There is something about doing the same thing over and over that takes the sparkle from it.  Work, for example.  Yes definitely work.  Unless you are blessed with the kind of brain to switch off and do a menial task day in day out this is the first thing that springs to mind.  The second perhaps are holidays.  If you visit the same place year on year it must soon begin to lose its appeal.

The third for me has to be the London Moonwalk 2013.

Readers of my blog will know that I was excited to do my “double” this year.  My personal challenge was to run the Brighton Marathon and then four weeks later, walk the London Moonwalk.  Both personal challenges and in turn raising a few pennies for two well deserving charities.

The Brighton Marathon was the first run I have done of this distance which made the experience was not only exhausting, but extremely exhilarating.  Exactly the words I would have used to describe the Moonwalk the first time I did it.

I am the kind of person who likes to be alone when faced with a challenge.  I am never one to have a friend with me at an important doctor’s appointment, and I shooed my Mum away whilst I was in labour with my two children choosing only my husband to be present because he had to be! It does not bother me to eat dinner alone in a restaurant, nor to sit alone in the cinema.  May be that is a compliment to myself, that I enjoy my own company. 

The latter may have been the reason that for the second time in as many years I decided to take myself off to London, spend the evening among a crowd of thousands and spend the night walking 26.2 miles around London – alone. 

This was perhaps many of the factors pertaining to why I didn’t find the Moonwalk that interesting this year.  I find it hard to say that.  I know there are thousands who enjoyed the challenge and have registered their interest straight away when they returned from the walk. After all, the reason I chose to do the walk alone this year was because I really enjoyed it alone last year right?

The first problem I found was that the venue had changed.  Normally the walk starts in Hyde Park, which was me is extremely easy to get to by train.  This year the walk started at Battersea Power Station, not so easy. 

I decided to use a clever website that allowed you to book someone’s drive for the night and then walk from the house to the start line.  This meant that I drove from home; through the centre of London to park up in a residential area I didn’t 100% trust.  I was aware of the neighbours looking at my car, and then looking at me wearing my t-shirt that guaranteed to most that I would be away from my car for at least 6 hours of the evening, with the said car sporting a Home Counties radio sticker in the rear…  I double checked the locks and set out on my way to the Power Station.

Typically of me I was early, so I joined the back of a very long queue.  I kept myself busy by looking at the fantastic ladies (and men!) and the efforts they had made with their bra’s, I also did my good Samaritan bit by taking photo’s of the groups of ladies who were struggling to get photo’s together. 

Finally the tent doors opened and we were on our way.  I had a bit of a star-struck moment when I brushed against Nina Barough (the founder of the Moonwalk back in 1996) but that soon went when she raised a megaphone just above my ear to welcome the Moonwalkers (she is quite short and I am quite tall so the end of the megaphone met quite beautifully with the bottom of my ear!).

Being one the first into the tent meant that I could head straight to the massage section and get warmed up.  This brings me onto my next problem.  It was VERY cold.  So the thought of taking off my t-shirt to expose my carefully decorated bra was not very appealing, and given the sights before me the other ladies were feeling the same.  But I managed to prise my shirt from me to enter into the spirit of things to get a massage done, and get a temporary tattoo applied.

I calculated that I had about 3 hours in the tent to occupy myself before we set off for the walk.  I knew of about 10 other ladies there that night who were doing the walk.  I should have text them to find out their location and met up.  I should have been social and I SHOULD have made more of an effort to soak up the atmosphere, but I didn’t.  I sat on the ground, shivering and read my kindle.  Stopping only for minutes at a time to glance at the time and check my phone.

At this point it sounds like I was having quite a miserable time.  This isn’t true.  I was just cold, and dare I say it, a little lonely.  I just wanted to get going, complete the walk and get home to bed.

There was a poignant minute’s silent for absent Moonwalkers, a quick cuddle with strangers next to me and I was on my way to the start line.  I would like to add again that it was EXTREMELY cold.  There had been a heavy downpour an hour before so the ground was damp adding to the coldness.  I don’t normally feel the cold too much but even I couldn’t bring myself to take my t-shirt off.  As I looked around me it was clear that I was one of the brave ones.  People were wearing their coats, gloves, hats and scarves.  To the spectator this didn’t look like a mass event that was raising awareness by having people wear brightly decorated bra’s, this looked like a big crowd of people walking through London, for reasons unknown.

This brings me onto another problem.  As I said earlier the event is normally held in Hyde Park.  This is a busy park in London and as you pound for the first two to three miles of the walk there are a large group of people to support you.  Many are there to support friends and family who are walking, but many are also passers by who are enjoying their nice day at the park and are hanging around to see what the event is all about.  The change of venue to Battersea meant that the only supporters were the ones for the friends and family. So as we set off (at this point I really had to stop myself from breaking into a run to get warm as quickly as possible!) to the sound of a claxon and pleads from Nina to take our shirts off to expose our bra’s, it was head down, walk fast and lets get the job done.

