundred yards of the race. I kept running, and kept passing people limping to the finish, and I couldn’t help feeling so grateful that my agony was consistent throughout my body, and not concentrated in one joint or muscle. I was a little wary of my calves, which were so tight it felt like they might actually pop, and I was trying to decide whether a ripped calf muscle would be worth it in the end. Probably.

I turned a corner back into Brathay Hall, and saw the big yellow Mile 26 sign as if it were the sun landing on Earth right before my feet. Two men ahead of me were trying to run, but one, in a red tshirt, was struggling big time, and slowed to a sorry limp just as I passed. His friend was being so encouraging ‘just keep going, just keep going’ he kept repeating. Then I saw my Dad, with a medal around his neck, and I was so proud that I managed to find a bit of extra energy somewhere inside me. (It’s all so vivid as I type this that this paragraph might go on for some time) I kept running, up the hill, up up up, and the finish line was there, right ahead, lined with what seemed like thousands of cheering happy faces. The grass was covered with a big rope mat, but still my knees cracked and crunched under me as I ran over the uneven surface. I saw Daniel and my Mum, taking photos and cheering, and wow, this was it!

Heading for the finish line!

Then, out of nowhere, the man in the red tshirt came crashing past me, and almost knocked me to the floor! Not exactly good etiquette if you ask me. Then there was the finish line. And a medal and a really kind face handing it to me with some water. And the man in the red tshirt bent in half and dribbling onto the floor (I sort of hope he was sick, is that bad?). I wandered in a daze through the crowds and collapsed into the grass. Everything hurt everywhere, like I’d never felt before, and I just called out and drank some water and called out some more. Everything hurt, everywhere. I got up with Daniel’s help, and I remember looking into the grass and realizing that I’d actually done it – I’d actually run a marathon, and something welled up inside me and for a second I was about to cry. Then I hurt so badly that I had to walk around.


I made up some recovery shake and went and stood in Lake Windermere, up to my mid calf. The rocks hurt underfoot but the cold water was fantastic and soothing. I looked out to the largest lake in England, which I had just circumnavigated and then some in 4 hours and 43 minutes, and it was shimmering and so beautiful and huge.

We got back to the B&B and I had a bath and got into the most comfortable clothes imaginable. Each individual toe was sore, my hips were bruised, the sides of my ribcage hurt to touch, the backs of my thighs felt bruised, my arm was stiff and painful from holding the water bottle. I say all this in the past tense, but it’s still true today. We snuggled up on the bed and put on a film, drank sweet tea and ate crisps and cereal bars. I lounged like this for as long as I could, then that evening we went out for an amazing meal at another amazing veggie restaurant, but this time there wasn’t any mention of pasta on the menu! Another successful choice on my Mum’s part! Watercress soup, loads and loads of fresh white bread with butter, butternut squash and goats cheese with a sundried tomato salad, gingerbread cheesecake with strawberries and a huge glass of wine. Marathon complete, wonderful day complete, fantastic marathon experience complete!

And I seriously enjoyed my veggie full English this morning!


So, to summarize, this was the perfect first marathon. For runners such as me, who love a few torturous hills, it was a great race. The winner came in at 2;40, which suggests that it’s not one for a PB, if that’s what you’re after, but if you love a good atmosphere, fantastic organization, and a really well-rounded racing experience, then this is the job. It was worth every 5:30 start, every painful uphill sprint, every 20 mile run, in fact, it was worth every minute that I put into it. I want to go back and do it all again just like that, but this time I’ll check my shoes first!

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This will probably be my last pre-marathon post, as we’re heading up to Windermere tomorrow ready for the race! I can’t believe it’s time to tart packing my bags, and I can’t believe I’ve just finished my final proper meal of carbo-loading! It was delicious!

Today was a rest day, and I took full advantage of that by staying in my pyjamas until 20 minutes before I had to head out to work! I did start the day with a pear and ginger smoothie (pear, cucumber, apple juice and a pinch of ground ginger) but the pear wasn’t ripe and it was pretty nauseating. I poured half of it down the sink!

