From the sidelines…

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Since my journey began it’s all been about me running.  Me running and a whole bunch of people supporting, often standing around, freezing cold, waiting for me to trot past.  It can be an arduous task, lugging a cumbersome camera bag around and trying not to freeze to death while you patiently wait.

This weekend I decided to take a trip to Conway to support the fabulous Northwich Running Club entrants in the Conway Half Marathon.  Many of these guys have supported me enormously during the last six months so I figured it was about time I went and returned the favour.  A 6am start is not something I am known for having any enthusiasm for and managing to drag my 12 year old out of bed so he could tag along was no mean feat!  But I managed to scrounge a lift and off we went, warm layers and cameras packed and found a spot where the course passed twice.  If you ever plan to go and watch this event be warned the traffic is a major challenge!

I must admit I wasn’t 100% enthused about stepping up from 10k to half marathon but the atmosphere was awesome and all the runners made it look so easy (I’m sure it wasn’t) I’m keen to give it a bash now!  Keeping an eye out for our runners was really hard work and shouting words of encouragement to each one was harder than I imagined.  I have a new found respect for all my loyal supporters now and will make even more effort to thank them when they cheer me on in future!

This chap (in the photo) was a super star too, he came and found me driving round stuck in a diversion loop, with no clue which way to go and got me to a great spectator spot AND kept me in hot drinks too!  This was the day after he took part in the Penmaenmawr fell race!  Thanks Ian, I had a really enjoyable morning and I really don’t know how you had the energy or the motivation to hang about waiting for our guys to go past.  Some people just exceed expectations time and again!

To all our guys:  Helen, other Helen, Steven, Mike, Ian, Emma, Andrew and Janos – way to go!  You made it look so easy I am now questioning if it might be within my range in another years time!  To all the other supporters and marshals – you rock too!  Without the support any run is ten times harder.  I don’t know how you all do it!

For anyone considering the Conway half marathon next year, it seemed like a fantastic event, very well organised, great marshals and a heck of a lot of support.  Be aware that you will need to carefully plan your travel as getting in and out of Conway is a real challenge due to the necessary road closures.  I look forward to possibly giving it a bash next year but watch this space, there is a lot of up hill that makes me nervous!

Fat… It’s just a fact!

It’s a touchy subject the f word.  I don’t mean fuck, I’m not at all bothered by that, I have after all a dreadful case of potty mouth.  But fat, if I call myself fat I seem to cause outrage in some people.  The thing is it’s not an insult, it’s just a natural oily substance occurring in animal bodies, especially when deposited as a layer under the skin or around certain organs (I got that off the internet).  A significant proportion of me is made of that, so when I say I’m fat it’s because, well, I largely am!  I wasn’t always, ten years ago I was fairly slim (not much fat) but during illness then steroids then a rut of misery I put 7.5 stone on.  That 7.5 stone of additional body weight isn’t muscle.  Admittedly a bit was fluid (I received a steroid injection and a bunch of diuretics at the hospital one day and lost nearly a stone over night in water) but the fact is that I gained 7.5 stone of mostly fat!  Added to my 10.5 stone of reasonably normal body mass this resulted in a morbidly obese human.  Now I’m sorry but morbidly obese does not roll off the tongue efficiently but fat, 3 letters, one syllable does.  Please stop getting your knickers in a knot when I say I’m fat.

To be clear, I’m not using it as a euphemism for disgrace to humanity, hideous monstrosity or disgusting person (despite the fact that sometimes I think I am).  I’m just using a simple concise word to describe my body.

It’s interesting to me that we seemingly associate being overweight with greed, laziness and stupidity.  We’re seen as abusing our bodies, not looking after ourselves and being a bit thick.  This is interesting because when someone is underweight they are just seen as sick or having a high metabolism.  It’s not your fault if you’re underweight but it’s totally your own fault if you are overweight?  The actual fact is that maintaining a healthy weight comes naturally for some people, but for others a myriad of factors can make this a challenge.

Lets set the record straight.  I am NOT lazy.  I currently run on average about 20km a week at a steady pace.  Even before I ran I walked lots, I’ve always been reasonably active and I’ve never been smaller than slim(ish).  I do like food but I’m not a glutten, sure I can pig out over Christmas Dinner and regret it for 3 days, I can fit in an extra hotdog at the odd bbq but as a rule I eat a fairly normal amount.  At the time of writing this post I’ll be 5 weeks off 40 years old and so far on this journey to regain my body I’ve lost 3 of those 7.5 stone then put a smidge back on over summer but it’s moving back in the right direction now.  So when you see some wibbly wobbly woman or rolly polly chap, please don’t assume they are just stupid, lazy and/or greedy.  Unless you know that person well, have a word with yourself and consider the possible big picture.

