Why we should all be Running Equal

Women being able to officially compete in longer distances is a surprisingly recent development. At the 1928 Olympics some women who competed in the 800m collapsed at the finish line (a not uncommon sight today), and the New York Times said that “even this distance makes too great a call on feminine strength”. It led to women not being allowed to compete at distances longer than 200m in the Olympics for the next 32 years.

Unbelievably, it then wasn’t until 1972 that women were allowed to “officially” run the Boston Marathon, after trailblazers like Bobbi Gibb and Kathrine Switzer were breaking the (ridiculous) rules by running without registering or entering using only their initials so that the male organisers wouldn’t realise they were female and start worrying about uteruses littering the course. The women’s marathon wasn’t introduced into the Olympics until 1984.

But it’s 2020, so this has all been consigned to the history books right? With people like Jasmin Paris winning the 268 mile Spine Race, there’s no way women would be running lesser distances than their male counterparts. We know our uteruses can cope (the plucky little blighters).

And on the whole, this is the case. Just not in the Cross-Country sphere. In XC, women are generally running shorter distances than men. Case in point at the recent Cambs AA XC Championships, where women run around 5.8km, and the men run 10km. This is even less than the National recommended standard of 8km for women (which is bad enough). But for those women who then get called up to run for the county at the Inter Regionals, they will find the distances equalised, and be expected to run 10km when they’ve qualified at only a little over half the required distance.

The IAAF have equalised the distances run in the World Cross-Country Championships, and Scottish Athletics have done the same for their national championships. So what gives for the English counties? My friend and clubmate Charlotte has been giving her all to the RunEqual movement for some time, including writing open letters to gather signatures from local clubs, and some of the reasons she’s been given by Cambs AA for not equalising the distances have been gobsmacking. They have tried to argue that the timetable won’t allow for the change (whilst ignoring the idea that everyone could perhaps be equalised to 8km – the time saved on the men’s race would allow for the extra time needed for the women’s) or that a longer distance race would mean fewer entries and would increase costs to participants.

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But what I saw in the lead up to the Cambs AA (where Charlotte was threatened with disqualification if she went through with her plan to peacefully run the men’s distance in protest with myself and some clubmates) and what happened at the County Championships race really showed how bad the attitudes of these associations can be. Charlotte had received confirmation ahead of the Championships that it had been agreed that from 2021, work would be done to ensure women are given the opportunity to run the same distance as men, should they wish. It felt like a huge step forward and we were looking forward to racing with this news in mind and our RunEqual ribbons pinned to our tops. But the attitude on the day did not give this impression at all.

It turned out that Cambs AA had done little to communicate to local running clubs that there was an intention to look at equalising the distances. So it was quite a surprise to the majority of the senior women who, as they lined up for the start of the race, heard one of the officials start telling them that at the end of the run, they would all be given a token to put in a pot to decide whether to keep running at 5.8km or step up to 10km. The tone of this announcement was very much along the lines of “you may be aware that the women’s race is going to be increased”, like it was a decision that had already been made thanks to a small number of “meddling women”. There was zero mention of equality.

Sad little voting pot

This goes massively against the RunEqual movement in so many ways. Firstly, it’s not necessarily about women running longer. It’s about either opening up both distances to both genders or choosing an equal distance. Maybe men run a little less. Maybe women run a little more. Maybe women run quite a bit more. On a fundamental level an open conversation needs to be had to see which option is the best for all concerned. Secondly, if there is going to be a vote, it should be opened up to all athletes, not just women. And thirdly, if you ask a bunch of women who have just given their everything on a tough, muddy XC race if they would like to run further, of course a lot of them in that moment will say no – they’re knackered and very few people would relish the idea of running further the second they’ve just busted a gut sprinting for a finish line.

And the icing on this misogynistic cake? The moment when the official, speaking about increasing the women’s race to 10km, uttered the immortal words:

“But you don’t want to do that, do you ladies?”

FFS.

What does this sort of attitude tell our young female athletes? It’s bad enough that the senior male race is ALWAYS before the women’s race and treated as the main event. And it’s bad enough that the officials on the day forgot to give out or even announce the winners for the 2nd and 3rd place veteran women’s teams, and again treated me like a “meddling woman” when I asked about it. Both Norfolk and Suffolk counties have managed to equalise their distances, so we know it can be done. But sadly, many of the Athletics Associations are boys’ clubs, run by people who are set in their ways and have never been made to feel lesser because of their gender.

And it goes beyond counties too. The attitudes of the English Cross Country Association representatives on Facebook are fist-gnawingly bad on this matter. Speaking of the recent Home Countries International in Stirling they snarkily said that “the Senior Men ran a little shorter than most are used to, running 8K as the Senior Women also did” rather than perhaps just stating that the seniors ran the same distance. They then began to attack anyone who spoke of the RunEqual movement, with one choice comment saying “we would prefer that you did not use our posts to further your cause, which generally is a minority view, judging by all the research that has been undertaken.” All the research? Please, let’s see it. Because until 2 weeks ago I certainly hadn’t been asked my opinion on the matter, and the only reason my opinion was asked on the day is because Charlotte pushed for it. If this is the attitude coming from the national association, can we really expect things to change on a county level?

