There are some new compression tights on the market, and they’re pretty cool! Skins have created the  K-Proprium tight*, a new compression tight with ‘laminar bands’; these are in-built bands in the tights that mimic the taping of kinesiology tape, providing extra support where you need it (e.g., around the knees). These laminar bands are meant to follow the muscles used most for running, jumping and rotating, to enable you to maintain effective movement and reduce the risk of injury when you get tired. Pretty technical for a pair of leggings. There’s a technical explanation over on their K-Proprium website.

I was really excited to be given the chance to test them out for a whole month or so ahead of their launch – I have been wearing them out running and in the gym, and overall I think they’re pretty great.

Compression tights generally make me feel like a ninja, and these are no exception – while wearing them I definitely felt more supported. I get knee pain on and off after my runs, but I haven’t had any after wearing these, which I think was a good sign but I can’t say definitively that this isn’t a coincidence! I also love that these have a wider waistband than normal compression leggings – all of mine have a thin waistband which digs in and is uncomfortable, and so I am pleased to have a more flattering and comfortable pair to wear!

On the downside, I have really short legs (27 inch inside leg) and these were too long for me; as a result, they’d bunch up around my knee and feel really uncomfortably tight where they were bunching up, like a really tight band around my knee. I reckon this problem is specific to people with super short legs though! They’re also pretty see-through (if you look hard enough you can see my thigh tattoo through the material!) but I think this is a universal issue with compression tights – I would love a fully opaque compression tight!

What do you think of compression wear? Would you try these new K-Pro tights?

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Skins provided these tights to me free of charge for review purposes. All opinions are, as always, my own!

Well. That didn’t go to plan.

I think that it’s quite something to say “that didn’t go to plan” when the only plan was to have fun. I’ve never really enjoyed a marathon before, and given that sub-4 was off the menu I decided to take all the pressure off and just try and enjoy 26.2 for once. I haven’t managed to do all the training I wanted to do, but felt that I was in relatively good shape to cover the distance. I made the decision to take it slow, take in the sights, high five all the kids, and generally just enjoy running around Berlin.

The day before the marathon I realised that I needed a bit of a “no-plan plan”. I tend to get caught up in the excitement at the beginning of the race and run too fast (in all races, not just marathons!), and then struggle to keep running at the end of a marathon. To try and address this, I thought I’d see if I could tag on to a 4:30 pacer. I figured this was a manageable pace, which would let me enjoy the race and hopefully I’d have a gang of other runners to keep pace with!

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Pre-race jitters at the adidas runbase the day before the race, after the shake out run with adidas runners London!

As far as my other preparations, I felt they went pretty well. Dayve has been in Alaska for three months this summer and he got back to London last week, so it was lovely for us to go to Berlin together and spend some quality time together. We explored the city, with some walking but not too much walking, plenty of carbs and water, and lots of sleep. I joined the adidas runners London shake out run on Saturday, mooched around the adidas RunBase and had a generally lovely time in sunny Berlin. On the Saturday afternoon we went to cheer at the finish line of the inline marathon, and I felt so excited imagining myself crossing the finish line in the sun the next day.

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Unfortunately, on the morning of the race, I couldn’t find a pacer. Anywhere. So I reassessed the plan while waiting to cross the start line. For the new plan, I settled on using my watch to run between a 10 and 10:30 minute mile. I’ve been running with shot bloks (little chewing gummy cubes made by Clif Bar, in case you haven’t seen them), but they’ve been a bit hit and miss, so to make sure I didn’t encounter any stomach issues I decided to walk through each water station, sip some water and take on one or two shot bloks. I wanted to take in all of the music being played (there are so many musicians around the course!) and thank all the marshals and generally have a good time. I started running, and I felt really good. I just felt like everything was coming together.

I continued feeling good up until 22km. Dayve had popped up quite a few times on the course, and I bounced over to see him at the 22km marker feeling really happy. The race plan had been going well! I felt like I’d been nailing my carbs and my water, walking through all the water stops as planned. It was hot, and I usually struggle to take on enough water, so I was happy this seemed to be working for me. My bad shoulder had been killing me, so I stopped off at this amazing massage station around 20km and had a shoulder massage! Because why not? I’d been trying to stick to 10 minute miles but often found my watch showing around 9:30 (even though it felt much slower than that) but it didn’t worry me too much given that I felt very comfortable and relaxed. So far, so happy.

Some inspirational art that Dayve made me.

Some inspirational art that Dayve made me.

