That winning feeling: signing up for races

In the last few weeks I’ve signed up for the Cambridge Half Marathon in March 2017 and the New Year’s Eve 10k race in Ely this year.

The Half Marathon is my next running challenge – and will probably be the maximum distance I’ll ever do, as I don’t ever want to have a repeat of the time I spent out of action due to injuries. It’s a really good focus to get me past the 10k training mark.

The New Year’s Eve one is, I think, a brilliant way to see out the year, and some friends are running it too, so it should prove a sociable event too (unless it’s super windy – in which case, it’s going to be a question of surviving!). There’s no medal, which I’m quite gutted about, but there WILL be crisps at the end!

Both races are very popular. When I tried to book the Half Marathon in the past I was far too late – and this year I missed the deadline to pre-register. The booking opened at 9am, just before I teach. The internet connection at the school I work in on that day is dodgy at best and so I sat outside in my car, frantically trying to fill details out on my phone.

I couldn’t sign up for the Ely race the first time places were available and so I felt equally stressed – knowing my friends had got places and how gutted I’d be if I didn’t get one. Entries for that opened at 7pm last Saturday and I sat at a computer, clicking, clicking, clicking until it finally allowed me to register.

I was SO excited once I’d got places confirmed for both. I dashed into my lesson, nearly late but delighted with myself. When I told a student why they looked baffled.

‘You’re celebrating because you’ve just paid money to go and do a half marathon?’ they asked. ‘In March. When it will be freezing cold.’

Yeah…..and no doubt the Ely one won’t be a lot of run, weather wise either. It IS a bid mad isn’t it? Being so excited about paying to do a gruelling physical activity. And yet, there are clearly thousands of runners out there who want to do these things. Both races sold out in minutes.

I might be crazy, but at least I’m not alone.


Here are the links to the races. Putting in my order for no snow for either of them now:

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Fledgling in flight: the aerial hoop


At the weekend I took part in a show, run by the Cambridge Community Circus.

The show was designed to be for anyone who wanted to perform – but with an emphasis on those without any performance experience, or very little. I was lucky to have the rest of the Community team support me on this, and help run the show (really, I was doing it in  name only – they are experienced in this kind of thing and did all the skilful stuff around me!).


I’d been ill in the few weeks running up to it, fighting off a virus. Then I damaged my shoulder the week before. A few hours before the show I was lying on my bed, wishing I could just lie there the rest of the evening. But I’d been so looking to perform, the babysitter had been arranged (which was SO complicated, as it involved children toing and froing from two birthday parties) AND some students were coming to watch. There was no way I was going to miss it.

It was such a lovely show – and all the acts were wonderful. In my opinion, you’d never know who was more experienced. Each act was slick and successful.

My teacher, Clare, had told me not to worry about my shoulder because the adrenalin would kick in. She was totally right. I wasn’t nervous before the performance – I really do love performing, and I was in my training home anyway, surrounded by a supportive audience. But just before I went on, I could feel the excitement take over and the tiredness and pain ebb away.

It is not, by any means, a perfect performance. But I pretty much nailed the timings I wanted and I am happy enough with it to enjoy watching it back (which I’ve done quite a lot already since then!).

This is my third ever aerial performance, my first being the end of a course on performing and the second in the summer. The first was in December last year and I do feel that I have come a long way since then (though still so much to learn!). I no longer feel like such a fledgling aerialist.

I particularly loved this performance because it was my choice of music, and costume (which is very important!). I must have played the song choice – Salute by Little Mix – at least 1,000 times. Probably way more than that, as I decided on it in the summer and have played it constantly in the car, in the gym, whilst out running etc. But I still love it. The kids…less so (‘Mummy, WHY is this song on AGAIN?’).

And I loved the context – a relaxed performance, in a place that has come to mean so much to me, and with people who give up hours and hours of their free time to make the Community Circus run. I still can’t believe it took me so long to find it, but I don’t live my life with regrets. I am delighted to be a part of the Community – and look forward to being involved in many more shows happen in the future 🙂

Photos taken by the brilliant Gary Antcliffe and Philip Turner.

