Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Month in Review: May 2017

So I started writing this post last week, before the vicious attack in London on Saturday night. Having spent the late afternoon sat on the terrace of the Southbank Centre with a glass of fizz in hand to celebrate my birthday, enjoy the summer sun and soak up a bit of London at it's best, it seemed all the more brutal. I don't discuss politics on my blog and rarely on my social media. I won't be commenting any further on the attacks happening across the UK and further afield by people who think the indiscriminate taking of life is acceptable. I believe we should think before we speak, that we should reserve judgements until more facts from reliable sources can be found, and that in an age of 'instant', we run the risk of marginalising so many people because we could not resist the temptation to push the button on a post, and whilst terrorism is in part perpetrated to create fear, I feel that more often than not here in the UK, it is mistrust, marginalisation and bigotry that often comes to light in the aftermath that does so much more damage. I don't want to be part of that kind of problem, so my final words borrowed from the most poignant social media post I've seen in a while, a question to ask yourself before you speak (before I talk about how my month of May went) are:

Do you need to say it? Do you need to say it here? Do you need to say it here right now? 

So,  the fifth month of the year. I always find May a bit of a funny month. It's often a time where I end up working more than not due to business demands and holiday cover, it's also the month in which Tom has his birthday just a couple of weeks before mind and it has 2 bank holidays in it. This year came the added runner calendar- that meant the end of the spring marathon session and some listless runners in the club and it's been warm for the last few weeks too so do I dare think summer is coming?

So let's talk about running first because that's how it started. On May 7th, I toed the line in Cambridge ready to let David Coulthard (yes, the former F1 driver) chase me out into the villages. I know.

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Wings For Life World Run was a blast and you can click if you missed my race report & see my photodiary from the day!

There was another big running achievement for me in setting a new 5k PB as well. We have a summer Intra-Club championship which is placed on age-grading which inevitably means I'll be fighting it out for the bottom spot on the table but that doesn't take the sine off a 1m19s reduction in the time it took me to run 5k on a warm and humid Tuesday night! I talked about my PB a little bit in a post which the stats tell me lots of people really liked reading about regaining confidence and showing body image who is boss because sport should be empowering for everyone. Click if you missed it. 

And food. There was a lot of freezer food this month. Notably because I used a discount to try out Everdine which provides balanced healthy meals that you keep in the freezer and bash in the microwave whenever you're ready. An indulgent convenience but worth it for a hectic month and one where I would have had to cook for one a whole lot. Click if you missed my full review of Everdine or if you fancy skipping straight to the good bit (£30 off your first box) click HERE for my discount code...

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I have worn some awesome kit this month too. The shorts pictured below I'll be talking a bit more about as June rumbles on, but the ladies at Threo design and make high performance running, cycling & triathlon kit especially for women, and it shows. These shorts are basically life-changing. The tights were a frivolous sale purchase from MyProtein, but they have rubberised trims to help them stay put and who doesn't love a digital print?

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And that leaves one final thing in May to chat about. My favourite running event of the year, the London 10,000. I love this race because it's an amazing course on closed roads through central London. It's also got a great finisher's area, the t-shirts & goody bags are great and the crowd support is brilliant. Oh, and I set my PB here last year, wanting come in at anything below 59:59, I ran 57:27 and had an amazing day. It's fair to say I had to work hard not to set my expectations above and beyond for this one.

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I think it would be fair to say it wasn't my day. My legs felt tired and heavy and my breathing wasn't right and my stomach was really very upset about something. I had tried not to set too much store by another PB, because quite aside being fast and flat, it really is a great day out, so at the 6km mark, when I realised I wasn't going to 'settle into my race' I decided to kick back and enjoy the ride, because that's what #FinishLinesBeforeFinishTimes means and it follows on from my post about regaining a bit of confidence this month. Click if you missed it. 

It was still a great day- very humid, but enjoyable, the crowd support was even better than I remember, the t-shirt is great, if medals are your thing, this one is weighty and at £28 I think it's pretty good value. I'm already waiting for 2018 registration to open!

