Tag Archives: hope

Man, I slew you!

Ultra running novice Francesca Eyre took on the Manaslu Trail Race in Nepal, a multi-day 220K race, and ended up finishing fourth female

After watching her sister, then brother, die of cystic fibrosis (CF), Francesca Eyres, 44, was determined to find a natural remedy when she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2010.

2008 and 2009 had been tough years for Francesca. ‘My brother Nick had been very ill due to suffering from CF since birth. Whilst he was waiting for a heart and lung transplant he passed away in March 2009. Our business partner was also very ill and died with me by her side in December 2009. Then the banking crisis hit and we were in a tough financial position with our business.’ Francesca runs a ski chalet hotel in the French Alps with her husband Paul.

Francesca’s body broke down. ‘I started suffering chronic back pain – I couldn’t even put on my trousers in the morning. Then a growth was found on my thyroid, which had to be treated with radioactive treatment, and finally I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2010.

‘I left the clinic that day and have never been back. I looked into a more natural approach to coping with my diagnosis, as I didn’t want to go on medication, and so I changed my diet. I stopped drinking alcohol, came off gluten and dairy and stopped eating inflammatory foods such as potatoes, tomatoes and aubergines. I cut down my meat intake and eliminated caffeine.

Rediscovering my running

‘I had started running when my youngest child, Jamie was a baby, ten years ago. With three children and a hotel to run, I needed some headspace. To make sure I trained I entered a 10K race; I had never done any competitive sports prior to this and I was amazed at the buzz at the race.’

The other massive change Francesca’s diagnosis bought about was deciding to live life to the full and do as much sport as she could, while she could. ‘I needed to add more challenges into my life,’ she says. ‘Running helped my stress levels but hurt my joints too much, so I started trail running. There is nothing more beautiful or more humbling than reaching a summit; running up the mountains meant I could get further, faster!’

During the winter it’s impossible to run in the Alps, so Francesca took up ski touring, where you use skis to run up a mountain. ‘The first ski randonée race I ever did was the Montée du Crot – an 800m run up the mountain over a 4K distance from just outside our house to the centre of Avoriaz. It took the world champion 24 minutes and me nearly an hour.

‘I decided my next big challenge would be the 70K Classic Quarter Cornish Coastal Trail (www.endurancelife.com), in June last year. Even though I had never run a marathon, I smiled the whole way round; the scenery, the people, the terrain was all incredible and when I reached the finish line as the ninth woman, I knew that I had to challenge myself to something even tougher and harder!’

Subhead: I do because I can

Francesca’s motto is “I do because I can”. Feeling fit after her first ultra she wanted to find a race that would give her two points towards the three you need to enter the CCC race (part of UTMB trail race that takes place in Chamonix in August). ‘To gain your three points you have to run in at least two ultra marathons. I scoured the Internet and found the Manaslu Trail Race in Nepal (http://manaslutrailrace.org). This, I decided, would be my next race.’

_MG_8740manaslu trail race

‘It was really hard to find the time to train but a race organiser suggested little and often,’ says Francesca. ‘I tried to run at least 40-80K per week, which doesn’t sound like a lot but 10K over the mountains takes me an hour and a half, depending on the vertical ascent. I entered into a couple of 22K trail races and also did a small amount of road cycling to cross-train and avoid injury.

‘As a woman, mother and someone who has her own business, I put so much pressure on myself re training and I have to remind myself that I’m doing this out of choice. You have to not pressure yourself into thinking that you are a highly tuned athlete whose living depends on it.’

Francesca insists she is just a mum of three that has a competitive spirit and runs the best she can. ‘I have very good endurance, above speed, so if the views are beautiful around me, I am very happy to keep on plodding. I always look around and appreciate how beautiful everything is. I also realised that it is impossible to run the whole distance and that most ultra runners walk up the hills, over a certain distance and incline.’

Feeling petrified!

