A day to remember

London, you are going to do a great job of hosting the Olympics! Be proud, be ready and celebrate.

Things started well when Gary and I arrived at our hotel and checked in on Facebook. Within minutes we’d had a reply from our high school friend, Chris who works just round the corner. We were soon catching up in the hotel bar and it was as though we last met last week. We reckon we haven’t seen each other in 20 years,

And today has been fantastic. From the moment we got on the tube and two guys asked if there was a race on today, through to getting directions from a cheery fellow in a bright pink hi viz vest, “It’s salmon!”, he said, everyone seemed to be on friendly duty.

At the start of the run
Starting the 5 mile run

We got to the stadium quite early and had to wait a while to go through security checks, but everyone was patient and it all felt quite relaxed. Once into the park, it was impossible to miss the stadium and giant sculpture. Cue lots of photo opportunies.

We went inside the stadium and managed to bag a great seat on the upper level, with views over the track. The stadium is deceptive. Once inside, it feels small, but then when people started to appear on the stage, you realised how vast the central area is. I definitely got goosebumps walking up the stairs and looking down on the track to see the 300, 200 and 100m markers.

After watching some of the entertainment, they started to call runners to line up. So I made my way to the start, a bit chilly in my shorts and T-shirt, but ready for a warm up led by the same guy who does them for the Great North Run. I had a chat with a couple of other runners in my pen, Sandy from Manchester originally, now in London and Deborah, running the Hull marathon next week. We all laughed as the first race for the wheelchairs false started. And groaned at the sound of ‘You lift me up’ which was supposed to spur on the first wave of runners.

Soon it was my turn and I crossed the line waving at our celebrity starters Steve Backley and Roger Black. Oh boy, what a rush! I actually laughed out loud, it felt so amazing to be there, to be running. A line of spectators took photos and videos along the start and then we were off into silence around the park.

On the route of the Olympic Park Run
Running with the Olympic Velodrome in the background

The course twisted and turned around the main venues, getting up close and personal along the walkways and under the wooden awnings of the velodrome. I went off in a rush, a surge of joyful adrenaline and had to remind myself I was supposed to take it easy.

My mouth was dry, from excited nervousness and adrenaline and my breath was coming fast. I even felt the first stab of a stitch. So as we came by the venues I slowed, stepped to the side and snapped some pictures.

I had to keep reminding myself to slow and keep it easy, not to upset my foot. But I felt amazing, just to be running and racing again. When the first mile clocked at under 9 mins, I knew I had to suck it back a bit.

Lots of building going on in the park, so the odd worker in hard hat and boots stopped to watch with a smile, and in patches marshalls cheered us on. But beyond the venues, it was a little like running around an industrial estate.

I was enjoying myself, just running relatively easy and still managing around 9 min miles.

There was a long bridge and a chorus of Oggy Oggy Oggy! And a man in an NUFC top. I saw a blind runner with a guide and a bloke powering along on crutches. He was getting loads of respect from the runners. I cheered and clapped the drumming and brass band playing on our route.

We wound round and round, with the stadium growing closer, then further away. Just after 3 miles there was a bit of an incline up a road. A lady just ahead of me slowed to a walk, so I said, “Shorten your stride and pick your feet up,” and she did. I encouraged her on to the top and I felt like I was flying on the down hill.

Me running on the Olympic track
Sprinting for the finish line

The end approached, with the stadium teasing close and then away again, until suddenly we were running into a slope down into a dark entrance below the stadium. This was it, the final stretch. Round underneath the stadium seats, you could hear the crowds above and workers lined the endless grey corridor with smiles and applause.

They were playing Chariots of Fire. I knew the entrance to the stadium would be approaching and the sense of occasion got me. I gulped back a couple of tears moments. This was amazing.

And then the light of the entrance. Like a gladiator running into the light and seeing the crowd in the stadium. I was out onto the track, gulping air, to draw back the emotions and waving like a loon down the first 100m, looking towards the stands where I knew Gary would be. Blowing kisses to the crowd, I enjoyed my Olympic moment.

