The Scribbler

30 August 2012

Running with Tony the Fridge

This morning, I got up before 6am to go for a run in the rain. With a man with a fridge on his back.

As you do.

Tony putting the fridge on his back

Tony prepares for another fridge run on day 13 of his challenge

Tony Phoenix-Morrison, aka Tony the Fridge, is doing 30 Great North Runs in 30 days carrying a 40kg fridge on his back. He’s not entirely new to fridge running, having carried it on last year’s Great North Run at the Blaydon Race and on the Marathon of the North in Sunderland.

He gets up early every morning, drives to near the start line on Claremont Road, hooks up his fridge on his back, takes a picture at the start line, kisses his wife, and off he goes, following the route of the Great North Run as closely as possible. Most days it’s just him running, with Matty on the bike carrying bottles of water and the phone with which he tweets pictures of the supporters who he meets along the way.

Sometimes people run along part of the route with him. Today it was my privilege to be one of them.

Me, my PT Ian, and another of his clients Lee met up on a dark and rainy morning to run with Tony from the start as far as the Heworth Metro. We sploshed through the puddles on a deserted Northumberland Street, and on down towards the Tyne Bridge.

That’s always a good moment, crossing the Tyne Bridge, but today, as well as the toots from vans and cars, we were drenched by the spray from passing buses and conversation was drowned out by the sound of the traffic.

The pace is slow, steady. But make no mistake, this is still running, and Tony can put on a surprising turn of pace up an incline. We only stop stop to cross the roads, treacherous in parts, especially as we negotiate the busy traffic interchange by the Gateshead bypass. This is not pedestrian friendly.

Carrying a fridge isn’t just about carrying an extra 40kgs of weight. It’s hard, metal weight that bumps and bruises and rubs and chafes at every step, no matter how well it’s padded. And every day Tony picks it up, puts it on his back and starts running.

Me and Tony

The end of my stint with Tony the fridge

Lee asked him what hurts the most. I think the short answer to that is everything. Tony runs hunched over, the weight of the fridge bending him down. He talks of his knees burning, his back covered in sores and friction burns, the blisters on his feet. And he knows, no matter how much it hurts today, he has to get up and do the same thing again tomorrow. It is a Sisyphean task.

But his burden does not break him. He laughs at the rain. He shares advice on running style and minimal shoes when I mention I’m interested in trying to change how I run. He points out landmarks that have meaning along the way.

Why does he do it? Because he can. Because he has a will of iron and a mental attitude that only sees the positive and will not give up. Because maybe he’s a bit crazy. And because he wants to support the cancer charities that will, he believes, one day find the cure for this disease that has taken people he loves. He’s raising funds for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.

He takes heart from the toots of support along the way. And people stop him to donate money through the slots in the fridge. Oh yes, it jingles with coins and gets heavier by the day.

As we approach our turn off point, I am sorry I cannot go further and I have to turn back to get to work. I am sodden wet, and have done about 4 miles in an hour, but it’s one of the most inspirational runs I’ve ever done. And one I will never forget. Tony is a master of mental toughness and positive attitude, determination and endurance.

You can follow him on twitter @tony_the_fridge, find him on facebook, or find out more on his charity fundraising page

Advertisements

27 August 2012

Great North Bike Ride

When a couple of my friends mentioned they were doing the Great North Bike Ride, and I had a cycle rather than a run planned this Sunday I figured it would be good to challenge myself to a  longer distance bike ride and have some fun.

The ride, in aid of local cancer charity The Chris Lucas Trust promised 57 miles of relatively easy riding in the Northumberland countryside with bike support, a couple of feed stations with water and bananas and plenty of places to stop for a snack.

Me and my bike at the start of the Great North Bike ride

Ready to hit the road in Seahouses

I thought I’d better equip myself with something a little more forgiving than my tri shorts and picked up a bargain pair of padded cycle shorts for the ride; checked my bike over and baked some flapjacks to keep me well fuelled. Bike checked over, I was set for an early morning wake up call to get to the meeting point where the organisers would pick us and our bikes up to take us to the start. Next time, remind me to check my shoes as well as my bike.

