I know I’ve already written about my decision to DNS the Berlin marathon, but I thought I’d write a more positive post about all the fun I had in Germany too! Here’s a quick round up of our entire trip, as well as a look in to what the future holds.

Thursday

On Thursday we flew to Nuremberg from London. I had a small run in with a luggage man who insulted my dungarees in front of the entire flight, and ended up sitting next to someone who thought it was cool to eat sushi on a plane (to that person: it isn’t cool to eat raw fish when you’re sat that close to a stranger in a confined space), but other than that this went smoothly. Once we landed we headed to our hotel to dump bags and meet Kelly, before heading to Herzogenaurach for dinner with adidas miCoach ambassadors from all over the world. Herzo is a small very German looking town and the home of adidas global HQ. Here’s a team photo outside the restaurant:

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We went for Italian (carbs galore) and had a jolly good time.

Friday

We woke up bright and early to head back to adidas HQ. We kicked off the day with a run in the woods around the adidas campus with Vikki, who runs social for the miCoach channels. It was a gorgeous day and it felt so good to be starting the day in nature, breathing in the fresh air and crunching leaves under our feet. Note to self: get out of the city more often.

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Next stop: the adidas employee store. Yes, it was as good as it sounds. Kit heaven! I took advantage of being in the home of adidas and picked up some gear that I hadn’t seen for sale in the UK yet; a pair of tech mesh leggings and a gorgeous knitted baselayer in different shades of grey (not quite 50 though). I have been dying for it to get cold enough to wear them out!

One floor of the employee store...

One floor of the employee store…

We followed this with a tour of the adidas campus. The campus was originally an American base in WW2 and the original building still stand in amongst the modern buildings, which is pretty cool. We got up to some secret squirrel business and visited top secret areas, like the future lab and Athlete Services. The future lab is where new technology is developed and they had some incredible equipment in there! Did you know it took nine years to develop boost technology? And it takes four years to develop each world cup ball? Having seen the amount of work that goes in to developing new equipment, I have a new respect for sports gear. Athlete Services is like the ultimate athlete concierge – they make custom kit for their top athletes to accommodate their wonky toes and stuff.

Some super excited runners at the start of their visit to adidas HQ...

Some super excited runners at the start of their visit to adidas HQ…

Athlete Services! You're only allowed photos in reception...

Athlete Services! You’re only allowed photos in reception…

With bae (Adi Dassler)

With bae (Adi Dassler)

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We love to jump

After all this excitement we dashed off to the train station to take the train to Berlin, which took five hours. We passed the time by talking running, reading magazines (I went for Women’s Health and Brides) and watching the man from the refreshments cart do magic. We also got off at the wrong stop in Berlin, but made it to the hotel eventually!

Saturday

A big day! We were up early again as miCoach had a surprise for us. I hate surprises, but even I’ll admit that this surprise was a good one. An exclusive Q&A session with top marathoners, Emmanuel Mutai and Geoffery Mutai! We asked them all sorts of things that they’d probably heard before. My favourite bit was when we asked them “What do you eat before you race?”, to which the response was two puzzled faces followed by “…breakfast?”. A delightfully simple answer! (When pushed, they elaborated that this involved “probably bananas and bread”). After a photo session we nipped off to the expo!

These two!

These two!

The whole gang!

The whole gang!

The ladies collected their numbers while I arranged deferring my place and we met back at the miCoach stand. We checked out the latest miCoach tech while drinking non-alcoholic beer and snaffling cereal bars. I was carb-loading too, in support of my fellow marathon babes.

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I think my favourite part of the expo was having a photographer follow us around – it made people look at us a lot and you could see them desperately trying to recognise us. I should have worn a jumper saying something like “I’m a nobody; as you were” or “Nothing to see here! No, really.”.

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After lunch we went and did some sightseeing around Berlin (great boat ride) before heading to eat more pizza for dinner.

Sunday

RACE DAY! A day of mixed emotions for me. I was disappointed not to be running (especially as we woke up to weather practically tailor made for running a marathon!) but at the same time relieved. I was sad not to run with the girls but excited to cheer them on – I love supporting at marathons!

Three awesome ladies before kicking some marathon butt

Three awesome ladies before kicking some marathon butt

Walking to the race start - it was such a beautiful morning!

Walking to the race start – it was such a beautiful morning!