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Acrotastic: acrobalance & why I love it

I spent most of Saturday at a wonderful circus convention – Camvention – which happened to be based at my beloved gym, the Cambridge Uni Sports Centre. It was a groundling affair – there were workshops and spaces to just play and there was a fantastic show in the evening.

Among the workshops on juggling and handstands was one on acrobalance, taught by my acro partner & assisted by me (in matching FIREY outfits and cunningly co-ordinated with the studio too). We did a workshop like this in the summer and I have loved both times. There were families at both and I seem to gravitate towards them. It’s such a pleasure showing them how to get into moves I’ve really only just learned myself. The look of delight in their faces is wonderful.


I love doing acrobalance. The moves are beautiful and often physically challenging. Some moves involve strength and flexibility – and obviously, balance. But some require annoying things like being able to jump. I can’t jump. But I’m working on it 🙂


What I love most of all is the partnership. I am the flyer, and Gary is the base. There’s acro going on all the time at the community circus here in Cambridge and I kept asking if anyone would let me try it out. Eventually Gary took pity on me and agreed – even though he didn’t know me. I don’t think he quite knew what he was letting himself in for, poor man. He thought he was just offering to show me a few moves. I however thought that I’d found my acro partner.


Some people who do acrobalance work with lots of different people but, as it turns out, I like to be acromonogamous. I love working with Gary – he is super strong, he’s a great teacher, he is very patient with me and he also puts up with my incessant talking/excited jumping up and down. I feel super comfortable in his company and doing acro is one of the highlights of my week. Doing something physical with someone – where you have to spend time working things out and breaking things down – that is a proper relationship. As everything else I do is a solo venture, it is particularly nice. This next photo shows our relationship pretty well I think. When I move around to this position, it’s the first time we can see each other, face to face. We always say hello, like we haven’t seen each other for ages.


It is a relationship that has such trust and affection and is SO MUCH FUN! You don’t get that in many relationships. So this post was really to say thank you to Gary for introducing me to the world of acro, for teaching me & being my base (it’s official now I’ve written this on here so you totally can’t back out now). And for being a really brilliant friend. I promise to learn how to jump by the end of the year 🙂


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Getting muddy with your kids: Insane Terrain

Another week, another obstacle course race – and this time, with the kids.

Before & after:



It was Insane Terrain in Cambridgeshire over the weekend and it was a double whammy because as well as the normal adult course on the Sunday  – 5 or 10km – they also had a family-oriented 3km version on the Saturday.

I am now fully hooked onto doing OCRs – I think they are brilliant and I have so much fun doing them. I want 2017 to be a year filled with them. I also want my kids to get why I train and hopefully, bring them along for some of the ride.

I was delighted that the family version was a scaled-down section of the adult race. The whole point of an OCR – for me anyway – is to get MUDDY. And while lots of OCRs include junior races, they steer well clear of mud. Insane Terrain however was as muddy as it always is. HOORAY!

It was a lovely sunny and reasonably warm day – not sure how much the kids would have wanted to go had it been raining. The atmosphere was relaxed and with music pumping and upbeat commentary by Neil Marsh, by the time we started the kids were really excited.

(Note the impressive multi-tasking of stretching and hugging at the same time.)

My son of course shot off like a rocket, leaving my daughter straggling behind. He got really frustrated at the pace we had to take things but I wanted to make sure that Jess enjoyed her time. She really isn’t keen on running and I hoped that doing this would make her see that if she starts, she’ll enjoy so many other things – including obstacle course racing (so hopefully she won’t be 36 when she starts to enjoy running and 39 when she takes up obstacle course racing!).

I ended up carrying her around in the muddiest bits – and this was captured by the official photographer. Yeay!


