Good friends don’t let you do stupid things alone… & that includes running a marathon

Sometimes you meet someone and they change your life, that may sound like a really strange thing to say about a friend or a group of friends but it really true about this bunch of girls & this quote totally sums us up

advice,friendship,funny,humor,quotes,typography-30f17dadb1f55a59310f9432e0c291bb_h

I am going to tell you a story about 6 ladies who are very important to me, Alice, Cazz, Emma, Laura, Lois & Lynsey, we all met many years ago via the Weight Watchers message boards we were all either attending meetings or following the plan online, we have had varying degrees of success, some lost weight and kept it off, some lost and have gained some back (me) and others have maintained their weight during our friendship

Weight loss definitely brought us together but its not what has kept us together, that has been running & I think its safe to say for at least 5 of running was definitely not part of our plan when we first met

Our friendship really cemented itself when over 20 of us headed to Aberdeen for a weekend in December 2012, it wasn’t the first time many of us had met, we had had a few of these Weight Watchers meets over the years in London, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Peterborough but in Aberdeen a real friendship formed for 7 of us have met up twice a year ever since but something about these meets changed, they used to be all about eating, drinking and a good old catch up, but while we were in Aberdeen 3 of the girls mentioned running the Bath Half Marathon and things kind of snowballed from there & I somehow found myself agreeing to run a half marathon (what was I thinking I could barely run 5k) anyway I am not sure what happened maybe fate intervened but even though I thought I had signed up I hadn’t so we ended up in Bath in March 2013 with 4 of the girls running & two of us as cheerleaders

549429_10151557582180439_707084712_n

I have been to see the London Marathon a few times and always loved cheering on the runners but this time it was different actually having friends running made it even more special, the route was two laps and Lynsey & I thought we would find it easy to spot the girls but unfortunately that wasn’t the case, we missed Cazz & Emma completely but did manage to see & cheer on Laura and Lois

photo 1 (30)

The following day everyone was on a high, Cazz was already entered into the Amsterdam Marathon in the October and crazily the other 6 of us all agreed on overseas catch up would be fun so decided to tag along for the Half Marathon, what was we thinking??

On the day of the race we headed out to the local park to cheer Cazz on around the 3 mile point in the marathon, before heading back to our hotel getting changed and heading out for the start of our race, I am not sure what it was about Amsterdam possibly the late start – the half didn’t start until 2pm but none of us enjoyed this race we all struggled but we were all there cheering one another on as we crossed the finish line, in fact Laura and I even finished together after meeting up around the 12 mile mark and me desperately trying to keep up with her for that last mile

photo 2 (27)

Next up was a return trip to Bath only 4 of us made it this time & I think the pain in my face shows that I didn’t really enjoy this one, Lynsey absolutely smashed it and beat her Amsterdam time by about 20 mins! Unfortunately Laura was taken really ill at the end of this race and with the London Marathon only a few weeks away and after some very good advice from the lovely and extremely helpful people from St Johns Ambulance we decided to sign up to another Half Marathon the following week local to home

photo 3 (10)

I love this photo, even though it was taken at the start, this was an incredibly tough course on a very hot day there was something about this race that I loved, I think it was the fact that I had been running fairly reguarly over the past few weeks and even though it was tough I carried on and even at the end we were still running strong, this was actually another race Laura and I managed to finish together we split up just after this photo so around 1-2 miles into the race and found one another again around mile 8-9 (or 13 for Laura as she had done 3 miles before we even started)

photo 5 (7)

Next was the London Marathon, Laura and Cazz were running and Lyns, Lois & I were the cheering squad, we even roped in my very reluctant husband to hang out with us for the day cheering on total strangers

picstitch (10)

I need to give mention here to another very good friend Jemma who I was also cheering on at the marathon, Jemma has been a huge inspiration to me since I met her a few years ago, she once said once you’ve walked 26 miles with someone you’ll be friends for life and I really believe thats true of us, over the last two years we have walked 2 marathons together, run 4 5ks, a 5k obstacle course, a 5 mile race finishing in the Olympic Stadium, a 10k & a half marathon she is definitely one of my Runspirations for the marathon next year

10700595_10152758784595439_6269246832293267688_o (1)

Next was the Great North Run, to me this is such an iconic race, its as big a race as the London Marathon & its a race I have watched on the TV for many years I have never ran a race with anyone before but this time I had the pleasure of running with Elle, Lois’s sister, it was Elle’s first half marathon and we were both suffering a little, me with shin pain following the week before’s Spitfire Scramble and Elle with a hip problem, so it wasn’t about a time for either of us it was just about finisihng which we did with a huge great smile on our faces, especially as we got see the confetti going off as the millionth finisher crossed the finish line

photo (29)

