U&R Superstars: Two Paulas Go To Rome

Up & Running SuperstarsAt the start of winter two Paulas began our Half Marathon course – Paula P in sunny Dubai, and Paula G in a very soggy Somerset. After twelve long weeks of training they’ve just ran the Rome-Ostia 21K. We grilled them about the challenges of those long winter months, fuelling those long runs, all the excitement of running in Italy, and of course… what they really think about the Other Paula!

1. How did you feel when you signed up for the 21k course…- nervous? Scared? Worried what Julia would do to you?

Paula G:
Excited! And a little nervous – 21k is a long way. I felt ready for the course and having done the 5k and 10k courses knew that Julia would break it up into manageable chunks. It helped a lot that Paula P would be suffering with me.

Paula P:
I had run a half marathon once before – five years ago. When I crossed the line that time, my first thought was, “Okay… done that… never again”. Not because it had been a horrible experience, but because I had achieved what I had set out to do. Mission accomplished, so to speak.

When I signed up for the 21k course, I couldn’t quite believe that I was going to do it all over again! I had complete faith in the programme though and was quietly confident that if I completed the workouts, I would be able to run a half marathon at the end of it all.

The Triumphant Paula P and Paula G
The Triumphant Paula P and Paula G

2. Paula G trained in a miserable Somerset winter and Paula P in scorchio Dubai – were there any running challenges particular to your location?

Paula G: 
It is very hilly where I live so sometimes it was hard to follow the programme to the letter – I would get to a fast paced section and find myself about to run up a 10% hill. At least I’m used to the hills and I could always adjust the programme a little. My challenge was the horrid weather this year – especially the rain. At times I would have to run up and down a 1km section as the road was flooded at either end. My husband always says winter miles, summer smiles so I just got on with it.

Paula P: 
The weather in Dubai can be a challenge and I would never attempt to train over the summer months when it is usually around 37°C in the evenings and extremely humid. Even training during the winter, as I did for the half marathon, it can be very sweaty (Body Glide is my best friend). I only had to dress “warmly” for 2 runs, meaning a t-shirt with short sleeves rather than my normal running vests.

There aren’t any hills here, so all of my “uphill” training was done on a highway overpass (usually resulting in several toots from passing cars). The RomeOstia half marathon route was described as undulating and I was a little worried about this so I had the “hills” written on my hand so I knew what to expect.

I am fortunate that there are reasonable facilities in Dubai and I often used a 3.4 km running track not far from my house, which is marked with 50 m intervals. I also tried to include a few other locations for variety such as around golf courses and along the beach. The other advantage of running in Dubai is it is generally a very safe place. Running, even late at night, is never an issue.

3. Any mental challenges during the training? Any particular high or low points?

Paula G: 
Again the weather, it is hard to get your butt out the door when is freezing cold or pouring with rain. At first I found the long runs hard to get my head around, but as the weeks went by I just got used to the fact that I would be outside for up to two hours. Thinking in time rather than distance helped me a lot. It was a great feeling every time I ran further than I ever had before.

Paula P: 
I found the middle section of the programme (Weeks 5, 6, 7) quite tough. The workouts were not easy, and I had to push myself. Then I would read the next workout and realise I had to push myself (at least mentally) all over again. But I also knew I just had to keep hanging in there. Julia always said that it didn’t matter how the workout was executed, it just had to be completed. The thought, “Just get it done” often helped when halfway through a difficult run! There were also a few dream runs to balance it all out, where everything felt comfortable and easy. This really helped restore my confidence and to convince me that it would all come together in the end.

4. In the 21K Course we talk about eating nutritionally to support your training. What changes did you make to accommodate running 40+ kms per week?

Paula G: 
I have been following a food plan (no processed foods) for over six months now with aim of losing a little weight to make my running easier. Eating well has a big impact on how well I train . I run early in the morning on an empty stomach but I would always eat within 15 minutes of finishing my run – usually protein based food to support my muscle recovery. Since starting the course at the beginning of December I have lost 14lbs!

Paula P: 
To being with, I didn’t make any changes, other than being very conscious of drinking sufficient water on the days I was running.  Then, after spending Christmas and New Year on holidays back in Australia (where I was inspired by my sister), I decided that I would really concentrate on making a conscious effort with my eating.  As part of this I also gave up all alcohol during February.  I was determined to make some changes to my body composition (as Julia would say).  I found after the longer runs that I wasn’t hungry and didn’t really feel like eating.  So, green smoothies have become my new friends; cold, thirst quenching and surprisingly filling!

