Messy-ness · Why I run

My year of messy running: motion, not mileage

2017, dear friends, has not been my best year of running!

(My regrettable anti-sweat teenager / post-Glandular Fever, chronic fatigue-dominated years aside.)

The tone was set with a re-sprained ankle in January, which kept me off-road until pfft … April? There’ve been the seasonal bugs along the way, and inevitable wearings-out of my person, which scuppered any hopeful running streaks. This winter for one has been pitiful on that front, with just a general sense of rundown-ness clinging on for what’s felt like weeks and weeks, which has kept me cocooned and doing the Sensible “staying put” Thing.

But today, four days before Christmas, I set out for my second run in forever*, logging four miles without stopping. Not so bad for no exertions in 6-7 weeks (*I lost count). And all the while possessed of a peculiar sensation that me dragging my body around Bristol was very much like forcibly steering a rogue and hefty supermarket trolley round an assault course. Regardless, I was just happy to be wearing my kit and moving again, even though it was laborious, though I don’t know what my body is going to say about it tomorrow. Hopefully not gruffly reprimand me, but we shall see.

I do worry. I worry about my energy levels whenever I start feeling a bit bleugh, a bit floppy, like my engine has dropped out. A bit too ‘chronic fatigue-y’ for comfort. That general sense of aforementioned rundown-ness.

I think that feeling is something I will always have to manage to ensure I don’t tip over the threshold of healthy uprightness, as I have a few times before. I’m still learning how my particular physiology functions, but even then I feel the goalposts moving a bit with age. I am thirty now, you know. AFTER ALL.

Last year, I would have been a bloody nightmare about all this stop-start. Just ask Harry. Downright blue about having to sit still, about being flat. Bursting into tears with frustration at points. But this hasn’t really happened in 2017, (and I have been sober for most of it) (LOLZ).

Why is that? Could it be the wisdom of age? Ha. Wisdom. Wisdom! I don’t even have wisdom teeth.

I feel like this year has been a more energy-zapped year in general; more challenging on that particular front. I’ve only logged one 10 mile run the whole year, whereas last year I was nailing them every week for weeks at a time.

But then, I and we have done so much in 2017! We can be very busy bees H and I. I got to run around Central Park! Around Jackie Onassis’ dramatically-lit reservoir, after a storm! Plus, I hear it’s normal to get bugs. It’s normal to get really, really tired. It’s normal not to be an ultramarathon runner.


Except, I once thought that at least a single marathon would be on my list of achievements, someday. But I’m really not so sure it will now. I just don’t know if realistically I will ever physiologically be able to get to that point of training, without literally running myself down. I don’t know yet how I feel about that. I still like the idea of trying, of continuing to hack away in that direction. Because it’s the movement that’s important, more so than the mileage. Right?

The Messy Runner bristol with beesAnd in all this stop-start of 2017, I’ve found some new, parallel obsessions. I’ve been writing more again, so sharing a bit more of my indulgent nonsensical word-smudgery, with a bit more headspace. I have fallen for the delights of kefir and really enjoyed cultivating my own. Then there’s my experimenting with sourdough, and all that tomfoolery. There’s been epic live music, some hair experimentation, a few top-notch trips. Not forgetting the arrival of Bees, our furry pixie. What a year!

So I’m not where I hoped I might be in my running when I started out four years ago. Even then it was an experiment, because I hadn’t moved faster than walking pace since my school days. After being really quite ill with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome after university, I was, and still am, so grateful to have the support of my family and loved ones for helping my recovery. And running is part of that. Really important. I think now, the experience has become just as important as the endgame. And that’s a good place to be.

Wishing you happy holidays, festive tidings and good health in 2018,

The Messy Runner x

20 Questions with...

20 Questions with: Alice Rimes-Bowen, one super-fit Somerset mama!

Alice Rimes-Bowen the messy runner bristol 4
Young mama Alice pictured out hiking with her son in Somerset

Bio: Alice Rimes-Bowen is a 28-year-old vegetarian, wife to one, mother to one, living in Taunton, Somerset.

She has exercised all her teenage and adult life, trying lots of different sports and activities in her time, from indoor and outdoor climbing, horse riding, canoeing, and all kinds of cycling including track, road and mountain, to running, swimming, pilates, CrossFit, gym, orienteering and beyond.

She says: “I think for now I’ve settled on a fun mix of running, cycling, CrossFit and Pilates.

“I run and exercise because it is my mental and physical release and it makes me feel happy and healthy.”

1: How long have you been a runner?

I started running was I was about 14 and ran all through college and my university years. I stopped running for a period when I graduated from uni because I was bought a road bike as a graduation present and that really took over for a while. Fast forward about six years where I did all kinds of exercise in between and I started running again regularly about six weeks after my son was born (16 months ago).

Alice Rimes-Bowen 2 running the messy runner bristol 2
Expert multi-tasker!

 2: Why did you start?

