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! https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/erica-gilchrist1

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! https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/erica-gilchrist1

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! https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/erica-gilchrist1

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! https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/erica-gilchrist1

An End And A Beginning

Every single year since for the past twenty or so years I have made a new year’s resolution to ‘get fit’ and, along with many other people, I have ended each of those years not particularly fit and stuffing my face with mince pies and cheese. This year, though, something changed (although I did still end up eating copious amounts of mince pies and cheese).

In the spring of this year I attended the funeral of a friend I had known since school. She had cystic fibrosis and knew that her lifespan was likely to be limited but she lived a fuller life than most people do in double the years she had. She travelled, ate the most exotic foods, explored, found love and followed her passion to be a ceramic artist (and she was a brilliant artist). She did not waste a second of the time she had. After the awfulness of having to say goodbye to her had sunk in, I resolved to take opportunities rather than let them pass me by and to create my own adventures. My excuses for why I couldn’t do things suddenly seemed pathetic and, while my excuse-shunning father in law was winning his age bracket in the brutally mountainous Keswick half marathon on his 70th birthday, my husband bought the couch to 5k app for me and I did my first run later that day.

That first run was on 30th April 2017… on 29th April 2018 I will run my first marathon.

I have also been lucky enough to have been chosen as one of four first time marathon runners in the Stirling marathon to be coached by long distance running legend, Liz McColgan! Truthfully I am very nervous about this, but very excited… my current aim is to avoid looking like a bit of a tit in front of her when we do a training run together next month and to run whole of the Winter Run 5k in Edinburgh (which involves quite a big hill, I’m told).

I have decided to raise money while I run the marathon for the charity COPS (Care Of Police Survivors). I have close connections to the policing family and I was a Special Constable for over seven years so I really appreciate the support they offer to the families of police officers who have died on duty while protecting us. I have a JustGiving page if anyone would like to donate (every donation will help to kick me up the rear end and keep me on track towards that finish line): https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/erica-gilchrist1

I will write blog posts here to update my progress as I try my best to train for my first marathon whilst also doing two jobs and being mum. Wish me luck!


Thank you

I didn’t expect to spend my Friday afternoon sitting on the floor of a hospital toilet, pleading with my 3-year old daughter to pee into a sterile pie tin while she vigorously shook her head at me and and firmly told me ‘NO’ many, many times.
On the day the chronically overstretched NHS fell victim to a cyber attack (in addition to the ongoing onslaught by our government and hoards of irresponsible people calling for an ambulance to respond to their paper cuts) my daughter needed their help…and they were outstanding.
Bethan was sent home from nursery on Friday morning. She was fine when I dropped her off but, within 2 hours had gone from re-enacting the battle of Bannockburn using All Of The Plastic Dinosaurs to suddenly having a temperature of 39.7 degrees…for the second time this week. I called our GP in the hope that she might be able to be squeezed in at some point this year (knowing how busy they must be). Only one hour later (and with a very hot and floppy child) I sat in front of a very lovely doctor and blurted out her symptoms in typical panicky mum fashion.
The lovely GP listened carefully, examined Bethan and the worrying rash on her back (which didn’t disappear when pressed) and tried to wake her, unsuccessfully. 
Half an hour later and I press the buzzer on the door of the children’s ward at Forth Valley Royal…”um, hello…my GP sent me to bring my daughter to be seen by a paediatric doctor, please” (I could still hear the thinly veiled panic in my voice).
Bed 11 in a ward all to herself. I stared at the immaculately made beds, the ‘call for assistance’ buttons, the medical equipment. I wondered about the children who had occupied this room.
Bethan woke as I spoke to the Junior doctor. I was just explaining my concerns to him my about her unresponsiveness when Bethan spotted a Peppa Pig toy on a table in the corner of the ward and shrieked “PEPPA!!! I WANT PEPPA PIG!!!!!!” 
Many questions, poking, prodding, Peppa Pig, pie tin pee sample failure, numerous successful escape missions from the bed mid-examination and a potential diagnosis later and Bethan finally had the chance to make full usage of the toy corner while the very patient Junior Doctor consulted the registrar…concern about the unexplained temperature spikes and the non-disappearing rash still present. 
Registrar came. By now I was starting to feel a bit foolish as Bethan was running riot with the play dough and didn’t seem ill at all. However, the registrar (another very caring and patient chap) examined her while she waved her purple dough creation in his face (a mermaid, apparently).
It turned out that she has a nasty viral infection in her throat…and the scary rash was not as scary as first thought.
We remained in Bethan’s ward of her own for a further hour under observation, during which time she was presented with fish and chips and ice-cream and a jug full of her favourite ‘purple juice’. We read all of the story books and the tyrannosaurus rex played with Peppa Pig and Suzy Sheep (and then ate them with appropriate ‘roar roar yum yum’ noises).
An apology from the ward sister (because the registrar’s return was delayed because he had been called to resuscitate someone in A&E…like anyone would need to apologise for that!) and we were on our way home with the ward’s direct phone number in my pocket, should she need further medical attention this weekend.
So thank you, NHS. 

