Tuesday, 5 May 2015

It's been emotional.....

It's been emotional.....

My legs are back to normal but my body and mind have given up, I'm on that marathon low - feeling down and blue so I thought I'd write about my experience. 

The support and good luck messages started the week before we set off for London - meeting with friends, cards arriving and my phone pinging every other minute. I felt as though I was emigrating and never going to see see people again. It was a lovely feeling that so many people cared. 

With my bags packed and ready we took Benji to school before heading to Paragon Station on Friday morning and he shouted 'Good luck mummy, you can do it!' from his queue to get into class, It brought a lump to my throat. I bless the day that I started the life changing journey that enabled me to get healthy so I was able to play and be active with him in his life as well as be his mummy. I enjoy every moment with him. Benji is of an age now that he is able to and enjoys running some distances with me and will often come and do a 2-3 mile run. He really is my world and he had such faith in me bless his heart. 

With our goodbyes said, a relaxing journey to London followed catching up on messages,emails and post. 

We arrived at the the Royal Garden Hotel Kensington which was absolutely stunning and unpacked before we headed back out and over to ExCel to collect my ever important marathon number. When I got my number it would mean it was official - I really was running VLM. I think it was only at that moment of holding my number 7207 in my hand it seamed real. What had I done? Had I trained hard enough? Would my legs see me through? Would my lungs see me through? I knew my heart would but..... oh boy!

After collecting my number we entered the Adidas boost tunnel which led to the start of what was an enormous exhibition. It was colossal. Company after company trying to sell their wares - sunglasses, gels, trainers, hats, running attire, treadmills, beetroot juice. If you named it and it had to do with running fitness it was there.
Then there were the charity stands. I caught my breath as we walked past the BHF stand, hearts upon hearts with loved ones names on dedicating their race, time and effort to people they held dear. 

A lazy day on Saturday ensued, with me fussing around getting my kit together and taking my now traditional pre race kit photo.  Pre race day for most runners is a pasta night and I was no different. We found a lovely Spaghetti House directly opposite the hotel and early to bed for what was going to be the biggest race day of my life. 

A 6am start on Sunday for shower, brekkie and everything else that needed to be done before planning to leave the hotel at 7:30. Oh boy my stomach was doing somersaults already - it was going to be a looooong day. 

You get free transport in London if you possess one of the all treasured race numbers. Ray travelled with me to Victoria Station where we said our goodbyes as I transferred from underground to overground for the journey over to Blackheath and he headed back to the hotel. It was a tough goodbye that left me empty and lonely - a feeling I'm not really used too but emotions were playing their hand as they always did on the lead up too and including race day. Boarding the train at Victoria brought tears to my eyes and not just from those emotions. The smell of deep heat and others lotions on the train would bring tears to anybodies eyes  - it was so strong!  We all sat in silent respect for the journey we were taking. It was quite eerie. 

With drizzly rain, Blackheath was just a sea of people trying to keep warm and dry under any shelter they could. The start area was cordoned off and I remember the first song I heard blaring out of all the speakers was Gnarls Barkley's, 'I think your crazy'. Oh how apt!!!  I found a chair under a repertory coffee shop marquee and killed a bit of time before queueing at the toilets for the always needed 'pressure wee!' By this time luckily the rain had stopped and it looked as though it was going to be ideal running weather. Cool, not too hot and cloudy. 

The big screens around the start area showed us the wheelchair athletes and the women's elite starting and  before we knew it it was our turn. We were on our way, everyone wishing each other a good run to the bleeps of GP running watches and we were off!!  I knew it wouldn't be my fastest run but run it was going to be. I planned starting on 11:30 minute miles as I would surely drop in my 2nd half. 

It wasn't really long before that overwhelming feeling of loneliness kicked in! You spend months training, most of it was with friends either running the whole or part distance with you with friends or family often on a bike being waterboy or girl and here I was all of a sudden thrown into a scenario of running 5+ hours - on my own - with 34,000 other people!! Why did I feel lonely!? 

I couldn't  snap out of the mind-set I'd gotten into no matter how I tried. The blue line of the marathon route that is painted on the road became my friend. I looked for it on the road and followed it, sometimes disappearing to all of a sudden appear again. That blue line suddenly had become my training buddy, my Fitmums family, my water boy and my support crew!

Mentally I started going downhill at about mile 9. It couldn't have been 'the wall' because I'd fuelled up properly - it was my emotions and my mind had got a grip and just wouldn't let go.  My foot felt as though it had a blister the length of it and I had cramp in my 2nd toe - why? My trainers were comfy, my socks were right, I think I must've stood on a stone at some point or caught it somehow because when I'd finished there wasn't a blister in sight. I remember about mile 11 seeing a lady running over to her screaming family giving them all hugs and feeling insanely jealous that it wasn't me greeting my family. "Ellie get a grip!" was all I kept saying to myself. How many times had I been out for long runs?! 

Ray rang and tried to talk to me bless him but I was in a bad bad place, He explained where he was standing so I'd see him at mile 14, hopefully by which point I'd have sorted my head out! - I hadn't!  I literally fell into his arms sobbing.  Everything hurt, my head, my heart, my feet, my legs and my ego.  I stopped for a couple of minutes and had a pep talk with him, I took some painkillers and he sent me on my way with ever ounce of encouragement, love and strength he had and boy did I need it. 

I had phone call after phone call from my friends and my gorgeous family ringing and encouraging me, they knew I was battling and they were trying so desperately to help me out of the place I was in. 

