Saturday, 24 December 2011

Happy Christmas running

After seven straight hours of cooking (remind me again why I love Christmas?) I had a choice. Do I put my feet up for an hour, enjoy the fact that for the moment things are under control and the children are with the grandparents and watch some mindless festive TV? Or do I pull on my trainers and drag myself out for a run?

Perhaps because of the prospect of eating my body weight in all the food I have been busily preparing, and that of the house being stuffed to the gunnels with relatives for the next day or so, but I was surprisingly eager to get outdoors and running.

As the hyper organised result of a painfully scatty upbringing I was shocked to see how busy the shops were mere hours before the big day. As I dashed past Waitrose and the local florist they were still teeming with shoppers desperately hunting down those last minute necessities.

I cannot understand how anyone can leave buying a tree till the night before Christmas, but perhaps that's because I was scarred by a childhood spent scouring the garden centres of rural Essex for the last threadbare tree left standing as the minutes ticked by till closing time on Christmas Eve.

However, I digress, although I was pleased to be out and on my feet, I have to admit it was not my greatest run. I think I am all out of synch what with the holidays and all the disruption they bring. I was tired and a stitch kicked in from early into the run, which I never managed to shift. It is surprising to me the way that running never really seems to get any easier.

I mean in the grand scheme of things it does as, ask me a year ago if I would just breeze around a 45 minute run and I would have laughed till I challenged my pelvic floor muscles, but I still find there are moments when all I really want to do is stop and walk the rest of the way. I never do, but I would like that feeling that it's just too hard to leave me and I imagined it would have done by now.

My father-in-law who was a bit of a runner in his time says it's simply because you get faster and push yourself harder so it never gets any easier. I hope he is right as I do want to progress with my running, but sometimes I feel as if I have simply plateaued and will carry on plodding around the streets at a single pace forever.

Perhaps I should make it my New Years Resolution to try and step up my speed training and actually get a bit faster. But for now I am just glad that I have burned off a few calories before the gluttony ahead (although my post run snack of one of my mother-in-law's rather delicious mince pies probably didn't help). I intend to throughly enjoy a day off and eat until I can do so no more. Bring on the Quality Street and a Happy Christmas to one and all.

PS Anyone fancy a run on Boxing Day?

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Winter Skin

Thank goodness the name of this blog is Run WOMAN run, or I don't think I would get away with a post like this, although I am sure male runners must suffer from the same problems, they are probably far too hardy to mention them. Thing is while I love running outdoors when the weather is as inclement and brass monkeys freezing as it is at the moment my skin really pays the price.

I have chapped hands courtesy of my poor running glove choice (you will be glad to know I have now upgraded with a lovely cosy pair from the lovely Sweatshop in North Finchley) and my face is dry and flakey. Not a look that I am particularly fond of, so I have decided that at the grand old age of 40 I perhaps need to look into some more effective moisturisers to keep the cold and wrinkles at bay.

To this end I am testing out a few lotions and potions to see which works best against the arctic conditions. So far I have uncorked Skin Doctors Super Moist SPF30+ Accelerator, though after a single use I don't think I am quite ready to comment, but I think that even in the cold weather my battered skin could do with some sun protection as even it doesn't keep me warm, it plays havoc with the wrinkles.

I am also trying out a couple of hand creams to undo the damage I have inflicted on them. The sad thing is that no matter how well you take care of your face, your hands tend to betray your age, especially if they are red raw with the cold. I am crossing my old lady fingers that Skin Doctors Younger Hands fufills its promise to make my hands look 10 years younger in just six weeks. We shall see.

Also giving Weleda's Calendula Weather Protection Cream a go, it's meant for babies so I am a bit out of it's age range, but apparently it can still help the more mature woman and to be honest I need all the help I can get.

So apologies for a post that has precious little to do with running and a whole lot to do with my vanity. I hope fellow female runners will appreciate the report back from the coal face of cold weather creams, and even if they don't hopefully I will have less chapped and dry skin, so it's a win win situation, something you don't often get with running.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The trouble with training

Last August I did me first 10K at the Resolution run in Finsbury Park for the Stroke Association. While Finsbury Park isn't the most spectacular location (indeed during the post race cool down I had to physically restrain my two-year-old from playing with the used condoms littered around the post I was using to stretch out on) it was a great run. A few undulations made it challenging for a new runner, but it was flat enough to offer plenty of scope for recovery.

