Monday, 25 November 2013

See Harris Inspired: Write This Run Conference, 23rd November 2013

Arriving at the Running Show at Sandown Racecourse, all I could really think about was one thing: when are they going to figure out I'm a fake?

The nagging doubts in the back of my mind got stronger as I made my way past rows and rows of lycra, electronic gadgets, protein-packed foodstuffs and foam thingies.

"I'm not a real runner," I thought. "I only ran my first 10k two weeks ago."

"These people run half marathons, marathons, even ultra marathons."


What followed was a huge blur and it wasn't until I was sat on the train after the post-conference party that I realised maybe I'm not such a fake after all. Maybe I'm even...*whispers*...a runner?

The biggest shock of the day, however, came when I rifled through my goodie bag and found...a place in a half-iron man! Now I like a challenge, but as someone who is still very much a learner runner and has extremely limited skills when it comes to both swimming and cycling, this was a bridge too far and so I decided to keep an eye out for someone to swap with.

Lucky for me, Cathy was on the lookout for a half-iron place! One prize-swap later and I found myself with a place in the Liverpool Rock and Roll Marathon/Half Marathon. I had not expected to be in the running (crap pun) for a half marathon for at least a year but Cathy, along with several others all insisted it was absolutely do-able.

The blogger and brand relationships panel

Ultra marathon and 24-hour runner Robbie Britton's talk 'Suffering is just part of the fun' had us all giggling
I'm not 100% about doing it yet but the more I think about it, the more I find myself wondering if maaaybe, just maybe, this is something I really could do? Plus have you SEEN the medals? Talk about bling.

Anyway, the whole day was great fun and I learnt so much - definitely felt a little sad when it was all over. I'd been planning on coming back the next day for the 10k but unfortunately I had to miss out due to family circumstances.

The better blogging panel gave me a lot to think about

Some highlights...

  • A chance for inspiration and a bit of perspective - listening to talks by Sophie Walker, Simon Webb and Jennifer Bradley really helped tto make me realise that perhaps I don't have so much to contend with after all.
  • Tip on how to improve my blogging - Muireanne Carey-Campbell, Jody Raynsford and Johnny Muir all gave some great tips that I hope I can put into practice for See Harris Run
  • An awesome goody bag (even if it did originally saddle with with a half-iron)
  • Meeting all the awesome people behind the blogs and Twitter handles - hopefully all people I'll meet again as I continue to work on both my running and my blogging.
  • A pretty darn blissful yoga-for-runners session with Emma Spencer Goodier
Massive thank you to Write This Run for the whole day. Liz and Laura have created something that they should be really proud of here. I had tons of fun and left feeling so inspired!

Harris x

Monday, 18 November 2013

Mornington Chasers Regent's Park 10k: 3rd November 2013

On the morning of my very first 10k race I woke up fresh as a daisy and fully rested after a blissful night's sleep.

Oh wait, no I didn't.

I can safely say I have now learnt that it is simply not possible to go to a party the night before a race, even if you are super well-behaved and drink nothing but Appletiser. Although I did manage to leave the party before midnight, there was of course then the fun of a night bus to endure. Or two as it turned out as I managed to get on the wrong one the first time round. Nice one.

By the time I'd got back to my flat and faffed around a bit, I didn't actually end up getting to bed until around 1am. Considering I was meant to be up at 6.30, this wasn't a great start.

I was SO prepared the day before...shame it didn't pay off on the day
But wake up at 6.30 I did and although I was still pretty knackered, at least I was hangover-free. It looked like it was shaping up to be a pretty nice day, so at least I wouldn't have to be dealing with my lack of waterproof coat issue (yes, I know, I still need to get this sorted).

I did all my usual things to get ready: PB on a bagel and a cup of tea for breakfast, same kit as usual, etc and yet somehow I still managed to end up running late.

By the time I'd made it to Baker Street station, it was five minutes until the start of the race and Google maps was telling me it was at least a fifteen minute walk to the start line. So rather than calmly strolling to the centre of the park, I had to prematurely get my run on. By the time I did make it to the start line, I'd already managed to build up a bit of a sweat.

Luckily for me, the race had actually been delayed by fifteen minutes. So after calming myself down, dropping my bag off, picking up and fiddling around with my chip and doing a few final stretches, I was ready to go.

The race course was three laps of Regent's Park - thankfully a nice flat course. It would've been nice to have a little more variation but Regent's Park is a great place to run, My favourite section was past the zoo and although I was a little disappointed not to see any of the promised tigers, I did get a good look at some camels. Better than nothing  I suppose!

Lovely weather for my first 10k!
The Regent's Park 10k is obviously a favourite for running clubs and those looking for PBs (probably due to the flatness of the course), so most people taking part were either in their running club vests or very swanky-looking lycra. I did feel like a bit of an amateur plodding away at the very back of the pack but at no point did it feel disheartening. The course was well signposted with plenty of marshals, many of whom were cheering us on and at points when I did find myself starting to feel a little tired this was a real encouragement, particularly as I didn't have anyone there for support.

