Category Archives: Running

Three things…..

A busy week ahead, so a quick blog with three things to say (well four, sort of!)………

*Running: I completed marathon 47 yesterday, near Fordingbridge, in the New Forest. It’s a tough off road, hilly, challenging course. It was initially frosty and cold, then driving rain, windy and cold. I arrived back at the car exhausted, chilled to the core, wet through and miserable. A hasty change of clothes, egg sandwich, flask of coffee, heater on full blast, and an hour later, hey presto, dry, warm, fed and smiling again.

*Dementia: This Friday I’m attending an Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Champion training course, to help spread awareness of this life-changing condition. I’ll also be going to a meeting next Monday to join in with the launch of the first BRACE Devon support group. It’s open to anyone with an interest in dementia and you can read more about it here

Me in baseball cap on the right, with Steve, his family and supporters at the Butser Hill Run in September 2011.

Me in baseball cap on the right, with Steve, his family and supporters at the Butser Hill Run in September 2011.

*Motor Neurone Disease: My cousin Steve Isaac, who has Motor Neurone Disease, is to be the subject of a Channel 5 documentary, largely filmed by his son Fraser. It gives a unique personal insight as to how this devastating illness has affected Steve and his family. It’s due to be aired in early March, read more and watch the moving trailer via this link


So that’s my three things, plus one final sum up…..

I have three marathons left now to complete my 50 at 50 Marathon Challenge. I know they’ll be tough, a marathon is. But I know as well, I’ll be able to smile again afterwards and resume normal life. My dad and people who suffer from dementia, my cousin Steve and those who suffer from MND, indeed anyone with a chronic life-threatening condition does not have that post finish line recovery to look forward to and enjoy.

Anything we can all do to raise awareness about these conditions, and help promote the research into seeking a cure is a help. Running a marathon, or simply clicking a facebook like from the comfort of your armchair. Any. Thing. Is a help.

Thanks for reading this.


A good news week!

So much has been happening the past few days I just haven’t had time to sit down and write.

It’s good to be able to do so now, with a whole series of positives.

The biggest relief – although tinged with a resigned sadness – is that my dad has been awarded CHC (continuing health care) funding, which means the NHS will be responsible for paying for all his nursing home fees.

My dear dad, bless him

My dear dad, bless him

It’s been a long process – more than three months since he first went in for respite care. It’s a very detailed assessment, covering every aspect of health and ability. Dad scored severe or high in 5 out of 11 categories.

The 56-page document concludes that his needs “exceed what might reasonably be expected of a local authority to provide and so constitute a primary health need”.

Or, as the social worker put it: “Your dad is so poorly that a few years ago he would have been looked after in hospital by now.”

But, of course there are no long term hospital beds. People with intensive and complex needs like my dad are at the mercy of market forces, the private homes that vary so much in their service and price.

We’ve been lucky to find an excellent home for dad, where the staff are so caring and kind, and he has settled well.

But it can be a fraught, problematic process. I heard this week that another long-established home we’d tried to get dad into, has just closed, having been under recent investigation by social services.

What a worry for the relatives of those people who had to be moved. And what of relatives who’s loved ones are very poorly, but don’t quite meet the requirements for CHC funding, where finance becomes a dominant issue.

It is a relief that dad’s care will be paid for the by the NHS, but I’m sad to think how ill he’s become in order to qualify.

Ironically, my mum’s increasing poor health has also had a knock-on “bonus” this week, moving her higher up the housing need ladder, as she’s finding it more difficult to negotiate the stairs and layout of her cottage home. Lots of forms to fill in, but luckily ticking the right boxes.

My brush with public authorities and paperwork is continuing in a good way with a Disclosure and Barring Service form to complete, in order to be accredited as a run group leader by England Athletics.

I did the Run in England Leadership in Running Fitness course last weekend, and am looking forward to leading runs at my local club, and also setting up some sessions in our village to share my passion for running with others.

gym 3The local council gym, LED Leisure at Ottery St Mary – where I use the treadmill and do yoga, Pilates, and spinning – is getting behind my challenge too.

They’re encouraging people to complete a marathon distance in a month in May – less than a mile a day, so attainable for many.

It even made front page news in the local paper.

You can read more here – on the front of the Pulman’s Ottery edition and also page 8……

I’d say that all adds up to a good news week – wouldn’t you!


Hitting the heights

4 trigs start cw

Photograph by kind permission of Chris Woodcock

The first running event I took part in was about 15 years ago – the Cardiff 5km Race for Life.

I did it with a friend. Neither of us were runners – nor even at all athletic.

Afterwards we celebrated by eating lots of cake and immediately hung up our trainers again.

Around the same time a new fell race was launched in Sidmouth, called The Four Trigs.

20150208_094114I remember reading about it in the local paper. The description of the route was terrifying. A gruelling off-road, self-navigating course that takes you from sea level to 800 feet hill tops many times, including four triangulation points. A total ascent of more than 3,400 feet in 17 miles.

