Rants and raves #13

**Disclaimer: Now that I’m able to run again, I’m feeling quite chirpy so the raves should outnumber the rants. As always, all rants, raves and opinions represent my own views. Other (far superior) less opinionated and negative running blogs are available**

Happy Thursday! I hope that everyone has had a great week so far. It’s nearly the weekend.

Rave: Lululemon Sole training shorts

A slightly indulgent rave to start with but I have fallen in love with my Lululemon Sole training shorts. Yes they were expensive and yes I could have bought several cheaper pairs of shorts for the same price. They were a birthday present and I do think it’s important to occasionally treat yourself…

The shorts feel really, really comfortable (hopefully I don’t lose too much weight too soon…), have loads of pockets to stash stuff and most importantly don’t ride up or cause the dreaded ‘chub rub’.

Rant: Sudden calf cramps

Picture the scene. You’re lying on the top of your bed, chilling out reading a book and relaxing when suddenly your calf goes into spasm. You know that the second you move the pain will intensify a bazillion times so you are kind of stuck in a painful predicament. It’s definitely a no-win situation.

This was me on Tuesday evening. One minute I was chilling reading the last chapter of Keep on Running the next I was rolling around clutching my left calf. I guess it was some sort of karma for me being lazy and lying on my bed reading rather than doing the washing-up.

My calf still feels a bit bruised now.

Rave: Chocolate éclairs

Now that I’m able to run again I’m trying to eat less rubbish and more ‘real’ food, I’m also trying to lose weight. Unfortunately, I’ve developed a bit of a soft spot for chocolate éclairs.EclairI’ve tried a few different éclairs, but my favourites are the £1.00 éclairs from the fresh cake/bakery section in Sainsbury’s. Luckily for my waist and wallet they have usually sold out by the time I get to Sainsbury’s, but the other day I managed to snaffle the last one.

Rant: Noisy birds

I like the lighter mornings and the warmer weather. I dislike the birds – I think they are starlings but I’m not sure – currently living directly above my bedroom window. The baby starlings are seriously noisy and start demanding food the second it gets light.  I actually feel sorry for the parents, talk about constant pressure.

To add insult to injury, the starlings somehow managed to activate my house alarm at 05:30 on Sunday. I rarely get to sleep before midnight, so these early morning mini feathered alarm clocks are making me even crankier than usual.

Maybe I should borrow one of my mother’s cats…

Rave: Hydrologists cartoon thingy

When people discover that I’m a hydrologist, they usually know that my research has something to do with water, but don’t understand what I actually do. Neither do I 😉

One of my hydrologist friends sent me this hydrologists cartoon thingy. The hammock picture needs swapping to a picture of a riverside pub, the rest is pretty accurate.HydrologistMy research is actually quite tedious and involves a lot of reading, a lot of number crunching and some drought modelling. I very rarely get to go near an actual river.

Rant: DNS’ing races

I know that I’ve had this one before but the DNS’ing of races continues. I missed the Market Drayton 10k on Sunday and suspect that the Vitality London 10,000 will be another DNS.DNSingHopefully *fingers crossed* Great Run will allow me to ‘downgrade’ from the Birmingham International Marathon to the Great Birmingham Run.

[Update]: this seems a slightly long-winded way of doing things…

“Yes you can change to another distance if you wish, all you need to do is register and pay to secure your place in that new preferred event and let us know when you have done so. We can then withdraw/refund your original entry…”

Once again, if you’ve reached the end of my latest random selection of moans and groans and rants and raves, then thank-you.

How much sleep do you get during the week? I’m thinking that my 5-6 hours a night isn’t enough.

If you were given £100 would you spend it on a couple of items from Lululemon, or on loads of bits and pieces from somewhere like TK Maxx? I think I’d spend my £100 on a couple of more expensive pairs of shorts.

Rants and raves #11

**Disclaimer: this post was written while the author was experiencing heel pain and race envy. As always, all rants, raves and opinions represent my own views. Other (far superior) less opinionated and negative running blogs are available**

It’s been a while since I wrote my last Rants and raves post. Now that it’s April and I’m still injured, I feel the need to have a rant. As always I’ll start with rave.