I had been a little worried that since I'd never actually done more than 8k, I'd find the end of the race really tough, but aside from an increasing ache in my glutes and feeling understandably weary, I actually still felt like I was running fairly strongly.

Definitely didn't document this well - my one pic of the actual race!
Even though I was definitely in the last group of finishers, there were still plenty of people waiting at the end to cheer everyone on. I had visions of being the last one to stumble over the finish line while a tumbleweed blew across the park and I had to get a drink of water from the lake. But luckily all was well and there was plenty of water, bananas and chocolate biscuits waiting at the finish line.

Everyone was able to queue up to get their chip time straight away and I was really chuffed to have finished in 1:09:09. It may not sound like much to any of you seasoned runners, but considering Goal A had just been to finish and Goal B was to finish in 1:10, this was a really nice surprise. I had been timing on Map My Run but apparently despite having a certificate of course accuracy, a lot of apps and Garmins show that the course is actually longer (apparently due to the twisty-turny nature of the route. As a result I didn't really know what my time would be at the end of the race.

Overall I'm really pleased with my result. I wasn't even sure I would make it round the course and so to have finished in the time I did was really encouraging. But of course that raises the question: 'What next?' I already have another 10k lined up at the Write This Run conference at the Running Show, so we'll see what happens then, but I guess it's time for another goal after that - maybe cutting down my 10k or 5k time?

I also wanted to say thank you to everyone who sent me messages of support or tweets on the day - it was so great to know you guys were rooting for me!

Harris x

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Update: Three days to 10k!

Okay, NOW I'm scared. While it seemed like aaages ago back in September, the Regents Park Winter Series November 10k is now only three days away!

Having said that, I know I've prepared (although haven't actually run 10k in training but hey) and my fitness is light years beyond what it used to be. It's been a slow slog and my times aren't exactly inspirational but I'm happy with where I'm at so far.

So I may be mildly terrified of what awaits on Sunday, but I just have to remind myself that I should be proud of my progress so far. If someone had told me I'd be doing this at the start of 2013 I would have laughed in their face!


I've done a few runs this week and am planning my last one for tomorrow - I figured it would be a good idea to have a rest day before the race, although if anyone has any wisdom on this matter I'd be very grateful!

I've not really changed my diet or anything like that in preparation for Sunday and I'm not planning on trying anything new out on the day. I'll have my usual breakfast (either porridge or bagel with peanut butter and a cuppa) and then a banana about 20 minutes before the start. It's not exactly high-tech stuff and I know there are all sorts of gels, tablets, liquids and what have you out there but they can wait for another day!

It's like they say: If it ain't broke, don't replace it with a high-tech alternative

I'm going to a Halloween party the night before and am determined to be strict with myself - no drinking! While I am the last person ever to turn down a drink, I think the thought of a 10k attempt with a hangover (bleugghh) should strengthen my resolve. And no staying up til the early hours for me...home and bed at a sensible time! Next thing you know I'll have my knitting out and electric blanket on...

I really have no idea what to expect when I arrive at Regent's Park but the one thing I learnt from the Race For Life is that I should definitely wear my glasses on the way there and then take them off for the race. My eyesight is terrible and I'm not able to wear contacts, so I normally just chance it without them when I run. However, for the Race For Life I had forgotten that I actually needed to find my way to the start of the race first and ended up having to ask all sorts of passers-by. Luckily it was easy enough to follow the pink-clad masses once I got close, but it's just a bit of extra added stress that's totally unnecessary on the day.

Looks like these babies are going to have to come with me

Looking at previous results for the course and doing my best at a little maths, it looks like I'll probably be one of the last to finish but at least that means there won't be too many people around to laugh at just how red my face goes when I run!

I've done the training (well, done my best) and I know I can do the proof is in the pudding!

Wish me luck!

Harris x

Any words of advice?

Saturday, 26 October 2013

A Tale of Two Trainers (one left, one right)

Until I started to take running mildly seriously, I definitely didn't take the shoes I wore seriously. I know, I know, classic beginner error. As I progressed my way through the Couch To 5k programme, I just continued to wear the same battered pair of trainer I'd had since I was in school. These babies saw me through three years of very reluctant PE lessons and three years of university, plus halfway through MA year. I suppose it's tribute to how little exercise I did that they lasted that long.

The only photo I have of my old friends
But the further I got through Alexandra Heminsley's Running Like A Girl, the more I came to realise that I really did need to get some properly fitted trainers for my running. Yes my old Asics had done me proud for years, but I had no idea about stuff like pronation or support. I'd sort of just assumed that those niggling aches and pains in my legs were just because I was so darn bad at running.

By the end of Running Like A Girl, however, Hemmo had me convinced that I needed some real trainers (and a hardcore sports bra, but that's a story for another day). I wasn't exactly running in my Green Flash (which I probably bought at around the same time as my first pair of trainers anyway...), but if I wanted to get any better I was going to have to treat my feet a little better.

