Marathon Training Your Mind

They say that the challenge of running a marathon is as much mental as physical… this being the case I recently asked my friend Amanda Hart, a Clinical Hypnotherapist and NLP Practitioner, for some hints on how to prepare my mind for my first marathon. Here’s the advice she gave me. I think this could apply equally to many areas of life, not just running – for example weight loss or professional goals. To find out more about Amanda and her work visit her Life Insight website.

For most people the subconscious mind is very visual. It’s strongly linked to the right brain, so visualisation can be a powerful way to tune your subconscious into what you want. When your subconscious has a goal it will work away in the background to help you get there; but you have to make sure that neither your conscious nor your subconscious mind are working to a different agenda! Focusing too much on what you DON’T want to happen, either consciously or unconsciously, can affect your chances of success.

 

During your training spend some time every day if you can, doing nothing but relaxing. Get comfy, put some background music on if it helps and sit or lie somewhere you won’t be disturbed. Then visualise a rich image of what you want to achieve – just fantasise about it in as much detail as you can! It may be just crossing the finish line or achieving a new PB, or whatever it is you want! Indulge yourself and imagine all the details… how you look, who is with you, what you can see, hear and smell – everything. It’s like rehearsing for it to happen! Do this often and you’ll create a blueprint for success in your mind. Many successful sports people say that they ‘rehearse’ victories over and over in their mind.  As well as imagining the desired end result, it is also helpful to picture the various stages along the way being achieved successfully – such as successful training sessions – as in this way you are not only telling your subconscious what you want, but how you want to get there. It’s a bit like mental planning.

Don’t dwell on ANY negative images of failure, as it will have exactly the same effect as above and will make failure more likely to happen. If you have a setback, ignore it and move on – don’t dwell on it. If there’s anything you’re struggling with mentally – or even physically – see if you can identify any conflicting ‘parts’ within yourself – for example, the part that wants to train every day in all weathers and the part that wants to be lazy! Again, get relaxed and imagine that those two parts of you are actually having a conversation. It’s best to speak out loud and it also helps to name them! Ask each part to state their purpose and aim and how they are helping you. Get them to listen to and comment on each other’s point of view. Then get them to negotiate and find a common ground or aim – something they can both agree to work towards that will help you reach your goal. It may involve one or both of them making a compromise or agreeing to change their role a bit. 

To keep yourself motivated, when you find yourself ‘in the zone’, such as when you’re having a particularly great training day, or any day when you feel invincible, allow yourself to mentally turn up all of the feelings as much as you can – really bask in it – then when you’re at your peak create an anchor by associating a physical gesture (or trigger in NLP speak) with the feeling. I usually suggest squeezing a thumb and middle finger together for a few seconds. Do it a few times while focusing all your attention on those positive feelings. After the moment has passed, you should find that you are able to summon the same feelings back instantly when you use the trigger again, which should now be associated with the great positive feelings. This has to be practised a bit, but it works a treat once your mind has accepted the anchor, and after a while it becomes almost automatic and you might not even have to use the trigger at all, but just imagine it to get the same boost! 

Lastly, talk to yourself in only positive ways. Any negative self-talk (“I can’t do it” for example) gets imprinted on the subconscious. Even if you’re having a tough day, say to yourself “Well, today’s just one of those days, tomorrow will be much better” or something similarly optimistic. Don’t criticise or doubt yourself. Negative self-talk can be very damaging to our morale and our chances of success. Also try not to speak to yourself using words like ‘should’, ‘ought’, ‘must’ etc. This is not good as it’s harsh and judgemental towards yourself. So instead of “I really should train today” think “I will train today – but maybe later”, for example.

I’ve been practicing Amanda’s advice in training and hopefully there’s something here that will help you too, whatever you goal may be. Good luck!

 

Manchester Marathon Training – February

Well, I’m now almost halfway through my 16 week training programme for the Greater Manchester Marathon (my first) on 28th April. In fact I’ve just realised that’s exactly two months today, which helps to focus the mind a bit! It’s been going pretty well so far (touch wood). I haven’t yet had to miss any training sessions – although I did do a long Sunday run on Saturday a couple of weeks ago when we were having friends to dinner so I could drink on the Saturday night! As I mentioned previously, I’m following the beginner’s marathon schedule from Women’s Running magazine and this is what the next eight weeks of training look like.

