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
This weekend I have been in Ramsgate celebrating a special birthday. It was a great reason to make a delicious cake. This is a cake I have made several times before, and it’s the kind of cake that is straightforward to make but makes a big impact in terms of flavour and moistness.
It’s a recipe by Claudia Roden, collated in Favourite Recipes from Books for Cooks. There’s a lemon version, and my sister makes one with clementines. Flourless, it only has a few ingredients- oranges, ground almonds, sugar, eggs, butter and baking powder. Decoration is not my forte or particular interest. So I made a stencil and dusted icing sugar over to make a simple decoration.
The other great thing about this cake is that it’s even better the next day, always a good quality for a cake that’s going away for the weekend. It is delicious on its own, it’s even better with a simple orange syrup and a dollop of crème fraiche.
I can highly recommend this cake. It’s always popular, and really easy to make.
Running news: last week I have done 2 runs. Each one seemed a little easier than the previous one. Tomorrow I am going to try for the longest run of my training plan. Three and a half hours! I will give it a go!
I am raising money for JDRF, a charity that funds research to find a cure for Type1 diabetes. Type1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that often affects children, although it can develop at any age. The cells in the pancreas that produce insulin are attacked by the body’s own immune defences in error. Eventually no insulin is produced at all. The result of that is that glucose, which is essential for providing energy to the body, is not able to be used by the muscles and cells that keep us going. It flows around in the blood with nowhere to go. Of course this is a disaster, so people with Type1 diabetes have to inject insulin at very regular intervals all day, every day for all their lives.
Keeping the balance right between enough insulin, and too much – which would result in a lack of glucose and a condition called hypoglycaemia which can result in coma – is difficult and constant. Research funded by JDRF is getting closer to a cure. In the meantime other research is making lives easier for those adults and children with Type 1 – new technologies like wearable glucose monitors and insulin pumps make it easier to manage the condition.
Please consider sponsoring me for the Rome marathon which is happening on 19th March – THREE WEEKS!!!!!! the link is here. Thank you.
I have meaning to write this post for a couple of weeks, but for reasons outlined in the previous post I have been unable to. Today, testing negative for Covid (yay!) and just a week after not being able to get out of bed, I realised that are just 4 weeks to go until the Big Day, when somehow I will be traversing 26.2 miles around Rome on my two feet. My longest run up until today has been 15 minutes shy of 3 hours, and 25 km. So today I thought I would see if I could possibly manage 3 hours. Slowly.
Somehow I did keep moving (mostly) for 3 hours without collapsing before I got home, although I did lie down for a bit when I did finally finish. However it was very slow. I managed just 25km – the same as last time just 15 minutes slower! I went between feeling pleased that I had at least managed that much, and panicking that I am now way off schedule and how will I ever manage to get round 42km!
Considerations for a long, slow run in no particular order: fuel, entertainment, possible toilet stops, clothing and footwear.
Fuel: my go to on the run fuel at the moment is soft dates stuffed with a little almond butter – and – moment of inspiration- a tiny bit of dark chocolate! Yummy. Hydration – plain water.
Entertainment: I have the best headphones EVER – wireless bone conduction ones. I’ve had them almost a year. I bought them with some money I was generously given to mark my 60th birthday and semi retirement from work – and they are FANTASTIC! What makes them so great is that I can hear what’s going on around me as they don’t go in my ears, but I can still hear whatever I’m listening to. Today I listened to a BBC Sounds audiobook of Pride and Prejudice. Actually I listened to lots of chapters of it, but still haven’t finished it! I do love Jane Austen, she’s such a great observer of character, and some of it is so funny.
Possible toilet stops: this is quite important! On a really long run it’s good to know there are options. Routes far from civilisation are not the best for this kind of training run. Today I noted a possibility in a garden centre, good to know for another time! And then realised that the old toilet block in Richmond is partly open again! Oh joy!
Clothing: for me long sleeved tops are still my choice on a slow run, even though it was probably warm enough today for a t shirt. In fact I’m still in long leggings too. I found myself jogging along in amongst the runners of the Richmond Half marathon at one point today and nearly all of them were in shorts and t shirts. Soon! It’s definitely getting warmer.
