Thursday, 19 September 2013

The Bupa Great North Run - we did it!

A week before the Great North Run, my race pack and number arrived...and had the effect of making me panic! In that week I lurched between excitement and feeling really quite scared. I was following the plan that Simon, the Bupa physio, had advised, so was tapering my training. My usual outlet for releasing stress would be to go for a run, but I couldn't do that!

On Saturday I made the journey up to Newcastle, meeting my sister when I got there, who came to cheer me on. We went for a wander along the river and saw the Tyne Bridge looking like this, which made it seem all the more real.

I saw Jo, and it was good to talk to someone who knew how anxious I was starting to feel! Dinner was carb-heavy, and I kept to advice to avoid alcohol and caffeine. I had a fairly early night and slept better than I thought I might.

After an early breakfast we set off to the start line. Considering our training session the week before had been in glorious sunshine, the weather forecast for the race was pretty awful, mostly consisting of torrential rain and gale force winds. It turned out to be a lot better than predicted, and the rain stayed away the whole time we were at the start, although it was cold and windy, and keeping warm was a priority.

Jo was interviewed on the BBC programme alongside Mel C, and I was really pleased to find out afterwards that they had played a film made at our last training session where I was explaining why I had got in to running in the first place, and why I had chosen to run for Ambitious about Autism.

Before we knew it, it was time for the race to start. We were starting right at the front, not too far away from a certain Mo Farah. Simon had warned us that the start would be really busy, with people jostling for position and trying to push past. There was a lot of that but we all managed to stick together.

Jo was a little speedier than me, so we ran the first three or four miles together, and then I dropped back a little bit. The promised rain came, but not for too long, and there was a tailwind so it helped to push us along. The crowd along the way were everything that I had been told, and more. The atmosphere was incredible and such a help in keeping going. My personal favourite was Elvis in a bus stop - made me smile just when I was starting to feel really tired. I ran faster than I had in training and was over the moon to finish in 2 hours 13 minutes and 2 seconds, just 8 minutes after Jo. Crossing the finish line was such a brilliant feeling, quite emotional and a huge sense of achievement.

My total raised far for Ambitious about Autism was just incredible. I had hoped to raise £500, and ending up raising (including gift aid) just over £1000. A huge thank you to everyone who sponsored me, it really means such a lot.

This has been such an incredible experience. I've absolutely loved every minute of being Jo's running buddy. It's been brilliant to go through the whole experience with someone else every step of the way, to support and encourage me, and help me keep going. I'm also so grateful for all the brilliant expert advice I've received from everyone at Bupa, it has been invaluable. Running with a buddy is definitely much more fun, and I've absolutely got the bug now. Newcastle - I'll see you again, for the Great North Run 2014!


Thursday, 5 September 2013

Countdown to the Great North Run

On Monday I made my way back to London for my second training session with the lovely Jo Whiley, our last session together before the Great North Run next Sunday.

I've been pleased with how my training has been going since we last met up. On the advice of Simon, the Bupa physio, I've been increasing the distance of my long run (which I usually do on a Sunday) by a mile each week. And the weekend before last I ran the full 13.1 miles. It was hard work, and I did it in 2 hours 26 minutes, but I did it! I don't think I've ever been so tired in my life afterwards, and at any given point in the week afterwards I could have happily fallen asleep. I wasn't really ready for that, having felt OK after the 11 and 12 mile runs I did. So I'm prepared to take it easy in the week after the Great North Run now, and expect to feel quite tired!

Before the training started we had a couple more interviews, and more photos taken:

Then we had a really useful session with Bianca, a nutritionist from Bupa. She gave lots of advice about what we should be eating in general whilst training, but also what to eat the night before and the morning before the race. I've recently stopped eating meat so I was also able to get advice from her on what I should be making sure I'm eating instead (top tips were low fat cheese and unsalted almonds).

After that we went back outside with Simon for some warm up stretches, and then we were off around Regents Park for a run in beautiful sunshine.

