Summer Runnin’, Had me a Blast

And we’re back to running again, after yesterday’s random foray elsewhere. I felt more cultured just writing that post – hope you felt cultured too ūüėČ

 

So! Today is the 31st July. On this day in 1856, Christchurch was chartered as a city in New Zealand. In 1928, Halina Konopacka of Poland became the first woman to win Olympic gold in track and field. In 1987, Guns n Roses release ‘Appetite for Destruction’. And in 2014: it’s the last day of #100MileJuly.

 

Working in London this week meant I had to be prepared in the face of this important deadline. Here’s how my final week went down:

  • Wednesday:¬†The Clamber, 5.2 miles
  • Thursday: 6 miles
  • Sunday: 10 miles
  • Monday:¬†3.9 miles
  • Total: 25.1 miles

 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, puts me on 100.7 miles for July!! My self esteem is largely grounded in the satisfaction of crossing things off lists, so this week was a biggie: being prepared and reaching 100 miles. #winning

 

Even my ponytail is happy about this.

Even my ponytail is happy about this.

I really liked doing this challenge. Well, that’s a lie – there were many times this month when I wished I didn’t have to go running, many more times than usual. There’s something about having a target hanging over my head that makes me want to both smash it with exceptional prowess and run away at the same time. Do you ever get that? Lucky for me, the weather this July has been glorious, and it¬†has¬†been good to really sweat up a storm. Reminds me of my Sydney running days…..

 

What I did¬†enjoy about the challenge is the variation: instead of running my typical 8-12k for ‘fun’, I was getting in any distance I could whenever I could. This meant short, long, fast and slow runs over more varied routes. It was fun to run 3.5 miles and really sprint it out, and also to go for 5 miles and chill out. As a super competitive person, this month reminded me that not every run has to be a race against myself. It’s true, you guys, it’s actually possible to enjoy running even when you don’t beat your last time. All miles are good miles. And maybe the biggest pro of the lot: my Summer running collection has had excellent exposure this month. ūüėČ

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My legs were tired for weeks 2 and 3 from running more frequently. I don’t remember feeling like this during marathon training – maybe it’s like childbirth & I’ve blocked it….?

 

As we get tired when we run, we tend to just slap our feet down without proper form, which makes you vulnerable to injury and makes it harder overall. When I find myself doing this, I ¬†concentrate on each muscle that works through the step: the hip flexor when I push the leg forward, the quads as I plant, and the hamstrings as I pull the leg up, and make sure that each muscle is working as effectively as possible. That helps me to resist dropping my form, and soon I’m able to carry on. Just a little tip to help you if you find yourself slapping your feet like you’re in clown shoes!

 

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Sooooooo that’s that challenge… next month I will be in London, Stockholm and Berlin for work, so I’m¬†really hoping to get some running on all those places. Stay tuned for photos…….

 

I hope your week is going well!

 

Ellie B

 

Streetcar: Running from Reality

We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming for this post, which I couldn’t not write (haha – figure that double negative out!). I did get a running reference in the title though….So if you’ll indulge me for a little bit….

 

Last night I saw a Streetcar Named Desire at the Young Vic, my newest favourite place in London. This is the second play I’ve seen there, and this old classic was given a modern and extraordinary face lift, starring Gillian Anderson. Classic theatre and GA: a winning combination in my book. I’ve loved The X-Files since I was a teen, as those who knew me at the time will remember… We don’t need to talk about how long ago that was, but suffice it to say that I watched it the¬†first time it aired, back in the day when, if you missed an episode, it would disappear into the black hole, never to be seen again. None of this new-fangled, on-demand stuff. Scully was my height, had red hair (at the time), and kicked ass every week: the perfect role model for a ginger 13 year old girl. If you’re still not convinced, check out this video.

 

Anyway. The basic story of¬†Streetcar¬†is that Blanche visits her little sister Stella and her husband Stanley in New Orleans. At first she appears to be an alcoholic snob, but as the play goes on you realise she’s actually teetering on the edge of madness – and her brother-in-law is the one to push her over the edge.

Even the exterior of the Young Vic is cool. Lovely Sunny London.

Even the exterior of the Young Vic is cool. Lovely Sunny London.

 

Like a pro, I watched without my own fan bias getting in the way РI studied English Lit at uni, dontcha know, and objectivity is the name of the game. The stage was in the middle of the room, with seats all around. Once the play began Р as Blanche took her first drink Рthe stage started to rotate, and rotated slowly throughout the whole performance.