And then I saw the 100m marker. The final straight. I’d though I’d sprint the whole way round the track, but in the end it was just that final 100m. And my legs powered me on, passing runners, bouncing on the amazing track, feeling effortless, floating over the line.

Me and Roger Black
Me and Roger Black

I didn’t want to leave, but I knew other people were coming through for their moments. I stopped by a barrier to get my breath back and stretch. And spotted Roger Black finishing a TV interview. He walked over to a group of girls who asked for a photo, so I got a snap with an Olympian. Bonus!

I still can’t quite take it in. I did it. I ran on the Olympic track! What a wonderful thing to be able to say.

Summer calling?

I’ve trained through the winter, fighting the darkness, sneaking early morning time before work to hit the beach with my PT. Dragging tyres across the sand, running with a weighted bag, throwing kettlebells around with abandon, layered up in hoodies, hats and gloves.

Now I rise and it’s daylight, bright and fresh. The sea’s refreshed the sand, wiped the slate clean, ready for a new start. We still get the place to ourselves, although there are more and more curious dogs now who bound over to come and see what the strange lady is doing. This week it’s a circuit, using the kettlebell for dynamic exercises and as a weight for others. Legs, arms, cardio, core. It’s tough but not impossible. I finish aglow and jog home, ready for whatever else the day throws at me.

Friday, I feel the healthy ache of a job well done and I pace myself through the day. At lunchtime I sing with the choir and it’s like another physical workout. The breathing and concentration sets my blood flowing and adrenaline pumping. Once again there are a couple of moments when I feel the hairs on the back of my neck prickle. The community, togetherness and joy is palpable. And we’ve improved so much in these few weeks’ of rehearsals.

As the working day draws to a close, I head out for a walk, realising that I’ve been stuck inside this glass and steel cage all day. I’m calmed and cooled, revived and ready for a long night ahead.

For this was no ordinary Friday. This was Sports Relief night. And as many of you sat down to watch the telly, I was set up for my first ever stint in a call centre, taking donations. As promised, it was great fun. A team of buddies kept us supplied with sweets, cakes, drinks, food and quizzes for the times when the phones were quiet. And when the calls came in there was a real excitement, cheers at large donations and just an appreciation of those giving what they could.

It was really nice talking to the people on the phone. I think I deserved a prize for the most regional accents though. I started with a Brummie, then progressed through Glasgow, Essex, Sunderland, and Northern Ireland. I’d been worried that I’d find the midnight finish tiring, but I was having too much fun, or too high on sweeties, chocolate and pizza to mind.

So I stirred without too much trouble on Saturday, ready for a stint volunteering at parkrun. Despite the mild weather there was a thick fog that showed no signs of lifting and shortly after 9am the stream of brightly coloured running shirts disappeared into the drifting grey.

Catching up with parkrun regulars, the first runner soon appeared at the top of the final straight, powering through the line in a very speedy time. And one by one, then in clumps and groups they began to arrive with barcodes and finish tokens to be scanned. Around 260 in all.

There’s a good team of volunteers  at Newcastle parkrun and this week everything went very smoothly. We were cleared and packed away quickly and the moor left to the silence of the fog.

Once home, with a few chores out of the way, the fog was still present as a cool sea fret out along the coast, so I took my chance to get out for a long run. I’ve built back up slowly by increments, keeping my pace steady and my running relaxed. But I wanted one run of 40 minutes or more under my belt to give me confidence and reassurance that I can tackle 5 miles next Saturday when I’ll be exploring the Olympic park.

It was odd being out in the sea fret. Happy travellers from sunnier inland were heading out to the sea and wondering what was going on. The sun was out and the air was warm, but the water droplets rolled in like smoke and hid the beach and sea from view. The odd voice travelled up through the dim.

I warmed up with my usual drills and then set my watch and started to pace out a steady beat. Familiar signs and landmarks hidden, it was just me and my run. Breathing and effort felt easy, almost as though every step was softened by the fog.

