27.3.15

Volunteers View: North London Half Marathon with Kiera

I've participated in a fair few races - from free Parkruns and small club 10ks, to Nike sponsored half marathons and a world marathon major - but the North London Half Marathon was the first time I’ve volunteered at a running event. I signed up to volunteer at North London when I  realised I wouldn't be able to train for it, and thought it might be interesting to share my experience for Elle's readers. 

The Race: 

Inaugural Vitality North London Half Marathon, organised by GO2 (UK) Ltd.  Started and finished at the Saracens Allianz Rugby Stadium in Hendon.
On the morning there was also a ‘schools challenge’- where aprox 850 children ran their final mile of a half marathon challenge.

The Role:

I was away for most of February so missed the volunteer briefing sessions. However a comprehensive information pack containing a description of my role, and general briefing notes was sent out well before race day. Although I had initially been hoping to be out on course (especially after reading Laura (Life Laura London) and Becca’s (from snickers to marathon) accounts of course marshalling at Hackney last year), I was allocated as a ‘Rewards Marshall’, and became quite excited at the prospect of handing out the medals!

Race Day:

My alarm went off at 0520 - a very early start in order to get to the stadium for 0715. Luckily I was able to get a bus most of the way, and after a slightly bewildered walk along the M1 I found the stadium.  

 I signed in, grabbed a bacon roll and bright orange volunteers t-shirt. The rewards team leader (employed by GO2 events) gathered the volunteer team together and took us out to the rewards area - which was along the track where runners would be directed to after crossing the line. She went through the main duties again (setting up the rewards items for both the schools challenge and half marathon, handing out rewards to runners, keeping runners moving through the area, clearing up rubbish and packing up at the end of the race), and warned us that this area is one of the main places for medical emergencies at a race, so what to do if anyone did become ill. We were of course encouraged to congratulate runners as they came through the finishing chute as well!
"After opening pack upon pack of water and Lucozade (in the end digging out my keys to make this task easier), I will never take a drink for granted at a race again."
We got to work setting up the rewards- so that runners would pass through areas for water, medals, goody bags, Lucozade and bananas. After opening pack upon pack of water and Lucozade (in the end digging out my keys to make this task easier), I will never take a drink for granted at a race again. 

The race was due to start at 0930, and at about 0915 a group of us were asked to run around the race village encouraging runners to move to the start line, which was a 10 minute walk away. Although some people were still in baggage and toilet queues, I was surprised at how many runners were standing around chatting or casually arriving so close to race start time, although really felt for those that were running through the stadium, clearly having had problems getting to the race venue. 
"However about 5 minutes before the leaders arrived we were asked to take the medals out of the bags, and hang them around each runner’s necks. Cue slightly panicked ripping open of bags"
Once Mo Farah had set the half marathoners on their way, it was time for the Schools Challenge. One of my highlights from the day was chatting to some of the kids about why they liked running, and seeing how excited they were to be anywhere near Mo. The children started and finished their mile in the stadium and over the same finish line, so came through to collect their medals and goody bags. It was then time to make sure we had everything ready for the half marathoners - as were warned that the leaders were not that far off.  I was on the medal table and we had initially been told to give out the medals in the little plastic bags they were packed in. I didn’t love the idea of this as have never been given a medal like that at a race (and always wear my medal with pride), but appreciated it would be much more time efficient.  However about 5 minutes before the leaders arrived we were asked to take the medals out of the bags, and hang them around each runner’s necks. Cue slightly panicked ripping open of bags - I have to admit at this point I did think it was going to be a disaster but thanks to the immense hard work of my co-volunteers we did not run out of opened medals! 

Things started off nice and slowly for us with the leaders and speedy club runners trickling through - Becs (speedybecsruns) was one of the first runners I saw (I believe she finished 12th lady!). Once the ‘masses’ started arriving it was a pretty relentless but brilliant task of loading my arm up with medals and handing them out as runners came through. 

