running in london

As of January, my husband and I are relocating to London, England! Despite the fact that we have 400 things to do to wrap up life in Toronto and set up life in London, I can’t help but start searching for interesting running routes or cool races to run in our new city. I’ve run pretty much every major race in every available distance in Toronto. 5K, 10K, 21.1K, 30K, 42.2K. I’ve even run a relay and a random 11K race in Prince Edward County earlier this year. It’s not say I wouldn’t do these races again, but the idea of having a whole new race agenda in another country is pretty badass.

Clearly, we aren’t moving to England so I can run. (Though that would be pretty awesome!) My husband got a great job there, and my company graciously offered to transfer me to our London office. I’m so thankful and excited that we can both go on this cool journey together.

I hope that my Toronto/Canadian followers will continue to read this blog, despite the changing focus to European races. I’ve only ever run one – The British 10K – and it was a terrific jaunt through all the most historic parts of London. Perhaps I’ll sign up again this year!

I found this website called The Runner’s Guide to London and was literally filled with glee. The Shakespeare Run?! As an English major and runner, this kind of makes me want to get up and dance. This website also has routes already planned for you with a map, total distance, terrain and info. My excitement level is off the charts.

We have a long list of things on our to-do list before we get to London, and I need to focus on the important stuff (like getting a visa). However, I can’t seem to stop myself from reviewing and planning a racing agenda. I also need to figure out important things like the closest running route to our new flat and whether I can transfer my Runner’s World subscription to the UK version or not. Clearly, my priorities are somewhat off.

I’m looking forward to sharing my running adventures in London with you. If you’ve ever run a great race there, leave me a comment. I’m open to all suggestions.

Cheerio! (or whatever they say in London)

It doesn't have to be the DREAD-mill.

It doesn’t have to be the DREAD-mill.

The first snowfall always sucks. Even though we know it’s inevitable, it seems to sneak up every year. And each time it happens, my motivation to run outdoors pretty much disappears. Despite a dresser full of excellent winter running gear, I can’t seem to force myself out the door. The sidewalks are icy. I’m klutzy. The cold hurts my ears and face. The wind makes my eyes water. With no race on the horizon, it seems to be pretty unlikely that I’ll get out there any time soon.

That said, I’ve really been embracing my old friend: the treadmill. Even with the monotony, the treadmill doesn’t seem so bad, when faced with the chilly darkness of the great outdoors.

To make these runs a little more bearable, I’ve discovered a few interesting workouts that are actually kind of fun. Next time, you’re hopping on the treadmill, give one of these a try.

The Multitasker

On this run, I like to pick a show (either half hour or hour) and watch it while running. I run at a long, slow distance pace throughout the show so I can watch it and concentrate. As soon as a commercial comes on, I sprint. I run as fast as I can maintain for the entire commercial break, slowing back to the long, slow distance pace once the show resumes. I love this workout because I get to watch a cool show, the commercial breaks fly and the time seems to go by in a flash. Depending on the pace, I can run anywhere from 5-10K on a run like this.

The Freight Train

This run is all about gaining momentum. I set the treadmill at very casual pace. Every kilometre, I increase it slightly. I do this till I can run no more. Then I go home and eat. It’s fun and challenging. I usually only make it about 6K.

The Yo-Yo

Similar to the Multitasker, this is a fun workout that tests your stamina and speed. I warm up for about 5 minutes, then set the treadmill to race pace. I run this pace for 1K. Then I ramp up the speed and run fast for another kilometre. The goal is to be completely breathless by the end of that 1K. I drop back down to race pace and continue this pattern until I’m bored or tired. Good times.

Do you have any treadmill workouts that you like? How do you avoid boredom on the dread-mill?

*Disclaimer: I totally made these workouts up. I have no idea if they are good from a cardio or fat burning perspective. I just think they are fun and they keep me entertained while running indoors. Try at your own risk. Results definitely not guaranteed!

Kayaking, snorkelling, hiking and biking. All fine forms of cross training. And even better when you can do them in the Galapagos Islands!

Kayaking, snorkelling, hiking and biking. All fine forms of cross training. And even better when you can do them in the Galapagos Islands!

