Can a Girl have too many (Running) Shoes?

A quick glance in my wardrobe will tell you that I’m not much into shoes – black fit flops (summer) – black ankle boots (winter) – black heels (weddings, funerals and graduations).  I have some walking boots, walking sandals and wellies. And running shoes……….  When our couch to 5k groups started out I talked about the most crucial bit of running kit being a good sports bra (for the ladies at least) and I would stick by that advice.  However, the next most important is shoes.  So this is my (lighthearted) guide to new runners – via the 11 pairs that I currently own – on running shoes and how to get a pair that it right for you (avoiding some of my mistakes!)

Rule Number 1: Make sure they are big enough!

I give you exhibits 1-3 – They all fall into the category of not big enough but for slightly different reasons.  Always buy shoes at least a size bigger than your shoe size (so for me I need at least a 4.5 as my shoe size is a 3 or 3.5).  You need at least a thumb width at the front to avoid the dreaded black toe nails.  And the other important fact is that your feet swell when you run – so “snug” when you start off is “tight” after 2 or 3 miles.  So here we have the two white pairs – both size 4 – lovely shoes (Brooks Adrenaline) but just too small.  I knew it at the time – but they were in the sale – really cheap and my usual make………. what difference can half a size make? (Answer: Quite a lot!). A did a few runs in these (still in denial) – before consigning them to gym work.  They are perfect for the gym and would be used all the time if only I went to the gym more than a few times a year (usually when I’m injured and need to cross train).  And the purple pair – now these are a bit different and harder to diagnose – but in the end they also fall into the “too small” (or narrow) category.  Again lovely shoes and my usual Brooks Adrenaline – size 4.5 – exactly the same as the ones they replaced (or were they?).  I’d run comfortably in these until I got to 7 or 8 miles and then my feet would start to hurt.  Not so bad you might say……. but as I was training for a marathon – that left a lot of miles with hurty feet!  I couldn’t work out what was going on and put the pain down to my training/injury/running too far too soon – anything but the shoes.  Nothing I tried made it any better and in the end I ran the marathon with those shoes and the hurty feet.  It was only when I ran in another pair of shoes – that I realised they were the cause of the pain.  Brooks had slightly remodelled their shoes -a bit narrower (as all manufacturers do – usually annually) and they no longer worked for me………..

Rule Number 2: Get the right shoes for the way you run.

Exhibit 4

Many runners like myself, “overpronate” (their ankles roll in slightly on each stride) – and so we need a bit of extra structure and support in the arch of our running shoes.  And then there are things like the “drop” in the shoe – between heel and toe.  I know very little about this but most new runners need a good drop when starting out as this encourages you to strike the ground heel first which is better for protecting against injury in new runners (everyone has different views about this – and it changes the more experienced/faster you get – watch Kelly Holmes run – she doesn’t touch the floor at all!!!).  A few years ago there was a passion for “barefoot running shoes” (Exhibit 4 – you have to admit they are a really pretty colour) – with much less of a “drop” – people swore by them…………. until they ran too far in them – too soon – and began to pick up injuries.  These purple beauties are lovely and lightweight and very comfy – but I use them mainly for walking and a little light running – they don’t really suit my running style.

Rule Number 3: Different shoes for different conditions.

If you are just going to run on roads and tarmac trails – or even a bit of off road in the summer – then one pair of shoes is just fine.  But if you are going to try out other conditions – and run through rough ground and mud then some trail shoes are probably a good plan (Exhibits 5 and 6).  These shoes have much better grip and can keep you upright in most muddy conditions.  The brown ones were my first foray into trail shoes (Brooks Cascadia) and are great for road and trail with puddles rather than heavier, muddy conditions.  The blue ones (Saucony Peregrine) – nice and wide – though I need a size 5 in these – have great grip, enough support for some road running and keep me upright most of the time.  And my little indulgence – the black and purple ones are “ice shoes” – (Exhibit 7 – again Saucony Peregrine so very comfortable) – with a special sole that doesn’t slip in icy conditions – I don’t wear them often but they are great for those icy mornings when you want to stay upright.  I also have some “YakTraks” that you can clip over your shoes to run in the snow………….