I’m not sure how things will look at the 2021 Cambs AA XC Championships, but I will continue to support Charlotte in everything she does to make change happen. She has already offered to lead a working group on the matter to no avail. And if that change doesn’t come, perhaps we’ll both be running the men’s distance in 2021 anyway, proudly wearing our RunEqual ribbons. It’s not quite on the same scale as Bobbi Gibb and Kathrine Switzer, but this is our Boston marathon.

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Sprinting to put my token in the 10k pot

A Decade of Running

First of all, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged, but sometimes real life has to take priority so GirlRunningLate had to take a back seat while I dealt with what life decided to throw at me.

In the last couple of weeks lots of folk have been looking not only to a new year, but also a new decade. And of course with this comes the question – what have you done in the last ten years?

So I had a think and the first thing that I came up with was, I got married. Then I quickly realised that nope, that was the PREVIOUS decade, and I am quickly becoming ancient and I had a minor existential panic that I had achieved exactly sod all in the last ten years. But thankfully I soon realised that I kickstarted something brilliant in 2010.

I became a runner.

Now I know to some people that might not seem like much. So what? I pulled on some trainers and realised I could move my legs a little faster than a walk like hundreds of thousands of other people probably did in the same decade. But it has caused so many changes in my life. I’m going to try and break them down by year but let’s be honest – my memory isn’t what it used to be so you’ll have to excuse any gaps in the narrative…!

2010 – my first ever run outdoors

I started running on an absolute whim back in 2010 – a hotel gym, a treadmill, an awesome charity looking for runners for the 2011 Bath Half Marathon and my habit of signing up to things with little thought all combined to my becoming a runner nearly 10 years ago. You can read about my running beginnings in more detail here.

2011 – my first official event

11 months after I first started running I ran the Bath Half marathon for CoppaFeel! with my friend Hannah. Fearne Cotton was there, as were many, many boobs, and I remember it being so cold that I feared my legs would never get going. But I did, and I exceeded all of my expectations by finishing in 1:53:26. The feeling of crossing that finish line was unlike anything I had experienced before, and I was HOOKED. I used to think runners were bonkers, but I had truly embraced the madness.

Fearne Cotton, boobs, finish line elation.

2012 – my first ever parkrun

I ran my first ever parkrun on the 7th January 2012 at Milton Country Park. I came 115th overall and was 11th female in a time of 24:20. But then for some reason – and I don’t really know why – I didn’t do another parkrun for 3 years. Oh those wasted events. I could have had a green t-shirt by now. 2012 Lauren, ya big eejit.

2013 – began working in Sport and became a LiRF

In 2013, I finally left a job I hated to start work as a Sports Marketing Coordinator at the University of Cambridge, and I have no doubt that this role, and my boss Karen Pearce, really ignited my love of sport. It was Karen who encouraged me to do the England Athletics LiRF (Leader in Run Fitness) course so that I could help runners who joined the Sports Centre. I started trying new classes such as Metabolic Conditioning and Circuits, was lucky enough to have colleagues with a wealth of fitness expertise and I started to realise that feeling strong was seriously awesome. I think this simply continued to build in 2014, as nothing else of note happened that year (that I can remember…)

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Me outside CamUniSport. Such fun times. I still miss my officemates!

2015 – joined Ely Runners and started GirlRunningLate (busy year!)

I can’t quite believe this blog is nearly 5 years old, but I started it in April 2015. And it was the second best thing I did in 2015. The first was joining Ely Runners.

My friend Pete (regularly featured in this blog) had joined Ely Runners a couple of years earlier, and had benefitted so much from doing so. In separate conversations, he and Laura Hill (another ER) convinced me to try it out, and the rest is history. So much of my joyful running memories are thanks to ER and my clubmates, and I would be utterly lost without it/them. It’s hard to imagine that without ER I wouldn’t know people like Justin and his amazing frittata skills and constant supply of Double Deckers/Toffee Crisps*.

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2016 – Injuries, anxiety and self-belief

2016 was a tricky year. I had to drop out of the Cambridge Half Marathon, was injured on and off throughout the 12 months, and was finding the mental side of competition really tough to handle. But it had its highs too – I won first place in the Waterbeach Running Festival 10k, did the Wings for Life World Run in SCORCHING heat and loved it, and pushed myself way outside of my comfort zone. I think this was the year I really started to see myself as an athlete.

2017 – Cambridge Half Marathon sponsored athlete and a new PB

At the end of 2016 I found that I had won a prize to be the Saucony sponsored athlete for the Cambridge Half Marathon. I remember being SO scared about getting injured or my nerves getting to me so much that I would bail on the run and let everyone down, but working with physiotherapist Lauren at Progress as part of my prize was one of the BEST things that ever happened to me. As well as working on my strength and running technique she was just so no-nonsense about all the ridiculous thoughts that crowded my mind. She just told me to remember why I was doing this – because I love running. I ended up smashing that half marathon in a time of 135:37, 106th woman out of a field of 3163, and experiencing a moment that I will NEVER forget.