& last but definitely not least was the Great South Run, I ran this one with Alice, we kept it quite that we were both running as Alice’s confidence had taken a bit of a knock after Amsterdam, but watching us all at the Great North Run had ignited something in Alice and made her want to run again, so she had started training, as we headed to the start line neither of us were feeling confident, I had been ill the week before and Alice just wasn’t sure she was capable of the distance but I believed in her, so did Cazz the only other one of us she had confided in & I knew the rest of the girls would have done to, thats whats been so great we have all really believed and supported one another, we don’t live close, we live London, Newcastle, Bristol & Glasgow so whether we are meeting for a run or meeting to be the cheer squad it shows how much we support one another

On the day Alice & I smashed it, I had wanted a sub 2hrs and came in only 30 seconds slower than I was over the same distance 8 months earlier when i was running a lot more reguarly & Alice exceeded her hoped for time by over 20 minutes & I was lucky enough to be able to head back out onto the course to cheer her on as she passed the 800m marker, the smile on her face said it all she had done this, she had fought her demons and done something amazing!!

Next year we are doing it all again, we are all signing up to the Jantastic challenge then Lois and I are running the London Marathon in 2015 & I think, Cazz, Laura and Alice will be there at the sidelines cheering us on

Love my friends xxx

10610702_10152648162860956_5501863852610978443_n (1)

My Great South Run

Race No. 22 – Great South Run, 10 miles

greatsouthrun

It’s taken me a few weeks to write this blog post, because it’s taken a few weeks for the race to sink in, 3 days before the race I was convinced I wouldn’t make it to the start line after being taken ill at work and spending several hours at A&E

But even if I wasn’t running there was no way I wasn’t going to Portsmouth for the weekend as I had made arrangements with my friend Alice as she was also running & if I couldn’t run I would be her cheerleader

I hadn’t told Alice about my being ill as I didn’t want to make her nervous, it was her first race in a while & I wanted her to ace it! We met up Saturday afternoon and headed into Portsmouth for a bit of sightseeing, some dinner and to get our bearings for the following day

10714109_10152874041645439_1349297404553519365_o

The views from the top of the Spinnaker Tower were amazing, if you are ever in the neighbourhood I highly recommend a visit, after about 5 minutes of umming and arring, I faced my fears and stepped onto their glass platform 100m up in the air, just thinking about it makes my stomach flip again but I am glad I did it, even if it did take encouragement from both Alice and a total stranger

10344366_10152874041105439_563358596144476987_o    10712682_10152874041340439_2832154558730774177_o

Before we finished our visit we decided to partake in a little bit of carb loading ahead of the following days race, but being good little Weight Watchers we decided to share a scone with clotted cream.. *polishes halo*

10619963_10152874041730439_8754160811241442747_o

A quick wander around the shops before dinner lead to a few purchases from the Nike store, then it was back to our hotel to get our kit ready, a bit of X Factor and sort out what time we had to be up and out for the next morning

10703856_10152874043560439_7507086877011628496_o

1899653_10152874042760439_6160468988644377568_o

The next morning we got up early and headed over to Southsea Common, Alice works for Bupa so we were lucky enough to get entry to their VIP area, meaning somewhere warm to wait, free food, clean toilets and no baggage tent queues

10683460_10152874044515439_3903889583462393732_o

Alice was in an earlier wave to me so she headed out first, I decided to leave going out into the cold until the last possible moment

10636739_10152874044700439_6913026940891158196_o

I was really nervous about this race, things hadn’t been going well lately, I won my spot in this race through a Facebook competition, and my original intention had been to try to beat my previous 10 mile time of 1.52.06, but more recently I had had to change my expectations, I wanted a sub 2hrs but after Royal Parks (see how I got on at Royal Parks here) even that was looking unlikely, and after being taken ill a few days earlier I just wanted to complete the course

My running recently has been awful & I have lost all my confidence, as I crossed the start line I challenged myself to the first 5k non stop no walking, for most this would be easy but not for me with my recent running record, the first two miles went well, I felt quite strong, I wanted to take in the sights, I loved running through the dockyards, it reminded me of my younger days when I had friends based in HMS Nelson & HMS Dolphin, somehow though I managed to completely miss the HMS Victory, I think I must have passed it just as I was starting to struggle and I was focusing hard on not stopping until I had seen the 5k marker, the next mile or so were quite tough, we were on a long straight road that went out and back, but the crowd support was amazing, there were very few points of the race where you didn’t receive cheers (If you are running a big race like this wearing your name on your top is a must, hearing people call your name really gives you a boost) approaching mile 5 I started to feel a little dizzy so I took a couple of Dextrose tablets and walked for 2 minutes, I knew I was getting close to the seafront and my energy levels started to lift

I am part of a Facebook running group called Run for Fun and seeing a fellow Funner standing on the sidelines cheering us on around mile 6 gave me a huge boost, mile 7 my energy levels dipped again, but this time I really thought it was game over, my eyes were struggling to focus again like they had done on Thursday, I really thought I was going to have to quit the race I took it down to a very slow walk, sipping my water and taking another few dextrose tablets, that mile was hard, I tried to run a few times but there was nothing left, I had no energy, we had hit a fairly residential part of the course, people were standing in their front gardens music blaring and cheering us on, I wanted to smile but even that took energy I didn’t have.

