On cycling like a native in Amsterdam


At the weekend, DS1 (age 3) and I went for a jolly to see some friends in Amsterdam. It was supposed to have been a long weekend en masse with the rest of the family but financial, time and health considerations eventually meant that DH stayed at home with DS2 and a bout of pneumonia – so bad that he had to call in my mother as a reinforcement on Sunday afternoon – while DS1 and I took the overnight ferry there, coming back 36 hours later.

On Sunday we were taken to the beach, which of course for a 3 year old was the most exciting thing ever, regardless of the fact that it was November and the North Sea was on the nippy side (I didn’t go in the water myself but I ascertained this fact after DS1 paddled for an hour and then went blue when he had an icecream).

The best aspect of Sunday for me, however, was not the water, but the fact that it did not require us to Get on a Bicycle.

I have had a bike for most of my life, and have indeed cycled quite happily round various university towns without much mishap apart from hippy floaty skirts getting stuck in the chain, and one occasion where the heel of my boot fell off half way down the Woodstock Road. However it has been a while since I’ve cycled on a regular basis. DH is going midlife cycle mad (clear victim of the Bradley Wiggins Effect) and the garage is filled with his (what I would call) ‘racer’ bikes – all of them with crossbars too high and saddles too hard for me to see any pleasure at all in trying to go anywhere on them. I also have a fundamental fear of speed, and of being out of control, so I do approach bicycling on random machines in unknown places with a degree of trepidation.

So imagine my delight when we met our lovely Dutch Friend (DF) outside the railway station, and she said she had thought we should hire a bike with a bucket at the front for DS to sit in. At this point I thought that was a fine idea, because I was under the impression that they were three-wheeled. Suited me. However when we got to the bike shop it turned out to be a two-wheeler, with the front wheel about the size of a saucepan lid and a lonnng way away from the rest of the machine. I didn’t fance wobbling that around Amsterdam with my first born and my luggage in the front, so went for the least worst option which was to ride DF’s bike.

Down side #1 of this was that DF was about a foot taller than me, and her bike was such an old rusty boneshaker the bike guy could only lower the saddle a couple of inches. So I had to jump down from the seat to touch the ground.

Down side #2 was that it was reverse-pedal braking. This is frankly a total nightmare, not least because I like to kick off pedalling with my right foot on a high pedal. But when I braked to stop and jumped forward off the seat to put my feet on the ground, the right pedal was invariably down. You couldn’t whizz it back up to starting position (as you would on a NORMAL bike) when you were ready to go, so to start again I had to stagger forward by foot until I got to the top of a bridge (of which there were many, thank goodness) and freewheel down it until my pedals got back into the correct position.

If DH had been there he would have noticed the alarm in my eyes and perhaps kindly suggested I take a taxi, but instead I just had to bite the bullet and go for it. We then spent the next two hours on a ‘scenic’ bike rid round a freezing Amsterdam, me with my eyes glued firmly on the back of DF, running through red lights in a desperate attempt to keep up and not to have to stop. At one point she turned round to find me and I tried to wave but my sleeve got caught on the handle which lurched the bike to the right; at another point, when she and several other cyclists actually had stopped at a red light after all, I somehow couldn’t get my wobbly legs to manoeuvre correctly and sailed straight towards her and a right-turning car, yelling ‘Fuuuuuuuu….’ – a disaster which DF calmly averted by just jamming her left arm out across my chest.

When we finally got to her flat I was a gibbering wreck, and had seen none of the sights at all she’d been trying to point out.

Her (British) boyfriend was thankfully a bit more sympathetic, and when we set out with him in the afternoon to see the Van Gogh exhibition (which, despite priding myself on my knowledge of linguistics AND art history, I’d failed to realise we were going to, thinking we were going somewhere unknown involving something called Ven <guttural cough > Hoch), no one suggested I got back on that bike.

Instead I was challenged to take a ride in the bucket at the front of the rental cycle, which was equally horrendous, but thankfully DS was desperate to go back into it so I was relieved from that position. Instead, after trying various people/bike configurations, it was decided that DF took DS in the bucket cycle, and her boyfriend took her bike … giving me a backie on the back.

