Monday, April 26, 2010

Virgin London Marathon

So another day dawned (well it didn't actually as it was still pitch black!), the alarm went off at 4am and it was action stations again! This time the taxi was at 5:30am so I had lots of time to prepare everything and we managed to get to Blackheath before the road closures came into force (the trains from where we live don't get there in time so we always have to do this).

We have a good routine now where we go to the same little cafe which opens at around 6:30am (but doesn't have a toilet), have a coffee and I have a pain au chocolat until around 7am then we get a newspaper and go to a cafe further up the road (where there is a toilet!) where we bag a table and sit and have a leisurely time with another coffee before heading off to the Green Start pen. It works really well because I don't have to worry about anything and can just relax. I was really stressed the night before and had convinced myself that I wasn't going to be able to run the marathon never mind do any crocheting on the way round so it was important that the morning itself went smoothly.

Thankfully I didn't have any more interviews to do so at 8:15am we headed off to the Green Start. The usual balloons were lined up but the one of the motorbike was the most striking and was the largest one I've ever seen!

We wandered over to my start pen where Mike attached the wool to my little apron and I made myself known to the people from Guinness World Records. We had a group photo taken and then one on my own and I headed back to say goodbye to Mike.

There are details of all the runners attempting records here. I met Gill Begnor who was wearing a bottle costume and had to get under 5 hours for her record. I hope she did OK as I have no idea how she managed to run inside that costume! The group photo is here.

The weather forecast was for sun, sun, sun but it was very cloudy at first. Then it started to rain and so I bade farewell to Mike (with the usual teary moment) and he headed off to London whilst I went back to try and shelter from the rain. I managed to find a carrier bag in my kit bag so I ripped a hole in that and stuck it over my shoulders to help keep me a bit warmer then sneaked into one of the tents to shelter until the rain abated. I wished I'd taken one of the many space blankets I've accumulated from my many marathons as that would have kept me nice and warm.

At the start I saw the green caterpillar of 34 runners, complete with Princess Beatrice - they went past me during the marathon too and she smiled and said "wow, that's wonderful" when she saw my crochet - and I also met SarahL from Fetch sporting a gingerbread man costume. Sarah is a very speedy runner and she was still pretty darned quick despite the costume!

Then it was time to line up ready for the start. Several people came over to tell me that they enjoy reading my blog and several more runners passing me en-route said they often popped over to see what I'm up to which was nice. Thank you for stopping by!

I always knew that the crochet stunt would be harder than the knitting for several reasons - it's harder to get into a rhythm when you're using just one hand, sweaty hands mean the wool doesn't feed through easily and also means I can't use the nice comfy bamboo hook, the chain wouldn't be as weighty as a scarf and so would blow around if there was a breeze and last but not least is that it's harder to crochet without looking at what you are doing so I had to look down much more and take more care about where I put my feet! Having said all that I soon got into a rhythm of sorts and set my pace accordingly. I had to get round in under 6 hours for the world record and as the forecast was for sun later I didn't want to go fast anyway (quite apart from the fact that I'd already run a marathon the week before!).

The marathon was wonderful as always. The crowd was brilliant, calling out the names of the runners to speed them along, but what was extra special for me this year was the number of runners who went past and offered encouragement. Many of them said they'd read about my antics or seen me on GMTV or heard the radio interviews and 2 ladies running for the Alzheimer's Research Trust even said they'd been inspired to run the marathon having read mum's story. That made it all worthwhile for me as getting publicity for such a worthy cause is paramount in what I do.

I saw lots of RW forumites and Fetchies plus 2 ladies went past and said hi, adding that Mary Massage Lady (my favourite Sports Masseuse) had told them to look out for me! There were 2 Fetchpoints at 13 and 22 miles, the Runner's World Team at mile 17 around Mudchute and the Alzheimer's Research Trust team at mile 14 in Narrow Street. I usually like to stop and just say a quick hello but I was struggling a bit so just waved and smiled. I expect there will be some photos later as the ART cameras were flashing away and I saw RichK at Fetchpoint!

As the crochet chain grew I was wrapping it around my left arm and when I finished a ball I then tied some spare yarn around it and hung it from my belt, joined in a new ball and started again. When calculating how much yarn I'd need I used my scarves as a basis and added a bit more on. This proved to be wildly inaccurate as I only got through 4 balls of yarn and Gerard had kindly donated 10 balls so I hope he doesn't mind! I'll make good use of the excess yarn though by crocheting some blankets and selling them for the Alzheimer's Research Trust.

