Yes, dear readers, I like crime.
Well reading it. And trying to write it!
The place was brimming with talented crime writery types like Val McDermid, Martina Cole, SJ Watson, Rachel Abbot, Ann Cleeves…The list of writers appearing on the day was phenomenal. There were workshops ranging from ‘how to pitch a novel’ to ‘building suspense’, alongside events featuring debut crime writers like Paul Burston, Agnes Ravatn, Michelle Davies and Chris Whitaker. I’m currrently reading Michelle Davies’s’ novel ‘Gone Astray’ – full of suspense, twists and turns, an excellent page-turner, loving it…Looking forward to reading the other authors books too.
There was something for everyone at the Festival, writers and readers alike. I highly recommend it.
Go next year!
So why did I attend?
Well currently, for starters, I am writing non-fiction – ‘Pilates for Runners’ published by Bloomsbury in April 2017 and another one hopefully nearly in production as most of you know… and some (fiction) short stories and articles. But of course, a novel, the novel, my novel, is calling my name…I’ve started it. It’s crime. Hah! But I look at what other writers produce and immediately feel totally inadequate – there is so much talent out there. Though by attending courses and festivals the confidence slowly grows and I begin to feel inspired, because I hear how other authors managed to become published and how hard it is. But that it is absolutely possible to do. I pick up snippets of writery guidance and tips and hope that I can stop procrastinating long enough to get down and write it!
So a big thank you to the organisers of the 2016 Killer Women Crime Writing Festival – see you next year!
Last weekend we went camping in Dorset which always makes me happy. As many of you know we lived in Dorset for five years and so take the opportunity to return whenever we can. Our camping is a motorhome – yes, dear readers, we are motorhomers! Although I like to call it a campervan. And now we have finally succumbed to buying a tent (a Vango Idris II Tall Driveaway Motorhome Awning) to attach to said motorhome and are waiting for a non-windy day to attempt its first erection!
But first we will practise at home in the studio (another blog?) We are novice tenters…It could end in tears.
We stay in silent, peaceful, small as possible, seaside campsites mainly – last weekend was just glorious. It offered freedom and very long coastal walks with the dogs. And it didn’t rain!
At home I can hear the nearby dual-carriageway every day, all day and often through the night. I hear aeroplanes, cars revving and voices, sometimes shrill and continuous, dogs barking, mowers, drills – in the campervan we hear just silence, the odd bird tweeting, a moo or a neigh, a mumble or two from our camping neighbours. But generally it’s a silence I don’t experience at home.
However, it’s not all complete peace, the husband has a habit of banging his head, tripping over one of the dogs and throwing hot tea over me and therefore shattering the peace by swearing loudly. And snoring.
When it rains it can be a bit tippy-tappy on the roof of the campervan and there is a hammock-like rocking in a gale! But actually there’s something quite life-enhancing about being outside (albeit in a tin can) surrounded by the elements.
At home when I can’t sleep, which is frequently these days, I get up, walk around, stick my head out of the window or read. In the camper I feel trapped, I can’t move. Mainly due to one of the dogs sleeping on my head if truth be told!
This is when I write though. Get ideas. Hold a conversation with the husband who actually listens because he’s contained in a small space and can’t walk away! I forget make-up, don’t look in the mirror (eyebrows are usually half-way down my face when I get home which is terrifying…) slob around in the same clothes, don’t speak to anyone, breathe, forget Brexit and appreciate what a truly wonderful environment we are in. I find myself free of work stuff, without routine, timelines, to-do lists, tv/distractions. Nothing beats it.
And I wish I could stay forever in that bubble.
I recommend it.
British weather could be better though.
Kathrine Switzer is a fearless and inspirational woman who runs – she won the New York City marathon in 1974 and has completed 39 marathons to date. But in 1967 when she ran the Boston Marathon it was still commonly believed that women weren’t capable of running such a distance.
Early on in the race she was attacked by an official who tried to prevent her from running at all and although humiliated and shocked by the sudden hostility, she continued and completed the race.
In 1967 the 800 metres and the 1.5 mile cross country races were the longest race events for women in the Olympic games!
Totally unbelievable to me as I sit here typing this blog!