Back in September, I went on a pretty epic vacation to the Galapagos Islands. Just weeks away from the Scotiabank half marathon, I was a little concerned about how the vacation would affect my training. Luckily, we picked an awesome trip through a cool company called BikeHike Adventures so there was no shortage of activity. Every day we did something active. As you might assume we biked and hiked, but we also snorkelled and kayaked. In fact, that trip also marked my longest and most intense bike ride of my life: a 32K mountain bike up to the largest pit crater on Santa Cruz Island.

The vacation came and went. I came home and completed training and finished the half marathon without issue. Turns out all that non-running activity didn’t derail from my training after all. In fact, it might have actually even been good for it!

For runners, cross training is actually the best thing ever. Here’s a few reasons why every runner should add some cross-training to their weekly routine.

Injury Prevention

The most common and widely recognized benefit of cross training is injury prevention. When you do one activity over and over, you work the same muscles all the time. That overuse that is so common in runners is one of the main causes of injury. Mixing it up is a great way to prevent injuries. By doing things like bike riding, weight lifting or swimming, you build up strength and endurance in your running muscles, without beating up those super vulnerable joints like your ankles, knees and lower back.

More Power

While not a guarantee, there is a widely held belief that all runners are able to run faster and more efficiently by doing some cross-training vs. training by running alone. Other sports help improve your overall fitness which in turn, makes you a better runner.

Avoid Boredom

If all you do is run, chances are, you’re going to get bored after a while. Adding in a variety of different exercises like bike riding, hiking or weight lifting can help increase your motivation to get out there. If the thought of running seems arduous but the idea of going to a spinning class seems more enjoyable, DO IT! There’s plenty of times where I don’t feel like running and would rather go jump around in a class at the gym. At the end of the day, you’ll end up in a much better place than a runner who doesn’t cross train.

Rehab

Being sidelined with a running injury sucks. I suffered from some IT band related injuries post marathon last year and it was devastating. There is nothing more frustrating to a runner than not being able run. Doctors generally recommend that runners who suffer from running injuries take a break from running. However, there are some activities (like swimming) that injured runners can do while they heal. This can be key maintaining fitness and dealing with the frustration and disappointment that comes with running injuries.

I recognize that cross training in the Galapagos Islands is a much more appealing opportunity than going to a spinning class at your local gym, but the bottom line is, cross training is awesome and makes you a better runner. No more details needed. Now go out there and ride a bike.

Wondering what sorts of activities are good cross training activities for runners? About.com has a great list here, along with their associated benefits.

If you want to know more about the trip I went on, you can check out the itinerary here. Also, I highly recommend this trip if anyone is planning a visit to the Galapagos. It was absolutely one of the best trips of my life.

Emergency-signI don’t normally tackle serious issues on this blog, but something happened during last week’s Scotiabank Half Marathon that really affected me. I wasn’t going to write about it, but I’m still thinking about it… so here it is.

Around the 15K mark in Sunday’s race, a man in front of me collapsed. He hit his face on the ground with such force that he split his head open. As I approached, I could see he was laying on his back, unconscious with blood all over his face and eyes. Someone started chest compressions, presumably because he was not breathing. Another person ran off in the other direction to find first aid. Someone else was on the phone and another was yelling at the person doing compressions to do them harder.

I didn’t know what to do. I quickly surveyed the scene to see if there were any obvious ways I could assist but it appeared that everything I could think of was already being done. I stopped. Then started. Then stopped again. How could I just pass by this emergency without doing anything? How could I just turn my music back on and finish my race as if nothing had happened?

All I could do was carry on and say “F*ck” about a hundred times in a row. I ran along slowly, glancing back again and again until he was out of sight. A person beside me, visibly shaken, admitted that this was his first race, and he was scared. I told him it would be OK and that the person I left lying on the ground would be fine, even though I really wasn’t sure.

As I ran along, I kept replaying the situation in my mind. Was there something I could have done? It looked like those people had it under control, but did they? Would that man actually be OK?

Eventually, I reassured myself that there was nothing I could have added to the situation. Standing there worrying certainly wasn’t helpful, but it seemed so uncaring to just continue running. The whole race suddenly seemed pointless.

As soon as I finished the race, I looked up breaking news on my phone. No news. I checked again when we got home. Still nothing. When no news surfaced the following day, I was reassured that this man lived and I was relieved.

