Mutterings of a Fool

Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Category: Fool on the Run (page 2 of 5)

Fool on the run – Tommy’s

If you’re going to run 100km you might as well do it for a good cause, so the logic in my head goes at least.  Well today I’d like to introduce the second awesome charity I’m hoping to raise money for with my Fool on the Run challenge which is Tommy’s. Now I’m guessing that most of you have heard of Tommy’s but if you haven’t they do research into stillbirth, premature birth and miscarriage.

Here’s a little video to tell you more about their work.

As you know the 2 charities I’ve chosen are ones I feel I have a very personal connection too and actually Tommy’s was the one that immediately popped into my head when I started planning this challenge. Like many parents the lady of the manor and I have experienced the pain of losing a baby through miscarriage, something which 1 in 4 mothers will also experience. We’ve had 2 miscarriages with the second just a few months ago which I wrote about here, but what I haven’t written about before is the first experience and I’d like to taken a moment to share that with you now.

Our first miscarriage happened before I was a blogger, before I’d built friendships with other parents on Twitter and before I was a dad. The combination of those 3 things I’ve come to realise made that experience so much tougher and more lonely. Becoming a blogger is potentially the best thing any parent or parent to be can do because you will never experience such support and kind words anywhere else.

I can remember the day very clearly even now almost 4 years later; I’d just left the house to run to the train station (yep even then I was a crazy runner type) and my phone rang. I grabbed my phone out my pocket and it was home calling, which was odd as I’d just left there. I answered and immediately I knew something wasn’t right, the lady of the manor didn’t need to say more than “Ben”, the tone of her voice made it clear this was bad.

After a frantic half an hour we managed to find out that Bath hospital had an early scan clinic that you could just turn up to so we raced off there barely speaking. Not wanting to say what we were both thinking, trying to think positively that it was probably nothing. Hours passed in a blur of waiting rooms, doctors, radiographers and nurses, all lovely and supportive but none could tell us that it was going to be ok.

We headed home to digest the words “we can’t see any sign of a heart beat”; one day we’re a newly married couple who’ve just bought their first house and are pregnant for the first time, the next day our world has fallen apart. That night was the darkest moment of my life so far as we sat together knowing that the baby we had been expecting was slowly slipping away from us. I rarely cry but that night the two of us sat curled up on the sofa and sobbed for the baby we would never get to meet.

Being so early in the pregnancy (9 weeks) we hadn’t done any ante natal classes or starting meeting other parents to be, we didn’t know the what’s or why’s of miscarriage. I’m not sure I’d even heard anyone else talk about it. It often feels like being in Harry Potter and no one wanting to say Voldemort. Yet once you do tell people you suddenly realise how many of them have their own miscarriage story and the support you receive is incredible. Nothing can take the pain away yet talking to someone who has experienced it helps.

Tommys logoThis is why I’m passionate about supporting Tommy’s; their research into miscarriage, still birth and premature birth is essential to help us understand why these things happen and if there is a way to prevent it or minimise the risks.

Tommy’s also provide a pregnancy line to give advice about how to have a healthy pregnancy and also offer support if you experience a pregnancy loss. I’m also very passionate about a dad’s role in this process, a pregnancy loss happens to us too even if not physically and we also need support in the grieving process in addition to be a key support for our partners.

This is why I’m taking on the huge challenge of running 100km and why I hope you’ll part with some of your hard earned cash and sponsor me. You can find my sponsorship page here.

Fool on the run – Save the Children

As you all now know I’m taking on the challenge of running 100km in July, which if you say it quickly doesn’t sound too bad. But I’m doing it to raise money for 2 great causes and knowing that I hope will get me through what is inevitably going to involve some very tough moments. I considered many charities before deciding on these 2, there are so many worthy charities doing great work but I kept coming back to 2 that truly meant something to me personally.

Today I’d like to introduce the first of those causes which is Save the Children. A charity which I’m sure many of you know already but one I chose for 2 reasons; first they do work in both the UK and 120 other countries in Africa, South America, the Middle East and Asia; secondly a specific campaign – change the story.

