Category Archives: opinion

running more of less

I love the big running races. Big expos, big events, the whole city out cheering you on… it’s my kind of fun.But this summer I’m changing gears a bit. I just did a triathlon, I’ve got a few open water swimming events planned, and I’m going to be running shorter distances in smaller races.

It’s something that just feels right to do right now. On my run commute in this morning I listened to the latest episode of the excellent Ask Lauren Fleshman series on Running On Om and in among some other amazing ideas that hit me like a ton of bricks, Lauren talked about the importance of pursuing ideas at the right time. Taking this into my own life, it’s not the right time to be pushing towards a big huge new running goal (like running an ultra last summer) and I don’t want to force it.

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The club 1 mile race last summer

Luckily, as a member of Serpentine Running Club, I have access to some great races and events over the summer. Our club membership fees to towards a lot of member benefits that include world class coaching, athlete development, social trips and entry into club leagues like the Assembly League. Fully run by volunteers from all the clubs involved the Assembly League (and the cross country leagues in the winter) is a great show of what races are without all the excessive sponsorship and mid race polar bear hugs.

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Along with the competitive 5km (ish) Assembly League each month I’m going to run some track races. !!! As a part of our club grand prix championship (to crown the club’s fastest runner at almost every distance for the year, age graded) there are 3000m and 1 mile races at our track in July and even if you aren’t competing for the win, there are heats for everyone to get their best time for the year. If I could get every runner to do one thing it would be to do a race on the track, so much fun and a whole new experience.

It feels like the right time for me (and my bank balance) to take a little step back from signing up for every event I see and like. Lauren Fleshman also mentions it’s OK to have great ideas and put them on the backburner for later when the time is right. I waited a couple of years to run what ended up being one of the best half marathons I’ve ever run, the Giulietta & Romeo Half Marathon. They’re not going anywhere and having a list of great events as my to do list isn’t the worst thing to look at!

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good books

I obviously enjoy running and going on adventures, but I am also a major armchair adventurer. I love reading about other people’s adventures and sometimes take this too far and start to believe it is possible to become an international mountain bike champion… if I could just get out from under this heated blanket.

Here are my recent reads that I’ve loved and can fully recommend for anyone looking for some paper inspiration.

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Yoga mat, books, work clothes and slippers. Multitasking pre-work like a hero!

Rusch to Glory – Rebecca Rusch

I saw this recommended on Caitlin’s blog or twitter and grabbed it off Amazon. One of the most surprisingly awesome books I have read in a long time. Rebecca has done A LOT in her life and the book reads like one giant adventure spanning many sports, continents, and decades. No disrespect to Rebecca but she wasn’t someone who was great at sports from an early age and “in the system” of traditional sports.  She is someone who has worked hard to get to where she is in some seriously cool sports and the businesses behind them. I’m partway through my second reading of it it’s so good.

Misadventures Magazine

I think I found Misadventures website when googling around for women specific sport writing (got to love google search language) and fell into a misadventures article hole that at it’s peak had about 35 tabs open in my browser. Their first paper magazine has launched and it’s dirt cheap for a subscription and a beautiful magazine to sit down and read really interesting and diverse articles.

A Long Time Coming – Jacqueline Hansen

A self published book by one of the pioneers of women’s distance running it’s a must read for anyone interested in the (short) history of women’s marathon running. I personally think it could have used a bit more editing, but the stories and passions are still there and Jacqueline’s voice is an important one.

What Goes Around, A London Cycle Couriers Story – Emily Chappell

First, this book has improved my cycling around London by 100%. I have learned no less than 3 shortcuts through the city thanks to Emily. Second, it is a great book. it is so well written and flows with very interesting stories told about London, Emily, and cycle couriers. There are so many bits of this book I found myself nodding along with. Defo a must read.

The Silence of Great Distance Women Running Long – Frank Murphy

This book took me a while. It’s long and dense, but a very good read so worth the time. There are a lot of difficult stories about the women who ran long distances before it was accepted as normal (this is an insane sentence to even type!)  and this book lays them all out. It’s a classic in anyone’s running library.

