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.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

5 More Working Lunches

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Last year, coincidentally, about this time last year, I posted 5 of my favourite working lunches (click if you missed it)- things I make regularly for a work day lunch that are quick, easy and that weren't just a new take on a sandwich. It seems you liked that post- or analytics tells me you did and  hear people who are uninspired all the time when it comes to balanced, simple weekday lunches which don't require hours in the kitchen or a million ingredients, so here are some more for you to me going at...

1. Frittata

My ultimate use up food, because so long as you've got eggs, you can through pretty much anything you've got kicking about in the fridge into it. It holds well in the fridge and is great hot or cold. My favourite version:

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Dice a whole green pepper, fry for 4-5 mins, add shredded ham, a handful of cherry tomatoes cut in half, mix the whole through and pour 3 beaten eggs over the top. Finish with some chopped feta and stick in the oven at 200C for approx 15 mins.

2. Fajita Bowls

All the 'F's in this post. Don't get me wrong, I love a good burrito bowl too, but these make me so happy also. I like to cook off 2-3 peppers at a time and keep them boxed up for adding to other things (like the frittata above...)

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I cheat and use a peri peri style marinade for the peppers & often add tomatoes into mix. I make up the rest of my bowls with pre-cooked lemon & pepper chicken or prawns, shredded spinach or courgette and an avocado.

3. Pad (sort of) Thai

I posted my Pad Thai recipe earlier in the year, click if you missed it. I say Pad (sort of) Thai because it's not authentic, the sauce is great, but like a lot of my food, I tend to take a more mix and max approach. My favourite combo is grated carrot & courgette (or spiralized if you want to make work for yourself) with a splash of lemon juice, warm through in a hot, non-stick frying pan without any oils, add cooked prawns or chicken and a tablespoon of the sauce and reduce the heat to low so the whole lot warms through. Top with a fried egg & toasted seeds.

4. Courgette Fritters

Courgette gets a hard time as a bit of a fitness cliche- everywhere you look people are substituting carbs with it, making porridge with it, making cake with it... Fritters is another enjoyable way to eat them, bonus is that you can layer them up with all kinds of good things, and they're very versatile. I layered mine up with cooked ham for this fairly monumental bowl full couple with a tomato salad.

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5. Savoury 'French Toast'

I still think the appropriate name for this is eggy bread, but there you go, we'll have to agree to disagree. However you look at it, bringing a bit of brunch joy to a weekday lunch can only mean good things. I think calling it a recipe might be a bit of a stretch, but I have a dedicated post on this coming soon. It served as a joy when loading up on extra carbs before a race.

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Monday, May 1, 2017

Month In Review: April 2017

Last May  Day Bank Holiday Monday I ran a 5 mile race wearing clothes far too warm for the temperatures. Today I washed glitter out of my braided hair, made naan breads, ginger biscuits and am currently staring at the rain coming down outside my living room window and wondering if it's too early to open the bottle of prosecco that's whispering my name from the fridge. Everything and nothing has changed all at the same time which is probably why I'm quietly hopeful about my application to the London Marathon ballot whilst also fully expecting not to be lucky.

As you can probably tell from this prelude, April has been a reflective month for me, so here's a recap...

Sports wise, I captured the elusive negative splits on a Friday night run after an especially tough week. It's the little things, right?

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Negative splits- emotional running for the win

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There was cycling this month too. It felt good to be back on my bike after a long winter away from two wheels. We used that ridiculously warm Sunday we had to explore neighbouring Essex, sneak in a half a cider at a pub and make a start on some tan lines. It was glorious until I realised I am apparently allergic to every plant and insect you can think of!

April is a big month in the running community- it hosts many of the most famous spring marathons including the London Marathon. I knew last year that I wasn't in the right headspace yet to consider my unfinished marathon business but I did sign up to  volunteer on the day with Cancer Research. It so happened that  I was posted near the finish line and it's left me certain that I'm ready to tackle another marathon and prove to myself that I can find some positivity in pushing myself through the full 26.2. You can read more about my previous experience and my thoughts on my monumental marathon sized itch in this post- click if you missed it

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Getting my volunteer on

`I have felt totally uninspired in the kitchen recently, which is not like me at all. I haven't been interested in cooking, or even that bothered about enjoying food. It's not helped by a bit of recent weight gain- I'm a bit tubbier than I was at the start of the year and so I'm hoping a few plans lined up for May will help to kickstart a bit more enthusiasm once more for getting into the kitchen and also shifting some of the excess I know I'm currently carrying, a little uncomfortably. I have a few weeks of flying solo both at home and at work coming up which usually coincides with a renewed focus on things. Here's to a few more of these balanced Al Desko lunches- courgette fritters layered with sliced ham and a fajita bowl.

