Training and motivation

How to get out running in cold weather

Woman wearing snowy scarf

Brrrrrrrr! The weather is getting a wee bit nippy out, putting us well into the season of scarves and snoods here in Bristol, UK. For anyone who struggles with the idea of running at any time of year, the idea of setting foot on frosty ground from November-to-February is going to be even less appealing, right? But I tell you now, as a hot-blooded (often overheating) mammal with a standard 9-to-10 minute-per-mile running pace, once you’re out there, you’ll be glad you made the effort.

No, really!

So, if you have the motivation to at least give it a go, here are five things that have really helped me get up and running in the darker, colder months … along with one major thing to avoid.

Try it!

  1. Get your gear on!The Messy Runner lycra Bristol running

First things first, if you don’t get out of that snuggly jumper and into some mean-looking lycra, it ain’t ever gonna happen. So rule number one is to shift your mentality by physically getting into your running gear. That’s it.

  1. Layer up for five/ten minutes’ time

It can be very tempting to wrap up like Joey dressed as Chandler when you’re bracing yourself to go out. However it’s not really the most practical approach, as chances are, you’ll need to start peeling layers off a few paces down the road. And it adds literal weight to what should be a freeing activity! Visualise how steamed up you usually get after some minutes of movement, and dress for THAT.

  1. Warm up with some active stretches indoors before you go

Last winter especially, I got into the habit of upping my heart rate just a little before stepping out of the front door. For me, this involved some jumping jacks, some steady lunges, shoulder and gentle neck rolls, and some ankle rotations. Whatever your front room allows for!

  1. …then a couple more once you step outside!

Now you’ve warmed up a little, get focused on phase two of your warm up, this time outside. I’d recommend some knee lifts and heel kicks (they’re one of my go-tos), followed by some gentle jogging up and down your street, before you start on your run ‘proper’.

  1. Bring gloves … and some pockets to put them in.

If you do tend to get nippy fingers, runners’ gloves are a good investment. Even if you end up taking them off a short way into your run, they will help you get through that first cold-blast bit, and are usually thin and light enough to cram into one of those compact pockets you find on running gear.

All that aside, there is one Big Thing to avoid in this cold weather.

winter drive

ICE. If it’s skiddy outside, I really would just call it quits and go to your local gym (or wait until it thaws out). Otherwise it’s all too easy to injure yourself, and then you may not be running at all, my friend.

You’re all set!

Let me know how you go by commenting below or by Liking The Messy Runner on Facebook.

Messy-ness · Why I run

The return of Sensible Badger


I’ve a confession to make. (it’s this big <–>.)

In the end, I didn’t do the Great West Run.

These four weeks since starting up in Bristol has forced me, after many months of hibernation, to embrace the return of Sensible Badger.

With her fearsome nose of polished coal, furrowed grumpfbrow, and growlsome demeanour, she’s quite a beast.

I’ll explain. I am (largely) compos mentis. The Badger thing is a throwback to me aged nine in a small Warwickshire village. My sisters and village mates, stuffed-full of Blytean visions of the Famous Five and Secret Seven, decided we were going to form our own awesome club to trump all clubs: The Badger Club.

(Aaaaaaggggggghhhhhhhhh TRUMP. It’s all getting a bit close.
*Crosses chest and prays for reprieve*)

So if you were nineish in 1996, loved the Spice Girls and know anything about club ettiquette, you’ll not be surprised to hear that every Badger Club member had a nickname. There was Sporty Badger, Scary Badger (uh-huh), Baby Badger, and yes, Sensible Badger, because, aha, I was the sensible one. Iron-clad logic.

Sensible Badger in her 28 year-old incarnation meant two big things. I stepped back a bit to figure life and health stuff out, instead of my normal trick of lunging into everything like a hyperactive Dalmatian who crashes and burns after too much stimulation.

My  Sensible Badger days.

I’ve got a three hour all-in commute door-to-door, so I’m prioritising sleep instead of 5am runs, using my walk to and from the station to keep my step count up. So when it came to it, I didn’t have the lead-in to the Big Run I would’ve liked, so I passed it up, because I didn’t want to do myself in.

That same day I managed a strong 8-miler, then a 4.2mile the day after (which was two weeks ago tomorrow), when I got a nasty winter virus that had me too drained and wiped out to do anything at all for a few days. I was blue as hell, which isn’t a fun place to be.

When you’re feeling blue, eat blue porridge

I am getting better (faster-stronger); breaking back into it with walking and small pelts, eating well, sleeping, and a lot of tea. Feeling more myself again.

