Fitbitches - The March Run Down

I'm almost finished writing this blog post but I've jumped back to the top to warn you now that it's a long one. There's always so much to say when I sit down to write but there never seems to be enough to talk about weekly - or the weeks just roll into one another. So, apologies... grab a brew and put aside a few more minutes than usual as there are some great links I want you to read in here plus the usual self-centred, self-congratulatory, self-depreciating bollocks from me.  Ok? Let's go...


Fitbitches - The March Run Down

Right here, right now, I'm making myself accountable for the month of April. I have decided that I need to make small changes and break - or make - habits. I've been inspired by my fellow Fitbitches and want to do something (almost) every day to get fitter and stronger.  I'm not even sure how I'm going to achieve this yet but I'm open to ideas.

This all stemmed from a realisation I had a few weeks ago.  I was sat in my car one evening, waiting for my running group to turn up. I turned on Facebook Live and filmed an informal update of what I want from the #FitbitchesMOVEment ethos, how I want it to grow and where the idea came from. It was just a 9 minute chat about shite with some great comments and suggestions during the live feed. But during my run it hit me full in the face... I felt that leadership role again - exactly as i used to feel when motivating the runners on the community Couch To 5k programme. I was back in charge and that is exactly what had been missing. It was the piece of jigsaw that needed to fall into place.

Watch both my Fitbitches Facebook Live videos here

Live Video 1 | Live Video 2

Taking part in the Progression (5-10k) Plan again has started to show dividends. My speed has improved - even if it is not completely up to the pace of the group as a whole - and I definitely have my moments.  I'm usually at the back of the group and I use the downhill to try and push myself a bit and catch up with the rest of the gang. On one run I really opened up my stride and fell in with the runners in the middle of the group. At the bottom of the hill, the usual regrouping looping process took place and I'm used as a marker to ensure that we have rounded everyone up and not lost anyone. The following exchange took place...
Claire : "Where's Nickie?"
Me, bouncing up and down with delight near the front of the group : "I'M HERE!"
Claire : "I didn't see you fly past me!"
It's the small things that give us that boost of confidence, isn't it?

The Stroke Association Resolution Run

Fitbitches - The March Run Down - The Stroke Association Resolution Run at Heaton Park in Manchester - photo credit : Nickie OHara
Sarah found this run and it turned into a bit of a road trip with fifteen of us travelling over to Heaton Park in Manchester to run the Stroke Association Resolution Run in either their 5k or 10k route. Everyone received a purple t-shirt to run in on the day so we decided to pimp out the whole purple theme with socks, tutus, wigs, hairnets and rollers!

There were a couple of personal best times busted and this is where I could definitely feel the improvement that I've made, albeit a small one. All in all, the course was marshaled well and the guys handling the social media accounts were totally on the ball with our photos reshared by the Stroke Association team throughout the day.  Our 'sock photo' was highlighted on the Stroke Association Instagram page and a few people on their Facebook page mentioned that they'd seen us all.

We definitely made a lasting impression in what was a very wet and rainy day but I found a quote online which really sums up the day for me :

The reason we race isn't so much to beat each other, but to be with each other
~ Christopher McDougall

It felt very fitting that runners from two running communities in Blackburn - GroupRun Blackburn and Blackburn Road Runners - have these crossover moments for friendship and support, especially at this event as Blackburn Road Runners' chosen charity this year is the Stroke Association. The photo below of us all is one of the official photos from the day.

Fitbitches - The March Run Down - Stroke Association Resolution Run at Heaton Park in Manchester - photo credit : Stroke Association

Photo Of The Week

I mentioned on Instagram a few weeks ago that there are so few running photos that I like of me that I can count them on three fingers. I read a great blog from Kelly Roberts (Run, Selfie, Repeat) about those running photos we all hate because they show us at our worst, at the time we are struggling to breathe, when we are sweaty and our wobbly bits are moving in the direction we don't want them to be moving in. But she celebrates the fact that these photos also show us at our most powerful; stepping out of our comfort zone and pushing for those personal best times.

Fitbitches - The March Run Down - Running, Not Drowing - Stroke Association Resolution Run at Heaton Park in Manchester - photo credit : Stroke Association
When it comes to photos of myself I am hugely under-confident and I've written about it before.  I've sort of mastered the art of the post-run selfie to a point where I am happy with the way I look on the photo but I've taken to being an arse in 'official' race photos to take the heat off myself looking awful in them and so that I can excuse the way I look when friends tag me in them on Facebook.  At the (above mentioned) Resolution Run there was an official photographer so when he started snapping pictures of me running up a water-logged section of the park I just flung out my arms and did my best impression of an aeroplane.