My friend Karen sent a text to say she was on her way, but running a bit late after having problems with the bike rack. With plenty of people and bikes still milling about waiting to get their transport, I didn’t think there was any danger of us leaving without her. In the end, I think we got one of the last buses and were over an hour delayed in starting off as there seemed to be more people than they had bargained for.

We were driven north to Seahouses, a beautiful little fishing village on the Northumberland coast. As we approached, we saw groups of riders already setting off in the sunshine. But this wasn’t about racing, it was just about enjoying a day on the bike and a chance to cycle with some lovely views.

We were further delayed as we managed to get to the start before our bikes, but eventually, after a good bit of faffing, we were off. I stuck with Karen and her husband Andrew for a while at the start, but with clear open roads and my road bike just gliding along beautifully they encouraged me to go on ahead.

I had a backpack full of stuff to cover all weathers and as we’d got a bit chilly hanging about I was layered up for the start. But, as predicted, within 20 minutes I was roasting and stopped to remove some of the extra garments. Karen and Andrew passed and then a bit further down the road I overtook them again. This was to be a repeat pattern throughout the day.

As we’d set off towards the back of the field, there were often times when I was out riding on my own, with no sign of other riders nearby. I’d catch up to small groups or couples and pass them, expecting to see another group of cyclists ahead, but then see no one for a while. But I was enjoying the freedom and simple pleasure of a perfect day for cycling. Not too hot, just a slight breeze to keep you cool and long, easy roads with the sea to the left and golden fields to the right.

I was amazed how quickly I passed through 10 miles. Even taking it easy in terms of effort on the bike, it felt like hardly any effort at all. But shortly after that I was to start my adventures.

The route was marked by signs and the occasional marshal, but was largely a straight road following the coast line. As I turned into Alnmouth, I came to a roundabout at which there were no signs, and no other riders in sight, so I carried straight on. And up a great big steep hill. Ouf! That was a bit of an effort, but still there had been another steep little climb just previously, and I didn’t expect the route to be completely flat.

I continued following the road and even caught sight of another cyclist ahead, so hoped I was on the right track. But this lead me to another long slow climb, followed by another and then another steep hill and I really began to think that this wasn’t the route I’d have chosen for a group ride.

With doubts in my mind, and by now, beginning to feel rather hungry, I pulled over to the side of the road near a big house part way up one of the hills and gave myself a break. No point pushing on, being lost and feeling hungry all at the same time. So I snaffled down part of my sandwich a bit of flapjack and had a good swig of water. That helped settle me a bit. And, not having seen any other cyclists during my pit stop confirmed that I’d gone off track.

I could have called the support crew for help, but I decided to push on with my basic navigation skill of keeping the coast to my left. The route took me up and down some more hills until I arrived in Shilbottle. There, a passing cyclist in a Team Sky shirt reassured me that I would be able to get back on track if I carried on following the signs for Warkworth, which I did.

Northumberland coast

Beautiful views along the Northumberland coast

I was very grateful to see the van offering bananas and water and know that I was back on the right course, even if I was firmly at the back of the pack by now. The rest of the route was rather smoother and less hilly and I sped up a bit to try and catch some of the other riders. When I caught up with Karen later on, we compared Garmins and I’d done about 5 miles extra.

It was a brilliant day to be out in the beautiful Northumberland countryside, diving along tree lined roads or rising up along cliff top roads to catch glimpses of the shimmering blue sea. As we approached Druridge Bay and later Ashington, the routes became familiar from a couple of my triathlons, so it was nice to be able to take a little more time to enjoy the scenery.

As we passed through Ashington, we were directed onto a nice smooth tarmaced cycle path that ran alongside the side of the busy main roads. This was a great place to ride, although it was a little narrow in places, which made passing a little tricky, but I was patient and enjoyed feeling like I was flying over the surface despite all the previous miles in my legs.

At places, the path stopped to cross a road. As I was unclipping to get ready for another stop, I felt a bit of resistance from my right shoe. When it happened again at the next crossing, I was ready for it and was able to unclip with my left and see what the problem was. My right shoe was jammed in the pedal. No amount of foot jiggling would free it. I slipped my foot out of my shoe and got off the bike to investigate.