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Lunch Al Desko

And then there's this weekend. A bank holiday to round off the month. It can be summed up in 2 words: GLITTER. BRAIDS.

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I went to the BeFit London fitness festival on Saturday after winning tickets from MyProtein via Instagram. I'll be honest- if I'd paid for tickets to go, I'd have been disappointed, but I did treat myself to a few bits and pieces and found some interesting new food & kit brands which I'm sure you'll see some of before too long as I get to start using and enjoying them.

The highlight of my day though? Glitter braids by the Braid Bar. I've used their services before and love having my hair properly braided but the addition of glitter was sheer perfection ahead of a busy weekend. I was especially taken that it lasted so well- 3 whole days, even if I did have to go to bed with my hair wrapped in a tea towel. Seriously though... GLITTER BRAIDS.

The other highlight of my trip to BeFit was meeting possibly the friendliest woman I've ever come across. A chance quip at the bar lead to an interesting conversation with one exceptionally dynamic half of StrongHer. It was not only a pleasure to meet Lyanne who is championing women in fitness in a more accessible and diverse way than many social media magnates of our time, but she's also stirred up some fire in me to chase after a few things that have been brewing in thee back of my mind.

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Rocking that hi-Viz

Volunteering seems to be a bit of a running (ha ha) theme this month. A week after VLM 2017, I found myself getting through just a tight a set of security for the Hackney Half as a volunteer marshal. I was wired for sound and really made an effort to cheer everybody as much as I could through my short section of the course around the 2 mile area. It was a beautiful day for it so I hope it was enjoyed by all- plus, glitter braids!

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So, what else... Well here's a few things I've been reading that I wanted to share...

Rockalily's hair tutorial for this 'Bumper Bangs' style was everything I needed to see after my foray into a 40s night last month

This post on small ways to save money is a nice little reminder that you can look after your pennies, and the pounds might not sort themselves out but at least you'll still have some savings one way or another.

Using a TRX system to progress to a pull up. Nothing else to say except Women's Health magazine have once again got my with my eyes on the prize.

I loved Lily's Insta Outfits, not just because she's ultra classy but because it was a timely reminder that sometimes editorial style is not what you want to see and there's still a place for more relaxed formatting when it comes to fashion blogging. 

And I talked about gait analysis- do you need it, is it the ultimate problem solver, when is advice detrimental?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Unfinished Business: A Marathon Sized Itch

So we're officially into spring marathon season. Brighton, Manchester & Paris finishers are revelling in the t-shirts and medals and the much loved Boston Marathon has been, celebrated Katherine Switzers last marathon driven a whole swathe of people crazy trying to qualify and gone once more. And then there's the home turf one. Last weekend the streets of London were commandeered by the great and good of elite marathon runners from around the world and about 40,000 runners of every level- one superhuman runner from my club achieved near identical 5km splits for the whole race finishing in 3:05, some raising thousands of pounds for charity, some running entirely to challenge themselves and their expectations of what they can and can't do.

And it's truly a sight to behold. I spent Sunday afternoon volunteering for Cancer Research- directing runners from the area after the finish line where they collect their baggage to an after party event, that meant I saw thousands of people walk, stagger, hobble and cry as they realised they had in fact conquered the London Marathon. An arguably iconic race and one of the World Marathon Majors series. Somewhat inevitably, it's started off an itch. A big, 26.2 mile long, marathon shaped itch.

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Getting my volunteer on

I know. I know. I said never again after the Race For Life Marathon in 2015. I very deliberately talk about 'completing' the marathon rather than running it- it took me over 6 hours as I had to walk 3 of the middle miles with major back pain and I finished feeling disappointed in myself, defeated by the distance and stupid for thinking up the idea in the first place. I didn't feel proud, the last thing on my mind was completing another one and I wrote quite honestly about how it feels when you don't get the endorphin hit that many are lead to expect after a marathon- click if you missed it. 

