Little Runner Gal

Running, eating, sleeping and all the bits in between

A Marathon Education; the good, the bad and the indifferent!

So this is my 4th marathon training cycle. And, to make it a little different, I’m doing 2 in 2 weeks – Brighton on 12th April and London on 26th April.

Every time I go through this cycle I learn A LOT along the way, so here are a few things I’ve learnt and how I’ve changed or worked with them this time.

Club sessions – last year I ditched most of the club sessions as they didn’t fit with my training plan. This year I’m coaching the sessions, so I’m always there! And keeping up with the front runners (OK, occasionally getting close enough to inhale some of their dust!) has really helped with my speed and endurance. I feel quicker and my times have come right down.

a good 

Long runs – the structure of these have stayed the same, and the way I built them up week by week. But, again, I’ve managed to get together with the club on a couple of occasions to knock out 16+ miles. It has made it a heck of a lot less lonely and soul destroying, and has helped drag me through some of the dark miles. I’ve done a lot of my long runs on my own too, I think finding your own pace is key and learning to tune in to your own body. I’ve even ducked out of a couple of long runs early when things didn’t feel right. I’d have never done this before, but now I know my body a bit better I feel like I can do this. Also, I’ve done 3 solid 20+ milers this time, more than before, and I started the higher mileage earlier. This was more of a mental thing than anything else, so I knew in my own head that I could do it.


a good 

Intensity – I’ve done a similar amount of hills, sprints, threshold and progressive sessions, but I’ve based it around a) my club schedule and b) how I’m feeling. The mixture of fast and slower paced stuff always worked for me before so I’ve kept it the same. The only thing now is that fast is faster! But I’ve had to make sure that I do the slower sessions too and have had a few people comment on how my slow sessions don’t seem very slow, so have tried to control it even further!


a indifferent 

Frequency – I’m still running 5-6 days a week, as I have been in previous marathon cycles, but less double days than before. My mileage has increased to 52 miles per week, at its peak, which is similar to last year, but I’ve been having a few more lie-ins or doing some other activities instead.


a indifferent 

Cross training – Despite the fact I claimed to have cross trained last time, I only really went swimming when I was injured. I couldn’t fit anything else in when I was running 8 times a week. So this time I have done a BIT more, still nowhere near what I wanted. I have my bike on the turbo trainer and sometimes do that early instead of running, and I am doing a yoga routine 2-3 times per week. I think this has helped but I still want to be fitting in more cross training, even if it means substituting a run here or there.

 a good

Stretching – I learnt a great stretching routine for London last year, and this hasn’t changed much since. If anything I have been a little worse at stretching, spending less time after runs stretching. No excuses. It’s not a good idea. But then I do yoga the following morning instead. OK, I’m looking for excuses. I should do more stretching like I did last time.


a bad 

Nutrition – Thanks to a lot of research and good advice about nutrition over the last couple of years, I’m quite good at knowing what I SHOULD be eating to fuel, recover etc. Despite that I have used previously used the fact that I’m running a marathon as an excuse to eat what I wanted. This year I focused on an intelligent running diet, whilst trying to lose the weight I piled on after Berlin Marathon (Sept 2014) making sure that I have the right about of carbs, protein and fats depending on my runs and recovery. It has worked out well. I don’t weigh myself, so I’ve no idea how much weight I’ve lost, but I’m back to what I would consider a better running shape and weight for me. And because I’ve been really thinking about what I eat I’ve used the correct things to feed my muscles at the right times, which I’m convinced has helped with recovery and injury prevention.


a good 

 As a separate note on nutrition, I tried a carb depletion, carb loading strategy the week before Berlin Marathon which I think worked well, so I’ll be doing this before Brighton Marathon. 

Gels – I have a tried and tested gel strategy that will never ever change! Perfected before London last year, I’ve stuck with it throughout my long runs on this training cycle and it’s still as perfect as it has always been. High 5 gels, every 30 minutes. Easy.


a good 

Recovery – I’ve been better with my nutrition, worse with my stretching and better with my sports massages! I feel a lot more in tune with my body now so I know what I need to eat after a run or when I need a massage or some treatment. I give myself recovery time if I need it and I skip a run or do some recovery cross training instead. But I still need to do more stretching! 

a indifferent 

Injury – Now I don’t want to speak too soon, but *whispers* I’ve not had any injuries during this cycle. So all of the above must be working!


a good 

So, here we go, not long now until the most challenging 14 days of my running “career” to date. Writing it all down shows me how much I’ve learnt in the last 12 months. Now….let’s get to the start line! 