Rave: Diet Coke

I think I’ve mentioned my slight Diet Coke addiction several times in my blog before. I recently realised my addiction was getting out of control when I looked inside my recycling bin and estimated that most of my recycling was Diet Coke cans. I would buy a multipack of Diet Coke – for some reason it had to be cans – and during an average day would easily drink 5-6 cans.

A few years ago I managed to stop drinking Diet Coke for six months; I can’t remember what made me break my Diet Coke ban, but I was soon drinking 5-6 cans a day. I decided to give up drinking Diet Coke and eating chocolate for Lent. The chocolate ‘ban’ lasted two days; when I see a bar of Dairy Milk I have zero willpower. I’m pleased to report I haven’t been near a can of Diet Coke since March 1st. I found breaking my Diet Coke drinking addiction so easy I suspect that it was more an obsession than a ‘proper’ addiction. It’s just a shame I’m now drinking a lot more tea.

Rant: My lack of self-control

I’m now going to contradict myself. While I found breaking my Diet Coke addiction quite straightforward, I wish the same could be said for my eating habits. Since I’ve been injured my eating habits have been poor. I’ve been treating myself to takeaways several times a week and eating far too much junk food. As a result I’ve gained a fair amount of weight since the start of the year. I’ve always had a slightly iffy relationship with food. I‘m an emotional eater and when I feel rubbish I seem to eat rubbish.BMIMost runners seem to lose weight, I’m the opposite. 

I know there are some limitations in using the body mass index (BMI) but I find it a useful guide. Although my BMI currently sits within the ‘healthy weight’ range, I’d like it to sit slightly nearer the middle of the range.

Rave: Tall ranges

There’s another slightly fickle reason I’d like to lose weight; summer.

I’ve never been a particularly girly girl; I blame my height and the lack of clothes for ‘tall’ women when I was growing up. As a teenager, I’d spend far too much time mooching about with my friends in Miss Selfridge, Topshop, C&A and New Look. While my friends had a great time trying on loads of clothes, I would spend my time wishing I was shorter as nothing ever fitted. My options were limited to Long Tall Sally and other expensive brands, so when I wasn’t wearing my school uniform or riding gear, I lived in jeans and checked shirts. The mid 90s were awesome…DP Tall dressesA selection of three of the summery dresses available in the Dorothy Perkins tall range.

Fast forward 20 or so years and more and more high street stores now have dedicated tall ranges. Although I’d rather have been looking at running gear, last night I spent ages looking at ‘tall’ summery dresses on Dorothy Perkins, Long Tall Sally, New Look, GAP and Next. I’ve finally accepted that I’m too old for Topshop. It was great as for the first time ever I actually felt slightly overwhelmed as there were so many dresses to choose from.

Rant: Plantar Fasciitis and DNS’ing races

I’m still injured and haven’t been for a run since Tuesday February 6th. The Cambridge Half Marathon, the Seven Pools Run and the City of Birmingham 10k have all been marked down in my running diary as ‘DNS’. While I’m sure I’ll be writing ‘DNS’ next to a few more races, my heel is gradually getting better and I’m confident I’ll be running again fairly soon.

Rant: Unworn running kit

Apologies for having two consecutive rants, but as this one is directly linked to my rant about my injury woes I thought I’d get away with it! Like virtually every runner I know I love shopping for new running kit. My injury means that the running kit I was bought for Christmas is as yet unworn, and in some cases is still waiting to be unwrapped.Christmas clothesThis is possibly the most upsetting photo I’ll ever share on my blog.

I’m just thankful something made me opt for a pre-Christmas shopping spree in Long Tall Sally rather than in Niketown. Perhaps subconsciously I knew I was about to pick up an injury.

Rave: The National Running Show

And finally, some positive news. The organisers of the National Running Show are currently recruiting Ambassadors. I applied and was accepted. I’m just waiting to receive a few more details, but it would be great to see some of you in Birmingham next January.

If you’ve reached the end of my latest random selection of rants, raves, moans and groans then I’m seriously impressed.

Huge apologies for another rather random blog, hopefully my next post will be slightly more positive.

My running goals for 2017

Firstly, I’d like to wish you all a Happy New Year! I hope that you all had a great Christmas and New Year. Here’s to an awesome and hopefully injury-free 2017.

