The reality of the C word

This wasn’t the post I had planned to write tonight.  I had planned on sharing my goals and aims for 2018.  To set myself some targets for the year ahead.  I had wanted to write about the 100 miles I’m so excited to run at the South Downs Way in June and my new training plan that began yesterday in order to make sure I see the finish line come race day.

But, I also want to write a post on cancer, and my Mum and to get everything that’s been swirling around in my head for the past few months written down somewhere before I forget how things have been.

If you don’t want to read this post, I won’t be offended.  Just skip over this one and come back to check out my next running post instead.  I don’t want anybody to feel uncomfortable about what I’ve written – that isn’t my aim at all.

The last week seems to have been filled with stories of cancer all around me and on the way home from Dan’s Nan’s funeral today it’s all I could think about.  (Of four funerals that I am attending in the space of a month, this is the only non-cancer death.)

Everyone knows all about cancer.  Or at least they think they do.  They hear the word cancer and immediately think ‘incurable, chemo, ill, terminal’.  Even when you are told that the cancer is terminal, as in my Mum’s case, then it’s automatically assumed weeks or months before the end when in actual fact you can suffer with terminal cancer for many years.  My Mum was first diagnosed in 2013.  That’s a whole lot of suffering and unknown she has been through for the past four years.

There are so many different types of cancer and it almost seems to have become a generic word for an illness which varies in so many ways.

Cancer is a horrible, horrible illness and I cannot even imagine how hearing the type you have inside you is incurable.  In actual fact the worst part is often yet to come though.

The last picture I have of my Mum is from two weeks before she died.  It’s a picture of my Mum and my Dad in the lounge at their house.  I thought about sharing it on the blog, but I don’t think that it would be very appropriate for me to do so, so I am going to describe it instead…
Mum is lying asleep in the hospital bed that was provided for her when she was allowed home for her remaining days.  She has no hair left on her head due to the repeated batches of chemotherapy that she underwent during the year and she has a drip in her arm which administers the drugs the carers give.  She is several stone lighter than I ever remember her being before and dressed only in a nightgown under the thick duvet that covers her.  The nightgown has been cut from top to bottom vertically to allow the carers to easily clean her when they come in each morning because it has been eight weeks now since she has been able to stand.  To the left of my Mum is a hospital table.  The sort that is on wheels and comes across the bed, only Mum has not been strong enough to wheel or move it.  On top of the table sits a carton of orange juice, a beaker of water and some tissues, along with Mum’s driver medicine box, medical notes, a signed DNR form and a large platform which, when tapped, rings the doorbell at the other end of the bungalow in case Dad has popped out of the room for a few minutes and Mum needs assistance.
Hanging from the end of the bed is a large thick blue binbag – one of several which is filled every day with medicines and swabs and rubbish from cleaning up Mum.  She is losing a lot of blood all of the time by this point.
You can’t quite see it in the photo, but tucked underneath the bed is the bed of my parents’ dog, Blue.  He doesn’t venture far from her side and has often been spotted up on his hind legs with his paws resting by her arm so that she might give him some fuss.
My Dad sits upright in the armchair next to the bed.  Fast asleep, his head has tilted back and his mouth has fallen open.  His left hand limply clasps my Mum’s right, both hands resting lightly on the edge of the bed.  He too is several stone lighter than he once was and both my parents have an exhausted, almost haunted look on their face.

Because it’s not just my Mum who had a tough time, but my Dad also sacrificed a huge amount during the past year.  From the repeated visits to hospital to support Mum during consultant check ups, whilst she was receiving chemo, and the numerous trips up to the city in the back of an ambulance, later arranging just how he would return home again.  The hospital is an hour’s drive from their bungalow but I’m sure he could probably drive it in his sleep now.  In fact, there were several days when I worried that he would fall asleep at the wheel.  When my Mum was admitted to hospital for the final time in mid-September, my Dad visited her at least once a day, often for more than 8 hours at a time.  He spent hundreds of pounds parking in the hospital car park and experienced most of the cafeteria food during the hours he spent there.

When I got the phone call to say that 48 hours would be my Mum’s limit I rushed from work to be there with my family in the Norfolk & Norwich hospital, along with my brother.  My Dad was already there.  My Mum was there, only it wasn’t my Mum, – it didn’t seem like my Mum.  She was on so much medication that her words were erratic.  She kept insisting that we had to hide things from the nurses and that someone was ‘out to get her’.  It was scary, and left me rather shaken and upset.  It wasn’t the final memories I wanted of my Mum and I didn’t know what to say to her.
She doesn’t remember anything from that visit.