A couple of other riders who I’d passed on the path stopped to check I was okay and offer help and advice. I managed to loosen off the tensioning for the cleats on the pedals, but still the shoe wouldn’t come free. I was about to set off again, and try to remember that I could only unclip with my left foot, when a cyclist coming back from the finish also stopped to lend a hand.

By now, I’d completely removed the tensioning bolts, and still couldn’t get the shoe free. He suggested getting something underneath to prize it away, but my little allen key set didn’t have anything long enough. Then he had the bright idea of using a tyre lever and that did it.

As the shoe came free, the problem became clear. I’d lost one of the bolts holding the cleat to the shoe, so it was twisting, rather than releasing from the pedal. I finished the rest of the ride with one foot clipped and one unclipped.

Me and Karen at the finish of the Great North Bike Ride

Still smiling at the finish with my Fetch buddy Karen (aka geordiegirl)

After that there were no further adventures. Back on the bike, my legs felt fine and fresh, but my shoulders and back were a bit niggly, no doubt from being leant forward for so long and carrying the backpack all day. The route took a less pretty turn through the industrial backways of Blyth and then returned to the coast by Seaton Sluice, where my local knowledge took me to the road rather than the cycle path, which is always busy with people walking and seeking out the local ice cream van.

Down the hill to St Mary’s Lighthouse and I was on very familiar ground, flying along the coast and trying to avoid getting stuck in the Sunday traffic cruising along the promenade. I’d had no idea how long the ride would take me, and now I knew I was within 3 miles of the finish. I glanced at my watch which told me I’d been riding for just over 4 hours as I passed the lighthouse and shortly afterwards, it went blank – out of juice about 2 miles from the finish.

But this wasn’t a ride about pace or speed. It was just a challenge to see how I got on with a significant increase in distance. And although I took it easy, enjoyed a few breaks and a few faster sections, I was very grateful to freewheel down the hill at the end and cross the finish line where I picked up a cycling shirt and medal.

I know 58 miles isn’t a great distance by the standards of regular cyclists and many will think nothing of a 100 mile day. But it’s a big step up for me from around the 20- 25 I usually do. I’d worked out on the way that it was roughly half ironman distance and sent my good wishes to Susan who I met at the Northumberland triathlon and was racing that distance in Salzburg.

I couldn’t have faced a half marathon after that ride. I was just grateful for the back and shoulder massage that helped ease out some of the knots and a home made chicken tikka masala that awaited me at home. I think I’ve only stopped eating to sleep since!

So, yes, I’m very pleased I did it and how much I enjoyed a longer ride. And I’m very happy that my legs and bum feel okay today (the cycle shorts obviously worked). The back and shoulders may be something I have to adjust to for longer rides.

Not sure I’d do the event again as some of the organisation was a bit hap-hazard and really I could manage a lot of it under my own steam. But it has reminded me that there are some great places to cycle up here, and just an hour up the road in the car would take me to some lovely countryside to enjoy.

19 August 2012

Long run Sunday

There are plenty of us at it at the moment. Working out the when, the how, the where. Where’s a good place to meet? How long will it take? Of course, there are those who will do it on a weekday, but for most of us, it’s the weekend or bust.

The long run is the feature of many a runner’s weekend. A chance to test the legs over an increasing distance; to make sure your trainers are well worn in;  to try out strategies for eating and drinking on the run; or just to get the miles in.

There are always runners a-plenty at the North East coast where I run. But at this time of year, they seem to increase in number. Like migrating birds, they are drawn to feats of endurance, travelling further and further towards their summer breeding ground of the Great North Run, their plumage a rainbow of charity T-shirts.

Last weekend, I ran on legs already wearied from a day enjoying the sights and sounds of the Edinburgh festival. I set out later than usual and paid the price in heat and sweat and hard work. It was not one of my most enjoyable runs and it did make me question why I want to do this half marathon.

This weekend was better planned. With the weather threatening to be hot again, I was up and out to make the most of a cooler morning. I’d changed my mind about driving to run a different route and stuck to the coast, where I knew the air was likely to be cooler.

