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Happy New Year!

So it’s 2022. Yay! And traditionally it’s the time to look back on the last year. I do wish I had managed to write a few more blog posts, but I have been so busy, and at times quite unmotivated if I am honest. But there have been many good things this year. I managed two trail runs which were a lot of fun. And I also did the wonderful Ealing half marathon, as well as the Ealing parks challenge which was wonderful – getting into all the corners of Ealing borough that I would never normally go to.

A corner of Acton I probably won’t ever visit again! 🤣 (shame about the graffiti…)

As always I feel grateful to live in an area where there are so many nice places to run that are in green spaces – right on the doorstep!

Sunrise over the river Brent and the allotments

I was very lucky to be able to get away to the beautiful Isle of Arran in July for a walking holiday. I feel so grateful that my friend and I were able to do that, given the horrible winter we seem to be having lately. Thinking about all the lovely things that happened in 2021 certainly picks me up when things feel hard.

Lochranza on the Isle of Arran.

I also had a holiday in Suffolk, and ran some familiar routes there. The weather was good, and it was lovely to be by the sea with good friends for a few days.

The old lifeboat station in Aldeburgh

I have not done so much baking this year, or perhaps I just haven’t written about it as much! I’ve made some nice things and some not so nice (!). Highlights were the apple buns and the magic custard cakes!

My husband’s (the love of my life) 60th birthday cake – a truly scrumptious chocolate layer cake – the filling is like a chocolate mousse.

In May all the family managed a few days near Buxton in Derbyshire when the babies – my beautiful grandsons – met for the first time since being born on the same day in 2020!

They’re walking and talking now! (And they have hair.) Love them so much.

Today was the first day of a new year, so time to start as you mean to go on – a nice easy 6km run around one of my favourite parks – Pitshanger Park. It was so warm I went out in shorts and a t-shirt and was still too hot!

On my run today – a photo of one of my favourite oak trees, that lost a major branch in a storm a couple of years ago.

I haven’t yet decided on any ‘challenges’ for 2022… right now there’s enough going in my life without any more challenge thank you very much!

The medal haul from 2021 – plus that ridiculously massive one that hangs from a hook out in the garden!

I am hoping to write a bit more regularly – I’ve been sharpening the pencils and filling the inkwells in readiness.

Happy New Year to all my readers! Wishing you all good health and happiness. 😊

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Yay! Finally! Race report! Wendover 21km

Hello everyone! Yes I am back. It’s been a while, hope you’ve all been well. All good here in Ealing, and I’m glad to be back running and writing again. And you never know I might do a bit of baking too.

Yesterday I ran my first proper hilly trail run in ages. So long ago I can’t remember when. Probably back in 2019 I think. I did a race in the Chilterns, Buckinghamshire, UK, and for anyone who knows the area – it’s hilly. That is certainly part of the charm (the views) but also part of the challenge (the pain).

Views from the top

In 2019, when I ran a half marathon (or near enough) every month throughout the year, I ran a wonderful race with race organiser Maverick. It was also in the Chiltern hills, a different bit, and it was amazing! Doing that run in 2019 made me realise that running out in proper countryside is what I really love. So I signed up for the same run in March 2020. And then it was postponed (of course) until March 2021. And then it was postponed again until July 2021 – but a date I couldn’t do. I changed my entry and ta-da – a run up hill and down dale for which I was not fully prepared – hahaha!

This run started at the civilised time of 10 o’clock. The weather was warm but not too hot, and a fresh breeze when out in the open was very welcome. We set off in waves of 5 or 6 people at a time to maintain social distancing. The route was well signed, and the marshals were all helpful and encouraging. At times in the woods I was running alone which was peaceful and calm. At other times runners were in front or behind, and all were friendly and supportive.

We ran through woods and fields, past pretty houses and farms. We ran up hills – well, no – we walked up the hills, and some of us also walked down the hills to avoid slipping on the chalky paths, or tripping on a tree root and flying down.

We ran past Chequers, the country home of the Prime Minister. We ran past a lot of HS2 works – the controversial high speed train line between London and the North. I saw many kites (the birds) hovering overhead, and heard larks singing their heads off.