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So that's May done and dusted. June is my birthday month, so I'm now already another year older, never wiser it seems though? I'm doing Endure24 with a team this weekend which is 24 hours of relay style racing (some crazy people run solo, 5 mile laps for 24 hours), and then it's off to Spain for a couple of weeks of much needed sunshine and R&R. There will still be some new bits and pieces cropping up here, but if you want a few things to read, these are a few bits I loved in May:

Women's Health Magazine are giving away a New York Marathon place, and I want it. why wait until 2018 when I can show 26.2 who's boss this year?  

This video of flowers blooming via Facebook is incredible and reminds us how incredible nature is.

This post about breaking a 2 hour half marathon resonated with me

I am an ambassador to the #RunningDownDementia campaign by Alzheimer's Research UK which went live in the same week I attended a family funeral for someone who had early onset Alzheimer's. Could you run 20 consecutive parkruns? That's 100km and that's the challenge over 20 weeks. Click if you missed my post all about it and for details on how to join Team Chloe Likes To Talk

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Don't You Remember?

You already put the bins out, don't you remember? We always put the cups in the cupboard next to the kettle, don't you remember? She works in an office, that's your other granddaughter, don't you remember? They came to visit you earlier today, don't you remember?

Dementia is a real bitch. It strikes at the very essence of what makes the people we love who they are it's a disease that leaves you with little dignity. Alzheimer's is probably the best known dementia disease, but there are plenty of others, and they can affect the young even more aggressively than the old.

This time last week I was doing a 200 mile round trip to attend a funeral. Tom's aunt suffered a massive seizure related to her early onset Alzheimer's and she sadly never regained consciousness. By contrast my own great-grandmother (yes, really) is 95 years old, she's pulled it back from the brink a dozen times in the last 5 years- everything from almost being evicted from her housing association bungalow because she had stopped paying the rent (awkward) to infections and choking on jelly babies. She's fought them all off but she currently thinks it's 1938 and wonders where all her new furniture she wanted to put into her new house is. She's violent when she's upset, prone to swearing more than me and when hospitalised we take bets on how long it will take for her to rip her own IV lines out. 

Dementia is not nice. It's not pretty. It's not dignified and without much needed support and research, we will continue to see our loved ones suffer the indignity of being unable to find the way to the bathroom in time or to not know who their husbands, wives or children are. Sounds like a serious message right? It is. I was approached recently by Alzheimer's Research UK to bring attention to a campaign called #RuningDownDementia and I could only think of reasons to say yes. 

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So what's the deal?

You get 20 weeks to run a total of 100km or 250km and whilst you're at it, raise some vital funds and awareness for a charity committed to dealing with dementia diseases- there are currently 850,000 people suffering and another person is diagnosed every 3 seconds.

Sounds like a long way right? Back in 2015 I committed to racing 100km in a year, and 20 weeks is less than half that time... So here's a few ideas for you....

-Complete 20 consecutive Parkruns 
If you're completely new to running this is the perfect opportunity to build yourself up and enjoy the spirit of running in it's purest form.

- Train for your first 10k
Fancy a bigger challenge? Training for your first 10k should see you out there in your running shoes at least twice per week and the 10k is the cherry on the top.

Something Bigger? 
250km Is the next step up. It's averages out at 12.5 km per week, which means if you ran a Parkrun every week, you would need to run a further 8.5 km to hit your target- perhaps that's a longer run as you train for an event? Maybe it's the 3rd run in a week you don't always know how to make time for or perhaps, like me, it's the 'one more kilometre' on the end of your increasing long runs.

Are you in? I'm going to be tackling the 250km distance to see how I can increase my distance over the summer months- a time when I often make excuses not to get out there. Want to join Team Chloe Likes To Talk? Click HERE to sign up....

It's really easy to get set up and the website is set up to sync with lots of popular running apps like Strava and Garmin, so you don't even have to worry about recording your runs separately. There's a whole host of downloads for you to use on your social media too- you might notice the Chloe Likes To Talk Facebook page has taken an Alzheimer's Research UK theme....

