Attitude, Kit, Running, Training

The final furlong

York Marathon are being very good about emailing me EVERY day to remind me how many days there are left to go now…like I can forget!

In 3 days time, I should be coming towards the last few miles of my first ever marathon.  This week has been more tapering and little bits of mental nagging.  I mustn’t forget this…I must be careful to…I should do…

I’ve got my number and my pins ready to go, and I’ve got my outfit prepped as well.  Unless snowpocalypse arrives, I’ll be running in shorts, a compression t-shirt and an asthma UK vest sent by my charity of choice.  Ipod, sunglasses, baseball hat, Spibelt, garmin will then be added on top.  I’ll have some timings written on my arm too so if I fall below my 5 hour goal pace I’ll know and can recover.

The biggest thing I need to do now is sleep!  I need to get lots of rest because I’m pretty sure I won’t be sleeping the night before.  I also need to charge all of my gadgets and gizmos – nothing worse than a flat garmin when you set off on a run.

Have you got any pre-marathon rituals?  Is there anything I should remember or do?

Kit, Reviews

Kit: Trainers

Trainers are the most essential part of a runner’s kit.  Getting the right trainers can be the difference between an enjoyable run and a terrible run – there’s nothing worse than focusing on the tiny pains or niggles that bad trainers can cause.

Good trainers can also help you to recover faster from long runs, if you don’t have to wait for blisters or sore patches on your feet to heal.

When buying trainers for the first time, I’d strongly recommend visiting a proper runners shop like Sweatshop or Up and Running.  They’ll do a gait analysis and assess your feet, cutting down your shopping time by giving you options  that are more likely to work for you.   They’ll also let you run up and down the street in the trainers – it’s no good just trying them on in the shop, you need to feel them in action.

Buying trainers like this will always be more expensive, but you’re paying for the advice, not just the shoes.  Sweatshop even offer a 3 month return period in case the trainers aren’t right once you increase your distance in them.

Once I find a pair of trainers I like, I’ll buy the pair from the shop and then wait for them to turn up on the internet at a cheaper price – usually as the styles change.  If I love the trainers, I’ll stock up on a few pairs and then start to break in a new pair as an older pair wears out.

I know may runners think expensive trainers are nonsense, but my I can only speak from my experience.  When I have good trainers that fit properly, I’m happy.  When my trainers don’t fit well, I’m very sad!

For the York Marathon I’m training in Brooks Ghost 5 trainers.  They’re great!  I’m just starting to break my second pair in now.

Brooks Ghost 5

They are a neutral shoe with a broad toebox, perfect for my hobbit feet.  I still get some hard skin developing on the outside of the ball of my foot, but that happens to me whatever trainers I wear.  A Ped Egg is a runner’s best friend!

What trainers do you love?

Kit, Reviews, Running

Kit Review: Spibelt and Sundog

It was my birthday last Saturday (that’s another year I have to drag round the marathon course with me 🙂 ).  I never know what to ask for when people ask me what presents I want, so this year I decided to trial some new running gear.

I selected a Spibelt energy gel carrier and some Sundog glasses.

Spibelt Energy Running Pouch

I’ve mentioned before on the blog that I’m looking for ways to transport the ridiculous amount of gels that I intend to consume during the marathon.  I tried a Roosport pouch (read the review here) but as my running distance increased I’ve found it’s really not practical for more than 2-3 gels.  Beyond that it feels very heavy, and unless I’m wearing really tight capris it drags my pants down as well – not a good feeling!


I’ve heard good things from triathlon friends about the Spibelt, so I thought I’d give that a go.  I went for the Energy Running Pouch which holds 6 gels and also has a handy little zip pouch.  It promises not to slip and shift around which I think is essential.

The belt has little loops that the gels slot into, it’s quite a tight fit but not impossible for standard size SiS gels.  I adjusted the Spibelt so it was on my hips as I’m not comfortable with things round my waist and headed off for my 19 miler.

