Thoughts from the road

When I need to think, I run

Category: On the run… (page 1 of 5)

Review: Kate Percy’s Go Bites®

An Introduction to Go Bites®

Kate Percy is an expert when it comes to making healthy food.  In 2000, Kate’s husband trained for the London Marathon; after he struggled with his training due to a poor diet, they decided that their family’s eating habits had to change.  From that point onward Kate has strived to ensure her family eat only the most nutritious foods.  She has carried her philosophy from healthy home cooking into her brand of energy bites, Go Bites®, which are changing the way people think about sports nutrition.  Packed with natural ingredients, they are a healthy way to ensure that you power through your workout.  

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The Manchester 10k: This is our city!

The Bupa Manchester 10k

Perspective was everything yesterday.  I missed out on a PB in the Manchester 10k by nearly four minutes.  On any other day I would have been disappointed.  Not yesterday.  Yesterday was about more than just personal best times and running.  Yesterday was about Manchester.  Yesterday was about charity.  Yesterday was about giving something back to this great city.

The Spirit of Our City

A lot has been said of the spirit of Manchester since last Monday’s atrocities at Manchester Arena.  An attack which took the lives of 22 innocent people who were out watching Ariana Grande has brought Manchester’s residents closer together.  Grief has been felt by a whole city but most poignantly by those directly affected by Monday night.  Movingly, many runners wore the names of the 22 on their backs as they ran, others had the Manchester Bee printed on their vests as a show of solidarity.   Each and every runner knew the significance of the event they were taking part in.

Manchester’s spirit was palpable yesterday as 40,000 took to the streets of Manchester for the Great Manchester 10k and Half Marathon.  There were initial fears that these events would not go ahead but with the persistence and determination of Greater Manchester Police, the race organisers and Manchester’s council leader, they did.  Forty thousand people took part this year.  Let that sink in…

After an emotional minute silence and a rousing poem from Tony Walsh, famous for his message that Manchester is a city brought together by love, the crowds set off on their journey.

Do something to get your heartbeat pounding.

The 10k route took in a number of Manchester’s greatest landmarks including Old Trafford, the home to FA Cup winners, Manchester United.  The support around the whole route was phenomenal, as hundreds of people lined the streets to cheer on throngs of eager runners.  Musicians, bands and even a choir provided the runners with entertainment at various landmarks around the course.  In the last kilometre, the noise was captivating, the crowd willing each runner towards the finish where stewards congratulated each and every finisher before handing out well-earned race bags, finisher’s medals and t-shirts.

The simple act of running through streets so alive with emotion was overwhelming.  So many runners chose to wear shirts commemorating and supporting the victims of Monday night’s attack.

If one thing should come of this week it is that Manchester can be proud of the way it has responded in the bleakest of circumstances.  Yesterday’s event embodied the united spirit of this city.  Strangers from the crowd shouted the names of passing runners printed on the back of each vest.  Runners helped and encouraged one another throughout the race.  I even heard a tale of one man being assisted over the finish by fellow racers after looking wobbly in the last kilometre.  Nobody will be left behind.

Remembering the 22

After the run I took a short detour on my way back to Piccadilly Gardens to take in the hundreds of flowers laid in St Anne’s Square.  Many in the square prayed.  As much of the city was alive with noise, St Anne’s Square was respectfully quiet.  Those who lost their lives on Monday night will never be forgotten.  The city of Manchester is grieving but the spirit of this city will never be broken.

 

Do something.  The Great Manchester Run.

 

I ran this year’s Manchester 10k for Tommy’s Charity; a charity set up to help those who suffer the loss of a child through miscarriage and stillbirth.  Our team would really appreciate donations of any amount.  Tommy’s Charity really does make a difference to the lives of families across the nation.

