London Marathon done… now what?!!

I started this blog to document my journey from zero fitness in July 2017 to the London Marathon in April 2018.

When I started getting back into running last summer, my twins had just turned 3, and the 3 years of coping with pretty enormous amounts of stress had left me pretty burnt out across the board.

The challenges that come from having two newborns, then two toddlers, and managing a career, with no family living nearby, are huge. And for us, as one has had kidney failure from birth, we have a whole extra layer (medicalised care/hospital appointments and stays/stress and anxiety/responsibly/restriction and limitations) that is pretty hard to ever truly get across to those not in a similar camp.

In summary, there wasn’t a huge amount of time left for self-care in the early years of the twins’ arrival, but by the time they turned 3, I was just about feeling afloat enough to try to grasp some time back for me. When I see other mums able to get back into fitness 5 or 6 months after having a baby (even sooner sometimes!), I’m so pleased for them that it’s possible, but it does hit home just how hammered we were, by everything, which can be really saddening, looking back.

However, I’m just relieved I got there eventually, and the journey to the marathon was incredibly therapeutic: it forced me to find the time, somewhere, to start routinely looking after myself physically, as well as mentally. Also, having the chance to facilitate Great Ormond Street having more money in the pot has felt great too – allowing me to feel proactive. Feeling a lack of control is unfortunately something you feel daily when you’re dealing with a serious health condition in a child, so anything to combat that is a plus.

Having this blog has really helped, as the accountability – knowing people have been reading, or following me on Facebook/Instagram – has motivated me to get out there on days I haven’t felt I’ve had the motivation or energy. It’s also helped emotionally too; I love to write, but have had little time, and this has created a space to get thoughts down without too much time/commitment needed. It’s been an enlightening experience, and quite calming.

I’ve thought about “what’s next”, now the London Marathon is over, and I’ve done the various updates I’ve planned to do (on the Moonwalk, fundraising in my Irish village etc). I’ve decided that – as my weighloss journey is still ongoing (*loud sigh*), and I want to keep the fitness up – I’ll carry on with the blog, as a way of keeping up that motivation. Even if no one reads it, it will be a forum where I can keep myself on track, and can’t phone it in!

Today was Day One of the next phase: exercise and diet with a focus on getting the number on the scale down, as well as concentrating on the fitness.

It’s 30 weeks (209 days) to Christmas Day. I’m not going to set a very fixed goal, but hoping to get a couple of stone off by then. Any more, then bonus!

So it was trainers on this morning, and the fruit is stocked up. Onwards and upwards!!

Stop exporting the issue, Ireland

Today I flew from Cork to the UK. How many women have made that journey, Ireland having slammed its door in their face? The raped, the victims of incest, the children carrying children, the parents whose babies won’t survive, the domestic abuse victims, the women who can barely afford the flight to England not to mind another child, the cancer sufferers who know their life-saving treatment will be stopped…

Enough.

The cycle of shame, repression and control has to end.

This is the generation to do it.

For too long Ireland and the Catholic Church have controlled women, under the guise of concern for the unborn. It’s another story when they arrive: when watching a documentary on the Tuam babies last night – over 700 babies dead, thrown into a septic tank – emaciation was a regular reason given for their death. Starved by nuns. One mentioned was 3 months. Abused, sold, killed… Sorry, Church, if I don’t take your lead here, and instead focus on biology and basic human/maternity rights.

This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to claw back women’s rights.

I no longer have a vote in Ireland but am crossing everything – for my relatives, my friends… our daughters – that those who can will vote yes for the people here now: women, and the adults and children around them who need them.

#repealthe8th

Next challenge: the London Moonwalk 2018!

Just in case I missed the challenge of getting through 26.2 miles, I’ve got my sights set on the same distance again in 11 days: the London Moonwalk!

It’s a marathon-distance walk, which begins at midnight in Clapham and spans across London, taking in many sights. Oh, and we all wear bras – eek!! *googles how to hide wobbly bits*

Free to use

I’m doing it with my friends, Mark and Heather, as part of team “We Are Mammary”! This year marks ten years of Heather living with stage IV cancer, which makes the walk feel especially momentous as we mark the journey Heather has had to date – a warrior and absolute inspiration all the way!