I started running as a teenager for the very simple reason that I was chubby and lazy. Up until this point I avoided exercise at all costs. I rode horses, but even then I was lazy and did minimal effort horse maintenance. In fact I used to ride my pony bareback up the hill to his field because I was too unfit to walk! So I basically woke up one morning, decided enough was enough and went running. I can honestly say that since that moment of clarity I have exercised in some form or another every week of my life since.

3: Do you remember the first time? How does it compare to your running now?

When I first started running I was so embarrassed about how slow I and how laboured my breathing was, because I was unfit, that I would only run at night in the dark. I did the same 20 minute run, the same route on my own in the dark for a long, long time!

4: How often do you run and what sort of distances do you do?

Nowadays I run twice a week, cycle once or twice a week, plus a CrossFit session and a Pilates session every week. I run 10k every Monday on my way home from work because my husband does our baby’s dinner and bath routine that night and then I try to run one day of the weekend too, either 5k parkrun on a Saturday or a run on my own or with family or friends of a distance (never any more than 7-8 miles).

Alice Rimes-Bowen 1
Alice and baby tackle Taunton parkrun

5: How do you prepare to go for a run?

I always have to have eaten a snack about an hour to an hour and a half before going out, I have to have my insoles in and I have to go for a wee!

6: What is your favourite part of the running week?

On Mondays after my running home from work I arrive just as my baby is getting in the bath, so I have been known to jump in and join him for a splash!

7: What do you do when you can’t go running, to keep yourself motivate, i.e. if you don’t have time or if you need to lay off for a bit?

Oh I hate not being able to run or do exercise. It makes me a stressy, stroppy person…however, juggling a baby, working, running a house, being a wife, owning a dog etc. means time isn’t always on my side like it used to be pre-kid so if I really can’t get out of the house to exercise I will move all my furniture in my living room and do a YouTube workout from Fitness Blender or Pop Sugar.

Alice Rimes-Bowen the messy runner bristol 3

8: Have there been any challenges or misconceptions you feel you have overcome with your running?

I would say challenge wise it has been readjusting after having a baby. I went from loving my body, enjoying my body and seeing it as a source of strength and something I worked hard to make me look and feel good, to something that grew and birthed a baby, so consequently was very different to the one I’d previously known.

I hated having stretch marks, lose skin, wider hips and no more abs. During pregnancy and immediately after giving birth I genuinely hated my body. It just looked and felt alien to me as someone who thought being a size 8 was the most important thing ever. However, exercise is bringing me back to myself and although my body now looks and feels different I was running six weeks after giving birth and I haven’t looked back since. I’m definitely fitter, faster and stronger than I was and every week I train I get better. So this is the new me and I now view my body with pride for what we have achieved together rather than something to despise. My priorities have changed and my son is now the centre of my world … and my world won’t collapse if I miss one run to stay home and cuddle him.

9: Which running achievement(s) are you most proud of?

I recently did Killerton 10k an off road trail run. It was hilly, wet and muddy but I came 46th out of 192 runners in a time of 1hr 10 mins, despite walking up some of the hills and even down a very steep descent!

10: Can you sum up your running and/or training style in three words/phrases?

For the fun of it!

11: And explain what you mean by them here?

Well I’m never going to be fast or competitive, I run for the fun of it, for the scenery and to feel fitter and stronger. I run with my dog so she gets exercise, or I run with my boy in our running buggy, take him to the park and then run home again. I just try to incorporate it into my daily life as much as possible so its always a pleasure not a chore.

12: Who or what inspires you?

My mum, my twin sister, my late step father. Also my Dad and his partner. Basically my whole exercise-mad family!

13: Do you have any particular niggles or injuries you have to watch out for?

Ugh yes …. runners nemesis of bunions, which can make running in the wrong trainers or for long periods of time horrifically painful, and for days afterwards too. I wear insoles in my shoes to manage them and I guess later in life I will have to have corrective surgery. But that fills me with fear and dread. Pain and taking time off exercise are not good things in my world!

14: What running kit is in your essentials?

Innov8 trainers, my insoles, Garmin watch, a decent sports bra and, in winter, a light-weight head torch.

Alice Rimes-Bowen the messy runner bristol 7

15: What would your advice be for someone in your position, to encourage them to try running?

Put your trainers on and go out the front door. Run a bit and walk a bit, but just make that start. And if you exercise in the evening or straight after work always do your meal prep and packing your kit the night before, because if you go home first you’ll make a cup of tea, sit on the sofa and then never leave! If you have your kit in your bag it’s much harder to make excuses…..

16: Do you take any running tech (e.g. watches, tracking apps, heartrate monitors, music) out with you while running, or do you prefer not to? Why is that?

Yes I have a Garmin VivoActive watch, which I’ve only had about two months. It was a birthday present and I use it purely to track calories, know distance and time and to monitor my progress. I have a few core routes that I use to get home from work or as my regular runs and I am already beginning to see that I am getting quicker or able to go further now compared to some of the runs I was recording previously.

Alice Rimes-Bowen the messy runner bristol 6
Alice’s snacks of choice

17: How do you keep yourself fuelled before/ during/ after a run?

