Richmond and Running – Two things that I love…
And these two things came together on Sunday in the form of the Richmond Half Marathon, culminating in me achieving my first goal of 2014 – that elusive Personal Best (PB)!
Sunday’s half marathon was my second half of 2014, with the first being the inaugural Hampton Court Half Marathon on Sunday 23rd February. Sadly the Hampton Court half had a marshalling error which resulted in the course being 0.4 miles shorter than the requisite 13.1 miles, so my official race finishing time of 1:50:34, while a PB by a long shot, was not an official PB in terms of the distance… 😦
So, come Sunday, the pressure was on to post an official PB. And, it feels great that all my training (and hibernating) since January has finally paid off with a time of 1:52:21!
It is only right as a runner first, and a blogger second to summarise my key take-outs from yesterday’s run… which now holds a very special place in my heart for the following five reasons:
- As a BeaRCat Runner – I joined the BeaRCats at the end of last year, and as I’ve mentioned before, they are a really lovely community of like-minded individuals, who all happen to enjoy running. I’ve run for years but have never pushed myself, and in the short space of time that I’ve been running with the BeaRCats, I’ve seen my pace improve week on week, month on month. It might be an individual sport, but running with the BeaRCats is running as part of a team. This is typified by the fact that the mile 11 water station was manned by Caitlin and fellow BCs (such a welcome sight!) and the first person I saw immediately at the end of both the Hampton Court half and the Richmond half was John Reece (a fellow blogger) cheering us all in!
- As a TRObot – I not only ran as part of the BeaRCat team yesterday, but I was also proud to be one of the TRObots, a team of 7 TROers. We work locally, in Old Isleworth, looking out over the tow-path that we ran along yesterday, and as a team we ran for local charity SPEAR – a charity helping homeless people in South West London rebuild their lives. The team all did amazingly well, from posting a top-20 finish dressed as a banana, to achieving PBs. And Nicky who was sadly unable to run, due to injury, was an absolute TROjan on the water station at mile 11. What’s next for the TRObots?
- As a Local – I’ve lived in the area (St Margarets) for a little over 3 years now, and before that was on the other side of Richmond, in East Sheen for 5 years. Richmond is such a special place and I feel so lucky to live here. With its parks, the river running through, its history, and its town centre, it’s the most beautiful of London boroughs. The run (thankfully) took in the flattest part of Richmond, mostly along the Thames tow-path. It was difficult terrain however, and congested at times along the path, but a beautiful route nonetheless.
- As a Goal-Setter – I’ve been following a 9 week training plan on my Nike+ app since January, and while I haven’t religiously stuck to it, I’ve been pretty dedicated. This app has 100% helped me achieve my PB this year – I thoroughly recommend it. The only downside is it’s hard to keep track of your speed when it’s tucked in your pocket and it’s noisy (traffic).
- As a Runner – I’ve now run 6 half marathons – from the West Coast of Scotland (MOKRUN) to the South of England (Brighton) and I’m developing quite a taste for this distance. All have been very different, but all of them hold special memories for me. My first was the Great North Run in 1999, and my previous PB was recorded at Silverstone in 2010. But given my love of Richmond, my new running pals in the form of the BeaRCats and TRObots, and my new PB, the Richmond half now has my heart!
A friend of mine is heading off to Dubai this weekend for some winter sun, inspiring me to write a review of my travels there… I’ve been 3 times over the last 5 years to visit a couple of friends who are working over there.
Dubai is certainly not for everyone. It’s man-made. It’s materialistic. And it’s a place of contradictions. But if like me, you enjoy eating, drinking, sunbathing and shopping, then you’ll love it here too!
Last December I stayed with friends, but I’ve previously stayed at the Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach, a 5-star hotel in the Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) at the heart of Dubai Marina.