Walk the Walk is a grant-making breast cancer charity that gives funds to charities big and small that are involved with breast cancer in order to make a difference to the lives of as many people as possible affected by the disease. This is where you come in! If my story has made you smile or stop and think for a moment, please consider sponsoring me and the team just a few quid so that everyone affected by breast cancer can be given the support they need and are offered treatments that give them the chance to live their lives. If this is a cause close to your heart, and you’re like to donate towards it, you can find our page here.

Now, just to bling up this bad boy!!

I’m a London Marathoner!

Before last week’s 2018 London Marathon, 1,042,960 competitors had finished the race since it started in 1981. For the new total add to that the more than 38,000 who finished this year, despite the grueling conditions… a number than includes ME! Even though it was the hottest London Marathon IN HISTORY – and that even slight heat on a day when I’m pottering around is almost too much for me – I managed to get round the 26.2 miles to complete what will forever remain one of the most memorable events of my life.

I went into the day with a plan to enjoy myself as much as possible, and a loose/very adjustable time goal of around 5:15. When I realised we were going to be running in conditions resembling a sauna, I adjusted that goal to “5 something”, hoping to come in anywhere under 6 hours; I’ve ran one previous marathon – 11 years ago, pre-twins, when I was much fitter/slimmer than now! – and I did that in 4:36, so thought being in the one-hour-above bracket versus two meant I would feel less far away from that time! Saying that, I knew I’d be thrilled to finish at all, given the heat and the fact that I was only a few months back to running, but I was delighted to come in at 5:55, so was doubly thrilled to have hit my revised goal as well as have finished the thing!

It was the most brutal run of my life, and I saw so many runners collapse along the route and have to be tended to/stretchered off; I felt grateful that I got over the finishing line unscathed. Over 100 very seriously ill runners were taken to hospital during the race, with many more treated on the course, and it proved to be an even more mammoth task than so many of us had anticipated/predicted. A marathon is epic… A marathon in heat? Almost unbearable for many.

My thoughts – like so many others – are with the family of Matt Campbell who so tragically died just under 4 miles from the finish line. The ‘Finish for Matt‘ campaign will help to ensure that the legacy he leaves is a large one; at the time of writing this his JustGiving page – which he set up to raise money for Brathay Trust in his father’s memory – had reached a total of more than £327,500.

That spirit, which has led to a massive drive to remember him, was so evident on the day itself. As I approached the starting area in Greenwich Park the morning of the marathon, uplifting classical music blared from speakers, and I felt the first choked-throat moment of the day – what was the first of many!!

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The atmosphere overall was fizzing… with nerves, excitement, goodwill, emotion… everyone felt part of something incredibly special. Here I am before the start, still relatively fresh-faced, hiding in the shade while I can!

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It was great meeting up with other Great Ormond Street runners too. Hats off to this guy who ran in a costume that must have been baking!

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After bag drop, and an epic loo queue, it was time for the national anthem, and the cheer when the queen hit the start buzzer at 10am was insane! This was actually happening!!

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Us ‘regular’ runners were able to watch that part on screens as we were starting in waves after this point, and then it was our turn to line up in our relevant pens, ready for take-off!

I was near the end of the starters and looking ahead at 40,000 people – people from all walks of life with the same goal that day – was really moving, and I felt moments from tears several times.

The vests of the 3 runners in front of me said ‘In Memory of my husband’, ‘In Memory of my dad’, and ‘In Memory of my son’, and looking at those words – fighting back the tears – it hit home how for so many of us we’d already dealt with more than a marathon distance could throw at us, even in the heat. If we could come through what we all had, then we could do this!

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I didn’t cross the start line until 10.50am, and with the heat and nerves I already felt energy sapping, but that soon came back as I crossed the start line to the cheers of the crowd, and we were off! Only 26.2 miles to go – easy peasy!!

start line

The London Marathon itself is a jumble of so many things: crowds; people shouting your name; costumes; run-through showers; thinking ‘one foot in front of the other; looking out for friends and family; taking in landmarks; having an ‘OH MY GOD I’M RUNNING ACROSS TOWER BRIDGE’ moment!!’

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Most people I saw were running in a charity vest, and it was so moving to think of all the reasons why people were running. My own – raising money for Great Ormond Street who treat my three-year-old son’s kidney failure – was something I thought about in the darker moments, reminding myself of everyone who’d supported my run and digging deep to push on, and thinking of how much GOSH will be doing for us in the coming years. Every time that voice said, ‘you can’t do this’, I thought of why I was doing it, and for who, and kept putting one foot down and then the other, and repeat and repeat.