I took my iPod, but for most of the first part of the run, I was just happy to be out with my own thoughts and enjoy the relative quiet of the morning. I started by heading out towards North Shields Fish Quay and ran along by the mouth of the river. It’s a route with a steep down hill and then a little sequence of uphill stretches before you hit the flat at the coast again.  But I figured I’d get the hills out of the way early.

As I passed by, a couple were looking out over the rocky foreshore with binoculars. The lady called out for me to see something wonderful and I stopped to see a curlew, wading in between the rocks with its long curved beak. I often see oyster catchers and gulls, and this year has been rich with swifts and swallows, but I don’t think I’ve seen a curlew here before.

So, onto the run and a slow climb up by Tynemouth Priory and then out along the coastal path in the sunshine, under blue skies. I began to pass more runners and see more cyclists here, most with a wave or a smile.

I plugged in my headphones for a bit of a musical boost, trying to increase the turnover of my legs and pick up the pace a little. It worked quite well, and there are a couple of faster miles that I attribute to listening to Eminem, Lose Yourself, which always makes me pick my feet up to the driving bass beat.

Mindful of the temperature, I had a couple of brief stops to slurp a few drops and splash my face with water, but I never felt particularly thirsty. And I actually felt like I eased into the run as I got a few more miles in. By the time I turned at the lighthouse, I was feeling relaxed, running easy and in control.

A couple of times on the way back I picked up the pace, but really I wasn’t paying any attention to my watch or how fast I was going. I was just running to feel and listening to the bleeps that told me I’d clocked up another kilometre.

A couple of girls passed me as I stopped for another splash of water and later I used them as a target to chase down, keeping my pace up as I approached the end of my run. I had planned to run 20k, and was a bit short of that target as I reached the turn off for home, so I backtracked for about a kilometre or so and we passed each other again with a smile of recognition.

Last week I was grinding out the distance, willing the watch to countdown to the end. This week I felt strong and in control on rested legs, so I pushed just a little further, allowing myself a last kilometre at warm down speed before stopping and stretching.

For all the running and training I enjoy, a half marathon is still quite a challenge for me. And even though I’ve run the distance before, I still take a deep breath before taking it on. Now I know I have the endurance, both physically and mentally to cover the distance this year, I’ll be looking to see if I can pick up something approaching last year’s pace in the next four weeks before race day on 16 September.

So, why do I do it? Well partly because it’s the world’s biggest half marathon and it has an enormous atmosphere that’s unlike almost any other race I’ve ever done. I do it because I like a challenge, a purpose for my training and because it isn’t easy. And in 2012 I’ll be doing it in Olympic year in the company of two athletic legends, Mo Farah and Haile Gebrselassie.

And I do it, like so many of those other runners I saw out today, putting the miles in, getting hot, sweaty and uncomfortable, for charity. To give something back, to raise money for a good cause, and to remember someone who meant something in our lives.

In my case, it’s for Ava, the baby sister we never got to know, much anticipated and loved before she got here. There’s been a bit of discussion and awareness of stillbirth in the news just recently, with the sad news that Gary Barlow and his family lost their little girl Poppy. It’s horribly sad news for them and I do wish them happier times in future. But I welcome the awareness that this happens, and happens all too often in the UK.

Every day in the UK 17 families go through the grief of losing a baby at birth or soon after. Through my own experience, I’ve had the privilege of meeting or hearing about some of their experiences. And that just makes me more determined to do what I can, however small, to support Sands who not only support families through these sad times, but also fund research and make recommendations about healthcare practices to help reduce the number of deaths. So, here’s a link to my fundraising page. I’ll not go on about it, but if you can support me, I really do appreciate it. And if you can’t make a donation, leave me a message, because that will spur me on too.

15 August 2012

Bottled lightning

Living statues at Edinburgh Festival

Performers taking a break from the festival

Another weekend filled with sights, sounds and sensations. Pipes and fiddles, clogs and choirs, Edwardian style magicians with mutton chops to outdo Bradley Wiggins, a flutter of silk kimono and fans, a madame de pompadour living statue taking a break and enjoying a glass of wine with a man with a seagull on his head. Only at the Edinburgh Festival.

