pacing and parkrun

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In my fourth week of marathon training, my true love gave to me a pacing session and a parkrun in a pear tree …

Like many novice runners, I am not very good at pacing and I have spoken before about how I fear speed. These are not good qualities in a would be marathon finisher, as whilst I am not planning on running very fast for the 26.2 mile distance, I need to understand what pace I am capable of running and be confident I can maintain some consistency. And I think the idea of a race pace session is that by making yourself run at what will be your race pace – it helps to imprint the feeling of running at that speed and gives you an understanding and memory for race day.

Anyhow – what pace I was to do my race pace training sessions has been a bit of a topic of discussion between me and coach Sal, with Sally  putting the fear of death in me setting  me what seemed like an impossible pace and for an inordinate length of time  – e.g. run 75 minutes at 8.55/ 9 min mi pace – and me responding that there is no way I can run that fast for 15 never mind 75 minutes.

So this week  – Sally put the ball back in my court and asked me what pace I thought I  could manage to run at – well the truth is I don’t really know, but I reckoned probably slower than 8.55min mi !

But it turns out my lovely Garmin has a virtual pacing feature, so if I programme a set pace, as I run it tells me if I am ahead or behind that. I imagine any half serious runners, or lovers of sports watch technology reading this may at this point be saying – did she even read the manual before she bought the thing ? (answer no ).

On Tuesday I decided to try a run with the virtual pacer and in another quirk of kidology – I set it to 9.15 min mi pace, as was pretty sure I could maintain that.

I set off with my little pacing chum- on a rather grey and overcast day. The weather was a bit of an issue because in dim late January Edinburgh light there is not much contrast on the watch screen, so when glancing at the message I had to peer a bit to see if I was AHEAD OF PACE or BEHIND PACE and in scowling at the screen found myself REDUCING PACE.  But after a wee while I got the hang of it, and soon did not have to slow down to read the message. I even began to understand how it felt to run at a particular pace – which was the point of the exercise.

And while it is early days, I think I kind of get it – when I think I can’t maintain a pace of say 9 min mi, it is because I am not running consistently at 9 min mi – but am shooting off too fast then of course as I can’t really run for any length of time at 7 min mi or whatever, I drop right back only to shoot off again and this is not really pacing, and more importantly not a very enjoyable or sustainable way to run for any duration.  This coming week I am going to try it at 9 min mile and see how I get on.

Flushed with the success of beginning to understand pacing – I did my hill reps the day after and that was OK – although in an ongoing comedy of technology errors I forgot to hit the lap key at the top and the bottom so made it tricky for Sally to see what HR effort I was achieving going uphill.

One day I will master Mr Garmin

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parkrun Saturday

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parkrun is a free weekly timed 5k race /run held all over the country on a Saturday morning. It is a wonderful thing and has got lots of people enthused about running and is enjoyed by runners at all levels for different reasons. That said I have to admit that although I understand it is a good way to improve your performance and give yourself a regular test –  I really don’t enjoy doing parkrun- and it has become one of my running ‘bogeys’, and something I find all sorts of reasons to avoid doing.

But parkrun was on the training plan, and when I mentioned my dread of it to my non-running husband, he asked “how far do you have to run – and I said 5k – to which he replied  “that’s nothing to you why are you so bothered about it? ”

What he does not appreciate is how much I hate having to run fast, and when it is only 5k and it is a race – you really do have to run as fast as you can.

Or as Sal had helpfully said:

” run as fast as you can – it will feel horrible but it will soon be over”.

Anyway, I persuaded Alison to join me on a parkrun outing and it turned out to be not as bad as I was dreading. While I did not get a PB, my time was  26.05 and around 8.20 min mi pace, and during the run, I felt my pacing was a bit better ( hard when it is windy ) – so  overall not so bad for a slowcoach and maybe a sign of some progress.

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Hills are my friends

img_7393Edinburgh is a hilly city – and where I live is about 500ft above sea level, at the foot of the Pentland Hills – so running uphill is an inevitable feature of the return leg of my runs (unless I cheat and drive to a flat start  ; ) )

When I have been doing monthly run streak challenges – and often following the same route – I can pretty much tell what shape I am in by how tough the uphill return leg home feels. And just as I know the length of most of the nearby streets to calculate how many to cover a 3-mile distance, I have worked out a number of uphill return options ranging from the direct  ‘get it over with’ straight up path, to one that weaves me home ‘chicane like’ to ease the gradient.