A simple out and back route, I stuck to my plan and although there were times when I felt I wanted to pick the pace up, I opted for the long run and clocked up the minutes, allowing myself a minute or so of tempo pace as I approached the finish point after 45 minutes running. An active cool down and some stretches and I was done.

It felt so good to be out running, no pressure, not too many worries about my injury, just taking it easy. And I’ve reassessed what an easy run is now. Aerobically it’s relaxed, but it’s still working my legs and lungs. And I have to watch I don’t fall into heavy footed plodding, but keep my feet light.

I still hanker for the speed that greater effort will allow, but for now I’m just enjoying running.  The pace will increase as I get the confidence of having banished this injury.

My foot largely behaved after my long run. I just felt a couple of twinges later that evening and by the next morning, there was just a small tight spot in my heel that I could not shift. But I’d done what I set out to do at the weekend and anything else was a bonus.

On Sunday I got out on my road bike again, exploring some of the many off road cycle paths and lanes and linking up a route to the Hadrian’s cycle way. We really are incredibly lucky to have so many cycle paths around North Tyneside. They sometimes take a bit of finding, and often take me on a longer route, but I’m starting to find lots of ways I can get around on the bike. It’s amazing to find yourself on pleasant paths winding along by the river and spotting landmarks from the areas Roman and industrial history.

I was out for an hour and a half and congratulated myself on managing a nice controlled descent and getting my chain back on when it slipped following a sudden stop for a rabbit darting across my path. I felt like I could have done more, but I had a half formed plan to surprise Penny and Sue who were out for a long run at the coast.

So after a quick stop at home for supplies, I set off again on my mountain bike this time to track them back round a familiar route. Penny was out doing a 20 miler as part of her marathon training and Sue was joining her for the last 8. I met up with them rather sooner than expected, coming down the waggonways and cycled on slowly ahead.

They were in great form despite the morning heat, just keeping going at a steady pace, and we enjoyed a bit of chat as we rounded back towards the coast and a finish at the Rendezvous cafe. It’s a heck of an achievement to have managed so much training and to have got that long run done before many people would be thinking of going out on a Sunday morning, so I just know Penny’s going to have a great race.

As for me, it was just good to be out and about, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air and catching up with two good friends who I wouldn’t have met if I hadn’t started running.

Pacing my recovery

Pulling together my last swimming blog means I didn’t mention a pretty good weekend of training, including my return to running at Newcastle parkrun. And now I find myself a week on and catching up.

Last Saturday was as perfect as you’re likely to get on the Town Moor, a spot of spring sunshine and practically no breeze. There were certainly plenty of runners out. My plan was for a steady run. My back to run programme had a 30 minute run on it, so I figured that would be okay to get me round the course. Keeping my pace steady seems to be the key to preventing pain in my heel and plantar. So this was definitely one to treat as a training run.

I did a good 5 minute warm up with walking, knee lifts and heel kicks, just like I’ve been doing before every run. Then I got a bonus warm up as a couple of Northumbria Uni students took us through some jogging and stretches before the start.

I shuffled back through the crowds and stood with Penny, but I knew she would be off and away from the start. It felt good to be running on the moor again, among the happy crowd of parkrunners. I resisted the urge to surge off fast, and just kept telling myself easy, easy, easy as I approached the first km marker.

In two weeks’ time I’m going to be running 5 miles around the Olympic park, so I wanted to build up time on my feet and get a feel for what would be a sensible pace. It’s been tough to just run and not worry about pace too much as I recover from this plantar fasciitis. What I thought of as slow, easy pace, wasn’t really on the first couple of test runs and it made the recovery afterwards painful.

So the plan for parkrun was 9 min miles and at the first kilometre I was slightly ahead. A cheery thank you to Malcolm on the gate and off down the tree-lined path along Grandstand Road.

As I turned back onto the moor and along the rougher path, I caught up with Penny. After checking she was okay, we fell into step together. That really helped keep me going at the same pace through kms 3-4 as by now, that easy pace was starting to feel about as much as I wanted to do.

