Friday, April 17, 2015

My 10th Anniversary of the London Marathon




Ten years ago today, I ran and finished the London Marathon.

As it certainly ranks in the top five of my most memorable and happiest days of my life, it certainly wouldn't be right to let its 10th anniversary go by unmentioned on MarathonMum.

Ten years on, so much of it is still incredibly vivid. But when I reread my post on my race day other memories came flooding back to me too. I have so many memories of the day that I will never forget:
  • The electricity in the air, combined with the atmosphere of extreme nervousness, at the start; 
  • Seeing my family with their Mr. Incredible balloon at mile 6.5;
  • My great good friends, the Walker-Allen Family, cheering me on at mile 7, 19.5 and 24.5. They were (and are) amazing;
  • The utter misery followed by the utter joy of seeing Tower Bridge at mile 12.5;
  • Not wanting to look at my feet at mile 19 as I ran through Canary Wharf utterly convinced my feet would be bloody (my shoes were 1/2 a size too small);
  • Hearing Aretha Franklin on my iPod belt out "Respect"-- one of my favourite songs at mile 20;
  • Running along the Embankment at mile 25 just behind someone dressed as Tigger. When I told Thing Two later that both Tigger and I were both struggling at that point, he observed, "He must have been all bounced out." Indeed. 
  • Sobbing at the finish line because I couldn't believe I had finally accomplished my life-long goal.
There are many more memories because it was such an incredible day for me, but I don't want to bore you silly. It will be my only marathon, but that's enough for me. I've found over the years that when marathons come up in conversations, if you've said you've done it, they never ask if you've done any others. One seems to be enough of an accomplishment for many people. (And only hyper-competitive jerks ask you what your time was.)

The other thing I accomplished was raising more than £4,000 for CAMFED, a British charity dedicated to sending African girls to school. At the time, it was a small charity that not many people had heard of. In the 10 years since, it's gone on to be the Financial Times charity for December two times, won numerous awards and is far better known than it once was. I still feel a great amount of pride that I sent more than121 girls to school that year, due to my fundraising efforts. Given that I got my marathon spot through the lottery, which still amazes me now, I did the fundraising because I wanted to, not because I was required to do so. 

I learned so much by running the marathon that still helps me today, 10 years later. These include: 

I would like to say that I marked the anniversary by going on my favourite run-- a 6-mile jaunt through Greenwich Park, around the dome and along the Thames to home-- but alas, a sprained knee has kept me from doing any running at all. Before my injury, I was still running, but not with the fervour of 10 years ago. My longest race last year was a 10K/6.2 mile one, and that was enough for me. It's enough for me that I can go out and put one foot in front of the other, albeit slower than I was 10 years ago. 

My training for the marathon was actually the inspiration for establishing this blog in the first place. This was 2005, a time (hard to believe) before Facebook or Twitter or Skype or a million other ways to keep in touch. I started the blog so I could keep my family and friends informed about how the training was going.  Now, of course, I'd set up a Facebook page or a Twitter feed and be done with it, which would have been much easier than writing a blog in 2005, when knowing a bit of HTML went a long way. 

Ten years is a long time. Loads of other things have happened since then, both happy and sad. But I will never forget my marathon day. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

2015: Week 12


In Week 12 of 2015 there was a solar eclipse over the United Kingdom. Allegedly. 

This is what I witnessed from my vantage point in Greenwich, London. Lived dangerously by looking directly at the sun. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

2015: Week 11


On the first level of the Eiffel Tower, looking down through the glass floor to the pedestrians on the ground. My nephew loved jumping up and down on it, which both amused and horrified us in equal measures. 

Monday, March 09, 2015

2015: Week 10


Taken on the most beautiful day yet in 2015, while showing off Greenwich to our visiting American relatives. 





Monday, March 02, 2015

2015: Week 9



Spotted on my Sunday morning run. #photorun

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

2015: Week 8


Sunset in Norfolk. 

Sure, it's a photo cliche, snapping a sunset. Do I care? I do not.

(Also, this was one of my most popular Instagram posts. Not sure how that happened.)

