The Menopausal Marathoner

Tina was a non runner just over a year ago. now she’s a marathoner…

My marathon journey started on a slightly damp and dismal day in November 2016. After a  Sunday skills session in Mawsley with the SheCan crew we naturally went for coffee and cake…I was obviously enjoying it too much, as when Kate said she wasn’t doing Brighton marathon in 2017, even though she already had a place, mouth worked before brain, (not unusual!), and I heard a voice saying “I’ll do it if it can be transferred!” And so it began.

It actually took till nearly Christmas for it to be confirmed that Brighton had okayed me to take Kates place – December 13th to be exact.

What had I done???

My training was tough at times…..completely solo until the last couple of sessions, no iPod for company, just me and the trails and roads around Irthlingborough. Thankfully, Katy Hadaway joined me for a couple at the end, which, I now realise, lifted my moral enormously.

April 8th 2017

Caught the train to Brighton at lunchtime to pick up my race pack. Kev knows Brighton quite well and we meandered to the seafront through The Lanes so I could calm myself down. So many people! I was also a little nervous of the fact the weather forecast had said highs of 17 degrees for Sunday – I hadn’t planned for that, it is the UK after all.

This is it!!!

Preston Park. Wow. A sea of glowing, fluorescent lycra and a heady atmosphere filled with anticipation, excitement and nervousness. We quickly forged a pathway through the mass of bodies to the bag drop, and then headed to Green Zone. Thankfully, Julia & Liz were already there which put me much more at ease. I hadn’t realised till then just how nervous I was becoming which, I dare say, was actually a good feeling as I had been relatively calm in the week building up to it. Kev  took a couple of pics of us together, snatched a kiss and a good luck, and left me to it. We were in the corral waiting for about an hour as all the faster runners set off…then it was our turn. Julia and I had decided to see how much we could do together.

We set off at about a 12 – 12.30 pace, all good, turned a corner and….hill!!!  What? We weren’t even a mile in yet! Ah well, “head up, lift your feet, use your arms!” (Wonder where THAT thought came from…). Miles started to pass, we were at ‘chatting’ speed, sun was shining, hand slapping, and loving the cheers from the Brightoners. It was around mile 5 I heard Kev shout my name – it may have been early on, but it felt so good to hear a voice you know and to get a quick hug.

Heading on through the town was lovely, then it was time for the long stretch out, up by the golf course before turning back to the sea front for the first time. This road seemed never ending, but we were jollied along by some complete madman who was recording on his go-pro – he was certainly entertaining! As we turned into a small residential area, people had really started to walk occasionally. We slowed and had our second gel and a few sips of water. There were shouts to move over as an ambulance needed to get through, hope whoever it was for were not suffering too much. It was maybe then that the seriousness of the heat really became apparent. The forecast had been for highs of 17 up until today, but had changed in the morning to the low 20’s. And yes, it was feeling damned hot by now.

Back down the coast road and passing the golf club again, we could see the next water station. Yes!….or maybe not. They’d run out!! What? We weren’t even halfway and there was no water! We both still had supplies with us so carried on but it didn’t bode well. (To be fair to the organisers, I looked back a couple of minutes later and a lorry was dropping off more bottles – but it shouldn’t have completely run out before re-stocking).

It was then that we bumped into Emma, was good to have a chat with someone who sort of knew us. Not long after we also saw the lovely Laura Chambers!  Another hug that just had to be done!

Back through the town and my spirits lifted once more. I was absolutely loving it! I heard my name being screamed again, Kev and my step-daughter Tara were once again in just the right spot. I waved and went to run on but then thought I need another hug – I’m nearly half way and didn’t know if I’d see them again before the end, so I ran back and snatched a kiss and cuddle of them both. I really was so happy. In my own bubble I hadn’t realised my running mate was struggling a little. Julia asked me to carry on without her, but we stuck together for about another half mile until she insisted. She needed the loo and was going to find the next lot. After checking a couple more times that she really did feel ok, no headache etc I did continue.

It was a bit strange for a couple of miles knowing I was now solo, (if being among 12,000 people is solo!), but I muscled on. Back through the town and headed into another residential area, Church Street I think. It was around this point that I noticed an awful lot of people being treated by paramedics. And I mean a lot. Thankfully, the residents had sprinklers aimed at the road and kids with super soakers were doing their utmost to keep us cool. The support was unbelievable. Fresh fruit slices, water, Haribo, jelly babies – even got offered a really cold glass of prosecco (no, I didn’t!).

I was heading back down this residential area on the other side, when I saw Liz and then Julia again. I was so pleased! Especially seeing Julia as it allayed my fears that she had been struggling – she was still going and looked pretty strong! Just before the end of Church Street was the mile 18 marker – not sure if I was happy I’d got that far, or dreaded the thought of another 8 miles……ah well, onwards I go!

Mile 19 passed, mile 20…oh no – the dreaded Power station area. Support was thinning out rapidly, and more water stations hadn’t got any gels or cups, so if they even had water it was a case of cupping it in hands to drink it. I re-filled my bottle at every opportunity and found it sufficient. I’d passed so many people sitting on pavements, heads bent, or St Johns treating people, I wasn’t going to risk anything! I picked up discarded bottles frequently to pour over my wrists to cool myself down – it seemed to be working well for me. The industrial estate, while being a bit of a dead zone, had loads of sprinklers set up to run through, and this did indeed help.

