Author Archive

What do elite athletes do when they’re injured?

Posted by Steve Hobbs

Charlotte Purdue has been injured, a frustrating time for any runner but for a full-time athlete, that’s doubly hard…

“After the World Half Marathon championships in Valenica, myself and my training partner Steve headed up to Font Romeu (about 6 hours by road) for 4 weeks of altitude training prior to the London Marathon. Unfortunately during our first week out there I was forced to stop during an easy run…

I have since November had a pain in my quad. Being an elite runner, I am always feeling niggles around my legs and so after having 5 days off in November the pain in my quad seemed to disappear. It then started to come back in January and I would feel it in random runs – but I was still able to run 120 miles some weeks and I ran 1.10 and a big PB at the Big Half in March, so it couldn’t be that bad right? When you are constantly pushing yourself to the limits and training hard everyday you expect your body to complain every now and again and it was becoming clear that this was serious. A test or 2 later and it was confimed i had a stress reaction (not a fracture but it was heading in that direction) in my femur . I have been very fortunate that for the past 2 years I have not had to have any time off due to injury. So although I was gutted to have to withdraw from this year’s London Marathon, I know that it is all part of the process and I will have plenty more opportunities to run in London.

During my time off running (4 weeks) – I decided to stay up in Font Romeu and do some altitude cross training! I had a few days of doing no exercise to let the injury settle and then I started my cross training program. For the first 2 weeks I did a pool session every morning, which would consist of 15mins swimming warm up, 35mins of aqua jogging and then 15mins swimming cool down. I would then every evening do about 45mins of cycling which would be followed by my gym work 3 times a week. For the last 2 weeks I was able to incorporate some cross trainer instead of swimming and I did some bike sessions instead of swimming.

I am now beginning the return to running process which is gradual so I will continue to cross train for the next 3 weeks to enhance my fitness. I will also be using the Alter-G treadmill which basically defies gravity and reduces body weight, with the idea that I can run for longer than I would outside as there will be less load on my leg. I have been selected for the European Championships marathon in August which is great as it always helps to have a goal when returning from a set back – something to make you want to work hard every day, even if its not doing what you love (running!). ”

It’s interesting to note how Charlotte suggests that being an elite runner means she frequently has to deal with aches and pains. That’s true for us all isn’t it? There is always something going on inside our bodies – rarely are we totally free from a niggle. It’s also interesting that rather than getting despondent, Charlotte is able to pick herself up and find alternative ways of maintaining her fitness – anti-gravity treadmills and aqua jogging may not be available or appropriate for all of us, but there are plenty of things we can do so that we feel more in control of the situation AND maintain fitness while we recover. It’s going to be fun seeing how Charlotte progresses from here towards the European Championships in Berlin in August.

What happens to you when you run in the heat?

Posted by Steve Hobbs

It’s been quite a couple of weeks.

First we had a Commonwealth Games marathon that will always be remembered for Callum Hawkins’ dramatic collapse and the controversy about how he should have been assisted.

Then we had hot weather warnings ahead of the London Marathon with newspaper headlines predicting the hottest ever marathon sending everyone into a pre-race maranoia frenzy amid conjecture about the potential impact of the heat.

And then we had the actual race and it was indeed, the hottest ever London Marathon. It wasn’t just the heat by 2pm that was the issue (as has been the case in the past), it was hot on the way to the start!

And it had a significant impact.

There was a massive reduction in runners going under 3 hours – 1,108 as compared to 1,935 in 2017, and some analysis by our friend Pete Dyson showed that the heat had an impact of around 2% for the elite, 4-6% for those running under 3 hours, and 6-10% for those running over 3 hours.

The London Marathon were very good at telling everyone what to do in advance. There were emails, texts and tweets telling everyone to reduce their pace, drink fluids, reduce your pace, wear a hat, reduce your pace, pour water on yourself, reduce your pace, wear sunscreen and REDUCE YOUR BLOODY PACE!

I was staggered at how few people listened despite seeing what happened to Callum just a week earlier – for example, there were very few hats being paraded on the championship start and people were clearly battling with their pace from very early on.

Why was this?

Arrogance? – “it won’t affect me”

Stubbornness? – “I’ve trained for 3 hours so 3 hours it is.”

Anxiety? – “it’s too stressful to change my plans now”

Ambition? – “my target is 3.15, I’ve run 3.30 before, what’s the point of running 3.29, I want 3.15 or I might as well run 4.00”

Uncertainty? – “I don’t know if or how much it will impact me so I’ll see how it goes”

A combination of the above perhaps?

All of these mental approaches led to positive splits. Rather than being a criticism of anyone that ran a positive split, this is an interesting insight into human motivation and goal setting which was missing from all the communication about what to do in the heat. We didn’t just need to slow down, we needed to rethink our measures of success, and potentially our measures of self-worth.

And herein lies the biggest danger in Milestone setting – that you commit to your goal so much that you put all the focus on the outcome such that when something out of our control comes along (like unexpected weather) and scuppers all those carefully laid and brilliantly executed plans, we despair. We despair because we link our finishing time to how we are judged by others and therefore how we judge ourselves.

At The Milestone Pursuit, we had a great set of athletes who were virtually all in or around the shape they wanted to be to hit their milestone so we had a difficult week talking to athletes about altering their plans.

In doing that I was mindful that I don’t usually support people having plan b’s for a race as I think that when things get tough people quickly shelve plan A if they have a plan B that they have consciously developed in advance. Instead I encourage people to have just one goal and to be single-minded about it. But on this occasion I felt that had to change. I encouraged everyone to think about what outcome they’d accept if they couldn’t hit their goal.

I suggested that while their goal (whatever that may be) is very important to them they must remember that the journey/process they’ve been through to get to this point is actually the more valuable thing. The process of training for a marathon is a life changing one in itself – among other things you get fitter, you get stronger and you get more mentally resilient. Regardless of what might happen in the race that alone should be a source of great pride.

People can get hung up on “time”, (for example, friends and family will often say “great time” not “great run” or “great performance”) but you are not defined as a person or an athlete, by the times you achieve. Instead, you are defined by how hard you’ve worked to get to the startline and how hard you try on the day. And finally, I encouraged everyone to think that in this particular race trying hard is about being especially patient with your pacing early on AND being especially brave when it gets tough.