In past Moonwalks, the route has always been breathtaking.  Not to say that is wasn’t this time round, it’s just that in my opinion they got it round the wrong way  Historically you were taken round the monuments of London first (Big Ben, Embankment, Buckingham Palace) where the crowds were in abundance and cheering you on.  The second part of the walk is normally spent watching drunks fall out of nightclubs, and avoiding the puke and leers of the young men out and about. That in itself is quite amusing. Having this round the other way, made the walk quite boring for the first half.  There wasn’t even the token group of lads to wolf-whistle you along (may be it was the fact that we all still had our tops on!), just long dark streets with the odd car rolling by to give you a beep. This too was quite concerning. There were points at the start of the walk where I was walking in down a back street alone, with only a few lamps to guide me along.  It was then that I realised the risk I was taking being alone, and this made me walk that bit quicker.

I seemed to be “cat and mousing” with a lady for a good two miles around this time.  She would reach me and then pass me, only to slow to get a drink or some food which is when I would catch her until she slowed again.  It was at the stage where were walking next to each other that we began to strike up conversation.  It is amazing the things that you will find to talk about to a stranger when you have to.  We were both alone, both cold and both bored.  Before long we had put the worlds to rights and we were at mile 22 where she stopped for the toilet and I carried on the last 4.2 miles back alone again.

I was grateful for the distraction but now I just wanted to get the walk done.  I was aware that I would then have to walk the 2 miles back to the car from the finishing line and drive home from London (the lady I was walking with was from Scotland, she was flying home that afternoon, it stunned me that people would make all that effort!), so as much as I was annoyed at my extra journey I found comfort in the thought that I would hopefully be home and tucked up in bed in a couple of hours.

I crossed the finishing line alone, without any jubilation and scowled at the lady who tried to give me a medal for the Half Moonwalk (13.1 miles). I glanced up at the time and realised that I had completed the walk in just less than 6 hours – exactly the same time as I had the year before.  Yet, the feelings I were experiencing were completely different.

Last year I hung around the tent.  I got a hot chocolate and I stretched my legs out in a short walk back to the other walkers to cheer them on, proudly flashing my finishers’ medal.  This year I continued to walk to the exit and hot-foot it back to my car.  Once home I showered quickly and climbed into bed with a sense of satisfaction that it was done.

Before the walk, I had been toying with the idea of it being my last Moonwalk for a while, and my feelings throughout the event and after confirmed this for me.  I cannot work out if it was the event that has lost its sparkle or me who has lost enthusiasm. Deep down I suspect a bit of both.  Either way it does not take away the amazing achievements of all the walkers on the night, not to mention the volunteers who stood in that cold weather cheering us on.

I always said that one year I would like to volunteer for the event which I will think about for next year.  I do know for certain that I don’t think I want to walk it for a while.

Where you there?  What did you think of the event?

So for now, its time to hang my marathon trainers up and look forward to my balmy summer evening runs and early morning gym sessions.

Winter training – DONE!

I am normally a VERY good sleeper. I jokingly tell people that I could sleep on a clothesline, and despite the weighty logistics of this, I imagine it’s true. But the night before the Brighton Marathon this was certainly not true.

We had travelled down to a beautiful little B&B in Eastbourne for the weekend (Seaview Guest House, on the sea front, immaculately clean and the breakfasts are delicious.  It also happens to be owned by my big sister, so these comments are hugely unbiased, though click through the links and you will see the amazing reviews!).  I wanted to take the opportunity to spend time with my family and treat the kids to a little weekend by the seaside, and being en route to Brighton, Eastbourne was perfect for this.

For two days I battled with my thoughts.  This was the first marathon I have competed in, I really did not know what to expect.  I was constantly checking the weather updates, checking my race number, the time of the event etc.  Then I would relax, the jitters making way for excitement when I would tell myself to “Just ENJOY the experience”. This quickly darted to one side whilst my mind began to panic about the day ahead. So despite my comfortable surroundings (seriously, check out this B&B, did I mention its number 12 on the Trip Advisor B&B’s in Eastbourne?!), my reassuring husband dealing wonderfully with my snappiness to ANY question (“No I DO NOT want a coffee! Do I sound like I need caffeine??!”) and the glass of wine I had (purely medicinal, you’ll never imagine the shakes you get pre marathon!), I lay awake most of the night, on a night where rest was probably the most important factor to completing a 26.2 mile run…!!

