Tag Archives: Running

The Helly Hansen Killarney Adventure Race

noo noo girl running for David

 

The Helly Hansen Killarney Adventure Race…an event of a lifetime! This race was amazing, even though it left me doing a serious John Wayne walk for a few days. Being the adventure race virgin half of the Running fitness team competing in this 60km run, bike, kayak, run, bike event, I was a little nervous.

When you start running everything is new, exciting, challenging. For some time you can step up the distance of races and every weekend you are meeting new people. As the years drift past
doing the same races and routes becomes tedious and uninspiring; this is the time to throw a new race, distance or challenge into your training. When I was asked if I would like to compete in the Killarney Adventure Race I was booking my flight online before I had replied yes please.

These races you book in months ahead have a funny way of coming round very quickly. Even though I was running regularly leading up to Killarney, I didn’t quite manage to fit in any bike training, and I had never been in a kayak. Killarney is quite a challenge; if I had known how tough it was I would have been scared on the start-line. In this race you will be running, hiking, cycling and kayaking some of the most dramatic, breathtaking and remote scenery in the world.

Held in early autumn, we were extremely fortunate in the weather; by the time we arrived at the start-line for our wave the sun had come out and the temperature had risen to zero degrees! The first run took us through a tough steep bog mountain trail up and over Strickeen Mountain, through hill trail and heathen bog. It was tough but culminated in the stunning views of the Gap of Dunloe, the Lakes of Killarney and Purple Mountain. However, I managed to face-plant myself six times during this first section and remember more the bitter taste of bog between my lips. I was covered in bog and very cold water up to my right shoulder, and couldn’t stop giggling.

Next came the bike stage; I had been looking forward to this… however, all media personnel who travelled to Ireland were provided with ‘sit-up-and-beg’ bikes that resembled the cumbersome bike that my 11-year-old daughter rides to school; the only difference being no basket on the front! This made for impossible cycling on the ascents and was hugely demoralising as every single competitor from our wave, who had bought their own bike, was able to overtake me on this section. The bikes were so under-geared we couldn’t peddle them up the mountains! Still, again, the views were worth it. A quick kayak was followed by the final run, incorporating a 1,755 ft climb to the summit of Torc Mountain, (at one stage we did a 30-minute mile!) then a slippery, almost treacherous descent causing my niggly knees to scream in agony throughout. The final bike was a breeze. The race took us nearly six hours; at times it felt impossible, but it was a huge achievement for every competitor. The Irish fairies seemed to have spread their magic dust on my pillow the night before, as somehow I finished it, and it will be an event I will never forget; I remember thinking that the next marathon I ran would seem easy.

Registration is still open for this year’s race on 4th October. Will I see you on the start-line? www.killarneyadventurerace.ie

I’ve not been completely honest with you….

noo noo girl running for David

I have something to tell you. Please don’t be cross. But I haven’t been completely honest with you. I fear you are going to be angry with me…. I know when we met you expected me to be open with you. It’s part of the deal, isn’t it. But there’s something I haven’t been telling you. I couldn’t. I was scared of the consequences. I know we are supposed to share everything. I just couldn’t tell anyone. So it’s not just you I’ve been dishonest with, it’s everyone.

I’ve been training for a marathon. Is that it? you laugh. But it’s not a simple thing, is it, when that one run means more to you than anything else in the world. I see other people, on Facebook, twitter, at my club, able to share their journey with club mates, friends and peers. Every training run, the niggles and injuries, the ups and downs. I couldn’t. Not this time. I was so scared I wouldn’t make it, that I feared sharing my hopes. Even though I try to encourage and motivate every person who needs help, I can’t ask for that help in return. This issue I have seems to go very deep. If you read my next column you will maybe understand a little why I couldn’t share this with anyone. My friend Marina says to me: “You are the first person to offer help, but the last person to accept it.” Is this some kind of genetic default?

