I love running, and I love cake. I started running again in 2011 after a break of some time due to ill health. I began with Couch to 5k (highly recommended), and progressed to half marathons. Third time lucky in the ballot I ran London Marathon in 2016 and vowed "never again". My challenge for 2019 was to complete 12 half marathons/ten milers, start writing a blog and raise money for JDRF (https://jdrf.org.uk)- a charity dedicated to funding research to find a cure for Type 1 diabetes.
From 2020 - 2022 I am continuing with all of those things, except I am not going to run an official half marathon every month! Just some months ;-)
I have a new blog! Read about walking the London LOOP on walkingthelondonloop.uk
With nothing much planned for today I thought I’d do a nice easy run along the canal, see how far I got and get the train home. So I packed up my little running back pack with water, tissues, a long sleeved top and my travel card. Off I went. My aim was get at least as far as Hayes, about 8km. And if it was going ok I thought I might see if I could get to West Drayton. It was not to be dear Reader.
I haven’t been this way for a little while, and I was admiring the new path which has been laid along a stretch as you approach Southall proper. You can see it in the photo – a lovely flat surface, perfect for running and cycling. But unfortunately it does not extend very far.
Soon the path reverted to stones and uneven dried mud. It became quite narrow. Before Bulls Bridge, where the Paddington branch heads off north and east, there is a short stretch where there is a tarmac road alongside some little houses, with the original rough path just below and next to it. As I was thinking ‘hmm that looks a lot easier to run on than this stony path’ lo and behold I tripped on the aforementioned stones and fell heavily on my right knee.
Sitting on the path surveying the damage, mopping the now somewhat pouring blood with water and tissues (thank goodness I brought them) I wondered how far to the nearest pharmacy to get some plasters?
And then I spied two ladies walking their dogs. Now, unlike my previous experience, these lovely ladies stopped and asked me how I was. Then one of them, Judy, offered to take me back to her house for a sticking plaster! I was really extremely grateful because there was blood dripping down my leg by this point. At her house she supplied warm salty water, kitchen roll and a selection of dressings. And her equally lovely husband, John, made me a cup of coffee! I can’t thank them enough for their kindness.
Once patched up I got a bus back to the train station, and the train home. Where I saw A Sign 😂.
Today I am hobbling, and I am in pain, but I’m sure it will be fine soon. As I cannot imagine my life without running, I’m sure I’ll be back on those paths soon, but perhaps I’ll be more careful about choosing a flat surface. Or at least not a stony one, falling on grass wouldn’t be so bad would it?!
An added bonus was seeing my lovely grandson and his mum at the station, watching trains. Such a cheering sight!
Things I am grateful for: the kindness of strangers; antiseptics; paracetamol and ibuprofen; I didn’t break a bone.
Things to look forward to: the comedy club this evening; getting back on my feet properly; having time (being forced to sit still 😂) to read a book.
Here’s a birthday cake for a special person, my husband SB.
The cake recipe is one I’ve used before, from Best of Better Baking.com. It’s called Moist and Mellow Yellow Birthday Cake, which I think is a great name and definitely describes a lovely cake. I have made this before, but not as an actual cake. I’ve made it as large cupcakes. I think it’s a versatile recipe – it would be easy to flavour it with orange or lemon, and I have made a malted chocolate version – you can see my handwritten notes. In fact I have blogged about it here!
The frosting is a swiss meringue buttercream. It’s a bit of a mission to make, but the result is fluffy and rich. Eggs whites are whisked over hot water with sugar and a tiny bit of cream of tartar until they’re fluffy and soft. Then they’re combined with butter beaten until soft.
I flavoured the buttercream with chocolate. I melted a bar of dark chocolate and beat it into the basic mixture. I don’t know if it was because I didn’t add the water ( see above), or maybe I left it to cool for a bit too long, but it didn’t blend in completely, leaving a texture like tiny tiny chocolate chips. The taste was fine so I’m not worrying about that!
Time to decorate, with strawberries and edible violas, and a final sprinkling of gold flakes.
