Story time

Deana and Sabina

All smiles

Once upon a time there was a fundraising runner who wanted to help a university project planning an amazing digital platform for its creative writing students.

The platform cost a lot of money but the kingdom was plunged into a dark place called ‘recession’ and the usual national funders of such projects shook their heads when anyone asked for funding. The runner thought she could help.

She entered a race and collected sponsors and although her fundraising efforts were not the stuff of legend she thought her contribution might inspire the university project leaders to raise more themselves.

‘Every journey has to start somewhere,’ she thought. ‘I can at least give them a little start.’

But the project leaders had other plans. The smart digital platform had evolved into a Facebook page called BoltonStoryworld and the leaders thought the fundraiser’s money could be used to help inspire young writers through a short story contest.

‘Can we name the contest after you? That’s what we’d like to do,’ said one of the lecturers, smiling broadly.

After blushing furiously and dithering a bit and then talking it over with her wise partner, the fundraising runner decided she should probably listen to other people and stop hiding her altruistic light under bushels.

And so The Deana Morris Award was created.

Today, outside the Bolton Octagon Theatre, the runner met Sabina who had written a short story about trolls which was quite the most haunting little tale she had read for a long time.

The moral of this story – if you want something to happen then you do have to do it. Of course, the something that happens may not be the something you expect, but it will be something. And something is better than nothing. Surely?

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Spring in my step

That’s a bit of an ambitious title.

More like spring in my limp but I can walk three or four miles now so improving, though I need to roller and stretch when i get back in.

According to scientists, brisk walking is better for you than running. Hmm.. I’m sure some of us would disagree with them. But a brisk walk is what I can manage just now, so a brisk walk is what I shall be enjoying.

daffodils

late spring daffodils

Spring is late here this year. MrM is the weather-watcher, something about a wind being stuck in the Mediterranean which means we get lumbered with freezing temperatures. but it has been bright and clear, so I feel like I’m emerging from semi-hibernation.

I walked down to Chorlton Water Park to see the river.

The Mersey, Chorlton Water Park bridge

View from a bridge

This looks fun, although as they passed me the woman at the back assured me she was having ‘a nightmare’!

Horse riding at Chorlton Water Park

Horse riding at Chorlton Water Park


If you look this way, into the distance, you can see the rise of the hill I used to use for hill-running practice (little sigh).

My running hill

My running hill

I then went for a sit in the orchard.

Plaque on the orchard bench

The plaque on the orchard bench

And you know, sometimes it is nice to just sit. And breathe. And really look at what’s around you.

Chorlton water park, orchard view

The Orchard view

Even if we could do with more of this…

first leaves

Look – leaves!

Come on Spring!

Hope

As we all know, I’ve been diagnosed with arthritis in my hip and it’s caused me all sorts of problems with my leg muscles.

I’ve been having sports physio on it for the past six months, I’m now well into a year-long advanced yoga course which is helping me understand the therapeutic application of this ancient mind-body philosophy, and I have changed the way I eat so I consume as many natural anti-inflammatories as I can during the day.

So, six-month review.

1. pain – overall huge improvements. The muscle cramping moves around still, but it’s been a long time since I felt twinges stepping onto a bus. The bone ache has gone but i am still stiff if I sit for long periods.

2. flexibility – I can actually sit crossed legged for a wee while now, without shooting pains down the outside of my knee and the general impression that my inner thigh muscle is going to tear off.

3. mindset – I am optimistic, I do believe I can run again, and I do believe my flexibility far further with time, application and patience.

The other day I ran for a bus and i didn’t immediately get any pain at all. That odd tightness pulling on the outside of my knee and across my inner thigh kicked in after 30 seconds, but it didn’t pull me up short with its intensity.

Moving forward. 🙂

Running hard

I found this article on the Guardian website today. It talks about running being hard and what does motivate us? That’s a tough question.

Of course running can be hard when you can’t run as well – if that makes sense.

Mind you, as I look at the blizzard out the window today, I don’t think anyone’s running here – all in the same boat today.

Food for thought

Part of my Operation Arthritis artillery is food.

Last week I went to see a nutritionist and herbalist at Neals Yard in Manchester, to see if I could improve my diet and whether a herbal concoction would magically spirit away the aching and stiffness in my left hip.

There are no easy answers, as it turns out, but there are answers. It cost me £15 for about 25 minutes of Dalbinder’s time and I learned lots. Well worth the investment, I’d say.

We live in an instant-gratification culture where consumerism teaches us that it’s all there on a shelf waiting for us. All we need is money. Sometimes a lot of it.

Running, of course, teaches us that everything worth having takes time and commitment and you can’t buy fitness anymore than you can buy intelligence or compassion or love.