But it also got me thinking about how to react in an actual race emergency. What if I was the only one around? Would I have known what to do? After consulting numerous articles on race-day emergencies, I found several tips on what to do. Please read them. In case you ever encounter a situation like this, we should all know how to respond. It could save someone’s life.

If a runner collapses near you and is not responding, here is what you should do:

  • Ask for help from other runners and spectators.
  • Determine if the person is conscious by shouting “Are you OK?”
  • If there is no response, assign roles to people around you. Get someone to dial 911 from the nearest phone. Assign another to find or contact a race official. Get another to  look to see if there is an automatic defibrillator nearby.
  • If you are trained, start CPR. If you’re not, find someone who is and start chest compressions until trained medical professionals arrive.

Based on my research, this appears to be the most consistent way to deal with a race day emergency. However, if any medical professionals have different or additional advice, please leave me a comment and I will update my blog post accordingly.

Stay safe out there runners!

Nothing says "I just finished a half marathon" like bananas and space blankets!

Nothing says “I just finished a half marathon” like bananas and space blankets!

Up until Saturday night, I hadn’t really thought too much about the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon. This was my fourth time running in this race and my third time running the half marathon distance. I wasn’t out to prove anything and a PB was certainly out of the question. In fact, based on my long runs leading up to Sunday’s race, I was on track to run my slowest half marathon ever. The bar was set nice and low.

I’m pleased to report that it was not in fact my worst time. I did exactly what I set out to do: I ran perfect 6 minute kilometres and finished the run in 2:06:51.

I didn’t check my pace or total time through the whole race. I just ran at a pace that felt good and maintained it throughout. I bopped along to some new music and watched the herd of 25,000 runners jog along. I saw the same people over and over. One girl in grey who’s watch must have been perfectly synced with mine because we stopped at the exact same time every ten minutes for our walk breaks.

Around 8K, I found myself next to the 2 hour pace bunny. I was thrilled! I actually had a moment where I thought I might be able to break my personal best of 1:59. It’s funny how the adrenaline of race day can make you semi-delusional. It was not to be. I kept pace with them till 15K, but fell back. It was too hard and like I said, I wasn’t out to prove anything. Why kill myself to shave off a few minutes? I decided I would just enjoy the run.

My husband Graham crossed the finish line about 5 minutes ahead of me, just missing his personal best by about 60 seconds. Originally we planned to run together but parted ways right before the start. He was going to try for a PB. I was not feeling as ambitious.

Afterward, we chatted about our race strategy. He told me he needs the pace bunny, and followed diligently behind the 2 hour pacer for the majority of the race. He focuses totally and completely on running as hard as he can, pushing himself the entire way. I employ the total opposite strategy. I try hard to focus on anything but running. I focus on my music. I read the race signs and high five volunteers. I scan the crowd in search of a race outfit I like. I find a runner who looks like they’re struggling and offer some words of encouragement.

As I jogged along, I also thought about running that same race three years ago. It was my first half marathon. In fact, I realized at the start line that I was wearing the same tights and long sleeve shirt that I wore in that race! (Kudos to Nike for making running gear that lasts!)

I also thought a lot about last year when I ran the full marathon distance in that race. At the point where the marathon runners go right and the half marathon runners go left, I was pretty happy to be almost done instead of halfway there!

My parents were our only in-person supporters and they took several pictures of my ugly race face as I crossed the finish line. It’s always nice to have some cheerleaders in the crowd.

Overall, it was another fine race. Shout-out to Canada Running Series for a fabulous event. I’ll be back again next year.

The last 100 metres are always the toughest. Check out my ugly race face and weird scissor hands!

The last 100 metres are always the toughest. Check out my ugly race face and weird scissor hands!

 

Faith in humanity = restored! Thank you kind stranger for this much needed birthday  gift.

Faith in humanity = restored! Thank you kind stranger for this much needed birthday gift.

Last year, I started a tradition of running on my birthday. Last year was noteworthy though because I was training for my first marathon and I ran 30K on my 30th birthday. This year, I still took the day off with plans to do a long run in the morning, but a much less ambitious distance, and one with no real significance other than that’s what my training schedule told me to run. I woke up early, checked the weather forecast and got ready for my inaugural birthday run.

