Park Run Alphabet Challenge

Parkrun Alphabet Challenge: Parkrun Tourism

So… you may know from past posts that I’m pretty much addicted to Parkrun. If you haven’t heard of Parkrun, it’s a free weekly timed 5k that happens in parks all over the world at 9am on Saturday mornings.

I’ve been going to Parkrun for a couple of years on and off, although last year I went most Saturday’s if I could. It’s a fantastic way to keep fit and meet other like-minded people and there’s just a fab, supportive atmosphere. It doesn’t matter how fast you go, you can walk, jog, run or sprint – it’s open to everyone.

I used to just go to my local Parkrun, but then last year I started to get a bit bored and started getting into Parkrun tourism, which is basically running at different Parkruns across the country/world.

I have now done 48 Parkruns in 12 different locations – which to be honest, I did not forsee when I made my new years resolution to give Parkrun a try back in January 2017.  It just gets very addictive! I’ve had about 6 weeks away from Parkrun due to holidays etc and I’m itching to get back!


What is the Parkrun alphabet challenge?

My target this year was to get to 50 Parkruns, which I should hopefully complete this month.

Earlier this year I came across the Parkrun alphabet challenge, which is basically running a Parkrun starting with every letter of the alphabet.

As soon as I saw this alphabet challenge, I just thought YES I HAVE to do this!

I actually started doing some Parkrun tourism last year but I think this challenge is more of a long term/ongoing one, it may take a bit of time and planning to complete.

For every new Parkrun I do, I will write a blog and Instagram post about it and add it to this alphabet challenge post. I’d really love to do a Parkrun abroad too. Exciting? Very! 😀


Parkrun alphabet challenge: a list of the Parkruns I have done so far (blog posts to follow):

A – Andover

B– Bushy Park

C – Crewe, Chester, Congleton

DDelamere Forest

E – Erdigg (Wrexham)

F

G

H– Hereford

I

J

K

L

M– Minehead

N

O

P

Q

R

S– Shrewsbury

T-Telford

U

V

W– Worcester Pitchcroft

X

Y

Z


Have you ever completed a Parkrun? Would you ever complete a challenge like this? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

Louise X

Photo by Magda Ehlers

Half Marathon Training with Scoliosis: Training Diary – 9 weeks to go!

Hi everyone,

So for my next challenge… I was very lucky enough to secure a place in the ballot of the Great North Run in September! (In Newcastle Upon Tyne)

To say I’m excited is an understatement. This is a huge race and a massive event in the running community.

Soooo… I need to up my training that’s for sure.

At the beginning of this year, I got a half marathon PB at the Wrexham Half Marathon (2hrs 2 mins!)

I then completed the Liverpool Rock and Roll half marathon in May, which was an amazing race but bad weather meant I didn’t manage to get a PB.

I would love to get a PB at Newcastle, but, I’m not sure if I have the time to train enough as it is only 9 weeks away and with a busy summer, I’m panicking now.

So I thought I’d document my training diary to kind of force me to do it, but also maybe to inspire someone else out there.

Ideally I would have started at 12 weeks before the race but life and holidays kind of got in the way, so I’m starting now, with 9 weeks to go!

I have found a training plan online and will kind of work to that loosely but fitting it round my full time job and busy life.

So lets start with this week (commencing 1st July). This is what I have done so far!

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Half Marathon Training: WEEK COMMENCING 1st July – 9 weeks to go

MONDAY – GYM – STRENGTH TRAINING

TUESDAY – INTERVALS 11 x 130m sprints with 45 secs recovery (was supposed to be 13 but I died!) + 5 min Tempo run at 9.09m mile (target Half marathon pace)

WEDNESDAY – REST

THURSDAY – 4 mile run easy

FRIDAY – REST (was on holiday – Sunday)

SUN – would ideally be long run day but I’m away this weekend so will try and fit it in when I can.

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I’ll be sharing my progress and pictures over on my Instagram – so please follow me and show your support. 🙂

Louise X

February Overview: Goals completed…what’s next?

Apologies for the lack of posts, it’s been a crazy busy couple of months.

I’ve been working hard on my running and fitness though and trying to achieve all my 2019 goals!

So…what have I been up to?

Goal – Complete 50 Park Runs and Park Run Tourism

Hereford Park Run

Since January, I have completed 7 Park Runs and I’m now on 45 in total, so I’m very close to my 50 goal!

