Insight Into | Runners World Mission Marathon Selection Day

So last Friday was a little more exciting than mostly – partly due to the fact I wasn’t to be sat in an office all day – but mainly because I had been invited along to the #missionmarathon selection day by Runner’s World.

How did this all come about?

Having see nike run coach, Becs Gentry, put a post out on instagram, I saw Runner’s World were holding a competition in partnership with Vifit Sport, a high-protein recovery products company. With the opportunity to win a coveted spot in the London Marathon 2018, alongside training support and nutrition products from the coaches, including olympic athlete, Jane Vongvorachoti. So, naturally, I thought why not? and threw my name into the mix. Only to receive an email just over a week later telling me I was successful and had made it down to the final 18. Check out how I got on.

What did the selection day entail?

The day took place at Lee Valley Athletics Centre, on a surprisingly sunny November day. Upon arrival we were met by the Runner’s World team and the other runners involved from the 3 categories (Finish Liners, Breaking 4 & Speed Demons). We then had our photo taken (think awkward year book photo day at school), ate some breakfast and got on with the first session. For my group, the Speed Demons, this was REPEAT.

REPEAT SESSION

This was a Q&A session held with Ben Green (founder of RunThrough events) and Andy Dixon, both sub-3 marathon runners. Who gave us an insight into their running backgrounds and the training entailed to break that 3 hour barrier on marathon day, or in Bens case completely smash it at 2hrs30. With a great insight from the guys we headed into the next session RECOVERY.

RECOVERY SESSION

Ironically having done nothing but eat and talk all morning we went to a ‘well-deserved’ recovery session held by Andy Vincent, a Third Space PT and self-appointed ‘Foot Geek’. Andy talked us through stretching, foam rolling (the right way) – who knew breathing was so vital?, and actual mind-blowing foot stretches. Never did I realise that such minor alterations could make such a huge difference. From a classic runner with the lazy stretching trait this session was particularly valuable. Key takeaway – I need to stretch more! Following this, we headed off for the most anticipated session of the day – RUN.

RUN SESSION

With the sun shining, and the chance to run on an incredible track, this was definitely a highlight of the day. Jane Vongvorachoti and Joe Mackie took the session. Starting off with some classic drills (think high-knees etc) we were then summoned to the challenge of the day. Having all opted for the Speed Demons group (i.e. hoping to break sub-3 in a marathon) there was no surprise they wanted to see if we were up to the task in hand. So we were told to run 2 miles (8 laps), though we were reassured ‘this was not a race’ – there was no surprise that putting 6 competitive runners on a track we weren’t going to try and make our mark. So off we went, film crew in tow. Over the moon to have made it back as the first female in the group and third overall! Needless to say having struggled through IT band syndrome the past few months I’m over the moon to finally be back running properly.

All in all, it was a great day, with everyone in attendance totally deserving of the prize. Was amazing to spend the day with like-minded runners, nand to be able to chat running without feeling as though I was driving them into complete boredom! Massive shout out to Runner’s World for putting the day together and running the competition, as well as all the other support and coaches that came along too. Fingers crossed for a positive outcome, but irrespective – it was an epic day, and over the moon to have made it this far.

The Habit Hunter x

Top 8 | Tips for New Runners

“Run in the morning, before your brain figures out what you’re doing” 
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1.Buy a good pair of trainers

This might sound obvious, but the number of people I get asking me ‘How do you not get blisters? Why are your feet never sore?’ has made me realise that too many people start out the wrong way — with the wrong shoes. Yes, trainers can be expensive,  but investing in a good pair that suit you, your running stride and the shape of your feet is vital to your training, even as a beginner.

THE HABIT HUNTER’S RECOMMENDATION: Asics Gel Nimbus 18 or Adidas Ultra-Boost ATR (they’re honestly like running on clouds)!

2. Enter a race

Something that to many beginners sounds both ridiculous and daunting. However, when I bit the bullet and entered my first 10km race that was the motivation I needed to get out and run. Not only have you paid the entry fee (it’s a waste of money if you don’t run)! But if you’re running for a charity, the added pressure of fundraising and not letting the charity down can encourage (pile you with guilt) to get your training started.

