Tag Archives: north west

15 Races for 15 Babies

Taken by the fab Burnley Parkrun photographer David Belshaw

After finishing the Great North Run last September, I knew that I wanted to carry on running. I was blown away when family, friends and colleagues helped me to raise over £2300 for Sands, for running the half marathon and 2 x 10k’s in 2016. When I was unsuccessful (but secretly quite pleased) with the London Marathon ballot, I decided to be a bit more creative. There were plenty of other marathons to go for, but to be honest, I’m still not ready to put in the hours needed for decent training with the 3-4 hour long weekend runs needed.

Inspiration came through reading various posts from a brilliant Facebook group I was invited to join called Run Mummy Run. There are 30,000+ members all of varying running abilities, from 15 minute milers to ultra marathon runners. It’s a huge support network where stories and achievements are celebrated and no question is too stupid. Being part of this virtual running club has kept me going throughout the winter, a time when I have never trained before. Not at night any way. I only managed to pull on my trainers after the boys had gone to bed when it was dark, windy and wet outside because I knew thousands of other mums were doing the same.

So, onto my challenge for this year ….. ready? ….. drumroll …. (it should be no surprise really given the blog title!) … I’m going to take part in 15 races over the course of 2017.

Because I am now such a running geek (as I was politely informed the other day), all my races are on a spreadsheet. I haven’t signed up for them all yet – some still have dates to be confirmed, and I’ve got my fingers crossed that I will win a place in the Vitality Liverpool half marathon. Feel free to join me in one, or come out and cheer if the race is near you (warning – you need to live in the North!). The more the merrier.

Blackburn Winter Warmer 10k – 5th February

Crosby Beach 10k (Liverpool) – 19th February

Accrington Ron Hill 10k – 5th March

Vitality Liverpool Half Marathon – 2nd April

Lancaster 3 Bridges 10k – 30th April

Great Run Manchester Half Marathon – 28th May

Run for All Hull 10k – 18th June

Run for All Leeds 10k – 9th July

Great Yorkshire Run (Harrogate 10k) –  July (date TBC)

Run for All York 10k – 6th August

Blackpool Air Show 10k – 13th August

Run for All Bury 10k – 17th September

Lytham Windmill 10k – 12th November

Wilmslow 10k – 26th November

Longridge Pudding Run – 10th December

So why 15? Because every day in the UK, 15 babies are stillborn, or die within the first 4 weeks of life. Every day, the lives of 15 families are changed forever. Hopes are shattered and dreams are broken for 15 mums and dads to be. On Saturday it will be 6 years to the day when we were told that Ewan had died. And although I always say how lucky we are to have 2 amazing boys with us now, the pain I felt on that day and for the weeks, months and years that followed, will be with me until I take my last breath.

Stillbirth is not rare. This was a tragedy which happened to us and could happen to anyone. The UK’s stillbirth rate is still unacceptably high, especially in comparison to other lower income nations.

I want my challenge to be memorable and meaningful. To raise money for research and also raise awareness of stillbirth.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/15races15babies

I’ve even got one of those fancy text codes (I sound ancient writing that don’t I?!)

Text COXR51  followed by an amount of £1, £2, £3, £5 or £10 to 70070

Please share my Justgiving page and if you have a spare cash over the year any donations will be gratefully received.

My geeky spreadsheet!

#15races15babies

#TeamSands

#SandsSuperstar

 

 

Happy Happy Half Term

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I’ve decided a happy post is way overdue. Although the memory of half term is already fading, I wanted to share with you a couple of the fun things we got up to. Half terms are always particularly welcome for me seeing as I work in education. The first half term is always the hardest in my line of work, so by the time the break in October arrives, I am ready for some time off.

It was Dylan’s first school holiday, which was exciting for him, although given that he has absolutely LOVED his first half term at school, I think he was a tad disappointed not to be donning his uniform as normal. Thankfully the weather gods were beaming down on us for the first few days. I was off work Monday to Wednesday and the sun shone every day. No rainy day activities needed….. hurray!

Bolton Abbey

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We visited Bolton Abbey in North Yorkshire, about a 30 minute journey for us. My parents brought me here a lot when I was younger, but it was our first visit with the boys. I wished we’d brought them sooner because they absolutely loved it. It is a huge estate on the banks of the River Wharfe with a ruined abbey, woods, waterfalls, open fields and picnic areas. We only explored a little bit with them so plenty of reasons to return.

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We took part in the Halloween Pumpkin walk, which was a trail through the woods counting sparkly pumpkins suspended from the trees and finding ‘coffins’ with Halloween related things inside e.g. spiders, toads, ghouls etc. There was a quiz which we had to complete and for the first time, Dylan carried the worksheet and (with our help with spellings), wrote down some of the answers. It was a real ‘wow, he is growing up’ moment. Jude had been asleep in the car so took a while to get going, but eventually perked up and loved opening all the coffin doors and running after his older brother.

