Tag Archives: zombie

When are you a Proper Runner?

13 Aug

I’ve never really counted myself as a runner, even though I’ve always run.  I started back when I was about 15 and was rubbish at sport.  I have no hand to eye co-ordination, so was always last picked at netball and hockey and spent most of a tennis match apologising for not being able to hit the ball back.  But I could stick a pair of trainers on and go for a jog (I’m old enough that it was called jogging back then, not running).  I’d head out into the countryside and just run for a bit until I turned round and headed home.  There was no special kit, I was probably wearing plimsolls, no garmin and bearing in mind we’d only just got a house phone there was certainly no mobile phone app to record your distance.  It was always something I could rely on to clear my head and give me my space.  I probably didn’t even realise this was what it was doing.  When I left home and moved to London at the age of 18, tearful at leaving my boyfriend in Somerset, I’d go out and pound the streets and feel better.  Over time I started other things, aerobics, step aerobics, weights, I even learned to swim, but I always went back to running.  I guess I must have been ok at it as I can remember deciding fairly last minute to do a half marathon and coming in at under 2 hours.  I’m rubbish at remembering stats so I’ve no idea of exact time – I just remember that my fiance (the same boyfriend I’d left in Somerset) wasn’t at the finish line because, as he put it “I figured you’d be ages so I didn’t think I needed to hang around”.   I remember my entire shift (all blokes) making fun at me because jogging wasn’t proper sport or keeping fit and anyone could do it.  So I told them to join me in a 10k I was doing ….. I’d finished my race and jogged some way back along the course to run the last mile again with two of them who had to eat their words with a large portion of humble pie!

I had a bit of a falling out of love with running (and exercise generally) after the end of my first marriage, for lots of reasons that could be analysed by a psychologist but boiled down to my rebellion against a husband who’d been fairly insistent on me not getting fat (I was a size 8-10, I realise in hindsight I wasn’t fat, but that’s a whole different story and would be a very dull blog).  But I’d still get back to running – training to go to Nepal on a trek, I went back and pounded the streets and local wood (yes – trail running before I even knew what trail running was!  Bloody hell, I was ahead of my time!!).   I even remember my lodger – considerably younger and considerably slimmer than me – commenting in a rather annoyed manner, when I went for a jog with her,  that how on earth could I manage to run longer and faster than her when I did nothing!!  I guess muscle memory hangs on in there longer than you imagine.

Nothing else ever really appealed to me like running.  I like the solitude of it.  I know running clubs are great and lots of people like them, but I like that whole thing of just going out and doing my own thing.  Picking my own route, deciding a distance, plodding at my own pace and working through the crazy in my head.  When I have run with other people, I’ve been too pressured and picked up my first big injury from training with the next husband (plantar fasciitis picked up on training for a 10k – I maintain it was the hill sprints, he maintains it was me pushing to do an extra 500 yards to make an even number of miles on a run, but we’ll beg to differ).

Do you become a proper runner when you’ve had your first injury?  not sure, but its when you start to realise just how important running is to you.  When you can’t do it, you start to realise just how many extra lumps of cheese or Chinese takeaways those runs stop from settling on your legs and arse!  Its also when you realise just how jumbled your head can become when you haven’t got the consistent pounding of feet on ground to settle them into some sort of order or stomp them out of your brain.

But good physio help (thank you NHS!) and I’ve always been able to get back out there.  Even after two bouts of fairly major (non-running related) surgery, the aim of getting back out and building the miles back up helped speed recovery.

I think I still never thought of myself as a runner though, because I’ve never been fast.  I’ve never completed a marathon (half is still the longest distance I’ve run).  But I can get out and plod along and just keep going.  I’m like a little Shetland pony rather than a sleek race horse, but I was happy being a little pony.  I discovered that I loved to run in the rain.  I discovered the joy of head torches and running the streets in the dark, pretending I was escaping from zombies (as opposed to drunks, but they kinda look the same, just my version was more fun).

