Stockport 10 – the race that nearly wasn’t – 09.12.12

This race was possibly the most frustrating race of the year and that was even before I got to the start line. As the months have slipped by I became aware I was missing the miles, miles that I needed to ensure I completed the challenge that I dreamt up all those months ago. I’ve added in a couple of Park Run’s to top up my total race miles but sure enough, I was still short. As luck would have it, a handy 10 miler made itself known to me and the idea took root – a nice “little” 10 miler to round off the yeat…wouldn’t that be a good idea? Like most things I decide to do that require commitment, I left it too late. All 1000 places had been sold and there were no entries available on the day. What to to? The answer was to beg on Runners World and hope that someone took pity on me – or felt compelled to help a charity plodder who was struggling to make her miles. As luck and Christmas parties would have it, someone did have a spare place; two in fact. I was prepared to buy them both, sent emails confirming my desire for the places and sat back, safe in the knowledge I’d have a race place.

Hit the panic button, find race miles…simples

The best laid plans however have a tendency to screw up and this was no exception. The running saviour’s husband had previously managed to get rid of the places but has neglected to tell his wife. I was back to square one – with no place and 10 miles left to find. I was getting panicky, convinced I’d not be getting any miles and I’d let the 200 Mile team down. Clearly I am on the good girl list because I received yet another email from my saviour. One of the places was now available again, did I want it? Do fish swim? Do bears use leaves? We all know the answer to those questions – so late on Friday after a couple of abortive attempts, I made the money transfer and relaxed in the knowledge I’d be racing on Sunday. What I completely forgot was how hard I found the half marathons at around the 8 mile mark…and this was a 10 mile race…with HILLS. I had been told that Stockport was flat. They lied.

Sunday rolled around and I rolled out of bed, stuck the coffee and porridge on and dragged on my race gear. After dithering as to whether it warranted long sleeve and legs the squally wind and rain settled the argument for me. The weather wasn’t much better all the way down the M62 and across to the M60 – rain, wind, a bit more rain and then more wind. Under a slate grey sky we shuffled on to the track and waited for the starting signal. One of the best starts ever – not only did we have an Olympic torch bearer running a lap with his torch but out starting signal was a rocket – much oohing and ahhing even in broad (almost) daylight. As 750 or so runners streamed round the track twice I tried to settle into a comfortable pace and trotted along with the other plodders at the back, the only runner in Macmillan green.

We streamed through the park and into a rain cloud, or so it felt. The rain was driving straight into us and even with my contact lenses in, I couldn’t see a thing. Head down and breathing hard I rounded the corner out of the park and settled down for a couple of hours worth of streets and pavements, quietly hoping that the rain would stop soon and the sun would dry me out – no such luck. As the miles slipped by it did get drier but much windier. The upside to the wind was that it was behind me for a large chunk of the time giving me a welcome boost along. The first hill crept into view and after plodding as much of it as possible, I had to give up and walk purposefully up to the top until the first long down hill appeared. Flying down some surprise cobbles and through a farm was a nice change of scenery, even if the cows and horses didn’t want to come and say hello.

The miles got harder with each step and my lack of long distance training was making itself known – hips, knees and ankles were all shouting at me. This is what is known in my head as “time to start a proper training plan” feeling – something that when I’m running seems like such a good idea until the endorphins and adrenaline wear off again. As I plodded on alone, I wondered at which point I’d have completed my 100 miles. Having forgotten to work out at what point this would be before the race I assumed it was closer to the end – turns out I passed the 100 mile mark at the 5 mile point!

The men in white coats – thankfully I have no need for them on the road…

The last few miles slipped by without incident unless you count letting horses pass through a housing estate, dodging 2 huge dogs on leads while simulateously trying to not fall into the road and then trying to keep my balance as I flew down one of the last down hill stretches. As I climbed the final hill which seemed to go on forever, runners that had finished shouted words of encouragement from their cars, from the pavements and the adjoining park. It was a nice touch and a not for the first time I was glad to have my name on my race ID rather than a number. Sure, they don’t know you but “Come on Jemma” is so much nicer to hear than “come on 921” – less Prisoner: Cell Block H.

