13.1 miles and the end of the road

Yesterday I ran 13.1 miles. If someone had told me last year, when I downloaded the couch to 5k app that I would go onto run 13.1 miles, I would laughed in their face. But there we are and although I can hardly believe it myself, I have a medal that confirms it. A medal that I am still wearing it today, a medal that I also wore to bed last night and might also wear to bed again tonight too.

HM Medal

The fortnight leading up the half marathon was a bit of a head scramble to say the least. Once you have completed your last “long run” a couple of weeks’ before the big day, you are supposed to “taper”. This means that you run much shorter distances to keep your legs moving but the aim is to preserve your energy ahead of the big day. This sounds good in theory, but the reality is that you exist in a state of continual panic that you are not doing enough and will arrive on the start line, not fit enough, not having run enough and basically unprepared.

In the fortnight preceding the Half marathon, I found myself in London for work with an overnight stay. In 2012, as a family, we managed to get Olympics tickets but not to anything in the Olympic Park, which always disappointed me. So I was very excited to finally have the opportunity to run around the Park as I had booked a hotel near to it on purpose. I was only supposed to be running 5k but enjoyed a lovely 7.5k trundle, telling myself that by stopping for numerous selfie stops (the Velodrome, Aquatics Centre, Main Stadium and Hockey park) it was ok to go longer in distance. It was one of the most enjoyable runs I have done for a very long time and I partially wonder if this is because I didn’t try and run fast and just enjoyed the scenery as I peeked through the window of the velodrome and just generally took in the ambience of the arena. It was wonderful. Events are all well and good but it’s important to not fall out of love with the sport. It was important for me to remind myself that I enjoy running (sometimes!!) and that exploring is all part of that enjoyment. I made a mental note to do more of this once the half was completed.

Olympic Park...RUN

The night before the half marathon I laid my kit out and tried to steady my nerves. I had a sensible tea (Spaghetti Bolognese, old faithful – carbs and protein), drank lots of water and tried to get an early night. Unfortunately, nerves and the combination of drinking too much water, meant that I was out of bed for much of the wee small hours so when the alarm went off at 7am and I crawled out of bed not feeling at all rested or ready to run 13 miles. Frankly I felt nauseous. I was terrified and wondering what on earth had possessed me to believe that I could run 13 miles? I had a little cry to Husband who as usual gave me a wonderfully reassuring pep talk and calmed me down a bit. I also knew I couldn’t let Hattie down whose entire family had travelled down for the weekend to be a loud and supportive cheerleading squad.

Husband was taking daughters to a School’s Orienteering fixture at Ashton Court that started at 10am and then would rush to get back in time to see Hattie and I as we arrived into town for the final 4 miles of the course. There is , at least, one advantage of not being a very fast runner!

As we arrived in the Athlete’s village, Hattie’s Mum accompanied us which meant that we could keep our hoodies on until the very last minute. The conditions were perfect for running being dry, no wind, slightly cloudy and importantly no bright, strength sapping sunshine. However, whilst we were waiting to start and join our pen, it was decidedly chilly so we were grateful for our extra layer. We met up with some other TMR Mums and we chatted and worried together, with the faster ladies going off earlier and then finally it was time to join our “pen”. I was very aware that Hattie had never run a large organised race before and so was careful to stay with her and we worked to keep each other calm. Our whole mental preparation had been around the plan that this was to be “just another training run” but the problem was that a few thousand people seemed to have turned up to accompany us for this training run and it was hard to pretend. However we did our best as we danced to “Sweet Caroline” that was pumped out over the speakers whilst we waited in the pen for the start. I love that song but it seemed slightly surreal to be dancing to it before we started a 13 mile run along with a few thousand other Neil Diamond fans.

The first couple of kilometres were difficult as we got swept along with the crowd and so we ended up going too fast with the first mile being the fastest of the whole run by some considerable margin. Dr Wellababy (a lovely TMR Mum) ran with us for the first 5k which was great and then she was off chasing her own times as it was her first half marathon too. Then it was just Hattie and I. I found the first 3k of the run yesterday quite tough and I still to this very moment, can’t really identify why. We went off very fast (as you always do at an event) and this meant that I couldn’t catch my breath and so chatting was out of the question. It took me quite a while to settle down and much longer than usual. The turn on the Portway also seemed to never arrive and whilst we were cheered and high fived by Marshalls and TMR Mamas who recognised one or both of us in equal measure, and it did help, I really only settled down once we turned to run back towards the City.

It was at this point the magnitude of what we had to do started to hit me. But it was also now that Hattie and I did slip into “training mode” and started to chat. We chatted about what fancy dress outfit we should wear for the 10k Christmas Cracker in December (we think mice from Cinderella, I’ve always fancied a Onesie), our families and how I was sad that Hockey Sister wasn’t able to come and cheer me on due to a prior engagement, all the food we would eat when we finished and how much champagne we would drink (this part of the discussion was long and detailed).  This carried us all the way to the end of the Portway and onto the Cumberland Road, which I had been dreading. But Hattie’s family cheer squad were positioned perfectly which spurred us on a bit more. As we crossed the swing bridge on Princes’ Street I started to anxiously look for Husband and Daughters. Not only because I wanted to see them (and I really, really did), but also because Husband was carrying a fresh headband so I could swap my now sweat-sodden and cold one for a fresh and dry one. But they weren’t there. Hattie tried to reassure me but I started to inwardly panic and this unhappily coincided with the worst part of the course. The final four miles were twisty turns in and around the centre which took you forward, then back on yourself, over cobbles which killed my feet, up hills which I had never realised existed before, then seemingly towards the finish, only to cruelly then send you away again in the opposite direction again. Over the main part of this section, there weren’t too many people watching and so apart from the Marshalls, we were largely on our own. We arrived at a jelly baby station, which Hattie had particularly been looking forward to, only to find that they had run out and additionally to rub salt into the wounds, we had to run through piles discarded jelly babies strewn all over the floor like confetti at a wedding. Unfortunately it seemed that the 3 second rule was probably un-useable and so we ploughed on. I was feeling a bit tearful at the thought of not seeing my family at all over this horrendous section of the run and then suddenly Husband was there. He started running in the opposite direction shouting into his phone “she’s here, I’m coming to you” like he was part of the Secret Service and then as we turned the corner not only were daughters there but Hockey Sister too, who’d been playing a joke on me as I’ve since learnt that she had always planned to come and watch as she’s been a solid supporter of my running efforts since day one. I simultaneously fought back tears of joy whilst as well as gratefully placing a dry headband on my head (which felt so good) I was so chuffed to see them all that suddenly I felt like I could keep going. I didn’t want to walk in front of my daughters and so Hattie and I chugged on.

During HM run photo

Unfortunately this positivity was short lived as although my head was once again enthusiastic, my legs were absolutely knackered and it was at this point that even though I had been effectively using the energy gels throughout the run, my stomach started to experience sharp stabbing pains. I could feel that I had a blister on my foot, my “hammer toe” was throbbing, my hips were aching and frankly I was wondering if the twisty turning streets of Bristol would ever take me to the finish line. As we turned near to Baldwin Street, we saw Husband and Daughters again who had now met up with Hattie’s family to make one enormous (and very loud, the Marshalls commented on the volume) big cheer squad but I was struggling BIG TIME. We were now into the last mile and I had had enough but Hattie told me to dig in as we were nearly there. As we hit the final straight there was a sign that said 400 metres to the finish…I was so relieved but it seemed MUCH longer until we could see the finish line. It felt like another kilometre at least. My legs were screaming at me but Hattie took my hand and we crossed the finish line together. I burst into uncontrollable tears as I was overcome with achievement by what we had both accomplished coupled with absolute relief that it was over. As in previous races a St John’s Ambulance Man approached quickly, but once he could see it was emotion rather than pain he wondered off again to leave me sobbing on Hattie’s shoulder.

Although I had only ever wanted to complete the race in one piece, I did have half an eye on completing it in under 3 hours (you know I can’t help myself). I had worked out the split times required and had the times for 5k, 10k and 16k (which is 10 miles) written in biro on my arm (very technical!) so if we got to 10 miles and were on schedule, we knew it was possible so could really give it a final big push over the final stretch. We were on track throughout the whole race right up to 18 kilometres. Yesterday I ran my second ever fastest 5k and 10k time (we were overtaken at about 3 miles the 2 hour and 30 minute pacer which was an indication that we were going MUCH too fast) and then my fastest ever 15k and 16k (which is 10 miles) but at 18 kilometres (11 and a bit miles) the wheels fell off a bit as the course looped back and forth and we seemed to encounter hill after hill and in the end I was glad simply to finish. My final time was 3 hours, 2 minutes and 11 seconds so as you can see, although we weren’t that far off, the last 3 kilometres were awful.

Hattie and I are both running another half marathon in March next year (which currently feels like madness considering how sore my legs are today) and so now our goal is to run it in less than 3 hours and that’s what we will work towards over the next 6 months. The cheer squad arrived at the end to see us cross the line (now en masse) and we started our party which included champagne in a hot tub, chocolate, and a barbeque in Hattie’s garden.

I’ve always said that my running is a team sport. I might put my feet in front one step at a time, but without the encouragement of my husband and daughters and then Hattie and her family (who were all fantastic yesterday) it would never happen.

So what now for me? Well this is my last ever blog post. You’ve journeyed with me from couch to half marathon and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the support and encouragement that I have received since January last year. I never thought I would be able to run a half marathon, in fact I never really believed that I would be able to run 5k when I started this and I still have days where I’m not sure I will be able to again when I lace my trainers up, but I keep doing it. It hurts and I love it in equal measure and it’s something now that I need to do in spite of how incredibly hard I find it and will probably always find it.

