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

Do one thing every day that scares you

Well I’m not quite sure about doing one thing every day that scares you. I don’t think I’m built to live my life on a permanent knife edge. But I do think that every now and then you should do something that does scare you. Not that I intentionally set out to do such things.

As I get older and with the company of #1, 2 and 3, I have definitely become more risk averse. When I look back to some of the (relatively mild) escapades of my youth mostly involving a pint or two, late nights and public transport, I can now see why my Dad, Mr Li would not approve. But at the time of course I thought it was all risk free and nothing terrible was going to happen which it didn’t. But that’s not the point. Had my Dad, Mr Li had the means to go onto higher education, I think he would make an excellent Risk Assessor and the financial crisis would never have happened with him in charge.

Since becoming a parent, I am constantly on the lookout to avoid scenarios that could lead to some form of hazardous accident that ends up with a trip to A&E. Hence I am constantly voicing the dangers of certain behaviours to #1, 2 and 3 ‘just in case’ it happens. This can range from jumping off items of furniture, venturing off in random directions in public spaces to launching either themselves or blunt objects with little concern for spatial awareness.

Come to think of it, sometimes going out in public with #1, 2 and 3 is exactly like doing the one thing every day that scares you.

I am no adrenaline junkie like Nana Moon, I have never had the inclination to fling myself off a precipice with a piece of elastic as my only trusted friend. Whilst I often have wanted to skydive, I would only do it in tandem because at least someone knows what they are doing. I could never be trusted to pull the cord. I would freeze with fear. If I even was brave enough to fling myself out of the plane in the first place that is.

I say my Dad, Mr Li is the most risk averse person I know and how he can see the danger in all situations usually involving my care of #1, 2 and 3. For example I’ve mentioned before when I’ve told him either #1, 2 or 3 has started to roll/crawl/walk and after marvelling over the fact said Grandchild is rather clever, he will immediately follow it up with ‘be careful they don’t roll/crawl/walk too much and their arms/legs get tired and they headbutt/fall onto the floor’. Indeed.

But really he isn’t. How could he be when I think of how he left Hong Kong in the early 1960s to sail all the way to that far flung dot of an island called the UK by himself to set up a new life. So I like to think that he and I have a degree of bravery somewhere in us that can be drawn upon on the occasions when we feel like doing something to challenge ourselves.

What’s considered a challenge to some would hardly cause others to gently perspire and we all have those strengths and weaknesses within us. I am very good with being on land but I am no good being in or on water, on wheels or mid air without a harness. Even with a harness.

And yet, sometimes there comes a need to do something that takes you out of your comfort zone. Sometimes, it’s important to take yourself out of your comfort zone. To feel that rush of fear, doubt, adrenaline that pumps through your veins and reminds you that we are not yet done and ready to be still. We want to be challenged, experience new things and dare to take the risk. By which I mean I don’t expect you to throw your pension savings or the kid’s education fund away on some whimsical plan. That’s just reckless. And we are no longer reckless. We have pension plans.

So what could be slightly risky but not quite reckless? I certainly don’t want to get another one of THOSE telephone calls from my Dad, Mr Li and again I refer to the ALS/MND Ice Bucket Challenge. In fact, if I think about that telephone call too often I would never do anything ever again. So luckily there is no photographic evidence of anything slightly risk worthy in evidence.

Well from my previous post you heard me go on about the Men’s Health Urbanathlon event. It took place on Sunday, 1 March 2015. It’s a 14km course with nine obstacles along the way. When I signed up for it, it seemed like fun and a change from just running. Looking at the different obstacles on the screen of a small smartphone is much different to looking at the obstacles on a full size 23 inch screen.

As the weeks drew nearer to the event, the more nervous I became. The running was fine as I knew I had put in the effort for it. Managing 6 metres across parallel bars using just upper body strength, traversing across 4 inch beams of varying heights off the ground, climbing up 2 metres and reaching out for a rope just slightly beyond reach soon began to take on much bigger proportions in my mind.

I couldn’t understand why I was getting so nervous when really, if I didn’t want to do it or couldn’t do it, I didn’t have to do it. But that’s just it. I am not one to admit defeat. Are you? No, not you either.

