Amazing April (also known as Avenging April)

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Across the world you can hear the resounding cries of, "How is it May already?" 

In the past, my voice would have been amongst the din, but in all honesty, I'm no longer surprised. When I look back over what I've done this past month, I wonder instead how I managed to fit it all in.

Until last month I had been doing my 10k races towards the end of the month, but as I looked at my calendar for the months ahead, I realised that wasn't going to work. Cue my races for April to July now taking place in the first weekend of the month. Some might see it as getting them out of the way. I prefer to see it as starting the month strong!

April definitely started strong as I ran 15km in two days (that's far for me).

On the Saturday morning I volunteered at parkrun with the rest of Petts Wood Runners. Great, I thought. I'd be able to enjoy the atmosphere of parkrun, but save my energy for the race the next day.

When I arrived, however, I realised I was on pre-event set-up which meant that I could run if I wanted to. I was dressed for it and I'd had a crappy week. My head was telling me to just get on and do it, so that's what I did! Sometimes you just need to do what the soul needs. It wasn't fast and it wasn't pretty, but it kept me warm on a dull and chilly day. And more importantly it cleared my mind.

The next morning I drove to Medway for the Chatham Maritime 10k. From the races I've done so far, I can only assume that there are two ways the bib numbers are allocated - the order you sign up or by order of surname. When it's by order of surname, I inevitably get number 1. Don't get me wrong, I love this. It gives me an excuse to sing Chesney Hawkes! But I lost count of the amount of comments I got in the end. Here is a small selection...

"Oh, you've got a good number there."
"How much did you have to pay for that one?"
"It doesn't matter if you come last, you'll always be number 1."

After a slippery start, I got into my groove and enjoyed the scenery around the marina and St. Mary's Island. I was very quickly joined by the lovely Emma who was tail-running. Once again I was at the back, but I didn't care because I was doing yet another 10k in beautiful surroundings. Emma was wonderful company, talking the whole time so I didn't have to master the act of conversation while running.
 
I've decided I really don't like laps. At first I kinda thought that two laps was OK, because when you start the second lap you already know what's coming, which does help. But having done four 10k races now, my favourite was definitely the one that consisted of a single lap. I don't think that's a coincidence!

After the race, I was a little disappointed that I got a time of 01:30:20 as I was really hoping to continue with a sub 01:30 streak. However I have since found that was the gun time and my chip time was actually 01:29:53. Cutting it fine, but get in!

A week later I was doing something completely different and driving to the beautiful Kingdom in the Kent countryside for #AREWEOKUK's first ever Escapes day. I met Dan Keeley through work and when he told me about his mission, I knew I wanted to get involved.
Most people will know I am a big advocate of speaking up about how you feel. I'll admit it's not always easy to do, but we ignore our mental health so much more than we do our physical health and we need to look after both for our all round wellbeing.

The day was billed as a mental health escape, offering the chance to breathe and connect in nature, with guest speakers and the opportunity to experience 1:1 life coaching. Before the main part of the day kicked off, attendees also had the chance to take part in a mindfulness and breathing session or a trail-running and talking loop of the beautiful surroundings.

The whole day was amazing and, for me, the most powerful parts of the day were listening to anyone who was brave enough to share their story. Suffering isn't a one size fits all deal and hearing what these speakers had to say is a reminder that you never know what battle someone may be fighting.

I didn't take any photos on the day, but you can find a great selection here, as well as a short video. You can also find out more about the work that #AREWEOKUK does.

One fitness challenge wasn't enough fo me this month, so Easter Saturday saw me driving to Windsor to take part in my second Easter Walk. A 25km loop around Windsor and the surrounding areas.

Last year I did the same walk in preparation for the London 2 Brighton Challenge and the majority of the route was a chuffing quagmire of doom and despair. The only reason I completed it was because I'd done a training walk a few weeks before and had the sense to take my trekking poles which helped me wade through the mud.

This year couldn't have been more different. Brilliant sunshine and temperatures in the high 20s. A lot of people showed concern about walking the distance in the heat, but I was . grateful.

