Get outside and fight the winter blues!

I’m finding it very, very tempting right now to ignore my planned sessions, being pulled back inside by the call of the sofa, a cosy blanket and a mug of steaming tea. I know though, that if I don’t get outside, get some fresh air and have a change of scenery, I could start to succumb to the winter blues. Some days it doesn’t feel like the sun will ever emerge…

Where's the park gone?!

Where’s the park gone?!

My strategy for coping with the colder, darker months is to get outside each day, rain or shine. I like to try and do this early on, so I don’t have a chance to talk myself out of it! A good way for me to fit it all in, is to do a ‘School Run Run’, which usually involves heading up and down some hills…

Hilly (Fields) Hills

Hilly (Fields) Hills

Two of my weekly runs happen in the evening, not my favourite time to run (I find it difficult to fuel evening activity) but, as I lead the GoodGym Lewisham group run on a Monday evening, I have to be there, perfect, no excuses! I can also guarantee that, after running with a friendly group, chatting as we go, then making sure everyone is engaged with the task, I come home feeling a warm glow and with a big smile on my face. My other evening run is on a Tuesday with my running club. Again, I have to be there to coach the girls’ group first of all, but I have been known to slope off before my own session starts (gasp!), but the pressure to stay is strong and this doesn’t happen very often. It seems sticking to a run is much easier if you ‘make an appointment’, put it in your diary and, even better, do it with friends – you won’t want to let them down.

Another weekly ‘appointment’ is at parkrun, either running or volunteering. I’m coming up to my 100th run and, if I stick to it over the next few weeks, it will coincide with our New Year’s Day run at Hilly Fields 🙂 I hate missing my parkrun and it’s about way more than running 5k, if I miss the bit in the cafe afterwards, I feel very out of sorts! Sundays often involve some volunteering at junior parkrun, so encouraging little ones to take part and getting out in the park to blow the cobwebs away.

It doesn’t have to be an outside activity either, a brisk walk (or ride) to the swimming pool for a quick swim does the trick too – I started the week with a Monday morning swim and felt much better for it (it helped that there was only one other person in the lane though!). And, if you can’t get out to run/ride/swim, a walk will definitely do the trick. At half-term, we jumped on a train and had a day out at the beach and had it pretty much to ourselves. As you can see, the ever adventurous Hector is immune to the cold and took his body board, trunks and enthusiasm to make the most of what turned out to be a beautiful day.

Enjoying an October paddle

Enjoying an October paddle

What do you do to arm yourself against the pull of the sofa?


Sweating Tears

I feel better now. Last night Edward persuaded me to go to the running club. I haven’t been for a while: tiredness, coldness, can’t-be-arsedness, but he said I would feel better afterwards… I got there and huddled in the doorway, not wanting to be outside in thin Lycra. I joined the pack, warming up around the track for a mile, I listened to other people’s conversations, I took in all the amazing athletes darting around me in all directions, I kept my head down. We tackled the session, my ankle hurt, my knee hurt, my head hurt. I cried. I sidled off the track, cried some more and wandered home, defeated. A DNF.

This morning was a new day. I put on my brightest running top and dropped H off at school. I ran hard up to Hilly Fields, familiar and friendly ground. I ran up, down and around and felt more like myself again. Maybe the running club isn’t the right thing for me right now.

This little video mentions sweating tears and the beach scene certainly lifts my spirits, when will the sun come out?! These new Mizuno Wave Rider shoes are being marketed as ‘Smoother, lighter, faster’. If they can make the wearer feel thus, then they have to be good 🙂

Toughing it out

Yesterday I managed to over-commit slightly in the running department: a friend has decided to start an informal running group for beginners on a Tuesday morning and I offered to help by joining in. When I thought about this it occurred to me that Tuesday in my new world is also Running Club Night. Oh dear. So, being a committed sort of person, I found myself in the park first thing and last thing, pounding the paths. It was nice to run with Helen, who has been out with an injury for months, so needed the motivation to test her body and see if things really are ready to go again. The sun was shining and the park looked gorgeous with its golden autumnal glow. For some reason I was out in the cold in capri tights, my lower legs all cold and goosebumpy, when really I should be thinking about wrapping myself up in something like this (and maybe even wearing these under my jeans on Parkrun duty – all that standing around cheering people on is limb-numbing on a frosty morning!).