For each runner there was a super quick assessment of ‘do they want me to hand it to them?', ‘do they want it to be hung around their neck?’, ‘do they even want this medal?’, and for one or two- ‘are they about to vomit and/or collapse?’
I could not tell you the amount of times I said ‘well done’ or ‘congratulations’, but I meant it every single time. What made this long and tiring day so worthwhile, was seeing the elation and achievement in people’s faces and being able to jump up and down with them and tell them they had done incredibly. From people that had given everything for a PB, to the people that had completed their first half and couldn’t believe they had done it. There were a few runners who snatched their medals without a smile or thank you, but on the whole people seemed pretty chuffed. I was also constantly on the lookout for the 15 or so runners I knew in the event- and was so pleased to see all but 2 of them- including Elle! 
Jen & Kiera at the Finish Line

After the initial rush subsided, a handful of volunteers were moved over to help with the baggage area which was apparently pretty busy. The rest of us closed the finishing area down to one chute, so that runners could still come through but we could also start tidying up. My one main criticism of the event was how much packaging and rubbish there was, and I am not sure how much was recycled.
Our team leader got word over her radio when the last runner was coming in, and we all got together to clap her through the finish line. I was slightly emotional watching her come in just ahead of the amazing sweeper cyclists - but then I am the girl who stands in the rain for hours cheering on the 6+ hour runners at the London marathon every year. There was actually one other runner who had somehow ended up behind the cyclists - and as soon as we realised, he also got a big cheer as he crossed the finish line.

Once all the runners were through, we volunteers had a quick photo under the finish line, and finished collecting everything together.  I left the stadium at around 2pm - freezing cold and ready for a massive roast despite not having run the half!
"As a thank you for volunteering I have been offered free entry to next year’s event, so looks like I better get some hill training in!"
Overall I was really impressed with the race and am happy that the organisers are keen for feedback as they want to improve for next year if they can. Apart from difficulty getting to the location and the hilly course (both things runners could find out before signing up if they wanted to), the baggage seems to be the main thing I heard on the day which could be improved. As a thank you for volunteering I have been offered free entry to next year’s event, so looks like I better get some hill training in!
I would definitely recommend volunteering at a race to all runners- not only is it your chance to give something back, but gives a real insight into where your entry fee goes. 
It will also remind you to ALWAYS SMILE AND THANK THE MARSHALLS!! 

26.3.15

Elle About Town, March 2015

March has been full of the unexpected! With an unexpected house move, plus an actual house move (again) coming up, it's been interesting balancing life with training!  

Here's what I've been up to or plan on getting up to in and about London Town! 

Product: PROMIXX 2.0 

In a bid to keep my immune system working, I've been supplementing with protein shakes. After swimming lessons, after run club and just when I need a snack have been the times my shake has saved me.



What better way to prepare my shake then in my new PROMIXX 2.0?! I owned the previous version which was great in its own right but the update now comes with a rechargeable battery, plus a lid with storage for your powder (or vitamin pills ...anything you need to take!)

I fill up the bottle with my almond milk / water mix, pop my scoop of powder in the lid and off I go! It takes minimal time to actually whizz up your shake too and there have been no lumps in sight!

One lesson I did learn though...I wondered why it came with two lids and I worked out the answer when I used it the first time. When you use the powder stored in the little tub, you need the lid for the shaker. The tub is then left lidless if you don't carry the extra! Find out more and pick up your own {here}!

Product: Buff 

I love when opportunities arrive in a timely fashion! It's like the guys at kitshack.com knew I needed a running wardrobe injection of fun and function when they offered me the chance to try out a Buff. First things first, I had a hard time choosing just one from the thousands and thousands (I don't think I'm exaggerating?!) available on the website!


I chose an awesome blue printed one which I felt I would love for a long time to come. I road tested it for the North London Half Marathon which was a cold, chilly morning! I wore it as a neck warmer to keep the breeze from getting into my clothes. It did a smashing job...so much so, I had to take it off when I was too warm! I would've worn it as a headband but I already had one on! So I wrapped it around my wrist and forgot about it!

It'll definitely be a firm favourite in my running wardrobe though! I love that it's so light, but warm and very versatile! Check out the website for the video with inspiration!

Events: Swim Dem Crew 




So far, in my very short swimming career (I use the word career lightly), I have been swimming as a solitary fish in my lessons bar the one time I went swimming with Jen (of Eclectic Cake). I had a few bridges to cross in the form of swimming in a pool longer than 20m, swimming in a pool deeper than I could stand in and swimming with others. I hit all 3 at the same time through attending a session with Swim Dem Crew at the Olympic Pool in Stratford London.

