Saturday, 2 June 2012

New home

My blog has a new home over on Wordpress. I've decided to move as I think it's a more user friendly platform and has several features that I like.

All previous content has been moved and I'm in the process of giving the blog a brand new look too.

Come and join me over at

If you were following this blog then there's a link at the top and on the right hand side of the page where you can sign up to do the same.

See you on the other side!

Monday, 28 May 2012

The perfect running bag ?

For a while now I've been on the lookout for a new bag to wear while out running. I have tried a couple but haven't been completely satisfied with them. My issues with the ones I've tried have been:

  • They don't stay in place and I end up having to adjust them while I'm running -typically they start on my hips and end up somewhere above my waist;
  • I can hear my keys/coins jangling around while I'm running;
  • There's not enough space to fit in everything that I need/want to take out with me - my essentials are an inhaler, keys. phone, money, mp3 player, tissues and for longer runs gels.

So when I read Sian of Dashing Divas review of the Workplay Fleetfoot II I was intrigued. A bag designed specifially for women who run with some nifty features that appeared to address all of the problems that I experience? Sounded too good to be true so I decided to buy one and find out if it was.

I was excited when my bag arrived the very next day after I'd ordered it. The first thing that struck me was how light it was and how well made it felt.

My bag is black and grey but they also come in black and pink. I chose the grey as it's a more versatile colour - I do like to colour coordinate when I run! This photo was taken with a flash and as you can see all the grey areas are reflective which is excellent for safety when I'm running in the dark.

The main body of the bag has a number of different compartments. Firstly there's what's called a 'ninja' pocket made of microfleece. This is for keys and coins - it stops them from jangling around and also from scratching your phone or mp3 player. There are two other compartments inside the bag just about big enough for a smartphone, a gel and my inhaler. Perfect for most of my runs.  

In addition to this there are some features on the outside of the bag. On longer runs I need to take water with me. I usually use a handheld waterbottle but if I didn't want to carry that then I could carry it in the elasticated compartment that runs behind the main body of the bag

There's also a nifty bungee system on the front of the bag which is designed so that you can thread a jacket through if you need to take one out while you warm up. Before our current spate of very hot weather in the UK, I have needed a jacket for my early morning runs while I get warm but then had to either carry or tie it around my waist once I'm warm. Now there's no need to do that - I can thread it through the bungee cords and it will sit behind me, out of the way while I finish my run. You can see the bungee cords - grey loops towards the bottom of the photo below.

So it fits everything that I want to take out with me and more. But most importantly - what's it like to run with?

I have used the bag now on several runs including two races, most recently the BUPA 10K on Sunday and can report that it's extremely comfortable to run with. Once in the right position - it's supposed to sit in the small of your back - it doesn't move around at all and I have actually forgotten that it's there. It's also really easy to slide around your waist if you want to get something out of it while you're on the move.

Me wearing my Fleetfoot II during the BUPA 10K 

I haven't yet tried running with a water bottle in place - on Sunday it was so hot I needed water in my hand for the whole race but I used the elasticated pocket to carry tissues as my hayfever was bad and I needed them to be accessible. I've also managed to fit a hat in that pocket when it was making my head too hot on a different run. I love the versatility of it!

I have to say that I'm incredibly impressed with this bag. It's clear that the designers have really thought long and hard about what a woman wants from a running bag and incorporated all of this into the design. I should point out that I've not been paid to write this review - I'm just an impressed and satisfied customer.

Workplay make a range of bags for active and organised women. I've also invested in their Gymwise II bag which is just as well designed and worthy of a separate review at some point. I absolutely love the look of the Goddess II bag as well - I've been searching for the perfect overnight stay/cabin luggage for a while and wonder if this could be what I've been looking for. We're going away in a few weeks - I may have to invest and find out!

So it seems that I have found my perfect running bag - thank you Workplay!

Sunday, 27 May 2012


Today I ran the BUPA 10K in 25 degree London heat. This was my first 'proper' event since the London Marathon. I've done a couple of the British Heart Foundation jogs in the last couple of weeks but they are definitely fun runs rather than competitive events.

I hadn't really followed any particular training plan for today, my aim was just to get around, hopefully running the whole way and enjoy the run. The course is the same as the one which will be used for the London 2012 marathon route - they will run 4 laps of the 10K route which starts and finishes on The Mall and takes in lots of famous London sights along the Embankment, through The City and back.

The race started at 10am so thankfully it wasn't too early a start but as I made my way to Green Park I realised just how warm it was. I haven't trained in the heat at all and I realised that it might well make things difficult for me, and everyone else. I arrived at Green Park, dropped off my bag, picked up some water and made my way to The Mall to join my starting pen - green B towards the back of the field. The event is run by the same people as The London Marathon and the organisation felt slick and familiar.

 It was quite a sight standing on The Mall waiting to start - the route lined by Union Jacks

Before long it was 10am and the elites were underway. There was an impressive sounding field with Mo Farah, Scott Overall and Mara Yamauchi among the British runners. We were started in waves and before long it was our turn. We moved towards the start line and were soon off, running down The Mall, through Admiralty Arch and down Whitehall.

