So yes, there’s been something of a lull in my writing lately. As to whether this is of great injury to the universe or of inordinate relief, history will decide. Either way I’m back. It’s not like I haven’t had much to say, during the past couple of months I had some truly great runs, the kind that reaffirm your faith in running and remind you what a glorious torture we have condemned ourselves to. 

During one particular run I had started out badly, the feeling just wasn’t there and I’d told myself to keep battling on. It occurred to me though that running shouldn’t be about seeing how much I can put my body through or to what limit I can push it but rather a way of honouring my body. It sounds odd I know but bear with me, I don’t always talk bollocks. 

I was chatting to my good friend and fellow gobshite Joni Thrush recently, she’s going through a malaise in terms of running and has documented it with honesty, good humour and a disproportionate amount of bitching in her really rather wonderful blog The Reluctant Triathlete. I was reminiscing about my days of running through my early treatment and how I’d never really, truly enjoyed running. Yes, I loved the feeling of triumph after a run and I totally adored the social aspect-my friends in the running community have become my brothers in arms, my extended family. But the actual action of running itself was a dread filled and harrowing experience. There was so much expectation both from myself and from other people, I don’t mean pressure or unkindness but simple expectation that I would finish races and go the distance. And I desperately wanted to live up to the person that everyone believed I was, so I ran and ran. And it hurt and hurt. There were times I felt physically broken and emotionally destroyed. It wasn’t really until the summer after my third London Marathon that I started to learn to enjoy running just for the hell of it. Maybe I felt I’d proved enough by then or I’d just been through enough. 

So I finished treatment and it turns out that I’m a reasonably crap runner anyway. I strongly suspect some people were expecting that without the destructive force of chemo I would be free to reach giddy new levels of athleticism. Not so, in reality I’m a bit shit and I’m ok with that. 

I had harboured concerns about how I and everyone else would feel if I didn’t turn out to be a sporting superhero, as it happens I didn’t give a crap and neither did anyone else. Being brilliantly mediocre has been my saviour because now there is no expectation. If I don’t run a sub two half or a sub 50 10k no one is surprised and no one gives a shit, least of all me. 

And that’s an indescribable release. 

So there I was with this revelation about how running wasn’t a test for my body but rather a reward, allowing my physical self to build, grow, strengthen and improve. And it helped, it helped to feel my legs lengthen and the wind in my hair, it felt like a celebration and not a fight and it lightened and carried me through. And after that I had a few runs that were pretty fantastic, not fast or anything spectacular in terms of distance or pace but just really satisfying. Yes I had a 16 miler that was around five miles too far on no food and drink and a half marathon that put me very steadfastly in my place but regardless, I was loving running and how it was making me feel. 

Until yesterday.

Now I know I can have a penchant for overstatement, I once referred to a 10 foot elevation climb as ‘monolithic’ (in my defence it is a deceptively steep 10 foot climb) so I know there may be an element of disbelief when I describe the horror of this run but trust me, it was nothing short of a twat of gargantuan proportions. The annoying thing is that it was a no pressure ten miler, the kind of run I knock out three times during the week after work before cooking dinner in prep for a harder, longer weekend run. But this was a lesson of a run; a strict and bitingly harsh tutorial into how not to get cocky and to appreciate my body and mind are so much easier to get out of my control than I realise. 

Ok, in hindsight there were factors that suggested this wasn’t going to be a majestic run. I’d been ill for a week, the menopausal symptoms that had plagued my late thirties since losing my reproductive abilities to chemo (this was a bittersweet blessing, I would have loved more children but if they inherited the same predisposition to spending money as Cleo we would have undoubtedly had to sell our bodies into slavery to support them) have mysteriously reappeared and my nights are wakeful and ludicrously sweaty. I’d felt nauseous, headachy, dizzy and my digestive system was distinctly unhappy with me. I hadn’t eaten anything as I was worried about repeating mid run the mass rectal evacuation event that had occurred yesterday. But it was the first day I’d felt even slightly capable of running since returning from London last weekend. 

And there was London in my head. We’d spent last weekend there at the marathon, not to run it but to spend the weekend supporting our friends and partying because it was Marc’s birthday. Tim and Helen Christoni, our friends from LA had come over to run along with a bunch of our running friends whom we’ve become so close to, our lives so intertwined over the years. 

It was a joyful weekend during which we all ran with Cleo along the Thames on an unforgettable sunny Saturday afternoon. 

On the Sunday, Marc and I stood by Big Ben at around mile 25 for over six hours cheering the heroic runners and clapping until our hands were actually bleeding. 