I have never had a backie in my life. It has always seemed to me to be totally unnecessary. However the combined assumptions of everyone else that I was capable of this meant that I had to go along with things, or feign madness and fall in a dribbling heap in the middle of the street. So for the rest of the afternoon we mosied around Amsterdam, with me side-saddle on the back of the bike, on a metal structure apparently built for people to sit on. I can assure you that the state of the bruises on my bum do not regard that as true.

The most astonishing thing of the whole experience, however – and one which I still can’t quite get my head round – is the process for mounting. The boyfriend had to start pedalling to get some steam up, with me beetling behind him, and then when he gave me the nod, I had to somehow propel myself forward with my right hip in the lead, fast enough to keep up with him, and land accurately with my right buttock on this metal bit. Then I’d wriggle around until most of my bottom was in the right place, cross my legs at the side, shove my right hand round his waist (cunningly hiding it in his puffa jacket pocket to keep warm), and with my left holding for dear life onto the bike. And we had to do this every time he stopped, which as he is British, was at every red light, and sometimes at the bottom of slopes where our combined weight was defeating him.

Despite all of this, it was Not Too Bad. I couldn’t see where we were going, so just gazed left at lovely Dutch houses lit up in the gloaming, and fairy-lit bridges shining over canals. My bum got numb after a while, so to speak – though I can still feel the aches 3 days later – and before we knew it, I was leaping on and off that bike like a native.

Though when it came to going out for dinner later that day, we took the tram. What would they have proposed otherwise? 3 men on a bike? And alcohol? I knew not to push a good thing.

And thus endeth my observation on backies by a 41 year old woman. Wear padded pants. And look before you leap.

On pre-wedding dreams slash nightmares


About 6 weeks ago I had my first wedding nightmare. It involved waking up on the day of the wedding and realising I’d forgotten to send out any invitations.

A few weeks ago, I had wedding dream number 2, again involving timing, though on this occasion everyone was there EXCEPT me, and I was running around central London dithering over whether or not it was too late to actually be worth turning up, then deciding yes, it was only about an hour after it was due to start, so I should take a crack at it, and then pelting through the traffic over Kingsway to pick up my dress from ‘home’ (which of course is not there), putting it on and then spending quite a lot of time applying a lot of kohl eyeliner for a sort of rock bride look, which in my dream I remember feeling quite pleased with.

Toenails courtesy of an interviewee in a hurry

This morning I find that even my bridesmaids are dreaming about it: MoH#J says “you were very tactfully asking if I’d thought about painting my toe nails and when we looked I’d painted one foot a rather grubby bluey brown but forgotten about the other one. We tried to match it with something you had! Your flowers were late, I had a rather crumpled pink suit on and everything was pretty random.” Worryingly, that’s not an entirely unlikely scenario, knowing both of us…

So this blog post is going to be a collection of subconcious wedding thoughts, updated on a rolling basis. It’ll be interesting to note whether it ever includes contributions from DH2B. The wedding is in his diary, but I can safely warrant that it’s not floating around his frontal cortex, whereas it’s permanently stamped through mine…

Dec 12 – MoH#J has her second dream: “Very vivid one just before waking up this morning…it was time for the rehearsal and we were in a very beautiful italian-style church, apparently buried in the middle of a city somewhere – lots of dramatic paintings on the wall, stone carvings, red aisle carpet.

You had the full gear on although the dress was a simpler version of the actual one and your hair was below shoulder length and platinum blonde – in fact you looked a lot like Sindy (!) [I love this!!! Ed.]. There was a gaggle of similarly platinum blonde friends who were like something out of a US teen movie and were making a huge fuss over who was wearing what item of antique jewellery which you had produced from your family collection.  Needless to say I was somewhat exasperated with all this, we were running out of time, indeed a bishop turned up in all his regalia for his rehearsal.  So I’m afraid I told you I had to go and (as before) you were the picture of patience and completely understanding [natch, Ed.].  I headed out into the city and found it to be very Hong Kong-esque.  I wasn’t sure where I was going and in walking realised I’d actually behaved very badly as Steph hadn’t been there and she would need me to tell her what was happening and anyway as bridesmaid I could have pulled rank on the other girls and actually maybe that’s what you needed me to do and I needed to go back and make things better but…I was lost in the city and there was no way I was going to find the church again.”

