When the wheels fall off……..

Well………I think I need to explain and apologise for the last few week’s absence. It’s been busy and somewhat challenging! After the Covid palaver and my ear disaster, it really felt as if things were on the up. I was feeling strong, motivated and thoroughly looking forward to a crazy, busy weekend at the Milton Keynes Marathon Weekend with friends, and then the fun that is always the local excitement of the Market Drayton 10k, followed by a fabulous weekend tackling the trails of the Lake District.

After an enjoyable couple of runs with club, and a lovely spin round the village with local running buddy Nikki, I was 100% ready for action, and set off buzzing with an early morning coffee and some very loud AC/DC playing in the car. First stop was Market Harborough parkrun, with my Down South running ‘family’ where we enjoyed a trot round in the sunshine, some laughs and a good breakfast before the journey to Bedford for an overnight stop prior to the planned weekend of racing – the 5km ‘Rocket’ followed by the Marathon Relay in which I was Leg 3 of a team of 4

Market Harborough parkrun, smiling in the sunshine ☀️

The 5km went well – it was cool and a bit damp, but the course is straight out, point-to-point, and after the first little slope, is relatively flat. My fabulous friend and weekend host Leese and her son Olly both smashed brilliant PB’s (Olly was, quite frankly, just a blur……!) and I was excited to come in just above 27 minutes, the fastest 5km I’ve run in a couple of years. Satisfied, but having left plenty in the tank for the following day’s relay………

Flying at the Rocket 5k race

Bank Holiday Monday dawned dry and relatively bright, and the four of us were coordinated with military precision. Honestly, I had never considered the logistics of moving four runners across a busy town in one vehicle, dropping and collecting them at the various checkpoints to make the changeovers, and it is testament to Leese and her organisational skills that we were consistently at the right place at exactly the right time – it still makes me twitch just thinking about it! Leg 1 (Davina) and Leg 2 (Leese) performed brilliantly, both hitting 10km PB’s………..and then it was time. I was ready and waiting, and the changeover from Leese was seamless. I even had a little plan as I wasn’t familiar with the route or the elevation – keep the first mile just around the ten minute mark to warm up, and then give it everything I had! What is the they say about the best laid plans…?

Mile 1, to be fair, went completely to plan – just under ten minutes and feeling good. However, totally unexpectedly a little way into the second mile, it all went wrong. I didn’t fall. I didn’t trip, lose my balance or land awkwardly. The ground was flat and I was doing nothing other than running steadily. But suddenly, something like I imagine a gunshot to feel, tore through my left leg from calf to hip and left me breathless. I slowed right down, shook it out and set off again, assuming it was cramp, and made the ill advised decision to ‘run it off’ (Note: this is NOT something you should ever do. Just don’t. Seriously, don’t do it!) It didn’t feel right – the initial shock of pain had gone, but there was a constant niggling that I couldn’t pinpoint, which just wouldn’t ease. And there were still over 4 miles to go. There followed 50 minutes of swearing, crying and desperately trying to find myself a running gait which didn’t hurt. There wasn’t one. I flitted between running really slowly as the less painful option, and speeding up because I so desperately wanted it to be over. If I’d been running solo, I would have pulled out, but I had no idea where I was and was very conscious that thus far, our team were smashing the race. I’m a bloody minded idiot and I just didn’t want to give up. I walked on a few occasions, and by the time I got to the end and handed the baton over to Lou C, I was in tears, pretty much convinced the world had ended.

Spot where it all went wrong…. (hint : 13:15, and all the way afterwards….!)

But of course, back in the real world, it wasn’t the end – Lou C went on to gallop round her leg and we finished together at the MK Stadium (with me limping at the back!) in a brilliant time of 4 hours, 7 minutes and 6 seconds. We placed 9th out of 26 female teams! I’d actually finished the 6.4 mile Leg from Hell in 1 hour 6 minutes and despite the pain, came away from the weekend with three medals, a t shirt, a hoody and a bag of snacks. We’d had such fun, and it had been a brilliant experience.

The ladies of Leese’s Gang
The weekend’s haul of goodies. Every weekend should finish with three medals!

I made my way home, trying to shut down the little voice in the back of my head which was telling me I was injured, and quickly made an appointment with trusted local sports physio Jen Ellison (if you don’t already know her, she’s highly recommend – find her on Facebook as ‘Relief Therapy’ – she has fierce, pointy little fingers, but she really knows her stuff and I think she looks after pretty well everyone in MDRC! It looks as if my muscles haven’t been supporting my joints as well as they should have been, and my knee and hip joints have been overloaded as a result. I have a load of strengthening exercises to do, and plenty of swimming. I’ll keep cycling, and fingers crossed things will settle down. I made the heartbreaking but necessary decision to drop out of the Market Drayton 10k, but cheered on my Southern visitors and the many club runners who took part. I’ve dropped from my trail half marathon race to the 10k distance, as it has no time cutoff so I can walk it if I need to – there’s a whole weekend of trail running festival fun and I really don’t want to miss out!

