Marathon des Sables 2015: Highway to hell?

20 Apr

Seven days, five stages, temperatures of up to 55 degree Celsius and a combination of sand and rocky terrain, the Marathon des Sables 2015 was more than a simple race, it was a test of mental and physical endurance. From the moment you stepped on the coach and were handed the roadmap, you knew it was going to be challenging.

Bit crumpled after a few days in the desert

The crumpled Marathon des Sables roadmap 2015 – read at your peril

The roadmap leads to…

Day one to three didn’t look to bad on paper, the Lord-of-the-Rings-style illustrations showed that there were some ascents and rocky terrain – in fact – the distances of 36,2K, 30,2K and 36,2K are less than you’re used to. Day three was followed by the long day, in fact as it was the 30th year, it was the furthest that competitors have ever had to run – a 91-odd kilometre effort. With a day to recover, you would then complete the final marathon stage. All pretty doable if you consider how hard you’d trained.

The signs and symbols all look so easy...on paper

The signs and symbols all look so easy…on paper

Little did you realise what this actually meant. When coupled with the extreme desert conditions, feet that gave a whole new meaning to the word ‘cankles’ and a tummy that felt like it was constantly on a spin cycle, it was unbelievably tough. As the days went on, this ‘race’ became less about the overall distance and more about surviving between checkpoints (roughly every 12-15K).

Illustration in point - just a gentle jog across a few hills

Illustration in point – just a gentle jog across a few hills. YEAH RIGHT

It was a toss-up between pushing myself to run and be faced with the reality that you may not be able to complete or sitting back and taking it slow. Against my usual instinct to just suck it up and see, I took the latter route choosing to walk most of the stages. There was no way I was coming home without a medal.

Highway to hell?

There were fleeting moments when you thought what on earth am I doing? Does Patrick (the organiser) glean some kind of sadistic pleasure from tricking us to thinking the end is just around the corner when in fact you have to trudge your way across another dune? And then you see some ant-like creatures in the distance surmounting what seems to be a vertical climb. Jeez, I’ve got to hoist my body and my rucksack up there? This race is definitely living up to its reputation as “the toughest footrace on earth”.  Blimey, what will they think of next? You’re in a quandary as you want to both know but don’t want that knowledge to put you off completely.

Just part of the long day, and boy it was a long day.

Just part of the long day, and boy it was a long day.

The best way I found to stop these internal thoughts from a total mind takeover was to look up, stop grimacing and absorb the surroundings. They may have mis-sold the idea of ‘mountainous relief’ in the roadmap but boy does the desert look beautiful from the top of a rocky ledge. The kilometres of dunes sap your energy completely but these pillows of gold pillows soften the rugged landscape. At night, it takes on a whole different meaning. As you plod on into the early hours during the long stage, you’re amazed by how the moon lights up the sky and it’s as if you can almost reach out and touch the stars (or maybe that’s just the painkillers talking). As for when dusk falls, well forget Monet’s Sunset in Venice, the invasion of red as the desert sun sets in the sky is intense, vivid and takes your breath away.

Solidarity and humanity

Then there are the people you meet on the way. You may talk for hours or simply acknowledge each other with a hello firstname (as everyone has their names on their numbers), as you play cat and mouse along the way. You work together, checking in with people, making sure they are feeling as well as can be expected or sharing your experience of the desert, knowledge of the housing market or simply talking about whatever pops into your head at that moment in time. The point is that these other competitors are helping you along the way. And that is what Patrick Bauer, who set up the Marathon des Sables after his own solo expedition across the desert 30 years ago, missed out on; the comfort of humanity in the desert.

No matter whether you’re a sprinter at the front or a walker near the camels, this challenge is as much about supporting each other towards a collective goal as it is about individual efforts. Not to mention the camp camaraderie, where you are sleeping side-by-side with folk you’ve only met a few days ago and yet you feel totally comfortable and part of a gang. More on my tent-mates later.

It is these characters and scenery on the sandy road that makes what could be a highway to hell a little piece of heaven.

Marathon des Sables 2015: let’s start at the end

14 Apr

,The aftermath of Marathon des Sables is a crusty pair of shorts, “off-white” Raidlight hat and gaiters, less than fresh X-Bionic top, worn Shock Absorber sports bra, pair of Runderwear boxers, a holey buff, your race number, a pair of sandy Speedcross X3 Salomons, a ragged Marathon des Sables 2015 guide and, of course, the hunk of metal that you’d sweated all week for.

The crusty Marathon des Sables 2015 kit before the big wash

The crusty Marathon des Sables 2015 kit before the big wash

My kit can tell a thousand different stories but you’ll have to wait until I’ve put it through the wringer to find out about what truly was a week I’ll never forget.

Watch this space for more runner number 197, tent 136 and the people that made Marathon des Sables 2015 the ultimate adventure.



Marathon des Sables 2015: Time out in the desert

2 Apr

The past week has been a rollercoaster of ups and downs for me so I’m looking forward to having some time out in the desert.

The kit

Here’s me in my full kit (X-bionic top, Raidlight hat, Salomon skort, Injinji compression socks, Casio watch, OMM adventure light 20L bag, Raidlight bottles, Raidlight gaiters and Salomon shoes).

Almost ready to go...

Almost ready to go…

The bag

What's inside the bag?

What’s inside the bag?

Thanks to Sweaty Betty for a spare change of kit, Shock Absorber for the bra and Runderwear for the knickers.

The mantras

Mantras to remember

Mantras to remember

The daily checklists


Handwriting was never my forte

Handwriting was never my forte


Dad's an allotment holder so the last quote reminds me of him.

Dad’s an allotment holder so the last quote reminds me of him.

The thanks

My big bro and sister-in-law for picking me up when I’ve been down (got the card Andrea today xxx).

To my new family for all their support, a beautiful picture and making me smile (thanks for the card Nigel).

Mum and Dad, I blame you for my single-mindedness and determination but it will see my through. Please don’t worry about me, I’ll be ok and will remember to eat.

B, Tess, George, I’ll see you on the other side to get all this bridal shenanigans out the way. My running friends for all the laughs we’ve had in the mud.

And finally to the love of my life, ha ha ha, you can’t text me now when you’re drunk. I hope to find all the walls painted in the hallway on my return and don’t use my Twitter account to find out how to homebrew cider. Seriously, thanks for everything, I know it’s been tough and at times quite unbearable for you but I promise to come back in one piece ready for our next adventure and life together. Much love to you all and let’s meet on the other side.

Marathon des Sables 2015: VO2 max and other stats

31 Mar

From 1 January 2015, I have been a participant in research for Anglia Ruskin University looking at the effects of endurance running on the gut. So as well as all this ruddy running and training for Marathon des Sables 2015, I have also been logging my daily activity (what it is, my perceived effort during activity and for how long), taking note of what I’ve been eating every day (it’s pretty dull reading to tell you the truth), added a supplement of probiotic to my diet every evening (whether this is truly a supplement or just a placebo I’m not really sure) and headed up to the labs in Cambridge twice, first time was in January, and then on the Sunday that has just gone – that’s the end of March 2015 – for a variety of tests.

So what have they been testing?

As well as assessing your training diaries and sending out a number of questionnaires about your gut and bowel movements during training, the research team have taken a range of different measurements including heart rate, blood pressure, blood samples, poo samples (yes poo), ECG, skin folds and VO2 max.

It sounds pretty personal so why take part?  

While you do feel like a lab rat being prodded, poked and linked up to various machines, this is the first experiment of its kind so it’s interesting to be a part of the research. On a more personal level, you receive a free ECG test (a requirement of MdS) and are given the opportunity to record measurements accurately using high tech equipment such as VO2max (normally this can cost from around £130).

Hang on, what is VO2max and why is it important?

VO2max is the measure of the maximum or peak volume of oxygen measured in millilitres you can consume in a minute per kilogram of body weight. Essentially, the higher your VO2 max, the better your body is conditioned for aerobic endurance such as running across the desert. Though there is a correlation between a high VO2max and performance, it is not an indication that a higher measurement indicates a better performance, it simply allows competitors to know their potential or aerobic power.

For the cohort of runners taking part in the Marathon des Sables study, it is a good indication of how training has improved your fitness levels and can be a real boost of confidence before you get to the start line.

How does the test work?

The particular test at Anglia Ruskin saw you kitted up in a rather fetching gas mask and taken through eight 2-minute stages on a treadmill – the first four stages were increments of speed, while the second were based on incline. All you had to do is keep running, breathing (which is difficult to do when wearing something covering your face) and point at a sheet telling the researchers about your perceived effort.

Here’s a pic to show my time as a lab rat.


Just an early morning jog

Just an early morning jog

A good indication of my progress?

On the whole, yes, it seems to be all coming together. My results were pretty positive and it appears all the crazy training has paid off. According to the machines, my resting heart rate is between 43 to 46, which means I’ve got a pretty strong ticker. And my VO2max is 70 – not 100% sure about this one as this puts me in the elite category.

What I do know is that these results offer me a good basis to commence my journey across the desert, all I now have to deal with is the sand, the heat and whatever else the elements decide to throw in my way.

Post-MdS I will be returning to the lab for another set of tests which will highlight any positive/negative effects on these measurements after running an endurance event.

Marathon des Sables 2015: testing out the Bunsen burner

27 Mar

With only a week left until I fly out to Morocco (I’m doing this race called the Marathon des Sables), I thought I better at least have a go at trying to use the Esbit titanium foldable solid fuel stove. After all, I’ll be relying on this tiny piece of kit to boil up water for my noodles and porridge.

It's like a tiny piece of modern art

When folded, it’s like a tiny piece of modern art

I left it until now because I was secretly hoping that I would come up with an alternative solution such as somehow developing a 6th sense that meant I could ‘make fire’ in the desert. Then reality checked in and I soon realised that this is as likely as me winning the lottery (which I have never entered), I decided to give the tiny gas stove which I refer to as the Bunsen burner a whirl.

It was pretty straightforward to assemble but I will have to improvise and find a flat surface on the ground of the desert or a piece of cardboard from somewhere (don’t worry, I’m pretty resourceful). Then half expecting the 13.5g titanium structure to collapse when I placed the Esbit fuel tablet on it, imagine my surprise when It felt quite stable. Next I had to light the fuel tablet on the Esbit without burning my thumb. Failed miserably.

Lesson one: light the fuel tablet before you place it on the stove.

Fire - duh nah - I'll take you to burn...

Fire – duh nah – I’ll take you to burn…

Once lit however it proved to be pretty powerful. I thought it would be a real mission to adequately boil the cup of water I placed on top of the stove but within five minutes it was boiling away furiously. In fact, the fuel tablet burned for around 10-15 minutes.

Hubble bubble, here comes trouble

Hubble bubble, here comes trouble

Now that’s not to say that it will be as easy to replicate the calm surroundings of my Hampstead Garden suburbs’ kitchen in the desert (complete with BBC Radio 4extra on the radio). I’m sure the wind will have me cursing to high heaven as I try to keep the ruddy fuel alight. But and it’s a big BUT, at least I know that I can boil water using my Bunsen burner and so dried noodles for dinner may not be the only option available.

One week to go now…

Marathon des Sables: 5 things keeping me on the straight and narrow

25 Mar

The constant discussion around Marathon des Sables has been partly useful, partly stress-inducing, and in the final countdown it has intensified dramatically. Inevitably this leaves you questioning whether you should have done more training, splashed out on heat chamber sessions or even joined one of the many ‘expert’ training camps are constantly in the back of your mind.

You then look at what you have to pack and compare with your peers on Facebook. They’re taking how many gels? What are they doing in terms of airport security? Will half a roll of loo paper be sufficient? So many questions to answer.

At this stage, it’s like a waiting game especially since you’re not training half as much as before. The self-inflicted tapering phase coupled with a flow of constant dialogue on social media can leave you in a constant flux of nervous energy. So how do you go about dealing with it?

I don’t exactly know but here are five things stopping me from pulling my hair out as I wait to start the adventure of a lifetime.

1. Task lists

Even at this stage I have a task list as long as the eye can see but there’s no point in trying to get them all done in one go. There are also ‘necessary’ tasks to ‘nice-to-have’ so I have prioritised them and at the beginning of each day I set myself a maximum of three tasks from this list to complete. This can range from the simplest of things such as booking a pre-MdS massage to more technical rehearsals to ensure I can actually set up that tiny Esbit stove. While it may not dispel the nerves completely, by ploughing through my tasks at least I feel a little more settled towards #mygoal.

ClassPass - that's not me by the way, she's way too bendy.

ClassPass – that’s not me by the way, she’s way too bendy.

2. ClassPass

My weekly mileage may have dropped significantly but I’m still trying to do some cardio mixed up with yoga. Enter the concept to change your fitness routine – ClassPass. Now as tempted as I am to try every class available, (there are 100s to choose from), I need to be sensible. Thankfully, classes of my current fitness squeeze Project Fit can be reserved in a jiffy as can various forms of hot yoga all over London. Mixing up my training through ClassPass has made the past few weeks way more enjoyable.

3. Shorter races

So my distances have decreased as per the plan but the lure of the Vitality North London Half and Reading Half Marathon were simply too much. Over the past two weeks, I have focused my energy on these and used one for speed and the other to at least look like a hardcore athlete. I carried a 6kg rucksack around Reading and pushed myself to do a 1:43:37 half. I will be running closer to my longer training runs’ speed at MdS and also plan to walk the tougher parts but challenging myself in a different way during shorter distances has kept me motivated and my spirits up.

purepotions - handy tins for emergencies

purepotions – handy tins for emergencies

4. Body care

As well as my daily dose of Berocca, I’ve also trying to calm my body and mind with activbod’s mind over matter – a hard balm stick containing a mix of revitalising essential oils which really clear your nose when you’re feeling blocked up by all the London smog. Then I have four tiny rescue salve tins (15ml) from purepotions on my desk at work just in case I need to smooth over chapped lips (lavender salve), bruises and tired legs (arnica salve), spots (tea tree salve) or cuts and grazes (calendula and comfrey salve). It’s all about looking after myself right now and having these little products by my side certainly offer me the chance to do that.

5. Time out

As much as I sometimes hate having to take a step back and switch my focus to something other than running like choosing tiles for the kitchen floor, I know that I need to. I liken it to when you’ve lost your keys and you spend half an hour searching for them, give up and go and do something else, only to find they were right in front of you in the first place. Time out of the Marathon des Sables, having a day out with the boyf at the weekend or settling down to watch Peaky Blinders on Blinkbox instead of obsessing over the enormity of the challenge that is the Marathon des Sables means I can approach however I prepare for it with a fresher and healthier attitude.

How do you taper for a race? What’s your attitude towards winding down before a big adventure? Let me know below.

Packing for Marathon des Sable 2015 (Mandatory stuff)

23 Mar

In the next 10 days I need to pack this:

Marathon des Sables packing

Marathon des Sables packing

Into this:

Omm bag and furry slippers

OMM adventure light 20L bag (and furry slippers – not being packed)

Ha ha ha ha (nervous titter)….

It’s not as bad as it looks as I’ll be ditching some of the boxes and decanting various lotions and potions into 10ml bottles that I’ve pilfered from various hotels over the years.

In terms of food, I’ve managed to get the weight down to 3.6kg and have also added a secret weapon Itsu seaweed thins – they may not be high in calories but they deliver in terms of salt and protein.

As for the mandatory kit list (in no particular order):

– Mountain Hardwear Phantom Sleeping bag 480g (as modelled below)

MdS preparation

MdS preparation – this is at my parent’s house

LED Lenser Neo Headlamp – 56g + 3 AAA batteries – 22.8g

– Hiking compass – 50g (know it’s heavy but it’s donated by the boyf’)

– Lighter – 6g

– Whistle – part of bag

– Victorinox Swiss Card – includes pocket knife – 26g

– Disinfectant gel – 15g

– Signalling mirror –  Bushcraft BCB Mayday Signalling Mirror (Compact) – 18g

– The Extractor pump – 91g

– Aluminium sheet – 10g

– Sunglasses (two pairs) – 50g

Hypafix tape – 15g

– Sudocrem x 2 – 10g

– Nurofen x 16 – 4g

– Imodium x 18 – 32mg

– Diorhlyte x 10 – 35g

– Boots Ibuprofen Max gel – 30g

– P20 SPF50 – decant down to 50g

That makes a total of around 4.5kg give or take a few grams. I’m still deciding whether to take dehydrated wet wipes from various Chinese restaurants, an overall, foil to help cook on my Esbit stove and more food. Then there’s all my added essentials such as Zero tablets (4g each), a plastic fork, half a toothbrush and toothpaste, mini titanium pot for cooking with, Shewee, bodyglide, contact lenses and potentially a spare change of clothes (or knickers at least). I only have 10 days left to decide. Wish me luck.

If you have taken part in the Marathon des Sables or any multistage race and had the chance to do it again, what one thing would you take?

A twist on a classic: the Breton top and stripe icons with Farfetch

19 Mar

Iconic and timeless, a Breton top is one purchase you will never regret. Famously sported by Coco Chanel and Brigitte Bardot, it epitomises understated French chic. But it has not always had an association with the such icons. In fact, from the mid-nineteenth century, the Breton top was the official uniform of French seamen ‘La Mariniere’ in Brittany because it made seamen overboard easy to spot in the sea and the choice of fabric (cotton) kept the sailors warm.

It was ever the revolutionary Coco Chanel who introduced the Breton stripe to our fashion vocabulary and now practically every season you’ll find some iteration of the famous lines (Jean Paul Gaultier to name just one designer who has created his own recognisable version of the straight line).

While fashionistas may argue about the perfect stripe (I’m a fan of Petit Bateau ‘marinieres’ and Joules’ assortment of stripy clothing), they are pretty much all agreed that the Breton will always be a staple. If you’re not already in the gang, then get your stripes on. Why not take a cue from this hand infographic from Farfetch?

(c) Farfetch

Who’s your stripe icon?(c) Farfetch

So how are you going to freshen up your wardrobe with stripes? Let me know below.

North London Half Marathon 2015: why training for Marathon des Sables 2015 has improved my running

17 Mar

You’ll have to accept the sacrifices that come with challenges such as the Marathon des Sables. Instead of buying that vintage Chanel 2.55 you’ve coveted for years, you find yourself splashing out on an extra-comfy sleeping bag, anti-venom pump, a rucksack and various other running-related gear that has accumulated around your desk at work and in the corner of the spare bedroom. It’ll all be worth it.

