The May Run Down

This Fitbitches Run Down might be a bit of a 'woe is me' type of post as I've been having a(nother) personal battle with my running. It's really hard to explain but I've felt very panicked every time I've started to run, I've struggled to find a good pace and I've had to really slow my pace (not that I'm fast anyway!!). I think it started with an ankle injury a few weeks back. I tripped over the back step (it's long story and it involved a full bowl of hot water too - think: £250's worth of You've Been Framed clip if anyone had have been filming) and ended up hobbling around for a few days. I took the sensible decision to rest for a week and then gingerly tried to run again. I have no idea what was going on up there *taps forehead* but I felt like I couldn't run again; or at least, not for any distance. There was even a couple of occasions with the full tears and snot and almost needing a brown paper bag for my breathing. My running buddies were fabulous, but the more attention it was given, the worse the panicking got.

So I quit. I took myself out of the situation that was causing the upset and thought it best to go it alone.

Now this won't be any great deal to your average runner. Running is traditionally a very selfish sport. You push your own body beyond it's current limits and expectations to get better and better, to reach those personal best moments. But this is exactly why I found running hard in the first place - and exactly why I felt I got so much out of our community running programme. There is always someone there to talk you through the rough times and to celebrate the good times and every other moment in between.

Our local parkrun at Witton Country Park is a toughy. I actively avoid it and choose to run at the more flat Burnley parkrun whenever I have a free weekend and I'm not volunteering with the GroupRun plans. But this week was different. I needed to do something totally different and take myself out of the comfort zone I'd become accustomed to.

#FitbitchesMOVEment - Fibitches : May Run Down (part 1)
It's my slowest ever 5k - slower even than the first time I ever timed myself 3 years ago (you can see the Strava details here). But Witton parkrun is a 2-loop course, very much on uneven terrain and there are some steep hills up in the woods with some equally steep downhills too. It's one that you have to work to control and one that is very difficult to maintain an average pace. My main goal was to complete the course and I did it. I received lots of fantastic encouragement and it was great to see some regular local runners there plus to run the last part of the final lap with Katie who used to work in our local Labour offices when Jack Straw was our MP.

I also now know that the Witton parkrun course is manageable but one that certainly puts you through your paces. It's not one that I could run every week but I'll definitely be back to try and improve on my time another weekend.

With regards to finding my running mojo again, I've decided to take myself back to our 'couch to 5k' GroupRun programme again and put myself right back into the middle of where it all clicked for me in the first place. I've no idea if it will work and I don't actually want to stop running... I just want to enjoy it again. 


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


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The April Run Down

#FitbitchesMOVEment - Fitbitches - The April Run Down

Do you like the new logo? Isn't it just bloody awesome? I'm in the process of properly branding the #FitbitchesMOVEment and my friend, Amy, designed this for me (she comes highly recommended and reasonably priced - let me know if you want her details). I wanted to showcase a "powerful and active woman" not specifically engaged in any one fitness activity but also not emulating the 'We Can Do It' symbol of feminism. I think this is spot on. I've already teased it a bit here and there but watch out for it here, on Facebook and on Instagram.

Being Active Every Day In April

At the end of last month I made a promise to myself to be active every day in April. I thought I could run every day or do some form of additional exercise; as it was, I took it upon myself to do the 30-day squat challenge (lead by an app on my phone) which started innocently with 30 squats and finished on a thigh-aching 195 squats.

As I moved through the month, I found myself with a better stance and a deeper squat. Even though it felt tough, I completed the challenge to the end of the month. It's changed nothing physically (that I can see) but it has got me into the habit of doing something extra every day to help towards my overall well-being and fitness which can only be a good thing. To continue with this daily exercise, I'm going through the challenge again and adding in a planking challenge too. At the time of writing, I'm up to date with my squats but after a comedy (!) fall over the back step at home I was nursing an ankle injury (nothing too serious) so the planking is on hold! Normal service to be resumed next month, hopefully!

Couch To Marathon In Two Years

Fitbitches - The April Run Down
I talk a lot about the 'original Group 6 gang' - the people that became my close friends in our community running group. Over time we went our separate ways to achieve personal running goals but we all remained close friends. Many of the gang have gone on to run half marathons - a massive achievement in itself - but five of them have (now) actually run a marathon; one completed the Manchester Marathon in March and four others ran the London Marathon in April. I got the opportunity to run with most of them as a bit of a "look how far you've come" mini celebration - just a 4 mile leg-stretcher as part of their taper to the marathon and it was wonderful to catch up with them all and hear about their recent achievements and expectations.

