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Friday 27 May 2016

Are The Running Awards & Strava Saving The Bloggers From a Hangover?

So suspecting neither of having read my blog, (in which snacks, poo and hedges feature prominently ... although not at all at the same time) Strava and The Running Awards invited me to go along to the 2016 Running Awards for a Q&A with Tom and Martin of MarathonTalk and a run with Strava. 

Running I can do, being able to ask a sensible question had yet to be tested but behave myself at an awards do had yet to be proven. However, I accepted all 3 and prepared my best running kit, my most inquisitive questioning voice and my sparkliest dress. 

The Running Awards are typically held on the Friday before the London Marathon on the Sunday. No-one is sure why but we suspect it is something to do with stopping all the bloggers who are running the marathon from drinking all the free fizzy, getting horrendous hangovers and spoiling their marathons PB attempts. In actual fact it is probably more to do with the fact that all the brands are at the expo for the London Marathon. But this is the boring explanation so we're ignoring this one and believing in the altruism of the Running Awards instead. 

Liz Yelling!! Actually ... Liz quite Sedate.
After a mad dash around the London Marathon expo, meeting Stewart and going all fan girl over Liz Yelling who handled it beautifully and even signed my London Marathon race number for me, fellow bloggers, Loz and Helen offered me a lift to the hotel where I would be meeting the Strava team. 

The trip didn't go quite as planned due to roadworks, traffic and a labyrinthine road system but it wasn’t a disaster as I learned some interesting new swearwords from Helen (some of which I will try and insert into future blogs) and I was eventually dropped off on a roundabout in the middle of nowhere (outside hotel). However thanks to my trusty phone and amazing sense of direction (outside hotel), I managed to navigate myself through the scariest parts of London (full of hipsters leaving marketing jobs) and get myself to the hotel. I really do amaze myself sometimes.

After extricating myself from the hotel’s revolving door - which stopped revolving as soon as I entered it - I managed to make a graceful (stumbling) entrance into the lobby and was greeted by the lovely Strava team. They impressed me immediately by handing me a goodie bag (containing a gorgeous Tickr bluetooth heartrate sensor with a memory which works with Runkeeper and Nike+ and a maroon Strava Tracksmith top which is beautiful. I love a goody bag – it’s like being at a 5 year old’s birthday and winning at pass-the-parcel. Although with less pineapple and cheese on sticks.  *Writes memo to marketing department ... Dear Sir, I regret the lack of pineapple and cheese ...”*

The hotel was lovely and we were provided a room so we could changed ready for the run with Strava. Apparently bloggers getting changed in hotel lobbies lowers the tone and scares the proper paying guests. Laura of Lazy Girl Running and I were sharing the room and we decided we definitely needed a coffee. However unlike my usual bargain race-hotel rooms, instead of a cup of coffee involving opening a mini coffee sachet and boiling the kettle, in this swanky hotel room we had to use The Most Complicated Coffee Machine Ever.  

With my prowess with technology (see how to build a turbo trainer) and my Master Builder skill at Lego, I immediately decided I had to be nowhere near The Most Complicated Coffee Machine Ever. Laura however was sucking her teeth and looking at it like a mechanic looks at a car that’s going to cost its owner a lot of money. However, within 3 minutes she had managed to persuade it to provide a steaming cup of coffee and hadn’t even incurred serious burns. I would totally trust her as a running coach. 

After a hot coffee and after finding the shower cap, robe and slippers we contemplated the rain pouring down the windows and wondered whether we could watch TV for half an hour instead while wearing all of the above but decided that it was time to go and brace ourselves against the torrential liquid British sunshine. 

Before our run ...!
Turning up in the hotel lobby, we found there were to be 8 of us in our running group including Dr Juliet McGratten, Jenni from UkRunChat, Laura of Lazy Girl Running, Richard Hayes who is Mohican Runner, Simon from Jographies and 2 very athletic Strava hosts; David and Dan. And me. Disaster on Legs. 

The run was pitched at a sociable pace so in theory we could chat and run, but the weather had other ideas, attempting to blow our words away and dampen our hair and clothes. Richard Hayes was immediately concerned about his famous vertical hair and the effect the inclement weather would have – possibly a Mohican at a 45 degree angle wouldn’t have quite the same effect. 

