Running Like a Girl

A few weeks ago I replied to a random tweet sent out by the editor of Women’s Running UK magazine, who asked if tweeters preferred long or short runs. In an infrequent moment of clarity I replied that, generally speaking, I preferred a longer run, but that sometimes I had to fit in what I could and that running should complement, not antagonise, my life. Christina emailed me asking me for my address, a photo and my age because my words of wisdom had just won me a copy of Alexandra Heminsley’s new book ‘Running Like a Girl’. I was suitably chuffed.

Chuffed until the magazine came out. For those of you yet to cross the 50 age barrier I can tell you that being 48 is a long way from being 49, which is even further from being 50. I am a happy 48 year old, soon to be 49, but not yet. Imagine then my horror at seeing these words accompanying my words of wisdom in the July issue: “Julie Hollis, 49”


What I’d like you all to do is read 48 when you see that. Just until August.

So anyway, ‘Running Like a Girl’ duly plopped through my letterbox last week and, of course, I was too busy to start it. It was also a real book, something that I haven’t read for a while. I tend to download books onto my iPad these days and read them in bed without having to put my hubbie through the ordeal of trying to sleep with a light on. However, we were away for the weekend on a chill out, relax all you can holiday, so I took my paperback copy with me.

Having started it on Friday night, I finished it on Monday evening – almost unable to put it down. It’s not often that I gel with a book as much as I did this one, but I found myself laughing in agreement at some of the things Alexandra had put herself through in order to become “a runner”. I recognised myself in the woman who found all the excuses not to run, who had severe worries about not making it to a real toilet before she had to squat at the roadside and who beat herself up over finishing times of marathons she had run, when in reality she had run a marathon! Suddenly my blog appeared in front of me with someone else saying the things I’d said, someone else feeling the same things I had, that I still do. I realised that I was not alone at all, there were/are probably thousands of runners, not just women, feeling the same things.

I wouldn’t say that I’m suddenly inspired by what I’ve read. Entertained, completely. Reassured, without doubt. However, it’s almost as though I’ve been given permission to behave in a certain way, to feel the things I have and still to be a valid runner and I’m grateful for that. Alexandra has split the book into sections, firstly dealing with her own tentative steps into running which developed into the success of completing a marathon alone and a second motivating a friend. This was such a great read – you felt privy to information that a friend would divulge to another. At points I found myself laughing out loud and nodding my head in agreement. The arrogance of some running shoe sales people and their off-putting attitude struck a chord, sadly. The book then went on to trace the history of women’s competitive running, some of which I knew from reading magazines, but was a pleasant read nonetheless and it certainly made you think about how privileged we are to be able to enter races willy-nilly. The final section dealt with all those stupid questions we are too embarrassed to ask!

If you haven’t guessed, I can thoroughly recommend this as the Bridget Jones version of ‘Running with Kenyans’ or ‘What I Think about When I Run’. It is fun, informative and unputdownable, as my husband will so testify!

Click on the book to visit Amazon and buy it, download it – just read it!

In Ever Decreasing Circles


It’s Easter Sunday. I’m sitting with my feet up, belly not as full as I would like of Easter egg, relaxing after my longest run ever. I may not be able to get up again, but I thought sitting was the right thing to do at the time.

My training schedule asked for a monster 17 miles today and I’ve been psyching myself up for it all week. (I know 17 miles might seem a long distance to some of you, but for me it is. 17 miles represents the longest distance I’ve ever attempted.) Last night I sorted a route, charged my iPhone and Garmin and ate a very large spinach and potato curry. After last week’s tech disaster, I wasn’t planning on any mistakes today.


My route was my favourite loop north of the village, following quiet single track roads for 5 miles. By adding in two extra bits on two laps of this route I got my 17 miles without too much trouble. At least today I knew where I was going.

Despite the cold (about 3ºC when I set off) I decided to wear three quarter leggings and a vest top. My secret weapons were the arm warmers I had bought at enormous cost (about £4) from Lidl a couple of weeks ago. They fitted fine, were very comfortable and certainly did the job of keeping my arms warm.

The route isn’t easy; the first mile is a continuous climb from 100m above sea level to nearly 200m. Once that’s by with the route becomes easier, with a few short climbs followed by sharp descents. There is some flattish running too, but the best thing is the view. I run through farmland, three small villages and overlooking the Solway Coast. The snow which fell heavily last weekend hasn’t quite melted away and the Cumbrian hills, together with our local Criffel, are still snow covered. As I ran along the lanes snow was still piled up along the sides, showing signs of being pushed there by tractors.

