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!


Some people are addicted to cigarettes or alcohol and some people are addicted to exercising. I’m unfortunately addicted to Diet Coke. Although I start each day with a cup of tea, I’ve usually opened my first can of Diet Coke before 10 am. As an absolute minimum I’ll have another can during lunch and a couple of cans before and after my evening meal. When I go to the supermarket I head straight to the Soft Drinks aisle. When Diet Coke is on offer (seemingly 100% of the time) I’ll return with numerous cans.

What do they put in the Diet Coke to make it so moreish!? I’d love to know.


Source: Telegraph Newspaper

My Diet Coke addiction has never been a secret. When I left my job at the Environment Agency one of my leaving gifts was a huge crate of Diet Coke. Yesterday a friend posted this link 25 Signs You’re Addicted to Diet Coke to my Facebook page. After reading the article I realised that I could directly relate to 19 out of the 25 signs, not great!

A quick search of the Internet showed that I am not alone and that loads of people are addicted to Diet Coke. I could have written this Confessions of a Diet Coke addict article myself. This My Diet Coke addiction had to end article made me realise that it could be possible to finally give up Diet Coke once and for all. Finally, this Get the Gloss feature has provided me with the kick up the arse that I so badly needed.

I did some research and discovered that drinking can after can of Diet Coke is far from ideal. This pic I tracked down seems to summarise the main issues pretty well…


Source: Caroline J Hingory

Not drinking Diet Coke will be a massive challenge as I am an addict. A couple of years ago I managed to stay away from Diet Coke for over six months. If I’ve done it once then I’m positive that I can do it again!

I’ve decided that on Monday September 1st I’ll be starting what I’m calling a #NoDietCoke30 and I’ll be documenting my progress on this blog.

If anyone has any tips for breaking a Diet Coke obsession/addiction then please feel free to share them with me. Wish me luck, I’ll definitely need it!

Back to Basics: Week 3 Recap

From the start I suspected that “real-life” would get in the way of the third week of my Back to Basics training plan. A combination of spending a few days in London, eating and drinking far too much meant that running was the last thing on my mind. My left foot has also been slightly niggly so I decided that a few days of rest and relaxation would be beneficial in the long run (apologies for the rubbish pun!).

From a running perspective, the highlight of my week was managing to watch Jo Pavey win 10,000m gold at the Euro Champs. While Jo was running, I was enjoying a few too many bottles of Crabbie’s in a random pub in Marylebone.


Full marks to Jo Pavey and a huge thanks to the pub (I can’t remember which one!) for showing the athletics.

Monday: 35 minutes non stop run

I always suspected that the progression from walk-run-walk-run would be a challenge for me. I was correct. Due to getting engrossed in my PhD work, I didn’t head out for my run until almost 6pm. As I was getting slightly bored with pounding the same pavements, I decided to cross the road into Staffordshire. Error!! I had forgotten how hilly parts of Little Aston are. I guess the clue was in the fact that the road is called Rosemary Hill Road. I also discovered that in places there is no option but to run in the road. Not ideal in the evening traffic! I’ll stick to running in Four Oaks in future.

I think that I managed to run for 20 minutes before having to wait to cross one of the main roads. Once I’d stopped I found it hard to get going again. This was a really, really disappointing run. I felt like I should have been able to keep going for slightly longer.

Time 35 minutes: Distance 5.39km Pace 06:30/km

Tuesday: Cross Training

I’m not sure that I should really count lugging a heavy rucksack across Birmingham New Street station, navigating the Underground, walking between several pubs and lifting Crabbie’s bottles as cross training?

Wednesday: Complete a 5km run (timed)

On Wednesday I was meant to complete a 5km run (timed)…

In the end I walked approximately 6 miles between Regent’s Park and Blackfriars Bridge. Although I haven’t really referred to my PhD and background as a hydrologist in my blog, deep down I am a hydrology geek. Part of Wednesday was spent following the route of the River Fleet, one of London’s largest lost rivers. I had an amazing time and managed to forget about my PhD research for a couple of hours. I enjoyed an amazing lunch with far too much wine at the Bleeding Heart Tavern and an even more enjoyable evening meal at Casa Becci.

Thursday: Rest

To be frank I absolutely nailed this training session. I am the Queen of Resting!

Friday: 35 minutes non stop run

Friday was meant to be another 35 minute non stop run. However, on Friday morning my left foot felt what I term niggly. Although I wasn’t quite at the  injury stage, I didn’t want to risk the niggle becoming an injury. I suspect that walking across London on Wednesday wearing what I term ‘fashion trainers’ with very limited support wasn’t the most sensible option.

When I eventually got back home to Four Oaks I completed this mini circuit.


I am really, really useless at leg raises!

Saturday: 40 minutes non stop jogging

After laying out my running gear ready for parkrun, I woke up early on Saturday morning feeling unwell. So much for the scheduled session of 40 minutes non stop jogging. I knew that the combination of eating rich foods and drinking far too much would catch up with me at some point. I decided to postpone the session until Sunday morning.

Sunday: Rest

I was intending to complete Saturday’s training session this morning. I ate *all* the pasta on Saturday evening and laid out my running gear ready for my run. Unfortunately, after feeling less than 100% throughout Saturday (walking the mile to the local shops left me feeling shattered) I felt unwell again when I woke up. I guess that in a way I should be pleased that I stuck to the rest day that was scheduled in my training plan. I’ve moved on from the days when I was that obsessed with (also addicted to) running I would train when I was ill.

I spent the afternoon analysing river flow data while watching numerous amazing performances by Team GB & NI in the European Championships. After reading some great blog entries this afternoon, I’ve decided that anyone completing the River Rat Race in London yesterday deserved an extra special medal. Please keep on drinking cans of full-fat Coke!

Highlights of Week 3:

  1. Not allowing my training plan to get in the way of having fun.
  2. The fact that having fun enabled me to rest my calf muscles. A win win situation!
  3. The fact that my right foot still hasn’t fallen apart (although my left foot is a little bit “suspect”).
  4. Testing out my CEP compression socks on Monday, they really made a difference.
  5. Improving my cross training skills.

Lessons Learned From Week 3:

  1. I am a lightweight. Rich foods in combination with alcohol resulted in several running related failures.
  2. I need to drink more after running.
  3. Drinking nuun the morning after too many bottles of Crabbie’s really helped to shift my fuzzy head.
  4. Don’t run during the evening rush hour as waiting to cross roads is frustrating.
  5. I really am as unfit as I suspected.

Week 4 looks pretty challenging, but now that my calf muscles are feeling happier I’m determined to nail all of my training sessions!

I’m also determined to track down a decent “yoga for runners” type class in Birmingham this week. There must be some somewhere in this tiny little city that does yoga for runners!