She remained in hospital for two weeks before my Dad convinced the hospital doctors to let my Mum go home to die.  I visited several times during the two weeks, sometimes with Oscar, and sometimes I made the two hour journey straight from work on my own.  On talking to her about it a few weeks later she vaguely remembers Oscar playing on the hospital room floor during one time, but doesn’t remember any further visits.

My Dad fought to get my Mum home.  The hospital wouldn’t release her without being able to schedule four care visits with two people every day.  In the end Dad told the hospital that he would act as an additional carer and got Mum home.  She wanted to come home to see Blue and to sort out her funeral arrangements with the vicar.

It was a lifestyle change for all involved.  A carer would arrive at 8pm each night to sit with Mum in the lounge.  Along with my Dad, they would then turn Mum over and clean and change her.  My Dad could snatch a couple of hours sleep at this point, as Mum would be exhausted from the cleaning and fall asleep herself.  He would then return to the lounge, to hold Mum’s hand, to pass her the straw from her drink and to help the carer if they needed to do anything further.

The carer remained there until 8am, changing Mum a further few times during the night along with Dad.  Before the carer then left, Dad would quickly go and get ready for the day himself as it wouldn’t be long before the nurses would arrive to administer the drugs to Mum’s driver.  A little later the doctor would arrive, and then another nurse to help change Mum again.  By lunchtime things would quieten down, but Mum would be worn out from the morning of visitors and often sleep through.  She couldn’t be left though, and on the two or three days of the week when I didn’t visit, my Dad would remain housebound – loungebound, looking after Mum.

Mum ate less than Oscar at every meal.  When she craved jelly, my Dad headed out and stocked up on jelly.  When she decided she’d like some melon, Dad made another trip out to buy some, after having waited for me to arrive to take over from him first.

The first time I visited Mum in the hospital bed at her home she was in an immense amount of pain, begging that the cancer took her that night.  She told me that I wasn’t to worry – she’d seen everything she had wanted to and that she no longer wanted to be in pain.  The tumour in her stomach now made her appear heavily pregnant, whilst also severely emaciated at the same time.  She went on for another eight weeks of existence at home.  It wasn’t living.  It was purely existing and waiting for the end.  It was very horrible a lot of the time, knowing that we could do nothing to help her when she was in so much pain.

Mum didn’t think she’d see my wedding to Dan in 2014, but she was there.  She absolutely never thought that she’d see Grandchildren, and not only did she get to meet Oscar, but she was able to see his funny, cheeky and affectionate personality begin to develop during the first 14 months of his life.

The last time I went to visit my Mum when she was still conscious was the Wednesday before she died.  Just like every other visit, when it was time for us to leave Oscar climbed up into the armchair next to Mum, madly waving at her and trying to play peek-a-boo between the bars of the bed, whilst supported by me so that he didn’t fall.  This time though, he finished his visit by leaning down and giving Mum a kiss on her cheek.  We both melted…he was very cute.  As I picked him up I told Mum that I would be back again in a couple of days, the same as I always did.

When I arrived on the Saturday her eyes were shut and she was breathing heavily.

On Sunday my Dad rang Dan to tell him that my Mum had died.

I was racing at the time, but headed back to Norfolk for the week as soon as I received the news.

Mum meeting Oscar for the first timeMy Dad was a rockstar.  I hope I made that clear in the eulogy I gave at my Mum’s funeral.  Their neighbours and friends, – also amazing.  On a number of occasions we would go out to the porch to let the dog out only to discover that somebody had made us a home-cooked casserole or a selection of sausage rolls.  Several times we would go to the door to find flowers.  Neighbours would drop by, sometimes only for five minutes just to share a funny story or stop in with a tale they thought my Mum would enjoy.

There were an overwhelming number of cards and letters my Dad received the week of her death, and I too received flowers, chocolate, such lovely words of kindness in a number of cards from friends.

My Mum – She loved our family, her dog, gardening, playing the organ, spending time out on the marshes, being a Nanny and helping others.

I spoke to her daily throughout my adult life and there have been numerous times since November 26th where I’ve gone to text her or picked up the phone to call her, only to realise that I can’t any more.  That she is no longer here.  That cancer did it’s thing.

I’m hoping to do some fundraising for cancer charities this year, but I’ll mention it on the blog when I have more details.