After promising Mohican Runner we would lend him hair straighteners, hairspray and calming his concerns about his hairdo, we set out at a trot. It was nice to come to a hosted run but even better to chat to the other runners and find out what they were up to. Laura was telling us about an ultra in France which ended at the Eiffel Tower and sounded amazing. Richard was saying about how he used to weigh 20 stone – which seems impossible when you look at his athletic frame and his race times. 

Sharing adventures and being inspired by the stories of others is part of what I find so great about running. I love finding out the stories and motivations of the other runners. Why they do it, what made them start and what keeps them going.   

Check out this running form! Speedsters!
The run took us alongside the Thames and onto a mixture of bricks, trail and quiet roads. In the distance, a bulbous building like a glass bubble was visible next to the Thames. Apparently it housed the start of a path which runs under the river and comes out near Greenwich. We weren’t going this far today but I was determined to explore this at some point. It was a treat to run in London and see the landmarks I usually only see in pictures. We turned off the river path after about a mile and headed inland towards Greenwich Park. 

Apparently there was a good segment in the park so the lads took off after it and I trailed in their wake until Laura yelled “SARAH! Save your legs for London Marathon!” Gratefully seizing the excuse to slow down and trying not to look as though I was struggling to breathe, I slowly ran up the hill where we all stopped at the vantage point and admired the beautiful view over London. We even managed a group selfie without dropping the camera or a runner off the side of the hill. 

We trotted back to the hotel, full of chatter. The day was getting colder now and the rain heavier. Despite loving the chat I was looking forward to a hot shower and a leisurely chance to get into the sparkly dress. 

Arriving back at the hotel after the run, we were told we had 20 minutes to get ready for the Q&A and Running Awards. TWENTY MINUTES? I was covered in mud and smelled like river water and desperation. Our lovely Strava host relented (or possibly caught a whiff of me) and told us “Ok you can have 30”. So that’s 30 minutes to get out of wet run kit, have a shower and make self presentable. I could probably manage the first two ... 

I managed a quick change Superman would have been proud of. Shower and change into dress managed. Makeup not so much. I crossed my fingers and hoped that the awards do would be dim. I probably had lipstick on my ears and mascara on my hairline. I could always tell people I was going for the Picasso look. 

We went through Secret Tunnel (it actually had a code name: ‘Direct Walkway’ that’s how secret it was) into the O2 from the hotel and were handed a glass of bubbly and introduced to Tom Williams, Chief operating Officer at parkrun and Martin Yelling, running coach and MarathonTalk co presenter and Simon Klima from Strava. These three were going to be leading the Strava Q&A session and telling us why we should all be using it. 

I was an easy sale. I was already using Strava and have my local segments staked out. I live in fear of a faster runner spotting them, stealing them and forcing me to reclaim them using a segway, Garmin and my ‘I Am A Strava Wanker’ hat. 

If you’re not familiar with Strava, it’s basically a social network for people who run, bike or swim. Your activities upload to the site (mine go automatically from my GPS watch) and your friends can see them and comment on them and give you ‘kudos’ – similar to Facebook lilkes. It’s nice to have the positive encouragement and it’s interesting to see other people’s training. There are a few interesting little things with Strava though ... there are ‘segments’ dotted throughout the UK which are sections of road. The fastest runner along these gets a CR (course record) and the fastest cyclist gets a KOM or QOM (King or Queen of the mountain). It also tells you when you get a personal best and tracks your previous activities for you. 

However, I picked up a few things I didn’t know. Apparently ‘Strava’ means ‘To Strive’ in Swedish. I now know another useful Swedish word along with ‘sauna’ and ‘smorgasbord’.  So I can now try, eat and sweat should I find myself in that lovely country. Is ‘Segment’ the same?

Apparently the UK is Strava’s most successful country but worldwide there are 5.3 activities uploaded every second (probably half of these by those REALLY keen triathletes I follow – so smug!) and over 1 million photos every week! I know that Strava is a social network for athletes, but those stats astounded me – I had no idea it was that big. 

I’m all too familiar with the fear when I get a Strava notification, that cold feeling telling you that someone has stolen – I mean I’ve ‘lost’ - my CR or QOM on a particular section of road. But knowing that there are over 150,000 people joining Strava every week, I feel a little bit better knowing that I’m bound to lose a segment every now and then to all these people. Just keep away from my home segments, you FRBs. 

