Mental tips and strategies for marathon runners

Dr Carla Meijen, Lecturer in Sport Psychology at the University of Kent, has introduced the first psyching team – a team who offer help and support with practical mental strategies before, during and after long distance running events, to the UK.  As a number of spring marathons are fast approaching, I decided to share some of the mental tips and strategies for runners developed by Dr Meijen and her colleagues.

By following the advice of Dr Meijen and her colleagues, runners can use simple techniques to prepare for mental demands such as worries about coping with the pain and discomfort of running a marathon, or about sticking to their race plan. These techniques are split into mental strategies for before the day of the marathon, during the marathon itself and after the marathon.

Before the day of the marathon:

  • Have multiple goals and try not to rely on just one time-based goal. Many runners have a time-based goal in mind; it can be helpful to expand on this and have some flexibility in your goals. One approach is to set different levels of goals, for example setting a dream goal, for when race day conditions are perfect. Next, set a goal you would still be happy with when conditions are less than perfect. I did this before the Great Birmingham Run. Finally, identify a goal that would be the bare minimum if things don’t go to plan. Having three different goals can help you avoid disappointment during the marathon if your dream goal is hard to achieve on the day of the race.
  • Break the race down. Consider splitting the race into different parts. The marathon distance can seem daunting and those 26.2 miles can seem a long way away. Dr Meijen recommends thinking about the marathon as having three different parts and having goals for each part. You can consider using the first 8-10 miles to take in the atmosphere and to get comfortable with your pace. The next 8-10 miles are about trying to intensify the effort. During the final 6 miles you should be totally focused, monitor how you are feeling and if things are going to plan go for a full-out effort to the finish.

Just a parkrun to go[Source]

  • Prepare in order to reduce worries on the day. One of my favourite quotes is “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”, this is true for the marathon. As a first-time marathon runner you may feel concerned about what to expect on the day of the race with so many other runners around. There will always be factors out of your control – for example the mini heat wave during the 2007 London Marathon – but you can prepare for those you can control. Do the necessary preparation beforehand and study the course. How will you get to the start? Where are the water stations? Where are the portaloos? Make a check list to make sure you’ve got everything you need. It’s also important to practice your pre-race and race day fuelling strategies on a longer training run before the marathon.

During the marathon:

  • Run your own race. After three marathons I’m yet to run my own race, the atmosphere at large marathons is inspiring, almost too inspiring! It’s easy to get carried away at large events with the crowds cheering; with so many other runners there is a risk of starting at a much faster pace than normal and being worn out early on. Focus on your own race – at larger events there will be different pace groups – follow the one that is closest to your personal time-based goal.

London Marathon[Source]

  • Recall successful training runs. You should trust your training and if you are struggling during the race, recall all your successful training runs to remember your own ability. Use these positive experiences to give confidence that it can be done. You can recall what helped you through those challenging longer training runs; it may have been an inspiring song or the reason you have for actually running the marathon.
  • Have a mantra. Having a mantra can be really helpful, so choose one that worked for you during your training runs and use that during the race. Some runners write their mantra on their hand as a reminder. Unfortunately, my personal running mantra isn’t publishable, sorry.
  • Focus. Inevitably there will be a time during the marathon when your body starts to feel tired and sore. You might find it helpful to distract yourself when this happens by focusing on the sights or by replaying a song in your mind. Some runners prefer to focus on how their body feels and use breathing as a strategy to remain focused. Marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe used to count to 100 three times in her head and knew that was roughly a mile.  Use whichever approach feels most comfortable for you.

After the marathon:

  • Reward yourself. After the marathon you may experience some post-marathon blues. Ideally, there should be a reward for your achievement – in my case a huge Mc Donald’s immediately after the last year’s London Marathon. You should also take time to reflect on what you’ve achieved.  I was so disappointed with my performance I didn’t do this and regretted it afterwards.

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  • Start planning for next time. Finally, it’s back to planning and thinking about setting a new goal to work towards. Your new goal might to run another marathon or something totally different.

I really hope you found this post interesting. If you’re running a spring marathon then good luck! I’m more than a little bit jealous.

Do you have a running mantra? I quite like Paula Radcliffe’s ‘no limits’ mantra.

