Well on the way to becoming a recognised parkrun tourist

There is a special page on the parkrun website which lists all parkrunners who have run 20 or more different parkrun events.  One of my aims for this year was to get onto this table, and I’ve been busy slogging away working out which new parkruns I can visit just lately.

I’m currently up to 92 parkruns at 17 different events, and I’ve loved seeing all the differences in the parkrun events I’ve been to.  I really must write a post at some point with all of my favourite elements of each parkrun as I’ve seen some great ideas this year which might come in handy for anyone setting up a new event.

I thought I only had my last three parkruns to write up, but it actually turns out I’m five behind now.

Annoyingly, I visited Wimpole Estate and Blickling when my phone was still broken so don’t have any pictures to share from those events.

Here goes…

parkrun #88 – Kettering
29th July

This was the first time I had been able to ‘run hard’ at a parkrun in a while.  Dan offered to come along and push Oscar round in the buggy so that I might test my legs out.

I misjudged my starting position though, realising as the chap stood next to me during the briefing raised his hand to indicate that he would be pacing 33 minutes!

I tried to shimmy myself further forward in the pack, but pacers were one of the last announcements made, and before I knew it, I was weaving in and out of other runners with a choppy stride trying to squeeze past others on the narrow path.  There went my potential good time!  Kettering parkrun has a long pontoon at the far end of the course that you run along twice, and I was very held up behind other runners during my first crossing as many of them slowed right down to feel less wobbly as the bridge came up to meet their pounding feet.  It is a very bizarre feeling as you run across with the bridge wobbling everywhere!

Kettering parkrun as a family of three

I think Dan realised just how difficult it could be running with the buggy and avoiding other runners during this run!  Still, I jogged back to see him finish in a respectable 34:07.  Oscar was busy chewing on his giraffe, which he then shared with his swimming buddy, whose Dad was marshaling at one of the corners towards the end of the run.

Official time: 27:30
Position: 94/315
Gender position: 22/145
Age category position: 3/12

parkrun #89 – Wolverhampton
5th August

One of Dan’s best friends got married at the start of August.  Dan was one of the ushers so headed back for last minute wedding details (and drinking) on the Friday evening, leaving Oscar and I to drive across the following morning.  As the wedding was held near to Dan’s parents’ house in the West Midlands and the wedding service wasn’t to be until the early afternoon I jumped on the chance to get some more parkrun tourism in, planning on showering and changing at Dan’s parents’ house after the run.

The Wolverhampton course is three laps around the outside of West park.  I’ve been to the park many times as Dan has often parked there when he goes to watch the football at Molineux on a weekend.

Another runner helpfully pointed me in the direction of the start when I arrived.  The first thing to note about the Wolverhampton parkrun is that everybody had really strong Wolverhampton accents!  I’m glad I’ve spent lots of time around Dan’s family and friends lately because otherwise I’m not sure I would have understood too much of the briefing! 😉

I had been asked to start at the back, as I had Oscar.  I understand why parkrun events ask buggy runners to start at the back, but I do think some of the responsibility of placing yourself and buggy should lay with the runner, especially on a course with laps, as you are much more likely to end up clipping somebody if you are frequently overtaking others with the buggy than if you were to settle in to the correct starting position to begin with.

The first lap was tough with so much overtaking, but by the second lap I could easily move around the narrow path without problem.  I was really shocked how few runners there were actually.  Wolverhampton is a massive city, but with just 266 runners, this parkrun is actually one of the smaller parkruns I’ve visited, especially when it comes to relative size to location.

The nice thing about a lapped course is that you see the same marshals several times.  One marshal kept updating me on how awake Oscar looked, and they loved that he just propped both feet up on his front bar and chilled out for the entirety of the run!Wolverhampton parkrun with Oscar in the buggyAt one point, Oscar caught a falling leaf, and found it the best thing ever!  He was so excited and kept squealing away in his buggy! Wolverhampton parkrun with Oscar in the buggyI ended up with my fastest buggy parkrun time despite the slow start, which was a nice surprise!

