Sunday, 30 November 2014

Back of the pack

South London Harriers organise the Pirie 10
Kent Women (and honorary woman Hugh) prepare
The fast women. And me.
Cake and tea post race
Day 230
A ten mile race across Farthing Downs, through Happy Valley. A  lovely, muddy, hilly experience. I did it at the back of the pack in 1:24 or thereabouts. I thought I'd be able to do more sub 8 minute miles than I did. The hills slowed me right down, I just couldn't keep anywhere near the other women. Depressing. 

The race is named after Gordon Pirie, once the pride of South London Harriers. The man who started us off announced with pride 'there is absolutely noting on offer round the course. He meant no water stations, gel collections, people with Jelly Babies etc. Just as old-school athletes like  Gordon would have run it. It's wonderful to run in an event close to London that costs just £8 to enter, and has so few rules, regulations, frills, goody bags and all the rest of that mallarkey. People who take part in idiotic challenges such as Tough Mudder and the rest pay about £40 to get as muddy as we did this morning. This was the real deal.
 I was hugely intrigued by the V55 winning woman, who I think ran the course about 10 minutes faster than me. I need to train specifically for fast cross country. It can start with more practise on the Hillyfields Parkrun course. Do not be discouraged. 

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Inspiration, motivation, preparation

The chap in front here won in 18mins. He is a junior doctor.
Wonder what time these young women are doing these days. Both are Parkrun friends
Day 229

Rest before the big race, so voluncheer at Parkrun. I see people I used to beat can now run times much faster than my PB. Try not to be depressed. Try to rest my legs, sitting down on trains and bus on my way to and from Polka Theatre (reviewing Peter Pan). Try to eat more carbs earlier in the day. Eggs and spinach for dinner. Beet drink bought. Lift organised. Walk three miles in total, thanks to being a numpty.

Running a fast 5k across country looks easy from my hi-viz position as a Parkrun voluncheer. My injured friend Andy, with his snapped achilles, was true to his word and manoevred his way on his crutche, up to the course to voluncheer. I was operating the scanner and had a happy, social time. Irritatingly I spent a good deal more time on my feet than planned – active recovery – as I had to walk back up there (another 2 miles there and back) having inadvertently taken the scanner home. The second-placed woman in this morning's Parkrun, Caroline, who also runs for Kent AC also, ran hard. She is running tomorrow's Pirie, like me. I felt inadequate for resting, but have to remind myelf I'm 20 years older. I need to make the most of non-run days and try to get to the start line in good shape. So I chose not to go out tonight.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Overtraining - pointless effort

We Are Gazelles
Day 228
Up at 5am, to prepare for the We Are Gazelles training session: hill repeats, big efforts, for one hour with fellow idiots. In the dark. Sleep deprived, plagued by 'power surges' that did nothing for my leg power, feeling nauseated and carb faced.

It was idiotic to train today, or at least to get up so early to train. I'd gone to bed really late, inadequately nourished (mostly full of biscuits), drank a ill advised coffee and expected to run energetically. Fat chance.
One of the basic tenets of successful running is treating rest, recovery and nutrition with the same respect as actually getting out there to train. I've fallen into the trap of believing running often, however badly, will do me some good. Overtraining is dangerous. It compromises your immune system, it  wastes your time, it makes you susceptible to overeating and, most dangerous of all it can get you injured. A serious injury now would be disastrous, as one of our number demonstrated, He's on crutches, his entire lower leg encased in a big orthopaedic boot (you can just see it in the photo. He spent the session doing press ups and other upper body exercises). A sprint session too far snapped his Achilles tendon. He'll be unable to run for several months. All plans cancelled. 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Trainer, blame thyself

Taking comfort in the sunshine and wildfowl
Day 227

Erik cancelled out training, as it was raining at 7.30am, but by 9.30am the sun had come out and the day looked fair for Buggy Runners Buggy Runners

It's usually fun being a coach. This morning, at a bit of a loose end, because my own training was cancelled, I went to Decathlon next to Southwark Park and bought myself a minty green length of rubber – a resistance band – I tried it out while the women did their 5 minute run, then had them do side leg lifts using it tied to an immovable object.

My insomnia is making me slow and hungry by day, though, and my mood plummeted further when one of my women pulled a muscle in her back while performing strides. I am now all a lather with worry. Will her injury persist? Will she blame me? Should I have allowed them to do strides (which are quite vigorous?) Am I to blame?

