Thursday, 23 May 2013

The Photo I've Been Waiting For

There were two official sports photographers snapping away at the Market Drayton 10K Road Race that I took part in recently. After the race, images began to appear online. With over 1600 runners taking part in the race, there were a LOT of photographs. Each day, more were uploaded with the promise of yet more to come.

As much as I enjoyed reliving the atmosphere of the event by browsing through the photos, the money shot for me - the one I waited patiently to view- was the one of me crossing the finish line. My position in the race was 1371st. It was always going to be a long wait!

Today, my wait was over and here it is:

I am so grateful to Brian Smith for taking this photo which will be a constant reminder to me of the sense of achievement I felt (and proof that I actually did it should I ever start to doubt myself). I am also grateful to all the amazing people that made the race happen through organisation, sponsorship, support, help and participation. Definitely a day to remember.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Quarter of a Century

I have a very clear memory of the day I turned 25. Far from being in celebratory mood, I felt old. I told my (now ex) mother-in-law that I felt old and she sneered at me and called me stupid (she never liked me very much!)

In hindsight, 'old' was not the right word. It was a feeling of childhood being well and truly over. I now fell into the 25-35years age category. There was no more hiding from the fact that I was an adult - with responsibilites. To combat these feelings, I went out into my garden and flew a kite.

In terms of kite flying success it was a big fail - but it did reconnect me to my inner child. I like to think that even now in my 45-55years age category, I have retained that childlike sense of fun and wonder and call upon it when I want to or need to.

This weekend, my eldest daughter had her 25th birthday. We spent a lot of time together running, shopping, watching a performance of Sleeping Beauty by the Vienna Festival Ballet (unbelievably well defined buttocks and thighs perfectly displayed in white man tights), barbecuing, playing online quizzes and finally enjoying Indian take-out. It wasn't hard for me to recognise the signs that betrayed the fact that she was feeling much the same as I had all those years ago. Childhood was finished and adulthood had her well and truly in its grasp. Unlike me, she was not yearning  to feel childlike and free. A kite and a blustery day would not have worked any magic on her. Instead she wanted to wholeheartedly embrace adulthood.

In many ways, my daughter was born an adult. She has always had wisdom beyond her years and a sensible attitude that quietly spoke of maturity and responsibility. She and her long term boyfriend have their own home and she has settled into a teaching career. So what was it that she was missing from her perfect picture of adulthood?


When she started talking about weddings, it was very easy to get carried away with it all. I practically had her packed off to an exotic beach location for her 'I dos' before her boyfriend had even had the chance for the 'will yous'. As ready as my daughter is for a wedding and married life, her boyfriend simply isn't.

There is no doubt that they are committed to each other but sadly, there is a huge incompatibility of viewpoint when it comes to marriage. It breaks my heart a little bit to see my beautiful daughter denied her greatest wish and her dream day but I also have respect for her boyfriend in that he won't be pressured into doing something he does not feel 100% convinced about. He has a very logical, matter of fact approach to life and I do believe that eventually the positives of becoming husband and wife will tip the scales in favour of marriage.

In the meantime, I hope he can forgive me for being a little too enthusiastic with my premature wedding planning. Most of all, I hope my daughter can wait with good grace and fully appreciate and enjoy the wonderful life they have together now.

When the time does come, I will be ready for my mother-of-the-bride role and play it with the greatest happiness.

Monday, 20 May 2013

It doesn't always have to be a PB

Since I started taking part in Telford Parkrun (a not for profit organisation arranging free to enter, timed 5K runs around a local park), my finish time has been steadily getting quicker. It is a great feeling to come away each week with a new Personal Best which is edging ever closer to my goal of completing the course in under 30 minutes.

It stands to reason that you cannot maintain this improvement indefinitely- you'd end up finishing before you even started -  but this Saturday, I thought I would be in for a good time.

I had not been out running since completing the Market Drayton 10K the previous Sunday and I was really keen to get back out and see what I could manage over the shorter distance. Stupidly, I thought 5K would feel easy having now ran twice that much. I was very wrong.

Five kilometres may only be half of 10 kilometres but it is still 3.1 miles - which is 3.1 miles more than I would ever have imagined being able to run before starting my beginners training 6 months ago.  (Lets be generous and say 3 miles more - I probably could have managed the 0.1!)

I started off really well. My daughter and I jogged from the car park to the start (first time we'd ever even contemplated doing that!) so we were well warmed up and ready. The first part of the course is a long downhill stretch and even with the uphill parts that followed, I averaged a comfortably less than 10minute mile pace. I was well on target, not just for a new personal best but for my ultimate sub 30 minute goal.

Unfortunately, things started to go wrong.

My legs felt fine, my breathing was OK but my stomach felt knotted and my back and shoulders were tired and achey. I tried to ignore it all and power on and sometimes I succeeded, keeping pace with runners in front of me.  But it was a struggle. A quick look at my running watch was my undoing.

My watch is set to tell me how far I have run, the time it has taken and my average pace at the end of each completed mile. It became clear that not only was my goal slipping out of reach with each laboured step, but I wasn't going to achieve a new personal best either. I lost heart.

The course consists of a two laps, a long one and a shorter one. Cruelly, you run past the finish twice before you cross the line and even more cruelly, there is a steep incline just beyond the finish. I passed the finish line for the second time, witnessing competitors sprinting home to claim their best time (the elite athletes having long finished). I pushed myself up the hill and beyond, my motivation draining with each step. I thought about my daughter running behind me and wondered if she was feeling as bad as me. I stopped. I walked. I looked around and saw her some way away. I continued to walk and waited for her to catch up.

