London 10 Mile 

I want to start by saying how much I loved this race. Not because everything went to plan, it didn’t, but inspite of the things that went wrong I’m already planning on signing up for 2018. 

I was lucky to be given a place by the race organisers, this was only a matter of weeks beforehand but my personalised race number arrived swiftly. You could have anything you wanted on your bib which was a nice touch, it also provided me with a laugh during the race. 

On the morning of the race, my alarm went off late, we got stuck in traffic and I turned up with 6 minutes until the very respectable start time of 10:30am. Not only was I desperate for the toilet, I’d forgotten my pre-race lucozade and more importantly my race number. The race was held in one of my favourite green spaces in London, Richmond Park. 
Dashing to locate the help desk a nice lady sorted me out with a new number and immediately after the race I was very impressed with the efficiency of the operation because I received a text corresponding to the chip time of my new race number. This level of efficiency is an absolute rarity in my experience! The whole race felt very well organised. 

Toilets were ample and after a quick change from shorts, which had started irritating me in the walk from the car alone, to a Sapir pair of leggings, I located my pen. Luckily for me the race didn’t start on time and I had the chance to chat with some familiar faces and do the awkward pre-start not enough room to really stretch, but I feel I ought to try, routine. 

I was in the green starting pen amongst the speedsters, I think I must have put down my estimated 10km not 10 mile finish time, but it meant I was over the line within a minute of the gun. 
The theme of the race was one recurring thought on loop:  it’s so hot, I’m getting sunburnt, is this hill ever going to end, oh god another hill, ooo there’s a deer, what stunning road race scenery, I want a sub 2 time. 

 I’m not irresponsible, I had suncream on but I am stupidly sensitive to the sun. I didn’t however look closely enough at the course to appreciate the hills, maybe it’s better I didn’t know what was coming. Heat and hills are a killer combo. The mile marker signs kept me entertained and I was surprised at how many people recognised me from behind, as they over took and said hello, it must be the long ginger hair? It was lovely to see so many friendly faces. 


I have to be honest I really wasn’t a massive fan of the water stations. I simply can’t run and drink out of a cup and there definitely wasn’t enough water to go around considering the heat. The course looped past the starting point at Mile 3 and if it’s the same layout next year I think if I had someone with me spectating I’d ask them to hold a bottle for me. I do however fully appreciate the environmental benefits of having paper cups over bottles. 

In contrast I was delighted to have Cliff Shot Blocks avalaible at a fuel station, in three different flavours, just before the 5 mile mark. When I’m not scoffing fizzy sweets these are my number 1 choice of fuel. 

So on to the inevitable timing blurb. Normally I have a rough idea of what time I’d like to achieve but I never concern myself too much by it. This was different, I wanted to run a sub 2hr and as the race went on I became increasingly fixated on timings. I felt like I had something to prove. I’m not sure what, who to or why, let’s just say it was the heat and that I’d dragged a hungover Alex out of bed across London on a Sunday morning. 

 I had to stop to drink water at two of the stations, having choaked and then soaked myself at the first one and there was a hill which I had to power walk up, it was probably faster than me trying to run, but otherwise I really did give it my all. My watch stats show that I ran at a faster pace than I usually do or that I’m comfortable at over any distance. It was the first race in a while that I really really pushed.


Coming down that final Hill the watch said 1:58, turning into the home stretch the finish line in sight 1:59, I felt all the lactic acid swirling around in my stomach, could barely breathe and my vision was going blurry, meters to go still 1:59. Crossed the line – 2:00:00, official time 2:00:21. Dissappointed yes, but I put up a damn good fight and managed a finishing smile! I know that those 22 seconds and dare I say a little more, can be knocked off next time. Maybe when I haven’t run a half marathon the week before. 


I think I’ve found my favourite distance. 

If you fancy signing up for next year, entries are now open on the London 10 Mile website – if you need any more convincing, there were free race photos, a chunky medal and a great post run picnic atmosphere.  

Hackney Festival of Fitness 

Hackney holds a very fond place in my running journey. Back in 2015 it was my first half marathon. When I lined up absolutely clueless wearing totally inappropriate trainers, eaten a bacon sandwich for breakfast, having only been running for 2 months. 


