Running away stress

I am so grateful for going for a run today. It wasn’t spectacular, nothing happened, I didn’t see anyone, run fast. Or slow. Two weeks ago I ran a sub-seven-minute mile in the first mile of a cross-country race – today, at one stage, I was doing 13-minute miling along the shingle. Since the cross-country I’ve not really run and everything. Has. Nose-dived.

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I’m feeling broken. After every race. Which is worrying as 1. I’m not ready to give up on my goals, and 2. I’m only 45…I figure many issues are only going to get worse. My body no longer behaves like a 23-year-old’s body. My mind and it are starting to become strangers. Most of the time I hope everything will go OK at races, rather than knowing the training is in the bag.

I think I am going on to the next phase. I never knew there was one, as the first one was being young and not giving a f*ck about any phases as everything could be conquered, visited, finished, done. The second one started when I had children – life became about them, not me.

The wet bit

The wet bit

In this new one, there’s a new me (not that I asked for one) and a whole lot of issues that I would never have thought would have been part of my life 20 years ago. I’m living in someone else’s body. Don’t really know if I like her.

Lying down on the beach in the winter is very therapeutic

Lying down on the beach in the winter for a nap is very therapeutic

Then there’s the germ merry-go-round in our house. Is it the germs that have slowed me down? Something else?

I’ve been getting more and more frantic and stressed, and more and more burnt-out. Being pulled in so many different directions. Perspective. Lost. Awful aches across my back, so tired, really stressed and in the background consumed by a kaleidoscope of worries. Being the provider for my three children. My accountant keeps asking me to do my accounts. Every time he does I start crying!

There’s no point worrying about everything but you do anyway. Worry has become alive, inside my head. Laying down to do 30 minutes’ mediation doesn’t take it away. A glass of wine – doesn’t work. Going for a run…I have no energy for it.

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I put on my running bra when I got dressed knowing it was a little movement in the right direction. I was determined to get out today even though I felt terrible. My body language must have looked strange as I hit the track around the field behind my house. Even the air, as I squelched around the field, felt heavy – almost menacing. Do I have to battle against even the air? I kept my head down. Just go slow. The field became a road. A footpath. Legs were heavy, shoulders hunched, I shouldn’t have worn my Garmin – was I really going twice as slow as two weeks ago? Stop looking at the Garmin, stop torturing yourself. I knew I didn’t have a long run in me, I just wanted to get to the beach and the shingle. It’s so hard to get there.

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Closer. It’s crunching under my feet and I feel OK, calmer. I’m going to do two miles along the shingle. What? the voice in my head said. Sshh. I’m going to do two miles slow. I have to. Bloody minded stubborn head. 13-min miling, even on the shingle. Slow. This is my place. I run along that bit of beach and feel so lifted. First mile out and the little wading birds were jumping along the water line. The tide is really high which makes the ridge where I run harder. There’s a tree in the way; when the tide is high you have to get your feet wet. The water sloshes in my trainers, I don’t mind. My toes feel alive. The end of a mile and I turn back and it’s starting to happen. The voice inside my head that goes over and over the stresses, the worries, is starting to quieten. I’m going to pound it out. I’m dragging myself along but knowing I have to do this, to let go. Look down…the stones slip away. My worries slip away too. The massive tension, the 20 bricks I am carrying, in my shoulders, is melting away and even though I feel so tired I feel amazing too. My dad is running beside me. Thinking about him makes my throat feel weak. For a while he’s there saying… shoulders back and down, chin in, just relax. RELAX. OK, I WILL! Why haven’t I done this for so long? Why have I let the worries and stresses take over and become me, inside my head?

When the weather reflects your mood

When the weather reflects your mood

Two miles and I jump back onto the coast road and it’s like it’s made of thick, syrupy pancakes. Twitchers are listing today’s birds. The swans in the small harbour aren’t interested, I haven’t got any food today. So hot; the sweat soaks through the layers until I am squelching in my own clothes.

Love running in my ON Cloudsurfers

Love running in my ON Cloudsurfers

The last mile back, I make contact with a seven-minute mile. It’s temporary. Everything you fear is lost isn’t really, it just isn’t there right now.

The huge weight isn’t off your shoulders; there are more worries to face, but that place I go to changes me every time I run there. It takes so much from me, the worries melt through me into the stones, and it gives far too much back. For this I pay no price. I will need to go back; my head will take back control. I will need to march myself along the shore-line to banish the demons. Hopefully not too soon. Hopefully a tr-million heartbeats before I have to melt into the shingle.

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Every minute that takes me further away from my run I’m feeling more positive. The endorphins are doing their job; my mind is a symphony of neural transmitters creating their own masterpiece. An invisible chemical filter that makes the worries unimportant.

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I am so grateful for going for a run today.

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7 very important reasons why you should wear makeup when you run…

1. Just in case you’re running a marathon and you get overtaken by some gorgeous celebrity like James Cracknell and as you look at him as he speeds past you can flutter your eyelashes (pretending you always run this fast and have LOADS of breath to shout ‘Go James!’) cos now you’re BEST friends (well, if you run in the same race as a celebrity you’re nearly BFFs aren’t you?).

2. So that when you pull that face during a race that you’re finding really hard, the one where you’re trying to make it look like you’re just out for a jog and are finding the pace really easy – well at least you’ve got some definition around the eyes for the pics you’ll put up later on social media.

3. That point in the race. You know it – when you’re cruising and starting to think I can do this, I can, I can, well, now I’m not so sure, in fact now I’m really struggling with every fricking step, and a man in his 60s-70s pulls up alongside you and takes pity as he can see you’re struggling and that you’re the one who thought you could run faster than you actually can. When he starts chatting you up as he’s cruising and has nothing better to do than have a full blown conversation all the way round a really long race as he’s so ridiculously race fit even though he’s twice your age, and even though you haven’t got the breath to reply you can at least smile desperately through your beautifully made up eyes your thank you for his support (cos you know he’ll stick with you till the bitter end – he’s a pro, you’re the amateur).

4. We live in England. Half the year it’s dark. We all take on a pasty vampire look. If swooshing a bit of glamour glow lifts your spirits before a race, and makes you look more alive then dead, do it.