So off I popped to Cardiff's Run And Become store. I admit I was suffering (as I still continue to) with that feeling of being a bit of a fake, but the staff there were fantastic. I explained that I was still very new to running and what I wanted to achieve and they recommended a few different trainers for me.

They also got me to jog along the street outside for a few metres to check my running style (which I later learned the swanky name for is 'gait analysis'). I was worried that this was going to be a bit embarrassing but it was honestly fine - my advice to anyone with the same worry is to head to the shop early at the weekend before all the Saturday shoppers turn up. It's also probably best to wear trousers rather than a dress!

Gait analysis done, I was presented with some a few different pairs to choose from. It turns out I slightly underpronate on my right foot and so they offered me trainers with a little bit of support .Obviously I first went for the prettiest, which sadly weren't a great fit, but after several different pairs and a few more jogs down the street, I found my perfect trainers.

And here they are, my Asics GT-1000s!
They were a bit of an investment (I've never paid more than about £45 for trainers in the past!), but I've definitely glad I bought them. I noticed that I didn't get that weird little niggly feeling in my right  knee once I'd finished my run - it turns out this was the leg that was underpronating.

I've now run about 100k in my lovely Asics and I could't be happier with them. It was a little bit daunted about spending a good chunk of money on a pair of shoes (yes I know, I'm a rubbish girl) but I'm really glad I did. As I've started to up my distances, it's nice to know that my feet and legs have the proper support they need. 

Harris x

Did you find buying your first proper pair of trainers daunting? Are trainers worth spending on?

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Update: Getting my life back and my best run so far

FINALLY I have been able to reclaim my life from my MA! The final few weeks were pretty intense, as I was balancing finishing my dissertation with a job and moving flats, but I did it! Now I'm finally able to get back on track with my running and life in general.

Getting back into it: My first run along the Thames up to Putney Bridge
Firstly I've finally been able to actually eat properly: I was living off bowls of cereal and toast for about a fortnight as I never had a chance to make it to the supermarket to buy some real food. As a night shifter I've always had a bit of a problem with this but I really didn't feel like I had a moment to spare. Now the fridge and freezer are stocked up and I'm never taking real food for granted again!

My new flat also has a lovely kitchen so I'm really looking forward to actually trying out some new recipes. My old kitchen was pretty grimy and so I never really enjoyed spending time in there, but now I'm determined to expand my (admittedly pretty limited) repertoire.

I've also been able to get back on my running. My first 10k is less than a month away now and I'm definitely starting to feel a little bit scared. The most I've run so far is 7k, so I need to start getting used to upping my distance a little. I know that I can do it, but I'm just starting to get those little flutterings of panic that began to appear before the Race For Life.

I also treated myself to a few bits and pieces from Forever 21
Having said that, yesterday was probably my best run so far. I'm a very slow runner but I'm trying to work on my speed a bit and so I set out yesterday determined to run my fastest 5k yet. I've never managed it in under 35 minutes, but yesterday I got home in 33.08 minutes. It's still not fast compared to most people, but to cut nearly 2 minutes off my time felt like huge progress. Plus I am having to get used to a big hill at the end of every run which is a bit of a killer!

I'm really excited to see what sort of improvements I'll manage now that I'm getting back into a routine.

Is routine important to you? Does your running suffer when you're busy?

Harris x

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Why blog about running?

This is a question I've been asked several times and, to be honest, have asked myself a few times. I'm only a beginner, I don't have all the pearls of wisdom that some more seasoned running bloggers do. So far the longest race I've run is a 5k (although that's set to change in November!). Don't even get me STARTED on my diet...

But so far I have no regrets about starting to blog about my fitness journey. Why? Here are some reasons!

  1. Blogging about my running makes me accountable. So many times I have picked up a hobby, joined a gym or whatever it may be and dropped it a little while later. But now that I'm writing about my plans and my hopes for my running, I feel like I have to do my very best to see them through.
  2. I now have a record of my journey. Already I'm hugely enjoying looking back at my progress and realising that I can do things now that I would never have dreamed I'd be capable of just months ago.
  3. I have already learnt so much from other bloggers and I'm sure I will continue to do so. The more I blog, the more I find myself reading other running blogs and this has been absolutely invaluable for picking up tips and ideas for my running. 
  4. I'm learning more about the online fitness community. I'm really looking forward to meeting some other running bloggers at the Write This Run conference in November and picking up some more tips on both running and blogging.
Do you blog about your running? Why?

Harris x

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Update: Stress, stress and more stress

Well after a lovely two weeks of holiday, the stress immediately began to pile on once I arrived back in London.

So I have a lot of junk left to unpack
Firstly there seemed to be an endless list of problems with moving into our new flat - everything from rejected offers to missing paperwork - not to mention the stress of actually moving into the place. I still can't quite believe how difficult the whole process was, but all's well that ends well and I'm now installed in my lovely new place (which is at the top of a hill, so no more avoiding hills when I run!).

Add that whole nightmare to my fast-approaching MA dissertation deadline and night-shifting at work and things have been absolutely crazy. In fact another holiday to chill out again would be perfect right now. Oh well...