How do you keep going when the going gets tough? I’m rubbish and tend to walk as soon as I start to struggle.

My Top 10 Websites for Runners

Recently, I’ve spent far, far too much time researching Plantar Fasciitis on the internet. My nickname could be Professor Plantar. The amount of information about injury rehabilitation is mind-blowing, and in a lot of cases of slightly dubious quality. As I’m sure that I’m not the only runner who spends quite a lot of time perusing the internet, I decided to share my top 10 websites for runners.

So here are my top 10 websites for runners:

1. Fetch Everyone If you want to write a blog, find an obscure local race, get advice from runners, enter competitions and monitor your progress (or lack of progress) as a runner, then visit Fetch Everyone. I’ve been a member since 2005 and have made some great friends through the site.

Awesome features and articles include:

2. Runner’s World Although the recent improvements to the site haven’t been popular, Runner’s World remains one of my favourite running sites. If you need advice and support you’ll find it on the forums. If you need to find a 10K race in April search the extensive race listings. The wide range of articles written by experts and occasional competitions are an added bonus.

Recent articles have included:

3. The Running Bug The running site that I have a bit of an ongoing love hate relationship with. I love the useful articles, competitions and forums. I don’t love my online stalker and the fact that I’ve never, ever won a Running Bug competition. Hopefully 2017 will be my lucky year!

Recent articles have included:

4. Strava Strava allows runners and cyclists to track and analyse their training, measure their performance against other athletes, share their training on social media and much more. I’m too tight to pay for a premium membership, so I’m aware that I’m missing out on most of the awesomeness of Strava. When I find myself a ‘proper’ job and can run I’ll be upgrading my account. On a side note, if you want to read about ‘runners’ setting CRs on bikes,  the twitter account @stravawankers is well worth following.

5. Running Heroes Back in October, the Running Heroes website featured as a ‘rave’ in one of my Rants and raves posts. Such an honour! Running Heroes works with organisations and brands to encourage and reward runners. The site is really easy to use and I’ve collated a lot of points and completed 30 challenges. While I’ve never been selected as a random prize winner, I remain quietly optimistic.

The site also allows runners to exchange their points for a wide range of rewards. I can’t wait for my running clothes ‘ban’ to come to an end so that I can exchange some of my points.

Running Heroes

6. GB Mapometer Although strictly speaking GB Mapometer isn’t a running site, it is a useful resource for runners. I used the site to plot all of my longer runs when I was training for the Great Birmingham Run. The site allows users to accurately plot and measure routes, and provides an indication of the elevation of each route. Useful for avoiding hills in the final few miles of a long training run.

7. parkrun An essential resource for all parkrunners. Although the site can be quite slow during the weekend when a bazillion runners are searching for their latest parkrun result, if you are a new runner and want to take part in your local parkrun, you need to visit the site to register. The site contains an interactive map which illustrates every parkrun event in the UK and links to the individual parkrun event pages, a blog, information on sponsors, results, some information on the parkrun team and a link to the parkrun shop.

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8. NHS Couch to 5K If I had to recommend one running website to people just starting out as a runner, it would be the NHS Couch to 5K site. The site is free and contains a wealth of information for both beginner and slightly more experienced runners. There are links to download the Couch to 5K app, weekly Couch to 5K podcasts, a simple to use race finder and the dedicated Couch to 5K forums. Finally, the series of guides for runners are a useful invaluable resource.

The most popular articles include:

9. Made with Sisu I’ve been using Made with Sisu to generate data visualisations based on my training runs for quite some time. I almost ordered a print of my 2016 training runs but held back when I realised it would probably end up sitting in a corner somewhere gathering dust. I reckon that this site is probably a must for runners attempting to complete the six World Marathon Major events, the example Tokyo Marathon print looks pretty awesome.

10. The Running Blog – The Guardian The final site to make it into my ‘Top 10’ is the Guardian’s Running Blog. Described as a blog on “…all things running, from jogs around the park to ultra marathons”, there is definitely something for runners of all standards and distances. I love the ‘How was your weekend running?’ and the ‘Friday flyer’ series; some of the comments left by runners and jealous non-runners are highly entertaining.