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Thinking about Mallorca

Who wouldn't, in drab weather like this?
Day 226
A dark, dank, soggy day. A weary Wednesday, but it is time to embark on recovery running post Tuesday training. So this morning I was up betimes (6.30am) for an easy three miler before an overlarge breakfast. Then cycling to and from work. An even wearier Wednesday, total physical exhaustion. And yet I cannot sleep.

Slow at work, so I wrote up my 261 Fearless piece, for Women's Running magazine

If you’re a woman, and you like running, the name Kathrine Switzer may well mean something to you. Perhaps the number 261 rings some bells too. The name and number caused a massive kerfuffle in the running world in the 1960s, and the continuing influence of both on women’s running is being celebrated in a campaign launched by Kathrine Switzer, which she’d like to share with all of you.
KW Switzer was the unisex name Kathrine registered on her entry form for the Boston Marathon in 1967. In those days, women weren’t allowed to run further than 10k, because the (male) Powers That Were reckoned going further would make their wombs drop out (at least they cited female gynaecology and perceived frailty as a reason for their denying women the joy of competitive distance running). Having trained hard for the race, she lined up in her grey tracksuit on a freezing, wet Boston day and set off on the gun. A couple of mile in, some officials noticed her, tried to run her off the track and forcibly remove her number (261). Her then boyfriend sent the jobsworths flying, and she continued, shaken and anxious, to finish the 26.2 miles. Thus began a campaign to open up the marathon distance to both sexes, which was achieved while achieving a marathon personal best of 2 hours and 51 minutes.

An award winning sports journalist, race organiser and all-round influencer, Kathrine Switzer continues to campaign for women’s rights, which is where her 261 Fearless  campaign comes in. It came first to global attention at the end of last March, when she launched the first ever 261 Women’s Marathon in Mallorca. I, along with many women from across the world, ran the race. Kathrine was at the finish line, and made a point of hugging every single woman who crossed it. It was a fantastic run, taking in the beautiful seafront and the sights of Palma. Finishers received an elegant pearl medal, there were flowers everywhere, even in the fragrant portaloos (thoughtfully equipped with tampons).
Next year, the 261 Women’s marathon takes place on International Women’s Day, 8 March, in Palma, Mallorca. We’re all booking our tickets now. I’ll be training for the Virgin London Marathon, which takes place six weeks later, so I may decide to run the 261 10K race, which takes place on the same day, in the same place.
Even if a March run in Mallorca is a step too far in your running schedule, you can be a part of Kathrine’s 261 Fearless Campaign, launched to reach out to women everywhere. She learned how running can set you free at a very tender age, when her father suggested she run a mile every day to become strong and swift enough to make the school hockey team. Like many beginners, she found running non-stop for this huge distance left her red-faced, jelly legged and utterly hooked. She ran that mile, every day and has been a strong, confident runner ever since. She says that running gave her
‘A sense of empowerment that no-one could take away from me.’
Many of us, who run with, or coach, all-women groups can vouch for the fact that just meeting up with other likeminded souls creates a bond. We help eachother, we grow in confidence as we train. The best groups attract women of all ages, all shapes, all levels of fitness: with our love of running, we are all speaking the same language. Kathrine wants women who may struggle to be heard to use running as a means of communication. She writes
261 clubs, events, charms, and even simple messages are being started as a way to reach out to women– many of whom live in fearful situations, and need fearless friends.’
Do you want to join in? Find out more at

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Between efforts

Day 225
Erik demonstrates rotation

and advises keeping up with the paperwork

This morning's session with Erik: Arm Swings with weights, Battle Rope, Rotation, leg lifts, blades, squats.
A limited performance from me, after a rather sleepless night.
This evening's Kent AC session consisted of 1m warm up, then 4m fast (as possible) then a mile warm down. Followed by a pint and a packet of crisps in the pub.

It's the inbetween that seems so interminable. As the stuffy office day wears on after such a promising start with Erik training, you ask yourself, shall I give it a miss tonight? My plantar fasciitis/peroneal tendonitis is playing up, I promise I'll go home and stretch and eat healthily and grab an early night. However, the hopelessness I feel after an unstimulating seven hours in the office is nicely banished by a hard run with my fellow club members. How can I have even considered ducking out of club night?
However, I've let my tired old muscles stiffen up post interval trainng, while sitting in the pub exchanging marathon stories - such balm for the ambition. After a chat like that I believe I can really knock 13 minutes off my marathon PB on 26 April. I haven't long to improve speed and endurance. Real ale and crisps aren't really going to help.

