In my INKnBURN Run or Die tee and denim look running skirt.

I am super excited – and proud, and amazed – to announce that I have been selected to be an ambassador for INKnBURN. For those of you that don’t know, INKnBURN is a small Californian company that makes women’s and men’s running kit that is beautiful and unique.

I was first introduced to INKnBURN last year, and in the Autumn I dove in bought some items: a Union Run or Die vest and a denim look skirt. Within 30 minutes of getting my black envelope of awesomeness through the post box I was in the kit and heading out the door for a run to put it through it’s paces. I loved it immediately!

I’ve now been running in the kit for several months, I love running in their designs, it’s functional and comfortable, and people always compliment me on the kit when I’m wearing it. All of which made me decide to apply to be a UK ambassador.

What I also like about being an ambassador is that it gives me the opportunity to represent and support a small, individual brand.

So all in all I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to be part of the INKnBURN team and I’m looking forward to showing off the kit.

Until next time…

Kassia Gardner




P.S. You can order online or find out what makes INKnBURN so unique on their website.

Ultramarathon Training: Mixing It Up

I’m exhausted today and I’ve just about made it upstairs in time to plug the laptop in before it dies due to lack of battery, and after a break from talking about the training for a few weeks I’m back on it. This week’s training was the start of a new cycle of training…

ultramarathon training

For the past couple of months I’ve been doing the following:

  • Tuesday: 50 – 60 mins easy
  • Wednesday: 9 miles at 9 min/mile pace around Brickhills
  • Thursday: Some form of speed/tempo session
  • Saturday: parkrun or easy 30 – 40 mins
  • Sunday: Long run

But Emily is now mixing up the training. So the mid-week runs are more like a two-week cycle:

Week 1

  • Tuesday: 45 – 60 mins easy
  • Wednesday: 9 miles at 9 min/mile pace around Brickhills
  • Thursday: 45 – 60 mins easy

Not much different here, in fact all that’s happened is the speedwork session is now an easy session. But then there’s…

Week 2

  • Tuesday: Speedwork session
  • Wednesday: 40 – 60 mins easy
  • Thursday: Tempo/Progression session

Saturday forever remains parkrunday or an easy 30 – 40 minutes depending on whether it’s my husband’s turn to run parkrun or my turn.

But then to mix it up even further Emily’s got me starting the back-to-back long runs (long run Saturday and then another long run on Sunday) in mid-February.

I admit to having a bit of a worried kind of  ‘Ooh’ moment when I saw it. However I think this was to do with the reality of training for my first ultramarathon setting in, rather than thinking of it as marathon training.

I’m quite excited by the training and I love the fact the mid-week runs are different so that I’m not repeating the same type of training week in and week out. It’s more interesting and will hopefully stop the mental training fatigue that I sometimes get – after all July 11th/12th is still a long way away. I’m also trying to get out onto the trails more for my easy runs which is more fun in a kind of falling over and gouging my knee kind of way.

Add in a few runs for scoping out a Milton Keynes junior parkrun (two words, all lowercase) course and you’ve got a real mixed bag of training.

So as Emily says, “The ultra training starts here!”

And as I say, “Let’s go!”

Until next time…

Kassia Gardner

Why I Run

Why I Run: Part 1 – Being Me

This week’s blog post is inspired by another blog post: Two Fat Comrades. It’s a blog post about why Helen runs and it really struck a cord with me.

Why I run - happy
I love running the coastal path when I’m back home in the North East. This is at Frenchman’s Bay.

When Ami started nursery I got a new set of friends, parents of other children at nursery, but rather than being Kassia I became Ami’s Mum. And I’m just as guilty as referring to other parents as ‘Hubert’s* Mam’ or’ Geraldine’s* Dad’. As my mam will tell you, I’ve always been independent – it’s a big thing for me to ask for help but perhaps that’s the Northern lass in me – so suddenly losing my identity like that wasn’t easy.