The first mile, as with most races, felt easy but I was really surprised when my Garmin beeped at me to tell me that I had completed it in 9 mins 49 secs - my fastest ever mile. I didn't feel like I was running that fast and at that point there was a nice breeze along The Embankment so I wasn't feeling the heat too much. That soon changed and when the first water stop appeared just after 2K I was very relieved - so was everyone else judging by the queue that formed around the tables. I walked for a while to take on some water and then set off again towards the 3K marker where I knew Mr J was waiting.

He'd been there for a while and had managed to see the elite men go past and take some great pictures of everyone running past St Paul's.

I spotted him as I ran past St Pauls and gave him a wave as I went past.

The course made it's way through the City, past the Bank of England and the towards the Lloyds building where it turned right and went through Leadenhall Market. This was a great part of the course with some much needed shade and a brilliant drumming band making a lot of noise in the market. Before long we were at the halfway point  my Garmin said around 35 mins and I felt as if I  had a chance of beating my best time at 10K of 1hr 12 mins.

But it wasn't to be. Not long after the halfway point I twisted my ankle in a dip in the road that I hadn't seen. It hurt and I stopped for a bit trying to put weight on it to see what would happen. It felt just about OK to walk on so I limped along gingerly for a while hoping to walk it off. We were now headed back towards The Embankment and I was close to the spot where Mr J was going to be waiting for the second time. I looked a bit of a sorry state as I limped my way towards him.

He checked that I was OK - I said that I was and was going to carry on and hope that my ankle would feel good enough for me to run again. He waved me on my way and I carried on walking, trying a bit of a jog here and there for the next few kilometres.

Before long we were back on the Embankment and headed towards Big Ben and the final 2K. My ankle felt OK - not 100% but good enough for a bit of a jog so I ran as much as I could of the last part of the race. It was so hot and there was hardly any breeze or shade to be found. I turned the final corner of the race back onto the Mall and ran the last 200m with as much energy as I could muster. I crossed the finish line in 1:18:48 according to my Garmin which I was pretty pleased with given the heat and what had happened to my ankle.

After crossing the finishing line we had our timing tags removed and were given goody bags with our medals and T-shirts, in scenes that were again very reminiscent of the organisation of the London Marathon. I made my way to pick up my bag and make my way home, desperate to get out of the heat and under a cold shower.

Overall I loved this race which was on a brilliant course through the heart of London and was very well organised. It's amazing to know that I have run on the same route as the Olympic Marathon will be run on in the same field as some of the best British athletes. The medal, which is one of my favourite pieces of race bling ever commemorates this with the words - 'Run the Course'

I know I am capable of a better 10K time than this and now have 6 weeks before the British 10K on July 8th to train properly to make sure that I achieve the best time that I possible can. Bring it on!

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Operation toe touching Becca!

One of my current goals is to be able to touch my toes with my legs straight. I've never been able to do it due to tight hamstrings and calves and have been trying to improve my flexibility for a while. I've not set myself a specific goal before so to focus my attention I have decided that I want to be able to touch my toes with my hands flat on the floor by Christmas.

I do yoga at least twice a week and this will definitely help me on my quest. I've already noticed a big difference in my flexibility since I started practicing just before Christmas. However, if I'm serious about getting my hands flat on the floor I'm going to need to do more, so couple of months ago when I read a blog post by Dash about a class dedicated to the pursuit of flexibility I was intrigued.

The class is called 'Bend it Like Barbie' and is held at Frame Studios in Shoreditch on a Saturday afternoon and promises to help you rediscover the flexibility that you had as a child. It sounded like just the thing for me so for the last two Saturdays I've gone along to the class.

I was quite concerned that the class was going to be full of ballerina types working on their splits but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the people in the class were a real mix of shapes, sizes and abilities. I am without doubt among the least flexible in the groups I've been in but the teacher - Rosie - gives modifications all the way through so that everyone is able to benefit from the poses.

The class doesn't just focus on the legs - as well as stretches focussed on hip flexors and hamstrings there's a lot of work on shoulders and spine. Most of the class is done in pairs where your partner 'helps' you to get deeper into a stretch than you'd ever be able to manage on your own. Rosie also comes around to add an extra helping hand and push you just that bit further outside your comfort zone.

And I've found myself a long way outside my comfort zone! About halfway through the class Rosie announces with glee that we're going to work on bridges. I have never been able to do a bridge and I instantly get concerned. Rosie demonstrates with a volunteer what we're going to do. One person lies on the floor and lifts themselves into a bridge position while the other person helps them up by holding onto their shoulders.

I don't mind admitting that the first time I tried I was quite scared. The first week I had two attempts and didn't manage to get my arms anywhere near straight. But yesterday with the help of Rosie and Hannah (aka @Duns_is_Running) I managed to not just get into the pose but also get my arms straight. Progress!

I really enjoy this class and while it's challenging and a bit painful I can feel that it is helping me in my quest for better flexibility. After the first class I left the studios feeling taller than when I'd arrived and I had aches the next day similar to those you get after a good sports massage.

