Sunday, 24 August 2014

Basingstoke Half Marathon Training Run #6

Happy Sunday. I've had such a relaxing day - I've watched 3 episodes of Obese: A Year To Save My Life (I love it! So addictive and Chris Powell is such a cool man), walked my greyhounds and been for a long run.

Maxx and I went on an 8-mile loop at around 12.30 - our longest training run so far. It was quite warm, so I felt a little uncomfortable at first, but I didn't want that to be an excuse to take it easy. The first 4 miles were comfortable, but the fifth mile was surprisingly hard given the route was flat.

After a 5-minute walk, we ran another 1.6 miles. By this time I had been having stomach cramps for 40 minutes, so decided to walk the last mile home. I might have collapsed next to a roundabout first, feeling very nauseous...

The last 1.6 miles were exhausting, partly because it was the longest training run we've done so far and sometimes having a walk makes it harder to get going again. After analysing our times for both sections, it became clear why we had burnt out - we ran 5 miles in 43 minutes, which is about 8 1/2 minutes a mile. That's a pretty good pace, if I say so myself. After our walk, it took 21 minutes to run 1.6 miles - really slow in comparison.

I think it comes down to pacing - while I'm pleased we ran 5 miles so fast, we cannot afford to burn out so quickly during the half marathon. But this is precisely why training is so important - making these mistakes now means we'll be much better prepared during the race!

The half marathon is 6 weeks away today, and I'm feeling a little apprehensive when I think about the big hills. However, I know that getting out on the course and running up them will reassure me - it's easy to build something up in your mind to be much scarier than it actually is, and I'm anxious of failing to finish because I'm running for charity. But I will finish, as I said in my last post - I just would rather sprint through the finish line, rather than be dragged across it.

Here's a breakdown of the run:
5.0 miles, 43 minutes
0.4 miles, 5 minutes (walk)
1.6 miles, 21 minutes
1 mile walk home - we didn't time this as we were cooling down
Total = 8.0 miles, 6.6 running

Post-run bath
Post-run bath with Lush's Fizzbanger bathbomb, a p-shake and some quality reading

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Basingstoke Half Marathon Training Run #5

Due to being poorly last week, I didn’t manage to do much by way of exercise – I felt drained, couldn’t eat or drink and had excruciating stomach pains, so didn’t fancy running 8 miles or lifting heavy things! Being thoroughly spoilt on my birthday and not indulging too much surely helped my recovery, so this week I was looking forward to getting back to training.

Maxx, Maxx’s cousin and I ventured out on Monday. I’d Google-mapped a route which we’ve not done before but looked very picturesque, as it was mostly country roads, so I felt really motivated.

In total, we ran 4.8 miles (with no walking!) in 50 minutes – the only reason we didn’t reach the full distance was because I didn’t want to be late to my grandparents’ for dinner. I know that I would have managed the other 1.2 miles as my pace was perfect and I felt really comfortable, so I’m not worried about this. Monday’s venture also reassured me, as I thought it would be awful after not being able to eat properly/train the week before.

I’m equally as motivated to run on Sunday – I’ve mapped an 8-mile circuit which incorporates part of Monday’s route, so they’ll be plenty of magnificent houses and farms to look at on the way round. That’s definitely why I loved Monday’s run – farm animals grazing in the fields, a cool breeze, old houses, a little bridge with a stream underneath... Perfect!

Due to being poorly I’m a week behind where I’d like to be in training, and I was feeling very down about it just before my birthday, but I know that whatever happens I will finish the half marathon. It might not be the fastest time, and I might have to walk a little, but I will cross that finish line.

If you haven’t sponsored Maxx and me yet, and would like to, please go to: We’re hoping to raise £300 for Wimbledon Greyhound Welfare, a wonderful charity in Hersham who care for over 80 greyhounds. In 9 donations we’ve managed to raise 55% of our target, so please help us smash it!
The BFF challenge is still on, which I need to lose 2% body fat for. I have 10 days – I’ve been keeping a food diary for the last 3 weeks, to monitor my intake and also keep a record of any reactions. I am not counting calories, I am looking at how healthy my meals are and trying to find which foods are IBS triggers. Maybe it is wishful thinking but I do think I’ve lost a little body fat as I’m less squishy! 

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Crochet Ernest!

At midnight I pestered Maxx to let me open his card and a present. The wrapping was quite unusual as a soft ear was poking out the side - at the time I just thought Maxx had given up with the whole wrapping fandango.

