The weekend of 5th, 6th and 7th September 2020 was the first Virtual Worcester City run.
Due to covid restrictions we couldn't all run together, but lots of us signed up anyway, as profits were going to the Grace Kelly Childhood Cancer Trust.
Events of the North organised it from a distance, and all we had to do was enter, download the app, run or walk the distance and then submit our proof.
We stayed in our normal groups and either did the 5k, or did a bit more and got up to 10k, a few hardy runners managed the half marathon!
There were some pretty pleased runners as you can see from their photos!
It was nice to feel that we had participated, but we can't wait till next year when we hope we can do it for real!
Keep running and walking, and keep safe!
Over on our FaceBook page we had a post this week about comparison, and it generated quite a discussion.
I've been mulling it over for a few days and thought I'd share my thoughts....
When I stared running I didn't have a running watch, I didn't even think that much about time, I did need to know how long I'd been running for as I was doing a version of couch to 5k, but that was it.
As I started to run more I became more interested in how long I'd been out running and I think I used a phone app to see how far I'd run, I then had to work out on a calculator how fast I'd run, I had no idea there were gadgets out there that would work that out for me!
As time went on I found out about GPS watches, and invested in one. Wow, I was hooked! I could see at a glance how far I'd run and how fast I was going, in the beginning that was really motivating, if I felt tired, I'd look at my watch and think, only half a mile and I'll have reached my target, so I'd push on..... Luckily I didn't injure myself doing that, but I have seen others do so, not wanting to stop until the watch shows the magic number can become a bit of on obsession.
I have used my watch to help me train for races and improve my times, and I really do like having that instant feedback with me but.....as the years went by I became more focused on that task master on my wrist, I'd catch myself thinking "last week I was 3 seconds faster at this point" and I would beat myself up for that perceived failure. Eventually I started to vary my routes more so that I couldn't do that en-route comparison as easily.
My comparison has always been with myself, about how I could have run those few seconds faster, gone those few 100 meters further, been more even with my splits......on and on that comparison goes, there was a time that I thought that I wasn't making any progress and felt like giving up!
Then along came the running community apps, yet more opportunities to compare myself to others. To be honest, by the time I got round to joining (I'm definitely not an early adopter!) I was much more comfortable with my own running and was more interested in other people's stats than comparing them with my own.
However I do notice others talking about how they compare themselves with others, feeling that they should be running further or faster or for longer, that so-and-so hasn't been running as long as me, but has improved quicker, that mega mileage is being done by running friends and that they can find the time to do it so why can't I....
Gadgets are great, I still love mine but I use it for my own benefit, my watch also counts steps and some days I love just saying "Yah-Boo" watch, I'm not going to do to target you've set me and I DON'T CARE!
In our groups we really try to embrace the health benefits of running and walking, rather than just looking at speed and distance. The improvements to our mental and physical being are huge, the social feeling is so important too.
All our groups are mixed ability which means we have some really quick runners alongside those at a more sedate pace, this might look a bit unusual to start with, but we know that for us it works. No one gets left behind and as all our paces vary slightly we don't really compare ourselves to each other on the run. I'm not saying we don't have some good natured competition, but at the heart of it we are all working as hard as we can, be that at 6 minutes a kilometer or 11, and we all respect the effort that each one of us is putting in.
Sometimes I think that I should leave my watch at home, that I shouldn't upload to that running community app, but you know what, I do like to see what I've done, I'm proud of every step I take and I'm proud of the steps that others take too!
So is Comparison the thief of Joy? Yes, I think it can be. Comparison with ourselves or with other can take away the Joy we feel in the pure energy of running, but only if we let it. X
For the last 5 weeks we have been running and walking as groups of 5 plus a leader, and it has been brilliant!
When the Government changed the regulations at the beginning of June, we were really excited and straight away we looked at how we could get back to social running. We looked at all the guidance available and put together a plan for us all to follow, to make sure we could meet again safely.
Our biggest priority is to keep everyone safe, so we keep a 2m distance when we walk, run and stretch, we arrive at our meeting places on time so we don’t have to wait around, if anyone feels unwell in any way we ask them to stay at home and we keep to quiet roads and paths to minimise our contact with other path users.
We were all really excited to get back together, we have all kept motivated in the virtual world, with our great “Challenge Tuesday” and we have had strength and conditioning and stretching classes live online, but there is nothing quite like being out in the fresh air together.
We were all a little apprehensive to begin with, after all this virus has not gone away! But we knew we needed to restore a little normality to our lives. Exercising outside is so important for both our physical and mental health, and we had all been missing it!
