Event 16 – Clare’s 5k

Happy Days – me and Clare

The 23rd of March would have been my friend Clare’s 45th birthday.  She died last September of Ovarian Cancer.  Let me tell you about my friendship with Clare.

We met online!  We had both joined a 5k online running course called Up&Running.  It was June 2011 and the course ran for eight weeks and got non runners up to 5k.  A bit like couch to 5k but with way more skipping 🙂 After the eight weeks we would all go on our merry way as runners….but no…. turned out this wonderful group of women all loved chatting to each other on our forum, supporting each other’s running attempts and after a while just supporting each other with life in general.  Fortunately Shauna and Julia, the brains behind Up&Running let our forum continue with an Alumni group and now after each 5k course (or 10k or HM) new runners have somewhere to hang out.

Turns out we all like to travel, as well as run, so before long we were meeting each other in real life.  Edinburgh for tea and cakes, Glasgow for a parkrun, a few trips to Bologna for a weekend together, and a bit of running. So, I got to meet Clare many times despite her living in Glasgow and me in Somerset.

Clare, Shauna and Honor

I just loved Clare…her beautiful soft Glaswegian accent, her gentle humour, her kindness (always remembering birthdays and sending get well cards)  and there was sadness,  as we got to know Clare better  we found out she had lost her husband just before joining our forum. The forum was a place she could come and just be Clare.   We had much in common, silly things like having the same Clarks sandals…we used to send each other a picture of our sandalled feet on there first outing of the year (usually about July in Scotland). Our love of Gin and Tonic and mini breaks.

Ahhh the mini breaks!  There were many, often around my events.  She would turn up with her pink pompoms to cheer me on…..Barcelona marathon, Clare was there…Wimbleball 70.3 in the freezing cold, Clare was there….Zurich Ironman, Clare was there. And sometimes we went away just for the fun of it.   A fabulous weekend in London seeing the sights and drinking gin, a weekend in Inverness… oh hang on that was another event (a 10K) but still drinking gin 🙂

I saw my online buddy more than I see some members of my family.   Then last year shortly after a another mini break (for me) in Glasgow, we found out that Clare had Ovarian Cancer – it had already progressed to stage 4 by the time she was diagnosed.  I saw her one more time.  My forum friends were meeting in Edinburgh for the running festival and we all went over to Glasgow to see her.  Our last big meet up.  We knew she was very ill but she was smiley and so happy to see us.  We spent a lovely afternoon in her local restaurant before taking a short walk in a park.

Clare with my forum friends

I think we all thought she had more time than she did…  so it was a big shock when I got the news in early September that she has passed away.  I was on my last day of the Land’s End to John O’Groats bike ride and cried for the last 40 miles.

So back to yesterday, her birthday.  We all ran 5k for Clare and for the Target Ovarian Cancer charity.  My forum friends around the world, put on their Clare 5K bibs, in Australia, Dubai, The Netherlands, USA, Scotland, in New Zealand and in Regent’s Park (that was me) and we all remembered our special friend Clare.


Clare I miss you.


Event 15 – Yeovil Half Marathon

A great race and a massive medal

I had low expectations of a good race.  One, because I found my last half marathon (in Exeter) so tough and two, well…because it was in Yeovil!  Sorry Yeovil, I was wrong.

It was lovely to have an event so close to home, just a 25 minute drive.  This gave me time to drive up the road decide I needed a thin jacket, drive home and still have plenty of time to get there and parked.  There we lots of roads closed for the event so I just parked in the first car park I came to, which  fortunately turned out to be very close to the finish line and only a five minute walk to the start and the registration area.  I registered quickly, only had three people waiting in front of me.  I was lucky, as I left the hall the queue behind was now out of the door.

I walked back to the  car to have my pre-race porridge and put my bib on my vest and my chip timer on my shoe.  Then I popped into the town to some toilets I knew about down a side street – saved another long queue back at the start.


The race started promptly at 9am and just over a thousand runners weaved their way through the streets of Yeovil.  This is the first time that this race has started and finished in the town and it was great move.  From the start there was great support with lots of clapping and cheering – I loved it.

Apparently the course was also much flatter this year and indeed the first half was pretty flat.  We passed all the sights of Yeovil – shopping outlets, the industrial estate the car dealers.  It could have been pretty dull but honestly the support made up for it.  At one point I dropped my headband which I had been holding, a lovely lady ran back to pick it up for me – telling me not to do a any more than I needed to.  Her husband remarked he’d never seen her move so fast 🙂 We also had to cross quite a few major roads and the police and marshals did a great job.  We were causing long queues of cars, but I didn’t see anyone getting annoyed.

