Have baby, will run (for brunch)

One invaluable lesson I have learned over the past decade or so masquerading as an adult, is that you cannot do this life shit on your own. Finding your tribe is, at different stages of your life, is imperative to staying sane. This goes for moving countries, learning a new skill, or entering motherhood. There are many many ways to skin a cat, and many many people who probably do it just the way you’d like to and can show you how.

There have been a few pivotal periods in my life where this has come to bear, the first when I quit drinking (finding mates that are awake on a Sunday morning is a good place to start), the second when I took up running and found the inimitable Run Dem Crew and the third when I became a Mother. Thankfully there were a few awesome people in both sets of previous tribes that by the time mamadom hit, I had a pretty great collection of babes and their bubs to add to my village.

But as with all good things, you have to keep at it, your priorities and abilities change, you may find yourself in a different place, your kids get bigger, your circumstances change (for better, for worse) and as such the tribe needs to evolve to include more people, maybe a few drop by the wayside, some grow with you some grow out of you (and you them).

I find myself at one of these crossroads, with a three month old son, creaking hips and a desperate need to let off steam. As mentioned, any hitting of any bottles (even tiny ones) is a no-go, there’s only so much Netflix any one mushy brain can take, and the lethal combination of caffeine and sugar, while it got me through the first foggy months, is a sure fire cocktail to whip up my anxiety levels, screw with my sleep and my waistline. So I need something else, and Baby Yoga ain’t going to cut it.

My go-to quick fix for the past 5 years or so has been a run. A quick one, a long one, a run with mates, the solo run, the ‘I’m just taking the dog around the park’ run, the training in the rain run, the run that has random obstacles in it, the ‘why-the-fuck-am-I-doing-this’ run and the ‘thank god I went for a run’ run.

I am no speedster, my race times are not enviable, but that was never the point. I run to keep sane. I have met some of the best people through running, it’s opened doors in other areas of my life creatively – I started writing again,  took up photography – it’s taken me travelling to run in mad cities with mad people, got me fit, made me brave, and ultimately saved my ass on more occasions that I can count. It’s the thing I do on a Sunday morning when I would have been nursing a hangover in bed. It’s built my confidence and shown me the heroic in others. Putting on a pair of running shoes for me was as transformative as alchemy.

But my pregnancy and running didn’t really get on, with the aforementioned creaking hips, and a core that is still recovering from accommodating a baby, I have not run more than 3 miles in the best part of a year.

I’m basically back to being a newbie. No fitness to speak of, and a deep seated fear that I won’t bounce back, given walking a mile has me wishing I was being pushed in the pram.

Now I know that’s unfounded. I will bounce back. In what form is still yet to be seen. But in the spirit of reaching out, if I have any hope of reclaiming my nikes, and my beating my 10K PB, I’ll need help. I’ll need a new tribe. Or a patchwork venn diagram of the tribes that have gone before. Mates that run and happen to have kids. Or freelance mates who don’t run but would like to give it a bash and don’t mind a few babies tagging along

So I have downloaded my trusty Couch to 5K app from days of yore, dug out the lycra and I’ll be hitting the parks of London, building up the all important base line, with pram and changing bag to boot.

Here’s the ask, I’d love company, its motivating and makes schlepping a sleep deprived body and niggly baby around all that much easier to manage.  If you’re new to running, haven’t run for ages and you’re free on a week day morning, or just fancy a (slow) jaunt around some of the best parks in the world, drop me a line here. I don’t bite, I won’t (can’t!) run fast so please don’t be intimidated and it should be a great way of getting out and about, blowing off the cobwebs and seeing more of the brilliant city. Hopefully getting the babies to sleep too.

And nothing beats a banging brunch post run. I need brunch back in my life






Twinge and Whinge – With Added Biscuits

I am sitting on my sofa, eating a Viennese Swirl on a Wednesday. I should be eating poached salmon and green veg and egg whites. I should be mixing whey protein and peanut butter shakes for supplements and probably stretching. Yes I should be stretching and focusing on my core, and stretching some more.