And it lit a fire in us, it reminded us that we weren’t done with London yet, we wanted back in. (As I write this it’s 1am and I just entered us both in the ballot again, I never fucking learn do I?) After all the pain, all the sacrifice and the damage that three years of marathon running during treatment did to me here I am asking for more. But it felt right, it felt like something we should do. I want us to run it again, because the storm has passed and we made it out to the other side and I want to go back and say thank you, to God, to the universe, to every single soul who carried me through and to London for saving our lives, three times. 

But 1 mile in yesterday as we reached the canal a demon had crawled into my ear and started to whisper. I had a stitch that wouldn’t move and my right side was creasing with pain making it hard to breathe and a voice in my head started to ask me questions about who the hell I thought I was to think I could run a marathon. You see when I was in chemo I had sickness and pain of course but I also had an arsenal of sophisticated drugs all designed to make me feel stronger, fitter and more resilient. Now all I have is a dodgy heart, a temperamental Achilles and a propensity for severe wind, hardly a recipe for athletic prowess. I’m also two years older and much more aware of my own mortality, human frailty is something I know a whole lot about. 

Marc had decided to join me, a fortunate move as it was him alone that got me home. Motioning me ahead so I could set my own pace he kept an eye on me from behind, he knew even that early on that he would need to keep watch on me and he couldn’t do that from the front. I started to slog from just after the first mile and a half, I mean really dragging my arse, and the pain intensified. If you’ve never suffered from severe wind then you won’t believe how something so innocuous sounding can cause such crushing pain. The feeling is nothing short of agonising, like a vice grabbing you from the inside and squeezing hard. And it hurt me, so badly. I kept telling myself it was just pain, it wouldn’t kill me and I would get through it but it was travelling across my shoulder blades, over my chest and into my groin, it was overwhelming. There was also a constant and sturdy headwind which was doing little to help.

Any sensible person would have decided at two miles that this malady was not abating and it was therefore most definitely not their day. Any sane person would have turned for home. But I am not equipped with either sense or sanity and I carried on, not heroically but stupidly, because nothing good was ever going to come of putting my body through such needless torture. At five miles in I was spent, every last part of me hurt. 

Wind does a weird thing to the body when running in that it saps you of energy and stamina leaving you quickly and effectively exhausted. I was only halfway through. Marc did every possible thing he could to help, he was kind, supportive and encouraging. He praised me for how far I’d come and reassured me we could run/walk home, he even attempted a Heimlich type manoeuvre on me that nearly got us arrested for indecency on a previous run which was no less grossly lewd looking and sounding this time. 

On the way home the wind was no longer in our faces and as much as I felt the benefit of less resistance I also felt the heat. Things were getting worse in my head, we have Liverpool Rock and Roll Half in four weeks and here I was run walking and dying on my arse at 10k. I had to get a grip of my girl balls. 

Marc did a valiant job of distracting me with chat and pointing out the natural beauty of our surroundings and for the larger part it worked. I told myself this was one day, not every day.  I don’t always feel like this, just sometimes. This run neither represented nor defined me as a runner, it was a glitch but it was also a lesson. I resolved to crack on and keep going, pain and difficulty can teach you to endure and strengthen and I reminded myself that I’ve survived worse runs than this. Believe it or not in the final two miles I began to count the seconds, I counted 1200 steps before I admitted to myself that I was a fucking lunatic. I was desperate to keep going though.

About a mile from home Marc stopped me and pointed across the canal bank to where Colin the Cormorant stood. I crouched and stared at him, I thought back to how I’d felt the first time I’d seen a heron on the canal take flight, how mounting to the sky took such strength and effort. I reminded myself that the climb is hard, it takes power and energy and fortitude and sometimes it involves hardship. I stared and Colin stared back at me, holding my gaze for longer than I’d expected this shy bird to. And he didn’t move, maybe today wasn’t his day either, maybe he just wasn’t feeling it, maybe he didn’t have the oomph to get himself up there today. Either way he seemed good with it.

So on we went and yes, I had to walk a bit more in the final mile but I was so far gone it didn’t seem to matter any more. Ten miles had devastated me more than a hot and hilly 13.1, more than a tough and waterless 16 had. Ten miles had whipped my arse and reminded me I’m extremely human, and my body like anyone’s is extremely unpredictable. 

I staggered into Marc’s arms and thanked him so sincerely for being with me, without him I’d have ended up in tears on the towpath phoning him to bring me home. He brought me home in every possible way, he kept me safe and sane (just about).

