First Ever Marathon Booked…In Spain!

The countdown to race day has begun!

After a successful period of training, with the help of my new friends in the running club, I’ve plucked up the courage to book my first ever marathon.

Although all common sense told me to find an event that was as close to home as possible, I’ve somehow managed to sign myself up for my first race well over a thousand miles away from my comforting home of the Cotswolds.

How did I come to making such a rash decision? It was all a matter of chance and coincidence really.


I’ve made plenty of new friends through the running club and Francisco is one of these people.

Hailing from Barcelona, he’d spent the last 8 years living and working in England. In 2008, Spain was trapped in the midst of the Financial Crisis. Thousands of students every year graduated into a country that simply had no jobs for them. Francisco was one of these students, looking for a job that would make his 5 years of Architectural studies worthwhile. Thankfully he found gainful employment in England, in a town not too far away from mine.

After gaining the valuable experience that he desperately needed for his career, Spain is finally clawing it’s way back to financial stability. With one eye always on the sunnier climes of home, Francisco successfully applied for a role back in his native country. However, after nearly a decade of living in the UK, he’s found that he’s in need of a little more capacity than his rucksack can afford him. Fortunately for Francisco, he’s found a company that can help him make the big move home.

Contacting a removals company specialising in big moves to and from Spain, Francisco booked his passage back in November with Advance Moves. I was sad to hear that my running comrade was leaving, but perked up when I found out that it would not be until the end of the year. When he mentioned the Valencia Marathon that takes place every November, in near-perfect, mild running conditions, I knew that it had to be my first race.

The Valencia Marathon takes place on the 20th November and plays host to around 17,000 participants each year. During this time of year the average temperature is a balmy 13 degrees, with the skies mostly clear and sunny. What’s more, the course is almost entirely flat, therefore making it perfect for beginners. Ranked as the best marathon in the country by the Royal Spanish Athletics Federation, there will be markers at each kilometre (no mile markers for us English though!) in addition to gorgeous beach side views.


I’ve got just under 10 months to get myself race-ready; that means increasing the amount of distance I need to run, as well as nailing my new fitness plan.

With the support of my friends at the running club, as well as my other friends and family, I have no doubt that come November I’ll be raring to go with the rest of the runners in Valencia.

Running Fuel – What Should We Eat?

Is There a Perfect Diet for Runners?

Part of the challenge that I’ve been facing in this last year is related to my food intake as well as my activity.

Anyone who tries to convince you that you can lose weight and successfully get into shape without the use of a decent dietary plan is dead wrong.

[Trust me, I tried this and it did not work.]

Although I can hardly claim to be a professional nutritionist, I have found significant success using my current meal plan. Unless we’re trying to lose weight, we rarely consider the nutritional value of the foods that we put into our bodies on a daily basis. As a result, we can end up stuffing our systems full of too much sugar, carbs or fats – leading to a dangerous imbalance of substances and, inevitably, weight gain.

When you’re beginning your new running training schedule, the last thing you want is for your system to be blocked up by useless foods that are high in fats and sugars.

If you’re looking to build on your stamina, fitness and overall health, then you’ll need to feed your body the right mixture of food stuffs (as well as water) in order to give your body the nutrients it needs to fuel your runs, as well as recover afterwards.

There’s a whole wealth of information online that can determine what you should be eating and when. The amount of calories you need to be eating, depending on your current weight, height and hours of activity is important, but it’s also imperative that you take into consideration the type of calories that you’re ingesting as well.

All our bodies work differently – there’s no one dietary plan that we should all live by, but there are a few basic principles that we can follow that will put us on the right path.


Cut Out Snacks High In Sugar

Unless you’re midway through race day and are in dire need of a quick energy boost, you should try and avoid consuming foods that are high in sugars.

All these foods will give you is a short sharp jolt of energy, followed by an inevitable crash that will only serve to hamper your overall performance. If you’re looking for a healthy snack, that will benefit your times rather than damage them, try nuts or cereal bars for a healthier hit of carbs and protein.


Drink Plenty of Water

Although H2O should be an essential part of your day-to-day life, it should take an even more important role when it comes to your training regime.

The general recommendation often bandied about, in regards to how much water you should drink each day, is 2 litres a day. Although this might not sound like a whole load (I used to be able to drink twice that amount in beer most nights at University!), you’ll need to consume even more, if you intend on pounding out a decent hour-long run.


Protein Is Your Friend!

Foods that are high in protein are often the same foods that carry large quantities of fats.

However, if you choose wisely then you can plan wholesome post-run meals that can help boost recovery and restore tired muscles. My go to ingredients are lean chicken breasts, cottage cheese and eggs. I wouldn’t recommend combining those ingredients into a meal, but if you’re looking for a light evening meal then a grilled chicken salad is a a great option.


Disclaimer: If you’re looking to make changes to your current diet, don’t try and do too much all at once. Take out and replace pieces at a time, so your body can adjust slowly!

One Month Down!

Where has January gone?!

As ever, the first few weeks of the year have flown by with little or no regard for the people living in it.