What this event really did for me was to make sure that I was well and truly bitten by the racing bug. Oh dear. I immediately entered another 10K, the Women Only Shock Absorber run in Richmond Park. That was a delightful race despite a freezing day and I managed a PB of under 50 minutes (OK only three seconds, but who's counting?).

Next up is the 8.2 mile Whole Foods Breakfast Run in Kingston on 1 April and then I have my first half marathon in my sights in July, The Down Tow, Up Flow half along the Thames. Really I would have liked to run one sooner, but my other half wasn't too pleased by the idea of being left in charge of childcare in the depths of winter while I trained and therein lies the rub.

I really wish I had had the foresight not to waste my 20s in pubs, clubs and bars and had instead got a marathon or two under my belt when I had all the time in the world to train, and indeed a younger body to do it with. Now training has to be squeezed in between ferrying my sons to their own activities and parties, making time for my beloved and doing all the general household chores that accompany being a mum of four.

I cannot a long run that I didn't do with a guilty conscience perched on my shoulder. It is not my desire to improve my PB that drives me ever faster, it is the need to get home and relieve my husband of his domestic duties. Bless him he rarely complains, but he has put his foot firmly down about doing a marathon until the kids are older and easier to manage (we hope).

I suspect is the same for all running mums. I have a friend who gets up at the crack of dawn so she can get her long run in before her family surfaces at the weekend. She has also immensely upped her time on her usual route as she speeds through it to get back home to her role as wife and mum. Others have simply given up now that the dark, cold days have curtailed the running window of opportunity so much.

It is a shame that my responsibilities make achieving my goals that little bit harder, but I am not sure I would have remained so determined if I didn't want to prove what you can do no matter what your circumstances. I am often tempted to run in a shirt that says "Yes, I might be slower than you, but do you have four children aged under 10?"  I can't tell you the pleasure it gives me overtaking younger, less encumbered women too. I really am that shallow, but on race day I say whatever it takes you to drive you to the finish.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

A weighty question

As you can probably already tell from this blog I love running. Well not always. There are always those runs where you wish you had never pulled on your trainers and the sofa beckons the whole way round, but I have found that the fitter I have got the less they have happened. Even if I start a run badly, by halfway round I have usually cheered up and the endorphins kick in to make it a joy to be out and on my feet.

But being vain, while I love having strong and fit legs I want my top half to match, which brings me to the vexed question of weight training. I know others love pumping iron. My wonderful on and off personal trainer Andrea is a huge fan, but I just can't get into it. To me it is a necessary evil to tone up the old bingo wings and strengthen the core.

I have tried all kinds of different approaches to strength work from classes to free weights, machines to boxing. I will admit I do love a punching session but unlike running it's no fun on your own and it still doesn't give me quite the same buzz.

I have been giving a new gym a try this week and had a routine drawn up for me by one of the trainers there.  It's a combination of free weights and a swanky weights machine the name of which escapes me as I write (will update after my next visit). It was fun as it was something new, but even as I entered the third round of the circuit I was beginning to get a bit distracted.

Perhaps that is the problem. When you run getting distracted makes everything flow much better. If you can let your thoughts drift off and puzzle away at some psychological knot you forget the ache in your hip and the fact that your legs were feeling like lead about a kilometre ago. I think this suits my butterfly mind which is forever darting off in a new direction.

Weights on the other hand require concentration and a dedication to 'form'. It is no good simply slinging the barbell around and hoping for the best, you  have to keep the mantra of 'keep your shoulder blades back and down', 'keep your elbows close to your body', 'keep your hips up', 'keep your core tight' constantly flowing as you also attempt to lift the barbell in a graceful and effective manner.

