The Power of Music in Sport

Haile Gebrselassie is one of the greatest and most successful runners of all time. In 1998 Haile took the Indoor World Record for 2,000 metres…whilst ‘I’m the scatman, ski bi dibby dib yo da’ boomed into the Birmingham arena.  At Haile’s request.

I’ve always enjoyed running with music, not only does it help me switch off and drift into my own thoughts, but it can also be a powerful motivator through the tough miles.  My Dad always says running with music is for wimps. Well, I guess me and Haile have something in common…because apparently we’re both wimps!

But what is it about this rather odd track that Haile likes?

It’s nice music, it’s fast written, that’s why I could break a world record, by that music…’I’m a Scatman! Dum dum’ and then you know the timing and at the same time your style changes immediately.


Are there performance gains to be had from running with music?  If so, why do you see so many faster runners listening to the sounds of their own bodies rather than their favourite tunes?  Most importantly, could my Dad be wrong??

Last weekend, Currys invited me to a workshop that would help me find the answers to these very questions.  With the rise of events such as Run to the Beat and the increasing frequency of live music along race routes, there must be some science behind the power of music?

I met some other fitness bloggers, and Dr Costas Karageorghis (who has spent years researching the psychological effects of music on running), for a fun afternoon learning how it can be beneficial to athletic performance.

A little warm up game!


There have been strong links between music and sport for a long time – the National Anthem is always played during international competitions, the All Blacks perform an intimidating Haka before playing rugby, and who doesn’t feel energetic as soon as they hear the theme tune from Rocky?!


So, everyone loves music but what exactly does music do during exercise?  After explaining the different constituents, tempo, rhythm, melody etc, Dr Karageorghis revealed that listening to your favourite tunes on the run can have the following benefits:

  • Lowers perception of effort
  • Can trick your mind into feeling less tired
  • Encourages positive thoughts and mood
  • Can increase endurance by 20% if you sync your body to the music (that’s a BIG claim!)

Whilst the beat is important, and syncing your movements to the music has the most positive impact, the lyrics can also be very powerful. Words can carry strong personal messages that help to motivate and focus.  I was surprised that several very successful athletes listen to specific tracks before they go into competition to help mentally prime them:

  • Michael Phelps got in the zone at London 2012 with Lil’ Wayne’s ‘I Am Me’ before taking home 6 medals
    • “Ain’t nobody f**king with me man…I know the game is crazy, it’s more crazy than it’s ever been”
  • Iwan Thomas uses music as part of his pre-run routine on the start line with Prodigy, ‘Firestarter’
    • “I’m the trouble starter, punking instigator, I’m the fear addicted, danger illustrated”
  • James Cracknell – favours Red Hot Chili Peppers, ‘Get on Top’
    • Get on top, get on top, hit me, come get me, I bite but she bit me”

These are all very stimulating tracks and, generally, the more stimulating the music, the more active you feel.  However, sedative music can also have a very beneficial & calming effect.

Before the 2004 Athens Olympics, Dame Kelly Holmes had been feeling very anxious following a period of injury.  She used music to help control her pre-race anxiety and block everything out by listening to the soulful Alicia Keys.

Kelly Holmes Athens 2004

Interestingly, Olympic gold medalist, Audley Harrison combated pre-fight nerves by listening to Japanese classical music to induce relaxation & focus, and Whitney Houston’s ‘One Moment in Time’ has been cited as the track used to calm the GB Bobsleigh team whilst still being mentally stimulating through the lyrics:

I want one moment in time
When I’m more than I thought I could be
When all of my dreams are a heartbeat away
And the answers are all up to me

It’s not just before and during sport where music can be helpful.  There are also gains to be had from listening to slow, sedated music post exercise which can help slow the heart rate and reduce stress. I’m definitely going to be giving that a try!

By the end of the session I was left with no doubt in my mind that music is a very powerful tool and I’m absolutely convinced of the benefits (sorry Dad!)

We were then introduced to Monster headphones.  Monster make a range of sports specific headphones, iSport, that are designed to stay in the ear, be sweat proof, shock proof and comfortable. There are several models available but they were keen to show us their wireless SuperSlim which are fairly new to the UK.

