My How Things Change

Well, wasn’t March long! It was a great month and a tough month, involving trips to London, Berlin, Dublin and Copenhagen. That sounds awesome, and it was, except when you’re setting your alarm for 3.45am. But then, I do love the chance to run in a different city.


I didn't run in Copenhagen, but here's a nice pic :)

I didn’t run in Copenhagen, but here’s a nice pic :)

The other thing that I’m having to contend with is of course this growing bump of mine. After a very easy first 14 weeks, things are suddenly slowing down. My overall pace has remained even since I found out, but is slower than I was running before: before a typical kilometre would take approximately 4:50, where as now it’s about 6:10.


When I run now, I can definitely feel something  inside. It’s so weird! It feels like a tennis ball is wrapped up in a spider’s web, and with every step you can feel the tennis ball move within the suspension of the web. And then it settles down with the rhythm, but there’s an undeniable weight that I can feel squeezing against whatever is inside when there used to be nothing!

Moody running in Durham on Saturday morning

Moody running in Durham on Saturday morning


As a result of all these changes, I think I tire quicker. In flat Berlin, I ran 9k and stopped every 2k or so, where as in hilly Durham I’m stopping approximately 3 times in 5k. Each time I aim to walk about 30 metres, or two lamp posts. Each run is unpredictable: there aren’t any goals, and I  have no idea how each one will go. It all depends on how I feel at the time, and I’m loathe to really push myself.


So what does all this mean? Fewer runs! I can’t say ‘I’ll just go out and do a quick 5k’ because who knows whether the pace will have slowed yet again, or if I’ll need to stop more than usual. Then when I do run, it makes for lazy evenings: sometimes I feel as tired as when I was marathon training, but I’ve only done 7k, not 30! So, I can’t fit it into my life as I have done previously, and each one needs more planning and flexibility.


On the other hand, I was starting to suffer from bad headaches, which apparently are a symptom (to be honest, everything can be written off as a symptom). Once I started running more regularly, they cleared up. And every health professional I have asked said it’s far better to run throughout pregnancy than not, as long as my body was used to it.


There are so many changes happening: my emotions are all over the place (that’s according to SB: I think I’ve been a dream), my body is changing shape, my clothes don’t fit, head rushes, low blood sugar and nausea if I don’t eat – with all this, it’s SOOOOOOO nice to have something to cling on to which makes me feel like ‘me’. Not to mention there’s a little thing called labour which I will need to contend with, and it seems to me that it’s far better to go into that being fit and perhaps more mentally prepared for the physical challenge that will be….


I’m sorry I’ve not been writing as much recently. But I’ve not been running as much! This month will hopefully be different as my travel isn’t as intense: I’ve already done two 5ks this week, and tomorrow will hopefully make a 3rd. I hope you all had a great Easter. SB and I went to the Lake District, and found a rope swing. I was not above waiting amongst the kids for my turn….I mean, I was almost the same height as most of them anyway!

photo 3-27

Ellie B

Elvet Striders Clamber: Let’s Run Up Some Hills on a Hot Day!

I’m part of a running club in Durham called the Elvet Striders, which is a huge club that meets every Monday and Wednesday. And sometimes in between. And often in the pub. This week, a few of our more enterprising members organised a trail race called the Clamber. It was a regular in the Striders calendar until a hiatus last year. This year it was back with a vengeance, and a new-improved-just-over-5-mile route.


This isn't even half of us!

This isn’t even half of us!

I signed up as I’ve not done any trail races this year, and I probably won’t be able to get to any more til next year. If you are wondering why trail running is the bees knees, here are the top three reasons:

  1. You are fully immersed in the countryside and get some uh-ma-zing views
  2. You don’t have to worry about being hit by a car. On the other hand, you do have to worry about tripping over a tree-root
  3. Muscles that have been asleep since the day you were born are suddenly put into action, much to their chagrin


Here is my favourite view from a trail run (or at least a trail run where I happened to have my camera):

Coniston Trail

Thank you, Lake District.