End of year round up

One of the things I love most about blogging is the ability to look back at the end of the year and reminisce over everything I’ve done across the past twelve months.  This year has been a bit of a tough one for several reasons, and so not everything has made it to the blog, but I still managed to scrape together 45 posts during 2017.  I’m hoping to have a number a little higher than that for the coming year though as things hopefully start to settle down a little once more.

My 2017bestnine from Instagram:

2017bestnine - A Healthier Moo

Medals, races and mud…that’s what we like to see! 😉

I actually started posting a few images up on a separate Instagram account this year (fromteachertomum) so that I would be able to share a few select images of Oscar’s adventures and Mum life without drowning my AHM fitness account with baby.  Just for fun, here’s my 2017bestnine from that account as well:

2017bestnine - From Teacher to MumHe has been a lovely little addition to our family.

January:

For the second year in a row I kicked off the New Year with a double parkrun, along with several other members from my running club.  In 2016 I had run Huntingdon parkrun followed by Peterborough which was one of only a few options of double day parkruns near to us at the time.  Word obviously got around though, because at the start of this year we had more to choose from and so I made the decision to head over to Milton Keynes to run the Linford Wood parkrun course, followed by a jog over for the Milton Keynes route a little later, and then a jog back to my car back at the first course again.

Milton Keynes parkrun on New Year's Day

In the New Year Oscar started attending swimming lessons at a local pool in Wellingborough.  He was an avid hater of bath time up until this point but he absolutely adores his swimming lessons.  Other than the 8 weeks where I returned to work in the Summer term, he has been going weekly for a swimming lesson and can now get in and out of the pool safely and easily, kicks and moves his arms to swim and blows bubbles in the water.  He usually gets really excited when he realises we’ve arrived at the swimming pool and one of my favourite times at the pool was when the instructor got us all to lay the babies on a tilted hand float so that their legs were dangling in the water and then whoosh them around the pool alongside us like they were paddling on a surf board.  Oscar thought this was amazing and shrieked so loudly and for so long as he was so excited!  He absolutely loves being in the pool.  A proper little water baby!

Dan made the jump from working in IT development within schools during January to managing IT systems within a Nationwide Solicitor firm.  With a new baby and a three month job probation to pass we debated for quite a while before Dan eventually made the leap, but it was a great decision and not only is he very happy in his new role but he is now working much closer to home, leaving much later in the morning for work and bringing home more money.  Much better all round!

I ran the final cross-country race of the season at Sharnbrook this month.

Sharnbrook cross-country trail

Dan ran the final Tough Mudder in Perton, Wolverhampton, which is the town his parents live in.

Dan at the end of Tough MudderIt’s not something that wildly appeals to me to be honest, but Dan really enjoyed it!

February:

I started to realise that fitting in runs around a new baby would be more difficult than I first thought(!)

I ran my first half marathon post baby at my club’s inaugural Welly Trail Races event.

Welly Trail races

March:

I had managed to enter the Hunny Bell Cross-country race held a couple of miles from my parents’ house in time to get a spot and so enjoyed a cross-country event outside of the Three Counties League I usually run with during the Winter months.  Both my parents were also able to see me finish a race, which was a first for my Mum.

Hunny Bell XC finish

I finally got round to ordering Oscar’s running buggy.  Something I had been avoiding until he was old enough to go in it, but something I knew I would order all along! 😉

Oscar in the running buggy

I had been lucky enough to win a Valentine’s Photoshoot on Facebook and so a couple of weeks into March we persuaded my friend Laura to push Oscar around Harlestone Firs in his buggy so that Dan and I could have some nice pictures taken.  There aren’t any photos of just Dan and I together from our wedding that I really like, but Maxine at Do You Realise? photography was an amazing photographer and she captured some lovely photographs for us to get printed.

Do You Realise photography couple shoot at Harlestone Firs

Dan and I sat down one weekend (after many many afternoons of talking about it) and worked out our living costs, realising that I would be able to leave my job as a teacher in order to bring Oscar up myself, rather than put him into a nursery full time, – and so I handed my notice in at school.

April:

I had entered The South Downs Way 50 before Oscar had even been born.  I wanted a big challenge to work towards as part of my return to running post-baby, and I definitely got that with running 50 miles!  Going into the race I definitely hadn’t completed enough training, but I was so, so ecstatic to finish well within the cut off times, and as strongly as I did despite having to stop on route to pump(!)

