Monday 30 July 2012

Olympic fever

After my 50 miler, I decided to take two weeks off running to really rest-up and make sure my body had a chance to fully recover.  I've had 7 days without doing anything (other than walking and one gym session) and although it's been a bit weird, I've made it through. There have been a couple of frustrated, restless evenings sat on the sofa & there was an extra 2lb showing on the scales this morning, but I do feel pretty good and I don't have any niggles from the ultra, except my very itchy and unattractive peeling sunburn!  But I know I'm not going to be able to make it another week without running, especially with Olympic fever sweeping not only our house, but it seems the whole country! :)

Francis and I were lucky enough to go to the technical rehearsal of the Opening Ceremony on Wednesday in the stadium, which was unbelievably impressive and inevitably much more atmospheric than it seemed when we watched the actual ceremony on TV on Friday night! Still really enjoyed the TV show though and thought the whole event was absolute genius - a fantastic representation of Britishness that I was incredibly proud of, if only through the association of my nationality!

As well as the spectacle that Danny Boyle created, watching the athletes parade was great - naturally, they all looked so enthusiastic and excited to be there - I found it inspiring to see them all.

We were also in London on Saturday for a family lunch to celebrate my 30th Birthday and took a walk along Southbank as my 5 year old 
niece really wanted to see the Olympic Rings hanging off Tower Bridge that she'd seen on TV. The atmosphere in London was fantastic, and everyone seems very excited about having the Olympics here.

To top it all off, I had my first Games Maker shift yesterday, working at the main Olympic Park which despite my nerves and reservations I really enjoyed - it's not about the job itself, it's just being part of it, and helping to create the almost tangible atmosphere that seems to have taken hold at Stratford.

We've also been watching nothing on TV except sport!  The Olympic athletes are all incredibly inspiring and so tonight I'll go out for my first run and although I'll build up slowly this week, I'm going to start preparing for the next race on the calendar, the Kent Coastal Marathon on 2nd September.  It's a race I really enjoyed last year, and it's organised by the Thanet Road Runners...who were manning the fantastic Jelly Bean Corner at the ultra!

There's not much time between now and then - just five weeks - but I've decided to spend it trying to regain some speed, which I've 
undoubtedly lost while I was concentrating on preparing my body to be able to run 50 miles! Of course, I'll still make sure sure I get my long runs in (and longer than I usually would for marathon training because I have the Toad coming up too) but I'm going to really concentrate on making my weekday runs count and speedwork and hill repeats are going to reappear on my schedule after going AWOL for the last four months!  

I'm quite looking forward to the change and the challenge and although I know it'll be difficult to be so much more disciplined during my runs, it's going to be good for me (will help get those scales down to where they should be!) and will hopefully ensure that I can get a decent time in the marathon.

Last year, I ran the Kent Coastal in 4:09:12 and I know I should be able to run faster that this year.  Although I'll do my best to significantly improve my speed over the next five weeks, this isn't a goal race by any stretch of the imagination and I wont be tapering for it so I shouldn't get my hopes up, but I know in my heart that come race day I'll still be going for sub a 3:50 PB. However unlikely it is that I'll achieve it, I'll aim high anyway - let's just call it a little bit of Olympic spirit rubbing off on me ;)

Thursday 26 July 2012

A blur of bright sunshine, blue skies, long grass & pain

Last year, on 28th July 2011, I wrote a blog post about how I'd signed up for the Challenge Hub 50 miler in July 2012 to celebrate my 30th birthday.

In that post, I said: I'm not a huge fan of laps [but] I think this is a safer option for me as a first timer, as it means I can get help or drop out if I have to without it being a logistical nightmare!  There is a cut-off limit of 15 hours and as long as I make it to 50 miles by then, I will be happy - I'm not going to worry about the time, just completing it will be enough for my first Ultra. I do have a very long time to prepare...a whole year...but I have two marathons already booked for September 2011 and April 2012, and I don't want to use those as training runs - I want to try and get a decent marathon time, so I will carry on training specifically for those, and then start following an ultra plan from April 2012.