Best. Photo. EVER. of me running. That photographer is a genius!

I shared it as my Facebook profile picture and captioned it "Running, Not Drowning" for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the rain... the rain in Biblical proportions on the day. Secondly, I feel more like I'm not flailing around and gasping for breath with this running lark quite so much any more. But do you know what really sealed the deal for me? GroupRun founder, Rick, shared it on his own personal Facebook page as his "running photo of the week" on International Women's Day. That meant more to me than anyone will ever know.

The photo has been printed and gifted to me as part of a 'Thank You' present from Blackburn Road Runners for some assistance I gave them during the preparations for their Winter Warmer 10k.  It now has pride of place on the wall below my medal rack.

The Coffee Cup Medal

Fitbitches - The March Run Down - Virtual Runner Coffee Cup medal
I wanted to write about this Virtual Run medal in the February Run Down. I alluded to it when talking about the first Fitbitches 'virtual event' where five of us power walked or ran either 5k or 10k on the same day in different corners of the UK. I chose this medal because it seemed appropriate as we are all usually chatting to each other via social media with a brew close at hand. I wanted to show off my medal as part of that recap however it didn't arrive... it got lost in the mail. Luckily, and thankfully, Virtual Runner agreed to send another one out for me so we now each have our own medal to commemorate this special memory. It's also part of the 'medal a month' collection that is building nicely.

The Celebration Run

I was unsure how to approach writing about this because I have mixed feelings about it. As I've mentioned before, our GroupRun programmes always mark the end of a 9-week plan with a Celebration Run - a 5k route in the park for the power walkers and runners and a route just over 10k around the park for the Progression groups.  I knew the route - I've run it before. It has a few hills in it but that's Blackburn for you - nothing that I haven't tackled before.  We tend to run on the day in our groups so that no-one runs alone and it's presumed that everyone runs at a similar pace.  But that's not really how it worked out.

I was running at a much slower pace than normal and had Sarah and Andrea running with me. We were constantly at the back of the group - a good way behind but there were plenty of opportunities for us to catch up at certain regrouping points.  Claire (our group leader) lives about halfway along the route and very thoughtfully arranged for us to detour slightly past her house and provided water and jelly babies to keep us going - we then ploughed on around the course. However, in spectacular fashion, and at exactly the same moment, both Andrea and myself decided to have a mini-panic attack.

The one, single problem with group running is that the group can only really run as fast as its slowest runner. This is successfully combated by loop-the-loop regrouping where the front runner circles round and runs to the person at the back.  Normally this allows the faster, stronger runners to have a better stretch out and get in an extra half a kilometre or so on their run. During the Celebration Run, adrenalin takes over and the regrouping process tends to be exhausting on a longer run.

Fitbitches - The March Run Down - GroupRun Celebration Run - photo credit  - David & Marianne RintoulMyself and Andrea needed a break. We begged for one with about 1km to go - just to catch our breath and feel a bit stronger for that last push. Our fellow groupies stopped and waited for us on a corner but as soon as we almost caught up, they set off again and that's when we both cracked. Seeing both sides of what was going on, I pulled myself together quickly and helped Sarah to calm Andrea down.  We pushed on for the last stretch, ran through the park and across the finish line.

It had been hard work and not as enjoyable as I had hoped but we had completed it and at 11k, it's my longest run ever.

There is a photo of the three of us coming over the finish line and I've shared it here in the interest of what I talked about earlier about sharing photos of looking like shit. But seriously, I look like I'm on day release with my carers and they have provided me with an identification number and high-viz clothing on so they don't lose me.

This Girl Can : Phenomenal Women and International Women's Day

Did you see the launch of the new This Girl Can campaign. There are way too many videos and updates for me to link to but here's the official video and the words are from a poem called Phenomenal Women by Maya Angelou and... curveball... that's Dr Angelou reading her own words!

This year, International Women's Day fell on a Wednesday - usually my day to laze around at home doing sod all catch up with emails and blog admin but I thought about the theme - #BeBoldForChange - and decided to join Blackburn Road Runners on their all-inclusive open run with a 3.5 mile and a 5.5 mile option.  I chose the shorter distance because I wanted to be out with other like-minded people plus I had a 10k run the following Saturday.  I also had a think about the article written by Mel (What Mel Did) and her thoughts about the push for female empowerment versus gender equality through branded advertising. Definite food for thought about so-called positive messages being sent to females of all ages.