5. Because when you go out to get a PB you just gotta look your best, you put on that makeup girl, you’re going to look fantastic in that pic as you look up at the camera with your arms raised at you cross the line… oh no, the race hasn’t gone to plan and you went off WAY too fast, AGAIN, even though you PROMISED yourself you would never, ever make that mistake, and now here’s the line, I’m a state, my body isn’t doing what I want and those stomach cramps are getting really bad, nooooo, I’m going to throw up and cry at the same time – yes it’s a *cr-vomit* – oh God I forgot about the camera, damn, it got me, snot, tears and vomit – but did my mascara run? No? Really? Ah well, it was all worth it…

6. Cos when you were younger, hell, you didn’t need one drop of make-up you were just so gorgeous, and you knew it, then you’re training away and 15 – yes 15 years have just disappeared and now when you catch the first glimpse of yourself in the mirror you’re initial reaction is, who the hell is that really tired old looking woman, then you realize it’s you and while for years you thought if you just got more sleep you’d stop looking so tired, now you are reconciled to the fact that you don’t look tired, you look OLDER. Which is truly horrifying. How can this have happened to me? So you go out and spend £200 on products that you think will undo this damage (even though they can’t) and you put on the concealer for the under-eye wrinkles AND dark circles, and do not one, but two applications of mascara in the hope that no one will say… ‘You’re looking really tired today.’ Again. And you go out with this temporary mask on and in your head you feel just like you did when you were 20 and had energy and got lie-ins and more than two minutes to get your kit and bag ready for a race – and you go out and you believe in yourself for the duration of your race. And no one can take that feeling away from you, but some really rather expensive fluids that work out at about £5,000 per gram, if cleverly applied THEY can give you it. For 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon… And that feeling, it helps you to step back into your life, when you get home from your race, like someone from Ghostbusters with the ability to deflect the 50 requests you get in the first five minutes for food, for something to do, to tell off a sibling who hit someone else and the ambulance nearly had to be called. Even though you got up at 5am to travel, run a marathon, and you came straight home so you can get the roast dinner on and help everyone with their homework (because your 16-year-old is swinging off your umbilical cord, even when you’re 40 miles away, and your nearly 14-year-old wants you to come up with all the answers and she knows exactly how to get you to do this even though you say I’m not doing your homework for you then 30 minutes later you realise you’ve done it), as why would anyone want to rest after a marathon anyway?

7. You are a warrior princess. Never forget this. As you put on your kit before your race and your nerves give you caterpillars and butterflies in your stomach, get out whatever make-up you need and apply it. You are now battle-ready. This is your war paint. You are going to do battle with your body (this could mean losing control of different parts at different times and never knowing which part and when), your mind (you will be pounding the voices in your head every step as well as the ground beneath you) and the world. That world that laughed when you tried to run at school. Or told you you’d never lose your baby weight. Or you couldn’t possibly run 26.2 because you’re not a real runner. Or sighs every time you put on your trainers and say you’re going out for a run, as if it’s some crazy teenage phase you’ll grow out of soon. Put on your paint and show them YOU CAN – and actually, I don’t mind if I look good while I do.

Remember, she who dares…runs.

Addendum… my 10-year-old has done her homework since she was two, even though she wasn’t at school I made her do it. I ain’t making that mistake three times.
Disclaimer: you do not have to wear make-up to be happy or a runner; this applies especially to men
I get my make-up tips from my 13-year-old; she started young

I get my make-up tips from my 13-year-old; she started young

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If you’re going to have a treat… make sure it’s a good one!

Jenny Meadows is an Olympian, World and European medalist and the fourth fastest British woman over 800m. I wanted to know some inside secrets on how she made this happen…

I love watching Jenny running on the track. She always gives 150% effort. She’s such a gritty runner; she pushes hard in every race. Can us slightly less talented runners learn from Jenny’s training ethos, and how she has approached running, to improve our own performance? Hell, yes! (Don’t skip to paragraph 4 here, you need to do some work first…)

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Learn to control the controllables
“I find a huge part of running is what goes on in the mind, both before and during a session. I try to ‘control the controllables’ by concentrating on what I can do to ensure I get what I need out of a training workout. We all feel tired occasionally, we all suffer anxiety leading up to training sessions or competitions, and lets face it…. we all compare ourselves to others! I try to remember that running is my own personal journey and that it is ‘my thing’. This helps me refocus and decide what mindset to chose, after all we run out of choice. I usually think about how I would feel if I didn’t complete the workout or chose not to compete, and this is usually enough stimulus to get my mind back on board and channel positive thoughts.”

Chill out runners – and learn to play with speed
“One of my favourite sessions is a fartlek session (which loosely translated means ‘play with speed’). This can take many forms and can easily be adapted to suit varying levels of runners. I would usually do this type of session for 20-30mins duration and include a few minutes at the start of an easy jog and warm up and again a few minutes at the end of jogging to cool down. A typical session for me may look something like: 5mins jog followed by 10 minutes of 20 seconds of faster effort with 40 seconds easy jog recovery between and then 5mins easy jog cool down. The session is 20mins duration but you are getting 10 x 20 seconds of good paced running in there and the heart rate is actually really high for the whole 10 minutes work section of the workout. Obviously the duration, pace and interval lengths can change dependent on experience, fitness level and objective of each runner. This is a good session to do if you aren’t feeling that motivated as by the end of it I usually feel fresher and more motivated than I did at the start.”

Carry on camping – at home
“I used an altitude tent extensively between the period of 2011 and 2012. I did find it very beneficial prior to going to altitude training as it allowed me to adapt prior to travel and I seemed to hit the ground running as it were once I arrived at the altitude training camp. I also found that when I returned from altitude training the benefits of training at high altitude lasted longer through continued use of the altitude tent. The negative side of altitude tents are firstly the noise of the generator – it does take quite some time getting used to, and also the loneliness of being ‘cooped’ up in there. It is recommended that you sleep in the tent and also spend additional time during the day getting up to 12-14 hours exposure per day in order to realise the best results. I found that this was unrealistic to achieve so was unsure whether I was committing the time to sleeping in the tent and not really benefitting from it as much as I hoped I would be. Since 2012 I haven’t used the tent and can report that I am sleeping much better! Sleep is obviously also a very important aspect of a runner’s life so perhaps one negated the other.”

The bit we’ve been waiting for – you CAN enjoy your treats (this includes cake)
“As far as nutrition goes I don’t deprive myself of anything. In the past this has just not worked for me and I end up actually craving treats and then giving in to them and eating more! Instead I try to eat sensibly and everything in moderation. If I am having a treat then I make sure it is a good one and one that I will really enjoy! There is nothing worse than having a treat that is just not satisfying.” Jenny, we truly love you. Forever.

OK, I don’t think most of us are going to invest in an altitude tent, but we can all try to control the voice in our head that doesn’t like it when we wander outside our comfort zones, we can all introduce a bit of speed into our sessions (there’s no point avoiding it any longer… do it this week) and when you’ve trained hard you can let yourself enjoy your cuppa plus cake. Jenny says so.