Last year I did all my training in the cold, wind and rain, but when the end of May arrived, so did he heatwave. I ended up dropping out at 25km, feet and legs fine, but my head thumping and feeling sick.
 
I made a decision from the beginning that I would not push myself to finish in a particular time. Last year I kept my head down and got the job done. This time I would sit down if I wanted to and take in the views while tucking into some fresh, homemade banana and choc chip loaf.

Best decision ever! The first half of the route took us along the river and with the fantastic weather came everyone out on their boats. I particularly liked one called Viva E'Spaniel. Whoever came up with that is a genius!
 
After the rest stop, I knew the hard bit was coming. The field at Runnymede may not have been a swamp this time round, but Cooper's Hill was still an absolute arse. I think anyone who was wearing a fitness tracker during the walk reached maximum heart rate at that point!

Once I reached Windsor Great Park, I knew I was nearly there. I saw a couple just leaving a bench and so I walked over to take their spot. Not only was there a wonderfully cool breeze, but there was also a great view of the castle. Considering I didn't have much further to go, it did still seem rather far away, but they don't call it the Long Walk for noting!
  
I completed the walk,  but more importantly I enjoyed it! I survived walking in the heat and I am now feeling more optimistic about the big 44km one at the end of the month. I am doing this challenge to raise as much money as I can for the Alzheimer's Society, but I still want to enjoy the experience as much as I can.

Last week saw me going to the cinema... a lot!

During April I have spent most of my downtime rewatching all of the MCU films in order in preparation for the release of Avengers: Endgame. Once I had finished going through my collection at home, I was pleased to see that Captain Marvel was still at my local cinema so I booked a last minute ticket and went along. Just as epic as the first two times I saw it, but not as epic as Avengers: Endgame...

Weeks ago I was entrusted with a special mission - to get tickets for my Marvel-loving colleagues and me for the opening night at the ODEON BFI IMAX. Of course the tickets went on sale when everyone else was in a meeting so I couldn't confirm with them and they sold out with the snap of an Infinity Gauntlet!

I would not give up though. The next day I checked to see if there were any tickets at Leicester Square and lo and behold I found two rows of three seats grouped together. 

So just before 8pm on Thursday 25th April, the Animas Avengers came together to experience the end of an era together. The excitement began before the film when we found that we had each been a Marvel action figure. Cue lots of, "Someone swap their Nick Fury with me - I don't want Captain Marvel." And, "You're not having my Captain Marvel - Look, she's holding Goose!"
  
I can honestly say I have never been in a cinema with so much audience participation before! The atmosphere was electric and together we laughed, cried, clapped and cheered! No spoilers here, but I was transfixed during the whole film. It didn't feel like three hours at all and, although it had as much going on as Infinity War, it felt so much slicker. It was most definitely a very worthy ending to these films that have been a big part of my life for the last 11 years.

I also wanted to shout out to my fellow Animas Avengers. I am renowned for going to the cinema on my own. You don't go to the cinema to chat and I just want to be able to enjoy the film without having to be sociable. I know, I must be a delight to be friends with. Having said that, it was such an honour to share this experience with these wonderful creatures. I love them all 3000!

I went to see it again the next evening - not a peep out of anyone. No clapping. Not even at that moment. You know the one. Peasants!

April ended on a high after the mixed emotions that Endgame brought. On Tuesday Mum and I went to see Michael Ball at the London Palladium. She has adored him for YEARS, but this is the first time she's seen him live. 

While I wouldn't go out of my way to see him in concert, I have to say that it was an amazing show and couldn't resist from getting up and dancing to 'You Can't Stop The Beat' from Hairspray. He saved the best until (nearly) last though when he came back on at the end to sing 'Love Changes Everything'. It's Mum's fave, but chokes me up every time I hear it.

