New York City is a very expensive place to visit. I’m not saying you can visit the city for no money at all, but here’s some advice on cutting costs and fitting in some extra experiences.
This is an obvious one but it costs nothing to walk or run in the park. I enjoyed circumnavigating the entire park which is about 10km. There’s a pedestrian lane on the road that leads right round, but also plenty of smaller footpaths to enjoy. Keep an eye out for the birds - bright red northern cardinals and super confident sparrows have their home here.
Walk the High Line
This former freight train line is now a raised footpath. In wintertime it’s main draw are the sculptures and the view. In the summer there’s much more going on.
Go to a church service
I went to evensong at St Thomas, 5th Avenue. The world-class choir sing every weekday at 5:30pm. It’s very welcoming even if you don’t normally go to church. Just stand and sit when everyone else does!
MoMA - the museum of modern art
Every Friday the MoMA throws open the doors at 5:30pm with free tickets until 9pm. Either arrive early enough to queue (from the 42nd entrance I think) or arrive a bit later and walk right in. You’ll be able to see this van Gogh along with numerous Picasso’s and a great female representation without spending a penny.
Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art
This gallery has exhibitions and events dedicated to showcasing artists and subjects in the LGBTQ+ community.
There are plenty of other smaller museums that are free including the American Folk Art Museum and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (weekdays in winter). Check out this article for more info.
New York public library
This is a grand yet welcoming building. There’s a small exhibition on the second floor and access is permitted to two of the reading rooms, including the famous Rose Main Reading Room. The exhibition near the ladies’ loo was especially interesting - how the library had influenced people that had worked there.
I enjoyed these free things along with the more obvious things like the Staten Island Ferry and the 9/11 memorial. I also splashed out on an opera ticket and a visit to the Guggenheim, because when else will I be in the city?! Let me know if you have any more tips on fun and free frolics in the Big Apple.
Meeting some strangers in the back of an otherwise empty car park - at night - isn't necessarily how everyone likes to spend their Tuesday evening. But after seeing an open invitation on a Facebook group, my friend Lewis and I were meeting some Dunerunners for a night running workshop.
Neil, a founding member and coach of Dunerunners and a few other members were waiting for us next the lifeboat station in Caister-on-Sea. I grew up in Norfolk but there are still so many places I've never been. The sound of the sea accompanied Neil's explanation about how best to use a head torch and what the session was going to consist of.
TOP TIPS FOR TRAIL RUNNING AT NIGHT
Night is really dark out in the sticks. Down by the lapping waves, where the sand was compacted, my head torch focused my attention on the ground in front. We had a gentle run along the shoreline and heard a seal in the water. When Neil thought we were managing, we ascended into the dunes. Now we ran in single file, the beams of our torches illuminating rabbit holes and marram grass on the narrow, sandy paths. After a little stop for a photo shoot Neil decided to up the pace for the last section. Wider paths but at a faster pace were more of a challenge. I found I had to trust that my feet would find the floor, and if they didn't, it would at least be a soft landing.
At the end of our session (after everyone had attended to their Garmins) we talked through how we'd found it. It seemed mad to run in the dunes at night. But it was amazing! The sound and smell of the sea was in itself invigorating. The constant adjustments that trail running requires make for much more of a full body workout than the repetitive motion of roadrunning. The concentration level required made everything else leave my mind - I couldn't help but be present in the moment. It was also really nice to be trusting someone else to lead the way too.
At the friendly local pub we talked kit, trails, and left with an open invitation to return. I gained a lot of confidence in running with my headtorch and I will definitely be hitting my usual trails at night. And I can't wait to tag along with the Dunerunners for another run again soon. Thank you Neil for having us!
Find out about the Norfolk Dune Runners here. And check out the main page here for events and training sessions around the UK.
Running is such a great hobby - you don't need to know how to inflate tyres or the off-side rule, and there's no reason to travel to a gym or playing field, just go outside and off you go. When you're starting out, you don't need much kit either, good running shoes are really important but any clothes that you feel comfortable in will do. However, as your distance and time increase then kit matters more. I remember one long training run for the first half marathon I did where I was wearing a nice purple vest. After an hour in that vest the inside of my biceps were sore from brushing past the seam for so long. Ouch! Another source of chaffing can be underwear. Pants that don't wick sweat away from your skin, or an ill-fitting bra can both be a source of irritation to your skin and your mind. Enter RUNDERWEAR. Read on for my review of two of their products.
