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The summer squeeze

I finally have chance to sit down and write. Sorry we’ve been missing. I wish I could tell you it’s because we’ve been traversing mountain passes and running through wind torn valleys. But no.

Ouch, actually. I’m feeling a bit tight in the quads. I guess that’s what happens when you put all your training for an up-and-coming 10 km into the six days beforehand.

Last Sunday we (the royal married ‘we’, not Maria and I together unfortunately) ran the Grand East Anglia Race (GEAR), a nice and flat 10 km around King’s Lynn, Norfolk. Here was my training plan:

Monday: Go for a fast 1.5-mile run to remind legs what running is and how it feels. It had been 12 days.

Tuesday: Run 4-mile route through fields, along cliffs and up little hills. Nothing like King’s Lynn.

Wednesday: Marvel as legs don’t feel too bad. WooHoo!

Thursday: Run the 4-mile route the other way round and with sun on my face do it in under 33 minutes. That hasn’t happened for a while! So chuffed with myself, I deserve a glass of husband’s home-brewed beer.

Friday: Fannying about at work means don’t get to the pool in time. Ah well, there’s always tomorrow.

Saturday: Get up and swim 1 km in the pool. Imagine it’s the sea and I’m on a tropical island. Leave the pool and need a coat.

Sunday: Run 10 km in 52 minutes and 14 seconds. The route sidles along the river, through the park and finishes in a flourish with a samba band motivating us through the final 400m. Celebrate with eggs, beans and bacon.

And, having got through it all swimmingly, running is back as its own thread of my week. I went out yesterday to keep the legs working, but I know I didn’t stretch enough, hence the tightness.

It feels good though. My mum is also back to her training for the Cambridge Race for Life (you might remember her being a running virgin last year) so our hallway is full of trainers. The sun has been shining and the wind is blowing at less than 80 mph. This bodes well; it makes us want to get out there.

The first race is out of the way. Nerves shivered through our bodies on the start line. The sun has arrived on the scene. Summer is not long – what can we squeeze out of it? How many runs do we have to reduce our times/actually get a new pair of running shoes and test them out/simply keep going? I remember last summer we started our half marathon training and squeezed as much out of the longer days as possible. We are starting to do that again. But what next? (Apart from a massage and some yoga stretches?)

There are so many options for summer running: trails, fun runs, marathons. I spoke to a very old school friend on Sunday who is off to try out the Edinburgh marathon at the end of this month. And a couple of weeks ago we had the runners shining on our television screens as they pounded the streets of London for their chosen charities; a warming sight, especially after the tragic events just days before in Boston. It is inspiring. Should I sign up? Should we sign up? Should we pledge our winter to training and have a fun summer just… running?

I’m not sure I can even plan that far in advance, but there’s no harm enquiring is there, via the charities I’ve already worked with (the ballot has already opened and closed!)? It’s just one email.

Blimey, one beautiful, sunny run quicker than expected and the need to squeeze in more is palpable. But that’s what summer is about.

P1060211 Sod the tight legs.


Gear Up!

Sorry running fashionistas, this post is not going to be about gorgeous running gear that makes you look fabulous when you feel like a tired, sweaty mess.

It’s about signing up for the GEAR 10km: the Grand East Anglian Run in King’s Lynn, which takes place on Sunday may 5th. Husband and I are signed up. After my post a few weeks back on which runs to do, I’ve kept it close to home and there are some reasons for this.

Life, at the moment, is unpredictable. We are currently living in Norfolk with the hope of moving away next week/month/soon. We don’t know where and we don’t know when, which makes it difficult to commit to things in advance in places which could be down the road/miles away/need a plane to get to.

So, as the GEAR was only a month away and just down the road it fitted the bill perfectly. Without shocking the world or getting a PB, I can get out of bed and run 10kms without any problems, but it’s something that means my runs between now and then with have an added oomph.

Also, some familiar faces will also be running the GEAR and there’s nothing like a bit of competitive spirit to shake things up.

Bikereide2So, I better get out there. Trouble is, on the subject of gears, I got my bike fixed last week and it’s a big draw for me, living in Norfolk. I used to ride these country lanes all the time when I lived here as a teenager. And last weekend I loved being out on my bike for the first time this year, with gears and brakes and wheels all working. The sun was shining and the pedal power worked to lift my mood out of a desperation to live somewhere with an average temperature over 4 degrees. Yesterday my mum and I biked to our yoga class. Now, where else can I bike to?

I guess it’s all good, though. The pool I swim in has been unavailable for the last three weeks, so having this extra workout all helps.

But the GEAR 10km won’t need me pushing through my bike gears to get round, it’s my legs that have got to do the work: road, foot, road, foot. The trainers are on and the bike is in the garage. It’s my own gears I’ve got to move through today.

For more information on the GEAR 10km or GEAR mini fun run, visit

Running rituals

Happy New Year!

Imagine it’s still December 28th 2012: a gorgeous and bright summer morning in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the morning of my wedding . I wake up next to bridesmaid and running buddy Maria. She knows what to do. She’s up for this ritual. It’s not often than M&MRC are together these days, especially in our adopted South American city. This is why we have to make it count: make it what we do, what we’ve always done.

We’re going on a magic 4-miler around the parks of Palermo. Neither of us has run for a few weeks, but that doesn’t matter. It won’t be painful because if it is, we’ll laugh at ourselves. And if you can laugh at pain, it can’t hurt that much.

From top athletes to park joggers, from those sprinting a few metres, to those slogging over tens of miles: everyone has their running rituals. Whether it’s related to the first song they play on their run (mine was always American Girls by Counting Crows when I ran with my old iPod) or what they wear, or the routes they take and where they cross the road; it’s all part of what it means for that person to go running.

Rituals are performed consistently and one of their effects is to calm the mind. The ones I write of here can have such a positive effect that even when motivation is lacking, those songs/shoes/friends can mean it’s not a chore. So, Maria and I donned our t-shirts from our latest event (weDSCN0069 both ran halfs on November 11th); we talked the route, the need for and wonder at new shoes; and we did the M&MRC pose to record for posterity.

As we ran the blocks towards the parks, both of us were chatting on, dodging reversing cars and wayward buses, jumping over bulging tree roots and moving into the shade where possible. It was turning into a beautiful day, which would get even more so as the day and night wore on, not just for weather reasons. It was so good to get the legs moving, arms pumping and lungs working. I think we had both missed it, and we talked about the effect of not running on our mood (another post). But, beyond all of that, the most special running ritual was the fact that we were there, shoulder to shoulder, together. This time there were no volcanoes, or Andean lakes, or rivers to run through. We didn’t need them. We just needed that city, its streets and us being us.

When you get married, there are numerous rituals you can get bogged down in (my favourite is simply drinking champagne at whatever moment). Going for a run doesn’t crop up on many wedding day to-do lists, but for me, that place and that person meant a ritual was re-born.DSCN0070 And it was wonderful.

We even surprised ourselves by not being as slow as we thought we were!

If you’re in the UK at the moment, I hope you’re running very, very carefully. It’s so icy right now in Hunstanton, Norfolk that we daren’t step out to run. Which is OK, as it’s given me some time today to write about running instead.

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.