How to Perfect the Run Commute for #run2workday

Run to Work Day

It’s great to see so many people on board with today’s Run2WorkDay on twitter. I’ve been running to work for a while now, and love it, so thought I would share my experiences and tips about how to get it right – and not end up looking like a scruff for the rest of the day!

the run commute essentials

I have a high-vis running backpack (tenner from Sports Direct) which holds the following on my run commute to work:

  • Clothes for work
  • A wash bag, with the following: wet wipes, face wipes, mini body wash, mini body moisturizer, face moisturizer, underarm deodorant, & dry shampoo (never used it!)
  • Make up bag
  • Small towel

I haven’t included shoes because I keep a couple of pairs of work shoes under my desk, and wear my running trainers home.

the business of washing…

Like many workplaces, there are no showers available in the office where I work. I’ve heard that some run commuters do buy a cheap gym membership and use one of those nearby their work, but I find it much easier just to take my time with the sink technique. You’ll find your own sink technique, but my main tip is to pile your dirty running clothes on the floor around the sink, to catch all the water while you’re splashing away, and save your towel for drying yourself and also the floor afterwards. It’s easier if you can find a larger, or a disabled, loo in your workplace that you can use for 20 mins without anyone wanting it.

mistakes I’ve made

  • Forgetting make up (luckily I wasn’t far from a Boots for emergency mascara)
  • Forgetting underwear (not fun wearing running bra all day. After a 4 mile run.)
  • Forgetting headphones (actually quite liberating)
  • Forgetting inhaler (not so liberating)

things you can do to make your run commute easier

  1. Find a neglected cupboard in your place of work which you can use as your dumping ground. Ideally it would have a lock and you could just pop the keys in your running bag. On the days when you’re not running, bring in your clothes for the days you are running into work. Also keep washing stuff and make up too, to make your run even nicer.
  2. Leave yourself plenty of time. I allow myself 20 minutes after a run to get presentable, so this is factored into my run. I know how long I could take on my run, too, so I assume I’m going to be slow and work around that.

honestly it’s so worth it

I’m very lucky in that I can enjoy running along the canal and through the beautiful Regent’s Park on my way to work. It’s great to mix up the route and see new things – I often spot the lama or the giraffes over the London Zoo fences too! Very surreal.

Lama in Regents ParkI understand that not everyone will have this kind of opportunity, but that’s part of the challenge – how can you mix up your route so that you can go through green areas, urban areas and places that interest you? One option is to run part of the way then hop on a bus or train. Either way you will explore places and take in things you wouldn’t normally – so it’s not only healthy for your body, but great for your brain too!

it’s all about determination

Even when I really don’t feel like it – when it’s drizzling rain outside and a chilly breeze – I convince myself to stick to running to work… and I never regret it. Yes, you have to be quite organised, but in a way even that part is satisfying. People will be in awe of your commitment to health and fitness, and you’d be surprised at how interested and supportive people are. For a few minutes after a run I do look at myself in the mirror and think how will that ever be presentable for a day at work? .. but you’d be surprised – you cool down pretty quickly and won’t even feel ‘icky’ at all. You’ve just got to get a strong routine going with your washing and moisturizing. Tip – use a scented moisturizer. It’ll reassure you that you’re not giving off a bad smell, not that you would be anyway! Of course there’s always the option to run home instead – I just never feel like it at that time.

a distinct lack of lethargy

People often assume that running to work means you’ll be tired for the rest of the day – but it’s quite the opposite. I think I’d feel much more lethargic after a train, tube or bus journey. Running to work, like any other early birds workout, gives you energy that lasts the day!

My top tip – don’t just try it once and give up! If you do that, you’ll never try again. 🙂

Would love to hear from other run commuters, if you feel like commenting below!

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Running the Paris Marathon: My First Marathon is done!

A belated blog post…

This time last year I could only run one mile before having to stop and walk. Not only was I unfit, but I also have mild asthma. This alone meant it never even occurred to me that I would be able to ever be a fitness fanatic, or even a casual runner.

Run the British 10k?

When someone suggested I run the British 10k for charity (Kidscape), an event set for last July, I was completely daunted by the idea. 10k is over 6 miles – a distance I could not even imagine covering. Low and behold, I signed up, and as I trained for the event my fitness got better and my asthma started to improve. I completed the British 10k in 59 minutes and, to be honest, wasn’t that puffed…

…How about the Paris Marathon?

When Kidscape approached me in September 2012 and mentioned the Paris Marathon, the idea of me participating made me laugh. I shrugged them off, but of course by that point the idea had been seeded in my mind. Two days later a completed a registration form and the journey had begun.

