The third annual trail marathon, raising funds for the East Anglian Air Ambulance, uses the former railway line from Norwich to Alysham via Reepham which is now a public footpath and cycle route. About 200 runners assembled in the community centre near the start line, just outside the city centre. What no portaloos?? Real lavatories and somewhere warm to wait were a treat when so many events require queueing in the rain for a temporary toilet. After the race briefing (the highlight of which was “if I see any of you dropping any litter you’ll be disqualified and banned from all future races, it’s discusting”) we had a nervous walk over to the start line. Glorious sunshine made me realise I was overdressed (thanks February), as I made nervous small-talk with my fellow runners (“how many marathons have you done?” “Which parkrun do you go to?”). A lap of Sloughbottom Park is required to make up the distance, but after that it was straight along the gravelly path.
I grew up on the Marriotts Way. Daily dog walks with Bracken the border terrier, bike rides with friends, picking strawberries from the field, and running. Lots of running. As we went past the turn up for my family home, I could spot the roof of the house amidst the trees, and the tower of the church a little further over.
Fields gave way to houses, a few roads to cross and dog walkers to dodge before reaching the old station at Whitwell. The smell of the Diesel engine greeted us, from the little bit of train track that remains here. The half way point! Crowds cheered us through and onwards towards Reepham.
The third quarter of a race is always the hardest for me, fatigue and boredom set in and there’s still so far to go. And the niggle with my knee began to be more than just a niggle. The bright sunshine, other path users and the tail end of the half marathoners were barely registered by my pain-addled brain.
“Only a parkrun to go!” called another struggling runner. My headphones got tangled with my water tube so I ran (jogged/shuffled) the last 5k with only my thoughts for company. “It’ll soon be over - bath, takeaway, beer.” After the hell of the ramp up from the former train tracks to the town of Alysham, the cheering crowds meant I was at least smiling for the photo my mum took. There’s got to be easier ways of getting a tshirt and a medal.
Apart from the actual running part, this was a really enjoyable event. There was a real community feel, it was well organised and a great route. Thank you to the event organisers Positive Steps and all the volunteers, including those from the East Anglian Air Ambulance. And massive kudos for a waste-free event. Maybe just the half next year...
You’ve been saving your pennies and you’ve got your time off sorted, now all you have to do it plan your trip! But where do you start? There are so many places to go and so many variables, it can be overwhelming to try and narrow down where to go and for how long. Here are some ideas to help you pin down planning your dream trip.
If you have more than one destination in mind but your holiday time is fixed, then check out the weather. There are definite perks to travelling somewhere out of the peak season, but if the monsoon rains or blazing heat are going to ruin your activities then you probably want to change your dates or destination.
If you’re still unsure of where to go then check the cheapest flights from your nearest airport. Another way to maximise your flights is to stopover en route. I made use of Hawaiian flights going via California to have a week in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
This is hard if you have a small amount of time and you need to book transport ahead of time. But I much prefer to have flexibility in my plan. My favourite way of exploring is to have a flight into one place and out of another, with my precise movements in between yet to be decided.
This again is hard if you have limited time, but trips or activities are almost always cheaper to book when you arrive. For example trekking to Machu Picchu via the Salkantay trail can be booked for around $200 in Cusco. Double that cost if you book from the U.K. You're also giving more of your money to the local economy, rather than a travel agent with a nice office.
I love blogs (obvs) but there’s nothing like a good ole Lonely Planet. They’re especially helpful when getting an idea about transport between smaller places.
Top Tip! Buy the out of date book secondhand for a bargain.
I just got a 2015 guidebook from Abebooks.co.uk for £3.19 while the new one is over £15. Some prices and details may be out of date, but it’s mostly going to be the same. If you’re relying on a crucial detail for your trip to work (whether the ferry leaves in time to catch your flight), check with an up-to-date source.
If you’re not sure how long to spend exploring Vietnam from head to foot, search for a blogger’s itinerary suggestion. If you want a recommendation of the best hostel in Lima - ask in a Facebook group. Personal recommendations for tour guides are priceless, and often allow locals in poorer countries to spread their business without being on the internet.
When I visited Chitwan National Park in Nepal I made friends with a group of fellow backpackers at the hostel and ended up on a multi-day jungle trek to a remote village. We slept in mud huts and had to ride on the roof of the bus on the way back to the main town. I couldn't have planned that if I'd tried! I love to research and plan and know about all the possibilities but I always try to be open to new and unexpected situations.
