|Photo by ASICS|
That was me this weekend.
I was at Manchester surrounded by inspiring people … all of whom appeared to be incredibly talented at running. And triathlon. And blogging.
And then there was me. Good at falling in hedges. Gets lost in car parks. I’m pretty talented at snacking though. Maybe that was how I made the cut.
“Gazz. We need someone who can eat 6 crème eggs in 10 minutes for our ASICS FrontRunner programme …”
“I know just the girl…”
|Nah ... don't even like crème eggs. Honest.|
After a rather lengthy journey on the M6 which involved several audiobooks, some dramatic sighing and eye-rolling at the traffic and lots of snacks, I arrived at the Britannia County House Hotel. Now I’d scoured the Facebook profile pictures of my ASICS team-mates and was pretty sure I could recognise most of them so long as they were wearing EXACTLY what they had on in the photo. I was hoping for most of them to be in either wedding dresses, lycra & mud or beachwear so I could make a positive ID.
One of the big benefits of being an ASICS FrontRunner is the amazing kit and I spotted Gazz and David easily in the hotel fully decked out in ASICS gear and made my introduction. EVEN BETTER, I was promptly handed a black rucksack and loaded up with 2 shoeboxes containing some extremely pretty kit.
The black rucksack appeared to have the same magical properties as Mary Poppin’s carpet bag and from it came a huge amount of the most amazing apparel.
Yes. I know it’s pretty. No you can’t touch it. Its mine. MINE.
I’m not much of an athlete compared to a lot of the ASICS crew (the only way I’d manage a sub 5min/mile is if I fell off a REALLY high cliff) but I like to think that I’m a useful team member at pub quizzes. Give me a drink, a pen and some interesting questions and I’ll be able to listen REALLY hard to the next team’s answers.
I was in a team with Nick, Jools, David and Marcus and despite having me as a bit of a handicap (and whose inability to keep quiet meant we had to have the questions repeated) we managed the top score in the pub quiz! Who would have thought that being able to identify famous Mancunians and know whether the high jump world record or the length of a javelin was longer would come in handy! See. Multitalented.
SaturdayI had to make a serious decision.
Lie-in and a frugal start to the day … or a run AND bacon and eggs for breakfast?
After a 6:45am start (I KNOW, right? We were all a bit enthusiastic!) and a short guided running-tour by Liz, we left the elite runners to a longer (and much faster!) run and came back to the hotel for our well-earned cooked breakfast. My coach had given me a rest day today so I planned on compensating for my extra miles with extra bacon. That’s how it works, right?
We had a busy day planned but first we had to entirely take over 2 tram carriages in order to get to Home Cinema in the centre of Manchester for 9am. With all of us in new ASICS kit, it looked like we were SO enthusiastic about Manchester Marathon the next day that we’d decided to get an early start ahead of the traffic. Can’t have all the non-organised people getting all the good gels …
We got to the Home Cinema and got straight to the exciting stuff. And finally it was revealed what the ASICS Frontrunners was all about. Every person in the room had been chosen because they were passionate about running and ASICS felt that they were focused and authentic.
I felt a bit special. And not in the way I usually do when I’m struggling to get out of a hedge I’d just fallen into or was being chased by a goose on a long run.
We also got to meet a special guest: Mara Yamauchi!! As you probably already know, Mara is the UK’s second fastest female marathon runner of all time with a PB of 2:23:12 (WOW!) and a two-time Olympian. She was incredibly inspiring especially because she didn’t become a full-time athlete until she was 33, before that she had to juggle running with working as a diplomat! I was far too shy to ask her any questions although we had a chat while waiting for the others to get some photos and she is not only incredibly speedy but also incredibly nice.
|Mara and Me!|
I was totally starstruck as not only did I get to meet Mara, but also the legendary Ron Hill who set world records at 4 distances and was the 2nd man to break 2:10 in a marathon! Ron had recently had to break his 52 year run streak due to illness but prior to this had been running every single day!
We got an overview of some of the kit we received from the ASICS experts. I was very interested in the shoes (as I always stick to the same ones for road running – the ASICS GT200s and I wasn’t sure whether I should be using them for everything) and also the sports bra (it’s supposed to be very cool with thin mesh while being high impact – expect a review from me!)
Check out how much bounce you get back from the shoes! The Gel-DS Trainer is on the left and the Noosa on the right. Which would you rather wear for speedwork?
The ASICS Frontrunners got a choice of FlyteFoam shoes for the launch, either the Noosa, Dynaflte,or Gel-DS trainer. The FlyteFoam is important as it’s 55% lighter than the usual foam and it bounces back into shape. The weight alone can knock crucial seconds off in a race.