The Boston Marathon remained a men only race until 1972 when women who could run that distance in 3 hours and 30 minutes or faster (in my dreams) were finally allowed to officially enter it. Nowadays though, according to Kathrine’s website www.kathrine.switzer.com 53% of the race participants in the USA are women and I expect it’s pretty much the same here in the UK.
261 was the number on Kathrine’s bib when she ran the Boston Marathon – the bib that a race official tried to rip off her chest in an attempt to prevent her running on, declaring the race to be men only. The number 261 has come to represent strength, power and fearlessness…
‘Women from around the world have been wearing the number 261 on their outfits, bibs and body because it makes them feel Fearless in the face of adversity, whether it is a tough marathon, a difficult business presentation, or coping with the many challenges of life’.
As Kathrine says, “Running will wonderfully change your life. Let it. We invite you to join our fearless community”
Pure and simple.
Ask any runner.
From the moment your trainers are laced up the spell is cast. Our bodies hypnotised by the rhythmic freedom of a run. The wizardry of a marathon event whose spell was cast months or even years previously, hooks us in. Or the Parkrun – what Saturday mornings were obviously created for – has now spread its magic nationwide. Every weekend there’s an event or group-run whose alchemy subtly draws us in.
It’s all hocus pocus to non-runners.
But magic to us.
Hills and forest trails, riverside towpaths and lakeland fells, all unknown before the running spell was conjured. I wonder if we would have explored and fallen in love with these life-enhancing places without that conjuration?
Along the many routes we meet people full of inspirational, motivating and magical stories of how and why they started to run. Many needed a special kind of sorcery to run despite incredible adversity. Always making it to the end of a race to receive their well deserved magical and spellbinding bling. A talisman to be proudly displayed. They generously pass on their magic moments by telling stories and casting their own spells further afield, touching the hearts and souls of others who soon become entranced. Encouraging non-runners to be part of the secret by putting them under a spell. Before they know it they’ve bought the trainers and joined a group and wonder how they got there. No sleight of hand here. We know how it’s done.
Running magic works on every level. Mentally, physically, spiritually, always enchanting us, even in our adrenaline fuelled post-run dreams. Often changing the colour of our daily moods and always making our lives better. The spell is so strong we don’t even have to make a wish.
Every time we race we pin our numbers (they’re all magic too) on to our chests or belts. The design sorcerers seduced us with their funky visibility kits, waving their magic marketing wands to make us all part of the same magical running world.
Post-run black toenails, aching limbs and blisters are the secret symbols of our magic circle, shared only with other runners who understand the significance. Endorphins sparkle around our heads (only runners can see these by the way, but then if you’re reading this you probably know that). Our feel-good magic potion helps us to fly, light on our feet, through the air, up the hills or splodging through the magic mud, nothing equals the experience or even comes near.
The elements are sent to try us but in our magic bubble we can’t be beaten. Running in all weathers and all distances is in the book of spells. We usually find the right one and battle on, often to be heard muttering metaphysical mantras (special magic spells) to get us through the thunderbolts and lightening sent to try us by the couch potato goblins.
Running magic is contagious.
I believe in it.
As many of you know I’ve been writing a book on Pilates for Runners. It’s now with the publishers, Bloomsbury, ready for the copy editor and design team to do their stuff. All very exciting. But nobody told me I would have to grapple with an Excel sheet (hardly appealing to my creative isms) inputting every single photo or generic image that needs to be in the book and cross referencing them to the manuscript.
Steam coming out of ears doesn’t come close. How does anyone do this for a living? Respect!
Not only did I overdose on caffeine, which didn’t help the concentration – infact it made all the numbers, boxes…cells.. whatevs…jump around even more. But in the two days (two whole days, not bits of days, but whole whole whole days with nights involved) I put on 2 stone because I developed a Hobnob habit. Oh and now I have RSI.
Anyway, stage one is done. With possibly quite a few spelling mistakes due to brain cells not waving but drowning in caffeine.
We have a photoshoot ahead. With real sporty models.
I wonder if Idris Elba is free? I’m sure he wouldn’t mind demonstrating the plank for me…
Which is silly and self-induced.
Starting with hurty brain games. Little London Marathon gremlins who sabotage with negative self-talk. Over and over. Wittering on.
