Monday, 30 April 2012

How NOT to play netball!

'Seriously, it'll all come flooding back to you as soon as you step on the court' my friend reassured me as she cunningly convinced me to join her netball team for tonight's game. Yep, you heard that right: netball.

I haven't played netball since I was at school and, trust me, I wasn't particularly good at it then! But, guilt is a powerful emotion, and by the time we'd left the pub last Friday, I was convinced that it was better I play - badly - than leave them a (wo)man down!

And, oh my, was it a baptism of fire! On arrival at the sports hall, we were met by five worried faces: 'We're playing Universal' they announced. Apparently, this was bad. It was bad. They were good. Very good. Very, very good! In fact, these were semi-professional players with the ability to apparate suddenly away from me, and into the path of the ball!

Anyway,  it was an experience, it was fun and it may be something I could be persuaded to repeat, if someone was ever to risk persuading me again. For the time being, in case any of you have considered taking up the great secondary school game of netball, just a mere 17 years after packing away your netball skirt, here's my quick guide to 'How Not to play netball':

1. Agree to the position of 'Goal Shooter' even though your mere 5'2'' stature pails in comparison to the 6'+ giant goal keeper and you haven't held a netball in 17 years, let alone attempted to throw one into a small netted ring!

2. Close your eyes when the ball comes flying towards your face. Some say it's better to catch the ball with your hands, but your nose is a far more effective barrier.

3. Trip over your own feet whilst vying for space as your goal attack aims at the net; the fall to the floor conveniently distracts all team members - warning: this may also cause distraction to your own players!

4. Immediately run into an offside position as soon as the second half begins - having easily convinced your team that Goal Shooter is not the job for you - when you take on the position of Wing Attack. Ignoring the conventional boundaries of play will help you to escape your defence marker!

5. Be kind enough to let your defender win the ball every time. She's very good after all; when she's not apparating across the court, she's got a perfect catch and aim - she deserves to win!

If, at the end of your experience, you have a bruised nose and a grazed knee to show for your efforts, you know you've done well, but have room for improvement... as it seems that broken fingers are the sign of a 'great' player...

Hmmmmm... maybe I should stick to cheering...

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Marshalling Manchester Marathon

People are amazing.

Today, I observed  the courage, determination and tenacity of the runners taking on the Manchester Marathon...  and the weather! For 26.2 miles the runners were battered, bruised and drenched by the strong winds and, at times, torrential wind; and I hear it was the same for those at Milton Keynes.

Having vowed never to run a marathon again, when I'd heard about the return of the Manchester Marathon, I decided I would take the opportunity to 'pay it forward'. The crowd support at London is amazing, and I honestly believe there were times where I wouldn't have continued running if it hadn't been for the supporters, it makes such a difference. So, I wanted to give that back a little bit - If I'm not going to run a marathon, I can bloody well help other people run it instead!

My first marshalling responsibility was on Park Road, just down from Stretford Fire Station, which placed me between the 3 and 4 mile marker.

Park Road before the runners arrived

 At this point, people bounded past. I was joined quite quickly by a handful of local residents and stranded car drivers (the less said about some of them, the better!) who joined me in whooping and cheering the crowd of runners (Hi again to @m4rkyben who was also cheer leading there) who were coping very well with the weather conditions at this stage. Big smiles... heavy rain... several angry drivers later and my marshalling responsibilities were over. The rain was really coming down heavy now, so we headed back to the warmth of the pub meeting point. This was also on the 25 mile stretch of the race course, and after only 10 minutes the front runner came whizzing past - and seriously - whizzing is the best word I can find! I was astounded by his speed!  It was at this point our group leader discovered they were short on marshals for the second part of the course; it seems not everyone was willing to brave the weather.

Well, when you're wet, you're wet... you certainly can't get any wetter! So, I headed off with a couple of other people to continue the marshalling fun. This time, I was placed on the downward slope of the Stretford Mall underpass. Yes, you read that right: downward slope - I could read the pain in people's faces as they began that decent - ouch!  It was a brilliant position though. By this point the runners were quite spread out, so it was easy to see everyone I knew. It was also a great position for whooping and cheering, and that is exactly what I did... sometimes with others, sometimes alone... but always doing my best to pay back what others did for me. Which is when I decided that people are amazing... despite the weather, despite the pain and despite the fact they'd run more than 25 miles by this point, people thanked me! seriously! they smiled, they cheered, they even complimented my hat... well, it is a lovely hat!!

Top tip: wear a stupid hat; it keeps you dry and
cheers runners up!

It was cold and wet, but today, I saw the very best... and worst... of human nature. But the worst - the sweary drivers, the mean pedestrians and the angry 'I've got to get to workers' - were magnificently overwhelmed by the very best: The local residents who braved the rain to bring me cups of tea and coffee - thank you!; the passing pedestrians who stopped to cheer with me when they heard how far the runners had run; and everyone who ran the marathon today... your fortitude in the face of what was thrown at you today, makes me feel like even I could do it again!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The Forgotten Race

I'm not running the Great Manchester Run this year.

