As the one year anniversary of my return to London rolls around and having recently turned 35, here is some stuff I learned about life:-


1. Enter races that you haven’t trained enough for, run with people that are faster than you and embark on adventures that put you outside your comfort zone. You will have fun and unless your legs fall off there is no good reason why you shouldn’t. Stop worrying and get out there and do stuff while you’re still young and have all your teeth.

2. Don’t do anything for money or fame or critical acclaim. Do it all for yourself in 50 years’ time, so you’ll have cool stories to tell your grandchildren when you look back at your fabled life.

3. Be brave and take risks. If you fall madly love with a tall dark handsome stranger and he asks you to move to the wilderness with him, do it. It might suck immeasurably, but it will be worth it. You will come home stronger.

4. Take this strength and apply it to positive things, like cycling to France, or building flat-packed furniture, or loving yourself, or running naked through the zoo.

5. Tell your friends and family you love them, frequently and with sincerity, in case you get hit by a car tomorrow.

6. If your boyfriend takes his phone to the toilet with him, he’s probably cheating on you. Or he has IBS.

7. If a friend or a loved one puts your down, criticises you, belittles you or tries to change you, be sympathetic and kind to them. They are probably miserable. Then block their phone number and walk away.

8. Approach eating, running, climbing, singing, dancing, love and sex with enthusiasm and you will never fail.

9. Wear your hair grips with the wriggly side up so your hair won’t get bent.

10. Never give up, but don’t be afraid to let go.

As featured on

Runner, writer and occasional breaststroker, Rhalou, dons the Lycra and tries her hand at triathlon.

As a running fanatic, I’ve always been loyal to my favourite sport and thought triathlons sounded a bit daft (sorry tri friends). But, mostly because I wanted the hot body that training for all three pursuits seems to produce, I also secretly toyed with the idea of entering one. Spurred on by my desire to look sexy in hotpants, earlier in the year I entered the Shock Absorber WomenOnly Triathlon with my friend Susie.

Although I knew what triathlons entailed, I hadn’t considered the implications of taking on a sport that requires so much bloody kit. As a runner, I’m used to slinging on my trainers and dashing out the door. Triathlons are ridiculously complicated. Not only do you need a wetsuit alongside your running kit, but you have to acquire a bicycle and a helmet too; ludicrous.

Rhalou and Susie tri girls

After taking my usual lackadaisical approach to training, a couple of months before race day I suddenly panicked and set about honing my pins to trisexual perfection. Determined not die on my first tri, I even got myself a swim coach. Although I love running and I’m confident on a bike, swimming is a whole different ballgame. I could just about summon up breast stroke, but I was incapable of submerging my head without crying (I hate to ruin good make up) and the temptation to drop out was strong.

A couple of swimming sessions at Swim4tri put an end to my fears and I even managed to master the art of front crawl. After running to the pool a few times, I discovered that swimming really benefits my overworked leg muscles. I also borrowed a tri suit off my cool friend Katie and felt surprisingly sexy in the Lycra onesie.

When race day finally rolled around, Susie and her ace boyfriend Shaun picked me up from Windsor and we set off for Eton Dorney Lake. Upon arrival the tri waves were already well under way. With precariously balanced bike racks, mountains of kit and hundreds of other women queuing up to get involved, it all seemed like a massive ball ache and I wandered if it was worth it. But as we approached the bag drop, I was struck by the incredibly laid back atmosphere. Although my fellow competitors were clearly busting their guts out, everyone seemed relaxed and I felt instantly at ease.

Katie, Rhalou and Susie

While dropping off my bike and dumping my gear in the transition section, I chatted with fellow competitors. There was a real sense of camaraderie, which I suspect might have had something to do with the lack of male competitors. We were all in this together and no one was going to elbow each other in the face to get the top spot. Feeling slightly more confident, I waded into the water in my onesie and prayed for forgiveness from the tri Gods.

