5k in the bag!

parkrunWoohoo! Today I reached the 5k mark, and ran my first Parkrun! I completed the run in 35 minutes, and apart from being knackered, I have to say I’m feeling pretty good.

Today Parkrun came to Seaton, and nearly 200 people turned out to run on a dull, wet November morning. Bit of a shock when you’re used to running on your own, but it seemed like a good thing to aim for when I found out a few weeks ago that this new Parkrun was starting up. So, not having yet run a full 5k, I decided to take it on, and see how it went … and I made it!

So, that’s my first goal reached. 5k – tick!

What next? Well, maybe before I look forward, I’ll just recap a bit on the last few weeks since my last blog.

Three weeks ago, the training was going well, I was beginning to feel more comfortable, and then … ping … my back went! Nothing to do with running, but it put a stop to any running at all for over 2 weeks. I was starting to panic a bit. Missing weeks of training was starting to worry me – I know April is a long way off, but when you break it down into weeks of training, it isn’t so far, and every week counts. So, I was relieved when, after a trip to the physio, the pain started to ease and I was able to start training again.

Interestingly, when I ran again last Sunday, after my enforced rest, I actually felt good and rather than setting me back, I was able to push on and run further than before. Far from doing me harm, I think it actually did me good. On Tuesday, I made it to 4k, and then today, with the help of the Parkrun atmosphere and my friend Lorna’s company, 5k.

In the grand scheme of things, 5k isn’t very far – just over 3 miles! So, a long way still to go – a very long way!! Looking at the training plans on my Runmeter app, I’ve now decided to follow the 10k programme for a few weeks, before I jump over onto the half marathon plan. At the moment, the distance on the half marathon plan increases just a bit too quickly for me, though sooner or later I’m going to have to go for it.

I’ve entered the Exeter half marathon in mid February. It’s good to have something to aim for, and to be honest, if I can’t run a half by then, I’m probably in a bit of bother.

So, I’m back on track, and gradually starting to enjoy the running as it gets a bit easier. It gives me time to think and for my brain to unwind, which is much needed. But more about that another time.

Parkrun UK


3. A progress update: good things take time

Some of my training blogs are quite personal, sharing more of my thoughts, feelings and emotions around running. Others, like this one, are more factual, practical reports.

This is just a very quick update on my marathon training progress so far.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been following a 10-week 5k training plan on the Runmeter app to get me back into running after a 10 year gap. After a very slow and cautious start, it’s starting to feel a bit easier and, having repeated several weeks of the plan to get the feel of it again (and make sure my body isn’t going to conk out on me!) I feel ready to push on and start building the time and distance I’m running.

Although I’m 9 weeks into my training, I’ve only just completed week 6 on the app (as I said, I’ve repeated a few weeks) and this week has ended with ‘run 3 mins; walk 3 mins; run 18 mins’. And it felt ok, like I could have gone further … and that feels like a good sign!!

At the moment I’m running for time rather than distance, so not really sure what sort of distance I’m covering – not much, so best not to know I think at this stage.

Next week, I’m going to jump forward to week 8 of the app plan, and go for some very slightly longer runs, and then push on to complete the programme to get to 5k. I’m glad I didn’t rush to push myself on before now – it’s taken a while for my body to get used to running again, but I’m starting to feel stronger.  I’ve been very mindful of the fact that it is still only 6 months since my hysterectomy, and so building up very gently has been absolutely the right thing.

For anyone interested in a bit of running, a new Parkrun is starting locally in a couple of weeks (12 November), in Seaton. Perfect timing, and I’m sure it will help me to be able to run with others from time to time.

I heard this week that I didn’t get a London Marathon place through the ballot, so I’m really glad I’d already got my charity place secured with the Mental Health Foundation. More about that another time, but for anyone interested and wanting to sponsor me, I have set up a Virgin MoneyGiving fundraising page and I’d be very grateful for any support. x


2. Running with my Inner Critic


screen-shot-2016-03-25-at-3-18-30-pmIt’s been a few weeks since I managed to write my last blog. Lots of reasons for that – life’s been busy, fitting in running has been challenging … and the subject of this blog has also contributed to the lack of posts! I’ll explain …

I want to introduce you to my running partner; my constant companion who’s with me every step of every run. She’s even with me before I start my run, while I’m putting on my running gear … in fact, even before that, when I say to myself, “I think I’ll go for a run”.

