Monthly Archives: June 2012

A change of scenery (and changing weather!)

I’m in Norfolk for the weekend leading up to Sunday’s 5km Race for Life in Cambridge. I’m running it with my mum, Wo, who I signed up without telling her (she hadn’t run properly in about 20 years, read here: After arriving from London yesterday, I headed straight out to run. I hadn’t run during the week, choosing instead to spend hours in my garden digging, cutting, mowing, sweeping, planting, tidying and weeding. I found muscles I never even knew existed (even during Cruce de los Andes!) so expect another post on the cross training benefits of gardening!

Anyway, I ran a route I often do when here, which takes me along country tracks and lanes followed by the Hunstanton cliffs and prom and then up the hill back to my parents’ house. Yesterday, it was incredible, in the sense that I was battling with a wind I hadn’t seen since camping in Patagonia. People were still braving a promenade stroll, although no one was walking in my direction. They all looked at me with puzzled expressions: Why are you going that way?!

This morning I decided to head out and do the same circuit, but the other way round. I enjoyed the first downhill, even with the wind in my face, and then the lovely tail-gust as I ran along the sea front. But I wasn’t prepared for the dark clouds to suddenly descend and explode in hail. Yes, hail. In June. People ran off the beach to shelter under the pier. I battled on to more strange looks, feeling strange again myself. What weather jinx did I have with my home town? The five-minute hail storm battered my back until it passed as quickly as it came and the sun poked out again. Phew.

So, the lesson I have learnt from my recent Norfolk running is that tomorrow we should be prepared for anything: rain, hail, rainbows, sun, wind, sleet. But we are looking forward to it, and even though she’s feeling “a bit nervous” Wo is also ready for the challenge and excitement that her first 5km has to offer. And we’re changing our running scenery again as we will pass through the colleges of Cambridge which are hopefully beautiful enough to distract Wo from the fact that she’s been running for the past three minutes and counting…


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To break the fast, or not?

Maria has been studying nutrition for the past three years and she is going to make a fabulous nutritionist and dietician when she completes her studies shortly. Why? Well, of course, she knows her stuff, but it’s not just because of this. It’s also because she is a big pain the arse.

Let me explain. Maria understands that we need fuel. Some people need it more than others. Men need more fuel, generally speaking, than women. Those with physically demanding jobs might need more fuel than sedentary souls. And if you run, well, you need fuel for that, too. To train, you need fuel. You can’t go on a road trip without filling the tank. Humans are the same.

The problem is that I have always been rubbish at this: eating to run, thinking about good training foods. It’s not that I’m one of these skin-and-bones food hating

Are you enjoying that, Laura? It’s FOOD!

exercise freaks. No Sir, I love food. And I love running. Just combining them is difficult for me; making them work together. The first day of Cruce de los Andes (our 3-day, 106km trek/run from Chile to Argentina), was eight hours of climbing up a volcano, trekking in snow around it and running the steep slopes back down again. We had prepared peanut butter rolls to see us through, as well as energy bars and fruits. I know I had a banana on the way up, probably because Maria said it was time we ate something (we were about to start climbing through snow). At the top I was done after a bite of the peanut butter sandwich. “Eat it,” Maria said. “Just finish it. You need something.” Slowly, so slowly I chewed. And don’t even get me started on those gels and energy bars and balancing calories… I’ve been running in the mornings back in London and I always have the same food dilemma. I’m not someone who wakes up ravenous. While Martin has already gobbled tea and toast, I’m just boiling the kettle, waking my insides up. I’ll always have breakfast “in a bit”. So, I don’t eat before I head out running. However, what this means is that I’ll feel I’m running on empty for the last part of my run. I know this. And I have tried eating before I go. The reverse happens. I feel sluggish and slow at the start, and I hate that as well.

So, I am open to suggestions and nagging. What light snack or breakfast works for you in the morning before a run? What options do I have? I am ready to try them. You’ve got a carte blanche to be as big a pain in the arse as you want. I’m listening. Finally.

