Saturday, 4 January 2020

Resolution runners...

As we begin another year, the number of runners I see out each day increases for a while, parkrun numbers swell as many people decide to take up running as their new years resolution. They are usually easy to spot in their brand new colour coordinated running kit...

Eighteen years ago this was me, yes I was once a new years resolution runner, though I can't confess to ever having colour coordinating kit! It seems a lifetime ago that I first laced up my trainers and shuffled around the block. There are a multitude of reasons why people take up running, weight loss, to get fit  and to meet new people are just a few. For me, my divorce had just been finalised, I turned thirty, like I said it was new year, and I needed to lose weight or buy bigger clothes! With three young children running seemed the easiest option, less time consuming (if only I knew what I do now!) and cheaper (again or so I thought!) than joining a gym. 

Run to parkrun today

I never imagined when I started out that running would become such a massive and important part of my life, I was purely doing it to lose weight and then tick London Marathon off my bucket list, then that would be running done! Instead what happened is I discovered that I loved running, it was an enjoyable way to spend some free time and kept the weight off, and as I started to run more and enter more races I discovered places I wouldn't have seen or been to otherwise. 

It was a long time, probably ten years before running became sociable for me. When I began there was no parkrun, couch to 5K groups and the like weren't a thing and I didn't ever feel like I wanted to join a running club, I was still at that time fitting running in around children and work. So early morning running had became the norm for me. Then in 2012 I discovered ultra running and that's when the complete craziness began, but I also started to meet people at races. I guess that's one of the good things that has come from social media, you could keep connected with people you had met at a race, local Facebook running groups/chats appeared and suddenly I had connections with other runners. Along with the phenomena that is parkrun running is now more sociable than ever and I have met so many amazing friends along the way.
Enjoying a race

I guess the point of this blog is to say to those taking their first tentative steps into running is to stick with it. Give your local parkrun a try, join a beginners running group. It doesn't matter what your reason for starting out is, or what type of running you aspire to, you will meet people who share your goals, who feel just as apprehensive about getting out there. The thing I have learnt is there will always be someone to encourage and support you, whether you want to run for twenty minutes or two days straight, complete a parkrun or a marathon or just for the pure enjoyment of being out there, someone will be feeling the same.

Running has given me so much in the last eighteen years, memorable races, medals, t-shirts, training runs and most importantly friends. It has helped me through some tough times and helps me massively in managing my mental health. I love all sorts of running, sometimes I like a road run, some days I want to be out on the trails, in the mud, exploring new places. I feel privileged to be able to spend my free time running. 
Running with friends 

One thing which still amazes me is when people say I have inspired them, that I have been the reason they have taken up the sport. To think others are out there running because of me seems crazy, I just go out and do what I love doing, but it also makes me incredibly proud.
So if you are just beginning, stick with it, enjoy it and maybe in eighteen years you will have had as much fun and adventures as I have.

As for me I plan to keep going as long as I am able, there are no plans to ever stop and 2020 is going to be the year I finally finish a 100 mile race!

Happy new year and happy running xxxx

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Streaking, social anxiety and podcasts...

I haven't blogged regularly for a while but hoping to try and get back into updating it more regularly over the coming months.

I recovered well and reasonably quickly after my Essex Way adventure and was soon back out running and getting the miles in. It helped being the summer holidays so I have also had plenty of time to rest and take care of myself which has made a massive difference.

Back in June I accidentally started a new run streak, I am currently on day 81 and loving it! I know people have different theories on whether streaking is good for you but I am feeling great, I am running a little faster and thoroughly enjoying my running again. I got to 624 days last time so a way to go to beat it!

I have struggled with anxiety over the past months, in particular my social anxiety and running is the one thing that keeps it manageable. I am waiting for a course of CBT to deal with it further but there have been times that without running I possibly wouldn't leave the house. Even the post parkrun coffee has been difficult some weeks, but sorting the finish tokens is a good distraction (or avoidance technique) and quite therapeutic! 

