The British 10k

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On Sunday 13th July me, my son and my Dad left the house at 7am and got on a train to Waterloo. On the train, and when we got to London there were lots of people in running gear, many of them wearing tshirts proclaiming the charity they were raising money for by running the British 10k.

It’s a big race- 25000 people taking part, all ages and levels of ability. I was definitely a bit nervous. Although I’ve run a couple of races before this was the first really big run I’d entered. Once I’d dropped off my bag at one of the many numbered bays and said goodbye to the Nipper who was ‘bored’ and wanted to drag his Grandad off to explore, I followed the other runners to the route and found myself queueing up by The Ritz on Piccadilly. It was about 20-30 minutes of slowly shuffling along with the crowd before we got to the starting line but by this point I was buzzing and ready to go.

This was the first time I’d run 10k. I’d been training and had been running about three times a week, the longest distance I’d completed up to this point was 7km. Then a couple of weeks before, very stupidly, I’d worn a pair of gorgeous shoes I’d found in the back of my wardrobe, only realising too late why they were in the back of my wardrobe. Ouch! Hello blisters- not the worst thing to happen- especially if you’ve ever seen dancers’ feet- or the footage (ahem) of Eddie Izzard running his marathon of marathons… so I had no excuses really but it did make me wary of running the longer distances I had hoped to in the last weeks of my training. And then I hurt my right foot a few days before the race when I spent a day walking around London.

But by the time I was lining up to start all thoughts of sore feet vanished and I was enjoying the atmosphere. I am a very slow runner and that’s fine by me- I got to plod around central London with thousands of other people, on what started as a grey, damp morning, and by the time I’d finished had turned into a gorgeous sunny Sunday. I am still amazed I am able to run at all, having been the sickly child at school, always off sick, and unable to do PE. Then a few years ago being diagnosed with post-viral fatigue was such a shock – at the time I never thought I’d be able to do half the things I had taken for granted, ever again. But here I am running 10k, cycling to work and having a super busy life.

I am very very lucky- I do however try to pace myself, and I get very tired sometimes- I can’t push myself as hard as I used to and I try and stay within my limits (most of the time). Running seems good for this- I’ve found that mentally it helps me to focus on my writing, and physically it gives me stamina and is also a great stress buster. I can judge how I’m feeling and tailor how far I run, how often and how fast (mainly not very fast). But I can do it and I am able to keep doing it.

I wasn’t sure if I would be able to complete 10k on the day but when I got to the 5k point I knew I’d be fine and at that point I even speeded up and loved every minute of the rest of the run.  I raised £190 for Gingerbread – thanks to the support and generosity of the people who sponsored me. Single parents deal with many different challenges and Gingerbread is the go-to charity for people in this situation who need advice and support on a whole range of issues affecting them.

Before my Mum died, in fact just when she had been diagnosed with lung cancer, and was in hospital, now eight years ago, we got to talking about running and for some reason I made a promise to her that I would run a half marathon. Maybe she was saying I should keep fit and look after myself, I don’t know. But I have never forgotten this.The next time I run, I am hoping it will be a half-marathon and I would like to raise money for Macmillan. The Macmillan nurses who looked after my mum were amazing, and it would be a way of keeping my promise to her and doing something positive with my run. But I’m not going to do it until I am ready- watch this space!

In the meantime THANK YOU again to everyone who sponsored me and supported me. XXX

Your donation will be doubled today if you sponsor me to run the British 10k!

In less than 5 weeks I am running the British 10k, a distance I have never run before, but am training for at the moment. My aim is to raise £300 for Gingerbread, and as ever people have so far been very generous with their support and I have currently got 10% of my target. Any amount you can spare will be very much appreciated by me, and by Gingerbread, who do fantastic and very important work in supporting single parent familes. One in four families is headed by a single parent, 92% of which are women. It is a charity close to my heart, as a single parent myself, and I am very glad it exists.

If you were thinking of sponsoring me- today at 5pm would be a great time to do it- because:

Virgin Giving are currently running the 555 Wednesday Giveaway matching donations of under £100 made by Paypal from between 5-6pm TODAY! and next wednesday. They do this with a limit of £5000 in the pot, so if you are thinking of doing this can I urge you to do it at 5pm?! It is a great opportunity to maximise your donation and help me reach my target.