The next 4 or 5 miles were steady away. My pace had slowed considerably but I was still running -  just.  But my heart was breaking - every time I thought of someone something random would happen: 

Every time I thought of Ellie and Rory I would run past an MNDA cheering point or someone would run past me with an MNDA running top on. 

Frankie crept into my mind and I instantly saw Juvenile Diabetes, not Diabetes UK it was specific!

My good friend and running buddy Bev rang me a couple of times bless her and she works for McMillan, why was there a sea of green McMillan t-shirts just before she rang?

Then Poppy came to mind and in a sea of people - and I'm talking crowds of people 10 deep on the roadside, on a cool, now completely dry day there was a lady stood with a huge umbrella up. An umbrella covered in poppies!!

At the beginning of the race whilst I was sat under the gazebo, I'd set my iPod up to play my running album and at one point I needed a bit of entertainment so pressed my headphones to start playing. Why, oh why, oh why had it completely bypassed my running album and jumped to a random album on my iPod and was actually playing one of my dads all time favorite songs - "I'm Just a Country Boy" by Don Williams?!?! 

It was the last straw. At this point I was sobbing almost uncontrollably. I was wasting much needed energy on my emotions but then it struck me that someone, somewhere was telling me that everyone was there for me - it had taken nearly 10 miles but it was the turning point I needed. 
I thanked Dad.....and Charlotte.....and Abbie, Gramps, Ken and everyone else up there for being with me, I wasn't alone at all. I had a sea of people around me and more importantly above me pushing me to the end. Between them and my phone calls I'd been taken out of my 10 mile hell. 

I saw Ray again at 21 miles but this time with a smile on my face and a determination that would knock anyone over. My frame of mind was back. This race needed finishing and I needed it in the bag. I was ready to give the last five miles my all. I gave him a quick kiss and the biggest hug I could muster and off I went. 

The last phone call I got was from my mum at 25 miles.  I cried when she rang, I was hurting so much but she took all the pain away just by telling me how proud she was of me. 

The London marathon is something to behold and some of the other memories I will take with me are..... 

I have to say without doubt the crowds stood out to me as the biggest memory. All through London they were phenomenal, sometimes you just needed your own space and at those points it was a little over bearing but they were awesome nonetheless and certainly got me through the miles. 

but some other memories that are etched in my mind..... 

The organisation and the marshals were outstanding. 
Playing cat and mouse with Rory the Rhino. 
The Shard. 
The Cutty Sark. 
The ostrich that I overtook because he was having his photo taken with some friends in the crowd - only to overtake me again to show he actually had much nicer legs than me!.  
The wheelchair athlete struggling to get up the hill. 
The man sat by the roadside sorting out his blisters. 
The Isle of dogs. 
The 70+ year old lady running looking at the floor constantly because of her deformed spine. 
The lady at 26 miles having to stop and stretch to see her finish the last .2 miles over the line. 
Canary Wharf. 
Being overtaken by a giant pair of testicles!! (I kid you not, but Mr Testicles didn't get in front of me for long!!) 
Big Ben. 
The finish line on the Mall with the crowds screaming your name, clapping and cheering you right over the finish line. 

I wanted sub 6, I expected 5:45, I would've liked 5:30 or under - I finished the London Marathon in 5:45:41.  It was without doubt the hardest race I've ever run but also the most unbelievable experience I have ever encountered.  I've always said my body wasn't built for speed - it was built for comfort but ......it's a body that I work hard and one that no matter what I put it through it sees me to the finish.

Would I do it again? Hell yeh - I'm in the ballot and I now have a time to try and beat if I'm lucky enough to get through the ballot again that is. 

All I can say to my running friends is - if I can do it anyone can... and I couldn't have done it without their help and support or the help and support my gorgeous family and all my wonderful friends. 

I arrived home to more cards and gifts and a huge banner made by my beautiful little man (with the help from his Auntie Jeanie!) and I realised all over again just how blessed I am to have such precious people in my life. 

What's next for me?! I've one more race to do (Beverley 10k) before I set off to remarry my amazing, supportive and loving husband all over again for our tenth wedding anniversary. On a cruise with some of our closest friends and family. Much needed "us" time and to say I'm excited is an understatement.

Until next time. 

Much love


Tuesday, 21 April 2015

London......I'm coming!!

Oh my, Edinburgh Marathon seems a lifetime ago now but it was an experience which will stay with me for the rest of my life.  The euphoria, the pain, the hurt, the finish line.

Like many marathon runners I suffered the dreaded marathon blues, questioning myself and my beliefs for many months afterwards.  The year passed in a daze, the one thing I was glad of was that I had entered to ballot for a much sought after place in the Virgin London Marathon.  I can’t normally win an argument but hey, my entry was in the bag (along with another 129,999!!!)  and I stood a chance, a slim one as only 10,000 places were available for the ballot, but a chance non the less.  I had a long wait until September/October.

September came and very nearly went when all of a sudden I had friends posting on social media that they had been unsuccessful in their ballot place; I had no idea until now but apparently you received one of two magazines to advise you of your fate!  One had ‘Sorry’ on the front, the other had ‘You’re in!’ I awaited my magazine landing on the doormat. 
Wednesday is traditionally my rest and massage day.  I’d come downstairs after having Suzi do her weekly magic (why did it hurt whenever I had a massage now?) I picked up the post and started to scream.  Suzi flew down the stairs thinking I had fallen to find me shaking like a leaf in floods of tears holding a ‘You’re in’ magazine.  I had just got one of the most sought after places in the world, a ballot place in the Virgin London Marathon, how did that happen, how did I deserve that??