The main thing I want to talk about in this blog is podcasts, I have arrived pretty late to the podcast thing but now I am obsessed! I probably listen more to podcasts than watching TV at the moment. I have some favourites that I love listening to while I am running... 
The first which started off my podcast listening is Running is BS, Stuart and Amy talk about all the things we all love to hate about running, it makes me laugh and also I often find myself muttering about the things that are bullshit on my runs or agreeing out loud as I run and listen!
Behind the Medal podcast is another running/triathlon podcast hosted by Dean and Gary, again very funny and an honest look at what really happens during training, racing etc. I am a particular fan of ginger wisdom (you will have to listen!)
Off Menu with James Acaster and Ed Gamble is a food based podcast where they interview guests who put together their dream menu. Again very funny and great to listen to while running, although have to fight the urge to yell 'poppadoms or bread' when given water during a race!
Finally the one I have discovered during the last few weeks is My dad Wrote a Porno, Jamie, James and Alice present this and it is Jamie reading an erotic novel his dad has written, with added commentary from the others. The main issue with listening while I am running is that sometimes I am laughing so much I can't actually run! I need to work out a way to run, laugh and breathe at the same time.

All of these podcast make me laugh, I do often comment out loud and probably look like a complete nutter as I run round the Essex countryside. There have been times where I have been doubled over laughing and it does get you some odd looks! I am running trails more often as there are less people around and I can giggle without judgement!

Here are the links to the podcasts if you want to have a listen...

My final news which I will write more about over the coming weeks is I am going to run an actual ultra race! A friend very kindly transferred his Saltmarsh Ultra (50 miles) to me. It has a generous cutoff of 17 hours so is a great low pressure ultra to get me back into racing. I haven't given up on my dream to complete 100 miles but going to race some shorter ultras for now and then who knows...

Happy running (and listening!) xxx

Saturday, 3 August 2019

The Essex Way...

After the success and enjoyment of my last solo ultra I thought the summer holidays would be an ideal time to try something else. The Essex Way (81 miles) has been on my 'to do list' for some time so it didn't take long to come up with the plan to give it a go. I decided doing it over two days would be more realistic and doable! The route crosses the road at Cressing, just a couple of miles from home and conveniently is almost half way on the route, so it made sense to do Epping to Cressing on Day one, run home, eat, sleep etc then back out to Cressing the next day to carry on into Harwich. Always sounds so simple sat at your laptop!

Day 1...

Packed and ready to go
 After a week of record temperatures I was pleased it had cooled down, not so happy about the forecast day of rain, but no point stressing about the weather. Andreea had very kindly agreed to drive me to Epping stupidly early and so at 5:45am I was outside Epping station excited for the journey ahead!
At the start
It took a few miles to settle into the running and to become focused on the navigation, a few minor navigation errors soon had me concentrating and all was well. My only concern was because of the previous days rain I had wet feet from practically the beginning. I had spare sock and knew footcare would be paramount during the day.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first day, the footpaths were well maintained and the majority was runnable. I kept my pace slow as the second day was going to be slightly longer and I hadn't ever run back to back ultra distances before.
I didn't pass anywhere to fill my drinks bottles but had plenty with me and I knew a friend was going to join me for a mile at some point, so I asked her to bring some water. Erica and Arthur joined me at Great Waltham with my favourite ultra running snacks, custard and salt and vinegar crisps and it was lovely to have some company for a mile.
Erica and Arthur
I considered changing into some dry socks but had been pre-warned that there was a field in this section that is always boggy, and with no way round, you had to suck it up and go through it, the advice being if you just go for it it's only ankle deep! (This advice was spot on, thanks Baz!)

My left foot in particular was feeling a little tender around the heel by the time I reached Cressing but with just a couple of miles to go before I was home I carried on, not sure anything I could do at that point was going to make a lot of difference anyway. Ten hours with warm wet feet was never going to be great!

So after 41 miles and 10:13 running I was home with plenty of the day left to eat, drink, give the feet some TLC and prepare for day 2.

Day 2...

I slept reasonably well which I was pleased about as I often don't after an ultra and woke early as I wanted to get going, day 2 was going to be about 48 miles and Andreea had again agreed to scoop me up in Harwich and get home. Optimistically and overestimating my speed for the day I said I would be done about 7pm, maintaining about 4 miles an hour would get me done in that time. The legs were achy but not horrifcally so and the feet seemed good, no blisters or obvious sore spots when I put my trainers back on. Happily I left home and headed back to Cressing to pick up the Essex Way where I had left it.
Watching the sunrise on day 2
The first section of day 2 was the toughest running of the whole thing, brambles and stinging nettles for what seemed like miles and due to the early morning dew my feet were wet again with the left one feeling slightly tender, it was a lovely sunny day and I figured the ground would soon dry so made the decision to change socks once that had happened. After the overgrown section the next hazard was crossing the A120 at 8am on a Monday morning. I actually said 'I am gong to die' out loud! Eventually there was a gap big enough for me to sprint (yes I did sprint that bit!) across and so I survived to continue on my way.