I don’t really run far enough at the moment to require fuelling during runs as the furthest I’ve ever run is 8 miles, but I will always have a snack before or after. Peanut butter on Nairns oatcakes are a fave. As is one slice of buttered toast or malt loaf with butter on. My guilty food pleasure is popcorn or very dark chocolate.

18: What’s the best running advice anyone has ever given you?

Rest days are part of the training plan too.

19: Do you prefer running with friends or solo?

Both equally, however more often than not because of timings I generally run alone and if I don’t have a babysitter then I will run with dog and baby in the pram!

20: Finish this sentence: ‘To me, running is…’

…the way I keep my mental and physical health in the best shape it can be.

Find Alice on Instagram @alicelrimes, and follow The Messy Runner on Facebook!

Training and motivation

Winter bug stopped your running streak?

Germy the messy runner bristol winter cold flu face (2)

Hello there, ye Great British winter. You are a great season for running, with your crisp coldness and poignant-looking pathways, giving us the excuse to layer up.

But you are a terrible season for welcoming in those damned pesky germs. You know, the ones that scupper our best-laid running plans. That halt a nicely building running streak. Yes, you. YOU.

It always starts the same way (for me at least). A scratchy throat and encroaching leaden fatigue, leading into sinusy giddiness and full-face snot explosions. Lovely. That’s been me for the past week (lucky Harry!) and right now, as I type, clattering words together with a brain composed mainly of mashed potato.


The biggest frustration with being ill, is having to stop, even if your logical self knows it’s your body saying ‘woah there’. And especially if you’re the sort of person who can find it hard to get back into running after a much-needed break. So, writing from one germed-up amateur runner to another, here are some things I’ve found help me get through the dumbfounding boredom and infuriation of winter sickness.

Picking up a running / health / wellbeing magazine

the messy runner runners world winter flu germs (2)

Let’s face it, you’ll have time to pour through it now you’re all bunged up and in quarantine from the office. I find picking up (or getting your nearest and dearest to source a copy) of a good running-dedicated publication to be a pretty good tactic to keep spirits and motivation up.

Runner’s World is the obvious choice. Think panoramic photography of covetable round-the-world running spots, focus on improving and strengthening, forthcoming challenges and inspirational human interest stories. Gobble it all up and store it for later.

If you’re up to it, gentle stretching

I’ve found this to be a good halfway activity when feeling rubbish and a bit blue with it. Stretching is as important to runners as hydration anyhow, helping keep your body supple and moving so you’re not going from cold when you do get back up and running. What’s more, with plenty of yoga-based stretch videos of various lengths and intensity available on YouTube, it’s free! Even if you’re only in for one minute or ten, it’s a constructive low-intensity activity that’s not only good for you, but ensures down time doesn’t have to be tumbleweed time.

Running Shoot-3
© Tom Howl Fields

Get some fresh air to gauge how you’re feeling

Stepping outside is for me, along with stretching, always a good test of how I’m doing. Even in this nippy weather, getting out for a gentle trundle around the block, or even sitting out in the garden with a cuppa is a good idea. Again, it helps keep your body ticking along and gives you some of that lovely Vitamin D our bodies like. Yep, even on those gloomy overcast days.

Really listen to some music

Using your non-running time as an excuse to just listen has become a bit of a favourite thing of mine actually. I mean when was the last time you got to just lay down and absorb a full album? And I don’t mean while scrolling on your smartphone. I’m talking about conscientiously finding a record that spikes your curiosity, dimming or shutting off the lights, and having a bit of a headphones moment. Well, with or without your headphones. I find it both relaxes and indulges my hungry creativity monster.

Make a reinvigorating soup!

Soup is nice. And it’s usually pretty uninvolved to cook. Turmeric is tasty and with all of the hype around the wonder spice, feels even healthier to ingest than usual. I like making courgette and turmeric soup.

Courgette turmeric soup the messy runner bristol

Order something new to take out on your run

Is there any kit you’ve been hankering after but haven’t got round to acquiring? It could be a new water bottle, headphones, sweat band or socks – it doesn’t have to be mega. But again, researching and then waiting for the post to come is a fairly gentle, enjoyable and exciting activity (if you’re the excitable type).

Watch a motivational documentary

If you haven’t seen the BBC Mind Over Marathon documentary, which saw ordinary people experiencing various mental health issues embark on training to complete the London Marathon, first time round, you missed a trick. What a beautiful, and highly inspirational thing it was. Embodying the full power of running in helping lift the spirit and support mental wellness. I’d recommend this interview with MoM runners Jake and Poppy here. Or, of course, find your own nugget of inspiration.

Last, but absolutely not least, bide your time with this whole recovery thing. It will be worth it. Plus some, albeit forced, full-bodied space from the running game could help you come back wiser and more well-rounded.

I’d love to hear about your own Winter bug motivation boosters! Comment below or Like The Messy Runner on Facebook.