If you're gonna, might as well make it a lemon drizzle

If you’re gonna, might as well make it a lemon drizzle

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Is it time to change your mindset?

Does it sound stupid – using your mind to run faster? Surely it’s harder reps, longer long runs and the odd hill session that normally does this? Well of course, training your body will improve your times. But what about training your mind?

NLP stands for Neuro Linguistic Programming. It’s the art of getting consistent results using the language of the mind to positively influence our attitude and therefore our behaviours. It’s something I’ve used in life, and sport, over the years.

“NLP is an approach that is underpinned by a high performance philosophy that on its own will improve performance dramatically,” advises Janet Smith, an Emotional Wellness Coach. “NLP provides a series of techniques that assist in changing negative mindsets or removing blocks to performance that have been created through bad habits or as a result of negative past experiences.”

I'm not going to argue with Jack

That means NLP techniques can be used to seriously focus your mind. No more wandering off mid-race thinking about what you’re going to prepare for tea, or which homework task will be tackled first. An end to standing at the start line and saying to yourself: ‘Actually, I’m not going to race today, I’ll just take it easy.’

“Changing limiting self beliefs and negative self talk will increase personal success as a runner and also increase happiness as unresolved negativity is released,” Janet says. Believe me, my negative self talk can be so loud it’s been known to reach Australia. “Performance in any sport can be broken down into the components of knowledge, skill and attitude. With running, the attitude or mental approach is often paramount in achieving success. Think of the runners that you admire: what qualities do you notice? It is often attitude which allows that person to put in the dedication to achieve their goals; knowledge and skill become secondary.”

My view is always if they can do it, so can I. Maybe not to the same degree as an elite, but you/I can give it a try.

How can NLP benefit my running though, you ask
By working with NLP it is possible to challenge your long standing beliefs through ‘mental modelling’. Using a series of questions you can start to work at getting to the root of the problem that affects performance. “You may also wish to break down your running technique into components which can be looked at individually. Often what we believe about a problem is not where we end up finding the solution,” continues Janet. “We can begin by asking ourselves simple questions such as: What do I believe about my ability to reach my goal? Is there anything that will stop me? Do I commit 100 per cent or do I self sabotage?” Just be asking yourself a few tough questions, and giving honest replies, you can shift the stereotype you’ve been carrying around in your mind about yourself/your running.

Will it really NLP affect my performance?
Success begins with the right attitude. For all of us we have to look at ourselves as a whole. “It’s never just about the running; outside stresses influence our ability,” Janet believes. “Negative emotions and anxiety can drain our energy and cause under performance. Similarly being too relaxed and not focused will lose us ‘our edge’.” Janet stresses how it is, therefore, important to create the best attitude around running. “Begin by thinking of a time when you were off your game and under-performed. What emotions were present? How was your behaviour influenced by those emotions? It is most likely that negative emotions of anger, fear and anxiety were present in some capacity or they even stopped you from going out running in the first place.”

The reps hurt but I didn't stop

The reps hurt. Did I give up? No

We can all raise our awareness of our own peak performance by recognising when we are on our game and things are going well. If we can just stay out of our own way then we will perform to the peak of our capacity! Increasing our self awareness provides us with the motivation to achieve our aims.

“Numerous coaches believe that the next big steps in human performance will come from how we harness the mind and this is where NLP will come into its own as we step into the future of sport and competition,” adds Janet.

OK, I get it – but what do I do about it?
Here’s some NLP strategies you can do at home

Janet suggests you:
Listen to the stories you tell yourself and others about your running. Do you constantly discuss your fears over a previous injury? Do you play down your ability? Are you frightened of achieving success or failure? Change the stories – change the results!

Focus on what you do want and not what you don’t want.

Ask yourself what do you believe about your ability to achieve your goal? If you believe it is impossible or that it will take a long time, you will be right.

Imagine yourself having the best run of your life, what would need to be happening? How would it feel, look and sound? Use this as a visualisation exercise.

Take time to focus your mind by using visualisation. Relax, breathe slowly, close your eyes and imagine yourself achieving your goal, is there a colour or sensation connected to it? Now make that colour or sensation more vibrant and more compelling. Do this everday to install new behaviours.

Ask yourself are you literally running away from your problems? How happy are you with your life? Are there negative situations that you should be addressing?

Listen to your inner voice, do not allow your ego to push you towards an injury.

To find out more about how NLP and how Emotional Wellness Coaching can benefit you, visit www.emotionalwellnesscoaching.co.uk.

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The GREAT South Run, 2016

Back in 2000 I had my first daughter in New Zealand. We came back to live in the UK in the summer of 2001. My brother-in-law Phil was turning 40 and thought it would be a good idea for my big brother Paul and I to run the Great South Run with him. Did they notice that having a baby had turned me into a different person; sleep-deprived, chore-driven, in need of a goal? I think my brother-in-law Phil couldn’t stop laughing at me, and my new-found role, and took me out for a run as ‘there-there’ therapy to help me. It worked. So there we were the three of us, a little crew, for a while. The big issue was both of them were way, way faster than I could ever be. It was so annoying. Being blokes they had a distinct physical advantage. Being one foot taller than me (well one was) meant their stride length was so massive that even during our warm-ups I would be sprinting to keep up. Phil laughed at me a lot. I laughed at me a lot.

Me, Paul and the lovely Phil, 2001. What was I wearing? Not much!

Me, Paul and the lovely Phil, 2001. What was I wearing?

Back then running was slightly different. Primarily, it was fuelled off red wine fumes. I hadn’t quite progressed to whisky. When I came back from NZ I lived with my brother. He had no choice; I was his little sister and if he didn’t give my family a place to stay I guess I would have tried to throw a punch northwards to make him do exactly as I wanted. Having two sisters must be horrible, especially when one is extra feisty even though she is extra small. (Isn’t this usually the way?).

I had to sneak this pic from my mum’s house without my brother knowing. I think this was the year of the chest infection…

We would often have a mid-week glass of wine, but never two days in a row. I don’t think. Or maybe we did a few times. I can’t believe it now, but I think we even had a few drinks on the night before some of our early Great South Runs. The thought makes my stomach churn today. What were we thinking? Well we weren’t thinking as we were able to get away with it. I can definitely remember dragging my body round the streets of Portsmouth with a hangover on a few occasions. I wasn’t really a real runner back then.

