Image of four running medals

In my last blog post I spoke about that I was going to run the Birmingham International Marathon in October. I said I will update you on my progress every two weeks. This is to help keep me on track and I like writing.

Since I have last written my post the running has fallen by the wayside a bit. I was constantly tired as my legs were constantly aching. The weather really stared to grind at me, the coldness was just getting at me. Cross training at the gym increased as I wanted to keep my fitness up. Then last week, I was just disinterested in exercise, I would usually do at least 5k on the treadmill. Then I just caught the worse cold in the world –  which has just wiped me out and has kept me wiped out since. I had to run to catch my train the other day and I noticed a difference in my lung capacity. I was embarrassed!

As my half marathon is next week, I am getting worried about it. I know I will run it but it was meant to be a test of my training and fitness up until this point. It won’t be an accurate reflection and I am gutted about that.

Food and the marathon training community

In terms of food, again in that department it has slipped. I have been trying to live a more vegetarian lifestyle. At home I have really kept that up but at work it has slipped, I bring tonnes of food in but once that has gone I struggle to get anything that doesn’t have diary in. In the last post I also said I would spend time looking at twitter feeds for other people in my position who are running their first marathon. I haven’t done that because I have been busy with my blog. Hopefully next week I will be back on track and have something more positive to report.

Image of trainers and a grey sports shirt for the marathon

Since the Great North Run ballot has been announced and I got in, I felt it was the right time to talk about my training for my upcoming races this year concluding with the Birmingham International Marathon in October. It will be my first marathon and I decided to undertake the massive challenge as I really wanted to push myself.

The idea to run came in October last year when I completed the Birmingham Half. Unexpectedly I found the half quite easy and it made me think whether I should push and do the full marathon. I had also completed a dualathlon and triathlon through GoTri and this had given me the confidence to push myself. Hence in January I decided to bite the bullet and enter the Birmingham International Marathon, I have no desire to ever do another one, I just want to see how I get on and raise some money at the same time.

My running history

As a kid I was always good at cross country running rather than track, living up to my personal mantra of slow and steady wins the race, and I represented my school in cross country when I was 11. I took up cross country running later in sixth form and I got incredibly fit. I remember in lower sixth I was running every week and I came sixth in the school’s annual cross country run. I didn’t go to cross running in the next year and noticed a massive difference that I actually moved 10 places down to 16th. It was there early on I learnt about the importance of maintaining fitness.

Fast forward 10 years, before last year I wasn’t really a runner I was more of a cyclist. Cycling many miles around Stoke and later South Staffs on the weekends and weekdays in the warmer months. What made me switch to running was that it was quicker not having to get all the equipment ready and also a lot of people I knew had taken up running, mainly by taking part in Park Run. By running it meant I could get involved in the conversations and even enter in races together. My first race was the Manchester 10k and since then I have done the Cannock Chase 10k, Race for Life 5k, Stafford Half, Birmingham International Half Marathon and a couple of virtual 5k runs.

In terms of fitness I have always been fit and I have always kept up with regular exercise since my school days. I aim to exercise at least three times a week but now for the training I have upped it to five times a week.

So why Birmingham?

I did put in for the ballot for the London Marathon but I didn’t get in (surprise, surprise) and I wanted to do a marathon in a place which meant something to me. I had recently started a new job in Birmingham and I live in the West Midlands so felt that to complete a marathon where I live would be ideal. It also means I don’t need to worry about accommodation. As I had ran the half marathon last year, I knew the route would be similar so it feels even more achievable.

So what about training?

I know that to succeed, I need to stick to a regular training schedule. After looking around on Pinterest I found one by Women’s Running, it is a 12 week plan and although the marathon is more than 12 weeks away I thought it would be good to keep me motivated, allows me to see where my weaknesses are and gives me more time to work on them. Also if I felt like having an extra rest day, I could afford too. My training has upped to five days a week which I am not finding to be too much of a massive difference but it is early days!

How is the training going?

I am more or less sticking to schedule, I keep a diary which lists everything that I eat and exercise and I tick off the chart as I go along. I got given for christmas a Garmin vivosmart 3 which has been handy in keeping track of what fitness I do. I have used Strava for a very long time now so I use this as well, I do have an obsession with seeing where I have ran by the red line and seeing if I have beaten my personal records.

I have found it at times to be quite a lonely process, training on my own. I tried joining a run club but they were all faster than me and because I was travelling further for my job, there really wasn’t any point. I am planning to look for run chat groups on twitter to talk about training and keep me motivated.

