Run 530 Leicester

I’ve never been a speedy runner, I’ve never found running easy and I spend most of my time while running looking at people’s backs in the distance but, I plod on. I try to ignore my frustration at being so slow and  rejoyce the fact that a few years ago I couldn’t  plod anywhere. Lately though,   I’ve been in a deep running rut and my interest in the activity as a whole has been minimal.
I ran an extremely difficult half marathon a month ago, it took me 3 hours, I was 4th from last and I hated it. I hadn’t been motivated to train and I didn’t run once in the last 16 days leading up to the event. I wasn’t fit for a 5k never mind a half marathon and  I started to think, what’s the point in it, I’m rubbish at running anyway. Since then,   I’ve had several difficult ,uncomfortable short runs that my heart hasn’t  been in. I haven’t finished a run feeling great for I don’t know how long. So, with little reward of late I started giving little effort, hence my rut.
When I signed up to a 5.3km running event called Run 530 which started at 5.30am, I imagined running through my home town bathed in the golden light of sunrise. I had thoughts of  birds singing, the first sounds of the city waking up as shops opened and the first buses crawled out of town on a glorious summer morning. Run 530 originated in Italy and is hosted by Perfect Motionhere in the UK.  Looking at the 530 gallery I was seduced by sunrise pictures of happy Italian runners in Venice, Modena and Rome. I did not get that!
Run 530 UK Leicester
This morning, my alarm went of at 4.15 am, it was raining. I left my house at 4.45am, it was raining. I walked to the meeting point in Victoria Park Leicester, it was raining. There’s a pattern forming here. How wonderfully British the weather decided to be.  On the walk from the car I started making preemptive excuses for my impending, poor performance and talking about being the last over the line.  To my surprise, and delight as I wan’t feeling very motivated,  my super fast runner friend said she’d go my pace to help me.
At the start line we were greeted by lots of smiling faces, most in disbelief that they had managed to get out of bed before 5 am for this event. Everyone at a 530 run wears a tour t shirt which can be collected before the event and  were coincidentally in Leicester blue this year, a possible connection with Ranieri being Italian and the LCFC premiership win perhaps?
Instantly, it was clear that the atmosphere was friendly, inclusive and non competitive. There were no race numbers, no times, no start gun and no pacers. There were cheers and laughs at the start line mostly relating to the weather and time of day and lots of chatter all the way round.
The 5.3k route took us past Leicester landmarks such as New Walk (down was much nicer than up), the clock tower, Leicester Cathedral and the Highcross. The rain didn’t matter one bit and despite going a bit quicker than I would if I was on my own I started enjoying it, an unusual occurrence lately.
The route was well staffed by  marshals and a photographer on a bike who kept popping up in different locations, clear signage meant nobody went off track and when we made it up New Walk there was a lady waiting to give us our lush medals followed by drinks, fruit bowls and a pink goodie bag – hoorah! The goodie bag may have been a bit girly, one man said he was going to wear his fake eye lashes to work that morning but, for me it was a nice change from a healthy chew bar tasting of soil.
I finished with a big grin on my face for the first time in a while.  I put a bit of extra effort in (mainly thanks to my girl coach for staying with me and the novelty of the event)  and got a lot out of this run. Maybe that’s where I’ve been going wrong lately, I guess to get the runner’s reward,  you have to actually try and something about today’s event got me to try again. I feel motivated to get back to it now.
I really enjoyed this event, it felt like we were co conspirators in a secret club nobody knew about because the city was mostly asleep, I imagine some people were lying in  bed with windows open wondering what the noise was as 160 pairs of feet padded through the silence of town at 5.30am.
I really hope Run 530 returns next year. Participants are encouraged to run or walk the route so it’s definitely an event for anyone of any experience and ability.  Leave your ego at home, this event is all about community, people and fun. Perhaps it’s just a post 530 high but,  I’m now thinking of becoming a Run 530 tourist and doing them in Italy next year. I can see it now, ‘Report From the Road with Surfabella, On Tour in Italy’,  wonder if there’s a job going that fits that description?