I wish I had started running before 2016 and I’m not someone who has regrets. Running has changed my entire outlook on life and it’s changed my family’s life too – all for the better. I was lucky enough to have a sister who believed in me enough to convince me to try to run and in case you don’t have the same, I’m here to tell you that you can do it too, because genuinely, and I hope this blog has adequately demonstrated this, if I can, anyone can. You’re never too old, unfit, overweight to try. It is hard but that’s no reason not to try it. Believe me. I’m constantly surprised by what my knackered old body can do and I intend to keep challenging it. I will keep running half marathons and 10ks, attending parkrun, leading the This Mum Runs 30 minute runs and will also probably always be near the back but it doesn’t matter.

I started this blog by asking if I would and could ever become a runner? Well the answer to that question is yes – not a fast or record breaking runner obviously, but a social, trundling, happy and occasionally competitive runner.

I definitely am a runner.

Runner T Shirt

The blog will remain online until January 2018 and then will disappear so share it, read it and hopefully enjoy it. Thank you for reading my blog.

 

Narcolepsy, Christian Grey and final preparations

The Bristol half marathon is 2 weeks tomorrow. In 15 days’ time, I will be running along the Portway.

Over the past couple of weeks and since my last blog post, I have undertaken lots of different activities, swimming, cycling, kettlebell sessions, another painful sports massage (why are my bum muscles so lazy?) and most importantly 2 more very long runs as I try to be as prepared as possible to undertake this challenge.

Hattie and I are both working Mums and so we can’t run together all the time but we have managed to co-ordinate do all but one of our long runs together. It’s boring running for 3 hours on your own, and even I have limits as to how much Take That I can listen to and so we have endeavoured in our planning to manage to complete our longer runs (10 miles plus) together.

I’m not going to miss having to get up at 5.57am in order to eat and be ready to leave at 7am as I am not exactly what you would call a lark. The only time getting up at this time is acceptable is if you’re going on holiday and a gin and tonic for breakfast is on the horizon (holiday rules).

Having said this, once I am out of bed which is always the most challenging part, the early morning part of the runs have been lovely, felt very invigorating and dare I say it, enjoyable. I’m always amazed at how many people are up and about at this time, especially on a Saturday. There are many larks in Bristol including the chap who looks to be in his 70s that I have seen twice doing harbour loops on a Saturday morning before 8am. He is incredibly inspiring, friendly and always ready to wave at fellow runners up and about.

The longest distance I have run so far is 19k which is 11.9 miles. Frankly I am not running further than that unless there is a goodie bag and a really big medal at the end (as well as hopefully some champagne).

Apart from the running and the chatting that happens on our long runs, there is a series of strange things that have happened that I could not have predicted and had absolutely no knowledge of prior to running more than 10 miles.

Chafing. Yes this is a word that makes you wince as you read it, but trust me this is nothing compared to the reality of experiencing the runner’s chafe. I am aware of runner’s nipple of course, as husband has taken steps to avoid this on his previous half marathons. This is where the running motion of your body creates friction as your skin connects relentlessly with your clothes and basically rubs your skin away – it’s especially a problem in men and their nipples (which stick out) as they don’t wear bras (well some do of course, but that’s probably a discussion point for a different type of blog!) But as I wear a bra when I run, I had thought that this wouldn’t be an issue.

Many running bras are made from “wick away” material which is supposed to keep the runner fresh and dry (i.e. not too sweaty). However, when you have boobs the size of mine (they have got smaller with weight loss but are still VERY present) all running bras that work (i.e. are strong enough to minimise the bounce) are essentially made from a tarpaulin-like material. By 10k, my running bras are always soaking wet and with the “bounce factor”, once the bra is wet and then starts to move a bit to accommodate the bounce, it inevitably rubs against your skin and then rubs your skin away. This doesn’t happen only under your boobs and on your ribcage, it happens on the shoulders and on my back too.

I look like I had been whipped and it really hurts. When I got into the shower after the run the pain was horrific, akin to getting under a shower is you are sunburnt. Yowch. It burnt and stung and was painful to endure. Paracetamol, sudocream and loose clothing came to my rescue. This is a photo taken 4 days after the long run (heavily cropped to preserve my modesty and not to give you nightmares).

Chafe marks

Running Sister suggested I apply “Bodyglide” to the affected areas before a run and promised that this would help. I was sceptical, not least because “Bodyglide” sounds like something that Christian Grey would have stashed in a drawer somewhere in his red room of pain, but she was right. It’s like an enormous lip balm and generous application before subsequent long runs has reduced the issue, but not completely eradicated it. I guess this is just part of the trials of a longer distance runner.

Other problems with 10 mile plus runs include (don’t read if you are eating):

  • Being so sweaty that you genuinely wonder if you might have wet yourself and not remembered, during the run. Dark coloured running leggings are important for modesty.
  • Being able to wring out my headband during and at the end of the run. (I’m trying to work out if I could be organised enough in my planning that I could swap my headband for a fresh one somewhere during the half itself as sweat running into the eyes is not helpful).
  • Having an itchy bottom (caused my sweat running down your bottom crack) and then trying to scratch your bottom as you run along, whilst attempting to look casual, trying to disguise the fact that you are indeed scratching your bottom in public. Casual comedy whistling is very hard when you are out breath.
  • Sore toes. Apparently in runners, it’s fairly common to lose toenails (yuk) as this is caused by the constant banging of your feet on the floor with each step you take. I haven’t suffered with this (thankfully) as I keep my toenails very short (and painted of course!) But my index toe (is that even a real thing? – I mean the toe next to your big toe) has been battered to bits. After every long run it goes red, the skin puffs up and often it “peels”. Basically it’s very, very bruised. For 3 days after the run, I can only wear flip flops (this will be an issue after Christmas when I start training again for the London Landmarks half in the Spring) to allow it time to recover.
  • Extreme tiredness akin to narcolepsy – for the 36 hours following the long run, I am shattered. I don’t mean, I’m feeling a bit lethargic so need to sit down– more, I need to lay on the sofa and do nothing, ideally watching a film with Benedict Cumberbatch or Ryan Reynolds in it. Unfortunately, having daughters, what happens is that I end up watching “The Next Step” which is a bit like Fame, except it is not as good. On the last but one long run, I came in, stretched and then fell asleep within 20 minutes. I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open and apparently nodded off mid-sentence whilst talking to my daughters. As you train for something like a half marathon, it’s easy to be a bit blasé (yes I ran 10 miles) but I’ve learned that you mustn’t underestimate the effect the exertion has on your body. Yes I can run (with a bit of walking, and it’s always at trundle speed) for a long time, but, I’m still heavier than is ideal for a longer distance runner and could always be a bit fitter.

The final thing I have found, and I am sure this is why I haven’t lost any weight during the whole training process, is how hungry I get. I’m not talking about feeling a bit peckish so you might have an extra biscuit, I am talking about the fact that I am starving. For the 24 hours following a run, I could eat everything and anything. I try and be restrained but the genuine hunger, coupled with the little devil in my head saying “you burnt 2200 calories this morning, you DESERVE it” means that not only have I not lost any weight, over the Summer I have gained 4 pounds. Regular readers of this blog will know that over the past 19 months I have lost a lot of weight through running and lifestyle choices but not dieted. I do take measurements though and was very interested to know that although I have gained 4 pounds, I have lost 5 inches, predominantly around my middle, hips and thighs.

It’s a constant battle for me and most women I know have a complicated relationship with the scales. I try not care of course and kid myself that I’m not interested in what the scales tell me, and in the main part this is true. I do care more about being fit and strong and promote this thinking and mindset rigorously in front of my daughters. However, if the numbers on the scales go down then I feel pleased. I am repeatedly told that muscle weighs more than fat, which I know to be true and I know I am getting smaller, but it’s a hard conundrum to mentally resolve.

What I do know is that you cannot eat WHATEVER you want, even if you do lots of exercise and lose weight. This is why I think my final preparations over the next fortnight need to be as sensible food wise as much as keeping my legs moving.

I’ve purchased my Runner T shirt and it fits (actually it’s a touch too big at a size 16, which I think means that I am now the same size as when I was 16 years old and I’m certainly the smallest that I have ever been in my adult life – cue celebrations) so as long as I can keep all my planning, training, eating on track for the next 15 days, hopefully I will be wearing it with pride having finished the half in one piece.

Picture with Half Marathon race number

This is my race number and I will be wearing my trusty Trundler T shirt (always good to manage spectator expectations).

If you see me, please shout, wave and say hello. I love high fives and as you know jelly babies are always appreciated. I am deliberately trying to not to have a “time” in mind to complete the half in and Hattie and I have resolved to try and treat the half marathon run like any other “run/chat” that we do. However, as you know me, of course I DO have a time in mind that I would like to achieve, but differing from the 10k earlier in the year, I am keeping it secret. However, I promise that I will tell you on the next (and what will be my final) blog post what it was and whether I achieved it or not. Fingers crossed. However, times aside, I am going to do my best to enjoy the experience, have an enjoyable run with my very good friend Hattie and get round in one piece.

We are nearly there (We, I feel like this is a team effort!)……so far couch to 19k (which was never the plan when I started all those months ago) has worked. Can I make it Couch to 21.1k? Time will tell but whatever happens, finally (and it’s taken a while to get there), I know in my heart that I AM a runner and this statement has been as hard for me to say and believe as the physical exertion it has taken to run 11 miles.  Running is 51% mental strength and 49% physical ability. My legs might feel shredded but it’s the mental strength and belief that pushes you on. This is true. I have never run as far as I will need to run to finish on the 17th September, but I know I can and MOST importantly I want to do it. I want my daughters to see me complete what will be the hardest challenge I have ever set myself and this is the biggest motivator I have. So as long as I don’t injure myself between now and then, I will complete a half marathon. I am a runner and I never thought I would have said that.

Brie, wine and 10 miles

The Bristol Half Marathon is in 5 and a half weeks’ time and I am feeling the pressure. Training over the summer is hideous. I really should have re-read my blog from last summer before signing up as I had clearly documented how hard it is running in the heat.  It’s been hard. Not simply because of the temperatures of late June/early July (I know it’s hard to remember heat given the Spring weather we have been experiencing over more recent weeks) but because of our busy family social schedule that happens….every…single…year.