 

This is the first really cool thing about this production as you always be have a fresh perspective of the characters. What angle you see impacts how you interpret the events and who you sympathise with: when Blanche unleashes a tirade against Stanley to her sister, I saw exactly what he saw: the back of his sister-in-law, hearing her ugly words, and watching his wife’s reaction. It united us with him, and made us spectators feel like we’ve intruded: #awkward. We are more engaged as an audience as we see characters in their ‘down’ time, brushing their teeth for example, at the same time as the main action.

 

Elysium Fields, New Orleans....

Elysian Fields, New Orleans….

 

The second cool thing about this play is that it’s set in the modern day. Blanche suffered a trauma with her first true love, and consequently went on a bit of a promiscuity bender. She’s not one for making great choices, but these days I don’t think her sexual past would raise too many eyebrows (apart from her penchant for 17 year olds). So maybe it’s not social rejection that unstabilises her, but the intimate rejection by her lovers, paving the way for the climax. Plus both Stella and Blanche rely on men to provide, posing interesting questions about their place in this ‘modern’ world. Some phrases don’t sit very comfortably today: Blanche refers to the plantation, and calls her gay husband a degenerate. ¬†But I think that’s part of the illusion Blanche is desperate to create, and as a result, she’s off-kilter and inappropriate.

 

Blanche

 

And the third cool thing is the cast. Not going to lie: they are all very good to look at, and they had great chemistry. GA is a teeny, tiny person: though we’re the same height, her¬†waist is about as big as my left calf, and her calves tell me she’s not a hill runner, unlike yours truly ūüėČ She knows her character inside out, and she conveys as much, or maybe more, through what she doesn’t say as through what she does say. ¬†Blanche is delicate, manic and manipulative – I wanted to give her a cup of very sweet tea and a big hug. Stella (Vanessa Kirby) has great stage presence, and plays a little sister who’s loathe to be pushed around, but struggles to remain loyal to both Stanley and Blanche. And Ben Foster’s Stanley is well built, has a kind face but a hot head, and his sister-in-law brings out his worst as he forces her to ground her hysterical whimsy in reality. You get¬†the impression he’d prefer¬†not¬†to lash out (until the climax), but doesn’t know how else to react. Blanche’s arrival makes him feel the same as she does – helpless – but instead of withdrawing from reality, he crashes through it leaving devastation in his wake.

 

Blanche, Stanley and Stella

Blanche, Stanley and Stella

 

And then, the climax. It was so uncomfortable – the rotating stage made you feel like such a voyeur, seeing Blanche’s mental breakdown from all angles as she feels in more and more danger in the place where she sought safety.¬†¬†And it is so¬†tragic: all of these characters desire a meaningful connection with each other, and no one’s happy in the end. Somewhat ironically, it’s the put-upon Stella who seems the most balanced and happy, and those around her are floating in the ether, trying to anchor themselves to her stability.

 

And then, after the show, GA was kind enough to sign programs for fans. So that was really generous of her, after slowly and publicly going mad for 3.5 hours. The show is¬†being broadcast around the¬†world on September 16 with National Theatre Live, and you can bet your ass I’m going to see it again. It’s the most striking theatre I can remember seeing.

 

Anyway, thanks for reading. We will resume our normal running-related services from tomorrow.

 

Ellie B

Elvet Striders Clamber: Let’s Run Up Some Hills on a Hot Day!

I’m part of a running club in Durham called the Elvet Striders, which is a¬†huge club that meets every Monday and Wednesday. And sometimes in between. And often in the pub. This week, a few of our more enterprising members organised a trail race called the Clamber. It was a regular in the Striders calendar until a hiatus last year. This year it was back with a vengeance, and a new-improved-just-over-5-mile route.

 

This isn't even half of us!

This isn’t even half of us!

I signed up as I’ve not done any trail races this year, and I probably won’t be able to get to any more til next year. If you are wondering why trail running is the bees knees, here are the top three reasons:

  1. You are fully immersed in the countryside and get some uh-ma-zing views
  2. You don’t have to worry about being hit by a car. On the other hand, you do have to worry about tripping over a tree-root
  3. Muscles that have been asleep since the day you were born are suddenly put into action, much to their chagrin

 

Here is my favourite view from a trail run (or at least a trail run where I happened to have my camera):

Coniston Trail

Thank you, Lake District.

So, back to the Clamber. I arrived with about a minute to spare to pick up my number. I was kind of chilled about this race – in my mind it was just like a typical Wednesday run. Until I put my number on and saw everyone else: then my determination kicked in, and I realised that I was going to push with everything I had.