The obligatory legs/pool shot from holiday. This is what I try to envision as I'm slaving away on my dissertation.

But looking on the bright side my dissertation will be handed in (in whatever state it may be) by the end of the month and then I can at least take a bit of a breather.

My running has really suffered because I've been so busy and I've only been managing about one or two a week (I ideally like to aim for a minimum of 3, preferably 4). It actually seems pretty silly, since I always find I feel less stressed when I've been for a run! With my first 10k fast approaching I know that as soon as my dissertation is in I need to really get myself into gear with training.

I'm actually really looking forward to finding some routes in my new area and making some good progress in preparation for my 10k.

So onward and upwards, wish me luck with the dissertation and see you on the other side!

Harris x

Thursday, 12 September 2013

See Harris Inspired: Ellie Goulding

Well here's a post I never thought I'd write.

Don't get me wrong, she's definitely got some good tracks out there, but I couldn't ever say I've been a big Ellie Goulding fan. I'm actually a little ashamed to admit that I'd sort of lumped her into the 'poppy young girls that I don't really want to listen to' group.

Ellie, just wanna say I'm sorry for refusing to listen to you...
That was until I found out that Ellie is actually a kind of hardcore runner. After reading this interview with her on The Fader, I found out that she ran the Nike Women's Half Marathon (she actually re-scheduled a couple of her tour dates so she could do it) and she's actually pretty awesome.

Apparently Ellie always tries to find the time to run, even when she's on tour. And to think I try and get out of a run when I've had to stay late at the office!  I can only imagine how insanely tired touring and performing must be, so this girl is seriously inspirational!

Also check her out in this video for Nike+.

Wish I looked like this when I run...

She's taken part in loads of races, from Nike+'s Run To The Beat to the Great North Run - maybe I'll spot her somewhere along the way?

I'll even admit that after giving her album 'Halcyon' a proper listen, I definitely stuck a couple of tracks on my running playlist - cheers Ellie!

Harris x

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Update: In between trips

I arrived back from Ireland in the early hours of yesterday morning. It was a mercifully smooth crossing and although we were all shattered by the time we got home, we all agreed that it was a lovely trip.

Not 100% sure this helped my running...
Firstly I have to admit that I decided against the running on holiday - mainly because it was a choice between a pair of heels or a pair of trainers in the suitcase - and as far as my Ireland trip went, it was definitely the right choice. I barely had a moment spare between visiting relatives and other activities (mainly centred around stuffing my face silly and a wee drink of Guinness).

The view from my hotel window (very Downton!)
So yesterday I thought I would try and cram a quick run in between unpacking from Ireland, sorting out paperwork for my new flat and re-packing for Portugal.

It was disappointing to say the least. I could practically feel all those Irish scones jiggling around as I ran and I only managed 4.5k. Even that felt like a struggle and I was almost out of breath for most of the run.

I know we all have good days and bad days, but I couldn't help but feel pretty disappointed at how hard I found yesterday's run.

I wasn't expecting to struggle quite so much with this run
I'm just going to enjoy this week in the sun now and make sure that I get properly back on the running when I'm back. The November 10k is starting to loom in my mind and I need to really get myself in gear and get training.

I'm also looking forward to finding some new routes around the area that I'll be moving too - I'll be in reachable distance of Putney Heath, Richmond Park and Wandsworth Common so am wondering if I can find some nice routes around there.

Harris x

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

My Couch To 5k experience

So if you've read some of my earlier posts, you'll know that I first properly got in to running through the NHS C25K plan. I know a lot of people are interested in the C25K plan and so I thought I'd just give my tuppence on the whole thing.

I chose to use the NHS' C25K for several rather boring reasons. Firstly I was a skint student and couldn't afford to buy any other programme (sadly though my student status has changed, the skint remains). Also I was SO unfit that I thought that at least the NHS should know how to create an exercise programme that wouldn't make me keel over and die (this seemed like a very real risk).

So how did I find it? To be honest, it seems like my experience was a pretty typical one: some weeks were pleasantly easy, while others made me want to jump in the Thames. The first 20 minute run felt absolutely insurmountable when I set off and, although definitely a toughie, I really did surprise myself with my progress. For me, the key was simply trusting in the plan to help me improve - even though sometimes at the beginning of a run I was sceptical about whether I would finish, I always did. Sometimes barely. But still.