Criffel, with a dusting of snow.
Criffel, with a dusting of snow.


The Cumbrian Hills in the distance.
The Cumbrian Hills in the distance.








I started off steadily, helped by the pace of the music I was listening to. I wasn’t looking to match the 11 minute/mile pace my Jeff Galloway Half Marathon app was predicting. All, really, I wanted to achieve was a reasonably paced 17 miles. Finishing in under 3:30 hours would be fine. My first lap was the longest at just over 6 miles and I was chuffed to finish the 6 in 65 minutes. I knew that I was running well when 3 miles came in at 36 minutes.

As I set off on the second lap I felt that the air was cooling down. The wind was picking up and recently all of our weather has been coming from the north, making the air even colder. At one point I had to lift my neck tube over my mouth because the cold air was starting burn my throat.

At mile 10 came the first disaster. After pacing me wonderfully, all of a sudden the music stopped. My iPhone was totally flat. I think it’s time for a nice, new battery for my beloved phone! The present one is 4 years old, so I suppose a new one is due. However, that left me pacing myself after 10 miles – not an ideal situation. It also meant that I’d lost Jeff Galloway and his coaching. I was left trying to time the 4 minute runs myself, which wasn’t easy. Looking at my Garmin every few minutes was distracting.

When I got to mile 12 I decided to try and use the intervals on my Garmin. Unfortunately, in trying to get this option working, I managed to reset the timer. I knew, from previous experience, that my 12 miles were safely stored in the watch’s memory so I didn’t worry too much and, of course, I knew exactly where to stop my running having preplanned the route.

At least on the third shortest lap I now had 4 and 1 intervals beeping at me, leaving me to just focus on running, hard as that was becoming! At times I felt as if I was barely doing more than a very fast walk, but I kept plodding along.

I finally finished the 17 miles in 3:27, 3 minutes within the self imposed limit I’d set. I’m happy with that.

That’s my final long run before the Rock and Roll Half Marathon on the 14th. I won’t say I’m unhappy about that – I think I’ve had enough just now! A couple of recovery runs before the race sounds wonderful! As I ran along on the final lap I wondered what it would be like to be 16 miles into a marathon, with 10 miles left to go. Suffice it to say I’m not really looking at entering a marathon any time soon!

In a meantime, look at the cool medal I’ll be adding to my bling collection!! I can’t wait!!!



Reaching Unknown Territory

When I started my training programme for the Rock and Roll Half Marathon I opted to go along the improver route, looking to better the time I managed at the Great North Run. It’s not been an easy route and there have been times that I’ve struggled with my fitness and my reasoning. This weekend I ran into unknown territory; I ran 15 miles.


Previously my longest distance had been 14 miles, which is longer than most half marathon programmes takes you. The plans devised by Jeff Galloway makes sense to me because they ask you to run further than you will have to in a race. That gives you additional endurance and the security of knowing that, yes, I can easily run 13.1 miles because I have run further. I like that.

With the threat of unsettled weather hanging over me I wasn’t sure if to run on Sunday or Monday or even which route to choose. My local loop floods with just a small amount of rain and that we’d had slightly more than a small amount, this being Scotland. I’m not keen on running half way and turning back but 15 miles would put me in the centre of Dumfries and possibly running through traffic. I decided to run on Sunday (unless I got up on Sunday to torrential rain) and run along the coast road.

I woke on Sunday to snow.

Luckily it was short lived and by the time I headed out we were being treated to light rain. My main problem though wasn’t the weather; it was technology. I had charged my Garmin Forerunner 405 in the morning to 100%, but when I disconnected it from its charger it went flat immediately. It’s done this before, about a year ago, and I almost returned it to Garmin. By a combination of research, friend’s advice and fiddling with buttons I managed to fix the issue, one that had apparently been caused by the compass services being switched on by accident. It’s possible that I had left the GPS switched on and this had caused the present issue, I don’t know for sure. When I checked nothing appeared to be on that shouldn’t have been. Reluctantly I left the watch recharging and took just my iPhone.