 

It was a challenge to pace: I didn’t know the route, and my race-day-zone only started 10 minutes before the race started. To be honest, I can’t give an accurate route description, but here’s my best effort: we went up some hills in the woods, down some hills in a field, steadily up some hills in the wilderness (what do you call it if it’s not a field?), steadily down some hills in a field, up some hills in the woods, down them again, and then there’s the finish. Can you picture it? ūüėČ

 

Apparently we passed the Wicker man, but I didn't see him.

Apparently we passed the Wicker man, but I didn’t see him.

 

As we passed the marshals, they told me what position female I was in – if I didn’t have my game face on before, I certainly did then! ¬†My strength was in running up the hills: ¬†I could power up them, and that where I did most of my over-taking (although my over-taking was pretty modest). On the flats less brutal hills, I really felt the effort of keeping my pace, and needed to really suck it up mentally. As I felt more tired, my footing wasn’t as confident which in turn required more concentration. It was a tough race.

 

Sweaty smiles!

Don’t be fooled by the smile. There was pain going on. Look into my eyes.

For the last three miles I had another girl in my sights, and I made it my goal to overtake her to take my mind off my legs, which were shocked at working this intensely. She was always about 300 metres ahead: I’d see her just up ahead, and then we’d turn a corner and she’d taken off.¬†I’d see her walking up a hill, but by the time I ran to the top, she’d taken off (I’m terrified of running downhill, so I reckon I lost some time there).

 

Once I knew there were no more hills, and there was about a mile left, I found the energy to really sprint. You know in cartoons when you see their legs pinwheel into a blur? That’s what my legs always feel like at the end – they’re so tired and light, but it feels like they’re at their most powerful. I feel like I’m flying.

Roadrunner

But enough indulgent contemplation on the sprint. I finished in 42:24. And did I catch the girl in front? No. But I did finish 4th female overall, and 2nd female in our club, so I’m mighty pleased with that. :)

 

I want to say a huge thanks to Flip & his team for organising it – I really, really enjoyed running in a local race, and loved seeing the different local running groups. And it was a real treat to run a race where the marshals knew you and supported you with genuine enthusiasm. Elvet Striders – where everybody knows your name.

 

Ellie B

 

 

100 Mile July week 3

So we’re down to the home stretch in this 100 mile July thing. There is exactly one week to go from here. Here is how last week went:

  • Thursday 17th:¬†3.5 miles
  • Friday:¬†6.9 miles
  • Saturday: 4.5 miles
  • Sunday:¬†Color Run, 3.1 miles
  • Monday:¬†11.1 miles – on a¬†MONDAY¬†I tell ya!
  • Total: 29.1 miles!

 

That’s 75.6 miles overall for July, and only 24.4 to go this week.

 

Now there’s an overall mileage goal – as opposed to a specific goal for that individual workout – I’ve got a different approach to training. When I only ran 3.5 miles on Thursday, for example, I knew I’d have to do a mammoth run at some point to make up the miles. So I’ve had to plan out the week rather than just running what I want, or doing what my training plan tells me for that day. And weigh short & long runs vs more consistent, evenly spread runs.

 

By Saturday’s run I was tired. I had done nine days in a row, with only one rest day in the middle. Which, to be honest, is unlike me. I like two or three runs dispersed with rest days. On ¬†Saturday morning, Durham experienced some classic Sydney-mugginess: the sky was grey, and the air was heavy and warm. I was dripping with sweat, and my legs felt like they were made of concrete.

 

I also think that I’ve not been eating properly for all this – I was still on my post-marathon, calm-your-carbs-woman diet, which is fine for more infrequent running, but not this. Luckily on the weekend we had both a wedding and a BBQ of immense proportions, so by Monday’s 11 miler I was on top form again.

 

My Color Run posse and I have just signed up for the Neon Run in October! I am verrrrry excited about this one. I am excited about the novelty of running a race at night, and being covered in neon lights. It falls under the same category as the silent disco in terms of ‘Things I Had Never Imagined, Yet Bloody Love’. If they could make the neon run a silent disco as well, I think my head would explode.

