We never know where life is going to take us or what challenges it brings. In January 2010 I was happy, so happy I wanted to stay that way for as long as I could. I realised that if Ali and I wanted a long and healthy life together, we had to change. I was clinically obese, had a bad back and my knees were feeling the strain. I had various health problems and I was ageing faster than my years. I looked ahead to a life I did not want. It was time to change. By the end of the year I had lost 4 stone - 56lbs. My confidence rocketed - I had taken control and it had worked. I was exercising, enjoying buying clothes, speaking up for myself.

I began to believe in myself again, I began to dream. For years I had watched marathons with admiration and a lump in my throat. In April 2013, I ran my first marathon.

This blog is about living life as a slim person, staying slim and fulfilling my dreams. Come and join me, support me, advise me!

Take care, Sue

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Walking back to happiness, very very slowly.

Happy New Year everyone!

It's been almost 6 months since I last wrote a running blog. In that time I've barely run and I've  had to cut my walking down too. I decided not to bore myself and you with an in depth analysis of my injury like I usually do,  but it's a new year and I have to look forward and be hopeful, even though it will be some time before I run again.

If I say I've had an Achilles injury, many of you will know exactly what the problem is and maybe have shared the frustrations it brings. Long story very truncated, I ran and walked too much on soft sand last summer; all my walking on the beach was barefoot. At the same time I was gradually increasing my run rate and hill running. A recipe for a disaster made in runners' hell.

This nasty little injury has hit my physical and psychological Achilles heels and is challenging me on every level you can think of, it's taking ages and ages to recover.

I'm very disciplined in many ways - I do my physio exercises and don't run. You'd think that was enough, but it's not.  My heel is aggravated by almost anything you can think of. I've always struggled to see walking as exercise, walking is just what you do to get from A to B, it's as essential as breathing. Now every single step counts which of course means being mindful not just about running but about walking. Even those little trots you do if you're late for a meeting. Everything.

As well as mindfulness, recovery from my Achilles injury requires a lot of time and patience, things I tend to have relatively little of. I have good days when nothing hurts, but if I push even just a little bit too much the next day, I put my recovery back again. The surge of excitement that comes when I can walk briskly pain free for 30 minutes (the threshold) tends to lead me to doing a little bit more than I should and I pay the price.

It's like a massive game of snakes and ladders. Three times I've climbed to the brink of recovery only to push myself over the edge and back down to the bottom.  But I can't give up, I have to sort this or I'll never run or climb a hill again and that's unbearable.

Current status - I can walk 30 minutes briskly without pain if I'm wearing heels and only on the flat.  I  need a rest day or two afterwards or it starts to build up again. I'm focussing on the duration and speed of my more frequent shorter walks and gradually introducing the flats as they really increase the load on the Achilles.

As my lovely physio Emer says, I have to take control of this injury and I'm trying. I wish it would go away. I know it's wet and windy but hell, what does it matter of you can run?

Take care and do a run for me please!


Monday, 30 June 2014

Sporting Memories: Bearing the Baton

A little blog to remind me in later years of a big day - the day I ran with the Commonwealth Games Baton.

One of 10 North Berwickers (plus a guide runner) who had the honour of running with the Baton. Three of the Baton Bearers knew my Mum through their volunteering work!

I was the first person to welcome the Baton into North Berwick and it was lovely to see so many friends and family there to wave me on. The folks in blue are the police who have the enviable job of running with the Baton round Scotland. What a job!

The Abbey Care Home brought Mum down to see me along with a few of the residents. Mum had a whale of a time waving at people and smiling for the cameras.  

Folk from the Day Centre and the other Care Homes came along too to cheer me on and Vi and Eric ran with me some of the way.  Ali and my brother were also there to cheer me on.

In life's journey there are days that you hope you will always remember - days like birthdays, wedding days, big significant days that stay in your mind forever. But of course life isn't always like that. If you get dementia or other memory problems then even your most precious memories can disappear.

One day I might not remember that I carried the Baton. Maybe one day someone from http://www.sportingmemoriesnetwork.com will come to my house and chat with me about my life and will find out I used to run and that once I carried the Queen's Baton. Maybe they'll find this blog on the web somewhere. I might not remember, but maybe, just maybe they'll be able to show me pictures and for a little while, I will remember that day; and smile.

Happy Running

Take Care


Monday, 9 June 2014

Running FAST - the Magic of Chi Focus

My weekend at Nick and Mark's Chi Running and Yoga camp is working its right brain magic.