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Race for Life Marathon 2015

So why? Why on earth would I be feeling the urge to sign myself up for the same gruelling experience?

Firstly, the finish line of the London Marathon is an infectiously inspiring place- I challenge anyone not to feel inspired to challenge themselves as they witness the relief, celebration, achievement, fainting, and sobbing. So much raw emotion. And then there's the unfinished business that I think it's fair to say I have with the marathon distance.

Yes, I completed one, but now I feel like I'm strong enough to run one. And to enjoy it. 2017 has been a year of 'training happy'. I posted a whole series of updates on my training and goals for the Cambridge Half Marathon in the early part of this year which were focused on getting around all 13.1 miles without beating myself up.

Cambridge Half 2017 medal photo 4d7ef059-9ce9-42ad-a134-0f081c2d4e6d_zpssygepmpo.png
Cambridge Half 2017

In doing so, I succeeded in reminding myself that I am stronger than I was in October 2015- physically, emotionally and mentally.

I'm supported by a running club with lots of people who've done this before and are a team who understand meaning of a cheer team, I understand and trust my training and these shifts have made the difference that leaves me thinking- I'm ready to take on another marathon and show 26.2- and the training that goes into it, just who is boss. Because my experience is that training for and running a full marathon takes far more out of you psychologically than it ever will physically.

So is 2018 the year? I'm a bit out of time to enter one of the big autumn marathons this year both for race entry and also my own calendar, but with the ballot for the London Marathon opening on Monday 1st May, new opportunities to enter via my running club, and/or time to plan for an autumn marathon, it's looking like a distinct possibility. What do you think? Am I crazy to put myself through this again and risk upsetting the sleeping dogs which current lay or do you agree that there are some things in the life that we all feel we have unfinished business with and that we owe it to ourselves to at least try and scratch that itch?

Monday, April 24, 2017

Because Life Happens

It does. Sometimes it's great when life happens- spontaneous trips to the seaside, cycling in the sun, barbecues with with friends, your favourite movie being on TV when there's not a lot else on. Sometimes, it's a bit shit. Eye infections that blow half of your face up, allergies making running impossible, showers leaking through the ceiling and your favourite t-shirt getting a hole in it. Life happens, which is why I don't feel the need to apologise for not posting- this is my hobby, not my job and I haven't promised to do anything specific for anyone, but I have missed my blog lately and I've missed feeling inspired especially at the point in the year where business is crazy and I need something to inspire me instead of banging my head against my keyboard in the hope of salvation.

But on the plus side, there were new shoes...

Aldi Special Buy white sneakers photo 33146267123_7431c987b4_o 1_zps3xobzr0v.jpg

Aldi sneakers, £6.99 have barely left my feet since picking them up along side a couple of £2.99 pairs of sunglasses for the car.

On the hottest day of the year so far, I managed a 55k ride out into Essex. We took a wrong turn which took us up an unnecessary hill, but it's all good training right?! Any excuse for a sneaky half en route...

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Very sunny Essex

The ride was the start of some allergy problems for me and running and riding took a bit of a back seat- not ideal when a 4 day weekend came along shortly after. I spent most of Easter indoors after a failed run some eye problems after a failed ride.

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Fast forward to this weekend just gone, not only did I manage to bounce back with a bang- humour me, it's the first time I've EVER managed true negative splits and I am proud- but I also spent the afternoon at the finish line of the London Marathon. I signed up to volunteer for Cancer Research months ago and it was a joy- cheering people (not just CRUK runners) across the line has reawoken an almighty marathon shaped itch.

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London Marathon 2017

And it's on to another action packed week, of which I have a few coming up. My next big running event is just under 2 weeks away- I'm being chased through Cambridge by David Coulthard on May 7th (check out details of the Wings Race right here if you're interested, I think there's still time to enter) and I'll be volunteering as a marshall at the Hackney Half this Sunday- smile and wave if you'll be there, I'll be somewhere at Hackney Marshes. I'm also off to Be:Fit, a women's fitness festival, I got lucky and won tickets thanks to MyProtein and I'm excited to have nose and maybe treat myself to some new kit.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Do You Need Gait Analysis?

