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.

Preparing for race day and looking for some last-minute tips? Sod the generic guidelines; try my alternative race day tips to guarantee the best day ever!

Rhalou jumping

Foil babies

Sweets are a vital accessory for race day. The sugar hit will not only perk you up, but a little treat at designated mile markers will give you something to work for. Don’t lug the whole bag round with you though. They’ll only turn into a giant sticky mess. Wrap your chosen sweeties (I recommend Jelly Babies) in pairs in tin foil and secrete them about your person. Your fellow runners will think you’re a crack head, but who cares. Those surprise parcels of sugary goodness will keep you smiling past the finish line.

Smile like a star

Smile! And I don’t just mean at the official race photographers at the finish line. Smile like a loony at every single camera you see en route. Pretend they’re the paparazzi and you’re a movie star, and practice your confident smiley professional runner face. Smiling not only makes you feel good, but you’ll look a damned sight better in your race pictures afterwards, which once your enormous blisters recede will be your only memory of race day.

Say my name

An obvious tip, but still many runners overlook the opportunity to pretend to be famous. Wear your name with pride emblazoned across your chest and people will cheer you. Never underestimate the joyous feeling of hearing a happy crowd shouting your name in encouragement. Chances are you work in an office and running a race will be the only opportunity in your entire life to experience even a modicum of what it’s like to be famous, so work the red carpet with pride! Unless your name is Rhalou of course. If you have an unpronounceable name, make a new simpler one up. Be Jane for the day. Having your name on your chest with no one brave enough to try and pronounce it is rather disheartening.

Fantastic elastic

Wear a rubber band around you wrist. Not a hair band, but a proper elastic band. The sort the postman brings. Every time you start to flag or lose your pace, ping it. The little pinch is enough to snap you back into race mode. It sounds nuts, but I swear it works. Rather like dog training, only on yourself.

Top of the pops

Forget spending hours planning your perfect mood-enhancing race day playlist, or combining all the coolest tracks from the trendiest DJs. Stick on the cheesiest pop music you can find and skip your way around. No one else can hear you so they don’t need to know you’re pegging along to Britney Spears. I defy you all not to run a little faster and a little better when the cheesiest school disco tracks are blasting in your ears.

Be a cheerleader

During certain races like Brighton or Bristol the route is designed as such that you have to run past the faster people as they make their way back before you. But don’t be disheartened by watching the elites zoom by. Use this as an opportunity to cheer your fellow runners on. Just because they’re wearing teeny shorts and a serious expression, doesn’t mean they won’t also appreciate a roaring cheer. Plus the positivity flowing out of you will be infectious and you’ll soon feel fab too.

Follow the leader

If you’re running alone or you lose your friends, find someone slightly faster than you with a really sexy bum, and make it your mission to follow them. Everyone appreciates a tightly clad Lycra buttock, and admiring your oblivious pacer’s perky bum might just get you to the finish line in one piece. And even if it doesn’t, at least you’ll get to enjoy the view for a bit.

War paint

On the morning of your race day, apply full make up. Even if you sweat half of it off by mile five, I still wholeheartedly recommend wearing war paint. Look sexy, feel sexy, run faster, simple.

Good luck!

Originally published on

After a year out from racing due to injury, last weekend I decided to ease myself back in and take on the Box Hill Fell Race. A BM graded monster hill race, I figured those mountainous peaks would be a nice gentle segue back into the running world.

My good friend and spiritual guru Simon Lamb asked me to write about the day for his website, so I guess I better pen a race report. But as I didn’t technically race (I licked my way around on my hands and knees in the mud) and no one reads race reports anyway because they’re boring as fuck, I’m just going to tell you some stories instead.


Nice box

Although it’s a great way to measure your running progress, I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with race day. I respond well to the training and having a routine encourages me to get out there every day, but I turn into a rotting zombie under too much pressure. If I over train I get mouth ulcers, lose sleep and my eyelashes fall out. I shit you not. And a girl needs her eyelashes.

However, for a 34-year-old woman with no musical talents and a thirst for the disco limelight, running down a road (or hill) to a cacophony of cheers is the closest I’m ever going to get to being a rock star. So as much as I suck at running races, take it away from me and I’m a miserable old trout.

Until last weekend, I hadn’t entered a race since the Edinburgh Marathon 2012; that fateful day I tore a muscle in the freak 30-degree sunshine and was forced to stop running shortly before moving to the Scottish mountains. (Perhaps the run gods were trying to tell me something). After taking a long time off running, I was so desperate to get back out there I was humping chair legs. I missed the long Sunday runs, I missed the build up to race day, I missed the exhilaration and the crowds and feeling like a superstar. (All the things you don’t get from a muddy hill race in Surrey).


Peter the sweeper

Despite this, I was reluctant to step into the fray again and get caught up in the quest for PBs, intensive training and mounting pressure. Having only started running again with any frequency in September, I decided not to enter a race until late 2014. But then some lovely friends of mine who I missed terribly while I was away asked me to run the Box Hill Fell Race with them. At 7.5 miles, a gentle stretch across the Surrey hills sounded doable; what’s the worst that can happen? Under the watchful eye (and dexterous thumbs) of the mighty Lamb my injured leg has come on leaps and bounds, so I figured I was ready for a challenge.