Toby LOVED it and wants to do more. Jess loved the medal. And she is coming around to the idea of running. NEITHER of them loved the slide as much as me though – as you can see from our faces:

The next day was a cold rainy affair but I obviously still went along, with the same pair of trainers washed and nearly dried, and I did two laps this time, so the 10km version. Obviously I ran without any music and so was pleased I did a 10km at a good pace – not much longer than my race time from the Greater Cambridge 10K in fact. I really enjoyed pushing myself, loved the obstacles, loved the camaraderie and support from other runners, and most of all, loved wading through mud. When I told the kids about it they could obviously envisage what I was talking about, and were much more interested than normal.

We had an AWESOME weekend. And the casually paced 3km race was the highlight of the weekend. The kids are up for doing it next year too. Happy days.




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The Adrenalin of Achievement 

Having completed the Greater Cambridge 10K last week, and the Spartan Sprint just before that, I wanted to write about what happened after both.

Both meant so much to me – the Spartan because it is such an intimidating obstacle course race and the Greater Cambridge because I never thought I’d be able to run that far again, or do so in a crowd. After both there were some aching limbs but mainly, there was just a massive surge of adrenalin. For about 5 days! In fact, I could barely sleep from the natural high I felt.

Having never raced before, I had no idea I would experience this – and how strong the physical reaction would be. I’ve achieved plenty of things in the past, but the euphoria that came with those things is nothing like what I’ve felt recently – and  was also always followed by a kind of dull settling of emotion. When I found out my A Level results, my results for my degrees, that kind of thing – the days themselves were good, but that was it. Achieving something physically perhaps enhances the way a body responds because I was full of a sense of pride and achievement for nearly a week with both. But crucially after that, there was no sense of an emotional crash.

I think the reason for the difference is that a race isn’t a life changing thing – I don’t need to complete one to get to the next part of my life.  I don’t need to do anything differently, become something or someone else. The races are on the sideline of my life in that respect and because of that, there’s no threatening period of change on the horizon and no need for mourning what has been.

The Monday after the 10K was the same as the Monday before – except that I carried achievement into it. And of course I literally carried it because I wore my medal all day!!!  I discovered #medalMonday – where people shout about their achievement on social media, and rightly so. It’s when the racing day is over and done with and you’re back to normally but you can sit there grinning about what you did at the weekend.


The euphoria of completing the race has calmed down but it’s still there and it’s got me looking forwards. I definitely want to do more races – I can now totally see why people sign up to race after race – and every time I do, I know I will get something different out of it.


Running 10K normally is of course an achievement, but a race is something quite different. The high I got from having been there was something else. I kind of wish someone had told me about it – what you can really get from taking part in a race. That’s why I wrote this – I hope others, especially women, consider entering a race. It is most definitely worth it. Let’s go girls!








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The Greater Cambridge experience: my first 10K

A few days ago I took part in the Greater Cambridge 10K race – the first time for the race itself, and MY first ever 10K race. It was sooooo incredibly boiling hot and oh my goodness, I was so nervous but I DID it!

Dani from Living Sports and I went along to BBC Radio Cambridgeshire on Thursday to talk to Sam and Dotty about the race which was lots of fun. They were very nice and let us take photos in the studio too (I think I look totally at home and perhaps when I grow up I should become a radio presenter –  I’ve got my ‘best radio face’ expression on at the ready).


I got all panicky the night before the race – and then I dreamt that my sports bra came undone near to the finish! In the morning I was googling things like ‘Do you take a water bottle on a 10K?’ and ‘What do you eat before a 10K?’. I then calmed myself down and decided to do everything exactly the way I usually do things – which IS to take a water bottle, my music, eat a snack bar an hour before running and wear my usual running clothes. Including the sports bra and no top over that. I get super hot when I run and this was an especially hot day.

The kids were very excited and had made banners the night before & as soon as Pippa, their lovely babysitter arrived, we set off. These are the banners, and here they are patiently waiting in the gym:

I calmed down once I got there and saw Dani and Amber from Living Sports, all the other people racing and the volunteers. It was also so lovely to be in the sports centre, pretty much my second home. The staff are always so friendly there so saying hello to them helped me too.