Now April is over and all I keep wondering for the month ahead is, how many times can I watch Endgame at the cinema before it becomes too many?
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Marvel-lous March

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As I sit here watching Deadpool 2, singing along to Dolly Parton and counting Avengers references, while eating a Terry's Chocolate Orange, I realise it is once again time to reflect on another month. Spring has arrived and we are already a quarter of the way through 2019. How is that possible?!

Following our Marvel outing in February, March started as it meant to go on with much geek-filled wonderment.

On the first Saturday of the month, I boarded a coach with 30+ excited Guides to go to the Making of Harry Potter at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in Leavesden.

The last time I went was the 5th May 2012. I know this because when we finished the tour, we had a message from my brother to say that my nephew had arrived safely into the world. It was a wonderful day all round! It had only been open for a couple of months when I last went, so I was excited to see what else had been added, particularly the Hogwarts Express!
 
It certainly didn't disappoint. I forgot just how amazing the tour is and not just because I'm a huge Potterhead. If you are a film lover and have an appreciation for everything from costume and set design, to the detail that goes into props and the animatronics, then you will love this tour. The magic isn't spoilt in the slightest - if anything, it feels even more magical seeing the heart and soul that was poured into bringing the books to the big screen.

One of the highlights for me was having my very first Butterbeer! I was warned that it would be very sweet and so I was worried I might not like it, but I'm pleased to say I enjoyed it immensely. Definitely one to be kept for special occasions though!
As much as I loved immersing myself in this magical world once more, it is difficult to be fully present in its wonder when you are mentally counting small people dressed in blue to make sure that you haven't lost any.

I will definitely be going back later this year (preferably on a weekday during term time) so that I can fully appreciate the experience. Plus Gringotts is opening next month so I have to go again... right?

The end of the first week of March brought two very special events that I was equally excited about for very different reasons.

Friday 8th March, aka International Women's Day, was the release date for The Woman I'm Becoming. This book is a collaboration between 21 women who all wrote a chapter on a topic around advice they wish they had been given as a teenager.

With chapters covering everything from self-identity and bereavement to hormones and finance, this book is a must for every teenager in today's society. I, for one, wish I'd had a book like this when I was younger and my mum even said the same. This book may be aimed at teenagers, but it has something for everyone and should be on a shelf in every home.
My dear friend, Carol-Ann Reid, wrote a chapter on "Awakening the Warrior Within" so, of course, I was on hand the morning of the launch encouraging everyone to buy a copy on Kindle. I am so proud to say that within hours it had become an Amazon No. 1 Bestseller. Here's to many more bestsellers, Carol-Ann!

International Women's Day also saw the release of Captain Marvel. Of course I had a ticket to see it opening night, and while I was at my usual level of stupidly excited, I have to admit I didn't really know what to expect.
Image result for captain marvel
Despite being a HUGE fan of the films, I have never read a single comic in my life (apart from Rainbow, but I don't think that really counts) so I didn't really have an idea of what to expect. I knew that Brie Larson was getting a lot of hate in the press and on social media, but didn't really know why. I also knew it was set in the 90s and to be fair that was probably enough for me to go into the screening with a positive bias towards what I was about to see.

First of all can I just say that being the first film since the passing of Stan Lee... well played Marvel. Well played! Don't think there was a dry eye in the house during the opening montage and that cameo was just heart-warming. The fact they extended the scene using footage where Brie broke character. MY HEART BROKE! Perfection!

Overall I really enjoyed the film. I'm sure that fans of the original comics have some valid points to make, but as someone who went along to the cinema on a Friday evening looking for a way to escape the working week... a solid 8.5/10 from me!

The chemistry between Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson was fun and natural, the 90s references and music were a nostalgic dream come true and Goose, quite rightfully, stole the show! I've been playing No Doubt and Nirvana constantly since watching it, along with any other 90s tunes that Spotify decided fit the bill, and the only reason it didn't get a 10 was the severe lack of Chris Evans. But what can you do? I've got to get use to him not being in the films after April. OK, I think I just need to take a minute...
Image result for captain america salute gif
So yes, LOVED Captain Marvel. So much so that I've seen it twice so far. In fact I wrote a very impassioned post about all the hate that seems to be targeted towards Brie Larson which you can read here. Beware - it does contain a lot of spoilers, but the film has been out for three weeks now so that's on you.

