Inspirational running stories

Charlotte Hall is a member of the Green Heart Runners and will soon be able to support me in developing and growing the club when she becomes qualified as an England Athletics Run Leader. Charlotte has interests and skills in many different outdoor pursuits, but I only recently discovered her flair for writing book reviews! Here are reviews of two books by two some amazing women. Big thank you to Charlotte for writing these reviews and for sharing on my blog!

Injured or lost your running mojo? Well, pop the kettle on and settle in, I have two book recommendations that’ll get you hyped for a run.

The first is Lizzie Hawker’s Runner: A short story about a long run. Lizzie is a down to earth person whose career in running started and continues with just a passion for pushing herself outside of her comfort zone, and for spending quality time in the mountains. She comments many times about the fact that she isn’t really a runner (put it this way she wouldn’t necessarily nerd out about split times and the latest shoes). However, a runner she most certainly is when you learn more about her running endeavours. She is a long-distance runner whose career started when she attempted an ultra, which entered as something to do to celebrate completing her PhD. In this race she achieved first woman home. However, this wasn’t just any ultra, this was ‘The Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc’ (approx. 10,000 metres of ascent and decent over 155 km that loops around Mont Blanc).

She has since won this race five times, in addition to holding the world record for 24 hours road running. However, my favourite of her adventures was running from Base Camp on Mount Everest to Kathmandu; which she has now done a total of three times just to figure out why she is drawn to running so far. This book describes each of her running adventures in such a way that you feel like you’re there with her willing her onwards.

Overall, she writes in such a humble way and her running achievements are so incredible that her story can be described as nothing but hugely inspiring.

Lizzie Hawker’s website

The next book by Chrissie Wellington ‘A Life Without Limits: A World Champion’s Journey’ comes with a warning: I completely devoured it. I originally listened to the audiobook version whilst on runs which consequently meant that my runs got longer and longer and much more frequent. Chrissie is the world’s number one female Ironman triathlete who holds four world champion titles, world records and since has been awarded an MBE. However, this is by no means a book only for current or wannabe triathletes. In it Chrissie eloquently tells her incredible journey starting from what she describes as a sporty but a jack of all trades and accident-prone child (her nickname is Muppet), then through an exciting period travelling as a sustainable development advocate, and finally she gives an incredibly honest account into the ups and downs that it takes to become a world champion. In the book you enter each race with her (amazed at how she continues to have a beaming smile on her face the whole way around) and remain enthralled from every start to each finish line.

Immense sporting achievements aside, one of the most admiring traits of Chrissie is her genuine empathy. She commits a whole chapter to celebrating the people that she calls ‘The heroes of Ironman’: the recreational athletes that she says are hugely humbling and inspiring to stand on the start line with. It is these same athletes that after completing every race she stays to cheer and support until the very last competitor crosses the finish line. In this vein, Chrissie sees her sporting achievements as an opportunity to make lasting positive change. In her own words ‘Champions come and go, but to me the real judge of my success will be whether I actually do something positive with the opportunities I have been given’.

In summary, Chrissie is a very charismatic and endearing character whose dedication and endurance are mesmerising, and her story is written so beautifully that you can’t help but be inspired.

Chrissie Wellington’s website

If you have any comments, other running book recommendations, or a book review to share, please get in touch e: Charlotte.l.hall453@gmail.com

I turned thirty-nine this week

The passing of another year
I’ve just turned thirty-nine
I’m marking it with Netflix
And a decent bottle of wine

Utterly forgettable
(My age, not the booze)
To reach an age so tedious
Can hardly pass as news

I don’t remember thirty-eight
And it comes as no surprise
That thirty-seven too it seemed
Passed before my eyes

Don’t think I’m complaining
But I just don’t get my thrills
When birthdays come and birthdays go
Like annual household bills

Many said they hoped I have
A lovely day, it’s true
Facts are, it was pretty dull
Like I’m sure it was for you

Next year I’ll turn forty
Not so far down the line
I’ll mark that one with Netflix too
And a decent bottle of wine

RR

Happy Birthday to us!

The Green Heart Runners social running club turns one on 4 June, exactly one year since our inaugural Tuesday evening run-meet took place with myself and two trusting souls to whom I remain indebted for their support. That day, as I recall, it threw it down with rain and had they not turned up it would have been a demoralising false-start from which to bounce back from. But they did, it was fun, and since then the Green Heart Runners have not looked back.