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So of the many running bogeys I might have, running up hills is not the biggest one ( although I reserve the right to say the complete opposite at any given point in the 26.2 mile marathon course )!

Hill reps are featuring in my training plan – and as I seem to have been moaning a bit about training – I thought to redress the balance I would say I don’t mind the hill sessions as much as the speedwork. Although they are tough at the time – and it feels better when it’s over –  I can understand why making yourself run up hills over and over again is one way to develop some of the mental strength needed to get through an endurance run. And also functional strength by running against a gradient.

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I have completed 2 hill rep sessions – one on the pavement on a long hill of shallow to med gradient- that was ok if not in the most interesting of surroundings.  I think the choice of good distracting music or podcast is a key to getting through reps. I was as I often am running listening to a podcast of  Cerys Mathews Sunday R6 show – good chat and music, but maybe not best for hill reps.

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My other hill rep session I did on an off road hill – it was shorter than Sally had asked for but steeper than the pavement run. On a frosty morning at around 8.30 it was lovely to run in the hills alone save for a few deer who crossed my path.

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Sally continues to keep me on my toes and deliver her unique version of coaching – lots of tough love I think is a good way to describe it. This past week she has been reminding me that I need to build myself up as I don’t want to just be stumbling through the marathon and taking forever to finish. And how come marathon day I  will probably start to feel pretty awful from around mile 18 onwards so I will need all the mental strength I have to get me to the finish. She does not sweeten the pill and brushes off my bleating about the length of sessions and my other complaints. Which I hope is both her way of managing my expectations – and getting me match fit for the day.

Time will tell.

Get out the bunting,make a fanfare – it’s day 18 !

Such is my inconsistency when it comes to writing, I find that I have arrived at the magnificent day 18 milestone without so much as a mild “TARANTARA” fanfare or other equivalent outpouring of joy.

In December running days past – I would be stringing out the metaphorical bunting as soon as I got to the end of week1 – and of course making a big fat “TOOTAROO” once I had reached the magical day 16 half way point.

But now as a veteran run streak participant – I have a degree of ambivalence about this type of ‘run everyday challenge’ that seems to set in shortly after I agree to take part.  Maybe the more often you do something the harder it is to summon up the motivation, and it feels less challenging somehow.

That said even for someone who runs regularly throughout the year – making time every single day to fit in a run, and upping my monthly mileage from 60 to 100+ miles is a bit of an effort of time management if nothing else, and yes my legs  do get weary.

True, like the running trainspotter I am, it is satisfying to tick the days off and to be mildly smug that I am exercising daily and to not have to make any choices over what kind of exercise to do. It removes the internal dialogue I might be having over whether to go for a tough or an easy session, or TBH to do any exercise at all ! It saves me pondering over what distance, pace, level of effort or route – but even with all this simplicity of routine – as the days pass the repetition starts to suck the joy out of running.

Maybe this is a signal that my days of taking part in running streak challenges are over, and time for some new goal.

With this in mind – and after quite a bit of soul searching – I finally signed up to a marathon. In May of next year I am going to take part and hope finish my first marathon. I have opted to do the inaugural Stirling marathon which fortunately right now feels like something in the far away mists of time.

As I get through December I am consoling myself with comforting facts and motivating self talk around the fact that I am already running the equivalent to 4 marathons distance, and in a month that includes short days, wintry weather, Christmas parties, Christmas Day and my birthday.

This while also trying to forget that in a marathon you do have to do this weekly mileage in 4 and a bit hours !

Back to the here and now – a recap of December  running efforts

Day 6 – evening run in the village checking out Christmas lights. Weather was a bit Decemberist and wet, but was nice once I was out

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Mileage 3.15 Cumulative 28.99

Day 7 – trying to integrate these daily runs into everyday life – I ran to the Post Office then took a detour back home via a different Dell route. Saw some folk having a winter lunchtime BBQ, as you do – why not ?

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Mileage 5.09 Cumulative 34.08

Day 8 – met an ex work colleague for coffee , so decided to run there – its downhill so arguably faster than the bus.

