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

Friday, 21 October 2011

Little things mean a lot: Keeping hold of my toenails

This week my Twitter friends have been making me think about decisions, in particular how we balance all the things we want to do in lif. We can't do it all, and that's probably just as well, and I realised I had a choice to make.

The other day, Rhona, decided to postpone her ultra marathon until next year, a difficult choice. Rhona is a very committed runner and the person that told me a fact that changed my running life. Lots of running means losing your toenails.  I was horrified when I read that.

I know it sounds vain and superficial, but I am very fond of my toenails. One of my favourtite things about summer is wearing sandals and letting my tootsies enjoy the fresh air and a paddle. And the icing on the tootsie cake?  Painted toenails.  Pretty painted toenails make me smile and make me feel good. I do not want to lose my toenails, not even for running.

Does this make me vain? Superficial? Or worse - does this mean that I am not a real runner? Well for some folk it might well do. Losing your toenails is a bit of a badge of honour and I am at risk of being seen as a flighty sort of thing. Well maybe I am. Painted toe nails are at the frivolous end of the spectrum, but does that mean I shouldn't want to keep them?

I also had a very interesting Twitter conversation about marathons and how some people assume that if you're a runner, you'll run marathons and there's something odd if you don't.   All this made me think again about why I was embarking on my marathon. It's no small commitment and does take over your life, so why amd I doing it?

There can be a presumption in running, that the only way is up. It's partly because we like to enourage each other to stretch ourselves, to get better, faster, further, higher. Now I know I am very susceptible to group encouragement and get swept along by enthusiasm. And there's no doubt that my sights and goals have been lifted by the twitterati. I have pushed myself further than I would have ever thought possible because of supportive tweets and tweeps. That has been amazing and I am very grateful to my twitter friends for that.

Stephen sent us a link to his blog on why he's a runner who doesn't run marathon events. A blog he wrote because people kept asking him to run this and that marathon. It's an interesting read - Stephen runs how own race in his own way. I think he makes an excellent case for not doing marathons!

It made me think again about my motivation.  There is a fine line between pushing ourselves to be the best we can be, to realise our own inner goals, and pushing ourselves to keep up or to conform to what others think we should do. Maybe because we want to belong, maybe because we really like and admire them and want to be like them.
So, why do I want to run a marathon? Am I going to run a marathon just because other people think that's what runners do and I want to be a proper runner?  Am I prepared to put running first? Hmmm.

Well I know well where the impulse comes from. It comes from watching the London Marathon in the 1980s, where I was overcome with admiration and awe.  Lots of people run marathons now, but in those days it was only just becoming a mass participation thing and marathon runners were quite rare and exotic creatures.

I wanted to be one of them, and I still do. I want to say when I shuffle off this mortal coil that I ran a marathon. Just one, with a medal  I will treasure. I don't want to be a marathon runner, I just want to run a marathon. I know it will be one of the biggest and proudest achievements of my life. I could just run 26.2 miles on my own, but I am going to do an event because I want the whole experience, despite all the rubbish bits.

At the moment, I realised that I can't put running first. I don't want to run loads of marathons. I don't want to run an ultra. I want to run one single marathon. But I will keep running, it 's part of who I am now.  I want to run and have a life - time with family and friends, work hard, read, cycle, do Zumba and I want to keep my toenails.  That's the balance I want and so I have to compromise. I can't have all that and run marathons. 

So I have decided, at least as things are now. One marathon next May. Toenail friendly training. Maybe I'll focus on running in places I want to visit or with tweeps I want to meet. My cousin Katie and I are hoping to do the Edinburgh Half Marathon next April. 

Maybe one day I will stop caring about my toenails, and happily run them off. Chances are that by then my life and priorities will be different. On the bright side If a 100 year old man can finish a marathon, I have years ahead of me to change my mind!