Monday, February 16, 2015

2015: Week 7

Our Sunday afternoon walk in Norfolk at the start of half term. Seeing some blue sky was good for the soul. #nofilter

Monday, February 09, 2015

2015: Week 6

A Sunday morning walk in Greenwich Park full of sunshine and shadows. All the S's!

Monday, February 02, 2015

2015: Week 5




Winter rugby, in all its muddy glory.

It was very cold. It was a bit snowy. It rained occasionally. It was muddy. It was, to be sure, less than ideal conditions for a rugby match. But as you can see, the conditions did not deter Thing Two from giving 100 percent.

I bought a new bottle of Shout just for the back alone.

Monday, January 26, 2015

2015: Week 4


If I had to put a title on this one, it would be:
"A Tree in Tri-Parte"

I took it while at a stop light (I know! No cameras behind the wheel!) during a traffic jam during a marathon taxi session around southeast London on Sunday.

Alernatively for Week 4 in 2015, there's this:

For Christmas, Thing One got a Lootcrate subscription, which means he gets a box full of Geek/Gamer/Film goodies every month for the next six months. These cool sunglasses were in the January box. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

2015: Week 3

In week 3, we admired the sunset and our St. George's Flag lights. Classy.

Monday, January 12, 2015

2015: Week 2

We secured some "We need some cheering up flowers because it's January" pussy willows from the flower stall at the station.

Thing Two, who was in charge of carrying them home, noted that it looked like he was carrying the Olympic torch. (Yes, we still have Olympic fever in our house). I agree.

Monday, January 05, 2015

2015: Week 1


2015 kicked off with us finally going to see "Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time." We loved it, not just because of the puppy (though he was quite good), but also because Thing Two was a Prime Number Seat and we discovered that I have a Prime Number Name. Double win!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

2014: Week 49

Every year in Greenwich they create a living Advent Calendar. 
For more information about that, go to www.adventwindows.com
This was for Day Number 6. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

2014: Week 37



At the beginning of Week 37, Greenwich saw the end of the Tall Ships Festival. I took this during a "Photo Run" (what I call when I run and take photos, which also gives me a chance to stop occasionally.) This was my favourite ship of all of them.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

My 10 Books Challenge

The latest viral craze to hit Facebook is the 10 Books Challenge. More specifically, you are asked to, "Rules: don't take more than a few minutes and don't think too hard. They don't have to be the "right" books or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way."

If it doesn't involve ice water, count me in.

Friends have listed their 10 books, but I'd like to know the back story of why they were chosen. So if you're curious, here's my list and a short explanation as to why I chose them: 

1. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White: My first favourite book. I remember clearly being captivated by it while reading it at my Grandmother's house. To this day, I have absolutely no fear of spiders because of it, and I also apologise to them when I mistakenly walk into their webs. It also has the best concluding line of all time, (pause to go downstairs to get my copy-- that moved here to London with me-- to get it right): "It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both." (For what it's worth, I've written about my love of Charlotte's Web before. Click here to read the post from February 2007)

2. Anything in the canon of Judy Blume, but especially, "Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret." Judy Blume taught me about the world, and also helped me understand the truly awkward pre-teen/teenage years. 

3. A Razor's Edge, by W. Somerset Maughm. I spent an entire trip to Ireland devouring this in the back of our rental car while we drove around the country. For the life of me, I can't remember much about the plot beyond it's about a man's search for himself. The thing I do remember clearly was my mother's annoyance that I wasn't looking out the window more. 

4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. We had to read this for high school English, just like everybody did. But despite its status as required reading, I loved experiencing the excesses of the Jazz Age.

5. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut. This is an absolutely insane book, and for that reason alone, I love it. Vonnegut was one in a million.

6. Our Town by Thornton Wilder. This isn't a book, it's a play, but this is my list, so I'm following my own rules. Another one read in high school that left a mark.

7. Prelude to a Kiss by Craig Lucas. While I'm thinking about plays that I loved, this is another one. I first saw it on Broadway with Timothy Hutton and Mary Louise Parker, where Hutton received resounding applause for taking off his shirt. A beautiful story about love in all its guises.

8. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I still remember reading this when I was at university. I felt as if a whole new universe had opened up to me. The moral of the story: Be careful when you're chasing after your parrot. (Not really, but that lesson did stay with me.)