When I got home I was exhausted, properly done in. I was dizzy, sleepy and aching all over. I felt like I’d run a marathon and it was a timely reminder of how running isn’t easy, it’s anything but. Some days it’s wonderful and smooth and automatic but it’s never easy, it’s always an effort and it always requires something of us whether it be commitment, strength, tenacity or just simple bravery. I think yesterday required faith from me, and although I grappled with it I think somewhere deep inside I did give it what faith I had. And in return it gave me something, it gave me humility and along with it a very pertinent lesson. If I’m going to run a marathon again then expectations may well rise but my own of myself should be the ones that rise highest. 

And rock bottom is as good a place as any to begin the climb. 



A wise man once said that in order to successfully recover from a half marathon one must run till ones legs are numb…Actually no wise man ever said that because it’s a fucking ridiculous proposition but once a fool, always a fool. 

It started out this morning with Marc and I both wanting to run but not necessarily together. Marc has much less opportunity to run these days with long and unsociable working hours so his runs tend to be heavy on the distance to make the most of the chance. I’m working my way back from surgery just before Christmas and despite having run a brill half marathon, my first since September, on Monday I’m still trying to regain my stamina and endurance. Ten would be more than enough for me today while Marc would try to get a half or longer in. This of course was before we discovered we had a new housemate in the form of the tiniest fieldmouse imaginable called Winston (I’m not sure if this is his actual name but he definitely responded to it so we went with it). Living next to a park it’s no surprise but rather a privilege to be visited by the local wildlife but in our hearts we knew that Winston had to be returned to his abode. This was no easy feat, despite being small the little fucker was faster than Paula Radcliffe needing a dump, he had us run ragged for the best part of an hour whilst we effectively ransacked the house. Eventually and not without incident (we nearly maimed some unsuspecting park strollers with a flying bin) we got Winston back from whence he came. Now knackered and frazzled we decided to run together, just the ten miles and nice and easy paced. 

It was a gorgeous day and to mix things up a bit we decided to drive to nearby Hightown from where we would take the trail that Marc has been running recently through the Pinewoods. As we headed off past the rifle range it felt weird to be so fresh at a point where I’m usually about to turn for home. But the conditions were perfect and I was so excited to run paths I hadn’t seen since London Marathon training days just on two years ago. 

Historically I’ve never been much of a trail runner, I like the comfortable predictability of concrete and inclines were my enemies but over the past year or two my attitude to running has changed and with it has come a love of trails. We talked between us as we ran about how funny it was to see my splashing through muddy puddles and clambering up Sandy dunes with a grin on my face, one time of day this would have been a preposterous notion but these days I’m just glad to be alive and nowhere makes me feel more so than when I’m out, pounding my feet and feeling my heart beat strong and steady with the wind in my face. 

Marc said that it felt more spiritual in a way to be in places more removed from civilisation and closer to nature, I had to agree. As hard as it was on my legs it was feeding my soul and yeah I know, I sound like a twat, but it felt something like grace to be out there on an amazing day amidst majestic pine trees hearing the rush of the ocean and seeing miles of rolling beauty heading out before us. As we neared the five mile turning point I had already prepared my reply for Marc’s inevitable question and I heard myself say ‘let’s just keep going’. 

Now, if you know anything about me then you know that the aforementioned words usually precede a run going tits up in the most catastrophic of proportions but I felt deep down today that this would not be the case, my legs felt strong and my heart felt full. I have developed a habit of measuring distance in foodstuffs and I was smugly racking up an extra flake and bag of doritos. As we staggered up increasingly sandy and steep dunes we would soar down the other side, our arms outstretched like aeroplanes shrieking and guffawing like idiots. You should have days like this, especially as you get older, you should remember the stuff that made you happy when you were a kid and you should do it. I spent so long being so sick and so scared and now I see my mum feeling the same that it’s reminded me to just be ecstatically joyful for the goddamn honour of walking the earth. 

My legs pushed hard up tough hills and on unstable ground and they hurt and my face was hot but I was laughing hard because not everyone gets to do what we do on a Tuesday afternoon and I just felt lucky. 

And then we got lost. I mean proper fucking lost. Not amusingly ‘oops we’re going in the wrong direction’ lost but rather ‘I’m no longer sure what fucking county we’re in’ lost. And with that ghastly realisation my legs began to hurt. And I needed a wee. 