Its not too late to join in the final Run530 UK event in Derby on 15th July sign up here
If you are thinking about starting running or have just started read my post on being a beginner here

A Weekend 3000ft Above Sea Level

this is not a surf trip

I’m going on a road trip this weekend which requires a day off work, a drive of 370 miles and 3 nights away.  IT IS NOT A SURF TRIP. This is highly unusual and it’s strange not to be packing my board or hunting for tent pegs, not to be digging out misshapen chunks of board wax from the sandy bowels of the car or wondering if my wetsuit will fasten.

Ironically, I am going to a place which holds a huge body of water, it’s even named after water but, I can’t surf there. I’m off to the heady heights of the Lake District, Cumbria to meet up with 9 friends and a few dogs. I’ll be sampling my second YHA Hostel this month in Langdale which lies in the Lake District National Park .

Lakes Xmas 2012

Perhaps this whole surfing malarkey is settling down  a bit now. In the first flourish of obsession, (the last 3 years)  I wouldn’t even contemplate a 3 day trip that didn’t involve surfing, time off was too precious to spend inland and it would have been torturous. Not now though.

My trusty  old mate, Long Legs and I are car sharing and will be travelling in the super high performance 799cc  Baked Bean after we have ripped out the front seat and made a hole for his head in the roof. Believe me, it is this small.

In return for me chauffeuring us, Long Legs vehemently denies this but, he did agreed to carry me uphill in a tartan papoose like a giant baby when I get tired. Recently though he has seemed quite anti-papoose, I’ve no idea why.  I can rest my legs and be fed cakes and tea on the move, what’s not to love? I’m seriously going to get a punch for sharing this. He says the papoose  is not going to happen, I  however, live in hope.

I won’t think about how I could be surfing this weekend, it’s not all about the coast. There are adventures to be had elsewhere, doing different things and exploring these wondrous Islands I call home.  There’s hanging out with old friends, sitting in pubs with open fires and wet dogs, drinking tea from a flask at the top of a mountain after a tough climb, seeing beams of sunlight break through black clouds and lighting up the valleys,  putting a brave face and waterproofs on in the face of driving rain, walking up things and then back down them. Then there is the icing on the cake, carrying your best mate up a mountain in an adult papoose because you are a good egg.

funny jumper


Storm Katie in a Caravan Alone in Cornwall with a Spider

me no likeI’m currently being battered by Storm Katie on the Cornish coast. I’m  cowering inside a caravan and my friend went home today so I’m scared and alone with my wild imagination, great combination.

I’ve never experienced a storm like this, I mean heart pounding stuff, not my usual exaggerations. I’m half expecting to be a news story in the morning. The caravan is shaking as if it were about to take off like the house in the Wizard of Oz and the noise, sounds like a train coming full speed towards me.

 Adding to this a massive spider has taken up residence in the corner and keeps moving in my eyeline.  I suppose we have in common that neither of us are enjoying this storm so perhaps we are on the same team for tonight and at least it’s some company.
There’s never a phone signal here, there’s only one other caravan occupied and the 5 chalets are right down the hill, out of sight and  too far for their lights to provide a little comfort. It’s pitch black when I look out. I’ve tried getting attention on Facebook with alarming status’ so I can at least interact with a humans but, the rest of the world apart from one or two are asleep so it’s me, Storm Katie and the spider, who I’ve named Toto  for the night.
Spider 'friend' Toto
 So far and I’ve no idea how we haven’t lost the wifi or the power but, I have an emergency bag of essentials I made up including a head torch, candles, car key, waterproofs and welly boots and I’m about to go and get the half bottle of red wine left over from last night. How am I going to cope alone in a tent for 6 weeks in summer if a storm while I’m in a caravan has scared me this much? Oh heck.
Right then , hopefully morning will come soon and without incident, see you on the other side.   Come on Toto, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home ………

How to Recover From a Debauched Christmas


Its official, the festivities are over. We are hurtling into January at warp speed and into the new frontier of 2016, darkness reigns across the galaxy as we return to work, broken and bewildered. Ok,  I went to see Star Wars on Saturday, no more references I promise. It was meant to be a quiet, sedate and relaxed end to a few boozy days away with some pals. New Year’s Eve hangovers had just begun to retreat and we were all feeling decidedly better.

It started so well but,  somehow, after the film I drank my body weight in red wine, ate a whole pig and a kilo of cheese, smoked fags, stayed up after 5am, performed a self-choreographed modern dance in the kitchen set against the backdrop of 90’s gangster rap (although I was not the only one) and physically wrestled people to stop them from going to bed, again. This has been happening since mid-December.