South Downs Way 50 medal

The following weekend, Dan, Oscar and I headed to Shropshire for a well-deserved weekend away in a lovely little cottage with friends.  We even managed to fit in some parkrun tourism at Ludlow parkrun whilst we were there!

Ludlow parkrun with Dan, John and Lynn

I made it down to London for my annual trip with friends to cheer runners along the marathon route.

Then I had my first weekend away from Oscar when I ran the Pembrokeshire marathon at the end of the month.

WDAC at Pembrokeshire marathon

May:

May was a good month running-wise.  I ran the Silverstone 10k in a quicker-than-hoped time, the Rugby 6 to a new PB and Corby 5 in a course PB, all as part of the East Midlands Grand Prix series.

Silverstone 10k

May was also the month where I returned to work full time (albeit only for one day before the start of the half term holiday).

June:

I ran Shires and Spires 35m for the fourth time at the start of this month, but as I returned to work the following day I never got round to writing a recap of the event.

Shires and Spires 35m medal

Oscar officially started nursery when I returned to school after the half term break.  Dan had my first week back booked as holiday from work in case there were any problems with Oscar in nursery during the day time, but all seemed to go well.  Dan spent most of the week making much-needed improvements on our house to ready it for guests we had staying in the Summer.

I had my name in print in Your Fitness magazine this month.

Your Fitness magazine

I ran the remaining races of the EMGP series.  The Harborough 5, Weedon 10k (to a course PB) and then Milton Keynes 10k to a full on new PB!

Milton Keynes 10k

I headed over with Oscar in his buggy to photograph our club runners at the Colworth Marathon Challenge on the Friday evening.  I’m hoping to be able to run the full three-day event again in 2018.

Sally and Jo at Colworth 5m

 

July:

I managed to type up (over several days!) a new Day-in-the-life post of a full-time-working-training-for-a-marathon-new-Mum.

Oscar tea

I had great fun swinging round the treetops for a friend’s hen do at Woburn, followed by some tasty afternoon tea.

Afternoon tea for Steph's hen do

I managed to gain a new 5 mile PB at our club annual pre-Welly 5 BBQ run, and then marshaled for the actual Welly 5 the following weekend.

Welly 5 winnersAt some point during the month of July, I was persuaded to stay on an extra month in September at school, due to lack of staff.  So luckily, I never had to give a leaving speech at the end of year assembly!  😉

August:

We attended our first wedding as a family of three, where Dan was also an usher.

Sarah and Treble's wedding - Oscar in bracesAnd I was outraged when somebody threw eggs at me from a car window whilst I was out on a run in Norfolk.  :(

We had a really busy August in fact.  I had been travelling back to Norfolk to spend time with my parents each week from February-time as neither of them were very well.  Somehow we managed to fit in a wedding in Birmingham, a first birthday party in Norwich and another first birthday party in Huddersfield over the Summer.  The two birthday parties even fell on the same weekend!

Dinosaur cake for Charles' birthday at the Dinosaur Park

We did manage to escape to Rutland Water for a few days for our third wedding anniversary though which was nice.

And we finally had carpet laid in all the upstairs rooms and on the stairs and landing.  I was so excited to finally see carpet down on the floor!

Oscar's nursery bedroom

September:

As I was looking back through my blog posts just now I realised that I didn’t blog at all during September!  It was a very busy time though.  Working as a teacher during the month of September is very different to the month of June, when half the students have already finished for the year and lots of kids are out on school trips.  Not only was I super busy with work this month but we had something planned in the calendar for every single weekend.

The first weekend was spent marshaling at Northampton half marathon where I was once again sector lead of the Great Houghton section.  For the fourth year I believe now?

The second weekend, I went to my friend Steph’s wedding.

Me and Laura at Steph's weddingShe had the best photo challenge, which Laura and I totally smashed and won!

Photo challenge at Steph's wedding

Our new sofas arrived!  The first time I have ever bought brand new sofas before and it was rather exciting!

New sofas in the lounge

I headed back to Norfolk to take part in the Round Norfolk Relay event.  Our club managed to find two teams of runners and crew and it was an awesome weekend that I can’t wait to take part in again next year!

Stage 5 of the Round Norfolk Relay

The evening after the RNR I had returned home to get some school work sorted out ready for work the following week.  The following day my Dad rang to say that my Mum had been admitted into hospital.  At this point (four years since being diagnosed with terminal cancer) this was no longer an uncommon occurrence and I asked Dad to keep me updated, saying that I would return the following weekend to visit her in hospital, or at home again, as she had so often ended up in hospital for just a couple of days at a time.

