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

 

 

Post Great North Run: Half Marathon Recovery

So, here we are two days on from the Great North Run. By all accounts it was a fantastic day, and they were even able to identify the millionth finisher. If you did finish the run, then you’re probably in a world of pain right now! Following on from last post, here are some hints to help you get those legs back to normal so you can climb the stairs at a normal speed again:

 

  1. Stay hydrated. Don’t forget to keep drinking now that the race is over – it’s important to replenish your fluid intake, and focus on drinks that will replace your electrolytes too. And by all means have a post-run beer because, well, why the heck not? You’ve just run 13.1 miles. But don’t forget the water too.
  2. Over the next few days, make sure you rest to give your muscles a chance to recover. Don’t immediately jump back into your exercise routine, but enjoy being able to catch up on your TV. If you’re looking for something, I can recommend Orange is the New Black as the perfect companion for your post-run muscle rest.
  3. Eat Smart. Before the race, you probably stressed about getting the right amount of carbs: post-race, you should still focus on carbs, but also consider getting the right amount of protein.  Ideally, a protein shake just after you finish will help your muscle repair, but you can continue this for the days following the race too.
  4. Foam roll. I am not so good practicing what I preach with this one, but rolling your legs will give you a DIY sports massage. You can use the roller all over your body, but I personally focus on my calves, IT band and quads. Roll slowly over the area you’re focusing on, and when you feel a twinge, hold the roller there for a little bit. Beware that it is NOT fun, but it IS valuable. I promise.
  5. Start introducing light exercise into your routine. If you can manage it, going for a short walk will keep your legs loose and stop them from stiffening up.

Marathon recovery meal

On the day itself, I find that chocolate milk is the best recovery drink: it’s hydrating, and has a good combo of carbs and protein. I also try to sit in a cold bath for 10 mins. I’m not tough enough for an ice bath, but a cold bath seems to do the trick!

 

I’ve collected these over the years from different sources, and they seem to work for me. However, you may need to vary them slightly to make sure they work for you – and if you’re in a lot of pain, then go see a doctor.

 

And now here are some tangents for this Tuesday post:

 

I learned this week that if you annoy the universe, it will come to get you. Karma, man, it exists. Something happened at the end of last week, and then when SB and I went to Lisbon for the weekend, we lost our luggage.

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In case you didn’t know, Lisbon is gorgeous, but our city break was punctuated with a desperate trip to H&M followed by the Chemist (because losing your luggage and sprinting to make tight plane connections is sweaty work it turns out).

 

Here is our best 'lost suitcase' look.

Here we are spotting the latest trends in ‘I lost my suitcase and I all have are the clothes on my back’.

 

SB got his bag earlier than I did, and went for a run. I didn’t go for a run, but I did get to a rooftop bar, plus we both ate lots of great seafood, so everyone’s a winner. My bag arrived just in time for me to pick it up on the way back to the airport on Sunday.

 

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And on Facebook I was nominated to share 10 books that have stayed with me over the years, so I thought I’d share here too:

 

1) 1984, George Orwell
2) The Baby Sitters Club, Ann M Martin – saw me from ages 7-12!!
3) The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
4) Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
5) A Doll’s House, Ibsen
6) Ariel, Sylvia Plath
7) Jamie’s Ministry of Food, Jamie Oliver – this book has literally kept us alive
8) Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy
9) Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
10) Empire Falls, Richard Russo

 

Ellie B

Great North Run: My Top Tips….

 

RIGHT NOW, thousands of people are attending the Opening Ceremony of Bupa’s Great North Run not sixteen miles from where I type these words. This year, the Great North Run will celebrate it’s one millionth finisher, and to mark the occasion, Sting has come up North to entertain us all. Except me, cos I’m here and not there.

 

It’s two years since I first ran the Great North Run, and it was a landmark race for me: it was my first race in my new home, and my first half marathon. In the days leading up to the race, I started to get those exam butterflies: have I done enough training? What will the weather do? What should I wear? Will I finish? What’s a good time? HOW WILL IT GO????

 

The Tyne Bridge, Great North Run 2013

The Tyne Bridge, Great North Run 2013

I know a few people who are running the Great North Run for the first time this year, and who are probably starting to feel the same anxiety and excitement that I had two years ago. 13.1 miles is not a stroll in the park, but there are some things that you can do to make life easier on the day. So here are my top tips to help you prepare for your first Great North Run, or even your first half marathon:

 

Before Race Day:

  • Two days before, start increasing your carb intake, but there’s no need to go carbo-crazy. Just make sure there’s a good portion of carbs with your meals, which can come from unexpected sources like yoghurt rather than just scoffing bread (which is admittedly my favourite way to carb load). This article has some good advice for carb loading.
  • Buy a jumper from your local charity shop to wear before hand. On race day, your bag will travel by double decker bus to the finish line about 45 minutes before the race starts, and you’ll need to keep warm. Usually all the clothes left by runners at the starting line are collected, and give them to charity shops, so it’s a nice karmic circle.
  • The day before the race, make sure you hydrate well. Again, no need to go overboard, but make sure you’re drinking regularly. Downing three pints of water the morning of the race won’t help as much as keeping steadily hydrated the day before.
  • The night before, pack your bag. My suggestions include a change of warm clothes, comfy shoes, clean socks, deodorant, face wipes, safety pins, your number, snacks, water, plasters, hair ties, ibuprofen, a waterproof, a plastic bag (for your dirty shoes/clothes) and bin liners. Put your race day clothes out so you don’t have to worry when you get up.
  • Don’t worry if you don’t sleep well the night before! Excitement may keep you tossing and turning, but it won’t impact you too much.
  • Optional extras: paint your nails to match your shirt (my fave thing to do), write your name on your running top so people can cheer you on – and they will!

 

On Race Day!!

  • If you drink coffee, drink a cup when you get up. It will help … digestion. Trust me on this.
  • Leave loads of time to get there. The trains are notoriously crowded for this event, and so make sure you have plenty of time to get to the starting line without stressing.
  • Wear your charity shop jumper with pride. If you don’t get to a charity shop, bring a bin liner or two to wear. It’s my favourite pre-race look, I have to say.
Rocking the bin liner look

Rocking the bin liner

  • Bring bananas and a sports drink to the starting line! You’ll be waiting until the race starts, and once the gun has gone, it might be another 15 minutes until you’re crossing the starting line. You’ll need to quell that hunger in the meantime!
  • When it gets to the final hour before the race starts, sip your drink slowly. Resist the urge to drink a lot, because you’ll need the loo 5 minutes after you start running!
  • Start slow, warm up, and then work out your pace. Don’t let the adrenaline carry you off faster than you want!
  • Don’t sweat the small things: there is a bin literally full of millions of safety pins. There is a help desk if you lose your number. There is a group warm up for when you’re in your starting pen and feeling nervous. There are so many volunteers to help with whatever you need, so don’t stress.
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Starting pen for Great North Run 2013

  • Don’t be intimidated. You’ll be surrounded by thousands of runners on the day, you’ll see club vests, you’ll see different coloured number tags, you’ll see people who look like they will glide all the way to the finish line. But they, like you, are just as nervous and excited, and wondering how their race will go. No matter what speed you go at, you’re all completing a 13.1 mile run, and that puts you in a team of winners in my opinion.

 

And don’t forget to enjoy it!! I love seeing a whole street of double decker buses filled with runner’s bags, and looking down to see all the runners congregating in their pens. I love the cheesy warm ups projected over the big screen, and walking past the BBC tent to see who they’re speaking to.

 

And on the route itself, the public are amazing. They cheer you on, they call your name, they give you food and they do it whether come rain or shine. I love this race, and it was the best introduction to the North East and the North East running community that I could have hoped for.

 

Smiles a-plenty at the end of Great North Run 2012, my first :)

Smiles a-plenty posing with my medal at the end of Great North Run 2012, my first :)

When you finish, you’ll be by the sea. Which is amazing considering you were in the centre of Newcastle a short while ago.  Volunteers will hand you a goody bag with a snack or two, a t-shirt, water, and most importantly, your medal. I advise you to put the medal on immediately and don’t take it off until you go to sleep. Maybe not even then. And then hang it somewhere that you can see it every day to make you smile.

 

My running wall in my office…

Keeps me smiling when I’m at work…it was kind of dark when I took this…

So whatever your goal – to finish without stopping, to get a particular time, to finish at all, or to walk and get all the free food that’s handed out – I wish you the best of luck! I am feeling all nervous and excited for you, and more than a little jealous. And if you’re not running the Great North Run this year, I would definitely recommend it goes in your diary next year. I heart it.

 

In other news, my sister-in-law and I went to dinner last night at the Chiltern Firehouse in London, and saw Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Gary Lineker. I mean, I know some of you don’t care about this, but for me, it was a Very Important Evening. It made up for the wine that we couldn’t afford: celebrity hang outs are expensive.

 

Spur of the moment fun this week.

Spur of the moment fun this week.

Run well!!!!!!!

 

Ellie B

National Running Day!

Yesss!! 4th June – yesterday – was National Running Day! A day to celebrate all that is awesome about running, a day to get off the couch and take your first steps towards running-obsession, a wear your stinky, sweaty clothes with pride. Let’s ignore the fact that I didn’t know it was NRD until I saw it on Twitter yesterday. And the fact that there is National Day for everything – even Dress Up Your Pet Day (January 14th), and Tooth Fairy Day (February 28).

awesome

 

What did you do on National Running Day? I spent the day looking outside at the pouring, pouring rain and regretting that helpful post I wrote about how to run in the rain. But the skies cleared, and the evening was lovely and blue.

