Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Journey to the Great North Run....complete!

Twelve months ago I started running.  A year ago today I joined a running ‘group’ in Cramlington. Those of you that have been following my journey will know that the use of inverted commas is due to the fact that I was the only person dedicated (daft!?) enough to take up running just as Autumn was arriving. It was therefore not actually a group. It was just me and the coach, Steve. (Read about it here) I was extremely lucky in that Steve said he would run the Couch to 5K sessions for just me, until I was able to move up to the intermediate group. I am still more grateful than words could ever express that he did, as without Steve’s coaching I would not have kept running over the winter and would probably never have started again. Thanks to Steve I completed the Great North Run 3 weeks ago!!

I am generally a positive person (hence my nickname ‘Jolly’) but if I had written about my experience as soon as it happened I doubt I would have had a single positive thing to say. I have now had time to reflect on the whole experience and feel more able to write about it without it being pessimistic.
Without a doubt, the Great North Run had broken me. It was the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life. I knew it would be hard, but take that and times it by 10 and that’s how difficult I found it. The heat made it almost unbearable and I still don’t know how I made it to the end. I truly admire anyone who goes back and does it year on year!

I’ve been saying for months that I wouldn’t be doing again as I have not enjoyed long runs one single bit. Everybody kept saying I would change my mind after I experienced the Great North Run so I was hopeful that I’d love it so much that they might be right. I am glad I did it, but even now, three weeks later, I have no desire to do it again. I definitely won’t give up running but long distance just isn’t for me. I will be back on the sidelines cheering everyone on and giving out jelly babies next year!

I had a brilliant day on the Saturday of the Great North Run weekend at the Mini and Junior North Runs on the Quayside. It made me really excited for the big day as the atmosphere was great. I hadn’t been running since the previous Monday and I think this rest was good for me as I was excited to get my trainers back on again on the Saturday morning.

I ran the Mini North Run with my friend’s son, Joshua,  who was excited to be running with Auntie Julie. He was fantastic and really he enjoyed it. I loved sharing in his first running experience and it made me excited for the Great North Run. My sister ran the Junior North Run with my niece. I really enjoyed seeing all the children running and cheering on Toni as she approached the finish. Seeing Joshua and Toni with their medals made me feel proud.

Joshua and I, with Joanne and Toni

The Saturday’s excitement was still with me on the Sunday morning when I woke up and got ready for the big day. My parents left early to go to South Shields to look after my niece and take my sister (Joanne) and brother in law (Craig) to the metro station.

Rachael and her dad came to pick me up and dropped us off in Newcastle. I got my photo taken outside the university with some of the team I was running for (the North East Trust for Aphasia – NETA). It was a lovely start to the day and made me feel proud to be running the Great North Run in their name. Joanne and Craig were stuck on the metro so missed the NETA photo but met us at  university (where we all used a proper toilet before we began! Luxury!!)
Some of the NETA team
The four of us then headed up to the baggage buses and Craig very kindly carried our rather heavy bag. The sun was beginning to get warm and I began to wish for some clouds. It concerned me that it felt so warm at 9.30am when surely it would just get hotter?! Any other day of the year and I’d be more than happy that the sun was shining at that time in the morning, but not on Great North Run day!

The four of us took photos on the grass and soaked up the atmosphere. I was surprised that I didn’t feel nervous, but I felt nothing but excitement! A year’s worth of training all for this big day!

I began to feel hungry (it had already been a while since my early breakfast) so I ate a banana as we were wandering around. We then left Craig at his zone and we walked to ours.

We walked. And we walked. And then we walked some more. We were in the last green zone (I) (a couple of zones from the back) and I thought we were never going to get there! I was so pleased when we finally did (about 20 minutes after saying goodbye to Craig).

Still feeling excited!
As we entered our zone, I saw my friend Charlie (who sang beautifully at my NETA charity night earlier in the year), before proceeding to stand squashed like chickens in a pen!

While we were waiting to start, we watched the big screens and I was still feeling pretty excited, but I began to feel too hot, and a tiny bit lightheaded. I ate my first energy gel and drank some of my isotonic drink. I felt like I was beginning to burn and hadn’t even thought about putting sun cream on.

When the red arrows flew overhead, I felt goosebumps all down my arms. It was seeing these planes, that made the reality of the situation truly sink in and the nerves started to appear. I was actually about to run 13.1 miles. As my mam said that morning – it’s the only day of the year that anyone thinks it is sensible to go from Newcastle to South Shields on FOOT! Even though I was nervous, I knew I could do it. I had trained so hard for this day and I could finally give it everything I have!
Waiting to begin!
It took us more than half an hour to cross the start line,  but I enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere and sharing in the experience of the build up with Joanne and Rach. Once we crossed the start the line they ran ahead, as planned, as they are both faster than me and I was determined not to start off too fast.

