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Be inspired, inspire

This was the message of a lovely card that I received from my sister when I got home on Saturday evening. It made me think of a yoga top that I often wear, purchased many years ago (right before moving to London, in fact) while spending some time in Santa Cruz.

The card (along with the thoughtful note inside) was well-timed, because inspiration pretty much sums up the fantastic weekend that I just had. It’s also something that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently – what are my sources of inspiration and happiness, and how I might be able to inspire others?

When I got home on Saturday night, I was buzzing with positive energy (and perhaps some wine) after enjoying a long but incredible day, mostly in the sunshine. I kind of wish I had written this post right then, because I had so many amazing thoughts and feelings swirling inside of me, but sometimes it’s better to simply experience and appreciate those moments rather than document them.

London really comes alive when the sun is out, reminding me of why I put up with so many dreary days throughout the rest of the year! It’s always when I start to get really fed up and threaten to leave that London pulls out all the stops, giving me nearly perfect weather for days, displaying its beautiful flowers everywhere, inviting me to explore many different parts of town and join the throngs of happy (drunk) people in the city’s myriad green spaces, outdoor pubs/cafes etc…Yes, I realize this is also called Spring, but London seems to have a unique vibe in warmer weather compared to other cities, in my opinion at least. Perhaps we just appreciate these days more, since they are so precious!

When these days do occur, I typically sunbathe and picnic in the park or drink Pimm’s with friends on the river, and the bone-chilling, wet weather of yesterday quickly fades in my memory (until it inevitably returns, of course). All I can think about is how beautiful and vibrant London is – and how easy it is to escape when you feel like doing so! I miss California like crazy, but you can’t jet off to Morocco, Italy, Norway etc. from SFO for a couple of nights (well you can, but it’s not exactly recommended).

This is, of course, how many Americans like myself come over here with the intention of staying for a short period of time and then discover that they don’t want to leave. London grabs hold of you with its travel opportunities and extra weeks of vacation time – not to mention its national healthcare system and things like year-long maternity leave – it can be hard to break free! Then, after you’ve lived here for a certain amount of time, you start toying with the thought of becoming a citizen – not because you actually want to be British, but because you’ve already made a significant time investment and that passport opens doors! That said, although being able to work anywhere in the EU and UK is quite appealing to me in theory, staying in London for three more years isn’t appealing at all (okay, maybe just a little bit).

So don’t worry – I’m not feeling inspired after this weekend to stay here forever. All I’m saying is that London can be incredibly seductive, particularly around this time of year, and when the time does come for me to head back to the US, it will be hard to let go of many things that are important to me and that I currently take for granted.

This weekend did inspire me, however, in a number of other ways, including keeping up my relatively new yoga practice after a challenging session on Saturday morning. I had a leisurely 4M run to a gym across town, where my Thursday yoga instructor was leading a 90-minute class in a larger, brighter studio. Everything flowed better than normal (perhaps the later time and warmer weather helped) and I made notable progress in several poses! The second half of the class was tough, but I’m proud of myself for getting through it and felt a particularly potent combination of runner’s high/yoga glow for the rest of the day.

I met up with E after class and we headed to Marylebone High street, which was really fun given our tendency to hang out a bit too much in our own neighborhoods. We lucked out and snagged a prime sunny table at a cute cafe for lunch. Here I am enjoying my long-awaited first Pimm’s of the season – pure bliss!

This was  followed by home-made organic ice cream from La Fromagerie, an exciting discovery that I made while wandering along a side street. I will certainly visit again very soon – everything looked amazing. And their mint-chocolate chip ice cream literally tasted like stracciatella infused with fresh mint leaves, probably because that’s exactly what they did. Mind blowing.

We enjoyed our ice cream while walking to Regents Park, which was of course packed. After admiring all of the gorgeous tulips and other flowers, we managed to find a secluded spot under a tree to chill out for a couple hours. How could I NOT feel inspired – buzzing from a great workout, a delicious meal, my favorite drink and loads of sunshine while cuddling with my boyfriend on the grass, staring up at this view?

In the early evening, E and I parted ways and I decided to walk all the way home (about 4-5 miles) to make the most of the weather. It was awesome, but exhausting after the other activities of the day. As I approached Zucca – a relatively new, small Italian restaurant which is always booked weeks in advance – I sent E a text, jokingly, that I might rest my legs and get a bite to eat there, to help get me all the way home (five minutes away). Next thing I knew, I was sitting at the tiny bar, chatting with the chefs and waiters and eyeing all the incredible dishes they were creating.