I walked mile 21 and some of 22, chatting to a lovely lady called Debbie about everything and nothing. I recognised from our starting area so at least knew I must be doing ok considering. We started to run again, but she had more in her tank than me and headed forward. Just passed mile 23 and I realised I only had a ‘dog-walk’ left to do! Easy peasy right?! …….WRONG! It was here I had to give myself a good talking to – I even slapped myself round the face! As I’d started to tear up a little. I don’t think it was the dreaded wall…it was more a sense of “I’m going to do this! I’m going to finish a bloody marathon!”  Me, who around 18 months ago smoked 30 a day and easily demolished a bottle or 2 of wine of an evening! But I quickly said to myself that I wasn’t there….yet!

A bit more of a run walk run past the brightly coloured beach huts and I started to get the happy feeling again. The crowds were also building up – yay! The support is invaluable! It’s something you just can’t put into words. More fruit slices and Haribo being dished out – a small gesture but a great boost.

Mile 24 and 25 passed –run, walk, run, repeat. I heard someone say to a lady that was running for Guide dogs for the blind “Come on, you really can do this!” and I egged her on too, “It’s just a small dog walk left love, you can do it!” As I found myself saying this to help her on her way when struggling, it also helped me. The fantastic mile 26 marker came into sight when I heard my name being screamed once more – yep, Kev, Tara and my brother in law, Chris all screaming for me! I gave a royal wave as I carried on past them! I was doing this!

That last 0.2 of a mile was never ending though! And then I saw the official photographers lining both sides of the road, I could even hear the shutters going off as they snapped away…and the black rubber matting suddenly seemed to be zooming towards me….6 steps, 5, 4, 3, OMG! 2, 1, YES!!!!

The rest is a bit of a blur….I’d done it!  50 days before my 50th birthday, I’d completed a marathon! I am a marathoner! I’m menopausal, still slightly overweight, but I can run a marathon!

I’m a menopausal marathoner!!!

And I’m bloody well proud of myself!

Would I do another? Hell, yes! I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing! Evening the sobbing uncontrollably when I did eventually find my family nearly an hour later!

You should at least try it – at least once. You know you can…. I can! SheCan!

Oh… 4 days on, fully recovered I think….Except it seems I’ve just entered for 2018!!!

 

 

Brighton Marathon – A Supporter’s Story

It’s Brighton Marathon Eve, so we felt it was fitting to share Natalie’s blog…a supporter’s story.

Two years ago this weekend, I went down to Brighton for one of my best friends running the Marathon and it was a lovely weekend that we shared together, even though most of the time was spent apart!

I was there for her in a supporting role and I enjoyed every minute of it. The weather was beautiful and the sun cream was applied, but it was a bit too warm for running really and I didn’t envy anyone running in the heat.

The atmosphere was electric and though I didn’t get to see much of the actual race itself, I was there to soak up the remarkable achievements of everyone taking part and for the reasons why they were running. Everyone’s story was different and very personal to them.

I didn’t see my friend start as that was out of the town and I missed her on a corner that I was sure I was going to catch sight of her about 5k in, but I was tracking her on the App and we spoke on the phone.

I was there to take her mind off things when her foot started hurting around miles 15-16. I also encouraged her to keep going when things got tough and I hoped her seeking medical attention would help.

I managed to get a good spot on the finishing straight and I saw her at the finish and despite her pain and discomfort she looked strong on her approach to the finish line. I was so proud of her and her journey and I was completely inspired by her achievements of getting to that finish line. However, I was still completely ruling out the fact that I would ever be able to complete such a distance!

I wasn’t able to get to celebrate or congratulate my friend straight away as the charity village was extremely busy and not easy to get to and so I decided to wait on the upper seafront whilst my friend had her well deserved sports massage and complimentary sandwiches in a marquee below.

When we eventually met up, I couldn’t put into words how proud I was of her and I did get quite emotional. I felt both her pain and her relief of finishing. I was just so pleased to be there in person for her and to congratulate her.

I also got very excited about posting up her picture with her medal on to social media and then it was time to refuel and listen to her reflect on her run.

I just wanted to share this experience from the point of someone who was completely inspired by her friend’s running adventures. I felt honoured to be party to her marathon achievement and she did make me wonder if I could also take on that distance, as I sat there with only a few half marathons under my belt!

I think also it is worth saying, a seed was sown in my mind to whether I could ever run that far another year?

Never say never and yes #SheCan 💜

I would like to dedicate this blog to the wonderful ladies that I know are taking on Brighton this Sunday. I will be thinking of you and tracking you all. Go and have a great run x

Asthma – not just an excuse

Asthma. As a kid, what better excuse to get out of school cross country? You don’t even need to have an attack, just a note! Bring on years of happy, cross country free school days and zero expectations on sports day. I couldn’t have picked a more convenient excuse. Plus, you get to grow out of it, so it’s no bother.

With no symptoms as a young adult (one that smoked too), i wondered if my childhood asthma had actually just been the odd case of hyperventilating, misdiagnosed and used wholly to my advantage.

I was comfortable with that conclusion right up until the age of 28, when i was rather reluctantly talked into giving running a go as a way to lose my post-baby #3 excess weight. Initially I put the constant breathlessness down to too many cigarettes over the past 13 years. I had given up by now but knew it would take a while for my lungs to start functioning better. Several months of training followed, gradually building up my fitness, but at a much slower rate than the friends I had taken up running with.

The first 5k I ever did was a Race for Life run in Bedford in July 2012. I had put some effort into training but was still very unfit. I got around without dying and instantly the running bug bit. I wanted more of this!

Several months of running very short distances went by, each run as hard as the last, lungs refusing to  join the party. I’m not sure why I didn’t think to talk to a doctor at this point. I think I was just so convinced that it was down to the fact that I wasn’t designed to run, it never occurred to me that it might be a medical issue. Until October of the same year – my running friends and I were taking on our first “proper” 5k race. This wasn’t for charity, this was for us because we were now real runners…..well, this real runner got to about 2 miles in and had to stop and walk. And cry. Why the heck couldn’t i breathe? Seriously, i was only trying to run a flat 3 miles. I’d done it before, several times, but in the cold my lungs just said no.

