One step behind (trying to find 401 Ben!)

Hey peeps!

That felt like a long week- hooray for the long weekend to make up for it!

This week running has been going well. I had a lovely 9 mile run on Sunday morning- I decided to not set an alarm and just headed out a bit after waking up to warm up a bit, and although it was cold (I wore gloves and a t-shirt) I warmed up just fine and was even thinking about smoothies on my way home.

On Monday I went for a back and shoulder massage which was just what I needed- the lovely masseuse kept apologizing to me as she was pressing certain parts of my back, but I felt so much better afterwards.

Tuesday was a lovely OH run- we did just under 4 miles and it was lovely to chat with people as I ran and I felt much better than the previous week (I had struggled to keep up with them and at times only caught up at traffic lights and things).

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I thought this was from my run but I think it’s the park we walked around last weekend. I have done the parkrun there once, so it can stay in!

Wednesday was a rest day (trying to not run on consecutive days at the moment, although that plan failed….) so we walked up to the cinema in the evening to see The Jungle Book- I didn’t think about going to see it until I heard the great reviews on the Kermode and Mayo film podcast, but I really enjoyed it- I was humming songs from the cartoon version all of Thursday!

Thursday I had a 4 mile run after work- it was so windy it felt like I was running in treacle, but it was good and I got some miles under 10 minutes. I’m still worrying about tripping though.

On Friday our running club were hosting Ben, the guy who is doing 401 marathons in 401 days to raise awareness for anti-bullying charities.  I first heard about him on marathon talk (of course- that’s where I get most of my running news from)- the interview is here, or you can see his website here. So the club had sorted out his route around Hatfield and Welwyn, and were aiming to finish by Hatfield House at around 4pm. So my plan was to leave work as close to 3.30 as possible- I got everything for Tuesday ready at lunch, and packed up all the rest of my work and shoved it in my boot. I got to the finish point, only to see on facebook that they were a bit behind schedule as lunch had taken longer, and as luck would have it in 15 minutes would be running close to my house. I deliberated for a minute, and decided to chance it. I drove home, raced inside, changed (and noticed a weird red rash all over my chest which I think was from panic), left them a message to say I would be by the shops and sprinted off. I got to the shops, and saw a message saying they would be by the school before the shops, so I leisurely headed up the road to meet them. I waited for a bit, and then tried to work out where they would be as when they last posted they were only 1.5 miles away. I looked on facebook again and it turned out I had missed them. I started running back to the shops- I think if I had waited there I might have caught them, but I was now further away. Then I got to the Hatfield House entrance and no-one was there. I left another message, and they told me they were at the stable yard- I had no idea how to get to that bit and I don’t have a pass (it’s a bit complicated, but there are two entrances, and one you need a pass for, and the other you don’t, but the one that you don’t need a pass for is tucked away and there’s only a road, not a path). Anyway, one of the club ladies happened to run past- she was the one who had organised the route, and Ben had left his van at her house, so she was going to collect him and drive him to her house. She offered to drive me to the right place very kindly! When we got there he was busy taking photos with lots of children, and because I had not run with him (and also I am just very awkward around famous people or people I don’t know), and finally because he was running a bit late, I didn’t ask for a photo, but I did say hello at least!

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There were lots of my club mates around, including my lovely run leader who ran the London marathon last week, so I had a chat before phoning Andy and asking him to pick me up. I could have run home, but it was a couple of miles and as I was doing parkrun in the morning I didn’t think it was sensible to do 3 runs in a row of that sort of length.

From our facebook page

So, if you don’t try, you’ll never know. I think I am glad I tried to run with him as if I had waited around I was in the wrong place anyway so might not have even seen the finih their run- navigation and reading maps is not my strong point! Everyone had only good things to say about him. I love how he encourages people to run further than they thought possible. Apparently one lady had only ever run 12k before, but ran the whole marathon with him- amazing!

Is he coming to a town near you? Or have you been lucky enough to run with him? Who inspires you to keep going at something?