After walking the hills, beaches and roads of Ullapool and environs (blissfully beautiful) I had my first run in a week. It was a morning to run, with blue skies and sun shining at 6am so I hit the beach.  It was very low tide and the sand which wasn't covered with seaweed was dry and deep and hard, hard work. Good - more bangs for the running buck.

I started off slow, heading up towards Yellocraigs beach with no one in sight.  I went carefully, watching my feet as the sand had covered lots of the rocks. A knee niggle came and went as I settled into the run. As I ran I started singing that song -  "Your toe bone's connected to your foot bone" - thinking that should be a good mantra for alignment. My mind drifted off savouring the early morning beach.

I watched the gannets dive off the beach right next to me - don't think they show up in the photo but I know they were there. I watched a rabbit scuttle back into the gorse (never seen a rabbit on a beach run before). Crows cackled, oystercatchers screeched, I love beach runs.

Round about 2 miles I get into running mode as usual.  I stopped thinking about how hard it was and how long I'd got to go and start enjoying myself. I remembered that we learnt at Chi Camp about running FAST - Focus, Alignment, Stability and Timing. I focussed on the horizon and ran on.

After a while I noticed another runner's footprint on the beach.  'What a toe strike', I thought and my thoughts immediately went back to camp and Nick pointing out I'd started toe running again (the default for folk with equinus feet). I looked down - sure enough there was a lot more toe than there should have been.

I ran along the beach pondering the mid foot and how I should tackle it. "Why didn't Nick tell me how to fix it?" I grumbled to myself.

I turned at 2 miles (saving myself for my running club outing tomorrow) and headed back. I found myself running alongside two tracks - mine and the other runner.  The penny dropped with a resounding clang. Nick and Mark had taught me how to fix this. I know from Chi Running and Yoga that all it takes to make the change happen is to focus attention in the right place. Even if you can't feel anything, put the focus there and things will happen.

I focussed on the mid foot. How it felt. How it connected to the ground (Melanie's Yoga classes have been really getting me into that). I ran alongside my own tracks and after a while I stopped and took this photo. The difference is quite clear. The magic had worked again.

All I did was focus on the mid foot. I didn't think about not using my toes - the body doesn't work well with negatives (maybe that's why weight loss diets are so ineffective!). I just focussed my attention on my mid foot and the right changes began to happen.  The hard part of course is keeping up the focus long enough for change to become your new normal.

I headed back along the beach with a focus on my mid foot, reflecting on the power of focus and intention and how all our endeavours start this way even if we're not aware of it.  I realised that the long slow run for me is not just about physical training, it's about right brain thinking. The act of running eventually switches my head over and I begin to think differently, whatever it is I'm focussing on. That's why I write blogs, solve knotty problems and sort out my grumps when I run. Maybe it's because I'm one of those folks that learns best when they are actively doing something. Anyway it works!

So I'm going to running FAST. My Focus for my long runs is going to be on that mid foot and I'll build up from there. I'll work on Alignment, working up from the mid foot (connecting to the ankle bone etc). I'll work on Stability - I know I am very lop sided. And of course I mustn't forget Timing.

But most of all, I have to trust the process. I learnt a lot more at the Chi Running and Yoga Retreat than I think I learnt. Being immersed in Chi Running and Yoga means you learn at a really fundamental level. The trick is to let that learning emerge through your running, getting into that right brain zone and let the magic of Chi work. As Nick says, "Practice, practice, practice."

Looking forward to my running club night tomorrow - watch this space...

Take care


Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Chi Running Camp - Take 2

Imagine for a moment a life where you rise every morning for a pre breakfast yoga session followed by a simple breakfast of fruit and porridge and cups of tea. After a bit of light theory and some inspirational clips of African runners, you head off with like minded souls to run in some of the most beautiful countryside in the world. Through scented bluebell woods, up winding hills to gaze on stunning views and then you return home for more yoga to unwind and loosen those hill-worn limbs. The day is completed by beautiful, plentiful food cooked with love which you digest in peace and tranquility round a roaring fire, reading yoga and running books, sitting at the feet of the experts and chatting with others who share your obsessions.

And then you do it again the next day.  Well it doesn't get much better really does it!

That just about explains what a group of us very lucky folk did at Nick and Mark's Chi Running Retreat at Lendrick Lodge last weekend.

I went to my first Chi Running weekend last September. It was great, but I have to say, this one was even better. From the moment we drove into the grounds of Lendrick Lodge those lovely healing vibes kicked in. Beautiful gardens scattered with statues and prayer flags; a friendly welcome; a roaring log fire in the sitting room.