Recent articles have included:

Hopefully some of the websites and running resources I’ve summarised will be useful to some of you. I also hope that my rambling hasn’t bored you all to tears.

What are your favourite running websites? Did I miss out any really awesome sites?

Which website do you use to search for race listings? I’ve always tended to use Runner’s World find the new and improved site quite hard to use.

Changing sports: from football to athletics and other unusual sporting moves

I suspect that due to my fragile feet, my running days may well be over. Although this is frustrating, I’ve been looking at other options. My recent training for Swimathon has demonstrated that my swimming technique is so poor; it’s preventing me from enjoying my sessions in the pool. I therefore doubt I’d enjoy training for a triathlon, the go-to alternative to running for injury-prone runners. Hopefully some swimming lessons will make me consider entering a triathlon in the future.

Former tennis player Martina Hingis walks next to her horse after a fall during a jumping competition – I’ve been there and done that Martina, I feel your pain.

I then started to think about the number of athletes who have switched from running to triathlon. Some switched from running to triathlon due to injury issues, others due to the lack of opportunities to compete as a runner at the highest level. I’m not naming any names but there are several examples.

Although switching from running to triathlon comes with an element of risk, some athletes have made some slightly riskier moves. I found the outcome of some recent research carried out by SBO.net interesting so decided to share it on my blog.

SBO.net created an infographic illustrating some of the athletes who have ventured into new sports in their careers. Some of these moves were successful, some weren’t quite so successful.

  • Martina Hingis, the winner of multiple Grand Slams, took a break from professional tennis at 22 to compete in show-jumping competitions. Martina returned to the court in 2005.
  • Victoria Pendleton, a multiple track sprint Olympic and World Champion, switched from cycling to horseracing, definitely a slightly random career move.
  • Adam Gemili found his fame on the football pitch until he switched to full-time athletics in 2012. I think Adam made the right choice.
  • Rebecca Romero, silver medallist in rowing at the 2004 Olympics, apparently became the first British woman to compete in two sports at the Olympic Games when she switched from rowing to cycling. Rebecca went on to take gold in the individual pursuit in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The research also identified athletes who have decided to downsize when switching sports. Although it’s clear that money isn’t always the deciding influence, I suspect that having enough money to support a career move helps. For example, Michael Jordan took a break from basketball in 1993 and switched to baseball, as a result his earnings dropped substantially. I suspect the majority of athletes wouldn’t be financially secure enough to change sports.

More recently Gwen Jorgensen, the current Olympic triathlon gold medallist ran the 2016 New York Marathon in 2:41:01. Four time Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington is running the London Marathon next month. I can’t wait to see how Chrissie approaches the London Marathon.

If professional athletes can make risky and in some cases rather random career moves, perhaps I’ve still got time to find an alternative to running. Just don’t expect me to enter a triathlon any time soon. It would take me all day to complete the first two phases.

If you had to give up running tomorrow, which sport would you consider as an alternative? I might do a Martina Hingis and return to show-jumping.

15 tips for running and racing on a budget

As I’ve got a reputation for being careful with my money a tight-arse, I’ve decided to share some of my tips for running and racing on a limited budget. Hopefully some will be useful.

1. Buy old models of trainers. When I first started running, I would buy the latest model of my favourite trainers as soon as they were released. It took me far too long to realise that wearing the latest model of trainers wasn’t going to make me a faster runner. Old models of trainers are usually almost the same shoe at a much cheaper price. I now always search for old models of my favourite trainers online, and stock up when they go on sale.

2. Look after your trainers. I need to replace my trainers every 400 miles or so. To make my trainers last longer I avoid wearing them for anything other than running. I used to play tennis in my favourite trainers, now I know this was adding to their wear and tear, just walking in trainers can wear out the cushioning. Finally, if you need to wash your trainers then use mild soap and cold water, never put them in the washing machine.