The Final Stretch

I'm going to finish with an essay entitled "I Hate Running" that I found on SemiRad. Please, spend two minutes subscribing to their website, and then read the article. It's one of those pieces that someone wrote before I had the chance to. Apart from the 'ultra long distance' bits, I could have written every word. It's like Brendan has been inside my head and taken out all my thoughts!

What I'm wearing this month 

Nike Revolution 3 trainers - £44.99 at Deichman

Another new pair of trainers as it's important not to wear the same trainers two days in a row and also to have the correct support for different terrains and/or activity.  I've found that these were perfect on shorter runs and for HIIT training activities but I prefer my Adidas Duramo 55's for longer distances.

Fitbitches - The March Run Down - Nike Revolution 3 - available from Deichman

Stripy socks! In a variety of colours. From Amazon

I had sock envy after my Progression Group leader, Claire, turned up to a few events wearing stripy socks. She encouraged us all to wear the purple socks for the Stroke Association event and it seems to have caught on somewhat. I have to say that the black/rainbow combination is my favourite but I'm going all out to have socks in every colour to match each one of my running t-shirts because... #StripySockSquad (note : my automated recommendations now include 'sexy witch' and 'Oompa Loompa' because of the stripy sock research *sigh*)

Fitbitches - The March Run Down - #StripySockSquad at (1) the Resolution Run (2) Celebration Run (3) Burnnley parkrun

Total distance for 2017 so far

209 kilometres
I should be up to 240 km this week to be on track for my goal of 1000 km this year. I've included my Strava stats below because I've enjoyed the variety of different runs over the past few weeks (which included one parkrun). Again, I'm not overly worried about being behind as I'm sure my April activity will help me catch up and maybe get in front a little bit.

My focus for April is to be active every single day. I will be measuring my body and maybe my weight to see if there is any change. 

Read previous Fitbitches Run Down posts here

January | February


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Soundtrack To My Life - The First Songs I Remember

Soundtrack To My Life - The First Songs I Remember
For the third Soundtrack To My Life of the year, I thought I'd write about the first songs I remember. I've touched upon this in previous Listography themes but I haven't got as far back as where my music memories started.

I'm going to make no apologies for the era I was born in - that is sort of beyond my control - and my introduction to music stems from that era and the music that was played by the people around me.

Soundtrack To My Life - The First Songs I Remember - Bush Bakelite 1950s radio Weirdly, most of my music memories have connections to my Nana. She had a huge old 1950's Bush Bakalite radio on the dresser in the kitchen (Photo Credit : and whilst I have no knowledge of which radio station it was tuned into, it was always something she could sing along to, and encouraged me to do the same.

This selection is in no particular order but I must have loved the Brotherhood of Man song above all others because my Nana wrote the lyrics out for me to learn. She did this by recording the song from the radio or the television on a cassette recorder and then did that stop/start/rewind thing to work out all the words. The rest...? They just all remind me of a time before I started primary school - so pre-1977 - definitely before I started watching Top of the Pops and before I delved into my own parent's record collection. My appreciation of their music came at a much later date but I think that is because it always felt a bit more contemporary.

I've included five of my earliest song memories.  You can tell me yours in the comments too. 

Brotherhood of Man - Kisses For Me

John Denver - Annie's Song

Glen Campbell - Rhinestone Cowboy

Showaddywaddy - Under The Moon Of Love

Leo Sayer - You Make Me Feel Like Dancing


Soundtrack To My Life - The First Songs I Remember
Thanks for joining me on another musical meander.Soundtrack To My Life is an occasional series on this blog where I talk about music that's influenced my life or I invite people to talk about the same. Read/Listen to all the previous Soundtrack To My Life entries here or follow the dedicated Pinterest board. Find out more about participating by >> clicking here <<


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Things I Learnt In February (with a little bit of March included)

February was such a short month - as it always is - so this update has spilled into March to make it a bit more interesting.

Resharing old blog posts is sometimes worthwhile. I'm very adverse to having my photo taken as I never ever like the way I look in photographs. I tweeted the link to a blog post from last year which asked, "Why Am I Not Photogenic?" My friend Claire read the article and found me an answer from Smart Photography which explains the science behind the perception. I was very intrigued with the theory behind having less photos of yourself (guilty as charged, m'lud) means that the only image you see of yourself is that one in the mirror.  Have a read of the article and see what you think.

