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In praise of the run-commute

13 February 2014

It’s the end of a long day and time to leave the office. You ate your lunch five hours ago. You haven’t drunk any water. It’s cold. It’s windy. It’s raining. It’s dark.  You just want to get on the train and sleep, but you have to run home.


So why should you? Because the run-commute is the best run you’ll ever do!

It’s a multi-tasking genius of a run which gets you home and gets you fit; it ticks all the boxes without ticking off your partner or kids; it saves you money and it saves you time. You will never regret doing it, even if you arrive home drenched, freezing and exhausted, because as soon as you’ve showered you will have the rest of the evening to sit around and bask in the knowledge that you no longer have to get up and go out for a run.

I will admit that it is a pain working out what to pack in the mornings and remembering your sports bra and not forgetting to wear your trainers and making sure you have smart shoes at work and wearing a light jacket instead of a heavy coat and taking it all home again the next day. But it is all worth it.

I should really get a running rucksack.

Tonight I’m running 7 miles home, via Camden and Regents Park outer circle, and even though I’m molto exhausto, I expect to enjoy it approximately 100x more than last night’s 4 mile plod around Crouch End at 7.30pm. For after I’ve done it, I am going to eat chips and drink rosé on the sofa. So there.

The good thing about competing against yourself, is that you always win

10 February 2014


When we were little, my dad was the King of Competitiveness. Racing us up the street, he would hang back until just before the kerb and then pull a Mo Farah and beat us to the pavement at the last minute. When playing cards, he always used his superior skill to trounce our measly efforts and, when he couldn’t, he cheated. He hated games of chance. “There’s no skill involved!”, he would moan, as our tiny hands won at snap.

I say all this with affection. Never has there been a lovelier man, but the thing that he loves most of all is to win. He used to have a duffel bag full of trophies which we occasionally emptied onto the bed, practising our Oscar acceptance speeches with the one for ‘G Flight Darts Champion, 1979’. The man had a trophy for every sport: football, cross-country, boxing, ice hockey (ice hockey!), squash, cricket. There was nothing he couldn’t win at.

I have inherited this competitiveness gene. My daughter is still too little for me to test it in full – about the same age as me in the photo – but I suspect my turn to cheat at Hungry Hippos may not be far off.

On the whole, I’m grateful. You say competitiveness; I say caring. For what is the point of playing a game of cards if you don’t care who wins? Non-competitive people make very dull playing companions. They forget who is dealing. “Who is next?”, they ask time and again, “what’s trumps?”, “oh, does that mean I win?”. ARgh.

Sometimes, though, I will admit that it is not a blessing. The desire to beat your personal best running times can be a great motivator, but it cannot be switched off. In Spring 2012 I ran a marathon in 3 hours 28 minutes. In Spring 2013 I had a baby. In Spring 2014 I’m running  another marathon, and I have just had to accept that I should not attempt to better my best.

A small voice inside, even now, is still saying “really? Why not??!!”, but it must be ignored. On Saturday I ran what my training plan called a “half marathon race” and what in reality was a steady 13.1 miles. I completed it in 1h 43 minutes. Not bad, if you ignore the fact that it nearly killed me. The thought of doing that, at that speed, twice, is unimaginable. I could try it, but I would surely fail. If I tried to run the Milton Keynes marathon in 8 minute miles I could possibly manage 15, maybe 20 miles,  before blowing up like a pulverised balloon at my daughter’s first birthday party. For the first time, my desire not to do this is stronger than my desire to win.

So, my new goal: finish in 3 hours 45 minutes and ENJOY THE RACE. Still a bit competitive, obviously. I’m not giving up who I am, after all.

Weekly stats:

Monday: rest
Tuesday: 6 miles with 200m bursts
Wednesday: rest
Thursday: 7 miles with hill reps
Friday: 4.5 miles easy
Saturday: 13.1 miles “race”
Sunday: 4 miles recovery run

Total: 34.5 miles

What I think about when I think about Haruki Murakami

6 February 2014

I love him.

Here is a picture of him running

If you haven’t read his book on running, then I am very jealous of you.

This interview with him from Runner’s World is inspirational, in that he’s just an ordinary runner, and possibly an ordinary person.

How, then, does he write such extra-ordinary books? 

Could it be all the running?

I love him.

Motivation: delicious carrot or vicious stick?

3 February 2014

Sometimes all it takes to make me run is the promise of coffee and cake at the end. Here is Sunday’s. It was warm, tasty and swiftly inhaled at The Spoke on Holloway Road after a fast, hard 10 miler.


Most of the time there are no cakes at the end of a run, though, are there? There are no prizes for running 6 sodding sodden miles home on a dark Tuesday night, only dripping trainers and beans on toast again.

This week I ran five times. Twice I came home in the pouring rain, picked up my daughter from nursery, gave her warm milk and a lovely bath, then put on my kit and went back out into the rain to run 6 or 7 miserable miles in the dark. After doing this on Friday night, on Saturday and Sunday morning all I wanted to do was stay in bed, even though the sun was shining.

So why didn’t I? No-one is forcing me to run. I signed up to train for a marathon with absolutely no cajoling from anyone. Most people, including my family, think I am mad. So what is forcing me out of the door?

I don’t need to “lose the baby weight” (and nor does anyone). I’m not unfit. I’m not unhappy. I don’t need a goal. I’m not being pushed by anything negative. I’m motivated by the biggest, most delicious slice of cake and cup of coffee imaginable: finishing a marathon a year after having a baby. Just doing that – proving to myself, and no-one else, that I’m still here. I’m still a runner.

