Monday, 27 October 2014

Walking Pace

Traeth Bach
Eye worries apart, I decide I can’t sit around like Chicken Licken waiting for the sky to fall in so I take myself out for a run. It feels good, so good in fact that I discover when I check my watch that I’ve run my fastest 5k ever. 
Hmm, so much for taking it easy. 
But I also make time for plenty of reading; some new fiction and some old favourites too, like BB’s Little Grey Men and Down The Bright Stream, prescient depictions of a fragile English countryside irrevocably changed by human activity. Non-fiction draws me back to another comfort read, Roger Deakin’s Waterlog which is now on my Kindle so I can revisit the secret world of wild swimming whenever I like and his Wildwood which is a treat in store.

The weekend brings a visit from Rose and her husband Si so we decide to take a slow walk to the secret beach. Although the weather’s grey there’s a wealth of autumn colour along the way.

Mr & Mrs Fitz prepare for rain.
A precarious coastal path.

And an even more precarious descent!

But you do get the beach to yourself.

Well, almost!

All you have to do is climb back up.
Then it's a slow walk home for a well-deserved cup of tea and a big slice of home-made cake!

Monday, 20 October 2014

Flashing and Dashing

‘And this,’ the A&E doctor tells us showing us into a treatment room at the end of a corridor, ‘is also our ebola room!’ There’s comfort of a sort to be had in the fact that I’m not actually surrounded by staff in protective clothing, and also that I’ve been fast-tracked through casualty … although that in itself is rather worrying. I’ve had to seek emergency treatment for a flashing light show in my right eye which could be a posterior vitreous detachment – like the one I experienced in my left eye – or it might be the start of something more sinister like a retinal detachment and the only way to know is to seek expert medical help. Fast.

The ebola room, it turns out, usually serves as The Eye Room, and after a couple of basic eyes tests, further help is summoned. After a nervous wait, I’m thoroughly and efficiently examined by the on-call ophthalmologist who declares my eyes to be in surprisingly good shape for someone so short-sighted but to seek help immediately if the symptoms get worse … and breathe. Except, of course, I now have a few more anxious weeks hoping everything will settle down. I am, however, hugely grateful to the A&E staff at Aberystwyth's
 Bronglais General Hospital who showed me such kindness and dealt with me so efficiently.

With all the excitement of the Cardiff Half Marathon, Tom starting his PhD, my poor mother-in-law facing a round of medical treatment and a whole heap of Romantic Novelists’ Association committee work, we’ve barely stood still. And although I’m disinclined to agree with a couple of lay opinions that Too Much Running and Too Much Looking have contributed to my eye problems, I think I probably have been squeezing quarts of activity into a pint pot and it may well be time to take a bit of a rest.  On a more cheery note this arrived today – a very pretty sight for both my eyes!

The painting is Sea Monoprint by Tom Tomos.

Monday, 6 October 2014

What a Difference The 'Diff Made!

Medal and T-Shirt!
The last thing I do, before leaving the car to make my way to the start of the Cardiff Half Marathon, is to tell Tom that I love him. The horrific attack on ordinary people at the Boston Marathon in April 2013 has added an unspoken, ‘What if?’ to the pre-race nerves and the Cardiff Half Marathon is now the biggest half marathon in Britain after The Great North Run. It’s a chilly morning and the rain starts to fall as I walk to Cardiff Castle and find my timing pen. The atmosphere’s subdued; not quite so much of the banter which often marks the countdown to the start. I wrap my bin bag round my shoulders to keep warm and let go of all those nagging thoughts and fears leaving a clear calm space where I can focus on the race. A klaxon sounds but it’s almost six minutes before I cross the start line – and then we’re off!

The first mile’s over before I know it. I check my watch; 8.59. 8.59? My head tells me I’ve gone out too quickly, but my body feels fine. I settle in and just keep running, enjoying the rhythm of my own pace and enjoying being part of this colourful sea of runners where the waves eddy back and forth. At mile 4 we reach Penarth Marina then the Cardiff Barrage where crowds line the route, cheering and really raising the atmosphere. I’m so used to running alone in deserted country lanes that I rarely consider what a difference spectators can make. As the race winds up through the city, that crowd support sustains and energies my race; it’s exhilarating to see so many people clapping and cheering us on. There are snapshots in my mind that will stay with me; the little boy in the crowd on his dad’s shoulders, nearly asleep but still holding up his ‘Come on, Mummy’ sign, the elderly residents sat in chairs outside their care home waving at us, and a Muslim lady and her daughter offering water to the runners in plastic cups on a silver tray.

By mile 10, I know I’m going to finish the race and probably beat my best time … I’d love to come in at under 2 hours 10 minutes, but how much fuel have I got in the tank? At mile 11 I pick two good runners and try to shadow them picking up vital seconds despite a tricky hill. And then suddenly, I’m running for the finish line. The race clock reads 2:07:55 – I’ve beaten my 2hr 10min goal… but that includes the time elapsed waiting to get to the start so when my official chip time is confirmed at 2:02: 25 I’m absolutely over the moon!

But there was always more to this race than just running. This was my sixth half marathon, but my first for a charity, Pancreatic Cancer UK, the cause that’s so dear to my heart. I have to say I’m overwhelmed and incredibly touched by the support I’ve received not just from friends and family but from many strangers whose kindness often moved me to tears. Your stories of loved ones lost far too soon were with me and my thoughts of my dad as I ran. I’m immensely grateful to all of you whose generosity has enabled me to raise over £600 so far (my Just Giving page is still open here) for Pancreatic Cancer UK who do so much to help increase survival rates for this cruel disease. Many thanks to all of you.

Huge thanks, too, to the organisers and volunteers who made the Cardiff Half Marathon possible and to the spectators who came out in droves to create such an amazing atmosphere.

And finally my heartfelt thanks to my husband, Tom and to my family for their loving, loyal support which gave me wings to fly.

Shattered but happy!