The biggest thing to remember before you tell me 'I can't do that' or 'I'm not a runner' or 'I'll never run that fast' is that this challenge isn't a race. A 15 minute mile is just as far as a 7 minute mile, and as for runners.... we come in every shape, size and colour, we are men and women, transgender. We are trail and road. We are young and young at heart. We are for everybody. Running can be and should be one of the most accessible sports out there so lace up your trainers and let's show dementia who is boss. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Chloe Likes To Eat: Everdine Review

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In the interest of full disclosure, I've not been approached by Everdine to provide this review neither am I being compensated for doing so. I paid for my Everdine boxes myself after finding them via the app Running Heroes and using a discount I earned there- if you're interested in joining Running Heros which gives you points for your runs which can be used for rewards such as discounts & freebies, this is my referral link. Running Heroes is completely free to use, syncs with loads of different platforms including Garmin, Strava & FitBit so all you have to do is run like usual and enjoy some rewards.

So disclosures out of the way, what is Everdine and why am I reviewing it? Everdine provides pre-prepared meals which you stick in the freezer and microwave when you're ready to eat. The idea (and they use a term I loathe, so much so that I almost didn't buy from them because they utilise it) is that all the meals are healthy, balanced dishes for busy lives delivered in selections of 8 or 12 on a subscription. Full price, the boxes are £55.20 for 8 or £76.80 for 12 including delivery on a Friday or a Saturday with referral options to get you some big discounts (my referral link gives you £30 off your first box and gives me £30 off too). I know for some this will seem a very expensive option and I know I could buy groceries for much less. I also know a lot of people who rarely cook and for them, this represents a cheaper than eating out option with a whole load of convenience. For me, I trialled Everdine using a substantial discount going into a period of time where I knew I'd be eating alone for a couple of weeks and I knew I'd be trying to get my nutrition back on track after a few weak-willed and lazy weeks of piss-poor prior planning. It was a worthwhile cost to have a choice of 12 different meals at my fingertips, that would be ready in under 15 minutes, especially since I'm in a crazy period with work.

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My box duly arrived on a ridiculously busy Friday morning as I was trying to do a million things at once- always the way. Helpfully, the box comes insulated with fully recyclable sheeps wool padding & ice packs so even though I didn't get to putting everything away for an hour or so, everything was still properly cold in there. As suggested, I duly found space in the freezer for all twelve trays- helpfully they're not only clearly labeled but colour-coded which helped when searching for meals and when organising.

So it's easy. It's a convenient way to have decent quality food ready to go quickly. Great. But what about the food? The important bit. Is it any good?

Well let's talk about the good..

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Clockwise from top left: beef ragu spaghetti, mediterranean cod, vegetable gyoza, pulled pork & boston beans 

So these are some of my favourites thus far. The pulled beef ragu packed a punch of flavour, heated up with without too much excess water & was packed with spiralized  vegetables and a portion of pasta that wasn't too vast. I added a sprinkle of extra cheese as suggested and it was GOOD!

The mediterranean cod was also delicious in terms of packing a flavour punch. despite being served with potatoes, this wasn't an overly carb-y dish. I don't follow a 'low carb' diet, but I am mindful of overdoing carbs and what works for me.

The vegetable gyoza- and FYI the selection from Everdine can be modified to be entirely vegetarian or mixed as well as having the option to take things out that don't tickle your fancy (no thank you asparagus risotto!) was exactly what I needed after an especially hectic day. It was light but filling with a miso broth and the gyoza were well balanced and delicate. I did add an extra dose of sriracha to my bowl- some of the seasoning is a bit lacking for my palate but one I'd definitely hurry back to.

And pulled pork- I love pulled pork and the beans were lovely as an accompaniment. This dish was a mixed bag for me- although I really enjoyed it for a treat, it's really heavy on sugar thanks to the barbecue sauce and it really needed less starchy vegetables- corn on the cob and sweet potato seemed unnecessary and there wasn't a great deal of other fresh in there. It was a nice Friday afternoon lunch though, and the consistency on this dish was spot on.

Everdine Lamb Kofta photo 33748707924_505a8a87b5_o_zpsuknj2i0q.jpgLamb Kofta with roasted onion

Other favourites included: king prawn miso ramen, lamb kofta with roast onion & bulgar wheat & piri piri chicken.