I'm definitely going to go back to this class and am even tempted to try the monthly Splits workshop - a two hour stretching workshop with Rosie

While I don't think I'll ever quite 'Bend Like Barbie', by keeping up the yoga and these classes I will be able to touch my toes by Christmas.

Bring on toe touching Becca!!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

British Heart Foundation Tower of London jog

Last night I took part on my first post marathon event - the British Heart Foundation Tower of London jog. This is part of the London jog series which I found out about through the lovely Dashinista. I was already signed up for the Canary Wharf event on 23rd May but found out that Dash was taking part in the Tower of London one so decided to join her. Unfortunately on Monday night she suffered a calf injury which meant she couldn't take part so I turned up at the Tower of London at about 5pm on my own and unsure of what to expect.

The jog took place in the grassed area outside the Tower - the course itself was a loop of just over half a a mile. You could choose to walk, jog or run as few or as many loops as you wanted to. I chose to complete 12 laps or 10K. After registering and picking up my race number, T-shirt and timing tag I dropped off my bags and got ready to run. I'd decided just to treat this as a bit of fun, not aiming for any specific time but just a chance to see how my legs were feeling and run in an unusual location.

I started off well and completed the first mile quickly but things rapidly started to go downhill. I haven't really run on grass before and certainly not waterlogged grass that other people have been running on. The course was muddy and squishy and at times it felt like running on sand - not easy on the legs at all! I also started to feel a stitch coming on - this has happened to me many times before and I'm usually pretty good at getting rid of them by a combination of walking, breathing and stretching but for some reason this time I just couldn't get rid of it at all. So I just decided to take things easy, enjoy the friendly and fun atmosphere.

There were people taking part of all shapes, sizes and ages. I saw some very young children walking with their mum, teams of people from a variety of different companies who were obviously being quite competitve with each other and a couple of very elderley gentlemen walking the route. It was a really inclusive event.

On my 10th lap I saw Dash who had turned up to say hello - I'd been struggling with the stitch the whole time so it was nice to see a friendly face to take my mind off it. I picked up the pace for the final two laps and finished my 10K in 1hr and 12 mins, a minute faster than the baseline time I'd set at the weekend so I was pretty pleased. Between the mud and the never ending stitch is really wasn't the most comfortable of runs!

Overall I thought this was a really well organised and great value for money event. For £12 I got chip timing, a T-shirt and medal, there was a baggage and changing area and water on the course and at the end. I'm looking forward to the Canary Wharf event in a couple of weeks and would recommend this to anyone looking for a beginner friendly 5K or 10K race.

So I now have more race bling to add to my collection and have run in the grounds of the Tower of London. A fun way to spend a drizzly Wednesday night!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Thinking Slimmer - One year on

It was about this time last year that I started on my Thinking Slimmer journey. I can't remember the exact date but I know it was early May as we were going away on holiday to Rome for a week. I remember wondering whether this was a wise move - starting a new weight loss method at the same time as going to the land of my favourite food. Surely a recipie for early failure?

But the thing is Thinking Slimmer is different. Really different. No foods are banned and there's no diet to follow. All you have to do is set your goals, listen to the Slimpod each night for 10 mins and record the positive changes that you notice each day in the handbook that comes with the Slimpod. Sounds to easy and good to be true doesn't it?

I remember noticing changes almost from the first day. We were sitting having pizza for lunch in a beautiful little piazza in Rome when I noticed that I felt really full up and didn't want to eat anymore. This had never happened to me before with pizza! I think my husband thought there was something wrong with me, I have always finished all my pizza - it's my favourite food.

Other strange things happened - I didn't spend the whole week hankering after gelato and finding any and every opportunity to have one, as I did the last time we had gone to Italy. I had it once all week, savouring every mouthful and that was enough for me. Something was definitely changing.

So a year on what else has changed for me?

* I have control over food, it no longer controls me. I eat what I want to, when I want to but I no longer think about food all day long. I stop when I am full and eat only when I'm hungry. This might seem obvious to anyone who's never had a weight problem but after years of eating in response to feeling happy, sad, bored, tired, angry - you name it - this has been a huge breakthrough for me

* I have become a runner! I have dabbled with trying to keep fit in the past but nothing has ever 'stuck' like the running now has. I am active every day and run at least 3 times a week. I have also found yoga which I love and is a perfect complement to my running. In the last year I have run 5 races a 5K, 10 mile, half marathon, 16 mile and the big one - the London Marathon.

* I have met some fantastic, inspiring people who have supported and helped me along the way.  I'm now very happy to be able to 'pay it forward' by providing support to other people just starting out on their journey through the online communities that Thinking Slimmer provide.

* I have dropped two dress sizes, 18 inches have disappeared from across my body and the scales say I've lost 1 stone and 4 pounds. I feel as if the scales owe me around half a stone but as we all know the scales are a rubbish indicator of how your body is changing, especially if you exercise a lot. I think the camera is a better indicator of progress as these pictures show..

