Running: It’s a Family Affair

A few weekends ago, my Dad ran the Sun Run in Sydney. SB, Dad and I ran the very first Sun Run in 2011 – it was also my last race in Sydney as we moved to the UK a few weeks afterwards, so I am really fond of it. It’s a 6.5k route that takes you from Dee Why beach along the coast, finishing up at Manly beach. My Dad has run it every year since.

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The UK has some amazingly scenic races, but there is nothing like running along Sydney’s coast first thing in the morning and seeing the sun sparkle on the water. It starts at 6.30 am, and the year I ran it, it was already really hot.  It was the perfect last race in Sydney.

 

Anyway. My Dad says that he’s not in as good a shape at the moment, and his pace was slower. I asked if it was an easier run because of it, he was very quick to interrupt and say “No!!”.

 

It turns out then he was younger, my Dad ran a lot. He ran half marathons and ran the City2Surf fairly regularly. For some reason I don’t remember him running when I was a child, and we didn’t talk about it. However, both my brother and I now are super keen (would you have ever guessed?) and it’s really nice to hear his stories: when he was 12 he did a 50mile walk with the Scouts, and he was in the lead. My grandfather drove alongside to him, and my Dad decided to run the last 10 miles or so because, why the heck not? Actually, I feel I should put a disclaimer with this anecdote: please see the asterisk*!

 

When we were younger (and still now actually) he was always someone who would encourage us to do put our ideas into practice, and more importantly, to stand by our commitments. If ever I wanted to get out of anything, Dad was The Worst person to turn to: he never let us off easy. He was annoyingly alllllll about the solution, and would always present the situation so you ended up thinking it was a good idea to do whatever it was you were trying to get out of.  And then you’d walk away and think “Hang on…. What? Ahh.. Dammit!!”

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Now I am a wise old crow, I can see that’s not a bad lesson to learn…. and it’s also 100% the mentality of a runner. Personally speaking, I have had to convince myself that running an extra 12 miles on blood blisters the size of a small grapefruit is a good idea, or that there’s nothing more comfortable than running in heat where you lose most of your fluids just from stepping outside.

 

I wonder if my brother and I like running so much because we have some natural physical tendency, or whether we respond to the training and discipline thanks to the mentality our parents nurtured in us**. It’s the same mentality that Dad had a few weekends ago: he knew it would be a tough race, and he knew he wasn’t in the best shape, but there was no way he would pull out! Far better to run it slowly, and bloody do it, than to not stand by the commitment and let it beat you.

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So, there you have it. A nice little post about my family and running for you. And Dad (because he has been known to read this from time to time), I’m not even after anything. Not even money. I promise.

 

Ellie B

 

*This is how I remember it. Maybe it didn’t happen like that. But I live 17,000kms away from my Dad and can’t just ring him to check because of the stupid time zones. So you’ll just have to trust me on this.

 

** Ok, second disclaimer. I’m not saying we’re a family of wunder-runners: I know literally millions of people do it, and are much faster than we three. But I do think it’s interesting it’s something my brother & I started independently. It’s been something we’ve all been able to bond over during the last ten years, and I wonder why that is. I’m sure it’s very interesting for you to contemplate to. 😉

Half Marathons: why they are the best.

This week I heard that a friend of mine is doing a half marathon in March at short notice. When I read her text, I had to sit on my hands so I didn’t sign up, immediately grab my keys, and drive 3.5 hours to her house 2 months before the race actually takes place. And then wonder what the hell I had done getting over excited like that.

 

You see, the half marathon is my favourite distance. If it were a drink, the half marathon would be a Dom Perrignon White Gold. If it were an album, it would be the Beatles’ White Album. If it were human, it would be Helen of Troy. No, it’d be George Clooney.

Yup. This is on here.

Yup. This is on here.

