The Final Countdown

Here I am, three days from the first half marathon of 2014. I’m feeling pretty good, if truth be known. With 14 miles under my belt from last Monday and a further 5 from yesterday I’m on target for a good finish. I’m not planning on breaking any records, but I am planning on crossing the finish line before the sweeper bus catches me.

Who am I kidding? I’m on target for a 2:20 half which, if I can get close to, I’ll be happy. I’m presently running 3:1 run:walk intervals and doing my trail runs at a faster 1:1 ratio in order to work up some speed. The trail running is definitely making me stronger and more confident.

So far as my kit bag is concerned I’ve got my running number which is a rather scary 39890! Over 40,000 runners? I’m hoping that at least 20,000 are full marathon runners who won’t be starting until I cross the line! Dodging runners was one of the reasons I started entering small races, so we’ll see how this goes.

With my racing number came a sample of High 5 Zero, which I’ve written about before. I was pretty impressed with it, so I’ve bought a tube of tablets. I can just add a tablet to my water, rather than have to cart a juice bottle around. I contacted the 33Shake guys about how to use the chia seed gels and their advice was a bit of a revelation. They said use one per hour of running. So I’m looking at using one and a half. If I break the mileage down I could either do half a gel at 4, 8 and 12 and have half left over or do 3, 6, 9 and 12 and use the lot. I think I’ll call that on the day. At least I now know that I don’t have to try and eat an entire gel at a time, so I’m pretty glad I asked! I’ve also bought some beetroot juice to try. This is meant to be a good boost, but I think I’ll try it tomorrow first – just to be sure!

My running kit is sorted. I tested my Diabetes UK vest yesterday and it’s fine. No chaffing or riding up; I shall be burn and embarrassment free. I will probably wear ¾ leggings, ones which I know are comfortable. I could do with some sunglasses. My trusty Fosters IronGirl shades have departed to sunglass heaven, thanks to one arm falling off. Whether I get some replacements in time, well, we’ll see. Lastly my shoes could do with a clean after my 14 mile dirt run the other week. Leaving them to dry so that the dirt would dust off hasn’t really worked.

I’ve checked the weather forecast and it’s saying humid (93% humidity) and cloudy, turning to light drizzle  about 10 am. It’s still a few days away, so that could change. I’m happy with that though, except for maybe the humidity. I need to remember to take my inhaler!

So that’s it then. I’ve spent the last hour locating my paperwork, gazing quizzically at the EMF website and checking the camping arrangements. I’ve discovered that we need to get to the Park and Ride for 6 am (yes, that’s 6 in the morning!) and that I’ll get dropped off at the start whilst hubby and hound get taken straight to the finish. Undeterred by those arrangements, my husband is seemingly quite happy to wander the streets of Musselburgh for three hours or so. There must be a car sales pitch there, or a boat yard or something of that nature. Jeesh!

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Lastly, my fundraising is going well. I’m up to £150 at the moment. That’s £50 over my race target, so I’m happy. If, however, you want to add to that, here are the details again!

http://www.justgiving.com/Julie-Hollis3

 

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The Great Winter Run 2014

The downhill section!
Pic from greatrun.org

That’s it – the first race of 2014 is well and truly under my slightly expanded festive belt. This race has become a bit of a pilgrimage for us. The 5k I had entered was part of a much larger festival featuring some world class cross country running. Unfortunately this had meant that the entire event had been moved back a week due to TV scheduling, something which had also meant that it wasn’t worth opening my gallery after the Christmas break for a day only to close it again the next day! I know that I wasn’t the only runner who would have preferred the run to have been on the previous weekend. I hope next year that it is moved back!

We arrived at the hotel in Leith, some two miles out of the city centre, late on Friday afternoon. After checking in we went across to the Ocean Terminal (which houses shops, department stores, a large cinema complex and many restaurants) and headed for Bella Italia where I knew I could get gluten free pasta and pizza. A mixed bean salad and lemon risotto was a welcome pre-race meal – filling and packed with energy. We retired early and, having turned off the noisy ventilation, enjoyed a good night’s sleep. My only worry was sleeping in. I’d set my phone alarm to wake us up, but as it was a new phone I was worried I’d done something wrong! I hadn’t and we were eventually woken by “Oh I do like to be beside the seaside.” It was a cold, frosty but clear morning with ice on the ground and bright sunlight bouncing off the buildings around us.