Jan 13. T-4mths, and counting. Now it’s hit the Year of the Wedding I’ve suddenly embarked on a frenzy of prep, almost with relief that I can finally get on with it. Anyway, last night I dreamed that we were having it in a big house on the outskirts of London. There was a lot of very true-to-life stressful argumentation with my mother in the build up, and then somehow we appeared to segue neatly into a post-ceremony moment when there was a bit of a lull and we were seeing some people off who had to go early. Ever the social creature, I tried to gee everyone up: Cakes! Dancing! Let’s get the music going! and moved off into a large, clear living room with a band and parquet floor. A couple of slightly unattractive MBA types in Black Tie asked me to dance and I was enjoying the attention, before thinking that perhaps I’d better have the first dance with my new husband. I turned to find DH2B, who was standing on the edge of the dance floor rather stubbornly, wearing casual trousers and a sweater [which is what his father has said he’s going to wear], with a corsage clumsily stuffed through his jumper. We were about to start dancing when one of the band members pulled back his hood, and revealed himself to be Jamie Cullum. There we go.

Apr13 4 weeks to go and the wedding dreams thankfully have died off, mostly because my days are turning into one big wedding nightmare. I did dream once that we were about to start the wedding only to remember that we hadn’t seen the registrar in advance. So we had to persuade her that we’d go through the ceremony as a formality, and promise that we’d beetle down to her office the next day to get the legals done. Random other dreams have tended to involve not having enough time to do my make up – a situation that might still arise as I’ve got to go driving around on the M4 on the wedding day to have my hair done. I’m pleased to report that Best Woman #2 has also been dreaming (about forgetting her shoes) and even DH2B has had a nightmare – bizarrely on the same topic. I think he’d remembered his suit but only at the last minute realised he didn’t have any footwear. Interesting that all these anxieties are about forgetting… despite the endless number of lists we have lying around in paper and electronic form. The trouble with dreams is that you wake up after this stressful wedding event in your subconscious only to think ‘oh well at least it’s over now’ to suddenly realise IT’S NOT, WE STILL HAVE TO GO THROUGH IT.

Dear god!

On why you should not wear clog boots to Waitrose if you’re in a hurry


I have a gorgeous pair of clog boots.

I bought them from Plumo last year. As with most clothes purchases, there was a web of reasoning around The Purchase:

  • They were on sale, reduced from three figures to two. Always an incentive.
  • I love clogs, after being the only person in Denmark under the age of 55 to wear them through the spring of 1993, while loafing around Københavns Universitet reading Livy and enjoying fun days including ‘let’s see if we can have a day where every meal consists of chocolate’ (we did – AND WE WEREN’T SICK!)).
  • I wanted some shoes/boots I could pull on and off very easily as I trotted in and out of the house a thousand times a day putting children in the car/putting out bins/trying to stop DS2 from escaping down the road.

In general, they have been extremely succesful; they get lots of nice comments from other girlfriends (to DH’s bemusement (he probably preferring a boots concept involving thigh-high patent leather)), and they are super-comfortable, as long as you’re wearing thick socks.


They do NOT work if you’re trying to push a shouting toddler in a trolley round Waitrose in record time while the rest of the family wait in the car.

I discovered at the weekend that if you try to take a corner of a supermarket aisle at any speed with them, then the boot remains gripped to the floor, while your foot pivots IN THE BOOT. As a consequence, your body rotates and lurches after the trolley (which has momentum), but your foot remains trapped in the clog’s position. So as the trolley pulls you in an arc round the end of the aisle, you fall after it, tripping over your boots, which have taken on a will of their own. As we had to do a full shop, which involved going up and down almost every aisle, this was quite a traumatic experience, both for me, and for random others, such as the girl behind the deli meat counter who saw the trolley go left but me seem to hurtle straight towards her with a look of alarm on my face, and DS2 yelling (happily) HA HA HAAAAA.

AND the repeated friction has worn holes in the soles of my socks.

So there we are. Either take it slowly, or wear close-fitting sneakers. And to Waitrose and its shoppers, I apologise.

It was the boots.



The 5:2 intermittent fasting diet: 3 weeks in


So I am writing this EXTREMELY hungrily and grumpily, on the second fasting day of this week, having had today:

  • 1 choc hobnob at about 11
  • soup + sandwich at lunch
  • 1 choc hobnob at about 4.