It was after that experience I gave in to my bestie’s nagging and visited the doctors. Turned out it wasn’t because I wasn’t built like a runner that I was struggling, but because i did indeed have asthma. The very thing I had used as an excuse to not exercise was now doing it’s best to stop me all over again – except this time I really didn’t want it too. Life likes it’s ironies.

 

So that was the initial diagnosis early on in my running journey.  Initially I didn’t think it would be too much of an issue. Asthma is no big deal right?  The doctor gives you inhalers and you feel better and your lungs get stronger with exercise and eventually you forget you’ve even got it. Well no, turns out I got that pretty wrong. It actually took more than 3 years and a change of asthma clinic to find a combination of medicines that keep my asthma at bay enough for me to run without sounding like Sammy the seal and collapsing at the end, completely exhausted and leaving me with chest pain for days after.

I’ve been lucky recently that alot more research has been done into asthma and there are new medicines available out there. Ironically my asthma is exercise induced, but also triggered by hay fever, allergens, temperature changes etc It can still be unpredictable and triggered by new things as yet inexperienced!  I take a great steroid inhaler that worked very well for exercise induced asthma, use a standard reliever when needed, i take a tablet every night to prevent too much mucus production, a steroid nasal spray every night and an antihistamine every morning to try to keep the allergies at bay.

Most of the time this combination works well enough to keep me plodding on although it takes a few weeks with every season change to get used to the new temp/allergens etc.

One thing I learnt early on was that I was never going to be able to run at speed. The drying out of the airways from the excessive breathing irritates the lungs quite quickly. This was one of the reasons I started looking into long distance running quite early on. In fact I’d decided to run an ultra before I had even experienced my first marathon!

Turns out ultra running suits my style. Slower running, walking up hills and eating lots of food. What’s not to love? I’ve had to adapt – summer running has never been great for me as I’m allergic to tree and grass pollen – but 2 seasons of July ultras has hardened me up to it a bit.

A hug from the bestie at the end of my 1st ultra

 

I look for lots of advice and experience from other sufferers and people in the know. I got quite excited last year when one of the regular running magazines advertised that it had a whole piece on how you can still run in the summer with hay fever.  I bought the copy and went straight to the article, just knowing I was about to have the meaning of life revealed to me…..

“….avoid running outside in areas where there is a high probability of coming across pollen….”

Genius.

I’ve tried several things – a face mask that filters out allergens and makes me look like Hannibal Lecter; smearing odd smelling balm under my nose; refusing to believe I have asthma and not taking my meds.

None of them work.

There have been many runs where I have been reduced to tears, turning the air blue with expletives aimed at my lungs. They function at more than 20% less capacity than they should and sometimes I could really do with that 20%!! A cold can very quickly become a chest infection, which can take quite a long time to recover from and the first few runs post infection always leave me exhausted, frustrated and with a very see chest.

Quite alot of people discover that they have exercise induced asthma when they take up sport as an adult. The best thing you can do is talk to your doctor, keep an open mind and accept the help offered. I resisted the idea of asthma for quite a while, it felt like such a naff excuse. When your muscles stop working because you haven’t got enough oxygen going around your body, you realise that it’s no excuse, it’s a pretty scary reality.

Running with asthma isn’t always fun but it is absolutely possible and should not be used as an excuse not to try.

If I can do it, I promise you that you most definitely can!!

 

When things have to change…

Being in pain makes you miserable. Fact.

Actually, I don’t think that comes as any surprise to anyone apart from me. I’ve had joint pain for nearly 25 years now but only recently been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and treated with disease modifying drugs. For the 6 years before that I lived on heavy duty NSAIDs and before that on anti depressants as I was misdiagnosed.

 Me at the Bedford Race for Life in 2010

My first attempt at running – race for life

 

I started running in my 30s, as a way to lose weight. The dodgy ankle was very much present even back then and the lower back pain was usually there reminding me of my extra 4 stone that I tried to limp around with me. I lost weight but the pain continued. I don’t know what it was back then, I suppose it was the fire in my belly that drove me on through the pain and through several marathons.
It’s different now. The last couple of years the game changed. The pain was still there; a mix of throbbing bones keeping me from sleeping and muscles so tight and sore that I struggled to stand in the mornings. The pain didn’t change. But something deep inside my being asked me to stop and re-evaluate what I was doing.

So I did, for a minute. And then decided to sign up for one more half marathon.

 