Whilst we were running Simon talked to us about what to expect on the morning of the race, what to expect at the start line, and the best way find space to run in the crowds once the race has begun. It was a really hot day, but the run went well, and we finished off with a warm down and more stretching. I think we're both definitely feeling nervous, but also excited about the run. I feel a bit more apprehensive now, knowing what hard work the 13.1 miles was and how tired I was and how much I ached afterwards! But I'm confident that we'll do it! It's great to have the support from Jo, and to be able to support her in return, as well as all the brilliant advice that I've had from everyone at Bupa. My extra motivation comes in knowing that I'm raising money while I run for Ambitious about Autism, the national charity for children and young people with autism. I was thrilled this morning to see that I have reached my fundraising target, but I'd like to raise as much as I possibly can for this amazing charity that is very close to my heart. If you haven't sponsored me yet and would like to you can do so via my just giving page which is here:
Alternatively you can sponsor me £1 by texting SSAA77 £1 to 70070
or you can sponsor me £5 by texting SSAA77 £5 to 70070.

A huge thank you to everyone who has already sponsored me. You are supporting a brilliant cause and helping me to keep one foot in front of the other! The Bupa Great North Run is next Sunday, the 15th of September - I'll let you know how we get on!

Friday, 2 August 2013

Running the Great North Run as Jo Whiley's running buddy

I've blogged before about how I've fairly recently started running. I started doing it as something just for me, where I can get out, headphones on, forget about things, and run. I've surprised myself with how much I enjoy it, with how much of a buzz it gives me, and how actually I'm not nearly as bad at it as I thought I probably would be! A few weeks ago I did a local 10k race, and that made me think about whether I could stretch myself to do a half marathon, something I would never have even considered a few months ago. At about the same time I saw that Bupa Running were running a competition on their Facebook page, where you could train with the brilliant Jo Whiley as her running buddy, and then start the Great North Run together. This seemed like an amazing opportunity and so I entered.
I explained on my application that, like Jo, I had 4 children and so knew how hard it was sometimes to find both the motivation and the time to get out for a training run. Also in common with Jo this would be my first half marathon. I also mentioned that I have a stubborn streak which enjoys the challenge of pushing myself that bit further, which should make me a good person to be a running buddy, and should stand us in good stead for getting to that finish line. I also explained that I would run to raise money for Ambitious about Autism, a charity that is obviously very close to my heart. Much to my surprise, Jo and Bupa picked me!
So this week I had a brilliant day in London to meet Jo and have our first training session together. It wasn't what you would call a typical day for me! There was a photographer taking lots of photos of the session, as well as a film crew filming and interviewing us. The Bupa physio was on hand to give really useful advice, amongst other things on the best way to warm up and down before and after a run, and on our running style. He filmed us running so that he could explain which parts of our running style were good and where we needed to do some work. Apparently Jo and I both run like gazelles - up until then I was fairly sure that I ran in a style similar to Phoebe in 'Friends' so I'm holding on to the gazelle comparison! A brilliant part of being Jo's buddy is that I have the support of the Bupa team during my training, so I can have access to this type of expert advice. As a completely novice runner this is invaluable.
The buddy system means that we can encourage and support each other, for me it's an extra incentive to keep training and pushing myself, being part of a team means you don't want to let anyone down. I've been a big fan of Jo's for a long time and it was so lovely to meet her, to talk to her about why I started running, and why I want to raise money for Ambitious about Autism.
The physio gave me confidence that I'm on target in terms of my training, and now I know what I need to be doing between now and the race on the 15th September. We have another training session later this month so I shall report back. There will also be updates on the Bupa Facebook page.
In the meantime, if anyone is able to spare a pound or two to sponsor me I would be incredibly grateful. This can be done via my JustGiving page here.
Alternatively you can text SSAA77 £1 to 70070 to sponsor me £1, or text SSAA77 £5 to 70070 to sponsor me £5. 
Thank you! I shall keep you updated, and in the meantime leave you with some photos from this week's training session.