I finished school at 3pm on the Wednesday and it was only a matter of seconds after the final bell had gone when my Dad rang my mobile to say that I needed to get over to Norwich then.  That Mum was really bad this time and that doctors had given her just 48 hours.  After a call to Dan so that he could arrange to leave work early to pick up Oscar from nursery that evening I rushed off over to Norwich hospital and it wasn’t a very nice visit at all.  It was rather scary in fact.

I was supposed to be running Ealing half marathon the following weekend, but obviously this did not happen, and instead I spent the weekend at the Norfolk and Norwich hospital, as well as visiting several nights after work during the week.

It all ended up being a bit much and by the end of the month I had made myself very ill from the night feeds, school work, housework and constant travelling.  I spent the last two days of term laying in bed feeling pretty useless.  Made even more miserable due to the fact that I had really been looking forward to the Decathlon ambassador event I had been invited to but which now had to miss, and the fact that I was so poorly I couldn’t even hold Oscar on his first birthday.

Oscar's first birthday

October:

We held a birthday party for him the weekend after his birthday and had him Christened.  I was able to get up and about and put a face on, but I still wasn’t very well at all.

Mabel and MarthaMabel and Martha, checking out the Godmother gift their Mum was given!  (They have their own Instagram here if you want to check it out!)

As I had finished school by October I was then travelling back to Norfolk for four days a week.  After two weeks in hospital, at my Mum’s request, the doctors let her return home where she remained in a hospital bed in the lounge for the remaining weeks.  I usually headed back Monday afternoon-Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.  A minimum of 12 extra hours in the car each week but often more than this due to roadworks and bad traffic.

Several of my visits were spent taking my parents’ dog Blue out for long walks and helping out with the shopping and cooking.

Oscar and Blue out on a walk

I was lucky enough to be chosen as an ambassador for Milton Keynes Marathon this month, which takes place in May 2018.  I can’t wait to run the marathon for the fourth time!

Milton Keynes Marathon ambassador

I had planned to target and run Chelmsford marathon in October for a sub 4h 30m, but this obviously went out of the window as I hadn’t been able to get enough miles in during the build up to race day and I had been suffering with a bad back for several weeks.  It was probably the toughest marathon I’ve run by the end of the race, and I’ve run several off-road events!

Chelmsford marathon mile 25

November:

November went by in a bit of a blur.  I headed to Gower with friends for the EnduranceLife Coastal Marathon as per usual, and the break was very much needed.

EnduranceLife Gower marathon 2017

The following week Dan was working away in Dublin, but I barely knew about it as I was hardly home anyway.

The last Wednesday of the month when I was visiting Mum Oscar bent down to kiss her for the first time and happily did his usual wave and “Bye bye” babble to her as we left.  She had been a little confused during our visit but we’d had several chats throughout the day.  That was the last time we spoke.

I visited the following Saturday for several hours but she was asleep the whole time, and when I rang Dan to say that I had finished running the Dunstable XC the following morning he told me that my Dad had been on the phone not long earlier to let him know that my Mum had just died.
Dan’s Nan had died hours earlier following a heart attack and we lost another family member to cancer later that week.  (A third to cancer in 2017 just yesterday.)

December:

After putting it off for the past few years I ran Bedford half marathon and was pleasantly surprised at my time considering how inconsistent my training had been in the build up to the race.

Bedford half marathon

Most of the week had been working with my Dad on preparations for my Mum’s funeral.  She had been very definite about what she wanted, but there was a lot we were unable to put into place until she died.

The day after the funeral I began a new job working nightshifts at a large Tesco supermarket.  It’s not a forever thing, but the extra money will be handy to restock savings.

My brother and Dad came up to mine for a visit one evening so that I could attend the annual Running Club Christmas awards ceremony.

Running club Christmas do 2017

I came home marginally cleaner following the annual Christmas Eve run this year.

Christmas Eve muddy run

And then spent Christmas day in Norfolk with my side of the family.

2013 round up * 2014 round up * 2015 round up * 2016 round up

How would you sum up your 2017?
What have you been up to this year?

Christmas festivities

One of my favourite things about Christmas is how each family has their own rituals and traditions for the holiday.  I loved the familiarity of growing up knowing that the Christmas tree was a group effort and went up on Christmas Eve, that all aunts and uncles would come to our house for Christmas lunch and that we would always open our presents (other than our stockings) after the Queen’s Speech.

