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

 

 

Hello, pain….

At this very moment, I’m stuck in Edinburgh, as my train has been cancelled. So I did what any sane girl would do: re-camped to the nearest bar and got comfortable with a hamburger and a glass of wine. What else am I to do for the next two hours?

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I read this article today about Scott Jurek and how he handles pain. Well, actually it’s publicising his new book, but the bit that interested me was how he handled the toughest of the tough during his races.

 

In case you’re not familiar with Mr Jurek, he’s a bad ass in the world of ultra-marathons: and that’s a world that’s full of bad-asses to begin with. This is a guy who completes races which last 24 hours, and wins. He puts a lot of it down to his vegan diet (he would not approve of my current coping mechanisms).

Scotty

In this article, he does something that is very reassuring: he admits that he, on occasion, struggles with running too. In fact, he says that people almost expect that he doesn’t feel the pain as much because of his achievements, when he is just like everyone else.

 

What I like about what he says about pain is this: he walks towards it rather than pretending it’s not there:

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When I ran my PB in Run to the Beat in September, I distinctly remember that every time I checked my watch, and saw I was on target, I was elated for about a minute. This was followed by about 5 minutes of ‘I can’t believe I have to keep this pace up, my legs/side/arms/head aches’. Those 5 minutes were really tough: I was suffering, and knew I couldn’t go easy if I wanted to get my goal time. But, once I’d acknowledged what I was feeling, it wasn’t long before my mind had moved on and I was distracted by something else.

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I have also had runs where I spend so much energy trying to distract myself from the pain I’m feeling that I think it exhausts me more than the pain itself! You choose what you spend your energy on, and I reckon it’s worth listening to Scott when he says to acknowledge what’s happening, stay in the moment, and you’ll move on. Not doing so can be even more tiresome, and a huge waste of precious energy. Like worrying about exam results after you’ve taken the exam.

 

Personally, I can’t imagine running until I hallucinate, or until I have vomit running out of my nostrils, and I don’t intend to. Well done Scott, for breaking those barriers. Knock yourself out. But it’s nice to know that even the toughest ultra-marathon runner of them all still faces the challenge we all face: what do we do when the going gets tough? We should acknowledge the pain, feel it, and move on.

 

And I think his most useful advice is this: ‘try to keep it fun’ (FYI, Scott, if you’re reading this – I will never find hallucinations or vomit fun).

 

Ellie B

Friday & Freshers Fair

Happy Friday everyone!!

 

So, after my moan earlier on this week, it turns out that cross training is actually pretty fun: I had forgotten what else I can do as well as run. Here is how my week has looked:

 

  • Monday: conditioning and abs
  • Tuesday: Aerial yoga
  • Wednesday: 1 hour pole, 1 meta fit class
  • Thursday: 1 hour pole class
  • Friday: conditioning and abs

 

It’s been a good all-over week, and my back, arms, legs, glutes are all feeling pretty tired! At my dance studio, October is Octobutt, and everyone’s working on improving their glutes. So that will work really well with the old IT band stuff too :)

 

On Wednesday I went to the Durham University Fresher’s Fair. Not because I am one of those people who hangs around uni pretending they’re 10 years younger than they are, but because our dance school’s university societies were there. During my lunch break I headed down to the union and to demonstrate pole and aerial arts.

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Janie and I just hanging around…..

If pole dancing has taught me one thing, it’s that you’re never too old/unfit/scared to do things that will amaze you. When I started, I never thought I would be able to do the splits, deadlift myself upside down, or even just feel comfortable in my own body. Before, I was a little caught up in the way the media portrays things. Lose that Winter weight now! 10 diet secrets you NEED to know! How to get that golden tan!

 

Instead of helping you feel comfortable, all this does is encourage you to think of your body as something that deliberately works against you, and which needs to be controlled. Now, my bod and I are a team, and we work together to do the things I want to do, and knowing that is the nicest feeling.

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Now, I’m no expert, but if anyone is feeling down about their bodies, I would definitely recommend going and doing some exercise. Hopefully even a short walk around the block will remind you that you and your body work together. And then you can start to gradually increase it and maybe even find yourself doing something that will amaze you.

 

And finally, here’s what I’m loving this Friday!