This is me waiting to take part in my 5K race back in June 2011

And this is me waiting to run the London Marathon 2 weeks ago

The best thing about all this is that I know these changes are permanent. There's no diet to fall off, there's nothing to fail at and even if for some reason I wasn't able to exercise I know that my body would then regulate my food intake and stop me from gaining weight.

The key to Thinking Slimmer is goal setting and having completed the London Marathon in size 12 running gear and smashing my fundraising target I have met all the goals that I set myself back in October. So I need some new ones

* To fit into my size 12 pink coast dress by June 9th so I can wear it out for my marathon celebration meal with my friend Lisa. The dress now does up but feels a bit tight so that's my focus for the next few weeks

* To fit into my skinny grey jeans in time to take them on our holiday to New York on June 16th. At the moment they *just* about do up.

* To run 10K without stopping on May 27th in the BUPA 10K

* To take at least 5 minutes off my current 10K time of 1 hr and 13 minutes by July 8th when Darin and I run the British 10K together

* To be able to touch my toes with straight legs by Christmas - I suffer with tight calves and hamstrings and have never been able to touch my toes. This one is going to take lots of yoga, stretching and time!

I think that's enough to be getting on with for now!

Monday, 30 April 2012

Liebster Award

Yesterday I found out that the lovely diaryofadashinista had awarded From Snickers to Marathon a Liebster, the blog award for small blogs with less than 200 followers. I'm really pleased that Dash enjoys my blog enough to award this to me. She's someone that I met through Boutique Run back before Christmas and I've loved following her tales of running, general fitness and fashion ever since.

We were training for our first marathons at the same time and it's been great to keep up to date with her training - I've picked up loads of training tips from her along the way. I've also loved her fashion reviews and particularly enjoy her features on 'What to wear when.....' - her latest advice being on belly dancing!

Dash is never knowingly understyled and the design of her blog is a testament to this - it's super chic!

If you receive a Liebster, you should in turn nominate five more bloggers with less than 200 followers. So the Snickers awards go to:

1. Lozzatron - Laura has been on a similar running journey to me. As a fellow first time marathoner her blog - with the tag line 'Careful what you wish for' has been a great read and really motivating for me. At times when I've felt really slow and was convinced I was going to come last in the marathon it's been great to read about her progress and know that there were others out there like me aiming for somewhere under 6 hours on their first attempt.

2. The Moiderer - to moider means to talk a lot and that's what Dawn does. About her life, her little one and her husband, changing her life with Cognitive Hypnotherapy, cooking, travelling - you name it The Moiderer covers it. I love this blog as it's written with such honesty and openness. Dawn's been on a pretty amazing personal journey this year and I think it's a privilege that she's shared it with so many people through her blogging.

3. iknowineedtostoptalking- the hilarious KT gets my next award. Her honest and often graphic account of life with two small children never fails to bring a smile to my face. Among the tales of vomit and poo there is also much talk of wine and gin. I am not a mum but if I were I think I'd like to be this kind of mum.

4. Darin McCloud - what more can I say that I've not already said about this amazing man? His blog plots his journey from a 20 stone man seeking gastric bypass surgery to 15 stone marathon runner. It's a fantastically honest account of his Thinking Slimmer journey and one which I know has provided inspiration to many people, me included. I am proud to have crossed the finishing line of the London Marathon with this remarkable person.

5. Jackie Newman - my final award goes to Jackie. Her blog is charting her progress with Thinking Slimmer and is an inspirational read. Jackie has totally embraced the Slimpods and they are helping her to change her life in the same way that they have helped me to change mine.

The rules of the Liebster are:

1. Link back to the person who gave it to you and thank them.

2. Post the award to your blog.

3. Give the award to 5 bloggers with less than 200 followers that you appreciate and value (it’s a great way to get to word out there about other blogs).

4. Leave a comment on the 5 blogs to let them know that they have received this award.

So now what?

So a week on from the London Marathon and I feel like I am pretty much recovered. On Monday and Tuesday my legs were very sore, a sports massage on Monday helped a lot but I was still hobbling a bit on Tuesday. From Wednesday they started to feel better but I was then overwhelmed by feelings of exhaustion. I just wanted to sleep all day. And eat. But by Friday I had started to feel human again and went out for a little 5K run which I enjoyed. I was a bit creaky but held a steady pace. And now on Monday I feel pretty much back to normal again.

But what is normal now? I've trained for 4 months for the marathon and I don't want to lose the fitness levels that I've built up. OK, so maybe I don't want to be out running 15-18 milers every weekend but I do love running and I need a new goal to focus on. So here's my plan....

During my marathon training I started run/walking - a good strategy to see me through my training and to my first marathon. However, it's trained my body to expect a walking break every 10mins in my runs and I want to train it back away from that. I want to be a 'proper' runner, ultimately I want to be able to run a whole marathon. I also want to get faster which means dropping down to shorter distances to begin with.

