Down But Not Out

So yesterday’s Manchester Marathon was my first DNS. Not a pleasant experience, but I guess it had to come at some point. I’m normally a very healthy person (touches wood) but on this occasion managed to succumb to a nasty stomach bug. To be ill at the exact time I had to run a marathon seemed like very bad luck! It was particularly annoying as I felt my training had gone well and I felt really positive. Just goes to show!


Sadly unused!

On Saturday morning I didn’t feel quite right – a bit achy, like when you’re about to get a bad cold. I tried to ignore it as I packed my race stuff, joked about the horrible weather forecast on Twitter and then set off for Manchester with my husband. Later in the afternoon I felt a bit more achy – and warm too – so I took some paracetamol before wandering over from my hotel to look at the race start; still trying to ignore it. Later when we went out for dinner I managed to eat my pasta OK. “I’ll be fine after a good night’s sleep” I thought. “I don’t do illness!”. I took some more paracetamol and went to bed.

The good night’s sleep didn’t exactly go to plan. I woke up at 1 am with a churning stomach and subsequently (sparing you the graphic details, gentle reader) spent most of the night in the hotel bathroom. There were periods when I felt horrendous and thought “There’s no way I can run tomorrow” and periods when I didn’t feel so bad and thought “Ah, it’s going away now, I’ll be OK after all”. Unfortunately these didn’t last long! When my (somewhat unnecessary) alarm eventually went off, after what seemed like one of the longest nights of my life, it was time to make the call. I was aching to my bones, alternating between boiling hot and freezing cold, and my stomach felt like someone was twisting a knife inside it. There was no way I could eat anything. I already know that running a marathon is hard enough when you’re fully fit and fuelled. Yesterday I felt like I could have barely made it to the end of the street, never mind round 26.2. Manchester was most definitely off!

I looked out of the bedroom window and, despite the awful forecast, it wasn’t even raining. I watched lots of other happy (and healthy!) runners making their way to the start, feeling very sorry for myself. Four months of training wasted, not to mention the expense of the race entry, travel and hotel! I was driven home with my tail very much between my legs. Later, on social media, I began to read what a great time everyone had had, which made me feel even worse; and the finisher’s t-shirt was even in my favourite colour, turquoise! People sent sympathetic texts and messages, but the best was from my lovely friend who’s an Ironwoman, saying that I should enter another marathon, and soon. “She’s right” I thought, “that’s exactly what I need to do!”.

Today when I woke up after a much better sleep I’d stopped aching and I didn’t have a temperature any more. My belly still feels like someone’s stabbing a giant fork into it from time to time and I still can’t eat proper food or move too far from the bathroom; but I’ve sure as hell found another marathon. Milton Keynes on 5th May here I come!

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Nutrition for Marathon Tapering and Race Day

Those spring marathons are really creeping up on us now aren’t they? This coming Sunday it’s Manchester (mine), Paris and Brighton, then the week after it’s the big one – London. Where did all that time go?!

So, we’re all tapering now. It’s a funny time, when you kind of feel you should still be training at full pelt but actually need to cut down and focus on recovery so you’re fresh for the big day. Nutrition plays a really important part in this, fuelling up the body for the challenge ahead. For the moment you should still be following the guidelines in my previous marathon nutrition post, maybe just cutting down a bit on the amounts you’ve been eating now you’re not burning as many calories. It’s certainly not a time for dieting though!

Y’know, stuff like this!

But what about the week leading up to race day? Here are a few foodie pointers.

