The Road to Brighton

With just 10 sleeps left until the Brighton Marathon I’m starting to get that familiar nervous, sickening, slightly uncontrollable panic that only the taper can bring.

How do you ever know if you’ve done enough?  People ask how you’re feeling, if you’re ready, whether you’ll hit your target…I genuinely don’t know what to say.  However, what I do know for sure is that the way I’m feeling now is worlds apart from how I was feeling this close to Amsterdam.

It’s fair to say my injury set me back more than I thought in October, foolishly I don’t think I ever really believed I was injured but, given it hurt to walk a lot of the time, I think it’s safe to say I was!  My runs were slow and laboured, my legs didn’t work and I just didn’t enjoy running.  Whilst Marathon day was nothing short of a disaster, it was a lesson well learned.

Coming out of Amsterdam my resolution was to remember why I love running and the most obvious way I could think of was to start running with my friends again.  Training for the last marathon involved a lot of long, slow, solo miles, I wasn’t going to track, I wasn’t going to tempo, I wasn’t having fun, and it clearly showed.

I went back to basics. My PB still stands in Frankfurt 2013 and that was the marathon I went into with no expectations.  It was the first time I had run 2 marathons in a year so I promised myself if I was going to do it I would only commit to 4 runs a week and I wouldn’t be a slave to the plan.

My approach to training for Brighton has followed these rules.  Of course there is a plan, it’s actually a very carefully structured and beautifully colour-coded spreadsheet (I love a good spreadsheet me) but it’s pretty fluid and flexible.

Sometimes, you really, really don’t feel like going for a run after back to back meetings, and other times you love nothing more than a stress busting 10 miler after work.  The body doesn’t always follow a plan, you have to roll with it.

Step 1: Get some speed back

The first thing I did was reinstate club track and tempo sessions into my training. I had become painfully slow, for me, and these sessions really work to improve your pace.

Hard, sweaty, lung busting speed sessions are tough, but meeting the club at track on a freezing night to chase them round a set of 800s, or having a gossip with Ruth and Laura before knocking out a few tempo laps of Battersea Park in the rain, is infinitely easier and more rewarding than plodding the dark streets of SW London on my own.

An Inviting Battersea Park: The Stomping Ground


Step 2: Cross-Training

The next thing I did was commit to a yoga and spinning session each week.

I had forgotten how much I love spinning with it’s loud music and high energy.  Combining intervals and hills, spinning is great for some additional low impact training, and I’ve used this as a substitute for a 5th run.

Yoga has also become an important part of my plan to improve core stability, posture and muscle tone.  60 minutes of sun salutations, lunges, cobras, triangles, back bends, and even head stands, yoga has been more challenging than I thought it would be but I’m really starting to enjoy it.

I’m now one of those people that gets up at 5.50am on a Tuesday to get bendy on a mat in Waterloo. I don’t recognise myself.

Me: Being a Tree


Step 3: Enjoying the LSR

Finally I wanted to start (sort of) enjoying the long runs again so, wherever possible, I’ve joined forces with some of the Chaser girls to tick off the miles together.  That’s what friends are for right?!

I genuinely have no idea how race day will go. I feel so much stronger than I did 6 months ago but I have an ongoing cramp in my calf and I’m still running slower than before Frankfurt…I don’t know.

To Brighton…


A long run shared is a long run…halved?

The big 2-0 on the training plan is a daunting prospect to even the most seasoned marathon runner.  Not only is it a very long way, but it’s as much a mental challenge as a physical one.  It’s also the run that can give you the confidence that a marathon is actually achievable – if I can just get to 20 miles in training the last 10k will be fine…right?

Of course, it doesn’t actually work that way in real life because during last 10k of a marathon things can either miraculously come together, or spectacularly fall apart!  I’ve definitely experienced the latter more than the former but it doesn’t stop the 20 miler giving me some confidence before race day.

On Sunday the Clapham Chasers hosted their annual Thames Riverside 20 mile ‘race or pace’ event (TR20) which is geared up with Spring marathoners in mind.  We offer pacers from sub 7mm to 10mm so it’s the perfect training run to check you’re on track.  For me, I just love the fact that I can focus on running with my friends around me rather than worrying about the distance.