With lots of people’s recommendations we went ‘left and under’ (rather than right and ‘over’). As soon as I went under the first bridge the ‘Oggy! Oggy! Oggy!’ began. The echo was good and the atmosphere electric, but the mass of people and the heat and noise made me feel a bit dizzy. I had to slow down to almost a walk and I was glad when I was back out in the fresh air again. (I realise I may be the only person that has gone left and not enjoyed the ‘Oggy!’ experience. In fact, I was quite disappointed that I didn’t enjoy it! I think the sheer amount of people and the covered in space was just too much for me)

By the time I reached the Tyne Bridge, I was struggling. I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy experience, but I was hoping I would have got a bit further before I felt like I wanted to give up! There were lots of children offering their hands for a high five, which kept me going a bit longer!

I knew my Uncle and Cousin were going to be in Gateshead. I’d asked my Uncle Stephen where he would be and he told me he’d be where he always stands - after the big first aid tent on the bypass. I saw a first aid tent and when I didn’t see them just after, I was quite disappointed, thinking I’d missed them.

I kept running and kept looking in case they were standing in a different place. Further along, I spotted another first tent and felt hopeful. Sure enough there was my uncle, cousin and cousin’s daughter. I have never been so pleased to see a friendly face. I stopped briefly and they told me that Joanne was ‘miles’ in front of me. I high-fived my cousins daughter and started running again – telling them that I wasn’t trying to catch Joanne up! Haha.

I still had the water bottle that I got at the start and was reluctant to get rid of it, despite not liking running with a bottle, as it was just too hot. When I could see there was a station ahead I dropped the bottle to run without one for a bit, before picking another up. I had a drink at every station as I needed to keep cool. I also took advantage of everything else on offer, including oranges, jelly babies and even an ice lolly!! Thank you so much to everyone who was out there cheering us all on, it means so much!

I enjoyed hi-fiving the children on the route and it was great that people were calling out my name. I felt that the morale of the runners was really low where I was as it was just so hot, and even though I was surrounded by people I felt rather lonely at times. I also had to keep weaving between people who were walking and tripped over a few bottles.

I began to feel hungry and found it difficult to keep going. My legs were heavy and I was really struggling. I took half a rich tea biscuit from another kind spectator and kept focussing on putting one foot in front of the other. I knew my dad and eldest nephew were going to be at 11 miles so I kept focussing on that. I was so pleased to see them, and Darius offered me a jelly baby from his bowl.  I was disappointed I didn’t stop to see them for a minute but I felt that if I stopped now I wouldn’t get going again. I’d ran this final stretch with Joanne in training a few weeks before, so I knew I could do it (although during training, I didn’t have so many miles behind me!)

Approaching Dad and Darius
I saw Hippie Lee just before 12 miles and shouted of him, and he took my photo J It was good to see another friendly face on my way round.
Smiling through the pain
The live music on the route made it more bearable and I tried to catch the musician’s eye and gave them a thumbs up at each one I passed, to let them know I appreciated them.

My legs and feet were so sore as I approached Marsden bank and I didn’t know if I would even be able to run down it. Once at the bottom, I knew I really was on my final stretch and the finish was in sight, albeit still a mile away. I felt quite emotional seeing the soldiers and everyone cheering us on.

I kept running and there it was BOOM (800m to go!). I just kept running, knowing I could soon stop, even though I felt like crying. The loud speakers said that there was less than 500 people until the millionth finisher. I was excited and hopeful that it could be me! I kept running, hoping that I’d be the millionth finisher across the line. As I crossed the finish they said it was into the final 50! How exciting! A minute or so later I saw the confetti and fireworks as the millionth finisher crossed the line. It was exciting to be part of the event, even though I was in so much pain and I just wanted to find my family. I wanted to cry as every inch of me ached. I limped along to the water station and got herded on through the crowds. My mam and niece Toni were on a water station at the finish, but I didn’t see them. Also, I later found out that Joanne was waiting with them for me and I didn’t see her either L

I got my goody bag and just kept walking. By pure chance, I bumped into my dad and Darius. We headed down to the Beer Tent which still felt like a million miles away. I was feeling deflated and in pain. I finally made it to the tent and couldn’t see anyone I was looking for. I chatted to some beer tenters and kept looking for Joanne, Craig and Rach. I finally found Craig and subsequently got rather grumpy with him due to the fact I hadn’t known where anyone was. I realise this was not Craig’s fault but unfortunately for him he was the one standing in front of me!

Joanne had gone to get into some different clothes. I stretched my legs and then went with my dad and Darius to have a paddle in the sea to cool myself down. Well, I went paddling – my dad and Darius didn’t. It wasn’t very enjoyable as the cold water kept splashing me!! (it wasn’t as soothing as sitting in an ice bath!). When I headed to the beach Joanne and my mam were there and I gave my mam a hug and burst into tears. I was in so much pain and felt so overwhelmed by everything. I got dried and put my sandals on and we headed back to the tent. I could hardly walk.

