The Hills are Aliiiiiive!

On Thursday night I attended a Women’s Running event at Runner’s Need in Victoria hosted by the editor, a life coach, personal trainer and a physiotherapist. The main focus of the event was to discuss motivation and training techniques and thankfully the crowd were all relatively new runners, training for half marathons, so we all had very similar questions.

My main challenge at the moment is getting my pace up when running on my own. I find it incredibly hard to push the speed element of the training without someone else’s slightly faster pace to mirror. Interval training I can manage, but its the longer stamina runs that end up falling back to 11:30 min miles, rather that the 10:30 I’m aiming for.

The feedback from the experts then was to give hill training a go. Great for stamina, a form of interval training and also adds in an element of strength training for the old legs. Clearly I am thrilled about this. Hills – not a fan. Intervals – make me want to vomit. Fantastic.

The plan they recommended looks like this:

  • Warm up for 10 minutes regular tempo
  • 1 minute or thereabouts hard up hill 
  • Recover on the down hill
  • Repeat for 15 minutes (with a 2 minute recovery jog if needed half way)
  • Cool down 10 minute tempo run

This looked pretty doable actually and lucky for me there’s a pretty killer hill about a mile away from my flat, just enough time to warm up then.

I set off in my brand spanking new running kit (discount sale at the seminar! I am a sucker for a deal) feeling pretty positive about the session. One minute up hill – pfffft! Easy.

Walk? We ran!

Stella contemplates the hill
Stella sets the pace

And so we hit the hill. One minute up hill, fine. I’ve done that hill a hundred times before. But just the one time per run. One minute up that hill six times over? Not so fine. Although very amusing for passers by, and very confusing for Stella the Dog who actually sat down at one point. Clearly the hill even got to her.

Really pleased I managed it and what a way to clear the better part of 5kms and get the heart rate hitting the threshold. HELL YES! (I say this after I collapsed in a heap on my kitchen floor)

Four to the floor
Stella in Recovery Mode = Hiding

Run Britannia!

In a bid to transform myself into an early morning workout obsessive, (which I’ll need to be to clock up the miles needed to actually get a decent time in the Royal Parks) I made to commitment to meet my running BFFs,  Emily and Laura at 7am on Sunday morning. That’s a 6am wake up call on my usual Day of Rest (i.e. 11am lie in!).

Needless to say, it was a struggle turning off the snooze button and lacing up my trainers. Even Stella didn’t budge in her basket as I left this morning.

I did feel very smug to have arrived at High Street Kensington before any of the morning trains had even kicked in for the day.  Less smug seeing hoards of Olympic volunteers merrily striding down the streets looking polished and ready for action, while I was still yawning and checking if I had my t-shirt on the right way round!

We had decided to trial Sweaty Betty’s Run Britannia, a program of sightseeing runs (5k or 10k) through London running over the Olympic period.  Although we were slightly apprehensive at first thinking we may just be running alongside very fast, very experienced Sweaty Betty Staff and uber runners, we were greeted with huge smiles from the team and set off at a manageable but challenging pace. Note: I am slow, clocking 11 minute miles, so needed a push!

We chose the Royal Park run, which seemed fitting for our training, and with beautiful weather and early enough to be a bit cooler – we meandered through Kensington Park Gardens, via the Royal Albert Hall clocking up 10kms, with a few tips on form and pace along the way from coach Hannah.

Those tips clearly paid off immediately as I clocked up my fastest training 10km! Shaving nearly 4 minutes off my last race time

Back at the Hight Street Ken branch, we were presented with fantastic goody bags (the coconut water went down a treat!) including water bottle, bag and flash neon laces. Nice reward for the weekly long run indeed, thank you Sweaty Betty!

Planning on a few more sessions, taking in up Soho and a bit of window shopping around Harrods – fitness, fashion and soaking up the Olympic atmosphere? Perfect.