And now let's talk about the not so great. My overall experience with Everdine (thus far, I still have a well stocked freezer as I had 2 boxes of 12 to be going at...) has been pretty good. I like the idea of healthy convenience food and when cooking for one, it's a joy to have a different meal every time around. But I do think they have some development work to do...

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I love falafel, I do, but this was the ultimate faff- the tortillas, baba ganoush, falafel & accompaniments all had to be cooked separately. If convenience is the reason you're tempted to try Everdine, this dish is one to avoid.

It was also victim to something that's been prevalent across the board  and one that is tricky for any food manufacturer to get right. Seasoning is difficult because everyone has a different palate BUT I found the majority of the dishes I've tried to be in desperate need of salt or soy sauce and some needed a bit of a hit of some additional seasoning like lemon juice or chilly lift them. It's worth considering having your favourite seasoning additions to hand if you're planning to give Everdine a try, because a splash of lemon juice took my king prawn ramen from 'alright' to 'gimme more'.

The other issue is consistency- in 2 senses of the word. Some dishes have come out more like soup than expected- tabbouleh I'm looking at you. That's due to the water content and the cooking instructions could really do with some amending to allow for more steam escape perhaps. And the other is macro consistency. I wouldn't go as far as to say I'm a IIFYM girl, but I do keep an eye on how much protein, fat and carbs I eat in a day and make choices to stay within approximate goals The Everdine dishes vary wildly in calorie and macro count and a basic breakdown on each meal when choices would be very helpful to try and gauge within a little which dishes are best suited to your own preferences- there's a big difference between a meal with 20g of protein and a meal with 35g of protein, there's also a big difference between a 650cal meal and a 380cal meal. They won't suit everyone all the time and that's a consideration.

And then... there's the 'clean eating' problem. Yeah. That.

More than once I've chosen not to spend money with specific brands because they use and promote the term 'clean eating'. I hate it. There's some interesting research around the problem of labelling some foods 'clean' and the assumption that therefore others are 'dirty' and the psychological impact that has on how we view ourselves and our food. I also don't like for food to be labeled guilty- if eating food makes you feel guilt or shame, that's a problem. So I almost didn't go through with my Everdine order because their tag line includes this much loathed phrase. It's something I've raised as feedback with them because overall- there's great potential. I would buy from Everdine again. I'd prefer it if the service weren't a subscription as this is not something I'd necessarily buy into regularly but for certain periods of time, the ease and convenience of balanced meals that are ready to go into a microwave for 10 mins really works for me.

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Coconut Chicken Katsu

If you fancy giving Everdine a go for yourself, you can use my referral code CHLOE10 or by clicking through to get £30 of your first box.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Wings For Life World Run Cambridge: Race Report & Photo Diary

Because what else do you do on a Sunday afternoon but line up in the middle of a major UK city to be chased through the streets by a car driven by ex-F1 driver David Coulthard?

The Wings For Life World Run happens globally which is no mean feat in itself, but the biggest catch of all is that there's no finish line. Whether your run starts in the middle of the night (like it doesn't in LA) or the middle of the day as it did for us in most of Europe, your job is to keep running until the catcher car catches up with you. Before you panic with visions of being mown down by an F1 driver who has had all his Christmases come at once, let me explain- runners get a 30m head start on the car and it moves at a dictated pace, speeding up incrementally at specific points on the course.

So that's why I found myself on the start line in Cambridge on Sunday 7th May- although to be fair, it was always touch and go if I would make it. My job requires me to be on call when my parents are away (we work together) and when I booked myself into this event on a dark December night after a bottle (or 2) of wine, I forgot to check the calendar first, so my attendance was always going to be a maybe. But as luck would have it, I made it.

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Race number, shiny new shorts, far too clean trainers

First job of the day was collection race numbers. Although I received a magazine and a can of Redbull (title sponsor) in the post no race numbers are sent out. Given the volume of other stuff that was posted, the need to be at the start so early was a bit rubbish- especially as registration closed an hour before the race start time. Race number collected, baggage dropped, we attempted to join the queue for the toilets, and easier said than done as there definitely weren't enough to go around!

But, formalities out of the way, the start line was fizzing with a couple of thousand people wondering how far they might get.  Some lucky people, like Tom (and this is his smug face) even got a high five from Mr Coulthard himself...