Monday, 24 November 2014

After the deluge

My cycle ride to just want to keep cycling
Dusk viewed pinkly from my office window
Day 224

Monday. Cycle to work on a sharp, goldenish, blue sky day. Fingers numb under two pairs of gloves. Rest from running day, but I try to cycle energetically, and I climb the 140 stairs four times, as is my wont. The plan should be to get up from my desk once every hour, and do those stairs, in preparation for Tower 42.

After the immensely soggy, immensely active weekend I feel weary and achey. There is a pain down the side of my calf and I'm pretty sorry I Googled it, given the amount of information about peroneal tendonitits I now wish I hadn't read. I sat at my desk and dealt with worky things and all the time looked at the glorious blue, fresh early winter day outside. When the day began to fade and the boiling hot radiator at my back caused a 'is it me, or is it hot in here?' middle-aged moment I wished I could go out for a leg stretcher before darkness fell. At least I had a pleasant interlude at lunch-time. sitting out on a bench in Embankment Gardens, in the weak winter sun rays, eating my lunch and pondering the perfect job.

Sunday, 23 November 2014


The ten miler took us to Beckenham Place Park and back
Stir Up Sunday - Christmas puds don't make themselves
The cat stretch, as demonstrated by the cat
Day 223

A wet long run of 10 miles with aching gluts from yesterday's effort. The pace seemed a little brisk - 8.45m/m not far off my marathon pace, so I should not be running this fast on LSRs. Still, I enjoy the craic with fellow Kent AC marathoners, especially in this execrable weather. 

It started raining yesterday. By this morning it was torrential. It has not stopped and it's 10,15pm.
These Sundays are always such a welter of running, domestics and subsequent exhaustion. It would be good to do what ordinary mortals do on a Sunday. I certainly eat a lot, but trying to catch up on all things family/house/garden causes huge amounts of stress. So much remains undone, not least the recommended plantar fasciitis stretches. Two pairs of running shoes sit drying out, stuffed with newspaper, after a weekend's running notable for vast amounts of mud and floodwater.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Cross country - muddy marvellous

This morning I volunteered at Parkrun
Then I was the slowest in the team at a cross country race in Wimbledon
It was muddy
Day 222

A couple of miles walking - to Hillyfields Parkrun - where I operated the timing scanner
A cycle to Forest Hill, to catch the train to Wimbledon, where I took part in a gruelling, hilly, muddy five miler. My plan to stay under 8m/m pace and finish the race in under 40 minutes backfired, and I tipped into the 42s. I was last in my team (although the slow ones weren't there today). However: Could Do Better is the verdict. 

How to do better? Follow a strict diet of chia seeds and protein shakes?
Run more miles per week?
Stretch more?
More speed work?
More cross training?
Try a spinning class (two of the fastest women do at east one session of spinning per week)

All of the above?

It is always these gloriously clubby cross country races that leave me desperate to raise my game. It's because you cannot feel smug beating all the fun runners. Because there are no fun runners. Nonetheless, I still love cross country. I hope I always do. Hell, people pay upwards of £30 to get this muddy, yet as a clubrunner I get the races free, and the camaraderie comes as standard.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Habit forming

Early runs in the dark will become a necessity over the next three months
Day 221
A three-mile recovery run at 6.30am, starting comfortable and upping the pace to a third mile that ended at 7.49m/m. Realisation that I need to be able to run steady 8:35s for the full 26m on 26.04.2015 has galvanised me into action, hence the decision to up mileage, plantar fasciitis/related aches permitting.

Twenty days ago I wrote a blog entitled 'Hangs head in shame', in which I (pretty typically) made some fantastic claims about the way I shall clean up some shabby habits and adopt some new, healthier ones. It was, of course, after a bad Parkrun time.
It is with some chagrin, then, that I note that life is even more chaotic, because procrastination, easy distraction, lack of motivation... gluttony, apathy and self-pity have been allowed to grow rampant. I have not checked them. It is quite difficult to enumerate what exactly I have achieved, both professionally and as a runner.
It's interesting to note that three weeks have passed since I promised to shake it all down and get going. The perceived wisdom (erroneous, it turns out) is that it takes 21 days to make some resolution into a habit. If it were true, the 1 November vows would be the apogee of abject failure.
So, this is a lesson in not being too reactive. I ran a bad race. I am not a bad runner, and making extravagant claims about changing ingrained habits is pointless. I have four months to up mileage - sensibly, in small increments - and match that with appropriate amounts of sleep and food.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Pick the right role model

