The Year Of Me!!! – November Update

11 months down and just 1 to go. That means it’s time for my monthly check in with my 2018 goals in The Year of Me!!!

1.Run 1000km (621 miles)
Since the end of September I’ve had this one wrapped up so now it’s really just about maintaining consistency as I build a solid base for marathon training. I’m already at my highest annual mileage ever and thanks to another strong month, it’s looking likely that my final total will be 800+!

2.Commit to a minimum of 5 minutes of yoga on at least 5 days of the week
I love yoga and really want to have a regular home practice to complement my 2 weekly classes, but I’m consistently finding I’m coming in at 4 times per week rather than 5 right now. Certainly, it’s not the biggest problem in the world to have, but I would like to get this one back on track for December.

3.Read at least 30 books
Another one that I already completed. I added a further 2 books to my total this month so am now at 37. Obviously, I’d now love that to be a nice round 40 by the end of the year.

4.Be in bed by 10pm at least 3 times per week
The change to my routine to encompass early runs has definitely helped with this one. Now that I’m getting up earlier a couple of times a week I’m much more conscious of making sure I get to bed sharp. And now that I’m several weeks into a buy term, I am noticing that my fatigue levels are lower than before so the new routine seems to be suiting me so far.

5.Watch at least one Ted/Ted X talk per week
Since beginning a 100 day challenge to watch 100 TED talks, this one has been well on track. I’m not necessarily managing one a day, but I will watch 100 within the time frame and the end of November saw me at 82 TED talks since mid-September.

6.Listen to at least 8 podcast episodes per week
One of my favourite goals. To be honest, I don’t even think about how many I’m listening to any more as I just love keeping up with my favourites and listen to at least one show per day, sometimes a little of a second. I’m now totally up to date with the ones I listen to regularly and have slotted in a few past episodes of ones I dip into form time to time.

7.Respond to at least one WordPress prompt per month
Back to being last minute, this month I responded to the photo prompt Favourite Place.

8.Be more mindful in my phone/social media use
I’m really noticing an improvement here. During the week I only really have time to look at my phone in the evening and am conscious of setting it aside when I’m doing something else like watching TV. I do look at it a bit more at weekends, but my screen reports from Apple suggest I’m not overdoing it. Yes, I enjoy some aspects of social media, but it’s refreshing not to feel tied to looking at things all the time.

Are you on track with your goals for the year?
What can you do in the remaining weeks of the year to help you achieve a goal?

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The Daily Post – Favourite Place

For this month, I’ve chosen the prompt Favourite Place. I did give this some thought as I wasn’t sure if I wanted to make a simple choice and pick my favourite chair, or if I wanted to choose foreign climes (with Paris definitely under consideration). In the end, I decided on Florida. I nearly picked my comfy sun lounger by the pool, but I think this busy time of year has me craving a little Disney magic!

So here it is. My favourite place…

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Where is your favourite place?

The Daily Post – Costume

I think it’s safe to say you can tell where my head (still) is by my choice of prompt this month! Having recently taken part in a RunDisney event and embraced the opportunity to create a costume, I thought I would consider the evolution of my willingness to don slightly crazy garb for a run…

Running In fancy dress/costume has never particularly been my thing, despite what some of my running experiences might suggest. For a long time the only deviation I ever had from standard running gear (in colours that made me blend into the background) was an annual Santa Run (at which dressing as Santa was key to blending into the background!). But as my attitude to running has changed, perhaps as a result of greater experience (or age, but I prefer “experience” haha!) I’ve been more open to a themed run and, when the occasion called for it, creating some kind of appropriate costume to run in.

At first, I simply got involved in themed runs each year on our parkrun’s birthday. I found some bright colours for the beach party theme (a bit tricky in November!).

I followed that with one of my favourites, creating this little combo for the Superheroes theme.

And made sure to wear my festive finery around Christmas time.

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IMG_9194More recently, I thought it might be fun to give a nod to the Royal Wedding with my choice of hairband. Everyone has a tiara hairband, right?

IMG_6630So when I announced that I would be running the Disneyland Paris half marathon, I was asked a number of times if I would be running in costume. Of course I would! As far as I was concerned, that was the whole point, I mean when else can you run around dressed as a Disney character and not receive at least a few odd looks?