THE HABIT HUNTER’S RECOMMENDATION: Dependent on your ultimate goal I’d recommend the following events close to/in London, they’re all really friendly (mildly competitive), and great for first-timers:
5km:  ZSL London Zoo Stampede
10km: Richmond Spring Riverside 10k
10miles: Valentines Tough Love 10ish Miles
Half-Marathon: Royal Parks Half

3. Time > Distance

It’s easy to spend too much time thinking about reaching distance goals, saying to yourself “I’m going to run 5km today” or “I need to get in my 10 mile run to keep to the training plan”, reality is, we feel different each time we run. Some days, you might feel like you are dragging yourself around the course, others you get to the end and could do another lap. Needless to say these feelings alter the pace at which we run at, so spending too much time focussing on getting distance in is counteractive. Instead set yourself time goals — start with a low target (maybe 25/30 minutes and just keep going) and gradually increase it over time, whether that means you end up running 2km’s or 10km’s you’ve kept going. Training your feet to be out and moving for a set time is just as (possibly even more so) important as building up distance.

4. Don’t beat yourself up over missing a run

If you’re not feeling up to it — simply don’t do it. There are some days where you’ll hit a complete lull, any runner telling you otherwise is either superhuman or lying. Yes there are days when we all need a little motivation and once we’ve made it out the door we feel a whole lot better for going. However, there are other days when simply the thought of stepping out of the door is too much to handle. On these days — don’t bother. Not only will it just start making a run into a chore rather than an enjoyment, but neither your mind nor body will thank you for it either. After all, rest is key to letting yourself recover properly and avoiding injury.

5. Don’t stress too much over 10% increase

As a beginner you may find yourself heading over to your expert running coach ‘google’ who no doubt will inform you of a training plan that involves this 10% increase — having to calculate percentages and go for a run? That’s enough to put any beginner off tying their shoelaces and getting out the door. Whilst it is important to increase your running time as the weeks go by, being as structured as a percentage increase can just be overwhelming. After all, you’ve set the goal, you’ve started that’s a positive in itself. If you’re sticking to what you want to achieve, whether that’s 3, 4 or 5 weekly runs (doing any less is just going to be a little counteractive) you’ll soon begin to feel comfortable and know when you can start to pick up the pace or run for that little bit longer!

THE HABIT HUNTER’S RECOMMENDATION: Spend some time noting the pace of your first few runs and how you felt afterwards (I’m talking one word not a whole diary insert) – “Great, Comfortable, ‘On Deaths Door'” – this will give you the chance to find a good starting point and figure out what’s achievable over time.

6. Join a running group (not for everyone) — do what’s right for you

For some, the prospect of running alone is enough to put them off altogether, for others (myself included) that downtime is the best time. So do what is right for you, don’t get me wrong, I love speaking to like-minded people, and running with others on occasion, but I also enjoy the headspace of just myself and my music. Getting started can be a lot easier by surrounding yourself with others in the same boat, so whether it’s simply using one of your runs every week as a social run with others it could be the boost you need to keep yourself motivated. But most importantly, do what’s right for you. Running clubs are great for providing that supportive network, the likelihood there’s a constantly active Facebook group that you’ll be immediately enrolled into once you join, and that in itself is a great way to find that support network. So give it a shot — what’s to lose?

THE HABIT HUNTER’S RECOMMENDATION: If you’re not 100% sure that a running club is right for you head along to a session first. Most (if not all) running clubs will let you go along to a couple of sessions before you make your decision to join, that way you can see if it’s going to suit you or not. It’s also worth spending some time looking up some free clubs, a lot of running communities have popped up all over London and wont charge you to join them — whilst you might get less running related content on Facebook — you’re bound to make some friends along the way too. (Nike Run Club, London Midnight Runners, Run Dem Crew & Tribe all host free weekly events)

7. Wear the right clothes

Just as I mentioned with trainers, finding and wearing the right gear is just as important as finding the motivation to get out there and get started. There’s something about pulling on a new pair of leggings or  investing in a fancy sports bra (so what if it’s only you that gets to appreciate it) that makes getting out the door that little bit inspiring, after all if you’re forking out on some Lululemon or Sweaty Betty gear you’ll want people to appreciate it right? As cliched as it may sound — theres a whole lot of truth in look good-feel good.

