2019, it’s lovely to meet you

Am I supposed to start the 2019 blog posts off all happy smiley positive with good news and excitement for what’s to come? Well there will be some of that but I’m going to start a little bit grumpy: I don’t like New Year! Well I do and I don’t. I have an affinity for points in the year where you naturally reflect or plan ahead, where you dream, where you learn. The start of a new academic year, the start of a new Semester even, birthdays, the end of holidays, finishing a book, sometimes, simply finishing a week or even a day. New Year is simply that for me – or it would be if it didn’t come with all this bollocks about being a better you in the new year. I am the same slightly grumpy, slightly mad and slightly bitchy me today as I was yesterday. I don’t change much! I still don’t like people, I still have broccoli cravings and I will still eat cake. I don’t have any New Year’s resolutions. I have a very simple plan that is completely independent of New Year, or any of those other ‘fresh start’ moments. I plan to keep on running as long as I am enjoying running. If it turns out I hate it, well then I won’t run. There are things I’d like to achieve this year, of course, little challenges that keep pushing me out of my comfort zone because that’s where the fun happens – but resolutions? Nope.

I started today with a Double parkrun. I am not a parkrun fanatic or even fan really. This may be hugely unpopular but parkrun freaks me out a little bit. It’s a bit too cult like. I like going along to the odd one and I really like the idea of doing them when we’re on holiday. I have so far ticked off the Brisbane one and then 3 local ones. I’ve only done the Cliffe Castle one twice (new PB today after doing the Myrtle Park one first – happy Jess). I am looking forward to maybe trying a Washington DC one and the new Hamburg one in 2019. Anyway, I digress. Double parkrun this morning. The first was Myrtle Park in Bingley. Hilly. But really not impossible. However, as we waited the place seemed full of club runners and cocky buggers talking about course records for their age groups etc. I felt out of place. I mean FFS, I felt out of place at parkrun! I got a grip and remembered #myrunmyrules. It’s a 4 lap course which I thought would be dull and hard but it’s a lovely and twisty or as one of the little lads we saw said, ‘twiggly’ course. After the first lap I wasn’t sure I’d manage the hills another 3 times but after the 3rd lap I was pleasantly surprised to still be running and to want to finish running. The last hill was a bit of a push but it felt good. The course measured a little short on the Garmin but whatever the actual distance my pace was decent and I felt strong (Home at 36 and half ish minutes)- good sign for Dopey next week!

Then we hopped in the car and drove across to Cliffe Castle. This was the second time for us at this venue. I had a few doubts here. There were people. I don’t like people! But I wanted to do the Double. Finally we set off and settled into a slow trot at the back of the pack. The course is quite narrow making overtaking tricky particularly when you are a slower runner who has to negotiate getting past those even slower while not getting in the way of those runners lapping us. Cliffe Castle is a 3 lap course which is actually mostly downhill with all the up coming in one stint. I walked that. Maybe one day I’ll run it but not today. Again it was a nice plod round in January sunshine in a lovely park setting really. On our final lap we seemed to fall into step with dog Diego and his human for a while. Diego was distracted by everything and ran head first into one of the parkrun signs. I don’t think he hurt himself so it was ok to laugh. Cliffe Castle has a nasty little incline as you approach the finish and I’d watched it come closer as we plodded the final stretch. I was a little concerned about this incline, I wasn’t sure if I could run it. Then Kath said, ‘come on my little Dopey, finish strong’ and out of nowhere I found the energy to power up the hill feeling surprisingly good. Parkrun 2 done. This course also measured slightly short. So maybe my Garmin just doesn’t fancy the distance today.

So that’s the first 6 miles of the year bagged. I am ahead in the #Run1000Miles challenge. I doubt I’ll stay ahead for very long but it feels good to start as I mean to go on! Anyway, here’s my 2019 pledge. I am going to have a crack at the 1000 miles this time. My A Goal is to get to 1000. B is to run a little further than in 2018 and my C Goal is to run and enjoy it whatever the mileage. In fact goals A and B are premised on enjoying the running. I won’t be a mileage slave, it doesn’t work. However what does seem to work is enjoying being out, not taking things too seriously and just seeing what happens – miles take care of themselves that way. I am really excited to be able to share my running adventures with the #Run1000miles gang again this year, but more importantly I am excited to see what everyone else is up to and I’m looking forward to again being inspired by the mileage, the elevation, the scenery and crucially the sense of joy that is so ever present in the Facebook group. If you are a runner, wanna be runner, maybe runner or a I could maybe possibly, perhaps but not really sort of runner, come join us and see if you can surprise yourself running further, stronger and happier like I did last year.

