View from behind a race-number

Very well said…

The Art of Running Slowly

To the strangers at the start celebrating with us as we set off,

To all the plentiful cheery stewards with your relentless smiles,

To the marshals holding the traffic and guiding us,

To the strangers along the way reading our names from our bibs,

To the children with your posters and high-fives and bright eyes,

To the old man clanging the brass bell on his porch as we stream by,

To the Church band and high-fiving vicar with your prayers,

To the person who says gently “good cause” on seeing your charity vest,

To the residents with drinks and jelly-babies,

To the peole with numb tingling hands, who can’t stop clapping,

To the strangers mid-way, smiling and connecting with our eyes as we pass,

To the campanologists and your glorious full-peal,

To the people on the bikes who we think we’ve seen miles back,

To the bands and DJs, especially the…

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Half Marathon…done!

Ok, so I am aware of how useless I have been with the blogging over the last few weeks.  I thought I was on a comeback but it seems I was not.  I have this vision in my mind of writing being something that comes effortlessly, that I just sit down and beautiful prose dashes from my fingertips onto the screen.  Funny, witty, insightful musings that the world will love.

I appreciate that this is not the case.  For that I am sorry.  In truth though, I know that hardly anyone reads this, so I don’t think I’m depriving too many people of any sort of magical experience when I don’t write anything for a few weeks.  I’m sure no-one even notices! 🙂

So in more positive news; I ran a half marathon last week!!!!!  My first ever!  The Bournemouth Half Marathon to be exact.

We travelled down to Bournemouth the day before so my sister could take part in the 10km on the Saturday afternoon.  As ever she did amazingly well, coming 25th in her age category in a time of 51.54!

The next morning was time for the half and full marathons.  An 8am start meant that the other half and I were up at 6.15am, trying to shovel down porridge.  It  is surprisingly hard to eat anything when you are still half asleep, I didn’t finish my porridge, so intended to eat a banana on the shuttle bus to the start, but then didn’t do that either.  Probably an error, which I think I ended up feeling in the last 3km, but hey ho.

It was a freezing cold morning but luckily it was sunny and dry (something we were very grateful for as it changed dramatically the next day).  There was a great buzz around the start (a sports centre next to the Bournemouth FC ground), people were chirpy and smiley, and everyone was chatting about finish times in between the shivering.

With 15 mins to go we said goodbye and good luck, the boy wandered off to the second start pen, and I went off to mine at the back.  I later found out that Steve Way was there to start and run the half, but as I was in the back pen, I had no idea at the time!

The course is generally flat all the way, just with a surprise hill at about 14km.  I hadn’t been expecting it at all, so it really took the wind out my sails, however once at the top there was a nice flat section, then a gentle slope down, so it wasn’t too bad.  The whole course is on road and the seafront prom, with great views out across the Dorset coast.  My only criticism would be that it turns back on itself a couple of times, which is nice for seeing other runners, but one turn around is right near the finish at about 16km, so it makes you see the finish and the cheering crowd, then set off in the opposite direction to somewhere you’ve already been before.

As far as pace is concerned, I set off a little fast (about 30 secs a km faster than my target pace) for the first 10k, stuck to target pace for around the next 7km, then it all got a bit tough.  The furthest long run I did in training was 18km (11 miles), and I definitely felt it once I reached that point.  From 18km to the end I was about 30 secs a km slower than my target pace.  My legs turned to lead and at times it honestly felt like wading through treacle.  I made it though, and even mustered a sprint down Bournemouth Pier to the finish line!


My final time was 2.35.28 (10 mins quicker than predicted) and I finished 550th in my age category!  Go me!


So am I jealous of my sister with how well she’s done in her own running exploits over the last year?  Yes.  Am I infuriated at how effortless she makes it look when I am stuck near the back every time?  Yes.  But if there is one thing running has taught me, it is that you cannot judge yourself by the achievements of others.

Unless you’re out to win, the competition should only ever be with yourself.  Two and a half years ago I started the Couch to 5km programme; for the first session I had to run for 60 seconds without stopping, and the whole time I thought I was going to die.  On Sunday I ran for over 2 hours without stopping, and although it was tough near the end, I never doubted that I would finish, not once.  That’s my progress, my achievement, and I’m proud of myself.





IMG-20141005-WA0001    IMAG0023

Great British Bake Off Challenge week 4 and 6 weeks till Bournemouth

GBBO challenge 

Week 4 was desserts week. And for clarity, that’s “desserts”, not “deserts” as I saw on so many Twitter and Facebook updates. This blog doesn’t at all touch on my very strong feelings on correct spelling and grammar (particularly correct punctuation), so you won’t be aware of how much such a small error drives me crazy, but it does, oh how it does! Anyway, to cake! And some running.

