Only 2 days to the Great North Run!

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And I have ran more than 500 miles! (in training so far!)

Who would have thought that I would ever get this far after deciding late one night that it would be a sensible idea to sign up to run the Great North Run for Oxfam? Less than 5 months later and I’m counting down the final few days to the big race feeling a bit nervous and majorly impressed by the amount of support and advice that my family and friends have offered me. I just reached the astonishing £500 mark far surpassing my original £300 target!

It’s definitely been an adventure this half marathon training malrkey. Long gone are the days where I staggered to complete 3 miles and embarrassed to be seen running in public, I sprinted past anyone heading my way resulting in a hyperventilating and fushia coloured Lauren.

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Our 10 Mile Jelly race! What a hot day! Only meet to run 3.1 more miles to make the Great North Run

I remember my first 6 mile race where I hadn’t actually done any real training or ran 3 miles without stopping. My pre race preparations involved adding an extra layer of make up, youknow in case the St John Ambulance crew had to pick me up off the roadside. At least they would think ‘well she looks alright, she made an effort.’ I have a feeling my  pre race ritual will be somewhat different on Sunday morning!

Now I have (somehow!) managed to run 10 miles without stopping in 1 hr 34mins!! I only had to pause once to pour water into my trainers to soothe my burning bones. It was a VERY hot day. I  even got a sun tan on my arms!

 The highlights of my training so far includes…
  • being the fittest I’ve ever been!
  • having abs without holding my breath in! (I can actually see them and they’re real!)
  • spending more time outdoors
  • enjoying the sunshine (and somehow I’ve also learnt to enjoy the rain even when torrential)
  • making new friends without who I would never have made it through those very necessary long training runs! I salute your route planning skills!! And thank you for your encouragement!!
  • challenging myself to go beyond what I thought I was capable of
  • pushing myself way way outside my comfort zone
  • seeing a difference in my legs too! They’re strong!
  • trying new complimentary exercise. Hot yoga!
  • exploring parts of England I would never normally see on foot
  • there’s something glorious about being the only one running through a woodland with the Sun light streaming through the trees and discovering a beautiful waterfall and squirrels running free
  • running by myself and learning to enjoy it
  • learning to regulate my breathing
  • being able to eat everything in sight!
  • using running to actually get to and from places much quicker than walking
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    Running up THAT Hill!!

 What I’m looking forward to post GNR
  • resting!
  • sorting out the rest of our wedding (only 3 months to go!)
  • baking and decorating my 4 (or maybe 5) tiered wedding cake
  • not aching in various places
  • running the Edinburgh 10k!
  • no longer requiring blister plasters as part of my weekly shop
  • not spending the majority of my free time being hot and sweaty
  • wearing pretty clothes more often
  • getting showered at work
  • having more of a social life!
  • baking more aroundtheworldin80bakes experiments!

I’m counting down the hours now until the big race on Sunday and trying to remain calm! Here’s hoping for a good time! I will let you know how I get on!I’m aiming to get a hi five from Mo Farah who’s starting the race this year!

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Some International tiered cake inspiration from Amsterdam

Thank you everyone for reading for for all the support so far. If you would like to sponsor me please visit my Just Giving Page www.justgiving.com/Lauren-Prince 

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My Oxfam Vest

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Running Wild With Raw Almond Butter

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Apparently it’s very easy to make your own Raw Almond Butter and it’s supposed to be really good for you. (Especially, if like me, you’re training to run half marathons.) I had to give it a whirl.

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Perserverance is the key to making your own almond butter. It should only take 10 minutes of whizzing up almonds in a food processor to produce wholesome wonderment… However an hour later my head and ears were buzzing from the incessant food processor screeches and I was getting a bit annoyed.

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You may remember that in my wisdom this year, I have decided to run The Great North Run (all 13.1 miles of it) to raise money for Oxfam.I am trying my best to train as much as possible to gradually reach my target distance, but a few niggles have made the path to fitness nirvana rather steep.

So far I’ve;

  •  Been chased and bitten by an overly excited dog

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  • Been pursued by cows (Please note cows seem to like red running tops)
  • Bruised my spine running with my haversack on after work (Note: do not attempt to run home wearing a pair of cowboy boots and a jar of jam on your back)
  • Bought and broke 2 running haversacks
  • Cut my collarbones (see the previous statement)
  • Developed shinsplints and rhinitis
  • Endured 4 ice baths to ease the shinsplints! (For those unfamiliar with the extreme pleasure of an ice bath they are best enjoyed with your pants ON, a cup of tea, almond butter toast and wearing a hoodie)
  • Entered (and completed) 3 competitive races!
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with more races still to come… Gateshead 10k

  • Cut my toes and didn’t even notice (perhaps this is what people mean when they talk about ‘getting into the zone’?!)
  • Purchased a running wardrobe. (There’s a lot of fluorescent pink in there now.)
  • Eaten an inordinate amount of cake (running makes me hungry!)
  • Developed muscles I didn’t know I owned
  • Practiced a lot of yoga to stretch out those weary muscles…
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Carpet Yoga (note Super Hans’helping’ in the background)

Yet I’m undeterred! In fact I’ve even threw myself in at the deep end. Running in the UK monsoon conditions, which others may call ‘the Summer’, with my eyes closed as it’s too difficult to keep them open (perhaps this is a talent that I didn’t know I possessed?) and an all terrain 10k trail run.

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A spot of flash flooding up North to keep us on our toes

Almond Butter, promised me a miracle. It’s a high protein food that is full of Vitamin E and supposed to help prevent sore muscles and ease my aching legs! Hurrah! AND I had a bag of almonds already in the cupboard. It had to be made.