(NB: I'm still adverse to the oversharing of old blog posts and the use of ICYMI and Halloween posts in March or Christmas posts in June... just saying)

Things I Learnt In February and March - my three grandchildrenGetting a photo of your grandchildren all together is nigh on impossible. Especially when one of them will do anything to sabotage the process (she only let me take our family Christmas photo because I said it was OK to pull a funny face)!  I did end up with a nice one eventually but the other seventeen made this hilarious gif.

The message for this year's International Women's Day was #BeBoldForChange and in our local area a poster campaign was launched to highlight five inspirational women who have made a difference to people's lives in Blackburn and Darwen. The reason I've mentioned this is because the Chair of Blackburn Road Runners is one of those women and her face and message can be seen on bus shelters across the town. Of course, this makes for great photo opportunities when out on runs - some of the pictures that have been shared in our Facebook groups have been quite funny! It did give me food for thought though. I would love to be able to give more time and effort to make a change but other parts of my life take priority. Maybe one day, eh?

The pursuit of happiness isn't a modern day concept but can be brought into play for modern times. My running friend, Cathy, talked me through a bad run a while back and mentioned the four levels of happiness, originally identified by Aristole (he wasn't on the run with us - he died in 322 BC). The levels are thus:

  • Level 1 : happiness obtained through material objects and external stimuli.  This could be something as small as a bar of chocolate or as large as a new car.
  • Level 2 : happiness related to happiness through comparison with others. This could be being able to run further and faster (you see how the conversation started now), to earn more money or even to have more followers on your social media channels. 
  • Level 3 : happiness comes from doing good deeds. This could be helping others through volunteering and finding ways to make the world a better place
  • Level 4 : happiness takes the form of enlightenment or some form of 'perfect' happiness.

I mentioned that I feel very much at Level 3 most of the time yet I haven't touched upon Level 2 so wondered how that could be. But I think I was getting mixed up with Maslow's Triangle which is where you have to have achieved one level before you can move onto the next. This tier of happiness means that you can jump around depending upon your mood and/or your circumstances on any given day.  Which level are you at?

The collaboration between SORTEDfood and Co-op is drawing on the cooking skills gap in the 16 to 35 year old age group (you can read more about their research here and here - honestly, it's very eye opening). My youngest child (now almost 18 years old) really enjoyed and was very successful in his catering course at high school and still enjoys cooking a meal for us all from time to time. Co-op and SORTEDfood sent us a box of ingredients and the recipe to make roasted vegetable couscous which was so simple and tasty that we've been working our way through their recipes on the Now Cook It website. It's also worth checking out the SORTEDfood YouTube channel too!

I have short hair envy again. Over the years I've lusted after the styles of Pink, Rhianna and Kris Jenner. This time it's Jennifer Hudson and Emma Willis. I have short, undercut hair but it's very fine and doesn't hold its style very well, regardless of the cut. I've yet to find hair happiness (I'm seeing this month's theme now... are you?) but I'm almost there - it just needs to be a bit longer.

Things I Learnt In February and March - Stroke Association Resolution Run - stripy sock shot - from Instagram (Nickie O'Hara)
Some companies absolutely understand how social media works and one of those companies is the Stroke Association. I participated in one of their charity runs earlier this month (it was the Resolution Run at Heaton Park in Manchester but I'll talk more about that in my next Fitbitches update) and shared photos and updates on social media throughout the day. I was really surprised to see responses from their online team on Twitter and Instagram in real time at the weekend and I was also chuffed when they used one of my photos in their live Instagram Story from the day. They have continued to engage and I know a number of companies that could learn some lessons from them!

The Mini Review Section

Always look to support local businesses. I had been raving about Renton's updated 'Choose Life' monologue from the new Trainspotting T2 film and a friend tagged me in a picture of a mug with it printed on but at £10 I thought it was priced a bit high. After seeing the update, a friend got in touch to say that the company she worked for was moving into the printed mug business and would I like to see a sample of their work with this monologue printed on. Um... let me think about that... HELL, YES!  So she sourced copies of the monologue and the film banners and created two mugs for me - one with the monologue from the first film and one with the monologue from the second film. Don't they look cool? Anyway, take a look at the Printed Cup Company's offerings, especially if you needed bespoke cups for gifts or for an event (also on Twitter / Facebook / Instagram / YouTube).

Things I Learnt In February and March - Printed Cup Company - Trainspotting Choose Life monologue on a mug

The Video Of The Month Section

Normally I select just one video that has really captured my attention however there are three that I just can't choose between for completely different reasons.

