My Little Mop Head
Everyday Adventures, Motherhood

Everyday Moments: My Little Mop Head

After six months of growth, my little man develops a glorious mane of curly blonde locks. It’s shaggy and unkempt, largely due to the fact that I rarely comb it, but it’s carefree and a bit wild, like childhood should be. I imagine an older version of him and that hair catching waves on a sunny California beach.  (Note to self, teach him the word “dude.”)

I’d leave it alone but eventually it gets in his eyes and he wants it cut. I let him decide. I feel like it’s important for him to know that he has choices in life, even about something so mundane. And that I trust his judgement.

And, so just sixty minutes after I captured this, my little man’s shaggy locks were gone. Now he’s older, wiser, and clean-cut. Now I imagine the older version of him in a prep school jacket and tie, surfing the stacks in the library.

Snip. Snip. Sniff.

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This Everyday Moments post is part of a regular photographer’s blog circle that I join. Through images, we share moments that celebrate the everyday adventures that make up our lives. Please follow our circle around to see what Everyday Moments Laura captured this month.

Running is a Secret Superpower
Running

Book Review: Up and Running

So how are those New Year’s fitness goals going? You know you’ve got them. I’ve got them. I ran a marathon a few short months ago and now I feel like I couldn’t even run 5K. There have been other priorities and then maybe a few too many chocolates and definitely a few too many glasses of wine and, well, I fell off the running wagon. Hard.

But now it’s time to get my head, my legs, and my feet back in the game. So I was grateful to read the new book by my trusted running coach Julia Jones and her partner Shauna Reid. Their book, Up and Running, is primarily targeted at those picking up running for the first time and lays out an 8-week plan to get you from zero to 5K. But the thing is, even as an “experienced” runner, a runner who needed to get her mojo back, I found this book full of wisdom.

There are any number of plans out there that will help you start running or prepare for a specific race goal. Running magazines and websites are chock full of them, plans like the popular Couch to 5K. But while these might give you guidance on a schedule of running workouts, I think they miss the big picture entirely. As I mentioned in my Circle of Running series leading up to Berlin, there is so much more to being a runner, at any distance, than just running. And following a program that doesn’t take a holistic view of how running fits into your life doesn’t help you make running a lifelong habit.

This is where I think Julia and Shauna’s book sets itself apart. Yes, there is a schedule of workouts to follow, but instead of just running, they also include the stretching, strength, and agility drills I’m well familiar with such as skipping, squats, and sprints.”If you want to improve your running style and avoid injury, you need to do more than just run.”

They also talk about how critical it is to understand your motivation for running and identify typical challenges and barriers. “Even seasoned runners can have a difficult time convincing themselves to lace up their shoes.” No shit! So there are practical suggestions on how to confront obstacles and get out of your own way. The key piece of advice that I took away is about making your health a priority and putting yourself at the top of your own to-do list. Put your own oxygen mask on first.

I was also really pleased to see that they included a section in the book about cleaning up your diet. I firmly believe that anyone who believes that some fad diet alone is going change their body and help them get fit is misguided. The same goes for anyone who thinks they can do a load of exercise yet still eat as much pizza and beer as they want. Healthy food choices and exercise together are both pieces of the puzzle. And in my previous training with Julia, especially marathon training, diet was one of the big questions on which she provided guidance. The fuel that we put in our bodies 100% impacts how we feel and how we perform mentally and physically.

I can’t run without a plan. There, I’ve admitted that to myself. I think this is why I’m constantly signing up for races. Without the next “thing” on the calendar or a plan to follow it becomes too easy to fall off the wagon and make excuses. So if you’re like me and looking for a plan to get you into running for the first time or need help getting motivated to pick it up again, Up and Running is worth a read. It will help you run for fun and enjoyment and get you to 5K and beyond.

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UP AND RUNNING is an 8 week plan to go from zero to 5k and discover the life changing power of running. It’s a tried and tested and time-efficient beginners plan, suitable for everyone from manically busy mums to frazzled office workers. We’ve coached thousands of new runners across the world in our 5k e-courses (link to http://www.upandrunningonline.org/5k-course) and discovered the winning formula for 5k success. We learned that running is a mental exercise as much as a physical one and so the program beings with a warm-up week to set your intentions, get organized, and prime your mind for the challenge ahead. This is followed by a realistic, achievable eight-week training programme (including treadmill running options) to ensure that you make it across the finish line. We finish with a Beyond The 5K chapter to help you prepare for the 10k distance.

UP AND RUNNING will get you fired up and excited about running. It will show you how to fall in love with fitness, and with your own life. It’s in stores now from CICO Books – find out more at http://www.upandrunningonline.org/book.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book to review but my opinions and comments are completely my own.

Santas on the Run
Running

Race Diary: Santas on the Run

I’m not even sure whether the little man still believes in Santa Claus. He’s made a couple of comments that have us wondering whether a school mate’s older sibling spilled the beans. But he’s still been excited about the holiday and he was full of smiles and laughter as we decorated the tree.