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Smug mode engaged!

The first part of the course takes you through Cambridge city centre which is brilliant for crowd support and it also means you can't get too much speed up too soon either as the streets are quite narrow, especially with a few thousand of us stampeding through them!

And so we were off. I found the idea of a race with no finish line quite intimidating- running is often as much about your mindset as it is about putting one foot in front of the other. I know some thrive on the idea of being chased, personally I work best with a goal to reach, I like to know what's coming in order to plan for it, so this was always going to be a challenge for me. I decided to treat it as a steady long run rather than a race as I've not done much distance in the last month or so and it took the pressure off for me.

Helpfully, there were regular water stations which given the sunshine were wholly necessary and so we pushed on through the villages surrounding Cambridge where we were welcomed by lots of people spectating- always nice!

I hit the 10km mark feeling pretty good, I knew I was unlikely to make much more than 12-13km at my preferred pace but I knew I should have been able to make the 10k mark without too much trouble.

And just after I passed the next km marker, we got our warning. Lots of us had started looking over our shoulders at the sound of vehicles- the numerous photography & assistance bikes on the course shooting past us all, but we knew the car must be somewhere coming up to us. A friend of mine also doing the event had found me and we picked up the pace...

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The catcher car convoy

I made it to 11.87km according to my Garmin- had I realised just how close to 12km I was, I might have had a bit more in the tank for my sprint finish! Luckily for us, there was a drinks station at the 12km marker- a very sociable way to finish, and then a walk to the bus stop- there are numerous bus stop points along the course to get runners back to the finish line. Naturally we finished right in the middle of the 2 nearest one, but decided a walk to the stop was a good cool down after our efforts. The buses were well organised and plentiful at the stop we used, and we were on our way back to Parker's Piece in under half an hour.

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And what a reception back at the start- call me shallow, but I was excited to see a decent goodie bag- the finishers t-shirts, free beer token, running water bottle & snacks all going down well, the medals were a bit naff, but I'm afraid (shock horror) running 'bling' doesn't really do it for me. I was more pleased to see a few friendly faces- Lou (front right) & I hooked up with some other runners we know, many of whom I hadn't seen for a few months for a catch up over our freebie beers and to hit up the queue for baggage reclaim- that took some time as it was a free for all rather than a numbered system, thank goodness for the beers!

Overall- not a bad day out. I love the concept for something different, however challenging it is for me as a psychological shift. Getting out of your comfort zone can only be good. The event was well managed on the course itself with regular markers, water stations, toilets & enthusiastic marshals. The start/finish needs work- given the volume of postage for the rest of the race info, it really would have been easier to have had race numbers before the day and the same system allocated to bag drop.

Would I do it again? I wouldn't avoid this race, but I'm not sure how far out of my way I'd go to get a place. It might be fun to see how much further I can get next time though, so never say never I suppose.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

You Got This- Regaining Confidence & Showing Body Image Who Is Boss

I’ve talked a lot about training happy this year (click if you missed it). Mostly it’s because I went through a difficult period of putting too much pressure on myself to achieve running and sports goals that weren’t realistic- the times or distances themselves were fine, but I definitely wasn’t giving myself enough time and I definitely wasn’t being kind to myself. I’d be ashamed for anyone to hear the stream of angry and berating thoughts that are conjured when I’m pushing myself to achieve something- a quicker time, a further distance, a new session or technique. So training happy in 2017 didn’t necessarily mean I’d feel like a Disney princess joyfully jumping through meadows every time I donned my trainers for a run, ride or gym session, anyone who has run intervals of 800m will know there is little joy to be found there, but it was about allowing myself the time and space to do something without setting my expectations so high that I’d constantly feel like a failure.

So far, not bad. The first big challenge of the year was the Cambridge Half Marathon (click if you missed it). I’d never tackled the distance before and instead of setting a time goal, I wanted to finish it feeling proud of myself. I did just that- I fell outside of the rough estimation of time I had due to a problem with numb feet but a process of training for a new goal without trying to add more caveats to it left me relaxed about everything, because however you look at it, it was a personal best. But in last month or so, my confidence and my body image have taken a real hit.

