Meeting The Makers – Jewellery Crafting Masterclass with The Goldsmithy

This weekend I did something I never thought I’d have the chance to do. I attended a masterclass in jewellery making with a group of MK Bloggers at The Goldsmithy in Stony Stratford.

I love jewellery and though I don’t always wear a heap of it, I do wear quite a few rings on my fingers every day.  But (shame on me) I’d never really considered how they go from molten metal to something pretty and shiny. Despite a good friend being in this business, I’d never thought long and hard about it and had no idea what all the tools and such on her instagram bench photos meant. But today I was going to find out!

The Chapman family of Stony Stratford really opened my eyes to the art and passion of those doing it right. We arrived at their workshop bright and early, and after being introduced to Paul and Glenn, Paul started telling us about the history of their business.

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Glenn started his training in 1972, with Cartier, and down the line went into business himself, creating intricate bespoke pieces for people – their main focus being to create long-lasting, great quality, unique jewellery that people will want to wear every day. Paul, his son, is 3 years into his 5 year apprenticeship and you can tell he shares the same passion as his Father. You know each piece is a labour of love, just by hearing them talk.

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We started the class with Paul melting some silver down and telling us we’d be creating a ring from this. The raw metal seemed so dull and not like anything you’d want to put on your finger!

Being VERY accident prone, I was intrigued as to how I could possibly have a go at this, but hearing that ‘slow and steady’ is the general rule of thumb set my mind at ease a little!

At each stage, the whole group had a change to give creating this ring a go. From shaping, to filing, smoothing, to polishing.

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After the molten metal was moulded into a stick shape, it was stretched out using this mangle-like contraption. Paul stretched it to the point where it broke, just to show us how NOT to treat metal. These guys really take care, and using science and maths are able to create a piece of jewellery that really lasts – and the only way to do this is by knowing what mistakes can be made and how to avoid them!

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Filing, shaping, smoothing. So many tools, all with a purpose!

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I even had a go myself!

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This is tough work – slow and strong pressure filed down the tiniest amount of metal from this ring. My hand hurt very quickly and I barely scraped the surface!

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Within the space of an hour or so we’d created a rough ring. A little more shaping and filing and it was time to polish.

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And there it was! Nice and shiny! You can see the bottom edge has been left raw, to show the difference between the side we filed and how it started.

The most important thing I took away from this class is the passion Paul and Glenn have for gold smithing. They do this properly. They want you to bring in your heirlooms or your bespoke ideas and together create something unique and sentimental. They’ll work with you to ensure that family piece you keep in the drawer is created into something that still holds a huge place in your heart. And with 60% of their customers having a go at the bench, they’re allowing the wearer to have an amazing bond with the finished article.

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Using their extensive knowledge of gold smithing, they’ve even created a solution for arthritis sufferers, by adapting your ring to have a hidden hinge and clasp so you can pop it on your finger comfortably and securely and avoid any pain you might ordinarily get from putting your ring on or taking it off. Amazing! As well as offering cleaning and polishing services, these guys have such skill, if you have an idea for a piece you want, they’re the guys to go and speak to.

During the class we had the opportunity to sample some brunch foods from the fantastic Cameron’s Kitchen in Stony Stratford.

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We also went away with an amazing goody box with bits and pieces from local companies, including The Goldsmithy, Whitespace Studio, Popaball, Beeswax Wraps, Giraffe, Peel Juice Bar, Hello Stationery, Pasha Turkish Bar & Grill, Beauty Box By Alyson, Revolucion De Cuba, Rocky Road Treats and Maaya!

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It was a truly awesome experience, and meeting Paul and Glenn from The Goldsmithy was such a treat. These guys know their stuff, and instead of picking up something from a chain jewellers that isn’t made as well and could be found on anyone’s finger, why not visit your local gold smiths? They will work with you to create something unique and meaningful – and if you visit The Goldsmithy there’s a good chance they’ll let you have a go at making it yourself!

 

Thanks to The Goldsmithy, MK Bloggers and Brand Mission for this amazing opportunity!

 

Let’s Talk About Snow, Baby

When I was much younger, I always loved the snow. And to an extent I still do.

Snowfall seems to create a different world from the place you know so well. Streets and parks look unfamiliar even though you might have walked or frequented them over and over again.

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I’ve experience snow in a few places. Growing up it seemed like it snowed every year for the first years I can remember. In my mind’s eye I can remember photos I’ve seen of me bundled up playing in the snow. I remember the street I grew up on looking so magical, when there was heavy snowfall. The sides of the roads all slushy, deep and dirtied from vehicles trying to make their way (sometimes unsuccessfully) up the hill. And then for the longest time it just didn’t happen. For years it seemed, we just didn’t have any snow.

