My New Year’s Eve review of 2011

It’s that time of year again when we all look back, reflect on the previous twelve months, feel slightly inadequate and make all sorts of rash promises for the New Year. Going back to my first post of Janathon 2011, I had been a bit of a slacker on the running front and mostly reflected on my knitting goals for 2010. Most of these have been on a rolling programme since 2009. The beautiful but barely started throw remains beautiful, but barely started, my wool stash has grown and remains chaotic, the felted bag hasn’t been knitted, let alone felted…. I have however, finally, started to knit a sock.

I took this photo months ago. It's not really come on a lot since then.

Learning crochet was also on the rollover list. Until Boxing Day. Yes, on Boxing Day night, I decided that if I didn’t have a go right that minute then I would be sitting here in December 2012 saying that I still haven’t learned to crochet. Alright, so my attempts so far aren’t brilliant, but they do show progress and it’s the furthest that I’ve ever got with a crochet hook. I’ve pencilled in a trip been to the wool shop to get some advice and a book today – but if anyone in my woolly/running crossover has any ideas for a good beginners project (I’m rubbish at just making sample squares to practise) then please let me know!

That's progress that is.

Anyway, that’s wool not running. I did make one running related resolution last year and I kept to it, I just didn’t admit it to anyone other than Ginge because it’s a bit shameful. For the last year, I have undone my laces every time that I finished a run instead of just scuffing off my trainers by the heels. I’m 32, I shouldn’t be proud of this.

Moving swiftly on, what did I do this year? Well, in January I amazed myself my completing 31/31 in Janathon. It was mostly cold and dark, but it kickstarted the most regular spell of running that I have ever done because it showed me that often the only thing stopping me from running is me.

On a cold and frosty morning

In February, I decided to run the length of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. In the end, logistics got the better of me and I only ran the Lancashire side. Still, that was unexpected and it gives me something to do next year.

The start of our canal adventure

In March, I learned how to felt. Nothing to do with running, but on our way home I did spot some runners participating in what turned out to be the Gin Pit Marathon. Now, for everyone who has ever run a marathon outside this nation’s capital city, only to be faced with friends and family who consider London to be the only marathon (the rest are all shorter, obviously) the Gin Pit Marathon is possibly the ultimate anti-London marathon.  There are two races on run on Saturday and Sunday, you can run either or both, each has a maximum of 30 competitors. Oh, and you need a map. No cheering crowds, no live music, no smiley marshalls. Just you and the pavement (and your map). I know that I couldn’t do that.

Woolly goodness

Then came April, where I mostly overheated. I bought a hat. It continues to look ridiculous on me, but became an essential part of kit in September.

Blue skies and sunshine

May. Ah, May. When I ran in Central Park. Enough said.

The Central Park reservoir running track

It was inevitable, but June brought Juneathon. I did 30/30 and my running felt brilliant. I really enjoyed it.

Just what you need during An Athon

And then came July, when I came crashing back down to earth and struggled to put one foot in front of the other because of an irritable iliotibial band that gave me excruciating pain in my hip and knee. I found myself a physio, bought a foam roller and embraced other ways of seeing the Leeds-Liverpool canal.

Now that's the way to do it

In August, the country was rioting, it was my birthday (celebrated by running along the Wigan flight of locks – I know how to party) and the Athon community mourned Paula Butler, who died suddenly when out running. I’ve only just seen this, but her family have set up a donation page in her memory which is here if anyone wants to contribute.

Canals have certainly featured heavily this year

September saw me complete the Blackpool Illuminations 10k and the Folkestone Half Marathon. This doubled the number of races that I ran in 2010. Despite my erratic training, I took 6 minutes off my previous 10k time and am now determined to have a sub-hour 10k this year. Folkestone was a somewhat tougher proposition as I was defeated by heat (despite my hat) but it hasn’t put me off doing another one.

The Kent Police Band welcoming us across the finish

I had another first in October, getting my lovely new trail shoes lovely and and muddy.