When I first donned a pair of trainers and went for my first painful, cold, wheezy run in January 2015, faithfully plugged in to a C25K app on my phone and wondering if it was worth it, I had no idea that there were specific running trainers. I had never heard of pronation and despite having had hip & ankle problems over the years, the thought of getting advice on running or specific shoes had never occurred to me, and the concept of different types of trainer for different gaits was totally non-existent in Chloe Land.

Alternative Transformation Tuesday 2015 Running before photo 16324722761_7be9c044b8_o_zpsrf4rkyee.jpg
No gear and absolutely no idea. Me in Jan 2015

By June, I was still completing runs in a pair of trainers I'd had for cycling to work in. I'd bought them because they were pretty and nothing else. I was only just able to run 5km without stopping and I was yet to fall into the black hole of kit buying that can be so addictive with sports. So. Many. Shiny. Toys.

It wasn't until a branded gait analysis was available after an event- my first ever 'race' that I ever realised trainers were one thing, running shoes were quite another. The shoes I ended up purchasing (for half the price of the RRP online after the event) made a huge difference. They saw me through my marathon and marathon training and so I didn't give it another thought, because they worked for me.

Mizuno Wave Inspire Running Shoes photo MizunoWave Inspire_zps8hqrtk3q.jpg
My 2 pairs of Mizuno Wave Inspire running shoes that saw me through 2015 & into 2016

Until they didn't Until I had huge blisters appearing on the arch of my foot at which point I decided it might be an idea to try and independent running shop and reassess. Which at the time was great. £120 worth of trainers and 3 months later, the problems began and 6 months on, I have learned a lot about running shoes and gait analysis as an amateur to moderately experienced runner and it's left me asking some interesting questions and I thought my conclusions were worth a share for anyone else wondering how necessary this whole process is...

First up.... what even is a gait analysis? 

IF you go for a gait analysis at a branded or independent running shop, you can expect for a member of staff to ask you some questions about your running- how far you like to run, on which surfaces, if you have any problems currently such as blisters, soreness, aches and pains (not just your feet) and if you play other sports. You can then expect to jump on a treadmill in some 'neutral' running shoes whilst they video your feet & lower legs. This is to get an idea of how your feet hit the ground, and whether your legs, feet & ankles need any additional support or cushioning. Pronation refers to how your foot and ankles roll (in towards each other- over pronation, out away from each other, under pronation). It's likely that you'll then try a handful of pairs and end up with a couple of choices to best suit your running style and goals.

Do I have to pay for a gait analysis? 

Most running shops or brands will do your analysis for free, but may charge you if you decide not to buy anything afterwards. For example, the shop I used charges £25 if you don't make a purchase on the day but they also issue you with a £25 voucher to redeem against a purchase later on in case you just need time to think on it. Make sure you check before you get started to make sure you don't get any nasty surprises at the end.

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Your feet will thank you for realising there is a difference between running shoes & trainers. Trust me.

Do I need gait analysis? 

And so we get to the million dollar question...

If you've never run before.... then a gait analysis is a great place to start. My first pair of running shoes felt phenomenally different to the trainers I'd been using and knowing a bit more about what I needed from a running shoe was a useful exercise.

But....  here's some things I wish I'd known... 

Trust your own instincts
If a sales assistant seems keen for you to buy something and it really doesn't feel right, trust your instincts. Even if you can't put your finger on what the problem is, a specialist running shop should have staff who can help you work out what the niggle is. Don't let them bully you into buying something that isn't right.

Sometimes there are compromises to be made
I have found that staff providing analysis focus on correction first and foremost- they want to find a pair of shoes which prevent over/under pronation and they want to find the pair that gives you the most 'correct' running gait. Which is great- optimum position means you're less likely to find yourself injured and should make you more efficient (and who doesn't love a PB..) BUT and this is the big one. If a shoe corrects you're gait it might cause more problems than it solves. It's all fine and good having your ankles in perfect alignment for every step, but naff all use if you can't feel your right foot and have a blister the size of a golf ball on your left foot (true story of how I ran the Cambridge Half...). If you can find a balance of a shoe that is comfortable AND that assists with your gait, this is worth considering. Running with numb feet is really miserable. Considering dropping out of your race less than a quarter of the way through is really miserable. Blisters the size of £2 coins on the arches of your feet are REALLY miserable.