Long story short I had a wee and it was lovely and Marc took a photo of me because he’s a bastard. My legs continued to hurt as the grass on the dunes became thousands of tiny daggers but still, my spirit didn’t fade. It didn’t fade when we ran to a beach we didn’t recognise despite knowing pretty much all of the north west coast (Marc took a pic of me at that point and admittedly I looked a bit like I was dead inside)

it didn’t fade when we eventually saw the forest which was so far away from us we thought it might be a mirage, it didn’t even fade when I realised just how far from home we’d actually come (ok so I may have had a small but significant panic attack but I hid it well). I just felt blessed to be there.

Yes, we may have had to jump over a fence and illegally run through a nature reserve and then wee in it and yes I almost cried a little when we tried to run on the beach and my feet sunk into the sand as the wind tried to hold us back but still, I felt lucky. 

In the final two miles my legs became numb and the hurt became an old familiar friend as the path moved beneath our feet and we pretty much silently ran each of us facing our own demons. For my part I know mine had already been slain as ten miles had become over fifteen and still we were running.

Over the past year I’ve become a very different runner. Once I was an angry runner; a bald, sick, scared, frustrated runner who battled the weather, fought the hills and conquered distances. These days I run with gratitude, a total feeling of relief that I’m still here, a need to thank the universe for every single step I take and an unutterable joy in the beauty of this planet. Does this make me a better runner? Fuck no. When I was angry I was fast, I cared about pace, times were important and improvement needed to be measured. Gratitude makes me a lazy runner, it makes me stop when I feel like it and stretch my arms out, it makes me slow down because it’s easier and it just feels better. But it also makes me a happy runner who can find ecstasy in hailstorms and hilarity in hills. Do I need to say it one more time? I just feel lucky. 
And with Marc at my side I’ll keep saying ‘let’s keep going’ because I know that recovery along with happiness can be found in every single step. In every possible way, distance makes the heart grow stronger. 



It took all I had to get out yesterday; I just absolutely, totally didn’t want to go and every inch of me was looking for an excuse to stay home. It was windy on a scale that I hadn’t run in since last winter and I was scared it would dash my spirits. 

Deep down though I knew how I’d feel after I’d finished and I really needed that, I needed the sense of pride in myself and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I also needed cake and this was my only justification, our new house is opposite one of the most celebrated bakers in the area and the struggle is arse fatteningly real. Besides, we have the MadDog 10k on Sunday, a notoriously exposed course which although I did brilliantly on last year in insane conditions I have no confidence in now. I was three times fitter and faster then, my spirits and self esteem have dented a little since along with my body.

So I went out and the second I did I was glad of it. The wind was hilariously strong and so I opted to run straight into it, that way I could benefit from a tailwind on my way home. I also had a vague plan in my mind to run 7 miles, my longest distance since my surgery. It made sense, the wind would slow me down and I would take a breather halfway in before I turned for home. 

Anyone with a heart condition who runs will tell you that running in the wind is amongst the most challenging of conditions (second only to heat) as breathing is tough and effort is doubled. I’m fortunate that living on the north west coast ensures that I get to practice running in the wind around 97% of the fucking year. I swear to god we get about 10 still days and I’m usually not able to run on any of them. My hair has now adjusted to life on the outside and permanently stands on end and coupled with the recent drunken hair dye disaster I now strikingly resemble the love child of Janet Street Porter and Ken Dodd. 

Anyway it was sodding windy but pleasantly warm which kind of made it all tolerable. I made for the canal where I hoped I’d be afforded a little shelter as the beach would have been insanity on a level even I don’t aspire to. It felt soul soothingly happy to be running my old route and my confidence settled in a little. It was hard going but I knew that a break was imminent and I was enjoying the challenge despite the now familiar achy twinge on my left side. At times the canal was nothing more than a wind amplifier but I laughed as the gusts tried to stop me dead and plodded on regardless. 

At the turning point I stopped briefly and was knocked practically off my tits by the searching clouds of dope smoke that were billowing from under the bridge. Aware of how my performance over the next few miles might be adversely affected by being mashed out of my head on skunk I prudently opted to head for home. 

The return leg was initially tough, the bloody wind was in my face again. Seriously, what the actual fuck? I started to feel myself making death noises over the sound of my music and I started to wish that Ed Sheeran would stop fucking whinging, he didn’t know what pain was, the soft ginger bastard. The Weeknd came on and saved the day, it reminded me of Marc (the three of us share a complicated love triangle) and I began to think of Marc’s precious advice about running the mile I was in instead of thinking ahead of myself and wishing it over. I let my arms relax and allowed the wind to cool my hot face and found my groove. Yeah it was hard but that’s the thing, you’ve got to not give a shit about whether it’s hard or far, you’ve just got to be proud you’re doing it because it was never easy and that’s what makes it so bloody amazing. 

