Training for Ultra

It is now 10 weeks until Tarawera and my training is well underway…these past two weeks were my first ones fully into it…and oh my god it is exhausting! Fitting it in between work, socializing and sleeping…thank god I am only doing 60km, I can’t imagine how much more time I would have to commit if I was doing the 100km option!

I’ve had a few people ask me “So are you running like every day?” or “I see you at the gym way more than on the road”, so I thought I would set out what my training has been this past week…it has required a lot of 6am starts and many nights I get home after 8pm…I think I saw my flatmate once this entire week as a result!


6pm: 20 minutes of core work followed by 4x500m sprints followed by stair work (the Vista steps, approximately 120 steps total…a series of single step repeats followed by double step ones)

7pm: Restorative yoga


6:30am: Running specific strength (single leg squats, single leg calf raises (I am up to 18kgs on those!! I started with 6kg months ago!), lateral weighted lunges, 40-50kg deadlifts, hip abduction with band, side plank hip abductions, and a number of core exercises)

5:45pm: Metabolic (this week’s class involved sprints, jump squats (which killed me after Monday’s stair session!), burpees and 10 minutes of killer core work

6:15pm: Personal training with the amazing Mish, this week was some nice upper body work


7:15am: Run technique

7pm: Restorative yoga


7am: 20 minutes of core/prehab work

1pm: 3x2km threshold repeats with 1.5km warm up and 1.5km warm down, totalling 9km (I managed 8:46, 8:45 and 9:03 for my 2kms so was very happy)


6:30am: Running specific strength (a repeat of the above Tuesday morning circuit) + bench presses and push ups


12pm: 24km Skyline return – 12km running (90 minutes) and 12km steady walking back (110 minutes) – in 45km/hr gusts – it was SO exposed and windy!

And Sunday (tomorrow) is going to involve some chest/back/arm work at the gym plus foam rolling,  stretching and resting my little legs.

So yes…training has started to take over my life, and I feel like I am living at the gym.  However, my body is now used to waking up at 6am (It doesn’t want to, but it doesn’t complain as much as it did a few weeks ago) and I am starting to organize my meals a bit better, looking after my nutrition and ensure I am eating well.  Probably not eating enough though – this past week I have been SO much hungrier and in need of food.  Thursday afternoon after my 9km at lunchtime, I had lunch immediately after (a quinoa, avocado, smoked tofu, cucumber, tomato and hummus bowl) but within 2 hours I could hear my stomach rumbling!  So I have to start bringing more snacks to work and making sure I am getting enough protein in each meal to help my body recover.


Saturday’s gorgeous run along the Skyline

But despite the exhaustion I am currently trying to overcome, I am LOVING the training.  I feel like I am getting so much stronger in my legs, working my way up to 3 sets of 12 18kg single leg calf raises.  And today’s run was SO beautiful.  It was warm (18 degrees) with the sun shining and not a cloud to be seen, and it was very windy (average 47 km/hr northerly gusts, and in some parts I had to stop running because the wind was actually pushing me over and making me trip over rocks etc).  But it was just so beautiful.  I had never done the Skyline before so was a bit nervous, trying out a new route, but it was really easy to follow.

The Wellington City Council has a great brochure with information about the route available online. But it says it takes 5 hours to walk one way, and it also made it seem much longer than 12km given you run from Johnsonville to Khandallah, Ngaio, Wilton and then Karori.  However with a bit of googling and checking other people’s blog posts, I found confirmation that it was only 12km, so I didn’t need to worry (the last thing I wanted to do was to run and find that it was like 20km, resulting in me being stranded at the other end!!)

Skyline run

The Skyline run – I started at the northern end, ran south west to Karori, then turned around and back to Johnsonville

There were only one or two times where I thought ‘where do I go now?’ but that is part of the fun…exploring nature, adventuring and feeling like you are in the wild!  I started from the Johnsonville end at Carmichael Street, and ran all the way to Karori (by Karori Park/Makara Road).  That was 12km, and I then turned around and walked the 12km back…which was actually pretty tough! I think that running you get into a rhythm and it is easier to just keep going, walking I could feel my glutes and the ground a bit more and slowed down a few times.


So beautiful – so blessed to live with this trail only 15 minutes drive away!



