Saturday, 31 December 2011

Out with the old?

On paper 2011 should have been a pretty rubbish year for me. On December 14th 2010 James Brokenshire, the Minister for Crime and Security in the Home Office announced that the government was going to close the Forensic Science Service, the place that I have worked for the last 13 years. His decision was based entirely on economics. For a number of reasons the FSS had been losing money and the government had decided that enough was enough and the best thing to do was to close the company. To say that this came as a surprise to those of us that work there would be an understatement. I won't bore you all with all the details as I could literally write pages on the subject. We all knew that things needed to change and that some tough decisions needed to be made about the size and shape of the company. However, none of us saw the decision to close the company coming.

Being at work this year has been one of the hardest things I've ever done. I have found myself managing a programme of work to close down the company that I have wanted to work for since I was 12 years old. It's been devastating, depressing and frustrating in equal measure. There have been times when I have wanted to scream "this is so wrong" at the top of my voice and I have lost count of the hours I have spent with colleagues discussing the situation and it's consequences.

I still believe that the government have got this one very very wrong and that at some point in the not so distant future it's going to come back and bite them. However, I have made my peace with it, there's nothing that I can do to change it. I will do the best job that I can in the time that I have left in the company.

By the end of December, most of my colleagues who work as scientists had left. Only a few now remain along with the group of people, including me, who will eventually close the company. And then at some point in early/mid 2012 I will be made redundant.

So on paper, 2011 should have been a terrible year. But do you know what? It really hasn't! And here's why:

* I celebrated my 2nd anniversary with my fantastic husband

* I successfully rented out my flat in Leyton and I am now a landlord

* We have moved to Limehouse - it's a great area and we're really happy here

* We have had enjoyed good times with both our families. Everyone is in good health.

* We have seen some more of the world travelling to Rome, New York and California

* I found Thinking Slimmer. It has changed my relationship with food forever.

* Through Thinking Slimmer I have met some amazing people with inspiring stories and am now lucky enough to call some of them my friends

* I took up running, finding that I actually enjoy it and it has helped me to clear my head and cope with what's going on at work.

* I completed the 10 mile Great South Run in 2hrs, 1min and 58 secs!!!!!!

* I got a place in the London Marathon 2012 and am now 2 weeks into my training plan for the race

* I have dropped nearly two dress sizes and am happier and healthier than at the start of the year

* Although work has been tough I have had over a year to think about what I want to do next. I now see that this is a fantastic opportunity to do something different with the rest of my career. Compared to people who come into work one day to find they have been made redundant there and then, I have been very very fortunate.

* Despite the general awfulness of the work situation, I work alongside some fantastic people. The sense of camaraderie has been brilliant and we have supported each other through these tough times. I know that I will keep in touch with many of them.

So when I look back on 2011 I will do so with fondness. What could have been a terrible year has turned out to be pretty darn good!

Friday, 30 December 2011

Intervals and Insoles

Yesterday I decided to give interval running a go. This isn't strictly part of my training plan, which is entirely based on mileage, but enough people had recommended them as a way to increase fitness and build aerobic strength that I thought I'd give it a try. Interval training, for the uninitiated is where you run fast for a set period of time and then slow down and recover for a set period of time and repeat that pattern.

This isn't the first time I've tried intervals, I've done them before when I was using the adidas miCoach system to train for the Great South Run. That system coaches based on heart rate and for some reason, maybe the settings were wrong, I could never get my heart rate into the target zone. The result was that I would be running as fast as I possibly could with the miCoach shouting in my ear telling me to run faster. Not the most motivating way to train and I used to feel totally exhausted and deflated after the sessions, thinking that even though I'd run as fast as I possibly could I hadn't done it 'properly'. I began to absolutely dread the sessions and if ever I had to miss a session during the week, guess which one it would be?

Then the other day one of my fellow Thinking Slimmer runners, Darin, posted that he'd been out and run an interval session. Another runner, Lynda, asked him if he'd heard of AudioFuel running music at different beats per minute that she uses for her interval training. I was intrigued. I love running to music and this sounded like a different way of trying intervals that I might enjoy.

So I paid a visit to their website to have a look. There were two different types of interval training available. The first was a 22 minute pyramid training track where the intervals gradually increase in speed to a peak and then decrease again. The second was a 43 minute 3 step interval session where the intervals increased in speed 3 times to a peak, and then the pattern repeated itself.