During the briefing for the race Francesca got to meet the other runners, including many elite athletes. ‘We all stood up to give a short talk about ourselves and the races we had competed in; I told everyone that I was absolutely petrified and wondered what on earth I was doing entering a race like this! I’m 44 and have a business and three kids – what was I thinking?!’

Yet Francesca went on to finish fourth female, and 17th overall (behind Holly Rush in second, in 20.52.48, who represents Great Britain and ran in the Commonwealth Games) in a time of 26.26.08. ‘And through this adventure I raised £6204.56 for cystic fibrosis,’ she says very proudly.

‘Next I’m going to do the UTB (http://www.ultratour-beaufortain.fr) in June, a 104K race with 6400m of ascent. Am I completely and utterly nuts?’

A very inspiring mum of three with a competitive spirit who just runs the best she can.

 _MG_8988manaslu trail race

How tough can it get?

‘The toughest parts for me were running 46K in the heat with a lot of ascending (day 2) and our “rest day” (day 7), a 21K trek up to 4998m to have a picnic on the Tibetan boarder. I had a chest infection and was really shattered that day but knew it was a “one off” that will probably never be repeated, so a must do.  I had also promised a very spiritual friend of mine that I would collect a stone for her from the boarder and promises are promises!  It was worth every step as the views into Tibet were breathtaking.’

 What is the Manaslu Trail Race?

This is a 220K race around the eighth highest mountain in the world at 8163m. You ascend over 15000m, the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest twice. The highest ascent is 5200m. ‘The first stage was 28K; a long slow gentle climb of around 1026m,’ says Francesca. ‘Stage 2 takes in 46.4km with 2156m ascent. Expect 29.6K and 1954m in elevation on Stage 3. Stage 4 involves 24.8K with 1396m ascents, Stage 5 is 30K and Stage 6 is another 12K with 727m ascent. A rest day is followed by two further stages of 22K and 31K.’

_MG_8754manaslu trail race

 

A lifelong addiction

noo noo girl running for David

I am like a wild animal that roams this world, seeking extreme terrain and weather systems and other creatures who inhabit our beautiful oblate spheroid.

Being in possession of a treadmill in this life is a blessing – I have three young children – but it only takes a nervous glance out of my window at black clouds, trees almost bent to the ground with the wind, and the odd splat of water and there I am, running for miles along what seems, at times, the stormiest coastline in the world.

It’s never planned; it never should be. Any of us can take the easier option – to wait, to run inside. But this week the distant rumble of thunder drew me outdoors, and what an explosive experience I had. I switched off the headlines about the coastline of our island flooding and headed down to my local beach to check out the lie of the land for myself. Breathing? I couldn’t. The first three miles out the wind was against me and I was slow. Coming back it sliced through me, a westerly wind from an imaginary world more grim than the Ash Mountains of Mordor in Middle Earth.

My iPod flicked on to Madonna’s Immaculate Collection, music I hadn’t listened to for years. It transported me back to my school days when I would run the same route, fighting the same battle with the relentless wind. Which ever direction you run, it’s always there. In the run up to my O levels, my form tutor Linda (also my P.E. teacher) would suggest that my grades would get better if I spent less time out running, and more revising. But then, like now, I couldn’t stop myself from venturing out. It’s been a life-long addiction.

On my stormy run I thought about how, despite living and running all round the world, there were deep constants in my life. After spending half of my life trying to get away from where I grew up. I then spent half trying to get back. That tutor and P.E. teacher is now training my youngest as she takes small steps towards becoming a gymnast. When someone from your past reappears you can’t help but ask both why they have come back into your life, and what message life is sending you by the reunification. Thoughts began to flood back and I remembered I still had all of my school reports. I went up into my loft and found my battered old suitcase that holds the memories of my 40 or so years, and dug them out. Having told my girls that their athleticism is down to me (which of course they sniggered at) I found myself in tears within minutes as I read my form tutor’s words. “Could try harder” then “gymnastics is her weakest area” and finally, from my last year of school “…giving up athletics is such a waste of talent”. Those words winded me.