As the years have gone on and my brother and I have grown up, things have changed slightly and several of the traditions have altered.

I am so excited to start a new set of traditions with Oscar as he grows up incorporating parts of both Dan and my childhood.

Dan and I had gotten our first real tree as a couple last year, although we had just picked one up from the racks in B&Q.  This year a couple of weeks before Christmas we made it over to a nearby Christmas tree farm to choose our own tree and hope to make the visit a yearly tradition with Oscar, (although next year we need to visit early enough so that I can have a tree which I can pot!)

Dan and Oscar at the Christmas tree farm

They had several animals there for petting too, which Oscar loved.

Heading to all the parkruns during Christmas week has definitely become one of my Christmas traditions and I hope it’s one that Oscar will want to join in with as he gets older.

On Saturday, following a crazy shift at work (We could barely move due to the amount of goods on the delivery and customers were seen madly rushing around the store with their trolleys until midnight when the shop shut) I headed over to Northampton parkrun to tick off my 99th parkrun.  I arrived a little after 7:20am and it was pitch black outside.  Luckily this made it a little easier when it came to getting changed in the car and I was able to wriggle around in the driver seat and escape my work clothes, swapping them for a set of running clothes instead.  To my knowledge, nobody captured any photographs which are now circulating the internet!

I headed out for a couple of warm up miles but bumped into our oldest club member, Alan, who had decided to power walk the course before the event, so slowed down to jog alongside him for my final two miles of three.

Laura joined me in a chatty run for the parkrun itself.  We both had to rush off afterwards, so it was nice to catch up during the run.

As there were several new members of our club attempting the 5k distance for the first time, Alan stuck around to take a few photos at the start of the event.

Northampton parkrun startAnd then popped out to the first mile on the course to snap everyone on their way by as well.

Northampton parkrun with Laura

Official time: 31:12
Position: 329/501
Gender position: 89/197
Age category position: 11/27

I headed home after the parkrun to snatch a quick 30 minutes of sleep before Dan woke me to hand over Oscar before he headed back to Wolverhampton for the football.

I finally managed to get the Christmas tree decorations up whilst he was out.  I needed something to focus on to stay awake!  Dan and I had taken Oscar to the Christmas tree farm the weekend before, but our tree had been sat bare ever since!

I managed to slot in another 45 minute nap when Dan returned from the football that night and then it was back into work for another shift.  Strangely, the supermarkets weren’t as busy on Saturday as they had been during the week, so the shift was much less stressful and rushed!

Once again I had packed my running clothes in the car ready for an early morning run (and now Christmas tradition) the next day.  Every year at my running club they hold a Christmas Eve run.  It’s held at the local Irchester Country Park and involves informal groups of runners heading out for laps of the park before making their way back to the small cafe in the car park for a complimentary bacon/sausage bap and hot drink on the club.  Some of the informal groups stick to the paths, some of the informal groups make their own paths, and the group I head out with each year is the latter!

Christmas Eve run

I had hoped to get several miles in before the official Christmas Eve club run, but a quick nap in the car was too appealing, and I only ended up with one extra mile before the run began.

Christmas Eve muddy runThe woods were the least muddy I have seen them in a long while.  There was mud there, but it was pretty tacky and there were barely any puddles at all.  I thought I’d gotten away with my annual coverage of mud from running out with the guys, but along the last piece of track I got pelted with mudballs and had to leg it back to the cafe and safety!  No opportunities to retaliate at all, – I’ll have to keep my revenge for another day!

Christmas Eve muddy run

Although we had originally planned to have Christmas at home this year, because my Mum had only recently died, my Dad didn’t feel like leaving home for Christmas to join us and so Dan and I packed up our car with piles of presents loaded around Oscar and travelled the 90 miles back to stay with my Dad on Christmas Eve.  He hadn’t really felt like decorating the house and so when we had finished tea, I whizzed round the lounge with a box of ageing Christmas decorations whilst Dan encouraged Oscar to walk around the room.

Oscar has been walking on his own for the past three months or so now, but only on his terms, and never more than half a room in length.  He just hasn’t built up enough confidence to tear around the house like so many of my friend’s children seem to have done.  Following Oscar’s end of term report from nursery last week it’s something Dan and I hope to work on with him whilst Dan has some time off over Christmas.

On Christmas morning, after a quick breakfast with Oscar I zoomed off to Sheringham parkrun for my 100th event.