The end result was was a great looking and great tasting cake (if I may say it myself 😉) which went down very well with all ages.
After weeks of silence (sorry about that, no reason really!) here comes a race report from my very own doorstep. The Ealing Eagles is one of our local running clubs, and have a big presence in all local runs and races. I don’t belong to a running club, as generally I prefer to run on my own, but if I did I’d think about the Eagles!
For the last few years they have organised a 10k race in the local park, officially the Brent Lodge Park, but aka the Bunny Park. This is the first year I have actually been able to take part. It was fun!
I felt sorry for the organisers as the route had to be changed at the last minute – literally the day before – when a key bridge over the river Brent was closed due to structural problems! So we ran a rather convoluted route instead, up and down, and round and round. Most of the photos in this piece are from different times, but in the same places that we ran today. As it is so local I have run here many many times over the years, in all weathers too.
For some reason I decided it would be a good idea to eat more breakfast than usual, and then paid the price with a stitch and a tummy pain for most of the run. A good reminder though of the importance of planning before the event.
Half way round I wondered why I was going so fast, especially when I had a pain in my tummy, was very thirsty and quite hot. Really, why was I?! It wasn’t as if I had to, nobody was making me do it. I think this is the definition of intrinsic motivation coming together with extrinsic motivation. I am competitive against myself, but also others – for example there is nothing quite like pushing yourself to get past that person who is going just a little slower than you. On a regular run I’d be quite happy at that pace but in a race – well, it would be silly not to just see if you could get past them, and stay past them!
The route took us over some bumpy ground, and also through some quite long grass. Other hazards included muddy ditches and low hanging tree branches. I managed NOT to injure myself this time however. The final 500m was mainly up a hill, with only the last 50m across the playing field! Hard work!
And then the results came through – and I was second in my age category! 1:00:16! Yay! 😂 Not that I’m competitive really 😉.
Today was London Marathon Day! Several people I knew were participating either in the actual event, or the so called virtual event. I think that’s a bit of a misnomer – you still have to cover the distance, and you haven’t even got the crowds cheering you on, or the aid stations along the way.
It’s a cliche to say that everyone has their own marathon story, but it is really true. Each of the people I know taking part has a story of their journey to get there, each as inspiring as the others, and all different.
My neighbour Tim is taking part in the virtual event, having been quite unwell for a while, and not having run for a few months! He is an amazing person who has run marathons and half marathons for many years, sometimes flying in the face of sense! He was one of my supporters when I ran London in 2016, cheering me on at a few different sites with a banner complete with my name! A total star, he was there at the end bringing me pints of tea and plates of sandwiches in the cafe. Tim started at 6.30am and is still going as I write this 10 hours later. *edit – Tim finished in just under 12 hours! What an achievement!
Another inspiring person is Isabelle, who has tried to reach the start line 4 times before and has been thwarted by injury, illness or lockdown until this year! Even this year it was touch and go as an old knee injury resurfaced and she was training on a static bike and an elliptical trainer for weeks – only getting out on the pavement again a couple of weeks ago. Isabelle completed the 26.2 miles in under 5 hours!
Gurdeep, my fellow runner in Rome, is also running London today, just a few weeks later. I cannot imagine doing that distance again so soon. At least the weather forecast has been wrong – we all thought it would rain all day, but in fact it has turned out fine. Gurdeep told me that she hates running in the rain, and avoids it at all costs in training runs!
Talking of consecutive races – David ran a personal best in Manchester just 7 days ago. He has today beat even that time (2:51:39) by 7 seconds! I can hardly believe it! (But will he be able to walk tomorrow?😉)
Well done Quit the Gym friends Dale and Lynne too. I know Dale has had a bit of an epic journey to get here too, including a nasty experience at the Ealing Half marathon which nevertheless did not put him off, as it might have done to many.
These are just some of the 40,000+ stories of the marathon today, and why it is such an amazing event.
To celebrate my friends’ fantastic success I made some banana chocolate chip muffins! This is the recipe I used from a website called BakingMad. (Great name!) Of course I tweaked it a bit. I used a mixture of light brown and granulated sugar, and milk chocolate chips instead of dark. I also substituted 25g of flour for cocoa powder, for more chocolate flavour. And because my bananas were not so big I used 3, instead of 2.
