Saturday, 25 June 2016

Lessons from three years of running

I don't know exactly when I started running, probably because it took three attempts of Couch to 5K before it finally stuck, but I know it was around this time in 2013.
Three years is a strange length of time to have been doing something. In a lot of ways, you're still quite new. But it's also a significant amount of time - it's strange, for example, to think that I started running before I even met Phil. And I've done a lot in those three years - two half marathons, a full marathon, seven 10Ks and over 60 parkruns. 

When I posted the picture above on Instagram this week, I had a follower tell me she loved reading about my journey because I've always been honest about my struggles, and that is definitely true! Sometimes running is the actual worst. This journey hasn't been straightforward - there have been ups and downs, injuries, frustrations, triumphs, and tears. But I'm always learning. I've learned so much. So, so much. Some stuff seems laughable now - why did I think I needed a lucozade for a 5 mile run? - and some lessons I'm learning - for example how to not go insane when injured.

So while I have a long way to go, and a lot more to learn, here's what I've learned so far...

It doesn't matter what you look like
Seriously. It doesn't matter if you have cellulite, or haven't shaved your legs, or if your hair is a mess or if you're unrecognisable without makeup. This has been a wonderful lesson for me - the girl who wouldn't even walk to the shops without makeup on. This realisation has been so freeing. Do you want to be the girl (or boy!) who is worried about her hair while she's running, or the one who is sprinting those last 20 metres with only the finish on her mind?

Runners probably don't look like how you expect, and you probably won't lose weight
There's a stereotype that runners are all tall and lean and long-limbed but this really isn't true! I've sprinted past my fair share of these long-limbed beauties just as often as I've been overtaken by people who "don't look like runners." Also, running won't necessarily mean you'll lose weight. Sorry. I roll my eyes when I hear people tell me how they "can see the muscles growing in their legs more" or "my stomach is already flatter!" after a few weeks of running. If this is the case, can you tell my body cause mine has barely changed at all after 3 years! 

When you first start, you'll have no idea how anyone could run for a whole mile
I can't emphasise enough that when I first started running I could barely run for the 2 minutes Couch to 5K wanted me to do in week 1. Seriously. When you first start you'll have no idea how running for 5 minutes will be possible. But trust the process. You'll get there, I promise.

Distance is more important than time
When you first start running, you'll probably be disappointed that you're slower than you thought you might be (I'll talk about the myth of the 10 minute mile later, and maybe in another post), but that's okay! I remember when I did my first 20 minute run, I was running so slowly I felt I could have walked more quickly! But when you're attempting a new distance you have to run slowly. I found this so hard during marathon training, but a new distance is hard for your body, and you have to give it time.

You will get faster, eventually
But you will get faster. Eventually. I think it took me about a year to regularly run faster than a 12 minute mile. I almost feel like there was a barrier to push through that first year (I don't think it helped that I started training for a half marathon only a few weeks after I started running) and since then I've been getting faster, bit by bit, week by week. It's also worth testing yourself to see how fast you can really run - I consider my weekly parkrun to be my "fit test" and always try to push my hardest.

Training runs need to be slower
In the same vein, you don't need to bust a gut every time you go out for a run. This is another thing I learned throughout marathon training. Your goal time can feel a million years away when you're running 90 seconds slower than your goal pace, but your body needs those long slow runs (look, science!).

Sometimes you really won't want to
I cannot emphasis this enough. I probably have a run I JUST REALLY DON'T WANT TO GO ON at least once a fortnight. This never goes away.

The first 10 minutes always suck
I cannot explain my relief when I found out this is an actual thing. There are few things worse than going out on a 14+ mile run and finding that you want to die after half a mile. But don't worry, it's normal.  Sometimes I find it takes me three of four miles to hit my stride, and that's okay.

