The last few months have been tough – working full time night-shifts, trying to parent Oscar successfully during the days whilst Dan has been working (albeit from home), trying to be there for family who were struggling during difficult times and also attempting to train for the Autumn 100.
My last night shift was Saturday and this week is all change. Dan is back in the office today (although just two days a week now going forward) and Oscar has picked up an extra morning at nursery from this term onwards to prepare him for school next year.
I’ve woken this morning feeling motivated and energised – ready to tackle the world again knowing that I haven’t got to try and fit everything into just two days before juggling fitting sleep around work and life.
I slept for maybe twenty minutes on my return from work Sunday morning and then woke up feeling dreadful – sore throat, headache, feeling sick. Just generally run down from a lack of sleep over the previous months I think. It’s always the way – reach a holiday or some time out and my body decides to fall apart! But the difference is, this time I won’t be returning to night shifts so my body will hopefully be able to completely recover.
Due to the pandemic I lost a big freelance contract and there was no coursework moderation role for me over the Summer this year, as exam boards did not ask for any to be submitted for the season. But, by working full time hours in a well paid job and being savvy with our spending Dan and I have still managed to put away the money we would have saved across the year in just six months, so I have a bit of leeway now for a little while with the time to investigate further a few projects which I currently have in the pipeline.
I’m not sure what my options would be to return to full time work anyway – basically impossible with a child I imagine? How do full time working parents work around school? When Oscar starts next year I will need to be able to take him to school for 9 am and pick him up at 3:15 – 37 weeks of the year. We don’t have family in the area to help with school runs so the responsibility of school drop-off and pick-up will fall solely on me. I don’t want to put him into before and after-school clubs for hours on end if I don’t have to (although I know this works for many) and so working for myself is the only real option I have unless I want to return to working nights again (I don’t!)
The things I’m looking forward to being able to do now that my shifts have finished include; catching up on life admin, not having to struggle to fit all of my runs in across just four consecutive days, being able to raise my sleep average above 5 hours each night, feeling alive enough to enjoy Oscar during the day, my knees no longer getting a battering from kneeling for hours on end each night, not having to break my sleep up into three naps of 1-2 hours each day, removing the duvet that has lived in my car since March, there no longer being deep cuts in my fingertips from opening boxes 8 hours every night…
I will however miss; the extra money making its way into our bank account every four weeks, the discount on my food shop, the guaranteed 15,000 steps every night and the strength work I get from lugging cages of heavy cheese off the lorries and onto the shop floor, watching the beautiful sunrises from the car park roof at leaving off time and the feeling of being able to provide for my family.
I did make epic use of my last day of discounted shopping yesterday – two full trolleys filled with enough store cupboard items to last another three month lockdown! Good job we have a big kitchen! I was super organised, – armed with a long list Dan, Oscar and I managed to get the whole shop done and to the car within seventy minutes! (I still need to pack most of it away in the cupboards though – a task I saved for today!)
It’s just under five weeks now until the Autumn 100 and my training is well underway. I’m happy with how my running has been going over the past few months – I even managed a new 5k PB time of 25:46 back in July! My running club has begun meeting for training sessions again and I am lead coach for one of the groups from this term – something I’m really looking forward to. I have lots of ideas for the runners of Group 4.
The year is looking up!
Has your life begun to return to some kind of normality again yet following the pandemic?
Ever worked through the night before?
If you’re a working parent, how do you juggle the school run around work?
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.
Then, in 2014 and 2016 we ran the Cancer Research UK Race for Life 5k event at Holkham Hall together to raise more funds.
My 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.
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!”
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.
Wish 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.
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.
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.
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!)
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!
In 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?!
I headed upstairs and had my photograph taken by a volunteer in front of the Cancer Research board…
…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!
After 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. That’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.
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?
2018 has been another year with not as much blogging as I would have really liked. (Just 35 posts in 2018!) But it has been a year filled with action packed fun and adventure when I looked back through my calendar and in my blog posts this weekend. (When is my life ever not filled with fun and adventure?!)
Once again, I’ve loved putting together this post and reminiscing over the past year of fun. Here goes…
* Super tasty meal out with Dan on our first date day since having Oscar.
* At the finish of the Robin Hood 100 in September. I finally ran 100 miles! My face says it all.
* At the end of the Milton Keynes Marathon in May. Such a ridiculously hot day. The support from the locals was incredible though.
