The Beast and Self Doubt

A red warning for snow has been issued for the Central Belt of Scotland…’. I sighed and concluded that this was probably not an optimum situation for marathon training.

I had already bought a big pile of food a few days earlier but the gannets had already eaten it all, so I trudged off into the Siberian wilderness (also known as the Raploch area of Stirling) to buy as much as I could squeeze into my rucksack to last a couple of days. It was eerie to see the usually busy streets totally empty and the school buildings closed as the snow clouds darkened but it turned out that everyone was busy stripping the shelves at Sainsbury’s of blizzard survival essentials such as Irn Bru, bread, Irn Bru, milk, and Irn Bru.


My training plan involves three runs per week, with the longest runs being on Sundays. I had occasionally adjusted the timing of some runs and had missed one or two due to illness, childcare arrangements and snow and ice earlier in the winter but, before the Beast from the East arrived, I had stuck as closely as possible to the plan and felt reasonably confident that all was going well.

But the Beast heralded the ‘self doubt’ phase (at least I hope it is a phase!!!).

For almost a week high winds and heavy snowfall pummelled my area and one training run was missed… then two… By the weekend mild panic had set in and I dug out my fleecy leggings and went out into the snow with yaktrax ice grips attached to my trainers to attempt something resembling a long training run.

It was good to finally be out of the house in the cold fresh air and away from the squabbles of bored children but running on a slippery, slushy, lumpy snow and ice mix was very hard work. Some of snow reached half way up my shins. I managed 9 slow miles before hobbling into a much needed hot bath and worrying about how long that 9 miles had taken to travel.


The snow finally began to melt just as my husband headed off to work away from home last week, so another two mid-week runs were missed while I was chief after-school club taxi driver, bum wiper, chef, etc.

The self doubt crept closer and closer. What if the missed runs mean I won’t be fit enough for the marathon?

On Mother’s Day I did my own, private half marathon (as per the plan). I decided to incorporate the last part of the marathon course into my run to make me think of race day and reaching that finish line (and to imagine the cake which would be eaten after the race to celebrate). I saw so many jolly-faced runners all zooming about effortlessly as I plodded along in an ungainly manner through Cornton and Bridge of Allan. But, however undignified my running style, I was still out there covering the miles (albeit at the pace of a comatose newt after a heavy night down at the pond).

Unfortunately, at about mile 6, I realised that I hadn’t accounted for that part of the marathon course which involves a very busy A-road with no pavement! I couldn’t bear to turn around and go back the way I had come several miles to the only other river crossing, so I found myself hacking my way through the brambles, spiky low-hanging tree branches and thick, oozy mud like a cross between Bear Grylls and the kids from ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’. I might have sworn quite a lot and ended up climbing over two fences after 2km of feral exploration in order to find a bit of pavement again (and to avoid actually finding a bear, having to drink my own pee or losing an eyeball to a malicious twig).

I swear that the final couple of miles of my solo half marathon were definitely further than standard miles.

More self doubt. A marathon is such a long way! How will I manage twice the half marathon distance in just 7 weeks?!? But many, many people just like me do manage it. If they can, then I can too (I think?).

Now that I’m at the business end of marathon training… I have so many miles to travel over the next 7 weeks until the big day… please help me to fight my self doubt and just get on with it by donating anything you can to Care of Police Survivors:

Thank you!



On My Mind

One of the reasons I started running was to have some time to myself to think without small children dangling from my arms and legs. As much as I love my children and their fondness of accessorising my limbs, sometimes I need time to process thoughts with clarity and with minimal interjections from the Paw Patrol.

Today marks one year since my friend Katie’s death. She was an amazing person who loved life and lived it as well as she could – no excuses – despite the limitations of cystic fibrosis. Her hand-painted Doc Martins gave me a firm kick up the backside and prompted me to put my trainers on and go out. The impression she has left on me (and many others) is as strong and positive as ever. Earlier this month I attended another funeral. I had never met her, but this funeral was for a tiny but feisty little girl named Robyn whose personality shone brightly throughout the short time she had. I was reminded of Katie when the lady leading the service said “we must all do the best we can with what we have”. I suspect that Robyn and Katie would have been friends and I imagined Robyn with her own tiny pair of outrageously decorated boots kicking all of the people there forward and onwards.

