Slow runners rock – and we deserve respect

My name’s Kerry-Lynne and I’m a slow runner 🙋‍♀️. And slow runners have guts.

Slow runners slog, we persevere, we run against the odds for ourselves, for our friends, for our loved ones, for good causes just like all the other runners out there.

And for that we deserve just as much respect on the course and at the finish line as our faster counterparts.

I’ve been heckled for not sweating enough as I plodded up a never-ending hill and have been told I should be ashamed of myself by a runner already donning a medal as I pushed myself towards the finish line for a 10K for charity.

But still I plod and plough on.

I’ll never be a fast runner. And that’s okay.

What I am though is pretty consistent with my training and determined. I have the guts to show up knowing I’ll likely be the last one to finish.

For those critics on the sidelines (often, let’s admit it, non-runners) don’t know me, my story, or why I run.

I run to control my asthma, which for a long time seemed to control my life, and running has improved immeasurably.

I run for my mental well-being and resilience as I soon learned the voice that told me to stop at mile one simply needed to be ignored.

I run to prove that I can push myself further than I thought I could, plodding on up that hill, that little bit further or, when I’m up to it, a little bit faster.

I run to show my son and my daughter that being active is good for you. I tell them it’s about taking part, not winning, because we all do the same distance and (hopefully) get the T-shirt and the medal.

I run a few times a year for good causes because, working for a charity, I know the difference they can and do make day in day out to people who need it.

So this week I entered the ballot for the London Marathon for the second time for all those reasons.

But then I read the stories of pacers being chased down by lorries, runners being sprayed with chemicals, having no water stations or directions, not even being tracked so their family, friends and loved ones could watch and cheer their progress from afar.

And it made me think again about that ballot place. Would it really be the experience I hoped for?

The marathon organisers are investigating and I hope meaningful changes are made.

Because if you say your cut off time is 8 hours, and you have pacers for 7.5 hours, your event should be planned around this.

The clean up operation should not begin until the last runner is well over the starting line.

Your slower runners should get the same experience as everyone else because it’s the same distance – and achievement – overall.

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7 family friendly days out in West Cornwall

Heading on a short family break to Cornwall? Here are 7 family-friendly days out if you’re staying in West Cornwall.

We stayed in Kenegie Manor in Gulval near Penzance and it was a perfect base for these fun days out.

1. Perranporth beach

This is a glorious beach that seems never-ending. Flat and accessible, it’s perfect for families.

Our children spent ages building sandcastles, running across the glorious yellow sands and admiring the huge rock topped with a Cornish flag.

We stopped off on our journey from South Wales to Penzance to make the most of the sunny weather.

There is plenty of chargeable parking nearby as well as loos.

2. Land’s End

Land’s End is the end point of England and offers spectacular views across land and sea. Take a photo by the famous Land’s End sign and post a letter in the last letterbox in England.

Our children loved the park, which was kitted out with a twin zip slide (sparking fun competitions!), pirate ship equipment and a wooden playhouse.

It has seasonal facilities including a shop, a cafe, a Wallace and Gromit experience and a 4D cinema. The cinema and Wallace and Gromit experiences are chargeable.

If you have time, walk down towards the craft shop to the left of the car park where you’ll be treated to more spectacular views and farm animals including ponies. It’s an area of outstanding natural beauty so it’s one to make plenty of time for.

Parking costs £4 and you do need exact change so go prepared with your pound coins!

3. Porthcurno beach

We stopped off at this beautiful beach after a visit to Land’s End as Porthcurno is just a few miles away.

This is a gorgeous National Trust beach with blue green waters and sand so yellow you could almost forget you’re not abroad.

It’s got a well-deserved reputation as one of Cornwall’s finest beaches and unsurprisingly has featured on the BBC’s Poldark.

It is a fair walk down to the beach from the car park on uneven terrain so sensible shoes are a must. There are ropes to hold on to to steady yourself on the way down and to support you on the hefty incline back!

If you have time to spare, pop to the museum to learn about Porthcurno’s important role in communication history and walk past the mini telegraph poles used to train students in telecommunications.

Tip: You can park for free outside the Telegraph Museum or use the chargeable car park run by the council. Exact change needed!

4. Trengwainton Garden

These are gorgeous 25 acres of National Trust gardens based very near Penzance.

