London Marathon 2011

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At last, I’ve done it.  Several months of preparation, over a month of abstinence from alcohol, Italy’s annual output of pasta consumed in 1 week and enough Lucozade to keep GSK’s share price buoyant and now it’s all over.

What an experience that was.  Having never run full marathon distance, even in training, there was the natural anticipation and nerves on the day but my alarm woke me up, the trains ran to time and all the build up went like clockwork.  I met some fellow runners on the train down and this was great for the pre-race nerves and as we all parted ways to get ready for the start everything was going smoothly.

Starting from Greenwich, I was over the start line in about 3 minutes and the crush wasn’t too bad.  The crowds by the road were amazing and definitely helped push me along.  I was delighted to be pacing myself at 9 minutes/mile throughout the first half and as I crossed Tower Bridge, I felt amazing and was relatively trouble free.

Turning right towards the docklands I could see the last of the elite runners coming back into London and I was still on pace – so far, so good.. then came the Docklands and it started to get really tough.  Funniest T-shirt of the day; “If I collapse, someone pause my Garmin”, helped me through miles 15/16 but as I wound my way round Canary Wharf, the smell of a bbq exacerbated the slight nausea that I was starting to feel and by mile 18 I had discovered that the wall was rearing it’s ugly head a few miles earlier than I’d hoped.

Trying to put one foot in front of the other was proving trickier and trickier and from this point on, I just had to slow to a walk/shuffle to regain some strength and at this point, getting round started to become a target, rather than focussing on my planned 4 hours.

However, the encouragement from the crowd (and a magical piece of orange  – thank you) got me going again and apart from a few blips in the remaining, agonizing miles, I was able to generally keep a (kind of) running pace up.  Once I reached the embankment, the crowd cheering me on helped me keep going and when I saw 800m to go, it actually came as a surprise.  I even managed a (sort of) last dash to the finish to try to hit my (ahem, revised) target of 4hrs 15 and finished 12 seconds over.

I can honestly say that I’ve never felt so exhausted in my life as I did yesterday afternoon but 24 hours on, my original thoughts of “never again” are being replaced by, “I wonder if I’d gone a bit slower in the first half if I could’ve had enough beans left to beat 4 hours”… something to ponder over a long awaited glass of wine…

What an amazing experience and thank to the generosity of my sponsors, I’ve managed to exceed my fund raising target for Asthma UK and I am extremely  grateful to every one of them for helping me raise so much for this hugely important charity.

So, would I recommend taking part in the London Marathon?… absolutely 100% yes!

The Day Before the Marathon

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The nerves are starting to kick in, I’ve had pasta for dinner last night, lunch today and dinner tonight… maybe even breakfast tomorrow, parnoid about twisting an ankle, eating something dodgy, missing my train, trains being cancelled, not being able to sleep, sleeping in, losing my running vest, timing chip, trainers, kit bag, forgetting my essentials and a million other things that could all go wrong.. I guess this is similar to 34,999 other people right now.

Had hoped to get a last minute light run in yesterday but didn’t get out of the office on time, so have decided to just relax (or try to) and make a conscious decision that I am as ready now as I’m going to be and as long as nothing goes bandy I should be fine… I hope.

Strategy for race day; aiming for 4 hours which is 9min 9 sec per mile, so going to try to do a 10 minute mile for the first one, then 9 minutes thereafter for the rest of the race.  Once I get beyond mile 16, if there is anything left in the tank, i might crank it up a little bit and then again at 21 but I may just stay at the 9 minute pace (assuming I can keep it up!).

Mustn’t get carried away at the start and hopefully the dreaded wall will be breakthroughable!

Can’t believe that in 24 hours it’ll all be over (I Hope!!)

Wish me luck!


Tapering For a Marathon

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With just over a week to go until the London Marathon, there’s not much time left to make any dramatic improvements to my physical preparation for the day and I’m doing my best to adhere to the overwhelming advice to taper my efforts down to race day itself.

