Miscarriage

I wrote the below back in August last year when things were still fresh in my mind.  At the time I looked for similar accounts of miscarriage but the majority of posts I found were of missed miscarriages and very different to my own experience.  Miscarriage isn’t always openly talked about and I haven’t been ready to share my experience until now.  Next week would have been the due date for our first miscarriage.
(This post isn’t running related, and does talk about miscarriage so if this isn’t something you want to read, or if you are very squeamish, or if you feel uncomfortable reading about it and knowing me in real life, then click off now.  This post is also very long, as I wanted to just write everything down in one go.)
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We lost one unconfirmed pregnancy in May. It was only a few weeks into the pregnancy but things hadn’t felt right from early on. I gained that familiar metallic taste in my mouth, just like I had when pregnant with Oscar. But my tummy was also incredibly tender and I experienced bad cramps from as early as week 3.I knew early on that something wasn’t right and when I came downstairs to use the toilet one morning to discover bright red blood in my underwear my immediate reaction was to shield Oscar as a two year old from the view. Dan quickly made it down the stairs and removed him from the bathroom.

Unsure of what to do I booked a doctor’s appointment and was seen later that morning. After being made to repeat the running order of that morning several times I was then asked to go through to the attached pharmacy and buy a pregnancy test then go back through to see the doctor. When I explained that I hadn’t brought along any money with me, not realising I’d need money during my appointment I was told to go home from the doctors to collect my purse, then walk to the shops to buy a test and then call back with the result and the doctor would let me know what to do next.

Embarrassed and a little angry to be honest. I made my way to ASDA. On taking the test I rang the doctor back, but he never returned my call. The whole experience made me feel silly and like I’d wasted everybody’s time; my time, the doctors time, Dan’s time as he’d taken the morning off work to watch Oscar so that I could attend the appointment alone without a toddler in tow.

I quietly waited out the next six days of heavy bleeding and took a week away from running, although running was all I really wanted to do. The loss fell right in the middle of my busiest period of exam moderation so I didn’t have too much time to dwell on what had happened.

Dan and I discussed things and, knowing that we still wanted to give Oscar a younger sibling we tried again, falling pregnant for a third time the following month.

I definitely felt more pregnant this time round. My boobs quickly grew and I felt nauseous from early on. Although nervous about assuming anything I started to feel a little more relaxed by week 6 and by the 8th week Dan and I were discussing where Oscar would go if the birth was not a planned Caesarean this time round and we looked at options for taking maternity leave from my many jobs.

I had my booking in appointment with the midwife just before eight weeks. Although she said she wouldn’t normally have seen me until the following week she made an exception as she didn’t have any further appointments until a number of weeks later. I felt relieved following my booking in appointment. At least I was in the system now. I wouldn’t have to deal with the rest of my pregnancy journey alone and in the dark about any problems.

There were a few local runners having just announced pregnancies at the time. I was eager to share my news as they were only a few weeks further than I was, but at the same time I wanted to wait until the security of having seen the baby on the scan.

With Oscar I had innocently never thought about the chance of anything going wrong.  But, even then at my first scan date I found myself holding my breath until he appeared, super wiggly on the ultrasound.

It didn’t take long for this scan date to arrive in the post. 22nd August, my Dad’s birthday. The baby was due on my Mum’s birthday at the end of Winter the following year. Having lost my Mum the previous Winter I felt that these were signs that things were meant to be.

But evidently that wasn’t the case.

The following Sunday I had a bad pain in my side. Almost like a constant stitch in my left side. I hadn’t been particularly active that day. I’d spent the morning marshaling at my club’s annual race and then I’d worked from home at the computer in the afternoon. By evening all I could do was lie on the bed. On a Sunday evening I usually try and sleep for a few hours before working a night shift but I was too worried about the baby to be able to sleep much at all. By the time I came to leave for work I was feeling a bit better and managed to blag an easy aisle at the supermarket I was stacking shelves in. The pain disappeared completely as the shift went on.

The following day I went on a long walk with Oscar, a friend and her toddler, all at toddler pace. I felt a couple of twinges but never for longer then a split second so assumed things were OK and perhaps Dan was right, I had just done too much at the weekend.

On Tuesday morning I woke to find what appeared to be a small 5p size drop of blood in my underwear and when wiping, the tissue came back with a small amount of more browny-coloured blood. I had been wearing black underwear so it was difficult to assess the colour of the blood I’d lost overnight. Unsure of who to call, I rang the number for the delivery suite at Kettering hospital which I found on the front of my pregnancy pack. It wasn’t the number I was supposed to call but the lady I spoke to was very helpful. It was now 7am. She advised waiting until 8am and then booking an emergency appointment at the doctors, heading to A&E if I began to bleed heavily or feel ill in the meantime.

I rang at 8am and managed to get an appointment an hour later. Dan agreed to drop Oscar and I off at the doctors on his way to work so that I didn’t have to worry about wrestling a toddler along the correct path if I began to feel more poorly. It meant I arrived about 40 minutes early for my appointment (and we had to wait a further half hour as the doctor was running late) but at least we were there on time. Oscar was a real star considering how long we had to wait. At one point he loudly announced to the whole waiting room that he needed to go for a poo which one man in particular found quite entertaining!

The doctor asked me some questions but didn’t seem overly concerned with the amount of blood I had lost. He said that although there was a very small chance that I might miscarry, he was pretty confident on this occasion that I was just experiencing a Threatened Miscarriage and would go on to have a successful pregnancy. The worry must not have faded from my face though as he said he would book me in for a reassurance ultrasound scan if I liked. I quickly agreed, and after another short wait in the waiting room the receptionist handed me an envelope containing details of a scan at the Early Pregnancy Unit on Thursday.