I threw a 200g bag of almonds (with their skins on) into the food processor and turned it up high. It wasn’t particuarly happy with this challenge, but with a little encouragement it ploughed through the almonds.

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Looking like ground almonds

About 4 minutes in (and a bit a scrapping down the sides of the bowl)the almonds looked like ground almonds, the kind you would use in macaroons. So you could make your own ground almonds from scratch too if you wished.

The instructions said to keep going and blitz them up as much as possible. About 10minutes in the almonds should ‘release’ their oils. This means that the almonds should then ball up in to a nice big lump of almond butter.

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Looks like the oils are being ‘released’ -scrambled nuts

However mine did not. It just kept looking like scrambled eggs made out of almonds and sticking infuriatingly to the bottom of the bowl. I religiously scraped the bowl with my spatula to ensure all of the almonds were getting an even blitzing, so much so my spatula got a bit sliced up on the blade and had to go to spatula Heaven. RIP trusty spatula.

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Adding coconut oil and honey – starting to come together….

Apparently you probably don’t need to add any oil to the mix as the almonds have enough oil to suffice. However I couldn’t get mine to stick together so I gradually added coconut oil, another super running food full of energy and good stuff (I clearly known my science stuff here) to help with those extra miles, until I got it to more of a paste like consistency. I also added a good slosh of honey to sweeten the mix, tasting it as I went to make sure it was to my liking.

Eventually I realised that I wasn’t going to get a peanut butter smoothness or glossy texture so I declared my Almond Butter done and popped the lot into a jam jar, ready for my pre run toast.

It is a little on the dry side and almost savoury (maybe I didn’t add enough honey or oil?!) but I quite like it. It doesn’t have any preservatives in it and it almost tastes healthy. You could use rapeseed oil or any other oil that you prefer too.

As it contains no preservatives, it needs to be stored in the fridge as the almond oil may go rancid. However the honey may help to preserve it as it’s the only natural substance that does not go off!

I’m going to see if I can incorporate my Almond Butter into some international baking too, but for now I’m going to just enjoy it on toast and spread on various fruits and vegetables too. Or if I’m feeling particularly lazy (or in a hurry) I might save myself the effort and chew on a handful of almonds instead…

The Final Product! Raw Almond Butter

Things I used to make my Raw Almond Butter

  • 200g of whole almonds with their skins on
  • A liberal splash of coconut oil (any oil would suffice)
  • Runny honey ( 1 to 2 tbsp)
  • A Strong Food Processor

And now for something completely different – Running Home, Running Fast? Running the Great North Run for Oxfam

I’m not a runner. I never have been despite my best efforts (my first ever junior run took over an hour to jog/walk 3 miles…) and yet I found myself contemplating the Great North Run this year, all in the name of Oxfam. I don’t think I would put myself through 13.1 miles (with hills) if it wasn’t for such a good cause.

Me in full Oxfam Stewarding mode at Leeds Festival 2007

I apologise for this slighty baking interlude but I really wanted to share this with you. I promise I will get back to cake as soon as possible or perhaps invent some way of combining the two. Cake Running. Now that’s my kind of sport.

Field of flags at Glastonbury

I’ve been supporting Oxfam for quite a few years now, volunteering at music festivals and donating on a regular basis. If you ever get the chance to volunteer for Oxfam, I really recommend that you do.

What a wonderful group of friends

I met the most wonderful group of friends through Oxfam, watched some amazing bands and made it to Glastonbury and Leeds Festival in the process, in return for stewarding at the festivals, doing three eight hour shifts. Stewarding at festivals also helps Oxfam to raise money.

Glastonbury got a bit muddy but look at those smiles! Oxfam Stewards

Night shift got a bit on the cold side

Me holding back the crowds with a security guard before Leeds Festival opened

But I haven’t had as much time as before to spend a week stewarding at festivals, what with travelling the globe and having a proper job, so I really wanted to do something to actively support Oxfam and the fantastic work that they’re doing.

The infamous Pyramid Stage before the crowds arrived at Glastonbury

Did you know to have the biggest possible impact on the lives of poor people worldwide, Oxfam concentrates on three areas of work?

Emergency response

Development work

Campaigning for change

Tackling poverty in 70 countries including the UK to ensure people can live healthy and safe lives.

I’m looking to raise a minimum of £300 before I run the Great North Run on 16th September 2012. If you have a little spare money that you would like to donate it will be very gratefully appreciated by the millions of people who Oxfam support and also by me. Each pound that is donated will help me get one foot in front of the other and push me on to train to get through those 13.1 miles. (That 0.1 of a mile is definitely important!)

Rather a lot of mud to get stuck in

At the moment millions of people in West Africa are at risk of starvation. Due to low rainfall, poor harvests, high food prices and a lack of pasture means that 13 million people are at risk of serious food shortages across the Sahel region. Oxfam aims to reach 1 million of them. £25 will pay for the vaccination of 15 goats which can then provide food and an income for families.

My target it to raise a minimum of £300. Fingers crossed! And £300 is more than enough to provide clean, safe drinking water for nine families in West Africa, by building or repairing water sources.

Oxfam has achieved so much already but they need continued support to ensure they can reach those who need it most. In this year alone they have secured clean water, public health and sanitation for nearly 34,000 refugees from the conflict in Sudan.

I know that any donations that are pledged will be a sure fire way to motivate me to put the cake down and get my trainers on. Thank you very much not only for reading this post, but also for donating anything that you can.

Just in case you need it my online fundraising page can be found here… JustGiving/Lauren-Prince

Hey Big Spender! Dame Shirley Bassey performing at Glastonbury