For once, the slight headwind into the last kilometre provided a bit of welcome coolness and running together, I could tell we were trying hard as the conversation dropped to a minimum. I was just happy to be out and running, not feeling any issues or problems and I think we picked up the pace a little as we approached the last turn.

I couldn’t resist giving my legs a quick turnover and putting on the power down the final straight. Not full pelt, top speed by any means, but I felt confident enough to give a quick finish a try.

A warm down and catch up over coffee rounded off a lovely morning. And it was great to get my parkrun text result. I enjoy volunteering, but it is nice to run too.

I pottered around the rest of the day, doing chores and made my first ever batch of lemon curd after getting some lovely unwaxed lemons in our veg box this week. I was a bit disappointed to feel a small tight spot in my heel by late afternoon. I rolled and stretched it, but it was still there and remained there even after my swim with the tri club, which often shakes these things out.

On the positive side, this plantar fasciitis is diminishing, but it’s a good reminder that I need to continue being cautious. Maybe 9 min miling around a 5k was a bit too much and I should have slowed down even more, but until I try it, I don’t know. And during a run, I generally feel okay.

I think that’s been the hardest part about dealing with this injury. I have never really had the kind of running fitness that would allow me to rock up and run a half marathon any weekend, but I have had enough to do a decent 10k on a regular basis for a couple of years. And now those 6 plus miles look as far away as they did the first time I ever set myself that goal.

I have the North Tyneside 10k rapidly approaching. It’s my home race. It goes past the bottom of my street and I run much of the route as part of my training. If things had been different this year, I’d have been building towards it, running fast intervals and working on my speed, pushing for a PB.

I know that’s not the case this year, and barring any drastic setbacks, I am happy just to run it for fun and the goody bag. But in my mind, running it fairly easily was still translating at around 9 min miles, which was my half marathon pace last year. Now I think that’s probably still a bit ambitious as I continue to recover.

I can’t unlearn what I know about pacing. Even if I don’t wear my watch I have a good idea about how fast I’m going and I’m quite good at finding a pace and sticking to it. So, no pressure, no unreasonable expectations, just a comeback run, but I do need a target pace to set myself off, or else I risk getting carried away and hitting it too hard.

I also managed a lovely ride out on my road bike on Sunday. I’ve been a bit nervous about getting the roadie out again, but within minutes I was enjoying the sensation of speed and the smooth transitions through the gears. such a difference from my trusty old mountain bike.

We raced together up the coast, enjoying the sunshine, into the wind. On the way back, on a downhill, with the wind behind me, I dropped and tucked and carried much of that rush all the way home again. And I knew, I’d fallen in love with Alice, my road bike again.

I’d been riding with flat pedals after losing my confidence with clipped in last year, but after such a brilliant ride, I took her to the bike shop and got her fitted out with some new ones. I’ve gone for mountain bike style clip ins this time and a dual option pedal which will allow me to ride with or without bike shoes. They may not be the sleekest or lightest pedals, but they should allow me to build up my confidence again and get used to clipped in riding before my first tri of the year in May.

So a weekend of running, swimming and cycling. Can’t wait for tri season!

My swimming tale

I’ve swum for as long as I can remember. I remember being quite good at it at school and going some way at least to getting a life-saving badge. I remember the swimming in your pyjamas bit and diving to the bottom of the pool to pick up a brick. But then, I think there were more concerned about you being able to keep yourself afloat than any worries about style and breathing.

I guess I fell out of the habit as I did with most sports, when I was at senior school. But even then I remember trips to the baths as something to do with my friends from time to time, taking the bus to the pool.

I even remember swimming at University from time to time. A sensation of needing to be surrounded by water in land-locked Leeds. Maybe it was a comforting reminder of my coastal origins.

But I don’t recall having been taught how to breathe and do front crawl until I took lessons a couple of years ago. I guess I must have learned as a child, but have forgotten it. Maybe I just picked it up naturally. But as an adult, when I swam, it was mainly breast stroke with my nose dipping below the water occasionally, or a very messy crawl with my head above the meniscus.

