Monday, 15 April 2013

Planning Plan B - an update

The best laid plans of mice and men and fundraising runners go all cock-eyed at times.
That is how the quote goes isn't it? It's not? Oh, well it should be, at least as it applies to my life anyway.

As many of you already know, I couldn't make my fundraising target in time in order to keep my 'gold bond' place to run the London Marathon. 'Gutted' is an understatement but sometimes that's just how life goes. You have these great ideas but putting them into practise, despite your very best efforts, sleepless nights, and enough letters posted to singlehandedly keep the Royal Mail afloat, becomes impossible. I seriously underestimated the work, and the cost, involved in raising so much money. For a long time it became the sole focus of my life, to the detriment of everything else including personal finances and health, and eventually I had to grudgingly say 'enough is enough. I'm just not going to make it' and allow that place to go to someone who could.
I haven't given up though, not by a long way. That just isn't in my nature. It may not have been possible to raise the funds in time to take part in the annual madness of thousands of runners pounding the streets of the capital, but that is not the only marathon, it's not the only insane thing I can do. I am still taking very seriously, my promise to raise money for Tommy's in memory of Dillon.
Of course not having a goal for my training has meant I haven't had to drag my carcass out through this evil winter we've just come through unless I really wanted to, so I'm trying to look on the bright side. I need a goal though, I function better with something to focus on and I miss not having that drive to get out there. I've caught the running bug now, (how the hell did that happen?) so I know I can't just put my feet up and relax. Every time I try there is this little voice in my head saying 'and how many miles have you run this week? Hmmm?'
And so I need another target, another goal, I need something to aim for when the mornings are cold and rainy and I don't want to get out of bed. I need to find another challenge.
I still want to run a marathon, that's my ultimate goal. Having said I would do it, I'm not backing down. I promised myself. I promised Dillon. But I'm keeping an open mind too.
So I'm looking for PLAN B.
Any suggestions?
Now I'm off to dig a big hole in the garden to retreat to while the Marathon is on at the weekend; for the first time I don't think  can bring myself to watch it on TV.
Or maybe I'll just go for a nice, long run instead.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

What a Beautiful Day...

I am lucky enough to live by the sea, which makes for some fantastic running routes, but as much as I love the variations of the coast path and the crashing waves cheering me on, I have a particular fascination with the moors so when ever I get the chance I head inland for my moorland fix.
Until I took up this challenge, a trip over to Dartmoor involved nothing more strenuous than making a flask of coffee and a picnic and finding somewhere quiet to soak up the silence. These days, however, I find myself taking in a wholly different view of the moors. There is something quite remarkable about a long ribbon of road stretching ahead for miles through the wilderness, far from seeming daunting and never ending, it inspires me onwards, and rather than the aching relief when I come to the end of one of my usual routes there is always a kind of regret when I finish a run on the moor. I could have gone further, run for longer...
Dartmoor Running
Last week I was lucky enough to don my running shoes and head out across both Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor. We hit Dartmoor later in the day than we had planned. As is so often the case, shopping and errands took twice as long as expected and it was already late afternoon when we arrived. And cold! Boy, was it cold! It's the first time I've run on a truly cold day and for the first mile I was really having to force myself to carry on, to focus on my feet pounding the tarmac rather than the burning in my ears and my bitter cold fingers. I don't know if it really warmed up, or if I simply became numb to the pain, but beyond that first mile it seemed milder, less distracting.
Andy, as he usually does, followed my progress in the car, hopping from lay by to car park along the way, occasionally slowing as he passed me to offer advice or correct my stride. It's always interesting when he does this. He picks up on things I would never notice, and for a novice like me that's very useful...even if I do find it frustrating when he says 'OK, that's enough for today'. At one point I wondered what on earth I was doing wrong when he was wildly gesticulating from the side of the road, until I was close enough that the wind didn't snatch his voice away before it reached me, and he was yelling 'TURN AROUND'. Still not understanding I followed his instructions to be greeted by a spectacular rainbow stretching across the moor behind me.
Unfortunately we didn't have the camera ready in time to capture the magnificent display, but as it turned out that was fine, Mother Nature wasn't finished with me yet.
The cold was less noticeable, and I felt I could go on much further but dusk was lowering across that wide, open sky so Andy reigned me in with the promise of another run on the moor the next day.
And so it was that Saturday afternoon saw me enjoying my first ever proper off road run. Oh, I've run sections of the coast path before as part of a longer run, but for the first time I was to head out across open moorland.
Distant Cheesewring
This time it was Bodmin Moor, and we parked up at Minions. I had in mind a circular route, of about three or four miles, heading out past The Hurlers Stone Circle into the wilds, and coming back via the Cheesewring. With the Levellers on my MP3 and the wind in my hair, I set out on my new adventure.
It had rained heavily during the night, and the ground was very boggy indeed, but my new NB's coped admirably with the terrain, draining well leaving my feet wet but not soggy and uncomfortable.
I didn't really mind the wet though, it was a small price to pay for sights like these.
The Hurlers


Bodmin Moor
My legs sure knew about the rougher terrain the next day, but I loved every minute of it. I may just have found my new, favourite place to run. 

Friday, 5 October 2012

Shoes, Running for the use of

Once upon a time my primary concern when purchasing anything intended to go on my feet was looks. Nice pointed toes and teetering heels were the order of the day. I didn't really care what unnatural shape they forced my toes into, or how distorted my arch was to reach those dizzying heights, or even how damned uncomfortable they were, just so long as they looked the part on a night out.
Over the years however, the heels got lower and the toes less likely to take someones eye out, as the practicality of running around with a double pushchair or mounting an expedition to Sainsbury's, or jumping off a still moving number 38 on Shaftsbury Avenue without breaking my neck,  took precedence.
My first ever pair of trainers came from Lilywhites in 2003, a pair of Reebok's which up until last week I was still wearing! (Look, this running thing is new to me, OK?) To say they were past their best was putting it mildly, but hey, they were comfy - and as much as we hate to believe it when we're young, there comes a point when comfort wins out over fashion. It's the first sign of ageing, so watch out for that one ;)
I hadn't really put much thought into choosing that first pair. They looked OK, they fit, what else was there to think about?
Almost a decade later and my mind was in a spin. My Mum and Step Dad had very kindly said they would buy my very first pair of proper running shoes. All of a sudden I was lost in a world where the shape of my foot, my gait, and all sorts of technical stuff I'd never heard of before entered the equation. I did my research. I read reviews. I asked for advice from the people who know, and got more confused by the minute. Eventually, I just couldn't hold off any longer. There comes a point when you just have to put aside your research, make a mental note of all the advice and bite the bullet.

So here I am with a nice, new pair of New Balance 610's.

And I love them!

Now, you may have noticed these are men's running shoes and that is for two very good reasons. The first, and most important, is that I just don't get on with women's trainers, they just don't suit my feet. It didn't matter what brand, model or size I tried, they just felt too constricting. Every time it felt like I was trying to squeeze my toes into a pair of my old pointy heels! The other reason, and almost as important in my book, is the range of colours women's running shoes tend to come in. I'm sorry, but I don't do PINK! Alright, I know they aren't all pink but a rather high proportion were, or mauve, or aqua, or lemon. I like to think of myself as being feminine, but I'm NOT a girly girl. Once a goth, always a goth. I think it's in the blood. I wish manufacturers would realise we don't all want pretty pink sparkles on our feet. I'm forty-two, not six.

That's not to say I paid much attention to colour while trying on the vast array of possibilities (Sorry Andy, I know shoe shopping with me is your worst nightmare and I've just elevated it to a whole new level!), I didn't really care what colour they were (yes, I know I'm contradicting myself, I'm a woman, and its my blog so that's allowed) so long as they did the job. These were comfortable, with plenty of room in the toe box for my odd shaped feet, and lots of support around the heel which was important as I have quite weak ankles.  I hadn't actually gone looking for trail runners but given the terrain around here and the fact that I'm starting to extend my runs and look for longer routes, there's a good chance I'll be spending quite a bit of time on the coast path. And with winter fast approaching, even a lot of the smaller roads around here can seem more like muddy trails by November! These seemed a good option under the circumstances, as they are apparently suitable for both on and off road use.

I haven't tried a longer run in them yet, the farthest I've been is about 4 miles, but the longest run I've ever done has only been 5 so that's OK, I'm building up to it :) I have to say that so far I've found them very comfortable on a variety of surfaces and really appreciated the extra stability off road. Wow! What a difference! Now, I know all I have to compare them to is a tatty old pair of trainers but for me, the difference is astronomical. I have been able to run on paths I wouldn't have even contemplated before. I no longer look off in to the distance with longing thinking somewhere is just too steep, uneven or muddy, I just give it a go.

And I'm faster!

Speed isn't that important to me. I'm sure some hardened runners may gasp with shock and horror at that statement but it just isn't. Maybe that will come in time, but I hope not. The important thing to me is that I actually get to a stage where I'm capable of finishing the marathon. Finishing. That's it, as long as I actually finish it, with my knees, ankles and sanity still in one piece, I'll be happy. How long it takes me doesn't matter. Which is perhaps as well because I'm slow. I don't always bother to time my runs but I do know it has always taken me 22 minutes to run the 2 miles to my favourite little beach. But since I got my NB's I'm doing it in 20. Like I said, I'm really not that bothered about the speed but it is proof that my lovely new shoes must be doing something good.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Barefoot Walk Postponed

If you've been reading my blog for a while you'll know I had planned to be walking barefoot last weekend up Cornwall's two highest peaks, Rough Tor and Brown Willy. Unfortunately a trip to visit family the week before resulted in just about everyone we came in contact with passing on the dreaded lurgy. I rather jokingly asked on facebook who was to blame (you have to have someone to blame don't you?) and they were falling over themselves to take the credit for it! The most likely suspects are my grandchildren, and as they are both under two the plans we had for doing something drawn out and painful to the guilty party had to be shelved. Where's the fun in suffering if you can't plan your revenge?
As it was, instead of feeling the cool earth beneath my feet on what turned out to be a beautiful autumn day (perfect walking weather), I was alternately shivering and baking while simultaneously feeling like I'd been run over by a bus. Repeatedly. My nose ran like a tap and even my finger tips ached, but I think I got off lightly compared to Andy. I could still function, even if I did feel bloody awful doing it, poor Andy spent the best part of a week wrapped up in a blanket with a hot water bottle. And that was before our boiler packed up leaving us with no heating or hot water! All in all it was a miserable week :(
I haven't given up though. I will still be doing this challenge, I had really been looking forward to it. It does give me time to plan it better though, and drum up some more support. I was so keen to get on with it that I didn't give myself a lot of time to raise money (which is the whole point, afterall) so maybe the delay is for the best. I may even be brave and increase the distance! We'll see...
The new date is still to be confirmed, so watch this space. I'll keep you updated.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Thank You to Sharp's Brewery

A big THANK YOU to Sharp's

for donating a 5 litre mini keg of Doom Bar to use as a raffle prize.

That'll go down very nicely :)

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Walking Barefoot- My Cornish 'Twin Peaks' Challenge


Possibly, certainly even, but if I'm going to raise the significant amount of money I'm trying to raise then I have to do something a bit...well, out of the ordinary.

And so, on Saturday 22nd September (weather permitting. I don't mind rain but fog may cause a delay of a day or two. Even I'm not mad enough to climb Cornwall's two highest points if I can't see where I'm going) I will be walking up Cornwall's 'Twin Peaks', Rough Tor and Brown Willy, barefoot. Yes, you read that right. BAREFOOT!

It's actually meant to be good for you, seriously, after all the human race managed quite nicely before shoes were invented. These days people even go on barefoot walking holidays. Don't believe me? Have a read of this. See? Maybe my idea isn't quite as mad as it first sounds. Still not convinced? Here you'll find 125 reasons why you should go barefoot.
Brown Willy (Bron Wennyly), the highest point in Cornwall is 1375ft (420m) and his little brother Rough Tor is 1313ft (400m).

Want to join me? No, I didn't think so ;) But you can support me by visiting my Virgin Money Giving Page to donate. Anything you can give is very much appreciated and all goes to help Tommy's fund research into the prevention of miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth.
I'm really looking forward to it and Every Step's for Dillon so.... Best foot forward!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Uphill Struggle

There are a lot of advantages to living in a beautiful part of the country. I get to spend all year in a place some people have to save all year just to visit for a couple of weeks. Lucky? You bet I am! I have the sea on my doorstep, the moors within easy reach, and miles of stunning, undulating, countryside in between.

I can run through tranquil woodlands, or with the music of the sea in my ears. I can run along winding country lanes between high hedges full of life, or across wide open moorland watched only by soaring birds of prey and the occasional curious pony. Not for me the monotony and fumes of city streets. Wonderful, yes? Yes, indeed, but there is a downside. Or more accurately, an UP side.

Cornwall is a land of hills. There is no getting away from it. It doesn't matter which direction I head in when I open my front door each morning the one thing I can count on is a bloody great hill somewhere on my route.

I cheated a bit when I first started training (OK, I cheated a lot) and deliberately planned routes that encountered hills going in a favourable direction, ie. down! This was a great motivator. I got to cover more distance than I could have managed otherwise and the general downhill direction meant I invariably ended up at the sea. What better place could there be to sit for a while and catch my breath before plodding, exhausted, UP hill towards home?

This was fine when I was only attempting short runs of a couple of miles, but the very thing that makes this land so beautiful means I can only go so far before the path starts to rise again to crest the next hill. As I gradually increase my distance I have to accept the inevitable and begin to tackle those pesky hills.

There is one particular hill on the return stretch of my favourite route which starts out all innocently as a gradual incline. It is a twisting trail along a narrow lane between Cornish hedges covered in moss and ferns. It is shaded and cool, it is peaceful and pretty, it is evil and designed by the devil himself (not that I believe in him, but hey, I have to blame someone). It twists and turns, making it impossible to see just how steep and long it is when I, all gullible and inspired by the downhill stretch, embark upon its dreadful length.

I reach the first bend thinking 'yeah, I can do this, easy peasy'. By the second my legs are starting to ache but I'm still going strong, if a little slower. By the third I can see sunlight through a break in the trees and  I exult 'Yes! I'm nearly there!' and then wham! Another turn reveals it stretching onward and upward, steeper and narrower. By now my legs are starting to quiver and I resort to conning myself. Just to the next lamp post. To the next bend, then I'll rest. It's only 10 yards to the post box, go on, you can do it. Oh god, there are people coming! Happy holiday makers skipping downhill with buckets and spades and windbreaks and picnics. Smile. Smile! SMILE. Look like this isn't killing you. 'Good Morning!' they chorus. Christ! Do they expect me to answer? Nod, smile. Talk is impossible. It's more of a grimace than a smile but at last they are gone and the road ahead is...still there. Still going up. I'm red faced, sweating, panting, legs like jelly. Almost there. Almost. Just make it to that driveway. OK, now, just one more bit, one more bend, and the steepest bit...but I can see the top now. It's there, just there, just a few steps more. I can't do it. I can't. Impossible...done. I'm there and I'm not dead. Amazing.

And I get to do it all again tomorrow. Oh joy.