This whole process is so much easier with a professional at your side reminding you how to do things, but when you are on your own it is too easy to find yourself drifting off only to realise that your shoulders are far from back and down, more like up and all over the place, your hips are floppy and your core flabby. Running is just so much easier.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Cool running

Moving swiftly on from night runs to winter runs. Although this week's training has been a bit upset by the seasonal interferences of a bout of ill health and general festive family commitments I did make it out for a good session on Saturday morning. Normally I love a morning run, the earlier the better as the deserted streets are far easier to navigate than dodging pedestrian and vehicular traffic, but this morning it was freezing.

Luckily while I was away in New York I invested in a winter running jacket. I opted for the Brooks Utopia Thermal Hoodie, if I am honest mainly because I liked the colour, but also because I was hoping it would deliver warmth without the sweat factor. Because I am a relatively novice runner I have made several kit errors, including a horribly hot running fleece which heats up like a sauna the moment you break out of a walk.

The problem is that on a super cold morning the first 10 minutes of a run are so freezing that all you want to do is wrap up as if you were venturing into the Arctic, but as soon as your body begins to heat up you begin to swelter unless your clothes are smart enough to regulate your temperature as you get warmer. Thankfully my new hoodie did the job admirably. I was a bit cold at first, but 15 minutes in I was toasty warm, but not drenched in sweat. Clearly this purchase was not one of my rookie mistakes.

The same cannot be said for my running gloves which, while they are swanky with reflective paint to ensure that my hands are highly visible at night time, are totally useless at keeping my hands warm. I think I may have to revert to my skiing gloves if the cold snap continues as the skin on my hands is beginning to resemble sandpaper it has been so abused by the frozen temperatures.

But despite being preoccupied by kit thanks to the chilly conditions, once I had got over the shock of leaving my warm bed for the frozen streets I was able to really enjoy the run. Perhaps it was because I had had a few days off and felt pretty strong, but it was one of those runs where you feel as if you could go on forever, rather than wheezing your way around longing to be back home again.

I do love watching my breath stream out in front of me like steam from an engine, I love the crunch of frosty grass under my trainers and the stark beauty of the black branches rising above my head when I run off road. I love the wintery urban landscape of chimneys belching out steam and smoke into the city air. I love glimpsing into people's warm living rooms, seeing the twinkle of Christmas tree lights and the strings of cards hanging from their mantlepieces.

I think perhaps running has unleashed a slightly voyeuristic tendency in me as I do adore distracting myself by nosing around my surroundings. One of my favourite runs takes me past rows and rows of millionaire mansions and I always play the 'Which one would I buy?' game to keep me amused as I run past.

At this time of year there is no contest as my favourite is the one lit up like a Christmas tree - well actually like several dozen Christmas trees which are laid out in full white fairy light regalia on the front lawn. It has cascades of ice white lights dripping down its facade, colour changing lights picking out the white colonnaded front, a gate house glimmering with thousands of diamond bright points of light. It's not tasteful, but it sure does look pretty as you dash past.

It's treats like this that keep getting me out of bed on a cold morning. Well that and the fact that I hope that by continuing to run all through Christmas I can avoid piling on too many pounds due to the excess of mince pies, turkey and chocolate coins that lays ahead of me. I think the American idea of a Turkey Trot (as experienced by my friend and fellow blogger Nappy Valley Girl) is a jolly good one, I just wish there was one in my local area so I could jog off damage inflicted by the Christmas feast.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Night running

It's that time of year when donning your trainers suddenly seems not quite as attractive. Going out for a run on a crisp, sunny autumn morning is a delight, getting wet and cold on a pitch dark December afternoon isn't quite as magical. But given that this is the time of year when we all need to keep moving to keep those Christmas calories at bay I have come up with some reasons why winter running is worth the effort.

You can feel like a pro. No matter whether you are seasoned marathon runner or an occasional jogger if you make the effort to put on your high viz vest, fleece and extra cosy tights for a run on a freezing cold and wet afternoon no one can accuse you of not taking your running seriously.

You don't sweat as much. I don't know about you, but I am not a very ladylike runner. I don't glow, I drip. At the end of a run I am like a dog that has been swimming, if I shake out my hair it showers all around with sweat - nice. But on a winter's evening the cold weather means that I come back much drier than in the summer.