Then in 2009, I took a series of four private lessons with a teacher in my local gym pool. I was intending to do a triathlon in 2010 and wanted to be able to swim front crawl without looking stupid or tiring myself out. Our lessons focused pretty much solely on getting me to put my head under the water and get used to bilateral breathing.

It was hard. I didn’t like it. I actually disliked swimming for a while because of it. But I had a goal and a mission and I wanted to see it through. So I stuck with it and it did get easier.

I realised I had a natural, but rather worrying fight or flight response when putting my head below water and breathing out. I was happy in the water and happy underneath it so long as I was holding my breath, but breathing out and then coming to the surface to take an in breath triggered a nervous response. I fought it, but there’s only so much you can do in four lessons and I didn’t realise at the time what a significant effect this response would have on my future swimming plans.

I kept practising and could swim front crawl of a fashion, usually rushing my breaths and desperate to reach the end of a length. I got plenty of advice and encouragement and in January 2010 I was ecstatic to be able to announce I’d swim 400m front crawl without stopping.

I didn’t do my triathlon in 2010. Instead, it became a goal for 2011. But I did enter my first dual event – an aquathlon, in November. Driving up to the pool and seeing snow on the ground and the temperature reading 0C, preparing to swim 500m and then emerge wet through and run a 5k, I was already mentally set for the mad world of triathlon.

But not everything went according to plan in that first event. That fight or flight panic hit me as I got into the pool. I thought it was just nerves, or just a bad day’s swimming, when I couldn’t catch my breath and flailed around thrashing through the water.

In the end, I was saved by a fire alarm that went off during the swim. There was some confusion about whether we were going to have to get out of the pool or not. So I pretty much stopped trying to flounder through my swim, stuck in some head above the water breast stroke and generally got myself together, thinking I was just going to swim to the end and get out. In the end, the alarm stopped and we carried on and I was able to get something like my usual front crawl on the go. The rest of the race went well and I was just elated to have finished my first multi-sport event.

It was only when I returned to the same event in February 2011 that I realised I had a problem. 2011 was to be my triathlon year. I’d lined up my first event in April and the February aquathlon was a warm up test run.

I’d continued my swimming training in my gym pool, improving little by little just through repetition and practise. But when I got in the water to start my aquathlon swim, the panic really took hold. The adrenaline rushed through my system and I couldn’t catch my breath. At the end of every length I was clinging to the side, trying to gulp in air and calm myself down.

I swam a couple of lengths breast stroke. I let everyone else in my lane go past me. I wanted to stop and get out. But I didn’t. I carried on and completed the hardest 500m I’ve ever swum. I was last out of the pool by some 2 lengths. It just goes to show how much my running had improved that I still managed to PB, despite my swim taking 2 minutes longer.

But I was in a pickle. I had a triathlon approaching and I wasn’t sure I could go through that again. My good friend Penny gave me some invaluable advice that helped me understand why I could happily swim miles in training and then go to pieces in a competition. I wouldn’t have continued to do and enjoy triathlons without it.

It’s a simple matter of adrenaline. The same rush that sets me sprinting off the line, running the first mile too fast, is a liability in a swim. So now I control it. I visualise in my mind all the aspects of the swim. I take long deep breaths and keep myself calm before the race, even if I’m not conscious of feeling nervous.

It works. I’ve proved that in three subsequent triathlons. Each time, it’s been easier to gain control And I do enjoy my swimming. But sometimes that old adrenaline monkey comes back to bite me.

Recently, I’ve started swimming with Tyne tri club on a Saturday evening. Swimming with other people in my lane, in a busy pool of churning water – well it does send me a little jolt, a reminder that I need to keep working at it.

I’ve written this in the hope that someone else might find it useful. And also to remind me of how far I’ve come. A couple of weeks ago we did a timed 400 and 200 at the tri club. The competitive element did get me in a flutter again and I had to take some time out before I did the swims to get my breathing under control.

I didn’t feel like I swam particularly well. I just concentrated on keeping it steady and managing my breathing. I did feel like I swam without exhausting myself.

