Highlights: Running in 2016

This year has definitely been a mixed bag in terms of my running, but overall I’ve made some great progress and had a great time in the process. So without further ado, here are my highlights. As always, I love hearing about other people’s achievements, so do let me know your best moment from 2016.

Manchester Marathon

Now this is a tricky one. My first marathon- Manchester was a goal I hunted down for several months. I was excited, motivated and absolutely terrified in equal measure. It took up all my headspace, and allowed for little else at that point. Race day itself was a struggle. A real struggle. At Mile 6 an age-old hip injury kicked leaving me in pain, and by Mile 8 I could barely even walk. But whilst I went to a really bad place mentally, it never once occured to me to quit, and that’s someting I’m eternally grateful for. My day was absolutely made by my two closest friends coming to cheer me on, meet me at the finish line, and most importantly buy me a fried chicken burger. Now that’s love!

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Reykjavik Half

Reykjavik Half was the first Half Marathon I’d ever raced, and so it was a definite highlight! Prior to that, I’d always had a weird mental block about the distance, convinced I couldn’t cope with the combination of speed and endurance. But race itself was a gloriously sunny, crisp day in August, and I ran happily along, finishing with a time of 1:53, well under my Sub-2h goal. Not too shabby for a first attempt, especially in the middle of a training cycle!

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Budapest 30k

This was definitely a tricky race for me-I had originally intended do the marathon but an injury had led me to downgrade to the 30K distance. I went to a really bad space mentally within the first few miles of the race, but was completely uplifted and spurred on by my fellow City Athletics crew. Post race, the holiday itself in Budapest was fantastic, with plenty of good food, drinks and great company!

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Golden Gallop 10k

The Golden Gallop holds a special place in my heart. Whilst I didn’t get a PB (in fact, I matched my previous PB to the second), I placed first female! Whilst it was a small race field, how often does a first finish happen to anyone?! The aspect that I’m produest of is not giving into negative self-talk about the win- whilst I didn’t run at an elite level, and yes it was a small race field, I was running an unfamiliar course with a 13 miler in my legs from earlier on in the week. So I have no reason to be negative- and I’ll never forget that finish!

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Running in Reykjavik

The day after the half marathon, I popped on my running shoes and headed out the door with no plan, pace or expectations. I just wanted to run. I took it gently, running along the coastline and breathing in the fresh, crisp air, now filled with a fine mist. It was one of the most wonderful runs I have experienced all year- one that makes you truly grateful to be alive.

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Fat Run London

A few weeks ago I tried something new- a pop-up running and brunch club. It was a stepout of my comfort zone, both in terms of the food and meeting a load of new people. But I showed up with running buddy Clo and we took in a gentle, autumnal 4 miles through Regent’s Park, before heading back to the most important part- brunch. The food was indescribably delicious- all roasted veggies and gorgeous chicken thighs, with kale and grain salads to go with them. I’m so glad I took advantage of the opportunity and didn’t chicken out at the last minute- it was worth it!

Sri Chinmoy 5K

As with the 13.1, I’d always had a mental block with the 5k as a race distance. But one sunney evening in September, I finally faced my fear and raced with my Athletics Club in the gorgeous Battersea Park. If I’m being completely honest, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done- it was a find a pace and cling on for dear life kinda situation. I finished in 23.03, which I’m proud of for a first attempt, and managed not to throw up at the end. Winning!

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What’s been your running highlight from this year? 

Lots of love,

 

Pippa

My Toolkit for Accountability

We talk all the time about having goals, but without an actual plan, goals don’t really mean anything. I’ve found I have to keep myself accountable every day in order to move forward and avoid losing momentum. I have a few ways of tracking my progress, and so I thought I’d share them with you today.

 

Believe Training Journal

This training journal, created by elite runners Lauren Fleshman and Roisin McGettigan-Dumas has honestly revolutionised the way I look at my training. It’s a year-long training log that doubles as a journal and a handbook: you log your miles and rate each day/workout, but there’s space to do so much more than that too. Each week there’s a small prompt such as “When things get tough I’ll focus on…” and “Things that will make me a better runner”. It helps you look at your training more holistically- there are regular check-in pages as well as guides to nutrition, cross-training and balance, among other things.

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Bullet Journal: Habit Tracker

I recently started keeping a bullet journal as a way to organize my brain and reduce anxiety- it’s definitely helping! For anyone who doesn’t know, a bullet journal is more a concept than a product- you take a blank journal and you organize it exactly how you think would best suit you- there are guidelines on the “best” way to do it, but in reality its entirely up to you.  One of the most popular add-ons is the habit tracker: it’s really simple- you decide what habits you want to keep for the week, and you track them. In the lead-up to marathon day this mainly consisted of my strength and conditioning routine, although I also added an “Act of Self Care” to make sure I was taking care of myself well.