Performance anxiety

Then there’s the worry about your performance. How does all the long-distance stuff impact on speed? Will you ever be able to beat your 10K PBs again when you’re not exactly running at speed? You know that running 20 miles before work with a rucksack almost the same size as you will help you in the desert but will this compromise your racing at shorter distances? In the past ten weeks I’ve run anything from 60 to 150 miles a week – surely this will have an impact on the half marathons I’ve signed up to as part of my mini-goals?

Well yes, it has but not as I expected. In fact, at the North London Half 2015 I knocked almost three minutes off my last half marathon time (Ealing Half Marathon 2014). How? I’m not sure but here are some ideas as to why all this training is actually improving my overall running performance.

Shoes at the ready

Shoes at the ready

1. Cross-terrain training

Mud, hills and plenty of opportunity to fall flat on your face, cross-country racing is not for the faint-hearted. Up the mileage to a trail marathon and you’re into a whole different ballgame. Not only do you have to climb over stiles, trudge through sludge but you also call on a variety of different muscles just to keep you upright. Seriously, the unforgiving hills make your lungs feel like they will burst and you can hear your heart pumping hard. It’s tough, exhilarating and the perfect preparation for the hills of the North London Half Marathon 2015.

It was an undulating route to say the least around Hendon, Wembley and parts of unexplored North London. One distinctive moment that sticks in my mind was cheering on the pros as they crossed my path on the other side of the road while running downhill towards Wembley – then the sudden realisation that I would have to be climbing that same hill some time later. It was no walk in the park but the experience of having run umpteen marathons in tougher conditions meant my legs were ready to drag me up that hill.

2. True grit

Getting up at 4:50am to run 20 miles pre-work takes dedication, running 48 miles in freezing conditions with your clothing soaked to your skin takes determination, braving the elements even though sometimes you’d rather be snuggled up in bed demands focus. No matter what you goal, this discipline will help you get through the tough times.

The North London Half Marathon was a shorter race than I’m used to but it was by no way easy. Hard and fast was the name of the game, I wanted to try sub-1:30, came out with 1:31:58. It was tough but I gritted my teeth and pushed through knowing that the faster I went the sooner it would be over.

Almost top 10...

Almost top 10…

Not to say that everyone has to train like you’re about to run in the Sahara with your ‘home’ firmly attached to your back. But sometimes giving yourself that push to train when you really don’t want to (say on a hangover) pulls you through those moments in a race when you just want to throw in the towel.

3. Speed control

In the same way that yoga connects your mind with your body, running frequently tunes you in to your running rhythm. You become mindful of how fast you’re running and your body’s reaction to a change of pace.

It’s important to know where you’re comfortable, when you can push yourself and for how long. Think of it like gears, you learn how to change gears without wearing out the cogs. Timing yourself using a Garmin, TomTom, Nike Fuel thingy, simple Casio or whatever clock contraption you can find can help define these zones as can joining a club. Whether I’m out on a training run or racing, I make my pace a priority, sometimes playing with it by setting small goals like racing to the next lamppost or trying to beat the bloke who has just run past me. It’s these little things that have helped me establish some speed control.

At the North London Half, I went out fast with the aim of controlling this speed through the good and bad times. Spurred on by the crowds and volunteers, I was able to keep it up pretty solidly. Although if you asked me at the time at say mile 11 what I would do differently, I would probably have said not go out so fast. Do I regret it now? Hell no.

4. Rapid recovery

For this hard and fast attitude to running a half does have its consequences. It may not be the same distance as a marathon but that doesn’t mean you’re immune to tired legs. Running a shorter distance at a faster tempo can be just as demanding as running a marathon while you’re running it.

At the same time, by conditioning your body through training for the Marathon des Sables, I can cope way better afterwards. I ached a bit after receiving my medal from the lovely Keira (so great to see a friendly face) at the North London Marathon but then it was a hop skip and a jump back on my bike to take me home (it was only 2.1 miles to my house, yes to races near me!). Then I cycled down to Gymbox Old Street, tried my hand at Circus Fit class and cycled back. Again, I ached the morning after but that was more down to my rather lame attempts at hanging from a trapeze.

So training more is key?

I really don’t know as everyone is different and I honestly believe you need to find a plan that works for you. All I know is that this training has had a positive effect on my running. It has enabled me to run three marathons, one 48 mile race and a speedy half marathon as demonstrated at the first ever North London Half in the space of three months. Not to mention whipped me into shape – I feel stronger and leaner than ever right now.

And most of all, it has boosted my confidence about running across the Sahara. It’s taught me that my body is pretty resilient and hopefully this will push me through my next big adventure.

My verdict on the North London Half: an undulating well-organised race with friendly and encouraging volunteers. My favourite moment had to be entering Wembley Stadium, it was such a rush. I cannot wait to run it again next year.



ClassPass London equals flexible fitness fun

11 Mar
ClassPass London

ClassPass London

Want to put some oomph back into your fitness routine? Not sure about committing to one studio? Enjoy the flexibility of trying out some of the hottest new classes in town? Now you can bypass all these workout conundrums and try out a variety of boutique studio classes (in London) to boost your performance without blowing your monthly allowance completely.  Oh yes, the Stateside concept called ClassPass has arrived in London which offers a pick-a-mix way to workout. And just like the sweet stuff you may soon become addicted.

What’s the deal?

Essentially ClassPass hooks up the best boutique studios with keen fitness fans who want the flexibility in the way they work out.  You may want to spin up a sweat on a Tuesday lunchtime, push it to the Barre after work on a Wednesday or attack abs before you feast your face at the weekend. However you get your fitness kicks, you’re sure to find a way with ClassPass.

With over  100 London studios signed up including BOOM Cycle, FRAME, Project Fit, HiitGirl and Triyoga, covering six key fitness themes (Yoga, Cycling, Barre, Pilates, Strength training, Dance), you can find a class for every day of the week. ClassPass also helps members discover new boutique studios that may be just down their street and push themselves out of their comfort zone (Aerial Yoga anyone?).

Too good to be true?

It depends on how you look at it. The one caveat for the member is you can only do up to three classes a month (or what is referred to as cycle) at the same studio. But in reality this translates as around three out of four weeks (if you do a class a week at that particular studio).

Additionally, not all classes from the chosen studios are available for ClassPass members as they select the classes which they offer spots for (this only seems fair on their part). You also find yourself questioning how the boutique studios approach the ClassPass members – are we simply fodder to convert? As long as there’s clarity that ClassPass members already belong to a club and may not want to be shown around the studio every time they arrive then it will make it all that much easier.

The damage

Now this really is the best part. The launch price is currently £79 per month but you can also lock yourself into a 3-month deal for £69 a month or go the whole hog and choose a 6-month ClassPass at 59 a month. You don’t have to be a mathematician to work out that this is a pretty good deal especially when you consider that gym membership in London alone can cost anything from around £39 to over £100 a month. It’s also worth noting that ClassPass works like a subscription service and automatically renews on the same day every month so you have to actively cancel if you want to. Going away for a month? You can hold the membership for just £19 a month.

If you can’t make a class, make sure you cancel it 12 hours in advance or you will have to pay a £12 cancellation fee and no-shows get £15 (but come on, it’s only fair).

 How do you sign up?

To join this fitness revolution, click this link and select the right option for you. And if you’re one of my readers from the US the lucky you as ClassPass is already available in multiple locations. Click here to find out more.


ClassPass is already available all over the USA – if you’re Stateside, it may be worth checking out




Sweaty Betty x Richard Nicholl capsule collection

10 Mar

Love fashion and fitness? Well you better watch out for the new capsule collection from none other than Richard Nicholl for Sweaty Betty launching on 12 March.

Unveiled at London Fashion Week in September, this highly-anticipated selection of 10 garments fuses the styling and tailoring of Nicholl with the versatility and technical knowhow of Sweaty Betty. In other words, you may want to get your hands on this new sportsgear as it is beautifully crafted and ticks the boxes in terms of functionality.

And one of the reasons it stands out is that it’s less-in-your-face and more subtly elegant so will last you season after season. Think flattering metallic prints, soft loose-fitting fabrics and reflective touches that ensure each piece is catwalk-worthy when put together in an outfit and yet completely able to work in your everyday wardrobe.

This thought process will help justify the price-tag of £105 for the bra top or shorts. But also consider you are paying for pieces created by one of our top designers that you can wear day after day. Try the cost-per-wear maths and you’ll soon see that this may well be better value than that cocktail dress you splurged on for the Christmas party. Even if you don’t look exactly like the models below (oh come on, who does?), there will a piece to suit you that you can style up or down. Why not take a look and select one key piece to become a part of your workwear or weekend wardrobe?

Richard Nicholl for Sweaty Betty

Richard Nicholl for Sweaty Betty – why not wear this to the office?

Due to launch in selected stores and online as I said in the introduction on 12 March 2015, you better be quick off the mark to get your hands on a piece of high-fashion that you can wear as part of your active lifestyle.

And to tempt you even more, here are more photos from the catwalk spring/summer 15 catwalk show:

Richard Nicholl shorts, bra and

Richard Nicholl shorts, bra and mac


Dress over t-shirt Richard Nicholl for Sweaty Betty

Richard Nicholl for Sweaty Betty – could wear this over a playsuit/leggings

Richard Nicholl for Sweaty Betty

Anyone for tennis? Yes, Richard Nicholl for Sweaty Betty-style

Love it!

Get ready, get set, and head to Sweaty Betty X Richard Nicholl on 12 March 2015.

Checkpoints Race: get connected to win the ultimate prize

7 Mar

The running world is a crazy place to be – with so many races to choose from it can be difficult to know where to focus your energy. And if you do have a goal in mind, say a spring marathon, what to do once you’ve crossed that finish line, got the medal and worn the t-shirt?

All those months of training shouldn’t go to waste so why not channel your energies towards a new challenge? One that demands teamwork in order to win a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to race across the Alps in September 2015.

Sounds intriguing

Introducing the Checkpoints Race – a challenge that connects runners from all over the world to create a social running league. How? Well, the aim of the game is for  teams of five runners to work together so that they can potentially win a trip to an all-expenses paid final 24-hour relay race at the heart of Alpe d’Huez in the French Alps from 25 to 27 September 2015. Bringing together 50 winning teams from all over the world, it’s the ultimate prize. And if you’re not convinced about the fun of 24-hour races, then hopefully these posts on the adidas Thunder Run and the Spitfire Scramble will change your mind.

Get your team together to earn Energy Points

Get your team together to earn Energy Points

Say what? I’m interested now

To be in with a chance of taking part in this inaugural once-in-a-lifetime experience, you need to first encourage four other runners to join you. Don’t worry if you can’t persuade anyone as the organisers of the Checkpoints Race offer entry for individuals who they then put together. It’s your goals as a team to collect as many ‘Energy Points’ as possible from May 2015 to September 2015.

How do I score Energy Points? 

You don’t have to be the fastest or an endurance athlete to score Energy Points. In fact, this challenge is as much a test of your ability to gather your troops and supporters as it is about your running performance. There are several ways to earn points and while your workout in terms of distance, speed and elevation does count towards your Energy Points, so does encouraging supporters of your team to run for you (hello Team Naturally) – the more supporters the more points. There will also be a series of playful games throughout the five month challenge to keep things interesting.

Hang on, where are these Energy Points kept?

Once you’ve signed up to Checkpoints Races, you then download their app (available in Google Play and the Apple Store). This automatically connects to your favourite running app (Garmin, Strava, Nike+, MapMyRun, Runtastic, etc……) and keeps you connected to your team and your supporters. You’ll be able to see your team’s progress as well as where you sit on the leaderboard.

Great, this will keep me motivated over the summer

Indeed, it will and even if you’re a bit of a naked runner, the challenge and competitive spirit of the race may spark your interest. This global race has already been endorsed by running superstar Paula Radcliffe and is an interesting challenge to get involved in. It may also be a motivational push throughout the summer months to train while having fun.

What’s the cost?

You can buy a solo pass now for $15 or a team pass for $65, which seems pretty reasonable for a motivational kick and the chance to race in the Alps. There are also entries for businesses (boost your workforce moral) and charity places. To find out more, go to

So who’s game?

I have to admit, I’m tempted. I just need a few people to team up with me. Any takers?

To find out more about the Checkpoints Race, go to


Why BelSeva organic birch water is the Kir Royal of health drinks

4 Mar

It’s not exactly rocket fuel, it may not be packaged conveniently for runners (but the bottles will bring a touch of elegance to your fridge) but BelSeva organic birch water may be just what you’re looking for to keep you fuelled throughout your workout.

Quench your thirst with BelSeva

Quench your thirst with BelSeva

While you’re thinking that birch water is the latest fad for those ‘fitstars’ of hipster leaning to jump on, this particular brand deserves to have its moment in the spotlight. Created and harvested by Patrice Cordebar in the beautiful rural area of France known as Lorraine, this ‘elixir’ is 100 percent natural and recommended by the chief doctor for 39 years of the Tour de France. The founder Patrice was a former cyclist and triathlete who decided to bring the fruits of his labour to the mass market.  He is lovely in person and swears by the properties taken from the sap of his birch trees. 

What are the benefits?

Well on the website it says that BelSeva helps with weight loss, melts cellulite and burns fat. Convinced? Me neither. What I do find more interesting is the idea that the sweet liquid of the birch tree has similar properties to coconut water in that some of the key properties include electrolytes and potassium.  If you exercise regularly or push yourself to go the distance, you’ll know how electrolytes can perk you up and keep you feeling strong and hydrated. Another interesting element worth mentioning is that birch water contains something called saponin, which according to some studies has the properties to control blood cholesterol levels and act as an anti-inflammatory. 

An alternative to coconut water?

For those who can’t stand coconut water but are after a more natural approach to rehydration, birch water is worth a go, especially when it tastes like BelSeva. Available in 750ml bottles in four flavours: original, apple, blackcurrant and Morello cherry (note they use around four percent natural brown sugar in the flavoured version), this thirst-quenching drink is worth a shot.

As I said above, it’s a shame they are currently only available in glass bottles as this isn’t exactly practical but you could always decant it into your workout bottle and use the elegant bottles to store your own concoctions. They’re also not in the cordial department for price but work out around the same price as coconut water.

And the best flavour? Well, it has to be the blackcurrant – it’s like a Kir Royal (without the champers).  Honestly I bought two bottles because I’m not drinking alcohol until after the Marathon des Sables and it’s good to toast all my mini-goals with something delicious.

To order your bottle of BelSeva, click here.



Mill Hill Marathon 2015 for North London Hospice (and the best bling ever)

2 Mar

Some races you plan for, others you enter as part of the journey towards your ultimate goal for experience, a rehearsal or simply to get the mileage into your legs. And this was the reason I entered the Mill Hill Marathon 2015. Mentioned by a running mate (and running fanatic Matthew Hearne) on Facebook, I hunted down the site, emailed the organiser when I saw it was full and when I was offered a place I thought why not use this race as my last ‘big one’ before taper time (pre-MdS)?

Muddy pins...

Muddy pins…

But I soon discovered that the first Mill Hill Marathon was more than a rehearsal race for me, the organiser Anna had pulled the entire race together to raise money for the North London Hospice. You don’t really realise the thought and effort behind a race until you start receiving the updates and emails about what to expect. Anna had thought of everything.

From pre-race information about the muddy maraFUN – it really was – to a raffle, tea and cake and instructions about the five lap course, you really couldn’t fault the first Mill Hill Marathon. Runners could even grab themselves a free drink at the Adam and Eve pub at the end of the race. Then there was the bling…but before I show this impressive medal it’s over to the race.

Muddy MaraFUN

Mud Mud Mud

Mud Mud Mud

The course consisted of four 9k laps and one shorter lap (around 7k I think). This was no road race though. With 850m ascent and plenty of mud, the Mill Hill Marathon was a similar deal to Trailscape. There were times when you were running on the pavement, on the whole however, you found yourself running through puddles of mud cutting across fields where sheep were happily grazing and horse tracks. With food stations at around 3 miles and at the start of each lap, there were no complaints about having an empty belly.

Squint and you may be able to see Wembley

Squint and you may be able to see Wembley

If you’re looking for trails not far from Central London, Mill Hill is full of them. Honestly, it was a real eye-opener. I saw farms, yes farms on the way and plenty of house porn. And the icing on the cake of sights had to be Mill Hill school.


The grounds of Mill Hill school

The grounds of Mill Hill school

Easy to spot from the route, it was like running past the house in Brideshead Revisited. Grand, palatial and breath-taking in its splendour, you could not help stopping for a snap of the now school. It was also a sign that you were almost at the start of another lap. The sights and views on the route made the fact that this was a race of laps easier and more fun to run around.

 And now to the bling…

Well, how many of you can say you own something as cool as this:

Thanks to my lovely assistant for spinning those sails.

Not to mention a goody bag stuffed with treats and a foot scrubber to remove all the mud from your hard-worked tootsies.

Fantastic goody bag treats

Fantastic goody bag treats

And there was also something extra…

Second lady trophy

Second lady trophy

So will there be another Mill Hill Marathon? I do hope so.

The Amba Hotels City of London Mile 2015: it’s free, fast and worth adding to your racing calendar

27 Feb

You know your 10K time, you can reel off your PBs for half marathon, marathon, 5K and perhaps 10-miler, but do you know how fast you can run a mile? Not two miles but one single mile which is 5,280 feet or 1,760 yards or 1,609.344m in case you were wondering. Well now you have the chance to put yourself to the test at this year’s Amba Hotels City of London Mile 2015 on Sunday 14 June 2015.

Organised by The Running Works – a recently opened store by the folks behind Run-Fast who manage, train and develop world-class athletes from Kenya and the UK among other things – this event is your opportunity to take control of your speed or just have a laugh running the mile.

I did it last year straight after the Hackney Half and have to say it was a thoroughly well-organised race. There was plenty of support from local steel bands and we were rallied pretty sharpish to the start line. Even though my legs were tired, I enjoyed imagining I was Roger Bannister on my way to breaking the 4-minute mile barrier 60 years earlier (imagining being the key word here).

And just like last year it’s free, I repeat FREE to enter thanks to the support of Amba hotels, which are the group of hotels that have done a rather good job of smartening up the hotel at Charing Cross. If you’re ever in the area and want a swish location to impress, check it out.

With five events on offer: Family Mile, Youth Mile, City of London Mile, International Mile and the new addition of the Women’s Mile, it can be a fun day out for all the family (I’m talking to you Dynamo Mum). What other occasion do you have the chance to run on closed road past some of London’s most iconic sites in the heart of the City? The race starts at St Paul’s, loops past Guildhall and finishes on Cheapside.

Run the City of London: route of the Amba Hotels City of London Mile 2015

Run the City of London: route of the Amba Hotels City of London Mile 2015

Whether you decide to race the mile or simply run it, the mile distance is short, sharp and exhilarating. More experienced runners going for the sub 4-minute mile (we can dream can’t we?) will find that tweaking their training plan for the mile distance may benefit their overall performance.