After paddling in the sea

I had something to eat and calmed down a little but I just wanted to go home. I had a glass of bubbly with Joanne and chatted to some of our friends. I saw my dad’s cousin Sarah and we spoke to her too J I took part in a group photo of the Great North Run Beer Tent Group, which was good.
Joanne, Craig and I in our matching T-shirts!
After about half an hour I  told my mam and dad I wanted to go. I followed them to the car but they just kept getting further and further away as I was struggling to walk. My right foot was in absolute agony. Once home, I had a nice bath with a glass of bubbly and tried to feel proud of what I had achieved. I didn’t feel proud, and I didn’t feel a buzz – I just felt deflated, disappointed and in pain. It took a good few days before it even started to sink in.

Trying to look proud - you can see the pain in my eyes!
I hobbled round for the next couple of days and ended up needing to go to hospital on the Wednesday as I was still struggling to walk for the pain. They x-rayed my foot as they suspected a stress fracture. Fortunately it was just a sprain. It gradually got better as my knee got worse. I think all the limping caused the pain to defer to my knee.
I still haven’t been for a run since the GNR as my knee is still painful. I do think it is getting better as I have been resting where I can and foam rolling my legs every day. I really hope it is better soon as I want to start running again!

A couple of weeks ago my mam drove from Newcastle to Gateshead with me in the car. Some of this was the Great North Run route and it took this for me to feel proud. When I saw how undulating the route was just for this short distance, it was not surprising I was struggling by the Tyne Bridge. Slowly, since then it has begun to sink in that despite the pain, I did actually complete a Half Marathon. I do feel proud now and I am so glad that I did it, but I am still in no hurry to do it again. It’s one of those things that I am pleased to say I’ve done it and I am glad that it was the inspiration to get me running (which I certainly won’t be giving up!)

Thank you so so much to everyone that has been part of my journey to the Great North Run. We would be here all day if I named every single person who has made my journey special but there are a few people I cannot fail to mention. Thank you to Steve for coaching me from an absolute non-runner to someone who actually completed a half marathon – couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you also to the people who inspired me to run Joanne, Rachael, Tony the Fridge, and Craig (whom I have watched running, in awe, for years). Thank you to the new friends I have made, particularly those from Dynamic Personal Fitness,  and the old friends who have continued to support me through my latest adventure. Especially Katie for the leg massages! Thank you to all the kind strangers I have met along the way and to everyone at the Parkruns (especially South Shields which continues to be my favourite). Thank you to everyone who has sponsored me and encouraged me to keep going.

 And most importantly thank you to my mam and dad who have been there for me through it all -running me cold baths, supplying me with running fuel and putting up with me after my bad runs. They never stop believing in me and because of that I believe in myself.

“If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right” Henry Ford

Anyway, if you are still here thank you so so much for sharing in my journey – it means so much! I am delighted that I raised an amazing £531for the North East Trust for Aphasia J

Friday, 5 September 2014

Encouragement and Excitement!

This time last year I didn’t run. I didn’t think I would ever run and I certainly didn’t think that I would be doing a half marathon in less than a year! It has been a tough 11 months of training but I am hoping it is all going to be worthwhile on Sunday!

On Monday evening I went to my running group – my final training run before the GNR! I’ve been finding running particularly difficult the last few weeks and I am so tired. I didn’t go out last Friday as I felt like I needed the rest more than the run. I felt quite guilty about this as a 3 mile run was in my training plan. I emailed my running coach Steve to ask him if I needed to amend the remaining days of my plan but he told me that it was fine that I missed a run. I felt better after Steve reassured me that rest is just as important as training.

I went out on Sunday morning with Rachael for a 3 mile run. We set off early to get it over and done with. It was uncomfortably warm, despite being early and cloudy. It was a horrible 3 miles as my legs were heavy and I felt too hot. I couldn’t have kept going if it wasn’t for Rach. There were lots of friendly people out, some of whom gave us words of encouragement. I was about to start walking when a man told us we were doing well. This was all the encouragement I needed to keep going. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and knew that we’d soon be home!

I still can’t believe that I am actually running a half marathon on Sunday! On 30th September last year I turned up at Alexandra Park in Cramlington and met my running coach Steve for the first time. I struggled to run between two lamp posts, and found it difficult to believe Steve when he told me that it would get easier.

I persevered and I am so pleased with the progress that I have made. I have trained in the dark, the cold, the rain, the sun, and the wind. I have trained when running is the last thing I wanted to do. I have foam rolled, had ice baths and leg massages to try and reduce the pain and aches in my legs. I have modified my diet, cutting things out and adding things in (though the flies I swallowed, weren’t part of the plan!)

I can honestly say that this has been the most challenging thing I have ever decided to do. It has also been one of the most enjoyable. I have made new friends, and achieved things I didn’t even think possible. I’ve changed from a walker to a (dare I say it) keen runner! It isn’t easy. It isn’t easy at all, but I would do it all again as it has been the most exciting journey so far.