In true Ellie style my initial thought wasn't ‘right let’s crack on with training’ but rather ‘who shall I raise money for?’  Over the last 7 years I have raised well in excess of £20,000 for charity mostly on my own and mostly for BHF in memory of my Dad who died in 2008.  For many reasons I was ready for a change.  I didn't necessarily need to raise funds for a large national charity I could ‘go local’ and raise much needed funds for a cause still close to my heart but one that relied on local monies and businesses………  I had just that cause in mind.

The challenge itself needed thinking about too.  I prefer to raise funds for one charity rather than multiple charities and I now traditionally do events annually -  Ferriby 10 mile, GNR, Beverley 10k, Edinburgh Moonwalk to name but I few and I had 8 already booked for 2015, what if I increased it?? What if I could do 15??  I scoured the net and found races to add to my ever growing list. The challenge was decided and set!

The charity itself was almost a no brainer. 

Running with Fitmums introduces you to an abundance people from all different walks of life and your running buddies often turn into lifelong friends as you soon realise that sometimes it’s not just running that you have in common.

I’d met Katie Cowell at Beverley Fitmums on our Tuesday morning sessions and when we got talking I learned she and her husband Paul had tragically lost their daughter Abbie on 1st October 2011 having gone full term.  I had also lost Charlotte when I went into premature labour at 23 weeks on 11 June 2004.  As we ran, we talked, got to know each other, laughed and cried as we ticked off the miles.  Katy and Paul had set up Abbie’s fund in memory of their precious daughter raising funds to supply memory boxes for bereaved parents.  Having a memory box myself after losing Charlotte, I know only too well what it means to own one and also the healing properties they possess at such a traumatic time.

I can’t deny I did feel guilty for not raising funds for BHF but I know at the bottom of my heart my Dad would back me 100% in my decision and I would have his full blessing in raising money for Abbie’s fund.  I’d obviously talked it through with Ray and again, as always I had his full backing, it was a cause so close to our hearts and one that so desperately in need of funds.

To read more about Abbie’s fund and the fantastic work they do please follow the link below

This year will see me do 15 challenges in 2015, which will include the following........

25/01/15 - Ferriby 10mile – dedicated to Charlotte Amelia Birch
01/03/15 - Bath Half Marathon - dedicated to Lauren Ella Foley
22/03/15 - Lincs 10k - dedicated to Emilia Harper
12/04/15 - Hornsea Third - dedicated to Grace Harper
26/04/15 - Virgin London Marathon - dedicated to Abbie Grace Cowell
10/05/15 - Beverley 10k – dedicated to Ricky- Joe Emmerson
13/06/15 - Moonwalk Marathon
28/06/15 - Humber Bridge Half Marathon
12/07/15 - Ray's for life 5k
19/07/15 - WR Liverpool 10k
01/08/15 - Total Warrior 10k (endurance)
13/09/15 - Bupa GNR Half Marathon
05/10/15 - Kielder Marathon
11/10/15 - Yorkshire Coast 10k
05/12/15 - Rudolf Romp 24 mile (marathon status XC)

I thought it would be nice if I could dedicate each race to a precious life lost for the donation of a memory box (£25).  I spoke to another good friend of mine Katy Wood and asked if she could possibly do a press release for me - as ever she did an amazing job.

By the beginning of December “Ellie’s 15 in 15 challenges” was born.

I had determined which races I would run, the local paper had my press release, I’d set up my sponsor page and the money had started coming in already with friends dedicating races from the start (excuse the pun!)

All that was left was for me to put on my trainers and start clocking up the miles and with my first challenge being on 25th January I had to move.

Then my world fell apart in December as one of my best friends Elly was diagnosed with MND.
I’ve known Elly for over 15 years from my socialising and drinking days on Beverley Road and then latterly when we worked together at Waterloo Tavern.  It didn’t take long for us to become good friends (and both being single at the time, strong drinking partners!).  I then had the privilege to call her family when she started dating my cousin Rory in 2003 and subsequently got married in July of 2011.  The wedding had been postponed once because of the shock, safe arrival of their beautiful baby girl Poppy on July 4th 2006. 

Suddenly the ice bucket challenge was a reality in our lives and we were dealing with it first-hand.  In the early days of diagnosis we cried, researched, talked, laughed, screamed and asked question after question of what we were all to expect as we tried to take in what was happening around us.  It was just heart breaking watching some of the people I love most in the world cope with such a horrific life changing and life sapping disease. 

Even through the heartache we managed to have a magical, memorable Christmas with Rory, Elly and Poppy who stayed with us as their house was being adapted. 

Then on 28th December we had a call that Ray's sister-in-law had died from her long, tough battle with lung cancer.  Carole was one of the strongest women I’ve ever met and although not a surprise she had lost her battle, I was devastated at the emptiness that her not being here would leave in our lives. She was one of Ray's closest friends….. my world and those around me was falling apart. 
Here I was trying to keep strong for my cousin and his beautiful family and now for my wonderful husband and other sister-in-law Jo when all the time my own heart was breaking.  I wanted to run and never stop………………….. but my training had taken a massive tumble and I just couldn't get back on track.

With my first race looming I needed to take action.  Rory had got a last minute place in the Ferriby
10 raising money for MNDA and we made a point of getting out together at least once a week for a long run.  I've looked after Rory from him being a tot and he knows he holds a special place in my heart.  He has grown up to be the most wonderful and caring husband, dad and friend.  All I wanted to do was wrap my arms around him and tell him that everything would be OK - but I couldn’t – it would be a lie!! For once I could do nothing to take away his pain.  All I could do was be there for him when he needed me, when he needed help he knew I would come running and would be his shoulder and his strength. 