But I just focused on the scenery and the stunning views on either side of me, and the fact that the faster I walked back, the faster I could have a glass of nice ice cold chocolate soy milk (bribery and mind games – they work like a charm!). The entire 24km had a 1,000 elevation gain, constantly going between 230m and 430m with numerous peaks to run up and down. Also burned approximately 1,400 calories – great given that I splurged a bit last night at our work team’s get away, having a second serving of dessert, and a few glasses of wine!

The elevation profile – cumulative 1,000m gain

I also got more experience in my trail running shoes (which I LOVE) and using my awesome Ultimate Direction women’s ultra vesta hydration pack, and also figured out that I enjoy eating bananas on long trail runs, but not frooze balls so much.  And afterwards, knowing that I did 24km in that weather when I could have easily said no, was so rewarding.  It gave me a big mental boost, making me think ‘you can actually do this’ – which I need to keep telling myself!

FullSizeRender(1).jpgBut I am now looking forward to my ‘rest’ day tomorrow – my one day off before starting another 6 days that look very similar to the above plan…except next Saturday’s run is going to be 36km around the bays…which again, will be an awesome challenge mentally and physically.  I haven’t done 36km in a long time, hopefully I survive!


Three Months to Ultra

A few months ago I made a decision to do something that excites…and scares me.  After quietly contemplating the idea for a few weeks, doing a bit of research and speaking to a few people about it, I finally decided to take the plunge.  The decision? To enter the Tarawera Ultramarathon.

Yep, an ultra.  A distance longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.2 km (26.2 miles). In the Tarawera race, there are three options: 00km, 85km and 60km.  For my first, I decided to play it safe, and smart, and go for the 60km option.  Still crazy, still insanely long, and still rather scary.   

Even after taking the plunge, registering online, paying my entry and even posting an update on my Facebook about this insane goal,  my entry still didn’t feel 100% real. It still felt so far away, with so many opportunities to back out, so it hadn’t completely sunk in.  So of course, with a new goal, and a new hobby, I had to go shopping! I felt completely unprepared for what trail running was going to bring – what do I wear what do I eat what do I bring how do I do it!?!?  However, I soon stopped freaking out and purchased some ultra essentials:

  • An Ultimate Direction hydration pack – I bought the ‘Ultra Vesta‘ pack, designed by Jenny Jurek (wife of vegan ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek), designed specifically for running and for women, and it had numerous good reviews online
  • A really good running rain jacket – this decision took FOREVER to make, and I ended up going for the more stylish and perhaps less practical choice, being a Lululemon jacket…it still cost over $200…and to be honest was one of the best items of clothing I have ever bought!!!
  • Trail running shoes – yes, not hybrids, but complete trail shoes, shoes that should not be worn on the road.  Another $200 but a necessary investment – again after talking to numerous people, lots of online research and visiting stores, I purchased the Brooks Cascadia from my friend Anna at Shoe Clinic – they are so comfortable and stable and provide so much support to my feet, I love them!  They also have an awesome hot pink color underneath…

Shoes copyGosh who would have thought that running a trail ultra-marathon would be so expensive! The funny thing that even after spending about $500 on the above, it still didn’t sink in that ‘Ok you are running 60km, you are actually doing this.’ Because I wore my Lulu jacket running normally, I used my hydration pack while hiking in South Africa and my trail shoes I wore them in and got them muddy doing normal trail runs with the WoRM group.  However, things have now got very real.

The race is just three months away.  How did that happen! In three months today I will have finished a 60km race, I will be tired and aching and probably have a beer in my hand, being looked after by my supportive partner and other friends who are going to make the trip up that weekend.  I expect I will experience a range of emotions, not just after the run but also beforehand and during, and need to start training myself emotionally to harden up and thrive off pain and despair (how uplifting!).  But I also need to start doing some serious training.  Luckily, I have a three month training plan all set up, starting tomorrow.  It is a bit daunting, looking at what the next three months will bring.  The gym and the trails are going to be my new home, and I am going to have to explore some new trails and get used to training no matter what the weather.   But it is three months to ultra – this training plan and the lead up to the ultra is just what I needed for it to set in.  I am doing this – I am actually doing this.

And if at any point denial starts to set in, all I have to do is go to the 2016 Starters Page…where my name is listed.  How cool is that? A race where my name features on their website! You can scroll through and see who else has entered, what countries people are traveling from, and how many people have entered the various distances.  It makes me feel much less alone.

Tarawera starting list copy

Everything hurts…

It is very rare for me to be sore, achy and hurt all over.  But I am. You name it, it hurts.  It hurts to touch, to move, to stand, to sit. I now understand why people join a bootcamp or a gym and then end up hating life.  Exercise is meant to be fun! Enjoyable! Invigorating! But the pain…man it sucks.