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2018 – peak parkrun obsession

Although I dipped in and out of parkrun between 2015 and 2017 (13 runs in total over the three years!) I became fully committed to the cause in 2018 when Littleport parkrun launched. Even though I always really enjoyed parkrun, driving for at least 30 minutes to run for around 22 minutes, and then driving another 30 minutes home just seemed like SUCH a waste of time. But being able to drive just 10 minutes down the road (or even cycling/running there!) meant that I became a fully fledged devotee, roped in my dad to volunteering duties and became a Run Director myself. I flipping love it.

2019 – CiRF and the elusive sub-20 5k

Ever since I joined Ely Runners I nursed a dream of the sub-20 5k. I had managed some low 20 minute ones – 20:19 and 20:18 – but they had nearly broken me and it just seemed like too much time to shave off. But at the Waterbeach Running Festival I didn’t so much as shave the seconds off as hacked off a chunk of them. I managed to run a 5k in 19:48. I just re-read my blog post about it and could feel the tears starting again. I am just so, so proud of myself.

I also completed my CiRF (Coach in Running Fitness) this year, and I’m so excited about where that’s going to take me. I want to become a really good coach, to learn from other coaches and to hopefully help more people to fall in love with running. I want to keep this mad and wonderful journey going.

When I started running I never imagined I would join a running club, or compete, or sometimes get first lady at a parkrun or win a handful of trophies. I’ve surprised myself in more ways than I ever dreamed I would.

I wonder what my blog post about the next decade of running will look like? Here’s hoping it includes a green t-shirt…

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My favourite running photo of the last 10 years. The finish straight of the Waterbeach 5k.

 

*I couldn’t do a write up of my decade of running without a mention of one of my running besties somewhere! I want to make sure I keep getting fed…

 

 

 

 

How I’ve Managed my Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar Fasciitis. Two words that send a shiver up the spine of any runner. As dirty a pair of words as shin splints. And exactly what I’ve been dealing with for the last few months.

I’m not going to lie. It’s been miserable, and painful, and I don’t have a quick-fix, miracle cure for you. And just because it worked for me, doesn’t mean it will work for you. But I thought I would share with you what I’ve done to try and get over this miserable affliction effectively, because if just one of these helps with your recovery, that’s got to be a good thing, right?

REST

First and foremost I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to lay off the running. But you knew that didn’t you? You just didn’t want to hear it. I feel you.

If there is pain, don’t run on it.

It doesn’t matter what races you’ve got planned or how long you’ve been training for them- I had to miss out on 6 different events from 5ks to half marathons whilst dealing with this injury – it’s better to take 3 months off now, then run on it and end up having to take double that off (or worse). There are other sports you can do instead. For me, that’s been spinning and swimming.

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GET DIAGNOSED

If you’ve got pain that is mostly in the heel, and it’s at its worst first thing in the morning when you get out of bed, chances are it’s plantar fasciitis. But the root cause of the PF could be due to tight calf muscles or any number of things, and it’s best to get a professional to take a look at you so that they can help with the best course of action. I worked with Megan from the FAST Clinic, and one of the best things she did for me – other than be endlessly patient and tell me that yes, I will get out running again – was tell me that it’s not enough to just rest tendons – they need to be strengthened as well.

STRENGTHENING

Once Megan and I had established that mobility and flexibility weren’t the issue for me, she gave me a few strengthening exercises to do at home. One was standing back from a wall and falling towards it with my hands out to catch myself whilst keeping my legs straight and my feet flat. But the ones that I feel made the greatest difference for me were adapted heel raises. Rather than just standing on a stair and going up and down on my toes (dropping the heel below the height of the step as far as I’m able), I was going up on both toes, but only down on the bad foot. I also had the toes of the bad foot stretched upwards on a rolled up towel as I did this. After a while, I started adding weights, first with a few plates (around 4kg worth) in a rucksack on my back before moving to kettlebells up to 10kg (you’ll need a hand free to hold on to a rail, otherwise you WILL stack it). Once my foot had become used to being loaded up again (when you run the force through your foot is considerably more than your body weight) it was time to think about running again.

REHAB

Most people who have had PF will tell you that you should roll out the fascia (essentially the mid foot area) on a tennis/golf/cricket ball, and I’ve found this to be great advice. My ball of choice is a lacrosse ball as it’s a good size but smooth on the skin, and I got mine off Amazon. You can also roll your foot on a small bottle of frozen water as ice can help with the inflammation.

I also went to see a sports massage therapist in Ely called Becky Case-Upton. I know Becky from my gym, and she has this infectious energy for life, and a serious appetite for learning about the human body, and after Justin from “You’re Running What” had raved about her I knew I had to see her, and I am so, so glad I did. Becky is a phenomenal therapist, and I feel like seeing her was the final missing puzzle piece in my recovery. I’ve been recommending her to everyone, which I may live to regret further down the line when I next need to see her and find she has a waiting list from hell, but if you’re struggling with an injury she should definitely be someone to consider seeing.