Explore the walled garden, stroll under the huge magnolia tree and admire flowers and plants that were cultivated for the first time in Cornwall in this garden. And take in the glorious view across Mount’s Bay.

Entry is free for National Trust members or chargeable for non-members.

5. St Michael’s Mount

No trip to this part of Cornwall would be complete without a trip to the famous St Michael’s Mount at Marazion, a historic island that housed a monastery until the reign of Henry VIII and has been home to the St Aubrey family for 12 generations.

Now run by the National Trust with the St Aubrey family still in situ, you can enjoy a 90 minute tour of the island and the house to learn about the island’s incredible history from the part it played in the Napoleonic Wars to how it has hosted royalty through the ages.

The island offers spectacular views to the mainland and is home to around 27 people.

It is filled with fascinating artefacts and artwork and the castle’s walls are surrounded by 200-year-old cannons, some of which were taken from a stricken French ship.

As it’s based on a mountain (clue’s in the name!), it is a very steep walk to the top so do wear sensible shoes. There are accessibility vehicles available on the island too.

If the tide is out, you can walk across the causeway from Marazion Beach to the island. At low tide, you can catch the amphicraft to the island (£3 each way per adult and £2 each way per child). The children loved doing this!

Entry to the island is free for National Trust members and chargeable to non-members.

There is chargeable parking near Marazion Beach.

Tip: If you’re peckish after your visit, turn right and walk to buy yourself one of Cornwall’s best pasties from Philp’s, which is only a short walk away.

6. Blue Reef Aquarium

This Newquay aquarium is a lovely spot to visit if the dreaded rain arrives!

The children loved seeing the clown fish, the turtle, the stingrays and the sharks and walking through the glass tunnel with the sea life swimming over our heads.

It was a great place to talk to them about conservation and the importance of looking after sea life and the planet.

Tip: Book online at least an hour before for 10 per cent off

7. Fistral Beach

After a trip to the aquarium, we walked the 10 minutes or so to the gorgeous surfer’s haven Fistral Beach with its wide golden sands.

There are a range of delicious spots to grab a bite to eat including Rick Stein’s Fistral where you can enjoy his classic fish and chips overlooking the beach.

So there are our seven top family days out if you’re staying in Penzance.

Have you visited them before? Or is there anywhere else you’d recommend?

2018 – a year of firsts

I write this in the final minutes of 2018. Here’s my take on 2018, a year of many firsts for me.

1. Running my first half marathon

One of my biggest goals for 2018 was to run my first half marathon, the Cardiff Half Marathon, in October.

I was thrilled to run it for the Stroke Association in memory of my Grandpa Cliff.

It was tough (who knew mile 12 was uphill?) but the incredible atmosphere, and support from my running club, got me through.

2. Visiting Venice

Mr Pyke and I marked our 10-year wedding anniversary with a trip to Venice, a city I’ve always wanted to visit. It was glorious and well worth the wait. Read about what we did and saw here.

3. Giving up chocolate for a month

In March, I gave up chocolate for a month by taking on Dechox for the British Heart Foundation.

It felt like a very long 31 days (especially as the first day began with a 4am start with the children 😱), but I was pleased to raise £100 for a brilliant cause.

4. Being more open about my mental health

Living with depression and anxiety can be exhausting and isolating. Many of us know that one in four people live with mental illness, and the stigma seems to lessen day by day, but it can make you feel like you’re the only one who feels that way.

So in 2018 I’ve tried to be more open about it, especially when I’m struggling. It find it hard, but it helps.

The things that help me are relatively simple but sometimes feel very difficult when I’m having tough times. Meditation, quiet time, running, walking, sleeping, eating well and music all help me.

If you’re struggling with your mental health, talk to someone you trust (or organisations you can trust like the Samaritans or Mind).

A huge thank you to everyone who has been there for me in 2018 and to those of you who’ve shared your stories with me. It means a lot.

5. Running 300 miles

I started running with the Pencoed Panthers 18 months ago and I am proud to have run 300 miles (or 311 miles to be precise!) in 2018.

There have been tears, numerous swear words and more complaining than I care to remember, but I’m proud to have kept up the running.

If you’d told 15-year-old me who struggled to run a mile in PE lessons I’d have laughed out loud. Thanks Panthers! I’m aiming for 500 miles in 2019.

