Give The Girl The Right Shoes...

March and April was marathon season. Not for me of course, if you've ever read any of my blog posts! I have so much admiration for anyone who completes a marathon, any marathon, under any circumstances. I have even more admiration for anyone who actually enjoys them! For me I have been left mentally scarred by my two experiences, but this of course is old ground that I intend to put firmly behind me.

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Review of the Year 2016

That's it. I just got back from teaching my last class of the year, Metafit, in the fog and ice, 1°C my car told me as I was driving there. 7 participants in total, far better than I would ever expect for the the week in between Christmas and New Year and more than double than this time last year...200% more, that's good growth right?? What a year. And I'm exhausted, more than I realised. I'm often the butt of many jokes at class, mainly aimed at my laziness, that I spend the whole time bossing them about and never really doing anything myself. Personally I prefer to call it instructing, i.e. my job. The truth is I never really stop working - always planning, plotting, designing, administrating - and I did truly need a rest.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not moaning, I have loved every minute and I can't wait for the New Year to begin so we can do it all over again.

If I had to sum up this year in three words these would be: Metafit, Gold Stars, Mud.

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January

The "new year new you" syndrome was in full force in January of course, busy classes, everyone working hard. At the end of the month we took Team Hope on a road trip to London to complete the Winter 10k, a now annual event on the Hope calendar.

February
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The first themed workout of year fell in February - as Valentine's Day was on a Sunday - and I treated the class to a special kind of Hope Fitness love...and lots of burpees!

Three years on and it was time to renew my Freestyle Fitness Yoga certification. I passed with flying  colours and became an Elite Freestyle Fitness Yoga Instructor. I'm still not a "proper" yoga teacher but that will do for now. I've been promising new material ever since, which hasn't quite happened but is definitely top of the ToDo list for 2017.

The first of the next batch of Hope Juniors arrived this month; baby Marnie. Mum Kirsty is one of my longest standing members. In fact Kirsty arrived at Hope Fitness (Buggy Workout at the time) when her first child, Alyssa, was 6 weeks old back in 2014.

April

In April, we had the first "active"social of the year. The choice this time was ringos at the local dry ski slope. Despite chickening out myself it was great fun watching everyone let loose with their blood-curling screams. Lots of fun had by all.

May

Although there are running events going on all year, the choice of events is much more prolific in the Spring and Summer. We had our biggest ever team out for the Kesgrave 5k, what is fast becoming a very important date in the Kesgravian calendar, and on our (my) doorstep. It's the 10 year anniversary next year and the organisers have promised bigger and better, possibly including a 10k.

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We also took a big team to the stinky mud of Insane Terrain, great seeing the purple Team Hope tops out in force. We were all undecided prior to the event whether we would do the 5k or 10k (you can decide as late as the end of your first loop) but I think all-bar-one everyone did the 10k.

May also saw our first Hope Juniors event with the EACH colour dash in Christchurch Park. We'll do anything for a medal!

Midway through the year I was in desperate need of a kickstart and I took the opportunity to relaunch my fitness and nutrition plan; the Better Body Plan. Twenty of us embarked on the 21 day clean-eating plan and collectively we lost a fair few inches between us (the actual numbers are eluding me right now).

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I was pleased to announce the purchase of a laminator, which revolutionised not only my life but also my workouts. The other big purchase was a snazzy new yoga mat - so pretentious that I have to spray it with water (filtered of course) to make it non-slip.

June

Just like the Queen, 2016 was a big year for Hope Fitness zero birthdays: Ali, Kirsty, Bridget, Rachel and Sarah all reaching one of the decade milestones (my apologies if I missed anyone - they are all so secretive). We helped Kesgrave celebrate the Queen's 90th birthday by putting on a Hope Fitness display at the Millennium Fields. I'm not so sure anyone noticed we were there but it was good to be part of a community event and something I hope we will be a part of again in the future (although next year we will have to miss out due my own big birthday celebrations).

July

Spring and Autumn are the time for the "active" socials, whereas Summer and Christmas socials are  there for us to let our hair down a bit. The Farmhouse was chosen as the venue, mainly because most of us are within walking distance (and honestly, the drinks are really cheap). A fun and interesting night out, highlights including a perfect headstand in the middle of the conservatory room and a hysterical bike ride home....