ADDITIONAL SUPPORT

I tried a few different other things to help with my PF including a boot to wear at night which I ditched after 3 attempts as I decided that even if it did help my PF, I still wouldn’t be able to run as I’d be too exhausted from waking up every time I rolled over when I wore the horrible thing. Others have found these to be useful though. Instead I’ve just been going to bed wearing a support sock on my foot. I’m not sure how much difference this has made to be honest, but it certainly hasn’t hurt.

I put innersoles or heel inserts into all of my shoes, and I was lucky enough to be gifted a pair of OOFOS recovery sandals that I have been wearing around my house non stop since they arrived around 5 weeks ago. Usually I potter around my house in flat slippers, but the general consensus with PF is to avoid being flat footed wherever possible. Although flip flops are generally frowned upon if you want to look after your feet, OOFOS are flip flops in looks only. They are so, so comfortable, and as their website says better than I can,  “their patented biomechanically engineered footbed helps to increase circulation and provides superior arch support”. I’m planning to get a pair of the rose gold ones to take on future travels.

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PATIENCE

I’m sorry, but with PF, you’re going to have to be patient. It’s not an easy injury to recover from, especially if you want to recover from it well, not just manage it enough so that you can keep running. I first started struggling with this in June, and now in mid September I’m finally getting out there again, starting with just a mile at a time.

I’l be honest – I’ve had some really down moments, none more than when I had to pass up my place in the Round Norfolk Relay – that was the one that caused tears. But I had more time to blog, I visited my local lido more, I supported my friends by acting as bike support on their long steady runs or cheering them on at races and I kept busy by trying new things. There are positives that can be found from being injured, including getting into good habits and being more aware of your body. And those last little runs I’ve done have been absolutely amazing.

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If you’re currently struggling with PF I really hope you find this post useful, and I hope my recovery will make you feel a bit more optimistic that you’ll get through it too. Let me know how you get on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paddle Boarding in Milton Country Park

As I’m still in a state of running MOBOI, I’ve decided to look at the positives of being injured. For starters I’ve been posting far more often on here, as a lot of the time I would be running I’m spending on writing instead. Secondly, with every injury you learn to understand and respect your body a bit more. I know what I need to do to strengthen my body to try and prevent this injury from recurring and I know that when I get back to running I’ll love it even more and fully appreciate my body for what it can do. And lastly, I’m trying out new sports and experiences in the hope of temporarily replacing running. Step forward paddle boarding!

In an attempt to try and get the CambMeetUp bloggers together a bit more, I had put a poll up in our Facebook group to try and find an activity we could all do together. Whilst bouldering was a popular choice, it couldn’t beat the appeal of paddle boarding in Milton County Park. After a bit of work to find a date we could all do and the brilliant efforts of Bethany from Cambridge Sport Lakes to be really flexible with us, Rachael, Claire, Jen, Kelly, Jess and I all turned up on a chillier than we would like Saturday morning to get out on the water.

Now Claire (group photographer extraordinaire) had tried paddle boarding numerous times before, and assured us that we would all be fine and standing before we knew it. But as we stood at the sides the rest of us all thought that there was NO WAY IN HELL WE WOULD EVER BE ABLE TO STAND.

How wrong we were. Led by our brilliant instructor Penny we all knelt on our boards and paddled to the far end of the lake (I had one keen eye on the swans). She then showed us how to stand (it involves getting into a crouch in the middle of the board) and one by one we all wobbled up. Penny then wasted no time in making us all play “world domination” (although most of us dropped back down to our knees for this!), all picking a country and trying to be the first to whack everyone else’s board and turn their country into ours. I can’t take credit for my choice – Ireland – winning. It was definitely due to whoever I had managed to tag first as I must have changed country four times.

We were all really nervous at the thought of falling into the cold, very weedy water, but for the 60 minutes we were out there only Jess took a tumble. Penny had warned us that getting back on the board could be really hard, but before I’d even had time to turn around (admittedly my turning circle was pretty large!), Jess was back on like an absolute pro – the sign of an open water swimmer!

It was a pretty windy day and it took some effort to make sure we didn’t drift into the trees. Claire assured us that this meant our efforts were even more impressive and that on a still day – should we want to try it again – we’d find it a lot easier. We even attempted some yoga (they offer classes in this!), and I was pretty happy with my attempt at one-legged dog, although I quickly realised that trying tree pose on one leg would be a step too far.

After an hour passed in no time at all, I reluctantly got off the board. I was both euphoric at how much I had enjoyed the experience and devastated that I had left it so late in the season to try it out. There are now only two weeks left before Milton County Park stop offering paddle boarding. However, I nabbed the last place on the 2.5 hour Adult Level 1 BSUPA Born to Ride session this coming weekend, which will allow me to hire a board and paddle independently at any accredited centre in the UK. Now I just need to find £700 for a board and I’ll be paddling up the Ouse before you know it…!

If you’ve ever considered paddle boarding go for it. You won’t regret it.

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Are you in a state of MOBOI?