The iSport SuperSlim are a bluetooth headphone that claim to deliver exceptional sound quality and stay in the ear with a unique SportClip no matter activity your doing, despite being so small.  We were all lucky enough to be given a pair to try!  I’ll give these a full review when I’ve had a chance to try them properly after the London Marathon – no matter how powerful music is, it will never be as powerful as a London Marathon crowd!

Monster iSport SuperSlim

There’s nothing I love more than an easy run in the sunshine with some upbeat tunes in my ear – here are my top 10 running tracks:

  • Til I Collapse – Eminem
  • Paris – Jay Z & Kanye
  • Party Right – Lethal Bizzle
  • Berzerk – Eminem
  • Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
  • What a Feeling – The Hughes Corporation
  • Not Giving In – Rudimental
  • Keep Your Head Up – Ben Howard
  • Don’t You Know who I Think I Am? – Fall Out Boy
  • Hitz – Chase & Status

I guess number 11 should probably be Scatman…!

I would like to thank Currys for the opportunity to attend this workshop, all views are my own.

Thanks for the awesome goody bag!


7 Reasons why I LOVE the London Marathon

This weekend London hosts its 35th Marathon and some 36,000 people will line up for one of the most exhilarating experiences of their life.  This is why I love the London Marathon.

1. The atmosphere is electric

I’ve run a lot of big races over the years, including several marathons in various big cities across Europe, but nothing, absolutely nothing, compares to the atmosphere of the London Marathon.

Energetic, upbeat, loud, happy, powerful, and ever encouraging, they’re not far wrong when they say the crowd will carry you the last few miles.  They’ll pick you up when you’re down, go wild when you’re running strong and they’ll push you harder than you ever thought possible, it’s a 26.2 mile support crew.  Soak up every second.

2. It’s the sightseeing tour of dreams

Starting in Greewich and Blackheath, the London Marathon takes you past Cutty Sark, Canary Wharf, the Tower of London, the Shard, St Paul’s Cathedral, the London Eye, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and, of course, the magnificent finish along the Mall by Buckingham Palace.  Quite frankly, London is one of the best cities in the entire world and I can promise you there is no better way to see it.

For me, running across the iconic Tower Bridge never fails to send shivers down my spine and it also means you’re nearly halfway!


3. We’re nice to each other (and not just because we’ve had one too many and it’s the last tube home…)

City life is pretty cold and unfriendly.  You rarely get kindness from strangers and you certainly don’t get the warm smile and wave you get from a fellow runner in the country.

On Marathon day something changes.  Londoners unite and flood the streets in their thousands to cheer and shout and wave banners in the air.  Hell, they even come out of their houses to stand on the street in their PJ’s and bunny slippers to offer you a selection of fruit and sweets!

It’s one of the few days of the year when everyone rallies together to celebrate the achievements of others and it makes me proud to be a Londoner.

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4. It’s the best street party you’ll ever go to

I don’t know how many spectators the London Marathon attracts but it’s a LOT.  Whether people are out to marvel at the elites as they fly past, offer support and sweaty hugs to loved ones, or just admire the sheer grit and determination of the masses, they come out rain or shine to holla at you and enjoy the entertainment, often with a pint in hand.

There were over 35 live music sets adorning the route last year, numerous charity cheer points that go nuts when one of their team runs by and 80 odd pubs which helpfully open early so spectators can enjoy a pint with breakfast, there’s never a dull moment.

Sure, Notting Hill Carnival has people shaking their jelly in bejewelled bikinis and feather headdresses but we have 7ft dinosaurs, Sponge Bob Squarepants, men in mankinis, enough superheros to save the world, and people running 26.2 miles with an actual friggin’ FRIDGE on their back.

Notting Hill ain’t got shit on the London Marathon


5. You run in the same race as some of the finest athletes in the world

As a World Marathon Major, London attracts some huge names to the start line, including current WR holder Kimetto who’s racing this year.  And you get to run right there with them!

OK, so you’re unlikely to be keeping up with any of them, but everyone runs the same course at the same time with the same roaring crowd.  It’s an honour.

6. You’ll be a hero

If you’ve ever come to watch the marathon, or even seen it on TV, you’ll know what I mean.  Running the London Marathon is on the bucket list for many people but it takes true strength of character to be able to tick it off.  Each year thousands are inspired by the relentless determination of those who make it to the finish line but most will never find the dedication needed to prepare for such a gruelling task.

Cold dark nights, rainy lonely mornings, endless tiring miles, it’s nothing but hard work and you just can’t cheat your way through.  If you run any marathon you will be a hero to someone.