I found myself a prime spot between the Brandenburg Gate and the finish line and watched everyone come through, including the winners! I watched the medal ceremonies. I witnessed a huge variety of faces come down that final straight; elation, pain, relief, joy. I saw strangers holding hands to cross the finish line, parents running with their children, runners stop to kiss their loved ones metres from the finish line. It was everything great about running and I swore to myself that I’d be back in 2016 to give this amazing race everything I have.

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The Future

So, I’ll be running the Berlin Marathon 2016. The wonderful thing about this is that I have a year to prepare! What a luxury. I’ve decided that between now and then I’m going to be doing everything I can to make sure that Berlin 2016 is my best marathon yet. In the lead up to the actual training plan I’m going to focus on getting strong and lean; not necessarily running huge distances, but getting a good mix of running regularly and doing enough strength work to get in to good condition.

As for the plan itself I think I’ll use the adidas miCoach plan again. I loved the way that I can set a complementary strength programme to sit alongside the running plan, as strength training is really important to keep me injury free. You can also sync it with your iCal and set up email alerts for each workout – in the run up to Berlin this year I got an email at 11:30pm every night to remind me of the workout set for the next day and this really helped keep me motivated and on track! I would also love to speak to a running coach and maybe get some online coaching. If you have any recommendations, please send them my way!

It’s been a while since I’ve set a new PB, so I’ll be aiming for one in Berlin next year. My marathon PB is still 4:15 from my first ever marathon in Brighton so I’ll definitely be going for sub-4, but I would love to set a more ambitious goal. I’m going to see how my training goes and evaluate closer to the time. Exciting!

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Thank you to everyone for your kind messages this weekend about deferring my place in the Berlin Marathon. Anyone who knows me will know that I hate giving up on things and deferring definitely feels like a cop-out. The decision not to run is a considered one and I think definitely the right one, but that doesn’t really help when you’re stood on the side lines feeling like a failure.

So, how did I reach the decision not to run? Last year I ran the London Marathon and came down with a knee injury at Mile 15. I’ve never had issues with my knees before and the pain came on in an instant during the race. I did the less than sensible thing of finishing the race (walking, limping, crawling…!) and couldn’t walk properly for a month afterwards. A MONTH.

This rather traumatic episode taught me to respect the distance. I am not one of the amazing natural runners who can run a marathon at the drop of a hat – for me, achieving the distance takes a lot of time and effort. Leading up to the race I’d been busy with work and moving back to London from Dubai, and in the midst of all the madness I’d neglected my strengthen and flexibility training. I am 99.99999% sure that this is the reason for my injury.

Fast forward to Berlin Marathon 2015. I actually had a ballot place in the Berlin Marathon 2014, but after getting injured in London I was not in a position to race in the autumn. I was pretty gutted about losing my chance to run the marathon in Berlin, as you never know when your luck will come up in the ballot again. I’ll also admit to being stuck in injury gloom mode and burying my head in the sand about organising deferring my place, which I also heavily regretted. So, when adidas miCoach emailed and asked if I’d like to be involved in their Berlin Marathon project, it felt like a second chance to run this amazing race. Yippee!

Due to the timings of the project the training cycle was a little shorter than it would have normally been for me (14 weeks or so I think) but I was so keen to take the second chance that I decided I would just commit to the training and do my best in the time I had. I signed up for weekly yoga classes, to make sure I was doing at least one session a week, and chose a miCoach strength and flexibility plan to complement my marathon training plan to make sure I stayed strong enough to take the mileage.

Unfortunately, things didn’t really work out that way for me. The past few months have been some of the most stressful of my life and I’ll admit that in the last fortnight or so I’ve reached breaking point. In the past couple of months I’ve experienced some serious life events – Dayve and I bought our first home, we got engaged, my sister and best friend had her first baby (after a MONTH of false labour – she is my hero), and I’ve been busy at work and haven’t taken a break since February, which has left me feeling exhausted. While all these things are amazing and exciting (and I really don’t want this to come across as first world problems) I think it’s easy to underestimate how time consuming and emotionally exhausting they are.