Training and motivation

How to get out running in cold weather

Woman wearing snowy scarf

Brrrrrrrr! The weather is getting a wee bit nippy out, putting us well into the season of scarves and snoods here in Bristol, UK. For anyone who struggles with the idea of running at any time of year, the idea of setting foot on frosty ground from November-to-February is going to be even less appealing, right? But I tell you now, as a hot-blooded (often overheating) mammal with a standard 9-to-10 minute-per-mile running pace, once you’re out there, you’ll be glad you made the effort.

No, really!

So, if you have the motivation to at least give it a go, here are five things that have really helped me get up and running in the darker, colder months … along with one major thing to avoid.

Try it!

  1. Get your gear on!The Messy Runner lycra Bristol running

First things first, if you don’t get out of that snuggly jumper and into some mean-looking lycra, it ain’t ever gonna happen. So rule number one is to shift your mentality by physically getting into your running gear. That’s it.

  1. Layer up for five/ten minutes’ time

It can be very tempting to wrap up like Joey dressed as Chandler when you’re bracing yourself to go out. However it’s not really the most practical approach, as chances are, you’ll need to start peeling layers off a few paces down the road. And it adds literal weight to what should be a freeing activity! Visualise how steamed up you usually get after some minutes of movement, and dress for THAT.

  1. Warm up with some active stretches indoors before you go

Last winter especially, I got into the habit of upping my heart rate just a little before stepping out of the front door. For me, this involved some jumping jacks, some steady lunges, shoulder and gentle neck rolls, and some ankle rotations. Whatever your front room allows for!

  1. …then a couple more once you step outside!

Now you’ve warmed up a little, get focused on phase two of your warm up, this time outside. I’d recommend some knee lifts and heel kicks (they’re one of my go-tos), followed by some gentle jogging up and down your street, before you start on your run ‘proper’.

  1. Bring gloves … and some pockets to put them in.

If you do tend to get nippy fingers, runners’ gloves are a good investment. Even if you end up taking them off a short way into your run, they will help you get through that first cold-blast bit, and are usually thin and light enough to cram into one of those compact pockets you find on running gear.

All that aside, there is one Big Thing to avoid in this cold weather.

winter drive

ICE. If it’s skiddy outside, I really would just call it quits and go to your local gym (or wait until it thaws out). Otherwise it’s all too easy to injure yourself, and then you may not be running at all, my friend.

You’re all set!

Let me know how you go by commenting below or by Liking The Messy Runner on Facebook.

Messy-ness · Why I run

On a small black cat who likes yoga

If you’re lucky enough to have had any contact with me in times a-recent, you’ll be aware of the existence of Bees, my (and Harry’s) cat.

Bees is a musically trilling firework; a manic pixie dream boy; a veritable teenage mutant bat cat; our significant shadow tabby. Bees is, quite frankly, a magnificent beast.

Blonde and Bees

And but of course he is. We’d always, always had animals growing up in our house. So when H and I moved in together, some (minor planetary, in the grand scheme of things,) moons ago, I naturally wanted to squeeze a cat in with us. Third abode in and now in Bristol, we did it. Picked up our little blue-eyed, beautiful and shouting four-legged hairy millipede from the suburbs, shuffled our lives around him, and introduced him to our ways.

Of these ways, one of the most initially baffling and bemusing to our little zoetrope, was of course my fixation with lolloping. Sorry, er, running. And all the faffing I do around it.

A big part of this faffing is doing all my stretches / vague nods at contortionism before and after going out for a dart. Being a morning runner, this is how it normally goes: I’ll finally drag myself from our bed, clamber into my running gear, make myself a bucket of herbal tea (tea bag kept in) and roll out my squishy blue yoga mat in the glare of the window, with a flick. I’ll then set about some pacing forward folds, to start the leg-loosening process.

Turns out that not only is Bees fantastic at catching lone earthworms, jumping into my muesli at height and collecting pigeon feathers. He also has a penchant for yoga.

Hearing the soft landing of ol’ squishy blue, Bees extricates himself from his breakfast of meaty biscuits and gravy, and appears, with an upturned ‘brrrrrrrrrr’, under my now downward facing dog.

Grinning widely, Bees’ cat yoga routine opens with a rebounding figure of eight for a time. Depending on his mood (though this is less frequent since his op, cruel mother that I am), he will bump heads with me for a while like some happy drunkard, either carrying on gleefully, or sinking his teeth into my bare and bracing wrists, his pupils like dinner plates, becoming more and more incensed in the throes of the ‘game’ as I yelp.

Yoga cat yoga 2YOga cat black and white

I then move on to my hip-stretching pigeon poses, while Bees trots purring alongside my lengthened leg, and curls up in the crook of the bent one opposite. Finally, he jumps up, then in and out of the house through his cat flap, collecting morning rainwater on his fur and distributing it widely in muddy pawprints up and down my lovely sky blue mat. He finishes this curious choreography by tucking his feet under himself in drumlin fashion, staring unblinkingly at me to get on with it.

Far from my mad cat being a distraction, funnily enough, his routine now makes my routine. I always thought having a cat at home again would help me be more mindful, more present in my surroundings; less ossified by my latest millennial existential angst or Fear Of Missing Out. Turns out I was right. My yoga cat is a charm.