As you do.I trained through the summer, I would even say that with the help of Methotrexate I relatively sailed through 6,7,8 and 9 mile long runs. As the season started to change, my last long run felt more uncomfortable and left me feeling flu like for days. It was a timely reminder of what my body had asked months before- stop and re-evaluate.
So I ran the Royal Parks Half.
It was harsh, right from the start. Sometimes it takes me 4 miles to warm up, so I held on to that. 4 miles passed and I still felt out of sync. 5,6,7 miles. “This is flipping ridiculous” I thought “I shouldn’t be doing this”. I then passed a man who had fallen and who was receiving CPR. I can’t put in to words what that did. Suddenly I just wanted my family. I wanted to stop this stupid race, a race I knew I shouldn’t be doing because my body had already done so much for me. I was tearful and emotionally drained.
I saw my husband just a few minutes later and cut across the runners to grab a cuddle. He told me to hang on, to get round however I could and to keep smiling. He gave me renewed hope that I still had enough fight in me to finish what I’d started. To do my last half and to get that medal.
I walked most of the last 3 miles, tears in my eyes, praying that the man I’d seen would be ok. I later learned that he died. It shook me to my core. Long distances are not to be messed with. It had become so easy for me to say ‘oh it’s only a half’. It’s 13.1 flipping miles! 13.1! It’s a long way and it puts our bodies under a lot of stress. It’s no time to be a hero if you’re not in a fit state to finish. For the first time ever, I considered myself so lucky to have finished.
That race has played over and over in my mind ever since. I have begun to realise that I don’t need to prove anything to anyone (including myself). I just need to be here for my family and friends. I can’t lie, it’s going to be tough not putting the miles in with my friends, eating what I like because I’m running 30+ miles a week and enjoying the post marathon buzz. It’s easy to get caught up in the marathon excitement, especially when the London Marathon ballot results are first out and when fellow runners start upping their miles in the spring. It would be easy to sit and wallow in self pity that I can’t and never will be able to run another marathon. But I’m refusing to allow myself to think that way. There must be something else, I suppose the next challenge is finding it.
At least with no marathon to train for, It gives me time to re-evaluate. On to new things and new challenges. I’m often asked (usually by non-runners) why I run when it hurts so much and makes me feel so poorly. Truth is, I don’t like it much. But what I do love is the running community and in particular the SheCan… tribe. It’s not just about running, that is such a small part of it. It’s about sharing good times and sad times, running off the angst, building self confidence, self worth and resilience. It’s about cake, diet coke and really grim gels. It’s about having a group of people around you who know why you run stupid miles, in stupid weather and understand that when you can’t run it’s the worst feeling in the world.
As we approach the peak of the spring long distance race season, I am choosing to reflect on how many miles I have run, not how many miles I’ve missed out  on because I have the body of an old lady. It’s about choosing to see the positives, not wallow in the could have beens.
I may be down but not out. Not yet.

SheCan…and SheWill…Part 2

Well it’s the morning after the SheCan 10k and oh my gosh I feel a mixed bag of emotions. All day yesterday I was mentally preparing myself. Running isn’t just about using your body, it’s a whole mind game as well. I knew that my body was ready, I walked lots over the weekend, managed a 5k Sunday run, medication is sort of working, I have no constant pain at the moment.

But was my head ready for it?

No.

I haven’t run further than 5k since getting ill in September. Well apart from last Monday’s SheCan 4 mile adventure. So even though my body was feeling ready I had to psych myself up. I had to prepare my mind to stay positive through it all. Being an orange hat really helps me with this and I know that I have to be positive in all the runs no matter how tough I am feeling it.

I can tell you now, it was feeling tough.

Towards the end my legs wanted to walk but I didn’t let anyone else know how I felt. I smiled and gave all the encouragement I could give. I am so proud of that because all of the ladies were amazing. But at the same time I am so happy, I also feel gutted. And I know I shouldn’t because I worked hard. But I can’t stop thinking about how this time last year my running life was so much different. I was easily pushing out 10ks at a pace that I was happy with. Last night’s run left me tired and after looking at my watch the pace was the slowest it’s been in years. That’s what I am gutted at. I remember telling the ladies one of my favourite running sayings ‘a 7 minute mile is the same as a 12 minute mile’ it really is but a tiny part of me still thinks I can do better and I will.

So as I sit on the sofa thinking about having a nice walk on a sunny day, I just need to think don’t look back but look forward. I can get better again and I will get better again.

Thanks for reading and happy running!

 

Massive thanks to Jodie, for being a wonderful orange hat, for pushing through and for always being such an inspiration. It’s ok to have a bad day though. We’re a community there for each other and that means letting others support you too x

SheCan…and SheWill Part 1

tonight is the first part of a series on running with chronic illness…written by the lovely jodie

 

Hi everyone!

Where to start. Maybe a little bit about my running history. I first started when I was at uni in 2008, something free and something to keep me fit. Running along to sunny Portsmouth seafront was great. When I moved back home I kept it up with my cousin, someone who was super fit. I struggled to keep up with her at my plodding pace but I managed and completed a few 10k Race for Life events with her.

Then I was just about to move out of the county and Emily and Kate started up SheCan…Run. I always said to myself if I ever came back the first thing I would do would join SheCan and it was. SheCan gave me the confidence to run faster, loose a bit of weight and make fantastic friendships. Since joining the ladies my running has gone from strength to strength. I ran further than I could have ever imagined including two marathons and two ultramarathons.

My first marathon bling!

 

Anyway enough about my running history, I wanted to blog not only about running but also about running with a chronic illness. I have something called Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD). A condition where cysts grow in my kidneys and liver, cause high blood pressure, enlarged kidneys, kidney infections, cyst infections and a decrease in kidney function ultimately leading to need dialysis and a kidney transplant, among other things as well (too many to mention). I have known this since just before my 18th birthday. That is why one of the reasons I like to run, it keeps me healthy, happy and my consultant says it’s really good for me.

After completing an ultramarathon last July I was the fittest I had ever been. I was in great shape and loved my running life. However things took a turn for the worst with my health, I had a bleed from a large cyst in my right kidney and was hospitalised for ten days. Now lots of people have different opinions on what caused my bleed from the impact of Go Ape (which I will be doing again), to pushing my body too far (running an ultra marathon) with exercise. I don’t think it was any of these. It was just something that happened and something that may happen again in the future. A side effect of my chronic illness.

Anyway, running took a back seat. Keeping fit took a back seat. Life went on hold for a while. Constantly feeling tired, zapped of energy meant even the slightest thing like the food shop would leave me needing a nap for hours. It’s taken six months of trips back to the doctors, months of anti-biotics and changes in medication I am slowly getting back on my feet. I have worked hard keeping myself healthy and I can now say I am happily running 5k’s again. A recent consultant appointment left me in shock about how much not running and exercising has changed my body. But I am aware that I need to find a balance and I need to get healthy for my kidneys sake.

