Achieving My Running Goals in 2018

It's been just over a year since I joined Blackburn Road Runners. It's a decision that took me a long time to make but during the past twelve months I've come to realise that there's a time and a place for everything.  After my first race wearing a BRR vest (the Windmill 10k in Lytham) I decided to take a year for myself, attempt some challenges, say "YES" more than saying "no" and see if I could push myself beyond what I thought were my boundaries.

  • Challenge 1 : Lose weight
  • Challenge 2 : Run 1000 km in a year
  • Challenge 3 : Run a long distance race
  • Challenge 4 : Break 1h 10m in a 10k race

Achieving My Running Goals in 2018
Photo Credit : Gemma McAuley Photography

Losing Weight

The losing weight bit was separate to the running but was always going to compliment it.  I joined Slimming World and have lost almost 2.5 stone over the course of the year.  It's not as much as I hoped but its been steady progress. I could have stayed right on plan and possibly lost more weight but I like wine and gin and holidays...

Run 1000km In A Year

1000 kilometres, broken down into weekly chunks becomes just over 19km (or 12 miles) per week.  That sounds manageable, right?  I began the year with a plan to run a 10 mile race in March and started training with my original running gang from the C25K days who were seasoned pros, having run plenty of 10ks, half marathons and full marathons between them.  The mileage needed for training was just over 12 miles per week, and on the increase, so this challenge felt completely possible.

Over the year, I've been fairly on track and apart from a couple of weeks out for holidays and a week off due to a recurring knee injury, I'm absolutely on track to complete this.  If I'm being totally honest, I'd forgotten about this because Claire made me change my Garmin/Strava into miles and it was only recently that I noticed the annual total clocking up.  My current distance is 581.4 miles and I need to get to 621.5 in the final weeks of the year.  Forty miles in four weeks... BRING IT ON!

Achieving My Running Goals in 2018
Photo Credit : Lancashire Telegraph

Run A Long Distance Race

I'd been training for a 10 mile race in March.  Slowly but surely my mileage was increasing. I had no faith in myself, was plodding and 'jeffing' each training run but the date was looming and, weirdy, I was looking forward to it.  But fate took over, there was a huge snowfall the night before the race and we never made it to the start line.  Out of sheer determination I signed up for the most local long distance race - the Darwen Half Marathon - and completed challenge number three.  

It wasn't pretty and it took three hours. I knew I was better than that so signed up for another - very very flat - half marathon for three months down the line and carried on with the Friday long runs.  Again, I enjoyed the training but fate struck again and my second half marathon was on one of the hottest days of the year.  Again, it took almost three hours but I ran it on my own and I wanted to do better but there was plenty of time to revisit this distance. 

I already have my sights on the Freckleton Half Marathon for 2019 and my aim is to complete it in 2h 30m.

Breaking 1h 10m in a 10k race

It's no secret that I'm a slow runner but, for me, the holy grail of running was to run faster than 1h 10m in a 10k, however it felt impossible.  At the beginning of the year, my fastest ever 10k was around 1h 12m but I ran the East Lancs Hospice 10k in 1h 21m. The first time I felt that my goal was attainable was at the Wesham Summer 10k in May.  My official time was 1h 11m so I concentrated on finding a steady-ish pace during my long runs, mixing it up with some summer trail running (such fun!) and pushing it at parkrun.  Over the year, the longer runs made the shorter runs feel easier (naturally) and as I've lost weight, another few seconds have been chipped off regular routes here and there. My parkrun time has come down to 32 minutes and I came third in our club handicap race (5k) with a time of 31m 52s

But the ultimate goal was this elusive 1h 10m and I was determined to achieve it at the Windmill 10k - one year after my first race as a Blackburn Road Runner. I had completed a 5 mile race a few weeks before in a shade  under 56 minutes and I had enjoyed every step of the way. I even finished thinking I could have pushed a little bit more.  I was averaging 11-minute to 11.30-minute miles so I had to believe that my sub-1h 10m was going to happen, as long as I stayed positive. 

And it happened!  On a totally flat route, and in perfect running conditions (after horrendously cold rain earlier in the morning) I ran in line with my 5-mile pace and finished the 2018 Windmill 10k in 1h 7m 58s - a full 15 minutes faster than the year before and completely shocking myself! Achievement Unlocked!

