Milestone Run: 17 Miles of Struggle

This weekend I had a tough run. But instead of calling it a tough run, i’m calling it a milestone run. Let me set the scene: I was invited along on a group trail run through the North Downs, by some friends at running club, one of whom was training for an ultra on that trail.

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Despite assurances that the pace would be slow and conversational, I may have misjudged the whole event. Here’s a few reasons why:

  • The group I went with consisted of two guys who were a week out from their ultras; a buddy who’d placed first female in her first ever (69 mile) ultra, and another who’d placed first female at Hackney Half in the sweltering heat. Essentially- four of the toughest and strongest runners my club has to offer.
  • A “conversational” 10-minute mile pace isn’t really an easy pace- it’s merely reflective of the fact that you have to hike the uphills, and then try to regain speed on the downhills and flats.
  • The elevation on this run was insane. See the course profile below…
  • I had either a strained hamstring, or high hamstring tendonitis. I self-diagnosed on the train on the way there after waking up in pain that morning- let’s just say, a 17 mile run probably wasn’t the best idea. Honestly, I think if I tell my physiotherapist what I did (which I’ll eventually have to), he might hang his head in disbelief. Oops.

 

So yeah. In hindsight this was always going to be a tough one. And frankly, i realised this before we’d even finished the first mile. And so I resolved to cling on for dear life, and hope it was over as quickly and as pain-freely as possible. And in a way, that worked. So here are some highlights:

  • The scenery was amazing- the woods would open up suddenly into gorgeous panoramas over the Kent countryside.
  • We stopped halfway through at a visitor centre, absolutely soaked through, to have a cup of tea and (in some cases) a sarnie. Sweet sweet carbs.
  • There were plenty of photo ops, all of which we took full advantage of.
  • The second half was much better than the first- mainly psychologically, but also because I simply changed my running style to a slightly more efficient (and less painful) mid-foot strike. I’m paying the price for that now, with my quads burning- but that’s simply because 17 miles in any variation on your usual gait is going to cause you some problems!
  • Doing a long run on a Saturday morning really suits me- although I don’t do it often- because you get so much more from the rest of the weekend!

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Three days later, and my embarrassment and disappointment with the run has mostly dissipated- I’m happy to have survived and, frankly, I didn’t do all that badly. I decided to turn this negative into a positive, and learn all I can from it. Learnings to come!

What’s the toughest run you’ve done recently? Do you run trail often?

Lots of love,

Pippa
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Podcast of the Month: Running Commentary

I recently discovered a brand new podcast to listen to on my run and, most importantly, my morning commute. Running Commentary is a really simple concept- stand-up comics Rob Deering and Paul Tonkinson record the conversations they have on their runs around London. These conversations include: life, comedy, and running. But mainly running.

 

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What I love is the informal nature of their conversations; they’re completely unedited, and also you can hear their breathing as they run and chat simultaneously, which gives you a sense of camaraderie when you’re out trotting round London on your own. There are also random interjections, such as “ooh look at that bird, what the hell is that?” and “we’re just running past a large, unaccompanied dog…does that dog belong to anyone?” These perfectly reflect the conversations I have with friends whilst running: a mix of the deep and meaningful, combined with the completely frivolous- the only difference being that we’re not recording ourselves.

They also come up with occasional pearls of wisdom that aren’t shrouded in pseudo-spiritual nonsense- here are some of my favourites from a recent listen:

  • “Those lie-downs at the end of a marathon. That’s sacred time, isn’t it. Just like, ‘I think I’m gonna lie down here. I’m just gonna lie down here. Just here on this bit of pavement, it looks really cosy. I’ll just wait for my family to collect me.’”
  • “I’m not religious, but I do think that running is a spiritual thing for me. A spiritual get-out on a week-by-week basis.”
  • On race photos: “I always say if you wanna see what you’re gonna look like it 20 years time, just take a look at 40k”
  • “It can get very surreal, can’t it, when people start running past you in fancy dress (during a marathon).”
  • “It’s quite an episodic run on a Sunday, isn’t it, cos there’s so much going on.”
  • “The fundamental thing with running is-you get away from your brain.”
  • “In life, you wanna unlock. But you can’t make the decision to unlock can you, it’s just gotta happen. But running makes that happen. Cos it makes you switch off.”