Parkrun photography

So last week I was still a bit stiff, and paranoid about making my back/hip worse, so I offered to help out at parkrun so that I could not change my mind in the morning and run. Their roster was full, but I offered to take photos so they added me to the list, and Andy lent me his fancy camera.

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This was very hard to take with my phone in one hand and big camera in the other!

My dad was running so he picked me up and I had a little chat with some of the team before heading to the first spot. Panshanger is one big loop and last time I marshalled on the first point, I was back at the start before the first runner finished, so I thought that starting there would be good, and then once the tail runner went past I could walk back to the finish and get more photos of runners finishing.

The bluebells were looking gorgeous, and I took a few pictures of them too. I was trying to cheer runners as they headed past, and I spotted a few people I knew, but it was hard to squint through the viewfinder the whole time. I tried to track runners (that red top is at the back of the picture, wait ’til he is at the front then take another) but it didn’t always work. It was fairly gloomy and the flash kept going off so sometimes it needed to charge between pictures too.

Some of our club were running (and having training afterwards to process the results ahead of the new parkrun in May) and I managed to give them a cheer on their way past.

One local club (Ware Joggers) were holding a pacing event, but I had forgotten that and kept wondering if there was a virtual race going on as I saw a few of them running past with  numbers on their tops, and only realised after that they all had those plastic yellow vest things over their tops.

One of the pacers in the yellow vest.

After the tail runner went past, I took my time walking back, taking more pictures of the bluebells and scenery.

I love this view- the snake of runners heading up the hill and along the top.

The same club were also giving out free cake to promote their races (you can look at the races here. The Ware 10 miler is one of my favourite races, and even though it’s now in the summer instead of the autumn I am still signed up as it’s a very pretty route, their marshals are fab, and they have tea and cake for £1 at the end and it is always so good).

By the time I got back to the start the fastest runners had already finished, so I walked down the hill to take pictures of people in their final stretch.

I tried to show how steep that hill is, but it never comes out well in photos! At the end of a fast parkrun, it is tough!

Even from the bottom of the hill pointing up! That’s my dad in the blue, heading up the hill.

I saw one of my friends from our club at this point, and it surprised me as I didn’t notice her at the start- however when I looked back through the photos I did snap one of her!

My dad walked down to me once his chip was scanned, and we cheered on some of the runners, but it was getting a bit cold so we walked back up to the finish and I took my final few.

I got an action shot of someone going through the finish funnel!

The coffee van was still doing a great trade, to go with the free cake of course! Although I didn’t have any as we have Andy’s birthday cake at home which will last us a while!

I really enjoyed taking pictures though- it was hard to cheer as I had to keep still when taking the pictures, but when I have been to other parkruns it’s always nice to see a photo (especially if I have both feet off the ground!) so hopefully some of the runners will have a look through and find a good picture. It was so cold though! I wished I had brought gloves with me. This weather is madness! Last year I did so many of my long runs in a vest, whereas this year I have only braved a t-shirt a handful of times.

I was cautious about getting stiff, and I had booked a haircut for the afternoon, so I parked further away so I had a good mile walk each way, and we had a walk (which was freezing!) before dinner.

So, onto running:

On Sunday I had a very slow run around the fields- I got a bit lost at one point so it ended up being 5 miles, but 5 enjoyable miles, and all was fine. In the afternoon we had a nice walk through a park in Hemel after popping in to see Andy’s brother.

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I had a rest day on Monday (a couple of walks), and then a club run on Tuesday. I had picked up something heavy at work and my back was feeling a little bit stiff, so I was a bit worried during the run that I would have to stop and walk back, but it was fine and I was glad to get out there. Lots of stretching when I got home. A rest day on Wednesday (a walk after work), and a run on my own on Thursday (4 miles), another rest day on Friday, and then parkrun this morning. It seems to be OK- I have been using the reusable ice packs after a run too, which does seem to help.

Do you ever buy photos of you at running events? I have never bought a picture as they are so expensive, plus they tend to be awful pictures! I think I might have been tempted to buy one of the Brighton marathon, but Andy took some good ones so I didn’t feel the need to look at them.