I listened to some of the samples available on line so I could get an idea of how it worked and decided to go for the 43 minute 3 step sesssion bundle which included 3 different maximum speeds to work through. This decision was based mainly on the fact that I would get further in 43 mins than in 22 mins and I still wanted to achieve the set mileage set out in my plan.

So having downloaded the tracks I went out to try it out. I decided to start with the lowest of the speeds to see how I got on. Surprise surprise I really enjoyed it! The session starts with a warm up which is at quite a slow speed. There is a coaching voice over by Martin Yelling, which guides you through what to do. After the warm up the intervals start, these are counted in and Martin then helps you to find the right rhythm for each interval by saying 1,2,3,4 in time with the music. Throughout each interval he lets you know how long you've got left and gives you encouragement and advice on keeping good running form. I really enjoyed this aspect of the session.

Before I knew it I'd completed the first of the 3 steps and was into the second. The bit that I found the hardest was actually slowing my speed down to the recovery speed suggested, it was slower than my natural 'easy run' and I had to concentrate quite a lot to find the right pace. The interval speeds themselves were achievable for me, which was encouraging. The final 3 minutes at 175bpm were definitely challenging, but not to the point where I felt I wanted to give up, I actually felt like I could have gone a little bit faster. I think next time I'll go out I'll try the track which has 180bpm as max and see how I get on with that. I think Darin is going to download the pyramid session so I'm intrigued to see how he gets on with that. If he likes it I might invest in that too so that I can change things around as and when I want to.

So after just one session I am an interval convert thanks to AudioFuel!

Yesterday afternoon I went to see my osteopath to have my orthotics fitted. I have low arches on both feet and have a tendency for my feet to roll inwards, or overpronate, and these things combined are leading to calf strain. This is being aggravated by my running and has the potential to turn into a pretty nasty injury so I've been really keen to get this sorted out. The orthotics are basically insoles which I'll wear in my day to day shoes that help to correct these inbalances in my feet and should alleviate the strain that's being placed on my calves.

I'm not sure yet if I'll need to wear them in my trainers, some already come with built in support specifically for people who overpronate so I may not need to wear the orthotics as well. I'm going to get a new pair fitted today at Runners Need - I'll take them with me and see what they think. Fingers crossed this is the end to this particular niggle!

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Week One - Done!

So here I am having completed the first week of my London Marathon training!

My week started with a trip to the osteopath. I've been seeing him about once every ten days for the last month or so. I first went as I had pain in my hip when running which has now resolved itself thanks to some incredibly painful massage from him and some self inflicted, and not much less painful stretching by me. This time however I told him about a pain I'd just started getting on the lower inside of my lower leg.

After a bit of prodding and poking he diagnosed a calf/soleus strain and recommended that I get some orthotics. We've spoken before about the fact that my legs turn inwards when I run and when this is added to my apparently low arches on my feet it's a recipie for shin splints or other unwanted injury somewhere along the way. So, ortotics are on order and I'll get them next week.

It also made me think about my trainers and how long I've had them for. Most running experts recommend that you change your trainers every 300-500 miles depending on how heavy you are on them. I hadn't really thought about how many miles my trainers had done but when I got home on Monday afternoon I looked back through my running logs and realised that the trainers I'm currently wearing had accumulated around 350miles! How on earth did that happen?

So, once I've got my orthotics, I'll be off to Runner's Need to have a new pair fitted. I had some money for my birthday from my parents and I will use this and my prize from the Thinking Slimmer Loving Life competition to buy my new pair.

So my training this week has consisted of 3 consecutive days of 3 mile runs followed by a long run today of 6 miles. To be honest I found the 3 mile runs harder than I thought I would but really enjoyed my 6 mile run today. I've realised that I don't really get into my running 'groove' until around 3.5 miles. At that point I seemed to be nicely warmed up, my breathing has steadied and my legs seem to have found a good rhythm. Up until that point I find it quite hard work. When combined with early dark mornings as I have done this week I find the 3 mile runs quite hard work!

I also went to a Powerplates session on Friday morning before work. I was the only one at the class and it was with my favourite trainer - one I've known for a few years. I was lucky to get a free one to one session with him as no-one else showed up for class! He ran the marathon last year and has a place for this year as well so has a great understanding of running and he adapted the class to make sure I got the most out of it.