I have to say, it was brilliant.  I had to adjust it a bit as one of the gels was scratching my back, but once I had it on it didn’t move and I really could forget it.  Getting the gels out was easy and quick, and the zip pouch is perfect for a key and other small items.

The only problem I had was feeling like a bit of a div running in it, like a cowboy with my holster belt on!  I pulled my t-shirt over it so just looked like I was a really odd shape rather than a gel addict 🙂

So in summary – Spibelt gets my recommendation for carrying gels on long runs, the Roosport is great when you don’t have to carry more than a couple of gels and your pants are tight.

Sundog Sunglasses

The other bit of running kit I’ve been after is some sunglasses for those days when it’s not really bright enough to wear the dark glasses I have.  I  had my eyes lasered a few years back and they are quite sensitive to light.  I’m also sensitive to wind in my eyes, which could be from being protected behind glasses for years.


I chose the Sundog Lady 2 Golf Sunglasses, their full Amazon description is “Sundog Womens ‘Lady 2’ Golf Sunglasses, Silver TR90 Ultraflex Frame With Orange Polycarbonate Distortion Free, Scratch Resistant Lens With Full 100% UVA/B/C Protection” which all sounds very technical and impressive.

I wore these for my 19 mile run too (I know, brilliant idea, take loads of new kit on a long run!) and loved them.  They are lightweight, have rubber covered ear bits and I barely knew I was wearing them.   They cut down on glare without being too dark and I would certainly recommend them.

And the short version – loved them.

Stand by for more kit reviews, I’ll be doing socks next!

Injury, Kit, Running, Training

Ouch! Chafing

There are some things that runners only talk about in small groups.  We huddle together, whispering about our dark secrets.  You might hear the occasional word “nipple” “blood” “vaseline” “toilet”.

This week one of running’s dirty secrets hit me hard – the dreaded chafing.  I didn’t feel it as it was happening, but at the end of my 14 mile run I had a swollen red line at the top of my leg that was unbelievably painful.  Now I have to work out what caused it and how to prevent it.

Chafing happens anywhere your skin is rubbed.  It can be on your chest, legs, feet, anywhere!  If I run in a vest I get it at the top of my arms where my underarm rubs against the sleeve hole on my vest.

Chafing can be a problem if you’re running regularly as it needs time to heal.  I had to cut short my last run because the chafing I’d picked up the day before was so painful.

The runner’s best defense against chafing is Vaseline.  It’s not glamorous, but rub it all over any spot you might chafe,  There are some runner specific lubricating gels, but I’ve not tried them – if you have, let me know what you think.

If you get chafing during a race, look out for first aiders by the track with their hands stuck out – those hands are probably full of some kind of petroleum jelly.

If it’s too late and the chafing has already happened, try Sudocrem.  It’s not just for babies bottoms – it will help you to heal more quickly.

Running…it’s all about the glamour!

Kit, Reviews, Running, Training

Kit Review: RooSport

Now I’ve worked out a rough strategy for gels for the York Marathon, I need a way to carry them.  I can hold a single gel and a water bottle quite comfortably, but four or five gels requires something a bit more formal.

I’ve seen runners wearing belts like the Spibelt that have holders for gels, but I’m not sure I will be comfortable running in a belt.  My skin is very sensitive, and anything that rubs against it when I’m running or sweating can lead to sore red irritations.  Even labels or a twisted bra strap have hurt me in the past.

While I was looking online for inspiration, I came across the RooSport.  This is an alternative to a belt, it’s a pocket with a magnetic tab.  The pocket slips into your shorts, and the magnetic tab folds over and holds it in place.

Alternative to the Spibelt

Alternative to the Spibelt?

The RooSport isn’t available from Amazon or other retailers, only directly via the RooSport website.  The ordering process was fairly seamless, but I was a bit nervous about the lack of detail about shipping – there are no lead times for international orders.  I did email to check, but didn’t get any reply.