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I highly recommend giving them a listen- they’re very unstructured and personable, which is exactly what I love. They’ve even recently started to take other runners on their jaunts, including ultra runner and Guinness World Record holder Susie Chan, who shared her experiences running the Andes to the Amazon Jungle Ultra and setting a treadmill World Record this year. Girl crush alert! So yeah, give these chaps a listen!

Any podcasts you recommend, running or non-running related?

Lots of love,

Pippa

The May-June Roundup

I can’t believe it’s July already…though it doesn’t really feel like it because British Summer is doing what it always does, and the sun has barely made an appearance. But still, it’s time for my roundup of what’s been going on, and what I’ve been loving in the past month or so.

Iced Coffee

Super sweet iced coffee has been my favourite this month, especially after long, hot and humid runs. In the UK, we’re not well adapted to the unique kind of mugginess which rolls around every Summer, and so my miles have been so much harder when there’s been any kind of heat involved. Luckily though, Starbucks iced coffee with some sort of caramel flavouring has been a lifesaver. #basicbitch? I don’t really care.

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Alpro Yoghurt Pots

Alpro Go yoghurt pots have been an absolute favourite of mine recently- I can’t have a lot of dairy in my diet, and these have almost entirely replaced my obsession with Skyr. They’re thick, creamy and great-tasting, plus they keep you full for a decent amount of time, and aren’t ridiculously calorific.

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Racing and enjoying the off season

I’ve only raced once with my Athletics Club, but it was a lovely 10 miler, and a great day all-round. However, I’m signed up to so many more races in the months to come (hello fitness, bye bye money) -full post on those to come! But yeah, running has been great without the pressure of training, and with that in mind I’m gradually sneaking my way into mileage buildup. I’m hoping that if I do it gradually enough, I won’t notice I’m training. Sshhhhhh.

Strength training

I’ve really upped my game with strength training and it’s really starting to pay off! I can now plank for 3 minutes 10, which is insane, and definitely paying dividends already in terms of running performance. Still no abs though…

 

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My job and colleagues

Work’s been great, with my colleagues being on top form, and we’re all getting social together with things like spin classes and outdoor movie dates. Yay for Summertime! However we’re also busy with projects, which means it can be a bit stressful- but at least it’s never dull!

 

Quest Bars

I just discovered that (health food shop) Holland and Barrett have started stocking Quest Bars, and not just in multipacks. They’re more expensive than when you buy them online, but not too horrific for a treat- and let’s be honest, it’s not like I spend all my money on booze and cigarettes. I regularly bribe myself with a Cookies & Creme Quest Bar if a run is going particularly horribly. Like I said, bye bye money.

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My new Nikes

In May, there was a Nike sample sale at my office- we’d done some PR work for them. I dropped £110, but managed to come away with two pairs of Nike Frees, a windproof jacket, a zip-up top and a casual tee. My favourite of all these was a pair of Nike Free Flyknits in black. I’m in love with them. Whilst they don’t offer the level of support and cushioning I need for runs of 6 miles or above, I wear them regularly for speedwork, tempo runs, and the gym. Additional bonus: they’re pretty stylish, so I can get away with wearing them to the office. #winning.

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Picnic Food

If there’s one thing Brits do well, it’s a picnic, or a BBQ. And recently, between birthdays and work events, there have been plenty going on. Marks and Spencer’s is absolutely killing the picnic game, and at my office we regularly have big family-style picnics. With all that, summer food has been one of my favourite things- think Parma ham, brie, olives and yummy sourdough.

 

What’s been your favourite thing/product this month?

Lots of love

 

Pippa

50 Reasons I Love Running

I’m about to start a new marathon training season! Yay!

I’ve really enjoyed this off-season and have 100% fallen back in love with running, especially without pressure or purpose. That being said, I’ve always loved running a lot of junk miles and it’s going to be hard to tone it down, focusing more on quality than quantity.