Rule Number 4: Replace them.

They say you should replace your shoes every 600 miles!  Sounds a lot doesn’t it? But I run about 100 miles a month – and more if I’m training for a marathon – so that’s new shoes every 6 months – and at £100+ – that’s quite an outlay.  Most people would agree that – if you are not getting injured it’s okay to keep running in your existing shoes.  But they do need replacing sometimes – I usually find that after a year they have no tread left and the padding inside is coming out (exhibits 8, 9 and 10).  These are all Asics Gel Kyano and they are SO comfortable – or ran that “very special race” so it’s hard to part with them………  I try and have 2 pairs working at one time – old and new and then retire the old and buy new – and so they cycle keeps going.  And that brings me to exhibit 11 – my new babies!  Aren’t they lovely – silver too!  I went to replace my Asics with the same – but they have been remodelled and just felt way too small.  So it is back to Brooks Adrenalines – now also remodelled – much wider and comfy again…………..

The new babies!

None of this actually explains why I have 11 pairs of running shoes…………..

Here are my DOs and DON’Ts for buying running shoes

DO buy your shoes from a running shop – where you can run on a treadmill and get someone to look at your gait.  Do you need neutral shoes? or some with structure and support?

DO try shoes on – even if they are the same make and model as previously.

DON’T buy off the internet unless you are absolutely sure they are the make, model and version you want.

DO go and buy shoes after a run – when your feet are warm (not nice I know – but you can take clean socks).

DON’T buy shoes in the sale – unless they are EXACTLY what you want.

DO try on several pairs – running shoes should be comfortable from the start – they should not need to be “broken in”.

DO get them big enough

And especially for me……………..

DON’T buy two pairs when you only need one (fat chance of me following that).

DO learn to let go and recycle…….

June – How to run a Virtual Half Marathon

So the year is ticking by – and June sees Gill and I taking on our sixth half marathon of the year.  The challenge this month has been to find a half marathon to run!  They are really thin on the ground through the summer and we found one relatively local run – but then I was away……….  So we decided to “go it alone”.  It’s a wonderful thing the internet – and a quick google of “virtual half marathon” will find you a host of websites that will accept your proof that you have run the distance and then send you a medal (well I’m still waiting for that actually – but fingers crossed).

And the extra challenge this month is – can I run a half marathon on only two 7 mile training runs?  Followers of this blog will know that I hit the deck quite hard on the Weald Challenge half marathon in May and managed to injure a rib (cracked I suspect) – making moving, sleeping, breathing and running pretty tricky.  I did a couple of jog/walks in the two weeks following the injury – but more walk than jog if the truth be known as – as soon as my breathing became deeper it made my chest hurt – quite a bit……………………….  Then week three saw me heading out to Greece for a week – plenty of walking here in the early morning with a bit of downhill running – but it was really too hot to do anything in the way of a distance run – or anything too hard.  Some cross training with swimming and snorkelling – but my chest was still feeling pretty sore.  But the rest and relaxation – not to mention the wonderful secluded footpaths in northern Cephalonia made up for it –  I really can’t complain.  But I returned from Greece with just a week to go until our June half marathon and next to no training done.  But there is nothing to do now except a couple of middle distance runs to see how the chest holds up and fingers crossed………………………

The next issue is what route and how to organise our 13.1 miles.  Fortunately (sic) our club – Heathfield Road Runners came up with a plan for us.

Niki: “Why don’t you run 7 miles and then do the Heathfield 10k?”

Me: “I think Gill may have a view about that……………..”

Niki: “We’d all be there at the end to cheer you on…………..”

