The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

21.1km and more

And it really was more than 21.1km! Nearly 22km in fact.

You can never know what’s going to happen on Race Day. No matter how well you train for an event there are always going to be elements outside of your control.

Namely the weather, how crowded the event is so you’re bottle necked at the start, how rubbish the water stations are (flimsy plastic cups of water), rats attempting to run over your toes and an announcement two minutes before the start time that the route of the race has been changed.

This in itself is not always a problem as most runs you do won’t tell you beforehand where the race route will take you. Often the unknown is what makes a run enjoyable taking in new sights as you go along.

What is annoying is not knowing where you are on the race route. How many kilometres or miles there are left so you know how hard to push yourself and when it’s all going to end. This is very poor race management and someone in Admin is going to be told about this too. So for this reason, I won’t be rushing back to do the Brooks Marina Half Marathon next year.

However, that aside, I am still feeling on a high from completing my first half marathon in eight years in 2 hours, 1 minute and 51 seconds! It’s not an official PB but for me it’s more than good enough in this climate and with this long absence from running.

I’m not sure Husband will allow me to run another night race again as I spent all day working myself up for it whilst he tried to keep me calm. I know it sounds rather ridiculous when it’s just about running but I was feeling full of anticipation and excitement. I do love that feeling though. Where every nerve ending comes to life and spurs you forward. Where you just want to be at the Start line and get going. Probably the reason why you keep doing it.

Then after getting going, that feeling of wanting to stop. Made all the worse because you don’t know how far you have left to go! The last distance marker was at 11km and the hardest part of any race is two thirds in until you’ve got about a fifth left to go. And just when I needed a boost, who should pop by but no other than Twin One (and she has confirmed she is indeed Twin One) along with other Support Crew, waving a banner that read ‘Will you be my Valentine?’. I have to say that has to be one of the most romantic gestures I’ve ever had bestowed upon me. I’m rather flattered and it will always make me laugh thinking about it. Twin One is rather brilliant like that.

The good thing about a night time race is that it is just the right time and very acceptable for a post race pint. The not so good thing is that you don’t have enough time to unwind from the build up of adrenaline and end up wide awake until the early hours even though your body is crying for sleep.

If anything is going to put your sporting achievements into context, your children will most certainly do that for you.

On Sunday morning, #1 comes into our bedroom.

#1: ‘Did you win Mummy?
Me: ‘No I didn’t #1. Would you like to see my Finisher’s medal?’
#1: ‘Why isn’t it gold Mummy?’

And there you have it.

I thought after this race I would take a break and taper off for a while but suddenly I’ve got three events to take me up until the end of March. Two of them are straightforward running events with another half marathon in the morning instead of at night.

Next weekend though is one which I’m unprepared for. I may enjoy running and I have definitely put in the miles lately but at the expense of any attempt at training for a 14km obstacle course race that is Urbanathlon. I’ve had a proper look at the obstacles involved and I can tell you now that I’m going to do shit at them. It sounded like a good idea at the time when I registered for it but now I’m not so sure.

Though many of you could have told me that right from the start. Uncle Monkey almost booked flights over just to watch the spectacle and Husband is gutted to miss out on witnessing me unceremoniously losing my dignity.

But I’m sure it will be FUN!

In the meantime, I’m still thinking about 2 hours, 1 minute and 51 seconds because you’re only going to be as good as your last race.

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Love is……..21.1km and more

I asked Husband this morning what grand romantic gesture did he have planned for me today. It being St Valentine’s Day and all. He said, ‘I’m taking you down to your race later.’

Today is Race Day!

I’m doing the Brooks Marina Half Marathon. Tonight actually.

I’ve never ran in a night race before. Generally in the UK, races start about 9am. Here in Singapore it’s usually 7am. Though there seems to be no set rule. The Sundown Marathon starts even later than the one I’m doing tonight and the Standard Charter Marathon starts at 4am. Why would you even want to do that?

So when I signed up for this race and it being on St Valentine’s Day and all, there was a special ‘Couples’ promotion. I had not given this aspect much thought until right now. If there are such couples running and holding hands or smooching tonight, I’m not sure I know what I will do in response nor should I be held responsible for my actions. At least we will all be wearing matching running tops so I will forgive them that.

As I received Good Luck messages throughout yesterday and this morning, I could feel the excitement and nerves building up. That fluttering in the pit of your stomach that makes you involuntarily break out into a big smile and want to do a little jig. No?

