The Romance Run

I can’t wait for the 28th of April when I run the London Marathon, I figure it will be one of the best days of my life so my next idea for a training run was to pay homage to the best day of my life so far, my wedding day. I started at Carfin Chapel and ran to the Bothwell Bridge Hotel where we had our reception, I can highly recommend it by the way if anyone else fancies getting married there. Just ask for Stephen and he will see you right! I threw in an extra lap of Strathclyde Park to signify our wedding rings.

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Today’s route, Carfin Chapel to Bothwell Bridge Hotel with a lap and a half of Strathclyde Park thrown in.

Here is the link to the “Relive” footage of my run, I quite like this app. Footage here

So, I headed off to Carfin Chapel. I tried to take a picture outside the chapel but there was a Priest there who didn’t move and I was starting to feel a bit shady hanging around so much. I headed into Carfin Grotto to recreate one of my favourite pictures from the day, the results can be seen below:

Kirsty looking beautiful
Me looking less so

I know the immediate question everyone asks is “How did the person in the bottom picture manage to marry the person in the top picture?” I guess I must have a good personality or something! I set off on quite a bit downhill section and ran past Motherwell’s football stadium. This is the Davie Cooper stand, I mentioned him in another blog I wrote.

Fir Park

From there I kept on down Airbles Road and into Strathclyde Park, here I am just before my first water stop. Because of my eye it is really important I stay properly hydrated so I always take on as much water as I can now.

Action Shot – I wasn’t going too fast though

From here I wanted to do a lap of Strathclyde Park to signify our wedding rings – I never thought I would be doing something so sappy but I had to get my miles up! That was brutally windy in there today. I managed to overtake a couple who were having difficulty riding their bikes into the wind and everyone I passed was wrapped up all warm. At the far end of the loch there were a load of people out with greyhounds, must have been some kind of meeting, I was hoping they didn’t mistake me for a hare and chase after me! Back towards the point I entered the park again I had the wind at my back but there are a few hills here that I didn’t enjoy before I turned back into the gale again and trudged my way through the final 2 kilometres in the park.

From here I ran out the park at Toby Carvery (very nice breakfast) and ran around a fairly busy roundabout before starting the ascent into Bothwell, that is a pretty fancy place (at the top of a deceptively steep hill). I knew I only had a kilometre or so left but it seemed to take forever up this stupid hill the whole way! Soon I turned the corner and I saw the Bothwell Bridge before me.

Almost there

We go to the Bothwell Bridge every year on our anniversary and always have a great meal in the restaurant. The food is pretty fancy, not what I usually would have but it is always amazing – and the waiters in the restaurant are all so polite and well mannered, it’s a real throwback to good old-fashioned perfect service. Just one last task, get my photo taken at the wee arch. I hope they don’t mind but I stepped over the wee chain that was there – hey, it’s for charity! Hopefully I am not banned now.

From the wedding day
From the running day

Just another couple of photos from the front of the hotel and then I got in the car to go home, getting out the car was a lot harder than I am used to.

Phew, thanks for reading all that. 18km is my furthest run so far. I have the Inverness half marathon in 6 weeks so I am kind of focussed on that at the moment but the London Marathon is quickly marching into view – can’t wait!

The Tesco Run, every little helps

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Picking up the baton

“That’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard”. Those were the exact word of my younger brother when I told him I planned to run between all the local Tescos. This from a man who co-formed The Runbetweeners – a group set up initially with the aim of running between things! When someone who likes running between things to tell me my idea of running between stuff was the worst idea ever, I knew I was onto something. My plan has always been to try and do my longer training runs for the London Marathon as some kind of challenge or novelty run (if anyone has any ideas please let me know!) So I figured the Tesco stores in my part of the world would set an appropriate challenge. The distance would be around 13k – pretty much what I was looking for. Someone suggested carrying the baton around with me so the picture above is of me buying said baton of bread – there will be a few bread puns in this I’m afraid, it’s a bit of a half-baked idea.