7. It’s HOME

I don’t know what it’s like to run across the finish line to win Olympic Gold at the Queen Elizabeth Park, or bang in the injury time winner at Wembley, but I do know what it’s like to do the thing you love the most, in one of the best events in the world, that’s televised across the globe, with all your friends and family around you, in the place you call home.  And when that thing is the London Marathon, well, quite frankly, you’re buzzing off your face as soon as the alarm goes off.

The London Marathon? Yeah, it’s pretty special.

If you’re lucky enough to be taking part on Sunday, don’t forget to take a step back, look around, take it all in and appreciate how amazing it is because it will be over all too quickly.  GOOD LUCK!

2011 – my first ever marathon, finished in 4.13


Two years later – finishing in 3.50


Back in the Game: Brighton Marathon

I’ve never really been interested in running the Brighton Marathon.  I always thought London was the only marathon worth running in the UK.  But, last April I found myself signing up for the 2015 race after failing to run a London GFA and realising my ballot chances were incredibly slim.  I knew my jealousy would know no bounds if I was the only one not training for a spring marathon.

Yesterday I realised how foolish and short sighted I had been because the Brighton Marathon is a well organised, high profile, worthy event in a vibrant seaside city with incredible crowd support.  It’s an all round bloody brilliant race and I’m sorry I ever thought otherwise!


On the drive down to Brighton on Saturday the rain came down thick and fast and I was a bit concerned how the weather would pan out the next day. Heavy rain and inevitable wind on the coast would be challenging to say the least!  It seemed to clear by the time I arrived and I headed to the Brighton Centre to pick up my number.

The expo wasn’t too busy, it was quick and painless so I found myself doing the usual fossicking through the various stands. I came away with a bright pair of coral shorts, 3 pairs of socks, 5 protein bars and 3 bags of Honey Stingers. What are Honey Stingers? Well, they look like little jellies…

‘Are these like Shot Bloks?’, ‘Yes, but better’, ‘Oh, OK, I’ll have 3 packs then please’

I then made a swift exit before I bought anything else…

My Mum and Dad were coming to support and my Aunt and Uncle, who live in a nearby village, had kindly agreed to let us stay for a couple of nights.  I had my usual plain pasta for dinner and got an early night (despite my uncle trying to convince me to get on the wine!)


The alarm went of at a painful 5.40am but I had already been awake a while, it was marathon day! Again!!! I forced down my porridge (and chia seed, new addition to mara day brekkie) and banana and hurried out the door. Because I’m so clever I didn’t read any of the emails I was sent in the lead up to the run (well, none of the boring bits anyway) so by the time it came to planning the journey to the start I realised that you were supposed to book parking 2 weeks ago. And I hadn’t.  Luckily my cousin lives not far from Madeira Drive and offered me a parking space for her awesomely located house.  Perfect, thanks Carol!

It was a short walk to Preston Park where the race started and the sun was starting to feel warm in a nearly cloudless sky…I guess I didn’t need to worry about driving rain!


Marathon runners were milling around and there was the usual long queue for the toilets, but there was plenty of time to chow down some Honey Stingers and drop my bag off.  I hadn’t seen anyone I knew so was delighted to bump into my friend Jasmine who was doing a wonderful thing and pacing her (super) mum round all 26.2 miles, a friendly face was just what was needed.

I was in the red start which seemed to be the first wave (the sub 3.15 runners were starting somewhere else) so I was over the start line in a couple of minutes.  I was nervous.  I knew I wasn’t going to get a PB, and I was fine with that, but I desperately hoped I would be able to finish in a strong time and shake off the Amsterdam demons.  I didn’t know what was going to happen, what if I fell apart at mile 9 again?

The race was started by Jo Pavey and there was a fabulous atmosphere.  I made a really conscious effort NOT to start too fast so was pretty pleased not to be running my 10k pace which I often seem to do in all the excitement.  I tend to panic at the start and worry that the crowd will hold me back, but of course they don’t, I just go tearing off like a lunatic wasting a lot of energy stressing and weaving in and out.

Not today.  Today I felt like a marathon grown up, totally in control and calm.


