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pedroscalls asks: Congratulations on MoTM. My question is, if time and money were no object is there any route or race that you'd love to do.

clare1976 says: Thanks pedroscalls. I think the big one for me would have to be the New York City Marathon. I am determined to do it one day and hopefully one year I will have the opportunity.
Ness asks: Hi Clare, congratulations on your successes. MOTM and such a great time in the Coventry Half. Now you have that chamionship time for London, what are your hopes for the race? (also want to wish all the best for it too BTW :))

clare1976 says: Thank you Ness. At the moment my sights are firmly on Brighton Marathon later this month and I suppose how that one goes may well determine my goal for London 2017 where I hope to use my Championship qualifier. I expect that as a minimum I'd like to achieve a sub-3:15 so I could 'justify' my place on that start, but to be honest it feels like a long time away! I'm not planning to race another marathon after Brighton until then, so I will see what Brighton brings and how the rest of the year then goes with shorter distances and other 'life stuff'.
Will_Uyuni asks: Congratulations Clare, and well deserved for smashing 90 mins after so many attempts. What finally made the difference at Coventry, loads of miles, heart rate voodoo or squeezy arm warmers?

clare1976 says: Ha, thanks Uyuni :-). It does feel like it took me many attempts, but as they say good things come to those who wait! I genuinely think that Coventry this year was the first time I stood on a half marathon start line and knew I could do it. I felt calm, I knew I had the best chance so far and I took it one mile at a time. I think the main thing was the miles in my legs, both from marathon training, plus the speed work I had been doing both within the marathon training and before Christmas when I targeted a 10k PB. I've had more time recently to train properly and effectively, which has definitely helped, both for this race and hopefully also for Brighton Marathon.

Despite being in the midst of marathon training, in the week leading up to the race, I cut back my mileage and intensity for several reasons (I was due a cutback week anyway, I wanted to freshen my legs up and also, I had a minor quad niggle at the start of the week prior to the race). Therefore, whilst I had done big mileage, I was also pretty well rested.
Whilst I am the biggest advocate of running to heart rate, I didn't really race using it this time. It's something I actively follow more for marathons than the shorter stuff. I had the odd glance within this race, but I ran to feel, keeping an eye on pace more than anything.

As for the arm warmers.... well, clearly, chopped off disposable 'pop sock' arm warmers are the way forwards. They are certainly now my lucky charms anyway! I had always expected / intended to discard them early on in the race as I warmed up, but in the end, I never gave them a second thought for the whole race!
James74 asks: Nice one Clare- Having a great year..well deserved!

clare1976 says: Thank you James! Good Luck yourself in London and hopefully see you again there next year!
Huntsman asks: Fully deserved MOTM award. You're a dedicated runner Clare and running does take up time. Is your husband always fully supportive of the time you spend racing/training?

clare1976 says: Thanks Huntsman. Great question and one which I think will resonate with many of us, especially those of us with 'non-runner' OH's! Overall he is extremely supportive and I really can't complain. We have a young family so there are a lot of factors to consider when I plan my training and races and I do try to minimise the impacts on them all where I can. I've always followed a principle of 'martini running' (any time, any place, anywhere!) and am happy to get up very early, run straight after eating (as long as it's not a speed session!) or late at night if that's what I need to do in order to fit everything in. I tend to plan out my training a few weeks ahead to make sure what I want to do fits in with our wider plans and so I'm not out more than 1-2 evenings a week or for too long at the weekends. It has been easier this time around as I'm not working at the moment so I can get the bulk of my training and the longer sessions done when they are all at school / work. He is usually pretty tolerant of it on the whole and he knows how important it is to me and that I am nicer to be around if I've had my fix of endorphins!
DuncanG asks: Well done indeed. What's the next target for HM and how much do you think knowing the route at Coventry helped you?

