Tough 10 Box Hill for Cancer Research UK

Last Saturday I ran the Tough 10 race at Box Hill. The Tough races are a series of events organised by Cancer Research UK and the clue is in the name. There are three grades – Tough, tougher and toughest. Box Hill is toughest.

I kind of knew what I was taking on because my first trail run back in the summer was partly on Box Hill. The difficulty is that there are steps. Many many steps. 275 apparently. But not only are they steps, there are steps of different heights and widths and depths so it’s tricky to get into a rhythm.  Anyway, I was cajoled into entering by Michele (@Whiffenpuff) and, before I knew it, race day was here.

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Me and the Michelicorn – and my first taste of gin!

There was a little gang of #ukrunchat folk there, with four of us dressed as unicorns. The start line was a chilly affair, as usual with too few toilets. However, our cockles were soon partially warmed by Michele’s 9.30am Sloe Gin shots. This is how I discovered that I Do Like Gin (having spent all of my life thinking I didn’t). A small delay, and off we went.

Down the road and into the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that is Box Hill. And it is. But, boy oh boy, do those steps totally and utterly hurt. A lot. But you know, it really was worth the hurt. We got to the top of the hill and met a man dressed as a fox. Of course we did.

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What do you call four unicorn and a fox? A lot of fun!

Then there was lots of lovely down. Then we trotted along for a bit, and the marshals are great. Then there was a weird up and down in the same place bit. I think at this point they were just trying to add an extra “tough” bit in. It worked. It was muddy and anyone not in trail shoes was really struggling. I was wearing my new Columbia Montrail Bajada IIIs and I highly recommend them. Super grippy and very comfortable!

The camaraderie on the route was pretty good too. A lady was crying, so I asked her if she wanted a hug. She said no but could I shout at her to belt up and carry on. I’m an obedient soul, so I did. Quite loudly. If anyone was near us and heard they would have wondered what on earth I was doing.

Just over four miles in there was the most amazing downhill stretch, where you could really let go and fly down the hill. I really loved that bit. At this point I made a video, which explained that I was running this race in memory of my fabulous Uncle Melvyn and my lovely Ann, both of who we lost to cancer. Little emotional moment at that point, and a few tears.

Then up again! But the views – the views were totally amazing and made all of the uphill stretches absolutely worthwhile, especially for a city dweller like yours truly.

 

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I even saw a cow, which I was very excited about. I do love cows.

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Cow – just in case you were wondering!

Soon enough I was off on the last downhill stretch, retracing our steps of the first mile. A little girl in a car shouted “Go Unicorn” – and go I did.

Carl managed to get a great shot of me finishing, big smile on my face. It was really really hard, but such brilliant fun. I loved this race and would highly recommend it. I think I might be back next year.

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Thames Meander and Me

I ran my first trail half marathon yesterday. It kind of sneaked up on me. I entered it ages ago and I was so focussed on Manchester 3 weeks ago that I kind of forgot about this one. Forgot that I was doing it and totally forgot that it was a half marathon.

So it was the usual race day early start to head to Kingston, although a 1030 start time made it not too horrendously early. I managed to find the start venue OK, but began to panic when I saw a big group of runners walking purposefully as if about to start a race. I then saw a few apricot tshirts and realised I’d arrived bang on 9am when parkrun was starting and I was walking in the opposite direction, against the tide of parkrunners!

I quickly found Michele (@whiffenpuff) and we hung out, bag dropped, used the loo – the usual pre-race stuff. My only real gripe with this race was toilet provision (see my Racecheck review for more details). We then found Ally (@photogirlruns) and her running club crew and chatted with them for a while.

It was raining as we stood at the start line but luckily not as heavily as had been forecast. A firework as the starting gun and off we went. The path was fairly rocky underfoot so wasn’t easy to run on, but the scenery was very nice. 2 miles in and we were at the first aid station, well stocked with sweets, crisps, water, squash and Tailwind.

I think I started whining a bit around 5 miles but Michele wasn’t going to let me walk. My posture was terrible and my shoulders were hurting by this point. But then, 6 miles and another aid station and the turn round point for the half marathon.

