Race review: Berlin Marathon 2015

Where to start with my weekend in Berlin!?

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A week ago today I was running around the streets of Berlin alongside some 40,000 other amazing and inspirational runners.

A week later and I’ve still not stopped talking about it. The inevitable post marathon race blues came but once they’d gone I was left with the overwhelming urge to continue planning my next one!

Similar to planning my next marathon (London 2016 by the way), I’m jumping ahead again and I’ll start from the beginning of my Berlin 2015 journey, well at least from the airport.

After a pretty sleepless night Dane and I headed to the airport at 4am on Friday morning for a 6am flight to Berlin. As you may have read from one of my previous posts I had actually planned what I was going to wear months in advance but Dane surprised me with the best present ever. He’d got me kitted out in Hannah’s Happy Pace gear which included two race tops and an amazing hoody! I love, love LOVE them!

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Once we’d arrived in Berlin we headed to our hotel which was a short walk away from Potsdamer Platz and an in excellent location in terms of the race and getting around the city. The early morning start got the better of us and we had a nap in the afternoon as opposed to our original plan of running to the expo to pick up my race number. The following day we did just that, headed out for a little leg loosener to the expo which was just a few miles away.

When we got there we were somewhat underwhelmed by how small it was. Little did we know at that point we were just in the entrance rather than at the main bulk of the expo – whoops! It was actually enormous! Stands selling everything from Garmins to FitBits and personalised trainers were packed in to the aircraft hangars but before we let ourselves loose with our credit cards I picked up my number.

You’re given a BMW Berlin Marathon band which is heat sealed to your wrist before you collect your number and information bag. This was when it all started to feel VERY real.

Afterwards, we might have made a few cheeky marathon purchases including two Adidas BMW Berlin Marathon t-shirts – pictured below. Super cheesy smiles optional.

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Due to little sleep the night before, on Saturday afternoon I was grumpy, tired and hungry – and that’s not a Hannah you want to encounter! Luckily we stumbled upon Vapiano’s, an amazing Italian restaurant. I won’t write much else about it on this post other than what we had as I’m saving it for a blog post of its own – trust me, it’s worth an entire post! I had wholemeal spaghetti with chicken and sun-dried tomatoes in a lovely orange/chilli oil. It was delicious!

Luckily I slept pretty well on Saturday night and strangely enough I didn’t wake up feeling too nervous. Breakfast was porridge and a banana and a cereal bar shortly before starting the race.

It was quite a walk to the start pens and Dane wasn’t allowed through to the start line so we had to say goodbye quite early on, something I’m not used to in a race. At this point it took all I had not to cry when I said bye to him, despite knowing I’d see him at the 7k mark – get it together Hannah!!

The start pens were crazy! Despite running a previous marathon time of 3.38 I’d been placed in pen G which was for 3.45-4.15 hour runners. I tried to squeeze in to F but was sharply told this wasn’t an option. The pens were packed. I jumped over the steel barrier and squeezed in between a pack of people. It was a good 20-25 minutes before we even crossed the start line but despite the wait and the packed pens the atmosphere was amazing, the entire pen was buzzing with energy, singing, clapping and cheering as other runners/pens ahead of us set off.

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The first few miles were spent weaving in and out of people and I didn’t really pay much attention to the beautiful landmarks I was passing. It was all eyes on the ground to avoid clipping someones heel or crashing in to someone. I managed to see Dane ever so briefly at the 7km mark quickly shouting “I’ve only been going for 35 minutes!”

I didn’t have a plan going in to the race but Dane said try to stick to under 8 minute miles and still go for a 3.30 finish – he was convinced I had it in me – at least one of us was! Either way I thought I’d give it a go and just go with how I was feeling in each mile. Run the mile you’re in! I soon realised that averaging around 7.35 – 8 min miles felt comfortable and decided to stick to that for as long as I could, a risky tactic in the first half of a marathon I know. I passed the halfway mark in about 1.41 and was still feeling good so decided to stick with it although there was part of me that worried I’d gone out too fast and wouldn’t be able to sustain that pace for the latter part of the race.

The elite runners!

The elite runners!