clare1976 says: Thanks Duncan. At this moment, I am finding it hard to think that I will ever beat that time from Coventry. It was one of those races when everything went perfectly and lined up on the day. I exceeded my wildest dreams time-wise and it felt amazing. My next target will definitely achieving another sub-1:30, I'd like for this one not to have been a one-off. I hope that with the right training and preparation I will achieve more HMs under 1:30. I will be looking to race a few in the Autumn hopefully. I definitely think that knowing the route at Coventry helped me with my pacing. I had never raced it before but went and ran the course a few weeks before as a training run, plus I spoke to clubmates who had raced it last year and stalked their strava entries! Knowing that there were hills up to 8 miles, the worst being mile 8, then that it was pretty much downhill to the finish meant that I could plan in my head how to approach it and clawback what I needed to in the last few miles to dip under 1:30. As it happened, the first 8 miles overall were faster than I expected and I had all of 10 seconds to clawback at the 8 mile point, so the faster miles from thereon-in were further dents in the sub-1:30 and I ran hard to make the most of it! Perhaps I should have eased off a bit to finish in 1:29:59 to give myself a better chance of another HM PB in future!!
Nelly asks: Woo-hoo, finally :-) Do you think being on gardening leave helped to give you sufficient time to proof read all your answers for typos before sending them back to Fetch? ;-) You've helped/supported and inspired so many people, but what one person or piece of advice you've received has helped you most to achieve your long term ambition of achieving a VLM Champs Start?

clare1976 says: Thanks Nelly for your kind words and ongoing support. Well the gardening leave has certainly helped give me sufficient training time, and as for proof reading, I am being very careful what I type and checking for any mistakes! Luckily I don’t seem to have dropped any typo clangers lately!! In term of advice, I really don’t know where to start, there have been so many people in here and through my club who have given me great advice over the years, all of which have culminated in me being where I'm at currently. In the ‘early years’, it was people like eL Bee! and IanM who gave me tips and help when I first started using a heart rate monitor for training, plus looking at my style and form when we were at the West Midlands Mile events. In more recent years, I have learned a lot from the sub-3:15 thread in particular. It’s great how some of the folks in there are well beyond that level now but have stuck around to help and support wannabes such as myself. I have lurked in there for a long time and picked up all sorts of snippets around marathon pace running, progressive training runs, tempo runs, plus the usual debates surrounding the merits of even pacing, manual lapping the garmin, not racing 20 mile events etc.! I'd never have heard of the P&D Marathon plans for example without that thread, and hence not have followed the plan I've used this time around. In my club, I have picked up all sorts of useful advice and support over the years, but more recently, one of our coaches Stuart has really helped me in terms of realising the importance and benefits of strength work to compliment running, especially having a strong core and glutes. All of these factors have helped me to achieve what I have done to date and will hopefully lead to more.
flanker asks: You've earnt this, and the recent improvements across all distances. What do you put those improvement down to? Race you down The Mall for a 3:14:xx?

clare1976 says: Thanks Flanker! I think there are several factors at play. Firstly, the build-up of mileage over the last few months, mixing the quality and quantity (in fact, I think it's having consistency full stop and a good base level, from over 4 years now of running 100+ miles per month every month). In conjunction with regular cross training. Pilates and Body Pump in particular have helped me to feel generally stronger than ever and helped me to strengthen key muscle groups in my glutes and overall core strength. I think this base fitness and strength has allowed me to increase the distances and pace / intensity without breaking, as my body is stronger on the whole. I'd love to race you down The Mall for a 3:14:xx but unfortunately it will have to be next year as I'm doing Brighton instead this year.
postieboy asks: You're a most deserving winner of MOTM Clare, well done. Have you re-assessed your running goals and ambitions after smashing 1:30 in Coventry?

clare1976 says: Thank you Postie. I guess I'm in a similar place to yourself having raced a half marathon in a time much quicker than I thought possible. I have reconsidered things short term, yes. I always previously felt that going for sub-3:15 at Brighton was a bit of a pipe dream and still a bit out of my league. However, having massively exceeded my own expectations in Coventry, it's made me realise what is possible and given me the confidence to go for it. I may not achieve it this time, but the 'predictors' suggest it's possible and I've done the training so there isn't any reason not to believe it's possible. The same applies to my other goal for the year which is a sub-40 10k. I now think that with the right training and specific sessions that it's possible for me at some point, and yet previously it always felt slightly beyond my capability.
Girlie asks: Congratulations on winning MOTM. What are your 3 essentials you take to every race ( shoes excepted)

