End Of Year Celebrations

I have been working in education for many years.  I have ups and downs with it, working in some fabulous establishments and not so great places.  Every end of year forces me to review how I feel about a place and also where I see myself the next academic year.

I started my current job in November 2016.  It was a change of direction for me from the previous roles I have had but it was a direction I wanted to go in.  It has not always been plain sailing, there were some incredibly hard days and some amazing days.  Days where I question what I am doing and then what others (parents, government, colleagues) may be doing.

I realised that where I worked was pretty special with the end of term celebrations at Christmas, I was well out of my comfort zone but I was having fun whilst helping others. Easter was much the same, with a massive end of term celebration to send us off for the two week break. I knew the end of term/year celebrations would be amazing.

The celebration assembly was two weeks before the end of the school year, prizes were given out and we celebrated diversity and pride.

The last day of the year is known as Wow Day.  There is a theme and this year it was the Wild West.  I had heard a lot about Wow day but I needed to see it for myself.

We collaborated with another college, them as cowboys and us as native Americans and we decorated our college areas accordingly.  My outfit was purchased and I dressed as a native American along with the rest of our college.  Days were spent preparing the sets, with tutor groups doing their thing with tasks I set for them, such as making dream catchers, mini totem poles, masks and animal pictures. The days leading up to the last day was filled with painting, cutting, costume making, planning and replanning. I made a huge totem pole, wooden signs a pretend fire from tissue paper and fairy lights.  I had students make things to hang from their teepees, tumble weed and native drawings.  Colleagues made cactus from cardboard and other things to compliment the whole set up.

Finally it was Wow Day, I pulled into the car park and saw fairground rides being set up in one place, bouncy castles in another, a bucking bronco and a bungee run in another.

I could not believe my eyes.

All hands on deck for the morning whilst the kids competed in events outside.  We set up our set, the corridors were buzzing with a great atmosphere, the end of the year was close and we were putting on a show.

Students were called in and we had a short amount of time to get them ready and the rest of the rooms set up.

The idea was that the head and executive head (wearing headdresses) would be pulled along by a trolley made up to look like a canoe, the students would be banging drums to a beat, the canoe/trolley would then stop outside the college office where silence descends and a native American prayer would be read and a drink served in a wooden bowl.  Then one of our tribe would be kidnapped by the cowboys from the other colleges and a mini bow and arrow/gun fight would take place before the head and executive head move onto the next college. Once done it was all hands on deck to clear away and get the after party started.

And oh what a party, looking back I still cannot believe I was part of it.

I was given a large water blaster and as I walked out into the open I could see students and staff alike with similar contraptions.

Never have I had the opportunity to chase down staff members and my students and soak them.  I was soaked in return and I recall chasing members of the PE department at one point to get them back for an earlier attack.  My mate and I tagged teamed and got the English department and various other kids.  The foam cannons went off so the foam party took off, I danced to the DJ music under the foam with students and staff around me.  There was fun and laughter everywhere, for me it was like a release after a strange week and a full on year.

After a while of chaotic activity the music changed a countdown started and the gallons and gallons of paint came out.  There was electric in the air as the kids realised what was about to happen. I grabbed a paint gun and loaded up bright fluorescent orange into it.  The music changed again and just at the right moment we unleashed the paint onto the waiting students and then staff around us.  I was covered in pink, orange, green, blue, yellow, I looked like a rainbow. My hair was like dreadlocks, my war paint added earlier was now different hues and I had not laughed as much in such a while.

It was time to see the students off, us staff stood by the gates and clapped them out wishing them a safe summer break, they looked as colourful as us.

The drive home was interesting, still covered in foam, water and paint I was certainly getting some odd looks from other drivers.  A quick shower and I was back to normal but with some added happy memories.

 

Horndon 2017

The 10k at Horndon on the Hill is always held the last weekend of June, held the same time as a feast and fayre and is a staple on the Grand Prix. 2017 marked the 25th year the club had been attending.

A bumper turn out of 60 members ensured that we turned the crowd blue and yellow.