This is the whole point of the Milestone Pursuit: Setting goals, understanding why they are so important to you and committing to them is absolutely critical to meeting them but so is investing in the pursuit AND especially with the marathon you should not tie your self worth to the outcome. You are much more than a time.

That’s how I think the London Marathon of 2018 will always be remembered. The toughest one ever, the one where everyone struggled (did you see how Mo Farah and Mary Keitany struggled at the end?) and the one that everyone will be forever proud of having completed despite very few people hitting their milestones. There weren’t many “great times”, but there were a lot of great runs and great performances.

Thought it was hot at London – try the Commonwealth Games!

Posted by Steve Hobbs

All the focus has been on the hottest ever London Marathon (and it was hot!), but the previous week we saw an insanely hot race in Australia for the Commonwealth Games. Josh Griffiths was representing Wales;


Aims Heading Into Race

Heading into the race I was confident of being able to run a good race and aimed to position highly, breaking into the top 10 was a realistic aim despite being ranked lower going into the race. My training in preparation for the marathon had gone well, I had run PB’s over 10k and equalled my half marathon PB in the lead up to the race. I had spent the previous four and a half weeks, training and acclimatising to the new conditions with the rest of the Welsh Athletics team on the Sunshine Coast. Temperatures on the Sunshine Coast were usually around 26C with a couple of days going up to 29C.

Race Morning

The marathon started at 8:15am on Sunday, April 15th. This meant for an early start, I set my alarm for 3:45am and headed to the food hall for a 4am breakfast. I was accompanied by fellow Welsh marathon runners; Andrew Davies, Caryl Jones and Eli Kirk. I had a pretty standard breakfast of rice (for myself) and had a banana and a couple of energy bars to go with it. I walked back to my accommodation, had a shower, some very light stretching and put my ipod on as I started to focus on the race. We had our bags checked at 5:55am by team staff before heading to the bus which took us to the start. We arrived at the start area at around 6:30am where a few of the other competitors were relaxing. I propped my bag up like a pillow, plugged in my music and lay down for around 20mins to completely relax before starting my warm-up routine. I began my warm up at 7:25am by going for a 12 minute jog around the start area, I could tell within a couple of minutes it was going to be warm as I was already sweating. I went back into the cool tented area to stretch and change into my race clothing. At 7:50am we were called into the call room (this is an area where race staff check an athlete’s chip, numbers and is a place athletes assemble before being taken to the start). We were led out to the start at 8am where there where people with umbrella’s to protect us from the sun. I did my usual strides of 4x15secs to turn my legs after sitting in the call room before being put into order on the start line. Conditions when the race started were around 27C, a light breeze which would act as a headwind from mile 3-16.

The Race

The first 5k went pretty slowly, nobody really wanted to lead and the pace therefore was pretty easy for the whole field. After we turned at 3 miles, we then had 13 miles of light headwind down to the 16 mile mark before turning back for a 10 mile straight to the finish. It was a very scenic course, and one where it was easy to get into a rhythm given the very little turns we had to negotiate. I passed through 10km feeling good, the pace had picked up and I was now running in around 13th position. Before reaching the next drinks station at 15km however, I had already started to suffer and my pace had dropped to what was now much slower than what I was expecting to run. I had dropped a few more places and now any hopes I had going into the races were seemingly gone.

I had stopped taking my personal drinks at this point as my stomach was not 100% and didn’t want to take anything other than water in an attempt not to upset it more. I felt like I had lost all power in my legs and it was now just a psychological battle to get to the end. I reached the halfway point in 71 minutes and was in around 20th position at this stage. The temperature now had risen to 33C and, I can say with some confidence that the next 13 miles were the hardest miles I had ever run in my life. I got to the turnaround point at mile 16 and didn’t really understand how I could possible run the next 10miles back to the finish line feeling like I was. In an attempt not to overheat I would throw 2x500ml water bottles over my head every 2.5km, but would be bone dry long before the next station, it was brutal. I had to take a quick pit-stop at mile 17 due to stomach problems but this seemed to be the least of my worries.

With 9 miles to go, I seriously considered dropping out of the race as I was in a pretty bad state by this point. But it’s not in my nature to quit, so I told myself that the only way I am allowed to stop is if someone pulls me from the course or I collapse. This was a Commonwealth Games and I had trained too hard to just step off the road. So I continued to press onwards and to my amazement I caught 2 athletes which were ahead of me, 1 of them was a member of the Kenyan team who had run 2:09, another was an athlete from Malawi who was swaying all over the road. I don’t remember too much of the last 10km apart from the final stages where I passed another athlete from Tanzania who was receiving medical attention on the side of the road. I managed to cross the finish line in 15th place. The race didn’t go to plan at all for me, I really suffered in the heat and was eventually just happy to finish when so many did not.

After The Race

Immediately after the race I wasn’t doing too well, I was in the first aid tent with members of our medical team (who did an amazing job on such a difficult day) were trying to cool me down with ice and cold towels. After meeting my family briefly after the race who were quite concerned for me, I headed back to the village. I was still struggling at this point and was transported by buggy back to my accommodation where a doctor came to check how I was doing. The doctor told me I was severely dehydrated. After a nap, some food and lots of water, I was starting to feel ok again that evening.

What Next?

Whenever you train for a long-term goal, I think it’s important to take some time off afterwards to reflect and re-energise both physically and mentally. That race had exhausted me in every way possible, therefore I took 6 days of no running after it in order to recover, and be able to start my next block of training hungry to improve. Despite not hitting my goals in the race, I still try to take some positive from it. For me, these were; 15th place at Commonwealth Games, proved to myself that I am mentally strong, knowing race conditions won’t get much harder than that. It has also motivated me to make sure I get back to that level so that I get another opportunity to run the race I should have in the Gold Coast.

Over the next few months I will be looking to lower my half marathon personal best and break 65 minutes. I will also be going down in distance a little, racing over 5km and 10km before building up to an Autumn marathon somewhere later this year.

Preparing for the Commonwealth Games

Posted by Steve Hobbs

As previously featured on here, Josh Griffiths is competing in the marathon at the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in Australia.

Here is his latest blog on his progress…..