Beware of branding
There are thousands of running shoe brands and models out there. Some of the major market leaders have a shoe aimed at pretty much every need, but it doesn't mean that one brand's version of a stability shoe is the same as another and for that reason it's worth thinking hard before committing to a branded store and losing out on some variety. You might get lucky, but your perfect shoe might also be somewhere else

Independent vs Chain
Independent businesses are well worth supporting and if there's a great shop near you, go in and talk to them. Ask them about the service the offer and their experience. You're more likely to find staff who love running as much as you do in an independent store too. Chains are easier to find and often feel more familiar. Some offer extended return & replacement policies which is good if your trial run on a treadmill hasn't left you 100% sold on how comfortable your new shoes will be but. But I can't emphasise enough- do ask an independent store what they can offer you and what their service entails- don't just assume.

Weekend Runners World Womens Health Magazine photo 32711084761_2fe046745d_o_zpsqduxl2ro.jpg
My treat after a long run... reading about more running & fitness stuff...

The Next BIG Thing
I like to read. I am currently subscribed to 4 print magazines (yeah, I know...) 2 of which are running specific (yes, I get it already) as well as the substantial number of blogs and online media I follow and it's very easy to convince yourself that you absolutely, definitely, no questions asked need something. And that's ok- it means that writers are doing their jobs. But until you've tried something, remember that as with many things in this life, what works for one person, or even a panel of testers, might not work for you. I really, really, really thought Saucony Guide shoes would work for me after reading loads about the new Guide 9s. I duly ordered a pair, convinced I'd found a perfect match. It was a bit heartbreaking to try them on a treadmill and have them feel ALL wrong and videoing the roll on my ankles was the final nail in the proverbial coffin.

Information Overload
And on the note of all the media and all the opinions and all the THINGS, if you have no idea where to start, then visiting a running shop is a really good idea and gait analysis might, if nothing else give you the opportunity to try before you buy since most analysis sessions will have you trial different pairs of shoes on a treadmill.

And finally, for anyone interested, I'm currently running in these Brooks Ravenna 8s. I was lucky enough to win this pair which means a very cost effective (ie... free) trial of a shoe completely new to me.

Brooks Ravenna 8 Running Shoes photo 33305002322_a4b97b8647_o 1_zpspfyssbdf.jpg

So fair they're very cushioned, especially in the heels- I've had to try heel-lock lacing to prevent some minor heel blisters, they're springy, there's plenty of room in the toes and the structure of the lacing over the midfoot has put a stop to the numbness problems I'd been having. So far... so good.

Please let me know if you found this post helpful or if you have any interesting experiences- good or bad of gait analysis and picking shoes because it's good to get some ideas.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Month In Review: March 2017

That's a quarter of 2017 done and dusted right there! I always used to wonder how it's possible to forget how old you are- oh the naivety of the 10 year old, this week I had to think hard and pause for a second whilst I worked out that I am currently 27 (not 26 and not yet 28) years of age. I'd say it's a sobering thought but actually it made my reach for the wine glass all the quicker.

This month is running heavy. Call this fair warning... It sometimes seems like all I talk about is running, sports and food. This is such a huge change from the interest and lifestyle I had even 2 years ago and unrecognisable from 5. I won't apologise for that because running and becoming active has given me far more than I take from it. I wouldn't say I'm a natural sports woman and staying healthy is not something that has come easy to my either but friends I've met, the confidence I have gained and finding some joy in activity are things I wouldn't change. Having a good relationship with food is something that is prized by so many, especially I feel of my own generation, and not talking openly about food- especially about food which is healthy without otherwise branding it as 'good' or 'clean' or automatically assuming it's dull can only help with this issue in my humble opinion.

So, my March started on a high. I completed my first ever half marathon and achieved my goal of finishing happy. I wasn't fixated on my time, I wasn't miserable or in pain, I was just pleased I'd done what I set out to and that I had enjoyed it. Well... as much as one can do in arctic winds and rain at the start line... I created a bit of a photodiary for the Cambridge Half Marathon, so click if you missed it.