  • Eat good, nutritious food in the week before the race – lean protein, good carbs, fruits and veggies. Just like a car, your body will perform much better on high grade fuel. Try to avoid alcohol and junk food – it will make a bigger difference than you might think.
  • Three days before the event start to fuel yourself up on good carbohydrates such as wholemeal pasta and bread, beans, pulses and brown or basmati rice. There’s no need to eat loads more than usual, just adjust the proportions of your meals to include more carbs and less protein. These carbs will provide your muscles with most of the energy they’ll be using as you run.
  • On Saturday, switch to simple carbohydrates. I would never normally recommend these, but this is a special case, as you may not have enough time to properly digest wholemeal stuff before the race. Eat carb-based meals and snacks today – pasta with tomato sauce is a favourite, but also consider rice, potatoes and bread, with maybe a little light protein such as chicken or fish. Avoid anything too fatty or fibrous, as these types of food could make you feel heavy or bloated for the run. Don’t have a massive evening meal, which may still be hanging around in your system on Sunday morning, but spread your intake throughout the day.
Buon appetito!
  •  On marathon morning you’ll need a breakfast that will provide you with some good energy but not take too long to digest. Different things work better for different bodies; hopefully you will have experimented in training. Many people favour white toast or porridge with something sweet on top like honey or jam. My personal favourite is porridge with maple syrup, as my system seems to digest oats much more quickly than wheat. Have breakfast at least two hours before the race so that it has time to leave your stomach before the start. About an hour before kick-off have a light snack such as a small banana or an energy bar.
  • Consider carrying some energy gels with you to take during the race. Your body will probably have used up most of its own energy stores after about an hour and a half, so supplementing with an energy product should prevent you from ‘bonking’ (running out of steam) by giving you a boost. If you are going to use gels it’s really important to make sure you test them out before race day just in case they don’t agree with you. On my recent long runs I’ve been using Clif products, which they give out at Manchester, and they’re pretty good.

  • Hydration is obviously very important, especially if the weather is going to be warm. In the week before the race make sure you drink plenty of water. There is no set correct amount, as everyone’s body is different, but try to keep it at a level where your wee is a very pale straw colour, almost clear. Don’t overdo it on the morning of the race! The best way to avoid having to go for a wee en route is to have a big drink of water as soon as you wake up, then don’t drink any more until just before the start. You then have time to go to the loo and get rid of any excess before you set off, and the drink you have just before the gun will be sweated out, hopefully avoiding the need for loo stops!

I hope everyone enjoys their taper; but if course it is difficult not to feel/lazy/nervous/germ-phobic at various times! Please feel free to share any of your race day nutrition tips with me, I’d love to hear them.

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Greater Manchester Marathon Training 2014

I’ve been so busy recently I haven’t had time to blog for ages *guilty face*, but just thought I’d share a few thoughts about how training has been going for the Greater Manchester Marathon. It’s on 6th April, so exactly a month away – eek!

Some of you will know how frustrated I was after I took part in this event last year. It was my first marathon and I was going quite well until I reached mile 24 and got cramp in my calves! People said to me that 4:07 was a great time for a first attempt at my age(!). Initially I was pretty pleased just to have completed an actual marathon, but I soon started thinking about how I could avoid the dreaded cramp in future and maybe get closer to four hours.


Manchester 2013 euphoria!

Then a few months ago a massage therapist I visited suggested I might have an imbalance of calcium and magnesium – i.e. too much of the former and not enough of the latter. Apparently calcium makes the muscles tense up and magnesium makes them relax, so too much calcium and not enough magnesium can cause cramp. I read up a bit on this and began to see the sense in it, so have been taking a magnesium supplement since I started this current cycle of marathon training to see what happens. I guess I won’t know if it’s worked until race day, but obviously magnesium is also good for muscle recovery in general anyway.

 I’ve also worked on strengthening my legs more this time. My favourite way to do this is by attending a weekly flow (or vinyasa) yoga session at York Yoga Studio. Anyone who thinks yoga is all about lying down, breathing and chanting should give one of these classes a go – they are hard work! Poses are put together in sequences and synchronised with the breath, really raising the heart rate whilst stretching and strengthening. It’s brilliant core work too, which is really important for running. My arms often feel like jelly by the end, but it’s well worth it and good fun too.

A class at York Yoga Studio

The running part of my schedule has been going pretty well so far, fingers crossed. I’m following the Women’s Running improver’s plan again, and my six weeks running up to the marathon look like this:

As you can see, I did a half marathon (of my own devising, not an official one) last Sunday, which was supposed to be at PB pace. It was far too windy to get a PB, but at 1:56 it was actually quicker than my time at the Brass Monkey in January – which was both pleasing and annoying at the same time! Usually after a race I would rest for a few days, but there’s no respite during Monster Month, so I did a threshold session today and I must admit my calves now feel a bit mashed. And of course there are the two longest runs scheduled for the next two Sundays, so it will be interesting to see how it all goes. At least it’s a good excuse to eat carbs on a Saturday night! I’m a big fan of doing a bit of cycling to recover from long runs, it seems to work well for my legs.