The walk back home was a weird one. I bumped into a number of people I knew, putting on a big smile for them all. I was relieved to have the scan to look forward to on Thursday morning. Perhaps I’d finally be able to relax once I’d seen the baby up on the screen.

I had a fairly quiet afternoon with Oscar – painting and reading. At about 3pm when I went to the toilet I passed a small mass along with a couple of drops of blood. At the time I assumed that it was a small clot that had been inside me and as it had passed with very minimal blood I assumed that perhaps maybe now that it had passed my pregnancy would go on as normal. I felt almost relieved, certain that must be what was happening. Later on I now wonder if perhaps this was my mucus plug?

There had been no more blood and this filled me with hope. I just had to get through to Thursday morning and I would be able to see the baby on the screen. Even though I knew that if I was going to miscarry I would still miscarry but at least I would be able to see my baby first.

The hope was short lived. My tummy began to ache after tea and when I popped to the toilet before bed a little before 10pm I was met with blood.

A first day of period amount of blood but still enough blood that I knew I was losing the baby.

All I could do was try and go to sleep. Dan tried to put his arm around me but it was too painful across my tummy. I didn’t get a lot of sleep that night. In the early hours of the morning I group messaged my Mum friends to tell them I was miscarrying. I told them I still needed to come to group that morning as I would struggle to keep Oscar amused all day long alone in the pain I was in. I asked them to not talk to me about the miscarriage when they saw me as I really didn’t want Oscar to see me upset and I wasn’t ready to talk about it.

I have been so lucky with the Mum friends I have made in my hometown. We all parent in a similar way and despite sending the message at 5am that morning, it took just a few minutes before one of the other Mums offered to take Oscar for the morning so that I could rest. I appreciated that offer so, so much. I was in so much pain and knew I would struggle to stay upbeat for Oscar or to stop him from walking in on me in the bathroom if the bleeding got worse.

Jodie arrived at 9:30 and between us we managed to get Oscar’s car seat in to her car. Luckily Oscar was super excited to be visiting his best friend and was so helpful in getting his shoes on ready for the journey. Jodie took one look at me and took charge, which was exactly what I needed at that point. I couldn’t really talk without breaking. I didn’t want to leave Oscar for the day but knew it would be best for us both and give me a chance to rest.

I sat uncomfortably perched on the sofa unsure of what to do with my childfree time initially. I finished off a couple of small freelance work projects but couldn’t really concentrate to complete anything detailed. Eventually I poured myself a bit of cereal and set up The Hunger Games on the TV. Something easy going, that I knew well, but that would hold my attention enough to take my mind off of the worst that was happening.

Whenever I went to the toilet I was passing large clots. It was uncomfortable and I felt constantly disgusting and dirty.  I took a bath which seemed to ease the pain and for a brief few minutes I managed to feel clean again. It didn’t last though.

Dan’s Dad was due to visit that afternoon. He hadn’t seen Oscar for a few months and was working in the area so was planning to drop by on his way home to see Oscar. By lunchtime I had begun to get restless. I couldn’t keep still. I was getting bad cramping pains every few minutes and it felt better moving through them than it did lying on the sofa watching a film. I rang Dan and let him know that although I had assured him that morning that I would be able to fake feeling OK for when his Dad visited later in the day, I no longer felt like I would be able to do this. Dan advised I call the doctor, who told me to head straight to A&E. Luckily Dan had already spoken to his boss about the pregnancy in order to get the morning off for the dating scan and was able to leave work to pick me up. Once again, I was so thankful to Jodie for keeping hold of Oscar as we wouldn’t have been allowed to have him in certain areas of the hospital.

A&E was the busiest I have seen it when we arrived mid-afternoon. By now the severe cramping pains were regular and more frequent. I realised that they were contractions and would find myself holding my breath to get through them.  I still needed to pace around but my body was tiring by this point.

Despite now almost being certain that we had lost the baby there was some comfort in knowing that I was at least in hospital and would be seen by a professional in the very near future.

We had a very long wait though. Other than checking in and having a blood test taken I wasn’t seen until nearly four hours later. The initial concern by the doctors was that I was losing too much blood and it amuses me that the first thing they did when I arrived in A&E was to take more blood from me! Same thing happened after having my Caesarean with Oscar – I had been just below the level required for a blood transfusion and as soon as I came round from my operation they stuck a needle in my arm to collect more blood! (There was blood everywhere at this point!)

When I was seen it was by a lovely doctor though. She was similar in age to me and very easy to talk to. She took my background and then said that she would need to examine me and find out if my cervix was open which would involve an internal examination. I agreed and she left me a large sheet of medical paper to lay over my bottom half on the examination table, instructing me to remove my leggings and pants and to roll my dress up while she stepped out of the room. By the time she had stepped back in I had already bled through the paper I was laying on. The examination was rough and terrifying as I couldn’t really tell what was going on as it happened, unlike with an ultrasound where you can see the screen next to your head. A nurse had accompanied the doctor with the examination and as she left the doctor sat down with us and told me that my cervix was still closed, that this didn’t mean necessarily that I was having a miscarriage, although this was likely due to the amount of blood I had lost. She left the room so that I could get redressed and as I stood blood poured all over the floor and I realised that the table was covered in blood also. I didn’t like the not knowing. I’d come in believing that I was miscarrying but I now had doubt in my mind. Although surely there couldn’t still be a baby inside me with the amount of blood I had lost? The doctor returned and said that I would need to book in for an ultrasound the following morning. I told her that I had already been given an appointment via my doctor the day before. I was then offered the opportunity to stay overnight but I really wanted to return home and see Oscar.