We both used our runs as our therapy and put the world to rights on the way round.  It was downtime for us both I think and he did amazingly in Ferriby, pushing me round the course and keeping me going.  Seeing Elly half way round, who had been brought out by friends was an amazing sight and another memory that will be locked in my heart. My first challenge of the year and race No.1 of 15 was in the bag.
Training was ticking over and after Ferriby came Bath Half on 1st March.  Jonathan, my step son and his girlfriend Katie had started running last year and he is now so fit and such a strong runner, he could quite easily have left me at the start line but he didn't.  We ran it together, on a glorious spring morning.  Although the course was advertised as flat, it did have a few ‘mounds of opportunity’ in there and was a looped course.  It was however, a good run and we finished in a respectable time of 2:27. No.2 of 15 completed.

Lincs 10 on 22nd March was another glorious spring morning. A crowd of
Fitmums had entered the Lincs 10 and we decided to go in convoy.  One of the runners was my friend Gayle who had gained a number for Lincs at the last minute. She had also secured one of the club places for the London Marathon.  She was, however,  battling with her feelings for London after being plagued with injury and also the illness and the loss of her mother-in-law June after a short illness.
Visiting the hospital, work and studies had taken its toll on her mentally and physically and her training had gone on a downward spiral, starting a year or so earlier with months yet tinged with sadness and heartache. . . . . . She needed a good run.  She got it!! She was strong, finished well and with a smile on her face.  She has since decided to defer her place for London until 2016 and I 100% agree with her decision.  She has so much on and has very little time to fit everything in.  She will storm London next year and I look forward to  training with her on her long runs and giving the support and encouragement she has given me throughout my training.

The thing about running is  that you tend to get caught up listening to your body for problems you would perhaps normally miss - perhaps something else that your body is telling you.  I've had sciatic pain for a few years on and off and my magical therapist always sorts me out, this time it was being very stubborn and I was suffering. I’d had to reduce my mileage and take it steady otherwise it would play up.  I’d also been suffering with my breathing but my sciatic pain was the main problem on my mind until a couple of my friends pointed out that  I may be suffering from asthma.  With a week to go before Hornsea Third and 3 weeks to go before London I hit the panic button and I made an appointment with my GP.

It was the diagnosis I was expecting but certainly not the one I wanted.  I sat in the car with my inhaler and sobbed.  All of a sudden I had to take an inhaler with me when I was out running. I was nervous, angry and upset but the Dr was fabulous and assured me I would be OK as did a lot of my friends.  I left the surgery with instructions that if I wasn't happy after trying it I was to make another appointment and she would help me through "London". 

I had to get through Hornsea first and there certainly would be an abundance of encouragement as there were 50+ 'army' of Fitmums members running the race, many of them coming from East Hull Fitmums.  In the event it was colossal and the good luck, kind wishes and friendship that filled the start line was evident of the team spirit that emulates around us all.  This would be the longest run for many and some were making it their first race, I was in awe.

I started the Hornsea Third nervous and anxious, both of which are not good for asthma! I finished it in a respectable time all things considered but I did end up having a word with myself half way round. 

My heart belonged to Ray and Tammy that day, I sobbed when I saw them coming down the home
straight,  they’d knocked nearly 15 minutes of their PB, the longest distance either of them had ever ran and they had just smashed 8.74 miles – a third of a marathon.
East Hull Fitmums to me is the Epitome of team work and everything it stands for.  Another member Julie so very nearly pulled out of the Hornsea Third because she didn't think she would be able to finish in the allotted time?! In true Fitmums style we all stayed back to see her over the finish line, those than never ran her home waiting at the finish line and screamed her over it.  I know I won’t have my Fitmums family with me in London and there at the finish line to see me over it but I will have them in my heart with every one of them spurring me on every step of the way to see me succeed.

With London now less than a week away, as always my nerves are kicking in.  My Dad as ever (especially at race time) is at the forefront of my mind. What on earth would he say to me gaining a place in VLM? He would be thrilled, call me insane, be as proud as punch and certainly be with me every second.  I always feel as though he stands just behind my right shoulder on race day and I’m going to need him more than ever this weekend. 

I'm going to be thinking of my gorgeous friend Elly and my cousin Rory and Poppy who are having to adapt to life changing events at the moment that are heart wrenching. 
I'm going to be thinking of my gorgeous little boy Benji who never fails to put a smile on my face and  just know he will be shouting “Well done mummy, keep going,  you’re doing great!” just as he does to everyone he passes when he runs the parkrun.  My precious little Charlotte who will be watching from the clouds with her Grandpa, I have so much love for you sweetheart I just wish I’d have been given the opportunity to show you.

I will be thinking of all my wonderful friends who have run, cycled, helped, Benji sat, listening to me moan and wiped my tears.  Of all of my special friends who spur me on every day with the love and support they offer me.  My Dad always taught me to treat people the way you expect to be treat. I do my best and try and give myself to everyone and sometimes to more than one at the same time.  My friends are the ones that remind me what a good person I am because I do sometimes lose my self-worth and it’s them that make me the person I am. They give me the love and respect back that I try and offer to so many.

And of course I will be thinking of my wonderful husband, without who NONE of this would have happened.  He really is my other half, not as my husband but the other half of me, we are a team.  I just know he will be scouring the crowd of 40,000 runners just to grab a glimpse of me and I love him with all my heart.