Official time: 30:39
Position: 166/266
Gender position: 39/102
Age category position: 7/11

parkrun #90 – Wimpole Estate
19th August

I had a free Saturday morning and had hoped to get in another new parkrun.  A pregnant friend contacted me the day before to see if I fancied running a parkrun the next morning.  I said yes, on the condition that it was a new-to-me one, and so we made the hour-long journey to Wimpole Estate.

Somebody I work with regularly runs at Wimpole Estate, and I knew of a few runners from Twitter who occasionally made it over for this event too.  All had warned me of the hill out on the course!

I had Oscar in the buggy for this run, and bumped into Katie with her little one, Flo, who I have only spoken to via Twitter previously.  Katie’s husband would be the one with the buggy that week, and she filled me in on buggy tips for the course, and at what point the hill would appear!

I vowed to run the entire course with the buggy, and thinking I had already gone up ‘the hill’ decided that it was actually a fairly easy route, despite the long, thick grass underfoot.  I soon realised that the hill was yet to come though, and my vow to run the whole course was almost thwarted here, as it seemed everybody around stopped to walk the hill.  I took Oscar off-track, onto one wheel briefly, head down and continued to push him up the steep climb.

We made it to the top and enjoyed a lovely view before rocketing back down the other side.  Very glad I took Katie’s advice to tuck my hand in the handlebar loop and keep a tight grip here!

I don’t have any pictures of the hill, but Maria has one on her blog.

Oscar and I at Wimpole Estate parkrun{Picture taken from the Wimpole Estate parkrun Facebook page}

At the bottom the other side there were several cattle, but marshals among them to make sure they didn’t wander on course.  One was stood right behind a parkrun sign and from a distance it genuinely looked as though the sign had been pinned to the cow!

Katie and husband were there to cheer me through the finish which was nice, and I then waited for my friend to finish her run, before we headed to the café for cheese scones and hot chocolate.  It was the first time I’ve run parkrun with a friend in a long while and I’ve missed my post parkrun cake shop visits!

Official time: 34:57
Position: 316/396
Gender position: 115/166
Age category position: 10/16

parkrun #91 – Blickling
2nd September

My fastest parkrun since having Oscar!

My Dad volunteered to come along and push Oscar around the course in his buggy and act as support for my run this week.  The course is ideal for support, as there is just short of two full laps of the section of the park we ran.  This meant I passed Dad and Oscar twice, although Dad nearly missed me the first time, despite my mad waving!

There were quite a few other tourists stood alongside me at the new runners’ briefing, as shown by their apricot tops.  I think I’m going to ask for an apricot top for Christmas.  I’d like to have it printed up with my home parkrun, although I’m not really sure I can count Northampton as my home event any more.  I hardly ever seem to run there now!

The course at Blickling starts on a slight uphill.  I had been unsure how to approach the run, but after a strong start, with a low 8:xx constantly showing on my watch despite the uphill, I decided to just go for it and run hard the whole way round.

It’s a very lovely out-in-the-open course run along tracks with vast areas of grass all around.  There is a small section where you run through the trees towards the end of the lap, but this was really pretty.  I guiltily passed a chap pushing a double buggy containing older children who were demanding snacks at this point on my second lap!

It felt so nice to run at a harder pace again.  I’ve had to take Oscar along with me for the majority of parkruns since he was born.  Although, as Dan now has a season ticket for the football again this year, I think he might want to start spending a bit of time with Oscar on Saturday mornings before heading back for the football each week so I might see some more harder runs before the end of the year.  I’m sure I can’t be too far off that 26:xx parkrun time again!

Official time: 27:10
Position: 96/197
Gender position: 22/88
Age category position: 2/8

parkrun #92 – March
14th October

I’ve been traveling back four times a week to see my family since mid-September.  My days tend to be Monday, Tuesday (with a stay-over in between), Thursday and then Saturday.  Evenings only whilst I was still at work last month.  It took me until now though to realise that I was missing out on some serious parkrun tourism opportunities on my drive back on a Saturday!

Last weekend I was torn between Kings Lynn and March for the location of my parkrun.  Either could tie in with my journey back to Norfolk.  In the end though, Oscar dictated the March event, as he took too long to eat his breakfast in the morning, and March is closer to us than Kings Lynn so at least I knew we would arrive in time!

