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!!

On Setting Targets and Keeping Going

It is that time of the year – Christmas is over and the New Year is in sight – time to make the resolutions and make some changes in your life.  But so many fall by the wayside – how can you set yourself a target and make it stick?  This is a blog about running and running targets – and maybe other targets as well.

In 2014 I ran the Brighton Marathon.  Aged 55 and having just retired from my job in the NHS I needed something to aim for.  The last year at work had been horrible – the service I worked for had been out to tender and then taken over by another Trust.  Cost savings were being made and senior staff were expensive – so I retired rather than be made redundant.  After 32 years in the Service my new manager didn’t even learn my name.  I needed something to aim for and a marathon seemed like a good idea – well I had spent the last 10 years saying “I’ll never run a marathon” – so I thought I’d shake things up a bit.  I talked Julie (my long standing and very patient running buddy) into it as well and we started training.  Sadly Julie didn’t get very far into the training before she started to struggle with her health and had to give up …….. so I went it alone………….. week after week of gradually extending my long runs – 16, 18, 20, 21 miles until I was ready for the day.  And I managed it – 26.2 miles in 4 hours 47 mins – I still count it as one of the greatest achievements in my life.

But it is what happened afterwards that was shocking – I just lost my running mojo…………….  Okay it takes a little while to recover physically from a marathon – but nobody talks about how you recover your passion for running again.  I struggled on from week to week – a short run here and there – but never got back into the rhythm.  I even ran a couple of half marathons – Tonbridge in September 2014 and the off road Weald Challenge in May 2015 – but with little enthusiasm.  In fact I’d have given up in the Weald Challenge if I could have found a marshall to give me a lift……………  What had happened?  It was like the marathon had drained my will to run.  Was I too old?  Too weak?  Too rubbish at running? Had the target just been too big?  I know now that it wasn’t just me.  I have met so many people since who have run a marathon and then…………. Just stopped! At least I kept going……… sort of……………….

And I have chatted at races to people who don’t reach their target.  Someone I know wanted to run a half marathon in less than 2 hours.  She finished in 2 hours and 2 minutes – was she disappointed? – she told me “I ran as hard as a could – how can I be disappointed?  And anyway the target is still there for next time………..”  Which got me thinking about the whole nature of targets and what happens when you achieve them and have nothing else to aim for.

In my (non running) life I am often involved in helping parents to change their children’s behaviour.  I help them to set targets that are clear (it’s no good asking a 5 year old to “be well behaved”), achievable (it’s not good aiming for perfection when just getting breakfasted and to school is a battle), are rewarded immediately (with praise and attention and small treats), involve fun (children get bored easily) and become part of a way of life (you can’t just “fix” children’s behaviour – it’s all about the way a family works together).  Would these principles work for other targets…… my training tells me they should………

So two years on – when Julie came back to me and suggested that we have another go at running the marathon together in 2016 – I approached it rather differently.  I loved the training the first time around with a goal every week gradually building and moving forward.  And the marathon was not my only target for 2016 – but part of “A year of Running” – the marathon was not the “be all and end all” –  just one of the races – all important in their own right as well as part of the whole.  In 2016 I have run one marathon (PB), three half marathons (PB), one 10 miler, four 10k and one 5k.  And I’ve been part of the Heathfield Road Runners women’s team who ended up placed 3rd in the Sussex Grand Prix.

How do the principles apply?  Well the races were clear targets; they were all achievable – but did require some hard work to make them happened; they were rewarded immediately (I do love a medal) and the fun came from running with Julie and as part as HRR.  I’m back to running being part of my life.  My targets won’t work for everyone………… we are all different and that is the point.  But maybe try out the principles and see whether they work for you in 2017.

And my target for 2017?  Well that would be a half marathon every month with the lovely Gill B – watch this space to see how we get on…………………

A Sunday Run – Why Blog?

I have known for a long time now that this is not my favourite time of the year. I wake up in the dark.  And the days draw in before the afternoon is over.  Sometimes this is irritating – at best – and makes life hard work.  On mornings like this morning I feel like all the light has been sucked out of the world.  Last night I made a promise to myself – “tomorrow I will run” – it helps to make that promise – because when tomorrow comes there is nothing I feel less like doing.

And it was on that run that I decided to start this blog.  I know running makes me feel better. EVERYONE knows running makes them feel better – so why tell people? Well I need reminding so maybe other people do too!  So I set out on one of my favourite runs – starting with a long (2 mile) downhill into Horam.  I can’t lie – the first mile is horrible – my right knee is niggling – and every step feels slow and heavy.  By mile two I’m beginning to find a comfortable pace – the aches and pains have faded somewhat and its refreshingly cold – I start to feel better!  Mile three – a couple of sharp up-hills – warmed up now and I begin to notice people around me – cheerful and off to pick up the Sunday paper or maybe a visit to church.  It is good to pass by these people and exchange a greeting or a smile.  Some people smile first and are obviously happy and enjoying the day.  Others look like they are in their own world – thinking – what? Happy thoughts? Sad thoughts?  But almost everyone responds to a smile and a greeting.

Through Horam and onto the Cuckoo Trail – I feel lucky to live near here and to be able to run off the road – other runners – dog walkers – cyclists and horse riders – all out this early on a Sunday morning………………..

And that’s when I started to think – I need to share some of this.  I am no longer dragging myself along.  I am no longer counting the miles.  I am running.  Thinking.  Listening to music (I usually do when I run on my own) and I feel just fine!  And that’s the simple point of this blog (I have lots to say) but the most simple message is – that being outside in the daylight – and moving your body just makes you feel better.

And so I am set up for the day – refreshed from the cold – but feeling hot.  Hungry and thirsty.  Ready for a shower and a cup of tea.  And back in touch with how lucky I am to live in this part of the world (despite the short days).  Who cannot feel good …………………….  And thanks to David – out walking and taking photos of this lovely place in East Sussex.

8 Miles done (more of my targets for 2017 next time).

And as an afterthought – I think I will share my running track of the day – it’s got to be “The Only Way is Up” – but you can take you pick as to which version you prefer – upbeat with Yazz or acoustic with the awesome Stornaway (matched my mood today!)