The first is a short film (bear with the editing - it's a bit amateurish) about raves in the North of England. I'm convinced I attended one of the raves in Blackburn in the video (in 1990) but can't be sure as I was always completely oblivious as to where we were going in the car!

The next is from Walk Off The Earth and is a celebration of their rise to popularity after they filmed themselves playing one guitar, singing their version of Goyte's "Somebody That I Used To Know" - it went viral and has introduced them to a much wider audience. I still think they are hugely underrated and have so much talent between them - and some of their music-making methods are unbelievably wacky but innovative.

The last one is (in my opinion) another underrated group - Pentatonix - and their collaboration with Dolly Parton for a reboot of the song, Jolene. You may have seen/heard them sing it on an episode of The Voice USA with Miley Cyrus but this is a much purer edit. As an aside, this song will be being mentioned in an upcoming Soundtrack To My Life but more on that at another time...

And to finish... let's look at how the Motorway police have a great sense of humour. This tweet proves it!

Things I Learnt In February and March - NorthWest Motorway Police twitter

Don't forget to share your new found wisdom with me in the comments. 

What can you teach me this month?


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The Write Angle : My February Finds

It's a well known fact that I'm a stationery addict and I've wanted to write a regular stationery series for a while. So, for now, I'm going to be sharing my latest finds, providing inspiration and reviewing my favourite products on a regular basis.

The Write Angle : My February Finds - Parker Pens Urban collection from Pen Heaven
Since the trend for bullet journaling has taken off (where HAVE you been for the past three years or so?) lots of people are reverting back to tradition and writing out their to-do lists.  For National Handwriting Day I wrote about putting pen to paper and practising your handwriting plus I held a bit of an open Q&A - if you missed it, it's really worth a read as there's also a guest post in there from Pen Heaven all about the individuality of your handwriting style. I've also recently been using my Parker Urban pen which is chunky and heavy which is perfect for my grip - and it's personalised so no-one can steal it!!

The Write Angle : My February Finds - Spotlight Stationery December subscription boxYou may have noticed that I'd not sampled any new stationery subscription boxes recently, although I'm still a huge fan of them. I love how they give you the chance to try out stationery products that you probably wouldn't normally buy or didn't even know existed.  Anyway, I've been given the chance to take a look at the offerings from Spotlight Stationery. Ever a fan of a good flatlay, you can see their December and January boxes on my Instagram however their February box is a little bit different as the theme is "Letterpress".  The boxes have just been sent out to the subscribers so I'll be reviewing this live on my Facebook page on Tuesday evening. Just "like" my page to receive a notification when the video is starting.
The Write Angle : My February Finds - Spotlight Stationery January subscription box
At the beginning of the year I was using my Filofax refillable notebook as my bullet journal but it was just not working. I had too many pages crammed in there because of the way that I like to style my bullet journal and I was probably over-thinking the whole system. This is also probably why I didn't settle into just one journal last year.  In one of the Spotlight Stationery subscription boxes was a beautiful notebook from Paper Oh. It's the red and black one in this picture and it's an A5 Cahier Circulo with 80 gridded pages. If this works out I may... just may... use the absolutely amazing black and gold Castelli notebook (seen above) which has the most unusual 3D effect on the cover.

The Write Angle : My February Finds - Paper Oh Cahier Circulo from Spotlight StationeryI'm still using the Filofax notebook but I've taken inspiration from Kara at Innocent Charms Chat who is using hers as a blog planner. I'm taking a more focused approach to my writing this year so this notebook is now sectioned out to help with the planning of my blog posts, my vidoes and my new not-so-secret community project. 

The Write Angle : My February Finds - Filofax Refillable NotebookI'm always a bit of a dither about the book I'm going to use as my bullet journal because it's the one that goes everywhere with me but I also always need a planner/diary too (I've mentioned this before on numerous occasions). The Hobonichi system works perfectly for me but - don't hate me - I'm not a huge fan of the Tomeo River paper and the diaries are just so expensive. Mark's (available at Bureau Direct) are another compromise - I used their Color's Storage.It for 2015 - but, to be honest, I'd forgotten about their diaries this year. What I am going to do is present a live video, again through my Facebook page, which will be a walk-through of my bullet journal system. It's very plain and practical as I'm not in the least bit arty - but at least you'll be able to see how I manage my planning system and why it absolutely works for me.