THE HABIT HUNTER’S RECOMMENDATION: Check out my Top 10 Winter Fitness Favourites

8. Park Run

Park runs are weekly 5km events held all over the world, and the likelihood is there’s one less than a couple of miles from your home. The best part about park runs? They’re free & they’re properly timed. There’s always a mix of runners, from the experienced to the first-timers, but one thing that never changes, is the friendly atmosphere. As an event held and hosted by volunteers, there’s an abundance of goodwill and spirit flying around and a great way to meet new people – keep a record of your progress – and not spend any money!

THE HABIT HUNTER’S RECOMMENDATION: Don’t just think about it, get a friend involved and find your nearest park run!

The Habit Hunter x

Insight Into | Race to the Stones – 100KM Non-Stop

Surreal… the only word that summarises how I am feeling right now. Having completed the Race to the Stones yesterday in 11hours 5mins – and coming home as 2nd Senior Female it’s unsurprising that it hasn’t all quite sunk in yet.

The Race to the Stones has been voted as the Number One Ultra Marathon in the UK and I can totally understand why. The organisation was phenomenal, from picking up race numbers at 6:30am to crossing the finish line 11 hours later everything ran incredibly smoothly. The pit stops were impeccable, from the staff running them, to the choices on offer, there really was nothing to fault! The encouragement from everyone (in particular my support team) was overwhelming throughout, even when the weather was super bleak! So a massive thank you goes out to all those who were on the course!

Now to the nitty gritty… the race itself. Everything became a little bit real before heading to be on Friday night, when it sunk in that just over 15 months ago I had never run a marathon, and now I was about to run two and a half of them all in one day! What was I thinking. I have read many a time that running an ultra-marathon is ‘mind over matter’ and nothing rang more true yesterday, I’d even go as far to say its 90% mental strength that will get anyone through this type of feat.

Apprehension was inevitable, but standing on the start line I was actually strangely looking forward to what was ahead – something I hadn’t quite expected! Surrounded by those planning on completing the race in sub-12 hours I felt extremely out of my depth, and being the youngest female to ever take on the Race to the Stones was adding the pressure. However, 1km in and all these thoughts were banished and the aim of the day was just to get the finish line in one piece.


0-50KM

The first 50km brought a great bought of rain, something I was not quite prepared for, and spent most of the pit stops being patted dry and trying to warm up by my support team! (ps.. ALWAYS PACK A RAIN JACKET) — something I read many a time, and continued to ignore. Prior to the race I was expecting the half way point to be the toughest mentally, crossing the ‘Finish’ line, yet knowing I wasn’t heading to the relaxation tent like the majority of the other runners. (In the Race to the Stones you can opt to take on the challenge over two days – the sensible choice. Or you can throw yourself in at the deep-end and take it all on in one day – no surprises as to which option I opted for). But surprisingly the half way point was a blessing in disguise, I took on some fuel and got going again.

50-70KM

It was between 58km – 70km that was probably the toughest battle, the hills were relentless and I was struggling to take on any fuel – truly indecisive over what I wanted (that horrible feeling of complete and utter exhaustion) – however, I plodded along! My dad was a hero for the second part of the course, spending the majority of it on his bike following the route along and supporting me with haribo (the fuel of champions) and water as and when I needed!

Quite honestly, this was where I thought I would hit ‘the wall’. Knowing that this was the furthest I had ever run, and unsure of what would be ahead of me. But much to my complete and utter surprise ‘the wall’ was never hit, and evidently the mental preparation was clearly paying off. Don’t get me wrong, this was the toughest venture I have ever endured – and much to the relief of my friends and family it’s not something I will be entering anytime soon – think I’ll be sticking to the marathon distance!

70-85KM

This was a bit of a blur, running up and down over rolling hills that quite honestly felt like Kilimanjaro. But hitting the 85km point was incredible, and something I never thought would be possible. The organisers didn’t make this quest easy, some of the toughest hills and trails came at this part of the course, and it was the sheer concentration of ‘left foot.. right foot.. don’t trip up’ that was exhausting.