Michele challenged me/us to pick off 10 people in the second half. We passed 1 pretty quickly. 2, 3 and 4 were all together. Then a gap. We saw a heron which made me smile. Love herons. 8 miles. I bloody hate 8 miles, it’s the point that I always want to just give up. We picked off a few more people then befriended a student who Michele talked to for a while.

By now I’m trotting in quite a good rhythm and I’m not walking if it kills me. 11.5 miles and you have to pass the finish line and carry on to another turn around point. This is just cruel. We pick off numbers 10 and 11 so challenge completed. We head for the turnaround having to run through a school rowing competition, nearly getting hit by people carrying boats.

Then it’s the home stretch with lots of encouraging people and if I can just make my legs go a wee bit faster we’re finished. And then we are finished! I’ve run my fifth half marathon, and third of this year.l, and my first trail half.

We’re given a medal with no ribbon (they’ve run out!) and free chia seed bars (which turn out to be nasty), we take some photos, and we head off.

Looking back, I think one of the reasons I found this tougher than I’d expected to was that iPods were banned. I think I probably focus on my music at the times when it’s hurting and I can block it out a bit. But I’m glad Michele channelled her inner Sergeant Major.

My next trail half will be harder than this one, so it’s time to put my big girl pants on and get training, because I am the storm.

Rome to Home – Running the last leg with Dan Keeley

5 years ago I was diagnosed Bipolar. Now I’m running 1250 miles from Rome To Home to share my story & keep men alive by talking. ~Dan Keeley

I can’t remember how I first came across Dan Keeley’s (@IamDanKeeley) story. Probably just spotting a Tweet at some point a few months ago, before he started his journey. Something in Dan’s story struck a chord with me.

I won’t go into lots of details about Dan’s story, because you can read it for yourself here.  But in short, Dan was going to run 1250 miles from Rome to home, to share his story and raise money and awareness for CALM –  The Campaign Against Living Miserably @theCALMzone.  CALM is a charity dedicated to preventing male suicide, the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK.

Those of you who have read my previous blog about my own mental health will know that my partner left me earlier this year. The reason for him leaving was his own mental health issues – alcoholism, OCD and depression to name but a few. During the phone call when he told me he was leaving, by the way that he was talking, I was scared he was seriously considering taking his own life. He wasn’t himself, he wasn’t rational, he wasn’t the man I’d fallen in love with and who loved me. He was frightening. Not frightening that I was scared of him, but that I was scared for him. I’d never heard him like that before.

When I saw that Dan was inviting people to run with him on the last leg of his journey, from Greenwich Park to the London Eye, I knew this was something I wanted to be involved with. Setting off on 25 August, Dan’s arrival in London would be Saturday 28 October, with the last leg of his journey running from Greenwich Park to the London Eye.

I tracked Dan’s progress on Twitter as the days went by and saw that all was on schedule. And so yesterday, I got up and got my running gear on (Mr Men leggings, in case you’re wondering) and headed off to Greenwich.

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I was looking forward to seeing Ben (@bensnapsstuff), who was going to be taking photos of Dan’s start and finish, and we met up near Cutty Sark and – getting slightly lost en route – managed to find our way into the park. Dan and his support crew arrived by the Observatory having just run from Bromley to Greenwich, and Ben got his camera out and started doing his thing. I chatted to a few people who were around in the area and asked what was going on.

We headed down from the Observatory a little further down the hill and Dan and his friends and family were taking lots of photos.

At noon, we set off down the hill, out of the park and onto the Thames Path. I knew pretty early on that the 10 minute mile pace they were doing was way beyond my running ability but I was determined to carry on. I tried to keep up for as long as I could but eventually lost the main group. Luckily, one of Dan’s friends looped back to make sure I was OK and ran a little way ahead of me, making sure I was doing OK. I was glad he was there because, by this point, I had no idea where I was or where I was going! The path isn’t as simple as just running along the river because there are various points where you can’t.

The kilometres ticked by and soon we were at Tower Bridge. What I hadn’t anticipated in any of this was how emotional I would find this, and at various points I had a little cry. A day later when writing this, I still don’t know why – whether it was being a part of what this was, whether it was because of the situation in my personal life that I described above, or something else I don’t know.

