Why I love my Out ‘n’ About Nipper Sport running buggy

It was always going to be the case that I purchased a running buggy.

Out 'n' About Nipper Sport V4

Despite saying during pregnancy that I thought I probably wanted to keep running as my ‘me time’ during the week, having a running buggy makes it so much more practical to fit runs in since Oscar arrived and it helps me remain a regular attendee at parkrun on a Saturday morning.

When Oscar was just a few weeks old, a friend from my running club told me about Wendy from Running Buggies coming to Stanwick Lakes the following week.  She was going to be demonstrating some of the different running buggies that her business sold and be on hand to offer advice to buggy runners.

I think it might have been my very first trip out on my own with Oscar in the car at that point, and I still had no clue what I was doing as a Mum with a new baby (do we ever really know?!) but I was determined to get to Stanwick Lakes, just 2 miles up the road and a regular running haunt for me – as I felt it would be so helpful to view the buggies in person and to be able to chat to other Mums as well as Wendy, who had a wealth of knowledge about the different buggies available.

The day before the event I messaged to say that I would be going along and Wendy asked what my requirements were in a buggy.  I told her that I would mainly be running short distances with the buggy – plenty of parkruns and runs around an hour in length, including some off road running.  The buggy wouldn’t be used for town trips, but would potentially also be used for weekend walks in the countryside.

The two buggies which she suggested I try out that (very cold) Friday morning were the Thule Glide and the Out ‘n’ About Nipper Sport V4.  Both would be suitable for my requirements, with the Out ‘n’ About weighing in slightly heavier and the Thule sporting a larger price tag.

Thule Glide and the Out n About Nipper Sport V4Wendy helpfully held Oscar for me (and found an extra blanket to wrap him in as I was totally unprepared for the chilly wind that was raging that morning!) so that I may run along the track (childless!) and test out each of the two buggies.

Although I didn’t purchase a buggy immediately following that visit, I took sets of information packs home with me to weigh up my options and check my bank balance ready for the day I inevitably did purchase a buggy.

Had it not been for Wendy putting on an event I wouldn’t have known where to begin when it came to testing out running buggies or knowing the difference between all the makes and models.  Where do you go to try out a running buggy?!  I had assumed that all three wheeled buggies were suitable for running and in all conditions, but that is not the case at all.

It is recommended that you do not run with a baby in a buggy, even a dedicated running buggy, until they are at least six months old and capable of holding their own head up confidently.  Similar to the time that you are confident in placing them in a high chair at the table with you for dinner.

Just before Oscar turned six months old I spoke to Wendy again.  She was headed back up to my side of the country and offered to bring along a couple of buggies for me to try out now that I would be able to test them out with Oscar as passenger.  I thanked her for her kind offer but had already decided to invest in the Out ‘n’ About Nipper by this point, so headed over to her website to make my purchase.

And I haven’t looked back!

Oscar and I with the running buggy

Having my own running buggy has been great for so many reasons, mainly:

  • I can easily take Oscar out on walks so that we may both enjoy the fresh air along bridleways and footpaths – some tracks which a regular buggy would not be able to cope with.
  • I can fit in runs during the daytime when I’m a lone parent, or during weeks when Dan is working away from home and I otherwise would not be able to run.
  • I can run Oscar to sleep on all those days when he refuses to take a nap!

Some of the features of the Out ‘n’ About Nipper Sport I have found really useful are:

  • Great suspension
    • When Oscar was about 3 or 4 months old I liked to take him out for a walk every day in his day-to-day buggy.  I vividly remember walking along a wide rocky gravel track and Oscar crying so much from the movement of the buggy that I ended up picking him up and placing him on my shoulder to calm him, whilst awkwardly pushing the heavy buggy along with my other hand.  I regularly run down this gravelly track now with my Out ‘n’ About buggy whilst Oscar snores away inside!
      Oscar and I at Wimpole Estate parkrun
  • Handbrake
    • Alongside the handlebar is a handbrake.  I always make sure to have my hand close to this when running downhill!
      Out 'n' About Nipper Sport running buggy
  • Safety strap
    • Sliding my hand through this strap when running gives me piece of mind that if I trip or stumble, the buggy and Oscar aren’t going to continue rolling out into the road, or into potential danger.  Instead, the buggy will stay by my side (and hopefully help to keep me upright should I trip too!)
  • Undercarriage storage
    • There is a fair amount of storage underneath the buggy for items you might need on a run or space for a mini food shop after an emergency run to the shops!  (If you push the sun visor up, it does a great job of holding a french stick in place too I discovered!)
      French stick in the running buggy
  • Top pockets alongside the visor
    • These are great for holding my phone and keys when I run, so that they’re easy to grab should I need them.
  • The adjustable back
    • Although Oscar could sit up unaided from about five months old, I still always made sure to place an array of cushions behind him when he was on the floor during the early days, as he wasn’t always that stable!  The back of the Out ‘n’ About Nipper can be adjusted so that it reclines and this is how I used it when we first started out running together.  Now that Oscar is older, he wants to be able to see where he’s going all the time so I’ve adjusted the back to a more upright position.
      Oscar at March parkrun
  • It’s Lightweight (9.8kg)
    • Following my Caesarean, when Dan returned to work I remained housebound for several weeks as I could not lift or turn the original buggy we owned.  The difference in weight between that buggy and the running buggy is very noticeable, and I am able to hold the Out ‘n’ About easily with just one hand.
      Out 'n' About Nipper Sport running buggy - lightweight
  • Adjustable handlebar
    • I’m fairly tall so have the handlebar set at it’s highest setting.  My friend Jenny is much shorter than me and when I was unable to collect Oscar from nursery one day last Summer she was able to adjust the handlebar so that pushing the buggy became more comfortable for her.
  • 16″ wheels
    • Every non-runner comments on the size of these!
      Oscar in the running buggy
  • Fixed front wheel
    • This takes some getting used to.  My brother still complains that he finds it impossible to push Oscar’s running buggy when out on a walk, but it’s really not difficult when you’re used to it.  All running buggies should have fixed wheels.  If you were running along with a regular buggy which has front wheels which twist and your front wheel hit a large stone, causing the wheel to twist quickly to the side you could soon end up heading into the road, or into other runners if you were at a parkrun or race.  When turning a buggy with a fixed wheel, the way to change direction is to lightly put pressure on the handlebar at the back of the buggy, resulting in the (very light) front wheel lifting from the ground.  You can then angle the buggy in the direction you want to be headed before returning the front wheel to the ground again.
      Sounds complicated and slow, but very quick easy after a few tries.
  • Easy to use foot brake
    • The foot brake is located at the back of the buggy and is bright red, so impossible to miss.  It’s a quite large plastic flap, which is really easy to push down and up again when you want to remove the brake to continue on with your journey.
  • Ease of fitting in a car boot
    • I choose to leave the back seats down on one side in my car, meaning I can literally just throw the buggy into the back of the car and drive off when I want to head out, with the buggy ready to go as soon as I arrive at my destination.  If we travel in Dan’s car, Dan likes to keep the buggy within his boot, but it takes just seconds to unscrew and pop off the front wheel, meaning that it easily fits widthways in the back of his car.
  • Super rain cover
    • I’ve had to use the rain cover a few times whilst out on a run now and found the cover so quick and easy to throw over the buggy.  There is a large velcro strip which runs along the back of the cover, and two sets of poppers which attach around the front wheel support to keep the cover in place.  Oscar sleeps through the whole thing!
      Out 'n' About Nipper Sport running buggy with raincoverOut 'n' About Nipper Sport running buggy with raincover
  •  Breathable back panel
    • Not only does this mean that the buggy doesn’t become so stuffy in the hot Summer months, but it also helps to make the buggy more aerodynamic when you want to pick up some speed.
      Out 'n' About Nipper Sport running buggy with Oscar
  • The viewing pane
    • Very handy to spot when Oscar is falling asleep, or when he is munching on falling leaves he shouldn’t have in there with him!
      Oscar in the running buggy

You can also buy footmuffs for the buggy, which look super snug, but I love this blanket which my friend crocheted for Oscar not long after he was born.  It’s super colourful and you can definitely see us coming on a run!
Northampton parkrun with the buggy

So what does Oscar think?  I’m pretty sure he loves it.  He spends most parkruns waving madly at people as we run by.  Just recently he’s also added the phrase “Bye bye” to the wave.  I really hope that nobody thinks I’m sarcastically commenting on the fact that we’re passing them, and instead realise that it is my child waving and commenting as we run by!

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?

Well on the way to becoming a recognised parkrun tourist

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

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

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

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

Here goes…

parkrun #88 – Kettering
29th July

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

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

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

Kettering parkrun as a family of three

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

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

parkrun #89 – Wolverhampton
5th August

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

parkrun #90 – Wimpole Estate
19th August

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

parkrun #91 – Blickling
2nd September

My fastest parkrun since having Oscar!

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

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

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

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

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

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

parkrun #92 – March
14th October

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

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

Oscar at March parkrun

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

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

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

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

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

Oscar and I at March parkrun

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

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

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

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

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

September – what a month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oscar's first birthday

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

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

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

…But we did make it through the other side.

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

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

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