Yesterday was a great day, dotted with rummaging for vintage stuff in Bristol Textile Recyclers‘ warehouse, revisiting our new flat in grown-up fashion, topped off by tomato bacon at Brew, and a long-awaited trip to Moti running shop on Whiteladies Road.

Up on the treadmill they took a proper look at my running technique, and I got, I think, the best result, because the guy reiterated the podiatrist’s analysis. That is, my form is pretty sound, and any imbalance is not in how I strike the ground, but from my hips. He prescribed me neutral, not mega supportive shoes, which felt like a victory after conscientiously changing my landing style.

So I picked up some beautiful new springy Saucony shoes that are 1.5 sizes bigger than my actual shoe size, which’ll hopefully mean the end of black toenail gate. Though my big right one still looks a fright:14939562_10154165000849538_5639260818377916706_o

The lesson of all this? That when you need to step back from this stuff, do it. Embrace your grumpy Sensible Badger and sit on your pesky running pixie for a bit.

I’m as determined to find my way to longer distances, but it’ll have to be on my terms.

On the Run!

13.1 miles = The Peroni is miiine!

crop peroni and protein bar

Run date: Friday 2 September 2016

Set-off time: 12.24pm

Pace: 10.24 mins/mile

Distance: 13.11 miles

Total run time: 2 hours, 16 mins, 28 secs

Terrain/landscape: One of my many, er, ‘second homes’, the Taunton to Bridgwater canal path…

Weather conditions: Like running in a giant sweat box (although no burning sun to burn it off, which I was mightily glad for); then humidity turned to sprinkler. Pretty darn nice.

The route: I Got It Like That:


Music of choice: Mary Anne Hobbs on my usual haunt, BBC to the 6 to the Music. Notable highlights included… hmmm. A fresh Jamie T breaking his mould, and I can’t honestly remember what came in between in my runner’s reverie (yes I went there). But all that matters was that it ended with this. Sublime mind explosion.

Fuel? Well. Today’s been weird-as, as far as fuel goes. Harry’s been enjoying partaking in my almond milk, chia seed, banana and blueberry milkshake phase most mornings this week. It’s sweet and fills lightly, and I’m really enjoying the symbiosis with my readings about the Tarahumara runners (who really make chia a super food). Hoping some of the shine will rub off on me.

But then, there was the small matter of my waking up completely shattered after a restless night, to contend with. My dreams have been more vivid and bizarre than usual, lately. One of which involved my getting rapped on the knuckles for causing political chaos by issuing a press release about Jerry Corbyn having a spare room he wanted to let out. In this same dream my office was a tiny scrappy cardboard affair reached by a twirling rickety staircase that was also made of cardboard. Who knows what’s going on in there.

ANYWAY, what this meant was that I accidentally asked for a 100% mortgage at the bank today (which apparently they’re reluctant to give out) because of my dazed sleep-deprived confusion. I then drank all the coffee, wandered a bit quakingly with furrowed brow into Superdrug to buy hayfever relief, and what shall forever be known as a manbar, because I’d got to the point where I had decided the only thing that was going to get me through was one of those mutant laboratory PROTEIN BAR creations I’ve always steered clear of. I was not feeling good. Yet I had set my mind on doing a long run, dagnammit. So I crammed the protein bar into my mouth, nabbed a bottle of vitamin water, and found myself a new, leopard print (ooh la la) Nike sportsbra in the sale! at Tony Pryce, and didn’t buy some amazing running shorts with stag beetles on.

Awful as it was (the manbar, not the run), between the manbar and stubbornness, I made it through my second ever half-marathon.

To sum up: The Peroni is mine!! Mine!!!!

On the Run!

Fffrrrrrrrmmm road runner: 22.08.2016

Run date: Monday 22 August 2016

Set-off time: 7.23am

Pace: 8.47 mins/mile

Distance: 3.11 miles

Total run time: 27 mins, 21 secs

Terrain/landscape: Pavement, gravel, grit and grass

Weather conditions: On the cusp of muggy, white cloud

The route: My Monday love, a 5k round Longrun to start the running week:


Music of choice: A veritable mash of Rudimental (1st album, awesome running accompaniment I used for the first time running in the summer in Croatia along the seafront, so figured it would be good pep) and some Craig Charles on the ol’ BBC 6 Music blower.

Fuel? I wanted to try for a quick one (for me, anyhow), but I was really struggling to get out of bed this morning after my week/weekend antics. So nu-thin’.

To sum up: I was fast! I think I’m going to make Mondays my bust-a-move days from now on. Building myself up to Fartlek so-called “speedplay” training: a prospect as alarming as the concept is hilarious.