I also bought a Captain Marvel bag. A bag for kids. From the Disney Store. I don't even care. It's lush! I'm totally one of the cool kids... 
I really didn't give myself a chance to slow down this month. Last year when I did my coaching training, I made a friend for life in Kate, but since the end of the course we haven't had many chances to meet up. After a lot of messaging backwards and forward, we finally fixed a date to meet up.

Kate was coming to me, which is quite a distance, so I felt it was only fair that she got to say what we did for the day. "What did she choose for the most blustery day of the year?" I hear you ask.

The beach. She wanted to go to the beach.

So off we went to the beach for a battered sausage and chips, hot donuts and a stroll through Hastings Old Town. It was cold, wet and very windy (the kind of wind that makes your forehead hurt!), but we had a lovely day and we're already making plans for sunnier times.
The next day I went round to Sarah and Tom's and together we set off (with little Gracie) to Hampshire for a catch up with some of our oldest besties - a mix of school and uni friends.

We left school 17 years ago (DAMN!) and uni 13 years ago, but we're all still great friends - even if we don't get to see as much of each other as we'd like. They are the kind of friendships where months, even years, can pass by, but when you all get together everything just clicks back into place and you pick up where you left off.

Thanks to WhatsApp we regularly have a laugh and check in with each other, but occasions like this where we are able to get the majority of us in a room at the same time are few and far between and deserved to be treasured.

At the end of the afternoon, we took a photo and it so strongly reminded me of one that we took during our last week at uni. Some of the faces are no longer there, some new ones have come along and some couldn't be there although they wanted to. 
 
And then there's the next generation. So far between us we have enough to relaunch S Club 7, but I have no doubt there will be more in the future. Oh, just look at them. They are all so lush! I want one!
In some ways March seemed to pass so quickly, but in other's it seemed to last forever and I think that was mainly due to the fact that it has had five weekends. I think we can safely say that so far I have been living 2019 to the full and I've seized hold of every opportunity that has comes my way. In fact there have been times where I've had to say no to something I really wanted to do because it was on the same day as something else.

Last weekend I drove up north again for a double whammy of awesomeness!

On Saturday 23rd March, Carol-Ann held a book launch event for The Woman I'm Becoming so I went along for an afternoon of prosecco (or in my case, cider), cake and lots of photographs in the cool hanging basket chair!
    
The Kindle edition may have been released two weeks previously, but I was so excited to get the paperback in my hands. eBooks are convenient and save space, but there's nothing like flicking through a book!

That evening I got a takeaway, climbed into bed and watched Captain America (is it just me or is that film always on TV?!) in order to prep for my mission the next day... a sub 1:30 in the Wilmslow 10k.
 
Much like Heaton Park back in January, it was an opportunity to meet up with friends that I usually only get to chat to online. Katie wasn't able to make it this time, but I was blessed to have Carol-Ann by my side the whole way round.

The route was beautiful, starting off in the town centre and then turning into quieter, country lanes. The sun was in the sky, but it was cool and even the smell of manure couldn't stop me from enjoying the atmosphere.

Carol-Ann ran with ease, even having a casual phone call with her mum at 7km (not bad for someone who's never run further than 6km), and reckoned we would complete the race in 1:24. I laughed. Well, I tried to laugh. I was too out of breath if I'm being honest. 

One of the highlights for me was probably running up the hill. I didn't think I had it in me to run up the only hill on the route (granted it wasn't a Heaton Park hill, but still). I was flagging so Carol-Ann suggested I image something nice waiting for me at the top. Say no more. I shouted out, "Chris Evans - Captain America, not the ginger one," and propelled myself up the incline. It worked, but I'm disappointed that he didn't appear a la Ryan Phillippe at the top of the escalator in Cruel Intentions.

