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

Β£130 for the London version, otherwise Β£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 Β£108 because I asked nicely πŸ™‚ . 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: Β£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? πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 clichΓ© 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!

#13x13challenge with buggy: the end of the journey

Last day: 13 June 2020

Miles: 27.4

Total miles: 186.4 in 13 days

Highlight of the run: Too many highlights! It was so much fun! Also, this was my longest run ever. I feel on the top of the world!

After my half marathon no12 I had only one more left to do the following day. As I was finishing no12 I asked myself “Can I go and do the same distance right away?” The answer was (surprisingly) yes. So then it was a no-brainer. For me personally, meeting expectations is almost disappointing; I have this curse of always trying to exceed any kind of expectation. So I decided to do a marathon instead of a half. And as I am easily seduced when it comes to running activities, I was quids in when a fellow Dasher suggested a route that would be 27miles+. Thanks Steve!

It was actually Steve’s idea. I had nothing to do with it (cough)

I just can’t help it. I always like beating my yesterday self. You should try it sometimes (while remaining sensible please) – attempt to do something that will make you feel proud. Achieving something you were unsure you can achieve transforms your life – it makes you believe – it gives you pride – it raises your self-esteem – it makes you love yourself – it helps you make the right choices going forward, and most importantly – it inspires other people to do the same. And if each of us inspire someone, we will transform this world into a much brighter and happier place. Peace & love!

PS: MASSIVE thanks for all the positive comments, encouragement, support and also sponsoring my challenge! You are wonderful!

PPS: Any ideas for my next challenge? πŸ˜‰

#13x13challenge with buggy: Day 12

Date: 12 June 2020

Miles today: 13.1

Total miles: 159

Highlight of the run: New trainers! They arrived only yesterday but were needed so badly that they completed their first half marathon only 14 hours after getting un-boxed.

Today I was exploring Burnham Beeches. I cannot believe I have lived so close to so many gorgeous places that I have never been to. It took a pandemic and silly running challenge to actually start discovering my area. I even made it to a different county!

I have really enjoyed my daily half marathons for many many reasons, but perhaps the top reason is that every new run is a sort of an adventure. You never know who you’ll bump into – a fellow Datchet Dasher, a hot topless runner (I wish) or a lorry driver stopping his truck in the middle of traffic lights to give you a parenting advice (yes, that actually happened). Every morning when leaving my house for a run I was excited about all the adventures that are waiting for me. And there were loadssss of them! Like for instance today – if you heard screams in Burnham Beeches, it was me trying to shake huge ants off my pants. Note to self: watch where you pee…

Now I shall retire and rest because tomorrow is the last day of my running challenge and I wouldn’t want to let you down, would I? Huge thanks for your incredible support and for sponsoring my runs. I’ll check in tomorrow once I conquer my 13×13 challenge. And watch out – there might just be one cute little rabbit left to be pulled out of my hat… πŸ˜‰

#13x13challenge with buggy: Day 11

Date: 11 June 2020

Miles today: 13.1

Windsor Castle

Total miles: 145.9

Highlight of the run: Despite weather forecast, we miraculously managed to stay dry on yesterday’s and today’s run. I actually enjoy running in the rain, my child less so.

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Day 11 and I’m losing it. It’s like my entire world consists of running, thinking about running, talking about running, planning runs, rolling on a foam roller and listening to Baby Shark. Yes, that’s correct. Baby Shark. Dooo dooo dooo dooo dooo. My son is normally very lively, so he knows he can have and do anything that will keep him happy and still in the running buggy. So when he requests to watch a one hour (one hour!!!) YouTube video with Baby Shark on repeat, who am I to say no?

Apologies if you expected a daily dose of running wisdom. There isn’t any. Apart from the obvious – do NOT listen to Baby bloody Shark for an hour straight. Just don’t. Because if you do, dooo dooo dooo dooo dooo… 🦈

#13x13challenge with buggy: Day 10

Date: 10 June 2020

Miles today: 13.25

Total miles: 132.7 and counting

Highlight of the run: Apart from running with my lovely fellow Dasher Louise, the other highlight was exploring Harmondsworth Moor which is quite literally next to my work but I never got the opportunity to discover all of it. Gorgeous spot!

Miss you British Airways 😘

Doing my little #13x13challenge I am lucky to get loads of praise that includes me being called amazing, inspirational and even a “remarkable athlete” (which is my favourite one as I hardly think of myself as an athlete, never mind a remarkable one). While snooping through Strava today, I came across this mad woman who does ridiculous mileage, and a half marathon is just her every day warm up. What I am trying to say – if you are trying your best, don’t let anyone make you feel like that’s not enough. The only person you should compare yourself to is your past self. And make sure you are better than that person! Whether it means running your first mile, getting your 5K under 25 mins, or aiming for your first ultra – it is always an amazing achievement as long as you give it your all.

So give it your all! πŸ™‚