I went into (or up) Box Hill with no expectations. It’s the hilliest race in the south frequented by club runners and bona fide runnerds, so I knew I didn’t stand a chance. The start line is basically a vertical cliff face and I was on my knees within minutes. But if success is measured by how much fun we all had, I definitely won.

By the time I got to the top of the first hill, the other 200 odd runners had disappeared, so I assumed I would be on my own for the rest of the day. But then I turned around and saw three people panting behind me! An angry looking woman, a smiley old dude and my friend Tom. The woman dropped out within minutes, so I decided to run with Tom. ‘As long as we beat this old dude behind us we won’t be last!’ I figured. Until I realised he was purposefully running slower than us to pick up the mile markers.

Luckily Peter the sweeper liked a good natter and was happy to trot at our pace for the entire race. He told us stories, gave us orienteering advice, cracked jokes, and cut the route down into bite-sized chunks so we knew what was coming around every corner. I might have to enlist Peter’s help on all future races.

The route was a roller coaster of mud coated hills, lush woodland and verdant undergrowth and despite having utterly inappropriate footwear and the lung capacity of a ferret, I loved every minute of it. I honestly didn’t give a rat’s arse that we were at least 40 minutes behind the other runners; this was my comeback race and I was determined to run it in my own good time.

After falling flat on my bum taking a selfie over a muddy ditch, scrambling up and down monstrous hills and politely nodding at fell walkers moving much faster than me, we made it to the final descent. As we started to run downhill I grabbed Tom’s hand. There was no way we’d be racing against each other. We’d gotten through the adventure alive together and no one was going to be last. Running down a hill into the cheering arms of over a dozen of my favourite runner friends (everyone else had already buggered off, the bastards) was nothing short of euphoric and I’m so happy I was stupid enough to do it.

Setting a course record

Setting a course record

Afterwards awards consisting of marmalade jars and biscuit tins were handed out to scrawny club runners with weather-beaten faces and saggy tights. But then we discovered that we’d set our very own course record. At 2.10, Tom and I were the slowest runners in the race’s history! And we didn’t need marmalade to prove it, because the amazing Linda made us all our very own medals.

Smothered in mud, our gang shuffled off to the pub to eat deep fried stuff and marvel at our achievements. Surrounded by my cool friends and bathing in the warm glow of post race elation, I was so glad to just be there. Whether you choose to run up muddy hills, along concrete roads or on antiseptic treadmills, it really doesn’t matter how fast you run. You can run a good time or you can have a good time, and I know which I’d prefer. In the journey of my life, I’ve come a long way this past year but the race is far from over.

The year 2013 went tits up in Rhal-land and turned out to be one of the toughest, most painful and yet necessary years of my life. After battling with poverty, injury, isolation, heartbreak and relocating from Scotland back to the greatest city in the world, although I learned a lot about myself, something has to change. As the year of hard knocks draws to a close, it’s time to sort my shit out and make some plans.

Early adventurer

Early adventurer

Returning to London has been bittersweet. I am so happy to be close to my friends and family and ecstatic to be back running after months of injury. But I’m also haunted by a sense of failure, sad to leave some special people behind and frustrated at reaching this point in my life (34.5) with no fucking clue what’s going on.

I always assumed I’d have a house, husband, career and gaggle of chubby babies by now. The truth is, the most expensive thing I possess is a pink BMX and my wardrobe consists largely of £3.99 H&M Lycra miniskirts. I live off hummus and I don’t know how I’m going to pay my rent next month. To that end, I’ve decided to write a plan of my hopes and aspirations for the year ahead. Behold the launch of the official year of Rhalou. I hereby give you all permission to remind me to stick to the plan if July rolls around and I’m still slogging out in budget Lycra and licking hummus instead of making something of my life.

Get a job
Okay I admit it, I suck at freelancing. I’m a woman of routine. I like being in an office every day, wearing actual clothes and interacting with interesting people. I’ve been freelance for 18 months now, which basically means I’ve lived in pyjamas for over a year. In 2014 I would like to get a well-paid, exciting, challenging and fulfilling job with a progressive company where my writing and editing skills are put to good use. I would also like to earn enough money to get taxis home from the pub instead of shuffling drunkenly on to the bloody night bus at 4am every Sunday.

Get ripped
After taking time out due to injury it’s been a long slow climb back to fitness, but in a funny way rediscovering running has been like falling in love all over again. All the clichés about coming back stronger are true. When you get knocked back, if you’ve got true grit you come back fighting and this time I’m determined to get it right. I don’t give a rat’s arse about speed, PBs or elusive ultra fitness. I run because I want to be healthy, happy and look good in hotpants. I’m determined not to get injured again, and to that end I’ve taken up yoga, returned to the weight’s room and I refuse to run faster than the speed of conversation until I am ready. Watch this space.