It was great having people to look out for on the day, and what really helped me was knowing at what mile to look for people – the crowds are so insane, with everyone calling your name to support, that it can be easy to miss people you actually know! The spots my husband and friends went to were Mile 6, just round the bend of the Cutty Sark, around Mile 14 (top end of Narrow Street, which was a top tip from someone as a quiet-ish location, which it was!), and then Mile 24, just after the Blackfriars Underpass. Here I am then and I can tell you the smile here is all about seeing my husband/friends, and knowing the end is close, and not reflective of how I’m physically feeling at that point!!

mile 24

And then it was on to the homeward straight! It was such a strange feeling at this point – my entire body feeling like lead, but the thought of finishing and the excitement of the crowds making the adrenaline pump. Running down towards the palace and around the corner onto the Mall, with everyone cheering, is seared into my memory as a TOP moment!! Just indescribable!

Here I am on the final approach… willing myself to get to the end, and get that medal!!

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And then, the final part of a long journey… 26.2 miles, and 6 months of training…

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BLING!!

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A journey complete, and the running bug officially kickstarted again after it being pushed to the side (i.e. splattered with a sledgehammer!) since I had my twins almost 4 years ago. The past 6 months of training, building my fitness from scratch around an already hectic schedule, has seen me have to reach very deep and as well as feeling fitter and stronger physically, the same can be said for mentally and emotionally.

The London Marathon may not be a marathon I’ll ever have the opportunity or luck to do again – and it might be a distance I never get to repeat – but forever I’ll have the honour of saying I’m one in a million… a London Marathon finisher!

London Marathon: T minus 2 days!

This time two days from now I’ll have run the London Marathon! Eek!! This will be such an emotional day for me: fundraising for a charity close to my heart (Great Ormond Street), and the conclusion of 9 months where I have focused on trying to rebalance life as a freelancing parent of twins, where there is also a serious chronic illness to manage.

When you’re the parent of a child with additional needs, the needs of their health and care – even if that means big sacrifices within the family unit – have to always come first. Doesn’t mean to say you have to lose yourself, but more that if you’re not careful that could easily happen.

Subsequently, adding ‘self-care’ as a regular item to my task list has been a focus, and I feel great benefits from carving out a regular slice of time for the marathon training.

I’ve been officially training for 6 months (and spent 3 before that building up to a half-marathon), and even though it seemed like a mission to begin with and a big chunk of time to commit (and a lot of people did think I was quite mad taking this on, on top of everything!) it really has gone in a flash.

6 months on I’m fitter, healthier, stronger, happier. It would have been so easy – and tempting, to be honest! – to put it on the long finger, and say “I’m too busy; I’ll never be able to do that … I’ll start a bit down the line”. But here I am, about to run a marathon!

I still have a chunk of weight to lose, but I have lost quite a bit during the training, and most importantly I feel good, and I feel like I’ve found a bit of myself again that had been swallowed up by twins, 12 months of reflux, kidney failure, vats of meds, hundreds of blood tests, various unexpected life emergencies, managing work on top of all of that…

I feel I’ve rewired my brain a bit during the last few months, and now a run is often the answer to a stressful day with the kids – not that glass of wine/calorific treat!! (Nice as they are!) It’s important for the kids to have healthy role-models – especially my son who will really need to mind himself and his health – and I love that they now think it so normal that on Sunday mornings they have time with their dad while I run, and they seem so proud when I come back from a race with a medal. Sunday’s medal will most definitely be the best yet!!

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/donna-hillyer

 

Savita mattered. Women in Ireland matter.

