Blood tests with Medichecks - checking up on my health

Blood tests with Medichecks - checking up on my health

Getting my blood checked. I tried Medichecks’ blood test for athletes to find out a) am I breaking myself and b) is there anything that can make me go faster?

TCS New York Marathon - Women's Running Roundup special

After all my hype about Mary Keitany being the fastest, but a bit of a gung-ho-hero and therefore not a predictable runner to back, of course she only went and ran a carefully measured race. Well, I suppose after a 2nd and NY last year and a bit of a blow-up at London she decided it was time to play it safe and bag a win and not only that but a 4th win at NY and a win in the second fastest time for that course.

After a steady early effort which took Keitany, Cheruiyot, Flanagan, Huddle, Tusa, Linden, Weightman & Daska all through half way within 1:15:49-53 Mary Keitany wound up the pace at 20-25k with her 17-19th miles all run at under 5'00/mile and the second half in 1:06:58 which is 27s faster than Molly Huddle's american record for the half marathon. Only Rahma Tusa really worked hard to stay with Keitany, but trying to do so led to a late fade that both Cheruiyot and Flanagan picked up on one after the other to finish in 2:26:02 and 2:26:22 respectively. A crazy-mad 8:52 negative split from shows just how much within herself Keitany must have been in those early stages. @jgault13 made an interesting point on twitter about the speed of her 10k from 25-35k of the race compared to Linden, Huddle and Flanagan.

Whilst I'm a bit sad that Flanagan couldn't retain the title it's worth noting that her 3rd place was 30s faster than her winning time last year and on balance I think a race is more interesting than a time trial (albeit that the women's race wasn't quite such and exciting finish as the men's).

Anyway - enough about the obvious stuff - you can read all about that everywhere else (RunnersWorld/ LetsRun / Fast Running). Let's work through the fun stuff lower down the list with help from my geeky spreadsheet of joy. The podium followed the pre-race ranking order but Molly Huddle had a stormer of a race, being the only one in the top 5 to run a PB and finish 4th (ranked 8th going in).

So, three Americans finished in the top six of the Women’s division for the first time since 1978: 3rd Shalane Flanagan (2:26:22) 4th Molly Huddle (2:26:44) 6th. Des Linden (2:27:51). But Des, Oh Des, I wanted you to win so bad. I'll be interested to see what she has to say about the race in the next week or so. That end-of-race speed training she's been working at paid off to some extent with her running a 3:51 negative split but not enough to chase down Tusa. So who else managed to get a PB? Well, 8 of the top 25 did do with the biggest ones being for Belaynesh Fikadu, ETH (8:14) Eva aka Caroline Almkvist SWE (8:01 PB) and Sarah Sellers, USA (7:27 PB and, hurrah!, just inside the 'A' standard qualifying time for the Olympic Trials in 2020 with 2:36:37). Sarah Sellers has already been through the 'whoooooooo?!' phase after her breakout 2nd place in Boston but it's 23 year old Almkvist who's the surprise unknown in the NYC results. She came 3rd in the Stockholm marathon earlier this year and like Sarah is not a professional runner and did not have an elite start.

Screen Shot 2018-11-05 at 17.43.30.png

Allie Kiefer was another one to live up to her pre-race hype with a solid 7th place and a PB to boot. I particularly love that she says 'in hindsight I could have run smarter... my goal was to reach the podium...', firstly because she's just like the rest of us who always think we could have run better after the race and are filled with what-if's(just ask my coach!) and secondly because she doesn't skate over her pre-race goal of a podium place - she acknowledges that is didn't happen.

Lisa Weightman is pretty happy with an 8th place for Australia, commenting that while training she was also working 4 days a week, looking after the family and building a house. And for the Ultra-lovers out there it's exciting to see that Gerda Steyn of Two Oceans & Comrades fame is easily able to play with the big Girls in the 26.2 as well, finishing in 13th with a 6min PB.