It’s weird that strength tends to come out of a struggle and a struggle was exactly what I was expecting in the latter stages of this race. I knew I’d be fine up until mile 20 but having only ran 18 in training (due to no fault other than my own!) I knew my legs would be feeling it by then and I’d need to dig deep and find that strength to push on. Mile 18 came and went and in my head I said to myself, get to 20 and you’re practically done.

20 is where the fun starts though! Except in this case it was mile 23 when I felt as though I literally couldn’t puhsh any more! My mile splits were s l o w i n g quickly and even though I could hear Dane’s voice in my head telling me to lean forward and push on I felt as though I literally couldn’t!

The finish line wasn’t even in sight when I hit 26.2 miles on my Garmin in 3 hours 28 minutes. WHAT, don’t do this to me I thought, I should be finished!! Finally the finish line was in sight and I crossed the line in 3 hours and 31 minutes.

One of the things I dislike most about crossing that finish line is that there’s no one there to hug instantly haha – needy Han! Despite congratulating other runners in the vain hope of a hug, I knew I’d have to wait until I tracked Dane down. I cursed myself for not running with my phone so he could come and get me as our meet point was at least a good 10 minute walk away. At our meet point I collapsed in a sweaty heap on the floor before Dane arrived thrusting the GoPro in my face and FINALLY I got my victory hug!! WOOHOO! 3.31, my victory hug, the marathon was done and a huge bowl of pasta was in sight – happy Hannah!

Not only that but I’d somehow managed to secure myself a Boston Marathon qualifying time!! 2017 here we come!

If you’re thinking of entering the ballot for Berlin – do it is all I can say. It’s an amazing city (blog post to come on what to see do and where to stay/eat soon!) and the race is one of the world majors – need I say more!?

In terms of organisation I think the water stations could have been more frequent and it was at least 5 minutes before I was offered a bottle of water after crossing the finish line. Also, there’s no free finishers t-shirt so I’m glad I bought an Adidas one from the expo.

I’m thrilled with how the race went but of course I’m gutted I didn’t officially go under 3.30. That said, I’ve learnt a LOT from this race and from my training leading up to it. I’ve learnt just how important a solid strength and conditioning programme is and the vital importance of speed work and there’s plenty I’m going to be changing for London 2016 which will hopefully be the chance to well and truly nail that sub 3.30 which I absolutely know I’ve got in me. It’s quite exciting really.

I’ll be writing something on how I’ve recovered since the race later in the week but for now I want to be super cheesy and thank everyone who’s followed my training journey, my friends and family for always being so supporting (look at me, it’s like I’m doing an Oscars speech haha!) and of course, Dane, for putting up with my all to frequent running meltdowns, 6am starts on a Sunday for my long runs, for pacing me on speed sessions and for keeping me fit and healthy with my strength and conditioning programme – I love you all!

For now though I guess it’s time to park the Carb Queen crown and get back to the track…

#hannahshappypace

 

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Balancing marathon training with strength training

 

So the countdown for the Berlin Marathon is officially ON!

Berlin marathon

The race is now just under three months away and I’m already halfway through my running programme and it’s really starting to ramp up.

Last week was a big week volume wise and after my final long run on Saturday my legs definitely knew it. As part of my programme I’m supposed to run every day but I’ve also started a new strength training programme to help keep me injury free and to make improvements to aid my running.

Up until recently I had been going to CrossFit as often as I could but after starting the new programme I soon realised that I wouldn’t be able to perform well during my runs after some of the WODs. So it’s with a heavy heart that I’ve had to say goodbye to CrossFit until the marathon is over and I’ve since joined a regular gym to try and get three strength sessions a week in.

I’m now on my fourth week of trying to combine my running programme with strength sessions alongside and although it has been difficult at times I’m really enjoying what has been programmed and doing something a bit different. I’m also slowly getting used to balancing the two.

I should probably say that I only do strength sessions on the days where I have recovery runs programmed or if I’m missing a recovery run to do strength instead. I also try to avoid the gym completely before any speed sessions and long runs.

Here’s a little snippet of what one session of my current programme looks like:

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I’m lucky enough that my boyfriend Dane is a fantastic strength and conditioning coach who knows exactly what I need to be doing in order to get the most out of my running and hopefully stay injury free (touch wood). He has written me a brilliant programme which lasts for four weeks before it’s on to the next one.  He’s also prescribed the sets and reps for each week and my favourite thing by far is a good dumbbell circuit with some weighted burpees thrown in.