As many of you will know, I recently returned from a 3 1/2 week vacation in Africa.  I went on safari, slept on a house boat, visited the beautiful Victoria Falls, partook in wine tasting at vineyards outside of Cape Town, and did very little exercise.  So, getting back into it has been difficult, both mentally and physically. Before my vacation, I had been working out at least 5 times a week and told myself “I will do small HIIT circuits in my room every day, make sure I keep up with my prehab exercises for my running, and go for a run or two when possible.”

In reality, I did no exercise whatsoever for the first 10 days (apart from some bush walks in Matusadona National Park with our guide Steve).  On day 11, back in Harare, I did a small HIIT circuit at 8am in my room.  I gave up half way through because it was already 30 degrees and I couldn’t make myself do any more burpees.  Defeated by burpees…not my usual MO.  Days 12 to 22 I did a few 5-15 minute ab circuits and went on two 8km runs (one when it was 32 degrees and in a wildlife reserve, without any water, leading to us stopping every 2km or so ‘to take a photo’ (aka catch our breathe and try not to die) and one 5km run…but I basically had 3 1/2 weeks off.

And it was glorious.  For once, day after day, I woke up not sore or tight or in need of a stretch.  I didn’t have to fit in a run or a weight session before work, or after.  My weekends, my days, my time, was all mine.  I ate and drank and felt no guilt about my workout that day.  I felt relaxed, refreshed and recharged. Who would have thought not exercising could be so nice!!

So when I got back to NZ this past weekend, I initially thought “Maybe I don’t get back into my old exercise routine, I liked a bit more spare time, maybe I lay off for a bit…”.  Even thog h it was a beautiful weekend and normal me would have been dying to get out in the sun and run around the bays. I thought ‘hmm going to the beach and drinking. A bar in the sun…much more fun than starting my running routine again!’

Then I remembered that I signed up for a 60km ultramarathon in Feburary 2016.  Fourteen weeks away.  So choosing not to exercise is not an option.  I have to get back into it…something that my body is currently hating me for.

So my past three days since ‘getting back into it’, my exercise schedule has looked like:

  • Monday 10am: 6km run along Oriental Parade and back via Maida Vail Road (elevation gain of 168m) on Monday morning;
  • Monday 12pm: Acro-yoga for 90 minutes on Monday afternoon;
  • Monday 6pm: Sleep…
  • Tuesday 5:45pm: Metabolic at HealthFit with Mish
    • 21-15-9-4 workout
      • 15kg sandbag hug squats
      • Burpees
      • GHD sit ups
    • Ab workouts – 30s on, 15s rest, 25s on, 15s rest, 20s on, 15s rest, 15s on, 15s rest, 10s on, 15s rest, 5s on
      • Running man
      • Bicycle
  • Tuesday 6:15pm: Personal training with Mish
    • First PT circuit (3 rounds)
      • 27.5kg static lunges (x15)
      • 4kg DB forward and reverse lunge (x12)
    • Second PT circuit (2 rounds)
      • 70kg leg press (x15)
      • 32kg cable woodchopper (x12 each side)
      • Swiss ball jack knife (x15)
  • Wednesday 6pm: Run group (twice up Mt Vic – 7.5km, 328m elevation gain – up to 136m and back down again, then repeated back up to 136m, and back down)
  • Wednesday 7pm: Restorative yoga

My Tuesday evenings are usually a good combination…Mish works me hard but it doesn’t affect me too much the next day.  But oh my god I woke up Wednesday morning hurting.  All Wednesday I was hurting.  Everywhere. My abs and legs. But also my vehat, my shoulders, my back. Those burgers annihilated me. And yet I still had run group to look forward to, which involved not one but two climbs up Mt Victoria.  Honestly I almost cancelled.  I thought ‘why am I doing this to myself?’ but also ‘how did I go from being a machine to useless in three weeks! This isn’t fair!’ But I knew that there was no point having a tantrum and that I had go to run group and show Greig that I was serious. I had to get back into it. Rip off the Band-Aid, just get back into it and give 110%.