It has been eight years since I took part in an organised race. Unlike for a full marathon, I know I’m not going to be stretching my reserves so far forward that you start wilting with nine miles left to go. I’ve done that before, it wasn’t pleasant. So I more or less know how it’s going to go based on my training so far. But equally who knows what can happen on the day.

I’ve got my racing gear ready and my trainers have been diligently worn in. The timing chip is securely fastened and my water bottles are all ready to go.

I did a quick calculation last night and since the beginning of December when I started running regularly again, I’ve covered 355km (221 miles) in preparation for a 21.1km race.

This brings me back to my thoughts on any long distance event. When people say ‘I could never run x miles.’ You could. But it’s not so much the distance of the event on the day, it’s the distance and effort that goes in before the event.

Imagine how many miles those who are currently training for the London Marathon will be putting in. If you know someone running any sponsored event, please support their efforts, it will be much appreciated and keep up their spirits when the training gets tough.

I’m hoping for a good run and an enjoyable return to semi long distance running. There’s a few twinges in the knees going on but hopefully they can be held back for tonight.

However, I have discovered it’s the minor mishaps that can really throw your pace off kilter.

1. A bug flying into your mouth and hitting the back of your throat causing temporary choking and no amount of water makes you feel like it’s gone.

2. A bug flying up your nose. Painful, uncomfortable and disgusting to get rid of.

3. A bug flying into your eye. This may cause temporary stoppage time and impair vision for the rest of the run.

4. Taking on water whilst running and choking on it spraying it all around you and over those within a one metre radius.

5. Indecision over whether you need a toilet stop or if you can make it to the end. Chance it at your peril.

I love running. And as you all know the endorphins you get from exercise is like being in love itself. Quite apt that I’m doing this race on St Valentine’s Day.

As for the romance?

Well, if at the end of the race when I’m dripping in sweat, starting to smell and have salt crystals forming on me and Husband does not shy away from a big welcome to the finish embrace then that is more than enough for me.

And a romantic pint of beer won’t go amiss either.

In a heart shaped glass.

With a heart shaped balloon tied to it.

So here I go……..

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I think Running Wolf has returned……..

“I think my marathon training days are over. I think they are. Right now, I haven’t the energy or commitment to even consider a half marathon, which is quite a good distance. Not far enough to make you cry but not short enough you have to sprint. But one day I’ll be ready for it……..”
April 2014

This is an excerpt from a post I wrote in April last year about my days of long distance running titled ‘My name is Running Wolf’ http://wp.me/p3Os6f-oA

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This Saturday, almost ten months to the day I wrote that post, I’ll be running in the Brooks Marina Half Marathon. It’s just five days away and I’m half nervous and half excited. I guess it’s the anticipation building up that comes with every race you enter. Helps get the adrenaline going.

So how did that happen after feeling quite sure that 5km was hard enough work in this 30 degree tropical heat?

I spent three months last summer without doing any running at all. Not even a half hearted ten minute plod. I had a chest infection that just wouldn’t clear and it was annoying. I thought it was my body responding to Embracing Forty. I quickly felt unfit, lardy and with no outlet to let off steam, I grew restless with cabin fever.

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Luckily, the chest infection cleared without return (touch wood) a couple of weeks into my mammoth UK trip. I wondered how I was going to sustain the level of activity I needed with this annoying wheeze and cough going on and even worse, how was I going to deal with my Dad, Mr Li’s accusation of not looking after myself properly.

But in all those seven weeks I only managed to get in one outdoor run in the UK a few days before I was about to return to Singapore. It made me feel better at having made room in my suitcase for my running trainers.

How did it feel to run in the UK again after six and a half years? Down winding lanes overlooking undulating fields in a fresh, crisp 9 degrees. It felt amazing. Invigorating and after not running for five months, I felt the blood pumping through my veins and decided I could do with much more of this.

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So I came back to Singapore and decided it was time to stop using the weather, time constraints and general apathy as excuses for not getting out more. And off I went.

Once I decided it was time to get back into running wholeheartedly, it became a lot easier. The first time I ran further than 10km in Singapore was my first 10km in over seven years. It still is muggy and sweaty running in this tropical heat but somehow you can make your mind overcome this factor and carry on.

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I was astounded at how much time had elapsed since running was such a regular part of my everyday. But then I remind myself that the arrival of #1, 2 and 3 changed a lot of my everyday.

And when you set yourself a challenge, it’s always easier with support. It’s a lot easier with support and with a purpose. Twin One (or she could be Twin Two, I’ve never really asked who arrived first) asked me to join her running ‘cult’ that congregates at 6.30am every Tuesday morning for a 7 or 11km run.

