Saturday, 24 May 2014

No pain no gain!

I’ve had another busy couple of weeks but have still managed to fit some running in! At the recommendation of my coach I went for a longer run last Saturday. I planned to get up early and go out running (as I am usually up early on a Saturday for the parkrun anyway, so thought this was a logical thing to do!) However, once I was up I really did not want to go running. I felt that 7 miles seemed so much further than my previous runs and I felt defeated before I even had my trainers on.

If you haven’t already noticed yet, I am a pretty determined person and I know that I need to put the training in to enable me to run a half marathon. I got my running clothes on and decided that even if I just went out for a little run it would be better than no run. This made me feel better about running so I got my trainers on, set my Garmin, and put on my nice new running cap (a lovely birthday gift from my sister).

My lovely new running cap!

It was a sunny day last Saturday and it was rather warm to run, even though I did go out quite early (about 9am). I decided I would try and run 3.5 miles away from home before turning around, as I wasn’t really sure where I could run for 7 miles.

As I was nearing 3.5 miles, I was enjoying the scenery and decided to keep running. I ran along the bridge at Sheepwash, stopping to take a few photos as the river was very pretty in the sunshine. There were quite a few hills from here back home, and I walked some of it. I was also starting to overheat, though my new keep cool cap was helping, both prevent my head getting too hot from the sun as well as keeping it out of my eyes!

My legs were quite heavy again and I had to keep walking it out. All the time, I kept telling myself I was doing well for being out there and running….though part of me thought I should be sat in the garden with a cold drink!

Finally, after what felt like hours of running in the sunshine, I arrived back home. Surprisingly I was still able to walk and breathe…though talking was a little more difficult (not for long though!) I was bursting with pride that I actually managed to run 7.1 miles! I walked some of it but it was definitely mostly running. It took just over an hour and a half, which is the longest time I have been out running!

My brother-in-law pointed out that my run last Saturday is more than half the Great North Run! I’m well on my way with training! I never would have dreamed of this a year ago!

All week I have been buzzing with the sense of achievement from running in general and was looking forward to my first parkrun in a few weeks this morning. I was going to go to Saltwell and meet fellow Great North Run Beer Tenters but my sister and brother-in-law were both at work and asked if I could pick my niece up. As they live in South Shields, and not wanting to miss doing a Parkrun altogether, I decided to go and do that one. All week I was hoping that today might get me closer to my sub 30 (pb currently at 30.28) but after a late night last night I knew I was too tired this morning.

There was a small part of me that was tempted to snooze my alarm, miss the parkrun and just go and get Toni but I knew if I did this, I’d regret it by 9am.

Running conditions were good this morning, if slightly on the cold side, and I was feeling positive. I think I started off too fast though and my legs quickly became tired and heavy. My right knee also began to hurt again and I had to walk for a few seconds on two occasions. I knew then that I wouldn’t be getting a new pb today, but rather than give in (as much as I wanted to) I decided to see if I could get it as close to my previous pb as possible.

Usually I know that Joanne and Rachael, are just up ahead and will be waiting for me at the end, but today this wasn’t the case. I found this harder than I thought I would but just kept plodding along. Someone, had written messages such as ‘keep going’ in coloured chalk along the way. This is the first time this has happened (at least when I have been running it) and it really helped me. The volunteers were brilliant as always. The last one before the finish, pointed a camera at me so I forced my Jolly smile and thumbs up. He said I didn’t look tired enough and needed to start sprinting. I really appreciated the encouragement and am pleased that my smile hides how much my legs are suffering!

When I had just under 1km to go my legs really felt like giving up (I really shouldn’t wear heels the night before I run!) and that’s all I seemed able to think about. The Jolly part of my brain told me to think about something else to take my mind off it. I’m a great believer in positive thinking. I began to mutter ‘I love running’ over and over (and hoped no one was around too close to hear me!).  I certainly did not feel like I loved running at this point and once again was left wondering why I even bother. I then remember the reason I started (to fundraise for the North East Trust for Aphasia) and the progress I have actually made over the last few months and just kept chanting away to myself.

I also tried to focus on what my shoulders were doing rather than my legs, as my coach said there was a bit of extra, unnecessary movement in them, on Monday and this is something I can try and work on.

I was ever so pleased when I crossed the finish, the volunteers cheering me for the final stretch. I was really pleased with my time of 32.26, considering I was finding it so difficult. My knee is still a bit sore now and my legs are aching. Hopefully I will get out for a gentle run once I get back from my little trip to London to visit my cousin.