And surprisingly Gill agrees – what those of you that don’t know Heathfield – or the 10k – or Gill for that matter need to know is:

  1. Heathfield is hilly
  2. The 10k makes rollercoasters such as “the big one” at Blackpool pleasure beach look tame.
  3. The 10k is run in midsummer (and the week before saw the highest temperature on a June day since 1976 – remember that? I was 17!)
  4. Gill does not like hills………………

It is a relief that the day is cooler than it has been, although still warm,  and we start early (8.30am) over a 7 mile – flattish – route in order to be back for the start of the 10k.  A bit unorthodox – a 20 minute break before the rest of our run – we were concerned that we would stiffen up and not get going again – but we kept moving and actually it worked fine.  We line up at 10am with the other 318 runners for the roller coaster run.  It is good to be surrounded by friends and other runners – we know most of the marshals – Rosie is there and Gill’s husband Colin and son Jonny.  The run is hard and hot – I am going pretty well until the last two miles – which are uphill all the way – finishing with a run round the Heathfield and Waldron rugby field.  No negative split today!  I finish in 1 hour and 4 mins – not too bad after the first 7 miles – 3 minutes slower than last year – but then I was fresh as a daisy back then!!  And true to their word the Heathfield Road Runners cheer us in (most of them have been back for a while!) which is a fitting end to half marathon number 6!

Gill has found the cake!


Me: 6 done………

Gill: 6 still to do……………

A runner’s version of glass half full or glass half empty?

June – Plastic Free Challenge

So – at the start of this month my niece Beth set Rosie and I a challenge to change something in our behaviour to begin to address the dreadful state of our oceans (not to mention landfill and general rubbish) by reducing our disposable plastic consumption June Challenge.  We decided that it had to be one step at a time – so we pledged to give up buying plastic drinking bottles for the month – with a view to stopping them altogether.  This is where we are up to half way through the month………….

I didn’t make a bad start and got through the first 10 days with no plastic bottles.  Rosie had one disaster – desperate for a drink when shopping in London and could not find an alternative to a bottle – so that’s one down…….  On 10th June we came away for a week to Kefalonia in Greece.  We planned well and brought our reusable bottles with us – but it is a real challenge here!  Tap water is still not recommended for drinking – so its bottled water or boil everything in a travel kettle – no doubt wasting endless energy resources and spending all our days in the kitchen.

So this is how we’ve handled it:

  • No single bottles of water/coke etc. – we fill our bottles or buy cans
  • No litre bottles for general use – we lug the 5 litre ones up the hill to our apartment and refil.  At least they do recycle plastic waste here (at least the plastic that makes it that far). So far we have bought 4 of these.
  • Eating out is tricky as you automatically get given a bottle of water and neither of us is ready to insult these lovely hospitable people by telling them we don’t want one (besides which we are thirsty and need a drink) – so that’s one plastic bottle a day………….. but I have refused plastic straws.
  • Postscript to the above – sparking water comes in glass bottles so we’ve switched to that!

Other things we have done:

  • Shampoo and conditioner bars – plastic free and great for travelling – from Lush
  • The only face and body scrub and moisturiser you could ever need – both from Lush – in plastic pots – but Lush do take them back and reuse them
  • Plastic free bags provided by our tour operator – so we refuse plastic bags from the supermarket – but even this is a challenge as your shopping is packed for you before you have a chance to say – into plastic bags……….

What makes this heartbreaking is that coming to this lovely island makes you aware of the devastation that plastic is having on the ocean and our sea life.  The dive centre has the skeleton of an enormous Cuvier’s Beaked Whale – washed up dead on one of the beaches and revealed to have died from plastic consumption at post-mortem.  Our snorkelling day showed us plastic lying on the ocean floor – and our skipper and first mate (also concerned about plastic) have been cleaning the beaches since the beginning of the season – on one tiny beach we collected two black bin liners full of plastic.  They recently released a loggerhead turtle caught up in a discarded plastic fishing net………..  And it is on the beaches wherever we go.