As soon as our daughters break up from school we go to France for 2 weeks and I leave with the determination to run every other day and not spend the whole time away eating brie and drinking wine. This year, we had a new tent which has heavy steel tent poles and I managed to strain my back putting it up and was in pain for 3 days – seriously you can’t make it up. Already my planned training regime was behind and the longer you go without a run, the easier it is not to bother, especially on holiday. We had hired bikes and over the holiday managed 4 longish bike rides down the coast which was good (cross training in theory, although I’m not sure that “family bike ride speed” counts as a cross training session, but I was happy to pretend to myself!)

But I did manage 3 runs whilst I was there. On one morning I got up and put my running kit on, full of good intentions, but then spent all morning making excuses not to go…there were jobs to be done, I needed to drink my coffee, finish my book, hand wash some T-shirts (I was getting desperate) and in the end Husband “suggested” that we drive to the Hypermarket as we needed supplies, and I run back. It was a 5k distance and it seemed like a good idea. The area of France we were in was riddled with cycle paths and it’s very safe for runners and cyclists but as I was dropped off I did have a slight panic about getting lost. However, I set off and as usual had plans about majestically running back and hopefully bagging a new personal best time too. Unfortunately the reality of the situation was that after a week of eating and drinking too much, the run was terrible. I started running and then the sun came out. So I quickly bargained with myself that I would run a km and then walk a minute. This worked for 3 km and then I felt sick so walked a bit more. At this point a “hilarious” French cyclist went past and heckled me “allez maman allez” (I was wearing my This Mum Runs T shirt) and I had a little cry. However, just around the corner was a bunch of teenage French kids who cheered me and high fived me which pepped me up and I managed to keep going until I got back. However, my 5k time was the slowest for over a year and so I knew when I got home, I would need to do better.

Once back in Blighty, I managed a couple of decent runs with Hattie which made me feel better. We did a couple more “exploring 10k runs” which were good and then we embarked on our longest run to date – we had planned a 14k run and another lady came with us, we’ll call her Scottie. She is a faster runner than Hattie and I but genuinely seemed happy for the company and although clearly could have gone faster seemed happy to trundle. All was going well. I had plotted a large circular route, starting and ending at the same spot but around 8k my hip became very sore and I was worried and so cut short the run to go home and torture my hip with a foam roller (which is where you literally “rolling pin” your legs – I don’t know what it does but it is absolute torture whilst you are doing it, but it feels better the next day, so it’s all worth it). But this knocked my confidence and I started to worry. My body was weak and I clearly wasn’t strong enough.

I booked a sports massage. I have never had a sports massage before and whilst I was aware that it wouldn’t be a relaxing experience with candles, nothing could prepare me for the pain that would follow. I really feel it is not overplaying it to say that it was comparable with childbirth. I held my breath and then used shallow panting to try not to pass out as the sports therapist ground her elbow into my buttocks and seemed to try and poke my ovaries out (there are tight muscles BEHIND my pelvis that she was trying to get to!) It hurt. But the day AFTER the next day, it felt better. But as before, weak glutes (bum muscles) were the root of the problem and I needed to do something drastic to strengthen them before the half marathon. I’d heard good things about and so downloaded 2 apps to keep me focussed and try to build my body strength – the 30 day plank and squat challenge.

I’ve never done anything like this before and husband is doing the plank challenge with me, along with a couple of online Mummy friends that I have known since I was pregnant with my eldest daughter. Planks are hard core. I’m up to being able to do 45 seconds twice, with a 45 second break in between. I’m also doing 50 squats a day too. They hurt but hopefully will help. They certainly can’t hurt.

Last Saturday Hattie and I planned our longest run ever. According to our training plan, we needed to be up to a 16km or 10 mile run (I don’t know which sounds worse, 16k or 10miles). Lots of people only train up to 10 miles anyway (I suspect I will need to run a bit further before that actual day in order to silence the doubting demons in my head) so I was sure that this would be a good milestone to aim for mentally as well as physically. I have also discovered, upon further analysis, that one of the reasons why some of my runs are really terrible is completely down to what I have eaten and drunk (or rather haven’t drunk) in the days running up to the run. You can’t rock up and run 10k + if you are dehydrated and I think I had become a little bit blasé in my preparation. So before last Saturday, I drank litres of water, didn’t eat any rubbish (well definitely less rubbish, it’s a work in progress) and also took a couple of rehydration drinks the day before so I was prepared. I also had ordered a new running belt which could accommodate some running gels (these are tubes of warm jelly – alas no vodka to be found inside – which give you energy during a longer run) and two small bottles to fill with water. I was ready. We had plotted a route from my house to Ashton Court and husband would come and collect us afterwards.

My alarm went off at 5.57am on Saturday morning to allow me time to eat and digest breakfast before I left the house at 6.55am. I managed to get out of the house without waking anyone up and went to meet my running buddies, Hattie and a lady I had not met before who was doing a virtual half marathon and has asked to come along. Of course we said yes, the more the merrier as long as happy to run at trundle pace.  The first 7k felt ok. In fact they felt great and I was so relieved and happy. Of course, runs are always better with company and I know this helps, but my hips weren’t hurting, I didn’t feel like I was thirsty and we were making good time. Our strategy was planned for a 5k run, followed by a 10k run of running 1km and then walking a minute. I suspect that this will be strategy I use for the half itself, followed by a final 6k of “oh my goodness, just keep going!” I used my gels and although they don’t taste very nice, I can tolerate them. The gels are a strange thing. I take one and it’s like someone has changed my batteries. Suddenly my energy levels are renewed (for a bit anyway). We hit Nightingale Valley (which is very steep) and I walked the whole thing but I had planned for this so didn’t feel disheartened. We were at 12k in at this point and this km took 14 minutes, but we did it and kept going and we were nearly there. As we entered Ashton Court, I actually felt ok. At this point, although my legs felt tired, the battle was more in my head – I told myself to just keep going, just keep putting one foot in front of the other. I did and it seemed to be working. We hit the top of the Park Run (our route ended with the final 3.5k of the park run, why wouldn’t we end our long run with people clapping and cheering?) and for a short time we were in the lead! Not for long of course as there are people who can run 5k in 18 minutes who go to AC park run, but it was quite funny as I was spotted by people I knew who were clearly confused by how I had got ahead of them. We plodded on and then I had run 10 miles. It was amazing. The most surprising thing was I felt like I could have run further which shocked me more. The end of the run had felt easier than the beginning of the run which confused me. As I laid down on the floor, I tried to process this fact. For the first time, ever, I actually believed that I could run a half marathon. TMR have a T-shirt that says “Runner” on the front, but I haven’t bought one becuase I don’t think that I could ever wear one as I don’t really feel like a runner. In fact most of the time, even though I write this blog, I feel like an imposter. But as I laid on the grass at Ashton Court I made myself a promise that when I finish the half, I will order myself one. Surely if I can run 13 miles, I have earned the right to wear a T shirt that says runner?

Collapsed on the floor after 10 miles

As I was leaving Ashton Court a lady called my name. It was Sue who was the tail runner (now called tail walkers) at Little Stoke Park Run when I first ran 5k without walking for the first time EVER (documented in Blog post “Last but by no means least”). She recognised me and I was so pleased to see her and gave her a hug. You meet people in your life and at the time, you don’t really realise the impact that they will have on you. That was the last time I ever ran Little Stoke Park run before the evil council shut it down and I didn’t get a chance to thank Sue for her unerring belief in me and enthusiasm. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to thank her finally on Saturday for all that she gave me – which was belief. I need belief more than ever at the moment and so I feel like it was fate that I saw her. Park Run is the brilliant. If you’ve never been, go. Walk 5k, you don’t have to run. It could change your life as it changed mine.

So 5 and a half weeks to go, we’re on course. But now, I need to keep going, and importantly not get injured.

Tomorrow is a 60 second plank and the week is a 90 second plank……I think I would rather run the 10 miles again than have to do a 90 second plank and I never thought I would say that?!

Running down AC Hill, 10miles

 

Highs and Lows

One question that I get asked quite often is “how do you stay so motivated?” The answer is that I don’t really know but I know that I feel better and my life is better if I run, so I run. By and large this has been enough to keep me going.

However, since the Bristol 10k “race” I have really, really struggled. They say that every high is followed by a low but I was not prepared for how “low” the low would be. The emotional investment that the 10k took was far beyond anything I could have ever imagined not to mention the physical undertaking. I was absolutely shattered – emotionally and physically. Adrenalin is a very powerful thing and after it’s done it’s important job, it leaves you a whimpering shadow of your former self. I had never really experienced this before. I spent the week following the 10k bursting into tears for no reason whatsoever (I am not a weeper – not that crying is a bad thing, it’s just not something I really do) so this was difficult to manage. I looked dreadful and felt mentally broken.

I have an Instagram account which I mainly use to post running updates and photos of gin and tonic (it’s all about balance right?!) @ladyclaireabell in case you’re bored enough to take a look. Some of my “official” 10k photos were truly horrific. As proud as I was to complete the race in the time I did, let’s just say that the effort it took was visible for all to see in the photos. Gurning is a phrase that comes to mind. As transparency is key to everything I do related to running, I thought it was only fair that I post these terrible photos on Instagram in the same way that I would also post a more flattering photo. Dame Kelly Holmes (yes THE Dame Kelly Holmes – complete fangirl moment) made a complimentary comment on my photo. I was awestruck! Now here is a true inspirational role model that girls can really aspire towards. You can keep your Little Mix (am I the only person who worries about them catching a cold as they don’t seem to wear enough clothes? Or does this mean I am getting old?….actually don’t answer that). Dame Kelly Holmes in the real deal. However, getting back to highs and lows, if the pride of having DKH comment was the high, a deep low was to follow as I was cyber trolled on Instagram. I know it’s hard to believe. You think cyberbullying is a thing that happens at school? Well I’m here to tell you that it isn’t. It was 2 direct messages from two different people saying “you think you’re all that” only not in a nice way (I’m paraphrasing) and using the words “still a fat cow” and some other expletives – at least I think this is what they were trying to imply…grammar and spelling didn’t seem to be high on their agenda.