We all want to be good runners, right? When the person who comes before you is more than just a good runner, it’s such a hard task to try and achieve for yourself. What I am really trying to say, is that I really wanted is for my dad, the great runner, to show me that he really loved me. ME. The blonde-haired, blue-eyed feisty person that is me. Just me. For me. And one way I hoped to gain his recognition, later on in my life, was through running. Its something we both were so, so passionate about.

Why do any of us seek admiration or affirmation from anyone else in this world? We all know that the only person who can make us happy, is ourselves. Yet the thoughts, hopes and opinions of others really do count, don’t they? The primary school teacher you hope to impress. The friends at college and university you want to accept you. The other mums at play group you need to listen to your struggles. Not one of us can exist in isolation. We don’t need science to tell us this.

I guess my biggest fear is failure. But not in a traditional sense. In the sense of not showing myself that I can be strong, be loved, be different. If I think I am really opening myself up, I am very unsure of what will happen.

Anyway, the long runs have been getting longer. And they were going well. Until the return of an old niggle, that quickly became more than a niggle and blossomed into a full-blown injury. Suddenly all my plans were upset. And this happened a few weeks a go. I only have less than two weeks to race day, so it’s too late to do anything now. So it’s here, it won’t be here forever,  but I think its put an end to the one race I have been planning to do for a long time. I am so angry I want to shout and cry and promise that if only it will go away I will stretch every day and do my conditioning and cross-train like a good athlete. The truth is, niggles and injuries arriving just before race day are part of a runner’s life, aren’t they? Just like you, I have to get on with it. If I was a man, you would say man-up. But I am not quite ready to let go of my hopes of making race day. I do think I am having a major adult temper tantrum, though, yet in the most controlled mature manner you could possibly expect. Even if I don’t make the start-line, there will be other marathons I tell myself.  I am so fed up with being grown up! I have 12 days to sort myself out. Will I make it?

Seen any green ogres out running recently?

noo noo girl running for David

Watching a great family favourite, Shrek, with my kids recently bought home how subversive stereotypes can be to young minds. There we were, witnessing a princess realise her ‘outward’ beauty was not enough for true love; only when she becomes an ugly, fat, green ogre does she really realise her true desire. Have you ever noticed how women always get the rough end of the deal in fairy tales and children’s films? In Nemo, the mother is brutally murdered at the beginning of the film (my three year old daughter, upon finishing watching this film at the cinema when it was first released, burst into tears. “They killed the mummy,” she cried, as all the other parents and kids filed out of the film, happily content that Nemo had been re-united with his dad. She’s a perceptive one). Think of grannie in Little Red Riding Hood, or Sleeping Beauty, or Snow White etc etc. All are punished, brutally murdered, or portrayed as dysfunctional. Were all of these films made by women? I guess not…

It’s not just the media that toys with our perceptions with it’s surreptitious messaging to our unconscious minds. Doesn’t running allow us to throw off our own stereotypes of ourselves? Why would we even consider running in freezing mud, with icy rain pelleting our skin, our fingers like frozen sausages, other than to overturn the stereotype of our daily life, which, lets face it, is pretty full of routine and monotony whoever you are or whatever you do. What about the chance to, literally, make someone you don’t like at work ‘eat mud’ as you speed ahead of them in an off-road race. Whose the boss then? Or the shy runner who has heaps of undiscovered talent, discovers this and has to walk up to receive a prize post-race. There is a split second of a flash of ‘look what I can do that you can’t even though you have all the gear and endlessly boast about every single run you’ve ever done’. Not just anyone can see it; catch the light right though, and it’s there. There are runners who have lost themselves in relationships, careers, families, yet can rediscover their inner journey simply by having the courage to pull on some trainers and step outside.

Don’t we all share the need to run to escape from our own self-imposed limits? How many runners do you know who have only taken to the sport either mid, or later life, compared to those who have always run from childhood? Running, and sport is amazing that it has health benefits, but the psychological lift it can give is off the scale. Every time you begin a run it’s your own chance to create one of those mini-videos in your head of who you are, and who you would like to be. Finishing a race in a certain time allows you to reward yourself for achieving something. This is not to be underestimated! A PB, even of one second, can allow another day in paradise to become a secret success story. The problem being that the unavoidable bad days, whether they be at training or in a race scenario, can become extremely hard to manage, especially when the mini-highs come to mean so much.