Fast forward two years and two full marathons later, I was feeling a little twitchy a week after London and wanted not only run but I was craving the buzz of race day. My legs weren’t up to 13.1 miles but the idea of a 5.5km in a race setting was rather appealing. I was also intrigued by Virgin Sport’s takeover of the event and the concept of turning the day into a festival.


I had every good intention to arrive around 10am to cheer on the half marathoners but a few too many glasses of prosecco the night before meant we arrived around 1pm. We had shopping and cinema plans later in the day so decided to drive and park in Westfields which is a pleasant 25 minute amble through The Olympic Park to the start line in Hackney Marshes. 
The 5.5km was due to start at 1:45pm. I’m not an early bird but even for me this was a little late. Having started the half marathon at 9am it would have perhaps been better to start at 12:30/1pm so that more of the half runners might have stayed to add to the atmosphere. Unfortunately, this was coupled with the British weather letting us down. It was overcast and I suspect if it had been a sunny day the crowds would have stuck around for some gentle post race basking/ getting gently sozzled. It was however perfect running weather. 

Following a group warm up, which I always feel very awkward taking part in but is great to learn new exercises, we made our way to the start line. If you wanted to race it required some elbowing to get to the start line but I was going no where fast. 


Thanks for the delightful mid run goofy photo Charlie. 

Unfortunately the course itself was a little uninspiring, with an unexpected hill thrown in.  Given the green surroundings two double backs on a road seemed a wasted opportunity. However it did ensure that everything was kept compact and meant that there seemed like more spectators on route. It was a pleasant surprise that there was a water station around the 2km mark. I saw a 1km marker but other than that there didn’t seem to be any, so running without a watch, I had no sense of distance. I would have at least liked a half way marker but perhaps I just didn’t spot them. 

Before I knew it we were heading back into the park and the race was over. It may have just been 5.5km but we were still treated to the full works – chip timing, medal, finishers t-shirt and an array of snacks and drinks. 


I was lucky to have been given a race bib by Virgin Sport. The 5.5km was priced at £25, which initially I winced at, however the theme of race was “Chase your mate” and this also included a bib for your friend. So if you split it, at £12.50 I’d say it was well worth the pennies if you are looking for the race day experience; particularly if it’s your first and don’t want to tackle a 10km just yet.  There were even race photos taken on the course, avaliable for free online afterwards. 

For a 5.5km race I was pretty impressed. It also made me question my sanity of running full marathons when this distance got me the race experience and saw me back in just over half an hour for lunch. 

Another thing which I was pleasant surprised about was Virgin Sport App which provided me with all the information I needed about the day, a festival village map and even for the 5.5km a breakdown of my 3 & 5km splits. 

Post race, I headed over to the Fitness Stage for some yoga/stretching. Through out the day there had been a series of workouts led by the likes of Bradley Simmons, Shona Vertue and Faisal (Mr PMA). Should have thought about getting here earlier for this before the fifth glass of prosecco! 

Had I of done the half marathon I would have been straight into the massage tent but food was calling and I have to say as a massive street food lover I was pretty delighted with the selection on offer. Chicken burger and fries were first up from Butchies. Followed by CrossTown Doughnuts who really ought to be at every race finish line. Alex even found decent coffee and beer to keep him entertained whilst I was running, which isn’t always easy at races. Big thumbs up on the catering front! 

The race was perfect for my post marathon legs. With a little tweaking to timings and the course for the 5.5km, I think Virgin Sport are on to a winning concept of a festival here and everything felt very professionally organised. I’m certainly planning on coming back next year to run the Half Marathon. 

In the mean time I’ve been having a peak at the other festivals Virgin Sport have planned. There’s one centering round a 10km in Westminster in July, they are coming to Oxford in October for a half marathon and perhaps most tempting is San Francisco; I will make it to America one day soon! 

London Marathon 2017

I can’t quite put into words how much running London Marathon meant to me. I’m sure i could gush for page after page but put simply, I fell in love with running in London and more than any other race wanted to run the marathon of my city.

I first entered the ballot in 2010, before I even ran, I did it because a friend was and I got caught up in her enthusiasm. It became a yearly tradition of entering, entirely forgetting about it for six months and then October approaching and wanting to race home to frantically check the post. 7 years and I became familiar with the thud of the rejection magazine.

