Five handy business writing tips

Top five tips on writing business communications that customers will respond to.

1. Get started

Research, ask questions, talk to customers, fill your brain with facts, figures and knowledge, but there comes a time when you just have to knuckle down and get writing.

The first thing you write is unlikely to be anything like the finished piece. But if you don’t start, you can’t finish.

I will often start at the top of the page with a factual statement of my purpose in writing. For example: Write 100 words on the history of the company for an audience of people who are just starting out in business.

Hand with fingers numbered 1-5
Five things to keep at your fingertips when writing for business

2. Be a reporter

As a journalist, I was used to asking the key questions who, what, where, when, how and why? As a copywriter, I still ask them every day.

Most important of all is ‘why?’. Why does a customer want or need this? What difference will it make to them? Answering that question really takes me to the heart of a sales communication.

3: Structure it

Start with the most important piece of information, then add to it. Try to stick to one idea per sentence or paragraph.

  • Give your audience signposts and make sure the text is easy to read.
  • Bullet points and lists are great for drawing attention to key points. 
  • Subheadings help readers skim to the part that’s most interesting to them, or to pick up reading if they’re distracted part way through.

4.  Edit it

It’s not unusual for me to spend longer editing and rewriting than I do writing.

In business communications, I’m always on the watch for jargon and cliches. The handy short cuts that may be familiar language in a specific business can be alien or meaningless to people outside of it. So they need to go.

Cut big, then cut small. I consider the piece as a whole, then paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence before looking at it word by word.

I’ll look for repetition, for unnecessary themes or complex phrases and either eliminate or find a better way to say them.  

3. Leave it

It’s easy to get so wrapped up in something you’ve written, that you lose perspective. No matter how tight the deadline, I like to step away from a piece of business writing – make a phone call, get a drink of water and then try to come back to it with new eyes.

Not only can this be a good way of spotting errors, but it also encourages me to be critical of my own work.

In an ideal world, I shouldn’t have to proof-read my own copy, but in reality, I have to. I use a number of tricks to con my brain into thinking it’s seeing something for the first time.

I read it aloud. Start from the end. Turn the paper upside down. Read every word one by one. If I spot a mistake, I look for the one next to it.

5. Test it

Does your writing do what you set out to do? Check it against your brief or statement of purpose.

Get a second opinion before you publish. Do they understand it? Did they encounter any mental speed bumps? Bits where they had to go back and read it again? Did they spot any errors?

Once it’s out there in the big wide world, what can you learn from your customers’ reactions to it? Are there metrics you can measure in terms of responses, awareness and sales? What can you learn for your next successful communication?

What are your top tips for successful business writing?

Eye of the tiger

I’d been looking forward to it all week. The long run. Which these days, for me is 10k.

I haven’t run much over that distance all year and the last time I ran it was at the Hellhole race in October. My training volume has really dropped off. September was understandable. No half marathon to train for and a much anticipated week’s writing in Adalucia. Time to slow down, and take stock after a full-on triathlon-focused season. But the drift has continued through October and November.

No more early morning’s cycling before work. Too dark. Too dangerous. Running cut back to 30 minute easy jaunts at lunchtime out to the nature reserve to soak up some vitamin D and enjoy some running company.

Thank goodness for my Thursday PT sessions which still remind me I have the discipline to get up and get out to train in the dark and the cold before the rest of the world thinks much about waking. They are my hardest workout of the week, but leave me feeling alive, awake and achey in a good way.

So to the run. And boy, was it hard work. Even after a lie in until the light came through the window. Even after my porridge, breakfast of champions.

No need for the buff wrapped round my neck to shield my ears. No need for gloves, dropped back through my letterbox as soon as I ventured outside and realised it would be fine enough to go without them, even at a moderate pace.

And so, out onto a familiar path beside the sea. A china blue sky and no demands or expectations beyond the run. Steady to start, easy breathing, not pushing the speed, just trying to find a rhythm, warm through the muscles and set on my way. The watch worn, but I paid it no attention. I don’t even think I heard it beep.

Runners and cyclists out smiling and nodding. I’m passed by a number and admire the speedy bounce of a young lad who I regularly see out here. My mind wanders as I pick up the paths by Spanish City. This already feels like hard work. How far should I go?

The negative thoughts speak of tight knees, tight hips and plodding footfall. Remind me I have no distance this year, no running triumphs. Taunt me with ‘Good job you’re not planning a spring marathon,’ then dig the knife in reminding me how hard it will be to do half that distance come September. Because, yes, I’ve signed up for the Great North Run again.

