Every breath you take, every muscle that aches…or maybe not

Catherine Jaschinski from Illuminate Consulting, is a Yoga and Mindfulness Teacher.  Her blog for Run Reigate examines the benefits of diaphragm breathing for runners.


Sorry if the headline of this article is a bad play on the Police song ‘Every breath you take’ but hopefully my verbal karaoke has got your attention.

About the only time we pay any attention to our breathing is when we are out of breath.  In running it’s usually on the home stretch of a long run and if we are unlucky it’s going up a hill as well. Does anyone remember that from last year’s Run Reigate Half-Marathon?

Our breathing is such a critical part of anything we do and yet we take it for granted.  In running it can play a number of important roles, one of them being a ‘barometer’ for how we are feeling during a run.  Sometimes when we run, our breathing is heavy, sluggish and a real struggle to draw into the body, other times it’s is light, smooth and up-lifting.  Paying attention to the nature of our breathing can guide us to how our body is handling this run and with this information we can decide how to ‘pace’ our run, i.e. whether to push through the tough patches or whether in this particular instance it may be better to ease up a bit.  Your breath can be a great tool to help inform this type of decision especially if you are the kind of person who tends to push your body to breaking point and get injuries.

Another great way you can use your breath is to improve your endurance and recovery.  Yes, that’s right.  Not only is the breath helping you to get up and down those hills, but also if you actively breathe using your diaphragm rather than your chest, you can improve your endurance and will be less likely to become fatigued.  Now wouldn’t that be nice – not to have such aches and pains after a long run.

The evidence for this comes from research from the Centre for Sports Medicine and Human Performance at Brunei University.  They measured fatigue levels of marathoner’s respiratory muscles and leg muscles and found a direct link between them – runners whose breathing was the most strained showed the most leg weakness.  They concluded that the harder the respiratory muscles had to work, the more the legs would struggle in a race.  So the key to preventing lung and leg fatigue is breathing more fully which is exactly what happens when you breathe using the diaphragm.

This is all very interesting but how on earth do I actively use my diaphragm to breathe when I don’t know where it is!  Your diaphragm is a big muscle that sits underneath your rib cage and is responsible for 80% of the effort involved in breathing.  If your tuck your fingers under your ribcage and gently push upward you will feel it there.

The easiest way to learn how to diaphragm or ‘belly breathe’ is to do the following….

  1. Lie on your back with your feet on the floor and knees bent
  2. As you breathe in allow / encourage your stomach to gently inflate and rise upwards (this movement gets your diaphragm working)
  3. As you exhale allow your stomach to deflate and lower downwards
  4. Practice this for 5-10 minutes and then you can try it standing for a few minutes

Once you’ve started to train the diaphragm breathing in a stationary position (lying or standing) you can try to use it while walking and then eventually bring it into your running.

This type of breathing is also very good to relax the body and mind so can be used outside of running to manage stress, build resilience and balance in other aspects of your life.

Just as we would train our hamstrings and quads to improve our leg strength we can improve our respiratory muscles for better breathing and ultimately better endurance.  

So when you next head out for a run, take a moment to notice your breath, use your diaphragm (at the start of the run at least) and thank it for helping you to enjoy those longer runs a little bit more.

Catherine Jaschinski

Yoga and Mindfulness Teacher

Illuminate Consulting Ltd

Mobile: 07801 045 905

Illuminate Colour on Clear copy

The next Yoga for Runners workshop will be on Wednesday 5th October 7.30 – 9.30pm in Reigate. Call Cath on mobile number 07801 045 905 or email if interested.

Running man illustration

Advice on Shin Splints from Parkview Clinic

Run Reigate are delighted that Parkview Clinic in Reigate are joining us at this year’s event.  Check out their blog on Shin Splints and how their clinic can help if you’re suffering…


Shin Splints, also known as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome is a condition commonly suffered by long distance runners and affects the front of the lower leg. It will often begin as a dull ache along the shin bone, but can build up to be quite an acute pain that will stop you exercising.