You can donate by visiting my Virgin Giving page here.

Thank you very much!

 

Running the British 10k for Team Gingerbread

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I am juggling a lot of writing projects at the moment, a very happy position to be in, but it is making my posts here infrequent. Amidst the attempts to do justice to all of these I am training for the British 10k as part of Team Gingerbread. I ran 5k to raise money for Gingerbread last October and they very kindly asked me to be part of their team for the British 10k, which takes place in London on Sunday 13th July.

I will be focusing more on my training in the next few weeks – I’ve never run 10k before so this is a new challenge, and I am really pleased to be doing it for Gingerbread, the charity which supports single parents.

J.K. Rowling said of Gingerbread last year: “… I remain President of Gingerbread, a superb campaigning organisation for single parents and their children.  Unfortunately, their work is as necessary as ever today, in a recession much worse than the one I faced when I returned to the UK in the 90s.” You can read the rest of what she says, in a piece she wrote for Gingerbread, here.

I am very grateful for any contributions- you can donate here– any amount- large or small- will be very much appreciated by me and by Gingerbread.

University of Life

I’m delighted that Gingerbread has published the blog post I wrote after running The Big Fun Run. I am hoping to run the British 10k for them next July but running has been happening in fits and starts since the end of October. Something to do with the increasingly cold weather and the fact that I seem to be busier then ever- how did I ever make time to study?

The dust is settling after the handing in of my dissertation and the excitement of receiving my results. I have been enjoying having more time to spend with my son and be a mum. The house is looking less like the scary scene out of the film Brazil with the paper flying everywhere, and resuming its status as a home which contains far too many books (I know, there is no such thing…) and neat piles of paper which are slowly being filed away in boxes marked ‘Recycle’ , ‘Research, ‘Review’ (aka- dunno wot to do with this).

I have hardly written a word, apart from a few lines here and there, updated my cv and started applying for jobs… it’s been good to take a break from it and give my creative writing muscle a much-needed break. But I have written down a brief plan for a new writing project which will keep me busy for, at least, the next year and possibly longer.

Because this is just the start- not the end. This is where I get to be a writer without the safety net of university, although I do hope to go back to higher education to teach because it was the highlight of my last year of academia.

The Big Fun Run for Gingerbread

A couple of months ago, in the midst of writing the MFA dissertation, I registered to run 5km around Crystal Palace Park, to raise money for Gingerbread. At the time it seemed like a good idea – running has become a necessary cog in my writing process, allowing me some head space and providing a regular dose of physical exercise to combat the hunched-in-front-of-screen posture I am otherwise prone to develop. If I’m going to run anyway I might as well do some good with it- and raising a bit of money for a very good cause by running around a park seems like a fine way to do it.

funrun1 (1)Last year I ran the 5km Treeathlon for Trees In Cities, trotting around the leafy environs of Battersea Park on a glorious September Sunday. A day where, after the run was complete, my good friend Liz, her daughter and my son, spent a few pleasant hours in the park, taking advantage of the activities put on by Trees In Cities. The kids also had a great time playing in the adventure playground, which has since been closed down by the Tories. This was one of the last staffed and subsidised community adventure playgrounds left since the those halcyon 70s days when places like it seemed to be a normal occurrence, not some kind of Small Persons Shangri-La…now it has gone.

I thought we could repeat our lovely day out in Crystal Palace Park, which is massive, and where I last spent time in 1990, to see The Cure play a gig. I wanted to show my son and my friend’s daughter the dinosaurs (there is talk of the park being ‘regenerated’ and the dinosaurs going) and to have a nice afternoon hanging out with my mate and the kids. However, on the day itself, it rained. When I say rained, I mean it poured relentlessly in a particularly wet and doggedly persistent manner. Friends and family had generously sponsored me to the tune of nearly £150 and I didn’t want to let them down, and I am fairly doggedly persistent myself when it comes down to achieving goals these days, so we got on with it.