Everyone loves an acronym right? FOMO, YOLO, OMG or my personal favourite, FFS…

So I hereby bring you MOBOI – missing out because of injury. And it’s a real state of LOLs I can tell you.

Injuries are going to happen. I’ve had a few in my time – ITB syndrome, posterior tibial tendonitis, piriformis syndrome and now plantar fasciitis. Those are some fun party conversation starters right there. And while I’m getting better at listening to my body (and to the common sense instilled in me by the professionals that I see) and know that rest is key when the problem is at its most acute, that doesn’t stop me from raging at the world when an event I had signed up to rolls around. So far with my PF I’ve missed out the 5th Kevin Henry league race, the Ely Sprint Triathlon and this weekend the Bedford Running Festival double (10k Saturday evening and half marathon Sunday morning). And every single time it has sucked.

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Sad little unused race numbers

While it’s tempting to sit and wallow at home when you know your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram feed is going to be full of happy runners posing with their well-earned medals, I’ve been trying to focus on doing the things I usually complain that I don’t have time to do. I’ve gone back to Jesus Green Lido (whilst kicking myself for not making the most of it earlier in the season as it closes in 3 weeks), have caught up on my reading, have kickstarted this blog again (hooray!) and have acted as bike support for my running buddy Pete as he trains for his first marathon. I even went on a 16-mile bike ride today just for the “fun” of it, something I always swore I would never do because as someone who needs to commute by bike, voluntarily doing it at the weekend has never appealed, but I really appreciated the peace and quiet on the country roads and a burn in my legs that was very different from what I experience on a fast run.

And the best thing? Every injury I get makes me a better athlete as it gets me into good habits. I learn to listen to my body so that the niggle doesn’t become a chronic long-term problem (I’m 6 weeks into PF and am almost ready to run again). I learn specific strengthening and stretching techniques to add into my usual routine and I learn to appreciate and wonder at my body even more when I get back to running again.

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Around 15 miles into his 20 miler

Sadly I don’t have a cure-all solution for how to deal with MOBOI. I am constantly envious of everyone’s race bling and do sometimes find myself in a Strava spiral looking at folk racking up segment PBs, but I’m taking solace in the fact that I’m clearly growing as a runner by not attempting to come back from injury too quickly, and perspective is a useful thing. My injury is (hopefully) only temporary, and those events I’ve missed out on will come back round next year. Plus it’s great to support your friends either through marshalling at parkrun, liking their latest race selfie or singing “Dance Magic Dance” as they find themselves flagging on their 20 mile long steady run (you’re welcome Pete)!

Upshot is, MOBOI sucks, but take the opportunities it offers you and use them to come back stronger.

BRB.

 

Molton Brown Evening with Sweaty Betty plus Giveaway!

First of all, I’m being a crummy blogger this year aren’t I? One blog every 6 weeks is not what I hoped to achieve, but I’m injured and grumpy so writing about running hasn’t exactly appealed. But being injured is part and parcel of being an athlete, and I’m finally inching into the acceptance stage of my injury (denial was fun), so let’s kick things off with a write up of a Molton Brown bloggers evening that I was lucky enough to be invited to back in July.

Usually I go along to blogger events to network with others in the area, but I rarely write about them because I’m not a beauty/lifestyle blogger. However, when I heard that Sweaty Betty were going to be at Molton Brown’s, it meant that I could write about it as everyone knows that my Sweaty Betty habit is out of control. And it doesn’t hurt that I’m a Molton Brown mega fan as well…

When we turned up at the event – and there must have been about 20 bloggers there – we were treated to a personalised goodie bag that had been tailored to our own individual tastes based upon the character Sonny and his team had gleaned from our social media accounts. They got mine spot on, with some of my favourite fragrances included (hello rhubarb and rose)!

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We were also treated to gin cocktails from gorgeous local tapas bar La Raza, and hand and arm massages from Sonny and his team. After much deliberating, I chose the Caju and Lime fragrance, which was beautifully uplifting. I’ve been using Molton Brown hand lotions for years, and I’ve long been a bit fan of gifting Molton Brown products to friends and family, as people rarely treat themselves to luxury shower gels and body lotions. I picked up a bottle of the new Bushukan shower gel (citrus with a hit of black pepper) for the other half’s birthday, and a hand cream that I’m giving away to one lucky follower (see details at the end of this post)! I was devastated however to hear that my favourite fragrance, violet and vanilla, was limited edition! It’s still available on some sites but not easy to come by…

And now on to Sweaty Betty, who were showcasing their beautiful new AW collection. What’s fascinating about the fashion design world, is that they have to be predicting trends SO far in advance. I’ve been told that Sweaty Betty are looking ahead about 18 months, and so back in early 2018, they chose to be inspired by South Korea for AW 2019. They headed over to Seoul, where they were inspired by the “incredible juxtaposition of futuristic buildings and blazing neon alongside traditional architecture and old palaces”. In addition to this, they focused on women in South Korea who were “pushing against the norm. South Korea is very driven by a specific type of beauty, so [it was] amazing to see some really cool women rejecting labels, including the long boarder, Ko Hyojoo.”