By mile 23 the wind was blowing my yarn around too much and I found I was slowing right down so I realised that if I didn't speed up then I wouldn't get round in under 6 hours. So I stashed my yarn and hook in my apron pouch, put my sunglasses on, stuck my head down and strode forth finishing in 5:43:22.

As I crossed the finish line I looked around for the adjudicators for Guinness and we then had to measure my chain. Now any knitters reading this will know just how easily a ball of yarn can get itself into a right old tangle. Well add 26.2 miles of being jiggled around to the equation and you'll have some idea of just how tangled my hanks of crocheted chain were. It took ages to disentagle them before they could be measured but we managed it eventually and I was shocked to find I'd managed 77.4 metres! I never thought it would anything like that length so was very pleased!

After a brief interview they presented me with a temporary certificate and I collected my goody bag and could finally go to meet Mike (who'd been waiting patiently for ages).

He seemed to have had a good day and had been shopping so we had loads of bags to carry.

I am always ravenous after a marathon and he hadn't disappointed me - I tucked into a scrummy cheese salad sandwich straight away before we headed off to get the train home and to put our feet up for the evening.

What a great day for my 19th marathon. Now what about next year........................................................


It sounds glamourous to say you've appeared on GMTV doesn't it? Well, it doesn't come without a bit of hardship I can tell you! On Friday morning I got up at 3:30am, the taxi picked me up at 4:30am to get to Tower Bridge for 6am.

There were a few of us doing live interviews from 6:30am until 9:30am. The knights and their lady - they duelled relentlessly and ran around a lot, shouting!

Then there was myself and Rik. From left to right we have John, the lovely taxi driver from Hastings who drove me there and back and waited around for hours whilst we filmed, Fran Ridler one of the Press Officers for the VLM and Rik Guard.

So what we had to do was a series of 'teasers' where we stood next to Dan Lobb the presenter and gave a brief description of what we intended to do. These were just to get interest ahead of the actual 'spot' which lasted a bit longer. Sadly the spots weren't very long and none of us managed to get in much about our respective charities plus I didn't get to explain the link between my crocheting and dementia which was very important to me.

Inbetween shots we were allowed into the hotel restaurant for brekkie or coffee and there was the usual surreal mix of elite runners - (Deena Kastor was having breakfast at the table next to us), assorted Press Officers and a group of runners in fancy dress!

Rik's unique way of marathoning was to sing all the way round. He's a professional singer and he's written a song about his mum who suffered from dementia with the proceeds going to the Azheimer's Society. I don't know how he got on in the marathon but it certainly won't have been easy - sometimes it's all you can do to breath without having to sing too!

However, we were promised more time on the end spot at 9:25 and when my turn came I was so determined to mention the 850,000+ sufferers of dementia in the UK, the lack of funding for the Alzheimer's Research Trust and that each chain I crocheted was to represent the way dementia affects the brain that I didn't draw breath. I got most of it out though!

Then it was a quick dash home to get changed for work. By the time I got home form work at 6:30pm I was well and truly ready for a rest and it didn't seem 5 minutes until I was getting up for work the next day. Of course it couldn't be a nice easy day at work could it and instead of a nice relaxing day I spent all day on my feet, rushing around then it was early to bed for another early start ahead of the London Marathon.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I Knit, therefore I am!

Today I had to make a 5 hour round trip to London and back to visit the Excel Centre to collect my running number for the London Marathon.

There is slick process of registration whereby they give you your running number etc then activate your chip (the thing that gets attached to your running shoe and records your start/finish time accurately). Directly in front of me in the queue for my number was Lee Evans the comedian and the staff took a photo of him!

I recorded a short interview with BBC Radio London which is to be broadcast on marathon day. That should ensure I get plenty of shouts of "Come on knitting lady" (even though it will be crochet!). We did the interview close to the Guide Dogs for the Blind stand where they had lots of gorgeous dogs they were training to be guide dogs. They were having a wonderful time.

Then it was off to see Gerard at I Knit to collect the yarn he had kindly donated. We'd had a bit of an upset as although he'd sent some yarn to me in the post it never arrived and as I was in London anyway it seemed sensible to go and collect it.