The footpaths improved and in general I have to say the Essex Way is well maintained. My pace was considerably slower than I had thought but I was moving forward so wasn't too concerned at this point. Being a much warmer day, I got through my drink much quicker and needed to find somewhere t buy some more. By about 15 miles I had, had enough! Everything hurt, my foot was sore and I still had a very long way to go. I spent several miles convincing myself that if I got to 20 miles that was a good enough distance and I would call it a day. No one would really care if I finished or not, why was I putting myself through this etc etc. The usual negative thoughts that can hit when you're doing these runs. I hit 20 miles as I reached West Bergholt, there was a Co-op on the route so I went in and bought loads of drinks, some food and just had a break to decide what I was going to do. In a race you would have a checkpoint, and lovely volunteers would boost you up, feed you and there may be a medic to patch up your feet. Not having that I decided to use the power of Facebook, within minutes I had so many encouraging messages that I could no longer justify quitting! My mood lifted and I decided I had at least another 10 miles in me. Those messages and tat online support really did save my run.
Just a few of the many messages that saved my run
That was the only point of the day that I thought about giving up, my mood stayed positive after that, and eating and drinking regularly, buying extra treats when I could helped me stay focused. The views in that last 25 miles were stunning, some of the bits around Stour Valley I knew from running the Stour Valley marathon a few times, the rest was all new to me. My favourite view of the day was running up a hill though a field and getting to the top to see this view of Mistley...
This view was amazing
 I was low on drink again as I entered Mistley but a well placed ice cream van saved the day, it was probably the best can of coke and Cornetto I have ever had! By this time I knew I wasn't going to make my 7pm finish but just kept moving, eating and drinking. I knew I would make it now.
After the village of Ramsey there was a path that ran out to the see wall, it seemed to go on forever! As I got nearer to the sea wall I could see huge cows along where I was going to have to go. I don't like cows, scary, unpredictable creatures! I stopped, swore quite a lot, looked at the map to see if there was an alternative route. There wasn't I was going to have to brave the cows. As I climbed up the bank and turned along the sea wall for the final few miles into Harwich, these are the cows I encountered...
Not scary cows!
They weren't giant cows at all, they were perfectly normal sized sheep! I laughed hysterically, blamed tiredness and dehydration (I had run out of drink!) and carried on. Slowly but surely I ticked off those last few miles, Andreea met me with drink about a mile from the end, so after a brief break I headed off to finally touch that lighthouse.

So close
It was almost 9pm and after 15 hours and 22 minutes covering 51 miles day 2 and the challenge was completed. With the extra I added on to run from Cressing to home and back and a few navigational errors I covered 93 miles during my two days out on the Essex Way. Other than the section before West Bergholt I thoroughly enjoyed my adventure. My left foot had some nasty blisters and I have since lost a toe nail but am already planning the next one!
Thank you to everyone who has donated money for our sensory room at Beckers Green Primary School, if you haven't and would like to the link is here here.

Thank you again to Andreea for driving me to the start and home again and to everyone for the online support, I read every message, and they were paramount in my keeping going. I had an amazing two days running/walking/shuffling and am still smiling that I finished it.

Happy running xxx

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Ultra alone...

I haven't written a blog for months, sort of lost interest a bit and running (in my mind) wasn't going so well. I pulled out of this years races (GUCR and VLM) training was causing me to stress about my pace, the fact my legs hurt so much after about 12 miles (how was I going to run 145?) and generally I felt a bit shit!

Once the decision had been made not to race my running enjoyment returned quite quickly and became something that I looked forward to, the pressure was gone and I could just enjoy being out doing the thing I love most. I went to London, as a spectator, and had a brilliant day supporting friends. I signed up for Halstead Marathon as it would be my 9th time and when you have done 10 you get to join the 262 club, so went along just to enjoy a day out running, it was amazing, great support along the route from friends and from the marshals and organisers and I finished in 4:32, my third fastest marathon, maybe there is something in this 'no pressure' running!