Usually I only rely on my phone for the Jeff Galloway app (including the beat synced music) and I have always had enough battery to complete a long run. Yesterday I had to also rely on the app’s GPS signal. I wasn’t sure whether I would have enough battery to last the entire run. It was unsettling. Without my phone I had no structure and I need that. Sad as that may sound. I’m happy to run without technology when it doesn’t matter, but it did matter. I had no idea how far 7.5 miles was away from my home. I didn’t know where along the road I needed to turn back.

I set off running in a vest, gloves and long tights. I could see the incredulous looks of passing motorists, but I was comfortable. I heat up quickly, possibly because of the amount of body fat I still carry, but my hands and thighs stay colder than the rest of me.

I was fueling on my homemade isotonic juice (I made a mental note to include less salt next time – my pinches are massive!) and dextrose tablets every mile or so. Nothing else. I’d breakfasted on porridge with millet and linseed, banana and honey. I didn’t pay much attention, though, to carb-loading before hand, although I did have polenta the night before. I need to think more carefully about what I’m eating leading up to a long run.

By mile 4 I was running comfortably. Before that I felt every muscle as it stretched and creaked! By mile 4, however, my iPhone battery was down to less than 50%. Running the app, my music and the GPS was just too much for it. I carried on in the vain hope that my battery would last until I got to 7.5 miles so at least I’d know when to turn back. At mile 6 I rang my husband. My Garmin had charged to just under 40% so I asked him to zero his mileometre and bring the watch out to me.

By the time he reached me I’d run 7.8 miles according to my phone GPS. Armed with a dying iPhone and a reluctant Garmin, I set off towards home. In order to save battery on my phone I turned off the app; I wanted some battery life in case of emergency. Not long after setting off I heard my watch beeping – it wasn’t happy and managed 2.1 miles before dying. To be fair it spent a mile or two dying and resurrecting until it finally kicked the bucket.

I’d made it to mile 10, but without my app or my phone telling me when to walk and run I was probably running less and walking more than I should have. It probably sounds silly, but without the music spurring me on and regulating my pace I was probably running too fast and wearing myself out too quickly. I was a bit of a mess.

I started to do something that Jeff Galloway suggested in his in app tips. I chose a tree or a fence or a building in the distance, ran to that and then walked for a count of 60 before choosing a new focus. It helped a little.

I finished my 15 miles in around 2 hours 50 minutes. Without my Garmin or my iPhone and having not noted a start or a finish time I can’t be exactly sure.


After getting home I ate everything in the fridge! I started with a ready mixed soya milkshake, then I demolished some crackers and humous and finished with some Quorn chicken strips – basically what was close to hand. I had a very hot bath followed by several cups of hot tea. I was cold.

After several pints of restorative Guinness, I retired to bed, but not before covering my legs with BioFreeze Gel. It smells very strong, but it is a wonder gel. I used it after the Great North Run and it really helped to reduce any inflammation and aches. I’m still using free sachets from goodie bags, but I think that I need to buy some. Today I have no real pain, just a slight ache in my thighs.

I think I’ve fixed my Garmin. After resetting it and recharging it, I’m not letting the battery drain by running the stopwatch. So far it’s been going for 12 hours. Once it’s drained I’ll recharge it and hopefully that’ll be that.

Onwards and upwards!


Running in a Winter Wonderland

This morning it snowed.

My route, 6 miles of sleet and snow!

My first reaction was “shit” – I was due to do a 6 mile run but, if I’m honest, I was delighted to get outside despite the snow still falling heavily. I had worn my Nike trail shoes for some extra grip, despite the fact that I’ve not run that far on the road with them on, and they actually felt very similar in support to my Ghosts. Apart from my niggly left calf/Achilles, I felt great.

I stopped to talk to these lovely horses, who then ran alongside me for the width of their field.

The conditions slowed me down a bit, but apparently not that much. I had to slow down on some downhill sections that felt a bit dodgy and to say hello to the horses (well, you have to, don’t you?),  but at the rest I just trudged away ignoring the bemused looks on driver’s faces as they pulled across the road to avoid me.

I ran out along the shore road, thinking that it would be quieter traffic wise, and turned at 3 miles to head back in. I didn’t actually notice my time when I hit the stop button on Gary Garmin and so was pleasantly surprised to see that I’d run 10k in 65:45. It didn’t feel fast or strained, but that time is comparable to my 10k race time in 2011, just a couple of minutes slower than last year’s time.

A great start to my training anyway!