Finally – Rosie informs me that the best thing we can do for the environment (and animals) is to eat vegetarian – as she does all the time!  That – for one – is turning out to not be a hardship!

I for one am never going to manage to go plastic free – it’s just too difficult – but this month has really raised my awareness and I will continue to make all the small changes that I can!

May – The Weald Challenge

So here we are – the end of May (beginning of June by the time this goes out) – and number 5 in the 12 half marathons in 12 months challenge!

This one is a bit different – a trail half marathon.  And I have a bit of a ghost to lay here.  I ran this race 2 years ago and was fit enough for a road race but unprepared for the demands that running off-road would bring.  I remember it was hot, and hilly (of course).  I got lost – in my defence someone had removed some of the signage – and it is the only race I have entered where I would have succumbed to the dreaded DNF if only I could have found a marshall to put me out of my misery.  In the end it was easier to finish (well you have to get to the end somehow) than to stop – I ran nearly 14 miles (I told you I got lost) when I was barely half marathon fit and spent the rest of the day being somewhat “under the weather” – on bed rest!

So Sunday 28th May sees Gill and I off to the start of the 2017 Weald Challenge.  Trail half marathons seem to have their own rules – where did that extra half mile come from? – 13.6 miles (rather than 13.1 – maybe I didn’t get as lost as I thought I did last time!) – is sold to us as a bonus – a treat – another glorious half mile of Sussex countryside (hills)!  But looking back to January and HM1 – what a contrast – an 8.15am start (a lie in!) in the light – it is warm and only a 15 minute drive required to our start in Chiddingly – East Sussex.  Everyone is friendly here (well they are runners) and it is a relaxed lead up to the start – Gill meets Olivia – an old friend and ex- Heathfield Road Runner – who is looking forward to the 13.6 miles in contrast to the 30 mile ultra that she usually runs (they were off at 8 am so are long gone by now).


Our route is about 75% off-road – following the Weald Way and the Vanguard Way.  There has been some rain over the last few days so I am wearing my trusty trail shoes – although it is dry underfoot and road shoes would have coped.  I remember that 2 years ago the stiles were hard work – there are lots of them!  This year I seem to take them in my stride – I have got used to the climbing up and down again – but they do slow me down.  And that is probably the biggest change from 2015 – I just don’t expect to run this like a road race – it’s totally different – and just takes longer.  Tractor tracks, rutted ground, rabbit holes, foot wide paths through shoulder high crops, cows, stiles (have I mentioned them before?) and tree roots.  Not to mention the sun (it is blazing down) nettles, brambles and the odd Sunday school rambling group (three year olds just don’t get “excuse me” when they are on a hike and have found the most beautiful wild flower that they are desperate to share with someone……………………….).

I am pleased that I made the decision to wear a back pack with water reservoir – not so pleased to find that it has sprung a leak – as there are only 2 drink stations on the half – at 6 and 10 miles.  Again there is the contrast to the road race.  No grabbing your water on the run here………….. water stations are a chance for a stop and a chat – coke, jelly babies and a chocolate digestive if you fancy – “how’s it going?” – “you look great” – “well done!” and we’re off again.

weald challenge
That’s me in the background – and one of the stiles!

It’s hard work and it is hilly – but I’m feeling good – somehow I have managed to take the pressure off myself and just enjoy it.

Eight and a half miles in – I stumble – catch my foot on a tree root but recover and right myself – “pay attention – look where you’re going” – deep breath – concentrate!  And that’s it – as I’m steadying my stride I hit another tree root and don’t even have time to defend myself before I hit the ground.  Thoughts………………..


“Am I okay? – yes – I think so!”

“S**T – that’s going to hurt when the endorphins wear off”

“Can I stand up? – probably – in a minute…………….”

I look up to see the kindly face of a man in a white shirt (Mr 425) – “are you okay?” “can I give you a hand up?” and he does – Thank you!!!!