Rank by PRRank in NYNew York 2018NameAgeCountryMarathon PRPlus or Minus PB1st half2nd halfPositive / negative split
112:22:48Mary Keitany36KEN2:17:010:05:271:15:501:06:58-0:08:52
222:26:02Vivian Cheruiyot35KEN2:18:310:07:311:15:501:10:12-0:05:38
332:26:22Shalane Flanagan37USA2:21:140:05:081:15:491:10:33-0:05:16
842:26:44Molly Huddle34USA2:28:13-0:01:291:15:501:10:54-0:04:56
652:27:13Rahma Tusa25ETH2:23:460:03:271:15:491:11:24-0:04:25
562:27:51Des Linden35USA2:22:380:05:131:15:511:12:00-0:03:51
1372:28:12Allie Kieffer31USA2:29:39-0:01:271:16:341:11:38-0:04:56
782:29:11Lisa Weightman39AUS2:25:150:03:561:15:531:13:18-0:02:35
492:30:31Mamitu Daska35ETH2:21:590:08:321:15:511:14:40-0:01:11
25102:30:47Belaynesh Fikadu30ETH2:39:01-0:08:141:16:351:14:12-0:02:23

I could go on forever poring over these stats and the happy or gritted-teeth insta posts from the after-event runners but it's time to wind this up and put away the Marathon Majors until 2019

The result leaves the leaderboard for the Abbot World Marathon Majors Series XII after Berlin '18, Chicago '18 and New York '18 as follows:

1. Brigid Kosgei KEN 25

2. Gladys Cherono KEN 25

3. Mary Keitany KEN 25

4. Rolza Dereje ETH 16

5. Ruti Aga ETH 16

6. Vivian Cheruiyot KEN 16

7. Shalane Flanagan USA 9

8. Shure Demise ETH 9

9. Tirunesh Dibaba ETH 9

Tokyo, Boston, London and Berlin 2019 are still to come.

Also of interest is the fact that by running under 2:23, Keitany was awarded $45,000 on top of her $100,000 for first place.



If there’s a tie at the end of a Series, the winner is determined using the following rules (addressed in descending order):

The athlete with the best head­-to-head record in Qualifying Races during the Series will be declared the winner. Only the fact that one athlete finished ahead of the other will be taken into account and not by how many places nor whether those athletes scored points in that head-to-head contest.

The athlete who has won the most Qualifying Races during the period.

The athlete who the majority of the six Abbott World Marathon Majors Race Directors determines to be the champion. The Race Directors may decide to award the title jointly.

WRR Interview: Mary Menon

Just a few of Mary's trophies

Just a few of Mary's trophies

A few weeks ago the Women's Running Roundup stumbled across a rather interesting lady - Mary Menon ( of Ilfracombe Running Club, though only since 2016). It was after remembering Mary's name from the top GB women at London marathon, then seeing it again as overall winner of  Race to The Stones outright and shortly after that as winner of the North Devon Marathon for the 5th year running that I got really intrigued. It is finding out about people like Mary that made me want to start the Women's Running Roundup. All over the country ( and world) there are talented women who are putting the time in, training hard and getting that much sought after balance between not running just for times but also being competitive and showing that they can race with the best. It only took a swift glance at Mary's Power of 10 and the line of "1"s against her name to realise that this lady races lots and races well. So, I caught up with Mary over email to find out about her love of miles, her thoughts on women's running and where we should be looking to see her on the podium next.

Congratulations on your 5th successive North Devon Marathon victory and so soon after Race To The Tower. You’re a busy lady! Just so we can get to know you a bit - When you’re not running, what does life look like for you when you’re not running? 

I'm 38 years old and have two children Alice (8) and Ferdy (6) I also have a long suffering husband, Ed.
Essentially I am a full time Mum but I am also a part time professional equine groom. We live in a village called Exford which is smack bang in the middle of the beautiful Exmoor National Park, Somerset.

When did you start running and why?
I ran for both the cross country and athletic teams at school and college, also representing the county (Devon, where I grew up)
When I left home to move to Exmoor I gave up competitive racing but carried on running several times a week for general fitness and for the love of it. Once I had the children I returned to running to lose baby weight, at first running with a double pram and then when they got too heavy and I wanted to run further and off road, very early in the morning.

