Amsterdam

This is a rare non running post.

For a few days at the end of August I had the opportunity to travel to a city I had heard plenty about but never been.

I hardly travel on my own, I feel if anxiety takes a hold I may not be able to deal with it. However, I was invited to meet up with a group of people all I had to do was get myself out there. No big deal for some but a massive deal for me.

The week or two leading up to my flight out I was really suffering, thoughts were shattered and I felt hot and bothered for large portions of that time.

I was dropped off at the airport by mum and dad. As they drove off the feeling of aloneness and anxiety swept over me.

Dragging my case through the check in area I knew I had to get a grip otherwise I would fall apart very publicly.

I had checked in online so all I had to do was get through security and into the departure area.

The queue through security was incredibly long and the area was hot. My case got pulled and questions asked about my liquids, mainly make up and shower gel (I must reduce this next time I travel). Once through I decided to get a coffee and a bite to eat.

Soon I was called to the gate, having booked priority seating I didn’t have to endure the bun fight others did. Seated and settled the flight was about to start. Since watching mum drive off and me having a talk to myself I was ok but the noise of the engines started me off again. Flying is not my favourite pastime.

However no sooner we had taken off the plane was getting ready to land. Soon after that I was stepping on Netherland soil. I was picked up at the airport and I got my first feeling of excitement I had done it!

Amsterdam was for me a place of contrasts. Beautiful buildings, a laid back vibe but with a vibrant nightlife.


The weather threw a spanner in the works on day one so plans needed to be changed. Frustrating but it was inevitable and ok once I got my head round it.

The time I had there went quickly and trying to cram as much in as possible meant I was tired and I still didn’t get to see everything.

Things I regret/now know

1-I didn’t take my running stuff, a run there would have been fantastic.

2-An extra night/day would have been useful to do the stuff that could not have been done due to the weather on the first day.

3-Being hesitant about travelling on my own, it was actually ok and less stressful than with others.

4-I like travel, I missed home but I think I found a lost piece of me during the days away thanks to the new experience.

5-I need to travel more.

One day I would like to go back and see the city again. In the meantime I will see if the travel bug remains and what could be the next port of call.

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London tourist

Living in London and once upon a time working in London I have never really appreciated the fine city.

One hot Friday that changed.

Myself, hubby and our friends decided we were  going to see London from a height.

First up was the sky train cable car. Soaring over the Thames I was thrilled to see this part of London from this height and it was high!

Next was the O2 climb, something I had been terrified about but keen to do nevertheless.

The climb up was hard on the legs and at one point we were asked to wait on the slope as a member of the climbing party was having difficulty. After standing there for about 10 minutes I started to have a panic attack.  The picture shows me going through the attack and how I looked at the end.  The smiles at the top were true feels of enjoyment and relief.

Jumping onto the tube, next stop was the London Eye.

The weather had been kind on the climb and we hoped it would remain for the views over west London.

The views were amazing. There are 32 pods on the Eye but as there is no number 13 pods are numbered up to 33.

Next stop Oxford Street. More to the point Selfridges for their rooftop cream tea.

Newly opened that week we made our way up in the express lift to the roof. Oxford Street below you could hear the rumble of the traffic but distant.


We were given a huge spread and nice pots of tea. I wasn’t expecting to feel full up but I felt I had to waddle out of there.

It was an enjoyable day. My personal highlight was going through with the O2 climb and overcoming a fear.

I would recommend the Selfridges rooftop restaurant.

London is one of the best cities in the world, a huge fan and I will want to do a tourist trail again one day.

Being Critical

I hate having my photo taken, I am hyper critical and I am not photogenic in the least.  If I take a selfie I am often mugging up to the camera.  In a group I am the one that looks uncomfortable and not sure what to do with myself, with my face, body or how to smile (crazy eh?)  At events I am unaware of the camera unless it is someone right in front of me, therefore I am caught unawares and I look rough.  Many people, male and female look fabulous in their photos, strong, in control and bloody amazing.  I am jealous but proud of those looking great whilst smashing their goals.

Today I want to share some photos not because I have a look at me vibe about me but its a message that despite how I look and what I think I am still doing it.  Anxiety keeps trying to take a hold and I am at the moment trying to push it back but I am still doing it.

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The first picture is from Spitfire 2016, this was taken at the end of the last lap.  When I first saw this photo all I could see was my shin splint taping and how large I looked against the rest of the team.  In hindsight I look back with fondness as I had a brilliant weekend and completed a 24 running event for the first time ever.

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This second photo was from my first official half marathon in Richmond.  I was coming into the home straight and felt tired and emotional.  When I first looked at the photo I thought it was ok, I looked at my body and hated my shape, hated how I look like a fish having to breath through my mouth but the overriding feeling that I had completed 13.1 miles was more important.

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The photo above was taken at the first parkrun at Billericay.  I was showing my work friends as we were taking about hideous photos and I thought this was pretty grim.  My red face matched my top.  I was really digging myself over my body shape when my colleague said, actually its a brilliant photo, look at that focus and determination!  I still didn’t see it but I do remember that it was taken on at the finish straight so I was determined to finish. On a technical course I was pleased to finish.

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Another parkrun and again in the red top, you cannot see my tomato face because of the shade but I promise you it was there. I look at this picture and wonder what I was thinking about with my clothing.  I needed the long socks as I was trying to avoid shin splints in the lead up to spitfire 2017, but the top and short were not working together and I look shorter than my 5 foot 2.  Not a flattering angle in the least, dumpy.  On the flip side this is the final hill to the finish at Hockley, an interesting hill to say the least and I was running up it.

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The image above was taken at Stort at the finish line of the 5 mile.  I loved this event and the smile showed how happy I felt in completing it and not suffering from anxiety or injury.  My head is up and I look confident.  I still hate how my feet are not flying and that I am not super speedy but this is probably a time when I didn’t feel so self conscious and didn’t care what others thought.  I was proud to wear club colours and show that this girl can!

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A non running photo.  My trainer took this of me at my request, deep down I was feeling unsettled and anxious and not sure if I was making progress in any aspect of my fitness.  I spent a lot of time leading up to this photo questioning myself.  I did not like this picture I look tired and chunky and the workout was tough but my trainer did also point out that I was strong to be completing the circuit and I was smiling.  Also that I have come a long way in being able to achieve the things that I have so far and focus is the future.  I need to keep the focus and attempt to smile through all my workouts.

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This last image is the one I am cringing over.  Taken at Brentwood (oh please god let me have at least one glam running photo).  I had suffered heartbreak hill and anxiety up to this point and I was genuinely pleased to be racing towards the finish line.  I look like I am wobbling physically and mentally all over the place.  I cannot see where I am going and the grass is long (covering my foot) so I felt even more unsettled.

This is not a narcissistic post, as you can see my photos are pretty hideous.  I wanted to pass the message on that although I hate my photos I also see they are part of life and part of the events I take part in.  That although I look really questionable in them I am still getting out there and trying to make that change to myself and be healthier by moving more.

Any tips on how to get a great running photo would be gratefully appreciated.  I hope this post has not given you nightmares.

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.