 Being a bit old and slow I’ve decided to take things quite cautiously speed-wise for my marathon debut – after all, the most important thing is to arrive at the starting line uninjured! So I’ve settled on a proposed race pace of nine minutes per mile. This makes my tempo/threshold pace 8:30 and my long slow run pace around ten minutes. I’m actually finding it quite hard to run that slowly on longer runs; I sometimes glance down at my Garmin and find the pace creeping up to below nine minutes. This isn’t really a problem now, but it could be as distance increases over the coming weeks, so I really need to try and get to grips with it; after all, setting off too fast is a classic marathon running error. But I have a feeling that this will correct itself as the long run distances get longer and harder!

I read up quite a bit about marathon training before starting and soon realised that developing a strong core is supposed to enable you to run stronger for longer. It does this in two ways; by strengthening your hips and legs so you can retain better posture as you begin to get tired, and also by helping to prevent injury. I’d never tried this before, so a few weeks ago I started going to a core toning class at York Yoga Studio on Wednesdays instead of my usual hatha yoga. I think this is now really helping me to run more strongly, especially on the hill sessions. After the first couple of classes I felt a bit stiff the next day, mostly in my hips, but now I’m used to it I can really feel the benefits. Our instructor, Zita Soanes, is absolutely awesome and as an ex-athlete herself she really knows her stuff. I’d recommend this type of training to any runner if you aren’t already doing it, although yoga and Pilates are good alternatives too.

 I’ve also decided to treat myself to a sports massage at least once a month. I’m lucky enough never to have had an injury yet in my (albeit short) running life, and massage is another good way to prevent injury – although many people don’t go to see a therapist until they’re already injured! It’s not just a little bit of TLC, a sports massage generally straightens everything out to keep things ticking over nicely and rejuvenate the legs for better training; and good sports therapist can often detect and treat niggles even before they become apparent to you, and before they become a problem. I go to Colin Hawxby at Muscle Management – he’s a duathlete, so as well as being a great therapist he knows a lot about running and cycling. I get lots of good advice included in the price of my treatment!

I’ve also been focussing a bit more than usual on nutrition. Obviously I usually have a pretty healthy diet anyway, but I’ve been tweaking it a bit to help with marathon training. I’m going to write a separate blog post about this next week as I think it’s a really important part of training that’s often neglected.

 So, I’m really enjoying training up to now, but I never take it for granted and have no idea how things will progress once I get to the big mileage weeks – Monster Month as some people call it! Hope your training is going well too if you’re doing a spring marathon.

And I didn’t get into the Great North Run 🙁  C’est la vie!

 

Manchester Marathon Training – January

So, marathon training has finally begun! For those of you who don’t already know, I’ve decided to celebrate the year of my 50th birthday (there, I’ve said it!) by taking part in my first marathon, which will be the Greater Manchester Marathon on 28th April. And if that goes OK I’ll also be doing the Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon in October too. “Why has the old bird left it so late in life to start marathon running?” I hear you thinking. Well yes, I guess I have, but as I only started running three years ago I haven’t really felt ready to give it a go until now. Besides, I think that to a certain extent age is just a number and I fully intend to ignore being ancient for as long as I possibly can!

I’ve decided to follow the 16 week beginner’s programme devised by Women’s Running magazine coach Phoebe Thomas, partly because it includes quite a bit of cross-training, but mostly because Phoebe is a redhead like me, so she must be OK! However, for the first two weeks of the schedule I was actually tapering for the Brass Monkey Half Marathon, which was supposed to take place here in York on 20th January, but was unfortunately (but understandably) cancelled due to bad weather for the first time in its 31 year history. We were still allowed to pick up our souvenir running tops, but I haven’t worn it yet as I don’t really feel I’ve earned it!

So, after the Brass Monkey I jumped from the Week 12 taper of a half marathon plan onto Week 3 of the marathon plan. I thought I’d need to take things easy the week after the Brass Monkey, but as it never happened I cracked straight on! In fact it was actually an easier week than those I’d had over Christmas, but that’s no bad thing. Here’s what the training plan looks like:

 I’m now on week 4. As you can see, there are actually only three days a week when you have to run. I’m glad about the cross training because I haven’t done any proper bike riding for a while, and also because Steve and I are hoping to go to Italy in May to watch a bit of the Giro d’Italia and let Steve have his big birthday treat – riding up the Passo dello Stelvio, a classic Giro climb. Not sure I’ll be up to that, but I’ll certainly do some riding. So Phoebe’s cross training will help me aerobically for running but also prepare my legs for our hols. Friday, the only real rest day on the schedule, is the only day of the week I’m office-bound. So, fingers crossed, it should all come together quite nicely – for now! Of course, once the mileage starts to creep beyond half marathon level I’ve no idea how things will go or how me poor old bones will cope with the training, so I certainly don’t want to get complacent.