The final mile brought with it a kind of magic and misery that I’ve come to love so much, I was so tired but my heart was so full. I ran downhill with my arms outstretched while ‘Defying Gravity’ blared in my good ear and I laughed because I’m a dickhead and I don’t care. 

The bangle I was wearing said ‘With brave wings…she flies. I’m not brave but I was slightly deranged (and arguably slightly high from passive drug ingestion) and for that moment at least I soared. With crazy, wobbly legs I bolted across the road into the park and my watch buzzed right next to the outside gym which I made a mental note to try under the heavy influence of alcohol at my next possible convenience. 

And I resolved to remember the next time I didn’t want to run how I felt at that moment. Hot, exhausted, pained but with wide open eyes and smiling so hard my face stung. Utterly exhausted and utterly alive all at the same time. Because it was always this hard only now I remember that we can do hard things. And if the wind can’t hold me back then nothing can. 


It was time to get back out there.Two days since my maiden voyage on the good ship HMS Get Your Shit Together and I hadn’t suffered any severe repercussions so I had no excuse. Well I had plenty of excuses but none of them seemed to wash with Marc this morning as he reminded me what a total pain in the arse I’d been the whole time I couldn’t run. And he was right, for seven weeks I’ve bawled and bellyached about not being able to run and now I could i didn’t fancy it. The monumentally shit weather isn’t helping, windy rain is my least favourite combination and as I resentfully laced my shoes I cursed the running Gods for abandoning me in my hour of need. 

As I’m back in Rookieville a 5k is plenty challenge enough for me at the moment so to mix it up and motivate me Marc suggested driving me to the coastal path so I could run my 5k there. It seemed odd because it’s only a short way but knowing it would give me the opportunity to run alongside my beach it was also a great plan. He ran a half marathon yesterday (bastard) so a rest day was in order for him, plus I needed to get out there alone, it was time.

But cars are warm…and dry. Hells bum it hurt to step outside, I was so glad I’d wrapped up. I skipped off with more spring in my step than I’d expected but that was more to do with my frozen ass than any semblance of enthusiasm. As my music started pounding in my ears and my legs found their old familiar rhythm I felt a confidence fall over me with fine, wet mist. I am a runner, I am a long distance runner, I am strong, I am at least two sizes bigger than I was when I last wore this aeroloft because I can’t fucking breathe.

Seriously, what was once my trusty top layer had now turned into a tit tourniquet and was rapidly squeezing the lifeblood from me. I zipped it open gasping and coughing and it instantly turned into a sail, inflating backwards into a very expensive flotation device. The ingenuity of Nike though would be my salvation. The aeroloft gilet is designed in such a way that you can stuff the body into its own pocket and strap it to your arm. I’d been secretly dying to do this for ages and now was my goddamn chance. True to form the design was flawless and it quickly converted so I pulled it onto my upper arm and continued on. As the first mile buzzed on my Garmin I noted something extremely important. I was completely fucked. I’m not talking a bit fatigued, I’m talking weapon grade exhausted to the core of my very being. I was comprehensively knackered. My legs hurt, my arse hurt, my arms hurt, even my sodding eyebrows hurt. So I walked a bit.

For some runners there’s a shame and defeat in walking, not for me. I like a bit of a walk break now and again, it gives me chance to reassess, cool down and to appreciate where I am. It rarely affects my pace in any significant way but if it did I wouldn’t give a rats ass. The problem was today that even walking was tough, and everytime I ran all I could think of was when I could walk again and the running intervals became shorter as the walking ones became longer. I did despair then. I despaired because last summer I could run an unplanned 16 miles with Marc then go out all day and party in the night. 7 months on and a 5k was destroying me, actually bringing me to my knees and no amount of words with myself would change that because this was physical, my body just couldn’t do it.

I kept on, the bastard arm mounted aeroloft had now become a mallet beating me on my weedy bicep with mind bending regularity. I ripped it off calling it things that would make a sailor weep and clutched it in my freezing fingers with bitter resentment. I stared straight ahead and resolved that I wouldn’t bloody stop again. But I did. My legs hurt so much and my arms ached, my wound was fine, I was just shattered. I looked out to sea through the cold, misty air for some hope but all I could see was water, cold and deep and chaotic and gloomy. But as I looked more at the sea I have so desperately missed running alongside I remembered that it is also ever changing, ever renewing, ever flowing, deep, strong and powerful. There have been many days I have run this path with pain, fear and desperation in my heart but never hopelessness. That’s just not my style. Yes, I’m hurting now but painful and joyful experience tells me that like the sea I will change, I will renew and reform. A wave crashes on the shore only to grow mighty again at its next swell. And that’s how it has been and will be with me again. It’s tough but I can handle it, I’m down but by no means out, in Marc’s words, it’s hard but I’m harder. 