At the moment there’s a lot of focus on getting strong glutes and a strong core but Dane will be able to talk a lot more knowledgeably on the benefits of strength training for athletes than I can so head over to his blog for more information.

Strength training for runners is important for a variety of reasons though. Here’s a couple of them:

  • It helps you to stay injury free! Pretty self explanatory really, what runner doesn’t want this!? Strength training helps to keep you strong and correct imbalances that naturally occur in your body/running form. You’re going to need strong glutes and a strong core to keep good form when you’re racing. Running with good form also makes you a more efficient runner which translates in to faster min/mile speeds.
  • You can get faster by building strength in your legs and as mentioned above good form will prevent you from falling apart in the last stages of a race which can often be the difference between achieving a PB or not.
  • Strengthening your body will help to make running feel easier as your body will be able to deal with the stresses of running more easily as your muscles will be able to perform for longer before you start to tire.

So that’s where I’m up to at the minute. I go on holiday for two weeks on Saturday (YAY!) but here’s what my running programme looks like this week. Although this isn’t the original as I’ve had to adapt it and change things round due to work commitments and important appointments (hair, nails and waxing) haha! After this week I’m on to phase 3 of my programme, eek, where is the time going!?

Happy running everyone!

Monday: 30 min spin class + 20 mins steady state cardio (uphill walking)
Tuesday: 30 mins easy pace with 8 x 20-30 sec strides
Wednesday: Q1: 2 miles easy pace + 6 x 5-6min threshold pace w/1min rest + 2 miles easy pace
Thursday: 30 mins easy pace
Friday: Q2: 0.6 miles at interval pace with 3-5min recovery jogs until reached 10K
Saturday: HOLIDAY!! 30min easy pace with 7 x 20-30 sec strides.

 

 

Berlin marathon training

Warning: look away now if you don’t like squiggly red line running routes and heart rate graphs!

Berlin marathon

In honour of National Running Day I thought it was only fitting to write something about running and more specifically about my running.

If you follow me on Twitter/Instagram you will probably know that I’m training for this year’s Berlin Marathon (woohoo). I still can’t believe I was lucky enough to secure a place in the ballot, I’m so excited!

I also happen to love Berlin having visited once before on a four day city break with my friend Hannah G. The nightlife there is like nothing I have EVER experienced before. Anyway, that’s another story and a different blog post entirely.

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Back to this post and my Berlin Marathon training. So far my training has been good and I’m injury free – touch wood – having largely stuck to my programme which is about 25 weeks in total if I remember correctly.

Each week on my programme is different but there are certain elements which are constant. Every week there will be two quality sessions, one focusing on speed and the other on distance. The rest of the week is split in to minimum 30 minute runs. A run after a quality session will always be a 30 minute recovery run at easy pace and the others will have some strides thrown in.

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A recovery run with 7 x 20-30sec strides thrown in.

Here’s what my training looks like for this week. This is the second week of phase two of my programme.

Monday 30 mins easy pace with 7 20-30 sec strides
Tuesday 30 mins easy pace
Wednesday Quality 2: 4 mins hard, 3 mins recovery jog until reached 10K
Thursday 30 mins easy pace
Friday 30 mins easy pace with 8 x 20-30 sec strides
Saturday Quality 1: 20 mins easy pace, 20 mins threshold pace, 20 mins easy pace
Sunday 30 mins easy pace

Saturday is my first Q1 (quality 1) session but this is my second week of Q2 sessions. I’m really enjoying the programme so far as it means I’m running regularly and even when I don’t feel like it I remind myself that 30 minutes is more than manageable. I think it was on a Runner’s World Facebook thread where one woman wrote that whenever she doesn’t feel like running she always runs at least one mile. If at the end of  that mile she still doesn’t want to run then she allows herself to run home, meaning she’s done at least two miles that day. This is a great strategy if ever you’re lacking in motivation as by the time you’ve reached two miles about 15 minutes has passed so I think I might as well do the other 15 and before you know it you’ve reached 30 minutes.

A recovery run which turned in to a pretty fast 5 miler, whoops.

A recovery run which turned in to a pretty fast 5 miler, whoops.

I’m also monitoring my average and max heart rate thanks to my fabulous Garmin Forerunner 220.