Happy Father’s Day!

I had planned to write about a different topic today, but seeing as today is Father’s Day I decided to go in a different direction.  This is for you, Dad, for supporting me in everything I do.  I can’t even begin to say how much it means to me.

Last night I had a conversation with a friend who was asking me about memories I have of my father as a child.  I shared a few, but honestly most are related to some sport.  Over the years, we’ve used softball, basketball and running to bond and spend time together.  From coaching me when I was little to playing with me and running half marathons when I was older.

He came to my first half marathon and then joined me in several more after that.  At times we’d question why we’d signed up, but it was always good to cross the finish line together and know we’d done it with each other.  I remember when he ran 10 miles with me to train when I told him I was ready to try a full.  He even coordinated with Fede to surprise me by flying down to Buenos Aires to cheer me on once I finally got the nerve to go the whole 26.2 miles.  Not to mention the fact that he had a t-shirt made (in Spanish) to give me that extra boost!

He’s supported me in sports, but in so much more than that.  He has been there for me no matter what.  I think I could ask him to do anything for me and he wouldn’t hesitate to do everything in his power to make it happen.  Now the physical distance separates us so we can’t celebrate the day together, but it’s those special moments that are important and the memories I’ll always have.

Here’s to you, Dad, and the memories to come!  Thanks for everything!!

The magic 4 miles

I think it’s interesting: that after a few days, or a holiday without running, when momentum is lost and you have to kick yourself up the arse to get out there again, we always go for a 4-or-near-abouts-miler. In Maria’s last post, she worked out a 4-mile route when she needed to hit the road and I have a foolproof 4.35 (yes, exactly) route I go on to get me back in my stride.

OK, so not ALL of us, but I was thinking today about how magic 4 miles is. It’s long enough to feel like a good run (unless you’re the likes of Mo Farah or course); you can be out, back, showered and breakfasted in the hour; you can burn 400 calories by doing so, and that four times a week is a lovely 1600 calories, which researchers have found can prevent cardiovascular disease and prolong life. See, even moderate running has its benefits. Who has the time to run 75 miles a week? Not M&MRC, that’s for sure.

When Maria and I got together on Skype last weekend she told me where she’d been that day in the cold of Buenos Aires; a 4-miler. When my boyfriend stepped out to do a run with me the other weekend (which doesn’t happen very often) I picked a nice 4-miler to go on, which would show him some extra loops he could add to his own routes. He might have started off slow, but during the 4 miles, he picked himself up until we were burning it the last half mile to a sprint finish down our road, neither wanting to back off. If he had gone on his usual run after a hiatus, he wouldn’t have been able to do that. Most of the time, he’ll head out for longer runs, but not often at all. Today he said: “I’m going to go shorter distances, but more often.” That’s the spirit.

So, when in doubt, 4 miles it is. It’s perfect. Just half again is a 10km, which is psychologically fabulous. Although, if you’re anything like me, you won’t be back, showered and lunched in an hour with that one.

For more running health benefits (of 4 miles or more) check out this useful site:


The weather in the south

I have yet again disappeared and resurfaced.  For the past month I was home in Texas to visit family and friends and slowly wrap my head around the fact that I will be moving back in a couple months.  I dedicated myself to lots of organizing and visiting while running was pushed to the back burner.  Part of this was due to the lack of an event in the near future.  And the other reason was related to the weather.  Have you been in Texas during the summer?  The heat can be unbearable.

I managed to get in a run a week or so, but the routine was gone.  I didn’t have to get out there and there were roughly 8 hours of the day when it was hotter than 90° F.  I do some things that others would consider masochistic (i.e. run across the Andes), but I prefer to not run in a sauna unless necessary.