I found a marathon training plan on the Bupa website and tried my best to stick to it. I didn’t worry too much about the speed work, because I was only concerned with completing the marathon – I wasn’t expecting a fantastic ‘time’.

Marathon Training – up and down

The biggest achievement in my marathon training for me was my 18 miler in February. I ran around Hackney Marshes, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I had been feeling a little low about the previous week – struggling through 15 miles slow jog with a loo stop half way – and it really lifted my spirits.

Then it hit me – an injury! I never in a million years thought that I would ever suffer a sports injury but there it was, and I couldn’t ignore it. It took three weeks of half resting and half training for me to feel able to run a long distance again. My next race was the Finchley 20 on 17th March.

Two twenty milers before the taper

The Finchley 20 (in Ruislip!) was great. It had a real local feel, and I managed to get round (non-stop!) in 3 hours 17 minutes, which means I maintained a pace of under 10 mins per mile. I was very pleased with myself! My aches and pains were of course heightened but I felt that if I could do the 20, I could do the Paris Marathon.

The next week I, perhaps foolishly, ran the Hyde Park 20 miler – in the snow and below-freezing temperatures. This one didn’t go so well, finishing at 3 hours and 21mins, but in my defence it was absolutely freezing and no-one enjoyed themselves that morning. At this point I had just 2 weeks to go before I raced in Paris, and the taper had begun.

To manage my muscle injury/weakness I had to do the following: drink a glass of milk a day, do exercises with exercise bands and half-inflated sports balls, and do thorough pre-race dynamic exercises to warm my muscles up. I even started drinking protein shakes – I thought these were just for hulk-type gym goers!!

The journey to Paris!

I travelled to Paris on the Friday evening before the Sunday race, and rested well. On Saturday, bright and early, I went for a mere 1 mile run around the streets of Paris. It felt horrible, slow, achey and tiring. I pushed the thought to the back of my mind that you do realise you have to do 26.2 of those tomorrow…

Preparations for the big day

On the Saturday, after getting my race chip from the Expo, I walked to the finish line, so that I could arrange a place to meet my spectators! It was strange seeing the quiet before the storm. In the evening, after a large pasta meal, I laid out everything I would need for the next day: race clothes, headphones, iphone arm band, arm band for gels, gels, water bottle, trainers and sports socks, ear warmers, an old scarf and three old jumpers. The latter items were because at the start line it would be cold, but as soon as I got going I would want rid of them!

paris marathon start line

The start line at the Arc de Triomphe

I got a very good night sleep and arranged a wake-up call for 6.30 on Sunday morning. I loaded up at breakfast with bread, jam, orange and grapefruit juice, and some filthy coffee (no tea available, of course, anywhere in France!) and set off on foot to the Arc de Triomphe. It was a very quiet, still and cold morning, but as I made the 20 minute journey I saw more and more runners wandering in the same direction. I arrived at the Arc de Triomphe and the crowds were already swarming around their ‘pens’ (divided by expected finish time), and the queues for the portaloos were immense. So glad I didn’t need them! The atmosphere was exciting, and filled with anticipation. People started stripping off their jumpers, and then felt the real chill in the air!

My 4.30 group

I was in the 4hr30min group, and minutes after we heard the Gun go off for the elite runners, we started moving towards the start line – guided by marathon volunteers. Somehow I got right to the front of the group, and was even holding the rope! As we were almost at the back of 40 thousand people, and the sea of rubbish we had to wade through was unbelievable! Jumpers, gel packets, bags, t-shirts and bin bags were just a few of the things littered all over the Champs-Élysées.

I was at the very front of our group, which once you think of it as 10 thousand strong, is quite an achievement. I was not going to make a mistake though – I knew that every first-marathoner speeds at the beginning and regrets in down the line. As soon as we passed the start line, at 9.45am, I got into a ‘slow’ pace as I knew it would be easier to maintain. Of course, later on, I would question myself about this choice! Hundreds of people overtook me, but I had one goal in mind – to run all the way to the finish. I didn’t want to burn out at the beginning.

Sight seeing?

The race is a bit of a blur, and of course I didn’t even look up at all the landmarks we passed, including Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower. My memories are a mixture of slipping over orange peel (yes, it’s more dangerous than banana. Fact), taking a whole handful of raisins in what I thought was sugar, spitting out the pure salt in revulsion, following runners going the same pace and enjoying the breeze that was thankfully present on what was quite a warm, sunny day. (I even got sunburn!)

I noticed that at various points of the route my body was trying it’s best to make me stop. First it was a pain in my thighs, then calves, then a bit of a headache, but ignoring them all meant my body stopped bothering me and just got on with it!