Let’s face it I've got 26 miles, sorry make that 26.2 miles (the .2 of a mile is VERY important to a marathon runner!) to think.  I'm under no illusion that it’s going to hurt this year and not just physically but emotionally and mentally too – it’s going to be the toughest race of my life - we’re only in April and that big fella up there is throwing a lot at me!

I've been honoured with a place at the start line of the iconic Virgin London Marathon, a race that I have watched on TV since it started some 30 odd years ago, only ever dreaming of taking part.  I'm going start at the start line and live every second of it until the finish line.  It’s not about a PB to me, it’s about running for all the people I love and care about, including those that are no longer with us.

A race dedicated to a very precious little girl - Abbie Grace Cowell.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Just one word ... WOW!

I'm now sat here thinking, was Edinburgh Marathon really last week?!

I had been nervous for a good 2-3 weeks leading up to race day.  I was emotionally drained without the added trauma of questioning whether I was fit enough, whether I had worked hard enough, eaten correctly, hydrated and all the usual fears that creep into the mind of a marathon runner.

I was worried I would let myself down and even more worried that I would let my loved ones down.  I'd spent months training, weeks on my legs and hours in tears.

Whatever the fears that were swimming around it was too late anyway, we were on our way up to Edinburgh for my first running marathon.  I knew I could walk one - I do one every year for Walk the Walk raising money for breast cancer charities but Sunday would be the day I set off at the start line to RUN my first ever marathon.  I specifically picked Edinburgh because it was there I walked my first marathon, the Edinburgh Moonwalk back in 2009 in memory of my wonderful Dad and I walked it on Fathers Day.

The days leading up to leaving we're very special - I had good luck cards, charms flowers and messages of support coming out of my ears.  I felt very honoured and extremely special.

One of my best friends in the world and my therapist, Suzi said she would come with us and look after Benji and give me the much needed massage therapy to start and end my marathon. Pete and Jo my 'sister-in-law' from Keynsham also came up to support me.

The apartment was in the middle of the city so we settled in and set ourselves up for a quiet night in.  Ray had once again performed his magic in the  kitchen and prepared a chicken pasta dish to bring up with us.  Jo and Pete met us and we spent the evening catching up and carbing up for the task ahead.

In time honoured tradition I set my kit out for the morning then Suzi set-to and gave me a relaxing massage to warm up my muscles and hopefully give me a good nights sleep - it worked!   I slept like a log and woke up 5 minutes before my alarm went off at 6am.

Breakfasted, showered and dressed we were ready to head to the start line at 8:45.  It was only a mile away from the apartment so the walk would be a nice warm up for my muscles.  The messages, texts and calls were once again in abundance to the point I had to stop reading them because my eyes kept leaking! 

The closer we got to the Regent Road the more the atmosphere was building. In time honoured tradition, I queued for the toilet before heading to my start point!  It was time to kiss my boys and the rest of my fabulous support team goodbye and make my own way. They wished me luck and I was in my pen and ready to go.  It wasn't just my mind that was now working overtime, so was my bladder, how come I needed to go to the toilet again?!  The gun went off and we started walking toward the start line and I had to nip out of the railings to a portaloo.

Mile after mile after mile I knocked them down. My music sometimes on and my phone often ringing with my friends, my PT, my wonderful husband spurring me on and making sure I was ok. I spotted an old friend from WLR Martin Reilly and we exchanged a hug and good luck wishes. He was doing amazing, way in front of me and on the loop back to the finish. It was just the boost I needed. To this day I don't think he knows what that hug and wish meant to me......... Priceless!!

Ray met me at mile 24 and ran the last couple of miles with me. Again, it was just incredible.  I'm so proud of everything he has achieved, especially since his operation last year. We got to the 26 mile mark and with a smile on his face and an abundance of love in his heart he told me to finish my race, bring it home and he would meet me at the end. I sobbed, he was amazing and I love him so so much. Never once has he doubted me or my ability. 

5:19:08 was my finish time! Wow I'd knocked over 40 minutes from the time I expected and 20 minutes off the time I wanted. Edinburgh marathon was in the bag and I was over the moon (and back) with my time feeling elated, absolutely knackered but one very happy bunny!!

Did I enjoy it?? I have to say it was certainly one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life and to say there were thousands of people running too it was the loneliest run I've ever done. Your mind plays tricks and you need oodles of self will to literally keep placing one foot in front of the other. 

But I'm certainly not done  -  I'm so pleased I entered the ballot for London. I doubt I'll get in, I can't normally win an argument but here's hoping!!

All that's left for me to do is thank everybody for their wishes, love, help and encouragement. I'm ready  to put my feet up for a bit and decide what my next challenge will be. 


Saturday, 10 May 2014

Where did that time go?

Well here we are with just 2 weeks to go before the Edinburgh Marathon Festival 2014. My number has arrived and on Saturday 24th May I shall be travelling up to Edinburgh.  Already the nerves are starting to kick in, so here I am sat looking back at the last 6 or so months to see just how I got to this point.

So many people have asked me 'Are you insane?', 'Are you mad?', 'You must be barmy!' or 'How on earth do you do it?' Believe me these are just some of the questions and some of the repeatable questions.  The real truth is... I'm stubborn and won't give in!!  I set myself these crazy challenges because I don't like to let anyone down, or myself!! I'd just set out to put one foot in front of the other and before I knew it I was running for miles and miles.