clare1976 says: Thanks Girlie! Great question.. I think the first has to be my Garmin (with heart rate monitor). I can't imagine racing (or even training) without it. Both to see how I'm doing at the time and also to geek over the stats afterwards! Second thing would be my Spa Striders club vest and third, a buff, usually a Fetch one for racing - keeps my hair out of my face!
GimmeMedals asks: Congratulations Clare - very well deserved! And I met you!!! Serious question alert: sadly you couldn't join us at the Fat Bird cafe after Leamington parkrun. If you had, which cake would you have chosen? :-)

clare1976 says: Thanks GMM, was great to meet you. I was so sorry not to be able to stick around for the most important part of the meet-up! I've not yet been to Fat Birds so I don't know what their range is, but if I had to choose a cake, then it would either be a rich chocolate cake or if not, a carrot cake with cream cheese type frosting on top. Mmmmm...!
Bazoaxe asks: Congratulations Clare, very much on an upward curve and a worthy winner. How do you juggle your running with parenting and ensure you get the right balance ?

clare1976 says: Thanks Bazo. My answer here will overlap slightly with Huntsman's question above. It is a balancing / juggling act and takes a lot of planning to fit in everything I want to in order to achieve my targets. The trouble with me being on this upward curve is that I do want to continue to better myself and I still feel that I have scope to improve. Hence, I will need to keep doing more training / maintain what I'm doing to realise those benefits. As I said before, I plan ahead and try to minimise the disruption / time I'm out training and I try to be flexible with when and where I train. After Brighton, I am not planning to race a road marathon for the rest of this year, and so whilst I want to train to improve at shorter distances, the mileage won't be as high and hence not as time consuming. All that said, however, I do think it's important for my boys to see what I do and the rewards I get from training hard for something, as well as the obvious benefits of staying fit and healthy. They enjoy running too, and they have grown up thinking it's 'normal', as I did when I was growing up, as my Dad was a keen distance runner (although it took me until my early 20s to realise it was something I was interested in!). My oldest son (age 7) has just started doing athletics and he's keen to do races when he's older and already talks about running a marathon! I hope that what I do inspires them and whilst I try not to force it on them, I will of course encourage any interest they show in terms of taking them to kids run events, fun runs and even parkruns.
Bintmcskint asks: Well done, Clare! Well-deserved MOTM. You're an inspirational runner.
You are stranded on a desert island. You can take one type of food, one book and one Fetchie. What and who do you take and why?


clare1976 says: Thanks Bint :-) Hmmmm. Food-wise, I'd probably take something like wholegrain pasta - I assume there would be vegetation / fruit growing locally, plus options for catching fresh meat / fish (not that I like fish, but if it were a case of survival!). Book-wise, can I cheat and take my kindle?! Fetchie-wise, difficult question.. is Bear Grylls a registered Fetchie?!
Stilldreaming asks: Congratulations - well deserved! Of all the races (xc/road/off-road etc) you do, which is your favourite distance/terrain and why?

clare1976 says: Hi Stilldreaming and thanks! Whilst I have surprised myself over the last year with my enjoyment of XC and getting muddy, I still think my favourite races are road half marathons. I feel that I'm best suited to this distance, the training is manageable and I enjoy them the most. Whilst I have always actively sought out 'flat' halves to race for PBs, I think some undulations do suit me as I like to 'let go' down hills - my most recent best HMs have been at Coventry, Kenilworth and Stratford, none of which are flat. I like to race at a variety of distances and across different surfaces for variety - I think the recent XC / offroad has made me a stronger runner, hills generally are great strength training and running hard regularly at the likes of parkrun can help in terms of pushing out of my comfort zone for quality 'tempo' run type training. I love the challenge of training for a marathon, but I could only do 1 or 2 properly per year and it really is all encompassing at times to fit the training in alongside everything else. And as for 10ks, well they hurt, it's a long time to push that hard for, so I have to psych myself up for them a lot more than I would for a half!
Neilio asks: Nice one Clare.As a fellow 1500'er, Red sauce or Brown?