We’ve got the journey to Holyrood Park down to a fine art. The 35 bus runs every 20 minutes, collecting us from immediately outside the hotel and deposits us a short walk from the park just 10 minutes later. I’d decided that catching the 10:08 bus was cutting things a little fine and so decided on the 9:58 bus instead. The race wasn’t due to start until 10:45 and I didn’t need to check my bag in as I’d put what little I needed in my rucksack and hubbie would hang onto that for me. We wandered around a little bit, but the grass was very muddy after a huge amount of rain and it was very cold. Rather than risk getting chilled I went into the baggage drop area to take off my jackets, put my phone arm band on and find a silver foil sheet from my bag to wrap around me. These are amazingly effective and more than made up for me losing two coat layers.

By the time I’d wandered to the start area the warm up had already started. I entered the back of the green corale and joined in with what I could (whilst hanging onto a silver sheet). Before I knew it the hooter had been hooted and we were off!

I’d set my Jeff Galloway 5k app to 9 min miles (which was pushing it a bit for both me and the course!) and running 4:1 intervals. The predicted finish time it had given me was just under 29 minutes. If I was fitter this might be possible, but truth is I’ve had to rein my running right back recently. This has just about cured my Plantar Fasciitis, but also left me gloriously underprepared for anything!

You run along for a quarter of a mile and then you start to climb. And climb. And climb. And climb. In fact you basically climb for three quarters of a mile going from 40m up to 125 m in that time. It’s tough and I’m incredibly envious of those people who can run the whole thing. I managed to stick to my run:walk schedule for the first two intervals, but then I got caught behind slow runners and walkers. I do wish that they would, like I do, think about others  trying to get around them and move across to one side. The path is narrow and it’s packed. If you get folk running slowly, especially with running partners, they effectively form a slow moving wall in front of you. After a walk break I was stuck behind a wall and tried to run on the sift grass to the right of the path, but this just zapped my strength and I ended up walking again not long afterwards. Next year I’ll keep right across to the left and see if that helps!

elevation

My first mile reflects the hill climb, the running walls and all too frequent walk breaks and came in at 12:19. Although the climbing continues after the first mile it does so at a lesser pace. I managed to pick up my pace and stick to the set walk breaks. And enjoy the views! On the climb all you get to see are loads of backsides! Once you get to the top of the hill the whole of Lothian opens out in front of you and you feel as if you are on the top of the world. Enjoying the view also gives you chance to enjoy the race. Mile 2 came in at 10:31. Better, but my average pace was still over 11 min/mile pace.

The views from the top are amazing! Pic from greatrun.org

However the best bit about this race is the last mile. It’s downhill. Well pretty much all downhill. Flat out downhill. Magic! I picked up my heels and leaned into the hill and went for it as safely as I could. I felt good. No heel or calf pain, but a little hip pain in my right hip. It was nothing that was going to slow me down. My best pace was 7:04 min/mile.

The last third of a mile is on the flat and I must admit I was tiring out. Last year I had my hubbie to spur on to the finish and this spurred me on. This year it was all about me. I had to focus on catching someone ahead of me, so I randomly chose a  girl ahead and raced to catch her. Amazingly I caught her as we crossed the line. My last mile was 8:34, one of the fastest miles I’ve ever run.

My medal and T-shirt
My medal and T-shirt

My 3:13 miles came in at 32:34.2 Garmin time, 32:35 chip time giving me an overall pace of 10:25 min/mile. I am happy with that. If I’d had less time off through injury, trained more and covered more miles I might have been a little disappointed not to get closer to 30 minutes, but instead I accepted the time gratefully. I’d knocked 4 minutes off last year’s time (chaperoning my hubbie), run my own race (pretty much) and not suffered any real pain as a result. Today I’m a bit stiff in the right hip flexor and unsurprisingly my quads are aching like mad! I’ve done  30 minutes of yoga this morning which has helped with the muscle ache and stiffness. At least the aches show that I tried very hard!

I received an excellent Goodie Bag as ever, complete with a T-shirt and medal. Unfortunately there wasn’t one thing in the bag I could eat – everything either had nuts or gluten in it! Hubbie thinks that it’s Christmas all over again!

The Goodie Bag!
The Goodie Bag! Full of gluten and nuts – arghh!