The last 1000 metres appeared…and I started to sob. Partly in pain (feet, ankles, hips, head) but also with the realisation that this was it. These last metres would be the last I had to run for the challenge. All the early starts, the early nights (not such a hardship really) the wind, the rain, the sun burn, sun stroke, blisters and chafing were behind me. My Macmillan vest, it’s distinctive green and white that when in a crowd my eyes automatically seek had run it’s last of the challenge. Rounding the final loop of the stadium track towards the finish line was hard work, physically and emotionally. I crossed the line at 2 hours, 7 minutes and 50 seconds – 7 minutes slower than I was aiming for. The wave of emotion broke and doubled over, I sobbed openly. Tears of pride, of sadness, of personal gain and loss, but mostly relief. I had done it – the biggest physical challenge I had ever set for myself and I had completed it…with 22 days grace.

I might go back and run it again next year…for me.


November Geeky Stats!

Throughout the whole year, this is only the 4th time that the measurements and stats have actually been done on time. How’s that for a stat?

All measurements in inches.

Jemma Caroline
Bust 41 (up 1) 39 (same)
Bicep 12.5 (up 0.5) 11.5 (up 0.5)
Waist 31 (down 1) 32 (down 1)
Hips 41.5 (down 2) 39 (up 1)
Thigh 23.5 (up 1) 23 (up 0.5)
Calf 15.25 (up 0.25) 15.5 (up 0.5)
Weight No scales! 11stone 3 lbs/ 157lbs (down 1lb)

Perhaps we should have had temporary tattoos at the beginning of the year to mark out where we measured, because I’m sure it has wandered!

November Training:

According to our records using and the app:

Jem went out for 4 runs, including the Abbey Dash 10k in Leeds on 18th and a Park Run 5k in Harrogate on 24th.  She ran for a total of  3 hours, 55 minutes and 13 seconds, and covered 19.1 miles at an average speed of 4.88 mph (12:18 mins/mile), which is another speedy improvement on last month. At the end of November, Jem’s race mile total was 85.8 , leaving 14.2 still to run.

Caroline managed to get out 9 times, including the Tatton Half Marathon on the 4th and completed her 100miles at the Abbey Dash. She ran for a total of 9 hours and 56minutes and 3 seconds, and covered 61.91 miles – at an average speed of 6.20 mph (9:42 mins/mile), which is once again, just that little bit faster than last month.

Jemma now has some very festive and cold races booked in for the final month, whilst Caroline celebrated completing her part of the challenge with 10 whole days off running before the urge became irresistible. And then she signed up for the Greater Manchester Marathon because she’s a sucker for a challenge, especially one set by Dougie.


Age UK – Abbey Dash 19.11.12

The days are officially cold. The nights are proving even more so, so there was no great surprise when on the morning of the Dash I had to de-ice the car and spend 10 minutes with the heater on full blast before I could even attempt the drive into Leeds. The car temperature sensor read 0.5C and only managed to hit 3C by the time I reached the city centre. On the plus side, it was a glorious day, clear skies and sun that was fairly warm…when standing in the sunny patches. After shedding a few layers and pinning race numbers on, it was time to witness the flash mob having a fit – otherwise known as the warm up. I’ve never taken part in the warm up, preferring to just go and warm up as I toddle. I’m not a speedy one, built for comfort not for speed is my mantra.

The call came to get into our appropriate starting pens and with the rest of the plodders I headed for the 60 minutes and over pen, also referred to as the back. The usual chatter started up, pictures of random strangers were taken and slowly I started the grim realisation: I needed a wee. To make matters worse, I also discovered I was hungry. Pushing these and other distractions out my head I waited for the pens to move forward, hopping from foot to foot to keep warm and discussing the merits of not shaving/waxing ones legs with another woman – it was decided that winter was no time to de-fur the pins and the fur helps to keep warm.