I use the term ‘companion’ loosely. Companion suggests something positive, the presence of someone you enjoy spending time with, someone whose company makes life that little bit better. So, companion probably isn’t quite right …

I want to introduce you to my inner critic.

Have you ever noticed that voice in your head that criticises every thought, emotion, action, and experience? Have you heard it saying that you will fail…that you are not good enough…that you’re wrong and bad? That voice is your inner critic. It goes on and on, day in day out, undermining our confidence and pouring destructive lies and abuse at us.

The purpose of this blog is not to provide an in-depth explanation of the psychological concept of the inner critic – there are lots of people out there who can, and have, done that a lot better than I can! But just briefly to explain for those that may not be familiar with the term, the inner critic or “critical inner voice” is a concept used in popular psychology and psychotherapy to refer to a sub-personality that judges and demeans a person. The inner critic often produces feelings of shame, deficiency, low self-esteem, and depression. It may also cause self-doubt and undermine self-confidence.

So, as I was saying, let me introduce you to my inner critic. Since I made my decision to run the marathon, and to start training, she seems to have been very busy, and become very loud and vocal on all sorts of things!

Let me give you some examples of how it goes. Every time I think about running, or anything to do with running, even writing about running …

“Look at you, putting on your fancy running gear! What do you think people will be thinking of you all dressed up in your proper running stuff when most of the time you’re walking? They’re going to think your a fraud, and quite frankly it’s embarrassing.”

or …

“Really? This run/walk routine is pathetic. People are going to see you all dressed up in all that running gear, and there you are walking!! You should wait til it’s dark or something!”

oh, and here’s another favourite …

“Is that it?!! You can’t even run a mile and here you are telling people you’re running the London Marathon. You are never going to be able to do it … not in a million years.”

And when it comes to writing about it, my inner critic has plenty to say about that too!
That writing about it and sharing my experiences will just embarrass me to even more people; that nobody’s interested anyway; why would anyone want to read about you?; do you really think anybody cares about your running – lots of people run … and do it a lot better than you do!!

Maybe you get the picture … ?!

So, running – and writing about it – have been tricky these past few weeks. It’s hard not to listen to this critical voice, and worse still: not to believe it. It’s hard to find a different inner voice to counter her constant drip-feed of negativity and criticism, to find a new script. But that’s my challenge – to run, and write, and, while acknowledging my inner critic is a part of me, I don’t have to listen to all she has to say or to believe her. To find a new running companion …


If you want to find out more about the Inner Critic, you may find these interesting:

The Inner Critic: The Inner Critic – Hal & Sidra Stone

Embracing Your Inner Critic: Turning Self-Criticism into a Creative Asset
Hal Stone & Sidra Stone
(ISBN-13: 978-0062507570)

1. A Little Progress Each Day


So, Week 4 of my training is complete! And this is my first blog post about my marathon training, and I’m wondering where to start?! I guess the beginning would be a good place – although I’m not even really quite sure where that is either!

Since running the London Marathon in 2007, I have done NO running whatsoever. Silly really, having got to such a good level of fitness; but after I’d run it, I was so sick of running that I never wanted to run another step. So I didn’t – until 4 weeks ago!

But running London was an amazing experience, and although it was exhausting, I count it as one of my proudest achievements. Every year since then I’ve watched it on tv, and every year I’ve said to my kids, “I wish I was there”,  and every year they say to me, “you say that every year Mum!”

I’m sure, as this blog unfolds, I will get round to explaining why now, why this was the year to do it again. It’s a long story, and one for another time.

For this blog post, I think I’m going to outline what I’ve done so far, and where I’ve got to. That way, I’ll be up to date and can then add weekly progress reports!

