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The Finish Line

Never mind the finish line, for a little while it seems as if Helen and I won’t even get to the start of the Llanelli Half Marathon! Roadworks in the town have brought traffic to a standstill. We can see Parc Y Scartlets, where the race begins, but no one’s going anywhere at the moment. Tom, who’s kindly taken on the role of driver and team support, patiently listens while Helen and I try to control our jitters by planning a pre-race strategy. We change into our race shirts (my running bra’s the size of a crop top - so why do I worry about possibly revealing it to other people sitting in their cars?), we drink our coffee, eat our snacks and - phew! - the traffic moves at last.

At the stadium, we charge to the loos for a pitstop but there’s another anxious moment when it seems as if all 2,000 runners are crowded on the stairs trying to avoid a sudden shower. Eventually, we make our way to the starting pen only to discover the start has been delayed by fifteen minutes! Aargh! It feels l…
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Return to the Forest

Four days before we are due to go on holiday with Lily, Rose and their families, my lovely Aunty Vera - Ma’s elder sister - dies. I’m absolutely hollowed by grief and a cumulative sense of loss. Another part of myself has drifted away; someone else who tucked me up when I was a little girl and kissed me goodnight has gone. ‘But, Mama,’ Rose reminds me, gently, ‘think of the new little ones coming along.’

Our holiday, it seems, has come at just the right time. Lily and Russ are on their knees from worrying about Bee and baby Iris who both suffer terribly with repeated ear infections and, in Bee’s case, severe hearing loss. They badly need some light relief. Fortunately, Rose, Si and little Joy are doing well, but all of us, once we arrive at our Forest Holiday location in the Forest of Dean, start to feel better.
It’s exactly a year since we were last here. We had such a magical time that we decided to return (no, I’m not on commission!). Last year, Joy was learning to walk, this year …

Breathing Space

Three-and-a-half-year old Bee is currently weighing up her career options and is torn between becoming a digger driver or a doctor. From the way she hurtles round the garden in her toy car, I’d say she needs to work on her driving skills, but she did receive a much-prized doctor’s kit for Christmas so I can confirm that she does very thorough examinations. She’s especially good at ears which is not surprising given that she’s on a long waiting list to have her adenoids removed and suffers with earache and hearing loss.

Shortly after my consultation with Bee, I take myself to my local GP because I’ve been laid low by the seasonal lurgy and a pain in my ribs which makes it hard to take deep breaths. It seems that I’ve coughed so much that I’ve damaged the intercostal muscles and the only cure is to take it easy for a while.

My first reaction is one of frustration; last year I ran 777 miles and my plan this year is to run 1000. With the Llanelli half marathon less than a month away, I’m …

The Beast in the Drive

How, I wonder, biting back the tears, did I let myself become so afraid? I’ve never enjoyed driving, but I used to drive my daughters to school, get myself to work, take my dad to the Royal Marsden and squeeze into some horribly tight spaces in the hospital car park. But in the last couple of years, a dislike of driving has become a full-blown phobia, one that’s made me feel horribly guilty every time I have to ask Tom to take me somewhere and something that’s made me terribly ashamed of myself.

We live in a remote spot which we love, but there’s one bus an hour to the nearest town and the nearest train station is 25 miles away… yet the more I told myself I had to beat my fear of driving, the worse it got. Until last week. ‘You’ll be fine,’ Tom assures me, having given me a refresher tour of various switches. ‘Take your time and go off when you’re ready.’ He heads back indoors and I take some deep breaths and repeat my new mantra, I am a calm, confident driver… and then I’m off. I hon…

Autumn Reflections

Ten years on from running my first Cardiff Half Marathon, race day dawns. It’s still dark as we leave the house to make the two hour drive and it’s bitterly cold. Eventually, pink light tinges the sky, glinting on the frost in the frozen fields but there’s very little wind which suggests perfect racing conditions.

In Cardiff, I kiss Tom goodbye and make my way through the chilly streets where I pass a very well wrapped up Gaby Logan talking to a camera. She’s teeny-tiny, very glam and rather spray-tanned whereas I’m wearing a manky old jumper over my running kit and my white legs are covered in goosebumps! Soon, I’m in my running pen enjoying the camaraderie as we wait for our start. An announcer begins to introduce runners and some wag observes that it’s going to be a long wait if all 25,000 of us are going to be named. And then, we’re off and the 13.1 mile journey begins. My first six miles go really well; the crowds here are always wonderful and I’m buoyed up by the prospect of see…

No One Comes Last

In what feels, at times, like an increasingly troubled and divided world, discovering parkrun has been an utter joy. Although these free, weekly, timed 5k runs - organised entirely by volunteers - have formed an integral part of my half marathon training, I’m no different to anyone taking part for the first time because everyone runs or walks at their own pace. As the event director said at Banstead Woods parkrun, where I was a visitor recently, ‘No one comes last because there’s always a tail walker.’

I’ve always found the running community to be friendly and supportive, but the atmosphere at parkrun is especially uplifting and encouraging. Llanerchaeron, our ‘local’ parkrun (some 15 miles away) attracts participants of all ages from the over fours to the over seventy-fives and everyone is warmly applauded as they cross the finish line. Of course, I always hope to shave a few seconds off my time and achieve a new personal best, but it’s the kindness of the parkrun community, the wor…

Ages of Discovery

I’m walking round our sprawling garden with my daughter Lily talking about our plans for the future when suddenly I find myself falling, falling into goodness knows where. When - covered in grass cuttings and soaking wet - I pick myself up, I’m hooting with laughter but poor Lily’s face is etched with concern. Have I reached the age when I ‘have falls’? On a personal level, I’ve had a pretty rubbish time of it lately with a couple of old health problems coming back to bite me and wretched nights of broken sleep with raging hot flushes (thanks, I’ve exhausted the ‘cures’ but I’m still in danger of spontaneously combusting several times each night). This time, luckily, it’s not my body letting me down but an enormous burrow, partly hidden by vegetation. Bee, our granddaughter, who is also staying with us, goes out with her daddy and grandad to inspect the hole. ‘It was bery deep,’ she confirms. ‘I throwed an apple down it.’ Comforting to know there’ll be something for me to eat if I …