Olivia runs a mile

Recently a film has been released called ‘Brittany Runs A Marathon’, and I’ve heard it’s rather an emotional one for some of us runners. You see, not all who run are equal, not all who run did it at school, not all who run are fast.

I began running in April 2018 and was greatly enjoying it. My level of enjoyment took me completely by surprise (as it took everyone who knew me by surprise too!). I slogged away through the endless summer heatwave, into the autumn and winter. I went out in all weathers, including the pouring Lancashire rain and, when it was too hot that summer, at 10 o’clock at night. I was obsessed!

I loved the high I experienced after each run. I loved that I could see how I was getting better and fitter each week as my times came down or I could run for longer. I even ran an 11 mile fell run in the Yorkshire Dales. But then disaster struck…

In June 2019 I was playing netball and I landed badly on my ankle, tearing a ligament and putting myself out of action for months. After some serious rest and physio, I was given the all clear to run again (gently, slowly) at the end of September. This was a shock, as the initial examination with the physio in August had predicted October or November. I merrily skipped out of the physio, ran a handful of times, and then packed it all in.

You see, for once my mind wasn’t letting me down. My mind was telling me, yes, let’s go, you can do this. But my body was saying, nope, and prompting me to give up after just a few minutes. Suddenly, each run brought with it disappointment and demotivation, where it had previously brought elation and motivation. Instead, 3 weeks ago, I turned back to netball.

I took it very gently, no sprinting or jumping, but it was fine. My ankle felt good, and I enjoyed myself… except for the fact I was desperately unfit. I am desperately unfit. And so I told myself 3 weeks ago that I would start running tomorrow. The problem was, tomorrow never arrived. I always had an excuse.

Mainly, though, my biggest excuse was that I can remember the hard work I had to put in during those early months of beginning running back in April and May 2018. I can remember having to force myself out when I was shattered, when it was raining, early mornings or late at night. I can remember feeling ridiculous as I plodded along slower than walking pace as I ran up another Lancashire hill. I can remember all of the sore thighs and aching lungs. I can remember all of what it took to get myself to the place of being able to run 10.9 miles across fell land on my own. And I just didn’t think I could be bothered to put that work in again.

Last night though, I went to netball practice, and shared this with some of the team. Their response? Well, you’ll have to do it, if you want to get back to where you were. And, of course, they were right. What it comes down to is how much I want it. How much do I want to be able to run for miles and miles? How much do I want to feel that blood pumping runners high again?

Well, it turns out, I want it a lot, because this morning I went out and I did it. I put my trainers on and my headphones in, selected my music and ran 1.6 miles. Ok, so I ran for 8 minutes, walked for 5 minutes, and ran for 8 again, just as Jo Whiley told me to (I skipped to week 5 of Couch to 5K). But I moved forward for 1.6 miles. And it felt so good!

My lungs ached, my thighs burned (especially up that hill), but my blood pumped and my heart soared.

How much do you want what you want?

Don’t let anything stop you.

The Long Run

10.94 miles, to be exact.

I don’t think I can adequately put into words how amazing the run was. It helped, of course, that the weather was on my side: sunny, for the most part, with a gentle breeze which kept me cool. The conditions were perfect for a long run / walk / climb up and down the fells, through brooks, streams, mud.

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I set off from outside one of the Sedbergh School boarding houses on Long Lane, with rucksack on and feeling well equipped for what lay ahead. 2 miles in and I wondered if I’d made a mistake: I’d already had to walk considerable amounts. At least if I turned back, I’d get a good 4 miles under my belt, and there’s always next year. I reached for my phone to text my friend, Emma, to let her know I was thinking of turning back… but then I knew what she’d say. So away went the phone and on went the legs.

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It was at this point that the first set of ‘elite’ runners came past me with great strength. These were the real runners, in my mind, their calf muscles flexing as they shot past me. I heard their “Well done!” and it pushed me on. As I ran on to Cautley, I met 2 members of the walking party who had set off before me. I stopped for a walk of around a mile, chatting to them, refuelling with Percy Pigs and water, and sharing how my training was going. I had a final stretch at the Cautley pitstop, chatting to more walkers who assured me that I was a proper runner, before I decided to head off towards Baugh Fell.

Within a mile I was walking again as I hit yet another steep descent, and then the real work started. I don’t know why, but I had made the assumption that it was a case of making the climb up Baugh Fell, and then it’d be straight forward: run across Baugh Fell, find my way back on to the A684, which would draw me back into Sedbergh. Of course, things are never that simple, and you should never assume anything. 