That’s Chequers in the middle of the picture.

The flowers were beautiful – carpets of wild flowers on the open hillsides and tall foxgloves in the woods. One churchyard we ran through had roses all long the wall, which smelled fantastic.

The rather fab aid station

Now one thing you can guarantee when running along the Ridgeway, which is a long distance path that was part of our route, is amazing views. That is certainly the case at Coombe Hill, where the views across the countryside are expansive. There is a tall monument at the top of the hill, built in 1904 to remember the dead of the Boer War. As I approached the monument I saw a woman sitting on a bench looking upset. A fellow runner, it turned out she was almost frozen to the spot with vertigo and dizziness, from the huge views from such a height across Buckinghamshire. Eventually I persuaded her to come with me, and we slowly made our way parallel to the main path for a bit, the views shielded by trees. Then we ran along, with me on the right blocking the view as she carefully avoided looking anywhere but the ground in front of her. Finally we reached the woodland where she felt ok again. It was her first trail run – I hope it won’t be the last!

It seems cruel to plan a route where in the last 5 km there are 6 stiles to cross. My poor legs.

I made it to the finish in 2 hours 51 minutes, and my legs were killing me! The welcome at the end, plus a medal and an iced coffee, as well as a lager for later made it all worth it. And my lovely husband was there to drive me home. Which was a good thing because my left leg cramped up half way home, and still feels sore!

After months of running in familiar places it was so good to be out exploring a different area. My experience of Maverick events is that they are friendly, well organised, welcoming and fun. Bring on the next one!

Running in the Chiltern Hills

What a view!

Today I ran the third of my half marathons of 2019. It was very different from the first two, and was in fact the first trail race I have ever done. Wow! It was hard work with all those hills. But a lot of fun and I think I have found a new passion!

It was the Maverick inov-8 Original Buckinghamshire – and it was really well organised, with easy parking, ok toilets, a choice of 3 routes (8km, 14km and 22km) – fun for all, great marshalling and on-course signing.

A great selection of cakes available!

I was running with my friend Steve, who is training for an ultra marathon in the South Downs later in the year. When I say running with him that is not quite right, as he very soon went ahead. The course was amazing – through woods, across fields and definitely up and down hills! There was also quite a lot of mud. Running in this type of terrain is very different from running along a towpath, or in a town. First I had to accept that walking was going to be quite a large part of the experience, but that’s ok because it is for most people. Also I really had to concentrate on the ground because it was so rough. I almost fell twice – tripping on a tree root, and turning my ankle. Luckily both times I saved myself from serious mishap.

This bit was very steep – one false step and I would have somersaulted down!

One of the best things about running is talking to people. I met a lovely lady called Caroline who asked about my connection with JDRF. It turned out that her daughter has Type 1, and others in her family. We had an interesting chat about Type 1, research, artificial pancreases, postcode lottery for equipment, raising funds etc. It was great to meet you Caroline, and I will look up the Pisa half marathon for December!

I also loved the whole scenery thing. Woods, views, brimstone butterflies, red kites hovering over the landscape, violets tucked in the leaf litter, celandine shining brightly…It was great. The local parks might seem quite tame now!

This bit was uphill, through the beech woods

The thoughtful organisation was also in evidence along the course at the 2 OutPosts – tables laden with bananas, watermelon, orange sections, drinks, sweeties, energy gels. I don’t usually eat much, if anything, out on runs, but today I was very glad to help myself to something to keep me going.

I have done a couple of more traditional half marathons in under 2 hours (yay!), but I soon realised that today anything close to 2 hours was a total impossibility! In fact I began to think that it might be over 3 hours, as my legs ached, my feet were sore, my core muscles creaked and groaned, and even my arms were hurting! In the end I finished in 2 hours 55 minutes and 41 seconds.

Back home – post run treats! The beer came with the medal, but I’m saving it for later

All in all – I loved it! I’m hooked on trails, and looking forward to May when I do another in the Peak District with my son Tom. Bring those hills on!

Don’t forget – I’m raising funds for JDRF so they can fund research into finding a cure for Type 1 diabetes. If you would like to donate here’s the link!! Thank you for your support.