Not having run for 10 years, I have to admit I was pretty terrified of taking the first step, of going on that first run. I was full of doubt – what if I couldn’t run, what if I couldn’t remember how (and having got a place, what would I do if I couldn’t!), what if my body wasn’t up to it. So many what ifs! I also knew that, having done the first run, that was it … I’d started the training … I’d committed myself and there’d be no going back. So for several weeks after my place had been confirmed, I did nothing except wonder what the hell I’d done. Much of those doubts still remain, but I have made a start …

So, where have I got to? Well, first I downloaded the Runmeter app to my mobile, which has preset training programmes, from 5k right up to marathon. The marathon programme assumes a level of fitness and ability to run a distance way beyond what I was – and still am – capable of; so I’ve opted to follow the 5k programme to get me started, and then I’ll transfer onto the marathon programme later on, when I’m a bit fitter and have built up some stamina.

The 5k programme starts with a run 1 minute/walk 1 minute x 8 in the first week, running on 3 days during the week, which then increases to 1.5mins/walk 1 min x 7 in week 2, and then gradually builds the time spent running week on week. Although I’m currently on the fourth week of my training, I’ve actually only completed Week 3 of the programme (run 1 min/walk 1 min/run 3 mins/walk 2 mins x 3), as I decided to repeat it – my work commitments meant I didn’t get to do 3 runs the previous week, so rather than rush I’m giving myself permission to take my time with it. More on that to follow too.

Seems ridiculous – I’m only currently running 3 minute intervals, and I have to get to 5+ hours!! If I let myself think about it, then it seems overwhelming and completely impossible. So, I’m not … I’m just taking it one run at a time, one week at a time. Because a little progress each day adds up!

Have a good week x


My new London Marathon running blog

2016-08-29-10-58-23-2So, in April next year, I will be running the London Marathon.

I last ran London in 2007, at the age of 40. It was on my bucket list, and I ticked it off the list. But it seems that once wasn’t enough!  Next year, 10 years on, I’ll be running it at 50 … and until a month ago, I hadn’t run a step since the last time!!

And so, it’s back to training!

While running today, I had an idea to write a blog about my training as I inch towards London. Why? Good question! In part, to keep myself motivated, but also maybe to inspire and motivate others …

I hope my blog will provide an honest, warts-and-all account of my training – the ups and the downs, my thoughts and observations on the challenges ahead, why I’m doing it, info on my training plans, things I come across that I find helpful, my progress (or otherwise!), and anything else I think of. You never know, it might even be amusing at times!

I’m going to aim for weekly updates, but I’ve no idea if that’ll happen. I think I’ll just have to see how it all works out. Hopefully I’ll enjoy writing it, and I hope someone else out there will enjoy reading it!

Happy reading – or running!

Let’s talk about mental illness

The smallest stepFive years ago, when my daughter became ill with severe mental health problems, I knew absolutely nothing about mental illness.  I didn’t really know what it was, what caused it, what to do about it and – most importantly – I didn’t know what to say or how to help!

There’s nothing in the parenting manuals that tells you what to do when your 15 year old daughter falls apart in front of your eyes, and you find yourself standing there, utterly helpless.

And so began the scariest, most bewildering and exhausting learning curve of my life.  Trying to find information, support, someone who could help, and realising quickly that I was not only having to deal with my daughter’s illness, but also the silence, fear and stigma that goes along with it.

Five years on, I am far from an expert, but I have learned a lot.  And one of the most important things I’ve learned is that talking about it helps – a lot, and on many levels.

My search for information put me in touch with Time to Change, and that’s when I realised just how big the problem of mental illness really is, how many people are affected and that, despite how it felt, we were not the only ones!

It also taught me that the stigma of mental illness, and the discrimination that accompanies it, is just as damaging – if not more so – than the illness itself!

So I made the decision to start talking about it – to family, friends, work colleagues and then to health professionals.  And an amazing thing happened.  People listened, asked questions, tried to help; and then people started opening up, telling me about their friend, niece, grandson, brother, mum or even their own mental health issues.  Sharing our story seemed to give them permission to do the same, safe in the knowledge that they were talking to someone who understood.

It also challenged people’s perceptions of mental illness.  People would say to me, “What Jess? But she’s always so happy!”, or she’s pretty, clever, got lots of friends, got everything going for her, doing well at school, and so on …

What our experience has taught me, and now many others, is that mental illness can affect anyone at any time, regardless of age, class, religion, sex, professional status.  It does not discriminate!

