Monday, December 28, 2015

My Quest for The Vest (my latest Challenge for Alzheimer's Research UK)

What are you up to now then Susie?

Well, as I've completed my 60th birthday challenge with 18 months to spare I had to find something else to test myself and to raise vital funds for Alzheimer's Research UK. Last year I was supposed to be running 13 marathons as the start of my 60th birthday challenge. However, as I was running well I completed all my 'in case of injury' marathons too and got to 15 marathons feeling great and so decided I might as well make it up to a nice round number and added an extra 5 marathons which meant I'd reached the magic 60 a little sooner than expected.

Now I've found that I can actually churn out multiple marathons (and even set a pb in the process) I can hardly have a challenge where I state I'm going to run a few more marathons in 2016 please donate to ARUK as people would say, quite rightly, that it wouldn't be that much of a challenge for me!

But you've already got a very nice new vest Susie. Yes I have and I've been running in an ARUK vest for 10 years now but there's another vest that has caught my eye so you'll just have to read on to find out more………..

Throughout the last 12 months there have been a couple of little birdies aka Traviss (ultra-marathon runner extraordinaire and top bloke) and Paul (who pretends to be curmudgeonly but is actually a lovely sweet person and accomplished runner - that's killed your image!) whispering in my ear "you'll soon be at your 100", "you know you can do it", "just go for it". Those little birdies got inside my head and I started to believe that I could, in fact, reach that magical number of marathons.

I could, of course, spend the next few years doing just a few marathons each year but that's really not my style is it?!

I must mention now that I heard about the 100 marathon club when I first started running back in 2002 when Selina posted a photo of herself receiving a 100th marathon medal onto the Runners World website. I remember thinking "wow" and then forgetting it because it didn't apply to me as I'd only run a 5k. Over the years I've watched Ruth, aka Plodding Hippo who appears throughout my blog 'cos she's frequently at the marathons I run, achieving milestone after milestone (400+ and heading for 500 next year I think) but I never dreamt that it could be something I'd do.

Well, never say never 'cos here I am announcing to the world that I am going to aim for 100 marathons at 60 which gives me 18 months in which to complete the remaining 40 marathons. Oh my!

Why is it called the quest for the vest? Because when you reach 100 marathons you can become a member of the 100 Marathon Club and wear their coveted blue and yellow vest!

With thanks to Paul and Andy for organising these fab tee shirts for us wannabes!

Mike was worried about it to begin with as I'll be spending even more time away (he worries about me travelling plus he doesn't want me to injure myself). I already spend a lot of time supporting ARUK through giving talks etc and so it's a case of finding the right balance between home life and fund-raising. We talked it through and he's behind me 100% which is important 'cos he's a vital part of my support crew, mopping up tears when things go wrong, making me go out for a run when I'd rather sit by the fire, looking after the horses whilst I'm running marathons (that takes quite a lot of effort these days since Kizzy has 4 feeds a day now).

I've already got 20 marathons booked for next year plus a 50 mile ultra marathon so the fun starts as soon as 2016 begins! The full details of my plan for next year aren't in place yet as some marathon dates haven't been set but I'll give you a sneaky-peak at what the first few months look like (if it says 'Challenge' in the title then I'll hope to be running more than the usual marathon distance in preparation for April):


  • 10th- Fowlmead Challenge
  • 17th - Jeskyns Challenge
  • 31st - Fowlmead Chocathon Challenge
  • 13th - The Unusual Suspects Challenge
  • 21st - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly marathon
  • 28th - The Relativity Run
  • 29th - Leap Year Challenge
  • 9th- Book Day Challenge
  • TBC (19th - Endurance Life Coastal Trail series?)
  • 16th - Fowlmead 50 miles (yep, I'm venturing into ultra territory again!)
  • 23rd - St George's Day marathon (I enjoyed this so much last year that I just had to enter even though my legs might not thank me for it so soon after the 50 miler). I won't, however, be running the London marathon the next day which was a difficult decision to make but as I've run it 10 times already I  felt I should give someone else a chance to use the Gold Bond place for ARUK.
  • TBC (7th - Bewl marathon?)
  • 27th - Greg & Janet's Wedding Challenge
  • 28th Kent Roadrunner marathon
Of course some of them might be subject to change through injury/illness/life events/the weather (by which I mean if we get snowed-in!) so the plan may have to be adjusted but the ultimate aim remains the same.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Small Clanger for a Small Boy

Amidst my mountain of Christmas crochet and knitting came a request I just had to fulfill. Carolyn asked me to knit her a Clanger for her lovely son, Ruaridh - isn't that a beautiful name. It's Gaelic, as Carolyn is Scottish, and translates as 'red-haired king' and is pronounced rueri or roory.