I took up running when Ami was 14 months old and it allowed to temporarily run away from my problems. You just put one foot in front of the other and run away from the child crying she doesn’t want mummy to go and you run away from the stress of trying to balance childcare, family and a full time job (don’t mention chores, they rarely got done).

Despite all that running away you end up actually running towards much more. You run towards being happier, you run towards being strong, and you run towards making new friends.

And it’s so easy: there are no opening hours, no queues (except in McDonalds after a Sunday long run with friends), no sweaty gym machines that people haven’t wiped down and no membership tiers. If you run you, are a runner, simple!

Note: I was about to write that there are no membership cards but my parkrun barcode discredits that theory.

We’ll skip the bit where I lapsed and didn’t run or do any form of exercise for 18 months (getting made redundant, setting up my own business, yada, yada, yada) and I pretty much still run for the same reasons.

I run to be myself, to have time for myself. If I’m running with friends then I’m Kassia, not Ami’s mam or Izzy’s mam, if I’m running by myself then I’m whoever I want to be – I have some great imaginary conversations in my head whilst I’m running – and if I’m listening to a music or a podcast then I can just switch off and not think about anything at all.

I’m not running away from myself: I’m running to be myself. It stops me getting overwhelmed and I’m the best person of me I can be. As a result Kev gets a happier wife, and Ami and Izzy get a happier mam and that can only be a good thing.


Why I Run: Part 2 – The Challenge

Going for a run is easy, training for a race isn’t, so why do it? In some ways the answer is simple: crossing the finish line of a race makes me feel unstoppable and accomplished; determined and strong; humble and proud.

Until next time…

Kassia Gardner




* Completely made up names

I am an Expert Runner

Running has made me an expert on all sorts of things. I take pride in knowing about blistered feet, black toenails and chaffed skin. I have learnt when to eat and specifically when not to eat. I know about stuff like hydration strategies, energy gels and energy drinks. I know I sometimes get hydration and nutrition strategies wrong.

I know about the Piriformis muscle, IT band, quadriceps and how to stretch each of them. I know about using rollers and that the phrase ‘no pain, no gain’ is at it’s truest when getting a sports massage. I’ve learnt about Mitrochrondria and I know how to work my Garmin, put on timing chips and track my runs online. I can mentally calculate miles into kilometres and vice versa whilst running and the ability to do maths fails around the 20 mile mark in a marathon. I know how to organise childcare for races. I know I can run hundreds of miles in the right shoes and very few in the wrong shoes.

I know the difference between Biofreeze Gel and Deep Heat and to always remember to wash your hands after applying either of them – especially if you still have to do your make up! I have also become an expert in making ‘recovery’ hot chocolate drinks.

All of this I have learnt through experience. I may not be the complete running expert, but I am an expert. I am also a runner.

Until next time…

Kassia Gardner

The Beginning of the Journey

Technically this week has been the last week of base training before marathon training for the Greater Manchester Marathon starts. But today’s long run felt like the first proper run of this marathon training cycle. And since it felt like the first proper run of the training cycle why not start where I finished off in the last training cycle – with a fall!

Redway Runners club run, that's me on the right in my InknBurn Run or Die vest.
Redway Runners club run, that’s me on the right in my INKnBURN Union Jack Run or Die vest.

Those of you who have read my Chester Marathon review will know that during the marathon I went splat at 17.5 miles. Well on today’s run I did exactly the same.

It was everything a first run should be: cold (below freezing), icy and foggy. Exactly the kind of weather that makes it difficult to get out of bed and out the door. Some of the Redways weren’t just icy they were treacherous in places but the stupid thing is I fell over because I went over on my ankle, not because of the ice.

I have some grazing on my hand, elbow and shin, a sore swollen ankle and I’m rather sore on my hip and shoulder. But I think a rest day or two and I’ll be fine. It was nice to be complimented on the quality of my fall roll ;-).