I forgot to take my multivitamin pill at lunch, the aim of which is to supplement the hobnobs, but I don’t think that would have made any difference to my mental state this evening. I know that using up about 30% of my calorie intake on chocolate biscuits is not ideal, but, hey, I’ve been in charge of 2 children under 4 (plus a sick DH lolling around the house), and it’s been pouring with rain, and tempers have been strained…

How’s it gone so far? Well on days like today I would chew off my right arm for a nutritious meal, plus chocolate, but I know it’s almost bedtime I and should just be able to stagger through until tomorrow morning as long as I’m horizontal and asleep. In weight-loss terms, it made a bit of a difference at the start, and slowly my average weight is still edging down. My hip/waist size shrunk a bit at the start, though still not enough to get me into the W-dress (which I’ve now bought!! da-daaa!! (another story)), but I’m going to start running and hula-hooping again and see if that makes a difference. Chart inserted..

Observations so far:

  • Mondays and Thursdays seem the best fast days; I couldn’t do anything with just 1 day’s break in between.
  • On non-fast days I’m finding myself a bit disappointed with the quality of food I’m shoving down. There’s a bit of a crisp craving that goes on, and then I think hoorah I can eat my weight in chocolate, and then I just feel a bit oily and have a Benecol. I’m going to try to ensure I eat some quality savoury stuff, and my meals are interesting.
  • I cannot see myself sticking to a 600 calorie limit, as inputted on my iPhone, twice a week for the rest of my life… I would like to be free to finish the children’s jambalaya at 5.30pm, if I’m hungry, and they don’t want it. But I can see that days when maybe breakfast is late, or dinner’s skipped, would be fine, without any raging cataclysm occurring.
  • It is HARD to fast when you’re at home, cooking and feeding children, and everyone’s getting cross. DH has a much easier time in the office, he says, as long as he keeps himself busy over lunch. This blog post was interrupted by a phonecall on a work matter, and suddenly my spirit improved (shows how bad today was, when talking about data analytics is a cheer-up), and 50mins had gone by without me uttering any sarcastic comments to DH or skulking around the kitchen picking up crumbs with my finger tip (“it’s so microscopic it can’t possibly have any calories”.)

So there we go. On to the next 3 weeks. Just hope my DNA is doing some good bloomin’ regeneration work.

Oh, another plus point – not eating in the evening does free up an enormous amount of time, and saves on washing up. Extraordinary!

On choosing a wedding dress: any thoughts?


5 months have past since we got engaged; I’ve read every single bridal magazine published since then, have spent endless hours online pouring through almost uniformly unhelpful designer websites (all music, Flash vids (which don’t play on the iPad) and no search facilities); have been to four wedding dress shops, and have tried on over 20 dresses.

You’d have thought, bearing in mind I have – girl-stereotype-warning-despite-calling-myself-a-feminist coming up – been dreaming about my W-day in idle moments for about 30 years,  I’d already have a pretty clear idea about the vision I wanted to convey. But basically I haven’t got a clue. I want to look sexy (for my fiance), demure (for my father), chic (for my mother), appropriately weddingy (for the two DS’s, who can now recognise a Bride at a 1,000 paces, and think anyone in a tie is a Groom), and basically like a fully optimised version of me (you can tell I work on websites..).

If I put all my wants together, I get something like this (see left; I would really like pockets). But in practice I’ve found that CHEAP is also a key criterion; although I’m not usually a bargain-basement kind of girl, I simply cannot bear to spend multi-thousands of pounds on a dress – not least because I’ll spend the whole day worrying about it – especially if reselling was part of the original proposal. And yet I do want quality.

Image of Kevin the TeenagerAnd that is why I found myself standing on top of a box in a local, very well renowned, bridal shop, yesterday afternoon, with a face like Kevin (see right), dressed in a lovely white A-line Sassi Holford dress, worth about £3k, muttering ‘s’alright’.

One of my long-suffering girlfriends was in attendance, with a dual role of trying to get me to snap out of my monk, and get my mother to shut up whenever she started asking if dressmaking details could be changed.