I know, another Cathedral pic. But look how pretty she is, just sitting up there.

I know, another Cathedral pic. But look how pretty she is, just sitting up there.

 

I went on a Club Run with my Striders – which is when the whole group runs together. There must be about 50 of us in total. It was the first proper run since Edinburgh, and it felt good. I didn’t time it or track the distance, and it was lovely to go for a run that didn’t have a purpose other than running itself. Pretty fitting for National Running Day I’d say.

 

Blue sky, lots of runners. Pretty good  National Running Day!

Sunny sky, lots of runners. Pretty good National Running Day!

Marathon-come-down is  same kind of blues you get when you come back from holiday. Some people in my club barely give themselves a day’s rest before they’re out there again. I adjusted to post-marathon life by introducing smoothies into my life once more and easing myself off the carbs: towards the end, I basically turned into a Baguette with a face for all the bread I was eating.

 

I’ve also thought about the rest of the year now that I can sign up to other things!! I have a few 10ks planned with SB, a 5.6 charity race with work in July (lots of  pride is at stake with this one), and I’d like to do a couple of half marathons in September. Looking at my half PB, and the paces I had during training this year, I am wondering if I can aim for a sub 1:30 half. That would be ace. 

 

Today, if you’re wondering, is National Gingerbread Day. Of course.  So why not take some some time today and work out your personal running goals for the next half of the year over a nice gingerbread man?

 

Ellie B

 

Personal Development: on the road and in the kitchen

This week kicked off my half marathon training properly. With four weeks to go, there was no better time to start, right? 😉 Back into the swing of everything, it was great to pound the pavements and challenge myself. Here’s a low down on the week:

  • Monday: 16kms @ 5:07 pace
  • Tuesday: Aerial yoga, including ab and core work
  • Wednesday: Gentler run with my running club for 9k @ 6:06 pace
  • Thursday: Ab and strength work at home
  • Friday: Intervals for 7.5kms @ 4.49 overall average pace

I am not the best at writing my training down in ‘official terms’. So you’ll just have to trust me that the intervals were good and hard 😉

Training by yourself is interesting because I’m kind of making it up as I go along. I’ve tried to follow training plans from magazines and websites, but never quite make it. I don’t reckon it’s a question of discipline, but maybe poor planning. So my approach for these halves in Sept is to do 1x long run, 1x intervals/hill training, 1x running club each week, with 2-3 cross training sessions in there too. It’s not as formal as a proper programme, and may not be as effective, but so far it’s fun: I can make it work with my schedule, and I feel in control rather than at the mercy of the dreaded training plan on my notice board!

The Tyne Bridge is ready for the Great North Run, and my race pack arrived this week! I’m really looking forward to it: last year was my first half marathon, and I didn’t know what to expect. I certainly didn’t expect all the spectator support, or the bonus of being part of a running club and seeing familiar faces on the way round course. Bring it on!!

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In other news, we had a house warming BBQ for SB’s work friends last night. It forced us to get the last things done in our house – it was like an episode of Changing Rooms here on Friday and Saturday!

Now, I am an aspiring struggling baker. Despite trying my absolute hardest, my resume of baking is a bit of a train wreck: there was the ‘milk cake’ of September 2012 where I made a banana cake tasting purely of milk, and the ‘scrambled egg cake’ of April 2012 which was meant to be a victoria sponge, but was actually a solid block tasting of egg. I did make SB a birthday cake last year, which was successful. But that’s about it.

So: is 2013 be the year I turn this around? Or will I forever relegated to the shame of always buying deserts, and bringing up children who think that ‘home made’ means cookies made from a mixture in a box?

On Friday I set myself the challenge of making desert for the BBQ. With a lot of support and discussion with Gilly, I settled on a chocolate pavlova, and a lemon lime cheesecake. Hardly the most challenging of recipes you’d think, but there was a really high chance that either of them would end up tasting of egg white. Or feet. I’m like Rachel in that episode of Friends.

But……. SUCCESS!! I made two good deserts! No longer intimidated by mixing bowls, whisks and icing sugar, I stood tall yesterday, knowing I had turned an important corner. SB won’t have to fake enthusiasm for my cakes anymore. And my kids will know the pleasure of cracking an egg into a mixing bowl rather than just adding milk to powder. And when they’re older, I’ll open up a bakery/coffee shop, and be the most popular baker in Durham. Or even the UK.

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Perhaps a good second step would be to try a recipe with flour – I think that’s when you can actually say you’ve baked something.

So that was my week: good runs and good baking. I think this week I can up the ante on my training and really push myself further, both in distance and drills. Stay tuned………..

Ellie B