Marathon Training: Then and Now

In a week’s time hopefully I’ll be feeling human again, and will be able to walk down the stairs without grimacing. Or maybe that’s wishful thinking!


Now that my training is over, all I can do is wait…. and obsess! With every twinge in my foot I’m plunged into a world where plantar faciitis strikes me down like the plague and I’m hobbling along the route for 24.2 miles. So that’s fun.



This training period has been 100% different to my last marathon. Last time I was training as an individual for her first marathon and was at the height of my fitness. Now I’m climbing back after having a bubba, who is my perpetual sidekick.  So now, as I’m waiting impatiently for another starting line, here is a comparison on how it’s all gone (and please be aware… there is a blister pic there):


The hardest bit

Training for Edinburgh: pushing through those crazy training sessions. I can’t believe how many hill sessions and fast mile intervals I was doing.

Training for London: trying to fit in training while looking after Baby B. And shutting down the voice in my head that either told me I should be doing more, or that I should be doing less and just spending time with the baby.


The best bit

Edinburgh: doing long runs with nobody but Beyonce in my ears. It was the first time I realised I could actually manage a marathon.

London: going to the gym and working on my running, core, and overall fitness. That’s where I started to feel like I was getting fitter.


Training in….

Durham: loads of hills to help overall fitness, and very pretty running routes. Plus the satisfaction of running from one town to the next – it does wonders for your ego!

Nottingham: very flat, which is great for the buggy. Running around the river and canal was nice, but kind of repetitive, and there’s no lovely cathedral to look at.

Aw man, remember this?

Aw man, remember this?


Biggest challenge

Edinburgh: continuing my training once those awful blisters set in

London: trying to fit in my long runs. I haven’t done as many as I would have liked, in fact I’ve only managed three runs over 13.1 miles.

Sorry guys. Thank god these bad boys haven't returned. Again... sorry.

Sorry guys. Thank god these bad boys haven’t returned. Again… sorry.

Keeping to the schedule….

Edinburgh: it was relatively simple. Do what it tells you when it tells you and don’t back out unless you’re feeling too tired. It was nice to follow a plan and take the thinking out of it. A lot of mental effort was needed during those training sessions, but following the schedule was fine.

London: went out the window. I used a plan for a rough idea of what I should be aiming for, but I had to work out in my mind when I was going to fit it all in and how I was going to up the mileage. This one took more mental effort in between training sessions (to try and stop panicking!), but was easier during the training itself.


Proudest moment during training

Edinburgh: realising I could run 20 miles in 3 hours and not need to spend the rest of the day in bed

London: running 12 miles with Baby B in the buggy. And also doing my final 20 mile run, which is when I realised that completing this marathon is a distinct possibility!



Coming back after having the baby has been strange. Running felt like an old friend who you’ve not seen for a while, and who has changed but you can’t put your finger on how exactly. My technique was still there but my speed wasn’t. The motivation was there but my energy wasn’t. Basically I had to take it easy, and I found that my fitness returned pretty quickly as long as I was patient and didn’t push myself too hard.

photo 1-32

Now I’m at a place where I can run comfortably and reasonably quickly, but trying to get back to where I was before is just too hard! I don’t have enough time, and I don’t really want to either. Which is a very new feeling for me cos I’m usually so stupidly competitive with myself.



Overall I’m very grateful to have had this goal to work for. It’s been fun, tough, boring, exhilarating, guilt-inducing, cathartic and endorphined. Sure, that’s not a word, but it should be.


So now we wait for Sunday. In my other pair of trainers to support my high arches. In case plantar fasciitis comes a-knocking.


Ellie B

Last Race of the Year and SA-Yes!

Saturday is my last race of the year! Unless I sign up for more.  First of all, I can’t believe it’s November 12 already. Second of all, this has made me all nostalgic for the year just gone. Let’s all ignore the fact that it’s still technically ‘only’ November: there are Christmas decorations in the shops, so it’s definitely not too early for a yearly-round up.


So today, ladies and gents, I will look back at the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of running in 2014!


The Good:

  • I started the year with my favourite race of the year: the Stubbington 10k, with two of my oldest friends. Sunny race by the Solent, followed by a pub lunch. Running at its best.