The technical challenge last week was Mary’s tiramisu cake. A four layered extravaganza of coffee, brandy, chocolate, mascarpone and cream. Most of the bakers did pretty well. There were a few comments on their sponge not being evenly saturated with the coffee/brandy mixture, but all in all they seemed to do ok.

I did ok too (yay!), however it did end up being quite a long, rather fiddly process.

To start with, I wasn’t content with making just one cake. My manager can’t tolerate alcohol, and as she is my baking’s biggest fan I wanted to make sure she could try some of whatever I managed to create. I considered doing a half and half version (one half boozy, one half just coffee) but I was concerned I would forget which half was which (this would have been highly possible).

So to solve the booze/no booze conundrum I decided to make two cakes. One big one for work and one small one for my manager. I then thought Rob and I would want some, so I thought I could make two full size sponges, split one into two small ones so one could be non-alcoholic and one could be boozy for us, then the large one could go to work. Still with me?

Anyway, the upshot is that I ended up having to put together one large cake and two small ones, when in reality it is so rich, Rob and I could have just had a bit of the big one and there still would have been plenty left for work, oh well.

My biggest fear before starting was having to cut the, already thin, sponge in half horizontally. Surprisingly though this was easier than expected, my trusty bread knife did me proud. The trickiest bit was assembling all the layers. I think I over whipped the mascarpone/cream filling a bit so it was a bit tough to spread (if I made this again I would definitely pipe the cream in). There was also the art of getting the coffee mixture evenly across the sponge layers without them going to soggy and then breaking up (I ended up using a mixture of Martha’s pastry brush technique and spooning it on).

However several hours later they were all done! And reports have all been good. It is extremely rich so one cake can go a long way, but it is yummy!

tiramisu 3tiramisu 2

So much mascarpone and cream…

tiramisu cream


Half marathon training – 6 weeks to go.

Not much to report on the running front I’m afraid. Stuck to my plan so got all four runs in which I’m pleased with. All went generally well. My legs were quite achy all week following the trail run on Sunday, but Tuesday was just 5km, then the 10.5km I did on Thursday I chose a route where I could do about a quarter of it on grass.

It was good to be back running at parkrun on Saturday after volunteering the week before (not that I at all mind volunteering, it just feels a bit odd being out of bed and at the park, but then not running). I didn’t set the world alight but I felt good all the way round and maintained an even pace. I also overtook 4 young children, who didn’t catch me up again…hurrah! I’ve learnt with running that you have to take the victories where you can.

Training completed wc 25th August:

Tue: 5km run

Thu: 10.5km run

Sat: parkrun (5km fast)

Sun: 10.5km run




Link to mine and my sister’s fundraising page is here, please donate if you can, it really means a lot.

A Complete Idiot’s Guide to Running Shoes

This just brightened up my lunch break. Although I am now getting some funny looks for sniggering to myself…

Born to Plod


Look at the title. Usually, a title like that would mean “this is a guide to running shoes, in terms so simple that even a complete idiot could understand it”. Well, not this time. In this case, it actually means “a complete idiot has written a guide to running shoes”.

Don’t believe me? Read on…

One of the first things I learned when I started running (shortly after “never trust a beekeeper” and “gels should be taken orally”) was that choosing the right running shoe can be complicated.

Are you a pronator? A moderate over-pronator? A foaming-at-the-mouth radical supinator? Do you need stability shoes? Neutral shoes? Motion control shoes? Do you even need shoes? Are you a shoe1? Do you strike with the heel, the forefoot or the midfoot2? Are orthotics the answer? Should I buy a new shed?

(That last one has nothing to do…

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Great British Bake Off Challenge week 3 and 7 weeks till Bournemouth

Bit of delay on posting this one – I blame the bank holiday although I should have used the rainy Monday to get this done. Oh well.

GBBO challenge

Week 3 was bread week. I love bread, it’s one of the best things in the world. Bread with cheese, bread with marmite, bread with jam. My favourite of all is bread with tomato sauce, cheese and veg toppings…pizza! Yum yum yum.

Anyway, getting side tracked.

So, the technical challenge for bread week was ciabatta. Making the dough was relatively easy, only a few ingredients, bung in a bowl and mix. The slight issue with that was that I don’t have a free standing mixer 😦 so I had to use my handheld electric mixer with a dough hook attachment. It did the job but took a bit of muscle power on my part!