Training and motivation

OUCH! The Messy Runner’s top five tips for recovery after an ankle sprain

It’s a typical September night here in Bristol UK. You know the kind. The damp grey, drizzled under foot kind. The leaves have turned and tumbled to paste on the ground kind. The students are rowdily back into the swing of another boozy academic year, kind. Draw in deep the steamy city air and heave a sigh, reader. Then cast your eye over that cosy-looking edge-of-Clifton bar, and in that shadowing corner, spy the short, twenties-ish girl with the fiery hair, tapping away at her laptop, writing this spiel, chiseling a frown line in concentration and drinking non-alcoholic beer.

Non-alcoholic beer?! NON-alcoholic beer? What are you, an amateur, woman?!

The answer, oh generalised judging voice of the genuine lager-consuming public, is yes! Yes I am. And proud, for I am an amateur in far more ways than one. I, am the amateur of amateur runners. Hence the amateur beer drinking. And my amateur tale of amateur running woe turned… well, OK, as it turns out.

You might recall, last time I wrote, that I’d sprained my ankle while commuter-running, and I was pretty upset about it. I mean, you would be, wouldn’t you? That first time around, I swapped running for spinning classes and Body Pump and Pilates, and every other week or so caved in and hopped on the treadmill regardless. Naturally my ailing ankle would shriek and swell afterwards. But as far as I was concerned, I was running and maintaining my fitness, and that was all that counted.

Limp ahead two months to January 2017, when Harry and I finally made our hankered-after move to Bristol (on a day as similarly dank and sodden). It was a beautiful thing. So beautiful, in fact, that the morning after, I threw on my running gear with gusto – without my trusty ankle support – and Went Too Soon. Just 0.8 miles down the road, I staggered and went right over on my ankle a second time, and knew I was back to square one, with a face-full of angry tears and expletives.

When One Goes Too Soon

Being back at square one has often felt like a boomeranging inevitability with me and my running. Weeks spent over-enthusiastically building up my mileage undermined by fatigue or niggling injury. Numerous half marathon race entry fees left unfulfilled because I’d gone down with something at the last hurdle. Two ankle sprains in as many months (in chimes the small violin).

So when this particular square one landed back in January, I knew I had to suck it up and embrace the whole recovery thing properly this time, and stop with the dwelling and pouting.

Here’s what I did.

I swapped my bandage for a heavy-duty ankle support

I’d already bought one of those standard stretchy bandage-style supports after the first sprain saga, and decided the second time round that I needed to up my game. My mighty marathon-running, IRONMAN-smashing auntie, Jane Wood Rackham, advised me to go the whole Darth Vader and get one of these. This more shielded, adjustable, elasticated sports-ready ankle support was the business for giving me the assurance I needed to get back into my spectacular sweatfest right away. At first I would wear it in my spinning and Body Pump classes to give my rickety ankle the confidence boost of extra support and then wholly depended on it when I was ready to make my gradual transition back into running. As time went on, I was able to phase the heavy-duty support out in favour of the original trusty bandage, until at last I was comfortable enough to leave both safely stowed in my drawer.

I got enthusiastic about cross-training

Runners (or merely mortal ‘people who run’ like myself) are well known for their single-minded approach to fitness, despite all those Runner’s World articles hammering home the importance of mixing up your exercise disciplines. So when running was ruled out, I had to channel my running fixation in a different, non-weight-bearing direction. I picked cycling and spinning classes, weight rep training and (sitting-room carpet) Pilates as fresh obsessions, and got what all the fuss was about. As someone who had resigned herself long ago to not having any real core or upper body strength, seeing the results of my alternated training was a really pleasant surprise. I developed definition in my arms, legs and even somewhere in the region of my abs. The diversion made me more thankful and aware of my physical potential, and excited to return to running having learned how cross-training can support and strengthen my efforts long-term.

I fell in love with Pilates

I mentioned above about getting into ‘sitting-room carpet’ Pilates – and that’s with wholehearted thanks to the power of YouTube. Among other things, Pilates comes highly-recommended for strengthening ankles in rehab, so with a new mat in tow and a sliver of space left in front of our TV screen at home, I logged on and got into my Pilates 100 (if you’ve no idea what I’m on about, think lots of puffing and fast hand and leg actions while tautening your abs for minutes on end). With so many different free Pilates classes on YouTube, I got to sift out two unpretentious favourites from across The Pond that earned big plus points with me for not whiffing of corny dance beats or heavily make-upped women thrusting pelvicly. I salute you, Fitness Blender, for your ‘gimmick-free’, clean way of doing things; slowly building the reps and shifting the poses so that they just creep up on you.

Sean Vigue Fitness, meanwhile, is my hero…

Yoga and stretching are now part of my daily routine

…And not only in the realm of Pilates. I think it’s pretty fair to say my boyfriend has come to accept that the sound of the unfailingly positive lilt and idiosyncratic narration that typifies a Sean Vigue Fitness yoga class or stretching routine bouncing around the flat – distracting you just enough to sneak in some real challenging poses and sequences right there – are as much a part of our day-to-day now as breakfast! I’m not even kidding.