As I carried on my way, I checked through the different stats on my watch as a sort of half way check in. This was when I realised that my watch had been leading me on a bit of a goose chase. It said that I’d run around 16 miles, whereas I knew I’d only run about 13 and a half. This meant that my minute per mile was going to be way off, and I was in fact running much slower than I’d realised and it had taken me over 2 and a half hours to cover the half marathon distance. It now made sense why a “9:30 minute mile” had felt so slow! I know I wasn’t running for time, but it did annoy me that my watch had been so inaccurate. I just felt thrown that I was so far off from where I thought I’d been.

I told myself that it didn’t matter, and that I wasn’t running for time, and that I should just be pleased that I felt relaxed and comfortable. I was still smiling.

Now, in every marathon I’ve ever run I’ve broken down somewhere between 17 and 19 miles. It’s like that’s my body’s limit, and after that it just gives me a big fat “nope” and stops co-operating. Maybe it’s a mental thing? Who knows? I’d hoped that, by running slower than my normal pace, I’d push this back to maybe 22/23 miles, or maybe (in my wildest dreams) it wouldn’t happen at all. Well, silly old me ey? I hit 29km and, like clockwork, I just crashed. All of a sudden, everything was just too much. It was too hot, my feet hurt too much, my shoulder was killing me. And just like that, my head wasn’t in the game anymore. Spell broken.

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Pre-race mugshot. Before the shit hit the fan.

Those last 13km were so hard. It sucked so bad. I felt so upset and angry that I’d done everything “right” – gone slow, taken on my water and carbs, smiled – and I still crashed. It didn’t seem fair. I was still running between water stations but it was taking me longer and longer to get started after the water stations! By way of example, I walked through the 30km water station and, once I’d finished my little cup of water, started psyching myself up to start running again. Said psyching up lasted until I hit the 31km marker…! Everything hurt. I was just so sad and disappointed. I walked a lot.

I’d next planned to meet Dayve at 38km and, by the time I got there, he knew something was up because of how long it had taken me. When I saw him I just burst in to tears. It felt so unfair and I just wanted it to be over. As is tradition, he hopped the fence and started running (walking) next to me, trying to make me smile and encouraging me to keep going. He got kicked off the course around 400m from the finish line, leaving me to finish on my own.

I ran to the end. I wanted to walk so bad. I’d been out on the road for so long, my feet hurt, and I felt disappointed and dejected. I did run though. After I crossed the finish line I didn’t feel happy, or like I’d achieved anything, because I felt like I’d failed. I didn’t even want to wear the medal placed around my neck by a lovely smiling lady. I felt like the worst runner in the history of running. Ever. It was a personal worst time, and I had a horrible time running it.

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This is not the face of a girl having fun (sorry Marathon Foto, but this photo is not worth 50 euros)

It all sounds a bit melodramatic really, but I honestly felt so low. This is in no way meant to be a judgment on marathon finish times – times are relative to your own abilities, but compared to (a) my goal and (b) my previous marathon times, my time did feel very disappointing. Maybe even more so because I hadn’t had fun. I’d enjoyed it up until around 29km, which means that there was nothing fun about the marathon part. I’d have enjoyed a half. In future, I will stick to the half.

So, there we have it. Another disastrous marathon attempt! From now on, I will stick to admiring amazing endurance runners, rather than attempting to be one. I would like to say a huge thank you to all of the support I’ve received while training for the marathon; I have honestly been overwhelmed by all of the lovely supportive comments I’ve received, all for being a terrible runner! I feel like I don’t deserve it, but I appreciate it hugely nonetheless. And if you ever hear me consider signing up for another marathon in the future – please stop me ok?

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Over and out, 26.2.

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I was recently invited by Glaceau Smartwater to a beautiful rooftop yoga class at their HQ with the amazing Jessica Skye of Fat Buddha Yoga. I am one of those people who knows they need to go to yoga more often, but seems completely incapable of actually hauling my butt to a yoga class (I know, we’re the worst), so I grabbed the opportunity for a class with both of my pudgy little hands.

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I also have a bit of a soft spot for Glaceau Smartwater (yes, I can be sentimental about bottled water – bear with me). It first came out around the same time as Dayve and I went on our epic US road trip, and we used to buy freezing cold bottles of it from service stations because it contains electrolytes but tastes just like regular water. No yucky powerade zero or sweetener filled drinks with a weird salty edge; straight up amazing water, which just happens to be even more hydrating than regular water. It’s genius and it always reminds me of the best holiday in the world and so I love it.

