Today, the 7th of April, is exactly three months until my next big running challenge and my toughest marathon to date. The new Trail Verbier St Bernard  marathon race takes place on Saturday 7th July between Liddes and Verbier, high in the Swiss Alps.

With four ascents (the largest two of which are at the beginning and the end) and four descents, this marathon climbs 3,570m over the course of the 43.21km route.

Back in 2014, I took part in the baby race of this series, a 2,500m ascent over 30km. Even the baby was a challenging experience (read all about the “Trails and Tribulations” here!), with the obvious key take-out being the need to build more endurance in the legs to tackle those mountains.

I’m quite used to building up the mileage to tackle a distance race around London but how do you train for such a series of climbs in a relatively flat area?

Over the last two years I have found balancing my running with HIIT workouts to be a great way to not only improve my speed but also my strength and endurance – seemingly the perfect complement to an outdoor running programme – and hopefully the answer to this quandary (coupled with as much hill training as I can pack in around Richmond and the surrounding areas).

With 13 weeks to go, I’m now a couple of months into my training programme. But as regulars to running will I’m sure sympathise, getting hill ready is currently the least of my worries, as I’ve recently sustained an injury to my ankle! I started physio this week and the problem is actually with my hips and glutes which are not strong enough (particularly on my right side), so my lower leg and ankle are having to compensate. I’m now tasked with a number of exercises which coupled with regular foam-rollering should hopefully see me able to build up the mileage more significantly over the coming weeks.

While I work through my physio exercises to improve my hip strength and technique, I’ll continue to complement my running with a couple of HIIT workouts a week focused on building more endurance in my quads, glutes and arms, to hopefully help propel me up those mountains come July!

There are a few morals to this story but the main one for me is accepting that nothing ever goes quite to plan when training for a marathon – in fact – when aiming for any goal in life… What’s important is how you respond to inevitable challenges along the way. Keep the faith that every mountain top is within reach if you just keep on climbing.

Wishing all those taking part in the Paris Marathon (a favourite) and other Spring marathons this weekend, all the very best! Enjoy, and relish every mountainous moment.

On International Day of Happiness (and the first official day of Spring), I’m excited to share some news about a project that I’ve been formulating behind the scenes with a couple of legends (and future business partners). While we’re not quite ready to launch, it seems appropriate – as it’s a day to encourage and celebrate happiness – to provide a sneak peak into our concept…

POINT3 is a new approach to mind and body fitness with the aim of inspiring people to move more mindfully and be their very best – in mind, body and soul. You can find out a little more about our vision and follow our journey on Instagram at point3wellbeing.com.

In a couple of months I’ll say farewell to a fulfilling career in marketing to pursue this passion for fitness and wellbeing. Nicky, Sion and I (pictured above on our first ever shared run/happy experience three years ago) are all passionate about the benefits that fitness, mindfulness, nutrition and community have on both mental and physical wellbeing, and are keen to use our events experience of “bringing people together” to create a new way of life that has a positive effect on the management and prevention of stress.

Follow our journey from start-up to push-up, and we look forward to sharing more details over the coming months.

Be well, be happy, be you x

A week has now passed since the Paris Marathon, and I’ve spent the last 7 days reflecting on the experience and what I (and 40,171 other people) have achieved.

Paris is one of my favourite cities having lived there about 20 years ago – so I was looking forward to a weekend in this special city. Of course it was no ordinary weekend – it included a 26.2 mile (or 42.19km) run taking in some of the world’s most iconic sights. And the weather was stunning too – albeit a bit hot for such a run.

After the lower back injury that I sustained 3 weeks before, I had been “signed off” by Jess, my osteopath and fellow BeaRCat runner, who said I was ready to go and attempt my goal of a sub 4 hour marathon. I was excited and nervous, but thankful that the week before was busy with work and various other things, giving me little time to worry or think about the impending challenge.