As – like loads of other runners – I’ve already reviewed 2016 in far too much detail  – I think it’s time for me to look ahead to the New Year and to set some goals for 2017.

Although I managed to achieve most of my 2016 running goals, I still eat far too much crap food and tend to ignore the strength and conditioning ‘personal action plan’ I was given 12 months ago. Therefore, if I had to award myself an overall grade for 2016 it would be a ‘B-‘.

I’ve decided to set myself some challenging but hopefully achievable running goals for 2017. Although I love writing out resolutions and goals, I wasn’t originally going to share them. However, as previously putting my running goals into writing appeared to motivate me to get off my arse, I decided to publish this post.

training-journalsPerhaps one of my goals should have been to take better photos…

Enough waffling, here are my running goals for the year ahead…

Run 700 miles – When I first drafted out my running goals I wanted to run 1000 miles this year. However, last year I only ran 700 kilometres or approximately 435 miles. As a result I’ve been sensible and have adjusted my annual mileage target, so that this year I’d like to run 700 miles, still quite an increase on my 2016 mileage. I’ve worked out that I will need to run approximately 58 miles a month or 2 miles a day.

Complete 10 parkruns and 10 races – I set myself the same goal last year and failed miserably. Last week I worked out that due to several ‘DNS’ and a ‘DNF’ I only managed to complete three parkruns and a handful of local races. As I currently have to rely on unreliable friends and public transport to travel to races, I suspect that I’ll find this goal more challenging than it probably should be.

A sub 8 minute mile – my current mile PB of 9:09 is from 2012 when I hobbled around an indoor athletics track with tight bends with a leg injury. I’d like to lower this time at some point this year, hopefully at the Westminster Mile in May.

A Sub 25 minute 5k – I set my current 5k PB of 26:49 last February. If I fail to run a sub 25 minute 5k at some point during 2017 I will retire from running. That is a promise.

parkrun-pbI want to receive a few more ‘Congratulations on setting a new Personal Best’ emails this year

A Sub 55 minute 10k – After it took me several attempts to run a sub 60 minute 10k last year, I suspect that I will find this particular goal the most challenging. I’ve already entered the hopefully flat and fast London 10,000, and will do my best to set out at a sensible pace at the end of May.

A Sub 2:20 half marathon – now that I’ve finally rediscovered my running mojo, training for the Cambridge Half in March is going well. The mistakes I made during the Great Birmingham Run taught me how not to pace a half marathon. I’d love to achieve this particular running goal in March.

Listen to my niggles – I’ve reached the conclusion that I’m quite an injury-prone runner… Some runners hardly even seem to pick up injuries; I’m definitely not one of those runners. As I don’t want to spend another extended period sulking on the injury bench, I’m going to listen to my niggles this year.

Join a new running club – This is quite a tricky one as there is nothing wrong with my current running club, I’m just far too slow to attend the training sessions at the moment. I also have no idea where I’ll be living and working in six months time. Although I’ve researched alternative local running clubs, I’ll probably become an ‘unattached’ runner for the first time in a decade at the end of March.

Be slightly more sociable – At the moment I tend to run on my own and I’ve turned into a bit of a running recluse. This year I’m determined to overcome my anxiety and to attend more social runs. I’m also planning on pushing myself out of my comfort zone by volunteering at a range of local events.

Don’t buy any unessential running gear – I set myself the same goal 12 months ago and failed spectacularly! Last month I sorted through all of my running gear, worked out exactly what bits and pieces of essential running gear I needed to replace and then bought what I needed in the sales. While I’m still on the hunt for a couple of sports bras, I don’t need to buy anything else.  


Have you set yourself any running goals for 2017? While some of these goals are quite challenging, I hope that they are all achievable…

Are you a member of a running club? If you are, how often do you attend club training sessions? There are now so many different social running groups, I’m starting to question if I actually need to join another running club.

Red Kooga Natural Energy Release review

As you know I’ve been training for the Great Birmingham Run since the end of June. The combination of warm evenings and light mornings has meant that I’ve also been struggling to sleep. As a result of my limited sleep and increased training I’ve been feeling really tired after lunch – not ideal for my afternoon productivity.

