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Oh no, it’s that time of year again – when about half the women I know are getting ready for their summer holiday, working hard in pursuit of the Beach Body. This seems mostly to involve drinking a protein shake for breakfast and eating a ‘light’ yoghurt for lunch, before caving in mid-afternoon and having a Kit Kat, then going to the gym to work it off. I can only wonder how things pan out in the evening. I’m exaggerating slightly, but you get the picture. We all know them. You might even be one of them if you’re a woman. If you’re a man your holiday prep probably consists of little more than buying some board shorts and Euros, which is great. You don’t feel the same media pressure to look like Gwyneth Paltrow in a bikini.

I’ve made my feelings on the Beach Body known in the past – that we should eat well and exercise all year round and not just when we’re about to get on a plane to somewhere hot. Despite this, I am currently preparing my own body for my summer holiday. But don’t worry, I am attempting to create not a Beach Body, but a Mountain Body! Or, more specifically, Mountain Legs. Next weekend we are going away to the Haute Savoie area of the French Alps and taking our bikes. Plus, in a rash moment a few weeks ago (possibly under the influence of Pinot Noir) I entered the Mont Blanc 10K, which is coincidentally taking place while we’re there. It would probably have been a good idea to look at the course profile beforehand, because it appears that the first half is pretty much all uphill (who would have guessed?!), but the deed is done. If I come last, so be it – at least I’ll have plenty of time to admire the scenery.

Hoping it will be something like this!

Hoping it will be something like this!

 

So I’ve been preparing my Mountain Legs by cycling and running up and down as many hills as possible, which hasn’t exactly been easy. For those of you not familiar with the topography of Yorkshire’s capital city, it’s as flat as the proverbial pancake round these parts. We pretty much have one hill within striking distance of where I live – which, admittedly, is a great one, with a working windmill on top of it – but that’s about it. So for running purposes it’s been reps up and down there lots of times, plus some work on the treadmill with the incline set to Quite Steep. I’ve also been trying to get out of town on the bike as much as possible in search of more and longer hills. Actually, my problem on the bike isn’t so much climbing as descending – I’m scared of it and therefore absolutely hopeless at it! Probably because I don’t do enough proper cycling. Steve, who is a really great cyclist, is very patient with his wimpy wife, although we usually part company at the top of a big hill; he swoops gracefully down like a bird of prey, tucking in and taking the curves like a pro, and I… let’s just say I sometimes stop to rest my hands! Then we meet up again at the bottom. But I am determined to tackle an Alpine col or two on holiday. If only someone could pop up to the summit in a car to take me back down again!

OK, where's the bus back down?!

OK, where’s the bus back down?!

 

Incidentally, I’m sure some of my friends think I’m completely mad for being in training to go away. The idea that a holiday should consist of more than lying on a beach with a book and a cocktail seems crazy to them – and they could be right! Perhaps if I was the sort of person who’s willing/able to lie on a beach all day and not an easily bored/easily burned ginger I’d feel more need to have a Beach Body – but I’m not. Each to his or her own I say.

So, do any of you cyclists out there have any tips for helping me become a better and less fearful descender? I’d love to hear them!

 

I’d really been looking forward to the North Lincs Half. Not just because the organisers promised cake at the finish line (although that was obviously a factor!) but also because it’s over a year since I’ve done a half marathon properly. I sadly had to miss out on both the Yorkshire Wolds Half and the Vale of York Half last year when I was injured. I did the Brass Monkey Half in January, but was only just getting back to proper running at the time and took it very steadily. Now, off the back of training for the Paris Marathon followed by the Vale of York 10, with a few Parkruns thrown in to sharpen up the legs, I was finally feeling a lot fitter.