Then on 26 January 2017 I received a message from Lucy Fitness that changed everything, would I like a place in the London Marathon. Cue squeals of excitement and a lump in my throat. The lovely people at KIND Snacks UK, who were one of the products in the finisher’s good bag wanted to offer us the Golden Ticket, as fate would have it I had eaten a KIND bar for breakfast that morning.

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With only 12 weeks to go I was a little apprehensive,  given that for Brighton marathon I had trained for 20 weeks but it was an opportunity that I simply couldn’t pass up and was determined to make the most of the training time I had.

The journey to the start line was rocky to say the least. A very bad half marathon race experience, the constant feeling I was way behind everyone else in terms of mileage and missed training. I had moments when I considered deferring but I had wanted this for so long, I simply didn’t want to wait another year. I normally get excited before races but never nervous. But from the Monday before I was jittery, had butterflies and lost count of the number of times I broke out in a cold sweat. I couldn’t figure out why, was I concerned that I wasn’t prepared or was it the anticipation of realising one of my biggest running goals.

When a race pack gets delivered its always exciting but going to the Expo was something else. My registration form accidentally got binned, the replacement got left in the office  but the lovely people on the help desk sorted it instantly. Picking up my number on the Friday made it all very real – 58058 – it had a nice ring to it. Lucy and I had a quick browse and got some snaps but unfortunately it was far too hot to stay for any length of time.

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On the Saturday I was a bridesmaid at a friend’s wedding. It was an absolutely stunning day and kept me well and truly distracted from any pre-marathon nerves. Sunday morning I was so nervous I had to force myself to eat my banana topped porridge. Coffee in hand, wrapped up with my throw away jumper, I set out to the start line in Greenwich, which luckily was a straight forward 40 minute journey.

I arrived at 9:15am, jumped in the queue for the toilets, which went surprisingly quick and did some gentle stretching. It was completely cloudy but I still decided to apply some Sun cream to my face, which I was very thankful for later on. I also bumped into a few familiar faces with kept the nerves at bay. Then before I knew I was in my starting pen, counting down to 10am and easing towards the start. It took around 16 minutes me to cross the start line and I was so overwhelmed by it all that I forgot to start my watch for at least a minute.

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My goal, I just wanted to finish, uninjured. Ideally I would have liked to have finished in 5hrs 29 mins. So I set off wearing a 5hr 30 pace band, which equates to a 12:35 minute mile. The first 6/7 miles were relatively uneventful, I found my rhythm and was feeling good at 11:50 pace. I reached the Cutty Sark and the atmosphere was buzzing. This is when it really struck me. I’m running the London Marathon, I’m not sat at home watching or spectating but actually running it myself!

From Mile 7 to 12 my pace starting to slow but I was still running within 12:35 min/mile and more than anything I was enjoying myself. Rounding the corner of Tooley street, I spotted Alex and stopped for a quick hug, to grab some strawberry laces. Having seen me at a similar point in Brighton marathon Alex thought I was looking on good form and waved me off on to one of the points in the course I was most looking forward to, running over Tower Bridge. I was like a Cheshire Cat bounding along loving the cheers from the densely packed spectators on either side.

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I came off the bridge, rounded the corner and headed towards the half way mark. I was feeling so much better than how I felt by this point in the North London Half or during a long training run. Half way point was marked with live music from coming from a London Pride Bus parked in the centre of the road and at this point I spotted some of my super speedy friends who were already at the Mile 22 mark.

As I headed towards 14 miles my hip flexors started to feel tight which became increasingly painful. A pain that didn’t go away until several days post marathon. Mentally it also hit me that I was about to embark on the hardest part of the course, Canary Wharf. I knew it was coming and I knew I was going to have to dig deep but when at Mile 16 my watch said I had already run an extra 0.52 of a mile and the hip pain was getting worse with every step I had to get really inventive. I had been trying to stick to the blue lines and decided to use them to pull me through this bad patch. Run for the distance between 26 lines then walk for 13. Mile 18 my headphones suddenly died. Mile 19 my watch storage bleeped as full and then died. I was in agony and had nothing to distract me.