Stand on any start-line and you can see similar scenarios being played out, by young and old, men and women, speedsters and plodders. In those moments of excitement and anticipation, dread and sometimes worry, all the routines of daily life are thrown off for a set period of time. I know one person who definitely starts each race believing that it will be his chance to fly like Roger Bannister. Even if the body doesn’t comply with the mind, believing that anything is possible is the carrot on the hook that we throw out to ourselves when we go for a run.

Now transport yourself to the other side of the finish-line. How many princess or ogres, smiles or grimaces, do you see? Where are those runners right at that point in their lives? The more you look, the more you can spot who has had a successful day. Stereotype subverted. Unfortunately, some of us – both men and women – still go home to a waiting ogre!

Living with the curse…

noo noo girl running for David

Having a womb is both a blessing, and a curse. My womb has produced my beautiful children, and for that I shall forever be grateful to it. But the monthly backache, abdominal pain, bloating and spots, to be honest, I have had enough of. You can feel your period coming, like a steam train roaring out of control downhill; the passengers desperately want to jump for their lives, but have to endure their journey to the bitter end. Snatching at people, befuddled brain, losing the will to carry on; all these are monthly visitations that I dread. I try to imagine they are just not there; I am not feeling grumpy, tired, miserable, moody, irritable, tetchy, impatient or cross. No. I am floating away, over a summer meadow full of wild flowers with their dizzying scent surrounding me, totally at peace with myself and the universe.

Even though it’s the last thing you want to do when you are feeling at a low ebb, running does alleviate some of the more ’emotional’ triggers that your period can bring, even if it doesn’t really help with the physical issues. Seriously, if I couldn’t, when at the point of exploding with frustration at every human being within a one-mile radius, just go for a run – on my own, with absolutely no other oxygen-breathing entity entering my ‘white light’ (a sphere of about 10 metres that extends in front of, behind, above and below my body) – I would probably end up incarcerated. Not just thrown into a cell, with the key metaphorically tossed into a river. We are talking about being chained to a cart and taken to Tyburn gallows, hanged, disembowelled then my body cut into four parts, each with a limb attached (to be displayed outside my home) with my head probably put on a spike on London Bridge.

Yet, go for a run, and life becomes like that Chariots of fire beach scene that begins and ends the film… There I am, running down the beach, with the spray suspended around me, a ridiculously happy smile on my face. Sand all over my kit; doesn’t matter. Wind ruining my hair; no worries. Rain smudging my mascara; not a problem. Except, unlike the main characters, Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams, there are no Olympic gold medals to be had in between. Instead, the reward is simply release. Release mainly of stress, situated firmly and deeply in the brain region.

I am sure if I didn’t have this outlet, then I would feel as if my head had been boiling in a cauldron of water for half and hour, with my eyes already burst and a strong layer of fat risen to the surface. Yes, reader, it truly can feel that bad. I’ve tried taking supplements to help me recently – both with improving my running, and coping with monthly fatigue and period pain. The one-supplement-fits-all powder I tried looked liked pondweed. It promised me every nutrient I could possibly need in my over-worked and over-stretched lifestyle. Knowing it was so amazing I persevered, for about four days, after which my stomach, and gagging, firmly told me no more. Then I progressed to an elixir that would improve my speed in a race, only to suffer horrific wind – horrific for both me and those around me. Even the extra potent royal jelly, filled with the wizened knowledge and power of millions of years of queen bees made no inroad into my sorry state. The label of this last panacea stated: store in a cool, dry place, out of sight and reach of children. Did it mean me, or the supplement? I drank the full contents of one vial before breakfast every day for peak performance. There was none.

Maybe, just maybe, good old-fashioned rest is all I need to re-establish some state of peace, both emotionally and physically. Well, the sun is now strong enough to send warmth deep into the soul, so now I’ve finished writing this I am going to make a coffee and allow the spring sunshine to work it’s magic. Mother nature to the rescue, once again.