Enjoying Halstead Marathon

I was feeling pretty good after Halstead, actually feeling like I could still run! I have some shorter races planned, Felsted 10k and the Great East Half, a loosely forming plan was to train to do these in reasonable times, keeping in mind that it wasn't to become stressful again. Life in general is much more settled at the moment and I feel happier in myself and that's how I would like it to stay! In my mind my days of ultra running were done...

Then things happen, Ben had to have surgery on his eye, which has happened many times over the years as a result of glaucoma, first time as an adult, and while he was in hospital and recovering I thought I would catch up with some reading...

I made the mistake of reading a new ultra running book The Rise of the Ultra Runners by Adharanand Finn (well worth a read) and it got me thinking. I remembered how much I love being out on the trails, pushing my body. I started looking at ultra races, thinking 50 miles would be a good distance, you don't get the night, sleep deprivation bit, which is where it often goes wrong for me, but it's still a long way! I couldn't find anything local that grabbed me or was affordable at the moment, but the itch was there, I wanted to do a 50 mile run! So I planned my own, I had run the Saffron Trail as a race before. It's a 70 mile trail from Southend to Saffron Walden. It passes through Felsted and onto the Flitch way at about 49 miles, so I decided I would run from Southend to Felsted on the Saffron Trail, pick up the Flitch Way and run home, about 55 miles. Half term was a week away so what better time to do it!

Len very kindly agreed to take me to Southend so I could have a 6am start on Sunday 26th May! Talking at school I then decided if I was going to do this I could maybe raise some money to help equip a new sensory room we are having built. (Donate here if you can). Many thanks to all those who have donated so far, the current total is £260.

I have never run this distance unsupported before, but was excited as we set off (Len ran the first couple of miles with me) on Sunday morning.
Southend 6am Sunday and ready for an adventure!

I had packed plenty of food and drink, spare socks, first aid/blister kit, head torch (just in case it all went horribly wrong!) so my pack was considerably heavier than I was used to, but I am loving my new race vest and it was extremely comfortable all day.

It was unfortunate timing that my period had started the day before, so had that to plan for too, as it happened a garage, a pub and a shopping centre meant I didn't have to deal with it behind a tree, which is always good!

As there hasn't been much rain the trails were dry and mostly runnable, the weather was lovely, maybe a little warm but as I left Len and set of on my own, I couldn't think of a better way to spend a Sunday! My navigation was good, I was using my handheld GPS, and the miles ticked by and I was genuinely happy and enjoying the running. It was daunting at times realising you weren't gong to have a CP where you can eat, fill bottles etc, but I had enough drink to get through 20 miles or so I guessed. What I hadn't considered was that nowhere is open before 10am on a Sunday morning, so my plan to be able to refill bottles, maybe have a cup of tea, at Battlesbridge were scuppered! I didn't panic too much as I had enough for a few more miles! As it happened it was Danbury about 25 miles in before I found somewhere open. I downed a coke in a pub, the very bemused guy behind the bar filled my bottles, I used the loo and was on my way. He had asked if I wanted food and looked in disbelief as I replied no thanks I still have 30 miles to run!

Creepy wood with graves!

The wood at Hanningfield with random graves always amuses me as I run through.What isn't so amusing on these runs is stinging nettles, I now refer to them as the wasps of the plant world, overgrown footpaths do tend to make me swear a bit and getting scratched and stung just isn't pleasant, there did seem to be a lot of fields where farmers had let the crops grow over the path!
Early on in the run I came to a farm, where they obviously don't like the fact that a footpath runs through it. The telltale sign was a massive red sign saying 'Beware Guard Dogs Loose at Night' It was 8am so I guessed I was safe. I made sure I didn't stray from the path through the farm buildings and then turned to head across the field to a railway crossing. As I left the farm yard an electronic voice boomed across 'Warning... You are being filmed by security camera'! It was unexpected and I must have jumped three foot into the air, amusing for whoever watches the footage I imagine!

It was weird running through Chelmsford (34 miles in) after hours of solitude suddenly to be in a city centre, smelly, scratched and probably not looking my best I got some odd looks! I stopped for a quick pit-stop, refilled bottles, got some calories in, used the loo and went on my way.