Big bro and me, I loved those Ron Hill socks

Laughing all the way to the finish line through the alcohol fumes. I loved those Ron Hill socks

The three of us would hang on for the whole 10 miles, get our medals, then usually head off to a local pub to have another glass of celebratory wine. These were the good years. There are memories on those streets, especially in Eastney, the backwater before you finally come round into the long road back to the finish. We set up a tradition – every time I had a baby I ran the GSR that same year, in some crazy bloody-minded belief it was really important to show my girls that just because you have a baby doesn’t mean you can’t still have personal goals. Even after #numbers 1 and 2 were born, and I had had blood transfusions, I was trying to run around my nearest park 6 weeks later.

Don't you love how cool Paul from Men's Running looks in this?

Paul from Men’s Running always looks this cool

I’ve had some truly shocking GSRs. But I did what I aimed for and always managed the next GSR after each birth. The three post-birth races were really awful. But the worst one was when I’d had a chest infection but forced myself to run (raising money for Alzheimer’s Society, couldn’t let them down), coughed so much all the way round that I had to stop each time. I was in constant danger of wetting myself. For the first six miles I did that run where you cough and try to not stop but pull your legs together, trying to control your bladder so you look like your running off red wine fumes…

Some of my GSR bling

Some of my GSR bling

Phil died in his 40s, losing his battle with diabetes, just before #3 was born. I ran the GSR after her birth for him. It was awful. I know he would still be laughing at me and my running, the way it goes up and down, just like the support of the American people of Donald Trump. I know he would say: ‘Tina, just enjoy yourself, don’t worry,’ and then laugh his massive donkey laugh at me all the way round. I loved that man.

I snuck in at the front - imposter anxiety!

I snuck in at the front – imposter anxiety!

Plenty of times my brother’s beaten me, too. Goddamn it, I hate that. Thing is I figured out years ago how to beat him. All I have to do is train. Because he doesn’t. He’s so laid back he eased himself out of our mother’s womb making the peace sign. I’ve been doing reverse psychology on him for years, and he has no idea. It’s OK, don’t worry, he doesn’t read my blog – none of my family do – so he won’t find out. Every week I ask him the same question: Are you coming to my running group? Every week he says: I’m too busy. So. He thinks I really want him to come. Whereas I know the more I ask him the more he won’t come. We have this weird-psychic-crazy-brain connection where I know exactly what to do to make him not do something. You only have it with the souls who were there the day you came home from the hospital, wrapped up warm and tiny, who look at your bundle of life and instantly, with their 18-month-old brain deduce ‘I know exactly what that crazy piece of life is all about.’ That’s what he’s got with me. That’s called being truly blessed.

Sorry Paul, are you still running at this stage?

Sorry Paul, are you still running at this stage?

He can still rock up to this annual 10-miler with no training and run close to 80 minutes. It’s so annoying I want to slap him every year. I have to keep up my training just to beat him. What a motivation. And the best bit is he has no idea that he’s not running because I want him to, so I can beat him. Crazy life magic right there.

We found this one waiting for his prize after we finished

We found this one waiting for his 2nd place prize after we finished

Some people write such sweet things about their brothers….

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Isn’t it so cute? Oh sorry, I was looking for a lovely poem about how great a brother he is and this one kept popping up… Is it about me?

So, so pleased I spotted this one on the ferry. I'm the proudest coach... she's my superstar

So, so pleased I spotted this one on the ferry. I’m the proudest coach… she’s my superstar

Then when the race is over I say: ‘Oh, did I beat you? Ah, I didn’t realise…!’ Knowing full well I did as the moment I get over the finish line I pull out my mobile and go on to the GSR results page, punch in his name, see his time and run round that whole lower field in a glory lap, singing ‘R.E.S.P.E.C.T, all I’m asking is a litt’l respect!’ Even though something like 10,000 people finished in front of me. It doesn’t matter as I beat my brother. That’s what true victory is.

This year the GSR magic weaved its way through the streets of Portsmouth. The elites were out, the supporters were out, the sun was out. There was a bit of wind, but racing conditions were set for thousands of glorious PBs. The whole of the south coast was there, nearly every runner I know – either skipping over the cobblestones in the historic dockyard or shouting on their club mates. The support is priceless and makes the quite hefty price tag of the race (expect to pay over £40) melt into a big gooey mess of happiness and love.

I set myself quite a big target this year, 72.5 minutes and I didn’t quite make it. A duathlon last weekend finished me off. I finished with a chip time of 74.42… I ran 10.11, my watch time for 10 miles dead on was 74.03. But it was a GSR PB; on that first one in 2001, aged 30,  I did 84 minutes. So I was 10 minutes quicker even though I am 15 years older. Can’t complain about that.

I have one, and only one tiny gripe – the t-shirts are always so massive. Please, Great Run, please, can we have an XS?

Did I beat my brother this year? Stupid question…

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You can enter next year’s race here

I’ll see you there.

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The Butterfly Within

A Triathlete’s race against a brain tumour by Rachel Bown

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She’s an unordained vicar who uses sport to reach her audience and her personality to reach out to her online parish. Rachel is a daughter/sister/partner/friend, but she’s something more than this – a triumviarate of sporting personalities that gets unleashed in that hardy multi-discipline sport, triathlon. And she’s pretty good at what she does.

When Rachel finds out she has a brain tumour it can mean only one thing – the battle to survive surgery becomes another race that has to be taken on, endured, and survived. Her brain tumour becomes Rachel’s most difficult opponent she has ever faced.

This isn’t just a story about survival, and one woman’s battle against the tumour that is growing in her brain. There’s another ‘battle’. One where the ‘evil’ is depression and the sufferer is Rachel’s mum, who is fighting her own devils in her life, alongside Rachel, and how dramatically this impacts Rachel’s journey through her own illness.

Alongside the swirling doubts that Rachel fights to keep out of her mind, there’s a desperately sad story in the background of a family rallying to help their mum cope with her own disease. So often hidden behind closed doors, Rachel refuses to pretend that her mum wasn’t facing as much of a battle as she was. Instead of dealing with a physical symptom, that ultimately could be overcome, Rachel’s journey back to health is paralleled by her mum’s battle with her own mental health illness. As if facing surgery on a brain tumour, and rebuilding her life after, wasn’t a big enough challenge, Rachel couldn’t turn to her mum for the support she desperately needed. Other family members had to cope with both women fighting their own battles. And they did.

