Travel Essentials for a Marathon Abroad

I've realised that while I've written a lot about Paris, I've not actually written that much about the practicalities of running a marathon know the basics like don't pack everything you own and then try to haul it up and down all the stairs in Paris the day after running 26.2 mile, and if you take your on PB and bagels your Dad will laugh at you. Basic stuff I probably should have know but did anyway. 

Normally I'm a strictly hand baggage only type of girl. I see it as a personal challenge to whittle my baggage down to the bare minimum and hunt down beauty products akin to aesthetic swiss army knives. I am not above washing my knickers in the sink and wearing the same jumper for days on end. With all that in mind I don't know what came over me when it came to packing for my marathon, I mean I suddenly had a humungous bag full of 'stuff' that weighed a tonne and was a right pain to haul around. I think I must have packed for every eventually going, and you know what I didn't use half of it! 

I'm pretty sure my mistake is one a lot of people make, so to save you backache I thought I'd share the stuff I actually travel essentials for a marathon abroad!

race day kit

So this is a pretty obvious essential! I know a few people who take a range of different options when it comes to race day kit, but this was probably the one area where I restricted myself and I took just one outfit I'd put a lot of thought in to in advance.

race vest -

I love my Nathan Intensity race vest! It's a really comfortable fit and means I can dodge water stations (I hate water stations). It's also got really handy pockets on the straps for essentials like my phone and gels.

Nike t-shirt -

I've had this forever, it's super soft and comfy and never rides up under my pack. An easy race day choice.

Lululemon shorts -

these were a bit of a risk because I didn't get a chance to try them out before race day, but (as with all Lulu gear) they more than performed. I love the comfy waist band, the slightly longer length and plentiful pockets.

Nike Zoom Structure Shoe -

This is my second pair of these shoes and they work brilliantly for me, there's just the right amount of structure and they look great.

P20 sunblock -

I'm ginger and if I don't want to look like a lobster I need something that keeps going, and going, and going. This does the job (although it is a little greasy).

BodyGlide -

no one likes chafing.

post race

2xu compression tights -

I have so much love for these tights, I wore them before and after the marathon and they really helped my recovery. Plus they look pretty good on.

H&M Yoga Bra - 

because you shouldn't wear real bras when everything hurts! I really like this cheap and cheerful option, for £12 the quality is great.

instant ice packs -

I didn't know if I'd be able to get ice in my hotel with ease so I invested in a few of these cheap instance ice packs from Decathlon. I didn't end up using them, but I was glad I had them in case of injury.

Neil’s Yard Arnica Balm -

I'm a big believer in arnica and this stuff is amazing! I actually used it before and after the race and it really relaxed my muscles. Think of it as a better smelling Deep Heat.

Blister Plasters -


Sweaty Betty Hoodie -

I've had this hoodie for ages and it's one of my favourite pieces of kit. It's so comfy and cosy, as well as pretty good looking!

Molton Brown Bath Products -

I love luxury bath products, and it was only right I got clean post marathon using something lovely! 

not seen -

Nike Free Shoe

(my favourite every day shoe, super comfy and flexible so perfect for sore feet). 

What are your race essentials? 

Paris Marathon 2015 - part 2

I RAN A MARATHON!! After months of preparation on Sunday 12 April 2015 I ran 26.2 glorious miles through the streets of Paris. It was the most amazing, and ultimately natural, experiences of my it's only right I share the story in an epic multi-part race report! It's your reward for sticking with me through the last few weeks of radio silence!

read part 1 here.

Running across the start line in Paris was surreal. There was no ceremony, no countdown or big bang, I just jogged over the line and suddenly I was running a marathon. I had to pinch myself, I couldn't believe I had the nerve to do what I was doing. After a week where my legs had felt like lead I was now flying through the streets, I felt so good, it was truly my day. 

Heeding the advice I'd so urgently sought from other runners I kept an eye on my pace, but also let my body lead. I had utter confidence in what my legs were doing, it sounds arrogant but I knew that my training would pay off. I can't begin to describe how that feels, it was the most surreal and natural feeling. It proved my belief that if I train for something I can do it, that those hours pay off. 

The course in Paris is beautiful, and theres something epic about running in that type of environment. It feels a little bit naughty, like you really shouldn't be running down the middle of the road in such an amazing place. I've always said it feels like running has given me the keys to the city, and on 12 April 2015 I felt like I owned those streets. It was amazing. Amazing is a word that comes up a lot when I talk about Paris.

One of the things I'd heard about Paris was that there wasn't tonnes of support. I have to admit I'm not someone who need a big crowd when they're running, I just need a fantastic atmosphere...and Paris really delivered. The atmosphere the city created was electric. The combination of beautiful streets, languages from across the world colliding as they cheered, the way my body felt, and of course the firemen with their bird's eye view, created the perfect energy, it lifted me, it made me feel like a rockstar. Which is exactly how you should feel during a marathon.

^mile 17, waving like a starfish in the top left corner^

For 20 miles I flew. I felt strong. I felt like I was doing the most natural thing in the world. Those miles confirmed that I'd made the right decision when I took up endurance. Even thinking about it now, nearly two weeks later, I'm lifted, that's how good it felt. Again I can hardly begin to explain. 