And so I guess I have done my own version of ‘Tea and Talking’ *.  What challenges people’s prejudices is meeting real people affected by mental illness and hearing their stories. And knowledge …

There are so many myths and fears attached to mental illness, perhaps perpetuated by media, but also by the silence that surrounds it.  Talking about it demystifies it, makes it ok, helps people to understand.  Confronted by reality and the facts, people start to let go of the stereotypes and preconceived ideas.  Giving people an opportunity to ask questions and talk about what they have found out is a powerful way of changing the way people think about mental illness.  It gets it out in the open and makes it ok, and therefore, the more people we get out there and talk to, the more we can change the way people think.  That is what will ultimately break down the stigma of mental illness.

And from that place, it becomes easier for those with the mental health problem to talk and be open about what they are experiencing, free from the judgements and discrimination that come from other people’s ignorance and fear.

* Tea and Talking Devon is a project challenging the myths and stigma of mental health. Bringing the great work of Helen Hutchings @teaandtalking to Devon – a joint venture between Devon Partnership NHS Trust @DPT_NHS  and Recovery Devon @RecoveryDevon

Launch Day today for The Project

Today is a big day for The Project – it’s LAUNCH DAY!

Why not drop by at our Launch Event at the Young People’s Centre in Axminster (4.30-8pm), meet the team, and find out more about what The Project is offering to support young people with mental health issues, and their parents/carers.

We’re looking forward to welcoming The Mayor of Axminster to our big event.  There’ll be lots going on from 4.30 onwards + live music from 6pm from Blackdown Samba. If you’ve ever fancied trying your hand at samba drumming, they are offering a FREE drumming workshop from 6.30pm

There will be arts and crafts activities to join in with, and homemade cakes and refreshments.

Everyone is very welcome to join us! Hope to see you there …

Young People’s Centre
Lyme Road
EX13 5AZ


The Project – Launch Press Release


Axminster scheme shows the way

A groundbreaking mental health scheme for young people takes off in Axminster on Thursday September 5th, thanks to the inspiration and fundraising of local mother Debbie Humberstone.

Called The Project, it will help young people aged 12 to 24 across East Devon, West Dorset and South Somerset – and their parents and carers – by providing mutual support and new friendships, and fresh ways of handling emotional difficulties.

Two age groups – for 12-16s and 16-24s – will meet on alternate weeks for two hour sessions.  Art, cooking, music and drama activities, along with discussions, support and relaxation will be led by a qualified mental health worker, a youth leader and a team of volunteers.  The emphasis will be on supporting young people’s emotional and mental health, as well as building self esteem and confidence in a fun, friendly and non-judgemental environment .

A monthly support group for parents and carers will be run separately.

“Thereʼs nothing exactly like The Project for young people nationally, yet statistics show that three young people in every class in every school across the country have a diagnosable mental health problem,” said Debbie Humberstone, who was inspired to set up The Project by the past mental health issues of one of her own children.

She has raised £25,000 to bring The Project to Axminster’s Young Peoples’ Centre, where the Mayor of Axminster, Cllr. Jeremy Walden, will be guest of honour for the launch on Thursday September 5th between 4.30 pm and 8pm.

“Mental health issues are becoming increasingly common.  Offering support, and investing time and effort in young people at this level is worthwhile, if it stops one person developing long-term mental health problems.  The Project will provide that much needed support.  It is important for people to feel comfortable talking about and sharing their concerns about their mental and emotional wellbeing, and our launch is a chance for local people to find out more by dropping in for refreshments, to meet the team and maybe join in an activity” said Debbie Humberstone.

-END –

(Note to editors: if you are planning to cover this event with a photographer, please ensure that only large group photos are taken. Smaller ones showing individuals  run the risk of stigmatising the subjects – who may not be users of The Project but merely visitors at the launch).

For further information, please contact Debbie Humberstone, Co-Ordinator, The Project, on 01404 549045 or 07970 167341 or email info@theprojectYP.org.uk