That night I wasn’t very comfortable. It was impossible to get comfortable. I felt like I needed to shower constantly, and as Oscar hadn’t seen me all day, he wanted me to sleep with him that evening. Lying on the floor in his bedroom pretending not to be in pain until he fell asleep was almost an impossible task, but I got through it. My contractions had pretty much finished by this point, but I was still bleeding really heavily, so much so that when I slept through a couple of hours straight at one point because I was just so exhausted I ended up bleeding through onto the bedding.

When I woke I unsteadily managed to make it down the stairs for breakfast carrying Oscar on my hip. I felt dizzy from the blood loss and lack of sleep. I didn’t feel like eating but knew I’d have to get something inside me to make it through the day. I cautiously drove myself to Kettering hospital for my pre-booked ultrasound scan. The last time I’d been up on this ward had been for my pre-op the day before my Caesarean when I had Oscar. Things felt very different this time. I worried about sitting alone in a waiting room full of pregnant ladies, but luckily as soon as I arrived I was segregated into my own waiting area. I’d brought along a book for the waiting area to try and take my mind off the constant pain and worry. The Hunger Games, having watched the film during the worst of my contractions the day before. This trilogy will forever remind me of miscarriage now.

I didn’t have to wait too long before being called in and once again had to remove my lower clothing before laying on the table. I warned the lady that I had been bleeding so heavily the day before that blood had been pouring off the table around me. Again, she was very lovely and pointed out that it was a hospital, hospitals saw a lot of blood – I wasn’t to worry about a bit of blood.

She turned the screen on from the beginning of the scan and I knew fairly early on that there was no longer a baby. Even for someone not trained in what they’re looking for, I would have been able to spot a baby showing on the scan at 10 weeks. I almost felt relieved. I know that probably sounds silly, but to have bled that heavily and have been told that I may still be carrying a baby the night before? I’m sure that wouldn’t have worked out well for me or the baby.

I was given a full internal examination and told that from the amount of lining showing on the scan I could expect to still bleed heavily for at least a week and for a further couple of weeks in total. I was handed the standard Miscarriage leaflet and told to return to hospital the following morning to have bloods taken. The hospital needed to check the level of pregnancy hormones in my blood, with a follow up blood test at a later date to ensure that my body had fully rejected the pregnancy and that there were no further complications.

Somehow I got through the rest of Thursday. My friend Emily had looked after Oscar for me whilst I had driven to hospital. She had taken him out for lunch with her two children and then to the park where I met her and my other Mum friends on my way back from hospital. I am lucky that Oscar is so well behaved and the communication between us is so good. He was very patient with me as I struggled to lift him into his car seat and buckle his seat belt up. Then he chatted to me the whole way home. It was just what I needed. Dan had worked from home for the morning so that I had been able to drive into hospital, so I needed to get back quickly to return our shared car so that he could get into the office.

The bloods I needed to have taken the following morning could luckily be taken at the Blood Clinic in Irthlingborough, just a few miles up the road from me. The Blood Clinic is just a drop in centre so I would be seen whatever time of day I arrived. Making my way there though was challenging.  This was during the time that Dan and I had gone down to just one car between us so I would have to travel there by bus…with a potty training two year old in tow…whilst still bleeding heavily.  What is a four mile drive in a car took Oscar and I more than three hours to travel.  There wasn’t a direct bus, so we also had a long walk at the end of our journey and by this point he was tired, so I ended up carrying him.  I was exhausted and feeling so poorly by the time my bloods were taken.  I really did not look forward to navigating the journey back home again.

The following day (by now Saturday) I was booked onto my one day Leader in Running Fitness course.  I had been booked on to it for a while and been really looking forward to being able to take groups out from running club in the near future.  I didn’t intend on missing it.
As I arrived though, and had to take myself straight to the toilet I realised I would struggle, particularly throughout the practical sessions.  The first piece of paperwork we had to fill out asked the question ‘Do you have any injury or illness that the tutors need to be aware of, that limit your participation in the practical activities?’  So I used the form to inform them of my miscarriage.
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The leaders were very good and as lots of the course required us to act as group runners for other leaders to practice their coaching I was given lots of other suggestions for ways to join in that didn’t require too much standing up at one time.  At one point another trainee coach asked me why I wasn’t joining in with the practical elements.  I found myself saying I’d just had a miscarriage.  I guess I thought there was no point in trying to fake an injury and then dodging suggestions for modifications to the moves.
Life went on and didn’t low down.  That night I worked a night shift – I had to tell my manager that I’d had a miscarriage so that I wasn’t expected to pull cages off the lorry, but struggled to tell him that it had been a miscarriage without choking up, which I hadn’t expected as I’d been able to tell complete strangers what had happened whilst on the course earlier that day.
Two days after the miscarriage in May I had experienced the worst migraines (annoyingly it had coincided with a family wedding which I was in pain for and felt bloated throughout).  I had the same again after the second miscarriage.  Once again we had a wedding to attend the following weekend, although having been 10 weeks pregnant by this point I no longer fit comfortably into any dresses I usually reserve for wedding wear.  I had intended on wearing a maternity dress, but this now felt wrong and I didn’t want anyone to notice and ask questions.  I ended up borrowing a size 16 dress from a friend (I’m usually a size 12) and consuming more alcohol than I perhaps usually would.  A few people sat on our table made comments about Oscar being at the right age to start thinking about a younger sibling, but we managed to laugh the comments off awkwardly each time.
When something is wrong in my life I like to be able to head out for a run and just mooch things over in my head, but my core felt so sore after the miscarriage I ended up taking three complete weeks off from running.  Things were so busy with work and day-to-day life that before I knew it we were hurtling towards our parkrun start date and Christmas and every spare moment I had was spent desperately trying to juggle things round to fit in more sleep.
It took a good two-three months before I felt back to my pre-pregnancy self again and didn’t feel like I had to hide my swollen stomach for fear that somebody would comment.
This year?  After so many rubbish months in 2019 I needed a focus for 2020 and so I have booked in to run Autumn 100 in October.  It’s nice having a goal to work towards again.  I’m really enjoying having a focus.  I’ve also begun working part time in an office at a race company and parkrun is definitely filling my time too.  Something I’m aware I haven’t written about but really need to mention more on here as getting a parkrun up and running in the area has been on my to-do-list for the longest time.