Coming down from London Bridge to try to find the river path, I totally lost the chap who was in front of me. Luckily I found a very nice lady on a bike who had been cycling with us – I’d love to know who she is because she really kept me going during those final minutes. She rode ahead of me shouting “Excuse us, coming through” to all of the tourists. I think they probably thought a celebrity was passing by, then it was just me trotting along in my Mr Men leggings.

We battled our way through the crowds and passed Blackfriars Bridge, and Waterloo Bridge, and I eventually arrived at the London Eye, where Dan was being hugged to death by many people. It was easy to see how much this arrival meant to him and his family and friends. What an achievement. I’m so pleased I was able to be a part of this.

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Ben and I said our goodbyes to Dan, and headed off to eat copious amounts of pizza. Thank you so much for my fabulous photo, my cupcake and your company.

 

Beginning to prepare to be one of the 1%

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” ~John Bingham, marathon runner and author

I got a little bit over excited earlier this year. Those of you who know me fairly well by now know that I get a bit over-excited very easily and do daft things and can be talked into pretty much anything.  In this particular over-excitement, I decided that it was a great idea to enter a marathon. Manchester marathon, to be precise.

As time has ticked on, this has seemed less and less of a good idea. I decided that I’d get Manchester Half Marathon (my “A” race of 2017) over and done with before I’d even begin to think about how I was going to begin to prepare for the marathon. Well, Manchester Half Marathon was last weekend, which means I don’t have that excuse any more.
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Life has been rather blurry recently – and continues to be – but now it’s time to adjust my focus and concentrate on the challenge ahead. My head is telling me that I can’t do it, but my heart – my good, faithful, encouraging heart, which clearly believes in me more than my head does – is telling me to stop being so daft. I couldn’t run a half marathon six months ago and I’ve run two in the last five weeks, so there’s absolutely no reason to believe that I can’t run a marathon in another six months’ time.
And there’s something else that I know will help to get me through. My #ukrunchat friends. They are my amazing support crew and I know I wouldn’t be the runner I am today without them.
And so, the miracle of having the courage to start begins right here……

 

Manchester Half Marathon and Me

And so it’s over. My 2017 ‘A’ race is done. Despite the problems in the run up and the final disappointment – because of the replacement number my family were unable to track me and I’m not on the official results – I had an absolute ball. I have another medal – my 16th this year – and it’s a whopper!
In the pub I was chatting with Ben and Alison, and Alison was talking about someone who had helped her to believe in herself. Many of you know that I (like many of you) struggle with self doubt. On the train home this afternoon I saw a tweet from Alison, with a quote which I now love. Sorry Alison, but I’m blatantly stealing it.
The Devil whispered in my ear, “You’re not strong enough to withstand the storm.”
Today I whispered in the Devil’s ear, “I am the storm.”
I need to believe in myself and from now on I’m going to work on this. And one day, with the support of all of my wonderful friends from #ukrunchat, I will be the storm.

My First Trail Races and Me

This weekend I ran my first trail race. Not only did I run my first trail race on Saturday, but I then also ran my second trail race on Sunday. I can’t really remember how I got into the madness of two trail races in one weekend, having never run a trail race before and only ever having done one trail run a few weeks ago. Of course, it’s all to do with Michele (@whiffenpuff) and her magic, she can somehow talk me into anything. Regardless of the detail, I clearly agreed to do both races!

Of course, trail running meant the purchase of a bit of new kit was necessary as I only owned road shoes up to this point. I managed to find some Brooks Cascadia 11 on sportshoes.com at a reasonable discount. I hadn’t wanted to pay too much for my first pair in case I decided I hated trail running and was never going to do it again.

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How my shoes began their life…..