The pace felt comfortable.  It felt easy and quite slow so I was surprised that I was averaging under 8.30 which was faster than PB pace.  I tried to slow down as I knew there were a few hills on the way and wanted to hold the pace.  The hills are in the first half as it takes you round Preston Park, past the Pavilion, and away from the sea for a couple of miles before running past Kemp Town and the Marina.  There’s an almost continuous incline between mile 5.5 and 9 but there is a welcome decline for about half a mile or so.  A turnaround at mile 9 brings the course back to the seafront along a fast stretch.

The crowds were truly awesome.  I made a last minute decision to get my name printed on my Chaser top at the expo and was very glad I did because I’ve never had so many people cheering my name!  I wasn’t expecting such strong crowd support so it was a real lift.  I saw Mum and Dad at miles 3, 5 and 13 and I definitely heard some Chaser support along the route as well.

image The water stations were frequent and well marshalled, the organisers made the decision to use cups this year which I know some people weren’t keen on but I didn’t mind.  I think this change meant they could increase the frequency of the stations (which were almost every mile), I appreciated this on such a warm day.

At mile 16 the sun was getting to me and by mile 18 I had noticeably slowed…it was getting tough.  By mile 20 I was adamant I was pulling out of London later this month, I didn’t want to do it again.  Mile 20 to 23 were pretty dead miles as we ran towards Shoreham and past the power station, there weren’t many crowds around, just us runners focusing on the road.  Why was I doing this?


The last 3 miles were thick with screaming crowds.  They lined either side of us as we trudged along the sea front to the finish line and it was the only thing holding me together as I desperately tried to keep jogging.  I saw Alex with the Chaser flag at mile 24 which gave me a boost and Mum and Dad saw me again at around 25 but I didn’t see them.  I tried to smile at everyone cheering me but it was getting harder…and harder.

Finally, with the finish line in sight, I tried to calculate if I could finish in under 4 hours. It would be close.  As I approached the mile 26 marker I picked up the pace, my god it hurt, why was it 100 degrees?  The clock was ticking and I wasn’t going to make it, I couldn’t run any faster.

I crossed the line in a happy 4:00:12, certainly not a PB but definitely a time I could be proud of.  I’d worked hard to get back here and it was a huge improvement on my performance 6 months ago, I was pleased.


Shuffling along, I picked up my medal and goody bag and headed to the Beach Village to meet my parents. It hurt. Everything hurt.  I really wanted to sit down, to lie down, maybe to cry.  That means I worked hard right??

Mum and Dad dragged me through the crowds and we made it to the pub with my cousin for a cold cider and a little sit down.  Marathon number 8 was done!  I didn’t want to do another one.  I really didn’t.


But in the car on the way back to my aunt and uncles house I thought it might be silly not to do London…I could just jog round and enjoy the experience, I didn’t have to race did I?  Yes, maybe I would do London if I recovered well.

That evening my Auntie Mareline cooked up a a delicious roast chicken with all the trimmings and Uncle Ken made sure my glass was always topped up with some kind of booze.  Perfect recovery 🙂

It was an all round brilliant weekend seeing family, jogging round Brighton and collecting some more race bling.

Brighton Marathon. 4 hours dead. What did I learn? I’m baaacccccckkkk!

The Brighton Marathon 2106 is open for entries. I kinda want to sign up. SOMEBODY STOP ME. Please. Please?



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…


Running from the Heart

Standing on the start line, everything fades away
Excitement has been building, just waiting for this day
Now you stand on trial, there’s nothing more to do
You did your best to get here, you know that much is true


Lost in your own thoughts, there’s one more challenge ahead
But this will be a tough one, you slowly fill with dread
You slaved for hours and hours, the road was certainly long
But have you done enough? The doubts, they haven’t gone


It’s been a tough few months, nothing has been easy
But now the time has come, the gun sounds, you feel queasy
There’s no time left to worry, please don’t fall apart
The strength you feel inside you, it comes straight from the heart


26.2 to conquer, the prospect seems so daunting
‘You can’t do this, can you?’ the voice inside is taunting
One foot in front of the other, you remember how it’s done
A little kid high-5’s you, oh yeah, it should be fun!