We didn’t stay to watch the cross country. We had to get back to the hotel so that I could shower and vacate the room before 2pm. As it was we were out before 1 o’clock and then went for a very cheap lunch at the Handmade Burger Company in the Ocean Terminal. I’d been given a voucher for a £1 burger which meant that we only paid full cost for one meal. On the menu there were a few gluten free vegetarian/vegan options and I chose a chickpea and quinoa burger – which was delicious. Highly recommended!

Will I do this next year? Yes, of course! It’s expensive for a 5k, but not as expensive as some events I’ve recently seen advertised. I’m determined to conquer that climb! I’d love to knock a minute off my time, at least! Above all I like the fact that we are in a city I love. We make a weekend of it – enjoy relaxing in familiar places, visiting favourite haunts. It’s not just about a race; it’s about tradition.

New Shoes!

After my 11 mile run on Monday I have been struggling with plantar fasciitis in my left foot. Through a combination of massage and pressure point relief I have been gradually working this out, although running has been sore this week.  I said in my last post that my faithful Brooks Ghosts have finally reached the end of their running life. Since August last year I’ve run over 650 miles and a majority, probably about 95%, of those were in the Brooks. So they’ve…wait for it…given up the Ghost!

Today I limped along to my local Nike Store. Near to where we live there is a Nike Outlet where you can buy last year’s shoes at massively slashed prices and as I haven’t got a huge purse at the moment I took a trip there today in search of some new shoes.

Much to my husband’s dismay I tried all of them on. Every neutral running shoe in the store in my size ended up on my foot and sometimes on both feet. I eventually narrowed it down to two shoes; The Nike Air Max Retaliate 2 and the Nike Air Free Run. Both fitted well (in half a size bigger than my usual size), were roomy across the toes (which I look for to avoid bruised toes and blisters on the sides of my feet), lightweight and were comfortable. To be honest I couldn’t choose between them. The Free Run had better arch support, but as they are aimed at mimicking a more barefoot style I expected this. The Retaliate had better heel support, but I expected that too.

In the end I chose the Retaliate 2. They were the first shoe I tried on and felt the most comfortable. However I may, due to the low cost, go back at some point to buy the Free Runs as well!

 

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I have intervals to do tomorrow. If the weather is really bad I’ll test out the Retaliates on the treadmill. If not then I’ll be running them in my trusty, dusty Nike Alvords on the trail! Seems I’m becoming a Nike Gal!

 

X Border Challenge 10k

This is a race to see if I can write up this report before my laptop battery fails as I’m  currently typing this sitting in the comfort of my garden hammock and I’m loathed to get out and fetch my charger.

15% charge left…

Yesterday my semi silent coach and I headed across the border into England for the finish of the X Border Challenge 10k. Read on. All will become apparent. We were confused as well.

At the finish, located at Kingmoor Park Estate, was the event registration area and baggage drop as well as a series of buses to take the competitors to the start line back across the border at Gretna! It sounded crazy, it seemed crazy, but it worked.

9%…this battery is naff…

There was ample room for parking, loads of appropriate signage and well informed staff handing out timing chips and numbers. It was one of the smoothest operations I’ve seen. Once I’d collected my number, safety pins and chip I went back to the car to sort myself out with sunscreen and plenty of drink. I’d elected, given the high temperatures, to take an electrolyte replacing drink with me in my Camelbak hydration back pack. It would save me worrying about getting dehydrated and having to carry water. I took 500ml of isotonic lemon and lime from Morrisons. A couple of puffs on my inhaler, a squirt of sunscreen and I was good to go.

7%…I’m now running on reserve battery power! I think I’d better go and get my charger…there, sorted. OK, where was I?

Ah yes, I kissed SSC and got on the waiting bus. It soon filled up and we were on our way down the motorway service road, back to Gretna. The guy I sat next to on the bus had done the race twice before and so knew the routine. Apparently we would be dropped off at the Garden House Hotel from where we’d start and could use their facilities. Proper toilets! Imagine that people!

I nervously started talking to people I didn’t know, probably coming across as a total loon! I saw a couple of runners wearing Crook AC shirts and randomly asked them if they knew a friend of mine who ran in the club only to be assured that “everyone knows Paul!” That’s quite a reputation you have Lord Smythe! I asked them to tell Paul that they’d met the Queen (long story short – Paul thinks I look like Helen Mirren – I don’t, but it’s nice of him to think so and I don’t argue with him!)