Neither for the tortoise nor the hare

Set off in sprint mode and if you’re lucky you’ll last 800m, ease into it gently and you’ll only just start revving when it’s time to stop – the mile race is a mix of power and endurance and that is why it is such a fun challenge to take on. As both running coach Nick Anderson and Anthony Whiteman, current world record holder for the mile V40, said at the launch event for the Amba Hotels City of London Mile 2015 last week, it can feel like a pretty even playing field. Unlike a marathon, your time will be minutes or even seconds not hours away from the fastest runners on the course, which can make the mile race all the more exciting.

How do you train for a mile? 

Warm-up is key as suddenly asking your legs to go from 0mph to 17mph (Google says this is how fast Mo Farah runs 10K who am I to argue?) is like trying to stretch a frozen rubber band. Your legs may not snap completely but they certainly will not thank you for it.  Drills or what Whiteman calls ballistic warm-up can help switch on your muscles – think high knees, leg swings, butt kicks that type of stuff).

Next Whiteman says try 10 by 400m sprints with 90 seconds rest in-between. Of course, you may baulk at the idea of this sort of training but it will help you find out your pace and also adjust your speed accordingly. Add this anaerobic (targets those fast twitch muscles) challenge into your weekly training plan as the one run where you cannot talk at all alongside one run where you can happily chat and one run where you can just about spit out a sentence, and you may see a difference in your performance.

Once the long distance of running across the sand in April is finished, I’m thinking of taking on a challenge like this and training for the Amba City of London Mile 2015 looks a pretty good option to me. Ha, hopefully it will take around six minutes to run (or that is my aim.

So how about you? What time do you think you can do the mile in? Join me at the Amba Hotels City of London Mile 2015 to find out.

Trailscape: 10 ways trail running can make you stronger

25 Feb

With scenic vistas, mud aplenty and a rollercoaster set of hills, the Trailscape series 2014/15 was a firm fixture on my winter running calendar. And now it’s all over (well until October), it’s time to reflect on how these races have helped strengthen my mind, body and soul.


Beautiful views of the Buckinghamshire countryside on the final Trailscape Wendover

It was tough and a real test of technical ability for runners but well worth the 5:45am wake-up call on a Saturday morning. More than simply being a series of four races, this trail running can improve your strength and fitness levels – it seems to have worked for me anyway.

For not only do you have to be relatively quick on your feet but you also have to face up to whatever the trail throws at you – mud, obstacles or the Prime Minister on a Saturday morning stroll.

Here are 10 ways I think trail running can make you stronger:

1. Works your core body strength

If you don’t use your tummy muscles, you will find yourself falling over as trail running is all about the uneven, muddy surfaces that drag you down if you’re not pulling on the inside. You may not be running as fast in a trail marathon as you would be in say a cross country race but the principles are exactly the same. Your tummy muscles will feel it a day or two later and these are imperative to stop you from falling boobs-over-bottom into the mud.

2. Uses your upper body

Whether you’re climbing over stiles or using your arms to propel you up a hill, those arms will be toughened up in no time. OK, you’re not going to develop massive pecks but your upper body will be put to use – especially when you consider that you’ll probably have to carry a rucksack packed with snacks and mandatory kit (if you’re racing) and also need to propel yourself over obstacles that get in your way.

3. Wakes up different sections of your limbs

You still use the hamstrings, calf muscles and quads when running trails as the hills challenge those hamstrings in particular but you also push your lower limbs and smaller ligaments such as around your ankles, lower calves and areas around the knee. When combined with bolstering your core, you will feel sore but as hard as nails after a few trail runs.

All that mud works your lower limbs

All that mud works your lower limbs

4. Tests your agility

Trails are long, windy and often with obstacles along they way so you really get to test the way you move your body. Forget straight linear running, you are constantly having to change the way you run as well as jump over the occasional stile. If you’ve ever warmed-up a run by wiggly running, then you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say trails is like a long path of wiggly running.

5. Works on your ability to be self-sufficient

With limits on numbers entered for trail races and often miles between you and other competitors, you get used to running on your tod. It can be challenging, especially if you go off-piste but all the more worthwhile. And while some trail routes have checkpoints (the Trailscape series does) where you’ll find enough energy sources to keep you going until Christmas, there are others where it’s down to you to feed yourself up. Running trails is an education in self-sufficiency both practically and mentally.

6. And yet appreciate your fellow competitors

Trail runners are undoubtedly a friendly bunch as you support each other along some rough terrain. Yes, you can end up running alone for miles but there are times when you find yourself in a small bunch of runners taking turns to take the lead and making decisions collectively in terms of the direction to take. You don’t necessarily have to chat but having the silent companionship alongside you while you muddle through a route led by arrows and red and white tape makes you appreciate those who love the sport as much as you do.

7. Improves your concentration

One false move and you’ll be feasting on mud pies or worse, find yourself with a crippling injury. While the views can be spectacular, you really need to be aware of your footing and focus on the route that you’re plodding. Trail racing may fire up your imagination but it’s not the time to go into your own little dreamworld. And yes it does improve your concentration (and teaches you how to be tactical in cross-country racing).

8. Helps you to adjust your pace

Unlike a road race where you can pretty much run the same pace throughout (give or take a few hills), you have to get used to adjusting your pace when running trails. Not only are you faced with undulating hills but there’s the uneven terrain which takes it toll on your speed. You find yourself in a balancing act between speed, agility and mental strength. Or adjusting your speed between a conversational pace and one sentence pace throughout the longer trails races. And you’ll come out all the stronger for it.

9. Get out of your comfort zone

Sure trail racing isn’t for everyone but by pushing you to the limit and challenging your body, you’ll find out that you’ve been sitting in your running comfort zone for way too long. I’m no running expert but I do know that to fundamentally improve you need to adapt your training routine so that you are hitting that good pain threshold and working muscles that have been asleep for a while. And you’ll also get a mental boost from the knowledge that you overcame a difficult and technical race.

10. Push yourself when the going gets tough

Here’s where the what running taught me about life comes in (I try not to get too philosophical about it all): by overcoming a tough trail where at times your legs feels like lead and it is so freezing you think you will never feel your fingers again builds your confidence. You were able to challenge yourself, feel the burn and come out the other side with a real sense of achievement and elation. And if you can do that then you can pretty much face life head on.

I nailed it and feel all the better for the experience.

I nailed it and feel all the better for the experience.

I loved the Trailscape series as it really helped build on my strength both mentally and physically throughout the winter months. Why not join in their next series? I promise you will not regret it. To find out more go to

The next Rail-to-Trail series

The next Rail-to-Trail series

Payday treats? Instead of spending £4 on a pint of cider, why not motivate me on the Marathon des Sables by putting a little cash my way. Find out more here

Future-proofing: my mini-goals pre- and post- Marathon des Sables

22 Feb

By now it should be clear that #mygoal is to completed the crazy race across the sands. I’ve done the rehearsal run, seen the podiatrist and my physio and come up with a plan for the final six weeks of this epic journey. As with any project you prepare for and embark upon, it’s a good idea to have a certain amount of mini-goals on the way to keep you motivated.

And what about after the race?

Well, it really depends on my experience.

But to pre-empt my post-MdS meltdown and keep me on the straight and narrow, I have come up with some mini-goals pre- and post- Marathon des Sables to look forward to. Come join me in the running fun.

1. Vitality North London Half Marathon, 15 March 2015

This may not be a competitive race for me but I’m really looking forward to testing myself over a shorter distance at the Vitality North London Half. It’s the first ever North London Half Marathon (and possibly race to start and finish close to my gaff, hoorah) so it’ll be good to see how it unfolds and also race the same course as athletic royalty Mo Farah. Entries are now closed but anyone interested in joining me can do so for charity.


Run with Mo2. A month of hot yoga

March is all about mixing it up a bit and as part of the plan I’m going to embark on a month of hot yoga. Now I’m not new to practising yoga – last year I took several classes and really found it beneficial for my muscles and mind – but hot yoga is a completely new to me. And even if I can’t quite master the crow at least the dry heat will prep me for the Sahara.

If anyone can recommend a location near Covent Garden that offers hot yoga, please let me know.

3. Eat well

Good Food Eat Well Show

Reluctant chef? Maybe this will inspire you.

What started as a goal for Marathon des Sables (cut down on caffeine, alcohol, sugar and chocolate) could well be the way forward. Not only am I feeling less grumpy but I’ve noticed improvements in my skin, energy levels and overall health and performance. The mini-goal in the next month or so is to keep it up, eat more protein and also try a different healthy recipe a week. As I’ve said before, my strengths do not lie in the kitchen but I’m going to give it a go. And to motivate me in this domain, I’m heading to the BBC Good Food Eat Well show next weekend (Feb 27 to March 1 2015) to be inspired by top-class foodies such as Natasha Corrett of Honestly Healthy and Amelia Freer of Eat. Nourish. Glow.

4. Vitality Reading Half Marathon, 22 March 2015

Who says I can’t be persuasive? Yep, I managed to talk my work colleagues into signing up for this one. So we are all heading up to Reading to complete the corporate challenge of the Reading Half. There will be blood, sweat, tears and dirty looks towards me during the race but I’m sure post-event everyone will feel pleased about their achievement. Either that or I’ll be on toilet duty.

5. Virgin Money London Marathon 2015, 26 April 2015

Two weeks after I have completed the Marathon des Sables, I’m aiming to run the Virgin London Marathon (note: aiming). I am yet to enjoy London – perhaps this will be the year. Anyhow, it all depends on how my legs stand up but I have a place and a couple of mates doing it so why not join the party?

6. Vitality Run Hackney Half, 10 May 2015

Run Hackney

Last year at Run Hackney, can I ‘chick’ again?

To complete the Vitality series, I’m going to run the Vitality Hackney Half. Whether this will be a race or a run is yet to be decided but I’d like to give this one more gusto as it’s taking place in my old stomping ground. Hopefully it will not be as hot as last year. Whatever the weather, I’m sure the crowds will pull us round. There are still places available so go on, register now.

Are you running any of these races?

Banana pancake recipe pilfered from my foodie friend

17 Feb

As it’s pancake day or Shrove Tuesday, I’ve decided to share the love and let you know about one tasty alternative recipe that I pilfered from my foodie friend Laura Tilt (@NutriTilty). Why? Well, they’re so quick and easy that even a lazy chef like me can whip them up in minutes. Nutritious and delicious, here’s a banana pancake recipes pilfered from my foodie friends.

Use up your manky bananas

Use up your manky bananas

Banana pancakes
Pilfered from Laura Tilt of Tilt Nutrition

You can count me in the ‘ban the banana’ at races gang, The thought of chewing on furry fruit while running a race makes my stomach turn, not to mention the questions of health and safety around the banana skins (Paris Marathon organisers take note). Let’s just say that raw bananas are not my pick of running fuel (although I know that they are probably one of the best choices around). But I’m all over them when mashed up in a smoothie or mixed with raw egg to create a sweet and sensational pancake.

Laura’s two ingredient banana pancakes are so simple, even I could make up the recipe blindfolded. All you do is crack two eggs in a bowl, add a mashed up banana until smooth, heat up your non-stick pan with little grease, then gently pour a blini-sized dollop of the mixture into said pan. Serve once firm with Greek yoghurt and blueberries or a topping of your choice. YUM.


  • Great way to get rid of brown bananas
  • Packed with protein
  • Gluten-free
  • Sugar-free
  • Awesome anytime of day but particularly as a tasty dessert

Please Note: Do not try to make full-sized pancakes out of this recipe, these pancakes are best served tiny and mighty.

What is your favourite pancake recipe?

My beauty stash: Payot Eau De Soin Mineral Fragrance

16 Feb

When you can grab a few moments to pamper yourself (tough as it may be), there is nothing quite like a post-moisturising treat to pick you up. Introducing one such product that I discovered in the bathroom cabinet of my mum after a tough cross-country race in Kent: Payot Eau de Soin Mineral Fragrance.

Payot Eau de Soin

Spray yourself with the delicate fragrance of Payot Eau de Soin

What is Payot Eau de Soin?

In brief, it’s a body mist (or scented water) which you apply after showering and moisturising your body. Quick to dry and apply it adds a delicate layer of floral scent to your skin.

So it’s just a body spray then?

Not quite – this product contains a mix of minerals (oglio-mineral complex) to replenish and rebalance the skin. It also contains birch sap which as well as being the next coconut water and hip thing to drink in 2015 has toning properties when applied to the skin. Whatever you believe, Payot Eau de Soin does leave your skin feeling softer and more supple.

Can it replace perfume?

Totally, the combination of rose petals, lily of the valley and vanilla is subtle but lasts all day. It would be a shame to mask with another fragrance.

What is Payot?

If you haven’t heard of Payot, then listen up as it’s pretty much a staple on the French beauty scene. The founder of Payot, Dr. Nadia Payot was inspired by dance to create a facial massage that encompasses 42 steps. Yes, that’s 42 steps to sculpt the face and boost the skin (and fans swear by it). She may have passed in the mid-60s of the last century but her dedication to finding natural products and innovative treatment techniques is continued by the Payot brand. Indeed, the Payot laboratories continue to harnessing the healing attributes of plants, marine extracts and minerals to treat the skin, body, mind and spirit. Payot is committed to providing tolerant products so they are less likely to cause allergic reactions.

How much do I have to part with?

Payot is a salon brand which means it’s at the higher end of the beauty scale. That being said, this product comes in at £28. This may seem steep for a body mist but if you compare to your usual fragrance it is actually pretty reasonable. And remember it will nourish your skin rather than dry it out.

A fine treat?

Well yes. If you want something lighter that will linger all day but not overpower, this scented Eau de Soin is a great purchase. Just be cautious though, once you buy one product from Payot, you’ll probably want more of this fine beauty brand.

Mash up your sportswear style with print this season

12 Feb

While 50 shades of a certain colour may be all the rage at the moment, these grey days are calling out for colour. And one of the trends happening in sportswear at the moment is what can only be described as the “spray paint effect” or print. No, that doesn’t mean skin-tight clothes spray-painted designs on naked ladies but a mash up of a certain colour as seen in my must-wear piece of the moment – this adidas Climawarm turquoise top.

adidas Climawarm top

adidas Climawarm top

I may be living in my adidas warm and snuggly layer but that doesn’t stop me looking at other ways to brighten up my sportswear wardrobe. Here are my picks of “spray paint” sportswear to put some zing back into your workout wardrobe and motivate you on the cold and bleak February days. 1. Layered tank from LIJA (soon available on Net-a-Porter) Sod the yoga classes, this is the kind of pretty tank to wear at whatever opportunity you have available. The layering effect is very flattering and the colour will remind you that the holiday and sunshine is not too far away.

LIJA layered vest

LIJA layered vest

2. Sweaty Betty trail jacket, £225, Sweaty Betty Fan of the trails? Keep yourself warm thanks to the detachable thermal layer of this 3-in-1 trail jacket from Sweaty Betty.

Sweaty Betty trail jacket

Sweaty Betty trail jacket

3. Nike tempo printed mod shorts, £30, Nike If you dare to bare your legs this season, just do it in colour and comfort with these light-weight running shorts from Nike.

Nike print shorts

Nike print shorts

4. Running top, £12.99, H&M A form-fitting and functional racerback top that you really can afford to add to your workout wardrobe from H&M.

H&M workout vest

H&M workout vest

5. Mussels from Brussels oversized tee by Been by d’Heygere, £98, Fashercise Blow the budget on this statement tee from Been by d’Heygere. Curse you Fashercise for introducing me to this very cool sports label as it’s simply print paradise.

Mussels from Brussels oversized tee

Mussels from Brussels oversized tee from Fashercise

6. Leadlight legging by Lucas Hugh, £280, StylePB Will they help you run faster? Probably not. But at least you’ll receive some fashion kudos while you have a go. These Lucas Hugh leggings are for deep pockets but are a work of art and available on StylePB, which is definitely worth a look if you love your fashion and fitness.

Lucas Hugh Style PB

Lucas Hugh Style PB

Do you have your eye on your next payday treat? Let me know if there are any sportswear trends that you’ve spotted to keep you motivated and heading towards your goal.

Marathon des Sables 2015 – the 140-ish mile week

9 Feb

Thank you to the very talented Elisabet Barnes from MyRaceKit for sharing little snippet called Expect Miracles from a book by Julian Goater.

“Some athletes consider training a proving ground. They think you have to have done something in training first before you can expect to produce the same performance in a race. But others have the attitude that training is merely preparation, and that other factors beyond just fitness can be harnessed that enable people to produce performances far in excess of their normal ability or current fitness level. The difference between these two approaches has a lot to do with confidence and self-belief, and with one’s ability to let the power of the mind take over in certain situations. One approach restricts you; the other opens new horizons”

This couldn’t have come at a better time for the week before last was what I refer to as “my rehearsal week”. It was something that Matt Buck who completed the Marathon des Sables in 2014 suggested. Put simply, you follow your desert diet while running a fair whack of the distance that you will cover in the Sahara. So as part of my training, I thought I’d try it to build my confidence. The furthest I have ever run prior to Peddars Way Ultra was 32 miles, so covering 140-ish miles in a week was a new experience. It did prove that I can do it but more than that, it showed me that if you want something badly enough, then your guts and determination will push you through the bad (and freezing) times.

Day 6 of rehearsal week - not quite the Sahara

Day 6 of rehearsal week – not quite the Sahara

Rehearsal week training

On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, I ran 20 miles each day, the Saturday, I ran the Peddars Way Ultra (48 miles), Sunday was my rest day, then on Monday I ran 20 miles, followed by an easy 16 miles on Tuesday.

Learnings from my Marathon des Sables 2015 rehearsal week:

1. You will feel very RUNgry 

Granted, I was running in sub-zero temperatures during the Peddars Way Ultra and this certainly made me want to reach for a stash of 9bars, Chia Charge bars and anything else I could lay my hands on but throughout the week I did feel permanently hungry. The worst part was sitting down to a roast dinner with my fake-in-laws. While they tucked into their steaming hot veg, I was slowly and steadily shoveling teaspoons of Oats & Chia porridge down my throat, followed by a Chia Charge bar. I will need to adjust my food intake following the long day and during my rest day to ensure I’m not literally chewing at the bit.

What this exercise did teach me was I can go for a week on noodles and various forms of carbohydrate bars (but not much longer).

2. Protein could be key

To counteract the hunger and also ensure my muscles are in good nick, I now know after my rehearsal that I need to add in protein in the form of a shake. I think I’m going to opt for Maximuscle, which when mixed with water tastes a bit like milkshake. This will not only help to curb those RUNger pans but also help with my recovery. It’s also a good solution to neck after a long run.