Hello monkeys. You haven’t come out to play for a while have you? Not while I’ve kept my challenges within my comfort zone. Now I must exercise my thoughts to banish my mental restraints.

I had come prepared for this. I rarely run with music when I’m outdoors. But sometimes it’s helped break the stride of a long run. And I had my headphones tucked in a sweatband pocket. I stop at the bus stop and break them out.

I instantly remember why I don’t run with music. The cord flaps until I get it the right length. The headphones drop from my ears. Then there’s that track on my run playlist that I don’t really like and keep forgetting to take off.

But still the music is helping me pick up my feet, banishing the limiting, negative thoughts. Though now I have to pay attention to avoid the walkers on the narrow paths, approaching in silhouette, against the low sun.

I plough on. Through the full set of niggles. Right shoulder, left hip, left knee. And then my right foot sets to pins and needles and I know, without doubt, that I’ll not shake it until I stop.

This is meant to be fun. A treat anticipated since last Sunday. It doesn’t much feel like it.

I start to do deals. Run for an hour. But that 10k distance will be mere minutes more, that an hour will feel like a cop out. In truth as always, I have to get back to where I started, run or walk – so I might as well run it. I’m about to take out the headphones, the music now fuelling my irritable dissatisfaction. But the next song starts with a familiar riff. Da….da,da da…da,da,da….Da! Come on man, it’s Rocky!

I smile at the cheesiness and run to the driving beat. It makes me pick up my feet and my speed, when I thought I was just about all in. So I hit repeat and run until it finishes a second time, past the 10k mark and beyond. As it fades away I stop and breathe and stretch.

The words may be cheesy, but they strike chords today:

“Rising up, back on the street
Did my time, took my chances
Went the distance, now I’m back on my feet…

Don’t lose your grip on the dreams of the past
You must fight just to keep them alive…

Rising up, straight to the top
Had the guts, got the glory
Went the distance, now I’m not going to stop…”

I finished feeling like I wanted to go on despite those earlier rumblings. Hold that thought. Take that positivity into the next run. I set myself a goal and I got there.

When I took on my first half marathon, I wasn’t running 6 miles in December. On my last standard tri, I told myself truthfully that I could run 6 miles before breakfast.  It’s a start. A first step. Let’s see where it takes me.

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.

Resolution Run

Me on the Resolution Run
Muddy, tired, but still smiling. Picture by Melanie Hudson

I’d given up running the New Year’s Eve parkrun in favour of this race, so I was very relieved to thoroughly enjoy it. After my worries about road shoes and running on a muddy Town Moor, I was kindly offered a loan of some trail shoes on the day, but decided in the end not to risk aggravating my plantar problems trying out new shoes. So I stuck my old Saucony’s on, taped up the gaping toes and hoped for the best.

And so I found myself being warmly greeted by Jane (a Fetchie I haven’t seen for a while) at the deserted cafe where I lined up to pick up my number. A quick pop back to the car to lose a few layers and decide what I was running in, and then back to see hundreds of runners arriving, including Dave, Peter and Mark as well as some other familiar faces from local clubs and races.

Trying to keep warm and regretting opting for short sleeves and no gloves, I chatted to Ian, Les and Kelda and finally got to meet George the pug who is gorgeous. I could have just picked him up and snuggled him under my vest, but instead settled for some ear tickles, snuffles and a good lick.

It was a bit of a delayed start as runners were still turning up to register and there was a short children’s race beforehand. But soon we stood, looking at the hills that lay ahead, the horn sounded and we were off along the path and over the grass.

My goal was just to treat this like a training run. Relax, enjoy and don’t think about time targets. Certainly nothing like a road 10k. And so it proved with people foolishly trying to skip the puddles out on the rough path and then stopping to get through the narrow gate.

I remembered my lessons about trail running, shortened my stride and stopped trying to run like I was on tarmac. The damp grass meant I often had to pick my feet up to escape a muddy slide and the off road route forced me to take it steady.

I was on steadier ground on the rough path along the side of Grandstand road, part of the parkrun route. My hands were still a bit chilly and I got the sharp, nerve like pain in my right shoulder that I sometimes get on a cold run. Thankfully I know this will pass if I just keep on moving and ignore it.

I exchanged a cheery greeting with Jane as she caught and passed me but resolved to try and keep her light blue hat in sight for as long as I could and just settled into the run. A shout out from parkrun regulars Ian and Angela Kirkley was a welcome boost as supporters would have had a cold afternoon on the moor.