I hoped that the run up Mt Vic would loosen my muscles, make me feel real confident and great and give me lots of positive energy.  What actually happened was that I spent those two kilometers thinking “It hurts it hurts it hurts. Why does it hurt oh my god I want to stop. Why can’t I walk? Maybe I can walk. No one will see me walk.  Maybe I walk for ten seconds. No you have to keep running. But ow it hurts I don’t want to. I give up I’m pulling out of the ultra. I thought running was meant to be fun!! I can do it I can do it. F!@# now it is raining too! Life sucks”. I turned around at the 2km mark to ensure I got two climbs in, and on my descent, things changed, I thought “Hey, no knee pain, that’s good.  The rain is starting to die down a bit. You know what, that wasn’t too bad.  It’s only 2km, I can do that again.  Come on you can do this. It’s nice running downhill. I can breathe again.”

Elevation 28 10 2015

Of course, leading to the second climb back up – and wow what a change mentally.  I knew it hurt. I knew it was hard to breathe. I knew it was raining and that it was hard work and it sucked. But all I could think was “Yeah I am doing this, come on one more time up, just 2km to go, just 1.9km, just 1km…” until I reached 400m away and sped up, reaching the 2km turnaround point feeling great.  Relieved.  And proud.  Sure, it wasn’t fun, it sucked, but I did it.  I could have said no, I could have gone home and given up and felt sorry for my poor aching body, but I did it.  7.5km up and down hills, done.

Route 28 10 2015

But it also gave me a really nice understanding of why people say they hate to run, that they hate to exercise, or how people really struggle with it or give up after one or two tries. And it also helped me understand that sometimes, the pain and the aches never feel worth it. I just have to focus on the fact that it will get better, my body will re-adjust, the aches and pains will lessen and I will get my running and gym mojo back soon enough.  Until then, I have a massage booked in for tomorrow afternoon for an alternative form of pain (needling and deep tissue massage…), and I think I will be taking it easy this weekend (with a trail run and light gentle weights!).

My Sydney marathon – one year on

Today marks the start of my Africa adventure, a trip I am OVER the moon excited for. Three weeks away in Zimbabwe and South Africa, at a time where it is not yet spring in NZ and I am feeling overdue for a vacation. But flying into Sydney this afternoon, with a 16 hour layover, to my surprise I got quite emotional looking out the window into this great city.

Part of the emotions will be the stress of preparing for my trip, all the things to remember, the medications, foreign currency, visa woes and the like. But really, it is because Sydney holds a really special place in my heart. 
Sydney was my second marathon, and it was the first marathon that I actually trained to finish in a specific time, not solely with the goal to finish. And trained I did. I trained my ass off. My life was run gym work eat sleep. Alas, my body wasn’t conditioned or strong enough, and I ended up with major overuse syndrome, manifesting itself in a painfully tight IT band, TFL (which is by your hip) and glute mede. I was seeing the physio and having needling done two to three times a week. I was confined to the pool for a month, aqua jogging for up to 180 minutes on a Sunday. There was one day, two weeks before the marathon, that I cried four times. It hurt to run, to walk, to sit, to stand. I wanted to give up, but I had worked so hard and felt like I had everyone else’s expectations to live up to. I had forgotten about my expectations, my goals, and the art of enjoying to run.

I was lucky that I had an amazing coach, Marty, who provided me with some inspiring words of wisdom, telling me that it would all be ok, that I was an athlete, and that my mind was strong. I shouldn’t be afraid to fail, I should be afraid not to try. And regardless I had shown already my determination and ability to put my mind to things. So I got through the mental block and continued on. Flew to Sydney. And ran. 

 I finished in 4:15 – well over my goal of 3:45, but i was proud. I finished. I overcame that barrier and that voice telling me I wasn’t strong enough. I also finished despite my physio asking me to do the half marathon (saying that if I did the full, I wouldn’t be able to walk across the finish line let alone run it…that I would be crawling or have to pull out part way through) finishing should have been the goal. In perfect world. But up until 29km I was on track for 3:40, feeling great. Only then, at 29km, with 13 to go, did the sharp stabbing pain kick in. But you know what, while Sydney may have broken my body, it did not break my spirit. 

I ran the entire 42.2km, stopping only to drink water at aid stations, and ran the last one or two kilometers along the harbor and up to the Opera House so fast, so strong, knowing that I could do it. I could finish. The act of actually crossing the finish line, standing at the steps of the Opera House as I wore my medal proud and hugged my Dad, made me realize that Sydney was not just a physical challenge for me. It was a challenge of the mind, and I was immensely stronger for making it through.   