Happy January and Happy 2019. Keep being the amazing, fabulous you!

Cliffe Castle and St Ives Estate

I live in a gorgeous part of the world. Yes, yes, I know, I live in Keighley which doesn’t immediately inspire visions of gorgeousness… but there is loads of amazing countryside on our doorstep and there are some lovely parks around too. I have lived here for quite some time now and the connection with this area is even longer and yet I had never been to Cliffe Castle Park apart from one brief run through it on the Keighley 10k and I have never been to the St Ives Estate in Bingley either – apart from once visiting a client at a care home there. That seems so totally implausible and it’s a bit embarrassing really. But maybe it’s also normal, we never spend enough time exploring what’s right on our doorstep do we.

IMG_2366So this weekend I ticked off those two place – now I can at least say that I’ve been and that I am more than just a little bit likely to go again. So let’s start at the beginning. Saturday’s Dopey Plan called for a 5.5 mile walk. We thought we’d jog down to our fairly new local parkrun at Cliffe Castle. I thought it would be just over a mile – it’s actually almost exactly 2 miles. We jogged the first mile or so, then walked the bit cutting through some backstreets where we weren’t too sure about direction. We arrived with about 10 minutes to spare and then my 3rd and Kath’s 4th parkrun were ago. Kath trotted round in a rather impressive 32 minutes something as I plodded my way round slowly. I felt fine and was actually enjoying myself but I didn’t feel strong. The course is nice. It starts off with a down hill on a wide path before turning left onto a gravel path which is quite narrow – no matter for me, I just let everyone go ahead of me on the downhill! It is mostly flat as you come off the gravel path onto a tarmac one and into the wood. Then the climb starts. You turn left and start going up. You just keep going up for quite a while.

Screenshot 2018-10-07 16.41.17

It’s a bit narrow and on the first lap I got stuck behind a group of people walking slower than I would normally while the parkrun frontrunners lapped us. While the climb is a bitch, once you’ve done that it’s easy – downhill mostly. On my second lap I tried to power walk the hill too fast and had to stop on the steepest bend to get my breath back, on the third lap I got it right – a fast positive walk at a pace I could sustain all the way and from which I could start running again immediately when I got to the top. As I ran past the house for the final time Kath saw me and came to join me so we ran the last bit together. Just up to the finish is a slope, I wasn’t sure I really wanted to run it but as we headed for it Kath told me I could do it and the music speakers blasted out Born in the USA. I ran. It was a slow 5k but it felt like I was finally getting back to normal. We walked back home and, though tired, I felt good.

Today we were to tackle about 15 miles. I was a little apprehensive but also really 43289087_419537471910638_2187069755976843264_nlooking forward to a new route and having a little adventure and it was a gorgeous morning. We set off along the canal towards Bingley, we ran down and then dropped into run/walk intervals of 2 minute runs and 30 second walks just before a little footpath that cuts through from Riddlesden to Morton – about half way along that there was a sheep on the path. We had several attempts at letting it come past us but it always changed it mind and kept going forward. It was clearly concerned about getting back to its field though so we hoped that it would go back as soon as as we had reached the end of the footpath where we could get past. It did. Along this stretch we also saw a sweet little black cat and for a brief moment we were running side by side with a sheep and a cat. Then the sheep went back and the cat changed its mind and left us to it.IMG_2373

I was tired by the time we got to Bingley. Kath saw a Kingfisher which briefly took my mind off things as I searched for it. As we came off the canal I started to really doubt that I could do the distance and suddenly felt really anxious. I think it was probably the traffic noice and busy-ness that seemed really noticeable after the quiet of the canal towpath. We walked through Bingley and headed into Myrtle Park and followed the path to Beckfoot Lane which is basically where the UP started. It was quite a lot of up after this. A lot of up. Once we got to the top of Beckfoot Lane we crossed over into St Ives Estate for a bit more up. Then we crossed the main drive up into the Estate, climbed a stile into a field and then another into a bigger field and made our way across. It would actually have been quite nice to run this bit – it’s flat. But the fields were full of cows. Gorgeous fluffy black and white cows (Belted Galloways), some were this year’s young I would imagine. It was a little nerve-racking walking through the fields but the cows weren’t interested enough to actually come and have a look, they just stared a bit. At the end of the 3rd large field there was a little metal gate into a wood and more up. The up was taking its toll now and I felt really quite tired, we passed 6 miles.