So that's it, I've finished week one of my training. It feels great to be able to write that and I'm looking forward to next week and upping the mileage every so slightly.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Mileage this week = 15 miles

Total mileage so far = 15 miles

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

It's my birthday and I'll run if I want to!

Yesterday was my birthday, and the first run of my 18 week marathon training plan. For some reason, I don't know why, I didn't sleep at all well on Monday night. I'm sure it wasn't excitement about my birthday, I think I'm a bit old for that, but it might have been a bit of apprehension/anxiety about the fact that my training plan was really about to start. Silly, as the first few weeks are all runs that I should be able to complete comfortably and there's really nothing to be getting anxious about but that's the only thing I can put it down to.

So I woke up yesterday morning bright and early as my husband had to get to work and wanted to give me my presents before he left. He'd told me the evening before that he was concerned as most of my presents were running related. That didn't bother me in the slightest! Among my presents were the following running related delights!

A training diary which is full of advice and tips and has space for me to record my training runs, my performance in races, keep track of my shoes and lots more.

Now this is something that I never thought I would own. A hydration rucksack! When I get to running for over 2 hours or so I'm going to struggle to carry enough water or energy drink to keep me going. This nifty little rucksack will allow me to carry 2 litres of drink on my back and has pockets on the straps for my phone and gels. It's specifically designed for women and I've tried it on and it feels really comfortable. It will be interesting to see what it's like when it's full of water. I'll try it out on a long run in the New Year.

And more training gear. This is a really great jacket by Ronhill - I've been wanting one of these for ages. It's warm and waterproof and has great reflectivity. However, the best thing about is that it has zip off sleeves so if the weather changes or I get too warm with the full jacket on the I can take the sleeves off mid run and store them in a pocket in the back of the jacket - hey presto it turns into a gilet!

I wore it out on my run yesterday morning in the full jacket version and then again today without the arms as it was quite mild this morning. It's really comfortable and I love it.

So I was very much spoiled with these lovely presents from Mr J. And it didn't end there. In the evening I was treated to dinner at Gordon Ramsay's at Claridges. We love this restaurant and this hotel and the dinner last night didn't disappoint - we had a lovely evening. I definitely needed to go out and do my second training run this morning to run off some of the calories that I consumed.

What a lovely birthday!

Monday, 19 December 2011

My charity

I decided earlier today that I would post about my chosen charity tonight. As my first 'official' training run is tomorrow I thought it would be a good time to talk about them and launch the link through to my sponsorship page. It was obviously a good thought as when I got home from work tonight I found a welcome letter from the charity! It explained lots about the work they do and how they're going to support me during the build up to the marathon and on the day itself.

The charity that I've chosen to run for is The Dockland Settlements. It's been established in East London for over 100 years and provides a variety of services to meet the needs of local people. They are a small local charity which means that every penny I raise will make a difference - they can't afford to waste any money on administration or fancy equipment so they don't. They are part of the community and their priority is to make a real difference to people's lives.

They operate three community centres in East London, two of which are actually on the marathon route and one of which I have run past several times during my training. From these centres they provide a variety of services to the local community, from pre and after school playcare provision, to youth groups, through to a Vietnamese Refugee Support Group.

I chose this charity out of the many that I could have run for because it means I can make a difference in my local area. They only have 25 places in the marathon this year and they've invited us all to go and visit one of the centres and have a look at what the money we raise will go towards so I'm definitely going to take them up on that.

From what they've told me so far I understand that the money that I raise will:

*Go towards a project to help stop youth reoffending and reduce anti-social behaviour

* Put playworkers in school playgrounds

*Fund Christmas parties for older people

*Support a special needs education centre

*Fund junior football teams

*Support a full range of community activities from toddlers to pensioners

*Support a sports coach mentoring programme

I have pledged to raise £1250 for the charity and this is where I need your support. Please consider sponsoring me - there's a link to my Just Giving page here. Thank you in advance - your support really means a lot to me.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

My marathon training contract with myself

My 18 week training plan for the London Marathon 2012 starts officially tomorrow. I have decided to write down the committments that I am making to that plan. I know that when I write things down I am more likely to make them happen and by making this public as well I am holding myself to account even more.

So here is my marathon training contract with myself:

1. My goal is to finish the marathon in one piece, with a smile on my face and having enjoyed the experience

2. I will not get obsessed by time. People will ask me what I time I am aiming for. My response will be as at point one of this contract. Whatever time I achieve will be a personal best.