It was a super-busy day at work, resulting in a late finish which I wasn’t grateful for. I gobbled down a massive cous cous salad (declared ‘epic’ by my colleague) and a bagel with peanut butter, but I wasn’t happy with the amount of water I took in today – not good as today is the most important day for fuelling up!

Back at home I got straight up against the wall again into a lovely Vipirita Karani, and then onto the mat for a nice 20 minutes of sun salutations. For some reason I’ve been completely drawn to this simple yoga sequence over the past week, and have done it every day so far. My hamstrings are so tight, and my back so tired from standing all day, that the Downward Dogs and the lunges feel heavenly! I’m hoping that this short and sweet yoga practise will remain in my routine beyond the marathon!

Tonight’s tea was simply a delight! And a delight that I won’t be delighting in too often, at that! We had pasta and potatoes with pesto, from The Accidental Vegetarian cookbook; I’m not a massive fan of potato, but this just worked, especially when teamed with broccoli, mushrooms and peas!

And now I’m looking forward to an early night and a relaxing day tomorrow. I plan to pack my things up and drink plenty, as well as go for a2 mile jog! I haven’t done such a short distance in years, and I’m wondering how it will feel – frustrating, I imagine, but then that’s the idea!

So, this is it for now – I’ll be back with a race report and general running madness next week!

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Today started off with an easy 3-miler before breakfast. I say easy, but it actually felt quite tough on my poor legs, and I found myself over-analysing every last movement with my new hypochondriac mindset. Aches and twinges seem to be appearing at every possible place, and I keep reminding myself to simply run steady, run easy, and run naturally – that’s how I need to run on Sunday, after all!

After a really good warm down and some serious hydration work, I had a deeeelicious bowl of porridge with loads of honey, banana and raisins. I’m enjoying having the extra sweetner on my porridge this week; it hides the hemp milk, which is not a good addition to my bowl of oats as it makes it taste sort of damp and mouldy, and normally I only allow myself honey/treacle on a weekend as a treat!

Today I was at work, which meant standing all day and no real mealtimes, but it also meant lots of running talk. I had a good chat with my colleague A (a serious track runner who has recently ventured into much longer distances) about warming up and down, and there’s definitely some precious knowledge and good blog fodder to be taken from that chat. We also talked about recovery, preparation and everything in between – so much to take in, but I’m trying to stay calm! A reckons that arriving at the start line full of energy and excitement is not the way to go, as a marathon is a serious task. My worries and niggles are actually a positive thing, he reckons, as I’m in no way belittling the size of the challenge I’m about to take on. Spoken by a true sportsman, and so I take this knowledge with me to the start line.

I packed up on good food today, despite being at work. Leftover rissotto from last night’s tea (how awesomely comforting is leftover cold rissotto?! Who would’ve thought!), raw veggies and a bagel with peanut butter kept me going nicely throughout a busy shift. I popped to the supermarket during my break and picked up a mango and pineapple smoothie – something inside me is begging for vitamin C, and even now there’s nothing I want more than a litre or so more of that smoothie! Carrots will have to suffice!

I jogged home to stretch out my limbs, and promptly got into a nice Vipirita Karani pose (or ‘legs up the wall pose’) to ease my heavy legs and get the blood flowing nicely. Apparently this pose also increases intellgence – we’ll see!


After that, some gentle yoga and a big bowl of fruit!

I feel as if I’m winding down nicely now, ready to go all out with my energy reserves on Sunday. I feel light, full of energy and bursting with goodness from all the good food, yoga and general balance that I’m getting back into my routine. I’ve absolutely loved the past 15 weeks of training, however hard and, at times, agonizing that may have been. When I get to that start line on Sunday I’ll have packed in 510 miles of training, and only now am I really getting to enjoy the goodness that so much hard work has brought to my life. I feel healthy in my body and (most importantly) in my mind. Half of me can’t wait; the other half is quaking in my threadbare socks!

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Today has been an absolute snackathon. Possibly due to the fact that I’ve been working from home today, and thus within reach of a million tasty things, my tummy has been rumbling all day, and what with the ‘well, I’m running a marathon in 4 days’ thing as an excuse, it’s been a calorie-fest of a day!