So, on Sunday 7th June we started back, to begin with we offered a few groups on different days, they were immediately oversubscribed so we slowly added more groups in to the mix and now have 15 going out each week. It’s great to be able to offer most people at least one group run a week.
We are so grateful to our leaders too, for taking out groups and keeping everyone safe.
We are already looking towards the future; we can’t wait for the time when we can restart our popular Couch to 5k groups and our longer distance runs. We will need to wait for further relaxation of the guidelines before we can plan these though.
For now we will keep on providing a great, fun, safe environment for our runners and walkers.
Keep safe everyone!
Marie and Rhiannon
Its been a little while since I’ve written a blog so I thought it was about time I put pen to paper!
I have absolutely loved being back at ‘work’ over the past few weeks and it’s been awesome seeing so many of you out with us.
Over the lockdown we have all had our own highs and lows, some of us have managed to get out training and some just haven’t and that’s completely ok.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed some of you have felt like you are failing, can’t keep up and just generally found running/walking hard.
Lots of you will have heard me and Marie talking about our heart rate and how important it is for good training results so thought it would be a perfect topic for my blog.
So lets talk about max heart rate and training zones, first of all we need to be able to determine our maximum heart rate.
There are several ways that we can do this and most of them involve a laboratory style assessment however we can all work out a rough estimate of our max HR by using a simple formula
220 – Your age
Although this is a very general calculation it will give us all a good base and from there, we can tweak the number to suit us.
So, I am 33 meaning my Max HR should be 220-33 = 187.
I would consider myself to be fit and I do regularly monitor my heart rate during my training and I know at my absolute maximum effort my heart rate will be around 191 so it’s a pretty good estimate.
Once we have worked out our maximum heartrate we can start to understand how it can affect how we feel during training and after.
When I am in my top zone (so in my top heart rate zone of 90-100% of my maximum), I can’t talk, thinking is hard and its not maintainable for a long period of time.
Whereas when I am in my 1st, 2nd or 3rd zone I can comfortably talk, I feel comfortable and relaxed and providing my legs will allow me I can keep on going.
My body utilises my energy stores effectively rather than using the most easily accessible sources which can leave you feeling exhausted.
Are you questioning what are these zones? Our heart rate zones are a reflection of the percentage of our max heart rate.
90-100% Max HR
Duration - Less than 5 minutes
Benefits – Increase maximum sprint race speed
Feels like – Very exhausting for breathing and muscles
Recommended for – Very fit people/ athletes
80-90% Max HR
Duration 2-10 minutes
Benefits – Increase max performance
Feels like – Muscle fatigue and heavy breathing
Recommended for – ‘Fit’ people and for short exercise
70-80% Max HR
Duration 10-40 minutes
Benefits – Improves aerobic fitness
Feels like – Light Muscular fatigue, easy breathing, moderate sweating
Recommended for – Everyone for typical, moderate long exercise
60-70% Max HR
Duration 40-80 minutes
Benefits – Improves basic endurance and helps recovery
Feels like – Comfortable, easy breathing, light sweating
50-60% Max HR
Duration 20-40 minutes
Benefits – Improve overall health, helps recovery
Feels like – Easy every day moving around
Recommended for – basic training and novice exercisers and active recovery
As you can see from the table it is important to make sure we aren’t pushing ourselves too hard because our heart will be in a zone that is not maintainable, and we will have to stop.
The longer we exercise the harder our heart will have to work to metabolise the energy we need to keep going.
A good training plan should be a mix of using zones 1-4. To improve our resting HR and Max HR we need to push ourselves into zone 4 but only for very short periods and certainly not during every run.
We must let our bodies recover in between sessions, by also training in zone 4, you will experience symptoms of exhaustion.
We should be looking to run at a comfortable chatting pace, this is a really good indicator that your heart is in the correct zone (zone 2-3). Your runs will become easier, your heart will thank you and so will your other muscles.
Realistically you only need to try and push into zone 4 for a few minutes once a week to increase your cardiovascular fitness and that can easily be done by a short burst that is relative to your level.
In summary – slower is better, your muscles will be receiving the oxygen and nutrients they need, they will be able to utilise your bodies energy in the most efficient way and most importantly you will be looking after your heart.
Please remember, no one is ever too slow for happy feet. Take your time, enjoy your run and we will always muster
As the weather starts to warm up there are a few practical things we can do.
Put on your sunscreen.
