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British 10k 2018

When I was pregnant, after I’d stopped running, my thoughts were on my return to racing. It had been over a year since I’d really dug deep and raced.

I wrote down all my PBs across distances from 5k to half marathon. And then I took a calculator and added 10%. This, I decided, would be my target for the next year. They still looked pretty challenging for someone who, by the time she was properly running again, wouldn’t have set a PB in two years.

I hit my parkrun goal last month, and now it was time to take on the 10k.

I headed to the British 10k, courtesy of a PR place. It’s a big race with a lot of people to get over the start line. I was in the third start pen in the first wave, so I was quick to get away and the runners thinned out pretty quickly once we got over the line.

I’d run this race before a couple of years ago, but I’d forgotten how the gradients you never notice walking round London jump up and smack you in the face during the route.

There’s out and back sections on Regent Street, Charing Cross Road, Westminster Bridge and Victoria Street where you can have a look at what’s going on ahead and behind you, as well as spending all of the out wondering where exactly the back starts.

It was a hot day and the organisers had warned that we should be on high alert and take care. There was water available in the start pens, showers on the course and small amounts of shade which saw many of us forgetting the racing line and heading to the cooler tarmac.

Around 4 miles I took a bottle of water which, without exaggeration, was the same temperature as my son’s bath water. It was then that I had to stop telling myself that it wasn’t THAT hot.

10k races have never been my strength. The feel hard like a 5k but last longer. Race time predictors are problematic but both my 5k and marathon time suggest my 10k PB is on the wrong side of 45 mins. But my +10% calculations put my goal for the race at 50:05, rounded down to sub-50.

Somewhere in mile five, on the stretch along the Thames towards Westminster Bridge I gave up on that goal. It hurt and I wanted to walk. But then I had a few sips of Nuun just before the bridge while I walked to drink from the cup. I started running again and passing the 8km marker, I realised I could still make it round in under 50 mins.

The last mile was a bit of a blur. An out and back past parliament and then the home straight finishing just past Downing Street. There were no 400m or 200m to go signs and I panicked that the finish was further away than I needed it to be. But then it was over, I stopped my watch and 49 mins and 22 seconds after we started, I collected my medal and headed home.

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Resources for buggy runners

I’ve been running with my buggy for the past month now. That by no means makes me an expert, but I know some women who are. So if you’re gearing up to take your baby out running, here’s some advice. 

Tips from me

Before you’re ready to start running with the buggy, use your walks to suss our good routes. I now know the flattest, smoothest paths in my local parks. 

Gradually build up your buggy runs. Just because you can run 10k solo, it doesn’t make it a good idea to run this distance with the buggy. I started with a 3 mile run, walking for a couple of mins every mile.

Run with someone else, your partner or a friend, and take turns pushing. My partner and I ran with the buggy when we were away in Kent. It was the first time we’d run together in nearly a year. When I was pregnant I was run/walking so he’d do loops and since having our baby one of us has always been with our son while the other runs. The buggy has let us run together again.

You don’t need to run with a buggy to run with a buggy. If you have a friend to run with, try an interval run. One of you stays with the baby while the other runs a short loop. You swap over and on your recovery you stay with the buggy. A good option is your buggy isn’t suited to running or your baby isn’t old enough.

Buggy running is harder than your easy runs. Use the extra weight and effort to your advantage. Do a solo interval session by running with the buggy hard for a minute and walking as your recovery. 

The Buggy Coach – Posture

The first time I ran with the buggy I thought my shoulders were going to explode. I expected it to be harder than regular running given I was pushing a substantial weight. But I hadn’t realised that I’d feel most of this weight in my upper body. 

It did ease off after five minutes once I’d warmed up a bit. 

There’s a video via RunningBuggies.com that demonstrates good form for running with a buggy which should help.

You can also listen to my interview with Wendy, founder of RunningBuggies.com on my podcast for advice on choosing a buggy and how to run with it. 

Jasyoga – Recovery

Erin at Jasyoga.com has videos concentrating on warming up and stretching out those areas that take the brunt of the buggy during your runs. You can also listen to my interview with Erin on the podcast. 

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Simplyhealth Great Team Relay 2018

parkrun done, it was time to pin on an actual number and line up for a race. I’d been invited to take part in the Simplyhealth Great Team Relay, an event requiring a team of four runners to run 5k each round the Olympic park, passing a baton between them. 

I know a lot of runners, so I asked three of my favourites to join me and we dug out our Team Rainbow shirts. Team Rainbow was born several years ago for a team event, though I don’t remember what it was.

Over the years we’ve picked up a couple of new members and encouraged each other through races both individually and as a team. We swam a Team relay, an iron relay, ran a marathon together, celebrated a hen party with a 10k and when I was running an 80k ultra through Paris I carried them all with me in my pocket, cheering me on via our lively group chat. There wasn’t a more fitting way for me to return to racing than with three of this brilliant baby bunch of humans. 