As another one of my goals was to do as many different Park Runs as possible in the UK and abroad (Park Run Tourism),  I have been trying to mix it up a bit and since January I have done 3 different Park Runs, including Worcester Park Run,  Hereford Park Run and the famous Bushy Park Park Run in London – I am hoping to do one abroad very soon.  

I’m also now working on completing the Park Run Alphabet Challenge, which is completing Park Runs for each letter of the alphabet (A-Z). This can be a fun way to keep it interesting, see new places and keep motivated 🙂

Goal: Improve my 5K speed and get sub 27 minutes

Park Run PB

I somehow managed to do this (just) at Worcester Park Run. I think as it was a “pancake flat” course, which helped. I got a time of 26.56, which I was so pleased with! My next goal is to try and get closer to 26 minutes, but I know this will take a lot of work!

Goal: Complete a Half Marathon in 2 hours or under

This is a goal that I’m still working on and that will take a lot of work to complete. In February, I did the Wrexham Half Marathon, and I didn’t manage to get under 2 hours BUT I did get a PB, of 2 hours and 2 minutes. I was pleased with this as I struggled quite a bit on the day so I didn’t expect a PB. It wasn’t exactly a flat course and to be honest, it was quite boring. It was basically just running down loads of country lanes, so there weren’t many spectators / much of an atmosphere which usually helps a lot.

I forgot how hard it is to run a half marathon as well! I struggled a lot after mile 7/8 as I had set off too fast at the start to try and keep up with my friend who I was running with. I can do the pace for sub 2 hour half marathon for about 7/8 miles and then I just burn out and my legs just feel like lead. It’s taken me weeks to recover and I’m only just starting to get back to normal in terms of being able to run again/feel like running. It’s crazy how much a half marathon takes it out of you.

I didn’t have much time to train for this one though and I think I need to give myself time to build up the miles at the pace I want to run at. I have booked another half marathon for the end of May (Liverpool Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon) and I’m going to give it another go, or at least aim for another PB. I have my training plan ready and will focus more on speed work and tempo running running at my target pace, which I didn’t do much of before. I’m going to post about my half marathon training next week and what I’ll be doing to try and get that sub 2 hour goal!  

Goal: Volunteering at Park Run

This is another goal I achieved in February, as it’s good to give something back given the fact that Park Run is run entirely by volunteers.

I can honestly say it was strange not to be running, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope to do it again soon.

Goal: Start regular strength/interval training

Strength training is so important, especially if you have scoliosis, but even if you don’t, it’s important to strength train to prevent injury.

It can be hard to fit this in but I have started going to the gym and just doing weights/weight machines/body weight exercises. I also started cross fit in January but I have only been a few times.

Being stronger can make a massive difference to your running and can help you get faster and prevent injury.

I have also been doing an interval/circuit training type session once a week with the Run Club, in a bid to help me achieve my half marathon goal.

Goal – Sub 55 minute 10K (PB 55.40)

Shrewsbury 10K medal

This will be a tough one I think. I haven’t really been focussing on 10Ks as much as I did last year (last year I did one pretty much every month!) Although I’m ok with the distance as I usually run about 5-6 miles every week with my run club.

This year I have decided to focus more on half marathons and Park Runs. However, I did do the Shrewsbury 10K last weekend as a last minute decision.

Now, this was the first 10K race that I have done for a while (since November), and I am still struggling following the Wrexham Half Marathon. What I didn’t realise as well, was that the Shrewsbury 10K is incredibly tough and hilly, so not really a PB course!!

To be honest, I struggled A LOT because of the hills. I am not used to hills, I don’t like hills and these were pretty big (the course is described as “undulating”). So I think I need to incorporate hills into my training for sure. That being said I am very pleased with the time – I finished in just over 57 minutes, which for that course, and for me is really good. I think my PB is in reach if I go for a flat course next time J  

So that is just an overview of what I have been up to this year so far. I now plan on focusing on the half marathon training between now and May, with some Park Run tourism thrown in. I should get my 50 Park Runs soon too J

I also plan on working more on this blog and developing more regular content, so keep an eye out for that and hopefully completing another big challenge to raise money for scoliosis.