So why is the half marathon such a hot ticket? Well, here are my reasons:

 

  • It is a killer distance. 13.1 miles/21kms is nothing to turn your nose up at. Use Google maps to see how far 13.1 miles actually is – normal people would travel that distance by car rather than run. It’s a distance to be proud of
  • You can’t just wake up and run a half marathon: it takes commitment, training and determination
  • It’s manageable. It’s not easy, but it’s also not a full marathon. It’s unlikely that your training will see you running for three hours straight, so you can still have some kind of lie-in on the weekends (lazy Saturday mornings and full marathon training don’t really go hand-in-hand). And you can still enjoy Friday night drinks.
  • You benefit from the Whole Running Experience in that you need to build your mental strength as well as your physical strength.  The race is long enough for the initial adrenaline to wear off, and you need to have a mind of steel to keep your pace up. This is one of the best/worst parts in a race: it’s the hardest part, but once you push through it and get your rhythm back, you feel like you’re the champion of the world. Mile 9 was my stumbling bloc in my first half, and by mile 11 I was flying high – only 2 miles to go and feeling good! So long, Mile 9!!

Holy Shit

  • There are some really great half marathon routes you can choose. My favourite is the Great North Run. And there are often multiple half marathons in the larger cities. If you wanted to race in London, you’re not limited to only the London Marathon – there are loads of halves to choose from as well.
  • At the end, you know you have completed a half marathon. You have just covered 13.1 miles on your own two legs! And when people ask you the question they always ask when they find out you run – have you run a marathon? – you can reply: ‘no, I prefer halves, because they’re definitely really hard work, but I can still enjoy my social life, HAHAHA!’.

 

So basically, the half marathon = training, adrenaline, toughness, awesomeness, finish, medal, food. Repeat.

Getting ready for Run to the Beat with a pair of Wallies.

Getting ready for Run to the Beat with a pair of Wallies.

The half marathon was a major milestone in my running career. It was the first time I run a ‘serious distance’, and the first time I thought that perhaps I was ok at this running thing. Until then, my 10k races and 14k City2Surfs were good, but the half required an actual proper training program with intervals and everything. Rather than try my luck, I had a game plan. Because of that, I started running a lot more frequently, and before I knew it, regular (and long) runs were woven into the fabric of my weeks.

 

I would definitely recommend the half marathon to anyone interested in giving themselves a challenge, for alllllll of the reasons above. At the end, you feel elated, tired, hungry –  for more races as well as for food!

13.1 addict

And that concludes my Ode to the Half Marathon. I am now going to eat quite a lot of Indian food and watch The Wizard of Oz.

 

Ellie B

 

 

Charity Running: Why do it and where does our ££ go?

Running for charity: a good cause gets some much-needed funding, and you get to increase your fitness, fulfill your potential, lower that cholesterol and generally revel in being a Supremely Good Citizen of Society. Win-win, right?

 

Given how high the stakes are for charity running (you can’t get much higher than Supremely Good Citizen and low cholesterol), it clearly deserves a post or two. This is the first of two posts about the subject – and maybe more if there’s more to explore.

 

Charity running is big business: in 2009, the London Marathon set the record for the largest annual fundraising event with a total of £47.2 million  ($87.2m) raised. £47 million from one event!  To put that into perspective, the UK’s Children in Need event in November 2013, with it’s huge telethon, raised £31m ($57.3m) on the night, which is £5m more than the year before.

 

 

London marathon

London marathon in London fog!

 

 Over in the homeland, the City2Surf, Australia’s largest race, raised $4,561,200 (£2.5m) in 2014. This beat last year’s amount by $500k (£272k). There’s no doubt about it: the contribution made by running is incredible.

 

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The ‘City’ part of City2Surf

Thanks to social media and Just Giving etc, it’s so much easier for people to support their friends too. Gone are the days when we’d have to write down what each person promised to donate, and then chase them like an awkward, jilted lover for said donation. No, these days, people can donate from the comfort of their own homes, or even on their mobile phones when they’re out and about. The future is here, people.

 

As well as serving a Higher Purpose, running for charity often triggers a lifestyle change too. I asked my running group how fundraising had impacted their running. Of the women who answered, the majority said that they wanted to do the Race for Life (women only 5k event for cancer research) due to a personal connection, and that was the first time they had done any regular running. Post-race, they were bitten by the running bug and carried on.

 

Race for Life, Durham

Race for Life, Durham

 

A lot of the guys concurred: fundraising for charity had kick-started their running careers, whether as a result of a bet, or because they too had a personal connection they wanted to support.  One of our runners transformed from couch potato (his words!) to Park Run Event Director! Not a bad kick start. Another guy also said this: ‘I ran because I was getting fat from eating too much chocolate. Discovered that if you run enough you can eat almost whatever you want. Sold.’ Amen.