I don’t want to not do something in the first place because I’m afraid of defeat or because it seems pointless. What kind of example would that be to #1, 2 and 3. Who we tell are capable of doing anything they choose to do. So why am I not setting them an example? Do things not only to get somewhere but because it’s fun to do and there may be no point in it other than you enjoyed it.

What you find is that when you actually come to do something that scares you, it is never as bad as what you think it is going to be. And after it is done, the sense of personal achievement does great things for your soul.

I say that now as I’m tapping this out sat on a very stable chair with feet firmly on the ground and smelling of Tiger Balm muscle rub that has been liberally applied to all aching muscles that have never had to work before in all my years. I couldn’t say I was feeling quite so sage sat on a ledge some distance up high at the pinnacle before completing the event. You’re so close you can see the Finish line. All you need to do is jump off the ledge onto a foam landing beneath you and that’s it done. So simple. But I am not one for flinging myself off a precipice of any height. Why would I? Would you? You would?

I’d covered the 14km. I had crossed the tipping plank, hauled myself across a slackline by elastic hanging ropes, tentatively traversed the balance beams, forced my way through the pain of having no upper body strength across the parallel bars, jogged 100m with 20kg weights, jumped down a rope 2 metres high, squeezed my way through four hanging tyres without wedging myself in, climbed up and over a 3 metre high truck. Was I then going to sit on that ledge until the Fire Brigade came to rescue me down? Actually, I never really thought of the perks of such a thing happening whilst I was sat up there.

I’d like to say that I managed to gather myself together and gave myself a good talking to in a Rocky-Eye-Of-The-Tiger sort of way and leapt off the ledge with style and panache. But I can’t. I sat and covered my eyes a few times with the MC helpfully encouraging the crowd to ‘jump with her after a countdown from 10’. There wasn’t much I could do. So what I think happened is that I sort of flopped off the ledge, screaming all the down and landed in a bundle on the foam mat beneath. And I survived. I have the medal to prove it. And if anyone tells my Dad, Mr Li about this then I will show him the medal that says ‘SURVIVOR’. That will definitely top the list of pointless things to do alongside tipping a bucket of ice cold water on your head. Especially at my age he will say.

But it’s precisely at my age that you should do one thing every now and then that scares you.

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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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Just when you think you’re a Grown Up

I think sufficient time has passed for all parties concerned for me to be able to talk about this now.

Just when you think you’re a Grown Up with having paid taxes for almost two decades, owned property, travelled independently and not to mention the raising of small people of your own. Out of the blue, you get one of THOSE telephone calls from your Parents that throw you right back to the time of when you were the size of, well, to the size of the small people you are raising again.

It seems you’re never too old for your Parents to call you up and haul you over hot coals for supposedly stupid and irresponsible behaviour.

That’s what I discovered a couple of weeks ago. My Dad, Mr Li was most upset. He was upset with me and he was upset with Big Brother Li. Big Brother Li thought this a gross miscarriage of justice.

What caused this fit of apoplectic rage from the perennially mild mannered man that is my Dad, Mr Li?

The Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), known as Motor Neurone Disease in the UK, Ice Bucket Challenge.

This in itself brought divided opinion from the population with some who merrily took on the ‘Challenge’ after being nominated to those who dismissed it out of hand as self promotion, pointless and a waste of water. And in some respects I wouldn’t argue with the viewpoint of the latter group having seen many a video where there is no mention of donating money to any charitable cause and the person is scantily clad. I also would say that tipping a bucket of ice water over your head is barely the definition of a ‘Challenge’.

But for all the criticism and as a Fundraising Professional when in gainful employment, I stand by that this craze when approached in the way it was intended, did raise much needed awareness of ALS and Motor Neurone Disease and funds for these organisations as well as awareness and funds for other worthy causes.

For in a world saturated with charities to help every conceivable need, something that will raise the profile of your cause above the parapet into the public’s awareness is always welcome.

Inevitably, I would be nominated for this by my friend Mr Cadbury’s Eclairs (you want a contender for man’s biggest gob to house multiple Cadbury eclairs competition then let me know) and I always had every intention of fulfilling the nomination. But at the time I had a bad cold and was also conscious of the wastage of clean drinking water. So I waited until I was over the cold and used the iced water from the cool box following #2’s Birthday party. For the record, my donations have gone to the Alzheimer’s Society and the Motor Neurone Disease Association in the UK.

Job done. All good. Or so I thought.