I started to think that maybe I was a runner, or could be.  I watched other people take up the recreational activity (sport?) that I’d always loved and achieve great things with it.  They smashed pb’s, they ran ultra’s, they lost bin loads of weight.  Why wasn’t I achieving that?  Maybe I wasn’t a proper runner, but perhaps I could be – so I put in for a marathon.  I started to train.  I was doing pretty well – got my distance back up to 11 miles, taking advice about proper fuelling strategies, nutrition, hydration and all the things that proper runners did.  Then it happened.  Another injury, but this time it just didn’t feel right.  My left hip was ridiculously painful.  Not a niggle, proper ‘hurts to run’ painful; ‘hobble like an old lady when you get up’ painful.  So I did what pretend runners do, I rested and figured it would get better on its own.  I rested for a month, the excruciating pain subsided to a constant ache – that meant it was better, right?  so I tried a gentle jog.  After a few hundred yards I had to stop and walk, pain was just too unbearable.  Now clearly the logical person would at this point think to see a doctor.  But I’m not a proper runner, it must just be lack of stretching or a pulled muscle or a bit of an ache.  So I rested some more.  It wasn’t til 6 months later when the realisation that the ache was always there, that going up hill was troublesome, that my dog walking had been reduced so that I wasn’t left hobbling that I thought perhaps I should see the doctor.  So I trundled along, figuring they’d refer me to physio and all would be well.  Instead x-rays and blood tests were booked.

I started to swim instead of running.  I found I enjoyed it.  But it wasn’t running.  I had to count lengths and so it didn’t have that mind clearing opportunity that running did.  It didn’t get me out in the fresh air and let me plan my world.  It was an interim until I could run again.

Then I found out when you are a proper runner.  Its when you find out you can’t run again.  Its when you sit in the doctors and get told you’ve got osteoarthritis in your hip, even though “it isn’t something we’d usually see developing so young”  (thank you at least for that, as my first reaction was “crap, did I fall asleep and age 20 years”).  Its when you’re told that its likely to also develop in the other hip.  That first action will be to refer for physio to try and manage the pain, but that it can’t be ‘healed’ just managed. That if the physio doesn’t help the pain management, there’d be a referral to orthopaedic surgeon, but reassuringly (??) “they don’t like to do hip replacement so early”.   That it will probably get worse, but no timescale.  You’re a proper runner when you ask “when can I run again” and you’re told to look for another exercise as it wouldn’t be wise to run.  When you realise you can’t run again and you leave the doctor’s surgery and cry in your car because it feels like you’ve lost something important.  That’s when you realise you’re a proper runner.

So I know that this is just another challenge that I need to face and tackle.  I know its not the worst thing in the world and I know that other people have far worse things to face.   I know that I need to now look at what I can do – swimming, non-impact gym work and so forth – and look at managing diet (ten pounds goes on remarkably quickly when running isn’t giving that calorie deficit!).  But somehow I’ve gone to being “someone who used to run” without ever really recognising that I was a Proper Runner.  And that makes me very sad.


Hope Stomps on Toads

9 Dec

There’s been a bit of a gap in my write ups, even though I’ve written a dozen in my head as I ran or walked the dog or just couldn’t sleep at night.  I was very conscious that I didn’t want to write a mopey, complaining blog (having just unfollowed a couple of people on Twitter for being a real life version of @uokhun, I felt it would be a bit hypocritical!).   A little while ago I did an informal update about how well things had gone this year, and they had – I’d left a marriage because husband was cheating, I’d moved out of the marital home and bought my own house, I’d taken and passed promotion exam, lost stone and a half and recovered sufficiently well from two lots of stomach surgery to be able to consider training for a marathon, all no mean feat.

Then I went into a bit of a slump and turned into an all round pity party for myself.  The toads were leaping around in my head, spraying their poison and croaking evil (am I misquoting Shakespeare there, not sure, I’ll google later).  But you know, after a couple of weeks of that it hasn’t actually made any difference.  Who knew? feeling sorry for yourself, crying pitifully, moping around and eating crap actually doesn’t result in life getting better – big shocker there, huh?   Hmm, note to self – that may be good title for a self-help book along the boot camp, tough love line.

Anyway, back to the point …. I have been dwelling on the things I haven’t got, but actually – what does that achieve?  Don’t worry, its not a test question, I’ll give you the answer …. It achieves precisely nothing, zilch, nada.  It doesn’t move you forward.   It just makes you feel like you’re sitting in a pit of treacle, and not in a good way.

So what if my 2nd marriage has gone tits up.  At least I know for next time what I will and won’t be prepared to live with and what I want.  There are plenty of people out there in relationships they don’t want to be in, but which they feel they have to be in for a variety of reasons.  All of those reasons may be valid to them, and that is fine.  But it doesn’t mean I have to dive into a relationship that isn’t right or what I want.  At least being single I’m ready and able to grab an opportunity if someone comes along that is right for me, who likes me exactly as I am  – bit bolshy, bit gobby, odd sense of humour, bit of a feeder, crewed up with an insane dog.  If that person doesn’t come along, then I’ll be fine on my own.