Thank you to the GP’s receptionist for your calm voice.

Thank you Dr Peterson for seeing my daughter so quickly and for taking instant action with the paeds referral.

Thank you to the lovely Junior Doctor (so sorry I didn’t catch your name through my worry) for making Bethan smile at your wobbly arm dance and for making her examination fun for her.

Thank you to the Registrar who was so gentle with my daughter and got to the bottom of her illness (I hope your resuscitation attempt was successful).

Thanks to the ward sister who checked on us (sorry about the pie tin failure) and thanks to the lovely lady who brought dinner for Bethan – she loved the ice cream.

All of you cared and did your best, despite everything you deal with on a daily basis…thank you.

After the Night Shift

My husband often works night shifts and on the days after those night shifts I always find myself desperately trying to keep one or both kids quiet to let him sleep. I’m not talking about making them whisper or sit in complete silence, I would just like it if they would desist from screeching like demented banshees for a few hours to let their Daddy get some much-needed kip.
This week was one of those crappy night shift-riddled weeks so on Tuesday and today (Thursday) I had to concede defeat after about half an hour of constant screeching, door slamming and shouted demands for drinks, cakes and princess costumes whilst I repeatedly hissed “Be quiet! Daddy is sleeping!!! FFS!” and take Bethan out for the day while her sister was at school to allow my husband to sleep before the final shreds of my patience self combusted.
On Tuesday I drove all the way to Anstruther on the East Nuek of Fife (a 3 hour round trip), thinking that a hearty stroll on the beach followed by the best fish and chips in Scotland for lunch would go down quite well with Bethan. It turns out I was wrong…the second she saw the beach she screamed “NOOOOO!!!” and promptly staged one of her lie-on-the-floor-screaming-as-if-being-murdered tantrums on the pavement whilst passers-by looked on in horror. I did my best to persuade her that it would be fun to see what colours of sea glass and shells we could find (and did find a nice swirly pink bit of sea glass which she seemed totally unimpressed with) but was defeated, once again, within 10 minutes and drove home lamenting the lack of fish and chip lunch while the little sod managed to reach the window handle and wind it down when we were on the motorway in torrential rain with nowhere to pull over.
Today I stupidly thought I would be able to grab a quick cup of tea at home after dropping Catrin off at school before the screeching set in for the day… if I could just keep Bethan quiet for a few minutes with the help of a DVD and/or iPad (yes I know that is bad parenting to allow your child within 50 miles of an electronic device with a screen on it, but I really wanted that cup of tea!). Predictably I didn’t even finish my single cup of tea before she lost interest in the stupid you tube ‘surprise egg’ videos and she had a massive screechy tantrum on the floor and woke up her dad. So I bundled her into the car (in the bloody Merida costume she insisted on wearing, complete with wig which is almost bigger than she is) and I drove…with no idea where I was going to take her as was rubbish weather and I hadn’t researched any elaborate plans for any fun and educational outings. 
We ended up heading towards Callander and the Trossachs and I parked up by Loch Lubnaig in a lovely empty car park. The lake looked very serene and I finally felt calm even though the mini harpy in the back seat would still not grace me with a tiny scrap of quiet for even a fleeting moment. Seconds later 3 tourist buses arrived and offloaded a hoard of eager-looking people with backpacks, raincoats and a forest of selfie sticks onto the lake shore in front of us.
Meanwhile, in the back seat, Bethan had made her trousers (and the sodding Merida dress) very soggy. So we set off in search of toilet facilities while I muttered ‘FML’ under my breath for the eleventy millionth time that morning.

Loch Lubnaig