Soaking up the atmosphere, a smile creeps over your face
The crowds roar all around you, you’re in a happy place!
The cheers are getting louder, the miles are rolling by
It lifts you higher and higher, you feel like you could fly


It’s starting to get tough now, you’re not feeling quite as strong
Everything’s turning hazy, where did it all go wrong?
It was always going to test you, you knew that from the start
The force that drives you forward, it comes straight from the heart


The crowds are going crazy, they scream as you run past
Your legs are feeling heavy, how much longer can they last?
The miles are getting slower, but the end is oh-so near
With the finish line in sight, you step it up a gear


Emotions they engulf you, from sheer relief to joy
You can’t believe you’ve done it!  Those doubts have been destroyed
Riding high and giddy, you feel nothing but elation
Huge medal round your neck, it’s time for celebration!


What a day of triumph, what a day of awe
You feel a little tired, your body aches and more
But pain will fade in time, from every single part
Pride, it lasts forever, because you ran straight from the heart


By Katherine French


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.


Track FEAR

Every week Tuesday rolls around and it’s time.  With sweaty palms and a sickening feeling deep in my stomach, it’s time to check the Chasers website and see what track session is lined up for the evening.  Peaking through my fingers I slowly scroll down to find the right date and what’s in store…



I hate track.  No matter what the session involves, track is the one thing that always makes me giddy with nerves long before I even get to Battersea…and then the nightmare unfolds.

As soon as I wake up on Tuesday I’m trying to find excuses to skip it.  Maybe I’m ill, am I ill? I’m not ill…  Is that a twinge in my leg? Maybe I’ll have to work late?  Maybe, just maybe I’ll have something better to do?  But it’s a Tuesday and, sadly, I really don’t have anything better to do.  I’m scared.

When I first started going to track 2 years ago I was always last.  I wasn’t last a little bit, I was last by a LOT.  Everyone was just faster than me so I would have to beast myself on every rep, come in last, and then get killed on the recovery, which would obviously be shorter than everyone elses.

Basically I spent the whole session running like this desperately trying to hang off the back of someone else.

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My problem was I always, always ran off too fast, I would literally run as fast as I could until I realised pretty quickly I couldn’t keep it up for longer than 100m.  I ran off too fast because I was trying to keep up, but it was a strategy doomed for failure.  Track Fear was born.

During one session that left me gasping and almost in tears Bryn told me that it was much better to skip a lap, or walk the last 100m, to get the recovery I needed for the next rep than to slow down.  If you can’t do the full session at goal pace, cut the session, don’t drop the pace.  Since then I’ve stuck to that principle.

This week was a 10 x 800m Yasso session (yep that’s 5 miles in total).  The goal was to run each 800m in your target marathon time, so if you’re aiming for a 3 hour 45 marathon you should be aiming for a 3 min 45 sec 800m – whatever your goal, that’s actually a pretty achievable pace for track.

I had a good session this week, each rep came in just under target (although some were a tad fast) but I felt strong throughout so I was happy!


I learned the hard way that track isn’t about running as fast as you possibly can, that will only leave you knackered and open to injury – I’m a long distance runner, not a sprinter.

Track is one session in my training week, an important session, but one session and the reason I go is to build upon and improve my speed.  Yes, it should be hard, it should be uncomfortable and it should leave you out of breath but it shouldn’t leave you in absolute bits.

I don’t hate track, not really, but I am scared of it and I do get so nervous my legs turn to jelly as soon as I step on that orange bouncy stuff.  But, every Tuesday around 8pm, I walk out into Battersea Park with a sense of achievement and relief.  It’s only a lil’ 400m loop after all, it’s not so bad is it?

Until Tuesday rolls around again…


Taking the Plunge: An Ultramarathon

One cold November night in the pub my friend Frankie casually announced she wanted to up her game and run an ultra.  The ultra in question is the UKanTrail St Begas Ultra (SBU35) a 36 mile off-road run round the Lake District, selected on the basis they gave you beer at the end…

Feeling slightly fuzzy a few pints of cider later I, of course, thought it would be an absolutely awesome idea to spend a weekend up in the Lake District running the furthest distance ever in my life…off-road…and piped up that I would love to do it too!  So, after putting off the commitment for a couple of months, this week I finally took the plunge and signed up.  Yes, I have signed up to run an ultra.


The SBU35 was apparently designed with new ultra runners in mind and they say it’s ‘as tough as you want it’.  Following the route of a legendary Irish princess between 2 chapels, it starts at Bass Lake and finishes (36 little miles later) in the West Coast village of St Bees.  Stunning views have been promised!