3. Only buy what you actually need. I used to be really gullible when it came to buying running gear and accessories, and would purchase virtually every ‘must have’ running gizmo I saw advertised in Runner’s World. I realised that my spending was slightly out of control when I owned 24 pairs of trainers. It really was a case of ‘all the kit, still shit’. Guess what? You don’t need 24 pairs of trainers and the latest blingy GPS watch. I’ve spent thousands on running gear and I’m still shit at running!

all-the-kit

4. Shop around for running gear. While I’m a huge fan of my local independent running store, my limited budget has forced me to search for cheaper alternatives. One advantage of the current running boom is the ever-increasing availability of running gear both on the high street and online. Over the last four years I’ve purchased most of my running gear from SportPursuit, eBay and TK Maxx. Although I love a good bargain and refuse to spend a fortune on running gear, I also refuse to buy low quality running gear. People don’t need to see my arse cheeks when I’m running.

5. Look after your running gear. Once you’ve purchased technical running gear, make it last longer by looking after it. Apparently air drying running clothes instead of sticking them in the dryer will make them last longer. Also, make sure you read the care label on your running gear. It took me far too long to realise that technical running gear and fabric conditioner aren’t a winning combination!

6. Become a brand ambassador/product tester. The recent Asics FrontRunner campaign was open to runners of all ages and abilities. I’m pleased to see more and more brands giving ordinary runners the chance to become a brand ambassador. Occasionally brands will advertise for new product testers. Why not apply? You have nothing to lose. My friend in the USA gets to test out trainers and clothes for a major brand. I’m only a little bit jealous!

asics-frontrunner

7. Plan races ahead and race selectively. As I don’t have an unlimited race entry budget, I sit down at the beginning of the year and prioritise my races. My ‘A’ races are the races I want to do the most, ‘B’ races are backup races, and ‘C’ races are races that would be awesome to do but are far too expensive. I set myself an annual budget and make sure that I stick to it. I then look out for ‘early bird’ race entry discounts and sign up for any ‘A’ races I can afford and definitely want to run. I’ve stopped letting race FOMO get the better of me and won’t be entering the Tokyo and New York Marathon ballots until I’ve saved up enough money.

8. Race locally. While it’s fun to travel to new cities and countries to race, the cost of train tickets, flights, hotels and meals soon start to add up. I once spent a ridiculous amount of money on train tickets, a central London hotel and food in order to run a not very well organised 10k. I now save time, stress and money by entering races that are closer to home. Thanks to parkrun I’ll never have to pay to enter a 5k race again. Thanks to local running clubs and groups I can enter well organised 10k and half marathon races for the price of a train ticket to London.

9. Volunteer at races. Race organisers are sometimes desperate for volunteers. Some race organisers will offer incentives such as free race entry into the race the following year. Volunteering is also a great way of getting free running gear as some races will give volunteers the same goodie bags as the race participants. You’ll also get to feel pretty awesome.

10. Search for race discounts. Some races have started to offer quite substantial entry discounts on sites like Groupon and Running Heroes and in other online promotions. If I’m registering for a larger event online I’ll always do a quick search for online discount codes. I’ve been lucky a couple of times.

running-heroes

11. Share race day costs. I used to drive to races on my own until some running club friends asked me for a lift to a race. They gave me some fuel money and by car sharing we helped the environment. Another great way of saving money is by sharing a hotel room. I’m not suggesting that you share your twin room with a complete stranger but with your running friends. Consider alternatives to hotels, If a friend lives near the location of your next race, ask if you can stay the night before the race. Don’t, however, make the same mistake I once made and spend all night drinking wine and reminiscing about school. I didn’t actually make it to the race.

12. Look out for free training groups. Although running clubs can be quite expensive, don’t assume that you have to pay for training sessions with a qualified coach. Many running stores now offer free coached runs and workouts. Examples in Birmingham include the supervised runs organised by Up & Running and Good Gym. In addition, many races have started to offer free or very cheap training runs to registered runners. It’s always worth checking.

up-running

13. Stay injury free. I’m not very good at staying injury free, and dread to think how much money I’ve spent on physio sessions. The recovery from running injuries can be both emotionally and financially draining. The majority of my injuries have been self-inflicted and caused by me either ignoring niggles or trying to increase my mileage too quickly. Although it’s probably almost impossible to totally avoid injuries, always listen to your body, warm-up and cool-down, avoid doing all of your training on hard surfaces, and invest in a cheap foam roller.