3. Slow and steady running to keep me on track

It may seem crazy to some but running 20 miles a day wasn’t actually too bad. And despite the freezing conditions of the Peddars Way marathon, I didn’t really suffer the following day. I kept my pace steady and treated it like a training run rather than a race. Even on the Monday, I felt fine, a bit tired but not exhausted. More importantly, the rehearsal week has boosted my confidence in terms of the back-to-back nature of the Marathon des Sables. I know I can do the mileage (in the UK at least).

4. Check your footwear

That doesn’t mean it was all plain sailing. On Monday, I felt a slight pang behind my knee. Panic stations alert – call the physio. Fortunately, my hamstring was slightly strained but nothing more serious than that. I’m not sure whether this was actually down to overuse or the fact that my trainers were properly worn down (see pictures). Thankfully, I am in the fourth week of my training cycle now, the recovery week, so I have had time to rest. My physio also managed to massage most of the tension out of my hamstring. Nevertheless, I am now more conscious of not taking my good health and strong legs for granted. As for my trainers, they have gone to shoe heaven.

Time to say goodbye to my Asics

Time to say goodbye to my Asics

5. Make adjustments

As I said above, the training was not actually too bad. I can cover the mileage without too much strain on my body. I’m not limping, I’m pretty fit and my physio says my legs are in the best shape he’s ever seen them in.

What can I do to improve?

Firstly, I need to stretch more to ensure my hamstrings are not put under undue pressure.

Secondly, really nail my desert diet. During the rehearsal week, I was powered by the following:

  • one packet of Oats & Chia porridge a day
  • one packet of Ko Lee Go Chow Mein noodles a day
  • one Chia Charge bar (banana or plain) a day – these are really tasty
  • one Bounce ball
  • 6 tablespoons DrinkMe Chai
  • the occasional 9bar (one on the Saturday and Monday)
  • 50g mixed breakfast berries from Holland & Barrett
  • 100g Pontefract cakes spread throughout the Saturday, Sunday and Monday
  • copious litres of water

Thirdly, check my equipment both during training and pre-race. While my focus is on my race kit for the Marathon des Sables, I need to make sure that the shoes I’m wearing during training are not jeopardizing my plan.

If anyone has any suggestions for a veggie like me, please say below. My strategy is to go for food that weighs very little but is also palatable. Also it would be good to know your strategies – do you have a rehearsal week?

If you would like to find out more about my epic challenge, please see

Wrestling like a pro at Gymbox

6 Feb

The Wrestlers show us how it’s done (c) Vesna Nikolic 

Why run when you can wrestle? I’m joking of course but it is a bloody good workout. Gymbox invited a few bloggers along to find out what their Show Wrestling class is all about.

Move over Hulk Hogan

Before Freeview Saturday night telly was all about Knight Rider, Blind Date, Gladiators and show wrestling. Muscular men in unitards choreographing a show of strength, athleticism and skill. For my big bro and myself, it was pretty much standard to recreate the scene in our lounge. And of course the entrance to the ring would not be the same without some banging tunes.

Gymbox recreated that excitement in their Covent Garden studios as four mean-looking wrestlers from Progress Wrestling took to the ring and showed what they could do.

It was loud, it was full of drama and it looked ruddy scary to me – the runner, with about as much upper body strength as a gnat. Nevertheless, I was well up for learning some moves to turn me from weedy to warrior.

Key moves and the grr factor

The class began with a ‘warm-up’ of squats and 50 crunches (yes, hello tummy muscles the next morning). We then proceeded to learn some key ways to challenge our opponent. Chin lock? Check. Arm lock? Check. Head lock? Check. We took it in turns to try and master some of these moves and I say try because pro show wrestling is a skill.

In my opinion, it’s similar to learning how to dance as in you work on the basic steps then you put it all together. You have to concentrate on the choreography to make sure you have the right arm movements in place and not to injure your opponent. But once you get a few moves, you soon find out why these guys are really into it – it’s a great way to release any pent up aggression while working on your strength.

The class ended with a one-on-one challenge where you had to knock your opponent out of a plank position. Again, a great challenge and test of body agility and strength (as well as good fun).

Showing off our best wrestling personas. Grrr.

Showing off our best wrestling personas. Grrr.


While I’m not going to swap my trainers for a unitard, I really enjoyed this session and can see how it combines fun with fitness. You can de-stress and have a laugh with your mates (and be entertained by the guys from Progress Wrestling too). As well as a weekly class, I can see how this would be an ideal activity for a birthday bash or a hen do.

Find out more about Show Wrestling at Gymbox

Peddars Way Ultra Marathon 2015: running in a snow storm

3 Feb

Another weekend, another trail race. It has become standard training for the Marathon des Sables. But the Peddars Way Ultra Marathon 2015 is a race I will never forget and not just because I was placed as second lady.

A cold and chilly start of the Peddars Way Ultra (c)  Matthew Hearne

A cold and chilly start of the Peddars Way Ultra (c) Matthew Hearne

What is the Peddars Way Ultra?

The race now in its second year cover a 48-mile stretch of Roman road from the Suffolk borders to the Norfolk coast (now a National Trust trail). Organised by Positive Steps Fitness & Wellbeing, the course takes you past some beautiful scenery, including the ruins of a Priory in Castle Acre, the bleak flat fields of Norfolk and then towards the coast to finish in the small beachside village of Holme-next-the-Sea.

Was it well-organised?

The organisation was impeccable. With three checkpoints and volunteers standing in the cold to cheer you on, the team behind this event could not be faulted. Honestly, they put on a fine spread with everything you could need to fuel this epic race. It was a banquet for this fairly-new-to-ultra runner.

Beautiful but bleak landscape

Beautiful but bleak landscape

How about getting lost?

You could download a map before you set off but as the Peddars Way is a National Trust trail, it’s pretty easy to follow. All you need to do is simply follow the acorns (signs with acorns on them). You do hit Ringstead village at mile 44 which would disorientate you on other occasions but thanks to red and white tape markings you know which road to take.

Any quirks? 

Before you finish the race in the village hall of Holme-next-the-Sea you have to run to the beach and tear a page out of a book. Not easy when your hands are frozen.

Now to the weather… 

It is a race that takes part at the end of January, which means the weather can be changeable. Mandatory kit includes waterproof jacket and trousers plus a foil blanket and headlamp for a reason.

My experience

The first half of the race was pretty steady – I kept up a slow pace as I have never run more than 32 miles and didn’t want to peak too early. In fact, I was feeling pretty tired up until the 27-mile mark. Too many late nights and a hectic week at work plus training meant I had no real aims with this race apart from to finish. It is important that I know that I can cover the long stage of the Marathon des Sables even if it is in almost the opposite weather conditions. Which, of course, is exactly what happened.

It started to snow - hard...

It started to snow – hard…

After Castle Acre it started to snow. And by snow I mean blizzard. Fine, I thought, just keep going it will stop soon. I was wrong. The snow was coming down so hard it was pummeling my face and body like tiny stones. Then is started to soak through my layers of clothing. When I looked down at my gloves, they were like fistfuls of snow. The only way to describe the race at this point is brutal.

Mentally I knew I had to keep going, not stopping even to put my waterproofs on. I was cold now and another layer probably wouldn’t help  now would cutting short my flow. I kept on going, trying different methods to raise my temperature such as Ujjayi breathing from the yoga practice that I have done as I remember the teacher saying something about how it creates warmth (It’s funny what you recall sometimes.) And you know what? This desperation to finish seemed to pay off. My pace didn’t slow, I kept it steady and I even managed to pass some other competitors en route. When I saw the sea, I knew that the finish was almost in sight. It was like all my Christmases had come at once. Only two more miles to go.

Then it was head to the beach, rip out a page of the book (bizarre but a rule of the race if you wanted a medal and t-shirt) with my frozen mitts and then follow the volunteers directions back to the village hall. That sensation that a) I had almost finished and b) I had almost completed 48 miles in one day filled me with so much joy.

Finally, after passing some finishers and asking how much further I saw the village hall. I was so cold, I could barely talk to my mate Matt (the guy who kindly let me use his photo above and organiser of the Stour Valley Path 100K – check it out I also learned that my strategy to just finish and run towards the warmth had earned me the place of 2nd lady, which, of course, was a massive bonus.

Freezing my bottom off but came in 2nd lady.

Freezing my bottom off but came in 2nd lady.

Would I do the Peddars Way Ultra again?

When I was frozen to the bone and trying mentally to think happy warm thoughts, I was thinking never again. But, after some reflection, I would certainly contemplate it. It is such a well-organised race and you really can’t get lost unless you try to (which is good for me – see Trailscape). I also loved the supportive nature of the other runners. On the way out, I slipped over on a patch of ice and a bloke instinctively reached down to help me up. Another bloke kept on checking that I was ok when I was fiddling with my phone trying to find Radio 4 on FM. All the ultra runners supported each other on what was an experience and a half through the snow.

You can’t control the weather but you can decide the kind of race you want to try and this one was full of a bunch of supportive people who love going the extra distance.

#mygoal: the lines of a runner in January

30 Jan
Rebecca pencil drawing

Me, Rebecca the runner, taken from a picture of me before I ran 50K drawn by Clive Whitfield

With 60-something days to go until I race the big adventure known as Marathon des Sables, it’s time to reflect on my progress in January. But before I do, I wanted to share this picture, drawn by my fiance’s uncle Clive Whitfield (you can see more of his work here). Not only does it capture my excitement at this moment in time but it is also a message of encouragement from the artist, which is what I need right now.

Training in January

I don’t want to jinx it but the training has been going well. The mileage has slowly been increasing from week to week and at weekends, I’ve alternated between shorter and longer distances. I’m covering roughly between 60 – 120 miles a week and am feeling comfortable with this mileage. The ballet at City Academy has also helped as has a weekly yoga class. My weekly BOOM cycle classes have also been a great way of letting off steam at lunchtime. All in all, I feeling stronger, looking leaner and gradually building my confidence.


I thought I wouldn’t be able to cope without caffeine. I thought I’d collapse in a heap without my daily fix of the sweet Pepsi Max. I thought a whole lot of things. But you know what, I feel better. I’m sleeping more soundly at night, I feel less anxious and my energy levels are staying fairly stable. Cutting back on the sugar and general rubbish has also helped I’m sure. And the only time I really miss a glass of vino is on a Friday night.

Chia charge bars yum

Chia charge bars yum

As for Marathon des Sables, I currently have a stash of Chia Charge bars, Bounce balls, Oats & Chia porridge and DrinkMe Chai under my desk.

DrinkMe Chai

DrinkMe Chai

My body

As I said before, I’m feeling stronger mainly due to running more and ensuring that I do include some sort of cross-training in my plan. I also have a strategy for my feet, which I’ve been following and have seen improvements in that area. I’m not really sure whether I’ve lost weight or gained muscle as I don’t really measure this but I do know that my body is prepped.

My well-being

Am I feeling more confident? Yes. I still have a growing to-do list and have not yet finalised my food plan – to take the bunsen burner (what I call a cooking stove) or not? How will I stuff at least 2000 worth of calories into small sandwich bags? Sleeping mat? What to do about toilet paper? There are so many things I need to make decisions on but it will come in time.

Life in January

Ha, what life? And I’m not kidding. I honestly have to say the hardest part of training for Marathon des Sables is fitting it all in. A 20-mile run before work? Yes, that’s me looking like a soldier with all my gear attached to my body. I’m not complaining as I decided to do this and I’ve set my own rules but I’m itching to let my hair down at some point and dance until dawn. It’ll be worth waking up at stupid-o-clock and constantly having to bail out early on friends (sorry).

I’m not going to tempt fate by saying everything is going exactly to plan as there is still a long way to go. As January draws to a close however and the Marathon des Sables becomes even more of a reality, I cannot wait to see what the next month brings.

I’m running the Marathon des Sables for Great Ormond Street Hospital, I’d be extremely grateful for any donations. Please see my page

Get fit for free on your doorstep – a guide to trails and fitness equipment in London

26 Jan

Calling all Londoners, getting fit without fleecing your bank account can be as simple as stepping outside your front door. Not only are there an abundance of different running clubs available for various levels of fitness – adidas 26rs, Good Gym, Runner’s Need, Sweatshop, Nike Run Club, athletic clubs to name but a few – there are also a number of trail adventures for runners and walkers to take advantage of, which are perfect for an endorphin boost on a cold January day.

Winter run

Take to the trails on a cold and frosty morning

Here are some fantastic ways to get fit for free and take advantage of what outdoor London has to offer:

1. Take to the trails

Whether you head to Hampstead Heath, Bushy Park or the path based on a disused railway line called Parkland walk that joins Highgate to Finsbury Park, there are plenty of opportunities to get stuck into some serious trails.

If you’re heading to Hampstead Heath, aim for a similar route to the cross-country races held there every year for a serious heartrate-boosting workout. Start at the Gospel Oak end of the Heath and pace yourself steadily up the hill until you reach Kenwood House, keep going west towards The Spaniards Inn. Once you hit the main road, cross over just past the famous pub and head into the woods towards the Heath extension. It’s definitely quieter in this area but just as undulating as the more popular Hampstead Heath.

For a pretty route through the woods, start at Finsbury Park and head up the disused railway line towards Highgate. You’ll pass Alexandra Palace en route as well as a number of relics of the past.

With off-road trails, woodland and grassy paths, it’s hardly surprising that Bushy Park is chosen as the finish line for the Royal Parks Ultra Marathon. A great place down south to get lost in your own trail adventure.

2. Try the Capital Ring

The Capital Ring spans some 78 miles of open space and greenery around London. From the grounds of the Art Deco Eltham Palace to the contemporary Olympic Park, there are many sights to be seen on this route around London. The information may piecemeal as the ring is split into 15 rather in-depth sections rather than a map to print out and some parts are currently undergoing works (around Manor House in Finsbury Park) but this is a trail adventure worth motivating yourself to do.

There are signs (a white disc on a wooden post featuring a Big Ben logo and directional arrow in open spaces or large aluminium signs – featuring the walking man symbol on streets) but they may not be obvious in some places so it’s worth downloading the sections to ensure you don’t get lost.

3. Be beside the canal

For a true East to West experience, try the Regent’s canal, which stretches from Limehouse to Maida Vale. You’ll head past Victoria Park, Angel, the new regenerated area around King’s Cross, Camden Town, Regent’s Park and all the pretty canal boats in Little Venice. Or you could head out-of-town along the Grand Union Canal starting at Paddington Basin. For a quieter trail run along a river, try the Lea Valley Park, Starting at Springfield Park in Upper Clapton, this route heads right up past Walthamstow Marshes towards Cheshunt and Waltham Cross. It’s a pretty tranquil route that’ll take you past some of the best wildlife spots that the capital has to offer.

4. Join an urban gym

Want to mix your training up with a bit of strength work? Well, thanks to a number of outdoor gyms around the capital you can – for free. These outdoor gyms feature everything from cross trainers and chest press to pull-up and ski machines. To save you the bother of having to find one of these marvellous adult playgrounds, Muddy Plimsolls has pulled together a useful map of all the locations of outdoor sites They have visited all the sites marked on the map and included descriptions of what you can expect to find at these specific locations, including what they call traditional calisthenics equipment, perfect for bodyweight exercise. Sounds pretty good for anyone wanting to be the best they can be in 2015.

Where do you like to run? What is important to keep you motivated when training outside? Please let me know below if there is a trail that I should check out. 

Give me a BOOST, give me an #UltraBoost with adidas

22 Jan

As a runner who gets through trainers like there’s no tomorrow who has a habit of checking out other runners footwear, I’ve been intrigued by the current adidas campaign filling up my Twitterfeed.

What on earth are these shiny new kicks called Ultra BOOST? And more importantly what are their special features that will BOOST my run? Well the following video may help…

And for those who like to know about features, the adidas Ultra BOOST include:

  • Heel counter made from highly elastic material to aid stability
  • Twenty percent more BOOST foam for added comfort and consistent cushioning unlike EVA soles, which tend to lose cushioning properties in hot and cold climates
  • Made from Primeknit technology to adapt to the changes in conditions when running and ensure less restriction if your feet expand
  • Stretch web outsole – again stretches and adapts with foot strike and movement
  • A Torsion system (oh nod to the old skool 90s) embedded into the shoe’s sole which allows your heel and forefoot to move independently and so again helps with stability while you run

They also look very sleek in black (very Batman-esque):

Black Ultra BOOST trainers

Love the black and blue combination – a touch of the neroazzurri (or Inter Milan – the football team I support)

Will they revolutionize running? Probably not. But I can’t wait to get my hands on a pair when they go into store on 22 February 2015. Just another way to BOOST my long training runs while I prepare for the Marathon des Sables.

Why I’m running the Sahara for Great Ormond Street Hospital

19 Jan

I will be always thankful to GOSH (Great Ormond Street Hospital) as they provided me with the support and care I needed as a child. They ensured that I received the right treatment for my port wine stain (birthmark) on the back my left leg and realigned my leg length so that I could be fit, healthy and run today. I’m not going to go into the details but let’s just say I have a lot to be grateful for. Without GOSH I’m not sure I’d be able to walk correctly let alone run.

Great Ormond Street Hospital continue to help children and their families through their pioneering research and care, and it is an honour to support their worthy cause by running across the Sahara. See the video below to find out more about GOSH.

On 3 April 2015, I will start my Marathon des Sables adventure (a multi-stage race across the desert) to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital. Please help me raise money for this amazing cause.

If you wish to donate a gift, please go to  .

Preparing your feet for running…far…across the desert…in the heat

17 Jan
Feet covered up by trainers

No, I’m not showing you my feet

Not only are these trainers absolutely brilliant for running trails but they also cover up my dirty little secret – yes, that’s right – my worn and battered feet. I have not been blessed with pretty tootsies – my feet are naturally bony, my toes look like a skeleton covered by skin and lefty (foot that is) is covered by a purple birthmark (not that it should matter but people mistake it for a bruise, burn and so forth).

The odds have been against me from the off. But since covering long distances and training like a crazy woman for the past god knows how long, my feet have become victims to losing blackened toenails, dry and cracked heels, blisters, hard skin, let’s just say I have it all going on down there. There was the one time that I had to, ahem, paint my big toenail on for my big brother’s wedding. Now is the time to take action because I’m going to be relying on my feet to cross the Sahara desert in (eek) 74 days time. So with about as much enthusiasm as booking an appointment for the dentist, I decided to expose a podiatrist to the claws. And it is probably one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time. Here’s why:

1. Reassurance about my claws

My feet may look a state but they’re actually “not too bad…for a runner”. Phew, what a sigh of relief! It was like being told my teeth are healthy I just need to floss and brush for longer. The podiatrist told me that despite the only thing really wrong with my feet is aesthetic and with a few tweaks and extra care, I can ensure they’re prepared for running across the desert.