 

Race To The Stones 2016

 

But I can tell you it’s been hard work. This time last year I was training for Brighton Marathon with a great group of friends. A memory that I love. Now I am running my slowest 5k’s in years. I am a mixed bag of running emotions. At times I feel frustrated because I am going so slow (looking at my watch is never good), sometimes I feel great and full of motivation to run (like this morning) and then I can feel so shattered I can’t move of the sofa (like Wednesday night). But I know I need to keep going at it. It’s going to be a slow, long and windy road but as long as I believe I can, I know I will. With the help and support from the great group of friends at SheCan I will get there again…

We came, we saw, we conquered…SheCan… Style!

We’ve had a busy few weeks at SheCan… grab a cuppa and I’ll tell you all about it.

 

Our beginners completed their 8 week course in the middle of November. I can’t tell you how quickly that came around for us, time definitely flies when you’re having fun! A couple of ladies completed their 5k on the dark streets of Kettering as they couldn’t make the weekend meet but the majority brought family along to meet us on a sunny Saturday at Stanwick lakes.

We’ve run 3 successful beginner courses now, since we started in September 2013. Each time we do this final run, we feel as nervous and as excited as the ladies. The goosebumps and teary eyes start as we watch them run off away from us, off out by themselves. The emotions soon turn to pride and giddy happiness when they come round the corner to the finish though. That milestone makes us feel as satisfied and as elated as the runners do. It marks the end of their run/walk course and the start of more wonderful running adventures. And that is a great thing to be able to share.

beginners14

Next up on the news list is our Mo-run update. What a wet and cold day it was today but in a corner of Milton Keynes (can’t tell you which one, they all look the same to me) there was a little ray of SheCan… loveliness as we rocked up in fancy dress to show them how it’s done. I won’t lie, I was totally over the wet thing about 5 minutes after I’d got out of the car, but there is never a dull moment with a pack of SheCanners around. I think the photos speak for themselves…..

 

mo14team

mo14team1

 

We’re a mix of ages, abilities, backgrounds and  lifestyles. United by something that most of us thought we couldn’t do. We’re a rent-a-crowd, you’ll hear us before you see us. We’re more than just a running group. We’re SheCan…

 

Fancy joining us? We’d love to hear from you.

What a month!

September seems to be a good month for SheCan… It started off with HQ receiving confirmation that SheCan… is now a registered Trademark. We’re quite excited by that and what it means for the future. That was swiftly followed by an amazing weekend at the Great North Run (read Jenn’s report here if you missed it). Later that week, we celebrated our first birthday with a really lovely evening at the Vines at Barton Hall.

happybirthdayshecan

On the night I felt overcome with emotion, barely able to string two sentences together. SheCan… has brought about several changes for me, a real boost in positivity for all aspects of my life. It’s given me so much, a lot of which can’t easily be articulated, however I really do want to try to tell the world how fantastic all of the members of SheCan… are and what it means to me.

Back in the beginning, when we set out to host a beginners course, Emily and I really had no expectation that the group would evolve and grow, let alone so quickly. But it seems we stumbled on a group of women who not only embrace our slightly barmy ways but who also turn out come rain or shine, with niggles or in a bad mood and sometimes with big things going on at home. That in itself is humbling and spurs us on when we are weary or down in the dumps. One thing is for sure, you’re not glum for long with that lot around…Running is good as a therapy but running with friends is  like nothing else.

So our crazy bunch, who are resilient and funny and fabulously individual are steadily growing and welcoming new people with each new block. It’s so wonderful to see newbies being embraced as ‘one of us’ so quickly and joining in the banter and excitement each session.

It’s that warmth and slightly barmy sense of humour that makes SheCan… so awesome, so positive, so inspiring. And I’m so grateful to you all for turning up twice a week. The future is exciting and that is driven by the passion and friendship that is grown from within the group.

shecanlaugh

And now I’m teary again. So on to the awards….

The wonderful Jennie was awarded our Member of the year for her amazing attitude towards running. She always brings a smile to any situation, even when we’re really struggling at the end of a long run. Jennie also completely blew us away when she posted from her holiday in France to say she’d done a long run- completely by herself in the French countryside. She’s one dedicated lady!

We also awarded 2 ‘Members Member of the year’ awards. Tracey received one and Ann the other. Both ladies received equal votes with a huge amount of love and positive comments for both ladies from the rest of the group. Both Ann and Tracey have shown such spirit in their running journeys, not always finding the sessions easy or comfortable but always coming back with a ‘can’t give up now’ attitude. Both have made such amazing progress and give so much to the group by way of PMA, support and sunny attitudes .

Well done you guys, you’re amazing.

But that isn’t the end of our good month here at SheCan…HQ.

We started a new beginners course at the start of the month. Week 3 beckons and this makes me happy. The first session of the week is a timed mile- our beginners set off on a flat out and back route to run a mile at their own pace. It’s always such a confidence boosting session and I LOVE to see that glint of realisation in their eyes at the end of the session…a glimpse of ‘yes, I can do this! I just ran a mile!’. It’s amazing to see.