Those are my favs! Such good books I’ve read through them too fast and I am actually book-less  until my pre-order of Kicking Off How Women in Sport are Changing the Game arrives. So excited.

501 women can’t be wrong

500 Senior Women from running clubs all over the South of England ran the South of England Cross Country Championships race with me on Saturday. The winner finished the 7.5km course in 30:34 and the 501st finisher in 1:37:41. Being around so many women who were there to run at whatever their race effort was reminded me how important it is to support the running clubs that started and have developed to support female runners for many decades.

photo © Andy Waterman https://twitter.com/andywaterman

photo © Andy Waterman https://twitter.com/andywaterman

Supporting and encouraging more women to run is a hot topic right now. There are a lot of great organisations working hard to champion equality. There are also a lot of brands creating products, events, and hashtags to support women running too. I want us as women to be critical about what these brands are doing and what their long-term impact on Women’s running actually is.

Adidas recently requested use of Finsbury Park for a 3 week long event to promote their new female-specific shoe. As a member of the local community I saw the proposal in early January and sent an email to the council asking for more information and to submit my opinions on the proposal. Adidas claims their event would encourage more women to run and create a, “safe haven for women to run in the dark, cold winter nights.”

Great idea for the 3 weeks the event is on. Finsbury Park is not the safest place after dark and I have experienced some dangerous incidents myself and heard of a lot more on message boards. What is this event actually doing to improve the safety of local women who use the park outside of this event? This is the concern I have brought to the council and requested they take this issue seriously in this application and in future planning meetings. I would like to see brands who are using the park for their promotion investing in long term improvements. One cool example of this was that the US Olympic Committee paid to refurbish the Mile End athletics track in the run up to the Olympics so their team could use it in preparation for the games. After the games the athletics track was donated back to the community and is now a well-lit safe place for everyone to use.  The whole goal of any PR event is to increase sales and profit. Put some of that profit back in the communities you use.

Haringey council have not replied to me about my feedback.

I saw a quote on twitter recently that said, “If you have time to criticize you have time to work harder.” I’ve give out my fair share of critiques about equality in sports, and this year I’m focusing on working harder towards equality. I’ve committed to obtaining my Coach in Running Fitness so I can continue to put on events with my running club that create, a safe haven for everyone to run in the dark, cold nights… 50 weeks a year (even coaches need Christmas holidays).

I want to make sure that my running club remains a welcoming and supportive place for women and all runners, whether there is a new shoe to sell or not. I have worked with brands before and will again in the future. I don’t think aligning yourself with a brand or a brand’s project is a bad thing but it is important to be critical and keep pushing for more results.

smelly at work

I thought about getting one of my co-workers to write this but safe to say British culture doesn’t allow me to ask a coworker to write a blog about how much I smell at work.

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I run to work, run at lunch, run home from work, do pilates at lunch, go to the gym at lunch, and sometimes walk to the really far restaurant for good burritos at lunch. Safe to say I sweat in the clothing that I wear and is scattered around my desk.

I’ve written about the amount of companies who seem to know this and want to send me nice smelling things to try. And I thank them for that. Scholls recently sent some products over and included in the foot balms & soaks for dry skin on feet was the deodorant spray for shoes.

A month ago in a pre-marathon fit of organisation I cleaned up my desk and put everything nicely into a desk drawer.

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A month later we are back to this.

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I sit in a pretty busy area of the office (right near the teapoint) and can only figure people don’t want sweaty shoe smell with their teas so have been using the Scholls spray on these shoes and ta-da no complaints! Not that any British person would ever tell me if I smelled. Only their quiet glances and tuts would clue me in on that.

