Monthly Archives: July 2013

Run With An Idea: Would you pay £50 for a 10k race

This is the second debate in Carrie and Dash’s Run With An Idea series: How much is too much when you’re paying to enter a race?

I have thought about this and I’m torn and trying not to sit on the fence. My instinct when I first read about the British 10k was why on earth would anyone pay £50 for a 10k in London of all places. Anyone can run in London at any time and there are always plenty of excellent local races that are a fraction of the price. I’ve just paid for my London Marathon place and that was £35 so fifty just seems like a piss take. And for the last two years I’ve read awful things about British 10k and it’s organisation so you’re obviously not getting what you pay for. So at first glance, no it doesn’t look like I would pay £50 for a 10k. But I do have a confession to make:

A few weeks ago I had my credit card in hand while furiously texting my husband asking his advice as to what I should do. I had completed the online forms for the Nike Women’s San Francisco Marathon and was poised to potentially pay in excess of $250 for the privilege (if I’d been successful in the ballot). In the end I closed it all down and decided that it was London that I truly wanted to do in my heart of hearts but this just shows that despite my cynicism and my urge to people to support local races, I too am prepared to fork out a *hell of a* lot of money for a race. So why was I prepared to do it?

I guess it was about experiences. I was looking for a great running experience abroad and I was prepared to pay for it. And maybe the people who are stumping up the money for the British 10k are looking for the same thing. I don’t agree that they should be charging so much when it is allegedly run so badly and more expensive than the London Marathon but it’s possible that it’s not just the 10k the people are paying for. The chance to run on major London streets if it’s unlikely they’ll ever run the marathon? The London atmosphere with all the crowds? The chance to run in London with friends? An alternative hen party? (ok pushing it with the last one).

So when I review my morals and my own running code of conduct I think it is possible that I would pay £50 but I’d have to get something for my money. High on that list would be slick, professional organisation and potentially a decent goody bag and medal (although those last two things are never high on my list of priorities). I think I would try and speak to people about the races too to find out if they’re experience was worth what they paid in entry fees, do a bit of online research and also see where it fitted in with my own goals. I would also look to see if there were similar races in similar locations run by local clubs rather than large corporations if it is just about the experience. I might also look to see if the entry fee includes a donation to charity which would definitely help me justify the fee a bit more.

I guess what I’m saying is if you want to pay that much for a race then do it, it’s your money and your running goals, but just be careful you don’t end up paying money for rubbish running rope.

Current entry fees on my bucket list of races:

Berlin Marathon £100.

New York Marathon for non US residents $347 (£225).

Disneyland Half Marathon £190.

Chicago Marathon £150.

Athens Marathon £70 (the 5k entry is £60 and the 10k is £65).

Hollywood Half Marathon $85 early bird fee (£55).

Great Wall Marathon in China $1420-$1795 depending on the package you want.

(video by Salomon Trail Running)

Head over to the Run With An Idea page to see debates from other running bloggers on this topic!

Help! Fear of Cycling!

So with being injured I have been trying to keep up my fitness by training in other ways. CrossFit has been part of that, mainly because lifting weights seems to help with the frustration while also making me feel a little bit like Wonder Woman.

Lego Wonder Woman was so strong she could whip metal chains using just her hair.

Lego Wonder Woman was so strong she could whip metal chains using just her hair.

I have been aqua jogging and I managed an hour session which was great. While I was doing it I thought it was really easy but afterwards I felt that lovely achy limbed feeling that you get after a decent run. Plus it had the bonus of being an hour work out without having to stop due to pain. Aqua jogging is a complete hassle though especially with two children on summer holiday. There is no way I can go to a pool, leave them in a creche and go off on my own. They would go potty as they both love the swimming pool. So I’ve been thinking of alternatives that would fit into my life the same way running always has and cycling seems to be the obvious choice.