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Mileage  4.03 Cumulative 39.07

Day 9 – joined my good chum Alison for a short run in the Dell – one of our usual routes.

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Mileage 3.05 Cumulative 42.22

Day 10 – as before , 3 miles on one of our regular haunts. Squeezing in around other December commitments.

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Mileage 3.0 Cumulative 45.22

Day 11 – I decided to run  an extra bit to meet Alison and Lil to give a 5 mile total

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Mileage 5.05 Cumulative 49.21

Day 12 – running again to meet a friend. 6 mile to the Meadows including important stop to order Christmas turkey.Then, as taken by this running everywhere kind of vibe, I continued my run into town, then  took a wee wander up Calton Hill for the views.

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Mileage 6.01 + 1.02 ( battery fail ) Cumulative 56.24

Day 13 – up early to get ‘run out of the way’ as I was meeting a friend for lunch ( this is a recurring theme I know), it is unusual for me to be a ‘lady who lunches’ – but I am not working at the moment.

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Mileage 3.51 Cumulative 59.75

Day 14 – was in London meeting my daughter for lunch – as it was her birthday ! So had to run in the evening in Cambridge, where I was staying with my other daughter.Was dreading this as had been up since 4am and it felt way too cold  and dark in Cambridge. BUT – there was a most beautiful moon, and Cambridge is so flat, and that evening without a breath of wind, it was a most magical run. I even stopped mid run for a pint of beer in a lovely pub.

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Mileage 5.24 Cumulative 64.99

Day 15 – got up early to run along the River Cam – I love a Cambridge run. Was misty and dreich, but always good to run by the river seeing the rowers out early.

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Mileage 4.40 Cumulative 69.39

Day 16 – HALF WAY POINT ! Nice easy run with Alison back on home turf.

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Mileage 3.04 Cumulative 72.43

Day 17 – did a variation of a run route to give us a nice easy route  after a tiring week ( and Alison had been partying at her work Christmas party night  the night before). Very enjoyable run in cold, bright sunlight, and I bumped into someone I had only ‘met’ on Facebook previously – which was a nice bonus. Was one of those days when it felt as if everyone we knew was out running or cycling by the canal.

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Mileage 3.19 Cumulative 75.62

Day 18 – Jingle Bell Race. Second year we have done this fun race – organised by Pitreavie AAC in Dunfermline. Is a 5k ( almost ) race where the route makes the shape of a sleigh. I am no fan of 5ks and especially after almost 3 weeks of slow plod daily running. But was fun to dress up in Christmas leggings and Santa hats and run with my chums.

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Mileage 3.12 Cumulative 78.74

Only 13 days of running in this year left – TARANTARA – TOOTAROO and maybe even HALELUJAH ! 🎉🎉🎉

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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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Commuting musings – Friday 26 Aug

Today after a misty kind of gloomy Thursday, the sun is shining.  I frequently walk along  various lengths of this stretch of the canal – and prefer walking over running or cycling.  The slower pace of walking is meditative and I see more. Early morning sunshine is always uplifting but maybe even more so when you live in a place where these few sunny days are to be cherished.  Late August there is a tiny hint of Autumn and a reminder that these lovely long days of summer daylight are beginning to shorten.  Sometimes when I start my working day with this 30 minute nature interlude the temptation to bunk off  work and just keep walking is very strong.

But so far I have not yielded to temptation …

 

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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Black Rock 5 – sunshine and salty air but no sand dunes

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In amongst the big ticket marathons and the associated ‘tarantara’ of commercially organised running events there are still lots of community based races with a history and character to remind you of the simple joy and fun of running.

The Black Rock 5 is one of those. Each year on a May or June evening, and always on a Friday but at a time depending on the tides, the Black Rock 5 takes place. It is an out and back from the centre of Kinghorn to the Black Rock.

Despite its’ name The Black Rock 5 race is neither 5 miles nor 5 k in length. I am guessing at some point it may have been 5 miles and the route has changed or maybe just calling it the Black Rock 4 and a bit miles had less appeal – who knows and as it happens it does not really matter.

Whatever the history of the route length ( and it has been going for more than 25 years ), the Black Rock 5  is one of those races that manages to achieve the balance between creating the buzz of a special occasion while managing to remain anchored to the  local community and true to its roots.