Then, as I grew into a young adult with responsibilities, snowfall started to become inconvenient. It once took over 3 hours to make a 30 minute trip home from work, my Dad driving, due to sudden heavy snowfall. Living in Milton Keynes, people often say all the roads look the same. I usually disagree, but on that night, everything all white and the road signs covered with the stuff, it was very disorienting.

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Working in a mall was always fun when it snowed (not). As soon as it started you would panic you wouldn’t get home. But until the head office had notified you could leave, you were stuck. Even if the customers had all left.

New York snow is definitely the prettiest I’ve seen. I can’t explain to you why, but if you’ve ever experienced it, you’ll know what I mean. I visited for Valentine’s Day in 2003 when the city saw a record-breaking blizzard (there’s even a Wikipedia page all about it) and I was snowed into my hotel. I mean, of all the places to be snowed in, New York’s a good one. We survived on deli sandwiches and watching the great President’s Day movies on the tiny TV in our room. It was pretty fun in hindsight.

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There’s something exciting and magical about snow. It seems to blanket over the monotony of day-to-day life, and add an extra level of interestingness. Your trips to work might be a little strange, the view from your kitchen window will be iced, and if you’re at school there’s always a chance you could get a bonus day off!

In England we’re a little famed for our over-reactions to this weather. Granted it can be genuinely dangerous on the roads, but that’s usually down to people not driving responsibly. The shelves in the shops will end up bare as people hunker down for what could be a whole 12 hours of inconvenience. Okay, I may be over exaggerating.

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My now conflicted opinion of snow comes from being a fairly new, and quite un-confident driver. When I met Gary, I couldn’t understand his negative opinion towards snow, despite his explanation. But now I’m going to stand up and say, snow is inconvenient and dangerous – and bloody cold!

Despite this, I don’t think I will ever lose the feeling that there’s a bit of magic in this kind of weather. As a child I have a distinct memory of going to bed, and listening to the main road outside. And then all at once everything became silent, and I knew it had started snowing. I wasn’t the type of person, back then, to look at a weather forecast, I was just a kid caught up in my own world, so I have no idea if it was due to snow. All I knew, without even looking outside, was that it was the kind of snow that would have turned the world white when I opened my curtains.

I used to have a theory, that if you looked directly into the sky as it started to snow, if the sky was that weird opaque pale orange colour, and all you could see was thick snowflakes rushing towards you, it would definitely stick to the ground, instead if just melting away. I was usually right.

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Today I’m talking about snow, because as I write it’s falling on the UK. And by this I mean literally – I’m watching it come down. I woke this morning, at a stupid time, in the anticipation of a snow-covered cul-de-sac outside, and I wasn’t disappointed. Some plans have sensibly already been cancelled, whilst others hang in the balance.

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This time around, I feel a little like this snow will be a tad more special since it’s Christmas time. We don’t often get snow in December in these parts any more. It tends to land in January or February, which at least adds a little something to those nothing-y months. But that postcard idea of snowfall at Christmas rarely occurs. So this year is different.

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I’m not a big fan of being wet and cold, so skiing, snow angels, snowball fights or building snowmen is never on my to do list when it’s snowy. But I will say, if you’ve got nowhere to go and you’re warm and safe somewhere, it’s blooming beautiful to watch it fall.

Why I Love Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes is celebrating its 50th birthday today so I thought I’d share some of the reasons why this New City is a place I love!

I have lived here for most of my life (bar 2/3 years somewhere in the middle where I lived just outside) and even though it’s been the butt of people’s jokes, I still firmly believe it’s an awesome place to live. Here’s why:

  • Milton Keynes was built a New City, with the environment, industry and lifestyle in mind. It has excellent links to London (be there on the train in less than an hour), redways (paths that run alongside or under the main roads, tarmacked in red) that allow you to travel through the town on bike or by foot almost completely without having to brave dangerous dual carriageways.

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  • The buses have always and probably still are unashamedly always late. You might as well burn the timetables, and more often than not if your bus stop actually has one of those new fangled digital displays tracking the buses on it, your bus will get 5 minutes away and then disappear – see MK is magical! I don’t use the buses anymore, so I see this as charming……
  • Despite it often being a punchline (the bit in Love Actually, where someone is learning English and they say “Milton Keynes has many roundabouts”, for one) it’s also famous for a few very cool things. It’s home to Bletchley Park and the Enigma machine which cracked the code and won the war in the 40s. Part of Superman 4 was filmed here, outside our train station, which was thought to look futuristic at the time. It still looks the same now, so make up your own mind next time you’re here! Cliff Richard filmed his ‘Wired for Sound’ music video here, roller skating through our shopping centre.