Even with swimming lessons and the aforementioned prayers, the first stage still sucked. Flapping around in the water I swallowed so much of the lake, that I quickly gave up on the front crawl I had worked so hard to master and stuck to breast stroke. But when a floating race marshal threatened to make the last one out the water buy him lunch, I mysteriously sped up, beating a few knackered ladies in the process, and finished in 12:29.

Next up was the cycle; four times anti-clockwise around the lake on a reassuringly flat path. Despite riding a hybrid, I felt confident and happy whizzing around the water and enjoyed picking off competitors on much fancier road bikes. It was great to see Shaun cheering in the crowd as I cycled round (I knew boys were useful for something). I could have happily kept going and finished in a comfortable 56:55.

Rhalou and Susie

It was a blessing to complete the trilogy with my favourite pursuit; the running section. By the time I hit the road it was baking hot and my competitors looked exhausted, but I felt the strongest I had all day and skipped along the path grinning like an idiot. I had my doubts about the out and back route, but was glad of the chance to high-five my friend Katie running the opposite way, and whoop like a baboon when the amazing Susie lapped me to finish in seventh place overall. I didn’t cough up a lung or come close to Susie’s inspirational efforts, but I felt strong and comfortable, finishing in a not too shabby 28:55.

Having entered The Shock Absorber WomenOnly Triathlon on a whim with reservations about the sport and the concept of gender specific events, it was a pleasure to be proven wrong on both counts. I thoroughly enjoyed race day (apart from the swimming bit) and racing alongside so many lovely ladies was the perfect introduction to the sport. After such a great tri taster, I can’t wait to don a Lycra onesie and go back for more.

Why do people enter races? For the challenge, the adventure, the thrill of the ride, or the incredible sense of fulfilment running brings? Unless you’re an athlete, of all the reasons to enter races, running speedily is not the first thing that springs to mind. There are a million trillion more emotional, heart warming and life changing reasons to pit your legs against the open road. And yet, be it 5K or 50 miles, once you’ve completed your challenge, the one question people always ask is, ‘what was your time?’

It irks me that such a profound and integral aspect of my life is reduced to chunks of manageable time. Of course it feels good to run really fast, and yes it’s an accomplishment to get fitter and faster, but is speed really the ultimate barometer of race success?


If a running event was measured by enjoyment, laughter, weather, enthusiastic support, or most interesting people met en route, it would be a different story, and I’d be champion of the fucking world. My best most memorable races had nothing to do with time and everything to do with life experience. Last weekend was one such race.

To celebrate my 35th birthday, I decided to run my age. Partly because I wanted to improve on last year, which was an unbelievably sucky birthday because I got my heartbroken, but mostly because I had something to prove.

photo 2

Within me lies a well of incredible strength and endurance. I know this because I survived the last year in London town on a shoestring with a ruptured heart. But put me in a field of speedy runners and I feel like a failure. I just can’t help stopping to smell the flowers and admire the birds nesting in the trees. I love running passionately and I thrive off the spirit of racing. But I was born to dance to the beat of my own drum and formulaic road races suck out all the fun.

To prove to myself that anything was possible, and to have a laugh because I love running with friends, I decided to organise my own damn ultra marathon, and the Rhalultra was born. Because It was my race, I could do it my way, and still legitimately win. This meant approximate mileage, a vague route (because what is life without adventure?) and virtually no training. I run regularly, so I knew I could cover a long distance, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to follow a tedious training plan for six months when really all I want to do is have fun.

Most of my sane running friends would balk at the idea of running for a vague and indefinite time without a map or a fancy watch. But thankfully I have a few friends patient and willing enough to pander to my whimsical desires, and one particularly cool pal who is just as free-spirited as me when it comes to running in the great outdoors.

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Simon Lamb is a dude. He is my best man friend. I know this for a fact, because last weekend he ran beside me for ten whole hours and 41.3 miles in the searing heat, and only complained when I tried to make him do a sprint finish. (Yes that’s a little over 35 miles, but when you’re having so much fun, who cares about numbers?)