So as I reached Marc in the warm car I ran past giving him a victory symbol because I know that it will come. Running isn’t easy, recovery isn’t easy but that’s ok because when it is it’s the most amazing feeling ever, the feeling that you can beat any pain, overcome any obstacle as long as you’re mental enough to keep trying when all good sense tells you to give up. It just takes time, support and and plain, good old fashioned idiocy.

And we have that in shitloads.


So today I ran.I guess to non runners that statement would be followed up with a ‘so what?’ or a ‘big deal’ but those of us who know that aching need to hurt all over whilst feeling so fundamentally alive will understand that it really is a big deal.

Surgery was not quite seven weeks ago and yeah, I was told to wait two months but time is nothing but a man made concept, at least that’s what I’ll tell my consultant. But I felt ready, I know my own body and what it can and can’t do probably more than most people and for nearly a week now I’ve known it was time. I’ve been walking a lot these past weeks and lately faster and faster, sometimes just approaching the precipice of running but holding back from the leap. 

All week I’ve planned to run but each day has brought an obstacle the most significant being last Saturday when whilst walking and laughing through town with Cleo we both fell badly. I took a heavy hit to my arse which is sufficiently cushioned to beat the brunt of a pregnant rhino at the moment but more significantly to my wound. I took it as a sign from the gods and cooled my heels. It was a very hectic working week and with a new home to furnish, free time was scarce and the weather on Thursday and Friday negated any possibility of getting out there. But today nothing would stop me, except maybe the churning fear that had suddenly appeared in my stomach that was threatening to travel through my lower intestine and exit via my rectum. I was lightening struck with worry about how badly it would hurt, how awful it would feel. I’ve been reading and sharing stories with others who have been through similar surgeries and was expecting very bad things. 

But we got out there and instantly I felt that happy rush of air in my lungs and the heat building in my face. We were going very slowly, little more than the pacy walk I’ve become used to but it didn’t matter, I was running. And god, I’ve missed it. In its absence I’ve tried to remain positive knowing that I’m playing the long game but it’s been hard watching Marc going out looking stressed and World weary then returning twice as tired but indescribably lifted. As much as I want that for him, I wanted it too. Added to that I’ve put on weight, yes I’m still very slim but I’m a stone heavier than I’m used to and I can feel it. 

As we ran towards the canal towpath I was aware of how weird and unfamiliar it all felt, my feet felt uncoordinated and clumsy and I wasn’t sure of where to place my arms, my breathing was all over the place and my hips were achy. But still I felt overwhelmingly happy despite the cold and the rain. And I was overthinking it all, the only thing I really needed to do was keep moving forwards. We took little walk breaks to check how I was feeling and before long a planned one mile had turned into a manageable if muddy 5k.  

Marc, as always was my benchmark of awesome, the height to which I aspire and the happiness I get from running alongside him just smiling at each other knowing we share the same joy was enough alone to keep me moving. My site twinged a little but it was my Achilles that called time and reminded me that I had been neglecting it these past weeks. The endless and agonising sciatica is finally quietened. 

We talked about how running teaches you a different attitude towards pain, an acceptance I suppose. During a run there’s pretty much always something niggling physically, some old injury or non specific ache and you kind of get used to it. It takes time to remember when you’ve had a long break from it that running is never truly pain free and that’s what makes it so triumphant and ultimately rewarding.

So I’m back, I’m ready to learn again in slow steps taking care to listen to my body all the way. It’s not going to be easy but it is going to be worth it, it always was that way. I’ve been so lucky, I’ve been knocked down so often but through unceasing, incredible support I’ve been able to keep on getting back up. I’m hoping that this time I get to stay on my feet for a good, long time.

You’ve seen my descent, now watch me rise.


Tomorrow I go into hospital for surgery and almost certainly for the rest of the year I’ll be out of action. So today I ran…

It was a ludicrously cold morning, like minus three cold but I had an idea in my head that no hard frost was going to shake. Each morning this week, mindful that all physical activity is about to cease, I’ve taken to walking across the fields that form the country park the canal runs alongside. I’ve been so spellbound by the glittering iced grass and the still frozen plains amidst the watery morning sun that it’s become almost a spiritual thing. 