Living with running envy…

noo noo girl running for David
You looked at each other for some time before you became more serious. It wasn’t a quick affair, more a gradual deepening of feeling; somehow you just got under each other’s skin. It took a while, but slowly your feelings grew and grew, until there was that hedonistic explosion of love. Your minds were tormented by thoughts of each other. Together, you discovered amazing places you never thought existed. There were challenges, of course, and some lows after the initial ‘high’. And when you were too busy to give your full attention, you felt guilt creeping into the edges of your relationship. The thing is, even though you’ve been in this type of relationship before, it’s never been this intense, this ‘real’. Finally, you ask yourself,: ‘Could this really be love?’ During your honeymoon period everything – EVERYTHING – faded into the background. You not only became lovers, you became best friends.

Yes, trainers can really do this to a person. Education, travel, career, family: all unbelievable life experiences. We all know that life often evens out after your roller-coaster years. But buy a good pair of trainers, and running can reignite dormant passions you couldn’t anticipate still existed following between one and 10 years of broken sleep.

The rush of endorphins keeps you coming back for more – seeking out new routes, new races, harder intervals, to see how far you can push your body. Why then, am I looking at my trainers now with those inevitable feelings of, not ‘hate’, but: ‘I’m not so sure now I made the right decision’ thoughts trailing through my mind. ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ feelings plague me as I walk in and out the front door (sometimes 10 times a day) glimpsing the pink and green flash of my Brooks.

Every time I spot them, I am reminded that at this stage of my life, I cannot run as much as I would like. As I began to spout my frustration at this to my wise Aunt recently, she reminded me that running can always wait: she kept running into her 60’s, a once a week 10 mile excursion to ‘clear the mind’. “You can always run when the children are older,” she reassured me. “But I want to set some new PB’s now,” I impatiently replied. “In five years time I will be five years older and it will be so much harder.”

“But running is mental, not physical,” she retorted. “Don’t forget, the cells in your organs, your muscles, your bones, are constantly regenerating. However old in years you may be, much of you is only a few days new.” Of course she was right. But, I am getting more than a little frustrated at this half-way house I live in, where I have developed this love affair with running, and am temporarily having to keep it on the sidelines due to family/work responsibilities. I can’t do this gracefully. I constantly contemplate forcing the children to give up what they love doing, just so I can do what I love doing. It’s crazy! I can’t do this as it goes against motherhood: kids come first, right?

I can train, but not always with my club. I enter races, then don’t make the start-line. Yes, I am suffering from the debilitating condition commonly known as running envy. The more the weeks pass and my running fails to move forward, the more I contemplate ridiculous scenarios to fit in a run. The underlying condition can be diagnosed as never being happy with one’s situation; a common symptom is the desire to scream out: “What about me!” Originally thought to be a pre-occupation of younger generations, there are increasing numbers of older people who are struggling to come to terms with dreams of running at greater speeds than we ever thought possible when our journeys began.

I think creatively; during holidays my children ride on their bikes whilst I run, or play in the park as I manically orbit them, a desperate satellite trying to make each session count. I am now starting my runs as tired as I usually feel when I’ve finished them. The only solution is to take the kids everywhere, it seems. My partner is not just a running widow, the kids have become a strange mutation of the ‘latch-key’ variety. After manic mornings and evenings where five to six hours of life have to be compressed into one hour, so that we can get out of the house and to club/events/races, they stand, abandoned to the countryside, whilst mummy goes off for half an hour or so to ‘do her own thing’. Take a step back and, compared to the lives of some children, this isn’t such a hardship, so why do I feel SO guilty?