And so, reminded once again of what I have to be thankful for, I endeavour to do the best I can with what I have. While I am out running, I often think of them and I think of my family – the stresses and strains my husband faces at work; the challenges my youngest daughter faces as she heads towards big school; the growing resilience and understanding of the world which my oldest daughter is developing; my parents and sister in North Wales; my worries about the children at work and the lives which some of them are experiencing…

Sometimes my thoughts leave me with a heavy heart and I need that time to process my sadness. Sometimes my thoughts are filled with happiness – the certificate which my daughter brought home from nursery announcing that she ‘happily joined in with group time’; the concerto for violin and kazoo which my other daughter treated me to; spring flowers emerging from grass verges; medals for team GB at the Winter Olympics; the anticipation of chocolate and a hot bath.

Running is about more than ‘getting fit’ to me. It is not about being fast or competing against others. It slows down time for me so I can stop, think and take in a moment of clarity before returning to the noise and constant rush of my everyday.


To read about Robyn’s story, please see this link. Her mums are raising money for the Glasgow Children’s Hospital to buy comfy chairs for parents to cuddle their little girls and boys in the NICU, which will be a beautiful legacy in Robyn’s memory.

To help me reach the finish line of my first marathon, please give just a few pennies to COPS, who look after the families of police officers who have died on duty. Thank you.

Adverse Weather Conditions

The thing about spring marathons is that the majority of the training for them takes place in the winter months… and, in Scotland, the winter weather can sometimes be particularly unfriendly for runners.

On Tuesday last week I woke to a slight covering of snow but, being short on opportunities to do training runs, I went out in it anyway and slipped around on the half slush puppy/ half powder snow mixture, taking a few photos as I went of the midwinter landscape. At this point I thought the snow looked lovely and quite enjoyed looking at it as I skated along.

On Wednesday more snow had fallen and partially melted before freezing again and forming a bumpy, unpredictable ice rink all over the roads and pavements. I realised a few seconds into my Wednesday night run that I could not even walk on the pavements, let alone run on them… but, having battled for half an hour to get into my sports bra, I was not willing to abandon my run. Instead I took to the grass verges and followed them towards my local pub. Here I resisted the temptation to go inside and enjoy their fine food and drink and, instead, ran around and around on a patch of grass outside the pub until I had reached 3 miles (while onlookers inside the cosy pub watched this complete muppet doing laps in the snow with slightly puzzled expressions as they tucked into their scampi and chips). I then trotted home back along the grass verges feeling smug about remaining upright. The snow started to lose some of its appeal at this point.

Around and around outside the pub

Thursday and Friday passed… more snow and ice (especially on Friday when I got stuck several times in the car on the nursery run and the schools were all closed from lunchtime). I was in the process of cursing my lack of access to a treadmill when the local leisure centre and gym also closed due to the ongoing blizzard.

Saturday – another very slow run emulating a Z-list celebrity attempting to figure skate on prime time TV. With all dignity left far behind me, I staggered and tiptoed my way through 5 miles in -4 degrees and found my mood much improved through a bit of fresh air and exercise after several days cooped up with one hyperactive child and another poorly and grumpy child.


Sunday’s forecast was for yet more snow so I managed to squeeze in one more training run before the dark clouds swept in once again. This time the snow and ice had softened (it was a toasty -1 by this point) and it felt like I was running on powdery snow sand and hard pebbles of ice… my calves were burning from working so hard to prevent me from falling but I made it home in one piece moments before the huge, flumpy flakes fell once more.

Monday saw Storm Georgina finally melt the snow with torrential rain and the roads, finally clear of ice, disappeared under flood water.

Yesterday I finally returned to the training plan. Running on snow and flood-free pavements again felt great and, even with planned walking breaks between each interval of running, I scored a new 10k personal best time! This was particularly special as it was actually a few seconds faster than the only pre-kids 10k I did in 2009! I was very happy with that and will make the most of being able to run on actual pavements, rather than inches of ice… until the next blizzard arrives.

If you would like to kick my rear end towards the finish line of my first marathon, please help me by donating to Care of Police Survivors!

Edinburgh Great Winter Run 5k

After the luxury of an uninterrupted night’s sleep in a double bed all to myself and with no children poking my eyeballs out to make me get up, I put on my running gear at a leisurely pace, momentarily worried about wearing activewear in the hotel breakfast room, then shrugged and went downstairs in it anyway. I needn’t have been concerned as all of the hotel guests were clad in an impressive array of brightly-coloured lycra and I felt quite at home as I tucked into my cornflakes.

I arrived at Holyrood Park a short time later, having followed the activewear army down the Royal Mile through the cold morning air. I have never actually visited Arthur’s Seat before and, as the hill grew nearer, it appeared to loom higher and higher and I desperately hoped that the 5k race I was about to run did not go up to the top of it.