* Headed up the first big hill of the South Downs Way 50 in April. I had such an epic race that day. Everything fell into place for me out on the trails.
* My Shires and Spires 35m medal from May. I ran my second fastest time on the course despite only using the race as a training run for my first 100 event.
* Volunteering as 30 minute pacer for the first time at Northampton parkrun at the start of the year.
* High fiving Oscar at the 85 mile point of my 100.
* Playing rounders on the roof of the Decathlon building in London.
* Comparing this year’s SDW50 medal with last year’s. A few seconds shy of an hour PB!
* Oscar playing at Wickstead Park.
* Enjoying his first time paddling in the sea at Wells in Norfolk.
* Our family holiday to the Isle of Wight and one of my favourite pictures of the three of us from the year.
* Just a sunny Saturday afternoon at the park across the road from us.
* Helping to collect potatoes for dinner at Grandad’s house.
* Oscar’s first ice skating trip at Beckworth Emporium.
* Watching the ducks with Grandad in Norfolk.
* My little mini me!
* Enjoying shoulder rides with Daddy at Irchester Country Park.
Obviously a parkrun double was on the cards at the start of the year and I chose to run the Linford Wood/Milton Keynes double again with Laura.
In January I was frequently working three night shifts a week, managing the occasional parkrun on a Saturday morning and then trying to blog, train for my 100, keep on top of housework and Mum the rest of the time. Somehow I managed a few parkruns straight on the back of a night shift before heading home to bed, and one weekend after having already worked a back to back night I drove to Biggleswade, slept (if you can call it that!) for an hour in the front of my car, changed into my cross-country kit and ran the final cross-country race of the season!
It was also around this time that I had a health scare and was taken into hospital for a few scans. Although hopefully nothing to worry about I am still being monitored following that first hospital trip.
2018 was the first year of the National Running Show and I was so excited to visit in January. I was looking to meet new people and spend lots of money on fun running things! There were some great guest speakers and I bumped into a couple of people I knew through blogging at the show which was fun. I also managed to pick up some pace bands, which I’m hoping are going to come in handy for when I run London Marathon in April later this year.
I’m an ambassador for the event this year and although I’m poor and can’t really afford to spend any money at the show this time round, I can’t wait to see and hear all of the fantastic guest speakers they have lined up for next weekend!
I volunteered for first time as pacer for 30 minutes at Northampton parkrun, coming in at 29:58 – I couldn’t have gotten much closer to target than that!
At the end of the month we had a second funeral to attend for my Dad’s cousin. Another cancer victim in our family
Dan was taken all over the country with work during 2018, often away for days at a time. I put a shoutout on our club Facebook page to see if anybody would be able to loan me a treadmill in the build up to the South Downs Way 100 and I was lucky enough to be able to borrow a treadmill!
After 17 months, Oscar finally started walking on his own on Valentine’s Day!
I also worked on the registration desk of our club trail race, the Welly Trail Half.
I ran the Milton Keynes Half on Mother’s Day. The first Mother’s Day without my own Mum. Initially hoping for a shiny new half marathon PB, my dreams turned to dust when I had to pull over and limp the final eight miles after getting a sharp pain in my calf at mile 5. I was absolutely gutted and there were a few tears that morning.
The following day though, Dan, Oscar and I hopped into a very full car and headed off to York for our first family holiday. It was very much needed and I really enjoyed taking some time off from work, running and actually getting to spend some precious time with my boys.
Following my calf injury I booked in to see Fred at StrongLines. He taped up my calf and gave me a number of exercises to complete over the coming months to strengthen my weaker areas and ensure I made it to the start line of my 100 in June.
I nearly collapsed as I stood scanning barcodes at Northampton parkrun in the freezing cold one Saturday, luckily feeling much better after a trip to Magee’s and with a hot chocolate in hand to increase my sugar levels.
Laura and I ran our traditional pre-Stanwick 10k run. It tipped it down this year and the usual route was flooded so they had to divert the course. (Laura and I still made it across the ford, but barely!)
I stepped down as website editor from my running club committee, and received a lovely bunch of flowers and thanks at the AGM.
One of my goals for the year was to complete the South Downs Way 50 in a faster time than I had the previous year as I’d still been breastfeeding back in 2017 and had stopped to express along the way! I’d have been pretty gutted if I had not been able to run the 2018 event faster!