I was always keeping in mind those hills and taking on board my Ian’s advice to keep it steady, but shortly after that shout out was the toughest bit of the course – a path over a long grassy slope, a hard slog, pulling on my legs and still the hills to come.

Me stumbling up a muddy hill
Almost an oops moment

When they arrived, I said to myself I’d try to run as much of them as I was able. Up ahead people were walking, but I powered on, taking little steps and using my arms. It was hard going and my feet slipped a couple of times, until about 2/3 of the way up to keep my footing I slowed to a walk. But I’d overtaken a good couple of runners on my way and managed to stay on my feet for the downhill.

Next, another hill, not so high, but possibly even more slippery underfoot. I ran this one on the first lap then almost came a cropper on the way down. A nifty bit of speedy footwork and airplane arms saved me. A short spot of tarmac and round for the second lap.

Now I knew what to expect I relaxed a bit more and with feet already wet through went sploshing over the ground. Despite the grass being more churned up by the runners ahead, I actually felt on safer footing the second time round as my devil may care attitude settled in.

On the rough path I began to feel my foot niggle a little this time and I wasn’t sure whether I should slow down or plough on. I went for the later option, as by now I was nicely warmed through, breathing easily and actually enjoying my longest run for a couple of weeks.

Another shout out from the Kirkleys and then a marshall pointed out the figure ahead and said “You can catch her, she’s a reasonable target”. I looked up and saw Jane’s hat, still quite a distance away, but definitely catchable. Slowly, slowly over the grassy slope I ground the distance down, eking out the inches ahead of the two hills.

I knew I had a chance on the hills, using my upper body strength to power me up. But alas, my footing and the churned up ground meant I had to slow to a walk around half way up the first one and once I lost my rhythm I went slower and slower, chest almost to my knees with the effort.

Down the slope, and conscious of staying steady on my feet. I followed the path taken by another runner, slightly away from the groove taken by many pairs of other feet. And somewhere between the down of one and the up of the next I managed to catch and pass Jane. I hope she caught my breathless encouragement.

By now I knew I was close to the finish. Just a wet muddy field to cross and then a welcome bit of tarmac to the end. I managed a smile and a wave to a friendly photographer and then began to wind it up a bit, still conscious that the ground here was very wet and slippery. I glanced at my watch and saw just over 5 miles and I knew then that it would be a short course. I had I reckoned less than 5 minutes to run, so I pushed on.

As I approached the tarmac of the final straight I saw Peter who gave me an encouraging shout for the finish. And I went straight into a good wind up sprint. It was way earlier than I normally go, but I managed to keep something like 5k pace for the last couple of hundred metres and really blitzed it out over the finish.

Ian and Les came over to say well done as I crossed the line, but as I looked to reply, I had a massive head rush and went a bit wibbly legged. Luckily a quick head down and stop restored my senses and I was soon smiling and comparing mud spattered trainers. What a good fun way to start the New Year!

Stats and stuff:
5.35 miles 52:43
1) – 1m – 8:54(8:54/m) – 101cal
2) – 1m – 10:43(10:43/m) – 105cal
3) – 1m – 9:32(9:32/m) – 101cal
4) – 1m – 9:29(9:29/m) – 104cal
5) – 1m – 11:18(11:18/m) – 101cal
6) – 0.35m – 2:47(7:52/m) – 36cal

Battling the niggles

I haven’t run since I did the double parkrun on 26 November when the post-run pain in the base of my left foot made it obvious that I needed to take some time out to rest and investigate the problem.

Plenty of rolling and some stretching seemed to ease it and I managed all my other training, including a tough PT session that really worked my quads and glutes on Thursday morning. I went for a sports massage on Thursday afternoon. Roz did some intensive treatment on my foot and calves and advised me to ice my foot to help with the inflammation.

So I spent a couple of evenings with an ice pack or rolling a glass bottle full of ice under the arch of my foot. I even took the ice pack to work (well no one can see under my desk and it’s the best chance to catch me sitting down). And it’s definitely improved. In fact, by Friday I was suffering more from post workout aches in my glutes, quads and hips after Thursday’s training.

The work Christmas party on Friday night had me in my sparkly dancing shoes and another chance to wear the beautiful dress my sister chose for me to wear as a bridesmaid at her wedding. I wouldn’t say I’ve put on weight since then, but I’ve probably stretched out across my back and shoulders, so it was a bit of a challenge to zip it up! But it went on and I felt gorgeous in it.