They look good! They smell good! I haven’t tasted them because they are not for me. But that’s ok.
So many people, and so many reasons why people run a marathon. But London is special, and I have had to stop myself entering the ballot – just in case I ended up with a place 🤣.
It’s now two weeks since I ran a marathon around Rome, and I have recovered well. My legs, although so painful and sore when actually doing it, recovered very quickly. Two days later and I was almost back to normal. However my body had definitely had enough, and I got a sore throat and felt quite run down (see what I did there?!) for a week or so afterwards.
But since then I have done three runs, and they have all been fine. In fact I have felt so back to normal that last night I was wondering if it was too late to enter the London Landmarks half marathon which happened today! It was! Probably not such a bad thing really, but I’d really like to do it next year. (Postscript: I wrote this paragraph on Sunday…)
A few days ago I listened to an interesting podcast from Runners World, about how to keep running as you get older. It seems it’s not just about going out and running. The key messages seemed to be 1) sometimes run fast, or at least faster than is comfortable; 2) improve your balance; 3) lift some weights to keep your muscles strong.
Of those three there’s one I do sometimes – run faster. Occasionally I do this on my own, but I’ve found that I often lack the motivation and stickability to carry though an interval session by myself, so I am much better doing this with a group and a trainer. Luckily Quit the Gym run regular interval training sessions, and I will get back to this very soon.
The second thing I do quite frequently is try and improve my balance. This has come about as the side benefit of a stretch and strengthening programme I’ve been doing for about 2 years. I started it because I was fed up with an almost constant pain in my right hip/ backside/ lower back. I’d spent a small fortune at the physiotherapist’s with no improvement. Quite by chance I found this website: Tom Morrison Simplistic Mobility Method and decided that for the cost of less than one physio session I had little to lose. What a great investment of £60 it has turned out to be. It was a shock to realise quite how lopsided I was in terms of balance and strength! But through regular practice over the last couple of years, and of course my sessions with Quit the Gym as well, I have reduced the pain, and improved my balance!
The third recommendation of lifting weights I have yet to start. Over the last few months I have been hearing and reading more and more about the importance of maintaining muscle mass as you get older, and how the only really effective way to do this is to lift some weights. Watch this space is all I will say at this point. I have to get my head round this one!
I started this blog in 2019 to record my running adventures of that year. I ran 12 half marathons that year – well, in the end it was eight half marathons, two 10 milers and two 16 milers! It was a lot of fun, and I was introduced to the joys of trails which was even more fun. So why enter a marathon? In a previous post I have tried to explain some of the crazy reasons. Somehow I found myself in Rome last Friday nervously awaiting the run itself on Sunday.
The weather forecast changed several times in the week – at one point it was going to be raining, then very sunny and quite hot. But the day dawned cloudy with a very light wind, and cool temperatures, around the 15 degree mark. Perfect running weather! I was particularly worried about the possibility of rain, as the cobbled streets are hazard enough, without the added danger of water. But no rain, hurray.
There were lots of people in the hotel who were running, so breakfast was laid on especially early at 6am. The atmosphere was quiet in the dining room, as we ate our bananas and contemplated the hours ahead. Then off we went, just a short walk to the start. Thousands of people were amassing, and although I tried hard to meet up with Gurdeep it was impossible for us to find each other in the throng of runners.
Minutes before the start the Italian equivalent of the Red Arrows, the Frecce Tricolori, zoomed overhead not once but twice, to massive cheers from all the crowd. It was very exciting, and a great way to start the race.
And off we went – 13,500 runners and some wheelchair racers too. For the first few miles there was good support from the crowds, and several brass and wind bands playing jaunty tunes to keep us going. The cobbles were only a problem in the centre of the city, and on fresh feet they were quite easy to manage. A different story in the last few miles though! Once out of the centre the crowd support definitely dwindled, and there were places where there was not many people at all. Very different from the London marathon, and the New York marathon from what I have heard. They need to come along to Ealing for the half marathon and see what real crowd support is!