Luckily, I achieved my goal, and finished nearly an hour faster than I had ran the event the previous year, smashing all of my goals for the race and building my confidence ready for the 100 miles along the same piece of course later on in the year.
I then spectacularly managed to mess up some parkrun tourism when I arranged to meet Laura at Luton parkrun. Turns out there are two parkruns in Luton! Luckily we each turned up at an event we hadn’t run before so still increased our tourism count even though we didn’t see each other that morning! Not my finest moment though! To think I was so chuffed to have arrived before Laura that day, when I always leave everything to the last minute!
This year we attended four weddings and two Christenings, the first Christening fell on the first weekend in May for my friend Zoë’s little boy Oliver.
The following day was the Milton Keynes Marathon. Probably the hottest weather I have ever run in! I had decided by mile 11 to just enjoy the run rather than to run hard, and I had such a fun race!
A few weeks later I offered to pace another runner to a PB at the Shires and Spires ultra. The runner I was pacing achieved more than she had hoped for, taking over an hour off from her previous best, and crossing the lady as third in her age category, winning a trophy along the way!
I didn’t blog much in June. (Once, about the Shires and Spires race.) All of my time was spent marking for OCR, working shifts at Tesco and preparing to run 100 miles at the South Downs Way.
I ran my first attempt at the 100 mile distance on the 2nd weekend in June, managing to get to 78 miles. Possibly the busy lead up to the event was what caused my downfall in not completing the race.
As an ambassador for Decathlon I was invited to go and take part in filming for their Summer campaign – Sport for Every Body. I had so much fun down in London with a bunch of like-minded fitness bloggers and was sad when the day came to an end, even though I had the most stressful trip down and my interview answers on camera were so poorly constructed!
We started to make a massive dent in our garden this Summer, but due to the heatwave, could only get so far so that’s another mission to add to our 2019 to do list!
Oscar ran his first toddler dash at our club race at the end of July. Although I had visions of him happily toddling the whole length of the race, arms in air as he crossed the finish line, in reality it rained heavily for the duration of the race and Oscar sulked as soon as he realised the other toddlers were much older and bigger, therefore faster than him. He ducked under the barrier at the first opportunity and it took a lot of convincing from Dan and Me to keep him going until the end!
I went to support Guy at the Grim Reaper race at the start of August. He was attempting the 70 mile distance, which had been where I ran my first 70. He had horrific heat for his attempt though, so I went along armed with ice lollies for him and the rest of his support crew. Sadly the heat got to him and the blisters which grew on his feet prevented him from getting past 40 miles on the day.
We met up with friends and their toddler at Clumber Park later in the week, not realising at the time that I would actually be running part of my 100 miler around the park later in the year.
It was also our fourth wedding anniversary on the 9th August. (That time has gone by so quickly!) A fourth anniversary is represented by flowers and fruit. I bought Dan a plant for our lounge and he treated me to a delivery of roses then we headed out for a date night dinner with Oscar in the evening after Dan had finished work.
August was also Dan’s 30th birthday, which we celebrated by having some of his closest friends over for the day. It was a fairly quiet celebration, as we were due to head off for a holiday to the Isle of Wight the next day.
We made a break for four days to the Isle of Wight to stay in a static caravan owned by Dan’s parents. It was the first time I had ever been to the Isle of Wight (or stayed in a caravan!), and we had a fantastic time away.
We headed back home ready for the weekend so that I may work and then we continued our Summer adventures by visiting my Dad in Norfolk the following week. So much lovely family time together, although we did have to attend the third family funeral of the year whilst we were back – for my Aunt/Godmother. Another cancer victim.
I booked to run the Dunstable Downs marathon at the start of September rather last minute. The race fell a fortnight before my second 100 mile attempt, but I didn’t feel well going into the event and made the decision to pull before even getting to halfway, resulting in a massive knock to my confidence before goal race day.
I gained a new niece – my brother had a baby girl, Evie. Our second niece by that name. (Obviously the first by my brother!)
September was all about the completing my first 100 miler – the Robin Hood 100. I was so, so happy to cross that finish line and know that I had completed the distance I had set out to complete as one of my main goals at the start of the year!
I followed my 100 up with the Squeaky Bone relay race a few weeks later, running with three good friends as part of a relay team.
At the end of the month I was chosen as an Ambassador for The National Running Show, which is something I’m really looking forward to attending again this year.