There are a number of reasons Shin Splints can happen, however, you are most at risk due to the following factors:

  • You’ve recently taken up running or increased your distance
  • You run on hard surfaces
  • You’re carrying too much weight
  • Poor fitting running shoes
  • Your feet roll inwards
  • The muscles of your lower leg are too tight

The pain is caused by inflammation to the connective tissue that joins your muscles to the bone. If you feel these symptoms it is vital that you do not run through the pain as this will only make it worse and keep you of sport for a longer time. A minimum of 2 weeks rest, ice and anti-inflammatory work is advised. However, if you have not addressed the reason it has come on then it may repeat once you start running again.

A quick accurate diagnosis is important to confirm that it is Shin Splints and not other conditions such as Compartment Syndrome, Radiculopathy, Stress Fractures or Muscle tear.

An early visit to a physiotherapist is the best solution  to confirm this and assess the reasons behind the pain. Physios will look at the angles of your feet, the integrity of the foot arch, the bio-mechanical chains between your feet, knees and hips and examine your stride pattern during running.

As mentioned, rest is vital, but calming down the inflammation and muscle tension can be sped up by using treatment techniques such as Ultrasound, Acupuncture, Facia release, Massage and exercise rehab. You may also be advised on changing footwear or using Orthotics and importantly making sure your running technique is correct.

Often through a desire for speed and exhaustion runners will over-reach in their stride pattern creating a more acute impact angle when the foot hits the ground, usually with the knee locked out in extension, thus reducing shock absorbance. This exaggerated impact that sends a force through the shin bone is a common reason for Shin Splints to begin. Don’t worry though, changing your running pattern doesn’t mean slower times as your “Cadence” or strides per minute can easily be maintained!

If you are concerned about such pain and it is affecting your training routine for the forthcoming Run Reigate event then please do give the team at Parkview Clinic Reigate a call and come down for an expert assessment. You’ll be pleased to know they are currently offering all entrants 10% off treatments up to the 18th September!

Visit: 01737 247555


Jennie Platt Blog

On the home straight (through Reigate)…

It’s late July and it seems summer has finally joined us (cue random torrential downpour while the sun is still shining). I’m actually a bit gutted…I much prefer running in the colder winter weather, so it’s going to be hard work for the next couple of months to keep active. I know from my day job (at Women in Sport) that this actually bucks the trend as research shows that there is a drop off of female runners in the autumn and winter months – I always try to be different.

So as I said we are now 7 months into the year, this year isn’t an ordinary one for me, this year I get married. It’s a very exciting and busy time…wedmin is my life. When I got engaged (September 2015) and once the date had been set (December 2016) I decided to add to the chaos and set myself a challenge. Upon awkwardly purchasing my first bridal magazine, I realised that in addition to endless advice on overpriced cakes, photo booths and colour schemes, most offered a plan of how to get fit and healthy for your wedding. Some of the plans looked complex and crazy and really did reflect an uphill run at Greenwich Park! So I thought that rather than panicking 3 months out that my dress might not fit, I would commit to some sort of activity across the year – a slow and steady way to tone up and most importantly feel good for the big day. So…I invented the Wedding 10k Series…it has a nice ring to it don’t you think? In essence I committed myself, oh yes and my future husband, to run one 10k a month for 12 months in the lead up to our wedding. So a total of 12 10ks, 120k total.

I do love a challenge. I have completed so many over the past 10 years – Yorkshire 3 peaks, Run to the Beat Half Marathon, Thames Bridges Bike ride to name a few, but these have all been one off events, this would be different.

Oh and before I explain our journey so far it’s imperative to mention that I wouldn’t class myself as a ‘runner’. I’m a Netballer by trade, team sport enthusiast. Yes, I have dabbled in running, probably more that I care to admit, but I am not particularly fast or elegant (in fact definitely not the latter). My mind-set has shifted slightly, but I’m pretty sure when December rolls around I will still refer to myself as a Netballer.

So why 10k? 5k is easy right? Well, not quite, but for me it’s not too unpleasant, it’s kind of over just as you get into it and it’s less of an event. So 10k seemed a bit more of a challenge, not anything like a half (never doing one of those again by the way) but just the right mix of pushing yourself and getting knackered! Interestingly, for two very competitive people, it’s not been about the times for us – we have improved our PBs massively, but we are pleased to just get round some of the courses.