Rachel’s is a powerful story of resilience, positivity and also a good dose of bloody-mindedness. Everything Rachel takes on in life she does with 100 per cent commitment. And so the journey to defy her tumour is exactly the same. There’s little self-pity, even though there’s some moments of sadness and confusion. Maybe more than anything Rachel’s personal journey is testament to how sport, and living a life where you purposefully go out to be the person you know you can be, meaning you strive to achieve your goals and commit yourself, means that you can bring an inner conviction to your ability to survive. And beat a physical condition that could mean the end of your life. Rachel approaches tackling her tumour as a race, and talks us through the preparation, execution and recovery of her ‘race’ against her tumour.

It’s like most races though… how many go exactly to plan? How often have you run a PB when you felt there was no way you could, or have you thought you were perfectly prepared for a spring marathon then an unexpected event in the race shattered your hopes and plan? After her initial operation, and as she is recovering, Rachel suffers an infection in her brain and finds herself much more poorly than she had thought possible, or planned.

Though at times consumed with feelings of being scared, worried and frustrated Rachel always holds on to her hope. Rachel’s body fights the secondary infection, but as a consequence of post-operation complications, Rachel is left visually impaired.

Does this mean her career as an athlete is over? Of course not; it means that Rachel has even more determination to return to health and fitness – so much that she defies her doctors in her rapid recovery. It’s not long before Rachel is competing at triathlon (and that means competing not completing, representing Team GB in the age group category) and last year she set a world record at the London Marathon, running in fancy dress. Even when we are faced with an unthinkable challenge Rachel shows that we can all be the creators of our own destiny.

Buy this book here

Rating: ****

The 401 Challenge marathon #392

You know how the water in a sink will swirl one way down the plug hole in the northern hemisphere and the opposite way in the southern hemisphere, but it doesn’t really matter which way the water travels; gravity always wins. That’s how it is running with Ben Smith from the 401 Challenge. When you run with Ben on one of his 401 marathons, wherever you run in the pack, you just want to swish yourself this way or that, so you can be near him. Ben draws people to him. His force is strong. You want a little bit of him to rub off on you, which is selfish as running hundreds of marathons back to back has got to be quite tiring. I mean, how many people have you met who have run (just about) 401 marathons in consecutive days?

Running alongside Porchester Castle

Running alongside Porchester Castle

Ben – in picking running as his massive challenge – made a canny choice. He’s a clever man. Every village, town and city in the country has a running group of some sort, and have you noticed how a lot of people in these groups are, mmmmmmm… how do you say it, slightly *different* (…crazy/bonkers/sometimes out of the ordinarily, unbelievably mad…) in that once you draw them in then you’ve got them for life. I mean, have you seen this group of mad people in the winter? Are we at home getting our Christmas presents wrapped early just before we brush a wet cloth over the blinds/radiators/skirting boards so that we can go on to clearing out the garage, raking away the winter leaves and checking we have enough loo rolls/packets of pasta and tinned rice pudding in case of a national emergency? Before we hoover the car.

Love Laura's face, whatever...

Love Laura’s face, whatever…

No, we’re up at the crack of dawn driving with droopy eyelids to some wood or forest or other place in the middle of God knows where to run around a muddy, frozen track for about five miles and then after, after we stand in a large space (usually quite chilly and definitely not toasty) and talk about how wonderful the whole experience was as our fingers slowly defrost at the same time as the mud on our legs claggily dries so that we know even after the first shower when we get home it won’t come off. These are not average human beings. It’s a tribe; all shapes and sizes, backgrounds, ages, but with a strange and steely obsession about getting from one line to another and low and behold anything or anyone who prevents them from doing so (and don’t muck with our GPS signals either as there’s this really crucially unbelievably important element of time from one line to the other that can lead people to do crazed things). We are family. We look after each other.

We are DIFFERENT. Be proud as being normal is over-rated. Then one rises above the rest. He’s got a REALLY big beard. He looks kinda cool in a bandana. He’s obviously not only been born with the ACT1 gene (no, that doesn’t mean he’s good at drama, it’s what makes you an endurance king), he was also delivered in to our world with an extra something tucked away in his soul. He wouldn’t have known it was there. I’m sure his mum and dad had no idea (or maybe they did). Life gave him a few knocks – and he had choices, some very tough. He made them and this shaped who he became. Then a flicker of an idea must have grown, as these things do, probably silently at first, just thoughts starting to stick together like the ends of sellotape do, when you don’t want them. They created their own glue that held the thoughts together so they could become something greater, and a challenge was born. Did Ben create the 401 Challenge, or did it create him? His life was probably hurtling to the moment, in about one week’s time, when he finishes his 401th marathon, right from the first breath, whether he wanted it to or not.

Some of the Gosport Road Runners contingent

Some of the lovely Gosport Road Runners ladies

When you’re a runner a marathon is a BIG challenge, whoever you are, however fast, thin, fat, tall, short… there is no easy marathon. Who would ever think of running 401 on 401 consecutive days? No one of course. Because it’s madness. What a ridiculously large challenge to ask of one body, its 700-odd muscles and 206 bones. Your Neanderthal grandmother and grandpa had already genetically evolved to run about 10K (that’s six miles) a day to fetch food. Why would they have added an extra 20 miles on top when they had Stone Age chores to do like sweeping the cave and hanging out the newly laundered bear skins?

Taking instruction from the BBC on how to run round a corner. It was very useful

Taking instruction from the BBC on how to run round a corner. It was very useful

We’re not meant to do these miles every day. It’s not just worrying about dodgy knees and a tight ITB band, either. How do you get the brain and heart, the physical and emotional engines, to keep driving those muscles and bodies day-in, day-out, over and over and over and over? You don’t. I don’t. Ben does.

The Fareham Crusaders

The Fareham Crusaders

He can’t say ‘I just can’t do this today. I’m ill. I’m tired. I’m lonely. I’m just fed up. I don’t want to run any more. What was I thinking when I thought I could do this? I want to go and sit on the beach all day long with my mates. I want to pull on my compression tights, pour a massive glass of wine and just spend all afternoon cosied up with Mr or Mrs Netflix. I just can’t be bothered today.’

The gorgeous Anna and Sarah

The gorgeous Anna and Sarah

Ben has to turn up and smile at a big bunch of people who just gaze at him with a slightly dumb look on their face when they say ‘Wow, you’re really amaaaaaazing,’ like silly love-struck teenagers with their first girl/boy crush. He’s got so much better at dealing with that since I ran with him a year ago.