As the spectators thinned out we hit the country lanes and although slightly undulating it was very pretty, very Somerset.  The lanes took us out to Montecute House and Country Park.  This is where they hold Yeovil parkrun so It was familiar ground.  As I entered the grounds I saw my sister Adi – she had popped along to cheer me on, almost missing me as I wasn’t wearing my orange jacket.  I’m trying to cut down on layers and got it just about right for this run – I did need my gloves though as it was nippy.  It was so good to see her.  She hadn’t said she was coming but I hoped she would “Go Paula Green”!!!

Water station at Montecute House

I was running really well.  A little niggle in my ankle at 7km but a bit of hopping and a quick stretch seemed to sort it….whatever works.  Probably just old age…nothing serious.  At 10k I realise that my legs didn’t hurt, which is unusual – they often start to feel heavy and tired at this point.  My breathing was pretty good too and in the second half where all the hills were, I was doing a good job of running up most of them.  On one really steep one I walked near the top, it was probably quicker than my slow jog anyway!

The last 5km took us back through the residential streets of Yeovil and again the support was awesome.  Lots of people waiting at the end of their driveways to cheer us, many wearing their slippers I noticed 🙂 Little kids holding out bowls of jelly babies.  One lady banging together some saucepans – all good fun.

As we hit the town the barriers were out so that we had a clear run through to the finish with people lining the sides and a band playing as you crossed the finish line.  Yeovil, you did a great job.  A good course, great marshalling, wonderful support.

My time: 2.19.58

15 down, 35 to go!

Event 14 – Wiltshire Wildcat 135km

Me finishing

And for today’s weather we have….fog!

Actually it wasn’t too bad, the start was delayed by an hour and the first few miles were low visibility, but this sportive was one of the nicest I have done. A great route, well signed, perfect weather and not too hard.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  The day started early at 5.45am.  Ian was joining me today and this is not his favourite time of day, but we managed to get out of the door by 6.30am ready for our 90 minute drive. Oh and when I say Ian was joining me it was obviously only for the drive. Our riding speeds are not compatible so we would go our own way once we started the event.

Fog and long queue at the start

The start was at Salisbury racecourse which was a great venue – lots of parking and lots of proper toilets 🙂 After registering and getting our gear on we lined up to start.  There must have been around a 1000 people there and because of the delayed start everyone was in a huge queue waiting to go.  I saw a few people by-passing the line and heading to the front.  Turned out they were doing the Epic distance like us (I think there were three distance options) so we followed them, mumbling Epic, Epic as we walked passed people.  We managed to sneak in a little nearer the front and probably saved ourselves half an hour or so.  It was going to be a long ride, I needed every minute I could get.

We were finally off at 9.15am and the first half hour or so was very foggy and I didn’t really like it.  I had lights but they seemed inadequate – just hoped there was safety in numbers.  Ian had scooted off but I took my time, wanted to check that my legs were holding up ok after Thursday’s run before I put in too much effort. 135km is the longest I have ridden for a while and wanted to have something in reserve for the end.

Blue sky!!!!

It was such a nice route.  Before long I started to recognise some landmarks and some of the roads – it was where I did the North Dorset Village Marathon last year! So much easier on a bike!! The roads were gently undulating and dry (yay) and very quiet – lovely countryside.


There were a few hills, maybe four or five that were proper hills but they didn’t seem that bad to me.  They were quite short and with steady gradients, unlike some sportives that seem to add killer hills and often near the end when you are tired.  It was a nice change.

Although a long ride, which took me about six and half hours, it was a very pleasant experience and despite being tired I felt comfortable.  There were three feed stations but I only stopped at the last one. I had  a couple of fig rolls and a cup of coffee – which was very welcome.  I mainly stick to my own food on these events – you can’t beat a marmite pitta 🙂

Pretty houses

The last 20k or so I was ready for it to be over. Tired legs but still enjoyable.  I got back to the racecourse and Ian was waiting for me having finished well over an hour before.  He hadn’t had such a good ride, lots of leg cramp and pain and he was also tired from lack of sleep since coming home from Panama.   So I offered to drive the two hours to my Mum’s house where we met up with Heidi before she dashed off on her travels again.  My lovely Mum had dinner waiting and a glass of wine ready for me 🙂

It’s been a big week – four events done in eight days.  Taking it easy now before next week’s Half Marathon in Yeovil!

Event 13 – Saffron Trail with Kat – 35km


So much mud…the end!