I have the following races lined up so far this year and have set myself a goal for each of them

23rd May - British Heart Foundation Canary Wharf jog - aim to get a new 5K PB

27th May BUPA 10K -  aim to run the whole way without stopping and set a baseline 10K time

8th July - British 10K - aim to beat the time I set in the BUPA 10K

15th Sept - Pride 10K in Victoria Park (not yet entered) - aim to beat the time I set in British 10K

14th October - Kingston run (16 miles not yet entered) - aim to run the whole way and beat my time from April of 3hrs 15 mins

28th October  - Great South Run (10miles) - aim to run the whole way and beat last year's time of 2hrs and 2 mins

I have also just entered the online ballot for the London Marathon 2013. There's a 1 in 8 chance that I'll get a place so it's far from definite that I'll get in but I just had to try!

I'm also going to continue blogging as I've enjoyed keeping a record of my progress and sharing it with other people so I hope you'll continue to stop by and check on how I'm doing. Better still come and join me at one of the races!

Monday, 23 April 2012

The Virgin London Marathon 2012

On Sunday morning after a fitful night's sleep I woke up to the day that I had been waiting for since I got my place back in October. The day I would run the London Marathon. I hadn't expected to sleep well, but I had at least had some sleep and I didn't feel too tired when the alarm went off.

As I got dressed in my gear and ate my porridge and banana a strange feeling swept over me. I still can't quite put my finger on what it was - a mixture of anxiety, nerves, excitment and ever so slight sadness that by the end of the day it would all be over. It was a heady mix of emotions, so when Mr J came to give me a hug and tell me that he was proud of me it pretty much sent me over the edge and I became a sobbing mess dressed in lycra for a few minutes.

Having regained my composure I was ready to set off and meet my fellow Team Thinking Slimmer runners Darin and Dawn at Limehouse DLR station. I waved goodbye to Mr J and his Mum who had come to support me and headed out of the flat.

Darin and Dawn were waiting for me at the station and we set off on the DLR to Greenwich. I was hoping that we might bump into my friend Lisa at some point before the start and as luck would have it she was standing right outside Greenwich DLR station when we arrived. We all walked up towards the Red Start together. Walking through Greenwich Park it all started to become very real. Hundreds, thousands of other people getting ready to take on the 26.2 miles.

We said goodbye to Lisa and went off to try and locate the Nestle Pure Life tent as Dawn needed to meet them before the race. Having established our meeting point we went about our pre-race business - toilet stops, topping up the water levels, depositing our bags in the luggage trucks and getting ourselves ready for the start.

It was a beautiful morning in Greenwich Park - sunny and a bit cool - perfect runnng conditions. At 9am we watched the start of the women's race on the big screens located in the park. My stomach flipped - in 45 mins it would be our turn. After another toilet stop it was time to head for our starting pens. We were all in pen 9 - the last pen for everyone who had indicated a greater than 5 hour finish time. As the start time drew nearer the pen got busier and busier. There were people in front of us as far as my eyes could see.

9.45am finally came around and we moved.....nowhere. Then gradually and slowly we started to walk towards the start line. It must have taken about 20 mins for us to get to the gates of Greewich Park and turn the corner to see the start line. Finally we crossed it and at last starting running the London Marathon!

We had a strategy for what we would do - run for 9 mins and walk for one at a pace of no more than 12 and a half minutes per mile. For the first mile this was relatively easy as there were a lot of people around but we soon had to concentrate on keeping our pace down and not running too fast. It was easy to get carried away - there were huge crowds lining the streets, cheering us on right from the start and the excitement to finally get started meant that the adrenaline was really flowing.

The first few miles felt effortless and a lot of fun. Darin was working the crowd with style - high fiving all the kids along the street and lapping up the cheers. Dawn and I were keeping an eye on the pace and making sure he didn't go rushing off ahead!

Within the first two miles I had scored two off my marathon bingo - I'd been passed by someone in a ridiculous costume (actually several rhinos) and a man who looked old enough to be my grandad.  I was having a whale of a time, laughing and joking with Darin and Dawn and just soaking up the atmosphere.

By mile 6 we were headed into Greenwich and towards the Cutty Sark. I was feeling pretty comfortable but was aware that Dawn had started to fall behind a bit. Darin and I have run together before and know that we are pretty evenly matched pace wise. Running with Dawn was a new experience. We had promised before the race that we would go ahead of her if she wanted us to and by the time we had passed the Cutty Sark she signalled to us that that time had come. Relucantly Darin and I headed off - we knew she'd be OK as she's so strong and determined but we had hoped to stay together for longer.

Miles 7-8 passed quickly and we noticed that we had picked up the pace a bit. At that point I began to feel it in my legs and said to Darin that I felt I needed to back off a bit. From the start I had been thinking that I needed the toilet. This often happens to me at the start of a long run - the phantom wee - usually caused by nerves. Every time before it had gone away, in all my training I have never had to stop for the toilet. This time it was real. I needed the toilet so soon after crossing the 10 mile marker we stopped to use the loos.

Relieved, we set off again towards mile 11. I felt like I was struggling a bit at this point so it was a massive surprise to suddenly hear "Go Becca, Go Darin" being shouted at us from by a voice that I recognised. I looked up and saw my friend Rachael standing by the side of the road, cheering us on. That gave me a real boost as we headed towards mile 12 and Tower Bridge.