The pretty lights. I am a sucker for all things sparkly and last night as I ran down the local high street in the rain I was uplifted by the Christmas lights twinkling overhead. Even the festive lights aren't lit I love to see the city lit up around me, when I am running at the top of a hill the view of lit office windows and the dazzle of brake lights is like an urban kaleidoscope.

A spot of retail therapy. As Christmas approaches and I rack my brains for ideas as to what to buy everyone, running past all the brightly lit shop windows can help but inspire me. The only slight problem is that because I have to stick to populated routes for safety I do find the maneuver of craning my neck to take in that lovely pair of shoes whilst running along a little dangerous as it has led to the odd near miss with a passing pedestrian.

So next time I look out of the darkened window and wonder why I bother, this post will be my answer.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Running in Central Park

I have just managed to tick off something from my list of things to do before you die. I will admit it is a relatively new addition as I can't imagine I would have been tempted a few years ago, but that didn't make fulfilling this dream any less exciting. This weekend I was in New York courtesy of my most fantastic husband, and in between racking up scary debts in Macys I managed to squeeze in a run in Central Park.

I will admit that the main driving force behind this ambition was seeing Charlotte in Sex and the City jogging around the reservoir, but the reality was so much better than I imagined. Although the park itself isn't that big - its only about 10K if you run all the way around it - it is the setting that makes it special.

The bucolic surroundings are pretty enough, but it is the ring of skyscrapers that tower above you that makes so thrilling. The double towers of the Ghostbusters Building, the pretty green roof of the Plaza peeping above the trees, these are things you don't see while pounding the streets of Finchley. The blaring of taxi horns and the screech of sirens provide the soundtrack to your run, but it was my fellow runners who were the most alien.

The first thing I noticed was how slow American runners appear to be. I suspect their must be some new fangled trend for slow running, as when I am in London I am forever overtaken by fellow runners who zoom past me putting my plodding pace to shame, but in NY I felt a bit like Usain Bolt. Barring one particularly crazy woman who was sprinting along in freezing temperatures in a tiny sports bra and only-just-there shorts everyone else appeared to be ambling along which meant I sped past even at at my slower than usual sightseeing tourist runner pace.

It was quite nice to be one of the fastest on the track for once, but the moment I got home and went for a run I was put back in my place as a grey haired veteran zipped past me so fast I only caught a glimpse of his old school baggy shorts and T-shirt as he disappeared into the distance.

Back to Central Park, as well as the slow runners I also found myself caught up in what I can only assume was a 5K for Jesus. There was the usual crowd of racers, some attempting to beat the throng and actually achieve a PB, most walking or slow jogging along with a look on their sweaty faces which said nothing so clearly as "I wish I stayed in bed this morning, instead of ruining my weekend by signing up for this run'. But what set many of them apart was that they were dressed up as nuns.

Along the way there were motivational posters with Christian messages of encouragement. I know that on particularly arduous runs I do appeal to the almighty, but I never considered that Jesus could actually help to up my pace. Another nod to the son of God was the fact that the post race snack was that favourite of all Jewish boys - a fresh bagel. I was tempted to pretend that I was actually running in the race and sneakily snaffle one, but was worried I might be smite down if I were to steal from a Christian race.

Still it was a colourful blob of American culture and made my route much less confusing as I could simply follow the crowd of nuns on the run, even if I did have to make a detour to find the path around the reservoir made famous by SATC. Sadly I intended to post a picture of this, but when I looked at my iPhone I discovered that I had my finger over the lens in all the shots.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Going the distance

For any marathon runners out there my achievements will probably seem paltry, but I am feeling very proud of myself after completing my longest ever run yesterday. Like most runners who have the handicap of a family my long runs tend to be consigned to the weekend, when I am most able to escape for more than a snatched hour and this was no exception.

Courtesy of a horrible tummy bug I hadn't run for three days, perhaps not the best preparation for my first attempt at breaking the 1hr time barrier, though I do sometimes find that a bit of time off (albeit not due to such an unfortunate reason) can help to make you a bit fresher for a run. Apparently this is called tapering - I was quite embarrassed to discover that 'all' runners know about this from Running Free magazine, well all runners apart from me that is.