In the end you just have to book it. There are plenty of reasons to hesitate, to wait and see if the prices change or some event at home comes up. There will always be a reason but just book it anyway. Book the transport and figure out the rest as you go along.
What other advice is there from planning a trip? Are you spontaneous and don't plan anything? Comment below. If you want any help with your trip then just shout. I looooove researching travel!
January can be a difficult month. Christmas festivities are long forgotten and wintery routines usually include healthy eating plans and alcohol abstinence. The nights are just starting to get lighter but winter weather is going to continue for a long time yet. There are so many benefits to being active all year round. Along with exercise being good for you in general, there are also the benefits of being outdoors. I heard on BBC Radio 4 the other day that, even on a cloudy day there is 10 times as much light outside than in the average, well-lit office environment. Sunlight and fresh air are biologically and emotionally good for you! I don't want to let the winter stop me having adventures so here are my top tips for staying active in colder weather.
"There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing."
My mum enjoys quoting this at me when I complain about how cold her house is. Annoyingly she's right. In winter weather you can still safely and comfortably get outside if you have the appropriate preparations. And that doesn't mean buying a load of expensive specialist kit. Layers are the key. On a walk on a really chilly day I'll wear:
Layers mean you can rearrange your clothing if you get too warm. I usually intend to start out a little bit too cold because you warm up once you get moving. If you're going on a serious hike in wet weather you'll need some waterproof and comfy walking boots, but if it's pretty dry then trainers and two pairs of socks will do.
When I'm running I wear a long-sleeve top with a short-sleeve one over the top and I like a scuff on my head. It keeps my hair out of my face and my earphones in my ears, only drawback is that I think I look like an elf. I wear the same running leggings whatever the weather but be sure to change promptly when you get back, as you'll cool off very quickly in your sweaty kit.
"Only in the darkness can you see the stars." Martin Luther King Jr
Dark evenings are a problem for those with 9-5 jobs. But there are several ways to negotiate and enjoy those dark evenings.
Get a head torch - don't fight the dark, embrace it! Wear some hi-viz clothing so you can be seen, and a head or chest torch so you can see where to put your feet and enjoy the darkness. Don't forget to look for the stars :)
Urban running or walking - find some quiet streets with street-lighting, it's less creepy than total darkness but make sure to wear some hi-viz clothing anyway. You can even use it as a reason to explore more of your neighbourhood.
Become an early bird - the sun rises at about 8am at the moment but it's light enough by 7:30am. Get in an early jog or cycle before you start your day.
"Rain rain go away, come again another day."
It's amazing how wet weather can bring down my mood. Rain-streaked window panes on a gloomy winter day make me want to never leave the house. However, if the dog needs a walk or my training schedule can't be shifted then I have no option but to get out there. Here's some more wisdom from my mum:
It's never as bad as it seems from inside - this, once again, is true. The sound of rain on a roof is loads worse than the reality of it. Invest in a good waterproof coat and a running'cycling jacket to keep you warm and dry.
Rebellion training - I've written about this before, but you can decide to view your rainy excursion as a character-building challenge.
Don't wear glasses - just as window panes make the weather look worse, glasses do too. They're also pretty dangerous as you can't see a thing when you're cycling in the rain. My prescription isn't too bad, so I just take them off. If contact lenses and laser-eye surgery aren't an option and you're too blind to take your glasses off, then try a baseball cap under the hood of your coat. It helps to keep the rain off a bit.
"But it's cold outside"
The wind is howling, the rain is lashing at the window panes and the trees are bending in the storm. Some days it may be legitimately awful out there. But if you're not getting active outside, there are still plenty of active options available to you.
Don't want to leave your bedroom? - you don't have to. Try a Joe Wicks HIIT video or Yoga with Adriene You just need enough space for a yoga mat (you don't specifically need a mat really), and you don't even need to put shoes on
Just keep swimming - I'm not a gym person, although I've never really tried so maybe I'd like it. But I do enjoy swimming. Find your local pool and go for a splash.
Have a rest day - believe it or not, it's ok to have a day off. If your body is telling you to take it easy then listen to it and don't beat yourself up about not exercising. Enjoy some cosy sofa time and don't feel bad.
"Just do it"
The thought or the look of the outside in winter is almost certainly worse than the reality. Get out there and get active. The worse that will happen is that you'll get wet feet and a cold nose but you'll still feel great for having got out there.