I have practised yoga on and off for a good 10 years for relaxation and mindfulness. But now I depend on it every day to keep my body moving; recovering from the latest run or warming up for the next; and continuing to strengthen not just my ankles, but my entire torso. And as Sean says, ‘It’s tax free, it’s equipment free, and NO ONE can take it away from you’. Holler.

I found myself a local sports therapist

I know not everyone has the funds to afford private support – not that I’m the highest earning wolf in the pack by any stretch – but if you do, it’s worth finding a local sports therapist to help you get on the straight and narrow of recovery, by, at the very least, booking yourself in for an initial assessment. For me, that was Bronwen Henley, a Bristol-based chiropractor who not only specialises in sports injuries, but was actually writing a dissertation on ankle sprains at the time, and she was worth every penny. She gave me practical strategies for helping my ankle recover from its overstretched elastic band state, and a warm, like minded sounding board. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that even though I am but a speck of an amateur runner, running means a huge amount to me; quite frankly, it encompasses everything I need to feel alive (hence why The Messy Runner even exists). Finding a therapist who understood that, even of me as that speck, made a real difference. Bronwen even encouraged me (hobbling skeptic that I was) to stop holding my breath and enter the ballot for next year’s London Marathon to help focus my recovery.

9 mile September

Wrapping this thing up, it’s worth pointing out that there is no quick fix after an ankle sprain. These, for me, have constituted real, long-term behaviour changes. And ultimately, frustrating as it has been, I’ve got to know my body better because of those fateful ankle crunches. Last Saturday I managed a nine mile long run. That’s the farthest distance I’ve covered in a single go since November 2016 and probably earlier. I could easily slip up again, but if I do, I’ll know what to do.

Feel free to comment below or get in touch here.


Messy-ness · Training and motivation

Get Up Offa That Thing! (beating the racer snakes)

Hello folks. Today I’ve officially been having a Day Off, and not because I am poorly, but because I can! It’s delightful. Harry being his teachery good self, his time in terms, while I, being wayward scribbler (of sorts), means I’ve spent the day Han Solo.

It’s a funny, reflexive thing when you’re not used to spending time completely by yourself (that is, not even sharing a luggage rack on the train home with a gent with something stuck in his teeth), as is actually making sure it is actively spent, rather than let-go-by. I’m fixated with it. Sometimes, I’ll admit, to the point of tear-forming anxiety.

But why? I wondered, as I festered bluely the other week. Why the obsession with not ‘wasting’ time, even when it’s to recover? Even when, this is what life is, and a very lucky one at that? Threads of thought span out, akin (I fancy) to the memory strands from Dumbledore’s brow into the pensieve, or the racer snakes chasing newborn iguana babies in the first episode of Planet Earth II (you know the ones).

The thoughts went: it’s the sneaking shadow of mortality. The spectre of capitalism; the need for citizens to be productive at all costs. The drive to survive our online lives, Black Mirror-like, by living to satisfy our social profiles. The fear that being stock still, through illness or monies (a lack thereof), is your limit; and therefore the limit of your experience. All of the above, searingly intertwined.

Sometimes the shadow is happy for you to watch the full fourth season of Girls in a few hours, while eating an entire pack of oatmeal and raisin cookies. (I went through a phase of doing this A LOT last winter.)

Most-times, however, the shadow wants you to Get Up Offa That Thing. Needless to say I’ve been trying to find a happy medium between Karl Marx and James Brown.

This has involved…

  • Commuting to work in my running gear, so I can now build regular running in to and from the station. I mean, I knew other people have been at it forever, but for me to do it? It’s crikey worthy. Definitely preferable to beating myself up for not having the time or energy to go at all. I’m only three goes in, equating to a solid 5k a day if I go there and back. I’ve loved it. It is oddly extra-motivating knowing I have to mission it to a particular place, instead of simply clocking up miles to keep my pedometer happy. Aside from this lightning strike of realisation, this has further been made possible by a lightweight runner rucksack, which hugs my stumpy frame pretty nicely, see exhibit A:
  • Getting my flu jab – as someone who often gets horrendous flu over winter every winter, I figured it was worth a shot (HAAA). Especially having heard my sister and her fellow comrades have flu jabs, paid for by The Man, every year, and she’d been flu-free for five years! Obviously it’s not guaranteed, but still.
  • Pilates – this, my new favourite hobby, has been a revelation, for several reasons. I have been reunited with my stomach muscles, after all these years. What a renaissance we are enjoying. Also I’ve had this immediate feeling of being stronger and more flexible, which is refreshing and, so I’ve read, a great partner for running. Today I did a 30 minute session from YouTube, with all the stupid ‘dum-dum-dum’ background music to boot, but it works.
  • Frank Turner in show on Saturday. He is the best live act; supreme, like chicken. And knowing his openness about blueness and battling, it is like going to see a friend. In a crowd full of hot, sweaty friends.
  • Eating well – and yes, often a little bit too well. The thing with the stuff I share on this blog is that, I do try and do the right things most of the time. Eat the good stuff, cook from scratch, put superfoods in everything, pack in protein, make turmeric soup. But there is also a big side of me that buckles to sugar or Cheeselets, and ends up going to town. Last night it was ring doughnuts, one after the other, just like an American cop.