That said, the delivery was very fast, my RooSport arrived in about 3 working days.  I’ve had UK Amazon orders that took longer than that 🙂

I’ve tried the RooSport on 2 long runs now.  The good points are:

  • It does feel totally secure and you do forget you’re wearing it
  • It is very easy to get gels out
  • It’s hand washable and dries quickly
  • The material is very comfortable

The not so good points are:

  • The more you put in it, the more noticeable it gets.  One gel and you can barely see it, but more than one gel and it starts to look like a huge lump
  • The website claims it has space for five gels, but this isn’t true for the SiS Go gels I’m using – it will take three at the most, any more and it doesn’t shut and feels quite ungainly

I was a bit worried about the zip on the back which is facing your skin as you wear it, but this hasn’t caused any rubbing or irritation so far.

Overall I’d give the RooSport 8/10.  It’s a great idea that has clearly come from a runner’s experience, but I’m not sure it’s big enough to get me through a marathon.  If all you’re carrying is car keys, then it’s ideal – I see from other blogs that people use it as a money belt substitute when they travel too.

I’m going to try a Spibelt as well, so I’ll let you know what I think when that arrives.

How do you carry your food?

Diet, Kit, Reviews, Running, Training

Kit Review: Sis Go Isotonic Gel

Running can be an expensive sport once you start looking at all the kit and accessories available.  There is a whole industry built around offering more and more sophisticated options to runners, all with a price tag attached.

When I set off for a run with my Brooks trainers, Garmin watch, Nike capris etc…I’m probably wearing the most expensive outfit I own (just to sweat in it!).

One area I’m very sceptical about is runner’s nutrition.  I’ve seen people at 5k runs taking energy gels, clutching sports drinks, they are probably taking on more calories than the burn in the 30 or so minutes they’ll be running.

My rule of thumb is that I don’t need anything extra if I’m doing up to 70 minutes of exercise.  Beyond 70 minutes, I might need more fuel.  For up to 70 minutes, a piece of flapjack before I head out and a bottle of water are fine 🙂

When I’ve done half marathons in the past, I’ve faded at the 7/8 mile mark.  For the marathon, I’m working on strategy of taking on some fuel every hour, and I’m incorporating that into my long runs now so I don’t get any tummy related surprises on the big day.

I’ve been using SiS Go Gels.  The marketing blurb says “concentrated carbohydrate energy in a convenient fast-flow gel, Science in Sport (SiS) Go Gel is the world’s first and only isotonic energy gel with unique patent-pending formulation.

Each handy palm-sized Go Gel sachet contains 25g of isotonic carbohydrate energy, which is enough energy for 20 to 30 minutes of exercise, and because it’s isotonic, it will still deliver energy without the need for extra water.”

SiS Go Gel

SiS Go Gel

I say “they don’t taste too yucky, seem to hit the spot and don’t give me any digestive grief”.  Tropical is my favourite flavour, the blackcurrant isn’t too bad either.

There’s another version of the gel that contains a hit of caffeine as well, but I’m trying to avoid caffeine as part of my training regime, so I’ll be giving that one a miss – if you’ve tried it, let me know what you think in the comments.

The sales websites suggest 3 gels per 60 minutes of exercise.  I’ll go for 1 per hour in the marathon with one for an emergency, so I’ll be carrying 5 in total.  My next challenge is to find a way to transport them.  I don’t really like running with belts or backpacks but I’m going to have to try a few options, another kit review will follow when I find something I’m happy with.

How do you fuel your long runs?  Gels, jelly babies, just water?

Kit, Reviews, Running

Kit Review: Sports Bras

Reading through Runner’s World this month I was highly amused to see there is a naturist friendly 5k in Pembrokeshire.  My immediate thought was ouch, my chest!  But looking at the picture, it seems most of the women runners chose to wear a sports bra, trainers and bare bottoms.

The sports bra is an essential piece of kit for women runners.  A lack of proper support can lead to long term droopiness, but short term I find it painful to run with my chest flapping about so it’s not good for my focus or my form.

Sports bras can be eye-wateringly expensive, so it’s important to choose the right one.  Some of them just don’t seem to work for me, but I have to spend a few minutes jumping up and down in a changing room before I can decide.