14. Gifts. I was quite cheeky and published a ‘Christmas gifts for runners’ blog just before Christmas. My unsubtle approach worked and I unwrapped some trainers and a gorgeous running skirt on Christmas Day. Let your family and partner know that you’ll always appreciate running related Christmas and birthday presents. If you don’t want to end up having to return unwanted running gear, ask for something simple like entry into one a race or gift vouchers.

15. Start a running blog. Finally, start a successful running blog. Although there are now far too many running influencers bloggers, your running related thoughts might catch the attention of race directors and brands. If that happens then congratulations and think of all the money you’ll save on entry fees and running gear.

I hope that you’ve found a least one of my tips useful.

Do you have any tips for running and racing on a budget?

Do you have an annual race entry budget?

50 Things That Make Me Happy

I usually write about my experiences as a back-of-the-pack runner so you are probably wondering why on earth I decided to write this blog. I promise that once I’ve written this blog normal service will resume.

I’m not the most positive person on the planet (understatement of the century) and have developed a rather negative attitude. Certain aspects of my life are a bit of a disaster area at the moment and my mental health isn’t great.  As a result, I decided to spend some time focusing on the positive things in my life.

Here’s my list of things that make me happy. While most are predictable, there are a few slightly unusual items in my list.

  1. Sunshine
  2. Tea
  3. Running
  4. Afternoon naps
  5. Walking in Sutton Park

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  1. A lie in
  2. Love
  3. Hugs
  4. My family
  5. My friends
  6. Receiving an unexpected letter
  7. Sending in a completed job application
  8. Mastering a challenging piece of music on my violin
  9. Reading
  10. Writing
  11. A long, hot bath
  12. A night out with people I love
  13. Kind comments left on my blog
  14. Crabbie’s alcoholic ginger beer served with ice
  15. Holding hands
  16. Travelling and holidays

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  1. Uninterrupted sleep
  2. My research getting published in academic journals
  3. Blogging, occasionally!
  4. Looking at old family photographs
  5. Red wine
  6. Listening to music
  7. The changing seasons
  8. Visiting the family farm

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  1. Finding trousers and jeans that fit
  2. Helping my elderly neighbours
  3. Presenting my research

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  1. Crossing off tasks on my ‘things to do’ list
  2. Eating chocolate
  3. Cuddling with my cat
  4. The seaside and beach
  5. Scented candles
  6. Steak, chips and pepper corn sauce
  7. Completing a challenging piece of work
  8. Writing lists
  9. Cooking
  10. Saying ‘no’
  11. A shower after a run
  12. Volunteering
  13. An empty washing basket
  14. Running through fresh snow
  15. Getting my hair done
  16. Rivers

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  1. Overcoming challenges
  2. Decluttering my junk

I actually found listing 50 things that make me happy far, far easier than I thought I would and I could have listed 100 things that make me happy. This is definitely a positive sign!

What makes you happy?

Rants and raves #10

**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 few weeks since I wrote my last Rants and raves post. Now that it’s nearly the end of February, I feel the need to have a good old rant. However, before I start my Moaning Myrtle impression – yes I’m a huge fan of Harry Potter – I’ll start with rave.

Rave: Marathon Talk podcast

I have a bit of a confession to make…. Although I’ve been an active member of a range of online running communities since about 2005, I only discovered the Marathon Talk weekly podcasts last month. In my defence I’ve never listened to music or podcasts when I’m out running.marathon-talk

The two main presenters Martin Yelling and Tom Williams both talk a huge amount of sense about running. I’ve started to listen to the weekly podcasts while I’m doing tasks that don’t require me to concentrate. Listening while filling in a job application form wasn’t my most sensible move. There are currently 372 episodes so I’ve got some serious catching up to do. If I was able to run at the moment, I’d probably break the habit of a lifetime and listen to Marathon Talk during my long runs.

Rant: My right heel

Guess what? I’ve got another injury. Training for the Cambridge Half was going really well until a month ago when I got out of bed and found that I could hardly walk. My right heel felt really sore, and the pain was almost unbearable (yes I am a wimp!). After suffering in silence complaining about my heel for a couple of weeks, a trip to the sports physio confirmed that I’ve probably got the injury all runners dread, Plantar fasciitis. I’m blaming the heavy safety boots I had to wear for 11 weeks.