Christmas Day parkrun at SheringhamLoads of runners were wearing Christmas hats and full on elf/Santa outfits and there was the jingle of bells in the air!  (Sorry to anyone running near to me – I didn’t realise my hat had a bell inside until I started running!)

100th parkrun at SheringhamI felt strong on the day and decided to try and pace myself fairly well for a decent time.  Sheringham parkrun, for anyone who isn’t familiar with the course, gets progressively hillier throughout the course and contains ‘Heartbreak Hill’ in the final half mile of the event – not what you want to see when you’re waiting for the finish line to come into sight!

I ran my first mile in 9:05, second in 9:29 (wishing Merry Christmas to as many as I could between breaths) and then my final mile in 10:06, giving me a course PB by nearly 30 seconds!

100th parkrun at Sheringham

Official time: 29:14
Position: 82/158
Gender position: 16/60
Age category position: 3/7

Made even better by receiving the parkrun 100 club notification in my inbox an hour later.

100 parkrun notificationThe rest of Christmas was very similar to those of my childhood.  I returned home to shower, change and help dish up the dinner to my Dad, Dan, Oscar, brother Mark, and Great Aunt Mary.  After dinner Dad, Dan, Oscar, Blue the dog and I took the short walk over to the village graveyard to neaten up the flowers on my Mum’s grave and then returned home to begin opening our presents.

Oscar and Dan - Christmas 2017

People always tell you that Christmas is more exciting with a child, and we certainly found that to be true this year.  Oscar thoroughly enjoyed his first Christmas dinner and had great fun madly throwing tissue and wrapping paper around the room, loading empty cardboard boxes with presents and playing with his new toys.  It didn’t take him very long at all to fall asleep on our journey home that night!

Family Christmas 2017

I hope everybody had a lovely Christmas.  I can’t believe we are almost in to 2018!  This year has truly gone by so very quickly.

How do you spend your Christmas?
Who do you spend your Christmas with?

Do you manage to get many runs in over the festive period?

Bedford half marathon

Bedford half was my first half marathon back in 2011.
[Side note: HOW have I been running for six whole years now?!]

I had joined WDAC in the Summer and went on to run Bedford half along with my friend Hayley at the end of the year.Bedford half marathon 2011 - Me and HayleyI had roughly set myself the time goal of 2h 15m for the race and came in at 2h 13m 10s so was super happy with that (and very achy the following day!)  I went on to cut a further two minutes from my time at the same event the following year, but since 2012 I haven’t really run a huge amount of half marathons.  Ultras are where my heart lies, and where most of my focus has been over the past few years – ticking off the longer distances.

My times don’t really seem to line up for the mid-distance events…half marathons and marathons.  I just haven’t been able to get everything to align over that distance (yet!).  I planned on attempting to run a sub two hour half by the end of this year and when I won a place at Ealing half marathon to have help achieving a sub two hour race through Marcus’ Instagram earlier in the year, I thought that this would be my year!

Then injury struck due to lack of core work and all the extra driving I was doing and I spent a lot of my time back in Norfolk not getting as many runs in as I had wanted.  My Dad was even incorrectly told on the morning of Ealing half that my Mum had died and so I headed back to Norfolk for the day instead of to London for the race.

Entering Bedford was never going to be part of the sub two hour quest.  My Mum did die the week before Bedford half and following a week of making arrangements for the funeral and no sleep from sharing my teenage bedroom back in Norfolk with a teething baby, my body was exhausted by the time race day rolled around.  Coupled with the fact that I hadn’t had the time to run anything over 7 or 8 miles in a very long while (other than the two marathons the previous month!) it wouldn’t have been a great recipe for a good race.

But nonetheless I really wanted to run the race.  I love the Bedford course and it’s a favourite with many from our club.  Fairly large in size (for a local running club event), runners are bussed in to Wootton Upper School from the local Argos Distribution warehouses.  Busses full of runners all talking tactics and races – the best start to a day!

I had no idea what to expect from the race and just hoped to run at my best for as long as I could and hope I got round in a semi-acceptable time for the distance.  I knew my PB (2h 9m 16s) was very outdated and should be fairly easy for me to beat on a regular day, but wasn’t really sure that this was like a regular day.

As I was queuing to get through to bag drop at the start of the race I spotted one of the girls who had been in my form at the start of the school year, who waved shyly at me from the sidelines.  Whenever I race Bedfordshire/Cambridgeshire way I always seem to bump into students who are out supporting their parents at races!  This particular student regularly runs for county, so she is involved in the sport herself, although at 11 years old, wasn’t running the half that day!