This week I’ve also started going to a Core Toning class at York Yoga Studio for the first time, which is supposed to really help build up the right kind of strength for good running style; this is apparently very important when you’re planning to run 26.2 miles! It was hard work but great fun and highlighted some areas I need to work on and strengthen. Then there’s nutrition… obviously I usually eat a fairly healthy diet anyway, but I’ve been looking at areas where I can tailor it a bit to suit my marathon training – more on both of these things in further blog posts.

If anyone’s looking for some reading matter to help with their marathon training I can recommend the Women’s Running Marathon Training Guide, which has plans for runners of all abilities and loads of great advice.

 So, I’ll post more about how I’m getting on at the end of February. I always love to hear how other people are getting on with their marathon training, especially women and first-timers, so if I’m not already following you on Twitter please let me know. And good luck with your training, whatever goal you’ve lined up for spring! Anyone else waiting to hear whether they’ve got into the Great North Run? Fingers crossed! Still just time to enter the ballot…

 

 

A Marathon Year!

Gooooaal! We’ve all set one for the new year haven’t we? Losing weight, giving up fags, going to the gym, abstaining from the demon drink… everyone’s at it, so I thought I’d better set one too. And mine’s going to be (ta dah!) running a marathon. Or, more accurately, attempting to. I actually decided to give it a go after last year’s Great North Run. That was the first time I’d ever run a half marathon and felt that carrying on for a bit longer wouldn’t be the worst thing that could possibly happen.

I’d entered the London Marathon ballot (well you do, don’t you) but didn’t get in – no surprise there – so fished around for an alternative. Manchester seemed the obvious option, being not too far from home; I didn’t want to spend a fortune travelling to some far-flung event when I didn’t even know whether I’d make it to the finish line! Plus I was born about a quarter of a mile from Old Trafford, where the race starts and ends. That has to be a good sign, doesn’t it? Or perhaps at the back of my mind I had a vague notion that David Beckham would be handing out the finishers’ medals. Anyhow, before I knew it, one October evening I’d had a couple of glasses of wine and entered. Warning: never drink and look for races online!

I also entered the Brass Monkey Half Marathon, which is here in York next weekend, hoping this would keep me running and steer me away from the wine and chocs over the festive period. Of course I still indulged a bit. I blame my mother-in-law; she makes the most fantastic mince pies and Christmas puddings. But I certainly drank less booze than usual, and tried to time it not to interfere too much with tempo and longer Sunday runs. On Sunday 30th December I ran twelve miles, went dancing at the Craig Charles Funk & Soul Show, then walked two miles home from town – I consider that a pretty good training day! I calculated that after the Brass Monkey I’d move on to week three of my sixteen week marathon training programme and would actually have a bit of a head start.

So, just as everything was sorted in my head, the new Yorkshire Marathon was launched this week to much fanfare and excitement. How could I possibly resist the lure of that? Obviously I entered straight away! And it’s great to see so many other local first-timers signing up too – it’s like we’re all in it together!

So now, even though I’ve never actually run a marathon yet, I’m entered into two and beginning to doubt my sanity. Had I known earlier about the York marathon I wouldn’t have entered Manchester, but now it seems like serendipity or fate that the two events are being held in the city where I was born and the city where I live. It’s a challenge for 2013 alright! I’ll keep you posted on my training progress – fingers crossed. In the meantime it’s Brass Monkey tapering for now. Oh, and did I mention I have a big birthday coming up this year? Don’t tell anyone will you, I’m keeping it quiet…

 What are your health goals (running or otherwise) for 2013? I’d love to hear about them. Good luck whatever they are. And please follow me on Twitter if you’re doing the Manchester or Yorkshire marathons, it would be great to make contact! x

Race Review – Leeds Abbey Dash 10K 2012

I must confess that in the past I’ve been a bit of a fair weather runner. Normally after the Great North Run I get a bit lazy until springtime, just going out a couple of times a week if the weather’s not too bad. But this year I’m determined to maintain some fitness over the winter, so have entered a couple of events as incentives to keep me going and (hopefully) not be too naughty over the festive period! The first of these was the Leeds Abbey Dash 10K, organised by Age UK, which I’d never done before. My younger, faster brother Mike was also taking part.

Sunday morning dawned fine but freezing! Still, that’s a lot better than miserable and rainy. It’s great to be able to do an event like this that’s only about half an hour from home, with free parking in Leeds city centre too. With around 9,000 people taking part things seemed well-organised at the start. The inevitable queue for the loo was long, but moved quickly, and it was easy to get into position according to the time you hoped to achieve. With the course billed as ‘fast and flat’ I’m guessing many people had PBs in mind! Personally I wasn’t feeling that optimistic as my last midweek run had been a bit slow. The only downside to cold weather is hanging around dithering at the start line, but luckily spectators are able to stand close by, so I could shed warm layers one at a time and hand them over to my husband Steve – very handy!

