The Trouble with Cross Training………………

When I posted this picture of myself on Facebook on 1st February this year (left) – I couldn’t believe the sun would ever shine and I dreamed of running in a vest with dry feet!  Well here it is (right)!  What a glorious morning – out early – so not too hot – the sun is shining, the birds singing and the flowers blooming!

And therein lies the problem……………….  When I woke up this morning I knew that the sensible thing to do was go to the gym – I’ve been putting in a few miles recently and although my hip is holding up I can still “feel” it and more pounding on roads and footpaths is a bit of a risk!  But hey! – as I say – the sun is shining.  And I just couldn’t do it………… how can you train indoors when these wonderful sights, sounds and smells are out there?

And so to the route of my first ever blog – downhill through Horam and onto the Cuckoo Trail for the return home.  My experience is better this time – not so bad tempered and grumpy as I was in December – the days are longer – but still there are the niggles of the first mile and the settling down through the second.  Hard work (Horam hills) and churchgoers in the third mile.  And then the steady, enjoyable peace of the rest of the run.  Lots of cyclists out today – all men I notice – but remarkably friendly. And dog walkers. And runners (lots). A young woman doing yoga at the side of the trail looked happy!  And friends – Niki (heading out and downhill as I was puffing my way back up).

The spring flowers are spectacular – primroses and orchids (thanks Gill – I know what they are now), forget-me-nots and the first bluebell.  I can’t wait for those deep blue carpets to cover the woodlands.  And the Hawthorne is out reminding me of those stunning David Hockney paintings of May in Yorkshire.

Hawthorne on the Cuckoo Trail



My hip has survived………………..

Cross training can wait!!

Running track for today – “Too long in Exile” – Van Morrison

March………….. Running with the Tudors

I’m a bit behind with this blogging lark……. Our March half marathon is done (and our April one – but that will have to wait).  For now…………….. this is our story of a run in the shadow of the Terrible Tudors.  The Palace half marathon starts (and finishes) in the grounds of Hampton Court Palace.   The palace began its life in 1515 when the original buildings were redeveloped for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, a favourite of King Henry VIII. However, like many of King Henry’s friends –  Wolsey fell from favour – and the King seized the palace for himself.  Today, it is one of only two surviving palaces owned by King Henry VIII.

Gill and I were rather taken by the grandeur of the venue – not to mention the splendid bling to be obtained if we made it to the end.  Not deterred by the Palace’s horrible history (Anne Boleyn lost her head here) we signed up……  Had there been half marathons in Henry’s time – it is unlikely that Gill or I would have been alive to run it – only 1 in 10 people lived to be 40 years old in the 16th Century.  Had we survived infancy, the open sewers, the (dirty) water supply and the medicine of the time (mostly involving leeches and bloodletting), childbirth would almost certainly have got us!

As it was – we were both fit and healthy and over 40 on Sunday 19th March 2017.  Another early start.  If you’ve been reading this blog you know the routine by now – Gill’s driving – I get to her house about 6am – we look at each other “why are we doing this?” and quickly move on to lack of sleep, toilet arrangements, which bit is tweaking, where to put the Vaseline etc.  But at least it’s light(ish) and it is not freezing – the weather is looking quite nice in fact – although there is a stiffish breeze.  The journey is relatively problem free (who are all these people on the M25 at 6.45am on a Sunday? – they can’t all be going to Hampton Court) and we arrive in time to park the car in the allocated field.


Gill: “I can’t make it all the way over there …… there has got to be a nearer toilet…..”

Fortunately, there was – at a petrol station over the road and although the facilities said “out of order” it was only the lock on the door – and that wasn’t going to put us off!

The race itself is a big one – several thousand runners – so we start in waves.  Gill and I are in different waves so I leave Gill in the queue for the toilets (again….) and set off for wIMG_1117ave 5.  The run is flat (nice!) and I chance upon Ariane – from my old running group Sarah’s Runners.  We are running at a similar pace and so run together for quite a lot of the way.  The route takes us along tow paths, the roads of Kingston upon Thames and finally into the Royal Park.  The temperature is pleasant but the wind quite a challenge – much better when its behind you than when you’re running into it.  I spare a thought for friends running the Hastings half marathon today – if it’s like this on the coast those last couple of miles are going to be seriously hard work.  As are the last couple of miles here!  I’ve lost Ariane by this stage (she stopped for a drink) and there IS a headwind.  The path through the park is uneven and whilst on most days you wouldn’t even notice it – today – on tired legs it makes each step painful.

