Active Every Day in December

I’m writing this 30 days into my #ActiveEveryDay in December Challenge. Here I explain why I chose to be active every day in December, how I did it – and what I gained from doing it.

Why I set the goal?

  1. Too busy to think – December is hectic – and extra crazy for me this year, as I’ve started a new business HER SPIRIT and launched a new coaching course GET KNOWN. I didn’t want to have to think too hard about training. Keeping goals simple is I believe the key to achieving them. To just run every day was a good base line from which I could add on layers, for example, a park run or a long run.
  2. Consistency – I believe consistency is the key to success in running, or triathlon training. Fellow endurance woman, Julia, who’d ran at a very high level often reminded me when we trained together, when one week is done you get up on Monday and start again. Doing the same thing, week in, week out, can be boring, and there’s no glory, but it is what gets results.
  3. Reactivate the runner in me – 2018 was a mixed year for me. Officially older now, and with two accidents on the bike resulting in two broken collar bones and a new tooth, had affected me physically and emotionally. I was shook, literally, and my back is still paying the price for it. Recovery and getting through the Ironman Training meant that running had taken a back seat. I’ve slowed down (partly age, partly less miles, partly biomechanics), but to feel like a runner again, I had to just run.
  4. Getting outside on winter slow-down –  December is dark, the days are short, it’s easy to hibernate . But for me fresh air and movement keeps me from getting too sluggish. To allow for that body clock slowing down thing (not sure if there’s any science there, just my experience) I made sure I had no pressure on pace and other than Tom’s sets I didn’t plan in hard sessions. Getting outside and absorbing vitamin D (which is in short supply) felt important.

How I did it

  1. Accountability and purpose – Even though I’ve  not been a regular at the club, I joined the Run Up 2 Christmas challenge and made myself accountable to the group. I set a goal of 200K between 1st and 25th December and went over it. and we raised cash for Mind, a charity I feel passionate about. I also made myself accountable to the endurance women community by setting up the challenge on Strava.
  2. Sustainable Goal – The basic goal remained active every day, but the second goal was try to stick to 5K running a day.  This has meant that some days I’ve ‘moved’ around the park at 10 minute mile pace for just over 5K, in the dark and at the end of a long working day. Having run every day as a minimum requirement means I’ve actually started to do more, and found it easier to make sure I go along to Tom’s speed sessions on Tuesday at 7pm (it’s dark, I’m tired, it’s often rained!).
  3. Preparing for the Crazy Week – I knew Christmas week would be hard, so I made sure I got a long run done on Xmas Eve before setting off on the road. For the rest of the week not only was there over-indulgence to content with but a lot of travelling. I drove at least 650 miles between Christmas Eve and Friday 29th. Having the goal meant I ran in Somerset on Christmas Day and saw great views and discovered a new path along the canal in Watford.
  4. Park Run – I forced myself to do a park run event though I knew I’d be slow. I ran one of my slowest park runs, at 22.48 for 5K. But it felt the same as when I ran sub 20 or 21. The effort was there – and so was Father Christmas!

The Benefits

  1. It felt easier than having days off – Without the option of not running, running felt easier. Once I’d taken out choices, I just did it. It’s advice I got from another endurance women training partner, Sam, when I was about to bail out of a swim set after a 19 mile-run, ‘Don’t question it Fiona, just do it,’ she said. It’s stayed with me!
  2. It cancels out the bad stuff – As well as running every day, I drank alcohol every day bar two. I think my unit count was probably the same as my mileage count on some weeks. I’m hoping that the running counteracted some of the negative affects of drinking (although I will be doing dry in January as I don’t think I could carry on doing this!).
  3.  I did more than I thought I would – I’ve written lots of complicated running plans in the past, and often not stuck to them. I know what’s needed for marathon training and by running every day I didn’t have to plan it. I just started to do a long run, add in a park run, go to Tom’s sets. The result is (once I’ve done today’s run) over 40 miles a week and regular long runs, ideal for preparing myself for Brighton in 2019.

What’s Next?

My running is still slow and by running every day I’ve worked out it could be biomechanics. My back aches a lot – so for January I’m adding in swimming three times a week to a basic weekly mileage for the marathon.

Active January

If you need inspiration for January I’d recommend trying to be active every day – keep it simple and relative to where you are now. So if you’ve done nothing walk every day, if you’re injured stretch, it’s a simple goal and a great feeling when it’s done (which reminds me… I’ve still got two days left to go!)

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7 Ways To Run a Marathon

Endurance athletes, by their nature, have an insatiable appetite for a challenge. Since the 1980s the marathon has attracted new runners and big city road races are over-subscribed every year. Demand has dictated supply and now there’s a whole range of races covering the bucket-list 26.2 miles

This article was first published in Sports Insight Magazine.

The marathon is an iconic distance with its history in ancient Greece. In recent years it’s come to represent bravery, courage, giving back, and of course endurance – making ordinary folk feel extraordinary.

Running, and endurance events have captured all our imaginations. Events such as parkrun (often the start of the journey for marathoners) have gone global, big city races are over-subscribed, and athletes are demanding more. Brands, event organisers and marketeers are responding and working hard to create the ultimate ‘athlete experience’. And social media fires up the enthusiasm as runners share their stories, living life on the edge, coming out of the comfort zone, and showing what’s possible. 