After the gun went off it only took a few minutes to reach the starting line and off we went – as is usual, that’s the last I saw of Mike until the finish! I was surprised to begin with quite a definite downhill, but made the most of it and clocked up a first mile of eight minutes, which is fast for me – too fast – I knew I wouldn’t be able to sustain that for ten kilometres! Kirkstall Road, heading towards the Abbey is a nice, wide road, so it was easy to pass people (and for them to pass me!) if necessary. After a couple of kilometres I didn’t really feel like I was going to achieve anything much, so decided to just enjoy running in such a great atmosphere on a lovely sunny day. Spectators seemed a bit thin on the ground away from the city centre, but I guess it was quite an early start.

 The course did undulate quite a bit – not steeply, but it’s maybe a little unfair to describe it as flat. At the halfway point the course does a u-turn and doubles back on itself, so when I reached somewhere between 3 and 4K the leaders were already coming back the other way – wow! As we approached 5K Kirkstall Abbey looked really impressive in the sunshine. The only water station on the course is just after this point. Being pretty well hydrated on a cold day I didn’t really feel the need for a drink, but had intended to pick up one of the promised Nectar Sports Fuel samples – which didn’t appear to be there. Could they have all been taken already? I didn’t stop to find out!

 In the second half of the race I rallied a bit – perhaps I just needed to warm up more – and began to think a PB might actually be possible. At around 8K I suddenly remembered I had a jelly baby in my pocket, necked it and put in a bit more effort! As we approached the city centre towards the end I wondered if we were going to go up over the same flyover as at the end of the Leeds Half Marathon. Guess what? We were! The incline isn’t really that steep, but the road does narrow quite a bit there, which makes it hard to pass people who’ve decided to slow down or walk. I didn’t have a sprint finish in me, but did the best I could and stopped my Garmin at 51:20 – almost a minute off my previous PB set in 2011! When the official time came in at 51:17 I was really happy. At my age I’m never going to be fast, so I don’t really compare my performance to others, but if I can keep improving a little bit for myself that’s fine. Mike also got a new PB of 43:31, which was great.

 The freebies at the finish were pretty good: water, a For Goodness Shakes recovery drink and a good quality technical t-shirt. However, I did hear that the t-shirts ran out towards the end, which seems unfair – wherever people finish in an event they’ve put in a lot of effort and paid the same entry fee! I also read comments on Facebook that the water at halfway had run out too – bad news for those who are taking longer to finish! Apparently the organisers are working to resolve these points for next year; I hope they do as it was otherwise a really enjoyable event that I would highly recommend.

We didn’t hang around too long at the end as it was still very cold, but headed off home and rewarded ourselves en route with a naughty Little Chef breakfast. Well everyone deserves a treat some time! Next stop is the Brass Monkey Half Marathon in York on 20th January, a race full of red hot club runners with the biggest mileage training weeks right over the Christmas period – I think I must be a masochist!

Race Report – Great North Run 2012

I love the Great North Run! It’s a unique event with such a great atmosphere. I was doing it for the third time this year and everyone seemed even more excited than usual – maybe because we were all still riding the wave of post-Olympic euphoria. It was a bit disappointing that Mo Farah had to drop out, but to be fair the little fella must have been pretty tired! The charity I supported last year was the Macmillan Breast Cancer Unit at York Hospital. This year I’d chosen Martin House Children’s Hospice because I think it’s such a great cause – oh yes, and because they said they’d give me cake at the end!

 I felt I’d trained as well as I could in the run-up to the event. My last twelve mile run hadn’t been that great, but on the Monday before the GNR I did six miles and felt really good, clocking up an unofficial PB for 10K, so I felt fairly optimistic that things would go OK. In the past I’ve just been happy to come in at under two hours for a half marathon, but this time I had a target of 1:55 in my head, which would need an average mile pace of 8:45. I didn’t tell anyone though, as I wasn’t sure I could do it! The weather forecast for the day looked promising – cool and mostly dry with the wind behind us. You can’t ask for better than that as a runner!