 I would really love to squeak in at just under four hours at Manchester, because that would be a Good For Age time for me and I’d love to get into the London Marathon – I’ve tried via the ballot for a few years now with no luck so far. Hope everyone else’s spring marathon training is going well – I’d love to hear how you’re getting on.


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Race Review – York Brass Monkey Half Marathon 2014

I’ll be honest – the thought of entering the Brass Monkey scared me a bit. All the races I’ve done so far have been big ‘mass participation’ events where I could hide away, trotting invisibly at my own pace. But the Monkey is a proper club event, organised by York Knavesmire Harriers and featuring lots of serious runners – you know, the sort of people who are fast enough to wear shorts and vest even in the depths of winter! And because it’s held at a time of year when there isn’t much else going on it’s always oversubscribed. But it seems daft to pass up the opportunity of taking part in such a great event that’s right on my doorstep. Getting onto the entry system and securing a place is a feat of endurance in itself, however, also involving a certain amount of luck. I actually entered for the first time last year (having first checked the 2012 results to make sure the organisers probably wouldn’t have packed up and gone home before I’d finished) but unfortunately the event was called off due to icy weather.

Starting line chic

 Race day morning dawned… miserable! This was a bit of a surprise as the forecast had been great. A steady rain had been falling in York all night, so bin bags and massive puddles were the order of the day on the starting line, but at least spirits didn’t seem dampened as we set off. Apart from a couple of short inclines the route is as flat as billed, and there seemed to be hardly any wind. The rain stopped after a while – hard to say exactly where as the first few mile markers were way out – and conditions were great. I wondered whether a PB could be on the cards. My race preparation hadn’t been ideal; I had a nasty cold over the Christmas holidays, and although I managed to get in all my longer Sunday runs I’d had to miss a few threshold sessions, but I felt OK. Steve and Milly were waiting to cheer me on in Appleton Roebuck, just after the halfway point, and it was good to have an opportunity to dump my cap and gloves.

Rain? What rain?!

However, for some reason I only managed to pull off a rather mediocre time of 1:58, some five minutes off my PB set at last year’s Great North Run. I can’t really explain why. Maybe I’m still not back to full strength – or maybe I’m just making excuses! I don’t know. A Monkey friend who was also disappointed with his time told me it wasn’t a good time of year to get a PB – maybe we’re still too full of mince pies! It would have been a great time for the first half of a sub-4 marathon – but could I have kept it up for four hours? Again, I don’t know. What I do know is I need to knuckle down for the Manchester Marathon, which is now creeping up fast!

(Mediocre) job done!

 On a practical note, the Brass Monkey is a great event. It starts and finishes at York Racecourse (also the venue for this summer’s Tour de France départ) and there’s plenty of free parking. With efficient bag drop, minimal toilet queues and brilliant support from the Knavesmire members/marshals, I would definitely do it again and recommend it to others. I loved the finisher’s t-shirt, a hi-vis long-sleeved top that is actually a pretty good fit for once! I’m now actually considering joining Knavesmire Harriers so I can do their summer 10K race series, which I think would be good training for the Berlin Marathon in September. Watch this space!

Not sure who’s more knackered here, me or him!


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Christmas Eating – A Guilty Pleasure?

Eating and guilt seem to be permanently intertwined in our culture these days, and never more so than at Christmas. It starts in the autumn with Little Black Dress Diets (the winter version of the dreaded summer Bikini Diets), then in December it moves on to making people feel bad about eating festive food. The latest thing seems to be exercising like a maniac every time you have a mince pie in order to ‘work it off’. Enough already!

 To remove the guilt from Christmas eating, let’s take it back to basics. In days of yore, when Christmas was more about Christ than consumerism, 25th December was still a feast; but it’s important to remember that back then most people didn’t pig out for the other 364 days of the year. There were no takeaways or ready meals. The folk of yesteryear ate natural, seasonal, unprocessed food, had the occasional sugary treat on high days or holidays and for the most part didn’t drink themselves stupid at regular intervals. And – importantly – they didn’t own cars so walked a lot. In other words, they deserved a feast once in a while! But these days some people feast all year round and go everywhere by car.