10258779_10152369735999759_5558088485166479354_n

Like the majority of teenagers I left my sport behind for what I thought were much more exciting options: going out, boyfriends, the pub… Regret is a heavy feeling that no-one wants to carry around, but sitting in our dusty, cold and still loft it’s what I felt. I’m not saying I could have reached any heady heights within athletics, but if I had at least persevered I could have discovered how far I could have gone. And would know now. Instead I stopped running for nearly 20 years.

Yet running came back in my life, and it still brings the ups and downs that athletics did when I was younger. Now I seem to seek many different things from running, one of the most important being connecting with other people. There was a time, when my children were tiny, when I desperately needed to go for a run, and ventured out to a club session, for ‘me’ time, but if anyone asked how I was I would hold back the tears. Now I want to talk to everyone; any runner I see I say hello to, but some are zoned out and I have to admit, this bugs me! Is a quick smile or wave of the hand wave so much to ask? Yet I know that once this was me, so caught up in myself that perhaps I didn’t have the time to reply, respond, or react.

Still, I look for eye contact now, and even though it’s sometimes hard to get this, I will keep trying.

Your dream holiday awaits!

noo noo girl running for David

7.5 ways to get a dream holiday abroad…

The sun is shining, and everything, EVERYTHING, is going well. Yet before you know it, summer slips away, and, well, we all know what awaits us later in the year. And I’m not talking about a champagne breakfast on Christmas Day. Do not fear, I have a plan to make a dream, winter running holiday come true. Just for you.

1. If you saved £50 a month for Xmas presents for the whole year, then told the family that while you were out shopping someone mugged you and stole your purse with the money in; that gives you your first serious chunk towards achieving your dream. Total earning potential: we are talking at least £600!

2. Take all your kids’ toys that measure more than 50cm square, that you/others spent lots of money on and which they have never appreciated and sell them either (in order of possible profit) on eBay, at a garage sale or car boot. Make sure family is not around when you undertake this initiative. Imperative – do not give notice of this to anyone. Suggested: car boot in next town/village/area to prevent possible backlash. If challenged on this one, feign complete ignorance or blame the toy fairy. Potential income? £100.

3. I do not recommend this at all, but some people may well consider this an option. You know your partner has at least three (four, five, or more…) bikes in the garage and shed. In fact so many that you can neither a) get to the tumble dryer all winter or b) get your own bikes out for the daily school run without having to manoeuvre past at least one of these bikes, potentially causing a back injury that could jeopardise your whole running career. Well, if one of these went missing, surely no one would notice? Ah-hum. (Officer it must have been a burglar…) If you don’t tell anyone, neither will I. Potential income? Got to be at least a couple of hundred, easy.

4. For a small, and incredibly reasonable fee, offer to be the driver to all major running events that your club attends for at least a year. If you charge a nominal fee of just £25 per event, both you and your club are on to a winner. You could drive the minibus down to the London Marathon, the car that takes competitors all round a multi-stage, day-long event, even offer to drive at the annual awards night. Come on, if everyone chipped in just £2 each, every time, you would be offering a platinum service at Lidl-style prices. Potential income? £100.

5. Set up a book club. A book club you ask? Yes, a book club! This is one of your more ingenious options. Whether at work, at college, on the playground, whichever universe you inhabit your sole aim will become to convince at least 20 friends, family or acquaintances (even strangers) to join. Create a list of books, then buy them second-hand from AMAZON (for 1p a piece plus about £2:80ish in postage) then sell on to unsuspecting members for full jacket price. You may need to invest in some Tip-Ex and scissors to remove any incriminating ‘Library Copy’ evidence. Twenty times about £3 profit per meeting, every six weeks: total earning potential over one year: £520. (A word of advice – don’t become greedy; once you try and hold the book club every other day, someone may cotton on. Believe me, I know.)