Maverick Races – The Maverick inov-8 Original Kent

And so, it was an alarm at 5:30am yesterday to be able to get the bus to Selhurst, a train to Sutton then another train to Leatherhead, where Michele picked me up and we drove to Groombridge Place,  a large moated manor house. If you’ve seen the Keira Knightley film of Pride and Prejudice, the house was Longbourn where the Bennet family lived. We arrived and parked, and lots of people were already there. At this point I was getting nervous because I didn’t know what to expect from a trail race. We had a chat with Melissa (@NamelessWitness) and I then had a lovely catch up and chat with Ben (@benssnapsstuff) who was photographing the event. We then saw Mark (@the_real_reesey) who quickly took a photo of us before we started.

I won’t waffle on about the run itself, safe to say it was hard work but very good fun. I would have veered off course more than once had Michele not been in front of me, but for my first trail race I was watching my feet more than where I was going. Quite a lot of mud, trees, tracks, and lots and lots of fun. A scoot past Ben with his camera, a trot further on and we were done. We had a catch up with Mark (don’t talk to him about his shoe!) and Ben who was photographing people coming in at this point.

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Sneaked a snap of the snapper at work

We ate cake and drank iced coffee, grabbed a photo with Mark and headed off.

Oxted Runners Titsey Trail 10k

This morning wasn’t quite such an early start as yesterday, even though my bed partner for the night (Michele’s dog Bailey) had been barking at fireworks at some ungodly hour! We set off for Limpsfield in Surrey where we were going to do a 10k trail race through the woodlands of the ancient Titsey Estate on Limpsfield Chart.

This was a whole different ballgame to Maverick but that doesn’t make it better or worse. The race is organised by Oxted Runners, so lots of club runners were there. Registration was in the primary school hall, with portaloos popped round the back of the hall! All very well organised, we met up with Nick and Natasha (@NickGayle2 and @Natashaelsdon) and all got our race numbers pinned on. We poddled off down to the start line which was down the road. The only bit which was a bit odd was putting us into start pens then moving us across the road by which point everyone moved round.

Chat and a photo at the start line, a bit of rain, and then we were off.

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Again, I’m not going to write a blow by blow account of the race itself, other than to say mud, mud, glorious mud, hills, more mud, lost shoe in mud, and lots of fun. A fabulous medal and a bottle of beer, a quick chat, a brilliant leg massage by the local physiotherapy practice, and goodbyes and we were off to drop me at the station (with me having done a quick striptease change in the car park – I have no shame!)

We agreed in the car that I was no longer a trail virgin, and in fact was (according to Michele) a trail slut, as I’d put myself about so much that weekend (clearly all in a trail running context before anyone gets the wrong idea!)

All in all, I think I might be a trail runner!

 

Ed the Physio and Me (aka my first physio session)

I had my first ever physio session yesterday. I admit, I was nervous because I didn’t know what to expect – not a clue, no idea what was going to happen. Many of you will know much of what I’m about to write about because you’ll have gone through it yourself, or you just know more about these things than I do! But never having had physio on any part of my body before, I really didn’t know what was about to be done to me.

I’ve been having trouble with my right hamstring for a few weeks now. I was surprised at how well it held up during Run Reigate half marathon nearly two weeks ago, but then I overdid it at parkrun last week. I really didn’t mean to. I meant to take it steadily, given it was less than a week after I ran a half marathon PB on a hilly course. But what I actually did was go fast, and it felt great until about 4.5k when I had to pull back slightly because my leg was hurting. Still got a PB though!

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I’ve got so much coming up running-wise in the next few weeks that I thought I’d better be sensible and see an expert in these things, rather than self-diagnosing and self-treating, which is what I’d been trying to do between Saturday and now. So, on Ally’s (@photogirlruns) recommendation of where to go, I booked a physio session with Ed.

I arrived at a slightly intimidating gym set up, with lots of confident people strolling in and doing stuff with equipment.  Each moment I waited, the more nervous I got.

Ed arrived and he took me down to the treatment room. He asked me lots of questions about why I was there, my background in running, what I’d been doing, what I thought the problem might be, type of pain/discomfort etc.  He said that it was good that I was there a) before the problem got worse and b) before I start upping my mileage whenI start marathon training in a couple of months’ time. Better to get any issues looked at and fixed in advance. So, it seems I’d done the right thing.