I’ve been avoiding walking barefoot as much as possible, making sure I only wear supportive shoes, icing my heel, stretching several times a day, wearing a sexy night splint (it’s a good job I’m single) taking supplements and sulking. I spent a bit of time researching Plantar fasciitis, and overloading my brain with information.

While being injured and unable to run sucks, I feel extremely lucky that I’m not living in constant pain and that my heel only really hurts first thing in the morning.

Rave: parkrun tracking

I recently joined the ‘parkrun analogue trackers’ group on Facebook, made a donation to my local parkrun, downloaded a copy of the blank analogue tracker created by Hannah and started colouring.  While I’ve only managed to complete 15 runs, all at my home parkrun, the slightly more dedicated members of the parkrun community have created some impressive looking designs. If you enjoy colouring and are a regular parkrunner and parkrun volunteer then this group is probably for you.

Rant: the Royal Parks Half Marathon ballot

The Royal Parks Half Marathon has been on my ‘races bucket list’ for several years. While the race is somewhat over-priced, the course looks amazing, and I’d love the opportunity to run through four of London’s eight Royal Parks. I’d been unsuccessful in the ballot for the 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 and really felt that it would be a case of sixth time lucky.

2017

The successful/congratulations you’ve got a ballot place emails were sent out before the ‘sorry’ emails. Once again I received a ‘sorry’ email and was then bombarded on twitter by charities offering me places. I’m sorry but there is no way I could raise the amount of money charities are asking for. I’ve now accepted that I’ll probably never get the opportunity to complete the Royal Parks Half Marathon and have moved on. Hopefully I’ll manage to get a place in a new event: the London Landmarks Half Marathon.

Rave: Fitness Blender

While I can’t run at the moment I can still swim (I’ll discuss Swimathon in a future blog) and work up a sweat by attempting to complete online workout videos. I read about Fitness Blender on another blog, took a look at the website, and was seriously impressed with what I found.

fitness-blender

Fitness Blender – for some reason I keep accidentally typing Fitness Bender – offers hundreds of free workout videos with new workouts released each week. Workouts range from 10 minutes to over an hour long (not a chance!) and from beginner to elite. As I can’t afford gym membership at the moment, I’m a huge fan of their bodyweight-only low impact workouts that can be done at home.

Rant: my fear of failure

A slightly random subject to end on, but I want to talk about my complete lack of self-esteem and fear of failure. When I was trying to find my GCSE certificates I found my school report from when I was 14. Although I’ve always been a boffin and that particular school report was full of A-grades, my form tutor wrote:

“Emma has shown a rather negative attitude over the last few months – she seems to lack self-confidence and a belief in herself. She has ability – it would be a great pity not to achieve her potential. Show us what you can do next year, Emma”.

Those comments are still relevant today. I’ve got a PhD and more than enough relevant work experience, but for some reason I’m too scared to apply for my dream job as a hydrology technical specialist. I know that I need to ‘woman up’ and to hit submit on the online application, but something is stopping me. I guess I should stop procrastinating and send in my application.

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

Apologies for the really, really random blog, hopefully my next post will be more positive.

15 reasons I am a rubbish blogger

A recent glut of review posts made me feel I was the only running blogger not asked to review a pair of trainers for Millet Sports. After spending a few minutes feeling sorry for myself, I realised that although I’ve been blogging intermittently since March 2013, I’m still a rubbish blogger.

I am a rubbish blogger because…

1. I don’t have a blogging schedule or planner. Seriously, what on earth is a blogging planner? Is it just a standard diary with ‘Blogging Planner’ embossed on the front cover in gold letters? I’ve already got a standard diary and a running log. Do I even need a blogging planner?

2. I’m an inconsistent blogger. Some months I’ll write 2-3 blogs a week, other months I’ll hit a blogging slump and my blog will gather virtual dust. Apparently readers like regular updates; personally I prefer quality over quantity.

3. Apparently my blog statistics etc aren’t great. Serious bloggers are obsessed with their blog and social media statistics. My blog averages about 100 page views a day. I couldn’t give a toss if someone unfollows me on Instagram. My Facebook page is followed by the not so grand total of 18 people. After almost 12 months this is quite frankly, rubbish!