An agonisingly slow 15 minute shuffle later and we were finally crossing the start line. According to the chap on the PA system the leaders were already at the 2k mark by the time we started. Wearing my black bin liner, I started a plod and finally found the sun on my back and a clear path ahead of me. By the time I’d reached the first km marker, the bin liner became a cape as I started to warm up and the blood started flowing to my frozen extremities. Dodging a few mad blokes in pink tutus and feather boas saw me to the 2k mark and the Batman style bin liner has been discarded. Glancing down at my watch saw a 12 minute mile and for the first time in a while my pace was steady, breathing happy and even and no stitch that usually plagues my runs.

Much of the race passed fairly uneventfully; trotting along with the occasional glance at the Garmin saw a remarkably steady 12 min mile (ish) pace that felt comfortable and even and with the sun on my back and the original pain in my left hip and knee that has been twinging for the last couple of races gone, the Abbey slipped into view and with it the 5k turn around point. A few seconds slower than my PB 5k time and I swung around the bend and into the inward 5k. Usually I would have gulped down the water that was on offer at the 5k point but on this occasion, I didn’t need it. More than anything I wanted to keep going especially as this was the first race I hadn’t felt the need to walk for reasons of pain and/or lack of breath.

Another quick time check showed I had increased my pace by 10 seconds a mile and slowly the metres slipped by back into town. A little boy stood on the pavement with his father and his little voice piped up “Daddy, why are all these people jogging?” I couldn’t help but laugh and shouted back “Because we are all mad!” His father laughed and encouraged us on. I was talking to a lovely lady called Yvonne who at 69 looked easily 15 years younger. Slowly I slipped away from her and she spurred me on, telling me to keep going. A few people later and the 8k marker loomed. Marshalls were lovely, saying encouraging things and my heart soared. I knew I was close to a PB for this race, but more importantly, I was still running – not a single pace had been walked since I crossed the start line and I wasn’t about to give up now.

As the final km was upon me and the hill that I had conveniently forgotten about became very real I realised I had a huge grin on my face. A grin that was only due to sheer stubbornness and joy of running – a joy that I though had rapidly left me – thankfully I think it’s still there.  The finish line came into sight and the clock showed 1.28 and them some seconds, but given the epic line crossing I knew it was somewhere closer to 75 minutes. The beep of the timing chip and my Garmin stopping was simultaneous and the grin threatened to split my face. My final chip time was 74.49 – 35 seconds short of a new PB but in so many other ways this was a PB. For the first time ever, I ran every single step of the race. No walking, no stopping, no pain and no panic. Just fun. I now have to find the final 17 (or so) miles of the challenge and then I will have completed this Madness. Caroline reached her 100 mile marker under the viaduct on Kirstall Road and finished in a very impressive 55 mins and 11 seconds – a new PB for her too.

The Dash might be a turning point for me…we’ll see how the next couple of races go! J

There she goes…in green and pink and more than a bit sweaty. Gun time 1.28.55, chip time 1.14.49 (74.49) – and not a step of it walked.



WHOOOOO! Yesterday’s Abbey Dash was my final race of the challenge, and as we passed under the Kirkstall Viaduct, exactly the 100mile mark, I stripped off my Macmillan vest to reveal my triumphant t-shirt (made by the lovely people at Picture The Print). I am chuffed to bits having finished with a new PB of 55:11 (can’t quite believe it!), I’m still a bit emotional today. I’m so proud of what we’ve both achieved this year.

Jem’s got the same t-shirt, and it won’t be long til she gets to wear hers.

100 miles of brilliant races, most of which were represented in t-shirts I saw on fellow runners yesterday. One amazing year.

Tatton Half Marathon – 4th November

I’d shared my nephews bedroom, and got to wake up in the best way possible, with early morning chats and cuddles. Doug decided that he was going to be too busy to come and watch, as he was working out the rules to a new lego game we’ve been talking about for a few months, and that I could help him. I told him I had to run a half-marathon so would have to be out for a few hours. “Yeah, but it’s not until 9.30, and it’s only 7 now, we could get loads done….”