I'd be interested to try some other C25K plans to see how they measure up - since I've only tried one I guess I can't reaaaally consider myself an expert! But here are some pros and cons for you to weigh up:

  • There is absolutely no denying that my fitness drastically improved. Yes it was hard, but by the end of the programme I was able to run for half an hour, however slowly. This would've been an absolute pipe dream before I started.
  • It's a good mix of music and talking - Laura chips in occasionally with updates on time and the odd helpful tip, but you also get plenty of (occasionally slightly questionable) music.
  • I didn't die (despite sometimes feeling pretty close).
  • I wasn't actually running 5k by the end of it. I do completely understand the programme's emphasis on running for time rather than distance, but since I knew that the Race For Life was going to be 5k, I was actually left a little scared despite having 'graduated' from the C25K plan.
  • The music is often a little but rubbish. In fairness I am a bit of a music snob, but sometimes it really was awful. Having said that, I guess it did spur me on because all I could think was "what the hell is this?!" instead of  "I'm tiiiired".
Thanks Laura!
Despite the cons of the programme, I would definitely recommend the NHS C25K (and indeed any C25K) to anyone like me who is a total beginner to running and is terrified at the though of running for more than 3 minutes. Simply setting off to run for half an hour without any guidance as a total beginner is asking for trouble (as I had found previously) and so this was a great way to build up gradually.

Have you tried a C25K plan? What did you think?

Harris x

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Can I run on holiday?

I'm going on holiday! Finally, after an insanely stressful year, I am off for a two week break and I couldn't be looking forward to it more. It's nothing ground-breaking: I'm heading over to Ireland to see lots of relatives first and then off to the Algarve to catch a bit of sun (trying to make the transition between translucent white and beige), but I can't wait.

Now my primary aim for my holidays is to relax. Recently, particularly the last few weeks, I have been really feeling the pressure. I'm juggling a new job (night shift work) with finishing my MA dissertation, finding a place to live for September and (of course) learning to run. My MA year was also fraught with various dramas, many of which I have only just been able to leave behind.

And yet while I do feel that I deserve a break, I don't want to lose the progress that I've made so far. I've made it so far as to be able to run 7k and now that I've signed up to run the Regent's Park 10k in November I'm especially determined to continue to improve.

So my big dilemma is can I run on holiday? 

They make it look so bloody easy

The Irish hotel we stay in is in quite an isolated spot halfway down a road, so I really have no idea where I would go. I wouldn't really feel comfortable running on the road (I'm not really sure it's terribly safe). The hotel does have its own grounds (35 acres according to their website, although I've never explored this properly before), so could I have a go at running around there? Or would I look like a bit of a numpty?

Then we're on to Portugal. I've never been to here before so I don't really know what to expect, but what I do know is that I HATE running in the heat (just check out my Race For Life post). I've seen so many inspiring posts about running on holiday, but the idea of running along the beach in 35 degree heat just doesn't do anything for me.

SO, is it worth packing my trainers and trying to get a few miles in while I'm away? Or do I sack it in for two weeks and hope for the best when I return?

Harris x

Thursday, 29 August 2013

A weighty issue

For the past year, the only exercise I have done (bar a couple of Davina McCall DVDs - such a fangirl) is running. But I keep hearing people singing the praises of a little weight training here and there.

Now I know the "but I'll end up bulky" myth has been busted a thousand times over (and to be honest I'm kind of proud of the little baby quads I've started to build), so what is my problem with weights?

Call me a big ol' teenager, but in the end I just feel way to uncomfortable with the way weights in my local gym are geared towards men.

Now I don't have much experience of gyms, having only ever joined my local one and my uni one. But this seems to be a recurring problem. I just have no desire to make my way over into testosterone land to do my 5kg bicep curls. Maybe that makes me a wuss, but seriously, I tried it once and I have never felt so self-conscious.

Having said that, I know that free weights aren't the only option and many people swear by weights machines. I have definitely got on much better with these in the past and although some people say it's not as good a workout as free weights, I certainly still feel the burn!

I really would like to build some weights into my week's workout but I don't currently have any form of gym membership as a) I am stone cold broke and b) I am moving house in about a month so there doesn't seem much point.

I've also seen and heard a lot about Crossfit, but in all honesty that just seems waaaay out of my league. I definitely think this is an area I need to do a little more research into though.

So what's the answer? Do I give up, sign on the dotted line and learn to deal with my ridiculously teenage embarrassment? Do I buy some of my own weights? (with a move coming up this doesn't reaaaally seem ideal) Or is weight training not all it's cracked up to be?

Harris x

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Update: I've signed up for a 10k!

Seriously, I keep having these moments of madness. I wish I could say I was drunk or something, but no, I was simply feeling a little over-confident after hitting the 7k mark for the first time last week

So I've signed up to the Regent's Park Winter Series 10K in November. I know, I know, you're thinking "that's ages away woman, get a grip". But it's at the very beginning of November and I'm on holiday for the first two weeks of September. And...y'know....I'm a massive wimp.

Sure it looks like nice now...

But this means that, once again, there's no backing out now. Since doing the Race For Life I've sort of been fannying around, sometimes not even doing 5k when I run. So once again, it's time to get a bit serious, knuckle down and start really working.

I also didn't realise that it's common to get you to estimate your finish time before the day itself and this really stressed me out. It's my ultimate fear that I end up with loads of people stuck behind me, cursing me for my slow plod, but at the same time I don't want to sell myself short either. I really have no idea what a good time is for a beginner to run 10K! I ended up putting down 1:10 but I genuinely have no idea if I'll smash this or be loads over. To be honest this is more about just being able to finish the race for me, rather than the time, but we'll see...all part of the learning curve I guess!