Over the next few months my blog posts will focus on the journey to the start line of the Greater London Marathon. The aim is to keep me honest about my marathon training and to stop me getting complacent. Expect smiles, tears and excitement – not all in equal measures.

There’s something about starting a journey. There’s a sense of excitement, a sense of hope and a happy anticipation of good things. It’s a process in motion, when you’re on a journey – even if it’s not a running/training one – you’re never standing still. I know at times this journey will be painful and there will be disappointments, such as runs that don’t go to plan, but that’s part of the journey and part of the learning experience.

The goal for Manchester is sub-3:49:59 which will be a London Good For Age (GFA) time. And there is a plan to get me there, it’s just I don’t know it in its entirety yet. Coach Emily has it all mapped out but I’m only getting it a couple of weeks at a time so she can adapt and change it based on how things are going.

I’ve also signed up to Jantastic to keep me motivated. If you haven’t heard about it then it’s a free New Year’s fitness challenge to keep you motivated to achieve your personal health and fitness goals through winter and spring. I’m part of the Conkers parkrun girls team captained by Captain Roger, there’s nothing like the amazing support you get from the Conkers parkrun team: quite simply it’s an awesome group of wonderful people most of whom seem to share a love of purple, as do I.

It’s good to have a goal but it is the journey towards that goal that matters. Anyway, no journey can begin until we decide to take the very first step, so let’s go!

Until next time…

Kassia Gardner




P.S. Because at least six people asked about my Run or Die running vest that I wore on today’s club run (before I lost count) here’s the details: it’s from INKnBURN and this is the link for the ladies version and this is the link for the men’s version. I’m not on commission or anything but I do love their running kit. It really makes you stand out from the crowd.

Do You Have a Running-Related Disorder?

It has come to my attention that there are a number of serious mental disorders that are related specifically to running. What is most concerning is that instances of these mental disorders seem to be on the rise, and in fact have to admit that I am a sufferer too.


So here from the recent Journal of Runners Mental Maladies are some of the more common mental disorders associated with runners:


Chronic Running Acquisition and Purchase Syndrome (CRAPS)

The inability to pass a running shop and not buy another piece of running kit because it looks good or is on sale. Usually associated with running t-shirts and running shoes.


Acute Technical Tee Sickness (ATTS)

Feelings of jealousy experienced when seeing a t-shirt on another runner that you want because it looks good, you like the colour or, more commonly, it’s a finisher’s t-shirt from a race you want to do.


Acute Bling Covetousness (ABC)

Similar to ATTS but it’s all about the bling/race medal.


Obsessive Rounding Up Disorder (ORUD)

Often seen on owners of Garmin and other GPS running watches. Sufferers have a complete inability not to round up their mileage to the next mile or the next minute. It is easy to spot sufferers as they are often seen running round in circles or up and down the same bit of path in order to ‘round up’.


Delusional Positive Split Affliction (DPA)

The persistent inability to comprehend that “putting time in the bank” by setting out faster than race pace is a bad idea.


Compulsive Carbohydrate Complaint (3C)

A compulsion to eat huge quantities of pasta and/or rice during the week before a race. Sufferers believe carb-loading is mandatory especially the night before and will often go to extremes in searching out the nearest Italian or pasta restaurant when racing away from home.


Obsessive Running Shoe Preservation Disorder (ORSPD)

The inability to throw away any pair of running shoes, even though the shoes might have done over 500 miles, caused blisters or led to other injuries sufferers will hang onto the shoes ‘just in case’. Just in case: they need them for a muddy run, for doing the gardening or for something else that might crop up in 10 years time.


Pre-Race Insomnia Affliction (PRIA)

A temporary affliction the night before a race. Sufferers are typically anxious about sleeping through their alarm so they spend large portions of the night waking up, checking the time and then trying/failing to get back to sleep. When they do sleep they often dream of missing the start, being at the start in the wrong kit, not having their GPS watch, or getting lost on the course.