Quick photo with my fellow marathon trainees and Liz the Legend before the race

Lurking at the start line, I was joined by the other three marathon trainees (Barbara, Kevin and Steven) and Liz McColgan for a quick natter and photo before the race began. Barbara, Kevin and Steven are all faster runners than I am so they were due to start their race earlier than me in the white and green waves so I waddled across the muddy field towards the baggage tent to leave our bags before my own wave of runners was due to start. I felt pre-race nerves as I waited in the pink pen and took part in the warm-up boxercise… would I make it up the epic hill everyone kept telling me about? Would I be so slow that the Sweeper Bus of Shame would have to pick me up? What if I don’t actually get to the end for some reason?

Waiting for the race to begin

I had a quick word with myself, told Dave the Inner Chimp to wind his neck in and the race began.

At first the road seemed quite flat and, getting carried away with the pace of those around me, I started to run quite quickly. Then I heard someone to me right say “here we go” as we turned a corner and were faced with the start of That Hill.

That Hill went on and on and on (surely defying the laws of physics and stretching up into the stratosphere) and eventually I gave in to Dave the Chimp’s negative voice and had to walk a bit to catch my breath. I was actually really cross with myself for walking but knew that I needed to pace myself to be able to get up That Hill with enough energy to make the most of the downhill on the other side.

At the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere, a bagpiper was blowing his pipes and squeezing his bag with great gusto to mark the top of the hill and, with immense relief, I could finally run again, looking forward to the cake I would earn by finishing the 5k distance. When the long, sweeping downhill section opened up in front of me I had a great big grin on my face as it felt like I was flying towards my medal and finisher’s bag full of strange promotional items! One last, big effort along the flat straight towards the finish line and I was done!!! My time was 32 minutes and 46 seconds, which is a gentle stroll for some but a pretty good effort for me!

I was pleased with my time but part of me really wants to be faster like my fellow marathon trainees. This will only come with time and effort, I know. I would like to revisit this race next year and be fast enough to move up into the next wave of runners.

Afterwards I was treated to the kindness of strangers as Barbara introduced me to her friends (who had also run the race) and we adjourned to a lovely cafe for a much needed hot chocolate and cake! Today was a Good Day!

If you would like to kick my rear end towards the finish line of my first marathon and towards the most well-earned cake I have ever had, please help me by donating to Care of Police Survivors!

Celebratory hot chocolate

Meeting a Legend

On Thursday I travelled into Edinburgh with my running gear concealed under my jeans and my nerves concealed behind an expression resembling that of a startled internet cat which had just gone viral. Having met with Barbara (one of my fellow marathon trainees) at the station, we entered the lobby of a swanky hotel in the centre of Edinburgh with trepidation and churning stomachs and came face to face with The Liz McColgan.

Actual photo of me on my way to meet Liz McColgan
Actual photo of me on my way to meet Liz McColgan

I was always completely pants at PE at school and my PE teacher, Mrs Edwards, was the sort to focus on those who were good at team sports and ignore the rest (hence I spent much of my time hovering gormlessly at the side of the netball court with bright red legs and frozen fingers). With my experiences of 25 years ago in mind, I was worried that I might be beasted up and down hilly Edinburgh by a serious and imposing Ms McColgan akin to the terrifying Mrs Edwards… but it turned out nothing could be further from that. A quick handshake, bags dumped with confused reception staff and off we ran onto the streets of Edinburgh as a group (Liz, Barbara, me, Kevin (also training for the marathon) and Richard from the Great Run Company (who looked exactly like Barbara and I had imagined except he was sporting a beard – possibly his winter plumage)). At first, Liz trotted effortlessly ahead and then, finding herself running alone, looked back to see the motley bunch nervously plodding along at a rather more ‘genteel’ pace some distance behind her so slowed down to shuffle with us.

I normally run alone so I am not well practised in the art of running and chatting simultaneously (the first time I ran with anyone they tried very hard to make conversation with me and I could only manage single grunts in reply – I must have appeared quite antisocial). About a mile or so into our run I somehow found myself running alongside Liz and she struck up a conversation… despite the slow pace I was conscious that I was gasping for breath a fair bit as I spoke with her but managed to actually chat rather than grunt this time! We spoke about people close to us being police officers, running in the heat of Doha, why I started running and Liz’s memories of winning the 10,000m gold in the Commonwealth Games in 1986 in the very park we were running through. It was quite surreal… I remember watching her running when I was a teenager (although I was rubbish at PE, I did like the long jump and enjoyed watching athletics on TV)… I recall her high ponytail bobbing over the finish line at speed and her strong, slim arms up in the air in triumph and now we were having a conversation about police pensions!