Footwear: at the moment I’m running in fairly new Adidas Solarboost. They’re ok, quite cushioned and some support. I haven’t quite got the hang of tying the laces so they’re not too tight over the top of my foot. In the right shoe I’m using an X line running insole which seems to be helping keep my right foot more stable. Good news for my tibialis posterior tendon! I was sent these to try out ages ago, but only started using them a few weeks ago. I’m quite impressed so far..
I am hoping that this week I can get back on track, or at least a bit closer to the plan. Next weekend should be a 3.5 hour run – that will probably have to happen on Monday rather than Sunday for social reasons. Watch out for the update!
It’s high time I posted another update on how my training is going for the marathon in Rome on 19th March. I wish I could say there have been no hitches and all is on track. Up until 10 days ago that actually was pretty much the picture. But as we all know life is a series of ups and downs, obstacles to overcome and victories to celebrate where we can.
I worked my way up to running 25km (15.5 miles), 2 hours and 45 minutes of running at a good easy pace on January 29th. The run itself was quite tough physically and mentally – the stretch of canal along the Paddington branch towards between Perivale and Kensal Green is in some places a bit grim, and the sky was very grey and overcast to add to the air of gloom. However it wasn’t all bad – there was some striking graffiti art, and of course lots of life on and around the river – cormorants, swans, ducks and – rats!
After this epic run the following week was lower intensity on The Plan, which was great. So due to weekend commitments I set off for my long (but not so long) 1.5 hour run on Monday 6th Feb. It was a beautiful morning, sunshine and blue sky, and all good with the world. I went off for an out and back along a canal route I often do. On the way back, still maybe 5km (3miles) from home I tripped on something on the path – tree root? Stone? Who knows. I went flying and landed on my right wrist and left face! I suppose the first thing is to see if you can actually move after doing something like that, and the second thing is to see if anyone saw as it is so embarrassing really. Well, I could move and nothing seemed broken, and nobody was about at that particular moment.
I sat on the edge of the path, and inspected my glasses which although bent totally out of shape did still go over my ears, kind of. I realised there was blood dripping off my chin, and managed to find a couple of tissues. Thus I sat, blood soaked tissue clutched to my chin, in the mud, attempting to gather myself. At this point a group of 6 middle aged cyclists slowly pedalled past with barely a glance. Well well! What did they think as they spied this not-so-young woman sat on a muddy path in February with a tissue pressed to her chin? Not, it seems, a woman who might need some help, or even a kindly word. No, perhaps they thought I was an eccentric person just having a little rest. Or perhaps they didn’t even notice my existence. All my life, at various points and situations in it, I have had a feeling of invisibility, and this was certainly one of them.
Later I thought about it more. I do feel that this was something to do with being in a group. If one of them had been on their own I think they would maybe have felt more intrinsic pressure to stop. Or, if just one of them (maybe the leader of this particular group) had stopped it would have ‘given permission’ to the rest of the group to stop. This is actually a Thing called Bystander Effect. People are less willing to help someone if they think someone else may. And:
According to the principle of social influence, bystanders monitor the reactions of other people in an emergency situation to see if others think that it is necessary to intervene. If it is determined that others are not reacting to the situation, bystanders will interpret the situation as not an emergency and will not intervene. From the Wiki article linked to above.
As it happened I wasn’t seriously hurt, and managed to walk/ semi jog the rest of the way home – via a pharmacy to buy some steri strips and dressings! But, supposing I was having a heart attack?! Or I’d bashed my head and was concussed? In this day and age it is easy to be frightened of strangers, and sometimes it is right to be cautious. But please remember that someone may actually need your help! I could’ve done with a few more tissues to mop up the blood!
The next day my right wrist was black and blue, swollen and my fingers were going numb. So off I went to hospital. I was pretty certain it wasn’t broken, and just a bad sprain, but 111 advised me to get it checked out. Long story short – 5 hours in hospital – very comprehensive and thorough check out including X-ray of wrist and face (black eye developing nicely by now!) and then a CT scan of my face to make doubly sure I hadn’t fractured my eye socket – yikes! And given the all clear. Hurray!