Ha ha, ok there was more than mud but sometimes it didn’t seem like it.  This was a  made up event – although it had been run before.  Kat, my forum friend had done most of this run last year and enjoyed it so much that she wanted to do it again.  It is a good way for her raise money for her charity, and as I am also trying to raise funds for mine and needed another Event I asked if I could come along.  We both wanted a midweek date so a few months ago we put a Thursday in March in the diary and just hoped the weather would be kind. IMG_4463 (1)

As it happened the date was perfect. I need to drop Heidi off at my Mum’s – she is trying to catch up with everyone during her one week in the UK, before she flies of to Thailand this weekend. My Mum’s house is only 16 miles from Kat’s house in Essex.

Although only 16 miles away, the Dartford Tunnel/Crossing is between the two houses and it’s not the place you want to be at pretty much any time of the day.  I left just after 6am to give myself the best chance of a stress free journey,  the traffic was already very heavy but was moving and I got there just before 7am.   Had my porridge  from my flask and Kat and I set off.


A fifteen minute walk and two train journeys and we were at Hockley where we had a mile walk to the Saffron Trail and the start of Event 13.  The Saffron Trail is 71 miles long and runs from Southend-on-Sea to Saffron Walden.  One day we may attempt it all but today we planned to do just over 20 miles of it – running as much as we could.

And so the mud started.  I had wondered how we would divide up the running and walking but in the end it was obvious.  The mud was impossible to run through and at times walk through, not helped by the thick bramble that lined the edges of the trail.  My trail shoes are pretty good but the thought of hours and hours of wet feet did not appeal, plus the fact that I know from experience that wet feet equal blisters and I need my feet a lot this year!  So I was super cautious trying hard not to submerge my feet and also not get cut to sheds by the bramble.  It made many (most) parts slow going.

IMG_4537So, basically any bits of the trail that were dryish we ran, and the first few hours we made good time.  But after 10/15km there were also lots of fields to cross.  The fields were either uneven ground with very wet grass, caution required, or agricultural with thick clay soil, which meant with every step more and more clay gathered on our shoes until we could hardly lift our feet and we then wasted a few minutes de-claying our shoes.


Plus there was map reading.  I left this to Kat – who did a great job.  She remembered much of it from before but it was a different time of the year and landscapes look different.  So we often stopped to check her phone or written instructions which took up time.  On one section we couldn’t find a stile we needed to cross and ended up cutting across some farmland, dodging sheep and trying not to get stuck in the mud.  Then basically put our heads down as we quickly walked through a farm yard hoping not to see anyone – not sure we were supposed to be there.

Yet another stile

The trail itself was generally well marked with little Saffron Trail signs but sometimes we would get to a field and….no signs. No idea whether to go left or right or straight across.  It wasn’t always the prettiest of routes (I’m very spoilt living in Somerset) sometimes we were on busy roads or alongside housing estates but there were lots of woodland areas, wide open fields and far reaching views and it was just great being outside all day with great company.  We were lucky with the weather too, the temperature was perfect – around 7C the threatened rain never came and occasionally the sun came out.

Blue sky and a quick stretch

We stopped at a little shop just after half way to get a drink.  Kat found IronBru, which she couldn’t resist.  You can take the girl out of Scotland…..  But mostly we relied on our own supplies which we carried in our small rucksacks. It was the first time I had run with one and I didn’t mind it at all.  I knew it fit well as I used it in Finland XCSkiing a few weeks ago.

Great rucksack and a mud free path!

It was a long day out – we were on the trail for around seven hours and for the last couple of hours my legs were very tired.  Kat, 20 years my junior, seemed to be coping better – I’m sure I saw her skipping along a few times, when I could hardly lift my legs 🙂 and there were so many stiles to cross over which seemed to be getter bigger and bigger the more tired my legs got.


Just outside Chelmsford (we could see it ahead) and with about 3km to go, we came to a dead end.  A great big roadwork project all fenced off.  Right between us and and where we need to be.  Right between us and me sitting down and having a rest!!!!   All the places we hoped to cross were filled with inches of water and I just wasn’t prepared to get my feet completely wet, I know I’m a wimp but I could face another 3km and a train journey with wet feet.  Kat doubted our chances of getting past the “No Entry” “Keep out” signs.  But I saw a workman and shouted over. I didn’t quite beg (I did) but I was very persuasive and in the end despite “I’m really not allowed to do this” he let us climb through the fence and then guided us past big trucks and plant vehicles out to the main road.  Turns out he was runner and seemed impressed with our efforts.  I also think he didn’t want to be responsible for some 50 year old women found in a boggy mess somewhere on the outskirts of Chelmsford lol!