9. A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf. Now that we're firmly in my strident feminist phase, which, by the way, I'm still in, I had to include this. Taught to me by my mentor and friend June Lytel-Murphy, who was a force of nature. 

10. The Collected Essays of E.B. White. Another E.B. White book, another book (one of the few) that was moved to London. Important to me not so much because of the essays, which are great, but because it was the first gift my husband gave to me. Also, it's got to be said, E.B White was a fantastic writer. I want to be like him when I grow up.

10. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. This was the second book given to me by husband. Frankly, he had my heart forever when he gave me books as presents. 

11. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. I'm not one for magic realism normally, but I did love this book, and its recipes. Read while I was living with my parents after graduate school, waiting to get my first journalism job. Borrowed from the Flemington Library.

12. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I know that I read this book earlier in my life-- probably around high school-- but I'm putting it here as I had a spirited discussion with a very senior judge in Illinois about how we both loved this book. 

13. The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad. A bomb goes off in Greenwich Park. Purchased at the £1 book store soon after we moved to SE10. I loved it because I could clearly picture where all the action occurred. 

14. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It's a CLASSIC for a reason, folks. Yes, it's long. Get over it. 

15. The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver. I was fascinated by the description of the lives of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, but was more moved by the feelings of displacement experienced by an expat. I got that.

16. Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. A very clever book, which in turn inspired me to change the structure of the book I'm working on, which I hope to finish soon. 

Now I wanted to see how I compared with others who have made their lists. The Atlantic compiled the list of the top 100, and of my top 16 (I was never one to follow the rules), I had six, or just over a third. If you want to see the list for yourself, click through this sentence to read the story from The Atlantic. 

Monday, September 08, 2014

2014: Week 36


Weel 36 of 2014 featured two events, one monumental and the other just fun. The first is above. It was the first day of school for Thing one and Thing Two. For Thing Two, this was the first day of secondary school, which was a big deal.
The second was the annual summer party of my husband's company. All manner of fun was had at the fair, let me tell you.

Monday, September 01, 2014

2014: Week 35


In Week 36, we celebrated our 19th Anniversary (a week early) with a few days away in the Peak District. This is the view of the Chatsworth Estate from our hotel window.

Monday, August 25, 2014

2014: Week 34

With both boys away to Scout Camp in Cornwall, we quickly fell back into our pre-kids weekend routine: coffee, newspapers and jazz. (Jazz not pictured)

Monday, June 09, 2014

2014: Week 23


What does this perfectly-positioned thought cloud above his head say? Who can say.
I'm getting some fun photos when Thing Two and I pause during our weekend runs. I only saw there was a perfectly positioned thought cloud above his head when I got home and looked at the photo more closely.
It made us both laugh.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Stupid O'Clock Film Premiere in London

Tom Cruise walking the red carpet in London 
for the first of three premieres in one day for "Edge of Tomorrow" 

Have you ever wondered who the mugs were who stand for hours in the rain waiting to see some movie star at their latest premiere?

Today that mug was me.

This morning, my 11-year-old son and I found ourselves standing in the pouring rain outside of the BFI Imax Cinema at 6 a.m. waiting to see Tom Cruise and others walk the red carpet for the new film, "Edge of Tomorrow."

The reason the premiere was at 6 a.m. instead of the more typical premiere time of early evening was because it was part of a publicity stunt to do three film premieres in London, Paris and New York in one day. We were on the first leg of the stunt.

As Tom Cruise walked the red carpet it would appear to the unitiated that there were hundreds of people there standing in the rain, clamouring to get a glimpse of the stars while sacrificing valuable sleep in order to do so. The reality was quite different: hundreds of people were lured there to get free tickets to see the movie, but first had to line the red carpet so the sidelines would be filled with "fans."

We were told to report to the cinema at 6 a.m. Thoughtfully, they did provide the "fans" with free coffee, tea and bacon butties to keep us going in the early hours. They also had a comedian and free t-shirts to entertain the crowd. You can't lose sight of the fact that it was stupid o'clock, but at least they had some freebies to soften the blow.