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  • And on the subject of our shopping centre, the old bit (because we call tend to refer to the two sections of mall by saying ‘the old bit’ and ‘new bit’, even though the new bit is really old now….) was Europe’s largest shopping mall when it opened. I worked in the shopping centre on and off for the majority of my working life, and it holds a special place in my heart. It’s not the fanciest but I like it 🙂

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  • We also had the UK’s first multiplex cinema in The Point, which was a huge pyramid-shaped building with red neon lights outlining it. It was an exciting thing to see as a child, in its prime. Go give it a google! The smell of the popcorn as you walked in, and the sound of the kids playing the arcade was incredibly exciting, and something I’ll never forget.
  • I love how you can drive a few miles and be out of the cityscape and in the countryside. We have loads of old villages, pubs, markets, forests and trail walks. There are farms and fields, but also on the flip side of that we have high-rise apartment buildings, bustling businesses, a theatre, ski dome – pretty much everything you’d want. Oh and about 5 Nandos within the space of 5 miles…

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  • Even though we’re mocked for our roundabouts, I honestly believe MK was set out really well. It’s one way grid-system roads were based on the layout of New York City!
  • This also makes it really awesome for running – Milton Keynes has become a mecca for runners and cyclists with events all throughout the year. The paths and roads are relatively flat and it’s easy to run for miles without having to worry about cars.
  • The Bowl, Milton Keynes’ open air concert venue, has been home to artists like Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Queen, Bon Jovi, REM, Foo Fighters, Kings of Leon and Radiohead to name a very few. Over the years there has been talk of its purpose changing but thankfully it hasn’t happened yet. I love seeing live music events there!

I have loads of great memories of Milton Keynes and I hope to have many more! Children’s Day at The Bowl was always great fun. I remember having a red balloon with a tag tied to it which had an address and my name on. The idea was that if someone somewhere far away found your balloon they’d contact the address and the organisers could see how far it flew. All the balloons were put together and released in one big magical swathe of red! I think I’ll always remember that!

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Milton Keynes continues to grow and develop. It’s always been that way, and I’m often surprised at where they find the space to build what they build, but it’s never too much. With all the greenery mixing in with the industrial landscape, it’s the best of both worlds. And I really don’t think I’ll be moving away any time soon.

Happy Birthday Milton Keynes, and here’s to many more!

 

 

Jurassic World 4DX

Today is Musings of a So-Called Shutterbug’s 6th birthday! Thank you to all those who follow, comment and share. If you’ve been following Shutterbug for all 6 of those years then you deserve a treat today!

On Saturday evening Gary and I headed to the XScape building in Milton Keynes and to the newly refurbished Cineworld cinema.

We were off to see the eagerly anticipated Jurassic World – in 4DX. If you don’t know what 4DX is then I’ll tell you – you watch the movie in 3D where available, on special seats which move appropriately to the movie. There are lights, fog, water, smell and air to experience too. I knew this would be the perfect movie to try out 4DX for the first time, but I was a little nervous for some reason. Probably nervous excitement! Milton Keynes is home to the country’s only 4DX cinema, and we’re very lucky to live on the doorstep.

If you haven’t seen Jurassic World yet or experienced 4DX and don’t want to be spoiled, it’s probably best that you don’t read on. But do come back once you have, and let me know what you thought!

So entering the screen, you could see there were less seats than in a normal cinema screen. In rows of about 8-12 seats, but these were in blocks of 4. The seats are ergonomic and high off the ground, with foot rests. There’s enough space in front of your seat and the one in front that people can walk through your row without you having to get up or move to let them past. On your arm rest there’s a button stating ‘water on’ ‘water off’. I chose to leave water on 😀

The trailers started and I’d hoped we would experience a 4DX trailer to acclimatise us to the feel. And I wasn’t disappointed. Our trailer was for the new Terminator movie, not my cup of tea, but I loved feeling the seats tip forward, side to side, flashes to the sides of the auditorium, air from behind and in front and under the seat by the legs.