My husband Steve was coming along to support me and we left home in York at around 6.15, which should have been ample time to get to South Shields, park the car on The Leas and catch the seafront bus to the start. I ate my breakfast of overnight oats en route, accompanied by some coffee to wake me up. However, after getting caught in some roadworks on the A1 we arrived only just in time to make the last bus. Top tip: this stops next to a Wetherspoons pub called The Five Swans, which has toilets that you can access directly from the street without having to walk through the bar – way more convenient and pleasant than queuing for half an hour at the race portaloos up the road. Sorry Wetherspoons, but I wasn’t the only one by a long way and I will buy something next time I’m passing, honest! We made our way up to the start and walked right past Denise Lewis interviewing people for the BBC coverage. She looks just as amazing in the flesh as on the telly! I had a small banana about an hour before kick-off to give me a pre-race energy boost and carried a gel with me; I usually take these in two halves.

 I went into my pen at about 10.20 and Steve set off for the Tyne Bridge, where he intended to cheer me on and take a photo. He’d borrowed a folding bike from a friend to get back to the finish so he could avoid the crowded Metro – it was probably quicker too! After the traditional playing of Abide With Me, mass warm-up and Red Arrows flypast (always a thrill) it was time to get going. We had several Olympic and Paralympic athletes there to start us off (including Mo), which was great to see, and I crossed the line about 15 minutes after the gun. It had already started to rain gently and continued pretty much all the way round – so much for the weather forecast! Still, I guess it’s better than heat.

I ran the first mile in 8:04, which was a bit fast, but as it’s all downhill I wasn’t too worried. I did manage to see Steve at the Tyne Bridge, which was great, but unfortunately the only photo he managed to take of me is from behind!

 The first six miles went really well, but I did notice that my Garmin was clocking up the miles a bit sooner than the official markers, so I must have set it off a bit too early – schoolgirl error! This meant that I often missed my mile split times and had to calculate what was happening in my head – and maths was never my strong point. The route was lined with all the things people love about the GNR – cheering crowds offering all manner of refreshments from ice lollies to beer, live music (including ‘Elvis’) and kids picking up discarded water bottles to squirt at you – just what you need when it’s raining! I’ve developed a tactic of squirting back at the worst offenders, which is always very satisfying. I do wish people wouldn’t give out orange quarters though, as if it were a football match in the 1950s, because in some places the ground becomes a lethal carpet of slippery orange peel and you really do have to watch your step. Come on folks, they give us Powerade instead these days! As the rain continued and my hair became plastered to my head I regretted not bringing a cap, but fortunately I had taken the precaution of wearing waterproof mascara! I spotted lots of Martin House runners on the way round and it was lovely to say hello to other people running for the same great cause.

By about mile 10 I realised I could achieve 1:55 even if I slowed down a bit, which was just as well because that big hill at around ten and a half miles is tough on tired legs. Taking a gel a little while before it is always a good move! But after that it’s all gravy as you run down to the seafront and along the finishing straight. This always feels like much less than a mile to me, mostly due to the cheering crowds, plus the fact that you can see the finishing line ahead! Some kind stranger shouted “Come on Angela” and I heard a “Come on Martin House” from somewhere. I crossed the line at the same time as another woman and we congratulated each other – the random camaraderie of the GNR is one of the nicest things about it. I forgot to stop my Garmin until after I’d returned my timing chip (for heaven’s sake) so had to wait until I received a text to know what my official time was; as telecoms are always a bit patchy at the finish due to the huge volume of people this took quite a while.

 After collecting my goody bag, which contained a really nice t-shirt this year, I made my way to the Martin House tent in the charity village where Steve was waiting for me. It was lovely to have somewhere to go with shelter and refreshments, although typically it had stopped raining by then! Loads of great stuff was laid on for tired runners: food (including all kinds of cake!), drinks, massage and even a photographer. We were looked after really well and it was greatly appreciated. Fabulous cupcakes had been donated by The Bun Bunny and my carrot one was deeelicious!

 One of the highlights of the GNR is the Red Arrows display at the finish, and it’s amazing to sit looking out over the sea and watch them perform. I’d passed one of the Jon Egging Trust ladies en route and it was very inspiring to see them, especially as our family has RAF connections. Whilst this was going on my official finish time text came through, confirmed at 1:54:13, so I was very happy with that as it was about 3½ minutes off my previous PB, set here last year. According to my Garmin my average pace was 8:37 min/mile. Apparently my overall position was 1,558, I was the 1,660th woman to finish and in my age group (45-49) I came 1,132nd. Combining gender and age I was 149th – don’t know out of how many though! The only downside to the whole event is having to queue for an hour to get out of the car park, but hey ho, it’s all part of the experience. If I ever win the lottery I’ll be leaving in a helicopter like the celebs do! Then it was back to my mum’s for a Sunday roast and a celebratory glass of wine or three. All in all a grand day out and I’ll hopefully be back next year! I hope everyone else who took part enjoyed it too – let me know how you got on. If anyone would like to make a donation to Martin House my Just Giving page is still open. Next stop is the Leeds Abbey Dash on 18th November.