One of the main benefits of using a heart rate monitor is that it can help you to make sure you’re recovering adequately from other runs. If you know your average resting heart rate and VO2 max you can work out what your heart rate should be on a recovery run. Having a quick glance at this on your watch while running means you can make sure you’re not overdoing your easy/recovery runs (something I am guilty of!) and this can ultimately help to prevent overuse injuries.

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A 5k made up of fast intervals which got my HR to 191.

Monitoring your heart rate also gives you a more precise way of gauging exertion levels which is usually more accurate than your own thoughts on how hard you think you’re working.

A 10K Q2 session HR graph

A 10K Q2 session HR graph

I’m definitely getting faster as well which I love and I already feel comfortable at a faster minute mile pace than before which is great. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve still got a long way to go before the Berlin marathon and over the next two weeks my speed sessions really start to ramp up, eek!

A Q1 long run from the previous week.

A Q1 long run from the previous week.

My goal is just to perform as well as I can in the marathon on September 27 and enjoy running my first marathon abroad. I’d love to run sub 3.30 or dare I say it break 3.20 but we’ll just see what happens on the day. Either way, I’m ready for the next four months and to see what I’m capable of.

Are you training for a marathon? Let me know what your programme is like!

Marathon race week tips

Just five days to go until the Manchester marathon!

Taking a break & getting my pose on during my last hill training session before the marathon

Taking a break & getting my pose on during my last hill training session before the marathon

So the marathon has come around very quickly and it’s that time again when maramania has set in and all you want to do is run yet your taper plan says it’s time to take it easy.

Race week can make people crazy – please don’t tell me it’s just me!? – so I’ve put together a top 10 list of tips for marathon race week.

1) Taper
Cutting back on running is frustrating but trust your plan and trust the taper. Stick to short and easy runs with some strides in or swap a run for yoga or swimming.

2) Rest
Get plenty of sleep in the build up to the marathon, especially if you usually don’t sleep well the night before a race.

3) Hand sanitizer
Am I the only one who goes crazy with the hand san in the run up to a marathon!? Sometimes it’s when you stop that you start to get run down or pick up a cold so I’m religious with my hand sanitizer.

4) Don’t panic train
I am nowhere near where I’d like to be for this race in terms of training but now isn’t the time to panic train. If you’ve missed long runs due to injury or other commitments don’t try and play catch up. Trust in the training you’ve done and focus on the taper now and ensuring you’re healthy for the race.

5) Look back over your plan
Trust in your training and look back over your plan to remind yourself of just how much work and effort you’ve put in to training. It’s natural to start doubting yourself in race week, everyone does but take this time to reflect and think of the positive elements and successes of the last few months.

6) Don’t try anything new
Now isn’t the time to buy a new pair of trainers, start using different energy gels or decide you’re going to try new foods. Save that for after the marathon. Stick to what you know. If you’ve got a routine and you always eat pizza the night before a race, do that. If you know what works for you then stick to it and you’ll prevent any avoidable mishaps.

7) Plan
Have a race day plan. If, like me, you’re staying overnight somewhere before the race make a list of what you need and tick it off as you pack that way nothing vital gets left behind! Know how you’re getting to the race village as well and allow for traffic and other unpredictable circumstances when thinking about time. It’s nerve-wracking enough on race day let alone having to deal with being late or not knowing where you’re going.

8) Nutrition & hydration
Similar to number 6, don’t try anything new, stick to what you would usually eat or drink although it is wise to cut back on certain things. I don’t drink alcohol in the lead up to a marathon or eat lots of rubbish food. That said, I know people who drink several beers the night before a race and people who eat whatever they want and still put in a good performance! Just be mindful and do what works for you. Don’t use the excuse of carb-loading to eat everything in sight otherwise you could end up feeling sluggish and heavy on race day.

9) Don’t lift heavy 
If your usual training routine features heavy lifting then give those sessions a miss this week. I usually do CrossFit about 3 times a week but have a break from it during the final taper week – you don’t want to risk any injuries or have DOMS on the day of the marathon.

 10) Positive thinking
Finally, think positively! Visualise crossing that finishing line and how amazing you’re going to feel. I also like to devise a race strategy and think about how I’m going to tackle it and at what pace. Let’s also not forget that we’re doing this for fun so enjoy it – that feeling with last a lifetime!