So in December last year I officially entered the world of running – trawling websites to sign up to local runs. We have always had two events booked in advance and found it relatively easy to find runs nearby. The Wedding 10k Series started in Windsor, around Dorney Lake. It wasn’t quite how I pictured our first event to go – picture the scene, two weary runners set off having just returned from a 3-week trip in Asia, it was a struggle and 8k was not our friend, but we managed it and were pretty chuffed at the end. Since then we have done Richmond, Maidstone, Battersea Park, Windsor Trails, Greenwich Park and Clapham Common. We are officially half way – for August we are running at the Olympic Park and September we are taking part in Run Reigate!

Jennie - Winter

September was a tricky one, but when we stumbled across Run Reigate we booked it straight away. We live in South West London and have probably exhausted all of the key ones in our area so are pleased to be going a bit further afield. The website was great and although slightly more expensive than other runs we have done, I like the vibe and it seems worth it. The process to book was probably one of the easiest we have gone – as let me tell you some are hard work as you have to book separately for each individual.

I already like the feel of Run Reigate – I have been following them on Twitter and saw last week that they have made some improvements from their inaugural event last year, I like that approach. All of the feedback from last year seems really positive too and this morning it was announced that Olympic legend Dame Kelly Holmes is starting the race. I have to say I am impressed…fingers crossed she will present us with our 9th medal (hint, hint)!

As I mentioned before I work for Women in Sport, we are the UK’s leading charity aiming to transform sport for the benefit of every woman and girl. Wo do lots of research and lobbying for more women and girls to be involved in sport, whether it be playing, working or watching. As a result, it means I look at running events differently – I look from a personal perspective as an active woman, but I also look with a deep understanding of women’s perceptions and values that drive their decisions to start and continue running. Run Reigate has done well on both fronts, the communications denote a friendly run with a community atmosphere, while still offering a good challenge. The website is also great too, showing ‘real women’ and not just sporting runners in lycra taking part!

We have been roping in friends to run with us throughout the journey and hope to have a few with us as Reigate. So if you are taking part in Run Reigate, look out for us and give us a cheer, we will definitely need the encouragement!  


Run Reigate would like to wish Jennie and her husband-to-be, good luck in their Wedding 10K series and all the best for the big day!

Dave Kelly & Daren Elliott


Run Reigate is well and truly up and running!

Well I have spent the morning with David Kelly the Race Director of the Reigate Half Marathon, 10K and New Kids Race.

With 8am on a Wednesday morning in July planned for our meeting in Reigate’s Priory Park I jog over to our meeting place and shake the hand of the person I have arranged to meet, smiles all round.

About me, well nothing out of the ordinary really. I have been a runner for many years, I have coached athletics and running with my local Athletics club, tried my hand at pace making over half Marathon and Marathon distance and am an Ambassador with the Brighton based Run Brighton Group.

So the meeting was about the purposed route change or tweak of the hilly section in the last couple of miles of the Reigate Half Marathon, the hilly section in question had received a bit of negative feedback and when brought to David’s attention to his credit he set out to do something about this.

How is it that you can run with a person you have just met and you can feel totally at ease, the conversation flows and the miles slip by, yet stand in a lift or on a train and there is complete silence.

Well, David introduced me to the Reigate 10k course which has a cracking first fast section and ample room to stretch your legs if you’re looking for a fast time, then we had reached the tweaked and improved section of the Reigate Half, yes it’s still a hill but nowhere near the incline from last September. In fact it was a very nice and shady climb not too heavy on the legs or lungs at all.

Within no time at all we were at the top of the now “not so hilly section” and were turning the corner to the side entrance of the Majestic Priory Park, this is where it all happens, this is when you know you have almost completed a half marathon because on the day you will be greeted by hundreds of cheering people all urging you on the last few balloon and ticker tape filled yards to the finish line.

Well we talked and ran, David told me about a fantastic new children’s race which is also taking place and will help to get kids fit and have fun…………Yes I had a very pleasant morning starting out running with a stranger and finishing with a friend.

Daren Elliott, Husband, Father, Runner…………in that order!

Running to great beats!