Erik has decided to call his business Team 6

Day 220
Thursdays are great: a session with Erik (battles ropes, halo squats, bicep curls, one arm stretches, rotation, side raises).
A crisp, promising late autumn morning

After that. I cycle happily to Southwark Park (this week weighed down by 2x2kg dumbbells as well as the yoga mat), for my Buggy Runners session with Paula and Anuja and the babies: warm up, dynamic stretches, strides, jogs, faster work punctuated by squats, weights, rotations, then 4-min cross country. Power walk to new location, then some sprints, lunges and apparatus and mat work.
Cycle to and from work. Very tired.
Southwark Park, the area where I time their 'long' run -

Role modelling
The Better Bones blog, which I follow with interest, had an interesting suggestion for its readers today: identifying women we admire who are at least 15 years older than ourselves, and aim to be just like them.  I don't know that many older women. I admire my sharp 94 year old auntie, Gill, but shudder at the thought of ending up like my demented 86-year-old godmother. Some of my friends are between 5 and 10 years older than me, and I admire them. It's important not to go down the route of fixating on sacred celebrities beloved of magazines like Good Housekeeping (you know their cover girl roster: Lulu, Helen Mirren, Joanna Lumley etc). You can't admire anyone you don't know well.
It made me consider my own potential as role model though. The young women who attend Buggy Runners are presumably in their early 30s. I, as their coach, encourage them, push them a little, inform them, I hope I don't patronise them, in that 'awesome abs' PT way.  I hope they find me helpful (I do at least look after their babies while they practise strides, sprints, squats and skips). Perhaps they think I'm a frightful old bore. Who knows, at least I feel I am doing some good.

"When I am an old woman I shall wear purple 
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me''. 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

More thoughts on the midlife woman

  Rediscover your joie de vivre
Day 219

Achey buttocks following yesterday's training, a leisurely cycle to work, 4xstair climbs to the seventh floor (might as well put the underemployment in this lofty office space to good use).

Because I'm worth it. I will attend this event (pictured above) in the hope that a) I will find the golden key to managing the inexorable onset of the big M (enopause) in a beautiful, mindful, athletic way and b) cut through the indecision surrounding my so-called career. The two are of course related. I  think one of the worst things about being this age is the sudden realisation is that people are seeing a very different person to the one you believe yourself to be. This can make you a little fearful and defeated. Recent conversations with Kathrine Switzer and  Edith of Running Zuschi have brought such feelings to light. The job is now to bring all these ideas together, and bring women together, because there are so many who feel just like me.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

A veteran from the start

Erik Lee puts 'you girls'  through their paces once again
Day 211
Our Erik session was truncated because of work commitments and the rain that seemed set to stay. We did boxing, blades, leg lifts, ball slams, weighted lunges, waist twisting.
In the evening, the trains prevented my getting to the  Kent AC track session on time, so I only managed 5x800m (in each the first 400m at 10k pace, the second at 5k pace) with a 1m recovery.  

Thinking, writing and developing ideas about the midlife woman runners is continuing to exercise my brain as I train. I know that running, and focusing on my hopes for VLM 2015 is seeing me through a challenging time. I wonder if my coming to running so late in life (I was 44 years old when I ran my first 5km race) is in some ways an advantage, when it comes to reconciling the self to the physical and emotional changes that seem to dominate more with every passing birthday. All women fear the invisibility that comes with the end of fertility. Nature sees no reason to keep women sexually attractive, instead, the natural tendency is to lay down protective fat, and by association, keep us cuddly for our grandchildren. So why does this come with an unhealthy side of depression and grieving? Is it because in the old days, we'd be slowing down for death, instead of bleakly looking at a further 30  years of being sidelined in our professions, ignored by men and pitied by our lissom daughters?
And coming to running late in life? Well, it meant that I did not experience that inevitably distressing experience of becoming a 'veteran'. In athletics, everyone over the age of 35 is thus categorised, which must be a little galling for club runners who still reckon they're spring chickens. I have only ever been a I suppose I'm under no illusions.
I've gone off my point, but need to bathe and sleep. I'll be back on point tomorrow.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Toilet training

The view from the throne. Thames in the distance
Day 217

Es regnet. Luckily, not for long, thought the streets were wet, my gears playing up, and the cycle ride hardly a barrel of laughs. A slow work day, sitting on my arse at a desk. Not much time for stretching or morning yoga, as I had to spend the early morning putting the finishing touches to a review due in before 9am. 