Send me a soggy selfie!!
Why should you bother making New Year’s Resolutions? What should they be? What is Hannah the traveller resolving to do? Read on to find the answers!
There’s that day in January which is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year. It comes at a time when the weather is miserable, Christmas is behind us and everyone has failed at their resolutions. Well not this year! The secret to successful goal-setting is here.
Why should you set resolutions?
I love a list to tick off and milestones to reach. Even better if there’s a medal or certificate involved. It’s proof of achievement and bragging rights. Setting achievable goals for the year can be really motivating, and also provides an opportunity to reflect on what’s important and what you want to change about your life. If you’re the sort of person that makes a list in January and has forgotten about it in February then the following five tips are going to help you out.
What is Hannah the traveller resolving for 2019?
I’m so glad you asked! Here comes some accountability, if I write it in a blog then it has to happen. Here goes:
What do you think of my resolutions? Any other advice for setting achievable goals? Want to tell me yours? Or join in with any of mine? Comment below and follow my progress on social media.
DISCLOSURE! None of these photos are from this year, so as not to spoil the surprise.
Ah Christmas. Just around the corner again. Well not really. It's the middle of November. But all the lights are on - I expect because the dark evenings and soggy weather are so miserable, we've got to have something to cheer us up. Anyway, want a free, festive and fitness-inspired activity? And want to take in all the best of London's lights in one go? Try my self-guided walking tour of central London to see the best of the bunch.
Distance: 2.5 miles
Start: Bond Street or Marble Arch Tube Stations
End: Covent Garden
Duration: Allow a minimum of an hour, more for a relaxed pace and even more for vital refreshment stops
Landmarks: Oxford Circus, Hamleys Toy Store, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, China Town, Seven Dials, Covent Garden
Refreshments: There are oodles of cafes, bars and pubs along the way. The Chandos pub and Coffee Island are recommended
Toilets: Public toilets are available in Trafalgar Square
Take the tube to Bond Street (Central and Jubilee) or Marble Arch (Central Line) and exit onto Oxford Street to see this year's offering. From either station you'll be near Selfridges. Take a look at the window displays before heading East towards Oxford Circus.
This busy junction is a great place to see the overhead lights of Oxford Street and Regents Street in all directions. On your way you may even find the guy selling roasted chestnuts.
Turn right down Regents Street and peak in the window at Hamleys toy shop. Then retrace your steps and turn down Great Marlborough Street to pass by Liberty of London. This distinctive black and white building always has good displays.
At the end of the Liberty building turn right into Carnaby Street. There's always a slightly offbeat theme to the Carnaby Street display! At the junction with Break Street turn right until you rejoin...
Regents Street (again)
Turn left back onto the buzzing shopping street and follow the road all the way to Piccadilly Circus. The usual bright lights here are joined by even more festive glows. Turn right down Haymarket, passing Her Majesty's Theatre and then left onto Pall Mall to emerge in the company of Lord Nelson.
The Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square always used to be the biggest and best in the whole of London. Last year's was a little underwhelming - perhaps it was the minimalist look they were going for. Anyhow, no Christmasy visit is complete without giving it a look. If you need a refreshment break, try the Chandos pub on the corner of St Martin's Place. They'll have mulled wine or cider.
Leave Trafalgar Square heading north, passing the church of St Martin-in-the-field's on your right, and the National Portrait Gallery on your left. Turn left into Irving Street and emerge in Leicester Square. Pass diagonally through the bustling walkways with the Odeon Cinema on your right. Sneak down Leicester Street, turn left onto Lisle Street, right onto Wardour Street and then immediately right into China Town.
The gates of China Town tower above you. Grab a lotus bun as you walk the length of this street before ultimately turning left onto Gerrard Place. Turning right onto Shaftesbury Avenue will quickly bring you to Cambridge Circus. This is a confusing junction. Head straight across, sticking to Staftesbury Avenue and then you want the second right, which is Earlham Street.
Earlham Street leads you to one of my favourite spots. Seven Dials is the meeting point of seven roads and is usually a surprisingly quiet spot given the noise around you. Is you need a caffeine break, head down Monmouth Street (first right) for Coffee Island. If you don't need a break, take Mercer Street (not the next road on the right but the next one). At the junction with Long Acre turn left, then the second right will take you past Covent Garden Station on James Street and you'll join the throngs in...