I can ride a bike no problem. I have the old primary school cycling proficiency certificate so I know I’m qualified (that’s a joke by the way). I ride up and down the road teaching my son to ride his bike. I’ve had sessions sitting with the bike on the turbo trainer but in this heat it’s really not appealing to sit indoors on a bike that should be moving outside. So I should probably take my bike out for a spin. The only problem is I’m a bit terrified of riding on the road.

So what am I actually terrified of?

  • cars whizzing past me on the high speed limit roads.
  • cars going past me on the small one track roads where we live.
  • cars being impatient with me.
  • other cyclists being impatient with me.
  • forgetting what to do when I come to a junction or a roundabout.
  • falling off and hurting myself or the bike breaking when I’m far from home.

I’m sure I’m building this up into more than it needs to be but I’ve built it up so much in my mind that me actually going out on a bike seems like an impossibility. A few times I’ve intended to go but I’ve actually chickened out and made an excuse to do something else. I really want to give it a go because I think it would help me get over this injury and I really believe I would enjoy it. So how do I get over this fear of getting out on my bike?

Not quite a bike built for two.

Not quite a bike built for two.

P.S I know I’ve been wanging on about being injured on my running blog but I came across this lovely blog by Eilish McColgan. She’s been struggling with a stress fracture and I know we are worlds apart in terms of running and ability but it was a relief to read that I’m not the only one who gets obsessed with running when they’re injured!


A couple of months ago when running was seemingly going ok I booked in two 10k races in September. I was feeling positive and I had been building my mileage up really well. Cut to today and I am no longer running. I still have this stupid calf/cramp thing and running is just not happening unless it’s in a pool with an aqua belt.

I can’t lie I’m beginning to panic. I fear that I won’t have started running in time to do the races. I’m worried that if I do them I will run badly or hurt myself further. I’m trying to cross train but the boys are now off for the summer and with no help from family because they all live either an hour or 3 hours away I think I’ll struggle to fit things in. My husband says it will be fine but I find myself feeling cross with him because I just don’t feel like it will. I think my 5k and 10k goal may be unrealistic for this year, it would just be too much pressure on myself.

I am an angry, frustrated, injured, panicked runner. Definitely the worst type of runner to be. I do not recommend it.

Rest Is a Dirty Word.

So since this niggle started a few weeks ago I haven’t really managed things very well I kept  trying to test it out and going for little runs even though I knew I wasn’t fit. What makes this a bit laughable is that I am a musculoskeletal physiotherapist who has experience of treating sports injuries. Yet here I as determined to keep running over the top of this injury. It’s like I think that my physiotherapy experience will mend me by osmosis via one of my text books or many journal articles.

Last weekend after another week of relative rest I tried to go out my front door for a jog. I got as far as the top of the road and turned back. My calf was painful, to continue would have been quite futile and really rather foolish. I had a stern word with myself and decided that yes I would now listen to the advice I give to other people, rest from running and try some cross training.

So this week I have been to the gym and I have been aqua jogging. I managed some things at CrossFit that I have never managed before and I seem to be getting stronger in my upper body. Positive number one. I also managed to aqua jog for an hour with no pain. Psychologically it was really nice to be able to exercise for that length of time without having to stop due to pain. Positive number 2.

I haven’t had a formal assessment of my calf but I’m going to continue with the rest/cross train approach for now. When I go through the list of possibilities the main treatment for a runner goes like this:

Calf Strain? Rest.

Posterior shin splints? Rest.

Insertional tendinopathy? Rest.

Nerve pain? Rest.

The problem with us runners is that rest is like a dirty word. Even with patients in clinic I see their noses wrinkle when I mention the ‘R’ word. It’s like I’ve sworn at them or insulted their mother. Rest doesn’t seem to be in our vocabulary or we try and ignore it because we worry about the training that we might miss. What I’m realising, particularly now that I have the London Marathon ahead of me in 2014, is that a few weeks rest in the short term might not be such a bad thing when training on a niggle could cause me to end up with something far more chronic. Non weight bearing, soggy aqua running it is for now until I can make a return to running relatively pain and niggle free.

