Running towards the big day

I got an email from the Great Manchester 10k people today – two weeks to go! On 20 May me and 40,000 other people are going to thunder round Manchester in hopefully slightly less wintery weather than we’ve got today.

Needless to say I have a cold – for two nights now I have driven MrM to sleeping on the sofa to escape my 2am coughing and wheezing.

running trail

running trail

Yesterday I went out for an early morning trot around the trails. My airways free enough to be almost overpowered by the smell of hawthorn. The mayflower is coming out too now – all very pretty. I did four miles in 43 mins 21 secs.





Ordinarily I would have been training with Adam on getting faster, but Adam was at a stag party on Saturday night and so we’re training Tuesday.

Running trail home

Running trail home

Today has been all work (I know, flaming Bank Holiday as well, but needs must) and yoga. There’s something very comforting about yoga, even if the plough position does challenge breathing at the best of times.


Legs on fire!

Today’s gym session with Adam has been all about the legs today. Strong legs, strong runner. Tough glutes, strong runner. Steely calves, strong runner.

We did a bit of arm and core work too *everybody now ‘STRONG RUNNER’*. But mostly legs, legs and more legs.

This is what we did:
* five minutes warm up jog

* running on the spot like a maniac for 10 seconds then jogging for 10 seconds, for 2 minutes
* dead-lifting a 15kg weight bag x 10
* lunges with arms in the air clenching fists above head x 12 each leg

repeat x 3

Stepping machine – 5 minutes of stair-climbing

* some weight machine guaranteed to make your bum burn as you pull weight to waist while simultaneously pulling leg from lunge positing to waist height (don’t ask me, I am the sweating guinea-pig)
* semi squad position, holding an 8kg medicine ball, swing from left side at thigh level, swinging to head height on opposite side
* buso ball, flat side up. Hand each side, step into plank position, hold for 10 seconds, step back. Repeat x 3

repeat x 3

Stepping machine – 5 minutes of stair climbing

running machine – 30secs walk at 3mph,  30 secs 5mph, 30 secs 8mph and back to 30 secs of 3mph, 5mph etc. Repeat for 10 minutes.

Looks a lot all written down but it only took one hour and the time flew by.

I was sweating fiercely after five minutes but I wasn’t out of breath until i stopped the exercises. Even when I was pacing about breathing fast I wasn’t wheezing and it wasn’t for long.

Apparently my recovery is improving massively. “Remember that when you’re doing intervals,” said Adam. “Your recovery after intensive work is much quicker.”

So that’s me told!

“Oh and don’t do anything tomorrow, have  rest day.”

No need to tell me that. Legs on fire!

In conclusion though can we have a big ‘yay’ for my 8mph sprints after a full-on legs session. Those legs were jelly, but they kept going… though as much because I was visualising a messy, bloody tangle of hair, nose and broken bone if I tried to stop! Call me vain… 🙂

Weighing into gym session running training

Last night was my weekly running training session with Adam.

I’ve not been sleeping well. Apparently not even running can save me from insomnia now. Over the past few weeks I’ve slipped into that midnight world of semi-sonambulistic internal incantation, my mind charting impossible scenarios that always start badly and never turn out well, that make no sense but stillvhaunt me like the ghosts of personal disasters never-were.

Consequently I’m not firing on all cylinders. I am pondering random lines of poetry – mostly Keats, yes it’s THAT bad – but apparently I can still run. And lift weights. Lots of weights. Bloody love the weights just now.

Last night I did circuits of one-mile jog-sprints on the treadmill, at various inclines. Seven mph 30-second bursts with 5.5 mph recoveries was pushing me.

In between squats with a 10kg medicine ball, press ups to standing and lifting two 5kg dumbbells, jumping on and off steps and wee table things (quite easy, don’t tell Adam) and swinging this heavy pole about (for muscles down the sides of my body, I guess).

I really enjoyed it. Weights training is completely different from running. While you’re doing the exercise you’re fine, it’s only after you stop that you’re panting and pouring with sweat. And the challenge – great fun.

Adam’s got family staying so more homework for the weekend – same as last week. A timed 10k and one-mile intervals.

Let’s hope for some decent weather here – it was hailing when I got in last night!