When I got to 20 miles – where apparently it’s common to hit the wall – I still felt strong. I wondered, and still wonder, how you can hit the wall with this message in your head: I’ve done 20 miles. I only have 6 to go

The last six miles

The last six miles were tough. Not because I was wanting to stop (though this did cross my mind on occasion) but because of all the walkers! By this point about 70% of people were walking. Slowly. In the middle of the road. Weaving in and out of them meant that I actually finished with 26.74 miles clocked on RunKeeper, instead of the expected 26.2! At mile 25.5 my body threw it’s last card down – a blister. I don’t even know how this happened – my feet were utterly smothered in vaseline and I had not experienced a blister for a few weeks now as a result of this technique. Instead of stopping me, it just meant I had to hobble a certain way – I can’t imagine what I looked like…

Getting to the finish line

Getting to the finish meant I was hit with a mix of emotions. I started crying immediately (well, after I’d stopped RunKeeper). There are awful ‘finishing pictures’ of me crying at the end, as well as video footage. I suppose what they expect is cries of joy but to be honest I was so dizzy I could hardly see. All I really clocked was that I had managed to keep hold of my own water bottle from the beginning, and that I was quite close to the correct meeting point.

The aches didn’t go away quickly. I managed to walk around Paris on Monday, but Tuesday was pretty tough.

Oh and I finished in 4hr31m08s. For all you time-conscious runners out there.

Paris Marathon finish high quality

paris marathon route

If I can do it, anyone can.

Training for the Paris Marathon: the Finchley 20 (in Ruislip…)

quick groin update

Just to give a little update on the groin situation, haha. I had a rest-week since my last post (Paris Marathon – groin strain), which is the most frustrating thing when you’re this far in! Anyway, I decided to go to a physio who said GET OUT THERE NOW! You’re fine, just strengthen it, etc etc. Anyway, I then saw his colleague and she was the total opposite, which really dented my confidence. She said things like “I’d prefer you not to run outside” and “you might not be able to run Paris”. Basically unhelpful. Anyway, I then went back to the first physio and he apologised for the confusion, and sent me tons of exercises and stretches to do, as well as a diet plan – something, I’ll be honest, I hadn’t given any thought to.

back to training

So this week I was excited to get back into it! I had three short (easy) runs this week, and only hurt for one of them (the one I ran just after seeing Mrs Unhelpful Physio, surprisingly). I was determined to run the Finchley 20, just as a good training run and also it would be my first ‘organised’ long run. Ever.

the Finchley 20

I followed the physio’s advice to the T. I went swimming on Saturday, incorporating running underwater and anything other than breast-stroke, with that lethal-for-groins leg flick. I bought some protein powder, something I thought I’d never do! I chose chocolate, and it’s actually yummy. I am also drinking a glass of milk a day now, as this helps the bones during training. I even did pre-race warm up exercises, which included a ‘silly walk’ for all you Monty Python fans – I looked ridiculous!

On the day, it was an early start at 6.45 but I got there nice and early. I had all my gels with me, as well as my inhaler and my (prohibited) headphones. About half an hour before the start everyone was trying to decide whether or not to wear rain-gear, but I’m so glad I did! It POURED down during the second or third lap (it was all a bit of a haze) to the point where I had to close my eyes it was so sharp! Nice and cold though for running.

The race consists of four laps of five miles each, and at every turn in the road there were race wardens, many of them handing out jelly babies, water and squash. They also cheered everyone on all the way! I took energy gels and blocs, as well as regular water. I did ache in various places, but surely that’s to be expected, after all I was running 20 miles! I woke up this morning with a swollen ankle, but all manageable!

the finish

I felt great by mile 18, and I thought there was actually a chance of a) finishing in 3.20 and b) running the whole way. I also realised at this point that I had not used my inhaler once. That’s unheard of for me when on a long run. Straight after the run I had a protein shake to re-fuel.

newFinchley 20

I can’t tell you how pleased I was when I found a Yorkie in my goody bag on the way home… it was what I wanted without knowing it!

the stats – for all you running geeks!

You’ll notice that I actually gained speed for each lap, which I didn’t expect, and finished at 9m51s per mile… yey!

finchley20 mapfinchley20

finchley20 pacefinchley20 pace 2
finchley20 pace 3
finchley20 pace4

Anyone doing the Hyde Park 20? That’s where I’ll be on Sunday…

Training for the Paris Marathon: groin strain?

Hi, this is way too long to put in a text, so thought I would ask advice over the blog.

Last week as you may have read, I managed an 18 miler. No problems, actually quite enjoyed myself. My groin muscles (never known of them before!) did feel a little tender afterwards, not during, and I assumed this was because of the elevation and small hills, and of course the sheer distance, as I had only done 15 miles before.