The stairs at Crystal Palace railway station were having their own Niagra moment as we climbed up them, which did not bode well for what lay ahead…the park was grey, drenched and running with water. Liz and the kids camped out in the cafe while I found the start of the race, left my bags in the marquee, and tried to shelter from the driving rain along with the other runners, some seasoned, some in gaggles, dressed in superhero outfits, onesies, tutus and other bedraggled fancy dress. Everyone was smiling and during the three minute warm up there were hollers and whoops and ‘COME ON!’s to gee everyone into action.

funrun1 (2)The run itself was two laps around a designated route in the park, up hill and down rivulet-filled dale, some of it surprisingly steep. I am not a fast runner at the best of times but I kept my pace and finished one minute slower than my time for the Treeathlon. Not a bad result in all that rain. Liz and the kids were there at the end, cheering me on and taking photos. Then it was time to get changed and run for the train…the picnic and dinosaurs can wait for a sunny day…

Without Liz I couldn’t have taken part in the run at all, and so I need to say a huge thank you to her, for looking after my son while I ran, and for being such a supportive friend. And that’s also why I chose to raise money for Gingerbread, which offers vital support, especially now, for single parents. Being a single parent is hard work and we are all doing our best to raise confident, happy, healthy and well-rounded children on our own.

My son hardly ever sees his father, and although my own father is the most fantastic and supportive father to me, and grandad to his grandson, it does mean we don’t have that invisible mesh that seems to exist between families with two parents. The support net is different, and requires other people’s love and goodwill to take a turn at keeping an end taut from time to time. Friends are important, and I am lucky to have some amazing friends.

Thanks Liz

This was the last goal I set myself and now it is complete. The studying is done, and I have spent the last couple of weeks feeling overwhelmed and not knowing what to with myself, wondering how on earth I translate this five years of determined effort and academic study into paid employment. And how to balance this with being a mum and bringing up my son. One step at a time…one race at a time…

Treeathlon

Yesterday I was lucky enough to take part in Trees For Cities’s Treeathlon, which took place in the leafy environs of Battersea Park. It was a gorgeous early autumn, sunny September day, as predicted. Perfect weather to enjoy a 5k run round the park.

I was on the 7.47am train with my excited son, and in Battersea Park station by 8.12am! I never realised it was possible to get there so fast- which pleases me because Battersea Park is ace and Sam is desperate to go back. We met my friend Liz and her daughter there, who were coming along with us to support me and keep Sam company while I ran the race.

The event was well thought-out and impressively organised, with a large corner of the park set aside to accomodate Treeathloners and their friends and families. After registering and collecting my official Treeathlon Marcus Lupfer-designed tshirt (see above) I changed into it using the spacious changing tent provided. I was then able to leave all my ‘gubbins’ behind at the left-luggage tent for a very reasonable £2 donation to Trees For Cities. In the midst of all the ‘operational’ facilities  was The Blue Bus stage, playing cheerful festival-vibe music in between sets from London band Scarletts Roses and my favourite, The Sunshine Swing Band.

A small but perfectly chosen array of food and drink stalls complemented this, with freshly baked pizzas, vegan curry, candy floss on a stick, cocktails and jerk chicken wraps on offer.

At 9.45 the warm up began with Sinitta and flamboyant-is-an-understatement Francis Alejandro Cardoso from Dance Flavourz , who have performed on Britain’s Got Talent (not that I would know) and who led the expectant runners in a warm up. This began to my delight with Sinitta’s ‘So Macho’ and went on to some serious Samba music and movement.

The runners were called to the Start line in Advanced, Intermediate and Beginner sections. I had already decided to stay right at the back, so I missed Alex James from Blur who was apparently starting the race. After doing well with my training over the last eleven weeks I’ve been poorly over the last two and only managed two runs in the last fortnight. But after the support and generosity of friends and family who have sponsored me to the tune of £216 (thank you!) I wasn’t going to let that stop me. Instead I doubled up on my asthma medication and aimed to take it slow and steady like an Ent and see how I got on. If an Ent can walk than so could I if I had to…

I was helped along by the soundtrack in my ears which included Scritti Politti, Adam and the Ants, Bow Wow Wow, Chicks on Speed and Arcade Fire (‘Month of May’ and ‘Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out) driving me on for the last 1500 metres) which I’d selected the night before. But really I didn’t need much to spur me on, the atmosphere was fantastic, the enthusiasm palpable and the park is beautiful. We had two laps to run, past lakes with canada geese scudding onto their watery runways; fountains, rose gardens, tennis courts and playgrounds. Past people playing football, lifting free weights, walking dogs, cycling and in-line skating. All while shaded by a glorious canopy of trees.