There were a few sprinty-looking people, but everyone else looked normal. And my race number – which was SO exciting to receive because they are just like the ones proper famous runners wear – handily fit across my sports bra. So if there WERE going to be issues with it, no one would be able to see. We did a super fun warm-up in the gym and then off we went to race.

As music wasn’t strictly banned – rather it was recommended not to have it – I decided to have it after all as I was most worried about pacing myself. I didn’t have it on all the time as it was nice to hear people in the crowds as I was going around, but it helped – especially when we first set off. I love the photo below – spot the lady with the bright red & pink hair at the back!


I found the race hard because it was so hot and because I had naughtily done a lot of gym stuff on the Friday. I really liked the fact that route was 2.5 laps because once I’d gone around the first time I knew what to expect. When I got to the 5k mark there were some of those weird speedy people, just about to complete the race in a sub 40 minute time (they were shouting at each other and also looked dreadful. I mean – massive well done to them, but I am quite happy not being that fast. It looks unpleasant).

The best bit of the race was being cheered on – by spectators and the enthusiastic volunteers, but especially my children. My son Toby ran alongside me at one point and they kept shouting out how much they loved me. That was just the best 🙂

Even though the run was hard I completed it in 1:04.13. Not an amazing time by other people’s standards, but I’m very happy to take that – especially as this can be the benchmark from which I measure all other races. Because yes, I will do more races now I know they aren’t too scary – and I will definitely do the Greater Cambridge again next year. And the sports bra behaved itself too! Here is the before, during and after shots:

And LOOK! Here is a close up of my first ever running RACE medal.


How smart is that?! Jess asked me if I’d won when she first saw me. An obviously, I totally did 🙂

If you want to check out LivingSport, here’s their website:

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What do you do straight after a holiday and the week before your first 10k race? You do a hardcore obstacle race of course! At least you do if you’re me.

So OCRs – obstacle course races. Bit weird aren’t they? I mean, why would you choose to tackle obstacles as well as straightforward running? And have you seen seasoned OCR fans? They have what I call wolf eyes – the same mad look that Crossfitters have. Cunning, wild and determined – that’s what I see. I am most definitely nothing like that. But the OCR thing has intrigued me for a while.

Last year, when I decided to try lots of new things – the same weekend I went to try out the aerial hoop – I went to a session at Fortitude Fitness Centre in Caldecote (only down the road from me), for what promised to be a ‘fun’ session practising how to tackle obstacles.

Actually it WAS fun. But very challenging and I struggled the whole way through. I went back a couple of times more and tried, so hard, to climb the rope there. I failed every time. After that the circus training took over and I didn’t have the time to go back.

This year I wanted to give the OCR thing a go and saw Insane Terrain come up in June. I asked people to come and do it with me but nobody would and so I bravely went on my own. I ended up running with someone who was at the same pace as me, which was great. We helped a woman cross a deep stretch of water who couldn’t swim very well too. I had been very apprehensive about what to expect but the whole thing was relaxed and friendly. And best of all – I could do the course. Apart from a lot of water and mud (which I loved! getting muddy is so much fun!), there are mainly a lot of hay bales to pull yourself up onto. I did them no problem and my arms didn’t hurt the next day (and I went and did circus training that day too!). All that circus training had given me strong arms – and I hadn’t realised how strong until then. That’s when I decided I wanted to tackle the Spartan. Insane Terrain is a lovely, friendly, gentle OCR – I wanted a greater challenge. The Spartan – with its burpees punishment and fire and the like – it all sounded quite scary. I kind of liked that.

My friend’s husband Jack had signed up to do it in September  – the day after our holiday – and I kept thinking about doing it. I couldn’t do any special training for it and I knew I’d be doing less training over the summer, but I really wanted to give it a try. What’s the worst that could happen? Surely nobody could actually force me to do burpees? And if I hated the whole thing, that would only be a few hours of my life and then I’d know never to do one again. So I signed up to it.

Jack and Mary-Ann’s children were doing the Spartan Junior and I’m so glad they did because we ended up running with them for their race before doing ours. I had been so nervous I’d hardly slept, but when I got there it was OK – and doing the Junior meant that we’d seen a bit of the course. That’s when I knew I was going to be able to do it. The nerves left me and soon it was our turn.