Your next goal will never be enough
For the first year or two of my running life, I had three goals - to run a half marathon, to run a 5K in under 30 minutes and to run a 10K in under 60 minutes. I hadn't even considered life after these goals, especially because for the first nearly two years, they seemed so far away (I have a post swirling around my head about the "myth" of the 10 minute mile being a reasonable pace for a beginner running). I honestly, naively, thought that once I hit those goals I'd be satisfied. Of course I wasn't! After I ran my first 5K in under 30 minutes, my first thought was, how can I beat that? After my first 10K in under an hour I thought, well, I've achieve that, what on earth could I do now? And, well, I'll be honest it took me a long time after my first half marathon to want to do it again, but a year later I was chomping at the bit to run another, and then to run a marathon. And yep, even after a marathon I'm thinking about my next one and how much faster I could do it.

Carbs are not the devil, and you have to eat enough
Carbs are fuel. Eat them. They're awesome. And I'm not a nutritionist, but unless you're trying to lose weight, try to eat back those running calories. Running on empty is not ideal.

Injuries happen and they are the worst
You will get injured. And it will be the worst. And then you'll get through it. And you'll get injured again. This will happen. It sucks and I'm sorry but it never, ever gets better. Try to never take a run for granted.

You get used to being told how bad running is for you
*eye roll*

We tend to be obsessive types
Okay, this isn't true of all runners - I know plenty of people who are happy to just "go for a run" (I mean, they don't even take their GPS watch. How do they know how far they ran? How do they know their pace? If they don't record their run did it even happen?!) but a lot of runners are not like this. If you have any kind of obsessive tendency, and you start running, prepare to become a running bore.

You'll become a running bore (maybe)
I know, I know, talking about running is great. But to non-runners it's like when my Mum talks me through every single shot she played at golf (snoooooore). Your ears will prick up when you hear someone else talking about running and you'll find there is an infinite amount of things to say about running. But save it for your fellow runners!

You'll feel camaraderie with strangers
I can't explain the swelling in my heart every Saturday morning at 9am when I find myself part of the parkrun community. You just know you'll all in it together. Running brings people together. Oh and always say "hi" to fellow runners, or at least give them a nod. I hate it when fellow runners don't say hello to me!

Running will make you mentally stronger
As I mentioned before, running is hard sometimes. There will be times when you really won't want to go, times when you want to stop. You have to get through this, and you will. Running is about commitment. And that dedication makes you stronger.

Your priorities will change
Okay, some of this might be to do with the fact that I'm 26 now and it's finally acceptable for me to be the boring homebody I know I've always been, but if you end up being one of those obsessive types, your priorities will change. You'll swap your Friday night drinks after work for an early night for parkrun, and swap your Sunday lie-ins for a weekly long run. And you'll be okay with that.

Race day will always feel different
This morning I ran parkrun at a respectable 9:03 minute mile pace, and I was absolutely bloody knackered (I did get a course PB though!). At the end I thought to myself, how the bloody hell did I run 10K a month ago at an 8:44 pace?! When you're training for a race, especially one when you've got a challenging time goal, you'll often wonder how you'll ever be able to maintain your goal pace on the day. But race day is always different. There's the tapering, the adrenaline, the fuelling. Of course, not every race is going to be a personal best, but if you've trained hard, trust the plan.

You will never not be nervous at the start line
I've run about a dozen races now, and even though I've ran a marathon and two half marathons, I still get nervous at the start line of a 10K. This is good! That's the adrenaline that gets you through.

Listen to your body, and be true to yourself
Tired? Take a rest day. Starting with a cold? Take a rest day. Got a lot going on at work? Take a rest day. If you're committed and you don't take days off willy-nilly, you have to have the strength and intuitiveness to take time off if you need to. This takes time and practice, and there will be a hell of of a lot of guilt, but you'll learn when you're just being lazy and when you actually need a break. Edited to add: You will get this wrong sometimes. I ran parkrun a fews weeks ago with the start of a cold and ended up being ill afterwards for a week. So, you know, I'm still learning...

Try to ignore other people
Everyone has a friend who never trains and always beats you. Everyone knows someone who got the same medal as you but walked the whole thing. Try to focus on you. You are only ever in competition with yourself.