There are sunscreens specifically for runners and walkers that stay on sweaty skin. I use my ordinary factor 50 sunscreen as I know it suits my skin, but it does sting if it gets in my eyes! Don't forget to put it on your ears if they are exposed, they are a prime site for sun damage skin cancer.
Wear a cap / hat
It's a good idea to wear something on your head to protect your scalp and your eyes. It also helps to shade your face, you can get caps with neck covering too, great if you are on a longer trek.
I have very thick hair so I prefer a visor so that the heat dissipates but I still get the eye protection.
Prescription or ordinary sunglasses keep the glare off your eyes and help to protect them, it's worth investing in a pair if this is an issue for you.
Most of us wear moisture wicking clothing as it's comfortable, but it also does a really good job of moving the moisture away from your skin to the surface of the clothing to allow it to evaporate and help keep you cool. It is tempting to wear a vest top, but often a T-shirt is better if you are going to be out longer, to give more protection to your skin.
Remember to take water, or your preferred electrolyte drink with you, even on short runs and walks. It is really important to stay hydrated even on cooler days, making sure you regularly top up through the day is important too.
The first sign of dehydration is thirst, ideally you should be drinking regularly enough not to get to the point of feeling thirsty. Fatigue, dry eyes, dry mouth, cramps, headache and muscle spasms are also signs of more serious dehydration and it can ultimately can lead to heat exhaustion and possible hospitalisation or worse.
I can't stress enough how important it is to keep well hydrated, but don't over do it. This is a good article about dehydration
After you've been out you'll need to cool down, it is tempting to jump in to an ice cold shower, but the shock can be quite extreme, so go cool rather than icy! Having something cold to drink is also great, an ice lolly or a ice-pole are my favourite ways to reduce my temperature! Read more about cooling down here
Use the shade
If possible plan your sessions to make the most of the cooler times of day, or take the shady paths. Depending on the time of day, wooded areas can be a haven of cool, or can hold on to the daytime heat and feel stuffy. This will be trial and error, you know your local paths the best, so experiment and find your best "hot day" routes.
Does sweat drip into your eyes? A layer of Vaseline or similar put across your eyebrow line, starting on one side near to your ear and continuing across to the other ear will help direct sweat away from your eyes.
Dampen your cap and pop it in the freezer for a short time before you go out, it gives you a nice cool head to start with.
Take a light jacket for after your run in case you cool down too quickly once you stop.
Will the heat affect my times?
In brief, yes, it probably will!
Your body is having to work hard to cool you down, producing sweat and sending your blood to your skin to cool down.
Your muscles also need that blood for oxygen and energy, so your heart and lungs are working extra hard to do that too.
It takes around two weeks to get used to the heat. In this country we rarely have the time for our bodies to acclimatise as we have such a huge variance in our weather, hot one day, rain and a chilly wind the next! So be kind to your body, a heatwave is not the time to be trying to set any records.
Don't let the warm weather put you off going out, but be prepared. If it is going to be HOT and there are weather warnings about, why not wait for the temperature to drop a little.
At Happy Feet we do pay attention to the forecasts and will cancel groups if we feel it's going to be too hot.
Safety is paramount, and comfort too, we want to enjoy our running and walking and missing a session now and again is much better than struggling through and risking overheating!
Keep safe everone!
There is no doubt that Covid-19 has changed our lives.
There we were, pottering on, not really noticing the passing of the days, not really noticing how much freedom we had, then BAM! everything stopped.
Suddenly, many of us had time on our hands, it was a novelty, we painted fences, cut grass, weeded flowerbeds. For those of us who couldn't go to work it was quite nice, except we didn't have any of the freedom we'd taken for granted. That novelty soon started to wear off!
We were restricted to an hours exercise, and even those who'd never really thought about exercise before started to get out and walk or cycle or run. Some of us had to stay within the confines of our own homes as we had conditions that made us more vulnerable if we caught the virus.
Then there were the people who had to got to work, they had no choice but to brave the virus day after day, looking after those who were sick, caring for the vulnerable in their own homes, opening up the essential shops, clearing away our rubbish, keeping out streets safe, teaching the children of key workers, amongst many other jobs.
Working from home became to norm, some were trying to educate their children whilst taking conference calls, some were trying to move their businesses online to keep an income, to say it's been a challenge for most people is an understatement!
Sadly this virus has taken lives too, it has rampaged throughout the world, leaving heartache and devastation in it's wake.
But, the human spirit is strong, we have pulled together and we have shown how much we care about each other. We have volunteered, we have checked on our neighbours and some of us have met people in our streets that we didn't even know lived there!