Running – The Beat Goes On…

You’re running laps round Priory Park lake as part of your interval training.   The last couple of sprints have worn you out and your legs have no more to give.  But wait, the intro to Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ starts on your phone and you’re off, running like you’ve never run before (apart from the last time it came on) and you’ve cut 2 seconds off your PB – job done!

Training whilst listening to headphones is a contentious issue in the running community, polarising people in parks, tracks and towpaths up and down the country.  Apparently there are two types of runners, those who are “associators” who like to have inward focus when running and “dissociators” who need to focus outwards and be distracted by what how they might be feeling.  Let’s have a look at both sides of the debate:

FOR – The Budmeisters

Runners, especially those who are new to long distance, find music to be an excellent distraction when they are a few miles in and feeling weary.  

Studies have shown that external stimuli can block out fatigue, increase your concentration and leave you feeling positive.  

It can be particularly useful in fartlek/interval training, with pumping songs helping you to keep the short sprint sessions going.  

For those training for longer races on their own, it can also be nice company when you’re out for 2 hours on a Sunday morning, pounding the Surrey streets.

AGAINST – El Silencios

Many purists believe that you are better able to listen to your breathing and be attuned to your body and rhythm, when not distracted by music.  

One of the joys of running can also be that chance to clear your thoughts and empty your mind of the day’s issues, returning home in a much more peaceful state of mind.  

At times music can result in you running too fast – think Michael Jackson’s ‘Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough’ (or pass out) versus too slow such as Adele’s ‘Make You Feel My Love’ (running and crying don’t mix).  

You can also enjoy the beautiful nature that we have in Reigate, birds singing, squirrels leaping, leaves crunching and passers by shouting out warnings of dog poo ahead.   


There are some runners who straddle these stereotypes choosing to have just one ear phone in, so they can listen to music and the outside world.  I personally am not able to multi-task in such a way and those people will only receive half of the wonder that is Kylie and Jason’s ‘Especially for You’.

Each to their own I say!  As long as you’re safe, watch out for small children and zombies …

SiS Runner

Run Reigate – The SiS Guide to Training

As well as producing some of the Run Reigate team’s favourite gels and recovery drinks, Science in Sport (SiS) also provide a wealth of training and nutrition advice which we’re really happy to share with you.  There are a variety of factors which can make the difference between you making it to the start line of your first half-marathon or 10K, or not!  First up is the most important element in any race preparation – training.  


There are three golden rules you should adhere to, to ensure you give yourself the best chance of starting, finishing and achieving your running dream:

R – Rest and recovery

These are two of the most underrated aspects of training.  DO NOT forget to rest and recover after hard-training.

U – Understand your limits

When it comes to endurance running, there are many things which are beyond your control.  Your “genetic potential” being one of them.

N – Never run on an injury

As tempting as it might be to try and ignore a muscle or tendon niggle, you are likely to make it far worse by running on it.

Training Intensity

Knowing how hard to push yourself is one of the hardest things to do when training for a race.  Your weekly training regime is a tricky balance between slow/steady sessions to build endurance and higher intensity sessions to increase your resistance to fatigue and increase your threshold.  

The question is how hard should you push?

Too Easy

Although slow and steady sessions are an important part of training, if performed too frequently, low intensity sessions can lead to a training plateau.

Too Hard

If you push yourself too hard, either by running too fast, too often or too far, then you are at risk of overloading your body and over stressing it – resulting in injury.

So, how do you gauge what intensity you should train at?

A heart rate monitor is an excellent way to ensure you are training at the right intensity.  If you don’t own one or need a guide, then check out the table below to get familiar with your “rate of perceived exertion”.

Rate of Perceived Exertion

1 Chilling, sitting down, feet up watching a movie 30-40%
2 A walk to the shops to get more popcorn 45-55%
3 A light jog 60-70%
4 A sociable pace, quicker than a job but able to chat 70-75%
5 Comfortable.  Got a good sweat on and you feel great 75-80%
6 Comfortable-ish.  You feel like it’s a good paced run 80-85%
7 Talking getting difficult.  Possible – but not very easy 85-90%
8 Only short answers to important questions possible 90-95%
9 Talking all but impossible 95% +
10 Talking is impossible.  You can only keep this intensity up for 10-15 seconds N/A

Approximate method to work out HRmax – true HRmax vary significantly from runner to runner.