Also, I’m shattered and starving – following a 10.2 miles on Saturday, three more runs between 3 and 7 miles before that, and too much general excitement, methinks.

Training and motivation

The Kid v Adult price gap: The Great Shoe Rip-Off?

Me in shoes

My name’s Daisy Bee, and I have funny feet. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no Cyndi Laupera fair few of my favourite people do too.

What it means when it comes to running, is that I’ve been through quite a few pairs of shoes in my quest to find the ones that are right for me.

I’ve worked up the ranks from my mum’s battered gym trainers (brassic times), through cheap and cheerful neutrals, and then, when I arrived in Taunton and discovered Tony Pryce, onto Asics. So the past couple of years I’ve flitted between two ranges: the Asics GT 2000s and 1000s to be exact.

Now, these shoes don’t come cheap: we’re talking around the £100 mark a pop, but as an investment that would keep me (in my experience) colourfully cushioned against injuries spanning shin splints, sciatica (gah), hip and knee pain, I never questioned it.

But when time came around for my next purchase, I decided I was going to do something revolutionary. I decided to shop around online for my next pair of Asics GT 1000s online. And not got to a real-life physical shop.

What I found was – obviously no shocker – is that you can rip a lot of £££ off the RRRRRRRP by doing this. And even more if you’re stumpy like me with size 5 feet by opting for children’s shoes.

This is where the bone of contention started sticking its calcium-ated nose in, because:

RRP for the women’s Asics GT 1000, size 5 is £100:

Asics 1000 women's shoe

While, the child’s Asics GT-1000s, size 5, come out at £40 RRP:

UntitledKids GT Asics 1000

Por qué? Is this just a cynical commercial tactic to charge people more for the same product defined differently? Certainly that’s an easy conclusion to jump to.

Or is it actually – as I found reasoned in one Runner’s World forum thread – a fair reflection of the simpler supportive mechanics required for the shoe of a child who is soon going to burst growth-spurtily out of it, compared to that of a grown woman who’ll be pacing up way more miles? Or even more simply, are the kids’ trainers cheaper because children’s clothes escape VAT?

Well, I have no idea. The internet doesn’t seem to garner me any conclusive answer.

But I now have my new Asics GT 1000 children’s shoes. They’re bright blue with bright orange laces (see specimen A above), and they ran well on their first outing. I am going to do the only thing I can do – see how my electric blue feet beacons fare in the weeks and months ahead, and get back to you… hopefully with my shins splint-free :-0

On the Run!

Lamlash leg: 10.08.2016

Me from Goatfell

Run date: Wednesday 10 August 2016

Set-off time: 8.20am

Pace: 10.16 mins/mile

Distance: 5.33 miles

Total run time: 54 mins, 44 secs

Terrain/landscape: Pavement, road, an elevation of 237 foot, then flat round the bay

Weather conditions: Perfect; a veritable mill pond.

The route: After conquering all 2,866 feet of Goatfell at decent speed, with the T-shirt to prove it – and an impromptu fell run which Harry humoured stoically – my ambition of running the hilly 6 mile+ route to Brodick and back was p’raps always going to be overly ambitious. So I started the up, enjoyed the puff, then flowed back down the hill to run the length of Lamlash. All was calm beauty: Holy Isle looked regal ‘cross the water, and there were seals along the shoreline, lots and lots of seals. Pretty damn near perfect.


Music of choice: Nothing, again. I decided that being musicless is the best way to get to experience new running lands. And I’m coming to like it; especially now I can actually hear and appreciate the camaraderie of my fellow runners, morning hikers, togs and twitchers, and cyclists, all out to take the air.

Fuel? Nothing. But I took a bottle of water out with me, and followed it up with a hearty mugful of mini Shredded Wheat, milk and banana, and later, one of the Arran Cheese fingers. YOM.

To sum up: My run may have suffered slightly after The Goat, but it was worth it. I at the very least did what I always set out to do: add an Asics-clad touch-down on a new island to the tattered running log.

Lochranza Castle


What to do when it rains in Scotland? (Ahhhhhhhhh Barry Manilow)

How’s this for an oxymoron: Harry and I are on a summer Scotland expedition! You heard me right.

We’ve split it between Edinburgh and the bonnie Isle of Arran. Translation: we have between us half a pair of trousers and two shoes still dry. Intepretation: We are currently sheltering in ‘PHT’, one of our locals, while Boney M. is piped VERY LOUDLY overhead. In summary: I am in dire need of a large glass of wine, because I can’t for the life of me concentrate with ‘Rivers of Babylon’ (1978) bouncing Europopilly through my lugholes. Aaaaand now it’s Barry Manilow (1975). And now Meatloaf’s Hellbats (1977). Help, we’re trapped in a ’70s easy listening earwarp!

