Isles of Wonder III – Oomph

Nearly two years have past since I embarked on my ‘Isles of Wonder’ 1,200 mile walk, that took me from the Isles of Scilly over to Land’s End, up to John O’Groats and then on to a short finale at the very top of Shetland.

Once I finished the walk I jotted down a few thoughts, which you can read here.  Now more time has passed, and since I recently read ‘Like a Tramp, Like a Pilgrim – On Foot Across Europe to Rome’ by Harry Bucknell, it’s made me reflect on my walk and my life since. Towards the end of his walk, Harry says to a fellow walker:

We’ve had the best of times, but now you have to take what you’ve learnt and apply it to life with renewed oomph.

I like that. And I hope that I have attacked life with renewed oomph.

Apart from the joy of the walk itself, it’s left me with the knowledge that a solo journey is not a lonely undertaking.  There were so many little encounters that I had with strangers along the way, and my friends and family both cheered me on from afar, and joined me on many occasions. I’d recommend a solo journey to anyone – whether a 2 day bicycle trip, or 2 weeks hiking – the scale of the undertaking is immaterial.  Harry Bucknell puts it much more eloquently than I can:

And as I took the final steps of the 1,411 miles I had walked since London, so I too concluded that in this modern age, when all too often life just rushes us by, there is nothing on this Earth, neither wealth nor material gain, rank nor privilege that matters more than man’s kindness to man and the love of family and friends.

Roll on 2015, and many more shared adventures and escapades.




Disclaimer:  in this blog post I blow my own trumpet.  I can’t help it.  I’m really chuffed to bits.  Don’t read on if you don’t want to participate in my self indulgence. 

The other day I read a blog by a guy who did a long walk.  Much longer than mine.  He wrote:

My epic trip was the E4, 5,000km from Tarifa in Spain to Budapest.  A 6 month tramp across Europe changed everything, including my body shape, and I now spend my time either walking somewhere in the world or planning my next trip.

The words “[the walk] changed everything, including my body shape“, really struck home with me.  I don’t want to bang on about it but my long walk has changed everything for me too.  I am physically fit; something I’ve always wanted to me.  And work comes in healthy doses, rather than a toxic overload. It may not last but right now I feel lucky. Life of course has all kinds of peaks, troughs, twists and turns.  But today is a peak.  A good day.  A very good day.

Last year I took up running.  I had run a bit, not seriously at all, about 10 or 12 years ago.  I was distinctly average.  Since I restarted last year, after my walk, I’ve fallen more and more in love with running.  Its an awful lot easier when not carrying extra layers of body insulation.  My dear friend Alison Chisnell got me roped into a marathon, which was last April, and since then I’ve decided I like the feeling of [relative] speed, so my focus has been on the 10k distance.

Today, I finally went and ran my first 10k race since last November.  Actually it ended up as a 7.5m race.  A HardMoors series 10k.  HardMoors is a wonderful series of trail races held in the hills of the North York Moors.  Mud, steps, rocky river bank paths, hills, bog, steep inclines.  You get the picture.

Anyhow.  I WAS THE VERY FIRST LADY TO FINISH.  1st lady!  Can I say that again?  First lady.  Not first veteran 40.  But the first of all the ladies of all ages.  And the 6th person overall.  

My happy face

My happy face

I am amazed.  Thrilled.  Very happy.  All that hard work training.  It was worth it.  It might not have been hundreds of runners taking part.  But I won a race.  I never saw myself as a person who could win running races.  I may never win another.  But always I’ll remember today.

I was aware from about 3 miles onwards that there were no women in front of me.  And I couldn’t quite believe it, but it was a huge motivation to push on and reach that finish before any other female could overtake me.  In the end I think I was a couple of minutes clear.

Ok, since I am giving myself a self indulgence free pass for the evening, I’m going to do a few thank yous.

Alison Chisnell – thank you so much for persuading me to join you in your mad plan to run a marathon.  And for all the support and shared learning and nerdiness as we have bled Amazon dry of all the running and nutrition books in print.

Anthony Allinson – thank you for cheering me on.

Suzanne Szenher and June Heron – amazing ladies on bicycles and on two feet.  Thank you for inspiring me and showing me how good us 40++ers can be.  And for the laughs.

Graham JanesHMGOATH 1_0316 – thank you for keeping my muscles in some kind of working order, and for the motivation.  My wings helped me take off today.

Emma Barraclough – for teaching me about nutrition, and how to train.

Ann Holmes and Yvonne Wyke for encouraging me to think I am ok at running.

Ian Christie – my husband and no.1 supporter.  The best thing about today was the smile on your face when I got home.




7 symptoms of cycling obsession

I’ve written a fair few blog posts recently about running. I’m afraid to say though, that as well as loving running, I have also lost my heart to a two wheeled machine, and all that comes with it.

Here are some of my symptoms. If you enjoy cycling, you may have experienced some of them. Feel free to add to my list.