2. Knowledge about my feet

It’s hardly a conversation opener down the pub but knowing that my skin is particularly soft and my toes are floppy with a tendency to cross over can help in terms of preparation for a challenge where they will be under pressure. Since I have no control over my toes, I need to wrap them all separately like tidy pigs in blankets to prevent them from overlapping and creating friction and consequently blisters. I should also use a special type of tape Hypafix rather than the hypoallergenic plaster tape usually used as my skin is too soft for the latter. Incidentally, he wrapped two of my toes in the different materials and the Hypafix lasted longer and was more comfortable. Time to practice wrapping them neatly.

Another thing he identified was the cause of my cracked heels.  He suggested these were not so much down to dry skin but a lack of depth in my orthotics. Indeed, when I stepped into my orthotics my heels created a rather attractive (not) muffin top over the edge, which when compounded with the repetitive motion of running creases the skin into fissures and cracks. The solution? Deeper orthotics to cup my heel securely.

Some say surgical spirit can toughen the skin – he told me this would not help my particular skin type. Now armed with this knowledge, I know how to prevent problems from happening beforehand.

3.  Reminder about basic footcare

In addition to taping my toes with Hypafix and adding depth to my orthotics – the podiatrist also offered three more tips for runners in general. We probably all know what they are but it’s good to be reminded once in a while as they can make a difference to whether you come out of a long distance race comfortably or not.

Three tips to care for you feet

  1.  Trim and file your nails right down – this will prevent them from cutting or digging in
  2. Use a cream such as Flexitol twice daily (or foot cream containing urea) to soften cracked heels, fissures and generally keep your feet in good nick
  3. Prevent any kind of friction by tying your laces as tight as possible and ensuring you have enough width around the toes – he actually suggested I re-lace my trainers so that the laces go straight across instead of diagonally

Some of these tips may not be relevant at all to your running preparation but I hope they highlight the importance of  looking after your feet and how some things you read are particular to individuals. Remember to take care of your tootsies if you’re heading into those ultra distances / multi-day challenges as they are one of the deal-breakers when it comes to completing these epic adventures.

What are your tips for looking after your feet?

Inspired by #thisgirlcan?

15 Jan

Better late than never – I have to say that the latest #thisgirlcan campaign struck a chord with me and many others because, to put it simply, it’s encouraging women to become more active and not give a monkey in the process.

As someone who has spent the last 10 years not giving a monkey what anyone thinks of them running, cycling or generally looking hot and sweaty around London, I find the stats behind the campaign and research undertaken by Sport England pretty compelling.

Two million fewer women participate in sports than men and yet 75% want to be more active.

So why don’t they find an activity they love and “Just Do It”? You may ask.

In short, it’s down to the dreaded “F” word. FEAR. Fear of being judged by others, fear of not being good enough and fear of not looking like one of those fitness model that appear on the front of a multitude of sporty publications.

Or as Sport England chief executive Jennie Price put it in a piece published by the BBC: “Worries about being judged for being the wrong size, not fit enough and not skilled enough came up time and again.”

The don’t-give-a-monkey’s crowd could sit there and spout out that our fellow women should not worry, do what they want to do, you’re a long time dead after all, but as that no make-up selfie campaign that lost the true meaning in 2014 showed, women are anxious about how they and their physical appearance is perceived by others.

Instead, all I can say is give it a go.And as a starter for 10, head to your local gym’s women’s changing room. Here you’ll see women of all ages and all shapes and sizes, some in the nude, some half-dressed, some fully dressed. My point is if you are among women who are not body builders or going to make it into the America’s Next Top Model then It may make a slight difference to your body confidence.

For the women in the nuddy getting ready for work after a hard session or relaxing few laps up and down the pool are just like you only with a passion for sport / activity / anything that gets them moving outside, in public and often with a group of mates. They’re not experts and probably will never win a gold medal but they enjoy it, which is the main thing, and love that surge of sweaty adrenaline throughout the process.

Before you ask, I do not have any evidence or research into this theory but I personally think the changing room experience is refreshing. (Just don’t stare at the naked bods as that is a bit weird.)

And while I’m not naive enough to say that this will take away the fear of running, swimming or whatever you want to do completely, it may help.

Whether you’re a team player or prefer going solo, remember #thisgirlcan and so can you. Here’s the video:

#SBFlyFlexFlow – get fit in three (and for free)

12 Jan

Calling all yogis, runners and women who just want to get fitter, healthier and happier in 2015, the latest Sweaty Betty #getfit4free challenge may be just what you have been looking for. Let me introduce you to Fly Flex Flow.

What is Fly Flex Flow?

As the name suggests, this hour-long class is broken down into three different elements so you’re not only pushed to the max with explosive cardio, but those muscles you’ve forgotten about are given up a wake-up call and then a much-needed stretched . Honestly, it is pretty much an all-over body workout offering more balance for those of us who tend to focus on one particular area.

Speedy session outside

1. FLY in a speedy session

Photo 08-01-2015 19 13 43

2.  FLEX and condition

Photo 08-01-2015 19 21 02

3. FLOW with yoga

Created by Sweaty Betty ambassadors – the lovely run coach Annie Foulds and yoga teacher Jo Arther, be prepared to hit the session hard for the first part with HIIT-style speedy sprint workouts. It certainly gets that heart-rate up. Once you’ve built up a sweat, you’re into the toning session, which uses light weights to target the flab and condition your body. Finally, you’re taken through a yoga routine to stretch out those muscles and release any areas of tension throughout the rest of the class.

Aim to do the class three times a week while eating more healthily (Sweaty Betty has also hooked up with Honestly Healthy to offer nutritious and delicious meals throughout this challenge) to make the most out of this new #getfit4free campaign.

I’m completely new to working out and nervous about working out, will I be made to feel welcome?

Of course, and good for you for taking the leap. Remember #thisgirlscan take part in fitness and health activities. Fly Flex Flow is aimed at everybody and you work to your level. What’s more, you’ll be hanging out with the Sweaty Betty community, who are a friendly bunch.

And for those who already workout, you will find this class beneficial because of the variety of activity. You may be able to run a marathon relatively fast but now try and touch your toes. Yep, the yoga bit will definitely help. Whether you’re a power-lifter or a die hard yogi, Fly Flex Flow will challenge you in some way, and when you’re challenged, you become stronger.

How much does it cost?

Nada, it won’t cost you a penny (which is awesome in “dry” January).

How do I get involved?

Classes run in-store from 22 January – 12 February, check out Sweaty Betty for more details on the classes in-store and further information about the challenge.

Here’s a taster of what to expect:

#mygoal 2015: one step at a time

4 Jan
Marathon des Sables

My pledge for this year (well until MdS)

This is me on New Year’s Day setting out my major goal for this year, which as you can see is pretty self-explanatory. I’m super well aware that over the next (cripes) 88 days I will have to train, eat and sleep better in order to make the most out of the Marathon des Sables experience. But what does this term that many people bandy about actually mean?  Well, I think it’s very much a personal thing and what your personal #mygoal is.

For person A, this may equate to fewer kebabs after a night out and swapping that commute to work a mile away by car to walking. Person B, however, may be a runner with a beer gut which has been cultivated after developing a taste for ale of the “Craft” variety. This is not helping in terms of PBs. So it may be worth cutting down and revving the training up by more speed sessions.

My point is whoever you are and whatever you want to achieve, you need to take on board advice and realistically tailor it to your needs. Are you ever going to be completely teetotal?  Hell no. But you can cut down on the booze a bit.

I believe (and I’m not an expert so please do bear in mind that this is my personal opinion) that you should set goals that are realistic and achievable. Break a huge goal such as a crazy race across the sand into smaller goals and set deadlines for yourself. If you race is in April and you want to feel confident that you can at least run 50 miles, aim to do a 50 mile run by mid-February.

Think of it like redecorating an entire house. You would be insane to try to get it all done in one go (hats off if you’ve achieved it though). Instead you do it room by room. And that is my approach (god I hope it works) to my Marathon des Sables training.

So how am I going to train better, eat better and sleep better without becoming a complete hermit?

Train better

I’ve created a POA or plan of action which alternates between completing a long run at the weekend and a X Country race at the weekend. During the week, I will alternate commutes between running (up to 20 miles twice a week) and cycling. I already carry half my life on my back in a rucksack so weighted running isn’t a massive issue. I will become inevitably one of those runners – with water bottles on either strap – plodding through the streets of London at the coldest, most miserable time of year. But I will still be smiling (I promise).

I’ve also added in a ballet fit class once a week and track sessions. Once a week, I will go to a half hour spin class at BOOM and fit in a faster 20 minute session on the days that are lower in terms of mileage. I’ve tried to look at the training in terms of four-week cycles with a lighter week on the fourth week to give my body time to recover. I will take part in one to two long ultra runs (up to 50 miles) and also do a rehearsal week at the end of January. I’m aiming for between 60 – 120 miles a week (I’ll do 120 miles a week twice before I head to MdS).

We’ll see how it goes. I’m well aware that sometimes, well, let’s put it this way, life does get in the way. But by trying to stick to my plan, I know that I’ll be more confident when I hit the sand dunes of the Sahara. Closer to the time, I’ll also be heading to the sauna to read a book during lunch. It’s not quite heat chamber training but at least it’ll get my body used to the heat and I’ll also have the chance to escape with some of my favourite authors.

Eat better

My diet is a tale of two halves. On the one hand, I eat a shed load of vegetables and fruit. My main meal of the day normally consists of something vegetable-based. I also drink lots of water – around a litre of so at work throughout the day.

On the other hand, I also have a tendency to eat way more sugar than I should and have a habit of falling for all the “healthier alternative” spiel. I will snack throughout the day on “healthier” biscuits and “healthier” crisps which probably have no nutritional value at all. I’m also a sucker for sweets, I love a glass of decent white wine and don’t get me started on the cider. But my biggest vice is caffeine and Pepsi Max. I drink way too much of it to be deemed healthy.

So I have stopped. No caffeine, chocolate or alcohol has passed my lips since the New Year (OK around 1am New Year’s Day). It had to be done as I’m not going to find a truckload of Pepsi Max in the desert. And before you ask, I hate coffee. I’m going to make the decision closer to the time about whether to introduce caffeine in the form of Nuun tablets as there is discussion around caffeine enhancing performance. Until then, I will be living in a no caffeine zone.

While not cutting out the sugar completely, I have started to be more conscious about what I’m putting into my body e.g. thinking about the nutritional benefit rather than see it as a quick fix. Hard boiling eggs as snacks, slicing up avocadoes to have on rye and generally stopping the needless gorging on sweets (apart from at races as you need sugar sometimes). I’m tempted to try protein shakes on the go as they are easy to consume especially if, like me, you lose your appetite after running.

During my rehearsal week, I’m planning to consume my delicious menu for Marathon des Sables (I’m still working on that) but by cutting out and cutting down, I think I will prepare my body for both the race and the future.

Sleep better

There is only one thing that Margaret Thatcher and I  (lefty feminist Liberal who believes the State can, in the right circumstances, enhance society) used to share: the belief that sleep is for wimps. Now, after many years of soldiering on, I know that sleep can make a whole world of difference. Honestly, good times in the land of nod make for good times in reality.

To ensure I am my best in April, I am setting myself an alarm clock for bed during the week (10pm rock’n’roll) with the aim of seven hours sleep a night, maybe more at the weekend. The caffeine clampdown has also helped. In the last few days, I have noticed how much my sleep has improved. Long may it continues as this is an area which will completely transform both my performance and my mood.

What are your goals for 2015 and your plans to achieve these goals? Let me know below.

2014: The year that…

31 Dec
Yoga on the London Eye

Yoga in a pod – views over London

1. I got high on yoga

Not only did I kick-off this year with a yoga class on the London Eye or in the clouds but I also embraced my “inner yogi” with a view from the Shard. A first for me on both accounts, I can now say that I have seen London from all angles.

2. The marathon madness continued

In the top 10 ladies but I'm not over 50!

In the top 10 ladies but I’m not over 50!

As in the Paris, Geneva, Kent Roadrunner, Bournemouth, Rail to Trail Newport, Rail to Trail Cuxton and A20 Path’n’Downs Marathons – that’s a total of seven marathons or 183.4 miles of marathon races. Phew, I need a drink just thinking about it. I also managed a new PB by chatting away to a fellow competitor and kissing my boyf halfway round the race. I’m not over 50 though!

3. I went off-road

The road is long...especially when you make a wrong turn

The road is long…especially when you make a wrong turn

And found my feet on the trails. In August, I took part in the Berghaus Trailscape – an epic multi-day event across the beautiful North York moors. I may not be able to add reading a map to my CV as my group went about 10K off-course but I can say that the race was breathtakingly beautiful. Similarly, running on the North Downs with Matt Buck’s Running Adventures in early December was the perfect escape from the City and something I’d love to do again and again.

4. Tried out the trails

My trainers on trial

Trailscape running equals bliss

In the latter part of the year, I also tried a new series of races called Trailscape – Rail to Trail. Easy to access as they are around an hour from London by train, these races put me through my paces. Hills, mud, white flags to follow and great company, trails are definitely a challenge and a whole load of fun.

5. And worked as a team for 24 hours

Thunderbabes are go...

Thunderbabes are go…

A bunch of running mates team up together to see how many 10K laps they can complete in 24 hours may sound like madness to you but to me it’s a weekend full of fantastic memories. Both the Adidas Thunder Run and Spitfire Scramble were fun, frantic, adrenaline-fuelled events and I loved every minute. Music festivals feature heavily on my annual to-do list but running festivals are also becoming a must on my list. Thank you to adidas, the Thunderbabes and Team Naturally Run for the ride – I had a blast.

6. I met sporting heroes

Hanging out with Haile like you do on a Sunday

Hanging out with Haile like you do on a Sunday

This year I ran with Haile Gebrselassie (get me) who was absolutely inspirational (and tiny). His philosphy that “Running is life, Running is medicine” rings so true. I also took the plunge with my childhood hero Duncan Goodhew. He boosted my confidence in the water and offered some fantastic tips for anyone wanting to take part in the annual Swimathon.

7. My trainers multiplied

Running all over town and beyond...

Running all over town and beyond…

From adidas adizeros to the Salomon SpeedCross 3W, this year I finally found a range of trainers which suit the various races that I take part in. I tend to train in the adidas boost or Asics, run road marathons in adidas zeros, tackle the hills of X country in spikes and hit the mud of the trails in Salomons. It may seem extravagant to own a variety of trainers but by swapping them around according to terrain, I’m sure I am making the most out of them and myself.

8. I was introduced to LIJA, Boom Cycle, Results with Lucy and Chia seeds 

Me in my gold jacket

Me in my gold jacket

This year hot new Canadian brand LIJA caught my attention, especially a certain gold jacket that I wore continuously throughout spring, Boom Cycle became a part of my weekly routine, thanks to their new half hour lunchtime classes in Holborn, Results with Lucy also proved to be handy in terms of cross training and overall fitness, and Chia seeds were a welcome addition to my rather hit and miss diet.

9. I cycled in Carcassone, Vietnam and at the London Duathlon .

London Duathlon 2014

London Duathlon 2014

As well as traveling to Paris, Geneva and Italy, the boyf and I headed to the medieval town of Carcassone where we took advantage of the many vineyards en velo and Vietnam, where again we cycled like proper tourists in pointy straw hats. Back on UK soil, I continue to cycle to work and even participated in the London Duathlon on my ramshackle of a bike. Three times up the infamous hill was tough but the whole event was a lot of fun.

10. You met the Dynamo Mum

Well done Dynamo Mum

Well done Dynamo Mum

What a woman! Having never taken part in a race before, my 60-something mum trained so she could do the Race for Life with me. It was a real pleasure running the route with her and encouraging mum to keep going until the end. I’m so proud of the Dynamo Mum.

11. I signed up for the biggest challenge yet

Oodles of noodles for MdS

Oodles of noodles for MdS

In less than 100 days, I will be setting off on an adventure across the Sahara desert with everything I need on my back. This multi-stage race known as the Marathon des Sables or, to quote my Dad, “that crazy run across the sand” is daunting and exciting. As of 1 January 2015, it will be properly heads down so I can ensure that I am the best I can be but #mygoal for 2015 is to finish this challenge smiling (and hopefully dancing). I am running the Marathon des Sables 2015 for Great Ormond Street Hospital. If you would like to sponsor me, please go to

12. Love is the answer


Witness the fitness of Team Naturally (what a lovely bunch of girls) getting scrambled

This year has been in some ways a trial (we had no bathroom for a few months earlier on in the year, which meant I learnt very quickly where the closest gyms are in proximity to my home and also now know what Kenwood House’s toilets look like although I have never been inside the house for a look around). But in other ways, it has been absolutely magnificent.



Not only have I met some fantastic people thanks to running, many of my closest friends have become engaged and married and I have also had the pleasure of becoming an aunt for the first time. And the icing on the cake was saying “yes” to my partner of seven years and sporting my own piece of bling. We’re leaving it until 2016 as next year I have Marathon des Sables and the wedding of one of my bestest friends. The next few years are certainly looking bright and I’m enjoying just living in this moment.

As Rik Mayall, who sadly passed away this year, said in a speech to graduates at the University of Exeter:

 Love is the answer  

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

Running Adventures in the North Downs with Matt Buck

24 Dec

If you’re looking for a true running adventure then try the new guided runs with ultra runner and Marathon des Sables finisher Matt Buck. His series of guided running tours take you to some of the most beautiful spots in the UK. And I should know as I joined him in early December for a 32-mile run across the beautiful North Downs.

First look over the North Downs

First look over the North Downs

Starting just outside Guildford City Centre (note for non-car owners – the starting point was really easy to get to from the train station), this run at a leisurely pace took us right across the North Downs, past Dorking, up to Box Hill and back to where we began. Instructed to bring what we may want to eat for the day and warm clothing, it was also good practice for anyone planning to do the Marathon des Sables. And since Matt Buck (our guide) completed MdS in 2014, the 32-miles of trails and hills was also a fantastic opportunity to pick his brains for tips on the desert run.

Top tip from Matt: do a dress rehearsal for MdS (roughly plan out a week so that you eat and drink only what you are planning to take and run up to 70 percent of the distances of the various different stages including one longer day).