A bit of a life catchup

Obviously, it’s been too long since I last wrote so here’s a bit of a rambling post to try and fill in a tiny piece of the gap that’s missing between May and right now,- the end of August.

Life is busy!  Oh, so busy.  I used to think that juggling work, freelance work, a baby, looking after the house and traveling back to Norfolk numerous times each week to help care for a sick Mum was tough, but that was nothing compared to juggling it all with a toddler.  Toddlers are a whole other ball game!

Oscar and I in the car

Oscar is shaping up to be a lovely, thoughtful, funny, cheeky, incredibly smart and lovable character, but to be the parent I want to be and to help mould him into the type of person I would like my child to become can be very draining at times!  I have made a fantastic group of Mum friends who parent in a very similar fashion to the way Dan and I are raising Oscar.  He also still attends nursery one day a week during term time, and so has a lot of social opportunities throughout the week, but on days we don’t meet with friends and he doesn’t attend nursery he still requires me to be a major part of his activities from 7am until bedtime at 7pm.  I don’t want to sit writing blog posts, or on my phone replying to messages or making work calls when I’m with Oscar and so the bulk of my paid work gets completed either super early in the morning or after the point when he goes to bed (by which point I’m knackered and it takes forever to complete!)  Days can be pretty full on!  It works for us though and Oscar amazes me every day.  As much as the days can be hard at times they are absolutely worth it and I know that in two years time when he comes to start school I will miss my little sidekick so much.  So I’m making the most of now while I still have him home with me.

I took some time off from running over the Summer.  I’ve had a few problems in recent months which resulted in me spending some time in hospital.  It’s something to share for another day but it meant that I had to take 3 complete weeks off from running at the start of August.  I always find that time away from running leaves me so excited to get back out there achieving new goals on my return and this occasion was no different.  I had planned to set myself an ultra challenge this Summer (involving 198 miles and the Norfolk border), but obviously it wasn’t meant to be.  At the moment I don’t have plans to run any ultras for the remainder of 2019 (this may change of course!) but instead, I’ve pencilled in a full-on training plan based on the Hanson’s Half Marathon training method for the Bedford Harriers Half Marathon on the 1st December.  I am really excited for this.  I have a bit of a soft spot for Bedford Half.  It was my first half marathon back in 2011 which I was ecstatic to run in 2:13.  A couple of half marathons later and my PB dropped to 2:09:16.  I tried for a 2:05 in March 2018 but I’d trained too much on the treadmill that Winter and not enough on an actual road and so I wound up injured after just 5 miles.  I’d been back to run Bedford half in December 2017, but the timing was awful; my Mum had died a week earlier, and Oscar and I had been stuck inside all week when he caught Hand, Foot and Mouth.  I ran a 2:12.  I vowed then that I would return to Bedford and do the race justice, and this is the year for me to give it another shot.

I’m aiming big this time though.  I’m going to aim to run a sub 2.

Bedford is 14 weeks away.  I have never trained for a half marathon.  I’ve always just kind of increased my miles week on week and run halves as part of training for a full marathon.  I’m kinda curious what will happen if I train for a half marathon properly.

Hanson's Half Marathon training plan

Obviously I’m going to be following the Hanson’s Method again, although the half version this time.  Hansons gave me a 15 minute PB at London for the marathon this year.  Training in this style obviously suits me and my lifestyle.  I’d be silly to look for another plan.  Six runs a week, and I’m planning on making the most of the early morning running whilst it’s still light out.  Summer won’t last much longer!

Me - early morning sunrise run

Do you follow a training plan for a half marathon distance?
Does taking an enforced break from running leave you desperate to get back training again?
Have you run Bedford Half Marathon before?
Do you change the time of day you run dependent on the season?

What it’s like to run the London Marathon for a charity

I always said that I would never run the London Marathon for charity. That putting so much time and effort into marathon training is tough enough without also having to raise thousands of pounds.

Once, when I was about 7-8 I decided that I was going to raise money for Children in Need by getting up early and biking into school. My primary school was only about 4 miles away by car, but along a very busy A-road that my Mum wouldn’t let me bike along.  Instead she allowed me to bike along the backroads to reach my destination, adding a further few miles to the journey.  In the weeks leading up to the day I made sure to head out on lots of bike rides and thought hard about what to wear to keep warm during the cold morning and (the all important) snack choice for my journey.
The day arrived, and I jumped up to the sound of alarm, throwing on my school bag and eagerly jumping on my bike out of the shed.  My Mum followed behind me the whole way in the car and then took my bike back home again once we arrived at school, letting me know how proud she was of me.  I felt super invigorated and alive to have gotten out of bed so early in the morning and to have made my own way to school that day.  I made my way to my assembly with a big smile on my face.  It was only as I returned to my classroom after assembly when the school receptionist pulled me aside and told me that my Mum had slipped a tenner into the charity pot on the front desk for me biking into school that morning that I realised I had been so busy concentrating on the logistics of biking into school that I realised I had never stopped to think just how I would raise money from doing so!

Luckily, my fundraising skills seem to have improved somewhat since those days!