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The UP!

The route continued through the wooded areas of the Estate, past the Coppice Pond and

Felt how I look

eventually (more up) past Lady Blantrye’s Rock and a monument . Then we continue on along the edge of the golf course until we eventually reached Altar Lane. After a brief stop to look at the view we jogged down until we reached the Druid’s Altar turn off, we thought we might as well have a look and the views before heading back down. After that we headed all the way down the lane until we dropped into Bingley again. The traffic noise hit me again and my neck and back pulled tight. I couldn’t shake the tightness and over the next half a mile it gave a horrendous headache. It was definitely the tightness rather then dehydration or anything. It eased every time we walked and I could roll my shoulders or get Kath to rub my upper back. I was really struggling now and at 10 miles could quite happily have just curled up and cried. We carried on the canal and walked a bit to try and settle. At the top of the 5 Rise Locks I managed a few more running intervals but with every step it felt like there was an explosion in my head. In the end we switched the running and walking intervals and I just ran for 30 seconds leaving the 2 minutes to try and relax my shoulders and get rid of enough tension so I could do the next run. We couldn’t just head straight home, we needed more distance so kept going to the next bridge and walked up through our local little wood. I now had nothing at all left. We stopped at one point and I wasn’t sure I could get home. I really thought that trying to do this distance had been a mistake and it was far too much so soon after that cold I’ve had.

I pulled myself together and managed another little jog and then another before walking the last quarter of a mile home to finish on 14.5 miles. It was slow, so slow and I was initially so disappointed. But now that I’ve been home a while, had a bath, a recovery drink and some food and now that the fire’s lit and I can smell our roast chicken cooking, I feel pretty good about it. I am not broken at all. I am tired, really tired but nothing hurts, no major chafing, and no major muscle soreness or stiffness (yet). I covered the distance this weekend and it feels really good to be back on plan. Recovery so far has been sitting on the sofa with a cuddly cat, writing this blog and watching rubbish TV to just unwind. Dinner won’t be long and then it’s time to curl up with a film and give in to the tired. Yeah I was disappointed but actually, it’s done, it was a lovely route and we had an adventure.

Oh yeah Sunday weigh-in – I jumped on the scales before the run and I’m another pound down.

It’s been a good day and I like this trail shoe selfie!


Australia Running 5 – The Towns and Cities

Brisbane running was fun. The Southbank was fun. The conference was rubbish but it didn’t matter. We just did our thing.


The first Brisbane run was on a Friday morning and we plodded along the Southbank a little, crossed over a bridge and went back in the opposite directions along a footpath and eventually into the Botanic Gardens. The cyclists were a little annoying but it was nice to be out and about. Cyclists were a theme in Brisbane – fast, rude and not always competent – and I didn’t really get used to them.

Saturday we met our friend Jenny who lives in Brisbane for the Southbank parkrun and Kath set off running and Jenny and I chatted and walked round. We’d never met in real life but we got on well and had breakfast together afterwards. On Monday we ran a loop very similar to parkrun and then on Tuesday we thought we’d go a bit longer and I really wanted to run 10km without walking. Well, not quite. I was defeated by the slope up onto the bridge on the way back. Things had got hard at about 4.5 miles (it was actually quite hot) and the slope at 5.5 miles made my legs go to jelly and refuse to carry on. I walked a bit, grumpy and then ran the rest to take us to 6.21 miles.

All in all Brisbane was good for running.

Alice Springs is a funny place and even after having spent time in Sydney after and now IMG_1724being home for 2 weeks I am still not sure how I feel about it really. It’s the place where ‘the State’ meets aboriginal culture and can’t cope so throws some tourists in for good measures. It feels like a microcosm of something although exactly what I can’t quite put my finger on. After sitting on a minibus for most of the previous afternoon, getting up and heading out the door for a little run felt both alien and exhilarating. We plodded along next to the river bed – the sandy dry river. It hadn’t rained since February and there was no water to be seen. We had a little cheer squad of parrots in a couple of places and as the sun climbed so did the temperature from a pretty cold few degrees when we set off to a pleasant warmth in the sun by the time we got back an 40 minutes or so later. It was good to be moving again.