clare1976 says: Cheers Neilio! Definitely red. Heinz ketchup all the way!
paul the builder asks: Congratulations clare! You've contributed loads to training threads here over a very long time, this is thoroughly deserved.
What's your ideal Sunday afternoon (presuming that you've run 20m in the morning)?


clare1976 says: Hi PtB and thank you. If I've run a 20 miler on a Sunday morning, then ideally the afternoon would be fairly lazy but with young boys, that is rarely the case! After a nice roast dinner, it would have to be sitting with my feet up on the sofa watching a film and / or catching up with other runners' exploits on here or facebook / strava - whether that's training runs or races, it's always good to check in to see how friends have got on, especially if there have been any races. When the weather is decent, we like to get out and about on a Sunday afternoon to one of the local parks to give the boys a run around and some fresh air and I do think it helps after a long run to keep moving, especially if we then go to a cafe for tea and cake or an ice cream! Pre-children, I'd likely have gone to the gym to relax in the sauna / jacuzzi, but that doesn't happen now!
donran asks: Congratulations on MOTM. What are your top three tips for a successful marathon?

clare1976 says: Thanks Donran. Great question... I'd say my top 3 tips would be as follows: 1) have some realistic targets and set them in your mind as A, B and C goals. These will depend on how training has gone, what your time targets are, what any tune-up races you've done would signpost you're capable of, and how you feel on the day / what the external conditions are (weather etc) 2) be very cautious early on in the race and assess how things feel, monitor pace and heart rate closely. It's amazing how 'easy' marathon pace can feel early on after a good taper and with the race adrenaline firing. Rein it in if required! 3) Try to relax and enjoy it / soak up the atmosphere of the event, especially if it's a big city marathon. After the training time and effort which goes into the preparation, I do think it's important to soak it up if possible without being too fixated on pace and mile splits (though of course bearing in mind point 2, not getting carried away!)
Curly45 asks: Fantastic news to see you win Clare! Was there ever a point where you thought to yourself: "I cant get the sub 1:30" or do you think it was your determination not to give in that saw you smash it? (partly rhetorical question)

clare1976 says: Thanks Curly. I have always hoped that I could achieve the sub-1:30, but as I think I answered within a question above, Coventry was the first time when for the whole race I knew I could do it. I felt good on the start line and every mile was coming in at or better than where I needed it to be. I just took it one mile at a time and didn't allow myself to get intimidated by the challenge. I got to the top of the hilly section at 8 miles and was more or less on schedule for the sub-1:30 with a downhill finish in front of me. I knew that barring absolute disaster, it was mine and whilst I was working hard, I smiled the whole way to the end.
HappyG(rrr) asks: Many congrats clare, you've achieved some great times recently, very well deserved. So, race day nerves - a good thing or a bad thing? And what's the best race day prep to get your best race day outcome? Congrats again. :-) G

clare1976 says: Thanks :-)G. I think that some nerves are a good thing. Channeling the adrenaline into having a positive race is a good thing. But I have in the past been a victim of getting too worked up and then underperforming. I think there is a big difference between some light nerves and adrenaline versus panicking and putting loads of unnecessary pressure on. When I was first going for sub-1:30 at Nottingham HM in 2013, I did the latter and I had a bad race. Likewise at Abingdon Marathon in 2014. Yet when I have achieved my HM PBs, I've either felt confident of the goal or it has been a surprise as I've started the race with no expectations or (self-inflicted) pressure. For me, the best race day prep is exactly that - Preparation. Whether it's the practical stuff like having my kit and everything ready the day before, to the logistics in terms of either having a lift arranged or knowing where I'm going and how long it will take, and also, having a plan in my head. What's my target pace / time, what sort of warm up do I need to do, what's the course like - where are the hills, do I want to take any gels, where are the drink stations etc.
Windsor Wool asks: well deserved Clare, well done. Now that you've smashed that big HM goal and with the mara one surely to fall in April, what's next? What are the next big targets going to be?

clare1976 says: Thanks WW. At the moment, it's all eyes on Brighton Marathon, then after that, I am going back to the short stuff for a while. I would really like a sub-40 10k this year, which will be my main target although I'm not sure when or where yet. But first I'd like to get back to regular sub-20 5ks. I love all the summer league races with my clubmates and this year we are going to dabble in some short track stuff too which I am looking forward to.
trumpton riots asks: Hello and congratulation my lovely - well overdue in my opinion.