The Yoga room was superb and beautifully equipped with plenty of mats, blocks, blankets. It was light and roomy with great views out of the windows. Just the right vibe for Marks' great yoga classes. Mark's classes are a treat. He hits just the spot for runners and effortlessly adapts to the different experiences in the class. I really enjoyed when we moved like babies as they learn their way about the world - something I've never experienced in a yoga class before and it was a fascinating experience to see the cobra from a baby's eyes!

The running sessions brought together Nick's coach's eagle eye as we went through our paces at the start of the run. I have to say I struggled to run after eating too much at lunch - my own fault as I normally run on as empty a stomach as possible - but that's no excuse for finding myself back running on my toes. I've got into some bad habits after wearing insoles and I've a way to go to get back into form. But that's what the weekend's about!

We ran through the woods and up a long slow hill to Glen Finglas. The views were spectacular. There's something about the discipline of doing hills that makes you learn regardless. I still see Jon Burdon when I run up hills, the small steps and the neat and effortless way he just goes up them - that's stayed with me since last year's Chi running camp.

On the Sunday we did our Yoga, ate breakfast and then all ran together. There was such a lovely atmosphere of camaraderie between us all that running together felt right.  We headed back over to Glen Finglas and then across the hills above the Lodge running full pelt (and maybe a smidgeon out of form!) to the bottom carpark.

A fabulous lunch from the wonderful folk at Lendrick Lodge, a farewell chat and then we made your way home.

I'd like to thank Nick, Mark and everyone on the Lendrick Lodge Retreat for making it such a lovely time. It was very special and I'd urge anyone who loves running to book themselves in. I love yoga too, I love the way that yoga and running fit together in such beautiful harmony. Running is about the mind as much as the legs, it's about breath, form and alignment and focus - well that's Yoga. So the two together complement each other perfectly. 

There was sadly one flaw - well lots of little ones. The warm and wet winter meant that those bl**dy midges were out. Thanks to Jill for sharing her midge spray (I think it was for dogs but it worked great!) and Celina for sharing her anti midge bite stuff.  Mark had a rather unique approach to the midge problem!

Another great Chi Running and Yoga weekend, thanks so much Nick and Mark and all the chi-lights for making it a weekend to remember!

Take care


Saturday, 10 May 2014

Brum Run

Arriving in a wind and rain swept Birmingham the other day, I had one eye on finding the hotel and the other on sussing out the next morning's run route. As I squelched through the streets, I got a glimpse of the history of the town, its scale and its friendliness - despite the rain people were happy to help me find my way. Yes, this was going to be an interesting run and I was looking forward to exploring a bit more.

I was there for the British Psychological Society's Annual Conference and staying at the Premier Inn Canalside, a very short walk to the conference centre and the city centre.  And right next to the canal. That run got even more interesting!

6am and I'm up and ready to run. It's overcast but dry and I'd forgotten how the wind can get lost in big cities.  My feet took me to the canal path, I've not run along a canal before and being beside a different kind of water made a very interesting contrast with those North Berwick beach runs.

It was quiet - just how I like it. I'd seen quite a few runners out the night before, but I saw no one in the morning until I'd been running for quite a while - bliss. The ones I saw mostly said 'hello', a good sign. The cyclists however were not quite as courteous, coming up behind not thinking that I might not be able to hear them (I wasn't wearing headphones) and one cyclist who didn't say 'thank you' when I stopped to let him through a narrow bit of canal path. I'm a cyclist too - but like to think I'm a polite cyclist!

Running along the canals you get up close and personal with the city's past and its future. At one end, was the Mail Box, quite modern with bars and restaurants galore - all familiar names and menus.  Down past the back of the conference centre, over the little bridges, up and down the steps, the run was definitely not flat. It was a real treat, that's something I don't often get the chance to do at home.

Down to the Sealife Centre and a massive construction site and then past flats, flats and more flats - there's a lot of people living canal side in Brum, and I can see why.

I ran to the end of the paved path and decided not to run down the muddy track. I was intrigued to see where it went but the thought of a slip into those dark murky waters was sufficient to put me off.  I was going to run back to the hotel but there were so many interesting twists and turns that I just went where I fancied.

As the run went on, smells of frying bacon and woodsmoke arose from the houseboats knotted along the canals and the thought of a couple of rashers myself later spurred me on.  I realised I'd have to come off the canal path or retrace my steps. The path took me to the back of Centenary Square and the new library in a maze of roads and junctions. Here was a Birmingham of concrete ramps, dirty windows, traffic and dereliction, a stone's throw from the conference.