Once mixed, the dough had to sit to prove for a couple of hours. No problems there. Dealing with it afterwards was another matter though. Ciabatta dough is definitely the stickiest dough I have ever dealt with. Admittedly I haven’t done loads of bread baking, but this stuff is crazy! You don’t knock it back after it’s proved, you just pour it out in a big, gloopy, sticky lump, and then attempt to shape it into some sort of loaf shape without touching it too much.

I would love to see Paul Hollywood get it from the work surface to the baking tray “without touching it”. I really would!

But despite the stickiness, it was another success! Few nice air bubbles through the dough, it definitely looked like ciabatta to me anyway. And all the reports back have been positive, so yay!
Ciabatta 2Ciabatta 1

Half marathon training – 7 weeks to go!

Time is forever ticking down toward the half marathon fun times (hmmm), however I was able to not think about that for a little while this weekend as firstly on Saturday I volunteered at my local (and probably the best in the country) parkrun – Preston Park in Brighton. Always a fun time, I was marshalling on a corner with the main objective of stopping people ploughing into a set of bollards, and then directing them round to the finish. Everyone was in good spirits and the sun was out. An excellent way to start the day.

Then on Sunday, me, Rob, my sister, some parkrun and work friends took part in the Arundel Castle 10k trail run.

Described as “gently undulating”, any runner will know that means hills, big ones. Arundel is a hilly place so we were expecting some hills, but this was quite challenging. The entire first 5km was uphill. There were a few flattish bits along the way but it was mainly up, up, up, especially between around 2-4km where it was a gradual incline but over so far it was a killer on the legs.

At the turnaround we were faced with a steep, grassy downhill track before another rocky/chalky hill loomed into view at the 7km mark.

Luckily though the scenery more than made up for the tough terrain…grassy fields, woodland, deep valleys, and the most amazing views out over the countryside that I’ve ever seen. If I hadn’t been in the middle of a running event with my Garmin beeping away at me, I could have happily stopped and stared out at the scenery for some time.

I came in last out of all my companions on the day, however my time was 1hr 11mins, which I’m chuffed with as my PB is 1hr 2mins, and that’s on dead flat tarmac, and was set last year when I was in far faster shape that I am currently.

And speaking of my companions, my sister who has only been running regularly for probably the last year or so, came 10th in her age category – in her first ever chip timed event. Not bad. Even if I am insanely jealous of her. I just have to hope she doesn’t decide to move up to a half marathon, I need to have something I’ve done better than her, even if it’s just one event!

Arundel Castle 10k, Scouts, August 2014 by

Arundel Castle 10k, Scouts, August 2014 by

Training completed wc 18th August:

Tue: 5km run

Thu: 7km run

Sun: 10km trail run




Link to mine and my sister’s fundraising page is here, please donate if you can, it really means a lot.

Great British Bake Off Challenge week 2 & 8 weeks to go till Bournemouth

Week 2 of GBBO was biscuit week! I love biscuits, the only type of biscuit I won’t go near is anything with white chocolate anywhere near it, but luckily there aren’t many of those about, so I’m generally safe.

So the technical challenge this week was Florentines. Made of nuts, cherries and candied peel, along with a substantial hit of sugar and golden syrup. The best bit by far of making these was “having to” lick the spoon after measuring out the golden syrup…yum!

Mary Berry’s recipe states that these need patience but I actually found them really easy. Melt butter, syrup and sugar, bung in nuts, fruit, flour, then bake. Once cool, cover the back in chocolate, draw a squiggly pattern in the chocolate with a fork. Done!

The only slight hiccup is that Mary specified on Wednesday that the biscuits should be crispy with a good “snap”, but mine are soft and chewy. I’m not sure what I could have done to make them crispy, as if I’d baked them more they would have burned. Everyone who has tasted them so far has said they’re lovely, so I’ve decided I’ve made them better! (I might not say that to Mary though…).



And so onto a half marathon training update.

Monday saw the countdown strike 8 weeks to go, so with the fear/worry factor that brings I got out the door for every planned session, and even put in a little extra!

Plan for wc 11th August was as follows:

Tue: 5km run

Thu: 7km run

Sat: parkrun (5km fast)

Sun: 14km run

I’ve decided to do all my runs apart from parkrun at my target half marathon pace. I’ve never been able to get into these tempo run/steady run/jog etc training plans. My running pace is slow at the best of times, so I can’t get much slower whether it’s labelled a tempo run or an “easy” run. For me, there’s no such thing as an “easy” run. Running is hard, end of. Whatever the speed, whatever the distance, it’s hard work. So I’ve figured sticking to pace with a sort of speed session with parkrun every week is the way forward for me. I guess we’ll see for sure come 5th October!