I wanted to do something to raise money for the North East Trust for Aphasia. Those of you that know me personally, will know how passionate I am about my career as a Speech and Language Therapist. Communication is such an integral part of our lives and language is the thing that makes us human. NETA do amazing work with people who have difficulty in understanding and using language, following a stroke or other brain injury. The members are so inspirational and I am truly proud to be raising funds in their name.

I didn’t think for one minute that I would develop another passion (running!) whilst on my latest quest to raise funds and awareness. I also did not think that I would find myself so passionate about something that is so difficult.

I am so proud of my journey – I think it proves that anything is possible with hard work and dedication. I am so grateful to everyone who has been a part of my journey, whether they realise it or not. The encouragement and support I have had, often from complete strangers, has been amazing.

I’ve been struggling over the last couple of weeks, partly due to the intensity of my training and partly due to the realisation that I am actually going to be running 13.1 miles. This is now coming at a time of great change in my life as I have just got a new job and I will be moving house so it feels like everything is happening all at once!

I cannot thank Steve enough for his continued support and encouragement. I would not still be running now if it wasn’t for him.
Tomorrow I am looking forward to doing the mini north run with Joshua and seeing Toni do her first junior run. I am also really starting to feel excited about the GNR (although I am still nervous too!). I have decided that the time it takes me to complete it is no longer important to me. It was a few weeks ago, but now I just want to enjoy the experience as much as possible.
I went to the Million Ceremony with my parents, Joanne, Craig, Toni and Rachael last night and had an amazing time. We couldn’t see everything from where we standing but the atmosphere was really good. I am excited that the first year I decided to do the Great North Run, is the year of the Millionth finisher. Well done to everyone who has taken part in years gone by, and good luck to everyone running on Sunday!

My journey to the Great North Run is almost complete, yet I feel my running journey is still just beginning. I cannot wait to experience the sense of achievement upon crossing the finish line! Thank you to Joanne and Rachael for inspiring me to do it, and everyone who has continued to believe in me.

If you would like to support my fundraising you can do so here....every penny counts! I look forward to updating you about my first experience of the GNR! Thank you for sharing in my journey J

Monday, 25 August 2014

Last Long Run before the Big One!

After last Monday’s 4 mile run with Rachael we agreed to go out for 4 miles on Wednesday too, as this was in my running plan from Steve for this week.

I am still hoping that I will soon be finding shorter runs easier, but they still feel equally difficult to longer runs, they just last less time! Running with Rachael definitely makes the runs more bearable (though still not quite ‘enjoyable’). We find ourselves laughing at things that are neither funny nor entertaining but sharing in the suffering of the run makes us temporarily take leave of our senses! In no other aspect of my life would I find having a painful stitch in my side hilarious. I don’t find this particularly entertaining when I am running alone either, but there is something about the shared experience that makes things seem funnier than they actually are. My beautiful grandma always used to say “you’ve got to laugh or else you’ll cry” and I think this is very true when applied to my running experience!
Wednesday’s run felt particularly difficult. I don’t know why but my legs were heavy. I had been in the house on Wednesday afternoon and don’t think I drank as much water as I would at work so this could have been part of my problem. My friend Katie came out to watch my running style and to give our legs a massage after our run. Katie said that my right leg doesn’t look straight when I run but it felt fine when she massaged it. As ever, the massage from Katie was nice (though it was a little more painful this week as she massaged them straight after running).

I’ve put my old insole (that I had properly fitted) into my new trainers to see if this helped the lumpy muscle on my shin, as I felt it was being caused by my running style. I have noticed a massive difference so I think I should have done this from the start. Better late than never though. Hopefully this will see me successfully through the Great North Run.
On Friday, I went for my final long run before the big one – 11 miles in South Shields. I asked my big sister Joanne to run with me as she was off work and she is making this year’s Great North Run her last one. I did not ever imagine that I would be asking my sister to run 11 miles with me. It almost made me excited for the run. I say ‘almost’ as I knew I would appreciate the company but I don’t think I will ever be excited to do a long run.

I had a half day from work and drove to Joanne’s house. Having a half day was the only way to fit in this week’s long run as I went out for Rachael’s birthday on Friday night and have been away with family for the weekend. I think this demonstrates dedication to the cause!

I took my running clothes and got changed into them at Joanne’s house (in South Shields). Joanne was taking ages to get ready and then I got my brother in law Craig to take a photo of us pre-run.

When I went outside and set my Garmin watch away to pick up satellite it was taking ages to locate! I was starting to get quite impatient and Joanne was laughing at my watch as hers had located a satellite straight away.

I had been waiting all morning for a telephone call from the interview I had on Thursday. Just as my Garmin had almost located satellite, my mobile rang and it was the Speech and Language Therapist from my interview offering me the job!! I am glad that Joanne took so long to get ready and the satellite took ages to locate as otherwise I would have already been running when my phone rang!