With my Tango family at the MD 10k. Look at you, you gorgeous people – you’re just amazing!

I’ve had a few panics over the last couple of weeks, which is the main reason for blog silence. Running helped me when my mental health was at a low, and the fear of losing my positivity if I can’t run has been at the forefront of my mind since Milton Keynes. It has brought me fitness, friendship and new found enthusiasm for life, and the possibility of not having those things in my life, even if only temporarily, has been quite frightening.

I’m determined however, that this is merely a blip in my running adventure, and I’ll be back very soon, irritatingly cheerful and full of enthusiasm! If nothing else, recent events have taught me the following –

1. Respect your body – and when it says it’s hurting, stop what you’re doing!
2. Just in case – find yourself a great physio – you never know when you might need them!
3. For Christ’s sake, do your stretches and strength/conditioning exercises!

Stay safe, run strong, and I’ll catch up with you all next week!

Lou 🧡 🖤

Off the beaten track….

What’s your favourite running environment? Are you a confirmed fan of tarmac, or do you prefer to hit the trails? (and let’s not talk about treadmills…. surely nobody truly enjoys them, do they?)

The first time I ever ran, six years ago when I wasn’t even really sure I could do it, I ran along the disused railway track which runs through Hodnet. It’s about 3/4 mile of path and grass tracks in gorgeous surroundings, and it’s one of those places that looks pretty whatever the weather. I started running there primarily because, in those early days when I really didn’t know what I was doing, there was nobody to see me, and I didn’t need to worry about bumping into anyone I knew and feeling ridiculous. But I also liked the way the ground felt under my feet, all bouncy and cushioning. And if I’m honest, I quite enjoyed the experience of getting a bit muddy – it made me feel like I had really achieved something if I came home with filthy shoes and mud splashed up the back of my legs! It made everything seem like much more of a challenge.

Where it all started – the railway line through Hodnet. Still one of my favourite places to run.

By the time I started getting “serious” about running however, and booked my first 10k race, having taken part in a few parkruns on tarmac routes, running on trails had become something I did occasionally by myself, and the majority of my miles were thundered out on the roads and back lanes of Shropshire. I don’t think I even realised that running off road was “a thing”, with the exception of those incredible, terrifying fell runners I’d seen online occasionally and it appeared that I was destined to be a pavement pounder.

But then a few things happened around the same time. My husband and I went on holiday to The Lake District, and I indulged in a little parkrun tourism at Fell Foot. It was exhausting – almost entirely uphill and over fields, and I absolutely adored it. As soon as I got home, I took a trip over to neighbouring Cheshire to run the Delamere parkrun route which meanders through the beautiful forest. At around this time I’d also joined MDRC, and over the spring and summer we had been able to go across some of the off road routes and the canal. It suddenly struck me that trail running was a real thing that other people actually did, and it wasn’t reserved for the leggy mountain goat runners I’d seen on YouTube. This was really something I could do – and bloody hell I loved it!

Delamere parkrun, 2017. Red face, dirty shoes and a big smile!

I started actively looking for trail routes locally, and when I’d exhausted these, I decided it was time to brave some proper trail races. I discovered the Newcastle Dales Dash, which is a brilliant and rather hilly event managed by a local athletics club, who do it all for love and very little profit (entry costs £10 which includes medal, drink, snacks and a fantastic, well organised race!) I’ve taken part in it three times now, and it never fails to be fun and filthy!

Newcastle Dales Dash – mud, mayhem and a medal, all for £10!

Within months I had also entered the Sandstone Trail B race, a 12 mile yomp through some of the loveliest Cheshire countryside. I hadn’t factored in the time of year (November) and that it would actually be a swamp-fest in the driving rain. During the course of the race I fell down a hole, slid down a hill on my backside and had to jump over another fallen runner whilst running downhill (I did check he was OK!) I don’t think I’ve ever felt so hardcore, and despite the fact that I was finding mud under my fingernails for a week afterwards, it was brilliant and I was throughly hooked.

The Sandstone Trail. A brief break in the rain, just before the heavens opened again….