This is us doing our "Who's going to win??" faces ...
After our chat with Strava, we threw ourselves into the glitz of The Running Awards 2016. As usual, it was a lovely event dotted with familiar names including Julie Creffield of ‘Too Fat to Run’, Susie Chan, Ultra runner and Record holder and the inspiring Shaun, UKRunChat, Equinox 24 and Hope 24 among others. Personally I loved meeting the bloggers and hearing their stories but there were so many deserving nominations and winners.

I loved the networking, putting the faces to the names and to the photographs inside the book covers and to the twitter race photos. Hearing about new races and new adventures and best of all being able to talk about running for the WHOLE evening and knowing that everyone else there also loved it as much as me. 

Loz, H, Me and Laura

Favourite Charity
1st Cancer Research UK
2nd Alzheimer’s Society
3rd Macmillan Cancer Support

1st The Fat Girls Guide to Running
2nd She Who Dares Runs
3rd Lazy Girl Running

1st Virtual Runner UK
2nd UKRunChat

1st Runner’s World
2nd Obstacle Race Magazine
3rd Women’s Running

1st parkrun - Much More Than Just A Run In The Park
2nd Running Hot & Cold
3rd No Run Intended

1st Strava
2nd Garmin Connect
3rd Map My Run

1st Yurbuds Inspire Pro Earphones
2nd Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless
3rd AfterShokz Bluez 2 Bluetooth Headphones

Nutrition Brand
1st SiS
2nd High5
3rd Clif Bar

Sports Drink
1st Lucozade Sport
2nd High5 ZERO
3rd Vita Coco Coconut

Well-Being Brand
1st Clif Bar
2nd Nakd
3rd High5

Wearable Tech
1st Garmin Forerunner 15
2nd Garmin Forerunner 10
3rd FitBit Charge HR

Wearable Tech Brand
1st Garmin
2nd TomTom
3rd Flipbelt

Men's Clothing
1st adidas
2nd Ronhill
3rd Nike

Women's Clothing
1st Nike
2nd Ronhill
3rd Karrimor

Men's Shoe
1st Brooks Adrenaline GTS
2nd adidas adizero Adios Boost
3rd ASICS Gel Nimbus

Women's Shoe
1st Brooks Adrenaline GTS
2nd Brooks Ghost

Trail Shoe
1st Salomon Speedcross
2nd Brooks Cascade
3rd adidas Kanadia

Shoe Brand
2nd Brooks
3rd adidas

Women's SPorts Bra
1st Shock Absorber - Ultimate Run Bra
2nd Shock Absorber - Active Multi Sports Support
3rd M&S - High Impact Sports Bra

1st Event Clip
2nd Dry Robe
3rd Flipbelt

Underwear and Socks
1st Hilly
2nd Underwear
3rd Under Armour

Independent Retailer
1st Run 4 it
2nd Run and Become
3rd Absolute Running

National Retailer
1st Sweatshop
2nd Up & Running
3rd Decathlon

Online Retailer
1st Wiggle
3rd Sweatshop

Customer Service
1st Run 4 it
2nd Sweatshop
3rd Up & Running

1st Virgin Money London Marathon
2nd Brighton Marathon
3rd Baxters Loch Ness Marathon

Half Marathon
1st Ealing Half Marathon
2nd JCP Swansea Half Marathon
3rd Cardiff Half Marathon

1st Southport Mad Dog Seaside 10k
2nd Admiral Swansea Bay 10K
3rd Glenlivet 10K

Charity Event
1st Race for Life
2nd Guy’s Urban Challenge
3rd Hope24

Endurance Race
1st Race to the Stones (Dixons Carphone)
2nd Equinox24
3rd Mizuno Endure24

Event Series
1st parkrun
2nd The Major Series
3rd Frostbite Trail Race Series

Fun Run
1st Rock & Roll Liverpool
2nd Dark Run 5K
3rd The Colour Run - London

International Event
1st Uganda Marathon
2nd SSE Airtricity Dublin Marathon
3rd BMW Berlin Marathon

New Event
1st Hope24
2nd Dorset Invader
3rd Scott Snowdonia Trail Marathon

Obstacle Race

1st Wolf Run - Winter Wolf
2nd Munificent 7
3rd Race for Life Pretty Muddy

Thursday 26 May 2016

MedalDisplays Review: I HATE medals ... *cough*

I pretend I don’t do my races for the bling.