I should be doing all of this, but I am sitting on the sofa eating chocolate covered Viennese Swirls. And catching up on Hannibal, Luther and 90210. I have eclectic taste like that, serial killers and rich spoiled teens, a very good mix. I am doing everything I shouldn’t be doing in some very childish bid to rebel against the fact that I can’t do what I want to do. Which is run. GAH

After managing to remain totally injury free for 6 whole glorious months,  I got a bit cocky. Which is very easy to do when you’re getting all over excited running with Run Dem Crew West, pushing up the mileage  and slowly, getting faster. Hooray, I hear you say! Amazing! What a result!

Nah. My right leg says otherwise. In fact my right knee *screams* otherwise. Not all that surprised to be honest, the left leg got all the attention last year, so its only right and fair that this one now starts throwing a tantrum.

So I’ve booked physio, I’m taking it easy. I am trying not to whinge. I am burying my fury at myself for not adding in enough cross straining and stretching with chocolate and screwed up coppers. Standard. I’ll wallow in self pity and complex carbs tonight and hit the spinning classes tomorrow.

On the positive side. It will get better. I am getting faster. And I’m having a blast. Now just to get my knee in check

Run Dem Crew West (photo credit to Cory Wharton-Malcom)

Stella Hangs Up Her Coaching Lead

I have known for sometime that I was going to have to re-evaluate my training runs with Stella. The vet had recommended that after 7 to 8 years, the pressure on their bones from the impact could do more harm then good and suggested trail running for the majority of the time. So I have been taking her out on shorter runs, or concentrating on parks over pavements.

Stella is now heading on for 9  (that’s 63 in doggy years) and realistically I don’t think I can take her out running as often as I used to without risking wearing her out. Not that you’d think to look at her, she still has the bounce and just plain crazy energy of a Jack Russell crossed with all the Staffie determination. But its all in much shorter bursts and she is exhausted when we get through the door.

I really noticed this today when we went on a very short (but fairly quick) run round the old neighbourhood, she wasn’t rearing to go, she stayed right next to be rather than careening out in front, and she was panting hard after 1.5 miles. Now that is partly the heat, but her lack of interest to really gun it on the straights, made me think it might be time to retire my coach. She deserves a break!

To say I am very sad about this is an understatement. If you know me or have been following this blog, you’ll know she was one of the main reasons that I started running in the first place, nearly three years ago.

She was my motivation to get out the door in the early days, getting all excited when I put on my trainers (even when I was less than inspired) and helping to spur me on out the door. She helped me gain confidence in being my company on long runs, and later on night runs. She was my body guard too, she can look fairly ferocious, and interestingly I got a LOT less street harassment from idiot bar flies when I had her on the lead! She was my partner on intervals, racing me up hills, barking at the top of Holland Walk while I wheezed my way up and down. I can’t really imagine not running with her in the run up to my next foray with the Royal Parks race.

So as a tribute to the best coach a gal could wish for, here are her best bits

Stella bosses around Holland Park. Standard
First Long Run along the canal. We hit Subway after 

Stella totally embarrassed by my shameless selfies post marathon rejection 
Stella Contemplates Holland Walk

Post Squirrel Killing Run. There was a lot of blood. Eww

Snow Running. Not a fan

Thank you Stella. You got me out the house, through Couch to 5K, up to half marathon distance, and the only casualty was that one squirrel.

