Banish the blues – I love running !

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This past week I have been trying to get back into running more regularly and to rediscover the joy and peace that, until recently, I found that running brings.

2017  has been a year of change for me. On the professional front, I left a job after eight years with the same company. Moving on from the comfort and security of working  where I understood how the business worked,  and with the friendship of good colleagues, to trying to work out what next, navigating job hunting, rebuilding a network and the like has been something of an emotional rollercoaster and a game of snakes & ladders all rolled into one big fat metaphor !

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In family life, our youngest daughter graduated, and with that came the acknowledgment that our job as parents was entering a different chapter. The education years are well and truly over, our girls are all grown up and the fledglings have properly flown the nest.

But beyond work and family – there was running. Running is my thing and as someone who has scampered between a myriad of hobbies and interests over the years, running has been the constant – a touchstone- and my ‘go to’ when the rest of life was a bit chaotic.

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Then post marathon – even the constancy of running seemed to change.

After the elation of finishing a marathon – I  found it harder than I expected to see the point of running and it stopped being something I looked forward to doing.

People talk about the post marathon blues, but during training, I was sure this would not apply to me. Towards the end of marathon training, what kept me going was looking forward to a time when I could say cheerio to prescribed training sessions and hello to running whenever I wanted to. Choosing to run for however long a distance and with friends who were happy to stop and run slow, take pictures – just about everything I was not able to do during training.

But it turned out I did succumb to post marathon blues, just like lots of others before me and kept finding excuses to not bother going out. Briefly, I considered signing up for another race to reignite running love and give me a new goal – but I just could not face it. Having spoken before about my ambivalence over races, competitions and the stress of pushing for PBs, chasing a new target is not the answer for me right now.

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In short – I was not managing to get back into a running groove. The routes I have run for years and even with repetition – managed to enjoy and see something new each time – had lost their appeal. When I was running, every yard seemed harder, I was puggled and weary after the first 10 minutes, I cut short planned distances, walked up hills I would have run before and felt every niggle like a heavy weight.

But as I believe in the power of running as a cure all – I persevered, and this week I think I turned a corner. On Tuesday summer arrived in Edinburgh and I did a toasty 5 miles along the canal – allowing myself the luxury of lots of stops, and even took the bus home. Then on Thursday, an otherwise pedestrian run was enlivened by both a wardrobe malfunction and finding some field mushrooms in passing.

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Friday and Saturday I ran with Alison and rediscovered my favourite kind of running – the stream of consciousness run chat 🙂

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Then today by way of a grand finale – I joined a visiting friend for a run in a completely different part of town, to run 10 glorious rain drenched miles, and with it, the post marathon blues washed away into the cloudy skies.

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Toasty 10k trail race

IMG_8377With 6 weeks to go until the Stirling marathon, training is continuing and the verdict is so far, mostly so good. But I am discovering that marathon training can be a bit relentless and turn running into a very serious business. Don’t get me wrong – I totally respect the distance, and know I need to put in the miles if I am to have a decent chance of getting round in one piece, but it is still hard some days to find my marathon training mojo.

So with all those miles ( 409 so far) and many weeks of training in wet, cold, windy winter weather behind me – it was nice* to see some sunshine forecast for last weekend when the plan included a 10k trail race.

*Or so I thought!

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I was running in the Winton House 10k – a trail run, also previously known as the Pencaitland fun run and it is a while since I did a 10k race.  From memory, the last 10k I entered was also a ‘fun run’ at Direlton – and it  turned out to be a sunny, hot and hard 6 miles.  Fun runs can be deceptive and sunshine on race day must be an East Lothian thing 🙂

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As this 10k was part of my training, Sally had given me the race tactics to follow, which were the usual run fast, then run faster 😉  Timing was a 2 pm start –  and with the sun shining it was lovely for spectators but maybe less so for runners.

I do know I go on about the weather – but this is mostly because – I am British and I am always out running in it!

When it comes to the weather I fear most when running – hot is probably top of the list. As a Scottish native, fair of skin and acclimatised to year-round cool temperatures – I am really not built to move quickly when the sun is splitting the sky and the thermometer reaches into double figures.

But 10k – is only 6+ miles, and a trail must mean we would run through woodland and woods mean shade – yes ?

Alas no.

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Pre race hubub
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Bales, bunting and a bake sale

Yes we did run through woods, but the leaves on the trees were sparse, the sun was high in the sky, and it felt pretty hot and uncomfortable for all 10 of the 10ks ( not to mention a sting in the tail hill finish).