 

http://m.virginmoneygiving.com/mt/uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserPage.action?userUrl=Runner-Beanz&faId=796445&isTeam=true

The Protein Bar Challenge…

In the last few weeks I have stepped up my gym game with the help of my, now long-time, personal trainer Dane.  With the help of a ‘diet plan’ (read:  no bread or sugary snacks!) I have started a twelve week transformation challenge.  I begin the challenge at 9 1/2 stone and with just over 7% body fat, my goal is to tone up whilst also training for the Manchester 10k at the end of this month.  Look out for a new blog post really soon on why I am running the Manchester 10k and how you can help support a great cause too!

For the last year I have used MyProtein Impact Whey Protein to supplement my training to good effect.  However, as a result of an increase in my training and also the need to cut down on foods with empty calories, I have recently begun the search for a decent protein bar.  However, all is not as easy as it seems, here are the reasons why!

1:  There are so many different types of protein!

Whey protein, whey protein isolate, hemp protein, pea protein to name but a few.  Whilst I use whey protein powder, there appear to be a great deal more protein types when choosing protein bars.

2:  Protein vs Sugar Content

Last week I thought I had solved my sugary snack problem by investing in a number of ‘protein balls’.  However, on reading the list of ingredients it turned out that there was very little protein inside each serving.  Each ball contained just 10g of protein, alongside 9g of sugar.  Another protein flapjack offered 13.5g of sugar outweighing the 9g of protein in the 50g serving.  Perhaps a new name is required for the flapjack…

As I have delved into the ingredients list of a number of popular protein bar brands I have discovered that they are glorified sugar-hits with clever branding rather than the protein packed snack they promise to be.

3:  Density

I eat protein bars as a healthy alternative snack rather than a meal substitute so I was naturally disappointed when a nutritionally healthy protein bar had a very dense and heavy texture.  This not only detracted from the mouth feel of the protein bar but also made me feel like I had eaten a small meal rather than a quick snack.  Although the bar contained 21g of protein in an 80g serving, I was left feeling slightly bloated a short time after I had eaten it.

My Protein Bar Solution

I have ordered a sample of MyProtein’s Oats and Whey Cherry flapjack which combines milk and whey protein to give 22g of protein per 88g bar.  There is little in the way of sugars too with just 3.4g.  I will review the bars in the near future!

The best protein bars that I have tried so far are Grenade’s Carb Killa Dark Chocolate Mint.  In a 60g bar, a whopping 22.1g of protein is provided.  Although the bar has a great minty taste, there is little in the way of sugar content with just 0.6g!  I have two other flavours to try before bulk buying my favourite:  White Chocolate Mocha and Fudge Brownie.  However, with such a good protein/carbohydrate/sugar ratio I will be sure to buy protein bars from Grenade again.

Words of a Champion!

Anthony Joshua vs Wladimir Klitschko

After his victory on Saturday night, Anthony Joshua would have been forgiven for celebrating with reckless abandon. He had, after all, just defeated Wladimir Klitschko.  Before Saturday Wladimir was arguably the most feared heavyweight of our time since the retirement of his brother, Vitali.  Although Joshua entered Saturday’s fight as the defending champion, Klitschko had reigned supreme in the heavyweight division for fifteen years to 2015. This was the fight where Joshua would show the world his full range of boxing skills.  You could watch it from the comfort of your own home if you were willing to pay for it!

After the most testing and thrilling success of AJ’s career, he remained calm and offered words of wisdom to anybody wanting to conquer their fears in his post match interview

‘If you don’t take part you’re going to fail, so just give it a go and you never know the outcome’

The words of Joshua are sound advice to anybody facing a challenge. Everybody has their doubters, as AJ acknowledged. Yet the the perseverance of Anthony Joshua, now aged twenty-seven and heavyweight world champion, proves that anything is possible.