At Happy Feet we have grown in to an even stronger community, we have offered each other support and motivation, we have checked up on those who have gone quiet and we have shared our highs and lows. We have celebrated milestones, Sharon's half marathon on her own, Pippa's 10k, Mary and Gill covering 67 miles each for their birthdays, Hollie's solo couch to 5k comeback....the list could go on and on.
We have discovered hidden talents too...who knew we had a brilliant ukulele player in our midst, Steve's songs have really cheered us up!
Challenge Tuesday has brought us all together on one day of the week to run, walk or cycle as far as we can as a team, knowing that we aren't alone has really helped. We haven't all been able to participate on a Tuesday for a variety of reasons, but the cheers form the sidelines really do help!
We have had quizzes and photo challenges, Caitlin and Mary have been instrumental in those, they are determined to keep our minds active too!
As the restrictions start to ease and we can begin to venture back out in to the world, I hope that all the positives that have come from this awful time will stay with us, that we continue to say hello to our neighbours and look out for each other, that we allow ourselves the time to appreciate what we have.
Keep active and keep safe everyone, we aren't out of the woods yet!
My Lockdown Couch to 5k
Hello everyone..me again!!
Some of you may not know me, my name is Hollie and I have been a member of this remarkable running club since April 2018.
I had regularly been running in the Monday & Thursday night beyond groups and have also done the 5-10k course, resulting in doing the Worcs City 10k in 2018, which remains one of the best days I’ve ever had.
I also did up to 15k of the 10k-HM course last year. This is still, and will always be, the furthest I have ever run!
My last run before lockdown was with HF on Halloween. Since then “life” got in the way of getting out running - the usual winter coughs & colds, Christmas & mainly being crazy busy at work. I work as a buyer at Webbs Garden Centre, so at certain times of the year I don’t know whether I’m coming or going with lots of travelling, visiting showrooms and trade shows and have order deadlines to hit.
All through my break my aim was always to get back out for a run with HF. Although I was still connected to the group via Karen & Sharon & the FB page, I missed seeing everyone in the groups and being out & about running around our lovely city of Worcester.
My running kit was always ready & waiting in my car all that time..ready for the evening I finished work on time or I had enough energy to go or it wasn’t raining!
The New Year arrived and it crossed my mind to start the HF Couch to 5k course..but stupidly for someone who wasn’t running I felt doing that would be a backward step..so I continued not running!!
Fast forward to March and Covid-19 arrived. I was furloughed from my busy job & as I am a creature of habit, who thrives on routine and having structure - I knew I would have to create a new timetable & set myself some new goals. If I didn’t do this I would eat to excess & gain weight, never leave my house apart from doing my horse and I would go just a little bit crazy!!
Now was my chance to finally get my new Christmas trainers on and start Couch to 5k. If I started now I would be back up and running 5k ready to go back to the HF groups when restrictions were lifted.
Just getting out through the door to run on my own for the first few weeks was going to be one of the biggest hurdles to overcome, so I had to commit to doing this and make myself accountable by telling people I was doing it, so I told Karen & Sharon and also Marie & Rhi.
I’d got a full card of running credits, so I committed to using two of these a week and would top up when I ran out.
I also asked a couple of friends to join me, I thought we could FaceTime each other before each run, run separately and then check in after running, but despite initially being keen when it got to the first run neither felt up for it..so I was on my own.
I’d never done C25k before, so to make sure I didn’t do too much (!) and get injured, I downloaded the NHS C25k app and selected Jo Whiley as my virtual coach. I also pulled together a running playlist to listen to.
I decided to start each running week on a Tuesday, to allow me to participate in the HF Challenge Chuesday, which would be another reason to get out through the door.
Weeks 1-4 went really well, made up of a series of walk-run intervals which built up the running time gradually and at the end of each session I was feeling like I could have done a bit more, which I took as a good sign. I guess I still had some residual fitness from previous running and from being active doing horsey stable work!
These early weeks allowed me to explore the area around where I live & discover a lot of lovely new places to walk & run that before Lockdown I didn’t know existed.
Thank you Lockdown!!
The 3rd run of week 5 was to run for 20mins, with no walk breaks...this was the first time I felt worried about not being able to complete a session. I’d not run for that long non-stop for a long time! I was also starting to get a bit deflated that the end of my runs were getting harder, mainly due to the fact that to get home I had to run uphill...the joys of living in beautiful Malvern!