On March 12th, the majority of the Team Wales athletics contingent selected for the 2018 Commonwealth Games began our journey from Cardiff, to the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia. This was by far the furthest I had ever travelled as it took 36 hours to go from door-to-door, this included a 13 hour and 8 hour flight, 5 hour bus journey and some time spent in airports. However, after what seemed like a lifetime, I had finally arrived at the Welsh Athletics holding camp, located in Mountain Creek, Sunshine Coast. The first thing I did after arriving was go for a run, my legs had swelled up pretty badly on the plane so it was nice to finally get some blood flowing around the body. I am sharing an apartment with four others who are also endurance athletes; Jonny Hopkins (3000m S/C), Ieuan Thomas (3000m S/C), Tom Marshall (1500m), Jake Heyward (1500m).

Given that temperatures on the East coast of Australia were around 30C warmer than the UK at the time, coupled with the crazy 95% humidity on most days, I was very thankful that I had four and a half weeks to prepare and acclimatise properly to the new environment. In my first week here, I struggled with the warm temperatures, often needing drinks or a cold shower during my run (something I never do at home) and was a little worried about how I could possibly race 26.2 miles in these conditions. However after a couple of weeks, I am now much happier with how things are going and am looking forward to toeing the start line on April 15th. Despite the fact that the Gold Coast is 10 hours ahead of the UK, I managed to adjust to the new time zone pretty quickly, which really helped me settle into my training. I did this by sleeping as much as possible on my journey to Australia so that when I landed at 7am AUS time, I was ready for the day ahead.

The whole purpose of arriving 5 weeks before race day was so that we could all prepare as best as possible in the same conditions that we would race in. Therefore we basically had a 3 week training camp on the Sunshine Coast before moving into the Commonwealth Games village on April 3rd. Below I will run you through what a typical day looks like for me while preparing for a major championship.


6am: Wake up and breakfast (porridge, blueberries, banana and a yogurt)

8am: Training – This will be the harder session of the day (Distance: 10-22Miles)

10am: After training protein and rehydration, followed by a quick dip in the pool

12pm: Lunch and coffee (I usually eat a Caesar salad or toasted sandwich with a Caramel Latte)

2pm: Fifa in the apartment with the boys or chill out down at Mooloolaba sea front

4pm: Coffee and a banana before training

5pm: Training (Distance: 5-8Miles)

6pm: Recovery – Ice bath, massage, Normatec compression, foam roll or stretch on most days

7pm: Food – We each take it in turns cooking, my speciality is a chicken curry and veg.

9pm: Bedtime


During my first week, training was tough in the warm climate, however by now I have been able to tick off some good sessions around the 2 mile lake loop which we are staying next too. These include a 22 Mile long run at 5:59/mile feeling very easy and a session of 3x3km, 3x2km, 3x1km fartlek all with a 2 minute jog recovery. Training has been made easier with the help of our fantastic support staff who accompany us on bikes and help us out with water bottles.

When on a training camp you naturally have a lot of spare time as there is only so much training you can do in a day without burning yourself out. Therefore seeing as we were a flat of 5 boys, we decided to buy an Xbox and have a Fifa tournament most days. Other than that we often head down to the seafront and have a coffee whilst admiring the fantastic beaches Australia has to offer. I have been going in the sea after each of my long runs so far, something I wouldn’t advise back in the UK, not yet anyway.

On April 3rd I will be travelling down to the Gold Coast to move into the Commonwealth Games village. I will also be attending the opening ceremony on April 4th. I’m really looking forward to this as it is always something I have seen on TV and looks amazing, so I’m really excited to be part of it. Moving down on the 3rd will also provide me with the opportunity of familiarising myself with the start/finish areas of my race as well as doing a few runs on the course. This is something I really like doing if possible so there are no surprises on race day.

Race Details

More to come very soon…..

Using your emotions to drive you to marathon success

Posted by Steve Hobbs

by Stuart Holliday of Focused Mind Coaching

If you’ve got a spring marathon, how is your training going? Has the recent cold snap impacted your schedule? Maybe you’ve had to compromise sessions by using the dreadmill (or life has got in the way). Or you’ve had races to test your mettle cancelled due to the conditions. Has this led you to question your strategy for your target race or how you’ll feel through your taper? In this post I will try to give guidance on how you can enhance your mental game and settle any nerves through the last few weeks of your training cycle.

Steve has invited me to contribute to The Milestone Pursuit blog to share my knowledge and skills as a performance psychologist. I’m Stuart Holliday and my company (Focused Mind Coaching) works with athletes and business people to help achieve excellence in their performance in reaching or exceeding their goals. I apply the principles and lessons learnt from working with Olympic teams and Liverpool FC for Professor Steve Peters and his Chimp Paradox thinking over the last 4 years.


Knowing your “why” for doing a marathon

I’m a runner too, so I’m on board with the Milestone Pursuit ethos of understanding why you’re pushing yourself through a long training cycle in order to achieve your best on race day. I’m fortunate enough to be part of the Asics sport science Pro Team working with the specific needs of athletes so they can develop their existing emotional skill. By helping people become more aware of their mental capabilities, we are able to tap into that extra 5% or 10% required in sport to maximise our super strengths, and enjoyment of the race experience. If we see challenge instead of threat and create better mental plans to cope with whatever comes our way, we are more likely to have an enjoyable and fulfilling experience.


Maximising taper time

There’s a phrase in running that confidence is currency. By building this ‘strength’, it should increase your ‘wealth’ to take in to your race to ‘spend wisely’. I hope that in this post, I can help you take some of the building blocks you’ve accrued through your training to help increase your confidence.
For the purposes of this piece, let’s assume you’re a runner who has done the majority of your training and you are reaching the last part of training or your taper. This can be a dangerous part of marathon training as having more free time from running allows your emotions to stop and catch up with the reality that race day is just around the corner. But, you have a golden opportunity to stop those emotions from leading you down an anxious avenue and instead I advocate using this time wisely to build up your confidence currency.


What are the best tips to train and manage my monkey mind?

Aside from being absolutely clear of your full reasoning for why you’re doing the race and what you want to get out of it, take the time to go back over your training log (whether that’s on paper, on Strava or Garmin Connect etc.).


How have you been recording your training?

In your journal take the time to remember not just what your times and splits were, but how you felt – I know this is something that Steve asks you to record. Take the time to note and praise yourself for when you had a tough set or session and actually look at the facts, truth and evidence about how you’ve trained and the condition you’re actually in. Odds are, you’ve got currency there that you should be cashing in. Steve calls these your Reasons to Believe.


