A look back at 2018

2018 has been another year with not as much blogging as I would have really liked.  (Just 35 posts in 2018!)  But it has been a year filled with action packed fun and adventure when I looked back through my calendar and in my blog posts this weekend.  (When is my life ever not filled with fun and adventure?!)

Once again, I’ve loved putting together this post and reminiscing over the past year of fun.  Here goes…

My 2018bestnine from Instagram:2018bestnine on Instagram - A Healthier MooObviously lots and lots of running in there!

* Super tasty meal out with Dan on our first date day since having Oscar.
* At the finish of the Robin Hood 100 in September. I finally ran 100 miles! My face says it all.
* At the end of the Milton Keynes Marathon in May. Such a ridiculously hot day. The support from the locals was incredible though.
* Headed up the first big hill of the South Downs Way 50 in April. I had such an epic race that day. Everything fell into place for me out on the trails.
* My Shires and Spires 35m medal from May. I ran my second fastest time on the course despite only using the race as a training run for my first 100 event.
* Volunteering as 30 minute pacer for the first time at Northampton parkrun at the start of the year.
* High fiving Oscar at the 85 mile point of my 100.
* Playing rounders on the roof of the Decathlon building in London.
* Comparing this year’s SDW50 medal with last year’s. A few seconds shy of an hour PB!

My 2018bestnine from my fromteachertomum account on Instagram:

2018bestnine on Instagram - From Teacher to Mum* Oscar playing at Wickstead Park.
* Enjoying his first time paddling in the sea at Wells in Norfolk.
* Our family holiday to the Isle of Wight and one of my favourite pictures of the three of us from the year.
* Just a sunny Saturday afternoon at the park across the road from us.
* Helping to collect potatoes for dinner at Grandad’s house.
* Oscar’s first ice skating trip at Beckworth Emporium.
* Watching the ducks with Grandad in Norfolk.
* My little mini me!
* Enjoying shoulder rides with Daddy at Irchester Country Park.

January:

Obviously a parkrun double was on the cards at the start of the year and I chose to run the Linford Wood/Milton Keynes double again with Laura.

Unfortunately it seems I never got round to blogging about the double event.  (Damn being a busy working Mum and having no time!!!)

The following day Dan, Oscar and I traveled to Wolverhampton for a funeral.  Dan’s Nan had died at the end of November and her funeral was held on the 2nd January.

I marshaled at checkpoint 3 of the Country to Capital ultra.  (I was there again this morning, but working registration and checkpoint 1 this time.)

Checkpoint three of Country to Capital

In January I was frequently working three night shifts a week, managing the occasional parkrun on a Saturday morning and then trying to blog, train for my 100, keep on top of housework and Mum the rest of the time.  Somehow I managed a few parkruns straight on the back of a night shift before heading home to bed, and one weekend after having already worked a back to back night I drove to Biggleswade, slept (if you can call it that!) for an hour in the front of my car, changed into my cross-country kit and ran the final cross-country race of the season!

Biggleswade cross-country

It was also around this time that I had a health scare and was taken into hospital for a few scans.  Although hopefully nothing to worry about I am still being monitored following that first hospital trip.

2018 was the first year of the National Running Show and I was so excited to visit in January.  I was looking to meet new people and spend lots of money on fun running things!  There were some great guest speakers and I bumped into a couple of people I knew through blogging at the show which was fun.  I also managed to pick up some pace bands, which I’m hoping are going to come in handy for when I run London Marathon in April later this year.
I’m an ambassador for the event this year and although I’m poor and can’t really afford to spend any money at the show this time round, I can’t wait to see and hear all of the fantastic guest speakers they have lined up for next weekend!

The National Running Show

I volunteered for first time as pacer for 30 minutes at Northampton parkrun, coming in at 29:58 – I couldn’t have gotten much closer to target than that!

Northampton parkrun pacer

At the end of the month we had a second funeral to attend for my Dad’s cousin.  Another cancer victim in our family

February:

Dan was taken all over the country with work during 2018, often away for days at a time.  I put a shoutout on our club Facebook page to see if anybody would be able to loan me a treadmill in the build up to the South Downs Way 100 and I was lucky enough to be able to borrow a treadmill!

