Just as I’ve become a bit of a part-time Bearcat Club runner, I’ve become a part-time blogger… not because I have no love for either, simply that life is busy and other things get in the way. 

But I need to finish the story that I started at the end of last year with my article in the Bearcat Winter Newsletter, when I embarked on this year’s running challenge – the Paris Marathon in April – and my fourth attempt at going under the 4 hour mark.

The good news for those that don’t fancy reading this all the way through is that I succeeded! I completed the 42.2 kms around the stunning Paris streets in 3 hours 57 minutes and 12 seconds.

For those that do want to read on, I put this success down to four things: 

1/ SMART Goals

2/ Personal Training

3/ Experience

4/ Advice and Support

SMART GOALS

More commonly applied in our work lives, it’s true that success does come from setting Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely goals.

I’ve always followed a training plan while working towards a marathon, but perhaps my goal hasn’t always been realistic, or I haven’t focused enough on a particular part of the programme to get the results I needed. This time around I was much more disciplined in my approach to my plan, and knowing my weaknesses are speed and strength, I signed up to some personal training at my local gym – The Training Works in St Margarets.

PERSONAL TRAINING

I was told I was lucky to have James as my trainer as he’s in such high demand! And he didn’t disappoint. I signed up for a programme to kick-start my training through-out December and into January with the aim of increasing my running speed and efficiency. After an initial session where James assessed my overall condition, the areas we focused on were balance and core strength, my range of motion, and power and strength. Come February, my running training programme picked up pace and my PT programme came to a conclusion so I could focus solely on racking up the mileage.

EXPERIENCE

I’ve run a few races now which all help prepare you for what’s to come and the winter months of tough training. Early mornings in the dark, not to mention running in the cold and sometimes wet weather. And with a few training races lined up – Hampton Court Half, and the Riverside 20 miler – and my focus on increasing my pace, I got stuck into my 18 week programme which culminated with race day on the 3rd April.

It definitely helped to have gone through previous training programmes – to learn what worked well the last time, what didn’t and where I needed the extra advice and support…

ADVICE & SUPPORT

I sat with Caitlin, founder of the Bearcats over lunch at Hei-Hing in Isleworth, and she reviewed my training plan based on much more experience than mine – she told me to be realistic about how many runs to do per week – I was starting a new job in January and she was right to suggest that this would impact on my training. So I cut my runs to four a week, whereas attempts before I would have typically run five or six times a week. She stressed it was about quality not quantity and to really concentrate on my speed work – with different types of interval training and hill training, if I was to dramatically improve my speed.

FOUR IS THE LUCKY NUMBER

Race day arrived and a gang of us from TRO (where I used to work) were running in memory of the late Tom Gentle – a friend and colleague who was taken from us tragically this time last year. The sun was shining and Paris looked spectacular. I was feeling confident knowing that I had prepared well and had taken on board all the great advice I’d received. I was focused on the job in hand.

Everything seemed to go to plan. I felt strong throughout. I didn’t hit the wall. There was fabulous support out on the course and importantly, I enjoyed it! And 3 hours 57 minutes later I crossed the line knowing that everything had come together as planned/hoped.

Sometimes it can take a number of attempts to succeed in what we want to achieve – and when we finally do, it’s all the sweeter for it. In my case, it was fourth time lucky.

Thank you to the support crew of Nicky and the rest of the TRO crew who were there to support on the course and there to celebrate at the end. And to Tom Gentle – a great man who will never be forgotten.

Thanks to Caitlin and the Bearcat gang who are so incredibly supportive despite me being an infrequent member of the club, James of The Training Works gym in St Margarets and the Paris Marathon organisation for putting on a fantastic race. I’ll definitely be back to pound those Parisienne pavements again…

Sarah Mayo at Paris Marathon 2016
Sarah Mayo at Paris Marathon 2016

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Bearcat Summer Newsletter - A Tale of Two Cities by Sarah Mayo

Download and read the full Newsletter here: Newsletter Summer 2015 09 edition Final.

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3 down, 13 to go!