Steady Paced Run (R.P.E. 3-5 or 70-80% HRmax)

A steady pace is just that – a pace which you can maintain for a long time  Steady paced runs will form a large part of your training.  This is the pace you should stick to for all your long weekend runs, as well as a good chunk of your mid-week runs too.  It helps build endurance and encourages the nervous and muscular systems to tolerate long distance running.

As you get fitter, you’ll find that not only will your “steady pace” get faster, but you’ll also be able to maintain that pace for longer without fatigue.

Tempo Paced Run (RPE 5-7 or 80-85% HRmax)

A tempo run is a pace which is a notch or two quicker than a steady pace.  At this intensity, talking is just about possible but you should only be able to manage “short-ish” sentences before need to take a breath.  

Beginners may initially find that a one or two mile tempo run is tough but a conditioned runner may be able to maintain tempo pace for a good eight miles and beyond.  Tempo session are excellent at increasing your tolerance to fatigue and should feature at least once a week in your training schedule.

Fartlek (RPE 6-8 or 85-90+% HRmax)

Fartlek is brilliant training but often underused by marathon runners.  It is based on a steady paced run but interspersed with periods of faster running at random times of your choice.  Vary the distance/time of the fast paced sections of these sessions to mix up the training stimulus and keep you interested.  Suggested times for fast sections can vary from 30 secs at RPE 8-9 to 5 mins at RPE 6-8.

Intervals (RPE 7-9 or 85+% HRmax)

Intervals are very similar to fartlek training. The key difference between them is that they are far more structured.  Interval sessions are excellent at increasing your threshold, thereby teaching the body to tolerate running at faster speeds.


Distance/Time No. of intervals Rest between RPE % Max HR
1 mile 3-5 5-3 mins 6-8 80-90
5 minutes 4-8 1 min 6-7 80-90
800 meters 6-8 3-2 mins 7-8 85-95

As fitness improves – increase intervals, reduce rest time.  RPE will increase towards end of session.

By incorporating all of these training runs into your weekly regime you should be fully prepared for the Run Reigate Half-Marathon or 10K on Sunday 18th September.  To view the full SiS guide, please see

Good luck with your training!


History of the trainer

The Humble Trainer

The humble trainer – where would we runners be without it?  Much to the delight of Run Reigate’s founder Dave Kelly, one of the earliest recordings of organised running dates back to 1829 BC, the Tailteann Games, a sporting festival in Ireland in honour of Tailtiu, the goddess of butter … kidding.  These runners would probably only have had leather or animal strips covering their feet, if anything at all.  Today’s runners have an extensive choice of trainer, depending on their gait, ability and terrain preference.  Here’s more than you’ve ever probably wanted to know about the humble trainer…

Trainers that we know today were originally a British invention (of course), developed in  1832 by a chap called Wait Webster, who designed a process where rubber soles could be attached to leather shoes and boots.  By 1852 the plimsoll was born, widely worn by children.  The term plimsoll comes from the elastic band that joins the upper sole and resembles a “plimsoll line” on a ship’s hull.  Soon croquet and tennis players got in on the act and special soles were designed to provide more grip.  I’ve often had terrible slippage problems whilst playing croquet.  Then another Brit, Joseph William Foster (owner of Boulton which later became Reebok), added spikes to the bottom of the plimmies to make what we now know as running spikes.  

Next up came vulcanisation, a revolution in shoe manufacturing that had nothing to with Spock.  Vulcanisation is the process of melting rubber and fabric together, a mixture that then evolved to create treads and the start of the trainer as we know it – lightweight and flexible.  Goodyear, of tyre fame, started producing these shoes then known as ‘Keds’, in 1892, but it wasn’t until 1917 that they moved into the running field.  

Rudolf and Adolf ‘Adi’ Dassler from Germany started making their own shoes in their mother’s wash kitchen, after returning from the First World War and by the Second World War they were selling 200,000 pairs of shoes a year.  Post war they actually used surplus tent canvas and fuel tank rubber – now that’s what we call recycling!  As successful as they were, relationships turned sour during wartime and the brothers parted company, starting their own trainer-battle.  ‘Adi’ started Adidas and Rudolph opened Puma, building factories on opposite sides of the river in their town of Herzogenaurach.  Apparently they never spoke again, which must have made the family bbq’s tedious.