I couldn’t wait for the film to start. What surprised me from the beginning was the 4DX experience was all the way through, not just in certain action parts. When you’re introduced to the family at the start it’s snowing and there’s snow on the ground. You feel icy air all around you as if you’re there. The kids get on a boat and your seats move as if you’re on water, with a fresh sea breeze on your face. It’s incredible. Fast moving chases fling you around as if you’re being chased. The island, when you’re first introduced to it SMELLED GOOD. It was like being on the best ride, because it lasted the length of the film. Discussing with Gary, I discovered I experience more, as I was wearing a sleeveless dress so in certain parts I experienced things on my arms and legs that he didn’t. The water parts were fantastic (you don’t get soaked) and you could tell every effect had been thought through to complement the film.

I’ll stop talking 4DX now and talk about the film, but I’m so glad I saw the movie in this way. I genuinely want to experience it again, and it’s worth the extra few pounds.

So the movie; first of all fans of the original score won’t be disappointed. The important themes and phrases are in there and the new score is in keeping with the old, but new enough. During the film there are also massive references to the original movie, in a nostalgic and respectful way, which I really enjoyed.

The movie story and execution is brilliant from start to end, with nothing confusing or irrelevant. There’s masses of product placement but I guess that should be overlooked because of what the film is, you kind of have to expect it. (Starbucks, anyone?)

Most importantly, Jurassic World was in keeping with the other movies. In my opinion it’s up to the standard of the first and is no disappointment. I was fully immersed in this film, whether or not this was due to 4DX, I don’t know. All I’d say is if you don’t know whether to see it – go! See it in 3D or 4DX if you can, but if you liked the original, you’ll love this!

If you’ve seen the movie and/or experienced 4DX I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Women’s Running 10k Series – Milton Keynes Race Recap

On Saturday 5th I ran my second 10k race in the Women’s Running 10k Series, my 4th 10k race to date. Last year’s was in London and they only had three locations, but this year they’ve opened it up to loads more places and I was very pleased to see that Milton Keynes was one of them. I had enjoyed last year’s so much that it was a no brainer to run this one. You can read last year’s recap here.

This year I roped in my friend Tash to run with me, since she was after a new challenge and hadn’t run 10k before. Our lead up to the day was a little muddled in training since we were both so busy. We only managed one training run together and our independent training runs sometimes turned into treadmill runs since the weather was being a tad temperamental. And in the days leading up to the event we could see that this wasn’t going to change. Heavy rain was forecast, but with very high humidity. It was going to be an odd one. I’d never run in the rain before so I was intrigued to see what it would be like, and since I suffer in heat a lot I hoped the rain would help me along.

The big day arrived and so did the rain. But we donned our head gear – I’d heard that a cap in the rain was the best choice of accessory as it kept the rain from your face. They weren’t wrong!

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We arrived at the race village and it wasn’t too busy but women gradually started to appear over the next 45 minutes until there was just over 300 of us. The rain had held off until we decided to duck into the portaloos and by the time I re-emerged it was peeing it down. Gary was prepared with a large golf umbrella which was sheltered underneath until we had to move forward for the warm up. We did manage to get some pictures before the rain though:

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The warm up was really excellent. Firstly it kept our whole body warm despite the rain coming down on us quite heavily by this point. It got my heart beat up just enough to prepare me for the race and all the parts of my body that needed a stretch and warm up got exactly that. The best pre-race warm up I’ve ever done.

And then we were moving towards our pacers. Since my fitness level had dropped dramatically since the half marathon I knew I would need to take this easy. I wanted to hit no slower than 70 minutes so lined up next to the sub 70min pacer. I love that this race had pacers and I knew I wanted to run sensibly this time around since last time I thought I’d chosen too slow, went faster than my pacer and then burned out too soon. I didn’t catch the name of the 70 min pacer but she was amazing. She was motivational and chatty (but not too chatty) and so friendly. I managed to run directly alongside her for about 4.5miles when I slowed down as I was starting to struggle.

The rain held off for most of the race but there were 2 large downpours – they were welcomed and seemed to happen just when I was overheating. The humidity was unbearable at points so the rain was amazing!

I didn’t walk at all until the 5k water station, where I realised I’d been going a little fast and took the opportunity to walk until the 70 min pacer met with me again at which point I carried on running. I’m really familiar with the route, since that’s where I train most of the time so I knew what to expect, but I was very impressed with my pace and how strong I felt. After a short walk later on and seeing I had 1k left, I began to run and felt so great I was able to start pulling back, dug my heals in and gave a really strong finish.