  • THE MARATHON! My first and absolutely not my last, even though I still hear that voice at mile 18 saying Please don’t ever make me do this again. Please. This was a definite life achievement, and I’m still stoked with the time of 3:43.
  • Running in Stockholm was an unexpected delight, and gave me some of the prettiest running memories

photo (30)


The Bad:

  • 20 miles in the pouring rain. They were the longest three hours ever. Longer than being stuck on a plane for 24 hours, longer than waiting for my meal to arrive after I’ve ordered (I’m a very impatient restaurant diner), and longer than Christmas Eve. Thank god for Beyonce telling me who runs the world (GIRLS!), and for Hamish & Andy keeping me company  on the way around, or I might have cried.
Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 14.22.32

This is Beyonce’s outfit of choice when she’s running. Away from Cops. Don’t worry – this is for a music video only. Source

  • Not being able to do either a half marathon or an obstacle course this year :( The half is my favourite distance, and I like to do the obstacle courses so I can show off how hard I am. That is, until someone mentions snakes, and then I turn into a trembling wreck. So take note: obstacle courses with mud, walls and electric shocks are ok, conversations about snakes are definitely not ok. 


The Ugly:

  • There’s only one proper contender here: my marathon-blisters. These bad boys developed about half way through my training, and got bigger and bigger til the week before the race I was running an average of 1:30min slower than I wanted. Luckily on the day, I pulled it out of the bag, but these war wounds hung around for about 8 weeks afterwards. I felt bad for everyone who attended my pole classes at this time, and had to see them.
photo 1-1

I’m sorry, everyone. But if I had to look at them, I think you should too. At least I’ve made the photo smaller for you all.

  • The end of the marathon: my face was covered in a grit-like substance, which I soon realised was dried sweat mingling with my foundation. I looked like something from the Zombie apocalypse. Smarter people would choose to run without make up on, I guess….


This year I’ve covered loads of different distances and events. If I’m honest, I’m not in the shape that I wanted to be for the end of the year thanks to a really busy August-November. However, looking back on all this reminds me that for me, running is 50% fitness and 50% because I love it: the places I get to see, the experiences, and the memories I now have. So there you go. A bit of personal growth thrown in here today too.

Saturday’s race is a 10 mile road race from Brampton to Carlisle. In keeping with my new approach to charity running, I chose to support a charity which works to protect children who are vulnerable to being trafficked at my last race. For this race, I wanted to choose a charity that supports young adults. SA-Yes works with young adults in South Africa who have been in children’s homes, providing them with a support network once they leave the social system and have to look after themselves at the age of 18.


I was an emotional ball of mess at 18: I was both terrified of the world and scornful of it, and I was really naive too. I relied on certain mentor-figures who helped me work out my values and priorities. So now I would like to support young adults who need the same guidance, but who are in much more vulnerable situations. I needed help on what to study at university, but these teenagers need stability, and help to finish school, and in finding housing and jobs so they don’t end up in trouble.


Anyway, that’s my chosen charity for this event, and I have made a donation. If you are interested, you can also make a donation here.


I hope you’re all having a wonderful Wednesday!


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).



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


This Marathon Is For….

I was never a sporty kid. I’d oscillate between hyperactive, bouncing everywhere and seeking attention, to being in my imagination on my own, but I was never the driven, disciplined, team sports girl.


The first time I ever thought that I might be sporty was when I read this sentence in one of my school reports when I was 14: ‘Ellie can be a good cross country runner when she wants to be’. Until then I had only ever considered running to be something that you used to get somewhere quickly. When I read that, I thought that there might well be a sports person in me yet…


Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t immediately lead to a successful national youth cross country career. This isn’t that story. But I did think that perhaps I  could be one of those rosy cheeked, high-ponytailed sporty types who munched on english muffins after a gruelling outdoor sports session.


Sadly, there are no pics of me in sports gear as a teen as I wasn’t sporty. But here’s a pic of me in my best 90s dungarees at my 15th birthday sleepover.



Did you ever see someone in braces look so thrilled?

I think everyone has at least one teacher who stands out among the crowd once they reach adulthood. For me, there are three:

  • A Maths teacher who worked so patiently and tirelessly to help me scrape a good grade in my Maths exams (basically he was Mr Steer from Educating Yorkshire)
  • An English teacher who taught me the beauty of literature and the joy of learning for its own sake
  • This Sports teacher who wrote that in my report. As well as encouraging my late sporting abilities, this sports teacher also gave pastoral support too (Mrs Marsden from Educating Yorkshire if you will)


She was the epitome of the sporty type: always seriously tanned (sailing in Summer, skiing in Winter), always outside, and always wearing a rugby top. Or a body warmer. Or something that basically said ‘I am dressing for comfort not for fashion because I have important sports to do’.