It was perfect weather – it was relatively cool and there was a bit of rain (it had been hot the day before). We set off at a gentle pace – this is the baseline, I thought. It doesn’t matter how long it takes – improvements can come afterwards. Jack got cramp part-way through and so we had to walk for some of it – there was no way I was just going to go off and leave him. The whole point of it was that we were going to do it together.

There were a lot of walls to climb and I used my experience from Fortitude Fitness Centre to get over them. There were also sandbags to carry, concrete slabs on chains to drag around, and huge tyres to flip over and over. We did it all. And there was a rope to climb. If you’ve been reading this blog you’ll know that my friend Gary taught me how to climb a rope only last month in circus training – and really, that’s all I wanted to achieve at the Spartan. I’d only every climbed the rope with bare feet so had panicked I wouldn’t be able to do it in trainers! But you know what? It did it just fine. It was actually a piece of cake, because ropes are ropes and if you can climb one, you can climb any so it turns out.

It was at that point that I realised how much I was enjoying it. I smiled and said a cheery hello to the people at every new obstacle. I beamed my way through the mud crawl under barbed wire. I hugged the guy at the bottom of the cargo net who said I’d zipped over it impressively.


Near to the end there was a weight on a rope that you had to pull up to the top and I did it really quickly. The people in charge looking after that obstacle said I’d done it too quickly and should have done the men’s one! I’m not saying this to brag – I am just marvelling at the person I’ve become. From someone who always sucked at P.E. and had no strength, no grit and determination – look at me now. And look at my awesome medal!


So to the little me who could never climb a rope, the teenager who felt useless & achieved nothing sport (not one single medal), the twentysomething who couldn’t run: you get there in the end.

I wore my t-shirt and medal on the school run the first day back so I could show basically everyone!


So thanks to Jack for racing with me, Emerson and Esmé for being brave fellow Spartans and for Mary-Ann for cheering us all on and being proud of me 🙂

NEXT YEAR: the Spartan Trifecta. And maybe my eyes will turn wolf-like too. Aroo!


Insane Terrain:


Photos courtesy of Mary-Ann and Epic Action Imagery via SpartanRaceUK:


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Hill run done!

We’ve just come back from Cornwall where we had a great time. The kids loved it and I found a gluten free cream tea which was am-az-ing (you may be able to detect my excitement in the photo).


I also loved the holiday because, thankfully, my friend Rowan came and stayed for most of it.

Going on holiday as a single parent is totally exhausting. Doing all the driving, the unpacking, the making of packed lunches, all that stuff. Which is just like being at home except you get less of a break and much less head-space because excitable kids stay up late and you are too tired to stay up all that much later. And there is no time to go running.

Before Rowan arrived I had managed to keep up with doing stretching, planks and headstands because they can at least be done anywhere. Even on the beach.


But hooray for friends who will share a holiday with your children! I didn’t quite twig I could do this until the second day and so I only went out running twice but it was lovely – especially the second morning run when I did it whilst everyone else was still asleep. Blissful, sneaky extra ME time.

Here is the road I ran up and down. Look! It has an incline and everything! So as the Greater Cambridge 10K beckons really quite soon, at least I did more training than I thought I would this week (having anticipated zero runs). And running up a hill in real life was much nicer than doing an incline run on the treadmill. So after the 10K race I shall attempt to track down some actual hills (or vague inclines at least) near to Cambridge and run them. Just for a bit of fun.



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Recovery, not rest

Last week was my week without the kids. I spent it seeing some really special people and doing a lot of training. And I mean a lot. The gym twice a day (weight training in the morning, then running, handstands & core strength) plus circus training in the evening. And sometimes another run. I did lots of cool circus things too! Like this:

By Thursday night I was beyond exhausted. I knew I’d been running on a nearly empty tank from about Tuesday but I found it so hard not to keep going. This was my chance to fit as much training in, without worrying about babysitters or logistics. I knew that I’d barely see the gym once the kids returned.