  • Breaking Bad. Along with the rest of the universe. I have had a huge love/hate thing with this show: just when I begin to like it, everyone starts to be all mean to each other again. We have two episode left, and I do think that it’s had the best end of show climax I’ve ever seen though….. HOW WILL IT END?????????? (Don’t tell me)
  • ‘Atlas’ by Coldplay: Coldplay’s new song is perfect for Autumn. It’s moody, atmospheric and slow, great for those grey mornings.
  • 8 minute abs.  I heard about this from one of my fave bloggers, and during Abs August, I gave it a try. It’s so quick, but it’s painful and you see results very quickly. But it HURTS!
  • Nike and Run to the Beat: They came under some fire after the way their race was organised. As a goodwill gesture, they refunded £10 to every participant, and a t-shirt and apology note arrived in the post as a surprise too. Nice to see they acknowledged their errors, and thanks for another great shirt!
  • Radio 1 Live Lounge: September was Even More Music Month at Radio 1, and they had someone in the live lounge every day. It was ace. Here’s the most watched video on youtube from all the live lounges that month: Bastille, covering Party by Miley.

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 Thanks Nike!!

I hope you all have a good weekend! Any interesting plans? We are running a 10k trail, so fingers crossed it’s not raining (too) hard!

 

Ellie B

Running with the Kenyans – Review

Well, we’re back from holiday. And so far, the weekend has been spent doing various DIY activities. Today I found myself buying lawn food and spreading it across our lawn – this is a sure sign that I have well and truly left my twenties.

As I traveled to London for Run to the Beat, I finished reading Running with the Kenyans by Adharanand Finn. Basically, after winning a 10k charity run in the UK, Finn decides to move to Kenya for a period of time to train with Kenyan runners, and in the spirit of adventure, brings his wife and kids along too.

It appealed to me because of the subtitle: ‘discovering the secrets of the fastest people on earth’. It seems that at every major running event the champions are Africans who aren’t very well known, who outrun the competition by a long shot, and who accept their success with composed pride. If there was a secret to this success, I definitely wanted in.

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However, soon after starting, Finn makes it quite clear: there isn’t really a secret to their success. The memoir looks at what makes the Kenyans successful, which includes eating huge amounts of ugali (a maize-porridge thing) and taking rest periods seriously (ie. not doing anything). There are three recurring themes which run throughout the book:

  1. Barefoot running is how they run when younger, but the athletes do train in trainers when professional
  2. The lifestyles of the more rural Kenyans prepares them for running in a way that our Western lifestyles won’t
  3. They see it as their way to make a massive difference in their lives and the lives of their families, and so they work bloody hard for it

It was really interesting to learn more about how the athletes trained. I know very little about how any professional athlete trains, but the simplicity of their training camps was still an eye opener. As was the sheer size of the industry: I had no idea how many training camps there were out there, nor how many international athletes trained there as well.

Finn also emphasises the humble conditions that the athletes live in compared to their successes: he describes meeting Mary Keitany and her husband in their modest house, and then seeing her win the London marathon. Apparently it’s thought among the Kenyan athletes that too much comfort can make you soft, which will ultimately impact your running. Not an entirely stupid idea.

There were a few things which meant this book wasn’t a complete page turner for me. His reason for being out there wasn’t 100% clear: beyond focusing on bare foot running and learning about their lifestyles, at times it seemed there wasn’t a lot of insight. For example, the woman in his running team struggled to complete any training runs, yet in their marathon (**spoiler alert**) she places. Yet Finn doesn’t offer any insight into how she achieved this success despite his doubting her abilities throughout the book.He also doesn’t offer so much insight into why his own time improves.

Also: some further insight into his wife’s experience would have rounded it all off a bit more. She just seemed to be a bit-player in this experience, which is a shame: a wife who travels to Kenya with 3 kids under 10 just so her husband can run all day should be celebrated I reckon!

So: it was definitely an interesting read, and it did help me when I was running in Run to the Beat: I pictured these Kenyan training camps, and “They want it more” became my mantra. It was a nice account of his running in Kenya and the people he met, and again it made me want to put my trainers on and run when I finished. But the conclusion that there was no ‘secret’ was kind of obvious, and therefore a little disappointing. I felt like I was waiting for something which never arrived: perhaps if it had been marketed differently it would have felt a lot more satisfying.