The spray is handy to have and does the trick if you are worried about the smell of your trainers under your desk. I probably will not buy it again though as it’s a “nice to have” and not an essential. The foot lotion I used after spectating the Berlin Marathon (tough gig) and that was also really nice but again, not something I absolutely need in my running life.

what I learned about running while on safari

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After Kilimanjaro we went on a 6 day safari in the Serengeti. Driving for 9 hours a day gave our legs a break and we learned a few interesting things about running along the way.

Cheetahs are f*cking lazy

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We were lucky to see loads of Cheetahs during our stay in the park. They are such beautiful creatures, and yes the fastest land animal, but 99% of the time they are doing nothing. Absolutely nothing.  It takes a lot of energy to run that fast, all their muscles are going full-blast and it’s not something they can sustain for a long period of time. So they take breaks. Long breaks. Other than poking their head up to sniff around for predators, they spend their time lying in the grass letting their body recover. They’re not doing yoga or a recovery jog, just lying down doing nothing but surviving. They couldn’t be as fast and deadly as they are without all the rest.

Sound familiar?

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It just drilled home the importance of rest for me. I’ll never be a sub 1 minute/mile speedy cheetah but I do appreciate the importance of real rest. Working all day? Not rest. Watching TV with your legs up? Not rest. 1 hour dynamic yoga class? Not rest! Take some serious time out to do nothing and let your body rest and relax.

Follow the wildebeest crowd and you will be eaten by a crocodile

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One of the best days of our safari was when we drove up to the Northern Serengeti and set up along the bank of the Mara river (looking across to Kenya and the Masi Mara reserve) to watch the famous wildebeest great migration when hundreds of thousands of them try to make the dangerous river crossing.

In each herd there is one leader who decides when they’re going to cross the river. He’s not the smartest or even that good of a communicator. He just decides to make a break for it and everyone follows him. Within seconds they go from grazing on the grass to attempting one of the most dangerous events of their lives.

In the first crossing we saw one wildebeest didn’t make it and was being held in the river by a crocodile. The poor wildebeest struggled to get free and didn’t give up until the very end when he was finally pulled under by the crocodile.

Sound familiar? (I am really stretching the legal metaphor limits here)

This guy didn't make it

This guy didn’t make it

Just because everyone is doing something, or someone is extra loud about their way of going about running, doesn’t mean you have to follow them. Make up your own mind. You *probably* will not get eaten by a crocodile, but why risk injury following what someone else says. Plus you are going to waste a lot of time and energy on them and their ideas. Do your own thing and make up your own mind when it is safe to cross the river!

Always stop at a zebra crossing

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Really. It’s a good life rule and and a classic safari joke.

Eat if you want to get big and strong

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Vultures eat everything. We watched this bunch absolutely decimate a recently killed wildebeest and they were not picky about what part they got. They are some of the biggest birds in the Serengeti and will eat whatever is leftover from the other animals. There are no elimination diets in the Vulture world. (I didn’t see one vulture choosing a cauliflower rice option). A good article came out recently about how Women athletes need to eat more. I agree, too much food information out there, especially aimed at women, is about reducing and removing. Dive in and be a vulture. Eat!

 

 

wine time

I don’t usually drink dozens of glasses of wine on a Tuesday night, but this week I was invited to the Wine & Spirit Education Trust to do an educational wine tasting.

I’ve been to my fair share of wine tours in South Africa, Napa, the Okanangan in British Columbia, Niagara in Ontario, Santorini, and Bordeaux (I like wine holidays OK?) and most are the same. You go, get a quick intro of the wine and a few tasters that go down great.  At WSET they try to make the tasting more educational and even offer qualifications for those who wish to add to their CV.

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We got right down to tasting different wines and learning that almost everything about a wine is subject to the taster. Especially taste. We even tried the same wine at different temperatures and the taste was so different you can see why people get confused about what wine they like. Jim, our instructor, even said that most wines will taste different in pizzerias as they have the wine sitting in the same room as the hot pizza oven.

After a few drinks the photos got a bit blurry.