 So it is timely, that just over one year after the Sydney marathon (one year and nine days to be exact) that I am flying back into the city, looking out the window and seeing the bridge (the start of the marathon), the opera house (the finish) and all the parts in between. A great time to reflect on what I have learned since then, and how much stronger I am now. A stronger runner, because I identified my weaknesses, my goals and have spent the last year working on those – I have seen such great results due to that focus…I have transformed my running technique from being a heel striker to a forefoot/midfoot runner, and have increased my calf strength and leaned down in general. But I am also a stronger person. In all aspects of life. And today thinking about September 2015 me versus September 2014 me, the current one has her life together so much more. Because having the guts and the strength to run 42.2 kilometers, whether in pain or pain free, means that you overcome a hurdle you once thought impossible. And for me, finishing the Sydney marathon and running the entire way, even when I was hurting and wanted to stop and give up, meant that I found courage and determination to overcome the pain, and I know that no matter what life throws at me, I will be able to call on that courage again. 

I will leave everyone with one of the quotes I found that helped give me strength to continue trying and continue training last year. It’s funny, I was so worried at the time about failing in everyone else’s eyes if I didn’t run, if I gave up, I refused to give up. However I know now that I wouldn’t have failed or disappointed anyone. Really, the truth of the matter is that I was unwilling to admit to myself that I could fall apart. Or that I could fail. And that I might not be as strong as I wanted to be. I still am not the strongest person – I have a 60km race to prepare myself for soon and i will likely face some demons training for that. But life is a journey, and life as a runner is always a particularly interesting one!


Solitude amongst friends

We surround ourselves with friends in our day to day lives – at work, at home, out and about.  However, I have never surrounded myself with friends when it came to exercise, sport or running.

To me, running is and has always been a solo sport.  I have always trained alone for a number of reasons – because it was a way to clear my head, because I didn’t have any friends that could keep up with me, or because for the past two years I was always training for an event and had a training plan to stick to.  My Thursday night hill repeats were not overly appealing to anyone else (whether they were training for an event or otherwise) nor were my 25km Saturday runs, with 3x5km sets at faster than race pace, or my 100 minutes of aqua jogging in place of a long run when I was injured.

As a result of this, I naturally became an isolated runner.  I would put on my music, zone out and knuckle down, pumping out the Ks.  My only ‘social’ form of running was HealthFit’s Run Group twice a week, where we did drills, sprints and other forms of speed work.  However, I would turn up, run, joke around with some of the others, and then leave.  When you run alone for so long, it is very easy to become isolated in your world of running and not take opportunities to run with others. To even think that there is an ability to share your running (and your love of running) with others.

My first 'WoRM' group run

This past year though, given I am not confined by any training plan and have more often than not gone for a run just because I want to run, I have discovered the social aspect of running.  While running itself should always be a competition against yourself, not others, I found that I got lost in that self-centered focus and forgot that others existed.  That they existed and they could assist me in my own running.  I have explored new trails, met new people and been inspired by others along the way.  I crashed a stranger’s birthday run one Saturday morning and joined everyone for coffee and cake afterwards.  I met incredibly friendly people who were more than happy to share their love of running with me and share that morning’s adventure with a complete stranger.

We ran through Otari-Wilton Bush, up through Karori Cemetery, all the way up to the Skyline with the most breathtaking views.  I nearly got rushed at by a cow and got roughed up by some wild gorse but it was so worth it.

WoRM Run PanoramaI aimed to write a blog post about that run (and failed to, evidently) and have been searching for new inspiration to write about the fantastic community of runners that Wellington has.  And how difficult it has been for me to really get amongst it.  Yesterday, though, was perfect inspiration.  Several of us have started a Sunday afternoon running habit – and it has been fantastic.  Last week was Otari-Wilton, this past week was 2km repeats at Karori Park.  We are all similar(ish) speeds and incredibly competitive, so while you are pushing your own limits and racing against yourself and your abilities, we can rely on each other in a sense to push ourselves harder.  Chase each other, try to keep up, and make sure that we are keeping up a constant pace.  Not let ourselves slack off (except at the end when we had all had enough!).

The fact was that we were out there, individually running 2km at our own pace against our own physical and mental limits, but at the same time we were out there as a group, running as a unit and supporting each other.  It was partway through my 3rd rep that it hit me ‘Why have I been missing out on this? Have I been too resistant? Or has it just taken me that long to find my running family?’.