From the 50s onwards, trainers were not just for athletes, as all the cool kids were wearing them too.  “Sneaks” became all the rage, so named because they allowed you to sneak up on someone.  In the 60s Nike was founded in Portland, Oregon.  A combo of Phil Knight, an athlete, and his coach, Bob Bowerman designed a running shoe which was lightweight and comfortable in various running conditions.  They invented the waffle sole, after pouring rubber into a waffle iron… although a great idea, I can’t imagine his wife was best pleased.  NASA also got in on the trainer act, helping Nike develop the first air cushioned sole.

Jogging in the 70s propelled the design of trainers even further as manufacturers developed their comfort and flexibility and recognised the retail potential.  In the years between 1970 and 2012, models of trainers grew from 5 to 3,371.  These days each sport has it’s own preference and style, and in running is then even further subdivided depending on your gait, preferred terrain and running technique.    

With all this choice and modern technology, how do you get the right shoes for you?  We’d recommend a trip to Simply Sports who can help you navigate the spectrum of running shoes and assess your gait and style.  No need to twist my arm to go trainer shopping!  If your shoes are no longer good for clocking up the miles, but are still wearable, there are lots of charities that collect and send them abroad for those in desperate need.  Run Reigate will have a trainer bank on the race day, if you’d like to donate your old ones, even if they’re still moist!

So, that was a brief run through the history of the humble trainer.  A journey entwined with goddesses, croquet, tents, tanks, waffle irons and NASA naturally!

Running Apps

Are You ‘App’y Now?

In the old days people used to pop their trainers on, limber up and head out for a run they’d mapped out.  Many people, like me, will have accidentally run a few extra miles or have included some accidental fartlek training whilst being lost in a dodgy estate with a group of youths watching on in amusement.  Now we have technology.  Clever apps and watches that can track your route through GPS, telling you how fast, far and high you’ve climbed at each mile and offer you coaching advice whilst you do it. We’ve compiled a list of some running apps on the market and what they can do for you: including building post-apocalyptic communities.


New Runner

For those of you who are new to running, there are some great apps that take you from zero to hero.  5K Runner and Couch to 10K, respectively provide 8 and 14 week plans, blending running with walking to help you build up to your first race.  They have integrated Facebook and Twitter communities so you can meet fellow beginners, share your experiences and motivate each other in the first few tough weeks.

In Your Stride is designed to help you prepare for a race.  It creates a training plan based on your current fitness, event distance and target time.  It also adapts as you progress through the plan depending on whether you are exceeding or not meeting your targets.


Experienced Runner

If you are looking for state of the art, there are some great options on the market many of which have features such as GPS, speed and elevation tracking, heart rate monitors, time pacing, friend racing, disco options…  

On Nike+ & Nike Coach it’s easy to see your pace variation throughout and it is compatible with various running watches, meaning you don’t need to take a phone out with you, just synchronise when you get home.  

Map My Run and Runtastic are very similar apps as they both owned by Under Armour.  Runtastic is Google Play’s editor’s choice and features a real voice coach whilst running, personal workout diary, custom made dashboard and training plans.


Community Focused

Strava, originally for cyclists, is now a favourite of runners too, winning the best app at the 2016 Running Awards.  It’s well known for its community feel, as you can join existing challenges and compare your stats with your friends.  It also has personalised coaching, live performance feedback and detailed analysis post run.

RunKeeper has 45 million users worldwide and all the features you would expect.  It’s intuitive, requiring you to input your goals, whether it be to build fitness/stamina, lose weight or increase your speed.  Renowned running coaches then provide advice on how to achieve these goals.  Links with big brands means potential to win kit too – who doesn’t want a free pair of trainers?  