Post-race Enthusiastic Delirium Sickness (PEDS)

A compulsion to immediately enter another race of the distance once you’ve crossed the finish line, despite swearing you were never going to do this again few miles previously. Can lead to PANTS if treatment is not managed correctly.


Post-race Adjustment to No Training Syndrome (PANTS)

The struggle to adjust to the reality of not training for something if you don’t have the next race lined up. Symptoms include: sloth, boredom, indifference, can’t-be-arsed-it is and eating cake, lots of cake.


If you suspect you, or a fellow runner, has one or more of the above complaints I urge you to see a doctor – ideally one that runs. Or you can do what most runners with complaints and injuries do and just run through it.

So which ones do you suffer from or do you suffer from something not listed here?

A Letter to my Body

Dear Body,

I appreciate this letter is long overdue. Over the last few months I’ve heaped more pressure on you than ever before and I never really took the time to say thank you and well done…

Letter to my body

You really do deserve some appreciation and recognition. And before you start, yes I know I write a lot about appreciation and recognition as a ghost writer for one of my clients, so yes, I should know better.

I’m sorry and you deserve better.

But I’m not talking about all the marathon training I’ve piled on you; the long, long runs of over 22 miles, speedwork, hill work and parkruns. It’s the other stuff that I’m really sorry about.

You know what I’m talking about; the disapproval, the picking you apart. This bit needs to be improved, that bit could be better. Your arms are too flabby, your skin isn’t perfect, you have grey hairs and dare I mention the thighs? Hmm, perhaps not.

Thankfully these days I’m less concerned about your superficial aspects. And it’s a good job too since I’ve previously forced you to live off alcohol, cake, fizzy drinks and crisp sandwiches. I’ve coloured your hair, fried you in the sun, tattooed you and kept you awake until tomorrow morning. I’ve berated you for not being fast enough, for walking when I wanted to run, and for breaking under the strain of training for a half marathon in just four weeks.

I’m sorry for beating you up and at times doubting you.

Apart from the odd niggle, ache and pain to remind me you’re still there you’ve held up very well and never complained, even when I’ve pushed you to perform when you really needed rest. In fact you’ve always done what I’ve asked of you, which is something my kids have never done.

You may be fed up with me and a whisker away from packing your suitcase and leaving but I am genuinely amazed at how brilliant you are. I love your strength, your courage and your ability to keep going even though that silly mind is telling you stop. You don’t listen and you keep on going and going, you’re my own personal Duracell battery. I’ve learnt that given a chance you can achieve the most amazing things.

I glory in how you feel. How you feel the wind, sunshine and rain on my skin – although I think we can both agree to dislike the feel of hailstones on bare skin. I revel in how you make me feel after a great run and how after a bad run you’re still willing to give it another go.

I’m really looking forward to growing old with you, and I apologise in advance for the abuse you’ll get in the next seven months as I train for my my first ultra marathon.

You know I don’t make New Year resolutions but I do promise to try and do better: to be aware of what I put into you, to listen to you when you are hurting, and to rest when you need it. I will mess up and make mistakes – I would be a fool if I said I would never abuse you again – but there’s no doubt, when we work together we make a great team!

You are stronger than I think. You’re my inspiration. And that’s why we should always, “Be Your Own Kind of Beautiful.”

Until next time…

Kassia Gardner

My First Ultra

I’ve done it! I’ve just entered my first ultra marathon and I’m so excited. Honestly, I’m like a kid at Christmas and with two young girls in the house and it being nearly Christmas the excitement level in the Gardner household is nearly at squealing level, poor Kev…

My first ultra: Race to the Stones

A couple of days ago I entered the Race to the Stones, and I’ve signed up for the two-day event. As much as I would love to do the 100k all in one option I’m playing the ‘be sensible card’. Race to the Stones is part of a larger plan to do the Comrades Marathon in 2016 so Race to the Stones is as much about learning what I don’t know about ultra running and taking that forward as it is about completing the challenge. It’s important that I don’t bight off more than I can chew especially when it comes to fitting in running around work and family committments. I also worry that jumping straight into a 100k risks picking up an injury and/or not doing myself justice. Completing the ultra isn’t enough: my first goal is to finish Race to the Stones feeling happy and strong.