Now I’m not necessarily saying we should all adopt the diet or lifestyle our ancestors had hundreds of years ago (although it would probably do us no harm). The point I’m making is that it’s fine to have a bit of a blowout at Christmas if you’re pretty healthy the rest of the time, i.e. eating good, healthy food most days, exercising regularly and having the occasional treat. If you do that you won’t need to go on a diet to fit into your LBD and shouldn’t feel bad about having a bit of Christmas pudding. Eat and enjoy all those lovely festive foodie treats without guilt! A turkey dinner is actually a pretty healthy meal. Sure, you might put on a couple of pounds over the holidays, but it will soon come off in January when you return to your normal habits. And if healthy eating and exercise aren’t your normal habits, make them your new ones!

My mother-in-law makes the best pastry in the world, so there’s no way I’m going through Christmas without a few of her mince pies. I know her pastry is so fab because she uses lard, but IT’S ONLY ONCE A YEAR. I also buy a really good quality locally-made Voakes pork pie as a Christmas treat too. Yes, pork pie – so shoot me! However, I do also try to make a few gestures towards health to try and offset some of the overindulgence. You might like to take them on board too if you’re being made to feel guilty. 

  • Keep exercising! There’s no reason not to, especially as you’ll probably have more free time than usual. You’ll feel loads better for a bit of fresh air after days of sitting in overheated rooms stuffing yourself like the proverbial turkey. I’ll keep running because I’m training for a half marathon in mid-January. This focuses the mind a bit when the After Eights come out.
  • Don’t buy those giant tubs of poor quality chocolates, they just lead to mindless chomping of empty calories. Someone will probably buy you some chocolates for Christmas anyway. I ask family members to give me dark chocolate, medjool dates (which I love as much as choccie) or Jelly Babies (i.e. running fuel) if they want to buy me edible treats.
  • Instead of a bucket of Quality Street, get some nuts and satsumas in and put them out on display to encourage healthy grazing. They’re traditionally Christmassy and offer some nutritional value amongst all the sugary rubbish.
  • You don’t have to get drunk every single night of the holidays. Step away from the Bailey’s and have a couple of days off at least to give your liver a break.
  • If you’re off to a party have something healthy to eat before you go. Buffet food is often just a sea of pastry, batter and bad meat – having a lining on your stomach will mean you eat less of it.

     Most of all enjoy yourself without guilt. And remember that having a few treats doesn’t mean you have to give up on healthy eating completely for the whole of the Christmas holidays – it’s all about balance. Food is a great pleasure that’s always best when shared with family and friends and there’s no better time to do that than Christmas.



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Race Review – Leeds Abbey Dash 10K 2013

I’ll start this review with the caveat that no proper training was done in the run-up to this race! The Leeds Abbey Dash was the first event I’d done since the Yorkshire Marathon in October. In the four weeks following the marathon I’d had some ‘recovery’ time, just doing two or three short-ish runs each week. It’s amazing how easy four or five miles feels after marathon training, really enjoyable! Then the Sunday before the Dash I thought I’d better remind my legs what 6.2 miles feels like, although not very quickly. So that was my race preparation! I set my 10K PB of 51:17 at the Abbey Dash last year, but hadn’t done an autumn marathon then, so wasn’t stressing about the fact that it probably wouldn’t be improved this year. My younger (and faster) brother Mike was also taking part, having done lots of cycling over the summer but not much running.

The race start arrangements had been changed this year to accommodate more runners – around 10,000 as it turned out! Instead of setting off on The Headrow next to the Town Hall as previously, runners were penned according to predicted finishing time in a car park before (theoretically) being set off in waves to the start on Wellington Street a short distance away. This was a good idea, but didn’t really work well in practice. The Elites and sub-45s set off from their pens, but nobody bothered to close them off afterwards, so all manner of random people jumped in behind, with the result that the different abilities became all mixed up. A couple of extra marshals would have come in handy there. We couldn’t hear the official start from where we were being held, so it was a case of start jogging, go round a corner and oh, there’s the starting line! Bit of an anticlimax, but at least runner traffic was flowing fairly freely.