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And so, here’s my little love letter to the sport, also known as 50 Reasons I Love Running:

 

  1. It’s the best way to appreciate where you are both geographically and physically
  2. You get to see your city in a whole new way
  3. Fresh air does you so much good
  4. You can run almost wherever you are
  5. It’s a great way to meet people
  6. Runners are an incredibly friendly bunch
  7. It can take your mind off what you’re stressing about
  8. Or allow you the time and space to process it
  9. It can be cheap if you want it to be
  10. It gives you an excuse to travel
  11. FREEDOM!
  12. Peanut butter
  13. Cake
  14. Pizza
  15. Frozen Yoghurt
  16. It’s an easy way to get from A to B
  17. It’s nice to be fit enough to run for a train if you have to
  18. There’s a satisfaction in seeing mini-muscles grow over time
  19. It gives me structure in life
  20. I get to listen to podcasts and great music
  21. I’m gradually getting leaner and fitter
  22. Running kit is so freakin’ comfortable
  23. Spending your life in lycra is pretty great and weekend makes you look like you have your shit together
  24. You know you can always run away from weirdos and murderers if need be
  25. Getting a proper deep sleep after a tough training session
  26. Having good enough fitness to do other things
  27. As a sport, running is just ridiculously convenient
  28. A good sweat never hurt anyone
  29. You can be as competitive as you want
  30. You get to go on random road trips for races
  31. Did I mention all the food?
  32. Being able to shut people down when they judge you for eating cake
  33. How good a 7up tastes after a long, hot run
  34. Warm coffee feels after a freezing cold run
  35. Winter becoming bearable when you get outside in it
  36. The ridiculously supportive community I’ve encountered, both online and in real life
  37. Shamelessly spending hours a week on Instagram fangirling over other runners
  38. And endless running blogs
  39. That really horrific breathlessness
  40. Surviving a shitty run, because it makes you better equiped to deal with the rest
  41. Having a goal to work towards
  42. But then again, so is the ability to run just because you can
  43. Being grateful for the body you have
  44. You don’t need a membership to be a runner
  45. You always make friends on race day
  46. Training hard means you get an excuse to treat yo’self
  47. Having cardiovascular fitness never goes out of style
  48. Trainers are so much more comfy than regular shoes
  49. Putting on fluffy slippers after a hard run
  50. Having a hot soak in the bath and then melting into the sofa after a long run.

Have I missed any?

 

Lots of love,

 

Pippa

Cross Training Focus: Another Space

I’m about to dive straight into the deep end of another training season, and my biggest priority is not to overtrain or get injured- that’s my biggest takeaway from training in Spring- I did way too much, and ended up paying the price on race day.

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I was recently lucky enough to try out Another Space; a new workout studio in Central London. Based in Covent Garden, the boutique studio offers a variety of workout classes including cycling, yoga, hot yoga, and HIIT classes. I got a free pass through my work- perks of the job! I’ve been trying to mix it up fitness-wise with more cross-training and less actual running, with a view to being a more rounded athlete. I decided to give a cycle class a go during a rest week from running, and even persuaded my fellow runner Ashley to come along for the ride- helpfully, I’d been given an extra credit for that exact purpose.

First impressions of the studio itself were great: the staff were friendly, and welcoming. As we checked in, we were given the option of ordering post-class smoothies ahead of time! Every little thing had been taken care of- the changing rooms were adorned with Cowshed toiletries, and handy essentials like cotton buds, spare hair ties, and even disposable razors. You literally didn’t have to think about any of this stuff.
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Now, to the class itself. I’d never been to a spin class before, and as I was shown to my bike, it was adjusted properly for me. Despite my experience with real bikes and stationary bikes in the gym, it turns out I’d been doing it all wrong in the past! It was a really great environment that felt more like a club, with blaring music and neon lights. The instructor was full of enthusiasm and, at times, aggression, and really pushed us to push ourselves. There was a mix of sprints, hill climbs and resistance work, all combined with ab and arm work. Then we broke for a weights session (still on the bike) that really got the arms working- and then back to sprints. We ended, 45 minutes later with a few stretches and shoulder releases, and I was thoroughly exhausted- it was the hardest I’ve worked at a class in a long time!

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Finishing up the class was a relief, and I headed straight to the lovely hot showers. Having fresh towels and lovely smellies made a huge difference, and I left the studio feeling clean and refreshed, as opposed to sweaty and still a bit gross, like when I leave my regular gym. So I’d highly recommend Another Space- if you’re based in London, it’s pricey but definitely worth a shot!
What’s your favourite way to cross-train? 

Have you tried spinning?

Lots of love,

Pippa