For me Tower Bridge is an iconic part of the marathon and as we turned off Tooley St and onto the bridge I had tears in my eyes. I was really here, really running the London Marathon

The noise that the crowds on the bridge were making was amazing, it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. My legs were starting to hurt and I'd been needed to take more walking breaks but I found a surge of energy from somewhere and we turned onto The Highway and towards the Mile 13 marker. I was now in home territory. I knew the route from here to mile 19 like the back of my hand. And I knew I had my family waiting at mile 14 - I was tired and achey but this thought gave me a lift.

As we neared the 14 mile marker my calves were starting to hurt quite a lot and I asked Darin if we could take an extra walking break. He seemed quite relieved and admitted that his calves were hurting too so we walked for a while before turning off The Highway and onto Narrow St. We started running again as we turned the corner and headed towards the stretch of road where I knew my family would be waiting. It was fantastic to spot them all - they were waving like crazy and making a lot of noise.

After quicky introducing Darin to everyone and some hugs and kisses we set off again down Narrow St giving them all a wave as we went

Literally a minute after we'd left my family I felt a tap on my back - it was @lozzatron from Twitter and the first member of the #vlmfamily that I'd spotted on the day. It was lovely to meet her, she looked like she was doing well and using the same kind of run/walk strategy as Darin and I. Then, just over the bridge I spotted my osteopath Glenn waiting for me - I ran to give him a hug and he ran with us for a while wishing us well and making sure we were OK.

I felt on top of the world and like I could have kept running forever at that point but we were due a walking break and so we took one. We started running again as we turned the corner onto Westferry Road, but Darin pulled up quite suddenly with a pain in his calf. He said that it felt better when he walked so we walked for a while to see if it eased off. We tried running again but it was no good. Darin kept pulling up sharply and we knew something was wrong. We stopped to stretch for a bit and then carried on walking. I suggested that we should stop at the next St John's Ambulance point and see if he could get a massage.

The people of St John's Ambulance were fantastic - massaged out Darin's calves and advised him to take long walking strides and heel strike to help his calves. So we both did this for most of mile 16. At this point Darin turned to me and said "do you want to go ahead?" I had a decision to make but it took all of a second to make - we had started as a team and I intended to finish as a team. At that point the goal became to finish in one piece and all thoughts of mile timings went out of the window.

As we turned the corner towards Mile 17 Darin wanted to try running again. We did for a short while but it was still no good - there was another St John's Ambulance station and we decided to stop again to get him another massage. Once this was done we headed off towards Mudchute where I knew that @Dashinista was waiting. We nearly walked right past her as she was tracking me online as we went past but luckily I spotted her. After a hug and some words of encouragement we set off again towards Canary Wharf.

Darin kept trying to run with no joy so we decided just to stick to the walking until we had got past 20 miles and see what happened then. So we power walked our way around Canary Wharf with me setting the pace and were soon arriving in Poplar and mile 20. At this point I started to get excited again as I knew my family would be waiting near mile 21. We were walking at a good pace and I was feeling good. Although this was new territory for us both I knew that if nothing else I could keep walking for another 6.2 miles for sure and I felt that as long as I did, Darin would as well. We were going to finish.

We came back onto Commercial Road and soon spotted my family with my nephew holding up a banner for me

We stopped briefly for more hugs and words of encouragement before we set off again towards the finish line. Still over 5 miles away!

As we turned the corner back onto The Highway and back towards the Embankment the sky was turning dark, the temperatute dropped and the wind picked up. The forecasted rain was clearly on it's way. At this point the crowd came into their own. So many people shouting our names and wishing us luck - it was amazing, I can't describe how much difference it made.

Before long we were back at Tower Bridge and at this point the rain started falling. At first it wasn't too heavy but before long it was pouring down. Luckily we were close to a Lucozade fuelling station who had just started handing out rain ponchos. We grabbed them gratefully and stopped under Blackfriar's underpass to put them on. It's a good thing we did as we emerged from the other side into torrential rain.

By this point we were at mile 24 and Big Ben was in sight. We kept trudging on knowing there really wasn't far to go. The crowds were still there in the pouring rain. I was trying really hard to acknowledge each person who shouted my name with a smile and a thank you. One woman told me that I had given her the best smile she'd seen all day!

Finally we got to Big Ben and turned onto Birdcage Walk. It had stopped raining so we took off our ponchos and got ready to complete our final mile and a bit. We had agreed to run from Buckingham Palace to the finish so we continued to walk until we got to the top of Birdcage Walk and saw the sign that I had been waiting all day to see

Followed very shortly by something that I hadn't expected to see. Sandra and Chris from Thinking Slimmer standing in the crowd cheering us on. To say we were delighted would be an understatement

After a quick stop for hugs we turned the corner onto the Mall and ran the final few meters of the marathon. Crossing the finish line felt absolutely amazing. I had finished the London Marathon. The clock said 6hrs and 27 mins but I didn't care - my goal was to finish with a smile on my face and I did that with style.

We were given our medals and goody bags, picked up our kit bags and made our way back to Horseguards parade to the meeting area. I felt pretty spaced out at this point. I knew I needed to keep moving but I really wanted just to collapse.