After dusting both literal and metaphorical cobwebs off my bike, I made my way through east London to the Olympic Park. We looked at the crowd of runners in their various team shirts waiting to enter the former Olympic stadium. It was pretty man-heavy and we discussed what our chances were of making the podium for the all female team category. There were prizes for first female, first male and first mixed team.

Once inside, numbers secured to our chests and running order confirmed, it was time for Laura S to take the baton and the first leg. Laura, who has also had a baby in the past year, was our sensible, measured start. We waited for the first runners who re-entered the stadium after 16 minutes, then a few minutes later the first woman came running down the home straight.

We cheered all the runners back towards their teams, waiting for our own Laura S who brought the baton safely round, not going off too fast as many around her did and avoiding weaving. She delivered the baton to the changeover with some important information: “stick it in the back of your bra!”

There was no fumbling as the baton passed safely from Laura to Josie, well within the changeover box. The we’d shrugged off the stigma of British teams dropping batons as though we’d been coached by Gareth Southgate. Josie was off round the track and out into the park. 

We looked up at the team standings on the big screen, but our name wasn’t showing in the first page of results. There were more female teams than we’d expected. 

I took my place in the changeover box and Josie, with the face of someone who’d been reminded just how painful a 5k can be, passed me the baton. She’d shown me 23 minutes into my future and it didn’t look great. 

Still, being on the Olympic track with a crowd of people cheering made the legs do what the mind was reluctant to. I followed the trail of runners round 300m of the oval and out into the bowels of the stadium. After taking a loop under the stadium, the route spat us out onto the warm-up track and then out into the park. 

It was a warm Wednesday evening. The race had begun shortly after 6:30pm but the air was still hot and humid. My baton tucked safely in the back of my bra, I focused on the runners ahead, overtaking as many as I could. The 4km marker seemed to take an eternity to arrive. I wanted to stop, but three other runners would be trying their hardest for the team, surely I could put up with five more minutes. 

Heading back into the stadium and down the finishing straight, I could see Cathy straight ahead. The fastest member of our team, we’d put her last in the Usain Bolt leg knowing her own legs would give his a run for their money, hopefully without the pulled hamstring. 

One of the team handed me a beer and presented me with my medal. It seemed wrong to receive the medal before all our runners had finished, but I had no such issue with accepting the beer.

The clock ticked over, we struggled to do the maths to decipher when Cathy would be heading back, but then she was there, tearing past us and over the line. And then we could hear her too. She was being interviewed on the finish line and the announcer was saying something about winning. And then the big screens confirmed it: Team Rainbow, first women’s team.

We’d negative split our way through the field, each running as hard as we could and collectively achieved something that none of us could individually; we’d run faster than the other women in the field. That’s teamwork.

Simplyhealth kindly gave me the place in the race. Team Rainbow made it great. If you’re following along, I ran 23:22, just 5 seconds slower than the parkrun from a couple of weeks ago.

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Life post pregnancy: running update

My baby is now six months old and last week I ran my first parkrun. I could have run one sooner – I’ve been running 5k and longer non-stop for a few months now – but my plan had always been to wait until I was ready, in body and mind, to push hard and see how fast I could run.

Since my last post pregnancy running update, I’ve gradually been increasing my running. Other than a couple of weeks, I’ve been able to fit in three runs a week. How long these are and when exactly they happen has had to be decided on a week-by-week basis as energy levels and schedules change. But I’m very happy with how it’s gone.

Looking at my training log, I’ve been back running (not counting the weeks of run/walk build-up) for 12 weeks, my maximum distance has been an 8 mile run and my biggest week so far has been 17 miles. I’ve also been going to post-natal pilates and doing my own strengthening exercises at home.

As a coach, I often give my runners better advice than I give myself, but I’ve been careful to take my own advice and be patient. I’d signed up for the London 10 Mile race in May as a distance goal. Although I was looking forward to this when I signed up, and despite my runs steadily increasing, when the race bib arrived it caused more anxiety than excitement.

I thought about what I’d tell a runner I was coaching and decided to sit it out this year. It was absolutely the right decision for me.

My focus then shifted to 5k, and a parkrun. I’d been coaching a group of beginners towards their first 5k and their graduation parkrun seemed as good a target as any. We all headed to Highbury Fields parkrun, a five-lap, reasonably flat course. I was pretty excited cycling to the start to see what my legs would do.

After two years off from racing, I didn’t know where to stand as we lined up at the start. After “3,2,1, Go!” there was the usual weaving and jostling. Then it settled down and I focused on the shirts in front of me, wondering if I should overtake and watching people pull away. Seeing my runners give it their all on the way round helped me push on.

I had turned my watch screen to show the time of day rather than pace or elapsed time, so I would have to run on feel. I finished in 23:21 according to my watch, 23:17 according to the parkrun timekeepers. And a ‘season best’ either way. Well within the PB+ 10% goal I set myself a couple of months ago. (My PB is 21:21, run off the back of marathon training, so the goal this time had been sub-24.)

As I finished, a woman tapped me on the shoulder and asked what pace I was running. “You were really fast, I was trying to stick with you.” I DIDN’T say I’m coming back from having a baby. I DIDN’T say I used to be faster. Because I was just a target for her to focus on and push herself.