Change the story is all about giving the UK’s poorest children the chance to have a good education. It’s about stopping the cycle of the poorest children in the UK leaving primary school without basic reading and writing skills. Stopping the scandal of those children not being given the tools needed to change their lives for the better.

I see the joy that Matilda and Henry already gets from books, the excitement on their faces when they sits with their favourite stories. Last night I watched Matilda sit in the bath and tell Henry the full story of Room on the Broom that she’d learnt at preschool. How amazing is that? Yet we take for granted having access to quality education like this while children potentially less than 50 miles from here don’t have that. We have a house full of books that we read with them and they read themselves everyday, but that isn’t the reality for many children.

To try to combat this issue Save the Children is recruiting 20,000 change makers to lead their Born to Read programme. A programme that will see them read with disadvantaged children and try to avoid children falling behind by the time they are only 7. If you’re interested in getting involved you can register to support this campaign here. Please also take a moment to watch this short video, I challenge any parent to watch this and not want to find a way to make a difference to these children’s lives.

Save the Children of course does many other great things, this is just one campaign of many but one that I’m truly passionate about. I’ve volunteered already as a change maker and when running this race will use the thought of Matilda and Henry and all the children like them reading to get me through tough moments.

Now it’s your turn, why not also volunteer to make a change or you can make a donation to support my race here and help Save the Children. These are children’s lives that we can make a difference to and they are right here in the UK.

Thanks for reading.

Fool on the run

Announcing – fool on the run

This post is a big deal for me, something I’ve been planning for a while and finally can share with you. Please, please, please read it, it means a lot to me and no it’s not an April fool but I did think it was an apt day to be publishing it!

Regular readers may have noticed a certain tone in some my posts over the past few months, where I’ve been trying to reconcile some of the things going on in my life and the choices we make when it comes to work and family. Through all of it there has been this feeling building that I need to do something good and give back a little. Our life might not be perfect but it is safe and secure, we have a good education system (even with Gove) and access to free health care. So if I can sacrifice a little to help those less fortunate, then it’s something I should be willing to do.

I have to run how far?!

I have to run how far?!

But choosing both the cause and challenge is something I’ve been struggling with. I don’t really get involved in charity activities, there are so many good causes but I needed to find something to connect to if I’m going to do more than just give the occasional donation here and  there.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot over the past few months, taking time to read about the work charities do and find the ones that I can relate to. I want to support a cause that I can personally relate to because only then I think I can take on a big challenge with the motivation and passion needed.

Which leads me onto my big announcement; this fool is going to be really testing out his running legs and taking on a huge challenge. On July 19th I shall be running (and most likely a little walking) the Race to the Stones, 100km or 62 miles along the Ridgeway non stop. The race starts in Chinnor, Oxfordshire and finishes at the beautiful Avebury stone circle which is conveniently just a few miles from here. It follows the ancient path of the Ridgeway, a path that people have used for 1000’s of years and crosses some truly stunning countryside.

This is going to be a massive challenge there is no doubt of that but I’ve chosen to do it to support 2 charities that are very important to me personally and they are Tommy’s and Save the Children. With my goal being to raise £1,000 to to be split equally between the 2 causes. I’ll be telling you more in posts to come about why I’ve chosen to support these 2 charities and what they mean to me. I’ll also be writing about the training for it over on my running blog Lycra and Lunchboxes if you’re interested in hearing how that’s going.

For now I’ll leave you with a short video about the race, thanks for reading and I hope you’ll support me with your donations, your messages and maybe even cheering me on during the race! If you happen to want to give a donation already you can do so here.

Carphone Warehouse Race to the Stones from Threshold Sports on Vimeo.


The Running dad is on the move!

I’ve been thinking about it for a while, but the time has finally come for the running dad to move to pastures new. I love writing about being a dad that runs, but have found myself hesitating from writing some of the posts I wanted. I thought they would be too technical or specific to running rather than about a dad that runs.

