RUN: Marathon Training and a Masters Degree

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Whilst I’ve made it known that I’m doing a Masters degree in Sports Marketing & Business Management this year, I’ve kept something else a little closer to my chest: in April I’ll be running my first full marathon, and what’s better my debut will be on home turf at the Greater Manchester Marathon.

Yep, it’s around the time I’ll be handing in my last Masters assignments, bar my dissertation. And yep, I’m going to be spending a lot of time this winter training for it. So I guess you could consider the fact I’m doing two very big things in the same year a little crazy, but I find the more you do the more you want to do, and I’m already enjoying my studies and looking forward to my training runs.

I graduated from my Bachelors last week – First Class with Honours, thanks for asking – and it was Olympic sprinter Darren Campbell who handed me my scroll. No jokes about dropping the baton please, I’ve heard them all. He gave an inspiring talk about the importance of a strong work ethic and the fact that where you’ve come from doesn’t have to dictate where you’ll go, and I totally agree. Everything is about focused, hard work. Now I’ve graduated I can’t linger on my Bachelors any longer – it’s time to dig deep and get my Masters and get around this marathon.

In October I hit 90km for the month, which I believe to be more than I’ve ever run before. Even when I was training for previous half marathons I did it on a wing and a prayer which you can do while you’re young; I recognise as I’m nearing my thirties that I need to be kinder to myself, and that involves thorough preparation and proper rest. Thus, I’ve set myself some goals for November:

  • Run 100km in total for the month.
  • Do more high-intensity interval training.
  • Make progress with my hips and pelvis, engaging my glutes.
  • Consciously try to strike on my mid/forefoot.
  • Rest when I need to, and enjoy it.
  • Stay injury free!

November is going to be very busy for me: two Masters hand-ins, the run club at work launching, physiotherapy sessions and – last but not least – my birthday. I’m getting so much better at time management and putting what I want most above what I want right now, and I know I’ll be able to not only survive but thrive at both my Masters and my marathon.

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RUN: Alley Cats Take Over Manchester

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Often I wonder whether I spread my fitness-self a little thinly: a little yoga here, a run or two there, never missing a leg day in the gym. Maybe if I concentrated on one aspect of my fitness I could be really, really good at one thing rather than being alright at lots of things. But, you know what? I really enjoy doing different stuff every day despite the fact I’ll never top a half marathon or powerlifting podium.

On Saturday night, though, I ran a race that took all of the activities I love – endurance, strength, flexibility and speed – and rolled them all into one. The Still Waters Run Deep Alley Cat run. This nighttime race was celebrating a year of the Still Waters running crew, and although I knew the run was a nine-miler with a difference, I had no idea what to expect. Arriving to register I quizzed some of the other runners who were also in the dark. I spotted this board, and it soon became evident that it wouldn’t be just our running legs we’d be using…

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Finally we were given maps and briefed on the run. Three checkpoints were dotted around the city (one of which was split into four) and we had to run out to the checkpoint, get recorded by a volunteer, then run back to the run’s base, Train, to complete one of the CrossFit challenges above – this happened three times over. The checkpoints included a long hill run, a sprint hill run three times over, then heading to four Manchester landmarks.

Anxiety started to take hold of me a little. I was worried I’d be the slowest to run the 9 miles anyway – run crews are notoriously fast! – but to do these frankly pretty tough challenges in the middle got me quivering in my Nikes. Thankfully we were split into small teams according to our 10K times and I ran with two awesome guys, Simon – who pushed the pace and kept us going – and Shao, who kept us safe and ran beside me.

Running through the city on a Saturday night was incredible. The drunken crowds were confused and we had everything from chavs hurling abuse to groups of girls cheering us on. There was a huge sense of comradery upon spotting another group of Alley Cats, always accompanied with whoops and high-fives.

I loved it – by far the greatest run I’ve taken part in. Not only did I complete the nine miles (more like 11 by the time we’d finished, whoops!) and smash through the CrossFit exercises, I found out this afternoon I was actually the fastest woman to complete the entire race, challenges included.

My mind is blown. Never did I expect – it never even entered my mind – that I would possibly even get close to winning anything. But it is because I work all the spheres of my fitness, working my weaknesses as well as playing to my strengths, that I was able to not only survive but thrive.

Slow and steady may not win the race, but strong and steady definitely has a good shot.

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Top image from the Still Waters Run Deep Instagram. Tough to tell, but that is me and my team – you can tell from the neon kicks!