Mental and financial health benefits from gainful employ for the next couple of weeks, but having a job in an office does nothing for the training. I've been here since 27 October and have not exactly been inundated with work. It is a weird business, this lull in the schedule I am currently experiencing. I'm sitting at a desk, feeling under employed, but knowing I can claim my daily rate. It's guilt inducing, when you remind yourself of the minimum wage and the zero-hours contracts endured by the unskilled. My contract is zero-hours, in that when I'm not booked, I can go weeks without earning a bean. Of course, sitting here like a pudding, fretting about work will not help my fitness. While everything is quiet, I should get moving. There are 120 stairs I could climb to train for  this. Running down to street level and up to my desk again takes only 3 or 4 minutes. I could do that 8 times and noone would notice my absence. In between, I could go to my customary stretching place, the spacious disabled loo, pictured (the window view at least) above. It is horrifyingh ow easy it is to sit and surf the web for hours on end instead. Fortunately, the gluts and hip flexors protest after an hour or so's confinement to a chair, so although I don't put in the activity that I could and should, I do at least get moving, about once an hour.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Running in a trance

Day 16

Sunday long run Having risen at 3.30am to take son and GF to Stansted for 6am plane, then returned to bed for an hour or more, I rose again, Lazarus style,  for a 10mile run to Limehouse and the canal path, where I met my buddies coming back. Pace was variable, with one mile at 7.30am/min/mile and others nearer 9m/m

To be frank, I ran in a pretty dead-eyed state, feeling wiped out and asleep on my feet. I perked up when I joined the others, but by the end felt sick and deeply fatigued. Despite not feeling properly hungry, I managed to put away more treats and meals than was strictly necessary.
Limehouse warehouse and me, dead-eyed, dilapidated

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Dusk till dawn

Lovely show I saw today
Day 215

A walk to Lewisham to have coffee with nephew, after a heavy night partying, then a cycle to Waterloo to see the above, sleepily.

My fifth day of sleep deprivation. Last night's bedtime was in fact 3am, then I got up at 7am for washing up, clearing up, and hosting a fry up.
I feel as if the top of my head has been sliced off. I have to rise at 3.3am tomorrow to take son and girlfriend to airport. That will be night number six on an average of four hours sleep. Suffering.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Festively plump

'Tis not yet the season

Day 214
Last night's carousing and this morning's promise of a dousing by the incessant rain precluded the bike as a commuting option. In any case, I ended up cycling from Tooting early this morning (2am) with a bellyful of Prosecco and rich food. No fit state.

On this day, 25 years ago, John Alexander Haydon Jones was born. This evening various members of his family and friendship to raise a glass and eat more rich food (in his rather bloated mama's case), plus cake, in his honour.  They will also be wetting the foetus's head, or at least congratulating him on the baby due on April 5.
So, this is not a training day. This is a second eating/drinking/sleep depriving celebration day. There are more to come. No sleep until Sunday, this is the first of many training haituses (haiti?) what with Christmas on the horizon. I feel fat already.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Baby steps

While babies snooze, mamas work out

Day 213

Cycle to meet Erik and my gang, but all is quiet in Hillyfields. That's when I turn on phone (!) belatedly discovered a van-breakdown text from Erik. So, straight to Southwark Park for a short warm-up run and session on the outdoor gym until my Buggy Runners show up, after which, a cycle to work, then cycling to book club in Tooting.

Three Buggy Runners turned up for the session today. I worry that I make them do too much. One woman was slightly defeated by the 3-minute 'no walking, but you can jog,  run', but another loved it, and kept up a pretty decent pace. Some of the step ups they had to do at the bandstand were quite challenging, but alternated with shallower stairs. It was pleasing to hear that they thought the session would make them ache, but they rate the ache. I know what they mean. It's fascinating to think harder about easing into training gently, stepping up the effort week by week, and it helps my return to training too. I am beginning to panic about never being able to regain my summer speed, but I just need to concentrate on all the running peripherals: the cross training, core work, cleaning up the diet and focusing on the clean, uncompromised sleep. I like to think I'm learning from the breakthroughs experienced by these new mums as they work back to fitness, and that they're learning from me.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Hygge, gemütlichkeit and a wet day in November

The path that leads to my bike...and a soggy commute in prospect

Day 212

The rain hammering down at 6am is enough to abort a half-formed plan to run the seven miles into work. In any case, running with one's day clothes in a rucksack is irritating. So a bit of core work in the warm and dry, followed by porridge and a splash through the sodden garden to the bikeshed.