I was shocked and quite upset. Actually I was much more upset about it that I could ever have anticipated. It wasn’t what they had said so much as who had said it. Now I am aware that people aren’t always who they seem to be when you’re online (maybe it was a Russian called Boris?), but if the photos were to be believed, I had been trolled by teenage girls. This made me so sad inside. I started doing all this to be a good role model for my girls and yet here I seemed to be having the opposite effect on two teenage girls. I simply didn’t (and still don’t) know what to make of it. However, I blocked the perpetrators and moved on with my week. It did make me want to stop. Not running (I couldn’t stop running I don’t think), but being so open about my struggle and quest for health and balance and ultimately whether I should stop writing this blog. But in the end, I decided to ignore them and move on. As Taylor says…”haters gonna hate”.

The bizarre situation kept me awake for many nights and didn’t help my preparation for the Westonbirt 10k which was a couple of weeks after the 10k. It was another scorching evening and I ran with Hattie and Curly Sue. I really struggled all the way around as the heat sapped my strength. The sun is my kryptonite. TMR were out in force and it was good to catch up with the ladies. Although it was a proper trundle and significantly slower than the Bristol 10k, I still managed to get round in 89.29 seconds which is a 13 minute improvement on last year’s time. However, even though I was hurting, it was impossible not to enjoy the beautiful surroundings and running with my buddies Hattie and Curly Sue is always a treat. There was also a medal and I love medals!

Westonbirt 2017

After Westonbirt, I decided to give myself a week or so off from running and would have a rest before half marathon training was scheduled to officially start. I didn’t run, but thought about it often. It really is a love/hate relationship. When I run, I don’t enjoy it, but the second you don’t, you miss it.  It’s a real conundrum.

Hattie and I sat down with our calendars and planned out our runs for the month of June – working out how many/how long each run should be in order for us to be able to cross the finish line in one piece on September 17th. Our schedule was a work of art. It had runs together, runs alone, we’re both “Run Angels” so it incorporated our TMR runs that we lead (30 minutes long, fast or trundle paced, all are welcome), sprints and hill sessions. We have a plan for the whole Summer but are only plotting out a month at a time as my job is unpredictable and so “wiggle” room was built in.

Then life got a bit weird and the plan went to pot. I received some family news that rocked me to my core. I was shocked, upset, worried, grasping to understand and this is without the Terror Attacks and General Election. My world seemed to have turned on it’s head.  I didn’t run more than once a week which was stupid really as running gives me thinking time, but I just couldn’t get out there, which was compounding the problem. Then came the heatwave…..oh my days. Hattie and I kept pushing our run back further and further in the evening trying to wait until it was cool enough…but it didn’t so we didn’t go. My asthma was back and so was my hayfever. My chest rattled like I was smoking 40 cigarettes a day. The odd run I did manage was tough.

But then last Saturday morning, Hattie and I went our very early for a run. It was an exploring run and I haven’t done one of those for ages. I loved it. We ran down the chocolate path and I think I have finally sussed out how to get to Ashton Court from the Towpath. It was still warm but bearable. Everyone who was out said hello as we trundled past them and it was a heartwarming experience. Almost a recognition that we are all as mad as each other being out on a Saturday morning with a 7 in the hour, but I liked it. I remembered why I like running (because I do sometimes?!)

So this morning I ran to work. First time I have run on my own with music for a while and it felt good. I am back on track again…which is lucky because the half marathon isn’t going to run itself you know. Haters gonna hate but I’m just going to keep on trundling.

TRundler jumping

 

10k race, pacers and PB chasers…

As readers of this blog will know, the Bristol 10k that took place on Sunday is not the first time that I have run the distance. I have run it quite a few times previously including twice in the fortnight running up to Sunday. Why then, was I so nervous on Sunday morning? Because let me tell you, I was. I was terrified, borderline nausious and my palms were definitely sweating as I ate my porridge and forced down peanut butter on toast. I had had a very clear plan about what to eat and drink in the run up to the big day, but unfortunately, in my past life (ie non healthy and non-running) I ate when I was stressed. From Wednesday of last week I ate A LOT, almost constantly on Friday, but did finally reign it in on Saturday.  My only saving grace probably was that I drank almost as much water as I had eaten, which is critical in a lead up to a race.

Yes I was calling the Bristol 10k a race (not an event) because, for the first time ever, this was how I was viewing it.

I did enjoy being part of the Made in Bristol run up (even if it was very challenging to fit in around an already ridiculously busy job) and I hoped in part that seeing me and my non athletic body might inspire someone off the sofa to give it a go. Hopefully they would find the experience as positive and rewarding as I have, but of course the other thing that Made in Bristol did was that it made my time goals public.

Following “pacergate” (when the race sponsors were unable to provide official pacers for anyone seeking a personal best (PB) time above 70 minutes, and some AMAZING This Mum Runs runners selflessly put themselves forward to help us (me) achieve a faster time) I felt under unbelievable pressure to achieve my desired time of sub 80 minutes – even though the whole scenario was my fault and I had created it. Frankly I had just plucked this number out of the sky (80 minutes) and there was no science behind it’s choice and I really didn’t know if I could manage it, never having got within 90 seconds of it before. However, as always I resolved to do my best. Running Sister (currently out of action and not allowed to run on medical advice) called the day before to talk me down off of the metaphorical ledge that she knew I would be on (I was). Ie self doubt . She assured me that I was bound to run faster than last year and I should give myself a break if I didn’t manage sub 80. I listened, knowing she was right, but also knowing that I would be devastated if I didn’t achieve it.

Husband and I set off for the “Athlete’s Village” just the same as last year. But this year, lots of people greeted me by name as I was walking along, wishing me luck and patting me on the back. One lady shook my hand and wished me luck in getting my sub 80 as I waited to use the toilet for my “pre-race nervous visit” in Wetherspoons and another lady did the same as I left the building. I really berated myself. Why can’t I keep my mouth shut? What if I couldn’t do it?

Husband then had to go as he was in the Orange wave (ie very fast indeed) and so I headed over to the This Mum Runs gazebo. I was greeted like a war hero when I arrived. It was amazing. The encouragement and support from everyone was off the charts. I was nearly in tears already and we hadn’t even started running yet. Captain Mel Bound and her inspirational team scooped me up and I felt a bit better just being with them all. TMR launched in London a couple of weeks ago as Mel does her best to give ladies across the UK a chance of getting what we have already in Bristol and Bath and they had an official gazebo made. It’s quite bright so you can’t really miss it (I suspect it can be seen from space) I had no idea until the day it launched when somebody posted a photo, but something I once said, is on the side of the gazebo.

TMR Gazebo

This is true. Anyone can learn to run.  Anyone. To be a truly great runner (as in fast) I believe that you have to have some natural talent, but anyone can run.

Husband has natural ability in the running department and he himself will admit that he went off too fast on Sunday. His overall finish time was 48.26 but this included 90 seconds sitting on the floor by St Mary Redcliffe after he had pushed himself too far and vomited…more than once.  He realised he had got his race tactics wrong after reaching KM 6 and was overtaken by the 45 minute pacer, his initial plan having been to stay just in front of the 50 minute pacer. A really lovely lady from TMR who recognised him stopped to offer assistance (and contacted me via facebook afterwards to further enquire as to how he was – thank you – the running community is FANTASTIC) but he sat for a bit longer before running the last bit and then throwing up again after crossing the finish line. Frankly I didn’t know whether to be super impressed or horrified when he told me after the race! But he took almost 7 minutes off his time from last year, so it’s impressive. Can he go sub 45? He says he’s not bothered, but this sounds like something I would say too so we’ll see……!

So back to the TMR gazebo.  I had warmed up with Wonder Woman, (yes the real one – I’ll let that sink in a moment) and I had been introduced to the pacers – each adorned with a shiny helium balloon and we were ready to go off to our pen (where we wait to start). The lady that had offered to pace me initially had a gold balloon and she was very friendly, excited and lovely (they all were, just to be absolutely clear – all had paid to run the race themselves, and yet all 4 of them gave up any chance of chasing a PB when they offered to try and help us slower ladies achieve our speed driven goals too) but I did have a natural affection for “Merida” as I’ll call her. She was extremely supportive from the start to the very end and I felt a bit like a small child on a school trip following my teacher when we walked off the pen. The Earmuffed -Extraordinaire was also there and we ran together for the whole race.

As usual, my best laid plans went out the window when we set off and the EE and myself were ahead of the pacers by the turn on the portway. I have to say that we were running really fast but weirdly  it felt quite “trundle-esque” which as I look back on it, must have been adrenaline. All was going well as I knew the second half would be tougher and I thought if we can keep ahead of the pacers we should be ok for the sub 80 goal. But then disaster struck and the sun came out. I literally felt all of my energy melt away as the sun beat down. I had no sunglasses (I am very fair and the sun hurts my eyes) and it was HOT. I was wearing a vest (which is unusual for me) and one thing no-body tells you when you sign up for a running course, is that one day, you’ll find yourself running in the sun being able to smell your own armpits as a vest has no material to soak it up. Disgusting.

I now began to struggle. A LOT. It was here that  Merida really showed us the depths of her fabulousness. She was like Tigger as she bounced alongside, keeping me and the EE going, never once looking cross or disappointed as I chugged along. The Cumberland Road was very tough. I barely spoke on this section of the race for a few reasons.