Testing out the treadmill

After 17 months, Oscar finally started walking on his own on Valentine’s Day!

I also worked on the registration desk of our club trail race, the Welly Trail Half.

Welly Trail Race medals

March:

I ran the Milton Keynes Half on Mother’s Day.  The first Mother’s Day without my own Mum.  Initially hoping for a shiny new half marathon PB, my dreams turned to dust when I had to pull over and limp the final eight miles after getting a sharp pain in my calf at mile 5.  I was absolutely gutted and there were a few tears that morning.

MK half marathon finish

The following day though, Dan, Oscar and I hopped into a very full car and headed off to York for our first family holiday.  It was very much needed and I really enjoyed taking some time off from work, running and actually getting to spend some precious time with my boys.

Dan, Me and Oscar on holiday in York

Following my calf injury I booked in to see Fred at StrongLines.  He taped up my calf and gave me a number of exercises to complete over the coming months to strengthen my weaker areas and ensure I made it to the start line of my 100 in June.

Physio taped up calf

nearly collapsed as I stood scanning barcodes at Northampton parkrun in the freezing cold one Saturday, luckily feeling much better after a trip to Magee’s and with a hot chocolate in hand to increase my sugar levels.

Laura and I volunteering at Northampton parkrun

April:

Laura and I ran our traditional pre-Stanwick 10k run.  It tipped it down this year and the usual route was flooded so they had to divert the course.  (Laura and I still made it across the ford, but barely!)

Flooding at Stanwick 10k

I stepped down as website editor from my running club committee, and received a lovely bunch of flowers and thanks at the AGM.

Flowers from the AGM

One of my goals for the year was to complete the South Downs Way 50 in a faster time than I had the previous year as I’d still been breastfeeding back in 2017 and had stopped to express along the way!  I’d have been pretty gutted if I had not been able to run the 2018 event faster!
Luckily, I achieved my goal, and finished nearly an hour faster than I had ran the event the previous year, smashing all of my goals for the race and building my confidence ready for the 100 miles along the same piece of course later on in the year.

South Downs Way 50 medal

I started working for OCR (the exam board) and as my training day meant spending a Saturday morning in Coventry, I obviously tied it in with some parkrun tourism!  😉

Coventry parkrun

I then spectacularly managed to mess up some parkrun tourism when I arranged to meet Laura at Luton parkrun.  Turns out there are two parkruns in Luton!  Luckily we each turned up at an event we hadn’t run before so still increased our tourism count even though we didn’t see each other that morning!  Not my finest moment though!  To think I was so chuffed to have arrived before Laura that day, when I always leave everything to the last minute!

Wearing my cow cowl at Luton Wardown parkrun

May:

This year we attended four weddings and two Christenings, the first Christening fell on the first weekend in May for my friend Zoë’s little boy Oliver.

Olivers Christening with Oscar

The following day was the Milton Keynes Marathon.  Probably the hottest weather I have ever run in!  I had decided by mile 11 to just enjoy the run rather than to run hard, and I had such a fun race!

Milton Keynes Marathon - spotting Oscar

A few weeks later I offered to pace another runner to a PB at the Shires and Spires ultra.  The runner I was pacing achieved more than she had hoped for, taking over an hour off from her previous best, and crossing the lady as third in her age category, winning a trophy along the way!

Shires and Spires 35m

June:

I didn’t blog much in June.  (Once, about the Shires and Spires race.)  All of my time was spent marking for OCR, working shifts at Tesco and preparing to run 100 miles at the South Downs Way.

I ran my first attempt at the 100 mile distance on the 2nd weekend in June, managing to get to 78 miles.  Possibly the busy lead up to the event was what caused my downfall in not completing the race.

SDW100

July:

As an ambassador for Decathlon I was invited to go and take part in filming for their Summer campaign – Sport for Every Body.  I had so much fun down in London with a bunch of like-minded fitness bloggers and was sad when the day came to an end, even though I had the most stressful trip down and my interview answers on camera were so poorly constructed!

Decathlon blogger meetup

We started to make a massive dent in our garden this Summer, but due to the heatwave, could only get so far so that’s another mission to add to our 2019 to do list!

