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Archive for the tag “breast cancer”

Running jogs your mind – and a few other bits and pieces too

I loathe jogging. There’s something incredibly intrusive about it. Runners, in their DayGlo lycra, are in-your-face: they pant, pound, puff and sweat into your vision and through your space – too exhausted to say, ‘excuse me’.

Jogging brings out the Homer Simpson in people.

But I am a fickle creature.  For the last month, I have been jogging. I’d like to say that this turnabout stems from a desire to be fitter and more responsible about my wellbeing; or to improve my bone mineral density. Which is important for women of my age – weight training and impact exercise help us ward off osteoporosis and suchlike. Apparently, we should have been at it for years – in between raising families, working, and generally enjoying life.

Who wouldn't want to run along the banks of the silvery Tweed on such a morning as this?

Who wouldn’t want to run along the banks of the silvery Tweed on such a morning as this?

Anyway, it isn’t health-enhancing factors that have coaxed me into trackie bottoms to shuffle along the banks of the silvery Tweed. No. I have been prompted to jar my joints because of: Competitive Spirit. Someone suggested that if I ran a 5km fun run, they would too. Let’s call this someone Berwick Bloke.

Instead of smiling enigmatically at Berwick Bloke and saying nothing, I said, ‘You’re on!’ Despite the fact that: (a) I have not even run for a bus in the last 30 years; (b) I am terrified that my suspect pelvic floor won’t cope with the jiggling of jogging and; (c) Berwick Bloke is rather younger than me. The fact is I couldn’t resist the challenge. The run’s not until January 2014 (I know) but, because of the aforementioned reasons, I thought I’d get out there and give it a go.

It turns out that jogging is rather fun. Once you stop. And recover from the searing pain in your chest and the leaden sensation in your legs. You get this sort of fizzing in your blood which gives you a huge high. Although you don’t necessarily lose weight (you have to eat at least three times your bodyweight in chocolate after 15 minutes’ jogging), you do notice a firming up of formerly floppy bits.

Some of us are fitter...

Some of us are fitter…

...than others.

…than others.

You also get thinking time. You have to think to distract yourself from your body screaming at you to stop and walk. The other day, as I lumbered past wildlife and discarded beer cans, I found myself pondering sponsored events and what a huge business raising money has become: extraordinary events in far-flung parts of the world, requiring intense organisation, publicity and mass participation.

Often we sponsor someone, not because of the cause, but because we know and like the person. Charities benefit from our benevolence and our friends’ endeavours. Just because our friend has always wanted to skydive into the Venezuelan rainforest at night, or walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats pushing a shopping trolley doesn’t make their fundraising any less valid, does it?

But I wonder if raising money has become a bit self-indulgent? It’s as if we all have to get something out of it – get fit, realise our dreams, entertain or be entertained. Also, how do sponsored events impact the planet – the post-event detritus, the travel? Do some events cost more than the money they raise? I wonder if events that chime with peoples’ situations are more effective – sleepouts for the homeless, fasting for the famine stricken?

Personally, I am more engaged by fundraising that connects with a cause – walking in bras for breast cancer, growing a manly moustache for prostate cancer (not personally). But what about Tourette’s and Multiple Sclerosis – I guess ingenuity is essential. Overall, I think understanding rather than objectifying others’ life situations generates empathy, and empathy leads to engagement and changed attitudes.

That’s what jogging seems to do: get you thinking. Oh, and just so’s you know, Berwick Bloke and I did talk about raising money for Berwick-upon-Tweed Lifeboats (he’s a lifeboat man) when we do our fun run (maybe it should be water skiing?) next January. Just saying.

Maybe Berwick Bloke and I should try this instead of running?

A version of this article was first published in The Berwick Advertiser on 4 April 2013

Walking through the pain, the rain – and anything else on the path

We enjoy loads of beautiful views on our training walks – but the scene on the ground isn’t always so lovely

Did I mention I’m doing the Edinburgh MoonWalk? On the night of June 9th, five days before the Olympic Torch passes through Berwick, I shall be pounding the streets of Edinburgh, wearing a decorated bra and a determined expression. The good news is that I won’t be alone. I shall be in the company of thousands of similarly clad women (and plenty of men too).

Many, like Paxton Friend, will have had breast cancer, or be undergoing treatment even as they walk.  According to Cancer Research UK 1 in 8 women will be affected, and it’s growing faster in Scotland than anywhere. Reports (World Health Organisation) show that many breast cancers could be prevented by reducing alcohol, change of diet, exercise and, most importantly, keeping a healthy weight. For many, the MoonWalk is the first step to a lifestyle change. It will be an emotional and exhilarating night. After all the training and blether we’ll actually be doing it – walking 26 miles. Fast.  The atmosphere will be brilliant –embodying Walk the Walk’s motto: raise money, raise awareness, get fit and have fun! And, yes, we’ve set up a fundraising page – do give if you can. Thanks!

London Daughter, two former school friends and me before our one and only team walk so far

I was prompted to do the London MoonWalk eight years ago after my mum had breast cancer. Staggering over the line, London Daughter declared, ‘I shall never do that again!’ I’m chuffed she and her two former school friends are joining me. But virtual training is tough. So I advertised myself on Facebook asking the people of Berwick to train with me. One response was all I needed – and that’s what I got. Step up Paxton Friend.  Our four or five-mile walks have become 12 miles; 15-minute miles, 12-14-minute miles. We’ve invested in ‘technical’ footwear to support our high insteps and rolling gaits. When family chat lulls, we do body checks: ‘Have you got that achy thing in your toes?’ ‘No, but my shins are throbbing and one of my glutes is pulling.’ Training makes you hyper aware of every little ache and pain.