Looking forward to long walks in the park and chilling out on the sofa. And I promise to stop dressing you in hoodies from American Apparel

Don’t Call it a Comeback! Nike’s We Own The Night: May 18th

Saturday. Night. Owned. So much has happened over the past 8 weeks in the world of Lycra. Training began in earnest having signed up for my first race since the ill-fated Royal Parks last year, I discovered the power of social media in getting (and staying) motivated with Team Pretty Fit (thanks Sophie!) and FINALLY joined a running crew (RDCWest). 
(From L-R) Jade, Cara (me!) and Charlie clocking 8km in Notting Hill 
Come May 18th, I had  found a whole host of new running mates, which made the longer training sessions in the lead up to the race that much easier, and added to the the massive buzz pre-race.
This whole experience was completely different to my previous medal hunting expeditions. As most of my mates are not massively into running, the races themselves and the training, were generally fairly solitary experiences. Wake up, race, take a few pics, and go home with a few very kind words of encouragement from close family and a few friends (always appreciated from your nearest and dearest don’t get me wrong!). But this was next level stuff. 

From Friday night to Saturday afternoon, my timelines were jammed with words of encouragement, meet up plans and ideas for various after party madness. By 3pm I could barely sit still, never mind, RELAX pre-race as we all know we’re supposed to do.  Needless to say I have everything set up and organised hours before I needed to head off to Victoria Park. Such a control freak running geek. Not going to fight it any more!

Neon-tastic race shirt and spangly lyca

Getting to the race was easy enough,but  finding everyone was a different matter. As everyone was wearing the orange shirts it was very hard to see who was who ion the sea of neon tangerine. The bag drop queues were very long and no spectators were allowed in the runner’s village (massive oversight, and lots of complaints). The running ‘pens’ weren’t very clear and there was a fair amount of confusion about what the orange/pink band actually meant!

But the atmosphere was almost as electric as those neon shirts, with over 3,000 women all getting ready to smash out 10km BUZZING.

Runner’s Village. Cushions – Comfy

This buzz reached fever-pitch  pre-race when guest star Paula Radcliffe came on stage and announced she’d be running the 10km too. How often do you get the chance to say you shared the tarmac with an Olympic legend and all round heroic individual?! Spectacular.

However, I was very disappointed with the questions Nike/Elle asked Paula on stage. From what outfits/ kit she liked best (does new kit motivate you?) to what make up she liked to wear while running (she doesn’t bother, funnily enough). Personally I thought these were really lazy questions at best, and bearing in mind we were here to RUN, not pose in kit and try on lipgloss, it would have been much more useful to have heard more about motivation and  training techniques from such a huge role model. Not whether or not waterproof mascara features in her pre-race kit. FFS.


But a little bit of rage isn’t a bad thing pre-race, something to add to the adrenalin to get my pace on! The first few km were very congested as ‘orange’ was hugely oversubscribed and turning around some of the tighter turns had some of us coming to a complete stop. That and the fact my lycra was not staying put, meant I didn’t get out ahead as quickly as I would have liked. But by 4km, I had turned up the waistband to add a bit more grip, and found my rhythm.

That and Cheer Dem Crew (boys from East and West!) were out in full force and gave us all the lift we needed – you guys were AH- MAZE- ING.

By 6km I realised my dreams of getting a sub 60 min time were a tad unrealistic. I was averaging 6 mins 10 seconds per km and I was not getting any faster. Certainly not fast enough to make up the time required. So I settled into that pace and gunned for sub 1:05 which would still bring me a new PB. One hour Two Minutes and Thirteen Seconds after I started, I sprinted over the finish line (and nearly tripped up… but lets hop they didn’t get that on camera)

Post race atmosphere was hectic to say the least. There was no race medal which was disappointing (a very flimsy woven bracelet? say what?) and a lot of congestion at the finish line. After queueing again, no-one could find my bag for 20 minutes as the bag drop was absolute chaos. Thankfully I waited so long, it was nearly clear by the time I threw a strop and they allowed me into the area to find it myself (!).

But other than the admin/ logistical pit falls (always to be taken into consideration with a new race) it was brilliant to meet the RDC ladies from East as well as catch up with the ones from West I hadn’t seen along the way. Loads of PBs, first timers and amazing race stories across the board. Whoop!

Christabel Rose and myself: NIGHT OWNED
So, a new PB, new running mates, new goals and even a neon T-shirt to show for it? Not bad for my first race in 6 months! And screaming quads aside, I’m looking forward to RDCWest tomorrow and getting another 10K in the diary ASAP. 
*and this time a sub 1hr 10K (please!)