So, back to the Clamber. I arrived with about a minute to spare to pick up my number. I was kind of chilled about this race – in my mind it was just like a typical Wednesday run. Until I put my number on and saw everyone else: then my determination kicked in, and I realised that I was going to push with everything I had.


It was a challenge to pace: I didn’t know the route, and my race-day-zone only started 10 minutes before the race started. To be honest, I can’t give an accurate route description, but here’s my best effort: we went up some hills in the woods, down some hills in a field, steadily up some hills in the wilderness (what do you call it if it’s not a field?), steadily down some hills in a field, up some hills in the woods, down them again, and then there’s the finish. Can you picture it? 😉


Apparently we passed the Wicker man, but I didn't see him.

Apparently we passed the Wicker man, but I didn’t see him.


As we passed the marshals, they told me what position female I was in – if I didn’t have my game face on before, I certainly did then!  My strength was in running up the hills:  I could power up them, and that where I did most of my over-taking (although my over-taking was pretty modest). On the flats less brutal hills, I really felt the effort of keeping my pace, and needed to really suck it up mentally. As I felt more tired, my footing wasn’t as confident which in turn required more concentration. It was a tough race.


Sweaty smiles!

Don’t be fooled by the smile. There was pain going on. Look into my eyes.

For the last three miles I had another girl in my sights, and I made it my goal to overtake her to take my mind off my legs, which were shocked at working this intensely. She was always about 300 metres ahead: I’d see her just up ahead, and then we’d turn a corner and she’d taken off. I’d see her walking up a hill, but by the time I ran to the top, she’d taken off (I’m terrified of running downhill, so I reckon I lost some time there).


Once I knew there were no more hills, and there was about a mile left, I found the energy to really sprint. You know in cartoons when you see their legs pinwheel into a blur? That’s what my legs always feel like at the end – they’re so tired and light, but it feels like they’re at their most powerful. I feel like I’m flying.


But enough indulgent contemplation on the sprint. I finished in 42:24. And did I catch the girl in front? No. But I did finish 4th female overall, and 2nd female in our club, so I’m mighty pleased with that. :)


I want to say a huge thanks to Flip & his team for organising it – I really, really enjoyed running in a local race, and loved seeing the different local running groups. And it was a real treat to run a race where the marshals knew you and supported you with genuine enthusiasm. Elvet Striders – where everybody knows your name.


Ellie B



Introducing……. Neil Sleeman!

I’ll begin this post with a saccharine cliche: one of the best things about running clubs are the people you meet.

But it’s so true! Since joining my club 18 months ago, I’ve met people who literally make my jaw drop with awe.

So today, I’d like to introduce you to Neil Sleeman. Physiotherapist, Aussie, cricket fan (but we don’t need to dwell on that right now), and general all-round good bloke. He’s responsible for making me want to puke with pain through sports massages, and provides much-needed familiarity with his Aussie accent and Sydney-sider knowledge!


Why Neil Sleeman?

Neil and his wife are super-sporty. But last month he undertook something that I don’t think you could classify as sporty. Or super sporty. Bad-ass might cover it.

Together with a team of people, Neil did a 4-day challenge crossing the UK from one coast to the other via cycling, running and swimming. They started out in Whitehaven, traversed the Lake District, crossed the ‘middle bit’, stopped for a radio interview in Newcastle, and finished at Tynemouth. That’s approximately 204 miles.

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Why did they want to do that?!

To raise money for the Children’s Heart Unit at Freeman’s Hospital in Newcastle. The son of one of the team, Seb, was treated there as a baby, and as a physio, Neil had also worked with children suffering from similar conditions in Sydney.


How did they get on?

Day One: 75 mile cycle from Whitehaven to Keswick via ‘lots of big hills’. Not only did it feature the hardest climb they had ever tackled, it covered some of the highest hills in the Lake District, and the scariest descent they had done.