Take time to wander around here. You'll see the Royal Opera House, St Paul's Church (known as the actor's church), and the best tree in the West End. Visit the stalls and shops of the Jubilee Market and enjoy the street performers with some more mulled wine. You've now seen the best of London's Christmas lights!
If you're not tired of walking the streets and you still need some festive cheer then head to the South Bank Christmas market or Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. Let me know how what you think of this year's lights. Comment below and share your pictures with me at www.facebook.com/hannahthetraveller or tag me on instagram @hannah_the_traveller
When I was small I walked this path, my Dad’s strong, rough hand in mine, a sandcastle bucket clutched in my tiny fingers.
When I was young I walked this path, raincoat and wellies, grey stormy waves soaking us at high tide.
When I grew up I walked this path, a dog lead in each hand and a bright pink kite under one arm.
Recently I walked this path, a tiny hand in mine this time, with sandy spades and buckets.
Yesterday I walked this path, on my own. Wind in my hair, pebbles in my pocket, salt on my face.
Time marches onwards. Lives grow, flourish and fade. The sea is always there, always different, at the end of the way.
My grandma’s lived in the same house for as long as I can remember, and going to the beach is one of my favourite things. It’s incredible how I don’t really feel any different to that small girl with the bucket, but also incredible that so much has changed. The beach, the path, the sea are always there. I think there’s a profound lesson in there somewhere.
I actually really dislike Halloween. I never liked dressing up as a child, I hate face paint and makeup. And I get nervous knocking on people's doors even if they're expecting me. Not to mention the mockery it makes of All Souls and the remembrance of the dead. Oh well, an excuse to talk about being scared.
Another thing I hate is scary movies - I'm prone to vivid dreams and horror films only encourage nightmares. However, I am a big fan of doing things that scare me in other ways. I was reminiscing with my friend Rebekah recently about when we did a bungee jump for my 28th birthday. I still get an anxious feeling in my chest when I think about standing with my toes over the edge of the high platform, with my ankles tied together by an elastic band. I can still relive every moment: the few seconds of free-fall, the rope stretching, the ground rushing closer, the doubt in my mind, and a scream escaping my lips. Then the bounce. I knew I was safe as I soared upwards, only to plummet once again. The adrenaline, the sense of achievement at over coming my fears, and ticking something off the bucket list - that's what I loved about it.
There's definitely a difference between the bungee jump kind of fear - where your rational mind knows that there are numerous safety measures and the person that went before you was fine, but your instinct tells you it's crazy - and the fear of going on your first solo trip, starting a new job or going somewhere you've never been before. I remember the feeling of dread as I watched the ground disappear through the plane window on my very first long haul flight alone. 11 hours of solitude to contemplate exactly why I was going to a strange and vaguely dangerous country alone. It was a similar feeling to starting a new job. The doubts creep in. Am I good enough to do it? Will I make any friends? Will I get lost? Look silly? Am I wearing the right clothes? Even going to a new yoga class makes me scared! I worry I won't know the regular routine of collecting blocks, cleaning mats or even which way to set up my mat.
So why do it? If these experiences induce so much fear then why bother? Well, firstly it is impossible to entirely avoid an experience that scares you. And as we know, practice makes perfect - so the more times you do something that scares you, the better you'll get at dealing with it. That's not to say that the experience is any less scary - only that you know you managed before, so you'll have more confidence that you'll manage again. Secondly, once you get over the scary part, the thing you're doing is hopefully worth it! After my traumatic 11 hour flight (I tried to drink myself to sleep with gin and white wine but just ended up tearing up at all the films I watched), I looked after super cute baby monkeys, met wonderful people and saw giraffes on safari. The second yoga class is always less scary than the first because you know where things are and you can enjoy the experience of practising with a new teacher with fresh perspectives and ideas. As for starting a new job - every day you get to prove how good you are and every day you'll get a little less lost (teaching in a big secondary school where all the floors look the same takes a little longer, I assure you).
Thinking rationally, you can view being scared as a kind of cost/benefit analysis. What will I gain for going through the fear? Is it worth it? For many people, the buzz of a bungee jump is not worth the money, hassle and shear terror of actually jumping. And for some people, seeing wild animals on safari isn't worth flying alone to South Africa. That's ok, you don't have to be an extreme adventurer all the time. Whether it's going on a Tinder date (oh the fear! What if we don't recognise each other? What if she's a complete maniac? What if she looks at me and runs away?!), asking for help at the gym, getting lost in a new city and asking for directions - give it a go. How else are you going to find your perfect partner/know what those machines are for/find your way to your hostel?