Life went on, and I did actually manage to go for a short run a couple of days later. All fine.
Except not all fine, because a few days after that I got Covid! Now, I could’ve got it in any number of places but my best guess is the hospital. Apart from the staff, hardly anyone was wearing a mask. (I was.) Oh my days! I haven’t had Covid since January 2021. I have had all my vaccinations – thank goodness. But the first day I felt so ill I couldn’t get out of bed. it’s a few days on now, and I’m feeling a lot better – that’s why I can write this! But still nowhere near full strength.
What does this mean for my Plan?? I am really hoping that if I rest as much as possible then I can get back to where I should be – next long run 3 hours – quickly, and without too much loss of fitness. We will see next week!
What is my victory to celebrate? Well, today I decided that a solitary outing to Kew Gardens – avoiding anywhere indoors and anywhere with crowds of people – would be good for the soul. And it certainly was!
Another victory to celebrate – raising £215 for JDRF so far. Visit my fund raising page by clicking here. I’m hoping to post more regular updates from now. I have a bit more time due to some stuff that was going on in my other life as a normal person having finished!
It’s been four weeks since I started my marathon training plan, and so far so good. I have managed four runs every week except one, which was for logistical reasons involving Christmas Day.
There are four runs every week. At the moment they go something like this: 1) an easy shortish run, which gradually gets longer but is always at an easy pace; 2) two interval sessions – one with short intervals and one with longer intervals; 3) a long run – getting longer and longer! but usually at an easy pace. That’s the basics. Some weeks there is only one interval session, and some weeks the long run has some faster bits in the middle.
I have managed to set up the interval sessions on my watch. This is actually quite easy but it is so long since I did it that it took me a little while to remember how to add in repeats! It’s great though, because now my watch beeps to tell me when to start going faster, and when the recovery time starts. It also beeps frantically if I am not in my time range!
So far I have managed to time most of my runs to coincide with reasonable weather. Today there was a little shower while I was out, which was nice because then I saw a rainbow. But about half an hour after getting home there was a hailstorm! I felt quite smug.
This afternoon I went shopping for an essential piece of kit for women. While out running today I almost had a disastrous wardrobe malfunction when the zip on my sports bra became disconnected. Luckily I managed to fix it, but the rest of the run I was in nervous anticipation of another technical failure! Good old Marks and Spencer to the rescue, and I now have two new bras, and the old one can be relegated to the recycling 😂. (Sorry if that’s too much information for some people 😉.)
The big announcement of this post is that my fundraising page is now LIVE! I am hoping to raise at least £1000 for JDRF – the charity that is dedicated to finding a cure for Type1 diabetes. Please do visit their website by clicking here to find out about all the fantastic work they do.
My fundraising site can be visited by clicking on this link. I appreciate that there are many demands on limited resources. Thank you for every penny and pound you can spare for this great cause.
Another banana bread?! There are, it seems, an infinite number of recipes and variations on the banana bread theme, and this one was created on a special day – the birth-day, of my third beautiful grandson! So it’s a birthday banana cake!
I wondered what kind of cake to make and looked around the kitchen.. lo and behold a bunch of bananas just about to go past their best! And I also had some dates from a while back. A quick search on the internet for a recipe – there are lots – and I found just the thing.
This iteration is banana-date-walnut with a touch of honey. I made a few tweaks, and didn’t do the honey/ walnut glaze, as I thought that was a bit too much.
The recipe is from the BBC Good Food website and can be found by clicking here. So what did I tweak? Well I made it in a loaf tin not a Bundt tin. The main reason for that was that the loaf tin was to hand, and the Bundt tin was buried somewhere in the cupboard. Also it’s a pain greasing the Bundt tin so that the cake reliably turns out without sticking. I added a bit of nutmeg as well as the cinnamon. And I changed the method a bit.
3 tbsp clear honey – mine wasn’t clear but I don’t think it makes any difference
2 overripe bananas – 350g with the skins on – I used 3 & 1/2 small ones
200g stoned dates, chopped
50g walnuts, chopped
Heat the oven to Mark 3 (but I actually set mine closer to 4); 160C or 140C fan. Line a non stick loaf tin with baking parchment.
Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs. Mix in the vanilla and honey. Add the flour and spices. Mix in the dates, walnuts and banana. Mix well. Turn into the tin.
Bake for 50-60 minutes – check with a cake tester or skewer – it should come out clean, and the cake should just be pulling away from the sides of the tin.
Cool on a rack for 10 minutes before removing from the tin and allowing to cool completely.
The cake was very delicious. The dates are like little nuggets of caramel dotted about, with the slightly crunchy texture of the walnuts an excellent contrast. I think a bit more cinnamon and other spices wouldn’t go amiss next time. Altogether a very nice recipe, and quick to prepare. Recommended!
As I mentioned in my previous post my ability to process sugar is not good, and I have pre diabetes. A cake like this with sugar, honey, dates and flour is not a great addition to my diet, sadly. However there are proven ways of reducing the blood glucose spike that will inevitably occur after eating a piece of cake. So with a little adjustment I can have my cake AND eat it (albeit only occasionally). Tonight I had my slice as dessert after dinner, and then went for a 30 minute walk. I am hoping that this is enough to prevent a spike. The last couple of months have been an interesting learning curve, and I may well write a post at some point about some of the fascinating things I have learned. The main one is that running a lot is not enough!
In 2016, long before I was even thinking of writing a blog, I ran the London marathon. It was an amazing day, very emotional and exciting. It was the beginning of my fundraising journey for JDRF, raising over £2000 that year. It was also incredibly hard work, not just on the day but in the weeks leading up to the actual day. I can remember the last few weeks being totally dominated by long runs, short runs, getting up very early to eat breakfast before a run, organising my social life to fit round runs… So I said NEVER AGAIN!
But the years have passed, and the memories of the pain and exhaustion have dimmed, blurred and softened. Yes I can still remember the pain in my knee, the feeling that I couldn’t take one more step, the loss of my toenail (!) but hey! I’m still here aren’t I?!
Let’s also add in an inspirational woman called Gurdeep who started working in our admin office at work over a year ago. Gurdeep is a serial marathoner, the sort of person who goes on holiday specifically to run a marathon. She’s run marathons all over the place, the most recent was in Stockholm. Ever since Gurdeep found out out that I like running she has been trying to persuade me to run a marathon.
So – I hereby announce that on 19th March 2023 I will be in Rome (with Gurdeep!) to run a marathon! I think I am somewhat crazy, but logically these are the arguments why it’s not so mad: 1) I’ve done one before, albeit a while ago; 2) in 2019 I did 12 half marathons, and that’s not so long ago; 3) since April 2021 I’ve been doing a strengthening and stability programme that is absolutely brilliant and now I’m much stronger than I was in 2016 (and I still try and get to the wonderful outdoor gym class Quit the Gym); 4) it’s time for a new challenge and 5) it’s time to raise money for JDRF again.
I’ve downloaded a plan from the London marathon site. It’s a 16 week plan, but I’m starting with only 14 weeks to go, so that’s two weeks already crossed off. Only 14 weeks – if doesn’t sound like long that’s because it ISN’T long!
Update: Now it’s a few days later. And now it’s only 13 weeks to go, because I have completed Week One of The Plan! Four runs done – it was very do-able, and hopefully I continue to report good progress.
I will be fund raising again for JDRF – a charity dedicated to finding a cure for Type 1 diabetes. Over the next few weeks I will write a bit more about this amazing charity and the research that they fund. I’ll be setting up a fundraising page and when I do I’ll definitely be posting it here!
Oh, and there will be less cake, as I was recently told that I have pre-diabetes – which was a bit shocking if I’m honest. But I’m sure there will be some cake, and I can’t get through Christmas without these Best Ever Mince Pies!
Saturday 3rd December – a very cold morning, grey skies and a chilly breeze. I wasn’t feeling 100% either, having a croaky voice and sinus problems. Okay I probably should have just stayed in bed, but of course I didn’t.
Osterley 10k is always quite a busy race as it is flat, and is scheduled right after the Parkrun. In previous years I have done both, but I felt that really would be too much yesterday! I managed to find a parking spot, and went off to find my friends. We stood around waiting until the very last minute to take off the layers and hand in our bags.