I don’t think I have ever been so excited! I was also feeling enthusiastic about starting my run as I was in such a good mood. It was lovely to have Joanne there when I got offered the job and I was excited to be running with her talking about my new adventure. Unfortunately I think my excitement meant I set off too fast, and after a couple of miles running (and talking just as fast!) I was beginning to feel it in my legs. I slowed down a little and felt a bit better. Joanne was running just ahead of me, and she was wearing the vest she had printed when she ran for NETA last year. Seeing the NETA logo just in front of me, gave me a constant reminder of why I am putting myself through such a challenge. Every penny raised will make a difference to the North East Trust for Aphasia, and that makes it worthwhile.

We ran part of the Great North Run route and it wasn’t easy! I took Jelly Babies out with me and ate one every few miles. This helped me a little bit. I offered one to Joanne and she said she doesn’t like them. I told her that I don’t like them either but they are good when running. She decided to take my word for it and eat one herself but the look on her face suggested that she wasn’t impressed! And once again there was that uncontrollable laughter at something that is only marginally funny!

The route was hillier than I am used to running. I thought I put a good number of hills into my training runs but it would seem the GNR route still has more! I was seriously struggling just before Marsden bank (this was about 7 miles into our run) and opened my energy gel. This week I opted for tropical flavour. It did not taste nice. It did not taste nice at all. I did manage to open it with more success than last week, so it would seem practice really does make perfect(well not quite!) I tried to continue jogging whilst eating/drinking it this time. Last week I walked, but I wanted to experiment and see if I could use the gel on the move, so I know how this would feel on race day. After I had half the gel I began to feel a little bit sick, and the pain in my right knee had turned from a niggle to causing me to limp. I saw Joanne running across the road ahead me but I started to walk, not sure how I was ever going to complete my run.

I walked across the road to the top of the bank. I was still limping a little bit and Joanne stopped to wait for me to catch up with her. She asked if I wanted to turn back but I said I was ok to carry on. I began to run down the hill (and this felt better than walking). I heard a car toot their horn and looked at the road, not expecting it to be anyone I knew (as I don’t live in South Shields) but it was my brother in law and niece. They waved and smiled and it gave me the morale boost I needed. I was so close to giving up but seeing their smiling faces spurred me on.

We crossed the road at the bottom of the bank and ran part of South Shields Parkrun route. It was much quieter than I am used to seeing it as I have only ever ran it on a Parkrun day. The view, as always, is amazing. I stopped to take some photos, which I never do during a parkrun J and Joanne took a photo of me too.
The last two miles were so difficult. My legs were heavy and my knees were aching. The distance between me and Joanne was getting bigger. It was hurting her knees to keep slowing down so I told her to keep running. Finally, two hours and 21 minutes after I began, I finally reached 11 miles. I have no idea how I did it but am so grateful for Joanne’s support.
I was almost in tears when I finished and my feet were sore. I have noticed that I have the start of a blister (my first running blister – and I’ve a feeling it won’t be the last!)

I am so proud of myself for running 11 miles. I don’t know where I am going to find another 2.1 miles but I am sure the adrenaline and atmosphere on the day will get me through.

I went out with Rachael after my long run. We went for a meal and then to the comedy club at Ashington Football Club. I saw some people I know and one of them (Sam, a childhood friend) congratulated me on my running and said she really enjoys reading my blog. I started my blog as a way of keeping me motivated and a personal record of my journey to the Great North Run, so it really does mean a lot that people enjoy reading about my journey. Thank you to everyone who has supported me so far, through encouragement and sponsorship, I can’t believe that the journey to my first Great North Run is almost over! I am excited but also looking forward to it being over so that I can rest my legs!

I've just returned back home from a weekend away with the family and have decided I will go to my running group tonight....dedicated (or slightly mad!)

Monday, 18 August 2014

Determination makes difficult runs do-able!

With just less than 3 weeks to go until the Great North Run, I am going through a rollercoaster of excitement and nerves. A couple of weeks ago I kept a food diary for my running coach to analyse and give me nutritional advice (he’s qualified in Sports Nutrition). I was very honest in my food diary, recording everything I was eating even things I knew I probably shouldn’t be (such as chocolate cake and custard!) as I wanted the advice to be based on my current diet.

Steve analysed what I had been eating and then after running group last week he talked me through my diet and what I am doing well, not so well and what I need to eat more of. It was really helpful and now I am trying really hard to be eating more of the foods I should be eating. I haven’t been eating enough protein (and too much sugar) so these are the areas I am focusing on most. I have also stopped eating low fat yoghurts due to the high number of artificial ingredients.

I’ve changed all the snacks that I take to work, as if I don’t have unhealthy snacks with me, I can’t eat them. I’ve been taking more fresh fruit and nuts and no chocolate! If I set my mind to something then I am very determined (as you can probably tell!) and if something is worth doing it is worth doing properly.