London Gets its Spring On

Its been a good week in my parallel life of Lycra! And about time too, its been a long time coming, the training has been progressing, but its been baby steps and frustrating at the best of times. But in the last few weeks I’ve finally started clocking some decent mileage both on the treadmill and out of the road.

This great week also coincided with the weather finally improving (not a coincidence), meaning everyone it out and about and there are so many less excuses to not get laced up and out the door. Plus, it’s lovely to be outside at this time of year. Lighter evenings, magnolia in full splendour all over Notting Hill and spectacular gardens in bloom in Holland Park. And no need for cumbersome layers weighing you down when you run. So I have been swapping a few treadmill sessions for the great wilds of West London, reacquainting myself with some of my old routes from the summer last year.
London, showing off and looking glorious in the sunshine, for the Marathon
Its has also happened to coincide with the London Marathon, on the warmest day of the year so far and bolstered by the huge wave of support in the wake of the horrific events at Boston just a week before. Half a million Londoners came to support the 35,000 runners and we were there at Mile 25 cheering for our friend Frani Heyns and everyone else who sped past us. I was hoarse in about 45 minutes. It was fantastic. 
Danni congratulates the Fantastic Frani – first marathon in 3:18!
It was amazing to see the social element of the sport really coming into play to motivate and support friends and family through the last mile and a bit. Powerful stuff and I admit to getting a bit overwhelmed more than once (*sob*). 
The most social I’ve been in my running  has involved a few sessions on the weekend with my mate Emily, which came to an abrupt end when I was injured, and we haven’t yet managed to pick them up again (Em, we need a few Ealing routes soon though!). While I was returning to form I wanted to run on my own, to build up my confidence again, and get to grips with having to go really slowly. I didn’t want to hold anyone else back (or show up my frustration, there were tears and tantrums)
Then, last Monday, I joined up with Run Dem Crew West. I have been following a few of their members on Twitter, having seen a few articles in the running press and a few of them out in force at races, so they’ve been on the periphery of my radar for awhile, but I’ve not had the time (or nerve) to check them out myself. Then, having signed up for We Own The Night, running with Team Pretty Fit led by a RDC member, Sophie Levett and needing to inject a kick into my training, it was another stroke of genius timing and the last push I needed to try something new. 
So I turned up at Paddington Rec (far too early, like the eager bod I am..such a nerd) on my own, in my running kit and it  was a more than a little nerve racking. But I got over it. 5.5 miles later I felt like I had met a whole crew of fellow running nutters, happy to talk pace, race,  Lycra, training and getting smash up on endorphins. Cannot wait until next Monday to do it all again!
In the meantime, I’ve clocked in a few more runs, a pretty hardcore up tempo 5K run as part of the training plan and a spinning class. I have also survived Week 1 of the new, no dairy, added whey protein eating plan regime designed to help me lose the last four stubborn pounds, and highlight muscle definition. I am already seeing the difference in my arms. Amazing what a difference nutrition makes, but that’s for another post.

Post 5km up tempo run., Stella not impressed
Stella contemplates the new lycra with disdain 
And lastly, to round off my seven day running extravaganza, on Sunday, I’m off to finally meet the rest of Team Pretty Fit to rack up some mileage around Victoria Park. All in all a pretty fan-fucking-tastic week indeed!

Royal Parks or …The Plan B Race

I finished it. Yes. I finished. This is what I keep repeating to myself while alternating ice packs and hot water bottles while recovering on my sofa post 13.1 miles this morning. What a race. But for very different reasons.

It was such a beautiful day, perfect weather, and everything was going incredibly smoothly, no delays, no queues, I was feeling relaxed and positive about the race. I had told myself that I wasn’t going for a PB, with my injury, I really just needed to get round. So no pressure.