So what if work has been a bit frustrating lately.  If I don’t like it – do something about it.  There are plenty of people out there that don’t have a job.  Who are struggling to know how they’ll meet their bills or support their kids.  I’m in a secure job, I’m well paid.  I should be bloody grateful for that.  Passing the exam is first step towards moving on, so what if there might not be boards for a while.  It doesn’t mean I have to sit back and do nothing.  I can either stop moaning or deal with what is frustrating me or look for alternative roles.  I can even, if I really wanted, save up enough to take a career break, rent the house out and go travelling for a year or go and run a bed and breakfast/cake shop in Spain.  Those options are all there, sitting around moping isn’t going to change things.  Getting off my arse and doing something will.

So what if it turned out some people I thought were friends turned out not to be – I still have some amazing friends round me now.  I won’t do a shout out as it’ll embarrass those I name and turn into a bit of an Oscar acceptance speech.  But suffice to say, I’m astoundingly lucky to have people who will listen to me, drink vast quantities of coffee with me, talk random crap with me, laugh with me (at me?) and just generally be there for me (and I hope I’m there for them, too).   If I’m totally honest about things, I’d rather have those people in my life as friends than be stuck in a bad relationship.  I know those aren’t exclusive, but in my head I know what I mean and I hope it makes sense.  So thank you to my friends (again!) and I give you permission that if I start to go into a pity party again you are allowed to slap me, quite hard.

What I’m trying to say is, I’ve got a whole load of positive things in my life and most of all, I have hope and whilst it would be a strange game of ‘rock, paper, scissors’, I’m fairly certain that Hope kills Toads.


Your time is up, toad, mwhah hah hahhahhah!!

Cake, cake, glorious cake

17 Oct

It has been pointed out to me that I’ve been a bit remiss with updating on my blog.  So my apologies if anyone has suffered any cake withdrawal symptoms or has been aimlessly wandering the streets of Bedford, confused and dazed as to the best place to go for cake and coffee.   My only excuse, or excuses as they are two-fold – are that I was put to work at home for the last days of my recuperation and now have a beautifully painted dining room.  And that sentence gives a clue to the other bit … I’ve had to go back to work.  After 8 weeks off, that was a bit of a shocker.  Words need to be had as so far the only coffee has been instant.  I do now have my coffee machine there, so this will be fired up soon (in theory I was on 4 hour days and there was only me in the office so didn’t seem worth making a whole pot, but the 2nd person has returned from hols so I think he’ll help out).  In terms of cakes, I did try to do my bit today with a bake sale in aid of 100 marathons in 100 weeks ( http://www.raceto100.co.uk – see the link at side of this blog ). *

bake sale

Modesty, however, prevents me from giving a review of the crumbly, rich chocolate brownies; light and fluffy red velvet cupcakes or even the perfectly risen and evenly baked orange, almond and yogurt cake.  Instead, I will ask anyone who purchased one of the cakes and who is reading this, to feel free to add comments.  Message to a certain person who put in a plea for delivery … if there are any left, I’m at the big house tomorrow afternoon for a meeting and will bring some along!

Anyhow, I digress.  Those poor souls are still wandering aimlessly like cake-zombies (ooooh, little reminder – The Walking Dead starts on Friday in UK, cannot wait.)   The Review.   Today I’m going to tell you about the place that has almost become my second home.  When I die I wish my ashes to be sprinkled there (although there is probably some health and safety reason why that can’t happen, but you get the impression).

Fancies (on Facebook as Homebaked Desserts), Roff Avenue in Bedford.  In terms of geography, Fancies is a little too close for comfort to some of the less attractive parts of Bedford.  The street itself isn’t too bad – and is handily on the route to and from Bedford parkrun, making it a very useful place for a post-race recovery drink and carb re-load.  But there is a cut through to The Land of The Doomed.  The Doomed, however,  seem not to travel far from their doorsteps or maybe they are just drawn to the cafe by the bus station (where you can drink instant coffee surrounded by the aroma of, well, pee – and I’m not sure if its human or animal and I really don’t want to dwell).  All I can say is, when you enter Fancies you enter a world of old-style tea shop.  The cakes are served on a selection of unmatched, old fashioned plates that wouldn’t be out of place on your grannie’s tea table.  Quaint, chic and so, so pretty.  If I didn’t know I wanted to go back there, I’d be swiping those plates into my handbag (and by handbag I mean the special suitcase handbag I’d take in specially to do this).