After 18 months of running most days a good friend of mine suggested that I should run in a local 10km trail race.... At first I was dubious, competitive running hadn't occurred to me and I was lacking a bit of confidence as to whether I would be capable of it, but after a bit of thought I entered, and to my surprise managed to finish 2nd.

Taking in the scenery on a run

Doing a bit of strava stalking, you’ve been  logging 80-100 miles a week recently. Is that a standard volume for you and what does a normal training week look like ?
I like to run fairly high mileage weeks, a lot of it is junk miles... I don't try and make excuses for this, it isn't very scientific but I live in a beautiful part of the country and get a lot of enjoyment from running in a different direction most days of the week.

I tend to keep plenty of ascent in my training to make up for a lack of speed work and always train with my running club (Ilfracombe Running Club) every week. 
I do some core, weights and hiit training everyday and use the spin bike as a recovery tool aswell.

How do you handle running races so close together? Is that something you consciously schedule or did it just happen through enjoying racing and signing up to lots of them? 
I like to race frequently for a few reasons:
The majority of my training is on my own so I really benefit from some regular faster race efforts,
I like to race a lot of different distances and terrain, from 2 mile inter club relay distance on tarmac to ultra distance along the coast path... I think they all complement each other to make me a stronger athlete. 
And there are so many great races around that I love to run and can't resist. 

You really seem to be finding amazing form at the moment, does it feel like that to you and is there anything you attribute it to? Did you go into the year with any specific goals?
I have been able to keep in good form for some time now, cross training has, in my opinion been a major factor towards this and also just keeping it cool... I go for a run, not sweat it out doing a particular item of training from a running schedule everyday.
Every year I have a particular goal in mind, last year was the 'putting it right year' where I revisited a couple of races that hadn't gone so well before and gave them another go.
And this year was the 'ultra year' where I would have a go at a grown up sized ultra race.

How did it feel being the overall winner ofRTTT?( I think there was some issue with missing directions - tells us about the  race.)
Winning the Race To The Tower overall gave me a great deal of satisfaction, entering this race hadn't been taken lightly, it was carefully considered for a 'toe in the water' to perhaps more ultras in the future and I thoroughly enjoyed it, ultra running seems quite tactical where playing a long game is very important. What you do in the first 10 miles (nutritionally, mentally or physically) will be very important in the last ten miles.

The race couldn't have gone better, I kept in good spirits and felt strong throughout, taking the overall lead at mile 34 and gaining distance over the other runners from then on. That was until 5 miles from home where a marker arrow had been twisted round... and no others were in sight. I went from coasting toward the finish well in front, to running up and down a steep track in a panicky way desperately trying to find a marker for half an hour until the 2nd and 3rd placed runners both turned up on the wrong section aswell. I had already run an extra 2 miles by that stage, fortunately Greg (who came 2nd) had the gpx file on his watch so we could navigate back to the race route. As I was running up the final hill, 200m from the finish Greg re-caught up with me and assured me that the race was mine as he knew that if the course markers had been correct, we would not have come across one another. In a true act of sportsmanship he let me cross the line first.

What do you think are the challenges or advantages of being a competitive female runner?
I think there are some distinct advantages to being a competitive female runner in a mixed race, the men generally don't view me as their competition so I can benefit from their pacemaking without being a threat to their placing.

mary menon

How do you juggle family life and running?
Family life and running can be a real juggle at times but I try my best not to affect my family's day to day lives with my lifestyle choices, I tend to get up early and get my core work and bike done before the kiddies wake up and then run at lunchtime during term time, swapping this around over the weekend and school holidays to get my run done early so I'm not disappearing off all the time (or trying not to anyway!)

You run in a beautiful part of the world, what’s your favourite race and do you travel much for races? How do you choose which races to run and do you have any bucket list races? 
I live on Exmoor and it is an amazing place to run, it would be very rare for me to run the same route twice in a week.
My favourite race isn't very far from home, it is the North Devon Marathon at Woolacombe. This was the first marathon that I ran, 5 years ago (I have run 30 marathons since then) I loved it, won it and have been fortunate to return each year since then to win again. The route is predominantly along the southwest coastpath and is breathtakingly beautiful.