People won't believe you when you tell them you used to hate running too
I used to always say "I only run when I'm being chased" and I cannot express how much I used to hate running. I never, ever thought I'd be where I am now. But with a bit of commitment and dedication, I think anyone can run. So I always just smile and nod when people tell me they "could never be a runner".

Sometimes you won't believe how far you've come
Sometimes I can't believe the sentences that have come out of my mouth. "Ooh only 14 miles this weekend", or "an easy 8 miles before work" or "the first 19 miles were absolutely fine, but the last 7 were pretty hard." I sometimes can't believe that I ran 26.2 miles. Sometimes I can't believe I ran 13.1 miles! You have to give yourself credit for all those victories, big and small.

If you're new to running, just go
It doesn't matter when your start. I didn't even have proper running shoes when I started. I ran with a bottle of water and held my phone in my hand. I wore a cotton tshirt and warm black leggings. But I ran. Don't dive in with a GPS watch and two pairs of trainers and a hydration belt and a pocket full of gels. Don't wait until you're thinner/stronger/fitter, or until it's warmer/drier/colder. Just go, just run, just do it.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Cookbook review: Minimalist Baker Everyday Cooking

To justify my addiction to buying recipe books I've started to review my collection. You can read a bit more about my project, and a review of Keep it Vegan, over in this post.

Another vegan recipe book!
As I mentioned in my review of Keep it Vegan, I love buying vegan recipe books despite being a non-vegan as there are always some really creative ideas in them, and I often find when I buy "regular" recipe books I have to write off around half the recipes that contain meat (however, I will be reviewing some non-vegetarian/vegan recipe books). I like to be able to flick through a recipe book and know I can eat everything in it!

I've been a fan of the Minimalist Baker blog for a long time, and was really excited when I heard they were releasing a real-life book, however it took me a while to bite the bullet and order Everyday Cooking. 
With the book being American, I found Amazon had really disproportionately marked it up, and I really couldn't justify spending £25 on a recipe book. There was a point where I almost ordered it from Amazon US as even with £7 postage it would work out cheaper with the exchange rate.
Eventually, however, I managed to pre-order the book when it was out of stock and down to £17, guessing that it might go back up when it came back in stock. I was right, and thankfully got it for £17 before it went back up to £25.

One of the reasons I finally caved and purchased it, however, was because someone on the Post Punk Kitchen forum kindly posted a list of all the recipes in the book and I knew straight away it would be a book I would use a lot.

I was right.

First Impressions

First up, this is a beautiful book. There is a picture for every single recipe, which I love, and it's just a lovely book to flick through. I've mentioned before that I like to "read" recipe books like novels, and this is one that has accompanied me on the sofa dozens of times since I bought it!

The first thing I do when I get a new recipe book is go through with a post-it note writing down all the recipes I want to make. In Minimalist Baker Everyday Cooking I had 39 (you can tell by my list I'm not too bothered about desserts!).

One thing that struck me right away was that this is a very "midweek" recipe book, which is exactly what I need. While I do sometimes like to spend a bit more time on dinner on a Saturday or Sunday evening, most of the time I need quick midweek meals I can get on the table within an hour of getting home from work. With my new job and my new commute I get home about 45 minutes later than I used to, so easy cooking is exactly what I need. All of the recipes in this book are either under 10 ingredients, one bowl recipes or take less than 3o minutes.

I also love the fact that there are a lot of main meals. I'm not interested in desserts or drinks, and rarely interested in side dishes or breakfasts, so I'm glad the bulk of the book is dedicated to actual suppers.

Compared to a lot of other vegan recipe books I own (some of which I hope to review soon!) there didn't seem to be many "weird" ingredients, beyond things like nutritional yeast and tofu, which most veggies are well acquainted with (I'm ridiculously lucky to live around the corner from an amazing veggie supermarket, 8th Day Cafe, but I'm confident most people will be able to get nearly everything they need for this book in a big supermarket, with perhaps an online order or two needed). However there were some easy substitutions that could be made, for example, sugar instead of the recommended coconut sugar or maple syrup.