Bored Runner

Zombies, Run!  Am I the only person who had never heard of this app.  Running missions whilst fleeing groaning zombies.  You are always the hero, the faster you run the quieter they become: slow down and you’ll hear them breathing down your neck.  As you run you collect virtual supplies which can then be used at home to build your own post apocalyptic community.  The audio drama feeds in between your own playlist.  That’s a whole new kind of fartlek training.  Imagine the variations you could have: whinging kids, your in-laws, that terrible one-night stand…

If you don’t believe us, check it out here.   You have been warned…

Spotify has introduced a running feature where it reacts to you, matching the speed of your pace to a beat tempo.  Rock My Run also matches your movement to the music it selects for you and has some great playlists to keep you motivated on those longer runs.

So which one are you going to chose to help your Run Reigate half-marathon/10K training?    If you see any of the team sprinting through Reigate High Street screaming that there are zombies chasing them, don’t panic … yet!


Former Olympic runner Shireen Bailey with her family and Steve Cram at the Olympian’s Westminster mile earlier this year where Cram won the race and Shireen came 2nd

Shireen Bailey: Why I love Run Reigate!

“Just fabulous!” are the words Shireen Bailey, the former Olympic runner, uses to describe Reigate’s first half marathon event last year.

She believes last September’s inaugural race, which attracted 4000 runners and raised £150,000 for charity has been great for inspiring locals to start running or up their game. “It gave everyone a goal and focus,” she explains. If people weren’t running it, they were volunteering or talking about it! So many people took part. And everyone who’d previously thought they couldn’t run were suddenly coming out to try.”

Clearly very passionate about the event, Bailey describes 2014’s Race Day as “lovely with an amazing carnival, festival-like atmosphere, a local and family-feel”. “I started the event up on stage and I was buzzing! The atmosphere was contagious! I remember talking to a guy working near me who said: ‘Oh my god, I just feel like getting my tracksuit on now too and running!’”

A local resident for many years, Bailey says Reigate and the surrounding areas are so good for running and perfect for a half marathon. Her favourite, regular routes tend to take in Priory Park and Reigate Heath. “Reigate is so pretty – especially around the park at the start and end of the race – and there’s so many nice restaurants to choose from to go to afterwards!”

Bailey, who now runs individual and group coaching sessions at Nutfield Priory’s Running Club, says she has seen a growth in local running clubs and this has helped running to become more fun and sociable.

“When I started coaching 20 or so years ago, I was the only one in the area doing it but now there’s several,” she notes. And she’s pleased that running is appealing more to older people than before: “More people than ever are realising that you don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to run!”

Former Olympic runner Shireen Bailey with family and Steve Cram at the recent Westminster Olympian's Mile - Cram won the race and Shireen came 2nd
SIMPLY THE BEST… Shireen Bailey with family and fellow Olympic runner Steve Cram at the recent Westminster Olympian’s Mile – Cram won the race and Bailey came second

So what inspired Bailey to start running? She credits her PE teacher following a ‘brilliant’ report at her school open evening. “I was just glad to be good at something, she jokes!” She was just 12 at the time and shortly afterwards joined Croydon Athletics Running Club where she tried out for an 800m race.

“My parents knew nothing about running”, she laughs “and gave me a huge roast dinner and syrup sponge pudding before the race. My dad’s only advice was: ‘Never let a leader get a few metres in front of you!’ So, during the race when he shouted out: ‘There’s a leader too far in front of you!’, I quickly responded by sprinting to catch up but then threw up my whole dinner!” Fortunately, Bailey managed to put her embarrassment to one side, went back to the club and then went on to become an Olympian.

Olympic success

Making the Olympic team was “as amazing as you can imagine” and the proudest moment in her running career. “And so of course was running my fastest time in the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea having gone through all the heats to get there,” she adds, bursting with pride. She reached the 800m semi-finals, running 1:59.94, before reaching the final of the 1500 metres, running a lifetime best of 4:02.32. Bailey’s 800 metres best of 1.58.97, ranks ninth on the UK all-time list.

Four years prior to that was her biggest race disappointment when she failed to earn selection for the Los Angeles Olympic Games. “It was the worst moment of my life!” she confesses. “I was ranked No.1 but messed up at my Olympic trials then had to wait four whole years to qualify. I was absolutely terrified in that race; the pressure was so intense. My mum had her head down the whole time and couldn’t watch me but luckily I made the first two. I learned that you can’t let a bad experience put you off.”