So I’ve taken all the posts on running that I’ve written on here and transported them over to their own shiny new blog. Which is called *drum roll* Lycra and Lunchboxes. A name that I have to say I am particular proud of 🙂

Although I’d forgotten the pain you go through setting up a new blog, choosing a theme and getting it just how you want it. I’ve tried to go for quite a different look to here though and something which fits better with me as a runner.

You can find the blog by simply clicking on the screenshot of it below. I’d be honoured if some of you would consider becoming readers over there as well as here. It won’t be just gear talk and training plans, in fact it’ll probably not be much of that but rather stories about the races I’m doing and the adventures I’m having.

Lycra and lunchboxes screen print

Rinse and repeat

I’ve reached the point in my training which I knew would come eventually, where the getting up at 5.40am starts to become dull, where it takes me twice as long to tie my laces in the morning than normal and where the thought of just rolling over and snoozing becomes oh so tempting.

I like to call this the hill of doom

I like to call this the hill of doom

My work schedule hasn’t helped things, I’m currently doing a coverage for a colleague in the US, but from here which means lots of late night meetings. Hardly conducive to being  bright and fresh in the morning is it? But it’s also just the repetition, 560 miles run this year now and that takes its toll. There are only so many different routes you can take from home, especially when you run with a dog. You become blasé about the beautiful scenery and sunrises and it becomes just another run.

This isn’t me and isn’t why I run. I run because I love it, I love being outdoors on the trails, being part of the scenery. I don’t want it to become a chore or something I ‘have’ to do. But that morning slot is my main opportunity to run so I can’t go out at a different time and of course Bracken still needs his exercise.

So what to do? Well they say a change is as good as a holiday so I’m doing a couple of new things with my training. First I’m adding in some speed work to my runs, either short sections on my normal run where I up the pace, or stopping and doing a 4 or 5 sprints up a section of the trail. It adds a new element and challenge to break the plod, avoid every run being the same. It of course also has benefits to my training and helps build some extra speed into my legs.

Second I’m increasing the cycling, which may sound an odd way to improve your  running but there is some logic. I need to do a good amount of cycling anyway given that there is 70 miles of cycling in the race, but by increasing the amount I do it gives me the cardio workout and means I can do an easy run in the morning and not feel guilty. I’m also trying to do some days where I do a bike and a run, straight after each other where possible. Perfect training for that transition in the race and a great new challenge to keep me sharp.

The race is less than 3 months away now and despite my bravado is starting to get a bit real, I can feel the nerves building and the doubts as to whether I can do it. I re-watch the race video every so often and get that goose bump feeling at the thought that it’ll be me stood next to the North Sea on 14th September waiting to cross Scotland in a day. Scary stuff, but also a great motivator.

But if all that fails you just have to remind yourself as you lie under your warm duvet that you never regret a run.

Not a bad place to run I guess

Not a bad place to run I guess

The Running Dad – fitting it all in

All of us have to make choices about where we allocate the minutes and hours of our days. Work and family clearly consume a good chunk of that time leaving relatively small opportunities to do hobbies or other activities. For me blogging obviously takes up another part of the day (and can consume every evening if you let it), there’s a bit of gardening and home maintenance in there, dog walking every day and maybe even some time to actually talk to the lady of the manor occasionally.

Which means for this running obsessed dad I have to work hard to get my daily fix in. I love running, I really do, but can I justify going for a run instead of spending time with my children for example? Difficult to justify that to yourself long term unless if you want to be any sort of real parent.

Barbury castle trailThis leads me to, what is for me, the only real conclusion. Exercise early in the morning before anyone else gets up. It’s perfect, I take the dog so he gets exercised too, the children never really notice that I’ve gone and I get a quality run in while most people are still tucked up in their beds.

It’s definitely not easy dragging yourself out of bed at 5.40am every day come rain or shine, putting a head torch on in the dark winter mornings so you can see where you are going. But on days like today it’s just fabulous. Mother nature puts on one hell of a show as the sun rises and the mist slowly clears from fields. We see deer, rabbits, hares, pheasants and cows most of which Bracken will attempt to chase.