Mention the word ‘club’ in any context to me and it conjures up images of having to be good at that particular thing. And so instead of risking falling in a heap by the pavement after ten minutes (which is what I feel like doing every single run), I decided to go and ‘practice’. Yep. I did. I started running the distance just to be sure I could cover it.

I’m not as fast as the others but it’s a good incentive to strive to be faster. I’ve broken a few PBs already. It’s hard work and I can’t join in any conversations that they’re having as I need to save my breathe to keep myself alive.

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What I appreciate, which I have never had in all my running days before, is that feeling of community. Sounds weird doesn’t it? But it is a community. Everyone enjoys running for the joy of running. Some run as part of a more rounded exercise regime and others just run once or twice a week. I used to think of running as a solitary pastime and sometimes it is which is good for the soul and clearing your mind. With other times and having company, it helps to keep you motivated and it helps to push you further and harder than you would on your own. But I like being able to talk about running with them without sounding a total bore. And for others to give encouragement and advice on how to have a better run the next time. I’ve really enjoyed their company. So thank you Twin One (or Twin Two).

The other thing that was holding me back was the idea of getting up at 6am, sometimes a touch earlier just to go running seemed such a waste of sleep time. The sun doesn’t rise properly until 6.45am and so because it’s dark, it feels like it’s still very early but actually it’s not. And really, all year round you don’t have to wake up so extremely early to catch the sunrise.

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That’s another pull for running. Previously I only ever ran in the evenings and catching the sunset around 7.15pm. It’s amazing and especially where we live that takes in glorious views of Singapore’s river skyline. I love a good night scene where the lights twinkle up and down skyscrapers, across bridges and reflected in the river.

But then I had never had the pleasure of appreciating a beautiful sunrise for many years. It’s less congested for a start and eases my Runner’s Rage (you know when you want to shout at people to get the f out of the way). It’s all dark one moment and suddenly you can see the way in front of you marking the start of a brand new day. As the sun breaks through and changes the colour in the sky from a golden orange hue to mottled pinks and silver. It’s definitely worth getting up and running along the East Coast Parkway by the beach I had previously only noticed the oil tankers in the distance. The beauty of nature completely overrides this I’ve discovered.

Saturday just gone I was aiming for a leisurely 11km along the beach but halfway through I decided I was going to run just for the enjoyment of it and take in my surroundings and sit on the beach for a while and watch the waves crash in. It’s probably my last Saturday morning run for a while so that Husband can reclaim a weekend morning lie in or get out on his bike to catch his own sunrise.

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I’ve been chasing the miles and clocking up the minutes for the last six weeks. Gone are the days of using a piece of string and an A-Z to measure the miles. I’ve been tracking it with a handy app on my phone. I hope the measurements are accurate and I’ve been covering the distance it says I have!

There are hoards of runners out every time of all shapes, sizes and abilities. It doesn’t matter what your running style is or for what reason you want to run, just go out there and do it. There is one thing that I will say though and that is, ladies and gentlemen runners, even if you think you have no boobs, when you run, everyone has boobs and it’s a good idea to get them housed appropriately.

After signing up for this half marathon race and putting in the time to train for it, I’ve regained the drive to do something that asks for commitment and effort. Instead of feeling exhausted, I feel energised from it and I’ve really enjoyed myself. I really have.

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Running isn’t something I used to do. It’s something that I do. Before and after #1, 2 and 3. So to that end, I feel like I’m reclaiming a part of myself that was there beforehand and was just having a rest.

Eight years it’s been since I ran a half marathon. It’s no major achievement or world changing event I know. But it’s awakened that part of me that relishes drive, focus and purpose. It makes me wonder, where else can I put this to use?

So I think it’s time. It’s definitely time. And I’m ready for it.

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The kindness of others

There are times I read something in the news that overwhelms me so much I have to say out loud to Husband, ‘What’s the point?’.

By which I mean the trivialities of the mundane aspects of daily life that can sometimes annoy us so much and not what’s the point in living.

It can’t have escaped your attention recent world events depicting the extreme acts of violence that people are capable of. I’m not wishing to talk about the politics of it all or make a blanket statement of just how barbaric human nature can be.

I was momentarily at a loss thinking about just how vastly different we live our lives across the world. The women who have no voice and the girls who have no right to an education. The abject poverty and the hardships of day to day living experienced by many. The existence of human trafficking, sexual, physical and psychological abuse and the thousands who live in a permanent war zone.