 

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But suddenly, with no headphones I started to hear the cheers from the crowd. Total strangers shouting my name, encouraging me along. I hit Mile 20 and kept saying out loud, just keep running, just keep running. Those miles felt long and lonely but this was London Marathon and I had long agreed with myself that my mental strength would pull me through when it really started to hurt.

I hit Mile 21 and Run Dem Crew had put on a fantastic cheer station. I must have looked rather pained because another runner turned to me and said its less than 10km to go, you’ve trained for a marathon you can run 10km.

Mile 21-23 I remember very little other than a little girl with a sign saying Jelly Baby fairy handing me a mini pack of Haribo, a lady I grabbed an orange jelly snack off and the man who thrust a very welcome Percy Pig in my direction. Fuelling strategy had all but gone out the window by this point and it was all about the sweets.

Coming up out of Blackfriars Tunnel and onto Embankment there was a massive lump in my throat, this to me was what London Marathon was about. Running down the middle of the road, spectators roaring, across the River from the London Eye heading towards Big Ben. I plastered a grin on my face and drew on the energy from the crowd. At Mile 25 I spotted Alex and two of my friends. I was somewhat delirious by this point but the fizzy lucozade and another dose of strawberry laces were welcome. All I remember was blurting out “BURGER”. I was really rather hungry but this point. My face says it all when Alex gently responded saying yes as soon as you finish the race, off you go.

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My spirits were lifted and I plodded on towards the Houses of Parliament, were brilliantly placed right underneath Big Ben stood my parents, who had patiently been waiting for several hours. A quick hello and hug and they too told me to get on and finish it. The final mile seemed to stretch on forever and I focused my sights on chasing a bare footed man dressed as the purple triangle Mr Men who had managed to overtake me.

As I rounded that final corner, passed Buckingham Palace, and headed down the flag lined final stretch, I fixed my sights on the finish line I’ve been wanting to cross for so many years.

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6 hours 18 minutes 55 seconds and proud.

Its a time that most would be devastated with but just consider how much mental strength it takes to keep going for that long particularly without a toilet break.

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As that medal was put over my neck I could barely whisper thank you, I walked around in a circle disorientated before promptly being over come with emotion and I started sobbing. A lovely volunteer guided me to have a finisher’s photo and I stumbled passed the baggage lorries to meet my family and get my burger.

I was exhausted but it was by the far the best race I’ve ever run and I am so very grateful to Kind Snacks for the opportunity.

I’ll be back one day to do justice with a faster time but for now I am ecstatic to have ticked off the number one race on my bucket list.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 17

 This year I’ve run everything from a 3 mile plod on to a marathon, with a number of 10ks and half marathons in between. I am not a speedy runner, rather I use running to explore new places I visit, trails I stumble upon and to keep the stress levels at bay. With an intense job, I take great pleasure in lacing up, headphones in and having some “me” time.
In the two years I’ve been running myself, I’ve heard many runners rave about Brooks shoes but was yet to try them myself. So I was delighted when Pro Direct Running asked me to test the new Adrenaline GTS 17. What took me so long!

As the shoe was yet to be released I had no idea what I would discover when the box arrived. Immediately I was struck by just how colourful they were. Perfect to brighten up any dreary winter run.

This was not a shoe that wanted to be pranced between treadmill runs and brunch, this was a serious running shoe that wanted to be taken out in the great outdoors and get a bit muddy.


I christened my Brooks with a part paved/part trail run, and some general frolicking, in Richmond Park. Usually I would notice a significant difference when changing terrain but the transition was barely noticeable.

I usually opt for shoes that provide an extremely cushioned almost bouncy ride, which on trail like surfaces I don’t feel works for me. Instead of staring at the ground worried I might roll my ankle on a tree branch the GTS 17 is a stability shoes with a snug fit and solid grip on the sole that made me feel secure enough that I was able to take in my surroundings. I even made a friend.


Running through the leaves with slippery wet patches the shoes continued to impress me. They have been released at just the right time to tackle winter running conditions. They even passed the pebbled beach running test. I really did put them through every terrain/weather condition available to me. At the end of one run I even conducted a puddle test and I’m happy to report my feet remained perfectly dry.