Oscar at March parkrun

I ended up actually arriving quite early and set Oscar up in his buggy, pushing him around what looked like a rather small park as my warm up.  It felt really chilly as I got out of the car, but the temperature soon started to rise and I was glad I had decided to just wear a short sleeved t-shirt rather than any extra layers.

I had hurriedly checked both the Kings Lynn and March parkrun websites the previous evening to see that they were buggy suitable.  I had failed to spot the mention of the four laps at the March event though, each including a set of ten steps!

The steps at March parkrunThey don’t look very steep here, but…TEN STEPS!

March parkrunAfter a walked lap of the park (where we saw a rat run out in front of us and do a little dance, much to Oscar’s amusement!) I hung around the meeting point waiting for things to get underway.  I did spot somebody else with a running buggy, although they had a much older child inside.  There was a new runner briefing, which I took Oscar over to.  After this, the guy who had the other buggy came over to say ‘hi’ and to share his tips for the best way of getting up the bank alongside the steps with the buggy.  He suggested starting climbing the bank a little way before the steps, as it was less steep and less likely I would tip my child out of the buggy!  I hoped that people didn’t think I was taking a short cut each time, but nobody seemed to shout me back at least.  I still ran all the way over to the top of where the steps were before turning back on myself.

The picture below is taken from a video clip of the first lap which was posted on the March parkrun Facebook page.  You can see me to the left of the shot making a getaway with Oscar!

Oscar and I at March parkrun

Mainly people shouted out well dones for getting round with the buggy which was nice.  The marshals were all lovely and so helpful when I spoke to them.  It was a really friendly parkrun.

About half of the route was run along the grass, which was quite rutted in places.  The marshals had used mini cones to place on any rabbit holes which runners might trip or fall from, which I thought was quite a good idea.  The other half of each lap was run along the tarmacked pavement you can see in the above screenshot.

I started from the very back this week again, although quickly overtook several runners near to the start.

Although only a small parkrun, as well as running pacers, there was a run 1min, walk 1min pacer and a run 2min, walk 1min pacer, which I thought was a fantastic way to give non-runners or beginners the confidence to start visiting parkrun.Oscar at March parkrunOnce completed and scanned in, we took a quick visit to the nearby swimming pool to change Oscar before completing our trip to Norfolk.Oscar and I at March parkrunOfficial time: 33:49
Position: 97/132
Gender position: 43/66
Age category position: 5/7

Do you tie parkrun visits in with trips at the weekend?
Have any of the parkruns you have run contained steps?
Do you have an apricot top?
How many different parkrun events have you visited?

A marathon update

I have Chelmsford Marathon next Sunday.

Chelmsford Marathon number

In the last four weeks I have run a grand total of three times.

Slowly.

This wasn’t how it was supposed to go!  I was supposed to run Ealing Half Marathon at the end of September and achieving a PB.  Which would then lead nicely into a new PB at Chelmsford Marathon at the end of this month.

It all started out so well…

At the start of the Summer I couldn’t have asked for better results from my training – I PBd in 5 mile, 6 mile and 10k distances all in quick succession.

Then – injury, illness, my Mum being rushed to hospital and a very busy month of work all happened and the three weeks I was forced to take off fell at such a crucial point in my training cycle.

When I run Chelmsford next weekend it will be with the aim of getting round to the finish and completing my twelfth marathon.  There will be no time pressure.  I want to enjoy the race and am looking forward to spending 5+ hours out in the countryside without a toddler wanting me to read the same book for the twelfth time that day and without feeling like I should be tidying up the house or offering help in some way to somebody.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t want to cut my marathon time down further.  Of course I do, but undertrained and returning from injury, this is not the time to be doing that.  With all that has been going on I have lost nearly 2 stone in the last four weeks, so my body is not at it’s strongest currently.

Following my back injury in September, I’ve made several visits to the physio.  I’ve been going to Strong Lines in Wellingborough, and cannot recommend Fred enough.  Since my first visit I’ve been religiously completing my exercises to strengthen my core.  Fred established that my left side is much weaker than my right but my whole core strength is pretty shocking.  Something which deep down I knew, but didn’t know how best to go about fixing.