  • I was in a lot of pain after having gone off so fast and I really had to dig in and frankly speaking was out of the question.
  • When I am in pain and running, I swear A LOT. Hattie, Curly Sue, the LA Blond, EE, and anyone I run with regularly is aware of this, but I didn’t want to create a bad impression on Merida and so thought it best to keep my toxic monologue, more inner than out.
  • Everything was a bit blurry on this section of the race. I mainly kept concentrating on the techniques that Curly Sue had taught me. There are definitely sections of the 10k that I felt I ran with my arms, more than my legs. I kept pumping them and just concentrated on moving forward – all the while Merida being the best cheer leader anyone had ever met.

I have run with Southville Running Club only once before and it was great and I’m sure I’ll go again (they do a run/walk group) and as we approached St Mary Redcliffe, we overtook the run leader. He messaged me afterwards to comment on how fast I was going – but I really feel at this point, I could have stopped had it not been for EE and Merida. I could also see shining balloons in the distance (other pacers) and this definitely gave me the strength to keep going, in the same way that the TMR official cheer station had helped me over the last few metres of the Cumberland Road.

If you’ve never run an official race before, it really is worth it just to experience the euphoria of the cheering crowds. I really felt like they were only cheering me (of course they weren’t) but when people shout out your name (names are on the race numbers), high five you, offer you jelly babies (which you take) there is nothing I can write that adequately describes the feeling accurately enough.

At kilometre 9 I knew I would see my sister and daughters. As we turned the corner, I saw them before they saw me. I was knackered. I could barely even smile but did high 5 Youngest daughter and took the jelly baby that she had saved for me as promised. They cheered very loudly and I swelled with pride but I felt sick though at this point and was desperate for water. As I ran away from them, as soon as I was out of sight I had to throw the jelly baby on the floor. I couldn’t risk it. I felt like a terrible Mother though as I knew that Youngest daughter had been saving that jelly baby just for me.

As we turned into the final straight, Merida said we should “go for it”. I wanted to oblige and tried my best, but I had nothing left. We still stormed the finish line like women possessed as I knew that we were still on for sub 80 but Merida had been evasive about the specific details over the final kilometre.

20x30-BRIE5896

We crossed the line and Merida, EE and myself had the best hug ever and I burst into uncontrollable tears. I am actually crying as I type this now as the emotions still feel very raw and I had been in tears a lot of the last 72 hours. The sense of achievement was immense.

Last year I crossed the line in 93.26 and on Sunday 78.51, not only achieving my desired sub 80 but smashing it.

This blows my mind. I’ve worked hard it’s true, but I really feel it’s a team effort.

Curly Sue should definitely get thanks as she taught me many techniques that saw me survive Sunday, as should EE who danced and smiled her way around, emitting her natural sunshine rays everywhere she went and indeed goes.  Both helped me during dark times (and let me tell you that during some moments of the race I felt quite dark) but also of course to Merida. I know she found the experience emotional and enjoyed it too. But thank you all the same.

I have the Westonbirt 10k in a couple of weeks with Hattie and then long distance training begins ready for the Bristol half marathon later in the year. I’m not going to go for a specific time with this one as it’s my first half marathon. This will be more a “let’s just get round in one piece” race you will be relieved to hear and I am relieved to write.

I ran faster that I ever thought I could on Sunday, but deep down I know that I am a trundler. I love trundling and I love chatting whilst I run. I also like running with ladies who are slower than me or at the beginning of their running journey and encouraging them to keep trying and be the best that we can be. I love this and this is me 95% of the time. However, sometimes, you have to give yourself a target to see if you are progressing (not everyone I understand and to be honest, sometimes I really wish that I wasn’t built this way) and for me this is what the 2017 Bristol 10k became. It didn’t start that way of course. When I signed up after last year’s 10k (2016) I was hoping that having the 2017 race in the diary would be enough to keep me running and perhaps I would be a bit quicker? I never dreamed back then that it would turn into what it did turn into. But there we are…that’s life. You never know what is going to happen and all you can do is embrace it when it does.

Incidentally, yesterday I signed up for 2018 Bristol 10k and who knows what type of run that will be. Maybe I’ll be going for a sub 75 minutes or even 70? Or maybe I’ll be running with my sister Queenie and Hattie in their first Bristol 10k? Maybe I’ll have a shiny balloon myself and will be able to pay it forward? Time will tell, but God willing, I will be there again at the start line next May to do it all over again.

Jeff and I finisher's medals

10k races, medals and targets

Race Day, Bristol 10k day, is nearly here. I’m feeling an interesting mix of calm and confidence, mixed with a healthy dose of panic.

I’m calm because I know I can run 10k. I’ve completed the distance 4 times since Christmas and 3 times since my last blog post and so unlike last year, I know that I can complete the course and still be in one piece at the end. Unfortunately, I like to give myself targets (I work in sales) and with the added bonus of being on TV now, these targets are not secret anymore.

Being profiled on “Made in Bristol” has been quite an interesting experience. The first interview I found terrifying and I was NOT relaxed at all and so the interview seemed very uneasy. By the time I was interviewed earlier today (whilst filming some VT for the show that will broadcast during the actual race itself), I was feeling confident enough to stop the interview at a certain point in order to clarify things as well as crack jokes. The filming involved me having a personal trainer Tom (@protom_fitness on Instagram) put me through my paces whilst I was filmed.

PT Session

Tom was excellent and taught me a couple of stretches I hadn’t seen before. During the interview, I was also able to manoeuvre the conversation around to talk about issues and factors that have been important to me in my running life. I droned on quite a bit and so in case they edit some of it out (!), here is a list of important people/events that have been important to me:

My husband starting running again after a 17 year gap to support me and then discovering that he has quite the talent for it – will he crack sub 49 on Sunday? I expect so.

My Daughters – I haven’t shared this before but 3 years ago, (when I was very heavy and sedentary) my eldest daughter took some flack from a hideous boy in her class who has noted my rotund appearance on the school run and had then decided to tease my daughter about it. She was mortified and stuck up for me but it must have been terrible for her. This will never, ever happen again. It is important for all children to have activity built into their lives and this starts at home.

My Sisters (all 4 of them, I include my sister-in-law) being constantly supportive and my youngest sister Queenie completing couch to 5k and now being a member of the bona fide running community and parkrun attendee. She was profiled on the Wotton Parkrun page a couple of weeks ago and there was a brilliant photo of her running for the finish line with her “never give up face” shining. Running Sister has had to have an operation but I am 100% certain that she will be back pounding the pavement before we all know it.

Curly Sue – what an amazing friend she is to me. Apart from the (extremely important) fact that I like her very much and we are genuinely good friends, she has taught me so much. Technique which helps and is critical to stay injury free as I push for longer distances, but also and possibly more importantly, to try and enjoy each run. Even when I am slogging down the Feeder Road (it’s so boring) I try to look at the canal and imagine what the fish are doing. I try to take in the nature and scenery. This is what Curly Sue has taught me. It really helps. Some runs are about speed (even for me) but as long as you are out there in your trainers, you are 90% there and the rest will largely take care of itself.

This Mum Runs : this is a facebook community that I have been a member of for over a year now and I have met SO MANY amazing ladies through it I cannot begin to tell you. They are always encouraging and supportive to newbie and experienced runners alike. I trained to be a “Run Angel” last Summer and so now can hopefully pay this forward by encouraging newer runners to join in and make friends as I have done. I lead a 30 minute run (as often as my job will allow) and I love it.

I met Hattie through TMR and she has since become my proper running buddy, dare I say, training companion. She isn’t running the Bristol 10k but has signed up for the Bristol half with me and so I’m sure will continue to feature heavily in future blog posts.

When I was asked on “Made in Bristol” what time I was hoping for in this weekend’s 10k, I said 83 minutes, which would take 10 minutes off my time from last year. I regretted saying this out loud on TV almost as soon as I had left the studio and so knew that I would have to find out if this was possible otherwise would be making a total chump of myself (no change there then). Over the Easter holidays, I had a couple of days off and so took myself for a solo 10k. Hattie was on holiday (I really missed running with her whilst she was away) and so without my run/chat buddy, I really, really pushed myself to see if I could do it. It’s fair to say it was a 10k of two halves. The first 5k was ludicrous. I went like a speeding bullet and was nearly sick at the end of it. I walked then for 60 seconds and then ran/walked 1 kilometre/1 minute for the rest of the run. I am not going to lie it was very, very hard indeed…..but I had run it in 81.05 minutes. I was nothing short of shell shocked and absolutely elated. But I was keen to make sure that it wasn’t a one off.

I’ve been continuing in the gym with the Red Lady on strength training and think these sessions are definitely making me stronger. The 81 minutes seemed to back this up. I love these sessions but I can barely walk for the next couple of days, so haven’t been in the past week, but will return again after the 10k.

The other two 10ks I have run were also very different. The first was an Aspire 10k trail run of which there was also a 5k option. Queenie, keen for her first medal, was there for 5k and I ran the first loop with her and then completed the second loop with Hattie. It was very hot and very tough and genuinely it felt as hard as my very first 10k over a year ago. I felt ill as I sat on my sofa at home afterwards (wearing my medal) and for the first time in a while genuinely questioned my sanity with running. I find running in the heat very, very hard and I was wiped out. However, I felt fine the next day, but didn’t run again until the Thursday of that week, when I ran another 10k. This was a This Mum Runs 10k practice, but was “unofficial” as it was on a Thursday. We ran a double harbour loop and I ran with the LA blond at the back and again I ran it in 81 minutes. So, 80 minutes is so close I can almost taste it.

Husband ran Bristol Half last year in 1.51 and one reason was (apart from being a good runner) he started the race behind an official “pacer”. This is someone who runs at the steady pace required to get you over the finish line at the pre-determined time. He chased the 1.50 pacer all the way and so was pleased with his time.