For some of that I have only myself to blame- I’ve been drinking too much and I’ve struggled a bit with properly planning meals and the combination effect is that I’m a bit tubbier than I’d like to be, my clothes aren’t fitting quite right and it’s all a bit uncomfortable. Some of the discomfort can be attributed to experience- I went along to BeFit a couple of weeks ago and found it very clique-y and in turn it made me feel out of place, I’ve had a change to my contraceptives which has thrown me off kilter after 6 straightforward years and tackling that new 13.1 distance left me feeling sluggish in my running too. Not a winning combination. So how do you break the cycle of feeling rubbish about yourself, therefore feeling unmotivated to make any changes and thus continuing the cycle?

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Feeling very much the fat lass at the back despite putting a smile on it all for BeFit

For me that cycle was broken in 2 ways. In terms of committing to shifting to some of the extra insulation I’ve been clinging to in the cooler days of spring I took the plunge on spending a bit more for some pre-prepped meals. You might have noticed on my Instagram feed lots of pictures of Everdine trays- they create well balanced, healthy meals that are ready to go at the ping of your microwave. They come in single portions and I used a big introductory discount to set myself up with 2 boxes of 12 meals. Whilst the calorie and macro count of each meal varies, they’re all fairly well balanced and made using fresh, straightforward ingredients (they call it ‘clean eating’ I hate the phrase and almost didn’t go through with the order for this reason) and taking the choice away at meal times has forced me back on track a bit. The drinking… well, there may be a bit of cold turkey going on after this weekend to try and reset the clock a bit, but I’ve already instructed my absolute worst enabler, Tom, that the enthusiasm needs to be curbed! I know it’s working, I haven’t stepped on the scales, I don’t need to. I can see my shape returning and I can feel the change in the fit of my clothes and that’s all I need to know.

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And that just leaves The Great Slow Down of 2017. Transitioning to running with a UKA registered club this year has been brilliant, eye opening and frustrating all at once. The membership of the club are amazing- there are superhuman 3 hour marathon runners, there are older runners, there people who aren’t interesting in racing and there are ultra-runners but every single one of them just wants to share the running love however experienced you may be. What does that mean for me? Well every time I’ve been the last one huffing and puffing through a speedwork session, I don’t feel guilty or ashamed. The sessions are set up so even though I’m slower than most, I’m never left behind and I always get a bucket load of encouragement from other runners who can still speak actual words and so it is that I take myself off to a running club each week, knowing that I’ll be the dying at the back and leave again at the end of the evening hoping I got the people’s names right, that I might actually be improving and satisfied that whilst these might not be *my people* yet, that I belong here as much as anyone else. And so it is that with the goal of simply seeing my 5k back below 30 mins at our first intra-club race of the series last night- 29:59 would have done. Except I didn’t do 29:59. I didn’t even run my PB of 28:46. I knocked a further 1:19 off that time at 27:24, proving to myself that taking the pressure off, trusting my regular training and chilling out was the best possible thing I could have done.

Today I feel like a different person. I’m (I think justifiably) pleased with myself. There’s no niggling in the back of my head as to whether I deserve to be pleased about a personal best- I do, I ran hard for it. I don’t feel like it doesn’t count because there were other people smashing out runs in pretty much half the time- it doesn’t change the fact that I achieved something for myself, and whilst I’ll continue to try and do something about the extra weight I’m carrying right now, because I like it when my jeans fit properly, I’m no longer quite as concerned about the effect it may or may not be having on my ability to run and train. I also know that with time and a bit of perseverance to get back on track, things will even out.

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One mantra I have pushed hard this year is ‘Finish lines before finish times’ and I know that may seem at odds with having just had a personal best time make me feel so much more like myself, but the point of this entire 1200 word ramble is not necessarily they what but the how. Yes, I smashed my PB last night, but I was only able to do that because I have found an environment which I feel safe in- I’m not ridiculed or ostracised or pressured and that safety net of support has allowed me to relax and trust the process. It's also ultimately about taking the time to remind yourself of one of my preferred race encouragements when I'm working as a marshal or supporting:

You got this.