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A Quick Coaching Update

coachI’m regularly coaching the Tuesday night interval sessions at our running club now, and absolutely loving it.

After I’d got over the initial eeeeek! of telling people what to do, where to go, hoping what I was trying to explain was coming across (always check for understanding!) and ensuring no-one got run over or lost, I started really really enjoying it and now I can’t get enough!

Things I’ve learnt so far:

  • I can’t tell my clockwise from my anticlockwise when explaining things.
  • Rabbit warren housing estates are easy to lose people in.
  • I don’t like blowing a whistle – feels a bit school playground.
  • Blowing the whistle to signal the beginning and end of a sprint during a Fartlek is hard when you’re taking part in the session too and out of breath.
  • Explaining the next part of an interval session when you’re taking part in the session and out of breath is even harder.
  • I actually know some stuff about running. And other runners find this interesting and educational.


I’ve been really surprised and humbled by the feedback from the club. Apart from “Little Miss Hitler” (in jest, referring to a particularly difficult hill session) and a few comments about the lack of rest periods (“if you’ve enough breath to complain, you’ve enough to start the next interval” being my response!) everyone is always very grateful, thanks me and, even better, COMES BACK!

So far so good!


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Race Review: The Brooks Fleet Pre-London Half Marathon

I’ve taken part in a number of different half marathons now, but this was my first time at The Brooks Fleet Pre-London Half Marathon. When planning my race diary this year I was totally gutted at the date clash with this and Reading Half Marathon, as Reading was my first race and I always try to go back for it. But I’d heard great things about Fleet and I had friends and family taking part, so decided thought I’d give it a go.

The race is in its 34th year, making it one of the longest running half marathons in the country, the course it pretty flat and closed or semi-closed road, and has around 2500 runners. It’s run by Fleet & Crookham Athletic Club, one of the big local ones, so it’s by the runners, for the runners.

A massive plus point was that the race started at 10:30am. Now, I understand why these closed road races start so early, but for us runners an 8:30am start gun means another 6:something alarm and there goes the weekend.

Anyway, before the blissful 10:30am starting stampede, there’s the parking and event village. The town centre parking was great. Easy and well communicated. I know the town well, so that helps, but the maps etc. were good if you didn’t. The event village was busy by the time I arrived, but I managed to navigate to the well ‘manned’ bag drop easily and back out to the start area, which had the various ‘corral’ finish times displayed. No pacers at this event but I wanted to take it by feel anyway, what with 2 marathons coming up!


Wishing friends a good race, we headed off at various paces. The support on the route is great and the double lap of the town over the first 5 miles was great, as I got to see my family and friends twice before we headed out of the town, where the support became a little less.

FHM Route

I caught up with a few friends at various points and had a nice chat. I tried not to focus on my Garmin and just run to feel. 3 weeks out from Brighton and burnt before with a pre mara half that almost cost me my marathon, I wanted to be cautious. Obviously in my head I had various targets. I was averaging a good pace, but just wanted it to feel OK. 5 miles soon became 8 miles, I didn’t even notice them passing, it was great.

The closed roads were well ‘manned’ and the water stations were superb. There were very few supporters between 6 and 9, so the guys and girls at the aid stations were the main source of cheering.

At mile 10 I saw some more supporting family, which helped spur me on. 11, and a glance down at the watch. As with every race, the elongated mental arithmetic (maths whilst running suddenly becomes 100 times harder than drinking out of that paper cup I’ve just picked up at the aid station!) and I eventually manage to work out that if I can keep the pace up for 2 more miles (the .1 mile would just run itself right?!) I would just scrape in under the ‘in my head Plan A’ time.