For those of you who haven't heard of the Clangers they were an animated children's TV series from the late 1960's early 70s. They were super-cute and I loved them! The characters have been re-vamped and a new series was aired in June this year and has captivated a new audience of young viewers.

It was easy to get a basic pattern for the Clanger as I still had a paper copy of the original which the BBC issued at the time. We established which character was Ruaridh's favourite ('Small' Clanger) and so I searched around to see what changes had been made and then contacted the production company to confirm - it appeared that his costume had been modified but there were so many variations of it on-line I had to just use an old template and update the colour and embroidery. What shocked me was the number of people who were offering photocopies of the pattern for sale which surely must be an infringement of copyright?

This was such fun to knit even though a tad fiddly and I really enjoyed putting the pieces together and creating the character of Small Clanger. I can see why people get addicted to designing toys!

Here he is in his various stages:

Starting at the tip of the nose, short-row shaping is used to create his head

Short-row shaping is neat and doesn't leave any gaps 

Starting his body section. The sheep stitch marker is to identify which row to join.

The holes for his legs - safety pins, rather than stitch holders, are handy for tiny stitches and don't get in the way (note my snowman PJs!)

Clanger central. My Christmas projects took over the whole house this year as Mike pointed out - gloves and a scarf in the lounge, 2 x lap blankets in the Dining Room, cow stuff in the kitchen, Sue's cowl in my office (along with a couple of secret things he didn't spot which were in the spare bedroom!!!)

His nose and head were sewn together with mattress stitch and then I put plenty of stuffing in before sewing up his tummy and then filling him again to get a pleasing shape.

You can see the shaped bits where his legs were attached

Having stuffed his legs I added his feet (there's a template with the pattern) made of black felt

Next were his ears which are edged with teeny-weeny i-cord which really neatens the join between the outer ear and the inner section which is made of pink felt. I used the photos as a guide when placing his ears and then stitched them in place using wool for the outer ear and cotton thread for the inner ear.

There were several clever touches to help bring him to life such as inserting 2 stitches to help accentuate the line between his face and neck

The end of his snout is finished with a tiny circle of pink felt for his nose - he was starting to look cute by this stage!

Then his front legs were added and I took quite a while making sure they were in just the right place so his costume would fit well.

Look at his teeny-weeny fingers! Some patterns use felt but the original ones were knitted.

I positioned his eyes using pins to make sure I liked how they looked. I didn't have any semi-circle eyes so used some black beads from an old necklace and then drew them in so they were slightly indented (this also gives the face more character)


I took some mid-brown felt and cut wedge shapes out to create his hair and fringe.

"I'm feeling a bit naked…….please make me some clothes!" OK Small, will do…...

The updated version of Small has a different set of armour but I stuck with the original and chose the shade of felt closest to it. Then I did backstitch all round the outside edge of each piece using sparkly silver thread.

"Thank you"

His clothing is sewn onto the body using mid-brown wool.

I emulated his new logo as best I could - the updated version is machine-embroidered

Then he was all dressed up and ready to go his new home.

I was relieved when Carolyn told me that he'd arrived safely and delighted when she sent me this lovely photo of Ruaridh holding him. Even better, he told his grandma that Mrs Claus had knitted it for him. A perfect result!

Happy Christmas Ruaridh. I hope you and Small have lots of adventures together.

I must just add that Ruaridh has been accompanying Carolyn to their local parkrun and yesterday he completed his 50th run - and he keeps getting faster and faster. Well done Ruaridh.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

My 60th Birthday Challenge is complete, or is it? (this is a bit long and rambling, sorry!)

How can that be, you're not 60 for another 18 months are you?