In the beginning there was just me, an empty Twitter feed and a website. Following that first run-meet, over the first few months we expanded from an average of three to around eight runners. As the numbers grew the nights drew in, and we descended into darkness on our Tuesday evening runs, which meant we had to adapt our routes and our routines accordingly.

We kept growing throughout October and November and then in December, placed a little advert in the University internal newsletter encouraging new members in the new year. This had the effect of rapidly increasing our average number of runners to over twenty per run-meet, which happily (and not entirely by chance) coincided with Jess becoming a qualified run leader to help us ensure we had a safe run leader to runner ratio as we grew.

Jess’ enthusiasm, drive, organisational abilities and generosity of time has been a massive reason why our club has flourished over the past few months – thank you, this club wouldn’t be what it is without your support.

More people joined us in February, a month where we hit a peak of 30 runners on a single run-meet – impressive given that we were in the darkest and coldest month yet. It was also in February that we launched our logo and visible identity and teamed up with a company to enable members to order their own GHR-branded t-shirts, another important milestone in our fledgling club’s early months.

In early March we decided we wanted to grow still further and managed to leverage funding from within and beyond the University, to contribute to the cost of training up three more Run Leaders. In this month also, members started actively registering for a half marathon event in Sutton Coldfield, on 19 April – another milestone with runners entering as members of Green Heart Runners for the first time.

Then, COVID-19 struck. I was pretty devastated to have to email everyone on the morning of Tuesday 17 March to say that the run-meets were cancelled until further notice. It seemed at that moment, that everything would need to be put on hold, and that our first race wouldn’t be happening any time soon

GHR race finish line selfies!

How wrong I was! We quickly set-up a Facebook page for our members, membership continued (and continues) to grow with people wanting to join a virtual running community whilst partaking on a solo basis. Then, between a few us we decided that we should do something on 19 April as a club in lieu of not being able to run our first race. We chose a fantastic charity (B30 Foodbank), ran solo and virtually, and raised over £3,500 – a signature achievement in the life of our young club and one which every member was proud of and for which we received huge support from family, friends, colleagues and complete strangers.


Now we remain very active, virtually of course, with with photo competitions, running challenges, group chat and support. The most recent development is online circuit classes which can be done in their entirety or form part of the warm-up ahead of a Tuesday night run.

And so here we are, on the cusp of our first birthday and ready to celebrate and reflect on our achievements.

The biggest achievement for me isn’t the miles we’ve run, the fitness we’ve gained or the money we have raised. These are wonderful by-products of the most significant achievement, which is developing a supportive and friendly running community which all members have collectively created and cherish. This is what sustains us during these lock down and physically distancing months, and is the positive energy driving the innovation and creative ideas which has seen us develop as a club. This, I sincerely hope, will be the reason we will continue to move forward, welcome more people, develop as a vehicle for fitness, fun and community spirit in and around the beautiful Green Heart, on the University of Birmingham’s Edgbaston campus, from which we take our name.

Happy Birthday to us all!

RR

It’s the little things I miss

The end of another day
A chance to reminisce
About the things I long for
It’s little things I miss

Standing on the platform
Whilst waiting for my train
Familiar commuters
In sunshine, wind and rain

Alighting at the station
When the campus comes alive
Walking to the Med School
‘Cross the road on Vincent Drive

Catching-up with colleagues
Many now are friends
Hearing all the stories
Of fun-filled weekends

Interactions with my team
Individually; together
The walking one-to-ones I have
In every kind of weather

To ask for help, or lend a hand
Before and after meetings
Those nods and waves across the road
Brief, yet, friendly greetings

I miss those chance encounters
Which happen every day
Making swift arrangements
In passing, on the way

Our glorious Green Heart
Old Joe, at once, appearing
Aston Webb and Winterbourne
Muirhead, Engineering

I miss the campus catering
The wraps and salad bowls
The fresh baguettes in Med Café
The Staff House soup and rolls

Of course, I miss my running club
The Tuesday warm-up drill
Down the tow-path to the Vale
Around the lake and up the hill

It’s been so busy lately
Reflection time is rare
But at this chancing moment
I wish I was elsewhere

As I sit at home and reminisce
It seems opportune
For me to say, I miss you all
Stay safe, and see you soon.