Role Models for Future Generations

The humility of both fighters was clear in the build up. Even after the intense fighting and bloodshed in the ring on Saturday night, both fighters showed their class in calm and respectful post match interviews. Many onlookers commented that there was little edge before the fight.  Some even suggested that the distinct lack of pre-match bravado may even have a negative impact on the fight itself. Joshua and Klitschko proved those doubters wrong on Saturday night. By the time Wladimir Klitchko and Anthony Joshua gave their post match interviews, eleven intense, action filled three-minute rounds of boxing had passed. These rounds included the first knockdown of Anthony Joshua’s career in the 6th; crucially Klitschko was knocked down in the 5th before he was stopped in the 11th after two further encounters with the canvas.

In the post match press conference Anthony Joshua repeated his mantra

‘If you get knocked down eight times, you get up nine. That’s what life’s about’

In his post match interviews, Anthony Joshua acknowledged his impact on the current generation of boxers and younger generations to come. Joshua’s awareness of the consequences of his actions and the impact it may have on younger generations is refreshing.  More and more ‘sportsmen’ are seemingly exposed for flouting the rules of their game, or acting thoughtlessly in the public eye. Look no further than Joey Barton for the most recent example. Through their often thoughtless actions, players like Barton become an ever poorer role model for younger generations.

Joshua’s Next Fight

No sooner had Anthony Joshua finished his post match interviews, opponents for his next fight were already being lined up. High profile heavyweights including Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder or the mysterious Cuban southpaw Luis Ortiz could be on the cards. Whatever the result when Anthony Joshua’s next enters the ring, there can be no doubt that he is of the highest calibre of athlete. He has now defeated arguably one of the best current heavyweights in the world. The world of boxing better watch out…

What’s for Breakfast?

Breakfast

The old adage states that Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  I agree, eating a good breakfast gives you the energy and nutrition to make the most of your day and should be able to power you through until lunchtime.

Working varying shifts, often getting up at 2am, I have slowly sunk into some bad habits at breakfast time.  A sugary cereal and quick coffee whilst reading the news and catching up on people’s lives on apps on my smartphone have become the norm.  I then drive to work and sometimes indulge in another coffee all before starting a 4am shift.  The starchy processed nastiness disguised as processed cereals and muselis doesn’t sustain me for long and I often find myself wandering around during my break for second breakfast!

So recently I decided to start pre-planning my breakfasts as I have done in the past.  Scrambled eggs and toast aren’t really appealing in the very early hours of the morning so I decided to make overnight oats.  A rough guide to the recipe can be found below, note that amounts are given in ratios rather than specific measurements:

Kicking Overnight Oats

This recipe combines fresh and dried ingredients and includes my favourite ingredient of all, the mighty ginger.  Ginger is a fantastic ingredient, with a number of health benefits including its anti-inflammatory properties.  It is also extremely easy to incorporate into most recipes.  The ginger gives my overnight oats a fiery kick to wake you up for the day ahead:

 

  • Fill a large ceramic bowl with porridge oats.  I’m currently using Scottish Porridge Oats which soak up milk reasonably easily.  They aren’t the cheapest on the shelf; however, I tend to find that the very cheapest brands are ‘dusty’ and don’t soak up milk quite as well.  I fill the bowl with about 300g of the oats before adding anything else.
  • Add dried fruit so that you get 1 or 2 pieces of dried fruit per large spoonful of oats.  Raisins and chopped apricots give the mixture flavour and moisture and complement each other well.
  • Grate 1/3 to 1/2 of a red apple into the mixture.  This gives the overnight oats a varied texture and again adds to the moisture of the dish.  I don’t have a particular preference for any particular kind of apple but less sweeter varieties work well.  Keep the skin on when grating the apple; it adds to both the colour and texture.
  • Grate 1/3 of the zest of a medium size lemon.  The slight acidity combines with the sweetness of the dried fruits to give the overnight oats a more dynamic flavour.
  • Grate the ginger.  Be bold.  Fresh ginger works best as you can grate longer strands into the mixture than with frozen ginger.  I generally grate about 3/4 of an inch of ginger into the mixture.
  • Use your hands to mix the ingredients together and try not to eat it all as you go!
  • Add the milk.  I use semi skimmed purely because I have used semi skimmed milk on cereal and porridge all my life.  The milk here is not important to the flavour of the dish; it acts to bring all the ingredients together and give the oats a porridge-like consistency.  Add enough milk to cover all the oats and check back after an hour to ensure that no oats are becoming dry.