So as mentioned above, every session completed! I felt pretty good Tuesday and Thursday (so much so I added on an extra km to Tuesday’s run) so was confident going into the weekend. Then parkrun on Saturday went horribly wrong. I’ve no idea why but my legs felt like lead and it took all my effort just to make it round without walking at all, finishing in my second worst time ever (my worst ever time being on new year’s day 2012 following an evening of takeaway and bubbly!).

Following parkrun I was feeling concerned about Sunday’s long run, however thankfully all went extremely well. Armed with the Embrace Running podcast to keep me going (excellent podcast by the way – give it a try if you haven’t discovered it yet), we headed out in one direction, got almost halfway, cut down and ran back along the seafront (thankfully with the wind behind us). Amazingly I felt pretty good all the way, it took a little while to get into a rhythm (as is usual), but once I got going it was all good. Kept to pace all the way and finished with energy to spare. Roll on this week!




Link to mine and my sister’s fundraising page is here, please donate if you can, it really means a lot.

Introducing my Great British Bake Off and Half Marathon Challenges!

It’s been awhile, but I’m back, and with a couple of new challenges!

This week saw the start of the wonder that is the new series of The Great British Bake Off! Mary, Paul, Mel and Sue were back with another gang of bakers, some rubbish, some showing lots of promise already.

As is clear, I love a bit of baking, and I love, love, love GBBO! So to give myself something to do, I have decided to have a go at the technical challenge every week, to see if I can do any better than the contestants. I’m already dreading fondant fancy week…

But that’s not all. For some reason I have also signed up for my first half marathon this October. So training is underway for that. So far my longest run has been just under 10 miles, it was tough to say the least, but I’ve still got 8 weeks to go, so I’m hoping I can get a bit more stamina in my legs before then.


GBBO Week 1 Technical Challenge – Mary’s Cherry Cake

There wasn’t too much trouble with this one from the bakers, a few sunken cherries and some burnt almonds but generally they got through it ok.

For me it was reasonably plain sailing. I dutifully washed and floured my cherries, missed everything up and away we went. The best bit was getting to buy a new cake tin (they made it in a ring shape on the telly, therefore I needed to do the same – this is sound logic ok).

Unfortunately the cake stuck to the pan a little bit when I turned it out, but there isn’t much a bit of icing can’t fix.


The final result:

Cherry ring 1

Nice cherry distribution (if I do say so myself):

Cherry ring inside


Half marathon training

The plan I have has me running four times a week. I’ve been pretty good so far in getting them all in, apart from the last couple of weeks where the casualty has been my long, slow run on the Sunday.

Three weeks ago I managed 15.75km (just under 10 miles), and should have had a long run each Sunday since, however they haven’t quite gone to plan. I have got three runs a week in over the last two weeks though, and I was all set for another crack at 16km today, however hurricane Bertha and a sneaky pub lunch got in the way. Ah well, there’s always next week!



Please sponsor me if you can:

Final fundraising run…done! Bexhill 10k.

As mentioned many times on Facebook, Twitter, in emails and in person, Sunday was the day of my final fundraising run.  There’s a full post on my 2013 fundraising challenge here, but in summary, earlier this year, I decided to challenge myself to complete three 10k runs throughout 2013 to raise money for the British Heart Foundation in memory of my wonderful Nan who we sadly lost to heart disease a year ago this month.

Sunday was the final one, The Big 10k (formally the Bexhill 10k) in, you guessed it, Bexhill!  The course was pretty straight forward, the start was in a central spot on the promenade by the beach, we ran east for about 4km, turned round, came back past the start and carried on west to around the 8.5km mark, then back to the start.  Weather looked good, a bit overcast but not meant to rain, and not too hot, unfortunately there was somewhat of a wind!  Heading out to the almost halfway mark went well, I kept up a good pace and passed a few other runners early on, however as soon as we turned back we were heading straight into the wind, which was pretty hard going at times.

Helpfully there were markers at every kilometre so I was able to time each one, I reached 5km at about a minute over my 5km PB, but each km was taking me slightly longer than the last.  Gasping for a drink, a water station eventually loomed into view at about 7km, a bit overdue I’d say but it was nice to see it.  As always I was incapable of drinking out of a plastic cup while running, so after half of it had gone over my face and down my arm, I stopped to gulp down as much as I could before powering on towards a worrying looking hill.