A fabulous turnout

My arrival was early, I wasn’t running but three in my car were and they wanted to get to the village, parked and numbers collected early. But, very soon we were joined by other club members.

The race started and myself and the cheer squad I was with cheered the club as they made their way round the course, I cheers other runners on too, always nice to support, it’s less about me and more about spreading positivity to all.

Very quickly the front runners were finishing and I was proud to cheer friends, club members and other runners through, waiting until the last one was through.

After, I discovered that one of our runners had fallen and another from another club helped him and encouraged him back up, that’s community running support right there.

I always like to think I am supporting the fastest in the group but more importantly those who are not as fast but putting in as much effort.

Runners that stick together are stronger together, divided we never gain strength.

The picture below was posted on the club Facebook and struck a chord.

Support is everything

Steps on a Journey.

This is going to make me feel uncomfortable I dislike photos of myself but I also feel as if I am in a place where I can share the journey I am on and will remain on.

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The first photo (below) is of me on holiday in Disney, a few years ago.  I have cropped out the others in the picture but I was a huge lump compared to the rest of my family.  I was at the peak of my weight gain, I was unhealthy, I was unfit.  I could not walk far nor did I want to.  I was on medication for depression and my lifestyle choices had a lot to be desired.  I returned from this holiday and sat myself down gave myself a talking to and started to make some changes.  I came off the medication as soon as I had the all clear from the doctors.  A little while after my body was used to having no medication and things were in balance mentally, I decided that I needed to review how I was living my life with the eating the lack of exercise and the simple fact that I could not be bothered to do anything.

I started learn to run the new year after this picture was taken, it took me a few months to figure out what I should be doing after this holiday by the Christmas I had decided to join a learn to run course at a local club.

The second picture (below) was taken in May this year when I was helping at the Westminster Mile.  In the interim I have lost some weight, embraced running where I have completed a marathon, a few half marathons, a number of 10ks and lots of 5ks.  Although I had a job that I excelled in, was comfortable but was no longer a challenge so got myself another job that I even now I enjoy and I feel I am making a difference with those I interact with on a daily basis.  I have come off my medication and remained off and although I have wobbles I find better ways of coping.  I go to the gym and lift weights.  I swim and generally have become more active on a day to day basis.  I have been able to get to the second picture through hard work, stubbornness (sometimes) and with the fabulous support from my husband and those in my very close circle of friends.  I have hiccuped on the way, I have had good runs, rotten runs great days and days where I need to just be careful with myself.  I have eaten things that are not healthy but I enjoyed them and I have made up by exercising or eating well for the rest of the week.  I see these photos as documents of my journey and that second photo is not the end result as I still heave weight to lose and more fitness to gain but a step on the path that I am walking.  I am proud of who I am and where I am right now and I look forward to what the future me is like.

If you are pondering your own health choices and wanting to make the change please do, small steps is all it takes to start with, you don’t have to go dramatic to start with get out go for a walk, join a gym class, try a new fruit instead of that chocolate bar, maybe have 1 less glass of wine or have meat free Mondays.  If I can then you can.  This Girl Can!Beforefullsizeoutput_13bc

This Girl Can Organise a Race

My volunteer role at the running club as you may have read is Race Secretary.

This involves arranging a Grand Prix competition for club members and an annual ELVIS race that is open to all the clubs in the area not just in house.

The GP was underway with the first race at Hatfield.

The thing that was taking up time and energy was organising the race. Until doing this role I never knew what went into organising a race. This race although low key and off the streets involves just over 6 months of planning, course measurements, licences, council conversations and paperwork, looking at first aid, setting up an on line booking system, costings etc.

It is key that everything is in place before the event, nothing goes wrong on the actual day and the tie up after the race is cleared up with queries resolved, results processed and verified.

Although stressful, because of my organisation skills, OCD and eye for detail I cover every eventuality. I also looked at other races to see what worked well and what could be better and learn from previous mistakes.

This year I knew that I had to control everything, too many cooks would mean lots of last minute adjustments or people assuming someone else was completing a task. Unacceptable.