When I received an email in June asking me if I would like to review a new herbal product – Red Kooga Natural Energy Release, I was intrigued and wanted to find out more. I received the sample of Red Kooga in the post and then decided to delay my product testing until after I’d given blood at the start of July.

What is Red Kooga?

Red Kooga Natural Energy release apparently enhances both energy and sports performance using tried and tested herbs. The tablets contain a unique combination of vitalising natural ingredients:

  • Panax ginseng – a herb used in the Orient for thousands of years to promote vitality and maintain mental alertness.
  • Guarana – a herb that helps to provide a natural source of caffeine.
  • The recommended daily allowance of B Complex Vitamins – to help maintain a healthy nervous system and help release energy from food.

Red Kooga 2

Did Red Kooga make me feel more energised?

Normally, I’m not a huge fan of taking tablets and will always try to source the vitamins and nutrients I need from food. In addition, I was slightly dubious about some of the claims the product manufacturers were making.

As Red Kooga aims to provide a natural energy boost, I tried taking the tablets before I would usually experience mid-morning and afternoon energy slumps. I initially tried taking a couple of tablets at the start of the day – I hoped that this would eliminate my mid-morning energy slump. Unfortunately, the tablets didn’t appear to make me feel more energised and I still felt quite tired in the lead up to lunch.

On the days I get up really early to fit in a training run before it gets too warm, I’ve really struggled to stay awake during the afternoon. On some occasions I actually had to have an afternoon nap. Not ideal! I decided to take a couple of tablets with my lunch to see if they would help eliminate my post-training run afternoon fatigue and naps. This time the tablets did seem to make a difference, and I felt far more energised and mentally alert during the afternoon. I definitely didn’t need a post-training run afternoon nap.

The Verdict

Although the Red Kooga tablets didn’t always manage to completely eliminate my energy slumps and tiredness, on the days I didn’t take the tablets I definitely noticed a difference in my energy levels. Perhaps this was some sort of placebo effect – I genuinely don’t know. I do know that my afternoons were far more productive on the days I did take a couple of Red Kooga tablets with my lunch.

Red Kooga is available in Boots for £7.99. I’ve already purchased some more to help me remain more mentally alert on my longer training run days.

**Full disclosure: I was sent a box of Red Kooga Natural Energy Release tablets for free in return for a review. I did not receive any payment for this review. As always all opinions are my own**

Night Run Birmingham and Walsall Arboretum parkrun

Although I am sure that there are numerous advantages to running alone, I have always really enjoyed running with others. Once I feel more confident in my endurance levels, I will definitely be renewing my running club membership.

Last year I discovered that the Up & Running store in Birmingham was organising a series of Night Runs. Although my knee injury meant that I missed the first three runs, on Wednesday evening I found myself donning a head torch and preparing to head out for a run in the Arctic Birmingham.

Up and Running Night Run Jan

Photograph courtesy of Up & Running Birmingham.

The guided social run enabled me to run through the centre of Birmingham and along a small section of the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal. Luckily it was dark as I have a slightly ironic phobia of canals. Rivers are fine, canals are evil. I discovered parts of Birmingham I did not realise existed and managed to run 5km without stopping. Most importantly, however, the run enabled me to meet new people and to learn more about the Run Birmingham project.

On Saturday morning I managed to convince my friend to drive me to Walsall Arboretum parkrun. After six weeks of consistent training I was confident that I could achieve one of my 2016 running goals; a sub-30 minute 5km.

Conditions at the Arboretum were perfect. After loitering around near the start line trying to keep warm, I soon found myself surrounded by 348 other runners. The popularity of parkrun in the West Midlands definitely continues to grow! Although I started slightly too far back and found myself caught up in a bottleneck, I quickly managed to get into my stride.

I was clearly on a mission on the first lap…

parkrun 23.01.16 3

Photograph courtesy of Ron Reynolds.

…and I was enjoying my Saturday morning run on the third and final lap!

Walsall parkrun

Photograph courtesy of my friend.