3. I will follow my chosen training plan and run 4 times a week.

4. I will train to run/walk in 9 minutes running, 1 minute walking intervals. This is not cheating and is highly recommended for beginner marathoners. The walking breaks will conserve my energy and give me time to take in water or fuel and will probably help me to finish in a better time than if I tried to run the whole way.

5. There will inevitably be times when life will get in the way. If I miss one run I will not panic. I will review the situation sensibly and see whether it is best to try and fit it in another time, or just let it go.

6. I will see my osteopath/masseur at least once a month and I will follow any advice he gives me, even if it includes things which are painful, like sitting on tennis balls and using my foam roller.

7. I will stretch properly after every run. I will use my foam roller at least once a week. I will sit on tennis balls, as instructed by my osteo after every run.

8. I will include Yoga and Powerplates in my training plan for strength and flexibility. They are important, but not a substitute for running.

9. I will take rest days when my plans says I should.

10. I will listen to my body. If I need an extra rest day I will take it.

11. I will not use point 10 as an excuse to stay in bed because it's cold and dark and I don't fancy going out that morning.

12. I will run in all weathers. Rain, wind, snow (but I will keep my fingers crossed that I don't have to with that last one). If it's icy I will be very careful and will think seriously about whether it is safe to go out. I can always get a day pass at the gym if I really need to.

13. I will eat a sensible and balanced diet with plenty of complex carbohydrate to fuel my body as well as I can.

14. I will drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and will learn how best to keep myself hydrated when I'm running by experimenting on my long runs.

15. I will try to learn to love Lucozade sport - it's what will be available on the day and it will make things easier if I can use it as part of my fuelling strategy.

16. If I am ill I will rest. If I train when I'm not well I could seriously injure myself. Colds do not count, I will run as long as my temperature is not raised and the cold isn't in my chest.

17. If I get injured I will rest. I will see my osteo as soon as I can and follow his advice.

18. I will keep adding new music to my mp3 player so that I don't get bored of listening to the same songs.

19. I will vary my running routes so that I don't get bored of running the same route.

20. I will run parts of the marathon route as part of my training. This will help me mentally on the day as I will be familiar with them.

21. When the going gets tough I will remind myself that I can and I will do this. It's not going to be easy, but it is possible. In the words from one of my favourite running tracks "you can do anything you set your mind to"

Rebecca Jones
18th December 2011

Saturday, 17 December 2011

From May to December

Last year, 2010, I was fortunate enough to meet someone who helped me to deal with issues that have been with me since childhood. Fortunately nothing too traumatic, but beliefs and thoughts about myself formed during early school years which which without doubt have held me back and stopped me from achieving my true potential.

You know you who you are and you know how much of an impact you have had on my life and continue to - I can't thank you enough x

Back in May I came across Thinking Slimmer I have for a long time struggled with my relationship with food, I don't know why and it doesn't really matter. What I do know is that Thinking Slimmer has helped me to change to relationship with food forever.

Between them these things have helped me to achieve the most remarkable change in my life. I have been *slightly* overweight for as long as I can remember. This is me in May 2011 - happy but overweight in Rome on holiday with my husband.

Since May I have made the most remarkable changes. You can read about how Thinking Slimmer has helped me in my previous blogs. Not only am I much smaller but I am now running, training for the London Marathon 2012 in fact. This would not have been possible without the self belief which a certain person has helped me to gain and the weight loss which Thinking Slimmer has helped me to achieve.

This is me today, going out with my husband to celebrate the 7th anniversary of our meeting. I feel soooo much better than I did back in May

I'm nearly 2 dress sizes smaller than I was back in May! This in itself is fantastic but the most amazing thing is that I feel like a different person. Capable of anything. Bring it on!

Friday, 16 December 2011

Choosing a training plan

Ever since I found out I'd got a place in the London Marathon 2012 I've been researching training plans. If you Google 'Marathon training plans' you get close to 5 million results for plans which last from anywhere from 12 to 24 weeks and that involve running from 3 to 6 days a week. Very confusing!

So how on earth is a first time marathon runner supposed to choose the right plan? I spoke to a few friends who have run marathons and their advice was that you have to pick one that you think will work for you. No good picking one that has you our running 6 days a week for example, if you know you can't fit that into your schedule. You'll just end up missing runs and not completing the plan properly. Similarly the length of the plan needs to fit with your current levels of ability. So a 12 week plan that starts you off with a 10 mile run on the first weekend is no good if you've only ever run 5 miles maximum. Common sense.