I really wanted to spend some time this year raising funds for Cancer Research UK.  I know most blog readers already know my back story, but for those who don’t, my Mum was diagnosed with Terminal Cancer a few years ago.  She was tough.  She fought hard and made sure she was around for my wedding day the following year.  She battled through several batches of chemo, and even helped me fundraise for MacMillan by selling cakes in Holt town centre.

MacMillan Cake stall - Me and MumThen, in 2014 and 2016 we ran the Cancer Research UK Race for Life 5k event at Holkham Hall together to raise more funds.

Houghton Hall Race4LifeMy Mum lost her Cancer battle at the end of 2017, and then in the following year we lost a further four members of our family to cancer.  Cancer has not been kind to us the past few years at all.

Risk of Cancer

I decided to apply for a Cancer Research place for London 2019 and when I was offered my place I threw myself into training and fundraising.  Juggling everything (alongside five part time jobs and a toddler) has been incredibly challenging over the past few months, but I wouldn’t change a thing.  If I was going to be running the marathon in memory of my Mum, I was going to do the absolute best job I could on the day and I wanted to raise as much money as possible in the process.

I am obviously no stranger to running long distances.  London Marathon was my 17th marathon, and I’ve run much further in the past.  This meant that I didn’t feel comfortable asking people to sponsor me to run 26.2 miles.  I knew I had to either a) host some events to give people something in return for their money, b) put in some long hours myself in return for the money or c) both of the above.

I had been asked to raise a minimum of £2000 for Cancer Research UK, although I really wanted to raise £3000+.

I got in touch with Ronnie Staton to see if he would be interested in speaking to help me raise funds for the charity.  Luckily for me and the runners who came along, he was!

What an inspiration and all-round legend!
Ronnie provided a dynamic and inspiring talk to a room full of runners eager to hear all about his previous adventures.  When you hear Ronnie, it is obvious not only how incredibly passionate about running he really is, but also just how much he wants others to reach their full potential and to find events and challenges that excite them!
We repeatedly laughed out loud as Ronnie shared his tales in an entertaining manner.
Despite all his accomplishments, Ronnie was very genuine and down-to-earth, happy to answer all questions thrown at him by the audience, as well as on a one-to-one basis.  A large number of guests came to thank me for organising the evening at the end, – all inspired, and many of them already beginning to reconsider their Acceptable Reasons of Failure for future challenges!
Ronnie‘s commitment to help me raise money was fantastic despite suffering a stroke between the point of organising the talk and the evening the talk took place. In Ronnie‘s words “As long as I’m still breathing I will 100% still be there!”
Ronnie Staton event

I charged £10 per ticket, using Ticket Source for ticket purchases and there was a great turn out on the night.  I was also so touched and thankful for all those who donated raffle prizes for the evening, especially those who couldn’t make the event themselves.

Ronnie Staton event raffle prizes

 

One of the items we raffled off was this amazing Cancer Research cake by Emma’s Sweet Treats.

Cancer Research UK cakeWish I’d taken a better photograph of it.  I’m not even sure who won it on the night.  It looked amazing though!

In total we raised £842.73 from the ticket sales and raffle and it was by far the best money maker of my fundraising attempts.

As well as the evening with Ronnie Staton I also sat in three different supermarket entrances in the months leading up to the London Marathon with my charity fundraising bucket.

These were long days (usually starting by 7am) and staying sat in the same spot until late.  I found them hard.  I was fundraising on my own, although at two of the stores I had friends pop in to stay with me for a couple of hours during my stint which was really appreciated.  The first store I visited in my hometown placed me in the foyer opposite the Mother’s Day flowers and Mother’s Day card stand.  Mother’s Day was only two days away so that was hard going and a little emotional.  Having groups of people writing in cards about how great their Mum was on the table next to me was tough.  I was very thankful when a friend arrived to help out and provide conversation to fill the quiet times in my mind.  This was the store where I raised the most money though, at nearly £300.

Fundraising for Cancer Research UK at the Co-op

I found the second store the easiest.  I had decided to travel back to North Norfolk and visit the supermarket in Holt I had worked in during my college days.  Mum had also worked there during the years my brother and I still lived at home.  Despite there being many new faces in store, there were still plenty of faces I recognised (both staff and customers!) even though I had moved out of my parents’ home back in 2004.  My table was placed by the checkouts and customers and staff kept coming over for a chat and a catch-up which was nice.  I was so saddened to hear that a 24 year old employee of the store had died from cancer a few months earlier though.

Fundraising for Cancer Research UK at Budgens

My final store was fairly local to where I currently live.  This was the hardest.  It was the Friday before the marathon and so friends weren’t around to pop in and keep me company.  I arrived and was told I would have to wait an hour and a half until receiving a table or chair, as the staff on the shop floor didn’t have a set of keys to access the offices upstairs.  I ended up laying out my items on a stack of compost bags.  The first lady that came to visit me to donate change in her purse made me cry.  I’d had an early start that morning and the lack of sleep had made me feel particularly emotional that day.  If somebody says nice words to me it can often turn me into a blubbering wreck and this was no different.  I was set off again a few hours later when I guy about my age pushed a twenty pound note into my bucket and said that his younger brother had died from cancer as a toddler many years earlier.

So many people stopped to talk and share their stories of misfortune with me.  One guy had lost his Mum a few days earlier after she had only known about her cancer for just a few days.  He stopped to talk to me several times for the best part of an hour across the day.

Fundraising for Cancer Research UK at ASDA

In total, I raised £694.06 from my three bucket shakes in stores.

I also got Dan to place a large multi-box of Cadbury’s Creme Eggs in his staff canteen in the build up to Easter.  I bought the eggs with my own money.  Along with my staff discount, they worked out at less than 30p each, but most people donated £1 in return for an egg.  This brought in another nearly £50.

I also hosted a couple of smaller raffles, separate to the large raffle I held at the Ronnie Staton event although the amount I made from these was minimal.