And then it gets easier as you realize you’re actually moving at a reasonable pace. You feel motivated. So you smile at the lovely supporters and high-five children with melted jelly-babies and snot stuck to their palms.You think to yourself how lucky you are to be able to do this. That your legs work and you are breathing and alive. Life is good. The London Marathon is just an extraordinary experience.
Then somebody elbows you in the tits, not once but twice and suddenly it’s a hateful bloody race with too many people invading your space and tarmac and smelly deep heat and body odours and no cows, sheep or mud. So you decide this is the last marathon you will ever run. And you start to feel better because you’ve made a sensible decision.
Now all that’s needed is to get to the end.
But you’re only at mile 5 and there’s another 21 to run. Have a gel. Distract yourself. Grab some water. Try not to choke as you run and attempt drinking at the same time. Or gag on the gel. Or Face-plant. Daren’t stop or will be trampled to death.
That’s better you think. More energy. Ooh look nearly 6 miles. And wow how does that man run with a bloody fridge on his back? Respect.
The sun comes out and the gentle heat cheers you up, someone shouts your name so you look into the crowd to see who it could be and become impailed upon a rhino’s large horn. You apologise because you love rhinos. But the rhino just bounds off into the crowd ahead.
You hear some wild drumming and a steel band is jamming under the flyover. The beat carries you and you decide that you like drums. It makes you want to dance.
Elvis gallops by in his white and gold lycra – the crowd goes bonkers, you’d think he was the real thing. Superman and a semi-naked leprachaun trot beside you in deep conversation. You try to eves-drop. And fail.
After what feels like forever, you’ve counted your steps, backwards, forwards, in French… Tower Bridge looms large like a film set. You grab your phone and take a picture. Except you only manage to get the back of someone’s sweaty head. So you try again. When home you realize all your photos are of white lines and feet and somebody’s handbag.
Crossing the bridge is awesome although you hope you won’t be grabbed by the BBC for an interview because you’re not sure that anything would come out of your mouth other than dribble.
The crowds are louder than ever. Louder than you remember. Too bloody loud. You want them to shush! There is no doubting the extraordinary support – the balloons, banners, flags cheering on big bird, monkeys, penguins, the eiffel tower all sorts of unrecognisable wild life. If you like that sort of thing. Which you don’t. You like silence. And meditative running. So why are you actually running the race? Oh yes, for charity. That’s it. Raising much needed funds. Good. That’s okay then.
You need a wee. But you put it out of your mind.
A boat with red indians floats by. Well it doesn’t really float. Because they are running. The supporters start making red indian noises. The runners don’t look happy. You drunkenly grin at them and look around and once again try hard to take in the atmosphere and forget your need to wee which you were only imagining anyway.
Then your hamstrings cramp and you stop smiling. Never before has this happened. You stretch. But every time you stop to stretch somebody behind the barrier yells in your ear that you’re doing fine, keep going, nearly there…Which makes you limp on and swear.
You need a poo. But you put it out of your mind because this is totally unacceptable.
More music lifts you up and carries you forward. You like the live music. A spray of cold water hits you in the face, it’s refreshing. Somebody is making loud grunty noises behind you. A camera ahead makes you grin and lift your arms in the air because you are, after all, a poser, despite the grumpiness. A dinasour shaped penis strides across in front of you. Or is it a penis shaped dinasour? This keeps you occupied for all of two minutes as you try to work out what it is trying to be.
The miles are passing slowly. The cramp is cramping quickly. You realize a pb is not within your reach. Was it ever? You realize too that actually you are not going to run anywhere near the time you reached when you last ran the race. But it’s not a race you remind yourself. It’s an ‘experience’. Hrrrrmphand buggerit say your gremlins. So you walk run. Head down and get to the end. Remembering to lift your heavy head, smile and point your finger to the sky as you cross the finish line.
Because you are One in a Million.
You collect your bling and through the post-marathon brain-fug-silly-walk-drunkfunk, work out where to go to collect your bag. Only determining the bag numbers corresponding to the correct lorry takes you a very long time. Then you sit down on the gravel with a thud and think thank F**k for that and eat your body weight in chocolate.
You take a selfie and tell everyone on Facebook how truly wonderful the London marathon is.
Until the next one.