5. Imagine someone made a cheesy movie montage of your Roma-Ostia race day – what standout moments would be included?

Paula G: 
I have never done a big event before and found it very exciting to be amongst so many runners. I remember the the guy on the tannoy at the beginning babbling away in Italian – didn’t understand a word but found myself cheering and jumping up and down with everyone else. During the race I heard three guys chatting in Italian – all I could make out were spaghetti and pizza! We were only about 3k in and they were already discussing what they would eat at the end. At about the 18k mark I saw a guy with one leg on crutches – I was feeling pretty tired then and it was a huge boost to me – I can’t imagine how tired he must have been and how sore under his arms from the crutches – inspiring stuff.

Paula P: 

  • Normally, while lining up to start an event I am a bundle of nerves with more than my fair share of doubts, but this time I was just excited. As we set off I kept thinking, “Just go slowly… just go slowly… just go slowly…”
  • Being passed by a zebra as I made my way up the long, slow hill to the 12 km mark
  • Clapping while overtaking a guy with an amputated leg completing the event on crutches and hearing the group of Italian guys behind me giving him 3 cheers as they passed (and me realising that puffing a little harder as I made my way up the hill was really no big deal)
  • Slowly…. slowly…. slowly…. gaining on the pacer with the pink balloons and finally reaching them at the 16 km mark, at which point I was quietly confident that I was going to achieve my “gold star” of being under 2 hours
  • Crossing the line with the biggest grin on my face and thinking… “I’ve done it. I’ve done it. I’ve done it.”

6. On the Forum you both mentioned post-race tears – can you tell us what you were feeling after the race and conquering that goal?

Paula G:
My tears actually started at 16k, I knew at that point that I would run the whole thing (I thought I would need walking breaks) and imagined telling my Dad later – I couldn’t run at all as a kid because I had bad asthma and I knew he would be so proud of me – he was. I quickly realised that running and crying don’t work, so saved it until the end! I was in a daze at the end, I had actually done it – me – the girl who couldn’t run to the end of the road two years ago. The training had worked, I loved every minute of the race and the tears were tears of happiness. I was a runner!

Paula P:
It was mainly a sense of relief that the results on the day reflected all of the hard work in training.

7. Was it helpful having a virtual training buddy, knowing the Other Paula was doing the same training at the same time?

Paula G: 
Big time. Paula was often a session or two ahead of me. I would check the forum to see if she had survived and then knew I probably would too 🙂 It was wonderful to have encouraged from her – it certainly got me out of the door on more than one occasion.

Paula P: 
Having Paula training at the same time was extremely helpful. It was motivating, “Oh, Paula’s just been for another run, I had better lace up my shoes too ” but also reassuring to know that Paula was having a mix of good runs, bad runs and in between runs too! It was also great to have access to the diaries from others who had trained with the half marathon programme.

8. Describe the awesomeness of The Other Paula in 10 words or less

Paula G: 
Only ten! She has been an AWESOME training buddy, a SUPPORTIVE friend. Sorry I have to write more. My weekend in Rome would have been a completely different experience without her. We had such fun, we talked non-stop for three days and it was so good to share the excitement of the day with her. Thanks Up and Running for bringing us together.

Paula P: 
Completely focused, amazingly positive, but also incredibly generous and kind.

9. Do you have any wisdom for runners considering taking on the half marathon course?

Paula G: 
Oh dear I don’t feel very wise about running. One run at a time, don’t try to look ahead at the coming weeks. Do three runs EVERY week. Trust Julia.

Paula P: 
Training for a half marathon can be a little daunting but all you have to do is focus on completing the next workout in the programme. It’s actually that simple.

10. What’s next on your running agenda?

Paula G: 
I have a 10k in Bologna in May at the Julia Jones Running Festival. I’m doing The Edinburgh Half at the end of May with Paula and some more Up and Running girls and then the big one – a Half Ironman in June where I have to run a half marathon after a 1.9k swim and a 90k bike ride – eeeek!

Paula P: 
I can’t quite believe it, but I have registered for the half marathon in Edinburgh at the end of May.

  1. Terry Pedler
    I am the mother of Paula P (from Dubai) and have just read the article. I am so proud of both of these Paula's and think the organisation is just such a wonderful inspiration for anyone to achieve. Well done to all.
  2. Tessa
    Extremely proud of the both of you and I'm sure you are going to ace your future races. Can't wait to read the reports :D
  3. MarciG
    Yay to the Paulas! Great job all around ladies. Here's to many more race reports!
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