Cambridge Half 2017 medal photo 4d7ef059-9ce9-42ad-a134-0f081c2d4e6d_zpssygepmpo.png
It was really bloody cold...

The other half marathon event I've had my eye on for 2 years running is a local to me event- the North London Half which starts (and finished) at Wembley and takes in the Saracens stadium- Allianz Park at the halfway point. It was too close to the Cambridge Half this year and last year I didn't find out about it in enough time to train, so when a call for volunteers to marshal the event was coupled with the offer a of a free place next year in return, I pushed the button and found myself trying to get into the Allianz Park stadium at 0630 on a Sunday morning... We had a proper party on the sidelines and you can read more about our experience as volunteers for a big running event via my photodiary - click if you missed it. 

North London Half Marathon 2017 photo 33400651365_d8ec1419c8_o_zpsyv5o5msl.jpg
Early doors does not even begin to cover it!

And then there was the virtual race. In aid of International Women's Day I signed up for the Women's Running Magazine race - the idea is that you can run your distance anywhere within a time frame (usually a week or two) in this case, you were free to set your own distance, so I went for 5k, which is a bit out of my comfort zone.

#InternationalWomensDay 2017 Women's Running Virtual Run Medal photo 32560601293_8da8eb69c2_o_zpsz4yiujbp.jpg

And in the theme of IWD I posted about continuing to inspire the younger women in our lives after big events like IWD

I also ventured north this month, and I don't just mean north of London. We headed up to Leeds to visit Tom's parents who moved there at the beginning of the year. I'd heard loads of good things but never had a need to go, but we loved it. The food culture in the city is booming and vibrant with none of the scary southern prices and a much more chilled out atmosphere. We met at vegetarian Indian street-food restaurant Bundobust for lunch as Tom's parents are both vegetarian and it's always my mission to find us somewhere that caters really well for them, Bundobust certainly delivered. In the evening, after watching the 6 Nations final, we wandered back out to Candlebar which was near to the apartment we had booked for the super large wine glasses and woodfired pizza (although I gather this is about to move on to a new home and sushi is coming in place of it...)

Leeds MAR 2017 photo 32701338773_983d81a747_o 1_zps5juo5kpw.jpg
Lift selfie... Tom didn't seem impressed with the idea...

So, more food, more running, more sports and more joy. Unfortunately, by contrast, the nasty snotty cold I went down with on return from our trip was conducive to precisely none of these things- fizzing with ideas and things to do but being under the weather and unable to do it all was grim. And an eye-opener given the growing need for awareness around disability & chronic illness. But that's another post currently sitting in my drafts as it slowly, slowly comes together into something coherent. Well, vaguely.

When I finally pulled myself together a bit better I was able to enjoy the fruits of a current lucky streak I'm on. My Brooks Ravenna 8 running shoes finally arrived and they got their first proper outing for club speedwork. So far- a springy shoe with loads of hell cushioning and plenty of mid-foot space as well as being a moderate-heavy support shoe.

Brooks Ravenna 8 Running Shoes photo 33305002322_a4b97b8647_o 1_zpspfyssbdf.jpg
So far, so good

And what better first event to christen them with than what was essentially a giant obstacle course? A giant inflatable obstacle course. 10 obstacles over 5km. It was insane, I ended up doing two laps and burned over 1200 calories over the 2 rounds. Madness!

Inflatable 5k Peterborough UK Running Events 2017 photo 33788632015_b455023e02_o_zpso5ihjwlq.jpg

And I followed the bouncy castles on steroids with a 40s night which a friend organised for charity as she's running VLM for Meningitis Now. Considering it was a bit of 'throw it together, that's kind of 40's' dressing up we did, I thought we looked pretty good, except I completely failed to get any proper pictures of us. Selfie it is.

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I think I was mostly just impressed that a decade after I first wore this dress for my 18th Birthday, it still fits!

A busy month. It's not really surprising that I didn't read a lot- or at least on the internet. I've been making a conscious effort to reduce my screen time after work lately and been reading more in print. I currently have a very decadent 4 magazine subscriptions and it's been enjoyable to dip in and out of them more this month. That said....

I posted this Aubergine Shakshouka recipe- baked eggs served in whole baked aubergines. It was a joy served with homemade (cheat's) sourdough, let me know if you give it a try.

