Thursday, 19 September 2019

Training | How to run all year round

There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad kit. So the saying goes. I've just started planning my race calendar for the upcoming months and talking to my friends they're surprised by the mid-winter race plans as well as the mid-summer ones. How do you stay cool in the heat? How can you stay warm in winter - isn't it too cold to run?

So here is my handy beginners guide on how to turn yourself from fair weather to year round runner.

What if it's too hot...
1. Carry water
Get yourself a running vest that has space for liquids and take some soft flasks out with you to fill up. Alternately try a hand held running bottle or take a speed cup and plan your run to include stops at water fountains/streams.

2. Use a buff
No I'm not joking! Dip your buff in freezing cold water and wear it round your neck - this will cool down your core which in turn will cool you down. This summer I got sent a UV+ one from the guys at Buff and I love it so much! It's the perfect multi-use running accessory.

3. Head to the trails
Find some cover when you are running and by heading to the woods instead of the pavements you're bound to save yourself a couple of degrees by keeping out of direct sunlight. You can also find a nice lake to jump in on the way round.

What if it's raining...
1. Wear a waterproof layer
Invest in a waterproof jacket that keeps you dry - test it out in advance so you know it works. Personally I'd look for tapered seams, friends recommendations and one that goes over my hips so the water doesn't simply all pool at my waist!

2. Pack dry clothes in a waterproof bag inside your pack
Make sure your clothes for after your run are packed away well. I use the bags that Saysky tops come in as they're fab and waterproof.

3. Try a cap
Sun hat you say? In the rain?! It sounds counterintuitive but I don't mind getting wet if I can still see where I'm going. I find wearing a trucker style caps keeps the water out of my eyes and helps me keep plodding forward.

What if it's cold...
1. Layers are key
Rather than wearing one really thick top, try wearing multiple layers. This will trap pockets of air in between the layers keeping you warm and makes it much easier to regulate your temperature as you are out and about by adding/removing tops.

2. It's all about the dry sports bra
The time I get really cold is at the end of a run and the one killer is the wet sports bra. You've been running, you've got sweaty now get that soggy offender off and put on a dry one from your pack. It makes the crucial difference for me between staying warm at the end and getting really chilly.

3. Heat from the inside out
If you get really cold remember it's about heating from the inside out: grab a hot chocolate, drink some soup, get some tea down you just get the warmth inside you and slowly the rest of you will start to come back to reality.

What if it's dark...
1. Make it light
Use a headtorch and light up the places you are running.

2. Make yourself light
In cities one of the biggest dangers is staying visible to cars so wear high vis clothing, consider wearing a headtorch with a rear red light and even try wearing additional lights on your body as relevant to the safety of the place you are running in.

3. Make yourself loud
Unfortunately in recent years we've seen an increase in attacks on, particularly, female runners. Consider taking a rape alarm equivalent with you on your run or using an app like Strava's live tracker so people know where you are both online and offline.

What if it's snowing or hailing or there is thunder?
1. Snow
Grip is key and on pavements that's really tough. Slow down, wear shoes with big lugs, walk as necessary and consider sticking to easy trails.

2. Hail
Wait it out. Hail storms don't last long so take shelter and wait for it to past - it's not worth it!

3. Thunder
It's dangerous to be out in the open in a thunderstorm so don't go running. If you're out already make sure you know what to do. Simply: stay low, out in the open, away from metal. There is a great guide on the Ramblers website here:

All in all: have fun, stay safe and keep on adventuring!

Friday, 13 September 2019

Running | Adventure is Out There

I have no desire to win races. For many, times and medals and instagramable pictures and being competitive is a huge driver to participating in sport. But it just isn’t for me.
I was once told by an incredible ultramarathon runner I know, that if you don’t stand on the startline of a race not knowing if you can finish it or not, it isn’t a challenge. Not because you haven’t trained hard enough, or put in the work, or aren’t healthy but because exploring your own boundaries of possibility and limits is where we discover who we really are.
When I first took up running I remember finding the idea of running for a kilometre without stopping mind blowing. Now I feel confident running for about 8 hours without needing to walk. As I’ve tested my own boundaries and limits I’ve been consistently shocked by just how much further and faster and higher I can go. Months of training, hard work and a huge amount of dogged determination has seen me complete marathons, ultras, mountain races and even Ironman.
Along the way though I’ve realised that I have no desire to stick at one thing and ‘be the best’. My passion and enthusiasm is in my desire to pursue adventure. Relentlessly. With abandon. Passionately. Adventure is calling.
Don’t get me wrong: PBs are amazing. For me personally as a coach, there are two that are particularly joyous to watch: new runners shocked at achieving things they never thought possible and runners who’d counted themselves out for a long time and suddenly surprise themselves. As we all probably have, I’ve been through both of those. I’ve cried my eyes out at finish lines for achieving times that seemed ‘too fast’ for the runner I assumed I was. And yet, when I look back at my favourite memories in running: numbers don’t feature.
There is the moment in my Ironman where my husband, an hour up the race from me, crossed paths with me and we shared a kiss before heading off to finish our respective marathons. There was the time I paced my Mum, who’d promised me she’d never do any sport in her life, to complete her first 10k at the age of 70. There are the miles and miles I’ve spent traipsing up and down some remote mountain in Scotland with my Dad talking about anything and everything.
Fear of missing out and defining yourself by others achievements is a dangerous and unsatisfying pathway. There is a fantastic old tale of King Solomon, the richest man the world had ever seen who no matter how much wealth he had still felt unsatisfied. Will that medal or time or race really give you the fulfilment you are looking for? Or are you stuck on a relentless cycle of the next challenge, and time, and distance? When you achieve the time you’ve been putting so many hours in are you satisfied? Or do you then change the goalposts and look to shave off ever more minutes?
What if we all put aside the relentless marathon cycles and 5k PB hunts and just pursued adventure? Maybe we’d miss our time goals and what our peers might consider ‘good’ times but instead we might find something our hearts had been yearning for.
John Muir, one of the great advocates for the power of the outdoors in the late nineteenth century, famously said ‘The mountains are calling and I must go.’ I feel that call. Trapped in our city lives surrounded by constant noise and busyness and progress it’s easy to feel the overwhelming rise of fear and anxiety that grips so many of us. When I am in nature, I truly feel I am in a space where I remember what matters: not my job title, PBs, finishing position in some random half marathon but connection, love, passion, joy.

Maverick Race (Trail) in Bath, September 2019

So this Autumn what if you put aside traditional goals and instead reconnected with why you run. What if we pursued being outdoors as passionately as some people pursue qualifying for big city marathons? Give yourself fully still: commit, be passionate, work hard, dig deep. But pursue something less black and white. Measure your achievements in emotions and how well you slept rather than times and medals. Run with perseverance wherever your legs will carry you. Just run. And be. And exist.
Adventure in out there and it is most definitely calling. Let’s go.