After a while, my daughter made up the ground between us and I resumed running with her. We both struggled, but we finished. I didn't feel great about it.

This was the thirteenth Parkrun in Telford. Maybe there is some truth in the unlucky connotation of the number 13. Due to a mix up with the start time of the race, the published results were wrong. It gave my daughter and I a time minutes more respectable than we deserved! They were later corrected but the  error did have the effect of making me focus less on the importance of my time than I had been previously. It was like a sign - a warning even.

Fixating on getting a new personal best had been a key factor in me giving up and walking. I see now how idiotic that is. As lovely as it is to see real improvement, sometimes it is enough just to get round. No doubt I will have good days and bad days. I will celebrate the good days and bask in the glory of a new PB. I will celebrate the bad days too. As long as I give it all I have, it will always be a personal triumph.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Fifty things... Run a 10K Race

Well, I did it!

I ran my first ever 10K race in 1hour and 14minutes (does it sound quicker if I call it 74 minutes?) this Sunday at the Market Drayton 10K 2013.

The winner of the race, athlete Chris Davies, set a new course record of 30minutes 39seconds. (He has also finished our Telford Parkrun 5K in 14mins 50secs). This does make my time look pitiful but I was by no means last and I am really proud that I ran the whole 10K without stopping to walk. I have seen some video footage of myself running past and I have to admit that yes I do plod along at the speed of slow. My new target is to speed up a bit - get comfortable with running a respectable 10min mile pace with some energy left for a good final push.

I have a photograph that really sums up the whole 10K experience for me. This is my daughter waving her medal in triumph and just over her shoulder in the background is me, crossing the finish line with a slightly pained smile on my face.

Although for a few moments after finishing I thought I might be sick and if I had not had my daughter's boyfriend to hold onto I may well have fallen over with the light headedness I was experiencing, it did not take long to recover and I felt AMAZING. The sense of accomplishment (and probably a good few endorphins) gave me such a great feeling of positivity and contentment. I was soon posing for photographs and enjoying the company of family and friends who had also taken part in the running or marshalling (and giving much needed support on the way round)

It was a very uplifting and emotional experience taking part in the race - being 1 of 1700 runners, each with their own motivations and goals. The elite athletes (Chris Davies proving himself to be the 'elitest' of the elite), the incredible people raising money for charity in various fancy dress get ups, and the participating masses all sharing the same course, all pushing themselves to achieve what they set out to do. I loved it.

Image by Bryan Dale -

My husband finished in 55mins 39secs  but paid a high price for his sub 1hour time. He is suffering with knee pain which  he thinks is Iliotibial Band Syndrome - a common complaint in runners. Luckily there is a wealth of advice on the internet about how to prevent and treat the condition.

I probably shouldn't be laughing at him!

I still can't quite believe that I did it. The whole thing took on a dreamlike quality as soon as it was over but the lingering sense of accomplishment is something I am going to try and hold onto for as long as possible. It was this sense of "I can do anything" that gave me the courage to step on the scales this morning, take stock of the weight I have allowed to creep on and start to do something about it. I want to be in the best shape possible for my next running challenge - to run 5K in less than 30 minutes. 

And perhaps for my pre-race prep next time I will base my activities more around sport science than baking!

Pre 10K race prep - make runner biscuits!


I was recently sent a family board game from Ravensburger to review. I must admit that when I looked inside the box, I was a little perplexed. The game is called Indigo. It is very beautiful with lavishly illustrated playing pieces and board based on tessellating hexagons with glass beads that look like jewels. It has an exotic, almost other worldy feel to it but I was at a loss as to what it was all about and how to play. I left it to two of my teenage daughters to puzzle it out.

As with just about every board game I have ever encountered, the instructions are quite difficult to get your head around. Usually, the best way is to start playing a trial game with instructions close at hand and work it out as you go.

Indigo is for 2-4 players aged 8+. The idea of the game is fairly simple: to collect gems using route tiles to move them across the board towards your gateway. However, the route tiles create intricate pathways along which the gems are moved. The player with the highest value of gems at the end of the game is the winner. It is a game of tactics with the potential for collaborative play in the best interests of more than one player.

It did keep my girls amused for some time and everyone agreed that it is visually stunning which makes it a pleasure to play (as long as your brain can cope with those convoluted pathways!)

Friday, 10 May 2013

Market Drayton 10K Road Race

There are a lot of signs like this that have popped up in various locations around the town where I live.

The route for the Market Drayton 10K Road Race passes right by my house. In previous years I have sat on my front wall with the neighbours and cheered the participants as they ran/jogged/walked past. I wondered what it would be like to take part and wished that I was amongst their number, pushing onwards towards the finish line.

This Sunday, I will be amongst their number and will know exactly what it is like to take part with each breathe, each step and each pain I experience. I am not looking to set any records. This being my very first 10K I am guaranteed a personal best time as long as I finish, and that is all I am aiming for - to finish, and to enjoy each and every punishing kilometre!

Numbers ready

I only started running seriously last September when I joined a Beginners Group with my local running club. I still have to pinch myself when I think about how much progress I've made since those early training sessions. I have loved the journey it has taken me on - learning about myself and what my body is capable of. I have loved meeting new people and spending time with my daughter who runs with me. I have loved how my husband and two more of my daughters are now getting involved. When I run on Sunday I will be celebrating all of this.

I am very proud to be taking part in the Market Drayton 10K. Not only has this race been voted the Number 1 10K race by readers of Runner's World, it is a fantastic example of community pulling together and achieving something amazing. Now all we have to do is hope for some good running weather!

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Lovely days

There are some especially lovely days...

... when I am really glad...

... that I have a good collection of vases!

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