To top it all off, two others came out with us to Karori Park and it was the chance for one of those runners, Lee, to go on her first run in three months.  Following a broken metatarsal and a lot of dedication to her rehabilitation plan, she was finally allowed to go for a run.  She seemed nervous but after she set off she really got into it.  We were resting in between reps and could just see her coming around the bend, looking incredibly happy, running with fantastic form, like she was gliding over the track.  To be there and witness her running for the first time in so long was incredible and I felt touched to be able to be part of that exciting experience for her.  It reminded me of this following quote, because it is so easy to get lost in the focus of hitting your set times and keeping consistent with your interval reps, and to forget how beautiful it is just to run.

fa3c8c06b3b869bef9d1811b15e9c4cfSeeing Lee run, and finishing those tough 2km reps with Hamish and Charlie made me realise how much I had been missing out on through being a solo isolated runner.  It made those 2km reps easier and doable.  I had no question in my mind that I was able to do them, and that it would be easy to do them.  I have always viewed other runners as a form of competition, people I have to beat and be better than.  But I am learning to embrace other runners as inspiration, motivation and a challenge.  To not compete against others but to embrace and enjoy my solo sport with them.  Not only does it make the solitude of running more interesting, but I think it will make me a better runner overall.  I just wish I had discovered this running community, and my running family, sooner.

Back to where it all began

Autumn Hagley Park

Scientific studies have shown that our brain has an ability to create ‘geotags’ for our memories – fusing together our memories about places and our memories about events.   This means that thinking about an event reminds us of the place where the event took place, or returning to a place will remind you of a particular event.  Being home for Christmas is a perfect example – when you fly home, specific memories and emotions surface, linked to previous times you have been home for the holidays. For me, I also have this experience when I run.  Running in a particular place for me can bring back memories – memories about what I was thinking when I ran the same route previously, memories about what was happening in my life at that time, or memories about the exact run that I completed – did I do it well, was I exhausted, ecstatic, slow, fast…you get the idea.

This weekend I experienced one of these moments…returning to a place and being reminded of a particular event.

The event I was reminded of? My first run.

Hagley Park Running - Legs

170 weeks ago I went for my first run ever.  170 weeks – that is three years, three months and five days.  Seems like a long time, but for most runners, it is a very short period of time.  Most runners have been running their entire life – not me.  I went for my first run 170 weeks ago.

Perhaps I am overstating things by saying this was my FIRST run ever – I mean I recall running down the street at age eight towards the ice cream man to make sure that I got there before he left, age nine chasing my little sister around Target and then running to my Mom to tell on her because we were having a fight and I even remember running up and down the court playing basketball through elementary school, middle school and part of high school.  However, in those three scenarios there was a reason behind the run – ice cream, getting my sister in trouble, or victory – something that motivated me to pick my feet up just a little bit faster and run.  There was some tangible reward at the end.

But, 170 weeks ago, on a sunny Monday evening in Christchurch I went for the first run in my life where there was not a tangible reward at the end.  I went for a run because I wanted to, not because I had to.  I went down to Hagley Park (I actually drove the 1km to the park because I didn’t know how long I would be able to last running and I didn’t want to run from home in one direction, then die, and have to make my way all the way home limping or having an asthma attack or feeling fatigued and overwhelmed…I decided that because Hagley Park is essentially a circle, if I failed early on, the car wouldn’t be far away).  I nervously got out of the car, walked over to the path, put my headphones on, pressed play, then started to walk.  After a few steps I started to pick it up and put one foot in front of the other faster and faster.  Before I knew it, I was ‘running’.

Forty minutes later I stopped.  I was alive.  I had survived.  I wasn’t injured, out of breathe or hating life.  I made it through and returned to the car in one piece.  That day I ran 7.1km non stop.  It felt great.  The next evening, Tuesday, I ran 4km. Wednesday I took the day off, but Thursday I ran 6.5km and Friday I did 7.5km.  I was hooked. I couldn’t believe the feeling I got from such a simple activity that I used to loathe. How had I never discovered this before?  And what’s more, how on earth could I think that I was incapable of running?


Since then, Hagley Park has held a special place in my heart.  Running is such a huge part of my life and Hagley Park is where I discovered it.  Where I discovered that I could run, that I wanted to run, and that I loved to run. Christchurch itself is the city where I ran my first ‘race’, one month after that fateful Monday evening in Hagley Park.  It is also the city where I ran my first sub-1:45 half marathon (June 2013, 1:43:35).