Imagine making a list of all the ills in the world.

Why am I even talking about this when it makes for depressing reading? I don’t wish to bring you down and neither do I want to say think how lucky we really are and stop your complaining about this, that and the other. We shouldn’t feel guilty about the lives we do lead but we can be mindful of leading it well.

All around Singapore I have come across billboard posters highlighting how we, the general public, can show random acts of kindness. Do one kind act a day. The Singapore Kindness Movement was set up in 1997 after the then Prime Minister made a New Year address that expressed the need for considerate social behaviour coupled with a strong economy and good government that will make Singapore a good home for all.

Well, from my own experience I can say there’s still some way to go, especially on the roads and in queues but I don’t fear any retaliation on the occasions when I have made a point of plain, rude behaviour. Three years ago Husband and I passed by a late night lion dancing competition after having been out for dinner. Two youths were taking the piss out of some bloke who was enthusiastically applauding the event whilst onlookers around us just looked on. It incensed me when I realised what was going on. In no uncertain terms I told the two youths exactly how deplorable their actions were and what I should have said is how shameful it was that the people around us didn’t say anything either. Of course I was lucky not to get my own face smashed in for interfering and the fear of that is what is stopping us from making a stand against such behaviour.

But that aside, I initially thought it was twee having to be reminded to give up your seat for someone who may need it more instead of pretending they’re invisible or that you’re asleep. Do you really need to be told to move down the carriage to let more people on and is it such a hardship that you have to take your own food tray back to the designated cleaning areas in the hawker centres.

To me that seems like common sense. Why wouldn’t you offer your seat to someone who needs it more. Help someone who is struggling or just be kind and smile and ask someone how they are if they look down but not in that vacant ‘Have a nice day’ sort of way. If you’re going to show kindness then you also need to commit to what may follow. Sometimes you may wish you hadn’t asked as a whole barrage of woes that aren’t really woes come tumbling out. Other times, it can make a real big difference when someone notices that you need a listening ear.

And it’s quite true that an act of kindness does make you feel good. Not that this is wholly what people show kindness for.

When people you know show you kindness, it’s a lovely warm feeling and it helps to make you feel loved, supported and cared for. You also know that somewhere along the line there will be opportunities for you to reciprocate.

But what of the times when random strangers show you acts of kindness when really they don’t need to. Not just helping you out of a tricky spot whilst clambering onto a bus with buggy and multiple children in tow or holding the door open instead of letting it slam in your face and again with buggy and multiple children in tow.

A couple of things happened to me in the last few weeks that made me very happy and very appreciative. They weren’t the huge save my life events but they were just things that they didn’t need to do. I’ve been running at the weekends and some distance too so that by the time I’ve finished, I really want to have a coffee and something to eat whilst I sit and regroup before heading home. One weekend run I unknowingly lost my snack money whilst I pulled my ipod out of my pocket. I ordered a much needed coffee and bagel before realising I had no means of paying for it. The person behind the counter with only a moment’s hesitation, decided to waiver the $11.20. I really did think that was very nice and I did go back to pay for it later.

The other time was a few days later when I decided at the last minute to go and watch the latest The Hunger Games film. The problem with having a multitude of bags is that you sometimes forget which one of them is hiding your wallet. So again I arrive at the cinema, buy a ticket and find I have no means of paying for it. It’s the last day the film is being shown as well. As I scrabble in the bottom of that particular bag for enough coins to pay for the $7 ticket, the person behind the counter goes off somewhere. I finally come up triumphant with my $7 in coinage when she returns, only for her to tell me that I should put my $7 away as she was going to let me use her staff privilege pass. I thought that was very nice too and I felt a warm, fuzzy feeling instead of the disappointment I would have felt otherwise.

I guess what I’m trying to say today is that we can’t change the really terrible big things that happen in the world around us. But as the Singapore Kindness Movement says, we can show small acts of kindness everyday that cost us nothing to make the world closer around us that bit better and a bit more gracious.

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A fabulous time to be six!

So finally, more than three weeks after #1 turned six years old, we celebrated his Birthday with a party with all his friends.

In six years, this is party number 12 I’ve organised for small children. I feel like I know the format pretty well.

1. Set the date.
2. Book the function room.
3. Invite guests.
4. Write lists.
5. Ignore lists.
6. Bake cake, outsource the creative bits. This is such a great idea to get someone else more talented to do the hard parts. My fabulous friend of My cakes by Catarina has reduced party planning time by days since she does all the cake toppers for me now. Look her up on Facebook. I highly recommend her.
7. Make party bags, decorations, games to play two days before party date.
8. Get party done, relax and drink beer.