Setting off I felt pretty good – better than last year in fact, when I felt a bit sluggish for the first couple of miles. For those not familiar with the event, it’s basically an out-and-back course from Leeds along Kirkstall Road to Kirkstall Abbey. Not the most scenic of courses, but billed as fast, flat and perfect for a PB. However, there are definite undulations, especially on the approach to the abbey itself, but nothing too troublesome. The repositioning of the start meant that this year there was a new loop around the Cardigan Fields leisure complex, complete with sneaky speed bumps that almost caught out a few people! Support along the route is sporadic, possibly due to the early start. There was one water point at halfway, although I didn’t stop there as I was well hydrated to start with. Some runners were clearly not very well up on race etiquette, chucking their empty plastic cups all over the road for others to slip on – a word to the wise on this subject in next year’s race instructions might be useful!

As expected, this wasn’t to be a PB day for me, and I came home in a very mediocre time of 54:07, just a few seconds faster than my time at the York 10K in August. Mike came home in a much more respectable 44:27. I think I might actually benefit from doing more of a proper running warm-up before a 10K race rather than just a few stretches, as it sometimes seems to take me a couple of miles to get into my stride. Something to bear in mind for next time! The steep-ish flyover just before the final approach to the finish line, which also features in the Leeds Half, is always a bit unwelcome. As I was going up there I passed a guy in a wheelchair who was really struggling. I was so tempted to stop and give him a push, but thought that would probably get him disqualified, so hoped a few words of encouragement would help instead. What a great effort.

All in all the Abbey Dash is a really good event. It’s well-organised, there’s always plenty of parking in Leeds and enough portaloos so that you don’t have to queue for more than a few minutes. And now it’s also part of the Runbritain Grand Prix series there are some really top-level runners in the field. Driving into Leeds we were listening to Radio Aire for race news, and I became increasingly annoyed at their describing the event as a ‘fun run’. As far as I could see everyone taking part was striving to do their absolute best at whatever level, and the winners’ times of around half an hour are certainly seriously good results!

 Next up on my schedule is the Brass Monkey Half Marathon here in York on 19th January – something that will (hopefully) keep my mince pie consumption to a minimum over the festive period. If only my mum-in-law wasn’t so good at making pastry this would be a lot easier!


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Product Review – Salomon Sense Mantra Trail Running Shoes

A few weeks ago the very kind folk at Salomon sent me some of their Sense Mantra W trail running shoes to try. At the time I was in full-on Yorkshire Marathon training mode so haven’t really had an opportunity to test them until now. I’ve been taking things a bit easy since the marathon, just doing a few short, gentle runs, but with the Leeds Abbey Dash coming up this weekend I thought I’d better remind my legs what 10K feels like. So last Sunday me and the Salomons went for a run that incorporated a couple of miles of off-road along a river flood bank.

So clean and white…

 I must admit that in the past I’ve always thought of Salomon more in the context of walking and hiking rather than running. I’ve had a couple of pairs of their walking boots and found them really good. I used to do quite a bit of long distance walking and many years ago bought a pair of their Exit Lo boots that really were as comfy as a pair of slippers. We walked zillions of miles together and I only recently got rid of them when they were virtually falling apart! I replaced them with another pair of Salomon walking shoes with Gore-Tex that are great, but I still kinda miss the old ones…

Muddy walking shoes

The Sense Mantras were so pretty and pristine it almost seemed a shame to take them out and get them muddy! I really liked the Quicklace system, which was very neat. So how did the shoes perform on the run? Well, what I liked most about them was that they’re very lightweight. Each shoe apparently weighs 210g, considerably less than my Brooks Cascadia trail shoes which are almost 300g. So even though the Salomons were supportive as I tested them by dodging potholes and running up and down the flood bank they felt no different to road shoes when I was running on the road. I imagine they’d be a good shoe to wear for winter road training as well as off-road running. Admittedly this wasn’t a very long run, but I’m hoping to get up to Dalby Forest in the near future to give them a proper trail workout. I really wish I’d had these shoes when I went on holiday to Brittany in August and did some running along the coastal path, they would have been perfect for that.

Muddier running shoes!

I also decided to canvass opinion on these shoes amongst my running friends. One of them, a fast runner who does loads of trail running, already uses Sense Mantras and loves them. Another friend who completed the Al Andalus off-road stage race in Spain this year is full of praise for Salomon trail shoes in general. So people who are much better runners than me are obviously big fans! I’m hoping to do some 10K off-road races as part of my training for the Manchester Marathon in April, so I’m sure these shoes will be seeing a lot more action over the next few months. They will certainly be the perfect holiday running wear in the future, ideal for both on and off-road.