According to my Nike Plus Coach Programme, last week was about “Laying the Groundwork” for the remainder of my Paris Marathon training by increasing distance and taking on the longest run of my training so far.

Paris Marathon Training Week 3

The highlights of my week’s running was my tempo run with the BeaRCat Runners on Wednesday… and my long run on Saturday. Both were tough. But both were great for that very reason. Unless I feel as though I’ve gone through some kind of pain barrier, I don’t feel I’m making progress with my running – supporting that “no pain, no gain” theory!

The tempo run involved 5 x 300m at 85% effort (or Park Run pace) along the river between Richmond Bridge and the rowing boathouses, parallel with Petersham Road and past Gaucho and The Bingham, with recovery runs in between. These kind of runs can’t be done as successfully alone – so thank you to the BeaRCats for pushing me through it.

Richmond Bridge

My long run of 12 miles took in the 7.5 miles perimeter of Richmond Park with a few miles either side to get there and back. The weather on Saturday morning was not ideal with blustery winds and torrential rain at the half-way point, but again, that adds to the feeling of satisfaction when you get home and jump in the bath (hot one for me… I haven’t quite reached ice bath status).

Running with the deer in Richmond Park

Richmond Park is always a beautiful place to run around with lots of wonderful views and wildlife to take in – and none more so than last Saturday – when a herd of deer decided to make a mad dash for it across my path. It was a magical moment, which I was happy to capture on camera.

My 200th run completed

The other highlight of my week was hitting my 200th run in a year – and with it completing a total of 1336 miles – I wonder if I can beat that this year?!

Happy running!

x

If you’re familiar with marketing, you’ll recognise the 4 Ps as the Marketing Mix of product, price, place and promotion.

Just as a marketer would plan the perfect launch of a shiny new product, I’ve applied this thinking to my campaign to successfully realise a Personal Best (PB) at the Paris Marathon on Sunday 12 April 2015.

Paris Marathon

  • Product – in this case, I’m trying to develop/realise the perfectly formed PB. How do I turn my running into a sub 4 hour reality?
  • Price – how much is this going to cost me, both physically and mentally (not to mention financially), and how do I find the optimum combination of the two so I don’t burn out too early, by getting injured or all-consumed, to the detriment of day-to-day life?
  • Place – on the big day the PB will be attempted/realised in Paris, but the training will take place around London over the next 16 weeks, with a few ski resorts thrown in too!
  • Promotion – and we all know that you’re more likely to achieve a goal if you visualise it, and commit it to writing – better still publicly – through a plan, which is where this blog comes in…

I’ve been reading many different programmes, taking advice from some seasoned runners and fellow BeaRCats, as well as reflecting on my own previous experiences of running the London Marathon twice… And the overriding consensus is that there’s no one-size fits all plan. As Dominic from Sporting Feet, Richmond said “It’s about intelligent running” and Caitlin, founder of The BeaRCat Running Club added “Think quality if you are looking for a time…

We all lead busy lives, and therefore need to be flexible in our approach to training for a big challenge such as this, otherwise we are only setting ourselves up for failure. It does however need to start with a plan, and yes expect to deviate from the plan, but you still need to have a starting point from which to focus and somewhere to return to, when you do go off-piste.

My programme begins tomorrow – Christmas week – a prime example of having to juggle busy lives with running…

My plan is a combination of a Hal Higdon programme, Nike Plus coach, and various other contributors, including Caitlin of the BeaRCats. If you’re interested in reading it, you can view it here: Paris Training Programme.

You can also follow my progress to Paris right here with my weekly review, tips and tricks. And of course, if you’ve got any words of wisdom, I’d love to hear from you.

Happy Christmas and happy running!

x

Over the last few weeks, there’s been a lot of talk about marathons… Running bore alert!