I wanted to really give the 80 minutes time a bash and so looked up the pacers. I was really quite annoyed to discover that the slowest pacer that is being offered by the run co-ordinators is for 70 minutes. I contacted them and explained that they have profiled this blog on their site, I was on the TV promoting their race and so it seemed a shame not to provide pacers for 75, 80 and 90 minutes, especially as they are “championing” all types of runners, even the slower ones. Sadly they said that this could not be accommodated, although promised to review this for future events. I was gutted. No actually I was angry.

I posted about this on the This Mum Runs facebook page (as I know that I am not the only trundle paced runner and lots of ladies – and I am sure men too – will be aiming for a 70-100+ minute finish) to vent my frustration. I was overwhelmed by what happened next. A lovely lady, whom I’ve never met, immediately offered to pace me for 80 minutes and what has happened since is also amazing as other times will also be paced from within the TMR community. I love this. I am hopeful I can do 80 minutes now, as I will feel a bit guilty if I started all of this and then discover that I can’t actually manage it, but I’m going to give it my absolute best shot. I’m watching the weather like John Kettley expecting a hurricane as the current forecast for next Sunday is for hot sunshine. This is not good news for me but I am hydrating like a camel in preparation. If you’re coming to watch please shout hello and it’s important that you know that jelly babies are always welcome. I’m going to be wearing a navy vest with “This Mum Runs” on the front and I’m sure that I will have other ladies running with me.

The pressure is on. Can I take 13 minutes off my time from last year? Can you imagine if I could? That lumpy Mum from last January who thought she was going have her heart explode out of her chest after her first couch to 5k session when I only managed to run for 60 seconds? Yes that one….I guess we’ll find out.

Park Run Apricot

What is a runner?

The definition of “runner”, according to the online dictionary, is a “person or animal that runs”.

That’s it. It’s that simple. There is no mention of speed or being a member of the sub 30 minute 5k or sub 60 minute 10k club. You don’t have to be a member of a specialist running club, have super cool trainers or outfits (although don’t get me started on the Wonder Woman running outfit I have seen), do interval sprints or fartleks (snigger), run a specific distance (half marathon, marathon or ultra – ULTRA? Seriously?!) It simply means that you run.

As runners, especially brand new and new(ish) runners, we are all guilty of trying to define ourselves by speed. If you are fast, you must be a better runner than someone who runs slowly? This simply isn’t true and the more you run, the more you understand this. Now I don’t want to be last in a race, as you know, but as long as I am improving that’s all that matters to me. Unless you really are Mo Farrah, then there is always someone out there faster than you. ALWAYS. It has to be about enjoyment too. Enjoyment and running are not words that I often like to put in the same sentence, but it’s true.

The other thing that I have noticed is, regardless of how fast anyone runs, they ALWAYS describe themselves as being “slow”. Why is that? Is it a British self-deprecating trait, or do runners from other countries do the same thing? I am member of a few running forums and pages, and if I had a pound for every post that mentions a “slow” run that the runner has just completed, well I would be treating myself to something hefty from Selfridges, every single month. Practically ALL of these runs are considerably faster than my top speed, downhill, with the wind behind me, being chased by an angry swarm of wasps. However, I also know that this is something I am also guilty of, so I am going to try to stop thinking of myself as a “slow” runner. Hopefully this will be more successful that my failed attempt to give up swearing for lent – I lasted less than an hour. (Yes, I know it’s not big or clever and demonstrates a staggering lack of vocabulary, before you tell me.)

So I think we need a new way to define it. Unfortunately, I have come upon this definition this week.

I believe that you are a runner, if you run (regardless of speed or distance as I have previously stated). But also, importantly, you are a runner if you NEED to run. This is frankly a new observation to me and one that I have sadly learnt this week, when I became ill. I was struck down with a particularly nasty, quite aggressive, sore throat, chesty, high temperature, snot ridden, flu-like virus which has gone onto my chest. I thought that I had run my asthma away, but it turns out that sadly this is not the case. It’s still in me and was waiting for an illness to come along to enable it to return. This got me on Sunday (Happy Mother’s Day to me) and so far has caused me to be off work for 2 days. Not the kind of ill, where you just don’t feel 100% so you work from home, no. This is the kind of ill where you sleep for 18 hours a day and exist on the sofa for the remaining 6 hours, re-watching the same episode of Homeland on a loop because you keep nodding off (I don’t know if you watch Homeland, but it requires your FULL attention), or watching old Hugh Grant films of Sky Movies, because if you do nod off, you will still be able to keep up as you’ve seen them all before.

I haven’t been ill at all since the beginning of my new (sorry, not new, 15 months and going strong) lifestyle. Not one sick day or even sniffle (other than hayfever) and so this was a bit of a pain. Not just because of having to stay off work, but even more surprisingly, because I was so annoyed at not being able to run. I had a BRILLIANT week running last week and began to feel like I was finally on track towards the Bristol 10k, and so being unable to run this week has been horrendous.

This brings me to the new definition of runner: a person or animal that runs, or gets extremely frustrated and *insert your favourite swearword in here* annoyed about not being able to run when they want to.

This further confirms what Running Sister told me all those months ago – you can run if you believe you can. It’s as much about the mind as about the body. Now I’ve reached the strange point where my brain needs me to run as much as my body does. I’m addicted. And not being able to run this week has been awful.

As I’ve said before running gives me time to think. I’ll let you into a secret because, well, what’s the point of having a blog if I’m not going to share my secrets with you, I really need to run at the moment. 2 weeks ago, the week I appeared on “The Crunch” you may have noticed a scab on my left cheek. This was because earlier that week, I had to have a mole removed as it had changed size and colour and the doctors were worried about it when I brought it to their attention. I am quite pragmatic about these things and so it was an easy decision to make to have it removed and then sent off for diagnosis (although the timing was hilarious, TV debut and all). I’ve also been advised that it’s probably just a warty mole (sorry if that made you do a bit of sick in your mouth then) and I have always called it my “wicked Aunty spot”, but as we approach the follow up consultation to get the results, I am feeling increasingly anxious and rattled. Not being able to run this week to be able reconcile these thoughts and give myself the usual required mental slap has been very tough.

Also, on a more practical fitness level, I had had quite a good week last week and so not being able to build on it this week is frustrating beyond belief. Last week I managed a fairly speedy run home on Tuesday which felt ok, although it was warm and made me realise that I need to drink more water.

On Wednesday, I was leading the 30 minute local run for This Mum Runs. Our “Trundlers” group has moved from a Thursday and we are now a 30 minute run group on a Wednesday. Yes we feel very grown up and we’re official, and I lead it. Honestly I am so proud I could burst – who would have ever thought that I could lead a run when I started this quest at the beginning of last year, but I love being the enabler for other ladies to get out and run “at the speed of chat”. So if you can run for 30 minutes without stopping, regardless of speed (see above definition of a runner) please do come and join us.  Before the 30 minute run last week, Hattie and I decided to do some sprints along a flat road near the start point of the TMR runs. It was hard, but we know that sprints work to make you stronger and faster so they have to become part of our week. Now I know I keep saying it’s not about speed, and it absolutely isn’t – but I want to run as fast as I can, largely so the run is over as soon as possible – it’s confusing isn’t it?!- but also to get round without injury so I don’t have to stop running for a period (see new definition of runner) and sprints make you stronger, so you see it’s all connected.  Also, to put my fast running into context, Husband’s normal running speed is already MUCH faster than my top speed running full pelt down Ashton Court hill…..so there is always room for improvement.

On Thursday last week (work was busy so I had to run back to back for 3 days, which isn’t ideal I realise) I managed to get out on a lunchtime harbour loop with Curly Sue and it was glorious. She has now successfully completed her coaching course and is now focussing on the Brighton Marathon which is a couple of weeks away. However, she has been injured and so has been forced to rest over the past couple of weeks and so this was the first 5k we had run together for a little while and it was great. |I love running with her. I felt strong and was remarkably speedy and the times were improving and importantly, not just at the beginning of the run. Now they are beginning to be consistently at the same speed over the whole distance. I was delighted.

On Saturday morning, I went to the gym with the Red Lady who is back in the groove with her fitness again, and looking great, and I followed her instruction as we did interval sprints on the treadmill (I think I ran the fastest I have ever ran) for a minute then a short 30 second rest, then straight into weighted squats and lunges, then the same on the cross trainer and then we ended up with a stint of interval rowing. I LOVE rowing and I have to say it was the most enjoyable gym session I have ever attended. Of course, later on Saturday I came down with this hideous virus and so that was the last time I did any exercise, or even walked more than 300 steps in a day. I had sore muscles on Sunday as I had pounded them and worked so hard, and this made me feel great…sore but great.

So this week has derailed my plans. All of the press that I am getting (and hilariously it continues as I’m on The Crunch, Made in Bristol again this coming Friday 6-7pm) is all well and good if it helps someone to take the first steps towards putting on their trainers and becoming a runner – and I really hope it does do that for somebody – but I’m also feeling quite a lot of pressure to really improve my time from last year. Last year I ran the 10k in 93 minutes. I would really like to take 10 minutes off my time this year, but I don’t know if I can. All I can promise you is that I will try my very best and will hopefully find a way to jump over the hurdles that life keeps throwing at me. However, as discussed, I know that I am part way there already as I am a runner regardless of the time. My daughters have promised to have jelly babies for me as I pass them on the Bristol 10k and I want to look strong as I run past them. I am a runner. But as usual I want more…I want to be a strong runner and so the training continues.

March 2017 photo 10 k T shirt

Trail Runs and TV

I have had a very busy couple of weeks since I last updated my blog.

Firstly work is “off the charts” busy. I like being busy and as I run my own business, it is definitely good to be very busy, but there are times when it doesn’t feel manageable or fun. This has definitely been the case over the past fortnight. Running over the past year or so has helped me to keep focus when life is like this but even getting out for a short run over the past couple of weeks, in the week, has been tough.

Although there hasn’t been as much running, I have still been pounding the pavement a bit and I have managed a couple of trail runs. Hattie, my brilliant new running buddy, and I, keep talking each other into new challenges.