Proof of starting time and location
Relaxing before the start at Wishaw

After being pointed in the right direction I was on my way. The first section was a nice downhill from Wishaw into Motherwell. I was going along at a good speed for me and the kilometres were ticking by surprisingly quickly. I ran past a McDonalds and a KFC and also a football pitch outside Wishaw Hospital that had an 11 a side game on it, I felt like stopping to watch it but then I remembered I hate football now (thanks Morton!). Here I had my first picture taken, I am not sure why but I held my baton like the Olympic Torch – I used my loaf there.

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The Olympic Loaf

I was actually amazed at how soon I reached Motherwell Tesco. A quick stop to buy a Wispa. I love Wispas, ever since the weird adverts with Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones, I could do with one right now actually.

Arrival at Motherwell

This is my local Tesco and I can recommend it to people. It doesn’t feel like a big multi-national chain store and the people that work in there are a pretty friendly bunch. There is also a Greggs and a Dominos in the same shopping area – what a world!

Me and my Wispa
Proof of time and place

So, I munched on my Wispa and carried along my merry way. I had debated which route to run from Motherwell to Carfin. One route was downhill a bit followed by about 1km pretty steeply uphill whereas the other route was a more gradual incline around Ravenscraig where the steelworks used to be. I chose the Ravenscraig route but I think that was a mistake.

Past the College

I am no expert in this area but it looks like they have spent a lot of time and money doing it up. There are loads of new developments like the College above. It’s hard to imagine that on these roads I was running used to be a big massive steelworks giving employment to thousands of people and now it was a big green open space. Ravenscraig sports centre is also there, there is a section of running track in there and it is where they have the counts for the elections where I managed to sneak onto the camera on a few occasions as can be seen below.

Me at  the referendum count (the guy in the background)
Keep on running

I kept on running, and running. This bit seemed to drag on, I was not enjoying the very gradual incline and my time started to slow right down. Eventually I made it to the roundabout though and I knew I was almost at Carfin Tesco. I got there and the bread was starting to get a bit crumbly and broken but, by a slice of luck, I had kept it in its plastic packaging so it was holding up well. A stop in for a bottle of Lucozade and I was on my way.

Geez, the camera adds 10 pounds right enough…
Getting there

So, onwards to the part of my run I was most unfamiliar with – Carfin to Bellshill. This part of the run took me through places like New Stevenson, Mossend and Holytown. passing the Lithuanian Social Club amongst other things.

By this time I was in a lot of pain with my loaf of bread (one for the French teachers that read this) but I kept pushing on. A nice downhill section past the mosque which I enjoyed as you can see below, was followed by the final stretch into Bellshill, birthplace of Tom McKean, alas I did not see him though.

Lovely downhill

I had no real idea where I was going now so I just headed for the centre and eventually saw the Tesco ahead of me, a quick runaround and I was there, I wanted to get right to the door to finish it properly.

Almost there

What a relief when I finished. Another bottle of Lucozade to prove I had been there and I was done.

Baton delivered
Proof

Sadly I had no-one to pass the baton onto so I just stuck it in the bin, it didn’t look or feel too appetising after having ran with it. I think if I had tried to take it home for Kirsty I would have been toast.

My faithful companion

Underneath are my route and my stats for times etc. I reckon I still have a lot of improvement I can make and I look forward to hopefully seeing improvement over the next month or so.

Good start soon gave way to a more steady pace

So, there we have it.  Remember, you can donate to the RNIB at the following link www.justgiving.com/fundraising/stuartmtaylor

Sharing this would also be a big help to me – thanks a lot.

19 targets for 2019

That last blog I wrote was more successful than I thought it would be, second only to my sporting background in Dunoon one which can be found here

Anyway, with me not really being a fan of New Year’s Eve and having run 10 miles today (more of that later in the week), I thought I would sit in and set myself 19 targets for the upcoming year.  So, here they are:

  • Give more to charity – yeah, I am going to commit myself to doing this.  Trying to raise money for charity myself has given me an insight into how difficult it actually is.  So, every month I am going to donate the equivalent to my slowest parkrun of the previous month.  So, that will motivate me to go as fast as I can!  If my slowest time is 14 minutes 31 seconds then it’s £14.31 – easy.
  • Raise as much as possible for RNIB – this is a really important one for me.  I have always wanted to run the London Marathon and the RNIB have given me the opportunity to do this.  Loads of people apply for these charity places and they put their faith in me to raise them a bit of cash so I will be trying my best to do this!  Any fundraising ideas let me know!  The old JustGiving page is open here  but I am open to other ways as well.
  • Spread the word of RNIB – Linked to the point above, as well as raising money I would like to raise awareness of the work of the RNIB.  My work are giving me the opportunity to speak about this and I am going to try and spread the word in other ways as well, such as this YouTube clip here:
  • Get to under 14 stone – this will hopefully happen as a result of my training!  Nothing tastes as good as slim feels and all that!  Must get that Christmas weight shifted.
  • Stand on the rocks at The Gantocks lighthouse – I have had this as a target before but didn’t get round to it.  It’s been all painted now so I am not so sure about writing my name on it anymore…
  • Run 42 km a week – I reserve the right to edit or amend this target if it is proving too difficult!  42 km is the length of a marathon so it’s as suitable a number as any other I suppose.
  • Use time at the start of the day more productively – instead of lying in bed looking at my phone for an hour at the start of every day I am going to try and use that period of time more wisely.  Mornings are great once you get up and do something.  I used to love the mornings in Dunoon after finishing nightshift, we had the town to ourselves until the first ferry came in, the putting green at the Queen’s Hall was all ours!
  • Defend the staff golf championship – this was my finest day of the year.  I played the best golf I have ever played and won my first gold trophy ever, the best I had ever done before was 2nd in the Bart Meechan Trophy (beaten by Jim Ferguson in the final).
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Champion golfer of the year
  • Complete the London Marathon in time to make my flight home – I had to mention this here.  I have a target in mind for a time but I think the first marathon is all about making it round!  Having said that, my flight home is at 2130 from London Heathrow so my target should just be making that.
  • Gain my 50 parkrun tee-shirt – I bang on about parkrun a lot, this year I want to get my 50 parkrun tee-shirt, I am on about 25 just now so I’m halfway there.  It’s pretty cool that you get a free tee-shirt when you make it to that landmark.
  • Volunteer 6 times at parkrun – I think the suggestion is that you should volunteer for every 10 parkruns you do.  So, I will set myself a target for 6 volunteering sessions this year.
  • 3 litres of water a day – this is fairly easy when I am at work but the challenge will be at the weekends and in holidays, I am going to go for it though!
  • Takeaway once a month – sorry to the fast food outlets of Motherwell but I am going to limit myself to one takeaway a month – cancel that holiday in July Mr Singh.
  • Try and do one kind thing a day – not sure how this will work out but one good deed a day shouldn’t be too much to ask.  Please pull me up for this one and make sure I am doing it!
  • Keep a tidy classroom and car – as mentioned in my previous blog, I learned that decluttering and being tidy make me feel a lot better.
  • Do more work in the house – this is a suggestion from Kirsty!  I need to help out more with the housework and be better at it as well!  Also, learning some DIY skills would be good.
  • Climb Ben Nevis again – this has been a target before but this year I really want to do it.  Kirsty is enjoying her hill walking and I quite like it on a nice day, plenty of them at Ben Nevis…
  • Spend less time with my phone in my hand – another self-explanatory one.  It’s quite frightening when you see how long you are looking at your phone for, need to break that habit.
  • Crowd surf at a heavy metal gig – I was at an Iron Maiden concert and thought the crowd surfing looked great fun.  Part of me really wants to try this although I will freely admit that this is one that I am unlikely to do – maybe that should make me try for it even more!

There we go then, hope everyone has a great new year and a happy, calm and stress free 2019.

18 things I learned in 2018

I saw someone else do a blog like this so thought that I would try it as well. This time of year often leads to self- reflection and introspection and for that reason I’m not a big fan of new year. In many ways I could consider 2018 a pretty rubbish year for me but, with a step back and a bit of perspective, I need to count my blessings again and realise that things have been ok and anything that has gone wrong can be turned into a positive. So, with that said, here are 18 things I learned in 2018.