Until THAT phonecall.

My Dad, Mr Li is of that generation that still remembers a time before central heating. He has always impressed upon us the need to stay dry and warm. Such was his devotion to remaining in this state of being that he would always make sure he picked me up from school on all rainy days.

So, you can imagine his total lack of comprehension as to why anyone would WILLINGLY dump a bucket of water, let alone iced water on themselves.

The conversation went something along the lines of:

My Dad, Mr Li: WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT? Why would you tip a bucket of cold water over yourself. What were you thinking? Do you know how irresponsible that is? Especially when you are unwell? (True, I haven’t been able to fully shake off a cough for eights weeks now)

Me: How do you know about that? (Sounding very much like #1 and 2)

My Dad, Mr Li: How do I know about that? How do I know about that? I know about everything that you do. (Sounding very much like me now to #1 and 2)

My Dad, Mr Li was very careful not to reveal his source but I have my suspicions. Never Friend relatives of a certain generation on Facebook.

Me: But it was for a good cause!

My Dad, Mr Li: I don’t care what it was for. You are a Mother of three children and you do this? What if this makes you even more ill? What then? And as for your Brother! Doing exactly the same thing and encouraging you his sister to do it too? I despair.

I don’t think there was much point in trying to explain that Big Brother Li wasn’t the one to nominate me and that he really ought to be hunting down Mr Cadbury’s Eclairs. And so like the Grown Up I am, my line of defence was ‘But everyone’s doing it!’. Strictly not true for the reasons mentioned above yet what else could I say when interrogated by my Dad, Mr Li like that.

Yes, you could say that my Dad, Mr Li was a degree or two melodramatic about it all but let’s not tell him that because I don’t want to get another one of THOSE phone calls. Though I’m sure he’ll know about it by now.

You see, my Dad, Mr Li is always going to be the Parent that worries and frets and if in his opinion you behave like a child then like a child he will speak to you and suffer his wrath you must. To be fair, on a scale of 1 to 10, his rage is always towards the lower end.

It’s never good to upset your Parents as I’m sure you know, so I am sorry to my Dad, Mr Li for causing him angst. I can count on one hand the number of times he’s been the shouty sort of Parent.

But I’m also slightly bemused that at the age of Forty, I am not beyond getting wrong off my Dad, Mr Li! Nor that doing something like tipping water over my head would be worthy of feeding back to him. When do you ever give full disclosure to your Parents? Can you imagine what he’d say to the downing of shots at my recent Birthday celebrations? Shit, now he knows.

What makes me laugh the most though, is just how indignant Big Brother Li was at the pure injustice of being held responsible at the age of 48, for the actions of his 40 year old sister.

To the point where he was scared to call him up and asking me if I’d spoken to our Dad, Mr Li recently to get the lay of the land. And I being the younger sibling, full of bravado just telling him to get on with it and call him knowing full well that should our Dad, Mr Li have any further words to express on the matter then it will be Big Brother Li who yet again would suffer the consequences.

I’ve just been told that Big Brother Li has bought our Dad, Mr Li his very own tracking device in the form of the alien technology that is a Smartphone. He’s currently figuring out What’sapp and I’m sure it won’t be long before someone sets him up with his own Facebook Account.

When that happens, I will tell you now that I can categorically say I will definitely not be Friending him.

Why give full disclosure now after all these years without?

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Only as good as your last celebrity spot

There’s a bookshop I go to in Singapore called Kinokuniya. Rare to find an actual bookshop around these days. It’s located on level 3 (2nd floor) of Takashimaya Shopping Centre on Orchard Road.

Orchard Road. Singapore’s premiere shopping destination. Like a hybrid of Bond Street and Oxford Street. There must be at least 10 shopping centres and five department stores crammed into this relatively short stretch of retail heaven or hell. Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada sit alongside High Street staples with your tourist $10 tat sandwiched inbetween the gaps.

It was last September’s Grand Prix weekend when I wandered out of the book shop pushing #3 in the buggy when I spot someone I think I know but can’t quite place. I’m searching my memory archives thinking how do I know you? Whilst reassembling my features into one of some recognition in case they get in their first with the exchange of greetings.