So I went onto Amazon and had a look at the top selling and best reviewed marathon training books and bought myself 3 of them. I figured that even if I didn't use the plans, they'd have good advice and tips in them which as a complete marathon novice would all come in handy.

The first book I bought is called 'The Marathon and Half Marathon A Training Guide' by Graeme Hilditch. Now I'll admit that I haven't read every single page of each of these books - I've dipped in and out of the various sections paying particular attention to the training plans and advice around these. This book has got a great section on the physiology of running and explains the changes that take place in your body as you train for the marathon. Really interesting stuff and helped me to understand why the training plan in the book is set out as it is. This book had a 16 week beginners training plan that has you out running 4 days a week with a mixture of intervals/hill training as well as the long slow run at the weekend. The plan is based on completing a set distance for each run.

The second book I bought is called "Marathon Running for Mortals" by John Bingham. This booked is aimed at people like me, just starting out in their running who aren't aiming for the fastest time in the world but want to complete the marathon safely and enjoy it. There are loads of real life stories of people who have completed marathons successfully following the plans set out in the book. What I really liked about this book is that it sets out plans for walking, walk/running, run/walking and running the marathon. It gives you a questionnaire to complete about yourself and then advises you which of the plans you should follow. The plan that it advised for me was the run/walk plan which is 20 weeks long and has you out running 4 times a week for time based training.

The third book I bought is simply called "Marathon" and it's by Hal Higdon. From the moment I started reading the book something in my mind clicked. I liked the way it was written, the stories that the author told resonated with me. The novice marathon plan lasts for 18 weeks and involves 4 runs a week based on distance. There are no specific hill, interval or speed sessions as the author does not think these are necessary for first time runners who just want to complete the race. His view is that these can lead to unnecessary strain and potentially injury in novices for whom the distance is a challenge enough in itself. He advocates taking walking breaks when necessary but does not stipulate when these should be.

So this is the plan that I will be following - Hal Higdon's Novice 1 marathon training plan. The long runs start at 6 miles in week 1 and progress to 20 miles in week 15. The 18 week plan starts next Monday 19th December and will see me training through to Sunday April 22nd 2012 when I will run the London Marathon!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

I ran home!

Tonight I did something that a year ago I would never have thought I would do. I ran home from work!

I've been thinking about doing it for a while. My marathon training plan has 3 midweek runs and while I enjoy getting up in the morning, 3 dark mornings in a row might be a bit much so I've been thinking of other ways that I can fit the run in and decided that I could give running home from work a go.

I bought a rucksack specifically designed for running as I needed something to carry my things home in. It's a great little rucksack, really lightweight but with enough room for my clothes, purse, phone etc. It's got a belt that secures it across the chest and around the waist meaning that it's pretty stable while you run.

I decided that tonight would be the night I'd try it out. My running club has finished for Christmas and I've got used to running on a Tuesday night. So last night I packed up my gear and mapped out my route. The most direct route it about 4.5 miles so I decided to keep it simple for the first time and follow that route.

So I set off from work at just before 5pm this evening and made my way down to the river. The route took me along the Southbank past the London Eye where the Christmas markets were in full swing and then along towards Blackfriars Bridge.

I noticed straight away that running with the rucksack was harder than running normally. Obvious I suppose that it would be. I didn't have my heart rate monitor on but I could feel that I was having to make more effort and my breathing was harder than normal.

I think London looks lovely at night, particularly by the river. St Paul's always looks great all lit up and the Christmas lights everywhere made it a very pretty route to run.

I ran past Tate Modern and the wobbly bridge and then crossed the river via Southwark Bridge and headed towards the Tower of London. By this time my Garmin was saying that I'd done about 3 miles. My speed wasn't very fast at all but I felt pretty good.

After passing the Tower I was on the last stage of my run, along the Highway towards Limehouse. This was the part of the route I was least sure about, I wasn't sure how busy it would be as I've never walked or run along the road before. As it turned out there were quite a few people around and before I knew it I was back on familiar territory and nearly home.

The 4.58 miles took me 55 mins so no record breaking times, but this wasn't about speed, it was about getting comfortable with the route and the idea of running home, both of which I achieved.