Brass Monkeys

Brass monkeys. That means it’s farrrken cold. That winter we thought we were having? Autumn with a wig on. They keep promising snow, but no such luck. No black ice = no excuses.

Layering up to run I’m sure I’m clearly losing my mind, possibly caused by a week without running due to various time constraints. Losing my mind and also, it would transpire, my ability to feel my fingers and nose.

Three minutes into the run and I’m realising I am running A LOT faster. Its so cold the thought of slowing down or stopping just isn’t an option. Result! I find I’m actually overtaking slower runners (well, just the one). I feel like a freakin’ super hero. Then I get a stitch.

1.5 miles from home and my hand have gone numb, so without gloves I’m having to flay my hands around like a deranged nursery school teacher singing ‘twinkle twinkle’. Attracting odd looks at Shepherd’s Bush roundabout, which is an achievement in itself. It’s at this point I remember I’ve left my front door keys at work.

Thankfully, R is home and lets me in, frozen to the core and slightly manic from my cold shock injected speed fest. The combination of being hit with warm central heating and rush of endorphins, means I have to lie very still on the sofa for about twenty minutes while I try and string a sentence together.

5.5 miles logged and in the bank. Need to stop checking accuweather. 7 degrees below on Friday. Will be investing in those gloves, and beanie and maybe more thermals.


Whoop! Just achieved my fastest mile to date, 9:03 – not bad for a soggy and cold Tuesday evening en route home (5.5 miles in all).

Slowly, I’m getting a bit faster. Rather pleased and my splits look pretty even, so it wasn’t just a fluke while running down hill, or arenalin from escaping a rabid mutt in Acton.

Plus its worth noting there’s a fair amount of interruption, distraction and stalling on my route home from work. Here are the main offenders

Kids on Scooters (all ages)
From toddlers who can barely walk, to the older kids who careen from one side of the pavement to the other while yacking on their mobiles, none of them have any sense of how fast they are going or have any regard their immediate surroundings.

No one is safe, from elderly people innocently waiting for the bus to runners like myself (in high vis no less!) we’ve all had to veer out the way or risk being smashed into by two vicious small wheels and being sworn at by either the parents or the snotty preteen. Ban them.

People who don’t look where they are walking
Ok, we’ve all done it. We’ve been busy updating statuses, too involved in the ipod or distracted by some delinquent child smashing into a poor women at the bus stop on a scooter. Nevertheless, every single time I head out on a run I have to use some fancy footwork to avoid colliding with offenders who just step into the street without looking. Its the typical blinkered London commuter state of being. Shouting ‘excuse me’ or ‘careful’ only seems to illicit shocked glares and the occasional 118 joke. I am tempted to get a bell. Or a taser.

Firstly, the pavement is for pedestrians. End of. No negotiation. Secondly, if the light is red for you, but green for the pedestrians, at least slow down. But ideally, just stop. You have brakes and a helmet and runners are not protected by anything other than lycra. Be gracious

I’m hoping those of you who do cycle who read this would never commit these heinous crimes, and if you do, hang your head in shame and change your ways. Along with the bell/taser I may start carrying a small pin to let tyres down…

This coming from a woman who smoked for near on 15 years. Yes. I quit just over two and a half years ago and yes, every now and again I do really, really want a marlboro. But never when I am running. Running past crowds of people standing outside pubs or at bus stop practically billowing tar, ash and smoke past me, and sometimes for those extra special bastards, directed at me, makes me want to gag. Nasty habit. Aren’t I smug *reaches for nicorette*

So, I’m feeling pretty chuffed with my 9:03. Now I just need to find some decent anger management classes.


One month to go until the Brighton Half marathon, we survived Suicide Monday this week (proven to be the most depressing day of the year) but most of the new year’s resolutions have been broken!

The coffee cut back went out the window this morning when I practically mainlined three lattes to cope with the 8:30am meeting in my diary and then spent the rest of the day jittering between offices and not managing to concentrate for more than about 80 seconds. Relatively useful for multi-tasking, not so good when trying to work PowerPoint.