Along with lots of other people, I’ve always ignored the concept or resting. Sure, your body needs time to rest (blah, blah, blah). But what if I can only go to the gym back to back? I’m always going to do that because I see it as a wasted opportunity. That’s what I was doing on a larger scale: a whole week of training – especially weight training – to be stored up for a week with very little.

My acro teacher Gary told me something a few weeks ago. He told me to view days without training as recovery days rather than rest days. That shift in meaning is significant. I don’t like resting – I never have. But recovery is something I can acknowledge. That idea finally settled into my brain last Thursday evening.

I had intended to go to the gym super early on the Friday morning, but I didn’t. I decided to let myself off for a few days. I had an unexpectedly lovely, chilled out weekend. Away from the gym and Cambridge. And when I got back on Sunday I did the tiniest of runs and circus training.

I’ve written ‘Recovery not rest!’ on a piece of paper and have stuck it to my fridge so it can yell at me from time to time. I’m hoping it will sink in 🙂

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Coming last

So it is less than a month to go to the Great Cambridge 10K – 3 weeks and 4 days. This week has had to be a week of acceptance.

I have spent a lot of time researching how to run better/faster on the web and feel exhausted by it! (even though it involved sitting at my laptop, drinking cups of tea). Race pace, tempo run, interval run, incline run – there’s a lot to absorb and understand and THEN you have to apply these to your own running.

I did do this – it took me a while – and planned everything out for the next few weeks. Or rather I tried to. But then I realised that I’ll be out of running action for a week because I am taking the kids on holiday. So no running for 1/3 of my time left. Oh.

Basically, I don’t have a lot of time to get faster. And going faster really does go against the grain for me. I like running slow and steady because that is fun. Running to the point where I get a stitch or I get a weird cold burning sensation in my lungs, or I feel like I want to throw up – none of this is fun. It always reminds me of miserable cross-country running at school when running was basically like a punishment for unfit children.

I can’t seem to make myself speed up unless I’m on a treadmill, where I can force myself to do it. I have now done a few tempo runs with hill repeats (jargon, jargon, jargon) and survived. Mainly I discovered that running at the pace I want is much faster than my natural preference – it feels like I’m sprinting which I DO NOT like. Basically, I like plodding along at 8.5km/hour but I should – at the very least – be going at 10km/hour.

Now I have realised this, it is something I am going to address – and not just for treadmill runs. I’m going to try and build in faster running and different inclines when I’m out and about. There’s a handy section of steps and slopes near to the Sports Centre, and the kids and I have been having fun going up and down that this week:

Even though I’m hard-wired to reject this kind of thing, it will improve my all round fitness and so it is a Good Thing and I have to get tough with myself and embrace it. I’m going to keep at this – but what I am not going to do is relate any of it to the Greater Cambridge. There just isn’t enough time to see any improvement and the last thing I want is to come away disappointed.

So that’s where I’m at. Doing bits and pieces of ‘faster’ training – and finding places to run up and down – but with the idea that the Greater Cambridge is the baseline for my performance in the future. It will be the first running race I’ve ever done and that’s enough of an achievement to be getting on with. Any improvements can be saved for afterwards.

The idea of coming last is therefore something I have been thinking about. There are so many running websites that make reference to this concern and totally dismiss it in a way that has made me laugh out loud several times this week. Such as a comment like this: ‘Don’t worry about this because it almost always won’t be the case.’ Saying it’s very unlikely is so unhelpful because, you know what folks, someone is going to come last – it is going to be the case for one person, or several people if they run together. Unless you know you’re a super speedy runner, I think it should be considered rather than ignored.

I’ve been visualising what it might be like to come last and it’s been a lot of fun. At that point there will be a lot more people around to cheer you on. You crossing the line marks the official end of the race – how cool is that! Surely everyone is going to be there, willing you to make it to the finish line? Some of them might even choose to run alongside you at the end to keep you going. Well that’s how I imagine it – like you’re a superstar getting all the attention. That sounds all right to me.

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