In defence of the back of the pack

Netty Edwards, I hear you.

As a two-time marathoner and 14 time half marathoner who, on a really excellent day, cracks an 11:30/mile, I totally get your 12:00/mile pace.

Why the race director did what he did was really awful.

Now, before you go trolling me here is what I really think: The people who created the Spen 20 were insanely foolish not to communicate a cut-off time.  Their thought process was completely and utterly archaic.

And that is because for a long time, even today, lots of race runners assume to run you must be “fast.”  I’ve never joined a running club for this reason, as the last time I checked into one they stated you had to run a 10:00/mile.

There is some strange elitist notion within some organisations that a per minute time of 10:00/mile or greater somehow makes you worthy of the title of runner, and anything slower makes you, I don’t know, a leisure jogger?

It very much felt that way when I started running over ten years ago.  It very much felt defeatist that even though I crossed the exact same finish line as the faster runners I was somehow less worthy.  Even with stated cut-off times water would be lacking, goodie bags few (if at all), and the enthusiasm that the volunteers once had would be vacant, if at all present.

But, that has changed in spades.

I joined running when there was a new movement just starting.  In that, to run, you ran.  You didn’t have to be super fast, you just needed to finish, and races started to make provisions for this.  People of all shapes and sizes were beginning to be welcome on the course – and in places like Disney the entire movement turned into weekend-long celebrations.  (Oh, and it’s going to start going world wide soon!)

Once a lone finisher in the back of the pack I have friends now.  We’re not the most graceful thing on two legs, but we know we can achieve the end game and we make it there.  Plus, when you are slow and in a well managed race the finish is luxurious.  You aren’t fighting for a photo, standing in long lines for your race bag, or squeezing in at a changing area.

I’m hoping this whole Netty Edwards thing is a one-off.  I’m hoping that, with this event, communication improves and the elitist mindset dies off.  I even know that, in some cities, movements for “all inclusive” running groups are starting to take hold.

We, the back of the pack, have begun to surge forward.

Long may we walk/run.

8 Years Later: Silverstone Vanquished

Oh, what a difference 8 years makes.

On that Mother’s Day, all that time ago, I stood alone and freezing on a race track I knew so little about.  Fast forward and yesterday, also a Mother’s Day, I stood freezing with a dear friend who had never run beyond 7 miles and a fully grown male in a tyrannosaurus rex costume.

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8 years ago I was one of very few females to be seen.  Yesterday the full glory of the “loo queue” with my fellow women.  Shuddering and shaking as a team.  Girl power.






In the week leading up to the race I managed to get both a 24-hour stomach virus and a cough so terrible my husband seriously sat me down and asked if I should really go and run Silverstone.

Thing is, I had to.  I had to erase the miserable memory of that race.  I had to see what 8 years had brought to something that sat so negative in my mind.

When we started the race, I was in massive doubt.  I had hacked and wheezed in the car and the walk to the start line felt like a half marathon in itself.  I dutifully took my medicine and stayed out of the crowds, sticking with my nervous friend.  Seeing the men and women of St. John’s Ambulance Services standing at attention at mile two I seriously thought, “I should drop out.”

But I had something very magical with me that helped me through.  My first-time running, nervous-wreck but utter F1 enthusiast friend.  For the first 5k he kept me focused on parts of the track.  He taught me how to “run the race line” and noted portions of the track that were “notoriously difficult.” He recounted tales of where he stood when some event happened.  Where a photo of his was taken.  His joy, his utter joy of running down a track that he had more knowledge of then I thought possible got into me and carried me through.

After I let him trot on ahead after the 5k I stuck to his race line advice and literally ran “ahead of the cough.”  It was a cold, windy day and the threat of rain hung in the air, but I clutched to that magic.  I looked at the bends and curves, noted the spots where, in the past, cars struggled.  I smelled the whiffs of petrol and grease in the air and just kept putting one foot in front of the other.  I was seeing this race differently now, seeing it with all the beauty that it was meant to be seen in.  I was having a good time.

When I realised I was catching up to my friend, who had been struggling himself with a tricky knee, I slowed down a bit to watch him do something even more magical: I watched him push himself.  Watched him go to that level that so few reach in their lives.  Go that bit beyond, through pain and mental blocks and all the feelings of “I can’t.”

He proved he could in spades.