Tips for Great North Run First-Timers

Well, the great day is nearly here – Great North Run day that is! I had my last long run (12 miles) yesterday and I don’t mind admitting my legs are pretty tired from training right now, so I’m glad to be finally tapering! I did the GNR (my first half marathon) for the first time two years ago. I’d never run that far before, so it was a bit of an unknown quantity and a massive learning curve for me. I did quite a few things wrong… like writing my mile split times on my arm in biro; unfortunately they sweated off after about two miles because it was a warm day (I didn’t have a Garmin back then!). I over-hydrated before the start, so had to stop for a pee behind a hedge after about a mile (but I wasn’t the only one!). At one point I lost the plot and couldn’t remember whether or not I’d passed the eight mile marker (I hadn’t – what a disappointment!). When I passed through the Bupa Boost Zone at mile ten I dropped all the Jelly Babies someone kindly handed to me because I didn’t want to stop running – which was a shame because at about 11½ miles I hit a bit of a wall and had to walk for a little while. At the end I was just pleased to be still standing! Even though my husband forgot where we were supposed to meet up and it took us ages to find each other I still loved the whole experience. But I loved it more last year when I knew what I was in for!

So here are a few tips that I hope might help other first-timers and non-elites like me. I learned most of them the hard way so you don’t have to! Feel free to let me know if you have any other good tips to share.

If you haven’t done any training it’s too late to start now. You can’t make up for lost time at the last minute. In fact, you’ll be doing yourself more harm than good if you try to, because you need to be rested on race day. Panicking is pointless, so just enjoy the experience and do what you can.

Take it easy during the week before the event – just have a couple of short, gentle runs to keep your legs turning. This is not the time to do lots of walking/cycling, have a big night out or tackle the gardening/decorating.

Consider having a pre-race sports massage. You don’t have to be an elite athlete to benefit from this. Even if you aren’t Mo Farah your body has still done lots of hard work! I had one a few days before last year’s event and I think it really helped.

Eat good, nutritious food in the week before the race – lean protein, good carbs, fruits and veggies. Just like a car, your body will perform much better on high grade fuel. Try to avoid alcohol – it will make a bigger difference than you think.

Get some early nights in – you want to be as refreshed as possible. Nerves may keep you awake the night before the race, and you’ll probably have an early start too, especially if (like me) you’re travelling to Newcastle on the day.

A couple of days before the event start to fuel yourself up on good carbohydrates such as wholemeal pasta and bread, beans, pulses and brown or basmati rice. There’s no need to eat loads more than usual, just adjust the proportions of your meals to include more carbs and less protein. These carbs will provide your muscles with most of the energy they’ll be using as you run. The night before the event have a meal made with ordinary pasta, as you may not have enough time to properly digest wholemeal stuff at this point.

On the morning you’ll need a breakfast that will provide you with some good energy but not take too long to digest. Different things work better for different bodies, so experiment in training. Many people favour white toast or porridge with something sweet on top like honey or jam. My personal favourite is porridge with maple syrup. Have breakfast at least two hours before the race so that it has time to leave your stomach before the start. About an hour before kick-off have a light snack such as a small banana or an energy bar if you feel hungry.

Consider carrying an energy gel or two with you to take during the race. This will prevent you ‘bonking’ (running out of steam) by giving you a temporary high-energy hit. On my recent long runs I’ve been carrying a Clif Shot Blok with me and taking half after 7 miles and the other half at around mile 10. They really do make a difference. Or of course you can stop for Jelly Babies at mile 10 and just not drop them! If you are going to use gels for the first time make sure you test them out before race day just in case they don’t agree with you.

Hydration is very important, especially if the weather is going to be warm. In the week before the race make sure you drink plenty of water. There is no set correct amount, as everyone’s body is different, but try to keep it at a level where your wee is a very pale straw colour, almost clear. Don’t overdo it on the morning of the race like I did! Water and energy drinks are available at various points along the course, so you shouldn’t need to carry a drink round with you.