In reality, Baugh Fell was a series of very serious and sudden declines of 100-200feet (30-60 metres), a great deal of mud, rivers and streams to run through and very uneven soft ground. This was where my ankles took a real beating as they bent this way and that with each landing. At one point I decided a farm track would be the best route, rather than the uneven boggy terrain of Baugh Fell. It was more solid than the marshy fell-land, but I soon found both feet firmly planted shin deep in mud, a la Vicar of Dibley. The only way out was for my hands to go all the way in too. Thankfully there was yet another stream for me to stop beside shortly after to rid my hands of the majority of the mud before continuing on my way. Who wants to run 4 miles with dry mud caked on their hands? 

Shortly after my attempt to clean up a little, I realised I was at 6.5 miles. This was officially the furthest I had ever run… though I still feel a fraud for saying that, as I had been walking considerable amounts. An incredible feeling rushed over me. What an achievement! I was 6.5 miles in, out of 10. And the only way back now was to run on; the quickest way home to a shower was to finish the race. Before I knew it, I could see the car park at Danny Bridge ahead of me and I knew I only had one 70ft climb ahead of me before the 2 and a bit miles on the road back to Sedbergh.

Sadly, my hamstring suddenly gave out. It was less of a tight muscle pain, more of an injured feeling. Kissing goodbye to a sub 3 hour time, my running pace slowed to a 15 minute mile (I’d normally run an 11.5 minute mile) as I hobbled on down the road. I was rather alarmed when I looked to see I had run 10 miles, but knew I was still a fair bit away from the finish line. It turns out that this 10 mile run is actually just short of 11.

As I came down to the final 500 metres a message came up on my phone from my friend, Emma, asking if I’d finished. She must have taken my silence and non text back as a sign that I was in fact still running because, as I came running down the final strait to finish, I looked up and she was running down to join me. Just like that, 3 hours and 20 minutes had passed, and I’d run over 10 miles.

It’s only been a day and people have been asking how it was. Quite honestly I’m not sure there will ever be anything like it. To finally complete a run that I was always too unfit or scared to tackle feels incredible. At the end I ran past the teacher who often had to stop me at Cautley because I was taking too long and wouldn’t be able to complete the run in a quick enough time. He smiled and congratulated me. I wondered if he remembered me. I mean, there’s no reason he would. I didn’t run at school, and that was over a decade ago. So I replied, “Thanks! I wouldn’t have qualified though.”

What is incredible is that, year after year, 16-18 year olds run this gruelling route. Some train for it, some don’t, and they finish to rapturous applause and cheering. There is something of a determined and motivated spirit in these young people, that they would choose to complete something so outside an ordinary person’s comfort zone. Now I have done it, I can see why. There is something so freeing, something so exhilarating, something so life giving, about being on the open fells, surrounded by nothing but creation.

Next year the run will be in its 140th year. I’ll be there, chasing my sub 3 hour finishing time. What will you be doing?

The Night Before

And so it’s finally here. The night before. In the morning I take on 10 miles of mud, rivers, hills and a bit of road too. Am I ready? Absolutely not. I’ve had cold after cold, shin splints and the sort of tooth ache that makes you want to cut your own jaw off. (Seriously, I was in A&E vomiting because the pain was so bad.) And so, I want to call it off. Part of me wants to wait until next year. There’s always a next year. But no. Tomorrow I will run.

Back in 2006 I chose not to run ‘The Wilson’: a gruelling 10 mile fell race for 6th formers at my old school. Why? Because I was fearful. Sure, I blamed it on my bad knees, my lack of training and my previous chest infection, but I was really just afraid. I was afraid I’d come last or, worse, not finish; that I would finish so late that there’d be no one there to cheer me on along the finishing strait; that I would be a bit of a laughing stock amongst my peers. I told myself I wasn’t fit enough, or strong enough; that sport wasn’t my thing, music was. I believed the lies in my own mind, and I let them win. But the truth was, I could have done it.

Now, over a decade later and around 4 stone heavier, I am nowhere near physically ready for 10 miles on the vast and bleak moorland of the Yorkshire Dales. I am not ready for the hills; I am not ready for the mileage; I am not even ready for the 5k stretch on road at the end. I am not ready. Yet, mentally, I am. I’ve been telling myself that I will be doing ‘The Wilson’ since April last year; since I went on that first run and it felt like an impossible dream that I might get from running for 60 seconds to running the impossible 10 mile in just under a year. Yet here it is. The impossible will, tomorrow, be done.