I have a series of exercises to complete each day, including some resistance band walking and planks in various positions.  Fred used my phone to film me completing the exercises, which makes it super easy to check form and remind myself just what it is I need to be completing each day!

After watching me run on the treadmill, Fred established that my cadence was much too slow.  Something I have focused on in the past.  I currently fall naturally into a rhythm of about 140spm, when actually I should be running closer to 180, so this is something I need to focus on during road runs over the coming weeks as well.

I’m feeling so confident that I will be able to see improvements in my running with the addition of proper core work this Winter.  I can already feel the benefits of the exercises after just a few weeks.

I received my annual rejection magazine from VLM for 2018 last week along with everybody else I know who hadn’t already guaranteed their place through a Good For Age entry or deferral. London Marathon rejection magazine 2018 A couple of weeks earlier though I was lucky enough to be announced as an ambassador for Milton Keynes Marathon 2018.  Milton Keynes was my very first marathon back in 2012 and so I have a soft spot for the race, having run it three times now (2012, 2013 and 2015) with the half marathon last year whilst pregnant.  I’ve always enjoyed the event and it has been lovely to watch it grow into such a successful race in such a short amount of time.  (The first Milton Keynes Marathon was held in 2012 the first year I ran it.)

You can read all about the other ambassadors on the MK Marathon website.

As well as Chelmsford marathon next weekend I will be running Gower marathon in November.  A tough, off-road, coastal trail marathon with a whole bunch of my running friends.  We go every year (although I couldn’t last year as Oscar was only a few weeks old at the time).  I’m really looking forward to the weekend away.  I could definitely do with one at the moment!

After that I just have a couple of cross-country races pencilled in to end the year and I was thinking about entering Bedford half marathon in December to try and finish off the year on a high.  My half marathon PB is in desperate need of updating, sitting at 2:09 from many years ago.

I haven’t fully organised next year’s calendar yet, but the target will be Milton Keynes Marathon in May.

Oh, and this…! 😉

Have you ever had to go on the wait list for a race?
Do you add in much core work to your weekly training?

The Round Norfolk Relay 2017

Last year I was so, so excited to hear that there was a group from my club hoping to run the Round Norfolk Relay.  A bit of bad timing on my part, to be 37 weeks pregnant and therefore resigned to a member of crew for the event, rather than being able to run though.

This year – not pregnant – my name was going on the running list!

I grew up in North Norfolk, although would not have classed myself as a runner whilst living there, so still have lots of running routes which I need to explore out that way.  Most specifically those around the North Norfolk coastline, where I grew up.

The Round Norfolk Relay is a 198 mile route run around the border of the county, starting at Kings Lynn in the West.  The 198 miles are split into 17 unequal stages so each team entered is made up of 17 runners, as well as a whole host of crew and timekeepers to help man them out on the route.

As one of the slower runners showing initial interest, I expected to be allocated a short road stage, so was rather surprised to learn that I would be running the 11 off-road miles between Cley and Cromer, within a few minutes driving distance from my parents’ house.

I knew the stage would be tough, starting on a deep shingle beach.  I had fully intended on recceing the route over the Summer but with the route being unbuggy friendly and my Summer flashing by before my eyes – especially towards the end, I never got the opportunity to test out the route before the day.

This year, our club had gone from entering one team to two.  Somehow we had found 34 runners to agree to run a stage of the race, as well as a handful of members to act as timekeeper, assist with support vehicles and generally help out where needed on the day.

The guidelines we had been given from the organiser within our club were to arrange transport with the club runner in the other team running the same stage as you.  i.e. you would both drive to the finish of your stage, leave one car there before hopping in the other to drive back to the start of the stage.  When you had both run the leg, you would be able to jump into the car left at the finish to go and collect the person’s car at the start again.

Sounds complicated, but in theory, should work well.
In practice, things were a little close at times.  I was due to meet Zac, the other runner who was running Stage 5 at Cromer by 11:30am.  At 12:45 when he said he was just leaving Wells (22 coastal miles away) to drive over and meet me, I told him I would find alternative arrangements and that he should head straight to the start…Zac was due to start his leg in just under half an hour, so would never have made it back to the start in time otherwise!