Preparing for the tough stuff

In the later stages of a marathon, even if you’re Dennis Kimetto (the current men’s world record holder!), an expectation of the ‘pain train’ making an appearance is worth legislating for. In some cases, this may be the dreaded ‘wall’, so it is worth spending some quality time planning how to negotiate with yourself. Ideally you’ve had some test races or sessions where you’ve been in the red or on the limit. How are you going to transform your experience and knowledge from the last 3 months to cope with any discomfort?

If you’re not sure, don’t panic! As Professor Andy Lane said on Marathon Talk last year (skip to minute 43:45); if we engage with our emotions during a race, and have a rehearsed strategy or mantra, we will have a ready-made answer with which to overcome any possible mental or physical distractions. Steve also talks about being courageous when it’s hard and how important emotions are in being brave referring back to the stem of the word ‘courage’ which comes from Cor, the Latin word for Heart. Being emotionally skilled enough in pressure situations to know our own emotions and how to deal with them is the most effective strategy. Developing a race mantra is how you can execute that strategy.

Of course, in your planning you should also ensure you don’t go out too hard or fast in the first 5 or 10 miles (be patient!); ensure that you’re well fuelled (and have a fuelling strategy!) and try to use cues about your running form and the environment to visualize yourself running well to stay in the moment and cope with any onset of fatigue. Again, this ‘study time’ will aim to build up your confidence currency and lessen discomfort for both brain and body!


Pulling it altogether

Having spent some time following these tips I hope you should begin to help your emotions (also known as your inner chimp) to chill out and work to your advantage! During your downtime, I recommend taking the time to recognise when your chimp starts overthinking about the race day and refer back to the advice here or do something proactive. Maybe some meditation; taking a short walk; count to 10 or have other kinds of rest e.g. a sauna or spa and more social time with friends and family who may have been neglected during your 3-month training cycle.



Whilst we don’t want to eliminate the excitement and expectation of your emotions, we ideally want the power of your chimp (your emotions) to be ready for race day. So help it relax as much as you need and give it a plan to get the most out of your taper AND be ready for race day. You’ll need the chimp in the last 6 miles or at least be able to manage it during the time beforehand.

As the Kenyans say, run relaxed having trained hard. And trust your training process. You’re race ready and you need to have spent at least a bit of time reflecting so you can fully let go and enjoy the race day experience, stay positive and give as good an account of yourself as the occasion will allow.


The disclaimer!

This might sound surprising for a practitioner to say, but not everyone needs psychological or emotional skill training. It’s entirely possible that through nature or experience, some athletes have a fully functioning skill base to meet whatever challenge they face and succeed in achieving their goal. The problem with endurance sport and marathons is that often, however well you have physically trained, on the day, different factors and hurdles can crop up that you may not have legislated for. These may be the things that nag away at our emotions during the taper, so you need something in your locker to call on to get yourself out of a spot.

Maybe you’ve already achieved great things with your running, but you can still crank up your mindset for an even better performance. One of my athletes plays for an international team in their discipline. She is very emotionally skilled and practices her mental game as part of her prep. But even she said to me:

“I know I am capable of performing specific skills in my discipline. But the real skill I have to keep revisiting is building my belief that in the highest level of competition, I can call on and perform it when it counts.”

So good luck if you have a marathon coming up. Well done on (nearly) reaching your taper. Use it wisely to build up your currency to get the most out your race-day experience and don’t short change yourself. Feel free to ask any questions you have to Steve or myself.

Can you run when you’re pregnant?

Posted by Steve Hobbs

By Alice Williams

If you google ‘Can Pregnant Women Run?‘ you will get 89,200,000 results, none of those results will be a clear ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’. I know this because that’s what I did 33 weeks ago when I found out that I was pregnant…

The official information available is a mix of low volume studies, caveats and assumptions that are confusing at best, and at worst terrifying – the question turns from ‘Can Pregnant Women Run?‘ to ‘Should Pregnant Women Run’? after 38 weeks of running while pregnant, and many runs later, my answer is ‘Yes’ but there was a long list of questions that I wouldn’t know the answer to unless I had decided to find out for myself.

Running while you’re pregnant, is an interesting mix of physical depletion and mental determination. Normally, the more you do something the better you get at it – If you run pregnant, you will only get slower, you will get heavier, it will only get harder, and there’s nothing you can do to stop this – you have to go into it accepting that your fitness will fall off a cliff. What I found is that the ‘cliff’ had several levels along the way, it wasn’t simply a case of ‘this is how you’ll feel in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Trimester’ but clusters of weeks would feel similar and then I would go down another level. For the purpose of this blog post I’ll talk about each cluster.


Weeks 1-5 

Marathon Training, Exhaustion and a Surprise!

I had started training for the Dublin Marathon and had just gotten into doing longer runs. During my second long run (18 miles) I felt really tired like I wanted to cry with exhaustion after only 3 miles, I wrote it off as getting back into training after a couple months of lower volume mileage. I continued with marathon training and did a couple of short races (10km and team mile relay), my results were slower than expected, but both races were in extremely hot weather so I wasn’t concerned. By what was unknowingly my 4th week of pregnancy, my breathing felt off and I struggled on a couple of easy runs – women usually feel a bit off right before their monthly cycle, but this felt worse than normal – I was concerned that I might have an iron deficiency and decided that I should visit my GP for some blood tests. I bought a pregnancy test, so I could be sure to rule out the inevitable question that most women get at the GP when they have a health concern, turns out it wasn’t an iron deficiency…just a baby!


Weeks 5-9 

Minefield of Information, How do I make sure the baby’s healthy?

Anyone who’s been pregnant before will know that it’s an extremely confusing time, and ‘trusty google’ is visited several times a day with a litany of answers (the list of cheeses that you can and can’t eat alone is exhaustive!), tie that in with trying to find out what exercise is safe makes things feel impossible. The articles that I found had conflicting intensity volumes, healthy heart rate bpm ranges, and how many hours a week you can ‘safely’ exercise. I dug a little deeper and came across some blog posts from women that had run throughout their pregnancies at a decent volume and most importantly were positive, and had given birth to healthy babies.

The uneducated concern of a women exercising when pregnant is ‘will exercise restrict oxygen and blood to the baby?’ ‘Does it cause pre-term labour’? ‘Will the baby have a low birth weight?’ and the biggest fear of all ‘Can it cause a miscarriage’? most of the articles I found backed up that exercise is beneficial for the Baby and Mother but what I didn’t get was a definitive answer to ‘How much is too much’? And ‘What can I safely do?’. I realised that no one could tell me this and I had to rely on my own judgement.