Back to my run. I set off and had the usual struggle for the first half hour. I am really not surprised that most people say they hate running as the majority probably never get beyond this hellish starting point. I felt tired, weak and generally not in the mood, but soldiered on as at least I was out of my house which was infested with grumpy children. Anywhere, even slogging up a hill on dead legs, was better to be than there.

Gradually I got into my stride, perhaps in part due to the AudioFuel Run Free CD I had downloaded to my iPhone. I should add at this point that my blog is in no way sponsored and nor have I received a single freebie (boo) so if I mention something it is because I have used it and liked it. Though I did get the CD free from an old colleague who edits all the great fitness content on NHS Choices.

The CD is a good combination of music which helps to set a beat to which you run and the odd, not too annoying, training tip thrown in. I like the way it tells you how long you have been running as I hate wearing a watch or having to fiddle around with my phone to see what time it is. So after about 40 minutes I had got into my stride and was enjoying taking in the autumnal scenery and generally relishing being outdoors and running.

Not all of my route is so scenic though, I do envy runners who live in prettier parts of the country. I ran at Druridge Bay in Northumberland while I was on holiday this summer and that really is a heavenly part of the country. You can cover 10K and not even notice it in such beautiful surroundings. The same cannot be said for pounding the pavements of our Capital. I have had to dodge splashes of vomit and blood decorating the streets after a weekend night, but such is the joy of running in London.

I didn't let this put me off though and hit my target of running for 90 minutes and covered 14.5K (just over 9 miles to those working in imperial measures) so I am feeling more confident about tackling a half marathon next year. Now just on the hunt for one that is a bit sooner than July.....

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Mud, glorious mud

I love running off road. It's not just that it is hard to be inspired by the endless identikit semis that make up the landscape of the particular part of North London where I live, it's that the challenge of new terrain makes running that bit more absorbing. Leaping over ruts and avoiding pot holes, ducking under branches and dodging grazing cows is a bit more exhilerating than pounding the pavements.

The problem is that my trusty Nike trainers are simply not up to the job. The moment the ground becomes slippery they are sliding away from under me as if I were on Dancing on Ice. Not fun, because as a mum the very thought of an injury that would leave me incapacitated is enough to make my blood run cold. How would my household continue to function if I were to suddenly be unable to run around after the boys? I shudder to think.

To this end I decided it is time to invest in a pair of trail shoes, so I don't have to give up my favourite off road routes when the bad weather sets in. I have a strange aversion to coughing up for specialist kit. That jeer hurled at all newbies to any sport 'All the gear and no idea' is always rattling around in the back of my mind.

I sort of feel that if I can't say I have a marathon or two under my belt, buying specialist shoes has a whiff of showing off. Add to which funds are, as usual, pretty tight so I don't want to waste money on footwear I won't get much use from.

In the end I went along to my trusty running shoe advisors at Sweatshop in North Finchley and after a long and informative chat about everything from the benefits of running in muddy terrain to which gels taste best I left with a hideously garish pair of Adidas Kanadia 4 TR in neon pink and yellow. Why I wonder would you make trail shoes designed for running in mud in pink? Still they were the best (and cheapest) shoe for the job so I will sink my principles and forgive their pinkness.

It was well worth it though as I took them out to test them yesterday on my muddiest route and had a gorgeous 50 minute easy run through the countryside (or what passes for it in my suburban corner of London). While I am not sure they would be up to a run on snow, they were man (or should that be girly given their horrible colour) enough for the job on the muddy trails I frequent.  

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Speed demon?

I love running, hence the existence of this blog, but what I can't quite seem to get my legs around (oo err) is running fast. It's not that I don't want to, I would love to be swift and agile, but I just can't seem to turbo charge my pace. I am a fantastic plodder and I can pound away for miles without too much effort, but up my pace and I turn an instant puce and want to puke.

I know that speed training is the key to improving my race times and to putting more power into my pace, but I just can't bring myself to enjoy it. I tried out a new treadmill workout from Runners World, called the Speed Demon. On paper it looked quite straightforward - always good for a nervous treadmill user like me, but half way through I thought I was going to collapse.