The second Hope Junior of the year was born, baby Ezmay, to the lovely Sam.

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The #hopefitnesssummerchallenge was back, tougher and stricter than the previous year. Bridget was well and truly knocked off her "most competitive" perch this summer by newcomer Gemma, an unstoppable force having practically secured the title in week 1, rippling with muscles by the end of her challenge.

And this was the month that Debbie nearly got her mojo back (#shehadherkitonaswell).

August

We completed the Ipswich Twilight 10k for the second year in a row. A road run around the centre of Ipswich starting at 7.30pm where the idea is to beat the sunset. I love this event but for some reason, this event always seems to be my nemesis. A stunningly pathetic performance by myself left me announcing my imminent retirement from running if things don't improve by May 2017....as of right now, my running career is teetering on the edge.

Debbie still hadn't found her mojo and the weather wasn't helping (#shestillhadherkiton).

September

A gaggle of us had an impromptu night out at the cinema to see Bad Moms, to celebrate the end of the school holidays. This was an utterly hilarious film that hit the mark with all of us, all sitting there with tears rolling down our faces throughout most of the film.

September was the big launch of Metafit - a 30 minute HIIT workout  - and probably the revelation of the year. It was just what HF needed to give it a much needed boost. Every month a slightly different workout with a random name and some new tracks. We started with Ape Shapes (all is forgiven Ape Shapes), then Big Buff (way too much jumping), Beach Bum (a firm favourite) and Levante Power. Now we're all looking forward to Undisputed in the New Year.

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Team Hope went on tour (I wish), a couple of them anyway, to New York no less. Look where these two bumped into each other!!

I also held my now annual "Free From" coffee morning, or Joyless baking party as it is now know, raising £50 MacMillan. The competition hotted up this year, with Carina taking first place. I have even higher hopes for next year now everyone's getting into the swing of sugar-free baking.

I'm still not sure if Debbie had found her mojo or weather Facebook was stuck in a loop (#itsatest).

October

The Autumn brought another "active" social night, this time we headed to Flux Freestyle, the new trampoline park in Ipswich. A good test of the pelvic floor muscles and I realised I'm actually completely rubbish at trampolining - those kids make it look so easy. Another one of Gemma's forte's!!

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One of the highlights of the year was the Whole Hog. My third year in row but this year was the biggest team I have taken there. Lots of newbies to obstacle races too. The weather was completely rubbish but we had so much fun. I personally was relieved to find that the most undignified of obstacles that requires you to haul yourself up and over a very steep slope, had been moved away from the spectators at the end and we completed the course with dignity very much intact.

Debbie - have you found your mojo yet???? (#stillnotsure)

November

This was the month of #toiletpapergate. Of all the Facebook posts I write this was the one that got the most engagement!! Over or under? What are your thoughts?

December
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It's no secret, I'm not a big fan of the Christmas period, or the C word as I prefer to call it. But this year with HF it has been pretty fab. We kicked off the festivities with a 5k Inflatable Santa run. Just to explain, the obstacles were inflatable not the Santas! And this event saw me adorn a red tutu and a Santa hat - that's a lot of embracing for me.

We went all out with our Christmas party this year; Moulin Rouge at Trinity Park. At what a fab night we had  - you girls know how to party!! Jen's performance in the Can Can was a particular highlight.

But that wasn't the festivities over just yet. We didn't have just one Christmas party but two! We finished off the year with our awards evening at the Black Tiles. This year I asked members to vote for their winners. The results were as follows:

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So that's it, what a year. I've probably missed loads out but as usual with my end of year post, I actually left it until the end of the year!

I promised more this year and I think that exactly what happened. The social aspect of Hope Fitness has really cemented the team and friendships within the team.

Next year will be more again, focusing on achieving goals and pushing outside of comfort zones.

Do I have any big plans?

Not right at this moment...I think I'm going to wing it!

Thank you to all of you for your support of Hope Fitness, and I wish you a happy and prosperous 2017.

Angela x

London Marathon 2015 - The Final Chapter

I did it! And now I have not only ticked that box, I have ticked it twice. Going out in a blaze of glory and knocking a whole 16 minutes off my marathon PB. I hereby announce my retirement from running any further than 10 miles....ever again! Did I enjoy any of it? No not really, it was pretty much hell from start to finish. I guess once the pain and agony has passed, I will have fond memories of my experience. But right now I am just glad it's over.