I had tried to take it easy on my first run, knowing I would need some miles in my legs for the evening session, there were moments where I wished I hadn’t ventured out in lycra that morning, this club run was possibly the toughest session I have ever done. Now I like a hill, it’s in my Welsh blood, I am a mountain goat, but this was a Proper Hill Session, none of that thing I do by myself, where I run up a hill and jog back down, repeat, then saunter along on the flat. Did I mention it was tough? We started with a mile around the track to warm up, then we ran up to Hilly Fields, where we gathered at the bottom of a hill (the one by the phone box, for anyone who knows the area) where we were informed of our fate. We were to run up this hill, take a left and run down the hill on the other side, that’s run down the hill, no holding back, heel to toe. We would wait at the far corner for three minutes and come back the other way. This was to be repeated four times on each side. Yes really. Then off everyone went, fast. On the first one I wondered if this was going to be the session that would make me vomit (it didn’t), and wondered if my legs would have felt this bad if I had missed the morning run (probably), I also found that running fast down hill in the dark whilst avoiding other runners, potholes and the odd wandering dog out for its evening pee is scary. As the session went on I wondered if I really had it in me to complete the task in hand, my legs felt like lead, my chest hurt and I momentarily hated running, but things kind of warmed up a bit. The thing I like about repeating a lap is the moment where you are not sure how many you’ve done and (hopefully) you’ve under-counted, so the last two seemed to come round fairly fast. Not wishing to be overtaken at the end by the woman who had overtaken me without fail at the same point each lap, I legged it, arms pumping, face tense and it felt good. Just look at these stats!



There’s nothing like a good hard run to make you feel better for the rest of the day. Last week I forgot this and, by Friday, had that ‘Will I ever run again?’ feeling. But I did, I ran, I ran hard up hill, I splashed through big sweeping puddles and I felt good again. Today I woke to a mist, a strange dampness hanging low over our house, and was in danger of curling up under the mist until I noticed what it had done to our garden: a tangle of intricate spiders’ webs could be seen hanging in every bush and spanning every space. I carefully weaved between them – in my pyjamas – to attempt to capture this moment on camera.


After letting my running fall slightly by the way-side last week, I was determined to start the week as I mean to go on, and got out this morning, with music in my ears and a smile on my face. It wasn’t that I was feeling lazy last week, or especially busy, but my knee hurt and this gave me an excuse to give in to a brief lack of motivation. We all find different ways to motivate ourselves out of the house and on the road, for some it’s a fitness or weight-loss goal, for others it’s the need for head-space and for others it’s a competitive spirit. Some of us gather all of those things together and still need a little extra sometimes. For me, the motivation of being part of Parkrun has been a huge boost, knowing that I have a group of people behind me and a weekly gathering that fills my ‘this is why I do it’ tanks. Joining a running club is also a good motivator, and is known to be one of the best ways to ‘improve’ your running whatever level you are at. For some people the push of working with a coach or personal trainer is what’s needed, or even working towards a qualification themselves. So, with the running club, Parkrun and my own PB-seeking goal over the next eight weeks, I have no excuse.

Distance: 3.96 miles

Time: 36 minutes 53 seconds

Average Pace: 9.19

Best Pace: 6.38

Calories: 488

(I kept an eye on the clock when nearing the 5k mark and it was 28.24, not too bad).

Give Blood Tuesday

This morning I gave blood for the first time. I had intended to do so during Janathon, prompted by Cassie, who is a regular donor, but I couldn’t go due to the lurgy and then I couldn’t go in February because I was STILL full of lurgy so today it was: Give Blood Tuesday. I found myself in a big lorry on Lewisham Market, squished in with all the other eager blood-givers, answering questions in a cupboard then lying on a bed listening to golden oldies on the radio and pumping my hand in and out (and trying to remember to squeeze my thighs and buttocks – I must have looked like a very obvious first-timer!). I think it’s a good idea to make an appointment (they were seeing over 100 people today!) but I managed to get one within the hour and was then in and out within 45 minutes. And you get to drink squash and eat biscuits (or crisps) though I felt rude taking the biscuits without being offered, so just sipped my squash quietly. I’m booked in for July now and will try to give blood whenever I can. If you would like to know more visit the website here.

The school run is going well, though the runs are not that eventful, hence the lack of blog. I did do a sort of double last Friday: our neighbour happened to be taking her daughter by car and offered us a lift as we were stepping out of the house but, as they weren’t leaving for a while, Hector took off his coat. Of course, when we got to school in the nice warm car, I realised we’d left the coat at home. To avert a meltdown I promised to run to school with it as quickly as I could. So I got a lift home, grabbed the coat, ran to school with it under my arm and then ran home again at a more leisurely pace! This morning I felt good and offered a friendly smile and a jolly ‘Hi!’ to a woman I saw stretching in the park. I wasn’t expecting such a contemptuous look in return. I know other runners sometimes like to keep to themselves, but I do like to call out ‘Morning!’ to dog-walkers, runners and anyone I see regularly on my route, and I am often met with a blank expression or completely ignored, but this was downright rude! I always think of this greeting as being an offer of support, like saying ‘well done on getting out’ or ‘keep going’ to a fellow exerciser so I will continue to be a friendly runner and, if I see her again, I will make the smile even bigger. How annoying!

