A round-up and look forward

I know, I know, it’s the middle of January and I’m only now rounding up my year, tsk! It’s been a busy time, but in a good way, with numerous volunteering opportunities, coaching and leading runs. I guess another delay to writing this post is the sheer scale of what I have to round up from 2016! It was a fantastic year, with big changes and big challenges.

Family volunteers

Family volunteers

I started my year by qualifying as a UK Athletics Coach in Running Fitness and starting my role as trainer for GoodGym Lewisham, running to do good in our community, making a difference and growing our friendships and fitness at the same time. With my birthday present at the end of 2015 being a place in the Outlaw Holkham Half-Ironman, my goal for the year was pretty clear, leading to many sessions on the turbo, hours of laps at the pool and a continuation of the consistent running that happens anyway. My ongoing goal to improve my swim speed and to overcome my open-water and race panic saw me proudly swimming my 5k Swimathon at the Aquatics Centre, my favourite pool.

Medal moment

Medal moment

In September I dived straight in (or rather schlumphed heavily into the Serpentine with hundreds of other people) and went for it with the first ever Swim Serpentine. I can’t say I’ve particularly progressed much with the open water swimming, having pootled, heads-up all the way round, chatting to each and every marshal en route! There’s a lot of work to be done, so I’ll be back this year and swimming it with my head down and with determination (my favourite bits were the hot tub and sauna at the end. Ahem).

Mega medal

Mega medal

As always, my favourite sporting moments have been those shared with others and, in June, we took Hilly Fields parkrun on tour to Paris, enjoying the beautiful course, cheering on friends to super finish times and, best of all, encouraging and cajoling Hector around his first ever full 5k! What a wonderful weekend, running, eating, socialising and sightseeing!

On tour

On tour

Other highlights have been supporting and facilitating others to push themselves and reach their goals. Our wonderful parkrun and junior parkrun are growing all the time and, with the introduction of a tail-walker, we welcome runners, joggers and walkers every week, with nobody finishing last. Once again, we put together a massive team, to take charge of the baggage trucks in Greenwich Park, taking care of the belongings of the many nervous runners, about to embark on the Virgin London Marathon. One of my favourite days of the year (more on that later…).

Top team

Top team

In July I gritted my teeth and tackled my first half-ironman in the beautiful surrounds of Holkham Hall. We had an incredible family and friends weekend, enjoying camping in the grounds, playing on the beach, fuelling up with fish and chips (yup, I’m such a pro) and slipping in a couple of little sporting events for good measure.

Knackered

Knackered

The summer was an active one, with coastal runs and sea swims in beautiful Cornwall and a real family treat, a trip to Club La Santa in Lanzarote. What a dream! Massive swimming pools (often all to myself), classes on tap and group runs and rides to keep us happy…I think we’ll be going back (Hector hasn’t stopped talking about it!).

Representing

Representing

In September I returned to the excellent London Duathlon, where I had my best experience in my three years of this race (though not a PB, so close, next time!). My race report was featured in 220 Triathlon magazine, which caused my Mum to squeal in W.H.Smith 😉

Spread

Spread

My last post was all about getting out, whatever the weather and volunteering certainly encourages that! As a family, we always try to embrace whatever the weather throws our way and our Christmas holiday involved getting out, being active and making the most of what’s on our doorstep, with a brilliant day in the Olympic Park.

Family fun

Family fun

To round off what was a great year, I realised that, if ran as much as I could at Hilly Fields parkrun in the run up to Christmas, I could reach my 100th run on New Year’s Day. With some incredible support and juggling from my fellow run directors and a few slow-paced, flu-ridden strolls, I made it – Peckham Rye parkrun AND Hilly Fields on New Year’s Day, making it to 100!

The double

The double

An epic start to 2017! In the run up to Christmas, I was in bed, totally knocked out by ‘proper’ flu, none of this ‘man’ flu, proper, can’t move a muscle flu. As I lay there, I scanned twitter to see that the London Marathon were running a competition to win a place in the 2017 race. Typing in the answer to the question, along with probably hundreds of others, I thought ‘That would be nice, but I doubt it will happen’. Weeeeeellll, I won! There’s nothing like a marathon on the horizon to focus your training! It will be my fourth marathon, but it’s been a while. When I ran previously, I wasn’t part of a running club, or part of an amazing running community, so this time will be very different. Not sure I’ll be able to work on the baggage trucks this year, but hey!

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South Coast Path Run

I like listening to the Marathon Talk podcast. I think the idea is that you listen to it on your long run, but I go ‘pah!’ to that and listen to it on the turbo trainer, get me! I was very inspired by Martin Yelling’s Long Run Home and did a little dance when I realised that it would coincide with our trip to Cornwall. Martin’s goal was epic: to raise money for three charities by running 630 miles over 21 days. This in itself is an incredible challenge, but the path is rough, narrow in places and very, very hilly. I followed Martin’s progress before we set off towards Fowey and looked on as he battled the heat, the rain, the terrain and the subsequent pain.

We were due to arrive in Cornwall the day he ran the section nearest where we were staying, so I planned to head over to the next stage on the Sunday morning. Sadly, Martin succumbed to injury and took an enforced ‘rest’ day that day. I had really looked forward to this run, so decided to cover the ten miles I had planned near our house, so Fowey out towards the west and back. It was stunning, but I soon appreciated what Martin must have been going through in the days before. First up, I found myself in a field of maize (it’s easy right? You just go along the edge of the sea and you can’t get lost?!).