Sadly, she died last year of a brain tumour. I reckon she must have been in her late 40s. I had always thought it would be nice to get in touch and see how she is, but now there’ll never be that chance. Whether or not I’d have started running without that school report is impossible to say. However I distinctly remember that being the moment when sports became something I could engage with rather than watching from the outside, treating all PE lessons as a chance to muck about and show off at how spectacularly I could miss the tennis ball/lacross goal/netball hoop.


So: my first marathon is dedicated to her, and I have made a donation to Brain Tumour UK.


Also, whilst we’re on this sentimental path, I’d also like to thank Gilly for encouraging me to actually enter a marathon (not just talk about it), for always being there to answer any of my many questions, and for basically being a bad-ass best friend. And SB for supporting me when I’ve literally planned the last 4 months of our lives around when I can go running for 3 hours at a time, and for creating what I know will be an amazing support banner for the day. I’m sure he’s got something spectacular up his sleeve…..



That’s the last sentimental, self-indulgent posts about this event, I promise! If you haven’t tried running ‘for’ someone, it’s definitely worth considering. Even in the harder training sessions, thinking about someone/something important gave an additional burst of energy and motivation to carry on.


And now: onwards to Sunday, and we’ll see how the final showdown goes. I have A, B and C goals (C is basically to carry on without crying), and brand new socks. It’s going to be a blast!


Have a great weekend!


Ellie B




Application to the Club

The Marathon. 26.2 miles of endurance, pain, elation and toughness.


I’ve been running for 10 years now, and haven’t been tempted by the marathon. It’s too far. The training interferes with Real Life too much. 4 hours is such a long time to consider running. I’m too soft to do it.


But …. recently…. I can feel it’s call…. Last year was my first half marathon, which was a huge milestone for me. This year I’ve done three, and loved them: the distance is manageable, it’s a real challenge but is over in 2 hours so not too time-consuming, and at the end I am still awake enough go to the pub with everyone else. Unlike the marathon, after which I think I’d need to go to bed for a week.


Still. Now that I’ve got my head around the half, I’m looking for the next milestone. And I’ve seen how Gilly’s training regime really helped her develop as a runner (did you see her time?! Amazing). And this weekend has seen some amazing performances from the NYC marathon runners, which has been celebrated on Twitter. And so it should: NYC marathon is definitely something to celebrate.


Plus, as Gilly pointed out, even Oprah has done a marathon. I know that she has magical powers and can actually achieve anything she wants, but something tells me that even she might have had some serious training before she tackled the Big 26.2.


So, basically, I’ve submitted my application to join the Marathon Club: last night I entered the Edinburgh marathon. Right now I’m feeling a little daunted and intimidated, and not even convinced that it’s actually real.



What changed was the realisation that unless I actually did a marathon, it would always be the thing I have yet to tackle. Not that what I’ve done before isn’t valid – sometimes the marathon is portrayed as the only distance worth tackling, but I don’t feel that way. For me, it’s more about pride: to stop being a wimp and go and do it. Other people do, so why not me?!


I have spent a good many runs talking about marathons with people in my running club, and they all said the same thing: don’t do one until you want to do one, as the hardest thing is the mental commitment not only on the day, but also throughout the training period. No one else is going to run fartleks with you on a Tuesday morning, or smash out 17 miles on a Sunday.


So to do this, I have two things I need to get my head around: the commitment the training will require, and just what the heck training programs actually mean. Every time I see a program with things like  ‘5*400m tempo, 2ks steady, repeat’ I need to sit down and study it for about an hour before I know what needs to be done. Actually, that will be another benefit to this whole thing: being able to read Runner’s World and immediately understand the training segments. 


Does anyone have any first time marathon training schedules/secrets they’d recommend?


In other news, last week I was inspired by Stephanie’s lovely blog here, and bought myself four tins of pumpkin puree online. What followed was a week of baking, including pumpkin brownies, triple chocolate chip cookies (I add three types of choc chips), and banana loaf. I think I can almost confidently say I’m a good baker these days! It’s been a big week for my personal development.


Ellie B xxx