As the finish line came into view, so did the spectators and I suddenly heard, "One last push for Alzheimer's!" Hey random lady - don't make me cry with 100m to go! Seriously though, you think you have nothing left and a comment like that will help you to find it!
 
We finished at 1:24:55. I'd like to say I hate it when Carol-Ann's right, but I was super stoked and when I text Katie she replied saying that she had intended to get me around the course in 1:24 so it was clearly meant to be. And now I have a new PB to uphold. Man, oh man!

Thank you to all the volunteers who made the day possible, to the Beavers, Cubs and Scouts working the water station and to the little girl who was handing out Jelly Babies at the 8km mark. She's my hero! And a big congratulations to everyone who took part, especially my friends, whether they were doing 10k or the half marathon.
 
The month ended in the best possible way as we joined together to celebrate the wedding of Vicky and Chris. The ceremony was beautiful and as we left the church, the sun shone and a butterfly, an actual butterfly, flew down and landed on Vicky shoulder then moved to her bouquet - picture perfect!

The reception was equally amazing. I love a theme and this wedding had, not one, but two!

Vicky loves Harry Potter, potentially more than I do, so it was inevitable that the tables would be named after Harry Potter locations. I was on the table named after The Leaky Cauldron. Still not sure whether I should be amused or offended, but I'm going with amused.

What I absolutely adored though were the favours. We were each presented with a Guide-Scout hybrid neckerchief tied with a friendship knot. That will mean nothing to some of you so please let me explain.
 
When Guides and Scouts go on international trips, they wear neckerchiefs to help identify each other. Guides wear the red with navy and white borders and Scouts wear the navy with white and red borders. Traditionally your necker would be tied by a friend using a friendship knot, and so you should never untie that knot in case it "undoes" the friendship.

The story of how Vicky and Chris met on an international trip was shared and what started as a lovely gift to their guests became even more meaningful and something I will cherish forever. I can honestly say I've never been to a wedding where the guests were all dressed up to the nines while wearing neckers, but it was great to see everyone joining in.

And so that is March over. Today has been a quiet one, dropping Mum off at my dad and step-mum's for her holiday, having lunch with my friend and her gorgeous munchkins and a spot of shopping at Bluewater. Tomorrow I will post this and start looking forward to the month ahead, one that I'm sure will be filled with even more stories to tell.
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Frenzied February

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How is it possible that January lasted about three months and February only felt like three days?! Jodie Whittaker, stop messing with the space-time continuum!

The best day of February (and possibly of the year - it's going to be a hard one to beat) was our Animas team outing to the Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. - that's Science Training and Tactical Intelligence Operative Network for those not in the know!
  
If you've been thinking about going along then don't delay any longer - it is AMAZING! Especially if you're going during the week in term time and it's EMPTY! We literally had the run of the place and we definitely made the most of it.
One of the advantages of having the place to ourselves was that we could all have several attempts at the Hulkbuster game. We may have got a little competitive with the scores, but Laure proved her love for Iron Man with an epic Ultron hit count of 79!

One of my favourite parts was Bruce Banner's lab. One of the staff must have had a sixth sense, or I might have been silently shaking with excitement, because he asked if the Hulk was my favourite character. I proudly whipped my mini Hulk mascot out of my bag while neither confirming nor denying.
  
Without a doubt my absolute favourite part of the exhibition was sitting on the actual bike that Captain America sat on. My backside has been on the same seat as Chris Evans. Stan Lee also owned it before donating it to the exhibition so he probably sat on it too. I mean, wouldn't you if you owned it?!
I reluctantly got off the bike and we wandered around the rest of the exhibition where we tried to lift Mjolnir, followed Hank Pym's ants, explored Wakandan technology and tested our reflexes against some of Marvel's dangerous villains.

Of course no trip to an exhibition would be complete without a trip to the gift shop, so picked up a Baby Groot Bobblehead and Deadpool t-shirt which I've practically lived in since. I should probably wash it really...

Seriously though. BEST. DAY. EVER!