The problem with running a marathon as far as I can see is that actually doing the marathon and running 26.2 miles is a huge, huge task in itself. But the effort it takes to get from securing that place to actually getting to the start line is of quite epic proportions. By Monday morning I was a wreck both mentally and physically.

So this is the final chapter in my journey, and here's how things unfolded....

My sister Ally and I headed up to London on Saturday morning, excited, nervous, exhausted from a week of sleepless nights. We headed directly to Excel to register, pick up my race number and chip and have a look round the expo. The queues had gone down considerably by now so we skipped through and got sorted quickly. The expo on the other hand was packed and just finding the exit was a challenge in itself. It was then on to the hotel to have some chill out time before dinner.

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I'd booked a table at Carluccio's in Canary Wharf for dinner. I was still concerned about my salt levels so we made sure we ordered olives and bread to start. I actually despise olives but managed to eat 4 of the little devils before I had to give in. For main course I had lobster and crab spaghetti with tomato and basil (lobster is high in sodium so I thought this was the perfect choice). I'd promised myself dessert but I was beaten...must have been nerves, food rarely beats me.

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Back at the hotel I packed my bag, had an epsom salt bath and camomile tea, caught up on my messages and did a last little bit of planning my route to the start line. I'd been worrying about that all week because it involved getting an overland train from miles away. As it turns out I shouldn't have worried.

After a terrible nights sleep of course, I crawled out of bed at 6.30am, feeling slightly nauseous. The weather looked gloomy as I looked across the Thames and it was raining. I had no idea what to wear so I opted for long trousers and a vest. I managed to compose myself for long enough to do my "marathon hair" and apply my waterproof mascara, then I headed down for breakfast.

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Breakfast consisted of porridge, toast, grapefruit and coffee, with a view of the O2, which was really rather pleasant and I could have sat there all day. But nooooooo, I'd gone and stupidly entered a marathon instead. Then it was time to check out and head off to the start.

I had to start from the blue start at Blackheath this time, and as I had previously mentioned it had given me a number of sleepless nights. But I planned my route and I stuck to it, despite the fact that there appeared to be no other marathon runners going to the same place as me and I kept getting the "I think you should have got off there" looks. Two tubes, an overland train with a seat and 40 minutes later I had arrived at Blackheath, calm and composed. A short walk from the station and I had arrived at the blue start. I found my allocated baggage lorry and deposited my bag, eaten my banana and flapjack, and headed off to the infamous toilet queue.

We all make choices in life, some are the right ones, some are the wrong ones. Now on this particular occasion I decided to try out the female urinals as the queue was considerably shorter. I'm not going to tell the story here because it is much better for me to tell it in person, as I have already on numerous occasions. All I need to say here is that this was one of those times when I made the wrong choice.

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Then it was time to head to the start line....

It was cold and wet and I was wearing a few layers to discard once the race began. I had been put in pen 9 (so right at the back) so I knew I had a long wait to cross the start line. Had a chat with a few people; "where are you from", "is this your first marathon", "what did you have for breakfast" etc, etc. Finally got across the start line at 10.24am.

Had a bit of a wardrobe malfunction during the first few miles. My super duper running pouch wouldn't stay put as it was stuffed full of gels so I had to carry it like a clutch bag. In hindsight I'd just packed it badly, but no point dwelling on that now! First mile was mildly enjoyable. The second mile was not so great. And by the third mile I had settled. The early miles are my favourite part of the marathon. Perhaps it's because it has a feel of a less high-profile race in the early stages before the drama of the centre of London.

The first 8 miles felt ok. My leg was hurting me but I felt fairly comfortable. I couldn't seem to shake off the hairy pair of testicles that were running in aid of testicular cancer. In fact at one point he nearly knocked me over. Great. I'm taking part in one of the greatest marathon's in the world and I get knocked over by a hairy pair of testicles!! Just my luck and you know that will be the one and only time I get on the TV!

As I approached the halfway point everything was beginning to hurt. Tower Bridge was once again amazing. The support all around the course was pretty damn good but I can't begin to describe the noise that is generated at this point. It is incredible and it is almost...almost worth doing the marathon just for this experience.