Sports Day and It’s All In The Genes.

I think I am in the minority where it comes to Sports Day. Most women and mothers I know claim to hate it with a passion. I bloody love Sports Day. I loved it when I was at school (primary and secondary) and I love it now that my children are starting to do it. I think I learnt to love running and racing from a flat sprint of about 50m when I was at primary school. The other girls always towered above me but I was quick to prove that it’s always foolish to dismiss the short, scrappy kids.

I was never very good at team sports. I was ok at hockey, terrible at netball and I wasn’t fussed for football. Schools don’t seem to do a lot of running and athletics outside the annual cross country trial and a touch of token athletics in the summer. Most of my running was done outside of school. So when school sports day came round it was my time to shine, to show the rest of the school that this girl had some running in her legs. However there were many more reasons to love sports day.

An afternoon away from lessons.

An afternoon lounging on the grass with your pals while waiting for your turn.

A chance to cheer on people in your class who it turns out are actually quite good at throwing and jumping but who had never been given the chance to show it before.

I was never arty or musical and probably disctinctly average at my lessons. I never fancied getting up on stage and acting in the school plays or demonstrating my woeful dancing skills in assembly. Sports day was a day for me to get my chance to show what I was good at and I relished every moment of those afternoons because I got to do something I loved. Seriously, if I had been allowed to go for training runs during my P.E lessons or at lunch time I would have!

Luckily for me right now my boys seem to be into running and all things sports day. I had been given strict instructions though not to cheer for my eldest because ‘I might make him stop’. So with every ounce of restraint I stifled my squeals on Tuesday afternoon and watched my eldest take part in his Sports Day. My 3 year old boy also got the chance to run a toddler race. He kept on going and had to be stopped by the teacher, he was focussed on the back fence. He’s obviously got my endurance legs. He won his race and my 5 year old got three firsts and a couple of seconds. Running must be in the genes. He was thrilled, as were we but we still emphasised that it doesn’t matter where he came as long as he tried his best. At this age it shouldn’t be about being overly competitive, just the enjoyment of being outside on a beautiful summer day running around with your best pals.


The Olympics One Year On: Did they ‘inspire a generation?’

This is my first post for ‘Run With An Idea’, set up by bloggers Carrie and Dashinista with the intention of sparking respectful debate among the running and fitness blogosphere. Each blogger will blog about the same topic and hopefully it will trigger some interesting discussions. This is the first topic ‘The Olympics One Year On: Did they inspire a generation?’.

At the age of 5 my son has a huge awareness of what the Olympics are. He knows which sports are involved and he knows which are not. We live in South Wales, a very rugby orientated region. I’ve offered to take him to minis rugby but he doesn’t want to go because ‘it’s not in the ‘Lympics’. He wants to do swimming, cycling and running because that’s what he saw the most of during those exciting few weeks last Summer.

He watched the London games alongside his Dad and I. He even got to go to a morning of hockey in the Olympic stadium. He knows who Usain Bolt and Mo Farah are and he sets up his own steeplechase track, complete with paddling pool water jump, in the back garden. So when I think has a generation been inspired, I look at my son and think yes, they have.

I don’t just have to use my son as an example though. Just after the Olympics I was training at my local track and commented to the coach how busy it was. There were probably around 50 children aged between 10 and 13 situated at one point at the edge of the track being taught how to warm up and the different drills. I heard people complain about how crowded it was and how these kids didn’t understand track etiquette (i.e. don’t walk on the inside lane!) but I got a pang of excitement thinking that the reason these children were here was because of the London Olympics. So again, do I think a generation has been inspired? Yes I do.