By me for

I wrote an article for which tells my own story of how community running changed my life. It shares my journey over the past three years and has probably helped me examine where I'm at right now with my running, especially as I'm having some doubts at the moment (read more about that here). 

Videos of the Month

The first video is from John who is one of the Vlog Brothers. In this short video he explains how he's received encouragement in the form of a simple 'thumbs up' from other runners, and he's now returning the support to other runners.

The next video looks at how someone benefited from using a personal trainer for 30 days. I have always wanted to have a personal trainer so should really put some effort into actually joining a gym and/or getting up earlier to train. Anyway, I loved this video because it shows how small changes can bring big results in a short space of time.

Eliud Kipchoge is a name many of us will recognise from watching the London Marathon and long distance running events in the Olympics and World Championships but he's recently been part of a training programme (#breaking2) to run a sub-2 hour marathon. You can read more about it here and here and the video below is the final 3k in the official attempt. 

Links I Love

Because it's marathon season, there has been many running and training article that I've enjoyed so I'll share some of those link here now. Please do let me know if you've read anything that might interest me too. 

I've been struggling with my breathing recently (and it's also affected in the summer by my hayfever) so these breathing tips for beginner runners were a great way for me get back into the zone again plus it also fits in with the run/walk/run/walk method used by couch to 5k programmes.

I have a bit of a girl-crush on Kelly Roberts and I've been following her year-long journey which hoped to see her qualify for the Boston Marathon.  She was relying on her finishing time from the London Marathon for entry and this blog post and video is her explaining her disappointment of not achieving that much desired qualifying time and thinking about what she is going to do next.

I've talked often about how running has changed my life so reading about the psychology of running and the ten ways in which running can change your mind and brain has helped me focus recently.

Buzzfeed recently crowdsourced an article from 11 women who shared what motivates them to work out which includes feeling strong, a sense of accomplishment, breaking barriers and being part of a team. 

And finally, I'm sure we've all been out running or exercising and had people say dumb things to us. Here, Women's Running and put together the 12 most 'popular' things that people say to runners.  Let me know what 'words of wisdom' you've had yelled at your as you've run past someone.


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

Things I Learnt In April

April felt like such a long month but I think some of that was because I was counting the days on a 30-day squat challenge (more of that in the monthly Fitbitches blog post). But long months provide lots of learning opportunities so here are my favourite few.  Buckle in... it's a long ride!

My picture of Carol's bin and my declaration that she is my hero is one of my most popular photos of the month. #BinGate is the hot topic of the month... probably even the year. I thought our plight was a common one but it seems that it isn't. It's a long story, but on many occasion our wheely bin is stolen. It is deliberately taken and used for a full fortnight until the next collection day for one of two reasons; (1) a neighbour doesn't own their own bin, will not pay the council fee of £20 for a new one, so takes the one nearest to their gate on collection day or (2) they didn't put their own bin out in time for collection and emptying so just take one when they think no-one is looking.  Yes, I'm being serious. Friends wait in anticipation for my weekly Tuesday updates on the drama in our alley way. I could write a whole blog post about this - maybe even a book or a sitcom.

A post shared by Nickie (@nickieohara) on

Do you know what will happen across the media when the Queen dies? There was a great longform from The Guardian which details the code - London Bridge is down - and the order in which announcements will take place.  I'm a bit of a Royalist at heart - I think we have a wonderful monarchy but this reign has seen the most changes within the media and has battled to uphold tradition alongside the need to be seen to be changing.  It can't have been easy and, regardless of how much comfort and assistance the Queen and the DofE have from day to day, there aren't many 90-odd year olds that are working and look quite as sprightly.

Edit: On the day this was published, the DofE announced his retirement. 
It must have been something I said... 

If music has run out of tunes, then the internet has definitely run out of articles. I've always had this crazy idea that there are a finite number of tunes out there and that, because of the way we are inspired by the music we listen to when we are growing up, this will influence the composers of the music of today - even to the tune of plagiarism. Anyway, back in February I wrote a blog post about songs that sound like other songs, incorporating my theory and an interesting marketing strategy that uses music to influence purchases.  At the time I mused that I would have liked more time to investigate the theory or to be paid to research these sorts of idea.