“I’ll be okay in a minute – I’ll just take a breather – blimey it’s a bit different falling over at 58 – I can remember when I used to bounce!”     Plan…………………….

“I’ll carry on to the next water station (10 miles) and see how I’m doing.”

“I’m bleeding – where from? Not sure…………..”

So – off I go again – one foot in front of the other – actually fine.  I have one or two moments in the next mile or so that probably all runners can identify with – I’m lighter than air – bouncing on my feet – relaxed – running free – why doesn’t everyone run?  (double endorphins?)

At the next water station I’m offered first aid – but I’m fine.  My white shirted rescuer checks up on me – thankyou again!  I’m fine to go on….. I’m going to finish!  So from then onwards its one mile at a time – Mile 11 (I’m overtaken by a couple of ultra-runners – travelling at high speed 28 miles into their runs), Mile 12 (got lost here last time), Mile 13 – just half a mile to go and the finish line!  And the best bit – a medal and a handmade mug that you can take to the kiosk and get filled with tea – and unlimited homemade cakes!!  What a race – why doesn’t everyone do it?IMG_1403

David and Rosie and Sam and Sam (yes there are 2) turn up to see me home and we cheer Olivia and Gill (delighted to have seen a barn owl) over the finish.  How have I done?  Okay I think – 2 hours 39 mins (15 minutes faster than 2 years ago).  14th in my age group – mid table mediocracy – but then a Bolton Wanderer’s supporter is used to that!  But the most important thing is that I enjoyed the run – accepted it’s demands and my limits – it was the best I could do………………..

I’m sore but not exhausted – my ribs are badly bruised (deep breathing, sneezing and rolling over in bed are a challenge) 5 days later I can just about manage to jog – but nothing that requires deep breathing.  Trying to follow Sarah Russell’s advice – “strap it up – take loads of drugs and keep your breathing shallow”.  Other cuts, bruises and stings are superficial – nothing a hot bath and a large glass of dry white wine won’t improve………………………………  Let’s hope I can breathe again soon – June’s half marathon is three weeks on Sunday……………………..

Walking in Scotland – Angus in May

Monday 8th May sees us leaving St. Andrews after a last run down to the beach, past the Old Course and a final browse of the bookshop to get the OS map for our next destination. We head north and west through Dundee to Kilry in Angus – a part of Scotland that I have only ever driven through before.  Kilry is so tiny it barely even gets a mention on our OS map – only 18 miles from Dundee and 34 miles from St. Andrews – it is like stepSquirrel_(17026400639)ping back in time and entering a different world the contrast with the towns is so great.  Our destination is Culdee Cottage a lovely holiday home in the grounds of the owners’ house.  The Jacksons are welcoming and generous in sharing their beautifully tended garden.  Away from the coast the sun is still shining but we are out of the wind and it is warm enough to sit in the garden drinking tea and watching the wildlife.  Birds – siskins, chaffinches and pied and grey wagtails.  And red squirrels – it is so long since I have seen one I had forgotten what our native squirrel looks like and I was startled to see their long ears and cheeky faces.

Our cottage is lovely – full of all the things that make somewhere feel a real “home from home” – a well equipped kitchen, comfortable chairs and beds, teddy bears and rubber ducks.   And little touches that help you really enjoy a holiday – a map with suggested local walks and a bird identification book………… (well they helped to make MY holiday anyway).

Our time here is mainly about walking and some gentle running.  On Tuesday we walk from the Den of Aylth – a steep sided, wooded valley with the Aylth Burn running through it.  Up onto the moor and on to Aylth hill and then picking up the local long distance trail – the Cateran train to bring us back down into the metropolis!


Wednesday is a visit to Pitlochry – and a rather disappointing lunch followed by a lovely walk up through waterfalls out of the town to the smallest distillery in Scotland – EdIMG_1323radour.  We were expecting to see a few Orcs along the way and for it to be run by hobbits…………………….  We missed the tour – and decided not to wait for the next – but picked up a wee dram to have after dinner.  Our return to Pitlochry is beautiful and we see and hear many birds – including cuckoo and woodpecker and several deer leaping across our path or standing still like statues.