I can’t remember what time I did on my last 10k race, but despite the heat and the trail route, I managed to finish this one in under 1 hour( 57 mins 53 secs ), even though it was not pretty and I did not manage to follow the recommended race tactics.

And now I have new nightmares to add to my marathon worries about how I might survive 26.2 miles if it is as hot as this come marathon day – but I will just have to keep doing a rain dance and if that does not work – deal with the weather closer to race day.

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Get me to the biscuit medal

 

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As to the  Winton House trail race  – as an event to go to and have fun as a family, it was spot on – very well organised with a friendly atmosphere and in beautiful surroundings – not to mention the most luxurious toilets I have ever encountered in a race!

My husband and daughter enjoyed soaking up the sunshine, eating ice cream, taking pictures and saying hello to the lambs, while I was racing.

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I bumped into a few familiar faces and met ‘IRL’ for the first time  –  fellow blogger and Stirling marathoner Owain Williams (@Scottish Runner)and his wife Mandy. Check out their blog running beside.me

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Proudly showing off our tasty  biscuit medals !

 

 

Taking part in this marathon is for me, mostly a personal challenge, but I do also hope to raise funds for two charities that support women and girls in different ways. One of these is Smalls for All  – a Scottish based charity that collects and distributes underwear for women and children in Africa and is also hoping to fund an education programme to help girls.You can find out more about the charity’s work at their website Smalls for All

If you would like to make a donation to support this charity, you can do so via my page at  MyDonate

I am also raising funds for Scottish Women’s aid – I had to set up two fundraising pages because of how the charities are set up differently to take donations so here is the link to the Justgiving page if you would prefer to make a donation to that charity.

Any donations will be very much appreciated and will definitely help put a spring in my step come May 21st .

Thank you

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writing and running in the key of green

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Running in the months of  January, February and quite a bit of March – the skies have been grey, the trees bare and the paths muddy brown.

But this weekend the sun came out and as if by magic everywhere was green.

Wild garlic seemed to grow overnight into a lush fresh carpet of pungent loveliness and even my neglected garden threw up some vibrant colour – bless my everlasting die hard euphorbias.

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With Monday a rest day from running, I picked some of the wild garlic and made pesto.

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snow, socks and a stitch

img_7656Into week 7 – I  think of marathon training and by now I was expecting it to just be running, running and more running, which of course it is, but the running is punctuated by new discoveries and all sorts of learning that I have to hope will all help me come the big day.

Weather so far this year has been a winter of the unrelenting grey and bleak variety – cold as a given- but with hardly any uplifting crisp, frosty, days to offset the drab – just a shed load of Pantone 442.

And as I am following a training plan of set days – sometimes my run days just don’t coincide with the odd sunny spot.

No matter – this training in all weathers is all helping me to develop MENTAL TOUGHNESS.

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This phrase is a recurring one in marathon training, and I imagine any race training – and I think I get the message. It seems I will need bucketloads of this mental strength come race day. I just can not begin to imagine (and have no intention of finding out) how much mental toughness you might need to develop to do some ultra distance or these races that have you running through the desert or in the depths of Death Valley or across Scottish mountain tops. Respect to all of you guys out there doing that kind of thing, but its a no from me.

To come back to this week and my weather obsession – Thursday was my hill repeat day and snow was forecast. These days storms all have names – and Doris the storm was going to bring winds, rain and for some parts of Scotland a shedload of snow.

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Hearing that forecast – I had the same kind of feeling I used to get during summer when rain was forecast. By way of explanation –  I grew up on a fruit farm and in the summer months worked there during the raspberry harvest. Of course, as a family we did not want it to rain during the raspberry season, but sometimes I did just long for one rainy day to get me out of a day’s work.

And so this week I had much the same feeling when watching the weather forecast on repeat  – maybe it would be just too windy/ snowy/ dangerous to train – yippee! A day off for me

But then unlike getting a day skiving off work, skipping a training session is not really helpful in the long run – I know I have to put in these long cold hours to get me round 26.2 miles come May.

As it turned out storm Doris did bring some very windy weather but in the part of Edinburgh where I live it also brought a welcome snowfall – by that I mean just enough snow to be pretty but not enough to interrupt things too much.

Was a nice change to run in cold crisp air and amongst a snowy hilly landscape.

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After the previous weeks training when it felt as if it was all coming together, this week I thought it was unravelling. On Tuesday I cut short a planned pace session as I just could not get my legs to move fast enough and could not get warm. I had done a different body pump class the day before and my legs were heavy, but truthfully it was more my head that did not want to play ball.