So this is probably an appropriate point at which to mention Thunder Run….. The Continental Thunder Run is a 24 hour endurance relay race which takes place every summer at Catton Park in Derbyshire. The relay legs are run around a 10k trail loop in teams from 8 members, down to the intrepid solo runners. It’s possibly the craziest event I’ve ever been part of, camping for the long weekend with the rest of the club and cheering through the runners as they pass, all in fabulous surroundings and over a “challenging” course. It’s made more exciting by the fact that most runners get the opportunity to run at least one lap overnight by torchlight, including a section through woodland where lights are strung and music is played as you make your way along the course. There are some incredible feats of endurance and everyone is welcome. I should also give a shout out to Trail Pursuit, who organise trail running events throughout the country, involving races from 5k to 50 mile ultra marathons, all set in a fun festival environment with food, music and motivational interviews and movies. I’ve made a number of good friends through both of these events.

The final downhill section at Thunder Run

I’m very conscious that I may be a little evangelical about trail running. I completely understand that it’s not everyone’s thing, and that a lot of runners are happy with hard surface running. And that’s absolutely fine by me. All I would say is that if you’ve never tried it, or think it’s just not for you, please give it a go, even if only once. It’s a totally different experience with it’s own challenges and benefits. The uneven surfaces and hills are a completely new workout (feeling aches in muscles in places I didn’t know I had!) but also, I find it a real leveller – whilst there are still some crazy speed merchants who fly round, there’s definitely less of a focus on pace, and more on stamina – battling the hills and awkward terrain for the satisfaction of getting out of your comfort zone and enjoying the views. It’s made me a stronger and more confident runner. And aside of that, it gives the chance to see some of the most stunning scenery the world has to offer – I’ve run through the Brecon Beacons, various parts of the Shropshire Hills including the incredible Long Mynd, and I’ve seen secluded areas I would never have reached by car. I am looking forward to a weekend of navigating parts of the Lake District later this year, and I’ve realised how fortunate are to have such a glorious environment in which to have adventures!

The Long Mynd and happy runners!

I’ll leave the preaching for this week now (but don’t worry, I’ll be back next week to indoctrinate you into the church of parkrun… 😂)

So for now, take care and run well, and I’ll catch you next week

Lou 🧡 🖤

Tales of the unexpected…. and 14 hours in A&E….

Sometimes, just as you think you’re getting back on track and everything is looking bright, an odd thing can happen that just throws your plans up into the air!

This week started off uneventfully, with my joyous release from covid quarantine, some gentle walks and a few much missed swim sessions. I was back to club on Monday night, leading a lovely group along one of our favourite routes which meanders along the canal, up to cross the main Newport Road, and swooping down a terrific sandy track back into town. It’s so refreshing to be running without torches in the evenings now, and it opens up a whole host of routes we can use again. I think we all feel better for it.

Lovely evening trot out along the canal

And that was that….everything was going perfectly. We had a spirited training session with co-captain Macauley who made us do awful things involving plank, sprinting and chasing each other round the sports field. As always, loads of fun, exhausting and definitely beneficial.

Sweaty, exhilarating and fun….. Check out that top end pace! If only I could keep it going….!

We finished laughing, sweaty and buzzing with adrenaline. Which is, I think, why I didn’t realise I’d caught my earring in the car door as I got in and sat down. And that was that. I won’t post full details because I don’t know how squeamish some of you are, but the long and short of it is I no longer had my ear piercing, and everything was rather bloody…. 😔

There followed a mercy dash to A&E and a wait of 14 hours (that’s not a typo…) to be triaged, reassessed, reassessed again, and finally stitched back together. I’ve seen TV reports on “the state of the NHS” and thankfully hadn’t had first hand experience of them until now, but I have to admit my heart broke a little for the staff that night. They were, without exception, faultless, despite being stretched to their limits. Ambulances were double stacked, people were sleeping on floors and not everyone was being as kind to the staff as they should have been. It’s wrong to judge people when they’re in that type of situation as they’re generally in pain, frightened and frustrated, but the staff were exposed to behaviour they didn’t deserve. And throughout it all they were patient, polite and professional. As I sat (about four hours into my wait) in my sweaty, bloodstained running kit, frozen and possibly suffering slightly from shock, a nurse brought me blankets and said “I’m so sorry we can’t see you more quickly” as a man shouted at her that he’d been waiting for twenty minutes. They have my utmost respect and support.

Frustratingly, when I was eventually taken up to a ward to see the plastics team, it actually only took them 45 minutes to assess me, fill me with local anaesthetic, stitch me up and send me on my way. The whole experience was somewhat surreal, but whilst apparently I’ll have a good scar, there are no further concerns. I’ve taken away a new respect for the NHS staff, but a deep fear of what is happening to the heathcare service as a whole.