In short, I’m experimenting still, in this busy time of twinkling lights, afternoon gloom and flooding at the door, to find what works.

And striving to avoid being cast as the unfortunate iguana baby, enveloped in racer snakes:

Messy-ness · Why I run

The return of Sensible Badger


I’ve a confession to make. (it’s this big <–>.)

In the end, I didn’t do the Great West Run.

These four weeks since starting up in Bristol has forced me, after many months of hibernation, to embrace the return of Sensible Badger.

With her fearsome nose of polished coal, furrowed grumpfbrow, and growlsome demeanour, she’s quite a beast.

I’ll explain. I am (largely) compos mentis. The Badger thing is a throwback to me aged nine in a small Warwickshire village. My sisters and village mates, stuffed-full of Blytean visions of the Famous Five and Secret Seven, decided we were going to form our own awesome club to trump all clubs: The Badger Club.

(Aaaaaaggggggghhhhhhhhh TRUMP. It’s all getting a bit close.
*Crosses chest and prays for reprieve*)

So if you were nineish in 1996, loved the Spice Girls and know anything about club ettiquette, you’ll not be surprised to hear that every Badger Club member had a nickname. There was Sporty Badger, Scary Badger (uh-huh), Baby Badger, and yes, Sensible Badger, because, aha, I was the sensible one. Iron-clad logic.

Sensible Badger in her 28 year-old incarnation meant two big things. I stepped back a bit to figure life and health stuff out, instead of my normal trick of lunging into everything like a hyperactive Dalmatian who crashes and burns after too much stimulation.

My  Sensible Badger days.

I’ve got a three hour all-in commute door-to-door, so I’m prioritising sleep instead of 5am runs, using my walk to and from the station to keep my step count up. So when it came to it, I didn’t have the lead-in to the Big Run I would’ve liked, so I passed it up, because I didn’t want to do myself in.

That same day I managed a strong 8-miler, then a 4.2mile the day after (which was two weeks ago tomorrow), when I got a nasty winter virus that had me too drained and wiped out to do anything at all for a few days. I was blue as hell, which isn’t a fun place to be.

When you’re feeling blue, eat blue porridge

I am getting better (faster-stronger); breaking back into it with walking and small pelts, eating well, sleeping, and a lot of tea. Feeling more myself again.

Yesterday was a great day, dotted with rummaging for vintage stuff in Bristol Textile Recyclers‘ warehouse, revisiting our new flat in grown-up fashion, topped off by tomato bacon at Brew, and a long-awaited trip to Moti running shop on Whiteladies Road.

Up on the treadmill they took a proper look at my running technique, and I got, I think, the best result, because the guy reiterated the podiatrist’s analysis. That is, my form is pretty sound, and any imbalance is not in how I strike the ground, but from my hips. He prescribed me neutral, not mega supportive shoes, which felt like a victory after conscientiously changing my landing style.

So I picked up some beautiful new springy Saucony shoes that are 1.5 sizes bigger than my actual shoe size, which’ll hopefully mean the end of black toenail gate. Though my big right one still looks a fright:14939562_10154165000849538_5639260818377916706_o

The lesson of all this? That when you need to step back from this stuff, do it. Embrace your grumpy Sensible Badger and sit on your pesky running pixie for a bit.

I’m as determined to find my way to longer distances, but it’ll have to be on my terms.

On the Run! · Training and motivation

Form-ula Run*


Blimey, it’s been a little while, hasn’t it? A lot’s happened since we last spoke – tomorrow I start a brand-new job (So I’m a spike of excited-nervous energy); H and I’ve started the hunt for somewhere new to live (that isn’t an airing cupboard); there’ve been Mont Blanc-style highs and some real sadness to take on, so a busy old time. A lot of life admin filling in the gaps, all necessary and ageing. But the house is less scruffy.

Anyway, I’m digressing before I’ve even begun, because I am here tonight to fill you in on the merry dance I’ve been having with that e’er elusive runner’s idyll; the runner’s very own Room of Requirement –

– Yes, I’m talking about the imperfect search for the perfect running FORM.

Type ‘running form’ or technique into your search engine and you’ll find lots of articles on the subject with swathes of differing advice. In short, the more you read, the more confusing it becomes to know what you should be doing.

My particular fixation, along with many others’ I know, stems from reading Chris McDougall’s awesome book, Born To Run (check out the TED talk here.)

Born to Run tackles the gulf between Westerners’ fixation with costly motion-control shoes to support a wince-inducing, inherently ‘bad’ running habit, and the seemingly natural-born runner, embodied by the Rarámuri or Tarahumara people of northwest Mexico. Their kit? Leather sandals, love, a belly full of Chia and (at times) some home-brewed tequila. If that’s all these guys need for a 48-hour dart, McDougall writes, how are we making such a meal of it?