Read on for some of my recommendations of what to do and where to go…
- Eating – If you’re visiting on a Friday then definitely visit the new Foodie Friday Market in Safa Park (enter by Gate 5), open between 9am and 2pm. With a host of stalls offering freshly prepared and cooked organic foods and drinks, this is a lovely place to spend the morning. A great lunch (or breakfast) spot is The Lime Tree Cafe & Kitchen, serving up delicious, nutritious food to either take-away or enjoy in situ. You are spoilt for choice for restaurants in Dubai. One of my favourites – for the food and view combo – is Abdel Wahab – an amazing Lebanese overlooking the fountains of downtown Dubai. Top tip – only go if you can book a table on the terrace, with a view of the fountains and the Burj Khalifa in the background. Every 15-30 minutes there’s a stunning water display, choreographed to magical music. Madinat Jumeirah is also a must-visit with loads of excellent places to eat and drink…
- Drinking – There’s a plethora of great bars to choose from, but one of my favourites, again for the view, is Bar 360, Jumeirah Beach Hotel. This is a gorgeous spot to have a sundowner, overlooking the Burj Al Arab, listening to some cool tunes from the resident DJ. Top tips – hop on a golf buggy from the hotel, the walk is further than you think! Also, if you’ve got long hair, tie it back, it is very exposed and windy! Another popular spot is the Barasti, Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, a great beachside bar, with a nice atmosphere. And if you can wangle an invite through a member, the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club is an even more relaxed spot to enjoy a drink, in the company of the more established Dubai expat community. Remember and respect the muslim culture, drink sensibly and only in licensed venues!
- Sunbathing – Some of the nicer beaches while beautifully groomed, can be expensive (the Jumeirah Beach Hotel), but there are some other good options to choose from. The RIVA Beach Resort (around 100-150 Dhs a day for a sun-lounger) is one of Dubai’s first standalone beach clubs, with its Café del Mar-style vibe. Top tip – while the beach and sea here are nice, the food is expensive and not great, so take your own! The Dubai Ladies Club (about 80 Dhs a day) is another cheaper and quieter option. There are also some good free beaches along JBR – The Walk – which is great for people watching if you don’t mind going without a sun-lounger. Otherwise stick with the hotel pool, the infinity pool at the Sofitel is stunning and was a firm favourite of mine for soaking up the winter rays!
- Shopping – Safa’s Foodie Friday Market has lots of stalls with local artisans and their wares. But you can’t go to Dubai shopping without visiting the malls, not least to enjoy the lovely air conditioning if the heat’s getting too much for you! The shopping while tax-free is expensive, so things probably work out the same as here in the UK. The most famous is the Mall of Emirates with its marble floors and designer stores. In contrast to the glitzy, glamorous malls, there are the souqs. And there’s one in particular to head to if you’re in the market for leather bags. It’s the market in Karama – Dolce and Karama as my friend calls it 😉 Jump in a taxi and head for the fruit market in Karama… If you can find it, Walencia is one of the best shops with a wide selection of bags.
- Exercising – Dubai seems to attract fit people and has loads of sporting activities to choose from – be it dragon boating, yoga on the beach or sailing. You can get some great advice on running, yoga and the latest fitness classes from this blog written by Tori (pictured above). If yoga’s your thing, then definitely check out this interview with Noura of Yogalates Bliss in Dubai. If you want to run, there’s a good little running track around Safa Park which benefits from the shade of the trees in the park. And, I’ve also previously been put through my paces at a military bootcamp with Ignite on the beach.
All this talk of Dubai is making me quite jealous of my friend who is heading there this Friday! Hopefully this short review gives her some ideas of what to do and where to go…
I work in event marketing for an agency that describes itself as “The experience agency”. We specialise in bringing brands to life through one-to-one experiences that are authentic, memorable and ultimately create brand advocacy.
I’ve recently returned from skiing in Verbier, Switzerland where my brother runs a luxury ski chalet business – Bramble Ski and its even more luxurious sister company Haute Montagne. They are also in the business of “experience” describing their service and raison d’être as “redefining the luxury chalet experience”.
But what does experience really mean? Surely one person’s idea of an experience is different to another’s…
Haute Montagne (HM) was recently featured in a Sunday Times article, entitled “Ice and easy: the £700,000 skiing holiday”, as the most expensive skiing holiday sold last year… Imagine clothes wrapped in gold tissue paper, gourmet food, arrival by private jet, a private sommelier and the promise of a secluded spot away from the skiing masses. These are just some of the things the HM experience promises. With art galleries, cinemas, pools, spas and a remote idyllic setting, these chalets have been described as super yachts in the snow. It’s difficult to imagine this kind of money and extravagance!