I'm not really sure whether to find myself some Bridge To 10k podcasts (after all C25K worked well for me) or to simply keep increasing my distance...

Any advice guys?

Harris x

Sunday, 18 August 2013

See Harris Inspired: 'Running Like A Girl' by Alexandra Heminsley

So I'm planning on trying to do a little regular slot about what has and ched ontinues to inspire me, whether it's a book, person, picture or just some music. They say that running is 80% mental and so I find it really important to keep finding stuff that inspires me to keep going and stay motivated.

My first Inspired post is about 'Running Like A Girl' by Alexandra Heminsley. I admit that what first attracted me to this book was the fact that it has an endorsement from Caitlin Moran (I'm a littttle bit of a fangirl). I didn't want anything too intense for my first bit of running reading and I thought that if unashamed fag-smoker Caitlin liked it, maybe I would too.

My hopes were well-placed. 'Running Like A Girl' seriously helped me in my prep for the Race For Life. Granted Alexandra is talking about training for a marathon rather than a little old 5k, but a lot of what she talks about in the book really rings true for me. Her description of that very first run struck a particular chord with me: setting off with the best of intentions, only to return unable to breathe and totally beaten.

She covers all sort of topics with honesty and a great sense of humour. She never takes herself too seriously but at the same time this feels like a book that you can trust. She gives loads of advice all the way through, from finding your perfect trainers to the importance of a decent sports bra (seriously, this is really bloody important), much of which I've found absolutely invaluable.

This girl seriously knows what she's doing (credit)

Alexandra's running journey is, I suspect, like a lot of people's: huge highs, terrible lows and lots of hard work in between. It might sound strange but I actually really like that she includes her low points too - everyone has moments where they totally lose their motivation and hers came straight after she completed a marathon. I would've thought that this was when you would be feeling totally invincible but Alexandra admits that she just lost her running mojo for a while. These negative moments, along with the euphoric highs of completing races, make this is a really accessible and human book.

I can't really stress how much 'Running Like A Girl' encouraged and helped me as I started out running - I would recommend it in a heartbeat!

Harris x

Friday, 16 August 2013

My Race For Life (5k): 14th July, Hyde Park (Part Two)

I wish I had documented the day better, but I think I was too busy feeling nervous to really think about taking photos!

The morning of the 14th arrived, the hottest day of 2013 so far. This was not good. I always specifically made sure that I ran either early in the morning or later on in the evening because I found running in the heat so hard. And yet here I was at 11am, queuing up with all the other runners in Hyde Park.

Things suddenly got pretty damn real...

It was boiling and it was only going to get hotter.

I was actually a little glad that I had got just a little (a lot) lost on my way to Hyde Park and missed out on the warm-up - I definitely didn't need to get any warmer than I already was.

Before I knew it I was lining up with all the other women to start. I opted to join the 'joggers' rather than the 'runners' because I am chronically afraid of holding other people up and this was definitely the right choice.

Lining up to start the race
After a bit of a false start (it was a bit confusing how they got us all hyped up and then herded us off again to the actual start line), we finally started the race.

One of the most important things I've learnt about running so far is that distraction is a powerful tool. When your mind wanders off on a tangent, you often find that you've suddenly run a kilometre without even realising it. The Race For Life was great for that as I was so deeply engrossed in people-watching that I didn't even realise that I'd run past the first kilometre marker.

There were plenty of people just like me, plodding along on their own with their earphones in. But there were also whole groups of people, some in training for bigger runs, families, classmates and sports teams. Sometimes I paused my music to briefly catch a snatch of conversation, whether it was encouragement ("Apparently Mum's made pavlova, just think of that!"), complaints ("My ***ing legs feel like they're going to ***ing fall off") or just general chit chat.

Even more engrossing were the 'I'm running for...' signs people wore on their backs. I'd completely forgotten mine, but it was fascinating and kind of moving to read them as I ran past or was overtaken by others. Many simply read things like 'My mum', 'Jess' or 'a cure'. But there were a few that really caught my attention. One woman's read "because my children have already lost their father". Another's had a whole list of family members. And one little girl, who couldn't have been older than about 10 and jogging with her mum, had a sign saying "because I miss my dad".

Now I'm not an emotional person. In fact I think I've cried about twice in the past year. But those signs were one of the saddest things I've ever seen. Well, sad, but also in a way sort of uplifting. Without going all mushy-gushy on you, just after the 4k mile I had a little moment of realisation. I was here running alongside thousands of other women, all doing the same thing because we really bloody hate cancer and what it's done to our families, friends and people we don't even know. Whether these ladies were walking, running or flat-out sprinting (yeah in my dreams), we were all here to join the fight against cancer. 

That feeling of being in a team like that is something pretty bloody amazing, something you don't really get to feel every day.

Beginning of the race

And what made it even more amazing were the supporters. Now I assumed that people simply came along to support their own friends and family. But just over halfway, the heat was really starting to get to me and I was wishing I hadn't dumped my water bottle by the start (future tip: DON'T DO THAT). I was starting to doubt myself and the little niggly voice in my head started to tell me that I'd never actually run 5k before, I was kidding myself that I could actually do it and to be honest I might as well start walking now.