The warm up by the steps to the house was fun, and certainly got the blood flowing – why is it that you always feel exhausted after the warm up?! Then you have to run 10k!
It’s a friendly race, people chat to each other very readily, and while we waited for everyone to get into place for the start there was lots of conversation about times, mud, the cold.
And then we set off! The course is basically two laps, or a lap and half, but each lap is different. The route goes through the garden, and all round the grounds. There a few bits that are easier to run than others – the wide paths round the grounds are good, but the narrow pavement outside the walled part is annoying! And you have to do it twice! It wasn’t as muddy as I thought it would be, and although there were some puddles they were easy to negotiate round.
I was glad of my Santa hat to keep my head warm, although the dangling bobble was never going to be a good idea, so I tucked it in my collar. I also thought it would be fun to wear Christmas tree earrings – the jangling was quite annoying!
Even though I wasn’t feeling at my best I felt ok running. I had decided that if I felt unwell or out of breath I would slow down, walk or even stop if I really didn’t feel good. But in the end I did it in 1 hour and 28 seconds. And I really did feel all right.
However then we had to queue to collect our bags. Now I know that races rely on volunteers, and I am very grateful to all those who came to help out by marshalling, handing out water, setting up signs and organising the bag drop and all the other myriad jobs that have to be done. But. It was really cold, and we had all just got quite warm and sweaty running. This is not a good combination for standing around in a line. I think it took the best part of 30 minutes to get my bag and by the time I did I was frozen. I got in the car, put the heated seat on and the heated steering wheel but was still frozen when I got home. Then I had some hot food and got into bed. Three hours later I was just about thawed.
The actual run was really great, but getting so cold did rather put a dampener on the experience I must say. At least in the queue I had a good chat with various people, including a man who only took up running a few years ago and now does ultras! (More than marathon distance.)
Osterley Park is a lovely place to visit. I wrote a little bit more about it in this post from 2019 – the year I ran the equivalent of a half marathon every month! And in that post is a photo of me in a Christmas pudding costume – and that was in 2018! So I’m sure I will be back next year. I just might find a way of keeping my bag more accessible at the end!
I’ve been on my travels again, and am now in Woodbury, Minnesota, just outside the Twin Cities. We’re staying with more very dear friends, Tracy and David, who we haven’t seen since 2019 when we were all in Florida.
They are in the process of moving home, and had a sizeable bowl of lemons as part of ‘set dressing’ for showing their beautiful home to prospective buyers. And now they have a buyer (fingers crossed!) so what to do with a large number of lemons? Why, make a lemon cake!
Tracy kindly lent me the use of her kitchen, and also helped out with measuring, melting, turning on the oven, washing up and generally being very useful!
I would recommend the use of a microplane zester for the lemons, as you can make very fine zest that mixes evenly with the rest of the ingredients. Also you wouldn’t have to ice them if you wanted to keep the sugar content down a bit. Instead you could dust with icing sugar just before serving, or even leave them plain. We tested for doneness after 20 minutes and then 25, and the cake appeared to be still too wet in the middle. But – another 5 minutes and they were almost TOO done, so I would advise taking them out of the oven just before you think they are actually cooked – tricky timing, and it’s not the end of the world. But they could’ve been just a little bit more squidgy for maximum deliciousness!
The recipe is from this website Bakerella, but there are many versions of it, and a lot of the recipes are exactly the same. I do not therefore have any qualms about reproducing it here. Actually I am not reproducing it verbatim, as I have adapted it (as usual 😂), and added some blueberries.
FOR THE BARS:
1 cup plain/ all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp lemon zest (approx 3 lemons)
3/4 cup unsalted (or salted – omit the extra salt) butter almost completely melted and then cooled
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup of blueberries – optional – my addition!
FOR THE GLAZE:
1.5 cups icing sugar/ powdered sugar, sifted
2 tbsp (or a bit more) lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
Grease an 8” square pan or line with foil/ non stick parchment. Preheat oven to 350*/ Gas mark 4.
Mix flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and zest using a whisk.