I randomly remembered skim-reading through the race instructions on the bus that time would be gun to chip rather than chip to chip and so I made the decision to start my watch as soon as the gun went, despite it taking me a long while to cross the start line.  Stupidly I clearly wasn’t thinking very straight, as it obviously meant that the prizes would be given out by gun-chip time.  We would still receive a chip-chip time at the finish for our official time!  Starting my watch a couple of minutes early meant that I really messed up my strategy – unable to see the pace I was running at.  My watch display shows distance, total time and overall average pace.  The fact that I’d done little more than shuffle for the first minute was taken into account and although by the end of the first mile my watch beeped to show 9:46, a lot of the running was in the 8:xxs to achieve that!  Not the best of starts!

Along the first road we ran past the ultimate Christmas house – so many decorations, and fake snow was falling down from the house all around the runners that came past!  It was about here that I bumped into Katie (and Flo!), who were out supporting Katie’s husband – spotted just in time to give them a quick wave on my way past!

The first few miles were very easy, despite the way too fast start.  I had to really pull myself back, especially when my watch beeped to indicate that I had run the second mile in just over 9 minutes.  There are several hills in the Bedford half, but they all fall fairly early into the race and the end the course is plain sailing downhill for a couple of miles (before a slight climb up to the finish, although by that point all of the other runners who have already completed the race are walking back along the road towards the busses, so you have no option to slow if you want to save face!)

Bedford half splitsLooking at my mile splits after the race there doesn’t appear to be anything too shocking, but the second half of my race was very run-walky, which it shouldn’t really have been.

I got to mile 7 thinking ‘Oh wow, I’m running much better than I thought I would, perhaps I am in with a chance of a decent time’ but not long afterwards I decided that I didn’t want to push it, and that I just wanted to go out and enjoy the run and headspace so dialled things down and just jogged along instead.

Bedford half elevationMy heart just wasn’t in it on the day.  You can see all my little walking breaks by the dips on the blue line in the chart above!

I took a Gu gel which I split into half at two of the waterstations.  It was the salted watermelon one (salted caramel still ranks as my favourite) and I ended up chucking the last little bit as I ran through a third water station as I didn’t fancy it any more.

Apparently at the pub at mile 11 there were free shots of prosecco and beer being given out to runners but somehow I missed this!

Although not a PB, I finished in a respectable 2:12:53, despite the poor consistency of my race.

The t-shirt at the end is a lovely long sleeved top which has quickly become my new favourite.  If any other Bedford half runners have their t-shirt and don’t plan on wearing it, I’ll happily take it off your hands!  It’s so comfy and fits really nicely for a change.  I love it when races give out long-sleeved technical tops at the finish.

The Bedford half was the first half marathon I ever ran, back in 2011. I ran it again the following year but hadn’t made it back since. By December I always seem to be at a point in my training where I don’t think I’ll do the half marathon distance justice so chicken out of signing up. . The past three months have been hard. I’ve driven hundreds of miles each week, rushed around and generally wound up feeling pretty exhausted. My training has suffered. In fact, until this morning’s race I hadn’t run at all this week. . My Mum died last Sunday. (In fact, three family members died in the space of six days.) Oscar has spent the end of the week housebound with a bad allergic reaction and Hand, Foot and Mouth and so today I really needed to go out and run 13.1 miles even if I didn’t do the distance justice. . But next year Bedford, – I’ll be back, fitter than ever and I will kick butt at your race, that’s a promise! . #Bedfordhalfmarathon #Bedfordhalf #halfmarathon #13point1 #timetoregainsomefitness

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As it was such a local race we had several supporters out on the course, which is always lovely to see!

Bedford half marathon mile 3(Mile 3)

Bedford half marathon(Must be fairly early on into the race, as there are still so many people around – taken from the Forge Photography page – donation given!)

Bedford half mile 6(Mile 6 – taken from the Bedford Harriers video)

Bedford half marathon mile 11(Mile 11)

Bedford half marathon mile 12(Mile 12)

Chip time: 2h 12m 53s
Gun time: 2h 14m 06s
Position: 818/955

The first half of my 2018 will be focused around training for the South Downs Way 100 in June but I will run Bedford half again in December next year, and next year it will be a crack at a sub 2!

Do you wear the t-shirts you get at races?
Have you ever decided to just jog round and enjoy a race before?