January is always a strange time of year; most people are keen to make their own mark on the year and keep to their resolutions, it can always be tempting to slip back into comforting old habits.

It’s been three weeks since the New Year has begun and I don’t feel like I’ve made much progress so far. Since the holidays have ended, I’ve eased my way back into work life and pretty much continued with the same running schedule that I’d been doing before the New Year.

However, despite the slightly pessimistic stance I appear to have taken to the start of 2017 – I have still learned something since my last post.


Preparation Is Key When It Comes To Eating

You can lay out a detailed plan of action and write up a menu with a serious amount of nutritional know-how on it, but that doesn’t guarantee that you’ll actually go through with your plan. As with everything, preparation is absolutely critical in sticking to a plan – especially when it involves food. Although my menu is relatively flexible, I still found myself deviating from it in a big way as soon as the ingredients weren’t to hand.

Lesson: I’ve learnt to buy all my food (plus more) for each week before it starts. I also prepare meals the night before to cement my plan for the next day. 


It’s Important To Stay Wrapped Up

We might well be coming off the back of one of the warmest Decembers, but that doesn’t mean that it’s shorts and sandals weather out there. For the first couple of runs this year I was majorly caught out by the dropping temperatures. I tend to get very hot and sweaty when I run, so I always assume that I’ll be able to brave the initial cold and warm up regardless. However, this January I got well and truly stitched up by the sudden frosts.

Lesson: Don’t be a muppet – wrap up warm. Bought a pom pom hat from Amelia Jane, looked girly but felt so warm and toasty it didn’t matter.


Variety Is The Spice Of Life

Although I was perfectly content with running the same circuits throughout the whole of last year, there was something strangely monotonous about starting on the same route again this year. Having a regular running routine can either be a really useful way of tracking your progress or it can be an albatross around your neck, making every single run a chore. I live in a relatively rural area, so there are plenty of places to choose from and there’s no excuse for me to not find a new route.

Lesson: Keep running routes mixed up in order to avoid the onset of ennui. The internet, Google Maps and Strava are your friends! 


Never Stop Trying

There have been times already this January when I’ve felt like skipping a day and just vegging out on the sofa. It can be really difficult to motivate yourself, especially when we’re in the midst of this cold, dark winter – but if you’re similarly struggling with motivation, then find strength in yourself and get going.

Lesson: Don’t let the dark nights get to you. Man up and pull on your trainers – you’ll be grateful in the long run.

The Benefits Of Running In A Group

I finally joined a running club!

It was one of the mini-goals that I had been actively avoiding doing for the last month or so and it feels so good now to have knocked it off the list.

Why is it that I spent so long putting this relatively simple task off?

In some ways, turning up to that introductory session was the hardest thing I’ve had to do in a long time. Meeting new people for me is the equivalent of taking a blind run at a Royal Marines assault course (with my trousers round my ankles). There’s something truly terrifying and exhausting that I find about meeting new people for the first time in a social setting. Every time I stumbled into a party during University, regardless of how drunk I was, I was always struck with a cold, isolating pang of dread.

You’d think that over the course of ten years that I’d be able to shake off the social insecurities that I’d built up in my twenties – but apparently the ghosts of these anxieties still haunt my subconscious.

After finding the perfect running club to join (they meet literally a mile from my house) I left with plenty of time and walked very slowly over to the car park where the group met monthly. This is what I had been dreading for the last 6 weeks, sitting in the back of my mind, a constant reminder that I wasn’t doing what I set out to do. With every step that brought be closer to my destination I felt my heart grow heavier and heavier – I felt like stopping right there. I felt like turning around and running, escaping back to my old life, but it was too late, they’d already seen me.

Dressed as I was in my running gear, ambling slowly along the pavement, I’d attracted the group’s attention. They started waving me over and I was suddenly in no position to run away.

Of course, as with many of these social situations that I find so frightening, the reality of the situation is nothing as you will have feared. The people I met there were perfectly friendly, welcoming and more than eager to give me tips on my running. We spent that first session running at an easy pace, doing a simple loop around the perimeter of the local village and chatting the whole way. Running with others had suddenly made this new hobby so much more interesting.

In addition to be able to keep pace with people of your same ability, you have the chance to get to know people and discover new routes in your local area.The discovery of this running club and the subsequent overcoming of my social anxieties has led to me actively looking forward to my running sessions rather than seeing them as simply a thing that I must do. Looking forward to the future, it looks like I won’t be running the marathon alone.

Wherever I choose to run my first race – I have a raft of new friends who are eager to accompany me.

What Things You Really Need To Start Running

There’s a common misconception that running is an expensive hobby.

It’s true that the raft of high-end items that you think you need would bankrupt the average pay-earner.

Although there are many pitfalls for the amateur runner to avoid, savvy running shops will always try to convince you that you need more than is absolutely necessary.

If you’re thinking about taking up the sport then, for the love of God, don’t fall for their well practiced sales patter. Specialist Running shops may well be the best place to receive advice on your gait, running schedules and upcoming events, but their advice on the equipment that you should have in your arsenal will always be biased.