The weather forecast for race day was perfect – sunny but cool – and I set off (solo on this occasion) from York to Scunthorpe at about 6.30 am. I wasn’t 100% per cent sure how long it would take me to get there, and we’d been warned that the car park wasn’t big enough for everyone, so I wanted to allow plenty of time. In the end I got there in about an hour and parked up with no problem at all. The race HQ and finish is at Scunthorpe United‘s ground, Glandford Park, which is perfectly situated just off the motorway so really easy to get to. The facilities were great (lots of loos!) and it was nice to be able to wait around inside, out of the early morning chill.

The actual start of the race is about three quarters of a mile from Race HQ, and we were encouraged to make our way down there from about 8.30 for the 9 am kick-off. It’s a pleasant walk down a footpath through some fields, but you wouldn’t want to leave it until the last minute, as the path is narrow and progress was quite slow! On the wide, tree-lined road where the start is located there’s plenty of room to have a bit of a warm-up, and there are also a couple of portaloos for any last-minute calls of nature. Everything seemed very low-key and relaxed, which was really nice.

start-2016

And we’re off!

 

I’d got my half marathon PB of 1:52:37 at the Brass Monkey in 2015 on a very cold day where we had to walk over a few icy stretches of road. I reckoned with a bit of work I could have a fair crack at sub 1:50 and was planning to give it a go at the Vale of York Half in September this year. I reckoned that would be about 8:20 pace. My plan for North Lincs was to run at about 8:30 and see how things went. Then I noticed two 1:50 pacers, with a pace of 8:24 noted on their flags. Thinking that didn’t seem much faster than 8:30, I decided on the spot to set off with them and see how long I could hold on!

The fabulous pacers

The fabulous pacers

 

The first couple of miles seemed slightly downhill to me – or maybe I was just feeling good! The pace felt very comfortable. The course is generally very flat along some really long, straight roads – at times it seemed as if you could see runners for miles into the distance! It’s mostly rural, and it was certainly a gorgeous day to run through the countryside. There were a couple of stretches of quite narrow lane where it might have been tricky to pass people, but I was just focussed on sticking close to the pacers. There are five water points along the course – generous for a half marathon – plus stations with jelly babies and sponges around halfway. At this point I still felt OK and was cautiously optimistic about getting a PB. In the third quarter of the race things started to feel slightly harder and my belly felt a bit uncomfortable. I usually take Clif Shot Bloks during long runs, but they seemed to be laying a bit heavy today, so I didn’t take any more after about eight miles. The pacers, who I believe were called Barry and Mat, were brilliant, shouting out motivation and warning us when water stations were coming up. From about mile ten I was finding it harder and harder to keep up, but sheer bloody-mindedness made me attempt to cling on as best I could! I’m sure I would have slackened off sooner without the pacers to help.

Trying hard to keep it going near the end!

Trying hard to keep it going near the end!

Towards the end I looked at my watch and thought “Yes, only half a mile to go” and then… a hill! Only a short one, but as I started up it I felt my left calf beginning to twitch and knew I’d have to walk it. How disappointing – losing the pacer at 12.5 miles! One of the girls in our group kindly touched me on the shoulder and said “Come on!” encouragingly, but I didn’t want to risk full-blown cramp. As I got to the top of the hill I could see spectators cheering near the finish and a sign that said 800m to go, so decided to try for a final push. From somewhere I managed to find a bit of speed, and the roadside encouragement really helped. The final stretch round the football pitch to the finish line was great. I could see the pacers finishing some way ahead of me, but didn’t dare look at my watch until I crossed the line… when I was astonished to find that I’d somehow still managed to sneak in just under 1:50 at 1:49:48! I was chuffed to bits, as I hadn’t planned or expected to do that at all. I was completely cream crackered though, but not too tired to go and thank Barry and Mat, as I certainly wouldn’t have run as fast as I did without their help. The race swag was pretty good; a t-shirt and a trainer-shaped medal, plus a goody bag with crisps, Haribo and a Penguin – oh, and the cake of course! After collecting all this I went and sat on the grass for a while, ate my crisps and did a bit of stretching with a big smile on my face! I was amazed to find out later that I’d come 8th in the V50 women’s category. Perhaps there were only eight V50 women there!