I took the early train north, settled in to enjoy my book and the scenery and arrived in plenty of time for Lesley to pick me up and take me to Cramond for a fast and friendly parkrun. Got my Scotty hug, and then Kate turned up, fresh from running up Arthur’s Seat as part of the Speed of Light.

It was a glorious morning on the prom, bright, sunny and barely a breath of wind. We set off together with Scotty and Kate just out for a bimble, taking it easy and chatting all the way round. Only their taking it easy is pretty much me at full blast and after a quick kilometre trying to stick with them, I dropped back to a pace I could sustain. I managed to keep racing, to keep them in sight and to reel in runners ahead bit by bit all the way along the route.

When we turned, the bright morning sun hit my face and the heat rose, turning the air hot and dry and set me longing for the shade of the trees at the end of the run. Still I pushed on and reeled in as best I could and when I could finally see the finish line I put the hammer down and sprinted for it. Bright red and breathless, my exertions got me noticed.

At the nearby cafe, refuelled on coffee and scones, it was great to catch up with my Scottish Fetchie pals. Changed out of my sweaty running gear, and Lesley took me to the other place I really wanted to visit on this trip – the Tri Centre. What a lovely warm welcome we got there as we browsed round the kit and admired the shiny bikes. I treated myself to a super new tri suit to match my bike.

Too soon I had to say goodbye to Lesley and I walked into the main part of the city to drink in the madness that is the festival. The Royal Mile was a mad, glorious confusion of noise and bustle, singing, dancing, music and acrobatics as performers gave tasters of their shows and passed on flyers in a bid to attract the public. I spent a good hour people and performer watching, just soaking up the sunshine, smiling and enjoying the entertainment.

I was particularly struck by how young the performers were. Is that a sign that I’m getting old. These fresh-faced students seemed so bold, so confident, so full of life. There was a group from Redditch in the Midlands dressed in the kind of clothes I associate with the cotton mills of Lancashire. Their boisterous singing and enthusiasm as an ensemble on stage caught my ears and I stayed to see their show taster which was about the needle-making industry.

Young boys playing cello and fiddles on the street

Boy band – Edinburgh festival style

They sang like they meant every word, stamped their feet and drew in the crowds, then stepped off the stage and challenged us face to face and just inches away to listen to their tale of hard work, long hours and short life expectancy. I was impressed, but sadly couldn’t make their final show as it was late in the evening after my train home. But I wished them well with all my heart.

And that was the theme of the day really, too much to see and wish to do and not enough time to fit it all in. But I tasted a little of everything and enjoyed wandering without plan and picking up bits and pieces of performances as I wandered by until hunger drove me in search of lunch and a well-earned sit down.

One day, I would love to spend a week at the festival, enjoying a great mix of comedy, theatre and music and more.

The only event I did have tickets for was a talk by Simon Callow about his book on Dickens and the theatre as part of the Book Festival. By the time I got to Charlotte Square, I was glad to escape some of the loud hustle and bustle and to slow down the pace among the reading crowds, browse the bookshop and fall into conversation with a nice lady waiting to see the same show.

Callow is a huge Dickens fan and so passionate, knowledgeable and enthusiastic about his subject that I think the interviewer only had to ask him one question and he talked for 15 minutes. I learned a lot about this writer that I didn’t know, particularly about his love for the theatre, his career as an actor/director and bad playwright. And his wonderful way of referring to himself as ‘the bottled lightning’. I reckon Mr Bolt could borrow that.

Olympic rings on the Mound in Edinburgh

Olympic celebrations in Edinburgh

And then it was time to go. To saunter back through the city, soaking up the last snatches of festival fun and pick up a treat from a bakery for the train home. And then, as the train passed through the outskirts of my home town, to get a mobile signal and watch in miniature as Mo Farah brought home his second gold medal. I’d forgotten to take my headphones, so had the volume turned right down, but around me in the train carriage, people sensed I was watching something special and by the end, three of us were crowded round the little screen with me yelling ‘Go on Mo!’ and punching the air as he crossed the line.

No wonder then that I found my long Sunday run rather hard work. My legs were full of running and walking and wandering. My head was full of colours and noises and sensations. It was hot and hard work, but I did it and gave into my cravings for ice-cream cream and and afternoon nap when I finished.