It isn’t even the lack of physical readiness which puts me off tomorrow. It’s the emotional. I have built this up in my mind over the years. I’d run the whole thing, with the exception of Baugh Fell. I’d get round in a respectable time for a 30 something mum of 1. I’d have family at the end cheering me on. Tomorrow I won’t have any of that. I definitely won’t be able to run the whole thing – though I’ve made my peace with it. My time is irrelevant tomorrow, it’s about getting round in one piece. And everyone’s busy (as is the case when you go to run on a Tuesday morning), so I’ll finish that 10th mile in silence and alone. It will be my biggest physical achievement to date, but I will celebrate on my own, probably via social media. There’ll still be tears though.

And really, all of that is ok. There is still next year. This year I can get round, find my way, survive. Then next year, 2020, I can fly round, find my way, thrive.

Giving up would be easy

In April it will be a year since I started running. Following the NHS Couch to 5K program, I quickly began to see improvement. I was running faster, and further. I was feeling fitter, more determined. Each time I ran, I’d be sure I could beat myself in some way.

Since September, though, I have lost my mojo. I’ve been running, but I feel as though I’m really not getting anywhere. And with a pretty poor January record, I have come into February wondering whether I can keep going.

I mean, of course I can. But it all feels a bit rubbish right now. I’m thoroughly fed up of running at the same speed (or, indeed, getting slower) and it feeling hard. It feels harder now than it did when I started 10 months ago.

And so, giving up would be easy. Especially as I seem nowhere near ready for my upcoming 10 mile fell run in March. I ran 1 mile yesterday and it felt impossible. If 1 mile on a relatively flat road feels that way, how will I get through another 9, with mud and hills and, probably, rain?

I know I can’t give up. It’s just that it would be so easy to say, “I’m done.”

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

So said Norman Vincent Peale.

Back on 8th April 2018, I turned 30. Honestly, it wasn’t a great day and I spent the late afternoon in bed, crying. It was probably the hormones (I finished breastfeeding a week earlier), but I believed that nobody cared about my ‘big’ birthday. And so, at 7pm, when my daughter was in bed, I decided I would go for a run to clear my head. My previous run had been August 30 2017, when I attempted Week 4 of the Couch to 5K plan. I ran 1.6 miles in 22 minutes.

I’m not sure exactly why I decided to go for a run, or why I thought it would make me feel better… but it did. I remember it being hard: R3 minutes, W90 seconds, R5 minutes, W2.5 minutes x2. I really struggled to run those 2 sets of 5 minutes. I thought I might keel over at one point, but the day’s earlier drizzle had cleared, almost like nature’s birthday present to me. It was cool, there were birds singing and lambs bleating. And best of all, I neither saw nor heard any human disturbance. Bliss.

That was the beginning of this journey I am on, pushing my body physically and mentally. Every week (bar the 2 when I was poorly) since then I have pushed myself to get out of the house and run 3-4 times a week. Back in July, I finally managed to run 5k without stopping. Wow! What an achievement that was! I felt incredible. Even before that, though, I’d set a target in my mind of 10km.

In the summer of 2010 I completed a Race for Life 10km, in memory of my granddad. I ran, with zero training and a very unhealthy lifestyle, and finished in 1 hour 3 minutes. 2 years later, again with no training, I completed the Great Manchester Run (another 10km) in 1 hour 7 minutes. I only realise now what a feat that was. And it makes me cross with myself too.

How could I let myself believe that I was physically ok, just because I was slim? How could I do that then, with no training, and yet now I have to really work hard for it? How could I allow myself to become so unfit?

At the same time though, it makes my current achievements feel even grander. 5 weeks ago, I began training at a gym. To look at from the outside, it’s nothing special. There’s no jazzy machines, no water fountain or air con. There’s not even a sniff of Zumba. And yet, I can tell you that it is so much more than all of the gyms which have those things. And it’s special. Oh, is it special.

Over the last 5 weeks, I have done things I never thought possible. I have hurt and ached in places which have never ached (including my incredibly weak abdomen). I have felt scared, and I have felt joy. I have felt nervous, and within an hour felt such pride in what I’ve just achieved. And I’ve met great people. Really great people. All working towards their own goals in their own time. Incredible.

