Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Form, form form

 Flickr image from katclay's photostream

I was prepared for the tight calves, the blisters, the familiar burning feeling in my lungs as I dragged myself round the parks and streets of South London. One thing I hadn't prepared for was my complete loss of form.

I could feel my feet flip-flopping around in my trainers as they hit the ground, they felt heavy, I didn't know how to carry them correctly. My back was aching, I couldn't regulate my breathing. It was as if everything I'd ever known about running had been knocked out of my head at some point in the last three months, it's place taken by the perfect pulled pork recipe, no doubt.

I need to do something about my running form sharpish because I can't keep running like a baby elephant. Here's some of the stuff I've pulled out of the depths of my memory:

Head up: I must not stare at my feet. I don't know why, but I've developed a fear of falling over, which has lead to me constantly scanning the ground for obstacles when running. It's also put me off high heels too, which is a disaster as I'm about as tall as Papa Smurf without assistance. Looking straight ahead will improve my posture and will hopefully mean the end of that back pain.

Shoulders down: I remember when I first started running, I had a problem with my shoulders slowly creeping up towards my neck during the run. So now I'm constantly reminding myself to keep my shoulders back and down. 

Arms: It took me a while, but I think I may have mastered the arms. Someone once told me to draw a line down the centre of my body and to never let my arms cross that line during a run. But maybe you can help me with this - is it true that your arms can't move faster than your legs when you're running? E.g. Speed your arms up and your legs will speed up too?

Feet: I'm still trying to work out how to properly land my feet, but I know they should be landing quietly, and I shouldn't be coming back with blisters - it's sandal season damn it. Runner's World says 'Good running is springy and quiet'. Yes, let's try that. 

Hills: Another wise person/publication once told me (if I could remember who, I'd credit them) that the secret to powering up hills is to lean forward slightly, flick your feet up at the ankles and really use your arms to drive yourself up. I prefer to keep my eyes on the ground about 3 feet in front of me too (head up though), rather than at the summit of the hill. Less chance of freaking out and giving up that way.

And that's where my limited form knowledge ends. Am I missing anything? Can anyone shed any light on how I should be positioning my feet? And are there any secrets to making that first 4 miles of a run feel less like hard work?

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Anyone for a catch up?

I've been missing my lovely little blog of late, missing thinking up blog posts to make the morning run go faster, then writing it up and sending it out into the ether. But before I start again, I'll explain why it stopped - then we can get back on with the fun stuff.

Unfortunately there's no juicy story behind my cyber disappearance. A rapid-fire combination of life events (a change - and change again - of relationship status; a long-haul move from north to south London; a new job and a huge bout of the running itis) meant blogging was suddenly harder than it had been before. But the good news is I was training harder than I ever had before for the Berlin Half Marathon thanks to an amazing running buddy turned coach who made sure I stuck to my sub-2 training plan whatever the weather (10 miles in the snow anyone?) and saw to it that I ran track. If you haven't ever been to a track session before, let me warn you - you will be overtaken by teeny tiny children. They will burn you up. And they won't even break a sweat.

Anyway, it worked - on 1 April I ran the Berlin Half in 1 hour 54 minutes and 35 seconds - a new PB and 9 minutes off my Paris time.

As amazing as Berlin was, I was very careful not to sign up for another race. Instead, I wanted to take the pressure off and rediscover why I loved running in the first place. Also, I discovered cheerleading, and it's my new favourite thing. Mile 21 of the London Marathon was an amazing experience - if you ran that day (or at Sunday's British 10k), I'm sure you won't forget passing through the Run Dem Crew cheer squad.