It also makes you hyper aware of your environment – the terrain you’re walking on, and the scenery that whizzes by. The Husband insists I’ve lost the ability to simply walk and enjoy my surroundings. He’s right that I even treat putting the bin out as a training expedition. However, my powers of observation are alive and kicking.

Living around Berwick it’s hard not to be aware of litter hotspots such as the Nile Delta of cans down the bank above the Tweed, beneath Meg’s Mount.  Others are less obvious but equally unpleasant. There’s a lovely circular walk along the Tweed via New Road and back along the other bank from the picnic site at East Ord. It’s blighted by the stream of detritus you have to pick your way through beside the A1. Do people think litter evaporates when thrown from a moving vehicle?

Nile Delta of beer cans above the Tweed in the heart of Berwick

The other day, at a well-known fast-food outlet on the outskirts of Berwick, the car in front received their goodies through the window. Moments later, wrappers flew out. Did they realise what they were doing? Do they know that councils spend thousands of pounds of our (and their) money clearing litter? If ‘dine and dump’ were an Olympic sport – we’d be in the running for a medal.

Sight for sore eyes – litter along Goody Patchy, the disused zig-zag railway track above Tweedmouth down to Dock Road

When I was a gal, my mum would reduce us to tears if a scrap of sweetie paper so much as fluttered from our tiny, chilly fingers. At school ‘litterbugs’ were thoughtless creatures worthy of contempt. Whilst Paxton Friend and I are engaged with a campaign that enables a whole cross-section of society to choose to do something positive for themselves and for others, it’s kind of ironic that, each time we go out, we are faced with the evidence of people choosing to do something that has a negative impact on everyone.

(A version of this article was first published in The Berwick Advertiser on 3 May 2012)

Training to walk: a blueprint for life

Sometimes I wish there were a route finder for life. Something small and neat that you could whip out of your pocket at key moments. It would be so much easier to make choices if you knew where they would lead, how they would work out, and how long the ramifications would last.

Perhaps that’s why giving and taking things up at New Year is so popular. After all, how dangerous or hard could it be to commit to regular exercise, or lowering your alcohol intake, or phoning your mum weekly for 365/6 days? I read somewhere that almost half Americans make New Year’s resolutions but only 10% keep them. Hats off to the 10% – I don’t think I’ve ever made it through February.

With my lack of persistence in mind, I decided to set two goals for the year, one of which will take me through the first six months and then, hopefully, continue in some form for the remaining six. I’ve signed up for the Edinburgh MoonWalk in June. It’s organised by Walk the Walk, a charity raising awareness and funds for breast cancer. London Daughter and I did the London version eight years ago (we had a little reunion to enjoy the night walk supporting Hospice Care Northumberland in Berwick in 2010). The MoonWalk is a gruelling 26.2 miles starting at midnight and finishing as soon as your little legs can carry you round the circuit. The hallmark is that everyone wears decorated bras as they power–walk. That, and people’s stories – perhaps a date and name on a bare midriff remembering a loved one, or a simple one word status, ‘clear’ or ‘survived’ – marks this event out for me.

Entering the  MoonWalk is not entirely altruistic on my part. You need to train for it. Since we moved up to the great outdoors from London, I have found it harder to exercise. It’s a funny thing but, now we have walks and walking on our doorstep, we do less of it. In London walks of reasonable length were more easily incorporated into everyday life. Walks to the bus stop, tube, shops or park. When we first moved to Berwick, each day was an opportunity to walk the town’s walls, or the shore, or along the river. Taking time out to walk and enjoy our beautiful surroundings was justifiable as part of our moving process.

Swans – the only wildlife I was quick enough to capture on camera on a recent walk in Paxton – the oyster catchers and yellow hammers eluded me.

Walking is a time consuming pursuit and, 18 months on, it seems self–indulgent to simply ‘go for a walk’. Several people have suggested a dog. Well, The 10–Year–Old would burst with joy and The Husband would leave. Anyhow, isn’t it daft to feel one has to justify an activity by creating a new one? And there’s the poo. So, moving swiftly on…

Paxton Friend’s dog. I still don’t want one!

Since fast walking is my exercise of choice, my prevarication about ‘going for a walk’ has proved fatal to my waistline and general wellbeing. So I figured that walking a marathon would galvanise me to action. My new Paxton Friend and I are quartering Berwick and Paxton, chatting as we go.  We try to push ourselves a bit more each time – faster and further.We both walk alone too (Paxton Friend has a dog) – and agree that we feel perfectly safe doing so. Although walking at night is a different matter and one we will have to address if we’re to continue to train effectively. Funnily enough, lone London night walking feels less exposed if you pick your circuit well.

Paxton Friend and dog

And that’s one of a number of things I’ve discovered about resolutions and ambitions through my training so far. A realistic plan and good support are key to making progress and keeping engaged. And plotting and planning routes is fundamental to not getting lost – confirmed by a Saturday morning spent roaming around the cliff tops looking for the coastal path between Berwick and Beal. Of course there’s a map. And next time – I’ll take it with me!

View from Canty’s Brig, Paxton

Do take a look at The Barn at Beal.

(A version of this article was first published in The Berwick Advertiser on Thursday March 1st 2012)

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