Intervals v obstables

My run-faster homework this week is one-mile intervals. Basically, run a mile as fast as you can, jog until you’re breathing like a normal person and then do it again. And I only need to do three. And then I’m done.

Sounds easy enough but it’s fraught with obstacles. The weight of my bottom and the lack of puff in my lungs being just two.  And of course my mind, about which I’ve twittered on before at great length. Today I had to traverse a number of physical obstacles:

  • two men, a toddler and a push chair on a bridge, the men and baby absorbed in watching the rushing water and not getting out of my way, which seemed odd given I make more noise than a runaway steam train
  • lots of big splashy puddles, which were actually quite good fun but somehow squeezed the breath out of me
  • numerous hills and slopes which turned my pathetic legs to jelly and half-convinced me I as running on the spot at one point
  • cars which forced me to dodge-run through the pot-holed edge of a single track road.

My intervals today were nowhere near those I achieved with Adam. But I ran my first ever sub 10-minute mile on my own, just, so big grin (and there was a hillette!). 9:56, 11:26, 10:27. Went a bit rubbish in the middle there – think I busted a gut on the first mile.

I tell you, it’s not easy being a speed hunter. You need your wits, your willingness to get covered in mud and a good soundtrack. Now it’s light I’m back in love with the shuffle. Today’s top running tune – No1 Song in Heaven by the Mael brothers, Ron and Russell.

I love running to dance music but Adam’s a real rock fiend. What do you run to? Do you find music pushes you on somehow when the spirit’s flagging?

Hell’s teeth, I can run!

Running training today was three one-mile tempo runs with some 5kg medicine ball and 8kg kettlebell exercises in between. Incorporating lunges and squats – the usual fare of Adam’s strength training.

Strong legs, strong core, strong shoulders.

It was a beautiful morning for training – frost on the grass but bright and clear.

frost on the grass at Whythenshawe Park

Frost on the grass - early morning at Whythenshawe Park

The first bluebells are just peeping through their buds now as well, so pretty.


Budding bluebells nestled under a tree

And the early morning light made tall shadows on the path to the  car park where I meet Adam, my running trainer.

Long shadows in Whythenshawe Park

Long shadows in Whythenshawe Park

Sitting on the fence, waiting for Adam

Sitting on the fence, waiting for Adam

Having had some less than positive runs this week I was a bit apprehensive about today.

We started off with a mile loop. Much wheezing. Adam was babbling something about having been training on a treadmill on a gradient all week. I wasn’t really listening, I was concentrating on repeating ‘You can, you can, you can, ignore the wheezing, it’s normal, keep going, run!’ That and keeping sight of his ankle just ahead of me before remembering to keep my head up and look at his shoulder.

Anyhow, first mile loop completed without trampling a small dithering pensioner and a sprint to the finish. 7.5 minutes! Like, proper running – and everything.

After strengthening exercises another mile loop – another 7.5 minute mile!

I couldn’t believe it. Twice?!

More strengthening exercises – my switch lunges being praised as ‘impressively bouncy’ – and we were off again. This time – not so fast. I was wheezing within a minute and my legs felt like lead. They kind of came to life again two-thirds of the way round but I was struggling and I was focusing on keeping going – with a sprint finish just to prove to my brain my legs had it in them. Not so fast but I completed.

Left to my own devices my average mile speed is 11-12 minute mile pace. Today I was almost 25% faster than on my solo runs. Of course it’s one mile at a time – not four or six, but it’s impressed on me what I can do. I can run. Not jogging, proper running.

I also have homework this week. One mile tempos x 3. Let’s see if I can match that pace, solo. With some thumping musical inspiration I think – it’ll drown out the sound of my wheezing for a start.

Motivation in action, kind of…

You know what’s really useful to take with you on a run when you’ve loaded up the iPod with inspirational, thumping beat tunes?

The iPod!

Yup, I was ten minutes down the road when I realised I was enjoying the sound of birds and not the sounds of Lady Gaga.

But today is chill-out fun run day before training tomorrow, so – meh, who cares?

Spring is coming, the hedgerows are heady with the scent of hawthorn and the birds are tweeting their little beaks off – some pictures from my run round Stenner Woods below.

A den, Stenner woods

Look - a den!