Nicky at Paris Expo

Nicky and I flew across on the Saturday morning and headed straight to the runners’ expo where we picked up our bibs, took in the pre-race atmosphere and had a typical French brasserie lunch, before checking into our hotel. A carb-loading feast ensued and we were tucked up in bed by 10.30pm ready for a good 8 hours sleep.

We woke to bright blue skies and sunshine streaming into the room and after an eventful breakfast (where I got stuck in the hotel lift for a tense 10 minutes) we headed onto the Metro towards the start-line at Charles de Gaulle – Étoile and the Arc de Triomphe.

Paris Marathon Arc de Triomphe

There was a bit of hanging around at the start before our wave was sent on our way – and at about 9.40 we were off! It was quite something to run down the Champs-Elysées and around Place Concorde. The atmosphere was incredible. The crowds were out in force with motivational bands playing along the route. I made every effort to absorb all of the sights and sounds and enjoy the experience of running the marathon after all the weeks of training. I was aware of my back though-out, nervous that at any point it could go, but I am amazed to say that it held out.

Paris Marathon Seine

The first 16 miles went well. I was following my pace band – with a 3 hour 55 target in my sights. And then it all started to unravel. The 17th mile was TOUGH. I was a whole minute slower and my legs were starting to tire. I picked it up again between 18 and 20 miles – but only by 30 seconds a mile – so still slower than the pace I needed to get that sub 4 hour goal. Mile by mile, I saw this goal slip from my grasp… At this point, it was about getting around, and in as fast a pace as I could. I regularly tucked into the water at each water station – the conditions were hot! And I consumed all 6 of my gels by the 23rd mile. The last 6 miles/10k were gruelling. It took every ounce of motivation to keep plodding on.

Paris Marathon Finish

I finally crossed the line in 4:05:26 – a whole 11 minutes faster than my last London Marathon in 2010. So, despite not achieving the sub 4 hour goal – I’m mightily pleased with my achievement. And yes, it’s just a matter of when and where, but I will definitely do another!

Paris Marathon Splits

The marathon would not have been possible if it hadn’t have been for a number of people, so my huge thanks must go to:

1. Jess from The Maris Practice – Jess performed her magic on my lower back, and alignment over a number of sessions in the 3 weeks running up to the big day. And what’s even more incredible is that there have been no issues post-marathon – it seems to have healed completely. It was also a bonus that Jess – a runner as well – had loads of great advice as well as her healing hands!

2. The BeaRCat Running Club – my thanks and congratulations to fellow BeaRCats who ran the Paris Marathon also – Nicky, Alison, John, Lee, Geoff and Chris. And of course to our leader Caitlin – who was running the Brighton Marathon at the same time along with a number of other BeaRCats. They are an incredible bunch of people first, and runners second, and I am proud to wear the BeaRCat vest.

3. Sporting Feet in Richmond – Thanks to Dominic and the gang at Sporting Feet in Richmond who helped me with the most important foundation of running – that of my trainers, along with fabulous advice and support when choosing my Garmin and other running paraphernalia. They are great supporters of local running in the community through their sponsorship of local races, as well as being a friendly bunch of people if you want to pop into the shop and have a natter.

4. Local Races and Parkruns – a huge thank you to all the volunteers who selflessly give up their time to help organise these races which are such an important part of our training regimes. Particular mention and thanks goes to the Richmond Half Marathon, Thames Riverside Half Marathon, the Thameside 20 and Old Deer Park Parkrun organisers and volunteers.

5. Hot Yoga in Richmond – throughout my training I attended a weekly Bikram Method Hatha Yoga class with Jonny and his team of great teachers at Hot Yoga in Richmond. I ramped up my yoga while I was injured through the last 3 weeks ahead of the marathon, and I think this helped maintain my fitness, while ensuring I was giving my body the stretching and loosening that it needed, not to mention the benefits of mindfulness.

My final thanks goes out to all family and friends who sponsored me and Nicky. We have raised over £1,000 (including gift aid) for two extremely important charities – Alzheimer’s Society and Mind. Both Nicky and I both have personal reasons for raising funds for these charities – and we’re so very grateful for everyone’s kind donations.