1. Taking far too many photos of the bicycle posing gracefully. 20140529-101950.jpg

2. Finding spinach smoothies absolutely delicious.

3. Clearing out clothes from the wardrobe, so that cycling jerseys can be hung up there instead.

4. Persuading the husband there is an urgent need to swap to a car with a bigger boot so that the bike can go inside, and travel in comfort out of the rain. (This has involved lifting the bike in and out of boots in car showrooms, to check it fits. Much to the horror of the dealers).

5. Hoping to get a torque wrench as a birthday present.

6. Being delighted and very proud at mastering changing a tyre with bare hands. (No tyre levers involved).

7. Glamorous night attire? No thank you! There’s nothing nicer than sleeping in compression tights or socks after hard workouts.

The plot is well and truly lost.

Marathon ladies

medalistsWe did it.  On the 6th of April, Alison and I completed our first marathon, and raised over £3,700 between us for MS and Mind.  Yay!!!  But we’ve taken ages to write a blog post about it, mainly because there is a lot to say and neither of us knew where to start.  So, we’ve decided to ask each other some questions, and write a Q and A blog post.  We emailed each other our questions, which to our surprise were almost identical. No wonder we are such a good team!  And also we have been set some questions by super lovely Meg Peppin, who was wonderfully encouraging of us during our training.  Anyway, here goes!

Continue reading

The runners

Walking through Cornwall. Destination John O'Groats, then Shetland!

Walking through Cornwall. Destination John O’Groats, then Shetland!

On this day one year ago I was in Cornwall. I’d just passed the 100 mile mark, and had over a thousand miles still to crunch under my boots. I felt uncertain about my capacity to walk such a long way. But I was already learning that the best way to cope with the self doubt that accompanies any sizeable and exciting challenge is to focus all my attention on what’s around me. Paying attention to the day ahead, the next footstep, the views, the next meal….these are all the simple but incredibly effective ways to harness that most powerful muscle of all, the mind.

Today, I’m six days away from running my first marathon; 26.2 miles along the Brighton seafront. My good friend Alison and I have spent the entire winter focussing on the next footstep, trying not too think about the fact that in April we will run further than we ever have done in our lives before. I said a while back that I think that the training IS the marathon. Well, we’ve succeeded in doing the training. Since the start of December I’m amazed to report that neither of us has missed a single training session. We’ve completed the whole thing, which jointly means that over the last four months we have:

  • Cycled 600 miles
  • Run 780 miles*
  • Plus all the stretching and lifting at the gym, and mindless turbo sessions
Perfect perfect early morning run in the Cairngorms, just a week ago

Perfect perfect early morning run in the Cairngorms, just a week ago

Whatever happens on Sunday, I’m ever so proud of our determination, and the fact that we have enjoyed our training so much. We’ve run through rain, howling wind, through knee high floodwater, snow. We’ve run in Kent, East Yorkshire, London, Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire. We’ve run along the sandy paths of New Forest, along the trails of the North Yorkshire Moors, over the fells of the Peak District, and through a hill pass in the Scottish Highlands. We have learnt to love running. We have learned how to eat. We are both fitter and stronger than we’ve ever been at any time in our lives before. We have become runners.

The small crowd that was there early on, cheering us on through your sponsorship has become a much bigger crowd. We are both so grateful. And if you’ve not done so, it’s not too late to sponsor us.  I’m fundraising for the MS Society, and Alison is fundraising for Mind.

*A small coincidence:
I looked back at my diary and realised that this is the mileage I had done on the day I crossed the Scottish border last May. Lands End to the border – the length of England – was 780 miles exactly.

The Magic Run


Sooner or later, comes The Magic Run.  Mine was today.  I had a meeting in Sheffield last night.  So I got up before the crack of dawn this morning and drove out to Stannage Edge in the Peak District.  Sheffield, pre dawn, was snuggled up under a blanket low cloud.  Driving out of town, I emerged into the open moors, and clear skies.  It was minus 3 degrees, as I got out of the car, and ran along the gritstone cliff that is Stannage Edge.  It was crispy and frosty underfoot. Hard ground after all these months of slipping and sloshing and squelching.  And not a soul to be seen.  The sun rose.  Red grouse did their impression of being a wind up toy – swooping and cackling and then going quiet as if they needed winding up again. Hope Valley, far below, was wrapped up its woolly cloud.  Ten and a half miles slipped by.  And I ran. Happy. Grateful.

The Magic Run has it’s equivalent Magic Bike Ride, Magic Walk, etc.  Whatever you do, it’s worth persisting with the training, in order to experience The Magic Run every now and again.  For me, it’s getting up when most sane people are in bed, going somewhere I’ve never been before, and being on a path, not a road.  And it is getting lucky, getting that sweet spot in the training diary when for some reason, the running feels easy and joyful.

When and where was your last Magic Run? (or walk, ride….?)