Now, one year on, having had a 3hr 49min finish at that marathon in April, I'm so pleased to have achieved my year-long goal by completing the 52.4 mile course too. Despite my original misgivings, I loved the laps, and as strange as it seems to many of the people I've told, I couldn't have hoped for a better way to celebrate my birthday (although my present from Francis of a luxury long weekend to Paris is going to come pretty close!) ;)

Anyway, this is what happened over my ultra weekend:-

Francis and I drove down to Chislet in Kent on Saturday, the day before the race, so I could register. We found the start at the Marshside Fishery easily enough with the satnav, I picked up my number (with my name emblazoned across it which made me feel suitably special) and met Mike Inkster (a formidable ultra runner) who organises the challenge.  I was reassured that it wasn't a race, it wasn't about times or sticking to a plan, it was just about enjoying yourself as much as possible and finishing, and that I should leave my Garmin at home!  I agreed, but I couldn't silence the voices in the back of my head reminding me that my plan was to run to each water station then walk for 5 minutes, but that I really wanted to finish in under 10 hours after reading somewhere that to come up with a target time, you should double your marathon time & add two hours!

Anyway, after sorting that out, we took the opportunity to drive to the lovely holiday town of Whitstable for a walk along the front, and caught the tail-end of the Whitstable Oyster Festival.

Whitstable on courtesy of Adam Burt
Francis bought and ate half a dozen oysters, although I recoiled at the look of them, and we had a lovely and relaxing couple of hours by the sea! :) We soon headed back inland though, had dinner at the hotel (pre-race meal of baked camembert, followed by sausage and mash) and then to our room so I could sort out my kit in preparation for a very early start the next morning - I got to bed as soon as everything was laid out and thankfully fell asleep really quickly at about 10.30pm.

Sunday, 4:30am - the alarm went off! How early is that?!?! As it turned out, it was only just early enough. I was out of the hotel by 5.30am, and had barely noticed what an incredibly beautiful morning it was, before I'd arrived, vaselined my feet, pulled my trainers on, waved at Andy & Emma (from twitter & the Engima 30miler who are both in training for the ArctoArch in just 4 weeks) said a quick hello to Kaz (from the Enigma 30miler and both a former & fellow 10in10er) and found myself stowing my cool-box in the kit tent. Mike then launched some sort of rocket into the sky - when it went bang, we were off!  It really did all feel as rushed as that, and it wasn't until I was running that I realised what was actually happening...I was embarking on my year long anticipated, 52.4 mile run! I was however relieved that the morning had gone so quickly, as it meant there hadn't been any time for my nerves to take hold!

I remember initially being blown away by how pretty the countryside looked bathed in the early morning sunshine, although I was a bit concerned about how hot and sunny it was obviously going to get.  That soon gave way to being annoyed with myself that I hadn't done any training on trails or cross-country.  As we progressed round the course, I realised how very different running on uneven grassy tracks is to tarmac - everything I've ever read about running tells you to train on the surface that you are going to race on, but I didn't, and after about 8.5 miles when my ITB started playing up, I realised I was going to pay for being complacent about that.

Obviously this isn't the actual course....
You don't get mountains in Kent ;)
Anyway, I ran through the long grass, with the stems battering my legs until a few more laps had been run and all those trainers had beaten them down, and around the edge of fields, along concrete sections and down farms tracks covered by large puddles, until the last stretch of glorious, easy to run on, tarmac before getting back to the beginning of the next lap.  I saw Kaz, Andy and Emma a few times and we said our hellos (I'm absolutely loving this new world of actually knowing people at events!) and generally there was great camaraderie between all the runners...even the guys out front who were going at a really impressive pace made the effort to raise a hand as they lapped me :)

There wasn't much shade from a blistering sun and very few clouds in the sky, so it was hard going in the heat, but the water stations and fantastic marshals every couple of miles did a great job at lifting our spirits as well as always being ready with cups of water. The Jelly-Bean Corner water-station, manned by the Thanet RoadRunners, was particuarly impressive, and they looked after me and all the runners so well, making sure we were replenishing salts, had whatever food we fancied (my favourite was orange slices but they were cooking sausages at one point) and were keeping hydrated, as well as spraying me with suncream at one point, and being incredibly cheery and supportive even after they'd been out there for 10 hours!