Then it dawns on me. It’s Bernie Ecclestone with his very glamorous, immaculately dressed wife towering above him looking very befuddled. He’s looking non plussed. Used to being led I guess but she is definitely not where she wants to be. I’m fully in support of Help the Aged but for some reason I held back. Quite possibly the glamorous, immaculately dressed wife by his side put me off as I was quite impossibly unglamorous and underdressed for the occasion of bookshop browsing. I wouldn’t want her thinking I’m competition either and I had also got the wrong sort of Maclaren wheels on me too.

So I regretfully left them to fend for themselves as I watched them walk off up the escalators to level 4. Still it could have been worse and they could have found themselves in Lucky Plaza, home of the $10 tat. All the while though, I was thinking how on earth do I even know what Bernie Ecclestone looks like.

When Husband and I lived in London, celebrity spotting was quite the sport.
Mr No Beans, good friend and Best Man was an avid and worthy competitor in this game. The rules are simple, like all the best games, you’re only as good as your last random celebrity spot. So this excludes all events where you’ve paid to see said celebrity or where celebrities are likely to appear like charity events, film premieres and any publicised celebrity appearance. Otherwise my last spot would be John Cleese.

In truth I was a lot disappointed at first at having spotted Bernie because he knocked Nicole Kidman off my list. Though if I’m honest I didn’t quite follow the rules properly because I only happened across her when a friend texted me that she’d seen her having coffee at a particular shopping mall and whilst I was thinking of going to a different mall, the opportunity seemed too good to miss. She was very tall and flawless. I suppose in your job as Mega Film Star you’d have to be. The one before her was Michael Parkinson in a restaurant in Brisbane which was very exciting as having moved away from London, or indeed the UK as a whole, your odds of being able to play the game well is dramatically reduced but Mr No Beans now lives in Sydney so we’re shelving the game for now.

Living in Muswell Hill, we used to see Todd Carty (Tucker of Grange Hill if you’re that old or Mark Fowler of Eastenders if you like to think you’re not) on such a regular basis that Husband called him his Unknown Close Personal Friend. Amongst others, there’s been Maureen Lipman, Victoria Wood, Johnny Vegas, Simon Pegg and I once sat behind Tony Hadley on the bus and then was stood behind him at a Robbie Williams gig, Milton Keynes in 2006.

Another reason why I refrained from giving Bernie friendly directions is because Husband has banned me from ever making conversation with any celebrity on a random basis unless it’s for work related purposes. And I don’t blame him. No matter how much you admire someone’s work and how you imagine you’d like to tell them as much, the conversation you actually have with them is never going to be the same as the one you have with them in your head.

The League of Gentlemen remains one of my all time favourite television shows. (In fact had I attempted to speak with Bernie, I may have said ‘This is a local shop for local people, there’s nothing for you here.’) The characters are morbidly dark and make you want to shrink into your collar bones. Which is exactly how I felt when I found myself stood next to Reece Shearsmith in our local WH Smith. What I wanted to say was something suitably witty and appreciative of the show without sounding like some crazed fan. Instead I just muttered in probably a squeaky voice, ‘Excuse me?’. He quite rightly looks a bit nervous, ‘Yes?’. ‘Are you the bloke off The League of Gentlemen.’ (Knowing full well he is). ‘Yes I am.’ ‘Ok.’

If I did OMG, I’d be OMGing myself. It was so cringeworthy and then I proceeded to ‘bump’ into him twice more around the shops. I bet he was ready to take out a restraining order. Such was my embarassment, I had to confess to Husband what I’d done and now whilst I still get great enjoyment from watching the League of Gentlemen, I can’t help but relive my shame a little each time.

Another time I really wanted the earth to open up and swallow me whole was when a colleague persuaded me it would be ok to talk football with Alan Shearer. I really didn’t want to go as his reputation for being a highly private (grumpy) person is well known and what did I know about Newcastle United’s current defensive position even though they are my home team of choice. But he said it would be ok, he’d do the talking and just needed the company. So off we went, me ahead confident that he was behind me. I find myself in front of Alan Shearer and open with ‘My colleague here and I are from Newcastle and we just wanted to say Hello and are you enjoying the event?’ Except I’m pointing at thin air. He’s not there. I’m stood pretending to have a friend and looking like a tit. Then I mumble something else and scuttle off full of shame again. Incidentally that’s not the first time I’d seen him before though, he was sat at the table next to me one evening at a restaurant in Chester-le-Street some 13 years earlier.