Even though I knew it was coming this time, I have a real mental block at the halfway point. At this point you meet the runners coming in the other direction who only have 6 miles left, but yet you are only halfway. For me this has proven to be a deal breaker and I find it very difficult to recover from this negative head. I did what I said I wouldn't do this time, lose the will to live and begin walking.

Everything was now hurting, particularly my hips. I really tried to keep up a good pace but I was now hating every minute of it. Finally at 14 miles I got to see my family and friends, which gave me a little boost. I can't remember what happened after that...it's all a bit of a blur.

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At about 20 miles I spotted Team Driver, Mr D and Baby D AKA John and Lucy, fellow Kesgrave parkrunners. We did the last 6 miles together and I'm so pleased that we did. I think I would have done it without them but it made it so much easier to do it with them that is for sure. John was in as much pain as I was and we walked/ran through the last few miles. We overtook Jesus on our "sprint" finish and crossed the line together. Official time was 5:57:23.

I then made the slow and quite painful walk to horse guard parade to meet my family  at section H for 'Hope'. Got told off by a marshall en route because I hadn't put a warm top on neither had I had anything to eat. We battled our way through the centre of London to get home while I had my protein shake and took approximately 2 hours to eat a tuna sandwich!! Pretty much for the whole of the marathon I was craving a burger. I was rewarded at Newbury Park with a Big Mac, can't remember the last time I had one of those...it was just what I needed.

Finally arrived home at about 9.15pm, for a hot Epsom salt bath while replying to a million texts and Facebook notifications.

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In the week following the marathon it appeared that I had come off relatively unscathed. My injured leg was no worse than it had been in training, it didn't snap off after all, I had one small blister and no extra black toenails. I had a leg massage from the fabulous Lizzie at Just Bea, which sorted out my bruised and battered quads. I successfully managed to teach a yoga class the day after, and there were only a couple of grimacey moments. I'm even starting to be able to jump (this bodes well for doing Insane Terrain in a couple of weeks) and I've even got straight "back in the saddle" and done the Kesgrave 5k today, and in a fairly reasonable time as well!!

So this chapter is finally over. I am proud of my achievement but relieved that the pain and suffering is over. Will I run the London Marathon again? No I won't. Will I run any marathon again? The answer is still no.

And I mean it this time.

I ran the London Marathon for the The Sunrise Appeal, part of the Ipswich Hospital Charity. It's not too late, you can still sponsor me here https://www.justgiving.com/Angela-Hope

London Marathon 2015 - Better with friends

Saturday 4th April 2015 - 20 miles

20 miles is done. Next stop...the big day.

(sorry it's a long one)

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It's been a slightly stressful week. Cats going missing, kids on school holidays, hotels being cancelled and injured legs.

Seeing the physio (again) this week, it was decided that my leg problem was the result of a repetitive strain injury. Therefore it was strapped up ready for my last big run on Saturday...this was Wednesday and I was told to keep it dry. No showers for me for a few days then! Teaching yoga with this all on was interesting!!!

Then, on Thursday morning, I received a phone call from Hotels.com to say that my booking had been cancelled for my marathon hotel. When they told me the hotel had been overbooked I was more than a little livid! Later I discovered that the original hotel had had some flooding so every booking needed relocating. Six phone calls later and the promise of a downgrade at no extra cost (yes really), I manage to get booked into the Radisson Blue in Canary Wharf, and definitely at no extra cost to me. Disaster averted.

I knew I was going to need help to get through the 20 mile run so it was time to call in the cavalry. A quick note on Facebook on Friday lunchtime asking if anyone wanted to join me for any of my 4x5 mile loops and I soon had 7 willing companions.

On the morning I tested out the Garmin Live Tracking feature. Using my Garmin and my phone I could post my whereabouts on Facebook. Pretty cool feature I think, it seemed to get people excited anyway. And if I was on my own I'm hoping someone would see that I had collapsed in a bush somewhere!!

Loop 1 - parkrun

It was raining first thing which was a little disappointing as I headed off to parkrun. Didn't stop the Kesgrave parkrunners though - 180ish I believe on Saturday. It's a great start to a 20 mile run, and I'm looking forward to getting back to just running parkrun! Alastair and Jessica accompanied me and it was slow, steady and comfortable. Straight through the finishing funnel and the additional 1.5 miles back to the car with Denise in tow this time.