Hope you’re all having a good Saturday? Any gardeners out there? What can I do now that I’ve fed my lawn?

 

Ellie B

Run to the Beat Race Recap

This Sunday I raced the Run to the Beat half marathon in London, along with my sis-and-bro in law.

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Some people made a really good effort at fancy dress. Others just wore the t-shirt they were sent.

It’s USP is that there are DJs positioned throughout the track to keep you pumped for the 13.1 miles. I prepared for the race as best I could by painting my finger and toe nails the same colour as my t-shirt. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no prep more important.

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Instead of giving us a t-shirt at the end, they were sent to us before, and actually had our numbers printed on. Genius! A cool t-shirt that I’ll definitely wear again, and no annoying race number pinned to my front. Instead of feeling weird that everyone was in the same shirt, you felt like you were part of something big. But I still found myself looking for the purple shirts of my running club….

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The course itself wasn’t anything special, and we saw a lot of docks and cranes. The best DJs along the course were the ones who encouraged the crowds: they really lifted my energy! Especially in mile 7 after the short-lived ‘half way high’ wore off.

I think there were some people who weren’t regular runners on this race. Now – despite what you are about to read – I am ALL FOR people getting into running. But. When you’re in a busy race, it’s not cool to cut out in front of someone and then slow down! Then your legs tangle up with the person behind, and you both risk falling on your faces.

This happened to me three times within the first three miles. I’d run out of patience by the third time, and gave the poor girl a big dirty look. Then I thought: watch yourself, or karma will get you.

Then, not 2 miles later, karma struck. I tried to overtake a girl at the same time as running past a lamp post with a huge sign on it. And misplaced my feet, and fell flat on my face. Well, on my chest, left knee and ankle to be exact. So watch out people! Nothing like a fall on your face to literally bring you back to reality with a bump!

In spite of this, every time I checked my time, I was on target. This was the first time I had properly paced myself, and it was so exciting to realise 10k in that I was on track for my target finish! And this was shortly followed by disbelief that I had to keep this pace up. I slowed down a little at the end as my left side was hurting (a mix of IT band, sore knee and sore pride).

Miles 7 and 10 were challenging, but I had just finished Running with the Kenyans the day before, and kept thinking about the ‘Kenyan secret’: they just want it more than us, and work harder for it. And everytime I wanted to slow down, I told myself that, and thought about my goals, and it helped me pick my pace up.

The final half mile was tough: after running 12.6 miles, with a hill in the 12th mile, I got to the top and saw the finish line. But there were two out-and-backs which took you devestatingly close to the end before taking you away again.

I think this sums up my impression of the race: it was fun, and had the elements to make a great race, but it didn’t quite hit the mark. It started 15 minutes late, the water was in plastic cups at the water stations (impossible to drink and run), and the out-and-backs at the end were just mean! Just as I handed in my bag at the baggage drop, the whole shelving system collapsed (luckily no one was hurt). But the biggest negative was during the course: one section of the race took you around the perimeter of the Royal Artillery Barracks, and my sis-in-law was queuing there for 5 minutes to get in and out. After charging £46 for entry, this seemed really unfair.

So, finally, I made it through the out-and-backs, and finished. And got a personal best! I finished in 1:41:50, forever to be known as 1:41 😉 I missed my target that I had set earlier on in the year by 1:50, but I am SO STOKED to get that time after thinking I wasn’t prepared.

The highlights of the race were:

  • Really friendly and helpful volunteers at the start
  • A cool running village at the start/finish line, with a real party atmosphere at the end
  • Awesome running top
  • Jessie J performing at the end
  • Vita Coco were a good sponsor, and such a great drink to have on the way around
  • Running in the same event as my sis-and-bro in law and their friends was really fun
  • The fact that they lived 10mins from the start didn’t hurt either 😉

After the event, we collected our medals (worth the £46 just for that), and went to a local pub to enjoy the sunshine. I love London pubs: they are the coolest of the cool. This one had an awesome beer garden, and made you feel like you were in a trendy London version of Girls but without the annoying cool-because-she-doesn’t-know-it main character.

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And just because he’s a trooper, here’s my Dad’s pic from the City2Surf last month.

 

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Did anyone else race this weekend?

Has anyone else fallen on their face during a run?

Ellie B