When I got back I weighed my rucksack. It was just over 6 pounds. It made the running quite a lot harder and it made me think about the weight I've lost and how much harder it must have been for me when I first started running and was carrying over a stone more in weight. It also made me wonder how much easier the running will get as I lose more weight. Now there's a motivating thought!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Plates, Kettles and a 10K run

After being out of action last weekend with a cold I think I've more than made up for it this weekend and am pretty achey today as a result!

I started on Friday lunchtime with a Powerplates class. I've been doing Powerplates classes for a few years now at Good Vibes Fitness They're a great way to get toned up very quickly.

A Powerplate is basically a vibrating plate that you stand or sit on. You hold poses or perform movements like squats or lungs as the plate vibrates. The vibrations from the plate cause your muscles to contract really quickly which means that you get a really quick and efficient workout. Apparently doing a 25 minute session on the plate is the equivalent of spending an hour doing weights in the gym. I love that the classes are so quick - I can fit them in before work, or in a lunchtime and they are really effective.

When I first started coming I would do 3 classes a week and within a month or so had dropped inches. These days I try and do one class a week, around my running and yoga - it helps with building strength in my legs and core.

Then on Saturday I went to my first ever Kettlebells class. This was part of the 'Belles and Beauty' Boutique Sport event. It was held at Frame Studios in Shoreditch and I turned up for my class not really knowing what to expect.

As the class started we warmed up and then were all told to take two of the kettlebells, one heavier than the other. The instructor then took us through a series of exercises using the kettlebell as a weight to work different groups of muscles. The class was called Cardiokettlebells and it certainly got my heart pumping! We were lunging, squating, bicep curling, tricep dipping and doing press-ups in what was one of the most high intensity classes I've done for a long time. At one point I did find myself wondering why on earth I had signed up for this but the moment soon passed when we were given a small rest break!

After the session I headed off to the second part of the event which was at the Benefit store in Spitalfields. There were cocktails and mince pies for everyone and I had a mini makeover done before aquiring some new Benefit products. It was a really fun afternoon.

On Sunday I woke up feeling pretty sore, my shoulders and arms were the worst. To be honest I really didn't feel like going for a run but having missed my Sunday run last weekend I knew I needed to go out. So I put on my training kit and headed out without having planned a route or set a specific mileage to do.

The first 3 miles were pretty tough, but then they quite often are for me on a Sunday. I kept looking at my watch and the mileage seemed to be increasing really slowly. Then, once I'd got to 3 miles everything seemed to click into place, my running felt easy and I started enjoying myself. The next time I looked at my watch I'd done 4.5 miles. I decided I'd do 10K - a decent distance but without pushing myself too far having not been out the weekend before.

I arrived back at home having completed the distance feeling so much better than when I went out, as I always do. So overall a pretty energetic weekend and boy am I feeling the after effects today!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

I'm a runner up!!

One of my previous posts was about Thinking Slimmer the company behind the revoluntionary Slimpod. This is a completely different approach to weight loss - there's no dieting, no pills, no shakes or weird and wonderful potions involved. It's based on a technique called Cognitive Hypnotherapy and all that's involved is listening to an mp3 download for 10 minutes a day.

It's changed my relationship with food forever and if you're interested in giving it a go there's currently a free Christmas Slimpod of offer. All you need to do is 'like' the Thinking Slimmer Weightloss page on Facebook and you'll get a discount code to use on the Thinking Slimmer website

Back in November, Sandra the founder of Thinking Slimmer announced the Thinking Slimmer Loving Life Awards. Sandra asked people to enter and tell her how the Slimpod had changed their life. Thinking Slimmer success is about a lot more than weight loss - I've heard stories of people overcoming health problems and achieving things that they never thought possible, much like me and my running. There would be 2 winners, one man and one woman and three runners up. The judging panel would award the prizes based on who's story they found the most inspirational.

When I saw the mail from Sandra I umm-ed and ahh-ed over whether or not to enter. My weight loss hasn't been spectacular compared to other people that are also using the Slimpod. I've had a slow and steady weight loss which has been a bit frustrating at times and on its own certainly wouldn't win any awards. But I re-read Sandra's mail and thought about my running. If you had told me this time last year that I'd be training for a marathon I probably wouldn't have believed you. So I decided to submit an entry, thinking that I had nothing to lose by doing so.

