Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Virgin Money Giving Mini London Marathon 2015

On the weekend, I competed for Welsh Schools for my sixth and last time at the Mini London Marathon.  The race is the British Road Championships and is run over the last three miles of the London Marathon course.

I enjoy competing on the streets of London as there is always such a great atmosphere on marathon day and this year was no different.  When the under 17 girls were called from the starting pen at Old Billingsgate and took to the road for a five minute warm up, I remembered standing on the start line six years ago, a bag of nerves unsure what the race would bring.  This year my nervousness about the race left me and I decided that I was just going to enjoy it.

Team Wales 2015
The start was very fast as usual and I held back slightly making sure to not get carried away in the mad dash and to save something for the end of the race. Heading through the long tunnel in the first mile I passed lots of people and came up onto the shoulder of my old Welsh rival and friend Cari Hughes.  Cari and I have been competing against each other for a number of years now and it is great to have such a rivalry between the girls within Wales.  We pushed each other throughout the remainder of the race, passing other runners and jostling for position.  It was amazing to be running along with a fellow Welsh athlete and the crowds shouting "Go on Wales!" to us.

At Big Ben which is about a mile from the finish, Cari and I were neck and neck fighting for fourth position and it was great to hear my old primary school teacher, Mrs Baynham, cheering me on from the crowds.  Running along Bird Cage Walk towards The Mall the crowds got louder and our pace got quicker.  Rounding the bend into the mall at the 400 metre sign I picked up my pace as Cari was still on my shoulder.  I knew that is was going to come down to a sprint finish between the two of us and I gave it all that I had.  I got ahead of Cari just as another athlete came tearing past us.  I raced after her just overtaking her before the line.  I was pulled over by the officials and I couldn't believe that I had finished fourth overall and third in the regional challenge! I had never finished in the top ten before at this event so I felt very happy to finally achieve this.  Cari finished sixth and is still eligible to compete for Welsh Schools' next year!

I met the rest of the Welsh girls whilst walking along The Mall, it was great to hear how everyone did within the Welsh team and there were some really good performances by our athletes in other age groups.  The Under 15 boys were team of the moment taking team gold in a really strong age group. I can't believe my brother Luke broke 16 minutes and will be back to race in the same age group next year.

After what must have been hundreds of photographs taken by proud parents on Horse Guards Parade it was time to say goodbye to the team and for all of us to go our separate ways and enjoy the rest of the day in London.

After a late breakfast at an Italian Cafe, it was impossible to get anywhere near The Mall when Paula Radcliffe finished her last ever competitive marathon and my family and I had to be content with hearing the commentary over the loud speaker.  Paula Radcliffe is a fantastic role model within the sport and it is amazing that the world record she set in 2003 still stands today; this is a testament to the determination and the dedication that she put into her running.  Paula has and will always inspire me with my running and totally deserved the fitting send off at the London Marathon this year.

Before my family and I left London, we were sure to wait for Justin Baird-Murray from The Metropole Hotel in my home town of Llandrindod Wells to cross the finish line.  The hotel sponsors my brother and I to support our running.  Justin ran the London Marathon raising money for Pancreatic Cancer UK and completed it inside three hours 20 minutes which is 10 minutes quicker than he ran it two years ago!
Luke, Justin and I

Finally, I would just like to say thank you to everyone at Welsh Athletics who has supported me over the years at the Mini London Marathon.  The last six years have been full of amazing experiences and it will be weird not running in the event next year.  Also thank you to all my family, friends and team mates that have been with me each year and also to all the strangers that have cheered me on!  Good luck to all the athletes that compete in both the London Mini Marathon and the full Marathon in the future.  One day I hope to run the full marathon; although I'm not sure yet if this will be competitively or just for fun!

Now time to get running up some big hills ready for the mountain running season!