Next up, a race report. Some of the SheCan…Run Kettering Ladies (our affiliated club members) took part in The Oundle Magnificent Ten today. A 10k off road race. The setting – Lyveden New Bield  was stunning in the early morning sun and spirits were high. It was a small event with a lovely atmosphere and only a short queue for the loo (bonus!). The route was scenic but tough under foot, especially for those new to off roading. A mix of farm tracks, long grass and woodland, it certainly made the ankles work!shecanoutlawbefore

Then we hit the hills. Oh the hills. But the course was peppered with humorous signs and lots of supportive marshals who really made the race. The end wasn’t really sprint finish material, due to the potted surface but we came in to a round of applause and lots of smiles. Thankfully due to the lovely sunshine we could recover with a cuppa and some flapjack on the grass. All in all, a really lovely morning spent with some of the SheCan… family. Lots of giggles, lots of support and a lovely warm glow (not just from the run…!)

outlawafter1lyveden

And lastly on the list of epic things to happen this month, we’ve had a few exciting letters through the post between us this week. Both SheCan… and a few of the ladies (including me, I’m beside myself!) have received nominations for categories at the Kettering Sports Awards which will be held in October. How fabulous is that? Biggest congratulations to Gemma and Tracey. If you fancy, please have a look here.

So on in to the autumn…another club race in November – a relay this time (should be fun!), our beginners will graduate with a bang by running 5k around Stanwick lakes in November. We’ve got a Christmas meal planned and a Christmas themed run all in the name of charity. It’s going to be a busy few months and I can’t wait!

Kate x

SheCan….oh yes she can!

So here it is, hot off the press! I’ll leave you in the safe hands of Jenn…this is her race report…



I’ve been up since 5 am, I thought I was going to get a lie in – ha!  I woke up feeling the burn in my legs and a twinge in my ankle – but rather than wincing, I smiled.  That’s the feeling of a girl who ran her heart out yesterday.

It’s been an odd weekend, the past 9 months have led up to this and now it had finally arrived – I was feeling confident, sick with nerves too if I’m honest but I got through that by eating myself into a carb induced coma on Saturday (I think my Mother in Law cooked enough pasta for the whole British Army).

I tried to get an early night but by midnight I was still wondering what the day ahead was going to bring and panicking that I wouldn’t get there or I’d get lost or I wouldn’t find the She Can ladies.


I woke at 5am – RACE DAY! S*** (excuse my french!) I crept downstairs to make my porridge – it was too quiet, it felt odd and it wasn’t helping my nerves.  Nerves that wouldn’t allow me to eat much porridge – I ended up forcing it down me telling myself that I had to eat or I would regret it later.  


I noticed that the sun was out – which was a bit odd, the forecast had been for a dull and cloudy day – nope!  In all the 17 years that I have been coming up to Newcastle – I could probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen the actual sun.  Oh well I thought, it’ll be fine, it won’t be hot, it’s just a clear morning.  


So I focused on getting ready, thank god I had remembered everything lol.  Timing chip was a bit of a faff – mainly as my hands were shaking but hubby took over and I got all sorted.  Time to go, do I really want to do this?  Yes, I do but let me just nip to the loo one more time :/


Now obviously Newcastle is a big city and a lot of people live there, but when we got into the city centre I can honestly say I’ve never seen so many people all in one place, that was pretty intimidating – I’m not one for crowds at the best of times but there were so many people milling about – all with race numbers on.  They couldn’t all be running surely?



The whole thing was well organised though and I managed to drop my bag off on the right bus and find where I needed to be so started to feel a little calmer.  Text messages were flying back and forth though as Emily still wasn’t on a metro – can you believe it, they wouldn’t let a banana get on a metro – scandalous!!  

The mix of people milling about amused my daughter as we saw people who were clearly hard and fast runners mixed with a pantomime cow, Elvis and Minnie Mouse.  The atmosphere was great – everyone looked a little nervous but very excited.


But it was soon time to leave the comfort of my hubby and little girl who had been holding my hand tight and this was when my emotions started to go a little haywire – I don’t think that I could quite believe I had made it this far.  The past 12 months have been a huge personal challenge for me, I wasn’t only running for myself but I was running to raise money for Cancer Research in memory of my Dad and my best friends Dad.  It all got a bit much and the tears started.  For gods sake – I’m supposed to be a grown woman – so I told myself to stop crying like a baby and get on with it.


There did seem to be a set route that the runners were supposed to follow to get into the pens but I along with thousands of others decided that it was much quicker to cross the fence and nip down the bank – not the greatest idea when I saw how steep the bank was but luckily I didn’t twist anything essential and soon found Kate – a vision in her spotty leggings.


The tension was building, you could see that everyone just wanted to get on with it.  It was hot, everyone was already a little sweaty. We saw a 6ft 6 pink sequinned vision, looking very hot and who was clearly going to be running very slowly in his dress, Batman, Spiderman, oh and Bananaman – but we couldn’t spot a banana.  Where was Emily?


Finally, we spotted a banana strolling along with everyone else – big smile on her face and everyone relaxed as we could now all move into the pen and start getting ready.  Herded in like sheep, I couldn’t really see anything other than other peoples backs – if you’re someone who likes their personal space, it’s not a good place to be.

Countdown to 10.40am (start time) – yes, yes Mo Farah is running – he’s wonderful – he’s cool but we She Can Ladies are epic – let’s get on with it!


I didn’t realise that we had started, I didn’t hear a gun go off or anything, everyone just started moving forward and then slightly jogging – more room, I have more room yay!  Oh look, it’s all

wet down near the front, I wonder if they had jets of water keeping them cool?  Oh, how naive can you be?


There’s Sebastian Coe – leaning over his podium to high five the runners.  Right then Coe – Bell’s gonna have a bit of that!  I put myself into position – leapt up and high fived the Chairman of the British Olympics Association with a roar of ‘Come On’ (I hope I didn’t hurt his hand)


The atmosphere was just amazing – Geordies are renowned for their friendliness but this crowd was just incredible.  Everyone was cheering and clapping.  Encouraging everyone as they went along – you could hear people calling out your name – the fact they do that, even though they don’t know you really was something special.  We ran under bridges to runners cries of Oggy Oggy Oggy – rallying everyone behind them.