There are three main designs of pants to pick from for women - I got 'low rise hipster' in black. Where have these pants been all my life?! They're soft, so soft. Not to mention super stretchy, and they wick that sweat like there's no tomorrow. It makes them quick-drying after a wash too, (perfect for backpackers doing a sneaky bit of sink laundry in a dorm.) I like the wide elastic at the top - practical and stylish. Seriously, they're so comfortable that I forgot they were there.
The Runderwear Support Bra is rather more high-tech than the pants. Sports bras are strange articles with many different designs. It's extremely hard to decide on the right kind of design. In my experience of sports bras, they usually fall into one of several categories. This one falls into the category of "boobs definitely restrained, may dislocate shoulder upon exit". That's to say that it provides fantastic support, fits well (I got the same size as I would in a normal bra) but has to be removed over the head. When hot and sweaty after a run this can be somewhat challenging, as it needs to be a snug fit to do its job. One has to undo the clasp, remove one arm by tucking it under the main body of the device, then use the other arm to pull the whole thing over the head in a diagonal direction before finally waving it victoriously in the air.
The only other negative thing I can say is that the padding makes it a bit slow at drying after washing but I didn't notice any issue with sweat-wicking as the padding is away from the armpit area. Overall, the dramatic exit manoeuvre is worth the comfort and support. I have other bras that come undone like a normal bra which don't provide nearly as much support.
Other than functionality, another factor to consider before purchasing is environmental impact. I was unable to find out where Runderwear products are produced so I can't comment on fair wages or factory conditions. However, it would be great to see Runderwear reducing their plastic and packaging. Perhaps some bamboo fibre can reduce the dependence on plastic, and the plastic bag inside the cardboard packaging seems unnecessary.
Thanks for sending me the Runderwear, here's to hundred more chafe-free miles.
How do you remove yourself from your sports bra? What are the comfiest pants you've found for running? Comment below!
I’ve been running in events for ages now. I’ve done trail races, parkruns, coast paths and road races, but they’ve all had something in common - it’s been daylight. Always up for something new I ran Night Trail’s 10k in Thetford Forest. Read on for what I thought and how I did.
Driving into Thetford Forest in the dark was a bit unnerving. I know the general area well but have only ever been in the forest a couple of times before. It’s really, really dark. Following the general flow of people with headtorches, it was easy to pick up my race number and hang around looking for my friends in the over 400 other brightly clad runners. The fact that so many people think running around in the dark is fun was very surprising!
As if by some unspoken message, we drifted over to the start line and were set off in waves. Bobbing torch light and reflective vests soon invaded the forest. As the runners thinned out, it got harder to see without as many other torches about. I was very grateful to the torch my brother had leant me for the occasion. But it wasn’t enough to stop me taking a tumble over a tree root. Quickly hoisted to my feet by a fellow runner I was unscathed. The trails were very dry and softer than landing on tarmac.
The sign posts were very clear but it was very disorienting taking turn after turn in the dark. I could’ve sworn we were on a meandering circuit, but it was actually a single loop. Motivated by not wanting to be alone in the woods, I kept up with the guys in front of me until the water station at 6km. At 7km I had the usual negative thoughts “why am I doing this?” “How on Earth is this a good idea?” “Are me legs going to fall off?” until catching up with a guy that asked if I’d pace him to the finish. So I had to keep going!
Crossing the finish line I was quickly passed a heavy, glowing medal. Running in the dark was fun! It was certainly different to any other race I’d done before. The event was well organised but there were a couple of points that could have been improved: it would have been nice to have an announcement of welcome, look out for each other etc. from the organisers. But more importantly, I wish there had been no plastic bottles. Paper cups of water would have been fine, specially at the end. Next time!
Place: 104th overall 19th female.
The third annual trail marathon, raising funds for the East Anglian Air Ambulance, uses the former railway line from Norwich to Alysham via Reepham which is now a public footpath and cycle route. About 200 runners assembled in the community centre near the start line, just outside the city centre. What no portaloos?? Real lavatories and somewhere warm to wait were a treat when so many events require queueing in the rain for a temporary toilet. After the race briefing (the highlight of which was “if I see any of you dropping any litter you’ll be disqualified and banned from all future races, it’s discusting”) we had a nervous walk over to the start line. Glorious sunshine made me realise I was overdressed (thanks February), as I made nervous small-talk with my fellow runners (“how many marathons have you done?” “Which parkrun do you go to?”). A lap of Sloughbottom Park is required to make up the distance, but after that it was straight along the gravelly path.