My son and his pregnant girlfriend are over from Berlin. I am practising my Deutsch and thinking about lovely words like gemütlichkeit, as well as that adored Danish almost equivalent, hygge (the feeling you get when looking at cold, dark outdoors from the roaring-fire warmed cabin) The weather has taken a turn for the worse, it's soggy and windy, and the beginnings of a cold made me almost decide to leave the bike, and myself, at home. The days when indoors feels cosy and inviting, when you wonder about when you'll light the first fire of the season, are fast approaching. I suppose I'm thinking about such comfortable things because I'm beginning to worry about the cross country season. My first race (having missed the October meet) is on 22 November and I am so slow at the moment. Hibernation is not going to help this situation. Ten days to toughen up and face the muddy music, which means running my usual week's quota (Parkrun, LongRun, Intervals, Tempo, Hills, Easy Recovery), except for the next four days I am expected to be apron clad, wooden spoon wielding Mama, raising glasses to my grandchild in utero and lovingly welcoming the wider family into the hygge bosom of my home. Does not compute.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The collected sayings of Erik Lee

Flippin' tyres
Day 211

This morning was 8am training with Erik Lee. With strong women Alana, Hyacinth and Rebecca. A bit of a walk at lunch time, and a few runs up and down the 120 stairs to the 7th floor office, mindful of the January Training Day for a stair running feature I'll be writing for this esteemed organ

'You girls have got to learn to kill yourselves'
'Do it with purpose, it's not a circus'
'Greatness is not available on discount'

Sometimes Erik utters something motivational and we all fall about. The quotes above are not quite right. I always vow I'll remember them and then by the time I sit here to record my training day I've forgotten those bons mots.

Another way Erik makes me set my jaw and try to 'beat myself up' is by waxing lyrical about the strength and fitness of the other women he trains, at other times. While I was flipping this tyre, quite happy with my 16reps/minute, he mused aloud about a woman who did 20 on her first try.

I tried to do 20, made it to 17 and now have a target.

This 52-year-old woman, who has just discovered she's to become a grandma, tries to beat some unknown 20-something, practically giving herself a rupture in the process. Still, we have to learn to kill ourselves.

Monday, 10 November 2014

PT - short for patronising

Wanna be in our gang?

Day 210
Pollyanna feelings on the sunny bike ride into work. As darkness falls and rain gathers, and gloomy news comes in from the home front, one's blessings seem to blur around the edges a little, but one can still count them. I'm still pondering, as I sit eating Dairy Milk (pesky work colleagues) at my desk, the 'getting women out there' issue.

Personal trainers of my acquaintance use the word 'awesome' a lot. Their enthusiasm is so all-enveloping, their commitment so total, you wonder what they're like when they come to rest, sitting alone in their bedrooms. Of course they must experience moments of self-doubt, mornings when the desire to roll over and go back to sleep is overwhelming, mid-mornings when the chocolate digestives seem too alluring to ignore, dark, cold evenings when the lean protein and kale cuts an unappetising figure in the face of a quick diversion to the chippy. Perhaps they sometimes give into the urge to indulge. Perhaps being a Personal Trainer gives you the wherewithal to turn a chiselled cheek to the temptations of the flesh. Certainly, if you have rock hard abdominals, you only have to lift your moisture-wicking T shirt to remind you what you have to do to keep them toned, and that doesn't include a fish supper and a few pints, followed by Ben & Jerry ice cream in a drunken fug of self loathing. Conversely, if you don't dare lift your T, for fear of the belly you'll see, and if going for a walk makes you breathless, hurts your chest, makes your thighs sore from rubbing together, and your heart sore because you're afraid that people are staring at wonder it's easier to stay indoors and make yourself feel better in non heart pumping ways. 
These are the people that need to take the first steps, with encouragement and understanding, and perhaps without use of the word 'awesome'.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

The great leveller

In the long run, it's all about having fun
Club runners come from all walks of life     

Day 209
The long Sunday run, it was decided, would take us as far as the Tower of London, where we would take the last opportunity to see the 800,000-odd ceramic poopies, planted in the grounds, each flower representing one of the fallen in 1914-1918 war. 
The run was 11miles, there and back from Greenwich Park, at an easy 9-minute mile pace, so plenty of chat.