Mary-Beth, the store manager at Cambridge, also told me about an underground tattoo scene in South Korea that inspired some of their new prints. Fascinatingly, although it’s not illegal to have tattoos in South Korea, it is illegal to be a tattoo artist if you’re not also a qualified medical practitioner, which is why the underground tattoo scene has grown. This inspired my favourite pair of leggings from the new collection, their new Super Sculpt 7/8 leggings in black cherry (a key colour in their AW collection) with a rose print “tattooed” mesh insert. Also, I couldn’t help but LOVE these retro 80s styling of these running shorts, inspired by the 1988 Olympics in Seoul:

And so on to the competition! As I MASSIVELY failed to celebrate my blog’s 4th birthday back in April, I’m doing a giveaway now instead! You can win this Sweaty Betty and Molton Brown bundle over on my Instagram and on my Twitter (yes you can enter via both to double your chances of winning)! Good luck!

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A Piece of Cake 10k

No, I’m not being an arse and getting cocky about running a 10k. Everyone who knows me knows that it is my least favourite of the longer distances as it can be so hard to pace. Go off too fast on a 5k and you can probably hang on or at least tell yourself that it will be over soon. Do it for a 10k and it can be agony knowing you still have something like a parkrun left to run.

So the Piece of Cake 10k is so named because at the end of the run you get a slice of cake! And not just any cake – one made by Ian Cumming, GBBO finalist from 2015. You can see why it was an easy sell to me can’t you? My Instagram bio has said “fuelled by cake” for as long as I can remember.

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I’ve been lucky enough to meet Ian a couple of times when he’s judged my work bake off (let’s not discuss my 2018 entry*) and we’ve always chatted about running (he ran the roasting hot 2018 London Marathon in a storming time of 3:09:17). So when he got in touch on twitter to tell me about a new event he was setting up in the super picturesque Cambridgeshire village of Great Wilbraham, I told him he could absolutely count me in.

On a far hotter than I would have liked June 29th, running buddy Justin and I hopped in the car and drove the 30-odd minutes to the race. Although it ended up being 40+ minutes as we drove around in circles trying to find the school where the event HQ was based, only to ask for directions when we were directly opposite it (it’s not that hard to find – we were just being muppets). We said a quick hello to Ian who was setting up his cakes (the beaut above was chocolate and salted caramel) and proceeded to pay our £15 entry fee (you could pay £10 if you didn’t want a medal but Justin and I are very much in this game for the bling).

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Now this was a small, informal event, where you signed up by registering your interest on Facebook, and there was a good reason for this. Ian is still very much in the process of building this run and learning what does and doesn’t work in terms of the admin and the course itself. It wasn’t chip timed, and there were only 56 runners taking part in what was being billed as an “advanced test”.

So with the thermometer sitting pretty at around 26 degrees, and with about 3 layers of suntan lotion on my pasty skin, we all barreled off down a nice gentle decline to start what was one of the prettiest 10ks I’ve done. I’m a big fan of being distracted by views as I run, and this route, through fields of wheat and barley and past windmills ticked all of the boxes for me. There was very little shade, and I was pathetically grateful when I hit a small patch of it, but the course had a water station that you looped past twice, once at around 3.5 miles and again around 4.7. They also had a little one with a hose, who was quite frankly the best thing I’d ever seen as she cooled us all down mid-run.

Piece of Cake 10k Sprinkler

When starting this race I had no anticipation of being first lady (running in the heat is really difficult for me), especially when I saw one female runner, Helen Barry charge off at the start, running the first mile in what must have been a little over 6:30, but when I found myself gaining on her around the 7k mark I realised that a win might be on the cards. So around 8k I made the decision to overtake Helen and see if I could stay ahead of her and somehow, I managed it. The run was slightly long (I measured it at 10.08km) but I hit the 10k mark (according to my Garmin) in 44:59. Not even close to a PB for me, but a time I was thrilled with in the heat.

So would I recommend the Piece of Cake 10k? In a heartbeat. The mostly-flat course is beautiful, the vibe is so, so supportive and friendly (I hope this wouldn’t change if the event grew) and the cake was PHENOMENAL. I had the strawberry and elderflower and it was delicious. And the medal was shaped like a little slice of cake, a lovely addition to my collection. Plus all the money raised went to the primary school. You can read the local summary of the event here.

I really, really hope Ian continues to develop and establish the event. If he did I would happily make it a repeat event in my running calendar. And not just for the cake.

*Ok. So I made a cake, attempted to cycle to work with it and promptly dropped it on the pavement on Ely’s riverside. It flipped 360 degrees and landed in a smoosh pile. I submitted this photo as my entry. I didn’t win.

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Breaking the 20-Minute Barrier

I can hardly believe I’m typing these words, but at the Waterbeach Running Festival on the 11th May, I finally ran a sub-20 minute 5k, something I have been trying to do for some time.