Nothing better than having some vague tree giving you the thumbs up on the way out!
Nothing better than having some vague tree giving you the thumbs up on the way out!
6.00 mi
Avg Pace:
10:58 min/mi
Elevation Gain:
104 ft
679 C


Breakfast : Porridge with banana and many cups of tea

Powerade Drink at 3 and 5 miles


Groovestar NZ base layer

Reebok Waterproof Running Jacket

Xcelerate Long Running Tights

Crane Knee Length Compression Socks

Nike Alvord trail shoes

Asics waist bag/drink holder

Crane reflective dayglo vest

It can snow now

That was the best run I’ve had in ages!

As snow reports were showing the snow line approaching I felt it best to get out there this morning. It was dull and overcast when I set off; not very promising at all. As soon as I turned the corner though I realised just how windy it was. A strong and cold north wind was coming straight down the country…straight at me! I’d opted to reverse a route I enjoy to give a try at approaching some of the hills from the other side, just for a change. I’m pleased now that this is how I ran it because although I had the wind on my face early on, it was on my back coming home. There’s nothing worse than running into the wind when you’re tired.

I had set off with the intention of following Jeff Galloway’s Easy 10k app, although I haven’t done it for a while and most of the work I’d done previously was on the treadmill. I didn’t know where to start; if to restart it, carry on from where I’d left off or pick something in the middle. In the end I just chose a run with a distance close to 4 miles.

Unwittingly I’d chose an interval session, one which always shocks me when Jeff announces that we’ll do a set of race pace intervals with a minutes rest in between. Oh fine. Why not! It’s howling a gale, but yes I’ll give it a shot!

And so, whilst battling the wind, I really tried to achieve race pace for 4 minutes at a time. By race pace I think I’am aiming for between 8 and a half and 9 minute mile pace. With the minute walks that should be around a 10 minute mile. Mr Garmin shows that I was a bit slower than that, no surprise really. The huge gap in my time was when I was stopped by a lorry driver asking for directions!

I realised that Jeff’s session was only going to last for just over half of my run – I’d picked a session of just under 4 miles, fair enough, but that included warm up and cool down walks. I decided that once it got to the cool down walk that I’d just change to my ipod and run the last mile or so home as it’s mainly downhill and I knew that I would be wind assisted.

I stopped to do the switch over and for the first time ever I thought that I might be sick. I’d been coughing a lot during the run, probably because of the wind not really allowing me to get a proper breath, and I was feeling pretty rough. I tried to put the thought out of my mind and sipped my water. My iPod fired up to The Pretenders and ‘Chain Gang’ and I was off on the home stretch.

I find music really inspirational and when The Who and ‘My Generation’ started I found my pace quickening. I slowed a little for KT Tunstall’s ‘I Don’t Want You Now’ but then along came Elton. ‘Saturday Night’s for Fighting’ is one of my favourite running songs and as I looked at my Garmin I realised that if I kept up the pace I was running at I’d better my pace for my last 10k, the one I’d just done on a track! I was stoked that even in the wind and going up and down hill I could actually go faster than I had just going round and round. I went for it, finishing my last mile with a negative split and a smile. My fastest pace was 6:53.

Sitting here now the wind has really picked up. It’s beautiful out there – bright sunshine, blue skies, but I’m pleased to be in here and finished. It can snow now!

Avg Pace
Summary 51:34.2 4.75 10:51
1 10:45.8 1.00 10:46
2 11:22.0 1.00 11:22
3 11:11.3 1.00 11:11
4 11:04.4 1.00 11:04
5 7:10.7 0.75 9:34

Before it snows…

They’ve been predicting snow here for the last week, but, as usual, nobody has chosen to take any notice – preferring instead to adopt the Chicken Licken stance when it does indeed start to snow. It’s not snowing here and it might not. We are heavily influenced by the Gulf Stream here on the west of Scotland and that tends to make snow light and short lived.

20120403-084845 AM.jpg

Whatever happens I’m heading out this morning to get about 4 miles in. I’d rather run outside in the light rain (as it is now) than run on the treadmill because of heavier rain or sleet. Plus I have a whole rack of housework to do and doing my run first will put me in better fettle for that.

I’m just fuelling up with some porridge and sultanas and I’ve donned my old Asics, just in case the route is wet. It’s been dry here for ages, but the route I’m going to be running tends to flood easily and I think it’s been raining for most of the night.

So, some gulps of tea and I’m off. See you all later!