The Boss... this man bravely guided us along new trails

The Boss… Tony from Portsmouth Joggers bravely guided us along the trails

We know that when our excuses create our daily boundaries, we’re not really living, we’re existing. If you stand at the end of any race and you see…feel…taste that life doesn’t happen in our comfort zone. Force yourself out of it and, like an explosion of magic dust before our eyes we see sharply how beautiful life can be (and painful, but it’s always a good pain, right?). Then we realize we can share this beauty. We can do something that somehow helps someone else see it, and their lives are then changed forever. This is what Ben has done for us all. He shares this life-love. Surely we should all be giving him money just for this as we say: ‘Thanks. You made me realise there is so much more than just me in my life.’

Sarah representing Run City! Portsmouth

The gorgeous Sarah representing Run City! Portsmouth

All of us can bring that brightness into other’s lives; we can sharpen the focus so that new paths become clearer, and other choices can be made. We live in the age of empathy, and the only way through is to respond. Each of us may be but a grain of sand on the beach. Ben – and pioneers like him – they are the moon that can help us turn the tide. People… if we let these challenges sweep us together, between us we can be deeply powerful. Raising massive amounts of money together, by donating just a few precious pounds individually, can help build a beautiful palace, free for all to live in.

I cant even run two marathons in a row so I’ve no idea what it can feel like to run more, again, again. Again. Ben has though. He doesn’t complain. He listens. In fact, no one could have been more inclusive and supportive for those who were struggling to carry on yesterday. No jaded looks shine from his eyes. Coach/mentor/motivator/life shaper/life changer.

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Just a quick note for Ben’s support crew. I’ve figured out a way Ben can double his quarter million to a half. It’s easy! Do the 401 Challenge all over again, and make people pay a fine (£5, £10?) for being privileged enough to join in one of the runs. It’s got to be a winner.

The school run and normality called us back… but we escaped for a whole five hours

Come on, you’ve done 401 marathons Ben, you can’t tell me this isn’t possible…And I’ve also figured out a way I can do this with you, without feeling let down by my inferior, slightly smaller very less hairy body. Yes, I’ll not have a bath for 401 days. It will be tough, but it’s the least I can do to support you.

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He’s nearly there! You can help Ben in his final push to raise the last thousands he needs to make his £250K total by taking part in the 401’s virtual challenge, either 10K, half marathon or marathon, which you can run on your own, any time, any place. The closing date is 8th October. Enter here

Support Ben by donating here

Buy a 401 sweatshirt/tee shirt here (I quite like the blue…)

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Get ready for your autumn running with my kit preview

In our house we have a sweepstake to guess the date when we will clean out the woodburner for lighting the first fire of the autumn. My money is on October 5th, although I would love it to be much later than this date! The sun is still shining and hopefully we’re going to get many more warm days before we have to think about digging out our baselayers and throwing on a rain jacket. With a few canny investments in just a couple of key autumn wardrobe staples you will be pounding the trails and paths whenever the weather deteriorates (and we both know it will…!). Here’s my preview of the newest, loveliest and best running kit that’s in the shops and online this autumn.

LEGGINGS
Xinx Caribbean leggings
xinx.co.uk, £80
Sports luxe at its best, you can tackle any activity with these eye-catching Caribbean leggings. You get a deep , soft waistband, they don’t wrinkle as you run and there’s no bunching at the ankle. Flat-locked seams ensure maximum comfort, however hard you push yourself. You’ll want to wear these all the time, even when you’re not active.

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Manuka Life star stirrup legging
£45, manukalife.com
Slip into these luxury leggings with stirrups to make your feet feel extra toasty. Your legs will also thank you as the heritage cotton fabric wraps around them. And if you fancy an autumn run along the trails the star print is sure to get into the mood.

There's no way your feet are going to be cold this winter!

There’s no way your feet are going to be cold this winter!

Zaazee Eve leggings
£70, zaazee.co.uk
How can you not feel like a million pounds in these premium two-tone leggings? Their figure hugging SUPPLEX fabric will make you feel amazing as you relax into your day and a wide waistband means comfort 24/7. They are very distinctive with a bold stripe – and very flattering!

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Threo London Fields leggings
threo.co.uk, £55
Versatile leggings for any activity, you’ll love how easy you can roll them up or take them off due to the bright ankle zips. There’s a flattering high cut waist and the two-way stretch fabric feels supportive as well as stretchy. A double lining at the back prevents transparency and the long rear pocket is also nifty as it fits a Smart phone. You get a lot for your money!

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New Balance impact premium tights
newbalance.co.uk £51
The design of these latest leggings from New Balance is distinctive. They’re not too dark, have long reflective strips, mesh, ankle zips and silicone grippers. This is premium kit but not ridiculously expensive.

Shewhodaresruns short-sleeve technical tee
£18,
swdrshop.com
This ladies cut tee blends modern fabrics with a perfect fit and old-school looks. You get a flattering fit, the fabric is very soft against your skin and it’s 100% breathable – make a statement now!

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Howies light merino s/s baselayer
howies.co.uk, £45
When you don’t want your kit to bunch up throw on this slim-fitting Merino top that will keep you warm, and dry, until winter. The flat-locked seams won’t irritate and it stays put due to shaped armholes; you can’t tell you’re wearing this top. It’s breathable and odour resistant.

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Manuka Life pullover love hoodie
£65, manukalife.com
The softest, most comfy kit I’ve reviewed this autumn so far. As you snuggle up inside this beautiful oversized hoodie you can relax and reflect on just how far your running has come. Tuck your hands into the front pocket and let the super soft, brushed cotton, and the Love graphic, help you drift off as you focus on love: love for all things running of course!

My fav piece of kit at the moment

My fav piece of kit at the moment

JACKETS
New Balance Newbury Jacket
£60, newbalance.co.uk
A fashion jacket with a cute, cropped fit and a touch of cool-girl faux leather on the inner arms and sides. You’ll love the high neck, boxy fit and luxe, stretchy faux leather accents. Wear it to your workout then keep it on for your warm up – the thick ribbed fabric flaunts sweat-wicking NB Dry technology.

Howies Shewaddywaddy jacket
howies.co.uk, £79
The perfect jacket for the cooler evenings, or to pack down and stash in your backpack all year round. It’s unbelievably lightweight and has the bonus of a windproof ripstop outer. The slim line Primaloft front panels will battle the wind and I love the high collar plus elasticated cuffs and waist for cosiness. Protection from Mother Nature without bulk or feeling restricted.

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Ultimate Direction Ultra jacket
betaclimbingdesigns.com, £130
If you’re not sure whether to pack a wind or rain jacket, worry no more – this jacket is both waterproof and as light as most windbreakers. There’s a nifty internal chest pocket so you’re phone will never get wet. There are also mittens at the end of the arms for extra protection plus vents under the arms and in the hood (which has a stiffened peak for optimum visibility). A superior jacket for ultimate protection.