I need to say a particular thank-you to Jerry for the sage advise (as always) to take a cool box to the race to leave in the kit tent at the start/finish - it made a real difference and it wasn't something I would have done had he not suggested it.  Not only did it mean I could swap my drink bottle for a cold one every lap (alternating bottles of water and powerade) helping me to cool me down a bit, I was also able to have cold milk and icy coke at the end of the last few laps, my snack box (a tupperwear box filled with rolos & salted peanuts) didn't turn into a gooey melted chocolate mess, and when the ITB pain was getting excruciating, I had the ice blocks from the cool box on hand to sooth my muscles.

Also a mention for Allan Rumbles. At the end of one of the laps I was reapplying my suncream (as I was already burning up a treat) when someone walked over to introduce themselves as Ogee, another impressive ultra runner who I know from Twitter.  He'd told me he was going to be there, crewing for someone else who was running, so I'd hoped to meet him, although with his Twitter avatar as a duck, it was pretty unlikely I would spot him in the crowd ;) It was great to have another person rooting for me, and on subsequent laps, he came into the kit tent to make sure I was ok or needed anything - it made a real difference to have the support, so thanks also to him!

So, on and on I ran, with a 12-hour audio book to keep me company for the long stretches where I didn't see anyone else. Bizarrely, my fastest mile was number 30 (which I ran in 10 mins). My Garmin eventually died at about mile 40 (which didn't matter as I'd not really been paying it any attention) and the next ten miles were without a doubt, and unsurprisingly, the most difficult. I had long ago abandoned my plan of running all the way between each water station and then walking for 5 minutes, and was just walking as and when I felt I needed to, as per Mike's advice the day before.  In those final two laps, I found that as I transitioned from running to walking, I started to stumble because my body didn't seem to be able to adapt quickly enough to the change, and at times each running step I took would send waves of pain shooting through my legs or across my back.  I sat down a couple of times at water stations, but not many, and not for long, and tried not to walk too often but still ended up doing it more than I'd hoped to.  I'd been walking for a couple of minutes along one of the grassy sections, and out of the blue, met Francis coming the other way on his bike. He'd spent the day cycling but had come back to the race and done a circuit of the course - it was a massive surprise to see him, but obviously a very welcome one...after he cycled off, I started running again.

Throughout those last ten miles I'm very pleased that I didn't consider quitting - regardless of the discomfort, it was absolutely inconceivable to me that I would fail to complete the distance - after so long planning it, this was my time to do this, and I kept thinking about that - that finally I was actually going to achieve something that for so many years had seemed so out of reach. I  had (pretty easily) come to terms with the fact that I would be outside the time I'd been hoping for, but with every step I knew I would make it round 8 laps even if it took me the full 15 hours. It's great to have learnt that about myself and I hope that self-belief will hold me in good stead for races in the future when it starts getting hard.

Although much of the day is a blur of bright sunshine, blue skies, fields of corn, long grass and pain, I vividly remember the last couple of miles. Running down the track towards JellyBean corner, I was really looking forward to the final energy boost I was about to get, both from the food & drink and also from everyone at the water station being so generally lovely and upbeat. When I reached them, they were as enthusiastic as I'd hoped and they topped me up with flat coke and jelly babies before sending me on my way, my ears full of their congratulations at having nearly done it. Around the corner, the last mile and a half is on a real tarmac road, through the village, and past the pub. I felt great and I couldn't quite get my head around the fact that I was finishing but knew it was fantastic that it was nearly over ;)  It was always such a pleasure to run on the road as it was so much easier on my legs, but I can honestly say that the last mile and a half was my favourite, knowing I was about to finish! ;)