Reading material:   Local newspapers, Elle Decor (had me doing some aspirational shopping which was ill-advised in the midst of decorating the house) and a handful of my magazine cast offs.  Also, The Times – which is handy as I mainly read it for Caitlin Moran’s columns, but I often forget to buy it, but this means I have an excuse to pop into Fancies to see if they have the day before’s paper when I’ve forgotten to buy it just so I can catch up.

Customers:  I’ve done some great eavesdropping in here!!  I’ve been in a few times on my own, mornings are best – you get the ladies who, not so much lunch, as ‘drop kids at the local private schools and sit and gossip’ and ‘drop kids at the local private schools and sit and plan charity events with a level of organisation generals going to war would be proud of’.   I do think I may have dropped off during one conversation though, as one minute I was hearing about someone who’d sold their house, moved out of Bedford into nearby village, hated it so moved back – to the same house they’d sold, but had then decided again they didn’t like it and wanted to move back to the village.  Somehow I think I warped out here, as next they were saying someone had been snatched by pirates and taken off to be slaves.  I hope this was a film they’d seen or book they’d read, as I’m not liking the idea that somewhere between Bedford and Bromham there are pirates roaming with a side deal in slave trade.

Seating:   No matching, regular sized tables here – its all a mish-mash of sizes and types of table with a jumble of different chairs.  If I can get a suitcase-handbag big enough, the large wooden dining table is coming with me.  The seating is all inside, but chatting to the lovely lady who works there (and I believe owns the shop), they are hoping to have outside seating in the back garden next year.

Coffee:   I tend to go for the latte – for those who prefer their coffee not on the strong side, this is the place to go.  I could do with it a bit stronger, but you know, the rest of the place is so perfect, I don’t actually care.   The cup size is perfect, not so small it runs out and not so large I feel daunted.   They also do rather delicious smoothies and the most dazzling array of teas – but I haven’t brought myself to try the tea as it just seems wrong (and Tea would spoil the alliteration of my blog heading).

Savoury:  it used to just be croissant with melted cheese and tomato, but this has expanded to bagels with cheese and onion marmalade.   I can heartily recommend either.   They take a little while to be served, and they always warn you of this, but its because they are warmed properly so you get a crisp, foil wrapped croissant, with melty cheese and flakey pastry.  Not a microwaved squidge of pastry that manages to be both hard on the bottom but soggy on the top.   Its well worth waiting for and the wait really isn’t that long as why would you want to rush away?  The only disappointment I’ve had is the cheese scone (though I admit I may have been spoiled by The Cheese Kitchen scone).  When I tried it, the scone was too crumbly so when I tried to butter it, I ended up with crumbs that I had to try and squish together with the onion marmalade (sticky, tasty, could eat it by the spoon).

Cake:   What can I say?   Oh.  My.  Oh.  My.  Oh.  My.  You enter to an plethora of cakes of every type and size displayed on the counter under old fashioned covers.  Trying to choose takes me longer than it took to pick a house.  This has been further complicated by the recent introduction of chiller cabinet – which meant Banoffee Cheesecake.  I may have developed diabetes just looking at that cheesecake.  Clearly if I was going to get diabetes just looking at it, I may as well try it and be hung for a lamb as a sheep (note:  no lambs or sheep were harmed in the making of this blog).  It was devine, but sweet, sweet, sweet!    They have ginger cake, with chunks of preserved ginger on top – sticky and moist and so gingery you think it should be singing in Girls Aloud and looking pale.  The fig and chocolate chip cake – never heard of this before, glad I tried it.  Intriguing, moist, not too sweet.  But the cake I judge by:  carrot cake.  This is how carrot cake should be.  There are nuts, there are bits of fruit, there are bits of carrot you can see and there’s a topping that melts in the mouth.  The cake is moist but not soggy, firm but not dry.  I shouldn’t have to describe it, you should be heading there NOW and trying some.  If you don’t like it, I’ll eat my hat.  Well, I won’t actually – but I’ll eat your carrot cake for you.

Overall impression:  Really? you need to ask?

Not sure why I haven’t got a photo of the carrot cake or the fig and chocolate chip cake, I think I eat it too quickly.  Instead – coffee, croissant and smoothie.  Aka – bliss!.

a blissful morning

* http://www.raceto100.co.uk   please take a look, there’s a link at the side of this blog:  Simon Buckden running 100 marathons in 100 weeks to raise money for Help for Heroes and raise awareness of PTSD

Zombie Cat?

18 Sep

Today I saw a cat run across a road carrying a rabbit.  It was dead.

The rabbit, not the cat.  It wasn’t a zombie cat or a ghost cat or anything like that.

