Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Greenwich 10k MoRun

Movember is a pretty well established event now. So much so that there are running events created to support Movember....MoRunning! Fortunately women are also welcome (as MoSistas), so last Saturday I found myself in a rather chilly Greenwich Park along with my lovely boyfriend, a collection of his friends, and 2000 other runners. I'd made myself a little moustache, using this pattern, so I was fitting right in;

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Casting on knitting

To really get anywhere in knitting, you need to be able to get started. You may well have learnt the knit and purl stitches using some knitting that a kind person had already cast-on for you, otherwise I’m afraid this is where you have to start. 
There are a huge number of different methods for casting on - bewildering for the beginner but very useful for a more experienced knitter as they all have slightly different qualities. There are much better tutorials out there on the internet, but I thought I’d round up the methods I use most often.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Runner's Highs

I've had two moments this week where I've thought 'hey, this running thing is awesome'.
1) On Saturday my boyfriend and I dragged ourselves out of bed into a dark and cloudy morning, fully expecting the weather for our parkrun to be a bit miserable. But we were going anyway, because we're runners. It seemed the weather gods rewarded our running faithfulness, because on the tube/train to Hampton Court, the clouds parted, the sun came out, and a glorious morning was born. By the time we started running it was a perfect autumn morning.

I was just planning to run solidly well. At 4km I thought a PB was out of reach - I'd have to run a really solid last 1km. But rounding towards the last long straight I felt good. I overtook the woman I'd used as my pacer. I kept going until a lady in front turned around and said "I can hear you catching me. I'm going to run faster, see if you can keep up!" and so I tried. She dragged me around the final corner and onto the final straight. There I lost her, but realised that this 11th hour sprint might bring me the PB after all. I finished in 26:46, knocking 14secs off my best. All I wanted to do was thank this wonderful woman, but I lost her in the crowds. For the rest of the day the combination of the unexpected sunshine, unexpected kindness and unexpected new PB kept me bouncing along with a smile on my face.

2) I decided I might as well start training for this half marathon - first goal being to start running 3x a week. So today I ran home from uni (11km from central London along the Thames Path). A few km in when I was still enjoying the novelty of it all I turned and saw something that instantly cheered me. Made me feel glad that I was right there at that moment with the time to enjoy what was around me. I love how running puts you back in touch with your surroundings. This was the view that made me feel alive and privileged and glad to live in such an awesome city;

I'd love to hear about any running moments that have lifted your mood this week :)

Thursday, 10 October 2013

British Heart Foundation Hyde Park Run

So, on Saturday I took part in my first ever race. It was the BHF Hyde Park Run - and I ran all 10km of it.
I'd entered it because it was the right distance in the right location, and not really because I have any personal ties to the charity. I thought I'd try and raise some money though and put my target as £100. It was mostly family and close friends that sponsored me, but a few unexpected donations really made me feel that actually I was doing something worthwhile. My sister knew I was aiming for under an hour, and challenged me; £20 if I was under, £10 if I was over. This was a great motivator, especially since I'd only managed 1:06 in training. (Top tip 1, do it for charity).

On the day I stressed about being late, about what to do when I got there, about attaching the timing chip to my shoes...pretty much everything. Having my boyfriend there to say reassuring things was wonderful. (Top tip 2, take someone with you for emotional/physical/logistical support).

Once we got started though, I enjoyed it. Yes I really enjoyed running hard and getting sweaty and being stared at by all the bemused tourists, because I was part of this massive group of runners and we were racing for a good cause. I could read peoples dedications to loved ones attached to their T-shirts and it was clear people were doing who didn't run very often. A lot of people walked a lot of it. But there were also a lot of people like me, slogging it out. It made me feel good, it made me feel like a proper runner, and because I was set to hit my target time it made me feel like a winner. (Top tip 3, train well and set yourself a challenging but realistic target). My official time? 59:09.

In summary, I ran my first 10km. I raised a load of money for a good cause, I hit my target, I enjoyed it.

So now I've booked a place on my first half marathon. Obviously.