And so, here we are… or rather here I am. It’s 18th August 2018. It’s been 132 days since that first run back in April. This morning I met up with one of the great people from the gym and went for a run. She is training for the Great North Run (half marathon), her own goal, and yet she took the time to run with me. She pushed me. She cheered me on. And she ran at my pace.

Back in April I aimed to get to 10km. It seemed ridiculous. Today, I did it. I’m not sure if hitting 10km is the moon or the stars, but I haven’t landed yet. I’m just resetting my goals.

“Every journey begins with a small step…”

“… every race has a starting line.”

So begins one of our Year 6 songs this summer, as they prepare to leave primary school.

What journey are you starting out on? Or rather, what journey do you have to start out on, but haven’t yet made that small step?

For me, I’ve been in a seemingly endless cycle of mistreating my body and my health: drinking excessively; smoking; late nights and early rises; over eating; under eating; exercise regimes that never quite last.

The journey I am on at the moment is a difficult one. I am a mother, and a wife, a daughter and a sister. I want to be healthy, to live a long life. I want to be physically strong, so my own daughter will have an example of what it is to live well. And yet, when I snatch a glimpse of myself in the mirror before bed, it all comes back down to weight and aesthetics once more.

As I said in my previous post, I did not start running earlier in the year because I wanted to lose weight. My journey began because I wanted to be fit, both mentally and physically. And that’s still true. What’s changed is that I have come to realise that it isn’t enough to simply run 5K 3 times a week, nor play a bit of netball. I need to get serious about how I fuel my body.

Over the last 10 days or so, I have felt exhausted. Clearly, I am not getting enough sleep and my body isn’t getting the right sort of energy from the food I am putting in. (Seriously, any tips would be gratefully received!!)

So I am stood at the starting line, waiting to take that small step. As with much of my life, I’ll be winging it and seeing what works well. Let’s see what this body of mine can do when it is fuelled correctly.

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?

You are not your own; you were bought at a price.

Therefore honour God with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6: 19 – 20)

“I hate running.”

Or so I used to say. Now I’m one of those people who will say, “Ooh! I love running!”

Do not misunderstand me. When I rave positively about running, it isn’t because I’m good at it. Nor am I fit, or fast. I’m not even slim and toned, as I still very much enjoy membership in the Mummy Tummy Club. I look red and weary when I run, and there are points when I could walk more quickly than I currently run.

And yet… I love it.

Not because I find it easy – I don’t.

Not because I am losing weight – I’m not.

Not because I used to run – I didn’t.

I love it because I feel strong.

I love it because it makes me feel good.

I love it because it makes me feel determined.

When I started running back in March, I was running at a pace of 9:30/KM. Now I am running regularly at a pace of 8:05/KM. Yesterday, I ran another PB of 40 minutes 25 seconds for a 5K, AND a PB of 25 minutes 42 seconds for 2 miles.

I am still quite slow, but I am determined to get fitter and stronger. I know the speed will come in time. And those who know me well, well they know I am never in a hurry.

Race for Life 2018

Wow! I cannot believe it! You may remember last year I bought a running bra, and proceeded to try and do Couch to 5K (a 9 week NHS programme that gently increases your running times from 60 seconds to 30 minutes), but it all fell flat in September last year.

I gave up!

But in March, as I was about to turn 30, I thought I’d dust off my trainers and try again. It has been really hard. There has been a lot of rainy evenings, and a lot of aching calves. But every other day, I made an effort to get out there and just give it a go.

Fast forward to June 2018, officially the hottest driest June ever (ok, so not officially, just in my head). It hasn’t rained. The heat has crept ever higher. And I cannot, will not run in the heat. My body just can’t cope. I also cannot bring myself to go out running at 6am or 10pm when, realistically, the climate is cooler. I am a tired mum, and I need to sleep at some point.

So, with great trepidation I travelled down to Blackpool yesterday evening with a good friend, and we did the 5K Race for Life. My aim was simple: to run all the way, without stopping, even if walking would have likely been quicker.

I DID IT!!

What an amazing experience! Very emotional seeing the sea of pink stretch ahead of me and behind me, all running or walking to raise money for (and awareness of) Cancer Research’s work.

And I got a cheeky PB. 5K in 40 minutes 56 seconds. Which isn’t too shabby for someone who only started running in March.