In October I offered to show other local members of the Run Mummy Run community some local running routes, and have regularly run out with a little group that live nearby since. I also got involved with the RMR takeover at Kettering parkrun, volunteering to set up and take down the equipment after the run.
Dan, Oscar and I took a trip to Wolverhampton to meet a friend’s baby.
Oscar got sick the following week and ended up hospitalised with pneumonia which was a rather scary time. The day after he left hospital I headed up to the Peak District to run the Dusk ’til Dawn marathon through the night with friends. I had so much fun, even though it was freezing out there!
My birthday is the 31st October and I celebrated(!) by hosting a Halloween party for four of Oscar’s friends and their Mums, and then did my paper-round in the evening! Oh how glamorous it is being a stay-at-home Mum in my 30s(!) We had so much fun at the party though!
Dan had treated me to a spa day for my birthday, so on the first Friday in November we headed to a spa in Kettering for the day. It was lovely actually being able to spend time with just Dan again after so long.
A trip to Gower with friends for the marathon came the following weekend and it was nice to have some time completely away from being Mum for a couple of days and escape the madness of working five jobs!
The following weekend was the second cross-country event in the series. Our home race and again, ridiculously hard. Made even harder by the fact that a friend and fellow runner from the club had died the morning before following a cardiac arrest whilst out on a run. (Guy, who I had supported at Grim earlier in the year, and who had paced me at the Robin Hood 100.)
December was a brighter month. With Christmas on the way, Dan, Oscar and I were invited down to London to film for the Decathlon campaign ‘Bikes are for Christmas’.
As Oscar was of an age where he understood the magic of Christmas a little better this year we made sure to fit as much of that Christmas magic into the month as possible.
We took him Ice Skating at Beckworth Emporium…
…to have our photo taken in a giant snow globe at Bosworths Garden Centre…
…and to West Lodge Farm Park to meet Santa.
We spent Christmas with my Dad, Aunt and Great Aunt in Norfolk and then just enjoyed having some time off as a family for the remaining few days that Dan had off before needing to return to work.
And then, just like that, we’re already two weeks into 2019!
Our club competes in the Three Counties Cross Country series each season and it’s one of the groups of races I absolutely love. Cross-country, being off-road and running over challenging terrain is very much my thing.
The first two events have been tough ones though, in more ways than one.
I ran the Dunstable race last year, but never posted a recap. I had travelled back from Norfolk to Northamptonshire for the race the night before, receiving a phone call on the return journey from Dan to say that his Nan had just died back in Wolverhampton. Dan had spent the day visiting his Nan who had suffered from a heart attack a few days earlier. I had been unable to head to Wolverhampton along with Oscar as my Mum had been gradually getting weaker and weaker all week, having not spoken since several days before. Her eyes had been closed all day on that Saturday, but I stayed alongside her, watching Oscar coasting around the hospital bed that had been placed in my parents’ lounge for her to rest in.
The next morning Dan took care of Oscar while I got myself ready to head to the cross-country event. It’s the event in the Three Counties Cross-Country league that is the furthest away and so I travelled down with a friend to the start. The race was a tough one. A bottle-neck start and a tough climb in the final mile. But, I enjoyed the race. We finished, headed back for rolls and cake, talked race tactics and tried to work out who would score for our club that season.
On arriving back at the car I checked my phone to find a missed call from my Dad and also one from Dan.
My Mum had died as I stood on the start line to that race waiting for the gun to go and I hadn’t even known. Not that there was anything I could have done of course. I rang Dan first. My Dad had already told him the news and Dan had begun to pack a bag for both Oscar and I. I don’t think I even showered when I arrived back home from the muddy race. Just checked Dan’s packing, threw in a few more bits, tucked Oscar into his car seat with a blanket and cup and set off for Norfolk. When I arrived my Dad asked me if I would make those horrible phone calls. We’d already prepared for this day and made a list a few weeks earlier so that we were sure not to miss anybody out when it happened. Most people kept the phone conversation short and sweet, perhaps aware that it wasn’t the time to offer small talk or keep me on the phone for long. There were a few who made the task unknowingly harder; breaking down on the phone or keeping me on the phone without any pause for conversation back. It wasn’t the nicest job I’ve had to do as an adult.
Because I’d not written about the race last year I think I had almost pushed the full memories of that day out of my mind until I typed the postcode into my phone the other week and watched the map scan across to the race HQ, ready to give directions for the drive. I felt anxious for the whole journey. More so when on my arrival I was directed to the very same parking spot we had been in last year.