At this point, my routine was running six days a week that included Intervals, Tempo, a mid-week hilly club run and a long run. I decided to reduce my long runs to the 14-15 mile range, with the intensity reduced during interval and tempo sessions – going by feel rather than pushing myself as hard as I could.

Although plenty of women do run full marathons pregnant, I decided that it wasn’t something that I wanted to do and I would defer my Dublin Marathon place to 2018. I did however, feel comfortable going ahead with the Half Marathon that I had planned to do in what would now be my 2nd Trimester. Finally, my next concern was nutrition, a woman who’s a healthy weight should gain 25-35 lbs while pregnant, I had to make sure that with regular exercise I was still on track for the baby being healthy and gaining enough weight throughout my pregnancy. I spoke to my Dad who’s a doctor, and he suggested keeping a very close track of my weight and make a concentrated effort to eat enough snacks between meals. I found an online ‘pregnancy weight calculator’ which helped me keep my weight gain on track, and increased calories when I was struggling to gain.

My weekly mileage during this time was around 45 miles. Cardiac capacity during pregnancy is halved, and blood volume doubles, so the effort was noticeable. I was happy to continue with this level of running and although paces had begun to drop, they weren’t significant at this point.


Weeks 9-14

Racing during Pregnancy, Scans, and sharing the news!

At the 12 week scan, the baby was healthy – growing well and very active! It really helped give me piece of mind that what I was doing was healthy for me and the baby.

I ran two races during this time period, my office run club ‘LGN 5km’ and the ‘Ealing Half Marathon’. The 5km race was during my 10th week of pregnancy, and I ended up running 20min51s – I wasn’t at the point of telling colleagues that I was pregnant yet, so made an excuse of being ‘stuck behind some slow guys’ during the congested race to explain my time being slower than the year before. For Ealing, I was 14 weeks pregnant and I thought around 1hr35mins would be realistic and not pushing my body too hard. I started off behind the 1hr35min pacers, but found that the pace felt too aggressive so I held back. Surprisingly, it became the first half marathon that I managed a successful negative split and I was able to comfortably catch up during the second half to finish in 1hr35mins. The race actually felt really enjoyable, and having the knowledge that the baby was healthy at this point helped me relax.

After the 12 week scan I was free to tell people outside my family, in laws and close friends that my husband and I were expecting. Obviously people were happy for me, but it was the start of the first waves of ‘you’ll have to give up running now’ which became a bit of an overwhelming theme throughout my pregnancy. As it turns out, people have very defined views of what you can and can’t do in pregnancy which would soon become very clear to me.

My weekly mileage during this time stayed at 45 miles, with long runs at 13-14 miles. My pace on ‘harder efforts’ had to drop a level and I relied on the feeling of effort to make sure that I wasn’t pushing too hard.


Weeks 15-20 

Leg cramps, back pain, Tena Ladies, and one last Half Marathon

This is when things started to get interesting, blood flow during pregnancy rightly favours the baby – which meant that my leg muscles started acting up. I would get random ‘dead leg’ cramps when I was running, I usually stopped and stretched a bit but mostly these would go away within the first 2 miles. Another factor was lower back pain, my expanding tummy was putting pressure on my lower back which started bothering me – not every run, and it actually hurt more after I sat at my desk for long periods of time, rather than when I was active. Lastly, bathroom breaks – with additional blood flow going to your kidneys during pregnancy you produce more urine than normal, combine that with a baby sitting on your bladder while your body bounces and you’ve got a problem… I had to run mainly in parks that would allow me easy access to toilets, but I hated the feeling that I could wet myself at any moment. One evening, I was running near my house and took an extra detour to round off 7 miles when it happened – I full on wet myself like a toddler!! Thankfully it was dark, raining and I was wearing black leggings!

I didn’t know what to do at this point, would I have to completely stop running for the fear of being caught out again? You can do all the pelvic floor exercises you like, but this was always going to be an issue. Around the same time, my friend suggested we run an upcoming Half Marathon in Richmond, so she could try for a PB by the end of the year and I could run one last Half before I’d have to reduce my long runs further. The problem was that the race was put on by a small organisation and there would be no port-a-loos on route, this is when I came up with a slightly crazy idea – Tena ladies. As you might know from the glamourous TV ads, `Tena Ladies’ are slightly thicker maxi pads that ‘women of a certain age’ wear for bladder incontinence. I decided if I wore one, I wouldn’t have to worry about the lack of toilets situation – on the day, the race was even more disorganised than we thought it would be and the start point port-a-loos hadn’t even arrived! This meant that during the first couple of miles people were weaving in and out to the bushes to ‘relieve themselves’, I should have packed extra Tena Ladies to give out!

Besides the unfortunate toilet situation, the race itself was ok. I had a loose goal time of 1hr40mins, but the mud and the cobble paths made my footing uneven and the lower back pain set in. I ended up finishing in 1hr42mins, and felt like that was a decent effort for 5 months pregnant. Most importantly, my friend improved her Half time by 3.5 mins, she celebrated with Prosecco, I had sparkling water…

My weekly mileage during this time was 40+ miles, again paces to match effort had to be reduced and long runs were around 12 miles.


Weeks 20-25

Stop now or keep going?, 20 week Scan, What should a pregnant woman’s body look like?

20 weeks was really the first hurdle in deciding what I could still reasonably run, my body felt less comfortable running – my stride had shortened significantly, the leg cramps continued, and I was getting bored of the constant bathroom breaks. Little did I know that this would be the first of many times I thought I was doing my ‘Last Run’, yes it would continue to be more difficult, but every time I wanted to quit I got used to the ‘new normal’ and adjusted to what I could do at that point, not comparing myself to what I could do a few weeks previously.

The 20 week pregnancy scan or ‘Anomaly Scan’ looks for any abnormalities in the baby and tracks the baby’s growth, the second part of the scan checks for any signs of pre-term labour or a low lying placenta. I knew going into the scan that if there were any growth issues or risk of pre-term labour, I would need to stop my routine immediately. I think they should rename the 20 week scan, the ‘Scary Scan’ anyone who’s been pregnant will know the anxiety going into the room hoping that everything’s ok with the baby. Thankfully the results showed a healthy baby boy that was already above average weight and thriving – I ended up in the scan a lot longer than expected because he was so active, later on, after doing my continuous ‘running in pregnancy’ research I found out that the mother’s activity levels in pregnancy positively affect the baby and the baby was more active because of me!