Which brings me to my next running adventure - training for the Amsterdam Marathon. But not running it. Here's the deal - my running buddy turned coach is my boyfriend, and he's running the Amsterdam Marathon in October. Because he was so brilliant during my Berlin training, I'd like to return the favour by becoming his training sidekick. This comes with it's own set of (selfish) challenges:
  1. No bitching. This hasn't been going very well so far. Note to self: You cannot not burst into tears because I've decided I don't want to carry on with the 5 mile run when there's only a mile left. Yes, that happened.
  2. Running when the plan says. That's Tuesday-Thursday, and Saturday. Even if it means getting up at 6am, or going out in the rain/sticky heat when all you want to do is sit on the sofa in your Kigu eating popcorn.
  3. Pace. I can't run very fast, especially not for long periods of time. Luckily, marathon pace is a little slower than usual, and about my normal running pace, but I'm very aware of slowing my other half down. Nothing for it but to get faster, because:
  4.  No pressure. As I'm doing this to help rather than because I'm chasing a PB, I want to enjoy it. And as I said, I want to fall in love with running again. So I'm running naked (no no, that would chafe) in terms of technology. No sportband or tracking apps for me.
  5. Marathon training. IT'S TWICE AS LONG AS A HALF MARATHON.
It'll all be worth it in the end. And in the meantime, I get to drink a lot of chocolate milk. Win-win.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012


So, you know when you have a lovely little blog about running and training, then have a bad experience at a race and that knocks your confidence for a bit so you fall out of love with running and stop doing it for a little while and have nothing to blog about? And then you're bullied into starting training for that half marathon you signed up for because all your friends had but had no intention of actually running because you hate running now? And you know when time runs away from you and all of a sudden it's 11 weeks later and you're almost ready to jump on a plane to Berlin and run the thing, and you realise that you probably should have blogged about the last 11 weeks?

Well, THAT.

Hi you guys, I've missed you.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Not just any Tuesday

A standard weekend haul for Run Dem Crew

I haven't written much about Run Dem Crew. I'm going to keep it that way, because nothing I can write will capture what it's like to be part of that family.

Yesterday was medal presentation day for the crew members who completed Run To The Beat and the Berlin Marathon this weekend, and graduation day for the Run Dem Crew Youngers. There were a lot of medals to get through, and there were kind words spoken about every one of the recipients by our leader and legend Charlie Dark. It was an emotional night, and I fell in love many, many times. 

And then this happened. A medal of my own. It means the world. Charlie and Ruth, thank you so much.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Kaye v Run To The Beat 2011

Yesterday I was one of the 10,754 runners who took part in Run To The Beat. My first half marathon in my home city with my favourite runners. It had taken me a while, but just as race day rolled around I was finally looking forward to it. But it didn't go exactly to plan for me. Here's how it went down:

[A bit of background: As you may know, I was aiming for a sub-2 PB (my Paris time was 02:03:21), and with the help of a brilliant pacer in the form of the legendary Charlie Dark of Run Dem Crew, I knew I'd do it if I stuck with the group.]

Miles 1-4: Always the hardest in a long run, right? And bloody hell it was hot. But we started at a comfortable pace that was slightly faster than the 08:46 minute miles that we'd need to bring us in at 01:55:00. I think the hills started at Mile 2. I kept my eyes on the ground, telling myself it was flat. Before I knew it, we'd passed the Mile 4 marker in 35 minutes. And then I felt a twinge in my knee. Nothing painful though, so I plodded on.

Miles 5-8: I finally stopped noticing the heat and accepted my sweaty fate. We'd dropped a few RDC members (some had sped off, some had dropped back), but I still had Charlie in my sights and the fabulous Peigh by my side. We passed over the halfway checkpoint and rounded a corner to a delicious downhill section. And then I looked up. Holy. Jesus. The hill. I will be forever grateful to Peigh for getting me to the top with (false) promises that we were totally there already. All I remember after the hill is people handing out Vaseline, and the pain.

Miles 9-10: For some reason (more Peigh lies?), I already thought we'd passed Mile 10 when I saw the Mile 9 marker, which was quite disheartening. But then the lovely boy reminded me we were almost at Greenwich Park, and once we were there, we may as well have been at the finish line, right? But the painless knee twinge had now become a massive stabbing pain whenever I landed or took off on my right leg. Not handy. So I slowed to a walk and lost all of my pacers. I tried to run again, I couldn't. I continued like this for a couple of minutes, trying to figure out whether this was the end of my race. I did manage to hand off some Skittles to a girl who had stopped and said she felt too faint to go on - I hope she made it to the finish line.