On Saturday we went up to Christmas Farm for a festive feast and had great fun helping get the place ready and decorated for all the organic box scheme customers. I decided not to risk a Sunday run and made do with a swim, spin and body balance class instead.

I’d managed to get an appointment with my podiatrist first thing on Monday. Part of me thought this was overkill as I was confident I was well on my way to sorting out my niggle. But she took a good look at me, watched me bend my knees and honed in on my pelvis which was jinking out of line.

I then spent a good 20 minutes with her elbowing accupressure points around my hips and calves. I wouldn’t have said there was any tightness in either, but boy, she found the tight spots. And she’s given me some stretches to do.

She suggests that speed work may have caused the problem. That changing my gait a little has unbalanced my pelvis and that the problems in my foot is linked to the nerves rather than the muscles. I haven’t been running huge mileage or more sessions. But I had been doing hill and flat sprints with the running club untiil a couple of weeks ago.

She also recommended new trainers (the heels are rather worn and softening up). And thankfully I got some vouchers for my birthday that I can put to good use. I think it may also be time to get a foam roller to massage out the muscles.

I’m glad I went if I’ve managed to treat the source rather than just the symptoms of the problem. I count myself pretty lucky that I haven’t had to struggle through long term injuries and niggles and now is a good time for me to ease back. But my eye remains on the future and if good habits now can keep me running into my 70s, I’ll take that over any amount of pushing myself to breaking point.

I’d like to run at Newcastle’s 100th parkrun on Saturday, but I’ll still be taking it easy if I do. And next weekend I’ve entered a 10k. I already know I won’t be able to blast that out as fast as I would have done a couple of weeks ago. I’ll give it another few days and decide whether it’s sensible to run it at all.

A run and a recovery

It’s been many a year since I ran on the track in Stanley Park, Blackpool. Last time would have been a school sports day when my Green Flash plimsolls would have propelled me off the bend in the third leg of the 4x100m relay or over the hurdles. 

The playground may have lost its lethal high-tower slide and gained a whole range of new and more exciting wooden climbing frames and swings, but some things about the park never change. The white clock tower at the centre, the lake with the ducks and the ice cream kiosk, even the trampoline pits are still there, though not in use.

And here I am with my mum ready to cheer me on (as she used to on sports days), only this time I’m running much further. Gathering by the track, warming up with a lap on the lovely springy surface. It’s the perfect day for a run. Grey and overcast, but not cold, and unusually for Blackpool, barely a breath of wind.

There are some tasty looking runners here. Club vests much in evidence. My brother who has come to wish me well too points out an old guy in a veteran’s top – one of those wiry old harriers, with the familiar runner’s hunch and legs that are knots of muscle. “He looks like he’s had that kit for 50 years,” my brother says. “Watch him beat me,” I reply.

We chat to a runner from Accrington, here with his wife and little girl who delights in running round the track with Daddy. Only his second 10k, but he ran his first in 51 minutes. It’s the usual friendly atmosphere of a race and I’m glad my family are experiencing the running camaraderie too. It really does feel like a big parkrun.

Some confusion about where we start on the track and which way we’re running, but we’re soon all huddled up and ready for an almost casual, 3,2,1 – go! A lap and ¾ of the track then out the back of the stands and away into the park and out beside the road.

It’s a little congested and slow to start, but I feel fresh and strong, and amazingly, the expected nerves and anticipation haven’t really kicked in. I want to enjoy this. To run well, but relaxed, not pile the pressure on, even though it’s flat and probably my best chance of a 10k PB this summer. It’s my first 10k of the season, it’s just a marker.

At the first kilometre beep, I allow myself my only glimpse at my Garmin, just to check my pace – 4:56, spot on. The numbers have stopped me haring off too quickly and I feel good, like it’s almost easy. Just keep it there.

My friend from Accrington draws up beside me. “Come on you”, he encourages and I stick with him for about a kilometre. But the field hasn’t yet thinned out enough to make it easy. And as I drop behind him to squeeze on past another clump of runners, I begin to fall fbehind.

Run your own race, I remind myself. You don’t know anything about how he runs. Maybe he goes off really fast and then struggles. It’s only his second race, he should be able to smash his PB just from having the confidence of completing the distance.

And so I pile on through the park on old familiar paths and routes. Out around the bottom of the lake, past the bandstand, then back along the top where I used to feed the ducks.