 

Our running party planner is a pal of mine called Jow Baby. She comes to my Monday night running group, and is also an instructor at the pole school. She always makes me laugh on a Monday because – during the runs – she doesn’t always have the best time, and isn’t shy of telling me. But then afterwards I always get a text saying how much fun she’d had. The reason I mention her is that she’s a fine example of how hard it can hurt when you’re in the middle, but the satisfaction and runner’s high you get afterwards makes up for it (At least, I hope it does…)! All you have to do is keep going.

photo-124

And also, props to her for being our running-party-planner, and encouraging everyone to actually run during the Color Run. :)

 

Happy Thursday! Remember to eat right before you run, or your legs will feel like concrete! #LessonOfTheWeek

 

Ellie B

Sunderland Color Run Recap

On Sunday a group of 5 friends and I did the Sunderland Colour Run. Or Color Run if we’re being true to it’s¬†actual¬†name.

 

The Color Run is the self-proclaimed ‘happiest 5k on the planet’, and I am naturally sceptical of such hype. I didn’t admit to liking Harry Potter until 2007, and I don’t understand the fuss about Johnny Depp. What can I say, I’m a killjoy. Anyway, I signed up for this happiest 5k on the planet because my buddies were doing it, and if there’s something I fear more than The Hype, it’s fear of missing out, or #FOMO as it’s known in the cool circles (hashtags are a hype I have fully embraced though). And I wanted to see all the pretty colours.

 

On Sunday morning, I cycled to the dance studio where I met my friends and got a lift to Sunderland. Our race packs with cool t-shirts and sweat bands to wear, and it was fun to see everyone in the same gear. I’ve not seen that since Run to the Beat.

photo 2-7

The vibe at the starting village was excited and expectant Рbut not nervous or worried like some starting lines can feel. There was a stage with music blasting and warm ups going on, and Official Color Run People were putting facepaint and temporary tattoos on runners, and handing out flags. You could also have your photo taken with the real Dulux dog. I kid you not. Dulux sponsored the event, and they must have pulled some strings, because there he was sat in his own tent like the Shah of the Color Run (the queue was too big for us to get a pic though).

 

Before the day arrived, I had a pretty serious talk with myself that went something like this: ‘Now Ellie. Don’t worry if you don’t run. It’s not a run, it’s a fun run. It’s not even timed. You will¬†not¬†be running.¬†You will not be running so don’t stress out’.¬†

 

The point of this event is not to get a good time, and not even really to run. The point of this event is to simply have fun. There were lots of tutus, fairy wings, and families with young kids. The route took us by the Stadium of Light in Sunderland and around the neighbouring industrial estate, and at each approximate kilometre point, there’s music blasting and you enter the colour zone: for the next 100m, people would throw coloured powder paint at you, on you, in your hair, in your face. The floor was covered in powder paint. People were lying down making paint angels on the floor. People were having paint fights, and rolling around in it. It was just plain, good old-fashioned fun.

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I’d say we ran half and walked half of the 5k route. My friends kept asking me how I was coping, and I’m proud to say that I coped pretty well! Turns out all it needs for me to curb my competitive edge is some pretty colours. Although…. I did get in a sneaky sprint finish…

 

At the end, they held a colour rave. By this point, everyone is already covered in paint, but they give you additional packets so that everywhere you go, you’re still getting covered. And when the beat drops in the music, everyone would shake their powder paint, and huge clouds of purple, yellow and blue would float above everyone. I’ve never seen anything like it! It was some kind of colourful Woodstock with beats.

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The Color Run has previously come under suspicion internationally for being a for-profit organisation. I don’t think it’s bad that it’s run for profit, but their website does say it’s about ‘giving back to the community’. It turns out that each event is sponsored by a different charity: the UK charity partner for 2014 is Save the Children. Everywhere you looked you were encouraged to text to donate ¬£3 to the cause. It would have been nice to know if some of our entry fee had gone towards the charity so they don’t need to rely on goodwill on the day – but the website doesn’t say, nor give info on how our local community benefitted. Although, I do think that an event encouraging people to have fun together as friends and families, and encouraging people to run/walk 5k in a non-competitive environment could be thought of as good community work…

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And so was it the happiest 5k on the planet? Did this mugwump who likes running and racing and being clean enjoy it? YES! It was so much fun to paint at each other, and not worrying about racing times. About half way through I couldn’t help but shout ‘I am so happy! This IS the happiest 5k on the planet!’ and do some fist pumps. In my head it was a perfect movie moment, but I probably looked like the person who only just understood what the whole thing is about, 2k from the end.

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After the run, we went home. I ate some Nutella straight from the jar, and then went to my friend’s house for a BBQ where we feasted on lamb, chicken, pork and prosecco. It was the perfect Sunday – the happiest Sunday on the planet. :)

 

Ellie B