I didn't know the area at all but the shop is situated in a vibrant street and I can see why it's such a success. It's crammed full of lovely yarns, the sort you want to pick up and squeeze. Amazingly, I didn't buy anything but I have however made note of a few Habu yarns that they stocked and something is brewing away in the back of my mind for them.

The staff were all lovely and very friendly and I came away laden with yarn and I hope I manage to crochet the whole lot. It's hard to gauge how much I'll use but I don't want to run out like last time I knitted the scarf as that was very annoying.

Even better, Gerard has very kindly said that if my secret plan for the crochet chain doesn't happen for whatever reason (no I can't write about it as it wouldn't be a secret now would it?!) then I can display it at the I Knit Weekender in September which might raise some more money for the Alzheimer's Research Trust.

It was lovely to meet Gerard and his team at last and I want to say a massive thank you for all your support.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Oh no!

The cold I've been keeping at bay for the past few days has finally caught up with me. I'm dosing myself up to the eyeballs and hoping it will have gone by the weekend or I might have to walk rather than run. Boo hoo.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Brighton Rocked

Oh yes indeed, Brighton rocked yesterday!

The inaugural Brighton marathon was absolutely brilliant. The route was lovely, the crowd support was amazing and equalled that of the London marathon, the goody bag was excellent, the medal was enormous and good quality, the weather was a little on the warm side but I still managed to sneak round in under 5 hours coming home in 4:56:57. I was very pleased with this because I was feeling under the weather as I had caught one of the many colds that was going around at work despite telling anyone infected to keep well away from me! A combination of adrenalin, caffeine and Lemsip Max seemed to done the trick (and perhaps the 2 glasses of red wine Mike gave me to calm me down the night before!).

We had to get up at the crack of dawn to get there, park up and then catch a bus to the start. I sometimes marvel that in a crowd of several thousand (7,500 on this occasion) you can actually bump into someone you know. Here I am chatting to Ruth (aka Plodding Hippo) who has appeared at most of the marathons I have run as she is a marathon addict.

The lady on the left was telling us which pens we had to go to and for some reason I was in a faster pen than Ruth. One of us must have put the wrong time on their application form!

Here I am in my start pen before it filled up with nervous/excited/impatient runners. There was a 15 minute delay at the start which I later discovered was because somebody had parked their car on the route despite gigantic yellow signs telling them not to park there!

The weather forecast was for it to be sunny so I planned my race strategy accordingly. I always slow right down in the heat because if I don't then I feel sickly so I ran the first 10 miles at 10 minute miling then slowed to 11 minute miling, passing the 1/2 mark in 2:15. As the sun got higher, my pace slowed down to 12 minute miling which meant I was still feeling relatively comfortable.

As usual, Tracey's husband Bernard was out and about with the kids, snapping away but this time I didn't even spot him and he sent me several photos! When I approached the 23 mile mark, someone announced that Fat Boy Slim was up ahead and for some reason I decided that I had to beat him. I speeded up to 11 minute miling and caught sight of him. He looked as if he was suffering, as did many others by this stage, so when I went past I said "Well done, you're doing really well. Just keep going" to which he replied in a sulky manner, "Well I'm not going to give in now am I?!" Pah, I thought and upped the pace to 9:30 minute miling and left him in my wake listening to shouts of "Go on that Redhead!" I managed to maintain that pace right until the end and it felt really good to be running strongly right at the very end.

I got quite a surprise after the finish when I heard someone shout my name and turned to see Paul with whom I did the tandem ride last year! Sadly Sarah was stuck in Barcelona and hadn't been able to get back as all flights were still suspended because of the volcanic ash in the atmosphere.

It's all go now

Last week was rather busy with media stuff - On Friday morning I did a live interview with Danny Pike on BBC Radio Sussex which I'll try and put on here later ( not having much success so far!). They had being doing a live interview/phone-in with Gordon Brown and I came on after that. Many thanks to my boss who allowed me to do this in his office at work.

Then there was an interview with the Kent and East Sussex Courier plus an added bonus in that the Hastings and Battle Observers both printed the Press Release from the Alzheimer's Research Trust.

On Friday evening Mike and I drove over to Brighton to do a quick live interview with Simon Parkin, the weatherman for ITV Meridian. That was fun!

Apparently vans are in short supply at the moment as everyone is out and about following politicians ahead of the General Election so I think this one deserves a photo.