Friday, 4 October 2013

The Innocent Big Knit

Every year innocent smoothies have a charity campaign in the winter months to help keep elderly people warm, when all their little smoothies start wearing knitted hats. It took me a while to realise that the hats were knitted by actual people and that everyone could join in. But each year the little hats would appear and I'd find I'd forgotten to take part again. But not this year! They had an advert on the telly! The deadline is the end of the month so I should be able to contribute at least a couple. Here are the two I made the other evening:
I'm still debating whether I can be bothered to give them bobbles... Get knitting! It's for a good cause and I love the idea of maybe seeing a hat I recognise (ok, so the chances are ridiculously tiny, but I still like the idea).

Tuesday, 1 October 2013


On Saturday I finished my 7th Parkrun. For people familiar with Parkrun this probably doesn't sound very exciting - after all there's the 250 club for those who have completed over 250 parkruns! For those not so familiar I'll give a brief summary. Parkruns are timed 5km runs that take place in parks around the UK and is spreading around the world, managed by volunteers and free for everyone to take part. All you need is to register for your free account where you can see all your results and print your barcode, and then take that barcode
with you when you run.
I started going along because my boyfriend has been going for a few years. He earned his 50 shirt earlier this year and now wears it with great pride each week. We run at Bushy Park by Hampton Court Palace in west London, which aside from being a glorious place to run, happens to be where Parkrun all started. As such it's hugely popular - over 960 runners this week. I find this brilliant; there are the really serious athletes (they get a few international level runners) all the way down to families running with their dog. Running in such a large group does slightly magical things to your times...they're much much faster! Before my first Parkrun (when I was really aiming for 30mins) the best I could manage was just over 32 minutes. On the day I ran 28:38 and finished with a huge smile. I was on such a high for the rest of the day. And I was hooked.
This week, after sitting admiring the view, I was pretty determined to set a new PB. I went armed with my Nike + running app, and my wrist stopwatch. But here's the downside to running with all the lovely people; it takes a while to get across the start line, and there's a bit of weaving along the way. Result being, the watch starts before you actually start running and you end up running a bit further. I was happy because according to my GPS data I ran at the pace I was aiming for and my Nike app thought I'd run my quickest 5km, but my watch showed that I'd missed out by about 10 seconds. But the best thing about Parkrun? There's always next week...
And the coming Saturday (5th October) is Parkrun's 9th anniversary. If you've never been I'd really recommend finding your local one and turning out on what's sure to be a bumper week. Unfortunately I have other plans for the morning (involving running) that I'll chat about later...

Friday, 27 September 2013

Why do I run?

My running story is much, much shorter. I've always been pretty active; enjoyed sports at school but wasn't anything special at them, dedicated all of my free time during my first degree to the university lacrosse club and have cycled to get around London for the past few years. But I'd never even considered running as an enjoyable pastime. I'm a bit too short and heavy, and besides my joints are a bit useless. And it'll ruin my knee. (I tore my ACL playing lacrosse in 2010 which required surgery). I'm just not made to be a runner. 2 things changed this.
1) My wonderful boyfriend. He is very much a runner. Parkrun on Saturday mornings, regular(ish) 10ks, and our first holiday together was a trip to Stockholm with one of his friends and his wife so the three of them could run the half marathon. He has a collection of medals and T-shirts (and a mug) and has done the remarkable; run a marathon. In short, he is a bit of an inspiration.
2) Peer pressure. I'm currently studying physiotherapy; the stereotype of physios being young, fit, beautiful people? It's so true. I felt such a misfit. All the girls at lunch times were chatting about their ironman training, or what time they ran their 10k that week, or which gym classes they'd been to that morning.

Basically I started running because I didn't want to be left out. I didn't like being left behind at the start line.

It was very much fuelled by my boyfriend's unshakable belief that absolutely anyone can be a runner, and his repeated assertions that I certainly wouldn't embarrass myself if I gave it a go.
Having started running I discovered a few reasons to keep going;
- It's incredibly satisfying. It's true, 99% of the time you'll feel better after a run than you did before.
- It's quite addictive. Not just those endorphins, but the 'maybe next time I can go a bit faster' feeling.
- You look extremely talented. Well, maybe not, but before I started running I never saw a jogger and thought, "They're rubbish". Because they were doing something I couldn't. No matter how slowly they were doing it, it was still more than me. Now that I do run, whenever I see a jogger I think "I bet they look better than me".
- There's something for everyone. From walk/running a charity 5k to running ultras, trail to barefoot to track athletics, there is something for everyone. And it's not like you're going to run out of places to run, it's a big world out there!
- You're part of a club. I'm still struggling with this. Because I'm new part of me still believes that there's some sort of initiation test, a rite of passage, something that marks you as a 'proper runner'. But there's not, everyone's welcome - my first Parkrun showed me that. Despite there being plenty of serious runners, everyone was so friendly and welcoming and encouraging. All you have to do is take part.