It is a huge undertaking in terms of time. In the evenings after I have been to work, ran, showered it is pretty much time for bed. I really don’t do much else.

What are you wearing to train?

Since I do quite a lot of sport quite regularly I already had quite a lot of kit. For outdoors I alternate between a small Primark scarf I got years ago to a free buff I got from a mountain bike magazine. I tend to wear an long sleeved top (Aldi do some cheap ones) and a long sleeved cycling top (purely because it is reflective) I alternate between some leggings I got from Nike a few years back and these gymshark ones which are amazing! The best leggings I have ever brought, they fit so well! I recently brought these by gymshark also so cannot wait to try them out! My trainers are Adidas Falcon Elite 3, I brought these ages ago but you can still get them online. I brought them originally as I wanted a trainer that was an ‘all rounder’ as I did a lot of circuit training. They are serving me well but I will invest a pair of running shoes before the marathon as I am taking running more seriously and with the miles I am putting in, the shoes won’t last!

What are your aims for your next three weeks of training?

I aim to have nailed a pretty decent warm up and warm down routine by the time my next blog post goes live. I always skip a warm up in the aim to get outside and get it over with as fast as possible, when I get back I would just quickly stretch, protein shake and then shower and the next few day’s I would really feel it. I am feeling it in my knees more as well. I will also try and make some time to get involved more in chat groups on Twitter. By week six I should have ran 12 miles so it will be interesting to see how well I do. Finally I want to look more into which charity I want to support.

Run Schedule

Sunday 18th March – Stafford Half

Sunday 6th May – Great Birmingham 10k (with team University of Birmingham)

Sunday 9th September – Great North Run

Sunday 14th October – Birmingham International Marathon

Are you doing the Birmingham International or running another marathon, let me know in the comments below!

Rebecca running with her dog

I quite like running now. I never was a runner before (I love and still love cycling!) but after going through a lull with cycling earlier on in the year and incorporating Park Run more and more into my fitness regime I decided to enter in a few races. Two races I entered myself in for were virtual runner races.

What is Virtual Runner UK

Virtual Runner UK is a site where you can enter in races and gain medals with part of the proceeds you pay for going towards a charity. Once you enter, you have to email in your result and proof that you ran the distance (proof could be your fitness tracker, Park Run result or Strava) and your medal arrives through the post. You can even print out a bib number and wear it if you want! When you enter your result you can see how other people have done. There are many distances from 5k up to full marathons and I decided to enter in the Run like a Time Lord as part of the money went to the National Autistic Charity and November 5k as part of SBR events. The November 5k medal I will particularly treasure as it is the flag of Lincolnshire and as I am born and bred there it is particularly important to me.

How did I find it

I am quite fit so both races that I entered were 5ks so they were fine. I think if you are starting out these races are perfect because depending on your distance it is a challenge but still achievable. Obviously you miss out on the crowds and the race atmosphere but if you find that intimating, as that atmosphere doesn’t suit everyone, then it is perfect. The medals are lovely as well (although some are a bit tacky!), the races are cheaper to enter then marshalled races because obviously you are not paying for the marshalls etc and the money goes towards charity. The medals came very quickly through the post and the results were verified in less than 24 hours.

Am I entering in any other Virtual Running UK races next year?

No not at the moment, I am thinking about running a marathon next year so to keep my motivation up I may enter in some of the half marathons.


Rebecca holding up her medal from the Great Birmingham Run 2017

I ran a half marathon.

I have officially joined the half marathon club!

On the 15th October 2017 I completed the Great Birmingham Run in a time of 2 hours 34 minutes. I am so incredibly proud of what I have achieved. I knew that I would be able to do it mentally but physically I wasn’t sure if my body would hold up. I know it is a cliche but I enjoyed every mile and it really didn’t feel like I had ran a half, it felt like a 10k! Today I am going to chat about my preparation leading up to the half, what I took with me, my thoughts on the day, how I am recovering and what my next challenge will be.

Why Brum?

I had decided on Birmingham for my first half, because it is a city where I live close by so there wasn’t much travelling involved. In the past year I had started spending more time in Brum getting involved in a couple of blogger events, a few concerts and eating out- so it seemed natural to try and run it. The Great Birmingham Run is run by the Great Run company. The Manchester 10k was also run by them and it was really well organised so I knew it would be well organised – large event (read here on my experience of running the 10k).


