Monthly Archives: February 2016

Not just parkrun tourists…

We went away to Edinburgh last weekend to meet up with our niece, Meagan. She is on an adventure of her own as she is having a gap year before college and working as an intern at the Scottish Association of Marine Science near Oban. She is a keen swimmer and runner so I was very happy to have a partner in crime for the weekend activities.

Photo of Cramond

Windswept and interesting – Cramond Prom

First stop: Edinburgh parkrun. The weather forecast was not promising but the course is nice and flat along the prom at Cramond.  There were about 350 people there all ready to brave the best the Scottish weather could throw at us. Strong headwind, rain, icy darts of sleet on our faces and temperature not really getting above 3 degrees Celsius. The course is an out and back along the prom so was grateful again to turn round and have the wind behind us on the home straight (see my post on the Mad Dog 10K). The Forth Road and Rail Bridge could just be seen in the distance, spurring me on to the finish. Not a PB according to my parkrun stats as this is a full 5 km unlike my home parkrun in Birkenhead but my Garmin trumpeted a new PB of 26:36 so I had to be happy with that.

AM and Meagan

Smiling before parkrun..if only we had known how strong the wind was going to be…

This was Meagan’s first experience of parkrun and I think she was impressed that so many people would get together on this basis and arrange a free event. With weather like that, she admitted she may not have got out for a run otherwise! I didn’t disagree with her.

Sunday now means long run day to me. The last time I was in Edinburgh I ran out to Portobello beach as this follows the marathon route. I had only been to Portobello once before in my life with my Dad when we came to Edinburgh to watch the World Pipe Band championships so there was some nostalgia involved in going there. So I went there again. It’s a great place, nice prom with cafes, vans selling coffees and a wide range of human experience on display from families playing in the park, dog walkers, runners like me, and in this case, open water swimmers in the sea! In February!! I was very much in awe of their adventurous spirit.

AM at Portobello

Portobello beach – swimmers behind me!

Meagan came with me for part of the run and then had a mini adventure of her own as she took a wrong turn on the way back. She successfully navigated her way back thankfully. Neglectful aunt!

We then continued our Edinburgh adventure with a hike up Arthurs Seat, the impressive volcanic hill behind Edinburgh. I was concerned for my leg muscles after running 10 miles out to Portobello and back. But climb it we did and the views were worth it. All of Edinburgh was laid out before us and right out to sea along the Firth of Forth. Adventurous Twins were more interested in playing in the thin layer of snow than the view. Maybe one day they will learn to appreciate the beauty of the natural world around them; meanwhile who could begrudge them some snow fun seeing as we have had some atrocious weather but precious little snow.

Arthur's seat

Are we really going to climb this?

Tamsin on Arthur's Seat

Can it be? Is it really…snow?







On Monday, like fitness tourists, we made a trip to the Commonwealth pool. I went last summer so that I could experience swimming in a 50 metre pool. Sadly, the pool was divided up into two 25 metre pools on Monday so the kids didn’t get that experience. It is a beautiful pool; clean and because it is so big, not crowded at all even through it was half term. There were diving lessons going on in the diving pool which Adventurous daughter wanted to try. The rest of us looked in awe at how high the 5 metre board is.

The moral of this post is that running and fitness can take you to places you may not have visited. I would never have gone to Cramond had it not been for parkrun. Running to Portobello brought back happy memories of my Dad. Climbing Arthur’s Seat was a great shared experience that I hope my kids will say “Do you remember that time we went up Arthur’s Seat with Meagan?” I now love running as a great way to explore places and see a bit more of them than I would otherwise have done. Google maps built into phones make the process a whole lot easier too, especially if it is a place with which you are not too familiar.

Do you run when you are away from home? Are you a parkrun tourist? Any stories to share?


Gone with the Wind – along with 2,499 Mad Dogs!

The Mad Dog 10K race in Southport is regularly mentioned in the Runner’s World magazine as one of the top ten races in the UK. So when my friend Lisa said that she had done the race, loved it and was doing it again in 2016, I had no hesitation in signing up for the 6th Mad Dog race billed as “Raiders of the Lost Bark”. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about because most races are well organised and have a great atmosphere so what’s so special about this one?

I was feeling a bit smug as I have managed to stay germ and sniffle free, even after Helsby half marathon so I was looking forward to the race. The gods of smug decided to cut me down to size because I came down with something viral last Wednesday and spent most of Thursday alternating between sleeping and shivering under a blanket on the sofa. It looked like my Mad Dog adventure was doomed.

Sign at Mad Dog

The Mad Dog Race has a sense of humour!

By Saturday, I had a bit of a cough but nothing major and I decided that I would go to the race and take it easy. (Disclaimer: this is against current medical advice that says you should run only if you have a head cold.) The weather forecast was very changeable in the days leading to the race but the one thing that was constant was the wind speed – gusts of around 40mph were expected. Not a good thing where the run is along the coast road! Thankfully the rain stayed away and the sun even came out.