How to Improve Your Running Performance*

Hello! I have another contributed post for you today, this time by Beth Jones, all about running performance:

If you’re a runner, then you will want to raise your performance levels as high as you can. Here are some very simple ways to improve your performance next time you run.

Avoid All Dehydration

Many people don’t even realise that they are dehydrated, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not causing them damage. Even being slightly dehydrated can cause your performance levels to drop pretty significantly. It’s not something that you can really afford to ignore. It’s very easy to keep yourself hydrated when you are running though. You just need to make sure that you always take a full bottle of water with you and drink more in the summer when you are perspiring more. As long as you do this, your performance levels won’t suffer as a result of dehydration.

Wear the Right Shoes
What you put on your feet when you go running will have a huge impact on your performance. You can actually do severe damage to your legs and feet if you are running in the wrong type of footwear. You should be wearing shoes that are specially designed for running. And you should also be careful to make sure that you are wearing shoes that are the right size. Mistakes like wearing the wrong shoe size will stop you from running as fast and as far as you can.

Photo Source

Look After Your Body Between Exercise

Looking after your body when you’re not running is vitally important. You can do all the exercise you like; but if you’re not looking after your body, it will all be worthless. The first thing you need to do is get your diet right. Obviously, you need to eat enough to keep your fuelled, and this should correspond to the amount of exercise you’re doing. You will also need to allow your body to rest and recover after you have been exercising. It can help to have a sports massage every now and then too.

Always Warm Up Properly

The most common reason for sporting injuries is not warming up properly. Your body needs to be prepared before you put it through its paces. All you have to do is some simple stretches to get your muscles in the right condition before you start running. It only takes a matter of minutes to do this, so it’s not something that you should ignore. By warming up, you will not only avoid more injuries, but you will also allow your body to perform as well as it can when you start running.

Develop a Schedule

If you keep training and training, but you still can’t achieve the outcomes you want, you might need a better schedule. A proper schedule will organise your time and ensure that you are doing the right amount of exercise consistency. You could even hire a personal trainer if you want to get a specialist’s perspective on your training schedule. They might be able to offer you tips and advice that will help you to improve.

How do you help to improve your performance? I must admit, I don’t agree with drinking loads of water because I think drinking too much is more harmful than drinking too little. I would rather get back from a run a little dehydrated, and make up for it after. I do agree that warming up and cooling down is important- I am making special efforts to stretch for much longer when I get home now as I think it is helping with my back. I also like the saying “you can’t outrun a bad diet”. 

Feeling nostalgic and loving parkrun

I was having a bit of a sort out this week and came across two bits of paper that made me feel so nostalgic! One- the couch to 5k running plan that I followed back in 2008.

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It was so much easier than other plans that I had looked at, as so many of them seemed to be complicated run 2 mins, walk 1, run 3, walk 2… hard to remember when you are out. This was so easy to remember the timings. You repeated each run three times per week, and I remember the first one was tough and I didn’t think I would manage it, the second was OK, and the third I used to spend worrying about the jump the following week! But magically I managed it.

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Following on from the 5K I started to increase the length of my weekend run, and these are my notes of what I did, and the miles in brackets as by then I had discovered mapometer!

After my club run on Tuesday evening I had a rest day on Wednesday- we went to The Waffle House for lunch and had a lovely walk around the lake after, even seeing lots of ducklings.

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I then finished my reports (hooray!) and had another walk later on to top up my steps. In the evening we watched a film and my back started to feel a bit stiff, and then I had an awful night of just not being able to get comfortable at all. In the morning I could not put weight on my left leg as the pain going down from my back to the back of my leg was so sore. So I had a rather miserable day. Luckily Andy was working from home so he could help pass things to me- I managed to hobble to a chair in the living room, and after googling some stretches I had a go at doing some to ease the pain.

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A few weeks ago I had bought three of these ice packs from Amazon, and luckily they were in the freezer, so I put them on every 90 minutes or so which does seem to help a lot.

