Trekking and climbing: How I got started

People always ask me, especially those who knew me before I got fit, what got me into trekking and climbing mountains in the first place. It was pretty random really, as are most things I do because that’s how I roll. One minute I was reading The Metro and saw an Alzheimer’s Society advert for Kilimanjaro – the next I’d paid the deposit and signed up!

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Despite hating every waking moment of Kilimanjaro and vowing never to have to endure that again, no one was more surprised than me when I successfully climbed Mount Toubkal in Morocco this January and actually enjoyed it! It got me really into winter climbing and made me realise that I am fit and I can do anything I put my mind to. Six months ago friends were taking me aside and saying ‘You struggled up Kili, I think you ought to re-consider climbing Toubkal as you might not make it’. Anyone saying that I might not be able to do something is like waving a red rag in front of a bull – I am determined to prove my doubters wrong and prove to myself that I can do this, and that I am fit and not as useless as everyone thinks.

So, now I am signed up for Mont Blanc in September with my girl Midula, which is pretty hardcore I know and a totally different kettle of fish to trekking. That will actually require technical training, endurance and mental strength. I am determined though to fight all my demons (real and imagined) and show that little old me can nail it and become a kick-ass mountaineer!

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I’m learning to climb this summer – last time I attempted climbing (when I was more rotund) I sucked at it, but hopefully with the weight off and my chunky running thighs I’ll find it a bit easier. I’ll keep you all posted with the climbing and the training for Mont Blanc, but I’ll leave you with my little video of Toubkal and if you listen carefully you can hear me struggling towards the top (that last bit was hard work!).

Don’t let the bastards drag you down by telling you can’t do something!I You can do anything you want to do so screw ’em!

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Power songs

When I’m running every so often I need a bit of a pick me up – something to keep me going and that something is often a ‘power song’. Here are some of my favourites:

– Lana Del Rey – Born to Die

I love this song. Partly because of the lyrics at the start that are very apt when running – “Feet don’t fail me now. Take me to the finish line.” and partly because I do love her haunting voice.

– Safri Duo – Played Alive This is just an absolute belter of a tune. That is all!

– Lilly Allen – The Fear

I’m not sure why, but this song got me through the Brighton half marathon so now I love it and associate it with running.

– Ebeneezer Goode – The Shamen

It just makes me chuckle and is an absolute classic.

– Example – Changed the way you kissed

Great baseline, great lyrics – perfect for towards the end of a run as a little pick me up.

– Empire of the Sun – We are the people

Just because this is probably my all-time favourite song and makes me happy.

What are your power songs?

Eastbourne half marathon 2012 – Review

Well, 6 months ago I honestly nearly died running 6 miles and I never ever thought I’d run 13.1 mile in my life, let alone run that distance twice over 2 weeks.

Driving rain at the start.
Brighton half marathon I found a breeze, but I have to say the Eastbourne half marathon on Sunday I didn’t feel quite as good (running goes like that sometimes). The weather was horrific – side ways driving rain, cold and grey. I went off well – at mile 2 there was a hideous hill that went on for a mile, everyone was stopping and starting but I decided to carry on (albeit so slow that a granny could overtake me walking!). ‘What comes up must come down, what comes up must come down’ I told myself and sure enough down hill we went for another mile or so. I took full advantage of this and raced down at 7 minute/mile pace to try and claw back some of the time I’d lost. Then it was the flat for the remainder of the race. However, by mile 6 my knee was twisting and between miles 6 and 8 I had to slow it right down to 11 minute/mile pace as my knee and hips were in agony. I refused to stop though and thought better for my body to run slow and steady rather than stopping and starting. At mile 10 I managed to ignore the pain and pick up the pace again knowing that I only had less than 30 minutes of running left and 3 miles to go. I was at least 4 minutes behind my Brighton half marathon pace, but the conditions for Brighton were much better so I wasn’t too hard on myself.
Me at mile 13 just before the finish line.

I have to say, Eastbourne half marathon takes a lovely route – it’s stunning along the beach and the promenade and Sovereign harbour is lovely. It’s actually much nicer than the Brighton half marathon. I will probably do it again next year. 🙂 I finished it with a time of 2 h and 16 minutes. Not as good as my time for the Brighton half (2 h 10 minutes), but I’m still pleased with myself.

After the race I immediately sought the advice of a physio and had a gait analysis done at Runners Need (highly recommend doing that before you start upping the mileage). I have been overpronating (essentially running with too much of my left foot touching the ground) so I’ve had to get some new trainers that provide maximum support.

My lovely new Nike Flywires.

Looking at my old minimalist trainers I can visibly see the inside of my sole has rubbed away! Of course because my foot has been twisting in my knee has followed suit so I’ve strained my medial lateral ligament (sounds worse than it is though). The physio has checked out my knee and hip and is not remotely concerned – I have been given the all clear to continue running and training for the Brighton Marathon.

Brighton half marathon 2012 – Review

I ran in the Brighton half marathon – my first half marathon. In fact, the furthest I have ever run in my life!

Me at mile 11.

I actually signed up way back when I looked something a little like this (see hideous picture below) as a way of making myself get fit and lose weight. I kind of forgot about it for a bit, and then some time over the summer of last year I was reminded of my stupidity when the emails started flooding in from the organisers.

Me at my worst.

Ironically, one of the friends I met on the day and had lunch with last saw me when I weighed in a stonking 12 and a half stone (175 lbs or 79.4 kgs) – I am tiny at 5’4″ so that was heavy for my frame. She, whilst laughing, pointed out that one of our after work ‘runs’ used to involve me running 1k before collapsing in a heap. It’s true – previously I only used to run if there was a sale on in Next or if they were giving out free chocolate in Sainsbury’s.