6. By now you are getting desperate. You will do anything to help you achieve your dream. You are going to now need some cunning, and maybe a tiny touch of deception. You need to buy one of those £1 buckets from the, er, £1 shop. Paste upon it a label with very big letters ‘FUNDRAISING FOR THE 2020 OLYMPICS’. Then in very, very, very small (in fact so small that only an owl could read it) letters write underneath: ‘My fund to make my dream come true’. Again, this can be taken to work, to the playground, to the pub, to someone’s house when you go for dinner; where you get your bucket out is entirely up to you. But the more you get out the bucket, the more likely your running holiday is going to become. If anyone asks who the money is for, just say a local athlete who you are sponsoring. What? It’s true, isn’t it? OK… your chances of making any Olympics in your 40s are slight, but we all gotta dream, right? Earning potential: £80-£100 (depending on how long it takes for your spoof athlete to be un-spoofed).

7. Now the crunch: how low are you prepared to go to make that one dream, that one hope, become reality? If you really have left your morals and reservations at the beginners’ course you recently finished, this one is for you. Are you willing to prostitute yourself? No you cry! Well, I’m sorry, but sometimes a woman has to offer the only services she has. Start with ironing… I know, I know, it’s an unbearable sacrifice to even think about, let alone do, but in the words of Dolly, ‘Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman…’ If you can keep this up, you could try diverging into oven cleaning, and if you don’t lose the will to live within a few weeks, there’s even full-time cleaning. Why would anyone ever want to sell their soul in such a hideous manner you ask? Kid, if you want that dream to happen, you just have to lower your standards. Goddamit, some women have to do this to make a living, bless their souls. No child would ever think that when they are grown up they are going to have to do this to survive in this life. Still, one to two cleaning/housework-er-ly jobs per week in your local area, and over the year you will be bringing home £2000 plus. You may hate yourself but think of your cardio-vascular fitness.

The .5? I would never, ever, ever do this, but…Advise all children that it is a fantastic idea for them to ask for cash for their birthday and Christmas presents – from everyone! Two major money-making opportunities per year, and depending on how far you went for humanity, this could be up to six lots of, say, £50 over the year. Total earning potential: £300. Hold on a minute you cry, how do we ‘take’ our children’s money to fund our running holiday? Refer to point 1. (Well, if it works, use it).

So there you have it, there’s an easy £3,500 or so for you to spend on your dream running holiday. Now comes the difficult part, do you choose Club la Santa, La Manga Club, the wonderful French Alps (check out www.chillipowder.com) the French Riviera or the Spanish coastline….so many choices…

Saying goodbye

noo noo girl running for David

As the London Marathon approaches, I am reminded of an anniversary…..

Can you, during a one and a half hour run, encapsulate a life? Yesterday I cried until my body reached drought levels. Why? I’ve known for months that my oldest friend, Caroline, would be heading off to live, with her family, in New York. We said our farewells, full of hope and excitement. However, when I saw her ‘last’ picture in England, posted on Facebook, I was totally overwhelmed. What I had been avoiding for months suddenly bubbled over, inside and out. My great friend would now be an ocean apart, flying a new trajectory into her future.

For a day I felt stunned. I thought about our 30 years of life; similar yet completely different journeys marked by a spiritual quest, creativity and adventure. When we were kids we toed the line in the school athletics team, Caroline achieving first, second and thirds at the 800m effortlessly, me throwing the javelin, or filling in the spaces where someone was needed. We were the netball and hockey teams – always there, always believing we were going to win! When we were 15 we went running together, then in our late teens and early 20s we hit step classes and aerobics along with every other woman in the 80s. We had a common love of exercise; Caroline excelled in anything requiring rhythm and flexibility whereas I relied on fiery energy.