At the two little bridges over the lake where we scattered her ashes, I blow a kiss and say “Hiya Nana”. She’s have loved this, to see me run. Her last, best and most precious gift to me was to set me on this path, to fitness, friendship and happiness.

Out of the park and running along beside the road, then back in and along the avenue of trees near the golf course that was always our route into the park. It seems so much shorter now.

Back around towards the lake and gardens and then turn right at the clock tower and head into the track for a half a lap and then back out to repeat the loop again. My Dad’s made it to the park and I see Donna taking photos as I pass.

As so often I find myself running alone. I sense runners come up behind me and hold onto my pace, but I rarely have anyone I can tag onto for any length of time. Anyone who comes past, I make work for their overtake and when I can, I hang onto them for as long as I can, keeping pushing my pace.

I’m halfway round and feeling okay. It’s not parkrun pace and I sense I may have drifted away from my optimum speed a little. I dig in and push on. A girl in a pink top and yellow sleeveless jacket runs beside me for a while, then pushes on. Maybe it’s just the bright pink and dark ponytail, but she reminds me of Kate, a Fetchie from Edinburgh who I met when she did the Town Moor marathon, so I resolve to keep up with her.

It takes me some time, maybe a kilometre, but as I stretch out I eventually go past her. Now my aim is to keep her behind me. I’m out on my own again, trying not to let anyone else go past me. As we pass the 4 mile marker, my legs and hips are starting to ache, but I think to myself “Two more miles – you can run that if you’re dead.”

My breathing’s a bit ragged now and I have a few breaths where I cough to clear it and settle back into a rhythm. It’s getting harder to sustain the pace. I almost trip on the heels of a bunch of guys running together, chatting away, taking it easy for them. They push on, and I sense they expect to drop me quickly, but I cling on to this little group for a while and eventually ease on past.

This is a real confidence boost, but it doesn’t last long as, in a pincer movement, two girls go past on either side of me. As my pal Al knows from the end of Edinburgh parkrun, I don’t like being passed by a girl towards the end of the race. But this pair are strong and making it look easy and this time I cannot keep up with them. Shortly afterwards, Kate’s double goes past too.

I’m well into the final kilometre now and I’m trying to push. I sense I have dropped off the pace and worry that I’ve given myself too much to claw back. It’s harder now to get the power down and stretch out. Through the avenue of trees, round the lake, towards the clock tower.

Another male runner is picking up the pace and I match him step for step until I’m jostled at the turn towards the track. Another girl with a long red plait has gained a place on me.

Into the track and only about 350m to go. I’m desperately trying to find another gear, but my legs aren’t listening. I wanted to ease up the gears and then go, but it’s not happening. Halfway down the back straight I kick into my sprint, desperately trying to gain ground on the redhead and another blonde girl in front of me.

I’m pushing and hoping against hope that I’ve done something decent as I hear the announcer saying that we’re looking at around 52 minutes now. Bugger – not so fast as I wanted. But there’s no choice now, my legs literally will not go any faster as I sprint the last 75m to the line, beating the blonde in the red top and clipping the red head’s heels on the line.

52:38 – I should be happy with that as a first run of the season. My PB is 52:14. But I’m a bit disappointed. Maybe I let myself get too comfortable. But on the other hand, I did run reasonably relaxed and I did enjoy it, while not piling on the pressure too much. Oh well, as I keep saying, 10ks not my target this year.

My buddy from Accrington is beaming at a 45 min run. I tell him to come and try the Great North next year.

At the finish I grab some water, a chocolate bar and a medal. My brother thrusts a chocolate muffin in my hand and I pose for photos with my family, red cheeked and a bit out of it. But even with a real tough sprint finish, I’ve recovered quickly enough to suggest there’s a bit more to give if I can find it.

Back to mum’s for some brunch or second breakfast, then packing up my gear and heading back mid afternoon, hoping to get home in time for tea.

And I’m zooming along merrily, listening to some CDs and enjoying the drive. Until I go to change down a gear on a hill on the A66. And suddenly the car starts screaming, as though I’ve gone from 5th to first and I’m losing all forward motion. I come back down through the gears, looking for anything to tale me forward, but nothing. I ease towards the edge of the dual carriageway, desperately hoping to get it into first and keep going, but nothing. I can’t even get enough forward motion to carry me a safe distance onto the verge.

The engine’s still running as I stop and put the handbrake on. I try a couple of times and realise, I’m going nowhere. Finally I turn off the engine and try again. Only now it won’t even tick over. Bugger.