Once on Horseguards I spotted Mr J who had been waiting for me and we were re-united with Dawn who we later realised had crossed the finished line just minutes before us having kept her steady pace all the way around. Team Thinking Slimmer had done it. I had done it.

Only once I'd got home did it all really start to sink in. I had completed the London Marathon. Slower than I had ideally wanted but given what happened on the day I was just grateful to have got around in one piece. On the way home we started to hear reports that a young woman had collapsed and died in the final mile of the race. That just put everything into perspective. I had completed the race and I was alive and that really was all that mattered.

So I Rebecca Jones am now a marathoner. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. Maybe not next year - I have a lot to work on in terms of strength and speed. But I will absolutely definitely be back to run those 26.2 miles again. There's something very very special about them indeed.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

My marathon mile dedications

So just under 3 days to go until I make my way to Greenwich Park for the start of the London Marathon 2012. I am trained and ready and getting very excited about the day.

26.2 miles is a really long way and I'm going to be out on that course for at least 5 if not 6 hours. At times it's bound to feel very tough. I know I'm going to complete it - not doing so is just not an option but I want to make it as 'easy' as I can for myself.

One of the people that I've met through Twitter - the lovely @duns _is_running aka Hannah Dunnell suggested dedicating each mile to someone that I know, so that when things get tough you can think about that person and find the motivation to run, knowing that you are running that mile for them. I love the idea so here are my marathon mile dedications for people who have inspired, supported or helped me on my marathon journey

Mile 1 is mine all mine -  the 345 training miles I have put in have been all about getting me to the start line ready to complete this thing. I will enjoy the first mile and not run it too fast, honest.

Mile 2 is for everyone else running with me today - all 35000 of you. I now know exactly what it takes to train for a marathon and it's not easy. You have my total respect and I hope you all enjoy the day.

Mile 3 is for Simon Broome. The man who helped me find the self belief and confidence to lace up my trainers and take the first step out of my front door. Thank you!

Mile 4 is for everyone at Good Vibes Fitness particularly the fabulous Nahid, the lovely Choi and the man with the constant smile Andrew. Thank you for the yoga and powerplates classes which have strengthened and lengthened me and been an excellent complement to my running.

Mile 5 is for the girls of Boutique Running Club who have helped me realise that I enjoy running with other people and that I can run faster than I thought for longer than I thought. Thank you for all your encouragement. I hope to see you all soon after I've recovered from this!

Mile 6 is for everyone that's sponsored me and helped me to smash my Golden Bond pledge. I have currently raised just under £1600 which is absolutely amazing and will help the charity to do great things in my local community. Thank you all!

Mile 7  is for all my friends and colleagues at FSS who have lost or will lose their jobs due to the closure of the company. What an 18 months it's been and I'm proud of the way we've all handled it. Thank you for all the support you've shown me during my training.

Mile 8 is for my 'cousin' in New York Andrew who ran the New York Marathon last year - maybe one day I'll come and run New York with you. Thank you for all your encouragement.

Mile 9 is for my sister in law Katrina in Denver who is an amazing athlete and marathon runner and one of my original running inspirations. Thank you for all your advice and support - I really appreciate it.

Mile 10 is for Lorraine Albon - Darin's diabetic consultant who ran by my side for the whole of the 10 mile Great South Run last October and helped me to achieve a brilliant time that I'm convinced I wouldn't have managed on my own. We will think of you today.

Mile 11 is for my sister Rachel and her boyfriend Shaun - thank you for coming up to support me today, I really appreciate it. I'm looking forward to meeting my new niece or nephew later this year

Mile 12 is for everyone at Thinking Slimmer especially Sandra and Trevor. I would not be doing this today if it weren't for finding you. Perhaps at some point in the race I won't be thinking 'thank you' for that, but I am so grateful for everything you've helped me to achieve over the last year. So 'thank you' while I mean it!

Mile 13 is for my Mother in Law, Jean who has travelled down from Stafford to support me today. Thank you so much and I'm looking forward to seeing you along the route.

Mile 14 is for my Mum and Dad who should be waiting at this point on the route. One or other or perhaps both of you has passed on some ridiculous 'determination' gene which means I know I won't give up today. Thank you, I think. And thanks for coming up to support me. Please don't cry when you see me Mum because you'll probably make me cry too. Actually, that goes for Dad too.

Mile 15 is for Glenn Sontag my bloody marvellous osteopath and sports masseur who has kept me in one piece through my training and should hopefully be out to give me a cheer somewhere near mile 15 on Narrow St.

Mile 16 is for my colleague and friend Rachael. Two times finisher of the London Marathon and runner of many other races. Rachael was the person who convinced me that I could run London this year if I wanted to. Thank you so much for listening to my endless, no doubt very boring tales of marathon training and for all the advice and support.

Mile 17 is for Christine aka @Dashinista and one of the Boutique Running Club ladies. She has been training for the Brighton marathon at the same time as I've been training for London and it's been great to swap tips, advice, woes and progress. She completed Brighton in style last weekend and I can't wait to see her at mile 17 cheering us on.