I had thought out my running plan – slow for the first 6 miles, pick it up then smash it right at the end.  However, I hadn’t factored in the sun or the fact that within about 10 steps of starting – both my water bottles popped out of my belt and fell on to the floor, never to be seen again.  How does that happen?  I’ve gone almost 12 months with that belt – those bottles have never just leapt out at me – didn’t they want to do the run with me?


Ok – I told myself; don’t panic, there are water stations along the way, you can do this.

I looked back at a sea of people, we had lost the banana, you could say she had split (lol – sorry, couldn’t resist that one).  Right then, it’s me and Mrs Gardiner, I’m feeling good, I’m feeling comfortable, don’t lose Kate, this is it.


Running over the Tyne Bridge has to be one of the highlights for me – although only about 2 miles into the route, I knew that my family were on the other side of that bridge and to hear them cheering everyone on and then seeing them was just an amazing feeling.  Unfortunately “Go Mummy” was too soon left behind and it was time to focus.


I actually can’t remember too much of the route, weird isn’t it?  I remember that there were people cheering runners on, all along the route but I almost blocked it out, I was focused on putting one foot in front of the other determined to get to the end of this race but I could feel the sun and so could everyone else.  It wasn’t long before people started walking and that was hard on the old morale, but we were pushing on.  I kept looking round, where’s Kate? She’s right beside me – thank goodness and that’s where she stayed – we ploughed on, weaving in and out but always making sure that we were next to each other.  That felt good – having someone to run with, to keep me going, if it started to get tough I just kept telling myself, do not lose sight of Kate, keep going.


Half way – we high fived.  I was feeling bloody brilliant – “I think I might be able to do this” I smiled.


We’ve all chatted on our training sessions about what these type of races are like but I don’t think anything can quite prepare you for it, least of all the effect that other peoples running can have on you.  At mile 6, Kate suggested that we up the pace to get past those that would inevitably start to slow down, I was feeling strong we got into a good rhythm – it felt amazing.


By mile 8 – there were alot more people walking and actually alot more people starting to run through from behind.  It was starting to get trickier to get through and I was starting to feel a bit tired with the heat and the loss of my water bottle.


I think seeing so many people slowing and walking was hard.  Everyone had started with such enthusiasm and that was now waning. But we kept going, the GNR route is a reasonably hilly one, not massive hills but enough to puff you out a bit but nothing could’ve prepared me for the last hill at around 11 miles.  I was tired, I was hot and actually having a bit of a hard time.  I’d started to doubt that I could make it, so many people were walking, I kept looking up and there just seemed no end to this bloody hill.  “Kate – please tell me we’re nearly at the top” “Yep, keep going” (she lied!) .  Walking was not an option – I refused to walk anywhere on this GNR.  I had come to run – slow or fast but I was running and I was not giving in with 1.5 miles to go.  I started talking, well shouting, at myself – “Get your arse up this hill if it kills you”  “You will and can do this”, I slowed, I had to but I wasn’t walking and I was only going to stop if I keeled over.

The relief when we got to the top of that hill was crazy – I think I might’ve even cheered but then heard everyone groaning as they ran down the hill which was short and steep compared to the long hard slog we’d just put in.  Legs were going to jelly – ooowwww


Now I could see the finish line – “Don’t go yet Jenn, there’s still a way to go” said my running angel.  I don’t mind telling you, that last mile was the longest mile I have ever run.  The crowd were just going nuts “Keep going Jenn – you can do it”.  Yes, I can do it,I don’t know you but thank you for shouting for me,  I haven’t come all this way not to finish but crumbs it was not easy.  Mentally and physically I was knackered.  800m to go, 400m to go (I want to go home 🙁 ), 200m “C’mon Jenn” said Kate and we both ran over that finish line together.


OMG – I’d done it!  I couldn’t quite believe it.  My legs had turned to jelly.  I couldn’t speak let alone walk properly.  I hugged Kate – “thank you, thank you, thank you”.



So many people – yes, I had started to see them again.  The finish area was massive.  It felt like we walked another mile to find our baggage buses.  I rang my Mum.  “I’ve finished – I did it”.  I started crying, she started crying – “Oh god, I’m so proud of you” that made me cry even more.  God, I’m crying now as I type this.


A lot of people have asked me whether I’ll be back next year.  Honestly, I don’t know.  I think I’m a little too tired still from yesterday.  It was a huge day, the sense of achievement and personal pride is immense but slowly creeping in is also a sense of “what shall I aim for now?”  I’m still feeling emotional.  I’ve watched the GNR coverage on the TV and cried all the way through – I was there, I did that – I wonder if I could do it again?…………

12 months to 13.1….

This time next week, thousands of people will be putting their feet up after running 13.1 miles in the Great North Run. Here at SheCan… we’ve spent 13 weeks preparing ourselves along with a group of willing victims to take on GNR, Great Eastern and Great Birmingham half marathons. 

The lovely Jenn has been with us from the start. She was on our very first beginner course which started in September 2013 and she’s rocked up to just about every single session since, come rain or shine. And now the race is just 7 days away, Jenn looks back on how far she’s come….


Well, that’s my Half Marathon training done then.  Half marathon training – get me! 13 weeks of training all done and I feel ready for the Great North Run next Sunday.

Next Sunday? Aaaarrrghhhh – ok, I was lying – I’m not sure I am ready lol


How has that come round so quickly?  I still remember emailing Kate from work asking whether she thought that I’d be able to manage a half marathon?  Within about 4 emails – she’d managed to convince me that it was a good idea, I’d never regret it and that she and Emily would make sure I was ready – lol.  I guess that’ll be put to the test in 7 days.

I can’t quite believe that I’ve got this far.  Rewind 12 months and I was feeling pretty low – I’d hit 35 which had depressed me quite honestly, my waistline went in and out like nobody’s business and I couldn’t ever say that I’d been classed as fit – ever!