A couple of Wednesdays ago, I was sitting at home when I got a message from Hattie with a link to a 6k trail run with a big question mark attached. I’d seen it on facebook previously but hadn’t really given it much of a second glance, but now I looked again. “Why not?” I thought and so we both signed up. There are three things I like about trail runs:

1) They are pretty and as much of my running takes place on the Feeder Road with White Van Men “encouraging” me as I run alongside traffic, the prospect of running through fields and along the riverbank is very inviting.

2) I feel less pressure to go fast – I don’t know why this is, but it’s true.

3) You get a medal.

Hattie and I ran together all the way around and we laughed and giggled. There was mud. Oh my goodness there was SO much mud. I wore my trail shoes, which are not as comfortable as my lovely running trainers, but they felt ok and at the end they were absolutely CAKED with mud. The mud make it completely impossible to run in places and so there was more walking than I would have liked but waiting for us at the end as a reward was a table of cakes and treats. The cakes and treats were so good that I know that I undid much of my good work with the run, but I wasn’t bothered. Running allows you to eat and this has been my mantra for the past 15 months.

The following week, Hattie sent me another link – this time for another run with the same company along the cycle path and then by the river. This time I was the one who suggested we go for 11k rather than 6k and Hattie agreed. You see? We are an appalling combination – one of us suggests something and the other agrees?!  My reasoning behind the 11k rather than 6k was due to it being better value for money (only £1 difference between the two distances) – anyone who knows my husband will know that he likes a bargain and after nearly 17 years, it seems to have rubbed off, but more importantly with the Bristol 10k looming, we needed to test our overall fitness. I hadn’t run more than 7.5k this year and Hattie hadn’t run further than 7k ever, so it seemed like a good idea.

The first loop of the course was ok. It wasn’t too muddy (apart from a couple of places) and the sun was shining. We had agreed before we started to run/walk – run a kilometre and walk a minute the whole way round. However, as usual we got swept along by the occasion and very quickly changed our minds to start with a 3k run before we started walking. In the main part the run was good. It was fairly flat and we ran further each time than 1 kilometre before walking which was good. We were caught up on kilometre 7 by Mr Sweep, the tail runner, who immediately recognised us from the previous week’s race (we are nothing if not consistent) and he was friendly, encouraging and very supportive as we ran the final couple of kilometres. The final kilometre hurt and it showed me I have much work to do if I am to get the time I want at the Bristol 10k. We finished with the bacon sandwich that we had spent the last 15 minutes talking about and I wore my medal ALL day, only taking it off to get into bed.

Over the course of these two trail races, I have managed to convince Hattie that she should accompany me for the Bristol half marathon and I am so pleased that she agreed and has now signed up too. A training partner that you like and can have a really good laugh (as we will need to laugh) with is going to be essential for both of us over the coming months.

Curly Sue is injured and on the advice of her physio is not allowed to run much at the moment (which she is not very happy about). With my work being so hectic, we’ve only managed one session over the past couple of weeks, so we made this an interval session around Queen’s Square. I really hope she gets better soon as it’s been ages since we had a harbour loop together and I certainly enjoy them more than the sprints. My fastest sprint speed is still slower than my husband’s normal running speed, but it’s the fastest I can go….at the moment anyway.

So with my 11k yesterday, today it was husband’s turn as he took on the Bath Half Marathon. He has been training well and had his eye on a fast time. He smashed it and finished it in 1.47.53. He did Bristol in 1.51.25 last September so has really improved. He mentioned the word “marathon” for the first time ever today too. I am so proud of him. He only restarted running to support me and it’s genuinely changed both ours and our daughters’ lives so much.

The atmosphere at Bath was fantastic today and although we were there to support Husband and his friend “Batman’s Buddy” (who also got a very fast time) it was brilliant to cheer, clap and encourage the less speedy runners too, especially as this is where I am likely to be in the field of any “event” I enter. Our jelly babies were very popular and daughter and her friends were handing out “high fives” by the dozen. We were all inspired by the mega effort that everyone was putting in.

Another future race buddy is my youngest sister “Queenie” who has recently been bitten by the running bug and is 4 weeks into couch to 5k. It’s so good to see her enthusiasm and she is doing really well. I am desperate to do a park run with her but with us both being Mums and having to negotiate children’s football matches and birthday parties on a Saturday morning, we’ve not managed it yet, but we will. In the meantime, Queenie is making enormous progress and importantly feeling better about life and enjoying the sanity that 30 minutes of headspace gives you. Keep going Queenie.

Finally, I have some very exciting and surprising news. Quite a few people read my blog now which I am so pleased and proud about. As you will have seen, it was recently picked up by the “Great Run” company, who manage the Bristol 10k, when it was profiled and shared on their website. Well this in turn has been picked up by a local TV channel. They have approached me and asked me to keep a video diary of my runs and then go in to be interviewed live on TV. Yes….you read that correctly… I am going to be on TV talking about running. As Hockey Sister quite accurately stated when I told her, “of all the things I thought you would ever be famous for, running wouldn’t even have made it onto the Top 50” and she is right. But here we are and it’s true. This coming Friday (17th March) I will be on Made in Bristol’s “The Crunch” between 6-8pm. Please tune in. I’ll let you into a secret – I’m absolutely terrified. It’s about as far away from my comfort zone as I could be, but as with most things running related, being terrified is no reason not to do it. Please tune in. Like Davina, I promise not to swear.

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Punctures, Tigers and Zombies

Over the past few weeks I have run in rain, wind, sunshine and snow – the standard array of February weather. My sister has finally taken back her silver reflective jacket that she lent me whilst she was unable to run but now she is back running, I’ve had to return it. I loved that jacket and I’m not embarrassed to say I miss it! Obviously I tried to steal it and “forgot” to return it several times, but in the end I had to give it back.  This has meant that I have had to improvise my “reflective” night time running strategy since and so now have a high viz long sleeved T-shirt, high viz vest and I also purchased some flashing lights to go around my legs. I look like a Christmas Tree…but I am visible and people can see me in the dark, which of course is the important point.

Running in the winter is miserable and the “Trundlers” group (we run but slowly) has been an absolute life-saver and game changer for me. I’ve met a really lovely lady (Hattie) who runs at a similar speed to me and we get on famously. Thursday nights are now Trundler Nights and myself and Hattie are going to use these evenings to build on our distance as she has also signed up for the Bristol 10k. We’re planning to do the usual 4-5k Trundle with the rest of the ladies and then will gradually add a bit more on each week after the run until we get up to 10k. We managed 6.5k a couple of weeks ago and this had been the furthest I had run since early December.

Hattie had not ever been to a Park Run so I persuaded her to join me. I wanted to test my speed a bit to see if all of the extra lunges, squats and kettlebell classes were actually helping and so I decided to seek out a flat Park Run and so opted for Chipping Sodbury which is a 3 loop FLAT course, much in the vein of Little Stoke Park Run (which I still miss). It was fantastic. We met Running and Fitbit sister there too and so all set off. It was good. I took the first 2 loops steady and was largely running with running sister, which is always something I enjoy but then as we approached the final half of the loop, my running watch showed that I was close to a PB so we went for it. I really, REALLY pushed myself and even finished with a sprint (I have never, ever done that before) and I got a new personal best not only for Chipping Sodbury Park Run but also my fastest time full stop at 5k at 38.28. I was VERY pleased.

It demonstrated extremely clearly that the extra work is having an effect. I do feel stronger and although I am no longer losing weight and sadly I think I have reached the point where the only way I am going to lose more weight is to really look at my diet now and change what I’m doing (I don’t think gin is included in any diet plan I have ever read), I am smaller and leaner. (Not lean…you understand, there is still plenty of work to do, but I am seeing a change). I measured myself at the beginning of the year and I have lost 1 cm from my tummy and my arms are half a centimetre smaller too. I have bought a couple of size 16 tops and a pair of size 18 jeans are beginning to feel a bit loose. This is good and it has made me more committed to keep trying.

Of course, when things are good, the law of sod means that then things will start to unravel.

The following Saturday, Husband, who is only a couple of weeks away from competing in the Bath half marathon and so has been focussing on longer runs (he is up to 18km which took him 91 minutes – which is less than the time it took me to run the Bristol 10k last year, just to add a little bit of context for you, he is fast) was keen to try Chipping Sodbury Park Run as I have been raving about how great is is so much. I’d been 3 weeks in a row, once with my daughters, once with Hattie and now today. Sporty Daughter, who is not yet 11 so is not allowed to run unaccompanied without an adult yet at Park Run is frustrated by my lack of speed and so was desperate to have a real crack at getting a good time on it – and for this she needed Husband and will LOTS of kilometres under his belt for the week, he was happy to run a bit slower so she could try.

When we set off from home that morning and it was ABSOLUTELY freezing. It was snowing and the wind was bitter. As we pulled off the M4 and into Chipping Sodbury, disaster struck as “check tyre pressure” flashed up on the dashboard. Luckily we were only metres from a Kwik Fit so we pulled straight in as we had already had one puncture earlier in the week and didn’t want to take any chances so far from home and also on a date where we had 2 family birthdays to attend later in the day. The time was now 8.35am and we were still quite a distance from the Park Run so daughters and I jumped out the car and then started to run. To be honest, it may seem strange and people who I have told this story to subsequently, have largely responded “why didn’t you just abandon Park Run” but it genuinely never occurred to me. We were going to Park Run – so we went to Park Run.