Mental toughness was in short supply on Tuesday.

My snow hill session was invigorating, but not sure it could really be classed as a genuine example of hill repeats, as I spent quite a bit of recovery time taking pictures. then on the way back from the hills I took a tumble and landed heavily on my knees – no damage done save for some grazing and technicolor bruising.  Falling and getting up to keep running is a good way to develop mental toughness though !

Then on Saturday, I was to do 10 miles steady on a hilly route but in the afternoon. I am not so good at eating for exercise when the session is later in the day, and as a creature of weekend running habit – it feels a bit weird to be sitting around reading Saturday papers at a time when I usually have my running done and dusted for the day.

But I had a route planned and was also going to try out running in my new compression socks – so I downloaded the podcast of Cerys Matthews R6 show and following what I thought a decent interval after a brunch of poached eggs, bacon and toast – I headed off.

Not far into running, I got a bit of a stitch. This was something new and so I just slowed down but the stitch did not seem to want to budge. I was trying to put it to one side and at the same time try and remember self-cure for stitches. Neither of these mental actions made much difference so  I just kept going – and made it to the Meadows where there are public toilets.

Even after a comfort break, my tummy was not feeling great but I had completed almost 6 miles, so more than half way. I had opted for a route into town partly to get some hills, but also to have some distraction as I  was running alone. The route I often do is an out and back along a trail path – and while a favourite run route – you are much more on your own.

Is good to have distractions sometimes but the downside of running into the city is knowing that at any given point I could hop on a bus and get myself home – and when I was feeling less than 100% it was tempting.

But of course come marathon day this will not be an option – so I just did a tried and trusted method of breaking down the miles left into songs – usually 3+  to a mile. Fortunately, Cerys Matthews Sunday show is just perfect for this as she has a very eclectic music selection and good chat between songs.

So I made it to 10 miles – including 3 uphill return miles that at least took my mind off the stitch, and was pleased to have completed the session even if it was not the most enjoyable.

Later when discussing my stitch and tummy trouble with Sally – she told me I had eaten completely the wrong things before my run ( largely because I ignored what she had told me to eat )! – so that’s a lesson learned. But a run chum was a bit more forgiving saying that finishing a run when you don’t want to and are feeling out of sorts is a great way to develop the necessary MENTAL TOUGHNESS -an essential component of marathon success.

It’s that old chestnut again.

As to the socks – I have no idea if they are making any difference, but at least I know they did not cause the stitch !

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December running – 5 day round up

Five days into December and running everyday verdict is so far, so good. This is not the first time I have taken part in the challenge, so I do know the score. But this year is a bit different for me as I recently left my job after 8 years, and have the freedom to run at whatever time I like and for how ever long I choose – which is a new sensation and one that is taking a bit of getting used to, but is mostly a good thing.

This being the 6th time I have taken part in the marcothon, and for once not needing to weave my daily run around work commitments – I did consider adding a bit of icing onto the December run challenge cake. Maybe trying to run somewhere different every day or completing my December runs in an appropriately advent themed costume – bedecked as a lycra Christmas tree or Santa. Or I could have perplexed myself with some kind of a curious run = number of days = phase of the moon  mileage combination – but on balance I thought better of it.

As it happens my December running is already something of a challenge within a challenge – as I am attempting to run further in 2016 than I have in any other year since I took up running in 2009 – and have set a target of completing  999 miles by December 31st.

And it turns out that even though I don’t have a regular 9-5 to fit round, or business travel, office parties and the like to attend, December is still quite a busy month. Newly out of my work routine and between my next assignment starting – I am finding it very easy to fill my day before and after running in all sorts of ways, and very much enjoying catching up with friends old and new.

Weather has been cool, but so far no snow and ice and to my mind Dec 5th had the best wintry weather as temperatures dropped to minus 4 – creating a beautiful frosty landscape and a face tinglingly cold run.

Day  1 – combined my first December run with meeting my newish Instagram friend Linda (@occasionalscotland) for coffee and a walk round  Edinburgh’s  Botanic Gardens. Easy day one downhill run to the Botanics along the canal, then weaving through the New Town.

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Mileage 4.03 Total 4.03

Day 2 – Friday run with running chums Alison, Lil and Emma . Did a new variation of a route ( Emma’s 10k route )  out along the Dell path by the Water of Leith then up a level to Blinkbonny for an uphill loop before rejoining the path and back along the Dell by the river.

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Nice to do a variation and lots of opportunity for different conversations and pace.