One of my main considerations was to make sure whatever I chose wouldn’t annoy me – 13.1 miles is a long way to be irritated by what you’re wearing and it wasn’t like I was going to “test drive” it on a training run! Santa suits aside, all my other costumes had mainly been created out of actual running kit, with the odd additional accessory (e.g. the cape I borrowed from my sister to be a superhero) added on – but those were for short events where I knew I could put up with any slight irritations.

And so, I did a little bit of looking around online. I knew I wanted to be Belle (gold ball gown version, obvs) and checked out some photos of costumes others had put together as well as researching possible places to get the bits and pieces I would need. In the end, EVERYTHING I wore that day was running kit except for my sparkly skirt, but I bought that from a website specifically geared towards running costumes and since it wasn’t “puffy” I knew it would be ok as I often race in a running skirt. The only thing that disappointed me a little was that I couldn’t get any yellow shoes, or at least not in a shoe I would be happy to wear for that distance.

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Tank/capris from Under Armour; socks by Stance; Adidas Supernova shoes; dual pocket Spibelt (so I could carry my phone, Go Pro and a couple of gels); skirt by Sparkle Athletic and hairband from Sparkly Soul. I sourced Steve’s “Beast” top at UK Tech Tees.

I have to say, I LOVED wearing that costume and would happily have wondered around all day in it if it hadn’t been for the fact that a) it had been raining so I was a bit damp and b) I had a flight to catch! But having enjoyed the event so much I know we will be back again and I’ve already given some thought to possible costume options. There are so many to choose from that I might be a little spoiled for choice!

In the meantime, it’s not that long until the festive season…

Have you ever run in a costume?
What would you wear for a RunDisney event?

The Daily Post – It Builds Character

Funnily enough, I’ve been thinking a great deal about characters (or les personnages Disney) of late. So when I found the prompt It Builds Character I knew this was the one for this month.

Tell us about a favorite character from film, theater, or literature, with whom you’d like to have a heart-to-heart. What would you talk about?

My favourite character is Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Many love her because of that scene in the ballroom with the gold dress, but my love for Belle goes deeper than that. First, she has dark hair and is therefore a princess I feel represents me rather than the plethora of blonde princesses out there. As a child I was only interested in dolls that bore some resemblance to me and those were few and far between. Belle would have been perfect!  I know Snow White is brunette, but I’ve always found Belle to be a much stronger character – she’s feisty, independent and knows she wants “so much more than this provincial life.”

Second, Belle loves to read. She finds adventure in the pages of a book that transport her to magical lands and it fuels her innate sense of adventure. I’ve always been a bookworm so this is something else we have in common.

Finally, she’s French – La Belle et la Bête – and I frankly wish I WAS French. I love to be in France, to speak French and would perhaps even want to chat to Belle in French. I can hope!

4B4B6D97-27FC-4879-AB5A-12DF07C54B3ESo if I was to have a heart-to-heart with Belle these things we have in common would be the basis for the conversation. I would start by asking her about books – her favourite stories and writers, the magical tales she returns to again and again, the genres she loves. We could perhaps read some favourite passages to each other and revel in the chance to speak with a kindred spirit.

From there, we would talk about adventure. My adventures are running-related but Belle had a wondrous adventure involving an enchanted castle and a prince who had been cursed. I would tell her about the places I have travelled to, the races I have run and the adventures I still want to have. In return, I would ask her to tell me more about the Beast’s castle, the enchanted characters within and the range of emotions she experienced when around the Beast.

Finally, I would have to ask about the beautiful ballroom in the Beast’s castle, her gorgeous gold ballgown and their wonderful dance together.

IMG_3031I’m a MASSIVE Strictly Come Dancing (Dancing with the Stars) fan and I would be curious about how she learned to dance so beautifully and what it was like to dance with such an unusual partner. I might even share some Strictly clips where that scene was re-created.

In my head, Belle and I would soon be firm friends. And if I was really lucky, she might even let me try on her ballgown for my very own princess moment…

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ilEFsND9Qg6HnRs18UxRZwWhich character would you like to talk to and what would you talk about?