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BRAS
Shock Absorber active multi sports support bra
figleaves.com, £33
Rock your crop with whatever challenge you face in this Shock Absorber sports bra that gives extreme internal, cup-sized support. The mesh back allows you to stay cool and we loved the thick, padded straps, which we found easy to adjust. It’s not just comfortable; the vibrant colourways are perfect for layering so you stay stylish as you sweat.

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Odlo padded sports bra
£40, odlo.com/uk
It doesn’t matter whether you’re going to yoga or taking in a gentle run, this versatile bra, with wide, adjustable and stretchy straps, will support you. Removal pads provide extra support and coverage. There’s also a comfy under-bust strap; I think you won’t even notice you’re wearing this, it’s so soft.

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TECH
WATCHES
Suunto Spartan Ultra
suunto.com, £509-£559
This watch is a lot of money, there’s no denying that! But for the dedicated sportswomen out there you can use if for running, all-day activity tracking and 80 other activities like skiing and triathlon (as well as in-sport options such as interval/obstacle race and treadmill for running). You get a colour touch screen and lots of nifty add-ons such as guided route navigation. What’s the battery life? 26 hours in training mode. Pay a little more you can get a heart-rate monitor version. It’s an impressive piece of tech.

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Kavson Besiter Eclipse
amazon.co.uk, £9.99
A brilliant gadget for when you’re out and about, the Eclipse has one of the most powerful batteries available, which means your phone need never lose charge again! Tablets will charge incredibly fast and it can also be used as a torch. Ideal for off-roaders and ultra runners.

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Accessories
Ultimate Direction’s The Clutch
betaclimbingdesigns.com, £30
This is a sleek, easy to carry handheld bottle. Designed by women for women it features soft breathable mesh straps that won’t chafe. I love the small, secure pocket for valuables, and there are plenty of reflective accents for visibility.

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BAGS
Under Armour The Works tote
£38, underarmour.co.uk
Let the rain begin – with Storm technology this bag will repel water and protect your kit until you’re home. With a removable laundry bag your dirty kit can be kept separate, and there’s heaps of space for your winter kit and jacket. Being lightweight and spacious – with subtle style – you’ll find this bag perfect for races, the gym, weekends away or work.

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Ron hill commuter xero 5L/10L
ronhill.com, £80
This is a fantastic multi-purpose kit bag that can be used for anything, but it’s especially geared up for your run commute. The waistcoat attached to the bag consists of soft, thick mesh for cushioning. There’s a substantial internal zipped pocket at the top and separate section at the bottom to discreetly hold dirty clothes, and it features a rear light for safety. There are numerous pockets for storage on the waistcoat, including two large zipped ones.

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New Balance Vazee Breathe
£80, newbalance.co.uk
Technically these were launched as summer trainers, due to the cooling open-air mesh throughout the upper that let’s the air weave over your feet. I’ve starting running in them over the last few weeks and am loving them, and will be wearing them through the autumn. Why? They feel like a slipper yet inject energy into your running; they give you a cushioned ride without feeling bulky/heavy/clumsy. If you do find yourself running through a heatwave, the Heat Foil surface underneath the shoe will reflect road surface heat away from your foot. All in all, I think they’re the cleverest shoe on the block, and will really boost your running.

May your autumn running be full of beautiful paths and trails, and some PBs along the way!

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AR Summer 5K Series – a small race with a big heart

Reeling from a not-so-successful London Marathon at the end of April I got stuck in that place we go when we feel nothing’s going right for us, while everything is going right for ‘them’ (whoever they may be). The first few days after a marathon are such an emotional rollercoaster, even when you’ve run OK. Feeling a bit low I entered a local 5K race series, as it’s the only way I know to cope…create a new goal.

The last race of the series was run under a beautiful moon

The last race of the series was run under a beautiful moon

This series was a perfect match: extremely close, exceptional value (I caught the early bird price) very friendly and well run. It’s been going for a few years and I’d only heard good things about it. I also wanted to support the race organiser, local runner and owner of the award-winning Absolute Running shop in Gosport as he is a top bloke. Last year I had every race of the series on my calendar and didn’t make one of them. A mid-week evening 5K race can be tricky if you have kids and accompanying taxi duties. But doing a short race series over the summer can show you how your fitness is improving, so I really wanted to make it this year. It’s also a welcome break from your winter long, slow runs.

GRR turning out in force to support the last race

GRR turning out in force to support the last race

Then the first one came, and it went. Nope, I didn’t make it. It just happened that both my mum and my partner were away and so on that night it was only me home alone with three girls and too many car trips to fit in any sort of run. I was proper grumpy. This really fired me up and I was going to make the next four, no matter what.

Me and Karen, second lady

Me and Karen, second lady

Boy I had the wind taken out of my sails on the next race, the second of the series. One thing I hadn’t factored into my race plan was the hideous wind you get along the south coast, which, whatever direction you run in seems to swirl against you.

We all flew for the first mile (wind-assisted), did our two laps of the top field then had to put our heads down on the way back to the finish. The same for races three and four. In fact, on the day of the July 5K I really didn’t want to run. It wasn’t windy, it was hurricane weather – well it felt like it was all the way back into the finish. My third mile split was nearly a minute slower than the first two. I think I was proper grumpy again after that race. But we all know you never regret a run…

I won wine!

I won wine!

By the August 5K I was expecting balmy conditions, a perfect, still summer evening where I may even get within touching distance of my 5K PB. Well, the weather had other plans for us runners and yet again we had to battle 25-30mph winds coming into the final third of the race. Can’t say I was ebullient after that one! Then something amazing happened on the final race, on Tuesday night.

Presentations for the overall series winners

Presentations for the overall series winners

It was incredibly warm – maybe even too warm – for racing a 5K and the wind that was building gently during the day dropped to a whisper. You’ve never seen a couple of hundred runners so uplifted. When I arrived to pick up my race number we were all rejoicing – no wind! It was going to be a breeze (sorry…). We all gathered for the pre-race photo and there was such a good vibe. If you’re looking for your running tribe this is the place to come and find the best. Nick is the perfect ambassador for running and the running life. He’s probably one of the most authentic people you could hope to meet, pretty important when you’re looking for new trainers that you know are probably going to cost you at least £100. You can trust his opinion and pick his brain on anything – the fact that Absolute Running has won awards two-years running, at the Running Awards, shows the depth of community behind him, and how much they trust and respect him.

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He has made some powerful differences to the community he lives in, both through the 5K summer series and the Gosport Golden Mile race, which has become a big hit with local school children. As Nick says: ‘It’s all about the youth.’