I still had about 20 or so miles to go and was beginning to feel a little achy, my feet were good, no signs of hot spots or blisters, suddenly though 20 miles seemed a very long way and my mood dipped a little. I made a stupid navigation error in Admirals Park which resulted in me going back the way I had just come (don't ask, have no clue what I did!). Tiredness and lack of concentration I guess are to blame, once I was back headed the right way, I refocused and my mood lifted I stopped worrying about how much further there was to go and tried to just think about the current mile. 

I had my phone off for most of the day, but turned it on every 5 miles to take a photo, sometimes post an update and read messages of encouragement, with no CPs or other runners it was nice to have that to look forward to, but for the most part I enjoyed the solitude and time to myself. 

I knew once I got to Felsted and could get on the Flitch Way it would be easier as I know the way home from there so the navigation would be easy. It did feel at times as though I would never reach Felsted, I didn't seem to be getting any close each time I looked at the map! Finally I got there and decided to join the Flitch at Bannister Green, where I had a five minute rest, ate some more food and got my head together for the last 5.7 miles!

Those last miles were tough, everything hurt, not injured hurt, just knackered! Two people actually asked if I was ok as I shuffled along! I was reduced to walking, shuffly running then stopping to stretch my quads and hamstrings for the last 3 miles, it was a routine that sort of worked and finally I reached my road and it was done!
Was very happy to see this!
Would I do it again... most definitely, I loved almost every minute. I just love ultra running, as I said earlier I am feeling so much happier in myself at the moment and being able to go out and have a mini adventure was just the best thing I could do for me this week. It was great to be able to raise some money too. 
I will probably do some official ultra races at some point in the future, but I loved the challenge of having to look after myself, so for now I will keep my ultra running very low key and plan my own routes and just enjoy being out there, no pressure but still challenging.

Happy running xxx

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Robin Hood 100...

This was my second attempt at this race, and unfortunately it ended the same way as my first attempt with a DNF (did not finish).

It has taken much of this week to process this and get to a place where I felt I could write this blog without being completely negative about the whole experience!

Training had gone well I was happy with my fitness and mentally I was in as good a place as I could be, actually probably better than for a long time. Home life isn't perfect but, mostly, I think I am dealing with the uos and downs more healthy, positive way.

Dan had very kindly agreed to crew for me again  and I had decided against a pacer runner as I think I am happier on my own. Dan's instructions were simple, make sure I keep eating, drinking, put warm clothes on when it gets dark and don't let me quit.

It was good to see some familiar faces at the start and although nervous I was looking forward to getting going. Race brief done, a walk to the start line, start photo taken and we were off.
On the start line

 It's funny how the nerves disappear the second you start moving. The first 6 miles went quickly, it wasn't easy terrain to run on but I was running the pace I wanted, I chatted to a few people, weather conditions were good and I was enjoying myself. The first aid station came round quickly and I didn't hang around, a quick hello to Dan, grabbed some food and kept moving.

The running to aid station 2 was ok and I was on target pace wise in these very early stages. I met Dan again ate some angel delight and kept going. I felt like I had a stone pressing against my big toe so stopped to empty it out at the aid station, it wasn't a stone but a hole in my favourite drymax socks. I messaged Dan to ask for coffee and fresh socks at aid station 3.
I remember finding the canal path between 2 and 3 tough to run on last time, so ran/walked it and was still very much on the pace I wanted at 15 miles. Still very early days!

I was glad to get to the forest loop and some easier terrain to run on. All felt good, I was enjoying myself, and was feeling positive, I still find it hard to eat large amounts at a time but continuous grazing seemed to be working.

At about mile 33 my left foot became sore around my heel and big toe, this wasn't too far before the next aid station and race medics Kinsley and Maxine who are friends were there, so I made the decision to stop and get my feet looked at, I was slightly concerned at the blisters on my heel and big toe and the start of some on my right foot too. Maxine cleaned, drained and taped them up and next time I saw Dan I changed it to my road shoes, the trails were hard and my road shoes are slightly more cushioned so hopefully this would help. I was at 36 miles and getting blisters only a third of the the way in wasn't great but they were bearable and I was still managing 14/15 minute miles which was fine and well within my race plan at this point.

