Monthly Archives: June 2013

Rest Week

Training has been going ok again the last few weeks. I’ve been increasing my mileage steadily and I feel like I’m getting somewhere after all the injury nastiness. Currently I’m concentrating on building my endurance base and I’m hoping the speed will follow as I get stronger. I’ve also been to a couple of Running Club sessions at Dragon Crossfit which were interval sessions and speed work. I absolutely love these sessions. I love being around other runners and I love interval training. I did it all the time when I was a track athlete so I tend to enjoy it and find it familiar. The old legs were a bit slow to start with but they eventually remembered what to do.

I struggled to fit anything much in over the weekend as I was away but I did manage to get half an hour of running on a treadmill in the after thought that was the ‘fitness suite’ in a spa type resort on the weekend. It was a hen weekend so I joined in with the towelling robe part for a short while, got bored, changed into my runners and shorts and hit the treadmill. The other girls on the hen must have thought I was bonkers. But I say sitting around in a dull room with weird music in a wet swimming costume and fluffy orange dressing gown is bonkers!

I have had a couple of niggles and I haven’t been feeling that great. I’ve got an ongoing health issue hanging over me and I’m due to have more blood tests. My stomach is being naughty and lately lots of things I’m used to eating normally have been making me rather ill. Bit inconvenient for someone who exercises a lot and likes cheese and pasta and bread. Frustrating is definitely one word. Bloody annoying are two more. Hopefully though I’ll get to the bottom of things soon and I can stop worrying.

When I reflected back on the last few weeks, considered the niggle in my calf and other issues I decided to have a rest week. I know it may seem excessive but I’ve continued to train over niggles before and all that happens is that little niggles become bigger niggles which then become nasty persistent injuries. This time I’m listening to my body. I also feel that with this other health issue hanging over me and impending tests, I want to get them out the way and recharge a bit. I need to have time being good to myself. I can’t deny that I won’t have that feeling of guilt hanging over me because I won’t be exercising but it’s because I want to keep running that I’m doing this. I’m sure by the end of the week I’ll be climbing the walls and will have reneged on this agreement with myself but I’m going to do my best to rest.

Running and Raising Boys.

I’ve been reading a great deal online in the last few days about how we should speak in front of our daughters with regards to diet and health. I do feel that boys get left out of this a little bit with people forgetting that young boys spend a lot of time with their mothers and can also be influenced by what they see and hear their female role models talking about.

Little boys soon become convinced that boys are better than girls. Boys are stronger, faster, more powerful and generally superior to girls. It’s something that riles me a little bit. People say it’s a rite of passage and that all boys and girls go through this rivalry but I don’t agree that it should do unchecked. Which is probably what led to this exchange one day between my eldest son and I.

5 yo ‘J’s Dad is a really fast runner. He runs really far and he can beat loads of people’.

I happen to know J’s dad. I have discussed running many times with J’s dad. J’s dad also happens to be ex forces, in a regiment well known for physical prowess. I also happen to know the time in which J’s dad runs a marathon. My time is quicker.

Me ‘Actually I’m a faster runner than J’s dad.’

5yo ‘No you’re not because you’re a girl.’

Me ‘Yes I am. I know I’m faster. I ran a marathon faster than J’s dad’

This led on to a conversation about how far a marathon is, the time it took me to run it and comparatively how long it took J’s dad to run it. It could very well have been an educational conversation as well when you consider that we talked about what miles were and how many minutes in an hour etc. But that wasn’t the point I wanted to get home. I wanted him to understand that sometimes girls aren’t slower than boys, girls are equal to boys in many ways and that, actually, sometimes girls can be better at something than boys.

Maybe it was just be being competitive but I don’t want my boys to grow up with this patriarchal rhetoric that because you’re a boy you’re automatically better at something. Maybe I’m taking it too seriously but why shouldn’t boys see that sometimes the female role models in their lives can be just as good or even better at something than the men they know?

I want my boys to see that:

Women can be strong both mentally and physically.

Women can be powerful.

Women are to be respected for their achievements.

Women always deserve respect.

Women are equal to men.

I really hope the boys see all this in their home life, both in the relationship they see between their father and I but also in the things that they see their mother do whether it be work or exercise. Girls are obviously incredibly influenced by what their mothers say and do but so are boys. In a weird way running seems to be a way for me to show them just how strong their mother, a woman, a girl, can be.

Dear Drug Cheats

Dear Dopers and Drug Cheats

I feel like a bit of a mug. I am a huge athletics fan and for many years I’ve proabably been a fan of yours. I’ve probably watched many of your races, cheered you on and all the while not knowing that you’ve been deceiving everyone around you.