But after some encouragement from Marie & Caitlin on Strava, on Sunday Runday l planned a route that would hopefully finish somewhere on the flat. I put on my HF t-shirt and while I was procrastinating on my couch I took a scroll through my Strava & looked at all the runs I’d previously done & reminded myself of what my legs & I had achieved before; 15k - my longest ever run, Race for Life, Worcester City run and a few other 10k’s..so running for 20mins should be fine, shouldn’t it?!
I did my HF stretches, fired up my playlist & off I went & loved it, the first run that I actually felt like I was a runner again!
When Jo told me I had “just” 5 mins left to run the song playing was Journey’s “Don’t stop believing” and it was just what I needed to hear. Then at 2 mins to go, when I was really struggling to keep the legs moving it was John Mellencamp & “Hurts so good”....Too true..push on through the pain!!
Music is a huge part of my life and there’s hardly a minute goes by that I don’t have the radio on and I have now realised the benefit of having it with me on my solo runs. Having a playlist that is far longer than I will ever run for means that if I play it on shuffle I don’t get used to which song is coming next, or how far through a run I am. It has helped me push through in the absence of friends to chat to to pass the time & take my mind off the fact that I’m running.
The trouble comes when I try to sing along..it interferes with the breathing a bit!!
Run 3 of Week 7 has to be my biggest achievement of the course. Not because of distance, pace, or conquering hills..but just due to the fact I actually got myself out through the door & ran! The Lockdown blues had finally got to me..it was a chilly day & I’d had one of those days where I’d spent most of the day under a blanket on the sofa. I couldn’t get warm no matter what I did, I’d eaten rubbish all day, but I knew I had to get out & run TODAY..I couldn’t put it off as this was run 3 of the week & it was Sunday.
I eventually got out from under my blanket, but it was all I could do to get changed into my running gear as I just could not stop shivering!! I so very nearly didn’t go.
But, I put my trainers on & did my warm-up (literally) stretches up & down my lounge & started to feel a bit better.
In went my earphones and I started my playlist. Now, the song that played as I stepped out of my door wouldn’t be an obvious choice to go on a running playlist, however at that moment it was just what I needed to hear..Céline Dion’s “I’m Alive”!!
I put one foot in front of the other & off I went. For the remainder of the session my playlist threw up some real gems & got me around..some Greatest Showman, some Witney & some Little Mix to name a few.
Week 7 - Done - Thank you for the Music.
Week 9 soon arrived..the final week!! According to the app by the end of this week I would be able to run 5k in 30mins..from previous experience and current performance this was rather ambitious! So I thought I’d follow the app for the first 2 runs and run for 30 mins, then for the final run I’d run for 5k, however long that took me!!
My planning hadn’t taken into account that my graduation run would be during the hottest week of the year so far (!) so I got up early to run early morning to beat the heat.
However, I had planned my route to make sure I had plenty of shade to run in, but of course, by switching from running in the evening to a morning run, the sun was in a different place and the shady places I was used to were now sunny places...Oops!
Apart from this my run went really well..I’d made a different playlist for graduation, featuring obviously the very best songs, the ones that always kept me going & inspired me, which as ever they did this time.
In the end I actually ran 5.5k as at the point my watch notified me that I’d completed the distance I also got a text message notification, so that cancelled out my distance alert, so I didn’t know how far I’d gone!!
I had planned my run to finish outside the playing fields of my old secondary school, in my own way a show of defiance to the PE teachers and athletic types who hadn’t encouraged or helped me and who had made me feel like running wasn’t for me all those many years ago.
When I finished I felt elated and although I’d run 5k & beyond before this meant so much to me in that I’d done it all myself, I’d kept to my schedule, I’d not missed a run or had to repeat any weeks. Even the fact that I’d had to walk out of my door in my running gear was a big deal to me & I’d done it. I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so committed & determined about completing anything before.
As I was so happy & ordinarily would celebrate C25k graduation with Happy Feet I thought I’d do a live FB post to the group to talk to somebody, about what I’d done.
Thanks to everyone who watched..apologies for the sweaty, red-faced, emotional mess!!
So now my C25k “journey” is over and the next challenge is to keep going out 3x a week without the driver of needing to complete the weekly runs to finish the program.
But the incentive to get back out with Happy Feet remains & Challenge Chuesday will still be my first run of the week.
Throughout Lockdown, Happy Feet has been a shining example of an organisation who genuinely cares for its members at such an uncertain and worrying time and I thank Marie & Rhi and all the members for being so supportive to everyone in the club, wether they are currently running, walking, cycling or even taking a break.
