A non-running update

So I haven’t been running for about two weeks.

It actually hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would be. Of course I’ve missed it. I’ve missed my lunchtime runs with Kyle, my parkrunning at the weekend and the lovely long runs on a Saturday. It has been sad in that respect.

I had a hard week last week with my granddad not being very well. My parents dashed up to see him in North Wales, while I had to stay behind to look after all the dogs. It was hard only knowing what was happening through phone calls and WhatsApp but there wasn’t much else I could do sadly. He’s such a strong man (he’s on Strava regularly walking and cycling!) and very competitive and strong-willed, so it was upsetting to have things change so suddenly. But because he is so strong-willed I really hope that he can pull through and get back to a relative normal.

Running would have been a great way to kill off some tension and stress, but I had to remain sensible and not make the niggle worse. Instead I was rather over-sensitive and delicate through the week – tough for all those around me I’m sure!

But with regards to the niggle, I’d rather take a bit of time now rather than have that insidious injury cycle that I’ve known far too well in my time. Instead I went to the gym a couple of times after work and the weekend to use the elliptical machine while watching Roma on my phone (a slow, black and white foreign film. Very good but I’m glad I watched it in a place of limited distractions).

What is my niggle exactly? I’m not sure but I know I’ve had something similar before. I’m almost certain it’s to do with my hamstring which has always had a weakness and why I can no longer do heavy deadlifts, It causes my calf to become quite uncomfortable and stiff, and can even make my foot feel a bit off. It’s like a nerve thing rather than a muscle thing. It just takes time and TLC to calm it down, and luckily it pretty much has calmed down.

Kyle has been lovely and helped take my mind off of not being able to run. He even came to a gym class with my on Saturday. Normally I’d be missing parkrun and being a bit grumpy about that, but instead we had a lovely lie in until 10.30am! Though to be fair we had a very late night after watching Glass and then going to Red Dog Saloon for ribs and chicken wings.

We went to a midday circuits class. I love going to the circuits classes. Yes they are super hard and intense, but because you’re only doing one exercise for 50 seconds and then changing you can get through it. It’s so varied and there’s always a good atmosphere with the others in the class, I really do enjoy it.

It was Kyle’s first time going (and I won’t lie, probably his last!). Though he used to do a lot of strength training in the past with his brother, this was an entirely different kettle of fish. Without sounding awfully patronising, he did really well. But he was a little broken afterwards (and a day or so later too). It did make me feel somewhat good that I’ve conditioned myself to not find the classes ridiculously hard – I mean, I’d be pretty rubbish if I was destroyed after each class despite having gone for so many months now! Though I should probably look to challenge myself each class and push up the weights to make it harder…

So I’m going to attempt running today. My leg genuinely feels normal, so I’m feeling rather positive. But we will see. Fingers crossed.

How do you cope with not running?

Have you ever gotten your partner to run or do a workout with you?

What was the last film you went to the cinema to see?

Reading parkrun and the Stubbington 10k

When I did the New York Marathon in November I stayed with a bunch of girls who were just lovely. It was all arranged by Charlie, from The Runner Beans, and we had a fantastic time. Happily we’ve since kept in touch.

One of the girls, Cortney, was coming over from her home in Canada to visit so I headed up to Reading to do a little meet-up with a few of the girls. parkrun, brunch and friends – Saturday goals right there! I drove up straight from work on the Friday evening.

That evening we had a lovely girlie night at Charlie’s. Emma (from Nanny on the Run) made a delicious shepherd’s pie with a sweet potato topping. Daaamn it was good.

And we followed that with the less healthy but equally tasty Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (three different kinds! Be still my beating heart. I was a fan of the B&J’s Salted Caramel topped tub but not so huge a fan of the vegan Brownie one).

We chatted, we chilled, we ate and we watched the ever good When Harry Met Sally. It was lovely to see the girls again and properly catch-up.

The next morning we headed to the Reading parkrun. I had been tempted to run when I thought we were going to a different parkrun that I hadn’t done before (Woodley parkrun)…. but as I’d done Reading before (it was my ‘R’) and my calf was still not brilliant, I thought it best to play it safe and volunteer. Charlie was also volunteering and not running due to an injury as well. So I didn’t feel like I was missing out too much.

I was also quite chuffed because I’d been assigned the role of barcode scanner. I’ve never done that job at parkrun and was keen to tick another role off my list! I was also very chuffed for Cortney because it would be her first ever parkrun. Exciting times!

We arrived and ‘signed in’ to our posts. Cortney and Emma headed off to the start and Charlie and I got into our positions.

