Monthly Archives: May 2012

Here comes the sun… run?

For those of you also sharing time on this island shared by England, Wales and Scotland, you will have noticed that something like summer has descended upon us over the last eight days. Yes, eight days of uninterrupted sunshine, blue skies, balmy evenings and all the associated stuff: barbecues, Pimms, picnic blankets and general lounging in gardens and parks.

That’s right. The parks that I always write about being places to run are now full of sprawled limbs, cans of beer and strawberry punnets. I can’t complain. I’ve been one of those sprawlers.

My mum sent me a text message on Saturday morning: Great to run in the sun! This was before 10am, as I was putting on a bikini, boiling eggs for sandwiches and gathering reading material. We were headed to the park. But not to run. Guilt shivered through me. “Ready?” Martín said. Of course I was. I forgot about the joys of running and went and sat in the park. I turned a blind eye to sweaty joggers bouncing past us.

This was a recurring theme last week. I ran last Tuesday and had time to run again. I just chose not to. Instead, I sat on the patio, in the park, in the garden, on the sun lounger, under a tree. Put it this way, my trainers got a lovely airing.

So, with the guilt of my mum enjoying running in the sunshine and the fact it really was time to lay off the sunbathing, I got up early today determined to go and sweat out there. And I did. It was glorious.

The weather, I mean, was glorious. After six days of barbecues and cocktails, magazine reading and picnics, I really did need a good lay in the sun to recover.

Training with Mother

My mum, who I secretly signed up for a 5km run on July 1st, got to the end of her first 5km this week. We were both very impressed and proud and I promised I would go running the same route with her again at the weekend.

We did it this afternoon under a grey Norfolk sky. There was some wind about, but nothing to knock us off the cliffs or make us feel like we were getting nowhere (which can happen in Hunstanton quite a lot). She was quite nervous beforehand. Maybe it was my professional-looking running attire. Maybe it was because she thought I would be a sergeant major barking at her the whole way. Or maybe it was lack of sleep the night before. Anyway, I tried to overcome this by giving her a ‘go faster’ headband. It worked.

Another thing I made sure to do was steal her stopwatch. Her training programme has had her doing two minutes powerwalking followed by a minute running. I decided to let her decide when to stop running or not and pretend she’d always been walking for two minutes. By doing so we knocked 50 seconds off her last time.

Taking the watch away meant that she ran further without the pressure to stop because she’d ‘done her minute’. She ended up running two minutes at a time three times and ran around one minute thirty all the other times. Running progress, I believe.

So, by doing this and other 5km routes to not get bored and sometimes throwing the stopwatch away she will feel her body, her momentum, her determination and, more importantly, her increasing fitness taking her forwards… and faster.

We finished with a ‘sprint finish’ and me providing an Olympics athletics commentary as we came down the home straight. I had been the only one to speak during the whole session as my mum was focusing on her breathing and running. Talking is very much a few big fitness steps down the line. As she said, “I’m not a very sociable runner right now. All I can do is nod!”

Well, I was happy running with her; talking random stuff and encouraging each running step. Because with each step we get closer to the goal in July and raising money for Cancer Research and their wonderful work.

To sponsor Wo in her endeavours please visit our Race For Life sponsorship page: Many thanks.

Everything running swimmingly

I love sport. Except golf. And perhaps American football which makes absolutely no sense to me (wait for Maria’s comment below). And if someone asks I will first describe myself as a runner. After all, I run. And I love it. And I marvel at others that run. And I like watching and sharing it with them.

But I also love swimming. Last year when I was injured and on a running embargo, I set myself a swimming marathon challenge: 26.2 miles in 26 days. I completed it in 24. And my hair didn’t go green and I didn’t grow fins, which was a bonus. Actually, I was in the best shape ever. Swimming a mile or two a day did sharpen my already broad ‘swimmer’s shoulders’ (“Do you swim?” I have been asked by strangers in pubs. “Are you asking because of my shoulders?” “Well…”) and leaned me out. Plus with post swim saunas and steam rooms my skin always felt totally clean and soft.

In the past few weeks I have been swimming at least once a week, sometimes twice. And I have noticed how it has made a difference on my runs. And in turn how running has helped my swimming. The muscles I use and build swimming seem to be stronger when I run and help to power me along (I am always trying to use my arms a bit more). And I feel running has helped my breathing when swimming. I breathe slower and easier rather than in gulps at each stroke. And they both help with fitness.