It’s hard to digest mentally, I’m finding. As a woman, I’ve practically been trained to eat less: to have a small portion of carbs, to have fruit or celery as a snack and to resist calories at all costs. Mentally, carbo loading is always a challenge to me, especially as I taper and am doing less and less exercise. Having to eat more is awesome in theory, but it’s scary how much it messes with my mind, and makes me feel all sorts of neurotic, and all sorts of things I don’t want to be. But then, my best race yet was run when I was packed to the eyeballs with carbs (funny story regarding a slight miscalculation of semolina the night before), and if I can feel even close to that at any point on Sunday, I’ll be delighted.

So, as you can see from today’s preparation, I’m resisting the urge to get calorie-conscious – why start now, after all – and have been embracing that hunger with a knife and fork!

Today’s run was a 4-miler with strides. I woke in one of those ‘anything but running today please’ moods, and was sure I wouldn’t beat it. So I hung around for a while, dithering and tidying things away while snacking on peanut butter on toast. Come 6:45am I was in my running gear and keen to head off – mind over matter! I felt strong as soon as I head out, and was running at a good, steady pace within minutes. As my knees are giving me some unnerving twinges this week, I decided to take it off-road today, and headed towards a lovely route over some well-trodden nearby footpaths. Unfortunately I got more than I bargained for, as the footpath was diverted through a grassy field. Not only did I have to lift my knees up really high to make it through comfortably, but due to the recent downpours I was also soggy and covered with mud in no time. I retrieved a decent terrain and threw in some strides, and then sprinted the last half-mile home. I had oodles of energy, which was awesome, but when I arrived back I realized that I’d gone a little too far, and a little too fast, for what should have been an ‘easy’ run.


I made up for it with a smoothie: 1 spoon of recovery powder, water, hemp milk and frozen berries…


Then, for breakfast I had a large bowl of porridge, banana and raisins, with treacle this time. Treacle is packed with iron, and is also a fantastic slow-burner: just what I need with only a few days to go! I’ve also had the sniffles for the past 2 days, so am taking on as many vitamins as I can…what is it about racing that turns people into utter hypochondriacs?!

Working from home involves lots of sitting, which I was grateful for after 2 days of running around a busy shop, lifting and generally being very mobile. I feel the need for rest, and am concerned that I’m not getting enough. I thought this would cause more trouble for my seemingly reduced appetite, but today it showed its head in full force! Within an hour of finishing breakfast I was feeling hungry again, so I gobbled down half a bagel with jam to tide me over – yum!

After sitting for a few hours I went out for my lunchtime walk – a nice stroll around the river in glorious sunshine! For me, this is the perfect time to forget what’s going on around me and really focus in on my thoughts, so I started to make a mental list of all the things I need to prepare before we head off on Saturday. I definitely need to start putting things together soon!

Lunch was leftover spinach, orzo and lemon soup from last night’s meal (try it, it’s divine!) with the remaining bagel half and a huge spinach, pear and walnut salad with a honey and balsamic dressing. I love pears in any form, but possibly more in savoury dishes than in sweet ones. This salad packed in the iron and good fats that I need, and was really tasty, too!

I’ve also drunk loads of water today, after 2 days of bad practise in the hydration department. After lunch I took a pot of peppermint tea upstairs, and sipped on that throughout the afternoon – it kept me both warm and hydrated, so perfect! As well as that I ate lots of celery and cucumber at lunch, and drank a good few pints of water throughout the day. A pint glass is always best, I find, and water somehow looks tastier in one, too…!

This afternoon I’ve been nibbling non-stop. Pretzels, muesli and a super-duper new flapjack that I created in a moment of wild kitchen abandon this afternoon. Very tasty, but very sweet, they will be perfect pre-race fodder; I’ll report back with a recipe soon!

Tonight’s tea will be a butternut squash and almond risotto with salad from my nutrition bible, Go Faster Food. I’m planning to have a slow, relaxing evening and an early night – good sleep is just as essential as food and water, and I’m no use to anyone when I’m tired. I’m also expecting to have a bad night on the night before the race  (I don’t sleep well before races at the best of times, and this will be double the distance, and in a strange bed!), so any way I can make up for that in advance is an advantage!

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