While staying (not in one of the luxurious chalets I might add!) with my brother (Colin), I thought I’d take the opportunity to ask him and one of his fellow co-owners (Natasha), how they define “experience” in their business, as well as in other areas of life:
1. What’s your most memorable experience in life so far?
Colin: “A 3 month ski trip to Las Lenas, Argentina, not just for the skiing adventure but for the best red meat and red wine in the world.”
Natasha: “In terms of travel or holidays, a round the world trip with my husband was pretty memorable! We went to surf spots everywhere but the best was probably Arugam Bay in Sri Lanka. A Danish couple had spent thirty years building a beautiful little oasis of calm, beach huts built amongst gardens right on the beach. The central building was completely open on three sides and was such a wonderfully relaxing spot after years of London life. The best thing was how they looked after their staff, all from local families. During the civil war when no tourists came they simply bought some fishing boats and kept everyone employed as fishermen!”
2. What experiences are on your bucket list?
Colin: “Nothing so defined, but I have always thought it would be fun to combine sea kayaking with ski touring, while roughing it in a tent every night.”
Natasha: “I don’t do bucket lists, I’m not generally into lists or collections and I tend to take life as it comes. I guess I would like to take the kids to Africa and would love to see the Himalayas.”
3. What is it you think that sets the Bramble Ski and Haute Montagne experience apart from other luxury ski holidays?
Colin: “Our ability to be able to adapt to each client. Flexibility is key. Our chefs design their menus each week to suit the different guests, the hosts adapt their service style to the guests preference and our ski instructor-concierges and chalet managers respond to any requests thrown their way.”
Natasha: “The staff, without question! We have the most amazing team of people and that’s what makes the experience so great. Our staff are naturally service orientated people, you need empathy in order to anticipate what a client will need. You need a winning smile and you have to be prepared to roll your sleeves up and work hard to get the job done.”
4. What’s the simplest and most extravagant detail that your clients can expect while staying with Bramble Ski and Haute Montagne?
Colin: “From a phone call an hour before arrival, assuring the guests that we are ready for them (a simple Bramble detail)… to lobster and caviar served in the private spa area with Cristal Champagne (an extravagant Haute Montagne detail).”
Natasha: “The most extravagant details like having your bags packed for you with golden tissue paper are actually the simplest things to do, you just need to be trained. Once you are trained these things don’t actually cost more money. It just takes a perfectionist to do it so well that when you open your luggage back home it is like Christmas, it is the biggest treat you can imagine.”
5. What other companies and experiences do you take inspiration from or admire?
Colin: “We mostly learn from our staff who have worked in Michelin starred restaurants and 5* hotels, but we certainly look at what The Virgin Lodge and the new W Hotel in Verbier are doing.“
Natasha: “I take huge inspiration from music and art. I love that it is possible to create something pristine and perfect, if that is a 3 minute song or a watercolour portrait. I love simple things that can give you pleasure. The experience of hearing live music performed for example, it can totally alter your mood. It is the result of hours and hours of practice, sometimes a lifetime of dedication, to create something seemingly effortless and totally beautiful!”
Thanks to Colin and Natasha for sparing some time to share their thoughts on what makes a great experience… They and their co-owners are now in their 9th season with Bramble Ski, with many regular and celebrity clients, so they’re clearly doing something very right…
I’ll just have to get used to the thought of never experiencing this kind of super yacht decadence, beyond my dreams… even with my brother at the helm!
Running has taken over my 2014 so far.
Friday nights come and I find myself looking at my watch at 11pm, thinking I should be home, tucked up in bed, ahead of clocking up the mileage on Saturday mornings. Sunday morning’s early run club means Saturday nights are equally tainted. Monday mornings arrive and when asked how my weekend was, I hear myself wittering on about my “training”… It’s official. I’m a running bore!
But as much as I might be boring others with my training (I’m so sorry) – I am absolutely LOVING it!
I have just started week 4 of a 9 week training plan for the Richmond Half Marathon that takes place on Sunday 23 March. With 6 weeks to go until the big day, and less than 2 to my first half marathon of 2014 (the Hampton Court Half on 23 February), I thought I’d take this opportunity to share 5 reasons why I’m loving my running so much this year – and maybe this will inspire you with your running or other fitness goals.
