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The buzz around Sundays Race for Life event in the weeks leading up to it was awesome, and rightly so, as the UK’s first ever women only marathon and half marathon there was a lot to be excited about.

I was chuffed back in the Spring to be asked to become an ambassador for this event, as my mum is a cancer surviver and I have lost both grandparents and two dear uncles to it, besides the Race for Life brand is so closely aligned to what I do via my Too Fat to Run campaign which is all about finding your why and encouraging women to stand up and be counted, I just had to be involved. So over the last few months I have had a great time advising participants about how to prepare for their big day, and in particular how to stay focussed on Why you are doing it in the first place without getting overwhelmed.

image1[3]Arriving at Lee Valley Park at 8.30am on Sunday morning you could almost feel the nerves in the air. I was with my partner in crime Natalie, and had just dropped Maya to mile 5 with all the kit required for our Too Fat to Run cheering spot which I knew would be invaluable when I checked out the hill we would all be climbing when I visited the site briefly the day before.

Lee Valley Country Park looked beautiful, it was a glorious day and all I could see was a sea of pink…and it wasn’t long before I started spotting my Clubhouse ladies, and then other women from the Too Fat to Run community started coming up and saying hello too. One lady said very briefly

You are the reason I am here, so thank you

image2Before running back to her proud family. I wondered if she would be thanking me later. It was great to actually meet so many of my followers…it was all so excited I almost forgot I was about to run 13.1 miles…thank goodness I hadn’t signed up for the full. I had considered it, but I am so full on with things at the moment, I don’t think I would have been able to get the training in.

As you would expect at a RFL event there was a whole heap of dancing, wacky costumes, arm waving and jumping around to get into the spirit of things, when you read the messages on the back of peoples tops you knew you had to stay upbeat and excitable, because otherwise the importance of this work would be just too overwhelming. There was a heart touching talk from a cancer surviver who after having an operation in April has since run 2 marathons, today being number 3 and then there was a minutes silence for the cause and the enormity of what we were about to do sank in.

We were set off in waves, the marathon runners first and then us.

I had run on parts of this course twice before, and always in glorious weather so I knew I was in for a treat and the course didn’t disappoint. I was kept company by Clelia one of my ladies who was running her first half marathon after starting on her running journey back in the spring of this year (what an accomplishment even to have signed up to a half so soon right?)

84000_LVM15_RAB_001033The first few miles just ticked along, I didn’t have headphones and it was great just to chat and say hello to folks as they passed me. We were doing 12-13 minute miles and enjoying the small pockets of crowds along the route. The water stations/fuel hubs were great with water, energy drinks and always something tasty to nibble on. Just before mile 5 and after a stunning bit of the course which had a herd of cows in the background we stopped for a bit of a stretch and to prepare ourselves for the TFTR cheering station.

Well.

We heard Maya and her gang, at least half a mile before we could actually see her. She was in her element at the top of a very windy (As in bendy not gassy) hill section with a roving commentator style microphone willing the women up the hill, “come on you can do it”, “run for 60 then walk for 60, come on” she screamed, whilst her 3 helpers banged tambourines, shook pom poms and handed out jelly babies.

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An odd moment when Maya didnt have the mic

Then she spotted me and I heard

And here she comes founder of The Fat Girls Guide to Running and your race for life ambassador…iiiiitttttttsssss….Julie Creffield

Well, I had to run up the bleedin hill now didn’t I.

I was so excited by what was going on at the top of the hill that I decided to lap it up and hang around for a few minutes to cheer other women on. At this point of the course I think this encouragement was so needed and the TFTR cheering team did an amazing job considering there were only a handful of them there all day.

Then it was time to soldier on.

Clelia and I chatted the whole way. A bit about the TFTR campaign. A bit about our childhoods. And a bit about all the other fabulous half marathons we are going to run next year…Paris, Berlin, New York anyone???? It was great having someone to talk to, although I must admit we probably could have pushed ourselves a little harder as we stopped and stretched quite frequently, and walked when either of us needed to and I didn’t really pay much attention to my sports watch.

I think with this event though it really was about enjoying the experience and taking time to share it with others.

By about mile 9 or 10 the first of the marathon runners were coming through….INCREDIBLE.

84000_LVM15_OLS_004331This isn’t an easy marathon course as you don’t have the big crowds or the landmarks to look forward to, and with two laps in many ways it would have perhaps felt like a long Sunday training session but with loads more runners to dodge on your second lap…also I would have imagined the course would have been a little tough psychologically for first time marathon runners, so there would have been a lot of soul searching and remembering the WHY!!!

The last few miles were quite difficult. By now my feet were sore and I felt a little tired…we had been running for more than 3 hours.

We knew we were nearly there though when we heard the announcer on the PA system, and one last push got us up an evil but quaint little hill and bridge and down into a funnel of awaiting crowds. As we powered (and I actually mean that) towards the finish line with massive goofy smiles on our face we spotted some TFTR ladies on the sidelines and gave them our customary jazz hands to say “yes this is fun” and we dipped across the line.

As half marathons go, this was by no means my fastest, nor my most eventful, but what it was without a doubt, was an absolute pleasure from start to finish. The atmosphere. The organisation (apart for a few issues with parking which I am not sure could have been avoided). And THE GOODIE BAG!!!! These guys know how to treat you after a long hard run.

I NEVER buy race photos because I always look so grim in them, but the photos from the weekend were fantastic, I was smiling in every one, and will treasure them.

There were some absolute courageous performances from my team yesterday, I was incredibly proud of what my TFTR ladies achieved, and more generally what the Race for Life organisers had achieved in their inaugural event. The venue was perfect, the weather gods were looking down on us and the atmosphere was electric from start to finish. It seemed like everyone had a blast, including the couple who got engaged at the finish line.

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Geri at the cheer station

I simply can’t wait to be involved again next year…if RFL will have me…have us!!!

But lets not forget the reason behind this event.

Every two minutes someone in the UK is diagnosed with cancer.

Cancer Research UK are world leaders in finding new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer and Race for Life events across the UK raises thouands of pounds each year in this fight. So please, please, please make sure you get your sponsor money in or sponsor someone you know who courageously signs up for one of their events.

Here are some examples of the money you raise in sponsorship – big or small – can help us become cancer’s worst nightmare:

£8 kits out our scientists with a lab timer, helping them to find out what makes a cancer cell tick.
£20 buys a lab coat, box of gloves and goggles. Not only geek chic, but vital items to help our scientists carry out life-saving research.
£70 pays for a Bunsen burner to help ignite groundbreaking research on a daily basis.
£180 pays for one day of a trial to discover faster diagnosis and new therapies to treat brain cancer.
£300 buys a hotplate to warm special solutions, turning up the temperature on groundbreaking research.
£450 pays for one day of a trial to diagnose prostate cancer earlier and more efficiently.

A rough calculation this morning revealed that The Clubhouse members alone raised well over £2500 in their efforts.

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Tamsin celebrating after her first ever half marathon

If you want to find out more about the fantastic work that Cancer Research are doing, visit cruk.org and do look out for events that the TFTR campaign are supporting next year…get the 2016 half marathon date in your diary as soon as its revealed, as I reckon we will have an even bigger TFTR contingent representing next year.

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