I race fairly locally, within a two hour drive from home generally. Mainly because of the children, I don't want to be gone from home for hours on end and equally if Ed and the kids come to cheer me on I don't want to have bored them to death with a long car journey first. Also there are plenty of races around to fill my year without going too far afield.

There are of course some exceptions... Now we are all a bit older and not so wild (adults and children) we have stayed away from home for a night before the odd race so I am beginning to widen my net. For example, RTTT, London Marathon and the odd race in Dorset and deepest Cornwall.

What excites you most about running ( either for yourself or the sport in general)?
I love that running is becoming so popular generally, I used to be the only runner in the village but not anymore and that excites me for the future of the sport, there are so many genre's of running and races and it really is open to everyone, all that's needed is a pair of trainers.... And away you go, there's not really a right or wrong way of doing it. 

ilfracombe runninc club mary menon

What would be your top tip or words of wisdom to other runners?
If I was going to give any words of advice it would be to remember to enjoy yourself at whatever level of running you're at, it's meant to be fun.... That's the point. 
My practical advice would be to always take a snack for a long run, even if you don't think you need it, you will even if you don't realise until afterwards!

What’s next for you?
I have a July of local 10km races, after some fairly hefty long races I think I need to reintroduce some pacier efforts so I shall give these a go. finishing off the month with a marathon in Dorset.
My next big event is a 32 mile race in Cornwall at Mudcrew's  R. A. T. event in August.

Anything else you wish you could say to runners or want people to know about?
I am an ambassador for Quince Honey Farm who are lovely people and provide me with their delicious honey and products to make me run quicker and smell nicer (!)

Mary's next races will be: Haytor Heller 10k across Dartmoor on Saturday 21st, followed by the Dorset Invader marathon on the following Saturday 28th. Mary has won the Dorset Invader for the previous 2 years and is wonderfully open in saying that she's going for a third!

It's not just the WRR who have clocked Mary's amazing feats, as Fast Running pipped me to the post in publishing an interview with her. It's so exciting that a big website like FR are highlighting Mary's achievements and as you'll know, I'm a big fan of their work  (especially that of Ruth Jones) so please to go and read their interview too.  Hurrah for FR!

Women's Running Roundup 20/5/18

Women's Running Roundup 20/5/18

In which the Night of the 10,000m PBs proves to be awesome yet again, the Great Manchester Run Half Marathon tops some great starts to the year for GB athletes, the London Marathon team results are finally announced, and Centurion Running’s NDW50 gets a lovely sunny day. All over here…. (oh and look, MiniB and I met Jo Pavey!)

Women's Running Roundup 14/5/18

Women's Running Roundup 14/5/18

Copenhagen Marathon, Shakespeare, GB at the world trail champs, Nicky Spinks in action in Snowdonia and the most beautiful race I’ve ever run (but didn’t this year). It’s all in this week’s women’s running roundup. Read more…

Listen to this: Female Heroes of the Marathon

It seemed apt that the week I decided to do a regular women's running round up on this blog, one of the podcasts I subscribe to did a feature one female heroes of the Marathon. You can listen to it here

The webpage to go with it has a great history and the episode itself highlights:

  • Bobbi Gibb who ran Boston unofficially
  • Katherine Switzer  who ran Boston with a number
  • Grete Waitz who ran her first marathon in NY, winning it and taking the world record in the process
  • Joan Benoit Samuelson who won the first women's Olympic marathon
  • Paula Radcliffe who holds the world recordof 2:15:25 (and listen out for the pronunciation of Loughborough)

There's a men's one too which is also interesting.

Joan Benoit Sameuelson

Running and Pregnancy Q & A: Part 1

See this post for the intro.

Q. Did you have any problems getting pregnant? I've heard lots of runners do.

Short answer - yes. Amenorrhea caused by low oestrogen and therefore not having ovulated in around 10 years meant I went on a series of courses of progesterone tablets (unsuccessful) and then eventually after a few years of referrals and badgering people,  Clomifene (which forces ovulation) combined with “follicle tracking” where they track the development of the follicle into an egg (assuming it does) and tell you the day to ... er ....get pregnant. We were VERY thankful (and surprised) that this worked first time!