There’s always people ahead of you and always people behind you, whether they’re in the race with you or not. And our time and ‘excuses’ only matter to ourselves. (Yes I know parkrun isn’t a ‘race’.)

The next goal is a 10k and I’d like to go sub-50, but if I’m really honest, something closer to sub-48. (My PB is 45:10.) As my son is now six months, I’m looking forward to making buggy runs a regular part of my training to help increase my mileage and make training more fun.

I share more regularly about my training over on Instagram, so you can fine me there if you’re interested in what I’m doing and where I’m racing.

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Episode 32: Nicola Miller, A Mile In Her Shoes

I speak to Nicola Miller, the founder of A Mile In Her Shoes, a charity helping women affected by homelessness to find their feet through running.

We also hear reviews of Liverpool Rock and Roll Marathon from Cathy, and Wendy Rumble from Episode 29 is back with a review of Edinburgh Marathon. Did she get her BQ? We’ll find out.

Listen to podcast

Download it | Listen online Get it via iTunes Podcast archive

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Episode 31: Rhalou Allerhand, writing about running

Journalist and Editor, Rhalou Allerhand, has completed the treble of working at Women’s Running, The Running Bug and Runners’ World. I speak to her about her early career as a journalist, running and whether she’s run out of things to say about it.

We also hear race reviews of the London 10 Mile race and the Hackney Half Marathon. As well as some news about the Royal Parks Half.

Listen to podcast

Download it | Listen online Get it via iTunes Podcast archive

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How I plan my training

Last week I shared an image on my Instagram stories of my training plan. A couple of people messaged me, surprised that I use Excel for this. And maybe I’m a Luddite who is behind the times of running training plan wizardry, but I actually find this the best way to do it.

I have to confess, until recently I preferred a good old fashioned pen and paper for the job. The satisfaction of ticking off a session only marred by the ones you have to cross out or modify. So I upgraded to a digital version of pen and paper. Because training plans very rarely go exactly to plan. They often need to be modified as life gets in the way.

Training in this post-partum body is a new world for me, and I’ve no idea how I’m going to feel one week to the next. Right now, I plan my training on a week-by-week basis. I have an idea of where I want to get to by the autumn and a goal race. And I have mileage I’d like to peak at along the way, as well as a couple of test races.

But the exact sessions and paces I plan on a week-by-week basis as my fitness returns or energy and time that week dictates.

All my runs get logged in Strava which means I can look back on previous weeks and the paces I’ve run various routes. And the ‘Training log’ option in the desktop version of Strava (frustratingly not on the app) makes it easy to see previous months all laid out. Handy for looking at the training you did before your last PB. But because Strava doesn’t honour the ‘lap’ button on your watch for intervals, just pace each mile, I sometimes log the times of my intervals back on my Excel sheet.

Here are some tips for planning your own training…
  • Start where you are. Look at your mileage from the past few weeks. Week one of your training shouldn’t be a massive jump up from this. The same goes for frequency of your runs.
  • Put your goal race down and work back from it. How many weeks do you have? What peak mileage and longest run do you have in mind? Then figure out if you’ve enough time to build to these sensibly.
  • Build in some contingency. Things happen: illness, work, children, lack of motivation. Build in a couple of weeks extra just in case.
  • If you have any weeks where you’ll be away or busy at work, build your training plan to allow for this. Make it a cut-back week.
  • Add in a couple of test races. A 5k or 10k is a good test of fitness for longer races.
  • Don’t do ALL THE RACES. Races are fun to do. But try to ration yourself. Yes, you could use a race as a training run. But I find that too many ‘training races’ in your plan means they end up dictating the length of your long runs and can be disruptive. Go cheer instead.

For me, the goal is the Royal Parks Half Marathon in October. In the next few weeks I’m hoping to be able to add a buggy run to my weekly training and my first real test of fitness will be a parkrun next month. Once I’ve got an idea of my current 5k fitness I’ll be better able to plan my training and goals going forward.

If you’d like a little help with your training, check out my coaching options. 

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Episode 30: Tracy Isaacs, fit feminist

I speak to co-author of ‘Fit at Mid-Life: A Feminist Fitness Journey‘, Tracy Isaacs about all things fitness and feminism. We discuss body image, why women are pushed towards certain types of exercise and why diets are rubbish.

We also hear reviews of the Swimathon and the Three Forts Ultramarathon.

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Download it | Listen online Get it via iTunes Podcast archive

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Episode 29: Running entrepreneur, Wendy Rumble


I speak to Wendy Rumble, the founder of runningbuggies.com about following her passion and her instinct and setting up her own business. She also gives me some tips on running with a buggy.

Also in this episode is a review of London Marathon.

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Download it | Listen online Get it via iTunes Podcast archive

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Episode 28: Amy Abrahams and fitness social media

Does social media make you feel good or bad about yourself? Freelance journalist Amy Abrahams joins me to talk about what fitness looks like on Instagram and how to keep it real.

We also hear a review of Manchester Marathon and I answer a question from a runner who wants to know what to do next after their first marathon.

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