The very cool medal

The very cool medal

I really would recommend the North Lincs Half to anyone. There were runners of all abilities there, and the organisation and communication were great. The course is really PB-friendly, and obviously the pacers are a Godsend! There’s also a family fun run as part of the occasion. Perhaps best of all, it only costs about half as much to enter as the Leeds Half the week before. Getting away at the end was smooth too, with no traffic hold-ups. A top event all round!

So now I’ve ticked off one of my major goals for the year four months early what’s next? I feel I need to officially re-establish my sub 4 marathon status after the Manchester fiasco, so the Yorkshire Marathon in October is probably my main goal. I’d also love to do a sub 50 minute 10K, but I’m not sure that’s possible. Still, never say never!

Lincs T-Shirt

When I heard about the new Vale of York 10 (miles rather than kilometres) I just knew I had to enter. Not only was it being held a mere three miles from where I live, I knew it would also be a great training exercise for the North Lincs Half four weeks later. The event was being organised by Racebest. I’d done their Vale of York Half when it was held for the first time in 2014 (you can read my review of that here) and really enjoyed it, so things looked promising.

The VoY 10 started and finished at an airfield at Rufforth, a village west of York. The VoY Half has a similar venue at Sherburn airfield. When you think about it, an airfield is a great place to hold a running event – loads of flat, open space! There was plenty of parking, and by sheer chance I ended up parked virtually next to the start line, which was very handy. Race numbers weren’t posted out in advance, but sign-on was very quick and efficient. Safety pins were included in the race packs too, which was good as it’s probably easy to forget them if you haven’t received a number in advance. There were plenty of toilets in the sign-on area – a bit of queuing, but nothing too long. Everything was very close together, with a nice relaxed atmosphere.

VoY Start

 

The weather couldn’t have been better; cold but sunny with hardly any wind. As we stood on the start line I regretted wearing gloves and wondered whether I had time to go back to the car and leave them. I decided I hadn’t. In the end the start was delayed by a few minutes, so I probably could have done. I’m not sure why we were late starting – a tannoy announcement was made, but nobody could tell what was being said! Anyway, suddenly a hooter sounded and we were off. The first mile or so consists of an out and back stretch along the airfield, which is quite good as you can see all the super-fast folk speeding off in the opposite direction. Speaking of super-fast (for me), I clocked my first mile at just a couple of seconds over eight minutes, then told myself “Don’t be ridiculous, this isn’t sustainable!” and slowed down to aim for a pace of about 8:30.

We emerged from the airfield onto the public road at about 1.5 miles. It was at around this point that I decided my hands were boiling and the gloves had to come off, so I stuffed one up each sleeve! The route has closed roads all the way round, which is great, and is very rural, passing through a couple of villages along the way. I’m more used to cycling round these roads, and it did feel a bit odd to be running on them instead! But it’s a lovely, scenic route with some undulations to keep things interesting, and on such a clear day there were great long distance views at the high points. There wasn’t much in the way of crowd support apart from at the start and finish, but the lovely countryside more than made up for that.

VoY Runners

At one point, between the villages of Catterton and Bilbrough, a horsebox appeared on the course from somewhere, driving through the runners. It was too far ahead to be a problem for me, but I can see that it might have bothered some of the runners further in front. I guess there’s always someone who thinks the closed road doesn’t apply to them! Fortunately it turned off our route after a while. There were water points at 3.5 and 7.5 miles, and the marshals all along the route were brilliant. I believe many of them came from St Theresa’s Athletics Club in Leeds, so big thanks to them for their support. As I was approaching this as a half marathon training exercise I was satisfied with my finishing time of 1:25:50. This was about a minute faster than when I did the Snake Lane 10 in February, but about a minute slower than my ten mile PB achieved at last year’s Snake. After all the marathon training I’ve done I definitely need to do more half marathon-type speed work! But I’m still grateful just to be injury-free so far this year.