I was, as expected, the slowest of those who were there. But last year, when I was swimming 400ms in triathlons, my times were around 09:00 – 09:15. This time it was 08:15. And I know that’s not fast for a swim, but it’s a heck of an improvement.

I also swam on Friday night on my own. Just an easy session, I told myself. I just took myself through some 100 and 200m sets, trying to concentrate on technique.

At the end of the session, I stopped my watch and looked with curiosity at the total lengths. I’d swum over 1km. In what felt like an easy session. Sure, I’d broken that up into smaller sets and taken breaks. But I wanted to go back to tell my 2009 self what I could do. I’m not sure she’d have believed me. And that makes me wonder what I’ll want to tell my 2012 self in a couple of years time.

What I’ve learned about plantar fasciitis

What is plantar fasciitis?

The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue (like a ligament) that stretches from your heel to your toes. It supports the arch of your foot and acts as a shock-absorber when you walk or run. Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of this band of tissue.

It’s most likely caused by repeated small injuries over time, so if you do a lot of walking, running or spending time on your feet. It’s sometimes called ‘policeman’s heel’ as officers walking the beat were said to be commonly affected and the pain is usually felt on the underside of the foot near the heel.

Typical symptoms include pain which is worse first thing in the morning or after a period of rest. It often eases off as you move around, but can be triggered again by a long walk, run or just being on your feet.

My experience
I first felt a bruised sensation in the heel of one foot after training and running which didn’t go away after a couple of days. It was more noticeable first thing in a morning.

I hadn’t been pounding out lots of miles or running much more than I usually did. But I had been running with a club and doing hill sprints and short sprints – both of which would naturally force me more onto my toes. I am a bit of a speed demon and enjoyed the sensation of the sprint sessions, but they may well have contributed to my injury. Or it may just have gradually built up over time.

It’s a pretty common and frustrating injury among runners, so I quickly found plenty of sympathetic and useful advice.


  • Don’t keep running on it
    Pretty obvious really. An injury caused by impact is unlikely to improve if you keep pounding the pavements or trails. The problem is that it can seem to come and go.In my case, it never hurt enough to really make me wince. And it very rarely hurt when I was running. So I would rest for a few days and try a run again, find that it hurt afterwards, rest again and repeat.
  • Rest it
    The words runners hate to hear. Resting is what you do after a long run, ahead of your next run. Resting feels like wasting time when you could be training.The problem with the plantar fascia is that it’s slow healing and because of where it is, you’re unlikely to be able to fully rest it. It took me a long time to realise that even a short lunchtime walk could upset it.Some gentle movement, exercise and stretching can help loosen up the plantar fascia and encourage it to heal.
  • Get some advice and treatment
    There are simple things you can do to help treat plantar fasciitis at home. Icing the area intensely can help reduce the inflammation and ease the pain. But it’s a case of getting an ice pack on for 20 minutes at a time 3 or 4 times a day, not just 5 minutes with a pack of frozen peas.Other home-made treatments include rolling your foot over a bottle of iced water, or giving yourself a foot massage with a golf ball to really get into the sore spots and break down any patches of stiffness.One useful exercise for stretching the plantar fascia was to put a towel on the floor and try and pick it up with my toes. I’d often do this one standing at the sink brushing my teeth in a morning. 
  • Cross train
    You can keep your fitness up with non-impact exercise like cycling and swimming. I learned to enjoy the cardio effect of an indoor row bike row session instead of a run. Just watch out for those exercise classes where you might be jumping or hopping and putting impact on that foot.

What I learned:
I did all of the above, but also made the mistake of trying to keep running at the kind of pace and intensity I had been used to after a few days’ rest.

But I realised that a cycle of run, hurt, rest… run, hurt, rest was ultimately fruitless and eventually I went to seek advice from a sports physio. That really marked the start of me better understanding and beginning to treat it. He looked at the way I stood and walked, did some manipulation on my foot and generally prodded around until it really hurt.