Hope your year is going well so far and you are achieving all your goals 🙂

Louise X

Manchester Half Marathon 2018 medal

Manchester Half Marathon

This post is a bit late, but life has been a bit crazy recently! A couple of weeks ago, on the 14th October, I was so proud to complete my second half marathon of the year – the Manchester Half Marathon.

It was my goal to complete a half marathon this year, but I never thought I would complete TWO half marathons!

I booked onto this second half marathon in a moment of madness after the Great Manchester Run I did in May.

To be honest, as it approached, I was dreading it quite a bit.

After a tough few months following an injury to my leg in June, I felt like I hadn’t trained enough for it. I do quite a bit of running as part of my normal week, I usually go out with my run club at least once a week and I try to do Park Run most Saturday’s. But I definitely did not have the time to do as many long runs (8 miles plus), as I would have liked. In fact, I only managed to do one long run of 10 miles about two weeks beforehand and that was pretty slow with a few stops mixed in. So, you could say I felt unprepared!!

I decided to go for it anyway, with the sole aim of enjoying and completing it (and forgetting about getting a PB). If I had to stop or walk, then I would and I wouldn’t feel bad about it.

On the day of the race, the weather was absolutely terrible and this is no exaggeration! It was cold and raining very heavily. The rain didn’t stop for the whole race and afterwards I was soaked to the bone!!

Despite the rain, I found this race to be a lot easier than last time. I think it was because it was cooler – the last one I did the weather was hot and sunny which made it much harder. Also, although this race was in Manchester, the course was much flatter than the one I did in May! In fact, it was pretty much flat all the way around.

I did find myself getting caught up in it all and at some points I was running far too fast for the distance I was doing, which meant my legs felt heavier much sooner than last time. I think I burnt myself out a bit! Although, I kept a much quicker pace than last time all the way around, which meant I finished in 2.03 – a whole 5 minutes QUICKER than the one I did in May!!

Manchester Half Marathon 2018
I was so pleased to see that finish line 🙂

To be perfectly honest, I did not expect to run it so quickly. I honestly thought it would be similar or even slower to my first one, given the limited training. I was so surprised to get so close to two hours!

My next challenge will be to complete a half marathon under 2 hours.. watch this space!!! 🙂


 

Tough Mudder and Scoliosis

Running Tough Mudder with scoliosis

I’m always looking for ways to challenge myself following my scoliosis surgery, and this weekend was no exception.

Yesterday, I completed my first Tough Mudder – a 10 mile mud run with 20 obstacles that you have to see to believe! The obstacles are extreme and include electrocution, being plunged into ice-cold water, swimming/wading through freezing cold lakes, crawling through the mud under barbed wire, climbing (or being pulled!) over huge 12 foot walls – the list goes on!

With having scoliosis and a fused spine, this event was a huge challenge for me – but I don’t do things by halves.

In the lead up to the event, I felt really nervous. I wasn’t too concerned about the running side of it, as I knew that it would be very stop start with the amount of obstacles and also quite difficult to run some parts due to all the mud!

I was more concerned about the obstacles themselves and whether I could do them, as I have a distinct lack of upper body strength.  I have done Pretty Muddy before but that is much tamer in comparison and doesn’t really require any upper body strength. I was also worried about how my back would cope with all the bending, twisting, crawling and clambering! Also, I was worried about getting badly injured – falling off something and breaking my leg for example…

I do quite a lot of running anyway, I usually do Park Run on a Saturday and I run with my run club every week but I didn’t really do any specific training for this event. I was a bit concerned about this, as I had planned to follow a training plan and work on my upper body strength leading up to the event, but this fell by the wayside after I was in quite a bad (non-running related) accident a few months ago, which put my training on hold. I decided to go ahead and attempt the event despite this and I’m so glad I did.

It was tough, and very challenging. Some of the obstacles were fun, some were terrifying and some were definitely outside of my comfort zone. But sometimes you have to push yourself to grow and I’d rather look back and say – I can’t believe I did that, than I wish I did that.

Tough Mudder Obstacle
Tough Mudder Obstacle

With having had scoliosis surgery, there were a few obstacles that I couldn’t do. For example, there were a couple of electrocution ones that said not to attempt if you have excess metal in your body – so unfortunately they were a no, no for me! To be honest, I was a bit gutted as I wanted to attempt all of the obstacles – I don’t like being told I can’t do things…

There was also one bit where you had to give people piggy backs, and I just do not have the strength in my back at the moment, so I received a piggy back rather than giving one!