Loop 2 5-10 miles

Sarah met Denise and I at the car park (she was running a little late so had a sprint down long strops to meet us - she needed a challenge anyway) and then it was a steady 5 miles. This loop probably contained most of the hills but I felt comfortable and completed the 5 miles without too many problems. If I'm honest, if it wasn't for the girls, I would have walked up those hills. I was beginning to get a problem with the strapping at this point, it was really cutting into my ankle, but I continued with it anyway.

Loop 3 10-15 miles

Picked up Alastair and Helen for this loop. This was probably the hardest overall of the 3 loops (nothing to do with the company I hasten to add) and it was the first time I walked (at about 14 miles). Helen had warned me she would probably drop out before the 5 miles but I had faith in her, and at my snail pace she had no trouble whatsoever. Alastair was a harder task-master, and it's probably what I needed...to man up a little bit. I did really struggle towards the end of this 5 miles and wasn't quite sure how I would do another 5. Carina met us on the way back for the final 5 which was a boost.

Loop 4 15-20 miles

Bridget also joined Carina and I for this loop, and I knew if anyone could talk me round it would be her. Legs were feeling a bit better but there was lots of walking and I kept getting cramp in my quad so there were lots of stops, I couldn't run through it. Karina and Jackie (from parkrun) had come out to cheer us on the way, which was amazingly supportive, I was so chuffed. Jessica met us for the final 1.5 miles so adding another dynamic. Got back to the car park and I was slightly under the 20 miles so we had to do a few loops of the car park to get the distance up...that was hell. Then finally we got there. Pretty much bang on 4 hours so I was more than happy with that, no tears and my inner demons stayed where they belonged, inside.

It was probably my most successful long run overall and not just because it was the furthest. Being with supportive, positive people every step of the way was a huge confidence booster. I couldn't have done it without them. But not only those that ran with me, all those and their kind words before, during and after the run. I really was overwhelmed and choked, and if you know me well then I need not say anymore.

I arrived home thinking I was relatively unscathed all being considered, other than legs screaming at me. I took off the strapping to discover most of the skin on my ankle had been removed. I could cope with that...or I thought I could until I had a salty bath the next day....ouchy!!!

It wasn't until later when I was preparing dinner that the fainting episodes began. I wasn't right at all; nauseous, dizzy, restless, loss of appetite. I was pretty sure it was low sodium levels that were the cause and this would explain the cramping as well. This lasted a good 24 hours before I felt right again. I have also inadvertently discovered why you shouldn't take anti-inflammatories before a race - because this also effects the sodium levels. So I will be increasing my salt-intake over the next 3 weeks.

It's done now and all I have to worry about is tapering the miles, getting plenty of rest and ticking off the days until this whole sorry episode is over.

I am running the London Marathon for the The Sunrise Appeal, part of the Ipswich Hospital Charity. You can sponsor me here https://www.justgiving.com/Angela-Hope

London Marathon 2015 - Ticking off the miles

Tuesday 17th March 2015 - 6 miles

I've given up on the tempo/interval/marathon pace runs. I'm just running whatever pace I feel like, just getting through the miles. I despise these "short" runs now. The whole having to run thing is driving me a little crazy, always making sure I am drinking enough water, getting enough sleep and eating properly - none of which are really happening at the moment.

So another 6 miles done today, slightly painful in the lower leg but it definitely eased as the run went on. Had a few walking moments, mainly when there was any sort of an incline.

When the physio signed me off she said that if I have any sort of niggles whatsoever then I should make an appointment with her, she would get me through this marathon. Time to make an appointment because I am really not happy about this shin problem.

Thursday 19th March 2015 - 6 miles

Physio today and as I had thought, the deep muscles in my lower leg were incredibly tight, which was causing the shin pain. Not that my leg was about to snap off as I had hoped! 10 minutes of massage and ultrasound ensued and that was it. It's not good though is it when the physio cringes at your crunching knees!!

As the physio appointment had taken the slot available to run in, I had a choice of either running tomorrow, or running with the Hope runners. Only one of the group was available to run tonight, and that was the lovely Kirsty. By chance, her front door is exactly 3 miles from hers so I ran to hers, then we ran all the way back together. As expected, the first 3 miles were hell, but the second 3 miles we managed to chat the minutes away. It was the first run I had done in a while when there was no walking, so chuffed with that.