The thing I’ve picked up about F1 is just how tough it is.  That there are races where cars don’t even make it to the start line simply because the team is constantly attempting to go that ‘one step beyond.’  That there are a million risks and a billion innovations happening all at once.

Yesterday, I crossed the line of my 14th half marathon.  I did it in perfectly good time.  8 years ago I was one of the last to cross.  I was tossed a bag with a huge shirt in it and felt as if no one there cared.  Yesterday I crossed into screams and congratulations.  I was able to chat with race staff who were kind enough to guide me to my medal and my things.  I got to hug my first-time half marathoner friend and cry happy tears.

I got to raise money for Cancer Research UK.

Silverstone is now officially behind me.  I no longer hold a grudge.  There will be other races ahead, some long, some short. And, thanks to my wonderful friend, I’m going to focus on that line on the ground, the magic of a tarmac, and look at the curves and bends and stop thinking about split times.

Silverstone.  You.  Are. Vanquished.

Oh, and cool medal shaped like a race tyre btw. ;)

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3 Things on Getting a Runner’s High

Tomorrow is the day.

I’ve ironed the letters on my jersey.

I’ve checked the weather, it’s going to be awful.

But that’s okay, it’s Silverstone.  We have issues with each other so I expected it.

My running partner, who has never ever run in a half marathon – let alone a distance race – is dutifully freaking out.

And that’s okay too, because it’s his first race and freaking out is completely normal. (Though it feels completely patronising to write that sentence.)

Last Sunday I ran 10 miles.  After much debate I decided to.  Primarily because I have issues past 9 miles in half marathons in the past and I wanted to test something that is called “The Runner’s High.”

Past 9 miles in a half marathon one of two things happen to me:

  1. I become super angry and miserable, often attempting to verbally or visually curse anyone within a 50 foot radius of me.
  2. I become super serene and peaceful and pretty much want to group hug finish line spectators or anyone holding lots of plastic bags that may or may not have bananas in them.

So you are aware, I prefer post-9 mile me at option 2, and need to replicate it. (I know, shocking.)

And, considering I have a first timer running (likely ahead of me but nonetheless we are carpooling) who is looking to me as example, I needed to test and see what brings out the Buddha version of me.

Stuff I learned that does:

  • Start slow.  Okay, the Oatmeal covered this off at point one in his very true comic on running, but when I committed to going at least 30 seconds slower per mile in the first few miles of running I did not start the slide into demonic-fire-breathing-lunatic that I know I have become in the past.
  • Water/food BEFORE I need water/food.  “Yep,” says the masses of 18 of you who subscribe, “that’s like, canon in running, isn’t it?”  But when engaged in the moment of feeling awesome at mile 5 I have been well known to skip water/food because I’m feeling awesome then.  When I followed my rules on fuelling (which, guess what, I remembered because I wasn’t trying to break the land speed record for sloth running) I didn’t have the onset of odd that starts the slide to crazy at mile 8.  Who knew, right?
  • Remember it’s just about finishing. I think one of the things that, besides illness, that plagued my last half was this promise I made to ‘run the whole time.’  And when I could not do that I started to kick myself, despite crossing the line well under some of my earlier races.  Tomorrow I will be on a closed course with a race time limit that is as generous.  If I follow the above rules and just focus on a solid finish I will likely equal my faster half marathon times.

And maybe, if I’m lucky, beat a Stig or two around on the course.  But lets not get ahead of ourselves.


When you are an ex-pat you wind up creating a sort of makeshift family in your new home so far away from your real ones.  They form out of randomness.  You meet at work, or at a club or group you joined.

Or, in my case: Twitter.

I can think of two people who came into my life because of Twitter.  Two people who unlocked more people who helped me, then so new to the UK, make the UK become home.  One of whom, when I attended his wedding, I got to say proudly after a mess of people talked about how in-depth and long they knew him for that I met by accident via 140-characters. (And I got to go on a group outing that was his second date with his now glorious wife.)

But for the other one, the other one came via food and the love of my homeland.  A random request that my husband responded to.

And it turned into something so beautiful and brilliant.

I got to watch the full ascendance of something. The complete rise of a small idea into a full celebration of that idea.  I got to witness a culture form, a rabid and loving culture to boot.  I got to meet people who shared that vision, who were full of joy about a concept so simple that to lots of people it wouldn’t appear to be rocket science.

Turns out that science needed to be Atomic.