85-99KM

But then came the final 10km, something by this point I felt I could probably do in my sleep.. until I realised there were runners running the other direction – NOT A LOOP BACK! Anyone that knows me, knows that any race you have to go back on yourself is a big no-no. I can’t stand running in one direction to know I’m just going to have to run that part of the course all over again. Even more disappointing, we were running to ‘The Stones’ (the most underwhelming neolithic stone circle I have ever come across. Once you reached the stones you got your ‘photo opportunity’. and left. To head back down the same path you just ran down.. great.

99-100KM

But then you hit THE SIGN – 1km to go! You’d think this would bring with it a great deal of excitement, but to be honest I was overheating at this point, and just didn’t want to fall at the last hurdle. So the focus turned to counting down from 1000 backwards and hoping by the time I got to the end the finish line would be in sight. I couldn’t tell you what number I got to as the finish line made it’s appearance much sooner than expected! All in all an insane day – with an insane support crew – and something I am still coming to terms with – an insane result!


Back when I entered I had written about hoping to finish in 15hours, to finish in 11hours, as 2nd Senior Female and 50th overall, I honestly couldn’t have asked for anything more! Thank you again to everyone who came out to support. And if you’re thinking of entering – do it! But only if you’re willing to put in the mental training. Being physically fit is one thing – mentally fit is a whole different ball game!

The Habit Hunter x

Top 5 | Things I Learnt Running My First Ultra-marathon

Back in February you might remember my bonkers decision to sign up to run the Race to the Stones ultramarathon in July (a 100km run in one day in the heat of the summer) what could be more fun eh? Once this had all sunk in I realised I needed to up the training game, this led to me entering the Dukeries 40 mile Ultra. With it not being too far from home and a supposedly “good first ultra’ I thought it would be a good starting point for my first ultra marathon (any distance greater than a 26.2 mile marathon). Needless to say – it was the toughest feat I’ve ever endured. However, I couldn’t have been happier to find out I completed it in 6hrs 29 mins, and was the 4th female home – and 1st in my age group!

For anyone else looking to take the next step beyond the marathon, don’t take it lightly, and hopefully the following tips will help a little (just a few things I wish I had been told).

1. Always carry water


Whether you think it will weigh you down or not don’t even think twice about not taking water with you. Yes, there is likely to be aid stations throughout the route, however sometimes you’ll want something before this. Having a constant supply of water is key.

2. Run in your ‘normal’ shoes


Obviously a change in terrain is apparent in an ultra, with the Dukeries route covering almost every surface possible I had no idea what shoes to wear. With lots of different views and opinions of people telling me to get some new trail shoes, I ended up going with my gut and wearing my everyday Adidas Ultra Boost ATR – and would honestly recommend them! Stick to what you’re used to, you’re on your feet for an awfully long time, at least do your best to keep them happy!

3. Carry sweet & savoury snacks


As a complete and utter sweet tooth fiend, my biggest error was not taking any savoury snacks with me. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I was craving ready salted hula hoops at about 30 miles! Your body is doing something crazy – make sure you cater for these adverse cravings.

4. Train smart


Whilst endurance is obviously key to any ultra-marathon, training the bit between your ears is just as important! When your body feels like it can’t go much further (and trust me.. it will) it’s a real case of mind of matter that will keep you going. Don’t underestimate what you are putting yourself through, and just make sure you’re just as well mentally prepared as you are physically.

5. Stay on your feet


Yes, obviously whilst you’re running. But more so in the build up to the run. When you could be out  for hours on end, ensuring your feet are used to being on the ground for that amount of time is key. It’s not easy to train your feet to not get tired when you’re working in an office all day (trust me I know this), but if you can even substitute one way of your commute to walking, or including back to back training runs into your schedule just to prepare your feet for what’s in store you’ll be thanking yourself for it later – I promise!

With the Race to the Stones scarily close on the horizon I still have a long way to go with my training, and raising money for a great cause so if anyone is interested in supporting me in this challenge I’d be greatly appreciative! Big thanks to Hobo Pace and Ronnie Staton for organising great event at Dukeries Ultra – you nailed it!

In the mean time if anyone has any questions about their first ultra and any tips from the knowledge I am very much still learning please ask away and I’ll do my best to help!

