Tag Archives: parkrun

A Great Run Up North

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 The day I was to run 13.1 miles for SANDS finally arrived! It’s not an over exaggeration when I say that I’ve been working towards this goal all year. 12 months ago I could just about manage 5km every week or so. Three days ago I quadrupled that effort and completed my fourth ever half marathon, my first in nine years. Most importantly due to the generosity of my family, friends and colleagues, my Justgiving total now stands at £2,278 for the SANDS research fund.

Here’s how my day went!

Adam and I woke up at 5.30am in our lovely comfy B&B room to the sound of Dylan singing ‘Bob the Builder, Can you fix it’?? He was ready to get up but we weren’t!! A few shushes and we managed to sneak another hour sleep before getting up. The owner kindly got up early too in order to serve us breakfast. We sat and chatted with a couple from Liverpool who were also going up to the run. I managed to stomach a bit of porridge, some fruit and yoghurt and poached egg, drooling at the sight of Adam’s amazing plate of sausage, bacon and black pudding!

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Breakfast done, we packed up and got on the road, exchanging ‘good luck’s with the Liverpudlian runner. On went the Rocky soundtrack to get me pumped and motivated. I’m a sucker for Sylvester Stallone’s boxing saga. It makes me think of the early days when Adam and I first got together. I’d never seen it before and he introduced me to each chapter over consecutive weekends.

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The nerves started to kick in as we approached Newcastle. We parked the car just after 9am in the city centre near the Metro and followed the crowds to the start line. Even though the race didn’t begin until 10.40am, with 40,000+ runners plus spectators, we didn’t want to risk being late. Dylan enjoyed seeing all the people and picking out the runners in fancy dress. I told him I wanted him to tell me about all the different characters he saw when I finished. We parted ways as they went to find a place to watch the start. I queued for my last toilet break and collected the safety pins for my running number that I’d forgotten to pack. I knew a few other people taking part but with the huge volumes of runners (it is the world’s biggest half marathon you know!), meeting up just wasn’t an option.

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I finally found my starting ‘pen’ after walking past thousands of others. Given my predicted time I was near the back of the pack. And then I waited, and waited and waited. The start gun went. I waited some more, the Red Arrows flew over, waited a bit more again and then 32 minutes after the start I crossed the line!

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Waiting patiently for mummy!

My first priority once running got underway was to find Dylan and Adam. We made sure that co-ordinated so I was on the right side for them to see me. After a couple of minutes I saw them, Dylan on Adam’s shoulders waving. I managed a high five with them both, big smiles all around and then after that I was able to properly settle into the race.

So, I haven’t mentioned the heat yet. How can I have got 500 words into this blog without talking about how incredibly flipping hot it was. We spent half of July staring out at rain dripped windows and in September suddenly the country breaks into an unexpected heatwave! That was the first real obstacle. Adjusting to a race that could have been in Nigeria instead of Newcastle. I took advantage of the majority of the first mile going under the city underpasses and then afterwards tried as much as possible to go along the shaded parts of the streets, although there weren’t many of these.

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We crossed the Tyne Bridge (always exciting) and apart from being hot, I felt as though the first 5km was pretty comfortable. Although there are A LOT of people running, I remembered why I love the Great North Run. For one the crowds are amazing. There aren’t many sections of the race where there aren’t spectators shouting encouragement, handing out jelly babies or ice pops. Secondly I love reading all the different running shirts and seeing who people are running for. Some people think that runners are crazy putting themselves through the torture and pain of training and racing, but it truly is an amazing sight looking at all the good causes and thinking how many charities will be benefitting as a result of this one half marathon. I saw a few SANDS runners. I didn’t pass many of them (it was generally them passing me) but for those I did, I tried to have a bit of a chat and motivational high five with them.

The heat aside, I felt like I was doing pretty well and enjoying myself until about mile 10. At that point I was thinking ‘all the hard work done, not far to go now, it’s only a parkrun (5k) which I do every Saturday’. I might even have stupidly thought ‘easy’! I think that caused me to hit the brick wall. My legs turned to jelly, every leg muscle ached and every joint groaned. Olympic walkers would easily have overtaken me as I stumbled along. The last 3 miles were pretty much pure agony. So rather than dwell on it (I want to wipe it from memory) lets skip onto the finish.

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YEY I finished!! The last mile along the seafront seemed to go on forever but finally it ended. I’ve got to give a massive thank you to the commentator at the end, who, at the time I rolled in was encouraging the crowd to give us a standing ovation and huge cheers. They obeyed, and honestly I felt like I’d just won an Olympic medal! Crossing the line I managed to keep it together physically and didn’t collapse! Mentally I almost crumbled and cried, but again just kept a hold of myself.

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After collecting my medal and bag, I eventually managed to make my way to meeting Adam and Dylan. It was too busy for them to stand at the finish, Adam instead keeping Dylan entertained watching the Red Arrows display. Hugs all round and an ice cream for Dylan (it has been a long day for him), it was great to see them both. It had definitely been the right decision leaving Jude with my parents, he would have enjoyed the planes but that would have been about it!

The journey home was long and tiring, but all in all it was a great day. My time?? 2 hrs 34. Not my worse and not my best. To be honest, given how I’ve felt over the past couple of weeks, I was happy to get through the full 13.1 miles and finish. Completing this was less about the time, and more about raising money and raising awareness of stillbirth. And for Ewan to know that I ran it for him.

If you would like to donate to SANDS, please visit my Justgiving page www.justgiving.com/runningforewan

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A well earned bath

My first (volunteer) parkrun

For only the third time this year, I wasn’t stood on the start line of a parkrun at 9am on Saturday morning. With my first 10k on tomorrow morning, I didn’t want to push myself too much and risk having tired legs. But instead of taking it easy and watching back to back Disney films with the boys in our pyjamas, as any normal person would, I still decided to head on over to Burnley parkrun, to help marshal the event.

IMG_0667Typically disorganised as ever, I didn’t get the boys up and dressed and dropped off at my mums in time to make the volunteers briefing at 8.45am. Instead I turned up just as the running latecomers were speeding up the avenue to the start. A few nice lady marshals took me under their wing and suggested I head on over to one particular part of the course which was free. I grabbed a vest and headed off to get there before the first runners arrived.

From my vantage point I could see the huge colourful crowd of 300+ runners all gathered in front of Towneley Hall. It was a pretty amazing sight to see them all suddenly mobilise and set off from a distance. My spot was about 500m into the run so I didn’t have too long to wait before the front runners came thundering past.

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Crowd at the start line through the trees

Before sitting down to write this, I had a look on the volunteer page and it listed all the different roles. It says:

‘Marshals guide and encourage the runners around the course warning them of any obstacles or hazards, as well as ensuring that other park users are aware of the run. They are also the eyes and ears of the run director out on the course. Marshals perform a crucial function; if there aren’t enough marshals then the event can’t go ahead. So if you’re running and see them out on the course, please say thanks (particularly if it’s wet, windy or cold) and always follow their advice. They’ll most likely be wearing high vis – so they should be easy to spot.

Well there weren’t any hazards near my area, but once I got over the ‘I feel a bit silly stood here on my own clapping’ feeling, I like to think I did a good job of cheering and encouraging the runners on. My most useful moment was probably relieving one of the runners with a dog from a small plastic bag full of … well I’m sure you can guess. She looked pretty happy not to have to carry it around for another 4.5km!

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Long line of runners

It was interesting seeing the huge variety of runners and I still marvel at what an amazing event is. From the clearly talented runners finishing in under 20 minutes to those struggling at the back but persevering with each and every step. From the tiny dots only 5 years old to the more senior runners of varying speeds and abilities.

After seeing the last runner past my post, I ran back to the finish line to try and catch as many as possible coming through. By then I had no worries about clapping and cheering them on and stayed until the last runners came through.

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If it wasn’t enough to received a lot of smiles back and a hefty number of ‘thank you’s’ from the runners taking part today, I even got a thank you text message instead of my usual run time and position. I had a great morning and it only took an hour or so of my time. Although I am concentrating at getting fitter and better at running myself (with parkrun’s help) I hope I can give up a few more Saturday mornings to help out.

So now I am just preparing for tomorrow. All my kit is laid out ready. I’m just hoping that the aches and pains in my ankle and knees are just psychosomatic seeing as they have just appeared in the last 24 hours!! Wish me luck!

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My first holiday Parkrun

With my first 10k race (the Great Manchester Run) taking place in 6 weeks, having a rest from training isn’t an option whilst on holiday. So this morning I took the opportunity to be a real Parkrun tourist and turned up to Penrith Parkrun bright and early. As well as it being my first holiday Parkrun, it was also the first Parkrun of the year where I didn’t have a jacket (well hello sun!) and also the first time I wore my new Parkrun wristband, an early birthday present from Adam.

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My parkrun and Centre Parcs wristbands

One beauty of Parkrun is that with it taking place in 350+ locations around the UK, if you are away from home and want to run, it’s is likely there will be somewhere nearby. It’s a great opportunity to compare different courses and discover new places. Penrith Parkrun is in a truly enviable location. At one point I was running towards the dramatic (still) snow capped peaks of the northern Lake District. In the opposite direction I could see the sparkling river Eamont in front of the Appleby fells. And then hidden behind the busy A66, the crumbling tops of Brougham Castle. Pretty spectacular really.

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Snowcapped Lakeland Fells

As mentioned earlier, it was the first time this year that I ran without a jacket. In short sleeves no less. That felt like a cause for celebration in itself. The sun was really strong, I had to remind myself that it wasn’t July. It’s the excuse I’ve given myself that I didn’t run as fast as I’d hoped. When I first turned up, I thought there might be a good chance I would beat my PB because the course was so flat. The sun beat me (and probably also because I hadn’t drunk enough water!)

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Hot but happy!

Here’s hoping the good weather continues for the rest of the week. We have embarked on our first Centre Parcs adventure, so maybe I’ll write about our experience as CP virgins. It’s hard not to be relaxed when this was my view writing earlier (it helped that one child was napping and the other conked out watching the Little Mermaid after a busy morning at the adventure playground and pool!)

Thoroughly relaxing view

Thoroughly relaxing view

I think I’ve earned a bit of a relax after my morning workout.

If you want to read more about my running and fundraising goals this year, take a look at some of my previous blogs.

Getting my Great North Run place

The Great North Run Idea

The Importance of SANDS

I am raising money for SANDS in memory of our angel, Ewan. If you are able to make a contribution, however big or small, please visit my justgiving page www.justgiving.com/running4ewan.

I’m In!!!!

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An excuse to get some new running shoes!!

Well if you like my Facebook page then you can guess what this post is about. I can’t say it more simply that I GOT IN! Yes, I’ve finally got confirmation that I have a charity place to do the Great North Run in September. Crucially, the charity place is for SANDS.

I’m not being overdramatic when I say that I was devastated not to get a place through the ballot. I really was. I’ve been running regularly since the start of the year (well at least once a week) and just assumed I would get in. On the day the results of the ballot were emailed out, at least 5 people I knew were celebrating on Facebook because they’d been successful. I wanted to be so pleased for them, especially as most said they wanted to run for SANDS too.

I hoped SANDS would have some places, but also knew that they wouldn’t have many. I sent my application off along with a few begging emails. One of my friends (who got a ballot place) emailed in support saying she’d been planning to run with me. Another friend said that I could have their place if I didn’t get one through SANDS (how lovely).

I really was worried I wouldn’t get a place. And I really didn’t want to contemplate what would happen if I was unsuccessful. As much as I wanted to run, I didn’t want to run for anyone else other than SANDS. The charity is more important than the run.

Now I don’t need to worry about getting in. I just need to worry about making sure I train enough!! I know I can run 13.1 miles. I’ve done it 3 times before, so that does help. Not that it makes the training any easier mind. My regular Saturday Parkrunning will give me a solid foundation but I now need to make time to get out during the week. Bring on the lighter nights!

So I’m sorry that now I’ll be harping on about this for the next few months. Hopefully you will enjoy tracking my progress (and not be too bored with it!). Who knows? Maybe you’ll even be inspired to get those dusty running shoes out from under your bed and sign up for a 5 or 10k yourself. And even better, raise money for SANDS.

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If you are interested in my Great North Run journey, you might want to read my first declaration of intent – Running for Ewan

If you want to take up running and don’t know where to start, why not look at Parkrun – I’m hooked. Read more about it in 8 Reasons to Love Parkrun and My First Parkrun

The Great North Run 2016 – The Story So Far

gnr-largeLast September, I made rather a bold statement. In print, here on this blog. I said that I was planning to run 13.1 miles to raise money for Sands, the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society, a charity that couldn’t be any closer to my heart. I threw down the gauntlet for friends (and strangers) to join and a few brave souls picked it up.

I thought the hardest thing would be getting going with the training. To begin with it was. I was juggling going back to work after maternity leave with all the fun and chaos of Christmas. As the New Year passed, I made an unspoken resolution to get back on it. So far I’ve been pleased with my progress. Saturday mornings have seen me up for 9am to take part in every parkrun of 2016, getting a Personal Best at my usual Burnley run and attempting the much more difficult Pendle run. I’ve managed to also to get our at least once, sometimes twice during the week too.

Wettest Parkrun of the year (so far)

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I’ve honestly felt as though I’ve had something driving me this time around. When I’ve run up one of the (many) steep hills near home, or when I was pushing for my PB, at the time I was starting to doubt my ability, I reminded myself why I was there in the first place. I’m not running to lose weight, or to get fitter (albeit valid reasons and actually ones I should adopt too!), I am running for my angel.

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My new Sands training t-shirt

So then came the bombshell. The results of the ballot were emailed out this week. I didn’t get a place. Okaaaaaaay! That wasn’t part of the plan. I’ve been successful in the ballot before. In fact I think I have got every place all three times. I stupidly didn’t think about the prospect of being unsuccessful.

I got in touch with Sands almost straight away to ask about a charity place. Due to the high profile nature of the event (it is the largest half marathon in the world!), understandably places aren’t given straight away to anyone who asks for one. There are 50,000+ participants. Most of them running for charity. I’ve sent off my application for one of their golden bond places. I’ve no idea how many places they do have, but given they are only a small charity, I am hoping for my own selfish reasons that they aren’t over subscribed.  

I have to wait until next month to find out. It’s going to be a loooong month of nibbling finger nails. I thought it might be hard getting up on Saturday to be motivated to run. But it’s starting to become habit now and hopefully if I do get that place, I won’t have lost momentum.

I don’t want to consider the possibility of not getting that place. Not yet. Mainly because I don’t really want to run for anyone else other than Sands. If there are other charity places available, I can’t see myself going for them. With a heavy heart I’ll have to lead the cheerleading for all my wonderful friends who were lucky enough to get places and will run for Sands. I just really wish I can join them. I can’t describe how gutted I will be if I can’t do this.

Keep everything crossed for me. Legs, arms, fingers and toes.

I will keep you posted.

 

Eight Reasons to Love Parkrun

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Yesterday morning I completed my eighth parkrun. New Year’s resolutions and all, I decided if I was going to get off my backside and start running properly this year, I needed to start as I meant to go on. I’ve written about my first parkrun here and also about how I want to do the Great North Run this year to raise money for SANDS in Ewan’s memory.

Eight parkrun’s isn’t a huge accomplishment but it’s one I am proud of as I haven’t run much over the past couple of years. Anyway I’ve decided to compile a list of the reasons (so far) why I love parkrun and hopefully motivate others take part too.

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A great start to the weekend

Gone are the days when Saturday mornings are spent in bed till noon, nursing a hangover. If I’m lucky, it’s a 7am wake up call and I’m straight into mum mode. So it doesn’t feel a huge effort to get myself ready for a 9am run seeing as I’ve been up at least 2 hours already. Ok the run feels tough when I’m doing it, but afterwards, I have a sense of achievement. I get on with my day feeling rather smug wondering how many other people have a 5k under their belt by 10am?

 

It’s free

Perfect for a tight northerner like me! No expensive gym memberships or class subscriptions required. Parkrun doesn’t cost a penny.

 

The great outdoors

I’ve never been one for gyms. Sorry, it’s just not for me. If I’m going to run, I want to be out and about and get fresh air into my lungs. All parkruns are, believe it or not …. in parks! My local run is in the beautiful surroundings of Towneley Park in Burnley, Lancashire. I’m sure there are equally stunning locations up and down the country. It’s good for the soul to spend time outdoors, whatever the weather.

 

Motivation

I can’t imagine getting up on a Saturday morning and motivating myself to go out for a 5k run. In fact, I am not good a motivating myself to run full stop. I generally find that I can only run when I have a goal to work towards. Getting fit after having my babies was one goal. Running a charity 10k or half marathon has been another. I find it hard to get out otherwise. I don’t tend to run just for pleasure.

Parkrun is helping to be that motivation. It gives me something to look forward to and work towards. This New Year I am aiming to get out for two runs during the week, hoping that it will improve my Saturday parkrun times.

There is also the motivation to beat the person in front, to improve on each run and chase that PB.

 

Volunteers

Each parkrun is run entirely by volunteers. Now I would be impressed if that just applied to one or two parkruns. But it applies to every single parkrun. Hats off to all those who turn up before 9am to be assigned a role and then stand there in all weathers, marshalling and (most importantly) clapping and encouraging us runners on. And of course, the runs wouldn’t take place without them.

 

Family

Parkrun is a real family affair. Each time I have taken part, I have seen plenty of younger children running (I am talking 5, 6, 7 year olds!) with their mums, dads, grandma’s and grandad’s. I can’t think there would be many other regular opportunities where this can happen. It is such an uplifting sight.

Even babies can take part …. well kind of. A few parents run with buggies (those special 3 wheeled ones designed for bumpy terrain). Someone I know is a good 5 minutes faster than me … with her 18 month old in the buggy. That’s kind of embarrassing really.

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Thanks to my parents I’ve managed to run with Adam a couple of times

Each week there are hundreds of photographs posted on the local parkrun Facebook page. It is really wonderful to see so many happy kids, of all ages, enjoying themselves with friends and family, getting fit and keeping healthy. I hope that maybe when my active, almost 4 year old gets a bit older, he will be keen to take part too.

 

Technology & Timing

I am blown away by the technology used. It is absolutely amazing!!! Starting from the moment you sign up to parkrun, you get a unique running number and a barcode. You print off your barcode (in a handy credit card size) and bring it with you. At the end of the run you get a tag which tells you your position (in the race). This is then collected and your barcode is scanned.

IMG_7156Between 2-4 hours later, a text message is sent with your time and position. I think it’s great how quickly this arrives, but it feels like forever when you are waiting to find out whether you have beaten your PB or not!

You can then go onto the website or Facebook page of your local parkrun and delve into the statistics even further. How many people took part? (In my case) How many women? This gives you an idea of how well placed (or not) you are. For example, you may have come 30th overall, but be the first female home (for the record that has never happened to me, nor is ever likely!). There is also an Age Grading (now for the science bit). This is compiled using your time and the world record for your sex and age group to produce a score. The higher your score (a percentage), the better you are. It just helps if you want to compare yourself to other runners who are a different age or sex.

It’s baffling the amount of stats available and you can look at all your past runs and compare times. And for a free event? It’s nothing short of miraculous.

 

Community

The word community means so many things when it comes to parkrun. From the army of volunteers to the hundreds who turn up each week. Although I’ve taken part in such a small number, I think at every run I’ve ended up talking to one or more stranger. It could be about the weather or if we were happy with our times. Maybe to encourage someone who has stopped to walk, or to tell someone their laces are untied! I spent one run chatting away to a woman with two dogs. My time wasn’t very good but I had lots of fun.

I’ve seen colleagues from work, friends from school, and even my junior school teacher who first encouraged me to start running.

It’s great to see such a huge variety of people gathered together; different ages, abilities and backgrounds. All sharing in one common goal.

 

If you are a parkrunner, do you have anything else to add? If you aren’t, I hope I’ve convinced you to take it up in 2016. To find your nearest parkrun, check out the parkrun website

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Before my first parkrun. Don’t know why I looked so nervous!

 

 

Running for Ewan

gnr-largeI am making a bold statement. Now. In print.

Next year I am going to do the Great North Run.

There, I said it. I’ll have to do it now. Who’s going to join me?

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In 2005 with my buddy Ruth

I’ve run it before, but not for a long time. The first time was in 2003. I ran with a friend. We both ran to mend our respective broken hearts at the time! We chose the British Red Cross as our charity.

In 2005 I ran with another couple of friends (no broken hearts this time) for Colitis and Crohn’s UK. In 2007, I ran again with a different friend and Adam as well, although he was miles ahead of us. Instead we plodded along and talked about her impending relationship break up and new fella (it kept us going for a good 6 miles). That time we ran for Asthma UK, a condition Adam has had since he was very young.

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2007 – beaten by a Stormtrooper!

 

So it will be 9 years since last taking the journey up to Newcastle. I’ve been inspired by a friend who ran on Sunday. She had a baby in January, just a few weeks before me. I was super impressed that she managed to get fit enough in 7 months to run a half marathon (I have so far managed a 5k Parkrun!).

You might remember I wrote a post about it. She chose to run for Sands (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society) having read my blog and it made me so happy that the time I spent writing had a little bit of effect on someone.

So I’m going to run for Sands, a cause very close to my heart. Adam and I have done a lot of fundraising over the past 5 years and I want to carry it on.

I’m going to run for my angel, Ewan.

Get yourself signed up. If you go to the Great North Run website you can sign up for their reminder service so you will get an email when the ballot opens. My first aim is to get a place through the ballot. If I am unsuccessful, then hopefully I will get a place through Sands. Whatever happens, I am running.

So, does anyone out there want to join me? Join #TeamSands for #TeamEwan!

Come on, you know you want to.

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Blogging – is it worth it?

Yesterday I received a message from a friend. She is running the Great North Run in a couple of weeks and she had just set up a Justgiving page to raise money for Sands (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society). Friends and regular readers will know that this is a cause very close to my heart. I was really touched, because she told me that reading my blog had moved her to choose Sands. Claire and I don’t see each other very often, I bet it is a good 4-5 years since we last met. We have a mutual close friend who we were both bridesmaids together for and so we get updates on each other through Olivia. We also both have boys of very similar ages and obviously get to see them growing up through Facebook.

Receiving Claire’s message made me so incredibly happy. Sometimes as I am tapping away late at night on the laptop (when really I should be getting as much sleep as I can with two rainbows to run around after), I wonder how many people are reading my posts. Before getting into the blogging business, I was aware of a few parenting blogs, but I had absolutely no idea how many! There are easily hundreds, likely to be thousands. Maybe more. Some have tens of thousands of Facebook and Twitter followers. Some of them blog as a full-time job. How can I compete against that!

To date I only have 134 Twitter followers, 106 Facebook Likes and 10 people subscribed to my blog, yet lots of these wonderful people have taken time to send me some lovely messages of support. In the beginning it was only friends and family reading, but I know now there are ‘strangers’ out there. People I’ve never met. That in itself is incredibly exciting.

So I just need to remember that it’s not about competing. I didn’t start writing to be Britain’s Most Popular Blogger. I started writing for the all the reasons I put in my very first post. I am writing for me. And inspiring someone to run 13.1 miles for a cause that I have written about……. Sometimes there are no words for that.

If you want to sponsor Claire, please visit her Justgiving page. I need to give her extra kudos because she had a baby in January, just a few weeks before me. I can just about manage a 5k Parkrun on a Saturday morning. Getting fit enough to completing a half marathon is no mean feat, so my hat is definitely off to her!

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Anyone can raise money for Sands. Visit their website for ideas. Let me know if you do.

 

Oh and if you like what you read and  want to share my blog on Twitter, Facebook or wherever, please do!

My First Parkrun

My first Fit & Active post. On Saturday, I was up bright and early (nothing unusual there), I donned my running gear and drove to Burnley’s Towneley Park to take part in the phenomenon that is ‘parkrun’. It’s now nearly 6 months since Jude was born and I am slowly but surely trying to get back into shape. Let’s get this straight. I’m not an elite athlete, but I’m not a novice runner either. Confession: I ran a marathon once, so I do have some running experience. However over the last few years I haven’t been in the habit of running regularly. So I’ve decided to do something about it.

If you haven’t heard about parkrun before, let me enlighten you (if you have, skip to the next paragraph!). Starting in 2004, parkrun was set up as a weekly 5k timed race for local runners in Bushy Park, London run by volunteers. Over the next few years it expanded to different locations in the UK with everyone meeting at the same time, 9am on a Saturday morning. Eleven years on, parkrun now takes place in a 10 other countries including South Africa, Russia and the USA and is still run by volunteers.

Anyone can sign up and register. It takes a few minutes on the parkrun.org website and then you are emailed your personal ID along with a barcode. In order to take part you just have to turn up with your printed barcode. Thanks to my crafty mother, mine is even laminated! Once registered, you can take part in any parkrun … in the world!

There are hundreds of events in the UK alone, and in my locality (the North West) there are over 30 to choose from. Although my local event is Pendle, I chose the Burnley parkrun which is just a few miles further away because a) it attracts more runners (so it’s easier to get lost in the crowd), b) I know the park really well having walked, run and played there both as a child and parent and c) it is a slightly easier route.

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Towneley Hall

Towneley Park is a beautiful location. Locals refer to it as the jewel in Burnley’s crown. On a sunny and ever so slightly chilly Saturday morning, it didn’t disappoint. I parked up and as my husband recommended, just followed the crowd of runners. I had that nervous feeling in my tummy walking up the ‘avenue’ to Towneley Hall. Initially it seems as though everyone looks like an A grade, Olympic standard athlete. Whilst there were some very lean and fit people there, on looking around a bit I saw a few more runners like myself – slightly shabby running gear (you know the cheap stuff from Sports Direct) and maybe carrying a bit of extra weight around the middle!

There were a couple of announcements before the race got underway. Because the course route has recently changed, one person gave a quick explanation to us newbies and anyone who hadn’t run it before. The person in charge (or the one with the megaphone at least!) then announced the pace runners. These were 6 volunteer runners with bright yellow tabards and numbers on the back, representing the time they were going to complete the course in – 20, 22, 24, 26, 28 and 30 minutes. I completely ignored everyone except the 30 minute pace runner – there was no way I was getting anywhere near the others.

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At the start. My slightly nervous smile!

Before I knew it, the sound went to signal the start of the race. And we were off! I kept to the back and just settled down to follow everyone. I am not a fast runner by any stretch of the imagination. I can sprint, but only for about 20 metres maximum. I would call myself a plodder. I am the person you might drive past on the road and feel a bit sorry for, thinking I have been running for an hour (when in fact it has been 10 minutes). Anyway I decided not to go hell for leather and instead settled into my ploddy pace.

The race is about 2 ½ loops of the same route. This means that approximately 7 minutes in, the slower runners (like me) start to see the much faster runners on their way back towards us, already having doubled the distance we have run. It could be slightly demoralising. However I pretended they were just super-humans and ‘normal’ me put my head down and plodded on.

I won’t bore you with every inch of the race. Suffice it to say that I finished. Not in the most spectacular time, but I finished all the same. And I was happy. Happy to get off the mark and get my first parkrun under my belt. I received my timing chip and handed my barcode (in all its laminated glory) to be scanned. I knew it wouldn’t be till later on that day that I would find out my time and position in the race.

As I was walking to the car park, I bumped into my old primary school teacher. He was always one of my favourite teachers and actually encouraged me to run at the age of 8. I reminded him that he would take a group of us cross country running in the dead of winter in the pouring rain. We gave up our lunchtimes willingly and voluntarily! I felt slightly embarrassed when on discussing the race he told me he had completed it in around 24 minutes. The guy is almost twice my age! I knew that I was a good 7 or 8 minutes behind that.

A couple of hours later I received a text message. My time was 31 minutes and 32 seconds. Not bad I guess for a first effort. My aim was around 30 minutes, so I wasn’t too far behind. I now I can focus on beating that in races to come. As well as the text, there is a webpage with all the day’s statistics. You can see how many took part (254), your position (176th), the winner (not me) and their time (17 minutes 12 seconds!!!!). I could also see that there were 100 women who took part and I was 52nd (hmm not bad). You can also see every other runner’s statistics if you are bored and want to look at that level of detail (I did …. Just for a nosey and research purposes obviously!).

So that was it, my first parkrun complete. I am hoping, childcare permitting, to do many more. Actually, if I had one of those fancy off-road buggies, I could take Baby Rainbow Jude with me, but I don’t. Children are welcome too. I know someone who takes her 7 year old (and he gets a better time than me), but under 11’s have to be under adult supervision at all times. Maybe I’ll wait until Dylan is a bit older, and in the meantime concentrate on smashing the 30 minute barrier!

parkrun 4