Each morning before a busy working day I’ve walked a few early miles in frosty silence with just the occasional bird or field mouse to break the stillness and it’s been a very special time for me. My friend, Dawn died this week and it probably triggered these walks, it’s been hard to understand how someone so full of life can suddenly not be there. 

It’s been difficult to watch her family, very close friends of ours, hurt so deeply. But strangely although I hope not disrespectfully I’ve also felt the most festive I’ve been in years; somewhere along the way Christmas becomes about food and presents and drinking and all the other awesome things that make it fun but in these cold peaceful hours I’ve found Christmas deep down in my heart. Maybe it’s been the vivid spectacle of how utterly beautiful this world is or just the uncomplicated simplicity of it all, the quiet, open fields covered in miles of clear skies. Whatever it was, every time I was there I had the overwhelming urge to run, one day I came so close to it despite wearing jeans and a parka, the only thing that stopped me was the knowledge that without a sports bra I would render myself unconscious within a few paces. But I so wanted to run across the frozen grass breathing out white air and feeling the rising sun on my face. So no matter how cold it got I knew this morning that nothing would stop me, in fact the weather report actually delighted me. 

Now you may know I’m not much of a trail runner, truth is up to about three years ago I’d never run on anything but concrete. Historically I’ve had something of a pathological fear of mud on my shoes but lately there’s been a change, a yearning to be away from the noise and surrounded by nature. Maybe I’m just knocking on a bit and getting grouchy with the urban jungle but my need to be in wide open spaces has increased dramatically. So I found myself this morning leaving the comfortable familiarity of the towpath and heading across the glistening grass.The icy ground felt strange beneath my feet and I had to slow down to stop my ankle from turning. In steady degrees I began to freeze from the toes upwards whilst the morning sun beat on my fleecy hatted head leaving me arctic from the waist down and equatorial upwards. It was so beautiful though, my breath flew out in white clouds as the frosty air hit my lungs. I ran onwards on the solitary fields following vague tracks and trails leading to who knows where. At one point I found myself back on the canal and was thrilled to see a layer of etched ice topping it while birds skated and slipped across but I quickly turned back off onto the fields and their hair raisingly fun ups and downs. 

It wasn’t until I was around four miles in that I realised I had absolutely no idea where I was. Without realising it I had gone so far off the beaten track I was now in no mans land, there was nothing to see but field after field. And I panicked a little. 

On reflection I accept that I do not live in the green belt and that realistically there’s a dual carriageway and housing estate around pretty much every corner. The fact that I’d only run four miles should have told me that I wasn’t in some immense wilderness but rather about two hundred metres from the nearest industrial estate but I had lost my mind and with it my sense of direction. I started desperately scanning the area for signs of life other than magpies and then decided the best course of action would be to run straight ahead. That way I would eventually meet civilisation, a motorway or an ocean, or die of exhaustion. I met none of those things, what I did meet was a pub called The Cabbage which despite not knowing exactly where I was I knew I was rather disappointingly not far from home. I had essentially run a very tight and complicated zig zag parallel to the first mile of the towpath. 
Now at this juncture any sensible human would breathe a sigh of relief, hit the towpath and head for home. 

Not I.

I decided it would be a good idea to hit the trails again.

I am a knobhead.

It was here that my lack of experience in trail running became glaringly apparent. Being the urban dunce that I am I hadn’t taken on board what happens when you mix a lot of ice with a strong sun. The glittery, frosted fairytale becomes a wet, boggy nightmare. For the next two miles I picked my way through what was essentially a huge swamp, I clung desperately to trees shrieking as I skimmed massive puddles of mud. Finally I found a pathway of blessed concrete, I wanted to thrown myself to the ground and kiss this man made beauty. 

The final mile was a mixture of track, road and the bastard of all hills thrown in for a good measure with legs that had become tired and heavy but I found my down hill at the last minute and stretched my legs for a speedy finish. 

I don’t know when I will next be able to run. I do know that it will be hard and painful and it will take time to find my feet again. What I also know is that the steps I took today will take me through this time and I will think of them with joy and longing. And when the time is right I will stretch my legs again, breathe lungs full of fresh air and see the world in all it’s incredible wonder. 

So today, tomorrow and afterwards more than ever I urge you with all of my heart…

Carpe Diem xxx



‘You’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself’
Glinda from The Wizard of Oz

I have so many failed attempts at writing over the past two months, for all the myriad of emotions I’ve gone through I just couldn’t find the words. Many of you will no doubt have considered that a serendipitous blessing from the gods. 

But I am back.