I grew up on the Marriotts Way. Daily dog walks with Bracken the border terrier, bike rides with friends, picking strawberries from the field, and running. Lots of running. As we went past the turn up for my family home, I could spot the roof of the house amidst the trees, and the tower of the church a little further over.
Fields gave way to houses, a few roads to cross and dog walkers to dodge before reaching the old station at Whitwell. The smell of the Diesel engine greeted us, from the little bit of train track that remains here. The half way point! Crowds cheered us through and onwards towards Reepham.
The third quarter of a race is always the hardest for me, fatigue and boredom set in and there’s still so far to go. And the niggle with my knee began to be more than just a niggle. The bright sunshine, other path users and the tail end of the half marathoners were barely registered by my pain-addled brain.
“Only a parkrun to go!” called another struggling runner. My headphones got tangled with my water tube so I ran (jogged/shuffled) the last 5k with only my thoughts for company. “It’ll soon be over - bath, takeaway, beer.” After the hell of the ramp up from the former train tracks to the town of Alysham, the cheering crowds meant I was at least smiling for the photo my mum took. There’s got to be easier ways of getting a tshirt and a medal.
Apart from the actual running part, this was a really enjoyable event. There was a real community feel, it was well organised and a great route. Thank you to the event organisers Positive Steps and all the volunteers, including those from the East Anglian Air Ambulance. And massive kudos for a waste-free event. Maybe just the half next year...
January can be a difficult month. Christmas festivities are long forgotten and wintery routines usually include healthy eating plans and alcohol abstinence. The nights are just starting to get lighter but winter weather is going to continue for a long time yet. There are so many benefits to being active all year round. Along with exercise being good for you in general, there are also the benefits of being outdoors. I heard on BBC Radio 4 the other day that, even on a cloudy day there is 10 times as much light outside than in the average, well-lit office environment. Sunlight and fresh air are biologically and emotionally good for you! I don't want to let the winter stop me having adventures so here are my top tips for staying active in colder weather.
"There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing."
My mum enjoys quoting this at me when I complain about how cold her house is. Annoyingly she's right. In winter weather you can still safely and comfortably get outside if you have the appropriate preparations. And that doesn't mean buying a load of expensive specialist kit. Layers are the key. On a walk on a really chilly day I'll wear:
Layers mean you can rearrange your clothing if you get too warm. I usually intend to start out a little bit too cold because you warm up once you get moving. If you're going on a serious hike in wet weather you'll need some waterproof and comfy walking boots, but if it's pretty dry then trainers and two pairs of socks will do.
When I'm running I wear a long-sleeve top with a short-sleeve one over the top and I like a scuff on my head. It keeps my hair out of my face and my earphones in my ears, only drawback is that I think I look like an elf. I wear the same running leggings whatever the weather but be sure to change promptly when you get back, as you'll cool off very quickly in your sweaty kit.
"Only in the darkness can you see the stars." Martin Luther King Jr
Dark evenings are a problem for those with 9-5 jobs. But there are several ways to negotiate and enjoy those dark evenings.
Get a head torch - don't fight the dark, embrace it! Wear some hi-viz clothing so you can be seen, and a head or chest torch so you can see where to put your feet and enjoy the darkness. Don't forget to look for the stars :)
Urban running or walking - find some quiet streets with street-lighting, it's less creepy than total darkness but make sure to wear some hi-viz clothing anyway. You can even use it as a reason to explore more of your neighbourhood.
Become an early bird - the sun rises at about 8am at the moment but it's light enough by 7:30am. Get in an early jog or cycle before you start your day.
"Rain rain go away, come again another day."
It's amazing how wet weather can bring down my mood. Rain-streaked window panes on a gloomy winter day make me want to never leave the house. However, if the dog needs a walk or my training schedule can't be shifted then I have no option but to get out there. Here's some more wisdom from my mum:
It's never as bad as it seems from inside - this, once again, is true. The sound of rain on a roof is loads worse than the reality of it. Invest in a good waterproof coat and a running'cycling jacket to keep you warm and dry.
Rebellion training - I've written about this before, but you can decide to view your rainy excursion as a character-building challenge.