Take care


Ps I have started doing a two weekly mini blog for TescoDiets have a look if you're interested

Sunday, 16 October 2011

On Boobs, Bras and Running

Boobs, breasts, bust, puppies...... The other day names we have for breasts was trending on Twitter. Even I was amazed and amused by the names we have for them. Most were fond and loving, not rude or crude. We love our boobs and quite right too!

As this month is breast cancer awareness month and because for one reason or another I've had boobs on my mind for the last week or so, I thought I'd do a blog about boobs, oh and a bit of running too.

The other week I had a small sebaceous cyst removed from under my bra strap.  It was very minor and nothing to worry about and only 2 stitches. 'Can I run?' I asked the (male) doctor as I went under the knife. 'Of course' he said as he snapped his rubber gloves. I looked away.  Afterwards, as I slid off the bed and tried to put my bra on, I remembered a fundamental fact of life. Men don't understand the psychology or physics of breasts in the way that women do. How could I possibly run with two stitches under the bra strap just at the place where there is probably maximum pull! Any woman would know that gravity and pressure made running like that a no no.

Now for me, any exercise without a bra is to be contemplated with some caution. Even spinning I need a bit of support; and yoga, well just think downward dog (thanks @longjogroz and @runner786 for that image!). I have a very serious and totally wonderful shock absorber bra that keeps me safe and sound and I wouldn't be without it. But it is very tight, especially in just that place where the stitches are.

A few days later after three spin classes, I'm really ready for a run.  After a bit of experimentation with all those hooks and things on my bra, I worked out a way of  getting an off the shoulder strap so I could run without too much movement. I decided to give it a go and headed off on a dusk run. Necessity truly is the mother of invention.

Well I had a lovely run, it was a beautiful evening and I worked out a route I can run any time of day to test out my speed and improvement ready for the Edinburgh Marathon next year. I put on my running music and hit the road. As always, as I ran, thoughts that had been blocked by shopping lists, work and by my, Mum's, Ali's 'to do' lists popped into my head like bubbles in fine champagne.

I thought about how lucky I am. What must it be like to have had a lumpectomy or more serious surgery. I remembered the stories I'd read about in Women's Running Magazine about women with breast cancer who found that running gave them strength and courage.   

I thought about how running and other exercise can help to fight breast cancer and other cancers too.  Nothing in life is guaranteed, but research shows that exercising after being diagnosed with breast cancer can reduce the risk of dying from the disease.  A 16 year follow-up of women with cancer, showed that women who exercised one to three hours each week lowered their risk of dying from breast cancer by one quarter and those who exercised between three and eight hours per week cut their risk in half.

I thought about how exercise can help reduce the risk of getting breast cancer in the first place.  Women who exercise for three or more hours each week can reduce their risk of breast cancer by twenty to forty percent. Forty per cent! If running cuts my risk be even a tiny percent, I'm all for it.

I thought about the race for lifers who cope with cancer, the gruelling treatment; the surgery, chemo, radiotherapy who walk and run. I thought about all the other women who walk, support, run and cheer for Race for Life. 
As I ran, I was glad to feel a tiny tug now and then that reminded me that I'm lucky to be running with boobs. That running might help me keep them. That being healthy and being lucky enough to choose to run are very very special and wonderful gifts to be treasured.

Of course men get breast cancer too, I hope running works for guys as well. Does anyone know?

Nothing is guaranteed in this life. Running doesn't stop you getting cancer, if only things were that easy. But running and other exercise might help reduce the risk. If there's the tiniest chance that exercise will keep me whole and healthy a bit longer, I'm all for it. And I'm very happy that it helps keep me slim, has brought me dear friends and is great fun too. A no brainer I'd say.

So, whether you run round the block or run Ultras; whether you're a treadmill trotter or a fell runner; a runner, walker, cyclist, swimmer; trapeze artist - whatever. Whether you're a boob carrier or a boob appreciator (or indeed both), be a gambler and  cut the odds, get off the couch, out that door and move.

Happy running and take care