After you’ve prepared the overnight oats leave the mixture in your fridge overnight.

Accompanied by a coffee made with my Aeropress, this overnight oats recipe is a nutritious way to start the day without having to waste precious minutes in the kitchen before work.  If you want to add fresh fruit to your portion of oats in the morning, why not try slices of banana or kiwi?

This recipe is a cheap and easy way to maintain a healthy start to the day, it’s incredibly moreish too!

Let Training Commence: 5 lessons learned from today’s run

Today I set out for a 5k run around a local reservoir.  The weather outside was gorgeous for this time of year, perfect for a midday run and a good opportunity to explore.  I decided to drive out to a local reservoir I have never previously visited before.  Today’s run was both an adventure and a lesson for the future:

  • If you can’t see a path for its entire length, there are no guarantees that it exists any further into the distance than you can see it.  When running around water, there will be mud, you just can’t see it yet!

 

  • Michael Rosen was right; mud is thick and oozy, especially when wet.  I came to the same conclusion as his intrepid adventurers ‘we can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, oh no we’ve got to go through it’.  Mud is really easy to run over when it’s frozen yet the mud at the back of the reservoir was not.  Thick and oozy mud is challenging and great fun to run through, even if it is messy.  My trainers are now caked in the stuff and I need to find an old toothbrush to clean them with!

 

  • Garmin’s ‘Back to Start’ feature is great when you can’t find the path you started on although I’m still struggling to understand quite how I got lost on a perfectly circular route.

 

  • Remembering gloves is a good idea in winter as my hands were easily more comfortable today than on my run earlier this week.

 

  • A spare pair of trainers always come in handy if you want your car to remain clean after a run!

 

  • My average cadence is 174 when running on flat ground, 6 steps per minute slower than the widely accepted cadence of a professional road runner.  This is something that I will aim to improve upon throughout this year.

Running through the darkness

It’s cold and dark and I’ve lost my car.  I left it on the same car park that I always do but in the darkness that’s harder to find than I’d first imagined.  It doesn’t help that the sign for the North and South car parks have been turned the same way. Momentarily disorientated, I stopped to try and work out a way back around the park to where I needed to be, the unlit path skirting round the edge of the lake was my only option.  Luckily for me, my guess was right and within minutes I was back on track and closer to the relative warmth of my car!

When I set out running I didn’t give much thought to the time, 1530 has become the middle of my day recently and I’m generally too busy to notice what time it starts getting dark.  That time today was 1600 with visibility quickly diminishing by the time 1615 came around.  It’s amazing how somewhere you have visited countless times during your childhood quickly becomes foreign and difficult to navigate in darkness.  In reality, I ventured less than half a mile in the wrong direction before I realised my mistake and turned towards the right car park.  By this point in my run I was satisfied, a few extra yards didn’t matter.

The new year brings with it new hope and aspirations although I am a firm believer that people add meaning to events which happen in life not the other way round.  Yet, it’s hard to deny that there are few better opportunities to start afresh than in the new year*.  Running is something I have fallen in and out of love with a handful of times now; I am quickly learning that to get myself out of the door there has to be a reason more than running itself.  This new year I am looking for a new 10k race to aim towards!

*If you have a goal which is achievable and you genuinely intend to make a concerted effort to get there!

The weather and appearance of the park made conditions feel more like an autumn than a winter evening.  Leaves of all shades lined the paths on which I ran.  The temperature was mild rather than cold, so much so that I ran without gloves which is a rarity in the winter months.  The park was still, save for the handful of dog walkers and a couple sat on a bench at the top of the hill.  It’s easier to enjoy running when you are surrounded by peace.

My first run of 2017 done, I can’t wait to get back out for the second!