At this time, I would get a lot of comments about my ‘size’. I’m generally a very slim person and didn’t really start showing until 5 months, well-meaning colleagues and friends would comment on how ‘tiny’ I was. My own insecurities made me feel like I being judged for not being bigger, and I was paranoid that people thought my running routine was preventing me from looking ‘more pregnant’. I felt like I had to be defensive and tell people exactly how much weight I had gained, and that my baby was actually above average weight. When I look back at this, I realise it was silly to think that this was real judgement, but it also made me more aware that we should never comment on a woman’s size during pregnancy.

I still continued my Wednesday night runs with my club ‘Dulwich Runners’, the club members were incredibly supportive when I told them that I was expecting and the women that had babies gave some great advice about running in pregnancy, as well as being patient with me when I fell behind and took longer on the hills. The club runs are usually about 8-10 miles on what seems like the hilliest route in south London anyone can find. Before I was pregnant I would run a very steady pace on these nights, but I had to reduce my pace significantly – when I was frustrated with struggling, one club member reminded me that ‘there’s no glory in a good Wednesday night run!’. I did eventually have to cut these runs out, after one evening my back pain got very severe on a particularly steep route, and because the route was a large loop I had to jog back in significant pain to the clubhouse. I was annoyed that I had pushed myself too far, and decided from then on to only run in areas that I could stop running and walk back if I ran into trouble and avoid steep hills.

My weekly mileage during this time was 35 miles, however as my paces had dropped, Steve recommended changing to ‘time based’ runs rather than relying on mileage. This meant whatever I could cover in ‘x’ minutes would determine how long the run would be. This approach really helped to make sure I wasn’t pushing the pace on days I felt off and helped me ease slowly into runs.


Weeks 26-30

Relaxing, Losing anonymity as a runner, Ending the year on a high

I expected the 3rd trimester to be physically the most challenging, running wise this started at week 26. My balance felt more off, and thanks to the hormone ‘Relaxin’ my joints felt looser and I found that besides dialling down the pace again, I had to really concentrate on my form – making sure I was as upright as possible and trying not to run on too many uneven surfaces. At this point, I also looked very pregnant so there was a real lack of anonymity when I went running. I found that the general public’s reactions to a pregnant woman running are very mixed – sometimes I would get a wave or a thumbs up, other times it would be a rude comment – one man driving by actually honked his horn and angrily shaked his fist at me! (Pretty extreme), but I tried not to let it bother me and accepted that I couldn’t control people’s views.

Despite being pregnant for half the year, 2017 was my highest mileage ever. I should probably caveat that before Dec 2014, I had never run further than 4 miles in my life – but I’m still counting the small accomplishment!

My weekly mileage during this time was 30-35, continuing with time based runs, and long runs were around 10-11 miles.


Weeks 31-33

No more ‘workout runs’ and one last race

After 32 weeks, I felt another drop in ability and my legs were really struggling to ‘repair’ between runs. This meant that I would need to drop interval and tempo workouts completely to avoid injury and I continued running all my runs at an easy pace with one ‘aerobic’ paced run a week.

I had signed up to the ‘Cancer Research Winter Run’ 10km a few months previously, I wasn’t sure I would be still running at this point but thought I’d enter just in case. On the day I felt a bit self-conscious about being in a race while being quite heavily pregnant – but the race volunteers were really friendly and made me feel comfortable during the bag drop/warmup (one even let me know that she was a midwife, just in case!). I had no idea what pace I was capable of at this point, I predicted about 8min/mile – I went out conservatively based on feel and surprised myself by getting into a rhythm and running a decent second half – finishing in 47min23s.

My weekly mileage during this time was 25-30, long runs were around 9-10 miles.


Weeks 34-36


Most of the pregnancy running blogs that I came across mentioned that week 35/36 was a real turning point, again running would get harder and it’s a point when you have to consider if you want to continue running, or move on to a more low impact routine. I like the freedom in just grabbing my shoes and going for a run outside, and even though I was plodding along, I felt the increased energy I got after going for a run was worth it. Week 36 was ‘snowmaggedon’ in London, so ended up running less than planned – there’s no way a heavily pregnant woman can stay upright in slippery conditions!

My weekly mileage during this time was 20-25 miles, long runs were around 8-9 miles.


Weeks 37 – ??

Waiting for the baby…

‘Full Term’ is between 37-42 weeks, I’m going into my 38 week of pregnancy still running. I have no idea when my last pregnancy run will be, but 1,350 pregnancy miles later I’m happy with what my body has accomplished and any fears or worries I had, have vanished. I’m looking forward to meeting my baby and the next challenge of Post-natal fitness!

My weekly mileage now is 20 miles, long runs are TBC..


After 38 weeks of running throughout my pregnancy, I’m a firm believer that as long as a women has no underlining medical conditions preventing her from running, and continues to get medical clear from midwives/doctors that running throughout pregnancy can only be a positive thing. Yes, there are days of extreme frustration, exhaustion and doubt but it’s also incredibly rewarding to see how strong your body is during all the changes in pregnancy.


Finally, here are the ‘Top 5’ most important things I learned from running in pregnancy….

  1. A sense of humour is key – whether it’s joking with friends about the ‘Tena Lady situation’, the fact that my running form now is a cross between a slow T-rex and a new-born fawn, or that I now I only fit into the man size freebie shirts from races, it’s important to just laugh about it – all this stuff is just temporary and getting out there in any shape is important.
  2. Don’t fall for the comparison trap – There’s no point in comparing yourself to the level of fitness you used to have, and especially important not to compare what you’re doing to what others are posting on Strava and Instagram. I think this is not just true in pregnancy, but for any runner who’s coming back from injury or illness – all you can do is work with what’s currently possible, and have faith that the fitness will come back in time.
  3. Ignore the ‘noise’ – you may come across some judgement about running whilst pregnant, but unless the advice comes from a medical professional, it’s best to ignore it and be comfortable with your lifestyle choice. It’s equally important to be thankful, and listen to the people who are supportive to help you continue.
  4. Stopping isn’t quitting – sometimes I had to stop for a minute or two just to compose myself or walk for a bit, other times I had to cut runs short or not go out for planned runs because I felt awful, pregnancy is unpredictable, you may feel bad one day and perfectly fine the next day – it’s important to not let these days make you feel like you’re failing.
  5. Health– I didn’t have any morning sickness during my pregnancy, or even a cold – I have no evidence that this is due to running but I think pregnancy symptoms were significantly reduced based on my activity level. Mentally, pregnancy hormones can make you feel like a crazy person – I found that running really helped regulate my ‘moods’ and mentally made me feel tougher.