Several people donated to my fundraising page online.  I was again so, so touched by the number of blog readers who donated or sent words of encouragement and raffle prizes for me to use.  I really do love this online community so much!

The total amount of money I’ve raised so far for Cancer Research since beginning my fundraising is £2,340.88.  It’s been a hard slog to get this far, and the pressure of fundraising has stressed me out on more than one occasion but I still want to raise more before the year is out, although there is much less pressure now that I have made the amount asked of me in return for my London Marathon place.  I found the pressure of fundraising incredibly difficult.  Hence the reason my blogging has been limited so far in 2019.  Most of my Fridays (my one childfree day each week) were taken up arranging meetings, printing posters, trying to drum up raffle prizes, advertising my events…  Fundraising really is a full time job if you want to make a decent go of it!  A friend said that if your training plan says ‘REST’, then you should change that and write in ‘FUNDRAISE’ instead and I fully agree!

Last November I was assigned a contact from the charity who would be keeping in touch with me up until the marathon.  Unfortunately he went off on long term sick and eventually left the charity.  I only had one check up call after November, although there was always somebody to answer any questions I had at the end of the phone which was nice to know.  I rang up a number of times; to see how to pay in a cheque, to ask about swapping my vest for the race…

Running the London Marathon as a charity runner was a complete different experience to running on a ballot place.  Reading the stories printed on the back of other runner’s t-shirts on the day whilst waiting in the pens was very emotional.  Listening to all of the charity cheer stations erupt as a runner came through wearing one of their charity vests was an insane atmosphere to be in.  You couldn’t help but smile as the charity supporters became so loud you could no longer hear the hundreds of footsteps pounding the streets of London.  I definitely held my arms up and cheered back at all of the Cancer Research supporters on the cheer stations I spotted out on the course.

After the race I headed over to the post-race Cancer Research reception at The British Academy which was just over the road from the finish line.  (Although up rather a lot of steps!)CRUK balloons outside the post race reception

My pass was for myself and two guests, but I didn’t have anyone with me on race day, so I just attended alone.

On each runner’s entry (through the doors in the picture below) everybody in the grand corridor burst into applause, which was lovely!

Cancer Research post race receptionIn the room to the left of the picture there was a booking form for a post-race massage and also the opportunity to get your medal engraved.  I signed up to both, leaving my newly claimed medal in the hands of a stranger and checking and double checking the time I wrote down for them to engrave.  Had I really run a 4:39?!

Engraved London Marathon medalI headed upstairs and had my photograph taken by a volunteer in front of the Cancer Research board…

Raising money for Cancer Research UK at the London Marathon…and then filtered into the room with the food.  There was a great spread in place.  I’d jotted down notes before the race of which restaurants were offering free meals to runners, but I knew I would no longer need to head out for dinner with the spread offered here!  Besides, it was nearly 4pm by now, and I would need to head home at some point!

I only thought to take a picture of my dessert plate…check out the mini Colin the Caterpillar!

Desserts after the London MarathonAfter about an hour or so (I’d used the time to call Dad, Dan and a running friend from club) the buzzer I’d been given began to flash to signal that I needed to head down for my massage and I was led into a large room where 7-8 volunteers were working on the legs of other runners.  I hopped up onto the waiting bed and lay out with my face in the hole.  I’d never had a post-race massage before, and was really looking forward to this experience!

Dee Stringer was my masseuse and my legs have honestly never felt so good after a race!  She worked on the backs of my legs, then the fronts and even got me to take off my socks and trainers for a foot massage (I did check with her to make sure I’d heard her right.  Even I won’t touch my feet after a marathon!)  I had no problems with stairs the following day which I fully put down to proper race pacing and the great massage I received.

The trip home was nice and relaxed.  I spent some time talking to one of the retired volunteers who had been helping out on the course and had gotten onto the tube the same time as me.  I love talking to random people about running!

This year, the 39th London Marathon surpassed the £1billion mark raised for charity. £1billion raised for charityThat’s a phenomenal amount of money raised for a huge number of fantastic causes and I’m very proud to say that I was a part of that this year, helping to raise money for Cancer Research UK.

Cancer Research Mary Pearson

I can always remember as a child the race being on in the living room at home on a Sunday morning in April with my Dad glued to the coverage between cooking bits for our Sunday roast. Never back then did I think I would be running the iconic marathon once, never mind twice!

For anybody trying to increase their chances of running the marathon next year, make sure you fully understand the commitment it takes to fundraise alongside marathon training.  If possible, try and raise as much of the total before marathon training begins after Christmas.  If you leave the bulk of your fundraising until the Spring months not only will you be trying to juggle high mileage alongside event planning, but you will also be competing for funds alongside everybody else running Spring marathons.

The minimum amount that a charity asks you to commit to is there for a reason.  Charities pay for their places.  Charities usually pay around £350 per place, which is much more than the £31 I paid for my ballot entry in 2014.  (The cost to me to run as a charity runner this year was £100.)  The charity is then counting on you raising the funds you have pledged to raise.  Most charities ask for a minimum of £1500 for a place, so have a really hard think about ways you could come up with that cash before agreeing to run for the charity.  Choosing a charity that means something to you or to those you know should be much easier to some extent – you and the people around you will have a determination to achieve your fundraising goal.  Don’t rely on donations from friends and family alone, and don’t expect everyone you know to donate either.  Unless you are a fundraising superstar I would avoid applying for a charity place just to get a chance to run London Marathon.

Have you ever raised money for charity before?
Do you enjoy a post-race massage?

 

 

 

London Marathon recap – Pt 2 the hunger miles

If you missed the first part of my London Marathon recap, you can find it HERE.