  • Get regular eye checkups. Kirsty had been getting onto me for a couple of years about getting to the optician to get my eyes checked. Part of me always thought my vision was alright so there was no need for me to go. Another part of me was too scared to go in case they looked in the back of my eyes and found something wrong with me, pretty stupid, I know. Had I gone for a checkup earlier they may have noticed something was going wrong with my eye and I could have done something to stop it going wrong, then I wouldn’t be left with quite badly impaired vision in my right eye and the need for an eyeball injection every month. So yeah, get your eyes checked, you are entitled to a free one every 2 years if you are over 40 or in some other cases, check here for more information on this in the UK.
  • Don’t be scared of the doctor. Gee I was scared of the doctor. I’ve always suffered with a bit of health anxiety so when my eye problems kicked off and the consultant at the hospital told me to make an emergency doctor appointment that had me scared! I distinctly remember sitting terrified in the waiting room with Kirsty and then not even being able to speak properly to the doctor. I needn’t have worried though as he was great, reassuring, calm and kind. My only issue was a sky high blood pressure, in part explained by how worried I was feeling but easily enough fixed. I’m now in and out of the doctor more often for prescriptions etc and it holds a lot less fear for me now, doctors are there to help us and make us better, not to give us a hard time and shout at us, again, this is obvious for most people, not for me though!
  • Do not get your hopes up when it comes to Greenock Morton. I learn this every year but need to keep re-learning it every year as well. Summer was quite an exciting time to be a Morton fan. We had signed a few good players and got a semi-competent manager in Ray McKinnon. I even badgered Kirsty to get me a season ticket and stuck a bet on us to win the league. Fast forward to the end of August and our manager had left us for Falkirk. Fast forward to December and we have had thrashings off Ayr, Ross County and Alloa and the season ticket is feeling more and more like a punishment.
  • Drinking water is important! I was never a big water drinker until this year. It’s really good for you though and helps you to lose weight, something to do with the flush effect or something. In my new place of work there is a water cooler right outside my room, and a toilet as well, so I’ve no excuse for not drinking the water. Barrs’ decision to mess with the recipe of Irn Bru has also helped wean me off soft drinks and onto water, something I will definitely make an effort to continue with next year.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s all small stuff. I think this could be my most important lesson of the year. As I’ve alluded to in other blogs such as this one here , I was/am a massive worrier. Anxiety levels are always high and I know this can have a negative effect on my blood pressure etc. so I’m needing to make a big effort to try and rationalise my worries and look at them in context. Here I am, living in a developed country, with access to clean water, a roof over my head, plentiful food, a job and a healthcare system free at the point of delivery. Comparing the problems I was worrying about to others that people around the world have and that people around me are dealing with makes me realise that things aren’t so bad for me and worrying about things won’t change them at all.
  • I’m still not much of a hugger. When did hugging people become so popular? Hi, how are you? Here’s a hug. See you later, bye, here’s another one. Congratulations, commiserations, have a hug. Ha, I like the sentiment behind it and I appreciate it but don’t be offended if I offer an elbow or handshake back 😀 https://youtu.be/hN8CKwdosjE although watching that it’s hard to argue against hugs being a force for good!
  • Ask for help when you need it. This is something that I’m always saying to my pupils in work but it’s a piece of advice that, as adults, we don’t often follow ourselves. Whether it be problems at work, problems at home or problems our health, there is always someone who can help. Don’t worry about admitting to mistakes or vulnerabilities, learn from them and use them to help you grow and improve. Particularly men! We hate admitting weakness and vulnerability but we need to do it, help is only one phone call, text or conversation away.
  • It’s important to help each other and look after each other. There were a good few people that reached out and helped me this year and it made such a difference to me and, to kinda pay it back, I’m trying my best to offer assistance to anyone I think maybe struggling or whatever. It’s a pretty rewarding feeling, you should try it. Imagine how good a world we would live in if we kept checking up on each other and looked out for each other. This reads like the People’s Friend or a Hallmark card or something, but that’s ok, it’s true enough!  So, if anyone ever wants to go for a run or needs a hand with something or just have someone to moan at, then give me a try!
  • Do things, don’t plan to do them. I will need to take my own advice here because I’m an awful procrastinator but getting things done is the only way to be. This year I entered the London Marathon, in previous years I had only thought about it. I could launch into a “life is short, do things while you can” bit here but it’s been said a million times before by people wiser than me!  I prefer the whole “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today, that way if you like it, you can do it again” way of looking at this.
  • Being grateful can totally change your mindset. There I was back in May feeling awfully sorry for myself and my lack of right eye vision when I decided to instead be grateful that I could see well out my left eye and lots of people would love to be in my situation, that transformed the way I felt about myself and is something I’m going to try and keep doing in 2019.
  • Cyprus is awesome. I knew this in 2017 but had it reconfirmed in 2018 in July.
  • Don’t take things for granted. Yeah, things like your eyesight and health, look after them.
  • Wash the bottom of the dishes too! Thought i better put this in to show Kirsty that I’m trying to learn! Also, related to this, check the washing is properly dry before I put it away and when I am asked to clean the toilet, that doesn’t just mean the toilet itself but also the bath, shower, sink, floor, mirror and little units in there as well.
  • I work with a lot of amazing people. I was lucky enough this year to work with a whole lot of new people and they have all been great. I could name a few people who have been brilliant for me this year but I’m scared of missing someone out but rest assured I’m thankful for all the help and support and laughs I get at my work, what a difference it makes.  Linked to this, I also have a lot of great friends who are full of kind words and encouragement and support.
  • You will get through this. Every person reading this has been through challenging times in their lives and they are still here, proving that whatever you are facing, you will get through it.
  • Breathe. When I was obsessing over my blood pressure and measuring it 8 or 9 times a day I noticed that a couple of deep breaths would take my blood pressure down by quite a lot.  It’s such an easy form of relaxation that I am annoyed I haven’t incorporated it into my daily life until now!  I need to watch though as too many deep breaths can make me feel light headed when I stand up!
  • Laughter is a great medicine.  I have had the good fortune to attend a number of comedy gigs this year.  Jason Manford in the few weeks after my eye went wrong.  Jason Manford is one of life’s good guys and had some really poignant words about mental health at the end of his really funny set.  We also went to see Jon Richardson and I went to see Rob Brydon with my brother.  Rob Brydon was the big surprise here, what a funny and engaging person, he was near enough the perfect gig.
  • People are good.  Yeah, most people are good, accept this and trust people and you will rarely be let down. If they do let you down that says more about their character than your’s.