Coming up the last stretch, I saw a runner in front of me. Now I know that this event is all about a personal challenge, and it's not a race, but I still would have loved to have beaten her and I definitely sped up.  I remember feeling so pleased with myself that I was still in a good enough physical condition to alter my speed, but I didn't catch her - she still looked really strong so I had no chance!  In the end, she finished in 10hrs 40 mins, I finished in 10hrs 41mins.  She was 3rd lady home and I was 4th, making me 12th finisher overall out of the 31 men and women who finished the full distance - they are placings that I am incredibly pleased with.

I know this is in my last post but
I love it so thought I'd use it again ;)
So - it was over.  Ogee was still there when I crossed the line and I got a congratulatory hug and a suggestion to wash off all the dead bugs from my face, Mike presented me with my medal and certificate and we all told each other how well we'd done. Smiles all round :D I headed to the kit tent to get my stuff and Francis soon joined me to take medal photos, and then to drive us home.

But it all felt a bit weird....obviously I was over the moon to have completed my ultra, but physically I felt pretty good and I didn't think that was right - surely I 
should have crossed the finish line and collapsed onto the floor?! I wondered if I should have put just a bit more effort in, walked less (particularly early on) and generally run a bit faster.  Yes, I know, some people are never happy ;) I think the explanation is that as soon as I finish any race, I immediately start forgetting the bad bits, particularly the intensity of any pain - in hindsight, as I really think about how hard parts of the run were, I know I did what I had to do to keep going. 
As it was my first time running anything over 30 miles, so much of the distance was unknown and I had to be careful to make sure that I had enough in me to keep going right until the end.

But yes, I finished and in good shape (except for the horrendous sunburn on two areas of my back which I couldn't reach to apply suncream) without a single blister on my feet and still able to walk and just about sit down. Feeling good didn't last though - I should probably have had an ice bath or done some stretching because by Sunday night the adrenaline had worn off, and I felt practically crippled.  Using the stairs was nigh-on impossible, and absolutely every part of my body was hurting...even breathing deeply caused my muscles around my chest to scream.  I'm pleased (and relieved) how quickly that's subsided, and I was able to go to the gym on Wednesday morning for a very easy session and today, four days on from the race, my legs are back to normal.  I can tell my body has been battered though as my immune system is low - on Monday I caught a cold (haven't had one of those for ages!) and I broke out in spots, again something that I never suffer with, and they still haven't cleared up yet despite me throwing loads of vitamins down my neck. The plan is to give running a rest for a week or so (again, thank-you Jerry for the advice) to let my body fully recover, but if catching a cold is my only injury, I'm very grateful to whichever running gods were looking after me at the weekend!

Anyway, today, I've had my medal engraved. I am proud to have finished, proud of my time, and hugely looking forward to going back and having another go next year! :)

Monday 23 July 2012

Ultra marathoner? That's me! :)

I actually did it! Yesterday, despite the 25oC heat and blazing sunshine, I ran 52.4 miles around the beautiful Kent countryside and I am absolutely over the moon to have joined the ranks of those crazy enough to run ultra marathons!

I'm going to write a full report about the event, but for now, I can tell you that I finished in 10 hours 41 minutes, it was the most painful thing I have ever done, but I had the most brilliant day.  Today, I am aching more than I thought possible, but I am incredibly happy and all the pain is definitely worth it!

Saturday 14 July 2012

Recovery and injury

Recovery from the 30 mile run was much easier than expected.  Although on Sunday I was very tired, I was amazed that using stairs and sitting down wasn't a problem and my legs still felt pretty good.  I didn't run, but we went for a walk in the hilly local woods, so I did get some movement to stop my legs seizing up ;)

DOMS set in a bit on Monday, but nothing too significant, and no-one noticed anything unusual in my gait at work, but I didn't run, really just because I was feeling lazy ;) Tuesday was back to normal though and I ran 5 miles home from the station and despite being much slower than usual (unable to pick up any sort of cadence) my legs felt fine.