We ran through many neighbourhoods, to be honest I have no idea of most of the places we went through. I’m pretty sure we went through the Olympic Park; Rome held the Olympics in 1960. We also went past St Peter’s Basilica and the Circo Massimo – an ancient Roman race track. I’m sure there were lots of other famous landmarks but a) I was busy looking at the ground so I didn’t trip up and b) they didn’t have big signs on them saying what they were 😂.
I was a bit disconcerted when motorbikes decided to join in the race and suddenly we found ourselves moving out of the way for a bike that decided that the yellow cordons weren’t applicable to them. At one point a small car just burst through a piece of yellow tape – not actually on the path of the runners, but still. Nobody batted an eye! And when we got back into the centre of the city with just a few kilometres to go the pavements were lined with shoppers, who frankly seemed totally uninterested in the fact that thousands of footsore runners were slogging past them to the finish line. They ducked under the plastic tape and criss crossed the road with their shopping bags and dogs, bicycles and pushchairs. It was very surprising, and later chatting to fellow runners we contrasted this to London and US races where it would be unthinkable!
I started the race nice and slow, focussing on keeping a slow pace, and was doing ok until about half way or so. But my legs, in particular my hips, got more and more painful. By about 30km I was in a lot of pain. I kept imagining all my friends shouting encouragement. I could hear the voices of my lovely friends Bindee, Michelle and Florence shouting “Come on! You can do it!” And once or twice I looked at messages on my phone from my fabulous friends known as The Lovely Chums, and got a lot of inspiration from them. And I thought of all my family – especially my number one supporter, my husband, who managed to see me four times at different points. And my wonderful sons and their families. I thought of my mum and my amazing sisters. I can’t mention everybody – but so many people have supported me, sponsored me, and been so positive in their belief that I could actually do it. Thank you to all of you – it really does make a difference. I never thought I wouldn’t finish. I just kept thinking how I really will NEVER do this again!!
I did manage to meet Gurdeep at the finish. She seemed completely fine – and that was after walking 25,000 steps the day before! What is she made from?! Steel I think. She is doing the London marathon at the end of April! Go Gurdeep!
Finishing was a mix of emotions – mainly relief and joy that it was over. I was so tired though, and my legs were done. But everything passes, and today I am just a bit stiff, walking a little slower, and taking it easy on the stairs!
My fundraising page has raised £1581 so far which is absolutely beyond brilliant! Thank you! The next race in my calendar is the fabulous Ealing Half Marathon in September. If you’re looking for a friendly half with great support look no further.
We arrived in Rome yesterday to beautiful blue skies and sunshine. it looks like the weather will be good tomorrow for the event itself. Our hotel is close to the start/finish line which is excellent news! I booked the the trip as part of a package with Destination Sport who booked the accommodation and organised entry (at a slightly reduced cost) to the marathon. At the hotel there are several people also running tomorrow, some of whom are pretty experienced! The rep Sarah is very helpful and friendly, and is running too.
Although I was tired after an early start and all the travelling we decided to visit the Expo to collect the race pack on Friday afternoon to get it done. So today we could relax a bit, and I could get to organise all my kit. I didn’t manage to meet up with my fellow runner Gurdeep at the Expo, although we did bump into each other at the baggage collection in the airport as our flights came in at almost the same time!
This morning we visited the Pantheon, which is a remarkable building, quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It amazing to think that it is almost 2000 years old, and yet still in daily use. The audio tour was very interesting – I learned that Corelli (the composer) was buried there, amongst other various kings. The oculus at the top of the dome is open to the elements, and it used to be said that the rain never fell through the roof – for mystical reasons. However it was actually because the rising heat of the candles created such warmth that the raindrops were vaporised. Just to be on the safe side the floor is also concave with some drainage holes!
Next we walked to the Trevi fountain, so bright in the sunshine, and the water sparkling into the pool. It was very busy round there but I still managed to squeeze in among the crowds and toss a coin in for luck.