Are you running a  marathon soon? Or have you recently completed one? Let me know what your race week tips/strategy is! 🙂

Tag me in your marathon pictures on Twitter & Instagram using #hannahshappypace

 

Finding my happy pace: Easter weekend 18 miler

I can’t quite believe that it’s just 12 days until the Manchester Marathon!

18 miler

I’m finally allowing myself to get excited about the thought of reaching the start line now! After a couple of months of “should I or shouldn’t I” run the marathon I’ve settled on “maybe I can after all.”

If you’re familiar with my blog you might have read my posts on my sub 3.45 marathon goal for Manchester and then how an injury  threw a spanner in the works.

However, despite ruling it out for a while I’ve persevered and tried to get the miles in without getting too stressed that I was about a month behind where I should be in my training plan.

Anyway, this weekend, spurred on by the good weather and the lure of Easter eggs, I hit the roads to see if I could manage 18 miles.

I set out at about 7.50min/mi pace for the first couple of miles, trying to slow down to an 8.35 pace which would be my ideal marathon pace for Manchester. I soon settled in to a steady rhythm and despite feeling a twinge in my knee at mile 5 it wasn’t enough to quit so I carried on and it soon went.

Mile 9 came and it was time to turn around and run back. I took a bottle of water with me which had an orange flavour High5 Zero Electrolyte tablet in and I also had one tube of tropical punch flavour Shot Bloks.

In case you’re interested in how I fuel my long runs, I normally don’t take a drink or any energy gels with me unless I’m running more than 10-12 miles.

I had my first drink and Shot Blok at 9 miles and then every three miles after that, so another drink and Shot Blok at 12 and then my final one at mile 15. I didn’t end up drinking the whole bottle of water and had three Shot Bloks in total.

I felt good throughout the run and it was so nice to be running in the sunshine and without a jacket on for once! Hello spring!! 🙂

I managed 18 miles in 2 hours and 28 minutes which I was thrilled with! Last year when I was training for the Yorkshire Marathon I ran 20 miles in 3 hours and 3 minutes so I definitely feel as though I’ve improved which is a major confidence boost ahead of the marathon.

I finished with a victory dance in the street and a bemused look from a couple of dog walkers but I was so happy! I refuelled with an egg scramble and then some chocolate – not the best refuel I know –  before heading out for some shopping and amazing Hotel Chocolat hot chocolate with my mum. Later that evening Dane and I celebrated at Ambiente Tapas (he’d spent a good three hours mountain biking!) and it was delicious. Ambiente Tapas is my favourite restaurant so if you’re in Leeds or York it’s definitely worth a visit!

Heading out for tapas to celebrate.

Heading out for tapas to celebrate.

I’m now feeling much more confident about the marathon but will see how the next two weeks go and if there’s any sign of my injury flaring up I’ll re-think my plans.

Happy running! 🙂

The Major Series 10K

“KEEP moving those legs otherwise you’ll get stuck and I’m not coming in to get you” – British Military Fitness.

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There’s little I love more than a challenge, especially when it’s a muddy one!

Last weekend my top teammate Dane and I tackled The Major Series at Leeds Bramham Park, a British Military Fitness (BMF) trail race voted the best in the UK.

Dane and I were signed up to the 10K race which actually turned out to be 12K and after an early start we arrived in time to set off in the first wave of the day.

Over that 12K we tackled nature’s obstacles from hills, mud, water and ditches to ropes and even bright pink space hoppers! This wasn’t my first muddy trail race, I ran Tough Mudder last year so I was interested to see how this was going to compare.

In short the obstacles in The Major Series are, in my opinion, better for a trail race than Tough Mudder as they use the environment rather than manmade structures.

Keeping your trainers tied tight was VITAL as you tried to wade your way through the Stench Trenches. The smell of fresh mud hits you instantly and as the BMF volunteer said its best to keep moving otherwise you will definitely get stuck! My legs felt as though they were moving through thick treacle as I tried to drive my knee up through the mud. When you’re waist deep in a bog of black tar like mud trying to claw your way to the other side on tired legs it’s easy to get stuck and Dane had to pull me my leg free at one point.

Getting ready to set off!