 

S.M.A.R.T

This year has been relatively successful as far as my fitness goals are concerned.  I have:

  • Set new personal bests for both the 5k and 10k distance
  • Developed my push up and pull up technique to a good standard
  • Started boxing
  • Taken part in the Bury 10k

The first two goals were set at the start of the year with the help of Dane Cunningham, my PT.  I decided to pursue my last two goals in the spur of the moment but both have proved to be successful, although I still have a long way to go before I can say that I can box to a good standard!

I have heard many professional sports coaches say that goals have to be measurable so you may be wondering how I can claim that developing my push up and pull up technique to a good standard can qualify as a goal using the SMART framework.  I will be the first to admit that my recent fitness goals have lacked a clearly definable structure and even a start and end date.  I’ve therefore decided to model my future goals on the SMART Framework.

The SMART Framework

In brief, the SMART framework is a set of criteria in order to make goals which can be achieved and recognised.  Described much better by this post on SMART goal setting the five basic criteria are that the goals must be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

Taking my performance at the Bury 10k as an example, my previous best over the 10k distance was 53 minutes and my sole aim for the race was to set a new PB.  I had no specific time in mind.  At one point I even thought that setting a new PB was unlikely due to the steady incline over the second half of the course.  How wrong could I be as I demolished my previous best by over two minutes!  My lack of race specific training didn’t help in this instance; although I had done five training runs on my recent trip to Italy, I didn’t have time to train when I got back.  Reflecting on the race, I can’t help but feel that with a bit more running under my belt I could have achieved a sub-50 minute time on the day.  This experience has led to my first SMART goal:

  1. Achieve a sub-49 minute 10k time before the end of March 2017.

Even before I begin training for a specific 10k in March I can see the benefit of SMART targets as I know exactly what I am aiming to do and when I should achieve that target.  I could even add ‘with a negative split’ whereby I aim to run the second half of the race faster than the first to make the target even narrower and more specific.

I will use the official chip time instead of my Garmin time from the race to avoid any confusion over what finishing time to use, as I did with the Bury 10k.  Although I will probably use a Garmin during the race I will only use this as a guide for pacing myself through to my PB rather than for the recording of the PB itself.

I feel that a sub-49 minute 10k is a realistic prospect given the hilly nature of the Bury 10k.  It is also enough of an improvement to measure progress by.  Although a sub-50 minute 10k might be a more standard target, it would only show an improvement of 54 seconds over the 10k distance which I do not feel would be enough for a 6 month target.

I am under no illusion that I will have to train hard to achieve my goal but that is what a goal should be, difficult but possible.  I’m currently struggling to shake off a cold so there’s little prospect of me training on my days off this week.  Also, as the winter draws in there are less 10k races available close to home before the spring racing season starts again.  I feel that setting a target over a six month time frame gives me the best possible chance of achieving my aim when I take on a 10k in the new year.  It also allows me to build up my mileage which has been lacking in recent months as a result of a sustained focus on the gym.

I will keep updating my blog with my progress towards my first SMART goal.  I will post an announcement on this blog when I have decided which 10k to take on.

Let the challenge commence!

Run For All – Bury 10k

Last Sunday I ran in the Run For All Bury 10k.  It was the first event of its kind to be held in Bury and I didn’t know what to expect.  The race itself was really well organised from the start and the atmosphere was excellent the whole way around the course.  I finished the race with a personal best time of 50.54 which, given the steep incline during the second half of the race, felt extremely rewarding.

I was invited to be a part of The PAT Pacers for this event, a team of runners who had all met through physiotherapy in one way or another.  Although we chose to run at our own pace, running for The PAT Pacers added an extra incentive to race day, one which I thoroughly enjoyed.  The level of experience in the team varied from seasoned marathon runners to those just starting out in the sport, we all had one thing in common, the will to have fun.

pat-pacers

The PAT Pacers after completing the Bury 10k!