What started out as one of my usual 'it's got something to do with my age' challenges for ARUK has morphed into something I really did not expect. I was supposed to be running 13 marathons to celebrate 13 years of running and it just so happened that 13 is the sum of the digits in my age this year, 58, so 5+8=13. I also set myself the task of only running events in Kent, Sussex and Surrey (with the exception of London marathon) to help publicise Join dementia research in those regions. At the time I was choosing my marathons I'd only just met the lovely people from Saxons Vikings & Normans but their venues fitted the bill perfectly.

I had already intended doing London again so I selected lots more marathons from their list plus I added a couple more in case of injury and saved my favourite, Beachy Head, to finish off the year.

What I hadn't banked on was meeting so many inspirational and supportive people at these marathons and little by little I felt less like the silly old woman at the back who runs marathons for charity and more like a real runner. It was a good feeling I can tell you!

During the year Traviss and Rachel introduced more and more marathons to seduce me and so one week in April I found myself entered into the St. George's Day marathon, the Wonderland Caucus Race & the London marathon meaning I had to run 3 marathons in 4 days. Mike was worried that I'd taken on too much as I'd only done a double weekend once before in Dover last year. I felt great during the first 2 marathons, on Thursday & Friday, had a rest day on Saturday and then went to London with no expectations of finishing in a decent time. London is the one marathon Mike comes to and we agreed that I'd probably be finishing in 6 hours+ so imagine his surprise when I phoned him to say I'd just run a pb of 4:42:17 - he was sitting in a pub watching football and enjoying a pint thinking he'd got at least another hour to wait!!!

Slowly I began to believe in myself more, well apart from a couple of blips when the gremlins got inside my head, and I realised that I'd been running well so it would be a good idea to take advantage of it and finish off my 60 marathons this year. So that's exactly what I've done, with only one slight blip when asthma forced me to abandon Beachy Head but all was not lost as Traviss came to the rescue with a spare place at an event the week after.

OK, enough of the waffle, let's get on with the race report.

Marathon 60 of 60 - The Usual Suspects Challenge

Regular runners on the long distance circuit are known as 'the usual suspects' as they are the people that you see time and time again at different events. Little by little I seem to have become one of them so I was excited to have entered this event as my final marathon of the year. Traviss had promised us a very special medal with all our names engraved on it and he didn't give us a sneaky peak at it beforehand which is most unusual!

This was another event held at the beautiful Samphire Hoe which has appeared on my blog 4 times this year so I won't link to all the pages. I'd decided I was going to wear my Christmas Tree outfit which I will also be wearing for my run on Christmas Day. For those of you who don't know already, this was created to celebrate the Christmas Tree Festival in our village for which I'd created a 'Memory Tree' but I was running the Christmas Pudding Dash on that day so I wore my costume for the run then went along later wearing it to the delight of everyone there.

As the day of the event was supposed to be the start of the great Christmas getaway I thought the M20 might be busy so gave myself plenty of time for my journey. It certainly was busy up until the exit for the Channel Tunnel but then the traffic thinned out until 6 miles before Dover when the lorries in front started flashing their hazard warnings lights and moving over to the lefthand lane. 'Operation Stack' was in place.

Thankfully it didn't slow other traffic down and I found myself in Dover with time for a coffee at the Service Station. Note the classy tights.

As I sipped my coffee and looked at the rather dull view I realised something I'd been putting out of my mind - it was the 30th anniversary of my dad's death. Sometimes dates come and go with just happy memories but this time it brought a lump to my throat and I wished he could have seen what I've been doing in mum's memory.

After I'd slurped my coffee I decided to take a couple of shots of the view around there for completeness. Sorry they aren't exotic but sometimes the mundane can be interesting too:

The Port of Dover

Dover Castle high up on the hill

Then it was time to double back up the motorway for a short way to reach the turning for Samphire Hoe. Don't worry, I wasn't driving when I took these photos, there is a 3 minute waiting time at the traffic lights as you have to go through a narrow, single track tunnel to reach it.

You can see the row of lorries on the motorway on the right

It was just getting light when I parked up.