It was a sketchy and rushed start to the day but we were Brighton-bound by 6am. After realising that time really wasn’t going to stand still for me, and that I WAS actually going to have to do this marathon I relaxed and started to suck in the atmosphere of race day.

So as I took my position at the start line (well I say line, the start Corel….I was in the pink one where I had predicted my finish time to be between 4 and 5 hours). I shivered my way to the start dome and prayed that I would get through this injury free.

The first of my niggles began half way into the first mile.  This was something I did not account for. My running tights were catching on my bright orange Multiple Sclerosis Society running vest (worn for the first time). The constant snagging between the good material and the bad got to me until about mile 5 when it became the least of my worries. The sun began to come out.

If you have read my previous posts, you know that all my marathon training has been done in winter conditions.  I have dodged snow flakes, endured awful wind and got soaked to the skin with rain showers.  One condition that I did not train however in was the sun, or rising temperatures.  This was one of the main things about the event I was dreading knowing it was in April and the weather being predictably, well, unpredictable.

You could feel the sense of doom around me.  The first murmurs of “uh oh, here comes the sun” were heard around mile 5, and as the hazy cloud made way for the bright sunshine, we were sweating our way up to mile 13 with not even a whisper of a sea breeze we were promised.

But I was feeling positive.  I was having a strong run and the energy in the crowd was tremendous.  I had managed to get myself in with the 4.30 hour pacers (these guys must be able to do two hour marathons with how cool and composed they were all the way round!) and they kept the mood jovial and the chat chirpy.

Reaching the half way mark was a relief.  Anyone who has run distances will tell you that for the most part the battle is in your head.  And this begins at the half way mark:

“Ok Cols, half way there”

“You are over the half way now”

“It’s only a 13 mile run”

“One and a half hours to go, you can do this”

“Keep thinking of how you will feel when this is all over”

And of course the crowds were beginning to thicken.  This is something that I have never experienced before - literally hundreds of people calling my name and shouting encouraging things to me.  And the boost I needed at that point, my husband shouting the loudest at me and snapping the cheeky picture you can see at the top of this post!

You meet many people on your journey through 26.2 miles yet I could not tell you their names.  I spoke to the experienced marathon runners at the beginning with their Garmins poised for their split times. There were an abundance of charity runners in tutu’s, nappies (yes really – he ran past me!), wigs and morph suits. There were the extreme charity runners in donkey costumes. I passed a man running in flip flops, several people running along with wheelchairs and perhaps the most inspiring, a blind man with Multiple Sclerosis, being lead round the course by two helpers all proudly wearing the same vests I was.

I was lucky enough to see the elite men and women go sprinting along the other side of the road, but my next glimpse of them was to be on telly a week later –sensational finishing times!

Near the beginning of the race, I had been chatting to another runner who had done the Brighton Marathon a few times before.  I asked him where he thought the “wall” was and he said it was around mile 19-20.  It wasn’t so much that I hit the “wall”.  I wasn’t particularly tired, I knew I was near the end (“only a 10k run to go Cols”) and although it was warm, it wasn’t stifling or too uncomfortable.  But there were things bothering me: I was bored, I needed the toilet and I was feeling increasingly sick from all the sugary “energy” drinks and gels I was taking on.  I needed this race to end.

Up until this point I had been ahead of the 4.30 hour pacers I mentioned earlier, but I could hear them gaining on me.  I would be damned if I was going to run all that distance and not get under 4 and a half hours so I drew up as much energy as I could muster into my legs to stride out those final miles.

It was in those final miles the crowds got even thicker, the cries of encouragement became louder.  Runners grabbed their children from the crowds and carried them to the finishing line and tears of joy, relief and pain were pouring out.  All through this I pounded on.  Looking animatedly from left to right for a glimpse of my family but it was just so busy.  I had seen my sister at mile 25 which had encouraged me to run faster, this was a moment to make my family proud.

The 2013 Brighton Marathon welcomed 9,011 runners; I finished in position 4,362 so just about in the first half of the finishers! My finish time was 4 hours and 27 minutes.

I completed my day with proud hugs from my supportive family and after a long drive home, a very large glass of wine!

This was the first time I have ever run a marathon distance, and it certainly will not be my last.  The bug has well and truly been caught and I have found myself frantically looking for the next marathon event to train for. So watch this space……!

*For those of you who wish to still sponsor me for this event I have been raising money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society.  Please click here to visit my fundraising page.

**My next charity event is on 11th May 2013 and is the London Moonwalk. This is raising money for various cancer charities and involves walking 26.2 miles round London, in my bra through the night! If you would like to sponsor me for this please click here.

***And finally, my sister and I will be running the Eastbourne Race for Life on 23rd June for Cancer Research.  Our team name is the Seaview Sirens and you can sponsor us by clicking here.