But that's when I ran past three guys who I reckoned to be about forty-something. Now after several occasions where people have beeped their horns, passed smart-arse comments or wolf-whistled as I've run past (seriously HAVE YOU SEEN HOW RED MY FACE IS?) I've perfected my staring-straight-ahead. But these guys were shouting at almost every woman that ran past them. And it wasn't until I too ran past that I heard what they said: "You're amazing!"

I couldn't believe it. As I continued to run I could hear them encouraging those behind me: "Go on, you're over half way now!" "Well done, keep going!" "You're awesome, keep it up!"

More than once this happened, coming across pockets of people, mainly men and children, shouting encouraging words. Then of course there were the people with the foam hands who insisted on giving you high-fives as you ran past.

As someone who always runs solo, this was a whole new experience. But it gave me SUCH a boost.

Before I knew it, the 4k mark was heralded by the above-mentioned foam-handed people. Despite the insane heat I still felt okay - I wasn't going fast by anyone's standards, but I wasn't walking and that was my goal.

The crowd thinned down as the heat started to take its toll  - these trees were one of the few shady parts of the course!
I didn't start to feel really knackered until the very final 500m. There was something about knowing I was so close to the finish that made me start to feel tireder and tireder. The last bit really was a battle, with the almost midday sun beating down, but finally (and about bloody time) the finish line appeared.

I remember a friend who ran the London Marathon (yeah dream on) telling me that you have to do a sprint finish for every race. Now I don't know how you feel after 26.2 miles, but I imagine it's a whole lot worse than after 3.1. So with her words ringing in my ears, I absolutely pelted the last 50m. Everyone around me probably thought I'd lost the plot, but you know what? It felt bloody good.

Finishers were herded through a gap in the fence to collect their medals, a bottle of water and a brioche bun (personally my favourite part of the whole day) and I promptly collapsed under a tree.

I had been worried that doing the Race For Life on my own would be a kind of lonely and I would feel like a bit of a Billy-No-Mates. But even though I didn't chat to the other runners or have anyone there at the finish line to cheer me on, I really did feel like part of a team.

I realise that for many people, 5k is no distance at all. When I mentioned that I was doing the 5k Race For Life, several people promptly told me "Oh that's easy, you'll have no problem, 5k is nothing". But for me this was a really big deal. I was so proud to cross that finish line after running all the way and I think I always will be. I made to so much progress to get to that day.

But I hope that there is more progress to come.

I've kept up my running since the Race For Life, adding either distance or more intensity to my run. I'm not really sure what the best way to go about it is, but I'm determined to continue to improve.

Next stop, 10k.....?

Harris x

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

My Race For Life (5k): 14th July, Hyde Park (Part One)

Signing up for the Race For Life was my first big challenge. I'm a very goal-motivated person - if I can't see a point then I don't want to do it. While it was nice to see myself making progress with the C25K plan, I certainly wasn't dedicated.

I wasn't aiming for a particular goal or trying specifically to lose weight, so on days when I though "ahh I can't really be bothered with this", I just stayed there on my bed watching Gossip Girl.

I found all sorts of excuses not to put my trainers on and just get on with it: I just ate, I'm too hungry, it's starting to get dark, it's too cold, it's too hot, I have work to do (yeah like I ever actually did any), on and on it went.

So finally in a moment of madness I signed up to the Race For Life. Well, more specifically in a moment of trying to avoid my Business Journalism assignment. But whatever.

I had always thought it sounded like a great thing to do, but up until this point I firmly believed that races were for runners. You know, those people up pounding the pavements at the crack of dawn with their neon lycra on (yes I have since bought some neon lycra and yes I am thoroughly ashamed). My interest was particularly piqued when I saw the newest Race For Life advert on TV.

But it was only when a family member got diagnosed with cancer that I decided to put my money where my mouth was and sign up.

It had exactly the effect I needed. I stopped making quite so many excuses. Drizzle was no longer a legitimate reason to skip a run. I wanted to run that race and I wanted to do it properly.

Once this arrived, I knew I had to go through with it

I followed the C25K plan and made it all the way to my 'graduation run', a half hour non-stop. Although initially very pleased (this was real progress for a girl who thought she was going to die after 10 minutes light jogging), I soon realised that I wasn't even hitting 4k in this time. 

I knew I needed to train harder, but with my final MA exams looming, there simply wasn't the time left.

I was going to have to chance it on the day.

Check out Part Two to find out what happened to me when 14th July rolled around and I found myself in Hyde Park on the hottest day of the year so far...

Harris x

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Why on earth am I doing this?: How I started to run

Aside from those times when my reluctant PE class was bullied around the school playing fields, I managed to completely avoid running until I went to university. Since most nights ended with a cheeseburger, by the second term I eventually figured that I should do something, anything, to try to fight off the 'freshers fifteen'. With visions of loping gracefully across campus like a gazelle, I set off with a couple of other people who lived in my halls. 