Josh at The Big Half

Posted by Steve Hobbs

It had been almost 2 months since my last competitive race, where I had run a 10k PB at Telford of 29:28. Since then training had gone really well, I had been on a successful warm weather training camp to Spain and was looking forward to what I was hoping would be a PB performance in London. The week of the race however we were faced with the #BeastFromTheEast where almost every race in the UK was cancelled as they were more suitable to cross-country skiing than fast racing. Training in the week of the race had to be altered a little as I was faced with temperatures as low as -7 without factoring in the wind-chill! Since I don’t own a treadmill, there was no other option but to wrap up warm and get the miles in. Whilst these kind of problems are not ideal, the best thing to do is adapt and improvise, it would have been easy to take a few days off, but who likes the easy option?

After having confirmation that the race was due to go ahead, it was time to travel up to London. Luckily my train had not been cancelled, so after a short trip to the station, I was finally on my way to London. I travelled up to the race with my Dad, who comes to watch every race. After arriving in Paddington, and negotiating a few tube journeys, I had finally arrived at the elite hotel where I was greeted by running legend Dave Bedford who helped check me in and provided me with my race credentials and numbers. After a few hours of relaxing, I went down for food with fellow athletes before turning in for the night at around 10pm.

With the race starting at 9am, it meant a very early start for me as a chowed down on my usual race day breakfast of rice, a banana and my Maurten sports drink. My alarm went at 4:30am and I proceeded with my usual pre-race routine; breakfast, watching youtube, shower to wake up, listening to music as I gear up more for the race. The elite athletes gathered downstairs at the hotel at 7am before being bussed to the start area. We were fortunately provided with a sports hall to warm up, and allowed to jog on the course. After a 15 minute jog, some light stretching and drills, we were assembled outside and told to make our way to the start line. After a few strides, we were lined up and the 3 big names, male and female (Mo Farah, Daniel Wanjiru, Callum Hawkins, Charlotte Purdue, Lily Partridge and Alyson Dixon) were introduced to the crowds. Standing on the start line in what seemed like mild conditions given the last few days was a big relief to both the runners and organisers after what must have been a stressful week for all involved.

The race started off at a fairly brisk pace for myself, getting to the 5k mark in 15:04, in a group with Matt Sharp, Tsegai Twelde and Ronald Schorer (Netherlands), we made up places 4-7th. The next 5km sections was far more technical than the first, as it twisted and turned around Canary Warf and the went over some cobbles as we made our way to the 10k marker which I passed through in 30:27. I was feeling good at this stage as we crossed Tower Bridge just passed the 7 mile mark. The next few kilometres were a bit more challenging as I was faced with a stiff headwind as we headed east towards our finish point at the Cutty Sark. As a result the pace had dropped a little and I wasn’t feeling quite as fresh as before. I hit the 10 mile mark in around 49:30 and still had another 3 athletes for company. They were quite reluctant to share the pace so I continued to push on as opposed to slowing down in attempt to make someone move forward. I thought its good practice to push the pace alone as I could have sections like this at the Gold Coast. After another tough last few kilometres, Jonny Mellor flew past our pack after running a very well-paced race, as my group were then in a race for positions 5-8th. After a quicker last kilometre I crossed the line in 7th position in a time equal to my personal bests.

After the race, I jogged a very slow 2 mile cool-down before a short walk back to the hotel where I had a shower and a bit to eat before some light reflection on how I thought the race went. I was happy with my position of 7th, and whilst I was hoping to run faster than 65 minutes, I was happy with the time on what was a slightly difficult course, and 6 weeks out from my big target, the Commonwealth Games Marathon.

After relaxing a little at the hotel, I made my way back to the last kilometre to cheer on some of the runners still coming in, I’m very grateful for support when I am running, so I thought they would be too. Shortly after that I made my way slowly back to Paddington on what were becoming increasingly tight legs. I finally arrived home at 7pm that night and pretty much went straight to bed.

I am now within 6 weeks to my marathon race day and am ready for the final push. I travel to Australia on March 12th for a 3 week holding camp at Sunshine Coast University, before travelling down to the athlete village on April 3rd, ready for my race on the 15th. Stay tuned for more content. Finally, well done to all of you who ran the Big Half, and good luck to all of you preparing for London or any other spring marathon!