Thank you x
Happy Feet Blog – It’s All in the Mind! By Pippa
It’s no secret that I have struggled with running over the years. Well, when I say struggled with running, it’s really my mind that I have struggled with. You see, it keeps putting barriers in my way, which I have previously struggled to get over. But things are beginning to change….! and mostly thanks to my Happy Feet family!
I first joined Happy Feet in April 2016 when I did my first Couch to 5k course. After graduating from C25K in June 2016, I thought it would be a great idea to challenge myself with a distance – so I stupidly signed up for the Worcester City 10K! Well, I now know it was a stupid thing to do, but I get these wild ideas!
So, increasing the training, I began to feel it a little in my right knee, but just put it down to running further and aching! I need to listen to my body! I did run the 10k, in a respectable time of 1hr13 mins (what I wouldn’t give to be able to run it in that time now!), but sadly, I had hurt my knee and didn’t run again until January 2017. In truth, I have struggled to get back to running properly since then!
Happy Feet have always been there when I have struggled and as always, I have never been left behind! No one ever is! And that is what I love about the group! Everyone is included – even if I do run the speed of a tortoise!
As a lot of you know, in January 2018, my youngest, William (then 3) was diagnosed with Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM)
(https://www.encephalitis.info/acute-disseminated-encephalomyelitis-adem). It was a day I will never forget! When you are told that your normally vibrant and bonkers child could end up in a wheelchair for the rest of his life! It floored me and I spent 9 long days on Riverbank Ward with him! However, he has amazed us all and made a full recovery – well as normal as a 5-year-old can be! But this time led me to find the Encephalitis Society as a source of information and support. I wanted to give
something back! So, one of those lonely nights in hospital, I signed up for the Great Birmingham 10K that May! Yeah, great idea at the time!!
So back into training I went! And I did do the 10K! It was very warm – about 26 degrees! No chance of beating any times! Just glad to have got to the end! And I raised over £200 for the charity!
In January 2019, I started my second C25K course! I realised I needed to get back to basics and start again. I graduated in March 2019 and then ran Blenheim 7k at the end of April. Again, raising money for The Encephalitis Society!
And things seemed to be going well – back to the beyond groups and even starting 5-10k training in July with a view to running the Worcester City 10k again! And then it all went wrong. Partly because of a foot injury, but I think mainly it was that mindset again! I just couldn’t believe in myself! I had to give up the running and focus on the physio exercises and get back to the point of being able to run again! This time, I actually did my physio exercises!! I was determined to run again!
And finally, the physio gave me the go ahead to start slowly! So I signed up for my THIRD C25k course! And I seemed to struggle with it again! Thanks to Sharon encouraging me, I managed to run for 35 minutes and started to believe that I could do it after all!
And then, just as we were due to graduate, Coronavirus hit and lockdown happened! No graduation for me. No running with the group…by my usual efforts, I should have given up…but I didn’t!
Something had changed! I actually believed in myself! And on graduation day, I went and ran 5k on my own…! And now I can actually call myself a runner!
To run or not to run that is the question?
So how did we all end up finding this wonderful Happy Feet group? I found them by accident in November 2015 via a lovely friend and her daughter (Nicola and Alice) and I went along to C25K at the Lyppard Hub, on week 5 of C25K. I think this was the 2nd ever couch that they had run? But Marie can verify this. I turned up with my friend and said something like “Hi can I join the C25K?” I remember Marie asking how long I could run for as they were on week 5, but I said” its ok I go to the gym a lot and do classes and have used the tread mill a bit “. Okkkkkkk, we all know that joining at week 5 is quite a challenge, but I did it and enjoyed it from week 1 (well 5) as I just had a good feel about the group and loved the chatting and met some lovely people.
I went between the Wed group and the Sunday morning group at the Grange where we ran around this area around the changing rooms and had to run past men doing football training, which was quite embarrassing. I became known for running in my Gillet as it was the winter, and for lots of chatting.
The rest is history, I have had many niggles over the years, most from over running in the early days and from not listening to my body. I had to have 5 months off running as I continued to run and train for a 5km race with a team at work. This was my first official 5km race and it was part of the Para Triathlon event at Dorney Lake in Windsor, one team member is either in a wheelchair or uses a Prosthetic limb. As I am an Occupational therapist, this was a special day for me. I ended up with bursitis and having steroid injections in my hip (it was worth it though) so then I had to start couch again, this time from week 1! I went on to do the same event the following year, when I was healed and stronger.