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Afterwards we had a picnic by the river. Picnics definitely rate highly in the list of Dylan’s most favourite things to do. Winter picnics are often better, with no wasps or flies to spoil the fun. It was so warm that even in the shade we sat with our coats off. The colour of the trees was stunning. It reaffirmed why Autumn is my favourite season by far.

Pendle Hill

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Anyone who lives in, or has visited our beautiful corner of East Lancashire knows the local landmark hill, Pendle. We see it every day on the drive to school and Dylan loves being able to name it (although he shouts out that every other hill in the area is also Pendle, so we have a bit of work to do there). Jude went up last year in the baby carrier, but Dylan has never ventured up. A couple of his friends have climbed it, so he was keen to give it a shot.

We had decided to keep Jude in nursery for one of his scheduled days. He was in the process of moving from the baby room up to Toddlers, so we didn’t want to break his routine. After we dropped him off we drove straight to Barley, the village at the bottom of the hill.

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To be honest, I wasn’t sure if Dylan would make it to the top. But he was an absolute star. Once we got on the steps on the path up, he was like a little mountain goat. I kept asking if he wanted to rest (not that I wanted to!?!) but he kept saying he was fine. We managed to get him to stop for a bit to have a drink.
Again being another beautiful, clear day, the views were amazing. You can see for miles and miles. Dylan made it to the top of the steps all by himself. We allowed him a bit of time on Adam’s shoulders whilst we made the final short walk from the stairs to the summit. A few homemade chocolate and banana buns at the top and we were ready to go back down. One of my favourite photos taken was of Dylan trying to play hide and seek at the top. It is pretty sparse up there, but he managed to find some long grass to cover him. Pity his hat was bright red and gave him away!!

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At the bottom, we treated ourselves to a pub lunch and sat by the log stove. I thought Dylan would be wiped out for the rest of the day but he wasn’t. Me? I was ready for bed by 3pm!

I’m hoping the weather will stay nice for us at the weekends to still get out over winter. I know we can still wrap up in waterproofs and wellies, but it is much nicer when the gloomy rain gives way to winter sun. Some more wonderful memories in the bank for us and hopefully for the boys, Dylan at least, to treasure. Happy days indeed.

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My Great Manchester Run

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15 months after giving birth to my second rainbow, 3 years since my last 10k race, and over 5 years after losing Ewan, I woke up last Sunday morning bright and early and ready to embark on the Great Manchester Run. Late last year I set my sights on running the Great North Run for SANDS which will take place in September 2016. To help myself prepare, I signed up to 2 x 10k races (I’m considering a third too!). The race in Manchester was the first of the challenges.

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As well as raising money, specifically earmarked for research in stillbirth and neonatal deaths, my aim is to continue keeping Ewan’s memory alive. I was delighted to receive in my race pack a few weeks prior to the event a plain bib which could be personalised to wear on my back. On Saturday night I fished out my black marker pen and then, in the absence of coloured felt tip pens, I grabbed Dylan’s box of crayons to brighten it up. I was pretty chuffed with the end result. What do you think?

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I drove myself to Manchester which only takes about 45 minutes. Unfortunately Adam had to work so couldn’t come and watch with the boys. I met up with a couple of people from work beforehand, but because we all started at varying times, as much as two hours for some people, we didn’t all manage to get to run together. My ‘wave’ started at 12.25pm. Because I had arrived early, I managed to watch the elite runners get underway. Firstly the wheelchair athletes, the women and finally the men. I watched the first wave of the ‘non-elites’ go and managed to spot a few SANDS runners and one of my college team members. I decided not to wait any longer and headed towards the holding area for the blue wave.

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With over 35,000 people taking part, an event such as this needs military organisation. and it worked. It was the first time I had taken part in this event and was easily able to find where I should congregate for the start. I turned up just before the mass warm up which was handy to get the blood pumping and muscles ready. A few more announcements and then we were off!

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Well, almost! It took about 7 minutes of shuffling before I actually crossed the start line. But then I really was off.

So what was it like? A few words spring to mind. Hot, busy, fun, busy, tiring, busy, memorable, busy, hot! Ok so a few are repeated. But that is because it really was very busy … and very hot! The weather did eventually break and the rain was pretty heavy, however that was about 5 minutes after I finished!

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I really enjoyed myself for the majority of the time. The course felt pretty flat compared to what I was used to training in hilly Lancashire. I had set myself a target  of trying to complete it within an hour. It was pretty ambitious given that my longest training run was 9.7 km completed in nearly 1 hr 1 minute. Still, I figured that the flat course would help. We ran all the way out to Old Trafford , Salford Quays and back from the city centre. Annoyingly, just as I was well in my stride by the time we got to Old Trafford, the running mass slowed down. I saw people taking photos and and even stopping to pose. Argh, it’s just a football stadium!!

There was a stretch of a couple of kilometres which were two-way. This meant that as I was starting out, I could look for my Nelson and Colne College team-mates who had started in the waves before me and hopefully cheer them on. We had our college logo on our t-shirts so they were easy to spot. I managed to see 2 staff members, but my brain just couldn’t work quickly enough. By the time I had got their names ready to shout encouragement, they had run past. Still, it helped to pre-occupy my mind for 15 minutes on the way out to Old Trafford and then on the way back too.

I knew I need to work on an average of 6 minutes per km. I clocked myself as I went over the start line and then at each km marker would check to see how I was faring. I was on track for the first half but it was between 5 and 8 km that I slowed down. At one point I was tempted to run with guy who had a portable speaker attached to his waist. He wasn’t just keeping himself going but entertaining everyone else around him too. As I passed, the speaker was playing ‘Dead Ringer for Love’ by Meat Loaf, one of my all-time favourites (and although he wouldn’t like to admit it, the first song Adam and I danced together to!). It gave me a welcome lift as a trudged on.

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Checking my split times on the website, I completed the last 2 km in 12 minutes and 2 seconds, which in retrospect was pretty good for me given it was the end of the race. I know I pushed myself hard on the last kilometre (I’d love to know that split time), and probably looked horrendous on the last stretch. Although there are plenty of official photos, I haven’t bothered to look at them. I’m not the prettiest runner in town.

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I finished though. And although I just missed out on going under that hour mark by 6 seconds (damn Old Trafford!) I was elated to complete my first challenge of the year. I collected my goody pack and started to devour the obligatory free food. I managed a few selfies to send to Adam (and upload to Facebook) before the rain started. I decided I deserved a Starbucks hot chocolate (with whipped cream) before heading home, proudly sporting my medal in the car!

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Running for Ewan really pushed me to complete this, and finish it in the best time I could. I was proud to wear his name on my back and hope I will be able to for future races. A huge thank you to my work colleagues who also ran for SANDS and to everyone who sponsored me (and the rest of the team).

My next event is just 5 days away – the Run For All Burnley 10K. Adam and I completed this 3 years ago when it was held for the first time, so I am really excited to take part again. We both raised £400+ for SANDS back then. I am also looking forward to Adam and the boys being able to  watch me seeing as it is so close to home. Anyone in the Burnley area, make sure you are en route cheering and supporting. You’ll need to be up early as it starts at 9.30am. I hope to see you there.

If you would like to sponsor me, please visit my fundraising page. All amounts are gratefully received, however big or small.
www.justgiving.com/running4ewan

Back to Another Place

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Dare I ask if winter is behind us? At least all that relentless rain (pretty please!) Today has been the kind of day that half term dreams are made of. Sunshine and blue skies. Only the temperature gave away the fact that we are still in February. We all wrapped up well and headed out to the place I wrote about a few weeks ago; Crosby Beach in Liverpool. A memorable place we visited just after Ewan died.

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This was Jude’s first visit. We brought Dylan when he had only been walking a few weeks. I’d forgotten how great it is for children. Obviously as well as the beach there is a huge park, outdoor gym equipment, a lake (perfect for throwing stones) and a bistro/bar.

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Three years ago, the newly toddling Dylan absolutely loved the open space and at the time my dreams of a relaxed family picnic were dashed as he just wouldn’t keep still. Jude isn’t walking yet, although I don’t think it will be too long. He’s at that stage where if he’s in the pram, it needs to be constantly moving. Luckily there is a long promenade at Crosby beach, plus the sand is really firm so easy to push the pram on.

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Dylan didn’t pay too much attention to the statues (again) and instead concentrated all his effort on cracking shells with a big stick. 4 year old heaven!! It would have kept him entertained for a good couple of hours I imagine, but Jude was getting hungry and a bit cold because despite the sun, there was a biting wind.

I managed to steal the stick from Dylan long enough to get my (now) obligatory beach shot of my angel and two rainbows.

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We treated ourselves to lunch in the bistro. I had contemplated a picnic but decided it would just be too cold for the boys. It was great to have an hour to warm up giving us the energy to go back out in the cold for round two in the park.

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I love this place and couldn’t help but take photo after photo. We definitely need to come back in the summer, when the temperature is warmer and hopefully Jude will be running up and down, shunning my lovingly prepared sandwiches!

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So maybe I’m being a bit too optimistic in thinking the rain has ended, especially having looked at Wednesday’s forecast! At least I can revel in this wonderful day out today with my beautiful family. Five years ago Adam and I came on our own, encouraged by the sun, starting to heal and sowing some seeds of happiness. Those seeds have flourished and are now smiling and laughing with each other, and at us every day. Absolute bliss!

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Truly loving brothers

A Lancashire Lass

So I’m a real Lancashire lass, born and bred. Although I spent the first years of my life near St Helens, Merseyside, I was actually born across the border in Ormskirk, Lancashire. We moved to Burnley when I was three, and aside from this, a three-year spell at Loughborough University and a 14 month round the world backpacking trip, I have always lived within a 5 miles of Burnley, the place I class as my hometown.

As a teenager, like a lot people, I didn’t think much about where I lived. I thought living in a city would be far more exciting, or by the sea even (influenced by an intense diet of The Famous Five and Mallory Towers!). An old cotton mill and coal mining town in the ‘grim’ North of England was quite boring in comparison.

On the West Coast of Australia

On the West Coast of Australia

My long-term plans did not involve living in East Lancashire. Whilst I didn’t quite look down my nose at friends who hadn’t moved away, I was superior enough to think that I would fly the nest and see the world. I left to go to university, and it was there I caught the travelling bug. On my return from backpacking, I had grand ideas of another long-term trip abroad again (I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to have that dream crushed by reality!). But also on my return, I started to look at my surroundings with different eyes. I had visited some amazing places. Blazing sunsets on the west coast of Australia.

Flores, Indonesia

Flores, Indonesia

Lush, green rice fields in Indonesia. Volcanic mountains in Hawaii. The first dewy sunrises of the day in New Zealand. Surely my hometown couldn’t compete with these? Ok not exactly, but I suddenly had an appreciation of how beautiful the Lancashire landscape was. I took notice of the rolling, vivid green fields and hills, the clean air and how the sunrises and sunsets, whilst maybe not as spectacular, could still compete with those abroad.

Anyway in the short-term, I decided I wanted to move down to London. I had quite a few friends in the capital from both university and travelling, so decided it would be the ideal place. What is it they say about the best laid plans of mice and men? My move to London never materialised. Because of a boy. Yes love (well at the time I thought it was love!) got in the way. So as I result I stayed in East Lancashire. We broke up 18 months later but by that point I was ‘stuck’. Stuck because I’d bought a house.

Now (without the bitterness of a newly ended relationship) I appreciate how lucky I was. I had my own house at the age of 25. I wasn’t sharing. It wasn’t rented. It was my own. Well, mine and the Nationwide Building Society. I had also started working in Further Education at a local college, supporting young people in their education, lives and careers, and realised I had found a job which I had a passion for. I then went onto find real love, got married and properly ‘settled down’. Things started to fall into place.

Adam and I decided we wanted a bigger home. Although our two bedroomed terrace was sufficient for the two of us and our two kittens, we knew we wanted to start a family in the not too distance future. However putting the house on the market in the middle of a recession meant that it took well over a year to find a buyer. But thankfully we did and we found our perfect home in a nearby village.

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The Sold sign outside our terraced house

Adam and I moved in February 2011, less than 3 weeks after Ewan died. I should have been 35 weeks pregnant struggling to pack a box let alone lift one. We didn’t expect to start our new life in our new home as grieving parents. It turned out to be a positive step for us. A fresh new start. We were able to decorate (which we hadn’t initially planned on with a new baby) and I spent those early days in painting therapy! We were also able to explore our new village and surroundings. Although we were familiar with the area, we didn’t know it awfully well. We could put on our walking boots, set off from our front door and head off over the nearby fields. It was so refreshing.

Now, four years on I think we would struggle to live anywhere else. We are only a mile from the nearest motorway, yet half a mile from glorious countryside. The village is perfect for raising our rainbows. Our favourite place is the park, which I would say is 300m from our front door. It is so easy not to have to get in the car, but instead roll down our hill with the pram (pushing it back up the hill is definitely more of a challenge… but helps with losing the baby weight!). There is a river (perfect for throwing stones), playground, duck pond, picnic benches, waterfall and big open spaces. There is even a bear! Perfect for going on a Bear Hunt. I sat down last night to pick out some photographs of the park to include. It was so difficult because I have so many! Dylan would probably go every day if we let him and even though Jude has been plenty of times already, albeit asleep, we can’t wait for him to discover it for himself.

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If there are days when life gets hard, I look around and I am thankful for our lovely surroundings. Despite any hardships we may have, we are lucky beyond belief to live in a beautiful village, in a beautiful county, in the beautiful North of England. There is nowhere else I would rather be.