Returning to Tatton Park in Cheshire, the site of the cathartic Race for Life which we walked in June with Mim and the lads, set up a nagging worry in the back of my mind. What if the course was hilly, grassy and bumpy, like the 5k? Even though I’ve done loads more miles on grass now and I find it far easier than I used to, it’s still horrible to run on for any distance, and on a cold wet November morning, what if it was slippy? *shiver* Yes I am a wuss.

I decided to just take whatever it threw at me. This was the 2nd to last race of the challenge, all I had to do was get through it, and having barely come down from the high from my PBs at Birmingham and Scarborough, I wasn’t out to break any records. I’d told the gathered Legard and Sanders family that not knowing the terrain, I was hoping for about 2:15ish, and that’s what I set out for. It was an honour to put on my Macmillan shirt and be wished the best of luck by Dave and Sallie as I set off.

Dan and I set off for the stately home and joined a long line of cars trying to get into the park as the clock ticked down to the 9.30 start. I was getting a little twitchy as car doors began to open and other worried runners began to run the last couple of hundred meters rather than wait in the car. I was not going to get out – starting a race with a panic and a sprint is not a good idea, a stressed tummy and 2 hours of running do not mix! It didn’t take too long to get into the car park and get to the start line, they weren’t going to start without us.

Perhaps a few hundred people were standing in the fog, wearing longs and hats, and mostly club vests. There were a few of us ordinary mortals, unaffiliated, and occupants of bodies that were not the long legged, sinuous, wide shouldered practiced runners. I joined the pack, huddling in for warmth and chatting with other cold people. They reassured me that it was a flat tarmac course, and when we got on to expected times, they reckoned it was a good PB material. “You’ll do it in 2:05!” one lady said, and the irresponsible part of my brain lit up and grinned psychotically at the rest of me. Dan took a photo at precisely this point – it’s blurry, but I love it! 

This being essentially a village and club run with no need for the big exciting countdown and send off, we trotted off after a polite and understated horn, into the mist. The first 2 miles were a loop around the estate, where I remember trying to get warm and concentrate on getting my pace set, and at one point surfacing from my thoughts to find myself surprisingly close to a sheep. As we circled back from the fields into the farm yard, crowds were gathered and the marshalls were clapping people through, cheering by calling out club names on vests. I was fairly sure that Dan had followed my instructions and gone home to wait while I was out plodding, and wasn’t expecting any special applause, so when one marshall spotted my t-shirt and yelled the ever pride-swelling “COME ON MACMILLAN!” I raised my arms in acknowledgement, and got a cheer from the crowd and grinned back – and then I noticed Dan’s beaming and surprised face. He yelled something encouraging and sent me off into the estate again feeling as though he’d caught a glimpse of one of the reasons I love racing for Macmillan. I thrive on the support of people I’ve never met.

The route struck out onto the roads, through the pretty Knutsford village and then out to Ashley. Nothing much happened. I ran, it was fairly easy, I was happy. The sun came up a bit, I finally got warm after about 5miles and stuck my hat in the back of my shorts, not sure whether I looked like I had a rabbit tail, or if I just looked a bit daft. I stuck with the rabbit tail idea, I like rabbits. I fell behind a runner whose vest said her name was Marinda. This kept my brain occupied for most of the run, as simple things often do. Did her parents mean to call her Miranda? Was she Australian? Another older woman was just ahead of me too, and I gleefully overtook 2 svelt and model-looking women, and made it my business to run better with my square, chunky little body. A man with camo shorts in the colours of South Africa’s flag was ahead by about 20 runners. These were my markers and for several miles it was just a matter of keeping them in view. I accepted water where it was offered, and took a Gu Energy gel that someone held out for me at 7miles, slowing down to eat it. I’ve not practiced with them so I knew I was taking a chance, but I liked it, and it got to work straight away and kept me going.