So, the upshot of having lived like Henry VIII for almost three weeks, (apart from the wives, rolling heads, opulent lifestyle and that I’m not a King or indeed a man) is that I feel like I’ll never be able to run again and I’ll live in giant pyjamas for the rest of my days, get gout and only respond to the name Jabba.

Alternatively, I get off my ass, get moving and stop moaning because the longer I moan about it the less I’m doing and the more likelihood there is of slipping into old habits.

I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling this way so here is what I’m doing to move on from a debauched Christmas towards feeling more sprightly and getting into the swing of being active again. It’s all very obvious and simple but, sometimes we need reminding that we really are only a few steps away from feeling great again.


Be kind to yourself, what’s done is done, don’t beat yourself up. So, you stuffed your cake hole and didn’t make it out for a run or even a walk and can’t fasten your work trousers, regret won’t change that or make your trousers looser. Remember, your newly shaped belly was cultivated with love, what a comforting thought. Drinking, eating and being merry with your favourite people are the reasons for your food baby and you had a great time, just accept it and move on.

Set a Goal

 What is your goal? Is it just to deflate a little and get your energy back? To take up a new activity? Setting realisitc a goal, even a small one is a great way to get you back into the swing of things. Without a goal how will you motivate yourself? I need to be Surf fit for Morocco in 8 weeks so there’s mine right there. My goal of being able to surf my brains out every day and not get tired or injured is a really positive one. Note that my goal is not guilt driven or a punishment and it’s not so narrow that I can’t have a lazy weekend or a takeaway.

Make a plan and stick to it

How will you reach your goal? Make a simple, realistic plan and stick to it. Make sure your plan  has flexibility so you can enjoy the unexpected things that may crop up, like a night out or cancelling a run because you are tired. Just do it, don’t create obstacles or make excuses. It’s your decision to follow your plan or not, the time will pass anyway.

Today was my first day back in the office after finishing on 18th December, during my time off I travelled 800 miles around the UK, eating, drinking, surfing and being a dick head here, there and everywhere. I enjoyed every minute of it, clearly seen in  my puffy ‘Elvis in the fat years’ face . I had to goto  to work in ‘lounge pants’ today as I genuinely cannot fasten any work clothes. I imagine a lot of people were sneakily unfastening the the top button of their trousers and feeling uncomfortable today too! Lets not wallow, instead get outdoors, run, walk, bike,  do something new, break a sweat doing whatever.  You are only a few steps away from feeling great again .

A Momentary Lapse in Fitness ( that lasted a year)

the beginning of the quest

I appear to have had a lapse in my quest for improved fitness and weight loss. I haven’t just missed a few classes  and eaten a cake. This lapse has been a year long, my motivation has been AWOL despite the fact that I’ve been surfing more than ever. The quest began in February 2013 and I made some significant changes up until June 2014.

  • lost 60-65 lb (fluctuated)
  • dropped 3-4 dress sizes (same)
  • quit smoking after 24 years
  • took up running and fitness classes
  • ran a half marathon 4 months after my first ever run
  • started to love my self a little more

The quest,  as I appear to be calling it, was borne out of an obsession with surfing after I had a lesson on holiday. I loved it but, knew I’d never be able to stand on that board with the body I had. At 17 stone with a bmi of 41 and an age of inactivity behind me, I waged war on my old habits and set about making some positive changes. I was strict with my regime but, had to be. My old habits had a loud voice that would try to tempt me back but,  I would not be distracted. As my body and mind improved the elusive ‘getting up’ on my board got closer and closer and I was more focussed than ever.

Every ache, stitch, pain, struggle to breath, bead of sweat and mad face pulled was for surfing and eventually the hard work paid off. After 21 x 4 hour lessons I was up. I was standing on my board. My motivation grew as I shrunk. I was  slimmer than I’d been in 15 years and fitter and stronger than I’d been in my life. Outside of the water I was happy, proud, confident, focussed and felt so sparkly on the inside it felt like it was bursting out of me.  The only thing I needed  was to be  fit, strong  and on track for surfing. It’s this very thing that may have been my downfall.

losing my way

They say pride comes before a fall and just as things couldn’t get any better,  I had an accident that put me out of all activity and in dry dock for  for 12 weeks.  I was in  a sling for 6 weeks and off work for 5. I couldn’t even dress myself or brush my hair such was the pain in my shoulder and neck. Home alone all day bored, in pain, feeling sorry for myself, not able to even stick to healthy foods as I couldn’t prepare anything, an army of white bread toast and crisps knocked at the door, I had to let them in.  I was hungry.