Speaking of sugar, one initial concern was there seems to be added sugar in a lot of the main dishes I wanted to make - even things like curries and pasta sauce.

There is also the argument that a lot of the recipes in this book aren't that original-sounding - three bean chilli, chickpea curry, bean burgers etc - but that doesn't put me off in the slightest. I actually enjoy finding new variations of classic dishes.

Oh it's also worth mentioning that none of the recipes in this book are repeats of recipes on the blog, which was great to find out. I buy a lot of recipe books from bloggers and often find a good chunk of the recipes can be found on their blog. So this was a nice surprise.

On to the recipes...

Masala Chickpea curry

I make a lot of chickpea curry. I probably make chickpea curry at least once a fortnight. It's easy, it's quick, I always have the ingredients in, and it's an excuse to eat extreme volumes of mango chutney.
This recipe had a different method than I'm used to, with the sauce being made separately and chickpeas added in later, and the sauce involved little spice and was thickened with blended carrots.
It was absolutely delicious. I've written in my notes "amazing flavour and lovely thick sauce." I actually had a friend over for dinner the evening I made this and was thrilled at how delicious it was! I'll definitely be making this again soon (maybe with some kale or spinach for some greenery) and it's a real storecupboard dinner I can see myself making over and over again. Oh and I have the add, the sweetness from the added maple syrup worked a treat.

The best vegan enchiladas
Apologies for the blurry photo! This image nowhere near gives them justice

Enchiladas without cheese? I've done this before and Phil sheepishly asked after 5 minutes, "can I put some feta on top?" so I thought this would be another alright-but-not-as-good-as-cheesy-enchiladas situation. I try to avoid adding cheese to vegan recipes because I think the proof of a good vegan recipe is that it doesn't need anything added to taste good.
There weren't a lot of ingredients to these enchiladas, which I was quite surprised by, and I felt canned refried beans were a bit indulgent (I would normally make my own, and because we shop in Aldi a special trip to the overwhelming huge Tesco near us was necessary to pick some up). I also felt like buying canned refried beans was cheating? 
Anyway, this was surprisingly easy and quick with a few substitutions - chipotle paste rather than canned chipotles, green pepper over pablano - and a delicious enchilada sauce.
And the result? Phil said they were "some of the best enchiladas he'd ever had". What a review! They were absolutely delicious, and worth splashing out on refried beans for! We didn't even miss the cheese!

Super-thick three bean chilli
It's basically a rule that every vegetarian/vegan recipe book has to have a chilli recipe. I've spent a long time trying different vegetarian chillis (my favourite being Cookie and Kate's sweet potato chilli which I make in the slow cooker). I love veggie chilli.
This one had a few unexpected ingredients in the form of courgettes and carrot, but I had issues with the instruction to add "partially drained beans" and as a result mine ended up a bit watery (how drained is partially drained?!), so it wasn't as "super thick" as the title might have suggested. However it was still a pretty good chilli, and one I'll undoubtedly make again!

Carrot, potato and chickpea red curry
Phil told me a few weeks ago that adding potato to a recipe made it an instant winner for him, so I thought this would be perfect. It was a pretty standard red curry. Pretty quick and easy, tasty and Phil-approved. Not the most exciting meal in the world, but a good mid-week option.

Tofu stir fry
I've committed a lot of time and effort into trying to like tofu. It bothers me that I don't like it. Because I really, really want to. I can eat it, don't get me wrong, but I just can't get excited about it and I just haven't found a recipe that has made me really enjoy it.
Phil was away last weekend so I decided to buy some tofu to try this stir fry. I pressed the tofu for half an hour and marinated it for 2 hours. I ended up making way too much (my fault!) but it was still... blah. The tofu was very flavourful from the marinating time, but the texture still didn't work for me (the recipe did suggest an extra step of baking the tofu, but I ran out of time for that) and the marinade was okay, but not exciting enough for me to want to make again. The only recipe so far I wouldn't make again.