RR 💚

Twilight Days

We’re sitting in the cast of a shadow
The sax is feeling the mood
The waves outside are crashing on the sea front
We’re inside enjoying our food

Your eyes hold a truth in a whisper
They sparkle like the wine in your hand
Your lips send a shiver down the back of my spine
My heart beating quicker than the band

Will it be like this forever?
Will your face be the thrill of my gaze?
Will your palm seem so pure, when our time is fewer
When we’re in our twilight days?

We talk like we could talk for hours
Your voice is a cure to my ears
And the words that you say, won’t ever go away
’til the day they’ll reduce me to tears

You lead me up to the dance floor
You dance with such eloquence and grace
And we laugh at a joke we remembered
Your laughter illuminates the place

Will it be like this for ever?
Or will laughter turn in to dismay?
And will the joke seem so funny
When we’re in our twilight days?

We finish the meal and the liquor
And the waiter brings us the bill
You say shall I go back to your place
And I nervously say that I will

You bring out the tea and the coffee
We relax in more comfortable chairs
And my heart beats so fast, it could be my last
When you say, ‘shall we go upstairs?’

Oh will it be like this forever?
Or is it just a passing phase?
Will I lust for your body, your soul and your mind
When we’re in our twilight days?
When we’re in our twilight days.

RR

Split-screen singing

The other week I posted a video of my friend Sally, and I, playing “Lean on me“, recorded separately, then mixed together and shown as a split screen, synchronised recording.

On this occasion we needed help from Sally’s friend, but I have since learnt how to do this myself and it occurred to me that this might be my most significant new ‘lockdown skill’. There is very little chance I would’ve invested the time working out to do this had we not been propelled in to home working and had I not taken on the role of the University Facebook group ‘Live Lounge’ curator – where I encourage people to perform live or post videos of their music.

Here is a video of a further two duets performed with Lisa and Sally:

I have really enjoyed creating these duets and in the process have discovered fellow musicians who want to perform. None of us are professionals, but it doesn’t matter, we’re doing something we enjoy and our colleagues and friends who are watching are being very generous with their support and feedback.

For anyone interested in the technical process, this is what I’ve been doing (I’m doing this partly to be helpful, and partly as something for me to refer to for when I inevitably forget how I did it!):

  1. Find a friend who wants to do this with you
  2. Choose a song and carefully decide who will sing and play what. Then learn your respective parts.
  3. Whoever starts the song ought to do the first recording – on your phone is fine.
  4. Send it to your friend
  5. They then need to video record themselves playing along to you, whilst listening to you through earphones. This will require two devices – one to connect your earphones to and another to record.
  6. They send their video recording back to you and you then have two separately recorded parts of the same song which you need to then synchronise.
  7. This isn’t easy, but the way I have done it is time one recording up until a point that you know you both should be playing exactly together, or singing together. Make a note of how how many seconds in that is. I’ve been using an app called Videoshop for this part of the process.
  8. Then revert to the other recording and again time up to that same point. You’ll then know what the time-lag is on the respective videos and you need to edit that down from which ever is the longer lead-in time.
  9. You will need to do this down to the closest 100th of a second as you can, otherwise they won’t quite sync.
  10. Using iMovie (I’m sure there others out there), select one video recording, create movie, select the other one and choose split screen, and you’re pretty much there.

I am *not* an expert, but I’ve used this method to create these amateur recordings that I’m pretty happy with.

So there you go. I’ve become a music video hobbyist. Who’d have thought?!

RR

Are we nearly there yet?

Are we nearly there yet?
A voice spoke soft and slow
Not quite yet, you’ve been so good
But there’s some way to go

I’ve played all the games i brought
Through windows now I’m staring
It started off quite interesting
Now it’s overbearing

I don’t really travel well
Long distances, small spaces
I prefer short, solitary hops
Interspersed with faces

My movement is restricted
In the back seat of this car
I need to stop and stretch my legs
Before we go too far

I’m getting tired of wandering
Through the fog haze of my mind
Finding insecurities
I thought I’d left behind

They lurk amongst the loneliness
And strike when least prepared
Some of them i beat back down
But others leave me scared

Sound bites on repeat, it seems
Blaring from my phone
‘We’re all in this together’
But i feel all on my own

So are we nearly there yet?
Just a bit more up this track
It’s a one way journey
And we won’t be turning back

RR

End of week five

Me and the vast majority of my colleagues have been working at home now for the past three and a half weeks, and we’ve all been in this lockdown for coming up five weeks.  