#1 has no interest in the creative, planning or doing part of getting his party organised. Besides stipulating he would like a Disney Planes cake, which friends to invite and the fact he doesn’t want Pass the Parcel because, and I quote him, ‘Your Pass the Parcel is boring because only one person gets to win and that’s not fair’. It’s all about fairness right now with #1. And it’s only fair if it goes in his favour.

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He did say that he would like Musical Statues which is a huge step up from two years ago when he refused outright to take part in the game. But I’ve discovered it’s impossible to play the game the way we used to back in my day some 30 odd years ago when those who were not ‘Statues’ when the music stopped were out of the game. These days they barely listen to you and certainly wouldn’t accept they were out of the game and even if they did move out of the game, it would be only temporarily and sooner or later they’d be back in it. I do suppose it would mean that you could just play this one game for the whole hour.

We also played the Egg and Spoon Race which EVERYONE knows the rules of. No, apparently not. As I lined up the children behind the start line, eggs on spoons at the ready, first person who doesn’t drop their egg off spoon wins. Small people are eager to get going. Ready, Get Set, Go! Three of the four contestants grab the egg off their spoon and leg it across to the finish line. Indeed it was an Egg with Spoon Race after all.

One final game we tried out was the good old fashioned Sack Race. One year School Sports Day, I actually couldn’t get into the sack to take part in the race and so missed the whole thing. Anyways, I was sort of a bit nervous about this one. The flooring is highly polished parquet and there are small people bouncing around in sacks and I had visions of them falling flat and knocking themselves out. So I had to ask some parents to act as human shields to break any potential hazardous falls. After all, we haven’t taken out the Personal Injury Insurance Policy for Small People at Birthday Parties Inebriated on High Sugar Products. Neither had I stuck a disclaimer on the wall purporting that ‘The Party Hosts accept no responsibility for the amount of high sugar products consumed at this event nor for the resulting high sugar related behaviour you may take home with you’.

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As far as #1 is concerned, he had FUN. There was cake, crisps, sweets, juice, chocolate dipped marshmallows (which #1, 2 and 3 all helped to make and resulted in hundreds and thousands rolling all over our marble tiled living room floor), sausages and his friends.

Most importantly his friends. How children interact with their friends and form bonds is a beautiful sight to behold. I love their passion and how easily they can fall in and out with each other.

Did he notice the handmade paper decorations in hues of Dusty Crophopper hanging from the ceiling and all around the walls? Did he notice the individually crafted party bags personalised with each party guest’s name? Did he notice the fondant was drooping around the back of the cake like Nora Batty’s tights? Thankfully not. Most likely distracted by the fabulous fondant Dusty Crophopper on top of it created by My cakes by Catarina.

I wasn’t fretting about the details of the party. A lot of the detail I do because I like to and it’s become a hobby. What I have realised is just how little is actually required for a party that will make a six year old child happy.

There could have been no games, no music and no decorations so long as there is ample room for them to charge around in. Charge. Not run. Running is not for five or six year olds. Neither is normal sound levels. They would have been worthy extras in The Battle of the Five Armies. Apparently they are only going to get louder, I have it on good authority from Mr Cupping who has a seven year old.

So long as there are crisps, sweets, juice and cake. They create their own entertainment. They create their own noise. They create their own fun. I know when it comes down to it, I would still add on all the details. Just because I like to. But it has made me even more aware of how much is actually required to make a small child happy. Especially in Singapore where the budget for a one year old’s Birthday party can exceed the cost of my own 40th do. They’re not going to even remember you know. However, of course there are huge benefits to outsourcing party entertainment and not having to get involved in rounding them up to play the games is one of them.

If anything was to tell you how frighteningly quickly times passes, it can be seen in the raucousness of their birthday party. I still remember clearly #1’s First Birthday party. It consisted of a few toys and a birthday cake. As the small people shuffled here and there, we Grown Ups could even have a plastic beaker of wine and a chat.

Those days are long gone and yet the need for a plastic beaker of wine is ever more appreciated. It’s probably time to start doing the whole party drop off and save each other from enduring two hours of high level sugar induced energy from a bunch of rambunctious small people. We are also surplus to requirements in their pursuit of FUN. If anything, we probably hinder it. They are Big Boys and Girls after all.

#1 had a great time yesterday. There is no doubt about it that now is a fabulous time to be six.

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