Who am I?

noo noo girl running for David

You know you are really bored at work when you put your name into the internet to see what comes up. Having quite a distinctive name, I was shocked when I did this yesterday, as someone else with my name came up on twitter. Obviously, I wanted to tweet to them that I was the real me. Then it got me thinking, if I believe I am the real me, who is this other me with the same name? Now I understand if your name is John Brown or Sam Smith that you may have grown up without that feeling of utter uniqueness that my early life was comfortably cushioned with. Not only did I stand out at school due to my naturally burnt white hair, but my name was very different. Today, in any school playground, there are hoards of parents who have called their totally unique offspring totally uninspiring names; Harry’s, Charlotte’s, Millie’s and Charlie’s pepper school registers like nappy rash on a three-month-old baby’s bottom.

This got me thinking, and it made me realise how I have a peculiar habit when I am out running, whether plodding on the paths or racing on the hills; I often wonder if people recognise who I am. So even though when I meet someone, and instantly recall who they are when I see them for a second time and greet them with hello, I never assume that the person who has met me will remember who I am. You don’t need to be an amateur psychologist to deduce there may be some insecurity issues lurking in my subconscious mind. Is it the little girl in me, lacking in self-esteem, trying to undermine her 43-year-old big sister? I have even embarrassed myself recently at a press conference by offering my hand in hello to someone who chided me for being so coy, grabbed me and kissed me on the cheek. Even though we had met several times, I wasn’t sure if he would remember me!

This curious belief, like many, is based on some small grain of self-perceived truth. Question: What do you do when you meet someone, say at a barbecue, and chat with them for a while, then when your paths next cross and there you are, waving across a street at them, or throwing them a hearty hello, they blank you? Plausible answer: assume the person either can’t remember who you are, doesn’t like you. Of course maybe they are just not as socially eager as you, as well.

This scenario has happened to me a few times as an adult, and either I am someone, after first impressions, that you don’t want to ever talk to again, or I am instantly forgettable. Neither option is a great ego-boost. There is however, a third explanation – that there is another me out there. My doppelgänger, I assume, lives somewhere exotic or romantic – on the coast of Croatia, or a dusty backstreet of a Moroccan souk. She spends her life nurturing her creativity, exploring universal concepts of space/time mediums and honing her body into the immaculate, powerful temple it was born to be. This shaggy haired darker skinned person is both me and not me.

So when I stumble upon a new acquaintance who rebukes my friendly hailing should I wonder if it was the other me they met? What, also, should I do about this other me on twitter; should I contact them and ask them to stand down from our name and assume another one? And, if I am out running, and I see someone that I think I know, and that I think knows me, but I assume either doesn’t know me enough to say hello, or may not want to take that little leap over the line of familiarity, I will do as I often do… I will put a half-grimace on my face and look vaguely away. If I have already done this to you, all I can do is apologise – or was it the other me, the one I just met on twitter…? Maybe putting in my contacts every time I leave the house will solve the whole problem.

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.

Finding some peace

noo noo girl running for David

 

Stop. Breath. Think…or not think. Relax. Rest. Realise. This would not be a normal approach to any part of my daily routine, but taking myself away from the relentless chaos of life, and booking myself into a relaxing Swedish holistic massage last week made me put the brakes on my life. This wasn’t one of those punishing sports massages that you endure to the point of thinking you are going to vomit. This wasn’t timeout to pound the streets or lift some iron. As I eased myself into the moment I realised that it had been many years, over six, since I had indulged in the simplest of pleasures: paying someone to help you relax. I also realised that very rarely do I slow to a pace where relaxation or rest are part of my daily schedule (although I admit that I do both when I finally get to sleep at night). There’s too much to do, isn’t there… work, kids, house, family, friends, pets; the list can literally go on and on.

 

But is this the way to live, truly? Already inhabiting my 40’s I can’t help but wonder, with a slight tinge of fear, where the last decade of my life went. Can someone tell me, please? It’s not just that the years have flown by, it’s the fact that I can’t remember all of them, they were such a swirl of confusion and exhaustion with the advent of children. To take one step sideways, out of the norm, and allow myself to ‘stop’ has had an immediate knock-on effect. The massage was a accelerator. The temporary stilling of my mind has had a curious effect on my daily life. I decided that the pace of my day, and the demands of those who share it, were totally unrealistic. I stopped picking up the hairbands and hairbrushes that colourfully litter my carpets (tens…hundreds…thousands I have picked up it seems over the years). My lower back is so much happier!