Waiting for my lift at the Round Norfolk Relay in CromerGood job it was really sunny in Cromer whilst I waited for my lift!)

Waiting for my lift at the Round Norfolk Relay in CromerI can see the sea!

Luckily, my brother was at home and free, so managed to collect me from Cromer and drop me off to my start in time.

Zac at the Round Norfolk Relay

Zac set off on his leg not long after I arrived in Cley.  It was raining by this point, with a cold wind, and I had wrapped myself up in a coat pulled high up around my neck.  I sat huddled in our timekeeper’s car until it neared my estimated start time.  When we had first signed up as a team, we each had to give a rough minute mile pace for how long we expected to complete our stages, based on distance and terrain which was then converted into an overall running time.  I had estimated 9:30mm pace for an offroad section of just short of 11 miles.  My running had been going really well over the Summer and I had been fairly confident I would be able to hit that pacing.

Round Norfolk Relay WDAC Team 1

That is, until my back had ‘gone’ earlier in the week.  I had managed an easy 6 miles of trail with a friend on the Wednesday evening.  My back had seemed to loosen up after the first mile, but by the Friday before the race, I was in agony walking around school.  I spent most of my time between lessons sat with the school nurse whilst he swapped a heated pack for a cool one, or the other way around.  Ibuprofen got me through each day, and every morning I hoped that the pain would have started to fade.  I’ve had bad back pain in the past, but it has never lasted more than a few days before.  The day before the race I could not even stand upright.

Stage 5 of the Round Norfolk Relay

Resigned to abandoning my target pace, but not abandoning my teammates, I drove over to Norfolk on the morning of the race.  My Dad pressed a pack of double-strength Ibuprofen into my hand, and I made sure to take them at the optimum time to let them do their job before the run begun.  I had no idea how the run would go.  I hadn’t tried running again since the Wednesday evening, but my back had felt better for getting out for a run then.  I knew I needed to see a physio the following week, and planned on playing it sensible out on the course – stopping and pulling from the race if my back didn’t loosen up the same way it had done on the trail run on Wednesday.  I wasn’t sure of the rules on stage DNFs, but found out after the race that each team may have up to three DNFs, each one being given a forfeit time of the slowest time for that stage from the previous year plus five minutes.

Double strength Ibuprofen

I headed out of the car a few minutes before my estimated start time, and could just see the bright green club vest of Kat, the runner before me gradually bobbing closer – giving me enough time to clip together my UD bag and take my place at the handover marker.

Kat arrived pretty much dead on target time and I shot off across the shingle as she thrust the baton at me, wishing me luck for my stage.  Although the pace on my watch initially showed 9:xx, it gradually slowed until it beeped at 10:27 for the first mile.  I convinced myself that it didn’t matter – this was the toughest section on the shingle and I would easily be able to pull my time back later on in the race.

In actual fact, that was my fastest mile.

Within the first two miles I’d dropped my race instructions and then had to chase them across the beach.  They were written across four pages as they were fairly detailed.  I also almost got the baton stuck inside my vest as I pulled my hand through the top of my jacket.  It wasn’t going well!

On the plus side though, either the Ibuprofen had really kicked in or the running was doing wonders for my back.  I couldn’t feel a thing!Me at the Round Norfolk Relay

My face and lack of uprightness in this photo gives you a little idea how tough stage 5 actually was.  I had already run four miles of shingle beach by this point, and was about to try climbing a shingle bank.  I’d referred to my instructions numerous times and already stopped to remove my jacket, for it was far too hot to run in two layers as well as a waterproof by the time my stint began.

When I left the shingle beach, my climb began and the steep hill that had always looked so pretty on the outskirts of Sheringham loomed ahead of me.  I’m not ashamed to say that I walked large portions of my stage – all of the steep hills I ended up walking, although I ran all of the flats and downhills as fast as I was able to try and make up for it.

Several runners passed me – all much faster than I was.  It was clear that most teams had chosen a faster runner for this stage!

A runner passed me along the slipway at Sheringham beach.  She shouted out that she had been following me as she had no idea where to go.  I then went on to stop her twice from going wrong before we even left Sheringham!