I ordered some appetizers, including the carpaccio of sea bass with olive oil and fresh chili that I enjoyed the last time I was there, a mixed salad and a basket of their delicious breads.

Would I like any wine, asked my waiter?

No thank you, I’m fine with water…A few minutes later, I started to peruse the wine list. May as well take a look…

Would I like any wine, asked a different waiter?


A massive glass of white wine suddenly appeared in front of me – so refreshing, perfect with my sea bass – as well as a second basket of their addictive foccacia. I was getting full, but was still salivating as I watched the chef prepare a plate of taglierini with spring herbs and fresh ricotta. I started to tell her how much I LOVE fresh ricotta.

Would you like some pasta, the chef asked me?

Um, yes please!

I glanced to my right at the only other person sitting at the bar, another woman on her own enjoying some wine and various plates of food too. We shared a smile. I can’t remember the last time I rocked up to a nice restaurant and had an impromptu meal by myself – it was so lovely!

I completed my journey home slightly drunk, very full and extremely happy, simply thinking – this is what life’s about! Enjoying the colors of a particularly beautiful flower or tree; feeling pride in a certain achievement – big or small; savoring a delicious meal or glass of wine; enjoying the company of a loved one or some quality time alone…

Days like today.

And days like the following day, when I woke up and immediately set off on one of the best long runs I have had in a VERY long time. Maybe it was all that pasta and bread! I had no real target in mind, and nothing in particular that I was training for, so this run was purely for ME. Everything clicked and felt great – the weather was ideal, the tourists on my route mostly stayed out of my way, and the songs I listened to (which was a treat in itself) perfectly suited the exact moments during which they played. I felt strong, relaxed and completely pain-free.

Awesome 11M run in the sunshine: Garmin Connect details

When I got back to my flat, I was literally dancing and singing – it was the highest runner’s high that I have had in months! Fitting too, since exactly one year ago at that time, I was just about to finish my first marathon, in Paris! I couldn’t help but think back to that incredible sense of achievement I felt after crossing the finish line – and how badly I want to run another marathon (my third) in the near future. But first, I’m going to really cherish this period of “anti-training” – running for no purpose other than to make myself feel good!

I felt even better after a delicious brunch of eggs on top of sauteed purple kale, baby eggplant, shitake mushrooms and wholegrain bread…

…after which I headed to my local park to nap under another tree – this one with huge, pink powder puff blossoms. It was slightly less peaceful with all the screaming children, but enjoyable nonetheless. My favorite moment was when I thought to myself, “I would love an ice cream – if only I didn’t have to get up and walk to the store around the corner to get one.” Surely I’m allowed these thoughts after a long run?! Moments later, an ice cream truck drove up right next to me. Boom!

Lounging around was followed by pear ciders (Kopperberg, the best kind) in a local pub with E, and another delicious meal back home. I made a rendition of my quinoa herb pomegranate salad, with slightly different vegetables and grilled marinated ostrich steak on top. Yummy!

It was a bit hard to get back to reality this morning as I walked to the office rather than the park, but at least I got a last taste of my wonderful weekend for lunch as I sat outside in the sun and had my leftover quinoa salad. Much nicer than last week’s oatcakes and hummus (clearly the Bodychef diet has been thrown out the window). And sure enough, the rain came back in full force later in the day, just in time for my walk home – good thing too, because if every weekend were like this last one, then I don’t think I would ever leave…

Winter training – particularly winter racing – is tough. I realize that I’m saying this in March, but if you’ve been in London recently, then you are probably aware that winter has made a sudden (but hopefully brief) comeback.

Apparently, the ideal marathon racing temperature is a chilly 41 degrees F (5 degrees C). Based on my last marathon experience, I can believe it, but for shorter, faster races such as the 10k, I find temperatures of 41 degrees or in today’s case, lower, to be challenging. With a half marathon, you can get away with going a bit slower in the first mile or so and ease into your race pace, but in a 10k, you don’t really have that luxury because it’s so much shorter. All you can do is devote more time to your warmup and ideally begin your race immediately after, but even after jogging and drills, my legs sometimes still feel stiff and heavy and race logistics inevitably force you to stand around and get cold again.