Liz and the kids were there to cheer me on as I completed the first lap and were there again to meet me at the finish. In the end I managed a personal best of 39 minutes and 52 seconds to run 5km. Not bad going considering I have only run 5km three times! After running I went to choose my sapling and picked a rowan tree. Now I just have to work out where to plant it.

Trees for Cities did a great job of catering for familes, offering all kinds of child-friendly activities. While I was running Sam and Scarlett had their faces painted in exchange for a donation to keep those trees being planted. This was top quality work (see below), and plenty of grown ups were also taking advantage of the face-artistry on site! After the race the kids and I also had a go at hulahooping, and there was sack racing, space hoppers, ‘cutting and sticking’ and drawing on offer too.

As we sat enjoying the band and eating lunch Sam turned to me and said: “I’m really glad you did this today. Was it very hard to do?” Awwww….there were some older children running too, so I told him maybe in a few years he could do it with me if he wanted to.

I absolutely loved the whole experience- all four of us had a great time. I would definitely do it again. This is the start of running for me- I am aiming to keep going and see if I can push my distance up to 10 km over the next few months, once I am better and have handed in my dissertation.

Running For Trees: Week NINE- Running my first 5km in Wales #Treeathlon

On Friday we jumped in the car and drove across the big bridge (always exciting!) to the Welsh valleys to see our wonderful friends Ann and Nic and their fabulous respective families. On Saturday we picnicked in the centre of the amphitheatre at Caerleon, the best preserved Roman amphitheatre in the UK.

It was a beautiful sunny day and for a while we had the place to ourselves, an unexpected delight. The turf covered remains of the walls were great for the kids to climb on and lob frisbees and balls about too. After our feast we headed over to the small-but-perfectly-fascinating museum, where the kids were given a treasure map by a Pirate Lady and had to find clues to be able to open the casket containing a treasure for each of them….Arrrr. I got to try on some replica Roman armour, which was so heavy I couldn’t imagine walking anywhere in it, let alone marching about and fighting in it.

Yesterday morning Nic looked after Sam while I went for my second run of Week Nine, the last week of training in the NHS programme I have been following, ‘Couch Potato to 5k’. Taking my route through the local park, with the mountains at my back, I ran past kids playing rugby, the bandstand and the forest garden, and out through the other side, along the river, to the next village. I jogged past the premises of the local Male Voice Choir, at that point feeling like I had ticked off a lot of stereotypically ‘Welsh’ activities. What struck me though , apart from the river, the glorious amount of green and the breathtaking mountains, was the relaxed traditional ‘Sunday’ vibes in the air. The people walking dogs, ready with smiles and Good Mornings. The kids playing in the well-tended park. Everyone busy doing Sunday stuff.

I was busy running. I discovered on my first run of Week 9 that although I am able to run for 30 minutes without any trouble, I am only running about 4km instead of the 5k I have been working towards. In two weeks I run the Treeathlon for Trees For Cities and I am hoping to improve my speed in that time. With that in mind, yesterday I decided mid-run to see if I could run for 40 minutes and whether that would take me to my goal of 5km. And it did! I ran for 40 minutes with no problems apart from aching legs and when I mapped the run later I found out I was just at 5km! In the next two weeks I will aim to get to 5km in 35 minutes- I have no idea if that’s achievable but I’m going to give it a go.

After my run we had a delicious vegetarian brunch and then took the kids to the park, where a brass band was playing. Home again via the allotments to pick beans and raspberries and then a cup of tea in the garden whilst helping my friend clean the onions she had just dug up, ready for drying out.

My idea of a perfect weekend! I feel very lucky.

I have two weeks left before I run round Battersea Park to raise money for Trees For Cities. I am so close to my target, thanks to the generosity of friends and family. Please help me reach it! My Just Giving page is here.