I lost my mojo a bit in November, but Ginge and I did take our trainers to Conwy and we ran round the castle.


And so to December. It’s been cold, wet and miserable. My training’s gone a bit erratic again. I’ve decided to do the Liverpool Half in March so I’ll have to get my arse in gear soon. Luckily, as of tomorrow, I’ll have no excuse because it’s the start of Janathon.

2010 – 429.57 miles
2011 – 706.87 miles



In which I challenge Janathoners to give blood in January

A couple of days ago on Twitter, Running Dan declared his intention to be brave and start donating blood. Twitter being Twitter, lots of people turned round and said “it’s not that scary, go on, you know want to”, and so Dan rang the nice blood people and signed up to donate in January. Yay!

And then Sue said, “Have you got any friends that you can take along?”. So Dan (being one of those inspirational type people – have a look at his blog for his amazing fundraising efforts) is now rallying friends, family and strangers on Twitter to join him donating. Yay!

And then I said, “I wonder how many Janathon (or Jantastic) people we could persuade to part with a pint?”, Sue declared this to be great challenge and JogBlog said yes we could hijack Janathon to encourage people to do a tiny but amazing thing by giving blood. Yay!

Why is giving blood important? Well, the bare fact is that hospitals need 8000 units of blood a day and while the Blood Service takes 2.1 million donations from about 1.6 million donors, that’s only 4% of the population, giving two or three times a year. Blood stocks are particularly low over the festive season (particularly for blood types O- and B-) and the Blood Service is predicting that 2012 will see an even higher demand for blood than normal. If you have a look at @GiveBloodNHS on Twitter or the amazing stories on the Blood Service website, you’ll get a much better idea of why people donate and why it’s so important.

I’m lucky enough not to have a story for why I donate – I donate because I can. I’m fit and healthy, it doesn’t take long, it really doesn’t hurt and I can (and do) eat three custard creams guilt-free after I donate.

Dan will be donating on January 2nd. I will be donating on January 31st. It would be amazing if other Janathoners (there’s going to be at least 150 more of you out there) could donate (or if you can’t donate, encourage someone you know to donate) sometime between Dan and me.

It’s dead easy – visit or ring the nice blood people on 0300 123 23 23 to find your local session and book an appointment. If you’re not sure if you can give blood, give them a ring.

When you’ve got your date, leave a comment below so we know who’s given up an armful and I’ll even see if we can rustle up a prize as even more of a bonus than just the warm glow of doing something good.

In which I have a go with two new bits of kit and also don’t fall over

I started this post last week, but then Christmas intervened and it went into the folder of forgotten drafts. If I’m honest, in our house Christmas has actually got in the way of Christmas at times – my Christmas cake remains naked and the marzipan and icing remain unopened… ah well.

Anyway, the events of this post took place on December 18th.

On Sunday, I was giddy with the excitement of being able to run in daylight (it’s the small things that matter most) and settled on a precise distance of ‘somewhere between six and nine miles’. It was both bloomin’ freezing and slippy out there after a flurry of snow, so I decided to be turn the threats of personal injury and general mardiness into the opportunity of trying out new gizmos.

Firstly, my eGloves – after I was sent these, the weather became unseasonably warm and I hadn’t had a good opportunity to try them out. Since then, the temperature has dropped (anyone would think that it’s winter) and I’ve worn them purely for the simple function of keeping my hands warm. For the majority of the time, I have incredibly cold hands (good for making pastry, less good for making friends) and so far, the gloves have kept them toasty. My worry was that they might keep my hands too warm while running as this is the only time that my hands defrost somewhat. In fact, they kept me at a perfect temperature until I had about a mile to go and then I tucked them in the waistband of my tights until I got home.

Clearly keeping hands warm is the primary objective for most gloves, but the e-glove has some nifty science bits (apologies if this is too technical) on the fingertips, which allow you to paw at your smartphone and stay warm in all weathers. I don’t usually run with my iPhone,being somewhat accident-prone I can’t help thinking that it would all end in tears. However, I was running alone, Ginge was at work, it was icy underfoot and if I was going to fall on my arse, I wanted to be able to summon help.