Maize maze

Maize maze

Picking my way through, I was soon on a romantically named road and back in the right direction…

Love

Love

At this point it was raining and I went thump on my bum, with a loud ‘oof!’, yes, this path is really, really challenging! The thing about this kind of running is that you are so focused on the path ahead and keeping your footing, that you almost forget to look up and enjoy the view (perfect excuse to pause and get your breath back).

The view

The view

There were steep hills to conquer, with interesting structures to aim towards…

Look-out

Look-out

There were steps to scramble (imagine doing this in a 20 mile+ day, never mind on a leisurely 10-miler!).

Steep!

Steep!

I didn’t see many people, but those I did see gave me a jolly ‘Good morning!’ and one chap, who was CYCLING along the path (!), stopped to have a chat. This was not London. Every so often, I would find myself in a cove, just me and the water lapping around me. This one was the inspiration for Daphne de Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’, giving it an eerie and romantic air.

Menabilly

Menabilly

As I went on, the weather changed and I was getting gradually wetter and wetter, but this felt lovely. The air smelt delicious, the cows lapped up the grass and the structures I had seen on my outward journey slowly disappeared…

Nearly.

Nearly.

I returned to the house, where people had eventually emerged from their bedrooms, feeling refreshed, invigorated and recharged. Martin went on to complete a few more legs of his run, helped along the way by runners who, like me, had wanted to share the experience. His injury put his own running on hold and others took charge of the tracker, to complete the Long Run Home, reaching his fundraising goal along the way. After a few more runs along this path, my ankles ached, my glutes ached and my cheeks ached from all the smiling. Holiday running is just wonderful!

Catching up

It’s been a hectic week: a birthday, a New Year, a visit to Wales, a visit to Manchester, a PB and back-to-school. Phew. I have got good and muddy in that time, squeezing in the runs between family gatherings and drinking such delights as damson gin (the night before the PB, might I add!). I was updating my blog via Edward’s iPhone and was getting frustrated, so the thought of trying to add photos would have finished me off completely. Here are some catch-up snaps from the away days up north…

Enjoying the Welsh waves

Enjoying the Welsh waves

Welsh sticks are as good as English it seems

Welsh sticks are as good as English it seems

South Manchester Parkrun is wet!

South Manchester Parkrun is wet!

Today was the start of the school run runs for 2013. This time last year Hector was just starting school, a difficult time for all of us and an emotional few months while he settled in. Today I dropped him off in my running gear, he barely looked back and off I went for a brisk run along the river. I also reintroduced myself to the gym after a Christmas/NY break and felt good after a hard workout. Hello 2013, you’re looking big and strong!

Inspire a generation

I love this line I keep seeing around London as we visit the various Olympic events, and I see evidence of this legacy around me all the time. On Friday evening I dragged myself away from the Olympic coverage to the gym (where I was delighted to discover I could watch the women’s 5k final whilst stepping up and down on a machine), as I walked alongside the running track on my way in, I was delighted and slightly amused to see a family making use of the track, little future Mos or Usains. On Saturday I went out for a run (in my gorgeous new Mizunos – more to follow in the next blog post) and immediately felt a stronger running presence as I covered a hot and sticky four miles. During those four miles I counted a total of eighteen runners and a group of Nordic walkers, far more than I would normally encounter on this run, the Olympic effect in action. It’s a shame that I also noted that out of these eighteen, only three acknowledged me with a nod or a smile, so not entirely buzzing from the glow of the games. Someone who is buzzing is Hector – everything is a competition and results in awarding gold, silver or bronze to us for our effort in getting dressed, eating breakfast and other everyday activities. I decided to go with this enthusiasm the other day when he said that he really wanted to go running with me. We took it slowly, and I had to try and hold him back a bit as he tried to sprint the first few minutes. We jogged, walked, ‘stretched’ (I must film this, it’s very funny) and picked blackberries, always best to take it slowly at first 🙂

Last week were in Poland on holiday, where a walk up a hill rewarded us with this view:

Fresh air

Our descent was slightly less taxing, as we took the chair lift silently through the tree-tops:

Gliding

This was quite a challenge for me as I have an irritating fear of heights and had already decided I wasn’t going on the chair lift but, when I got there, and Hector was really keen, I decided to stop being such an idiot and went for it. It came round really quickly and the little Polish chap shoved it behind me – cue yelp – and I tentatively shuffled my way back in the seat and held on tight. I was suddenly confronted with a steep drop ahead of me and found myself taking deep breaths and looking at the tree tops. Eventually I acclimatised and overcame  my terrors slightly by tentatively turning my head and loosening my grip on the hand rail. It was quite lovely gliding silently through the trees, feeling like we were the only people in the world. I did feel like I was the only runner in Poland. I dutifully packed my running gear and, as we had spent time standing on our bathroom scales with our luggage in an attempt to avoid being charged for over-stuffing our bags, I felt I should at least pull on my kit once during our stay; I managed two runs. Each run was done before breakfast, while everyone else faffed around with bathrooms and the like, and I took myself up a steep hill in the heat. Not one runner crossed my path. In the park, no runners were to be seen on the nice new paths that had been recently laid, and no runners were seen gasping for breath as we took in the views ahead of the white-knuckle chair lift ride. On our last evening in Poland, we found ourselves in Krakow (that’s ‘krakoof’, by the way, not ‘krakoff’ or ‘krak-oww’ – I was repeatedly corrected each time I attempted to say a word in Polish, and this one I got right) and as we drove away from our parking spot near the city park, I could see some dark figures circling the edge of the grass in the cool evening air, runners! It seems, yes, there are runners in Poland, but they have the sense to stay inside when the weather is blisteringly hot, that’ll explain the look I got from a Babcia carrying her shopping up the hill.