I also need to focus on my core strength to improve my running even more. I have attempted to do some planking this week (boy does that hurt - but no pain no gain!) and Rachael and I have done some exercises together.

 I talk so passionately about running between runs that it still surprises me a little bit just how hard I actually find it once I start to run again! The power of positive thinking!

Hope you all have a lovely Bank Holiday Weekend!

Sunday, 11 May 2014

No rainbows without rain...

It’s been 7 whole days since the Sunderland 10k and I’ve been out for two runs this week. I’m looking forward to going to running group again tomorrow evening as it feels like ages since I’ve been there!

On Wednesday I went out for a little run around the lake to stretch my legs after Sunday. It was just a gentle run and I saw some rabbits which made me smile. I walked a little way but ran most of it. I am still finding it difficult running on my own and give up and walk much more easily than I do if I’m out with others. Overall, it wasn’t a bad run and I am glad I made the effort to go out.

On Friday I wanted to go out for a bit of a longer run so I decided to head to the river and see where my feet took me. It was raining when I left the house so I decided to wear my jacket. This proved to be a mistake 10 minutes down the road, as the rain soon stopped and it was pretty warm! I tied it round my waist and just kept running. My legs began to feel a bit heavy so I tried walking it out. I ran and walked for a little bit, but I don’t think I should have started walking as I found it difficult to get going again.

I started to run down a rather steep hill and my right knee began to hurt like it did on Sunday. I couldn’t continue running so I walked down the hill before I started running again. This was about 4km into my run. I was unable to run for more than 40-50 seconds before the pain started in my knee again. There was no pain when I walked, but as soon as I ran it was really painful.

The pretty view when I was running

At 5.5km I decided that I was nearer my granddads house than home. ‘Grandad just lives at the top of that hill, not far at all!’ I thought. I had to walk up the hill as my knee just did not want me to run – funny, it seemed an awful lot longer on foot than it does when I drive it! I then had to walk across the road, and all the way round the corner. It was a whole kilometre from where I decided I was very near. My plan was to say hello to granddad, have a drink of water, quick toilet stop then walk/run the 3 miles home. Grandad offered me some birthday cake (how could I say no?!) then a lift home. My head wanted to say ‘no thank you’ but I could feel my legs screaming ‘YES! Yes please!’. Half way home in the car I realised I hadn’t stopped my Garmin – amazingly I did a km in under 2 minutes – no way I’d beat that on foot!

Once home, and no longer running, my knee was fine (and indeed has been since) and it didn’t take me long to feel very disappointed in myself for accepting a lift home. However, my knee was really sore and at least I still ran 6.5km. More than I would have done if I’d stayed at home!

I didn’t do the parkrun yesterday as I had a busy day socialising and drinking tea (with people I don’t see very often). Definitely hoping to do a parkrun next saturday (though it is the day after my birthday!)

I’m hoping my knee is ok now and that it will be ok tomorrow night when I run. I think I need to stretch and foam roller some more (my routine keeps starting and stopping!)

I wasn’t going to blog about what feels like a bit of a failed run. But then I decided I have to blog about the highs and lows as that’s what makes the journey. At least next time I will feel happier when I run all the way and it leaves room for improvement!

I knew running wouldn’t be easy, but I really didn’t think it would be quite as hard as it is! Then again you need sunshine and rain to get the beauty of a rainbow! Thanks again for reading this, and for sharing in my journey!

Thursday, 8 May 2014

My first bit of bling!