Back in November very shortly after I had entered this event I was in an Oxfam shop crouching on the floor rifling through a collection of old postcards. Some of you may know that I am very fond of postcards, and have been sort of collecting them (in a very non collector-ish way) since I was a child. I still have postcards from many many years ago. Well, I found a postcard which for some reason caught my eye and I just had to have it. I am not a religious person at all but this postcard – a picture of baby Jesus – was somehow very striking. I felt that the person who had made it had modelled the baby on an actual baby that the sculptor knew. When I saw that that the statue can be found in the Basilica di Santa Maria in Ara coeli, not far from the hotel, I felt I had to see it for myself.
It turns out that the Bambino of Ara coeli is famous – so famous that it was actually stolen in 1994, and has never been found. The present statue is a copy. I find this very sad. The original was said to be carved from olive wood from the garden of Gethsemane by a Franciscan friar in the 15th century. Far from basing the features on a real baby’s face, legend has it that the friar prayed for inspiration before painting the face, and in the morning it was already miraculously finished. The statue was stolen once before in the 18thC before returning, according to legend, by itself to the sound of the church bells.
The whole basilica was very beautiful, and not too busy, especially compared with the Pantheon.
After a delicious lunch we came back to the hotel, where I have sorted all my stuff for tomorrow. My race number is pinned to my top, my sugary snacks are packed and ready to go! I have decided which pair of socks to wear, and which hat. My Garmin watch is on a final charge. I think I am ready.
I can’t promise a race report tomorrow, but it will be done as soon as I can! Thank you everyone for all your good wishes, and support. As I have said before, it makes such a huge difference, especially in the last few miles. I am so happy to have exceeded my fundraising target. Every pound raised goes towards finding a cure for Type1 diabetes through research that JDRF funds. My fundraising page can be found by clicking here. See you on the other side!
I found this unusual recipe on a website specialising in grains, peas and beans grown in the UK. Hodmedods is a company in Beccles, Suffolk; the name is a dialect word that means snail in Suffolk, but hedgehog in Norfolk! It can refer to anything that curls up really!
I was inspired to try using pea flour as it is much better for avoiding a blood glucose ‘spike’ than ordinary wheat flour. A few months ago I was told that I was pre diabetic, which at the time was quite a shock. I’ve been on quite a steep learning curve since then, finding substitutes for all kinds of foods.
Green pea flour is naturally gluten free, so if that is a concern for you then this could be a good substitute. It’s higher in protein than wheat flour, and this is part of the reason it’s better than regular flour at glucose control. It is a very pretty pale green colour, and smelled lightly of fresh peas. Neither of these qualities were evident in the final product though!
I followed the recipe on the website, which can be found by clicking here. I used 85% dark chocolate, and swapped half the sugar for a substitute ‘sugar’ erythritol.
They were easy to make, although I gave up trying to stir it all up with a spoon, and ended up using my hands to get the dough together, and shape the 12 balls. The recipe stated to make all 12 on one baking sheet, but I’m glad I ignored that and did them in 2 batches of 6. Otherwise I think they would have all stuck together.
Everything mixed up as I would expect, and baked within the time frame stated (14 minutes). Taste verdict: very very acceptable! Maybe not in the top ten of chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever made or eaten. But as pretty much every other type would increase my blood glucose too fast and for too long I’ll take them!
You may be wondering how I know that they won’t have that effect. Well of course I don’t know for certain, because I don’t wear a blood glucose monitor. However last year I joined the Zoe Project which did involve using a monitor for 2 weeks, and also various tests. The report I got back was very interesting, and enlightening. The Zoe app allows me to input recipes and get a score out of 100 ( the higher the better). So I entered the ingredients for these cookies.
Overall the cookies scored 45. Compared to a classic chocolate Hobnob – scoring 1 – that seems pretty good to me! Not as good as a handful of pistachios on their own – scoring 100 – but for a chocolate cookie I think that’s more than acceptable.
I have never made anything with pea flour before, and I’m looking forward to trying some more recipes. Apparently it can be used pretty much anywhere normal flour is used.
Anyway – moral of the story – it’s never too late to find out new stuff!