Of the 60 minutes I was there, I think I actually swam for a maximum of 15 minutes. It took me a long while to get over how cold and deep the pool was. Then I had to get used to swimming with 15 other people and not having the edge all to myself.

I know though, that next time, I will be more confident as I know what to expect!

Events: London Bloggers Meet Up 


Met up with this lovely bunch in London to get to know each other a bit better!

London Bloggers, a group on Facebook, is a group to share ideas, opportunities, get inspiration and find collaborations! If you have a blog and live / visit London a lot then please join the group {here}.


Coming Up....

London Marathon Cheer Station 
On Sunday April 26th, I'll be heading out to cheer on all the runners who will be taking on the London Marathon. You can join me and find out all the details via the Facebook Event Page; This will be the hub for all the logistics, plus fun stuff like deciding what signs to create!

Triathlon Swimming Course 
...I start this 6 week course at the end of April and finish just a couple of weeks before my main event - Windsor Triathlon - in June. I'll also have the Eton Supersprints in May to test out what I learn up to that point!

What's coming up for you in the next month?! 


Elle :) x

24.3.15

Guest Post: Beetroot & Mint Dip

I LOVE beetroot. I get cravings for it. So sweet, so earthy, so full of iron! I'm also going through a very tahini-heavy cooking (/spoon and jar) phase right now (me + ground nuts and seeds... no surprises there!). 



What I tend to do when I'm completely obsessed with two ingredients is combine them - or better: BLEND THEM.

And so, this fluorescent beauty was born!


Beetroot & Mint Dip 



Ingredients


  • 5-6 cooked beetroot
  • 4 generous tbsp tahini (get the thick stuff from the bottom of the jar as the oil tends to separate)
  • Juice of 1/4 lemon
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or balsamic makes it sweeter)
  • Leaves from 5 large sprigs of mint
  • 1-2 tsp za'atar
  • Generous pinch sea/pink Himalayan salt & black pepper to taste (I love black pepper so I go wild)
  • 1-2 small cloves garlic or 1 tsp garlic purée 
  • 1/3 tsp cayenne pepper


Method 

1. Set one sprig of mint aside
2. Blend everything else until smooth, stopping to stir through a couple of times to make sure everything's well-combined.
3. Add the leaves from the saved mint sprig to the blender and pulse.
4. Serve. Eat. Yum. 

Kate :) 



As a singer, yoga teacher and lover of all things tasty, I'm constantly reviewing my connection with my body - and, by extension, the food I eat. I got into cooking in my early teens, when creating the perfect brownie was the biggest life problem I faced. Now, after digestive problems, sugar crashes and migraines have led me to a largely sugar-,grain-, and dairy-free existence, my love of cooking is driven by the search for food that is satisfying and nourishing. And just so you know, I consider eating almond butter from the jar (daily) both satisfying and nourishing..."

Follow Kate on Instagram: @misskatelister or check out her band at www.thefoobirds.co.uk 

20.3.15

Experience Eat First

A couple weeks ago, Eat First invited me to try out their food delivery service. I jumped at the chance as life was a little chaotic and having one less meal to prepare and think about was a bonus.

It all got arranged, and everything was perfect. of course. But I wanted to know what the experience would be like for everyone else. So I used the service again, and paid for it. Just to ruin the suspense though, everything still was perfect.


What is Eat First?


Each day, for lunch and dinner, there's a choice of two fresh and healthy meals (and a juice) that you can have delivered straight to you. You do need to be within their delivery zone in London though but it has been expanded recently and covers much of Central London including the City Mile.

How Does it Work? 


You can either visit their website or download the app to see what is on the menu on a given day. One  choice is always vegetarian - for example, butternut squash lasagne is an option which even as non vegetarian I would choose! On the site, they list the ingredients including any allergens in addition to the nutritional information.

You pay via card and then via the app you can watch your food make its way to you via a motorcycle courier. The system calls you 2 minutes before your food arrives so you can meet your driver on the kerb for the handover.


My Final Thoughts? 


It really is that simple. My food was hot and came with a full set of cutlery, salt, pepper and a small snack pot of dried fruit / nuts / seeds.

hoi sin chicken 

The driver was polite and friendly. My food arrived within 10 minutes of me ordering; I even had to rush back to the office to make sure I was there before them!

