It is what it is

It’s hard when you write a blog that closely follows aspects of your life to know how much you should ‘reveal’ and how much should be kept private and personal.

Like most bloggers I don’t talk about everything that goes on in my life. There are parts that I keep private for whatever reason, as you can imagine. However as much as this can easily be done for some things, for other thing it isn’t easy to (for want of a better word) hide as it’s a large part of my life.

Ben and me have separated. I won’t be going into details (though I will say that no one else was involved). It’s immensely sad and I’m heartbroken. I literally don’t know what the future holds or what happens next. One moment my life was heading in one direction and the next I’m like a boat floating aimlessly in an unknown ocean.

So there we have it. The next few months are going to be a bit…well, weird but life continues and I’m living each day as it comes – whatever that means! What I do know is that I have a lot of good friends and family who are supporting me through this so I’m not alone or wallowing in self-pity or depression.

I suppose it’s a very good job I’m not injured right now. Running is definitely a great escape.

Walking and running (and cake of course)

Another weekend gone! And a huge well done to all you marathoners and racers. My social media went mental with it all. I loved hearing about everyone’s story and how it went, but it made me soo eager for my time to come.

I woke up on Saturday morning ready for a lovely run in the spring sunshine. I opened the curtains to find…rain and wind. Oh joy. Even Alfie wasn’t keen to go outside. But something that definitely brightened my mood was waking up to find that I had won the person of the month in Netley Abbey parkrun, which means I get to choose a free pair of trainers from Sweatshop! It was also lovely to find it wasn’t a randomly generated thing, but a committee decision. This made me feel very, very touched – thank you parkrun and Sweatshop!

But yes, the weather. I got to parkrun as normal to help set up and it was miserable.

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I was a bit grumpy and fed up. I even contemplated just going home before the running actually began. But I stopped my whinging and got on with it. The run felt a lot more hard than usual. I had heavy legs from Wednesday’s nine mile run and from the gym on Friday morning, but really I think my heart wasn’t entirely in it. This is clear from my almost minute slower time (21:56). I’m happy though – another parkrun done (49 to go until 100 woohoo haha) and I put in some effort so it was worth it. You can’t have a good run all the time.

Someone that did have a good run was this little fellow, Monty.

IMG_0293Apparently he loves running and had run over nine miles in one go in the week! I mean seriously, look at his tiny legs. Bless him, he obviously loves it. Very cute.

Later I met up with my dad to go for a walk at Queen Elizabeth Country Park (like last weekend). But this time we were going to walk up the very large Butser Hill.

IMG_0302 It doesn’t actually look that bad, but you can see the hill behind me in the photo above. I had Alfie and my dad had one of their dogs (the same breed as Alfie), Lexie. His other two dogs are Cavaliers and preferred to stay at home and sleep (being traditional lap dogs and highly lazy!)

IMG_0341 My dad isn’t in particular good shape and needs to lose a bit of weight but he was keen to get up the hill. He found it quite hard work but he made it and it actually didn’t take him that long at all! I’m so proud of him. The dogs, needless to say, rocketed up and down the hill as we worked our way up. They loved it! Alfie is very good off his lead and continuously looks behind him to make sure I’m still there, as if he’s worried I’ll disappear, and never goes too far away. I’ve only just started letting him off his lead so I was a bit nervous, but he’s very good and a lot more friendly to other dogs (not that he was ever particularly unfriendly, just more wary) when he’s off his lead than on. I think it’s because he’s more in control and knows he can run away if he needs to, bless him.

IMG_0309This is one of my favourite photos of him ever. He just looks so happy and free. I’ve never seen him run so fast!

IMG_0312 We made it!

The afternoon was lovely, though it was very windy at the top of the hill. We did some more walking at the top, where there were lovely paths and stretches of land. And then we headed back down – which obviously was a lot easier!

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We sat down at the coffee shop to relax a bit…and for me to have cake.