Achieving My Running Goals in 2018

So the last race of the year was the Wesham 10k.  It's not quite as flat as the Lytham route but it's a race that I enjoy.  I wasn't going for a specific time but I did want to run maybe a little bit faster than our usual training speed and test myself for consistency.  Conditions were perfect again, I was feeling confident and I've been training myself not to look at my watch to check pace or distance.  I started with Pat and Chez (I ran with them at the Winter Warmer earlier this year) for the first three or four kilometres and then caught up with them again around 7k.  I hit the last 500 meters and decided to give it everything I had left. I built up my "sprint" finish carefully, managed to overtake five people on the run up to the finish line and ended with an official time of 1h 4m 55s!! Another Personal Best!!

What a way to end the year! I'm so grateful too every single person who has run with me this year, offered advice, put up with my moaning, believed in me and given me the confidence to keep going! 

I've finished 'racing' in 2018 now.  I'm planning on doing our local Santa Dash with the grandchildren in a couple of weeks and there's a couple of parkruns I'd like to do but nothing major. And my next goal?  A sub-30 minute 5k or parkrun.  I have no idea when it will happen but I can't wait to find out! 

~ follow me on Strava ~


Choosing A Diary For Next Year

It's round about now that I start wading through the bajillion choices that I have available for next year's diary.  

Last year I was all over the leather diary from Hope House Press and this year I was about to update my Filofax/Bullet Journal set up but then I received an email from Jofelo asking me if I wanted to have a look at some of their leather journals.

Leather journals can always seem like an expensive option when choosing a diary but you are paying for quality and for the leather to patina and become even more unique with use.  It's one of the reasons that I love my Malden Filofax and my Fossil Sydney Satchel handbag - they are both getting better with age. Also, journals are to be used for creativity and to hold your thoughts, plans and dreams. You want to own something that's going to 'grow' with you.

Choosing A Diary For Next Year - the Trekker travellers notebook from Jofelo

I've decided that the Jofelo journal that I'm going to use as my diary for next year is the "Trekker". It's a travellers notebook style journal which is a very portable at 4.75 inches x 8.5 inches and comes with four notebooks.  Three are bound into the journal (one unlined, one lined and one kraft paper - all 80gsm) with a spare unlined white refill. 

The Trekker takes on the form of a traditional travellers notebook with one elastic and one extender, hence being able to hold three notebooks.  There is also a slim leather bookmark with a circular metal token on the end.  The whole journal held closed by a single elastic strap with a protective leather tab attached.

Also, I will be ordering a diary system from The Journal Shop this year and I'm currently browsing the choices.  I'm torn between the weekly vertical system and the week + notes system, especially as I plan to have a notebook in my journal anyway!  

Choosing A Diary For Next Year - the Unwritten Journal leather notebook from Jofelo

As soon as I visited the Jofelo website I spotted their "Unwritten Journey" journal.  It's a hefty journal measuring 5.5 inches x 7.5 inches and it comes with five blank notebook (a total of 300 pages of white, unlined, 120gsm paper) but I thought that each notebook could be used for a different purpose.  The journal cover itself is made from a dark brown, full grain, horse leather that is 2mm thick giving it extra durability.

Now, the notebooks come already bound into the cover using an intricate criss-cross bounding technique.  I haven't attempted to remove any of the notebooks to replace them but I'm sure it's pretty logical to be able to bind them back in again.  The journal also incorporates a pen loop inside the cover and a single strap of leather as a bookmark and a double-lock strap fastening for added security.

What are you going to use for next year's diary? Are you still using a paper system or have you completely converted to digital calendars?  I do mix the two but, as I've said on a number of occasions, if it's not written down, it's probably not going to happen.

Disclaimer : I was provided with the two journals mentioned in this review however my views and ideas are my own.  Thank you to Jofelo for approaching me and working with me.

How social media is mixing up our eating and drinking habits

Eating, drinking and being active on social media plays a part in the majority of everyone’s daily lives these days. There’s no doubt that technology is changing the way we go about our everyday lives. At the beginning of the year, research found that 83% of the UK’s adult population are active on social media. While we are using this platform to stay in contact with each other, we are also posting snaps of our days in a way to ‘boast’ about our activities, whether this is regarding our latest adventure, or most recent choice of food.

Here, with plastic glasses suppliers, Inn Supplies, we discuss how social media is indeed changing our eating and drinking habits.

Meal portions

A study has shown that highly active social media users are actually eating smaller portions. This is due to the fact they aren’t willing to part with enough time to eat a large meal. Whether this is the case or not, it’s concerning to think that people are putting their social media addiction ahead of gaining the nutrients needed to fulfil a balanced diet. 

How social media is mixing up our eating and drinking habits

Food envy

With cameras often snapping meals all over the world, it’s a phenomenon we simply can’t avoid. Stats found that in America, half of the population take pictures of their food, with food they’ve cooked being the most photographed meal. As well as this, over one in five US residents share images of the food they’ve received at a party or wedding.

