Thursday, 26 June 2014


With this particular event taking place in my home town, I didn’t need to hesitate to enter this 10K. I had heard great things from friends and fellow runners about this race and as it takes place over the May bank holiday weekend, why not head home for it!

Bayer 10K is organised by Newbury Athletic Club, with the sponsor being UK science researchers, Bayer. The race draws in around 1000 applicants, who gather in the market place for the start of this part road/part trail 10K.

Now, make note of what I just described this course as. Don’t be fooled into thinking it is a smooth sailing run. What you will experience is plenty of undulating parts combined with road, field, trail and towpath running. Sounds like a right mix I know, but it really is a fantastic, varied course.

The very beginning takes you down the town centre where you take a left turn and head up the hill alongside Bayer HQ. This hill looks steep but I didn’t find it too challenging to get up. This also is the only major incline in the race so its good to get it out the way.

Next you head up narrow residential streets (with some rather nice houses to gawp at) to a field, which I found rather random. This part was most knackering as the grassy terrain was a little uneasy underfoot and was on a slight hill. This however doesn’t last too long and then you are out by the Newbury Bypass.

You then head across a bridge over the dual carriageway and take a secret hidden turn (which in the 18 years I lived in Newbury, I never knew existed!) down a very steep track. From here on, you are in trail running mode. I’ve never done a trail run before so this was a shock to my system and I felt wiped out when I reached the 5K mark.

After a good two miles running along rocky, muddy terrain you then pop out by the town’s leisure centre and you are back on road again (phew!). This takes you back out to the town centre where you are greeted by a wall of whoops and cheers before you turn back on yourself up towards the towpath along the canal.

As I always like to say, when it comes to races along a canal, make sure you get all your over-taking done beforehand as the paths can get very narrow and you do tend to fall into single file running.

At this point, I was shattered and I could tell I wasn’t having a good race. It was also a very hot day and there weren’t as many water stations along the course as I expected (one at mile 2 and one just after 5K). Dehydrated, exhausted and quite honestly, irritated at my weakness, I began to feel rather ill and could have quite easily dropped out at the 8K mark. However, after seeing my best friends mum standing by a bridge along the canal, her encouragement and compliments spurred me on and I, rather slowly, carried on up the path. When we reached the end of this part, we looped round onto a long main road, which lead us back to the town centre. I have never felt so relieved to see a finish line and I managed to find some speed in my legs to churn out a mini sprint finish.

As soon as I crossed the finish line, I had this automatic thought that I hated this course. It wasn’t until I had collected my medal, spoken to fellow runners and recovered from the experience that actually, it was a really fun event. Not once did I feel bored along the way and finding it so challenging has made me want to return to try and smash my time from this year.

For a small local event, it was great to see organisers handing out medals and goody bags. Personally, I also had a fabulous day out with my running pals. Here is a snap shot of how I felt at the end (with my best friend). This photo sums up a good vibe, despite my feelings throughout the race.

Any setbacks? Not really. As with smaller races, toilets are limited and in this particular case, non-existent. However, nearby restaurants and coffee shops are welcoming to runners using their loos and everywhere you go there is friendly, helpful face. If there was any feedback that I would like organisers to consider, it would be adding an extra water station before the canal. If, like this year, it’s a hot day hydration is key and I personally did struggle not having a quick slurp of water after the halfway mark.


Course: 3/5
Scenery: 4/5
Facilities: 2/5
Water Stations: 2/5
Medal & goody bag: 5/5

My time: 49.31 (May 2014)


Find out more about Bayer 10 HERE.

Lipstick Runner.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

FUEL FOR THOUGHT: Vitamins, Vitamins, Vitamins

‘My name is Sarah and I am a Vitamin Junkie.’

Since I was a child I have grown up taking a vitamin every day. From the Super Ted multi vitamins for kids (do you remember these!?) to Zinc & Omega 3 during my studies to where I am now with three variants I take each day, without fail.

Opinions on vitamins are split quite evenly I think. There are those that turn their noses up to a Cod Liver capsule in favour for regular fish dishes and then there are those, like me, who think vitamins are an important part of long term nutrition.

The importance of vitamins has been highlighted since the Ancient Egyptians. Those smarty-pants knew their stuff when it came to medicine and they found that feeding liver to someone would cure ‘night blindness’ (this is where your eyes don’t adapt to darkness) which was linked to a deficiency in Vitamin A. The knowledge of vitamins grew from there when, for example, in the 1700’s a Scottish surgeon discovered that citrus prevented scurvy. Today however, there are whole hosts of capsules, drinks and powders that offer supplements to prevent various symptoms.