If you’re looking to start running – don’t fall into their trap. Before you go off and spend a fortune on your new fangled running accessories, like a brand-obsessed footballer’s wife addicted to buying

A Pair of Decent Running Shoes

However impervious to damage your old pair of Nike Airs might seem, they’re almost certainly not going to provide you with enough support or comfort to take you through 12 months of training and a race day. In order to give yourself the absolute best chance in succeeding in your event – you’ll need to invest a good amount of money in your shoes, so that you can avoid injury and get your best times.

Whilst I can’t recommend any particular brand of shoes to you (as I’ve only bought one pair in my life), I can say with absolute confidence that, with this particular purchase, you’ll get what you pay for. If you choose to skimp out, you may end up wearing through your sub-standard shoes in a matter of months. Invest anything over £100, however, and you’ll find that you have more of a spring in your step – in addition to being able to wear them for twice as long.


Cheap Digital Watch

There are now countless numbers of running apps available to download onto most smart phones. Whilst some of these charge for their services (others are also free), the function they perform are all relatively similar. Personally, I find that running without a smart phone or ‘fit bit’ allows you to focus more on the run itself. Although it can be fascinating poring over statistics and numbers, you can perform the same function using a simple digital watch.

When it comes to using technology to help your runs, all you really need is a simple and accurate way of timing yourself. Casios (or their knock-off alternatives) are ludicrously cheap, you can pick a suitable watch up for less than a tenner online. Armed with this and a map to plan your route, you’ll easily be able to figure out those stats for yourself and re-learn some of your School-level mathematics in the process.


Friction-Free Joggers/T-Shirts

Lastly, I can’t stress enough how much this will help you out in the long run. Friction-Free clothes are usually made of a polyester combination, rather than the usual cotton, and will actively wick away sweat as your run rather than absorbing it – increasing the risk of chafing and adding additional weight for you to shift around. These items are the probably the most important part of your running setup, invest in the wrong materials and you could find yourself in a sticky situation come race day.

The good thing about these clothes items is that they are relatively inexpensive. Due to the huge boom in popularity that Running is currently receiving, there is a huge amount of options on the market. If you’re certain that you’ll commit to running then it certainly wouldn’t hurt to spend a few extra pounds on specialised running gear. However, if you’re looking to save then you can buy perfectly suitable options (at a much cheaper price) from budget retailers such as Sports Direct.


If you’re looking to get into running, don’t get tricked into spending a fortune on unnecessary gear – think before you purchase!

 

The 2017 Marathon Running Plan

2017 is going to be the year for me.

Although I’m fully aware that this is perhaps the most dangerous time of the year to engage in foolishly optimistic portents – there still remains in me a ludicrously upbeat sense that this will be ‘my year.’

I finished last year on a high, I’d spent the year slowly building up my running speed and distance, until I felt ready to start tackling much bigger distances this year. It is my aim to complete a marathon by the end of the year – I’ve spent nearly a decade burning off the fat that I had accumulated in just as much time, now it’s time to put my new fangled fitness to the test!


With every New Year Resolution, it’s doomed to failure unless you can ensure that your targets are achievable and measurable.

So that I’m fully prepared to run my marathon this year, I’m going to have a small list of mini-goals that will help me reach the finish line:

Start Strength Training In The Gym

I’ve read in forums all over the internet, that a big part of completing a marathon is ensuring that you have the strength and endurance to complete the run.

Simply going on a few leisurely jogs each week won’t quite cut it when it comes to preparation. In order to raise my base level of strength, I’m going to be heading in to the gym 3 days a week to work on some strength training. Easy to do activities, such as dumbbell lifts, pull-ups and squats should be enough to get me competition ready.


Increase Intake Of Protein To Build Mass

Although the overweight man inside of me inwardly shrinks away from the idea of ‘gaining’, I’ve got to the point now where I would actually benefit from gaining some mass.

This doesn’t mean that I’ll be running to the chippy every night to invest in some fatty products – but it does mean that I’ll be eating a lot more protein, in a bid to gain some significant muscle before my first ever race. I’m going to be doing this by investing in a lot of chicken and beef, but I’m also hoping to get it through vegetables and pulses too.


Keep A Record Of My Progress

What’s the use of making a plan if you can’t tell how far through it you are?

In addition to recording down my times and distances, I’m also hoping to keep a consistent record of how I’m doing with all my aims here on this blog. There’s a great deal to be said about accountability and the effect that this has on performance. When it comes to how I’m planning to stick to my targets, I’m hoping that keeping up a consistent, honest record of my progress will help me stick to my guns this year.


Find A Running Club

Lastly, this will probably be the toughest of all my targets.

Logistically it’s a piece of cake. All I need to do is a quick Google search for local running clubs and find one that fits my level of ability. The hard bit of this will be actually meeting the rest of the club members. For a long time I’ve lived a relatively reclusive lifestyle. I have friends at work, but that’s how they stay. My time spent outside of work is mostly spent alone – so that needs to change. By joining a running club I can meet some like-minded individuals and hopefully find some new running partners!