Fast forward to April and I read an article on, written by Peter Robinson of PopJustice, examining this exact subject after Ed Sheeran was found guilty of plagiarising a Matt Cardle song with a few other Ed Sheeran examples and lots and lots of comparisons.  Copying? It's doubtful. Something that is becoming more noticeable due to the way in which we are fed the music across the airwaves? Definitely!  Even Boy George has his opinion on it all.

It's never OK to presume you can talk about someone's mental health regardless of their celebrity status or, if you're a Daily Mail reader, the size of their salary.  Stormzy - a British grime and hip hop artist - was featured on the front page of NME as part of their "Time To Talk" campaign. Whilst NME are to be applauded for starting this conversation in the mainstream, you need to read what Stormzy had to say about this. His depression is something he has chosen to share through well-chosen media outlets and he didn't give permission to be used as the 'poster boy' for NME.  The magazine has now issued an apology and a brush-off explanation but it definitely doesn't excuse their assumptions and their actions could have made a personal situation a whole lot worse.  Every action has a consequence, even when you are trying to send a positive message.

Other people mention me in their blog posts, the mental bastards. Firstly, Violet Fenn who writes Sex, Death, Rock 'n' Roll  reckons I'm awesome and batshit crazy but this makes me a succssful writer. I can live with that, natch.  Also, Talya at Motherhood : The Real Deal crowdsourced an A-Z of the things we should teach our daughters; I contributed to "S"  *innocent face*  Finally, a website of which I'm a h.u.g.e. fan of - Londonist - have been using some of my images in their London in 1990 series, highlighted in their weekly newsletter.  The images were probably initially sourced from Pinterest (pictures from my 18th birthday trip to London) but they are embedded in the article and fully credited which, for me, is fantastic! Please do give all of the articles a read and a share on your social media.

Whilst everyone else is binging on Netflix, I'm binging on podcasts. It's taken me a while to get into podcasts. I've steered clear of them for a while but I tune into weekly radio shows on 'catch up' which is more or less the same thing.  I'm a sucker for a good story though and anything to do with real life or crime - and when mashed together it's even better! I really got into Serial when it was first launched but the hype wore off and my podcast app lay empty. S-Town reignited the fire and it was because all episodes were available for download in one go. I didn't have to wait six days for the next installment. I saved them all to my phone and listened to them, one after another, during the car journey to and from work. My current binge is the Karen and Ellen Letters which include after-show analysis and then I'm moving on to Mortified which was recommended to me this week.  If you'd like me to curate a list of recommended listening please do let me know but Sian has pulled together a comprehensive list of the best 'true crime' podcasts to start you off.

And speaking of podcasts... this gets a bit meta.  Richard Daly mentioned a blog post a wrote last year on one of his podcasts.  It was my 'random things you hear on the radio' observations detailing the structure for almost all local commercial radio stations.  Listen in here.

Twitter doesn't have the most followers on Twitter. Katy Perry does (at the time of writing).  You can view the top 100 here... however, I'm not sure I could cope with having millions and millions of followers. I get into enough trouble with the 6,000 I currently have.

There's a reason that celebrities wear shoes that are too big for them. Aside from the fact that your feet may get sweaty and slide down towards the toe of the shoe (because... gravity), it's to prevent blisters when wearing the shoes for any length of time. Silicone pads (the shoe equivalent to tit-tape) are usually inserted to help with the fit and comfort too.

There are some brilliant picture projects out there in internet land but to track down as many of your subjects as you can over 30 years later to recreate original photos shows dedication. It's also an interesting insight as to how people change... or not.

My video of the month comes from Facebook. It's of an illegal rave that took place on a tube train and it's genius!  The weirdest thing about this is that I shared it to a friend's Facebook page at exactly the same time she shared it to mine. Great minds, eh?

As a related aside, I also found out that Carl Cox played the Millennium (the switch from 1999 to 2000) on New Year's Eve twice. He did this by performing in Sydney, Australia then flew back over the International Date Line to play in Hawaii. (h/t to Reddit for this one)

That one viral social media post that will give you 15 minutes of internet fame is just not worth it. Do you remember that image of all the celebrities that died in 2016, created in the style of the Sergeant Pepper album cover? Chris Barker, the guy who created the image, dug into the buzz around it from his Twitter analytics and from the 270,000+ people it was served to (i.e. his tweet appearing in their timelines through sharing, likes, comments, etc) he only received 15 new follows. I think this goes to show that actually growing social media accounts is even more difficult now that it is embedded into our lives. Are we waiting for the information to be served rather than going to look for it?