That’s where the similarities ended though and I quickly made my way to the start to surround myself with other club runners, not that there were many out for the first event of the series which was a shame.
Due to the large volume of runners expected at the first race, the organisers had made the decision to reverse the course this year, meaning that Heartbreak Hill would come very early on into the race. It was a tough hill to climb, but at least I didn’t succumb to a walk this time round!
(This photo gives you a little idea how tough Heartbreak Hill was!)It was tough going to start with – very crowded along the narrow track heading away from the start line and it was impossible to find your place in the race. Eventually though, the path widened and the pack started to thin out as everyone fell into their own running rhythm.
Somehow, the reverse course was so much harder than it had been the previous year. I didn’t walk Heartbreak Hill, but there was an incredibly long, drawn-out hill in the final mile that from talking to faster friends after the race, I found out even they walked parts of!
Ugh. I hate this photo of me. I look like I have lost all tone that I gained from training for the 100. If anything is an incentive to up my fitness game, this is it. So, I’m keeping it real and will leave this picture up on here. Just let it be known, it’s not my favourite!
It was a tough course.
Position: 403/483 (Fairly happy with this. I’m usually much nearer to the back!) Gender position: 402/481 Age category position: 13/17
I had thought that the Dunstable event was tough, but that did not prepare me for running our home cross country event! I haven’t had a chance to run it since 2015, when I was at my fittest, and boy did it show how much fitness I’d lost running the course again this year! The day before the event, our club heard the devastating news that we had lost one of our members. He had suffered a cardiac arrest whilst out on the Wednesday night trail run and despite the best efforts of other runners, ambulance crew and hospital staff, that Saturday morning he died. I wrote a little bit about it on Instagram last week.
The night before our home race I laid out pins, scissors and ribbon on our kitchen table, and along with two other club members we folded together 120 black ribbons for runners, marshals and club supporters to wear the following day, wherever our club members may be racing.
I had offered to help hand out race numbers to members before the cross-country race and so now also handed out black ribbons for them to wear. I handed them out to previous club members, those from other clubs who had run with Guy in the past and made themselves known to me, and friends. It was really hard.
The minute’s silence at the start of the race was fitting. We’d published information that it would take place on our club social media the day before in the hope that it would be heard over the pre-race chat.
The race started and we shot off across Croyland Park towards the first set of hills. The far side of the park has loads of small up and down sections. Great, I would imagine if you were ten years old and out on your bike, but pretty energy sapping when you were running the whole section twice during a cross-country race.
I had my first little walk at mile 2. I felt like a total failure!
The best part about running a home course is all of the fantastic support on offer.
The number of brook crossings had reduced from four to two since the last time I ran the course. I’d been told by my friend who was Race Director for the day that the race inspector had not been happy with the size of the crossing, but I wasn’t sure if it had changed or not. The day before apparently they had been out to widen the crossing point and had added a dam in order to ensure the water was deep!
In actual fact, the crossings weren’t that bad. It wasn’t too slippy getting into or out of them. The crossing was too wide to jump all the way across, instead, a gradual slope down the bank to a ridge, enabling you to jump into the water below. Much less daunting than when I ran it previously.
It wasn’t as cold as I was expecting either. At it’s deepest the water came up to about my knee.
Not everybody managed to stay upright during the crossing…!
There were a couple more sneaky walks as I entered the other side of the park. I was feeling proper fed up with my body by now and vowed to take some trips over to Croyland park in the near future to train on the hilly ground.
The far side of the field was very open (with very little chance for unseen walking breaks…I got spotted and shouted at once!) I was glad to see the brook crossing in my sights once more, knowing that there wouldn’t be too much longer before we reached the finish now.I really powered down the final hill, not letting anybody come past on my way to the finish. Strava says my last bit of mile was run at 7:30mm pace. I just wanted to be done!
I was the last runner to finish for our club, but did still manage to push the scores down for some of the other teams, so at least my run still counted for something.
Position: 341/404 Gender position: 108/158 Age category position: 17/23
Although I had a shocking race, my positions at our home event weren’t too far off those from the first event, so I would assume that most others found the course as challenging as I did which was some sort of comfort.
Three more races to go! One more before Christmas and two in the New Year. Here’s hoping I’m a little stronger by the time they roll around!
Have you seen race photos and just thought ‘Ugh!’ Are you taking part in cross-country this year?