6. Being a grown up bridesmaid

I was a bridesmaid for the first time in almost 30 years for my gorgeous sister’s wedding. It was the most beautiful day.

And I got to go on my first hen do abroad – to Ibiza no less – to celebrate it!

7. Being a suffragette

What better way to celebrate the centenary of some women getting the right to vote than to be a suffragette? In July I was one of 100 women who marched as suffragettes with the Porthcawl Museum float at the annual Porthcawl Carnival. It felt marvellous!

8. Becoming a trustee

Earlier this month, I was co-opted as a trustee to the fabulous Women’s Equality Network Wales, which aims to make Wales a fairer place for women. I am so pleased to be a trustee for this brilliant organisation and am looking forward to getting stuck into the role in 2019.

So thank you 2018 for bringing me lots of firsts as well as lots of ups and a few downs along the way.

Wishing you all a happy, peaceful and healthy 2019 whatever it brings.

On anxiety

I felt it descending last week.

A relatively small thing pushed me from just about bobbing along to feeling as though I’m swimming against a riptide.

It presented in the usual way. It’s as though someone’s jangling clanging car keys inside my head, a constant noise and distraction.

That little voice is there, getting louder, sneering and critiquing every thing I do.

And I’ve found myself doing the usual, trying to quieten it with comfort food, buying stuff, incessant screen scrolling and cancelling plans, all of which I then feel guilty for doing.

They just don’t help.

I’ve tried to shake the perpetual grumpiness, the frayed nerves that make me jump at the sound of a simple knock at the door.

I’m usually a juggler, someone with (what I suspect is) high-functioning anxiety which means I appear to – and generally always – keep things going.

I’m a super planner (Monica Gellar has nothing on me), nearly always on time and I pride myself on being reliable. I try my hardest at everything I do.

I remember permission slips, PE kits, birthdays, deadlines, favourite teddies, shopping lists and the other little things that keep my gorgeous little family ticking along.

But when I’m having a spell like I’m having now, keeping things going feels like driving in fog with no headlights.

Doing simple things, and even the things I love such as exercising regularly, feels harder.

I forget things, I’m less present than I should be and I’m irritated easily, much to my own frustration.

So, for all my friends and loved ones in real life, please bear with me.

I’m trying to work my way through with my tried and tested toolbox – exercise, meditation and being as kind as I can to myself.

But it takes time.

The Cardiff Half – to be or not to be?

Tomorrow was meant to be my last long run before my first half marathon.

At the start of the year, I signed up to run the Cardiff Half Marathon, a lifelong ambition of mine, in memory of my grandad for the Stroke Association.

I started running properly after joining my local club in June 2017 and steadily progressed from the couch to 5K then to 10K. I signed up for the half as a nerve-wracking but exciting next step and started my training on 2 January in the cold, blustery rain with my best friend.

If you’d asked me four weeks ago how the training was going, I’d have answered: “Pretty well cheers!”. I felt quietly confident.

From May, I’d upped my distances and my commitment to running going out three to four times a week.

I painfully worked my way from 10K to eight miles, to nine, to 10 and was covering more than 20 miles a week, which is a lot for the girl who couldn’t run to a lamppost a year before.

Sunday mornings were for long runs whatever the weather. I plodded through ankle-splashing puddles and sweltered in unseasonably hot sun with my fellow runners.

A particularly rainy run

My trainers came with me on holiday and on overnight stays for work. I took them out at 6am on Mondays, 8pm on Wednesdays, basically whenever I could between the children and working.

Running has not only made me fitter and healthier, it’s also brought my asthma under the best control I’ve had for years.

It has made me happier too.

It is time for me to think, run it out, push myself and silence the voice that says I can’t, which has often been too loud. To run away the worries that can come with juggling work and a young family trying to be the best I can be at both.

So I didn’t really struggle to put my trainers on for those runs. I’d committed to the half and wanted to train well. All was on track.

And a fortnight ago I ran 11 miles doing Castle 2 Castle for Velindre Cancer Centre with a month to go to the Cardiff Half, an excellent training run for a great cause.

I met one of my all time heroes former Wales and British Lions captain legend Sam Warburton who waved us runners off and kindly obliged in our photographs. It was hard but excellent practice for the half.

But I haven’t run since.