Often, this can provide us (the viewer) with a sense of food envy. We appreciate a good thing when we see it, and often, due to social media, we can get cravings for certain food and drink. After all, nowadays it’s seen as an art form, with dinners being specifically laid out to wow the recipient. 

Food choices

Believe it or not, with so many food choices, social media is actually helping us eat healthier. While we keep sharing images of our delicious dishes, we are also sharing recipes, education, tips and a whole lot more.

Kathy Smart, CEO of Live the Smart Way says: “You are more apt to try a recipe or a new food when you see a picture of it and have a friend or person you trust recommend trying it or how to use it.”

The key fact is that a lot of recipes being shared are quick and easy to make, which is appealing to the majority. Putting an image alongside them is quickly grabbing our attention as healthy foods are often the most photogenic due to their vibrant colours.

How social media is mixing up our eating and drinking habits

Launching careers from it?

With the advances in technology, being a social media influencer is now classified as a job for some. This role, coupled with the fact that they have generated a dedicated online following, allows the user to establish credibility and persuade a large audience to purchase goods. Some influencers, including Shisodelicious, have an estimated salary of over £20,000.

To be a social media influencer, you must share your life transparently in order for companies to recognise your ‘importance’. Although lately this craze has been slammed by Twitter for creating an unrealistic expectation of reality

With more of us using social media daily, it’ll be interesting to see how our future diets are affected because of technology.


Soundtrack To My Life : Songs You Should Never Play At A Funeral

For new(er) readers, or those not in the know, Soundtrack To My Life is an irregular music series that appears on my blog from time to time.  Over the years, I've had guest posts from people who documented songs that transport them back to a specific moment in their life and I've generated playlists for a variety of reasons (click here to scroll through the 100+ entries). 

Soundtrack To My Life : Songs You Should Never Play At A Funeral

So, moving on from an entry earlier this year of Songs You Should Never Play On Hospital Radio, there was only one way to go... Songs You Should Never Play At A Funeral.  I've collated a few here but please feel free to hit me up on any of my social media channels and suggest your own.


Your loved one has just passed away and the family are gathered around paying their last respects.  The last song you want to hear is Another One Bites The Dust softly playing in the background on the kitchen radio.

It's now time to decide whether you want a burial or a cremation. I've always wanted to be buried but my husband has always expressed a preference for cremation and it's important to discuss these things.  Maybe listening to  Ashes to Ashes and Going Underground on repeat will help you make up your mind?

I've always enjoyed the scene in Beetlejuice that makes you believe the choice for your afterlife destiny is determined by taking your number and waiting in line for your judgement.  Maybe the decision can be influenced by playing Knocking on Heaven's Door and Highway to Hell on a loop?

And now it's time for the mourning period to start properly.  Everybody needs a bit of time to come to terms with their loss and that amount of time is different for everybody.  It is probably best to try and avoid songs like Somebody That I Used To Know and Since U Been Gone for a good few weeks, at least!

But everybody is different.  The reprise in your mourning period might be helped by listening to Live And Let Die.

But then again, it might be 'good riddance' and that person is Better Off Dead!!


Soundtrack To My Life : Songs You Should Never Play At A Funeral

Soundtrack To My Life is an occasional series where I talk about music that has influenced my life in some way. Read/Listen to all the previous Soundtrack To My Life entries here or follow the dedicated Pinterest board.


There Are Two Types Of Photos I Always Take On Holiday...

#BEDN : There Are Two Types Of Photos I Always Take On Holiday... - sunset in Roda, Corfu

I'm not a great photographer.  Most of my images are taken on whatever mobile phone I have at the time and I've recently bought a Nikon D3300 camera, on which I am (unsuccessfully) attempting to move from auto to manual.

But I've notice a pattern in my holiday snaps over the years.  Yes, there's the usual scenery shots that mean nothing to anyone else (or have been seen a hundred times before in other people's holiday photos) and then there's the pictures of your fellow holidaymakers, all smiling away at the camera whilst squinting into the sun. 

But my preferred shot is either the sunset or the planescape. Here's a few favourites I've taken from over the years... 

This sunset shot was taken from a hotel balcony in Albuferia, Portugal and it now hangs on my landing at home on canvas.  Coincidentally, we are going back to the same hotel at Christmas this year and I'm looking forward to seeing what winter sunsets are like! 

