It’s now been a year since I ran my first 10K race, and tomorrow I’m running my next – Race For Life in Delamere Forest. Whilst it’s unlikely I’ll be achieving that elusive sub-45 minute tomorrow, it’s given me a chance to reflect on the races I’ve done over the past year, especially that very first one where I didn’t know what to expect.

Laura from Fat2Fit has written a great post on how to prepare for a race, so elaborating on this I thought I’d add a couple of anecdotes I’ve experienced myself on race day. I am Queen of not listening to advice, thinking I know better, so I have certainly made a few mistakes to learn from..!

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i am a marathoner

It’s not even sunk in yet that yesterday I ran 26.2 miles. Even as I was running, I found I had to keep reminding myself that this was it, you’re running a marathon, this is what you’ve been training for over the past few months! Clearly I thought my life would change dramatically after completing a marathon, but it’s sort of like when somebody asks how you feel being another year older on your birthday: you feel exactly the same, you just know that something should be different. For my first crack I’m really pleased, and the majority of the time I really enjoyed it, feeling pretty much alright at the end. Of course, I’ve already been reflecting and thinking about what I did well, and what needs some work for next time…

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Things may have been a little quiet around here, but it’s not because I have nothing to say – marathon training, work and university have been keeping me very busy, though honestly I feel happier than ever and I am really loving my running right now.

So far marathon training is going to plan (touch wood!). I’ve reached 30km in my training runs and I feel confident about tackling a couple of 20 milers, although on my recent long run I did have a bit of a wobble at around 20km where I had to nip in a Tesco for a bottle of Lucozade and a cereal bar. I’m almost glad it happened though as I hadn’t been paying much attention to mid-run nutrition so I’m working out a strategy for that. Jelly Babies are old school but seem to be the best option for me as I can’t swallow things like gels as I run!

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My Masters dissertation is looming in the near distance, so I’m starting to have a think about what I’d like to cover in my research. As my pilot study I quizzed my boyfriend about a memorable experience he’d had whilst running, intending to go on questioning about retail experiences and how running retailers can make the experience more authentic. What I got was something different, something very special, that I thought you all might want to have a read as it’s something I feel all runners can relate to…

I suppose the er.. the last kilometre of the York 10K was memorable as it was basically just agony. The first three, four kilometres I ran too fast really, and I realised that at the first drinks break at 3K and thought yeah, I’ve definitely gone too quick here, so I did that then the next two or three were OK athough I noticed I’d slowed up by this point as people were starting to pass me, but I didn’t have a timer on me so I had no idea what I was supposed to do. I’d said to everybody previously that I wanted to get around the 40 minutes mark, and I.. um, I had no idea how I was doing. So, yeah, I really had to rely on.. I don’t know, instincts I guess, to determine how quickly I thought I was going. So anyway yeah, I got to the last 9.. 900m or so I guess, the problem I had was.. ha. I ran to the edge of the street and thought that’s it, I’m done. But I then suddenly realised I had to turn around and go all the way back down and around the corner again. And I already had.. Not cramp exactly, but I didn’t really want to run anymore, my heart was like really, really heavily beating in my chest, I was extremely sweaty, erm.. My legs hurt a little bit, not a great deal, but I generally had the feeling that somebody was punching me.

So yeah, I got to the last corner and I got round the corner.. I think I read this previously, and I thought, I can beat this guy in front of me. He’s been in front of me the entire race, and he’s in a blue vest. We’ve been like kinda racing each other, he was in front of me at the cathedral, then I beat him at the cathedral, uhh.. Then we were in sort of the bit near the Shambles, and he was ahead of me then, then I got ahead of him at the river, and so on and so forth, I thought if I could just get past this guy it’ll all be OK, I can just stop and forget about it, except he had the same idea as well as HE started going faster as well..

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Oh, I was just like, shit I can’t believe this, what am I gonna do? And I thought, all I’ve got on Monday morning is work, in fact it wasn’t even work, it was a TRAINING session, it was a training session on the legal history of car insurance, and I thought I think I can do that, sitting down, I can get lots of fluids, and you know, what’s the worst that could happen? So I started running, and this.. this guy, I wasn’t gaining any ground on him, and I don’t know! Something suddenly changed and I had to beat him, I HAD to beat him, although I didn’t know what was going on the rest of the race, I just carried on as normal, and then.. I just became hellbent, this fixation on getting this guy and beating him, but he was going pretty quick, then this kid on the right hand side who was just like cheering people on like everybody else, it was quite well-attended and there was people clapping and shouting and stuff, this kid said to me – everyone else was wearing running gear and I was in this red, sort of orange neon vest, er… and it had this, like this number pinned to it, and I looked like the least professional runner you’d ever seen, like this guy who’d left his house one morning and gone for a run.. So I did that, I was flapping around this course, covered in sweat, heart like a jackhammer, and this guy who’s in running gear by the way, FULL running gear, Mister Nike – er, Mister Nike-y – had wraparound sunglasses, I was like how do I take this guy down? I’ve got 400m to do this. And I didn’t even look like a runner. What was I going to do? This kid goes hey you in the orange vest! You go! Or something like that, words to that effect. You go, orange vest! And I thought yeah, yeah actually, you know, I’m running here with everyone else, I can do this, I can beat this guy. I beat him.