So, as I sign-off on my final instalment of The 4Ps series, my final take-away is that while things in life might not go perfectly to plan, it’s what we learn and experience along the way that’s important, which all adds to the great adventure that is life!

Thank you for reading and happy running!

x

Last Sunday I celebrated after my 22 miler – the longest and last of my long runs – was over. Mostly, because it signified the beginning of the taper – time to ease off the training in the last three weeks running up to Paris! But boy was that a mistake to celebrate so early…

I woke on Monday morning feeling a little weary but not too bad considering the long run the day before and set off to work with a spring in my step. I was feeling proud of my training and lucky that I’d managed to avoid any significant injuries or illness throughout.

My smugness did not last long however, as mid-morning I rose from my chair to go make a cup of tea and my lower back went into spasm. I could barely stand up! I was puzzled at first and then started to panic… What had happened? What did this mean for my last few weeks of training? What did this mean for Paris?!

I didn’t think that the injury had been sustained during the run but then remembered I had hauled a couple of heavy stones across the garden after my long run which when combined with the tiredness post run must have resulted in this injury. Typical! It’s true what they say about wrapping yourself up in cotton wool for the taper!

As the day progressed, so did the pain… I was supposed to go to yoga that night but jacked that in and struggled home to see if a good night’s sleep would sort me out.

Day two came and I had to trek across town to get a train to Norwich for a work trip. Lugging a bag across town was not fun! The pain wasn’t getting any better and it was quickly dawning on me that I would have to rest off the running for a while to be in with a chance of getting better ahead of Paris.

I managed a yoga class on Thursday night which did seem to help and by Friday the pain was disappearing, replaced more by a general stiffness and niggle.

Meanwhile I had booked myself into the local The Maris Practice to see Jess – fellow BeaRCat Runner – for some osteopathy on Saturday. Jess confirmed that I had sprained my lower back but that I should be okay for the Paris Marathon, provided I rested a few more days and then eased myself gently back into the running. She realigned my pelvis, did some manipulation of my lower back and loosened my shoulders and neck which had built up some tension throughout my training and sent me on my way.

It was reassuring to chat to Jess and to hear that my fitness shouldn’t suffer too much with this dramatic stop to my training (rather than a taper) but even so, psychologically it is hard to get my head around the fact that I haven’t run now for a week and I have a 26.2 mile run in just 14 days’ time…

Have I done enough training to get me through and in the time that I want?

I guess time will only tell and in the meantime, I just need to trust my training, trust the advice from Jess and get over these taper tantrums!

x

…Down to the Paris Marathon. With a little over 4 weeks to go, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on where I’ve come and where I’ve still got to go!

There are so many sayings and clichés about how running is a great metaphor for life – the ups and downs you experience, the highs and lows – from the mental torture, the utter fatigue that the body endures… and the great enlightenment too. I find it great thinking time – people think I’m crazy to run without music – but I love where my mind takes me, and the stuff I resolve in my head when on a long run.

For me, there is no greater therapy than running and what’s more… it is FREE! Well sort of… all you need is a good set of trainers and you’re off. Beware though… once you get the bug, you’ll find it is far from free… all those race entry fees, gels, hydration tablets, protein shakes, Garmins… they all add up! But, in my mind it’s more than worth it. I love the sense of achievement when you tick off another week on the training programme, and when you add another medal to your collection of race ‘bling’… it all adds to an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. Running should come with a health warning though for friends and social networks ;-)… we runners are renowned running bores. GUILTY! Deep down we only hope to inspire not to bore… ha!

But back to the point of this post – where have I come? Well a long way according to my Nike Plus app. I am 370 miles into my 550 mile training programme. That’s just short of the distance between London and Edinburgh.