Thursday we visit Kirriemuir to see J.M. Barrie’s birthplace – owned by the National Trust for Scotland.  For future reference – it is always worth checking opening times as – unfortunately it is shut until the weekend.  However, we discover that there is more to this tiny town than meets the eye – and it has spawned more than one famous son.  Born in Forfar – Bon Scott – front man for AC/DC was raised here until he was six and we arrive at a time when there is a major (well one room) exhibition of his memorabilia in the Tourist Information centre.  Best summarised as “lived fast and died young” – but clearly the town still holds him close to their hearts.  Tourist Information turns out to be very friendly and full of helpful guides and walk leaflets and we head north into the glens.

So Thursday’s walk sees us starting from Cortachy and heading to Dykehead.  A picnic and a pleasant walk along the river is unfortunately cut short as a bridge has been washed away and we are unable to cross into Dykehead.  One sad fact is the amount of plastic rubbish littering this part of the world and we see at least a dozen plastic bottles waiting to be washed downstream in the mile or so we walk.  I am reminded to bring a bag with me in future to collect this – and of my lovely niece Beth’s aspiration to cut down on the devastation that this waste is having on our planet Plastic Free Hobbit.   So we return to the car and drive to the other side of the river to continue our walk uphill though the forest to the Airlie Monument – an impressive stone tower built in 1901 and back to the car past the unexpected and interesting Scott-Wilson memorial sculpture.

Friday is our last day in Angus and we do not stray far from Culdee Cottage.  We do a circular walk from the cottage and take in the nearby waterfall at Reekie Linn.  After lunch we drive out to Blackwater Reservoir and call in a Peel Farm for some excellent cakes.

Saturday is our flight home – but not until early evening so we drive to the airport and Park and Ride the tram into Edinburgh.  We don’t have a lot of time here today so limit ourselves to one gallery  – the National Gallery of Modern Art – a bit of a walk but we are used to that by now!  A small exhibition – Music from the Balconies – Ed Ruscha in Los Angeles made the walk worthwhile – but the highlight was a room filled by a work by Scottish artist Nathan Coley, 286 Places of Worship, Edinburgh 2004, detailed cardboard copies of the said places……………..


It’s a while since I’ve had a running track on one of these blogs – so here we go in great Scottish Style – but maybe this time its a walking track – The Proclaimers with 500 miles!

This is the Place – Manchester 2017

Growing up in Bolton – Manchester was always my “Big City”.  I rode on my first ever train to Manchester holding my mum’s hand and so excited to hear that trains really do make that “clickety-clack, clickety-clack” noise.  We were going to see Father Christmas and buy new winter coats at Lewis’s department store (the northern chain – nothing to do with John….).  The 17 miles was a long way back then so we looked forward to our annual trip.  My parent’s lived in Manchester before I was born and my brothers were born there.  Manchester University was where my dad did his dental training after the war – an opportunity that a boy from Barrow could never have dreamed of.

Manchester was always just down the road.  Our football teams were great rivals (hard to believe now in these days of the Premier League) – back then many of the players were local lads………….

As I grew up Manchester was the portal that brought me home from University – a train from Bristol Temple Meads to Manchester Piccadilly and then transfer to Manchester Deansgate to travel onto Bolton (unless I could talk mum – who could now drive into picking me up in Manchester).

I returned to the North West to complete my Clinical Psychology Training in the early 1980s at the Lancashire In-Service Training Scheme.  Manchester was once again my city and we shared placements with trainees from the Manchester University course.  I learned my trade with child and family therapy placements at the Pendlebury Children’s Hospital (now the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital).  By now visits to Manchester were easy – the distance shrunk by cars and motorways.  So it was easy to see bands – and what bands!  The Smiths were my favourite at the time – and later Oasis and The Verve (never got into the Stone Roses).  But the Manchester music scene was second to non.  And no trip to Manchester was complete without a visit to “Grassroots” – a bookstore for the time, full of radical literature and periodicals – no problem getting your Spare Rib here……………………..

