Welcome to Lockdown 2.0

It’s fair to point out that this lockdown is little less lockdowny that the previous lockdown. Apart from toilet rolls availability (yay!), the main difference is that schools are staying open so the joy of getting stuck in school run traffic is here to remain. Also this time, we know what to expect which isn’t necessarily a good thing. The financial impact aside, just like last time, the more extraverted you are, the more you are likely to suffer in the next four weeks. Socialising in pubs and cafes with friends? Forget it. Going out for a meal? Dream on! (Ahhh, remember the good times of Eat Out to Help Out scheme?) Non-essential shopping therapy? Not a chance.

For me as a busy parent and an introvert, very little has changed, but I know many people who struggle greatly with the idea of being limited by the lockdown rules for another four weeks (minimum).

Given the change of season and cold weather, it is going be so easy to give in to self-pity, TV, booze and take-outs. Besides, we have cleaned, reorganised and decorated every inch of the house during the previous lockdown, so what’s left to do other than binge watch Netflix and try to survive until the pubs open again, right?

But how about living, rather than surviving? I mean, you have nearly a month of “solitude” so why not emerge on the other end as your better self, rather than someone who earned a million Pizza Hut loyalty points and is a Tiger King expert (is that show still a thing?). This is your chance to surprise the world and exit the lockdown smarter/faster/stronger/leaner/healthier…

Let’s be realistic – it would be extremely difficult to get a six pack in four weeks, but you can start creating positive habits that will continue when lockdown is over. Go for a walk or a run (and bring a friend along because Boris allowed you to), do that online course, start cooking healthy (no, no more banana loaf!), meditate, embark on a push-up challenge…do whatever it is you always wanted to do. Because just surviving is not good enough. So many people would love to have more time in the world and they don’t. You do. So don’t you dare insulting them with this “just surviving” nonsense. Time is precious. So whatever it is you always wanted to do – start now! As in N-O-W. Chop chop!

I ran 11 miles today so if you excuse me, I shall put my feet up and enjoy my well-deserved Friday feeling. Looking forward to hearing all about your lockdown activities and if you need a kick in the bumbum, I’m here to help (=annoy you) as always! 😀 😎

Running Miles: socially distanced races since before Covid

⬆️ Sounds like an exaggeration, but it is true.

I just had the pleasure of running “Don’t Stop Me (Running) Now” marathon by Running Miles. Technically, it was a 6 hours challenge but only a real nutter would run more than a marathon!

So back to my statement above. I have previously done a few events by Running Miles and let me tell you – the pre-Corona ones felt very much the same as the Covid-compliant race today. Why?

  • Limited entries

Running Miles have always taken pride in organising small and friendly events (West London, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire). I believe the entries are limited to 50 participants. So it is very easy to remain socially distant. A huge ✅ for Covid compliance.

Fairly quiet for a marathon finish area
  • 6 hours challenge

Every event accomodates runners doing anything from a few miles to an ultra, which means they will all run at different paces and finish at different times thorough the day. So there are no crowds gathering at the finish line.

  • Laps

All events consist of multiple laps of the same course. That essentially allows you to leave your belongings and refreshments in the pit stop area near the finish/start and refresh yourself as you go instead of fighting for a cup of water at a crowded water station. Having said that, if you run out of refreshments (or crave coke after mile 17), the organisers are always happy to provide you with drinks top ups and snacks.

So yeah, I am not lying when I say that Running Miles have always been Covid-compliant! There were a few minor differences compared to pre-Covid events:

  • No pre-race briefing. Instructions were sent in an email before the race.
  • Staggered starts – start whenever you want approach. Loved it.
  • Handsanitisers and wipes in the start/finish area.
  • Changing facilities were shut, but the toilets were open so one could change in the (clean!) toilet if necessary.
  • Finishers ordered their post-race treats (goody bag) from a “menu” instead of grabbing countless (uhm 6) chocolate bars from a goody table. I can live with that.

What has not changed in the slightest was the great support and friendly atmosphere that I have not experienced at any other race. The organisers were lovely as usual and even remembered my past PB. It was awesome to see familiar faces of some running legends while meeting new future running legends. Thanks Running Miles!

Oh, and I’d almost forgot – I ran a massive marathon PB of 3:55:50 (25 minutes off my previous PB this January). Finally a race that went well for me (Running Miles magic perhaps?). Happy!!!