Mileage 6.36 Total 10.39

Day 3 – Saturday run with Alison – one of our weekend regulars -out along the Dell then back up past the new equestrian centre and Campbell park to loop back to the start – nice out and back on a cool morning.

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Mileage 5.07 Total 15.46

Day 4 – Sunday run with Alison – we did our other regular weekend route – the Balgreen  – out through Craiglockhart woods , past the allotments to Balgreen then back via the canal. Cold with bright sunlight

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Mileage 5.14 Total 20.60

Day 5 – cold, crisp and frosty run – as on my own I chose to run at midday , to get the best of the sunshine and did a circular route from the house down first to the Dell path, along westwards towards Currie then up towards the Pentland hills via Poets Glen and back home via Clubbiedean and Torphin reservoirs.

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Mileage 5.24 Total 25.84

999 countdown

Convention has it that resolutions and commitments to life improvements take place at the start of the year, but whether through my love of procrastination or a general ennui over goal setting,  I have ambled through 2017 free of embarking on any big challenges or certainly where running is concerned.

At some point I thought about doing a marathon this year, then I talked myself out of it – deciding that it was always too hot in Edinburgh in May and attempting marathon number 1 at Loch Ness in September might be too much worry for me to deal with for a whole 9 months.

Marathoning can be my 2017 challenge – well maybe…

It seems that without some kind of contest to aim for,I just drift along running wise. While that is just fine and a big part of me wants running to be just a regular thing I do, given how much I have a love/hate relationship with competition, there is no escaping the focus a deadline gives me.

Twas ever thus and maybe this is why when recently browsing through my Nike+  running app and  checking on the leaderboard, I noticed that my mileage for the year was close to 750 miles in late Sept.

With 3 months of the year left, the possibility of reaching 1000 miles seemed doable and the kind of challenge I relish. Setting a target mileage would  help with the inevitable shortfall of winter motivation. As the days shorten and clocks change soon,  much as I prefer running in cooler temperatures – running in darkness does require some incentive.

So I have done the calculations and it looks like I only need to do 20 miles a week – less than 3 a day from now till Dec 31st.

And to make it a bit easier and less of a round number I am aiming to reach 999 miles by Dec 31st .

As of today – mileage stands at 784.7 – so If I can get to 800 by the end of October, I think I am definitely in with a chance of getting that medal.

Elemental island run – Tiree

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Just over a  week ago I visited the island of Tiree for the first time – and to use a cheesy but appropriate cliché – I was blown away by the place.

It is a strange kind of otherness and contrast to one late Friday afternoon, leave the plasticky confines of Glasgow airport departures – with its shiny duty free, unimaginative bars and rainy windows and then barely an hour later find yourself transported to somewhere so different that it feels like the place you left behind had never existed.

It is the joy of the weekend break of course – but some breaks offer more solace than others, and none more so than that provided by a small Scottish island – where the wind blows in all directions, sea is everywhere and the weather is so magical and changeable you can spend the whole weekend just watching it run through its’ repertoire.

I managed a couple of runs while I was there and while Tiree is pretty flat, the wind does make for a bit of a tough workout. It also means you have to keep your wits about you as running on roads with wind whistling and howling  – you don’t hear cars approaching until they are upon you.

Not that there were many cars to avoid on my most memorable run – where I set out with a forecast of 45 mph winds – a smattering of rain but very mild temperature. Perfect for the kite surfers I saw on the beach – and quite a joy when I had this wind advantage behind me for the first mile or so.

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Earlier I had almost talked myself out of running but once out was glad that I did step out. It was a 5 mile out and back and the fiercest section was running towards Gott Bay into the wind that was whipping off the water – and where it did feel a bit as if I was running backwards.

Running along the beach was fun and exfoliating and then the skies darkened and it started raining – the wind dropped to a modest 21 mph making the return leg easier – but by this time wind had been replaced with heavy rain – making my last few miles a bit refreshing.

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Tiree has almost too much sky and clouds and sea and beauty to take in on a short visit and in the few days I was there – I was very aware of being in a quite different place and of feeling the weather systems constantly change around me.

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Rainy Friday run

Most Fridays by the time I get home , I just feel like pouring a glass of wine, eating some salty snacks and mellowing out the week that was. Is a very nice way to unwind and start the weekend.

But now and again I make an effort to run after work on a Friday , and when I do wonder why I don’t do it more often.

A couple of glasses of Sauvignon blanc and some of my favourite Tyrrell crisps is an enjoyable way to soften the edges of the working week and to punctuate the start of the weekend – but an end of week  run seems to deliver a bigger benefit on the mood enhancing front.