IMG_0336I had a slice of bread pudding. I’ve never seen this cake before and it looked absolutely scrumptious. Big plump dried fruits and so moist. Not overly sweet – which means I could probably eat far too much if I ever had access to the entire cake!

The next day I had my usual long run planned, this time 15 miles. I was tossing between 15 and 16 as I wanted to run 17 miles next weekend and don’t want to jump mileage too much but having run nine miles in the week I was dubious. Happily I didn’t need to make the decision really as I got slightly lost and my route turned out to be exactly 15.5 miles in the end! Perfect.

The run was fairly warm with the sun beating down and quite windy along the seafront. I kept things easy paced and towards the end, when I felt like I was really plodding, I was pleased to see I was running 8.10min/miles. I felt like the effort level was right down there and thought I was running a lot more slow, so this is good news I suppose!

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(8.02mins/mile)

I got back and just laid on the drive and my parents brought me a glass of water, bless them.

IMG_0321 I felt quite windswept and salty. Surprisingly during the run I wasn’t that thirsty but afterwards I was definitely needing hydration. My legs felt good, no niggles or issues. Just general fatigue! I showered and got myself a smoothie (again). Similar to last weekend but this time I added coconut water and yogurt. Yum!

My parents and I then headed out to enjoy the nice weather again by taking all the dogs (Lexie, Dylan, Sam and Alfie) to Stokes Bay, which is a lovely beach area with lots of fields and doggie-friendly areas.

IMG_0342It was actually part of the route I ran in the morning (those stones were fairly annoying I can tell you!) and it was a dog-walking route we used to do when my sister and I were little. We worked out it was 19 years ago since we’d been back together. Mad!

It was very windy though. Far more windy than during my run.

IMG_0334I also noticed several water fountains along the front which I hadn’t seen during the run. Perfect for future runs, meaning I won’t have to carry a bottle with me when it gets hotter and my runs get longer.

Then my parents lovingly stopped at a bakery for me to pick up a slice of red velvet cake (yes I know, I’m addicted to cake). Then I headed back home, ate lunch, enjoyed some ‘lovely’ house work, caught up with a friend on the phone, before finally collapsing on the sofa with Paddington to watch and cake to eat.

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Both the cake and Paddington were excellent. Feel good comforts in so many ways!

How was your weekend?

How do you enjoy the good weather?

Do you have a dog? Do you let them off their lead?

Marathon Bingo: A Game for The Non-Runners

We all love having the support of our friends and family when we go on our long runs and marathons, but let’s face it: attending these marathons can be deathly boring for the non-runners. These “spectathletes” are left standing at the sidelines waiting for you to come running up to them, and while some fancy dress runs can be wildly entertaining, not all marathons can provide the same level of enjoyment to spectators.

Or can they? When you think about it, the huge variety of people running marathons means that there are endless possibilities for the kind of people you’ll encounter. A bingo game devised by Susan Lacke for Competitor.com makes use of this fact to help make races more fun for spectators. It puts together some of the things you’d commonly expect to see at races and turns it all into a bingo card. You can then give the card to your friends before the race starts, and they can preoccupy themselves with scouring the crowd for people who fulfil the conditions on the card. The first person to successfully complete a BINGO pattern or get a full card wins the game.

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By playing the game, you give your friends and family something fun to do so they don’t get bored out of their wits while supporting you at the race. Hopefully, it’ll be fun enough for them so that they won’t even have to be asked to come and watch you race. You could even customize the card for other races, and if you’re going to a fancy dress run, it’s bound to be all the more interesting.

Of course, bingo has been used in other sporting events too, and recently, Betfair ran some promotions in line with the Cheltenham Festival. You could then transform the Marathon Bingo card into a bingo card for any occasion – all you need to do is come up with a list of things you expect to see at a sporting event, use a free bingo card creator like the one on Print-Bingo.com, print them out for the event, and get playing!

Would your “spectathletes” be interested in this idea? Quite a quirky concept that would probably help them pass them time, especially in a marathon when you see your runner once or twice for a few seconds over many hours!