I’ve had my own fun with ‘form’. When I first started running nearly 4 years ago I wore my mum’s old squash shoes with no issues. Then I got some neutral actual running shoes, began upping my mileage, which lasted a good while. When time came to get my next pair, I paid a trip to the local running specialist, who took one look at my (unmoving) feet, and told me what I needed, to treat their diagnosis of ‘overpronation’, was the most supportive Asics on their shelves (circa £100+ a pop). These too, were fine; great even.

But when injury or illness stopped me from cracking my first half-marathon a third time, I decided to pay a visit to a podiatrist for a second opinion.

My funny legs are part of our family legend. The story goes that when my concerned young parents took me to the doctor as a toddler, worried that one of my feet were turning in more than the other,  the doctor’s reply was simply, ‘That’s just how she is’. So that’s just how I’ve been. It’s not something many people notice, but it’s there.

So when the podiatrist concluded one of my legs was longer than the other, and overpronation wasn’t the thing, things fell into place. Suddenly my shin splints, odd back aches while standing, and antipathy towards high heels made sense. I started wearing a slim orthotic in one trainer, and was hopeful things could change.

Then I discovered the arguments championing barefoot running and forefoot foot strike – that again, the Western fixation with ultra-supportive shoes is counterproductive for forcing us to land on our heels, when the most efficient, injury-free technique, is to ‘glide’ on your forefeet, bringing your knees up under your torso.

So over the last three weeks I’ve ditched my ultra-supportive shoes for my neutral pair, and hoiked myself up towards my toes. At first my calves felt the burn, and my pace slowed – but my strides per minute increased by 10 to 180-185, which I hear is a sweet spot to aim for. I’ve also read it takes a while to build pace and distance back up after making such a stark change – so maybe not the wisest move with a week to go ’til the Great West Run. Especially as I found, experimenting with fore-foot landing, that in certain shoes, my toes felt really bruised, and my shins, tender.

But I do feel lighter in my running, which has got to be the key, right? On my sage triathlonic uncle’s advice, I’ve also started foam rolling before I head out on the route, and it’s helped instantly.

Then today, four weeks after making the change; after four weeks of confusion, tenderness and tenterhooks, I glided. And I was me-quick. Whether it’s the start of a tough glide to marathon distance? Who knows. I hope.

*sorry. It had to be done.

On the Run!

13.1 miles = The Peroni is miiine!

crop peroni and protein bar

Run date: Friday 2 September 2016

Set-off time: 12.24pm

Pace: 10.24 mins/mile

Distance: 13.11 miles

Total run time: 2 hours, 16 mins, 28 secs

Terrain/landscape: One of my many, er, ‘second homes’, the Taunton to Bridgwater canal path…

Weather conditions: Like running in a giant sweat box (although no burning sun to burn it off, which I was mightily glad for); then humidity turned to sprinkler. Pretty darn nice.

The route: I Got It Like That:


Music of choice: Mary Anne Hobbs on my usual haunt, BBC to the 6 to the Music. Notable highlights included… hmmm. A fresh Jamie T breaking his mould, and I can’t honestly remember what came in between in my runner’s reverie (yes I went there). But all that matters was that it ended with this. Sublime mind explosion.

Fuel? Well. Today’s been weird-as, as far as fuel goes. Harry’s been enjoying partaking in my almond milk, chia seed, banana and blueberry milkshake phase most mornings this week. It’s sweet and fills lightly, and I’m really enjoying the symbiosis with my readings about the Tarahumara runners (who really make chia a super food). Hoping some of the shine will rub off on me.

But then, there was the small matter of my waking up completely shattered after a restless night, to contend with. My dreams have been more vivid and bizarre than usual, lately. One of which involved my getting rapped on the knuckles for causing political chaos by issuing a press release about Jerry Corbyn having a spare room he wanted to let out. In this same dream my office was a tiny scrappy cardboard affair reached by a twirling rickety staircase that was also made of cardboard. Who knows what’s going on in there.

ANYWAY, what this meant was that I accidentally asked for a 100% mortgage at the bank today (which apparently they’re reluctant to give out) because of my dazed sleep-deprived confusion. I then drank all the coffee, wandered a bit quakingly with furrowed brow into Superdrug to buy hayfever relief, and what shall forever be known as a manbar, because I’d got to the point where I had decided the only thing that was going to get me through was one of those mutant laboratory PROTEIN BAR creations I’ve always steered clear of. I was not feeling good. Yet I had set my mind on doing a long run, dagnammit. So I crammed the protein bar into my mouth, nabbed a bottle of vitamin water, and found myself a new, leopard print (ooh la la) Nike sportsbra in the sale! at Tony Pryce, and didn’t buy some amazing running shorts with stag beetles on.

Awful as it was (the manbar, not the run), between the manbar and stubbornness, I made it through my second ever half-marathon.

To sum up: The Peroni is mine!! Mine!!!!