So I've been running for about 4 months now. How long have you been at it?

Why do I knit?

I can clearly remember when I decided I wanted to learn to knit. We had a babysitter who lived in the other end of our village, affectionately referred to as 'aunty'. She used to bring her knitting with her when she babysat us, and I was fascinated. After watching closely I - somewhat ambitiously - decided to try it myself the next day, using some string I found and two of the little wooden pointy sticks from our 'pick up sticks' game (remember it? Like this). Obviously I got no further than some tangled string and a frustrated little face. But next time Aunty came around, I asked if she could show me how to knit. My two sisters also decided they wanted in on the fun. She cast on the stitches for us - one for each year of our age, which made me very happy as it meant I had a couple more than my sisters - and off we went.
Throughout my childhood I knitted endless scarves with some pretty crazy 'novelty wool' from the local craft shop. My greatest achievement was this little jumper for my teddy, that I knitted as 2 flat pieces and my mum sewed together for me.
I stuck with scarves until university, when I bought the Stitch 'n Bitch book, which in turn led me to Ravelry and I haven't looked back. Blankets, jumpers, socks, hats, gloves, slippers...endless exciting things.

So, I knit because it was something I started as a little child and enjoyed, so have never stopped. But, here are some grown up reasons to give it a try;

- It's very therapeutic. Somehow it takes up just the right amount of brain. This is one of my main reasons: it is a pleasant way of spending free time (if it wasn't, then regardless of your determination, you probably wouldn't actually want to spend much time knitting).
- It's incredibly satisfying. Making something from nothing but a length of yarn using just your hands is a really great feeling.
- It's all unique. No-one else will be wearing it, or have just unwrapped an identical one.
- It guards against waste. You're pretty unlikely to throw away something you spent hours and hours making just at the first sign of wear. You'll try and fix it. You'll accept that it's looking a bit loved. And if something woolly really has reached the end of its life, you can unravel it and knit it into something else.
- You look extrememly talented. That magical ability to make something from nothing? To those that don't understand it, it makes you look pretty awesome. Even the simplest scarf will get gasps of admiration and "I don't know how you manage it!" comments. And everyone needs a bit of an ego massage occasionally.
- You can give things money can't buy. A handmade item has your time, your hardwork (and possibly your blood, sweat and tears) worked into it. Giving it to someone shows you think they're worth all that, and that's something pretty special.
- It's actually quite a cool thing to do. It's not just for grannies you know (if the Huff Post says it, it must be true. And it's been cool for a while).
- There's something for everyone. Once you can knit and purl, you can make things. Right from the off as a beginner there's things to do. But there's so much to learn and so much to make that you'll NEVER run out of things to do. You'll never know everything, there's always something new.
- You're part of a club. There's so many knitters out there. And they're all lovely and friendly. It's extremely likely there's a little group of them that meets somewhere near you, and are a real mine of inspiration and knowledge. More of a lone ranger? The internet is full of free tutorials and patterns.

So that's why I knit. Do you? If so why?

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Hello world!


Isn't this exciting?! If there's anyone out there reading this, hello! Thanks for taking the time to have a look. But if not, then I'm quite happy to sit here and have a quick chat with myself...

I'm planning to use this blog as a way of charting progress with my current knitting projects/running training, and also to explore any thorny issues I come up against along the way. Think fiendish looking knitting techniques, different shoelace strategies and philosophical debates on PBs'. Hopefully someone is reading this because I'd love to hear what people have to say; this is all about tapping into the internet's vast collective knowledge (which is really just people like you and me, having little chats).

Next time;

My knitting and running pedigree (or lack thereof).