Today, a new week began and I knew I needed to go for a run, however slow and hard; going out was better than not. And so I steadily warmed-up as I ran past our old school. Madonna’s Immaculate Conception clicked in on my iPod and memories began jumping out of nowhere. I felt suddenly present, jogging past our secondary school, which had been its own warm-up for our lives; we had sat next to each other at the age of 11, 30 years ago. Relaxation set in, I lost the sense of having to run, and my head rose. Get into the groove, the music told me. Caroline and I had ritually humiliated ourselves in the village disco to this song, as well as Bananarama’s ‘Venus’; our endless bobbing up and down on the stage wearing our Port Maid stretchy skirts, dog-toothed tops and white stilettos – we must have been a sight.

As I continued to run I decided to step off the path onto a local trail; how many times had we both stepped off our paths in the last 30 years? We had wanted to move away from our home village, live in London, act, write… unconventional for village girls. And the more I followed the trail, the wetter, muddier and boggier the ground beneath my feet became. Separation and divorce has muddied both our lives, and diverted us down rough roads until we too found our way back to our own paths. Who else, but your oldest friend, would drop everything to listen to your sobs of pain as you sit in your car, on the side of a road, facing the brutal reality of divorce; just listen, reassure and not judge.

No off-road run would be complete without some form of hill; big, small, medium… Today was a slippery, short hill that burnt quickly and brightly. But what of the mountains we’ve had to climb; geographical isolation, unemployment, miscarriages… the toughest of challenges, yet climb we always have, sharing that same innate drive to carry on, succeed, be counted and recognised. The short climb finished me off quickly. It was time to make my way back. As I ran along the promenade a thick, stubborn mist sat heavily on still water. And in times through our shared lives we have both felt stranded in such mist, yet, growing up by the sea, we’ve always known that however long the grey weather lasts, eventually the sun burns through.

Ironically, I even got the proverbial fly in my eye. By then, my fingers were sticky from my gel, and I was incredibly aware of how messy, at times, our lives had been. Yet, whatever happens during a run, when you finish, you have a small achievement, regardless of how hard the run felt.

Caroline and I have many things in common and many things that set us apart. We’ve had to climb many hard hills, and make our way back to our own starts. We’ve gone from giggling together in History lessons to living as far apart on the planet as possible. When Caroline first told me that New York was going to be her new home there was a pause before we both said: “We can run the New York Marathon…”

It is a goal we can work towards from opposing continents. Our lives will continue onwards until we can, hopefully, collide in the biggest marathon on the planet.

A world of hope

noo noo girl running for David

Not that long ago I was lucky enough to meet the wonderfully creative and talented singer and artist, Jo Hamilton. Winning free tickets to a live BBC World Service broadcast on gadgets, I watched mesmerised as Jo partook in the broadcast with the revolutionary use of an ‘air piano’; by manipulating your hands in space you trigger the piano to play. It was a beautiful experience to share.

Seeing one of your favourite artists performing live, so close you can see their eyelashes blink, in a relatively small BBC studio, was inspirational. Being able to meet Jo after the broadcast was also very exciting! I told Jo how her album, Gown, had come to symbolise my journey through a difficult personal era; especially the song ‘There it is’. This song, somehow, penetrated my subconscious and whether I listened to it at home, or on my iPod out running, came to embody my own personal struggle: Jo’s dulcet, calming tones telling me soporifically that…’climbing into the future… fresh ideas for the picking… intriguing adventures all around…. leaving the map slightly unmapped…and there it is, a world of hope, so make your way, through the undergrowth…..’

Just like that Wham album that embodies your teenage years, Gown has come to represent a time in my life, an emotional era, when there was change in the direction of my thought. Listening to Jo’s eclectic music, less than a year on, makes me feel nostalgic. When I was flailing around in my life, it provided an unbidden rope that drew me back to a safe shore. We all know music can have such an effect on us – instantly transporting us back to a time, a thought, a feeling, not forgotten but unremembered until an external stimulus pokes at our brains to say, ‘Hey, wake up’.

Whilst out running this week my iPod shuffled to Gown; the album is it’s own journey, but listening to ‘There it is’ was incredibly uplifting and motivating. Even though this genre of music would probably not be traditionally labelled running music, I really embrace listening to it on my longer runs. The words alone help me lift my head up and pick up my pace. The music is hypnotic and I feel that I slip into the ‘zone’ effortlessly.