A lot of shit has gone down since I was grounded by injury in July, I considered putting all of it into one epically blockbusting post but then remembered that much of it was pretty boring and involved me crying a lot and being a whiny ass little bitch and nobody wants to hear about that bollocks. The long story short is that my back hurt then my leg hurt then I stopped running and got depressed. Then my back stopped hurting, my leg still hurts a bit and I did the Great North Run and broke my toe and went on holiday and none of it in that order.

Injury is dreadful, it’s truly soul sapping crapshit. I’ve been through some serious pain in my time but acute sciatica made chemo feel like a mild hangover. I’ve never known pain like it and what compounded the intensity of the agony was the relentlessness of it. From waking to drug induced sleep I was in varying degrees of excruciating torture that simply would not let up. It was the most concentrated and extensive pain I’ve ever known and I fear its return. Coupled with that I developed a drastic leg injury that reduced me to walking with a limp and I had no idea what it was. I wrote this a couple of weeks back after running a mile; what turned out to be the beginnings of my recovery…

‘I have a history of over egging comebacks. If in the past I’d been catastrophically unwell, the first day I no longer felt like I was on the verge of death I tended to announce myself as fully recovered and immediately set about attempting ludicrous amounts of physical activity. Inevitably I ended up sicker than I was in the first place but having learnt nothing. And so the cycle continued. 

Lately though I’ve been unceremoniously floored and it’s left me feeling shaken and without confidence. My until recently triumphantly tough body has now become increasingly frail with injury upon injury. What started as a simple hernia then became compounded with acute (and seemingly endless) sciatica but the worst of all has been the undiagnosed calf injury that has left me wincing and limping when I walk. I’ve seen doctors, a physio and asked pretty much every person who has crossed my path (even my running mates are glazing over when I start talking about my arse ) but no one has an answer. And an answer is what I need, it’s as simple as that. All I need to know is what the problem is, what do I need to do to fix it and how long will it take. That’s got to be simple enough right?


My good mate Joni Thrush (freakishly tall, northern gobshite with an annoyingly well written and entertaining blog is currently carrying a foot injury and with a roughly equal lack of tolerance and good spirit as me. It’s amazing though how despite both having totally different problems how similar our experience with medics and sports therapists have been. And it seems to be the case in general; no matter what the injury, how it was incurred, where on the body it resides or what difficulties it produces there is a one size fits all treatment. A treatment so magical, so surefire, so foolproof that every single professional we have both seen regarding our respective and diverse injuries has recommended just one word.

Rest, ice, compression, elevation. There is no runner or indeed sportsperson who hasn’t utilised this infamous acronym in their time. And obviously it’s good advice, if you’re injured it’s standard course of action to take to minimise damage. It’s also the most fucking overused word in the sports world. Seriously, over the past few weeks I have pretty extensively researched the most commonly occurring sports injuries (I had some extra time on my hands and Cleo and Marc stopped speaking to me because I’m a crabby bitch when I don’t run) and the treatment for every last one from calf strain and Achilles tendinitis to plantar fasciitis and ITB problems is RICE. Now that has to be bullshit. How can this possibly be the panacea to all sports injuries? The short answer is that it can’t, injury is so complex to the individual and their training schedule, physiology and background that there simply is no singular way of dealing and healing. The problem is twofold in that many therapists have serious problems in correctly diagnosing injury and most runners have serious issues in being told to rest. That said, Joni and I have decided to go into business together as parasportstherapists-it’s a mouthful but a catchy one. Whoever comes to us with whatever injury we’re going to give them some spurious stretches we’ve downloaded from the Internet, a weird faddy elastic band and strict instructions to RICE. That’ll be £40 thanks, see you next week for some more of the same. 

RICE my arse.’

Joni is still injured and we provide each other with daily reports of how shit it is and how useless all sports therapists are despite the fact we refuse to follow their advice. Well, it’s all bollocks anyway. Most of it. Ok the bit about resting was right because what happened to me was a revolution by my body, a mutiny, a vote of no confidence and all because I had over trained. There, it’s in print so I can’t deny it. I ran too fast, too far, too soon and my body told me to fuck right off. 

But I’m back in the running, yesterday I ran eight miles pretty much pain free and although my stamina and fitness are that of an asthmatic geriatric (in truth I know several asthmatic geriatrics who could properly kick my arse at any given distance on my very best day) it felt somewhat incredible to be out there. It still feels weird, nervously unfamiliar and my confidence has been dented but I feel like I’ve started a journey back to somewhere. I think I’ve found the road back home. 

I’m off to buy some ruby running shoes.