But what about joining a new club? You'll be nervous the first time, you might get lost, not know where to put things and need to ask for help. But being part of a new community is well worth that initial step. If you're the kind of person that finds new situations difficult then you can work at getting better. I used to get self conscious dining alone. What if people think I'm a loser and haven't got any friends? The truth is, most people won't even look at you, let alone think you're a loser. Bring a book and a notebook and busy yourself with people watching or reading. I know I go on about this, but JOIN A CLUB! Cycling from London to Windsor sounds quite daunting doesn't it? Join a cycling club and most of the planning is done for you and there'll be people around if something doesn't go entirely smoothly. (Search Pedalling Girl Gang on Facebook if you identify as female and want to actually cycle to Windsor).
Don't let fear stand in the way of trying something new and awesome! Whatever level of scared you're at, challenge yourself to do something you really want anyway. London-based folk are welcome to join me on adventures so we can be scared together. Keep an eye on my facebook page for events, or contact me using the form above. Let me know what scares you - comment below.
After the Royal Parks Half on Sunday 14th October 2018 I’ve now completed five half marathons, two 10ks and a full marathon. All the events have been very varied but these race day tips apply to them all.
I hope these tips help. What do you find helpful on race day? Or what is a mistake you’ve learnt from? Let me know, comment below!
My sister Alice told me she'd signed up for Tough Mudder and I thought she was mad. "Why would you pay money to get muddy and electrocuted?!" Fast forward a few months and I some how find myself in a field in Surrey doing a (not very good) guided warm up to loud music with a man shouting instructions down a microphone. Oh well, YOLO.
***SCROLL DOWN FOR TOUGH MUDDER TOP TIPS***
My excellent team - You don't make friends with salad - was captained by Tash (the sister of my sister's boyfriend), with Larry (the husband of the sister of my sister's boyfriend), Charles (the friend of the husba....), Tim, Elliott, Alice and I. Thankfully the others had some prior experience and strong muscles. I actually really liked that team work is such a strong element of the event, especially when being hauled over various structures.
But what to wear for such events? I was kindly given some bamboo activewear by Bamboo Clothing - and wore cropped leggings and socks made of the softest bamboo fibres. My leggings were super flexible (great for lifting one's feet when clambering over high things), and were thick enough to provide some protection when crawling along the floor under barbed wire (sounds really fun doesn't it?). The socks are like wearing little, fluffy clouds surrounding my feet - which was great for the 10.2 miles of trail running. I enjoyed the wooded footpaths that made up the course, and amazingly didn't have any trouble with blisters despite having wet feet almost the whole time. I also wasn't sure if I'd ever get them clean but they washed up just fine and don't look any worse for it. I *heart* bamboo socks.
Watery obstacles were frequent and ranged from ducking under large tubes, sliding into ice water, swimming (only because I couldn't do the monkeybars - new life goal I think) and jumping from a 5 metre high platform. I'm not a natural water baby and found these obstacles the toughest. I only jumped from the platform because Tim was shouting at me! And I was really grateful to a fellow mudder for guiding me under the large tubes. The bamboo socks did a great job, but the leggings retained the water for longer than synthetic materials, encouraging me to run faster to warm up.
The parts of the event I enjoyed the most were the more physical challenges involving team work. I was particularly proud of giving a strange man a piggyback! Being hoisted over walls by Charles and Elliott and helping Tash and Larry carry a large log was a bonding experience. The final obstacle - Human Pyramid - was impossible to complete without help from others. We splashed into the water at the bottom of the slippery slope (yes more water) to give a leg up to another mudder reaching her team. Once we'd worked out a strategy, everyone helped everyone else to the top even though we were all exhausted.
Why would you pay good money to slide around in mud, get electrocuted, bruised, soaked, ruin your clothes and spend the rest of the weekend exhausted? Because the sense of pride at the end is enormous. Because the sense of achieving something as a team feels good. And facing a challenge and overcoming it is what I love to do.
TOUGH MUDDER TOP TIPS
Thinking about entering but have some questions? Got any top tips for obstacle courses? Comment below :)
Hannah the traveller
is a travel and lifestyle blog with focus on running, vegan eating and of course global travel.