It is now many years since I have lived in the North West of England but it still forms part of my soul.  My heart is with everyone there now.  Tony Walsh’s poem says it brilliantly – finding words where no words seem enough  ………..

 This is the place

In the north-west of England. It’s ace, it’s the best

And the songs that we sing from the stands, from our bands

Set the whole planet shaking.

Our inventions are legends. There’s nowt we can’t make, and so we make brilliant music

We make brilliant bands

We make goals that make souls leap from seats in the stands

And we make things from steel

And we make things from cotton

And we make people laugh, take the mick summat rotten

And we make you at home

And we make you feel welcome and we make summat happen

And we can’t seem to help it

And if you’re looking from history, then yeah we’ve a wealth

But the Manchester way is to make it yourself.

And make us a record, a new number one

And make us a brew while you’re up, love, go on

And make us feel proud that you’re winning the league

And make us sing louder and make us believe that this is the place that has helped shape the world

And this is the place where a Manchester girl named Emmeline Pankhurst from the streets of Moss Side led a suffragette city with sisterhood pride

And this is the place with appliance of science, we’re on it, atomic, we struck with defiance, and in the face of a challenge, we always stand tall, Mancunians, in union, delivered it all

Such as housing and libraries and health, education and unions and co-ops and first railway stations

So we’re sorry, bear with us, we invented commuters. But we hope you forgive us, we invented computers.

And this is the place Henry Rice strolled with rolls, and we’ve rocked and we’ve rolled with our own northern soul

And so this is the place to do business then dance, where go-getters and goal-setters know they’ve a chance

And this is the place where we first played as kids. And me mum, lived and died here, she loved it, she did.

And this is the place where our folks came to work, where they struggled in puddles, they hurt in the dirt and they built us a city, they built us these towns and they coughed on the cobbles to the deafening sound to the steaming machines and the screaming of slaves, they were scheming for greatness, they dreamed to their graves.

And they left us a spirit. They left us a vibe. That Mancunian way to survive and to thrive and to work and to build, to connect, and create and Greater Manchester’s greatness is keeping it great.

And so this is the place now with kids of our own. Some are born here, some drawn here, but they all call it home.

And they’ve covered the cobbles, but they’ll never defeat, all the dreamers and schemers who still teem through these streets.

Because this is a place that has been through some hard times: oppressions, recessions, depressions, and dark times.

But we keep fighting back with Greater Manchester spirit. Northern grit, Northern wit, and Greater Manchester’s lyrics.

And these hard times again, in these streets of our city, but we won’t take defeat and we don’t want your pity.

Because this is a place where we stand strong together, with a smile on our face, greater Manchester forever.

And we’ve got this place where a team with a dream can get funding and something to help with a scheme.

Because this is a place that understands your grand plans. We don’t do “no can do” we just stress “yes we can”

Forever Manchester’s a charity for people round here, you can fundraise, donate, you can be a volunteer. You can live local, give local, we can honestly say, we do charity different, that Mancunian way.

And we fund local kids, and we fund local teams. We support local dreamers to work for their dreams. We support local groups and the great work they do. So can you help us. help local people like you?

Because this is the place in our hearts, in our homes, because this is the place that’s a part of our bones.

Because Greater Manchester gives us such strength from the fact that this is the place, we should give something back.

Always remember, never forget, forever Manchester.

Tony Walsh 

Mind Over Marathon – Part 2

It’s mental health awareness week – or have I just missed it?

How I hate these “awareness” days/weeks/months.  I know that we need to think about people and the issues that they face but these weeks just irritate me – “if I think about it this week then can I forget about it for the rest of the year…………….?”  International women’s day? – I know! – I know! – and I’m partly so irritated by them because they make me cross and make me look at uncomfortable issues like unfairness and discrimination ……… But really what is it this week?  One legged, blind teddy bear week?  I know I will just have offended someone – and I don’t mean to – some of my best friends are blind teddy bears – but really………..?