So I though what better way for us to take part in the jolly spirit of the season, then to run around the streets of Oxford dressed as the big man himself. Along with about 2000 other runners, the little man and I spent last Sunday morning “running” a 3K race in full Santa gear. It was a dreary morning, but as the sea of Santas gathered at the start, Christmas music played through the loudspeakers filling the day with festive cheer.

This was the first time that the little man has participated with me in a race. I’ve wanted to involve him in my running and this short, family event was perfect. He did tire of the running pretty quickly though and we likely walked about two-thirds of the way. But when we closed in on the finish, he did sprint with me to the end and I could see that he had a little smile on his face as the crowd cheered him on.

And to top it off, he got a medal and mince pie at the finish.

Santas on the Run

Berlin Marathon
Running

Race Diary: Berlin Marathon 2014

Yes, it was two months ago.  But, yes, I finished!

Those of you who had followed my series leading up to the marathon knew that I was struggling those last few weeks, filled with doubts. For a number of reasons, the last three weeks of my training were just rubbish. Too much other life stress meant I struggled to find the will, the energy, and the time to go out for a run.

But as soon as I found myself in the middle of 40,000 people at the start of the marathon, all of that doubt just dissolved away. I knew I’d put in the hours of training and I knew that the excitement of the day would carry me through. Most of those running along side me likely had specific times they were looking to achieve, and, honestly, this was probably the number one question I got asked when I said I was running a marathon. How fast do you want to finish? What’s your target time? Etc. Etc. As if that’s the only measure of success. Instead, I ended up with just three simple goals for my first marathon:

  1. Finish.
  2. Finish with a smile.
  3. Finish with clean underwear.

And I can say I was successful doing just that!

The journey to Berlin didn’t have the most auspicious beginning though. Our flight from London was severely delayed and when we did finally take off, it seems they didn’t get anyone’s bags on the plane. Those of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook will already know how I felt about British Airways at the time as my carefully packed bag of running kit still sat in Heathrow. (Yes, LESSON LEARNED. When traveling for a big race, CHECK-ON.) So, I spent most of my Saturday chasing British Airways for our bags which finally, thankfully, arrived just after mid-day.

Luggage sorted, I was then off to the race expo to collect my number. It was held at Tempelhof Airport, site of the Berlin airlift, and I quickly realized that it wouldn’t have mattered if all my running kit still sat in a hangar at Heathrow. Filled with acres of booths peddling every bit of running gear imaginable, including my same shoes, my credit card and I could have quickly rebuilt my race day kit.

Berlin Marathon

One of the things I had worried about was my pre-race meals and how I’d figure out how to eat the right stuff while travelling, likely eating out in restaurants. As it turned out, I shouldn’t have worried. Italian restaurants dotted just about every corner of our neighbourhood, so pasta was an easy choice. I also found myself lucky to have an American diner directly across the street that specialized in pancakes. Also, our local shop had the rice cakes, peanut butter, honey, & banana that make up my usual race day breakfast. On race day morning, and in keeping with my race goal number three, I washed it all down with an Imodium. Brilliant.

With a race start just after 9AM, race day was an early start for me. We stayed in a lovely apartment in Prenzlauer Berg, formerly part of old East Berlin and so I needed to allow about an hour to get to the start area on the U-Bahn. But while the streets were mostly quiet as I left our flat, I immediately found myself meeting other runners on the same journey to the start.

Berlin U-Bahn

Because who’s on the U-Bahn at 7AM on the Sunday of the marathon? Runners, lots of runners. And a banana, who was also a runner. As we got closer to the start, the carriages became filled with runners and, in the end, the crowd resembled the London tube at rush hour, just with sneakers instead of suits.

Berlin U-Bahn

Getting off the U-Bahn, it was easy to find my way to start, I just followed the crowd. Heading to the start was the first time I’d been into the center of Berlin since we arrived and the early morning walk was a great way to experience the city. Morning sunlight was glistening over the Holocaust Memorial as I walked past and I did stop for a moment just to take in the scene and significance. The route to the start also took me through the Brandenburg Gate for the first time. Next time, I’d be running through it.

Brandenburg Gate

If I’d been able to order the day’s weather off a menu, I would have chosen exactly what Mother Nature delivered. Crystal clear blue skies, cool-ish weather. Perfect for running 26.2 miles.

Brandenburg Gate
With 40,000 runners, I was expecting crowds. And for the most part, the Germans managed this with the precision you’d expect. But I was surprised that there weren’t more loos. I thought I’d given myself plenty of time to get to the start, but by the time I’d dropped off my bag and waited in the enormous loo line, I ended up having to rush to the start. And it was pretty early in the race when I came to regret only having time for one pre-race trip to the loo.

Berlin Marathon
I started in the last wave of runners, well behind the elite and fast runners but the atmosphere was still electric. The crowds, the beautiful day, and bass from the club music pounding through the loudspeakers filled the air with excitement.

Yesterday’s #berlinmarathon start was electric. Never run with so many people.