I am still having trouble with heavy calves and Steve said this could be partly down to what I have been eating so I am hoping that this will ease over the coming weeks leading up to the Great North Run.

I went for a 4 mile run after work on Wednesday and I really struggled. I always expect that now I am doing longer runs, the shorter runs will be easier, but on the most part this isn’t the case. It’s just a shorter time to be feeling discomfort! It definitely isn’t any easier.

On Wednesday night my legs felt really heavy and the muscle on the side of my left shin felt swollen again. I used the foam roller and lay on my back with my legs against the wall, but neither of these gave much relief. I text my friend Katie (a Physio) and asked if she could massage my legs again and she came round to do this on Thursday evening.

It was like walking on air after she’d finished the massage and I was *almost* looking forward to my long Saturday run, knowing that my legs would feel a lot better than they have done.

I got up early on Saturday morning and had my usual running breakfast of porridge with Nutella. I waited an hour before I got ready to go out for my run. I decided to head out in the same direction as last week and just keep going further along the river towards Sandy Bay.

At Steve’s recommendation I bought some energy gels to try on my long runs to see how I respond to them, ahead of the big day. I managed to squash one into my pocket along with my phone before heading out.

I usually buy a bottle of Lucozade sport when I’m about half way through a long run, but I decided to use an energy gel on Saturday instead. It proved quite difficult to get into, but once opened it didn’t taste as bad as I was expecting and I think it did give me a bit more energy to keep going.

I saw my Grandad when I was out running and he stopped his car to say hello. This was really nice and gave me a bit of motivation to keep going! I also saw a tractor wrapping hay bales in plastic which is not something I’ve ever noticed/seen before. My life was not previously incomplete without this observation but I found it rather interesting all the same! I told my niece about it when I got home and she hadn’t seen this either so I taught her something from my run! Who said running was boring?! Haha!
I ran an amazing 10.65 miles on Saturday! I am so proud of myself as I didn’t think I’d ever run such distances! I was only aiming for 10.5 miles but I misjudged my route slightly.
My legs are still feeling quite heavy and the muscle on my shin is aching again. Katie said she thinks I will need maintenance massages between now and the Great North Run, so hopefully it won’t get any worse and I will be fine on the day!

I am still in disbelief at how far I can run when I wasn’t even a runner this time last year! I am excited for the Great North Run but I am also looking forward to it being over so that I can have a rest from doing long runs.
Tonight I ran a difficult 4 miles with Rachael. The first mile felt ok as I was chatting away (as always!) so it passed quite quickly. I think I was running faster than normal as I found breathing difficult but that could have also been the amount of talking I was doing! The next three miles were difficult as my legs were heavy and my right knee began to hurt. I slowed down a bit partly due to my legs and partly due to my breathing. I was so glad to get home as I don’t think I could have ran any further tonight.

Tonight's 4 mile run and a lie down after!

Rachael and I had some strawberry milkshake when we got home. My legs don’t feel too bad now but they are still a little heavy. I’m hoping to go for another 4 mile run on Wednesday then on Friday I am doing 11 miles with Joanne (my big sister) in South Shields on Friday (the last long run before the big day!)

Running is not easy but it’s all for a good cause – if you can support my fundraising it would be greatly appreciated! Thank you so much to everyone who has supported me so far. It means more than words can say.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Double Figures!

Four weeks today and my journey to the Great North Run will be complete! I cannot believe how quickly time is flying by! My training is really in full swing now and I can honestly say that running has taken over my life!

Last Saturday I ran 9.1 miles, I got up early because I was meeting Rach at lunch time and needed to ensure I would be back (we were going for cupcakes so I obviously didn’t want to be late!) It was a difficult run, the rain during the first half being a combination of light relief keeping me cool and a challenge trying to see out of my glasses! I was so proud when I got home and had completed my longest run to date!

On Monday I went to running group and we were doing 800m repetitions. I found it particularly difficult as I was becoming out of breath much quicker than usual. I also had a bad cough which probably wasn’t helping! I still managed to do all of the 800m reps at a consistent speed though, and we all ran well.

On Wednesday I was due to go out for a 4 mile run. My cough had become chesty and although I felt well in myself, I didn’t feel up to running. I was disappointed and disheartened to miss a run in my training plan but I thought a rest day would be better, rather than risk making my chest even worse.

Yesterday was my first 10 mile run. I set my alarm early and got up and had porridge for breakfast. I was coughing a little bit and I had cramp in my left calf. It looked damp outside and I wasn’t sure if I should go running due to my cough. After an hour or so thinking about it I finally decided to go out and just see how I felt. I arranged with my mam that if I felt poorly I would phone her and she would come and pick me up. Knowing I had this option made me feel happier about going out, though I knew I would have to be pretty poorly to take her up on her offer. I set off on my favourite route towards Sheepwash, hoping I could complete my 10 miles. “I CAN DO THIS” I thought to myself as I left the house.