Of course it helps that the race takes place in late spring in a beautiful seaside location where when nights are long and if weather is kind – Scotland is just the best place ever ( is it not always ; )  ?

How lovely and lucky we are to run in the evening in the East coast light of a long Scottish day.

It really is quite magical.

Weather earlier that day had been good and the temperature at 7 PM was still warm enough to wear a running vest as runners started to gather. As it was the third time I had taken part in the race,I knew what was ahead of me and was happy to enjoy the pre-race atmosphere.

The first time I did this race I remember being quite anxious, having heard from fellow runners how tough it was and so wondering if I could keep going until the end after the rigours of running on the beach. This year with two previous attempts as ballast – and not setting any time targets – I was just looking forward to taking part.

So the route is as follows : You start underneath the railway arches then run mostly downhill through the town for a mile towards the beach, then a mile out on the sand – at low tide towards the Black Rock where you circle the rocks serenaded by Scottish piper, then back towards the town. Simple you may say – save for running 2 miles on wet sand and the killer hill sprint finish .

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This year I was feeling fit and in fine fettle – and  not under any pressure to better my time -I even stopped briefly on my way out to record the scene of the ribbon of runners heading out towards Black Rock. I was tempted to stop again a mile later at the rock to capture the image of the piper on the rock – but my running competitiveness and running rhythm won over my desire to capture the image – so one for my memory.

I did notice  a couple of fellow  runners recording the event – one with Go Pro strapped on his body and the other more cumbersomely holding a selfie stick aloft the whole way.

It’s a very photogenic race – but I could take a million pictures, videos or whatever – and none could convey the feeling you have as a runner. As you hit the sand from the road – the splishing and the sploshing – negotiating the unpredictable surface of ridged sand after the stability of the tarmac, that weird feeling as your feet get wet dashing though pools of sea water and best of all the salty sea tang you catch as you breathe.

This year – whether because my senses where heightened for some reason, or ozone was at an all time high – I felt acutely assaulted by the smell of the sea, of sea creatures and of an essence that it is hard to describe.

The salty air, the sploshing wet sand,the east coast light and the lung busting hill finish, makes this a race to remember.

And not forgetting – magnificent beer at the finish .

Black Rock 5 – Rock ON !

 

 

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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Friday evening run – day 6 everydayinmay now with video !

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So last Friday  I did my everydayinmay run in the evening after work and caught the best of the day. There are quite few people taking part in this collective challenge, with the shared objective of raising funds for Dimbleby Cancer Care – a charity that supports people who have cancer, providing both practical and emotional support.

We are scattered throughout the country and maybe even in some other countries too – but are connected by a common goal and of course the wonder and splendidness of social media. Depending on which is your channel of choice – you can tune in and find out how fellow everydayinmay companions are doing on any given day.

This is a big motivation for me and I  am sure others , as even when running alone, it never feels that way. And although I run regularly – there is a big difference between choosing to run on selected days and making a commitment to run or move for 5k EVERYDAY for a whole month.

So is quite the bonus to see a Tweet or a Facebook post or Instagram from someone who is just as dishevelled and sweaty and you are.

Rock on everydayinmay people !

In amongst this happy band of walkers, runners, bikers and swimmers sharing their efforts socially – I look forward to Helen’s  record – as Helen does a vlog , featuring live running and with her lovely anchorman son signing off each time – and often stealing the show with some unscripted comment ;).   Helen makes it look effortless (well maybe not the running bit 🙂 ) and so inspired by Helen and flushed with misplaced optimism around my own technical competence I decided to have a go at recording my run last Friday.

I will leave you to judge – but while I was pleased that I could just about manage the co-ordination of feet, hands and looking vaguely in the right direction , I reckon I have quite a bit of work to do before I have any chance of becoming YouTube famous.

So in the interests of sharing that is an essential and enjoyable part of participation in  everydayinmay – here are the 2 videos that made it beyond the cutting room floor.

Sorry about the sniffing …

 

 

We are all doing this challenge to raise funds for Dimbleby Cancer Care, and it would be wonderful if you were able to  make a contribution or sponsor my efforts by sponsoring Scout or Sally here