A sunny race HQ in Bishops Park at 7.30am


It’s an out and back route from Putney Bridge to Richmond along the towpath which means you get to see some friendly faces as people start turning around and a friendly face can offer the same pick-me-up as a caffeinated salted caramel gel!

I find participating in an event like this really beneficial for several reasons:

  • There’s emotional strength to be found in not running alone.  Even if you don’t know the runners around you, even if  you don’t speak, they’re right there and going through the same thing you are (unless you’re Nathan who won the race in a new course record with a full 7 minute lead…but he’s pretty amazing).
  • Plenty of water stations mean you don’t have to carry your own
  • There are marshals all along the course to offer encouragement and a smile (and maybe a high-5 if you’re lucky)
  • When you’re wearing a race number other pedestrians seem more willing to let you past
  • If anything happens help is never far away
  • If it’s the TR20 there’s guaranteed to be a whole lot of cake at the finish!

Chaser Pacers, a happy Garmin & an almost empty cake table!


I went off in the 9mm wave not really sure if I’d be able to hold it but, with Laura and Gemma by my side having a good ol chat, it felt surprisingly easy.  We were a bit ahead of target which worried me, but I managed to hold the pace even though we split up on the way back – I made friends with some South London Harriers instead!

As I rounded the corner to the finish line I was greeted by the Chaser Cheering Squad shouting my name and cheering, I couldn’t help but finish with a little sprint and a big smile!

The best thing about the TR20 is that all I had to concentrate on was getting out of bed (at 5.45am!) and getting to the start rather than planning a route, carrying fluids and being mentally strong on my own.

Maybe sharing a 20 mile run won’t make it any shorter, but it’ll sure make it happier.  I’ve got 18 miles to knock out this weekend and I’m more than grateful to have some Chaser ladies lined up to share it with!

Laura & I looking surprisingly perky post run.


My Lazy Bum

I’ve learnt a lot about running in the last couple of weeks, which surprised me because I thought after all these years I already knew quite a lot. But the most important thing I’ve learnt is that I have a lazy arse. Literally.

Whilst my legs have been doing all the hard work for miles and miles and miles (particularly the poor right one), my bum has simply been coming along for the ride, shirking its responsibilities and enjoying a permanent rest.


A few weeks ago I started to get tight muscles around my knee after running, and it got to the point where I couldn’t really run 2 days in a row without feeling like I was doing some damage, not ideal.  The pain started to get worse and I realised that I couldn’t really walk, let alone run, without a limp.

A trip to the physio and a running coach revealed that my glutes aren’t firing when I run, apparently a common problem.  A video analysis (which I would rather have not seen!) shows that I overstride, lean forwards, don’t lift my heels enough, cross my feet, twist too much and don’t use my arms efficiently.   Doesn’t sound like I’m the best runner I can be…



My physiotherapist, Amy, is a running specialist, I don’t really trust phyios who aren’t runners themselves because they just tell you not to run and we all know you can’t say that to a runner!  She completely understands my frustration and how long I’ve got left until Amsterdam and is supportive of that.  I’ve even managed to get her permission to do the Richmond half marathon tomorrow, at a gentle pace, if I rest today (although Amy is also running the Richmond half so I know I’ll be in trouble if she sees me running too fast!)

She’s spent some time loosening up the muscles in my leg and knee and I have a series of exercise to do on a daily basis.  Glute activations twice a day, clam shells and a lot of leg rolling.  It’s boring and painful, but I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get me to the start line in Amsterdam in just 4 weeks.

When I’ve recovered from the marathon I’m going to start Running School to address my sub-optimal form.  Hopefully I’ll learn how to improve my efficiency, get faster and protect me from injury.

But for now it’s time my glutes got to work and gave my legs a helping hand because the clock is ticking!


The Bit Before the Taper…

  • There’s a dull ache in your legs that you just can’t shift
  • You waddle down the stairs amusing your colleagues no end
  • You’re so exhausted your housemate pokes you on the sofa to check you’re still alive
  • The weariness makes simple tasks confusing
  • You’re always hungry
  • 15 miles is an appealing ‘shorter run’…

It’s almost time for the taper, you know it’s coming, it’s waiting for you with open arms… but you’re not quite there yet.