The first time I met him we were sat outside. This was before the picnic tables that now sit silent. He was talking about his trip to America as a child. Of being this “fat little kid in a cowboy hat” wanting everything to do with America. That mane of blonde hair. The smile. The gestures. I see that meeting in my mind, distant but pulsing with energy and delight. His nirvana-like state as he drew up pictures and plans and waxed lyrical about burgers of all things.


I was lucky to link my life with this moment of his.  Of being pregnant and crammed into their restaurant about to open, watching him and his business partner confused about why the attendance for preview night was over capacity.  (Because they are awesome, that is why.) Returning to that restaurant with a newborn and realising, after the fact, that our first family portrait was in front of Han Solo frozen in carbonite.   Of celebrating said newborns 1-year birthday there and receiving (as one should) a baby Yoda outfit and hot sauce as gifts.

Every day I have the privilege of cycling past his Oxford creations. Every day I look into the windows to see the people eating and laughing and I silently cheer at their success. When I knew they were moving their original place I managed to rugby tackle his business partner off my bike and plead to see the space before others, and he generously welcomed me in. And I was home.


That’s what he was, and what he is. For me, he was home.

This past weekend he left us.

A light, brilliant and glorious, dispersed now. Not gone, no. He’s still here. He will forever be in the eyes of his children, in the heart of his wife. He will walk alongside his business partner and best friend, whispering ideas and encouragement. Telling them to grow, telling them to take risks. Reminding them to not take things too seriously, because who would ever take bacon shakes seriously?

As I sit here, I sit here grateful. I sit here with tears in my eyes but a smile on my face. I was so lucky. So terribly and wonderfully lucky to have known a man like him.

As Dr. Seuss so rightfully said, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

Thank you for ‘happening,’ Martin. Thank you so very much.

I forgot to tell you.

So, here in the midst of all my training for my vendetta race I realised some silly that all my 20 rapt-attention readers might be asking: How much was raised for your last race (Royal Parks)?

You know, that race that you ran for your uncle and your friend?

Firstly, the medal is on my nightstand.  I haven’t afforded any other space like that save for my marathon medals that now have prominent displays in the living room.

I also have, since the race, dreamed more about both of them.  I’m happy to report those dreams are positive and beautiful.  Lots of Uncle Steve hugs and laughs with Mike.

The race coordinators contacted the team a few months back.

We raised £20,000.00 as a group, of which £1,000.00 was from all my awesome friends, family, and crazy cool big donors whose names are unknown to me.

I think, in terms of honouring my family and friends, that is pretty darn fabulous.

So thanks, everyone.  Thanks so much.  And thank you all for my continued support.  I run to challenge myself, but this past time was particularly special because I went beyond myself.  Did something I love (and loathe and love and yeah… you get it) for people who really mattered to me.

Roll on Silverstone.

Ridiculous Training (that works for me)

This is not me. I look far more awesome.

On Saturday I get up at 4:00 AM.

Go with me here.

As I said, on a perfectly good weekend day I get up at 4:00 AM.  I have to because I need to eat accordingly and make sure, as I approach my long run time, no “surprises” make themselves known in my gastrointestinal system.

This is likely because I am old.  

At about 6:00 AM I start my run.  My goal is to run whatever mileage I’m suppose to run and wind up at the gym before an 8:30 AM yoga class.

And then… get this… I do one and a half hours of Hatha Yoga.

I run whatever crazy goal distance and then I do yoga.

And the next day, guess what?

I’m not in pain.  I’m maybe only a little stiff.

The run I do at the hour I do it is so peaceful.  Ridiculously peaceful.  When I get to the gym the parking lot is barely full.  By the time class finishes the sun has just come up and we’re meditating.

Soon, the Body Combat people will rampage into the studio.  The gym will be teeming with all sorts.  Kids going swimming, people eating in the cafe, the parking lot so full cars are on the pavement.

The streets are busy with traffic. People everywhere.  Stores full.

But this crazy training I’m doing?  It appears to be working for me.  Sure, because I’m racing Silverstone and Silverstone and I have “issues” all my training has involved snow, ice, rain, and wind (rendering my times sub-par but still reasonable) there are some drawbacks but…


This whole idea of a good solid run followed by gentle stretching and just taking care of yourself… Who knew?

Also, why did it take me more than ten years of running to finally figure this out?