Perfect running conditions

Perfect running conditions

I was really chuffed for Nick that so many of the local run club, Gosport Road Runners, were out to support him in the last race of the series. I know most of them only live down the road, literally, but it would be easy not to bother – all of us have busy lives. After the race I spoke to three separate people who told me how they had dashed, hell for leather, from work to make the last event. And at a coaching event earlier in the year held in the other side of the county runners from Surrey told me they were hoping to come down to one of the races.

ethangeephotography.co.uk

ethangeephotography.co.uk

Every year the numbers taking part in this series are growing impressively, and will continue to grow not just because good news travels quickly, but, if the wind is calm, it’s a completely flat and potentially fast course. There’s a kids 1K race before the adult race each month, so you can take your youngsters for a dash along the prom. All finishers get a medal, plus there are prizes in each race through the age categories, as well as a substantial prize to the overall male and female winners of the series. There’s also chip timing. All this is just by-the-by though, as it’s the welcoming, all-inclusive and friendly atmosphere that you will remember. Presentations only take place when the last runner is in and the marshals are fantastic. Plus there’s the perfect opportunity to take your family down for a fish and chip supper after the race. On Tuesday it was nearly dark by the time the last runner finished, the moon was out and it was a beautiful evening. It was lovely to sit on the beach after the race with my youngest, rather than dash home.

The lovely Nick and Kim Carter - thank you for a great race series!

The lovely Nick and Kim Carter – thank you for a great race series!

I am so chuffed that I finally made this race. Yes I moaned and grumped along the way; we all want perfect conditions for every race, but this rarely happens. Maybe if every race in the series had been calm it wouldn’t have been such an achievement to persevere to the end, or the last one wouldn’t have felt so magical.

You can enter next year’s Gosport Golden Mile here

Freejumping fun!

Oxygen Freejumping (Southampton)

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Three humanoids, the girl variety. Can be tetchy, moody, irritable… explosive. Six weeks of a loooong, hot summer (well, OK not always hot but sometimes), where the days stretched forever and an hour could pass as slowly as the UK leaving the European Union.

Taking action
What do you do with the young creatures… you’ve done the beach, the shops, the library, the pool, dropping off with relatives, the forest, the beach again, and again… There comes a time in every mother’s summer holidays that you need… something else. Something more. When your children have so much natural energy that 16 hours of gymnastics, and five nights of dancing doesn’t reduce them to sleepy, passive snuggle-bugs that you can look at and think: “Awwwww, they’re just so cute…”

Amelie on the jumping wall

Amelie on the jumping wall

That despite of their activities they still rampage through your day/week/month as if they are trolls on 24-an-hour-day energy drinks. That’s when it’s time to stop. Think. Drive… drive as far as you have to… and take them to a trampoline park. We have these dotted all over the south, and there are now four, yes FOUR beautiful destinations in our locale where you can simply hand over your hard-earned dosh and let your children bounce until they can bounce no more. Though now it’s called freejumping.

Oxygen in Southampton reached out to me – yes, they knew. They knew my children’s natural birth defect is hyperactivity. Who told them? I don’t know. But there’s an uncanny way that people and places come into your life. It’s a supernatural divination… you find them, they find you. You like them and they like you. Destiny’s child am I, and if more than one person recommends something to me (a book, a Netflix orgininal, a country) I hear fate knocking at my door and I let it in. So we found ourselves on our way to Oxygen.

Let’s go back a year to the first exposure we had to the full-grown trampoline temples that we were to visit. As a family we were never going to be by-passed by this latest craze. Two dancers and one gymnast meant that as soon as any random child at one of the clubs/dance schools had tested out a trampoline park it wouldn’t take long for one of my girls to be nagging me to give it a go. We drove for nearly an hour to get to one the first time… yep, if energy has to be burnt sometimes you have to go a long way to do it. It was fun, exciting – sweaty – and really worthwhile, but, hey, can we have one of these places built a lot closer to home please trampoline business entrepreneurs?

And then about six months later another one appeared in the next city due east. Yes! Forget about the girls, I was so excited… a new place to take them and their need to burn energy every single day. Would they have coffee and wifi? We didn’t go on the opening day, we waited until the next day so that there wouldn’t be any queues. “What did you think?” I asked #2 and #3 on that day. Would it be good enough to pass their high level of expectation? “Pretty good,” #3 replied.

“I still want to try Oxygen in Southampton,” #2 said. What, another one? I rushed home, googled it and knew we had a purpose in life – another trampoline park to try, and this one even closer to our house. Only 20 minutes in the car. Bonus. Then everything else got in the way and it didn’t quite happen as soon as I thought it would, and then the summer holidays started. It was on my mental list of things to do. Like every summer holiday we’ve had together, I never quite managed to fit in everything I planned, so we headed over to Oxygen in the last week. It was our summer finale.

Amelie trying the back jumping wall… it was harder than it looked.


Do any children not like bouncing? I’m sure somewhere in the world there is a child who doesn’t but I don’t think we should take one out of billions as proof that your little bundle of love isn’t going to have a good time at Oxygen, or any other trampoline park near you.

I didn’t see anyone stropping, grizzling, whining or crying – and there were quite a few adults also having fun. I was offered the choice of bouncing too, but just giggled… the manager on duty had no idea how inflexible my back is, or how niggly my knees are. The last time I tried ice-skating my knees ached for weeks. No I had the pleasure of taking myself off for a lovely coffee and reading my book in the café while my girls burnt zillions of energy atoms to a crisp.
The only criticism the girls had at the end was not being allowed to do backflicks. There were signs on every wall saying this was not allowed. For them this was a shame as the other trampoline parks don’t enforce this rule. As they are gymnasts doing backflicks is second nature, so being on long strips of bouncy material and not being able to do them was annoying for them. You can explain it’s a safety issue, but at their age they just want to flip out (front flips are OK).

But I’ll let them speak for themselves…


It’s really easy to book your session online at Oxygen, they host birthday parties, there’s wifi if you want it, and if you’re little ones are under 5 there’s a Little O’s session just for them. Families with both under and over 5s can jump together during Family Bounce. And if your kids want more there’s a freerunning academy and school of trampolining to help them progress their skills. If it’s your fist time it’s a good idea to get your kids to wear shorts and t-shirts, too, as it doesn’t take long for them to overheat!

Freejumping makes children happy!

Freejumping makes children happy!

Will we be going back? I’m sure we will be making many, many trips to this uber-modern temple of fun.

Oxygenfreejumping.co.uk

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