NoblePro MK 5K: a socially distanced race review

I will do my utmost to avoid moaning about my terrible time (I mean I had a great time but the time I ran 5K in was terrible), and will cut straight to the chase.

My second socially distanced race! Some major differences compared to F3 Dorney 10K three weeks ago (one key difference was that the route was actually measured accurately!).

So how was it?

  • Staggered starts

Staggered starts is a Covid-times must, however, there are different ways of doing it. While F3 chose the “start whenever you want within your time window” approach. Milton Keynes Athletics Club opted for waves instead of windows. Based on your predicted time you were assigned a wave with a precise start time. There was max 12 runners of similar abilities in each wave. A wave started every 5 minutes. This system essentially meant that you were taking part in a mini-race against runners in your wave. What I really liked was that each wave was led by a cyclist “clearing” the path. No risk of getting lost (which is my biggest race fear alongside pooping my pants).

  • Toilets

Speaking of pooping, there were no dedicated race toilets. We were instructed to use the park’s public toilets….that were closed when I arrived. Luckily I found a decent bush instead.

  • No bag drop

Just like F3, MC AC did not provide bag drop facilities, so if you didn’t arrive by car you were doomed. Alternatively, your spectator could serve as your personal bag keeper.

  • Spectators

That’s right! Spectators allowed! One per person. Also, since the event was in a public park, there were bystanders clapping and cheering which is something a lot of runners missed during lockdown virtual “races”.

  • The course

As I just mentioned, the course was located in a public park on a fairly wide path with tarmac surface. It wasn’t totally flat but there were no killer hills either. The finish line was a few hundred meters away from the start which definitely helped spread people around and maintain social distancing.

  • No medals

Yes, that made me cry a little as I’m a sucker for a good medal. Instead, the organisers threw a box of random NoblePro tops near the finish line and people just helped themselves. Gotta love a freebie!

  • Overall feeling

The event had a bit of an elite feeling to it. Real fast runners galore! I was one of the slowest participants, yet generally (despite my constant complaining) I am considered to be fairly fast(ish). The amount of 14 and 15 mins 5K’s that were run on the day was enormous. One crazy dude did 13:50. That’s a kilometer in 2 mins 46 seconds, times five. Doesn’t he need a driving licence to operate his legs? 🤔

Compared to F3 at Dorney that was completely shut to public, MK 5K was way more fun. And the results go on PO10. What more could a runner ask for? Well…I could ask for a PB, but perhaps next time…

How to tell you might be obsessed with running

Apparently I run a lot. Some (non-runers obviously) would say I run too much. So on my recent 23 miles run I was thinking about running and asked myself “How do you know you run too much?”. Well, apart from jelly legs and various niggles, you can tell you are obsessed with running if:

  • You spend more time on Strava than on any other social media (combined).
  • You choose your holiday destination based on whether there is a parkrun.
  • Two runs a day is a standard, not anything unusual.
  • You make your career choices based on whether you can run on your lunchbreak and/or runcommute.
  • You don’t consider 10 miles a long run.
  • Your running shoes collection is so extensive (and expensive) that it should have its own exhibition in a museum.
  • You seriously start considering setting up such an exhibition.
  • You have a spreadsheet detailing how many miles you ran in each pair and what races you did in them.
  • Actually, you have an elaborate spreadsheet for all your runs.
  • The spreadsheet feeds into a monthly dashboard that contains all your running KPI’s.
  • You can effortlessly convert miles to kilometers and minutes per mile pace to minutes per kilometer using the power of your brain.
  • On your rest days, you don’t know what to do with your free time so you watch YouTube videos about running.
  • You also listen to running podcast as you run.
  • You can always spot a runner even when they are not in their running gear.
  • You talk to strangers about running.
  • Bursting into a random stretching session anywhere in public is something you consider absolutely normal.
  • When you say you fancy something sweet you mean a gel.
  • You have all the flavours.
  • You are guilty of sucking on a fruit salad gel as a dessert after your dinner.
  • Your favourite tipple is electrolyte drink.
  • You file your race bibs. Systematically. Neatly. With love.
  • Your favourite chore is dusting off your medals.
  • You can’t imagine being called anything more offensive than a “jogger”.
  • Walking is simply a waste of a good run. Walking is slow. Walking is boring. You despise walking.
  • Reading this you feel an urge to run. You start considering squeezing another run in although you have already done 10 miles today.