Needless to say, today’s frigid, windy conditions didn’t exactly invite me to race a PB-shattering 10k, but I was hoping that I had enough fight in me to go for it anyway. At 6:30am, however, the fight was fast asleep and very much not interested in getting a new PB. The thought of a steaming bowl of banana oatmeal (my usual pre-race breakfast) finally lured me out of my cozy bed and into my chilly race gear, but what ultimately motivated me was the fact that I would not only have a race companion (I convinced E to join me, obviously), but also members of “Team Claire” (ie my parents) would be cheering me on!

My parents have been visiting me this weekend from California and, to my surprise, were actually eager to watch me race a local running club 10k at 9am on a Sunday in freezing temperatures during their holiday. They really are troopers! It was such a treat, because I have done the Mornington Chasers 10k race series many times, but mostly on my own, and never with support! I suppose they considered this to be a piece of cake compared to their recent marathon spectating (the course was three laps around Regents Park, so no traipsing across a major city required), but I still really admire their energy levels. They’re over twice my age and I can hardly keep up with them! So after two days of chasing them around London, I guess all I could do to make myself feel my own age was race 6.2 miles as they stood and watched.

My original goal was to beat my best time of 45:04, but by the time the gun went off at 9am, the fight inside me was still only stirring and my legs felt heavier than usual. I tried to muster up that strong sense of trust that has carried me through recent workouts, but the reality was that I didn’t believe that I had a sub-45 in my legs on this particular occasion…maybe 45:30 and definitely sub-46, but sub-45 was not going to happen. I accepted this at some point during the first lap and quickly attached myself to a more realistic goal of sub-46. As long as I get under 46, I started to tell myself…

I think this race series is great because the course, being three laps, provides a wonderful exercise in pacing (particularly, practicing a negative split), mental toughness, and also not relying on external factors such as exciting scenery or crowd support to motivate your performance. Not to say the park isn’t pretty and no one is cheering you on, but it’s a small race predominantly geared towards training, so you need to look within and to some degree to your fellow competitors instead. The turnout today was pretty good – around 253 runners participated, 78 of which were women. I placed 12th in my gender group and 98th overall, with an official gun time of 46:00 (but a real time of 45:46).

I felt quite pleased when I finished – (secondary) goal achieved! I was also very proud of E, who made his 10k debut with a time of 52:00. This was particularly impressive given that he had a terrible cold, but raced nonetheless (which perhaps isn’t advisable…but who am I to talk). My parents enjoyed watching the race, and although it took awhile, we all finally defrosted over hot coffees in the cafe at the Hub.

My parents and I then went on to explore Primrose Hill, Camden Lock and Camden Market, where I devoured a delicious crepe, the most massive pork bun ever and other goodies. The buzz from the 10k stuck with me for hours – it had been months since I had raced and I realized how much I missed that feeling. Here are some race and post-race photos:

After Camden Market, my parents wanted to continue their marathon day of sightseeing and I had hit my sightseeing wall, so I made my way home to finally shower and rest. A few hours later, the race started to sink in and I couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed. I still got a great time, but the last 10k I raced was in July, after having not trained much following a lengthy post-marathon running break. And you know what time I did then? 46:49, on a very hot morning.

So here I am, having trained for months, and I could only muster about a minute faster than that last race? We all have off days, but I guess it’s making me come to terms with the fact that I’m not in 1:37 half marathon shape right now. According to race predictors, I’m closer to 1:40, which may be relatively accurate, given that the last half that I raced was 1:39:56 this past September. But obviously I know I CAN do 1:37 – I did it a year and a half ago! *Sigh* The simultaneous joy and frustration of making a half marathon debut at a time you can’t touch…

So who knows. And I guess who cares. What concerned me more was that I had to actively remind myself to push hard today. Rather than only competing with myself, I looked to others – just stick with her, don’t let that guy beat you etc. – which isn’t entirely new and certainly not a bad thing, but I’ve never had to rely upon that kind of competition to fuel a race. I’m usually more focused, solely concerned about my own performance. That said, it was quite fun to sprint at the end against a competitor, and afterwards shake hands and share some banter. That’s good sportsmanship, and what would a race be without some friendly competition, both with yourself and with your fellow runners?

Welcome to FFR

Hi, I'm Claire! I’m a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (MS, RD, CDN) and a Road Runners Club of America certified coach. This is where I share my latest adventures in running, racing, food & travel! If you'd like to work with me, please visit my professional website, Eat for Endurance.

My PRs

Marathon (Chicago): 3:33:18
Boston Marathon: 3:36:14
Half-Marathon: 1:37:21
10M: 1:14:52
10k: 44:52

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