Beeston Bump is another place I have driven past so many times during my time living in Norfolk.  I worked just a few miles away in West Runton for many years.  I’ve always wanted to climb the Bump and look out from the top.  I didn’t get much chance to enjoy the view as I puffed and panted my way to the top on this day though!

The runner who had passed me at Sheringham appeared again.  She kept speeding off but then at every junction spent ages working out which way to go by studying the instructions.  She was definitely somebody who would have benefitted from a recce of the course beforehand!  I shouted out ahead to her several times which way to turn and she held up her hand in thanks.

As we approached East Runton I could see Dawn, my support cyclist in the distance.  I’ve never been happier to see a familiar face!  That had been some incredibly tough running!  I managed to puff out between breaths that this race had been even harder than running the 70 mile race the other year.  Between us Dawn and I shouted several times to the lady just ahead as 5 or 6 times she turned down wrong tracks.  The lady’s bike escort hadn’t materialised and so Dawn asked if I minded if she cycled on up ahead to make sure she didn’t go wrong again.  Of course I didn’t.  Each runner should have been accompanied by a cyclist when running alongside a road during the day.  At night, the cyclist would be replaced by a car escort for safety.  Dawn came back alongside me after putting the lady right, but I was too knackered to be able to chat much by this point!

I turned into the final field at Cromer to see the club chairman cheering me in.  His wife was running the stage following mine, so he nipped across the field to let her know I was on my way.  I thrust the baton into her hand and apologised profusely for my slower-than-planned time.  She was lovely and told me not to worry in the slightest, before setting off for stage 6 of the relay.

In looking at the results following the event, it was reassuring to see that somehow I wasn’t the slowest runner on my stage!  The fastest runner ran the stage in 1h 9m 09s.  I was nearly an hour slower than that time in 2h 1m 43s – which worked out as nearly 20 minutes slower than my predicted time.

Despite my poor time estimation, our team had actually done quite well at guessing how long we would take.  We had declared 27h 47m 58s before starting the race, and finished in 27h 48m 59s – just 1minute and 1second away from our prediction, winning us the Carrot Shield for best time prediction!

Overall our team finished in 48th position out of 61 teams, with our B team coming in 54th.  We had a proper mix of abilities within our runners so it was nice that even though we had been so inclusive we weren’t right at the bottom of the finishing table.  Our B team had hit a few problems during the race; one runner hadn’t made it to the start of his stage, so had to DNS, another dropped out as a DNF and one runner had to hold back starting their stage because the bike escort for that section hadn’t arrived in time to accompany them along their road stint.

All of us thoroughly enjoyed the event though, even those of us with tough stages(!)

All runners from both teams met at the pub the following week to be given our medals and for us to present a card and gift to Zac as a thank-you for organising our entry into the event.  No easy task!

The medals are beautiful.  Larger than my VLM medal from 2014 and with a lovely design incorporating several Norfolk elements on the front, and a list of all clubs taking part on the back, with the placenames of all of the stages around the outside.

Round Norfolk Relay 2017 medal

Round Norfolk Relay 2017 medal

I’m hoping to get some training in over the Winter along this route on days that my Dad agrees to watch Oscar for me.  It will definitely be some good strength training going into marathon/ultra season next Spring.

And then I will be back at the Round Norfolk Relay again next year.  Although, I’m not so sure I’ll go for the same stage this time!  Stage five requires someone with a little more speed and strength behind them on the team! 😉

Have you ever taken part in a team race before?
What is the most difficult terrain you have run across?

September – what a month

I always knew that September would be a tough month.  That basically I would have to just put my head down, keep fighting until the very end and then hopefully emerge from the other side still kicking.

Having given my notice to finish teaching at the end of the Summer, I was offered a further month of work with a bonus to help ease the transition for new members of staff within the department.  With a finish date of four weeks, after having just had the six weeks of Summer off, I decided to go ahead and accept the proposal.  The extra money I was being offered would be nice in the build up to Christmas if nothing else!

I knew it would be tougher than when I had originally returned to work back in May.  A May timetable with no year 11 or 13 and countless trips across other year groups is very different to a September timetable, when new courses are starting up and resources need creating or adapting to suit different classes.  My September timetable contained six year 11 classes and a year 10 class, amongst others, so I would also spend lunchtimes holding coursework catchup sessions for those GCSE students.