Actually, I’ll correct myself. I saw a good post on Facebook that articulated the whole working from home thing quite well. It said something along the lines of, we’re not working from home, we’re at home during a crisis, trying to work.  That explains the situation much better.

I’ve been at pains to let my team know that it is well understood that everyone is in a different situation. Some people have caring responsibilities, some don’t. Some people have jobs which limit what they can do from home, some don’t. Some people have gardens, some don’t . And so on. Everyone is in a different situation, comparisons should be avoided, and no-one is being judged.

It’s only now we’re a few weeks in that one can see patterns emerge. Here are some reflections in no important order:

  • With my working routine changed, my exercise routine has changed. I’m doing a lot of exercise. Including walking I’m not doing as much as I would normally do, but I am doing more running and high-intense cardio than I would normally. Which I guess is good. But I am feeling the lack of regular movement throughout the day, in my lower back particularly, which is stiff and aching pretty much all the time at the moment. I’ve only done one yoga session in the last four weeks, so I definitely need to address that.
  • I’ve been much busier than I thought I would be. It’s been so busy at work.  With hindsight it seems obvious we would be busy given the nature of my role, a large team, and all the rapid changes that are being cascaded, interpreted and implemented across the University. Quite a lot of business as usual and project work has continued uninterrupted, and in some cases, the pace of work has increased.
  • I’m beginning to miss people now. Early on it hadn’t been so long since I’d seen many of my friends and my family, but now those weekend zoom chats are becoming more and more important to us, especially as it becomes clear that even though restrictions will be lifted, social distancing will still need to stay in place for a while yet. I am missing the contact with colleagues and friends at work as well. I usually see a lot of people every day. Hundreds probably, in formal meetings, corridor conversations, or even just in the café, car-park or train station. We do a lot of socialising at work without even realising it, and this is now restricted more to group chatter before a meeting and then at the end we all log-off and it’s a like a great shutter coming down on your social interaction, which still feels very artificial.
  • I’m connecting more with my local community. I am part of a WhatsApp group with our neighbours. This, together with the Thursday night clapping for NHS and care home staff, is bringing us together. My wife and I are also doing quite a lot of shopping for some of our elderly neighbours as well, which is bringing us closer to them and it’s nice to be able to do something helpful.
  • I’ve realised I need stimulus beyond work. I have been doing live piano performances for colleagues on a University Facebook page. This has been a good focus for me as it requires practice beforehand.  Also, members of the running club I established last year raised over £3,450 for B30 Foodbank by running a virtual, solo 5k or 10k race on 19th April, which was just joyous to be part of and again provided external focus. Regular contact with my runners and more Facebook Live performances (sorry!) will continue but I am now thinking of the next project…watch this space! Writing this blog is also something I enjoy spending time doing and I hope it provides a real-time record of how I’ve been feeling throughout these weird times.
  • I’m not missing live sport as much I thought I would.
  • I’m occasionally allowing myself to get overloaded with COVID-19 news. There’s a lot good stuff, there’s a lot of nonsense, and then there’s Donald Trump in a league of his own; there are no words. Even the scientifically sound commentary is coming in from so many angles I do wonder how policy makers are meant to interpret it sensibly and at the break-neck speed we all seem to expect them to.
  • People are fundamentally the same. Whether at work, in person or at home, people are the same. The generous ones are still generous. The kind, caring ones are still kind and caring. The funny ones still make you laugh, and the idiots remain true to themselves. This is kind of reassuring continuity in a period of unprecedented changes (though, idiots, please try a bit harder, please?).
  • This week was particularly busy and even though home is the workplace, shutting down the laptop on a Friday evening makes it feel more like home and less like the office and I’m finding I need that down time more than I thought I would.

  • I’m getting used to this. But I know it won’t be long before we have a new routine to get used to, even though we don’t know what form it will take or when it will start.

As ever, these reflections are as much for me as anyone else, but if anything resonates, or provokes a reaction, do let me know!

RR