The Daily Post – Bridge

After my visit to South Queensferry this past weekend, I’m inspired to make this month’s prompt a photo response.

Somehow, I’ve never before visited South Queensferry, and I’m so glad I’ve been now. It has fantastic views of the famous Forth bridges – the new Queensferry Crossing, the Road Bridge it replaced and, of course, the iconic Rail Bridge (technically known simply as just The Forth Bridge).

It’s become a recognisable symbol of Scotland and UNESCO World Heritage Site. On a sunny day like this past Saturday, it looks amazing. Imagine having this view from your back garden! Just stunning.
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The Daily Post – Animal

I really wanted this month’s blog prompt response to be something cat-related (since the wee floofs are very much on my mind right now) so when I found the prompt Animal it seemed ideal. Ok, so I often think about cats (actually, I think I might be becoming one 😹) but this year as a whole has been very cat-centric: I said good bye to Morven, I ran the Stirling marathon for Cats Protection, and now I have welcomed two new furry friends into my life.

Recently I was asked to write a piece for the local Cats Protection “Newslitter” (see what they did there?) and having received my copy this week, I wanted to share it here as well…

Bk3K8MwbT3C6+WBAqsnOdgMiles for Morven
It all began back in the summer of 2000. Fresh from university and embarking on the adventure of an independent adult life, I knew I wanted a cat to complete my cosy little world. Enter Morven, a tiny bundle of fluff and love I adopted from Cats Protection. Right from the start she was a mummy’s girl and she brought joy to my life every single day, staying firmly by my side through the very worst that life could throw at me.

Fast forward to 2016 when it became clear that something wasn’t quite right with my beautiful little girl. She was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, a condition that affects many older cats, but with a prescription diet and daily medications we were able to manage the condition and Morven continued to enjoy a good quality of life with plenty of love, comfortable places to sleep and a clear preference for curling up on my lap – even when I went to bed!

Morven’s condition was further complicated by the discovery of a mass in her small intestine midway through 2017. Again, medication helped her to sustain her quality of life. She was happy and fought bravely through every health issue until, in January of this year, her journey came to an end quite suddenly.

IMG_6660As it turns out, there is no preparing for the loss of a pet, even when you know in your heart of hearts that the end is near. As I came to terms with the loss of my best friend and companion, I knew that I wanted to do something positive in her name, to honour all those years of loyal, loving friendship she gave me. And what better to do than to support the charity that gave me that loving friendship all those years ago – Cats Protection.

I have been told many times that Morven was a lucky cat: she was loved, she had everything a (spoiled) cat could want and when she became ill I made sure that she received all the treatment she needed without question. I was her dedicated nurse administering daily medications, giving her subcutaneous fluids at home and becoming a bit of a “frequent flyer” at the vet!

But I know that not every cat is as lucky as Morven and the thought of a cat without a fur-ever home breaks my heart. If I could, I would adopt them all, but that isn’t possible. What is possible is raising funds for cats in need in this area. Cats who need food, litter, toys and veterinary care. Cats who deserve to be loved.

And so a plan began to take shape. I already had a place in the 2018 Stirling marathon and, at the point when I said goodbye to Morven, was beginning to train. The day after I lost her I went for a run. I no doubt looked a state with tears running down my face as I snivelled my way around the streets, but when I returned I contacted Fiona at Cats Protection Perth to tell her I would like to be a Cat Champion, to do what I could to raise money for the Perth branch though my running in 2018. #milesformorven had been born.

Becoming a Cat Champion was probably the best thing I could have done. At a time of year that was dark and gloomy, a time when I was grieving for Morven (how could such a small creature leave such a huge gap in my life?) I had a focus. Every mile I ran in training was another mile for Morven. Every penny I raised was going directly to Cats Protection to help them make a difference to the cats in their care and the thought of this was soothing. On race day, remembering how brave she was helped me to dig in when things got hard and I used the rhythm of my mantra – “Morven’s tough, I’m tough” – to keep my legs moving steadily. Crossing the finish line I knew I had done my best and done Morven proud.