I was a little sad to be missing out but the other parkrun volunteers were so friendly and chatty that the time flew by and suddenly I was needed to scan the barcodes. It was MANIC. There were three of us scanning and it almost felt never-ending. Lots of people were super friendly and thanked me for my time or chatted to me but some people silently handed me the barcodes or, in a couple of instances, just pointed to their shoe making zero effort. I thought that was a little rude if I’m honest.

Some people asked how they’d done… I’ve no idea! I politely told them they’d find out later in the email. And some people, despite standing in the barcode scanning queue for a lengthy period of time still arrived at me expectantly but without anything prepared. It was quite an interesting experience it must be said. Eventually the buzz died down and I was able to relax a bit. Whew!

A lovely blog reader came and introduced herself to me. It honestly made my morning to hear about her running achievements and goals and that I’d had a little influence on it. I felt very touched. Sometimes it can feel like you’re writing into a void and no one is really listening but to hear from someone I don’t know who does read my random ramblings is just the loveliest thing.

Cortney and Emma did really well and it sounded like they both enjoyed it. Then we headed off for the essential refuel. Volunteering is hard work too! We went to Cafe Yolk, which is a small but very cute little cafe in Reading.

Unsurprisingly I ordered the full English, while the other three girls ordered avocado and eggs on toast. Probably the far healthier option but I’m fairly stuck in my ways and adore a fry-up. It was a rather posh looking fry-up so at least there’s that…

Then we headed for breakfast pudding of course. We originally went to one spot but their cake selection was not up to our high standards and so we headed next door to The Flowering Teapot instead. Now let me tell you, they were fantastic!

All homemade cakes, homemade bread… the whole shabang. The guy behind the counter was so helpful and friendly. Emma asked if there were any vegan cakes and he said there was a carrot cake being finished in the back so we waited for that (the owner who was finishing it said she’d be super quick for us which was lovely). While we waited the guy cut us a bit of the millionaire shortbread to nibble on. I mean, how good is that?

I went for the millionaire shortbread in the end because it was so good. We took our cakes and had a cup of tea at Charlie’s with them. A lovely way to end a lovely meet up!

The next day was the Stubbington 10k. This race literally runs past my house. It starts about a 5 minute walk up the road, and finishes about 15 minutes walk away so it’s super local and convenient. Sadly though I continued to be sensible and decided not to run. However, Kyle was.

He’s never run an official 10k race so I was quite excited for him. I detest 10ks so realistically I wasn’t too sad to miss the race but I was sad not to be running with Kyle and experiencing it with him. Instead, I would be walking to the 9k marker with my dad and Alfie in order to help cheer him. It would also be a nice walk for the three of us.

For whatever reason (probably entirely down to me being me) we thought the race started at 9.30am. I told Kyle he could easily leave the house at 9.15am and get to the start in enough time. My dad and I would need to leave just before 9am to walk the 2+ miles to the 9k marker, meaning we’d be there in time (9.35ish for Kyle to run past). Perfectly under control, nicely planned, we are amazing.

Except as my dad and me were 20 minutes up the road my mum rung to say the race actually started at 10am so Kyle and her were going to sit in a coffee shop for a bit to waste some time. Ah. Classic Anna.

This meant my dad and I were quite early and decided to go find our own coffee shop for a quick drink before heading to the spot. Not too bad considering – I mean, it’s not like we were late! That would have been a lot worse.

Around 10.20am the first runners started passing through and we cheered them on. I saw lots of friends, people I knew and people from my running club so it was good fun. However I do have silly panic moments where despite fully knowing these people I never seem to remember names!! Something about seeing people running just makes my mind go blank. Bit embarrassing but there we go.

Then Kyle ran past (I managed to remember his name ;-)). Then my dad and me quick marched to the finish to catch him afterwards. He’d done a fantastic time of 42:59 – just scraping under the 43 minute mark! Very jammy. And so fast! I remember for my first 10k I did 43:34. Clearly Kyle is going to be super fast in the future considering he hasn’t been running for long! He definitely has a lot more to give.

He mentioned he much prefers the shorter distances to the marathons. I can understand that (though I personally don’t have that preference, obviously). I think Kyle will do well in all distances but I think he’ll probably focus more on the shorter stuff.

Though I’m sad he doesn’t share the same marathon love I do, it does make it a little more interesting for us! I can happily support those shorter distances (I think I get the easier deal here hehe).

What distance do you prefer to race?

What parkrun volunteering role haven’t you done yet but would like to?

Do like to volunteer when you’re injured/not running?