I crossed the finish line with a time of 1:10:35 – 36 seconds over what I’d wanted to achieve, but I’m still happy!

certReunited with Gary and Tash, along with her parents who were braving the weather to meet her, we got our medals, t-shirts and goody bags (the best goody bags in the business, and the medals even have the date and location printed on the ribbon which I love!) I headed over to the Everything But The Cow stand who were there to grab a bottle of their yummy drinks for me and Tash. They’d been lovely enough to send me some samples to review a few months back which you can read here. I mentioned that I’d tried their product frozen and they immediately knew who I was – ‘Erin – Groggits from Twitter ‘ they said. I was amazed they’d recognised me from my blog photo, and felt a little bit like a celeb 😀 It was amazing to meet and chat to the Everything But The Cow girls, and hear how much they’d loved my review.

I have to admit I was starting to wonder whether I was falling out of love with running since my half marathon, but after this race I know it was just a bump. I enjoyed it so so much, and I will definitely be back to run with Women’s Running again next year, whether it’s in MK or London.

Now I just have to find my next race…….

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The One with One Deliberate Festival and One Accidental Gig

So the start of my holiday began wonderfully chilled, with fabulous weather and lots of plans. Despite having to spent a lot of the previous few days and the Saturday without Gary, my friends had filled my time well. My friend Amy’s birthday annually coincides with the local Waterside festival, a free music festival held alongside a canal, and so she had invited us all to gather, picnic and listen to the music.

We showed up around 2ish and I immediately regretted jeans as a choice of leg wear. Why did I think that they were a good idea? The heat was as if we were basking ON the sun. But we settled down and were soon enjoying the sun, the music and the company. It’s a lovely place to people watch and just enjoy the ambience.

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Amy, her friends and boyfriend had already been there for some time before we’d arrived and wisely headed off to cool down and rehydrate (and apply some sun cream!) leaving us book club girls to sunbathe and eat the rest of the picnic and some yummy strawberries. It was great to chill out together and was a wonderful start to my holiday! I got some great tan lines too (even though they were just on one shoulder…. oops!)

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Sunday was another glorious day and after the general weekend chores were completed, Gary and I decided we would have a wander down to the MK Bowl where Kings of Leon were going to be playing a gig, with Haim supporting. We both love Haim and so traipsed down with a rug under-arm prepared to camp out outside the concert area and listen to the music. Having left the house at about 6:10 we got to the Bowl area around 6:45 – as soon as we emerged from the underpass we were asked by a tout whether we needed tickets. Gary had a chat with him, and since we weren’t bothered about going in we walked away a few times, dissatisfied with the prices he was offering us. In the end we got two tickets for £40 which is amazing since they were about £65 each, face value! Pleased with our barter we marched straight into the event and found a spot to sit with 5 minutes to spare before Haim came on at 7pm – not bad eh?.

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Haim were really great to watch, the weather was wonderful and since we’d not been expecting to see them it was all a bit exciting! Kings Of Leon played a great gig and by half 11 we were back home and getting ready for bed! I love living so close to such a wonderful venue. We’re considering doing the same for the upcoming Pearl Jam concert!

Not a bad start to my holiday!

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MKM Half Marathon Race Recap

Brace yourselves, this is a long one!

Monday saw Gary and I complete our first Half Marathon together in Milton Keynes. The night before we had laid out our running stuff out and went to bed nice and early to get as much rest as we could. I’d had butterflies for the whole week and nerves were kicking in for Gary too. We woke up on Monday morning and started to get ready, eat breakfast, prepare our bibs and shoes with timing chips. My Dad, our chauffeur for the day came to collect us and kept himself quiet whilst we chattered about nervously. Traffic to the stadium start line was heavy and we could see a huge amount of runners walking in our direction. The excitement continued to increase as we hopped out of the car, said goodbye to Dad and headed towards the action.

People were warming up, stretching, having little jogs up and down the closed roads we would be heading up later on. We were instructed to begin lining up behind the start line, both Marathon and Half Marathon event runners. I immediately started to feel like I needed to pee of course! But I held it together telling myself it was all in my mind.

Messages from friends who were meeting in the shopping centre, between miles 3-6 were pinging on my phone and I had to turn the notifications off to focus – but it was wonderful knowing they were there, getting in all the excitement and waiting to see me when I got there. Some more friends managed to find us waiting in the running line and it was great to see them and have a little chat before we set off.

And then we were running. It took about 5 minutes to get over the start mat and head off for our first half marathon, and my longest ever run. The route would take us from the outskirts of Bletchley towards the shopping centre which is mapped out like a grid, similar to New York. Our route had us running up and down the same roads using the one way systems, pretty much exhausting all of the roads and then running back out of the town centre.