Total climb: 4,693 ft

Hills climbed (and descended) include:

  • Hardknott Pass – 1,289 feet – dominated in approx 2.5 hours!
  • Wrynose Pass – 1,281 feet
  • Whinlatter Pass  – 1,043 feet


Day Two: 1 mile swim across Derwentwater, followed by a 65 mile cycle to Alston (4,500 feet climb). A warm swim across one of the famous Lakes loosened up stiff legs from the day before, and helped the team freshen up. Then, they jumped on their bikes ready to tackle some more hills. It wasn’t plain sailing: at the top of one of the peaks they witnessed a motorbike accident (who was thankfully ok), and temporarily lost a team member who was suffering from dehydration, who joined them later on.


The day finished up with an ice bath and a deep tissue massage. Because they hadn’t done enough to challenge themselves that day. 😉

Total climb: 3,805 ft

Hills climbed (and descended) include:

  • Kirkstone Pass – 1,489 feet
  • Hartside Pass – 1,903 feet

Hartside Summit

Day Three: 37 mile run from Alston to Wylam. Knowing their rear ends were safe from more cycling, they started running in good spirits. As they edged closer to home, they were spurred on by support from  friends and family, and from honking cars as they were recognised. And the beautiful scenery too. They arrived into Wylam to a crowd of supporters, including golfer Lee Westwood!

Neil hasn’t gone into detail about the run itself: it sounds like it was easier than the cycling from the previous two days. For me, this is amazing: a 37 mile run is taken in their stride, after 140 miles cycling. Hats off to them all.

Day Four: 26 mile run from Wylam to Tynemouth. So only a marathon then – easy, right?

At this stage, they were joined by “Day Four Runners” to keep them company and morale high. They ran into the centre of Newcastle, stopped for an impromptu interview on Metro Radio, before running the final 14 miles to Tyneside. At this stage, some serious injuries were developing and it sounds like some of the team were beginning to see The Wall, even if they hadn’t hit it yet. But they stuck together, and descended to the beach as a team.

In Neil’s own words:

“The noise was deafening as the crowd cheered, the clown doctors sang and a little voice shouted “Daddy, Daddy” as my daughter spotted me, then ran the final and most meaningful 30 metres of the 200 odd miles I had covered. Best of all was little Seb who also joined us for a huge final stretch, and it was seeing him run like any healthy 4 year old that once again ensured any aches and pains were put to one side.”

Finish Line

And that’s what Neil Sleeman does with his Summer! I don’t know how you even start training for something like this. I’ll ask him and pass on any words of wisdom he has.

If you are interested in contributing, you can do so via his Just Giving Page. You can also follow them on Twitter: @seb4chuf!

For me this is an example of how you don’t need to be a professional athlete to do something amazing: you just need determination, discipline and a positive outlook.

Ellie B





Lakeland Trails: Staveley

IMG_1906This weekend the good Dr (husband) and I ran in a trail race at Staveley in the Lake District. There are three options: the 10k, the 17k challenge (read friendly) and the 17k race (read intense). I ran the 17k option last year, but this year we decided to do the 10k together – the Dr isn’t as keen on running as I am!

We had the perfect weather for it, and shortly after 7am we left home for the trek to the Lake District. I love this race series: they have a drum band to cheer you off and cheer you back in again, they have children’s races, and instead of medals they give out pudding! Did you know the Lake District is where the Sticky Toffee Pudding was invented? I do thanks to this race, and thank god for those curious people who created it back in the day!

IMG_1910The 10k was interesting psychologically: we both wanted to keep a good pace, as we knew it would be a quick one. This made it pretty challenging when we were scrambling up  gravel paths and through muddy fields. The Dr’s boss had a party the night before, and there is nothing like trying to avoid the cow pat while the sun beats on your back and a breeze in your face to clear the cobwebs!

The sting in the tail is the climax of the race – it’s the highest point of the particular hill we were climbing, and there is someone there ringing bells and high-fiving you as you climb, a little bewildered, and try to catch your breath ready for the final 3k descent.

Who needs a medal when there's pudding?

Who needs a medal when there’s pudding?

We finished in 56 mins which we were happy with. My Fuji trail shoes got another mud bath to really add to their unique scent, and we felt like champions in our bright orange race shirts and pudding.

What more could you want from a Saturday trail race?

Hope you’re having a good weekend!

What’s the most interesting race souvenir you received? 

Have you run trail before?

Ellie B