I also got talking to a couple of trail runners who convinced me to have a go at a trail race and finally to my friend Nicola who I’d only discovered was running the race the night before. We chatted until the runners were called to the line.

On the word go I immediately lost sight of Nicola – she just disappeared and I just ran on at a slowish pace (so I thought). I was determined, given the heat (it was getting on for 20ºC as we left Gretna) to stick rigidly to my run:walk system until the last mile. It meant I was running faster, but I was getting a proper walk break in between where I could refuel and recover.

I must have passed Nicola on the first hill up out of Gretna because on my first walk break I saw her run past me. I hadn’t seen her, but there were 550 entries, so I guess I’m allowed to miss one person! I apologised as I passed Nicola on my next run break, saying that I was going to start annoying her with my yoyo running style, but that was the last time I saw her.

My first mile came in at 9:17, which was pretty fast. It didn’t feel that fast.

The course ran alongside of the north bound M6 motorway. It was reasonably flat, just a couple of hills and a couple of long rises to contend with. I found myself yoyoing with a group of women who called themselves “Plodders and Proud” amongst a few others who just seemed to accept that I would be running and walking. I kept right out of the way when I was walking, looking over my shoulder at each change in pace. I hate it when folk just stop in front of me so I wouldn’t dream of doing that to anyone else!

As we ran it got hotter. The clouds that we’d had at the start quickly gave way to unbridled sunshine and the breeze that wafted across the Solway soon got blocked by hills. It was like running in a furnace.

I tried to keep to my LoLo beatpace – my songs were telling me when to plant my feet although one or two songs were difficult to fathom. I found that I was running ahead of schedule, which lifted my spirits. My second mile came in at 10:04.

After that the heat and lack of breeze started to wear me down a little. I still ran with commitment to the end of each run segment, but my miles started to slow down. Mile 3: 10:41, mile 4: 10:57 and my slowest mile, mile 5: 11:09. It was still good enough though to put me within spitting distance of my best 10k time of 62 minutes. I saw that at 55 minutes I was under a mile to the finish so I just ran it as best I could.

As I turned into the industrial estate I could see my husband’s smiling face. He shouted me on “Not far to go, you’re nearly there!” and I ran on. I expected to just turn into the car park, but the course led us agonisingly around the back of the estate, out of the breeze and in full glare of the sun, for an extra 4/10 of a mile. However, along that extra bit were members of the RunGeek team, finished runners, their families and, I’m guessing, some people who just like to be nice. They clapped and cheered us on for that last wee bit and as I approached the line I was called across it by the commentator.

Officially my chip says that I did the hottest 10k ever in 64:57 and finished 340th. I’m actually very pleased with that. I’m not sweating the time because I did plenty of sweating to get it! I got a very nice medal and a goody bag full of things I could actually eat (save the 10p bag of Haribos that SSC got).

Now, brace yourselves…the obligatory pictures…

Me and the Bling!
Me and the Bling!
Said Bling
Said Bling
Yon Goodie Bag!
Yon Goodie Bag!

All in all, despite the heat, this was a great race to be part of. The organisation was second to none and the entire experience was positive. I’ll definitely be back next year, although next year I’ll be cuter with my application and make sure that I enter this and the Great Cumbrian Run on the same day so that I can get my £11 discount. I’m still smarting from not being allowed a discount, despite missing the start of the deal by a day.

Today I’m a bit sore. My left heel is bruised, I think, and my quads are aching from the effort. Going down the stairs in the shops this morning was a painful reminder of what I had achieved yesterday! A bath will fix that later. My heel pain though is more of a concern. At about mile 4 I noticed that my heel was hurting and tried to transfer my weight more to the front of my foot as I landed. This may have been down to tiredness, maybe my posture and gait had altered as I started to falter, but I am seriously considering retiring my Ghosts after 350 miles in favour of a new pair of somethings. In the meantime I might just try longer runs in my Skechers, having only done 4 miles in them at the moment. The fact that they make me run more mid foot might help.

Inspiration

I often get inspiration from reading articles in magazines, from reading books and blogs, usually all written by ‘real’ people. When I say ‘real’ what I mean is people who don’t have 24 hour gym membership, a personal trainer and no need to do anything else. People, like me, who have a life beyond running, but to whom running is an important factor.