I started off steady and was happy to find that my cough seemed fine. I tried to keep my mind occupied with thoughts about anything but running as I find the time passes quicker this way. The first few miles were a lot easier than I expected and I felt that having a few days rest probably made me stronger. At about 5 miles I called into a shop and bought a Lucozade sport. I didn’t drink it all but it was just the energy boost I needed.

Lovely View

At 8.5 miles I really felt I was struggling but I just kept telling myself I could do it. I’d ran this far so I wasn’t going to give up now. At 9.5 miles my chest began to feel a little tight and I was glad I was almost home. My knees were hurting and my calves were heavy but I was determined to continue. I arrived home exactly on 10miles (my feet are good at leading the way!)

As I was stretching outside, before going into the house, I felt a tear escape my eye and roll down my cheek. I felt extremely emotional that I actually ran 10 miles. My first run in double figures and the first time I ran for more than two hours (2 hours 11 minutes). I have never felt so proud and I am so glad I decided to go out for my run!
My 10 mile run
If I felt that emotional after a 10 mile run on my own I cannot imagine how I will feel 4 weeks today upon completing the Great North Run. I am running for a very worthwhile cause, close to my heart. Aphasia is a life changing condition, affecting all aspects of communication. NETA support individuals and their families, in the North East, with Aphasia and make a positive difference to their lives. If you can help me raise money for them you can donate here (every penny counts).

Thank you so much for joining in my journey so far. I still cannot believe I ran 10 miles yesterday! My legs believe it. My legs believe it very much! My Great North Run number arrived this week – it really is happening! I’m excited that I will be in the same zone as Joanne and Rachael, as well as some of my running friends. Four weeks to go!

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Running Rainbows

Only 6 weeks to go! Six weeks until I complete the hardest challenge of my life to date! I am a combination of nervous and excited, and the proportion of this changes each day!

I’m training hard and this week has been particularly difficult. I got new trainers last Saturday and got my gait analysed again. After wearing the new trainers around the house for a few days I decided they weren’t a wide enough fit so I had to go back to the shop for some different ones. The new ones are a different make and size. I’ve been running in them a couple of times now and they are much better than my old ones (the pain in my shins is a lot better and I no longer feel like I am being kicked in the bum!)

However, both times, I have had that tingly numb feeling in my toes that I used to get when I very first started running. This could be the trainers, or it could be because both times I ran in them, it was ridiculously hot. I will have to see how they are over the next few runs.

Last Sunday I completed the Colour Run in Sunderland with my sister (Joanne), brother-in-law (Craig), best friend (Rach) and her boyfriend (Karl). We’d been excited about this for ages and who ever would have thought I would be excited for a run!
Rach and I before it began!

For those of you who haven’t heard of the Color Run, it’s a 5K run (originated in the USA) where you get powder paint thrown on you at each kilometre. So by the time you reach the end you look like a beautiful rainbow (well that’s the idea, I just looked like a bit like one of the purple minions from Despicable Me 2!)

Purple Minion (me!)

The sun was shining on Sunday and it was really warm, a bit too hot to run! My legs were still a bit sore, so I was struggling to keep up with everyone (especially as their ‘slow’ appears to be my fast!). We walked parts of it, partly as it was so congested with walkers, and partly due to the heat. After each kilometre we stopped for a photo and it was fun that the five of us were doing it together. The first paint stop was at 1K and it was pink. Phil, one of the runners from the Great North Run Beer Tent Group, was a volunteer and did a great job of colouring us in pink paint (so good that it took a week to get it off my glasses!)

Once we crossed the finish we were given a sachet of powder paint each and the 5 of us had great fun throwing this on ourselves to make us even more colourful!

On Monday I went to Dynamics Personal Fitness (DPF) in Cramlington and we did pyramid training (200m, 400m, 600m, 800m 1km, 800m, 600m, 400m, 200m) and it was difficult in the heat! It’s always a good session with Steve though and I am really feeling the benefits.

My training plan for Wednesday was a slow and steady 3 mile run. On my way out of work I told them I was going for a run when I got home. They asked me how far and I said ‘just 3 miles tonight’. I didn’t think I would ever say ‘just’ before any distance but I was confident it would be an easy run. The rather high temperature and large numbers of midges flying around made me eat my own words (and almost a fly or two!). I felt every single mile and hated pretty much every second of the run. I was so glad to get home and have a cold bath (another combination of words I NEVER thought I would say!)

On Thursday I went to the Strengthening and Conditioning session with DPF. I love these sessions even though they are hard work as I can really feel the benefits. My core has only just stopped aching today!

Yesterday I went out for my longest run to date. Eight whole miles! It was another warm morning and I struggled in the heat. My legs felt a bit heavy and my feet began to feel tingly/numb after a few miles. This was made a little easier with walk breaks so I just kept doing that every so often.