Fitting in my runs became very difficult – I am constantly busy with something, travelling somewhere or doing something. Moving out of our shared flat in to our own place coincided with Dayve being on the other side of the world for work for a couple of months, and the loneliness of living alone along with Dayve being out of contact 80% of the time feels like the straw that broke the camel’s back. I started to feel quite low and finding the motivation to do anything (including go running) became increasingly difficult. I’ve been stuck in a bit of a downward spiral – feel sad and don’t feel like running > eventually force self to go running and run is terrible because I haven’t really been running > feel sad about terrible running > avoid going running because it makes me feel like a failure > get even worse at running. I couldn’t even bring myself to share my runs or talk about them on here – who would be interested in hearing about my mediocre training efforts? All the more ironic given how this blog started as a story all about how running lifted me out of depression.

Anyway, given this whole mess my training has not been on point. I’d done the miles, but they’d been bad quality runs without purpose (like me generally then). I’d not been able to do all of the strength training on my plan. I kept staying up late in to the night, pottering about, and missing my 7:30am yoga classes because I’d had two hours sleep. In the few weeks leading up to the marathon I’d noticed some twinges in my knee – no doubt symptoms of my lacklustre strength and flexibility regime – and started having flashbacks to London and how devastating a full blown injury is. The added complication is that less than a week after the marathon I am due to fly to Ethiopia for a fundraising trek with work (leaving this Friday!) – a once in a lifetime opportunity that has cost me a small fortune and has a large amount on sponsorship riding on it. If I were to injure myself in Berlin as I had in London then the whole trip would be blown out of the water and everything would go to waste.

I called adidas to explain my concerns about my injury and the proximity of race day to the trek. Luckily for me they were really kind and understanding, and totally agreed that health has to come above anything else. They also very kindly said that, even if I didn’t run the race, that I was still very welcome on the trip to Germany to soak up the experience and visit adidas HQ. I felt a bit awkward about this (if I wasn’t running I definitely didn’t deserve the same experience as the other girls) but I am so glad I went. Spending the weekend with Susie, Annie and Kelly and the miCoach team was just what I needed to lift my spirits and inspire my running again. A full post on our amazing trip will follow very shortly!

While I was in Germany I was still entertaining thoughts of running – I so desperately wanted to be part of the race with the others and didn’t want the training that I had done to go to waste, but the idea of injuring myself and jeopardising my trip to Ethiopia felt reckless. I decided to leave it in the hands of the marathon itself – at the expo, I would see if I could defer. If I couldn’t then I would run, but I’d run slowly and promise to pull out at the first signs of any funny business in my knee. If I could defer then I’d commit to being the best supporter at the Berlin Marathon 2015 and I’d return in 2016 to do the race justice. As you’ll have gathered, they let me defer. I was kind of relieved – the risk of injury was gone and I could come back to Berlin next year to run the race I want to run. I was also sad. Deferring felt like a failure and I felt like a fraud being part of the crew when I wasn’t even running. Everyone was very supportive and the ladies reassured me that I’d made the right choice. Sometimes you have to be sensible.

Watching all of the others do so well was so inspiring – Susie and Kelly both ran PBs and Annie ran her first marathon, battling an ankle injury and epilepsy! It made me feel even more determined to go back next year and make them as proud of me as I am of them.

I guess the point of this post is to show that deciding not to run is not a failure. Doing the sensible thing is usually the best thing you can do for your running, even if that means not running at all. I know it’s much sexier to risk it all on a wildcard race, but sometimes that will be more damaging in the long term. Also – do not underestimate the physical toll of your emotional burdens, and don’t push your body to achieve something that you’re not prepared for, whether that’s physically or emotionally (or both!).

Soph x

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I’ve been meaning to write a post about Instagram and #fitspiration for a while now, and getting featured in The Telegraph yesterday as one of their top inspiring runners on instagram gave me the kick to finally get some thoughts down.

Firstly – I was pretty stoked to be featured. I am really inconsistent with instagram and never have time to take nice photos, so I thought it was pretty cool that I got included. I am by far the smallest blogger on there too, so I thought it was cool that I was still deemed worthy of inclusion. Thanks Jess Salter!