I’ve got several friends who frequently participate in ultras and they’ve often tried to convince me that it’s actually easier than running a marathon…and the more marathons I run, the more this seems plausible.  Constantly chasing a marathon PB is a physical and mental battle that leaves you frustrated, disappointed and a little bit broken.  With an ultra there’s no expectation – what’s a good time for a 36 mile off road race? Does anyone know?  Just getting to the finish line would be a pretty awesome achievement, right?!

I’m aware 36 miles is a long way and will require some hefty training but, assuming all is well, I will come out of Spring marathon-fit after doing the double in Brighton and London and I aim to keep that fitness through the summer.  Cat tells me the best thing about ultras (apart from the cake) is that it’s totally acceptable to walk sections of it, so I don’t need to be able to run 36 miles non-stop, I just need to be able to keep moving forwards.

I have no idea what’s in store for this one, has my head finally agreed to something my body just won’t do? Looks like I’ll find out soon. Errrr, cheers Frankie!


10 Things I wish I knew before I ran my first Marathon…

1. It will hurt

Obvious? Maybe. But what I didn’t know was how much it was going to hurt long before race day.

Running more miles than you ever have before hurts.  Speed sessions hurt, long runs hurt, short runs hurt, even rest days hurt…when you  go to bed, when you wake up, when your alarm goes off at 7am at the weekend. It all hurts.

But trumping them all is when your friends stay in the pub for a late one on the jagerbombs, and you trundle off home with your tail between your legs because you need to knock out 9 miles in the morning.  Nothing hurts quite like that.

It’s gonna hurt. Get used to it.


2. You will have bad days

There will probably be quite a few, marathon training is never plain sailing.  When I was training for Paris I attempted a 15 mile run after work on a Friday night.  I was under prepared, mentally and physically, I was in a rush and I underestimated the distance.  I couldn’t do it.

That night I ran 12 miles.  I came home in tears wailing ‘I had to cut my run short by 3 MILES and I’ve only run 12, whhaaaaa’.  I thought it was the end of the world, my housemate thought I was mental.  I probably was…I probably am…

If you have a bad day, or even a bad week, move on, don’t worry about it and definitely don’t give up.


3. You may never have a good hair day ever again

I’m afraid this one is serious.  Morning runs will leave little time for a perfect blow dry and, by the time you’ve finished your run of an evening, you’re likely to be more concerned with filling the void in your tummy than sorting your hair out.

Unless you have a personal stylist on tap it’s gonna be a rough few months for your locks.  Sorry


4. You will become really boring to your non-running friends

I mean, really boring.  There you are, living, breathing, even dreaming about running and it’s all you can do to stop talking about all the miles you’ve run, the ache in your calf, the new gel flavour you’ve discovered, your new Sweaty Betty top…but the harsh truth is, the only people that will be vaguely interested are other runners.

Whilst your friends and family will be endlessly supportive…they really don’t care.  They don’t care that you knocked 53 seconds off your Parkrun PB or that you ran your longest run ever, or that your toenail just fell off…

WHAT! You went for another run? Really?! Guess what…


5. You need to have a little faith in you

There will be many times over the 16 odd weeks you’re training when you will think you just can’t do it.  I still think that all the time!  My friend Mike is always telling me I need to trust my training and he’s right, you need to trust all the hard work you’ve put in during the build up, it will pay off and it will see you through.

When I was struggling in the run up to Amsterdam Keith told me look back and write down my top 5 runs.  What was good about them? Remember the positives (all negatives are banned…)

Most importantly, you need to have a little faith in yourself


6. You’ll talk about poo more than is socially acceptable

When you start running long distances you get to know your body very well and you’ll soon have a mental map of all the accessible toilets within a 20 mile radius.  Tennis courts, pubs, coffee shops, churches, bushes-where-dogs-can’t-find-you, you’ll know them all.

Whilst it’s fine to talk stomach cramps and Imodium with other runners, your friends won’t understand and your work colleagues just won’t get it, so when you bust out the poo strategy chat on a Tuesday afternoon after a conference call…well…don’t.

To be clear: Poo talk is fine with other runners, but at work? NO


7. Respect the rest day

Would you disrespect the long run? No. So don’t disrespect the rest day!  Rest days are when the magic happens, it’s when the body adapts and improves and gets stronger.  Don’t try and make up for missed sessions by compromising rest days, just let it go.