It all started a couple of Sundays ago, when I went to watch the London Marathon with fellow BeaRCat runners. London was looking resplendent in the sunshine and the iconic landmarks of Big Ben and the Embankment provided a stunning backdrop to this incredible event. It was such an inspirational day and brought back memories of my two London Marathons in 2000 and 2010. The experience planted a seed and got me thinking about my 2015 running challenges…

London marathon

On the day after I had a whirlwind business trip to Paris. This is one of my favourite cities having spent 6 months working here when I was 18. In April 2012 I also took part in the Eco Trail de Paris, a 30km race around the trails of the Paris suburbs, ending up at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. All the memories came flooding back as we enjoyed a tour of the Seine, and the Champs Elysees on the back of a moto taxi! The sun was shining and the city was looking spectacular. So, it was perhaps not surprising that when I got back, and with the 2015 Paris Marathon ballot open for entries, I decided to try my luck by entering…

Eiffel Tower

And then last weekend, I enjoyed three glorious days in Edinburgh, the city where I grew up. The sun was once again shining and the city was looking stunning. I went on my favourite run up Arthur’s Seat, a bit of a tradition whenever I’m up and enjoyed the reward of the breathtaking views overlooking Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth. I was chatting to my parents about marathons and was reminded that they were the ones that inspired my interest in running when they both took part in the Edinburgh Marathon during their 40th birthday years, achieving amazing times of 3.26 and 4.08, respectively. This got me thinking, why have I never considered running Edinburgh, my home race? So I decided that should I not get through the Paris ballot, I’d sign up to the 2015 Edinburgh Marathon instead!

Edinburgh Castle from Arthur's Seat

I was of course tempted to enter the ballot for London when it opened this Tuesday but decided that I’d leave that re-run until 2020, making it a 10-yearly thing! Anyway, my 2015 running goals were decided for me this Wednesday, when I received a congratulations email to say that I have been accepted into the Paris Marathon on the 12 April 2015.

Et bah dis donc, I guess that’s my 2015 running challenge sorted then. Edinburgh will have to wait until another year. The countdown is on. 341 days to go!

A bientot!

G x

I’ve just booked flights to Edinburgh for my cousin’s wedding & it made me think about some of the city breaks I’ve taken recently… So today’s #ThursdayFriday features 5 of my fave city breaks. Maybe this will inspire your plans for the upcoming bank holiday weekends?

  1. Paris – Had fabulous w/e here in March. Stayed in 15th arrondissement near Place Cambronne. Visit the beautiful @MaisonLaduree.
  2. Barcelona – Wonderful city for culture, shopping, eating & drinking. Eat at Torre d’Alta Mar – Incredible views.
  3. Valencia – One of the best weekends EVER watching F1 & partying at @AmberLoungeLtd. Beautiful views at @GrupoElAlto’s Mar de Bamboo.
  4. Istanbul – Spent Easter here last year. Spectacular city on beautiful Bosphorous. Visit Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque & Grand Bazaar.
  5. Edinburgh – Love a cocktail at @HN_Edinburgh’s 4th floor after hard day’s shopping. Eat at The Witchery.

5 beautiful cities, each with their own unique charm but which will gain the #GTopSpot in Ginger’s Guide to Top City Breaks?

Valencia is today’s #ThursdayFriday #GTopSpot winner for an amazing weekend of catamarans, paella, dancing & F1 – all with fab friends. G x

Thinking ahead to Saturday’s 30km in Paris with @FitchickTori my ultra-running pal has agreed to share some tips on how best to prepare.

I’m excited to welcome @FitchickTori as our guest columnist for today’s #WellbeingWednesday. 5 race tips to follow…

  1. Sleep well in the days prior, stress little, hydrate lots (not wine) and eat healthy, nutritious, wholesome foods.
  2. Try to visualise the entire race; how you will feel, the sights, smells, the terrain, the hot French boys around you…
  3. Lay everything out the night before – clothes, bib, pack & make sure you’ll look good just in case a cameraman takes a pic!
  4. Think about how running that far makes you 100% entitled to feast at aid stations – cheese, baguettes, chocolates & more.
  5. Be motivated by the end result – finish line, hot shower, French wine, massage and shopping galore!

Thanks @FitchickTori for your inspiring words! For more tips and tricks, motivation and much, much more, check out http://t.co/Q2a2KYiZ. G x