The event left me sore, achy (don’t try and sleep on a small metal chair in a hospital waiting room!) exhausted and rather subdued. I can’t swim for a few days, have an unattractive dressing on my ear and am surprisingly sad at the loss of my piercing. I can’t even say I’ve learned a lesson, as the accident was so bizarre and unexpected! But I know it could have been worse, and I have to offer huge thanks to the plastics team who put up with my incessant chatter as they stitched me up (they got me into a conversation about running and that was it…. 😂) Love and thanks also to Nikki for the mercy dash and Chris for bringing emergency chips and Fanta and sitting in the car waiting all night.

By Saturday, things had returned to normal, and bright and early, we trekked across to Crewe parkrun. I ran it a few months ago, and whilst it was friendly and a lovely park, I had a miserable run, so I had unfinished business this time! We all acquitted ourselves admirably, and I was delighted to come in under 30 minutes. It’s an odd route of three laps where you’re either running uphill or downhill – somehow there are no flat sections. Again however, the support from the volunteers, other runners and spectators was terrific, and we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I particularly enjoyed spotting one of the guys from club ahead of me at the first km point, pushing to catch up with him, and then as I drew alongside, having worn myself out, realising that it wasn’t him at all…..🙄 I think I managed to carry it off by smiling brightly and carrying on past him slightly too quickly, just to avoid embarrassment….! I love my Saturday morning parkrun routine, it always starts my weekend off with a buzz. It’s lovely to see when other club members have been parkrunning as well.

This weekend’s MDRC parkrun tourists flying the orange and black flag with pride!

I’d planned a long run on Sunday morning, but when it came to it, the weather was far warmer than I’d realised, and after four rather sweaty miles, I called it a day and walked the last three miles in the sunshine. I’m not calling it a failure as it’s all miles in the bag, and quite honestly after a strange and uncomfortable week, I thought I’d be kind to myself.

Four hot miles in the sunshine

I’m loving that the race season is now in full swing, with friends and club members giving it their all. This week, we have had cracking performances from Craig at the Hanchurch 5, Deb at the Telford and Wrekin 10k, and Bea, Leanne and Lorraine at the Crewe 10k. Special congrats to Lorraine and Leanne who were running in their first race, and smashed it, totally unfazed. Looking forward to racing with you all next month at the Market Drayton 10k!

Club buddies and friends busy racing this week! Deb, Craig, Leanne, Lorraine and Bea. Well done all of you!

So with my Covid isolation out of the way, and with my ear healing, I’m hoping that this might be the end of the drama in my life! I’m enjoying a peaceful Easter Bank Holiday with far too much food, and am out for a hike today and a club run this evening. I’m really looking forward to getting back on track with my training although I’ll have to leave the swimming until the stitches are out. Hopefully things will be uneventful from now on!

Whatever you’re up to this Bank Holiday, stay safe, run strong, and I’ll catch you soon

Lou 🧡 🖤

A week of rest…..being grateful… and making a plan…

Well that’s it. After all my initial worrying and frustration that Covid had finally hit me, despite the first two days being a bit pathetic and staying in bed, the majority of it (fortunately) ended up being nothing worse than a sniffly cold.

I’ve saved a few pounds in petrol from working at home and had two solitary, late afternoon walks round the village before joyfully testing negative on Friday. Feeling absolutely fine, I had a very welcome 5k run with club buddy Nikki, and was relieved to find out that, despite my fears, I hadn’t suddenly forgotten how to run!

First Post-Covid run….

Having spoken to friends and colleagues who have had Covid, I’m aware I have been extremely fortunate, and I’m very grateful. I was able to get back to parkrun on Saturday, with the most gorgeous crisp sunny weather and a tiny field of only 60 runners. I was more than happy with 31:10, and was most amused at being first for age….. out of two runners…! (it’s fine, it still counts!)

Back at Alderford Lake parkrun in the sunshine

I had originally planned a longer run on Sunday, but having offered to lead a club group on Monday night and being very conscious of not overdoing things just yet, I opted for a four mile walk instead, which gave me an opportunity to reflect on the morning’s achievements of some running friends. Even when I haven’t raced, I love to check up on Strava to see how club members and other friends have fared, and this weekend has been no exception, with a marvellous sub 5 hour marathon performance from Louise, a 10k PB from Leigh, and a truly epic performance from Ellen, who smashed a 41 mile ultra marathon along the Millennium Way. You’re all superstars, and I’m very proud to call you friends!