I got to the 51 mile aid station a bit later than planned but still well within the cut off times, it was a great boost to briefly see Andreea, I had some soup and got moving. This is when it got tough, we were well into darkness and the feet were really sore. I tried not to focus on the pain but my pace had dropped significantly and I had a spell of feeling down and slightly queasy. I stopped behind a tree and had a massive poo which helped with the stomach!! Nothing was helping with the feet and my right hip was giving me some pain. I took a couple of paracetamol to try and take the edge of and kept moving. I was met before the next aid station by one of the marshals, Pete, as he was concerned my tracker hadn't updated for half an hour, it was good to see another person as I had been on my own in the dark for some time. I forced more food down, took a cup of coffee with me and kept moving forward. I was starting to worry about my pace, or lack of, and began that stage of trying to do the maths 'if I keep moving at this pace, how long will it take me, how many miles to the next cut off etc.

At 63 miles I was at the next aid station and had the 10 mile loop ahead of me, I knew I was going to be chasing the cut off now but made the decision to get Lindley to take another look at my feet and my hip. The pain as he squeezed the fluid out of my blisters was something else and at one point did think I might throw up! He massaged and stretched my hip and attached a heat pack to hopefully help me keep going and get back to a pace that would mean I could finish. I was cold after stopping so was pleased in a way to get moving again. I met Dan again about a mile on and told him I was done but he listened to my previous instructions and said no I wasn't! There was another point about 4 miles on where he could meet me and I agreed to keep going and reassess then. I put some music on and did everything I could to move at a better pace. I managed 20 minute miles for a short time but couldn't keep it up consistently. I found a random playlist and some of the lyrics made me laugh, such as 'I have wondered through the dark, through the dirt, I was hurt'! Or 'l know every mile will be worth my while'! So although in pain and moving too slowly I was still having an ok time. By the time I eventually met Dan again I knew I had no chance of making the 81 mile cut off, Dan had done the maths too and we knew it was race over.

I am still disappointed that I didn't finish but I have taken a lot of positives from it, lots went really well. I don't normally suffer with blisters and it's a pain I wasn't used to or expecting so had a tough time fighting through it. The nutrition, hydration and keeping warm went so much better than last time and I only had one really down point, I know I still had 30 ish miles to go!

I did announce my retirement from attempting 100 miles as we travelled back, Dan said that was rubbish, or words to that effect! And he was right I will try again, too much went well for me not to try again!

RH100 is a brilliant race and very well organized, thanks Ronnie and all the volonteers who made it a great event. Thanks Lindley and Maxine for patching up my feet.
My biggest thanks goes to Dan for being the best support crew, Andreea you are an amazing friend too, thank you for the support.
And thanks to everyone who supports my crazy running adventures, knowing there were those of you at home taking time to check the tracker and send messages is so uplifting and motivating, I really do have the best friends.

So although disappointed looking back I did thoroughly enjoy my 21 hours out on the trails, it really is my happy place and where I am at peace with myself and the world,

Happy running xxx

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

The goals are back...

I know it wasn't long ago that I was writing about running without goals and not racing, but things change and after my crazy marathon running challenge at Easter I remembered that I like pushing my body to the point of complete exhaustion!

I am taking a different approach though and trying not to put enormous pressure on myself when it comes to racing, have to admit to rocking up to Halstead Marathon without a real plan, legs were still heavy and I decided to just go and have a good day out running. I went out way too fast but it felt ok and did a reasonably quick half (for me) the second half I paid for my speedy start and slowed a fair bit, but I did have a great day and a 4:36 finish was far quicker than I had anticipated.

Halstead Marathon 14 miles (photo by Mike Eldred)

The following week was Braintree 5 which I was running with an ever growing group of friends from school, many had only been running a few months and this was their first race. Again I rocked up without a plan after a five mile warm up run and some digging holes at Great Notley Country Park for parkrun! A migraine also hit and a plea for some paracetamol was answered and I felt ok to run. Some motivation from Claire before the start ignited my competitive spirit and for the second time in a week I went out stupidly quick, doing the first mile in 7:45! I slowed a bit but managed to finish in 41:58 a new five mile PB.
It was a great morning and I was extremely proud of Team Beckers, everybody finishing in under an hour.