 Eventually my injury healed enough to slowly get back into activities but, it didn’t come easy. Iv’e tried, I have. I would convinced myself I was back on track for a few days or a week here and there but, it never lasted. I did managed a half marathon although it was more about stubbornness to finish than the training I had put in because I barely trained. I’ve never got back to the level of commitment I had before. I could stand on my board so I felt working hard to get stronger wasn’t as important and I blamed my dodgy shoulder for everything.

Time was separated in to before shoulder-gate and after. Where there was newly gained  lean muscle there is pudgy,  soft,  squidgyness once again. Where there was no question about going to body pump or pilates there are excuses. ‘I’ll start next week’ has been hanging  heavy in the air every weekend along with the stale smell of the cigarettes I nick of friends after a few drinks. There’s a faint echo of I can’t or I’m not good enough in the distance.

Lubricated by a few glasses of wine on Friday, I was talking about hating myself for letting it go AGAIN with my friend Long Legs. (hate is  such a horrible word to use about oneself)  I said something along the lines of ‘why have I let this happen, I’ve put weight on, I’ve lost my exercise mojo, I worked my ass off ahhh I’m a failure ‘, I whined. ‘ Cut yourself some slack kid’, said Long Legs and then something along the lines of, ‘ look how far you have come, all these changes are not easy and you did them all in one go, stop beating yourself up, you can’t always be perfect’. I sort of half heartedly agreed, hoofed down the last of my bottle of wine and went home.

back on the right path

The next day  the simplicity and sense in what Long Legs had said dawned on me . I guess sometimes it takes another voice that’s louder than the doubtful one  in your head to tell you that you are doing ok.   I can’t be ‘on it’ all of the time, it’s not possible to do so and have a life, things get in the way, you can’t always get a run in after work, sometimes you want a pint instead of the gym, sometimes you have a break which is out of your control. My quest was so much the centre of everything I did that when I was forced to stop I couldn’t handle it and that had affected my ability to bounce back. I’d been sabotaging myself because I felt like I was failing after not getting back in the swing of things after my injury.  Before it was all and now it was nothing, either manically up and muscular  or miserably down with a muffin top.

I realise I need to find balance, a middle ground where I’m making progress on my quest but, I’m not going to throw it all away and wallow if I hit a bump in the road or have a few mad weekends. A break in fitness and a weight gain is not a failure  it’s an expected part of my life that will occur from time to time.

I have decided that I haven’t come this far to not finish the job. How I deal with this lapse is a measure of the person I have become. So, I’m going to  regroup and go back into battle with a new strategy with balance as my focus, just like on my board balance really is the key.

Want to Start Running?

You can do it. Really!

I’m not sure if I can call myself a runner, mainly because of the speed I move. I’m more in the style of lolloping Labrador than whippet but, moving is what it’s all about and that’s what I do and I like Labradors. Anyway run, jog, plod, canter, whatever you want to call it, in this post I’m calling it running.

I started running in June 2013, the day I signed up to a half marathon. Admittedly this was quite ambitious but I’m an all or nothing sort of girl. Luckily for me my best lady mate is an experienced runner and assured me I could do it so, I believed her and got on with it. That day I could not run for 20 seconds, a total beginner.

I decided to run for the charity Wave Project and I documented some of the trials and tribulations of 0 – 13.1 miles on my fundraising page. Amazingly, a number of people said they felt inspired to give running a try after seeing me do it and reading my ramblings here. I was a normal, unfit, smoker who was significantly overweight and at almost 40 years old had not run anywhere since school. I had recently tried surfing for the first time and wanted to get fit to enable me to start learning properly rather than just bobbing around lying down on my board like a giant manatee. I went from zero to half marathon in 4 months. I am proof that anyone can do it so I guess people can relate to that.

Lessons I learnt, some the hard way!