Mental health is just too important to take out and look at for a week and then put away.  If one in four of us will have mental health issues as some point in our lives it needs to part of the way that we think about ourselves and our lifestyles EVERY week.

So back to running and mental health – the London marathon is over and our 10 volunteers from BBC 1’s “Mind over Marathon” have finished their training…………….. and those that could, ran the gruelling 26.2 miles.  Watch the Programme here.  I watched the second part of this programme with rapt attention – alternating between total admiration and tears.  Seven of the 10 finished the race – but all ten were at the finishing line.  Injury meant the 3 of the participants did not start the race – but they remained involved and supported the runners through to the end.  Obviously, I think that running is good for our mental health – but I was also struck by the camaraderie between those who took part and how connected the people concerned felt to each other.  Jake and Poppy ran the whole distance together – whilst others – running at their own pace were all held in mind and greeted over the line at the end.  Everyone waited the 7 and a half hours it took one of the ten to finish (hats off to her!).  Those who couldn’t run seemed to be just as important and as included – as those who did.  I will come back to this!

By the end of the programme I was seriously impressed by all who took part – obviously the 10 runners – but the coaches – the presenters and even the Royals – who approached the topic with a down to earth “there but for the grace of god go I” attitude that has got to impact on the issue of stigma in mental health.  I was rather saddened to hear the Queen believes that Harry, Will and Kate should be more involved in traditional Royal duties – rather than pursuing their own projects such as Heads Together.  Not a massive Royalist myself – these youngsters have really won me round with their apparent honesty and passion.

My only quibble with the programme was it’s emphasis on illness (rather than health and the human condition) as I fear that this disempowers people who may feel that the only way of overcoming their difficulties is through “treatment”, doctors and “medical intervention”.  Far be it from me to put anyone off seeking help and support – and from a professional if necessary – but there is so much more that everyone can do to build resilience and help when things seem overwhelming.

I don’t want to lecture – or pretend that everything can be solved by a blog post – clearly it can’t!  There is lots of good advice out there on the internet and Mind’s Five Ways to Wellbeing is as good as any – Five Ways to Wellbeing

All I want to do is get people thinking a bit – and maybe making tiny changes so I am going to limit myself to just two…………………

The first one is Talk – about anything – your life, your family, your pets, your hobbies, running (of course).  But most of all about what has happened to you and about your feelings.  Do it again, and again and again………….  And if people get bored with you – talk to someone else.  Your family, your friends, your cats and your teddy bear……………..  When my garage burned down earlier this year I told everyone about it – at length – again and again and again.  13.1 x 12 and all that!

I gained new insights into what it is to be traumatised and the length of time it takes to recover (even if you look okay on the surface) – but I have absolutely no doubt that it was the talking and the connection to other people that helped.  And actually people rarely get bored – most were willing to listen – and almost all offered help – both practical and emotional.  So talk my friends, talk!  Stay connected to other people and ask for help.  Honestly – most people are not only willing to help but like to do so………………………..

And the second?  No prizes here…………… get active – run, walk, cycle, turn cartwheels, try yoga – do them all and – if possible – talk at the same time.  Run with a buddy, or a group.  The brilliant thing about running is that if you are running too hard to talk you are probably running too hard – especially when you are starting out – so you can cover both of my points in one go.  If you don’t have anyone to run with – or can’t find a group – try the Run Together website.  Many groups and running clubs will have a mental health ambassador – a volunteer who is committed to helping people start running, get back into running or to keep running – especially if they are experiencing mental health difficulties (that’s me if you are in Heathfield).  Run Together – find a group

And what next for me?  Well I have been inspired by Mind Over Marathon – my name is in the ballot for next year………………………………….