All of the obstacles requiring upper body strength, to be honest I struggled with and had to be pulled up by others. But after completing the event, that’s what I’ve realised. Tough Mudder is about teamwork more than anything and most of the obstacles you cannot complete without the help of others – either your own teammates or complete strangers. This is the case whether you have scoliosis (or any condition) or not. The atmosphere is fantastic – everyone works together to get your across/over the obstacles, which is amazing.

Tough Mudder Pyramid Scheme Obstacle
Tough Mudder Pyramid Scheme Obstacle

I’m glad I gave Tough Mudder a go and it is definitely one of my highlights of this year so far. It has made me more determined to work on my upper body strength at the gym and try again next year. What’s amazing is that my back coped fine and did not hurt at all, all the way through. My legs felt heavy and tired after about 8/9 miles but my back was completely fine.

Even today (the day after the event), yes I’m sore, in pain and I’m covered in cuts and bruises, but the pain is muscle pain and no different to what anyone else who completed Tough Mudder will be feeling today.

There’s no reason why having scoliosis should stop me from doing ANY of the obstacles (apart from the electro ones). A lot of it is mind over matter and yes, upper body strength definitely helps!

Next year I want to get stronger, go back fighting, try the ones I struggled with again and smash them! 😀

Tough Mudder Selfie
Tough Mudder Selfie


A bit of advice if you are doing a Tough Mudder (or similar event) for the first time…

  • Do it as a team! It is best to do an event like this as part of a team, and it helps it someone in your team is strong and can help lift you up/over things! This was a LIFESAVER in my case!!
  • Don’t panic like I did! It is supposed to be fun. Everyone is really friendly, there is a team spirit atmosphere, and everyone looks out for each other. Plus if there are obstacles you cannot do you can skip them.
  • Wear leggings that cover your knees
  • Take a change of clothes and a towel as they have showers and changing areas on site
  • Wear trail running trainers – if you wear normal gym trainers they will be ruined. Plus, you will be slipping and sliding everywhere.
  • Give things a go – put yourself outside of your comfort zone and try things that make you scared/nervous. You will feel amazing after you’ve done it trust me.

 


Have you ever taken part in an event like this? Would you ever? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂

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Running Tough Mudder with Scoliosis

Half marathon

My first half marathon: Great Manchester Run

A couple of weeks ago (Sunday 20th May), I took part in a massive personal challenge – my first half marathon (The Great Manchester Run). I wanted to share this on my blog just to show that with hard work, anything is possible.


My first half marathon – training

I love to push myself and completing a half marathon was one of my goals for this year. So back in January, I signed up to the Manchester half marathon, which gave me 5 months to train. I’m the sort of person that when I set a goal, nothing stops me from achieving it. So I downloaded a half marathon training app (I used Asics, thought it was really good) and started my training. To be honest, I was already doing quite a lot of running anyway. In January I joined a run club, so I was running a couple of times a week with them and doing quite a few 10k races and Park Run to keep my fitness up. Over the next few months I was running several times a week, as well as mixing in some strength training and classes at the gym.

When it got towards April, I started trying to build the distance up a bit. I’m fine with running 6-7 miles but I’m not really used to doing any further than this. Hence why this half marathon was such a challenge for me. Over the couple of months leading up the race I used my Sunday’s as a practice for longer runs. I started with 8 miles and built up to a 10 mile run a few weeks before the race. To be honest, I really, really struggled with the 10 mile run I did in training. I felt ok in terms of my fitness, but it was my legs. They just hurt so much and I struggled to physically keep running. I now know that this was due to me not fuelling properly during the run or taking any water with me (schoolgirl error!). I’m not used to long runs so I didn’t realise I’d need some sweets or energy gels during the run.

The longer training runs knocked my confidence a bit. I had to slow right down to keep going for 10 miles and I really struggled. I also ran out of time leading up to the race so only managed to do one 10 mile run before race day – I would have liked to fit a few more in to be honest or get a bit closer to the half marathon distance. Basically, I did not feel ready for it! But I read somewhere that if you can run 8 miles, you should be able to safely complete a half marathon. So this reassured me a bit.