Beckers Green Runners at Braintree 5 (photo by Mike Eldred)

Next Sunday I will be at Stour Valley Marathon, a self navigation, trail run which I have completed four times before and is a firm favourite. I will be treating this as a training run for Robin Hood 100 in September, so basically a 27 mile trail run, hopefully in the sunshine!

During June I am taking part and hopefully encouraging other to do 30 minutes of activity for 30 days as part of the 3030Essex campaign. For me I already do at least 30 minutes daily so I am gong to do three 30 mile runs during the month to challenge myself,

So Robin Hood 100 is the big one this year, A 100 mile finish has as yet eluded me, but I have a great support crew and I know what went wrong last time. I believe I am physically fit enough to complete it, for me the issue is being mentally strong enough, not letting the pressure build, keeping it fun, not worrying about a finish time.

I have always loved running but this year it is bringing much happiness to my life, I love seeing friends that have previously said they can't run taking it up and being brilliant at it. parkrun as always is one of the highlights of my week and I was truly honoured to be asked to take on the role of co-event director recently. Before I discovered parkrun, several years back now, I was pretty much a solitary runner. parkrun has made running a much more sociable activity, and as someone lacking somewhat in social skills, it is lovely to spend my Saturday morning with such amazing people who I am privileged to call friends.

RD at Great Notley parkrun

Happy running xxxx

Saturday, 28 April 2018

15 in 17...

What are your plans for the holidays? It was a question I kept getting asked. The thing was I didn’t have any plans. It would be my first longish school holiday on my own since the boys had moved out and to be perfectly honest I was dreading it. My mental health wasn’t at is best with some stress and anxiety persisting even though life was more settled. Work was where I was happiest, my safe place, with people who knew what the last couple of years had been like. The thought of two weeks without the routine of work was not something I was as excited about as everyone else!

Since 1st January I had been following a friend's attempt to run marathon distance every day for 105 days and he was doing brilliantly, and that's how this crazy plan came about. 17 days off, nothing to do, my running was going well...

So next time I was asked what my plans were for the holidays my response was 'I'm going to run 15 marathons!'

As it turned out I ended up running 10 marathons and 5 half marathons but it was still a great adventure, I learnt a lot about how my body reacts to multi-day distance running and apart from day 9 I loved every step!
I'm not going to bore you with telling you about every run in detail because basically I left my house each day and ran about until I completed the distance and got back home!
Finishing marathon 2 at parkrun

There were some memorable bits though like day 5 where I was running with a friend and as I looked across a field thought that bush looks like a wallaby, actually that looks like lots of wallabies, I wasn't seeing things there really was a field of wallabies in the Essex countryside.

Day 7 was the only day I went further afield and we ran an out and back from Walton-on -Naze to St Osyth, that was a tough day but one of the two days that it didn't rain and finishing with a paddle was fun!
Day 9 was horrific, I was so physically drained that every step took all my concentration and willpower to complete, I apologise again to those who gave me some company that day as I was either grumpy or unable to actually speak, I did appreciate you trying though!
Day 2 and 9 were parkrun days and I incorporated parkrun into my marathons, the photos tell the story, day 2 happy and smiling, day 9 looked like death!

Day 2 top and day 9 ha ha!! 

Finishing on the last day with a marathon after the five halfs was great and finishing in 4:54 made it the quickest of the ten marathons. I was also amazed to have raised over £500 for my local branch of Mind,  far more than I expected, thank you everyone who donated.

As always I was amazed and overwhelmed at the support I received as I took on this crazy challenge, it makes so much difference. Those who came and ran with me, sent messages, liked and commented on my endless Facebook posts (even several friends who were sunning themselves in exotic locations!), Brought food to my door, checked to make sure I was ok. It was phenomenal, so thank you all, I really do have the most amazing friends.

An unexpected result of this adventure was how it helped me mentally, I know running 333.8 miles may not be a scientifically proven way of dealing with your mental health but for me it gave me time to think, to process a lot of what I have dealt with over the last couple of years. Although physically exhausted at the end, mentally I was refreshed and able to see that life was in fact ok, living alone is ok and the future could be anything I wanted it to be.

Another thing that has happened is I want to race again, more importantly I want to race ultras so in September I am going back to Robin Hood 100 and I will finish it this time!

Happy running xxx