Harrow Half marathon at 17 weeks pregnant

Harrow Half marathon at 17 weeks pregnant


Full explanation follows... skip the italic bit if you don't want the full details.
This is a rather personal one  but it affects everything else and my running even before pregnancy so, better to get it out in the open.

I've had amenorrhea for some time. In all honesty it was most likely caused too much weightloss too fast (and a stressful work situation maybe) many years ago and then that low BMI being maintained, though my periods were never the most regular before that anyway. But yeah, I was definitely too light for some time and that was before I started running. I did go to a doctor at this point and they suggested a high GI diet and checked for things like polycycstic ovaries, but when all that came back clear nothing more happened.  They didn’t seem particularly bothered and let’s face it, periods are a pain so didn’t pursue it. So, running wasn’t the cause  but I guess it did cause the situation to continue. 

Mr B and I are lucky that whilst we’d talked about having children, it was never a seriously painful issue for us. We had lots of friends who have kids and we could dip in and out which was quite nice. BUT, we realised we needed to get this addressed before it became a bigger issue. By this point I’d not had an unforced (by contraception) period for many years already. After blood tests and other tests my excellent GP (whose brother is a pro cyclist) ruled out more serious medical issues and suggested that hormone levels were the issue.   The first port of call was weight gain. I was properly running by this point so while I did try to eat more it was a) hard to keep up and b) I was probably holding back because I liked how things were. Things got a bit better but no results so they then put me on a 'Progesterone challenge' (I love a challenge!). This is where you take a hormone tablet to give you a forced period in the hope that they will the naturally resume afterwards. We had several of these sessions over a few years as I gained more weight but each time it didn't have the desired effect despite the fact that by the end of that phase I was well inside the 'healthy weight' range and much more committed.  Unhelpfully, the gynae people I was seeing by this point kept just telling me to “eat more pies and cake” (actually said that)  and “can’t you just stop running?” Instead of giving me sustainable guidance. Hey ho! Anyway, I’d also spoken to my coach about it all by now and I think that helped me take it more seriously too. Eventually, because I was a healthy BMI (though they wanted more) and following the advice of a friend who had had the treatment I badgered the gynae into letting me try something called Clomifene, which forces your body to think it hasn’t had the hormone surge required for ovulation so that it basically doubles up on itself (I think this is right!) and is VERY likely to do at least the initial stages of creating an egg. We did this and they tracked the progress. Happily an egg was created and we, er, followed instructions  and incredibly, praise God,, that single egg in about 10 years is now the little man who has been snoring, face planted on my chest as I type this.

Q. What does it feel like running when pregnant?
Less bouncy than I expected. To start with I just noticed that my gait was different. Interestingly, the physio who treated my piriformis issue said that I was running with a much better, straighter stride! Later my feet started to ache more as the weight went on.
Once I started hitting bowling-ball stage I was surprised how well the muscles hold everything in place. It never felt like things were moving around. 
Some people experience Pelvic Girdle pain but I only had pelvic pain after running and then sitting about about week 23, at which point I cut my mileage in half (40 - 20miles) and it was ok.

Mini bump

Mini bump

Q. Can you feel the baby kick while running?
I never felt this, in fact he was most chilled out just after a run, not in a worrying way, just in a way that he felt less jumpy!

Q. Were you worried about harming the baby?
Yes. I was very conscious that whilst training on my own, any rash decisions affected not  just my body. Now I had the possibility of affecting another human’s well being. Terrifying. However, I also knew there were benefits to staying active for both mum and baby and that and research says that if you’ve been doing it before then it’s ok. I did tell my midwife at my very first appointment and she said it was fine (though I’m not sure she’d been asked before) as long as everything kept being normal with the pregnancy. I also asked Mr B if he was ok with it.. ok maybe I told him I intended to.. but I did give him power of veto so that if at any point he felt I was being irresponsible then I wouldn’t do it - since it was OUR baby.  One example of this was cross-country. I would have given it a whirl but Mr B wisely pointed out that unstable surfaces, spikes, sharp elbows and dirt might not be wise.

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 16.12.07.png