The crowds began to swell shortly after I arrived at 0830, as a result of the chilly September air I took refuge in a Costa Coffee shop where a number of other runners had gathered.  A couple of serious athletes zig-zagged between the shops from an hour before the start of the race in order to keep warm, one member of The PAT Pacers team even chose to run from her house two miles away as the roads started closing hours before the race so that the route could be prepared.

The start of the race soon came around, pens had been set up at the start line according to a participants expected finish time.  I started with runners expecting to finish around 50 minutes – I knew that if I could keep pace with them for at least some of the race then I was bound to finish with a good time and I could comfortably beat my previous best of 53 minutes.  Starting higher up the field also came with another welcome advantage, as the starter pistol went off I almost instantly found myself running with people with a similar pace and stayed with them throughout the race.  The starter instilled in everybody the need to be courteous to other runners and it was good to see that if people wanted to slow down, they pulled to the side of the course to avoid causing an obstruction to those behind.

Turning away from The Rock after the first kilometre the pace was quick on the steep downhill gradient.  First, passing The Fusiliers Museum, then my old college Holy Cross, the support of those who had come to watch was fantastic.  The race marshals did an excellent job of encouraging and directing runners as they passed and didn’t seem to relent even after runners passed them for a second time on their way to the finish.  After two kilometres of fairly easy downhill running I was encouraged at my split times, I ran the first kilometre in exactly five minutes before clocking a sub-five minute second kilometre to leave me with a strong chance of finishing in a sub-fifty 10k!  If only the second half of the race were to be that easy.

The most positive aspect of the race on a personal level was the ease with which I maintained a good pace.  Whilst the notion of a good pace varies from runner to runner, the pace I ran at Bury 10k allowed me to set a much improved personal best for the distance.

The old adage what goes up must come down was reversed for this route.  The first half of the race was easy whilst the half way point marked the start of the slow but steady climb back to the finish in Bury Town Centre.  I was particularly grateful to the group of cheerleaders just past half way, and equally to the band of drummers that assembled on the main road for the lift that they provided.  The route passed several key landmarks in Bury including the Fusiliers Museum, Holy Cross College and Close Park, as a result it benefited from fantastic support.  As I ran through Bury town centre on my way to the finish line I imagined that it would not feel much different to run down The Mall in London on the way to the finish of the London Marathon (on a much larger scale of course!) such was the support.  I crossed the finish line in 50:54 and immediately vowed to run the race again next year.  I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and, taking a walk around the finishing area where stalls had assembled to offer more races, massages and a bag drop area, I reflected on what a fantastic event it had been.

The I Will If You Will programme produced a video of the event which can be found on the link below.  It gives you a glimpse into this fantastic event and is well worth a watch:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rDmItsoCG4&feature=youtu.be&platform=hootsuite

Running Abroad

There is something about running in an unfamiliar environment which is appealing.  The opportunity to explore new surroundings gives purpose to an otherwise uninspiring workout.

Although I had visited Gabicce Mare in Italy ten times prior to my most recent holiday there this summer, running in Gabicce and its nearby resorts is still an adventure.  Not much has changed in the old, quiet holiday resort.  Many of the hotels present when I first visited the area many years ago still remain, some are run by the same owners.  The economic recession has caused a handful to close their doors for good.  Equally, two or three new developments have sprung up in the area although these come in the form of apartments.  They are cheaper to run and allow the owners to make greater profits.  A sad sign of the times – quantity, not quality is the focus for many.

Gelaterias line the streets selling high quality ice cream which is worth every last cent and calorie – that hasn’t changed!  Luckily for me, there are still plenty of gelaterias with ever more exotic flavours to try.  I remember spending each night of a two week holiday in search of Kiwi ice cream when I was younger.  I eventually found somewhere in Cattolica that sold Kiwi.  It was every bit as good as I imagined it would be.  Pizzarias are equally popular, the Marinara (tomato, garlic and parsley) is my personal favourite pizza as I can’t stomach cooked cheese!  My friends question why I don’t just eat garlic bread but there is something about the Marinara that is special, it’s completely different to garlic bread which I love in its own right.