VoY Finish

There was a great goody bag at the end, containing a medal, t-shirt, High 5 energy gel, water and a Toffee Crisp. The medal and t-shirt are certainly a bit different from the norm – I’ve never had a race memento with a glider on it before! I didn’t hang around too long at the finish as I was a bit sweaty and cold. It took me a few minutes of queuing to get off the site and onto the road. Others who left later told me it took them about 15 minutes, but that’s no great hardship for such a good event, especially when you have a Toffee Crisp with you!

VoY T-Shirt

All in all this was a great event that I’d highly recommend. There were certainly a lot of very fast club runners there, but also many less speedy folk such as myself, with some people finishing at over two hours. I believe the Vale of York Half is on 11th September this year – I’ll certainly be entering!

VoY Medal

 

First things first; I didn’t travel to Paris expecting to set the course on fire. Due to my hamstring tendon injury I hadn’t taken part in a marathon for a year and had done hardly any running at all between June and Christmas, so had taken things really cautiously this time by following a beginner’s training plan. Obviously when I got my PB at Manchester last year I was a lot fitter, having followed a specific Asics sub four hour plan. This time my aim was just to complete 26.2 miles (or 42.1 kilometres!) without my injury flaring up. Steve and I decided to make a long weekend minibreak of it, and I’d booked a studio apartment that was a convenient 5-10 minute walk from the marathon start and finish areas.

I registered at the Salon du Running on the Friday morning – a good time to go as it was fairly quiet. This was all very efficient, and participants were given a very cool souvenir nylon rucksack. I’d also registered for the Saturday breakfast run, which cost €10 but included a really nice Asics technical t-shirt and a tiny flag of your nation to carry, which I thought was a nice touch.

Signing on!

Signing on!

The breakfast run was at 9am on the Saturday morning, starting where the marathon finishes on Avenue Foch near the Arc de Triomphe. The sight of hundreds of runners all in the same t-shirt was certainly quite impressive! The atmosphere was really relaxed and friendly, and the tiny flags made it easy to spot fellow Brits, so I got chatting to a lovely woman called Ruth from Cirencester as we jogged along. The 5K route passed by the Eiffel Tower and finished on the nearby Champ de Mars, where an ample supply of coffee, croissants, bananas and water awaited. Carb loading was obviously no hardship in a country famed for its pastry and I probably consumed my own weight in boulangerie produce over the course of the weekend!

Flying the flag for Yorkshire at the breakfast run!

Flying the flag for Yorkshire at the breakfast run!

Obviously I’d been keeping a close eye on the weather forecast. Friday and Saturday were actually pretty cold, and it was hard to believe that Sunday was predicted to be sunny and up to 20 degrees! But sure enough, it dawned bright and clear, and already felt a lot warmer than the previous two days when I set off for the start at 8.30 am. I was in the 3:45 – 4:00 pen, as I’d been on better form when I’d signed up a year ago. Lining up on the Champs Elysées was quite a Thing in itself, with the Arc de Triomphe framed by a bright blue sky behind us and one of the most beautiful streets in the world stretching ahead.

Paris Marathon Start

 

Despite not having any performance expectations before the event I obviously couldn’t resist setting off at around four hour pace, i.e. nine minute miles. The course (which you can see here) curved around the Place de la Concorde and headed down the very long, straight Rue de Rivoli towards the Place de la Bastille. It then made its way out towards the huge Bois de Vincennes on the eastern edge of the city. There were refreshment points every five kilometres with Vittel water, oranges, bananas, raisins and sugar cubes. I always think oranges are a bad idea as most people are seemingly too dumb to throw their rubbish to the side of the road, so the discarded skins just create a lethal slippery carpet, but there we go – they seem very popular in Europe!