Our company consisted of a barely employed writer and editor, an architect, a doctor, a psychiatrist, an arts promoter, a fund manager or somesuch...I don't know what the others do, but sometimes we also have a painter and decorator and a shop worker with us. All walks of life, many different nationalities, a wide range of ages, some of us are rich, some are poor, some have children, some do not. All of us love running.
Yesterday Kathrine Switzer referred to running as the great leveller, because when you're all dressed in running gear and working up a sweat, no-one is thinking about how rich and successful their companion is, how fortunate or unfortunate. That is the message we need to get across when we're trying to spread the word about how good running makes you feel. Kate (a doctor working in the field of women's contraceptive health in Woolwich) and I talked about 261 Fearless and its aim to reach out to disempowered women. However, it is so hard to try to promote physical activity to those who most need it. An irritatingly bouncy, fit, sporty type telling you to go out for a run when you're depressed, stressed, impoverished, beleaguered, comfort eating and smoking but hating yourself because you're overweight and breathless after walking half a mile – well, you'd tell them to f*** off, wouldn't you? So how do you try to get the message across without alienating people? It will need to be handled with delicacy and imagination. Enthusiasm is not enough. 

Pause for thought, if not silence:

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Training fearlessly

From left: Edith, Beatrice, Ronnie, Miriam, Kathrine, Juliet, Sonia and Astrid

Day 208
A cycle to East Croydon to attend the final day of 261Fearless Training launch. Plans, ambitions, visions, motivational speakers...a unique approach to training pioneered by the great Women's Running pioneer, Kathrine Switzer.

'So what do you want to develop from this blog – A Year of Training Dangerously?' Kathrine Switzer asks me, as we discuss hopes, dreams and ambition in the context of her new global initiative 261 Fearless Training. Banishing visions of knife throwing and tightrope walking, I put her right on the name of this blog, but then found myself telling this inspirational group of runners and trainers my menopausal runners theory, and how I want to get other women to run their way out of invisibility and the apathy that comes with hormonal upheaval. How maybe a 'Grumpy Old Women' running club might help non running midlifers find meaning. However, as we discussed later on, the beauty of all-women running groups is how they help all women, of all ages, connect and have fun. Perhaps putting people in a same-age ghetto is not such a great idea. Lots to think about.
More on the 261 Fearless campaign anon.

Friday, 7 November 2014

We are Gazelles

Day 207
We are Gazelles at 6.15am. Hill sprints, step sprints, fox and hounds. The cycling to and from work. Cream crackered

Greenwich Park was in darkness, and over the river, Docklands all fairy    lights   

Daylight took its time, but it crept up while we toiled up the hills
The obligatory selfie. Clearly knackered
Geese confused by standing water on the road. Where's the pond?
Nutmeg wasn't having any of this group photo malarkey      ....................................................and all before 7.30am  

Thursday, 6 November 2014

The trained and the trainer

Squats and slams Hillyfields

Pull down and brace up Southwark Park
Day 206

Clear, blue, cold weather. All muffled up for the first ten minutes, until a few minutes of ball and tyre slams, battle rope, squats, biceps and tricep weights and underground necessitate the shedding of a few layers, and you can't imagine feeling cold again. After an hour in Erik's playground, it's over to Southwark Park to preach what I have practised. Thanks, Erik Lee.

Try as I might to remember Erik Lee's bons mots, especially the ones that make me guffaw whilst trying to bicep curl the weights, they slip my mind as I go through the day, and when I'm writing this, I'm wracking my brains to recall the amusing 'circus' comment he made this morning. There's even more reason to inwardly digest his advice these days, as I've returned to coaching, and I'd love to do more.
My clients are a group of newish mothers, who come with their babies in the buggies for an hour's worth of running training in Southwark Park. I'm the latest coach to be recruited by Ellie Brown of  Buggy Runners, fame. There's something very satisfying about leading a training session while still buzzing with joie de vivre having sweated through your own. It's physical work, though, and would be tricky to do full time.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Cycle Logical

Bit of a detour on a late autumn day
Day 205

A crisp, bright, November day: cycled to and from Waterloo Bridge from Catford for work, and jogged across Waterloo Bridge twice as part of an extended lunch hour. All grist to the mill.