One of the features I noticed on the GTS 17 is an added layer of material over the big toe area on each shoe. From previous experience of my big toe wearing through the top of a shoe whilst the rest of the shoe would otherwise be fine to continue running in, this is a genius idea! Shin splints have plagued me on and off for some time and during each of my runs to date they have been pleasantly absent. Having looked into shoe’s features I think I’m attributing this to the “full-length segmented crash pad which accommodates any foot landing and delivers smooth heel-to-toe transitions”. I couldn’t have put it better myself.
For more details on the technology behind the shoe, head over to Pro Direct Running’s Twitter this evening as they are hosting a takeover by a Brooks Technical Rep.

Next weekend I am taking on a very tough 10km race up Box Hill in the Surrey Downs. With a multi-terrain course, November weather conditions and steep elevation I am relieved to have the GTS 17 to hand. Details on how they performed to follow in my race report.

So if you are looking for a new pair of kicks to entice you out in the Winter months, want to treat yourself to an early Christmas present or add a pair to your list for Santa, head on over to Pro Direct Running’s website. Just try and not get too distracted by all the other beautiful pieces of kit available.

 

 

London Winter Run

I’ve set myself the goal of regaining my pre-marathon fitness levels. Since April I’ve slowed down and I can’t hack any sort of distance either. 

First up is improving my 10km time. My PB is 53:01 and its always been a goal to run sub 50. My last 10km race took me 01:09:43 – around 16 minutes slower! 

For several years I’ve wanted to run the London Winter Run and this year I grateful to have the opportunity. The run takes place on Sunday 5 February 2017, in just under 4 months. So it gives me plenty of time to get in a few months of training, indulge at Christmas and still have a 5 weeks pre-race to shift the mince pies. 


Post Christmas things can be a little glum but with polar bear hugs, snow blasts and a penguin party this run is set to be a lot of fun. Besides I’m a big fan of these Arctic creatures. I’ll give you an idea, this has been my phone background for the last few years! (Unfortunately I’ve had the image so long I can’t remember the source to credit)


I also happen to have quite a perchance for penguins. This little guy was my absolute favourite when I recently visited London Zoo. I had to be dragged away and consoled that I couldn’t take him home. 

Another major plus for me is the course description “no major hills”. Words to my ears! So I can focus on getting a good time (and the Penguins) without having to put every ounce of my being in getting up a blinking hill! As you can see from the image below the route takes in some of London’s finest sites. 

If you are looking for a race to channel your winter training towards, want to run your first 10km or just fancy dancing with the Penguins, take a peek at the website. To get a few pounds off race entry, to save for a post run hot chocolate you can use the code SIMPELLE3. 

I will be documenting my training on the blog and over on Instagram, let me know if you will be joining me, I love sharing in other runners journey to race day and seeing familiar faces along the course. 

Boudavida Women’s 10km

After deciding not to run Richmond marathon I was really looking forward to taking part in the Boudavida Women’s 10km. I was grateful to have been given a place as part of the ThisGirlCanRun10 team, part of the brilliant, wider, This Girl Can initiative. 

The race took place in Windsor Great Park. I had never been before, but through a great deal of Instagram stalking, I knew I was in for a scenic treat. I most certainly wasn’t disappointed, it’s the most beautiful course I’ve run in the UK to date. 

Race kit was laid out the night before, shorts, tank top and my Hoka One Ones. Watch, headphones and phone were charged. Had a soak in the bath and a foam roller session before an early night.

The alarm was set for 6:15am, which for someone who is not a morning person is painfully early, it also meant that it was distinctly chilly and I decided to ditch the shorts in favour of full length 2xu compression tights. Arriving at 9am the sun was already shining and by the time I was on the start line I was deeply regretting my outfit choice, particularly as it was all black!

We drove to the race and there was amble parking available free of charge. If you were looking to go by public transport, the train station is around a 1.5 mile walk to the start. The race village had the nicest toilets I’ve ever visited at a race, they smelt delightful and there weren’t even any queues! 


Stood on the start line there was lots of chatter, from beating PBs to ladies running their first 10km, I spoke to a group who had all trained together and were about to embark on their first ever race. I felt a buzz of excitement for them, I warned them there was likely to be pain and frustration along the way but that feeling as they crossed the finish line would make it all worth while.