Oh and just accept that until I can fit back in my favourite jeans I’ll be calling myself fat!

 

Role reversal…

Only a few days ago, I was spluttering and gasping and dragging my feet through the mud, with only a tail runner keeping me going.  What I would have done without her I’m not quite sure.  I quite possibly would have given up.  I’m accustomed to being the weakest link and have a huge appreciation for all those who volunteer for such roles.  And it’s always a bit stressful to know you could possibly get left behind the group and get lost.  So what a pleasant turn around it was tonight.

Our club, Northwich Running Club (NRC) has grown over the last few years (so they tell me because I’m actually pretty new) but along the way, while we gain new runners we also lose folks to injury, illness and busy lives.  It can be really daunting if you’ve been out for a while, trying to turn back up again.  I mean, will I still be able to keep up?  Will I manage the distance?  Do my running tights still fit?  Will I know anyone?  The reasons to stay home and eat chocolate are almost never ending!

For me though, a few cool things have happened this week.  Firstly I realised while chatting to a buddy that I can comfortably run 5k.  I mean not just about drag myself round 5k at a push and need a rest.  NO!  I can flipping turn up to a parkrun, run all the way round regardless of lumps bumps and hills etc. and finish feeling like I could go again (maybe not quite so quick and not immediately after my sprint finish but you know…).  I also realised that despite being quite horribly bad at cross country I am no longer one of the weakest club runners!  Not because I’m suddenly running like Mo Farah or anything but because as I mentioned, there are always runners returning from a break of some description.  Oh and I’ve actually improved a bit too!

NRC has a great way of not just letting our fallen angels disappear from memory.  Once in a while we gather them together (or try to) for a gentle walk/run session.  Sometimes we do a series of return to running sessions so that those who don’t feel ready to jump straight back in can come along and find their feet again.  How cool is it that I get to help support these fabulous folks?  I am not the straggler at the back, but the person helping those others who are fighting their way back to being runners.  I love it!  I love remembering how far I’ve come and most of all being able to return the favour.

The ladies tonight have been awesome.  Some have jumped in and run way further than they thought they could.  Some have struggled and walked some intervals.  Some have overcome their shyness to chat to new faces.  But most of all, they’ve all done it with a smile and I hope enjoyed themselves.  I’ve met more lovely people, my confidence has grown and I can’t wait to move forward and support more people on their journeys.

Remember all you fallen runners, your clubs are waiting for you.  They miss you and when you return they will support you.  Treat yourself to some new winter running tights and get out there and remember why you love it.  NRC will always find a way of nurturing its runners back to strength.  You’ll never be forgotten and we hope to see you soon x

Budget gps watch review

I had been using the Strava app on my phone to record my activities and was getting increasingly frustrated with the gps making me out to be a staggering drunk.  strava drunk gps

Although I could see I was making progress the additional 10% being added to my total distance was giving me an increased pace and I was keen to monitor what I was actually doing.  So as usual I started researching.  I was looking for an inexpensive gps watch that would allow me to upload my efforts to Strava with a budget of bugger all.  I read loads of reviews (I am obsessive like that) and found lots of recommendations for Garmin or Tomtom devices that sounded great but were all over £100.  As a c25k runner who wasn’t convinced I’d make it to the full 5k and as a single mum on a budget it just wasn’t an option.  Eventually after trawling the internet I discovered that Decathlon do their own range of gps devices.

The Geonaute Onmove 220 is currently just £69.99 and when I purchased it there was an option for a package including a chest strap heart rate monitor for just £15 extra (purchased separately £30).  I scrutinised the specification and features and concluded that although not waterproof, so not suitable for swimmers or perhaps tri-athletes, it did everything I was looking for and more for just half the price of equivalent Garmin or Tomtom devices.

I’ve used the watch now for over 6 months and can honestly say I’m thrilled with it.  Decathlon have their own software/app which is very similar to Strava and free to download/install and you use this to download your “workouts” to your account.  If like me you are Strava obsessed you can download a gpx file and upload it to Strava.  The latest app update allows you to connect your Strava account and thus your workouts will transfer automatically.  I have personally found my phone struggles with this but since I’m on my PC a lot it’s not an issue to me.

It’s very simple to set up and use, the battery lasts for days as a watch or around 10 hours in gps mode.  The heart rate monitor connects via blue tooth very easily once you get the hang of positioning it correctly.  Videos are available to show you how to do this so that’s nothing to worry about.

There is now a more advanced model (Onmove 500) which includes an integrated wrist heart rate monitor for £79.99.  This would seem to be a great value option for those who don’t want the messing about getting the chest strap in position and connected to the watch.