The groups got bigger and I met more and more lovely people and I loved being able to go to any run and feel welcome and could always find someone to run at my pace, I learnt what mustering was and I soon became stronger and more confident and enjoyed the measured runs around the river and some park runs and entered the 2017 Worcs 10k, but had to pull out due to another injury ! but then went on to do the 2018 and 2019 10km runs and these were really high points for me.
I also enjoyed the monthly longer runs. I never set out to be a distance or an elite runner, but I did get a buzz from trying to improve my time on Strava and increasing my distance per month etc. The downside of Aps like Strava is it can sometimes take away the joy of just running, as we constantly compare ourselves to not just our last run, but to other runners. I look back at some of my faster runs now and think blimey I am miles off that pace and I will never get under 30 min for a 5km, but again that was never my motivation to start.
We can look at someone else and think that everyone around me is getting better and I am getting worse, this can therefore be demotivating and daunting. This isn’t true for everyone I realise but maybe some of you relate to this? so sometimes it would be good to have a tech free run and at the end just think, that was a great run, I really enjoyed that run…
So, lets go back in history a bit, this year I am 50, the big one some of us dread a bit, and I feel fitter and more important, I feel healthier in my mental health than I have been for many years. Happier with my body shape, let me explain why.
I used to really love running at high school and I was not a bad runner, I was in the school cross country team and at sports day I did the 1500m and 800m events and loved it .I loved running and training for the running with the school team until I felt too self-conscious to continue. I have been cursed (or blessed?) with rather ample boobs! this is not great for running, it is painful and sweaty and many other things. I remember running around the track at school and loads of lads shouting “jugsy jugsy, you don’t get many of them to the pound” etc . So, I stopped, and I never ran again at school.
I loved Cross country running as I lived in Wales by the sea and cross country running was across the fields, down to the beach and then we ran for miles along the sea front along the prom and onto the hard sand on the beach, it was an amazing feeling and It made me feel so great.
I didn’t want my body shape and the opinions of stupid hormonal teenage lads stop me from running, so I joined the surf life saving club. I haven’t mentioned that I was a very keen swimmer, I was in the swimming club and trained six times a week and competed in many swimming galas, I also felt self-conscious of my body shape in the pool , but I was very successful and won many medals and titles , so people soon stopped teasing me. I joined the lifesaving club and competed at lifesaving competitions across Wales and it was at one of these events I learnt about the open water lifesaving competitions, so that’s how I joined the surf life saving club.
We met weekly at the beach( the same beach I had enjoyed running along at school) and we practiced the reel and line rescue techniques and trained in the sea , the training included lots of running and so I was able to run again without feeling I would be teased. The life saving club was a very social place we had bonfires on the beach after training and enjoyed many happy times and I ran happily without feeling judged or body conscious.
I worked as a lifeguard on the beach for two summers while I was studying A levels and saved quite a few people in that time, usually just over ambitious people who thought they could swim better than they could. I also worked as a lifeguard when I was at Uni and even when I finished Uni, I worked at Sansome Walk pool as a lifeguard at weekends to pay off my student debts. (that’s one story I haven’t shared as we ran past the pool on our runs)
Fitting running into my hectic life and getting a good running bra.
The reason for the history bit is to just say that maybe I was a runner deep down, and I just had to find that inner runner again. I didn’t succeed in finding that runner again until I met Happy Feet and for that I will always be grateful. Whatever size, shape or speed you are at Happy Feet is irrelevant, that’s what I love like many other members.
I invested in a very good running bra and wear another crop top bra over the top of it. I have not let my body shape stop me from running now, but I had let it stop me for decades and the memories of the shouting as I ran past those boys, rested in a sad place in my school days memories. The running by the sea at school and the surf lifesaving club memories are important too as I love to run by the sea and if not by water, so my favourite run is round the river or along the canal. I so can’t want to get back to that run! One day maybe this year I want to do the Severn Bridge Park run in Bristol.
With my job I travel a lot, I have a global role (in normal times). I have been lucky enough this year to run in New Zealand and it was great to do that in my Happy feet top. I have run often in Sweden and Denmark too; I didn’t quite manage a run in Tokyo, but I did some long walks instead. My Strava history has some great locations rather than fast times. I remind myself that I never started running to be the fastest runner or to run marathons ( although I would like to do a half one day… maybe) The best thing with running is that you can do it anywhere, I always take my running shoes and some kit I can throw on and get out for a run, after a busy day of work and travel. I love running along the many rivers in Stockholm, a beautiful city. I travel in my running shoes as I often have to run to catch a connection across the massive Amsterdam airport.