But once I was there absorbing the atmosphere, all the buzz in the air, the anticipation, part of me really thought the universe may just conspire to deliver me a 2:15. It was sunny after all. In October. Crazier things have happened. Right?

Emily and I set off at a good pace and I honestly felt pretty awesome up until about mile 4 – so technically the very start of the race. Emily’s very uplifting chatter of, ‘we’re nearly a third of the way there!’ helped, for about another mile or so, and then I had to drop two more Nurofen to counteract the now, very painful ITB. And I stopped being able to keep to our pace.

Come mile 6, and my sunny disposition was starting to darken. I was already tired, how can this be? Well I can tell you, three weeks with just cross training is a very poor substitute for the real thing. I kind of knew this in the back of my head, but again my over positive mind frame pre-race, let me conveniently forget it.

Between miles 8 and 9 I thought it may just be over. Or at best I’d have to make peace with the fact I was going to hate every inch of the course left to run and may just cry my way through it. Nurofen helped a tad, but then the other ITB started to strain which threw me off my game plan completely. Both sides? Are YOU SERIOUS!?

At this point I felt a tap on my shoulder, ‘you alright love?’ says a woman wearing the same charity shirt as me. And for once I didn’t try and front it out. I’m not sure if it was the implicit camaraderie as we were running for the same charity, or the fact that at this point I thought I may vomit, but instead I said;  ‘Not really, having a pretty tough time, I’m injured blah erg, blah URG, blah *sob*’ And Julie just got it.

And by some minor miracle, Julie was in a pretty similar state to me, and more than happy to keep me company while I just got myself back together. Having torn her calf muscle running the London Marathon earlier this year (at mile 16, with another 10 miles to go – and she still finished!), she was looking at walk/ running the last 4 miles. Which sounded like a good Plan B to try and salvage the rest of the race, and possibly my ITB (and sanity).

And from that point my race improved dramatically. Julie’s fantastic demeanour and inspirational story helped distract from the pain, and well, we just had a laugh. I stopped taking it so seriously. I gave up the idea of getting anywhere near a PB. We talked to other runners. I managed to jump up and down enthusiastically when I saw my friends and family who came to support (ouch, but worth it). We helped first time half marathon runner Katie, manage a particularly nasty stitch. We waved at everyone. We made faces at the cameras.  We finished with a spectacular 800 metre dash (er, hobble really), in just over 2 hours 39 minutes, actually smiling. Plan B.

Now that’s nine minutes slower than my PB, but I’ll take that. Those nine minutes reminded me of something pretty core, that I had forgotten to have fun when training. It was all splits and miles logged and comparing schedules with other colleagues, desperately trying to achieve perfect form, and ultimately finding myself in a lot of pain on physio tables. Not fun really. At all.

So I’m going to take some time out to recover, sort out the injury slowly and properly and then take to the street again, when its healed,  without the expectation, or added pressure of an impending race. And just run, for fun. To feel good, and have a laugh.

Until Paris next year that is!

DONE. Badge to prove it 
Amazing to have my Mom here to see me run all the way from Sunny South Africa

Countdown: Two Weeks to Go

Numbers UP!

Two weeks today, hopefully I’ll be putting my feet up after completing 13.1 miles in the Royal Parks. Race number has arrived, charity vest is at the ready, and with a few more physio sessions lined up between now and then, I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll be racing on Oct 7th.

The ITB is still causing some discomfort, but I managed 10km (with a break for added stretching) this morning without wanting to throw myself in the Serpentine. So provided Emily brings the chat, my ibuprofen lasts and these agonising foam roller love ins pay off, all will be well. I’m doing about 20 minutes a day with the blasted thing (10mins in the morning, 10 in the evening). I’d say we’re getting a tad co-dependant. Stella is not happy and took another chunk out of it while I wasn’t looking.

I’ve managed my prescribed exercises all week, mainly as the trainers were gathering dust due to the annual seasonal cold that has been going around, but I’m really hoping they help in the long term, and I don’t get told off by the physio again!