I’ve just finished catching up with a particularly inspirational blog, written by a chap who often takes time to come here and encourage me. Take a look at OldRunningFox’s blog – Gordon is in his 80s and didn’t start running until he was older than I am now. His race times are amazing and I’ll be lucky to even come close to some, but, inspired by them, I will try!

In reading Gordon’s latest few entries I suddenly realised that I have a place nearby for practising intervals. I’m not yet sure how long it is, definitely 200m at least, and it’s not totally flat, but near enough. It’s a road, but a rarely used one. The most I see on a run is maybe a tractor, just one, or maybe a Land Rover. Just farm traffic going between fields. It’s two miles from home, so a decent warm up run there and cool down run back. If time is short I can drive and park up in a gateway.

After my 10k race on Sunday I start my half marathon training again. And this time I will faithfully do my intervals. I want to get faster, even if it’s by seconds. I’ll reserve the treadmill for absolute necessity only and concentrate on getting my little legs rotating a little faster!

Find Gordon’s blog at http://oldrunningfox.blogspot.co.uk/ – I rarely recommend a blog, so please check it out and prove my conviction!

The Almosts and the Nearlys

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For the last two weeks, this has been my running track. As you will have gleaned from my last post, we were holidaying in the north of Scotland in the Sutherland town of Brora. It’s a beautiful part of the world and this holiday we were blessed with fantastic Mediterranean-like weather. We were camping just the other side of the dunes from this wonderful beach which was exactly two miles long from end to end (actually it would have been slightly longer, but at the far north end you had to pick your way through rocks, so it wasn’t worth trying to include that in running mileage.)

Depending on the heat and my mood I would run between 2 and 4 miles every other day and walk the same every day. Despite the excess holiday eating and drinking, I’ve put on no weight. It’s all good and I actually also have a bit of a tan, as much of a tan as a lass with celtic colouring can amass!

I’m home and back to earth a bit this week. On Monday I set off a little bit too late in the morning to get a comfortable run in before the heat started to build up. I had been messing about with miles and app settings whilst on holiday and was expecting a 6 mile run, but ended up doing a 5k ‘race’ with a warm up, so about 3.5 miles, instead.

I didn’t really think about which route to take and found myself running along towards the shore, which is relatively flattish. My beach running legs felt pretty good and the warm up, once my initial asthma shock had subsided, was fine. I reset my Garmin and gave the 5k my best shot. I did the first mile in 9:17 and I’m pretty chuffed with that, but in truth I was struggling to breathe properly. I think I need to run a mile before I can properly breathe, so trying to exert myself before that is probably a no-brainer.

As I started the second mile it became apparent that it was getting very warm, very quickly, and that I was running on a road with no shade and in full glare of a very angry sun! I tired very quickly and the second mile came in at 10:32.

I realised that despite this I was very close to getting a sub-30 minute 5k time, so I tried my hardest in the last mile. I think at this point I probably needed some support, someone there egging me on and I probably would have done it, but as it is I did the last mile in 9:51 and finished my 5k in 30:54.

In the circumstances I’m not displeased with this. I haven’t done much speed work lately and I’m obviously capable of slightly better than this on a cooler day, so with some groundwork I’m not far away from getting under my target. I’m off to do some speedwork this morning, but just on the local playing field because it’s quite a journey to the nearest track and I guess I have to compromise.

Compromise is a big word in our house at the moment. It’s become the subject of some conversations revolving around what we want and actually what we can presently manage to have. In order to be a successful teacher, artist, wife and mother I have to make compromises and often it’s my running that gets compromised. If the difference between running and not running means running on a playing field instead of the ‘local’ running track 10 miles away, then I run on the grass and grin and bear it. I have to.

Yesterday, free from gym membership (I struggle to justify the cost, but I’m starting to realise the benefits of a air-conditioned gym this weather!) I worked out on our decking, using my makeshift gym equipment. As I’ve mentioned before I am desperate to strengthen a somewhat pathetic core, but I have neck problems when I do regular crunches, regardless of how I approach them. My neck soon goes into spasm and I end up spending an additional £25 at the chiropractors getting fixed! I’ve been gathering some exercises, mostly from my running magazines, working on cross-training and core conditioning.