Every detail within my control was looked at. Placing strong marshals at key points, writing out my timetable of events and keeping notes about where I was on this project.

Tuesday dawned, the weather was not in my control and it was pouring down. I was at work worrying about conditions.

By the time I got to the park the rain had almosted ceased but the wind was making for blustery conditions.

Most of my marshals arrived on time and I was blessed that have so many offers of help which meant I had people who knew what it was like to run, marshal this event for runners. I had given each volunteer a pack with what the race entailed, where they were meant to be and clear instructions on what they had to do.  They were my trusted high viz crew!

Making my voice heard

 

I had arranged for fruit and water at the end of the race and the chip timing company had offered to print individual results as they crossed the finish line so runners could eat healthy and review their times.

First aid was an ambulance staffed with 4 volunteers, you hope they will never be used but unfortunately this year as in previous years they were. One of my good running friends collapsed on the course, thank goodness for first aid!

Team photos taken by all the clubs. The weather broke and sun was out.

Team blue and yellow, I had no energy to stand!

I had my briefing and all too soon it was time for me to stand in from of 300 people, introduce myself and explain details of the race, nerve wracking to say the least.

A 3,2,1 and they were off, the front runners super fast and on schedule to finish around the 30 minute mark with the slower runners finishing up to half an hour after them. I had the chance I cheer some of my pals on.

A quick look around, people seemed to be ok. My pal had been sent to the ambulance and I was very concerned about her but she was in great hands.

Runners were coming in at the finish, the fruit was popular as was the timing tickets.

The final runner came through with one of my besties sweeping as his role as tail runner.

It was time for prize giving, once again my strong Essex tones swept across the park as I read out names.

Soon everything was packed up and I could finally relax. Everything seemed to go well, I was waiting for feedback and I still had to process the results but people seemed happy.

A trip to the pub for a celebration drink then home to bed to make up for the lack of sleep from the previous few nights.

Checking results and getting them verified took longer but the feedback was positive.

Although I had to do most of the work the race could not go ahead on the night without the fabulous volunteers that gave up their time to help myself and the club to hold such an event.

This girl can definitely host running events.

The Two of Me

You may have read previously that I do suffer from panic attacks and other mental wobbles.  I have been going through a phrase, running although helpful wasn’t getting to the bottom of the recent issue.

I feel like there are two of me, the face I put outwards, most times thats the pretend confident me, the one that supports others, cheers those other people on championing them, the smiles.  Then there is the hidden face, the one that is full of self confidence issues, judging myself, poor self talk.

The hidden me has been really busy recently, permeating my waking moments whether I am being active, whether I am at work or in my down time.  Work is ok, I am probably my most confident there anyway, I know what I am doing and how to do it so the doubt and fear get squashed back down.  Its the other times that it really pops up, like when at a meeting, at a race, in a gym class, out of my comfort zone, when I feel I am being attacked.

I recognised what was happening when I started to withdraw, I still want to withdraw as I do need time for myself and reflect but in doing so I feel that I could offend my friends, how can I explain to them what is happening to me?  I have been stung before when I tried to explain the situation to who I thought was a close friend only for them to twist it and it bit me firmly on the bum, after this I learned not to discuss how I felt with anyone, so how can I explain to my friends what I am feeling and what I need without offending?

I am trying to be mentally strong and carry on, exercise helps, good weather helps, having my family helps.  Recognising who is good and true is important, I cannot cope with a person who says the right thing but behind the scenes does something else, so knowing who to trust is essential.

I am trying to practice mindfulness to help, I certainly do not what to go back onto medication or those dark dark days.  I don’t want to to be all about me either, this pity party needs to end.

If anyone has any advice on what worked for them I would be grateful.

 

 

 

London 2017

There were quite a few members of the club running the Virgin London Marathon 2017 and as always many club members who were not running were up at mile 19 1/2 supporting not only our club members but many other runners.

Since joining the club I have always enjoyed VLM support, the atmosphere is amazing and I find the whole day stressful, exciting, invigorating, inspiring and emotional on many many different levels.