My first half marathon – preparing for race day

The days before the race I tried to prepare as best I could. It was going to be a hot day (typical!) for the race, so I made sure I drank lots of water in the days leading up to it and avoided alcohol. I also made sure I ate as much as I could, especially carbs like pasta.  I also toned down the running and exercise about 4 days before so that I wouldn’t be tired and have sore legs on the day of the race. The night before, I got all my kit ready and packed my back pack that I was taking. I made sure I took plenty of water, some sweets (jelly babies and Haribo) to have while I was running, some spare clothes, suncream as it was a hot day and some post race snacks. I then got an early night as I had to get up at about 5am for the journey to Manchester! But could I sleep? No way!

On the morning of the race I kept hydrated on the journey to Manchester. I was so nervous I felt sick. I have done plenty of 10k races before but I was worrying that I wouldn’t be able to finish the 13.1 mile distance, as it’s something I’d never done. I was also worrying about when to eat my sweets during the run to keep my energy up, and about how hot it was as I’m not used to running in the heat.

Luckily we arrived in Manchester with plenty of time to spare and I had time to go to the toilet (twice) as I had drank so much water! I have taken part in this event before – last year I did the 10k – and I just love it. It’s so well organised and the atmosphere is amazing. So as soon as I saw all the crowds and headed to the start area I started to feel more excited than nervous and like I could actually, maybe, do this.


During the race…

My strategy for this race was just to complete it, without stopping. I didn’t care what time I got. I just wanted to complete it, as it was my first one, to prove I could do it.  As I normally run around 9 – 9.30 min miles during races, I thought I’d be best going slower (for me) and aiming for 10 minute miles, which is what I did during training. The last thing I wanted to do was start off too fast and then burn out. I also decided I would have some sweets after about 40 minutes of running and then after about 60 minutes and so on, to avoid what happened in my training where I felt like I couldn’t physically go on after 10 miles. I had worked out that I would probably finish in around 2hr 20 mins if I went steady and this factored in possibly having to stop and/or walk a bit.

I started steady and luckily, as I was in the group that were expected to finish in over 2 hours, everyone was running at a similar, steady pace to me. This helped as I felt I was in the right group and  it meant I didn’t get caught up trying to run too fast.

My first half marathon 2

In all honesty, because I was running slower than I usually would for a shorter race – I found it quite enjoyable mostly. I just took it steady, had my sweets for energy and took all the water that was offered. It was very hot though with limited shade and I found that side of it pretty tough. I kept going and felt fine until I got to mile 10 – yep, the milestone! After mile 10 I really started to struggle, my legs hurt so much and it was a struggle to keep going. I didn’t stop though and pushed through the pain.

By mile 11/12 so many people had started to walk and some had actually collapsed at the side of the road and were receiving medical attention, which shows just how tough going it is really. I carried on pushing through the pain and when I got to mile 12 and realised I only had 1 mile left, I think adrenaline or something must have taken over! My legs were still hurting but I started to speed up again and did the final mile almost a minute quicker than the previous 2. As soon as I saw the finish line I went for it – I really don’t know how I had the energy but I just sprinted as fast as I could towards the finish line! Once over it though I could hardly walk and sort of hobbled towards where they were handing out the medals and finishers packs.


After the race…

As I was hobbling towards the meeting point I checked my watch and I just couldn’t quite believe it. I’d completed the half marathon in 2 hours 8 minutes, which I was over the moon at. I had been expecting about 2 hours 20 minutes as I thought I’d have to walk at some point. If I had been able to hold my pace between miles 10-12 then I would have probably finished around 2 hours 5 minutes. Plus if it was cooler maybe even quicker. I’m so pleased with myself it’s unbelievable. I still cannot believe that I’ve been able to train and run a half marathon, after having scoliosis surgery. It took me about a week to recover from it – my legs hurt pretty bad for at least 4 days  – but I’m so proud of myself. In fact, I have even signed up to another one at the end of the year 🙂

My first half marathon

 

 

Half marathon training – 3 weeks to go

So, at the start of this year I (stupidly) signed up to run a half marathon in May – The Great Manchester Run. I wanted to push myself and see how far I could take my running, and after running several 10k races, a half marathon seemed the next logical step. I must admit, I didn’t expect May to roll around quite so fast!

It seemed ages away when I first signed up back in December. I thought I’d have ages to train and build up my distance, but the reality is I haven’t done nearly as many longer runs as I’d like to have done by this stage and I’m starting to panic that I won’t be able to do it.