I’ve been to the gym a couple of times, ran a steady 5 miles yesterday and plan to get a similar run in over the weekend.  It really is proving quite a strange situation as normally I’m able to track improvements and gauge performance but for now, it’s a waiting game and one that I’ll only be able to report on after the main event.

So, for the week ahead, a trip to ExCel to register and some carb-loading to add some fuel for the race. Not to mention getting the brain in gear for what is sure to be one hell of a challenge.

So, not much to report at this point; time will tell whether I’ve done enough and whether I’ve done the right stuff.  Whatever happens, it’s all for a great cause (Asthma UK) and I can’t believe the amazing support I’ve had so far from all my generous sponsors – thank you all so much – I’ll do my best!

9 days until the London Marathon and counting…

Marathon Training Difficulties – Last Few Weeks

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Ouch.  There are times when it just doesn’t quite go to plan and this weekend was a perfect example.   With just 21 days until the marathon the inevitable happened and a planned mid length run (about 15 miles) turned into more of a puffing and panting stagger round the block.  Barely managing 8K, I gave up and headed for the showers feeling quite disconsolate and pretty much exhausted.  Are my marathon hopes dashed?  I certainly hope not but on Saturday I was definitely falling way short of the finish line and naturally, this was quite distressing!

However, jumping straight back on the horse on Monday, I managed 10K in the gym on Monday in a slightly slower than my typical average time  (about 55 mins, in a 10k race would aim at sub 50) with relative ease so it appears that all is not lost!  Back to the gym tonight to continue with the tapering plan (aiming at 10 miles / 90 minutes) and we’ll see how this goes.

So, what have I learned from this?  One big thing was the impact of going off too fast and underestimating the time it takes to get into the rhythm, even on short runs; having done longer training runs my head clearly wasn’t in it on Saturday and motivation hit rock bottom.

If I can keep the training to plan, without too many niggles (ankle starting to play up a bit!) hopefully all will be fine.  My big lesson from this weekend is that I must ease myself into the Marathon itself (all too tempting to go shooting off and ruin the whole race) and I must be 100% committed to the race plan and have the belief that I will have what it takes… so training the grey muscle between my ears is seemingly just as important as all the other ones!

18 Days to go….

Breaking the Wall in the Marathon – I hope!

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I’ve been doing some research over the last week or so and was under the impression that with 4 weeks to go, I should’ve done my last BIG run… however it now appears that this should be this weekend and then it’s a case of tapering the runs down in preparation of the Marathon on 17 April.  This presents me with a dilemma; I seem to be still massively struggling at 20 miles but on the other hand I don’t want the current niggles (now the knee is playing up!) to become injuries!!  I’m guessing that I’m not alone in this!

There does seem to be a general consensus that the need for (high risk of injury) 20 mile plus runs is not an essential part of final training for a marathon however, as I’ve yet to run the full 26.2 miles ever, this does fill me with a fear of the unknown and the thought that it could all go terribly wrong as I hobble into the final 10k!

So here’s my plan and I’ll report back after the race on how it worked for me.  To avoid the risk of a race-stopping injury, I’m going to limit my runs to 2.5 hours max between now and race day and in the last fortnight reduce this even further.  I’m going to try to increase my speed on these shorter runs and also focus on increasing my general fitness and reduce weight by circuit training and also focussing on my diet (haven’t had a drop of alcohol for 2 weeks today!).

The idea behind my logic is that I arrive on race day without niggling injuries, at my physical peak (whatever that may be!) and also carbbed up to the eyeballs to help the stamina.  With a hearty breakfast, banana at the start-line, gel packs, Lucozade and water on the way round and the atmosphere of the day, hopefully the dreaded wall will become a hurdle rather than a total barrier!

Well, that’s the plan anyway… watch this space!

Lost in Hertford… with 5 weeks to go!