I did my long run (22 miles) a couple of weeks early because on the day I had originally planned to do it, I ended up booking in a half marathon.  Last weekend was the Lincs Half Marathon and 4 of us from my local running club, East Hull Fitmums, travelled down to Scunthorpe to Glanford Park to run 13.1 miles in the beautiful North Lincolnshire countryside.  It was perfect running weather; cloudy but not too hot and Ray had come along as our driver and No.1 supporter.  The overview of the race was that it was a fast course with lots of PB's achieved.  I set out with the intention of running it faster than my intended marathon pace (after all it was only half the distance!) but I was not particularly bothered about time as long as I got the miles in ready for Edinburgh.  I completed GNR last year in 2:30:08 which was a pretty good pace for me.  I've never been the fastest of runners but instead plod my way through and I knew I'd be somewhere near it (as I'm always quite consistent).   I have however obviously gained speed from somewhere though as I smashed my PB and was astounded that I crossed the finish line in 2:18:28.  I'd shaved off 12 minutes from my GNR time, that's nearly 1 minute per mile.

I had sent Ray (and other friends and family) a live link so they could see exactly where I was on the course at any given time with my pace, predicted finish time etc.  My ears where indeed burning as I knew it was a faster pace and I could just hear Ray saying, 'slow down Els you'll burn yourself out' and 'just you wait till I see you lady, that's too fast!!'.  I was smiling to myself and it kept me going through the race.  As I came into the stadium he was there shaking his head at me but smiling, camera in one hand and pointing his finger at me with the other hand!! It was a wonderful sight and one that will have me smiling for weeks to come.

I have to say a huge well done also to Wayne who was 15 seconds off the time he was hoping for (the runners reading this will understand what those 15 seconds mean?!); to Maxine who is such a strong runner and ran a fantastic race, she certainly kept me going; and to Lynne who ran her first half marathon.  Well done everyone and also to all the other Fitmums who took part and smashed PB's.

I've one last race tomorrow before my marathon which is the Beverley 10k.  Apparently we have an amazing 60+ runners from the different Fitmums groups across the city so it should be a fun day.  I have also been told there is a nasty little hill in there too, sorry not a hill it's a... 'mound of opportunity'!! I will tackle it like all my other runs, plod to the finish line!

So with races complete and long runs done I feel prepared for Edinburgh.  I've lots of training and miles behind me and I really don't think I could've done much more. I have done sprints, I've done short quick runs, I have done speed sessions and I've ran for hours. I've thrown some race days in there too so I'm prepped as much as I could ever be.

There are obvious people I have to thank and these are the people that stand out, I apologise if I miss anyone in person, it's by no means intentional.

First and foremost the biggest thanks have to go to my main man. Ray who has been the biggest single support I have.  He has kept me on track but also he has kept the house on track as I've been training (and fitting everything else in between).  He has cooked, cleaned, washed, ironed, hoovered, fed us and looked after both me and Benji.  He has followed me every step on line if not on his bike, he's been beside me carrying water, encouraged me to carry on when I've started flagging on my long runs, he's ran me ice baths and helped me with recovery food and foot rubs. He's encouraged me in person and been in my heart with me every single step of the way when he's not been there in person.  I am going to miss him not riding next to me in Edinburgh but know without a shadow of doubt he will be the one shouting most to get me over the finish line.

To my dear friend Suzi who has worked on me, pummelled me and sometime hurt me (far more than she should've done I'm sure!) at our massage sessions at least once a week.  I'm thrilled that with the tough time she's having at the moment she is coming up to Edinburgh with us to help with Benji, scream with Ray and no doubt pummel me some more!!

To my PT Pete Jones from Pure Fitness for putting me through my paces every week.  He works me hard ever week but it's paid off and I'm eternally grateful, I'm fitter and stronger that I have ever been and he has played a big part in that.

To Ray, Andy, Shereen, Wayne, Donna and Nikki.  We work our socks off at our circuit session on a Monday but the encouragement, friendship and enthusiasm that has now formed Monday Night Club is eternal, thank you all, my core is better for knowing you and I love and thank you all.

To all my Fitmums friends for your continued support and encouragement, thank you.  If you've not ran with me you've asked me how I'm getting on.  In Beverley on a Tuesday morning and East Hull on a Tuesday night you have all been truly amazing thank you. To the Cottingham girls from Fitmums The Choir that have asked and encouraged me especially Gayle who ran the London Marathon (with viral pneumonia!!), you are an inspiration thank you.

To our babysitters, Mum, Shereen, Jonathan and Katie, Suzi, Jeanie and Mel thank you for looking after our little man. It is comforting to know that we can leave him with you, sometime at the drop of a hat and that he will be cared for.

To the friends and family who have pure faith and understanding in what I'm doing and striving to achieve. To the ones who never ever fail to text me when I'm going out on a run to wish me luck or text and ring to encourage me to finish.  To name but a few - Jeanette, Alex, Suzi, Bev, Shereen, Jo, Tammy, Donna, Elly,Sarah and Pete.

To those that have ran or supported me out on runs. Ray, Shereen, Donna, Matty, Sturdster, Bev, Lynne and Danica.

To Jo and Pete who have booked a trip and are coming up to Edinburgh to support me.  Jo has text me at least once a week to see how training is going and encouraged me from afar.  I bless the day she walked into my life and I'm touched more than they will ever know at her pure faith in my ability and look forward to celebrating with them once I cross the finish line.