The Write Angle : My February Finds - Chalkola Chalk Pens
I've been trying out a new-to-me arts and craft product called Chalkola this month. I have been fascinated by these chalkboard markers because they are odour free and environmentally friendly and they seem to have limitless uses for both children and adults. I have an office whiteboard for reminders and the neon colours are fab for organising my notes on there,  On non-porous surfaces (windows, glass jars, chalkboards) they simply wipe off with a wet cloth but they can be used on any surface.  You do have to "pump" the nib for a while to get the ink to flow on the first use but the various sizes of pen/nib available do mean that you can create a variety of effects - I can't wait to use them more!  I've been trying out the Jumbo Chalk Pens and the Bullet Tip Chalk Pens but all their products are available from Amazon.

And finally, I've always been a huge fan of the Pocket Notebooks website. It was recently taken over by Stuart and he's been working really hard to introduce some new lines in the shop. I want to buy it all! If you're a fan of the smaller notebook or are looking for pocket-sized notebooks for your travellers notebook system then this is a great place to start.

Let me know what you think of this new stationery series. I'm planning (haha... what a pun!) on writing this bi-monthly - or maybe a little bit more often if I have lots to share. One suggestion from a friend was to suggest a 'stationery bundle' for you to try out and that's an idea I'm definitely open to presenting. Alos, Steve from Philofaxy has recently mentioned that there seems to be less blog posts from the Filofax community with one theory being that content creators are now turning more to YouTube and Instagram to share their update.  I may do a couple of updated posts about my beautiful Malden if there's a gap in the market and update my 'merged Filofax and Bullet Journal' system.



Pen Heaven had sent me a personalised pen from their Urban range to try out as Parker are rebranding all of their ranges. They also do the most amazing gift wrapping service so you can have a pen sent direct to a friend or family member with a personal note attached too. More details on their website.

Spotlight Stationery have many of the individual items from the subscription boxes available in their shop. You can use the code NICKIE15 for a very generous 15% discount on any purchase from the shop and/or a monthly or bi-monthly subscription.  NB: this code is not valid on the 3 and 6 month subscription as that has already been reduced in price.

Chalkola had sent me two boxes of pens from their range on Amazon, I will be revisiting this product as I've only tried it out on my whiteboard but have lots of craft ideas to try out with the grandchildren over the next few weeks.


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The Scariest Fictional Characters That We'd Hate To Meet On A Dark Night

The Scariest Fictional Characters That We'd Hate To Meet On A Dark Night
Reading can be a wonderful thing. It can take us to magical places and introduce us to the most amazing people. Alongside that of course, there’s also the potential to meet some not-so-amazing people. The potential to meet someone pretty creepy, really. To prove our point, here are five of the scariest people you might ever encounter between the covers of a book.

Pennywise (It by Stephen King)

Brought to life in Stephen King’s “It”, Pennywise is more than just a scary clown. The character is actually a child-murdering creature whose real form is unknown. Contrary to what you might expect, the idea that Pennywise comes from beyond the dawn of the universe is really this monster’s only saving grace, allowing us to shut the book safe in the knowledge that the character comes from a time far removed from ours.

A new film is coming out this year starring Bill Skarsgård as the evil clown, but we personally don’t think anything will top the sheer, unbridled horror of the Tim Curry version.

Dolores Umbridge (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling)

Did you think we were going to put Voldemort on here? Sorry, no such luck. After all, you don’t get to be one of the scariest villains in history by getting defeated by a baby early on in your fictional career. If you want to experience proper evil in the Harry Potter world, look no further than Dolores Umbridge.

Real evil doesn’t reveal itself, wearing a black cloak and casting spells on passers-by in Diagon Alley. Instead, the thing you should be most scared of is the person in charge. Far from leading Hogwarts towards a brighter future, Umbridge demonstrated the kind of evil that nothing in Ollivander’s wand shop can protect you from.

Mr Teatime (The Hogfather by Terry Pratchett)

Let’s face it, you can’t get much more evil than murdering Santa Claus (or “The Hogfather”, as he is known in this case). Pratchett describes the villainous Mr Teatime as someone who had a truly brilliant mind, but ultimately showed himself to be broken and greatly unhinged.

The worst thing about Mr Teatime’s plot, however, is that it makes such perfect sense. And when you think about it, that’s really something for a plan that involves breaking into the Tooth Fairy’s Castle to kill Santa Claus.