Hagley Park itself is just such a beautiful place to run, especially in the autumn time, when the trees change color, the leaves fall to the ground and the air has a nice crisp chill to it – it is a truly magical feeling on a cold Christchurch morning to put on my running shoes, put on some music and jog down to Hagley to escape the world for an hour or two.

Autumn leaves

The scenery itself inspires me to run – how could you not want to explore!


While I have run in Hagley numerous times, this past weekend felt even more special because the Christchurch marathon had returned to the city for the first time in three years, and as I ran around Hagley, I was joined by marathoners completing the last 15 km of the marathon. I was inspired by them, and in awe of them, as well as partly jealous.  I cheered them on, but partly wishing that I too was completing a marathon in that beautiful city.  My fastest half marathon was in that exactly race, two years ago.  I entered again last year, but had IT band issues so couldn’t run it.  You will have noted from my comments above about when I first started running – I ran 7.1km, 4.5, 6.5 and 7.5 all in week 1 – I tend to overdo things, to overtrain, to overcommit, and therefore I tend to get injured.

This year, I thought I would be back into it again but I had made an executive decision not to enter any of the events this weekend (not even the 10km).  This was partly because I wanted to enjoy my visit (my first visit in a year) and if I enter a race, it affects what I eat and drink and my social life for the week prior.  I wanted to see friends, try new restaurants and bars and have a flexible schedule.

But the key reason was that this year, I want to make sure that I don’t overtrain, overcommit and overwork my body.  When I began running 170 weeks ago, I gave it 100%.  I didn’t do the recommended 10% increase in mileage per week, I didn’t do any complimentary strength work or stretching or yoga.  I didn’t know that there was a particular technique or form to running nor did I follow any particular training program.  I just ran.  I ran fast.  I ran hard. And I ran 25km in my first week.  Looking back, with all I know now, no wonder I tore my left meniscus a week after the 15km City 2 Surf.

So, for the first time since I started running, I have decided to focus on my running form and technique. I have learned from my mistakes and want to continue to create new memories running, geotagging my way around the world.  In particular, I want to transform and improve my form, get the functional strength I  need and work up my speed before I begin training for an event again. I want to kill my next event, smoke my previous PBs and feel that exhilaration of crossing the finish line 100% proud of myself.  I don’t want to run for 21km and then be disappointed, or feel pain in the last 5km, or wish I had completed more training in the lead up.  I also want to save my knees and preserve my body so that I can continue running for the next thirty to forty years.  In order to do that, I need to fix my flaws, understand my weaknesses and focus on improving my form so that when I enter my next race, I feel 110% prepared.  110% committed, focused and ready to just give it my all, physically and mentally.

Until then, as I hope these photos show, I am enjoying running again, remembering my roots and reminiscing on why I started running in the first place.  Stopping to take photos, to smell the roses, to take in the scenery and breathe the crisp fresh winter air.  Using this period to refocus, to learn from my mistakes and start training smart. Or, failing that, I hope that by taking this year off, my renewed sense of focus will at least give my body the running form, technique and strength that I will need when I (inevitably) fall back into my old habits of overtraining and overworking my body in the future.  Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself…

Panorama Hagley Park

Running – It’s all about Mind over Matter

If you are an avid runner, you begin to realize how much your mood affects your running.  How hard it can be to keep going when your brain says no.  How to shut off that little voice telling you that you can’t do it, and find the voice that says ‘you can’.  How a long day at the office can either invigorate you to push hard through your interval training, or can make you feel like giving up.  The fact that a fight with your partner can lead to you putting on your running shoes and going for a 15km run, in the cold and rain, just to listen to some music, pound the pavement and forget the world.  Or, how it can make you want to curl up in a ball and potentially interrupt your rhythm, making it difficult to imagine even going for a 5km jog.

Tonight, I had one of the most amazing runs I have done in a while.  Not because I ran extremely fast.  Nor was it because it was a beautiful warm day and I was out enjoying the sunshine.  In fact, it was a cold wintery night and I had just had an incredibly boring tedious day at the office.  The run was amazing for another reason – because for the first time in quite a while, I felt like I was winning.  From the second I started running right through till the end, I felt on top of the world, like I could do anything, and I would do anything.  It was the same feeling I experienced when I went for my first run.  And the feeling I held onto all through 2013 when I ran five half marathons and my first full marathon.  I went from high to high, race to race, constantly filled with euphoria about how amazing life was.  So tonight, it was an amazing and inspiring experience to have those same feelings and to once again remember why I started running in the first place.