The ending for the second series of Peter Kay's Car Share was very disappointing. Don't get me wrong, the series was brilliant but if the rumours are true, there are to be no more episodes made - not even a Christmas special. I'm a huge believer in not stringing things out and every story has a natural ending however all references to the "Christmas team in the supermarket" indicated that there would be an glimpse of the season's festivities at least. WE NEED A ONE-OFF CHRISTMAS SPECIAL!

Everyone loves a ghost sign. I'm fascinated by ghost-signs; the history and how they have lasted over the years. I wrote about a few in our town a while back but wanted to share the pictures to a wider audience. So the ghostsigns_ Instagram account was created and it's naturally migrated into a fan-generated account. I'm getting submissions from all over the world with exact location and local history information which helps enormously with the story behind each picture too.  Give it a follow and embed yourself in some history.

Things I Learnt In April - Ghost Signs Instagram

And finally... an announcement. I am now officially the National Stationery Week Blogger of the Year. The official press release and more information will follow in a separate blog post but there's a trophy winging its way to me and hopefully a few brilliant opportunities later this year.

Things I Learnt In April - Stationery Blogger of the Year

Coming up on the blog soon... the reveal of the #FitbitchesMOVEment new logo and all the information about how you can get involved plus more about that Stationery Blogger of the Year award! Also, don't forget to read my two-part Bullet Journal series (part 1 | part 2) and all about how Casey Neistat sent me a personal video message - total fangirl moment! 


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(Not) Meeting Casey Neistat

Back in March my Facebook Messenger pinged at around 8.30am and the conversation went something exactly like this:

Laura: Ok, really bloody random question but if you had the chance to spend a few nights in Helsinki with me and go to an influencer (cringe) event where Casey Neistat was speaking would you be up for it?

Me: Holy fuck, Laura! You know how to wake a girl up!
Me: In an ideal world I'd jump at the chance but [..] it's not something I can do
Me: I'm flogging myself with a big stick right now

Laura: I understand. I saw Casey's name and thought I had to ask because otherwise you would hate me forever

Me: Do me one favour - just give him a piece of paper with "I ❤ @nickieohara" on it and get him to sign it. I'm sure he'll be FINE with that. Or a video message. No pressure.

Laura: LOL. I'll see what I can do.

So, I then imagined that Laura blocked me on all social media channels, just in case I sent even weirder random requests and never really thought of it again.

For those that don't know, I'm a huge fan of Casey Neistat.  He doesn't need me to shout loud about his YouTube channel for him to grow his audience as he's quite capable of that himself, having gone from zero to hero in around two short years. It's really hard to explain why he is so engaging and inspirational but, as a film-maker who daily(ish) vlogs, he doesn't see vlogging as a shortcut to engaging with an audience. It's still part of his storytelling. Everything he does has a purpose but he has a talent for making it feel natural and making him seem normal and approachable and... well... like one of us.  I've championed him on this blog a few times and really have to restrain myself from sharing everything he does for fear of looking like a bit of a stalker.

Anyway...  please do go and have a dip into his videos. He has a 'style' that makes watching really easy but I guess that's the storyteller in him.

Fast forward to 28th April 2017.  If this was a Casey vlog, this is the bit where I'd reach out to the camera, adjust the lens and zoom in a bit to make you understand that what I'm going to say next is important.

Laura posted in a private Facebook group that she was sat in the audience of the #PingHelsinki conference and did we want her to livestream the Casey Neistat talk. I was at work with NO speakers and no real way of watching but went with a "HELL, YES", knowing that I could watch later. I tried to sneak a peek whilst it was live but I was supposed to be working and her internet speed was a bit funky.

And then it was all over... or so I thought.

I got another Facebook notification from Laura to the tune of "Nickie... you owe me" and wondered what the hell it could be. It was this...

Yes, Laura, I owe you BIG time. You have no idea how much I appreciate you giving up your Casey moment to pander to my needs. I'd have been like "fuck Nickie, the needy bitch... 'so, Casey...' " and then a full on interview in the 30 seconds I'd been allowed to be near him.

Thank you, Casey, for giving up your valuable time to sign a piece of paper and send a video message to someone who you have never met and who has a quite frankly, unhealthy fangirl crush on you at the age of 45.

PS. Laura is the Director of BlogOn Conference. Click on the link to find out more.


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