I know that when it comes to ultras there is no correct way of doing anything: what has worked for one person, won’t work for someone else. But on this journey I have Emily Harrison to guide me so all I really need to do is follow the training plan I’ll be given and pick her brains about nutrition and mindset – if only it was as easy as that. Over the next several months we’ll see how training progresses and will fine tune some time goals I have in mind nearer the time, and it’s a real confidence boost to read Emily’s comment,

“…being more of an endurance monster I expect you will respond very well to the ultra training.”

My main problem at the moment is that my first ultra marathon race is over seven months away in July, and I want to get started on the training now! I think perhaps Emily is going to have to do some work on curbing my enthusiasm and making sure I don’t overtrain.

But back at the current plan, we’re working on my weak areas which is speed over short distances and that’s the way the plan will stay up until Christmas when we’ll start the combined ultra and Greater Manchester Marathon training. I’m hoping to get 3:49:59 or faster at the Greater Manchester Marathon, which would give me, a London Marathon Good For Age place. That means knocking 3 minutes and 42 seconds off my marathon PB, it sometimes seems a big chunk to knock off but I believe it’s achievable.

So that’s two projects for 2015: Race to the Stones #ProjectRttS and Manchester Marathon #Project349. I’m really looking forward to the journey that training for my first ultra will take me on.

This week’s training:

  • Monday: 30 min easy run – not on the plan but testing out some new Adidas Boston Boost running shoes
  • Tuesday: 50 min easy run
  • Wednesday: Nine miles at long run pace
  • Thursday: Intervals
  • Saturday: 30 min easy run by myself and then MK parkrun with Daughter the Second (she got a course PB!)
  • Sunday: 10 mile long run

Until next time…

Kassia Gardner

Not The Running I Had Planned

This week was meant to be a ‘down’ week, which generally means less mileage and perhaps an extra day off. I do one of these weeks every fourth week, so in this case my mileage over the four-week cycle had been: 28 miles, 35 miles, 28 miles (including race) and then the ‘down’ week of 40 miles. Whoops! Last time I checked my maths 40 was more than 35…


The problem is I’m just feeling really keen at the moment. So the 50 minute run on Tuesday became 70 mins with the club, then daughter the elder wanted to go running to make a penguin (more information on this in a bit) on Wednesday night so that was an extra two miles, I woke up at 5am on Friday and after tossing and turning for a bit and deciding I probably wasn’t going to get back to sleep I went for a run and did five miles.

The Thursday interval session didn’t go to plan either. The plan was for a 15 minute warm up and then a Fartlek Ladder Workout: 1 min at 5k race (or faster) effort, 2 mins at 5 mile race effort, 3 mins at 10k race effort, 4 mins at half marathon race effort,  5 mins at half marathon race effort, and then back down the ladder 4, 3, 2, 1, each with a two minute recovery jog and then a cool down run home. However despite three attempts to load the workout on the Garmin when I came to start the workout on the Garmin it wasn’t there. So knowing I was going to have run and check timings on my watch manually I improvised and did a completely different workout of  2 x (3 min @ HM effort, 3 min @10k effort, 3 min @ 5k effort – all with 3 min recoveries to make the maths easier) I was still feeling good at the end of the workout so I did an extra 2 x 3 min at HM effort.

shenley wood penguinI also had a bit of fun as on Wednesday morning as I’d realised the night before that the woods near home made the outline of a penguin, so I set off on an easy run with my phone and Google Maps app to run the outline of the penguin and then venture into the wood to make a wing. I’m pretty pleased with the result, what do you think?