Grab my coat and slide out of the passenger side, thinking I bet I can’t even get a mobile signal. But small mercies are in my favour. It’s cold, but it isn’t raining or snowing or blowing a gale like it was last time we came this way and my phone has a signal.

A couple of phone calls later and a recovery truck is on its way. I thank goodness I’ve had the cover on my car insurance. I’ve never had to use it before, but today it will pay for myself. I’m almost exactly halfway home on one of the bleakest, loneliest spots of my journey and the recovery van gets to me within the hour. But not before I’ve had plenty of offers of help and assistance. Facebook is a very good way of letting people know you’re in a bit of a spot.

I sort of surprise myself at just getting on with it. And once the guy with the truck arrives and I’m warmed up I just resign myself to getting home rather late with a car that won’t go. The little bugger knows I’m planning on trading it in. I was planning to go put my order for a new car in next weekend. The only reason I didn’t do it this one was because I was travelling to Blackpool for the race.

As far as breakdowns go, it could have been a lot worse. So if that’s my unfortunate incident with a car, I’ll take it. But it’s rather overshadowed my lovely weekend travelling to a race. Think I’ll stick with parkruns for a while :-)

Stats and stuff
10k 52:38
km splits:
1. 4:57
2. 4:59
3. 5:13
4. 5:23
5. 5:18
6. 5:20
7. 5:34
8. 5:40
9. 5:42
10. 4:35

That’s much better, thank you

On Tuesday I planned to run 10k after work. But by the time I finished a little later than usual, it was dark, blowing a gale, and quite frankly, I just didn’t feel like going for a run.

And that’s not like me, so I knew that I wasn’t feeling like my usual self. I was tired. Mental tired, rather than physical tired and that always makes me a bit grumpy.
So, time to rest. To eat a second helping of home-made cottage pie and enjoy some chocolate marmalade cake for pudding, then tuck myself up nice and early for a good sleep. Not forgetting to set the alarm for an early wake up.

Because a very kind and thoughtful online running pal suggested a little motivation and encouragement for an early morning run. Knowing there would probably be someone else heading out early before work was a great incentive to delve into the darkness armed with my high viz.

I still wasn’t completely sure of myself and what I was expecting from this run. I set out telling myself a minimum of 6k, but that 8k could be deemed a good run if I was still feeling a bit grumbly. And it would give me a chance to break in my new orthotics.

Almost immediately I set off I had to stop and extract a stone from my shoe. Once I got going again I took some time to find a rhythm. A light smattering of rain and plenty of puddles for unwary feet. But a still, calm quietness in the lightening morning that encouraged me to breathe, relax and ease my thoughts and body into the day.

A couple of other runners and a solitary dog walker passing by, but I do not feel lonely. Like an invisible, silent companion, I imagine those other runners on other shores, in other landscapes who are breathing in this quiet solitude.

At 3k, I know I can do 4. I’m settled now and enjoying this. At 4, it takes no convincing to make it 5 – just a run to the bus stop and back. It’s an out and back route, so distance out is the distance I return.

It’s really raining now, bouncing from the pavement and splashing around my feet. For once I’m glad of my jacket which I’d worn for visibility, but which usually makes me feel over warm; and my cap, grabbed at the last minute to keep water droplets off my glasses.

The wind bites a little as I turn towards the sunrise. The dark clouds hide the brightening morning, but there’s really no choice now but to run back. My right leg starts to niggle a little and feels cold, but that could just be the breeze, and I push on through it, making more effort to push off my left leg.

Balancing my pace, I hold it where I can sustain it without too much of a struggle, but without slowing so much the cold will catch me. Just easy running this morning. No fretting, no worrying, no over-thinking. I make an effort to ease a little more length from each stride. Imagining my tendons like chewing gum – warming up and stretching just a little further.

Edging towards home and the buses go past more regularly as cars start to rumble on journeys to work and school. And I’m Dumbledore, snuffing out the illumination of the lampposts as I pass. Pushing on and picking up the pace a little for the last half kilometre until a breathless stop by the shelter for a stretch.

The calm satisfaction of another run completed sits easily with me all day, although my legs prompted me to take a little stretch now and again.

My company may have been imaginary. But the right words at the right time and a good rest made a morning run feel all the better.

Stats and stuff:
10k 56:00
avg pace 5.35/km
km splits
1. 05.08
2. 05.37
3. 05.32
4. 05.34
5. 05.37
6. 05.42
7. 05.43
8. 05.48
9. 05.38
10. 05.30