And by way of a bonus – I am writing this at 8am the day after with a clear head and a bit more energy than usual.

This week I have not managed to do much running or exercise generally. I hurt my back on Sunday and it has put me off running a bit ( or maybe for once it made sense to listen to my body telling me to rest and recover).

The weather has been doing that cruel thing of delivering magical sunny, warm days during the working week – only for it to return to more typical Scottish August rain come Friday.  But despite this weekend change of weather, as I walked back from the train station dodging puddles and car splashes – I could feel the freshness in the air and was really looking forward to getting out in the rain – feeling it on my skin and clearing my head.

Maybe not the best conditions for taking pictures, but perfect salve for the soul.

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stronga, faster, longer – and other running ambitions

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This morning  I was running uphill into a big fat headwind when I saw a trailer captioned STRONGA – how very handy for me as I was very much in need of an inspirational slogan at that time. Out on my usual Sunday run but feeling a bit under-inspired, on one of those run days when the distance ambition in my head was not matched by the capacity of my legs.

Not by way of an excuse but aside from my body sluggishness, the  weather today was a bit weird as the air temperature felt like August but the winds were more like those we get in November.

I am not training for any race and am in a bit of the doldrums training wise – even though I keep saying I don’t really need a race goal to keep running, and just want to run for running’s sake, it seems a struggle to keep training focused when there is no looming race deadline, or a run streak challenge to fulfil.

Earlier this year I contemplated signing up for a full marathon, but talked myself out of it – maybe next year. So then I thought I might just train for a marathon but not enter one – so was planning to start running  longer distances, to see how it felt to run beyond my furthest distance to date of  13.1 miles , but I have not managed to run beyond 10miles since my last race in March.

It seems my need for a deadline to succeed pervades my running as it does everything else.

Goals aside – I am back into a running groove of weekend runs mostly with Alison, and we have a new favourite route that takes us from our usual start point pretty much downhill all the way to Stockbridge. There we sometimes round the run off with a coffee and then Alison’s husband very kindly meets us and takes us home – to save the uphill return leg.

Although I am not quite achieving any running greatness in terms of performance improvements – be that increased speed or distance, it is nice to try out new routes and make more of the social aspects of running , now we are both largely free of weekend parental responsibilities.

While I do take satisfaction from running faster, getting fitter and do harbour a small ambition to run a marathon one day- mostly I love running for friendship and sociability – for the shared confidences, the listening and the laughter, and as today’s run demonstrated the wide and varied topics of conversation we somehow manage to cover as the miles whizz past.

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It’s all about the weather : days 22- 28 everydayinmay

Like many people who live in these meteorologically varied Isles – I spend a lot of time talking about the weather and I fully accept that I may be borderline nerd-like around the subject. I certainly tick a lot of boxes for a would be weather obsessive

1. I am British ✔️

2. I live in Scotland ✔️

3. I run a lot outside ✔️

all I need to complete the set is to take up gardening or farming !

Running or not, I enjoy weather watching and cloud spotting and am not just a fair weather friend of the weather if that makes sense. I love frosty mornings as much as sunny afternoons, get childishly excited when it snows and even like rain.

Harder to love is a grey flat sky, a north wind at a bus stop or a sneaky drop in temperature mid May when you have stuffed your opaque tights to the back of the drawer – but maybe these are just tests that the weather gods present me with to prove that my love is true. ❤

Last week while running every day I experienced a few weather contrasts – Sunday May 22 was spent running in glorious Spring sunshine in Cambridgeshire, Monday 23 and back home my evening run was in bright warm sunshine – lovely. Tuesday 24 I caught the best of the day with a very early run and sunrise capture, but by Wednesday 25 the sun had vanished and my run was a chilly downhill to the train station against a cold headwind. Thursday 26  was just wet and temperatures in single figures. So by Friday 27 I was girding my loins for more cold, grey, windy running but instead enjoyed a late lunchtime run in equable temperatures, no sunshine but  without a breath of wind –  taking me to Saturday 28 – Day 28 of running everydayinmay, where the weather was pleasantly mild, even some patches of blue sky but as I was running with my good companion Alison and  know I am just 3 days away from the finish – I would happily have run through a blizzard 🙂

Along with many others I am running everydayinmay to raise funds for Dimbleby Cancer Care, a charity that provides much appreciated practical and psychological support for cancer patients. If you would like to donate please visit Scout or Sally’s Just giving page. Thank You

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