- Goal setting – at the beginning of 2014, I set myself a number of running challenges, including getting an elusive personal best (PB) time in a half marathon. I’m sure you’ve heard it many times before, but by committing in writing or verbally to friends, this is a sure-fire way to ensure you’re more likely to stick to a goal. It’s then far easier to set yourself a clear plan of how you are going to achieve that goal – for example, downloading a 12 week training programme.
- Running club – another of my New Year’s Resolutions was to join a running club. Just before Christmas, I joined the lovely BeaRCat Running Club, based out of the Turks Head pub in St Margarets. This run club was founded in early 2012 by Caitlin Limmer, an incredibly passionate and motivational leader. Caitlin works tirelessly to ensure the club is welcoming and unintimidating, and this ethos trickles throughout this lovely community. The club meet every Sunday morning at 8.30am and it requires all powers of motivation to drag myself out of bed at such an hour, but it’s more than worth it!
- Running app – I used to train with a Garmin until it broke about a year ago. Since then I have plodded on with my running without any real idea how fast or how far I was going. This was fine when I didn’t really have any goals, but now that speed is the number one thing I’m trying to improve, it’s essential to measure my progress. I’m absolutely obsessed with my Nike + Running app! The coach feature is my training programme, which I’ve been following religiously so far, and fingers crossed it’s going to get me over that finish line in the time I’m aiming for.
- Running buddy – running with others is massively motivating. Just as I love running with the BeaRCat Runners on Sunday mornings, I have found another new running buddy in the form of Nicky from work. I can safely say that I would not be pounding those pavements after work, in the cold, wet, windy, dark evenings, if it wasn’t for Nicky. It really has helped both of us with our training so far and we’ve shared some great runs, in and around the beautiful Richmond area.
- New gear – all the gear and no idea! There is a lot to be said for investing in some new kit. You will run better if you feel confident and comfortable in your running outfit. New trainers are so important – they should be changed every 300-500 miles – so don’t underestimate how vital it is to have a good pair of trainers with the right support for your running style. Sporting Feet in Richmond provide an excellent fitting service – and BeaRCat Runners benefit from a 10% discount!
There you have it… I truly hope these 5 thoughts inspire you rather than bore you 🙂
Good luck with your running and other training goals.
Happy New Year to you all!
I’ve never really been one for New Year’s Resolutions but last year started a tradition of setting myself some goals for 2013, and committing them to writing. It works! While I didn’t achieve all of them (4 out of 5 is not bad?!), it definitely helped to write them down and visualise them…
2013 has been a fabulous year, with wonderful friends, old and new, and family – I have many highlights – in particular, April – I had an amazing trip to Lyon, where I took part in the Beaujolais Village trail with Tori (of Fit Chicks and Fast Women), and then embarked on a freelance career. While this didn’t last very long (all of 3 months!), I then went permanent in my new role at TRO, an events marketing agency. I’ve also enjoyed some other wonderful trips in 2013 – I’ve been to Switzerland skiing, and in the summer, to celebrate my brother’s 40th and my father’s 70th, went to Dubai for some winter sun, and had an awesome break in Moscow for the World Athletics Championships. There have been inevitable lows in 2013, and what I’ve learned most, is how to embrace any set-backs and how to bounce back with a renewed energy and passion for life!
So, it’s now time to focus on the future, and 2014 hopes and dreams…
- Achieve a PB in a half marathon (this has rolled over from last year!) – I have two opportunities to achieve this with the Hampton Court Half Marathon in February and the Richmond Half Marathon in March. But even if (or when :-)) I achieve it (sub 1hr54), I guess a PB will always remain out there!
- Take part in a running challenge every couple of months – or at least 6 over the course of the year. As well as the two half marathons above, I’ve signed up to the Verbier-St Bernard 18 miles trail run in July, the Turks Head 10km in June and planning to take part in the Cabbage Patch 10 miler in October. I’m still looking for another race somewhere, with Fit Chick Tori maybe?
- Start something new – last year I took up Bikram Yoga to complement my running. I’m absolutely going to continue this and I’ve also just joined a local running club – The BeaRCat Runners – to help me with goals #1 and #2.