Today I had an e-mail from Sandra to let me know that I'd been awarded one of the 3 runner up prizes - I am really delighted and proud to have been chosen. It's quite something for me to think that other people find my story inspirational.

I was also really pleased to find out that Darin McCloud, who I ran the Great South Run with was chosen as the winner of the men's award. Fantastic news for him and thoroughly deserved - he's completely changed his life this year, lost over 5 stone in 10 months and if you're interested you can read his story here - it really is inspirational

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Back in the swing of things

Thankfully I woke up yesterday morning feeling much better so I went off to my regular Glow Yoga class and got through it without feeling at all dizzy. Much better than the week before. It's such a lovely way to start the day and it was great to be in a warm studio when it was so cold outside.

After a day a work I headed back to the Good Vibes studios for the last Boutique Running Club before Christmas. It had been raining during the afternoon and it was very cold but I was absolutely determined to go, having missed the week before. When I arrived I was the only one there and for a while it looked like it was just going to be me and the group leader. Eventually one of the other girls turned up as well and we set off on our usual route.

We had agreed to take it easy as I'd only just got over a cold but we covered the 2.7 miles in just over 31 mins which wasn't that much slower than the fastest time we've ever done! I've really enjoyed the running club and I hope that it starts up again in the New Year. It's been great to run with other people and be stretched by their pace.

I decided that I'd get up this morning and do another couple of miles. Partly as I didn't need to be into work that early and partly as I felt I owed myself a couple of miles from the weekend! So I got up at 6.30am and headed out into the dark and cold, dressed in my new London Marathon training kit!

I ran a couple of miles around Limehouse and up into Canary Wharf. It felt quite difficult as it was very cold and my legs felt tired after about a mile. In retrospect I probably should have given myself a bit longer between runs. In the space of 24hrs I'd done a yoga class and run just over 5 miles. Definitely back in the swing of things.

I got home just as the sun was coming up over Canary Wharf. I love this view and feel very lucky that I have it just outside our front door.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

A confession

I think I'm developing a bit of an obsession with running clothes. I have plenty, probably more than I actually need but I still find myself browsing online running stores on a regular basis to check out what's new. I started running when it was relatively warm so over the last month or so I've needed to update my running wardrobe with a whole new set of winter running kit. It's not been a chore!

So imagine how excited I was when I found out about this shop in Covent Garden. It's actually on the route that my running club takes on a Tuesday night but I have never noticed it before. It was mentioned in the marathon magazine so I decided to pop in tonight on my way to running club.

I had intended to buy some running gloves as my hands have been getting cold as the temperature has dropped recently so I was very pleased to find a matching hat and gloves combo. One of the reasons that I have so much running kit is that I do like things to match. So these will go particularly well with my blue kit (I may also 'need' to buy the pink set at some point)

But it didn't stop there. Oh no. Did you know that Adidas do a range of clothing specifically branded for the London Marathon? Neither did I. But they do. And it's perfect for winter training. So I am now the proud owner of these lovely items

.This long sleeved top which is a perfect base layer and has the Virgin London Marathon 2012 logo and holes for your thumbs so you can keep the rest of your hands warm if it's not cold enough for gloves.
And this fab reflective gilet, again with the logo which will keep me visible as I run around the streets of Limehouse during the dark mornings.

So now getting up to go running when it's cold and dark will be that tiny bit easier as I'll have a constant reminder on my clothes of why I'm out there training. Well, that's how I justified the purchases to myself anyway!!  

Monday, 5 December 2011

It's official!

Last week I came home to find an A4 sized envelope waiting for me. When I opened it up I was very excited to find my London Marathon guaranteed entry form inside!

As I got my place through a charity I'm not yet actually registered with the marathon itself so I had to fill in the entry form and send it back within 7 days to make sure that my place is confirmed. So this morning I went off to the Post Office with my completed form in hand and sent it off via Recorded Delivery.

As a charity runner I've got what's known as a Golden Bond place for the marathon. As a Golden Bond runner I am also given free entry to one of the 'Meet the Experts' days in February. This sounds like it's going to be a really interesting and informative day with speakers such as David Bedford who is the Race Director and Liz Yelling who is the Commonwealth Games bronze medalist. There's also an opportunity to get discounts on running shoes and kit - I'm always keen to add to my collection!

Also within the pack was a Virgin London Marathon magazine which is packed with information for me to read through in the next few months.