It was a beautiful sunny morning and there were some serious tunes along for the class. I did really enjoy the class, but what really struck me was just how good I felt afterwards. As well as carrying marathon stress in my legs, I have permanently tense shoulders thanks to a combination of an ongoing shoulder injury and my permanently desk-bound status. The yoga definitely helped ease those tensions, and also eased off some of the many stresses I have been under recently. I can see why you’re all so in to this yoga thing.

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I felt so good after the class that I decided to get yoga in my life more regularly, especially as a recovery tool to aid both my marathon training and my frazzled brain. Due to my schedule I find it difficult to make it to regular scheduled classes, so I asked Jessica Skye at FBY to give me a rundown of the best yoga moves to counteract all the pavement pounding that comes with training for a marathon. She kindly obliged, and I thought I’d share the love. So, here are six of the best yoga poses for runners!

What can yoga do for those preparing for marathons?

As a high impact sport, running is known to cause tightness in the main muscle groups of the legs (quads, glutes, hamstring and calves). Tight muscles will pull at other parts of the body and can also create knee issues, joint pain and lower back issues – not to mention simple strains. Yoga is a key activity to compliment running, as it will keep the body balanced, train your breath work and increase lung capacity. Practicing yoga will also teach you how to channel your focus, get in the zone and learn to breathe efficiently… all essential tools to nailing the big race. A pretty important part of any sport or even just your day-to-day is to drink more water. Whether you gulp or sip – staying hydrated is a pretty smart thing to do.

Jess’ 6 post-run yoga moves  

I have added links to photos/videos of the poses described, in case you’re a yoga newbie like me!

1)   Uttanasasa Intense forward fold – Fold forward, tip tailbone up, but soften knees if this is too intense. To go deeper, grab opposite elbows behind your legs. Not only will this lengthen the backs of your legs but will also stretch out your back.

2)   Parsvottanasana Pyramid – Take a step forward, bringing your stance to around two-thirds. Press both heels into the floor to lengthen lower calves. Square hips, slowly fold over your front leg, bringing your nose towards your knee. Keep squaring the hips level with each other so as not to twist the lower back. To open the chest, grab opposite elbows behind your back. This will open the calves and hamstrings, it will also lengthen the spine and open your chest.

3)   Parivrtta Trikonasana Reversed triangle Maintain same footing as pyramid, bring both hands either side of your front foot, get long in the spine, slowly raise the hand on the outside of your front foot onto your hip. Slowly turn your chest in the same direction, maintain the press in both heels as well as squaring the hips. This will get a gentle twist in the spine, open the calves and IT band.

4)   Anjaneyasana Variation – Reversed low lunge variation with foot grab – Opening the hips, lengthening the hips flexors, gently twisting the spine, and opening the chest. The foot grab will create an intense stretch in the quads.

5)   Ardha Kapotasana – Half pigeon pose – Opening the hips and getting into the glutes. Make sure you line your knee up with your wrist and your shin is diagonal across your body – for more intensity, bring your shin parallel with the top of your mat. Make sure your hips are level, and if you want to go deeper, keep lowering your chest towards the ground.

6)   Ardha Supta Virasana Reclining hero pose – This reclining position will intensely stretch the lateral part quads. After bending at the knee and bringing your heel to the outside of your hip, allow the knees to fall where feels best and slowly walk yourself back with your hands until you find your edge. To go deeper, lean all the way back or do both legs at the same time.

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It became clear a few weeks back that I won’t hit my sub-4 goal for Berlin marathon this year. To be honest, I had been feeling pretty down about it. I can’t run anywhere near the times I used to be able to run, and it’s pretty depressing to watch people around you and on social media achieve amazing feats while you just get slower.

I finally clicked out of this funk on Friday morning. I aim to be as honest as possible about my mental health, and recently I have been feeling very up and down, with a lot of things on my mind. It feels like my brain never stops whirring; a constant erratic stream of thoughts, leaving me unable to concentrate on anything for very long. I can’t sleep properly because my brain just doesn’t shut up and I am exhausted. Constantly.

So, Friday morning. I went running. I joined an adidas runners group for a short run, followed by a pilates class on a rooftop in east London. I saw and chatted with some familiar faces, as well as some new ones, and finished the morning off with a coffee before walking to work. As I was walking to work, one of the things that has been weighing heavily on my mind popped in to my head, and I realised that it was the first time all morning that I’d thought about it.