Our back gardenOscar ran his first toddler dash at our club race at the end of July.  Although I had visions of him happily toddling the whole length of the race, arms in air as he crossed the finish line, in reality it rained heavily for the duration of the race and Oscar sulked as soon as he realised the other toddlers were much older and bigger, therefore faster than him.  He ducked under the barrier at the first opportunity and it took a lot of convincing from Dan and Me to keep him going until the end!

Oscar at his first Toddler dash at the Welly 5

August:

I went to support Guy at the Grim Reaper race at the start of August.  He was attempting the 70 mile distance, which had been where I ran my first 70.  He had horrific heat for his attempt though, so I went along armed with ice lollies for him and the rest of his support crew.  Sadly the heat got to him and the blisters which grew on his feet prevented him from getting past 40 miles on the day.

Guy at the Grim Reaper

We met up with friends and their toddler at Clumber Park later in the week, not realising at the time that I would actually be running part of my 100 miler around the park later in the year.

Me and Oscar with Julie and Alfie at Clumber Park

It was also our fourth wedding anniversary on the 9th August.  (That time has gone by so quickly!)  A fourth anniversary is represented by flowers and fruit.  I bought Dan a plant for our lounge and he treated me to a delivery of roses then we headed out for a date night dinner with Oscar in the evening after Dan had finished work.

Fourth anniversary rosesDan, Oscar and I on our fourth wedding anniversary

August was also Dan’s 30th birthday, which we celebrated by having some of his closest friends over for the day.  It was a fairly quiet celebration, as we were due to head off for a holiday to the Isle of Wight the next day.

Dans 30th birthdayWe made a break for four days to the Isle of Wight to stay in a static caravan owned by Dan’s parents.  It was the first time I had ever been to the Isle of Wight (or stayed in a caravan!), and we had a fantastic time away.

Oscar, Dan and I at the Isle of Wight

We headed back home ready for the weekend so that I may work and then we continued our Summer adventures by visiting my Dad in Norfolk the following week.  So much lovely family time together, although we did have to attend the third family funeral of the year whilst we were back – for my Aunt/Godmother.  Another cancer victim.

Dan, Oscar and I at Sheringham railway

September:

I booked to run the Dunstable Downs marathon at the start of September rather last minute.  The race fell a fortnight before my second 100 mile attempt, but I didn’t feel well going into the event and made the decision to pull before even getting to halfway, resulting in a massive knock to my confidence before goal race day.

Dunstable Downs Marathon

I gained a new niece – my brother had a baby girl, Evie.  Our second niece by that name.  (Obviously the first by my brother!)

Me and Baby Evie

September was all about the completing my first 100 miler – the Robin Hood 100.  I was so, so happy to cross that finish line and know that I had completed the distance I had set out to complete as one of my main goals at the start of the year!

100 mile finisher face! (Robin Hood 100)

We also celebrated Oscar’s 2nd birthday with friends at West Lodge Farm this month.

Oscars birthday cupcakes

I followed my 100 up with the Squeaky Bone relay race a few weeks later, running with three good friends as part of a relay team.

Squeaky Bone relay raceAt the end of the month I was chosen as an Ambassador for The National Running Show, which is something I’m really looking forward to attending again this year.

The National Running Show ambassador

October:

In October I offered to show other local members of the Run Mummy Run community some local running routes, and have regularly run out with a little group that live nearby since.  I also got involved with the RMR takeover at Kettering parkrun, volunteering to set up and take down the equipment after the run.

Run Mummy Run takeover at Kettering parkrun

Dan, Oscar and I took a trip to Wolverhampton to meet a friend’s baby.

Dan and Oscar meeting baby Grayson

Oscar got sick the following week and ended up hospitalised with pneumonia which was a rather scary time.  The day after he left hospital I headed up to the Peak District to run the Dusk ’til Dawn marathon through the night with friends.  I had so much fun, even though it was freezing out there!

Dusk 'til Dawn sunsetMy birthday is the 31st October and I celebrated(!) by hosting a Halloween party for four of Oscar’s friends and their Mums, and then did my paper-round in the evening!  Oh how glamorous it is being a stay-at-home Mum in my 30s(!)  We had so much fun at the party though!

Mini pizzas at our Halloween party

November:

Dan had treated me to a spa day for my birthday, so on the first Friday in November we headed to a spa in Kettering for the day.  It was lovely actually being able to spend time with just Dan again after so long.