Lovely to see Ariane again – well done!

But then it’s done – awash with endorphins you forget the pain – the medal and t-shirt are great and I’m very happy with 2 hours 10 minutes.  I see Ariane and Gill through the finish.  Gill’s back is hurting so we lie for a while on the grass in a “happy baby” yoga position and do a few cat/cows– nobody looks at us like we’re odd…………………  We even take a bit of time to look at the grounds.  The magnolias are magnificent.

More for the magnolia than because either of us were looking great at this point!

I’m slightly more “with it” on this journey home.  We are singing Doris Day songs – I can’t remember why but there was a reason…………………. Three out of twelve done!

And that brings me onto the running track of the day.  I was tempted by Dolly Parton and DIVORCE in honour of Henry – but even I couldn’t sink that low. So in the end it’s T.Rex and I Love to Boogie – for no other reason than it’s great to run to and summed up the mood of the day!

Cornerstone to a Brighter Future………

Last Saturday I was lucky enough to see the launch of the second year of CornerStone Tuition with the training of 21 new tutors at Skinner’s Kent Academy – SKA – in Tunbridge Wells.

In my daily work I see both the positive and negative impact that education can have on young people.  Intelligence and achievement – doing well at school – offers children and teenagers such resilience.  But we see on a daily basis the pressure that CAMHS services are under with more young people than ever being anxious, depressed and harming themselves.  Struggling at school – whatever the reason – is one of the pressures – which can lead to stress, anxiety and depression – or anger, resentment and disengagement.

CornerStone Tuition was launched in 2015 by Sam and his friend from school Tom who dreamed up the idea whilst fielding together at a Borderers cricket match.  There is a back story – but that is Sam’s to tell……………..  Looking on from the outside – Sam finished his A levels in 2014 and, after a difficult year, decided not to take up his place at Bristol University to read Law.  He had no plans for the year – other than to reapply to University to read Theology – and he gradually began to work tutoring and supporting other young people through their GCSE’s and A levels – and there the idea for CornerStone Tuition was born.  Young people supporting other young people to achieve their best.  Sam and Tom were passionate about delivering support to youngsters who could not afford to employ tutors – but who may be falling behind in school and struggling to stay motivated to achieve their best.  Their idea was quite simple – to pair up young people who had already jumped the GCSE hoop to help those preparing for the exams – and to deliver this completely free of charge.

Since then they have set up the charity, raised funds, found sponsors and advisors – in

Tom and Sam Meeting up with Evan Davis who has agreed to act as an advisor to CornerStone Tuition

Nick and Evan –  represented themselves and their charity to banks, the media and – most importantly to schools.  They have recruited new 6th formers from local grammar schools who work on a weekly basis with youngsters identified by their school as needing support to get through their GCSEs – and they work together in Maths, English and (new this year) Science.

In 2016 CornerStone Tuition trained 6 tutors (and 3 more joined a bit later) to work with pupils at SKA.  This year they have a programme running in Exeter (where Tom is at University) and last week saw the launch of the second programme at SKA – this year with 21 amazing young people signing up as tutors.  They gave up theIMG_1105ir Saturdays to work with Nick – who helped them to think through the best ways to motivate and share information with the pupils who signed up for the 10 weeks.  We did try to keep them interested with lunch – and cakes……. But they didn’t really need it – they were there and enthusiastic and clearly committed!

But what sticks in my mind from watching this work unfold – is that it
is the youngsters RECEIVING the support who are just as amazing as the tutors.  They too give up their Saturdays – let’s face it – to spend an extra morning at school (which may not be their favourite place) – in an effort to understand the things that they are struggling with and to aim for a brighter future for themselves.  Just for a moment imagine trying to sit your maths GCSE when you’ve not yet got the hang of number bonds to 10.  Or English when metaphor is a mystery.

Don’t get me wrong – this is not about “hot housing” – or trying to add to the pressure that youngsters are already under with the seemingly endless demands of testing and external examinations.  Nor is it about joining the groundswell of opinion that seems to say “the only grade worth getting is an A or an A*” – wherever did this come from?  Sad to say I see it daily in many of the teenagers I work with.  What it IS about is building confidence.  Helping young people to feel empowered to ask for help if they need it; listening to their needs and their hopes and fears about the process and helping them to face the future feeling good about themselves.  What better way than with the support of their peers?

And so this is to wish all of those involved in CornerStone Tuition Good Luck for the coming programmes – These are the young people – out there – building the future for all of us!



