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 other Fitbitches blog posts from this year
January | February | March | April | May | June
July | August | September | October | November | December 


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