Thank you so much for sending these to me Salomon. Lovely as York is, I am still very jealous that you all get to work in beautiful Annecy! I was there on a cycling holiday a few years ago and tackled the nearby Col de la Colombière. I hope to come back soon. Merci beaucoup!





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Recipe – Autumn Apple Muffins

In my ongoing quest for ‘healthy’ cake I recently adapted an existing muffin recipe to use up some of the many windfall apples I get from my mum-in-law at this time of year. Knocking up a batch of these is a great thing to do on a gloomy autumn afternoon, and they’re so easy kids can have a go at them too!

To make 12 muffins you will need…

275g plain flour (wholemeal if you like)

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

150g golden caster sugar

225g chopped apple

75ml sunflower or rapeseed oil

175ml apple juice

2 medium eggs

50g raisins


Pre-heat your oven to 190ºC/gas 5.

Place 12 large paper cases in your muffin tin.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

Mix the wet ingredients together in a jug.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones.

Mix lightly until the flour has disappeared, but the mixture is still a bit lumpy.

Fold in the apple and raisins.

Divide the mixture between the paper cases.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until well-risen and a bit crusty.

Enjoy – these are perfect with coffee!

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Race Review – Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon

Yesterday was a brilliant day for my home town of York – the first ever Yorkshire Marathon. It was a brave effort for the Jane Tomlinson For All Events people to have pulled off, and for a first-time event it all went really well. Having done my first marathon at Manchester back in April, where I did better than expected, I was really looking forward to hopefully doing a bit better this time.

I cycled (slowly) to the start at the University as it’s only three miles from where I live and I reckoned it would be a good warm-up for the legs and avoid any traffic issues. My husband Steve came with me to see me off, then he was going to a cyclocross race in Huddersfield, so my plan was to drop off a bag and pedal (even more slowly) home afterwards. My only issue with the otherwise great organisation of the event was the baggage drop-off. There were no signs (that I could see) telling people where to go, and a crazy one-way system that had a massive queue by the time I got to it. I could tell there was no way I’d have time to wait there and then pay a visit to the loo before starting time, so I opted for the loo and told Steve to take my bag home with him. I just put my bike lock key in the pocket of my shorts and did without the change of clothing – at least I’d (hopefully) have a dry finisher’s t-shirt to cycle home in! Full marks to For All Events for providing plenty of portaloos anyway, I only had to queue for a couple of minutes.

The warm-up at the start was a bit fragmented due to problems with the music, and I didn’t actually hear Dickie Bird starting us off, but we got away on time. The support as we ran through the city in the first couple of miles was brilliant, and I felt great for the first few miles. I was trying to keep up with the nine minute mile pacer, which I reckoned would give me a bit of leeway if I needed to slow down a bit later on. in retrospect that may have been a bit over-ambitious for me. I think I set off too fast and paid the price for it later on. At around mile 18 I had a touch of calf cramp, but rather than trying to run through it, as I had done at Manchester, I stopped and stretched immediately as I’d been advised, and it went away. The real killer was the stitch I developed at mile 18. I couldn’t understand it at all, as I never usually get stitches! After this a pattern developed of the stitch coming on, me stopping to rub it, running on for a bit, the stitch coming back – repeat for eight miles. Aaargh! I could feel my targets slipping away… goodbye to the nine minute pacer, goodbye to sub-4, goodbye to a PB… in the end I just wanted to finish. My mile split times tell the sorry tale!

At around 19 miles a bloke at the side of the road shouted out “Come on, the last few miles are all in your head!” and I think it was only the fact that I needed to conserve all my energy that prevented me from punching him, or at least saying something Very Rude Indeed; especially as many people were really suffering at this stage, walking or stretching out various body parts. Having said that, the support around the course in terms of general encouragement was fantastic. It’s always great to hear people shouting your name! The folk of Stamford Bridge and Dunnington were particularly amazing, but the ones who took the trouble to go out to the quieter parts of the course were really appreciated too. It was lovely to see people I knew every now and then.