Monday, 20 April 2015

British Athletics Mountain Running Camp

On the weekend I attended the British Athletics Mountain Running Camp in Betws-y-Coed in North Wales. British Athletics organised the camp to focus on those athletes who have the capability of making the British team for either the European and/or World Mountain running championships this year. During the camp we stayed in The Royal Oak Hotel in Betws-y-Coed situated at the foot of the World Mountain Running course. We were very lucky that the Welsh weather played its part and remained dry and mostly sunny for the duration of the weekend.  
I had never been invited to attend the British Athletics Mountain Running Camp before, but it has been running for five years. Attending the camp was very beneficial to me as it has helped me to focus on my preparations for the 2015 mountain running season.

17th April

The athletes and coaches that attended the
 British Athletics Mountain Running Camp
The camp was kick started with a talk by Sarah Rowell who gave a review of the 2014 mountain running season for the Great Britain team.  Last year the team was the second strongest in the World behind Italy and the team behind mountain running at British Athletics are hoping to build on that this year with it being a home world championships.  David Walsh covered the importance of anti-doping for any athlete pointing out that all sports people have a responsibility to monitor and check what they are putting into their body and are 100% responsible if when tested the results are positive.  There is no guarantee that any nutritional supplements are not contaminated with performance enhancing drugs so David made it clear that athletes should only take nutritional supplements if they have undertaken thorough internet research, and the product is batch tested and contains no banned substances.

18th April

After a light breakfast we were all anxious to get out of the hotel to do some hard training on the World Championship Course. I really enjoyed this hill session in the sunshine, as although it was tiring I felt strong and it was inspiring to be running alongside some of my running idols such as Emma Clayton and Mary Wilkinson. For me being able to run on the course before the camp during the Christmas Holidays when I stayed with my family in Betws-y-Coed was a real benefit as I felt sure of my footing and was aware of what was to come around the next bend and so was able to push myself.
After lunch we had a number of talks from keynote speakers.  Firstly Kate Spilsbury discussed the physiology of endurance training highlighting the fact that for all endurance runners, recovery is important so that the body can adapt. Kate also talked to us about tapering before major races in order to achieve the best results possible.
Sarah Rowell then challenged us to identify what we were going to do differently after what we had learnt. Sarah also gave us an insight into her early career as an athlete which was very interesting.
For the next part of the afternoon we all split up into respective groups in order to fit in with what we wanted to do. Some people went to practice their downhill running technique whilst others did a quick run, I along with a group of athletes went to a workshop run by Graeme Everard, a physiotherapist, about developing a prehab routine designed to develop overall body strength and proprioception. I found this part of the camp very helpful as I was able to identify weak spots that I need to work on in order to become a more efficient athlete.
After a busy afternoon, a few of the girls and I went to a cosy cafe and had a slice of cake and a coffee which was well deserved after a long day. Sitting outside the cafe in the sunshine with a delicious slice of chocolate cake was lovely!
The last talk of the day came from Malcolm Brown; Alistair and Jonny Brownlee's coach, covering their preparation for the London 2012 Olympics and the importance of not letting the pressure of a home Olympics unnerve them in any way. This was applied to the World Mountain Running Championships being in Wales this year and really inspired me to try to achieve my best and aim to make the team.

19th April

On Sunday we all got up fairly early for our long Sunday run. Our run took in the British Inter-Counties Fell course and the Worlds' course. There was such a great feeling of friendliness on this run and I think that that is one of the best things about mountain running. 
Long run Selfie! (Photo courtesy of Emma Clayton)

Finally, to finish the camp Duncan Richards gave an insightful talk into taking responsibility for your success. Having a positive attitude about your sport, yourself and others around you makes for a more positive and successful athlete.

I really enjoyed the camp as it has inspired me for the up and coming summer of mountain running and I am very grateful to have been invited by British Athletics to attend. It was great to be talking and training with my idols in mountain running. The camp re-emphasised to me that mountain running is a social as well as a competitive sport as everybody is so friendly. I will now continue to put the hard work in so that I have the best chance of qualifying to run for Great Britain at the European and World Mountain Running Championships later in the year!

Monday, 13 April 2015

What's this all about?

I'm amazed at the number of people that have read my first post, so I've decided to give you all an insight into who I am and why I've started to write this blog.