Loving my job and getting geeky

When I left my old job I desperately wanted to work in digital marketing.

I was bored as a test analyst) and felt a bit lost. But I wanted to stay within the realms of IT…after doing some research I found that digital marketing sounded really appealing. It’s a huge area and, personally, I find it fascinating. How companies use social media, web design and email to engage with customers and, yes, promote sales.

I always wanted to work in marketing – ever since I did a Psychology degree. The psychological side of business is how I saw it. What encourages someone to buy a product or like a brand . There are so many factors. It’s not about hoodwinking people though, it’s about providing good services and products to the people who most want them, and helping them get a good understanding of the company.

Because I enjoy the job I do and want to progress I often read articles and books to help further my knowledge. In the digital marketing world, like IT in general, things move quickly so you kind of have to be on the ball. What might have worked yesterday won’t necessarily work today. Look how quickly things like social media move and how many updates and changes the different platforms go through.

I recently heard about a company called Campaign Monitor, who are a leading provider of email marketing services. It’s a company used by many small and large businesses alike (even schools and churches actually!).

They have a great resource of articles to do with email marketing that can help companies improve their best practices and increase customer retention and engagement. They also have funky looking info-graphics, like the below.

It’s exactly these kind of articles I love to get geeky about and find really interesting. This might not be of interest to you at all and be a bit random, but I love reading stuff like this. I’m in such a good place with my job and find it amazing that I genuinely enjoy reading outside of my working hours to further my career. FINALLY I can get excited about my job and actively read stuff in my own time. I’m one of THOSE people now. Yay!

Do you enjoy your job?

Do you know much about digital marketing?

**Disclaimer: though I was commissioned to write this post, all opinions of the website are my own honest ones. I’ve read many of the articles on this site and genuinely find them interesting and useful.**

Oh how I’ve changed

Running and I have come a long way. Not just in terms of PB’s or times or parkrun tourism…but in terms of how it affects my life and my views on it.

My yearly calf niggle has cropped up again. This always happens from time to time and to be fair I’ve had a good run (ha) of not having any issues so it was really only time before it happened again. I’ve done a lot recently – three marathons very close to each other. I can feel my body saying “can we please have a rest?”. I like to think I’m good at judging this, but clearly I need something to actually stop me. I’m good, but I’m not that good.

Of course I’m a bit bummed out – I love running. I do it frequently through the week and enjoy the freedom, the endorphins and the mental “ahhhh” I get from it. It makes me sad when suddenly I can’t run, or can’t run as much, and when things aren’t feeling as good as they felt before.

But that’s all – I’m bummed. I’m not distraught, or depressed, or feeling angry. I know this is my fault and I know I just need a bit of rest to clear it up. Time and TLC (tender loving cake? No?) and I’ll be back in no time. It’s a nice reset and refresh for my training if anything.

It did make me think though. There was a time when running was everything. Where getting injured literally ruined my week. I would become very down, very sad and everything else became tarred by the same darkness. Looking back I think this is because I was putting a lot of eggs into one basket. My happiness was quite dependent on my running. If I didn’t run, what else did I have?

Not to sound too pathetic, but a big part of my life was to do with running. I hated my job (the job before this one) and felt unfilled, lost and indifferent. I clearly didn’t have a marriage that was working (though at the time I kind of just ignored this, assumed all was well and didn’t question niggling doubts or feelings). I had my family and friends, but I was very focused on my running and became somewhat isolated in the relationship I was in. It wasn’t healthy.

Then when my marriage fell apart all I had to focus on was my running. Running would get me through the hard times. And it did. I love running for that. I was able to put a lot of emotion into it and use it to strengthen me mentally. It hugely helped and I’ll never regret that. The only problem is when you use running to make you strong, to keep you going and to enjoy life… when it’s taken away things become hard very quickly. What do I do with myself? How do I define myself? How can my body be so weak? Why have I failed?

I had no happy job to keep me focused. A lot of my friends are runners. My whole social media was just about running. My spare time was about running.

Today things are a lot different. Of course I still love running. It’s a huge part of my life. It makes me very happy and I love doing it. It’s one of the reasons Kyle and I got together – it brought us a closer than just talking in the office at work. I hope to always have running. But the difference is, I have so much more to me now than just running.

I have a great boyfriend. I have a fantastic job I enjoy. I love the gym and pushing myself there – the strength gains and being one of the best in circuits class some days. I still have running friends but I also spend quality time with non-running friends – and the close running friends I have are always there for me with or without running. I use social media for more than just talking about running (heyyyy Instagram food accounts). I don’t define myself by my running. It doesn’t control my happiness.