All I recall about the final miles was bearing my markers in mind and seeing people who I thought had left me behind way back coming into sight. One of the women I’d spoken to at the beginning, last seen behind me where the route pinched on itself to add a few extra metres at about mile 3, came alongside at about 11miles for a progress chat, and suggested I take another gel before pulling ahead by about 50 people. The road flattened off from a slow gentle incline and I pulled ahead of Marinda and the older woman I’d been pegging behind. The skinny women overtook me, and then fell back too as we entered the grounds of the House again. I tried to push everything into the last mile and pounded the tarmac as fast as I could. The finish line came in sight and Dan was there yelling, eyes wide, disbelieving. He pointed at his watch. I crossed the line and stopped Runkeeper. I swore. Jumped. Bounded over to Dan with my arms in the crooked elbow, clenched fist “COME ONNNN!” of a surprised goal-scorer. The text message from my chip confirmed it almost immediately. 2:02:05!

Full of adrenaline, triumphant, overjoyed and very noisy, I babbled delightedly to my proud big brother while I got changed into my hard-won t-shirt and put my medal on and went for a walk around the farm, waiting for the line of traffic leaving the park to calm down. My favourite thing at Tatton Park is the fantastic wooden playground that’s not just for kids, and I celebrated with a go on the zip wire, waiting patiently for my turn behind a couple of 4 year old girls.

We called Mim to tell her how it went, and heard a cheer from the other end of the phone and left the park, thankfully heading away from the traffic jam leading people back to the main road and heading to Altrincham via the back roads. Someone was handing out flyers as we went through the gate house, and Dan passed it to me. On returning to the house, I was enfolded in hugs, bombarded with cheers and plied with wine. Dougie had done his maths, and told me that based on this time I could do a full marathon in 4hours 4 minutes and 10 seconds. I handed him the flyer. He read it out “Greater Manchester Marathon – 28th April 2013”.

“If you did it, I’m not doing anything on that day, Auntie Calorine, I could come and watch you.”  The mad psychotic part of my brain’s ears pricked up. “3:30, Caroline” said Sallie. My internal grinning running addict began to sparkle dangerously…

Scarborough 10k – windy but worth it!

As the title suggests the McCain 10k in Scarborough was a touch breezy, but then any coastal region on the North Sea in October is hardly going to be akin to the Bahamas. Never the less, running in chilly conditions is infinitely easier than in warm ones so the nip in the air was a welcome one as the pre-race preparations went ahead. I’ve not been doing much in the way of training of late due to a number of reasons, mainly I couldn’t be bothered but also work, darker evenings, being shattered, enjoying new things have got in the way.

A week after throwing myself round the Birmingham Half Marathon, running a 10k seemed like a bit of silly idea when all I wanted to do was sleep,  but it was booked and I’m not one to turn down a race (never thought I’d hear myself say THAT) and to be honest,  the end of the year is looming rather large in the mirror. In short, I needed the miles! An early start fueled by coffee and a bagel helped get the adrenaline flowing and before I realised what was happening, the jogging bottoms were off, bags stored in the Spa Complex and I was on the start line, nattering to other runners and trying to keep warm.

Being a slow plodder I started at the very back of the pens in the 70 minutes and over section, faffed with the Garmin, swore at the “warm up” lady and shuffled over the start line…and then it hit me. The old feeling, the grin spreading as my legs remembered what they were designed to do – I was a runner again. A slow one, but a runner no less. As we flowed down the road and into the town, running parallel to the sea I started to think about the race. It was a bittersweet feeling – mainly due to the muscle pulls but recent events are catching up, life is changing and this challenge is drawing to a close.

The miles slipped by, with a change in pace and wind direction. Running across the South Bay and into North Bay I was in step with a couple of other plodders and it helped to keep my pace up until we saw the first man on his way back in – at 22 minutes he was steaming ahead. All three of us turned and looked at his retreating back and said in unison “bloody hell!” – it will never cease to amaze me how quick some of these runners are!  A welcome smile flashed past me and on I went, itching for the 5k marker. Through the sea front, up into the park, past the open air theatre and on to the Sea Life Centre. Suddenly the 5k marker was there…but we had to keep going. Much puzzlement and anguish…surely the 5k mark is the turn around point? Apparently not.