Or, at least, that's the answer I've given to those who've asked; the answer I've given because, as far as I was aware, I wasn't.

So, imagine my surprise on reading an email that happily informs me that my race pack will be with me in just a couple of weeks; and my even greater surprise at logging into my Great Run account and seeing the words:

Bupa Great Manchester Run ---> entered.

So, if you are one of the people whom I've told, categorically, that I won't be running it - no, definitely not this year, it's become too expensive and it's not worth the money, blah,blah,blah... - apparently, at some point, I clearly had a change of heart and will be plodding past Old Trafford (at least) one more time.

I just hope this is the only race I've absolutely no recollection of signing up for, I'm not sure I would be greeting an email from the Manchester Marathon with quite the same verve!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Reflections of a Magathoner

What's wrong with me?

...I should hastily state that that is a rhetorical question and answers are most definitely not needed on a postcard; I don't want to see those answers!...

Last year, I was running the London marathon - well, I say 'running', it was more running, then jogging, then staggering! - and it was possibly one of the hardest challenges I've ever undertaken. Not only was it physically challenging, in ways most people would never imagine - if you've run any kind of long distance you'll likely know the sort of bodily 'challenges' I'm referring to (Paula Radcliffe certainly does) - but it was also one of the emotionally charged events of my life! Crossing the finish line reduced me to a sobbing, blubbering wreck; I was overcome with pride, relief and the incredulity that I'd actually completed it!

Perhaps that explains why, this year, I'm sat on my (slightly fatter backside - I really should do more running again!) watching the London Marathon welling up every time they show someone crossing the line! Seriously! It's ridiculous; correction: I'm ridiculous! I suppose at least I realise!

Of course, watching something like this also makes you reflect. Would I do it again? Could I do it again? I'd wanted to run it faster; could I?


Is still the answer to that one. A year on, the whelming emotions of finishing are still very vivid, however so is the pain, the porta-loos and the long weekend runs!

Good luck to all those still out there, including Henry and Carla, who I'm tracking on the website! - you're doing well, keep it going!! And well done to everyone running marathons this year, particularly to those of you running more than one! As for me, I may not be running one again, but I am looking forward to marshaling at the Manchester Marathon next Sunday. If you're running it, let me know so I can give you an extra special cheer in your final five miles!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012


I guess, technically, The Magathon blog is really a blog about running; but, I can't pass on telling you my BIG NEWS so I have found a tenuous, very loosely relevant, running link to my BIG NEWS! ...

Last night, at 8.39pm, whilst my piriformis was being battered and bruised by my Physio, my lovely Sis-in-Law was giving birth to my teeny, tiny, cute-as-a-button, 5lbs 15oz of gorgeousness, nephew (and rendering any attempt of me gaining sympathy for aforementioned piriformis torture completely null and void!).

Yes, that's right... I'm Auntie Magathon!

Friday, 6 April 2012

A Good Friday

2 weeks: 3 races.

It began with the Asics Wilmslow Half Marathon in some of the hottest conditions I've ever run in... Well, in March anyway; the London Marathon was pretty damn hot last year! I'm not good in heat so I took it steady, and although my time was slower than last year, my Run Britain race profile has ranked my performance higher than the year before; confirmation, if I ever needed it, that it really was as hot as I thought it was!

Race 2 was the first of the Littleborough 5k's. For those of you unfamiliar with my local area, Littleborough is a little village within the boundaries of Rochdale; it's pretty, scenic and has a massive hill! Again, it was quite warm, but with this one taking place in the evening, the conditions were comfortably balmy.

Then it snowed!

So the temperature was significantly lower for race 3, which I ran today in the slightly cooler conditions of 5 degrees. Good Friday has always been the date for Salford Harrier's 10k race and, although I don't particularly like the route (a double loop of Salford's most scenic industrial and housing estates), I decided at the last minute that I should stop being so precious and get out there and do it. I'm glad I did. Although my time was still 3 minutes slower than I've run the course in previous years - slower running is still a hangover from the London Marathon, would you believe! - I did complete it in a time of 55.27, which is my fastest 10k since London and... Wait for it... I got 2 points in the club championship! Yes! That's right... I actually ran home ahead of someone else from club - just! It was tough, and if it hadn't been for the relatively steep down hill just a mile from the end, I'd never have done it; it took everything I had! But, I did! Yay!!

So, I think all in all, today has really been a 'Good' Friday! Hopefully, it has been just as good for you too... Here's to a relaxing, and enjoyable Easter weekend and, if you've nothing better to do with your time, I'll leave you with a picture of me running the Wilmslow Half and you can play 'what is that guy saying to me'!

Happy Easter (eggs)!