Afterwards we had lunch at the hotel, sitting at a table next to the USA cross country team all clad in their blue kit and we had a nice chat over a healthy buffet (even the pudding was healthy). The subject of Liz’s entry into running as a teenager came up and her story was fascinating and impressive – she was taken under the wing of a running coach as an overweight 12-year-old from a deprived area… he saw potential in her and nurtured it, even funding her to allow her to study in America. I saw distinct parallels between her story and the work of Big Noise (a charity where I work which aims to change the lives of children in deprived areas through music) – she dared to be different in her community and had the courage to give everything to meet her potential, which is precisely what Big Noise aims to encourage young people to do. She is one impressive lady and completely grounded too; I have the utmost of respect for her and our meeting has inspired me to follow my training plan as closely as possible and not to be too daunted by the idea of stepping out of my comfort zone.

That evening I signed up to train as a football coach for my daughter’s football team… I have never played football in my life before but I can learn and I am slowly realising that life is too short to avoid opportunities just because they are a bit scary.


If you would like to kick my rear end towards the finish line of my first marathon, please help me by donating to Care of Police Survivors!

The Training Plan

So my own tailored training plan from Liz McColgan arrived today and I spent a fair bit of time staring at it and trying to get my head around it while my daughter shoved an impressively sizeable array of Lego people into my face.

So far, since finishing the couch to 5k programme last summer, I have taken a relatively aimless ‘run as far as I can, then walk a little bit, then run a bit more’ approach to my running…with target distances in mind rather than speed. I have measured my progress in the number of times I have triumphed over Dave my inner chimp and carried on running despite his negative voice telling me to walk and in the distance I managed to cover (my speed, though, has remained firmly in the ‘plodding’ zone). Last weekend I felt triumphant because I ran 10 miles around a beautiful countryside in the Lake District and a solid mile of that was up a big hill… and I ran all the way to the top!!! I was slower than a geriatric snail but I kept running and it felt great to be able to do that at last.

The Training Plan takes a different approach – more disciplined and serious and business-like. The runs are not measured in distances, but in times spent at different effort levels (similar to the interval training for couch to 5k but on a slightly daunting, epic level).

‘OK’, I thought… ‘the first part doesn’t look so bad’ (with my 10 mile triumph still fresh in my mind). So off I trotted into the chilly night air to do my first proper interval training session. The 5 minute running blocks were to be done at effort 6-7 out of 10 (heavy breathing, can talk in one word at a time sort of effort), so I gave it some welly (by my standards) and was soon chugging away at the fast-for-me speed of a slightly dazed sloth and thinking ‘ok, this isn’t too bad…must have nearly done my first five minute block’ (just before checking my watch to see that 47 seconds had passed so far).

It turns out that intervals are actually very hard (work of the devil, in fact) and Dave the chimp was having a field day this evening… but I kept going and ran all five blocks of five minutes with as much gusto as I could muster and was pleased to see I beat my usual 5k plodding time by a couple of minutes. The triumphant feeling is back this evening, but this time distance was not the success criteria. Working from The Plan will be quite different from the running routine I had sunk into and change is often unsettling… but change is the reason I am doing this and I feel sure that the experience of training for and finishing this marathon will change me.

On Thursday this week I will get to meet Liz McColgan and two of the other three runners chosen to be coached by her and I will attempt to pretend I have a modicum of dignity and decorum whilst on a training run with them ahead of running the Great Winter Run in Edinburgh on Saturday. Exciting and nerve-wracking times are ahead!

Stunning view on my 10 mile run around Derwentwater

If you would like to kick my rear end towards the finish line of my first marathon, please help me beat Dave the Inner Chimp by donating to Care of Police Survivors!

Smug Pants

The face of someone with rain in their smug pants.

Yesterday was the first day of 2018 and I spent most of it sporting my smug pants as I ran a whole 9 miles before lunch time!

For the whole of the time I have been learning to run, my biggest obstacle has been my ‘inner chimp’ (I have named him Dave). Dave is the voice inside my head who says ‘you can’t make it up that hill, time to walk now’ and ‘your legs will drop off soon, walk now’ and ‘your backside is wobbling like your resolve, walk now’.

I don’t like Dave.

But I told Dave where to stick his stupid, whiny voice yesterday and I kept running and running, listening to my feet drumming a lovely rhythm on the pavement… for once I actually won my struggle with him and it has done wonders for my running confidence and my pride. Today I covered just over three miles and, once again, beat Dave into the furthest corner of my mind and kept running, which felt great (especially as I have signed up to run 75 miles in January and that target now feels more achievable than it did a few days ago).

Like most people, I will have good runs and bad runs but, right now, I don’t mind that I have rain in my smug pants – they are staying on as long as possible!


If you would like to kick my rear end towards the finish line of my first marathon, please help me beat Dave the Chimp by donating to Care of Police Survivors!