What I learnt on day one was that running does not come naturally to me. As time went on I discovered running is bloody hard, it is challenging, rewarding, relaxing and frustrating all at the same time. You will love it and hate it and you will push yourself to do more than you ever thought you could. Here is a little of what I learnt from other people and things I discovered myself that might make your first days a little easier or just reassure you that everyone goes through the same thing when starting out.

1. Running is not just putting one foot in front of the other fast

If you just go out on your own with no plan and having done no research about how to get started you will make the mistake a lot of people make and leg it like a demented emu, hate every second of it and declare yourself someone who tried running but, just can’t take to it. On my very first attempt I found I didn’t know how to breathe, I didn’t know what was the most comfortable pace for me and I went too fast then too slow.

Your confidence will grow with some guidance. Follow a sensible beginners training plan like couch to 5k or any of the Runners World training plans. Most beginners plans are a combo of walking and jogging you should find it challenging but, achievable. Eventually you will learn to listen to your body and respond to it during your runs and you will build up a strong foundation of fitness and more importantly confidence that you CAN do it.

the first few weeks can be tough but, very quickly it becomes a habit and I find I look forward to going for a run. That feeling of achievement when you’ve reached a personal goal is amazing and I’m constantly suprised by what my previously unfit body can do – Laura Lou

  1. It is not glamorous and you will wobble – get used to it

You will wobble, sweat, pull faces, have mad hair, a bright red face and look a mess and you might get snot on your shoulder (guilty). Good. That means you are working hard. If you feel a little self-conscious as you run past people in the street or see all of the passengers on a passing bus look at you, remind yourself of the fact that you are out there doing it, they are not so don’t worry about what you think people are thinking when they see you . You may get heckled by knob heads, I had a few incidents of men shouting insults about my weight out of car windows and once even some bloke on the opposite side of a canal I was running by. Do not be put off. Quite simply they are knob heads , you are Zeena Warrior Princess, end of.

The true glamour of running, sweaty, red and puffed out! Maybe a bit delirious too.

  1. Stop Looking at other people – dance to your own beat

At the very beginning you will feel like a slug dipped in treacle dragging yourself up a hill while trying to pull a HGV using a piece of elastic. You will be ok with this because at least you have started. That is until you start comparing yourself to other people. Stop it right now! It’s a huge error I made and still do make on a bad day.

Everyone encounters that super lean, super fit, sex kitten with buns of steel in the tight lycra who runs effortlessly past them like a gazelle. You jealously consider pushing her in a bush but, unfortunately she’s half a mile ahead of you now. Well, she was a beginner too. She knows exactly what you are going through. She remembers how bloody hard the first few months are and she is rooting for you. It’s highly likely she thought ‘good for her’ as she passed you. You don’t know what it took for her to get where she is. You are unique, you cannot compare yourself to anyone. Beginner or not, concentrate only on what you are doing.

No matter how slow you go, you are still lapping everyone on the couch is a quote by Austyn Clark Fry. I have it printed off and on my wall. Everytime I think I can’t be bothered going out for a run I read it. – Jo

  1. Your progress will creep up on you suddenly

The hardest part of running is the early stages, it feels like a mountain to climb. How will you ever get to run for 10 minutes if you can’t even run for 1 ? Will you ever be able to control your breathing? Will you ever be able to do 5k? Yes you will, trust in the training plan, be consistent, eat well and look after yourself.

Each time you run your confidence will grow. You will have a moment about 6 weeks in where you realise how much progress you have made and you’ll probably cry like a baby because you are so shocked and proud of yourself. Enjoy the small victories, they add up to a massive achievement! You will look back on this time and realise that this may have been hard but, it was also the best time because those achievements and firsts were coming thick and fast.

Every bit of movement no matter how fast or slow is productive. You are worth the effort and the rewards will come. Take some positives home from every outing that are not just about your run, the surise,morning mist, reflections in the rain- Claire

  1. Figure out your why – very important

Why have you decided to take up running? What is your why? You are going to need a good why when you are having a tough day or are struggling to get motivated. For me it was because I wanted to get strong for surfing and to do that I had to lose weight and get fit. As a landlocked surfer I also needed a way to get an endorphin hit outdoors when I was unable to surf. Running answered all of these things.