Secondly – some thoughts on instagram in the fitness world. If I am completely honest, I find the world of instagram #fitspiration pretty demoralising and disheartening. So many shiny professional photos, honed abs, perfect dinners, beautiful yoga poses and people who ostensibly live in shiny white houses. I’ve found myself posting on instagram less and less because I just feel like I can’t keep up. My life is terrible in comparison! Obviously each to their own; I know that a lot of people find these images aspirational, rather than demoralising. However, I have decided that enough if enough. I’ve unfollowed the ‘big’ instagram accounts that I used to follow and the ones that only post professional photos (or, even worse, random photos they’ve found on pinterest – why would I care about a nice beach you haven’t even been to…?) so that I’m back to just following people I find inspiring, interesting or funny. If you’re also sick of instagram #fitspiration, I would recommend you do the same.

With this in mind, I thought I’d concoct my own list of accounts to follow on instagram. Let me know if you have any other recommendations!

1. Charlie Watson, aka The Runnerbeans (@therunnerbeans)

I love following Charlie because she works really hard at her running and I find watching her progress really inspiring. She’s currently training for the Chicago marathon and has been really putting in the time with her training. She has set out to improve her running and reading about her sessions makes me want to do the same

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2. Susie Chan (@susie_chan_)

I love following Susie because, not only is she a phenomenal runner, but she absolutely loves running. Her enthusiasm for running (and joy while running) permeate all of her posts and you can’t help but feel her happiness too. Susie is also an amazing runner but really humble about her achievements, which makes her all the more inspiring!

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3. Sarah aka Squatbot (@squatbot)

I love Sarah’s posts because they’re fun. She trains hard, eats well and always seems to have fun doing it. I love the way she is clearly serious about her training but never takes herself too seriously – my kind of girl.

4. Sophie Kay aka Fitology (@fitology_uk)

Sophie is all about body confidence. I love her honesty about her body and her appreciation for its abilities, not just its aesthetics. She’s a personal trainer who practises what she preaches and encourages everyone to love their bodies, which is a message I can definitely get on board with. She’s also called Sophie and everyone knows Sophies are ace.

5. Hot Dudes Reading (@hotdudesreading)

It won’t inspire you to get any fitter but it’s still excellent. No explanation needed. You’re probably already following it.

6. Zoe Meskell aka Miles Fitter (@milesfitter)

Zoe is lovely and is always up to something fun and fitnessy. She always seems to fit things in around her life – I particularly admire her ability to make it to early morning classes, something I fail at nine times out of ten. She has just moved to New York and I am really enjoying following her adventures there.

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7. Volt Women (@voltwomen)

A bunch of amazing ladies from the Bridge the Gap community, Volt Women are always featuring inspiring women from all over the world. I love the way this account tells stories along with the pictures, and I love that they’re always told openly and honestly.

8. Pink Helmet Posse (@pinkhelmetposse)

Little babes skateboarding. These little girls are fearless and awesome and I wish someone had thought of it when I was little. They’re amazing as well as adorable! JUST LOOK AT HER!

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9. Juliet Elliott (@julietelliott)

When I grow up I want to be Juliet. Ex pro-snowboarder and now bike babe extraordinaire, I love following her amazing adventures (from mountain biking to competing in the Red Hook Crit to training in a velodrome). Juliet does everything I am too scared to do and I am in awe of her talent and fearless attitude. She also has rad tats that I wish I could have and a beautiful relationship with her husband.

10. Amanda Bisk (@amandabisk)

The only big account I still follow. Amanda Bisk has an incredible body, but it’s hard earned. I love following Amanda because she is an incredible athlete. She used to compete as a pole vaulter for Australia is now an elite athletics coach, an exercise physiologist and a qualified yoga teacher. She is a ball of energy and is always posting videos with cool ideas for workouts. I feel that she genuinely takes pride in the community she has created and I find her attitude really inspiring.

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Who are your top instagram accounts to follow? What inspires you?

You can follow me on instagram at @sophiechristabel!

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I am the first to admit that I get some amazing opportunities through this blog, and this afternoon was definitely up there among one of the coolest events I’ve been to. I was lucky enough to be among the first to find out about Nike’s new range of ‘zoom’ shoes at a secret Thames-side location.

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The afternoon started on a boat from North Greenwich, transporting us down the river to our first location. This was a riverside warehouse where we mingled with Nike’s speediest athletes, learnt about the latest range of ‘zoom’ shoes, learnt about the new Nike AW15 range and had our gait analysed before plucking our shoes from parachutes hanging from the ceiling. I know – it was as insane as it sounds.

Gait analysis hub with Nike experts on hand!