This weekend’s racing stars – Clockwise, Louise and husband Paul at Brighton Marathon; Leigh at Flitwick 10k; Ellen at the Millennium Way

And…those racing achievements bring me to the fact that I’ve hopefully recovered in time to put a big dent into my half marathon plan. I have a trail running festival in the last weekend of May, which includes the 13.1. Trail running is a different animal entirely to road running, it’s far less about speed and PB’s and more about hills, strength, balance, enjoying the scenery and just “getting it done” I LOVE it. So this half marathon training isn’t going to focus on speed, just on some hills, and increasing the mileage. It’s not the best schedule, as between now and then I have some oddly spaced races of various distances, but I’m relatively happy with my plan, and quite confident it’ll get me round! My biggest excitement is that the races between now and the half are with my Bedford running family, both down in Milton Keynes, and locally in Market Drayton, so there will be some adventures, laughter and cake amongst the serious stuff, and I can’t wait!

The half marathon training plan. Feel free to pick faults with it…. 😂 Amongst the running there is also around 800 miles of driving….. 😳

As I write this, I’m getting ready to go back into the swimming pool for the first time in over a week; it’s a relief that things are almost back to normal (although I have sadly had to wear proper clothes to go back into the office…. 😂)

Whatever you’re doing, have a great week, stay safe, and run well.

Take care….. Lou 🧡🖤🧡🖤

Life is a rollercoaster….

Well Ronan Keating was definitely right……life really is a rollercoaster. One moment I was running my first 27 minute parkrun for years, followed by galloping 7 miles across the Staffordshire Downs…….. and the next I was testing positive for Covid….. 🙄

So to say this week has not quite gone to plan was an understatement! I had had a few good runs, swum four miles (including an accidental race with a guy in the next lane!) and was all ready to do battle with the Whitchurch 10k in the company of a number of fellow club runners. Wednesday and Thursday I felt a bit out of sorts and tired but couldn’t quite put my finger on it – and feeling thoroughly grotty on Friday morning I took the dreaded Covid test. I went through a mixture of emotions seeing those two lines appear, primarily being absolutely gutted at missing what was to have been my first proper race since December. I may have stamped my feet, cried a bit and used some rather unladylike language…

It’s taken two years, but Covid finally got me…..

Still, with the initial tantrum over, it is what it is, and there’s nothing I can currently do about it other than cross my fingers and hope it shoves off pretty quickly. I have eight weeks until my next race, and am pretty chilled about it, so I’m not going to lose any sleep over missed training time, although it’s frustrating that it’s happened just as I’ve got my running mojo back again! But instead of dwelling on it, I’ve decided to treat this enforced break as a rest period. I generally swim five mornings a week, necessitating 5:30am starts, and run at least four times a week. I can’t actually remember the last time I had more than a single day “off” so I’m hoping that this will be an valuable opportunity for some additional sleep and the chance to completely rest and recharge my legs! Who knows, it may ultimately do me some good….

In the meantime, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the achievements of others. I’ve had two days eagerly watching Strava and Garmin to see a variety of friends achieving running goals, and completing races. It’s been quite inspiring, and it’s definitely filled me with enthusiasm for my next race. I have several friends who have achieved terrific PB’s at London Landmarks, including two ladies who swear this was their last ever half marathon – what a way to finish distance running!

Racing, parkrunning, and even getting the miles in whilst on holiday!

MDRC fielded a great group of runners in the local Whitchurch 10k race, participants in a 10 mile race at Lichfield, and even had a runner who raced at Berlin half marathon. As well as this I have quite a few friends who have taken part in Manchester Marathon, amongst which were two chaps who hit the magical sub three hour mark! And away from “official racing” there have been some great casual and social runs, parkrun PB’s and even a member from MDRC running his 250th parkrun! I’ve loved following their efforts and am hugely proud to know them all.

Medals, miles and smiles

As I write this, I’m coming to the end of day 3 of isolation…. and to be honest I’m going a little stir crazy – made more annoying by the fact that today I feel pretty much OK apart from an occasional tickly cough. I’ve rearranged my running gear and my medals, completed an online safeguarding in athletics course and successfully deferred my missed 10k race, so the weekend hasn’t been a total write off. I’ve resigned myself to enjoying this week’s club runs via the magic of social media, but I have every intention of being back at it by next weekend – I think Covid is the only thing that keeps me from a parkrun! Oh…. and there’s the small matter of a trail running festival at the end of May….half marathon training begins very soon…!

So for the time being, that’s it…. I’m off to dose myself with honey and lemon and admire other runners’ pace, splits and Strava art. I’ll see you all (hopefully in person, fully recovered) next week. Run happy, stay safe (and steer clear of people with Covid!)