She now transfers those experiences as an athlete into her work coaching runners. “A lot of it is mental – I know what they are feeling – I’ve been there… I know what it feels like to work yourself so hard you feel sick. And I’ve learned from silly things I’ve done like overtraining and burning out and can make sure it doesn’t happen.”

Bailey is not a fan of generic plans – only tailored plans designed to push the individual. “I’m not working from a textbook! I know when they are ready or not ready to work harder.”

Although famed for being a middle distance runner, Bailey points out that she regularly ran 10 miles as part of her training sessions to help with stamina and averages a 6-minute mile at longer distances. “At 55, I’m more careful now and tend to run shorter distances, given the level of training I’ve done over the years, plus I’m running and exercising while working.”

So which runner does Bailey most admire most? “It has to be Kelly Holmes – she ran my distances too – for her sheer guts and determination and all the hard work she put in.”

Reigate’s 2nd half marathon and new 10K race takes place on 20 September 2015 – sign up here 

Training advice from an Olympian 

Shireen Bailey answers your questions…

What’s your general training advice for 10Kers/half marathoners?

It obviously depends what you’ve done up to that point. Learning about pace is critical so you don’t burn out in a race; that’s what really makes the difference.

What words of encouragement would you give to a first-timer?

It’s great to try! Take your time, don’t rush and don’t worry about using a watch. I think people are too obsessed with their Garmin watches etc these days anyway. Time yourself but once you do know your pace, go and run and let your body get fitter gradually, don’t push too hard. The first six weeks are the worst for beginners – every step can hurt. Train with someone to keep you motivated and make it more fun.

How can having a running coach help?

Obviously not everyone wants a coach but they are great for the bad times and getting you through disappointments, not just for getting you brilliant! They know whether you are doing too much or not enough, help you get to know your body and listen to your breathing. It’s not about standard training programmes.

What does a coaching session involve?

Training is specific and tailored to the individual or group. Typically, I’ll take someone who has been running the same pace and same route. I’ll introduce fartlek training and interval training – a watered down version of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) – which I’ve been doing for about 30 years! There’s always a proper warm up and cool down. They dread and love it all at the same time. I work them hard!

What advice would you give to more experienced runners looking to smash their PB?

First, I’d ask whether they are doing enough training. It needs to be a mixed bag of strength, hill and fartlek training – working at 70% or 90% of maximum heart rate. Make sure you’re not overtraining. Having enough rest days to recover is really important too as you are doing microscopic damage.

How important is speed training?

Very important as you need to push your lactate threshold (the exercise intensity at which lactic acid starts to accumulate in the blood stream). Less mileage is needed if you do a mix of training – that’s what my coach believed and so do I.

How can you stay focused?

The race does that for you, it gives you a goal.

How can you fit runs into busy schedules?

Obviously it depends on your working patterns and days off but going for longer runs early in the morning or on days off and squeezing in interval training in the evenings is usually more manageable.

Tips for a great finish?

Think of the camera, looking good, and all your friends and family smiling as you sprint to the finish!


Bosh that hill!

Both the half marathon and 10K course is fairly flat with the exception of one challenging hill at the end… we’ve nicknamed this ‘Bosh Hill’.

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For half marathoners, the climb starts just after mile 12, and for 10Kers at about the 8K point on Littleton Lane.

For those of you who like to obsess about elevation stats you may want to crunch some data on MapMyRun or Strava but to keep things simple, the hill is about a fifth of a mile long and there’s a climb of 25 metres.

Don’t panic though – the hill will be lined with the ever enthusiastic and supportive volunteer crew from Bosh, the grassroots, online running club driven by a passion to share an all inclusive, fun approach to running.

And, as the saying goes, what goes up must come down… so get in there and go Bosh that hill, collect some high fives and look forward to a lovely, much longer, downhill recovery (a third of a mile) with the end of the race in sight. The descent drop of 21 metres will give you plenty of time to catch your breath for the grand finale.

There’s also an easier climb of 24 metres for a third of a mile as you leave Priory Park at the beginning of the race. But with fresh legs at the start, we think it’s only fair to point this one out! Again, there’s a nice, long recovery descent.

So don’t forget to build a little hill training into your running schedule. Check out this advice

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