So, thankfully, I have the right mindset for this, which is just as well as I’ve had to make some radical adjustments to an already healthy eating plan and know I need to do this for at least six months before i can assess whether food changes alone will help me heal. If the food plan isn’t cutting it by then, we’re trying herbal remedies as well.

I am determined I am not going down the route of steroid injections. I want to manage my osteoarthritis though natural remedies.

I was already taking glucosamine and omega 3-6 fish oil supplement. This is now being boosted by a multivitamin and a probiotic capsule.

Now for the tough-love challenges:

* say goodbye to cheese. Apparently the type of fat that’s in cheese completely nutralises the good effects of the omega 3-6 oils. Bad cheese!

To say I love cheese, is a bit of an understatement. In Waitrose last Sunday, I audibly whimpered as we passed the cheese aisle. I used to eat my way through a round of camembert a week, plus cheddar here, goats cheese there… it’s so sad.

But I have noticed I’m considerably less snuffly since I cut it out 10 days ago. I don’t need to blow my nose half as much as I did, I can breathe more clearly – and as any yoga fanatic will tell you, breathing is where it’s at.

* Bye-bye regular red meat, hello oily fish, chicken and turkey. I can live with this, she says gritting her teeth.

* Utter horror – cut back radically on the English breakfast tea and coffee. Two a day is the prescription and then anything more is dehydrating. It’s a wonder I didn’t resemble a prune; 12 cups of tea a day could happen some days, eight minimum. I’m supposed to drink two litres of water a day, which is proving to be a bit of a challenge. Water? Meh.

Hello veg – leafy green and bright colours – and fruit – focusing on the berries. Hello pulses and grains. All easy for me. I genuinely like veg and love puy lentils and chickpeas.

Hello nuts and seeds. Seeds are new for me but I actually quite like them now.

Ginger, cardamon and turmeric have all been flagged up as goodies. I’ve tried grated ginger and hot water as a herbal tea and it’s not the most offensive thing I’ve ever drunk. (Pernod holds that dubious honour).

So far I’ve invented a quickie broccoli soup that is delish and I roast peppers with something bordering on glee.

I’m supposed to eat every three hours and include a protein at every meal.

Quite a lot to take on board, one way or another. But I want the arthritis stiffness and pain to sod off much more than I want the cheese and caffeine.

It’s been a week now since I embarked on this journey and I have to say I do feel well. I haven’t cut out red wine or chocolate completely, or red meat – they are on the treats list.

I thought it would make a big difference to my weekly shopping bill, but not really. Pulses are cheap and tasty and I’ve noticed supermarkets mark down blueberries, cherries etc regularly as the berry fans don’t seem to live near me. Big wins on a pound a box there.

Eating well really doesn’t cost a packet – now there’s a marketing line for you!

Hippy, hippy stretch

My hip tightness is easing 😀 and that’s down to yoga.

I’ve tried rollering by ITBS and in some ways it’s helpful, but the tightness in that outer knee area is impossible to get to. And it didn’t really solve the hip tightness, which was turning into added lower back tightness – big ouch.

But I have found the solution in yoga. I’ve been doing yoga since I was eight, you’d think I’d cotton on to the answer being where I know.

On YouTube now there are dozens of demonstrations. Really helpful in helping anyone self-practice. I love the Ekhart Yoga’s contribution to sharing knowledge. They have a subscribe website, but they also have dozens of free sessions on-line – including hip-openers.

How when I run I get a tightness around my knee still and I can feel my hip, but the tightening across my lower back has stopped, I don’t limp when I stop running and start walking either.

I love this session – but there’s a lot to choose from. Enjoy.

Climb every mountain

Over the past week I’ve been in Germany, chilling out, doing lots of walking and around the edges of that, running.

The tightness around my hip and across my back is easing now but I’m slower. Oh so much slower.

I made the mistake of putting the garmin on. Oh dear. How hard is it to accept you’ve lost pace and you need to build up again? I’ve noticed I’m running heavily and rather flat-footed on my left side too. But all this aside feeling well. Which is kind of the point isn’t it?

Me in Heildelberg

Me in Heidelberg

Heidelberg is an amazing city. It’s one of the few the Allies didn’t bomb during the Second World War so featuring some pretty impressive architecture. It’s a university city, twinned with Cambridge, according to MrM. It’s on either side of a river, nestled in a valley with high tree-smothered hills around it. Amazing houses and cafes and beautiful squares…

But the physicality of the city aside, the vibe is very outdoors-living, chilled and relaxed. There are parks for children everywhere, it seems. People are walking or jogging or sailing or canoeing or riding bicycles… a really lovely, healthy place.

We did lots of walking, climbing up the steep, cobbled old road up to the castle and musing over how on earth people got down during the icy winter weather without spikes, or a tea tray.