I am not a quitter when it comes to working out so I sweated my way through to the end, but it was tough and I only picked a top speed of 12Kph, which I know to more seasoned runners is a walk in the park.

Thing is I am just not sure I was built for speed. Taking a look at nippier runners they are tiny and delicate, with nimble and lean limbs - the human equivalent of a thoroughbred horse, while I am more a Shetland pony, all shaggy hair, sturdy legs and obstinate temperament. Still at least Shetlands are tough and hardwearing, so while I may never break any records for speed I hope that my sturdy thighs will be better at learning to carry me the distance.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

White van man

Not sure if I should feel flattered or offended by the attention I receive from white van men while out running. I can't quite understand what motivates the leers and beeps on their horns as the last thing I would describe my running get up as is seductive.

With my hair scraped and pinned back to stop it, flopping wet and sweaty in my eyes, my body encased in wicking synthetic fibre, my legs in skin tight leggings and my feet rammed into well worn, muddy trainers I am hardly glamour model material. Yet still the sight of me running along beside the road seems to get the white van man hot under the collar.

Perhaps I should be grateful as in my normal life as a 40-year-old mum of four I never illicit so much as a wolf whistle from a building site teeming with men, but don a fluorescent running anorak and suddenly I am Princess Leia in a gold bikini rolled into Ursula Andress emerging from the waves in Dr No. Either that or the white van man is so bored and frustrated by the London traffic that he is driven to blast his horn at anything moving faster than the speed of treacle and I shouldn't flatter myself.

Still I think on the whole I will take a compliment where I can and see those horn blasts and lewd comments as reward for all the hard work I have done sculpting my size 10 figure from what was left after birthing four boys.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Running round in circles

As I might have predicted given my obsessive nature I ended up at the gym today despite my gammy leg. After nine months of being put through my paces by my angel of a personal trainer, the tall, dark and super fit Mr A, I have finally be cast out all alone, due to lack of funds to pay for my one-to-one training habits.

The result is that I decided to give a home grown (or at least internet researched) circuit a try. In the end I opted for the one that looked simplest and therefore least likely to make me look a tit. It is a straightforward mix of step work and easy lifts and exercises. Surely even I couldn't cock it up too badly?

Hmm, well if I gloss over the incident with the step - I thought it should be higher but couldn't for the life of me work out how to make it so, in the end I ended up breaking one off the feet off in frustration and then having to frantically stick it back on before any of the gym staff noticed. I am sure Jane Fonda never had these types of difficulties.

Moving swiftly on the idea is to step for two minutes and then do a set of weights. So far, so easy peasy. A minute into my stepping routine I was red faced, sweating and tripping over the step. This was not the walk in the park I was anticipating. After two minutes a Niagara of sweat was dripping off me and I was seriously regretting setting myself slap bang in the middle of the quickest route to the water fountain.

Every time anyone wanted a drink they passed me and did a horrified double-take at this sweaty mess of a woman leaping about in a crazed fashion on a far too low step. I rammed in my headphones and attempted to ignore the looks of pity and shock being shot my way by everyone who passed by.

On to bicep curls - at which point I realise that I have severely overestimated my capabilities and selected weights I can hardly lift. I persevere rather than let on to my error to the growing crowd of parched gym members who appear to need a drink every 20 seconds or so. I will have to start charging if they don't stop staring.

Eventually I complete my set of 12 lifts and nonchalantly swap my weights over ready for next time. Then it's back onto the step for more bouncing around, during which I can't help thinking that I really do need to upgrade my sports bra.

Next is lunges, thank goodness something I can do. Kettlebells in hand I commence my ministry of funny walks across the gym, gritting my teeth every time some idiot decides to stop and have a chat right in my path. Am tempted to drop a bell on their foot, but feel it may result in me being barred.

More wobbles on the step, and on to over head presses. Note to self, next time wear long sleeved top as bingo wings may scare the horses. And they certainly terrify all those toned 20somethings who I am sure are silently swearing they will never end up looking like me.