There were so many friendly people about (many of whom told me it was too hot to run!) and that made the running a bit more bearable. I had to stop at the shop for a cold drink as it was just too hot, and this made me feel a bit better.

I don’t really enjoy long runs, but the sense of achievement I felt when I got home, made me glad I had gone out.

Next weekend I will be running 9 miles! I haven’t decided where I will go yet but I think I’d like to plan a bit of a different route, as my last few long runs have been mainly the same route with a bit added in each time. I’m looking forward to the sense of achievement I know I will feel once I am home. I am still searching for the excitement at the thought of running 9 miles! I know I can do it though, as I’ve been working hard and have already made more progress than I ever thought possible!

Thank you for joining me in my Journey to the Great North Run!

Friday, 25 July 2014

A Day to Remember...

It had been what felt like ages since I’d last done a Parkrun, so last Saturday I decided to do South Shields, for a number of reasons:

1.       My big sister was off work and was also running

2.       I wanted to try for a sub 30 personal best

3.       Colin, Parkrun director, was running in a wedding dress ahead of his marriage to the lovely Sam
I woke up bright and early and was excited to be doing a Parkrun. I love the course at South Shields and I love it even more when Joanne does it too. Joanne hasn’t been running much recently due to working a lot so she said she wasn’t aiming for a pb this time, just a gentle run round the course.

Me with my sister Joanne

Before it began the blushing bride (groom) arrived in (his) her wedding dress and I went and took a photo. I was mighty impressed he was doing a Parkrun in a dress – I can only just manage it in my running clothes!
Colin before the run

Joanne and I started off together and it was lovely that we were running alongside each other, as Joanne is usually faster than me and I don’t try and keep up. Back in December when I did my first South Shields Parkrun, Joanne ran with me (slowly for her) to keep me company and support me round. I came last with a time of 39:40 which was a new pb for me! That day, it was Joanne that got me round the route so it was lovely that on Saturday we were running along together. I am so proud of the progress I’ve made in the last 9 months and Joanne is one of the reasons I started running in the first place.

I was chatting to her along the way - and commenting how I couldn’t believe, that even in a wedding dress, Colin was still miles in front of us! At the first mile my Garmin beeped and told me that it had taken 10.14. I knew that I needed to stop chatting and run faster or I wouldn’t get my much desired sub 30 personal best! We both picked up the pace and having Joanne alongside me kept me going. My legs were getting heavy and the sea mist was holding the heat in the air, making it a bit too warm to run. I was so impressed that our second mile was my fastest yet (9.36!). Joanne was beginning to struggle with her breathing as she hasn’t been running much and was running faster than planned. I began to go ahead of her, but felt bad about leaving her behind. As soon as she saw I was slowing down to keep running with her, she told me to just keep running, so that I could get my pb. She’s a lovely big sister!

The last mile was difficult but I kept going as I was determined to get a pb (and hopefully a sub 30). Once I was on the final stretch I began to increase my pace. I felt sick and my legs hurt and I didn’t know if I could keep going. I wasn’t sure if I was going to manage a personal best but I just kept putting one foot in front of the other.
Once I crossed the finish line I stopped my Garmin and had mixed feelings about the numbers I saw. At 30:20 it was a personal best by 8 seconds!!

But it wasn’t the sub 30 I was hoping for...

I could see Joanne approaching the finishing stretch and went to cheer her on. There was something really special about seeing her cross the finish line and I was proud to be there cheering her on. I’ve never finished before Joanne so it was nice to support her instead of the other way round.

I told her I got a pb but not as good as I was hoping for, and she was really pleased for me. I no longer felt sick and I’d had time to think about the run and I realised that I should be really proud of myself. When I started running my aim was to run. Nothing more than that. But each time I have made progress over the last few months it has just made me want to get even better.

I knew I shouldn’t feel bad about running 5k in 30:20 as back in December that was a time I could only have dreamed of running it in! I think this is a perfect example of how it is important to look at how far we have come, not just how far we have to go. My coach Steve is always telling me this.

I got my pacing a bit wrong on Saturday and I know that I ran the first mile too slowly for a sub 30. But I ran it with my big sister and I enjoyed it. After having time to think about it I am really pleased with my time and I’ve realised that the time it takes isn’t the most important thing. It is getting out there and running, enjoying it along the way (as much as it can be enjoyable!). I couldn’t think of anything better than running with my big sister, and if that means that I missed out on a sub 30, then that’s ok because there’ll be lots more times to run and it’s something to improve on next time! I don’t get to run with Joanne every time I go out.

After the run I congratulated Colin for his big day (in awe of the fact he still ran superfast in a dress!)

Joanne and I then went back to her house for a cup of tea, before I headed off to buy some much needed new trainers! I was very excited and I never thought I would be excited about buying running things!!

Thanks for reading and joining me in my journey to the Great North Run for the North East Trust for Aphasia.