There have been many athletes testing positive for banned substances all over the world of late and I could name them individually but what I do want to is tell you, the dopers and drug cheats, is how I feel.

I feel totally mugged off. Every time an athlete tests positive a little bit of my love and respect for the sport that I love gets eroded. Athletes who cheat obviously have no respect for their fellow athletes, their federations and governing body and least of all I’m guessing their fans. Which is ridiculous because we’re the ones who pay you via ticket fees. Athletes who have been cheating will have signed autographs, posed for pictures with children and accepted accolades and dedications from admiring peers all the while knowing that they are deceiving everyone around them. It’s really rather sickening.

If it’s a first time offence you serve a two year ban and come back with no real consequences. Some athletes seem quite happy to chest bump and parade around like they’re super heroes. Athletes like them show no remorse, they’re just sorry that they didn’t get caught. It’s arrogant and seedy and it makes me angry. If you don’t think you’re good enough then why not work harder? Why not put in a little bit extra? Why risk your health and well being just in case it gives you a few hundredths of a second?

When an athlete I’ve been a fan of tests positive I always feel embarrassed. I don’t know why I’m embarrassed, it’s not like I would have known this was going to happen, but still I do. It means I got you wrong and I have to defend my love of athletics to people who already think athletics is a complete joke. So thank you for that doper/drug cheat. I hope you enjoy your ban and let’s face it, you’ll be back after 2 years like nothing happened. But us fans will remember and we won’t be cheering you on any more.



Athletics Makes Me Cry

I never thought I would ever be able to say that Sean Connery and I have something in common but apparently we do: athletics makes us cry. In an interview which you can read described here, Sir Sean is asked what makes him cry and after a pause he gives his reply. Athletics. I first read that he had said this in Running With The Kenyans. I got to this sentence in the book and I re-read it a couple of times knowing exactly what he meant.

I basically cried throughout the entire athletics programme, Olympics and Paralympics during London 2012. There was a permanent lump in my throat and more often than not tears flowed. Maybe it’s because I’ve always tried to follow athletics so I’ve read personal interviews about injury heartache, lost opportunities and devastating losses. So when I watch these people do well at the event that they’ve poured their body and soul into and you can see the delight and relief all at once, it makes my spine tingle and my eyes water.

Of course there are iconic moments in athletics and it is almost impossible to pick one moment over another. They are all special for different reasons: Kelly Holmes winning double gold after all her injury problems. Cathy Freeman winning in Sydney with 100,000 people screaming her name, Jonny Peacock punching the air after winning the 100m. All of these videos can make me emotional. There is one video though that never fails to make me cry and it is this one:

What’s the athletics or indeed sporting moment that leaves you with a lump in your throat?


My First Ever Recipe Post! ‘Classic’ Bolognese

This is unchartered territory for me but the recipe I’m sharing is one that is too nice not to share. Us runner’s need a good recipe repertoire and this pasta sauce recipe is a classic. It is a bolognese sauce recipe, a big favourite of mine and one that is always relatively easy to do. This recipe is taken from Rachel Allen’s lasagne recipe. She uses this bolognese sauce as a base for her lasagne but it’s really nice without going the whole hog with pasta sheets and cheese sauce. I was going to talk about the recipe, how nice it is and just try and link to the recipe on Rachel Allen’s site, however this recipe does not appear to be there anymore. So even if I do give Rachel Allen credit for this pasta sauce I need to apologise first to her because this is from memory and may now be a complete bastardisation of her actual recipe *sorry Rachel*.

You will need:

Lean beef mince 500g

Celery stick



Olive oil and a knob of butter

Clove of garlic

Tinned tomatoes or jar of passata



Vegetable stock (plus optional white wine)

1. Take a celery stick, medium sized onion and a carrot and chop them into fairly large chunks. Pop them in a blender and give them a whiz so they’re finely chopped.

3. Heat a tablespoon of oil (I use olive oil) and a little bit of butter in a pan. Once heated pop in the diced celery, onion and carrot. The vegetables soak up the oil and butter. Cook until the vegetables are golden.

4. Add 500g of lean beef mince (Rachel Allen suggests using half beef mince and half pork mince in her recipe). Brown the mince and add a clove of crushed garlic.

5. Once all the mince is browned off pour in a tomato passata or a tin of tomatoes. I like the texture of passata and I love a very ‘saucy’ bolognese myself but use whatever you prefer.


6. Simmer gently and add in 2 fl oz of vegetable stock. Season to taste. I also add a sprinkle of sugar to take the edge off the tomatoes. Rachel Allen also adds 2 fl oz of white wine to her sauce but I’m not a massive fan of wine in cooking so I tend to leave it out.