 

I have decided work will have to fit in with me; if I don’t get it done, so be it. I have decided that a harsher love is needed to make my demanding children back-off: “Do it NOW!” has replaced the more gentler: “Please can you…” requests to my children that pepper my waking hours. The children are looking at me as if I have become a monster. They keep asking me if I am tired… I would tell them that there has been a sea change and that mummy needs to restore her sanity and some pre-children routines, but they probably would only listen to the first two words off my reply. But most importantly, I have decided that I am going to do some form of exercise every day, regardless.

 

However tired or busy I am, doing some form of workout for myself resets my internal ‘human’ thermometer. No exercise, and I become an automaton, out of control and likely to either collide with the other automatons out there, or worse, accept that everything else is too important. Exercise allows me to put myself first: to admit that when I feel pushed to my limits, I need to release pressure. In the last week, I have gone out for a run at a ridiculously late time, barricaded myself into the living room to do some weights and conditioning, gone for a long-ish bike ride against a hellish wind that never seemed to give up, and, so far, achieved what I wanted to do: I have found some time each day for me. I cannot deny that I feel a little tired, but I also feel a little invigorated, and much saner, too. There may well be some positive health benefits if I can keep up my ‘me routine’, but, as with running, this isn’t my motivation to get on my lycra. Exercise is therapy. My competitive spirit, and mind, are temporarily taking a backseat to my deeper essence, that is calling me back, calling me home.

Looking forward to the Commonwealth Games

noo noo girl running for David

As we look forward to the Commonwealth Games, and wonder about the legacy the games will leave behind, my mind drifts back to how devastating it felt when the London Olympics were finally over….

Life, it suddenly seems, has become dull and devoid of anticipation; the Olympics and Paralympics are over. I watched as much of both games as humanly possible, around summer outings, children, and work. Every night, once children were in bed, I was in a sport-induced heaven. Watching the sportsmen and women strive for, achieve, or maybe just miss, lifetime goals was inspirational. But did you notice how the Paralympians reacted differently to the Olympians? So many athletes crossed the line to a silver, and immediately seemed disappointed and unhappy with their performance. Silver or bronze didn’t seem a high enough achievement; the gold medal was all that mattered. However, the Paralympians openly rejoiced in the opportunity of completing; they savoured each medal with such joy, they congratulated their opponents with genuine happiness (despite their own disappointment), often competing the lap of honour together; only the heptathletes and decathletes display a similar solidarity. They received their medals with immense gratitude and thanks. In short, they were often very contrasting sportsmen and women to the Olympians. I can’t wait until when, in the future, more of these Paralympians cross over into able-bodied athletics as they will not only inspire future generations of able and non-able bodied athletes to believe that anything is possible, but their humble approach to their sports may bring a different dimension to modern day athletics. I can’t imagine any Paralympian behaving like Usain Bolt or Yohan Blake, or refusing to complete unless the price tag is sufficient.

Surely we have all got a lesson to learn from the blossoming of the modern Paralympics on the global stage.When I turn up to my club sessions, I am always thankful and relieved just to have made it on time, with adequate kit. When I race, I have learnt to feel grateful for the experience regardless of the result, even though deep down I would like to run so much better. So many other women, and men, in my club seem to be constantly chasing a PB, or chastising themselves for inadequate performances, missing out on just being present, and seeing that just taking part is the real achievement.

During the summer I was lucky enough to compete in a mixed team event for my club in a local off-road relay, and, despite our team being slower than most others, each one of us gave 120 per cent. Our captain supported us enthusiastically and did a fantastic job of organising us both prior to the race and the day. We couldn’t compete, and came seventh, but we were all so happy to have done the event together. Not coming first was not on our radar; enjoying the day and doing our best was what we individually strived for. Overall times and positions seemed irrelevant at the end. Having a drink together and praising each other, and seeing each other happy was much more rewarding than any PB I have achieved (not that I have done many yet!). This day will definitely be remembered as a highlight of my summer.