Birthday spa day with Dan

I ran the first cross-country race of the season at Dunstable.  It was ridiculously hard!

Dunstable 3CXC course

trip to Gower with friends for the marathon came the following weekend and it was nice to have some time completely away from being Mum for a couple of days and escape the madness of working five jobs!

Gower marathon start beach

The following weekend was the second cross-country event in the series.  Our home race and again, ridiculously hard.  Made even harder by the fact that a friend and fellow runner from the club had died the morning before following a cardiac arrest whilst out on a run.  (Guy, who I had supported at Grim earlier in the year, and who had paced me at the Robin Hood 100.)

Wellingborough 3CXC race

December:

December was a brighter month.  With Christmas on the way, Dan, Oscar and I were invited down to London to film for the Decathlon campaign ‘Bikes are for Christmas’.

As Oscar was of an age where he understood the magic of Christmas a little better this year we made sure to fit as much of that Christmas magic into the month as possible.

We took him Ice Skating at Beckworth Emporium…

Ice skating at Beckworth Emporium

…to have our photo taken in a giant snow globe at Bosworths Garden Centre…

Oscar, Dan and I having our photo taken inside a snow globe

…and to West Lodge Farm Park to meet Santa.

Oscar meeting Santa at West Lodge Farm Park

We spent Christmas with my Dad, Aunt and Great Aunt in Norfolk and then just enjoyed having some time off as a family for the remaining few days that Dan had off before needing to return to work.

Oscar and Me in front of the Christmas tree

And then, just like that, we’re already two weeks into 2019!

What were the highlights of your 2019?

The Runner’s Runner of the Year 2018

As always in December I produced the ‘Runner’s Runner of the Year’ videos for my running club awards evening. Annoyingly this year I was unable to attend the actual awards evening as Dan’s work do fell on the same night and we were unable to get anybody else to look after Oscar for the evening. It was a shame as I love watching the expressions on the faces of runners at the evening as they realise that they have been nominated and they become engrossed in reading the lovely comments that have been sent in about their running over the year.

Due to time constraints I’m not even on the club committee anymore, but I was still asked to make the videos this year.  It’s a job I really enjoy though, as it’s so lovely reading all of the amazing achievements that each of the runners at our club have had over the course of the year.

Our club awards evening is held at the start of December, and in the weeks leading up to the awards evening members are asked to nominate both a male and female runner who they feel have been inspiring, encouraging, supportive, hard working, have improved a great deal or have just been a fantastic runner across the year!  It’s an opportunity for an award to go to somebody who isn’t necessarily the fastest runner at the club and is an award viewed very highly by all club members.

Once nominations are closed, I usually have about a week to put together the videos, choosing one or two reasons given for each person nominated to display on the video alongside images of them in action throughout the year.  The videos take me probably about 20 or so hours to create in total – with the picture-finding being the most time consuming part!

Male video for 2018:

(Winner: Craig Clements)

Female video for 2018:

(Winner: Sarah Rowse)

Once again I received a few nominations this year.

* Mary’s achievements this year speak for themselves but her determination and belief in herself is unmatched. Go Mary!!
* Mary is one of the strongest people I know! There is no challenge too big and once she’s made her mind up, she will keep going until she’s absolutely smashed it. Even though she’s completed huge challenges such as her 100 miler, she could not be more humble and is always so supportive of other runners with their goals too. Mary is simply an inspiration.
* Mary has shown so much True Grit this year after her setback on the SDW100.  She has shown that with hard work you can achieve your dreams, from training in the wee hours to get the miles in, to dragging herself off the floor at mile 74.
Super sappy, but I say it every year – whenever I watch the videos back and look at all the fun times and achievements everybody I run with has had it instantly picks me up and makes me want to get back outside running with my friends again.  So, so glad that I decided to join that beginner running group way back in 2011.  :)
Does your running club do anything similar?

Christmas running

The week before Christmas is when I really start to feel Christmassy.  The cross-country series my running club runs in holds it’s final cross-country race of the year the week before Christmas, and my club always organises a Christmas Eve run around our local country park, finishing with hot drinks and sausage rolls at the cafe.