Do you get your friends and family to come watch your events? Both my parents love watching me race, and my dad loves hearing about my splits and intricacies. He’s like a coach!

***Guest Post***

Paranoid, insecure runner alert

I won’t lie, I’m nervous about how comparatively little I’m running. I’m training for a marathon which is about nine and a half weeks away and I feel…calm.

(Apologies, this post is a bit of a brain dump!)

I don’t feel like my training is that difficult. OK I know the mega long runs haven’t happened yet but I can’t help feeling I’m cheating the system by not feeling exhausted all the time or sick with fear for the upcoming long runs. Everything is just kind of ticking along without issue (OK now I’m really tempting fate). I’m not saying that I should feel awful or exhausted, but I just don’t feel like I’m training for a marathon.

What I am finding is still having the same enthusiasm for my gym visits. So far I’m keeping my heart rate up by jumping on the cross-trainer for a three minute burst, then running back to do my strength routines, repeating that three times and then doing some focused single-leg and core strength work. All in all totalling an hour and getting a good sweaty workout. Now I’m wondering if I should lessen the gym visits – or at least condense them into something more efficient (i.e. no more cross-trainer and superfluous strength moves), and run a bit more.

This is dangerous territory.

Currently I do three or four gym sessions a week (one of those is either entirely steady state cardio on the rowing machine, or 30 minutes on the rowing machine and 30 minutes strength). I’m considering changing this to two full strength routines (hitting all the strength moves that I think are a priority to maintain injury-free running) and four running sessions. So dropping the rowing and making the strength training just about the strength.

But I don’t know if this is sensible. Running four times? I need my long run, I like parkrun for a short social speed session and I really like my hill session (not at the time mind you!) – do I need anything else in terms of running??

And if I run four times, where do I place my runs and gym visits? Here’s what I was considering:

  • Monday:  Strength training
  • Tuesday:  Recovery run/short hill session?
  • Wednesday:  Off
  • Thursday:  Medium length tempo/hilly run?
  • Friday:  Strength training
  • Saturday:  parkrun
  • Sunday:  Long run

As you can see the runs and strength training might not complement each other at all. Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated – I’m just a bit confused right now. It doesn’t help having everyone around me suffering (enjoying?) marathon fever right now and talking about their training!

While we’re on the subject of running, I ran last night and it was a brilliant run. The weather is fantastic so the guns were out!

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Pre-run selfie in the bathrooms because I’m weird

I didn’t fancy doing my usual 10k speedy hilly run as I felt an immense amount of pressure (from myself) to maintain my trend of running this same route consistently faster each week. I decided instead to do a longer run, but more of a relaxed tempo than an aggressive speedy run. I ran a one mile warm-up to get my legs going, then did the usual 10k route, then enjoyed a two mile cool down. Interestingly it didn’t feel like nine miles as I had split it up in my mind exactly as that: warm-up, 10k, cool down. It was a great longer hill run.

(7.38mins/mile average)

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I removed my gloves on the second mile (my route loops back a lot because the amazingly beasty hill sits right next to my office) and threw them off the path. My faith in humanity was boosted when I finished the run and went back to retrieve them to find them still there.

IMG_0283 To be fair though they don’t look like anything you’d want really

Annoyingly though I had slightly misjudged the distance and had to run a few loops round my office car park. Luckily most people had gone home…I say most. One man looked at me like I was mental as he headed to his car. I looked meaningfully at my watch a few times though to sort of demonstrate what I was doing (though this was probably lost on him…non-runner!).

IMG_0285 Post-run selfie – feeling very happy

Annnnd my mind goes back to my training…Do I just run three times a week and make the third run a hilly longer run?? Keep my rowing??

Nothing like being a paranoid, insecure runner surrounded by other runners doing so many different things!

Any tips to give?

What do you think is important in marathon training?

What strength workouts do you do, if you do any?

Easter fun – part 2

Soo continuing on with my Easter weekend (catch up HERE for part 1).