The father of Savita Halappanavar, who died at University Hospital Galway in 2012 after a septic miscarriage, has called for the people of Ireland to vote yes to repealing the 8th Amendment in Ireland’s referendum next month.
Savita didn’t have to die, but her name is now forever etched on the list of women who have lost their lives due to this law. They are our mothers, our sisters, our friends, our wives – and they shouldn’t have to die. The lives of women in Ireland matter too. WE matter.
The problem with the 8th Amendment as it stands is that it’s completely illogical, and in every instance where a choice is needed it is being broken. It’s simple logic: you cannot give equal rights to a pregnant woman and a foetus – when a decision has to be made, one or other HAS to be prioritised, thus making this law impossible to apply even in simple terms. That it was ever passed Thanks , with its current wording, astounds me.
And in answer to which I think has priority, I will always say it’s the one that’s here, alive now. If I had to make a choice between my living children and a child not born, my children will get priority every time. A law that would make their health/safety jeopardised – by forcing their mother through emotional/psychological/physical horror – is unfathomable to me.
A law that means a cancer patient’s treatment is stopped if she becomes pregnant – meaning she and her baby will both die – is totally and utterly barbaric. Our country has treated its women like animals for too long – once dropped outside the laundries, it’s now to the airport/ferry. “Not our problem…” etc etc. The Catholic Church shouting loud and hard… but the Tuam baby scandal is fresh in our minds. Forgive me if I don’t look to the church on this issue (whose corruption/cover-ups in relation to women and children means they don’t have a voice here whatsoever in my opinion) and instead look to international human rights and biology.
We have to trust women to make the choices that are right for their specific situation, and in the meantime not deny them basic maternity rights. Every pregnancy is a complex scenario and only those at the epicentre know what is right for them. For someone to be forced against their wishes to carry a baby to full-term, and birth it, knowing it won’t make it/will be born suffering and live in pain for a few days, is a cruelty I have no words for. Or a woman whose pregnancy will very likely kill them, but who is told they can’t be helped until they do actually start to die, with the hope being they can indeed be saved at the time. Fingers crossed, eh?
The only way to amend the law, is for it to first be repealed, after which point Ireland can debate what laws it can put in place to guarantee the safety of women. 2018 Ireland… it may as well be 1918 if this law isn’t repealed.
If you’re undecided about which way to vote, please look into the 8th Amendment and what it actually means, and what maternity rights women in Ireland don’t have access to because of it, so that you’re as informed as possible before you make your choice. The In Her Shoes – Women Of The Eighth Page is a good starting point, where you can read stories of how the 8th Amendment as it stands has affected women. Every story has made me want to cry, and scream about how Irish women are being treated.
I do strongly believe that when decisions have to be made women should be trusted to make the right decision. I cannot imagine – having had a complicated pregnancy with the twins – had I been told that I didn’t have a say over my body in the midst of that. I was trusted, and was able to make the choice that was right for me.

“Asking for it…”

This is a great article by Irish author Louise O’Neill, which sums up so many of my own emotions about the Ulster Rugby rape trial verdict, having followed the trial closely.

It’s been a divisive trial, but one thing can be certain: seeing what that girl went through – shamed, and shamed, over and over – to prove she was essentially “asking for it”, was appalling, and for sure will not be an encouragement for other victims of rape to come forward.

These guys weren’t cleared or exonerated. The view was there was insufficient evidence to find them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But my question is: what does it take?! In our current legal system, if all the evidence presented in this case wasn’t enough, what evidence CAN prove rape, short of CCTV/the guy admitting it, especially in a situation where the girl already knows the guy (or guys, as in this case…)? Or are women just always presumed to be lying?

Here we had their texts talking about the hysterical state they’d left her off in (let’s not even start on their other texts…); the taxi driver confirming how upset she was; her texting one of the guys the following morning to say “what happened last night was not consensual”; her texting her friends to say what happened; a doctor’s report saying she had an “internal tear”, which is why she was bleeding (she was still bleeding from this the night AFTER the incident), and on and on. Even the fact that she went to trial, KNOWING how much the odds were stacked against her, counts.

She was in the witness box for 8 days. She was the one on trial here, not those guys. The defence’s line of questioning was degrading and insulting, and designed to shame, humiliate and sully her, and drag her reputation to the gutter. We look back in horror at our dark Magdalen Laundries past – have we really moved on at all?

A big concern I’m left with is the message to men: “it’s almost impossible to prove, lads. Your word against hers. Just call her a liar; the system will do the rest.” Well, it worked for the now POTUS, on camera admitting to sexual assault, and still elected.

Those guys may have walked free, but anyone who read their text exchange knows what they think of women. At least they can never escape the facts of those exchanges, laid out in black and white. And no, that’s not just “banter”; I refuse to normalise that behaviour by calling it that. It’s toxic, and it’s dangerous.

As for that girl, broken all over again… I hope that the knowledge that so many believe her (and I am one of those) helps to give her strength moving forwards.

Really informative article:

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/inside-court-12-the-complete-story-of-the-belfast-rape-trial-1.3443620?mode=amp