However with anything like this the fever dies down and people become less keen. The usual sports like football and rugby (the professional sports where you earn lots of money) take the focus again and children forget about the other sports that they watched a year ago. Children live very much in the present and if it’s not visible to them regularly they might not remember that only recently they had wanted to be the next Chris Hoy or the next Heather Stanning. And with cuts to school sports and venues such as athletics tracks (three that I know of in the past year since the Olympics) the inspiration can only drive children so far. The inspired generation need somewhere to try the new sports and a new generation of coaches to drive them forwards and motivate them.

In the next couple of weeks we will see the London Anniversary games at the Olympic Stadium. I hope it will bring Olympic fever back and with it the inspiration from last year. But inspiration is one thing. Once the spark of inspiration is there it needs support and resources to turn from dream to reality. I hope there’s some government officials out there who will have the inspiration to stop cutting more and more money from sport otherwise I’m not sure we’ll see many more inspirational British Super Saturdays.

Just, just…..Arrrggggh!

About a month ago I was starting to feel the love for all things running again. I felt motivated, I had goals and my mileage was gradually building. I was fitting in 55-60 minute runs almost every day and I was really really enjoying them. Running felt good and I was beginning to look forward to mixing things up a bit and start some actual training rather than just running. I had even managed a couple of sessions at a running club and while tough I relished every minute of the reps we did.

One Sunday about three weeks ago I decided to go for a short sharp run, a route that I could easily manage. However towards the end of the 30 minutes as I came closer to home my calf really cramped and became tight. As I stopped outside my door I thought to myself that it was a bit tender and even limped a bit. I stretched and it didn’t seem too bad. The next day I went for a longer run but at the 20-25 minute point my calf started to cramp and become sore again. Around 30 minutes I could take no more and stopped and stretched. In all my years on and off of running I have NEVER had to stop and stretch before. Ever! I continued gently and managed a 71 minute route which was just over 8 miles. The next day it really didn’t seem too bad so I went to running club and to crossfit that week, both of which I managed. I felt reassured that the calf niggle was nothing.

I went away on a hen weekend and discovered that there was a small gym (by gym it looked like someone had put up some catalogue gym equipment in a living room). There was a treadmill among the equipment so instead of lounging around the pool or in the ‘relaxation room’ I went for a run. By 20 minutes again my calf had started to cramp and by 30 I really couldn’t be bothered any more as it was becoming really tiresome. So I stopped and that was what brought me to decide to take the rest week (along with my other annoying health rubbish).

I managed to avoid running and exercise all week without feeling too guilty, knowing that it was for good reason. I had a lovely few days with my parents, brother, sister in law and gorgeous nephew when they came to visit and by Monday of this week I felt happy and ready to go running again. As I started running I felt comfortable and relaxed so I decided to aim for the 70 minute run again. But yet again at 20 minutes I felt a bit of discomfort. I continued to run through but eventually decided to turn back. At the 40 minute point I stopped and walked. I bloody walked. I have never EVER had to walk. I was so angry with myself and feelings of failure washed over me. I stretched and then decided to jog back as I was still a fair way from home.

Weirdly I managed to run the rest of the way and all told ran for 55 minutes. It was as if my calf needed the break and to re-set itself before I could get going again. When I got back I decided to do some hill sprints at the back of my house to unleash the frustration at not completing the run I had set my heart on doing. By the next day I wondered if this was a good idea. My calf was painful, not just tight this time and I had to limp a bit. Since then I’ve avoided doing anything apart from a short exercise set that I did in my kitchen yesterday.

I just don’t understand it. I’m so cross with my body (again). I feel frustrated (again). I feel foolish for thinking I was over all my injuries and could just get on with running (again). After all the knock backs I’ve had it isn’t so much the physical pain that I’m struggling with so much as the psychological discomfort. I feel utterly hopeless about running properly again. It feels like a lost cause to me and I’m almost starting to grieve for it and at the point of sacking it off. I was so keen a few months ago. I had booked in some races, I had made plans to go back to club and I was hoping to run a marathon next year. I know I might be daft feeling like this but sometimes it feels like the running universe is sending me the message not to bother any more, that I should concentrate on other things. The thing is though that I don’t want to. I feel like running and I have unfinished business. Maybe I’m being a bit romantic and nostalgic but I’m not a bad runner. Just an extremely unlucky one.