The day dawned and after sending out best wishes on the club Facebook page to those running, hubby and I met our pals and travelled up to London.

I had some dear friends taking part and I was determined to cheer them all through.

Waiting for our club runners, watching the elites.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


At mile 19 1/2 we set up our base.  Some club members were preparing oranges to give out, some were cheering the elites though whilst others were unpacking jelly babies ready to put into pots for those who needed a sugar hit.  Our first running buddy zooming past in super quick time (he finished in 2:53), we cheered on all as soon running buddy after running buddy arrived at this check point.  Some stopped to take refreshment or pats on the back, some waved as the went past not wanting to slow down their pace.  The sun was out it was getting warm.

Our best friend was due in next and his wife was with us (also one of our best friends), already worried as he had set off too quick (by the tracking app) we were concerned on how he would be by the time he got to us, soon he arrived, relief flooded through me, he looked ok and he gave his missus a hug she too looked relieved. A quick pep talk and he was on his way, he looked tired but still strong.

A few more friends came through, one really lapping up the attention and stopped, selfies were taken and cheers all round.  An amazing moment in a day of amazing moments.

We were waiting for our final running buddy, one of my good mates and I had been training with.  It was getting late and we were worried.  The tracking app showed she was nearby so myself and 2 friends walked up the course, there were few runners now so we knew she needed a boost.  In the distance we saw her just as she saw us, tears from her and I felt glad we had made the effort to meet her.  We grabbed her and hugged her, then taking her hands we walked her first to the water station grabbing a drink then down to the support group.  I felt so proud, I always believe nobody gets left behind and today of all days I wanted to prove that to all. I gave the painkillers over as requested, and she was on her way.

April 2017 marathoners

Running isn’t always about pounding the streets, counting the miles or PBs sometimes its about pure raw support and being there for others, cheering people on, basking in their glory and celebrating their achievements. If you have never been to London to see the marathon I would recommend it, its one of the few times you get to see people in the capital cheering others on, people talk on public transport and the atmosphere is just brilliant.

Roll on 22 April 2018!

Cancer Research Winter Run London 5th February 2017

It is time to get into the tardis and play catch up with some of the events I took part in during my sabbatical aka time away from blogging.

The London Winter Run is something I always look forward to on my running calendar.  Having completed it in 2016 and bagged myself a PB before then incurring a few injuries (lets just gloss over that for now) I wanted to return in 2017.

A big group from the club met up and travelled up to Trafalgar Square ready for the off.  The faster runners in the group set off to start and us steadier runners made our way shortly after.

The weather wasn’t too bad, not really freezing but there was a chill in the air, well it was February after all and there were polar bears about! We set off and steady we went the kilometres passed fairly quickly and I felt strong.  Suddenly at the 4k marker someone cut in from of my friends and I and although I didn’t stop I pulled up a bit a slowed, a tiny panic attack threw me, I could have been injured I thought.  Friends rallied and then I rallied.  Excellent support from my friends and the crowd I made my way to the finish where the faster friends were waiting.  I crossed the finish line tearful, I did not dare look but my pacing mate told me it was a PB, I looked down and she was right, 8 minutes quicker than last year.

We made our way to the docklands and had a hearty pub lunch, the mood was fabulous.

Things I like about this event:

  1. The atmosphere.
  2. The route, looking at the buildings and seeing London from a different perspective.
  3. It reminds me of the time I saw the fireworks by the Thames on NYE with my family and having to walk back through the celebratory streets of London, happy times.
  4. It raises money and awareness of a good cause.
  5. It is flat and doable.
  6. Easy bag drop.
  7. The polar bear hugs

What I don’t like about this event:

  1. It gets very busy at the start in the pen.
  2. People are often starting at the wrong time and are either a) cutting in your way, tripping you up or b)slower and in your way.  Why people cannot keep to the left I never know.
  3. The bag you are given for the bag drop is a bit small, just about big enough for a jumper.
  4. Can be regarded as expensive.

This event would be a great 10k for those new to the distance or those who like something with a lovely atmosphere.  If this sounds like something you want to take part in, you can sign up by clicking the link here.