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The training for the big day seems to be back on track (touch wood) and I managed my furthest ever distance on the road on Saturday – 2o miles.  While quite elated to have achieved this milestone, there is absolutely no doubt that I was absolutely shattered at the end – could I have managed another 6.2 miles?  I’m not so sure…

On the plus side, I did complete this without any serious preparation on the day, supplements and with a total of just 1.5 litres of water throughout so hopefully I’ll have some more energy reserves on the 17 April.  However, I remember reading another London Marathon blog where the author mentioned hitting the wall at 2o miles and hugely struggling to get going again.  So fingers crossed.

One part of my run that did add to the excitement was managing to get lost (for about an hour!) running round fields until eventually I managed to find my original point of entry and get back on the road.  While this made interesting running, I’m also taking consolation in the fact that this was hard going and perhaps stole a couple of my marathon road miles!! At least that’s what I’m telling myself.  If it wasn’t for the GPS (thank you Garmin), I’d probably still be running round that field!

Planning my final big run (as far as I can get in 3.5 hours) on Saturday and then the folks in the know suggest that I start to reduce my distance until race day – I quite like the sound of that advice 🙂

Marathon pack arrived yesterday and the countdown begins – it’s starting to get quite exciting although when I look at the route plan, it’s also looking quite daunting too.  Am hoping that I’ll be spurred on by the crowds and the thought of what I’m running this for (Asthma UK) and all the generosity from those that have sponsored me.  Thanks to you all 🙂

Customer Service – A Key Ingredient in Success

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When people ask me what we do at Best Reception, a typical answer would be likely to be that we are a “virtual reception” or a “telephone answering service” however, this doesn’t necessarily do justice to our company or the brilliant team that we’re lucky to have.  Although our core activity does definitely involve providing a reception service to answer the phone for hundreds of companies, we are at our very core a customer service company, through and through.

Every time one of our virtual receptionists answers the phone, they ‘put on the hat’ of the client that they are answering the phone for and for the duration of that call, it is vital that they provide the highest level of customer service to their caller.  As the actual activity that each call involves varies so immensely, from taking customer orders to booking apppointments, providing product information or even just putting the caller through to one of our clients, the phone is simply the medium used for our team to provide this brilliant customer service.

Many company owners that approach Best Reception, looking for a solution to their telephone answering needs, are still in the fledgling stage of their new business and will be looking into the various ways that they can ensure their new business thrives.  If I could offer just one piece of advice to any such business it would be to provide brilliant customer service in every aspect of your business.

Our success as a company is 100% dependent on the people we employ and ensuring that they understand and buy into our belief in brilliant customer service.  They are not just the front line of our company, they’re the front line of our customer’s companies too – and as a business owner, I would need to have exceptional confidence in any company that I was enslisting to represent me and I would definitely check for a proven track record, testimonials and client recommendations.

When considering which virtual reception to choose, it is likely that price will be a factor and understandably so.  We’ve always prided ourselves on offering exceptional value for money and a clear pricing structure but I genuinely hope that when people recommend our services to others (as they often do!) that they focus on the quality of our receptionists, their poisitivity, professionalism, friendliness and the great customer service…

…if they also mention the fact that we’re extremely competitive on price too, that’s a bonus!

Economic Recovery in 2012 – Small Businesses to Lead the Way

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According to our politicians, small businesses are to provide the backbone of the country’s return to economic prosperity.  As a very hands-on Director of a company that provides telephone answering services for businesses of all sizes, it would appear that SME’s are continuing to flourish, even during these turbulent times.

With a client base that ranges across a multitude of sectors, I’ve always felt that our busy-ness was an excellent guage on how busy the world of industry was at any given time. and there are 2 main factors within this mix;

The volume of calls we are handling on a day to day basis for our existing clients and
The number of new enquiries we receive from SME’s requiring a virtual reception service.