My watch stopped at this point, I think I knocked it climbing through the fence.  35km – that’s a long way. We still had 3km to walk to the train, I decided as my watch had stopped I didn’t need to attempt running any more 🙂  So, two trains back, another short walk and I was back in my car and ready at tackle the Dartford Crossing.

It was a fabulous day.  A great way to see the Essex countryside and spend time with my friend.  We saw trails and fields, woodlands and pretty villages, far reaching views and lots and lots of mud.

Event 13 done, 37 to go.

Events 11 and 12 – London Parkrun and 10k

Up&Running pals

I had two great reasons to be in London this weekend.  Heidi and Ian were flying home from Panama and some of my Up&Running pals were hitting town.

I hadn’t seen Heidi for a couple of months as she has been travelling around South America, she then met up with Ian two weeks ago for a fortnight in Panama.   Then I found out that my friend Sunita was flying in from New York and meeting up with my forum friends Helen and Shauna so I could hang out with them before heading off to Paddington to meet Ian and Heidi off the Heathrow Express.

Oh….wait a minute… LONDON…. I could do an event or two 🙂

Hampstead Heath parkrun

I’ve not done a London parkrun before, usually my visits to London are during the week to hang out with Ian.  Our hotel was at Belsize park only a ten minute walk from Hampstead Heath…it was meant to be.  It was also a freezing -1C and despite my recent cold acclimatisation in Finland I was bloody cold when I arrived at the park – as usual way too early.  It was sleeting a bit and looked like it might turn to snow any minute  Brrrr…

One nice thing, as I was walking through the park to the start I saw a parakeet.


There were around 250 people including a friendly man and his daughter who I chatted to for a while.  Turns out he lived next to Bushy Park which is the home to the first ever parkrun and also the venue for my race the following day.  I grilled him for info on how to get there, as I hadn’t really checked it out when I booked it.  I just thought it was in London and therefore near a tube station.. I was wrong!

Anyhoo, back to Hampstead Heath – it was hilly.  Some of the hills were really long, but I managed to run the whole thing – even overtaking a few people.  The pace was very slow at the beginning due to the narrow path and volume of people and that plus the hills was reflected in my time of 32.28.  A very enjoyable run.

Hampstead Heath

A quick dash to the hotel for a speedy shower then I jumped in cab to meet my friends for brunch which turned into lunch and G&Ts – rehydration at it’s best.

Saturday afternoon I met Ian and Heidi and after a good catch up and some nice food I had an early night ready for my second event of the weekend.

Bushy Park 10k

The logistics of getting to Bushy Park from Belsize park were slightly harder than I thought. A longish tube journey followed by a mainline train stopping everywhere plus Sunday running hours….it could take quite a while.  As Ian and Heidi had had a long day of travel the day before including a rushed connection at Madrid, meaning Heidi’s luggage didn’t make it, I thought it best they stayed in bed in the warm.  I also still had a slightly sore ankle from my XCskiing marathon last week and wanted to leave the decision on whether to run until the last minute.  (As it happened my feet were so numb from the cold I couldn’t tell if they hurt or not).

I didn’t sleep that well but woke up early, very early, my ankle didn’t seem too bad so I set off for the station.  In the end the journey was quite straight forward – although long.  I had plenty of time to get to Teddington plus find the park.  The race was on the other side of the park to entrance I arrived at so I had quite a long walk but at least it kept me warm.

After registering I still had an hour to wait for the race to start.  I was hoping for a nice cafe to sit in.  There was a cafe, but it was an outside one – I did have a yummy waffle and some coffee though, which warmed me up a little.

Waffle and toffee sauce

The race itself was uneventful – two laps of the park.  It was cool to see the park where parkrun had started and I could imagine the 1000 people they get some weeks, running round – there was plenty of room.  My race though, had around 250 people and a good mixture of speeds so I had company the whole way round.  I didn’t see any deer which was disappointing – there were signs everywhere saying “do not feed the deer” and “do not approach the deer”.  What deer????  I see more in my garden at home lol!

Fortunately as it had been so cold the “multi terrain event” advertised – that is, running on grass – wasn’t too bad as the ground was firm and not too muddy.  My time was 1.03.42, a slightly faster pace than my hilly 5k the day before.


It took a while to get back to Belisize park but after yet another speedy shower I headed  out for a fab Mother’s Lunch with Ian and Heidi and some more rehydration.  Cheers!

Mother’s Day Treat