He took me through a few exercises to test my hamstrings, my calves and my hips on both legs. One involved facing the wall and putting my knee on the wall then trying to touch my heel to the ground. Easier with your toes nearer the wall, then move the foot out and out again and see how far out you can get your toes with your heel still touching the floor. Easy left leg, not so easy right leg.

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Another involved standing on one leg with a slightly bent knee then bending the knee up and down. Tricky on either leg because my balance is terrible! Lying on my back on the treatment bench, he flexed my knee to a right angle in the air, then rotated my knee outwards and inwards. Again, fairly good flexibility in my left, fairly poor in my right. A few other bits and he was done.

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The upshot of all of this bending and straightening was that,  as Ed initially suspected, part of the hamstring problem is just that it’s been doing a lot lately, but part is because of tight calves and poor hip flexibility.

He then said he would work the hamstring and calf to release some of the tightness. Now, I can’t stand a namby pamby massage and get annoyed when they’re rubbish, but oh my flipping good night, it hurt! But you know when you foam roll and you find a real knot and sit on it for a bit and it hurts but then it releases? It was that kind of hurt, almost to the point where I needed to ask him to stop but not quite. And I could feel how much good it was doing and was going to do, especially with the races I’ve got coming up in the next few weeks.

And so, I now have a little sheet with exercises to do (note to self – remember to do exercises!) and Ed the miracle worker is my new best friend.

Now just to brave going for a sports massage at some point soon……..

Run Reigate half marathon and me

Yesterday I completed the @RunReigate half marathon. Not only did I complete it, but I ran it all (this hadn’t been one of my goals of the day, I thought I would need to walk at some point and was fine with that) and I knocked 16 minutes off my half marathon PB, which had stood since I did my first half, the Great North Run in 2014. As I had told Ben (@bensnapsstuff) before the race, my goals were to finish, enjoy it, smile a lot, hope for some decent photos and not break myself for Manchester Half in mid-October. Admittedly a secret goal for the day had been that I might sneak in a small PB by a minute or so, because I’m much fitter now than I was three years ago, but I certainly never expected this. Today I’m a little bit broken but incredibly happy.

After a stressful journey to Reigate on Saturday, I picked up my race number then hiked over a mile uphill to eventually discover my hotel. A little bit shabby but perfectly comfortable, I lounged around watching the triathlon on the telly in the hope of resting my legs a bit. Caroline (@Lifeguard50) arrived in the pouring rain after an even more stressful journey and we headed out for an enormous pasta dinner. Carl (@bigcarlrunning) met us there, and we then showed him the delights of Reigate Morrisons where we bought treats for the night and next morning.

Up bright and early (waking before the three alarms I’d set), and it was into the usual pre-race routine of trying to eat, and going to the loo. Michele (@Whiffenpuff) picked me up and off we went to the race.

We headed to the @racecheck flags and I was greeted with a lovely hug from Racecheck’s very own Katerina and then there was a flurry of meeting lots of other folk. It was all a bit crazy and I can’t now really remember who was there. Sorry!

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#visorclub

One more quick loo visit then Michele and I were heading for the start pens.

Off we went, I waved to Susie Chan and Dame Kelly Holmes and we turned out of the park and…. hill!! Luckily not too massive. I purposely started steadily (around 7 1/2 min per km) and didn’t get swept away with the crowd. But that version of “steadily” was faster than I’d anticipated and I thought I wasn’t going to be able to keep that pace up for 13.1 miles. Apart from the odd slower km where I was going up hills, surprisingly it turned out to be fine.

As I was near the back, the pack soon thinned out. I ran for a while alongside a man pushing a buggy. We meandered our way through villages and the residents were all out handing out sweets and being fabulous cheerleaders. I proposed marriage to an old man who gave me some sweets (he accepted, yes you can all be bridesmaids).

The route was winding and definitely undulating but very pretty. There were cows and dogs and pheasants and sheep. I definitely wasn’t in London any more.

The first kilometres flew by, I was really enjoying myself and I was managing to keep my pace from dropping too much. I was trying to work it whether I could keep it up but couldn’t really concentrate enough to do any sums to work it out.  Soon I was past 10k, past half way and beginning to count backwards instead of forwards.