In my case, it’s linked into the fact that I pronate (in simple terms, my knees pull inwards a little). I already wear orthotics, special insoles that help position my feet to correct this. But that same instability meant that I was putting added pressure on my plantar fascia.

I’ve had several weeks of treatment and been given lots of exercises to do to either loosen up the plantar fascia or strengthen the muscles in my calves and foot to try and get them pulling in the right direction. Because of the tightness in my plantar, my calf muscles also became very stiff and tight and I had to have some deep sports massage to loosen them up too.

The key for me has been to persist and to be patient. So I keep doing the exercises and stretches, even when there’s no pain. I keep a golf ball in my desk drawer and try to roll my foot over it once a day at least.

Losing the simple freedom and adrenaline buzz of even a short run, did affect my mood and made me more likely to reach for the comfort food. And self massaging your foot or calves with a foam roller, golf ball or iced bottle hurts. Sometimes you really don’t want to do it. But afterwards it does feel better.

I’ve also had to ease back into running again. My physio wrote out a plan to help me return to running and it was just like starting over with a 5 minute walk and a 1 minute run. Unfortunately, my speed demon tendencies had me trying to run that minute at my fastest pace and by the end of the session, I’d really aggravated my plantar again.

So I learned to slow down, run easy. And to take note of the drills I’d do in the running breaks, knee lifts and heel kicks, fast feet and lateral shuffles – designed to switch on the running muscles, especially the glutes and to encourage me to pick up my feet quickly.

I’m not sure if I’ve managed to change the way I run in only a few weeks. But I’m more conscious of trying to land lightly and pick up my feet, but avoid pushing off my toes.

It is getting better. But it is a frustrating injury that can seem fine one minute day and then be back again the next. I’m very much hoping that I’ll be back to running regularly and building up time on my feet again soon.

Sources of information:


A special parkrun

It was a last minute decision as I was getting ready to leave to pick up the ‘good’ camera and the ‘big’ lens, but I was very glad I did as I captured some pictures of a special parkrun from my marshal point out on the moor.

By rights, none of us should recognise the name PC David Rathband. He should just be another Newcastle police officer doing his job, known only to his family and friends. But some tense days on Tyneside and a mad man with a shotgun changed all that. And then this week, for whatever reason, it all became too much and PC Rathband took his own life.

What you might not know about PC Rathband is that he was also a runner. He ran the Great North Run to raise awareness of the Blue Lamp Foundation, the charity he supported. And he came and ran Newcastle parkrun with his running buddy and guide runner Kerry a couple of times.

So this Saturday I knew there was to be a moment of remembrance and a minute’s silence in tribute to one of our parkrun clan. I was asked to help marshal the turn out on the moor, just before the gate and the 4k marker. It meant I was in a good position to take photos, but that I missed the start and the tributes as I was setting out markers and getting ready for the runners.

Darren Rathband running Newcastle parkrun in memory of his brother PC David Rathband
Darren Rathband running Newcastle parkrun in memory of his brother PC David Rathband

I got a good few smiles and waves as I shouted out encouragement to the runners coming through. And I spotted a couple of the Blue Lamp Foundation supporters in their T-shirts and gave them an encouraging shout. But I did a double take as I saw a group of runners coming through. There was Kerry, hand in hand, just as she had run with PC Rathband with another runner who was his double.

I didn’t know at that point that it was his twin brother who had come from Australia to take part in the parkrun, but the resemblance was unmistakable. I’m sure, and I’ve heard that what was said at the start was very emotional. For me, it was one of those moments when I wasn’t sure whether to put the camera down or to carry on shooting, but I got a cheery wave as they went past.

After the final runner had come through and we’d picked up the markers, I made my way to the finish and shared a few condolences with Kerry. She, in a very kind hearted way, had even brought me some gel heels to help ease my plantar pain. On an emotional day when she so had much to think about, it was a truly generous gesture.

I know from personal experience the power that running has to heal emotional hurts, to draw out strengths and to forge a shared experience of togetherness. I hope PC Rathband’s friends and family felt some of that on Saturday.