Breakfast with Champions

Well, I am one very lucky lady! I simply clicked ‘Like’ on the Holiday Inn Facebook page and won the chance to run with Paula Radcliffe and Shelly Woods. The strangest thing about all of this for me, other than running alongside my heroine, was peeling myself quietly away from the boys as they slept and venturing out into the commuter world in the early hours. I watched as a steady stream of regulars took up their everyday spot on the platform and headed to the doors as the train sneaked up silently in the dark. I was amazed to see that the train was full, at 6am! Emerging from Charing Cross I noticed sleepers huddled in doorways, something I don’t usually see in my sheltered south London world, and I wondered if these commuters still notice them as they pass the same shop doorways every day.

As I arrived at the Holiday Inn Bloomsbury I was greeted by other eager-looking runners who were milling about expectantly, awaiting the arrival of our Olympic stars. I was slightly disappointed that Shanaze wasn’t riding her BMX around the foyer…then Paula strolled in. She’s tiny, really, you could blow her over, and so elegant, oh how I wish I could roll up at the end of a marathon looking as fresh as she does!

We were walked over to Russell Square where we tried our best to keep warm while Paula was interviewed by ITV Daybreak (I have had a scan through on the Player, but can’t see anything, maybe it’s going to be on tomorrow’s show) while we did some ‘stretching’ and jumping up and down in the background.

Paula being prepared for interview. And yes, that's her body guard!

The event was all very well organised, with security people and even St John’s Ambulance on bikes!

Thankfully, his services were not needed!

Before we set off we did some – much-needed – warming-up with Paula and Shelly.

Warming up

We then set off around Russell Square for a mile run. Here I was, next to the woman who has been my heroine for such a very long time, and actually keeping up!

Race ya Paula!

Suddenly I found myself next to Paula and simply didn’t know what to say, but she really is as lovely as she seems and we chatted easily for a while. I was interested in what happens next and she told me she is off to the Pyrenees to train with the other athletes. I asked her when she gets to see her family in this busy schedule and she said they will be with her. I told her about how I used to run with Hector in the running buggy and we chatted about how odd it is to run with a buggy. Just like talking to any other running mum really! On our last lap of the square we took a turn down a tree-lined path and broke the tape of the finish line, arms in the air, cheers all round.

Back at the hotel we were warmed up with hot drinks and a lovely breakfast (not porridge!) and Paula and Shelly very kindly signed things for us and posed for photos (in which I look a right gormless duh) then held a quick Q&A session. I talked to other runners, all with different goals and experiences, some running London this weekend, some with 100 marathons in their sight.

Paula and me

Shelly and me!

Shelly is competing in this Sunday’s London Marathon (which she has previously won) and seemed calm and relaxed in the run up to the Olympic Games. When asked who inspired her, she said ‘This lady here’ and pointed at Paula Radcliffe.

Right now I am buzzing from this experience. I got to run alongside a world record holder, and two London Marathon winners both heading towards London 2012. What a start to a drizzly Thursday morning!

Best wishes

Distance run: 1.01 miles

Time: 9 minutes 39 seconds

Average Pace: 9.34

Best Pace: 7.22

Calories: 69

(and Shelly and Paula didn’t even break a sweat!)



Janathon Day 31: First Day/Last Day

Today was the first day in three-and-a-half years that I left Hector in the care of someone other than Edward. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I took him to nursery this morning and started to feel sad when I saw the other little ones looking longingly at their parents as they left, some even having a sob. I quickly ushered Hector past all this upset and to some paint, to busy him with creative play. After a while he ventured into a small side room where there were some stickle bricks and he happily played with some other children and one of his teachers. For quite a while. I saw this as my chance to leave, but had really wanted to say goodbye instead of sneaking away so, instead, I was told I could make myself a cup of tea in the staff room (and pull myself together presumably!). As I sat there, I thought if I were to go in and say goodbye, he would become too upset, so I made the decision to just go. I spoke to Edward on the phone as I walked home crying and he told me to look in the bedroom because there was a card there for me. So I sat on the bedroom floor laughing and crying at the same time. I do have the most wonderful husband in the world, who knows exactly what makes me happy:

I’ve always wanted a utility belt, and now I have one for my ‘new job’ as gardener and decorator.

I busied myself with tidying and such like then was cheered up when our neighbour rang the bell to say she had seen Hector playing happily on the see-saw when she dropped her daughter off…and would I like to go round for a coffee. How very grown up!