- Visit a new country – last year I visited Russia for the first time. My 2013 shortlist included India, Indonesia and Lithuania which are still there to be explored, and I’m now adding China to the list of countries I’d like to visit.
- Start a new business venture – in 2013, Luci and I hoped to launch Mr and Mystery, a singles’ event, and while we had a lot of interest, various challenges meant this didn’t go ahead. I am still passionate about getting this off the ground, so adding this (or another business venture??) to my 2014 goals.
There we have it. 2014 promises to be an awesome year – with new challenges and new experiences out there to be grasped!
Whether you want to get fit, find a new job, or learn something new, why don’t you have a go at setting yourself some objectives (and it really does help to write them down) for a New Year, New You?
I wish you all an amazing 2014 and good luck with your goal setting!
I’m not the greatest fan of turkey, although I do love all the trimmings… so this year I decided to cook Beef Wellington on Christmas Day.
Having not cooked Beef Wellington in about 5 years (the last time I hosted Christmas), I was a bit nervous… but I’m proud to say that it looked great, and tasted good too! Thanks to Simon Rimmer and Sunday Brunch for the recipe and the inspiration. And, Whole Foods in Richmond for a superb fillet of beef, as well as the yummy cheese and other Christmas essentials.
Over the Christmas period I’ve also enjoyed a number of other non-traditional Christmas meals out with friends and family to celebrate:
- Sticks ‘n’ Sushi, Wimbledon – My favourite Sushi in London, this Danish import has been in Wimbledon for a couple of years now and has recently opened up in Covent Garden. The sushi is so beautifully presented, fresh and delicious, and the staff are knowledgeable and friendly. I prefer the set menu, with a selection of nigiri, rolls and sticks to choose from.
- Cantina Laredo, Covent Garden – This is the first time I’ve been to this popular Mexican in the heart of the West End. They have a great cocktail menu (the Oaxaca was yummy) and the Pollo Cascabel Taqueria were full of flavour, with that inevitable Mexican kick!
- Jackson + Rye, Soho – This New York-style Cocktail Bar and Diner opened only a few weeks ago in early December, so I was keen to sample the new arrival. With a moody atmosphere, a superb cocktail list and a delicious choice of grills, this is well worth a visit. I chose the lobster (well it is Christmas!) and the Floradora from the cocktail menu.
- Brocca Antica, St Margarets – One of my favourite local restaurants, I reckon this Italian is the best Italian outside of Italy! It’s a cosy, rustic environment with very friendly staff and a menu to entice you back, time and time again. Even so, more often than not, I end up opting for the tasty Tagliolini with crab, butternut squash, chilli and garlic.
- Mr Kong, Chinatown – On Boxing Day Chinatown was buzzing, not least because most of the other restaurants in Soho were closed. This is one of the longest-running Chinese restaurants in the area and serves up delicious, great value food. We enjoyed crispy aromatic duck, an aubergine pot dish, pak choi and Cantonese-style steak. This was the perfect pre-theatre choice and recommendation from my brother-in-law (who has recently started trading with Yu Kyu, Japanese Street Food – also worth sampling!).
All this eating needs to be worked off though, so it’s off to hot yoga for me this afternoon, and run club tomorrow morning! My fridge is still full of left-overs to work my way too. Thankfully, no cold turkey for me though!
Christmas is a time to reflect. Whether you’re religious or not, it’s the perfect time to reflect. On the year that’s past, the year to come, the good times, and those more troubled times. But also on those less fortunate…
2013 has flown by. It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions. It’s been a year of experiences, adventures and challenges. I’ve learned so much, laughed a lot and cried a little too.
Take the time to reflect this Christmas, think about what you achieved in 2013, and what you want to achieve in 2014. We’re so lucky for the opportunities we have, the opportunity to learn, to improve ourselves and the lives of others.
Over the next few days, in between cooking, eating, drinking and general merriment, I’ll be thinking about my 2013, and my goals for 2014. And as per last year, I will be putting pen to paper with my New Year Resolutions…
Wishing you and yours a very merry Christmas! See you on the other side.