There was a park and ride scheme to get us to the start. We didn’t have long to wait for a bus to take us to the high school which doubled as race HQ, baggage drop and T shirt collection. It was extremely busy there but the scouts doing the baggage drop were very efficient. There were the usual long queues for the toilets but luckily we had gone in the portaloos in the carpark. Although at this point, I felt like I needed to go again but put it down to pre-race nerves and decided not to bother…a decision I had a tinge of regret about later in the race…

Race Number

My Race Number – feeling like a Bulldog, not a Husky

As we lined up at the start, the atmosphere was great, despite the strong winds. We had given our PBs for the distance and all runners were sorted out in Greyhounds, Dalmatians, Huskies, Labradors or Bulldogs. My bib said I was a Husky although I didn’t feel like a Husky and as I said on social media the night before, more like a snuffly Bulldog! With the race organiser asking everyone to howl and “Who let the dogs out?” playing on the sound system, we were off.

The first thing that we noticed was a strong cross wind that actually blew me sideways at one point. We then turned the corner and it was a case of heads down and get on with it! The bands playing at the side of the road helped enormously to get through it as did Pelvis Presley who I high fived. It really was a relentless wind and I have never been so glad to turn a corner and have the wind behind me in all my life.

Once out of the headwind, I began to feel a bit uncomfortable and wished that I had braved the long queues for the portaloos. As luck would have it at that point in the race, there were some toilets. Hurrah! As any thought of a PB had been dashed by my illness and the strong winds, I decided that comfort would win over pride today. My Garmin suggested I only took 20 seconds to stop but it felt a lot longer! My Garmin also told me that in the second 5km of the race, each kilometre was 20 seconds faster than the first 5km, showing the power of the wind.

Doggy Bag

The Doggy Bag in all its glory!

I made it back in 58.23, a performance that I was content with given the winds, the comfort break and the cold which forced me to take it easy. The goody bag,or the doggy bag, was immense. There was an energy drink which I gave to Lisa and I seemed to be missing a sachet of body lotion which Lisa had in her bag but there was much more than I have ever seen in any other goody bag. The T shirt (it glows in the dark) and medal are also ace (I really must get a medal hanger sorted out!)

My only minor quibble was that I queued for water at the finish and it ran out before I got any. They were using the camping water containers and they were very slow to dispense the water so I think that was why the queue had built up. I can see that this would be more environmentally friendly than giving out bottles of water and it wasn’t so much of an issue in February when it was not hot.

Lisa and AM at Mad Dog

Sheltering from the wind behind the car just to get the photo…

This is a minor point in a race that was extremely well run by the Round Table in Southport and supported by the community. And I think that answers my initial question as to why it is so special: it is a community effort, put together for everyone’s benefit and to raise lots of money for charity.

Next year’s race is already named – Mad Dog 007 – Live and Let Drool! I liked the suggestion on its Facebook page this morning that it could also have been called The Man with the Golden Retriever. If you can get the Bond super villain to control the wind for next year, that would be awesome and I will see you there.



Canoe photo Oban

Do my feet look big in these?

Canoeing with Children

Part of our mission to be more adventurous was to learn to canoe properly. My husband learned to canoe at school and is pretty proficient. He and I dabbled in day trips in canoeing when on holiday, once in New Hampshire, USA, down a fairly slow moving river in an open Canadian style canoe and once in sea kayak in a sea loch near Oban in Scotland.

Fast forward to 2015 and husband decided that for his special birthday (one with a zero in it but I’m not allowed to tell you any more) he wanted to build his own wooden sea kayak. He has therefore spent most of the year building his boat.

Nige in canoe

All I need now is some water…and a paddle…

Mostly at his insistence, my twins and I signed up for canoeing lessons in our local pool. I was a little reluctant to start with I must confess. Not at all adventurous mum! The first session was not much fun as the pool was very crowded with all us newbies bumping into each other. I was the only one who fell in the pool trying to get into the canoe for the first time. Hmmm…cue a very red face and children shouting: “I can’t believe you fell in, Mum!”

As the weeks went on, I began to relax and enjoy it a tiny bit. However, one night, I was pulled over by the instructor and asked why I was looking so stressed. I didn’t think that I was obviously stressed but it did bring it home to me that it is extremely difficult to try to learn something new with your children. In my case, I always feel that I am looking out for them to see how they are getting on. I am not even too worried about them falling in or otherwise hurting themselves because they are both pretty confident in the water and have enjoyed it from the word go. But…but…there is always that parent hat to be worn to make sure that they are enjoying it, learning, paying attention, not being a nuisance to anyone else and yes, not drowning!

So the lesson learned that for me, if I am learning anything new in tandem with my kids that it might be better for me to have separate sessions. Hopefully then we can go on to new things together and enjoy that time together without the pressure of learning new things and listening to coaches.

Adventurous children have now progressed to the intermediate class and are having a whale of a time. They are almost able to roll! I decided that, with a new job (and a new blog!), I needed to focus on what I am already trying to shoehorn into my already-packed-to-the-hilt life. I am looking forward to the spring when we can get out on the open water together in some adventures. We will keep you posted on our progress.

What are your experiences of learning with your kids? Did you enjoy it?