Lou 🧡 🖤

With a little help from my friends…

Why run? Whether you’re an experienced runner, a relative newcomer, or even if you’re just thinking about taking those first steps, have a think about why you want to run. What are you hoping to achieve from it? Is it fitness, or weight loss, or a specific race distance or personal challenge? Or are you just looking for something new to do with your spare time? When I started running six years ago, the biggest thing that the sport brought to me was something I hadn’t even thought about. Friendship.

I’m essentially a sociable person, but throughout my life I’ve primarily had “acquaintances” – people I’ve met through shared interests or work. Aside of a couple of long standing old schoolmates and a few wives of my husband’s friends, my social circle was always relatively small. Life was pretty much full of going to work, being Mum, and reading when I had a few spare hours – and that suited me just fine.

But then, in 2016, after my running epiphany (see Part 1 of this blog!) I found myself surrounded by new people. People who also enjoyed my new obsession. Out of the blue, I suddenly had a group of people who wanted to talk about parkrun, and trainers, and pacing, and Strava….. and who liked to go for coffee and cake after a run. I had FRIENDS!

My first running friends – Keri and Tania. They welcomed me into the world of parkrun at Telford and we’ve never looked back!

Once I’d started making running friends, there was no stopping me. Having joined MDRC, I gained a whole new group of people with shared interests. We chatted throughout club runs, encouraged and advised each other during races and formed genuine friendships. Nothing gets you over the finish line quite like a group of comrades shouting your name from the sidelines. We’ve become each other’s cheerleaders.

MDRC at Llandudno in 2018. It’s not just a group of friends, it’s a running family.

Amongst my club friends are people I’ve trained with, raced with, shared traumas and tents, and even run my first marathon. There’s a real camaraderie, and it provided massive, much needed support and motivation during the nightmare that was lockdown. We set ourselves online challenges, ran virtual races and were each others support network.

These are a few of my favourite things….fabulous friends who support each other every step of the way.

And it’s not only face to face that friendships have been made. There’s a huge, supportive running community on all forms of social media. In my first days of running, when I wasn’t even sure I was doing it right, and didn’t actually know any other runners, I spent hours trawling Twitter, learning about pace, shoes and gait analysis from the likes of @UKRunChat and @runningchannel – and through their accounts I befriended a whole host of runners from around the world who were keen to share running advice. I’ve now met a couple of them at races – there’s a whole new kind of crazy that comes with running towards a familiar face at the finish line of a race, whilst you both exclaim “Hey – aren’t you XXXXX from Twitter!?”

This lovely lady is Sam – we spotted each other at the finish line at Manchester Half in 2018 and greeted each other excitedly with “I know you from Twitter – you’re real!”

My biggest online friendship win from running came from a “people you might be interested in” suggestion from Facebook, which pointed me at a lady called Leese who lived in Bedford. She was fundraising for the Stroke Association and running the 2017 London Marathon. She was interesting and entertaining, and I enjoyed reading her regular running updates. Before long quite a group of us were following her training, and when the big race day was over, we decided to stay in touch. Before long a plan was hatched, and over a period of months, “Leese’s Gang” not only met in real life, we took part in both Bedford and Telford parkruns and had a rather epic adventure running a half marathon through London! We’ve had many laughs and travelled a lot of miles to see each other since then, regularly catching up for a few hours at a random parkrun, and I love how genuine friendships have been formed through the power of the Internet.

With Leese, September 2017 – the kind of happiness that comes from finally realising that your online running buddy is a real person….! She’s at least partly responsible for my terrifying petrol bill and for the wear and tear on my car….!
“Leese’s Gang” at Telford parkrun, August 2018

I find it hard to equate my tiny circle of six years ago, with one or two friends and acquaintances – with the massive running network that I’m so lucky to have now. I’ve even joined an online trail running group (referred to by my husband as “the loonies you met online”) and we have a monthly run across various beautiful and hilly parts of Shropshire and Staffordshire, just for the hell of it (and for the cake!)

Some of the many people who have joined me on my running journey so far

I can safely say that running has brought some very special people into my life, and the world is a much brighter place for having them in it (although I do fear the additional “adventure mileage” is going to start taking it’s toll on my poor little car fairly soon!)

That’s enough from me for now – have run wherever you’re running and stay safe.

Lou 🧡

You can join me in da club…

I’m going to preface this post by saying “you don’t have to join a running club” I know not everyone’s lifestyle suits a group where you’re tied to regular evening sessions. Work and family life generally have to be prioritised, and at the end of the day, not everyone enjoys running with others. There are loads of runners out there, happily and successfully running alone and thoroughly enjoying themselves. And that is 100% fine if it suits you.