Right, that’s the 18 but I have a few more bonus things that I learned.

  • De-clutter.  I always feel better after chucking out a load of things I no longer need.
  • A kind word can transform someone’s day, as can a nasty one.  This has been a big lesson to me this year.  I can totally over-react to negative things people say to me but, then again, maybe others could be hurt by things I say to them, even though I may mean no malice so I am going to try my best to choose my words really carefully this next year.  Also, when someone says something nice and positive, no matter how small, it makes me feel a million dollars! So, again, I will be making the effort to be as positive as I can with people this next year.
  • East, West, home is best.  This year the good people of Dunoon have helped me out as always.  In the summer it’s a great time for a visit when it’s sunny.  In the winter in a big storm it’s a great place to visit as well.  The people from Dunoon are great as well and loads of old friends have offered me loads of help with my marathon training and fundraising. The very fact that I had stones from the West Bay on the tables at my wedding to mark where people should be sitting shows the loyalty I have to my hometown.
  • Turn negatives into positives.  Hopefully people can see from this blog that a theme of my whole year has been turning negatives into positives.  Had it not been for my dodgy eye I probably wouldn’t be running the London Marathon and I would probably still be struggling at times without letting people help me out.  But that event back in April has radically altered the way I look at things.  Right now I feel fitter than I have since my teenage years and I am able to wear shirts without an “X” in their size again (well, maybe not just now after the Christmas excesses).

Anyway, that’s it,  I will maybe write another one of these tomorrow with 19 targets for 2019.  In the meantime, remember you can sponsor me for the RNIB doing the London Marathon at this link here.