The brand I swear by is Shock Absorber.  I’m a D cup, so I need something fairly substantial – friends I know who have larger chests than me run in 2 sports bras at once to get the support they need.

The 2 bras that work best for me are the Shock Absorber Ultimate Run and the Shock Absorber Active Multisports.

Ultimate Run

This bra is great for running and really minimises bounce.  My only criticism is that I’ve never found a way to put it on single handedly and always need someone to fasten the back of it for me!

Ultimate Run



Active Multisports

This is a crop top style compression bra.  It’s got 2 fasteners on the back so it’s comfortable but very supportive.  I’ve had about 6 of these now, I have found the latest ones seem to be a bit softer and less supportive than the older ones so I’ll have to play around with sizing next time I buy.




Sports Bras come in all sorts of pretty colours but to be frank I don’t care what they look like as long as they do the job 🙂

The other sports bras I’ve had some success with were Shock Absorber tennis bras.  They were on sale at my local Sweatshop so I grabbed a Ball and a Racket Sports bra.   They work great at minimising bounce, tennis players are probably experiencing similar forces to runners so they are worth a look too. (PS I’m not affiliated with Shock Absorber in any way….I just like their bras!)

Ball Racket Sports







Once you’ve invested in your sports bras, remember they will only last so long before the elastic starts to give and you’ll notice you’re not getting the same support you used to.  I find mine last 18 months to 2 years and then they become ‘gym bras’ before being sent off to the great bra shop in the sky.

While they are expensive, they are a great investment and with some clever shopping you can find some bargains.  Shops like TK Maxx and Sports Direct get good sports bras sometimes, so it’s worth a check.

If you’ve got a recommendation for a great sports bra please do leave a comment.

Injury, Kit, Running, Training, Uncategorized

Week 3 Training

Highs and lows again this week!  I’m enjoying the fartlek and finding it pain free, but on the long runs my achilles is hurting so much I have to stop.

Week 3:

  • Monday: jog 20 – 10 minutes to gym, 1 hour weights (lower body), 10 minutes home
  • Tuesday: fartlek 45 minutes at the race course, no problems at all
  • Wednesday: jog 10, run 35 minutes.  This was a terrible outing, I had to stop 5 times to stretch my lower calf and came home utterly demoralised
  • Thursday: swapped a combination of running and sprints for a 48 minutes spin class at Energise, York
  • Friday: jog 20 – 10 minutes to gym, 1 hour weights (chest), 10 minutes home
  • Saturday: rest, and a few beers
  • Sunday: fartlek 70 minutes at York race course, no problems at all

On Saturday I took a trip to York Sweatshop to see if they could shed any light on my leg pain.  The staff there were great – they are very knowledgeable about running and really know their gear.

I explained that the only thing different was my new trainers, a pair of Asics I’d picked up cheap somewhere.  The guy from Sweatshop spotted that I was wearing a high support shoe, more suitable for a pronator (someone whose foot rolls when they run) than a neutral runner like me.

He popped me on the treadmill in some neutral shoes to check my gait, and confirmed I’m a neutral runner.  I then spent half an hour running round the car park in 6 pairs of shoes before settling on a pair of Brooks.  I’ll do a full review on these soon.

Trainers from places like Sweatshop and Up and Running aren’t cheap, but the advice you get and the help from the staff is great value.  It’s not totally confirmed yet as I need to do some pain free runs, but it appears I’ve been suffering for trying to pick up some cheap trainers and getting completely the wrong ones.  The shoes were pushing my foot into the wrong position trying to correct a problem that isn’t there.

Sweatshop also offer a 30 day guarantee.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell if trainers are right for you until you’ve done a few miles in them, and knowing you can take them back if they rub or don’t feel right is great peace of mind when you’re spending so much money.

I know some runners can go quite happily in a pair of £10 trainers from a regular shop, but I’ve generally had a better experience when I get the advice from the staff in the shop.  When you think about the miles you’ll be logging in them, the money doesn’t seem like a bad investment.