And so to the vexed question of what to eat on race day…………….. Do you carb load………….? How much? What do you have for breakfast? When…………….?  What do you eat afterwards? Really?

Only a cursory glance on the internet and there are hundreds of learned articles that talk you through it from a scientific perspective – so I am not going to even try here…………….  But what I would add is a theme that cuts through most articles – do what works for you!  Personally this means I don’t change very much at all.  I don’t like running with a full tummy – so I make sure I eat well the day before – but I don’t do any carb loading – I just make sure there is a good balance of foods including some carbs and protein.  On race day it’s always the same – a yogurt and some good old fashioned Soreen Malt Loaf about an hour before the run.  And that’s it – I’ve run a marathon following these rules – as I say – It works for me.

Whilst I was training for my first marathon in 2014 – I was trained and supported through the process by the wonderful Sarah Russell (  She taught me so much and, through subsequent years her words often come back to me.  In taking on the 12 half marathons in 12 months challenge – I have revisited her words of wisdom about re-fuelling – particularly after a race………….  Her article on nutrition can be found in full on the Sarah’s Runners FaceBook page – but her thoughts about refuelling are reproduced here:

The ability to recover quickly from a training session is essential, and this is where nutrition really comes into it’s own.   Fail to re-fuel correctly after a run, and you’re likely to feel sluggish, weary and lacking in energy – not exactly ideal preparation for your next session. And that’s not to mention the increased risk of picking up a cold or an injury.   Eat the right thing immediately after running and you’ll reap the benefits, feel full of energy and be raring to go for your next run. 

After exercise, you have a window of about 1 hour (the first 30 minutes in particular) where your muscles are most receptive to being re-stocked with glycogen.  If you don’t re-fill your fuel tank within that window, your body (rather like your car) won’t have enough energy for the next journey, particularly if you’re running every day.

Running for 75 minutes at about 80% maximum heart rate (MHR) results in almost complete glycogen depletion but with shorter runs of 45 minutes or so, you’ll only dip into your glycogen stores. Your re-fuelling strategy should therefore match the duration and intensity of your run.  Experts also recommend that the post race snack or meal should also be relatively low fat and include some protein to aid muscle recovery; it should not just be based on carbohydrate alone.  

Here are some ideas for your perfect post-run snack:

Toasted crumpet with peanut butter and jam

Fruit smoothie made with banana, yoghurt and honey

Porridge made with milk, honey and raisins

Chocolate milkshake and a banana

Now basically this is really good news for those of us who enjoy our food as – so long as it’s done thoughtfully and not to excess – a race is a good opportunity to have something really delicious afterwards.  These are some of my favourite post-race recovery snacks:

Banana, Cranberry and Chocolate Muffins

4oz butter melted

Stir in 8oz of soft brown sugar

Put into a mixer with 3-4 ripe bananas and 4 tablespoons of yogurt

Then add 2 eggs and

12oz Self Raising Flour (could add some wholemeal if you wish – and the also work well with Gluten Free flour if that’s your thing) and a teaspoon of bicarb

A bar of chocolate cut into chunks

And 4oz dried cranberries

Mix up and divide into muffin tins and bake for about 15 mins at 180 degrees.

So yummy – and they really hit the mark for me!  They used to be a post run regular on Sunday mornings!  After a race – again a bit of a ritual – 2 poached eggs on toast – and that’s it – back to normal eating – I’ll test the formula out over the next 10 months……………………..

A Spring in my Step!

It’s spring out there in case you haven’t noticed – get out there and walk – or run – or tidy the garden – but get out there!

I’ve been somewhat “down in the dumps” as I have not been able to run very much with my sore hip – I keep thinking it’s getting better – and then I run again and it hurts again……..  And I still want to have a go at my 10 remaining half marathons…………………

So I had no choice but take drastic action and I’ve joined the gym!  I can use the cross-trainer, the bike and the swimming pool to my heart’s content – without pain – it just seems to be running that upsets things.  At least I can keep fit – but I do miss running outdoors.

So yesterday was the first run for a week – and I really needed to try out my hip as my next half is only 7 days away.  So eight miles planned – and the good news is – eight miles done! Some minor discomfort and a bit stiff afterwards but massive improvement so I’m on the mend! And it is just so good to be out there in the light and the spring weather.  I saw daffodils, snowdrops, violets and primroses.  There were robins bobbing about and I saw a swan in flight. The sun was shining (and it still is).  The days are getting longer.  All is well…….