Tofu tostadas
After Sunday's uninspiring tofu, I wasn't particularly excited to be using the rest of the block. This time instead of being in chunks, it was crumbled like a tofu scramble, and cooked in spices and salsa. I was a bit dubious after adding water as it seemed very liquidy so I cooked it with the lid off to ensure it boiled off. Rather than tostadas, we had it as part of burrito bowls with brown coriander and lime rice, guacamole and lettuce. Phil still thought the texture was "weird" but I thought it was delicious! We didn't even need cheese on our burrito bowls. I'm still not a big tofu fan, so I'd be tempted to try this technique with beans or chickpeas instead.

Breakfast burritos
I love breakfast burritos, but normally make them with eggs and cheese. This version involved coriander and lime rice (I made extra when we had burrito bowls), breakfast potatoes, avocado cabbage slaw and black beans. All the different elements sounded complicated, but it all came together relatively quickly. We had my friend, Eve, over for dinner again so I made a bit of a self-assembly burrito bar with lettuce, salsa and avocado, and it went down an absolute treat. This was really delicious and I would definitely make these again (although probably not for breakfast!).

Lentil tomato ragu
Another vegetarian recipe book classic is the "bolognese" made with lentils, but I wanted something easy and quick to throw together and this sounded like a good option. I'm not a big pasta eater at all (I tend to keep it quiet that I don't really like pasta as a vegetarian!) so I had mine over courgette noodles and Phil had spaghetti. This was another quick, easy recipe with lentils making it feel really "meaty" and hearty. We both really enjoyed this and will definitely make it again.

Pizza burgers

It's hard to resist something called "pizza burgers" - especially when they're on the cover of the book, but the truth is I am terrible at making veggie burgers. I'm always too impatient to let them cook properly before I flip them, so they always, always fall apart and I end up trying to smush them back together. But I decided to give these a go.
Because of my usually disastrous burger making, I saved these for Saturday night (we've literally just finished eating them), but they were actually quick enough for midweek. You have to make "vegan parmesan" first (a mix of cashews, nutritional yeast, garlic powder and salt) and then it's pretty quick going from there - fry onions and garlic, mash cashews, add everything to a bowl and stir. I especially loved the game-changing suggestion to fill a measuring cup with cling film, then scoop in the mixture and flatten it out - another reason I hate making veggies burgers is that I hate getting my hands dirty so this meant I didn't have to shape them with my hands. I was planning to make my own marinara sauce, but I was worried the suggestion of tomato sauce with some seasoning might be too thin and sloppy, so I used a jar of tomato and mushroom pasta sauce I had in the cupboard, and I splashed out on the suggested ciabatta rolls.
The result? To quote Phil, "the best veggie burger I've ever had." What a result! I have to admit, as a person who has probably eaten a hundred times as many veggie burgers as Phil, it wasn't quite the best I've ever had (there was a suggestion to bake them to firm them up and I think that would have helped as they were quite soft), I think I'd definitely make them again.


If you can't tell, I love this book. With the exception of the tofu stir fry (which I'm sure would be lovely if you like tofu - for me, my search for the perfect tofu dish continues), I'd make everything again. Everything is easy to make, relatively quick (and if it isn't, that's clear in the recipe which includes cooking and prep time) and gives clear instructions (I hate recipe books that say "cook the onions" with no suggestion of how hot your pan needs to be). I couldn't recommend this book more to veggies and vegans (I have dozens of vegan recipe books and I think this is my favourite) and I think it's a great introduction to vegan food for curious meat-eaters, who I think would also appreciate that it's "non-preachy" and actually refers to itself as "plant-based" rather than vegan.

I still have loads of recipes I want to make from this - maybe there will be a part 2!

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Look! No Hands!