Lockdown has taught me lots of things , as I am sure it has all of us, it has taught me that running is a slog on my own ; it has taught me that walking can be great too and I have walked almost every day with my daughter, or the dog, occasionally with Iain and often alone. It has made me appreciate sunsets, empty fields and that we live in a beautiful part of the country. The biggest thing it has taught me is that I miss people not things and that life is very fragile.
On May 16th I was due to do the Moon walk in London with my daughter for our 70th birthday( 20+50) this was a marathon walk through London at night in our bras to raise money for breast cancer. Sadly, it did not go ahead, like many other events. It was one of my big goals for my 50th year as I wanted to do a big challenge and to do it with my daughter too. It was also about letting go of that bad memory from school and just saying, yes this is me and I have big boobs. Hopefully it will happen later in year or in 2021.
I look forward to running around the river and chatting to Happy Feet runners again. I know it is important now more than ever to not take anything for granted as life can change so quickly.
Thanks for reading and don’t let your shape stop you from doing what you want to do, we have just one life, this is not the dress rehearsal.
Charlotte’s Guide to Relaxation, Running and Good Mental Health.
I work as a Relax Kids coach and adult meditation teacher. I help adults and
children to feel good! To help them learn strategies to feel calm and tame anxiety
monsters. A lot of these skills can easily be transferred over into running. We
often hear that running is great for our mental health and we all know that it gets
our endorphins flowing.
So how can this help YOU? Here are some practical ways to help you relax your
way to better running.
Mindfulness simply means being in the moment. Just for now putting worries of
the past or future to one side. Think of a dog. When a dog goes for a walk it
doesn’t worry about what is going to happen after the walk. It simply enjoys the
walk and takes in every single moment. As you run try to use your senses to be
mindful. What can you smell/see/hear on your run?
Imagine that your thoughts are like fluffy clouds, if you notice one pop into your
head, just keep on running and let it float on by!
Visualisation is just a posh word for imagining! Think of visualization in running
as a dress rehearsal. Many elite athletes use visualisation to help them succeed.
The more you mentally rehearse your run, the better your performance will be!
Visualise yourself crossing the finish line of your next race, really FEEL that
amazing feeling when you put the medal around your neck and get your T-shirt!
There is also research to show that just watching elite athletes can help us to
improve our own running technique.
To learn more about the brain/body response you could read Dr David
Hamilton’s book “How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body”.
Our bodies are always in one of two states. Fight or Flight mode or Rest and
When we are in fight or flight mode it has a negative impact on our bodies. Our
immune system drops, our muscles become tenser and we lose 60% of our
Capacity to process information. Have you ever been so stressed out you can’t
concentrate? That’s fight or flight.
When we are in Rest and Repair mode our bodies are less tense, our immune and
digestive systems will work better and we will be able to think clearly. All very
important for a great run.
So how can you get into rest and repair mode?
Meditation is a fantastic way to do this. Just allowing your brain to take a holiday
from our daily stresses will induce rest and repair mode. I have recorded some
guided meditations on Sound Cloud. Feel free to listen to mine (I’ll be updating
these regularly over the coming weeks!) or find one you like on YouTube.
Sound cloud link here: https://m.soundcloud.com/user-60260601/relax-mums-
All you need to do is get comfy and listen!
If you find yourself falling into negative thought patterns when you are on a run
use the “gratitude mile” to help you. I found during half marathon training miles
5 and 7 were always a sticky point for me. During these miles I would start to
mentally make a list of all the positives in my life. For example “I am so happy
and grateful the sun is shining on my run today. I am grateful for the lady who
just smiled as I ran past her. I am SO grateful that my legs are strong”. It really
helps to distract those negative thoughts and turn them around.
Look for the positives.
Every run might not be your best. You might not go as far/fast as you wanted to
that day or have done previously. It’s really easy to let negative thought patterns
Make a list of all the positives of your run either mentally or start a journal. It
will really help to focus your brain on the positives, which will in turn have an
effect on your muscles.
Dr Marasutu Emoto, a doctor in pseudo psychology, experimented on how our words and thoughts can affect the particles in water, why not look him up if you want to learn more.
Give these a go! See if they work for you. It’s like everything in life. Some of these
you will love, some not so much. Hopefully you will find one or more of these
If you would like to join me for meditation I am running a free mediation class on
Mondays from 8-9pm on Zoom. All you need is the
Meeting ID: 431 453 371
You can follow my page here:
Or for kids;
Happy running everyone- sending a big hug until we meet again!
Love from Charlotte xxx