YDBkbIBmRMW9SVArj30AGARunning the Stirling marathon provided the closure I needed to let me remember those years with Morven fondly rather than with sadness. More importantly, all the wonderful people who donated to my cause helped me to raise over £680 for Cats Protection Perth, funds which I know will help boost the “kitty”.

In October I will run the Aviemore Half Marathon as a Cat Champion and hope to increase that total further. In the meantime, I’m thinking it’s time to bring another furry friend (or two!) into my life and I know exactly where I’ll turn…

IMG_5348Of course, as my mum pointed out, the story will now have to continue with Sooty and Smokey…

EZnNyD9uReyRGYVBOdH1BQWant to help? You can donate here:JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

The Daily Post – Summer

Given the glorious weather we have been enjoying, it seems fitting that this month I choose the prompt Summer to reposed to (although ironically, I nearly didn’t get this written as I was so busy enjoying the summer weather ha!).

I think summer is definitely my favourite season. I love the warmer weather and, as a teacher, the chance to have some time off to recharge my batteries. We finished the school year at lunchtime yesterday, and this first weekend is always filled with the promise of 6 wonderful weeks stretching ahead of me. So how will I spend that time?

Unusually, this summer has actually begun with some summer weather. I spent the majority of today outside and read more than a quarter of a book without anything to distract or interrupt me. Having time to sit down with a number of books and read them in a much shorter space of time is one of my favourite things to do when I’m not at work as it can easily be taken outside into the sunshine or, in inclement weather (much more likely in Scotland!) enjoyed from the comfort of my recliner.

Interspersed with the reading, at least for the first week or two, is sleep. I’ve said before that I’m a bit of a natural night owl, but my routines of late have seen me up and about quite early so I do tend to feel quite tired. Yet at this time of year when it never really gets dark in Scotland, I actually find it quite hard to sleep as my body isn’t getting the signals to wind down and drift off. When I finally stop working and slow things down, I do find myself dozing off a little more frequently – especially if I happen to be lying in the sunshine at the time!

Which brings me to the most important part of my summer – a holiday. As usual, I will be jetting off to Florida to spend a couple of weeks with my family. My parents have already flown out and my sister is just about to go, so Steve and I will be the last to arrive. When we tell people where we’re going, the first thing they ask is if we’ll be spending lots of time in a certain theme park, but actually the answer is no. We may have a day or two with Mr M Mouse, but in reality my plans are: run, practice yoga, sunbathe, enjoy some beers, read, snooze, go shopping, eat some great food. I’ll definitely be sharing these in my weekly reviews while I’m away!

Finally, there are the things I would do anyway. I’ll be running, but switching to morning rather than evening runs; practicing yoga on as many days as I can (there’s more SUP yoga booked for when I get home 🙂 ); working out at the studio and probably taking some nice walks. When I’m not at work I don’t actually use my car much as I prefer to walk everywhere. I feel so much better for it.

I’m sure there will also be a few fun experiences in there too and some time spent with friends, but the most important thing is to reach the end of the summer feeling rested and ready for the challenges of the new school year to come.

Let’s do this!

What are your summer plans?
What are your favourite things to do on holiday?

The Daily Post – Volunteer

What’s not to love about parkrun? The free, weekly, timed 5k has become a staple part of my week since I first went along at the start of 2015. Since then I’ve earned my 50 and 100 run milestone T-shirts as well as my T-shirt for volunteering on 25 separate occasions. And while one of the wonderful things about parkrun is that the milestone achievements are inclusive and can be reached by everyone whether they run, walk or jog their Saturday morning 5k, this post is not about taking part in a parkun, it’s about the crucial role of volunteer – after all, no parkrun event can run without the high-vis heroes who set up, marshal, time, hand out finish tokens, scan barcodes, manage funnels, tail walk, pace, take photographs and clear away in parks up and down the country (in fact, around the world!) every week.

IRVvVcWyTVysW1q5x7JbogBeing a volunteer at parkrun is an awesome job. It gives you the opportunity to interact with all the participants, not just those you normally run/walk beside. It gives you the opportunity to feel appreciated as those taking part smile, wave, nod and say thanks. And it gives you the opportunity to give something back to the parkrun community. Most parkruns have enough participants that if each one volunteered just twice in a year, the whole operation would run smoothly (and give the poor run directors much less stress in the days before the event!).