Wall Planner

Way back in July when I started tentative marathon training, I drew myself up a wall calendar on Word, and sneakily printed it off in A3 on my work printer. It’s stuck at the end of my bed, and every evening I would fill it in for the day. It wasn’t a training plan as such, but it helped me keep accountable as well as see all the miles building up, which defeinitely helped mitigate a few taper-induced crises.

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Accountability Buddies

For keeping yourself accountable, there’s no-one quite like a training buddy to count on. Not only can you tackle tough workouts together; even when you’re training separately you can check in on each other’s progress. It’s great to know that someone’s got your back, plus you can bounce all those crazy worries and nagging doubts off each other.

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It’s not just the races, it’s the hours of training together!

So there you have it, my toolkit for keeping yourself accountable and always moving towards your goals. If you have any other suggestions I’m all ears!

How do you keep yourself driven and accountable?

 

Lots of love,

 

Pippa

The Goal Race That Wasn’t

Last Sunday was supposed to be the day I ran my second goal race of the year: Budapest Marathon. But as I mentioned in the weeks coming up to the event, it wasn’t looking likely that I would compete. So what actually happened in the end?

I didn’t run a marathon.

But I did run something relatively close.

The Budapest Marathon weekend offered three events: Marathon, 30k, and 10k. This weekend I chose to run the 30k. So let’s talk about that. From about two weeks out it was overwhelmingly clear that, bar a small miracle, I would not be able to run 26.2 miles. But I decided to try to remain strong; not have a minor breakdown, etc. etc. I made my peace with running the 10k, and detached myself emotionally from the marathon as a goal.

However during the two hour flight to Budapest I had time to do some real reflection and journaling on where I was at with all the nerves and frustrations I knew I would feel as the weekend rolled on. I knew it would be tough watching all my fantastic City Athletics friends do the race I so badly wanted to compete in, and to feel all that training go to waste. The thing was, my calf didn’t even feel too bad. And so by the time we landed I had a plan; to go for a gentle jog- 1 to 3 miles at 10 min/mile pace- to evaluate the situation. It was a bit of a tight turnaround, since we had to go pick up our race packs pretty soon.

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So almost as soon as we’d got to our Air Bnb, I changed into my running kit and took to the streets of Budapest for the first run in weeks. It was wonderful; whether that be from the gorgeous weather, being in a new city, or just running for the first time in weeks. Budapest was looking dreamy, and we were right by Heroes Square. The run felt a little awkward at first, but I certainly didn’t feel all locked up in my muscles and joints, and the pain was actually pretty minimal as long as I kept a moderate pace. One mile turned into three, and before I knew it I got a text telling me we needed to head out to the expo, so I headed back to the flat.

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Just like that, the decision was made; I would run the 30k. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t a whole barrel of laughs; no run of that distance ever is! But I managed to do something I’d thought almost impossible in the weeks leading up to the trip. City Athletics were on top form, and I got a gorgeous tour of Budapest by foot, even if I didn’t appreciate it at the time!

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Pre-race vibes. My crew is better than yours 😉 

I didn’t compete in my goal race. But I still did do something rather special this weekend. The whole event went better than could have been expected, and I truly feel a great sense of accomplishment, perhaps more so because it involved a massive reevaluation of my expectations.

Full race report to come soon!

How was your weekend? Did you race?

Lots of love,

Pippa

Why I Run London: My Top Running Spots

Living in London, I’m often overwhelmed with gratitude for how many lovely green spaces, tourist attractions and secret hideouts there are to run in. We’re really very lucky, aren’t we? It seems like every time I head out for some miles, I discover something new, or just find a new appreciation for the city I live in. So here are some of my favourite running spots in the capital.

Burgess Park

I recently took to Burgess Park for what was actually a very painful run; however the scenery more than compensated for my injury. It’s about 5k round the park, although I like to do laps of the lake, especially when it’s sunny.

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Regent’s Park

This park is about a mile from my office, so I spend many a lunchtime sweating my way around it, and I’m not the only one! There are so many different sections to the park that I’m always stumbling upon something new, but my favourite part is the zoo- it’s so odd to be running along mindlessly and suddenly spot a camel!

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Regent’s Canal

Okay, this is kind of similar to the park. I love to go through the park and onto the canal, seeing canal boats, ducks and the occasional hyena (again, from the zoo). It’s flat and relatively quiet, making it the perfect place for building up some speed. I’ve run two parts of the canal, and whilst I haven’t quite figured out how they join up (I can’t geography), they’re both gorgeous places to run.