I’m a big fat liar. 

I don’t do anything with my medals when I’ve earned them OF COURSE. I just wear them for one ENTIRE day, showing everyone I meet my shiny bit on a string. I definitely DON’T then take multiple selfies with medal. All I do is hang it on the handle of the cabinet in the living room for a couple of weeks. Nonchalantly. And definitely make no reference whatsoever to it when I have visitors.

I just do that weird shifty eye and head nod thing towards the cabinet. Insistently. 

*Does head nod towards cabinet*

So when Medal Displays asked me if I’d review one of their medal hangers I obviously said no. *cough*. I may have shouted “yes!”. Loudly. As usual I said I’d like to review the product but I would say exactly what I thought. If it was bendy and a bit rubbish, I’d say. But if it was amazing, ran races for me and won medals FOR me, I’d say that to. (p.s. Medal Displays, if you can manage to make a medal hanger that does the ‘running races for me’ thing, can you put one on pre-order for me)

They sent me ‘Dream. Believe. Achieve. 

What’s different about this medal hanger?

  • Solid construction. I bought myself an acrylic one from another supplier from a running show but it didn’t even survive the trip home. Unfortunately what once was an inspiring slogan now now proudly proclaims ‘B_ood Sweat and Tears’. I don’t’ know what ‘bood’ is but I don’t think I’d want it on my run kit. However my ‘Dream. Believe Achieve’ hanger is of solid construction and being made from stainless steel 3mm thick, I don’t think I’m going to be losing letters any time soon.
  • Smart look. It’s made from brushed stainless steel so it looks smart and has a nice smooth look. 
  • Clear instructions. The instructions are on the pack so before you even open it, you know what to do which is a nice touch. They’ve also included the screws to fix the medal hanger to the wall.
  • Customer Service. The company seem very customer centric. The delivery confirmation included such touches as ‘handled with white gloves’ and I received a feedback request from them a couple of days after delivery. It gives the impression that this company really do want you to be pleased with their product. 
  • Well packed and signed for. They want you to get their product in tip top condition. 
  • Changed Your Mind? There’s a 110% refund if you don’t like your medal hanger. 
  • Shipping. Shipped within 24 hours which is great if you’re buying one as a gift. 
  • Price. £24.99 so not too pricey and looks more expensive than it is. 
  • Size. I love the font and the shape of the hanger, but I felt that it was possibly a bit small and felt that maybe the letters could be a bit taller.
  • Drill. Although the instructions were clear and precise you need a drill to put it up on the wall. Maybe this is standard with medal hangers. I didn’t get to hang the last one (from a different supplier) as it didn’t make it home in one piece. I wasn’t sure what ‘B_ood’ was and didn’t want to advertise that was what my medals cost me. 

What didn’t I like?

To be honest, I like to try and keep things even in reviews, but I’m struggling to find things I don’t like. It’s solid, came well packed and the company appear eager to help. I liked this a lot.

If you want one of your own you can order here:

Monday 9 May 2016


I'm trying to eat sensibly. That means no creme eggs.

I’m eating what I think I should be and adding in some healthy snacks such as fruit, some nuts and I'm trying to avoid too much mixing of ingredients and making things. I'm trying to keep it simple. 

I'm trying SO hard.

But ... I am great at allowing ONE thing in that seems harmless, such as those raw nut bars and then thinking “ …well fruit bars are ALMOST the same … And Mars bars have caramel in and that comes from sugar canes which are plants, right?” … Then it all goes to hell and I’m lying on the sofa surrounded by sweet wrappers and with chocolate smeared around my face. Just no.

This is ACTUAL cheese that's in my fridge right now.

I’m generally feeling good. No bloating. No excessive hunger. And I’m not missing chocolate or cows milk but my stomach has other ideas. It doesn’t mind the lack of pick n mix sweets. (My mouth does though) It’s not even that bothered about the dark chocolate. But it IS grumpy about the lack of cheese. And if I listen carefully I can actually hear my stomach shouting “Cheese!” GIVE ME CHEESE!” And shouldn’t I be listening to my body? Even if lack of cheese is bringing on auditory hallucinations?

I’m sure all the experts say “Listen to your body.” Mine wants cheese.

And didn’t I see a Mars bar around here somewhere?