I took five gels with me for the marathon.  My favourites to race road events with are the Salted Caramel GU gels.  I’m pretty sure I could knock those back all day!  In my early days of marathon running I would use just one gel on a marathon, or get by without, using just Lucozade Sport or jelly babies to fuel me round.  A few years back, after failing to achieve a sub 5 once again at Mablethorpe Marathon I was talking to another runner from my club who said she used to be the same; hardly ever took gels on board.  Her long distance running began to improve drastically when she started taking 5-6 gels during a race.  Two weeks later I ran Chelmsford Marathon, and although I didn’t take on board as many gels as she had advised, I did substantially increase the amount I was taking, and really thought through my tactics and timings for nutrition before race day.  That was the race I finally went sub 5 at.  Now I always make sure to take on board plenty during the race.

I prefer to take my gels a half at a time, along with a few swigs of water.  It’s what seems to work for me.  I took my first half a gel at about mile 5-6 and took on four in total during the race.  Water stations were every two miles and I took a half a gel at most stations from this point.

The first Lucozade station was at mile 7 and the road for the following 100 metres was stickier than the floor at Zanzibar, a shoddy nightclub in my uni town.  You could hear your trainers peeling up from the floor with every step.  It was horrible!

Somehow at mile 8 I spotted a member of my running club stood on the pavement alongside the barrier.  I shouted as loud as I could and finally got their attention for them to shout back as I ran past.

My first twelve miles went by what seemed very quickly.  I was so busy reading the backs of people’s vests and scanning the crowds for supporters I knew.  I knew of several members from my running club who had intended on coming down to support runners on the day, and several more who I knew through social media or the blogging world.  Some had told me where they were hoping to be, but by the time I was out on the course I’m afraid I had forgotten most of what people had told me but I was finding it quite exhilarating scanning the crowds anyway.

Mile splits for the first twelve: 10:05, 10:04, 9:52, 9:55, 10:01, 9:56, 10:00, 9:49, 10:01, 10:09, 9:54, 10:10.

All much faster than the 10:18mm pace I had intended, but I still felt good so I wasn’t too concerned.  They say you should be able to run to the halfway point feeling good and like you could do it all over again, and I definitely felt like I could.  I was religiously checking the times on my Pace Band against my watch each time I went underneath a mile marker arch, and by this point I was more than a minute up on a 4:30 finish time.  I think the furthest I had ever run before non-stop, without any walk breaks was 16 miles-ish so I was pretty sure that at some point my pace would drop, but I figured even if I began run-walking from 20 miles, if I was able to hold my current pace until then I would still be on for a new PB.

We turned a corner and all of a sudden the bridge was in front of us.  For some reason – and completely unexpected, I found myself tearing up and a little lump rise in my throat.  I quickly glanced down to recompose myself.  I felt so emotional running onto the bridge.  On both sides were charity supporters, with large banners strewn along the edge.  A camera panned down from up high as I reached the far side and, along with the guy next to me we automatically raised our arms high in the sky and pasted on beaming smiles!  We laughed about it as we turned right off the bridge.  He said that his children had better have been watching the TV at that point!  I’m not sure that our shot made it onto the TV, but I have a lovely set of photos across the bridge in the online photo gallery from the official photographers.

London Marathon official pictures

(I intend on asking for some of the official photos for my birthday, so will post them on the blog properly then.)

On the right as you turn off the bridge is where I usually watch the marathon when I go down as a spectator.  2018 was the first year in a long while when I didn’t head down to support on the day.  Both Kev and Tom, who I had watched with for several years in the past were unable to make the date and so I headed out for a long run with a friend early in the morning followed by pancakes and race tracking on the TV for the rest of the morning.  Sunday mornings done right!
Whenever I’d traveled down in the past I’d always bumped into other runners from our club supporting in a similar area so I really scanned the crowd here, desperately trying not to miss anybody who was out trying to spot me.  It can be almost impossible trying to spot runners sometimes, especially when (like me on the day) they’re not in club colours!  I didn’t see anybody I knew though.  It’s amazing how having only run the course once before I could still remember every turn on the route.

The cheer stations were all great out on route, but especially the Dementia Revolution cheer stations.  Each one went on for so long, and spanned across both sides of the road.  If you found yourself running alongside a Dementia Revolution runner through one of these stations you couldn’t help but be picked up yourself!

I spotted a couple of the Cancer Research UK cheer stations, and it was nice to be able to raise my arms up towards them as I came through, receiving great support from people I’d never met before.

As I crossed the halfway mark I glanced down to see 2:13:41 on my watch.  A time I would probably have been happy to take for a half marathon at the moment, and also perfect numbers on my watch to still aim for a sub 4:30 marathon!  I had no idea how I was getting away with such consistent, easy running still!

One of the next water stations (I can’t remember which one, maybe mile 14/16?) I struggled to get across to the station before it finished.  Everybody was darting across to grab a bottle and it became a bit chaotic with choppy strides from everyone.  I ducked in to grab a bottle from the last volunteer and shouted out “Sorry!” to the female runner I’d had to cut in front of.  I wasn’t close, I didn’t ‘cut them up’ as such.  They then extended their stride coming out of the station, moved back behind me and forcibly pushed into my back, making me shoot forward.  It really caught me off-guard!  Luckily they disappeared and I didn’t see them again.

Miles 13-20 went as follows: 10:15, 10:01, 9:49, 10:56, 10:07, 10:18, 10:44, 9:40.

(I think the first tunnel is at mile 18, hence the 10:44?)

I knew by now that I would PB.  Even if I ran walk the final few miles, they wouldn’t be slow enough that I would be risking my PB and I could feel the grin spreading across my face.  I was starting to feel hungry by this point.  Really, really hungry, but there wasn’t a lot I could do about it.

