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”

January – Farnborough Winter Half Marathon

Sunday 22nd January 2017 – 6am

It’s freezing (well – below freezing -5 degrees in fact)

It’s dark – I walk up the road with my torch to our meeting point.

Colin has defrosted and scraped the car for us – thank you!

Gill is driving through the freezing fog – we look at each other – “whose idea was this?” – I’m sure it was yours Gill…………. But anyway – we’re off – past Gatwick – M23 – M25 – yes it is Farnborough in Hampshire – not Farnborough in Kent.  The usual toilet exchanges that pass between runners before a race – did you get up early enough? Shall we stop at the services?  Will there be enough portaloos when we get there (probably not as they never get it right the first time)?

This will be the first running of the Farnborough winter half marathon – and our first half marathon of our 2017 challenge.  We’re excited.  I realise I have done none of my usual research before the day – I’ve not looked at the route, or the climbs (I have had other things on my mind) – so Gill talks me through it.  It starts at the famous Aerodrome, and yes, there are some hills!  We arrive with plenty of time and pick up our numbers – it seems well organised – but Race HQ is outdoors and it is FREEEZING – and yes – there are portaloos, although not that many, and guess what?  They’re frozen!  Not what you need for a pre-race tummy……………….I’m sure you can imagine!  We’re huddled in the doorway of a nearby office building trying to keep warm before the start when someone with a key lets himself into the warm………..

Gill: “can we come in and keep warm?”

Nice Man: “I haven’t seen you…………….” And he leaves the door open behind him……

We don’t have to be asked twice!

We can get changed in the warm – pack our bags – eat our breakfast/pre-race snacks and – extra bonus – we have a whole row of clean flushing toilets – pre-race heaven!!  We feel only slightly guilty as we watch the frozen people outside staring in at us.  So as we drop our bags and line up at the start we are almost warm – and ready to go!

fwm-routeThe race itself is a mixture of road and off-road – interesting.  The first 4 miles or so loop around the Aerodrome – criss crossing – over some cobbles which are not that comfortable – but then out in a big loop through woodland and along the canal – lovely countryside – before returning to the Aerodrome for the finish.  There are hills – but when you’ve trained in Heathfield they are not too bad.  Oh! but I find the run tough…………… Just plain hard!  I probably have too many clothes on (mental note for future cold runs).  Gill and I run the first mile or so together and then settle into slightly different paces – waving as the route crosses.  I’m never in danger of not finishing – but it’s never easy – 2 hours 11 mins – that’ll do for number 1.  Gill finishes smiling – looking like she has energy left for a sprint to the line – she’s taken her coat off – very sensible.  She has picked up a youngster running her first ever marathon who she had found in tears at 10 miles – and also a rather attractive policeman (they really are getting younger).  All in all a great start to the challenge – but I  need to do some thinking about training and recovery……………………

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing, shoes, text and outdoor

I don’t remember much about getting home – thanks for driving Gill – I’m not sure I could have….. I feel sick – lie in the bath – on the bed – watch a film – cry!  I’m not used to this.  And this is only one of twelve – what am I going to be like by December?

The next day Gill sends me a link to this article from Runner’s World – about planning to run multiple long races in a relatively short period of time.  I realise I have already flouted most of the advice – but there is still time to get on the right track.  The article talks about the importance of planning to run 12 half marathons in 12 months NOT a half marathon a month – there is a difference!

Eat well, sleep well , reduce life stress, get a massage or two, and be diligent about total body flexibility. Cross train.

Since the fire I have slept poorly and lost almost half a stone – and don’t talk about stress – these things have taken their toll.  I had very little spare to run the race – but tomorrow is another day and next month another half marathon…………….  Follow our progress!

Running track for this half marathon is The Arctic Monkeys – “When the sun goes down” – not because it was a dodgy neighbourhood or I’m trying to make any clever comparisons between running and prostitution – but there is a line in there about how it feels to be out in the winter without sufficient clothing…………………..  I’ll let you find it yourself!

13.1 x 12 and all that……..

When I started this blog at the end of last year it was with the intention of writing a relatively light hearted documentary of my attempt to run a half marathon a month in 2017.  I still hope that this is something that it may become – but first off it needs to be an account of the way that life can get in the way of the best laid plans……..

I was sometime in November last year that Gill and I decided to take on this challenge.  Gill sent me a list of half marathons for the year.  The texts went something like this…..

Gill: Pick One!

Me: (having looked at the extensive list) Blimey there’s one for every week of the year!  Hastings – and Paddock Wood!  I fancy doing something a bit wacky – Bacchus in September? Weald Challenge or Tunbridge Wells?

Gill: Four?

Gill: How about a half a month?

Gill: I might die…….

Me: I like the idea of one a month!

Gill: Oh God……

And that was it…… somehow we were signed up

We both run regularly – so the challenge was to get “half marathon fit” and to maintain this for the year.  We got promises from friends and fellow Heathfield Road Runners to join us for some of the races along the way and we were getting excited.  There are not many half marathons in January (we only found 2 in fact) and so we signed up for the nearest one – the first running of the Farnborough Winter half marathon on 22nd January 2017 starting at the famous Aerodrome.

Through December we gradually extended our long runs 8, 10, 12 miles – the training was going pretty well despite the odd cold and the slight overindulgences of Christmas.  By the beginning of January we had both completed a 14 mile run – we were ready for Farnborough!