Not only would my workload be higher, but my personal life at the weekends was also looking rather full during September.  For each of the weekends my calendar was pretty jam-packed full of activities.

Week 1: Marshaling at Go Beyond Northampton Half Marathon
Week 2: At a friend’s wedding
Week 3: Round Norfolk Relay
Week 4: Ealing half marathon
Week 5: Oscar’s birthday party/christening

There wouldn’t be a lot of time for sleep, running or baby cuddles.  With my Mum very poorly I also wanted to try and fit in as many visits back to Norfolk as was practical.
As a new ambassador for Decathlon I was also really looking forward to the Decathlon blogger meet up at the end of the month, although was concerned that I would be burnt out by that point and unable to fully enjoy the activities that had been planned for us all.

As it turned out though, things didn’t really go quite to plan for September.  I had severe back pain from the second week of the month, managing to run the Round Norfolk Relay only having dosed myself up with double-strength Ibuprofen first, and then unable to run any further miles in September.  The day after the Round Norfolk Relay, my Mum was once again admitted into hospital with a serious infection and so many trips were made over to Norwich hospital for visits during the week, as well as twice-daily phone calls to help support my Dad.  Following one weekend visit and eating in the questionable hospital canteen I ended up throwing up over and over.  My Dad was also left feeling poorly that evening.  I made the difficult decision to pull from Ealing Half Marathon – I hadn’t been able to walk with a straight back for ten days by that point and also I felt it was more important to be with my family in Norfolk.

By the time I began the final week of my contract, I was really struggling.  By Wednesday lunch time my face was hot to touch – burning up, whilst my coat-clad body shivered uncontrollably from the cold.  At 3pm that day I made the decision to head for home, leaving my half-finished marking laid out on the shared office desk with a post-it note stuck to the top reading “Really sorry, – feeling totally pants this afternoon.  Will clear in the morning.”

Oscar's first birthday

That Wednesday was Oscar’s birthday, only I never saw him that day as I rang to cancel my physio appointment on the way home, before curling up into a little ball in my bed, texting Dan to ask if he would be able to pick Oscar up from nursery on his way home from work later that night instead.

The following day I couldn’t even get out of bed, and napped on and off all day, feeling very sorry for myself.  I left emailing Decathlon until the very last minute to say that I wouldn’t be able to make it that evening, just in case I perked up a little and was able to still attend.  I so wanted to attend.  I knew deep down that I would be too poorly to go though, and even if I did manage to sit through the train journey down, I would not be well enough to enjoy the activities they had planned for us once down there.

Friday, my last day at school and I was still too poorly to attend.  What a funny end to my time at the school.  I’ve been in this week to clear my desk and tidy up a few loose ends, but the end of my time there wasn’t how I imagined it to be at all.Oscar's first birthdayThe Saturday was spent opening up Oscar’s birthday presents and last minute cleaning and tidying ready for Oscar’s guests the following day.  I managed to get through the weekend somehow, although I still don’t feel 100%.

…But we did make it through the other side.

Our life will be better now.  That hard work was worthwhile, as it has put a nice pot of money into our bank which we can fall back on if necessary and I’ve been told any future reference requests will be glowing following the work I put into my role.  I’m very glad that my time in school is over now though.  Despite working full pelt, I never felt like I was totally doing my best job of being a Mum or my best job of being a teacher or a daughter or wife.  I always just felt like I was getting by – existing and doing my best to not sink in the madness that was going on around me.  The last fortnight of the month contained several days where I managed only to grab something from the petrol station for lunch, and skipped tea altogether as I knew Oscar was being looked after at nursery for food and I really needed to get on with work.

This is the start of our new chapter now.  One hopefully filled with healthy living, three meals a day, a tidy house, family fun, lots of running, a return to blogging, and a better work-life balance for us all.  I struggle with that work-life balance, as I know many do.  But at the end of the day, life is short.  {How is Oscar one year old already?!}  I don’t want to look back and feel like I missed out because I was too busy working or wishing Oscar would go to sleep so that I could get some marking done.

Now to see how the next chapter of our life turns out…