There's an awful lot to take in but it's all good information on preparation, training and what to expect on the day itself. Reading through the magazine made me really excited all over again - I'm really doing this!**

** check back here in a few weeks once my training plan has started properly and I'm out running in the freezing cold to see whether I'm still quite as excited!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

A frustrating weekend

Well that's probably not really a fair title for this post as I've actually had a very nice weekend. It's just from a running point of view it's been very frustrating. It's the first time in I can't remember how long that I've not done a long run on a Sunday and no running all weekend. And this is all thanks to some nasty, inconvenient little bug that has decided to take up residence in my body.

I'd been feeling a bit dizzy since Tuesday and as both my husband and a couple of colleagues have been suffering with something for most of the week, I thought it would only be a matter of time before I was also infected! And sure enough on Friday morning I woke up with a throat that felt like I'd been swallowing razor blades and a stuffed up nose. Not the greatest of ends to the week and particularly annoying as we were going away for the weekend to visit family.

I packed my running kit all the same, hoping that whatever it was might clear up quickly and let me get outside for a run. I've run before when I've had a bit of a sniffle, nothing too intense, just a couple of miles at a slow pace and I was hoping I'd be well enough to do that at least.

Saturday morning came and I felt no better, I decided that I'd leave the run for the day and hope that the rest might help me recover enough to run on Sunday. I've done a fair bit of research on whether or not it's safe to run when you're not well and the general concensus seems to be that if your symptoms are all above your neck then it's OK to run, if they're not then you shouldn't. This bug has definitely affected my lungs a little bit so I decided it was best not to go out. I'm asthmatic so I have to take particular care with things like this.

By Sunday morning I was feeling a bit better but still not 100%. I was really unsure about whether to go out, I really wanted to but I didn't want to risk making myself worse. In the end my husband said that he didn't think I should go and suggested that we go for a walk instead. So that's what we did.

As soon as we got outside I realised I'd made the right decision not to run. It felt good to be outside and to be moving around but it was very cold and windy. I'm sure I would have done myself and in particular my lungs no good at all by running.

We walked around the village where we were staying and where my husband grew up. It's a pretty village and I enjoy visiting - it's so different to where we live and where I grew up. The only horses we tend to see in London are police horses!

We walked up to the canal which is a particularly pretty place, there were quite a few barges moored up and a few other people walking along the path. It felt even colder by the canal so we just walked up to a bridge and then turned round and retraced our steps.

By the time we got back we'd walked two and a half miles which isn't bad. I didn't feel as satisfied as when I've had a good run but it was an awful lot better than sitting on the sofa feeling sorry for myself. Not long after we got back I started feeling dizzy again so I definitely did the right thing by not going out.

We had a lovely weekend away but right now I am feeling very frustrated. I want to get out there and run but I know I need to rest and wait until this thing is gone. My marathon training plan doesn't start for another couple of weeks and I know the most important thing is to be fit and well for that. I also know that having a break will probably do me good. I just miss the running and want to get back out there and hope that I can soon!

Friday, 2 December 2011

Belles and Beauty - an invitation from Boutique Sport

I was excited to receive an invitation from Boutique Sport yesterday for an event they're running on Saturday 10th December. Boutique Sport is a women’s only campaign designed to encourage young women to maintain active and balanced lifestyles, by breaking down the barriers to participation and creating opportunities for them to take part in physical activity and premium events. They're the people behind the running club that I go to on a Tuesday night.

The Belles and Beauty event is going to be held at Frame Studios, Shoreditch, followed by the Benefit Spitalfields Boutique and sounds like it's going to be a lot of fun. It starts with with a Cardiokettlebell class, I've never tried this before but it's low weight, high repetition exercises which promise full body toning and that sounds good to me.

Following the class, and a shower we will then head to the Benefit Spitalfields Boutique for free beauty demonstrations and mini makeovers courtesy of the Benefit in-store team. There's going to be festive refreshments and 10% off all purchases - a great chance to stock up on some Benefit products!

We also get to take away a Boutique Sport ‘bouti’ bag including Benefit discount vouchers, a free class pass from Frame Studios and a Boutique Sport tee.

It sounds like it's going to be a fun afternoon - a new exercise class to try and then some festive socialising and a chance to learn some new tips from one of my favourite make up brands. I signed up straight away!

There are a limited number of spaces available - Entry is just £10.00 per person and if you're interested you can sign up here