HOWEVER…… if you’re reading this and you’re not part of a running group/club and are even casually thinking about it, then please give it some consideration. When I started running six years ago, those early months were very solitary, as I tried to teach myself a ham-fisted version of Couch to 5k using YouTube videos and following guidance from runners I’d followed on Twitter. I really didn’t know anyone else who ran, and I was just making it all up as I went along – run a bit, walk a bit, run a bit further. And it worked in the end, but it was very lonely, and more to the point I desperately wanted someone to share my challenge with!

Finally during online research, I discovered parkrun, which opened a whole new world to me and finally introduced me to other people who were just as excited about running as I was, and I discovered that, whilst running alone is definitely important, there’s nothing quite as much fun as a good thunder round with like minded people, chatting, comparing blisters, and gazing longingly at those speedy folks who made it look so dammed easy!

And that was lovely once a week on a Saturday in Telford, but I live very rurally and once parkrun was over, yet again I was on my own, plodding round the lanes and not really sure if I was achieving a heck of a lot.

Purely by chance, I happened to get into a conversation one parkrun Saturday, with a woman who runs for one of the many Telford clubs, and she casually dropped into the chat that Market Drayton has a great, and well known running club. At the time, the idea terrified me. My only knowledge of running clubs was the elite athletes in their fancy vests and tiny shorts, who I’d seen posing for pre race photos at the couple of 10k’s I’d taken part in. They looked incredible and I was terrified of them!

Deb was my very first MDRC buddy. We bonded over matching race tshirts and went on to run a half marathon in London!

With great trepidation I messaged Market Drayton Running Club through their Facebook page, and within minutes I had received a friendly response telling me I was very welcome to join them for a casual group run round town.

I can’t even begin to describe how much I love this photo. MDRC at the yearly pilgrimage to North Wales to run the Pier to Pier 10k. January 2020 – before the world went crazy…

Without wishing to sound clichéd, I have to say that was the best leap of faith I’ve ever taken. To my surprise, when I joined the Monday night session, I suddenly realised that people who join running clubs are actually just folks like me….men and women; young and old; experienced runners and newbies like I was. Some of them were running to keep fit, some to compete, and some were just involved for fun and to socialise. It was a complete eye opener and within the first hour I was utterly hooked. Far from being intimidating professionals, they were welcoming, friendly, full of advice and soon became some of the closest friends I’ve ever had.

Telford 10k 2017, my first race in MDRC colours

They are the people who build you up when you’re down, cheer you on as you cross the finish line, and who give advice and encouragement. Being part of a running club means you will always have someone to run with, chat and laugh with, and share both lifts to running events and stories about portaloos. It’s like finding an extra family, with running as the blood that we all have in common.

It’s through this terrific club that I’ve had friends to run with at Shrewsbury parkrun this weekend, and a whole group of folks who bravely tackled Stafford Half marathon on Sunday, proudly wearing the club colours.

With Laura and Nikki at Shrewsbury parkrun
2022 Stafford Half, Tangos on Tour!

So if you’re not quite sure whether being part of a running club is for you, please give it a try, I promise you won’t regret it. You learn so much from others, and you never know where it will take you. Four years after my first nervous run with MDRC, I’ve raced all over the country for them, have enjoyed supporting new runners and offered a little advice myself, and somehow have now found myself co-captain of this happy band of running obsessives!

Running on your own is great, but trust me, running with friends in a club is most definitely an experience not to be missed!

Catch you next week – run happy, stay safe,

Lou 🧡

Spring is in the air

How’s everyone doing? I don’t know about you but I’ve really enjoyed the improvement in the weather this week. It’s made getting up early, and those evening run sessions so much more enjoyable. I can’t wait for the clocks to go forward so we can finally ditch the torches and head out a little further afield.

This week saw our first sessions from our new base at the Sports Centre. Monday was a roaring success, with 28 current club members enjoying a mixed group muster run around town, and a terrific 13 runners in our new C25K programme. We wish them all the very best!

Monday night, huge mixed muster run group!

On Wednesday, Mac took a group of 16 for a fast and frantic (and slightly noisy!) speed session around Waterside Drive. As always, great fun and more than a little competitive! I can’t recommend these sessions enough – if you’ve never tried one, give it a go – there’s nothing to be scared of. It’s all great fun and completely inclusive, and it’s a brilliant way of improving your speed, strength and stamina. Mixing up your running routines also helps avoid injury and keeps you interested and motivated.