I marvelled at those fit athletes who could undertake such a challenge. I thought they must be super-human, never remotely imagining me ever being that capable.

Sure, I knew how to lace up a pair of trainers and jog along a short, easy route. But running, really proper, hard running – no way!

Back in 2000 I was working as a reporter. My friend too. She wanted to be a writer of fiction and was trying to break into that hugely competitive and tough market.

I met up with her just last week and we chatted over old times, fondly remembering the challenge of our Race for Life run all those years ago.

20150208_104238Belinda, who never really got beyond that first race, exclaimed: “Crikey Jo! Look at you now, you’ve gone on to run 46 marathons.”

It’s still a feat, I can’t quite believe.

I marvelled at it again yesterday, when enjoying every step of those 17 miles of the Four Trigs – the fourth time I’ve run it in recent years.

Not superhuman. Just me.

Oh. And Belinda?

Well, she hung up her trainers, yes. But she kept up with her writing and went on to become the best-selling novelist Belinda Bauer, author of five critically acclaimed novels, ‘Blacklands’, ‘Darkside’, ‘Finders Keepers’, ‘Rubbernecker’ and ‘The Facts of Life and Death’.

‘Blacklands’ won the CWA Gold Dagger for Crime Novel of the Year in 2010 and ‘Rubbernecker’ won the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award in 2014.

20150208_132746Another step. Another stroke of the pen. And one day you look around, and think wow, what a view!

If I can do it. If Belinda can do it. Whatever it is you want to achieve, so could you.

With thanks to Nick Keast and Sidmouth Running Club for a fabulous event; to event sponsor Hayman’s Butchers; and also to my running pal Jane Hemsworth 20150208_132716for her lovely company en route.

To see the ups and downs of the 4 Trigs via my gps recording…..

Writer’s block or…..

…..have I hit the wall?

I’ve been pondering for two weeks now what to write on this blog.

And I’m finding it hard to string a sentence together, let alone a whole article.

I certainly know what it’s like to hit the wall in running. In my first ever marathon, London 2005, I was so tired at mile 20 that I collapsed to sit on a wall, wanting the ground to swallow me up. It was only the encouragement of spectators that got me back on my feet and kept me going.

As far as my running challenge is going – I’m now up to 46 marathons, with 4 remaining to reach the big five O in May. Over the last three years it’s worked out around one a month. So I guess overall I’m beginning to feel a bit like that mile 20 a decade ago – rather tired and looking forward to the end, but with it not quite yet fully in sight.

The blog is at a similar stage. I started it in June 2013, when I was then at the marathon halfway point. I’ve pretty consistently written something most weeks, and am coming up to my 80th post. Not sure how many words that mounts up to, but certainly, too many!

I decided to start the blog as a way of raising awareness about my running challenge, dementia research and the charity BRACE which I’m raising money for, and also mental health issues which were forefront in my mind at the time, and never far away.

I thought if anything I wrote helped even one other person, it would be worth it.

I just checked my site statistics – 5,700 viewings, across 70 different countries – and I know from the replies people have posted, and social media that some things have touched a chord.

So – and I’m basically writing this to myself, to say – it’s about time I hauled my arse off this particular wall, and got back in the “race”, because I haven’t made it to the finish line yet and I’ve come too far to pack it all in now.

After all, it’s just another step, another tap of the keyboard, another press publish and you’re there……

Oh, and if you’ve read this far, then you’ll be part of the “spectators’ crowd” that’s helped keep me going. So, THANK YOU 🙂


Jo’s Marathon Testathon

Festive fancy dress - on which course?

Festive fancy dress – on which course?

Yes it’s quiz time! To celebrate the start of 2015, bit of a change from the usual blog. Instead, a few multiple choice questions to test your grey matter on just how well you’ve been following my posts. And even prizes too 🙂

1. How many marathons am I up to now? A: Five and a half. B: 3,724. C: 46.

2. What does BRACE, the charity I’m raising money for, carry out research into? A: Alzheimer’s and other dementias. B: The optimum time of dunking a gingerbread biscuit. C: Exercise and nutrition, with BRACE standing for Better Running After Chocolate Eating.

3. BRACE is based in…..? A: Timbuktu. B: Narnia. C: Bristol.

4. Pair up these words of encouragement from spectators with the right marathon.  1. Fair play to yah, fair play. 2. You’m doing well me ‘ansom, keep it up now. 3. Go Xmas present! A: Eden Project, Cornwall. B: Portsmouth. C: Dublin.

5. My favourite marathon fuel is? A: Lettuce. B: Cake, and lots of it. C: Tripe and onions.

6. What alcoholic drink is served along the route of the Marathon du Medoc in France? A: Whisky. B: Cider. C: Red wine.

7. I am a member of which fabulous running club? A: Sidmouth. B: New York Road Runners. C: The 100 Marathon Club.

8. In 2014 I did an ultra-marathon, over two days along which wall? A: The Great Wall of China. B: Hadrian’s Wall. C: Exeter City Wall.