IMG_1757Sydney was great for running. Our hotel was in a perfect location, close to the opera house and then the botanical gardens. We kicked off our Sydney running with a 4.5 mile plod across the Harbour Bridge and back down to the opera house and into the gardens. A proper tourist IMG_1761run with photo stops and stops to look at things. I struggled to get going a bit but it was fun. Running across the bridge was a very tourist thing to do (and possibly a commuter thing to do, too) and the views were great but in terms of running, it’s not actually that nice – it’s noisy and polluted! The climb we did a few days later was fabulous (and a little terrifying) though.



The next day we got the ferry to Manly and then set off on a run round Manly North Head. I was struggling a bit, feeling a bit tired and we ended up walking quite a bit and stopping for photos of course. It was a stunning route that started at Manly Beach and went along the coast a little to Shelly Beach before climbing up the edge of the cliffs and then heading inland a little. Going through the North Fort parade ground was a little weird and at some point we got our loop a little wrong but it was all fine and it ended up being a gorgeous run which we finished  with scrambled eggs on toast and coffee from a lovely little cafe back at Manly Beach and a walk in sand thus ensuring my happy feet.

After that my Sydney running dipped. My feet and ankles felt sore, maybe from running on hard surfaces more than I was used to. So on the next day I sent Kath off on her run and I jogged to the opera house, did a loop round it and then went back to the hotel. It was nice to be out but that was enough. On the last day I wanted to have a nice run following the route Kath had told me about along the edge of the gardens. However I hard a cracking bruise on my left knee, not sure where from but I’m blaming the bridge climb and it hurt with every step. My ankles were still tired too. I made it to the opera house again before deciding that being miserable is not part of my running deal – I persuaded Kath to keep going and waited for her on the opera house steps. I did a few stair repeats while I waited but they were a bit half hearted and in the end I just sat and watched the world go by.

Australia wasn’t a high mileage month at all but we did run and we had some really nice runs that made me realise how much I can enjoy it and that is something worth hanging on to – I like tourist runs!

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Snow, Cabin Fever and Planning

17103419_10155109272833923_4410991487500202616_nI haven’t run since the Harewood House Half Marathon. I was quite sore on Monday. My hip flexor was not happy at all and my calf was painful rather than just tight so pulling out was definitely the right call. Then the snow came. I’m not ready to run in the snow. It’s also been a tricky week with the anniversary of my ex’s death hitting as a slow burn this year rather than a short sharp meltdown. In some ways I find a short sharp meltdown easier – a day or maybe even two curled up in bed a sobbing mess rather than a week or two of not really quite functioning.  All in all I have spent too much time on the sofa and too much time in my head.

The snow has been pretty but the novelty has now worn off. I wasn’t able to get into IMG_8532work for my teaching yesterday and I’ve only left the house once since Tuesday. Silly. I know better. Cabin fever has definitely set in for all of us and I’ve been watching our cats swipe grumpily at each other and demand attention from us. I’ve been a funny sort of restless where I actually never get my act together to really do anything but never settle either. I’ve played candy crush, tried to focus on work stuff and half heartedly watched athletics on telly.

So today I thought I’d better just get a grip. There have been too many tears, too many “I can’ts”, too many “there’s no points”.  I started tidying and sorting stuff. Everything feels chaotic (it is but not really anymore than it always is) and I thought sorting, filing, working on clearing the box room and sorting the study might actually help me get a grip. So this morning we sorted travel stuff, applying for travel authorisations, printing confirmations, checking what still needs booking, adding frequent flyer numbers to bookings and that sort of stuff. As part of that I also made a

During Half Marathon
Dopey Half Marathon 2016

note of the races coming up. As the day went on doing stuff got harder and the sofa kept calling. I started working through some old paperwork and some photos – I’m years behind in terms of sorting out photo albums/books but I did finally finish the Dopey 2016 one! Looking at the Dopey photos was nice though – motivation to get out there and start working now to hit the training plan much more prepared than I was last time. Anyway, here’s what’s coming

Keighley 10km: – maybe. We haven’t booked this one yet and might just decide on the day and enter then if we can. I’d quite like to do this if the weather improves and I can get out for a little stretch of the legs this week. It’s next Sunday.