I had no intention on going for a PB, but I hoped to come in a smidge under my last 10km race in July. I set off planning just to run and enjoy the beautiful scenery. The first 1km involved quite a steep hill, but with a fantastic statute looming and the excitement of getting started I was distracted from the incline. 


The entire course was a series of relatively steep hills with short stretches of flat in between. Despite the combination of hills and heat I was determined that I wasn’t going to let myself slow to a walk, because if I allowed it just once it would be a mental battle the rest of the race. So I employed the slow plod, with arms pumping up hill and free falling letting my legs gather some speed on the way back down. 

At 4km on a particularly steep descent, I had a very near miss when my new “extremely high impact” sports bra, which does up at the front decided to unzip; luckily I caught it in the nick of time, but it gives you an idea of just how much speed I was managing to gather down hill. 


The scenery was stunning and definitely somewhere I would recommend making the trip to go for a run / walk. I ran alongside horses and cows, over ponds I wanted to jump in to cool down and past quaint little houses. 


Then just when I didn’t think it could get any better I turned the corner and ran the 1.5km stretch downhill towards Windsor Castle, it was magnificent. 

Crossing the finish line, a smidge under as hoped, I was swiftly given water and a Meridian peanut butter bar and another piece of bling to add to the collection. It was a real bonus to be able to keep walking around afterwards, rather than having to queue. 


The race was brilliantly organised from start to finish and the number of participants allowed for plenty of room on the course and in the race village. If you can stomach the hills I would definitely recommend it for 2017. Next year I’m definitely tempted to do Windsor Half Marathon which takes place the same weekend in the same beautiful setting. 


Post race snap with Sasha and Claire 

This was the first race I ran in my Hoka One One Clifton 3s, by coincidence they also happened to be an official sponsor. I loved them in training for their lightweight, bouncy but yet supportive feel and they performed just as well on race day! Not a blister, hot spot or foot pain in sight. Don’t be put off by how big they look, they are in no way heavy or clumpy. 


Post race I was excited to visit the Boudavida stand, a new activewear collection that has only just launched. I had seen the pieces online but was keen to have a feel of the materials in real life. In post race euphoria it’s probably best they were only exhibiting rather than selling because I would have bought it all! I definitely have my eye on several of their tops and a beautifully crafted running jacket. 

The rest of the day we combined with pottering around the sites of Windsor, eating lunch by the river and being astounded by the sheer number of swans. All in all a fantastic way to spend a Saturday. We won’t talk about me getting ridiculously sun burnt running for just an hour in late September….. 

The countdown is on!

A calendar month today I will have completed my second marathon (18 September). I haven’t done an update on how my training is going after my 100 mile run commute challenge and I thought it was about time.

So currently I have mixed feelings. One day I’m ready and raring to see how much I can smash my current marathon time by and proudly place another shiny bit of bling on the dresser. The next I’m in despair that I’m going to be putting my body through another 26.2 miles. This generally reflects the days I run well and those where my legs refuse to co-operate. 
Here’s my super concentrated/I’m really scared face from the Track Mafia X Nike Run Club event, which I pull every time someone asks how the training is going: 

I’ve had several very successful 4-8 mile runs but my most recent attempt at running 10 miles left me a little crushed. I hate giving up but it was a Friday night and I really wasn’t enjoying it, the shins hurt and so I stopped at 6 miles. 

Really I ought to be up to 14-16 miles at this stage in my training and I’m panicking slightly as a result. Consequently I think I’m putting even more pressure on the runs to be “successful” and inevitably mentally struggling even more when they aren’t. 

Basically I need to chill out. 

This is me finishing strong, the speed lap I was so terrified about messing up for my team and in front of lots of people. Moral, I need to doubt myself less:  

Thank you to the lovely Georgia and Laura for the all important snaps.

Part of me takes comfort in the fact that I’ve done it before so I can do it again. But then I am perfectly aware that you need to respect the distance. I’m concerned the former is making me a little lackadaisical and I’m a little annoyed at myself for not taking training as seriously as I intended. Life just got in the way. 

So the plan for the next four weeks is to get in a 13, 15, 18 and 20 miler. Not necessarily in that order. Time to download some new podcasts. I’d be grateful for any recommendations to see me through.