Seek out adventure
Moving to the Scottish mountains was a baptism of fire. I absolutely loved the wilderness, but at the same time I realised I need friends, pubs, H&M and Starbucks to sustain me as a human being. Even the most beautiful, ethereal and majestic countryside in the world sucks arse if you’ve got no one to share it with, so I came home. I haven’t turned my back on the mountains though. Since being back in the city I’ve realised I need both in my life. I want to be a city girl who buggers off to the wilderness for a mountain fix every few weeks. Who fancies a road trip?

Write that book
Despite trying to write one since I was six, I have never finished a book (in my own name). Aside from the whole moving to the Scottish mountains episode, there are some cool stories I should probably tell you. There was that time I lived in a commune, or when I climbed the fence at Glastonbury when I was only 14, or the gay millionaire my granny married, or that time I was an extra in a porn film about zombies. Please remind me to write that book.

Be content
I’ve been cursed with an adventurous streak which compels me to shake up my entire life every couple of years and turn everything on its head. I’ve walked away from countless friends, jobs, homes, relationships and pets without so much as a backward glance. This may sound fun and reckless, but it doesn’t get me any closer to living the conventional dream and having a stable income so I can pay for those elusive late-night taxis. In 2014 I will learn to cherish what I already have; loyal and brilliant friends, a family that loves me, a city to call my home and legs that can run and run and run.

For runners, athletes, foot models or anyone who makes good use of their limbs, injury is like a dirty black cloud. It haunts you, gently goading you with unexpected shin splints or sore toes like droplets of rain, while you do your upmost to avoid the downpour. Every day you stretch, worry, wriggle and try to stay in optimum condition to avoid any damage that might prevent you from hitting the streets.

With most new runners, as your obsession gradually begins to consume your every waking thought, so does your health. You start cancelling big nights out on the piss with your mates in favour of cosy nights in front of the telly, so you don’t suffer on your morning run.

Before long, body preservation reaches a crescendo. Despite your other half’s protestations, you start rubbing exotic oils that smell like old ladies into your sore limbs and sleeping in compression gear that makes you look like a giant Lycra sausage. But like it or not, pounding the pavements in excess comes with its drawbacks and if you don’t take good care of yourself, runners are prone to injury.

running is sexy

When I first discovered running, I thought I was invincible. I annoyed the shit out of the Women’s Running gang, as while they all struggled with various aches and pains, I glided smugly from 5K to 28-miles without so much as a blister. Running meant so much to me; it slowly began to shape my entire life. But being a bit of a party animal, I tried to maintain my former life and balance partying like a rock star with an ever-increasing training regime.

A burgeoning obsession with speed also silently began to take over, and runs stopped being about enjoyment and more about punishment. I was so desperate to hit targets and keep up with the fast kids that I forgot why I started running in the first place. Despite starting to feel exhausted, I continued to power on regardless and unsurprisingly my lack of insurance in my legs eventually took its toll.

At the Edinburgh Marathon 2012 I tore a muscle in my leg. I kept on running (okay limping, like a miserable old trout) because I was a fool and determined to finish. This happened two weeks before I moved to Scotland to start a new life in the Borders. Needless to say, moving to the mountains without a working leg was a real bitch. Plus finding a decent physiotherapist in the wilderness was a whole new challenge.

I eventually found a lovely massage therapist who rubbed racing greyhounds on the side. He was very nice, but told me to stop doing any exercise, at all. I quickly became stagnant, lost 100 per cent of my fitness and my muscles turned into burnt steak. I was living in the most beautiful corner of the world and I sat on my arse watching it through a window.

Seeing my friends pursue their running dreams on Twitter was torturous. I badly wanted to be out running, but I was terrified of further injuring myself. One of the reasons I relocated to Scotland was to focus on endurance as opposed to the increasing obsession with speed. And where I was living, short runs weren’t an option. You either set off for a 20 miler in the mountains, or not at all. It was hard to take half measures. I tried several times but repeatedly tore the muscle and eventually resigned myself to hiking.

For reasons unrelated to running, after 15 months I came home. I suspect not being able to run didn’t help, but that’s life. Being injured taught me some valuable lessons that I will never forget. You can’t ever take what you have for granted and if you do, the universe will drop kick you in the nuts to remind you. Also, stop giving a rat’s arse about speed.6a01053637118a970c012876dab28e970c-800wiSince moving back to London in September, I’ve been under the pneumatic thumbs of Mr Simon Lamb, a highly-skilled sports massage therapist who views the body holistically. He’s not a cloud head; the man has thumbs of granite and pummels me to within an inch of my life. But he understands the emotional aspects of running. My brain is part of my body, it’s inside my head. It’s a vital tool in my running, my injury and my recovery. It turns out that, now my torn muscle has recovered, there is no reason why I can’t run again. My body just needed a bit of love. And the one person who wasn’t giving it the love it needed; was me.

Now I’m back running with my old friends Run Dem Crew and skipping around Hampstead Heath at a speed slightly slower than a sausage dog and I couldn’t be happier. I’m glad I got drop kicked by the running gods. It made me realise why I fell in love with running in the first place. I don’t run for PBs or to keep up with the cool kids. I don’t give a shit about distance or speed or punishing myself in gruelling regimes that impact negatively on the rest of my life. I run because it makes me feel good. And then I go and have a nice cold beer and a (veggie) sausage.