Watching the Paralympians gave me greater perspective regarding how lucky I am to get out running, even though I am always overstretched, and how much I appreciate my other club members and their support, friendship and camaraderie. There are many people who don’t have the luxury of running, and would give anything to be able to run, however tired or busy they are. So as we leave behind an amazing summer of sport, and head into the winter, I am going to keep focused on what I achieve in the less clement months of the year, rather that what I don’t. Running, or running well makes me happy, but being part of a team, or with club members, leaves a much deeper sense of fulfilment.

Everything changes

noo noo girl running for David

Some people are predicting a heat wave this summer…. This column, I wrote a while ago, sprung to mind….

On Monday morning I pulled the curtains: “It’s raining,” I said. On Tuesday morning I pulled the curtains: “It’s raining,” I said. On Wednesday morning I pulled the curtains: “It’s raining,” I said. By Saturday morning I was feeling slightly hysterical. We are all becoming increasing au fait with the malfunctioning of the northern polar jet stream, and experiencing first hand what happens when this jet stream meanders far from its usual course: by passing south over Britain, leading to record-breaking rainfall, no sign of summer – and mounting concern for the London Olympics – we have become a new breed of twitchers. Not looking for rare species of birds, but spending anxious hours, days, weeks in search of the rare summer phenomenon known as sunshine.

A summer without much sunshine isn’t the end of the world. Really. However, the weather we are having to combat during our running week is starting to wear very, very thin. This weekend I set out for a long run, after about 50 minutes thought about cutting my run short to get home (exhaustion getting the better of me) then didn’t take the turn: I carried on. Something inside pushed me to not give in to my ego. I’m not going through a good patch with my running, but a few people, whose advice I treasure, have stressed to me that I just have to work through this stage. “It will come back,” they tell me. So despite my slow pace, I just kept going. The road I chose not to divert from led me onwards to the sea, and as the swelling ocean emerged before me, sheets of raining started falling. Mid-summer, and in less than 10 minutes I started to feel cold. The ear facing the sea became so waterlogged with the near horizontal rain that my ear plug wouldn’t stay in, so there I was, running, no, jogging, into a storm front, soaked, in my sun hat and sunglasses (eternal optimist am I), one earplug dancing a merry dance around my head, wanting to cry! It became a battle between me and the jet stream.

I could either give in, instantly divert my route and find safety from the strange summer storm that seems to have been raging for months, on and off, or carry on. My stubborn streak, the fault-line that runs through my personality, took over. I ran on, and on, and on, along the promenade, into the weather, until my trainers were full of puddles and I was ridiculously soaked. Can one woman take on a global weather weirding phenomenon? Yes. Can she win? Of course. Well… umm… I didn’t stop, turn round, detour, hitch a lift or sit down and cry at the ridiculously tough wind that was hurling insults in my direction every mile. I battled on. I must have looked truly pathetic, if anyone saw me – I can’t say I noticed other people out enjoying the weather. And when I got home, my offspring asked me: “Mummy, did you have fun?” My answer? “I really enjoyed it.” I think I did, any way.

The (relative) day of calm that followed my mammoth effort tells me that even global weather systems can’t beat a woman with determination. This summer has left me a much wiser person; I have become more expert at lighting a fire through extra practice; I have learnt that buying summer garden furniture in the spring can be considered extravagant; I have learnt to go out running with sunglasses plus gilet, thus being fully prepared for both real rays of sunlight that I remember can be punishing to one’s eyes plus hideous downpours of rain: the two have become synonymous in our weather-riddled isle; but the wise Buddha that stands beside me during my journey in life, to whom I often ask advice, confirms that the greatest lesson learnt is that everything changes. Our journeys, our running, our summers (remember those endless hot summer holidays of our youth spent sweltering in the presence of the yellow god of the skies?). Knowing that nothing ever stays the same, I predict that the sun must reappear!