At about 14k things started to get a bit uncomfortable. Niggles in my ankles and knee were starting but surprisingly my hamstring (which has been generally annoying for the last few weeks) was holding up well. I was determined to keep going. I started giving myself little pep talks.

The marshal support was utterly brilliant, marshals every couple of hundred yards with a good line in general encouragement. There was also a good deal of local support as we ran past people’s houses.  Lots of sweets and signs and cute children cheering us on.

Another couple of kilometres and things were starting to hurt but I was having such a great time and by this point I certainly wasn’t going to walk. No way. Lots of bystanders commented that I was smiling. How could I not? I was out in the countryside having a fabulous time. The pain would be temporary.

Before I knew it I was attacking the hill I’d been told about. It was short and sharp and very tough but by that point I’d run 19km and that hill was not going to beat me. There were a couple of people receiving medical attention on the way up which was a bit scary, so I really hope they’re OK.

Then I was flying down a lovely big hill and I was heading for the finish. The last 500m was in the park we’d started in and very flat. I cried when I was running down the home straight towards the finish line. I felt so completely amazing and knew that I’d smashed my half marathon PB. I just didn’t realise by how much until a few moments later.

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Meeting Dame Kelly Holmes

I had decided to treat this race as a trial run (pardon the pun) for Manchester Half, as that was my original half marathon this year. Run Reigate was a last minute entry and I’m so glad I did. I feel a lot more confident about getting around Manchester in one piece now.  Let’s do it!

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Bring on the Bling – Medals and Me

My first race of 2017 was in May, and I’ve run 11 races since.  I have five more races in the diary before the end of the year, no doubt with more to be added to that tally before the year is done.  The most medals I’ve ever had in one year is five, so I’m already way past my biggest annual medal tally before now.

So why am I blogging about medals?  Because those small (and sometimes not so small) pieces of ribbon and metal have become incredibly important to me, and I know that they are to others too.  I therefore wanted to write about a few of the medals that I’m most proud of (in reality I’m proud of them all but I’m sure you don’t want a long blog about 25 medals!)

Race for Life 2013 – 20150930_184130This wasn’t my first race, but my first race (which was in the USA) did not give medals. “What, no bling?” I hear you say. I know, right? So Race for Life 2013 was my first race in the UK, my first 5K race and my first ever medal.  It’s not the snazziest one in my stash but that race gave me such a boost. I can run! My colleagues came long to cheer me on and I could hear them hollering as I crossed the finish line.  A very proud moment!

Great North Run and Great South Run 2014 – The GNR was my dream race, the one I’d wanted to do since before I started running, and my first half marathon. My mum’s family is from the north east and my sister lives in Newcastle, so I know the area well.

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2014 was the year I took the plunge, being told by a friend that I’d never get a place in the ballot.  Before I knew it, a congratulatory email dropped into my inbox, at which point I panicked.  But I trained, and I did it, and I cried when I crossed the finish line.  I hadn’t thought I could do it but I ran the whole thing. Then a few weeks later I did the GSR too.  I became injured between the two, so the GSR was slow and painful. At around mile 8 someone shouted my name and told me I was doing well and I cried. But I finished it eventually. Two lovely shiny medals!

Robin Hood Half Marathon 2015

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Fabulous Robin Hood Half medal.

The Robin Hood is the local half marathon in Nottingham where I grew up.  My dad did it 31 before I did it and I remember going to see him at the finish line.  In those days you got a Nottingham Lace plaque instead of a medal (photo below).  Finishing this race with mum and dad on the finish line to support me was amazing and I love the medal.

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Dad’s 1984 lace plaque

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Running 4 Women Windsor 10k 2016 – I hadn’t trained for this one.  It was hilly and hard. We were warned about rutting stags but luckily didn’t see any.  I ran the last kilometre with a total stranger.  We hugged when we crossed the finish line and I cried a little bit. There clearly is a crying theme with my races.  There was a Mars bar in the goodie bag. Of course, because we’re women we need a pink medal with a pink ribbon and pink sparkles….. (eye roll). It’s so truly hideous I refuse to post a picture of it.