Does that sound like you? If it does, you probably run too much. Wait….what? Nah! There is no such thing as too much running. Anyway, thanks for reading, gotta run…. 😉

A guide to socially distanced racing

Do you remember the times when we used to race at will? Then Covid happened and we couldn’t race at all. Now, just as everyone is getting fed up with all the virtual racing nonsense, we can participate in real races again. But things are not what they used to be…

Last Saturday, I took part in my first ever socially distanced race, organised by F3 Events. Finally, their race results now count towards PO10. Essentially, it is a guarantee that the course length is measured accurately….which in this instance it was not! Us 10K competitors had the pleasure of running 10.3ish kilometers, and the lucky 20mile runners were gifted a bonus half mile! Yay….not. For some (like me) it meant a loss of what otherwise would have been a PB (although, in my case the PB was so miserable that I am not even sad about it). But let’s cut the F3 guys some slack as this was one of the first real-life races in the country so most of us were just happy to run and get a pretty medal.

So how is it to race in a Covid-compliant setting? Let me sum it up for you:

  • No spectators

That’s right. It is a race, not a family day out. No supporters allowed. No crowds. No loud music. No terrible commentators. No ice cream vans and coffee stalls. If you need the above elements to get pumped and run fast, you are not in luck. If, on the other hand, you just want to be left alone to run, this a perfect crowd-free environment.

  • No bag drop

Ok, this might be F3 specific, but before your race, check carefully comms from your organiser. No bag drop essentially means you have to arrive by car and use your vehicle as your belongings’ storage. If you are a public transport kind of person – too bad.

  • Staggered starts

Instead of a set start time, we were given a half-hour window which made the whole experience way more chilled because the usual fear of missing the start was eliminated. F3 warned us that it might feel like being on a conveyor belt. The reality was that it was simply relaxing. A mate of mine rocked up to the start four minutes after the last window and the staff (who were nearly packed up) let him go for it. I doubt this would happen during a traditional race.

On the other hand, starting alone had a bit of time trial feeling about it. And if you need someone to compete against in order to perform, you might find this kind of racing much harder.

  • Medals and rewards

Don’t expect anyone to hang a medal on your sweaty neck. You have to collect it wrapped in a bag from a table. Also, no cups at water stations – all bottles are sealed and unscrewing them costs you precious seconds. And finally – no podium! You don’t even know if you won until the official results get published, so if you really like recognition, you will be disappointed…

  • Portaloos

I saved the best for last. Do you remember the horrendous pre-race loo queues? The terrible dilemma whether to go once or twice? The fear of missing the race start while standing in a mega long queue? The complex calculations to determine when the best time to start queueing is? All of that horror is now gone!! The toilet experience was simply delightful! Zero queue. Toilets dedicated to specific race distances. Cleanliness. Plenty of hand sanitiser. Couldn’t be better!

So my overall verdict is: Yes, I love Covid-compliant racing! I appreciate it is different to what we were used to, and if you need crowds and supporters and direct competition to enjoy/perform, it might not be your cup of tea. The bottom line is – we want to race and if this is the only way to do it, then we shall be there, at a socially distanced start line, ready to kick some bottom!

My dream job!

Day 3 of being unemployed.

Number of jobs applied for: 13. Luck: 0.

While deeply contemplating about what it is that I really want to do in my life, I wrote down a list of my strongest skills and the ideal set of responsibilities I would like to carry out in a potential new role….and realised that my dream job is:

Job title: Running Specialist

Overall purpose of job: To run as much as possible, as far as possible and as fast as possible.

Accountabilities:

  • Map daily runs on Strava, exercise creativity when planning routes
  • Upload daily runs to Garmin
  • Compile running playlists
  • Execute daily runs
  • Document all runs (selfies)
  • Greet all passingby runners
  • Maintain detailed training log in Excel
  • Use dashboards to monitor progress against KPI’s
  • Upon completion share runs on multiple social media platforms
  • Blog about runs
  • Foam roll
  • Carb load
  • Keep up to date with the latest running trends
  • Liaise with stakeholders to plan group runs
  • Motivate others to start running
  • Enter races on a regular basis
  • Explain non-running strangers what running is about

Skills and capabilities:

  • Passion for running (essential)
  • Knowledge of running suppliers
  • PO10 profile
  • Member of a professional body (running club)
  • Capable of delivering against set targets
  • PB focused
  • Excellent route planning skills
  • Willingness to run in all weather conditions
  • Systems knowledge (Strava, Garmin Connect, etc.)
  • Mild to moderate nuttiness
  • Strava segments awareness (desirable)

I’m a BA-leaver

I fell in love with you before we have even met. You swept me off my feet and charmed me with the way you made me feel: Whenever I was with you and whenever I thought of you, I was drowning in excitement equal to hundreds of butterflies fluttering around my stomach. The sense of adventure you gave me kept me awake at night. Your vision made me proud and I stood a little taller each time I realised you and I were together. All I’ve ever wanted was to be part of something big and important and exciting…and you offered me just that. And for that I will love you till my last breath.

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But now, at this time, we have to say goodbye. I never wanted to leave you. I never intended for things to turn out this way. But I have to go. I have to go because I love you. I have to go while I still love you.

We have grown apart you and I. And while it doesn’t change the depth of my feelings for you, it started changing the person I am. With each day by your side I was little more careless and ruthless, and little less kind and patient…and that’s not me. So I have to save myself. Save myself by leaving you.

I have sacrificed everything for you. My home. Relationships. Family time. Sleep. Wellbeing. Sanity. And I would do it all again because it was more than worth it. You took over my life and force-fed me thrill and excitement, and this meant everything to me because routine and peace does not agree with me.

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Whoever will come after you – I will lie to them, pretending they make me satisfied, knowing no one can ever match you. I am truly scared I will never again experience all the adrenaline you’ve let me taste. I am worried my heart will never mend, once I break it by leaving you. I suspect I am addicted to you and might cry myself to sleep every night without your presence. You shaped my life and my world for so long that I genuinely don’t know how will I live without you. But the landing gear is down and a go-around is out of the question.

I just need you to know that I will never stop going through all the wonderful memories of us; that you made me who I am and that I feel incredibly fortunate for all the adventures we have been through. So thank you and so long British Airways. Doors to manual and cross check.

I thought love was only true in fairy tales
Meant for someone else but not for me
Love was out to get me
That’s the way it seemed
Disappointment haunted all of my dreams

Then I saw your jets, now I’m a believer
Not a trace of doubt in my mind
I’m in love
Yet I’m a BA-leaver, it’s hard to leave you but I try…

ASICS Novablast review – definitely a blast!

I am not an ASICS person. I do have a pair of ASICS gel shoes but they always felt little too flat and narrow and somewhat hard. I do most of my runs in New Balance 1080s which I totally love. Having said that, I did get intrigued when several of my running Insta-buddies (not all of whom were ASICS Frontrunners ;)) started posting exciting comments/pictures/reviews of this new racing shoe called Novablast.

So I had no choice but to try these babies on. I was so impressed that I walked out of the shop with a pair, although I did not really intend to buy them there and then. So what convinced me?

  • Design

Being a female I just love pretty things and those shoes definitely look gorgeous! Discovering they have them in London edition was like finding a hidden treasure (apparently this version was introduced only recently and is currently not available online). And they come with two sets of shoelaces – red and blue so you can switch as you please. The red ones will go nicely with my running club’s vest!

  • Price

£130 for the London version, otherwise £120. That’s a decent price for an excellent racing shoe, especially compared to Just Do It competitor… Besides, there is no need to pay full price. I got mine for £108 because I asked nicely 🙂 . Telling the shop assistant “Hmmm I’ll have to go home and think about it, unless you convince me to buy them now” works every time.

  • They feel light

Okay, they are actually not the lightest shoes out there but they feel light. ASICS website says 261g for men’s and 221g for women’s shoe. I popped mine on a scale and it was 266g, but I wear size 8 which is quite large for a female (normally, I am 7.5 but when it comes to ASICS I always need a larger size). Still, my 266g shoe feels incredibly light. They are airy and extremely breathable to the point they don’t even feel like ASICS.

  • They are fast!

As soon as I put them on in the shop, I felt the urge to run. As if they had a spell cast on them which whispers in your ear “run fast, run fast” and “PB PB PB”. I tested them for the first time today and took over 30 seconds off my 5K PB (which I set only 3 weeks ago!). I started with a warm up and suddenly found myself doing 06:30 min/mile which felt like jogging. They are definitely PB shoes. They are bouncy with a bit of trampoline effect and spring you forward which I was well aware all the way through my run. They felt absolutely incredible, energising and powerful.