Greenwich and the Thames Barrier

Ok ok, hear me out on this one. The Thames Barrier has to be one of the bleakest places known to mankind; however, I think there’s a certain beauty to that. Following the river eastwards from Greenwich, you go through the docklands and marshes, and eventually end up at The Thames Barrier, at which point you really have to turn back, or come away from the river. It’s a bit bleak, but I quite like the idea that this is what the East End of London used to look like, back in the day. And it’s interesting, if nothing else- where else would you see an abandoned fairground, a moored shipping container and the Emirates Cable Car all in one outing?

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Greenwich 

I adore running in Greenwich, and I’m even prepared to huff my way up the steep hill from my front door to get there. It’s absolutely gorgeous first thing in the morning before the tourists descend; seeing the Cutty Sark, a ship whose history I learned about at length when I was a child, is often enough to lift my spirits on even the worst of runs.

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Embankment

The Thames is the heart of our city, and therefore it’s no surprise that it takes a central role in my running, as well as that of many other runners. The Embankment is the North side of the Thames, and it’s generally slightly less congested than the other bank. You can run along from Tower Bridge, through The City, past St. Paul’s Cathedral and even up to the Houses of Parliament. Granted, you still have to dodge a few tourists, but it’s worth it for the views.

Primrose Hill
 

Primrose Hill gives you a stunning panoramic view of London if you’re prepared to make the climb. The hill itself is deceivingly tough, with a long incline that gets steeper at the top. It’s one of my goals for my speed season to chase down my PR on that Strava segment and make it my bitch!

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Hilly Fields

This small park has a place in my heart due to it being my local Parkrun; I’ve met a lovely community of runners through the weekly Saturday morning events. The Saturday morning Parkrun punctuates my week nicely, and it’s during those mornings that I notice the seasons changing so beautifully. Funny how that happens.

St. James’s Park

There are three Royal Parks that surround Buckingham Palace; St. James’s Park, Green Park and Hyde Park. It’s surprisingly easy to do all three in one route, and I always get goosebumps when running past the palace itself. If you’re lucky, you get to see the changing of the guards, and as a bonus, it’s lit up beautifully at night.

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Blackheath

By the time I get to Blackheath Common on my Sunday long runs, I’ve only done 1 mile, but all of that has been uphill. And so I always stop to stretch out my calves. It can be very bleak in terms of the scenery, but recently I was lucky enough to catch the sunrise!

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 Is there anywhere I’ve missed in London that you’d recommend running?

Lots of love,

Pippa

Where to get discount running kit

“I know, I know” I tell my mother for the hundredth time, “I have a lot of running kit”. This conversation takes place every time I go to visit my parents, and inevitably have to sneak a pile of dirty lycra into their washing machine. And yes, I do have a lot of running kit. But I pride myself on finding a good deal, and so I thought I’d share that with you.

PS. My mother and I now have an agreement; she’s not allowed to ask how much I spend on running gear unless she’s looking to make a donation 😉

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I was introduced to Sports Shoes by my Aunt and Uncle- both runners, both bargain-hunters after my own heart. The website essentially has a lot of last season’s running shoes, meaning that they sell for around half the price, as long as you don’t mind having them in a different colour way. (A caveat- occasionally updates in a shoe will involve technical adjustments- so it’s worth doing your research). The online shoe finder is actually pretty decent and there’s a good range of clothing too- although the shipping is a bit steep at £4.99.

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A Glasgow-based running website, Run 4 It is often cheapest for specific shoes + postage. I ordered myself a pair of Brooks Ravenna from their website after becoming convinced they were the shoe I absolutely had to have or else the world would end. Long story short, I sent them back, but the shipping and returns process was really simple, and I’d highly recommend these guys.

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Originally a cycle website that expanded into other sports, Wiggle is a great store for a bargain. They offer free delivery over £25, and I really like their own brand, dhb. I own several high-vis long-sleeved tops from dhb, and I find they fit me really nicely, and are visible at night whilst not being overly garish. Wiggle is also great for sports nutrition- I get my SiS electrolytes from them, at half their RRP.

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Ohhhhh Decathlon, you will be the death of me someday. For those who don’t know, Decathlon is an amazing sports store originally from France. It caters for pretty much every sport you could imagine, including the likes of rollerblading, alpine skiing and horseriding. They have huge warehouses, often in industrial estates, and they’re seriously dangerous to go in. Everything is really cheap, and they have a 365-day guarantee on all products. I have to use the online store because I know that if I actually went into a real store, I would come out 100% broke. Having said that, they don’t often do free shipping- Black Friday 2015 being an exception. If you’re based in the UK and just starting out in any sport, Decathlon is the way to go!

All this goes to show that you really don’t have to spend a fortune. But also, no-one will judge you if you do!

Where do you get most of your running kit?

Lots of love,

Pippa