(Phew… Lou Reed. Praise be to he. Balance is restored.)

Anyway, let’s push on through, shall we – we have had an ace shock of days in the crammed ‘Burgh for EdFest. Key constituent parts: proper lovely faces (big thank you to Amy and Laura); some good running (including round Arthur’s seat); my surrealist first date with Tony Law (a stand up dissenter. Still not sure what happened, but it felt like an awakening); a stomping midnight ceilidh in the city caves with the bae (that’s his cool name now) and company (our calves are still feeling that one).

Edinburgh crowd

Bill EdFest

Me and Darth Vader

And now we’re camping in Arran, as of last night, from o’er very choppy waters. In my 28 years I’ve been able to count myself very lucky to have been to most of Scotland’s Western islands, but Arran’s a first for me. For H-face it’s a trip back into seven year-olddom, the cutie. Today after a somewhat concerning night with the wind, we’ve trekked to see the best standing stones the island has to offer and soaked up remnants of ancient burial rituals. (To my Dad, we have been trawling some wonders! And doing some wanders. You’d be proud).

What always surprises me is the number of Englanders who haven’t been to Scotland, let alone taken the trip up watery westwards, and to them, I say, go. Go now. Unless you are a fool without a cagoule. For there is a big rule. Weather apps are nice, but they become a bit null, and often void in these lands. Being islanders anyway, you should’ve come to know and appreciate that things can change quickly where the weather’s involved. On the likes of Arran, this is even more pronounced. Case in point: we’re camping in Lamlash, and we have seen Lamlash stun in the sun, and Lamlash become the inside of a soaking waterproof in the rain. The kind of rain where you feel like a giant is chucking fistfalls of sea at you. It’s great.

But, I am mindful of the fact that it is usually the dismaland that keeps people away, so I want to assure you, you can do summer here, with the rain! You just need some tactics…

1. Go for it, get wet
This is a big one. There is no point waiting for the sun to come out. If you have a plan, unless it is climbing up to the peak, you go out. And when it’s slightly less than pouring, you go out. If it’s driest in the morning, go out. But bring wellies.


2. Get thyself to an outdoor shop
…to afford yourself, at the very least, the psychological semblance of preparedness by checking out every flummoxing outdoorsy snicket available to you. We’re planning to head up Goatfell tomorrow (yippee) and I know I am going to be wearing my running lycra. We went to an outdoors shop earlier and I picked up some child’s waterproof trousers, in a dab at practicality. But they were still too long, and some of them were £50 a pair, which is ridiculous. So I’d also advise sticking to what you know or are at least comfortable in. Non-chafing!

3. Go to a distillery and/or do a trawl of local crafters/producers.
The latter in particular is very cathartic. Especially when you see something refreshing, something aside from commercial prints and easy sells, something which really is a creative translation of the world outside. The former is also quite fun and tastes nice. As does cheese. We got to see the curds today! Arran curds. These are cheese fingers.

Daisy cheese fingers

4. Enjoy a good nap. Or Battleships!
We did the nap. We needed to after our R.E.M. was destroyed by the midnight wind. But we appear to have lost our Battleships. The intention was there though.

5. By Harry: Find a good pub, drink plenty while your better half tap tap taps away. Tappidy tap tap. Tap. Then eat food, drink more and stagger through the water home. I say home, back to the tent. The windy windy tent. Windy, noisy flappy tent. Best tip here – stuff your pillow in the hood of your sleeping bag, tighten the cord so then your head is wedged. It’s like a pillowy cacoon, one that shields your ears from all the noise. I was particularly pleased with this early hours innovation – how often do you get a good idea when you’re sleeping and actually get to carry it out there an then, rather than something forever forgotten.

Harry C in the rain

And that, dear friends, is that.

On the Run!

Legging it round Edinburgh! 05.08.2016

Arthur's Seat

Run date: Friday 5 August 2016

Set-off time: 9.56am

Pace: 9.52 mins/mile

Distance: 5.85 miles

Total run time: 57 mins, 46 secs

Terrain/landscape: Pavement, parkland, road, flat then UP, flat then UP

Weather conditions: Warm/cool, drizzling

The route: An almost 6 miles of erratic routing, running small loops in many different directions, realising taking wrong direction, Google Mapping to Arthur’s Seat (pictured) and charging round…


Music of choice: Nada! But my need for distraction was circumvented by my new TomTom Runner 2 GPS Watch, which I took for its second outing. I love the ease of simply being able to glance down at my wrist without the rigmarole of having to laden myself up like a donkey with my various bits of kit. To quote 10cc, I don’t like it… I love it.