Here are a few facts about me:

Mid Wales is a beautiful place to live 


Fact one: I'm 17 years old and live with my parents and younger brother in beautiful mid Wales.

Fact two: I LOVE running!  I caught the running bug in 2009 and I'm so glad that I did! Running is a massive part of who I am and I cannot imagine my life without it now. I'm very proud to have run for Wales on numerous occasions and feel extremely privileged to have run for Great Britain.

Fact three: I play the clarinet and piano and I've always enjoyed listening to and making all kinds of music.

Fact four: I'm currently studying Physical Education, Biology and Welsh at AS level and one day would love to be a fluent Welsh speaker.

Fact five: Vegetable lasagna is my favourite meal and no; I'm not a vegetarian! Egg is my least favourite food as I cannot stand the smell.

And finally...

Fact six: My family and I have a tabby cat called Toby; he never runs just sleeps all day! 

Why have I started this blog?

I've been reading the "Like The Wind" magazines which collectively bring together people's experiences through running.  This magazine inspired me to put pen to paper (or rather fingers to keyboard) and write about my own experiences through my running journey.

The other (slightly weird) reason is that I had a dream that I wrote a blog post about Kilian Jornet and he emailed me about it. I took this as a sign that I should start blogging...and here I am!

I hope that you will be able to relate to future posts and that I can succeed in inspiring you along whatever stage of your running journey you are at.

And remember:

"You don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great" Zig Ziglar

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Summer of Love by Heidi

In the summer of 2014 I fell in love with Mountain running!

At the GB mountain running development camp in Betws-y-Coed in cold and damp North Wales at Easter, I never dreamed I would make the Great Britain team for the World Mountain Running Championships in Italy during the summer.

After just missing out on a qualifying spot for the European Championships I knew there was a fantastic opportunity before me. I put everything into my training for the World Trial in Sedburgh: total dedication, total focus on my goal. It paid off I finished 2nd. Now I was on the plane with the GB Team ready to compete for my country at the World Mountain Running Championships in the marble quarry of Casette Di Massa.

Seeing the setting of the course for the first time was amazing. I knew that the race would be in a working quarry but I didn't expect the marble to be so vast and I knew that this would be the toughest race of my life.

On the day before the race we walked the course looking for technical aspects. There were a series of sharp rises at the beginning with short flat sections before it entered a marble cave. After the cave the remainder of the course was a prolonged and very steep drag uphill. Pacing on race day would be critical to success.

The night before the race; my first GB team meeting. Team captain, Robbie Simpson, gave an inspiring talk leaving me feeling excited about the race to come.

Race day, we were called onto the very narrow start line. There was lots of jostling and pushing to try and get to the front.  Waiting for the gun I was eager to get going. Bang! I was in the zone, focused and prepared to do my best.

The GB Junior Women Team
The first ascents seemed easy as we were fresh and going into the cave I was near the front group of girls. As we reached the long ascent one by one the runners in front began to walk as it was more efficient on the steepest sections.  It was steeper than anything I had ever raced on before but I think I judged my effort well. Turning the last switchback into the finishing straight I over took three or four girls in my last final effort to get to the finishing line, crossing in 14th place. Catriona Graves paced her race perfectly coming through the field on the steep ascent to finish in 5th place and Georgia Malir finished in 18th. We gave it our all but we just missed out on a team medal finishing 4th behind Germany, America and the Czech Republic.

The World Mountain Running Championships come to North Wales in 2015. I will be doing everything I can to make the team as this is on my home ground and in my preferred up and down format. It will give everyone a motivational boost to do their best, to come away with both team and individual medals.

The World Championships of 2014 will always be special to me with my first GB vest.  I consider myself very privileged to have run at the World Mountain Running Championships and I hope in the future I will get the chance to run for GB again with such a friendly and inspirational group of athletes.

Mountain running has made a better runner; I am a physically and mentally stronger athlete as a result. Most of all though it has allowed me to fall in love with my running and truly enjoy it!