Blossom bursting out


Patch of blue sky

I made it round in 48 minutes, a pleasant four-mile trot around the river paths and no negative thoughts at all. I actually overtook a runner. Ok so she was walking at the time, but result!

…talking of motivation

I found this running website today – The Running Bug.

So far I’ve found some great motivational stories, lots of training tips and recipes that take 20 minutes. Yes!

Do they know me? I enjoy my food, but mostly I enjoy eating it, not faffing around making it. And I don’t like ready meals either (what do they put in them? They taste weird – oddly sweet, mostly).

Anyway, thought I’d share for those who haven’t found it – I thought it was well structured, useful and articles on nutrition, etc seem to be written by experts who know what they’re talking about. Unlike me who has written off ready meals as ‘too sweet’.

Right, off to load up the iPod with some inspirational tunes, as recommended by lessoninmotivation, and then I’m off out for a run. Let’s see if I can shut up the negative mind.

Walking mind over running matters

Ever listen to your thoughts as you run?

I didn’t used to but, just recently, I’ve had less work-fretting thoughts thundering through my mind (thanks to well-earned annual leave) and so consequently I’ve been less distracted. Making room for other thoughts which, I noticed, were less than positive.

‘Can I do this distance/interval set/tempo run?’ ‘Oooh, that’s a pain, hope that’s nothing serious’ ‘My legs are going to get tired/are getting tired/are too tired’ ‘I’m getting out of breath/am out of breath/can’t breathe/am going to die if I don’t walk for a bit’ ‘I’m not built to run in fact I’m too fat’.

Any of that sound familiar? I hear those thoughts running through my mind all the time. And I mean all the time I’m running.

Apparently it’s not doing my running any good either because scientists agree that running is, pretty much, all in the mind.

According to TIm Noakes MD, your brain sees it as its job to keep you in one piece. It’s your brain that decides when you’re fatigued, not your glutes, quads, whatever.

I’ve always had a tendency towards… nervousness isn’t quite the word – maybe ‘carefulness’. I was never the first to go hurtling down the hill on my rollerskates. I didn’t walk along the top of 10 foot high walls. I’m left-handed and so have always been clumsy. That makes you, careful.

So maybe it’s no wonder my mind goes into overdrive and invents 101 reasons why I should slow down. Bit of a hurdle for a woman wanting to run faster.

It’s all very well telling myself to think ‘Yes, I can’ but my mind has other ideas. It’ll be telling me to slow down as soon as I’m sweating and through two miles. And it really doesn’t like intervals.

‘Hmmm…’ I thought. ‘It’s like I have to make it easy for me in order to do it and that’s a problem with intervals. Running at it (ooh, pun, clever you) doesn’t seem to work. Let’s think about it.’

And so I thought about my latest interval training homework and why it wasn’t getting easier and made a plan. A little plan. Nothing too dramatic – got to be careful out there.

My interval is this:
5 mins warm up
1 mins fast
2 mins jog
2 mins fast
3 mins jog
4 mins fast
5 mins jog
5 mins fast
6 mins jog
4 mins fast
5 mins jog
3 mins fast
4 mins jog
2 mins fast
3 mins jog
1mins fast
5 mins jog cool down.

Scary? Scares me. I got to four mins fast once and made it through to 3.5 minutes and then it all went to… wheezing, pain and overwhelming sense of under achievement. Since then? I’ve kind of been avoiding them. Done lots of four mile runs. Like them. Yeah, I know, avoidance.

Well this morning, at 6.30, I was thundering down Wilmslow Road, glancing at my watch and thinking ‘post box, post box, make it to the post box’ and not looking at my watch until I got there and – lo and behold – I’d done a four-minute interval fast.

Big tip – don’t keep looking at the watch!

So, I got all brave – well kind of brave. I thought ‘ok, so you’ve done four minutes, can you do five. Maybe. Let’s try 2.5 minutes fast – 30 minutes jog and then 2.5 minutes fast again. Go on, try it. It’s two 2.5s and you know you can do that.’

And do you know what – apparently Mind swallowed that and I did it. All right, not all in one go but I did it. I can do it. I can.

Look at that – I can! I used the ‘can’ word.

Sometimes you just need to find ways round the 10ft high wall and not walk along the top. Now, where are those rollerskates?!