Runners got a split time every 5K and could be tracked live via the Paris Marathon app. I’ve participated in other events where this hasn’t worked very well, but I know it did this time as my brother was stalking me from the UK! I set off really well and felt very comfortable, going through halfway in 2:01. I knew I wasn’t going to break four hours this time, but it didn’t bother me. However, in the second half I did begin to slow down. I think this was a combination of the heat, being a bit less fit than usual and needing a loo stop. Full sun had been beating down on us from the start, and as time went on many people seemed to be struggling with the heat. The firemen of Paris did their best to help, pointing their hoses over the road in various places to provide a fine, cooling spray, and there were also some sponge stations along the way but it was still hard work. It was great to see Steve popping up a couple of times en route with words of encouragement to keep me going!

The course went through two tunnels by the river, where my Garmin lost signal both times, but picked it up again a few minutes after coming out the other end. There were obviously some great sights to see as we went back through the city and out towards the Bois de Boulogne. It’s hard to beat running past the Eiffel Tower as a means of distracting your thoughts from tired legs! Crowd support was brilIiant too, with lots of bands along the route. But I found the last 10K very tough and gradually started to fade. In the last mile or so I actually thought my calves were going to cramp up and had to stop for a little stretch. I’m not sure if this was caused by dehydration or lack of fitness – probably a bit of both. Anyway, much as I’d enjoyed the event I was very glad to finish!

Swag

Top quality swag!

We were funnelled through the (extremely long) finishing area and received a t-shirt, rain cape and a huge, heavy medal! As I went to get a banana I got chatting to a chap from Doncaster who said he’d suffered horribly in the heat too – his marathon PB was apparently 3:43, but today he’d come in at around the same time as me at 4:16. My slowest marathon ever! However, it wasn’t all bad news – I came about halfway down the field, both overall and by gender, and 342nd out of 1,563 in my age category – which just goes to show everyone must have been finding it just as hard!

The bling!

The bling!

Would I do it again? Probably not, because there are so many other marathons to try, but I am glad I did it. It’s a beautiful event with a great atmosphere, but a northern lass like me obviously performs better in the familiar cold of Manchester!

Paris Marathon Finish

My top tips if you’re considering Paris.

Bear in mind that you usually have to provide a medical certificate for French sporting events, stating that you are fit to participate; this is essential for the marathon. Some GPs will provide these for free, some make a nominal charge and some make you have a full private medical that costs a fortune; something you may want to check out before you make your decision.

Enter as early as you can, because prices go up as time goes on. Unlike London or Berlin there’s no ballot, but the event does sell out.

It’s not a great course if you’re attempting a PB. There are some undulations, and in some places the route was quite narrow and crowded. If you want to go European, Berlin is much better for this.

Allow plenty of time if you’re dropping a bag, as the baggage area is quite a walk from the start.

There are lots of toilets around the Place Charles de Gaulle (where the Arc de Triomphe is) but not many in the starting pens, so pay that vital last minute visit to the loo at the top of the road!

There were no sports energy products along the course apart from a small cup of Isostar drink at around 30K (I think!), so make sure you bring your own if you want them.

Take sunscreen!

I do think accommodation was much better value than you’d pay in London during the marathon. The apartment we stayed in is here if anyone wants to check it out.

Feel free to get in touch with me if you have any Paris-related questions!

 

 

Last week I was invited to the opening of the new Holland & Barrett flagship concept store in York. I was working that day, so was unfortunately only able to pop in for a short time, but it certainly seems impressive! It’s a vast improvement on the old store which, although not very far away, was bursting at the seams and sometimes difficult to get round.

Holland  Barrett More York opening 3 03 16

 

This bright and airy new outlet is one of the largest in H&B’s portfolio, and is certainly the biggest health food shop I’ve ever seen! It stocks a much wider range of products than the old store, and it was good to see lots of healthy foods, some lovely ethical beauty brands and a great variety of sports nutrition products (although not my favourite Clif Shot Bloks!). Everything is on Buy One, Get One Half Price at the moment, so I duly stocked up on magnesium and iron to support my marathon training.