My favourite feature is the pacing facility.  You can set a pace, for example 7:00 to 7:30 mins per km and the watch will display your current pace and bleep if you go outside of your target window.  I find this a huge help when I’m trying to ignore that start line excitement and avoid going too quick.  Likewise if I’m trying to increase my pace it reminds me to push a little harder if I’m plodding along a little slower than I’m aiming for.  I found this a huge help when I conquered 5k and joined our main club  group runs where I’d fallen into the trap of following the crowd then struggling to keep going which I found exceptionally frustrating.  Now I have my comfort blanket to keep me on track when I need it.

If you are interested in or more information or purchasing one of these you can find them in store or on the decathlon website.  I’m not sponsored by Decathlon but I probably should be!

https://www.decathlon.co.uk/Buy/geonaute+onmove

Seriously worth considering!

 

 

No such thing as can’t!

23550083_10155862724339911_2825352942118751268_oWhen I was little (and even when I was not so little) the one phrase I remember my dad consistently quoting was “there’s no such thing as can’t”.  Learning to ride your bike, fallen off 20 times and have no space left for more grazes – think you want to give up?  You’ve got no chance!  Spent 3 hours trying desperately to fasten your shoe laces and have lost the will to live?  Suck it up!  This is literally the attitude I was brought up with and I’m so glad because as the cross country season continues, it turns out I’ll need my under-developed, know when to give up gene!

Today, in a field in Skelmersdale, a group of humanoids have gathered.  The sky is deceptively blue but it’s November so it’s sodding cold!  Against my better judgement I’ve allowed myself to be convinced this is a smart move.  Another one of my spectacularly ridiculous ideas.

23511186_10155862708944911_7072032484700018240_oWhen I say humanoids I’d better just clarify, they think they are normal humans, they look like normal humans, but when you see them pace round this course you realise they are super humans!

I may be repeating myself BUT…  Amanda – our wonderful run leader/C25K coach waxes lyrical about the benefits and joys of cross country, “it will make you a stronger, faster, better runner” she insists.  Usually I convince myself she’s talking tosh but of course I’m usually proven wrong.  Two weeks ago I “ran” at Clarke Gardens – 4.5 miles of hell but I did it, finishing in last place and really quite proud to have finished.  The following weekend I busted out a 5k pb that has been eluding me for months, this weekend I managed to improve it further and I mean we are talking 3 minutes knocked off in two weeks!

I need little time to reflect, so here are today’s thoughts (published late because I fell fast asleep on the sofa shortly after returning home from this ordeal!

There are no words to describe this cross country course.  The closest I can get is to describe how I felt…  Kind of like Bambi on ice, with huge lead weights attached to my ankles, on a  steep slope.  I’m sure that’s not quite it, the mud seems to have pva glue mixed in and the hills, what the ##@@!! did I do to deserve this challenge?  So shrieking, shouting, swearing, sliding, slipping, slopping in mud I faced my fear and gritted my teeth for the challenge of my running career so far!

We were blessed with a tail runner, I’m so sorry I don’t know her name but she was AWESOME!  How she remained so positive stuck trudging round with me, never short of words of encouragement I will never know!  When I fell she laughed with me and when I swore she pretended not to notice, boy did she keep me from losing my mind!

The support, now this is again where even I (and I’m a proper cold fish) get teary!  It took a surprisingly long time for the super humans to start coming through to lap me (how the ##@@!! do they do it?) but when they did, they really boosted me (again) kind words, pats on the back, even hugs!!!  They don’t know discrimination, they don’t see colour or size or gender (I’m talking even club shirts btw) they just support, encourage, motivate and inspire.

Then there come my heroes, this week Helen and Beata.  Our club (Northwich Running Club) never fails to blow me away, they always wait for every runner to cross the line but some just HAVE to go the extra mile!  Helen and Beata on finishing the race (two laps of muscle draining hell) then went on a crazy mission to find me!  As I’m losing the will to move and frankly just want to have a lie down, round the corner they pop cheering me on with their infectious energy.  How can you give up when you’ve got people rooting for you?  Giving MY tail runner a well deserved rest they kept my spirits high and escorted me through the mud, laughed with me and kept me distracted from the misery of my legs.  I can’t find words to describe how much they helped me yesterday.  Ladies, you were remarkable, I hope some day I can pay it forward xoxo

But it doesn’t end there… With maybe a mile to go, the remainder of my convoy arrives!  Forgive me if I’ve missed anyone but to be honest I wasn’t entirely aware of everything that was happening by this point.  Ian, Stuart and Janos are here to lift my spirits and outright lie about how far to go!  The efforts these bonkers blokes will go to, to stop me giving up, is mental.