The transition from summer to winter training is always difficult....dredging out the right (warm enough) kit, the old worries about whether to cover up your skin tight running tights with a pair of shorts to cover your modesty....long sleeved tops under T-shirts - is that too Sheldon off Big Bang Theory? Then there's the lack of daylight hours and the overwhelming urge, precipitated by work stress, family stress, general malaise and persistent injury, to hibernate.
It is time to sort out my winter timetable, and to make the most of bright, crisp mornings like this.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Warming to the theme again

It's beginning to feel a lot like winter
Day 204

Circuit training with Alana, Hyacinth and Erik, courtesy of Team Shape U, and in the evening, my first track session in weeks, overseen by Coach Adrian Musson of Kent AC 
The morning was all about the arms and back, pull ups, arm swings with weights, presses, battle rope etc. I felt weak and half asleep. This evening's session, a mile warm up followed by 6x1000m, that's 22 times round the track, left me in a happier place.

My strength is coming back. I may not have been with the frontrunners, and Vicar's Hill and Hillyfields training may have defeated me in my barely awake state this morning, but this evening I rallied. The last 200m of every 1km rep I tried to sprint. Of course it was not a sprint, but I extended and pumped arms and had that stretched feeling in the stomach that goes with proper effort. For the first time in weeks I did not feel like giving in, but rather had a tantalising taste of running well. That satisfaction, I hope, will prompt more committed recovery efforts to nail this PF once and for all. Off I go to the stairs for my fascia stretching exercise.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Reading is not doing, is it, Ronnie?

Day 203

Work day. Cycling in and home again in suddenly cold weather. Long running tights are the order of the season. An email from Ellie Brown today includes an interesting link about plantar fasciitis (hereinafter referred to as PF)
Thanks to the New York Times, picture by Michael Skovdal Rathleff
 Rolling my right foot on a cricket ball, pulling back my toes toward the shin, stretching and rolling my calves, circling my foot...I keep on keeping on at the old PF. I have spent £70 on some more cushioned trainers. Meanwhile, one of the faster runners in my club, similarly afflicted, is undergoing a series of laser treatments and acupuncture. She has a full time job and no children. Nuff said.
 The NYT article states:

'Until recently, first-line treatments involved stretching and anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen or cortisone. But many scientists now believe that anti-inflammatories are unwarranted, because the condition involves little inflammation. Stretching is still commonly recommended.
But the new study, published in August in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, finds that a single exercise could be even more effective. It requires standing barefoot on the affected leg on a stair or box, with a rolled-up towel resting beneath the toes of the sore foot and the heel extending over the edge of the stair or box. The unaffected leg should hang free, bent slightly at the knee.

Then slowly raise and lower the affected heel to a count of three seconds up, two seconds at the top and three seconds down. In the study, once participants could complete 12 repetitions fairly easily, volunteers donned a backpack stuffed with books to add weight. The volunteers performed eight to 12 repetitions of the exercise every other day.'

Of course I will give this exercise a shot, using a couple of 5kg dumbbells instead of faffing around with rucksacks and books. I promise that, although I have little inclination to perform a series of therapeutic exercises after cycling home from work and making the dinner, I'll stretch harder and more frequently. From tomorrow.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Sluggish Sunday

Now there's a gloomy outlook
Day 202

The day after the night before. A blustery suburban walk with husband. Intimations of mortality

In fact it was a jolly day, despite the almost constant rain. A long lie in, tea and papers in bed, leisurely breakfast with friends over West Wickham way, then catching up on work this afternoon. Plagued by hangover, I read that Amy, our top woman at Kent AC has run the New York City Marathon in 2:52. By comparison, I feel as if I could not jog to the end of the road. Perhaps the rest and almost constant eating occasioned by my birthday celebrations will give the plantar fasciitis time to heal, but as I write this I feel it throb. It has been a barrier to decent mileage for more than two months now. I have a race in less than three weeks.
This is the last day of self indulgence. I promise.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Hangs head in shame

My altruistic tendencies may be the reason why...
Siggy, whose birthday is also today, ran rings round me

but it's my birthday and I'll jog if I want to, then pig out at breakfast

Day 201

This was my slowest HillyfieldsParkrun in two years. My legs were weak, my breath was short, I felt like walking.
Today is my 52nd birthday. I have been determinedly cheerful, despite an execrable run this morning. I am really not feeling too well. It cannot just be giving blood two weeks ago (although it does take several weeks for the blood to replenish, as I have said before). Today, though, I feel my new age. Better, though, that I feel really loved. Wonderful, thoughtful presents from family and friends, many greetings, cake and love from Parkrun buddies.  Such love will shove the anxiety out of my head and heart for a day or so.
Then it'll be back to the drawing board, training wise. Sleep, cross training, massage, fartlek, protein. Time to change my ways.
The result was almost three minutes slower than my PB: 25.42. Shame.