Eventually the 8 mile marker came around, and then we were on the sea front, I started to try to run but I was only lasting a few 100 meters before I would have to walk again, as we passed the Royal Marine Museum, I got a huge cheer from a group of Marines sitting on a tank, there is something about men in uniform that gives me a boost and off I went running again

Soon the 400 meter sign was in sight, and we were right beside the 6 mile point as well, I hung around for a bit looking out for Alice, but I couldn’t see her, I was disappointed, I really wanted to give her a cheer and say well done, the last 200m was a killer, my legs felt heavy, for the last mile or so there had been a chorus of people cheering for me and a guy called Martin who must have been just behind me, it had been making me smile as my name is Nikki Martin, I wanted to try to grab him at the finish and get a photo but the finish was manic and I think he probably passed me anyway while I was looking out for Alice.

 I crossed the finish line, I had finished!! It had been tough but nowhere near as bad as I had expected, as I turned off my watch I noticed my time, 1.52.38, OMG I was still in the 1.52’s, I knew there were parts of the race I had felt good but there were parts I felt dreadful, I can’t believe my time, that’s by far my best run in months, suddenly I had a burst of energy, after collecting my goody bag & medal (that’s my one complaint with Great Run events, don’t put the medal in the goody bags, I want my bling, nothing else just my bling!) and raced through the race village, I wanted to find Alice, I wanted to cheer her on if she needed it & I wanted to see her cross the finish line

10655182_10152874045825439_4044028066917698960_o

I quickly ran into the VIP tent, dumped my bag, grabbed my hoody and headed back out, my plan was to head to around mile 8 but I didn’t get a chance, my phone bleeped and it was a text from Alice saying she was through mile 8, I plonked myself near the 800m board and cheered on all the runners, when all of a  sudden I saw her ALICE!!!

10714262_10152874045440439_6089062691909142067_o

I am so proud of us both, we both exceeded our expectations, the smiles on our faces remained for hours & it’s definitely given us both a confidence boost with our running

1524109_10152874045625439_5602487090851733059_o

Another plus for this run was that I managed a small 2 mile run 2 days later, normally anything over a 10k leaves me unable to run for a week after, my legs were tired and heavy but I done it, 2 slow but steady miles less than 48hrs after a 10 mile race, go me!!

                          photo 1 (27)         photo 2 (24)

*As mentioned in the post, I received free entry into this race but all opinions are my own, and my entry was not dependent on me writing a review*

My Royal Parks Half Marathon

Race No 19 – Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon

download (55)

It started so well, the night before I happened to notice that Leah from Naturally Leah, had retweeted her race recap from last years Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon, learning from Leah & knowing how much I hate early starts & that I had to leave home just before 7am, I decided to gather all my kit together ready for the following days race

photo 2 (11)

Just as well I did really because as predicted, I snoozed my alarm clock twice & then dithered around the house meaning I left 15 minutes later than planned & had to eat my trusty pre race breakfast of peanut butter on toast on the way to the station

photo 1 (15)

Despite me running late & their being problems on both the tube lines I needed to use I still arrived with 30 mins to spare

The race village was busy, I hadn’t planned to use the bag drop, I had taken an old hoody that I was going to dump, but at the last minute I changed my mind and stored my hoody before heading off and joining what seemed to be the never ending queue for the loo

photo 2 (12)

The start pens were easy enough to find, it was a little strange no having anyone with me, this was my first time running a Half Marathon without having friends in the start pen with me or knowing I had anyone to meet with at the finish, but even so I was still quite excited, for months I had secretly been hoping for a PB at this event, and watching last weeks Great Scottish Run on TV had really left me pumped and ready to run, just enough time for a pre race selfie and then we were crossing the start line

photo 4 (4)