On these occasions there is always a lot of hanging around waiting - not at all glamourous. Mike and I got there early to avoid the friday night rush on the roads. This meant there was even more hanging around to do and after we'd walked around the park we just went and sat in the car until it was nearly time.

Here's the team.

The microphone was attached to me.

I explained that knitting involved 2 sticks and crochet only had one hook. It's not easy explaining everything in about 1 minute!

I took one of my scarves with me which Simon wore and we chatted briefly about my plan to crochet around the London marathon.

Sadly this lead to a bit of confusion at the Brighton marathon as people kept shouting "Hey Redhead, where's your knitting?!"

We stood in our places to check the light/shadows/sound levels etc.

Then it was the live broadcast. I prefer live broadcasts as you don't have time to worry about what you're going to say.

More about the marathon to follow, suffice to say it was FAB.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thanks Lush

My order of bath ballistics from Lush arrived this morning.

When I unpacked it I found that the lovely lady who'd packed my order had written me a little note wishing me luck with my marathons and enclosing a special foot rub for my tired feet.

How lovely!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Crikey, I've been a bit quiet!

There has been so much happening over the last few weeks that it's hard to know where to begin.

A couple of sheep and lamb photos will have to suffice for the knitting content as knitting has been a no-go activity.

Seemingly, anything that makes me hold my head even slightly lower than upright hurts after about 20 minutes so I've been very restricted. Housework has been very difficult too as something as simple as pushing the hoover round hurts like mad after a few minutes.

I'm sure it will get better in time and I've been doing all my exercises every day but it's very frustrating and I'll be very glad when it's healed.

On 23rd March, Mike and I visited london to watch A seat by the window, a musical collaboration between Turtle Key Arts and the Royal College of Music.

I'd met Ali at the talk I took part in at the Wellcome Trust and she'd told me about the work they were doing with dementia sufferers and their carers.

The date was especially poignant as it would have been my mum's birthday.

This is Ali with her friend Mark who came along to help.

It was held at the Cadogan Hall which is in the heart of Chelsea and although we'd seen it plenty of times we'd never actually been inside before.

It is hard to put into words just what the performance was like - moving, funny, heart-breakingly sad, joyful all rolled into one. The group was lead by Tim Yealland from the English National Opera and the story for the event was based on ideas gleaned from the participants and then developed over the course of many weeks.

I found the whole event deeply moving.

Some of those suffering from dementia were able to join in by clapping, stamping their feet, waving their arms and repeating the words and they clearly enjoyed themselves. However, there were some who just sat there motionless, staring with unseeing eyes and I found myself fixing my gaze upon them and my eyes filling with tears.

Clearly, those in the earlier stages of dementia gained great benefit from the experience and I wholly applaud Turtle Key Arts for their work in this field and hope they can secure the funding necessary to develop their project further.

As we live a fair way from London we always like to cram a lot in when we're there so after the performance we visited the Saatchi Gallery as it's one of those places we've been meaning to visit but haven't got around to. I wasn't sure if I would enjoy it as some of the things I've seen before have left me cold but there were some exhibits that were thought-provoking and well executed.

I enjoyed this project done by schoolchildren for a competition in the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

There were hundreds of tiny chairs all decorated in a unique way.

This enormous heart caught my eye. Not because of the subject but because of how it was decorated.

In this close-up you can see that it is covered in lots of different sizes and colours of felt pads. The colours accentuated the contours.

3 weeks ago, I ran the A20 Path'n'Downs Race which was my last long run, 21 miles, before my first marathon which is this weekend. I managed to avoid the photographers with the exception of TraceyG's hubby Bernard who managed as usual to make me look like an overweight middle-aged woman rather than the svelte young thing I really am. No photos to follow of that thank you very much!

I ran a good time of 3:47 but my neck really did hurt the next few days. I've had some extra Physiotherapy sessions and another session with Mary Massage Lady and I'm hoping that I'll get through the marathons OK. We'll soon see anyway!

Just before Easter we went to see the Van Gogh exhibition at the Royal Academy and we were totally blown away by it. We originally had tickets to go the day after the car crash but of course we couldn't get there as we had no car! To see those paintings up close was absolutely amazing and the colours were stunning. That same day we went to Tate Britain to see the Henry Moore exhibition. He has always been one of my heroes but I wasn't sure how I'd feel about seeing his works in a gallery setting rather than in the great outdoors. Well I certainly wasn't disappointed and Mike came away inspired and set about painting almost as soon as we arrived home!