10 August 2012

The Olympic triathlon I won’t be doing

Last week I replied to an offer of a place  in a standard or Olympic distance tri in return for blogging about it. I was excited and nervous in equal measure about taking on an event that doubles the distance that I’ve done so far in all three disciplines with only 3 weeks to get ready for it.

But since then, despite an assurance that I would hear on Monday, I haven’t heard anything more about the place. So I’ve decided it’s off and I’m taking the pressure off trying to fit in lots of tri training and will switch my focus to running and get back to the Great North Run and fundraising for my chosen charity.

I’m a bit disappointed. Mentally I was up for the challenge and people had stepped in to support me. Ian had put together a tough, but manageable training plan and was filling me with encouragement in our training sessions. Peter had suggested an open water swimming session I could get to and Lesley and Al had told me to go for it. Friends had offered accommodation and I was getting as set as I could be.

And it would have been a good story, wouldn’t it? A bit of drama and challenge.

Part of me has been tempted to look for another standard and do it anyway. But they would involve quite a bit of travelling and expense and I’d have the additional stress of being there on my own. I already have the promise of racing my first standard distance next year, in the company of great friends, so I’ll stick to that and look forward to a great event.

Does that make me sound like a glory hound, that I would like someone to be there when I do something that for me, would be a significant challenge? Maybe I am inspired by an audience, my own Olympic stadium cheering me on. But I also know I’ve had the best fun at races where I’ve had friends around me.

On a positive note, it’s shown me that actually I can do this. And that I really want to. I’ve got some really decent training in, particularly around my swimming which I’m very much enjoying at the moment. And I’ve got back on track eating clean, resting well and training hard.  But now I can get my mind back to the Great North Run and do another long run in this weekend.

And I can go have some fun. Starting with a trip to Edinburgh, to run, to see some friends and to enjoy some festival shows. So I’m not looking at it as a DNS (did not start), it’s a start having fun and seeing what I can do at half marathon again.

It’s been an amazing week for triathlon as it’s made headlines and front page news with British success in the Olympics. I really enjoyed watching both the men’s and women’s events and in particular hearing Chrissie Wellington working for the BBC and pouring out her obvious enthusiasm for this multi-sport event.

Seeing Alastair and Jonny Brownlee winning medals in London was thrilling and the close finish of the women’s race was simply astounding. These are the elites of the sport and their performances are stunning, but I hope people  haven’t been dissuaded from giving it a try by the quality of performances.

Because there was evidence too, even at this elite level, that this can be a friendly and supportive competition. Triathletes like the Brownlee brothers compete and train together, making them a formidable force in the sport. But the first thing Alastair did after crossing the line to win, was to shake hands with Spain’s Javier Gomez, who took the silver medal.

In her book ‘Life without Limits’, Chrissie Wellington tells of her second World Championship Race in Kona where she suffered a puncture on the cycle leg and a malfunctioning gas canister used to inflate the replacement inner tube. She was effectively stranded until rival competitor Rebekah Keat passed her a spare canister of air. Chrissie went on to win the race.

And that’s been my experience of triathlon. Luckily I’ve not yet suffered a puncture or wibbled jelly-legged over a line. But I have been encouraged, supported, advised and cheered on by many others in the sport, before, during and after my events. And I’ve had a lot of fun supporting others too.

So, if you’ve been inspired by the Olympics and want to give triathlon a go, I’d definitely encourage it. You don’t have to start with the distances the Brownlees or Chrissie Wellington do. I haven’t even got there yet.

But if you like running, swimming or cycling, I’d ask why not add another sport or two to your mix? Competing in multi-sport  events multiples the buzz you get from doing just one. And really, it’s not as hard as it looks.

7 August 2012

More magic moments

I said it was going to be a great summer, but I little thought just how many magic moments it would deliver. I’ve already enjoyed so many wonderful days, spending time with friends, enjoying being outdoors and active.

And now the Olympics has me watching far more television than I would normally do and enjoying some inspirational moments watching the best of the best.