The Habit Hunter x

Top 5 | Marathon Recovery Tips

Having just about come down from the shock of getting a PB in the Madrid Marathon I thought I’d share my insight into recovering after a marathon. I have to admit I’m possibly my body’s own worst enemy when it comes to recovering (i.e. I’m not great at sitting around & doing nothing)! But when you’ve put yourself through your paces & meandered 26.2 miles in the heat you need to take a time out, don’t rush back in — you’ll only learn the hard way by getting an injury and put yourself out for longer!
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1. Take an ice bath


Yes it might sound horrendous! But trust me, it’s so worth it. Even if you can only bear it for a minute or two your muscles will thank you for it in the morning.

2. Get a light massage


Some people have the urgency to get a ‘sports’ massage post-marathon, but the scrutiny may do you more harm than good. By all means get a massage, but just take it easy.

3. Go for a run


For some this is easier said than done. It’s something to put into action two days after running your Marathon, yes you need rest – but you also need to keep moving. Your body has got used to training, don’t let it slip away, getting the bloody flowing again at a very gentle jog will help — I promise!

4. Eat lots of fruit & protein


The natural sugar and carbohydrates in the fruit will do you a world of good and give your body what it needs to recover properly, you burnt a serious number of calories pounding the streets now it’s time to take back on what your body needs to repair and avoid any damage. This is particularly key when taking on an ultra-marathon.

5. Cross-train


If you can’t succumb to a run just yet, get out there and go for a swim or a cycle. Keeping your legs moving with low-impact exercise will speed up the recovery process. Don’t do anything too strenuous, but don’t just stop completely! That’ll do you more harm than good!

If you’re just starting out check out my top tips for new runners.

The Habit Hunter x

Insight Into | Taking on The Race to the Stones

A couple of hours have gone by now since clicking the ‘Register Now’ button for 2017 Race to the Stones, reality has hit — and I’m not entirely sure what I’ve done. In hindsight it perhaps would’ve been better to have spent a couple of hours before entering reading others race reviews rather than leaving that until post-registration! The fear has hit and the 100km challenge is upon me.

For anyone who, just like me up until this morning, has very little idea about Race to the Stones and what it it, here’s a brief breakdown:
– The UKs No.1 Trail Run
– Covering 100km through the North Wessex Downs
– Climbing hills, stumbling trail tracks & descending amongst iron-age forts
– Needless to say.. a pretty extreme challenge

So the registration process began, and I was provided with a few options:
1. Undertake half the challenge of 50km on the Saturday
2. Undertake half the challenge of 50km on the Saturday
3. Undertake the 100km race over 2 days (50km each day)
4. Take on the full 100km in one day
— and sticking true to my competitive (and perhaps a little idiotic) nature, most of you will be unsurprised to hear I have opted for option 4 (aka… taking on death).

Whilst it’s not the first ultra run I have entered into having run the West Highland Way over a couple of days last year, it the first I have entered into as a one day event, and considering my training for marathons tends to focus on lots of 8/10km runs as opposed to the recommended ‘long runs’ I may need to up the ante over the next few months.

When Is It?
Race to the Stones 2017 is on Saturday 15th July starting nice and sprightly at 7am.

Why Am I Doing It?
Over and above just loving to challenge myself every now and then, this race is a little different for me. Whilst I support those who undertake running events for charity, many of you may have realised my lack of charitable support when it comes to entering distance races in the past. This is not due to an inert nature of lacking in sympathy, generosity or sincerity – but merely a moral belief that with running becoming more of an enjoyable hobby than anything else I don’t believe I should ask people to pay for me to complete something I love for the sake of gaining a free race entry. Therefore, up until now, all races I have ever completed have been completely self-supported & funded. However, this one is a little different (I’m not descending upon a sob story don’t worry)!

But this to me is real challenge – something that in hindsight is probably looking a taking me well over 15 hours to complete which means running through the dark of the night (most likely by myself for a lot of it) and without the support of friends and family really will be verging on impossible to complete. I have therefore opted to take the challenge in support of Cancer Research. A charity that has supported a variety of my own family and close friends as well as an abundance of others around the globe, and one which I am sure many of you will agree are more than deserving of support.

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Therefore, I ask of you, whether it be the mere £2.80 you’d spend on your Starbucks Coffee during your morning commute please support me in this ridiculous quest of putting my body through the works for a great cause and one which will spur me to cross the line whether it be still using my semi-functioning legs or through a mere hands and feet crawl over the finish!

Please Click to Donate Here

The Habit Hunter x