I thought I’d do a quick post to show what training I have been doing, using this last week as an example. I have been loosely following an Asics training plan for the past 12 weeks, but I must admit that I haven’t managed to do every run due to life getting in the way.

The plan generally consists of 4 runs a week, including a longer run on a Sunday. I have adapted it slightly by mixing in some intervals as well as strength training in between runs such as body pump, yoga or some weights in the gym.


Half Marathon Training – 4 weeks to go

Saturday – Park Run (3.1 miles fast)

Sunday  – 9 miles  (steady pace)

Monday – BODY PUMP (strength training)

Tuesday – REST DAY

Wednesday – Intervals (Treadmill – 3.7 miles) + strength training

Thursday – Run Club Run (5 miles – steady pace)

Friday – Gym – Strength training


Half Marathon Training – 3 weeks to go

So the plan for next week is as follows..

Saturday – Park Run (3.1 miles fast pace) – DONE!

Sunday – 9/10 mile run (steady pace)

Monday –  Body Pump / strength training

Tuesday – REST DAY

Wednesday –  3 mile jog (slow pace)

Thursday – Run club (7.5 miles – steady pace)

Friday – GYM – Strength training

Saturday – Park Run (3.1 miles – fast pace)

Sunday – 11 mile run


So that’s what I’ve been doing pretty much over the last 12 weeks, although I’ve only just started to up the distance from a couple of weeks ago.

I just hope I can do this!! If I do manage to complete this half marathon, it will be a huge achievement for me. I never thought anything like this would be possible after my scoliosis surgery. I’m so nervous about it right now.

Oh and just in case you are interested, when I do strength training at the gym this includes the below. I tend to do this in between running days or if I can’t get onto body pump. Currently aiming for twice a week.


Half Marathon Training – Strength Training

Chest Press – 3 x sets of 12

Leg Press – 3 x sets of 12

Lat Pull Down – 3 x sets of 12

Shoulder Press – 3 x sets of 12

Low Row Pulley – 3 x sets of 12

Squat Thrusts – 3 x sets of 12

Squats – 3 x sets of 12

Plank – 3 x 1 minute


I’ll update how I get on after the event.. eeeek!!! Never give up on your dreams! 🙂

Louise X

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Half Marathon Training Plan

Running and mental health

Running and Mental Health

Running and Mental Health


It’s Mental Health Awareness week 14th – 20th May 2018, so to raise awareness I thought I’d write a post on the effect running has had on my own mental health. It’s well documented that running can be good for mental health, and everyone has reasons why they run.

For some it’s to lose weight, keep fit or socialise. For others, it’s escapism from a stressful job or the strains of everyday life. Personally, I run for a mix of reasons, yes I do it to keep fit but also because I enjoy it, running makes me happy and when I’m running I forget about everything else.


How I discovered running…

I have suffered with anxiety, depression and low self esteem over the years, as a direct result of having scoliosis. I first discovered running about 3 years ago, 5 years after my scoliosis surgery, which I had to fuse my spine straighter in 2010.

My friend was taking part in a Race for Life 10k event and asked me to join her. At the time, I was a bit dubious as I had never done any running before and the event was only 5 weeks away. However, me being me, I agreed to take part to support her and started training.

In the past, I had always avoided running. With having scoliosis, I knew that it probably wasn’t the best for me due the impact on the joints and spine. I didn’t want to let my back stop me though! After training for just 5 weeks, I completed my first ever 10k in 1 hour 17 minutes, which I was incredibly proud of at the time.

After this, I was addicted. I guess I couldn’t believe what my body had achieved, despite my scoliosis.

Since then, I have completed many 10k races in under an hour and I have a wall full of medals. I regularly take part in Park Run, I’m a member of a running club and I’m training for a half marathon in May.

Running has helped me to overcome so many obstacles and has gotten me through some incredibly tough times.

Running and mental health
Night Trail Running!

 


How running saved me…

Last year, I had a particularly tough time following the break down of my 13 year relationship. At the time, I was feeling so alone and pretty depressed. I hit rock bottom, started binge drinking and I was hardly eating. I would say that running helped to save me from a downward spiral and possible break down.

Luckily, in December, I started pulling myself together and signed up to Run up to Christmas, which I spotted by chance on Instagram. This is a virtual running event where you had to run a certain amount of kms between 1st – 25th December. I chose 50km. The cost of entering went towards supporting Mind, the charity for mental health, and you got a cool medal if you completed it.