12th January 201710 days to go…………. 2am – I’m dreaming………… it’s raining.  Raining hard – there is a car alarm going off.  I come awake – It really must be pouring down – I’ve never heard rain that hard and there is a car alarm going off.  Why is there so much noise? Are there people out in the road? Was that an explosion? – Shut the window – need to go back to sleep!  I go to the window and I see it – flames out of the roof of the garage – I hear explosions and the “rain” is the tiles of the roof shattering……………….


David is out of bed – running downstairs and outside – phoning the fire brigade – “we need to get out of the house – get Sam up – get what you need” he says.  Sam is up and out of the house – running up the road in his bare feet – it’s his 21st Birthday.  I grab some shoes but don’t put them on – and a cat under each arm.  Caleb runs up the road but Arthur panics and runs upstairs in the house – there is no time to find him.  Suddenly I know what Harry Potter must have felt like when Gilderoy Lockhart magically removed his bones. As I turn to leave the house I cannot go the usual way as the heat is too intense (600 degrees we are told later) – I climb over the fence in my pyjamas – carrying my shoes – somebody lets me sit in their car to put my shoes on – David and Sam are around – everyone is panicking as we wait for the fire engine – please don’t let it spread to the house…………………

And they arrive – the Heathfield Community Fire Service are amazing – they are here within minutes and taking control – two fire engines (one from Mayfield) and a support vehicle – about 15 fire fighters…………………. I’m shaking – but once they locate the hydrant and start to work on the building I can see that it is coming under control.  Within half an hour we are allowed back in the house – making tea (about 30 mugs in total!!).  By 5.30 am it’s all over and the building is signed back to us……….

Immediately there is relief – nobody was hurt – we’re pumped full of adrenalin – we’re all safe – Caleb has come home and Arthur has appeared from under Sam’s bed.  The devastation is total – the garage and all its contents is destroyed and both our cars are burnt-out hulks…………… even the alloy wheels have melted.

It is the days that follow that are difficult – insurance companies – the dirt and the smell.  I understand the impact of these events – so there is no surprise that David cannot sleep.  I can sleep but I wake to the sound of car alarms – panic – heart pounding – wide awake.  Dreams of fires, bikes with melted tyres………………… My heart pounds if I go near the bedroom window and we avert our eyes as we walk past the ruin.  We talk about it to anyone who will listen (thank you to anyone who has run with me since then – I must have bored you senseless but you have helped me).  People have been kind – loaned us cars – thank you Julie, Ruth, Tom – where would we be without you.

Sam’s 21st birthday was a total wipeout – although Rosie came home that day to look after us – so we were all together.  We went to London the next day – burgers at Five Guys was Sam’s request – and a proper meal at Pilio in Heathfield on Saturday night – Happy Birthday Sam – you won’t forget this one!

So – what about Farnborough?  Well I can’t do it of course – I don’t know why – I just can’t do it.  Nothing is the same.  I’ll have to tell Gill – fallen at the first hurdle………………….  But then somehow we did.  Gill never asked and I never said – we just went ahead and ran 13.1 miles – but that is another story…..!

Running track for this month is “one day like this” by Elbow – waking up with a hangover…..


My 2016 (and it’s not all about Running)

I was very taken this year by Tim Minchin’s speech made to accept his honorary Doctorate from the University of Western Australia.  Okay – so it wasn’t in 2016 – but I first saw it in 2016 – so that counts in my book!  I found it funny and thought provoking – so much so that I was tempted to suggest all my patients watch it before they saw me – maybe they wouldn’t need to see a Clinical Psychologist if they just followed his rules for life.  Do watch it if you have not seen it before……………….  (I hope my link works)

– but if not just Google it.

There has been much to worry about in 2016 – but in this blog I am going to follow (fellow runner) Tim’s Point number 7:

Define Yourself By What You Love
I’ve found myself doing this thing a bit recently, where, if someone asks me what sort of music I like, I say “well I don’t listen to the radio because pop lyrics annoy me”. Or if someone asks me what food I like, I say “I think truffle oil is overused and slightly obnoxious”. And I see it all the time online, people whose idea of being part of a subculture is to hate Coldplay or football or feminists or the Liberal Party. We have tendency to define ourselves in opposition to stuff; as a comedian, I make a living out of it. But try to also express your passion for things you love. Be demonstrative and generous in your praise of those you admire. Send thank-you cards and give standing ovations. Be pro-stuff, not just anti-stuff.

This is what I have loved in 2016:

  1. Celebrating my 30th wedding anniversary – 30 years with David – how did we get to be so old?? We’ve done well boy………………..
  2. Just being able to run – the Brighton Marathon of course – and the Sussex Grand Prix – but really just running outside in the heat, and the cold, and the rain – on streets and trails and even over the odd stile – on my own or with friends.
  3. Watching Rosie and Sam grow up into their own people.
  4. Being the support team – with Julie – for David, John, Sam and Lewis – whilst they walked the 100km of the Trailwalker – amazing to watch them get through this gruelling experience.
  5. Friendship – and if you are reading this – count yourself in there.
  6. My cats.
  7. The most astounding art gallery I have even been lucky enough to visit – The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASSMOCA) – if you ever find yourself in North Adams – go there – you will not be disappointed!
  8. David Bowie – so sad to hear about his death in January 2016 – but thank you for the reminder about his wonderful music that has punctuated my life and gives me my running track of the year…………….Heroes – what else?
  9. Meeting Eddie Izzard (another runner).
  10. Did I mention running? This time with the Heathfield Road Runners!

Thank you to everyone who has been part of my 2016 – and here is to an action packed 2017!!