As a runner, I feel vitamins are necessary especially as a non-meat eater. To ensure I remain in tip top condition health wise and steer clear of coughs, colds and general illnesses, I take three supplements a day:

One tablet packed full of essential vitamins from all letters of the alphabet. I love a good multi-vitamin and they are cheap to buy and easily accessible from supermarkets, drug stores and health shops. I take Holland & Barrett ABC Plus (£7.25 or 120 tablets) as after analysing the list of vitamins, it covers everything including iron, magnesium and zinc. Make sure you check the list of vitamins on the back of the pack as brands do differ. I was taking a Boots own supplement for months and realised it didn’t contain iron and so that is when I switched to ABC Plus.

Cod Liver Oil
I have been taking this for yonks! I always remember when I was a little girl my Dad each morning had a spoon of Cod Liver Oil and after trying it in liquid form (which by the way is foul!), I will definitely be sticking to capsules. Cod Liver Oil contains Omega 3, which is such an important nutrient as it helps the body keep a steady metabolism, strengthens bones and reduces the impact of cognitive ageing.

This supplement is particularly crucial for me as osteoporosis is rife in my family and I definitely want to avoid it in later life.  As I don’t tend to eat too much fish, Cod Liver Oil capsules are a fantastic way for me to get all the goodness I need and also keep my bones strong. That and also tonnes of Petite Filous but don’t worry, I eat a lot of fromage frais too.

Skin Hair & Nails
Another favourite of mine and probably the reason why I need my hair trimmed so often! Skin, Hair & Nails tablets are probably in a lot of women’s cabinets and rightly so - I’m blessed to have spot free skin and I do think these tablets contribute majorly to that.

They are quite pricey (120 capsules of Holland & Barrett Skin, Hair & Nails is £18) but if you are looking for ways to rid blemishes, strengthen hair and prevent weak nails these are worth trying. I cannot remember the last time I broke a nail and my hair grows so fast, if I didn’t cut it, I could quite easily take up a role in a Rapunzel panto.

What to look out for...
If you are thinking of taking more than one vitamin, I strongly suggest you analyse the vitamins each capsule contains. This is so you can identify what you could possibly be taking too much of. For example, high consumption of iron can cause side effects (along the lines of constipation cough cough) and as a runner, I keep myself alert to my intake in vitamins to ensure I avoid any health mishaps during my training.

If you are partial to a supplement or two, I’d definitely suggest the above. Or, if you feel you need a boost in some shape or form, head to your nearest pharmacy as I bet there is a vitamin to fix it!

Lipstick Runner.

Sunday, 22 June 2014


This week I have loved the sunshine and whilst I didn’t quite follow my half marathon-training schedule, I managed to squeeze in lots of activity.

I’m starting to get more into cross training. I’ve not been one to do this but now I have my bike, I want to make more effort to try out different activities rather than just sticking to running. I actually really enjoyed mixing it up and once I start cycling to work, I will be able to make the most of varied training which I think will play a crucial role in my running developments.

After a weekend of running on Saturday and exploring all of North London by foot on Sunday, Monday was very much a rest day for me. Tuesday, I opted to go for a swim. I was supposed to attend my club run and I even took my kit to work but towards the end of day, I felt exhausted. I really felt the urge to go swimming (a sport I love) and so I ditched the trainers for my swimsuit and headed to my local pool.

When I go lane swimming, I aim to always complete 25 lengths in sets of five and alternate between breaststroke and front crawl. This week was the first time I used a swimming hat (I’d washed my hair the night before and couldn’t be bothered to do it again ha!) and I remember having a blue Aqua Sphere one lying around from a magazine event I had been to yonks ago. When I got out the pool and was changing, I took the hat off and my hair was SOAKED! Dripping wet like it would have been if I hadn’t worn the hat. That was rather disappointing (and annoying) and I won’t be using that hat again for sure. I also sported some horrific goggle marks (proof HERE).

Wednesday I met with a close friend who has started to run. This is the first time we ran together and we opted to head down the very steep Highgate Hill and up onto the Heath for a gentle 5K. This was merely a fun social run so we just had a nice little jog to stretch the legs. Plus it was boiling hot, so it was nice to not push it.

Thursday was my weekly track session with the club coach. Being a former sprinter, I do tend to be stronger at these types of sessions and I love getting the chance to pelt it round the track. This session was all about strength building and managing controlled discomfort. We started off with 800m at threshold pace, following by 2x 800m at 3K pace and 5x 400m HARD!

I really, really pushed myself at this session and was thrilled to land my first ever sub six-minute mile! I was absolutely shattered when I got home (as you can tell by the picture below) but I was really chuffed with my improvements.

Friday was, as it always is for me, rest day. This is normally my time to head out for drinks and see friends and that is exactly what I did. I only had one drink though (the sunshine made me crave Rekorderlig) as I had to get up early Saturday morning to head out for a scheduled eight mile run. I opted for my favourite city route but took the option that heads through Angel, past St Paul's and over Millennium Bridge to Westminster. 