After an hour of dutiful trying on, parading, and dismissing, though, things did finally perk up when I noticed that they had a dress by Lusan Mandongus that I’d noticed many time in magazines and had really liked. It hadn’t been picked out for me because it didn’t fulfil any of my criteria at all (which is why the ‘ideal’ sketch is not worth the paper it was drawn on), and it was COMPLETELY different to all the previous ones I’d tried which had inbuilt corsets and created waists etc; but it was sophisticated and elegant, and my mother thought it was totally inappropriate (which helped) (though sadly now she’s now warmed to it).

Where we are. So I’m now spending every minute of downtime cogitating yesterday’s dress, and weighing it up against the previous front-runner (also totally unexpected); as follows (I appreciate this analysis will be of limited interest):


Ian Stuart dressIMG_1421

  • Pro: available second hand in at least two places, in the £600-£850 level
  • Pro: supercomfortable when tried on, making a waist and a bust, with a bit of cleavage
  • Pro: none of this train business; can actually walk and move around it it
  • Pro: ruching affair means it’s all a bit messy, basically, which means that I won’t panic as much if DS2 lurches towards it with chocolatey hands (I would LOVE but be too scared to wear anything by Jesus Peiro for exactly that reason)
  • Pro: opportunity for long earrings and some eccentric headgear
  • Con: didn’t photograph well, though the snaps were taken by my sister in law, sitting down (so emphasising my hips), on my blurred iPhone
  • Con: looks totally unlike anything I’d like, and as if I’m about to bring out a pair of castanets (but nevertheless, feeling comfortable and unworried is a big pro which might outweigh this)
  • Con: the dropped sleeve affair feels just a bit too 80’s university ballgown style

Lusan Mandongus dress885792cb015c515d83bd61c4b5cc8a4a

  • Pro: totally love the thought of looking like their model above (sucker for advertising, moi?)
  • Pro: lovely dress; different from standard strapless ones, falls beautifully
  • Con: totally impractical for walking around barn & field environment (where reception is)
  • Con: need MAJOR diet/underwear/modesty investment as shows every slight bulge, plus random bits of flesh (not sure what my father would think)
  • Con: can’t seem to find second hand ones anywhere
  • Con: satin drape at front looks a bit like a bib (handy when cake eating, perhaps; less so with a dollop of curry); would have to be stitched down slightly
  • Con (or Pro): it’s a more distinct look – if that can be – than Flamenco dress above, and it would be nice to reflect that in flowers, invos etc (ie they’d need to be rethought a bit), as well as DH’s outfit (which would be shorts if he had his way)
  • Pro: made by a design team in Hong Kong, bringing back memories…
  • Pro: the Sassi Holford (classic, white, virginal) made me look younger, said my mother (clearly thinking that was a good thing). But I’m gone 40 with 2 children; I’m not going to be a princess: I want to look elegant and sophisticated (and as I write this, actually, I see the Ian Stuart one falling far behind into second place, despite all its pros)…

Any thoughts anyone? Do I only like it because it was different from all the other ones in the shop? DH prob wouldn’t like either on paper as they’re ‘too fussy’, but I’ve given up worrying about that at this stage..

I had intended when this engagement business started to make sure I tried on every dress in Britain, Just In Case, but actually I’m realising that the absence of free weekends and childcare alone mean that this is getting tricky. In a few weeks time, I’m off to the David Fielden shop – the one designer I’d actually earmarked as liking – but based on my performance so far I’ve no idea if that will come to anything or not (plus their samples tend to be small, and I have noted that there’s nothing less conducive to liking a dress than having to be squeezed into it with a shoehorn and several elastic bands)…

And after that I’ll really have to try to sort myself out; particularly if I choose something that impacts on the look of the rest of the event, because I can tell that after Christmas time will fly. But should I wait for the New Year sales? Will there be a rush of people flogging their dresses just before Christmas? Or should I just wait til the week before the wedding, log on to eBay and trust to Fate? That’d give my mother kittens…

What do you think? Which is the front-runner?

On starting intermittent fasting: Day 1


Now that the half-marathon is done and dusted (did I mention that I was amazing?), it’s time to turn my attention to physiological challenges.