Running track for the week – so sad that they are splitting up – “We are the Battery Human” by Stornaway – because we were born to be Free Range!



February – Tunbridge Wells Half Marathon

Half marathon number 2 – done! Yay! This is the story……………


I love the Tunbridge Wells half marathon.  This was my fifth time of running – it is always challenging and it is always different.  The route is very pretty and the race is always well supported – so there are plenty of cheers to keep you going.  It is dominated by stories of Spring Hill……….. “you need crampons”, “it’s 3 miles long”,  “there are great drummers at the top” “that’s true – if you ever get to the top”……………. Fair to say – it does kill conversation – and it is quite long (I recon about a mile but it levels out a bit after the pub) – but it is only a hill and the truth is that what goes up – must come down!  A lot of the rest of race is flattish or downhill.

I went into the race carrying an injury – this was not how I wanted to start our 12 in 12 challenge – but so be it!  My hip was no longer as sore or as stiff as I had rested, and stretched, and rolled, and iced, and done my yoga.  Nevertheless – I had only done one jog/walk in that previous 10 days and I didn’t know how it would hold up.  I was very keen to run as I really want this 12 in 12 – but I had decided that I would pull out if I had to.  I was not prepared to seriously aggravate the injury and so jeopardise the next 10 half marathons (not to mention my ability to keep running).  So I was nervous at the start.  Gill was there – ready to go – and Bev had joined us – running her first race for some time – and keeping a low profile as she wanted to get back into her stride without the pressure of everyone watching her.  Great company for the start of the race – we pin on our numbers, eat our snacks, go to the toilets – very smoothly organised (thank you Carol – great work) – and up to the race start on St. John’s Road – heading up through Southborough.  And we’re off.  Bev leaves us as we have no chance of matching her pace – but Gill and I run together – all the way! Through Southborough, and Bidborough and the long downhill into Penshurst.  A steady pace – all is going fine and we get to know some of the people around us running at similar paces – there is the girl in Mr Men leggings and a chap we start chatting to – he looks light on his feet and as if he can run much faster – he tells us he is pacing himself in preparation for the hill………….  I can feel my hip but it is uncomfortable – rather than painful so I keep plodding on – I think I’m going to make it!  The hill is as long, steep and daunting as always – but we take it steady and walk/run it.  Mr “Light on his feet” has left us as he runs onwards.  My hip is worse when I have to lift my bodyweight going up hill – so steady – one step at a time (that’s my excuse anyway)!  NO DRUMMERS – I’ve been telling Gill we will hear them and then we’ll know we are nearly there – but there are NO DRUMMERS – does anyone know what happened to them?

At this point Gill decides it’s time for a bit of music.  Headphones are not allowed at most races these days.  I have heard all the arguments – about safety – and the serious runners who are surprised that anyone would want to listen to anything but their body – but in my experience there comes a point in any race (often quite early on) where a bit of distraction is needed!  So Gill’s music is in her waist pouch on speaker from her phone and it jollies us along – well maybe not the country music……………… which raised a few eyebrows as we run along. Through Langton Green and that annoying little loop round the housing estate – the Skinner’s School Water Station “Hello Mr Flemming – Sam Carter’s mum…….”.  And that uphill stretch towards the common where my running track for the week put a spring in our step “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins (sorry – but it really did help!).

The last mile is great – plenty of running left in the legs and it’s all downhill – we catch and overtake Mr Lightfoot! – 2 hours 24 mins – 18 mins slower than last year but I couldn’t be more pleased if it had been a PB!  I’ve finished and in great company – 2 down – 10 to go. Yay! Bev is there at the end (well done – great time!) and I’ve seen old friends on the way round – members of Sarah’s Runners – the friendliest running club in Tunbridge Wells.  And there are Heathfield Road Runners there at the end – good to see you Will and Fleur, Graham, Roy – sorry I missed you Vicki!


And that’s it – I’ve not done my hip any good – but I don’t think I’ve done it much harm either – rest and recovery is the order for the next week.

The next day I’m stiff and sore – but yoga helps and a good sports massage.  For those of you that haven’t indulged – sports massage is a bit like psychotherapy – it hurts a lot whilst you’re doing it but you feel better afterwards.  And a sports masseuse is a bit like a psychotherapist – once you have made a relationship with one it is very hard to switch.  So I go back to see Valerie in Tonbridge – who has put me back together over the last 4-5 years.  She is good for my soul as well as my body and we talk yoga, meditation and families whilst she attends to my quads, glutes and (unusually) my shoulders.  I leave with much more movement and instructions about rolling and stretching.  If you have any desire to run multiple races I can’t recommend her highly enough!