 

So far, we have learned that fundraising via running is very good for the charity, and very good for the individual. Not many surprises there I guess. However, is this combo of fitness, charity and altruism really as peachy as all this?

 

Sometimes – and this might seem controversial – it can feel like the activity itself is emphasized at the expense of the charity. Whilst not running, or even sporty, the Ice Bucket Challenge is a good example of this: it received criticism for being narcissistic, with too few people actually going on to donate. People liked the game but not the giving.

 

However, check this bad boy out: during a typical week, the MND Association would typically receive £200,000  ($370k) a week in donations, but during the week of 22-29 August, it received £2.7m ($5m). So in spite of the hype, and the fact that for weeks you couldn’t find literally anything else on Facebook, there’s no question that the real winner here was the MND Association.

 

This leads to another question. With so much money being raised for charity, how do we know where it goes? This is our hard-earned cash, and I’ve had more than a few people say in hushed tones ‘yeah, but we don’t really know where it all goes….’

 

When researching this post (yes, I do look into what I write you know!), I asked Oxfam and the Children’s Society all about their sporty-fundraising, and where their money goes. I approached these two because I personally am interested in the work they do, and because Oxfam has an international focus, where as The Children’s Society seems to work more on a UK level. Here’s what I found out:

Oxfam

 

Oxfam rely on sporting events a lot to contribute to their overall fundraising. At this year’s Great North Run, they had 350 runners who raised a minimum of £300 each, totaling approximately £105,000. The London Marathon is so popular that they can ask runners to raise a minimum of £2,000 each. In 2014, their 72 places meant they received approximately £144,000.

 

This is big bucks we’re talking about. The Great North money alone is 2.3 is times the annual salary of a couple with two kids– so you’d better be confident in where it’s going. Here is a breakdown for every £1 donated:

  • 82p goes to emergency, development and campaign work
  • 9p on support
  • 9p invested to generate future income through fundraising

The 82p goes into their General Fund, which goes towards a number of different projects they are working on.

 

Children's Society

 

The Children’s Society raised £5 million from fundraising events each year. Runners for the London Marathon are asked to raise £2,000, and last year they received £164,000 from 73 runners. From every £1, 72p goes directly towards services to help disadvantaged or vulnerable children. For every £1 they invest in fundraising, they generate another £4.30.

 

In 2013-2014, their total spend included:

  • Services to children: £29.4m
  • Trading, inc. shops: £6.8m
  • Fundraising: £5.9m
  • Campaigning, research and policy: £4.8m
  • Other: £0.3m

 

So, when we support someone who is running for charity, it seems the lion’s share actually finds its way to The Cause, whatever it might be. Which, let’s face it, is reassuring.  Some organisations such as Tearfund use the additional money raised by Gift Aid to cover their admin costs, meaning that even more donation money goes to the front line.

 

Our sponsorships are hard earned: the giver works hard to earn their salaries, and the runner works hard pounding the pavements in all weather training for an event that seemed like such a good idea at the time. It feels like charity running and fundraising is growing in popularity (although I don’t have any figures for this), and while it may seem like Just Giving pages are waging war all over Facebook for prominence, behind many of them are individuals who are trying to make a difference: to themselves, and to the world. And that’s why they’re Supremely Good Citizens of Society.

 

Ok, that was a fairly sanctimonious end. I was honestly really pleased that my research showed such a high proportion of each donation going towards project work, which may have influenced the tone of this post. The next post will deviate from this, and look at my own approach to charity running, as well as some different opinions from my runners group amigos……

 

Ellie B

 

 

Sources:
  1. Anon (16 November 2013). Children in Need beats record total after raising £31m [WWW]. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-24941239 [Accessed: 12th October 2014]
  2. Collinson, P. (25 March 2014). UK Incomes: How does your salary compare? [WWW]. Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/mar/25/uk-incomes-how-salary-compare [Accessed: 12th October 2014]
  3. Townsend, L. (2 September 2014). How much has the Ice Bucket Challenge Achieved? [WWW]. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-29013707 [Accessed: 12th October 2014]
  4. Wikipedia (page modified on 4 October 2014). London Marathon [WWW]. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Marathon [Accessed 12th October 2014]

 

Information regarding The Children’s Society, Oxfam, Tearfund, and City2Surf was sought through email and phone correspondence with them. 