So, after a major wake up calI, I embarked on a new life and a completely new regime by changing my attitude towards food and exercise, and the rest is history. Even whilst I was getting fit I always had in the back of my mind: ‘Can I really do this?’, ‘Have I really got 13 miles in my little legs?’. Then eventually, after about 3 months of pretty much solid training I realised that the half marathon was not only doable, but also doable in a good time. I’m never content with just going through the motions and doing things I always have to do the best I possibly can!

On the way to the start at about 8.20am.

There’s something pretty special about taking part in an organised run. The fun, the atmosphere, the camaraderie amongst the participants and the overwhelming feeling or nervous excitement all add to the buzz. I’ve done a couple of 10ks in the past, but once you get into half marathon and marathon territory that’s something else. They both take huge amounts of dedication, self sacrifice and a tenacious will to succeed.

I decided to take the train there as I knew parking would be a nightmare, but that meant I had to get up at 6.30am on a Sunday morning. Off I trundle to the station and as expected the only people on the train were those coming back from Gatwick airport or fellow runners. I headed down to the start line on Madeira drive and took my position in the +2h pen. I didn’t really know how my body was going to respond to doing 13 miles. In the training for a half marathon you usually only train to 10-11 miles, but never 13.1! I wanted to keep to a steady 10 minute/mile pace and try and get 2 h 10 or 2 h 15, but I wasn’t sure if I could do it. Thanks to my lovely Garmin watch that Tim bought me for Christmas (what a great running gadget!) I could keep an eagle eye on my pace the whole way round.

I always find the first 1-3 miles the hardest – it takes a little bit of a while to find your rhythm, but once I do I really get into it and start to enjoy running. By mile 6, my legs started to feel a bit weird, but I think that’s because I always train on hills and I don’t really know how to run on the flat now! The weirdness subsided by mile 7 and by mile 8 I was absolutely flying and felt really strong. I probably peaked too early though as by mile 11 I was desperately looking at the watch and trying to calculate if I could really make 2.1 miles in 20 minutes? As it happens, there was an error when laying out the course so in total, everyone ran 13.42 miles instead of 13.1 miles (corrected times were then posted on the website)!

By the time the results were out, I couldn’t believe it – I ran the whole thing in dead on 2 hours and 10 minutes! I was so pleased with myself, especially as I’m not built for running and have never really been fit or athletic.

Of course, now I am addicted and I’ve already signed up for the Eastbourne half marathon on 4th March!

Marianna and I celebrating our success!

To gym or not to gym?

Many people have said to me ‘I’m so busy, I don’t have time to exercise and go to the gym’ – what a crock of baloney! I think if you really want to exercise (and not everyone does) there is always time, it’s a question of making time for it.

Even when your working life resembles this:

You can still fit in this:

For me, I’ve found that going to the gym or trying to exercise in the evening just doesn’t work – the moment I stop, I just don’t want to do anything at all, and I’d have to get up at 5am to fit it in in the mornings, so lunch time is ideal. When I do my weekly shop, I buy about 3 weeks worth of tins of soup/baked beans, packets of coucous or rice, tins of tuna, salmon – basically healthy food that takes less than 5 mins to heat up in the microwave at work. I workout for approx 30-45 mins/day, have a quick shower (keep my hair dry) and then heat up my lunch.

I’ve got into such a routine now that it’s become a welcome break in my day where I can release any stresses or strains on the treadmill or abuse my body in leg, bums and tums (absolute killer class!). If you can’t afford the gym (mine is very cheap indeed) then how about considering getting off the bus/train/tube stop earlier? I save myself a fortune not getting the tube or parking in the station car park, and I thoroughly enjoy the walk to clear my head. Even in the pouring rain, the walk doesn’t bother me.

So, here are a few of my tips to get as much exercise and healthy eating into your day as possible:

  • Join a cheap council run gym – it may not have a spa or a sauna, but as long as it has a bike and treadmill what more do you really need?
  • Take the stairs instead of lift
  • Walk or cycle to work
  • Walk the dog
  • Carry a rucksack rather than a shoulder bag to spread the weight evenly then you can walk faster
  • Invest in MBTs/sketchers to get a workout while you walk
  • Load up some uplifting dance music onto your iPod or read a book on the exercise bike. I find I then do more as I forget about the time.
  • Join a local ramblers group – you’ll meet lots of great people and get some fresh air
  • Organise your lunches – heat up a soup or take in a sandwich
  • Get on the Wii or XBox connect – it’s fun and interactive
  • Why not try a workout DVD – all of Davina’s DVDs are fantastic!

Exercise essentials

I always carry everything I need for the day in my backpack, wear a parker jacket (so that I can walk in all weathers) and trainers (generally I wear these to work).


I make sure I have a bottle of water, cereal bar, apple, book/magazine, iPod, light-weight workout clothes (cycling clothes are ideal), tissues and a change of shoes, pants and socks in my bag. I also carry deodorant – that way, if I feel a bit hot and sticky from walking/cycling I can spritz some deodorant on.

I’m not saying I’m some sort of exercise guru (I’m really not), but I believe if you truly want to, anyone can get fitter and squeeze a bit of exercise into their day.

Go on, start tomorrow! x

Dashing Divas is born!

Big hello from me (Sian) and my Dashing Diva lovelies Sami and Midula. We hope you like our new blog. It’s a place where we hope ordinary women can come along and join in the exercise fun.

There’ll be race, gadget, exercise classes and clothing reviews, dietary advice, interviews with personal trainers and physios and general chit chat from three ladies who do love to run, climb and practice yoga (among other things).

We’ll give anything a go though so if you know of a really good exercise class or a top exercise tip then please do share! x