By 6pm I was actually looking forward to my 5.5mile run home. The combination of excess caffeine after a four week hiatus (ZING), back to back meetings and a very annoying snag in my brand new silk skirt (furious) meant I needed the run to burn off the adrenalin and extra madness. It really is cheaper than therapy as they say, without the couch and eye-brow raising analysis.

Plus the additional coffee kick meant I shaved 5 minutes off my usual time. Ah yes. Super speedy coffee fiend!

But it sure beats the ‘protein’ shakes that R is threatening to scare up – involving tuna and broccoli. Wrong on so many levels! Next Stella will be refusing her meaty dinner…. worrying.

Stella would not be amused

Running for Trouble

Week two and we haven’t killed each other yet. Result. Although its all to play for if we’re still speaking after another 18 weeks!

So far we have argued about:

1) Getting out the door on time
When you run on your own, you just leave. You don’t have to wait for anyone or anything, its part of the reason why I love it. Running with R now means I have to take into account his sense of timing (not related to actual reality) and my irrational need to be a complete control freak (again a recurring theme). The silver lining is, he gets me out the door. Even when I’ve used every excuse I can think of. The fact he’s lacing up his trainers means I can’t not!

2) Clothing
 ‘Are you going to wear that?’ Note – this is not a good line to use when a woman is getting ready to leave the house. No matter what the occasion, running included. Cue irrational rage and usually a change of top. ‘I only say that ‘cos I think you might get too hot’. He’s probably right.

3) Crossing the road in the right place
R is currently is under the illusion that he is a) immortal and b) made of high vis material and can therefore run across he road in traffic with no real forethought. Cue irrational rage (part 2) and some shouting about safety and considering my feelings half way up Holland Park avenue. Much to the amusement of some tourists, and my embarrassment. Hot, sweaty and shouting. Not a good look. I was just cross he was running faster than me…

4) Pace
I like to think I understand the whole pacing issue. Slow and steady, recover as you go, etc etc. Honestly its a bit hit and miss. But watching the other half fly past you and then near collapse at the traffic lights is a bit disconcerting. Really its just an extension on point 3 – I was just cross he was running faster than me. Ahem.

5) Route
With R studying the Knowledge I can’t argue his organic sense of the streets of our neighbourhood and the rest of London ‘6 mile radius from Charing Cross’… yes I have heard this many times! But I like my routes, R has other ideas. This will be good in the long run. I just want to show off my self taught ‘knowledge’ of the fastest traffic lights, least pedestrian filled streets and widest pavements. Today we did this:  Sunday Run

Once we’ve hit 3km and I’ve let go of my overbearing irrational control freak nature, I’m really enjoying it. We’ve kept to a great schedule, clocking 16km this week and 15km the week before. R is running 5km comfortably and we’ve even signed up for the Richmond 10km in Nov which is great mini goal to work towards.

Week 3, bring on the next 17kms….

Speeeeeed! Who fartlek-ed?

Tried my hand (feet?) at Fartlek  training tonight, which in case you’re not familiar with the term, means ‘speedplay’ in Swedish. They know their stuff the Swedes, blow your socks off coffee, heart attack cake and running fast for short periods of time. My kind of people!

Started my short 7 km route with 3 pretty killer hills, not very long in distance, but with good sharp inclines, enough to get the heart rate pushing the 90%+ mark. Perfect for short sharp bursts of speed.  Then hit Kensington Palace gardens to try up the speed. I’m pretty surprised that I can manage decent stretches of high tempo running without keeling over. The training does seem to be paying off. Amazing feeling too, had no idea I could actually get up to a sprint at all and maintain it.

10 days to go until the big race, one long run in the schedule left and then tapering the training next week.

Will also be looking at new gear for the coach. This caught my eye!