I know I'm a good five years too late, but for the last 2 months I've been reading the Game of Thrones books. I'm currently 200 pages from the end of the final book (sob) so there's been well, a lot of reading over the last few months (I think I worked out it would take me about 80 hours to read them all?!). 
Now as all book nerds know, finding a comfortable position to read in can be a challenge. We wriggle, we writhe, we move around, roll over. Anything. And we know no matter what happens we'll be uncomfortable again in five minutes.
And even if you're not a big reader, look me square in the eye and tell me you've never tried to watch something in bed and dropped your iPad on your face?
Yep, we've all been there.
Enter the iBeani...
The iBeani is well, a little beanbag tablet stand. It fits any device, in any position and you can use both hands! You don't need a hard surface, so it's perfect for the sofa or in bed.
It isn't just for tablets either. I tried it out with my Kindle and also with a recipe book - anyone who cooks regularly from recipe books know the frustration of your recipe book closing while you're in the middle of cooking!
The iBeani comes in a variety of colours and styles, but I went for simple black (which I kind of regret to be honest - I considered leopard print but I wasn't sure if Phil would appreciate that...). 

I've been using it mostly for reading on the sofa, but I've been trying to think of creative ways to use it. Here's what I've come up with so far -
  • On the beach (does anyone else find lying on the beach with a book really uncomfortable? I couldn't test this out as we already know Manchester doesn't have a beach but the iBeani website suggests that it can be used as a travel pillow so I'm tempted to take it to Spain with me in a few weeks!)
  • In the bath (now, I was a bit scared to try this, but depending on the layout of your bathroom could you put it on the toilet lid or counter? I don't know - I don't like baths, but I do hear of people saying they watch things on their iPad/laptop while in the bath so I bet this would work!)
  • While cooking from a website or blog on your phone or tablet
  • For doing a workout from Youtube 
  • Reading Kindle while drying your hair (I've actually tried this one! I get so bored drying my hair...)
My only criticism of the iBeani is I think it's a little bit pricey. It retails at £24.99 (though it is currently £19.99) which I think is quite expensive compared to other tablet stands. BUT it does work much better than anything I've tried before, and they are handmade in the UK and there's free shipping.

Now, I'd better get back to Game of Thrones...

Monday, 30 May 2016

This is Manchester.

I grew up less than 15 miles from Manchester City Centre.
Weekends as a teenager spent in Afflecks Palace and in dirty clubs with sticky floors and vodka Red Bull for £1.
When I was at uni I naturally told anyone who asked that I was from Manchester.
But my love affair with the city didn't really begin until a few years ago.

I came back from uni in Birmingham to a city I no longer knew.
Those sticky-floored clubs were filled with a new generation of 19 year olds and I didn't know my place.
I missed Birmingham like crazy - I missed my time living in America even more - and I had no love for this place I once proudly called home.

It was only when I met a boy with a flat in the Northern Quarter that I fell head over heels. 

Today whenever we go to a new city I find myself saying "it's great, but it's not Manchester."
There is no other city I would rather live in.

Of course living in the city centre is expensive. Of course our flat is small and cramped. Of course it's loud and busy and chaotic.
But I wouldn't change it for the world.

Manchester has everything I could possibly need.
More restaurants than I could ever eat at, with new ones opening every week.
More bars than I could ever need.
The museums, the book shops, the parks, the theatres.
There are new corners and new places and new experiences to find every day.

But the problem with living in a city is you so rarely do the things you would do when visiting somewhere new.
You don't look on Trip Advisor to find the best things to do. You don't save the highest rated restaurants or check which walking tour is the best.
You're popping out for milk instead of going to a museum. You're curling up watching Game of Thrones when the sun is shining while tourists are learning more about your city than you could ever know. You're at a loose end when someone asks "what should I do in Manchester?" and finding yourself starting sentences with "I've never done it but..."

So this weekend I decided to change all that.

Whenever I go to a new city I have to do a walking tour. It's my favourite way of getting my bearings, exploring a city properly and deciding what I want to do with the rest of my trip.
So first stop was a walking tour.

At 11am we walked less than 100 metres from our flat to join the Free Manchester Walking Tour. It was strange to be doing a tour in our own city - we even walked past our building and found out Noel Gallagher lived  in the building next door to ours in the early 90s and it's where he wrote most of the songs on Definitely Maybe. I was surprised by how much I didn't know and how much I learned. So many buildings that I walk past every day on my way to work that are filled with history that I didn't even know about. 