And there’s a picture of me.. The next day I got an email that says you know, check out how you did! Well done, you finished it in this time.. and that’s when I figured out I’d gone an average four and a half minutes per kilometre, and.. er, that was pretty fast, that’s good, I’m pretty pleased with that. Uh.. um. And yeah, the… I saw this picture of me, just before getting to this guy in the blue vest, Mister Nike, and.. and the look on my face is like physical violence, like I want to punch somebody, uh.. And yeah, and like my bicep is enormous, seems disproportionally big compared to the rest of my arm, and I seem to be like having a fight with gravity, and you should see this picture (see above!), it’s like I’ve achieved lift-off, the whole of my body is like come on we can do this, uh.. and yeah, and that’s me, that’s me about ten metres before I beat this guy at the end of the race. So yeah, that’s my memorable experience, just on the basis that after you’ve done nine and a half kilometres, pretty much anything can happen to you, you don’t have that sense of resilience.. you’ll start doing things like what I did, you’ll start imagining the whole world, or maybe just this racecourse and this particular guy is against you, and you have to beat them even though you’re just wearing a vest, a regular vest. Is that the sort of thing you’re looking for?

Funnily enough, it wasn’t really what I was looking for. But it’s made me rethink the direction of my research; I could turn this into an ethnographic account of running, really getting into the thoughts, feelings and emotions of running and racing, rather than shoehorning an attempt to relate directly to marketing in. Sometimes you don’t always get what you want, but you dofind what you need.


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From the 1st right up until the 25th of December, I ran for 30 minutes every single day.

A lot of it was done in the wet; even more done in the dark. I even took up running to and from work just to get the time in. As someone who normally runs two, maybe three times a week normally, this was pretty daunting to me; throw in my crosstraining around it and at first it seemed an impossible ask for my body and mind. The first week was extremely difficult but as I got used to running every day (and my brain got used to the idea!) it became a lot easier, and I feel like I learned a lot about myself and my running..

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Running every single day is not as hard as it seems.
When you know you have to run that day, you just get it done. First thing, before tea, before bed; whenever, it just gets done. When you’re sortof-maybe-perhaps-I’ll-go-after-work-ing it there’s a lot of bargaining that goes on. “Well, maybe if I don’t go today, I can run double tomorrow”, or “I need to have clean hair this afternoon so really can’t go this morning”. Taking the decision away by telling yourself you ARE running EVERY day makes it easier just to lace up and go!

Swapping out shoes can help with any burgeoning niggles.
I ran with three different pairs of shoes over Advent Running: Nike Lunarglides 5 and 6, and Nike Free 5.0. Accidentally leaving my Lunarglide 6s somewhere I had to wear a different pair of shoes, and found that really eased the shin niggle that was starting to develop. I never much believed in the concept of having different pairs of shoes to run in before this challenge, but I definitely do now!

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Barefoot shoes give your feet a really nice break!
Barefoot running is, again, something else I never really believed in. At work I recommend people run in them once a week to help strengthen tiny muscles, tendons and ligaments in the legs and feet, but always thought that if I ran in them I’d injure myself. Not true. Running in my Frees gave my feet space to stretch out a little, and I was running softly with a faster cadence so it was less jarring for my legs. I maybe ran in my Frees 2-3 times a week over Advent Running, and will definitely be using them once a week going forward.

Overtraining is a real thing.
In the last week of Advent Running, I started to deteriorate. Going out running with a dreadful hangover the Sunday before Christmas was the beginning of the end, I think: on a day I should have been resting off the night before’s excesses, I dragged myself running. From there I started to get ill and, incredibly, I still feel crappy nearly three weeks later. I hardly ever get ill and I’ve never in my life been ill for this long. I believe this was down to overtraining, so although this challenge was all about training every single day, it’s actually taught me the importance of rest and giving yourself time off when you need it.

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Going for a run on Christmas Day is loads of fun.
Although I was absolutely full of cold I wasn’t going to miss the big culmination of my Advent Running, which was Delamere Parkrun. I dragged my mum and her cousin Malcolm out to watch me (boyfriend got to stay in bed!) and ran a sub-25 minute 5K, which considering how poorly I felt I was pretty pleased with. It was lovely to jump out of bed, clear the cobwebs with a run, then come back to open presents and fill myself with food, and it’s something I hope to do next year.

Would I do a runstreak again?
This close to the event, I’d say no. Next year when Advent Running comes around I’ll probably make an extra effort to run more, but I don’t think I can run through illness and rotten Christmas party hangovers again. I’ve proven to myself once that I can do it and that’s enough to me.


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Chris and I ran up an enormous hill in Delamere Forest.. with just one brief walk!