The longest run on my most recent holiday took me from near the foot of Gabicce Monte, through the resort of Gabicce Mare where the initial half mile gently slopes downhill.  The main road took me past the central square and the amusement arcade, before turning left to run over the renovated harbour at Cattolica.  Cattolica is a vibrant, busy holiday resort with a long main street with many different shops and restaurants.  Unlike the undulating streets of Gabicce, Cattolica is flat and is the perfect location to up the pace and stretch out towards the upmarket resort of Porto Verde.  At Cattolica’s edge is an aquarium situated within gated grounds.  When I visited a couple of weeks ago, navigating the aquarium was difficult as a part of the park was gated off for renovation so it took me a number of minutes to get my bearings before I could continue in the right direction.  Although I have generally found Gabicce and Cattolica to be runner friendly places, the Aquarium and its grounds are somewhat harder to navigate as they are filled with families on relaxing days out occasionally walking five abreast!

Taking a right turn out of the aquarium I joined the main road linking Cattolica to Porto Verde.  Again subject to renovation, I found myself running between gated areas due to ongoing building and roadworks.  This section of my run took me furthest from the coast.  The heat intensified.  The sea breeze dissipated.  When I set off from Gabicce Mare, the temperature was a warm, yet breezy twenty eight degrees celsius.  Even though I was only a few hundred metres inland, the temperature must have been at least two or three degrees higher.  Fortunately I only had to endure the tarmac landscape for less than a mile before taking a right turn onto a dirt track.  The landscape opened up.  The view was breathtaking.

Luxury boats, large and small, were docked in the marina.  Although I do not know for sure, I had been told in the past that Valentino Rossi docked his yacht at the harbour on occasion.  It wasn’t hard to see why.  Running along the dirt track led to a small pebbled area where a couple had taken the opportunity to sunbathe in peace away from the main beach.  I took five minutes break from running to look around and admire the view.  Porto Verde is far enough away from Gabicce Mare that I only run there once per holiday – I intended to savour the visit.

Running back I decided to stick closer to the coast than I had on the outbound leg.  I ran down an adjacent dirt track in order to join the beach front before coming across the aquarium for the second time – I didn’t fancy navigating through the crowds again, nor did I want to run along the road I had taken the first time.  I admired the view that the coastal route afforded me – children constructing sandcastles on the beach, restaurants opening for evening service and the view of a hundred hotels against the backdrop of Gabicce Monte towering above everything in sight.

The return leg of my run was more direct.  The heat less intense.  I upped my pace, passing sun-kissed families returning from their day at the beach, although I received an occasional quizzical look as if to ask ‘why on earth would you want to run in this heat?’ the demeanour of the holidaymakers was friendly, returning my acknowledgement as I passed them.

The smell of the harbour is unmistakable and intoxicating.  Although it is arguably at its strongest in the morning, the smell of seaweed, salt and fresh fish fills the air every second of the day.  Running back up the ramp over the bridge at Cattolica, I noticed that the bridge had been constructed in 2005 which immediately made me think back to my first holiday in the resort.  I remember visiting the harbour a year before it had been redeveloped, it has changed a lot since then.  The redevelopment gave the harbour a more modern and inviting appearance.  The new bridge is wide enough to accommodate both pedestrians and cyclists and makes it much easier to travel between the two resorts.

Returning to the coast after crossing back into Gabicce Mare, the breeze was pleasantly refreshing.  The final half mile is uphill towards the hotel, a path I have traversed many times, the kink at the bottom of the final stretch is tricky to navigate when a bike veers the other way but otherwise it’s a pleasant stretch back to serenity.  On my return to the hotel, I gulped down a lemon ice tea and a bottle of water before showering.

Running abroad, although hot, is a much more pleasant experience than running through the cold concrete metropolis of Manchester.  I only wish I could do it more often!

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