A video posted by Katherine Lightner (@katherinelightner) on

After the start gun went off, it was easily another 10 minutes before I actually crossed the start line. Thank goodness for chip timing, right? For the first few kilometers, I took it super slow and easy. I’d let go of the pressure of getting a specific time and so just wanted to make sure I didn’t start too fast, something I’ve done plenty of times in other races and then bonked. Given the pace I’d been running in training, Coach Julia had told me to make sure I didn’t go any faster during the first 21 km than 6:30 min/km and I stuck to that slow pace (or slower). I was super conservative with speed as the most important thing was finishing and feeling good.

Berlin Marathon Start

It was at about 5 km that my bladder starting sending out warning signals. Drat that long loo line! I looked on with envy at all the men just darting off to the side of the road for a quick loo break. I hung in there as long as I could but my bladder hit the wall at around 10 km and I gave up and stopped at the port-a-loos. The queue was thankfully only a handful of people deep, but the stop probably cost me about 5 minutes.

Berlin Marathon

Because of my slow pacing, I was still feeling really good past the half-way mark. I stuck as close as I could to the blue line, the official racing line that’s painted on the streets. The blue line served as a mental checkpoint and something to keep me focused. The crowd and the atmosphere along the route were just amazing and served to keep my mind engaged and free of boredom. People lined the route everywhere cheering. And then there were the drums, drum bands everywhere. Who knew there were even so many different types of drum bands? But they were great at motivating me to keep running. As a tourist, this was truly a great way to see a new city.

Berlin Marathon Blue Line

Even though I still felt good, I did stop and walk through most of the water stations after the half way point. Plus, the water was in open top cups and that is frankly impossible to drink while running! The water stations also became a minefield with deep trenches of open road cutting a path between the mountains of discarded plastic cups. I had to be careful to navigate the clutter.

You hear about the wall, everyone talks about hitting the wall in a marathon. But I never felt like I hit the wall. By around 35 km my legs were starting to feel like jello and things were getting tough. But I never felt like I couldn’t keep going. And, as my name was on my race number, there were cheers from complete strangers urging me to keep going. Once I got past 35 km, I finally allowed myself to start believing I would finish and for those last couple of kilometers, I even picked up the pace. I didn’t bonk and I still had the energy to run to the finish.

As you’re running through the streets of Berlin, there is this magic moment when you turn a corner and then see it, the Brandenburg Gate and the finish dead ahead. All those months of training had culminated in this, a final sprint to the finish. (I felt like I was sprinting though video evidence suggests otherwise.) The experience at the finish was overwhelming. There were crowd filled grandstands, cheerleaders, and big screens. I ran through the Brandenburg Gate with my arms in the air and a big smile on my face. What an amazing life experience I’ll never forget!

Berlin Marathon

Finish time 4:53:38. And I’m over the moon with that. In my first marathon, I finished in under 5 hours, managed a negative split, and overcame the mountain of doubt I’d had before the start. In training, the furthest I ever ran was a half marathon as Julia built my plan around fartlek and threshold runs and less about the traditional long slow run. But Julia listened to my doubt and assured me that it would be ok, that I would do it, and she was right. Thanks for the encouragement Julia!

And how cool to have been in the same race when Dennis Kimetto set a new world record!

Berlin Marathon

Then it was time to collect my bag, change clothes in the middle of a field (modesty was out the window), meet up with family, and head back to the U-Bahn for the journey home. I’d packed plenty of post race recovery fuel to feed me until we got home. And then I wolfed down a nice juicy burger and fries from the American diner across street.

That night, my legs were sore and stiff and not very interested in moving around. However, an early night and a long sleep meant that I felt ok enough to go exploring around Berlin the next day. Another thing Julia was right about, the fact that I wouldn’t be sore the next day.

Training for a marathon is no easy undertaking and there were any number of sacrifices and tradeoffs that I had to make to fit in training. I’m grateful to have friends and family that supported me (and put up with me) during my months of training. But it was such an amazing adventure that I’m so glad I took on. So yes, I finished, I finished with a smile, and I finished with clean underwear (maybe).

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SHANTARAM Countdown:  Finished. An excellent audiobook. Highly recommend. And, Humphrey Bower, the narrator, is freaking amazing.

Autumn Morning
Soul Searching

Everyday Moments: Autumn

Autumn is one of my favorite times of the year. The changing season is a feast for the senses, full of pumpkin, apples, spices, and a kaleidoscope of color painting the landscape.

This year, however, I feel like the wonders of Autumn have come and gone and I’ve barely noticed. September and October have been full to the brim of DOING ALL THE THINGS. There have been birthday parties to plan, school to start, marathons to run (my long overdue Berlin race diary on the way), houses to move, and family illness to manage. It’s taken all the strength I have just to keep putting one foot in front of the other and not go flying off the back of the treadmill.

So when it came to finding photos of Autumn to share for this month’s Everyday Moments circle, I didn’t have any. My camera and I have become strangers in desperate need of some couples counselling.

But as the seasons begin to change again, the frenzy of Autumn has left me with a new space. Now, I can gaze into the winter mist as the sun rises over my new back garden. And I can sip my morning coffee and just breathe.

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Please follow our circle around to see what Laura captured this Autumn. I’m sure it’s lovely, she has an amazing eye.