Alternating between swimming and running makes me feel I am getting the best of both  worlds: the diversity and interest of the streets when I run and the serenity and solitude of the pool (if only I lived in hotter climes, next to a clear blue ocean…) when I swim. And they compliment each other physically: the hard pounding of the pavement and then the gentler kicking through water; the shoulders powering through the pool and then the softer rhythm they employ when running.

Here is a quote from a swimming great, Aleksandr Popov. “The water is your friend… you don’t have to fight with water, just share the same spirit as the water, and it will help you move.”

Maybe us runners can look at our roads and parks, or wherever we run, in the same way swimmers see their water.

I need to run (and get somewhere)

“Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass

Two days ago I was finishing a class with a student. The rain had passed and blue sky was poking out, shining on the slightly damp gardens below.

“What are you doing now?” I asked.

“I am going to the gym,” my student replied. “I need to run.”

I looked quizzical. “The sun is out. Why don’t you run outside in the park?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know.”

It got me thinking. I do not understand why people go to the gym to run. There are less car fumes than running through city streets. I’d rather outrun rush hour traffic than breathe in the recycled, sweaty air of a gym. I can pace myself on the treadmill. You can also use mapped routes and a watch to do the same. And go somewhere different each time.

With all the running about we do in our busy lives; homes to offices to meetings to shopping centres to theatres to friends’ houses to airports to restaurants to stations to schools to doctors to supermarkets to hairdressers to hotels and back again – I cannot see why when people want to actually run for the benefit of their sanity and physical health they then hit something which takes them absolutely nowhere.

There’s a difference between hitting the gym and running. I comprehend the fact that at gyms you have different machines which get you up stairs and mountains and along rivers and cycling tracks while remaining on the spot. Not everyone has a bike at home, a boat to row on the river or a mountain on their doorstep.

But everyone does have somewhere to run. Personally, I am terrible at running on treadmills. I get so bored I end up trying to run at 5-minute mile pace and nearly fly off the back of the machine. Thus, I end up finishing quite quickly. It completely desensitises my running. I don’t pay attention to what I’m doing or how I feel. I just want to get somewhere and, of course, I’m not.

On the other hand, when I am running streets, parks, country lanes or beaches I am in tune to everything. From the roots of the trees poking through the pavement to the panting of a dog as it passes; from clocking a new hill to put into the next route to my shadow in front of me (am I upright, shoulders back, pumping my arms?)

Last night, after spending most of the day at the computer, my boyfriend said, “I need to run.” I looked up and smiled. Of course he did. And off he went to run in the woods after the afternoon’s showers. He came back totally muddy and red-faced, but with a glow from being outside in the fresh air which you do not get from a gym.

If someone needs to run, they go and do it the way they know how. This I do applaud. I just wish those treadmill athletes would realise the potential of fulfilling their need right outside their windows. When I run in my hometown in Norfolk, I do a route which goes along the prom. It’s always great to be running by the beach and sea. Also along the prom is our local gym with treadmills lined up at the window. It makes me laugh. They may get the view, but none of the benefits of running in it.

It’s been a busy week for me and a quiet running week so I am looking forward to a couple of runs this weekend. Need to get out there, in the real world with dangers and distractions and all the possibilities of a new journey every time.


A number of people run with their dogs.  I’ve taken my parent’s or sister’s dog out for a run before and it is definitely a different experience.  That is most likely because when I ventured out and decided to go without a leash.  My parents live in the country and the animals are used to roaming free.  But I didn’t factor in the amount of turning around and yelling that I would have to do to encourage the four-legged friend to stay with me.

Yesterday when I went out for a run (without any animals in tow), I stumbled across this year’s DogRun.  I’d never heard of it before so as I looped around I closely observed and then googled to see what it was all about.  Eukanuba sponsored the event where runners were invited to participate in a 5K run with their best friend.  What a clever idea, I thought.  Running with your dog is becoming more and more popular and Runner’s World even has an entire section on their webpage for this type of companion running.