I can’t say I had any expectation of doing it on the day. I’ve run the Waterbeach Running Festival twice before, and been lucky enough to come first both times (in the 10k in 2016, and the 5k in 2018 – my memory is so awful I thought I’d competed in 2017!). It’s a small, local event, and an undeniably fast, flat course, and last year I ran the 5k in 20:46. A really great time, but a significant chunk away from the elusive 19:59.

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Waterbeach Running Festival 2018

I remember telling my running buddy Pete that I thought I might be on PB form after I recently paced someone to a 20:52 5k and felt like I still had a decent amount left in the tank. But after a league race 5k on the Thursday night, neither Pete nor I had turned up on the Saturday morning in Waterbeach with particularly fresh legs.

This year was the fourth time the Waterbeach Running Festival had been held. With a 100m toddle (under 5s), a 2k (4+), a 5k (11+) and a 10k (15+) it’s a proper family event, with lots of food stalls and a really lovely vibe. And it’s growing in size every year, as people start to cotton on to what a fast, flat course it is. To give you an idea. here are the women’s winning 5k times since it started:

Year Total no. Runners Winning Time Winner
2016 43 24:24 Sarah Consonni
2017 76 21:20 Yvonne Scarrott
2018 86 20:46 Lauren Thomas
2019 91 19:36 Vicki Moignard

The 2019 winning time is a serious increase on 2016. As for the men’s race, this has been won every year by Tony Bacon, with a course PB of 17:14 set in 2017. Tony has become something of a poster boy for the event as others are encouraged to come along to try and steal his crown. He was still 17 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor this year, but this is a huge improvement on 2016 when he was 3 minutes ahead of second place.

As we all gathered on the start line (as Pete had just finished the 100m toddle with his daughter Ellie and her mum Rachel was gearing up to push her in the running buggy for the 5k – rather her than me!), I looked at the other faces on the startline and had this weird feeling that I wouldn’t even podium this year. There were some fierce looking female athletes with their game faces on, and I decided to just do what I could on the day. Because after all, that’s all we can ever hope for, right?

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My Beloved Running Family

Everyone set off at a blistering pace, and I manage to start my Garmin only to realise that it was set for an indoor cycling session after the spin class I had done the day before. After about 10 seconds of faffing about I thought it was in the right mode and before I knew it I had run the 1st mile in 6:22 (I didn’t know this at the time as I rarely look at my watch when running).

Throughout this first mile, Olivia Baker from Cambridge & Coleridge AC was about 10 metres ahead of me but slowly pulling away. I could also hear keys jangling behind me, and before long Vicki Moignard from Cambridge Tri Club (who came second to me in 2018) was overtaking on my left. I managed to gasp out the words “you can get her!” before I gritted my teeth and did everything I could to just hold on.

And somehow, I did just that. But boy oh boy it was not easy. At about 3.5k in to the race I had to convince myself to keep going as everything in my body from my lungs to my legs were screaming at me to stop, that I couldn’t possibly keep going at this pace. But somehow I did, and I know that it was because of Vicki (now in 1st place) and Olivia ahead of me that I managed it. You can see for a long way in this race, and I know that if I had been in 1st place I would have become complacent and slacked off. But instead, I had these two incredible athletes to chase, and I owe them so much for getting me across the line in the time I did.

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Finish line pain

When I did finally cross the line, driving hard through the last hundred-odd metres to the cheers of a frankly brilliant finish line crowd, I had to stop and bend over double, sucking as much air in to my lungs as humanly possible and trying not to ruin the moment by throwing up. I then glanced at my watch and saw 19:37 and my first though was “wow, I STILL managed to screw up starting my watch properly”. As it turns out, it was spot on. After those 10 seconds I lost at the start trying to get it in to the right mode, I officially finished in 19:48.

I’m not going to lie – there were tears. A LOT of them. But they were deliriously happy ones. I’m not sure I ever really believed I could get a time like that. I then found out that Peter had also achieved a PB (18:59) and Rachel had almost achieved a buggy 5k PB, missing it by 1 second (which she would have smashed if Ellie hadn’t needed emergency Pom-Bears mid-race)! It was just a brilliant day for my favourite running family.

Receiving a trophy for crossing the line as 3rd woman, it was without doubt the proudest moment of my running career. I couldn’t thank Vicki and Olivia enough, and it’s entirely possible that they thought the run had boggled this wide-eyed, pink-haired creature’s mind. Maybe it had. All I know is that for the last week I’ve found myself remembering the moment of reading my official race time and grinning at myself in shock and delight. My age grading from the day was more than 75%. Madness.

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Tony and I – one of us had been crying. Obvious much?!

I genuinely have no idea if I’ll manage a sub 20 again. But there was a time when I thought sub-22 was an impossible goal. All I know for sure is, next time I’m at one of the Kevin Henry League races, I’ll be keeping an eye out for Vicki and Olivia, the best pacers I could have hoped for.

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The 2019 Running Awards

So last week I was lucky enough to attend the 2019 Running Awards, as thanks to the votes from you lovely lot I was shortlisted for best personal blog! I had such a great running -centered day meeting some of the awesome folk from the wider UK running community.