I would recommend Running Adventures for runners who want to explore off-road running in a group environment. Of course, you can get together with a group of running mates and do it yourselves but the advantage of having a guide is that is takes the pressure off. In the same way that using a race as training for your main goal, you don’t have to organise the route, read a map or even try and work out where you are. If you have a track record for somehow managing to get lost during trail races, this comes as a welcome relief. You do have to pay for the privilege but with scenes like this and the knowledge that you’ve completed a 32-mile training run, it’s worth it.

The sun low in the sky about, just about to set - how glorious!

The sun low in the sky about, just about to set – how glorious!

Top tip from Matt: take whatever the race organisers offer you – in 2014, many competitors were caught out because they only took one bottle of water, when two bottles were offered.

Indeed, Matt started Running Adventures to cater for runners who wish to make the step up to ultra running, but maybe feel a bit nervous about taking the step up to a race (which can be an intimidating experience). He said it acts as “an in-between step.”

A church with a view

A church with a view

“Running Adventures offer guided runs (so you don’t need to worry about routes etc) as well as advice throughout the day, it’s the perfect opportunity to meet like-minded people as well as getting all your running questions answered by myself.  The other appeal of the runs is offering the opportunity for any ultra runner to experience new trails and basically enjoy a sociable day of running.  I try and keep prices low (relative to many races) and I’ve also just introduced a night run, offering the chance for those people nervous about running in the woods alone at night, the chance to experience the thrill of doing so, in a safe environment.”

As well as offering guided running tours, Matt also trains people wanting to take on an Ultra. The next Running Adventure is on 24 January 2015 and offers a 39-mile circular route through the beautiful and varied countryside around Guildford. If you’re looking to take on an Ultra, then I’d highly recommend it.

Check out Matt’s website for more info.

Looking forward to January already? Here are 4 healthy things to try in 2015

22 Dec

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. And even if you’re currently suffering from the excesses of the festive season or a persistent cold that is preventing you from doing what you really enjoy (running in my case), now is a great time to look forwards and make plans for the New Year.

You don’t have to be training for the Marathon des Sables, simply wanting to cut down on the booze or eat less rubbish can be the trigger to helping you feel better and happier. But how do you stay on track? By finding stuff to keep you motivated of course. So here are four healthy things to in 2015 that will inspire, motivate and keep you on the right side of healthy.

1. Speedflex



Thanks to small group classes, HIIT-style circuits and a range of their own specially-designed resistance machines, Speedflex is not just a brilliant way to burn off calories in a small amount of time (classes are 45 minutes long).

As part of the package, you are offered an initial health assessment (measuring muscle mass, target weight, BMI, percentage body fat and visceral fat), which helps you focus on becoming fitter, healthier, stronger or whatever you aim to do. Throughout the classes you are also hooked up to a system measuring your heart rate which allows you to see if you are really pushing it hard enough and how many calories you have burned in the 45 minutes. Whether you’re a serious athlete or complete beginner, being able to compare your data over the weeks can be that extra bit of impetus to keep going.

With studios currently in London, Newcastle and Leeds (with more coming soon), it’s worth trying out if you enjoy group sessions that make a difference. Speedflex is also fantastic cross-training for runners as all the exercises are low-impact.

To try out your first class for free, click here.

2. New Good Food Eat Well Show

Good Food Eat Well Show

Reluctant chef? Maybe this will inspire you.

Calling all foodies, health fans or people who just want tips on how to eat better. The brand new BBC Good Food Eat Well Show is coming to London on 27 February – 1 March.  Learn how to balance a healthy lifestyle with your love of good food.

See inspirational guests such as Davina McCall and Jenni Falconer and enjoy live cookery demos from healthy eating experts like Natasha Corrett and Marcus Bean. Get involved with in-depth discussions on food-related issues, and discover a host of healthy food products to try and buy. Intrigued? I know I am. Will is inspire me to finally dust off my many cook books? Hmm, the jury is out. It does however look like a lot of fun.

Well tickets are now on sale! Just quote EW20S when purchasing to receive 20% off tickets until 31 January 2015. Click here to find out more.

3. Run Hackney on 10 May

Run Hackney

Run Hackney

Missed out on a Spring marathon? Or want to try a half for the first time? Well, you could always head East to the oh-so-trendy Hackney and have a go at the half marathon on 10 May 2015. As a runner of the inaugural Vitality Hackney Half back in June this year, I have to say it was a pretty well-organised route with plenty of stewards along the course and plenty of support – think race with a party vibe. You can read my thoughts on the Vitality Hackney Half here. I’ll be there in one form or another just a month after the epic Marathon des Sables, so come join me stumbling along the 13.1-mile route.

To sign up for Vitality Run Hackney, click here.

4. Barre Fit Workout

Barre Fit

Barre Fit

Come meet me at the ‘Barre’ at one of the new exciting fitness classes launched by City Academy in 2015. More specifically, Barre Fit Workout. Based on Pilates and ballet barre work, this hour-long group session conditions your muscles while giving you an all-over body workout. I recently tried a taster class and let’s just say my arms felt it the next day after lifting relatively light weights a gazillion times. You also don’t need to have any dance experience to take part in this class as the instructor takes you through all the exercises thoroughly. If you’re interested in having a go, there is a taster session on 6 January 2015 (£10). A six-week course costs £50 (now that is pretty reasonable in my book).

For more information on Barre Fit Workout, click here.

From Paris with Love: Cop. Copine

18 Dec

You may know them as the store that does “black very well” but the French export known today as Cop. Copine was initially called Copain-Copine when it first opened it doors in 1986. The two brothers behind the brand Alain and Léon Nédélian wanted to create clothing for both men and women – oversized, modern and as this piece in Biba magazine (a French magazine that I always buy when I visit Paris) with a subtle anti-conformist spirit.

Cop Copine in Biba magazine

Cop. Copine in Biba magazine

They may have narrowed their focus and decided to design just for women but Cop. Copine stays true to its modern and distinctive style. And perhaps it is this that has won over so many fans as well as the fact that they are not afraid to play with various techniques. Whether that be spandex in the 80s, asymmetry during the next decade or laser cut fabric and neoprene in millennium, Cop. Copine (as it has been known since 1993) do not follow the trends. They are unique and true to their style and when they do something, they do it well.

Here are some of my favourite looks and pieces from their current collection (and there is not much black):

1. The jumper dress

Warm and easy to wear, you can layer this dress up over a long-sleeve top, wear it with tights, boots and a cap as seen below or even go bare-legged if you dare.  The jumper dress is a key staple in your winter wardrobe and this shape is flattering without being too clingy.

Cop copine jumper dress

Cop. Copine jumper dress

2. The winter short and tee combo

Who says you should put the shorts away when the temperature drops? Team with a woolly t-shirt, gloves and snood and you’ll be just about ready for the cold. This t-shirt could also be worn as a dress. (You could always wear a layer underneath for those particular chilly days.)

Jumper and short combo

Jumper and short combo

3. The boyfriend coat

It’s a look that has been done countless times before but the mix of florals and oversized masculine jacket simply works, especially when teamed with a pair of heeled boots. It’s like a modern take on the grunge of the early to mid-90s; sharpened and clean but still with a military edge.

Military flowers

Military flowers

 4. The coloured jean

Forget blue, black or even the tropical colours of the spring/summer as Cop. Copine has a new shade of trouser. Wear with this speckled furry jumper, leather trench and heeled ankle boots and you’ve got an elegant look that will put smart into the term “smart casual”.

The coloured jeans

The coloured jeans


Check out the Cop. Copine website here

Training for trainers – Salomon Speedcross 3 W

16 Dec

Training for Marathon des Sables 2015 is no easy feat so as part of this epic journey I am trying to test out gear before I go. At the first Rail to Trail Trailscape, it was a Berghaus rucksack, which stood the test of 26-odd miles of mud. In Cuxton, I opted for a double-whammy. Not only did I load up a rucksack with a little bit of weight, I also wanted to give the all-important trail trainers a trial. One thing was for certain after the last mudfest: my choice of Salomon Speedcross 3 W wouldn’t stay shiny and clean for long.

At the start of the race

s At the start of the Cuxton Trailscape race

Recommended in part by the running dynamite that is Cat Simpson (who was placed second at Atacama this year wearing Salomon) and from reading I have done around the subject, I wanted to know whether the fit, grip and weight of the shoe would be right for me. And let be honest here, I’m used to running in fairly light-weight shoes so these definitely appealed as they really are:

Surprisingly light

I’m all for a lighter trail shoe as it makes it easier to pick your feet up in the muddiest of conditions. There’s nothing worse than having to shuffle along like you are carrying the world on your feet because your shoes are weighing you down. You may not have the speed of someone running on hot coals but the idea is the same – essentially you are trying to pick your feet up as fast as possible. And these 260g shoes really help with that process.

No fuss fastening

Salomon call it Quicklace, I call it no fuss-fastening. You can easily slip these shoes and go without worrying that your laces are going to come undone and drag in the mud. Then there is the aftermath of having to untie muddy laces (spikes at cross country springs to mind).  Thanks to the zip-loop approach you don’t have to carefully pull apart laces caked in half a ploughed field.  Undoubtedly, you are always going to get muddy when trail running but for me, the ‘pull and release’ fastening is way more functional than classic laces.

Grip and protect

I apologise to all my colleagues who I felt the need to “get a look at these bad boys” as I showed the Salomons off in the office but honestly, the grips on the sole of the Salomon Speedcross are a work of trail shoe art. Like a collection of misshapen arrows, they cut through the earth and grip firmly without collecting debris as you run. They are not fully waterproof but the mudguard around the base of the shoe does help keep your feet in tact and less wet than say a normal running shoe.

Bright and colourful

When it comes to trainers, I am all about the colour and not just for the obvious reason that they look cool. Let’s just say that you can be seen in the luminous green of the Salomon Speedcross 3 W.

My trainers on trial

My trainers on trial

My perfect pair for the desert?

Since I wear orthotics in my shoes the added cushioning around the heel may have been lost on me but as far as running in the desert goes, I really liked the Salomon Speedcross 3 W. They ticked all the boxes and made me feel more confident on the rather uneven trails. My feet also did not suffer, which is paramount when training for the desert. I will give them another few tries but in terms of MdS shoes, a spare pair of Salomon Speedcross 3 W can be added to the shopping list.

Do you have any trainer recommendations for trail running?

Top tips for making the switch to trail running

8 Dec

Bored of pounding the pavements? I asked the lovely Hannah – one of the duo behind the Trailscape series – for tips on making the switch to Trail running.

Views from the Downs

Views from the Downs

Here is what Hannah had to say about tackling hills, mud and where to start when it comes to off-road running.

1. Don’t over think it

Trail running can seem daunting and we tend to build it up in our minds, predicting it will be ‘too hard’, ‘too hilly’ or  ‘too slow’ – so much so in fact, that many people are stopped in their tracks and never reach the vital point of signing up! The reality is that trail running is some of the most beautiful running you will ever do and we wouldn’t want you to miss out on the opportunity.

The trail running philosophy is very different to a road race – less about time and competition, and more about comradery, teamwork and enjoyment. People will help you if you struggle, people stop to take photos and revel in the day, and share munchies along the way. So don’t over think it, just do it and we promise you will never look back.

Marathon Man UK (Rob) and I in selfie mode - team trail

Marathon Man UK (Rob) and I in selfie mode – team trail

Our first ever trail marathon was a bit like this. We didn’t know anything about the company or the terrain and signed up on a whim. It was a coastal marathon with over 5000ft of ascent and a total distance of nearly 30miles. Yes, we were daunted, yes we wondered if we could do it and on the day, yes, it was hard but did we regret it? Never….Now we (Hannah and her partner John) organise our own trail running events and can honestly say we have never looked back

2. Get prepared

The terrain for a trail race is very different. It is uneven underfoot, muddy at times and requires practice at getting your pace and footing. During training try to mix it up – at the very least run on the grass alongside the path or switch to fields in the local park. At every opportunity you can, get off the tarmac – this will prepare your feet and core stability.

3. Go slow and taper from there

The first half of your run should be slower than the second. This gives the body time to acclimatise and settle into that all important pace. John and I have very different running styles. John has the typical adrenalin-fuelled start and I don’t see him for dust but you can guarantee that by the second half as I catch him up he’s always complaining that he ‘started too quick’! In trail running slow and steady always wins the race!

4. Walk the hills, run the flat & downs 

Someone told us this before our first trail race and it filled us full of confidence so we will repeat it here. There are always stages of a trail run that are impossible to run, either due to the steep incline or the mud. If you try to run these sections you will expend and waste a lot of energy without the gains in speed or distance covered. It’s not worth it – take these stages as a moment of recovery and conserve your energy for the points where you can fly.

Emma and I enjoying the last trail race - look at those smiles

Emma and I enjoying the last trail race in Cuxton – look at those smiles (c) Trailscape

5. Mind over matter 

As most runners will tell you the points where you struggle in a race are near-on always psychological – the ‘I can’t do this’, ‘Not another hill!’, ‘If I feel like this now, what will I feel like later?’, ‘I’m not cut out for this’ and so on.

Listen to your body not your mind and you will go further. You can also try the strategy of breaking the race down into stages and then treating each stage as a mini but manageable goal. Try not to think too far ahead, moments of struggling or ‘the wall’ rarely last the whole race, they come and go but don’t stick around for too long. Focus on each individual moment and stop predicting what will happen next – you do not have the power to predict that you ‘won’t make it’, or ‘that there will be ‘more hills’, ‘ or that you will ‘come last’. Focus on the here and now, and let your body do the rest.

If you’re looking for your next trail challenge or want to try an off-road race in the New Year, then sign up for the next Trailscape Rail to Trail in Ashurst, Kent on 10 January 2015. With three distance: 10K, half marathon and full marathon, it’s the ideal way to brush off the cobwebs and kick-start running in 2015.

Click here for more details.

Read what Andrew McClelland – a newbie to trail running – thought of the Cuxton event.

Trailscape Rail to Trail: Cuxton – the tale of a newbie trail runner

3 Dec

While I opted for the full marathon in the second of the Trailscape series, my mate Andrew McClelland decided to try out the half. So before I post about my muddy experience, I decided to hand the reigns over to him so he could tell the story from the perspective of a newbie trail runner.

Andrew has tried his hand at Tri

Andrew has tried his hand at Tri

A bit of trail running? Sounds fun. A half marathon? Hmmm. November? Yeah, why not, it;s ages away. So went the conversation between myself and the lovely marathon running machine that also goes by the name of Becs. I do a bit of Triathlon but came to sport very late. In fact, it is kinda my mid-life crisis and knocking on the door of 45, I hadn’t even run for a bus until 3 years ago. Before Saturday, the furthest I had run (for a bus or otherwise) was 14K.

A change of scene

Trailscape is a fab concept where trail runs are laid-on near to train stations so that smog-bound Londoners can swap pavement-pounding for some fresh air and time in the woods, all without resorting to a car. I was going to be the willing victim of the Cuxton event. Three distances were on offer; 10K, ½ and full marathon. The half was my ‘poison-of-choice’.

The weekend before the event was living up to the time of year weather-wise; whilst not cold, it was chucking it down and friends who knew the course attested to the stickiness of the mud but strangely glossed over the 1,600 feet of ascent they had clocked up!

Ready, set, go…it’s time to hit those trails

Fourteen degrees and sunshine greeted us as we registered on the morning of the race. The full marathoners were already a distant memory as I got my race number and timing chip at a very civilised 10am. A light-hearted but detailed briefing saw us lined up and dispatched through the starting gate and into a cemetery; I couldn’t help but wonder at what sort of omen this was setting!

The first 4-5K was pretty solid climbing, some subtle and some not so, and all in shaded woodland. Trees were broken by open pasture that was more swamp-like. But coming to the crest of the climb, we were treated to gorgeous views across the North Downs with not a house in sight. The decent was interesting to say the least with the beautiful browns of the fallen leaves hiding deep puddles and tree roots but I was starting to settle into this. No, I was enjoying it!

Stunning scenery and hills, so many hills

The open chalky fields tested ankles and climbing (again) through narrow paths offering glimpses through the tree-lines towards rolling country side kept the spirits up. The first checkpoint was lit up by the smiling faces of marshalls, a quick cup of jelly babies then a u-turn, shift to the left and…..a climb. No wonder the marshalls were smiling; they knew what was facing us.

Views from the Downs

Views from the  North Downs

Now I know that some of my fitter brethren were running up this but I adopted what I hoped looked like running shuffle. Half way up there was a message about conquering stuff and yeah, I patted myself on the back at the top.

Passing half way the mixture of ups, a few downs and lots more ups were becoming more interspersed with idyllic running through woodland, more squelching and more mud. The last checkpoint, where all three distances came together was a hive of activity and welcoming marshalls. Personally, I would have preferred it to be at the top of the nasty hill that came after it but it did mean that the last quarter of the course was more populated and frankly by that time, it did me some good to see other runners I could pace myself against and use for that inevitable ‘digging deep’.

Cuxton half elevation profile (in case you were wondering)

Cuxton half elevation profile (in case you were wondering)

About 5K from home there was the last nasty climb and actually, as the realisation came to me, my legs started working again. I was nearly home! A quick stop to offer an antiseptic wipe to a runner who had been attacked by a stick and I suddenly found myself at the finish.

Finished? Not quite

Yes, I am hooked on trail running. It makes a brilliant change to road, tests you in more ways than you would have thought; not least because you have to use your brain and concentrate on where you put your feet.

Will I do it again? Oh yes. Will I do the full? Who knows. Should you do it? It comes highly recommended!

Thanks to Andrew for sharing his story with me. Come join us at the next race in Ashurst, East Sussex, 10 January 2015. For more info, click here.

View from the Shard (and Yoga) with Yogasphere

1 Dec

Why settle for simply visiting the Shard when you can have an hour of peace, tranquillity and a yoga class thrown in? Yes, I’m talking about yoga in the Shard with Yogasphere. With classes in the evening or first thing on a Saturday morning (stop groaning, it’s worth it), the relaxed and calming environment is the ideal way to check out the City from 800ft.

You also don’t have to be a diehard yogi to take part. The flow-based hour-long classes are easy to follow and leave you feeling stretched and revitalised. You can then take your time to take photos from level 72 of the Shard without the crowds.

Honestly, anyone wanting to visit the Shard book in for a class (I went for one on the Saturday morning) and you will not regret it. At £40 a pop, the class only costs £10.05 more than the usual admission price of £29.95 and you also receive a goody bag afterwards.

My only regret is that I chose a particularly cloudy Saturday morning but the views were still rather spectacular.

Views from the Shard

Views from the Shard

This particular view reminds me of a scene from A London Trilogy: The Films of Saint Etienne 2003 – 2007, which features footage of London over the years set against the voices of the past. Watch it, and preferably before you go up the Shard to see what I mean. If anything, you’ll be transfixed and fascinated by how the landscape of London has changed.