By mile 21.5 I knew I needed to try and find some food.  I made my first walk break and raided a bucket of jelly babies that had been thrust towards me, choosing all of the yellow ones to nibble on for the final few miles.  (Yellow is the best flavour by far.)  My stomach was rumbling so loudly I feared that other runners would start turning and looking at me!

At mile 22(ish) I saw Ruth, and then Jenny not long after.  And then a little further up the road I saw a group of guys from my running club and even further up another runner from my club.  (These may all be in totally the wrong order of when I spotted them, but they were all fairly close together and in the perfect location for keeping me going!)  Not that there was any risk in me stopping at any point now, but this is the section of the race that everybody says is the hardest, not much to look at and with everyone now ready for it to be the end!

Going into the tunnel was eerie.  I passed lots of people walking under here.  Of course, it’s the perfect place to fit in a sneaky walk, – I’m almost certain I walked it myself last time – but I made sure to jog through to the end.

For a stats geek like me it was so annoying having the tunnels mess with my Garmin.  Both times my watch continued to add time, but not mileage as I ran the 0.2ish miles through the tunnel.  I really needed to rely on my pace band against the mile markers now to judge roughly where I was time-wise.

Since that first walk, I took a couple more until the end.  My legs were fine, my chest was fine.  I was still breathing well, but I was absolutely starving!  I knew I wouldn’t have much energy left in the tank by the end and that was most likely down to the fact that I hadn’t been able to keep any food in me the night before.  I never hit the wall though.  I probably could have pushed through, but the knowledge that I would PB now was enough for me and I was buzzing!

London Marathon were making a real effort to become more eco-friendly this year.  Lucozade stations were a mix of bottles, compostable cups and also a seaweed edible and biodegradable pouch containing Lucozade at mile 23.  Initially, I hadn’t intended on using one of the pouches.  (Don’t try on race day anything you haven’t had a chance to try in training!)  But my body really fancied some energy drink at that point, and I figured I could always just try biting into the pouch rather than eating the whole thing, or just throw the seaweed part away/spit it out if it really was truly awful.  In the end though I found it really handy to be able to carry the pouch, – much easier than keeping hold of a bottle.  The pouch was very similar in look and feel to a washing capsule pod.  I bit into it and managed to consume the liquid without getting covered, much easier than I thought.

Seven drinks stations were also removed from the course this year, to prevent wastage and all clothes discarded at the start of the race were donated or reused.  You can find a big list of all of the ways London Marathon are trying to become more environmentally friendly HERE.  I think it’s fantastic that even larger races have begun to put so much effort into making running more eco-friendly.

I had a little walk and soaked up the sights before the final few turns, picking my running back up at 25.5 miles again.  It was amazing running past the 600 metre to go sign, where I usually head to watch runners finish.  And then to make that final famous turn towards the finish.  I pulled past several people at this point.  Again, there were charities along each side of The Mall.  One guy just in front of me stopped dead to wave at his charity and take a bow.  I almost crashed straight into him.  I didn’t expect anyone to stop along this part!

Miles 21-26.2: 10:43, 11:43, 10:49, 11:13, 13:50, 11:57, (Nubbin 0.67m): 10:30mm.

As soon as I crossed the finish line I pulled my phone out from my Flipbelt.  I already had a text from the marathon containing my finishing time, and one of my friends had already messaged to congratulate me on my PB.  I’d only been over the line a matter of seconds, so it was lovely to know that people had been tracking me throughout my race from home.

Finishing the London Marathon

I grabbed an official to get him to tell me who had won the race and was told Kipchoge, but not in a world record time.  He couldn’t tell me about any of the brits though.  Last time I’d run at London, there was a board at the finish displaying the top 5 male and female runners for everyone else out running that day, which I thought was a nice touch.

Finishing the London Marathon

It’s always nice looking back at stats after you’ve run a race you’re happy with.  Running a marathon should be like the tides in the sea…you let all the runners go out at the beginning, making sure to run a nice and steady start.  Then, during the second half you should let the tide come back towards you, passing everyone as you go!

Runners passed at London

I had my photo taken by the official photographer and moved along to collect my bag from bag drop.  Obviously my bag ended up being right at the very end of the enormous bag collection area.  I munched away on my race finisher apple along the way.  I made my way out to the tree where WDAC usually meet after London, only I must have been too slow, because I couldn’t spot anyone around.  I sat for maybe ten minutes in case anybody came by, but then decided to make my way to the Cancer Research UK after party.  I’ll write about that in a separate blog post though.

Finishing the London Marathon

I was running this marathon in memory of my Mum, raising money for Cancer Research UK.  My fundraising page is still open for anyone who wishes to donate.

Official time: 4:39:03 (** New PB by 15m 5s**)
Finishing position: 25006/42438
Gender position: 8079/17737
Age category position: 4235/9373

Runner stats at London Marathon

Ultimately I was so chuffed with how well my race had gone.  I had run so consistently up until mile 21.5 when I’d taken my first walk.  I never hit ‘the wall’.  I felt good throughout (other than super hungry!)  When speaking to Dan that evening he told me that he thought the tracker had broken for a while when my predicted times never altered each time I crossed over another timing mat.  Apparently the prediction had shown 4:27ish for the longest time!

Splits at the London Marathon

I trained using the Hanson’s Marathon Method, a book I researched and read numerous recaps on before deciding to purchase myself.  I do intend on writing a full recap of my own about how I found the training, but essentially – I loved it and it worked for me!  I’d definitely recommend it if you like the idea of running 5-6 days each week and capping your longest run at 16 miles.

What was your favourite PB moment?
Have you ever been so hungry in a race you’ve struggled?
Have you tried the Lucozade seaweed pouches? What did you think?