For me, this was brilliant as it kept me distracted during a difficult festive period and forced me out in the cold and snow. I suddenly had something to aim for again. There was also an online community, which made me feel less alone and I started connecting and chatting with others taking part. It also motivated me to attend my local Park Run on Christmas Day to get those final kms in,  instead of moping around feeling depressed.

Run up to Christmas
Run up to Christmas medal


A Fresh Start…

In January this year, I also forced myself to join a run club and have met lots of other like-minded people.

I was terrified the first time I went, but it has helped my well-being immensely. I now feel part of a community and less alone. When I attend races and Park Run I actually recognise people and people say hi to me, rather than just going and running on my own like I used to. This has all worked wonders for my mental health and I’m in a much better place than I was last year as a result.

Running and mental health
Air Products 10K with my run club

I now run about four times a week, a couple of times a week with the run club. Running gives me something to focus on and seeing myself improve over time makes me feel so good about myself. It also reminds me that I am capable of so much more than I ever thought possible, despite my scoliosis and anything going on in my personal life.

If I’m feeling anxious, low or having a bad day, I’ll go for a run. It’s my way of managing stress and anxiety and it works for me. After going out for a run or completing a race, I feel on a high all day and those endorphins are highly addictive.

Running and mental health
Running and mental health – Tatton Park 10K

 


Miles for Mind

To raise awareness of mental health and to give myself something to aim for in May, I have signed up to Miles for Mind. This is another virtual running event and I’ll be aiming to run at least 75 miles throughout May. With 50% of profits going to Mind, who provide advice and support to those with mental health problems, it’s definitely a worthy cause.


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Running and Mental Health

Chester 10K medal

Chester 10K

So, this year I have set my sights on completing at least 10 10K races/running events as part of my 2018 goals and Chester 10K was race number four. So far the others include Tatton Park 10K  (which I’ve done twice this year) and a night trail run at Lyme Park.

I was nervous but excited to take part in the Chester 10k, mainly because it was quite a big event and it’s also the first one they’ve held in Chester.


Chester 10K: Before the race

The race started at 9.30am and the weather was actually terrible. It was so, so cold with a biting wind and torrential rain/sleet. I did think about pulling out at one point but I’m the type of person that, once I’ve committed to something, I’ll stick to it. So I wasn’t going to let a bit of rain put me off!

Chester 10K bib
Chester 10K bib

The starting point was at Northgate Arena in the centre of Chester. I arrived with plenty of time to spare, warm up, go to the loo, take a selfie (obviously) and head to the start line for 9.30am. When I arrived I was shocked at how many people were there and the nerves hit me again! Luckily we were able to wait inside before the race because it was pretty cold!

Chester 10K - pre race selfie
Chester 10K – Pre race selfie!

 

I didn’t have a particular time in mind for this race. I’ve (unfortunately? stupidly?) signed up to a half marathon in May and so I thought I’d just use this race as part of my training and take it easy. I didn’t know what to expect in terms of course difficulty and hills etc so thought I’d just go with the flow. 🙂

Chester 10K at the start
Chester 10K: at the start

Overall though, despite tough conditions, I really enjoyed the race. There were a few, short, sharp hills but it was mostly flat with some amazing downhill parts (they are always the best!) It started at Northgate Arena and we then ran out of the city down some country lanes and it finished back in the city centre near the town hall.

I seriously did not set out to run quicker than normal but I was surprised to see my pace was much quicker than usual as I checked my watch throughout.

I found it (relatively!) easy to keep a quicker pace and I do think it’s because I have done Tatton 10K twice this year now in horrific weather and for me this is a much harder course with longer, gradual inclines.

Chester 10k also had the amazing crowd support, which always keeps you going when you want to stop!

The final mile did feel tough though and I was so glad when I saw the finish line. I was soaked through from the freezing rain and my hands were so numb even though I was wearing gloves. As I approached the finish, I gave it everything I could, sprinting over the line even though I felt sick.

I was so shocked that I managed to get a final time of 55.44!!! This is my quickest EVER 10k time, the fastest before this that I’d done was around 57-58 minutes. I really did surprise myself and it just goes to show what you can do if you work hard enough.