The loos with a view

The loo with a view – yes the loos have glass windows

Can you spot Tower Bridge?

Can you spot Tower Bridge?

While my photos may not do it justice, yoga on the Shard is well worth getting up for on a Saturday morning and is also a thoughtful Christmas present for the fitness lover in your life. (In fact, this was booked as part of a birthday present from the boyf’ this year. The boy did good.)

To find out more, please click here.

It’s time to party with City Academy

26 Nov
Rave on like it's 1999

Rave on like it’s 1999

Glow sticks and legwarmers at the ready as it’s time to party with City Academy. Help is at hand to counter all the food and alcohol festivities throughout December in the form of…yes…you guessed it partying.

On Monday 1 December, London’s leading and most inclusive performance and creative academies will be offering all those wannabe ravers the chance to work up a sweat to 90s classics. Expect high-energy, crazy shapes and laughter as you recreate that fish move from your school disco days.

This hour-long class offers a taster of a new series of fitness-based classes launching in January by City Academy. If raving is not quite your thing, then you can also have a go at the City Academy version of the oh-so-popular ballet fitness class called Barre Fit, try your hand at Afrobeat Workout and shake it up with the Jamican Dancehall-inspired Dancehall Workout. You never know when those moves will come in handy.

Two left feet? Well, you’ll only have to wait a month as City Academy will having you feel the burn with their Fitness Bootcamp (starts in January 2015). And to tone that tum after all the Christmas feasting, you can try the Pilates workshop (Jan 6 2015).

At reasonable prices and various locations around the Capital, it’s worth considering City Academy to kick off your New Year, New You plans.

As for me, well I’ll be raving “on the podium” next week at the taster workshop and taking the opportunity to recreate on of my favourite places at this time of year – the dance floor. Dance off anyone?

Running on holiday: Vietnam

22 Nov

Sometimes you just want to run, free from goals and training schedules. It doesn’t matter where or how far, you just want to experience that moment of exhilaration of the wind brushing past your face. It’s pretty easy to fulfil this desire when you’re at home in the routine of everyday life – a break from the desk does you good – but it becomes more difficult if, say, you’re on your holidays (and running holidays do not count).

Depending on what you do, and in my case it’s normally some form of travelling around the chosen destination. This means you may not know where you’ll be from one day to the next. You try and make the most out of your holiday by visiting all the must-see sights, which means scheduling in a run is near darn right impossible. Not that it should really matter. After all, unless you’re training to be a world-class athlete taking a break once in a while will probably do you a whole world of good.

How can you resist views like this in the morning?

How can you resist views like this in the morning?

There are times however when you do have the chance to put on your running shoes and explore the city where you’re staying by foot. And on my latest holiday in Vietnam, my running shoes were an absolute must. I took to the streets to run for the following reasons:

1. Stretching my legs after travelling

Sometimes a teeny-weeny part of me wish my partner and I were one of those couples who could spend two weeks lazing around on a white sandy beach, occasionally arising from our sunbeds to take a dip in the crystal-clear waters. But in reality I know that after half a day of a beach holiday and I’m bored. Itching to explore and find out new information about the country I’m in. But with all this thirst for adventure comes the travelling. And this can really take its toll on your legs. By running for just 20 minutes in Vietnam, I felt better. Maybe it’s psychological, I don’t really know, but a good stretch in the sunshine has got to be good for you.

Stretching my legs

Stretching my legs

2. Explore where you are

As in your surroundings and also find your bearings. I had the chance to run in Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An and Hanoi. Despite the fumes (especially in Ho Chi Minh City), simply getting out and taking to the streets at 6am in the city allows you to get a feel for the city. As the climate is so humid, it wasn’t unusual to see people, starting their day, cooking rice and setting up store to sell Bahn Mi or Pho at a relatively early hour of the day. Of course, you always need to be aware of potential dangers but seeing the markets setting up shop for the tourists and working out how to get to a specific park is all part of the fun of running on holiday.



3. And see how the Vietnamese exercise  

What struck me most about Vietnam was how much exercise they did first thing in the morning. In Hanoi, people of all ages headed to Hoan Kiem Lake to take part in Tai Chi, aerobic classes or use the series of gym equipment located there. I saw salsa in the bandstands in Ho Chi Minh City and badminton (the national sport) or versions of this racket sport involving feet, a net and a shuttlecock. There were a few runners but it seems that the Vietnamese like to exercise together and turn it into a social occasion. If you ever head to Vietnam, I’d recommend going to one of the local parks just to experience the very social way they like to move it.

Exercising with fans

Exercising with fans

Do you take your running shoes on holiday with you? What has running on holiday taught you? Let me know below.

A20 Path’n’Downs Marathon 2014 – the one which included Pilgrims’ Way

19 Nov

Another weekend, another marathon – yes, this is how I roll at the moment. And the lucky destination of choice after a three-ish week hiatus (which included a holiday in Vietnam and a very exciting engagement) from running was very close to my home town of Chatham in Kent.

Known as the A20 Path’n’ Downs Marathon, this 26.2 miles of paths which include parts of the North Downs, as the name suggests, is a hilly ride through the garden of England.  It begins just down the road from Leeds Castle in Kent and takes you through the neighbouring pretty villages of Charing, Lenham and Harrietsham (see the route map below) as well as parts of Pilgrims’ Way, which became famous after the murder and subsequent canonization of Thomas Becket in 1173 (good to know if you’re a fan of pub quizzes).

The A20 Path'n'Downs Marathon map

The A20 Path’n’Downs Marathon map

Besides being very close to my mum and dad’s house, which means I reap the benefits of the parental comforts for the weekend, this marathon is a fantastic introduction for any marathon runners wanting to challenge themselves away from the crowds of the city. In fact, I enjoyed it so much three years ago (my first time with this particular race) that I thought why not incorporate the race into my Marathon des Sables training. After all, every little helps. And I’m so glad that I did. Here’s why:

1. The Hills

I would describe myself as a glass half full kinda person. You know, always look on the bright side, have faith and paint a rosy tint on everything around you. While I remembered the spectacular views from when I had raced the A20 Path’n’Downs Marathon before, I had forgotten just how many hills there were along the course. It was tough, dressed in a long-sleeve top, leggings with my rucksack on my back but I know that there will be many a hill along the MdS course, so this was a much-welcomed challenge for me.

2. The organisation and race marshalls

It’s true that smaller events are easier to manage but organisers could learn a thing or two from the people behind the A20 Path’n’Downs as getting lost simply wasn’t an option. The course was well marked with bright yellow arrows and mile signs and the marshalls were enthusiastic and offered a range of treats for runners in need of a drink or energy boost. With my rucksack and pockets bulging with sweets I was an anomaly among runners who ran without anything as the snack tables really had all you needed for the 26.2 mile race.

3. The size of race

Hands up if you prefer smaller races. Me. Me. Me. Around 150 runners took part in this race, which is now in its fourth year, and from what I could see, the majority of them were club runners. That’s not to put anyone off as I think this is a great race for anyone with a bit of marathon experience. In fact, smaller races are fab full-stop if you hate the argy-bargy, crowds and pressure of larger city marathons. Or the idea of having to share a space of around 10 metres wide with 10,000 other runners (that is until a race thins out). A half marathon was also taking part at the same time, which for anyone wanting to enter a hillier half is a great course to do.

 4. It was essential winter training

As much as I love running, it can be hard to keep yourself motivated. That’s why I enter races. I know, I know constant racing is not good for you but when it comes to long runs and training for the MdS I think racing say a marathon helps me prepare both mentally and physically. My aims for the A20 Path ‘n’ Downs were simply to hold back for the first half, control my speed without the use of any gadgets and finish feeling strong, which is exactly what I did. I passed numerous people during the last 5K because my legs had not been pushed too hard. Despite the time finishing well short of my new PB (3:38:25), I am happy in the knowledge that I can run a marathon in warm clothing carrying a rucksack without feeling like poo afterwards. My legs are tight but nothing that a decent stretch couldn’t fix.

In all my gear again - sorry this will be a familiar site over the next few months

In all my gear again – sorry this will be a familiar site over the next few months

Back to the race – I’d recommend the A20 Path’n’Downs to anyone who wants to try a marathon in the winter months. It’s hilly yet worth the climb and you are surrounded by the splendours of the autumnal colours such as:

Run run run in the countryside

Run run run in the countryside

Light up your run this winter

15 Nov

Running in the dark is a different type of adventure, where a stream of light from a headlamp, hand torch or whatever illuminant you choose, creates a path and guides you on your way safely.

When it comes to running after dark, think like a well-informed cyclist. Wear bright clothing to be seen, add a fluorescent jacket, gloves or anything that lets a driver know you are there can really help. Now you don’t have to go the whole hog and look like an overdone Christmas tree but mixing lights with reflective gear is important for anyone running in the dark.

From beanies to bright pink gloves, Nathan Sports offers a bunch of “get lit” gear to well make sure you can see and be seen. For quite rightly as they state on their website: “Drivers can more easily recognize (sic) the human form when runners wear multiple points of light”. By combining my LED Lenser head torch with some of the Nathan products below, I’m going to light up the town this winter.

1.Nathan Bronco glove, £30

Available in pink or black, these gloves include reflective strips and a slot to store small items like coins and your keys. You could also insert a strobe light from the Nathan collection to give your run a disco-feel. While pink may not to be to everyone’s taste (they’re also available in black), these are very warm and feature touch technology pads, which mean you can switch tracks on your music/phone on the move.

Nathan Bronco glove pink

Nathan Bronco glove pink

bronco glove pink front

Bronco glove pink with pads that allow you to use your electronic devices if you so wish

2. Nathan LightSpur, £19.99

Anyone born in the 80s will remember LA lights, the trainers that the kids went crazy for. Well now you can light up your run and relive your childhood (yep, I never got a pair either) with Nathan’s LightSpur. These super light-weight spurs offer up to 40 hours illumination and are powered by easily replaceable watch batteries. Also recommended for cyclists too.

Lightspur on shoes - LA lights anyone?

Lightspur on shoes – LA lights anyone?

3. Nathan Strobelights, £9.99

Wear on your belt or tucked into your glove, the Nathan Strobelights are handy for extra illumination and keeps on blasting out light for more than 100 hours. Not only are they waterproof but they’re fantastic also for cyclists who may be caught short from time to time on the lighting front.

Nathan strobelights

Nathan Strobelights

4. Nathan DomeLight beanie black, £40

Light up your run with this USB-rechargeable beanie, which features front and rear lights (white and red accordingly). It’s also light-weight and warm for those chilly morning and evening runs.

Domelight beanie black

Domelight beanie black

5. Nathan Zephyr Front torch, £44.99

Not a huge fan of holding items while you run? Thanks to the straps attached to this hand torch, you’ll hardly notice that it is there. While it’s not as powerful as some hand torches, this is handy all the same. It also has a rear red light so people can see you from behind and a high-pitched sound so you can warn people that you’re behind them.

Zephyr Front torch

Zephyr Front torch

These are just some of the products available from Nathan Sports. Have you invested in gear to light you up on your night runs? What do you wear to be seen in the dark? Let me know below.

You say bridesmaid, I say Best Woman

10 Nov

Next year is already looking bright. Not only am I running the Marathon des Sables but I am also Best Lady (my term for Matron of Honour as I hate this wedding term) at one of my best friend’s wedding in September, which as you can imagine is majorly exciting.
When Weddington Way  – a “bridesmaid dress wedding site from the US” shot me an email asking me to style up a dress of my choice from their ample collection, I thought why the hell not? There are three of us altogether and we are still on the hunt for the perfect dresses but I’ve spied few that I like on Weddington Way including this Audrey Bridesmaid dress, available in mint green and ivory bliss.

The final choice for our bridesmaid dresses will be completely different but it’s still fun to have a gander at all the possibilities. After all, it may help spur on my creative juices in the fashion department and be a whole lot of fun as I can pick pieces that I can only dream of ever owning.
Here goes…introducing my three looks from one very flattering mint green Audrey bridesmaid dress ($150).

DId someone say party?

DId someone say party?

Who says that weddings have to always be demure? I wanted to add a bit of sass to this classic silhouette of a dress (named after one of the most famous style icons ever) so I picked out this pair of Sophia Webster navy Jojo and fur shoes (£595). Playful, unique and approximately 4.5 inches in height, these will make a statement without drawing attention away from the bride. And for the wedding celebrations, I threw in this monochrome purse from Oscar De La Rente (£1,015), which again steps the look up a gear or two.

Office Chic

Office Chic

The A-line shape of the Audrey dress combines with the summery mint green colour means it lends itself to a fresh and bright office look. Team with a white fitted blazer (it may be darn hard to clean but the colour can lift an outfit), neutral ballet pumps (£130) and a tan shoulder bag such as this cute leather one from Alfie Douglas (£100) and you have a professional and smart look for that important meeting. And if you really want to go all out or are heading out in the evening, add a piece of statement jewellery such as this Love Rocks Chain and Stone Collar (£45).

Time for a cocktail

Time for a cocktail

As every stylish person would say, it’s all about the right accessories. A colourful silk scarf can instantly transform an outfit. This quality silk square from Jane Carr (£165) features a colourful snake design and includes colours which complement the mint green colour of the dress. Finish with a pair of classic Jimmy Choo square toe pumps (£425) and a sparkly gold handbag (£245) for a lip-smacking look.

Whether you’re in wedding mode or not, it’s worth checking out some of the fabulous dresses from Weddington Way. Here is a link to their latest collection

What do you think? Have you ever worn a bridesmaid dress after the wedding?

Cycle safe this winter

6 Nov

Let’s face it, while we may be short on sunshine, exercise is one way to boost our endorphins (happy hormones) and our mood. So instead of leaving your two-wheeled friend to hibernate in the garage, shed, hallway, bedroom… , take advantage of the cooler weather and cycle your way through winter.

It’s snow joke

With a bit of extra prep and gear, you’ll be able to hit the road in most weather (if you’ve ever tried cycling in a stormy blast of the white stuff, you’ll know that it’s not worth skidding around on a dirty and icy road).

Here is a winter checklist provided by LV – it may seem obvious but extra vigilance around batteries for lights, having a break, tyre pressure and tyre and pedal grip check really do make a huge difference.

Bike checklist from LV

Bike checklist from LV


On those particularly wet days, mudguards on your front and back wheels are a real blessing to stop backsplash of muddy water on the road. And while reflectors are not an absolute must, drivers will thanks you for them.  Finally, if you’re leaving your bike outside in wet weather, a seat cover is another piece of gear you will be thankful for.

With your tyres, the next infographic reveals more about what to consider when it comes to tyre pressure and your bicycle checklist.

Wise up on two wheels

Wise up on two wheels

Illuminate the roads

When it comes to cycling, it can be particularly irritating when one of your lights cut out and you do not have any spare batteries to hand. Put a set of USB-rechargeable Moon Lights on your Christmas list. I didn’t but was pleasantly surprised to receive some from the boyfriend (no really, I’m a practical girl at heart). Easy to attach and detach from your bike, they are bright see me coming with this powerful set of lights.  I also have a back-up set already on my bike just in case I forget to charge them at work. I would say, whatever your lighting style (see below), always have a plan B.

What is your lighting style?

What is your lighting style?

Head, shoulders, knees and TOES (and FINGERS)

You don’t need to go overboard when it comes to cycling in the cold. A waterproof jacket and trousers over layers of clothing underneath (even better if they are hi-vis) should suffice. But what I would not leave at home is a separate pair of woolly socks and gloves to keep your tootsies and mitts warm.

Invest in a decent pair of cycling gloves, preferably with some waterproofing, and cycling socks. If cycling to work, you may want to take a change of clothing too as there’s nothing worse than sitting around in sweaty gear all day and stinking the office out. Have a gander at this list below for more cycle-appropriate gear to wear if you so desire.

Wrap up this winter on your bike

Wrap up this winter on your bike

And as for shoes

It may be cool/in/”whatever the youngsters say these days” to be seen in a certain brand of loafers on your bike but you may find that you’ll wear out that pair of 60 quid hipster pumps before the winter is out. Use your loaf and pack a spare pair.

All this extra gear does add up but the benefits of cycle-commuting to work far outweigh other public transport options or travelling by car. While #runcommuting may be my preference, I still #cyclecommute some days, especially when I have to carry more things or am meeting friends after work.

Don’t be put off by the winter weather, a brisk cycle in the cold weather will revive you. Simply be organised, tick off the winter cycling checklist, saddle-up and pedal safe.

I can’t get no sleep…

27 Oct

The title feels pretty apt as I am currently sitting on a bunk of a Vietnamese sleeper train while I write this. It’s not just the fact that the train is warm (although there is air conditioning thank god) but at around 2am this morning, we were awoken startlingly by a very loud message across the tannoy that we had arrived at such and such stop accompanied by equally annoying tinny music. Comfort and luxury, it is not (but it is kinda fun).


Good night sleep?

Back on UK soil, the clocks would have gone back an hour by now, signalling the end to British Summertime and the start of the winter months. What does this really mean? Well, according to the American rhyme “spring forward, fall back” – you guys (over there in the UK) gain an hour in bed. Great huh? Well yes actually as long at you make use of it. A recent survey of 2,000 people by Ibis Hotels revealed that a good night’s sleep really does make the difference between a good day and a bad day.

Another interesting stat from their survey is that a staggering 13% of Brits have woken to find they have been creative whilst they’ve slept and have created works of art or writings. Sleep and creativity have long been linked with studies looking at the detrimental impact of a lack of sleep on creativity, so if you’re feeling less creative you can blame your lack of sleep. I always wondered why on some days the ideas just flow while on others, I struggle to construct a simple sentence.

And girls, listen up, you can also blame your dreams for those periods when you’re snappy towards your partner. One in every 10 British women have confessed to being angry with their partners because of something they did in a dream.

Those who live in the capital are also pretty lucky as according to the survey, 41% of Londoners are able to get back to a dream after waking up from it.

Of course, these surveys are like most stats thrown at these days, curated in a way so they create a pretty picture but overall the less-than-ground-breaking story is just another way of telling the generation that “can’t get no sleep” about the importance of shut-eye.

We all know this but now you’ve had your extra hour in bed, perhaps it’s time to think about your sleeping routine. Are you strict about bed time? Do you have a tendency to burn the candle at both ends? Do you have a routine at all? (As much as we all love a weekend lie-in, research has shown that this can completely throw our sleeping patterns out of kilter.)

As an amateur runner/fitness fanatic/crazy adrenaline junkie, I know that sleep has a massive impact on my performance and my mood. And despite the early morning wake-up call today, I’m feeling pretty chilled as I soon fell back into my slumber and am still “in-bed” past midday.