I work with a chap called Peter Wilson, so there was some banter about his namesake competing in the shooting. But, as a former player himself, our Peter was also keeping one ear across the judo coverage. So I was tipped off that a certain match involving Team GB’s Gemma Gibbons would be worth watching and I took a tea break and cheered her on.

I’m no judo expert, but there’s usually an Olympic sport that catches my attention and Gemma’s controlled performance, followed by her obvious emotion as she realised she was guaranteed a medal, was definitely a defining Olympic moment for me.

I was also able to watch Jessica Ennis start her heptathlon in fine style with the hurdles. A friend of mine got lucky with tickets in the ballot, so I got to see  photos from inside the packed Olympic Stadium as I cheered on our golden girl live, beginning to hope that her time had come.

I love Jess Ennis. Who doesn’t? She really matches my ideas of an athlete. As a multi-sport competitor she has to combine fast and strong, technique and power. And she has awesome abs.

Inspired by her performance and feeling a little fractious, I set off for an evening run. I wanted to do 12k, but knew that time was tight, and would have settled for a good 10.

For once I took some music and I picked an old playlist that I used to listen to when I first started running. It had the desired effect as I hit a good pace and kept it going for a good 6k, drifted a little as I turned back, and just ran out the last kilometre at an easy pace. 12k done and still in time to cheer on Rebecca Adlington to bronze in the 800m freestyle.

I then enjoyed a fabulous sunny Saturday afternoon up at our friends’ farm, where we competed in the farm Olympics – welly wanging, turnip toss, hay bale water hurdles, pin the tail on the piggy and sack race.

We laughed and cheered and scared the turkeys with an out-of-bounds welly toss. The sun shone and the barbecue was sizzling with steak and lamb, with fresh plucked salad from the garden and tomatoes straight out of the poly tunnel.

And as the sun began to set, I drove home to watch the greatest night of athletics I’ve ever seen. All the way up to the farm and back I’d been listening to the radio, catching up on the day’s Olympic events and it was building to be a good evening.

I wanted to see Jess in her final event, not just catch up with the highlights and I was looking forward to seeing Mo Farah in the 10k too. I cheered her on, sitting right up by the big screen, relaxed in that I knew she had performed well in her other events, but still willing her on to shine. She dropped back and I knew she didn’t have to win it, but then when she picked up the pace on the last bend and powered down the final straight I was yelling like a lunatic, part of the amazing noise of the crowd.

There was barely time to take it in, to revel in the moment and enjoy the fact that the other competitors joined Jess Ennis on her victory lap, before there was another gold on the board from Greg Rutherford.

And suddenly the expectation seemed too much, the story too much of a Hollywood script. Could Mo possibly top that?

I was worried, nervous as the race progressed and he seemed so far back. The pace chopped and changed and I willed him to hold on, but still I wasn’t sure. He made a move, and then another and my heart began to leap. And when he finally pulled away into the last lap I began to shout. Full throttle, yelling his name, willing him on through the last 400m. I was glad I was on my own as anyone else would have thought I had lost it. I didn’t think anything would top Jess Ennis’ gold for me. But Mo did it!

I’m loving these Olympics. Of course it helps that there’s the home advantage and so many Team GB athletes taking part. And that means there are events on when we can watch them – although there’s plenty of action I’m missing during the day.

I like the silly things, like the daft Olympic mascot going nuts in the background of the 10k, and the wee boy who gave Andy Murray a hug after his medal winning match. I like the background videos and the explanation of the rules and the commentators getting a little teary eyed or bouncing out of their seats. And I’m loving the attitude of our sportsmen and women which is largely gracious, articulate and humble.

Right now, there seems to be a spirit of cheer and optimism – a spirit we runners understand very well. I just hope that the legacy of that as well as the sporting legacy continues.

As far as my own training goes, it’s a bit mixed up at the moment as I wait to see if I have a place in a Standard Distance triathlon in a couple of weeks’ time. So I’m adding in quite a bit of cycling and swimming.

But longer term my goal remains the Great North Run in September, so I’ve been building up the mileage for that too. And today I just launched my fundraising page. Once again I’m running for Sands in memory of my baby sister Ava. You can find out more about my reasons for running on my page and your support will be very welcome.

Blog at WordPress.com.