It’s the final two weeks before the Rome Marathon on 19th March, and that means it’s time to taper. Runs get shorter, easier and less tiring.
For me, still recovering from Covid, this is a good thing. It has allowed me to ease off and get my breath back – literally. Each run I’ve done has felt easier and a bit quicker for the same effort. I don’t have a heart rate monitor so I run to what’s called ‘perceived effort’. This means I judge how hard it is to keep a certain pace, how does it feel to run fast or slow? At first I found this quite difficult to do, but actually there are ways to make it work. If you’re running with another person it’s easy – basically ‘can you talk in sentences/ one word/ not at all?!’ But as I rarely run with anyone else that’s not so practical, unless I start talking to myself. I don’t think that’s a great idea 😉.
But actually you can imagine trying to hold a conversation and how hard it would be. Even simple things like how quickly I’m breathing, how hard I’m breathing, how quickly my legs are getting tired are factors to notice and respond to. In the first couple of weeks after having Covid there were times when I was having to slow right down to a walk, or even stop for a few seconds. Thankfully today I actually managed a few short spells of speeding up a bit!
In the last few weeks I’ve also been working on my mental strength as well as the physical job of running. Running 26.2 miles (42km) takes a long time unless you are Brigid Kosgei (2:14:04) or Mo Farah (2:05:11). The overall average marathon time is closer to 4.5 hours, and according to one website I looked at the average for someone like me (older woman ahem!) was just over 5 hours. That is a LONG time to be moving on your feet! Mentally it can be very very difficult to keep going for that long, when everything starts to ache and the finish seems so far away.
When I was really struggling last week on that epic 30km run I kept telling myself that I had grit and determination and those qualities had seen me through various trials and tribulations in the past – including a marathon in 2016! – and therefore I just needed to access that Grit, and power up that Determination, and I would eventually get home! Which I did! So it worked.
Today, on a relatively easy run in the freezing sleety weather, I tried a spot of visualisation – imagining myself running breezily through the sun soaked streets of Rome, gazing at the ancient architecture and wearing a hat not to keep warm but to protect my eyes from the bright glare of the sun reflecting off those cobbles!
Only a few runs left before the Big Day. I’d like to say a massive Thank You to all my supporters. Everyone has been so encouraging, and also very generous. Donations to my JustGiving page have leapt, and I am really so so grateful. I’ve had some interesting conversations with people about Type1 diabetes too, a condition that is still misunderstood by many. If you would like to donate to this important cause – finding a cure for Type1 – then my JustGiving page can be found by clicking here. And for more information about Type1, and the way your money is used for research projects have a look at the JDRF page by clicking here!
Once again – thanks for reading my blog, thanks for all your support, and thanks for your generous donations!
Today I ran 30km. That is 18.6 miles. The distance of a marathon is 42km or 26.2 miles. How I will manage that I am really not sure after today. When I say ‘ran’ I am using the word in the very loosest sense, as quite honestly a lot of the time I was walking. Today was very very hard work, and by the time I got home my whole body was hurting. I got straight into bed and slept for 1.5 hours, partly resting my bones, and partly getting warm, as it was cold today with a biting wind.
After my rest I got up, showered, ate and drank a lot of tea. I actually feel ok now, which is a very good sign I think. My legs and back are no longer hurting, they just feel a bit tired. I think I am still getting over Covid and I can only hope that by 19th March I will be properly fully recovered.
I was sorry I felt quite so bad, as although it was cold it was actually a nice day with sunshine, and blue skies. The river looked lovely, and because it was a Monday the path wasn’t too busy. I listened to various podcasts including The Food Programme, The Runners World Podcast, The Zoe Podcast and Radio 3’s Classical Mixtape. It’s all a bit of a blur now!
The most annoying thing was that I pressed Pause on my watch at some point – probably to tie my shoelace or something – and then forgot to press Resume. SO annoying as now it looks like I did less than 29km on my Garmin/Strava accounts. I know I actually did 30 because I turned around at 15km and came home the same way! The lesson to learn from this is never press pause.