Well... when I saw what my gift was, I cried a happy tear. One of Maxx's colleagues, Jenny, crochets owls and giraffes and other animals, and he'd mentioned to me a while ago how good they are. He definitely made an understatement.

I am astounded - my gift is beautiful and touchingly personal. Apparently, Jenny visited my blog and read the story of the day Ernest arrived (12 years ago today!), took my gift back, and added a small spot to his ear. If you don't understand the significance of the ear spot, read this post. Maxx also provided pictures so Jenny could get a really good idea of Ernest's markings, and wrapped him with one ear poking out as a reference to the day he arrived in 2002. 

Crochet Ernest is magical. I smile every time I look at him and keep stroking his hair! I made him my snapchat story this morning and I am definitely going to introduce him to Ernest later today.

Thank you Jenny and Maxx :)

Monday, 4 August 2014

Thoughts on the Centenary

I was born 76 years and 10 days after Britain joined the war in 1914. If I'd been alive at the time, I would have seen my partner, brother, cousin, friends and colleagues leave for France. I probably would have lost at least one of them. This is a heartbreaking fact which makes me feel hopeless and desperate, even though Maxx and his cousin are sat next to me safe and sound eating baguettes.

I can't imagine the fear, the sadness and the horror those men must have faced. Looking at images of the landscapes, of the trenches, of the bodies and of the wounded is overwhelming. Seeing videos of hopeful young soldiers waving at the cameras, excited for battle, fills me with dread and a sense of guilt. Did he survive? What about him? 

There are many perceptive academic texts written about the effect of WWI, particularly on memory; posted below is an extract from one of my 3rd year essays, entitled "What are the main issues involved in writing about World War I within fictional forms?". The Runner is the fictional short story I wrote based on my great-grandfather's experiences.

The final issue involved in writing about World War One within fictional forms is reader and author understanding. The purpose of writing history fiction, as has been stated, is to entertain, but also to educate. This raises the question whether fictionalizing events as traumatic and important in British military history as World War One removes the seriousness of the subject. Romanticising the war as exciting and a great adventure could be seen to trivialise the trauma and losses suffered between 1914 and 1918. By contrast, fiction can also teach many truthful things; although the horror of war is sometimes absorbed into fictional war narratives, placing them in these contexts widens their appeal and therefore reaches a wider audience.

In 2000, Paul Fussell described how ‘a striking phenomenon of the last twenty-five years is this obsession with the images and myths of the Great War among novelists and poets too young to have experienced it directly.’[1]  The continued popularity of war narratives has been discussed; however, Fussell highlights how preposterous this seems when the writers have no experience, and arguably no real understanding, of what they are writing about. Without these personal experiences, writers are now reliant on the experience of others, but images are one of the few sources of the war that make it semi-accessible. When writing The Runner, I did look at images of the Somme in A J P Taylor’s The First World War: An Illustrated History, but as has been discussed, I only used one graphic image, to make it more effective. I attempted to counter my lack of understanding by focusing on the experiences passed to me from David Chapman.

[1] Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), p.321.

If you want to read The Runner, click here.

Friday, 1 August 2014

The BFF Challenge

Pinch punch first day of the month! In place of a monthly update, as not much has changed since the end of June, let me introduce you to...

The BFF Challenge!

Boop (co-writer of the Longleat posts) and I have invented a challenge to help us reach our fitness goals. By the beginning of September, Boop needs to have lost 7 pounds and I need to be 21% body fat (I'm also hoping to lose 4-8 lbs). As we live in two different Queendoms far, far away, we won't be working out together, but will be keeping each other updated on our progress. 

The reward: a treat in the form of food - we're both thinking a ginormous sundae, either bought or made. I'm thinking honeycomb pieces, Ben and Jerry's ice cream, caramel sauce, whipped cream... the kind I'd need to eat with about 400 IBS pills!

The forfeit: rep to failure one hated exercise. Boop has chosen tricep dips and I've chosen kettlebell swings... We will also have to give up our favourite food for a month - I will forfeit cheese or chocolate, or both, and Boop will give up biscuits or cheese.

I think this is an excellent way to keep motivated, as you can celebrate your successes together or commiserate when it gets tough. Fitness challenges with friends only work if you're genuinely BFFs and not frenemies, however - I want Boop to succeed just as must as she wants me to, and there's no hidden competition as a) we love each other, b) we want the other to be happy with her body, and c) we're aiming for two very different goals anyway.

Wish Boop and I luck!