Since The Day of The Engagement (which happened to be the day of the First Run) in March this year, I’ve been running almost every other day, as well as trying to stick to 1800 calories/day (as assiduously logged through the myfitnesspal iPhone app). I’ve lost about 8kgs (a stone and a bit), helped by the odd stomach trouble and tonsillitis, but for the last month or so have been pottering reasonably happily around the 62-63 kgs level. The target, though, is 60kgs – the weight I was in my uncharacteristic Year of Fitness – a blip in my life when I walked and ran a lot, and met DH. Oh how drole his comments are that he took me on ‘under false pretences‘ as he pats the belly that has borne two of his babies.

Nevertheless, I will admit that there’s still quite a lot of cushioning around my lithe athletic core.

I hate dieting, and I didn’t count calorie counting as a diet, as I still rammed down lots of chocolate and HobNobs. My key changes were having puddings in a ramekin dish instead of a dessert bowl (it’s quite amazing how much sticky toffee you can cram in a little dish if you try), and weighing  out my cereal to the recommended 30g of Bran Flakes every morning (it turned out my default helping was about 60g, plus banana..)

However, it was slightly alarming to watch Michael Mosley in the BBC Horizon programme a couple of months ago, Eat, Fast and Live Longer discuss the impact that your weight and eating style has on your propensity to suffer from the primary diseases of middle-old age: cancer, heart disease, diabetes etc. OK, this wasn’t a great surprise – but I definitely wasn’t aware of the potential impact that fasting could have on your brain cells, in that sporadic bouts of hunger reportedly trigger new neurons to grow. Basically, sample mice on intermittent fasting were developing Alzheimers a lot later than those on a constant fast food diet (poor mice).

We have come to parenthood late in life and I would really prefer not to be a doddery old burden in years to come.

So here we go: two days of ‘fasting’ a week (ie a diet of 500-600 calories), and eat what you like on the normal days. This morning I had my blood pressure, blood glucose levels and cholesterol checked at the local pharmacies (Sainsburys of all places is offering free cholesterol checks at the mo); all were within the normal range so that was fine, and the pharmacists were happy with the plan. I’ve also measured my abdominal fat (nice) – basically my waist/hip ratio is bigger than it should be – so that’ll be the key thing I hope will improve, as that is a risk for future health.

And this is what I ate:

Breakfast: nothing (this did not sit well with me; I’m a breakfast like a king kind of person)

Lunch of pasta, a massive courgette from the garden, ham, a measley teaspoon of pesto, a sprinkle of parmesan, and LOADS of black pepper. 350 cals. After eating nothing all morning, this got me a bit overexcited and I then succumbed to two cubes of Dairy Milk (total 50cals). That was an error.

Afternoon tea. It would have been foolhardy to have eschewed all tea-time treats altogether (especially as I had a big report to write, and needed some cheering up). 100 cals.

Dinner. 100 cals.

Apart from forgetting to pick up DS1 from nursery, and then forgetting which DS I had to collect from DS2’s nursery, the day has gone reasonably well. The key is keeping yourself busy. It was definitely easier to manage not eating when out and about with the boys this morning, rather than a long afternoon in front of the computer. And what extra blogging hours have been freed up this evening without the chore of having to feed oneself? !


And roll on breakfast…

On running my first half marathon


Well, we did it, and Sister-in-Law (to be) and I have spent the rest of the day congratulating ourselves on basically how amazing we are. We ran something with the word marathon in the title. I did! Freaking fantastic! And we didn’t die. And we even did it faster than we expected (about 2:17). Did I mention we were amazing?

So in summary, this is how this absolutely fantastic feat was achieved by someone who was still trying to finish the obstacle course at primary school when they were setting up the next race, and at senior school gave sport up as soon as possible in exchange for Ancient Greek. Note, gentle readers, moving fast does not come easily to roaringkate.