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The weather was sunny and warm and I was pleased I’d bought a running cap for the event. It really kept the sun from above my eyes where I’m prone to get migraines. I felt really good for the first few miles but lost Gary close to 5k. The elevation into the shopping centre was stupidly steep and my legs just weren’t working for me. Just as I was walking for the first time I heard someone saying “Come on Erin, you can do it. Just one foot in front of the other”. A complete stranger (I don’t even know how she knew my name from behind me since my name was on the front) was helping me along. It was just what I needed and I told her as much, thanked her and moved on.

The first water station was very welcomed and I was delighted to recognise one of the volunteers as an old work colleague. I made a beeline for her, waved excitedly and took a bottle from her. She recognised me and looked very excited to cheer me on. I took this as a sign that I could make it (over the course of the run, I took a lot of things as signs!). I did a lot of run-walking throughout the race, which would have annoyed me in the past but I know for this race it was the best thing for me to do. It was just how I would make it to the end. And around this area usually just as I was summoning the strength to walk again, the same lady from earlier would appear at my shoulder with words of encouragement. At this point we had a chat, and I learned her name (her christian name was difficult to read so she had the name Butterfly attached to her top)  and that she was doing the full marathon for a charity called Bliss Baby. She had lost her baby at 8 days old and this was her second marathon to raise funds and awareness for the charity. We talked for a bit, and she encouraged me to run off whenever I wanted.

We came up to the library where I knew my Mum and Dad were waiting to cheer us on (Gary was long gone by this point!) and mid conversation with my new run-buddy I heard a massive “ERIN” and cheering. It was my Book Club girls! Jumping, screaming, taking photos, shouting my name. It was absolutely amazing and wonderful! Butterfly commented “That’s gotta be a boost!” and then just over the road I saw my Mum and Dad waving and cheering too.

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To the right of me (my left) in this photo, I’m really pleased to see Butterfly captured running alongside me (blue vest). She has no idea how much of an impact she made on my run.

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Running on and out of the town centre I knew I was nearly over half way done. I had prepared myself for the race being both mentally and literally downhill from here and I don’t think that was necessarily a good thing. Up until here the crowd support had been amazing. Charity supporters (mostly Team George, who for some reason would only cheer on their own charity – bad cheer etiquette!) and belly dancers, bongo players, bands and families with noise makers. But then we hit the road of doom that would never end. Between miles 7-10 it was long boring straight roads that never seemed to end. Roundabout after roundabout, with very few supporters. On some of the roads you could see other people running up the other side of the carriageway and you knew you would have to get to the end and run all the way back. It was a proper mental game.

I was very aware that my stomach couldn’t handle any more Shot Bloks and that I was hot and sweating but that I couldn’t over drink because my stomach would just slosh. I made it to the turn off where the marathon runners diverted off and knew I only had 5k left. I looked at my watch and saw it was 35 mins until my 2.5hrs goal but was aware I wouldn’t hit this. I had been running 11:50mm for the last however-long and I knew I wouldn’t be able to pick it up. Running, walking, stopping to stretch out my hip frequently (which was now hurting a lot) a woman asked if I was okay since I was walking. Her name was Julia, running her first half marathon, along with her marathon savvy husband Norman. I had a little chat with her and then they carried on. I managed to run further and felt okay, quicker pace, hip not hurting – but then I started to feel dizzy and moved off the road onto a verge. I had my head near my knees and then Julia was next to me, telling me to drink her water and pouring some down my neck to cool me down. At this point I decided I needed to run with her and her husband. I knew I could help her and she could help me. She was struggling, I was struggling, he was motivating her and soon both of us. She was running for her Grandchildren and I could see so much determination in her.

The last water station was sponsored by World Vision, a charity my sister works for, and as I took water here someone shouted “Go on Erin” – I know I have my name on my top but there was recognition in their voice as if my sister had told them to look out for me. Whether that was true or not I got a boost.

The last 5k was a group effort (Norman was amazing at motivating!) and as we got towards the stadium knowing there wasn’t much left to do a massive smile covered Julia’s face. We couldn’t get our legs to go any faster but it seemed somewhat easier at this point. Being told by a steward that shiny medals awaited us, we headed on down and into the stadium to finish our half marathon.

I entered the stadium and I felt so so small. The seats looming above me, I was aware I was running very slow and stiff and that so many people were watching. So strange and exhilarating all at once. But soon I saw Jen and Rich who had met me at the start. They were right at the front of the seating cheering me on and I knew I was supported and with friends and could just concentrate on getting on with it.