#BEDN : There Are Two Types Of Photos I Always Take On Holiday... - sunset in Albuferia, Portugal
Albuferia, Portugal

This sunset was taken in Roda, Corfu.  We celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary here last year and I would go back to this area in a heartbeat.  Roda is so chilled and the weather was just perfect.  I can't actually decide whether here or Ibiza is the place I'd like to move to if I had the opportunity. (note: I love Roda that much I wrote about it here)

#BEDN : There Are Two Types Of Photos I Always Take On Holiday... - sunset in Roda, Corfu
Roda, Corfu

And finally, Ibiza.  We were back on the island for the third time earlier this year.  Our hotel in San Antonio Bay was facing the exact same direction as, but across the bay from, Cafe Mambo where everyone goes to watch the sunset each evening. Watching the sun disappear never got boring and each sunset was totally different. 

#BEDN : There Are Two Types Of Photos I Always Take On Holiday... - sunset in San Antonio Bay, Ibiza
San Antonio Bay, Ibiza

The first planescape photo I ever took was whilst flying over Spain about 11 or 12 years ago. I'm not even sure the word "planescape" even existed back then but I just knew that I liked what I saw and it fascinated me!

#BEDN : There Are Two Types Of Photos I Always Take On Holiday... In a plane, over Spain somewhere
Somewhere over Spain

This next one is from when we were flying back from Turkey a few years ago.  It was about 30 minutes until we were due to land at Manchester, Jake looked out of the window and exclaimed, "Mum, LOOK! It's Eastenders!"  And he was right... if you tilt your head to the left, you can make out the bend of the River Thames as it winds it's way through London and the circular roof of the Millennium Dome O2 Stadium. 

#BEDN : There Are Two Types Of Photos I Always Take On Holiday... In a plane, over London, England
London, England

The final one (for now) was taken as we were leaving Tunisia.  This country became one of our favoured destinations and we were heartbroken when travel was halted due to acts of terrorism in 2015 - mostly for the people who lived there as it brought many businesses to a complete standstill.  Even though it has recently been declared safe to travel again, it may be a couple more years until we venture back that way.

#BEDN : There Are Two Types Of Photos I Always Take On Holiday... - in a plane leaving Tunisia
Leaving Tunisia
I've just realised that both of these types of photographs include the sky in some way but what really stirs the geek in me is the enormity of the lack of control I have over what I am seeing in these photos.  You can't argue with nature; no matter what happens, the sun will always rise in the morning and set in the evening, even if you can't actually see it. Similarly, having the ability to travel to the furthest corners of the Earth and being able to see, from your plane window, the land beneath, exactly as it appears on a map or a globe, just fascinates me.


Who Is She?

#BEDN : Who Is She?  One of my favourite photos of me! Taking a selfie at parkrun, looking slighty bedraggled!
One of my favourite photos of me - credit : Gemma McAuley

Why do I always feel a bit lost when I need to write something about myself? I started writing a list of "I am..." type lines but it was veering into Steve Miller Band, The Joker territory and I'm definitely no 'gangster of love'!! So what I usually do is to direct people to one of my two mini biographies that I tout about on social media because they are short and snappy and, hopefully, a little bit witty.  Plus they can be conversation starters...

This is my Twitter bio which stems from a lifetime of living with a car trader!
1972 model, good condition (large scratch on bodywork), one careful owner since 1990. Genuine mileage. Full history available.

And this is my blog bio which gives you an overview of who I am, what I write about and some of my hobbies!
Teenage mum | "granny at 36" | social media addict | stationery lover | blogger | podcaster | slow runner

Anyway, the reason for this dilemma is that I'm going to be "Blogging Every Day in November" (or at least when I remember) and joining in with prompts from Elizabeth Dhokia. The first task is to introduce myself which feels a bit weird on my own blog but I'm hoping for new readers too

Prompts used to happen a lot when I first started blogging. Someone would write a blog post with a specific theme (for writing or photography) and whole blogging communities would join in.  It's how I met most of the OB's (original parent bloggers) from the 2009-2010 era, many of which I am lucky enough to still have as friends today, especially when ten years is a fucking long time in internet land! 

I was going to do a bit of a list of "10 things you didn't need to know about me" but I've had a sneak peek of the upcoming themes that Elizabeth has created for this #BEDN and there's some really good ones that I can definitely get stuck into. You surely will know a lot more about me by the end of November and hopefully I'll dig myself out of this writing funk that I've been in for a while.  I hope you're going to like what's coming up and, if you're a new reader please do let's connect on social media.

Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Oh, and the reason for choosing the lead photo for this blog post... it's how a lot of people know me these days; phone in hand, taking a selfie (or groupie), usually after a run, micro-blogging my life over on Instagram! 

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