My funniest encounter though has to be with two members of Westlife who were having a great laugh with former Leeds United manager David O’Leary. Same colleague having failed in his attempt to talk football with Alan Shearer decided David O’Leary would be a better bet and he was. As were the Westlifers. Funny, chatty and friendly they took photos of themselves for us and with us. Did I say ‘I love you’ to the Westlifers and ‘My Husband loves you’ to David O’Leary? Of course not.

However my top most favourite so far is this photo with Jon Bon Jovi who found himself at an event after bumping into Ronan Keating who was staying at the same hotel. As he wasn’t an expected guest then I’m going to include him in my best Random Celebrity Encounters.

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So which celebrity spot are you as good as? Let me know.

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My name is Running Wolf

650,000 spectators lined the streets of London on Sunday to cheer on the 36,000 runners taking part in the 2014 London Marathon.

If you have ever been one of those spectators, there’s probably a chance that the thought of giving it a go next year has crossed your mind. There are probably just as many who would never want to give it a go. But if you are one that has thought about it, then I urge you to.

When Husband and I moved to Singapore, I also packed up my three London Marathon medals too. All your worldly possessions and all. In five and a half years they’ve sat in a box in a cupboard and have gone a funny colour.

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Still, they give me no less pride than the days I got handed them.

I’m no sporting person and I don’t possess a natural ability for any one sport which is a shame. I can’t even follow a step aerobics class. After leaving school and to my mid twenties, I can honestly say I barely did any exercise apart from the odd swim.

It was Ms Beefy who sowed the idea of running into my mind. She and I and Nana Moon took part in the Women’s Light Flora Run back in 2001. It was a 5km distance, a warm up jog for people like Big Brother Li. It felt like a long way at the time having put all that kind of nonsense behind me at school.

Then 10km felt like a long way.

Then I decided to jump straight in for 26.2 miles because I was one of those spectators cheering on a team of people running the London Marathon to raise money for people with muscular dystrophy, a muscle wasting disease affecting over 30,000 people in the UK. Many young men with Duchenne muscular dystrophy that only affects boys, barely live beyond their mid twenties and lose mobility by the age of ten. It can be a very powerful emotion watching people take on such a physical challenge for a cause that you are committed to.

In one moment, I thought perhaps I could do this too. Of course it’s about personal achievement but I definitely wouldn’t go through such a gruelling training programme for almost four months if I didn’t feel like there was something else to achieve too. In fact £53 million was raised for charity through the London Marathon in 2013 alone. Often charities come under fire for stipulating a minimum sponsorship level of around £1,000 if you want to take one of their places when you don’t get through in the ballot. On one hand it’s much needed income and on the other it determines your commitment.

Running for a charity is the best support you will ever get to accompany you on what can be a rather lonely 16 weeks of training. There is always someone keen to hear how you are doing and understands the effort and energy that goes before the final 26.2miles. It’s also good to be reminded of who you’re actually doing it all for. Then there’s the extra support you get along the route.

I’ve heard people say that running is dull and boring and bad for you. Sometimes getting the motivation to get out is dull. Sometimes where you’re running it is boring. Sometimes it can be bad for you because you’ve not prepared yourself properly.

Who would have thought running isn’t as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. You need to wear the right shoes, eat the right food and strengthen other parts of your body that never crossed my mind were vital to running well. Then you need to have the right frame of mind.

I followed a basic 16 week training plan and by the end of week 5, the weekend run was already half marathon distance. Plus fitting in three or four runs during the week. In the days before an app existed for everything you could possibly need was available, I became obsessed with my London A-Z and a piece of string. Diligently working out a route that fitted in with the required distance of my training run.

Running isn’t dull but I certainly became it.

I became acquainted with carboloading, energy bars or energy gels, cold baths, the pain of deep tissue massages, PBs, micropore taping up body parts at risk of continuous chafing and constantly smelling of Deep Heat. I gave up alcohol the third time just as another challenge, good practice for being preggers I guess. I ate so many oat cakes and porridge, I never really yearn to eat them now.

But I’m so glad I did start this thing called running. As part of training and sometimes just because, I’ve ran along some beautiful country lanes in Buckinghamshire and a good bit of dual carriageway in Reading. I realised Clapham Common isn’t that far from Muswell Hill. I got to spend more time with friends like Ms Beefy who became my partner on many a run around Hampstead Heath and along the Thames.