11 became 12 and it was uphill for the final mile, but I’d bought myself some time on the last mile. And, it turns out, some gumption, from somewhere! Mile 12-13 was my fastest of the race, I really wanted that Plan A time after all (of course!). Into the finish area I whacked out that sprint finish and flew passed a huge number of others, heard my mum cheering, and over the finish line….1:44:29 on the Garmin, 31 seconds under Plan A and a whopping 9 minutes 24 seconds off my PB. I took another 20 minutes to get out of the finishing funnel, I stopped to speak to so many people. I was overjoyed. I still felt so strong. Exactly how I wanted to finish.


You know how you’re always a bit worried until the official time comes through, in case your Garmin has been in some sort of time warp or something nuts, well it wasn’t long before the text pinged through…

FHM Time

How efficient!

Now it obviously helped that I had a good run, and the weather was damn near perfect, but I’m glad in every single way that I picked Fleet Half Marathon to run as my pre-London warm up race.

They’ve clearly had 34 years practice, and have perfected the art of staging a seamless race. Every single volunteer was fantastic, the route was ideal, the support was spot on and the medal is great. My performance was an added bonus.

Sunday 20th March is the race day for 2016, so get it in your diary now. I’ll be there!


NB: I decided to enter this race and paid full price for my entry. I have no links to the event organisers or sponsors, and have not been asked to write this review. 


Why ‘normal’ is inspiring

If you follow a lot of the running, cycling, or tri fraternity on Twitter you’re likely to be following one of us folk who were lucky enough to be invited to the ashmei Ambassador Day this weekend. You’ll have seen the beautiful clothes, the fantastic HQ (an amazing barn in the gorgeous countryside), AirshopPhoenix the Airstream, our smiling faces on the run and ride and our top notch ashmei socks which have only had a 6 mile test run so far, but it was like they weren’t there, like an extension of my skin.

If you’ve not heard all about it there are some fab accounts, pictures and videos of the day from the fab people I met on the day, genuinely they were all lovely, just search for #ashmeiambassadors on Twitter.

ashmei 2 

I wanted to tell you about how I felt about it all and what I took away from the day. 

Firstly, if you ever feel intimidated by what some of the people you follow on social media do, or achieve, then don’t! I arrived on Saturday wondering what the heck I was doing with such a bunch of, what I would class as, professionals. I’d seen their achievements and read their blogs, I was obviously the token ‘normal’ person…whatever that means! Within seconds it was clear that we all felt the same. We were all in awe of each other. And for good reason. Whatever it was that we’d done, however big or small, it was inspirational to others. On top of that, they were all bloody lovely people and we could have been there all weekend chatting, comparing race diaries and listening to a lot of stories that involved people forgetting their swimwear!

ashmei 1

Secondly, that Merino sheep is a lucky little bugger! So we learnt all about the science behind the clothing. They had some work to do on me as I’m not the biggest fan of wool full stop, let alone running in it…visions of a marathon in a Christmas jumper, right?! Turns out this Merino chap has it sorted. The wool regulates temperature, keeping you warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s warm. All of this while keeping you dry but it doesn’t get wet or sweaty. And because it’s naturally antibacterial, you don’t stink. I can’t guarantee that for EVERY Merino sheep out there, but it works for the clothing. They mix the finest Merino wool with carbon to give it the properties that ensure outstanding performance in sport and looking downright snazzy down the pub! You, not the sheep. Although if you want to take your snazzy sheep to the pub then that’s your business.


Finally, inspiration is everywhere. From the location, the apparel, the people that work at ashmei & freestak, the athletes I met and, most of all for me, the current ashmei Ambassadors. The things that they’ve done and are doing absolutely astounded me. Marathons in the desert and the mountains, barefoot running, representing your country. But they’re ‘normal’ people too, just doing what they’re passionate about. That’s inspirational in itself. They have office jobs, families, and the determination to do achieve all these things……they’re like me, like us….lightbulb moment! 

And some of the things they’ve done ARE going on my race list! 

Very last but not least, one thing that Simon Freeman of freestak said during the presentation, is that we all have highs and lows when training. Some things go right, others don’t. It’s the same for us all. And we all nodded! In case we needed any more proof that we’re all ‘normal’! 

What Stuart Brooke, ashmei founder, and the team have created is a mindset. An inspirational vision that normal people do inspiring things, and their products allow them to do those things to the best of their ability. 

Off to find a snazzy sheep for the quiz down the Rose & Thistle tonight! 



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