Of course, when Ami saw it she wanted to give it a go so off we went into the night, head torches on. The outline was pretty easy but we were too busy chatting about special quadrilaterals whilst trying to make the penguins wing and we missed a trail and ended up temporarily lost in the woods, in the dark. Thankfully Shenley Wood isn’t that big and we were soon back on track but the penguin’s wing ended up very wonky to say the least. Something else, that didn’t quite go as planned.

Which brings me back to the plan. The whole point to having a plan is so I know what to do, perhaps it’s the same for you. Training plans are a necessity if you’re focusing on training for a race, but when our focus is so intent on making it happen it can be crushing when things just don’t work out like we wanted them to, whether that’s missing a training run or becoming so focused on the outcome and achieving a set time that it’s devastating when it doesn’t work out as planned. The downside of plans is that sometimes we can become so concentrated on accomplishing what’s that we lose sight of what else is important, such as enjoying our running.

I’d started training for London in mid-December 2013, before going into the East Midlands Grand Prix series and then straight into Chester Marathon training. In August I hit a bump, I’d been so focused on training for a race for so long I forgot what it was like to run for the pure enjoyment of running. I forgot what it was to just go run and not have to worry about pace or “have to get in an interval session whilst the girls are at school and work deadlines are stacking up.” In some ways I’d stopped looking at running as something I do that’s fun and I’d turned it into a job. And running should never feel like a job.

And that’s why it’s important to not get too caught up in the plan. Life happens, but don’t forget to have your own miles and smiles.

This week’s training:

  • Tuesday: 70 min easy run
  • Wednesday: Shenley Wood Penguin easy run
  • Thursday: Intervals
  • Saturday: 2 hour long run
  • Sunday: Nowt!

Until next time…

Kassia Gardner

The Dirt Half

This week has all been about the Dirt Half. As it was my first half marathon trail race I just wanted to enjoy the race and cross the finish line feeling happy and strong. But the way the week went meant that that was in doubt…

Dirt Half Trail Race

The Dirt Half is a trail race that follows the canal towpath north to Stoke Hammond with stunning views, climbs through beautiful countryside to Great Brickhill then passes through the scenic Stockgrove Country Park before following the Greensand Ridge back to the start via the canal towpath. Having helped water stations previously I was I was really looking forward to running it this year, especially as it would be my first trail race over a decent distance.

Unfortunately for most of the week leading up to the race I’d been suffering from stomach cramps, and I was definitely having GI problems the day before. But I was determined to run it so I turned up I stood on the start line, albeit not my usual smiley self as Jen put it.

Dirt half elevationThis race was all about enjoying myself so I set myself a target of two hours and the challenge of pacing myself up the hill and though the undulating woods which is not as easy as pacing on a flat course.

I started out with a few others from my club who wanted to do around two hours, it was slow at first but once we we’re on the canal towpath we each settled into our individual rhythm. Thankfully the stomach issues that had plagued me over the previous few days disappeared as soon as I started running and I soon settled into at what felt like two hour effort. It was an effort level I was able to maintain all the way around, including going up that hill. It might have been slower going up that hill but for a while I was flying down the other side at sub-7:30 min/mile pace – shouting, “Wheeeeeeee!” whilst another runner commented, “Someone’s enjoying themselves,” as I ran past them.

During the race I stopped to let my daughter take photos, I stopped and chatted at the water stations whilst having a cup of water and I spent a considerable part of it chatting to other runners, including going up that hill – although that was a pretty much one way conversation if I’m honest. I could have shaved over two minutes off my time if I hadn’t stopped still, according to my stats on Garmin Connect, but what’s the rush. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and finished in 1 hour 59 minutes and 55 seconds. How’s that for pacing?

Like life, it’s sometimes better not to take running to seriously…

This week’s training:

  • Tuesday: 60 min DUSA progression run
  • Wednesday: 45 min easy along trails
  • Thursday: 40 min easy
  • Saturday: Dirt Half Marathon
  • Sunday: Nowt!

Until next time…

Kassia Gardner




P.S. If you want to know what Kev and the girls did whilst I was running then read about their adventures of geocaching in Leighton Buzzard.