February also brought my dear friend Carol-Ann down south for her first talk in London - Mental Fitness: The Key to a New Mindset. I've seen Carol-Ann do her thing at various events in the past and watched snippets of talks that she has done at The Elite Network, but this was the first time I'd seen her do a whole talk so I was really excited and proud!
 
I've been a member of her group The BAGEL Club since it launched in January 2018 and hearing her talk about how taking five simple steps each morning can boost your mental and physical health reminded just how far I have come over the past year or so.

What are these magic five steps I hear you ask? Well, they are to take five deep BREATHS, choose an empowering AFFIRMATION, list everything your are GRATEFUL for, EXERCISE for at least 20 minutes and go up to a mirror, look yourself in the eye and say how much you LOVE YOURSELF. 

Carol-Ann goes live at 7am every Monday, Wednesday and Friday so if you want to welcome this morning routine into your life and have some accountability then let me know and I can give you the details of how to join. 

February, of course, brings the joyous occasion that is Valentine's Day. (*rolls eyes so far back that there is a momentary fear that they may detach*) 

I've never been a big fan of Valentine's Day. I guess like the sentiment behind it, but I think it's become too commercial and lost its meaning (yes, I know this is coming from the woman who would have two months of Christmas if she could!) I just think that when you are in a relationship, anniversaries mean more than a random day in February.

However I was introduced to "Galentine's Day" this year which, I have to say, I rather like the idea of - celebrating the awesome friendships in your life! I was surprised to receive this lovely card from one of my running friends and a few little gifts from another running friend, including this Captain America keyring which has become my talisman when I run. It's just confirmed to me that runners are the loveliest people and that unexpected mail can brighten the dullest of days!
 
If you thought you were going to get through this blog without something running related then... sorry!

February saw me attend parkrun for the first time since New Year's Day, not once, but twice. And both times I managed to get a new PB. GET IN!!! Work, guiding and various other things that bring joy to my life prevent me from attending parkrun as much I would like to, but that just means I enjoy them even more when I do get to go.

The last weekend of the month brought my second 10k of 2019. Having weighed up the pros and cons of public transport vs driving, I got up early on the Saturday morning, donned my running gear (including my new Alzheimer's Society running vest) and jumped in the car for a very low-visibility road trip to Richmond.

When I got there is was about 6℃ and so foggy that I was worried that a herd of deer would charge at me and I wouldn't see them until it was too late. Luckily no such thing happened. In fact just 3km into the race, the fog cleared and the temperature jumped to about 18℃, effectively destroying my dreams of a sub 1:30 10k and PB!
As I finished my first lap, I ditched my hoodie and soaked up the vitamin D. When I saw the photographer, my initial instinct was to keep my head down and shuffle past him, but then I heard my friend Katie's voice in my head saying, "Head up, tits out and SMILE!" So that's exactly what I did.
Not far into my second lap I was joined by a very friendly paramedic on a bike (I'm terrible - I didn't even get his name!) who informed me that he'd be keeping me company the rest of the way. I was officially the slowest on the course! Oh well, someone has to be so it might as well be me! I finished at a very respectable 1:32:26 and was immediately told off for apologising that I'd kept everyone waiting. When I looked up the results later that day I found I was only 6 minutes behind the person before me. That may be a long time in the running game, but not for me.
Weirdly I don't think my main memory of that day will be from the race itself. It will definitely be my drive home wearing sunglasses with the window down and playing Mr Brightside while driving through London. It was like a beautiful summer's day! On reflection it's rather scary to consider the implications of what that weather in February might mean, but at the same time, I can't deny that I loved the warmth of the sun on my skin.

And here we are at the end of the month ready to spring into March (did you see what I did there?). Just scanning through my calendar I can already tell that it's going to pass by in a blur of outings, catching up with friends, talks, a wedding and, of course, more running. I hope you'll join me for another round-up, but in the meantime here's to another fantabulous month! 
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Jubilant January

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Last year I said I would blog more regularly. I blogged once. ONCE!