The marathon route

So I struggled on bit by bit until The Hill. I know it must be difficult to get a route back to the University without going up Green Dykes Lane, but it was a real killer after 25.5 miles! Fortunately the crowds along here were again fantastic. At the top of the hill there’s a great “Yay, there’s the finish!” moment. As I started down the hill my cramp returned, but there was no way I was stopping or walking along here. I may have grimaced quite a bit though, not great for the official photos! I managed to do the Y anyway, and was so relieved to be finished, more so than in any other race I’ve done. The goody bag swag was nice; a lovely t-shirt and a really pretty Yorkshire rose-style medal. I was disappointed with my finish time of 4:14, as I’d been hoping to better my Manchester PB of 4:07, but it wasn’t to be yesterday. I think I need to work on my pacing and breathing to improve. When my legs have stopped aching there’s every likelihood I’ll enter next year’s Manchester Marathon!

The pink bling!

Would I recommend the Yorkshire Marathon to others? Yes. As an event it was great: well-organised and supported, and the on-course refreshment was plentiful. The mostly rural course was very attractive. However, despite being billed as fast and flat, it definitely isn’t – apart from the hill at the finish, the road into Upper Helmsley is also a proper incline. If you want a flatter course you’d be better off at Manchester. But it was a fab day. To have an event like this right on my doorstep is great and I may well be back for more next time… having done more hill training!



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Happy World Mental Health Day

A guest post for World Mental Health Day by Amanda Hart of Life Insight Therapy.

Today is World Mental Health Day – a day designated by the World Health Organization to raise awareness of mental health issues.  This year the theme is mental health and older adults.

Thankfully, mental health issues are becoming better understood, and suffering from mental health problems no longer attracts quite the stigma and discrimination that it once did.  However, there is still quite a way to go, as the recent debacle which saw major UK supermarkets selling ‘mental health patient’ and ‘psycho ward’ fancy dress outfits demonstrated (read more about this story here).  Thankfully, there was a very quick public response to this, during which real ‘mental health patients’ posted photos of themselves on social media sites saying ‘this is what a mental health patient looks like’. The supermarkets quickly withdrew the offending articles and at least one made a large donation to a mental health charity. But this just shows that there remains a lack of awareness and even a fear of what having a mental health problem really means.

Every year, one in four people will suffer from a mental health problem (source Mind) and almost half of that number will be diagnosed with a mental health disorder.  Mental health problems can affect not only the sufferer, but can also impact on families, loved ones, friends, colleagues and carers.  When I began my career as a counsellor and started working for a mental health charity, I had a very steep learning curve to climb as, despite my training, my awareness of mental health disorders and problems was pretty limited.  So it’s no surprise that general levels of public awareness are poor.  There are, however, some great resources for learning about different mental health problems.  I can highly recommend the Mind and Time to Change  websites for general information and for more detailed information NICE publishes patient information leaflets about different mental health disorders, which are available to download online.

On World Mental Health Day I will be seeing clients, some of whom are coping with severe mental illness.   I never fail to be impressed and inspired by their determination and capacity to overcome their problems,  to live a ‘normal’ life.  But when I first started working with people suffering from mental health problems  I had very little idea what to expect, I admit that I was nervous about meeting people diagnosed with illnesses that had complicated and scary names.  Although I had experience of people (mainly friends and colleagues) who’d suffered from anxiety or depression, I’d had very little contact with people with serious mental health illnesses – or so I thought.  I remember reading the notes for the first client I had with several serious mental health diagnoses before I met her; I felt overwhelmed and was quite anxious about what she would be like.  But as soon as I met her, I forgot the notes, I even forgot her diagnoses, and realised that she was simply a human being, like anyone, trying to deal with what life had thrown at her.  Most of the clients I work with do not wish to be defined by their diagnoses which they see as ‘labels’.  They are people who want help to deal with a health problem that they want to overcome. I work with them as I would work with anyone – helping them to get back in touch with their strengths and find their own ways to solve their problems, or to cope.  Having information about mental health disorders is helpful, as awareness helps to dispel misunderstanding and discrimination usually stems from a lack of understanding; however in my work with mental health sufferers, it can be just as helpful for me to be ‘unknowing’ about my client’s problems – and to let them tell me what it means to them, how it affects them.   Talking, it’s good.

The mental health charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness have jointly launched the Time to Change campaign.  The campaign urges us to talk about mental health – to start conversations, to share our experiences, to raise awareness and to put an end to ignorance and discrimination.  None of us know if we will become one of the ‘one in four’.  Many of us have been one of the ‘one in four’.  It’s time to talk about it.

To find out more about Amanda and her work visit


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