This week I continued my training as usual, and though I did not feel groin pain whilst running, I definitely felt it afterwards. I assumed it was because I didn’t know how to stretch them after my 18 miles, and carried on. Today however, again not feeling it during running, after my easy 50 minute run I felt like I had cramp down there.

It has got to the stage where I can’t even put socks on while standing up – I cannot lift my left leg from standing.

What can I do? Paris is only five weeks away now and I CANNOT MISS IT. Seriously. Not an option.

Please comment with advice/suggestions/similar stories?

Paris Marathon Training: the 18 miler

On Sunday I ran 18 miles. 18 miles! In one go. In 2 hours 57 mins.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting to finish. After hitting the wall last week and dragging myself through 15 miles, some of which I walked, I really had no confidence that I would make it.20130226-110131.jpg

having my doubts

I also didn’t want to go out. If I’m at all honest, I picked a fight with my boyfriend 10 minutes before I had to leave, and had a little cry! Just shows the dread that sometimes surrounds the Sunday Long Run…

the run itself

When I got out there, I decided on a new route. I wasn’t sure whether or not this was a good idea, but in the end it was the best plan and I actually enjoyed myself!!20130226-110201.jpg

I ran along the Regents Canal to Victoria Park (my usual destination on a Sunday run) and right up the top to find a route to Hackney Marshes. There were not that many runners there, but the routes were lovely. I usually run on roads so it was a relief to have some real ground beneath my feet. It was at this point that I took my first ever ‘gel’.

YUCK

No one had told me that running gels were revolting!! I used up half of my water supply trying to wash it down! I also chewed on some blocs, which weren’t much better. Of course, now I have taken gel, blocs and sweets instead of split testing on different sessions, I now have to take all on the big day because one of them obviously worked!

I carried some haribo with me too, so chewed on them after mile 10. At this point I knew I’d do it. I wasn’t aching, I was running at under 10 mins a mile and feeling really positive about my new route.

weekday training

This week I had help from runner @SponsorStephen on Twitter who said I should be doing some interval training. This really pushed me – as I said in my last post (Paris Marathon Training: phase two) I did promise that I would be incorporating this kind of training, though I hadn’t actually got round to it somehow… Anyway, on Wednesday I did interval training and surprised myself with how well it went! It meant that my Thursday session was faster than expected too. Thank you to Stephen for pushing me to do it! I think this training definitely improved my performance on Sunday.

will power

The more I run the more I realise the power of my mind. Even as I’m doing something mundane like brushing my teeth, sometimes a voice will pop up in my head to say “you do realise it’s 26 miles?? You can’t even manage 15!”

I’m constantly battling with myself about it. Finishing that Sunday run at 18.25 miles had made me realise I really can do it. I had less than 8 miles to go before I reached a marathon distance, and I could have done it!

Bring it on.

In case you like running numbers, here you are:

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Paris Marathon Training: phase two…

So, it’s now just 7 weeks until I start my (pretty short seeing as I live in King’s Cross) journey to Paris, and the marathon. To say that I’m scared would be incorrect – I am a little fluttery but mainly excited at this stage! I am confident that I have pretty much followed the intermediate training plan, and I can do it.

self improvement

I know that I can do distances now. My longest distance has been 14.7 miles, which while pretty boring at over 2h 20m, was completely manageable. In fact, it’s so easy to build up and up in distance. I truly believe that anyone could manage a 15 mile stretch if they build it up bit by bit each week over several months.

challenging myself

The thing I’m concerned about is that I genuinely feel, no I know, I haven’t been challenging myself physically. I have been ignoring the ‘speed runs’ and opting for easy runs, and I have only once really pushed myself to do interval training. In fact, I have been getting slower and slower as the weeks and months pass. Basically, I know that I could do much better than I am now. So here comes phase two…

the last stretch

As we come into the last seven weeks of training, I have to bear in mind that though we will soon be tapering, I have to concentrate on pushing myself speed-wise. I am going to take the long distance running as a given, and put tons of effort into my weekday runs. Everyone’s ‘personal best’ is different, but my aim is to get to under 9min/mile on the long runs. I also know that I should start practising the ‘positive split’? From my understanding this means running faster in the second half of a long run than you did in the first… am I right?

feeling positive

Despite my doubts and moaning, I am feeling quite positive about the whole experience. I had to take six rest days last week, because of a nasty cold, but getting back into it already. At least it didn’t happen the week of the race! I also had a couple of good dreams about running (something I never thought would happen!): one was that I missed both of my 20 milers (Ruislip and Hyde Park) and I was gutted, and the other was a vague one about Paris. The second one may have been a day-dream, but I felt really positive about running the marathon and especially finishing!

I have now booked my hotel (Fri – Tues) and my Eurostar tickets, and am really quite excited! How is your marathon training going?