Your days off are hard earned, put your feet up, put the kettle on and chill out. Enjoy it!


8. It’s Emotional

Nothing can quite prepare you for the immense euphoria, relief and triumphant joy you feel when you cross the marathon finish line.  Weeks and weeks of blood, sweat, and tears all comes down to this very this moment and you’ve done it!  Add to that the sheer exhaustion, more pain and raging thirst and you may very well just cry. But that’s OK…just don’t ruin your brand new shiny medal!


9. You’ll get the blues

What goes up must come down and after the high of finishing your first marathon there’s a fair ol way to come back down.  When the celebrations are over and you’ve caught up on life it’s normal to feel like there’s a bit of a hole in your life.  You spent so much time, energy and focus preparing for one day it feels a bit like when Christmas is over when you’re a kid.

I’m afraid the post-marathon blues are very real


There’s only one way I’ve found of picking myself back up again, and that leads us on nicely to…

10. It’s an addiction

Sure, you might not believe me now and you sure as hell won’t believe me just after you’ve crossed that finish line, but give it a week…maybe less…and you’ll be carefully dusting off your trainers secretly plotting when your next marathon will be.  All of a sudden it’s not so secret and you’re lining up marathons like you used to line up sambuka on a Friday night.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  Before you know it people will be all like…


And it is a problem.  It’s a really big frigging problem…so good luck with that 🙂

So this is Christmas…what have you done?

I’ve been mostly unimpressed with my running performance this year.  2014 was not the year of PB’s that I was hoping for and it’s been frustrating, challenging and exhausting trying to make it so.  But, hey, life is full of ups and downs and you just have to roll with it right?

The one thing I’ve learned is that the Chasers won’t let me give up on myself even if I do and if it wasn’t for them I probably would have hung up my trainers by now, succumbing to a life of excessive chocolate and cheese, drowning my sorrows and wondering how I got so fat…


With that in mind, one of my New Years Resolutions is to offer the strength people have given me this year to others, because that’s what being a Chaser is all about.

But…2014 hasn’t been all bad and there have definitely been some highlights!

1. Representing at the South of England Road Relay Championships

That’s right, me, the girl who came last in cross country at school represented her club in the SEAA Road Relay Championships…and I did not come last!


2. Rome Marathon

OK, so the Romans couldn’t organise a p**s up in a brewery (literally, when Ruth and I asked for a ‘nice glass of red’ they brought us some kind of shot, then when we asked for a glass of wine they simply poured said shot into a wine glass…) but they sure as hell can build a City.

Rome is quite simply stunning and possibly the most beautiful city I’ve ever been to and I got to soak up two and a half thousands of years worth of history in the best way possible – by running round it.


3. A Running First

Flying high on post marathon endorphins and frustrated with my Rome performance I immediately entered the Manchester Marathon and ran it 2 weeks later.  I still didn’t get the time I was after but I did run it 10 minutes quicker and realised that I was capable of more than I ever thought possible.

I swore I’d never run 2 marathons in 2 weeks ever again but I’m already gearing up for another double this Spring…


4. Green Belt Relay

Most people actively avoid the M25 at the best of times but some of my favourite memories this year are from one sunny weekend where 33 of us spent a solid 2 days driving/running around it.

Teams of 11 running 220 miles over 22 stages, navigational challenges, burning sun, a night in Essex still in sweaty running gear and a broken minibus (somewhat) affectionately named Phoenix.  Yep, Green Belt was bloody brilliant!


5. Amsterdam Marathon

This was the most difficult and challenging run of my life but I crossed that finish line.  Amsterdam was my 4th marathon in a 12 month period and I think I finally understood that running 26.2 miles is quite hard work and a pretty big achievement.  Yes, it was my slowest marathon by a long way but that does not make me a bad runner, a bad runner is one who gives up when the going gets tough.


6. Trail running in Gower 

Thanks to Cat I finally had the courage to enter my first event in the Coastal Trail Series.  Gower saw me scramble my way round 13/14 tough, hilly and beautiful offroad miles in the Welsh countryside and I (think) I loved it.

Trail running is quite new to me but it’s definitely something I plan to do more of next year, especially if it involves a weekend away with the Chasers (and wine…there’ll be wine right?!)


2014 has challenged me in new ways and I’ve pushed boundaries that I wouldn’t have even considered before.  I hope you have as many awesome running memories as me!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight x