Sunday, 18 September 2016

Who knew the run could be fun!

We did it. We completed the Great North Run. And we crossed the finish line smiling! Something I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to say! It was a hot day and I had a few difficult training runs in recent weeks but I aimed to enjoy it as much as possible.       
I can’t believe a week has passed since I completed my second Great North Run. I’ve been out for two recovery runs this week, one 5k with club and one 5k just me and my boyfriend Tone. My legs ached a little the first day or two but I feel I am recovering well. So much so that I am doing Redcar Half Marathon with Tone next Sunday! (I know; for someone who considers myself ‘not a long distance runner’ this seem like a crazy thing to do!)
Great North Run day was hot but we got each other round the course. The nerves and excitement really began to kick in on the Saturday when we went to the Quayside to watch my niece, and cousins daughter run the junior Great North Run. This was a lovely afternoon out and we went to the pasta party too, to carb up ready for the big day on Sunday.

On Sunday morning after waking up early and having breakfast number one we met in Exhibition Park for a group photo before heading to Newcastle University so I could also join in with the group charity photo for NETA (North East Trust for Aphasia). It was at this point we ate our second breakfast (Nutella sandwiches) as I was determined not to start the run hungry like I did last time round.
Some of the NETA team
Walking to the baggage bus to drop off our bag made the reality that I was about to run from Newcastle to South Shields kick in. The walk to the pink pen felt quite long but the atmosphere was buzzing and I was enjoying soaking it all in. The sun was shining and I was trying not to think about what this could mean for the run. We bumped into some of the girls from club in the pink pen and took a pre-run selfie.

The red arrows flew overhead and I felt goose bumps all down my arms and excited butterflies in my tummy. It took us about 40 minutes to get to the start line but it didn’t feel this long. On crossing the start line we made a conscious effort not to start off too quickly to ensure we didn’t burn up our energy too soon.  We went ‘left and under’ and I really enjoyed taking part in the ‘Oggy’s!’
The atmosphere was amazing all the way around and once again I was overwhelmed by the general loveliness of all the spectators. We took up the generous offers of ice-pops, jelly babies and oranges! We also took water at each station, pouring almost as much on the back of our necks as we drank, in an effort to stay as cool as possible.
The showers and hose pipes were absolutely amazing and exactly what we needed to help cool us down. I looked at my Garmin and was surprised to see that we had been running for more than an hour. I was expecting it to say to 10 or 15 minutes but it was a lot longer…the time was really flying! We walked when we felt like we needed to walk and kept each other going every step of the way.
It made such a massive difference not running it alone and it was a lovely shared experience for Tone and me. Tone has ran the GNR more times than me but he has always ran it alone too so it was a much more enjoyable experience for us both.
There were a couple of moments I wasn’t sure I would make it to the finish because it was hot and difficult, but I tried to push this to the back of my mind and focused on the mile I was in. I saw a couple of people I knew spectating which kept me going. I knew my big sister Joanne was waiting at mile 10.5 with a hug and some jelly babies and I was so pleased to see her J Joanne then set off to beat us to the finish line (and meet Craig and Toni there). Knowing that they would be waiting for us at the finish made the last few miles feel more achievable.
I was excited when I could see the sea, though I know there was still more than a mile to go at this point.  By this point I was just concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other, taking in as much of the atmosphere as I could.
I could feel myself getting a little emotional once I could see the finish line and we ran hand in hand smiling as we crossed the line. By this point I couldn’t hold the tears back, it was so overwhelming; I had made it to the finish, hand in hand with my boyfriend.

It was so brilliant seeing Joanne, Craig and Toni at the water station at the end. They looked equally excited to see us! We then spent a couple of hours celebrating in the beer tent before Tone and I got the coach back with our running club.
I am still so incredibly proud that I gave the Great North Run a second attempt and that we crossed the finish line smiling. When Tone asked me if I wanted to do the Great North Run with him earlier in the year, I surprised myself when I said yes. I am so pleased as I did as overall it has been an enjoyable experience (and it is what brought Tone and me together).

Would I do it again? Absolutely! (Though definitely not alone!)
I am also proud that I’ve been able to raise some valuable funds for the North East Trust for Aphasia (thanks so much to everyone who has supported me in any way!) It's not too late to sponsor me if you haven't already - check out my page here.
By this time next week I will have completed my second half marathon in the space of a month…. That counts as a marathon right?!

Thursday, 1 September 2016

10 days and counting...

In 10 days I will completing the Great North Run. Back in April when Tone persuaded me to run it, I thought I had ages to train. I can’t believe how quickly the last few months have passed and that GNR is this month!
We packed our trainers for Amsterdam, keen to do some training runs while there. Staying in a hotel with an all-inclusive bar meant that we procrastinated running until the last morning. I didn’t drink any alcohol all day on the Saturday as I wanted to feel fresh to run on the Sunday. We set our alarm early and ate a banana before we left. We could see from the window that it was raining but we didn’t let this put us off. We knew we were heading to Vondelpark as we’d looked it up before we flew out to Amsterdam. It was about half a mile from our hotel and we walked there, as a warm up before running in the park. As we walked the rain was getting heavier and I began to feel cold. Once in the park we began to run and by this time the rain was torrential. It was bouncing back up from the puddles and had made my glasses so wet I could barely see anything. We followed the path round the park, trying to stay a little sheltered under some of the trees.
I think the park was pretty and picturesque but it was difficult to concentrate on anything other than putting one foot in front of the other. It was still warm out for all it was raining and after running a mile or so I began to feel quite hot and my glasses were steaming up as well being covered in water. We tried to stay upbeat and chatted as we ran. We navigated our way round in a circle of the park which was approximately 3 miles. Our original plan was to do two laps but we decided a hot shower and breakfast was calling. We took some photos at the park gates after our run and proceeded to walk back to the hotel. The rain had almost stopped at this point and I felt mildly tempted by another lap… but the dry patch didn’t last long and we were soon walking back to the hotel being thoroughly drenched. I like running in the rain when it’s light and refreshing but this wasn’t light rain! An hour later after we’d both been showered and were sitting eating breakfast we had that post-run glow that made us wish we’d set our alarm earlier in the week so we could have ran in Amsterdam more than once. The rest of the week had been hot and sunny so in some ways I’m glad it rained on the day we chose to run.

After we ran
I went to running club and did a 5k the day after we got back and it felt good. I over indulged while I was away and needed to get back to running as soon as possible. I knew I needed to get out and do a longer run later in the week too, to get some bigger miles in. I wasn’t free the same time as Tony so I had to plan my own run. I thought I’d do about 7 miles on Friday morning. I saw my friend was looking for some company on her 18 mile marathon training run so I contacted her and I arranged to do some of her route with her as she passed through Ashington. I’d ran almost 2 miles when I met Karen and we ran about 4 miles together. This took me further from home than I’d originally planned but despite the heat, I was feeling relatively good, and had a lot of motivation. I left Karen at about 6 miles into my run and turned around to head home. I’d finished my bottle of water and ate my jelly sweets; I decided to call into a garage for a new bottle of water on my way home but I only had £1 and this wasn’t enough. I wasn’t brave enough to ask if they’d let me off with the pennies so I just kept running, safe in the knowledge that every step was a step closer to home.
When I was almost home I had done just over 9 miles and was very tired, achy and hot. I knew I would be annoyed with myself later in the day if I didn’t make it to double figures so I ran past home to make my run a little longer. I made it to 10.05miles. I was so proud of myself as I really hadn’t intended to go that far and I did a fair part of it on my own. I really enjoyed Karen’s company and I think I ran slightly faster than my usual long run pace during the 4 miles I ran with her. This makes me even more sure that I can complete the half marathon distance next weekend. When I got home I had a cold bath which made my legs feel much better. It was almost enjoyable as I had been so hot outside! Almost. Not quite. But it certainly made my legs feel very refreshed when I got out!

Running with Karen
Tonight is my last long run before the big day. Today I am resting in the house, drinking plenty water and eating healthy. When Tone finishes work we are going to head out for a long run and I am quite looking forward to it. I didn’t think I would ever get to a point in running where a long run doesn’t fill me dread, but hard work and determination has got me there. And having lovely company definitely helps! I haven't ran since my long run last week as I've been away to Liverpool for a hen weekend followed immediately my a trip to Leeds to catch up with friends while I am still off for the summer.
I feel more mentally prepared for the Great North Run this time round, though I am certainly not complacent about the distance I will be covering. I’ve worked hard and I am looking forward to creating some wonderful memories along the route J
I signed up for the Great North Run to raise awareness of and funds for the North East Trust for Aphasia. NETA supports people with acquired communication difficulties following a stroke or other brain injury. It’s a fantastic charity based right here in the north east and every penny raised makes a huge difference. If you would like to show your support then please do so on my fundraising page here. Thanks so much for all your support, every word of encouragement has really made a difference. I know some of my friends and family are still in disbelief that I am running it again after my ‘never EVER again’ comments 2 years ago. Until this year I was still convinced that I wouldn’t but look at me now... 10 days to go!

Sunday, 14 August 2016

South Shields 10 (S)Miles!

This morning I completed South Shields 10 Mile run. I’d been poorly earlier in the week and had decided I’d only be running today if was sure I was 100% well as I’m going on holiday on Tuesday and didn’t want to push too hard. I missed a planned training run on Thursday as although I was feeling much better I felt that additional rest was more of a priority.
I had a relatively early night and woke up feeling refreshed. I felt very different to last Sunday when the alarm went off and staying sober last night was a very wise decision. I had my usual pre-race breakfast of porridge with Nutella, before leaving the house, and a banana when I arrived in South Shields.
We arrived in South Shields in plenty time and joined the queue to pay for parking. Ten minutes before the race began I suddenly decided I needed the toilet. I joined the queue and kept my fingers (and legs!) crossed that I wouldn’t be doing a sprint start. Luckily the queue went down quickly and I was on the starting line with Tony in plenty of time.
Pre-run Selfie :)
Me and my boyfriend Tone
I was feeling good this morning and think the extra few days rest did me the world of good. I love running near the sea and South Shields is one of my favourite beaches in the North East so I was excited to be running there this morning. The first mile or so were much easier than expected and I was extremely grateful that the weather was perfect for running.
And we're off...
Thanks Patricia White for the photo
Tone and I chatted most of the way round, enjoying the experience and really taking in the beautiful scenery. The sky was often beautiful and dramatic on the backdrop of the gorgeous coastline and I felt truly alive breathing in the sea air.  Tone also kept me laughing telling me some funny jokes which also helped to take my mind of the fact that I was running.
It was a lovely route, with a part 2 lap course around Souter Lighthouse, enabling us to see other runners at different points of the laps. It is always lovely to wave and cheer on running friends and spotting people we know.
My feet got numb and after trying to run it off I decided to stop and readjust the laces on my trainers. This was a break well spent as I could instantly feel the difference once running again and it certainly made the rest of the run more enjoyable (and less uncomfortable).
At around 8 miles in my knees were beginning to niggle and I was looking for ways to distract my mind from my legs. I focused on lifting my feet and also began chanting under my breath (a chant I used last time round after reading it in a magazine.) I change the chant a little each time I run to keep me interested and to fit with what I am doing.. today’s was ‘I am fit. I am strong. I like, this South Shields Run’ – it’s amazing what difference this can make and I would definitely recommend it to help get you through the tough moments.
As we began to approach the finish we discussed whether we had a sprint finish left in our legs. We weren’t sure but I never know until I see the finish line and my competitive streak kicks in. As we approached Gypsies Green Stadium Tone began to pick up the pace, so I increased my pace too. As we were running down the hill and into the stadium I was concentrating on ensuring my feet were hitting the ground as I felt like I was gathering momentum and could end up on my bottom at any moment. I heard lots of people cheering us on as we picked up pace. Just as we reached the track someone said the dreaded words ‘just round the track to the finish’. We’d peaked too soon. We sprint finished before the finish. We slowed our pace but continued to run and although we were both struggling to breath and I didn’t know how my legs were still moving we ran the whole way round the track. We didn’t sprint finish but we crossed the finish line holding hands which was extremely special. I met Tone through running and he’s the reason I’m doing the Great North Run again. It was lovely to cross the finish line holding hands after we’d encouraged and supported each other the whole 10 miles round.
When I trained 2 years ago I did my 10 mile training run solo and I very clearly remember coming home and crying – with relief it was over and pride that I’d done it. Today I finished a 10 mile run with a smile on my face and love in my heart. I was so proud that we completed the 10 miles and feel like my legs have more in them too.
Post-run Selfie - complete with lovely new medals!
I do have sore legs (from my hips right down to my calves) and I know I need to stretch more. I can feel the real benefit when I stretch and foam roll and am really going to prioritise this over the next four weeks.
I loved this morning. It wasn’t pain free but the scenery and the company definitely made it achievable and I am so proud of us both for doing a good 10 mile run! I can honestly say after today’s run that I know I can complete the Great North Run again. I know deep down in the back of my mind I’ve known this since I signed up but I still had ongoing doubts every time I had a bad run or my legs hurt. I don’t expect running to be easy but lots of things require hard work and the sense of achievement is definitely worth it.

Thank you for following my story - if you'd like to sponsor me and help me to raise valuable funds for the North East Trust for Aphasia you can do so here. Every penny is gratefully appreciated. To find out more about the work of NETA click here.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Let the countdown begin!

I am writing this post from the comfort of the sofa, wrapped up in a blanket, feeling rather under the weather (but feeling better following an afternoon nap). It’s been an extremely busy few months and now I’ve finally handed in the keys to my flat in Leeds and truly began to unwind, my adrenaline has plummeted and I am feeling it. This is not something new to me but it is at a rather inconvenient time; I am going on holiday with my boyfriend next week and it’s just over 4 weeks until the Great North Run.
I feel the urge to blog today because my NETA t-shirt arrived this morning. It reminded me of one of the reasons why I am running the Great North Run; to raise money for a very worthy cause. Every step I run is a step closer to covering the half marathon on 11th September. The t-shirt is a lovely blue tech top and I can’t wait to try it out for one of my training runs in the coming weeks.
Posing in my new t-shirt
I’ve done a bit of running over the last week or so and I’m starting to feel well prepared for the Great North Run. I’m also really looking forward to it because I am sharing the experience with my boyfriend. We did a long run on Sunday (9 miles) and although largely difficult, we enjoyed getting out in the fresh air and covering the miles together. We (foolishly) thought it would be a good idea to have a few drinks on Saturday evening to celebrate successfully moving all my stuff back from Leeds over the previous few days. On Sunday morning when the alarm went off, I realised it was not a good idea at all. Why didn’t we celebrate with a nice ice cold glass of water, or some ice-cream, rather than prosecco?! That said, we still had a 9 mile run to do, so although we set off later than planned we still covered the distance. I could really feel in my legs that I had not had enough water in the previous 24 hours and it was a hot day. We tried to remain upbeat and chatted our way round; pointing out pretty scenery or counting lampposts. I was glad I wasn’t running alone as it was a tough route and I was so pleased when we made it the end. I feel better about the GNR knowing that we covered 9 miles on Sunday (in less than ideal conditions).
Tone and me on our long run
Last week my niece Toni came to stay and I told her I wanted to run the next morning. I asked her if she wanted to join me as she is training for the Junior North Run on 10th September. I was excited by her enthusiasm to run with me (and she didn’t argue when I told her we’d need to get up quite early too!). My Parkrun 50 t-shirt arrived the night before and I was keen to run wearing it! After breakfast, my dad took some photos of us, then we were ready to go. We were aiming for 4K (the distance Toni will be running) and left my parent’s house and headed to the lake at QEII Park. Toni did brilliantly and was keen to do some faster bursts of running in between steady pace and run walking. We didn’t quite do 4K as when we were back home we’d only reached 3.6k and she didn’t want to run round the block to make it up (she’s obviously not as obsessed about rounding up running numbers as I am!) I left Toni in the house with a glass of water (and my dad) and repeated the route again myself (coming home a slightly different way which made it 4k). I enjoyed the second lap and ran more (but not all) of it though I preferred the first lap with Toni. I love that she enjoys running and that we got to share a training run together. I am really looking forward to going to cheer her (and my cousins children) at the Junior GNR. They are all raising funds for Diabetes UK as one of my cousin’s daughters was diagnosed with Diabetes when she was 6 years old. If you’d like to support in their fundraising you can do so here.
Toni and me :)
Even though I wasn’t feeling well yesterday I still went to running club last night. I decided not to go to the efforts session but enjoyed a nice 5K with Tone and the rest of the club at the first session. I felt better having run and the weather was perfect, slightly cool and drizzling. It was 100% better than the run on Sunday and I am glad I went out. Tone and me have a run planned tomorrow night and South Shields 10 miles on Sunday. I am going to wait and see how I am feeling over the next couple of days as I don’t want to push myself too hard.
I’m looking forward to going to Amsterdam next week and Tone has already been researching possible running routes. We are excited to be packing our trainers and training in another country! As it is getting closer, I am now really looking forward to the Great North Run (and will hopefully fit in another few longer runs before the big day!) If you’d like to help me support NETA I’d really appreciate it. Every penny counts (here’s the link to my page).

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

I am.

I am back in Leeds packing up my flat once and for all as I’ve officially moved back to the North East. This is a time of mixed emotions as I love Leeds but I’m glad to be home.
On Saturday, my boyfriend Tone and I did Temple Newsam Parkrun with 2 of my friends from my old job in Leeds. We then went for breakfast after and it was a lovely morning. I made a conscious decision before I left the flat on Saturday morning that I was going to enjoy the run. I don’t know when I will next get the opportunity to do a Parkrun in Leeds so I wanted to make the most of it. This conscious thinking begun on Friday when I ensured that I was drinking plenty water all day long. I usually only have a banana before a Parkrun but I didn’t have any in my flat on Saturday morning so I opted for a bowl of cereal instead. I usually feel hungry on my way around but on Saturday I didn’t so I think I need to start eating a better breakfast! Tone and I really enjoyed the Parkrun and I liked being back at Temple Newsam sharing in Tony’s first experience of this route.
Me, Tony, Maria and Laura before it began!

Tone and me

Cooling off with an ice lolly before breakfast number 2!
My running has been a bit inconsistent of late and I am determined to get more training in for the Great North Run (and indeed for South Shields 10 miles next month!) On Monday morning I text Tony to ask if he fancied doing York 10 miles in October and when he said yes I went ahead and booked 2 places – I’m not sure what’s happened to me but I am making the most of my renewed enthusiasm for running. We’ve also just booked a trip to Amsterdam and are planning to take our trainers as it’s only 3 weeks before the Great North Run!

I decided to go for a run yesterday morning. I wasn’t sure how far I would go but I knew I needed to get out and get some miles in my legs. My Facebook memories told me that 2 years ago yesterday I ran 8 miles in 1 hour 44 minutes. While I was out running yesterday I was actually quite enjoying it and decided I would try and match this (distance or time, whichever I got to first). At 1 hour 44 I was at 7.2 miles and wasn’t too far from home so decided this would be long enough. I did 7.6 miles altogether and I was incredibly proud of myself. I took time to enjoy my surroundings and really appreciate that I was running in Leeds. Sometimes, in fact, most of the time, I don’t enjoy running solo. But sometimes if I have the right mind set I get a lot from it. My aim yesterday was to enjoy it and I knew it was one run closer to the Great North Run.
Yesterday’s run is proof that running is as much in the mind as it is in the legs. Whenever I felt tired or had a niggling pain I tried to find something pretty to focus my attention on. This ranged from looking at the clouds, to spotting 2 magpies (2 for joy!), or seeing an aeroplane overhead. These are all such simple things that are around us each and every day but sometimes I appreciate them so much more when I’m running. I walked a few times, sometimes to stretch out my legs and sometimes to take a photo. It’s so easy for me to beat myself up about walking or going too slow but yesterday I chose to look for the good. It wasn’t bad that I was walking, it was good that I wasn’t still in bed. I had my trainers on and I was out in the fresh air. It’s so easy to be defined by the self-talk we do and that’s why I chose to try and make it as positive as possible. I’d be lying if I said it was an easy run or that I enjoyed every second, but I made the most of the experience and looked for as many positives as I could find.

I am going to focus on positive thoughts and being less critical of myself when I run in all my future runs. I’ve been putting too much pressure on myself again recently and that’s when I stop enjoying it. Running has had such a massive positive impact on my life, physically, emotionally and socially, and I don’t want to fall out of love with it completely.
I believe a lot in the thoughts we have influencing what we become. Recently I’ve told myself I didn’t like running and therefore as a consequence each run was getting tougher. I’ve been doing lots of stretches and trying to tell myself that I like running, and I am actually looking forward the GNR!
When I was running yesterday I thought a lot about my thoughts. One of my favourite quotes is from Henry Ford: If you think you can or you think you can’t you’re right. I totally agree with this. From now on I am focusing on what I can do and who I am. I am a runner. This means I run. It doesn’t matter how fast or how slow. I run. Lots of things make me who I am and running is only one part of the puzzle. But it’s a very important piece, not least because of the people it has brought into my life. I am a runner. I am going to enjoy my training. I am going to enjoy the Great North Run!
(I am also going to raise lots of much needed funds for the North Easy Trust for Aphasia. If you can help in any way please do so here. I am truly grateful for all the support!)

The Big 5-0!

I think my running mojo has returned and I am really looking forward to continuing my training for the Great North Run.
A few Saturdays ago saw me reach my 50th Parkrun and I had a lovely morning running and celebrating. My dad and two of my friends, Rachael and Katie, came to cheer me on and celebrate after. My sister Joanne also completed the Parkrun with my nephew and niece (their first time!).
Before we began!
I was excited before the run, especially because Joanne and Katie had made cake (at my not so subtle hint/request!) I ran with Tone and once we crossed the finish line we turned back and went to run/walk the rest of the route with Joanne, Darius and Toni. I was so proud to reach 50 Parkrun’s and of Darius and Toni completing their first ever!
Running with Darius to the finish!

After we finished running we got the cake from the cars and Katie tried lighting the 50 candle. It was quite windy so no sooner had we lit it the flame blew out. We decided to take the cakes inside and have a cuppa and I thoroughly enjoyed eating more calories than I’d ran off, with some of the most important people in my life.
Celebration Cake!
The following Monday I went for a run after work with Tone and we covered more than 7 and a half miles. We stopped for me to stretch my calves a few times as they are still niggling. I enjoyed running and then walking when I felt like I needed to (and stopping to eat the jellies Tone had thoughtfully packed in his arm band).
I always love it when our runs incorporate a view of the sea and we started on the prom in Newbiggin. There were moments I found difficult but with Tone’s company and encouragement it was largely an enjoyable run. My focus was to enjoy being out in the fresh air and not on distance (though we did have a distance in mind before we set off).
The following Thursday I went to Ashington Hirst Running Club beginner’s session and completed 5k. I complained most of the way round as it was so hot and my legs felt heavy and tight. Towards the end of the run I settled into it a bit more and my legs were feeling better so instead of running straight back to my house Tone and I decided to run round the lake at the QE2, taking the total distance up to more than 7 miles. The Great North Run is definitely feeling achievable now and I am looking forward to increasing my distance even further!
Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

No more excuses...

My training feels slow at the moment and I am beginning to wonder why I thought training for a half marathon again was a good idea…
Last week saw my return to the North East and the start of my new job. It still feels a bit surreal that I am actually back living and working in the North East and I wasted no time in joining Ashington Hirst Running Club last Tuesday. I decided to go to the effort session as I was feeling guilty that I’d not done much running in my final weeks in Leeds. I really enjoyed the session (400m relays) but I think I found it difficult and struggled with the gentle run back at the end of the session due to overdoing it in the efforts themselves. Everyone was so friendly and I am excited to have a joined a club! Looking forward to future sessions!
On Saturday I ran my 49th parkrun at South Shields. It’s been a while since I ran here and decided it would be nice to do it again before I hit the big 5-0! (number of Parkruns completed…not my age!!) I love running near the sea, there’s something about breathing in the sea air that makes me feel truly alive.
South Shields
I love the route at South Shields but it’s not the easiest, with a hill near the beginning and undulating the rest of the way round. There was also a head wind on the final stretch which added an extra element of difficulty. The sun was shining and I had good company so I was determined to keep going until the end. My calves have begun to feel tight again and I could feel them getting heavier as the run progressed. When the finish line was almost in sight, my brother in law came and joined us for the final bit which was just the final push I needed to get across the finish line. After the run, Craig, Tone and I went for a cup of tea and I enjoyed taking in the view of the sea from the window. I missed the coast so much when I was in Leeds and I appreciate it so much more now I’m home J As we finished our cuppa we saw Tony the Fridge outside the window and I shouted well done as we were leaving. He had just completed day 29 of his 100 Great North Runs in 100 day – what an inspiration!!
Tone, me, Craig before we ran
Sunday saw the arrival of the Great North 10K once again and having not ran much recently I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been. The music at the start of the route made me feel excited and I was determined to enjoy the day with great company. As the run progressed my legs felt heavy and tight and my feet began to tingle – it’s been a while since I experienced this and I think I need to re-lace my new trainers. We stopped a few times on route so I could stretch my calves and make my legs a little more comfortable. It was pretty warm on Sunday too… I always find running in the heat extremely uncomfortable and my struggle on Sunday was no different. Tone really tried to keep me motivated throughout and I couldn’t have kept going without him. At points I was close to tears, with the tightness in my calves and the heat. I loved running into the stadium, partly as I knew how close the finish line was, but also because the music and cheering really increased my motivation! Tone and I often have a bit of ‘finish line competition’ which is often my favourite part of our runs but I knew my legs couldn’t carry me any faster than they were already so we kept a steady (possibly ever-so-slightly-faster) pace.
Tone and me at GN10K
Receiving my medal and (tech!) t-shirt made the run worthwhile and I was glad I had done it. I’m also glad because it reminded me that I need to start training properly again and remember to do all the other parts of my training in between running that have just completely slipped due to how busy I have been over recent weeks and months. I have no one to blame other than myself but I know I need to stop making excuses and just get on with it. I’ve been resting, stretching, foam rolling and using ice over the last few days and I missed running club last night in an effort to get my niggles sorted.
I think I’ll do a gentle run tomorrow as they are feeling much better now. I am looking forward to my 50th Parkrun on Saturday at Druridge Bay Parkrun (it would be lovely to see you there!). I still can’t believe I’ve made it to 50 as I used to say I didn’t have time to Parkrun at all…funny how priorities change and what you can achieve when I stop making excuses and just get on and do it…
Now that I’ve had a few days to recover I am feeling more positive about the Great North Run again though I still think I underestimated how much time I need to find for training (even though I’ve done it before). But I’m determined that there’s going to be no more excuses…
If you would like to help me on my fundraising journey you can sponsor me here. Any support is greatly appreciated and will mean a lot to the members of the North East Trust for Aphasia.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Right here...right now

A couple of weeks ago I went for a run after work and as painful as it was I actually quite enjoyed it. It still takes me by surprise when I enjoy running on my own. I needed the thinking time and what better way that to think than while training. I had no technology and I enjoyed listening to my body and really taking in my surroundings. Part way through my run I realised that it may be the last run in Leeds while I am a resident here as I am soon to move home to the North East for a new job. This made me think about how much I sometimes forget to live in the moment (and I’m sure I am not the only one guilty of this). I’ve spent most of my time in Leeds looking forward to the time I can say I am moving home but now I am, I realise just how much I have grown to love Leeds and the people here.
I moved to Leeds just after the Great North Run 2014 when running and me had a difficult relationship and at a time I was adamant I’d never do another. I joined a bootcamp, kept running and slowly began to develop a more positive relationship with running again. This year I found a perfect running buddy (at home) and my relationship with running has taken a much more positive turn and I can actually say I am looking forward to doing the Great North Run 2016 (following my return from Leeds!)
I know I need to really up my game and get training properly, instead of just talking about it. I am really looking forward to being back in the North East and being able to train properly and also join Ashington Hirst Running Club (which I plan to do as soon as possible!)
I’m already thinking of running beyond the Great North Run and look forward to returning to Leeds to see some friends from work for the Abbey Dash in November. I have enjoyed Park running in Leeds with my friends and have some lovely memories of my time here. I feel so lucky to have two places that I can love so much. That run a couple of weeks ago was good for my soul and really reminded me to make the most of today and live for the moment…after all forever is made up of lots moments just like this one so it makes sense to make as many of them as happy as possible :)


Monday, 6 June 2016

...Plan C

On Saturday morning I planned to do Temple Newsam Parkrun with my friend Maria. It would have been my 48th Parkrun… so close to number 50! I planned to meet Maria there at 8.45am on Saturday morning. When I got there, I realised that it was the Race for Life so Parkrun had been cancelled (the one time I don’t keep an eye on social media!) I rang Maria and we agreed a plan B - to just go for a run - so we met at my house (not far from Temple Newsam). Then we decided really last minute to share a car and try and get to a different Parkrun. At 9am we were still a couple of miles away from the Parkrun we were aiming for so we decided on a Plan C. Maria used google maps to find a random park and we ended up at Chapeltown at Potternewton park.
It isn’t a very big park and neither of us had any technology to record it so we don’t know how far we ran. After a few minutes we found some gym equipment and had quite a giggle whilst realising I have no upper body strength and Maria has lots!
We then went running again (a little sprint to the nearest park bench – up a hill too!) until we found another piece of equipment. This called for another stop and photo opportunity. This was the pattern for the next 15 minutes (with fast bursts of running in between). After we were safe in the knowledge we’d tried all the equipment and had taken sufficient photos to remember our trip we ran round the park all the way without stopping.  
Maria and me
I’ve no idea how far we ran but I do know it was a lot of fun! Initially I was disappointed when I realised Parkrun was cancelled…but sometimes the unexpected runs make for the most memorable :) xxx

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Druridge Bay 10K

I planned to go for a little run at some point earlier in the week after work but a combination of finishing late, tiredness, hayfever and panto preparation (don’t ask!), I just haven’t had time. The night’s when I haven’t been doing anything I have decided that I needed to just rest. I feel like it’s been a list of excuses but I do feel better for having rested so I’m not going to feel guilty about it.
I wasn’t going to Parkrun yesterday as I knew I was doing Druridge Bay 10K today but a last minute decision found me on the start line at 9am. I was tired and grumpy, but by the time I’d finished I was glad I’d got up early and made the effort. I made the mistake of telling my running partner Tony that I didn’t think I’d been putting enough effort into my running recently and he made sure that wasn’t the case yesterday morning. We talked less and pushed each other round and we did the fastest 5K I’ve done in a long while (and Tony got a fab personal best!)
This morning I woke up bright and early eager to run 10K. That is a sentence I never thought I’d say! My brother in law (Craig) and niece (Toni) arrived at my mam and dad’s at 8.30am. Craig and I spent the next 20 minutes trying to put our race numbers onto our t-shirts with event clips. By the time I’d finished attaching mine it was so crumpled it looked like I was just re-using a number from last year!
Craig, Tony and I travelled to Druridge Bay together and my parents and Toni came and met us there a little while later. My friend Katie and her two boys also came and met us there to support us.
My favourite supporters :)
Before we started we spent time chatting and catching up with friends, and my dad asked about the route so he knew where he could stand to take photos and cheer us on. We then made our way to the start line ready to begin.
I don’t think I’d had enough water yesterday and I felt it in my legs when I was running but I still made it round. I wasn’t looking forward to running on the stretch of sand as I have previously not enjoyed beach running. However, I actually quite enjoyed it, mainly because I could see the sea and breathe in the gorgeous sea air. I never tire of the seaside and I have really missed it while living in Leeds. Half way along the beach I did think I’d had enough of running on sand but we tried to focus on the view instead. Towards the end of the beach I could see my family and friends there to support and started to smile as my dad had his camera at the ready! It was difficult coming up from the beach, the sand was soft and the slope quite steep and I honestly didn’t know how I was going to get there. I put one foot in front of the other, (complained a bit!) and we made it to the top and back onto the road, where my dad had appeared again like the paparazzi pointing his camera at us. I forced a smile as we ran past but smiling was the last thing I felt like doing. Once running on the flat again I felt a bit better and knew the bulk of the run was behind us. We’ve even decided that we might incorporate this stretch of beach in some of our training runs for the Great North Run.
As we were running round the lake (just like the parkrun route), Tony and I were saying we didn’t think we had a sprint finish left in us. My knee and hip were hurting from running on the little bit of soft sand and I was really ready to find the finish so I could stop. As we began to approach the final kilometre I began to think I had a little bit more energy than I originally thought. Once I could see the finish I decided maybe, just maybe, I did have enough energy to sprint finish after all. I began to run faster and I built up speed. So did Tony. I absolutely love running with him and I love how we are training together at the same speed as each other but when I could see the finish line, competitive Julie surfaced and I gave it everything I had. I could hear everyone shouting and it spurred me on even more. We ran almost side by side getting faster until we crossed the line. I wasn’t sure my little legs could carry me any further but we made it…and the official time says I beat him by 1 second! (who knew I was that competitive?!)
Sprint finish!
It was so much fun: the company, the supporters, the scenery and the sprint finish. A perfect way to spend a Sunday morning on a bank holiday weekend, and we even got a lovely medal and a fabulous goody bag!
Craig, me and Tony with our medals :)
I can feel it in my legs now and think I may have overdone it this weekend. That said, to say I’ve ran 15 k over two days, it doesn’t feel as bad as I’d expect and I know I’m getting fitter all the time. I know I need to keep putting training in and I need to increase my effort over the next few months to get me to the Great North Run, but I know that I can do it. Bring it on!
Thank you to my dad Paul Carr for the photos xxxx

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Where there's a will there's a way!

I’ve done quite a lot of running since I last wrote here. I’ve possibly not ran as much as I should have done but at least I’ve got out there a few times and that’s what counts.
Last Saturday I did a different Parkrun in Leeds. I met my friends at Woodhouse Moor ready for my 45th Parkrun. I’m enjoying experiencing different Parkrun’s in Leeds and I think this one was the busiest I’ve been to. It was a 3 lap course which initially put me off as I thought it would be psychologically more difficult but it wasn’t as bad as I thought and I actually quite enjoyed it.
Me, Judith, Maria and Kim
I’ve had an extremely busy week with something planned each night after work so I didn’t know when I would fit in a run. I’m determined not to make excuses as I want to ensure I train well for the Great North Run. On Tuesday night I set my alarm early and was determined I would get up early  to run. I knew it wouldn’t be far or fast, but it would be better than nothing! When my alarm went off on Wednesday morning I really wanted to go back to sleep but before I could process what I was doing, I ate my banana got dressed and went out. I didn’t know how far I was going to go but I knew I’d need to be back to get ready for work. A few minutes after I started to run I was glad that I’d got up to experience a part of the day I don’t normally see. I ran about 10 minutes away from my house before turning round and running back. I was glad I went out, it was grey and drizzly outside but by the time I got home I felt sunny and happy on the inside. I’m not sure I will be motivated enough to make it a regular early morning thing but I’m glad that I did it this week.
Pretty Cherry Blossom on my early morning run
I’ve been home this weekend and yesterday morning did Druridge Bay Parkrun (my 46th Parkrun!) It was a bright and sunny morning and I enjoyed the route, I saw a few people I knew and enjoyed catching up with them before the run. It was quite a warm morning but Tony and I still had enough in our legs for a sprint finish!
Sprint Finish! (Thanks to Druridge Bay Parkrun for the photo)
My niece Toni completed the Gregg's Children's Cancer run this morning (3 miles) and she really enjoyed it . I think it's lovely she has the running bug too and she was so proud of her medal! :-)
Toni with her medal looking proud
I’d already planned to go for a longer run this morning but then also decided to go for cocktails last night as it’s my birthday tomorrow. I didn’t have too many cocktails and it wasn’t a late night so I knew I’d be ok to run this morning. As I’m doing the Great North Run with Tony we plan to do as many training runs as possible together. We didn’t know how far we’d do this morning (mainly in case I was hungover!) but we decided to just see how our legs felt. I knew I wanted to see the beach (as always when I’m home) so after running around the lake at the QE2 we headed to Newbiggin. It was a beautiful morning, albeit slightly too hot to run. We covered 8 miles in total which is more than I was expecting. We walked some of it partly due to the heat and partly due to my knee/leg hurting. Although I didn’t feel hungover this morning I probably hadn’t had enough water yesterday.
I never tire of this view
 This afternoon I also went for a walk around the lake with Rachael which was lovely. I'm surprised my legs feel ok...hopefully they'll still feel ok tomorrow!
Rach and me on our walk
I’m finally beginning to feel that the Great North Run is achievable. I know I’ve done it before but it still felt out of reach until recently. I surprised myself covering 8 miles this morning and it made me realise that running is as much a psychological battle as it is physical.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Hanger to Happiness...

It’s been a long week and I finished work later than planned tonight so the last thing I wanted to do was get ready and go to Bootcamp. I was tired and hungry (and probably a little bit Hangry!) but I ate a banana and got my running clothes on before I could change my mind. I haven’t done any exercise all week and I have another busy week ahead. I made every excuse possible not to go for a run last night (and even got lost looking for the Polling Station!) so I knew I had to make the effort tonight.
It took every ounce of will power within me to get ready and go out the door. But I did just that. I knew it would make me feel better and I know that if I have any chance of crossing the finish line of the Great North Run then I need to keep training.
Within 5 minutes of starting Bootcamp I knew I’d made the right choice. I then spent the next 50 minutes wondering why I’d chosen to put myself through the pain, especially when the midges started to attack and the grass left a rash on both legs. But then I felt happy again during the last 5 minutes and proud of myself for making the effort.
Pretty Sping flowers
I’m generally a positive person and sometimes feel like I don’t want to blog about the negatives, but then I think I need to keep it balanced. It’s about ensuring that I look for the positives in the bad days and that’s what I did tonight. I knew that I would feel better after I went so I made myself go. Exercise is such a feel good factor and I for one never thought I’d be so addicted to it (even though I had to all but kick myself out the door tonight).
Life is rather busy at the moment, quite a lot busier than usual and the next couple of months show no signs of slowing down but I will try and fit as much training in as possible to ensure I can cover the distance!
I am looking forward to doing another (different) Parkrun in the morning with two of my friends from work.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

A Soggy Sunday in Sunderland...

This morning when my alarm went off and I could hear rain lashing on the windows I was wondering why I thought it was a good idea to get up and do a 10K on a Sunday morning. I have this battle every time I have to get up early to go running. Ironically, I didn’t go running yesterday morning yet I was awake at 7am (how annoying!)
I got ready and had my usual 10K breakfast of porridge and Nutella before lacing up and heading out the door. Half way to Sunderland I realised that I had forgotten to pack bin bags and so thought positive sunny thoughts in the hope I wouldn’t need to wear one anyway! Upon arriving at Sunderland, we parked a few minute walk away and heading to the new start area at Keel Square. It was cold, wet and miserable and I didn’t feel enthusiastic about running at all.  We stood shelter in the baggage tent which was marginally warmer, and considerably drier. My sister Joanne then rang and told me she’d arrived and was near the start with Craig, so Tony and I went to meet them.
Craig, me and Tone
I decided I wanted my number pinned to my jacket instead of my top so I could fasten it and stay dry when running. Unfortunately the event clips wouldn’t go through my jacket so I decided to run with my jacket open instead. (This turned out to be a fortunate decision as the rain stopped not long after we started running and I quickly began to feel hot).
It was lovely to see some familiar faces and running friends I haven’t seen for a while and I slowly began to look forward to the run ahead. It was lovely to have my brother in law Craig back out running too as he’s one of the people that inspired to me to run.
Tone, me and Chris
Me and Colin in his Big Pink Dress
The route was different to last year and it felt strangely disorientating in parts. I don’t know Sunderland very well and I couldn’t have run last year’s route from memory but it still felt different at times. I was of course happy I got to see the sea and quite enjoyed the route overall. It was hilly in parts but I am proud to say I ran the whole way. I know I must be getting better at running as I rarely think about walking. I still complain quite a bit but I just run through it.

All the Marshall's were friendly and supportive and it was also lovely to see my friend Fiona marshalling too. It's always lovely to see a friendly face out running!
There were a number of water stations on route which were definitely needed at times. They were water pouches which I always find difficult to navigate. Firstly I didn’t realise it was already open so squirted half the water out before I got any and secondly once I figured this out managed to breathe in as I was drinking and running and inhaled the water as well drinking it! I was still grateful for the water and I navigated the second pouch much better than the first.
When there were 3.2 miles remaining there was a sign in memory of Cpt David Seath, the 31 year old soldier who sadly died during the London Marathon last week. We ran the rest of the route in his memory and it really made me appreciate how lucky I am to be able to get out and run. Life is so short and we should remember to make the most of every minute.
I struggled with the final couple of miles as my hip began to hurt and my calves felt heavy. Some kind spectators were giving out jelly babies and it was a welcome sugar hit as we were approaching the end. Although I found it difficult, I did quite enjoy it overall, particularly as I had someone to talk to which always helps.
Joanne was waiting near the finish and cheered us on. We didn’t think we had a sprint finish left in us but the closer we got to the end I decided maybe I did after all so I ran with everything I had. Tony did too and we did another synchronised sprint finish! Just after we crossed the finish line I saw Craig and Chris cheering us on. We then joined the queue to get our t-shirt, medal and goody bag and went to find Joanne.
I was really pleased with our time of 1 hour 16 which is faster than we ran Blyth 10k a few weeks ago. I am particularly proud of this time as it was hillier than the Blyth route.
When heading back to the car I began to feel really cold and decided I needed to use the foil blanket we’d been given which made me a lot warmer! We also got a cup of tea on the way back to the car which helped warm me up even further.
This afternoon Joanne, Craig and the children came for tea and I shared a bottle of Prosecco with my mam and Joanne to celebrate. I spent the whole afternoon sporting my t-shirt and medal (which has a rather exciting moving propeller feature!)
Feeling proud!
I’ve had a lovely day with some wonderful people and I look forward to continuing to build up my miles towards the Great North Run. I am running for a fantastic cause – the North East Trust for Aphasia – supporting people with communication difficulties following a stroke or other brain injury. If you would like to show your support you can find the link to my fundraising page here.
Thanks so much for reading!