Healthy Pic n Mix

 

There are some novel concepts within the store such as an olive bar, a fruit/nut ‘pick and mix’ station and a bar where you can create your own protein shake to take away. You can also have a body analysis test to help you decide on health and fitness goals, and there are lots of qualified staff on hand to assist.

Body composition area

Sadly I didn’t have time to take advantage of the pampering treats on offer, but I will definitely be back soon for a proper mooch about when I have more time. It’s a great addition to York’s retail scene and well worth a visit.

 

 

I can’t believe I haven’t blogged about running since Christmas! I’ve been so busy over the last few months, working full time at my ‘proper job’ for six months whilst fitting in marathon training and all the other things that make up life. Must do better!

Anyway, I’m so happy to be able to have plans for spring after coming back from the injury that stopped me doing much running at all for the second half of 2015. I’m now training for the Paris Marathon, but have decided (almost certainly) to defer my London Marathon place until next year – just because I don’t want to risk setting myself back by attempting two marathons in three weeks. Yes, I did Berlin and York two weeks apart in 2014, but I was fitter then! Plus running London in 2017 will give me something to look forward to (and train for) next spring.

I must admit I was quite nervous about the first event I took part in since being injured, the Brass Monkey Half Marathon in York last month. A year ago I ran this in 1:52 even though we had to walk a few icy bits. This year I decided to err on the side of caution and run it at marathon pace, i.e. nine minute miles. I just wanted to get round and finish with nothing hurting, which is what happened, so I was a happy bunny!

Brass Monkey 2016

A happy bunny. Or should that be monkey?

 

Then last week I took part in the Snake Lane 10 (that’s miles rather than kilometres) at Pocklington. This is a really popular local event that sells out fast! As I was still feeling injury-free and had done some marathon training I decided to go for it and try my best, but the weather was so windy it wasn’t a great PB day for anyone. I came in a couple of minutes slower than last year at 1:26, but I haven’t attempted to run that far at that pace since last year’s Snake, so I was OK with that. My legs felt tired but not painful afterwards, so that’s more progress and a good marathon training exercise. It was also great to see my Twitter friend Katie Holmes, aka @RunYoung50.

A bedraggled me and Katie showing off our Snake 10 mugs!

A bedraggled me and Katie showing off our Snake 10 mugs!

 

So now it’s only five weeks to Paris. I’m really looking forward to it. I worked in Paris for a while in the 90s and know the city quite well, so it will be fab to run around all the amazing and familiar sights.

Paris Number JPEG

 

After Paris, presuming I’m still feeling OK, I want to have a go at getting under 1:50 a half marathon, so I’ve entered the North Lincs Half in Scunthorpe in May four weeks later. I wanted to do this last year, but it clashed with the Ravenscar Coastal Half (another fab event). Possibly slightly less glamorous than Paris, but there’s a stadium finish and they give you cake at the end, so that’s two things in its favour! And between Paris and Scunthorpe I’m taking part in a brand new event right on my doorstep, the Vale of York 10, which starts and finishes at Rufforth aerodrome, just three miles from where I live. I thought that would be a good training exercise for North Lincs. It’s organised by the same people (Racebest) who put on the Vale of York Half, which I did in 2014 and thought was a fab event. Unfortunately I had to pull out last year due to injury, but hope to be back this year.

That’s all for now. I don’t want to enter too many events at the moment as I don’t want to risk setting my hamstring off again. I had hoped to do another ultra this summer, but will have to see how I feel after Paris. If I do it definitely won’t be as hilly as Calderdale! I hope your running plans for 2016 are going well too – good luck with whatever you’re training for.

I haven’t written much about running for a while – the main reason being I haven’t done much running for a while! Since the Calderdale Ultra in June I’ve been injured and, although I tried to struggle on for a while, it soon became obvious that my body wasn’t going to allow that.

Post Calderdale. I felt great at this point!

Post Calderdale. I felt great at this point!