I took my camera out and snapped some photos along the way. I won't give away too much of what I learned on the tour because you should definitely do it if you're ever in Manchester...
I walk past this statue every day on my way home from work! I think references to Vimto went over the heads of the non-Brits in our tour group!
The view from behind my building

I used to work next to this building - I never noticed that every floor is designed in a different style

My old lunchtime haunt - Manchester's Central Library

The Midland Hotel, visited by Winston Churchill, allegedly coveted by Hitler, where Rolls and Royce first met, and where Posh and Becks had their first date!

The Free Trade Hall - where the first public meeting on women's suffrage was held

The Town Hall - which apparently is often used in films and TV because it closely resembles the Palace of Westminster
Yep we have a statue of Lincoln. Here's why.
The Royal Exchange theatre is one of my favourite places in Manchester - it's where Phil asked me to be his girlfriend!
A very busy Exchange Square where we finished our tour
I was a little bit disappointed that our tour didn't cover the Northern Quarter - my favourite area of Manchester, but we had a walk around there after, and I snapped this photo of a recent piece of street art.

To carry on our theme of the best of Manchester, we had lunch at the quite-new Alabama's All-American Eatery - currently the highest rated restaurant in Manchester!

The place itself is very cool - it definitely looks and feels like an American diner! I have to admit, there weren't a lot of vegetarian options and I was reluctant to pay £7 for an omelette. My mac and cheese was a bit disappointing, but Phil enjoyed his banana pancakes! It's another one off my list of places to eat in Manchester though!
Finally, we had one more thing to cross off - the highest rated thing to do in Manchester - the John Rylands library. This is a little bit embarrassing, but I used to run down Deansgate on a weekly basis and never noticed this huge gothic building in the middle of the shops. I've heard amazing things but I'd never been inside. It's also free, so we had no excuse!
The building is absolutely incredible inside and out. It's a strange mix of an ultra-modern entranceway and an amazingly anachronistic interior.
There are still loads of things I want to do before we move out to buy a house next year. I have a list of all the places I want to eat, museums I want to visit, experiences I want to have. There's just so much to do here. I could never be bored.

I'll end this post as Josh ended his tour.
Manchester has everything except good looks.
Manchester has everything except a beach.
This is Manchester. We do things differently here.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Life Lately

Life has been good lately. Since the marathon I've had an almost overwhelming amount of free time. It's amazing how much time you have when you're not spending a dozen hours a week running, or preparing to run, or recovering from running. I've actually had time to relax. Or at least try to. I have a difficult relationship with free time, and find relaxing makes me feel very guilty. So I've done my kind of relaxing. Baking. Making plans. Reading. Organising. And even watching some TV.

I've been able to have weekends away without worrying about missing runs. I've been able to make plans midweek and have plans for Sundays instead of spending them in a daze. I've been able to work away without worrying about missing my run because of a 7am train.

That's not to say I'm glad that marathon is over. I've well and truly got the bug. I've applied for a London Marathon place for 2017 and if I don't get one I'm considering the new Birmingham marathon next year. I'm already signed up for another half marathon later this year, and plan at least a couple more next year. I missing training more than I could ever have expected, but I am enjoying having time to enjoy other pursuits.

Slipping into the new routine that a new job brings has been surprisingly easy. I thought I would resent my near-hour commute after being able to walk to work for the last year, but I enjoy my alone time to read on my bus journey. I'm still in the early stages of figuring out my job, but for the first time I feel like I actually know stuff and I actually have expertise and knowledge that other people don't. It's terrifying and exciting and strange and I'm excited to have projects to really get my teeth into soon.

I've been travelling a lot lately. Some trips for business. Some for pleasure. We had two days away in Liverpool last Bank Holiday weekend where we stayed with Phil's grandparents in the Wirral. We spent hours chatting with them, went for dinner with friends, went to the Beatles Museum in the torrential rain and two hours later went on a bus tour and ate ice cream in the sun. It was wonderful. This weekend I'm planning for us to do a "tourist" day in Manchester - a walking tour, a museum, lunch somewhere new. I love this city more than I could ever explain and I'm excited to do some of the things I've been meaning to do for years.