Just a cat with a dead rabbit.

And so I had the start of my blog.  I’d been thinking for some time about putting my random thoughts down (for a while I ran a blog for a toy penguin and his various travels, but there’s a limit to where a stuffed penguin can go).   I just wasn’t sure where to start.  Or what I’d write about that would last longer than 3 paragraphs.   Then I figured, why limit myself?  In life my thoughts tend to be fairly random and jumpty (not sure if that’s a real word, but it sounds appropriate so I’m using it and my trade mark it) so why shouldn’t my writing be the same?  At this precise moment, the various things jumping up and down and waving to get my attention and feature on that all important first blog are:

  • my attempt to get back into running
  • the antics of my dog
  • cakes and coffee

Maybe I should start at the cat:  I’m not supposed to be running.  I had an operation a few weeks ago and the consultant said no running for three months.  But what does he know?  ok, technically probably quite a lot and I did trust his level of knowledge enough to knock me out, cut me up, rip bits out and stitch me back up.  But on running, I’m sure he didn’t really mean three months, I reckon that was an exaggeration and if he knew the level of crazy that can grow in my head when I don’t run I’m sure he’d have suggested I could go out earlier.  Its sort of like medicine.

That makes it sound like I run/ran a lot.  so perhaps I should clarify.  I used to run.  A lot.  I used to be fit.  Not in a way that would give Paula anything to worry about (Radcliffe, that is, not the lady that lives over the road or your Aunty Paula).  But fit enough in a ‘half marathon next week?  why not, I don’t need to do any training and will still knock out a sub 2 hour’ type of fit.  Then stuff happened (this may or may not feature in future blogs) and I stopped running – mainly replacing it with drinking, dancing, going out and generally having good time.  Anyway, a few years of that and I started running again – only to get injured and have to stop for a year.  Started again, had an operation and had to stop for seven months.  Started again, yep, another operation and out of action again.  This time though I’m determined to not only get back into things more quickly, but get my distances up and get a half marathon achieved by next birthday (May, by the way, in case you want to get me a card).

So that’s the ‘challenges‘ part of the title – running.  I’m down to do a 10k trail run in October which I didn’t cancel when I got booked in for op.  I reckon I can still do it.  Others may disagree (particularly husband who gave The Look when I said I reckon I can still do it).

Probably worth mentioning the other C words:

 Cakes and caffeine.   While I’ve been off work I’ve been doing a tour of the various cafes of Bedford.  There are a lot of them, far more than I realised and far more than a town of Bedford’s nature should probably have. (see section on rants below).  To keep me from going too stir crazy (I refer you back to the level of crazy I can reach when confined to house and not able to get out and run or work or speak to people) I’ve been taken out most days for coffee and cake.  I hasten to add, I can walk and sit.  I haven’t been wheeled there in a bath chair with a tartan blanket over my knees.  I realise I did make it sound a little like that.  So some of the blogs will be a critique of the cafes, cakes and caffeine.  Sort of  ‘Coffee in Bed(ford)’.

Canine:  I have a seven month old puppy.  He’s called Eddie and is a Slovakian Rough Haired Pointer (don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of one of them, they are fairly rare in the UK).  He has his own Facebook Page and may do occasional guest editing of this blog.

‘other’ C Word:  apparently I can be a little firey at times (I like to call it having standards and not being afraid of fighting for them to be maintained!).  So now and then I may get a bit vocal about things that bug me.  In the past month or so this has ranged from the riots (little obvious); BT (again, perhaps a little obvious); chicktionary continually crashing on my iPad; people who don’t clear up poo in the dog park; Bedford bus station.  None of those things are linked, though I suspect the last two could be.

Hopefully that gives a little bit of a flavour of what is to come.  But back to the Cat – not a Zombie cat and not a ghost cat – but still an inspirational cat (and you don’t know how much it hurts me as a dog person that a cat inspired me).  I’d decided to get back out and do a gentle, plodding run just to the end of the road and back to see how I fared.  As I got to the end of the road the said Cat sprinted across.  It was a fairly small cat, black and white, not in any way likely to be mistaken for a puma or tiger.  But it was carrying a rabbit that was at least half its size.  And it was running at full pelt.  So I figured, “hell if a little cat can sprint like that while its carrying a corpse, the least I can do is crack out a 5k.  Result:  5k achieved in the slow time of just over 31 minutes.  Nowhere near the speed I used to have, and not even close to the time I’d achieved a couple of months ago.  But I got out there and I did it.  So – thank you, non-zombie cat.