  • Training: I would have died without this. This superduper half-marathon training plan was surprisingly achievable, and the final week of easy 30 min runs/”rest” cancelled out in my mind the struggle I’d had trying to do the 2 hour run – the longest in the plan – a couple of weeks’ before. So by the time today came, my runner’s knee had subsided from previous exertions, my twingey hip had stopped twingeing, and I basically felt reasonably normal.
  • Food: last night’s carb fest of pasta with roasted veg (SiL is veggy) plus Nigella’s pear and chocolate pudding did the job in that department. This morning, after a brief deliberation as to whether or not to change my routine, I had cereal and toast as normal, about 2 hours before, and then a banana about half an hour before. Everyone on the running blogs had also mentioned GU food gels as key to any long distance running, and we’d bought a couple each yesterday when picking up our registration gear. My 3-year old, who was stationed at the 4mile/9mile points (the route was a double loop) was charged with handing them out as we went past. I have to say they are pretty disgusting, basically sachets of sweet thick baby food, HOWEVER I do think they helped me keep my pace up once the first hour was over (I had lemon and orange flavours which were palatable; SiL had strawberry and banana but couldn’t eat it..). They were certainly better than the jelly babies people were handing out. I adore jelly babies, and nearly over swerved and fell over once I saw they were on offer, but as I also breathe through my mouth when running, trying to chew and swallow and breathe and run all at the same time was pretty tricky, and not worth the angst.
  • Runners IBS and Other Problems in That Department: again following other bloggers’ tips, I took an Imodium Instant just before we set off for the start, which successfully prevented any cramps through the race (and probably for the next few days…). No such luck in the pelvic floor department however – which frankly is pretty nonexistent despite endless clenching. Just relieved that on a day to day basis I am not leaking like a sieve.
  • Pray for the right weather: We were very fortunate in that we had fantastic weather: coolish and cloudy. Had it been hot and bright, the experience would have been completely different, and there would have been a lot of sweating and swearing and quite probably abandonment.
  • Run with an appropriate partner: I had been afraid that SiL was going to pelt off without me once the first, manageable, hour was up, but actually we established a pretty reasonable pace (for us, not the winning runners, who managed to lap us) (we were averaging 10.x min miles), and we definitely kept each other’s momentum up.
  • Get support: I never imagined I’d be as pleased as I was to see DH and the DSs (the younger of which had been hauled out of his cot with chicken pox and was less than impressed). Their waving and cheers were just delightful, and when DS1 pelted out from the crowd to run over the finish line with me it brought tears to my (slightly lunatic, see below) eyes.
  • Find your pacemakers and the opposition: For the first half of the run we kept in our sights two young blokes who were running in t-shirts and cargo shorts and looked like they’d just got out of bed, and who seemed reassuringly amateur. We eventually passed them. The rest of the run was focused on beating a non-athletic looking lady in a Slimming World t-shirt and her fitter running companion. We’d singled these two out because they kept on stopping to walk, which did not seem fair, AND THEN WOULD RUN PAST US. Eventually we made a tactical push when they paused at a water station, putting what we’d thought was sufficient grey tarmac between us never to see them again, until the fitter one overtook us with about a mile to go. By that point though I Did Not Care, and resigned myself to eating her dust. However, they did serve as an approriate incentive to keep the pace up through the second half.
  • Run for a reason: I can’t actually remember why SiL and I decided to do this (most I’d ever run before ‘competitively’ was a 5k), but when people asked if they should sponsor me, and I said no, they asked why I was doing it then. But yesterday I thought I should do it in recognition of a friend’s father, who has just died in very tragic circumstances, and was a lover of life, and that felt entirely right. And indeed, when it all got really hard work, after about 10 miles, I thought of them both, and it kept me going. More profoundly motivating than the pathological desire to beat Slimming World lady…

So that’s about it. The race was started by a canon which gave us all a bit of a jump (unlike the Great North Run today which began with a Mo/Bolt stretch routine), and we were slightly alarmed to see that it was indeed a race. No fun run here my friends – no one in fancy dress, or happy to amble round. In fact when we went to find our ‘pen’ at the start line (ie to bunch us in with all the other guys who were looking to do a similar time), our target time (2:30) turned out to be the final one available. We were right at the back. But did not finish last! Did I mention we were amazing?

My final observation is that however fit and slim and athletic you think you look, in practice you (at least I) look red faced, in need of at least 2 more sports bras, and covered with still a substantial amount of what I like to think of as baby fat, but is more like roaringkate fat. And I need to work on those lunatic expressions…

PS When I next saw my mother after this event, I asked her how amazingly she thought we’d done. She commented yes, very good, but how curious that SiL looks as fresh as a daisy, while you… hmmm… perhaps it’s the hair..? Yes alright mother. I was wearing my lucky headband, and I get a red face. I’ll go and rock to and fro in a corner now…