After a few drinks the photos got a bit blurry

We then moved to how wine pairs with food, which everyone seems to have an opinion with.  Using our semi-scientific test tubes we had a sip of wine, then filled our mouth with some of the “taste” and then tried the wine again. Like temperature what flavour was in our mouth had a huge effect on the taste and texutre of the wine. One of the most interesting things we did was a bitter test where we all chewed on a piece of paper and had to say when we tasted a disgusting taste. About half the room put up their hands immediately and one girl even spat it out the taste was so bad, myself and another guy kept chewing as it only tasted like paper to us.  Apparently we don’t have many bitter tastebuds so aren’t as sensitive to tannins and such in wines. Super interesting stuff.

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We also learned that the British public are basically the only people in the world who drink wine without food. The idea of ordering wine at a pub just to drink, or sitting on the sofa with a glass of wine & Love Island on the tele… doesn’t happen anywhere else. For that reason a lot of wines are made just for the British market to taste good without food.  Wines like a Barolo almost need a salty accompaniment (get those olives & parma ham out!) and thus they don’t sell as well here. Merlot, on the other hand, is very drinkable alone and in Chile they actually make it just to export to Britain. No one drinks it there!

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After a lot of wine (and more breadsticks – this runner was hungry) we called it a night and were given a bottle of wine to take home with some fun WSET wine accessories. It was a very interesting night with a fun group of people spent drinking wine.

I was invited to WSET to experience an evening of wine tasting and asked to write blog post about the event.

see&do

I went to a talk by Chris McDougall at the running store Run and Become last Friday (top tip: get on their mailing list – they have amazing speakers come in for free talks) and as it turned out he didn’t talk at all.  While he has spent a lot of time conditioning his body to more natural movements, seems his throat hasn’t had the same luck and he came down with a bad case of laryngitis.

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The upside to this was that Tara Wood from Wild Fitness did the talk (with some whispering by Chris) and no offence to Chris, but I enjoyed hearing Tara speak a lot as she brought a different perspective to Chris’ stories about natural movement.  I’m not going to review the talk or the book (go buy it if you like good storytelling about our history as runners & movers) but I do want to draw your attention to Julie Angel and her See & Do project.

The thing about natural movement is that we are all built to do it.  Modern fitness has almost nothing to do with our natural movements, and Tara said that, “”Modern fitness makes our body stupid and weird shapes.” The modern fitness trends have also created an artificial separation between men’s fitness and women’s fitness.  While I do think there are some benefits to targeting men & women differently, the current divide is absolutely bonkers.  I asked Tara & Chris if they see natural movement & natural fitness as being the ‘great equalizer’ and both couldn’t agree more. When you go to a climbing wall or watch parkour, women are often equal or stronger than the men.  In ultra distance running, one of the most natural activities we as humans are built to do, women are winning races overall and the performance difference between genders is less and less.

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So, what is stopping women from being strong and naturally fit? Julie Angel thinks it’s because we don’t see any other women doing it. By normalising images of women being active, Julie hopes to encourage more women to get involved and get doing.  It’s such a simple premise there are people who criticise her for not doing enough, but I think it’s perfect.  We live in such a visual world now with social media and images being thrown at us every day, why not do this?

Personally, I look at project’s like WMN RUN 100, and even things done by my friends like Laura’s ironperson, and am lucky to see women not only participating but winning and breaking boundaries. I think see&do is another great addition to my world of inspiration and hope it gets more women do-ing.

I was luck enough to see some amazing Women do on Saturday at the Highgate Harriers Night of 10,000 PB’s.  Getting to watch world class athletics ( the England Athletics 10,000m championship race was incorporated) for free from lane 3 on the track was amazing. The cheering and atmosphere on the back straight put all cheering squads I’ve ever seen to shame. With a pub behind us, a DJ, and a dancing Knight, Flash & Pimp, the atmosphere was so amazing and I can only imagine how great it was for the athletes to run past.

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Watching women run 32 minute 10ks only improved my confidence in my abilities to run fast and perform at my peak. I saw, now I’m going to do.