Getting ready to set off!

There’s plenty of mud in Cooper’s Crawl too which requires you to showcase your best commando crawl – Dane takes first prize on that one – as you keep as low to the mud soaked ground as possible. There’s also Spike’s Mud Crawler (the picture at the top of this post) where you’ve got barbed wire to contend with.

You’ve got to get low again to avoid some dangling electric fencing wire on one of the obstacles where there’s actually an escape route! And yes they are on – my left buttock can testify to that!

Aside from the mud there are plenty of logs to jump over, ditches to crawl out of and amazing trail running over mixed terrain. Oh, and there’s LOTS of water as well. My legs and feet were numb from wading through streams, under bridges and through bogs.

Then came the obstacle I was dreading most. Since Tough Mudder, Arctic Enema has haunted me so I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy Martin Marine’s Zone. There are two barriers you have to swim under and with the volunteers urging you to do it in one that’s probably what I should’ve done. Instead I swam under the first one before coming up for air and tackling the second one – it’s like a giant brain freeze!

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My favourite obstacle by far though was Sander’s Slide where Corporal Sander is ready to give you a good soaking before you take a run up and slide down the hill on your stomach much to the joy of spectators.

Last but not least, remember space hopping when you were younger? Well the last obstacle before you run over the finish line is the Breast Cancer Campaigns pink space hoppers.

Waiting for us at the end was a well deserved goodie bag full of a Moma! porridge sachet, a Coco Pro protein coconut water (which was AMAZING), a Beet It bar, dog tag medal and a £25 voucher for a health food website.

All in the entire race was so much fun and Dane and I finished with a massive smile on our face which we’d pretty much had the whole way round and we both said how much we enjoyed it.

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The only thing I would’ve like to have seen was foil blankets waiting for us at the end as it was FREEZING and maybe some power hoses to rinse off afterwards as it made getting changed a bit of a nightmare.

To find out more visit majorseries.com.

Lady Garmin Forerunner 220

Meet Lady Garmin, I rarely go anywhere without her. She’s the timekeeper of my happy pace, she pushes me when I’m not going fast enough and she sings happily to me when I get a new PB. I love her.

garmin

I was given this watch as a present as I embarked on a new marathon training plan and even though I’ve only ever had one Garmin before I have been super impressed with everything this watch can do.

To start with, the Garmin Forerunner 220 lets your friends/family/coach see where you are during a training run or a race, providing you’ve got your phone with you and are using the Garmin Connect app. I don’t run with my phone often as I like time out from it on my runs but I do take it with me on particularly long/rural runs and this feature is great if you’re racing or for worried parents/significant others!

Let’s start from the minute you put the watch on shall we. The lightweight design makes it feel as though you’re barely wearing a watch and the strap is comfortable and does not rub.

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There’s absolutely no delay in connecting to GPS to get going – just press the run button and you’re off.

Once you’re running Lady Garmin automatically pauses when you stop and starts again when you continue on your run – this means there’s no need to keep clicking stop/start if you have to stop at traffic lights.

You can also set her up so that you get vibration alerts if you’re going too fast/too slow compared to your goal pace. Although if you don’t want that feature on make sure you turn it off as she will keep buzzing away at you if you’re too slow!

You can customise the display shown when you’re running and this can include distance, pace, time, average pace, heart race zones (comes with a very comfortable heart rate monitor), calories etc or you can set up two screens and switch between the two. You can switch between them manually or set it up so that the display switches between the two automatically. 

After your run you’ll be told your distance, average pace, cadence, calories burnt and can then see your mile/km split times.

11 miler

If you’ve managed a new personal best your Garmin will sing and beep happily at you to say congratulations on the new PB and this will be stored on there for you to have a look at and remind yourself of how fab you are at any time.

Lady Garmin also programmes interval workouts and there are free training plans and support on Garmin Connect which you can download and load on to your watch for coaching as you run!

If you’re looking for a new watch I’d highly recommend taking a look at the Garmin Forerunner 220 for not only a reliable and accurate watch but one that’s going to push you too!

Check them out here – Garmin Forerunner 220

When I start my 24 week Berlin marathon training plan (more on that to come soon!) in a few weeks I’m going to start wearing my heart rate monitor a lot more so that I can learn more about my body and how to perfect my pace.