Plan your travel arrangements well ahead to avoid stress spoiling your enjoyment of the big day. Think about things like where you’re going to park, how you’ll get to the start/finish and where you’ll meet up with people. There’s lots of helpful info in the GNR magazine, including how to buy bus/metro tickets online in advance. Allow plenty of time to get to the start, especially if you’re going to use the baggage buses. Bear in mind that with around 50,000 runners plus supporters and spectators all milling around at the finish the mobile phone networks get really overloaded and it’s sometimes impossible to make calls. Decide on a meeting point before the race; the best place is under the big alphabet letter signs in the finishing area. This is really important, especially if your supporters have your post-race clothes/food/drink with them and the weather isn’t good – or happen to be my husband!

Most importantly, enjoy the day – after all the training and organisation it’s taken to get there you deserve it. You won’t believe how good you’ll feel when you cross the line. I’m running for Martin House Children’s Hospice. If anyone would like to make donation you can do so on my Just Giving page.

Good luck everyone!

Race Review – For All Events York 10K

Welcome to another of my non-elite race reviews! First off, let me start by saying that I love the For All Events York 10K and have done it every year. It’s great to have a fab event right on my doorstep that’s a good opportunity to assess form in the run-up to the Great North Run and is also in aid of a really worthy cause, the Jane Tomlinson Appeal. This year my new-to-running brother Mike was doing it too, his first-ever 10K race.

We awoke to fog on race morning, which was a bit unexpected – and chilly – but at least it wasn’t raining! We’re able to cycle to York Racecourse (where the race starts and finishes) in about 15 minutes from our house, meaning we can avoid traffic queues and have a nice gentle warm-up en route – very handy. Hubby Steve came along to support us.

 

There’s always a fantastic atmosphere at the York 10K, probably due to the fact that it’s so inclusive, with runners ranging from elites through to joggers and walkers. The lovely Elly Fiorentini of Radio York was doing her usual great job of encouraging us all at the start. We probably turned up a bit later than we should have, so Mike and I found ourselves closer to the back than we’d have liked, but that was our fault for not getting up earlier! The race was started by World Cup final referee Howard Webb, who also took part in the run.

Unsurprisingly the first mile or so was spent trying to get past quite a lot of people. People say this course is quite good for achieving a PB, which it probably is if you’re an elite runner, but back in the main pack lots of people seem to stand closer to the start line than they should. Why? We all get our own individual chip time, so you have nothing to gain by getting in the way of faster people! Not that I’m fast, but I’m far from the slowest at this type of mass event, and it is a bit annoying when you see people who started near the front begin to walk after about half a mile. You can waste a lot of energy trying to get round them, as well as groups of friends who want to jog along five abreast. Note to self – get up and in the pen earlier next year!

The route of the race is lovely, taking runners past some of York’s finest sights such as the Minster and the castle, then along the river. The sun also managed to break through after a while, which I knew it would as I’d decided not to wear my shades! The event is always very well organised, with two water points en route provided by the Asda Foundation; my only grumble would be that the people giving out the water couldn’t keep up with demand, so anyone wanting it had to stop and wait to get it. Some tables with bottles laid out on them would have been useful. As it wasn’t too hot and I’d hydrated well beforehand I didn’t bother, not wanting to waste valuable seconds. I was refreshed by the sight of Steve popping up unexpectedly to cheer me on in a couple of places instead!

I always like to have an aim on race day to keep me going and have a dream of completing a 10K in under 50 minutes, just to get a time with a 4 at the beginning! As I get older I realise that’s less and less likely to happen, but it’s still a good motivator. My first few mile splits were pretty good at around 8:15, but I find it hard to keep that up over six miles, so did fade a bit towards the end. I finished in 52:30, about 20 seconds outside last year’s time of 52:19, and was very glad of the Lucozade Sport provided at the finish line! Mike did really well, coming in at 46:04. The goody bags at the end were great, with an attractive t-shirt and, for the first time, a medal too. Fired up by Mo Farah’s golden performance the previous evening, we felt a bit like Olympians ourselves, albeit quite a bit slower!

 So, after a rest day today I’m back on it tomorrow, now on week seven of my twelve week training plan for the Great North Run. I’m doing it for Martin House Children’s Hospice this year, so please feel free to donate on my Just Giving page if you’d like to. Can’t wait for that one!

Great North Run 2012

Well it’s that time of year again, when the Great North Run begins to loom large and I have to get my finger out and do some proper training! Actually this will be the third time I’ve done it, so I have a much better idea of what to expect now than when I first did it in 2010 – that was my first half marathon and a very steep learning curve! I didn’t do any fundraising that year as I wasn’t even sure I’d complete it, but last year thanks to the generosity of my friends and family I managed to raise over £500 for my friend Angie Grinham’s appeal for the Breast Cancer Care unit at York Hospital.