GEL-DS Trainer - I chose the Gel-DS Trainer DS Trainer which was designed for overpronators. (Me and 70% of the population!) Designed for road racing but also have a dotted sole grip if you wish to use their lightness for speed or track work too. They also have a thick mesh to keep out the British rain!
Dynaflyte – Designed for 5k, 10k and speedwork. You can usually spot these from the shop doorway as they’re so bright. There’s a different design for different cities so if you’re racing Paris, Tokyo or Barcelona you can take the colours with you.
Noosa –Designed to be a primary running shoe – the one you’d do most of your running in on a weekly basis. They are perfect for triathlon as they were designed to keep traction on a wet surface such as in a triathlon transition (or British summertime!) and are the quickest drying of the 3 shoes. They also have a sock liner and an internal heel clutch so can be worn without socks.
One of my favourite parts of the entire weekend though was having the chance to meet the other runners. Everyone started their running from a different place - had all been running different lengths of times, counted different achievements but everyone shared a passion for running whether it was road, mountains or over obstacles and it was so great to hear. I had an entire weekend of running chat – perfect!
|C'mon SQUISH! We can all get into the pic!|
However, we were made to earn our dinner! We were split into teams of 8 and sent off with a list of famous landmarks we had to visit in order … and an hour to take an imaginative photo with each of them! Eeek! Lucky we were all into running as otherwise we’d be a bit short on time!
Our first location was the Manchester Town Hall which involved lying on the floor in various positions trying to avoid the glass on the cobbles. God knows what the locals thought we were doing but the tourists LOVED us. We even had an elderly Japanese couple taking photos of us. Possibly they assumed we were a troupe of particularly inept gymnasts.
|My well-dressed toesies ... and the Town Hall|
The next stop was the National Football Museum which is apparently the largest in the world! We immediately made a beeline for the kids playground and spent a happy 10 minutes on this (Becca appeared to be in her element!) before Liam reminded us all that we were supposed to be taking photos. We compromised by lying on the metal slide and pretending to be an S.
|Becca's FAVOURITE thing!|
Piccadilly gardens! We were at a bit of a loss for our imaginative photo … then spotted a cake stall and all shared a chocolate brownie. Absolutely nothing to do with breathing in clouds of fragrant smoke at the last stop.
|No idea what's going on. Core exercises?|
We looked at our photos and decide that for the win (this WAS a competition between the teams after all) that we’d suck up and spell ASICS with our bodies. Now this was a LOT easier to say, than to do and despite usually being quite fit and healthy, runners aren’t particularly known for being bendy. A passing traffic warden stopped to marvel at our idiocy and we patted ourselves down and pretended that weren’t trying to be letters AT ALL.
|Photo by Petra McEntegart|
Back to Pizza Express where I was so hungry I virtually inhaled my starter and pizza and back to compare photos with the other teams. I couldn’t help noticing that while theirs were beautifully executed with perfect composition … they hadn’t found the football museum playground OR been chased by an insane goose OR tutted at by a traffic warden. Therefore we should win by default.
|The finished Masterpiece! (Photo by Liam McEntegart)|
No time for pudding (despite my begging!) as we were chased onto a coach and whisked off to a mystery destination! Indoor skydiving!
ASICS new campaign is ‘Don’t Run, Fly!’ and this was such an entertaining way of interpreting it! I’d never tried indoor skydiving before although it was something I’d always wanted a crack at so I was extremely excited!
I was in one of the last groups to go in so it meant I had a chance to watch the others try. It actually looked pretty tricky! One small twist or if you had your hands in the wrong position and you’d swoop towards the (thankfully soft & bouncy) floor or spin in a circle or potentially end up in an awkward grapple with the instructor.
Finally it was my turn! Flying suit – on! Helmet – on! Earplugs – in! Goggles – on!
It was AMAZING! And I was really enjoying it. I even seemed to be getting the hang of it. I was going higher and higher and then ...
I bumped the wall, tucked my arms in reflexively and dropped like a stone.
… Straight into the arms of the competent instructor who most have twigged early on that I wasn’t to be trusted with flying. And that I had all the natural staying-alive instinct of a lemming.
However, because my team won the quiz – we got an additional go! I could almost see the instructor rolling his eyes in his helmet as he prepared for more nosedives from yours truly, but I managed to stay mostly airborne and as a treat on the last go we got taken up to the very top of the air chamber in a swoop before finally exiting the chamber for the last time.
WOW! What an amazing day! And tomorrow … Manchester Marathon!!
[To Be Continued] … dramatic music …