I fell asleep on the sofa after finally finding a comfortable position, and then after that I felt a little better- we had a very slow walk so I could have some fresh air, and then I had a bath which also helped a lot. Andy found some of my old super strong painkillers from when I had my cyst removed, so I put them next to my bed in case it was bad again in the night, but it was much better. It’s so weird- no idea what caused it, and none of the stretches seemed to immediately help, but it seems to go as quickly as it comes. On Friday I was able to walk fine- we walked around town as I had to pick up a present for my mum. I did a lot of sorting out of clothes, baking (I made Laura’s banana bread which is really delicious), a 30 minute yoga video and then about a 35 minute walk before dinner.

I am being very sensible though. My dad was going to parkrun today, and of course I wanted to go with him, especially after all the stuff going on with it this week. But I thought that I should have one more day off running, just to be on the safe side, so I messaged the RD asking if I could do anything like take photos- that way I am still going along but I wouldn’t be able to change my mind and run in the morning. Sensible! Andy even lent me his fancy camera and I took so many photos, but that’s for another post!

So, onto parkrun. It was even talked about on Radio 4 this week, and seems to have been on all the TV channels. Back in January I heard on Marathon Talk that a council were wanting to charge the parkrun team (or runners- it seems they are changing their minds a bit as to how to do it) to run in their park, and I signed the petition, hoping that they would vote the other way. Well, in case you didn’t hear, they voted to push on with their charge.

To me, it just does not make any sense. First of all, the council won’t make money because what will actually happen is that the parkrun will be cancelled or moved elsewhere. I do understand that parks have to pay for the upkeep of their paths, and I know that budgets are being squeezed, but we all pay our council tax. Will they charge dog walkers for the cost of emptying the dog poo bins? Or parents the cost of a health and safety check for the swings? I liked this take on the story- particularly the coin operated swings! The council’s argument seems to be that they charge other organised sports, such as football teams, for using the park (although I just heard a bit of this week’s MT and apparently they are not going to charge the junior event that takes place each Sunday, even though it is the same organisation…). But that is different; if you book a football pitch, no-one else can play on it at the same time. They have more obvious items to maintain such as goals, nets, corner flags, lines being painted etc. Players will pay subs to their team, which will then go towards this sort of thing too. Each parkrun event brings their own signs, finish funnel and so on, so there is no upkeep needed, and at every run briefing I have been to we have been reminded to be considerate of other park users and give way to others.

This blog post sums up a lot of what is great about parkrun (and it was written before this happened), and this morning I read Chrissie Wellington’s blog which I also very much agree with.

St Albans parkrun only started in 2012, a long time after I had started running, and it took my dad to persuade me to come along to it as I didn’t see the point- I could just run a 5k on my own on the pavements around home. But I went, and loved it, and have not looked back. Our club now use it as a mile (5K?) stone for the new runners- they do their beginner runner course and then “graduate” by running a 5k parkrun, and other running clubs do the same. I think I would have loved to attend this sort of event instead of a race for my first official 5k as it is so much more friendly, and less scary than an actual race. But the point of it to me is the community. The fact that volunteering is huge part of it- yes you can just run if you want to, but when I first started they asked for everyone to volunteer 3 times a year. Not much, but so good to be putting something back. There is a lady at Panshanger who volunteers most weeks. She does not run, and no-one in her family does. But since retiring she wanted to be involved in the park (it was only recently opened to the public and the Friends of Panshanger had a lot to do with helping start the parkrun), and so she is one of the most familiar faces you will see there. If parkrun wasn’t there, she could go to the park at the same time each week, but it would not be the same. She would not have met the people she knows now (she was given a special award at the one year birthday as she has volunteered so much and is such a huge part of the team).

Volunteering also helps people to develop a huge range of skills. We have had a few teenagers do the volunteering as part of their D of E award. Doing the new runners briefing has helped me to start to get over my fear of public speaking- the first time I did it my knees were shaking and I wished I could sit down, but I have done that role a few times now and each time it gets a bit easier.

It is such a feeling of community, and this morning even though I wasn’t running, I chatted to some of my club mates, some of the event team, cheered on runners.