 

This year I didn’t get in through the general ballot, so wanted to take a charity place and decided to run for Martin House Children’s Hospice in Boston Spa. The folks there do amazing work caring for children and young adults with progressive, life-limiting illnesses, and also give invaluable support to their families. Please have a look at the Martin House website to read more about the brilliant job they do there. Of course, despite being an absolute godsend, hospices have to raise nearly all the money they need to keep going, so I do think this is a really worthy cause to support.

This year I’ve been quite organised with my training, and doing the Leeds Half Marathon in May certainly helped get me off to a good start. I’m now on week five of a twelve week programme, and the Jane Tomlinson Run For All York 10K on 5th August will be a good opportunity to check on progress – I just hope it isn’t as hot as it was last year! It’s also the day of the Olympic Women’s Marathon, which I can’t wait to watch afterwards as I eat a big post-race brekkie. I’m still not convinced I could run a marathon myself, but might just give it a go next year as I have a big birthday coming up – don’t quote me on that though! Entry is still open for the 10K if anyone fancies it, and the For All Events team is looking for volunteer marshals too if any non-runners would like to help out.

If you’d like to make a donation to Martin House please visit my Just Giving page, or give me a shout if you’d prefer to donate by cheque or in cash. I’d be very grateful and so will they! Thanks for reading and watch this space to find out how I get on.

Leeds Half Marathon Review

Yesterday was my first attempt at a half marathon that wasn’t the Great North Run, which I’ve done twice now. I do find that if I don’t have an event on the horizon my running motivation can slide a little, so wanted to enter a spring half this year as well as the GNR. Close to home, Leeds seemed like a convenient option and is now organised by the For All Events team, so it benefits a great charity too, The Jane Tomlinson Appeal.

 My preparations in the period leading up to race day weren’t ideal. Three weeks beforehand I’d had a nasty stomach bug which meant I had to miss one of the two twelve mile runs on my schedule. The following weekend I launched straight into the second twelve miler after a week off, and paid the price by tweaking a muscle in my hip, which has been niggling ever since. But I was still up for it, especially as it was the first ever race for my brother Mike, who I’d nagged into starting running just after Christmas and who soon turned out to be far better than me!

 Sunday dawned sunny with quite a chilly wind – but at least it wasn’t raining! The drive from York to Leeds was pleasantly quiet and stress-free, with plenty of free parking available in the city centre. Organisation of the event was really good, with only short queues for the essential pre-race loo visit. It was cold hanging around at the start, but once the gun had gone off we were over the line in about five minutes. Obviously that was the last I saw of Mike!

 I’d been pre-warned about the hilly first few miles, so had included some in training. The first mile was fine, but there was a lot of climbing up out of town until we reached the ring road at about 4½ miles. Many people found it very tiring and a few seemed to be dropping out even at that point. I have to admit that I found these uphill miles pretty tough, but just reduced my target pace a bit with the hope of gaining some time later on. On the ring road we turned into the wind, but at least we were going downhill for quite a while! From that point on the route undulated quite a bit. Someone had told me beforehand that from mile 7 it was all downhill – er, I don’t think so! However, it did flatten out as we followed the route of the River Aire along Kirkstall Road for the last few miles. Facilities en route were pretty good, with five toilet areas and five drinking points with water and energy drink supplied by sponsor Asda.

 So how did we do? I realised fairly early on that this wasn’t going to be a PB day for me, but still wanted to come in at under two hours and just squeezed in at 1:59:03. In the last mile there was a short climb over a flyover which seemed to scupper quite a few tired legs, and it was a bit sad to see folk having to start walking so close to home. I managed to keep going, but certainly didn’t have a sprint finish left in me as I approached the line! Mike did fantastically well for what was not just his first half marathon, but first ever running event, bringing it in at 1:42. He only started running to keep him fit over the winter for mountain biking in the summer, but I think he just might have got the bug now…

 My only slight grumble is that on some of the roads where we were coned off into one lane the route was very narrow and it was hard to pass people. Having chugged up the hills I wanted to make up as much time as possible on the downhill sections, but where you had groups of friends running three abreast it was virtually impossible. That’s my only gripe about the day though, and I don’t suppose there’s much that can be done about it. All in all very enjoyable, although I was really glad to see the finish line! Great goody bag too, with a top quality technical tee and a Toffee Crisp – get in! Would I do it again? Very probably!

 For the next month I’m going to do some gentle running and cross-training on my bike, which I’ve seen far too little of recently. My very supportive cycling hubby Steve will be pleased to hear that! Coming up later in the summer I’ll be doing the Race For All York 10K and then in September I’ll be ding the Great North Run for Martin House Children’s Hospice. Bring ‘em on!