Mile 18 is for Hannah aka @Duns_is_Running. I've never actually met Hannah but she's been a source of support and much entertainment on Twitter for the last few months. Mile 18 will be new territory for her so I'm dedicating this one to her. You can do it! I'm waiting to see to photographic evidence of your finishing line 'gun' pose - complete with arm warmers of course!

Mile 19 is for Lisa aka @LBehrG who as she starts the race today will be 7 stone lighter than when I first met her many years ago. Your weight loss and running journey has been a source of inspiration to me. You will probably have crossed the finish line by the time I get to this point. I really hope you get the time you want, and most importantly beat your husband's time from a few years ago as I know that's what really matters to you!

Mile 20 is for the Twitter #LondonMarathon #vlmfamily crew - @PumpinPete @MadebyElves @Ruthismoore @KatieMarathon @Rob_Sterry29 @lozzatron12 @andythatcher1 @alisonhardisty @TomDingleyphoto @SarahJaneCass to name just a few. I haven't met any of you but you have all been brilliant company through the ups and downs of training. This mile is the threshold that many of us have not yet crossed - I wish you all the very best of runs and look forward to comparing notes afterwards.

Mile 21 is for my niece Sophie and nephew Johnathan who should be waiting to cheer me on at this point, as well as my nephew Alex who has to work so can't be there. I hope that seeing me do this today will make you realise that anything is possible. If you want something enough and you work really hard then you can achieve it - any don't listen to anyone who tells you otherwise!

Mile 22 is for the amazing woman running next to me Dawn aka @The_Moiderer. I don't think I have ever met anyone who is quite so resilient, determined and downright stubborn! The changes you have made to your life this year are remarkable and an inspiration. I'm very proud to be running this with you.

Mile 23 is for the equally amazing man also running with me Darin aka @unitedarinm. A genuinely lovely man who has changed his life for the better in so many ways this year. My running buddy from the Great South Run and Brighton Half Marathon, I'm so glad and proud that we get to cross this particular finish line together. I will make you slow down in the first half - it's for our own good and I'm counting on you to help keep me going in the second!

Mile 24 is for my Uncle Brian who sadly is no longer with us. I'm going to need every ounce of courage to get me through these last few miles and I will think of you and the way you bravely fought against your illness to help me at this point.

Mile 25 is for my husband and best friend Mr J. For the words of encouragement before my runs. For the hugs and 'well dones' afterwards. For standing in the cold and rain carrying my stuff at races. For accepting that our Saturday nights needed to be a bit more low key. For making approving noises as I've modelled endless new running gear. For cooking for me during each long run and not making a fuss when I abandoned you for hours on end at the weekend. For generally being a brilliant supportive husband. THANK YOU. I love you.

Mile 26 and the extra 0.2 belong to me. I have imagined for years how it would feel to run up Birdcage Walk, past Buckingham Palace and back down the Mall across the finish line and now I get to find out. Yep, this mile and a bit is mine. I think I will have earned it.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

I'm registered!!

Today was the start of the London Marathon Expo at the Excel Centre in Docklands. All runners have to come here to register and being the total control freak planner/organiser that I am I decided that I needed to come and get my stuff as soon as I possibly could.

Having met a friend Lisa for coffee at Canary Wharf we set off for Excel on the DLR - it was a very easy journey and once at the DLR station there was a covered walkway that took us straight into the exhibition centre. We got there about 10mins before the Expo was due to open but there was already a pretty big queue in front of us. Once the doors actually opened the queue moved very quickly and we were soon in the main area of the event.

The first thing to do was to register. This was incredibly straight forward. There are lots of queues with number ranges and you just have to find yours and join the queue!

This was my queue and there were only about 6 people in front of me.

The queue moved quickly and when I got to the front I was asked for my registration form and ID and then had to sign the disclaimer on the form in from of the person on the stand. I was then passed over to another person who gave me my all important envelope containing my race number, safety pins, sticker for my kit bag and ties to attached my timing chip. She also gave me my kit bag and last minute information magazine.

From there we were directed to the area where you get your timing chip activated

Here my running number was scanned and a timing chip activated which was then added into my envelope. I now had everything I needed for race day. From there it was out into the Expo itself. There were loads of stands selling pretty much everything you can imagine to do with running and it was interesting to look around.

Lisa made use of the T-shirt printing facilities - a word of advice here if you're planning on using these - head straight for them after registration as there was quite a queue and then about a 45 min wait for the shirt to be printed before you could pick up the shirt at the exit.

I managed to meet up with Darin who had come up to London today to register. It was really good to see him and we made our arrangements for meeting on Sunday morning - I can't really believe it's only 4 days away now.

By this time Lisa's T-shirt was ready to be collected and we decided to leave. I could have spent far longer at the Expo if I had been planning on spending money! I'm also coming back on Saturday with Dawn so there will be more time to look around then if I want to.

So that's it, the final piece of preparation sorted and I'm registered to run my first ever London Marathon. I have my final sports massage this afternoon and will do a very gentle 30 min run on Friday morning. Other than that I am ready to go! Bring it on!