16K was on the agenda and the weather looked promising. Both Canada AM and my trusty weather app predicted clear skies and temperatures around 15C with no rain in sight till at least 5pm. Perfect. A fine day for a birthday run.

About 5K in, it started to rain. It was a light rain at first – nothing I couldn’t handle. In fact, I remember that it rained last year on my birthday run. Rain be damned, I thought. I’m not stopping. But then it started raining harder. I’m all for a rain run, but this was a bit more than I was willing to tolerate. I ducked under some trees to wait it out, while cursing the weatherman under my breath.

It cleared and the sun actually came out so I set off again. Great, I thought. Back on track. Just as I started my descent down Mount Pleasant, it started to pour. The kind of rain that is so aggressive it slows traffic. It was definitely not ideal. I cowered against a wall trying not to get completely soaked. It wouldn’t let up. I remembered there was an overpass about 500 metres back so I made a beeline for it and planned to wait it out.

It was relentless. I stood under the bridge with a scowl on my face. Damn rain ruining my birthday run. Suddenly, a car pulled up next to me, and held an umbrella out the open window. “Here, you look like you need this,” said the perfectly dry stranger driving the car. I looked in disbelief and said, “Are you sure?”

“Yeah,” he said. “Pay it forward.”

I took the umbrella and he drove off. I couldn’t believe my luck. I decided I would walk to the next Starbucks and wait it out. I started walking back up Mount Pleasant with my new umbrella in hand. I suddenly realized that the nearest coffee shop was more than 2K in either direction. Damn. Alright, I thought. I’ll go to the next major intersection and get a cab. I’ll take it to the gym and finish this run on the treadmill. Not ideal, but it’s better than nothing. I was not about to give up on this run.

I hailed a cab. It drove by. I tried again. No luck. A third cab drove by. Still stranded. Dammit!

By this point, the rain had actually subsided and the sky looked slightly less apocalyptic so I figured I might as well start running again. I was starting to get cold and I was getting nowhere fast. So I started running back the way I came, umbrella in hand.

By the time I made it back to the Belt Line trail where I started, the rain had stopped altogether and the sun was shining again. My run was saved! But what the hell was I supposed to do with this umbrella?! This was not a teeny pocket umbrella. This was a large black IKEA umbrella. Great for keeping you dry. Bad for holding while running!

I decided I would drop the umbrella behind a tree and pick it up on my way back, since I would pass the same spot on my return. If someone took it, oh well. It wasn’t mine anyway.

I ran the next 7K in the glorious sunshine I was anticipating and managed to dry out a bit. When I got back, my new umbrella was still there! I ran up Avenue road with an umbrella in hand…. in the sunshine.

Surely anyone that saw me thought I was nuts. Who goes for a morning jog with a giant umbrella in hand?!

I made it back to my house, only to realize I only ran 15.2K. I stashed the umbrella on the front steps and ran around the block twice to make up the remaining 800 metres.

Finally. Success! Despite all odds, I completed 16K on my birthday. I almost gave up many times, but I persevered in what might have been one of the silliest runs of my whole life.

A big shout-out to the stranger who gave me his umbrella. My faith in humanity is now restored. Thank you for the much needed birthday gift!

Two-YearsLast week marked the two year anniversary of Thoughts & Pavement. I missed the actual date as I was on an epic vacation in the Galapagos Islands frolicking with giant tortoises and playing with sea lions. I thought about trying to update the blog from there, but the WiFi was not ideal. I did think about it though and gave a silent hat tip to this two year old hobby that has brought me a lot of enjoyment.

To date, I’ve written 136 posts and managed to amass close to 200 followers. Thank you! That number still impresses me and I am continually happy and humbled at the wonderful people that regularly read my posts and share their encouragement and tips. In fact, as an early birthday present, I recently reached my 500th blog comment on my post about my non-existent half marathon training plan.

For fun, here are some interesting Thoughts & Pavement facts:

Thoughts & Pavement has come a long way since that intro post in 2012. When I started, I worried that I would run out of things to talk about. How much can one person possibly have to say about running and training? But two years later, I’m still discovering new things and coming up with new topics, and the best part is, this blog motivates me to run. I need to, or I’ll have no new material!

Happy birthday Thoughts & Pavement! Cheers to many more years of running and blogging.