Now what are the downsides? Apart from me being stupid enough to buy white shoes, I can’t see any negatives. Perhaps, the marmite element is their bounciness. They are higher than most running shoes and very bouncy which is something I personally like, but I can imagine it is not everyone’s cup of tea.

My overall verdict: Love love love! The fact that I took my 5K PB from 20:56 to 20:23 speaks for itself. They are fast and light and “force” you to give it your best. I am totally in love and will sleep cuddling them all night.

Finally some specs:

Type: Neutral

Heel drop: 10mm

Surface: Road

Weight: 266g for size 8

Cushion: maximum, foam midsole

Price: £120

Go give them a go! ASICS do a 90-day trial so you can get your money back if you (for a mysterious reason) hate them. Now can we start racing again pleaseee? 🙂

The return of the segment ninja :)

It’s a common knowledge that I used to hate running (and sports in general). I was a nerdy kid. I wore old-fashioned clothes and read Harry Potter while J. K. Rowling still lived in a cardboard box and The Witcher before it was translated to English. Perhaps it was all the books, or perhaps something else, but I always felt very much limited by the streets of my home town. I felt I didn’t belong there because the town just didn’t get me. I was freaked out by the possibility that I would lead a little life locked in the cage of “normality”. So when the first opportunity presented itself, I ran (not literally because at that time I still hated running).

That was over 17 years ago. Since then I have been all around the world and have done and experienced more than some (most?) will do in their entire lifetime. Whenever I have (briefly) returned to my home town, I felt proud because each time I came back crowned by another little success (whether it was a uni degree, a new job, or a different country I have visited/lived in). Today I have returned once again, for a brief time as usual because I am afraid that if I stay too long the town will cage me and lock me up. Today, when I returned it was different than any other time in the past.

First of all, I started the day with an epic segment session when I smoothly took all the Strava segments in the neighbourhood. Given the fact that I was nothing but a nerdy unfit kid when I left, being able to comfortably outrun any female Strava users in the area is just something that blows my mind. And that’s not all. It’s not just the running side of it. This time I arrived back to my home town with a full house….wait….a royal flipping flush in my hand. For the first time in my life I feel like I have it all. Did I mention I run fast? Yeah, that. Plus I feel healthy and great and fit. I have an awesome kid (=an annoying little bugger). I work for the most British airline (for now….loving the furlough life). I live at a place that feels like real home. I have friends I can count on and belong to a supportive community of like-minded nutters (runners). I feel content and at peace. And I have finally met the man of my dreams, although I had very little dreams left in that department and was certainly not looking for any man at all.

So this geeky kid that took a risk 17 years ago, came back to her home town knowing it was all worth it (yes, it was bloody hard work) and that she finally has it all.

“Feeling lucky” does not even come close to describing how fortunate and grateful I consider myself. So maybe, just maybe, this all means that if you keep the faith through the tough times and take some risks instead of following the easy path, you’ll be rewarded for it in a much better way than you can ever imagine 🙂

My running milestone

I just ran 1000 miles!

Obviously not in one go. I ran 1000 miles since the start of 2020. Just to put it into perspective, the previous year I ran 392 miles in total, so I am very proud of myself right now.

Just like going from no running to some running 3 years ago has changed my life, the big mileage increase has changed my life yet again. 2020 is considered to be a horrendous year with a huge amount challenges that affected pretty much everyone, including myself. I used running as an excellent way to put my life problems into perspective…or to avoid them completely (whichever way you want to look at it). In the process I found friendship and love, peace of mind, some confidence, massive gratitude and joy, and most importantly an ability to share it with others.

However cliché it sounds, every single one of those miles helped me become a better person, not just physically but also on so many different levels. I feel really fond of all my miles because they are full of memories – memories of joy, of greeting strangers with a smile, getting thumbs up from passersby as well as being frowned upon, feeling free as well as struggling, loving life as well as wanting to give up, being soaked, lost, sweaty, euphoric, exhausted, determined… It definitely was more than mere exercise. For me, it was (and is) a means of soul searching and finding myself…and I sure do like the person I have found in me.

Let me leave you with my variation on famous Proclaimers’ lyrics:

I just ran a thousand miles, and I will run a thousand more.

Here is to running! Whatever your motive is – just keep going!