Distance or time – you choose

Posted by Steve Hobbs
After a period of rest and easy running following the Florence Marathon in November (much needed for both ailing calves) I’ve been putting the miles in so far this year while also racing cross country for the wonderful Victoria Park Harriers and Tower Hamlets AC. I had lined up the Wokingham half marathon last weekend as my first road race of the season due its reputation of being well organised and fast with a strong field (and it didn’t disappoint with any of that). However, after a decent 6 weeks of training since xmas, mostly involving long slow running, and no more than a couple of tempo sessions and some fast 400s, the last week or so I’ve been fighting that annoyingly debilitating cold bug that’s seemingly been doing the rounds. Even the day before the race I was uncertain on whether I would run. After a night of fitful sleep, I woke early and decided to go for it, promising myself I would bail if at any stage in or before the race I felt light headed, weak, faint or plain broken.
I started the race relatively conservatively, as I was wary of the testosterone fuelled excitement of those around me but soon settled into a rhythm in the early downwind miles. I ran strongly through the always challenging middle part of the race before falling apart a bit from 10 miles. Every incline (the course includes bridges over motorways) became a challenge. Looking for positives, I knew that meant I was running right on my lactate threshold but it felt too hard and I while I never gave up the effort, I gave up on hope of a fast time.
Imagine my surprise, then, as I came around the last corner with 150m to go to see 1:13:30ish on the race clock. One sprint finish later (an unusual occurrence for my aging legs) and I crossed the line in 1:13:54 for a new PB. Delighted.
Now, you might reasonably ask why I was surprised. Was I not checking my watch?
Well, yes, no, sort of.
On the basis that I’m looking to run a half marathon in or around 75 mins, I like to split a half marathon up into 3 sections of 25 minutes each. I set my watch to lap time and lap pace and hit the lap button at the end of each 25 minute block. My aim is “simply” to hold a certain pace for the first 2 sets of 25 minutes
When I’m running each set of 25 minutes I  break it down further into 5 sets of 5 mins and then tell myself that *all* I need to do is hold the target pace for the next 5 mins. And then do it again and again. The idea of breaking it down into 5 minute segments is that you never get ahead yourself. All you have to think about is holding the pace for the 5 mins you’re in, rather than holding the pace for the next x miles. This is what I would describe as mindful running – staying in the moment – only thinking about what you’re doing right now, not what’s to come nor what’s already passed.  I practice this in tempo training runs where I aim to hold a pace for 5 mins – distance becomes largely irrelevant –  so when it comes to a race it can be very similar but with the added bonus of other people around me trying to do the same thing or at least running at a similar pace.
Then when I get to the final 25 minutes of running, I hit the lap button every 5 mins with the aim of trying to hold the pace and making sure I don’t fall off.
At Wokingham, it was getting tough with a number of inclines and headwinds to negotiate and I lost concentration a little on hitting the lap button on time in the final third of the race and was struggling to hold the pace anyway. Assuming, therefore, that my chances of running under 74 had gone, I started to judge pace from feel rather than the watch and because I have set my watch to lap time and lap pace I don’t actually know what my finishing time is going to be until I see a race clock! I thought I was struggling to get under 75, hence the surprise.
Anyone following me on Strava will know that I’ve used the time based method in my training and racing for a while now (rather than distance – course distance markers, for example, are there as reference points but not targets).
Why might it work?
Time doesn’t change, or rather it changes constantly but with fixed units. One minute at the start of the race is the same as one minute at the end. Regardless of how much that minute hurts it doesn’t suddenly become 70 seconds long.
Distance, however, can seem daunting at the outset and then get worse when we’re tired – 1 mile at the end of the race often takes longer than 1 mile at the start – how many times have we asked ourselves whether we will ever actually get to the finish! In this instance a 13 mile run, the distance from Hyde Park to Heathrow, became a 75 minute one. Somehow it seems easier to deal with when put like that doesn’t it?
Now, I appreciate that this works if you can complete a half marathon in 75 minutes, but the principles can be applied to longer (or shorter) durations too. 25 minutes and 5 minutes are blocks that work for me, for a half marathon. You don’t have to stick to these numbers. Also, I appreciate that we’re all different. While I have applied this thinking to many athlete’s training plans, others prefer to work in distances. Time based approaches don’t work for everyone.
So, give it some thought and at the very least, try turning that “ugh, I’ve STILL got a mile to go” thought into “I’ve ONLY got 6/7/8 minutes of running left” and see what happens.

Commonwealth Games here we (Josh) come

Posted by Steve Hobbs
A couple of weeks ago, Wales announced their Commonwealth Games team. Josh Griffiths writes….
“Way back in April 2017, I ran 2:14:49 at the London Marathon which qualified me for the 2017 IAAF World Championships. This time also qualified me for the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast, Australia. Fast forward to January 2018 and I can finally announce that I have been officially selected for the 2018 Games as Wales announced their full team. With approximately 9 weeks until the Games begin, I am really excited to have the opportunity to perform at another major championship and represent Wales at the highest possible level. 2017 was a great year for me, but it’s 2018 now and I am determined to make some new memories and run faster than before.”
 As part of Team Wales’ preparations for the commonwealth games, Welsh Athletics sent some of the selected athletes to Murcia, Spain for some warm weather training, both to help acclimatise to the hotter climate we will experience in Australia, but also to be able to put in some quality work which is quite difficult in the UK with our typical winter climate. Murcia is located in the South East of Spain, it has a very dry climate and boasts fairly high temperatures year round. Despite our camp being in January, we were greeted with temperatures of up to 25C with glorious trails and perfect conditions to train in.
Whilst in Spain, we capitalised on the warm conditions and made the most of the sunshine. I was in Spain for just under 2 weeks and in that time was able to put a lot of good workouts in and log some quality miles. The track facilities in Murcia were great and the trails for recovery and long runs were brilliant. Wales’ Commonwealth Games athletics team is made up of predominantly distance runners, therefore there was plenty of people to train with whilst in Murcia.
My first session out there was a pretty light 12x800m on the track at 5k-10k pace. This was a session I had completed around 1 month earlier on my home track in Carmarthen and to my delight I was able to do the session much faster than my previous attempt. I believe the weather played a big factor in this as the near perfect conditions in Murcia were a stark contrast to the 2C conditions back at home. I’m hoping this also shows my fitness is heading in the right direction as we edge closer to race day. I completed a lot of my easy miles in-between session days with fellow Commonwealth Games teammates Jon Hopkins (3000m S/C) and Dewi Griffiths (5000m/10,000m). Despite the fact that I do a lot of my training alone, I do enjoy some company when logging some easy miles. Just before the camp came to a close I completed one of my favourite sessions which is a 40 minute fartlek involving 20x1min hard/1min easy. The session sounds quite easy however the goal is to run the ‘easy’ pace quite quickly, therefore your recovery between the hard efforts is still around 5:30 pace. This meant that in the 40 minute session I was able to cover a touch under 8 miles.
Looking ahead now I have one more race before I head out to the Gold Coast with Team Wales on March 12th. I will be returning to the streets of London on March 4th when I will line up in the inaugural Big Half Marathon. There will be a strong British field present which will include the likes of Mo Farah, Callum Hawkins and Dewi Griffiths. I will be looking for a strong run and hopefully a new personal best in what will probably be my last race prior to the Commonwealth Marathon.
Now that I am less than 10 weeks out from the race, I have now started my marathon specific training phase. Here I will hit peak mileage and start putting in some really specific marathon sessions which will hopefully closely replicate the race itself on the Gold Coast. The Commonwealth Marathon takes place on April 15th at 8:15am (Gold Coast Time). The course is the same as the Gold Coast Marathon course for anyone who is familiar with that. It is a 1 lap course which travels up and down the Gold Coast. As with any major championship, there will be a strong field present, but I would prefer to focus on myself and my own preparations than the others involved in the race. I know if I prepare and execute my race plan to the best of my ability then I will be able to give my best possible performance on the day.