When I first signed up to run the Brighton Marathon I was perhaps naïve.  After all I run lots.  I may not cover a great distance on each run but I still manage (in a good week) to cover around 20 miles a week.  Surely this will be enough to push me along the coastal path to victory with the 26.2 miles stretch behind me?

As I said, naïve.

On my first official training run I was quite smug.  One chilly January morning I extended one of my longer routes to make it over 10 miles.  Much to my joy I seemed to easily complete just over 13 miles.  As I hobbled back to the house I was confident that this Marathon training malarkey was going to be a breeze.

I will say again, naïve.

Injury struck.  No not the running kind. That would be too straight forward.  Walking back from sledging with my sons, I slipped backwards onto an icy patch and landed straight on my coccyx.  When my children finally stopped laughing they had the grace to ask if I was ok.  At that point adrenaline was pumping through my body.  It hurt, but my ego was ever so slightly more bruised at that point.  After a stint in the A&E Department, it was confirmed that it was indeed a suspected fracture and to rest.  And in the words of the A&E Doctor “If it hurts, don’t’ do it”. 

This injury grumpily set me back a few weeks and therein lay the start of my injury hell. 

When finishing my first “tester” run a few weeks later the whiplash that is ongoing in my neck decided to pop up and say hello.  When that left me, an old metatarsal injury decided to look me up. When that left after being satisfied with the amount of pain inflicted on me the arch of my foot began to throb after each run. 

“They” say you will never see a happy runner.  From the initial back injury until three weeks ago this was true in my case.  I continued with my training runs because I had to.  It is only now, that the injuries have all decided to take a break (can I blame them in this weather?), that I have been left to train in peace.

So with the Brighton Marathon now just over a week away I can happily say that even without setting foot in Brighton, that I have earned my medal.

A friend and fellow runner once said to me at the end of one cold, injury induced 17 mile training run “this is what they don’t see”.  Whilst the “they” in the sentence was the well wishers, crowds and sponsors, let me take some time to share with you what the “this” is all about…..

It’s about the bi-weekly 5am starts, which really start the night before where you are frantically trying to drink your body weight in water to hydrate yourself enough for the run the next morning (which also results on bi-hourly trips to the loo in the night). It's dressing in layers to accommodate the cold morning, only to regret the layers as the sun rises and the pace quickens. It’s finding places to keep your phone, gels, headphones, tissues, plasters and water bottle that won’t prevent rub and ruin (this is NEVER prevented..!)  It’s the fear and mental battle of that first mile, where you know you still have so far to go. It’s the panic of the first two miles where your pace is too slow/fast to maintain this for the duration. It’s the battling of road junctions where EVERY car seems to want to turn in or out of that junction at the exact time you go to run across it. It’s the full bladder mid run and deciding whether the pain of that, is less than the pain it will be to find somewhere to hide and wee. It’s the aching arms and swollen fingers from your upper body being in the same position, then deciding to “hang low” for a bit therefore giving off a Rocky Balboa boxing run motion. It’s about over enthusiastic dogs who HAVE to run at your ankles and the inconsiderate owners who let them.  It’s about pedestrians on the path and bikers on the cycle ways (how dare they share the same space?). It's about mouthy teenagers who jeer at you as you run, and drivers who beep at you as they pass (this is not encouragement if anyone reading this does this….just irritating!). It’s about running out of tissues and using your gloves/sleeves as a substitute and trying to hide the fact that you are doing something SO disgusting but necessary. It’s about curbs from mile 18, hills from mile 19 and from mile 20, pretty much just putting one foot in front of the other. It’s about changing your running style mid run JUST so you can get a different sound to listen to. It’s about rain, wind, snow, ice, frost, sun or sleet. It’s about praying the weather is “ideal” for your run but doing it anyway because you have to. It’s about blisters, nipple rub and chafing of any skin touching clothing. It’s about how at about mile 20 you would give ANYTHING for a hot bath and a massage. It’s about sacrificing time with your family when time is precious. It’s about relying on family when their time is precious.

This may sound horrifying to someone who does not run distances. But there will be a nod of familiarity about most of this from fellow runners.

“So why do it?” you may ask.

Now THAT is hard to explain. And something that only a runner can answer on a personal level.  For me, at this time it’s about 26.2 scenic miles around Brighton. It’s about raising money for the millions of Multiple Sclerosis sufferers around the world who will benefit from the donations and it’s about living a life that most of these sufferers can only dream of.  It’s about passion.

So as I enter into my tapering stage of training (rest – FINALLY!) please take a look at my sponsorship page.  Please give what you can and please take the time to read up on the MS Society – they do good!