Every Sunday evening I take part in a Bikram Yoga class – I find it the perfect way to seal off a weekend, and a great way to set me up for the week ahead…
It’s been nearly a year since I’ve been practicing Bikram at Richmond’s studio (it was one of my New Year’s Resolutions) and at the moment I am in love with Bikram, but it is fair to say, that this is very much a love-hate relationship. It is a tough class, with amazing benefits, not only for the body, but also importantly, for the mind and soul. You can read all about the benefits of Bikram here.
One of the great things about this practice is that it suits all levels – with everyone taking it at their own pace – and each time I go, there are new people giving it a go (as part of an introductory 3 classes for £10). If you’re thinking about starting Bikram Yoga, you should do a bit of research beforehand as it is not like other yoga or exercise classes, and there are a few things that you should be prepared for.
Here are 5 tips that I wish I had been more aware of when I first began practicing earlier this year:
- Hydrating – 90 minutes in a heated studio (over 100 degrees plus) means you do need to hydrate well throughout the day before the class. You are not advised to drink during class, and if you do (in the standing series certainly), you will get told off! Too much water swilling around in your stomach will make you feel nauseous. And make sure you continue to rehydrate after class.
- Sweating – The high temperature means you do sweat. A lot. Embrace the sweating. Don’t try to wipe the sweat away (again, you will get told off!). The sweat is helping to cool your body down, so if you wipe it, you will upset the body’s natural temperature control. Wear suitable clothing (not cotton) that is breathable. In fact, you’re advised to wear as little as possible and don’t worry, everyone is very open-minded – no one judges anyone on the way you look.
- Breathing – The heat will make you feel uncomfortable and will take a while to get used to. The best advice is to master your breathing, as this will stop you from panicking. Unlike other sport where you might breathe in and out through your mouth, in Bikram, you should keep your mouth closed and should breathe through your nose only. This will help ensure you don’t panic and bolt out of the class.
- Posturing – There are 26 postures in Bikram and 2 breathing exercises (at the beginning and at the end). Know that each class will be different and you’ll find some postures easier in one class, than in another. If you find that you’re dizzy (quite common), there is no shame in sitting down. No one judges anyone else and all the teachers ask is that you are honest with your practice and you do as much as you can do on the day.
- Committing – Do ensure that you stay in the room for the full 90 minutes – even if you are lying still on your back in Savasana (considered one of the most important of the poses). It is better to stay in the room than to bolt out of the class if you are struggling, feeling dizzy or nauseous. And make sure you commit to the second and third class (of your introductory 3 for £10 offer) as you will find it gets easier once you get used to the heat and you’ll really see the benefits if you start committing to at least two classes a week.
Good luck and enjoy – Bikram really is an excellent all over practice for the mind, body and soul.
Have a great week!
I’ve blogged before about #MysteryNight, which my friend Luci and I take it in turns to organise, every month. The ‘activity’ remains a mystery until the day when we send each other 3 clues on Twitter.
I’ve just booked November’s Mystery Night for next weekend and thought I’d quickly cover off the last 5 Mystery Nights we’ve been on…
- June – Luci booked us tickets for the Best of The Comedy Store at the Udderbelly Festival on the Southbank. You can never go wrong with The Comedy Store, nor the big upside down purple cow!
- July – I organised for us to go up The Shard and afterwards for drinks at House of Peroni. The view is incredible at almost twice the height of any other viewing platform in London. We then enjoyed Peroni cocktails at 41 Portland Place. The House is back open until the end of November.
- August – Luci arranged for us to go the races at Sandown Park. I can’t actually believe it but I’ve never been to the races before! We had a flutter, enjoyed the horse racing with Pimm’s in the sun and then went for drinks and something to eat at Layla in Esher.
- September – I then took us back to the Southbank Centre for a sensational night of singing, cabaret, dancing, comedy and burlesque with Miss Tempest Rose and the House of Burlesque.
- October – And last month Luci raised the stakes by organising for us to climb over the O2. An incredible experience for those wanting to do something a bit different in London.
Hopefully this gives you some fun ideas of different things to do in and around London and if you need any more inspiration, then read about our first 5 Mystery Night activities of the year here.
Looking forward to this Saturday’s #MysteryNight, but can Luci guess where we’re going?