I headed back into the main square and down to Victoria Square with its beautiful sphinxes (I think!) and statues and more steps. Round that area the range of buildings is quite remarkable - the city wears its history on the sleeve.

Then back to the canal to see how far I could go in the other direction. Past more flats and businesses and things began to look a bit industrial. I decided it was time to head back. I knew I was a couple of canals over from where I started and without too much hassle, found my way back.   

A most enjoyable run and it gave me a real taste of Birmingham. Four and a bit miles, lots of steps and mini hills up and over the canal bridges, a good workout. As I reached the home strait, I contemplated a rasher or two as reward for my endeavours. By the time I hit the hotel dining room the skies and opened and the rain was back. My porridge tasked even better. And the conference was great too - psychology and running just go together perfectly!

Have a great week running, I'm looking forward to my first run with an informal running club in Longniddry - watch this space!

Take care


Sunday, 4 May 2014

The Edinburgh North Berwick Road Race: A Marshal's Eye View

The Edinburgh to North Berwick Road Race is a cracker, a real legend of a race.  49 years old this year, it's not always been a 20 miler - it's been various distances, including a marathon. It's a race with a fascinating history.

I'd love to run it one day, but I doubt I ever will. It's a lovely route along the East Lothian coastline from Portobello Promenade finishing on Elcho Green, beachside North Berwick. It's 20 miles in early May at the perfect time for quite a few marathons. So what's not to like? Well, the race has a 3hr 30 minute cut off time and that's a bit beyond me I'm afraid.

But there's more than one way to participate in a race... Races don't just happen by magic there's a lot of organisation goes on to make it all work, so when I was asked to be a marshal by Neil, a fellow North Berwick Chi Runner, I said yes. Neil, Claire, David and Stuart (my fellow marshals) had all marshalled the Dunbar 10k a few weeks ago. I ran it and they and their colleagues had really helped me get round so it was great to give something back.

The fastest runners arrive in North Berwick in under 2 hours, so at 12.30,  Kirsty the organiser from Active East Lothian and us 5  local marshals were out staking the last few yards of the route to keep tired runners off the putting green.  A table of water at the end and we were ready to head off to our stands.

Although the route is pretty special, the last bit of the race down hill onto Elcho Green and the finish line must have been awful for tired runners this year. Despite assurances that the temporary roadworks would be completed, they were still full-on.  This meant that the almost final stretch only had 1 pavement along with temporary traffic lights for the single line of traffic going up and down a steep hill. We had marshals at the top of the hill by the traffic lights and 2 of us by the roadworks to cover the most tricky and congested spots.

The  first of the 212 runners to complete the race ran past well within 2 hours looking strong. Runners were quite spread out which helped a lot as children with scooters, babies in prams, people in wheelchairs, golfers with buggies and families and friends of the approaching runners shared the narrow pavement with runners nearing the end of the journey. Somehow everyone got through without mishap and usually with a smile. Most runners were very understanding when an older person got a bit confused about which way to move or when the bus released a blast of fumes as they ran past

I alternated between cheering on the runners, checking they didn't take the wrong turn, answering questions from pedestrians and asking people to watch out for the runners behind them. Most of the passing and watching public were lovely, rushing to clear the path, standing back to let the runners through and giving them a cheery wave.  Quite a few locals and visitors asked what the race was and how far runners had run; some had even done it in previous years. Not everyone of course was sweet tempered and smiling, and one or two were quite rude, but the vast majority of people were at worst happy to accommodate the run and at best pretty impressed and inspired by it.

Running form and style varied greatly, what struck me most was that legs can look tired in myriad different ways. There were people running down the hill as smooth and slick as as silk, looking as if they could run for ever; others looked like their hips were about to dislocate; some runners ran as if their feet were on fire (they probably were!). I know my form at this stage would have completely broken down well before now, and I'd be running like a half shut knife, bent in the middle; a salutory lesson indeed.

The last person came in followed closely by the back marker and then we headed to the finishing line, dismantling the posts as we went.  A group of friends were gathered round the end, their little ones playing with the plastic tape as if they were crossing the tape at the Olympics. One day it might be them running here with their parents watching them cross the line. I do hope so, it'd be nice to think they'll be round for the 100th anniversary of the race.

Marshalling is not as good as running, but I was surprised how much I enjoyed it and the time flew by. And of course without voluntary marshals, races wouldn't work and they'd certainly not be as much fun.  So I'm pretty sure that my first marshalling experience won't be my last.