Wednesday was my personal training session at the gym.  It was a hard session, but, as I have done with the others, I really enjoyed it and found myself achieving things I haven't done before.  Stretching at the end was painful but I was pretty sure it was just because I must have been particularly tight after not properly stretching after the race, and I pushed through it. My hamstrings and core were hurting as I walked away from the gym, but I was pleased with that...that makes me feel that the money I'm spending on the PT is worth it!!

Thursday, my legs were still hurting, but I went out for a run.  I was still telling myself it was just DOMS and that running through the pain was good practise for the latter stages of next week's 50 miler.

By the time Friday came though, my core had stopped aching but my hamstrings were still very painful in both legs: I realised I'd been kidding myself, this wasn't DOMS, I'd overstretched my hamstrings at the gym and had strained them.

So, I didn't run Friday, and after getting home from work spent the evening in my compression shorts, legs up and smothered in ibruprofen gel! I'm repeating today, and hoping to god that my hamstrings heal in time for next weekend.  I don't have any bruising, so it's not a proper tear, and although yesterday it was painful to straighten either knee, today I can do that, so I'm hoping they are healing from the overstretch.  Still painful to the touch, but getting there.

It means my mileage is going to dramatically suffer this week (as I was meant to be doing 6 miles on Friday and 15 miles tomorrow) but obviously at this stage I just need to concentrate on getting rid of the pain!

Wednesday 11 July 2012

I ran my first ultra marathon

On Saturday, I ran my first ultra marathon. It was 30 miles, in 8.5 laps around Caldecotte Lake in Milton Keynes, organised by Enigma Running.  I still can't quite believe that's I'll say it again...I ran my first ultra marathon!

My day started off pretty badly - the race wasn't until 2:30pm so my usual early morning race day routine went out the window.  I hadn't slept well, woke up early, got my kit together and had a bag packed by about 10am. Then I started to get horribly nervous about the would I cope running further than I'd ever run before, and what it would mean for my 50 miler if this race went wrong, and I also started panicking about what I should be eating (I knew just breakfast wouldn't be enough, but thought having a proper lunch would be too much). I was wandering aimlessly round the house getting more wound up, waiting for the time to come that I needed to leave. In the end, I gave up waiting and left early, thinking the drive would hopefully calm me down.

I soon realised that I'd left the house without any food, for lunch or the race, and without any drinks. I stopped at the petrol station and bought myself a picnic of some Go Ahead slices, a Mars bar, salt & vinegar peanuts and a can of Red Bull for my lunch. What was that all about?! Why didn't I buy a sandwich, a banana and a bottle of water?! I also bought a bottle of powerade and a flapjack for my race food. Flapjack?! I haven't had a flapjack for months and certainly not during any long run training. Madness. I drove to Milton Keynes, devouring my cereal bar, chocolate and peanuts as I went.

By the time I got to the Caldecotte Arms - race HQ - the rain that had been forecast was torrential. I pulled up in the car park and even with the windscreen wipers going, I couldn't see outside through the sheet of water that was falling! My nerves hadn't abated either - if anything I was feeling more anxious, as it was starting to dawn on me that my pre-race meal hadn't been very well thought out! As I'd arrived early, I took to twitter, telling everyone how worried I felt, and was quickly reassured that  the race was only four miles further than a marathon, that I would be absolutely fine, and there was no need to be nervous. I knew everyone was right, but it didn't help - by now I was feeling physically unwell with the nerves and full of doubt.

Finally 2 o'clock came and I decided to go into the pub and see if I could find where to pick up my number. This is where I started to realise that this event was going to be very different to anything I had ever done before...and that becoming a part of the ultra community and the Brathay 10in10 team really is going to be life changing.