As we turned into the final 5k and homeward stretch the wind decided we weren’t working hard enough and picked up a stunning pace, smacking us in the face with a hefty dose of salt spray and fresh air. Gulping down as much air as possible while trying to maintain a decent (ish) pace is not easy so all that I could do was drop my shoulders, put my head down and keep going. A couple of hundred metres later I fell into step with the 2 girls I had been tracking the entire race and couldn’t resist giving a bit of a challenge in the form of saying “you don’t want to be beaten by the fat girl do you?” It had the desired effect – they picked up the pace and I picked up mine.

Checking my Garmin one last time as I rounded the final corner after trotting rather happily through the last town stretch I knew I could finish this comfortably within my self imposed cut off of 80 minutes. I was spurred on by some lovely marshals at the roundabout and the thought of warm jogging bottoms, coffee and fish and chips on the beach and seeing runners finished and giving me encouraging smiles and words made it a lovely last few hundred metres. Crossing the line at 75 minutes I was home – final chip timing had me finished in 75 minutes and 6 seconds, only a minute slower than my PB at Lymm all those months ago in April.

Tired but happy, salty and tousled and rather sweaty I broke into a grin and stretched. Another 6.2 miles down…and closer to completing the Madness. Thank you Scarborough – think I might be back next year; my most enjoyable 10k yet.

October Geeky Stats!

“What? It’s only the 3rd!” I hear you shout. “How can there be Geeky Stats so FAST?” Well. There just is this month. Deal with it.

All measurements in inches.

Jemma Caroline
Bust 40 (same) 39 (down 0.5)
Bicep 12 (up 1) 11 (down 2)
Waist 32 (down 1.5) 33 (down 0.5)
Hips 39 (down 2) 38 (down 3)
Thigh 22.5 (down 2) 22.5 (same)
Calf 15 (down 1) 15 (down 0.5)
Weight No scales! 11stone 4lbs/ 158lbs (down 4 lbs)

Again, don’t take the measurements as gospel – I think we’re measuring in slightly different places, although I love it that the trend is down again!

October Training:

According to our records using and the app:

Jem went out for 4 runs, including the McCain Yorkshire Coast 10k at Scarborough.  She ran for a total of  5 hours, 48 minutes and 45 seconds, and covered 26.08 miles at an average speed of 4.75 mph (12:38 mins/mile), which is a 47 seconds per min/mile faster than last month. At the end of October, Jem’s race mile total was 76.5, leaving 23.5 still to run, and the Abbey Dash booked for 6.2 of those.

Caroline managed to get out 10 times, including the Scarborough run. She ran for a total of 10 hours and 16minutes and 20seconds, and covered 62.57miles – at an average speed of 6.14 mph (9:47 mins/mile), which is again, a little bit faster than last month. Caroline has had her total wrong all the way up until now and has discovered that she seems to have been counting a non-existant 2.1miles, so she actually really has precisely 82 race miles in the bank, with the end in sight after the Tatton Half tomorrow and the Abbey Dash.

Both Jem and Caroline’s totals included the Birmingham Half Marathon…something that Jem has decided she never ever wants to do again but Caroline is storming ahead with her half marathons and really enjoys the distance.

The cold weather’s here. It’s time for wrapping up and making sure we’re easily seen when we go out in the dark. This is the hard end of the challenge, but we’re nearly there. The stats say so much about how far we’ve come and I for one am extremely chuffed with what we’ve each achieved. I ca’t wait to be slicing and dicing the numbers up for the final comparison in a couple of months!
***Edited 1st Dec to correct Caroline’s total running duration. More than 17 hours indeed? Don’t be daft! And I hadn’t included the Birmingham Half miles in Jem’s race mile total. Sorry! ***