Speedy Claire Pepper, the Amazing Sarah Onions, Delicious Dom, Incredible Harriet, Heroic Nathaniel and the King of Hugs Lawrence Lartey are all Rhalultra runners worthy of praise. They made my birthday run so much fun and I love them all for it.

rha gang

If you’re interested in the logistics of the Rhalultra, check out my Runner’s World article here I won’t bore you with the stats. All I will say is, I ran 41.3 God damn miles on Saturday, and I did it incredibly slowly so I could stop for ice cream and flower sniffs, and I loved every bloody second of it, and if I can do it, then so can you.

And if anyone asks me if I ran a good time, I will reply, ‘Why yes, I had the best time in the whole fucking world.’

Next Saturday I turn 35. I do not have a salary, a proper job, a house, a baby, a boyfriend, a pension or a clue. I’m not even really sure how I’m going to pay my rent next month. But I do have legs, and I can run!

To celebrate turning 35 and to improve on last year’s birthday, which was really shit, I have decided to set myself a challenge. I am going to run my age.


With the help of some lovely friends and race support provided by my superhero sports massage therapist Six Seconds High, on 26th July I am going to run from Royston to London via Ware, and even if it takes me all day, I am going to win.

If you fancy running a section of the inaugural Rhalultra with me, drop me a line @Rhalou or meet me at the finish line The Faltering Fullback for a post race pint. I aim to cross the pub threshold before 3pm.

I love you in secret special ways.

#Rhalultra xx

In my ongoing quest for adventure, earlier in the year I asked Twitter if anyone fancied cycling to Paris. Inspired by @ChallengeSophie who seems to zip back and forth across the channel at wild abandon, it seemed like an easy enough task. Get on a bike, pedal in a forward motion in the direction of France, hope for the best.

The first person to reply to my Tweet was Alan Eagle. Although we didn’t really know each other all that well, having followed one another’s running exploits online for years, it felt perfectly natural to agree to cycle to another country together. Alan is also ginger, so by default he is a really cool person. We set a date and agreed to undertake the challenge. What could possibly go wrong?

Rhalou bicycle

As the date approached, with an imminent house move, cash flow issues and the glaring lack of a bicycle keeping me awake at night, I started to question my decision to cycle to Paris. I called Alan and tried to backtrack. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I’ve got it all sorted, just meet me at King’s Cross at noon. Oh and bring a bicycle.”

After some hustling, I acquired a bike, borrowed panniers off my cool friend Anna and bought some lube. I had no excuses. I was destined to cycle to Paris if it killed me.


When my partner in crime took 30 minutes to find me on the platform at King’s Cross station before we’d even started our journey, I knew we were in for a rough ride. It turns out Alan is a bit rubbish at navigating. Oh and he didn’t bring a map. But apart from this, he was a wonderful companion and I promise not to take the piss out of his lack of spacial awareness a moment longer. If you ever get the opportunity to go on an adventure with Alan, jump at the chance. He is a cheerful and considerate cycling companion. Just don’t leave him in charge of the map.

Armed with bum lube and home made flapjack, we set off in the direction of Newhaven by way of the Avenue Verte, a cycle path promising to lead us from London to Paris with relative ease. Except we may have miscalculated the distance somewhat. It turns out that, having not really done any training, 60 miles on day one is a huge undertaking. Despite having 11 hours to play with, we missed our ferry crossing by two minutes. Undeterred by this minor setback, we found a hotel and set off again at dawn.

Rhalou map

Although our first day in France was a little behind schedule, it was worth the wait. The French approach to cycling is considerably more civilised than us Brits and the Avenue Verte provides a stark contrast to the UK. With well signposted routes and long traffic-free sections set along an old railway line, it was a pleasure to explore.

As the gentle Normandy landscape unfolded around us, we passed row upon row of fairytale houses, with quaint wooden shutters and perfectly manicured hedges that looked like they belonged in a Hansel and Gretal story book. Cruising through olde worlde deserted French villages with nothing but delicious bread and cheese and balmy sunshine for company, we didn’t see another cyclist all day long.