The race info had mentioned a hill, so I knew it was coming, however I’d incorrectly assumed it would be a case of heading up the hill, getting to the top and turning round.  Not quite.  I tried to run but ended up power walking up the hill (I really must do some hill training), made it to the top for a marshal to cheerfully inform us that we were to “just turn around at the café”.  To my horror, the café was down the other side of the hill and about another 400m away!  Another runner and I who had been side by side for most of the race shook our heads and plodded on.  I got to the café eventually and turned around to head back.

Guessing I was probably at about 8.5km I glanced at my watch and saw I was about 12 minutes off my PB.  Considering up to this point I had been getting slower with every kilometre I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t be getting a PB this day.  With this thought I power walked back up the hill and threw caution to the wind by zipping down the other side (reckless I know but hey!).  Luckily I avoided getting a stitch but as soon as I hit the flat my legs turned to lead and it felt like I had very little in the tank.  I resisted the urge to look at my watch and instead concentrated on running all the way to the finish.  With gritted teeth I focused on the chap ahead of me and willed my legs and lungs onwards.  I just noticed the other half out of the corner of my eye at the finish and then it was done.  And not only that my watch was telling me I had a new PB!

Panting attractively I handed in my sweaty timing chip and grabbed a handful of jelly beans and some water before wandering out of the finish funnel hoping Rob would find me soon.  A lovely mug of tea followed and soon I was feeling back to normal.

The official results came through later in the day and my official time was 5 seconds off my watch time.  1:06:11 – my fastest 10k yet!

I’m really proud of myself for what I’ve achieved over the last couple of years.  In May 2012 I started the Couch to 5k podcasts having never run for more than 5 minutes before, in July 2012 I completed my first 5k event without any walking breaks, in October 2012 I completed my first 10k, and 2013 has seen me complete a 10/12k muddy obstacle course and then three 10k races in 5 months.  And of course, numerous Parkruns along the way!

A massive thank you has to go out to all the people who have supported me along the way and everyone who has sponsored me.  For my 2013 challenge I have so far raised £399, plus work have said they will top it up a bit so as long as I get the cash out of everyone on my sponsorship form, I should be nicely over the £400 mark for the final total!

So now I just need to come up with a new challenge for next year.  I’ve just bought a bike so I might do a bike challenge, or maybe combine the bike and the running.  Haha – mustn’t get ahead of myself!

Thanks for reading.  Take care. xxx

Action shot – nearly there!


More race bling!


10k disappointment but parkrun victory!

Today was supposed to be a rest day before a 10k event tomorrow – the River Adur 10k trail run.  Out and back along the river in Shoreham.  Unfortunately, earlier this week we were told that the event had been cancelled due to there not being enough entries.

I was pretty gutted earlier in the week as I was looking forward to doing another trail run, however I am grateful that if any of my planned events were going to be cancelled, that it be this one, as it was more of a “just for fun” event rather than one of my fundraising runs.

The other upside was that with no big run tomorrow, I was able to go to parkrun today.  And…new PB!  Official results haven’t come through yet but my watch time was 30.31 which is a whopping 30 seconds off my previous PB and my first ever sub 31 mins 5km!  Woo!

It was a lovely morning, sun shining and a bit of a breeze.  I set off strong and was able to get into a good rhythm quite early on.  First lap went ok and as I passed the 2km mark I fell in beside another parkrun regular.  We hadn’t met before but I recognised him from other weeks.  Despite us both trying our hardest, we were able to have a little chat for the entire next lap.  Now, I have never chatted when running before, generally I run alone so there’s no-one to chat to, but also I’ve always thought there would be no way I could chat even if I wanted to!  I have to put everything into it when I run, I don’t have any speed variations like the training plans claim you should, I pretty much just have; walking, running, sprinting.  Sprinting can be maintained for about a minute (if that!), other than that I just plod along.

Anyway, as we came round to the final lap, my new running partner’s son appeared, we’d seen him earlier right at the front and it turned out he’d come in first!  As they chatted I broke away a little and in doing so ended up laughing with another runner just in front of me at how nice it would be to be finished already!  Some chatting and introductions later and we were at 4km.  As we got into the last 1km Leah broke away from me a bit but I tried my hardest to stay strong and keep up my pace.  My local parkrun finishes with a bit of a hill – always a bit of a killer – but I did my best and powered over the line to PB glory!

I’m pretty sure there is no way I could have kept up the pace I did without my running buddies so I can’t thank them enough.  It also makes me love parkrun even more as that is exactly how I think it’s supposed to be.  Everyday people getting together, enjoying running and just having a bit of fun on a Saturday morning.  And you never know, that dream of a sub-30 5km may be edging slightly closer…