 

I’ve seen three different physios during the past six months. The general consensus was that I had a problem with my upper hamstring tendon, but they all suggested very different ways of treating it. The first encouraged me to keep running (I was attempting to train for the York Marathon at the time), whilst giving me massage treatment and getting me to do hamstring strengthening exercises. After a particularly miserable 16 mile run I decided that wasn’t working for me. The second physio had me taking a month’s break from running whilst manipulating the injured area, but after several weeks I felt no better. Then I saw Martin Higgins of ProSport Physiotherapy, who has an entirely different approach to things. He specialises in a technique called Postural Restoration, and after testing my range of motion (and thankfully not judging me when I couldn’t touch my toes!) said that the root of the problem was that my pelvis was misaligned, so one side of my body was basically doing all the work. Also, most of my running shoes weren’t giving me enough arch support, which was exacerbating the problem. After stopping running in my Brooks Adrenaline and using only my lighter, more supportive Brooks Pure Cadence, I’ve felt barely any discomfort during runs. I can still sense some tension in my right hamstring, but the difference is amazing. There were times over the last few months when I thought I might never run properly again, but now I can see light at the end of the tunnel.

Cycling. It's alright, but it's not running is it?!

Cycling. It’s alright, but it’s not running is it?!

 

Not being able to run was miserable and I’m sure that at times I haven’t been much fun to live with! I’ve tried to keep up some aerobic fitness with turbo training on the bike, but it’s not the same. I actually didn’t realise how much I loved running until I couldn’t do it. Plus I’ve had to miss several events I’d hoped to do over the last few months; apart from the York Marathon there was the Yorkshire Wolds Half, the Princess Ultra and the Leeds Abbey Dash. I did take part in the York 10K in August, but was really just jogging round to make up the numbers. I was particularly worried because I’d already entered the Paris Marathon next spring, and had also got my Good For Age place for London, but was starting to think I wouldn’t be able to do them. Now, thanks to Martin, I’ve started to train for them at last, but am being cautious and following a beginner’s programme for now. I’m so happy just to be back running and am now looking forward to the Brass Monkey Half Marathon on 17th January, even if I’ll still be a long way off full fitness. If that goes OK I hope to be able to do the Harewood House trail half marathon in February. I’m being careful not to get too carried away and count my chickens just yet, but am at last feeling cautiously optimistic.

Happy Christmas running!

Happy Christmas running!

 

Being able to run again is the best Christmas present I could have hoped for. I wish you all a very happy Christmas and a healthy new year, and hope all your running dreams come true in 2016 xx

 

 

Yes, it’s that time of year again… although I’m not going to mention the C word! We all know that’s coming soon, but what really interests me is the run-up to the festive season. Everyone talks about the massive consumption of food and drink at this time, but I actually think the excess starts long before the big day. The works lunches, the mince pies, the tubs of choccies in the office – and of course, the alcohol. There aren’t many of us who aren’t presented with numerous opportunities to drink more than is strictly good for us at this time of year – and sometimes, in the face of peer pressure, it seems more socially acceptable to indulge than to abstain. Nobody wants to be branded a party pooper!

Xmas Drinks

The amount of alcohol people drink was highlighted to me and several of my colleagues when we attended a training recently on Alcohol Brief Interventions (or ABIs). The idea of this was that if we come into contact with members of the public that we suspect are drinking alcohol at ‘hazardous’ levels, we’ll know how to broach this appropriately and signpost them to help. Not exactly easy, but doable in the right way. What really shocked me was learning about the amount that many people apparently drink and the harm this is doing to both themselves and society in terms of crime and the strain alcohol-related illness places on the NHS. Levels of liver disease have rocketed in recent years. I used to think the type of person who gets liver disease is someone who can’t get out of bed in the morning without swigging vodka straight from the bottle, but it can actually happen with a much lower level of drinking over a sustained period of time. And, despite what we see on the telly, those who are drinking the most aren’t young people out on the lash, but middle-class affluent sorts who most nights of the week might have a G&T ‘to relax’ when they get in from work and then a bottle of wine with dinner.