6. Cover and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes so that the sauce thickens. Towards the end of cooking stir in some a tablespoon of diced parlsey and a tablespoon of chopped up basil leaves. I’m not a huge parsley fan so sometimes I leave it out but the basil makes a difference to this sauce.

Serve with spaghetti pasta or whichever pasta is your favourite. The boys love spaghetti pasta so it’s always a good reason to make a bolognese. If you’re off the carbs and going all out paleo then you could try courgette spaghetti which I saw on Instagram the other day. It looked quite yummy though I imagine it good go watery.

Plate up and enjoy!

(You’ll notice that my food pictures stop quite abruptly. I plated up and started eating. By the time I’d finished I remembered I had meant to take a picture but I’m sure you all know what a plate of bolognese looks like).

Why Complicate It?

‘Running is a simple beautiful thing that people really love to make really fucking complicated for themselves and others’.

I saw this tweet and favourited it because it’s how I feel about running of late. Books, magazines, gait analysis, body mapping, injury prediction are thrown at runners from every direction filling our heads. And as I thought about it I realised that running and parenting are in fact quite similar in this respect. People have this urge to make these two great things unbelievably complicated.

When I was expecting my first child I bought the books. I lapped up every blog post, equipment review and leaflet I could get my hands on. I was to be a new parent and I wanted to get things right. When my eldest was born and I just wasn’t sure what I should be doing I referred to the internet, searching and searching until I could find the answer that would help me in doing the best for my son. My mother used to insist that reading these books was unhelpful and that my instinct was more important for my son than any book could ever be. But I didn’t believe her. I was sure that the answers lay on medical forums and sites for new parents. Slowly but surely I discovered that a lot of the advice out there didn’t fit well with my son and I. More often than not I discovered that my way, my instinct for being a parent was best and when son number two arrived I had already given all my baby books away.

This is why I think running and parenting in it’s own way have become similar to me. Our instincts can be driven under by relentless information, not all of it relevant to your situation. You can start second guessing yourself and become too dependent on watches and programmes and PB chasing. Running is indeed a beautiful thing and sometimes it’s liberating to put the inspirational book down or put the technical magazine away and enjoy the simple joy of being a runner. Listen to yourself and what your body mind tells you. You know what’s right and you probably know instinctively when you need to seek help.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for the information out there but it’s almost become information overload with so many conflicting views and opinions that runners like me become unsure where to turn and who is right: very much like my parenting experiences. But I say less of the self doubt and second guessing, make it less complicated once in a while and run the way you want to run.

Contemplation and Behaviour Change

A member of my family has been contemplating diet and exercise for a long time. They’ve been unhappy with their size and general fitness for ages but seemed unwilling or unable to do anything about it. Gentle cajoling hasn’t helped. Putting scary facts in front of them did nothing. They would simply acknowledge the information being presented and would say ‘tomorrow’ or ‘next week’ or ‘what’s the point?’. One could say they were ambivalent towards the idea of change and my overly persuasive efforts just made them dig their heels in.

I had completely given up trying to help, all my efforts were effectively thrown back with cutting comment or totally ignored. But then there was a change. This person became interested in running and in how a beginner would go about running. They started to ask for information and where they would obtain more information. They were contemplating starting the Couch to 5k programme. They were fed up and had had enough of the way things were, they were ready to start implementing change. Before long they were showing signs of readiness to change and a couple of weeks ago they had run 4 times in one week.

The reason I’m sharing this story is that I’ve been reading the twitter conversations of my fellow clinicians and I’ve been a bit disappointed in the lack of empathy for patients. Actually I’ve been disappointed that fellow clinicians haven’t been willing to look to themselves to find out why a patient might not be willing to do something that they suggest. Change in lifestyle, whether it’s for weight, health, smoking or rehabilitation for a musculoskeletal problem can be a huge psychological ask for many people and I believe that it is our job as clinicians to find out what stage in the change process a person is before we completely dismiss them.

As clinicians we have many tools available to us to help patients but we need to be able to identify what stag in change a patient is at to be able to recognise which approach is going to be most beneficial. We need to recognise when a person may be ambivalent, when they are ready to change, when they are precomtemplating or actually comtemplating a change in behaviour.

It worries me that many of my fellow professionals are neglecting to do this. You can read all the treatment effectiveness research papers in the world but that doesn’t matter to the patient in front of you. If the patient isn’t engaging with you from the stage they’re at then your approach may be completely wasted on them. The person I talk about showed all the stages of behaviour change and eventually they got there. But after what I’ve seen on social media from health professionals lately I’m glad I was there for them and that this person who is close to me didn’t seek out one of them for help, only to be dismissed.