Monthly Archives: June 2016

Social climbers

Kinder scout

Now try running down….

My fell running ambitions are seriously hampered by my remaining a namby-pamby southerner. I try to practise hill training in Greenwich Park (hillier than your average urban park) and have even planned an awayday to Box Hill (Surrey) for bit of a climb, but the fact remains that I need more focused training for this race in October.

Last weekend’s running provided just that. A couple of friends and I travelled up to Stockport to meet another university mate (Sheffield University 1981-1984– yes, medieval times – bear in mind this is a blog called Marathon GRAN), whom I hadn’t seen for 20 years.

At university he was a rather pretty, blonde dopehead, but also a seasoned climber, with steel-cable fingers as accustomed to hanging off rocky crags as rolling spliffs. Twenty years on, and a father of three, he’s still a devoted climber, and has joined the fell running community. He’s not bothering with spliff now, like most of us, he’s settled for endorphins and real ale. Safe to say that unlike many of my old university muckers, he has not run to fat. He has in fact run to a musclebound gazelle.

We went for two runs. On Saturday morning he ate a banana, flew out of the front door, then went haring up the hill behind his house at a brisk 5k pace with me, mewling pitifully about warming up properly, in his wake. Fortunately, a few miles in, the pace slackened and I was able to match him on the flat. Downhill, though, was another story.

Fellrunners plummet down hills like, yes, gazelles, or indeed mountain goats. On the Sunday we shot up Kinder Scout, a gritstone plateau a couple of miles beyond his house in the beautiful Derbyshire peaks. I haven’t run up a mountain since my Three Peaks Challenge in 2012 (a boast: I did it in 19hours, in the company of an ex-marine – another mountain goat, who, happily, drove like a maniac). I loved running up this little mountain, and indeed trotting along the plateau admiring the views.

It was the downhill that floored me. Literally.

I know all the theory, about letting gravity help you down, using your core to stabilise you, not overthinking the foot placement. I am still a wuss, though. I prink down mountains at lady jog pace. Its shaming. My friend waited for me, tapping his Innov8 at the base of each descent.

He was very nice about running with a complete pansy, however. And I am supremely grateful to him for having the patience to wait.

So more fell-running practice may be in order. As a Londoner, I learn I may have to throw in my lot with one of my club’s great rivals, Serpentine Running Club, which, rather wonderfully, has its own fell running section. Or maybe I should just organise more northerly university reunions, and open it out to those members of the class of ’84 who might fancy running off their beer bellies.



Sprogging & jogging, or walking & talking

Blog Sprogging and jogging

Buggy Runners, sign of a gentrified Peckham Rye 

Sometimes I feel like Old Mother Time. I find myself talking about ‘young mothers today’ and marvelling at modern pram set ups, even reminiscing about terry nappies (the original old hippy, I was green and impoverished enough in 1989, when I had my first child, to be on familiar terms with the nappy bucket, despite the ready availability, I hasten to add, of Pampers).

The reason I have so much to say about Bringing up Baby in 2016 compared to way back when is not because I am once more cast into babycare duties, despite my Marathon Gran moniker. My grandson lives in Berlin, so I don’t spend that much time changing his nappies or dandling him on my runner’s knee. It’s because my work schedule as a running coach and personal trainer includes two sessions of Buggy Running, ‘a fitness session where baby comes too.’

Many of the young parents I train are politely interested in my tales of pre-millennial child rearing, and the dearth of worthwhile activities in those unenlightened days to help p/maternity leave go with a swing.

In my day (here we go) there were playgroups in church halls, where you sat around drinking tea with fellow inmates, occasionally advising toddlers rampant to ‘share, darling,’ or the One O’clock Club in the park, very little running about on the part of the parents.

It would never have occurred to me to run with a push-chair although I remember jogging across Burgess Park to try to strike up conversation with another young woman pushing a pram on the path ahead of me. I was so desperate to make friends I was prepared to chase other mothers down.

If there had been such a thing as Buggy Running when I was a lonely young mother, roaming pitifully around the mean, as yet ungentrified, streets of Peckham, I’d have joined it like a shot.

Still, better late than ever, and at the grand old age of 53 I am meeting fellow mums on the run, talking about my baby (once removed) and his funny little ways. I also try to inspire my merry band of Buggy Runners with tales of women athletes who have come back to training post babies to find they are fitter, faster and stronger. Jo Pavey springs to mind, and, even more apposite, the Guinness World Record Breaking Buggy Runner I interviewed last year, Jessica Bruce

As any new parent knows, however, sometimes just getting outside (or even out of your pyjamas) after having a baby seems like a major achievement, so being expected to run around in trainers and Lycra would be a step too far.

So here comes Mummy Walk & Talk to bridge the gap between full-on Pavey ambitions and sitting around with the fellow NCT members eating cake. It’s an outdoor walking social group dreamed up by my friend Ellie Brown, the indomitable founder of Greenwich Fitness & Pilates ‘And who better,’ says Ellie,

‘than a woman who calls herself Marathon Gran and has signed up as a Mental Health Ambassador for England Athletics, to lead it?’

She’s persuasive, Ellie. Like me, she has struggled a bit with post-natal depression in the past, and would have welcomed, in its bleak aftermath, a chance to meet other outdoorsy people, who feel (guiltily) their wings have been clipped since having a baby.

On Thursdays, then, I stroll happily around the park with new mothers and their babies, listening to birth stories, hearing how they’re coping on reduced sleep and an imposed career break, advising about fitness post partum and generally acting as a facilitator for mothers to get to know each other.

It’s fun, but truth to tell, it makes me feel even more Babushka. One woman told me, earnestly, that she was missing her mother, who’d had to go back to Sheffield after staying for a while, so it was good to talk to me. That was sweet, although it could have been taken as less than complimentary if she’d been an older new parent. I’d have bridled a little at being replacement mum for a woman in her forties. Even Marathon Gran has her limits.

‘Oh vanity of age, untoward!

Ever spleeny, ever froward!’

(William Hogarth)