Crossing the finish line the first thing I did was turn and give Julia and Norman hugs, well dones and thanked them for helping me towards the end.

mkm4You can actually see them in the above photo hugging each other whilst I scanned the crowds for Gary (Norman in white vest, Julia in blue t-shirt and sunglasses)

Gary was soon shouting from the stands having finished 15 mins earlier than me. I walked down along the track and saw Tash who hugged me and offered me Vitacoco and I think all I managed to get out was “after medal” – Tash I’m aware I was staring vacantly at you and not saying any words, but I was listening to every word, I promise! I walked on to get my medal and then just randomly carried on walking and wondering where I was meant to go. In my delirious state I had no idea where I was going and didn’t realise I was passing where I was meant to exit, so found myself back at Rich and Jen which was great because I was able to get my brain in gear, sit for a second and we then headed back to where I’d seen the rest of my friends and family.

Seeing all my friends who had been cheering along and my family was so amazing. We took pictures, I tried to string a sentence together and they gave me and Gary our own little goody bags with more Vitacoco (that stuff is amazing post-run), bananas, protein bars, water and a glucose tablet. They’re the best cheerleaders ever!

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After having got my bearings I found my way to the finishers room where I collected a goody bag and made my way up a slope and some stairs (a cruel trick) to see all of our wonderful friends and family again.

This race was amazing. It was HARD but it was my race. I met some wonderful people, the stewards were wonderful, the cheerleaders were top-notch, and the medal has GLITTER on it!

mkm5I’m still recovering now, but I have heard it takes a day for every mile to recover so I’ll be fine in a fortnight! My official finish time was 2:40:47. It’s not the 2.5hrs I hoped for but I knew in my heart that this wasn’t possible on the training I’d done. Next time 🙂

So now I have to focus on the Race For Life 5k coming up next month and the Women’s Running 10k the month after……. and I’m secretly searching for my next half marathon challenge so I can top this one, but don’t tell anyone.

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I did it!

As The Bloggess would say, this isn’t a real post.

I wanted to just pop in and say I’m here, I’m alive and I did it! I ran my first half marathon yesterday and I survived!

Photo Credit: Amy Phillips
Photo Credit: Amy Phillips

I ran it a tad slower than intended but considering the type of training I’d done and the heat and the fact that it was REALLY hard, I’m really pleased with my result! AND I enjoyed it 🙂

I will write my post race recap when my brain is working again, so hopefully I’ll sit down tomorrow evening. Today has been a mixture of lazy tv watching, painful foam rolling, hydrating and this evening a lot of pampering including a hair mask, face mask, body oil and later a liberal application of after sun!

I also want to mention that today I’m celebrating my 1 year Runniversary and what a way to complete my first year running than with a Half Marathon ‘eh?

Also, a lot of people liked my Overnight Oats post and Drink Me Chai who I mentioned in that post liked it so much that they shared it on their Facebook page, which I was pretty chuffed with! (Don’t forget Shutterbug has its own Facebook page which can be found here, so if you want future posts to show up directly in your Facebook feed then pop over there and hit Like!)

So that’s that for now, but keep ’em peeled for my post race blog – it’s gonna be emotional, folks!

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MK Half Marathon Training

I wrote this post yesterday. I wrote it yesterday and scheduled it to post whilst I’m running my first half marathon, so if you’re reading this around the time it’s published you might like to think of me slogging away out there somewhere.

The idea of running a half marathon is epic. At the end of my first 10k I thought to myself it’s absurd anyone would complete that distance and then continue to run it again.

The training plan for this half marathon has been strict and well planned out. Eat the right food, have the right hydration, train with energy blocks to see how I react to them. The following of the plan hasn’t been all that strict. At the point of writing this the furthest I have run is just shy of 8 miles. I have suffered with injury in both my left hip and right knee. It’s gotten to my brain and made it so hard to focus and motivate.

I’m frightened I haven’t done the training I need, scared the injury will come back and worried that I won’t make it. I have no doubt that I will complete this. I do however want to enjoy it.

I know it’s going to be tough – running always is. I know I will have aches and pains but I also know I can run. So far my friends and family have raised over £200 for Macmillan Cancer Support and I have to remember I’m running it for them and for my Dad. He overcame cancer once, and was recently told they have found some more. I have an amazing circle of people who are coming to cheer me on and support me throughout the race. I’m running for them and I won’t let anyone down.

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The fear of the unknown is huge with this, and with all of my previous races I’d trained the distance I was running at least once. I can’t say the same now so it’s both scary and exciting.

See you on the other side. Wish me luck – I think I’ll need it!

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MK Festival of Running – Race Recap

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Well here we are on the flip side of the MK Festival of Running 10k. Gary and I were using this race as a measure of our half marathon training so far and also a great way of seeing what’s it like to run on the streets of MK since that’s where our half will take place.