On both counts, our evidence suggests that while there are some companies that are feeling the pinch, the majority of our clients seem to be keeping the wheels of industry turning at a healthy rate and we are fortunate enough to be a part of their success; with our call volume and our number of clients substantially higher than at the same time last year.

It doesn’t however appear that we are out of the woods yet though and the main concern that appears to be prevalent among my fellow business owners is that of what the future holds, rather than the current situation.  There definitely appears to be a concern about making financial commitments and many are looking at cost-saving measures, such as using a virtual reception like Best Reception in order to enable them provide a consistent and professional image to their callers but without the need to commit to the costly impact of recruiting staff for the same purpose.

On this note, with increasing legislation coming into effect all the time, it is understandable that many business owners are looking at alternatives to recruiting staff and are outsourcing wherever possible.  The imminent arrival of the NEST pension scheme is sure to deliver a blow to many small businesses who are contemplating expansion and recruitment of staff.  It isn’t just the financial consideration of the 1,2 then 3% contribution that they’ll be required to contribute but also that innevitable administration that will accompany the change and ongoing management.  According to this month’s First Voice Magazine (from the Federation of Small Business), an average small company “will pay at least an extra £2,550 per year in administration and pension costs”.

Looking at the bigger picture, perhaps the introduction of a compulsory pension scheme is the only solution to an ageing population however, at a time where many small companies are already tightening their belts and where our PM is quoted in the same publication as saying “[small businesses’] success is vital to delivering the jobs and growth on which the future of our economy depends” I can’t help but feel that an extra financial and admin burden doesn’t really seem particularly well-timed.

While this change in legislation may actually mean that more companies consider outsourcing their reception function to a telephone answering service, personally, I’d love to see more positive changes to help small business to thrive and therefore contribute even more to our all too fragile economy.

So the training has begun..

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Well, I signed up for the Marathon at the end of October, as April was ages away and then immediately got man-flu!  Not letting this deter me, as soon as I was on the mend, it was back to gym for a gung-ho approach to training.  Second outing on the treadmill and my ankle took a beating and that was the end of the training right up to Christmas.

Christmas came and went, and the extra pounds came but didn’t go and in Jan it was time to try a return to the gym.  Alas, the ankle problems still persisted and the approaching date of 17 April was no longer “in the Spring of next year…”

Time for some drastic action and a very quick learning curve on personal fitness.  Perhaps this has been a blessing in disguise as it has forced me into looking at alternative exercise to simply hitting the treadmill.

A few wise words and a sports massage later from the fantastic guys at Purus in Covent Garden (thanks!!) and the training is starting to get back on track – hoorah!

So, with just under 10 weeks to go, 26.2 miles round London does seem to be quite a mountain to climb.  At the moment, providing my leg (and the rest of me) holds up, I’ve got to say that I’m really looking forward to the event, although the concept of running twice my furthest distance is still quite ominous.

I hope that once it’s all over, I’ll be able to look back on a brilliant day and that I’ll manage to raise my charity target for Asthma UK and all the good work that they do.

So, I managed 10 miles yesterday, ankle and rest of me in one piece.. 16.2 miles left to go…

Telephone Answering Booking Service

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A number of our clients have found using our booking service, to book and manage their appointments, invaluable to the running of their business. At Best Reception, we can offer you a tailor-made service to suit the requirements of your business!

By using our booking service, you clients will form a great impression of your practice, as your calls will always be answered by a professional and friendly receptionist. Furthermore, you will never miss out on potential business.

Our online diary system allows us to access your appointments, enabling us to book in your clients, view and modify appointments. Whether you are a sole practitioner, or a larger practice with multiple practitioners and locations, our online diary system is easy to use and will effectively manage your bookings. Alternatively, we can also log into an existing system you may have in place.

Furthermore, you can also provide us with an unlimited amount of information about your clinic, allowing us to advice callers on common FAQ’s if you so wish. For example, we can advise your callers about prices, treatment information and even directions to your clinic!