4. My website design and layout is crap. I look at other people’s blogs and think that they look really professional. I look at my own blog and think it looks crap. Perhaps one of my New Year’s blogging resolutions should have been to update the layout of my blog?

the-phd-runnerNot the most professional looking blog in the world…

5. My blog name is out of date. I completed my PhD ages ago so I should really update the name of my blog from ‘The PhD Runner’ to something slightly more relevant. I’ve been umming and ahhing about updating the name of my blog for ages. I’ve even made a list of potential new names e.g. ‘The Brummie Runner’, ‘The Running Academic’, ‘Run Brummie Run’ and ‘The Balanced Brummie’ but that’s as far as I’ve got. To be honest I find the whole idea of renaming and re-branding my blog slightly overwhelming.

6. I live in Birmingham. I receive invites to fitness classes and events in London on an almost daily basis. Great! I’m yet to receive an invite to a class or event in Birmingham. Perhaps there is a perception that people outside of London don’t work out or run? Guess what PRs; there is life outside of the M25!

7. I’ve no idea what SEO, PA and DA are. Although I know what the acronyms are short for, I’ve got no idea what they actually mean. My Domain Authority (DA) is 21 and my Page Authority (PA) is 34. What?

8. I’m rubbish at commenting on other blogs. While I’ll spend ages reading other running blogs, I’m rubbish at commenting and providing feedback. Sorry! I’m determined to comment more on your posts in 2017. However, if you use Disqus, as a WordPress user I’m unable to comment on your blogs. I’ve no idea why.

9. My photos are terrible. Some of the running and fitness bloggers I follow have progressed from selfies to professional looking running action photos. I’m still stuck with the not so awesome combination of terrible selfies, ‘action’ photos taken by my very reluctant friend, and not very flattering race photos. I guess the camera doesn’t lie. At the age of 37 with grey hair and a muffin top, my photogenic days are behind me.

kenyan-hillsAnother slightly out of focus ‘action’ photo…

10. I’m not actually very good at writing. I’ve realised that although I’ve got a PhD, I’m definitely more of a numbers than a words type of person. I’m pretty certain that my old English teacher would award most of my blog posts with a C- grade. Can someone explain the current obsession with ‘gonna’ or ‘wanna’??

11. I don’t read through my posts before hitting publish. My method of publishing a blog post is as follows… Type waffle in Word, copy and paste waffle from Word into a new post, justify waffle, add some photos, write captions for my photos and then hit publish. I never, ever check my blog posts for typos. After accidentally typing brothels instead of boreholes in a report I wrote a few years ago, perhaps I should start?

12. I’m far too outspoken and honest. If I don’t like the way a brand promotes a product on social media, I’m not afraid to speak my mind. A couple of summers ago, several running brands worked with the same smallish group of London-based bloggers. One week these bloggers were promoting one brand of trainers, the following week the same bloggers were promoting a different brand. Confusing. Where did their loyalties lie? Do only 15 runners run in London? No! Why not give other running and fitness bloggers the opportunity to promote your products? I’ve learnt that when it comes to blogging, honesty isn’t always the best policy.

13. I like to test out my products thoroughly before reviewing them. On the rare occasions I’ve been sent products to review, I’ve spent weeks and in some cases months testing out each product. I’ve no idea how anybody can recommend a pair of trainers, running clothes or accessories after only one run? Some PRs don’t like being made to wait months for a product review. Sorry!

14. I hate oversharing my content on social media. To be a successful blogger you have to be willing to share your blog posts multiple times on several social media channels. I’ll generally share my posts once on twitter, Instagram and on Facebook (when I remember) and that’s it. I’m afraid that if I promote the same blog post multiple times I’ll piss people off. Perhaps I need to be brave and to promote my waffle on social media more?

15. I’m socially awkward. And finally and perhaps most importantly, I’m socially awkward. Like really socially awkward. The mere thought of attending a blogging event makes me feel slightly nauseous. Last year this resulted in me turning down invites to the Running Awards and to a couple of other events.

I really must try harder in 2017!

Have I missed anything? What do you think I could do to improve my blog? Please be honest, I won’t be offended.

What do you think makes a ‘good’ blogger? Personally, I prefer good content over professional photos.