After running 14 miles on the Sunday (and enjoying a very tasty smoothie) I zipped off to Winchester to meet up with a friend to have a mosey about the shops and have lunch (I suppose the theme of Easter for me really!). Not all the shops were open as it was Easter Sunday but it really didn’t matter as we just walked and walked chatting away – actually it was wonderfully quiet which is just brilliant for Winchester as it’s usually rammed. The weather was lovely and the scenery very pretty so it was rather pleasant!

Winchester 5.05.15

When we stopped for air after chatting so much we realised it was probably a good idea to get some lunch (runger was attacking with a vengeance)! We stopped at CaféMonde which was surprisingly good as it looked quite small and non-descript from the outside. I went for a salad…surprise surprise! And not just any salad, but my favourite…the Caesar of course.

Caesar salad Winchester

At first I was a bit disappointed as it wasn’t huge and from experience usually the main bits of a salad in restaurants are all on the top. However, on digging deeper there were just tons of olives, slices of parmesan and chicken, along with a boiled egg and pitta bread. This is up there with one of the best Caesar salads I’ve had in a while (and I’ve had a lot!). My friend had a crayfish and avocado salad which also looked very tasty. Very reasonably priced as well (around £7 for the salad and a drink).

We then did some more walking (and shopping). We also found Jane Austen’s house which I’ve never seen before, despite going to Winchester many times…

Jane Austen's house

And we went on the hunt for cake of course. My friend chose a banoffee cheesecake slice to take home to share with her son, which I thought was immensely saintly and selfless of her – I however do not share cakes. I found the last slice of simnel cake in a little cafe and was over the moon because not only have I not had this cake before but because it was the last slice I got all the crumbs from the platter too!

Simnel cake It was pretty much like Christmas cake but without icing and perhaps not as dense. It was delicious! Big fat juicy bits of dried fruit, marzipan topping, moist sponge…oh it was delicious and I very much enjoyed gobbling this all as I sat watching Masterchef that evening at home.

At the end of the day I couldn’t believe how many steps I’d done! And my legs definitely felt it. I had that pleasant drained feeling of a very busy but good day.

42500 steps This included a walk with Alfie when I got back from Winchester but I was truly shocked at how far I’d gone even knowing I’d run 14 miles. For the day of the Berlin marathon I ran/walked 55k steps!

And guess what I was doing Monday? More walking!! I met up with a bunch of friends to enjoy the Queen Elizabeth Country Park with Alfie. One of the couple’s brought their whippet, Willow, and I think Alfie felt a bit chunky alongside her ;-)

6.04.15 QECP walk (6) Willow bounced along so daintily and was incredibly fast. Alfie was a little apprehensive (he’s a friendly but shy dog) and kept looking back to make sure I was there, bless him.

6.04.15 QECP walk (7)

The walk was lovely – though tough at times for my friends who brought along their little baby boy in a pram. We all took turns to push the pram and I got nominated for the hilly sections because I “run lots”. I’ll accept that weird compliment I think!

The views were fantastic and the weather superb. I even took my coat off and walked in my T-shirt! I have every intention of going there again soon as it’s not far from me at all and Alfie loved it.6.04.15 QECP walk (3)And what a day for it! I even think I caught the sun! Beautiful :-D

Not as many steps as the day before (I think it was 25k which isn’t bad!) but Alfie was well and truly pooped. We settled down for the evening with The Imitation Game and though I really thought it was going to be dull and not my thing, I was hooked instantly. The acting was superb and the story was fascinating but tragic. It made me so angry about the way Alan Turing was treated, though I felt woefully ignorant to what had happened. I learnt about the Turing test during university when I studied psychology but knew nothing about his life. I also found out that Alan Turing achieved a 2:43 marathon time – how incredible is that?? Brains and speed!

Do you enjoy walking?

What’s your favourite salad?

If you have a pedometer, what’s the highest number of steps you’ve achieved in a day?