KIT: Stay Safe in Winter

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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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RUN: Run in the Dark

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Manchester Run in the Dark 2014: or rather, a lesson on not letting your ego control your legs…

Last Wednesday night, I was feeling pretty good. I’d had a nice lunch with my mum, hydrated enough, carbed up to the max. I was looking forward to Run in the Dark kicking off at 8pm as I actually prefer racing at night; at least you’ve had a chance to get a full belly of food throughout the day.

Arriving at the start line, I could see that the field wasn’t enormous, comparable to a busy parkrun. I’d already told myself I was going to run for fun tonight and to be with friends, but the sight of such a small field and the fact I might be able to get a decent placing if I went for it riled me up. When we set off I ran the first 2K in 8 minutes: a cracking speed by any amateur’s standards. I got to the furthest point near Victoria Warehouse and was hit with THE most painful stitch I’d ever had. Argh! I was so annoyed and tried to run through it but I really was in a lot of pain. I managed to keep on walking and was running again by 3K – albeit at a much steadier pace – but it took me up until the end of the first 5K lap to get back into a rhythm.

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The latter 5K was more enjoyable but I was pretty annoyed at myself for sprinting away when I should be working on a more steady running strategy, considering the future events I have planned. If I behave like this when running marathons or halves then I’m going to use up my energy early on and be uncomfortable later on. I think I need to book in for a few more 10K races then run with someone I know is able to pace themselves well and doesn’t get too over-excited like I do!

One of my favourite things to do when running races is to look out for my friends to cheer them on. It was strange doing this in the dark though as you’d be about to wave to someone, convinced it was your mate’s face looming in the dark, only to realise last second that it wasn’t them. Somehow other people recognised me though… I must have a really recognisable (read: weird?) running style.

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It was pretty cool to have this run on my doorstep, and to be running the same event as 15,000 other people around the world. The whole entry fee went to the Mark Pollock Trust, which works to support those seeking a cure for spinal cord injuries. Although I was pleased to be supporting a charity and I’m cool with no t-shirt, a medal would have been appreciated. Yeah yeah, I’m ungrateful, and I should be happy with just the experience, but I just like something to go around my neck to say “I did it”!

Would I do it again next year? I’m not sure. I do feel it needed to be better organised, especially at the start and at bottlenecks on the route, though everyone else I spoke to enjoyed the run so maybe it was my own experience that tainted my opinion. It’s a great concept and I love that it was practically in my backyard.

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RUN: WIN an Andrew Wood Photoshoot!

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Next up are my RUN photos! This shoot was mega-high-energy, with lots of tuck jumps and running around going on. Again, I think the fun vibe was captured perfectly and the volt yellow is the ideal accompaniment. Tonight I’m doing the Run in the Dark 10K, which is practically on my doorstep, and right now it’s raining – so I think I’m more likely to look like a drowned rat than how I do in these shots.

So far in November I’ve run a grand total of once, but there again I’ve mainly been sat at my computer getting some assignments done: one was handed in yesterday and another is for Friday. Although I have more not long after that I’m really looking forward to getting pounding the streets again; I’ve felt a little antsy all week and I really think it’s because I’ve missed my running. Roll on the wet and dark of tonight – somehow I don’t think it’s going to be a PB-chaser in these conditions, but I’m looking forward to it all the same.

There wasn’t enough space in the studio for true running photos, but we still had a go – the below is my favourite outtake of the action shots!

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I’m wearing: Nike Miler tee/Adidas shorts (old, but these are cute)/Nike compression socks (calf version here)/Lunarglide 6 shoes/Garmin Vivofit

My giveaway to win a photoshoot plus three runner up prizes is still going on until November 24th. For full information please take a look at the YOGA shoot.

All you need to do is drop me an email at squatbot @ live.co.uk and a winner will be picked at random from the emails received.

Good luck!

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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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