& thats where my race started to go wrong, literally that quickly, only meters away from the start, I think I stopped 3 times in the first kilometer, I wear knee supports as I have a problem with my IT Band, both knee supports kept feeling like they were falling down, I kept trying to pull them up, but they were just twisting and becoming uncomfortable, I wear a small bag around my waist that carries my phone, travelcard and a few gels, this has never bothered me in the past but today it kept bouncing and one of my gels had already started to slip put of the holder, and then my capri’s started to feel like they were falling down, what was going? I think it was all the plling about I had been doing with the knee supports had just made me feel uncomfortably dressed and had been a total waste of time because the next time I looked down the right support had slipped so far it was becoming visible from beneath my capri’s, in the end I gave up and stopped at the first set of toilets to try and sort out my knee supports, almost as soon as my race had started my chances of a PB had slipped away

I started running again, but still couldn’t get comfortable, I had forgotten to take my paracetamol before I left home and already I could feel my shin niggling (a not so happy reminder of the Spitfire Scramble), my earphones kept falling out, I never run with music, but being on my own today I hoped it would give me a lift, but that didn’t last much past the 2 mile marker either & because I wasn’t listening to any music, I hadn’t noticed that my ipod had become unclipped from my waistband and was dangling down, trying to wrap itself around my leg until someone tapped me on the shoulder

I thought about just running for fun, taking out my phone and taking some photos as I was crossing Westminster Bridge but I felt silly to stop so early on so I just kept moving, then at 4 miles I started to feel funny, I have lost count of how many races I have taken part in, I know I wasn’t in the best shape of my life but I shouldn’t be hitting a wall at 6.5k, I just felt really lightheaded, dizzy and absolutely exhausted, there was a toilet just ahead so i decided to take myself out of the race for a few minutes, have an energy gel and some water and just stand quietly for a few minutes and regroup.

Because I was going to stop for a few minutes I done something I have never done before, I paused my Garmin, except I didn’t, I switched it off..

photo 2 (16)

Seriously what else could go wrong?! I love my Garmin, it keeps me on track & lets me know whether or not I am on track, I paniced for a second, expecting a full on meltdown, but instead I had a strange sense of calm, I was very near Embankment Station, I had two choices, go home, or shut up and just get on with it and get to the end of the race no matter how long it took

picstitch (5)

I had seen the above quote on Instagram the night before and I decided now more than ever I needed to embrace it, I had completed 5 walking marathons, no matter how long this took, I couldn’t let this race defeat me, so I reset my watch and started to move again.

Around the 5 mile mark just as we were running down The Mall, I spotted a girl called Becca, we had passed each other a few times already along the route and had spoken to offer words of encouragement a few times, just as we reentered Hyde Park I spotted Becca again, she was taking a short walking break so I gave her a wave and said come on, you can’t let me beat you! immediately she started running again, and just like that we both found ourselves a running buddy to get us around the rest of the course, the next few miles literally seemed to fly by as we ran, chatted and walked for the odd few minutes

I knew Leah one of my fellow Spitfire Scramblers was hoping to be around the 9 mile mark and honestly I don’t think I have ever been happier to see anyone, running with Becca had rebuilt my confidence, we were running strong, so when I saw Leah I literally ran towards her waving my arms in the air & a smile on my face, a huge contrast to how I felt earlier in the race and after that first Spitfire Scramble lap & I thank you so much Leah for being such a fab photographer because I don’t think I have ever had such a good photo taken while running

IMG_3127

Photo Credit – Naturally Leah

The final few miles passed quickly, with Becca and I still chatting as we went along, finally the finish line was in sight, now I don’t think Becca will mind me saying that I helped her around the last few miles, she was suffering from Shin Splints and I promised I wouldn’t leave her, so we ran intervals that I had timed on my watch, while we were running she had mentioned that she used to be a sprinter and that distance really wasn’t her thing & in those last few 100 meters Becca really come into her own, as we passed the 200m sign she grabbed me and said come on, and out of no where she was off like a rocket, with me chasing along behind her, I have never been one for a sprint finish but I am very proud to say Becca helped me achieve this in this race  & I have the photo’s to prove it (2 photo’s in one race with me smiling!! I’d never have guessed that when I thought about quitting at mile 4)

photo 4 (5)

This race really was a mental one rather than a physical one, I had been so tempted to quit but I am so glad I carried on, I want to give a big shout out to Becca again on completing her first Half Marathon, to Rebekah on a PB & to Tanja & Leah on being fantastic supporters

photo 3 (5)

Last but not least the second half of my time

photo 1 (20)

The Bling

photo 1 (19)

Oh and the most amazing goody bag I have ever received at a race, which included a £25 Hello Fresh voucher (I have been wanting to try Hello Fresh for ages), Whole Earth Peanut Butter, Yorkshire Tea Bags, Dorset Cereal, a Bounce Ball, plus much much more

photo 5 (3)

Would I do the Royal Parks Half Marathon again, probably not, the £50 race entry is pretty steep but I would definitely look into volunteering, I think after the marathon 2015 should definitely be about giving something back to all the races I have previously ran