First of all I want to thank everyone who sent well wishes and messages of support to Gary and I over the last few days. It’s really amazing how many people have supported us. We’ll make you all proud again for the MK Half!

We were up bright and early in time to have a leisurely breakfast (honey and banana on toast) and a top up of water. The day was still pretty chilly when we left but knowing it was going to heat up outside I didn’t really know what I should wear. I opted for a black base later, long running tights and my Macmillan vest. This was a mistake. Despite it being fine standing around in this, within 1 mile I wanted to remove all my clothes and jump into the lake…. Anyway more of that later.

We arrived at the start and the atmosphere was wonderful. The sun shining and all the runners and supporters milling about. We found my friend Jen who was there to support us – so glad we saw her at the start. The 5k wave went off and then it was our turn to move along to the 10k start. We’d had a little drive around the route the day before so we had an idea of where we’d be running. And then we were off. It was amazing seeing all the heads of the runners up ahead in the morning haze, stretching along the long straight roads of Milton Keynes. Definitely the largest race I’ve taken part in, it was wonderful to see so many people running ahead. I kept the pacer screen on my Garmin so I knew I was heading out a tad fast to begin with, so I slowed and was able to maintain a comfortable sub 10m/mi pace for the first 3 miles.

It was just before the 5k water station that I began to feel the heat becoming a problem. All dressed in black long sleeves I was overheating all of a sudden. I needed the water we were given but had to be careful not to drink too much. Along this stretch a teenager had moved his drum kit outside onto his driveway and was playing drums for the runners – it was such a boost!

I tucked my top and vest up into my sports bra at the back and this did help a bit, but by this point I’d had to stop and walk or risk letting the heat win and as a result I lost Gary in the crowds – up until this point we’d been running at the same pace which was great. I carried on, grabbing jelly beans from spectators as I went. I was gagging for a hydration drink at this point, and now know I need to buy a running bottle and some hydration tabs for the half (Nuun here I come!) I also know I want to take some jelly babies to hand out when I go to support at the London Marathon.

The rest of the race is a bit of a blur, but at some point I ran right past Jen and didn’t even realise! She said I was so in the zone I didn’t hear her calling my name!

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Jen was this close to me and I missed her! Doh!

Speaking of people calling my name, since I was wearing my Macmillan vest which has my name on it, I was delighted by the amount of people cheering me on by name. I LOVED this and I think I need to get another vest (no charity) with my name on so I can always take advantage of this amazing support tool. The massive hill at the end (a different hill from what I thought it was) was hard but my hill training paid off and I ran the whole thing. At the top was a guy from Macmillan who was cheering me on as I got towards the top – thank you that man! You can also see from the photo above that I was wearing a knee strap. This was for my ITB injury and I felt zero pain the whole way around.

I saw my Mum & Dad then my Sister and her family at the last ‘landmark’ before the final stretch. I could hear people’s names being called out as they finished and as I neared the last corners I heard Gary’s name being called. Then it was my turn and it was over!

My final official time was 1:05:34 which was a PB by approx 2 minutes. I’m über pleased with that, but just wish I hadn’t walked when I did – the heat really hit me, and I didn’t want to get ill so went for cautious instead of time. There was a guy who collapsed at the finish and was taken away in an ambulance. Apparently he was pale and his lips were blue. A lot of people are asking how he is….. so I’m glad I was careful!

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Jen was there at the finish to congratulate us and give me big sweaty hugs (Me not her!). I’m really pleased with this run and it’s really shown how good our training has been so far.

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The training ramps up from here with at least two 10k runs each week in the plans to start with, and then increasing distance over the next 2 months until race day!

When we got home and after a wonderful bath, I had lunch. I’d been craving avocado on toast with bacon for about a week and a half and decided to leave it as a reward after the run. It was delicious!

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And I still have some left for later in the week!

The weather was so amazing that we headed back out to Willen Lake for the afternoon. The Brits were out in full force for the first sign of good weather. There was a 30 min queue for ice cream, barbeques on the go and far too many leggings as trousers (my eyes!) We probably walked about 3 miles on and off. It was a good stretch out for the legs. Sitting at the Peace Pagoda and watching the daffodils was beautiful. Spring has arrived!

So I have today and tomorrow off to recover. Tonight we’ll be back at the gym to do some weight training, as I’ve been slacking off since running has been taking precedence, and then it’s back to pounding the pavement tomorrow.

It’s exactly 8 weeks until the MK Half Marathon – Let’s get this done.

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