I arrived in London a little before midday, getting to my hotel near Tower Bridge in time to get changed for the Secret London Run that the Running Awards had put on in collaboration with the brilliant Runderwear. We had all been generously gifted with personalised kit from Runderwear, and I rocked up in my new gear to see a sea of recognisable faces including Emma from Lipstick & Trainers and Jordan from ProjectMarathonGirl.

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Photo credit to Runderwear

We all split into groups, and then Matt from Secret London Runs took our group on a journey across the Thames to discover the murky history of South London. During our run we took in sites including the remains of the Roman London Wall, St Dunstan’s, Winchester Palace, Cross Bones and the Guinness Partnership among others. It was such an inspired way to see our capital, and forced all us runners to actually pause and look up once in a while!

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After a fantastic 4-odd miles, we all rushed off to get ready for the awards, which would be taking place on board the wonderful Dixie Queen on the Thames. I was lucky enough to have my brilliant Aunt Kathleen as my date, and there was much excitement on board as we all waited for Tower Bridge to open so that we could get on our merry way for the next 5 hours. It was at this point that I met parkrun legend Paul Sinton-Hewitt, and nattered his ear off about the brilliant impact that Littleport parkrun has had on our local community.

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The guest speakers during the Bloggers Forum were brilliant. Led by Claire from Wild Ginger Runs, we had talks from World Marathon Challenge record holder Susannah Gill (7 marathons in 7 continents in 7 days – yes really), Eric Keeler who ran 3700 miles across the USA despite not liking running (yes really) and Mark Atkinson, author of Run Like Duck and winner of the Gold Award for Best Book at the awards. You can read about his blog of the blog awards here (a blog mentioning a blog about the blogging awards – that meta enough for you Mark?!). We also had a great demo from Enertor showing us just how amazing their innersoles (favoured by Usain Bolt) are at absorbing impact (we were gifted a pair of these and I can’t wait to try them!), and we heard all about how founders Jamie and Richard built Runderwear.

After a quick buffet meal, we then went on to the awards themselves, and those of us who had been shortlisted were invited upstairs to watch the ceremony and Kathleen and I managed to blag a space on the table with Mark and his lovely wife Cloë. I wasn’t remotely surprised when my name wasn’t announced as the winner of the personal blog award (that honour went to Running Mr Jones) but it was great to watch Mark go up and collect his award and have a  hold of his hefty trophy! I also saw some of those I had voted for winning their categories, including the awesome Running Shoes Guru and the brilliant Runderwear.

After disembarking from the Dixie Queen we all headed off across London and beyond, and I’m sure many of those who would be running the marathon just 36 hours later were enjoying the relatively peaceful streets ahead of the awesome madness that awaited them. I had such a brilliant time in London, and my place there wouldn’t have been possible without those of you who take the time to read my witterings. I am so incredibly grateful to all of you who took the time to vote for me. Same time next year?

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Running Happy

This seems like such a simplistic title for a blog post, but it needs no zhooshing up (yes, that IS how you spell it, I saw it on Pointless). For the last few months I have been running happy and it is an absolute revelation.

I love running, and I hope this comes across in this blog. But on the odd occasion (ahem) I’ve sucked the joy out of the thing I love by constantly pushing myself to my physical limits, dreading races and putting so much pressure on myself that I wondered whether or not running was the best thing for my mental health.

What a mess.

So for the last few races, I’ve taken the foot off the gas and slowed down so that I can enjoy the process of running, and it has been nothing short of joyful. I’ve run chatty half marathons with friends, paced some of the juniors I coach at 10ks, run with kids at parkrun and have looked like a giddy idiot in all of the photos:

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As well as making me happy, this also enables me to encourage others, and as PBs start to become a bit of a rarity for me, helping someone else to achieve theirs gives me the exact same high.

I’ve also been doing more casual longer runs. In the past I’ve always pushed hard on longer runs (despite knowing that you shouldn’t hit race pace in training), but I’m adding more run commutes and runs to parkrun in to my schedule (around 5.5 miles along the riverside from Ely to Littleport), and took part in a steady 8-mile Ely Runners Sunday trail run yesterday, which had to have been one of the most gorgeous runs I’ve ever done:

Easter Trail Run

Photo courtesy of trail runner extraordinaire Kyle Armstrong

At the beauty of it all is, when I do feel like pushing myself, my speed isn’t suffering for this new attitude. I paced a junior at a 5k last week, and we crossed the line in 20:52, and I felt like I had a decent amount still left in the tank after encouraging her the whole way round. Perhaps (gasp!) this new, more relaxed attitude will actually help me?

I originally started long distance running to try something new and after a few weeks I realised I had found my sport, the one that makes me feel strong, that helps me clear my mind and one that I actually happen to be pretty good at. But most of all I did it because it made me feel happy. Now, by actually slowing it down from time to time, I’m allowing myself to be in the moment and marvel and this bloody brilliant thing that my body allows me to do. There will come a time (hopefully in the far, far distant future) when I won’t be able to run any more, so I intend to be grateful for the here and now  and continue to focus on the pure joy of running.