The time came to collect Hector from nursery and I walked quickly, trying not to run and look like Mad Mum. It was a bit odd really, I expected him to want to hug me, but he was quiet and subdued. Apparently he had had a good time and hadn’t cried (phew), so I didn’t push him for information, and we just walked in the sunshine and chatted. I thought it fitting on this last Janathon day for us to go for a running buggy run and, as it was a special day, and so wonderfully sunny, we took a picnic to the park:

(the cheese muffins we made when Hector got home 🙂 )

So, Janathon is complete. I ran every day and blogged every day, as I did in June. This was different though. Most of my Juneathon runs were with Hector in the passenger seat, long meandering explorations with blackberry picking and sandpit stops. Most of my Janathon runs were run in the dark, either at the crack of dawn (eek!) or in the gloomy depths of commuter time. But I loved it all, really I did! There is something very special about this experience: there is no way I would have done some of those runs if it wasn’t for the support of my virtual (and some now real) friends, and that feeling of not wanting let them or myself down. I wish I could replicate that feeling at other times! In total I ran 130.7 miles, about 22 miles further than Juneathon 2010. I hadn’t set myself a goal other than to run a minimum of three miles each time, so I am pretty pleased with that. I know there are people out there who ran these kinds of distances in the first week, and I take my Nike ear-warming hat off to them, but there are also people out there who have started from scratch and have stuck at it in possibly the darkest, coldest month of the year – a bloody well done to them! I would also like to say a HUGE thank you to Cathy for keeping on top of it all, amazing, and all for the love of it.

So what next? I have a marathon to train for, so I will be easing back on this running every day lark and sticking to the plan. That’ll be sixteen miles this weekend then. Check back and see how I’m getting on, I look forward to keeping up with and in touch with the rest of you Janathoners in the future, and meeting some of you at the get-together in a few weeks. Pats on the back all round.

Janathon day 31:

Time: 32 minutes 47 seconds

Distance: 3.01 miles

Average Pace: 10.53

Best Pace: 8.35

Calories: 350

Total for January 2011: 130.7 miles

**Update!** If anyone fancies sponsoring my marathon effort, you can donate to the Guidedogs charity here. Thank you! xxx

Janathon Day 20: Power Pushing

I had, once again, intended leaping out of bed and bedecking myself with Lycra to endure enjoy an early morning run, but of course that didn’t happen (I’m soooo tired at the moment). Instead, I persuaded Hector to go for another running buggy run, with the promise of some remote control car fun at the end. So, into the under-stair cupboard I ventured once more, we really need to sort that arrangement out. I hadn’t realised quite how cold it was and, as he was feeling stubborn – ‘I am the boss!’ – Hector said he didn’t need his big woolly blanket, just the thin, smaller one. We soon paid the price when he started complaining of feeling cold after about five minutes. Bad mother. I kept it short and local, with a few laps around the park but, before we could enjoy the flat surface alongside the running track, we had to go over the ‘spirally footbridge’ that crosses the railway line. Oh my, it’s steep and I must have looked like I was going in slow motion on the way up, then like Laurel and Hardy on the way down!

I like running at this time of day, you see lots of women and older people plodding around happily and everyone is just getting on with their own thing. I did feel bad every time Hector said he was cold, and I did offer him my Grim T-shirt to keep him warm, but he took one look and said no. ‘Just once more up here, round here and back over the spirally footbridge and we will be home!’ I then promised to take him to the cafe for a hot chocolate to warm him up after I had changed. We both enjoyed that part of my run.

Janathon day 20:

Time: 32 minutes 32 seconds

Distance: 3.06 miles

Average Pace: 10.38

Best Pace: 6.51

Calories: 347



Janathon Day 19: Everybody Loves the Sunshine!

This morning was all about creating a ‘fantastic marble run’:

This afternoon was all about fitting in a run. I really didn’t want to have to run this evening again, so I persuaded Hector to climb into the running buggy and off we went. There is so much general faff involved in a running buggy run, far more than on a regular sort of run. First of all, I have to take pretty much everything out of the under-stair cupboard before performing a challenging and risky maneuver to dislodge the running buggy. Phew! Eventually, after discussion about gloves and sunglasses, we leave the house. It was a lovely day: bright, crisp, fresh, if slightly cold, and we just did an errand sort of run, picking some things up along the way. My ‘trainer’ was keen to get back and play, and I didn’t want to push it (and my knee is tender still. It’s a bit odd, sort of ok when I run, but painful when I go up and down the stairs, any ideas?).

Janathon day 19:

Time: 31 minutes 42 seconds

Distance: 3.27 miles

Average Pace: 09.52

Best Pace: 7.21

Calories: 284


Janathon Day 5: Down and dirty

It seems I made Edward late for work yesterday by running before breakfast, so I was dissuaded this morning. Knowing I would find it a challenge to get out after 8pm, I decided to shoe-horn the running buggy from the under-stair cupboard and head out with my co-pilot. Thankfully, Hector was really excited: ‘I love going running with you!’. It was such a bright and beautiful morning too, a real treat to be out there together, enjoying the diggers and mud in our local park first of all. There is a river running through the park and the diggers are working hard creating new paths, platforms and bridges to allow easier access to the river, even to the point of offering a great paddling spot come the summer. In the meantime, we do have to do a bit of wading, but it will be worth it in the end:

It’s been a while since I have run with Hector in the buggy, what with the snow and ice and everything, so I really did feel it today, especially when I had to take a hilly detour to avoid some really big mud swamps, talk about huffing and puffing! Today was to be an exploration of the Waterlink Way, a walking/running/cycle route that follows the river from Deptford Creek right down to Beckenham, passing very close to our house. It turned out to be a lovely route, if you forgive the section cutting through Wickes car park in Catford Bridge. I did find some spots a little secluded, but you always seem to be fairly close to life, even passing by the biggest Sainsbury’s I’ve ever seen. When I look at the map, it seems to offer quite a long run but, in reality, it’s not that far (the full length would, of course, be a good run!), but you could always add bits and loop here and there to extend the distance.

We went as far as Lower Sydenham, then turned towards home, churning our way through the mud on the way. I’d also forgotten how chatty Hector is when we’re running, asking questions, pointing things out, asking more questions and turning around to see where my answer is. I had to tell him I couldn’t talk right now because I was out of breath – we  paused to ‘have a chat’, then everything was alright again.

Janathon day 5:

Time: 48 minutes 03 seconds

Distance: 4.44 miles

Average Pace: 10.49

Best Pace: 7.23

Calories: 530


Nike Grid Crazy!

The whole of London (well, London’s running community at least) has gone Nike Grid crazy. London has been divided up into postcode areas and within these postcodes are four selected phone boxes. You run to your first phone box, dial the number, give your (pre-registered) details and start your run to the next box and so on. It doesn’t stop there of course, people can compete for various badges for frequency, speed and so on. I am beginning to think there should be a ‘nutter’ badge and an ‘obsessed’ badge.

I am running for Team Audiofuel, who are proving to be quite the running obsessives. I feel like the slower hanger-onner bringing up the rear, but being part of such a dedicated team is a real motivator, you wouldn’t catch me legging it up Green Lanes at nine o’clock on a Friday night after putting Hector to bed normally! My nearest postcode area is N4 and this means me running for about ten minutes before I even reach the first box. Now, I haven’t been in a phone box for years and, in this hi-tech age it seems a bit odd to be doing such a thing for a challenge organised by Nike, but go in a phone box I did. The first phone box was giving me jip and wouldn’t dial up, so I thought my race was over before I had begun, but things soon got going and off I went, dodging the crowds pouring out of restaurants and shops and leaping across roads to beat the green man.

It’s definitely a good interval session, and people make it into endurance, speed and hill sessions by mixing up the postcodes and trying to run every route possible in their area, something I plan to try at the weekend. I would love to have more time to try out the different areas, the Archway route looks like a doddle for instance, with three of the phone boxes being almost next to each other. Tomorrow, if the weather looks good, I might attempt a running buggy Nike Grid run, Hector has expressed and interest, as long as it includes a playground stop.


Time: 40 minutes 36 seconds

Distance: 4.15 miles

Average Pace: 9.48

Best Pace: 7.09

Calories: 432


Time: 42 minutes 44 seconds

Distance: 4.48 miles

Average Pace: 9.32

Calories: 413


Indian summer

I’m so happy that the sun is out after all that rain in the past weeks, it feels almost like summer again, although I pull on a cardie and some socks in the evening… So, in the spirit of summer, we headed out to Finsbury Park this morning. I think Hector was glad to be back out in the running buggy, he does enjoy it whizzing along, telling me where to go and what to do. I can’t imagine where this bossiness comes from. We went via a different entrance today because I wanted to show him the outdoor gym they’ve installed. I was going to take a photo, but thought the people on board the machines might not be so happy about that. Every time I have been past this gym, there have been people using almost every machine, even before it was officially open. It’s a great idea because, before the outdoor gym was installed, people would use the nearby play area to do pull ups and so on, a bit intimidating for a small child! For anyone who hasn’t seen one of these gyms, they are a collection of heavy duty, brightly coloured machines to exercise various parts of the body. I imagine they use your own body weight to assist in the workout. One day I will have a go and report back (and take a photo).

We carried on up the hill, which I found far more difficult than on Sunday, with the running buggy ahead of me. We did pause at the sandpit and bumped into some friends, so it was a rather lovely morning/afternoon out.

Time: 46 minutes 28 seconds

Distance: 4.16 miles

Average Pace: 11.10

Best Pace: 8.27

Calories: 457

Last night I forced myself to go out for a run after dinner and after Hector had gone to bed, this meant leaving the house at about 8.30. It was dark. I am not a fan of evening runs around here, I had to stick to busy roads and loop around to make up the mileage. I also went on a bit of a detour to avoid a rowdy group of men on the main road. I think I should buy some reflective strips to make myself a bit more visible if I am to make a habit of going out in the evening – head to toe black is not a good idea.

Time: 32 minutes 31 seconds

Distance: 3.22 miles

Average Pace: 10.05

Calories: 318