There are such mixed views on listening to music when running. At a local five mile race I recently ran, along a coastal trail path far from traffic or even other non-running people, the entry form informed runners that anyone wearing headphones would be instantly disqualified, as more and more races are now doing. Safety whilst out running has always got to be your priority, even more so for women running alone; however, surely there are times when music and running form a perfect symbiosis. Those long runs when the sun is shining and music of your chosen variety helps transport you away from your tiredness from the night before, heavy limbs that will not comply with the messages sent through your neural pathways, or the mental confusion and chaos that our incredibly hectic lives often breeds.

I don’t like people telling me what to do, who does as an adult, yet I can understand that in road races where the roads aren’t closed and traffic may pose a safety threat, that abiding by a common-sense rule of no headphones is obviously beneficial. Yet, come those runs where I have the time to wander down tracks, along a canal, over fields or up rambling hills, I choose music! When you’ve finished your run, you are washed and stretched, it feels that both you and the artist have shared the running journey.

Jo Hamilton told me after the BBC performance that she also loves to run, especially off-road in her homeland Scotland. Jo, unlike most of us, has her own orchestra, vocals and lyrics floating around in her head when she heads out cross-country. For me, Jo’s music, is a gift that makes a great run almost perfect.

Self-inflicted pain

noo noo girl running for David

Please don’t share this with anyone, but I have done something truly awful; I can only partake this information in the strictest confidence. I feel like such a fool. Thinking, and feeling, like I was becoming somewhat ‘used’ to my running, and accordingly believing I had improved considerably from my early running fitness, I decided to go for a long run this week. Hard to believe as our skies are pumping out biblical levels of flaccid post-winter rain, but the sun was blasting out early spring heat and it just lured me on and on, until before I knew it I had run quite a few miles further than I had expected.

In fact five miles more than I have ever run! Carried away I truly was, but with my face freckling with every step, the birds singing to me that I could run as far as I wished and the track hard under foot springing me forever forward, I literally found that for the first time I couldn’t stop myself. I did feel like I had pushed my body maybe a little too far, signalled by a background feeling of nausea for the rest of the day. But the endorphins were pumping in every cell of my body. That’s when I fell down. That evening I felt great. Well kind of, in a ‘I’m completely exhausted but have pushed myself further than I thought I could so feel quite impressed’ way. The day was a normal one in that by the time I had forced my children to bed I felt in need of a sedative, and all I could hear was Mr Red Wine calling my name.

One became two, which tipped into three (purely medicinal, to help me sleep…) glasses, and my Friday evening slipped away until I was cosily asleep, seemingly exhausted, but content. Saturday morning however was pay back. I woke up, was sick (only once, so surely it was a bug or something I had eaten…hmmm) and then spent two days in bed. I am sure I had a bug as they fly around our house as frequently as EasyJet fly from Gatwick, but after 24 hours of bed-confinement-torture I started thinking a hideous thought: ‘Did I do this to myself?’ This spiralled into: ‘Maybe I ran too far, and on top of being exhausted, a few (medicinal) glasses of wine was simply too much for my body to cope with,’ and culminating in horror with: ‘I think I have just made myself ill by being a complete idiot.’ With an extra day in bed to fully contemplate what I had done, my stomach churning like a ferry on the English Channel, I vowed to be kinder to myself, restrict my running limits and learn to put my relationship with red wine on hold post intense exercise.

Running has surreptitiously become incredibly important to me; it feels like it has become my salvation. When family or work pressures are building and I am ready to blow out hot air, running is a safety valve. Thoughts, plans, frustrations, ideas; they all settle when I am out running. I almost feel the physical benefit of my placing one foot in front of the other in a rather fast fashion provides me with a form of spiritual peace. So, tip-toeing along the path of my running journey, I feel there are some issues I need to sort out. What do I want to do more; run, run well and run faster in order to feel happy within, or, use a very tasty but perhaps not as beneficial stimulant that certainly does help me relax, but leaves me with a dry mouth, frequent headache and grumpy outlook? My willpower is strong, I believe, but it’s Friday nights where my mettle will be tested. And how the hell will I survive the holidays?