So yeah, I have a niggle. But hey, so what?

Is running a big part of your life?

What’s a niggle you always seem to get?

Double parkrun – Havant and QECP

One thing I love about the festive period is the chance to rack up quite a few more parkruns than you ordinarily would be able to.

There’s the Christmas day parkrun AND the double New Year’s Day parkrun, on top of the usual Saturday ones. Three bonus ones! In total, five parkruns within two weeks. Pretty good going.

Last year I was sadly unable to do the double day on NY because I was slightly injured (or at least, I was being sensible and not aggravating a niggle). Instead I plunged myself into the sea – a horrific but weirdly fun experience. I have to say, I was glad to give it a swerve this year!

As I was staying over Kyle’s for New Year’s Eve it made sense to go to his local parkruns rather than drive over 40 minutes to get to Netley (and then proceed to Southampton for the double). Havant parkrun is literally just round the corner, and then QECP a mere 10 minute drive from there. It made sense.

New Year’s Eve itself was good fun. Kyle has a large family and we played lots of games (if you’ve never played Doble you really must, it’s brilliant) and ate lots of good food. I had a takeaway kebab and chicken wings, I was in heaven.

So after a rather late night the alarm going off at 8.20am was bad enough! But Kyle and I got ourselves together, drove to Staunton Country Park, where the Havant parkrun happens and ambled to the start.

We were somewhat shocked to find that the parkrun had already begun (by my watch, a good 2 minutes early!). Usually you can count on Havant waffling for a bit and not actually starting on time… but I guess people were keen to get to the next parkrun on time. This did mean that I had to rip my coat off and throw it to a nearby tree and we had to start running straight away. To be honest, it was all a bit of a fluster! I was only asleep less than an hour ago…what a wake up!

Havant parkrun is a tough course. Not only is it uphill most of the way (albeit gently, but it’s there) with quite a sharp and scary downhill section (there’s even a sign to warn you) but the stony ground is very uneven so it takes a lot of concentration to keep you from losing your footing or doing your ankle over.

The weather was cold, crisp and dry so this was a relief (especially as the entirely off-road QECP was next). We spent the first mile pretty much overtaking and winding as we were some of the few who started late. Then on mile two we got into a nice rhythm. I saw a few people I knew from my running club which was nice!

It’s two and a bit laps so it does go fairly quickly (mentally at least) and on the final stretch we pushed the pace and had a tasty sprint finish. Whew! Our times were identical at 25:16, (though my watch time was 24:55). One down, one to go.

There was no great rush to zoom over to QECP as the 2nd parkrun didn’t start until 10.30am and the journey was super short. However there was a long queue to get into the car park. We parked and got ourselves together and had a far more leisurely start than Havant, chatting to people I knew and trying to keep warm. Usually QECP attracts around 100 or so runners, but today it was over 400 and it was practically buzzing!

Though Kyle and I had run together at Havant we decided to do our own thing for this parkrun. And being so busy it would be tricky to run easily together. The first section of the course is a bit mental: you run straight uphill which is an absolute GRIND. Then you turn the corner and run immediately downhill at rather breakneck speed. The course is pretty much entirely on grassy tracks and a good chunk you’re either running uphill or downhill. It’s not for the faint of heart.

I found my legs were far more into running at this point than they were for Havant. I’ve been trying hard to let myself go a bit more during the downhills – basically allow gravity to do a bit more of the work rather than working against it and breaking as I go down. I found myself flying past the more cautious runners and used the momentum to carry me along the flatter and then uphill sections.

I embraced the horrendous uphill on the second lap once again and kept pushing. I was shocked to see a 5.30min/mile as I rocketed downhill – which obviously quickly disappeared as soon as I got to flatter sections. But hey, it was cool to briefly see! Finally I got to the long, slightly inclined, finally straight and pushed to a 23:03 finish. Hurrah!

Kyle finished just behind at 24:33. I found it somewhat amusing that a young girl almost overtook him at the finish-line because compared to Kyle’s 6ft3 she looked positively miniature 😉

We were both very chuffed to have gotten the double parkrun done and felt immensely satisfied at starting 2019 in such a positive way. This year I hope to get more parkrun tourism completed, but also continue to go to Netley as well. I feel I’ve neglected it a bit recently and I do miss it when I don’t go for a while – mainly the people of course, not necessarily those hills on the winter course!

Did you do the double NY parkrun?

Do you like to do more parkrun tourism or stick to your home one?

How did you celebrate New Year’s Eve?