Don't wear glasses - just as window panes make the weather look worse, glasses do too. They're also pretty dangerous as you can't see a thing when you're cycling in the rain. My prescription isn't too bad, so I just take them off. If contact lenses and laser-eye surgery aren't an option and you're too blind to take your glasses off, then try a baseball cap under the hood of your coat. It helps to keep the rain off a bit.
"But it's cold outside"
The wind is howling, the rain is lashing at the window panes and the trees are bending in the storm. Some days it may be legitimately awful out there. But if you're not getting active outside, there are still plenty of active options available to you.
Don't want to leave your bedroom? - you don't have to. Try a Joe Wicks HIIT video or Yoga with Adriene You just need enough space for a yoga mat (you don't specifically need a mat really), and you don't even need to put shoes on
Just keep swimming - I'm not a gym person, although I've never really tried so maybe I'd like it. But I do enjoy swimming. Find your local pool and go for a splash.
Have a rest day - believe it or not, it's ok to have a day off. If your body is telling you to take it easy then listen to it and don't beat yourself up about not exercising. Enjoy some cosy sofa time and don't feel bad.
"Just do it"
The thought or the look of the outside in winter is almost certainly worse than the reality. Get out there and get active. The worse that will happen is that you'll get wet feet and a cold nose but you'll still feel great for having got out there.
Send me a soggy selfie!!
After the Royal Parks Half on Sunday 14th October 2018 I’ve now completed five half marathons, two 10ks and a full marathon. All the events have been very varied but these race day tips apply to them all.
I hope these tips help. What do you find helpful on race day? Or what is a mistake you’ve learnt from? Let me know, comment below!
My sister Alice told me she'd signed up for Tough Mudder and I thought she was mad. "Why would you pay money to get muddy and electrocuted?!" Fast forward a few months and I some how find myself in a field in Surrey doing a (not very good) guided warm up to loud music with a man shouting instructions down a microphone. Oh well, YOLO.
***SCROLL DOWN FOR TOUGH MUDDER TOP TIPS***
My excellent team - You don't make friends with salad - was captained by Tash (the sister of my sister's boyfriend), with Larry (the husband of the sister of my sister's boyfriend), Charles (the friend of the husba....), Tim, Elliott, Alice and I. Thankfully the others had some prior experience and strong muscles. I actually really liked that team work is such a strong element of the event, especially when being hauled over various structures.
But what to wear for such events? I was kindly given some bamboo activewear by Bamboo Clothing - and wore cropped leggings and socks made of the softest bamboo fibres. My leggings were super flexible (great for lifting one's feet when clambering over high things), and were thick enough to provide some protection when crawling along the floor under barbed wire (sounds really fun doesn't it?). The socks are like wearing little, fluffy clouds surrounding my feet - which was great for the 10.2 miles of trail running. I enjoyed the wooded footpaths that made up the course, and amazingly didn't have any trouble with blisters despite having wet feet almost the whole time. I also wasn't sure if I'd ever get them clean but they washed up just fine and don't look any worse for it. I *heart* bamboo socks.
Watery obstacles were frequent and ranged from ducking under large tubes, sliding into ice water, swimming (only because I couldn't do the monkeybars - new life goal I think) and jumping from a 5 metre high platform. I'm not a natural water baby and found these obstacles the toughest. I only jumped from the platform because Tim was shouting at me! And I was really grateful to a fellow mudder for guiding me under the large tubes. The bamboo socks did a great job, but the leggings retained the water for longer than synthetic materials, encouraging me to run faster to warm up.
The parts of the event I enjoyed the most were the more physical challenges involving team work. I was particularly proud of giving a strange man a piggyback! Being hoisted over walls by Charles and Elliott and helping Tash and Larry carry a large log was a bonding experience. The final obstacle - Human Pyramid - was impossible to complete without help from others. We splashed into the water at the bottom of the slippery slope (yes more water) to give a leg up to another mudder reaching her team. Once we'd worked out a strategy, everyone helped everyone else to the top even though we were all exhausted.
Why would you pay good money to slide around in mud, get electrocuted, bruised, soaked, ruin your clothes and spend the rest of the weekend exhausted? Because the sense of pride at the end is enormous. Because the sense of achieving something as a team feels good. And facing a challenge and overcoming it is what I love to do.
TOUGH MUDDER TOP TIPS
Thinking about entering but have some questions? Got any top tips for obstacle courses? Comment below :)
Hannah the traveller
is a travel and lifestyle blog with focus on running, vegan eating and of course global travel.