I walked in. Loads of runners were sat around in the pub, drinking, chatting and laughing. Someone asked me if I was there to run...I told them my name and all of a sudden I'm getting a hug from David "Foxy" Bailey, organiser of the Engima events, former (4 time) 10in10er, and and fellow 10in10 runner for the 2013 event. He showed me where Heather was sitting (another 10in10er who lives about 5 minutes from me) and joked they'd been reading about my running exploits. Someone else told me how lots of the runners had run the marathon that morning, some of whom were running the ultra in the afternoon too.

I wanted to stay and chat, but really wasn't feeling good and so picked up my number and retreated back to the car, amazed at how everyone seemed to know everyone else, and how relaxed they all were, having drinking pints and having lunch.

Twenty minutes later I was back in the porch of the pub, chatting with a couple of others sheltering there from the rain, and I began to relax a bit. It was soon time though and we wandered over to the little yellow sign on the ground....[see photo below!]

Then, miraculously, the rain stopped...and my first ultra started.

Within just a few minutes, my nerves had completed gone, and it honestly felt like a physical weight was lifting from my shoulders as I ran.

I'd been worried about the course, particularly about there being no signs or marshals telling me where to go, and about it being so wet, but there was no need. The course followed an obvious route around the lake, with white arrows clearly marked on the path where there was a choice of direction. There were puddles, but I could run around them, there was a section of boggy grass, but I could run through it, and although there was one section where a massive puddle had formed, which required us to venture into the mud at the side, inch along a log, and then jump over to the other side of the puddle, into more mud, it was all part of the fun.

As I reached the end of the first lap, I got to experience the most relaxed water station I've ever seen. However, still somewhat in normal road marathon mode, I only briefly acknowledged their cheers, dumped my rain jacket, and ran on without stopping for water. As the laps went by...that changed and I started stopping for a few mouthfuls of water, but stayed while I drank, enjoying the atmosphere of what was essentially a group of friends, cheering on other friends and generally having a seems that at the Enigma events no-one's a stranger and everyone's your mate :)

So I went on - walking sometimes, chatting to other runners, amazed at how unpressurised everything was, and savouring the realisation that my race wouldn't end if I actually stood still at a water station...just so different to my usual races! I was also enjoying the unexpected variety of scenery that the lake offered...although was hating the unbelievable number of evil geese that frequently laid claim to my path. I really don't like geese, am pretty scared of them in fact, and the one negative I will remember about this race was how many of them there were and frequently having to run past them with my eyes closed...[shudder].

The water station :)
I got to 10 miles and had a bite of my flapjack, and it was pretty good. So when I got to about 20 miles, I had a bit more,  while I was taking a walking break and having a chat to a member of the 100 Marathon Club who I'd met at the Halstead Marathon in May. I probably ate more flapjack than I'd intended - I finished it while we talked. By the time I'd started running again, I realised that going 20 miles on my weird lunch, a bottle of powerade & a whole flapjack wasn't working out too well - I started to feel incredibly queasy. Not just a bit off, but convinced that any minute I was going to absolutely ruin my first attempt at an ultra, and my running shorts too...if you know what I mean ;)

Luckily, I didn't - I managed to get round to the end of the lap and swapped my powerade for water which I very slowly sipped, and kept running and walking until my stomach settled.

So I was ok, my shorts survived to see another race, and unbelievably, I found myself on my last lap, which was signalled by everyone at the water station "ding-ding-dinging" at me as I passed them which brought a smile to my face :) I had originally planned to run 10min/miles but had started off at just over 9min/miles, because I got carried away at the start, but the relaxed atmosphere, walking, dodging puddles and the boggy grass section, jumping over the mud, and stopping at the water station had all brought down my pace, so I wasn't too far off my original plan.

I came around the last corner and up to the finish line, crossing it at 4hrs 49mins, to be greeted by cheers and clapping, and was rewarded with a fabulous medal around my neck.

Ultra marathon - done!