Moving from 5k to 10k is a lot smaller jump than a 10k to half. When I had booked this challenge back in August, I was fully aware of this. I had the Stafford 10k and a Go-Tri Duathlon beforehand but knew I had to get the miles up. I started running in the week after work more but then I started to stop as I was getting a nagging feeling in my right knee and foot. Around the same time I also stopped going to circuits as my favourite circuit session was in Stafford and when you work in Wolves I was not just going through one town in one rush hour – I was going through two. It was just too much. As it was getting closer I was getting more panicked, the duathlon in Newcastle-Under-Lyme I completed in an 1hr 1min 22secs, I found it tough and my legs felt like lead.

In the final week going into the half marathon I decided to focus on my mind. I downloaded a brand new playlist (ironically called the survival playlist) memorised the route so I knew in my mind certain points I could work towards and just reminded myself that I could least to get to 10k as I had ran 10k before.

The day

With the race starting at 1.40pm I had plenty of time to get ready. I took with me my running belt, three race gels, my debit card, phone, headphones and two bottles of water. I had joggers and sports jacket over my shorts and race top. I took the gels every 5k and every water stop I drank all the water. I learnt a lot from doing the Manchester 10k earlier on in the year. I hadn’t drank all the water properly and I was so dehydrated at the end that I had a banging headache. So now I drink at every opportunity even if I don’t want any.

When I started I didn’t have a time in mind, I just wanted to complete the half. I started off a bit slower than usual because I didn’t want to start at full pace and knacker myself out.I felt so good all the way round, everyone was fantastic coming out of their houses and cheering people on. I always enjoy the local support.

I have heard that the course was difficult with the ‘hills’ but I didn’t find it that challenging at all. I personally think it is the perfect beginner half really.

The day after the run before

As I am writing this up my legs are stiff. I decided to take the day off so I could sleep and give my legs the chance to relax and I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel afterwards. I am weary that staying still isn’t healthy so I will be giving myself the fun task of cleaning the house.

Were you at the half marathon or did you run the full? Are you planning on running one? Let me know below.

Image of Rebecca Merchant at the Manchester 10k with her partner James Perkins both holding up medals

I ran the Manchester 10k yesterday which was organised by Great Run the organisers famous for the Great North Run. It was my first organised 10k and although I wasn’t building it up to be anything special, it was quite poignant since the the attack at the Manchester Arena on the Monday. On social media everyone was encouraged to wear yellow ribbons and plenty of people wore yellow and bees and wasn’t going to let a terrorist attack stop us.

The 10k they put people in waves white, blue, green, orange and pink. Waves were allocated by the how long you think it would take you to run the race. I was put in the pink ‘wave’ which was the last wave to go as I put down a time of 1hour 20 minutes.

Rebecca Merchant at the start line of the Manchester 10k

I hadn’t done as much training as I could have done, I do have a baseline of fitness however with the circuit training that I do and the Parkrun’s. I did however run a 10k twice before the event, I had never run one before and I did not want to go into it blind. My two practice runs didn’t put me off but it made me aware of the distance I was facing. If I hadn’t had run those before hand I would have still ran the 10k but would have had a bit of a shock!

It is important to make sure you have fuelled beforehand and keep yourself hydrated. There were two water stops on my way round the 10k and I made the most of them and drank it rather than throwing the water over me. The water is going to be better inside you then out! Another thing I learnt is that there warm-ups are pants! I had better warm-ups at the Race for Life events and they are only 5k. I wish I had warmed up properly beforehand as I really felt stiff the next day.

Rebecca Merchant at the start of the Manchester 10k

I asked on Twitter beforehand if we could bring headphones and we could which I was really glad about because music really keeps me going. Although it is worth pulling the headphones out right at the end to soak up the atmosphere. At every opportunity I waved and put my thumb up at the police and first aiders – many police officers came from different areas Nottingham, Derby, Wales and South Yorkshire were drafted in to protect us so thank you to them. At the end I loving it and was waving at the crowd and was encouraging the crowd to cheer for me.

Key points to take away:

  • Fuel and hydrate up before the event.
  • Keep some paracetamol on you incase you get a headache.
  • Find somewhere to warm up properly.
  • Take some protein straight away  after the event.
  • Practice beforehand at least go to the Parkrun’s or short runs but at least run a 10k beforehand so you get an idea of the distance.
  • Wear shorts not leggings – you will just get hot. I also wear vests rather than shirts.
  • Make sure your trainers are in good condition.
  • Finally enjoy it, make the crowd cheer for you. thank the people waving you and making the day possible!