And finally to Andy (Macca) who, when I was struggling to walk at 2mph said to me that 'one day you will run!'.  I swore at him that day over 5 years ago but I guess I owe him an apology because here I am running my first marathon - so I guess he was right!  I'll never be the fastest runner but I'm a plodder, I'm stubborn and won't give in and stop.  I've grown to love running and although my marathon training has halted my weightloss I have dropped 2 dress sizes and I feel better than ever about myself and my body.

So with pre-race nerves arriving a good 2-3 weeks before the event I'm wondering if I've done enough and if I'm doing the right thing?  In reality I really don't think I could have or can do much more. I've put in the leg work (excuse the pun!) and surpassed even my own expectations.  When I was out doing my long runs it wasn't the distance that made me cry it was the fact I had been running over 4+ hours without once stopping. Yes I'm nervous that I can't 'go the distance' but I will tackle Edinburgh like any other race I will head off at the start line and plod until the finish line - and lets face it I've ran for 22 miles, what's another 4.2 on top of that?!?! lol

My thoughts on race time? - I'm more than sure I'll finish it sub 6 hours, I will be more that happy with a 5:45 finish and if I can get anywhere near 5:30 I will be over the moon!

Whatever the finish time, my training for Edinburgh has taught me a lot.

I've learned that running is like any friendship or relationship, you get out of it what you put in and if you treat it with respect it will in turn treat you with respect.  I've learned that I'm entering an elite group of people and will wear my finishers medal with pride, it's not just about the 25th May it's about the last 6+ months and the hard work, tears and laughter it has brought.  I've learned that if I train well and fuel correctly I recover quicker and if I hydrate it won't hurt.  It's taught me who my friends really are, they have accommodated my insane training regime and fitted into my time slots without question.  They've encouraged me even if they have been unable to run with me.

It's taught me that I am indeed a runner.

Until the race report.................


Monday, 24 February 2014

A year in the life of a Fitmum!

Although I started my healthy eating lifestyle in 2009 after losing my Dad, my running only really stepped up a notch last year. Previous to 2013 I had done 10k, 5k's and half marathons but never ran 'all the way'  instead opting to run/walk interval them to the finish line.

My training then took a huge dip for about 18 months in 2011 when I had to undergo surgery on not one but both my shoulders (the last one being early Feb 2013) 

My fitness along with my motivation and self esteem were at an all time low. That was until Easter last year when I heard about a new branch of Fitmums and Friends (www.fitmums.org.uk) that was opening near my home and decided to go along. 

The group has 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 mile lead runs with the promise that using their shepherding system, nobody would get left behind. I was so nervous of going but I did and I remember crying as I completed my first 1 mile run  without stopping in over 2 years. 

I went the next week and have never looked back. 

The leaders at fitmums are so enthusiastic and motivational.  My fitness and confidence in running soon blossomed and I soon realised that not only did I  thrive on my run sessions with Fitmums but I actually started to enjoy running. 

My life took another dip when in June of 2013 we found out my husband had an aortic aneurism which at 6.2cm needed urgent repair. We found out 2 days before we were heading up to Edinburgh to complete the Edinburgh Moonwalk (a 26.2 mile walking marathon). 

We had health and well being on our side and Ray underwent surgery on 13th July 2013, the day after his 65th birthday. He has made a full recovery from the op and is now gaining back his own fitness. He is doing so amazingly well and has also joined Fitmums and Friends and runs the 2 mile route every Tuesday. I'm so immensely proud of him. 

Whilst he was in hospital I set myself the challenge of running 300k in 6 weeks leading up to and including GNR raising money for BHF along the way. I smashed my target both in mileage and sponsorship running over 312k and raising £2000. It wasn't the only thing I smashed - my finish time for GNR was 2:30:08 which is over 10 minutes off my PB. Again my running buddies were by my side whenever they could be, clocking up the miles with me and encouraging me every step of the way. 

Fitmums has given me the confidence to step up yet another gear in 2014 and I am now training to run my first marathon. On May 24th I will be heading up north to run the Edinburgh marathon.  Mike one of the clubs coaches set up a training plan for me and the miles are clocking up. My Fitmums sessions help enormously as I use them as sprint sessions and faster run sessions as mapped on my training plan and once again my running buddies from the club encourage me and  come out and keep me company on my longer runs whenever they can. 

I adore being part of such a fantastic group of people who motivate and help each other so enormously and not just  on club nights. We often meet at various times of the week for ad hoc runs, helping and encouraging each other along the way.  I have met some truly amazing people and made some fantastic friends . . . . So much so I've taken a run leaders course with England athletics and look forward to working with the rest of the Fitmums team motivating and inspiring members as I've been inspired. 

It's amazing what difference a year makes! 



Monday, 27 January 2014


From starting my journey I have always found that it's helped to set myself challenges, it's helped to keep me focused and thriving to do better and achieve more.  This morning I've been reflecting on just how far I've come since that very first challenge was set and how it feels working towards my latest one.

My journey started on January 4th 2009 when I embarked on my sponsored slim in memory of my Dad who had died the previous November.  It was because of him that I'd turned my life around. He'd suffered from heart disease and I was heading the same way with my lifestyle and it had to stop. Although I loved him more than anything I didn't want to be where he was so I had to do something about it. I was eating too much, drinking too much, I never moved much and I was morbidly obese.  I couldn't even get up the stairs with out being out of breath.

My first major event was set for June of the same year.  I would complete the Edinburgh Moonwalk, a 26.2 mile walk in aid of Walk the Walk for breast cancer charities.  It was around Edinburgh, it started at midnight and it was the toughest thing I'd ever done.