10 miles + Chocolate Milk = Monday Evening

This week has been the first week I’ve been able to get in some proper runs for ages! And it felt ace. Because I’m so good at planning, we moved house the month before my two half marathons, which didn’t help my speed work, but really helped my endurance. 😉

Tonight’s run was 10 miles/16k in 82 minutes. It was an out-and-back, with downhill on the way, which only meant one thing for the way back. I tried really hard to negative split, but didn’t quite make it – there was 4k of uphill on the way back which was challenging. I mean, it wasn’t Everest or anything, but it was enough! And at the end, I treated myself to a chocolate milk.

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Feeling perky: still heading downhill!

SB’s family came to visit on the weekend, which meant lots of tapas, coffee, bacon and pasta. My sis-in-law and I did a gentle 9k on Saturday morning, but she was used to flat London, not hilly Durham, and wouldn’t say it was a gentle Saturday morning run! When we met at the front door we realised we had the exact same running outfit on. Even down our brand new shoes.

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After that we went to Tynemouth coast to make the most of the good weather, and then played a really competitive game of Cranium. I have a confession: even though I do tell you all from time to time that I’m edgy, I’m not really. And here’s how you can tell: when my sis-in-law and I won anything in Cranium, she always went for a high five, and I went for high ten (cos it’s a bit more special). It resulted in a really awkward half hand slap, and a mortified giggle. Every time.

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Tomorrow I’m going to aerial yoga to stretch out my legs. I’m sure they’re in shock after a few weeks of chilling out, and will make their views known tomorrow.

And finally, congratulations to my DAD!! He ran Sydney’s City2Surf yesterday in 96 minutes!! I’m so proud of him 😀

Ellie B

 

Running ‘Straya Style

Running in Australia is a different beast to running in the UK. Since I’m taking it easy this week to work on my IT band, I thought I’d give our non-Aussie readers a peak into what it’s like to run over the other side of the world!

Running in ‘Straya

1. Choosing your time of day is important. In Summer, it gets hot early, and dark early (about 8pm in Sydney). So you need to be quick to get that window before you’re either sweltering and running at 5km an hour, or running in the dark!

2. As a result, lots of races are either in Winter, or start really early in the morning (eg. 6.30am for the Sun Run). It’s awesome to walk through a city first thing in the morning which is full of runners and no one else.

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Sydney full of City2Surf runners.

3. Everyone will have either sunnies or a hat (see above pic). And everyone will wear sunscreen. We don’t need Baz Lurhman to remind us of this one.

Sunscreen runner

This is the alternative to sunscreen!

4. Sweat. Sweaty sweat sweat. Depending on the part of Australia you’re in of course – Sydney is humid anyway, so throw in a run as well and you’ll be amazed at how much liquid you’ll lose!

5. It doesn’t take long to warm up your muscles!

6. Contrary to UK folklore, spiders and snakes aren’t part of a gang who wait to start wrestling matches with runners. Or humans in general.

7. There’s no hay fever to contend with.

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No spiders or pollen on this trail!

8. You worry about hydration even more than in the UK. And it’s no joke: heat stroke and dehydration is a major risk when running in ‘Straya.

9. As it’s a city, Sydney offers mostly road races. But they are often around the harbour or right on the beach, so it’s not too hard on the eye!!

Not a bad view for a lunch time run!

Not a bad view for a lunch time run!

10. At the end of the beach races, there’s nothing more refreshing than running into the sea to cool down.

Manly Beach: the finish to the Sun Run

Manly Beach: the finish to the Sun Run

I have 100% acclimatised to UK running: when we were back in Sydney in March I ran a couple of 10ks, and it was like I was running in a sauna! I don’t know how I used to do it. I also ran with Gilly when she visited but ended up walking (that might have been because of the wine the night before rather than the heat – I don’t know which one’s better for my pride!).

So there you have it! As you’d expect, running in Australia is hotter than the UK, so different preparation is needed. But you’re also more flexible, and Sydney in particular is a beautiful city to run in. If you’re in Australia, check out the park runs or the Sun Herald running series to find an event near you.

 Ellie B