Yet it can be all too easy for some to overlook the opportunity to volunteer. For those new to parkrun, being involved in the running of the event might seem intimidating. For those suffering an injury, watching others run might be torture. For those who want to run every week and not “give up” a run to help out…shame on you! EVERYONE can find a couple of occasions in the year to help out, and there are a number of jobs to be done that would still allow you to run – I’ve known some super-speedy types to finish their run then grab a scanner and start scanning barcodes, so there really is no excuse not to do your bit. I always sign up to volunteer on the two Saturdays right after a marathon so that I stick to my recovery plan and avoid the temptation to run sooner than I should. I also take on the role of pacer on a number occasions throughout the year. Others volunteer the day before a big race when they want to make sure they are rested. And although turning up to a run when you’re injured sounds tortuous, it’s actually a great way to stay in touch with the running community and still feel involved. I spent much of the winter of 2015/6 volunteering when I had a stress fracture in my foot and I really enjoyed it as I still felt like it was part of my routine and I was getting the chance to catch up with my running friends.

IMG_3972So what do the volunteers actually do? In a nutshell, they make sure that parkun happens every Saturday morning. It’s the volunteers who set up the start/finish areas, stand at assigned marshal points to ensure everyone goes the right way, time runners crossing the line, hand out the finish tokens and scan the all-important barcodes to make sure you get your time later. There are also volunteers who check out the course beforehand, who act as pacers to help others reach a time goal and who take photos of all those grimacing smiling faces striving to do their best. The roles are all really straightforward, and you would only ever be asked to do something you feel comfortable with, especially if it’s your first time. I had only run about 10 times before I volunteered for the first time, and there are plenty who start out by volunteering, perhaps if a family member is a regular participant and they want to get involved too. In fact, if you’re considering going to parkrun but are feeling a bit anxious about trying something new, volunteering can be a great way to see what it’s all about first.

My favourite role is probably pacer. I love taking time away from worrying about my own times to run at an a easy (for me) pace to help someone else reach a new time goal. It’s incredibly satisfying to have someone say thank you and tell me they got a new PB or ran faster than they had expected because they were running with me or keeping me in sight. I also love barcode scanning as I get to be one of the first people to chat to runners after they finish, to ask about how their run was, congratulate them on taking part/getting a PB and help out with any queries.

UntitledFeeling tempted? Then getting involved is dead easy. Either speak directly to the team at your local parkun (they will be delighted to have you on board) or opt-in to the volunteer emails via your event’s website or the option within your weekly parkrun email. You’re sure to love the experience.

How often do you volunteer?
What’s your favourite role as a parkrun volunteer?

Weekly Photo Challenge – Rise/Set

Another photo prompt caught my eye recently, this time inviting us to share our favourite sunrise or sunset. As a night owl, you would probably expect me to share a sunset photo. For me, there is nothing more stunning than a Florida sunset filled with beautiful, vibrant colours. But I actually shared a photo of that last time so today I’m going to share a sunrise.

2010 was a big year for us: I ran my first marathon, we got married and Steve celebrated a milestone birthday. So to mark our special year, we made a decision to begin it a little differently. Getting up early, we walked to the top of a nearby hill in time to watch the sun rise. There had been snow on the ground since the end of November, giving everything a crisp, wintery feel and although there was some cloud in the sky, the colours were wonderful. Everything was peaceful and it was lovely to watch as the light spread and our big year began. The perfect start and worth the early alarm call!
IMG_2677IMG_2680Tell me abut your favourite sunrise or sunset…

Weekly Photo Challenge – I’d Rather Be…

Today I thought I would respond to a Daily Post photo challenge. As this busy term rumbles on and winter continues to keep a tight grip, it’s easy to find myself wishing to be somewhere else, doing something else. But what?

To answer the question, I considered two things – WHAT do I like to do and WHERE do I like to be?

  • I like to run
  • I like to read
  • I like to practice yoga
  • I like to be in Paris
  • I like to be in the sunshine

So to respond to this photo prompt, here are some pictures that demonstrate the above things I enjoy (and would definitely rather be doing), sometimes in combination!


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UntitledWhat would your answer be…?