It was less gazelle, more gorilla. Within two minutes of starting to run, I already had a stitch and was getting short of breath. By five minutes I already felt like my lungs had been passed through a shredder. I was pretty much convinced that I was going to die. I have no idea how I made it through the 2km run, but when I arrived back at halls pretty sure that I was having a heart attack, I swore I would never run again.

Fast forward to the end of my time at university. I'd never quite manage to shift that cheeseburger weight – if anything the problem had only been added to by my introduction to kebabs by a close friend. I'd tried and failed again and again to become a gym bunny. It wasn't so much the 20 minutes on the cross trainer that I minded, but being surrounded by perfectly toned lacrosse boys as I gradually turned puce with the effort was just too soul destroying. After the final indignity of bumping into someone toe-curlingly embarrassing while desperately struggling to touch my toes, I threw in the towel once again.

I think this pretty much sums up the Cheeseburger Years
It wasn't until I stumbled upon the idea of a 'Couch to 5k' plan that I started to reconsider running. I was most certainly on the couch. With a giant cheese sandwich and large glass of sauvignon blanc. But I was  intrigued and so I started to do some research. The idea of ever being able to run 5k was laughable: the three flights of stairs to the History department were an issue at this point.

I found myself on the NHS website of all places, where they had a whole section dedicated to the C25K plan. Heck, I thought, if it's approved by the National Health Service at least I shouldn't keel over. Well, not straight away anyway.

Finally, somewhat dubiously, I downloaded Week One.

Laura, my new audio personal trainer, told me she was confident that she'd get me running for half an hour (apparently an appropriate time to be able to cover 5k). I wasn't so sure, but thought I'd better humour the poor girl.

Half an hour later, after lots of intervals of jogging and walking, it actually  didn't seem so bad. Maybe this was doable after all.

Over the next few weeks, I stuck with Laura and found myself progressing to longer and longer periods of running. It wasn't pretty and every time I returned to the house looking like a big sweaty baby. But slowly, so very very slowly, I was getting fitter.

After some initial trepidation, I actually started to enjoy the NHS C25K plan

I admit though, this was a bit of a false start. I basically stopped when I moved to London after uni. I just didn't have the motivation, what with starting my Masters and various problems going on at home.

But in around March 2013, I decided I'd have one last go. I promised myself that if I didn't like it this time, I didn't have to do it. I'd just give it one last shot, just to check. And it was a handy way to avoid writing my MA essays.

A few weeks in, it all seemed to be going surprisingly well and in a moment of madness I decided to sign up for a 5k Race For Life. It was time to test Laura's claims and myself. Without a goal, I was pretty sure I'd either keep hovering around week 4 of the C25K plan or just give up altogether.

It was only once my registration pack and race number arrived in the post that I began to wonder what sort of terrible mistake I had made. What the hell was I doing? I was only running for 8 minutes at a time before Laura mercifully allowed me to walk again. I wasn't even sure if I was covering a kilometre, let alone five of them.

I really wasn't sure I was ready to be one of these guys...

But it was too late now, I'd signed up and if my mother has taught me anything, it's that you never ever back down when you've promised to do something.

I'll write about my experience with the Race For Life in another post, but I can safely say that when the day came,  running across that finish line was one of the best feelings ever. Sure it was only 5k. But to run 5k without stopping would have been absolutely unthinkable back in March. Even more so back in university.

So now it's onwards and upwards. My Race For Life was last month and I have continued to improve since then. Okay so I won't be signing up for next year's marathon, but I've already decided that my next target is a 10k and I'm really starting to believe that maybe this running thing is for me after all...

Harris x

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Run Harris Run!

Welcome to See Harris Run!

I'm Sarah Ann Harris, but, mainly due to having a bunch of friends also called Sarah, most people call me Harris. Original right?
So this blog is very much a work in progress, but I'm hoping to use this blog to record my progress as I learn to run. And learn to blog. Basically there's a lot of learning going on here.

I started from absolutely ZERO fitness - I got out of breath even running for a minute. I was actually kind of ashamed to walk up the stairs with anyone because I got a bit out of puff. I used to get soo mad when people were like "Oh yeah my fitness is like sooo bad" and then they'd go for a casual half hour run and return looking fresh as daisy. I was SERIOUSLY UNFIT. Like beetroot-faced, tshirt-soaked, dropping-your-iPhone-because-even-your-hands-are-sweaty unfit.

But in the end I had enough and after a couple of false starts I decided I really did want to run.

And now I look like this.  In my dreams.
I really wish that I'd started blogging sooner because I'd like to have documented my journey right from the start, but I'll do my best to look back on my progress from total beginner to an advanced beginner (as I like to think of myself now).

I am in no way whatsoever an authority on running, exercise or nutrition, but I have tried to educate myself as I go. I still very much consider myself a beginner, but hopefully you'll be able to see my progress as I learn to run!

Any advice or comments will be very much appreciated!

Harris x