One of my first runs after being back was done after lying by the pool for a couple hours enjoying the fact that there was a cool escape just a few feet away from me.  This was not the case once I set out for my run.  I’d mapped out a route 2 miles out so I’d get in 4 miles doing an out-n-back.  I started around 5:30 p.m., but the sun was still in full force.  I was also in the hill country so I was missing the flat streets of Buenos Aires.  I made it almost to the turnaround point and saw the hill that stood in my way.  I decided to give myself a pat on the back for running in the heat and head back without that last bit of torture.  I finished looking like I’d just got out of the pool fully clothed because of sweat.

For the rest of my trip I was faced with the issue of when to get out and run.  It had to be early in the morning before the heat set in or later in the evening, which usually wasn’t an option due to the timing of dinner.  My sleep schedule was also a bit out of whack so all of that amounted to only a few running adventures.

I had hoped that my routine would reappear once back in Buenos Aires, but I was welcomed by a cold front the day of my arrival.  This past week the high was in the 50’s and I was still at work when the sun went down.  You might say that it doesn’t sound that cold, but it was in the 40’s by the time I made it home and without a really good reason there was no way I was going back outside.  So I stayed inside in front of the heater and just thought about what a run might feel like.

Thankfully the weather is bearable again and I made it out yesterday to get back in a rhythm.  I need to take advantage of the cooler weather here in the Southern hemisphere before heading back to the sweltering heat in the south of the US in a couple months.

Night running

Last night as I was walking back from our local and fabulous Indian restaurant with a friend, a runner burst across the road in front of us. No, it wasn’t some drunken fool stumbling to get the last tube, or someone running from a mugger hiding in the trees along Hangar Lane. It was a runner, in shorts with go faster stripes, arms pumping, bombing along the pavement. I checked my watch. It was 11.35pm.

In our curry and red wine merriment, my friend and I thought he was a mad man. Who goes out running at this hour? But then this morning I thought about it, and a spot of late night running isn’t as crazy as you might think.

Imagine you’ve had a horribly stressful and busy week at work. You get home really late on Friday and quite easily you could collapse on your couch with a beer and fall asleep to late night chat shows. But it’s not so insane to relieve the tension and pressure of the week by heading out for a run. It wakes up your body and those muscles which have been stuck behind a desk all week get some air. It starts your weekend off by drawing the line between being stationary in the office and the freedom of the weekend.

Other plus points include clearer streets and less traffic if you’re an urban runner; cooler temperatures if you live in the tropics; the joy of being able to wear those bright pink running shorts your running buddy hates; and of course the smug feeling of waking up in the morning knowing you’re good to get in the garden, lay about and read the paper or cook up a brunch storm.

Of course, there are also things to be aware of when running at night. Being seen is one, so wearing some reflective clothing is a good idea and knowing your route another one. It’s probably best not to try that new route through the park in the dead of night. As with any late night jaunt, keep any valuables hidden away. Though, if you’re like me, someone trying to steal your running music will probably laugh and give it back to you. And I don’t run with any money. The most valuable things are my means of escape: legs and feet.

When I was living in Argentina, my boyfriend and I did an organised night run and I was reminded of this by seeing that night runner last night. It was great fun: a 10km round the lake roads of Nordelta, near Buenos Aires. We were told to come with head torches, which we didn’t have, so we ended up buying some cheap, plastic hand-held torches in a supermarket on the way to the run. I think I must have been under some illusion that the moon would guide us as we ran somehow romantically at each other’s side. Well, that night the clouds descended and we were down dirt tracks that, while waiting to be paved and have houses built along them, were deserted of any light at all. So, real night running then, no starry joke.

But it was great fun, even with failing, crappy torches. Running at night you felt like you were in some secret club. All you could hear was the tap, tap, tap of feet on the track. And instead of seeing a sea of the same coloured shirt, it was a wave crest of lights bobbing up and down and slowly moving round the lakes. Who needed the moon?

And if night running’s not for you, you still have the comfort that the sun will rise another day, and that’s yours for the running as well.