It also gives a boost to the local area. On my walk from my first photographing post to the start, I saw quite a few dog walkers carrying cups from the coffee van- the van is only there because of parkrun and there is always a huge queue- he must do a roaring trade but he’s only there while the parkrun is going on. So yes one path is a bit congested for about five minutes (after the first bit everyone spreads out) but anyone else in the park can benefit from the coffee van. The car park at Panshanger is only small, so unless you are volunteering you are asked to park elsewhere (they have a marshal on the gate to check) so that dog walkers and other park users have priority. It is a considerate event, it promotes other local events; today there was free cake from a running club promoting their 10k and 10 mile race, they have sold calendars and had a photography competition to raise funds for the upkeep of the park, they promoted a free family Easter egg hunt- the list goes on.

I was glad to see so many of the parkruns posting on facebook about how their events will remain free, as the worst thing that could happen is that other councils follow suit, but it seems that most local councils are aware of the benefits that parkrun brings, and so continue to support them.

What was your take on the parkrun fiasco this week? 

For anyone interested in the benefits, they have created a temporary website,, showcasing their brilliant work.

And if you want a little giggle, check out these t-shirts.

How to Make Your Diet Organic!*

I have a guest post for you today written by Matthew Biggin, all about trying to incorporate more organic foods into your diet. As the weather is warming up now, we tend to eat more salads and fruit so it seems like a good time to consider this.

When trying to lose weight you have to realise how important your diet is. This can play a huge role in helping you become a fitter and healthier you. So, you have to think about how to enjoy the best possible diet you can. A great first step would be to look at these ideas and work towards making your diet organic.


Identify What is Organic

Step one in the process of switching to an organic diet is identifying what is organic. Now, the good thing is that this is much easier to do these days. The reason for that is that it’s become more popular these days. So organic foods are more mainstream, and there is much more information about them. Identify what organic products are and then start integrating them into your diet as much as possible.

Don’t Be Afraid to Spend a Bit More

Okay, so organic food is going to cost you a little more than buying non-organic. But, surely it’s worth paying that bit extra for healthier and better quality food. You’ve got to understand that often in this world you get what you pay for. So, you shouldn’t be afraid to spend that bit more to make your diet an organic diet. It’s important for helping you become fitter and healthier.

Image Via Pixabay

Grow Your Own

If you don’t want to spend those extra pennies buying organic produce, you could always grow your own. There are so many advantages to doing this, and you can expand. Come up with your own miniature allotment in the garden, and use this to start growing things like organic asparagus and tomatoes. It’s a brilliant way to enjoy the freshest produce at a much lower cost than having to buy it.

Plan Your Meals

A great idea is to try to plan your meals out well in advance. The problem a lot of people have is that they get home from work, and they are knackered, so they just pop a pizza in the oven. It’s difficult to get the impetus to make something healthy when you’re home late and stressed. So, the best way to combat this is to make sure you plan out all your meals beforehand. That way you know what you’re having on any particular day, and you can prepare.

Perfect Organic Recipes

Another thing you need to do is to work on perfecting organic recipes. The good thing is that you can just adapt existing recipes and replace them with organic foods. So, you can go for a favourite like roasted veggie calzone, and make sure you make all the ingredients organic. You might want to try out the recipes with organic food to make sure it doesn’t affect the preparation or cooking. There are also plenty of other organic recipes you could get hold of and try.

Organic foods are all the rage these days, and it’s easy to see why. They are a delicious and healthy way of having a balanced diet. The good thing is that organic foods are much more available to all of us these days. And you can easily switch your diet to an organic one by following the ideas on here.

What do you think about eating organic? I know that it is good for things that you eat the skin of, like apples, and at the moment I am getting an organic fruit box each week. But often the cost is much higher so that does tend to put me off. We used to have an allotment and I did love growing our own veggies, and I have a few fruit bushes in our garden. Last year I think I got around 1kg of blackcurrants which isn’t bad, as well as a fridge full of apples. Hopefully when we have a slightly bigger garden we will get back to growing a few more veggies too. I need to investigate whether we can grow sweet potatoes over here!  Which fruit or veg would you grow in your garden?