Everybody gets into the Christmas spirit at the Letchworth cross-country race.  Santa hats, tinsel and then Christmas themed sandwiches and cake at the finish (think ham and mustard, turkey and stuffing, brie and cranberry…!)

After a disappointing first two events of the series where I walked on numerous occasions and didn’t run the races I had hoped, I decided to wear my heart rate monitor for this event and to stick to a very reserved 165bpm over the cross-country course in order to remain consistent during my run.  No walking would be a success!

We set off and I managed a strong start as we first ran a lap of the field passing our supporting club members and out at the end onto the farmyard tracks.  I was ahead of runners I knew would probably overtake as we continued.  Several runners from my club went on to overtake me around the 1 mile mark on the course.

As we turned a narrow corner, we passed a chap playing Christmas songs on a brass horn of some sort which picked everybody up ready for hill we knew would soon be coming up.

The course heads out along farmyard tracks.  You run a lollipop shape around a couple of fields and then head back down the lollipop stick again the way the course first headed out.  The front runners always turn back onto the stick of the lollipop just as I’m about to leave it and so I like cheering other club members on here.  It was nice to see a couple of our runners in the top 10 as they turned back for the finish.

There’s only really one hill on the course (it’s on the stick so you run it twice), but I focused on trusting my heart rate monitor, overtaking several runners who had resorted to walking both times we made the climb.

I felt rather lumbery in style, but satisfied that I was getting the job done without giving in and walking the hills or with crazy varied paces over the 5.5 mile distance.

There’s a horrible short, sharp bank to climb with quarter of a mile to go.  Luckily there’s usually a marshal on hand to help haul you up, and I took advantage of the hoist out of the hole this year!

Quick smile and a wave to our two photographers on course…

Letchworth Three Counties Cross Country - Standalone Farm Letchworth Three Counties Cross Country - Standalone FarmI managed a little kick at the finish and still felt comfortable at the end, so my mission to race smart was successful.

Christmas cookie

Position: 332/400
Gender position: 107/161
Age category position: 13/16

First Christmassy run done, onto the next with parkrun the following weekend.

I headed to Kettering parkrun for my final parkrun before Christmas.  Although initially unsure how busy it would be (Kettering were holding a pacing event on the 22nd) it didn’t actually feel too busy when we were running around.  The initial plan had been for me to run with Oscar in the buggy and for Dan to use a pacer to attempt a new PB, but after loudly banging piles of shoes around downstairs for twenty minutes Dan came to the realisation that he had left his running trainers at work the previous day so would not be able to join in with a parkrun that morning.  Following our frantic search for his shoes, it left me with just enough time to jump into the car and make it to the start line in time for the start of the briefing.

So instead Oscar stayed at home with Dan and I jogged around the course with Laura, who I hadn’t run with in a little while so we had a catch up and an easy run round.

Laura and I at the Kettering Christmas parkrunI have this massive fear that one day on the Kettering course I’m going to slip and fall over on the boardwalk and then slide out under the barriers and into the water below!  Hopefully this won’t ever become a reality!

Official time: 31:46
Position: 269/432
Gender position: 75/187
Category position: 5/16

The club Christmas Eve run was different this year.  A couple of friends I normally run with couldn’t make it this year and I had worked a night shift on the Sunday (the night before), so rushed home at the end of my shift to sneak a quick hour of sleep in before heading over for the run.  I then ended up arriving late and missing the start anyway.

I had a lovely run with a friend and her husband who I managed to catch sight of as Dan dropped me off at the park, but I missed the annual pre-run photo and missed seeing a lot of people before they left for Christmas which was a shame.

Dan met us at the end of the run and Oscar was in a foul mood after a poor night of sleep.  It had taken Dan the length of my entire run to get Oscar to walk not quite as far as the cafe entrance and then we had a battle to get him into his car seat for home again afterwards.  It took approximately half an hour to convince him to stay in his car seat long enough to be buckled in for the journey home!  Not a battle we had planned on facing on Christmas Eve morning!