It was 2 km to Park Run and we all ran it. If I’m being honest, it was further away than I had remembered but we were committed. Husband caught us up before we arrived (having left the car at Kwik Fit) and we got to the start just in time. He and Sporty Daughter went off like a rocket which left me and younger daughter jogging and chatting. I love running with my little girl and I love that she enjoys it too. However on the final lap she was pretty tired (and so was I as we had run to Park Run at a fairly brisk pace) and we were both wet from the snow and although sweating, were also cold. At this point, my 9 year old had run 7k and so we walked a bit. She was nearly crying as she didn’t want to “slow me down” – frankly this was laughable as the fronts of my legs were so cold they hurt (need to get thicker leggings for the next winter season) so we walked a bit (whilst making silly voices and pulling funny faces) and then ran the last bit. She was pleased to have finished. Husband and Sporty Daughter cheered us over the line having finished nearly 10 minutes ahead of us. Sporty Daughter had taken 8 minutes off her 5k time for a new PB of 31.11. She was elated. She has also subsequently used this new found confidence to get into the school cross country team (which she was desperate to do) and this also makes me very happy.

We then had to get back to the car so walked the final 2k back. My daughters had completed 9k and it wasn’t even 10.15am. Quite a morning.

However, the snow, cold, extra exercise seemed to have taken a toll on me and for the next few days I was unwell and was feeling shattered. This meant that I didn’t run until the following Friday. I was in London awaiting the arrival of my bestie galpals from university and so before they arrived I had time to squeeze in a quick run. We were staying on Trafalgar Square and so I ran up to Buckingham Palace, down Birdcage Walk and back to the hotel. Tourists are not helpful when you are trying to run and it was also unseasonably warm and this all combined to make the run hellish and I only managed 3.5k. However, knowing that I was about to embark on a weekend of drinking that would make no-one surprised if we woke up to find a tiger in our bathroom, I knew that I had to do it.

A weekend of socialising duly followed and then on Monday I woke up at home groggy and dehydrated. I had planned to run to work but I bailed and as usual spent all day regretting it, but then still couldn’t be bothered to run home. Youngest daughter goes to a gymnastics class in South Bristol on a Monday night and so husband suggested that I go with them in the car and then I run home. I reluctantly agreed. I told myself that a really slow run/walk was all I needed to get back in the groove and so I set off. What I hadn’t factored in was that although I was running along a main road, parts of it are fairly isolated from the road and as we have already established that I am a bit of a scaredy cat in the dark, it meant that I was really quite uncomfortable on various sections of the run. What also hadn’t occurred to me was that when you are feeling unsure (because let’s make no bones about it here, I was scared for a large proportion of the run) it makes you run fast, REALLY fast. I glanced at my watch at about 4.2k and was very shocked to see that I was on for not only a PB but a STONKING PB. I sprinted the last 600 metres and ran 5k in 37.01 minutes.

I really pushed myself and used all the new techniques that Curly Sue has been teaching me, knees lifted, shoulders down, arms pumping and it worked. You cannot believe how happy I was. I cried a bit as I panted to get my breath back and then me, being me, was annoyed that I wasn’t 2 seconds faster to get a time in the 36 minute bracket, but for the first time (probably ever) I actually felt like a runner. I ran fast, strong and consistently. Each kilometre had been run at a speed of less than 8 minutes and there is something very psychologically uplifting about having a “7” in each of your kilometre time splits and this was the first time I have ever managed it. The “7s” have been creeping in since early January but usually at the beginnings of runs, but I had never managed it all the way through. I know I can go faster too as I stopped a couple of times at traffic lights to cross roads. This blows my mind but I’m going to try for a sub 37 minute 5k before the end of March. I think I can do it and I never thought that I would be typing that.

I’ve learnt 3 things this week.

  1. 56 hours of excessive drinking appears to be excellent preparation for a fast run.
  2. It’s true you do run faster when you feel like you’re being chased.
  3. It’s important to rest when you need to.

I need to think about this in the run up to the 10k and incorporate this into my training. So I guess the week before the race I will rest, download the “zombie running app” (yes you are chased by zombies as you run) and then head to Wetherspoons the night before and we’ll see what happens……(only joking Curly Sue!)

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Crab walks, Kettlebells and Strava

Following my Joe Wicks induced “mountain climber” injury, I’ve had to visit the physio four times, which has been a bit annoying to say the least, not to mention expensive. The physio however was lovely, very supportive and he understood what I was trying to achieve…i.e. getting stronger so I wouldn’t get injured and need to see a physio – the irony is not lost on me. Still after a couple of weeks during which I was allowed to do “gentle running” I am pleased to say that I am now completely signed off, but with strict instructions that if I am pushed for time to exercise over the course of a week for any reason, I will not sacrifice a strength session for a run. He made me promise faithfully.

I had a stint over the summer last year when I was attending some barbell strength classes at the local leisure centre and I so with my clean bill of health, I decided that this would be the way forward again. However, over a few polite gin and tonics on my birthday weekend, the Red Lady persuaded me to join her gym. I have always hated gyms and have a string of failed memberships to my name over the years, but on the basis of basic economics I was persuaded. The leisure centre classes were £6.50/7 a class and the gym is £15 a month. I won’t insult your intelligence by “showing my workings” here but needless to say with no long term contract attached, it was definitely worth a go.

The class I was most interested in was “kettlebells” which alas, have nothing to do with Father Christmas or cups of tea. I’d asked for a kettlebell for one of my birthday presents (along with make-up and gin – I haven’t changed THAT much!) but then realised that I didn’t have a clue what to do with it. So I joined the gym on my birthday (yes….I’ll give you a minute to let that sink in….) and then signed up for a kettlebells class. A kettlebell is handbag shaped (so far so good) in that it is spherical with a loop coming out of the top (like handbag handles) but alas that is where the similarities end. It is a dead weight  (3kg) and the handle is for….well holding, as you put yourself through a variety of squats (this is where you get your body into a sitting position, but don’t have anything to actually sit on), lunges (one leg forward and the other leg dropping to the floor knee first) and arm related torturous exercises. I managed all the exercises and the next day could feel hundreds of new muscles that I had no idea that I had possessed previously. The good news was that it only hurt if I breathed or moved (!)….walking down stairs was the worst. But it did only last 48 hours and at least I knew it was working all the muscles that I needed to be working so I have signed up again for next week.

I’ve also started my proper training sessions with Curly Sue and they seem to be going well. They last around 30 minutes once a week and they largely focus on technique. There is more to running apparently than lumbering forward at the fastest speed you can manage whilst not falling on your face and I am keen to learn.

I’ve had three sessions now and we’ve worked on squats and lunges (everyone is obsessed with squats and lunges). I damaged my knee playing netball when I was about 15 and was advised by the doctor not to do lunges at the time – 27 years later it was clear that I have been using this as a cop out ever since because, let’s be honest, they really hurt. Knees have to be in certain positions so as to avoid hurting yourself, but once Curly Sue was happy that I could do a safe lunge (did I actually just type that?!), I had plenty of homework to be getting on with. Forward lunges, backwards lunges, side lunges, lunges round an (imaginary) clock, walking lunges, not to mention the walking squats I have to do, which has me moving like a constipated crab twisting whilst in a squat position, like I am trying to impress Len Goodman. These sessions take place outside, in public, where people walk past as I perform these dances. The weird thing is that a year ago, I was still running in the dark so nobody could see me, these days I’m always wearing something neon in colour so people can’t help but see me and I genuinely don’t give a stuff if they think I look ridiculous or not (although, I am fairly sure that I do look ridiculous)!

Curly Sue breaks everything down into easy bite size pieces and if I had been sceptical about her methods to start with (I wasn’t, as I trust that she knows what she is doing) I am no longer, as since the beginning of January I have taken 2 minutes and 39 seconds off my time at Ashton Court Park Run (and the mountain) and this is AMAZING.

In the first of the two park runs I ran with Youngest Daughter and I had to stop a few times as she had a stitch – she is only 9 and it is 5k. But she wanted to stop and walk at the beginning of the downhill – I couldn’t believe it, NOT THE DOWNHILL but being a good Mum I kept her going as much as I could and then told her that her sister would beat her if she didn’t get a move on …and that seemed to do the trick! but nonetheless, I knew I could have gone faster. So the following week, I didn’t put up too much of a fight when daughters didn’t want to come along to Park Run and so was able to give it everything I had. Another ThisMumRuns lady was there. She recognised me and introduced herself (I love meeting new people) and we ran together. I was tired at the top of the hill and said I was fine if she wanted to leave me (“save yourself!”) but she waited and we finished it together. It was great chatting as it distracted from the pain and I pushed myself harder than I have ever done before. I was still over 40 minutes at Ashton Court but the time had enormously improved. This pleased me. My next target is to get it under 40 minutes.

I’ve also been running to and from work. Work is fairly busy at the moment so with the exception of my diarised session with Curly Sue, getting out at lunchtime is practically impossible and there has been lots going on at home too. Therefore, I have been focussing on 3-4 runs a week but 2 of those have been the 3k commute to or from work. I’ve been trying to make them fast and sometimes this has worked and sometimes it hasn’t but on the whole I am getting faster. I guess the extra strength work, squats, lunges etc must be doing something other than making my thighs wonder what they did to make me hate them so much, as Strava is showing that more and more I am running each kilometre 30-40 seconds faster than before Christmas. I’ve also lost 6 pounds since the beginning of the year which is more good news.

Strava (another of those apps that track and logs your speed, routes etc) is something that Curly Sue asked me to download so she can be my “friend” and track my progress. It is AMAZING. I have so many Strava friends now and I can see routes that my running buddies are doing too. It’s fantastic.

I’ve also been on a couple of 5k runs with some local neighbour Mums (both really lovely ladies) and we all seem to run at a similar speed and so this has been positive too. The Trundlers are also still going strong and so I am having lots of opportunities to run with different ladies. I’ve volunteered to lead a “ThisMumRuns” formal run too. Next Sunday I will be leading a 30 minute run and I’m quite excited. If you’re reading this and have been thinking about coming along to one of these Sunday runs but haven’t managed to get to one yet – COME ALONG! I need to keep pushing myself and trying new things…although I suspect that squats and lunges will be in my future for many weeks to come…..which is good because my future also holds a 10k and a half marathon….yikes!

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