Back at the start of November I set myself some running goals for the month, so now we’re into December I thought I’d check back in to let you know how I got on…

After a slow start to the month I didn’t end up running the 100km I wanted to. I only ran twice in the first two weeks – a 7km and the Run in the Dark 10km – due to three Masters hand-ins clustered around the 13th (my birthday!). I did manage 70km for November which I’m still pretty happy with, especially considering the majority of the distance was run in just over two weeks. I’ve done more spinning sessions this month, at my own gym and also a class at BOOM Cycle which is great HIIT work, though I’ll be adding in some variation with Insanity-style classes and CrossFit.

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It was my birthday! My mum got me this card, which I relate to highly.

Forefoot striking came a lot more naturally to me than I thought it would. I decided to do it in November and didn’t really have any issues transitioning, though at first I took the “forefoot running” too literally and my calves took the brunt – now I’m landing mid-forefoot and letting my whole foot touch the ground and it’s a lot more comfortable. I had a bit of a knee niggle but that didn’t last for long, especially not after I started taking turmeric tablets, so I think I’ve achieved my aim of staying injury-free! I’ve also made progress with my hips and pelvis, though I haven’t stuck to doing my physio exercises every day. I have an appointment this evening so I’m sure I’ll get told off about that. Rest is something I still need to work on; I feel like I’ve been going through life at a hundred miles an hour lately so I need to learn how to better take down-time.

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We kicked off the Nike+ Run Club Manchester – it’s on Thursday nights and Sunday mornings if you’re local.

So, that’s November over with: how about December’s goals? I’ve been thinking about my nutrition a lot; for a while I was just eating whatever I wanted – very carb-heavy – and I noticed I’d started to lose definition. I know it’s not everything but I’d really like to maintain muscle density whilst marathon training, so I had a chat with PT Denton who reassured me that whilst it’s difficult, it’s not impossible, and advised me to aim for a 40% carbohydrate/40% protein/20% fat split. I’m back on MyFitnessPal so I’m aiming to login every day and track my macros more carefully. If you’d like to keep me accountable (or nosey at what I eat) my username on there is squatbot.

I’m doing Advent Running this month, which is a runstreak of 25 days – from December 1st to Christmas Day – running at least 30 minutes each day. Yes, that includes Christmas Day! My goal is simply to complete the whole 25 days and to stay injury-free throughout. It’s already been tough and I’m only on day 4. Dark nights, extremely cold weather and busy schedule are getting in the way, but I’m doing it, which already proves to me that if you make room for something then there’s always time. You can keep up with the challenge (and join in yourself) by checking out the hashtag #runforsprouts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. And if you happen to notice the absence of my posts.. give me a nudge! I might just need that extra motivation to get off the sofa.

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Winter running can be a little daunting, as the majority of us are either early morning or late evening runners due to daytime commitments. We all know that we should run with others, tell someone where you’re going and how long you will be, but are there other precautions we can take to stay safe in the dark, cold winter months?

Changing up your winter running kit is the easiest way to keep yourself safe and warm over the winter months, often the most important time in the running calendar, with the majority of long races being in early spring.

If your kit has reflective and fluorescent elements on it, you’re much more likely to be seen by motorists and other road users. Both work by absorbing and reflecting light differently to other materials (a black pair of matte leggings, say, will just absorb the light and become part of the background); although reflective materials need a light source to work, like a car headlight, fluorescent materials are easier to see in low light conditions. You can pick up fluorescent vests and reflective bands for a couple of quid from places like Pound shops and eBay, so there’s no excuse for not being seen! A good tip for reflective bands is to wear them on places that move the most, like your ankles or wrists, as motorists are more likely to notice something moving rapidly.

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Sometimes the thought of feeling cold can really put me off going for a run – even though I know that five minutes in I’ll be warm enough – so I bundle up before leaving the house too much. That means I end up sweating an unpleasant amount, eventually getting colder than I would have been had I have been wearing less! A general rule is if you dress as if it’s 5°C warmer you are less likely to overheat on your run, and you’re also much better in a couple of thin layers rather than one thick layer. The first layer should wick sweat off your body, the second keeps warm air circulating around, and the third can protect from the elements if it’s windy or raining. The more you do it, the better you’ll balance keeping toasty in your warm-up and staying cool during your run. No more shivering cooldowns.

Less of a kit-tip and more of a no-kit-tip: I’m dreadful for sitting around in my sweaty running clothes post-run, but this really isn’t ideal in winter! There’s no proof that getting a ‘chill’ can cause a cold, but it does feel unpleasant and it’s tough to warm up again after your body temperature drops. I try to strip off as soon as I get home and get in a hot shower. It warms up my skin, so makes me feel more comfortable, but also keeps my core temperature stable which is the most important thing. Jumping straight into your cosy pyjamas and drinking a hot drink not only feels amazing but will keep you warm too!

When it’s freezing and lashing it down outside, nothing feels more triumphant than getting yourself out pounding the pavement. But at the same time, if you’re feeling run-down anyway and the thought of getting out there fills you with absolute dread, the world is not going to end if you skip a run. It totally depends on your goals and why you run. Just don’t turn it into a habit!

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