I caught a glimpse of myself in a shiny shop window last night.   Luckily it was dark, I looked like this…


The weeks before the taper are the hardest, for me anyway.  Not only is mileage at its highest but you’re still trying to get some quality speed sessions in and recover from every session quickly so you’re ready for the next one…it hurts.

Ironically, I’m not actually a massive fan of the taper – it makes me a little bit crazy (yes, more than usual), I worry about getting fat and how the hell I’m actually going to run 26.2 miles.  But I definitely like the idea of it at this stage.

Last Sunday my running club hosted the Thames Riverside 20 – a lovely 20 mile run along the towpath.  Lovely, but it’s pretty much all off road.  I planned to run 9mm to the 10 mile mark then pick up the pace. Of course I didn’t, I ran with the 8.30 group and dropped back at 15 miles, the last 5 miles were really challenging and I finished feeling disappointed and slow.

Clapham Chasers Thames Riverside 20 – much happier at the start than the finish!

photo (15)

Those 20 miles were exhausting, much more so than the 21 miles I ran the weekend before.

Recovery has been an arse – after resting on Monday and 5 miles or so on Tuesday I couldn’t face my 9.5 miles on Wednesday and had to run them last night…I should be running round Regents Park right now, but I’m not, I’m writing this because my legs aren’t willing to do as they’re told.  Soooo, that leaves me some miles to make up on Sunday then.  Yippppeeeeee!

Right now, I can’t wait for the taper. But next week? Well, we’ll see.

The Art of Running Slowly

We all know how it works. If you want to improve as a runner you need to mix up your sessions and introduce some speed work, plodding along at one pace won’t get you anywhere. However, in order to make the most of the hard sessions you need to slow down the easy runs. You also need to vary the pace of your long runs.  Start slow, introduce some marathon pace and finish strong.

It all makes perfect sense to me, I get it. However, as with most things it’s a lot easier in theory than in practise.


On Friday I went for a run at lunch (RUNch as we call it) & it was supposed to be an easy run. An easy run is 60-90 secs slower than MP. For a 3.45 marathon, MP is 8.35, add on 60-90 seconds and that’s 9.35-10.05 pace.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there was a time when I only dreamt of running that pace but, for me, at this point, it just doesn’t feel natural, I can’t do it.  So I compromised at 9mm…but only ended up running 1 mile at that before falling into 8.30. Fail.

I don’t really like running to be too complicated. The beauty of running is its simplicity. But I know that if I want new PBs I need to control my pace a lot more.

Today’s long run was 135 mins in total. 60 easy, 60 steady and 15 MP or faster. I was determined to stick to it! Generally my long runs are pretty consistent in pace, maybe dropping towards the end if I’m tired, but I know this isn’t the way to do it.  I was going to try really hard.

I set out slow. It felt slow, a bit like I was shuffling but I stuck to it. My route took me round Clapham Common and up to Battersea Park. There were loads of other runners out and they were all running faster than me…


Running around Battersea Park I was eager to pick the pace up. This was my territory, this was where I came for speed work not shuffles. Then I spyed a tall girl bobbing up and down next to me. She was bobbing up and down, she was being tall and she was RACING me. She was, I know she was, how was I supposed to control myself now?! Luckily, by the time I had finished pondering this she turned off. I must have scared her, she knew she couldn’t take me….

Anyway, tall bobby girl out the way I focused on my pace again. As I ran across Chelsea Bridge I started to worry that I wouldn’t be able to run faster now. I’m not sure I’ve ever run a negative split before. However, I waited until 57 minutes on the clock (I just couldn’t wait until 60, patience isn’t my strong point) and picked it up.  It felt ok.

By the time I got to 2 hours I was still feeling good and ready to pick it up again, so I went for it.

Obviously I looked exactly like this…cool, calm, in control and fast…


The clock reached 135 minutes and had done it!! I ran the first half slow, the second near MP and the last 15 at tempo. And I finished strong. It made me so happy!

Now I just need to nail these jogs. I just wish I could get Kanye West out of my head…’drive slow homie’