Double parted question - If you could go back in time (twice!) which race would you re-live (ie experience again) and which would you re-run (ie change) x


clare1976 says: Ahh, TR, my friend :-), long time no see. Thank you. If I could go back in time.... hmm, I'd like to relive last year's London Marathon. I was quite cautious with my approach to it as I'd had an interrupted build-up, then ended up exceeding my expectations and running strong to the end. I loved the whole thing. A re-run? I think it would have to be Abingdon Marathon in 2014. Training went really well, I thought I was in great shape and I got a bit greedy with my target time / pace and hence blew up spectacularly, missing out on A, B and C targets and felt very negative about the whole thing. If I'd been more realistic from the off, kept an eye on my heart rate and reined myself in at the start, I think I could have achieved a 'B' target and felt so much more positive about the whole thing.

That said, however, the learning points from both of those events have shaped where I am at now and so I have plenty of positives to draw from both experiences and hopefully Brighton will be my opportunity to consolidate it all.
LouLou asks: Congratulations Clare! A well deserved win!

What would you say has helped you most to progress in the last 6 months - you've openly wrote about difficult marathons and dissapointment - has that driven you to your success thus far this year?


clare1976 says: Thanks Lou :-). As I said above, I have definitely learned a lot from each of my marathons so far and where things haven't gone to plan, it's made me all the more determined to succeed in future. My progress has been down to higher quantity and quality of training, more strength work such as Body Pump and Pilates, plus taking the learns from my last 3 marathons in particular, both the good and bad points. The knock-backs make the successes all the more sweet when they do happen.It took me 3 years to get a marathon PB between 2012-2015 and I never would have expected to be so ecstatic with less than 3 minutes improvement in 3 years, but the rollercoaster which I went through during that time made it all the sweeter and I am now hungry for more.
Jock Itch asks: Love you lots Clare and well deserved. I have bad habit of burping the word 'Bollocks'. It causes hell at funerals, dinner parties etc. My question is..what word do you like to burp and why? Question 1 to number 2 please Cilla.

clare1976 says: lol Jock, love you too! I wish I had a witty answer for you on this one, but I suspect if I made something up, you'd test me on it when I next see you at a race, so for now I'll hark back to many years ago on a Guides camp where a group of us somehow between us managed to burp the tune of 'God Save the Queen'!! A proud moment.
Night-owl asks: Congrats Clare, well dserved. If you could train elsewhere somewhere else in the world for 8 weeks all expenses paid. Where would that be?

clare1976 says: Thanks Night-owl. I think it would be somewhere in Europe like Portugal or the Canaries. Somewhere with nice accommodation and somewhere to relax / sunbathe by a pool in the sunshine when it's too warm to train, but with facilities for training first thing and in the evenings. Somewhere with nice forest trails to run along, and / or coastal paths. Some undulatons to give training benefits but not too taxing that they take away the enjoyment of running. Somewhere with a track for speed sessions and a gym for core / strength work and options for pilates, body pump etc. Somewhere with nice healthy good food provided and appropriate pre-and post-training snacks available. A few drinks in the evenings but nothing to hardcore that it would impact on training the following day. It sounds like I might be describing elements of Club La Santa doesn't it, although I've never been!
Colshy18 asks: If you could run for just a year and achieve all your PB's and win a few big races but have to retire. Would you do it or swap it for a lifetime of being able to run moderately but happily?

clare1976 says: Great question Colshy and an interesting one, especially as I know I come across as being very driven by improvements and gaining PBs / running to the best of my ability. However, I would definitely have to say I'd rather run for life moderately and happy. I know what I'm like if I can't run for any length of time due to injury, so the thought of not being able to just doesn't bear thinking about. I am lucky to be able to run as I do and I know others aren't so fortunate due to long term injuries, so it's something I don't take for granted. Being able to pop my trainers on and get outside to run, without pressure, for an hour or so anywhere and to use it as a means to explore new places is something I love to do, and if it meant never getting another PB again but carrying on, then yes of course I would :-)

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