I've also been away for work a lot. Newcastle twice, Yorkshire, London and three days away in Canterbury. I'm in Statford next month. I've never travelled for work before! It's exciting to be away for a few days and see a new place. I went for a run both days I was in Canterbury, (and got spectacularly lost) but it definitely meant I saw a bit more of the city than I would have seen just sat in meetings.

I've still been running. Last week I got a parkrun PB (25:36) and this weekend I ran my third Great Manchester Run. As you might know, I went to see my friend run GMR three years ago and decided the next day to sign up. And that was how I started my amazing running journey. It's always had a special place in my heart. I've been struggling to recovery fully from injuries I picked up before and during the marathon, but I've finally felt fit again, and was over the moon to finish the race in 54:47 - a 4.5 minute PB and my first 10K in under 55 minutes. It was only a year ago I ran my first 10K in under an hour at last year's GMR. I was absolutely thrilled.
My Mum the Great Manchester Run too! I'm very proud of her running her first 10K.

On Tuesday Phil and I started Insanity Max 30. We don't have enough room in our flat so we have to tag team. I do it first and then when I'm done I go get Phil for his workout. The plan is Insanity Max 30 three days midweek then running at the weekend. I'm excited! I've missed Shaun T.

We've been to the theatre (An Inspector Calls at the Lowry), to the football (England v Turkey at the Ethiad on Sunday), to the grilled cheese sandwich place in the Northern Quarter I've wanted to go to for ages. 

Life lately has been good.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

What I wear for work

I mentioned a few weeks ago that my new job means I'm back in workwear. Jeans are reserved for the weekends, and I'm back in white shirts and blazers and ballet flats.
I really thought it would bother me - I can admit that over the last, well, maybe even the last year of my old job, my outfits were usually whatever I could grab at 7.55am before leaving the house, which meant I wore jeans at least 80% of the time. I was worried about how much I would need to spend to restock a working wardrobe, and whether I could get away with wearing ballet flats with pencil skirts due to my short legs.

I have to be a bit more organised, but as you probably know by now, I love being organised. I plan my outfits at the start of the week in my phone, which means in the morning (or the night before) I just have to put everything together. As I've found with the 30 for 30 challenges I've done, having limited options makes it so much less overwhelming and I've finding I'm being way more creative with the items I have.

That's not to say I've been in any way limited. I wore workwear for over a year at my first job out of uni, and have dozens of outfit photos through this blog from that time. I also have a huge collection of blazers, shirts, pencil skirts and trousers from those days that have been left forlorn for the last couple of years.

So in fact, I've actually loved wearing workwear again. I've been trying to snap photos of my outfits as much as possible before leaving the house and I've been really enjoying the challenge. Here's what I've been wearing:

jumper - Zara, trousers - Marks and Spencer, flats - Dorothy Perkins

jacket - Next, shirt - Miss Selfridge, trousers - New Look

shirt - Warehouse, skirt - Warehouse

jumper - Zara, trousers - Marks and Spencer

dress - Clothing at Tesco, shirt - Miss Selfridge

shirt - Boohoo, trousers - Marks and Spencer, shoes - New Look

shirt - Glamorous, trousers - Topshop, blazer - Zara

dress - Next, blazer - Zara

shirt - Glamorous, blazer - Zara, trousers - New Look

shirt - Warehouse, trousers - ASOS, shoes - New Look

shirt - Boohoo, blazer - New Look, trousers - New Look, flats - New Look

shirt - Very, skirt - Warehouse, coat - Zara

jumper - Topshop, trousers - Marks and Spencer

I'm sure I'll do another one of these posts in a few weeks with more work outfits - unless I just cycle back through this selection again!

Here's hoping I continue to enjoy wearing workwear!

Charlotte x