So ok, who else is a doubter out there? What do you do to convince yourself the seemingly impossible is possible? How do you smother your can’ts?

Birthday in Banbury, Big City and beautiful Brugge

They say it’s a great way to see a city – early, running, before the tourists arrive and there’s early morning light to revel in.

At last it’s warming up here – shorts out, fresh air on the skin – what a difference it makes.

And, of course, new views can only bring a breath of fresh air to your running form as well.

I didn’t take my garmin away with me though, so I did timed runs which I think panned out at about four miles.

My first stop on my birthday tour was Banbury – my home town. I ran around the nature reserve by the reservoir and looked out for the birds that were supposed to nest there – didn’t see any, but it was a beautiful day. While I was there I caught up with old college friends and saw my brother and his wife. Quite the socialiser when I try.

Mr M and I then headed to London to see a play I’s always wanted to see – the Mousetrap. It’s an Agatha Christie whodunnit with dozens of red herrings, set in a post-World War II guest house where everyone has secrets and motives and then… the snowstorm sets in and traps them there. All nervous and twitchy and a murderer in their midst and no escape! Great, great fun! It’s been running in London for 60 years – the longest running play – and you can see why. Of course, I’m not going to tell you who did do it – that’s for you to discover for yourselves. Mwahahahaha!

So that takes us to Sunday – a 7am start with a 9am train to catch to Brussels. Then you just change trains and 50 minutes later – you’re in Brugge – Venice of the north.

Me in Brugge main square

Me in Brugge main square

This is a beautiful city to spend a long weekend. It’s small enough to walk around, it has parks, it has beautiful cobbled streets, delicious food and well, you know what Belgium is famous for – beer and chocolate.

Mr M enjoys a hot chocolate

Mr M enjoys a hot chocolate

That hot chocolate? There’s a block of chocolate on a stick in there – and cream. They do hot chocolate right in Belgium. And they do windmills…

Windmills in Brugge

Windmills in Brugge

But they really, really do Easter. The chocolate shops, of which there most be a dozen, pack their widows with impressive displays. This shop steals the show for me – the Easter Bunny raids Easter Island!

Scourge of the high seas - the Easter Bunny

Scourge of the high seas - the Easter Bunny

Oh yes, the beer. Very famous for their beer. The bar we like, De Kuppe (translates as the Coopers) serves 100 different types. Don’t try them all!

Westmalle at De Kuppe

Look, beer gives you cheek bones!

But now I’m back. Back on the training programme and my chocolate and beer fest is behind me – until Easter Sunday anyway. I brought a little chap back – and if you’re thinking he might be made of chocolate… you might be right.

Two PBs. Sleep, sunshine or shorts?

How does that happen, then?

Having trained on Thursday with Adam, I had today for my long run. Supposedly a steady, easy eight miles.

And yet I ran my best 5k and 10k times.

How weird is that?

Furthermore, I ran down by the river for a fair part of it and so was running on grass, which is far harder to achieve times on than tarmac. And I was running in the morning on nothing more than a cup of tea and a banana. Bizarre.

Of course I had about 11 hours sleep last night and I slept on the sofa for an hour yesterday afternoon after a four-mile gentle jog round the meadows.

Is that the secret to best running – sleep? I think we under-estimate its importance in our post-industrial revolution world. WIth factories and urbanisation came regimented sleep. When the lightbulb was invented man slept three hours less a night. Is that good for us? Perhaps not enough is impacting on our health. I don’t know about you, but I make do with six-seven hours a night, more often than not. Is that good for me?

It was a lovely fresh sunny morning, possibly a factor. Fresh cool air in your lungs is a treat when they’re used to shrinking against icy blasts.

I was wearing shorts – sounds minor, but fresh air around your legs is one of my favourite feelings – just delicious after months of being trussed up in lycra. Did that send me round faster?

I wasn’t even trying to run fast, I was just trying to keep up my pace, but I hit 5k in 33.20, 10k in 69.25 and finished 8 miles in 1.35.10 – yes, jogging it home.

Perhaps the strength training I do has a hand in it. I swing that kettlebell around every evening. Are all those squats paying off?

Anyway, moving forward and that’s the plan isn’t it – running faster.