Please let me also take this opportunity to explain/apologise for my absence these past few days. I started feeling very droopy and leaden on the day of the canal-side 8 miler, thinking maybe I’d been too cocky, jumped too high (a la Malleus Maleficarum), and worn myself out in a fit of pique, like an overexcited five year old who’d been exposed to a week of birthday parties. My newly-hewn, detonsiled throat felt especially sensitive and swollen, like it was due to crack. So I sulked for a good week, bought uber-strength throat lozenges, and after seeing Harry’s own fits of sneeze, came to the conclusion that it is probably hay fever.

Fuel? Nothing, but the night before we had a perfect balance of salmon, sweet pots and steamed green veg.

To sum up: The hills got the heart a-pumping, the face a dashing crimson and the improv-nature of the route was probably good for the soul. A solid 7/10.

Me in Edinburgh


Out on the Canal


On a roof of skid-resistant treacle, the sun’s hot beams out, to heat a weary stomach.

I am a bad poet at best, I know. But how often do we grab time to create a whimsical sentence or few, like that scrap? Not often. That’s unless you get lucky, and out on the canal.

Out on the canal, you see the world more slowly. Scrap that: you see the world, slowly. That’s not to say you simplify it, shutter off, or strip it bare, but remember to breathe in, between hectic, same-filled days, and feel it more. For some that’s a weakness. I think, sad or odd that slowing down could be pegged as privilege or luxury, or part of those rare, one-off times. Surely you need slower spells to really see the colour and clarity of life around you; to break the fuzz of speed.

Out on the canal, you have no choice. Your top pace is 4mph, and most times calls from all sides are to ‘Tick Over!’ when you pass mooring boats, so walking speed is a stretch for a bulky barge.

What do you do on a canal boat? You can spend your days unmooring, moving, shuffling up and down locks, strengthen your arms, torso and legs by taking on locks and paddles, admire the longevity of this Industrial Age technology.

You might eat and drink a tonne, unused to the constant motion of treading up and down a canal path. Your skin fizzles, and your hair gathers rain, with the glory-dust and grime of being outside.

You see life and art; people steering away from bullshit, people steering away from society, or towards an alternate society that fits their soul. People create worlds with boat paint; illustrate their arms, life rings, let their hair fall long and low; go anti-Heathrow expansion, cycle and be-rid of the car, make friends with white-dappled ducks, duck from the herons; some steel away to fish where they shouldn’t; some fill their universe with herbs and flowers, in the shadow of a manor house.

People choose a nostalgic life, a hobby horse, or want to make less of a troubled imprint on the world. There is beauty, poverty and luxury, out on the canal.

On the Run!

Moonshadow, Moonshadow: 28.07.16

me under the canal bridge crop

Run date: Thursday 28 July 2016

Set-off time: Around 10.30am

Pace: 9.4 mins/mile

Distance: 5.4 miles

Total run time: 51 mins, 15 secs

Terrain/landscape: A largely undefined towpath, like a flat trail run

Weather conditions: The coolest of the week, cloudy, rain/sun/wind-free

The route: Straight up the towpath, then a 2.5 mile walk back for a warm-down and slightly crazed catch up with Leah. My Asics app GPS wasn’t playing ball but I managed to work out my pace with my phone’s pedometer and my old cheapy Casio timer, which the internet then corroborated.

My heelMusic of choice: None! But I could have done with the distraction from my lacerated heel – caused by a combination of my Asics shoes and running socks getting to the end of their time on the 8 mile the other day. Youch:

Also since we’ve been spending the last few days on Moonshadow, our bargey beast, I’ve had the same triad of moon-related earworms buzzing round my head: ‘Moonshadow’, by Cat Stevens (obviously), Savage Garden’s ‘To the Moon and Back’, and ‘Moon Dance’ by Van Morrison. And quite frankly I’ve had my fill of all of them.

So as I ran on I forced all my concentration energies into a shuffled replay of Amy Winehouse’s ‘Back to Black’ in my head, which kind of worked.

Fuel? A bowl of Mini Shredded Wheat and some dried fruit an hour before, and a cup of tea. Last night I also necked a venison steak, which seemed like a solid choice. But there was also the Pinot Grigio, which I am avoiding today.

To sum up: It felt like it took a little while to get going, especially with the painful heel, but it seems it was a fairly swift effort, even with having to slow down for gates and stiles.