By now am flopping around on the step, falling over it and generally making a serious workout into a slapstick comedy. Final exercise squats. Well no one can make those look elegant, and as I push out my bum in the manner of a comedy chicken I just hope that the end result is prettier than the process it takes to get there.

At the end of three sets you could wring me out and I will definitely have to launder my eight-year-old's purloined jacket that I grabbed to cover up on the way out. Still fingers crossed the scales will finally be persuaded to slide downwards after all my hard work and tomorrow really is a day off as I have to complete the ultimate challenge - a day with the kids.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Ouch I've been bitten by the racing bug

Went for a run today after a hard session at the gym yesterday. Big mistake. I knew I'd felt a small twinge in my thigh on the torture instrument cum abductor, but as is my usual approach I ignored it and hey, presto it went away. Only to reappear about 40 minutes into my run when I was another good 40 minutes away from home.

It's a tricky choice whether to grind to a halt and hobble home, or limp on back at as smart a pace as possible just to get back asap. In the end I opted for the latter option, but by the end my thigh was not happy. In fact I was very glad to bump into an old friend and stop for a chat and a gentle stroll at the end of the run as I was worried that something my twang catastrophically if not.

Still it is a while till my next race, but I have now entered the Kingston Breakfast Run, which given that I live in North London is sure to mean a disgustingly early start, but at least I can blame any poor performance on that. Thing is ever since I was bitten by the racing bug in my first 5K Race for Life, I have found myself wasting far too much time browsing potential races and wondering how long it will take for my husband's patience to run thin as he is left holding the fort - and the four boys - on yet another weekend morning as I dash off to run another race.

But you just can't beat the buzz of testing yourself against other runners. Naturally some whizz off into the distance leaving you for dust, but I console myself that most of them haven't birthed four children and that explains their speed (please don't disabuse me of this fact as it will just depress me), but the ones who interest me are the ones who are just a little bit quicker than me. If I can overtake one of those I have had my eye on since the start then I can really feel good about myself - never mind if he or she looks older, more unfit or downright ill, I will still pat myself on the back as I huff and puff past them.

Perhaps I have finally begun to unearth the competitive nature that has hitherto lain dormant within me. It certainly never reared its head in my youth when I famously told my PE teacher: "I would rather die of a heart attack when I am old than ever pick up a hockey stick". Of course back then old looked a long way off, whereas now it is a whole lot closer, though I must admit a hockey stick still doesn't hold that much appeal.

Twinging thigh probably means a day off tomorrow, but I will be back on the road as soon as the old girl is up to it again.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Run away with me.....

I suppose I should introduce myself, it would only be polite, although I think I have said all that needs to be said by way of introduction in my 'About me' box - just take a look on the right hand side of your screen. As you can see I am no expert when it comes to running. In fact I come over all inadequate when I speak to anyone who has finished a marathon, let alone done it quickly.

I used to run, years ago, before I was encumbered with children, but that was only ever a trundle around the park. I wish now that I had realised how much fun running could be back in the days when I had all the time in the world to devote to it, rather than now when I try to slot it in around keeping the family happy, fed and entertained. I dream of being able to disappear for hours on end seeing just how far I could run without collapsing, but then I remember that I have to get the dinner on.

Of course this may all be a fantasy in any case, as perhaps my 25-year-old self could have run forever without creaking to an embarrassing halt, but my 40-year-old self might not be quite so accommodating. In fact it has been fun to compare notes with my fellow middle aged running mates as to which bits of us click, ache and give out the most. I have a troublesome hip and a clicky knee, while others have weak backs, twinges in the hamstrings and cramps in their feet.

Yet I think that perhaps what I can bring to the party now that it is a more sedate affair of G&Ts and smart canapes, rather than cider and a bag of chips, is a steely determination not to give up. When I was in my 20s I ran for fun, and to keep vaguely fit, now I feel as if I have something to prove. Not to other people, but to myself. That I can achieve this goal that I have set myself, and that I WILL pass the finish line faster than last time, or I will run further next time. I guess that over 40 I want to prove their is life in the old dog yet.

I am hoping that through my blog I can share my experiences and perhaps pick up tips from more seasoned runners. Either way I am hoping it will help me to record my painful journey to my first half marathon and beyond.....