Distance: 3.01 miles

Time: 30 minutes 25 seconds

Average Pace: 10.06

Best Pace: 5.59

Calories: 312


In the pink

This morning’s run was the first in over a month where I have felt fit, strong and healthy. My breathing was good and I felt able to push myself up hill and still have enough breath in my lungs to turn and go up another hill. It felt good. I was out running again last week, fulfilling my school run duties, but each run was accompanied by a soundtrack of coughing and spluttering, so much so that it prompted a man with a very strong Sarf Lahndon accent to comment: ‘Come on love, cough it up, it sounds like you need another fag!’ That’s not the impression I aim to give whilst running!

Once I’d got home and had a shower, I was off out on my bike, running errands. On my ride I noticed two women running on the pavement and also noticed they were wearing ‘barefoot shoes’, one was in Vibrams and one in what looked like some really rather fetching green NBs (I think they must have been these). I was struck by how comfortably they both ran, chatting and moving smoothly along. I am guessing they have been barefoot running for a while because they seemed to be running along the Waterlink Way and not just a quick ‘test run’. I found it inspiring to see how easily they ran and thought about my own Vibram Five Fingers, gathering dust in my wardrobe (I won the Vibrams when I ‘won’ Juneathon a few years ago). I do like the idea of running ‘barefoot’, but have never committed myself to really going for it, unlike Eating Trees, who has even run races in his. I have been running in a lighter shoe and have found it really comfortable and far less cumbersome than my usual Asics. I was sent these lovely pink Puma Faas shoes months ago now, and have had so many comments about how lovely they look, they have become a favourite footwear of choice.

When they were bright and new!

Mine are the Faas 500 shoes, lightweight and good for shorter runs and races of around 5k. The Faas range does have a lighter racing shoe, the Faas 200 and at the other end of the scale, for longer distances, is the Faas 800. I’ve never really thought about the weight of my shoe much, I just go to a running shop and take advice from the assistant there. I am usually training for fairly long distances, so I end up with quite a hefty shoe with lots of cushioning, but I am beginning to wonder if this is what I really need. My runs in the lovely pink Faas 500s have been nippier and I feel far more sprightly and springy of heel. Maybe I should keep going with these for a while then try some short runs in the Vibrams…we’ll see!

Distance: 3.05 miles

Time: 30 minutes 14 seconds

Average Pace: 9.55

Best Pace: 4.44

Calories: 339

Only a week late

It’s been a busy week, but not for running. It has been Hector’s half-term holiday, so mostly spent playing with Lego, being bossed about by someone very small and queueing up for an hour and a half at the South Bank Centre for a children’s super-hero workshop (really, they need to rethink how they run these events, you can’t make children queue up for ANY length of time!). I did go for a run last Sunday and have been mostly recovering from this bloody chest infection thingie that is just not going away – we have both been ill for weeks now but will hopefully be back to full health soon.

I have to cast my mind back a week now. It was cold, I even put on a hat for the first time this winter. It didn’t look snowy or icy but, as soon as I stepped out of our front door, I realised it was incredibly icy. The whole run was a sheet of black ice ahead of me, not great for speed, but I wasn’t looking for speed. I wanted to run further than the school run three miles I’ve been doing recently, but also wanted to spot trolleys and take photos (during Janathon, Travelling Hopefully featured a trolley photo in my honour, so I needed to return the photographic favour).

I was treading very carefully as I headed out towards Greenwich, taking in the Waterlink Way that snakes alongside the DLR line out of Lewisham, a prime Trolley Spotting stretch. Every so often my feet would slip from under me and I was reminded to take it easy and, as I turned around in Greenwich and ran alongside the water, I had to hold onto the railings to stop myself from falling! I thought I might struggle to extend my distance after sticking to short runs for so long (and with a chesty cough still restricting all attempts to breathe deeply), but I found it pleasantly easy and returned feeling refreshed and happy as I saw what the boys had been up to in my absence.

Check out the concentration

Distance: 6.17 miles

Time: 1 hour 3 minutes 39 seconds

Average Pace: 10.19

Best Pace: 8.03

Calories: 703

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