A very sunny London!

The weather was divine – blue skies and very hot! I was aiming to do 8.30-minute miles but I finished with an average of 8-minute miles and felt very controlled throughout my run. What I also love about this route is that eight miles brings me to The Mall where I get to finish in front of Buckingham Palace – one of my favourite spots in London.

Buckingham Palace

Sunday I was itching to take my new bike out for a ride. I haven’t really been on it much since I purchased it and being new to cycling in London, I want to practise being out and about in the city before I begin the hectic cycle to work in the mornings.

I didn’t really know here to head so I decided to cycle up to Hampstead and down through Swiss Cottage to Regents Park. The first couple of miles were uphill which I found really tiring (more so than running!). By the time I got to Regents Park though, I felt fairly confident on my new wheels and after a pit stop for a quick drink, I cycled back through Primrose Hill and Chalk Farm to go back on myself home. I think I cycled around 10 miles, so not far in bike terms, but it was definitely a very enjoyable hour!

Pit stop in Regents Park 

This coming week I am off work (hurrah!) and will be spending some time with friends and family before heading over to Reading to take part in this year’s Mizuno Endure24. I’m running with my former athletic club and I am SO excited! I’m set to run four laps of five miles over the 24 hour period so I will ensure I set myself a good taper in the days leading up to it. I will of course be posting live updates on Twitter & Instagram so make sure you keep up with that (@lipstick_runner for both channels) and a blog post will follow shortly afterwards.

Lipstick Runner.

Friday, 20 June 2014

RACE RUNDOWN: Wiltshire 10

I entered the Wiltshire 10 as it is a perfect spring half marathon training run. It takes place every year in the middle of February and is a great local organised event.

Starting in the King George V playing fields in Melksham, you head out on a very pretty, scenic route. It starts off relatively flat and you spend the first couple of miles running down some winding country lanes. Traffic isn’t closed off for the event but as it is a quiet area, there aren’t many cars about but you do need to be on high alert for any that come careering around the corner. There are also plenty or marshals along this part who are on guard to warn runners of cars approaching (and vice versa).

After this you carry on through some undulating areas before arriving in the quaint village of Lacock (where I believe parts of the first Harry Potter movie was filmed!). There were a great bunch of crowds at this point cheering you on, which was fab as we had reached the half way mark at this point. 

(Lacock Village)

Next, you do head up a small, steep hill but nothing too challenging before ending back up on the bendy country lanes heading back on yourself to the King George V playing fields. I actually liked this part of the course as it gave me a good gage for how long I had left and determined whether I could start to push the pace. The very last mile of the race is along the River Avon, which leads up the playing fields where a good, straight sprint finish awaits!

The capacity for this race is very small (when I ran there was around 200 participants) so I would recommend getting in quick when entries open, which I think is late summer. This does come with pros and cons. The positive side is that you aren’t sandwiched into large groups all pushing and shoving but the downside is that it is quite a lonely run – I ran mostly by myself.

Overall, I would highly recommend the Wiltshire 10 and I will definitely try to return in 2015. I loved the whole experience and the course was varied, scenic and not too challenging. You also get a finishers mug at the end (because you can never have too many mugs!). My only niggle would be the toilet situation. There weren’t many as they only open those available in the playing fields hall so I did have to wait in a big queue for a while. But I can safely say that everything else adds up for this.


Course: 5/5
Scenery: 5/5
Facilities: 2/5
Water Stations: 5/5
Medal & goody bag: N/A

My time: 1.23 (Feb 2013)


Find out more information about Wiltshire 10 HERE.

Lipstick Runner.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

KIT PICKS: If the shoe fits, don’t ever change it!

When I first started road running three years ago I wasn’t too fussed about what I wore on my feet. In fact, when I went to my running club for the very first time I wore a pair of bulky Adidas trainers that had been stuffed away in a cupboard for a good few years. When I eventually decided to invest in a pair of new running sneaks, I opted for ASICS Gel Nimbus 14 and still to this day, I have no idea why.

ASICS is a brand I love. In my teens, I always wore ASICS spikes so I think that’s what drew me to the Gel Nimbus. I also liked the idea of extra cushioning and they looked quite snazzy. What I didn’t factor in was whether they were the right shoe for my running style. In case you were wondering - they weren’t.

I trained for my first half marathon in the Gel Nimbus and what a ball ache it was. Every time I ran (whether it was a parkrun or the Wiltshire 10), I would hobble over the finish line with numerous blisters burning on the inner sides of my feet. The outer side of my feet also KILLED! The feeling when running really got to me and when it finally came round to running the half marathon, I last minute ditched the ASICS and opted for the decrepit Adidas pair, which on race day were just as horrendous.