Here’s seven ways to run a marathon:

  1. Road Races

The most popular way to run a marathon is on the road. You would be forgiven in thinking that all races lead to a road marathon. There are races in all our major cities, globally: London, New York, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, Shanghi, Moscow. These big events are what many of us have come to associate with marathon running, and an entire industry has emerged around them, creating the mass participation in running that we see today, so with this much vested interest popularity will continue although with some new kids on the block growth is starting to decline in the UK and USA. However, it’s all relative, by 2016, over one million runners had crossed the finish line at London since its start in 1981, and the 2019 London marathon had a record 414,168 applicants. Growth in our well-travelled and connected world has expanded and recent research by Jens Jakob Andersen from Copenhagen Business School andrunrepeat.com(https://runrepeat.com/research-marathon-performance-across-nations)found that the biggest growth was in Russia (300 per cent), China (260 per cent) and the Philippines (212 per cent). Another growth area is amongst women (the drivers of family consumer decision making), Anderson’s study also found that 45.15 per cent of American marathon runners are women. 

2. Off road Marathons

In our increasingly boxed-in, manufactured and sanitised lives, the call of nature has drawn more runners to try to complete the 26.2 on the trails, immersing themselves in a kind of mediation on the move. Killian Jornet writing in Athletics Weeklytalks about a desire for that connection with nature, and he adds: ‘Like road running, there are the social and fitness aspects,’ but he adds the need for focus and concentration is compelling, attracting more runners.

On a practical level, pounding the pavements without paying attention to your body, as many do, can lead to injury, taking runners off the tarmac and onto the trail. And of course there are ‘trail-blazing’ brands such as Red Bull, Merrell, Salomon and Saucony who have popularised adventure, and off-road events which often feature huge elevations and breath-taking landscapes. In the UK popular races take in beautiful landscapes such as the Endurance Life’s Coastal Trail marathon series or the Beachy Head Marathon which crosses over the Seven Sisters (white cliffs) of East Sussex and is regularly over-subscribed. 

3. Relay Marathons

Alongside the growth of marathon running, has been the increased love of ultra marathons and all things bigger than a marathon. For many covering 26.2 miles or more as part of a relay team in the ultra context can satisfy the challenge-hunger. Events that have nailed this format include Endure 24, the ‘Glastonbury of running’, and the US import, Ragnar Relay. These events are staged over 24 hours, with teams running repeated laps, which can add up to the marathon distance. Hugely successful in the US, Ragnar has been brought into the UK in partnership with Brighton marathon organisers Grounded Events, describing itself as ‘the world’s largest series of overnight running relays’. A blog on their wesite, sums up why this format works: ‘Maybe you’re not really a runner. You’re actually that guy or girl who just loves the gym… Yeah, you’re “athletic.” But, you don’t “run.” Right?’

4. Marathon Tourism

Who doesn’t want to visit the wonders of the world, Athens, The Great Wall of China, New York, London? Well why not take in a marathon whilst you’re at it? Or why not take in a novelty race, such as the Marathon du Medoc, or Run Bacchus, where you can combine running 26.2 miles with cheese and wine? 

An article in Tourism Review News (https://www.tourism-review.com/sports-tourism-revenue-growing-in-spain-news10466) points out that in the last decade, the tourist expenditure of international travellers who attended sports activities in general has increased by 41.5 per cent. And looking at Spain they point out that of the 20,100 participants in the last edition of the Barcelona Marathon, half were foreigners, in Valencia, 31 per cent of the participants were foreigners. Studies have shown empty-nesters have cash and like to spend it on travel, and as runners age it’s likely that this type of tourism will continue to flourish.

5. Marathon as a political movement

Many would argue that as runners get together in a big bundle of positive energy, there’s the power to change. What revolution was run by unfit fatties? In her thought for the day for BBC Radio 2, Reverend Kate Bottley said that parkrun was very similar to religion, people gather every week at a set time and support each other in a joint cause. The same for politics, get a group of people who are positive, striving together and tap into that energy and you have a movement. Worldwide, marathons with meaning are taking place. In the Uganda Marathon, runners are helping raising funds for local, sustainable community projects and actively helping out as part of the trip. The Beirut marathon has the theme of unity at its core, and includes a 3K race for politicians and members of the UN. Commercially, we’ve seen that the millennial consumer demands that brands work hard at their bigger purpose – watch this space for more ‘political’ marathons.

6. Super extreme marathons

From the Antartic to the desert – if you like extremes, there’s a marathon for you. At the Antarctic Ice Marathon temperatures can hit -20. How about the Baikal Ice marathon, in Russia, which takes place between two opposite shores of the world’s deepest lakes?The Marathon Des Sables, (although an ultra) is completed in the desert and described as the ‘toughest footrace on earth’. The Great Wall Marathon in China will take twice as long as a ‘normal’ race, but you get to see the monument in style. Run 1600ft underground in Sondershausenthrough a disused salt mine, or do the 26.2 miles on a track or treadmill. There’s no shortage of races for masochists!

7. Multiple Marathons

In 2016, Eddie Izzard completed 27 marathons in 27 days (not his first attempt) for Sport Relief, demonstrating how ordinary, not typically athletic types could use the power of the mind to overcome epic endurance challenges and do good. Strictly speaking running marathons day after day qualifies as an ultra, and very often ‘running’ is a term that can be loosely applied, however, more people on taking on the multiple (as well as ultra-distance races). Eddie’s not alone, there’s a plethora of films on Amazon Prime and Netflix and books celebrating multi-marathoners, ultra-runners, and long-distance triathletes. At the National Running Show last year (and coming up in 2019) a number of adventure and boundary-pushing runners, were featured speakers, reflecting a change in the consumer, inspired to hear about those who got out of their comfort zone.

(Footnote:You can also run a marathon if you do an Ironman; or cover the distance in a Swim Run event and now races like Spartan are making obstacle races marathon distance or more – their ultra-race is 50Km, 8K longer than a marathon. There will be more to come. Stay tuned!)

Active everyday: The December Challenge

December has started! But it’s not too late to join in the every day is active Endurance Women challenge for December? Run every day or do a swim/bike/run combo? Who’s in? Join us on Strava

#ActiveEveryDay