Alcohol Units

The amount you drink can easily be at a harmful level without you even realising it. The recommended daily allowances are pretty small really; 2-3 units per day for women and 3-4 for men. That’s official units, not individual drinks of the size you might pour yourself at home! A large glass of wine (250 ml) has a staggering three units. And saving up your weekly units for a binge on Saturday night isn’t good for you at all. If you think you might be drinking more than you should, check out the Change 4 Life website, where there’s some really useful information, including a helpful (and possibly eye-opening) booklet called Don’t Let Drink Sneak Up On You. It also gives advice on how to relax without resorting to drink, which might help the many people who say they drink alcohol to relieve stress. The Drink Aware website is also a great resource and features the fascinating (and somewhat enlightening) alcohol unit and calorie calculator, as well as an app that allows you to track your drinking.

Drink App

I’m not a Christmas killjoy. Aargh – I said  the C word! I like a glass of wine (Pinot Noir if you’re buying) as much as anyone – and we all overdo it a bit from time to time over the extended break from work. But if you keep an eye on your drinking levels for the rest of the year and you’ll really be doing yourself a favour. You wouldn’t want me staging an intervention, now would you?!

Drinkaware

It’s not often I write about things I’m doing in the course of my work on the public health team at City of York Council (maybe I should?), but I just wanted to tell you about a project I’ve been helping with recently.

Launched this week, Breathe 2025 is an initiative supported by Public Health England and various local authorities with the ambitious aim of creating a smokefree future for the next generation of children in Yorkshire and the Humber. The idea is that in ten years’ time smoking will be unusual, and hopefully a thing of the past for young people.

Breathe Logo

Breathe 2025 is asking people and organisations to show their support by going to the campaign website or Facebook page and signing up to one or more simple, practical actions. This could be pledging to watch and share the Breathe 2025 video, or promising to display a Breathe 2025 poster. There are a range of simple actions to choose from, as individuals or on behalf of an organisation such as a school, GP or local business.

Smoking is still the greatest single cause of early death, killing around 100,000 people in the UK each year – an astonishing figure! And of course, the strain this puts on the NHS is huge. As most people start to smoke before the age of 18, it’s vital to target potential smokers at an early age, before they take it up and it becomes a habit. Although Yorkshire and the Humber has the highest adult smoking prevalence in England (20.1% compared to an England average of 18%), the good news is that only one in eight 15-year-olds smoke and the proportion of young smokers is dropping. Within the next decade there could even be a generation of children that don’t smoke. How amazing would that be?

I think Breathe 2025 is a great idea and am happy to be supporting it. You can do the same by visiting its website.

Breathe Child

 

 

 

Foodies Xmas Logo

A special Christmas edition of Foodies Festival, the UK’s Biggest Celebration of Food and Drink, is coming to Harrogate on the 11th-13th December, and the organisers have kindly given me two pairs of tickets to give away!

The big draw at this year’s event is Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya, who will be joined in the Chefs Theatre by acclaimed chefs from all over the UK, including local Masterchef finalist Sara Danesin Medio. They will be  sharing their favourite recipes and top tips to help visitors create the perfect Christmas banquet.

Nadiya

 

Other highlights of the festival include:

  • An Artisan Christmas Market, with over 150 of Yorkshire’s finest producers.
  • Retro recipes in the Cake & Bake Theatre.
  • A Yorkshire Gin Theatre.
  • A Street Food Courtyard.

Theatre

 

It’s the perfect place to get in the mood for some festive food – there’s even a Champagne Ski Bar where parents can enjoy a chilled glass of bubbly as the kids take part in their own Elf Cookery School! I’m hoping to make it along there myself to pick up some festive treats. There’s more information on the show here.

Champagne

 

To be in with a chance of winning a pair of tickets, just retweet any of the tweets mentioning the competition. A winner will be picked on the evening of Monday 23rd November.

Good luck!

Sweeties