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RUN: York 10K

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Without a specific goal it’s easy to dwindle with your training. I had been letting life get in the way a little, blaming a busy work schedule and hadn’t been too consistent with my training, especially running. Life always seems to have a way of egging you on when you need it, though – enter Run For All and their offer of Chris and I running the York 10K, with just a few weeks until the event. Chris has only recently started running (but is rather good at it, hmmph) and as mentioned my training hadn’t been up to much. So did we go for it? You bet we did!

I quickly booked us in for the race before Chris had chance to think about it too much, then laced up our trainers for more structured training.

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Our short visit to York on the way back from Harrogate in February was absolutely freezing – way too cold to appreciate the city properly – this time we decided to stay overnight to get the most out of our trip. Despite driving through the rain to get there as soon as we arrived on Saturday the sun started shining, so we wandered around The Shambles, dipping in and out of narrow cobbled streets. Needing some last minute glycogen stores we found the York Cocoa House, who made hot chocolate of dreams, and dinner was at Filmore & Union which seems to be a bit of a Yorkshire clean eating institution. I could see (and taste!) why – delicious food created from scratch in front of my eyes, without any added nasties.

I couldn’t resist a bit of cheeky behaviour around the city. The Tour de France ran through York and the yellow bikes are still proudly displayed!

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Sunday morning was absolutely beautiful, without a cloud in the sky, although there was a wind which stopped it from being too hot. Ideal running conditions! The start of the run was delayed for half an hour which we spent chatting to a lovely lady we met in the toilet queue (hi Linda!) but the race began at 10am as promised. The start was sectioned into approximate paces; I bravely opted for sub-45 minutes, only because I wanted to try and run with Chris for a while. He shot off after the 1K marker and I didn’t see him again until 8K when the route looped back on itself.

Large crowds lined most of the route which was very scenic – winding around residential streets, passing through the famed walls of York a few times, going past the Minster and along the river. I finished with a time of 47:39, a new PB made even sweeter by the fact that I just set out to enjoy myself without a specific time in mind!

Overall, a brilliant, well-supported race, with a gorgeous route showcasing the delights of York. The Run For All series consists of Hull, Leeds and York 10Ks, and is in aid of the Jane Tomlinson appeal, raising funds for children’s and cancer charities. If you’re from the area or even fancy a weekend away in Yorkshire I highly recommend taking part next year, even if it’s your first run – like Chris! – it’s friendly, fast, but not overly competitive.

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RUN: I Beat Ron Hill

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Well, technically I ran a faster 5K time than Ron Hill. But I did hear a rumour he started later than the rest of us… Maybe I shouldn’t mention that bit.

Last weekend saw my Parkrun’s 5th birthday, which meant we had a special guest of Dr Ron Hill OBE! He’s a quiet sort of chap, whose only real words to me were that his trainers weighed less than a pound each. He’s also quite little so was probably quite overwhelmed with the crowds of Parkrunners wanting to get a photo with him!

It was unfortunately a rather wet day but that didn’t seem to dampen runners’ spirits. There was a field of 436 which included international middle distance runner James McIlroy, who came second. So I most definitely did not beat him with my time of 24:09, 10 seconds off my previous PB.

I haven’t improved my time since early May, though I’m still very much enjoying being a part of Parkrun. I volunteered Saturday just gone and am running this Saturday – but Friday night I’m off out to Jamie’s Italian Manchester for carbs, cheese and wine, so very unlikely to get a new PB then. Stranger things have happened I suppose!

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Race For Life Pretty Muddy Review

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Yesterday I got Pretty darned Muddy in the fantastic sunshine, on a course that went through beautiful Tatton Park in Knutsford. It was the first Race for Life Pretty Muddy event and of course I had to be there for some filthy fun. For once I actually went as part of a team and ended up running the entire way with Lizzy from Mixtape & Menu – my normal strategy of ‘go on your own and run as fast as you can’ would have been very boring in this situation, as it was all about supporting others to get over obstacles in life as you struggle over too. Oh, I do love a good life metaphor!

The Filthy Girls Gang consisted of my old manager from work and a gang of her buddies, most of which had never run a race before. Their excitement was palpable and contagious, so even my most-dreaded part of a race, the ‘fun’ warmup, was full of laughs and hijinks.

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I actually have no idea what time I finished the 5K in, and for once I wasn’t bothered. The scenery was great and the added obstacles made you use your brains as well as your legs.

My only issue was that Pretty Muddy wasn’t quite muddy enough – I’d heard stories of shoes being lost in all the mud but actually it was only the last two obstacles that were muddy. I’d have loved to have been covered top-to-toe thick mud the entire way round.. but maybe that’s just the masochist in me?! Nevertheless, a brilliant morning made all the better by a strong team spirit; though a more seasoned runner may feel blasé about the event, I would highly recommend it as a first foray into cross country running, obstacle courses or even your first run.

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