Add melted butter, lemon juice, eggs and vanilla. Stir until completely combined. Add the blueberries.
Pour into the pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until done. But not TOO done. Remove from oven and cool.
Make the glaze by mixing the sieved icing sugar with the lemon zest and juice, and pour over the cooled Lemonies. Let it set before cutting.
I am excited to introduce my first guest baker – one of my very dearest friends Christine Rookwood. Now living in Nelson, BC, Canada, Chris is a talented potter. Her work can be found in several art galleries and craft shops locally, and she also does commissioned work. I’ve known Chris for 43 years (I can hardly believe this!), and she has always been a fantastic baker.
We are staying with Chris and her husband Paul (who I’ve known for even longer!), in their beautiful home just outside Nelson, a lovely old town on the Kootenay River.
On the drive from Vancouver we went through an area known for its fruit orchards and vegetable gardens, and bought a box of peaches (as well as some apples, pears, tomatoes, corn and little purple potatoes). Some of the peaches made it into a bowl of yogurt for breakfast, but some were destined for a peach PIE! Oh yes, dear readers, Chris made a delicious pie for us.
The crust was a basic shortcrust made with butter, and formed galette style. This means the pastry is rolled quite a bit larger than the pie plate and then folded over the filling. The filling was chopped peaches, mixed with some sugar, vanilla and a little cornflour to thicken the juices. The peaches were left for an hour or so to combine nicely with the other ingredients. Baked in a hot oven for approximately 45 minutes, and then allowed to cool on a rack, the pie was served with softly whipped cream. How lucky was I?!
And it doesn’t stop there! Two gorgeous loaves of bread shared the oven space with the pie. Stuffed with toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and some plump raisins, I am looking forward to some delicious toast tomorrow morning.
You can check out more of Chris’s work on Instagram – @cvrookie or on her website by clicking here.
Happy 10th Birthday to the fabulous Ealing Half Marathon! Number one was set up to coincide with the 2012 London Olympics and has run every year since. Every year apart from one – in 2020 no race took place in real life, but there was a virtual run which I undertook on a very cold and wet day in Suffolk. I just re read that post, and oh my it was a very different experience from the one today! For a start it never seems to rain on the last Sunday in September in Ealing! The weather today was perfect for running – sunny, blue skies and not too hot.
As usual I knew quite a few people taking part, and also lots of the volunteers and supporters along the route. It’s always fun looking out for friends. It’s a while since I ran alongside another person (I mean apart from the crowd) but today my son Jack decided at the very last minute to take part. Later he told me that this was the only the 5th actual run he’s done in two years! So he was basically running on no specific training at all. Crazy. But it was very nice to have the company, and the encouragement. He set his fancy watch with a target of 2 hours and 5 minutes – ambitious. The first half we were on track and I managed the fastest 10km I’ve done for years! But after that the second half began to take its toll on our legs. There’s a point where the route goes quite close to our house – and his – and it is hard to run past that point when your legs are screaming STOP!
But the fantastic support from the crowd, offering jelly babies, water and general cheering really does give you a boost. There is also plenty of music and drums along the way, with the Hanwell Ukelele Group smashing out tunes, and a fab dhol player outside the Sikh temple on Drayton Bridge Road. Click here if you don’t know what a dhol is! There were also some great drummers on the Uxbridge Road which was a great energising sound to hear at mile 12.
As always superb organisation and a huge army of volunteers of all ages from Beavers to seniors made this a fantastic event, enjoyed by everyone.
Jack and I finished in 2 hours and 7 minutes. Hurray! He wouldn’t have done it if I hadn’t done it, and I certainly wouldn’t have done it that quick without him, and his ambitious target! At the end my feet, legs and back were killing me, I’m not going to lie. However, after a long soak in a hot bath and an extremely good Sunday lunch at The Green W7 in Hanwell I am feeling ok, if a little tired.
Shout out to Race Directors Sandra Courtney and Christina O’Hare. As usual you have done an amazing job. And thanks of course to the founder of Ealing Half Marathon Kelvin Walker, without whom this wonderful race would have never existed. If you have never thought about doing a half marathon then start thinking about doing this one next year!