The Grand High Witch (The Witches by Roald Dahl)

The Witches in Roald Dahl’s story have one goal and one goal only – to destroy all children. It makes the Grand High Witch only the third child murderer we’ve mentioned in this list, leading us to believe that villains trying to kill children in children’s stories are no rare thing. What makes the Grand High Witch particularly evil and terrifying are the horrendous ways she actually goes about her devious plot. A few of the most fearsome tactics include trapping children in paintings, stamping them out like slugs and even turning them into hot dogs so that their own parents can be fooled into eating them.

The Scariest Fictional Characters That We'd Hate To Meet On A Dark Night

This is a collaborative post. For more information please view my disclosure policy.

Fitbitches - The February Run Down

Fitbitches - The February Run Down

So I'll start with the negative from this month. I had the worst run (mentally) around three weeks ago. It was a normal Monday 3-mile run with my usual running group and some of the route was to be torchlit (it mixes things up a bit - here's the stats from Strava).  I don't suffer from panic attacks however I struggled with pace and I had a bit of a moment half way round where I struggled to breathe, felt physically sick and got a bit tearful. My running pals talked me through it and got me to a point where I felt as though I could carry on.

After getting home, I had a bit of a think about what had happened and felt as though I had been building up to this for a long time. The decision to run further and faster over the winter was a tough one to make. I was leaving my Couch To 5k community group comfort blanket behind, running with new people - many of whom were already great friends with each other - and pushing myself to do something that still feels so unnatural to me. The runs with this group are tough but I can already feel the difference in my stamina and pace in general and that's the positive I'm taking from this.

Moving forward, we are on week 7 of the latest 5-10k Progression Plan and this is the third time I've been on this plan. As mentioned earlier, it's a challenge for me to be out of my comfort zone but I do organise the weekly optional extra run on a Saturday which is anything between 3 and 5 miles. I've also got the Stroke Association Resolution Run (10k) booked for the beginning of March and there's a few of my running mates taking part. I have also registered for another virtual 10k during March.

Blackburn Road Runners Winter Warmer 10k

I had been mentally preparing for the Blackburn Road Runners 10k Winter Warmer for a while. It's our only local 10k and includes my nemesis hill - Buncer Lane.  The route is tough in general, with the first 3k being totally uphill however the views are spectacular. The organisation of the event is second to none with BRR members as pacers and marshals - and this is what helped me have such a good run as I know most of them personally as part of my extended running community. My run was full of shouts of encouragement, high fives and hugs.

Fitbitches - The February Run Down - the BRR Winter Warmer elevation chartFitbitches - The February Run Down - BRR Winter Warmer at around 7k - photo credit : Claire Young

At around the halfway point I fell into a matching stride with another runner and we ran the second half of the route together, giving each other little pep-talks, chatting about our running achievements and goals for the year and generally helping each other along for the last part of the race. Because of this, I totally ran through my usual wall at 7-8k but definitely hit it for the last kilometre when I was back in the park and could see the finish line. My new-found running buddy stretched out for the final leg and we finished around a minute apart. Photo credit : Claire Young

Fitbitches - The February Run Down - BRR Winter Warmer overview, route, medal, running number
I'd set myself a goal of completing the course in 1hr 20min as I knew how long it would take me to run that first section but my chip time was 1:17:22 - yes it's slow but it's the first time I've not felt like I was running for well over an hour and that was simply down to my own personal experience with this race and the people involved.


The last few weeks have been spent thinking a lot about the Fitbitches ethos and how I can grow this into the meaningful, altruistic community that I want it to be. The Facebook group has doubled in size but I'm still determined to ensure that there are only proactive members who are focused on encouraging each other, regardless of fitness level, exercise discipline or personal goal, and all with no sales pitch as I'm looking more at the community atmosphere. As individuals, these goals are always so different but we all need that little high five or pat on the back to keep us going, don't we?

Fitbitches - The February Run Down - Fitbitches is not about being better than someone else, its about being better than you used to be
Along with the original members of Fitbitches, I organised a February Virtual Event. We were all looking to move more in 2017 but I always find having an actual target is the best way to get to the next level.  I saw that Virtual Runner UK were offering a medal in February where you could run or walk either 5k or 10k to achieve that medal.  It was the ideal goal where we could all be involved, so we signed up for it, agreed a day when we could all do the activity near our own homes and kept in touch via social media for mutual support. It was such a good feeling to actually see my friends achieving what they'd set out to do and enjoying the time they were spending doing it! Huge congratulations to Tanya, Kirsty & Clara and Penny (links to their Instagram so you can follow their updates).  If you want to follow our progress then we are using the #Fitbitches hashtag on Instagram - that hashtag isn't exclusive though so I might have to create a unique one moving forward... EDIT - THE HASHTAG IS #FitbitchesMOVEment - see all the posts here.  Leading on from this, Tanya has absolutely SMASHED another personal goal by power-walking 21k in a week - you can read her update here.