And so, we are still in 2017 so I’m not going to post the medal I’m most proud of for this year….. watch this space.

Trying Something New and Me

I don’t do trying new things very well.  I like order and set plans and knowing what I’m doing and whether I’m going to like it.  According to Myers Briggs I’m an introverted extrovert, right on the cusp of being either of the two.  I’m fine in company if I know that company, but don’t do well in new situations.  No self-confidence, y’see.

But last weekend I tried something new.  A big gang of the #ukrunchat tweeps were taking part in #marathoninaday for Mind charity.  Michele (@Whiffenpuff), Katie (@Itskatiefam) and I teamed up to cover the 26.2 miles between us on Saturday. Katie would cover 5.2 (which she did, incredibly successfully!) and Michele and I would divide the remainder between us. During the course of the week, Michele asked whether I’d like to go to Surrey to join her to run our miles together. This thought had crossed my mind, but I’d been too chicken to suggest it. She probably wouldn’t want to run with me, etc. No self-confidence, y’see. But it seems that she did, so my train ticket twas bought, and I was heading to Epsom before I knew it. This was to be my introduction to trail running.

We drove to Polesden Lacey, a National Trust property, formerly owned by Dame Margaret Greville, who, according to my tour guide, was a bit of a party animal in her day, parked up, and off we went.

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And they’re off!

We ran a bit. We ran up a hill where my feet got soaking wet. I didn’t care. We ran through a field and then discovered the Bull in Field sign as we were leaving the field. We didn’t care (until we had to go back through said field on the way back. At that point we cared a bit).

We crossed the Stepping Stones. I didn’t fall in. We ran up Box Hill.  Well, I say ran. Michele bounded like a gazelle up Box Hill while I staggered along behind her. I didn’t complain too much (I’m sticking to that story). We took photographs and laughed a lot. 4 miles done.

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Many many steps going up up up

When we got to the top, we had cake. I dried my socks under the hand dryer in the ladies’. I was surprising myself by loving this a lot. A lot.

We ran back down Box Hill. I told people on the way up that they were “nearly there!” in what I hoped was an encouraging tone, when they’re weren’t nearly there but I was trying to be supportive. We raised our eyebrows at the couple trying to push a buggy up the hill. We re-crossed the Stepping Stones. I didn’t fall in.

We ran to Denbies, a vineyard, and ran past their rusty old tank (not a euphemism, they do in fact have a rusty old Second World War tank) and then walked up another fairly sizeable hill.  I was still surprising myself by still loving this. A lot. Nearly 7 miles done.

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Running through the vineyard

We were still taking photographs, and laughing a lot, and talking like we’d met before. I love it when you meet someone for the first time and it ends up being easy to talk.

We ran back down the hill at Denbies, and began to wend our way back to Polesden Lacey.  We ran back through the Bull in Field field. We saw cows in the next field. We were working out whether we could do a 100m sprint if the bull decided to join us. Oh how we laughed. We went into the woods and Michele made me climb a fence and climb an enormous hill.  OK, so it wasn’t that big but it was very funny. I made her promise not to take a photo but she did anyway.

We were almost back at Polesden Lacey and we ran/walked the rest of the way. Michele hadn’t got us lost once, despite her promises that she would. Back at Polesden Lacey we checked in with the Twitter gang to say that we’d finished, and rewarded ourselves with ice cream.

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12 miles done and we’re still in one piece.

So what did all of this teach me? That I’ve discovered a love of trail running, and its different mindset to road running and races, which suits me nicely. It didn’t matter that I walked bits, it didn’t matter that Michele was ahead of me some of the time, we trotted at our own pace and still managed to chat and giggle. It taught me that I need to be more confident in trying new things. It taught me that it did me the world of good to get out of London and breathe some fresh air and see some green things, and that I need to find ways to do this a bit more often.

You may have already gathered from this and my recent tweets that I absolutely loved my first go at trail running. So much so that I have trail shoes due to be delivered any day now and two trail races booked in the diary. This is going to cost me a fortune. It’s all Michele’s fault. But I’m really not complaining!