When I crossed the finish line I knew that I had beaten my sub-30 minute target time. All of my kilometre spilt times had been well under 6 minutes. My parkrun results email later confirmed that I had finished in 164th place with an official time of 27:33. I had actually equalled my parkrun personal best time from June 2013. An improvement which has now given me the confidence to push on towards that elusive sub 25-minute time.

As we drove back from parkrun my friend asked why my running had improved since my injury break. I said that it was simple; weight loss.

Although consistent and structured training has clearly had a positive impact on my running, I suspect that my temporary Christmas job helped more. After spending months sat on my arse studying, I suddenly found myself on the move for up to eight hours a day. The stairs were particularly challenging wearing a pair of heavy safety boots. At the start of November I was squeezing myself into Size 14 trousers, less than two months later I needed a belt for my Size 12 trousers.

I have lost weight and as a result my running has improved.

Now I just need to maintain the weight loss!

My running and fitness goals for 2016

I was going to write a ‘review of 2015’ type blog post but decided not to. 2015 has happened. 2015 is history. I completed my PhD and can now call myself Dr Emma (I won’t because I’m not a real doctor). I laughed, I cried and I said farewell to too many loved ones. I travelled, I ate too much food and I drank too much wine.

Due to various injuries I ran the grand total of 150 miles in 2015. Although 2015 was a bit of a write-off from a running perspective, it’s time to look forward and to think of some running and fitness goals for 2016.

The more observant readers of my blog *waves to my friendly stalker* will notice that some of these goals are identical to the goals I set this time last year.

No purchases of running gear – Perhaps a slightly unusual goal, but in 2016 I have set myself the challenge of not purchasing any running gear. I have enough pairs of trainers to supply a centipede and enough running clothes to last a lifetime. Both Sweaty Betty and Lululemon are located less than 5 minutes walk from my friends flat in Marylebone. Wish me luck!

A sub 30 minute 5k – Last year I managed a 30:04 parkrun, those 4 seconds irritated me for days. This year I will retire from running if I fail to run a sub 30 minute 5k. That is correct. I will retire from running! The slightly long-term goal is to achieve a sub 25 minute 5k.

Complete a Half Marathon – I am still yet to complete a half marathon this decade. I’m aware that going from zero to 13.1 miles in a matter of months is a massive challenge but I’ve already entered the inaugural Cannock Chase Half Marathon. As an experienced runner I really should be more sensible.

Complete 10 parkruns and 10 races – I love my local parkrun; Walsall Arboretum.Walsall Parkrun 15_08_15 2I love the challenge of racing against other runners and pushing myself. I don’t, however, love the limited public transport in Sutton Coldfield during the weekend. Although completing more races than I did in 2015 will be easy, the lack of transport options means that I can only really enter local races. The goal for 2016 is, therefore, to complete 10 parkruns and 10 races.

Run more consistently – My running has been consistently inconsistent for a number of years. Although in 2014 and 2015 this was due to a series of injuries, previously it was due to laziness. In 2016 I plan to run more consistently. Injury permitting the goal is to run 3-4 times every week.

Make friends with strength and conditioning – In December I spent over an hour with an amazing sports physiotherapist. Rather than simply treating the injury, Rowena took the time to find the reason for all of my running injuries. I discovered that I had a slightly rotated right hip and was provided with a personal exercise program. As a result I will be following a strength and conditioning program for the first time.

Improve my diet – Not a running goal, but if I am to improve as a runner, I need to improve my diet. I was given a copy of ‘Training Food’ written by Renee McGregor as a Christmas present. Once I’ve finished my temporary Christmas job at M&S I will have plenty of time to read my pile of Christmas books.

Swim more – In a moment of madness towards the end of 2015 I entered Swimathon 2016. As a really, really weak swimmer going from zero to 60 lengths by March will be a huge personal challenge.

Wish me luck!

What are your running and fitness goals for 2016?


Back to Basics Week 5 Recap

Week 5 of my ‘Back to Basics’ training plan started really well. For the first time in what feels like ages I actually enjoyed running. Unfortunately, on Tuesday morning I attempted to walk and discovered that my left foot was really, really painful. On Wednesday morning, as I was lying in bed my left foot felt normal, as soon as I attempted to walk on it the pain returned. The moaning stops here but FFS!! I swear that as soon as I enter a race I pick up new injury!