This time next week I shall be lining up with over 38,000 (yikes) other runners, rhinos, supermans and jolly people at the start-line of this year’s London Marathon. This will be my 4th time of running it and 8th marathon overall. But right now it is taper-time. The time that every runner dreads because we have to cut down on our running to rest our eager-beaver bodies in order to be ready to run 26.2 miles. That .2 is a killer by the way…
Psychologically it is hard; being a running addict I am dependent on my running to keep me sane. It makes me feel happy and strong and not old. So please don’t ask me to stop. Or cut down.
So this week the doubts about ability that started small begin to loom large. Withdrawal symptoms include delusions about weight gain, irrational and ungrounded fears of knee problems that I already visualise starting as I cross Tower Bridge and the sudden need for a hip replacement before next Sunday. Not to mention the fear of an unexpected urge to poo mid-race with no portaloos in sight. All neurotic symptoms of this mad marathon non-training period.
The hard work has been done. But suddenly it feels as if having a week or two of less running means that we’ll be lucky to drag ourselves as far as mile one.
But it will be be fine! Of course it will.
And then it will be over. The endorphins and post-race adrenalin will be coursing through our weary bodies and we’ll head straight to the internet with our medals still hanging around our necks to enter another marathon. Even though we said this was the last, the first, the only one this year…
Madness. All of it.
But nothing beats it.
See you on the other side.
I love the peace I feel when focussing totally on my breath and encouraging my body to feel strong. The only sounds I hear are the birds and distant traffic noises, interrupted by the occasional quack or squawk from the water.
If I could, I would run like this, off-road, every day of my life because it grounds me, makes me happy, confident and is totally and utterly life-enhancing.
You should try it.
‘The word confidence means to be self-assured about one’s qualities. Both running and meditation give us this feeling. In both activities, confidence naturally ensues because we are experiencing self-assurance. Runners know this, because running is an optimistic sport: fundamentally, we believe in the power of the body. Meditation is also an optimistic tradition: fundamentally, we believe in the power of the mind. In Tibetan, confidence is known as ziji. This word can also be translated as ‘brilliance’ or ‘to shine’. Ziji expresses how confidence feels and looks: mentally we shine, and physically we glow, Both running and meditation bring out our radiance’. Sakyong Mipham ‘Running with the mind of meditation’.
‘Ageing is changing. Governments, health service providers, insurance, leisure and construction industries, even the United Nations are addressing not just a growing older demographic, but also the value of an increasingly active and healthy senior population. And yet, in the media, the over 60s are still more likely to be portrayed as infirm, immobile, silly, redundant, sick, spent and sad’.
Alex Rotas’ recent photos are of veteran sports women and men – it’s wonderful to see these positive images challenging the stereotypical view of older people. They remind me that age really is just a number and gives me hope that the negativity surrounding the ageing population is perhaps changing. We all get old and none of us like it. But we have no choice, so to find a positive and active way to live our later years needs to be encouraged. And Alex Rotas is flying the flag.
Let’s keep on running into our eighties…and nineties..
Take a look here at more work from Alex Rotas: http://alexrotasphotography.co.uk/#about
Possibly not a regular habit?
Unless you attend one of my Pilates classes of course, where you are subjected to much footy fun during the warm up.
Whether you run, walk or sit all day I think we take our feet for granted. But think of the impact they endure as we walk, run miles and miles, wear unsuitable shoes (some) or boogie the night away – they need TLC if they’re to last intact and pain free for our lifetime.
So what can you do to keep your feet in good shape? Apart from sensible footwear, which is probably far too boring, regular exercises that are quick and easy to do are the way forward.
So here are a few of my suggestions….
Ideally performed in bare feet – when you’re waiting for the kettle to boil or brushing your teeth, slowly raise yourself up on the balls of both feet, hold for a second and then slowly lower your heels back down to the floor.
The ‘slowly’ is always the challenging part. It’s not easy but will strengthen your Achilles tendons.
When you’re sitting at your desk or flopped on the sofa watching tv, rotate your ankles first one way and then the other. Draw a circle with your toes so that your ankle joint is rotated through its full range of movement.
Finally, another simple exercise that is easy to fit into your daily routine and that will improve flexibility and blood flow – again, whether you’re prostrate on the sofa, at your desk working at your computer (and in bare feet) scrunch/curl up your toes and then relax – repeat several times. You could even try picking up a towel off the floor or try using your toes to pick up a pen!
Your feet will thank you!