The leg is not happy but I do have two days rest between now and Sunday when I will be attempting a 16 miler. As I did last week I will be breaking this down into a 6 miler and 2x 5 milers. If anyone fancies joining me for any of these "legs" you would be very, very welcome. I will leave from the Farmhouse pub car park at 9.20am for the 6 miler, back for the first 5 miler at 10.25am and then the second 5 miler at 11.20am.

I am running the London Marathon for the The Sunrise Appeal, part of the Ipswich Hospital Charity. You can sponsor me here https://www.justgiving.com/Angela-Hope

London Marathon 2015 - The Methodical Approach

Saturday 14th March 2015 - 15 Miles

The day I had been dreading had arrived...getting over the 13 mile hump!!

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I was well-prepared. The day before I made sure I had been drinking plenty of water, planned my route and went to bed at a reasonable time.

Remember - this was all about getting my head around doing 15 miles. One of the problems I had for the 13 was the route. Planning it out in plotaroute (brilliant route planner incidentally) was completely overwhelming. It is amazing how far you can get in 13 miles. This time I decided to break the route down into more manageable 5 mile loops.

I got up early to whizz my car round to the Bell Lane car park, 100 yards from my house, but about a mile to drive!! The car was stocked with energy gels, lucozade sport and water. Walked back to my house, had my breakfast and did some stretching and rolling.

The first of the 5 mile loops was parkrun. I left the house at 8.45am, hoping that I could time the run down there perfectly to coincide with the start. Wasn't quite perfect but nearly. I ran straight through the funnel, scanned my barcode and headed back to my car. parkrun plus there and back is 5 miles. Not a bad parkrun time either; 31:27. Back at my car I had a gel and some drink, a quick stretch. I think a fellow parkrunner looked at me as if I was mad having a gel after running a 5k but she didn't know I had another 12 miles to do now did she?!!

Then I headed off on my second 5 mile loop...so far so good.

Leg was feeling ok, actually it felt like it was easing. Around 8 miles I was feeling pretty good. The problem with Saturday mornings is that the roads are so busy and I think I probably saw everyone I know. It was good to get back to the car and have another gel and some more drink. I wasn't even tempted to go home.

So I set off on my third 5 mile loop....this was going to be hard!

And it was hard. I probably did the most amount of walking during this loop, it was much more of an interval run. Looking at my pace over the whole 15 miles; the first 5 was between 10-11/mi, the second was between 11-12/mi and the third was over 13/mi!! I didn't care, I just wanted to get through it. Apparently I "looked knackered" as told by a friend who spotted me. Always good to know!!

When I got to 13 miles I kept telling myself that I was nearly done and I could do it. Must have looked a bit mad talking to myself but I was probably a little delirious by this point anyway. I have never been so pleased to get back to my car. 15 miles completed, with no disasters.

That 13 miles was definitely a hump and I am now believing a little more that I can do this...again. I generally feel happier about the whole situation. However, I would say I'm walking a very fine line of either success or failure and could quickly fall into that abyss of despair - and yes that is a bit dramatic, but you train for a marathon and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.

But, instead of my head thinking how it can injure me at random moments, it is now saying "you've done 15 so you only have another 11 to do and you've completed the marathon"!!!!!!!!!

I am running the London Marathon for the The Sunrise Appeal, part of the Ipswich Hospital Charity. You can sponsor me here https://www.justgiving.com/Angela-Hope

London Marathon 2015 - An easy??? 3.5 miles

Sunday 15th February 2015 - 3.5 miles

Nearly didn't go, this is why I hate Sunday afternoon running. Too long to think about it, too much time to do other things. As it was, I had been running for about 30 seconds when I bumped into the lovely Emma and her beagle puppy Ruby. I managed to put off the running for at least another 5 minutes while we had a chat.

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London Marathon 2015 - No Expectations

Sunday 15th February 2015 - 3.5 miles

Nearly didn't go, this is why I hate Sunday afternoon running. Too long to think about it, too much time to do other things. As it was, I had been running for about 30 seconds when I bumped into the lovely Emma and her beagle puppy Ruby. I managed to put off the running for at least another 5 minutes while we had a chat.

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