Gait analysis hub with Nike experts on hand!

Plucked myself a pair of Nike Zoom Elite 8 (along with my very own speed parachute!) from the air

Plucked myself a pair of Nike Zoom Elite 8 (along with my very own speed parachute!) from the air

You might have noticed Nike’s latest campaign #sofast, focussing on finding fast through a series of speed training and mile racing events. As part of finding fast, Nike have launched five new running shoes. Four are revamped versions of existing Nike models, alongside an entirely new running shoe.

Steve Cram interviewed some speedy Nike athletes about finding fast, including one of my fave runner babes Dina Asher-Smith!

Steve Cram interviewed some speedy Nike athletes about finding fast, including one of my fave runner babes Dina Asher-Smith!

First up, the well-loved Nike Pegasus. The latest version is the Zoom Pegasus 32 – tweaks are minimal, but it’s been made slightly lighter to promote speed.

Next, the next version of the Nike Vomero – the Zoom Vomero 10. The Vomero remains the premium neutral shoe, but has been made slightly softer in the mid-sole to forefoot to encourage a mid-foot strike.

There’s a new version of Nike’s classic high support shoe, the Structure. The latest model (Nike Zoom Structure 19) remains largely the same (it’s so popular with runners I can see why they wouldn’t want to meddle!) but it does have softer medial cushioning.

Perving on the new zoom range

Perving on the new zoom range

Next up, the Nike Zoom Elite 8. This is a lightweight tempo shoe with just an 8mm offset, designed for speed. It’s designed for mid-foot strikers with a neutral gait. This was how I measured up in my gait analysis so I’ve actually had the pleasure of road-testing this shoe, and it really complements my running style. It definitely encourages a mid-foot strike – I can feel the back of my legs working when running in these!

Finally, we had the pleasure of learning about an all new shoe, the Zoom Odyssey. This is a premium stability shoe (like the Vomero sits ‘on top’ of the Pegasus in the neutral category, this sits on top of the Structure in the stability category!) and is pretty much the Stability 19 on crack.

(The new models are explained in full over on Nike’s website!)

After learning all about the new models we took to the river again, speeding down to Greenwich foot tunnel on mother flippin’ speed boats! I’m quite frightened of speed boats, and wasn’t feeling entirely confident about embarking on this journey…

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Not keen, tbh.

Approaching our final destination...

Approaching our final destination…

Luckily the speed boat journey was awesome and not at all scary and we made it to Greenwich safe and sound for the final part of our journey! We completed a warm-up by the Cutty Sark with one of Nike’s top coaches and two of their speediest athletes, before racing a mile through the Greenwich foot tunnel! Unfortunately for me, the weekend before I broke my toe and so didn’t complete the mile race, but it was great to see everyone else going for it. I’ve also never actually been through the Greenwich foot tunnel, so that was ace too.

Racing through Greenwich foot tunnel

Racing through Greenwich foot tunnel

With some of the other ladies after they'd raced the mile

With some of the other ladies after they’d raced the mile

It was awesome to find out all about the new range of zoom shoes and to try out the Nike Zoom Elite 8! I raced the Nike Womens 10k in them and thought they were great, and I’ve seen some speedy sisters rocking them too.

Thanks to Nike for having me at their amazing event!

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Last year I bagged myself a greatly coveted Berlin Marathon ballot place. I paid my 100 euros and was exciting to get my second marathon major race under my belt. Unfortunately, I couldn’t run due to injury and to be honest I was pretty bummed about it. The Berlin marathon is an iconic race! So, I was really excited when adidas miCoach got in touch and asked if I’d like to run the Berlin marathon this year with them!

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I’d love to say that I’ll be heading for a PB but, realistically, I know I’m not in shape to get a PB. After my knee injury at London marathon it’s been a slow return to full fitness and I’d say that I’m not quite there yet. I am really excited to be attempting the distance again though and am hoping I can put in a better performance than the PW I obtained in London!

I’m going to be using my adidas FitSmart watch with miCoach to train for the race. I’ve set up a training plan that involves running workouts and base fitness workouts, as I know from past experience that, for me, full body strength and flexibility training is key to staying injury free.

I will, obviously, be keeping you all up to date on my training and my progress on the big day! So grateful to adidas miCoach for the opportunity to join them at the amazing race.

 

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