9. The marathon distance is….? A: 2.62 miles. B: 26.2 miles. C: 262 miles.

10. Complete this sentence in as many words as you like. The thought of running a marathon is…….

I’m taking a break from the blog for a couple of weeks, so plenty of time to complete. You can reply direct below, facebook message or email me. And I promise there WILL be prizes.

Essentially all a bit of fun and free to enter, but if you would like to donate a couple of pounds here’s the link to my Justgiving page where I’ve just lodged the terrific amount of £400 :-), taking my fundraising total to £3,300. What a good start to 2015.

Happy New Year. Thanks, as always, for reading and for all the continued support from so many people close to home and far and wide.


How to make maximum impact – wear a box over your head!

Have you heard the one about……

……the cardboard box running a marathon?

All boxed up ready for the off!

All boxed up ready for the off!

I think I heard every possible gag there was when I took part in the Portsmouth Marathon yesterday in festive fancy dress.

Having run as a Christmas tree last year, passing lots of elves and santas, I thought I’d try to be a bit different again this year. Hence when a large parcel arrived through the post a couple of weeks ago, my first thought was – ideal running costume!

And so I lined up at the start in a large box covered in Christmas wrapping paper and gold ribbon.

The friendly, amusing puns started immediately: “You’ve got your costume all wrapped up.” “Don’t get boxed in will you!” And, from groups as they overtook: “Let’s play pass the parcel.”

A spectator called out: “You should have gone first class,” to much laughter from those around. And at the halfway turn, one of the marshals commanded: “Make way for a special delivery.”

The box itself worked remarkably well as a costume apart from one or two slight design faults. I expected a buffeting by the wind, but didn’t realise before setting off that I couldn’t actually see my feet, which led to me falling over on an uneven stretch at mile 17.

I was like an overturned beetle, all flailing limbs. Other runners rushed to my aid. It took three of them to get me up.

A rather boring stretch of road was livened up by group of children who chanted: “Present! Present! Present!” Several times drivers tooted and waved, and a passing bus driver hooted his horn.

Battered and bruised, but this box made it.
Battered and bruised, but this box made it.


There were lots of encouraging shouts of: “Go Parcel! Go Box! Go Present! Awesome costume!”

And from the guys quite a few expressions of: “I’d like to unwrap you.” Hmmm……some more appealing, than others!

One of the oddest, but sweetest comments was at about 500 yards from the finish line, when a lady called out: “Well Done Parcel. I’m so proud of you!”

And the moral of this story is – this Christmas forget expensive fashion, designer labels, costly cosmetics.

You can still have a laugh, enjoy yourself, make other people smile, be friendly and…..yes, you can still be chatted up – even if you go around with a box over your head!

This was the 3rd Portsmouth Marathon I’ve taken part in. It’s an terrific event, very well organised, friendly helpful marshals, fantastic atmosphere – a real fun way to kick start Christmas. And I’m not joking!

Better Together

I took part in a community fundraising event this weekend.

It was a very “villagey” affair – a performance, on stage, of all of the contributed articles that make up our local Tipton Times bi-monthly newsletter.

There were presentations from the drama group, a video about the primary school, an amusing pretend meeting acted out by the ladies group, film footage from the weather and night sky writers, an illustrated walk by the nature notes columnist, a montage of sport photos from the playing field – and me, running across the stage every now and then in my marathon kit.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who wondered, in advance, how on earth it would all turn out? So many disparate, random elements, what sort of bigger picture would it make?

By being together we were better than the sum of our individual parts and it all added up to an original, interesting and warmly-received evening of entertainment.

And it was a great opportunity to be able to thank so many people from the village for their continued support and generosity.

Outside the rain had been lashing down all night, flooding the adjoining car park and nearby roads. Everyone pitched in – making sure older neighbours got home safely, people who’s cars had to be abandoned were given lifts, Wellington boots gathered from nearby homes – a collective can-do attitude.

On the marathon front, I learnt this week that a running club friend – Becky, my hairdresser – is going to be joining me for Edinburgh next May, hopefully my 50th and final marathon of my BRACE challenge.

That takes the team of us from Sidmouth Running Club to five, plus two more friends who are competing in the half marathon the day before.

It’s so uplifting, encouraging and exciting to know there’ll be a whole group of us taking on this challenge.

I’m one of those people who’s quite happy to spend time on my own, be independent, go it alone, but I also appreciate the increased flow of energy, ideas, and camaraderie generated by being part of a group.

A final thought. I visited my dad in the care home again today. He seems so much more relaxed and less confused being in this safe, protective, group environment, than the isolating world he’d been living in.

This isn’t belated political comment – even though my final marathon is in Scotland! – but I do believe, life is better together.