Best of all you have this all to yourself, your own private country estate.

While I’m not obsessed with running particular distances or times, I do like to use Runkeeper to keep track of the exercise I’m doing. It appeals to the finance person in me who likes a nice graph and also to see whether I’m doing enough total mileage as I train for the Scotland coast to coast in September. I’m now doing close to 30 miles a week and having built my fitness up will start adding in some longer runs at the weekend that should push me over that.

Runkeeper graph

I’ve set a goal of running 1000 miles this year, something which helps motivate me to consistently train and not loss momentum as the year progresses. I’ve done 400 miles so far so well on track and feeling really good for it, not sure what 1000 miles really signifies but it’s a nice round number isn’t it?  When I started running regularly again at the start of this year losing weight wasn’t a prime objective. However it is a nice side effect, so far I’ve lost over 16lbs which is really satisfying. But more importantly I feel good, I feel strong and fit. All those back problems from the last 18 months seem like a distant memory and I know full well that mentally running is really good for me too.

So what are you waiting for? Think you don’t have enough time to exercise then you’re wrong. But you do need to be motivated and imaginative in how you fit running into a busy day. Getting up early is my solution but I’d love to hear how you’ve managed it. Do you literally do the school run? Or fit it into your lunch times perhaps?

So you want to be a runner?

So you want to be a runner do you? The sun has started shining and you want to get that bikini body ready or you watched the London marathon and felt inspired? Well let me warn you right now, once you start you won’t stop. Once you experience the endorphin high of a good run you’ll be longing for the next opportunity to slip on those running shoes and head out.

Still with me? Then read on.

A few people have asked me recently how to start running so  thought I’d share my top tips for getting those legs moving. Nothing revolutionary or new here but it can be a daunting thing to begin an exercise regime for the first time so hopefully this might just help you take the plunge.

  1. Just do it; if you want to be a runner then put on some trainers and go for a run. Seriously. Forget needing to buy all the gear etc, if you go out and run you are a runner. That truly is the great thing about running, it’s such a simple thing. You pop on your trainers and away you go. Of course some comfortable clothing and shoes will help things but don’t let that be an excuse for not starting.
  2. Shiny new trail shoesInvest in some good trainers; yes you can run in any shoes, barefoot even, but if you want to give yourself the best chance of actually enjoying and sticking with running then a good pair of trainers will really help. Find your local running shop and spend some time getting advice and trying a few pairs on. Most likely you’ll be spending at least £60 so make sure you’re serious about sticking with it.
  3. Use the couch to 5k program; if you’re just starting out this is a great way to learn how to build up your running. It’s a program offered by the NHS in the form of free podcasts that in 9 weeks will get anyone running 5k. It means you haven’t got to think about how far to run etc and perhaps more importantly ensures you don’t do too much too soon. You can find all the details here.
  4. Ben running in snowDo a Park run; the idea of this is very simple, ever Saturday in parks up and down the country there are 5k runs. There is no entry fee, you just turn up and run. It’s not a race but it does give you motivation every week to get out for a run and challenge yourself. It also gives you a nice record of how your fitness improves and a chance to meet other local runners. There are now thousands of them being organised so unless you live in the middle of nowhere there is probably one down the road. The Parkrun website has all the details
  5. Enter a race; there is nothing quite like the looming presence of a race approaching to keep you motivated with running. I know for me having a race is often the difference between getting out for a run or not. Getting up every morning to run has been tough in the cold mornings we’ve had so far, but knowing I have my race in September to aim for has meant that I’ve been braving the weather. Oh and tell lots of people that you’ve entered the race, that added threat of embarrassment is also a great motivator! If you want to find a race then the imaginatively named Find a Race website is as good a place to start or find your local running club who may stage their own races.

There you have it, would love to know if anyone has any other tips that helped them. I’d also love to hear about the races you’ve entered, always looking for inspiration.

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