If you are taking up running because you hate your fat belly or you can’t stand the sight of yourself in the mirror this is not a good reason to start or the right mind-set. Exercise should never be something we do because we are crap or fat or rubbish or because we hate our bodies and are not good enough. That is called punishment and we are all guilty of it. I exercise because Iove my body and the things it allows me to do and because I want to take care of me.

If your motivation for exercise is because you value your health, because you want to feel stronger, because to want to achieve something, raise money for a charity, run around more with your kids, be happier and more energetic or maybe you want to get fit and climb Mount Kilimanjaro you are much more likely to succeed. Running will be a positive addition to your life that will benefit you in other areas not a torture you have to endure because you ate a cake.

Find your why, brainwash yourself with it and visualise a healthier, fitter more energetic you. On a tough day I still visualise myself surfing inside an azure barrel, in tropical waters, looking like Venus crossed with Zena Warrior Princess, I know running is helping me get there and so I push on.

  1. It’s worth spending money on some quality kit

You don’t need to spend a fortune on pants/shorts/running tights and a top to start out, addiction to buying technical kit will come later. However, do get a good quality sports bra, that’s optional chaps! Decent socks are also a must, I wear hilly twin skins and love them.

Whatever you do get proper running shoes. Proper running shoes will keep you comfortable for extended periods of time, they will reduce the risk of injury and they will last.They also make you feel like a kangeroo for the first week which is fun. They may have been the most expensive trainers I have ever bought but, I swear it was the best money I have ever spent on a pair of shoes. If you think you are going to keep it up spend the money, it’s worth it. Go to a local, specialist running shop, talk to the staff, don’t be intimidated they love talking about running and shoes.

When I’m out runing and really struggling, when my head is saying I could just turn round and go home, I start to narrate my run using the voice of Morgan Freeman. This makes me laugh and stops me thinking about what I have to do, it’s also quite relaxing to hear his voice in my head and helps me get out of that moment – Surfabella

  1. Enlist the support of friends and family


Encouragement and support are really important to the beginner runner, it doesn’t matter if they are running with you or not. Just a pat on the back now and then and somebody to moan to or celebrate with is very important. However, it’s even better if you can get some mates to join you. Doing it together is so much more fun. My best mate started at the same time as me, a man with long legs. You won’t always be running the same pace so enjoy this time .

When we were beginners we kept each other on track, never backed out of a run we had arranged and often when one had a weak day the other would be stronger and we’d get through it together . Now we have found our own stride we can’t always train together as I just can’t keep up . When we do run together it’s a more of a social run or its a moral support run when one of us is recovering from injury or has been off the wagon and needs a little help.

  1. Warning! You will become addicted

Before you know it you will have completed your beginners running programme and you are regularly out there running more than you ever thought you could. Whether you continue as you are enjoying a few runs a week or decide to go for bigger distances, speed, races or charity runs it doesn’t matter. You are now a running addict and will turn into a demented banshee if you get injured or can’t run for a few weeks. You will have more running clothing in your wardrobe than normal clothing and bore everyone at work with boring stories about the boring run you plan to do tonight or the boring run you did last night! Welcome to the club. You’ve done it and proved to yourself that This Girl Can.

Still not sure you can do it?

While I was writing this post I thought about some of the people I know who run. Some helped me along when I was a beginner and some are new to running themselves. I asked them to give some words of advice for beginners, they are the quotes that appear throughout this post. These final, beautiful words sent to me by a friend who took up running around a year ago should have you convinced that anyone can do it including you!

Start small. Don’t aim for 10k on your first day. Take every run as it comes. Some days will be hard, some will be easier. Once you accept your limits, go beyond them, Push yourself to run the length of 2 extra lampposts on your next run. As you improve and as your distance gets longer, change your route. Go explore, see the beauty of the world and discover some place new. Don’t block out the “chore of running” with music. Open your ears to the sounds around you, get into your body’s rhythm instead of a musical one and let your mind wonder. And when you finally complete the great north run, and look back and think “a few month back I couldn’t run down the street without a break” you feel the greatest sense of pride you ever will. Oh! and enjoy every minute of it – Hannah

If you are at this page because you are after more surf specific info this is a great post from Landlocked Surf Girl which looks at where to begin to improve your surf fitness with some great suggestions and practical advice.