It was at that moment that I remembered exactly why I loved running, and exercise in general. Especially in groups. When I’m running, I fall in to a sort of meditation. Legs moving, arms pumping, chest heaving. When I’m in a group, my steps fall in line and I feel like part of a bigger unit, moving together. The whirring in my brain stops. After a run there’s always a sense of peace. A quiet exhaustion. I run for that peace. For that quiet.

I realised that that’s why I hate chasing times so much. I’ve never run a PB because I’ve trained for one. PBs seem to come around by accident, just when I’ve been enjoying my training or I’ve found someone I love training with. Anytime that I’ve tried to train for a PB I have cracked under the pressure, and I think it’s because it’s just too much for me. I am a private practice lawyer; my life is full of stress, deadlines, pressure and clocks. Most of my time is lived in six minute increments. The last thing I need outside of work is more pressure. More clocks!

So, no more time chasing for me. I can’t run the times I used to run because my life is very different now. I ran those times when I was at law school and in charge of my own schedule, which is a luxury I don’t have now. On top of my job, I’m planning our wedding, renovating our flat, and trying to balance social and family life too. I need to make fitness work for me and my lifestyle, not feel like I’m a slave to fitness.

I’ll be running the marathon in Berlin in three weeks time. I will run a very average time, nowhere near my sub-4 goal, and I couldn’t care less. I’ll try and enjoy my surrounding, the amazing feeling of running with thousands of other people, and being in one of my favourite cities with the love of my life.

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I guess it wasn’t just a bug bite, but the bite was definitely the beginning of the end.

I haven’t given an update in a while, and I’ll be honest and admit that it’s because I’ve been burying my head in the sand about it. I have a bad habit of doing that when things go wrong.

The short of it is that the sub-4 attempt is off for Berlin. Potentially forever, but I’ll come back to that! The long story started about six weeks ago, during that mini heatwave we had in June. We slept with our skylight open and I woke up one morning with a huge bite on my knee.

It hurt like hell; my whole knee was swollen and pain shot through my knee whenever I put weight on that leg. It was also disastrously itchy and, while I was very well behaved during the day, I woke up one morning having scratched it in my sleep and it ended up getting infected.

The potentially TMI bit…

I had big hives start popping up all over my leg, which I initially thought was an allergic reaction to the bite, but it turns out I had a bacterial infection in my entire leg. I was given a penicillin based antibiotic to clear it up, but it made me feel awful. I persevered, appreciating that antibiotics are often unkind in a cruel to be kind sort of way, but I ended up going back to my doctor when I broke out in a huge rash on my back and the inside of my elbows. Turns out I’m allergic to penicillin! So I came off the antibiotics. And the infection returned. I ended up having to treat them one by one with an antibiotic cream, and it took three more weeks to actually clear the infection properly.

OK, TMI bit over.

I tried to keep up my training but, to be honest, I felt absolutely awful. The infection sapped all of my energy and my leg was, at times, just downright painful. The worst part was the reaction to the penicillin though, it was horrible. All in all I ended up missing the majority of three weeks of my programme, which has meant that I’ve had to re-evaluate my goals.

I don't want to put gross photos of my leg infection on the internet, so here's some running photos from the past few weeks!

I don’t want to put gross photos of my leg infection on the internet, so here’s some running photos from the past few weeks!

I’ve tried to get straight back in to the training plan but I felt weak and definitely lost some fitness. Going for sub-4 was a big challenge for me already given my form this year, and with three weeks out it’s nigh on impossible I think.

I’ve felt a bit lost since getting better. I’ve been half heartedly following the training plan but I just don’t have the motivation to follow such a full-on plan knowing I won’t be able to make my goal. There is, however, nothing I can do.

So, what’s the plan?! The plan is to still run in Berlin. This is actually my third time round attempting the Berlin marathon and, at the moment, it feels like it’s a cursed race for me! I’ve had to defer my place twice now due to injury and I can’t stand the idea of having to head back a fourth time, so I will be running the marathon no matter what. I’ve scaled back my training plan to running just 3/4 days a week, and making sure I fit in plenty of strength and yoga sessions to protect against injuries.

As for #SophSub4, I’m taking a rain check for now. I make no secret of the fact that I hate marathon training, and I don’t want to go straight back in to it after Berlin for a spring marathon. I’m really really busy, juggling planning a wedding, renovating a flat, ridiculous working hours, and social and family time, and I just don’t think I’ll have the time to commit to it realistically until 2018. In the meantime, I’m just aiming to keep a smile on my face whenever I train!

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