And the odd thing is, I hadn’t thought I was missing this feeling.  I hadn’t been feeling the same level of euphoria when I ran, but I thought that was just because I was over the honeymoon period and was getting into a tough year of training, of working on my running technique and my running form, working on strengthening the right muscles and doing a lot of metabolic, high intensity interval training.  But tonight’s run made me realize, my shift in focus wasn’t the reason for the loss of euphoria.  Rather, I realized that I had become scared to run.

I have been scared to run fast and scared to run long distances.  Not because I am a newbie who has never run 5km in one go, I completed a total of 1000km in 2013 alone.  My fear of running stemmed from my fear of injury, a fear based on the numerous injuries and setbacks I suffered in 2014.  Knee pain, IT Band pain, TFL pain, tight glute med, tight calves, gosh you name it, I suffered through it.  Overuse.  Over training. My ITB and TFL pain kicked in at kilometer 29 of the Sydney Marathon and crushed my goal of a 3:45 marathon – a time that I was actually on track for.  After that marathon, and after all the pain I suffered through that year, I decided to get serious and take some time off to actually focus on my running form and strengthening the right muscles to make sure that all my muscles and joints worked in harmony and that I wouldn’t be prevented from reaching my goals in the future.

Unfortunately, this has meant I tiptoed around my running, stopping whenever I had any inkling of pain or strain, and stopped running distances.  I have focused on interval work and strength work, and to be honest I haven’t felt pain in my IT Band, TFL or glute med since the beginning of the year, but the fear of an injury and my preventative steps I took led to a fear of running itself.  Which, for a runner, is a scary thing to even admit to.  It’s hard.  There is this quote by Dean Karnazes, an amazing ultramarathoner, that features in numerous inspirational instagrams: “Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must, just never give up”.  I love this saying and have always strived to live by it – never give up, in running or any other part of my life.  But I was beginning to give up…to give into this fear, and struggling to find a way out of it.

Tonight, however, I found a way.  I powered through, determined that I could do it and shut out the part of my brain that said ‘stop it’s too hard’. That was why tonight’s run was so epic. Past sessions, I have chosen to give up when I know I could have (and should have) continued…should have continued by aiming for consistently faster interval times which I know I should be able to achieve, and by actually aiming to run a set distance on the weekend and not back out of it.  Tonight though, I gave it my all and I felt like I gave it my all.  We ran from Clyde Quay Wharf (the HealthFit gym), along Oriental Parade, up Maida Vale Road, then all the way up through Roseneath to Mt Victoria – a 222m elevation gain in total according to my Garmin.

Over time copyOur group split into two, the boys in front and the girls in the back.  From the start of the run, I was up ahead with Greig, and decided I wanted to keep up with the boys.  What’s more, I realized that I could keep up with the boys.  And that I would keep up with them.  And I did. We would run a portion and then jog back down to meet the girls, then run back up again.  It was tough, physically and mentally, and at several points I considered using my inhaler to give my lungs more room to breathe, but again, I felt I could do it and I would do it, and that I needed to do it by myself, to prove that I could.

Once we reached the top, it was exhilarating to know that I was mentally strong enough to not give up, to run the entire way, not stop, and to keep up with the boys.  If I’m going to beat them, I need to run with them. Show them what I’m made of.  The run down the other side into Newtown was a great recovery, though once we got to the bottom realized we had intervals to complete on our way back to town.  Generally, this is where many people would give up – say that their legs are tired and they can’t or won’t do it.  But we went for it, and I truly went for it.  I don’t think I felt tired at all the entire way back, because I was just so focused on winning.  On doing it.  And because I attacked the running session with a positive mindset instead of a negative one, at no point did I think ‘this is too hard’ or ‘I can’t do it’.  It was always positive.

Map 1 copy

We did sprints back of 20 seconds, 40 seconds and 60 seconds, with a 60 second recovery jog in between each, then repeated the 20,40,60.  The funny thing was that the 60 second sprints seemed easier than the 20, because you relaxed into it, but ran just as fast. And my fastest pace back into town was 3:14 min/km, a pace that two years ago I never could have or would have imagined.  And my average pace the entire session was 5:26, again a speed that given the incline, the back and forths and the recovery jogs in between our intervals, I was incredibly pleased with.  Just shows how the power of positivity and good thoughts can lead to great results.  And how incredibly important it is to build mental strength and mental endurance, because at the end of the day your body can do anything you train it to do, it is up to you to decide how you train it, what you train it for and how far you are willing to go to reach your goals.