You know a coaching session has been a success when your Strava map looks like a toddler scribbled on it!

As well as my club sessions, I’ve enjoyed a gentle 5k around Hodnet with a work colleague who is a new runner, and my regular morning swims before work. I’ve gained so much from swimming, apart from waking me up in the mornings, doing something with no impact as cross training is great for all over strength.

This weekend has included a fun and rather muddy visit to Alderford Lake parkrun with Laura, Nikki (birthday girl, complete with an announcement from the Run Director!) and Ellen. It was a smaller field than usual but as friendly and welcoming as ever, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I was delighted to see a while host of other club runners at parkrun events, including the intrepid Mike Blase, all the way over in Krakow! I try to get to a parkrun every Saturday, and anyone who knows me will be well aware that I’m something of a parkrun obsessive. I’ll save my parkrun recruitment for a future post…. 😂

Team Tango at Alderford Lake parkrun
Caught unawares by a sneaky photographer but luckily still smiling!

Sunday’s challenge was a seven mile steady run through one of my favourite local loops, taking in a couple of decent sized hills and some lovely scenery. The gorgeous spring weather helped make it a really enjoyable run. Some days it’s difficult, and other days it’s plain bloody horrible, but sometimes everything just feels right, and you finish with a ridiculous smile on your face. Those are the runs to focus on – they’re the ones that prove to you that you’re making progress.

Do something that makes you smile!

On a final note, it has been lovely to see seven club members racing at Shrewsbury 10k at the weekend. Race season is fully underway now, and my calendar is rapidly filling up with adventures, starting with Whitchurch 10k in three weeks. I’m starting to believe that things are finally, cautiously beginning to be a little bit normal at last, and I can’t wait to get back into the crazy weekend routine that comes with racing! Throughly looking forward to sharing the journey with some of you.

For now, enjoy your running, stay safe and I’ll catch up with you next week

Lou 🧡🖤

Do you remember your first time?

First things first – welcome to Races, Paces and Wide Open Spaces. 

For anyone who doesn’t know me, I’m Lou Drinkald, running enthusiast and Vice Captain of the rather brilliant Market Drayton Running Club.  A few weeks ago it was suggested that I might have a few words of wisdom and some interesting stories to share with the world – so here, by the magic of technology, is my blog.  I hope a little of it is of interest!

So, for my first post, let’s start at the beginning. Do you remember your first run?  That first time you took a deep breath and gave it a go?  Do you remember why you started running?  Sometimes, if you’re tired, or not in the mood, or if the weather is grim, it helps to take a look back and remind yourself about why you took those first steps.  Maybe it was for fitness or mental health – or perhaps you were looking for a different hobby or a new social group. Whatever the reason, have a think about where it all started, see how far you’ve come and give yourself a pat on the back!

My running journey started six years ago, after seeing a man running past me whilst I was out walking.  He looked effortless and free and I was consumed by jealousy! Within a few minutes, I was determined to try, and managed about two minutes before I was breathless, red faced and very cross with myself.  From then, I decided to make myself run from one end of the local railway line to the other.  It was just under a mile, and it took about four weeks of walk/running to finally master it all without stopping. 

Once I’d run from one end to the other, I decided to run back again – and that was it – suddenly I was following runners on Twitter, had acquired a basic sports watch, bought ‘proper’ trainers and had registered for parkrun. I had never run a full 5k, or run with other people, but on the 22nd October 2016, I lined up at Telford parkrun with over 400 other runners and ran the whole thing without stopping.  It took me nearly 40 minutes, but the adrenaline high was intoxicating, and it started a whole catalogue of running adventures that have taken me all over the country.  So if ever I feel unmotivated now, I look back to those first runs and remember what I’ve achieved so far. Try it next time it’s raining and you can’t be bothered, or if you are disappointed by a run.  Trust me, it’s a real boost!

There will be plenty of club news and training updates over the coming months, but for now, the biggest news is that after years of meeting unofficially at Morrisons car park, MDRC finally have a home, thanks to the fabulous folks at Market Drayton Community Amateur Sports Club who have kindly agreed to us sharing their home at Betton Road. This marks a huge new milestone for the running club, and we’re all very excited. On Monday 7th March we will host our very first club night from our new home, and we will be celebrating with a group muster run for all paced groups, which will be a lovely opportunity for us all to catch up and run with people we may not often see. Added to this, it will also be the opening night of our latest C25K programme, so we are heading into spring with a host of new things to look forward to.

We look forward to seeing you all!

Lou 🏃🏻‍♀️

Telford parkrun, 22nd October 2016
My first tracked run!