I joined SheCan… with the aim of improving my fitness but also wanting to show my daughter how important it was to try and look after yourself (hoping that I hadn’t left that too late for myself).


It hit me a few months ago how much running has helped – I was at work, trying to convince someone to join me for a run at lunchtime when she turned to me and said “You’ve changed since you’ve been running!” (and smiled)  Have I? How? But then it hit me, I couldn’t remember the last time that I’d been stressed or got really angry (and us redheads get angry – trust me). I realised that it was down to the running.  I had given myself time, twice a week at least, to go out, have time in my own head to sort things out or just switch off.  I realised then that I’d not only helped my physical fitness but my mental fitness too.  I’d surprised myself and those around me that I’d stuck it out and hadn’t lost interest after a few weeks.

That said, I was about to test my mental fitness to the limit – I’d got an email telling me that I had a place at the Great North Run!  I phoned my friend – she laughed.  I phoned my husband – he laughed.  Hang on a minute – what the hell have I done?


Still – I decided that I’d signed up for it, I was going to go for it.  I’d never done anything this big before.  I was pretty scared if I’m honest and trawled the race website to see how I could get out of it or the deadline for backing out but then I decided that actually, I hadn’t ever done anything like this before and so I was going to go for it.


If I was going to go for it, then I might as well try and raise some money whilst doing it.  As many of you know, I lost my Dad to cancer 13 years ago.  The loss hits me every day and I can’t possibly describe what that does to a person in just a few words, particularly a ‘Daddy’s girl’.  So I decided that if I was going to run, then I was going to try and raise money for Cancer Research.  


Raising money for charity has given me another reason to run but as the training has gone on, I’ve realised that I am also running for myself.  To prove to myself that I can do this and to remind myself how much I’ve changed through this running lark.  My stress levels have depleted to almost nothing, I’m more positive – having a far more ‘can do’ and ‘why not’ attitude.  


I’m not going to lie and tell you that it’s been a breeze – it hasn’t. There have been times when I’ve hated the training and found it really hard – not physically so much but mentally.  But I think I’m pretty much there – it’s taken long enough.

Over the past 13 weeks, I’ve had my wobbles, mainly to do with pace.  I’ve shown myself that I can actually run pretty quickly – but teaching myself to slow it down for more miles has not been easy.  I’ve had other runners chewing my ear a little about the pace thing – telling me that I could run it so much faster but I’ve learnt to trust what the group are being taught and realised that this way was the best way for me.  Everyone else could train at their own pace – they needed to leave me to train at mine. 


I guess that the 8 mile and 9 mile weeks particularly stick in my head for that reason.  Up to this point, all my training sessions had been with the group, but I couldn’t make it this particular week so had to go out on my own.  8 miles – that’s a long way on your own, it ended up being a run around town as well, not particularly the most inspirational scenery but I went out nice and early one Saturday morning, earphones in and gels ready.  


It was quite warm, even for 8 am – I wasn’t enjoying it, people were looking at me, I’m sure they were – I was used to the anonymity of running within a group – I didn’t like it.  At 5 miles – I was bloody knackered.  Looking at my watch I’d run faster than I’d run for weeks  – yes it was my race pace but I wasn’t sure that I’d manage the next 3 miles at the same pace.  I’d taken a gel so I didn’t think that I should be having a problem – so what the hell was wrong?  No matter how much I’ve tried to work it out, I don’t know what happened to me that morning.  I managed to give myself a talking to – actually I swore at myself quite a bit (must’ve looked like some deranged woman with tourettes standing at the side of the road) and realising that I was a reasonable way from home – told myself that I had to run home – walking was not an option.

On paper – that run was probably one of my best – in the end I did manage to run it at race pace and actually for a couple of miles, I ran my pants off (not literally – despite my previous mishaps) but it taught me that I could do it.  



One week on and I was back with the group, running a 9 miler at a much slower pace – it was torture.  I went home with really sore knees and my tail between my legs after a bit of a talking to.  I’d tried to run at a faster pace than advised, I realised that I’d been stupid – I wasn’t listening to the people that knew more about this than me.  I had promised myself that I would trust in what they had planned.  I had let my need to prove something to myself outweigh what was right for me and for my training. From then on, I set my pace on my watch and I tried to stick to it, religiously!


This morning though, I ran my last ‘long’ session before GNR with the group.  Slowly (gladly) and with my mind set on next week.  It’s great to look back and see how far we’ve all come, not just from 12 months ago but from the beginning of the half marathon training.  We’ve all learnt so much.  I know I’ve had my own demons to overcome as I’m sure others have but I can honestly say that I feel ready for this Sunday if not a little nervous – it’s a big event you know – 56,000 people last year (eek!)

I look back on our training with a smile – I’ve caught the running bug over the past 12 months – not least because of the wonderful ladies I have the privilege of running with.  From the nut jobs that lead the group (sorry girls) to Sticky, Big Sarah (although you’re not!), Jane, Jennie, Gemma – everyone in the group who make the runs enjoyable and who if not there, are genuinely missed.


Although nervous, I’m actually looking forward to running with 55,999 other people next Sunday.  From my hubby’s home city of Newcastle – across the Tyne bridge which holds fond memories towards South Shields – along roads that I’ve driven many a time and will soon be able to say – I ran down here (hopefully), in the same race as Mo Farah and a Cup Cake – wow – I genuinely can’t wait 🙂


Jenn will be back next week to give us a race report, so keep an eye out for blog updates!


We went through some tunnels at the start…


…..some runs were really cold and really wet…..
…some runs were really flipping boiling..


….but the long runs are now complete and race day beckons!