The course ends with a massive (enter profanity of choice) hill, like you really need that when you’ve had your body drained of all ability to move!  Usually our guys wait at the finish line but today this crazy wonderful lot have trudged down the hill and are waiting like a guard of honour at the bottom because they are not letting me go it alone, not leaving Beata, Helen, the tail runner and convoy to keep me going, they are united, and I’m pretty sure they’d have carried me up that hill if they’d had to, although they might have needed an ambulance themselves!

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It’s all a bit of a blur, I can’t even say it hurt, I was numb, I wanted to cry, I wanted to laugh but there was nothing left to propel me except the will of NRC.  I looked up the hill and knew I had nothing left but since there’s no such thing as can’t I was in a bit of a bind.

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One foot in front of the other through a haze of words and cheers, I’m breathing, I’m just about clinging on for dear life and I refuse to get this close to the finish and not get there under my own steam.  I’m mortified at my hopelessness but proud of my determination, you have to feel for someone in such a conflicted situation really, I mean what is a girl to do?  Eyes closed, willing my feet to keep moving, my legs are shaking so one thing for it…

I AM crossing that finish line come hell or high water

 

23517644_10155427209340892_6241507787564279773_nI am NOT being defeated by a bit of mud and a hill!  I am not letting the team down.  I am NOT going to make the marshals who’ve stood their ground a waste of time.  I am not going home a loser.  I am going home a winner because I finish what I start.  I am going home a winner because if I have to a will crawl over that finish line.  I have no dignity left, I don’t even care.

But I’ll tell you this Skelmersdale, next year, when this lardy lady has rid herself of her

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excess, she’ll be back for revenge!  And she’ll do her damnedest to pay forward every bit of support that she received today.

After all that, all you need is a bucket, an old towel, a gallon of steaming warm water and a cup of tea and the world will be a happy place once more.

Folks I love you all, I can’t put into words how blessed I feel to be part of this family.   You’re all crazy, amazing, wonderful wonderful creatures!

Thank you so much, every flipping one of you xoxo

 

Is a half marathon feasible?

Okay, I started c25k in January, I graduated in April and I ran my first 10k in July.  I’ve increased my weekly mileage to around 25k per week so far and have a bunch of 10ks booked over the next few months.  Is it realistic to aim for a half in 9 months time?

I’m optimistic, I’ve plenty of time to train and I’ve been making steady progress.  I’m willing to accept that I might have to walk a couple of short intervals if it’s too much on the day and I’ve got a team of supporters who will keep me going.  The question is though, how do you predict how far you can progress over the future year?  I need to get an entry in soon if I’m to avoid missing out on places but I don’t want waste money on a place that I might not be able to sensibly make use of…

I guess the only thing to do is my usual approach – fling myself in at the deep end, flap my arms around and hope I don’t drown.  So far at least it has worked but this time perhaps I’ll get a calendar and figure out some sort of training plan.  Who knows, maybe I’ll do better than expected for a change!

If you have any advice please comment below, I’m always open to ideas x

Paying it forward…

DSC_0152.jpgSo as I’ve mentioned a bunch of times, I finished c25k in April and joined the running club officially.  I love it, I meet new people almost every week and I’ve made more friends in the last six months than I have in years!

September came, and with it a new C25K intake.  I was so excited!  I’ve enjoyed learning how to run and feeling better about myself so much that the thought of supporting a new group of folks in their journey was super exciting, especially with some of the friends who I’ve inspired giving it a go!

Being able to run with the C25K group every so often has been a joy, not only have I met more new people, I’ve realised just how far I’ve come since January.  Remembering the fear of week three and the 3 minute intervals and then the terror of week five’s sustained 20 minute effort only 7 months ago, yet I now take for granted my ability to jog 3 miles without a great deal of worry.  Watching others go through the programme and being able to reassure them, encouraging them to believe they can do it is really rewarding.  If you’re a runner and know someone who’d like to give it a try I highly recommend giving up some time to support them, it’s surprising how much you get out of it.

Our C25K run leaders give up a huge amount of time sacrificing their own training goals during the programme’s 8 or 9 week duration and I believe we are blessed with some fantastic coaches willing to put themselves out for us. So Mark, Amanda, Helen and co. thank you so so much from all of us!

I’ve mentioned this before and I’ll say it again, if you would like to give it a try, in a supportive, none judgemental environment and live within range of Northwich (Cheshire) check out the Northwich Running Club website.  The programme fills up fast but is so worth the wait to get a place.  I’ve lost 2 stone and gained 2 tonnes of friends!

Well done to all our C25Kers who ran for 28 mins tonight.  You might not think it’s a big deal but think how far you’ve come in just 7 and a bit weeks?!?  I can’t wait for you to all join us in Green although some of you will be soon shooting off in Amber.  Way to go! x