Lakeland Trails Hawkshead 10km: I’m looking forward to this one. The course should be stunning and the Lakeland  Trails races have a lovely atmosphere and maybe 10k is really more my level than anything longer. With hindsight I don’t think Helvellyn was a sensible idea as the first one! I’m also looking forward to meeting up with some of the #Run1000Milers

Toronto Half Marathon: I’m really excited about this – what a fabulous way to see a city. And it’s flat.

Endure24 Leeds – Team Dopey in action. This will officially kick off our Dopey training I suppose and if the weather is as good as it was last year this will be so much fun – not sure I’m looking forward to that hill leading up to the finish though.

IMG_7791 (600x800)

Brisbane Southbank Parkrun – Yes, we’re planning on a bit of parkrun tourism and this one should work out really nicely

Great North Run – Another tick on my bucket list and probably the last chance for a Dopey proof of time

Maybe a Lakeland Trails autumn series run

Dopey 2019 – it’s crazy, it really is and I don’t know whether knowing what I’m getting myself into makes it better or worse. I want to do it because it is so utterly impossible.

Toy story

I’m pretty happy with that list – not too many races there but enough to keep me honest. I need to get back out there! I did 42.60 miles in February and haven’t yet done any in March. I’m still way ahead of last year but I can feel the lack of running mentally. I need to get back up to routinely running 8 miles plus to really get the benefit and keep the puppy at bay. Looks like I’ll have to get myself to the gym at work on Monday as the snow doesn’t seem to want to melt.



First ever parkrun

We registered for parkrun in October 2015 and we’ve never been. Until today. Finally we got our butts to parkrun. We live pretty much in the middle between Skipton and Bradford so we needed to choose. We chose Bradford on the basis that it is 3 laps rather than 4. Yes I know they are all the same distance but number of laps makes a difference!

We took the car this time, not being sure about timings and where exactly we needed to be or when for the start etc, factoring in the unreliable bus times seemed a step too far. I was unjustifiably nervous as it was! We were early but that gave us time to figure things out, look at the route map, be told how it all worked and then walk to the start. We couldn’t really hear the instructions etc given at the beginning but at pretty much bang on 9am we were off. The course is 3 laps and starts off in a flat straight line, then does a little squiggle round Cartwright Hall and then turns left downhill and left again to go flat/downhill along the length of the park. Then, after another left turn, comes what appears to be affectionately known as the teeny tiny hill. Yeah right. Then you’re back at the start.

I haven’t run with people since the abandoned half marathon in November. Running with people increases anxiety levels. Increased anxiety levels mean I worry about everything. So when I looked at my watch about 100 metres in and saw that we were running at 11 minute mile pace I panicked thinking we were going way to fast for me to be able to sustain it. I felt fine until that point and suspect I would have naturally slowed off a little and found my pace but in my little panic I then couldn’t breathe and threw everything out. I settled a bit on the downhill and flat and on lap one I ran teeny tiny hill – I just then couldn’t keep running so had a walk break at the top.

I’ve really noticed that I have got mentally tougher recently – running rather than run/walking the 3.1 and 4 miles earlier this week are examples of that but I am mentally much weaker when things are ‘different’. I suspect I didn’t really need to walk after the hill. I suspect I could have run the hill on laps 2 and 3 and I suspect I could run a bit faster but I didn’t have it in me mentally to push today. I’m not disappointed and I did enjoy it – I’m just making an observation about me and my running behaviour really. My goal was to finish in under 40 minutes. I had decided that under 40 minutes would be major success. I’d also decided that it might not be a bad idea to have a plan B and C in case plan A was, for whatever reason, not going to work today. So Plan B was to complete in under 45 minutes and Plan C was just to complete. So I am delighted, in fact a sort of happy dance warranting excited, to have come in at 39.44.

After the finish we got a coffee from the coffee van to share (I’m a coffee snob, the coffee wasn’t great but it was coffee I guess) and sat on a bench watching the remaining runners come in and a little wagtail be busy on the lawn in front of us. Then we drove back. I’m glad we went and I felt comfortable and confident enough that I think if we go again soon I’d be happy for Kath to run her own 5k and for me to plod and run mine. It was great to have her there with me today but I think it would still feel like doing parkrun together even if we didn’t actually run together! I’ll just have to try not to let her lap me!