We are all now contemplating what we can do in March and we are slowly introducing more people to the group who can help mould this unique community in the way that I want. This is more than completing just one 5k or chatting on a Facebook group or selling fitness advice in the form of e-books that isn't tailored to the individual. It's not blogging, it's not tweeting... it's doing. It's a MOVEment.

Stories That Have Captured My Interest This Month

Fitbitches - The February Run Down - Ron Hill
Most distance runners will have heard of Ron Hill and many other runners will know of him through his sport clothing range as he was a pioneer of various products, but mainly the reflective strips that are now found on most sports outerwear.  I knew of him long ago as he was the first winner of the Freckleton Half Marathon (my home village - and, if it ever came to it, the only half marathon I'd ever run) and he still holds the course record after 50-odd years!

Born in Accrington, Lancashire, he was a multi-gold medalist marathon runner and recently ended the longest recorded running streak in history, finishing at 19,032 days where he ran at least one mile for every single one of those days. I honestly can't imagine how that feels as he has said that he mentally wants/wanted to continue but, due to illness, his body just couldn't do it any more.  The Guardian shared a video of his achievements which I've embedded here for you to watch.

Fell running is so far off my radar that I cannot even contemplate the dedication it takes to train for such events. This article about Ricky Lightfoot appeared on my Strava feed a couple of weeks ago and is a must-read. He talks about the Bob Graham Round, which is the Lake District's most historic fell running challenge and the input that is needed for this endurance feat. As an aside, the photography accompanying this article is too DIE for!!

And I'll finish with yet another excuse to embed a Casey Neistat video where he examines his addiction to running. The mini-film is under 3 minutes long so well worth a watch.

What I'm wearing this month 

Adidas Duramo 55 - discounted at Sports Direct (although their staff are worse than useless) - bought a half size bigger which is recommended and laced for high arches. This has completely eradicated the pins-and-needles feeling I regularly have in my foot and I've had fewer calf twinges this month too.

Wild Bangarang - I wore my Anne Stokes Gothic Skull leggings when running the Winter Warmer  which are definitely my favourite pair from all the ones I own. If you're ever ordering from their site you can use the discount code TYPECAST15 for 15% off your order.

Blackburn Road Runners buff - I joked that I'd only entered their Winter Warmer so I could receive the logo'd running buff in the goodie bag... but they didn't include one this year!! My friend, and BRR member, Lisa kindly bought me one as a gift and I've worn it every time I've been running since - it was brilliant as an 80s style sweatband on this weekend's 8k run (pic here)!! 

Total distance for 2017 so far

123 kilometres
I should be up to 140 km this week to be on track for my goal of 1000 km this year. I'm not too worried about being a little bit behind but I really can't let it slip much more as it will become too challenging later in the year

My focus for March is to catch up on the missing mileage and to be more positive about my runs. One day, I'll nail this.  (PS... read January's Fitbitches Run Down here)


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How Can I Get A Good Night's Sleep?

Sleep... it's a sore subject in this house

The cause? My husband's snoring! One pillow, two pillows, on his back, on his side, using an anti-snore pillow, whatever. And he sleeps so deeply that he has no idea that he's doing it either. He protests by saying that I snore too but I know I don't...  I'm too ladylike to snore. Cute little piggy grunts, maybe, but not loud enough to wake someone from their slumber and prevent them from nodding back off again.

You would think I would be used surviving with no sleep. When my youngest child was born (and before was diagnosed with ADHD) he used to sleep for anything between half an hour and two hours then stay away for the next eight hours. This went on for approximately two-and-a-half years. In fact, I was so adept at surviving of little or no sleep that I laughed at the idea of the reality TV Show, "Shattered" which involved a number of contestants going without sleep for a week (I'm sure I am the only person who remembers this. Dermot O'Leary presented the nightly updates).

Nowadays, I sometimes manage a lie-in at the weekend but I am usually awake before it is absolutely necessary to get up and can never settle back down again. That's a sign of old-age, isn't it?

Sleep isn't something that you can store in reserve for a time when you need the extra push, so what can you do to ensure a better night's sleep? Hopefully this video below from Adjustamatic will provide some advice about sleep position, pillows and how the position of your spine is all important.

And feel free to share your top tips about sleeping well - I need all the help I can get!!

This is a featured post. For more details please read my disclosure policy