Sprints, virtual runs and awards

Much has happened since I last wrote a blog.

The clocks have changed and I am now back to running in the dark. The first week after the clocks changed, it was dark at 5.30pm and although the route home would have been safe and busy with commuters at this time, by the time I actually left work at 6.40pm, it was Tumbleweed Central. Deserted, very quiet and frankly terrifying. I have absolutely no idea how I managed to complete couch to 5k, wearing headphones, in the dark during January, February and March of this year and although I ran home fairly quickly, a state of constant terror is not something I want to exist in. The whole process of running is horrifying enough without being genuinely scared, so I have decided to do something to rectify the situation.

I have mentioned before, on more than one occasion, I am not particularly fast at running and I also crave company.  With the dark nights prompting me to take action, I put a “shout out” on the TMR (This Mum Runs) group to see if there were any other ladies who were not able to run with the main group on a Wednesday (I have daughter duties on a Wednesday, as well as genuinely half killing myself in trying to keep up with them when I do manage to go) and if there was anyone that fancied a slightly more leisurely paced run on a Thursday instead. Happily lots of ladies seemed keen, although many couldn’t make it that week, and I felt confident that this was something that could work. One lady did make it however in the first week and so we enjoyed a very smiley 3.5k around the streets of Bristol. We chatted and she was very friendly. Apparently it was her first run for a year having only recently had a baby, but she was a competent runner. I rambled away, talking her poor ear off and then we were finished. She had done brilliantly and I was grateful to be able to get out in the dark. As I jogged back home afterwards, it occurred to me that I had chatted to her for the whole run. This is something that Curly Sue has done for me many times, chatting away as I have gratefully listened, unable to respond, trying to breathe. My new running friend was able to chat too (so she was already in a much better state of fitness than I had been earlier in the year) but I was pleased to be able to a) chat and b) encourage as CS has done for me.

We’re going again this Thursday and another lady is joining us too. I am hopeful that this group is going to get bigger which will make winter running safer and I am also excited to be able to meet new running ladies too. They might be at the beginning of their running life and if I can help them, then I will.


During October I took part in the 401 challenge. The most amazing human being called Ben undertook the herculean challenge to run 401 marathons in 401 days (yes you read that correctly) in order to raise money for Stonewall and Kidscape. (www.the401challenge.co.uk for more information). The scale of this undertaking blew my mind so when Ben made the 401st marathon “virtual” as well as “physical” I was keen to take part. The rules were that you paid your money (which went to the charity) and then signed up to run a 10k, half marathon or full marathon in 7 days. You logged the miles on a website and then at the end, you got a medal. Yippee.

My training had been, as ever, up and down.

Post Dyrham Park 10k (and THAT mountain), I’d been trying to mix my running up by throwing in some sprints. As I HATE sprints, I elected to make them a shorter session and so one morning a week ran to work the short way, but forced myself to run MUCH faster than I was comfortable with for a minute and then walk 30 seconds, then jog 2 minutes before sprinting again. I hate sprinting. It’s hard. My boobs, in spite of my epic running bra (which I cannot get into on my own – how do single women ever exercise? I surely burn 150 calories by the time I have managed to get myself into it and it’s done up) have a mind of their own and I breathe so hard I swear I can feel my lungs filling with blood. I have tasted vomit in my mouth more than once and I don’t enjoy it. AT ALL.  Goodness only knows how I must look to the poor commuters who have to endure this sight in the mornings. The euphoria at the end is good of course and it’s a genuine combination of the exercise endorphins as well as genuine relief that I am still alive, but sprinting for pleasure?….no. However, I had been assured that it would help me get faster, so I persevered. No pain, no gain. Well, there was plenty of pain, but would there be any gain?

Late September, I set off for a lunchtime run from the office and by running for 1k and then walking for a minute each time, I managed to shave 1 minute 19 seconds off my best ever time for 5k making it 38 minutes and 41 seconds. I was elated. The first time I had run 5k at the Little Stoke Park run (RIP) I ran it in 45.49 so the reduction in time was significant and I was pleased. I felt I was finally making some progress, however, I was still yet to crack a 90 minute 10k. Quite a few of my running friends were doing the 401 challenge and so happily Curly Sue’s sister, we’ll call her the LA Blond,  was happy to run a 10k with me to add some needed miles to her tally also as she was running the virtual marathon  – I was running a half marathon. We ran a double Bristol Harbour Loop (flat) on a Friday lunchtime and used the run 1 kilometre, walk a minute technique (I need a catchier name for it) for the whole 10k. The LA Blond was fantastic and encouraging. I found the last 1 kilometre quite tough but we ran the 10k in 1 hour, 25 minutes and 48 seconds. This was nearly 8 minutes faster than I had ran the Bristol 10k in May earlier this year and I was really, really pleased. I’m still forcing myself to do the sprints and will probably never learn to love them, but I recognise that they do help.

During this period also, Husband was deep in training as he had signed up for the Bristol half marathon. Obviously, as he is my husband, I would have gone to cheer him on anyway, but now, knowing first-hand the horrors he was about to subject himself to, I was the most enthusiastic cheer leader that anyone had ever known. Daughters and I were heavily laden with jelly babies for the brave running souls, our best cheering voices and kagouls as rain was forecast. We saw lots of running friends and we cheered loudly and clapped people until my hands hurt. Husband smashed it. When he originally signed up he was hoping to run it in 2 hours. On the day he ran 1 hour 51 minutes. He was delighted and I was so proud of him. Again, that nagging voice was there on my shoulder saying “why don’t you do it?”…… I don’t really have any good response to it and so I am proud/horrified/hysterical (delete as you see fit) to tell you that I have signed up. Next September I am going to run the Bristol half marathon. I know however that I will never want to run a full marathon so don’t worry…..unless it was in New York maybe or Chicago…one day?….If this year has shown me one thing it’s to never say, “I’ll never do that”.

Last Thursday was genuinely one of the most surprising days of my life. Myself and a friend whom I have met through running and Park Run, attended the “This Mum Runs party” – it’s 2 years old and so had a party to celebrate. If I had told myself 12 months ago that I would have attended a “running club” party, I would have laughed so hard I might have hospitalised myself, but there we have it. It’s been a surprising year.

It was a dressy affair and it was lots of fun. I met ladies that I have only previously seen online when we post “sweaty selfies” after our runs and chatted with lots of new ladies too.  The agenda of the evening was drinking prosecco and cocktails followed by a buffet, then a presentation and awards “The Birdies” given out, then more drinking. I was particularly interested in the first and last parts of the agenda.

The second award was “Most Inspiring Community Member 2016” and I won. I was flabbergasted but proud and very grateful. As my name was called out, apart from complete disbelief, my main emotion was panic as I was quite worried about falling over in my skyscraper shoes and make a fool of myself in front of over 120 women. Happily, I managed to compose myself and got onto the stage without incident. I got a big cheer and I was completely gobsmacked. Luckily I didn’t have to give a speech (I was a bit drunk) but when I got back to my seat I shed a tear. It’s a strange thing. I’m really not very good at it. And it’s not one of those things where people go “oh don’t talk rubbish, you are”. I’m REALLY not. I still find it very, very hard and I’m not fast. I don’t know if I can ever get as fast as I want to be, probably not actually. I’m worried about disappointing my daughters constantly – the latest from them is that they want me to “win” Park Run by the way(!) ……

I know I won’t give up but I will always be frustrated. But if that inspires people and it means that someone reading this decides to give running a go, or indeed anything that scares them, then that is a good thing.

As Confucius says, “it doesn’t matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop”.

I am not going to stop.


January 3rd 2016 (first ever run)           V            10 November 2016