The REGIME as imagined by Stick Man 

Good Week, Bad Week

No good deed goes unpunished, past few weeks have certainly been proof of that!

Having got back from France relaxed and fitter than we were before we left, we discovered Stella the Dog wasn’t very well and shipped her off to the vet to get her checked out. Thankfully she’s fine, dosed up on antibiotics for a mild bug, but the vet did notice that her poor paws are looking a bit worn and has suggested she only run trails. No more pavements. Or I need to buy her some Nikes.

Coach: On sabbatical 

So I am currently without a coach. But I managed a decent five and half miles last Tuesday, trying out a new route via Hammersmith to shake it up a bit.

Wednesday a few of us braved the wilds of North London to visit Move Three Sixty on advice that Hannah Richards had passed on when we met during one of Sweaty Betty’s Run Britannia events.

We met with Claud Serjeant for our assessment who quickly worked through analysing our postures, videoing our running styles (cringe!) and checking our footwear. He gave us some invaluable insight into where we were going wrong, what the aches and pains were pointing to, and how to correct them. It’s all about the glutes! Oh and the hamstrings. We came away with core strength exercises and stretches to begin working into our training schedules. So many ‘ah ha!’ moments around balance, symmetry and kinetic movement, I wish I had brought a notebook!

Saturday I had my first Yoga class of my beginner’s course at the Life Centre. Ninety minutes of basic stretching, postures and some interesting new types of breathing (who knew?!).

The Life Centre in Notting Hill

Armed with new stretches, (mad breathing) and awareness of posture, Emily and I banked 15km with a pretty decent pace for 7:30am on an unseasonably hot Sunday morning. And all seemed well, up until about 13km, when my knee started to complain and its been niggling on and off just a little too much for me to ignore. After all of that!

I managed only 3 miles this evening, before it started playing up again and now I’m a little injury paranoid. It may just be a par-for-the-course ache, rather than anything more serious, but nevertheless I am icing the knee with as many frozen peas as I can get my hands on. Oh and eating chocolate pudding, I hear it has pretty good healing properties. I may just take another rest day with the Coach.

Chocolate Pudding. Good for knees

Run Britannia!

In a bid to transform myself into an early morning workout obsessive, (which I’ll need to be to clock up the miles needed to actually get a decent time in the Royal Parks) I made to commitment to meet my running BFFs,  Emily and Laura at 7am on Sunday morning. That’s a 6am wake up call on my usual Day of Rest (i.e. 11am lie in!).

Needless to say, it was a struggle turning off the snooze button and lacing up my trainers. Even Stella didn’t budge in her basket as I left this morning.

I did feel very smug to have arrived at High Street Kensington before any of the morning trains had even kicked in for the day.  Less smug seeing hoards of Olympic volunteers merrily striding down the streets looking polished and ready for action, while I was still yawning and checking if I had my t-shirt on the right way round!

We had decided to trial Sweaty Betty’s Run Britannia, a program of sightseeing runs (5k or 10k) through London running over the Olympic period.  Although we were slightly apprehensive at first thinking we may just be running alongside very fast, very experienced Sweaty Betty Staff and uber runners, we were greeted with huge smiles from the team and set off at a manageable but challenging pace. Note: I am slow, clocking 11 minute miles, so needed a push!

We chose the Royal Park run, which seemed fitting for our training, and with beautiful weather and early enough to be a bit cooler – we meandered through Kensington Park Gardens, via the Royal Albert Hall clocking up 10kms, with a few tips on form and pace along the way from coach Hannah.

Those tips clearly paid off immediately as I clocked up my fastest training 10km! Shaving nearly 4 minutes off my last race time

Back at the Hight Street Ken branch, we were presented with fantastic goody bags (the coconut water went down a treat!) including water bottle, bag and flash neon laces. Nice reward for the weekly long run indeed, thank you Sweaty Betty!

Planning on a few more sessions, taking in up Soho and a bit of window shopping around Harrods – fitness, fashion and soaking up the Olympic atmosphere? Perfect.