I’m glad I discovered I have the focus to do something physically challenging being fearful of most other sporting activities.

Since having #1, 2 and 3, I haven’t the inclination or energy to want to run any great distance. Plus living in the tropics, it’s quite difficult to run, or I should correct myself, to plod in 30 degrees heat is like wading through treacle. I went out for a 30 minute run earlier and I barely covered 5km. I understand now why Big Brother Li gets so excited running in ‘cold weather’. When he came to stay with us in London in 2004, it coincided with the St Albans half marathon which he decides to run just for fun. For fun I tell you!

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In my heart, I would have liked to finish any of my marathon attempts in under 4 hours 30 minutes. Even 4 hours 45 minutes. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

The first time, you have no idea how it will go and just finishing is a bonus. I worried about the 5.30am start having a negative impact on my performance but the adrenaline coursing through you the days before and the morning itself more than compensates. It’s no doubt a thrill to be part of the crowd surging towards Blackheath. For one morning to be part of something with 36,000 other people.

It’s not so much of a thrill worrying about when that pre-run poo is going to come. Think Paula Radcliffe.

The second time did become more of a personal challenge with the intention of bettering the first attempt. Did it happen? Sadly not. I felt like I was doing ok the first half but then I hit the dreaded proverbial Wall. I knew all about it having read about in my Runner’s World magazine and on running forums. Oh gosh, I forgot about the forums. Forums are weird places. Good for lots of things and support and advice but when you start treating it like your best friends are there then that’s just weird. Running is solitary but not that solitary.

The Wall is when your muscles and liver become depleted of glycogen and you suddenly feel fatigued and weak with no energy. I took every step of training so seriously that I had never had it before. I was at mile 14 and unprepared for this sudden loss of interest, slight disorientation and feeling of nausea. Mile bloody 14.

There’s a stretch of the London Marathon where you’ve not yet reached halfway but you can see those passing mile 22 on the way out. On a good day, it could buoy you up with renewed determination or on a bad day like I was having, it just seemed impossible. I have no idea how I managed to get round to mile 20. A few episodes of throwing up by the roadside, a few stops in the St John’s Ambulance tents and bucket loads of goodwill from the spectators at the side. I mostly walked that latter half but made sure I could at least run across the finish line.

Did I feel disappointed? A little because I had started off so well. But at the same time not really. I finished it and therefore fulfilled the commitment to all the people who had sponsored me.

So I tried again a third time in 2007, the year we got married. I suppose it was to provide some distraction against the wedding planning. To make me appreciate lots of big events in one year. I injured my left knee nine weeks into training, it will never be fixed and apparently I now run lopsided. So starting that time was such a big unknown and to finish again became my only goal.

Long distance running on any level is about mind over matter. Once you lose the will, it can be so difficult to motivate yourself again. During the last stretch along Embankment, when you know it’s just not possible to stop and give up now but feeling like you’re barely clinging on, I bumped into Big D quite by accident. We were both pretty tired at that point, it was quite a hot day. Great for spectators, not so great for running. It was good to see a friend at that point, I can say.

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I will always remember feeling overwhelmed at the amount of good will there is along the whole way. Children high fiving, jelly babies in abundance, families setting up their own drinks stations outside their homes. Everyone is willing you to carry on. Even at mile 26 with just point two to go, there are calls of ‘keep running’.

Husband is my greatest support and whilst I got all the glory for doing the running. I am grateful for his support during the days of extreme tiredness (read grumpiness), for coming to out of town events and waiting hours for me to finish and for battling against all the other spectators along the way to wait patiently to cheer me on at various points as I pass by in seconds.

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 and if there’s a running partner I would like to have, then it would be Big Brother Li. I would like to run a race with him because if there’s anyone who would have to carry me round should my knees give way then it’s my brother.

In the meantime I’ll take my half hour plods around Singapore in the 30 degrees heat. But when your route takes in views like this, then it does make it all worthwhile.

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If you’re wondering why my name is Running Wolf, well it’s because the night before I ran the London Marathon for the first time, I had this dream that I was raised in a tribe and my name was Running Wolf. Look what my friend Sprinty Otter got engraved for me.

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