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Dreams of doing a pull up? This Womens' Health UK article about developing the strength and correct mobility by using a TRX set up is genius.

Phoebe wrote about creating the perfect blog post- great considerations if you're looking to properly engineer your posts

Given the rise of the Social Influencer, reading Vogue attempt to define the label was interesting.

And now it's April. I have a pleasantly less busy month planned. I don't have any races booked, I'm not heading off on any trips, just a bit of weekend cycling, plenty of running training for a May feast of races, volunteering at the London Marathon for Cancer Research and I'm volunteering as a Marshal at the Hackney Half on 30th April- wave if you spot me-0 I'll be at the finish line of VLM and Hackney Marshes for the Hackney Half.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Chloe Likes To Eat: Aubergine Shakshouka Recipe

And I'm back in the room! I was out with a nasty cold type bug last week and it really knocked the wind from my sails. I'm not very good at being sickly, I was definitely whiney and I was so frustrated to not have the energy to do all the things I wanted- it was a bit of an eye opener to how much I take for granted and that's a whole other post I'm starting to draft. Onto edible things, because food...

I recently had a go at making baked eggs/Shakshouka for the first time, and I was hacked off by the time I actually got to eating it because whatever the cook time said about it being quick and easy, I was well over half an hour later eating my dinner than I had intended. I'm not good when I'm hungry... what can I say.

So I won't profess this is a 'speedy' brunch recipe, it's one that requires some patience and a bit of prep, but it's worth it because aubergine is such a natural partner for North African flavours, even if my version is a bit of a re-jig thanks to a few test runs

Aubergine Shakshouka 3 photo IMG_1748_zpsqbwib8yk.jpg

Aubergine Shakshouka 2 photo IMG_1747_zpsubimkuqu.jpg

It's essential all the punchy, tomato-y, spicy, comforting flavours, spooned into a pre-baked aubergine and made even happier & sunnier with the addition of eggs. Go on... You know you want to....

Aubergine Shakshouka

Recipe by Chloe Martin-Brown

Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 20 mins

  • 2

  • 4

  • 1 tbsp
    tomato puree

  • 1 tbsp
    harissa paste

  • 1
    red onion

  • 3 crushed/minced
    cloves garlic

  • 1 tsp
    smoked paprika

  • 1/2 tsp

  • 1
    green pepper
Cooking Directions

  1. Prick & bake whole aubergines at 180C for approx 40 mins- until they feel soft to touch

  2. Leave to cool completely

  3. Slice an opening down the length of the aubergine & scoop out the flesh- try and leave a little around the edges of the skin as this will help it to hold it's shape without splitting when filled.

  4. In a pan, soften the onions and pepper, add the garlic & aubergines and stir well

  5. Add the harissa, cumin & paprika and mix well over a medium heat

  6. Add the tomato puree and stir, if the mixture looks dry, ad a splash (try a tablespoon to str) of water to loosen

  7. Spoon the mix into the aubergines so they are approx. two thirds full and make 2 indentations to crack your eggs into

  8. Carefully crack eggs into the aubergines- this is easiest done on a flat chopping board or plate so any spilt egg white doesn't bind the aubergine to your roasting tin during baking

  9. Transfer the aubergines to lightly greased baking tray or tin, cover loosely with tin foil and bake for 10-12 mins at 190C- check the eggs often, as soon as the whites have turned opaque, bring them out

  10. Serve with toasted sourdough & if desired a sprinkle of feta cheese


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Party At The Sideline: North London Half Photodiary

It seems like way more than a week ago that I was sitting here putting together my photos from from the Cambridge Half Marathon- click if you missed my photodiary for my first ever half marathon!

Whilst I'm bringing you another half marathon photodiary, this one comes from an entirely different perspective. Since it was only one week after the Cambridge Half and I'd long since been signed up for that, I decided to get involved with my local half marathon event by signing up as a volunteer when I saw a plea for extra help about a month ago. I've volunteered a couple of times at parkrun, but never at a large event, so here's what a major race looks like from the other side...

North London Half 2017 Cover photo nLH cover_zpswu0jbi3m.jpg

If you're volunteering at a large scale event, you may be asked to apply for a specific role on a specific part of a course or a specific venue. This was certainly the case for me- so before the big day, I already new I'd a marshal and that I'd be based at Allianz Park stadium, which includes the half way marker on the course.