Cross Training for the week – just walking.  I walk every day and gradually everything begins to loosen up and feel better.  One week on I have run 4.5 miles pain free – so fingers crossed.

Cross stich is progressing – though I have a mistake to unpick……………………

And a musical interlude with a trip to the Barbican to watch/listen to the concert for John Adams at 70.  His Grand Pianola Music is totally uplifting – so I’ve added it to my running playlist (competition for that country music Mrs B!)

Next up is the Palace half (March), Paddock Wood half (April) and then the Weald Challenge (May)………………..Watch this space!

Cross Training

So the question is ……. What is a sensible way to approach 12 half marathons in 12 months?

I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal (Overconfident I know) – but its turning out to be more of a challenge than I expected.  I’ve never liked January and February and the start of this year has been tough.  The first half marathon in January was hard and now I’ve picked up an injury – a sore and stiff left hip – that started after running in the freezing cold of a Heathfield evening without warming up properly or stretching afterwards (I know! I know!…… but it’s too late….. it’s done now….).

And so I’m going to revisit the principles that I am going to try and work to for the remainder of the year.  Most importantly I think is trying to plan for the year (i.e. 11 half marathons still to go) – rather than for the next race.  That means the next one is going to have to be slow and steady with my fingers crossed that I don’t end up with a dreaded DNF!!  I am going to trust that I have enough in my legs to get round – Farnborough half in January was part of the training for February………  I have done one long run since but apart from that the four weeks have been about recovery a few short runs – eating better – trying to sleep better – listening to my body (which has been saying “don’t run” and “ouch”) and cross training……………………..

I freely admit I’ve got a bit of work to do on cross training…………..  When I’m not running I walk a lot…………. It’s not that I don’t like the gym – in fact I DO like it and I like swimming – it’s just that I like things that I can do from my front door BETTER.  Cycling was always an option – especially as I’m near to cuckoo trail – but I don’t like cold hands you get at this time of year – and anyway my bike was in the garage and is no more……………

So we’ve taken up yoga, Gill and I!  I still struggle to admit this without laughing as isn’t yoga what old ladies (and gents) do?  I tried it once or twice in the past but have to confess to being rather bored by it – It didn’t actually feel like exercise and I had to go out for a run afterwards…..  But yoga has had a bit of a facelift since I used to do it – you only need to step into Sweaty Betty to see that all the “smart set” are doing it.  It seems to flow far more than I remember – and certainly involves stretching all those areas that get tight and I never remember to stretch after running.  And though I hate to admit it – maybe I’ve moved a bit closer to that old lady……… We’ve joined Annie’s Yoga in Heathfield and Annie is lovely – patiently guiding us through our child’s pose, our downward dogs and our sun salutations.  After only about four weeks I can already feel that I have much more movement and flexibility.  My balance still leaves a lot to be desired – my tree looks like it is in a force 11 gale!  I know I must work on this as I think it is the stability (or lack of it) through my hips that has led to this injury.  As always I’m not great at making myself do things that are difficult.  But the best thing about yoga?  Is the utter peace that it brings.  It is the only hour in the week that I don’t think about anything else.  I breathe deeply and slowly.  Notice my body – and by the end of the hour feel totally relaxed………….. that has got to be good hasn’t it?

Other cross training this month?  Not quite in the same vein – but the David Hockney retrospective at Tate Britain is an absolute must see.  Work from six decades of painting (and taking photographs) – Hockney makes you realise that you walk through this life without LOOKING at it.  He sees and experiences the world and also communicates what he sees to us mere mortals.  He is right when he says that you can’t photograph the Grand Canyon – but boy can he paint it and make you feel like you’re there.  And I just love his paintings of the Yorkshire Wolds.  Sometimes when I listen to him talking I can hear my father………


And I’ve taken up cross stitch – very much a young person’s sport unless you have magnifying glasses.  I’m working on Van Gogh’s chair – let’s see if I can finish it before my last half marathon……

And – very exciting – I have won my first ever award for running!  Part of the Heathfield Road Runner’s Ladies’ team who came third in the Sussex Grand Prix.  It even has my name on it!


The next half marathon is Tunbridge Wells – tomorrow – wish us luck!

Running track for this month is U2 “Running to Stand Still”