So frustratingly, the parkrun Dan and I had planned to attend on Christmas Day (Sheringham) had been cancelled a few days earlier.  National Trust had decided that due to the heavy rainfall in the area that week, they wanted to give the ground a little time to recover between runs.  The Sheringham event is fairly close to where my Dad lives…ten minutes away.  (Why oh why was parkrun not a thing when I lived at home?!)  The next nearest event that was being held on Christmas Day was in Norwich, nearly an hour’s drive from my Dad’s house and in the complete opposite direction to where my Aunt lives (Kings Lynn) who we had promised to pick up mid-morning and bring back to my Dad’s for lunch.  So a Christmas Day parkrun was sadly off the cards this year.

Did you take part in any Christmassy runs this year?
Does your parkrun ever get cancelled due to the weather?
Any tips for reasoning with a stroppy two year old to convince them to get into their car seat?!  Haha!

Hanson’s Marathon Method plans

I have a charity place in the London Marathon next year. (I’m running for Cancer Research UK)

The fundraising target I have set for myself is to raise £3000+ by the time I run London on the 28th April.  The charity asked for a minimum pledge of £2000 but I hope to raise more.  I will post details on the blog as I have them in the New Year, but the two main events I will be holding are:

1) An evening presentation led by a race director.
2) A pub quiz based entirely around running questions.

I’m really looking forward to finalising arrangements and for these fundraisers to unfold.

I read a BBC news article online the other evening entitled Fraudulent charity runners condemned.  I was horrified to read that ‘following a BBC investigation, 1278 people who accepted places paid for by charities in 2017 were recorded as raising nothing.’  It goes on to mention that in regards to the 2017 Great North Run ‘The highest proportion [of people raising no money] was reported by Cancer Research UK which also had the largest number of runners.  Of the 758 people who took its charity places, 318 (42%) raised nothing.’

That’s awful, really.  I know that I have been asked to raise a minimum of £2000 in order to run London next year.  If each of those 758 runners raised even half that amount, £758,000 would make such a huge difference for the charity.  The article goes on to say that although some runners just simply do not show for race day, often a large number of runners still go on to complete the event.

Not only do I want to raise at least £3000 as part of my fundraising, but I want to train for a time that I will personally feel proud of achieving.

I want to aim for at least a sub 4:30 marathon.

This would mean taking more than 20 minutes off from my current marathon PB (4:54 – achieved at Chelmsford marathon in 2015, pre-Oscar).

Chelmsford marathon 2015I have never completed a full training cycle successfully.  I always get sidetracked by interesting ultras, or trail marathons or long runs with friends along the way.  This time though, I am determined to remain on task and focused, with no other races booked in until at least May 2019!  (Although I have two cross country races within the next couple of weeks, but both under 6miles in distance).  I even successfully resisted entering the Country to Capital 45m and the brand new Rose of the Shires 50m ultra in April – agreeing instead, to marshal at both events.

I’ve read a lot about the Hanson’s Marathon Method over the past few years and noticed the difference to my times and endurance as I began to adopt some of the key principles of the plan into my training week.

Hansons Marathon Method bookI had particular success following the tempo sessions.  They allowed me to have belief in my ability to run continuously at a tempo pace over longer distances.

The speedwork sessions were also so useful, as I am unable to attend speedwork sessions on a running club night (Dan doesn’t return home from work in time for me to get there) and I never really know how to structure the sessions myself.

Running 5-6 days a week does really work for me and I definitely notice the gains to be had from more frequent running.  Having organised set workouts on a plan encourages me to get out and run on those days.

My main concern with the plan that my rest day has to fall on a Monday.  (I work through the night on a Sunday until 6am Monday morning.  I then only get a maximum of an hour of sleep before Dan leaves for work and I have Oscar on my own until Dan returns at 9pm.  By that point I’m absolutely exhausted having had just one hour of sleep from the previous night and it would be an impossible ask to head out for a run on Dan’s return.)  This then means that I can’t really be very flexible if something crops up later in the week where I would normally be able to swap my rest day around.

I’ve written out the plan in full as written in the book, but there will be tweaks on the days I run.  Mainly Monday and Wednesday runs will be swapped (as mentioned above) and Friday and Sunday runs (as Sunday has become our family day at home and I work Sunday evenings).

Hanson's Marathon Method plan

So, first run on the plan starts tomorrow (although the first week is filled with easy runs)…wish me luck!

Which training plans do you use for your marathons?
How many times per week do you prefer to run?