This year I vow to do better. In fact I hereby pledge that I will write a minimum of 12 blog posts. One for each month of the year. If I write more then that's marvellous, but 12 is an achievable target I feel. Although I'm already regretting the alliterative vibe I've decide to go with for the titles. We'll see how long that lasts!

And so onto my round-up of everything that January had to offer...

January is a weird one, isn't it? It seems to go on and on and on, seemingly forever. Yet it only finished last week and already feels an age away.

I spent New Year's Eve curled up on the sofa under my blanket, coughing my lungs up. I started feeling ill on Friday 21 December. I remember because I started to get that little tickle in my throat about an hour before I finished work for the festive period. The Law of Sod does not take a holiday! I still have that cough today as I type. It's gradually going. It will disappear for a few days, maybe even a week, and then it will reappear as if to say, "Surprise! Like I would leave you. You're my favourite!" It's been around so long that I'm starting to think it needs a name. Sheldon could work. It's as annoying as him!

Anyway, I digress... I don't know what time I decided I was going to bed on New Year's Eve but whenever it was, there was definitely an audible sigh of relief from my mum who was also flagging. So at the stroke of midnight I can safely say we were both in bed sound asleep. Happy New Year!

The extra sleep served me well as I rose on New Year's Day, wide awake and ready to take on Bromley parkrun. Good thing too as I'd agreed to meet my friend Claire there, so I couldn't back out. It was slow and it was by no means pretty, but I ditched the Couch to 5k app and had one of my best runs yet. I really fricking enjoyed it! I think the pre-run agreement to go for cake afterwards probably helped, but still... I enjoyed a run!
 
Doing parkrun on New Year's Day kind of has that ring of New Year's Resolution reverberating around it. Like if you do the first parkrun of the year, you'll do them all. Lucky for me that I don't make New Year's Resolutions anymore because not only have I not managed to do every parkrun this year so far, but I haven't done any additional ones yet. Maybe this weekend...

However I have achieved a couple of running firsts for me. One of my goals - not resolutions, goals - of 2019 was to run a 10k. I decided to aim for the Petts Wood 10k in the autumn. Plenty of time to work up to it so I could complete it in a respectable time without dying!

Less than a week into the New Year and my friend Claire (a different Claire to parkrun Claire - lesson is don't become friends with people called Claire or you'll start getting fit and shit) posted this in a running group on Facebook:

Anyone doing this? There’s a 5k, 10k and Half Marathon. Location - Manchester. I’m doing the half.

Well, what's a girl to do when she finally has the chance to meet up with a groups of friends that she has only, until this point, known virtually? I could have gone for the 5k, but that's a long way to go for equivalent of a parkrun. So I signed up for the 10k! I still couldn't run parkrun continuously and yet here I was signing up for twice the distance. Yes, I am fully aware that I am stark raving bonkers!

I had given myself just three weeks to get 10k ready. Two days later I went along to Petts Wood Runners' training evening and tagged along with the slowest group. Bloody loved it, didn't I! Actually, loving it might be taking it a bit far, but I did really enjoy it and it was cool to be in a small group of runners who were all of a similar ability to me as opposed to parkrun where literally everyone overtakes me.

10k training was rudely interrupted the week before the race as I had the London Winter Walk to contend with - my first official training walk of the year for the upcoming London 2 Brighton Challenge. I can still remember how much my feet hurt from wearing my walking boots last year so I decided to ditch them and wear my new running trainers instead. (Side note: if you run or walk regularly, go and get your gait anaylsed - best thing you will ever do!)
 
I made it to the rest stop with no issues (already an improvement on last year) and only started to feel it in my back during the last 5km. It helped massively that at the rest stop I bumped into the lovely Julie who had kindly given me a lift to the event. We walked the second half together and even in the silence as we concentrated through the aches, we found company in each other.

Once we made it across the finish line I had the obligatory photo with Dave, biggest talker of shit for the longest time possible (that is his official title) and I finally got the chance to have a photo taken with Chloe and Francesca who rescued me when I dropped out of the London 2 Brighton Challenge last year. 
 