The night before...

Much like race day when you're running, alarms are an essential...

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The North London Half is an early 030 start for the runners, we needed to be in place before roadblocks came into force at 0630 and there was plenty of setting up to do on site- barriers to assemble, water to unpackage, getting tooled up with radios & understanding where we all needed to be... Because I'm a bit twitchy about being on time, we were super early at 0615 and got stuck in as soon as we were issued our radios and briefed by the management team on site


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Yeah... we were still a touch sleepy at this stage.


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The forecast for Sunday was grim- pouring rain all day, all over North London. But aside a few drops, it stayed miraculously dry despite those dark skies at the stadium...


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With barriers up, water stations ready, it's time to get into place and go through a final briefing on the course. It's really exciting to prepare a part of the course whilst you can here the entire race network preparing for the start in your ear as the whole team across a handful of different locations is on the same radio channel.

Although I was originally manning a stretch of the track around the stadium, the wet surface of some boarding was quickly identified as a slip hazard and I was move around to make sure runners received plenty of warning. So if you remember someone asking you to be careful on the slippery corners coming out of Allianz Park, you high fived me or joined my cheers, yes, that was me!


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Hearing a 10s countdown is pretty cool, and sent me right back to waiting to start my own race last week!

Meanwhile we were making sure we were properly kitted out...

North London Half 2017 Racemaker Tshirt photo 33263831941_b34baef8f8_o_zpstft96azx.jpg

Did someone say free t-shirt?!


We started to get excited for the first runner to arrive. With the radio network, we had regular updates, and when he reached mile 5, it really did become thrilling. Unfortunately, it's also around the time someone handed me a megaphone to start using, meaning both hands were occupied and I didn't get a single picture of he 6000 amazing runners who passed me in the next 2 hours.


North London Half Team Bex photo 17311146_1325761660850556_3181640446156805367_o_zpsp64heysg.jpg

I remember this lady coming past, Team Bex is a local club to my own in Cambridgeshire and Bex, the force of nature police officer who faced cancer head on sadly died last year. They're an incredible club with an incredible cause.

I have run my fair share of races in the last 2 years, and there are several things that really make or break a race experience- the number of toilets at the start line and the finisher's goodies are part of it, but how well (or not as the case may be) organised a race event is and how excited and encouraging volunteers & marshals are is another factor. A good course marshal who is encouraging, someone who tells you 'You've GOT this' when you're flagging, when they're having a party as well, it can keep you going when you want to give up, make you run faster and put a massive smile on your tired little face. I tried to be everything I love about the volunteers who make my races and to every runner who cheered with me, high-fived me, tried a cheeky chat up line- yes you in the Macmillan vest... Thank you!


North London Half - After photo 33353332036_1777f20367_o 1_zpslptoobvw.jpg

Can you tell we got up early?!

The final runners had been through our section, and for the record, we stayed properly put to cheer on Every. Last. One. Then it was time for a clear down- hunting down discarded gel packets, cups from the Lucozade station and any other debris along the way. As the saying goes, many hands make light work, and it only took around 45 minutes to litter pick the area as the road blocks began to come down and we were on our way home to a slow cooker pork joint and all the Sunday roast trimmings.

North London Half Marathon 2017 photo 33400651365_d8ec1419c8_o_zpsyv5o5msl.jpg

Would we do it again? Hands down, hell yes. We had so much fun. I went in trying to bring everything I love about race-day volunteers and I hope for the runners I succeeded because we were basically having a party on the sidelines. This particular event aso rewards volunteers with free entries to the following year's race, which is a major incentive for me as many runners will know, race entries and events can soon add up and lead to tough choices and compromises.

If you're a runner and you've never volunteered before, consider giving it a go- it's a great way to get involved in an event that maybe you fancied running but is too close to another race or perhaps if you're injured and still want to be involved. If you go with the attitude of having a good time, I think it would be hard not to enjoy it. Even with the hella early start...

And a quick plug (not a paid link, just something I think is worthwhile)- I'm not sure if I'll be there too, but the Hackney Half are currently looking for a variety of volunteer roles for events running across the day.... Check it out HERE