Monday: rest
Tuesday: 6 miles with 8 x 40 secs hill reps
Wednesday: 7 miles
Thursday: booze
Friday: 6 miles easy
Saturday: 5 miles with 2.5 mile tempo in the middle
Sunday: 10 miles steady

Total: 34 miles

The Week I questioned my Sanity

27 January 2014

In December I decided to run the 2014 Milton Keynes Marathon.

Today, I would like to know why.

For some people, juggling a full-time job with an 8 month old baby, an occasional social life, the need to finish the last series of Breaking Bad, sleep for at least 6 hours a night and a contain a nascent caffeine addiction might be enough. Apparently not so for me – I feel the need to train for and run a 26.2 mile race as well.

The sleeping. It would all be going so well were it not for the sleeping. Or the lack of sleeping. Or the sleeping for 1.5 hours at a time.

Oh, sleep.

In every interview I ever read with a top runner, they talk about the importance of sleep. Paula Radcliffe has a nap every afternoon. All the Kenyans do is run, eat and sleep. It’s a way of life. Alas, not my way of life. Instead of a nap, I have a diet coke. My body hates me.

My body is just about holding it together. Three weeks into my training plan, I’ve made it to 33.5 miles, over 5 runs with the longest being 12 miles. I missed my hill session on Thursday – it felt like a bad idea to push it in my zombie state. Weirdly, the easiest run of the week was the 12 on Saturday – mainly because it ended at Monmouth Coffee. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for coffee.

Can I continue in this fragile state? We will find out.

This week:

Monday: rest
Tuesday: 7 miles steady
Wednesday: 5 miles easy
Thursday: 5 miles easy (was supposed to be the hill session)
Friday: rest
Saturday: 12 miles slow
Sunday: 4.5 miles easy

Total: 33.5 miles

My New 3 “R”s: Running, ‘riting and Remembering to do both…

20 January 2014

“Your domain is about to expire!”, my emails have been warning me for a month. “You are giving up on!”, they accuse on a daily basis. “You have nothing left to say about running!”, they cry. “Your creative impulses have been sucked out of you like breastmilk!” (sorry). “You are running in a silent void! Run all you like, no-one cares any more!”.

On Friday (payday), I will silence these voices. For $25 I will be furnished with both the means and the reason not to run unheard and alone for another year. Even when I’m not writing the blog, which I realise is almost all of the time, it is still there in the back of my mind like a little motivational push every time I hesitate between my bus pass and my trainers. When I am writing the blog, it brings me pleasure, sometimes even joy, when I’ve managed to put my running into the right words.

So. A new start.

Hello again! How are you?

I’ve been busy. I am well, but tired: working full-time and running four times a week. On Monday 5 May I’ll run the Milton Keynes Marathon. I have no idea how fast I’ll run it, but would settle for 4 hours, be happy with 3 hours 45 minutes, and delighted with anything faster. On four runs a week, I suspect this is ambitious.

My training will be so different from my last marathon. Gone is the dream of 50 mile weeks, 8 hours sleep a night, running every day, at any time of day, napping on the sofa to recover. This year I will run when I can, no matter how I feel or how tired I am.

It will be hard. Will it be worth it? I think we are about to find out.

I am still running, honest

9 October 2013

Every week!

Three times a week! Really, I am.

On Sunday I’ll be running my first post-baby race – the Great Eastern Run. I’m running it with my sister, to give her some moral support in getting around her first half marathon, and I’m really looking forward to that. I’m also dreading it. The furthest I’ve run in the past five months has been 9.5 miles, which was supposed to be 10 miles, but I just couldn’t do that last 0.5.

Oh dear.

The last time I ran the Great Eastern Run I’m pretty sure it was just called the Peterborough Half Marathon, but I was the Great Notajogger, busting out a personal best time of 1 hour 34 minutes. On Sunday we are aiming for 2 hours 30 minutes.

I’m taking flapjacks.

When I last wrote I said that “naps have finally arrived”. Can you hear the sound of hollow laughter? The one thing I have learned since having a baby is that you SHOULD NEVER SAY ANYTHING GOOD OUT LOUD because that thing will then immediately go wrong, forever. So, naps are out of the window, along with me, walking with the buggy. This means I am getting a lot more exercise, but also drinking a lot more coffee, and not writing any blogs.

The good news is that running has finally got easier. About three weeks ago I noticed that my joints were feeling stronger – when I turn back to look for oncoming traffic at a crossroads I no longer feel like my hips were going to slip out of place.  As soon as this happened I knew: it was time to see if I could run fast again.

I am not a slow runner. I realise that these things are relative and that I am no Usain Bolt, but what I mean is that I do not enjoy running slowly. I do not believe in jogging. It has therefore been somewhat challenging to my self esteem to get back to running after pregnancy.

From 8 weeks to 4 months there was no change in my pace. It varied between 9 minute miles to 11 minute miles during a run but it never, never got faster from run to run. There is a good, if slightly depressing article here which talks about why it’s probably not a good idea to try to run quickly post-partum, but this was not a choice on my part, I just wasn’t able to run at any other speed.

Three weeks ago (so at about 4.5 months post-baby) I ran fast for the first time. It was just a very short pyramid interval session, but I loved it. It felt amazing to be running at (relative) speed again and my painful ankle tendons were miraculously fine throughout the whole thing because I was concentrating on pushing with my thighs. A couple of these sessions and two tempo runs have improved my normal pace to about 8 minute 40 second miles. At this rate of improvement, I’ll be challenging Usain come Rio.

The “session”

1 minute fast 1 minute slow
2 minutes fast 2 minutes slow
3 minutes fast 3 minutes slow
2 minutes fast 2 minutes slow
1 minute fast 1 minute slow
Cool down