It was Fathers day, my first without my beloved Dad here to share it with and it was the toughest thing I'd done to date both mentally and physically.  I can still feel ever step of that Moonwalk even now, every twinging muscle and every tear that fell is with me to this day. But what it did teach me was that my body was capable of more than I ever gave it credit for and although my heart was breaking I was doing something to benefit myself, my future and in turn the future of my family because I would be around for a lot longer becasue of my change of lifestyle and it left me wanting more.

Challenge upon challenge followed from that very first Moonwalk.  I completed 5k's, 10k's, half marathons and more Moonwalks. Other challenges on my journey included injury and having to endure shoulder surgery on not one but both shoulders.  I had to take a break from exercise and concentrate on getting well which in turn lead to weight gain and feeling pretty grotty and sorry for myself.

After my last surgery I was desperate to train again, I missed it and wanted to be back on form and before I knew it I was completeing my 300k challenge last summer which lead to me completing The Great North Run in 2:30:08 smashing my PB.  Running from start to finish without a break, something which I'd never managed for more than a 10k.  It left me wanting even more.

I got home and in true Ellie style picked up my lap top and looked at what could be in store next and before the end of the night I'd entered myself into my first running marathon.  What better place but the same city I'd walked my first marathon all those years ago on Fathers Day but Edinburgh!!

The time is right and I've got the best support network I could ask for.  Friends who said they would run with me, non running friends who would bike and others who said they would support in any other way they possibly could. My Fitmums buddies said they would help and push me and one of our Fitmums and Friends coaches Mike who is an accompished runner, a great coach and an all round nice guy made me out a training plan. We talked about how I would deal with my runs and I'd told him I was thinking of entering the Ferriby 10 and he said it would be great marathon training. I immediately started clocking up the miles and getting in the distances he suggested. The marathon and upcoming Ferriby 10 challenge kept me focused through the Christmas break. I'd been warned it was a hilly course but like all my challenges I would just set out and head for the finish line.  Everything was new territory I knew it was going to be tough I just had to get through it.

There were quite a few Fitmums and Friends taking part and because Mike had been taken into hospital the previous week we had arranged to get together for a photo before the race. 

It was a horrible day but I don't think anyone said quite how tough it would be?! The Ferriby 10 is a 10mile road race with the 1st 5 miles uphill.  Add to that 25mph freezing wind with driving rain, hail and sleet and I have to say it was lethal!!!  (I'm looking forward to Mike getting better so I can tell him off!!!!! ;) )

Donna and I had said we would run together and set off with a 2hr time scale in our heads, taking into account the hills and the weather.  We made a pact that we were not allowed to 'idle gossip' for the first half we were only allowed to complain! We actually did remarkably well in fact hardly talked at all for that first 5 miles, we just got our heads down and tackled what was ahead of us.  The second half we knew would be a tad faster and we were both shocked and relieved when our running buddy Wayne who had already completed his 10 miles (in 1:16:56!!) came back out to the 8.5mile point and ran in with us. (I often say that if we cut him open he would have cogs instead of veins and yesterday proved it, the man is a machine) WELL DONE and THANK YOU xxx.

We romped home and completed our first Ferriby 10 in 1:50:03.  I was astounded! my legs felt remarkably good but I was cold to the core, I think the weather kept my mind off my legs. Home for a very hot shower to warm through which took about 3 hrs!!

A lot of things went through my head in that horrific weather yesterday......

WOW I've come a long way.  I couldn't walk for 10 minutes in January of 2009 and I'm not only ran 10 miles but half of that was uphill. It's true what they say from an acorn grows a mighty oak

I have lost a lot of weight but it hasn't been overnight!!  For all my friends who struggle with their weight and are wanting results straight away please please be patient, it didn't go on overnight so it won't come off overnight.  Yes I have lost 6 stone which is colossal but it's taken 5 years for it to come off (having put 2 stone back on due to injury and lost that again)! but remember every step is a step, every pound is a pound and every tear is one less to carry and one nearer your goal.

My fitness has surpassed anything I ever thought it would do and I actually like myself.

My family and friends mean the absolute world to me and I really wouldn't be where I am without their help, love and support and really hope that one day I can repay them.

The 'friends' I've lost along the way isn't really my loss. My door, my home and indeed my heart have always been open and if people choose to dislike me for whatever reason I will no longer let it effect me. It's their insecurities not mine that are at fault.  I have always been a good friend, I'm loyal and I would do anything for the people I love and care about.

My husband, my lover and my friend, what would I do without him? He supports, encourages, helps and is my No.1 fan. Last year was possibly the worst of his life with the surgery he had to endure.  He is 6 months down the line and getting stronger and stronger by the day. I know he gets fed up that he can't run with me but to run for 2 miles after what he's been through is phenominal. I just sometimes wish he could see what an impact he has on everybody elses lives.  He expects far too much of himself and does everything to please without thought of how it would effect him.

The one man I can never thank enough for my journey is my wonderful Dad.  It took his death for me to survive.  He would be laughing up there at the fact I have ditched my Handbags and Heels for Trainers and Tracksuits but he also knows deep down I'm a girlie girl and like nothing better than getting dressed up to the nines! I know he is watching over me every second of every day with pride.  When I'm out he is on my shoulder constantly as I cover even more miles. He's with me helping on every challenge and beside me on every race-day pushing and willing me to succeed .  It's just sad he's not here in person because I know he would be at the finish line of every race, cheering me over it with his smiling eyes and immense pride in what I've achieved.

Until the next update

Much love