Rachel and Janet were dressed in their Christmas finery as they handed out our numbers

Some of The Usual Suspects were gathering, so many of them I see at every marathon

I headed back to my car to get changed and there was also a Christmas card from Traviss and Rachel with my number which was a lovely surprise

Fancy dress was optional of course but many people dressed for the occasion:

Trisha looking fab in her outfit. She was there supporting her hubby Karl and she took loads of photos throughout the day (thanks Trisha)

Karl looking suitably festive

Kat always looks colourful!

Ruth's leggings were positively luminous!

The lovely Dee who always adds a touch of glamour to these events

His jacket didn't stay on very long as it was warm but I think he kept the trousers on!

Paul had a Christmas pudding on his head & on his right you can just spot Philip with his cap and elf ears

You can get a feel for the height of the cliffs from how small the cars and people seem

We all gathered around for the usual announcements but there were some extra special awards for people who'd run the most miles at Traviss and Rachels' events this year and for those who had done lots of baking at each events so that their fellow runners were well supplied with cake and nibbles (a special thank you to them).

On the podium below you may recognise Brenda from an earlier post. That day was her 100th marathon……..for the year! That wasn't it for her though as she has another 4 marathons planned. Inspirational and amazing in equal measures.

So what did I look like? Very silly indeed!

When I met up with Maryanne I was really jealous of her red and green tights and must update mine as these red/white ones are the ones I use with my Mrs Santa outfit (yes, I do have several Christmas outfits!).

Little and Large (thanks to Scotty for the photo)

When we started off it was unseasonably warm at around 14 degrees so it wasn't long before I was feeling rather hot in my cosy felt costume. You can see I was wearing a long-sleeved top underneath so after the first lap I decided to bite the bullet and take it off (with apologies to anyone in the vicinity who had to witness me taking off my tree to remove it!).

Traviss had warned us that there cows and sheep grazing so we had to make sure we shut a gate behind us.

This little chap was having a jolly good scratch against the bridge and he let me stroke his nose until someone else tried to touch him and he backed off - you can just see her hand in the right of the photo. I grew up with cows around so am quite happy in their presence although I know some people are rather nervous about them.

It was a roiling sea and there were some big waves crashing against the seawall section. On one occasion I got well and truly soaked by one even though I was well away from the edge! I didn't mind at all as I was very hot and it helped cool me down. Jono, who was running just behind me at the time, said it looked really pretty with the sunlight gleaming in the spray as it drenched the poor wet Christmas tree!

As always there was loads of banter between runners and my costume caused much laughter which was nice. Quite a few people took photos and this one, taken by Mel, sums up the day for me - I just loved it and really enjoyed running with so many fab people.

Posing for Philip the queue jumper (tee hee!) on my last lap. I've always wondered what that blue structure in the background is and so I emailed the Visitor Centre at the Hoe and they said it is the Samphire Tower. It used to have a telescope in it but the glass disappeared and so now it's mainly used for observation. Mystery solved. 

The low light really set this small pond alight with interesting patterns and shapes. I loved the rust-coloured reeds which have grown in a pattern echoing its shape

This is the cinder incline we had to go up on each lap. I always try not to walk up it until my 4th lap at the earliest.

Heading for the finish line and still smiling!

I was running quite strongly and felt good throughout and I didn't loiter too long at the aid station (which is really difficult as there's always someone to chat with and scrummy things to eat!) and even though I took lots of photos I still got a course pb finishing in 5:29:45.

Now for the medal. Traviss had promised us something special and we weren't disappointed - I've put 2 of my other medals next to it for size comparison.  The figures in the centre have the names of the 5 people who have run the most miles at their events this year, which was a lovely touch, with the names of all the other runners around the edge. Mike spotted my name easily (underneath Greg's right foot as you look at it).

This was on the Saturday before Christmas and I was relieved that the Sunday was free as I still had several projects to complete. I had hoped to give Carolyn something for her little boy at the marathon but I still had some finishing touches to add so it had to be posted to her instead. I'll post photos of that in my next write-up.

So that's it. My challenge for 2015 and my 60th birthday challenge have been amalgamated and completed in the same year so next year I can sit back on my laurels. I think not!!!! My next challenge for Alzheimer's Research UK will be announced at the start of 2016 and it's going to be my toughest yet.