I’m using this holiday for some R’n’R and much-needed rest but also a time to look at how I can improve my sleeping patterns back home. It’s been a crazy few months with plenty of hours but it has left me feeling, well, pretty beat.

There may be an element of truth to the slightly amended saying here:

Early to bed, early to rise, makes the young woman, wealthy and wise (and healthier/faster/stronger)

And I’m going to try and stick to it…

How about you?





Trailscape Rail to Trail 2014: Newport Marathon – the one where I wore all my clothes

24 Oct

OK, the second part of the title is a little bit of an exaggeration. I didn’t wear ALL my clothes (a supersized Michelin Man springs to mind). I did however wear a running vest, baselayer, longer-length leggings, up-to-the knee socks and Berghaus rucksack because I’m using the Trailscape Rail to Trail Series as part of my training for Marathon des Sables.

With four races located in some of the most unspoilt countryside just an hour from London (who knew), spread out over the winter months, Trailscape (Run it, Love it, Live it) are offering a brilliant escape from the hustle and bustle for people who love to run.

The races are:

And after successfully completing the first one in Newport, Essex, I have to say they’re great prep for any spring marathon, half marathon or 10k you want to try your hand at. Here’s why:


Only an hour from Londinium, It’s like stepping into Ambridge from the Archers


1.  The ‘Rail to Trail’ races are easy to get to

Irritated by races where you have to either rely on the car of ‘mum and dad’, great friends or some ultra-complicated plan that involves about three or four different methods of transport (trains, planes (bikes) and automobiles)? Me too. That’s why the rail to trail races are so brilliant. All around an hour away from Central  London mainline stations, they are pretty easy to access for most of us without four wheels at our disposal.  Then when you arrive at the other end, the start is only five minutes walk from the station. No fuss or faff, all you need to do is check for the right time train on National Rail Enquiries and then make sure you get to the station on time.

2. There are three different distances to choose between (and therefore wake-up times)

So I choose the marathon (surprise, surprise), that’s because I’m training for Marathon des Sables. You can also run a half marathon (roughly a half marathon) or 10K and not have to wake up as early as us crazy fans of the 26.2 miler. The marathons start at 9:30am, half marathons at 10:30am and 10K at 11:30am.  Yes, those 10K runners can have an extra two hours sleep


Berghaus bag with necessary jelly bean supply

3. You can try out your kit (if you so wish)

I chose to run with the Berghaus Hyper 37 Rucksack as this is what I will use next year on my crazy race across the sands. Hesitant as I was to carry the mandatory kit in THE BAG (everyone has to take a whistle, foil blanket, fully-charged mobile, water and money with them on the Trailscape races) in case I ripped it or damaged the light-weight fabric in some way or another, I’m glad that I did.

Measuring 61cm (H) x29cm (w) x 21cm (D) and weighing just 560g, it was super-comfy and so it should be as it was designed for the inspirational adventurer Philippe Gatta by Berghaus. With straps around the chest and hip area, you can securely fasten this light as a feather bag to you with what they call the Bergbuckle. There are also small pockets on the tummy straps, which I used to stash some jelly beans to keep me going. My only criticism is that as a smallish lady up-top who likes to wear things attached tightly to me, there was a lot of extra strappage going on. I think I will cut off the excess before my next race.

Muddy fields aplenty

Muddy fields aplenty

4. You will find it a challenge

In my limited trail-running experience, there are races which are billed as trails but turn out to be a mix of road, trail and routes through woods. Then there are the diehard trail races. Trailscape falls into the latter category.  It was like running a cross country race in the muddiest conditions ever. The competitors were not just running around the ploughed fields of mud, we were running across them. Imagine wading through thick treacle that continues to stay with you once you arrive on dry land and you’ll catch my drift. It was tricky, my feet were at times weighed down with mud, and when coupled with knee-deep puddles, wet grass, rocky footpaths, gates and electric fences, you pretty much have a Tough Mudder, in the middle of nowhere, with no crowds cheering you on (or hardly anyone around). Add to this the fact that you only have markers and pieces of white tape plus various checkpoints to ensure that you stay en route (unfortunately a farmer removed one of these and a group of 10 of us got lost – the curse of the trail returns) and it becomes a whole different adventure.

5. There will be low points

You’re sweating, realised that your water bottle dropped out of your bag somewhere earlier in the race and you can’t see any more white tape or signs telling you you’re going in the right direction. The lead that you have created slowly disintegrates as you join up with those following to say that you think you’re lost. It happens. Especially on trail races. And it’s not the organiser’s fault that some farmers or walkers decide it’s a good idea to remove the markers that they’ve laid out the night or morning before. But my goodness, it is super-demotivating.

The best way I find to recover from this kind of situation is to switch my music on, stay focused and positive by trying to enjoy the scenery around you. You may have slipped back a few places and may not be able to hit your former pace but at least it adds to the adventure and makes for a better story. You’ll also learn that you really should take better note of the checkpoints that you’ve passed before, so if you do have to phone the organisers you have more knowledge than simply, “we’re in a field, at the top of hill with a church steeple and windmill behind us”.

Marathon Man UK (Rob) and I in selfie mode

Marathon Man UK (Rob) and I in selfie mode

6. And plenty of highs

You’re lost, a wee bit tired and, well, pooped. Then again, you’re surrounded by a great bunch of people, chatting about their running adventures. The best thing about the first Trailscape race besides the freedom of running in the countryside and the whole excitement of “where are these arrows leading us next, oh, it’s another gate to open or sty to climb over”, was the fellow group of runners. Even before the race started, I had already chatted with a bloke, who joked “you can’t be wearing all that unless, of course, you’re training for the Marathon des Sables” – he had already competed MdS and incidentally went on to win the first Trailscape marathon.

Then there was the impressive Marathon Man UK, who has made it his mission to complete a marathon a day for more than a year to raise money for charity. When we were lost in the wilderness he offered me a bite-sized Snickers or Bounty to cheer me up. Another guy called Paul ran and chatted with me during the tough mid-part of the race, and shouted when I almost went the wrong way. The atmosphere was friendly and all the competitors were very supportive of each other, spreading the running love.

7. You will love/ hate your first Trailscape but nothing will stop you from wanting to do it all over again

For all of the reasons above. Bring on Cuxton Rail to Trail Marathon and the consequential mudfest!

Mud, mud, mud

Mud, mud, mud














My picks of autumn/winter sportsgear 2014

20 Oct
My sportswear picks for this autumn/winter 2014

My sportswear picks for this autumn/winter 2014

Whether you’re training for an ultra or a 5K, I find there’s always an excuse for new gear (or at least to make your wishlist, even if 97 percent of it never materialises). And as I will be training over what may well be a pretty chilly winter, I’ve drawn up my pick of 16 pieces built for warmth and performance. They (well some of them) also happen to tick all the right boxes style-wise.

Viewed as rows from left to right

1.  adidas adizero cap sleeve shirt, £38, adidas

I know adidas have a new range out called Climaheat to…well..keep you warm but I’m a sucker for their adizero range. The fabric dries fast and is super-light, almost like a second skin. The cap sleeve style is very flattering and the pink pattern is also reflective, making this a good choice when sprint training in the dark.

2. adidas adizero sequencials three-quarter tights, £58, adidas

I already own a similar pair of tights by adidas and absolutely love the light and easy-to-wear fabric. The weave of the fabric supports my muscles making them an excellent choice for cross-country racing. The ones in the photo have reflective detailing so they’re also fabulous for training in during the long, dark winter nights.

3. ashmei  merino + carbon running jersey, £75, ashmei

It may look like a cycling jersey but this top-quality product will retain heat and absorb sweat as you move. Made from 62 percent superfine Merino wool, 34 percent carbon and 4 percent spandex, it is also almost all natural fibres and so will let your body breathe.

4. Berghaus vapourlight hypertherm reversible jacket, £120, Berghaus

Don’t be put off by the name of this product (it is a bit of a mouthful). Multi-purpose and light-weight, this reversible jacket keeps you both warm (one side retains heat) and not too warm (the other side allows heat to escape so your body can cool down). If you’re looking for a trail jacket, make a note of the Berghaus vapourlight hypertherm reversible jacket and the blue/orange version is certainly on my list.

5. Icebreaker Pace leggings, £65, Cotswold Outdoor

You can never have enough sports bras or leggings and this pair will keep your legs and muscles warm in those chillier conditions. Constructed from Merino wool, expect them to be comfortable and the flat stitched seams (they call them flatlock) help prevent “exfoliating those upper thights” otherwise known as chafing.

6. Ninety Six Windbreaker, £31, Fabletics

As much as I’m not a fan of the Fabletics business monthly subscription model (I have to remember to skip each month or they’ll charge me £40), I really like this windbreaker jacket. It may not be the warmest but will add a colourful layer over a long-sleeved technical t-shirt.

7. Patagonia Balaclava,£25, Patagonia

You may not want to run around Central London in this get-up but if you’re hitting the trails on a bitterly cold day (or slopes), this breathable balaclava could be exactly what you want to protect your nose and ears. It could also be a real help when training for a desert marathon.

8. Lululemon Vinyasa scarf Rulu, £42, Lululemon

Designed for yogis, this circular Vinyasa scarf from Lululemon will warm you up and you could almost get away with wearing it to the office. I’d certainly sport it on my bike on a fresh and wintery day.

9. Nike Aeroloft 800 vest, £120, Nike

It’s like the 21st century puffa jacket or bodywarmer- yes, this Nike Aeroloft 800 vest will ensure your body stays warm and ventilated during the winter while remaining as light as a feather (well almost).  A great alternative to a winter running jacket, the longer length also prevents the ‘vest’ from rising and the laser-cut ventilation allows heat to escape.

10. LIJA mesh-panelled top, £65,

Thumb-holes to prevent the sleeves riding up and cover arms? Check. Mesh-panelling and moisture-wicking fabric? Check. Flattering stitching and style? Check. Throw on this LIJA running top to add an extra layer that is comfortable and will help to regulate your heat when the temperatures drop. Selected LIJA wear is now available on

11. LIJA printed stretch-jersey capri leggings, £65,

Quick-drying, breathable and supremely stylish, these leggings are not only practical for those long training runs, they also look pretty hot too. If I could get away with it, I wouldn’t only wear these when working out.

12. Sweaty Betty Velocity jacket, £99, Sweaty Betty

Love the colour and the reflective detail of Sweaty Betty’s latest version of their ever-popular running velocity jacket. It has all the features you want from a showerproof jacket, including a drop hem and breathable mesh side panels. You can also pack it away easily into the back zip pocket.

13. Vitascope print leggings, £280, Lucas Hugh

These are beautiful, eye-catching and make the ultimate run statement. Unfortunately, they are way out of my price range. A girl can still dream though…right?

14. Salomon S-Lab Exo twinskin skort, £120, Salomon

All I know about this skort is that it helped my mate Lenka come first in a 24-hour race. She swears by them and says the multi-layers prevent any chafing, are ultra-supportive and super-comfy. You’ve sold them to me Lenka, I want (need a pair).

15. Michi Cyclone top, £135, Style PB

If you’re looking for high-fashion sportswear, check out the new website Style PB. It’s where you’ll find pieces such as this sexy top by Michi. With sheer panels and bodycon shaping, it seems a shame to cover this piece up. Would I wear it out running? Probably not. To a club or cocktail bar? Definitely. It’s smoking hot.

16. Ronhill base print tight, £33, Ronhill 

With a reasonable price-point, great quality gear and a selection of high vis clothing for winter, Ronhill is definitely on my radar. It’s just a shame that their Vizion collection (that’s the high vis stuff) for women is sooo pink (why? oh why?). After some digging, I did find these black leggings with a luminous yellow pattern so they have redeemed themselves a little.

What has taken your fancy this season? Let me know in the comments below.

Marathon des Sables 2015: le jour viendra

15 Oct

Translation “Sand Marathon – the day will come”

And don’t I know it. In approximately 170-odd days I will be at the start of what has been hailed the toughest race on earth. Whether or not you believe the hype about what is a ridiculously expensive multi-day race, one thing is for sure, it’s going to be a ruddy good adventure.

It’s taken me a long time to write this post because unlike most of the other races that I do, I have to come to terms with what I’m about to embark on.

Just some of the tasty goodness I'll be considering

Rubbish photo I know but it’s just some of the tasty goodness alongside my MdS bracelet


What is the Marathon des Sables?

It’s a self-sufficient, multi-stage race across the Sahara where you can expect to find yourself battling temperatures of up to 55 degrees centigrade. And by self-sufficient, I mean you have to carry everything with you for the entire duration of the trip, which comprises of six stages (most stages are marathons but the long stage is a double marathon and as next year is the 30th year, we’ve been promised surprises!).  That means food, water, sleeping bag (as it can become rather chilly when the sun goes down), toothbrush, soap and anything else you may happen to need. Forget flat roads and smooth tarmac, the terrain out there varies from sand dunes to teeny rocks that get into your shoes. The blisters from past participants are so gruesome that they can put you off your dinner…for life…And you have the opportunity to sleep under the stars, well almost, as the tents look like a very basic version of a yurt. You have to carry whatever you choose to sleep with too and share the space with seven other people. To put it into perspective, of the 1029 people (I think) who entered last year, 917 finished – around 10% abandoned the race.

So why am I taking part?  

Besides being a glutton for punishment, the Marathon des Sables appeals to a side of me that likes to push myself to the extremes. There will be no crowds cheering me on just rocks, dunes, hills and planes of desert with all the terrain that comes with an arid landscape. Some days I’ll want to enjoy the silence and solitude, while on others I know that it’ll be the company of a talking book or music that will get me through. Whatever it is, I’m drawn to the challenge of completing this tougher than tough Marathon des Sables.

Of course, my family and friends are worried. I had to broach the subject carefully with the boyf. The conversation went – “Honey, if I really, really wanted to do something, you would support me wouldn’t you” He replied sternly – “If you’re talking about the Marathon des Sables then NO”.

I understand, I really do, why he is concerned. (And I finally talked him through what I was going to do.) But it can be sometimes difficult to articulate the exact reasons why you want to run across the desert. In my mind, I feel like I’m ready to do this. Ready to explore the unknown territory, listen to those who have completed the race before me and yet make my own way towards the finish line.

What will I have to do over the next few months?

As I said above, I’m constantly looking for advice and picking up tips on the way from the likes of the amazing Susie Chan and Cat Simpson (who has not only just completed Atacama – the equivalent race in South America – but was placed second woman).  I’m heading to Vietnam next week for a fortnight but once back I return, my current training regime will be shifting up a gear or two.

I know I need to be realistic, I do have a day job which I enjoy but as it’s a 9 to 5 and sometimes later, I need to be flexible with my training plan. As well as competing in a few Trail marathons, multi-day races, upping my speed and hill work plus cross-country (which Danny Kendall who finished fifth in this year’s Marathon des Sables swears by), I’m also planning to go on some long walks in the country at weekends. This is something that I can do with my non-running boyfriend, made even more appealing by a spot of lunch in a country pub. During the week, I’m going to try Bikram yoga and sitting in a sauna. And sand dunes, well, I want to head to Camber sands or the Norfolk coast at least twice before April. It’s a semblance of a plan and it will take shape over the next few weeks. I’m pretty realistic and will not beat myself up if say I cannot stick to it day-by-day, but I think simply having a plan that I can stick to will boost my confidence as well as my fitness levels.

And finally, and equally as important, the question of kit (I have a Berghaus rucksack to test at this weekend’s race) springs to mind. What to wear? should I take a sleeping bag?  All this needs to be considered now, well before Father Christmas decides to pay a visit down my chimney. Then there’s the fuel or food, which is my biggest weakness.  I know I cannot live off a packet of Liquorice Allsorts for the entire duration of the race. Well, I could but I probably wouldn’t finish. It’s time to get serious and think about what I can really stomach in the desert (a mix of salty Supernoodles, Oats + Chia, Chia Charge flapjacks, Chia Tea latte powder, some sort of hot chocolate/strawberry milkshake, dried fruit, sweets and seeds is what I’m currently thinking will suit me).

Plenty of stuff to try out before Christmas and think about. In fact apologies to my mates and family as this will be high up my priority list. Scrap that, number one priority. I guess you could say that the Marathon des Sables adventure does not start when I step on that plane next year (4 April 2015). It has already begun.

Am I crazy? Yes but that’s just the way it is. To get me in the mood for Morocco, I’ve been listening to a famous Algerian artist called Khaled.  His song “Le jour viendra” is a bit of a mix of Arabic melody and French lyrics. Give it a go…

Etait-ce vrai ou bien n’était-ce qu’un rêve ?
Oh… Le jour viendra

Oats + Chia on World Porridge Day

10 Oct

Porridge has come a long way since my student days when it consisted of a bowl of gloop with a consistency to rival wallpaper paste and that’s even before you dared to taste it. Yes, porridge was something I actively avoided. That was until I became a runner. And as all runners know, porridge is a staple fuel pre-race. You can almost tell who the runners are when staying at a hotel before a marathon. If they’re not shovelling down a bowl of hot porridge perhaps followed by scrambled eggs, they’ll probably whiff a bit of Deep Heat or Tiger Balm).

As a source of slow-releasing energy, the oaty goodness of porridge makes it perfect for keeping your energy on an even playing field. It certainly helped warm me up before my final lap of the Spitfire Scramble. But I’m the first to admit, it’s not the most exciting  of foods. Or so I thought.


Oats so good (no, my kitchen does not look like this) (c) The Chia Co

You know how I love my Chia seeds,  well The Chia Co have combined the health benefits of Chia with Oats to create a breakfast or snack (why not?) that is tasty. What’s more, each serving contains 5g of fibre, Omega-3, protein and antioxidants. And you don’t even need a microwave or hob to make it up. So it’s perfect for even the laziest of chefs, active adventurers or when you only have access to a kettle at work.

Available in three flavours – Apple Spice, Banana & Mango and Mixed Berry – each of which are mixed with coconut oil, they’re world’s apart from the usual sickly-sweet instant porridge mixes on offer in supermarkets. The downside is that you can only find them at Ocado and at £5 for 5 sachets, it’s worth stocking up for the winter.

As today is World Porridge Day, it’s a reminder that winter is on its way. Thanks World Porridge Day people. (In fact, World Porridge Day is an awesome campaign to help feed some of the most impoverished children around the world. A worthy cause so take a glance at the World Porridge Day website.) Those early mornings in the darkness, training in the cold for a marathon may become a bit of a drag, so it’s always good to have something tasty and warm to look forward to. Now you can, with Oats + Chia.


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