As I entered the 20s things started to get harder. My quads and hip flexors started to hurt, they felt tight and bruised, I've never felt anything quite like it. My focus kicked in and my head dipped down as I pushed forward and my limbs burned. Just six miles to go I reminded myself, less than I'd run on a Friday night after work. A totally achievable distance. I had tunnel vision, nothing around me mattered.

Somewhere around mile 22 my legs developed an agonising numbness, I could barely propel them forward, and despite pushing like I've never pushed before, they stopped. They literally stopped. I walked along the edge of the course, dug out my emergency sweets, had some water and took a painkiller. I talked to myself, I steeled my thoughts and I plugged in to an audio book as a distraction for the last four miles. I gritted my teeth and pushed, I forced my legs to move, each step was a monumental effort through sheer agony. 

For the next four miles I walk/ran oblivious to anything around me. All I could think was that running was the fastest way to the finish line. Biting my lip through steps, pushing and swearing, forcing my body to do what it was utterly capable of was the most phenomenal experience. Running is what made me realise what I was capable of, but this was on some other level. I still can't believe that's what I'm made of. It makes me want to push even harder to see what else I can reveal. 

The first sight of the finish line took me by surprise. I rounded a corner and there it was. It was virtually touching distance. My legs knew it, they sped up, lifting higher and throwing me forward. I was sprinting! My pain was forgotten and I was sprinting to the finish of a marathon.

Falling over the finish line was the strangest thing. I'd imagined I'd be wrecked with emotion like I was in Birmingham, but I wasn't, it felt like what I'd just done was entirely right and natural. I wasn't shocked that I'd just run a marathon, and I immediately knew I wanted to do it again (and again, and again). Which is exactly what I'm doing on 25 October 2015


post edit: my time was 04:29:58...exactly what I was aiming for.

Paris Marathon 2015 - part 1

I RAN A MARATHON!! After months of preparation on Sunday 12 April 2015 I ran 26.2 glorious miles through the streets of Paris. It was the most amazing, and ultimately natural, experiences of my it's only right I share the story in an epic multi-part race report! It's your reward for sticking with me through the last few weeks of radio silence!

12 April 2015 had been marked in my diary for nearly a year. I mean, it's mark in my diary eternally as it's my brother's birthday, but 12 April 2015 was different. On 12 April 2015 I had some serious business to attend to. On 12 April 2015 I was running a marathon.

I'd always said I'd never run a marathon. Actually, I'd always said I'd never run, but that's another story. At first I'd said 10k races were more than enough. Then a half was the perfect distance. I never fathomed that a marathon would be in my future. It felt so unattainable, so far, so like something other people did. Other people who were better runners than me. Other people who had more determination. Other people who were willing to get up early and train in all weather. I didn't know that one day I'd turn out to be one of those other people. I didn't know that one day wanting to run a marathon would feel like the most natural thing in the world. It's funny how things turn out. 

Here's how it happened. At some point last year I was reading an article in Women's Running that Liz Yelling had written about marathon training. Attached to the article was a plan. A really realistic plan, aimed at women with busy lives and written by a woman with young children. Something inside me started to click, maybe I did have time to train for a marathon. Maybe it was within my grasp. I filed all thoughts of a marathon under 'maybe' (with a sub category of 'scary') until the spring. Then something amazing happened. I watched several of my friends run marathons. I watched in awe as women who were just like me took on 26.2 miles and absolutely killed it. I realised that if they could do it then so could I. So I did. 

The week approaching my marathon was a bit weird. A lot of changes had happened in my life, and if I'm being totally honest running a marathon wasn't at the forefront of my mind. I knew it was going to happen. I knew I had trained. I just didn't have the time or energy to devote a lot of thought to my taper period. So instead of over-analysing my carb intake (as I had planned) I found myself traipsing around house shares late in to the night looking for a new place to live. On reflection this was probably a good thing, it took my mind off what I was about to do, and also gave me a memorable anecdote to share with the households 'interviewing' me.

^pacers prepping^

By the time I arrived in Paris on Friday morning I was a bundle of nerves. I veered between being unbelievably excited and feeling like this whole marathon business was a very bad idea (while still smiling at the thought of what I was about to do...). In equal measures 26.2 miles felt doable and impossible. It was the strangest feeling.

^final kit preparations with my Dad^

Standing in the start pen before the race I felt strangely calm. People swirled around me, trying to get to one of the two portaloos or squatting to pee behind a large jumper held up by a friend. Others chattered, making small talk in multiple languages while they adjusted their laces and made sure their cap was just so. I just stood there. I prayed a little. I took a couple of pictures. I text my friend Becca, two start pens ahead, to wish her luck. But mostly I just stood there. I felt very calm. It was surreal and wonderful all at once. 

Quietly marshals started to remove the fencing at the start of the pen, and gradually my wave started to walk towards the start line heading down the Champs Elysees picking our way over disgraced belongings. The pace quickened to a jog and unceremoniously I crossed the start line. I crossed the start line with no big bang, no count down, nothing. Suddenly I was running a marathon and it felt like the most natural and amazing thing in the world!

Stay tuned for part 2...