Whatever you want to do, set your goal and go for it! You never know what you can do until you try.

Farleton Fell

What with house hunting and a very wet summer (it’s felt like every weekend has rained), I have neglected my 30 Before 30 challenge. For those that are joining us late, I set myself the challenge of doing 30 different walks in the countryside before my 30th birthday. Living in northern Lancashire, we often escape to the Lake District, but I felt that we tend to find ourselves doing the same walks again and again. 

So, over the last 5 months I have done 11 walks (including today’s), most of which are new to me and I’ve never done before. My hubby and our little girl have joined me for these walks, as well as a mixture of friends. I am hoping for a drier September, so I can get a few more done before winter and ice set in.

Last night I was researching for our walk today, thinking we might head somewhere in the Trough of Bowland. Instead though, I thought about the hill we drive past each and every time we head to the Lake District. Each time I wonder what it’s called, and how long it would take. And so, before bed I found the name and a suitable route for an overcast Sunday morning.

Now, we wouldn’t normally go walking on a Sunday until after church, so today I took my bible. We parked on the roadside in Holme, and set off along the Lancaster-Kendal canal.


It was a little moist underfoot, and there was some unscheduled rain. We wondered if we might be making the worst mistake, as only 1/3 of us had a waterproof (me), but we pressed on and we are glad we did as the rain soon subsided. After meandering down the canal for a short while, we crossed a field, marvelled at the size of motorway signs and crossed the busy M6 to reach the hamlet of Farleton.


Then started our ascent, which was very steep from the start. After a short while we entered what my route map describes accurately as the jungle; a long, steep climb zigzagging through thick gorse bushes. After what felt like an age, we came out of this mass of bushes to realise that we had climbed very high, very quickly. 


Once we had emerged from the jungle, we had a short climb up a scree slope before climbing the final grassy part of Farleton Fell. One member of the party joked, “Is that the top? Or is it a fake top like Winder?” It seems, when climbing mountains, that sometimes you think you are near the top when suddenly you realise that you’re only half way there. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case today. 


We came to a grassy plateau, from which we had extensive views across Morecambe Bay and the Howgill Fells. When we reached the summit cairn that is Farleton Knott, we could even see the Ashton Memorial which stands in Williamsons Park in our hometown. I imagine the views would be even more striking on a clear day.



Once we’d taken in the views, I read a short passage from 1 Peter in the Bible and then we sang. We sang Amazing Grace and 10,000 Reasons rather heartily, full with improvised drums and harmonies. Wonderful! The sky was intensely dramatic, and we enjoyed our short time at the top.


Because of the time, we took a shorter route back than described in the guide, and came through Holme Park Fell. The descent was very gentle, and we meandered slowly back towards the car.


I’d highly recommend this walk, via a slightly different route, as the views and limestone crags are amazing. As I said earlier, on a clear day the views will be hard to beat: you can even see Ingleborough, which I’ll be walking up soon. At 255ms (836ft) elevation, it is taller than Black Crag which was one of my earlier walks, but still 650ms (2400ft) short of Scafell Pike which I hope to do as my 30th walk near (or on) my 30th birthday.

One of the best things about these walks has been discovering new places to eat. Today was no different, as we found ourselves eating at a delightful country pub: The Plough, Lupton. We enjoyed sharing a baked Camembert between us, and then I had a roast beef dinner. Perfect! 

Brothers Water

Yesterday was a lovely day for walking: warm and clear, with a light breeze. Off we went to the Lake District, but it’s a Bank Holiday weekend so we steered clear of the South Lakes area so heavily used by tourists and their cars. Onwards we went to Penrith, and then a little back on ourselves to a little hamlet called Hartsop, situated at the foot of Kirkstone Pass a few miles from Ullswater.

For me, this is the most beautiful part of the Lakes that I’ve experienced. Everything is so green, the hedges are slightly more full of flora, and the paths are less full. I was amazed by how different it felt from our usual haunts of Ambleside and Grasmere, beautiful as they are.

The walk around Brothers Water is a circular route, with only a slight incline towards the end. It would be passable with a hardy pram, though that would include walking along a road at the end.


There were many moments we had to stop and take in our surroundings, and we enjoyed a lovely picnic lunch on the water shores. 



All in all, it was about 3 miles and took us an hour and a half, including lunch. And that’s 10 of my 30 walks done! Only 20 more to go. Hi