Monday: 40 minutes gentle run

I have no idea what the term “gentle” run actually means? Is a gentle run just a posh term for a jog?

As I had a doctor’s appointment first thing on Monday morning, I decided to run to the surgery. This was I thought a cunning plan but I knew it wouldn’t take me 40 minutes to run less than two miles. In the end I had to break the 40 minutes session into (a) running to the surgery (16 minutes), (b) running with my prescription to the local Boots (7 minutes) and (c) running the long way home (17 minutes). Not ideal but it meant that I had completed my training session before 9am.

Time 40:37 (my maths is rubbish) Distance: 6.52km Pace: 06:19/km

Tuesday: Cross Training

Although I guess that strictly speaking yoga isn’t really cross training, I attempted Sweaty Betty’s Yoga for Runners workout. I really am the least flexible person on the planet.

Before attempting any more Yoga for Runners workouts, I need to start with Yoga for Total Beginners. I also noticed that my left foot didn’t enjoy the yoga and felt more painful when I had finished.

Wednesday: 40 minutes gentle run

It’s hard to complete a 40 minute run when it’s virtually impossible to walk… I spent the majority of Wednesday balancing an ice pack on my left foot and feeling sorry for myself.

Unfortunately it’s now all about RICE, RICE and more RICE…

Rest Ice Compression and Elevation!

Thursday: Rest

Thursday morning consisted of RICE, RICE and more RICE. I had to travel to Birmingham University in the afternoon to meet my supervisor. The short walk to the local train station was agony. I will never understand how one day my left foot was fine but the next day it was agony. The pain is probably a 2/10 first thing in the morning increasing to a 8/10 by the evening. Taking painkillers didn’t seem to make much difference. Boo!

Friday: Complete a 5km run (timed)

I missed this training session (I had secret ambitions to hobble around my local parkrun on Saturday morning). After hobbling back from the train station (hills seem to be more challenging than the flat) the thought of completing a 5km run was a million miles from my mind. The lack of running has had some positives! I’ve got my washing mountain under control and my house is spotless. Thanks to SF Road Warrior’s blog for the pic.

clean house injured runner

I also emailed the organisers of the Red Bull Steeplechase to state that I was going to have to withdraw from the event (hopefully someone else will be able to use my place). With a bit of luck I’ll get my entry frees refunded which is one positive.

Saturday: 50 minutes jog

My foot still felt painful so the 50 minutes jog was replaced with over two hours of walking around Sutton Park/Sutton Coldfield. Not exactly very sensible with an injury, but I was on a mission to collect my number and timing chip for the City of Birmingham run. I managed to hobble to the Jamboree Stone where and realised that my foot wouldn’t be able to cope with an undulating 10km. Luckily I was able to change my registration from the 10km race to the 5km fun run event.

Sunday: City of Birmingham 10km race 5km fun run

Next week I’ll write a detailed race report. A combination of poor pacing and congestion at the start meant that the first kilometre was far slower than the final kilometre. Although my foot stopped hurting after 10 minutes it has been agony all afternoon/evening. Perhaps running wasn’t the most sensible option!

Smiling through the pain!

Highlights of Week 5:

  1. For the third week coping with not being able to complete all of my scheduled training sessions.
  2. Dealing with a new injury problem.
  3. Being reminded just how enjoyable running with other people in races can be.
  4. Running up “that hill” in Sutton Park, perhaps I am fitter than I realised.
  5. Earning medal #2 for 2014… little things please little minds!

Lessons Learned from Week 5:

  1. Again to stop comparing myself to other people. If someone wants to brag about their academic achievements on twitter then let them.
  2. Walking for miles the day before a race with a bad foot isn’t sensible.
  3. My diet still needs to improve.
  4. I need to join another running club when I am fixed, I felt pretty lonely at the start of the City of Birmingham Run.
  5. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it… after chatting to a few other runners, the change from Asics to Brooks *may* be the cause of my foot problem.

I have no idea how Week 6 of my Back to Basics training plan will turn out. I’m praying that when I leap out of bed in the morning I discover that there has been a miracle and my foot is fixed. I suspect that the reality will be somewhat different!