Luckily, I had recently acquired an armband for my phone and this seemed the ideal opportunity to give it a whirl. My first challenge was to get the phone into its little neoprene papoose. I failed this challenge on the first attempt. Being somewhat accident-prone, I have a robust rubbery bumper on my phone which takes the sleek, iconic piece of design that Apple intended and turns it into something from the Fisher Price range. Only after I had tried to stuff the phone and its bumper into the case, only after I had sworn a bit, only after I had declared it to be a flawed design, did I realise that the problem was user error. I removed the bumper and it fitted in neatly…

It took a bit of fettling to get the armband securely velcroed onto my arm (turns out that they’re not as big as I think) and I suspect that I’ll need a bit of practice to be able to use my phone effectively while it’s on my arm. Having said that, the eGloves worked really well through the plastic screen and I was able to run to the Infinite Monkey Cage podcast, making me fitterer, strongerer and cleverer by the end of my run.

Oh and I ended up erring on the side of caution and only ran 6 miles. As home came into sight, the pavements became treacherous and I did a marvellous Bambi on ice impression but managed to stay on my feet. Result.

In which I ponder on the contents of my stocking

A belated Happy Christmas to you all! I’m writing this on Boxing Day while Ginge assembles a cardboard model of the Empire State Building. I bought it for him, so I can’t even look upon the scene with a glint disapproval in my eye (although we’ve just had a narrow escape with some superglue…).

I hope you had all had a wonderful time and that Father Christmas brought you everything that you wished for. I had a total of zero running gifts (which is exactly the number that I asked for as my running drawer is permanently on the cusp of having to implement a “one in-one out” policy –  all I ever do to resolve this is squish things down a bit more). What the big beardy one did bring me was a copy of Dan Lepard’s latest book Short and Sweet. Edd Kimber’s The Boy Who Bakes and a rather nifty cake knife and slice set. In a slightly tangential way, this is all good running incentive as I may have to resort to marathon training to offset the calories of all the goodies that have already caught my eye.

I also received this:

"Onward + upward to Janathon" - thanks Mum...

It’s worrying how Janathon seeps into every nook and cranny of your life. Ah well. I suppose this means that it’s definitely time to dust off the old Rocher-o-Meter…

In which I refuse to accept that it’s nearly Janathon time again.

Today I was alarmed to see that Cathy had opened the scary door marked Janathon already.

Am I joining in this year? Of course I am. I’m too scared of Cathy to say no. No, it’s not just that; in a perverse way I do enjoy the Athons. I like the single-minded, focused determination that I apply to them (especially when it’s sadly lacking for the other ten months of the year), the feeling that if I can do this then I can do this I can do anything, but probably most of all, I adore the warm fuzzy camaraderie on the blogs and twitter (where the fine line of encouragement and nagging is trod daily).

Of course, I have a decision to mull over – how do I tackle Janathon this year? This will be my fourth Athon (see to your right >>> for the accounts of those) and three of them have been 100% running (and blogging) successes. At the moment my heart is saying, “go on, run every day – you know you can do it, you’ve done it before…”. In the opposite corner is my head saying “yes, you know you can do it, you have nothing to prove and you don’t want to aggravate your hip by running every day you idiot”.

The problem is, while I know my head is right, I mainly only like running and I don’t really want to do anything else. I especially don’t want to do anything else in the month that everyone has decided to do something else as well. I do have a bit of a plan though, it just needs a bit more working out on the logistical side.

PS Had 3 good runs last week – a better than expected pace early Tuesday, a not getting blown away in the gales reluctant (but ultimately enjoyable) after work on Thursday (it was cold, I wore my full length black tights, black jacket and black eGloves and enjoyed feeling like I was a sinister criminal mastermind off to do a diamond heist. And then I put my hi-vis on…) and an intended 6 miles that turned into 8 in the brief spell without rain on Sunday afternoon. Very pleased.