After yet another attempt at running, I gave in. I found a lovely steward, who fetched the St John Ambulance people for me. Once I'd explained my injury, they sat me in a mini wheelchair, draped a space blanket over me, strapped me in and wheeled past the Mile 10 marker to the ambulance. I looked like I was being taken into an asylum, I wish I had a picture for you. Also, I did ask whether Callum the first aider wanted to wheel me a further 3 miles - he didn't. They sat me down at the roadside, gave me an ice pack for my knee and strapped it up. Meanwhile I watched everyone run past, and wanted to cry. Thankfully for the lovely St John volunteers, I saved the tears till I was on the phone to Al, who was waiting for me at the finish line.


The finish line: I got back to the O2 on a bus (a lesson in why you should always carry your Oyster Card, Londoners), where I promptly burst into tears all over Al, who hugged me even though I smelled like a zoo - that's love right there. At the Nike tent, I was reunited with my gorgeous Run Dem Crew-ers, full of post-race euphoria and ready with hugs and kind words for me. Cue more tears. I am so proud of all of them, and over the moon that the crew members who stuck with Charlie crossed the line in under 2 hours.

If you've ever been to Run Dem Crew, you'll know what I'm talking about, but if you haven't, let me tell you - Run Dem Crew is SO much more than a running club. It's the most amazing family, and I'm honoured to be a part of it. The encouragement, unity, concern and love I experienced yesterday (which continued long into the day) is something I'll never forget.

I'm not sure whether I'm smiling because of the RDC love, 
the Al love or because I'd just been reunited with my deodorant.

Well done to everyone who made it to the end of Run To The Beat, especially those of you who battled through the heat and the hills and still came away with PBs. It was a tough race - if you're thinking of doing it next year, hill training is your friend. You might want to bring your iPod too if you like running to music - I think the whole musical element of the race was massively oversold (is that just me?). But please don't let that put you off, it was well organised and the stewards were fabulous. If you ran, let me know what you thought!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

The test

Yes I know everyone's sick of these, but I like this one, so there.

If you've spoken to me about my training for Run To The Beat and the Royal Parks Half Marathon, you'll know that I haven't been loving it. When I signed up for these races I was still on my post-Paris high, and inspired by watching the London Marathon (which I also signed up for, but let's not talk about that right now). This time round, training has felt like a massive chore. Maybe it's because I was missing the camaraderie of Team Bangs, or because it's the first time I'd trained through summer, or maybe I just wasn't ready to train again. I expect it's a combination of all three, and along the way, I totally fell out of love with running. I still had that awesome feeling when I got back from a run, but it was soon replaced by a sense of dread as I thought about the next one I had to do, and I just wanted it all to be over.

I wasn't excited about the races. I've been bleated and whined 'But I don't waaaant to!' to anyone who was kind enough to ask me how training was going. And I meant it. I did. Not. Want. To. If I could, I would have gone back to my May self and stopped her signing up.

But then...

Tuesday. Run Dem Crew. My favourite night of the week. A short and sweet taper run for those of us doing Run To The Beat. Two miles in, I felt a sharp pain in my knee, but I ran through it. Turns out that was not a wise move - on Wednesday, I was in agony. It hurt to walk, especially down stairs. But here's the important part - instead of congratulating myself on my injury and rushing to Twitter to declare I'd have to pull out of RTTB, I was gutted. I mean, I know I'd been complaining about running, but I didn't not want the option, y'know? So I sulked, and didn't tell Twitter that I'd have to pull out because I was clinging on to the hope that I'd wake up the next day and my knee would be fine, and I'd be able to race.

So when I woke up this morning to discover the worst of the pain had gone, I decided it was time for an attitude overhaul (just in time, with three days to go before RTTB). No more moaning, no more hating - I've trained for these runs *ahem*, I want to run them and I want to run them well. And that's what I'm going to do. So thank you, Running Gods, for the test.

Monday, 12 September 2011

63 days later

I know this has nothing to do with anything I'm saying, 
but I'm hoping it'll make you forgive me. 

Is there a blogging version of Social Services? If so, you guys should have reported me for abandonment. Apparently I took an nine week long summer holiday from my blog without telling you. For shame. I won't bore you with excuses or the mundane details of the last 63 days, but here are a few highlights:

I joined Run Dem Crew. I can't even begin to tell you how much I love it.

I celebrated something fabulous happening to my best girl.

I clocked up some miles training for Run To The Beat and the Royal Parks Half Marathon 
(but definitely not as many as I should have). 

I do have some real life blog posts planned, so stay tuned, I promise I'll be back!