I just want a break from feeling like I’m made of glass.

So, you know, argggggggghhhhhhhhhhh!

NHS, Bounty and the Dirty Question of Money.

I remember in one of my last weeks at work as a senior member of clinical staff in a busy NHS department our lovely admin clerk sheepishly approaching me.

‘I’m so sorry Kath, the senior people won’t let the order go through until it’s been checked and approved by the people above them’.

What had I ordered? Some new fancy piece of equipment that I had been shown by a sales rep? A takeaway delivery to celebrate my final weeks? Had I asked for my mileage to be paid in gold? No. I had ordered two things:

1) Treasury tags, to hold patient notes together so pages wouldn’t get lost.

2) Thera band, a piece of stretchy elastic type stuff to help patients with their strengthening exercises.

Neither item was particularly expensive but each order was being checked and double checked to see whether it was a necessary purchase. Let me just recap, two orders that in their own way helped with the effectiveness and efficiency of patient care were being questioned (don’t laugh, treasury tags are needed to hold together notes that may be needed if they are requested by legal services and let me tell you lost notes create major havoc). This sorry state of affairs was two years ago. I only imagine that things are much much worse.

I am writing this post because I have followed the Bounty Mutiny campaign from afar. I have seen posts for and against the Bounty people coming onto the ward. For those who don’t know Bounty are a ‘parenting club’ company that send sales reps onto maternity wards giving out free gift packs and offering to take photos (not free) of newborns. They also ask you if you want to go onto their mailing list, the details of which they then sell on at profit to other companies. According to the Telegraph articles I’ve read the NHS earns £2.3 million from the deals with Bounty and in the current cash strapped position of the NHS that kind of money probably isn’t to be sniffed at.

I’m not necessarily for or against the Bounty people. My first experience of birth was a blur and I can barely remember the first week let alone someone with a camera. The second time I somehow had my wits about me and gave false details, a disconnected phone number and a made up email account. The stories I’ve read about the behaviour of Bounty reps is shocking and I’m really disappointed that NHS staff, the charge nurses and ward managers let this go on under their noses. The patients are their responsibility and to let this go unchecked is awful. I have also noticed that there are people who welcomed the Bounty lady, her packs and her photos so they obviously feel that there is some kind of service being taken away from them.

I don’t have a particular sway in the Bounty argument but having been an NHS employee when the NHS started to fall to it’s knees my concern is this. Money.

Money is what makes the NHS function. It is not free. Remember even treasury tags cost money no matter how little. That £2.3 million needs to be made up from somewhere. I was told by somebody on Twitter that HMRC will recoup some of the money from Bounty not giving out the forms but then there is no guarantee that this money will find it’s way back to the NHS. People worry about commercialism in the NHS but it has been going on for yours. Lawyers and private clinics put their adverts on the back of appointment cards. The money they pay the NHS is probably what pays for those appointment cards. If anything this will probably play into Tory hands in the game of privatisation. Virgin Health have already swooped in and now run one trust. I can only imagine that if Bounty goes there will be another company ready to swoop and form their own lucrative NHS contract.

I think the uncomfortable truth is that we are all guilty of taking the NHS for granted, expecting that the money for our treatments will ‘just be there’ and not acknowledging that it is an organisation that is floundering and trying to stay afloat by any means necessary, including getting into bed with companies that then exploit us from within it.

I hope that Mumsnet will address these issues when they present their petition. As I say I’m not for or against Bounty, I’ve seen it debated evenly from both sides on social media. What I would like is some reasonable suggestions from someone as to where this money, which is desperately needed in an already cash poor organisation, is now going to come from.