The flavour was just right; like your home cooking, where it isn't over the top and leaves you feeling satisfied. There's no getting away from your veggies either as each (non vegetarian) meal comes with a generous side of your 5 a day!

Thai green chicken curry 

Then of course, the cost. Each meal cost £7 including delivery. Juices are priced at £3. Now when I compare this to how much money I can drop in say, Pret or Itsu if I end up in there, I think it's a pretty sweet deal.

So, would I use them again?! For sure, it's a yes!

What's your fall back when you don't make lunch at home?! 

Elle :) 

17.3.15

Vitality North London Half Marathon 2015 #MyMoments

When writing this post, there are a few things I need to remember and keep at the forefront of my mind. The first is that I have barely run in the 3 weeks since smashing my half marathon PB at Brighton Half. The second is that I then no longer had any requirements for this day as I'd hit my goal for the year already. And the third is that I must keep everything constructive as my emotions on the day belong to me, and me alone.

This is how the event went for me.

For the first time ever, I read the race pack (albeit, the night before). It was a bit of a shock to the system - the course was going to be hilly and the start location would not be the easiest to access. I planned in my mind, an experience similar to Brighton - rock up 1 hour before the start, get fed, watered and just chill till it was time. No pressure, as I'd agreed to run with Bethan again; the plan was to just have a chat on the way round as a catch up (not seen her in like, 2 weeks!).

My journey didn't go to plan (that's Sunday morning on public transport for you) and I arrived about 15 mins before the start. I went to sign in, but there was a lot of confusion which left me racing to the bag drop just to have somewhere to leave my bag!

Vitality North London Half Marathon
15th March 2015 



Start Location: Somewhere outside of the Allianz Stadium, North London

Start Time: 9.30am

The Start: Thinking the start line was in the stadium (Erm, that's what the FB post from North London Half said that morning?!) I didn't think there was much to worry about until we realised it was actually a good distance away...out of the stadium. We eventually made it there as the last runners were leaving (I predict we started in the last 500), got to wave to Mo Farah and off we went...

The Route: The route was an out and back loop with the midpoint being that we got to run through Wembley Stadium, right next to the pitch. This definitely was the highlight of the 13.1 miles. And I'm not a football fan.


Before that, it was running next door to / under a dual carriage way / motorway, through some streets and areas which were very, very quiet and lacked support. Oh and then the recurring theme of the entire event were the hills...

Hill Mantra: head down, knees up 

I had just one big hill in Brighton. On Sunday, we had hill after hill, after hill and the downhill segments didn't even feel that spectacular!

There were a few bands speckled around the route but the most noticeable noise came from Run Dem Crew...

The Crowd: Run Dem Crew provided a huge heap of sideline support. That was amazing. The rest of the course had supporters here and there. My favourite were some residents who came out with some signs they had made! The two that stuck in my memory were "You Inspire" and "Good Luck! And Have A Good Day!".

The Atmosphere: There wasn't much time for me to soak up the atmosphere pre start; during the race everyone seemed friendly enough. We spent a fair bit of time overtaking people as we kept a steady pace.

The Drinks: There were 5 water stations on the course. Hooray! The water stations also were part of my best bits - they had kids / teens handing out the bottles who were so friendly and encouraging! Made me smile every single time as their enthusiasm seemed to be infectious! Lucozade was also available but as I don't train with it, I don't take it when I am running.

The Loo Situation: Plenty were at the start line and some along the course. They even had posh portaloos which were a bonus! There were more queues for the loos on the course than for the ones in the race village which I thought was fascinating!

The Finish: The stadium finish was pretty cool! By the time we got back, a considerable crowd had already completed the race and gathered on the sidelines of the final straight. Bethan did her usual sprint finish which actually made me smile!

The Medal: This was one part I was looking forward to! I love running for a medal and I also knew our friend Kiera was volunteering and would be handing out the medals so I made a bee line straight for her to get mine!


The Statistics:


My Official Time: 2:15:01

A HUGE THANK YOU (again) to Bethan who ran (and skipped) all the way with me! Even when I insisted she left me, she stuck with me!

Have you ever had an off day for an event?! How do you cope?! 


Elle :) 

p.s And Thanks to Vitality North London for my place. All opinions are my own :) 
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