It’s 4 days since I completed the Sunderland 10k and I still can’t stop grinning. You may think this is because it was easy or just a walk in the park…but this is not the case! The main reason I can’t stop grinning is because I still find it hard to believe that I actually did it! I ran 6.2 miles. 10 whole kilometres. I think it’s only really just starting to sink in that I am a runner. I know I’ve been a runner for a while now, but this time last year I still thought my sister, Joanne, and best friend, Rachael were a bit mad for running!  And I’ve thought this about my brother-in-law for years! Now I think I may be just as mad as they are!
Saturday night was my Grandad’s surprise 90th birthday party. This meant no alcohol for me, ahead of the 10k on Sunday. Joanne, Craig and Rachael were also running so I wasn’t the only one not drinking. I spent quite a while debating what the best soft drink would be too. I had two cans of diet coke but felt this may keep me awake all night. So I spent the rest of the evening drinking orange squash! :-) How rock’n’roll!
Me, Rach and Joanne - (sober!) at Grandad's party
I was concerned that the late night would affect my running but there was little I could do about it. I was so excited after the party that it was well after 1am before I got to sleep. Now, usually I need lots of sleep in order to function properly and I had my alarm set for 7am! I feared this may be too little sleep for the run but decided I just had to try and enjoy it as best as could.
I had porridge with Nutella in for breakfast with a glass of water. I picked Rachael (and her boyfriend Karl) up at 8am and we went through to South Shields to Joanne and Craig’s house. Craig attached my chip to my trainer and Joanne pinned my bib onto my top. I’m sure I could have done this myself but felt I needed the expert support of those that have done this before!
Craig drove us all to Sunderland and we parked near the Stadium of Light. On our way to the stadium I ate a banana to keep my energy levels topped up. I was feeling very tired but I was pretty excited for my first race. We were all wearing black bin bags to keep us warm before we started running. I entertained them all greatly whilst trying to manoeuvre my way into the bag!
We were there in plenty time so Karl took some photos of us with Rachael’s camera (we took our bin bags off first!). Karl then said goodbye to us as we got ready to start and he went to take some photos. I began feeling tired and hungry (not a good combination before running) but there wasn’t anything I could do by this point. We saw Joanne’s friend Sam and stood with her waiting for the run to start.
Prior to Sunday, in my head I was aiming for about 1 hour 15 minutes. As I felt so tired and hungry before I started running I decided that I really didn’t mind how long it took me to finish as long as I did it (though I was still hoping for less than 1hour30). I started off nice and slow and tried to enjoy it. Just after the start, I saw Karl and waved.
It was quite a humid day and I was beginning to wish I’d put my vest on instead of my long sleeve top. I was glad of a drink of water from the drinks station but the pouches were somewhat challenging to get a drink from! Anyone else that ran on Sunday will know what I mean! I had a mouthful of water, but didn’t want to drink anymore (or indeed risk choking!) in case I got a stitch.
Further into the run, my legs were beginning to feel pretty heavy and my feet started to get numb (this hasn’t happened for a long time). It was advertised as a flat course, but it certainly wasn’t flat. I found this quite difficult but I was determined to keep going.
Some of the spectators and the marshals were absolutely brilliant, using my name (from my bib) to cheer me on and give me much needed motivation! Thank you to each and every one!
Just as I was feeling close to giving up I saw that some people were handing out ice pops next to a water station. I got a red one from a little girl and I never thought I would feel so grateful for someone giving me something so simple. The cool ice pop was just what I needed and it kept me going for the next km.
As I was running through Roker Park, with great difficulty, a child shouted “girl in the pink top, well done!” This really made me smile and kept me going that little bit further. Thank you to everyone who was supporting – you are all superstars!!!
There were a number of times during the last 3km that I felt close to tears. I was too hot, my legs were aching, my knee began to hurt and I couldn’t feel my feet. Every time someone smiled, cheered or said well done, it gave me the motivation to just keep going.  Near the end I saw Callum from the Great North Run Beer Tent Group, which spurred me on a bit more!
I kept thinking about the wonderful members of the North East Trust for Aphasia and how inspirational they are. The 10k is part of my GNR training and I am determined to do well and raise valuable funds for NETA. ( - if you can spare a pound or two it would be greatly appreciated). Thinking of why I am doing this made me determined to continue running and get to the end. I couldn’t wait to see Joanne, Craig and Rachael’s smiling faces.
I really struggled during the last 1.5km.  People around me were beginning to struggle too and we kept motivating each other. I saw the 800m to go sign and felt a bit happier that it wasn’t much further. That was the longest 800m of my life. I saw John Iley who I follow on twitter. I recognised him from his Heel and Toe Charity T-shirt. We were both struggling towards the end and helped motivate each other. I was so close to tears by this point that I needed to just focus on getting to the end.
I didn’t think I was ever going to find the finish. And then there was another hill. I ran. And I ran. And I ran. I crossed the finish line, and the relief almost made me cry. Then I spotted Karl with the camera so I smiled for a photo! If he hadn’t been there I do think I’d have been in tears, as I didn’t know if I’d ever get the feeling back in my feet! I congratulated John on finishing and told him I recognised him from twitter.
I couldn’t wait to see Joanne, Craig and Rachael, but I wasn’t entirely sure where they were. I just kept walking. I suddenly saw my sister’s face and she rushed to give me a hug. She asked me if I was ok and I quickly responded with ‘no’. I still felt really emotional but I was slowly beginning to get the feeling back in my feet. I hugged and congratulated Craig and Rach too and we made our way into the stadium so that I could get my t-shirt and medal. I was soon ok again, and the Lucozade and cereal bar helped me regain some energy!

I was absolutely delighted that I completed my first ever 10k in 1hour19 minutes! I am super impressed with myself that I actually ran all this time without stopping (for the first time ever!). We waited for Sam to finish, then cheered her fiancé Colin in the half marathon.
I was so proud wearing my t-shirt and medal and really felt a huge sense of achievement. Even though I’d been close to tears and found the route difficult I can’t wait to do it all again! I’m sure only fellow runners will understand what appears to be such a crazy thing to say.
Thank you so much to everyone who is supporting me during my Journey to the Great North Run. I didn’t imagine the running bug would ever catch me but it has. I still find running difficult but I am extremely proud of the improvement I’ve made over the last few months. My running coach, Steve has been brilliant with lots of advice and support, and I have lots of supportive friends and family.
Thank you to everyone who inspires me to run and if you made it this far, thanks for reading! Sorry it’s so long, if you haven’t already realised, I’m still feeling pretty excited and proud of myself for completing my first race! My next 10k is on 29th June at Lambton. This is advertised as challenging and there are a lot of hills so no doubt it will be even more difficult than Sunderland! I do love a challenge and I guess that’s the only way to improve!
Well done to everyone who took part in the Sunderland 10k and half marathon on Sunday. You’re all amazing!

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Parkruns, PBs and Preparation!

Tomorrow I will be running my first organised 10k ( Sunderland). I am a mixture of nervous and excited but I am happy that my sister, (Joanne) brother-in-law (Craig) and best friend (Rachael) are also doing it! We can all get up really early on a Sunday to go running together haha! I feel fairly prepared, I've trained quite a bit and plan to just go and enjoy it as best I can!

I went for a run on Monday in Liverpool when I was away with work. I had forgotten to pack my running socks and just as I was about to sit in a corner and cry I realised I could just go to the shop and buy some that's exactly what I did! :) I ran along the docks and it was really pretty. I did about 4 miles in total and did a mixture of race pace and gentle running and have been resting the remainder of the week.

I can’t believe how much time has flown since I last sat down and typed! I’ve done quite a bit of running since then!

On Saturday 19th April, South Shields Parkrun celebrated their first birthday. I went along with Joanne, Craig and Rachael. Rach had been having some problems running recently so she took photos of us running. It was a good run, but as always I found it quite a challenge. I was delighted with my pb of 30.28 – a sub 30 is so close now!

After the run, we all went to the Sandancer for tea and cake. Awards were presented by British Biathlete Amanda Lightfoot. The legend that is Tony the Fridge was also there and I was delighted to have the opportunity to meet and talk to him. I cheered him on at the Great North Run when he passed us at 11 miles last year and he is part of my inspiration to run. Rachael took a photo of us and we were talking to him about running. He’s so lovely and gave us lots of tips and advice about running!

Last Saturday I did South Shields Parkrun again and Joanne volunteered (with my niece Toni). Some of the members of the Great North Run Beer Tent Group also came and did the parkrun at South Shields. It was nice to catch up with them before we ran!

About 4km in I saw Joanne and Toni and seeing them really gave me a boost. They cheered me on and I started running faster. This was not a good move as I soon ran out of energy and couldn’t keep that pace up. I think I had been on target for a time close to the previous weeks pb but as I was running out of energy I began to slow down. As I was approaching the finish line Micky cheered me on and this kept me going. I was still very pleased with my time of 31.05 but I did feel rather sick! I started to walk back in the direction of Joanne, and to cheer on the other Beer Tenters. Shortly after I finished I saw Phil and Claire J Andy and I started to run back for the others. Joanne and Micky were running with Adelle and Andrew, with the tail runner. Toni was scooting along in front of everyone on her scooter. Andy and I caught up with them and ran the final stretch cheering Adelle on. It felt really good being part of the team and supporting Adelle and Andrew over the finish line. I know how important and special this feels when people come back for you as I’ve experience this myself.

After we got to the end, the tail runner thanked us all for coming back and showing support. It clearly meant a lot to Adelle and I was glad I had been part of the team supporting her J I love how supportive runners are! It makes me proud to be one!

After the run, we went for a cup of tea and cake (ice cream for Adelle! J ) It was nice to sit and chat after our run.

I am looking forward to completing my first race tomorrow. I still can’t quite believe that I have to run 6.2 miles (or indeed that I am able to!) It still amazes me how much progress I’ve made since I started running in September. It’s all for a good cause though! It also just goes to show that with hard work and effort anything is possible!