A fit woman is a powerful woman

noo noo girl running for David

I know a woman. She’s had a tough few years. Life hasn’t been that kind to her. She’s had quite a few issues to face, and she will be the first to admit she hasn’t always coped with her problems all that well. Don’t get me wrong; she is one feisty individual, and if you were ever (heaven forbid) in some kind of fight, you would want her on your side. Once, years ago now, there was an incident where I live. Someone threatened me, and when you’ve never been threatened before it can feel very scary. This woman said to me: ‘If you are ever threatened again I am going to punch that person.’ I don’t advocate violence, of any type, even if the perpetrator feels justified in solving a problem in this particular way. But I felt protected, knowing that someone was willing to stand up for me, even defend me if they had to. Up until that point in my life, no-one had ever done that for me (and perhaps a few people really should have).

We all know her type; one minute they are up and you are there with them, tagging along like the tail of a kite bobbing in the sky. Before you know it, they have plummeted into the doldrums, and are crashing about, like a grumpy child who cannot get their way. For years I thought, no, I knew that the one way this woman could control her moods and her angst would be to go for a run. I mentioned it a few times, and even tried to arrange for us to go out for a run together. It just didn’t happen; life was always busy and the weeks would disappear before we got round to going. Yet that thought, that maybe some form of intense, energy-fuelled exercise could be cathartic to her, remained, kicking around in my mind.

For this woman the struggles of life are buried deep within her. Her father left when she was only a little girl, and decided to live as far away as you can on the planet, before you start travelling back to where you started from. I don’t think she has ever come to terms with this feeling of abandonment.

Then the time came – and it always does, doesn’t it? The right time to do something to really try and help someone help themselves. However much we, or others, think we know when it’s best to try something, stop doing something, or even wait for the ‘something’ in question to come along, you just can’t force life.

I admit, looking back, that I myself was too busy for years to really help this woman as much as I could have. Half-hearted tries don’t really stand up to the brutal filter of reflective hindsight. She was experiencing some degree of conflict in life; with her family and her friends. Really, she needed someone to step into her life and help her sort out the problems she found too big to contemplate, let alone solve. I can even remember her saying to me once: ‘It’s so hard being in the middle all the time.’ That was when I came up with a plan.

I waited until a weekend then pounced on her. ‘Let’s go out for a run,’ I suggested in as casual a manner as I could conjure up. ‘I don’t want to, and my trainers are rubbish. I’ll be useless,’ she replied.

‘Come on,’ I insisted. ‘It will be fun!’ (I felt a little unsure about saying this knowing how fiery she can be if she has to do ANYTHING she doesn’t like.)

We almost ended up having a bit of an argument, me saying it will be fine, her saying, I’m just not sure. She didn’t have any running kit, just a pair of old leggings and a t-shirt. ‘You don’t need anything,’ I insisted, ‘just your trainers.’ And then we were off, jogging along the pavement, taking it slow, seeing if she enjoyed it, not really talking or thinking about anything. It was a very simple achievement and lasted for less than 10 minutes. We both liked it, and, more importantly, we both gave it another go together. The second, third and fourth times there weren’t any huffing under her breath. ‘You know,’ I thought to myself, ‘I think she is liking this running thing.’

That was last Easter, nearly a year ago, and this woman now runs twice a week. She joined a club. She’s even done a few races. We still try and run together, when time allows. She still says she’s rubbish, but really she’s not. She’s now in control of her life just a little bit more than she was before. She knows that when she’s having a bad day she can lace up her trainers, go for a run, and after, she says, she feels so much better.

This woman is my daughter. She is 11-years-old. She is a little woman. Put a pair of trainers in her hand and she has become a powerful woman.