After 40 odd miles and a few wrong turns (it’s hard to navigate even the clearest routes with just an iPhone) it became apparent we weren’t going to make it to Paris (or even halfway) in one day. As nightfall descended and our weary legs could cycle no more, we stopped off in the little town of Forges-les-Eaux. The only venue open at that hour was the casino. So on a Thursday night in a small town in Normandy, we found ourselves in a packed ballroom eating Tagliatelle surrounded by inflatable palm trees and elderly gamblers listening to James Brown’s Sex Machine. Alan produced a Hawaiian shirt from his pannier. If I hadn’t been so tired/drunk I would have noticed we’d slipped into a parallel David Lynch dimension.


The following morning we rose early and, drunk on optimism, decided to try and complete the last 100 miles to Paris in one day. Stuffed full of croissants and those miniature jams I always want to steal, we set off for the big day ahead. Having shared a rather small twin room with Alan who was still a virtual stranger, I foolishly didn’t go to the toilet and hit the road with a full tummy.

After about an hour I needed a poo so badly I would have gone to the loo with a hundred virtual strangers in the room and not given a rat’s arse. But there were no toilets, and so we toiled up some rather hilly sections of the route while I desperately tried not to poo myself. By mile 30 I gave up hope and squatted in a field. A nearby car stopped to watch. I cycled the next 20 miles really really quickly.


The next few hours drifted by in a haze of rolling hills, soothing countryside, stunning chateaus and bum chafe. At about mile 60, tired but determined and roughly 40 miles outside of Paris, a cheerful drunk Frenchman leapt out in front of us and enthusiastically motioned us towards his home. After a complex game of sign language, he produced a rather beautiful wife who spoke perfect English. She generously invited us into her home while her pissed husband stood and shouted at us joyfully (I assume) in French. We declined their kind offer, for fear of waking up in an ice bath with no kidneys, and set off.


Ten minutes up the road and it started to rain, heavily. Twenty minutes up the road we approached the only hotel within a 50 mile radius, and it was full. We found a bus stop to shelter from the downfall and discuss the price of human kidneys. The merits of getting arrested to ensure a warm bed for the night also came up in conversation. But then Alan produced a bottle of gin from his pannier. Soaking wet and miles from anywhere with nothing but neat gin and flagrant cheese for dinner, I realised I hadn’t felt this happy in years.


There’s nothing like the need for sleep and a substantial dinner to galvanise a girl to cycle 100 miles in one day so, fuelled by gin and desperation, when the rain finally stopped we set off again. As the clouds parted, we were rewarded with a rather sublime sunset and the hint of the outskirts of Paris.

Exhausted and chafing in strange places, as the 95th mile approached, cycling through the darkness I was convinced we were nearly there. But upon closer inspection of my iPhone, it turns out that Paris is in fact fucking huge.

At about 2am in pidgin French I somehow managed to convince a bus driver to stick our bikes in between the seats and drive us further into town. My visions of cycling the final mile towards the Eiffel Tower with arms flailing in the air like a pro cyclist were crushed, but at that time of night frankly who gives a toss, we had made it to Paris.

Fortunately our bus driver revealed himself to be the wheeler dealer of late night transport and watching his shady interactions as he raced through the city streets was worth sacrificing the victory mile for.

At about 3am soaking wet and exhausted but ecstatically happy, we finally arrived in the centre of Paris. In the closest hotel possible we persuaded a suspicious concierge to store our filthy bikes and, after 16 hours on the road, we stumbled into bed.

Rhalou Sacre coure

The next two days were spent feasting on pastries, drinking wine and pretending to have the energy to be excited about famous monuments, before shuffling onto the Eurostar home. Cycling from London to Paris on a wing and a prayer is not easy, but it was worth every second of adventure and I’d do it again tomorrow if only I could still sit down.