So by this point, as you can imagine, my feet aren’t looking great and after feeling like I got my money’s worth with the ASICS, I popped to Sweatshop and did a gait analysis and was prescribed a neutral road running shoe. I had the choice of an ASICS pair (the exact name escapes me) or the Mizuno Wave Rider 16. The latter felt like a lightweight dream (and looked pretty) so 45 minutes later and £100 down, I left the shop with my new trainers.

I haven’t looked back since. I absolutely adore my Mizuno’s. No blisters, no aches and a series of PB’s came with these bad boys. They offer moderate cushioning in a weightless frame and the Wave technology provides protection from impact to allow for a smoother run. They also have plenty of ventilation to remove any signs of heat and humidity.

Just over a year later, I am still living in these beauties but they are starting to look a little worse for wear (as you can see below). Will I be opting for a new pair of Mizuno’s? Hell yes! In fact, I already have. I managed to find the exact same pair on Achilles Heel for £70, which I am super chuffed about!

Now I know how I run in Mizuno and how they feel on my feet, investing in a new pair of trainers could not be easier for me. I am a Mizuno wearer through and through (on my feet at least) and thrilled to have a squeaky clean new pair. I haven’t forgotten about my ASICS though. Due to the Mizuno’s being designed for road, I can confirm they don’t bode well for trail races (as I discovered at Bayer 10K a few weeks back). My ASICS however, might just be a good option if I ever decide to opt for a trail run. I’ll just have to make sure I wear extreme blister proof socks! 

If you are reading this and new to running, I recommend two things when it comes to finding the perfect pair of trainers:

1. Be patience
2. For Pete’s sake, do a gait analysis!

Lipstick Runner.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

RACE RUNDOWN: Cabbage Patch 10

Every year, the famous Cabbage Patch pub in Twickenham hosts a fast, flat 10 miler that is a great race for a target PB. I completed the race in October 2013 and made sure I got my entry in early for 2014!

Spanning 10 miles over Twickenham and parts of Kingston, Cabbage Patch 10 has been running since 1982 and if you one of the speedier ones, you are in with a chance of landing some great cash prizes.

If you are like me and want to write a new PB in your record book, Cabbage Patch can easily offer this. With the race taking place in October, the weather is normally mild and it is, I find, a great opportunity to keep the legs ticking over a long distance, especially if you are pre/post marathons and half marathons.

The course starts in Twickenham town centre, with the Cabbage Patch pub the main hub to plonk all your bags and clothing during the race. The road in which the race begins is quite narrow so if you are gunning for 1.15 or below, I’d recommend you try and get a spot in the first quarter pack of runners.

As I mentioned above, the course is incredibly flat and takes you through pretty residential areas, along with a couple of spots where you run through nearby town centres along the route. Around mile three, you enter Hampton Wick where you are directed to run on the path round the centre. Last year at this point, I was running with my best bud and was having a bit of a natter when I turned a sharp corner to go over a bridge and ran hard straight into a lamp post! Luckily, we both found the funny side of it, but I did feel daft and it reminded me that I needed to stop yabbering and concentrate on where I was going.

Past the halfway mark, you begin to come into some lovely scenic routes, which eventually leads you along the canal.  Here, as like any other towpath, it can get quite narrow and as this is around the mile 7/8 mark, make sure you have done all your overtaking before this and leave the last stretch which loops back in town for putting your foot down!

Once you’re off the canal, you then trot over a bridge and are on the final stretch. I was in a bit of a daze at this point so I don’t remember very clearly the last mile but the finish is at York House. Once you cross the line (and cheer!), it’s a nice open space so great for a meeting point with fellow runners. You also collect your free t-shirt here (which by the way I LOVE and wear all the time in the winter training months as it’s long sleeved yet thin).

Now sadly last year when I ran, I did have a troubled ITB and I did struggle by the time I got to the canal and my pacing drastically dropped. I remember feeling exhausted and regretted setting off too quickly at the start (epic fail for many of us eh?). I somehow managed to pick myself up and crossed the finish line at 1.20, which was still a PB but not quite what I hoped for. Next time, I want to aim for 1.18 and more importantly, avoid running into any lampposts! Overall though, a fantastic race, perfectly organised and a bubbly atmosphere with bubbly runners. The only thing I will say (and it is only a minor niggle) is that back at the race hub, it does get rammed with people changed and freshening up so make sure you get back there in good time after you finish!


Course: 5/5
Scenery: 3/5
Facilities: 3/5
Water Stations: 5/5
T-Shirt & goody bag: 4/5

My time: 1.20 (October 2013)


Find out more about Cabbage Patch 10 HERE.

Lipstick Runner.