One way or another I want to be part of the Edinburgh North Berwick Road Race on its 50th birthday next year - if I'm spared and well of course.

Hope you've had a good racing weekend.

Take care


Sunday, 6 April 2014

The Dunbar 10K - Small is Beautiful

This year's running plan includes a number of races of different lengths. No personal bests, no big goals, I just want a bit of structure and more race experience.  Races are good discipline - they make me run harder and faster than I do if left to my own devices and I usually feel pretty good afterwards. Plus they make me sociable and remind me that being a runner is more than just running.

Yesterday I ran my first Dunbar 10k. I really enjoyed it, the whole event captured so much of what I like best about running in races.  Small, local, human sized with plenty of space to run my race my way. There were probably about 300 folk signed up (going by the vest numbers). Lots of people seemed to come from running clubs and there was a very healthy looking mix of ages, shapes and sizes. I was one of many older women which was great as well as being a good kick up the bum for thinking that age needs to slow you down!

I drove over and got there in good time to catch the end of the preceding 3k and junior races. It's great to see young runners and believe me some of them were very young. They had by far the best medals I've ever seen and environmentally friendly too. Sadly these were only for the younger runners!

I hadn't expected to know anyone at the race, but it was great to bump into Claire, Stuart and Neil from North Berwick and there was a lovely friendly feel about the whole thing. I hovered round waiting for people to gather at the starting line just in case I missed it or somehow got lost (yes I know it's not rational, but I get nervous). I had a long wait - this is what the start looked like 10 minutes before the start.

Things looked a bit different looking the other way as multi-hued runners milled about.

A few minutes later we were all huddled round the start and we set off bang on time. I was at the back which is where I stayed all the way through only moving up the pack marginally. I set my pace and stuck with it; 180 bpm, focussed on glutes and posture.

The race was pretty flat to start off with, running through a housing estate and then under the A1 onto quiet roads and farm tracks. I could see the bright tops of the front runners in the distance. A longish incline took us up to the 3.5k point. I thought of Jon Burdon on the autumn Chi Training course and did my lean, shortened my steps and got my arms going. Little steps, big breaths and a lot of sweatiness and I reached the top just before my lungs packed in. The view was worth it. From the flat bit at the top of the run you can see right across the Forth to the Bass Rock and beyond, it would have been criminal not to take that view in. Look at those ploughed fields - I do admire great ploughing!

After a flat km along the top it was downhill back towards the A1 and then back under the road. A short loop round was probably the worse bit of the race as I couldn't see the turnaround point until I was quite close to it and it felt like it went on forever, but then we headed back along a quiet road and path towards the sports centre. The last bit was through a nice bit of woodland.  As I ran towards the finish line I felt I was running quite well considering I was knackered. My form was not too bad, nothing hurt and I managed a sprint at the end.

A goodie bag with something for everyone - snack bar, water, crisps and a small beer (!) followed by tea and sarnies in the hall. You can tell Belhaven Brewery is just up the road!

I finished in 1.04 hours - 10 minutes longer than my previous pb. I was 203 out of about 212, 70th in my gender and 9th in my age/gender category which feels quite good - but I suspect 9th out of 9! However, none of this matters a jot as long as I can do it.

It was the first time I'd run this far since last year's marathon. I was delighted that nothing hurt at all, despite me pushing things a bit and no aches or pains the next day. However, I do need to build capacity and stamina.

Despite being right at the end, I got a really friendly welcome from the marshals and helpers at the finish line - special thanks to Claire and Stuart for your smiley friendly faces. I hope I didn't worry Neil too much with my end of race red face and gasping, I remember at primary school I got stopped from running in events because I do go a worrying shade of purple when I push it.

The Dunbar 10k is a delightful, friendly and well organised race. Every bit of it worked like clockwork, the marshals were great, so encouraging and smiley which is just wonderful when you're slogging at the back of the pack like me.  It's definitely one I want to do again.

Now I have to decide what race to do next. I quite fancy the Haddington half in August, despite tales that the  hill at about mile 10 is a killer. My experience so far is that in smaller races I'm definitely one of the slowest finishers so that might mean that if I do the Haddington one and walk a bit up the hill I get home after they've all packed up. I don't mind being last but I do worry about keeping marshals etc out too long.  I need to think a bit about my plans.

The next event is the Chi Running Camp in May which I'm really looking forward to.

Hope you're running is going well

Take care