Chester 10K finishing time
Chester 10K finishing time

I didn’t set out for a PB but I’ve been training hard over the last few months in my new running club, despite the horrible weather. Over the last few months I’ve forced myself out in the dark, rain, snow and wind to do interval training and took part in several 10K races which all help to improve speed and stamina. Sometimes though, I find when I don’t put too much pressure on myself to get a “good time” and just go with the flow and enjoy the run I end up performing better. I really enjoyed taking part and the medal and finishers pack were awesome too!

Chester 10K finishers pack

Chester 10K me with medal


What’s next?

I now need to step up the distance for my half marathon at the end of May. I’ll be sharing some posts on my training soon but this will involve longer runs and also strength training.

When I ran my first 10K race a few years ago I completed it in 1hr 17 minutes. I’m incredibly proud of what I’ve managed to achieve in the last few months with my running and in the years following scoliosis surgery. I never, ever thought I would get this far with my running/fitness and I’m so excited to see how much further I can go. 😀

I wanted to share my results from the Chester 10K to show that anything is possible if you work hard enough.

Never give up on your dreams and don’t let anyone tell you you can’t.

Louise X

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Reasons to try Virtual Running

If you’re struggling to stay motivated with exercise this January you might want to try virtual running / walking events.

My first experience of a virtual running event was when I signed up to Run up to Christmas in December. I haven’t divulged much on this blog, but to be honest I have had a pretty rough time in my personal life since I got back from China in October. I injured my shoulder in China which meant I couldn’t run, and I had some other major stuff going on too – as my long term boyfriend left me and I had to find somewhere else to live quite quickly. You may have noticed the lack of posts recently, well this is why. But I’m slowly getting back on top of things 🙂

By December, my shoulder was feeling better and with everything going on I really needed a distraction from Christmas itself. So I decided to sign up to Run up to Christmas – I figured it would give me the motivation to get back into running when it was cold and dark outside and it would also keep me busy and so I didn’t have to think about Christmas.

 


What is virtual running?

The gist of it was that I had to run at least 50km between the 1st and 25th December. It cost £12 but this went towards Mind charity, plus if you completed the challenge you got a really cool medal at the end, not to mention a sense of achievement. 🙂

With it being December and having a lot going on (I moved on 22nd December), as well as some pretty bad snow half way through the month I was pretty chuffed with myself when I managed to complete the challenge. I did do a few treadmill runs when it was bad weather but these count too! I also did Park Run on Christmas day!

I really enjoyed taking part in this virtual event and what I loved about it was the sense of community and encouragement from others taking part. There was a group on Strava and a hashtag on Instagram which meant it was easy to find and chat to others taking part in the challenge. Virtual running is also good because you choose when and where you run and you can fit it around your life and commitments. You basically run/walk/cycle and record your activities on an activity tracker such as Strava or Garmin. When you’ve completed your challenge you upload your evidence and receive your well earned medal in the post.

What I have since realised is that there are LOADS of these virtual challenges. For 2018, I have signed up to one called Your Mile Challenge and my target is to run 1,000km by the end of the year. I also signed up to a virtual 10km race in January and got a cool medal for that too! Many of these virtual running challenges will also give part of the entry fee to charity so there’s a feel good factor as well 🙂

Winter 10K medal
My January 10k medal

As part of the Your Mile Challenge, you can also sign up for monthly challenges and do a certain amount of miles or km for the month. If you meet your target you get a medal. There’s also a Facebook group where people taking part share their achievements too. You can also invite your friends to join you too which makes it more competitive and keeps you going 😀

I find these virtual running challenges really help to keep me motivated and give me a reason to get out there and run – especially when it’s cold and wet. If you’re not into running you can also walk, cycle or swim to get the miles in – it doesn’t have to be running.

I thought I’d share on my blog because I didn’t realise these virtual events and communities existed until recently but they really can be excellent for motivation if you are struggling!

I’m hoping with my target of 10 10km races and a half marathon this year, that I’ll meet my 1,000km target for the year. I’m using Strava to record my progress, if you’d like to follow me you can do so here.

Why not give it a go this winter? Alternatively, you can sign up for monthly challenges, or do what I’ve done and sign up for a yearly target.

Happy virtual running / walking!

Louise 🙂 xxx

I’d be interested to know if any of my readers have tried virtual running / walking / cycling and which ones they have tried? Let me know in the comments below! P.s. These are some of my favourites so far… 

Run up to Christmas

Your Mile Challenge 

Virtual Run Challenge

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Reasons to try Virtual Running