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Armed with a kettle bell, a gym mat and two tins from my larder (chopped tomatoes and mushroom soup, to be precise) I did two lots of 15 reps of squat jumps, superman stretches, back lunges with rotation (weighted), single leg running arms (weighted) and toe taps. I couldn’t do the resistance band exercise I wanted to because some bugger has nicked my resistance band! I’ll look for that for next time! I also did 1 minute of kettlebell exercises, working my cardio as well as strength building (figure of eights, single arm shoulder press, single arm swing, single arm row, single leg bend). I found the exercises where I had to balance on one leg and complete the movement really difficult and at the end the sweat was dripping off me! I still need to find more exercises to exercise my core without having to lift my head, so that’s a priority.

On Sunday I have my next race, the X Border 10k, which starts at Gretna and takes us along the M6 service road to Kingstown in Carlisle. I’m looking forward to this. I’ve even prepared myself for being last across the line, although my semi silent coach assures me that I won’t be!  I’m not sure how well I will do. My 10k pace doesn’t seem to have increased much, but it’s not decreased either. I have no expectations of the course because I’ve never run it before, so I’m just going along and will do what I can. I might surprise myself and knock a few seconds off my road 62 minute 10k time! That would be lovely.

dual-offerAfter that I start my half marathon training again in readiness for the Great Cumbrian Run in October. Again it’s not a race I’ve done before, so we’ll just go and see what my little legs and podgy body can do. Who knows, by then I could have transformed into a racing whippet.

 

Slow Running

I would have liked for this post to have had a different title. Maybe ‘Faster Running’ would have been good or ‘Really Fast Running’ might have been nice or I would have settled for ‘Better Than Last Week’. However none of these are true. I seem to be getting slower rather than faster. My little legs (and they do seem to be getting smaller, soon I’ll be running on my backside) are feeling very heavy and every step I take is laboured. I do wish I could get out of these physical doldrums.

I’m still following the 10k training programme in an effort to reduce my 10k race time, but I think I’m wasting my time. The last couple of weeks have seen me struggle to fit in both short runs, leaving me relying on improving my pace based on one long run and one short one. It ain’t happening folks! The long runs at the moment consist of a 10 minute warm up run, followed by between 40 and 60 minutes faster run and finishing with a 10 minute cool down run. Today I did 45 minutes for my long run which, with my 20 minutes of slow running, was meant to allow me to cover 6.75 miles. I didn’t even cover 6. On all of my training plans prior to this I’ve been bang on or ahead of time on the app, this time I’m struggling to keep pace and if I can’t do that I will be struggling to hit pace on my next race.

I could just say that this isn’t important, that I did 6 miles today and that’s 6 mile banked. I know that is exactly what I would say to a friend in my position. I know it because I say it all the time. Words come easy. I wish that running came as easy, but it doesn’t and I have to work bloody hard to achieve what I do. I just don’t feel like I’m working hard enough at the moment and I’m disappointed with myself for setting a target and falling short of it because of the easy excuses I’m making. I need to shape up and get this under control.

Firstly I need to be honest with myself. In my head I’m a sub 10 minute miler over 10k, but my legs and lungs are saying otherwise. On a good day I can do 10k in 62 minutes. That makes me a just over 10:00 minute miler. I think I need to change the settings on my app and start enjoying some success, instead of constantly beating myself up when I don’t finish as fast as I would like!

Success concept.

Tomorrow is the last day of school and after that my semi silent coach is whisking me away to northern climes for some R&R, which in my case will hopefully stand for Running & Relaxation. With the prospect of a nearby harbour for hubbie to stare at to keep him occupied, gazing longingly at boats he hasn’t a hope in hell of ever owning, I will be free to get my running back on track. That’s the plan.

On another note I’ve been looking longingly at charity places for the Great North Run and have to keep reminding myself that I’m not running for charity this year. It’s not fair on my lovely friends, asking them to keep digging deep just to satisfy my urge to run 13.1 miles between Newcastle and the coast. I am backing away from the magazines and websites…

I’m hoping that next time I write, which will be whilst I’m on holiday, I will be writing in a more positive frame of mind, extolling the virtues of running either a) whilst on holiday b) on the beach c) with more realistic aims in mind or d) naked (apparently there is a nearby nudist colony, so who knows!)

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