Week 11 of Paris Marathon Training

Last Sunday I ran my furthest distance so far this year – with the Thames Riverside 20-miler, organised by the Clapham Chasers. Back in 2010 this race took me 3:15:38 and this time I managed to break the 3 hour mark, coming in at 2:58:02 – that’s almost 18 minutes faster! This gives me great hope for my target of a sub 4 hour time at Paris… but it does come with its consequences. I’ve been feeling really tired this week – heavy-limbed, achy, lethargic. Perhaps I overdid it? Lesson learnt. It’s so important to listen to your body and to scale back the training and intensity if you need to.

There’s still some way to go. I’ve got another half marathon this weekend. And then my longest run of all the following weekend. Then it’s just a question of hoping that everything drops into place on the day and having the strength of mind and body to keep on running when I hit the wall! Simple 🙂

Happy running!

x

Week 5 of 16 was about building strength – through some alpine hill-training, and my longest run so far. Here are the highlights as recorded by my Nike Plus app:

Paris Marathon Training Week 5

But the real highlights of my week were a couple of firsts… I participated in my first Parkrun, AND I had my screen debut at BAFTA in a short film made for the launch of Bupa’s new Health and Wellbeing app – Bupa Boost.

First things first. My first ever Parkrun. This was at Old Deer Park in Richmond. I was pretty nervous ahead of this, not really knowing what to expect. But, largely this was down to it being timed, which instantly gives me a surge of adrenalin and nerves. But there was no need to be nervous. Of course, as everyone says, these events are organised by a wonderful bunch of volunteers or “voluncheers”, who selflessly give up their Saturday mornings to encourage and facilitate these great 5k races. They are an excellent way to improve speed, if like me, that’s what you’re looking to do, or indeed just to motivate you to run. It is a wonderfully inclusive event, that caters for all running abilities. I’m hooked and will be trying out a few different Parkruns in the Richmond area over the coming weeks, not least to try and beat my time 😉

BAFTA

And now for my second first of the week… my screen debut at the home of BAFTA, 195 Piccadilly. This is a very exclusive venue, limited to BAFTA members only, or corporates who use it for special events… In this case, it was for the latter, and a special event for Bupa’s new Boost app – a fun way to stay fit and healthy. The app cleverly enables you to pull in all your data from wearables and health tracking apps so you can aggregate the data in one place. It encourages you to set personal goals, and track your progress – against yourself and against your friends/family. So, when I was asked to feature in the film, I of course jumped at the opportunity!

You can watch the film here. My starring role kicks in at about 45 seconds…

And because there’s been lots of other stuff going on this week, here are some other photos from the week.

Monday’s hill training in Switzerland:

Hill training in the alps

On Tuesday I swapped the Brooks for Salomons, and a different kind of run:

Swapping the running shoes for skis

And here’s a selfie from the end of my 16-miler on Sunday with fellow BeaRCat runners Moni and Ali, training for London and Paris Marathons, respectively:

BearCat Runners

Happy running!

x

Week 1 of 16 done! Week 1 of 16 Summary This week was considered a “Warm-Up” week, aimed at getting me back into the swing of training six times a week after some time off post Norwich Half Marathon in November.

It was a tough week all-in-all – I felt quite stiff and achy at the beginning – and it’s been hard work juggling the runs with all the festivities. The week’s training included a mixture of running, cross-training (Bikram-Method Yoga) and rest, as follows: Paris Training Week 1 of 16 I was staying at my brother’s down in Rowland’s Castle for Christmas, and it was a welcome change to run some new routes – they just happened to be my fastest of the week too 🙂 Summary of Week 1 runs Here are a couple of photos from this week’s runs – the first on Christmas Day as it was such a beautiful day and the second was taken on Saturday’s long run (my last long run of 2014), which ended under a stunning sunset! Christmas Day run Rowlands Castle Twickenham Run

Week 2 of my training is going to suffer somewhat, as I’m heading to the Austrian Alps for some skiing over New Year… will report back next Sunday!
Happy Running and Happy New Year (in advance!)
x