So for those of you not in the know, I completed the London 2 Brighton Quarter Challenge in aid of Mind last year. After dropping out due to the heat, I decided that I still wanted to walk 100km for charity, but it might be more sensible to do it over several challenges. With that in mind I did the Halloween Walk back in October and will doing the Easter Walk and London 2 Brighton Second Half Challenge in addition to the Winter Walk. I plan to raise £1,000 for the Alzheimer's Society so if you have a couple of quid going spare, you can sponsor me here.

But back to January...

Once I'd walked 20km for the Winter Walk, running 10km (even at a snail's pace) seemed quite achievable. I drove up to Katie's on the Friday evening and we watched Venom (how have I only just seen this film?!), then spent a lovely Saturday morning walking around Sherwood Pines and munching on McDonald's before driving to Manchester for my first proper race ever (insert screaming face emoji here). We then had a lovely evening carb-loading before trying to get some sleep.

The day of my first race and my first 10k soon arrived and we made our way to Heaton Park. Now I should point out that it was only after signing up that I noticed that it described the course as "undulating". This is race organiser speak for f***ing hilly! And boy was it hilly. And cold. And windy. Oh. My. God. THE WIND!!!
  
But I did it. I was slow and swore at Katie the whole way (she says I didn't, so it must have just been in my head), but I BLOODY DID IT! Before the event Katie said we'd aim for finishing in 1:30 and we did it in... drum roll please... 1:31:32. Not bad for a lazy cow who did minimal training and insisted on walking part of the most evil hill out of the three big ones we encountered! For me the best bit of the day wasn't crossing the finish line having run 95% of a 10k race - it was meeting these awesome people. I loved meeting them so much that I've signed up for another 10k in Wilmslow at the end of March!

OK, so it appears that this blog has turned into more of a sports round up than anything else, but I promise you I do have a life outside of walking and running. In other news, here's what I did in January...

The first thing of note that happened in the early part of this year is that we now have a driveway where the front garden used to be. On Wednesday 2 January, my mum noticed that no. 60 were having their driveway done. By Friday ours was finished! As you can probably tell, when my mum has her heart set on something, she doesn't hang around. Cue a couple of days of chaos and a solid hour of thinking the front of the house was going to cave in while the garden was being dug up. I have to say it looks very nice and it does mean no more gardening so, yay!

While people were still wandering around wishing everyone they encountered a "Happy New Year," I delivered my first Girlguiding training of 2019 to the leaders of Swanley District. I've been out of touch training wise the past couple of years. I was feeling anxious at the thought of doing them and that resulted in me not putting myself forward for any that came up. When the new programme was announced last summer, it gave me a kick up the arse and I realised I missed it. 2019 will see me doing more training. It's time to stoke the fire!

Then there was my mum's birthday. After last year's epic surprise party where I somehow managed to get 60 of her family and friends into a room without her suspecting, I promised her no more surprises. I even wrote it in her card - "No surprises this year!" That might be why when we walked into The Lion that evening she didn't notice my dad and step-mum sitting right in front of her. Sorry Mum, I just couldn't resist a teeny tiny surprise for you.

One surprise that we did pull off though were the leaving drinks for our Commander in Chief, Nick Bolton. Very soon he will heading off to live on a canal boat and travel around the UK so we decided to send him off in style by surprising him at a London wine bar one chilly mid-January night. Having only just started with the company it felt very strange to be saying "au revoir" to someone that I've only met a handful of times, but it was a lovely evening and I know we'll see him again soon.

I can't believe that I have now finished my second month working for Animas. December was a blur of training and Christmas parties and meeting new people. It was intense and it didn't help that I spent most of the month ill. But this month I am loving it. I have my routine and it just feels right. I wanted a job where I could work from home and do something that I love that aligns with my values and that's exactly what I have. I work with an amazing team and I am so confident that 2019 is going to be my best year yet!




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