Heidelberg, looking up to the castle

View up to the castle

Heidelberg library

Now THAT’S a library

Generally, people don’t wear helmets in Heidelberg, though we’re obsessed with them in the UK. Mostly, people leave their bikes unlocked. Another thing you don’t see in the UK. And in the evenings they gather at bars like Hemingway’s and have a beer after work. Always clamouring to sit outside, that’s the place to be seen. No one wants to sit inside. They’ll sit outside with a blanket on their laps rather than sit indoors!

Hemingway's bar, Heidelberg

Chilling out at Hemingway’s bar, at sunset

So, down to the grizzly stats.

Last Sunday: 11:58 average over a 30.01 minute run. 11:31, 11:56, 12:55, covering 2.51 miles.

This Sunday: 12:08 average over a 30:27 minute run. 12:08, 11:34, 12:29, covering 2.51 miles.

Now I took a couple of walking breaks today, so I am clearly running faster – I just can’t keep it up. Time. Patience. Argh!

It’s running, Jim…

… but not as we know it.

My first post-injury run this morning. Hmm…

I’m sure I’m not alone in my paranoia that my fitness will evaporate with every day I don’t run. In the dark and grizzly recesses of my imagination I’m sliding down, down, down until I’m a wheezy amorphous creature; like The Blob with asthma. (see 5 mins into this clip)

Now of course I know this is illogical. I’m doing weight training to strengthen the muscles that let me down last time, but it’s not running and that’s what I exercise for – running. Weight training is empowering but there’s no rush. No fresh air. No nature.

So, now you can see how my headspace lies (bloody bonkers, yes, thank you) as I set off past the church (quick prayer and holy ground can’t hurt, can it).

Immediately I get pulling, yanking pains flicking round my hip and glutes, but I keep at it and the frequency of said pain drops and then goes off. Mindful of not pushing my luck I have my watch on, not my garmin, I do not want to know how slow I am.

But slowly I jog round for 30 minutes without feeling out of breath. I feel strong. My head is up and the pain isn’t ridiculous. I begin to feel a dull ache round my knee and inside my hip, but it’s not making me limp.

And all those things I miss happen; I start running through work issues and making decisions about how to deal with them, I say ‘hello’ to strangers walking dogs, I splash through puddles, I smell the summer air. I get a face full of soggy ivy miss-ducking back over the bridge.

After 30 minutes I jog-walk the last half mile home and I’m super cheery. I’ve run. I can still run. My body is still strong (probably a bit stronger actually, thanks to the weight training).

I am not back at the beginning. I am further along on the running journey.

As NBA basketball player A C Green said: ‘Tough times don’t last, but tough people do.’

Wet

Well, flaming June it’s flaming not!

I made a dash out for a run at around 12 noon today to discover my planned route was under water.

flooded road, Northenden

flooded road, Northenden

The Mersey was over her banks after several days of heavy rain.

fast-flowing Mersey

fast-flowing Mersey

So I turend tail, ran back through the village and down to the motorway bridge that takes you towards Chorlton water park.

It’s only about 2.5 miles but the muscles around my hip weren’t enjoying it at all. They started stiffening up again and so I slowed to a trot as I met up with the river and used the rest of the run to trot, take pictures, and try not to get caught in too many downpours.

at Chorlton water park

At Chorlton water park

You probably can’t see but there’s a heron on the bank to the right.

sodden and muddy

sodden and muddy

The bridge and i had something in common – we were wet and muddy.

I jog-walked back, stopping to stretch off my hip.

flowers in the rain

hedgerow flowers in the rain

At least the flowers in the hedgerows seemed to be enjoying themselves but the rain kept pouring down.

I gave in and sheltered under a bridge in the end, waiting for the worst of  downpour to give over.

more rain

more rain

river at northenden

river at Northenden – flooded

Looks grim doesn’t it – this was the view when I got back to Northenden. The weir had disappeared, as had the island in the middle of the river.

It usually looks more like this:

Usual view - Northdenden weir

Usual view – Northdenden weir

I dare say the four horsemen of the apocolypse will be by at teatime.

Change is as good as a rest

I’m having a bit of a change to my running training.

Rather than see Adam for crack of dawn training sessions on Sundays in the park, I’m going to do strength and conditioning training with him in the gym on a weekday evening instead. I know, the gym, but that’s where the weights are. He can’t get it all in the back of the car.

Strength and conditioning – makes me sound like a show pony doesn’t it 😉

The plan is to build my body strength to make my running more efficient. It also means I can do long runs at the weekend and not try to push them into a weekday evening.

I’ve been having a long think about the Manchester 10k. It just wasn’t quite what I expected but that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up on racing, just maybe look for a different kind of race and accept the big ones for what they are – entertainment fundraisers. Doesn’t mean I’m not going to do them, but I am going to do them differently.

Anyway, first session of strength training with Adam, tomorrow after work, I’ll let you know how I get on.

I’ve got half an eye on a half marathon in the Autumn, but shhh… Secret just now.