A niggling cold developed into a chest infection earlier this week that’s making my asthma symptoms flare up in a way they haven’t since I joined my running club.

I’ve rested, drunk honey and lemon, inhaled steam and followed all medical advice. I’ve been on antibiotics and steroid tablets to ease my asthma problems since Tuesday and thankfully the cough that took my sleep for days has eased.

This week’s training regime

But now I’m at a loss.

Will I be able to do the challenge I set myself almost 10 months ago, for a charity I love and did so much for my grandad?

I’ve felt sad about every run I’ve missed and I know I’ll feel sad tomorrow when for the second week I’ll have missed my long run.

My fellow runners training for their first half are doing amazingly – and I’m so proud of them – but I can’t help feeling left behind.

The doctor says wait and see and that it could be possible so for now I’ll continue to rest – and hope.

A peaceful break at Wooda Lakes in North Devon

Looking for a family-friendly and tranquil staycation near Cornwall? Then Wooda Lakes is a great spot for you.

Nestled near Holsworthy in Devon, and just seven miles from Bude, we found it to be a lovely base for family days out and chilled out evenings.

We stayed in one of 11 self-catering lakeside lodges, which overlooked one of the site’s five fishing lakes. Each lodge has an outdoor decking area meaning we could sit and eat outside when the weather was kind enough.

The accommodation was clean, comfortable and inviting with little touches that helped us settle right in on arrival.

We were greeted with a small basket of essentials including tea, coffee and biscuits and a glass bottle of milk in the fridge meaning we could have that longed-for cuppa soon after checking in. Bliss!

The setting was beautiful. The children loved walking around the lakes and watching the family of ducks who lived on site.They also liked the play equipment including a slide and two swings.

They also enjoyed watching people fishing. The site is particularly popular with anglers with its well-stocked lakes and each lodge has an outhouse to store fishing equipment and refrigerate the day’s catch.

It was a brilliant base for family days out in Devon and nearby Cornwall. Wooda made sure visitors had the kit they needed for a day at the beach with a helpful treasure trove of buckets, spades and bodyboards for residents to borrow. Again, a lovely touch.

Disclaimer: We booked our holiday at Wooda Lakes through Hoseasons and paid for it in full.

On being phone shamed

Today I was phone shamed. I was in a family-friendly museum with the children, our third outing of the day, and they were having fun in the toy room.

It was a hands on toy room filled with vintage toys for them to play with from old-fashioned dolls prams to cars to spinning tops. They were thrilled.

As they settled in to play, I took out my phone to look at the photos of the children taken at the beach earlier today.

Photos are important to me. I love taking them, reviewing them, sharing them.

I was the girl who couldn’t wait to get my photos developed when I had my first yellow Kodak camera.

The girl who went to the local photo shop as soon as possible and paid extra to have photos developed quickly.The girl whose walls were covered in photo collages of friends and family at home and at university. So, yes, I love photos and I take most of them on my phone.

A man walked into the room and announced: “It’s so nice to see them playing with toys that aren’t electronic. But oh!” he sneered, nodding his head towards the phone in my hand. He left the room before I could answer.Yes, like most, I’m a little too addicted to my phone. I have to put boundaries on how much I use it. I’m conscious of not using it too much around the children and when I’m with company. Do I get it wrong sometimes? Absolutely. But I don’t think I got it wrong today.

The man with the sneer didn’t see me plan our three holiday trips out that day, packing snacks and beach gear, giving the children their breakfast beforehand, helping to them pick their clothes and brush their teeth. Reminding them to wear wellies and making sure we had coats and spare clothes with us just in case.

He didn’t see me take them to two beaches earlier that day, which I’d researched to make sure they were suitable for families, and zipping them into their bathers and wetsuits so they didn’t get too cold in the sea.

He didn’t see me pushing by body worries aside to jump waves with them for an hour in just my bather. Or see me dry them off, fill their rumbling tummies with snacks and wipe sand from in between their toes so they didn’t get sore.

He just saw the mum with the phone and he judged me for it.

We all judge. I get it. I’ve done it. But when I catch myself judging I try to tell myself that I don’t know the person, their story or the whole picture. And I try to keep that judgement in check.

So please, if you find yourself judging, try to remember you’re not that person. You’re getting a snapshot, a quick insight into their life and it may not be their best moment of the day.