I stayed at the finish line for a bit, cheering on some of the other finishers, and having a chat with Heather and Karen, who will also be running the 10in10 next year, and then David who I know on Twitter. When I decided I needed to head home, it was like saying good-bye to friends I'd known for ages...all of a sudden I seem to have been gifted this entire circle of wonderful people that I get to share my running with, not just on Twitter and Facebook, but in real life too!

I've always loved races and running, but it's just got much more I can't wait for the next one - 52.4 miles and it's in just 11 days! :)

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Is a Personal Trainer worth the money?

Today I had my third session with my personal trainer!  Ooooooh....get me.. ;)

James, my PT
Once the preserve of the rich and famous, it seems that every high street gym now has teams of PTs ready and waiting to help people in their search for a slimmer, fitter or stronger body.  When I was a regular at the gym a couple of years ago, I'd see the PTs working out, or working with clients, but was never quite sure what the point was, and never in a million years would I have imaged that I would be serious enough about my training to employ their services.  But things change. 

With my running focus now having switched to significant ultra distances rather than halves and marathons, I've realised that I really need to start working on my strength to give myself the best possible chance of not only completing the events I've got lined up, but of getting to the start line in the first place, and avoiding injury.  I've been considering how to achieve this for a while, and have started lots of Mondays with a plan of spending the week doing planks, sit-ups and press ups and all those other exercises in Runner's World magazine, to work on and improve my strength. 

Unfortunately, although I might do it for a few days, I'd never stick with it, and it really didn't make any difference.  I finally realised I needed some outside assistance!

So, I bit the bullet.  I went into the gym (where I hadn't set foot for months) and explained that I was a marathoner who didn't need any help with my running or other cardio but that I needed to work on my strength. The assistant I spoke to said she'd talk to the various PTs and work out who would be best suited to me and my goals, and get them to give me a call to arrange a session.  A week later I found myself changed, water bottle in hand, and ready for my first (free) hour of working out with Personal Trainer James!

As I briefly mentioned in a previous post, it went really well, and the two subsequent sessions have also been great - James understands what I'm trying to do and he explains which muscles are being worked by the different exercises I'm doing, and how that helps with the running.  I've found that I'm working much harder than I have ever done on my own in a gym, I push myself to achieve more than I thought I'd be able to, and he also has showed me how badly I was doing some of the exercises that I thought I was doing properly - my planks were twisted and my squats were more just leaning over ;)

I'm seeing real benefits in having a PT, and I really enjoy the sessions as I feel my body working hard and find myself improving, even during a single session, as I start to use under-developed muscles that my more developed areas usually compensate for.  But it's not cheap.  

I pay £40 per month for membership of the gym, and then on top of that, the PT costs £35 per hour.  I'm seeing him once a week at the moment and although there is an option to pay upfront for a block of sessions (and in return get a free session) at the moment I'm on "pay as you go".  As I progress, and get more confident in my workouts and what I'm doing, I might be able to drop it down to seeing him twice a month, but for the foreseeable future, I feel it makes such a difference that I'm going to stick with once a week.

So assuming that I'll miss a few sessions for holidays or other commitments, I can expect to pay about £2,000 for a year's PT training, which is just incredible - it's so much money! But after a lot of thought, I've decided that it's worth it if it reduces my chances of injury and makes me a stronger runner.  Running is everything to me, so it makes sense that I spend all of my money on becoming the best I can be and I really don't think I can achieve the level of progress in my training on my own, that I can achieve with the support, guidance, 
knowledge and motivation that comes with a personal trainer.

But I want to add one final thought to this I'm spending all my time and cash on making myself stronger, this is really the time to stop sabotaging my training by eating as badly as I do (lots of junk, massive portions, few vegetables and binging on biscuits!)

I'm about a stone overweight at the moment, which I know makes me slower than I could be and obviously puts extra strain on my body. I really have to start exercising a bit of discipline when it comes to food, because otherwise I'm really just wasting my money on all of these PT sessions, and in those media photos for the Brathay 10in10, no-one is going to believe that I'm an ultra-runner!