I watched as the participants walked past with their dogs on their way home.  Rottweilers, beagles, poodles, Labradors and many other varieties were present.  I even saw a dog that had saddlebags on like it was a mule.  I couldn’t’ believe it!  As I made it around to get a view of the starting line, the barking grew louder and louder.  It made me wonder how they prevent dog fights.  All the dogs are on leashes, but it still makes me think.  With such a diversity of dogs and probably some that aren’t accustomed to the company of others, how do the owners contain their pets?

I think the idea is a great one as it encourages people to get out and run that might not normally sign up for a race.  But imagine bringing your poodle out for a pleasant Sunday morning event when you end up next to a massive Rottweiler at the starting line.  That would deter me from participating although I can’t picture myself with a poodle in tow.

What about you?  Do have experiences running with your dog in a race or just for fun?

Like-Minded: Light Footed

I read Maria’s Morning v Evening post with a smile. We have always had a tendency to do the same things at the same time: send texts, say the same comments, jump for no reason. So it should have come as no surprise that last week, as she was peeling herself out of bed early to go on morning jaunts, I was doing the same. We hadn’t planned it that way. Some might say it was a coincidence. I say not.

I agree with Maria: it’s not easy to get out of a nice warm bed and head out into the rain while others are thinking of what to have for breakfast. But it is very satisfying. I felt very noble; having the drive to get out there in the wet and wind, having already conquered Hangar Lane before 8am and still having the rest of the day still ahead of me.

Maria and I can see these benefits because we are like-minded. And I believe all runners are like-minded to some extent, whether they run sub three-hour marathons or jog circles round their local park. There is a belief in the running good that we share. Even my mum, who has been signed up for a 5km on July 1st after not having run for 20 years is reaping the buzz of her training. “The challenge is on!” she texted me recently.

No matter why we run, our thoughts are the same. Will I make it to the end? This is fun! This is torture! I feel great today! What’s that twinge for? Wow! Ow! I did it. It doesn’t really matter why we get out there; that doesn’t make us like-minded. What matters is that we do. That at moments such as passing another runner on a spring or autumnal morning they smile at you, knowing the same as you do. We are alike. And for the reason you’re both loping along the pavement and loving it.

Maria and I started this blog not because we run; not because we are friends. We started this blog because we love the experience it gives us. We love getting better and learning to carry on when it’s tough. We enjoy our worries melting away with miles under our feet. And we relish sharing it all, like two sides of the same wheel. Maybe you do, too. Or maybe you want to. It only takes a first step out the front door to get started.

Mind out. You might like it.


Have you started running recently? How does it make you feel? Get in touch with your comments below.


As Laura and I mentioned before, we are famous.

We were interviewed by ESPN before starting Cruce and then again after crossing the finish line.  It’s taken me a while, but I’ve finally edited it so that our shining moments can be seen.  The entire episode gave me goosebumps, but due to copyright I can’t upload the entire thing.  Also, I apologize for the poor quality.  I’m not too tech savvy and ended up putting my camera in front of the TV as I couldn’t come up with a better idea.

Click on the image below to view.  Enjoy!

Morning vs Evening

For the majority of my life, I’ve considered myself a night person.  In college, I was convinced that I couldn’t write a paper unless it was dark outside.  This probably had more to do with my need to procrastinate rather than attack the assignment at hand, but it’s still a valid example.  With the years, this has changed.  If I want to be mentally productive, I have to wake up early as after work there is a minimal chance of focusing on the task at hand.

I normally do just that.  I wake up early to study, go to work and use the evenings to get my run in before dinner.  But this past week I tried something new.  School has slowed down and is coming to an end so my early morning study sessions are no longer necessary.  Fall has arrived along with cold and dark evenings.  By the time I make it home, the sun is already down and it’s nearing the 50s.  And while this may not be cold to most people, I’m from Texas.

So last week I opted for morning runs.  I woke up, bundled myself and got my mileage in before work.  Granted it was hard to peel myself out of bed knowing that the minute I pulled back the sheets I was leaving the warmth.  But I sucked it up and made it out even though it was raining one day.  The fact that the sun was rising made it feel warmer than it actually was.  As I looped around the rose gardens, the rays reflected off the lake and set the tone for the rest of the day.

I went into working feeling as if I’d already accomplished so much.  And the best part was when I was on my way home from work and didn’t have the desire to run it was okay.  I’d already put in my time for the day.  The evening was mine to do what I wanted o with it.

So now the question is…how long can I keep this up?