To give credit where it's due, Tom Cruise showed up at 6:45 a.m. to work his magic. He has a reputation for spending a lot of time on the red carpet at his premieres, and this one was no different. He made a real effort to speak to the myriad media outlets lining the other side of the red carpet. He also made time for selfies and autographs for the fans.

Here's a picture that Tom Cruise tweeted of him at the premiere. 
Here's the picture enlarged, 
so you can see the very small face of my son in the crowd.

Personally, I didn't get much of a thrill from seeing Tom Cruise in person. It felt much like the first time I saw the Grand Canyon: It looked just like it did in pictures and movies. Seeing Tom Cruise in person was no different. He's been photographed so often and in so many movies, you already know what he looks like, it's just that he's walking in front of you instead of walking across a movie screen.

It was fascinating, however, to see the hundreds of people who were working at this one event: photographers taking pictures, journalists asking questions, public relations people shepherding stars, studio personnel keeping a schedule, marketing people handing out t-shirts. I never saw so many black North Face jackets in one place, or for that matter, so many people wearing black. It must be part of the uniform.

After two hours, having our fill of watching Tom Cruise walk the red carpet, we decided to leave. We wanted some breakfast and still had 90 minutes to wait until our screening started, which was at a different cinema. The "fans" didn't get to go to the official movie premiere, but I'm not complaining, since we did get to see it for free.

"Edge of Tomorrow"-- a science fiction-Groundhog Day-war movie mashup was fairly enjoyable. Once again, Tom Cruise plays the flawed military guy who figures out what it's all about by the end of the movie (see: Top Gun, A Few Good Men). Emily Blunt kicks butt and takes names (she was awesome). It's a solid summer film: one you'd want to see if you want to escape the summer rain (in the UK) or the summer heat (anywhere else in the northern hemisphere).

Would I get up at Stupid O'Clock again for a film premiere? Probably not. But it's not every day that you get to be part of a movie publicity stunt, so that was fun.


Monday, April 28, 2014

2014: Week 17



This week, Thing One and I went to see "Birdland" at the Royal Court. It was a very fun day.
I took this from our seat In The Gods while we were waiting the play to start. In the end, I was very glad of the location of our seats because it meant I could get a better view of the staging, which was phenomenal.
The teenager was eager to see it because it starred Andrew Scott, who's a great actor but probably best known for playing Moriarty in "Sherlock." The gaggle of teenage girls who were waiting to see him at the Stage Door seemed to know him for the same reason.
Although the critics didn't like it very much-- one said he would choose root canal over seeing it again-- we loved it. Who cares what the critics say.

Monday, April 21, 2014

2014: Week 16



This week-- the tail end of Easter break-- featured our every-five-years trip to the US Embassy to get our passports renewed. We had to get there stupidly early because they were the only appointments available (when I realised a week before that Thing Two's passport was going to expire in five days). But the early start was a blessing in disguise because we got out in under an hour. Huzzah!

Monday, April 14, 2014

2014: Week 15


I took a similar photo last year, but without my running partner (who actually wasn't my running partner this time last year). This was taken during our morning run in Greenwich Park, without a filter. Amazing.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

2014: Week 14



You should be able to see the towers of Canary Wharf behind those trees. This is what you see instead. Thanks Sahara Dust. Believe it or not, this is a No Filter photo.
(It really was awful, the dust. It made the city feel post-apocolyptic, somehow.)

Monday, March 31, 2014

2014: Week 13



404 ERROR.
Actually, it's not really an Error Message, it was our number while we waited for our dim sum at Royal China (the best in London) to celebrate Mother's Day. It was a brilliant day. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

2014: Week 12


Thing 2 completes his first 5K race at the Sport Relief Games at the Olympic Park. It certainly was an inspiring place to do it.

Monday, March 17, 2014

2014: Week 11


My favourite cherry blossom tree, which reminds me every year that spring is on its way.

Monday, March 10, 2014

2014: Week 10

2014: Week 10 by MAStapleton
2014: Week 10, a photo by MAStapleton on Flickr.
Balloon Boys in an alley in London.

Monday, March 03, 2014

2014: Week 9

2014: Week 9 by MAStapleton
2014: Week 9, a photo by MAStapleton on Flickr.
Birthday cake* for the birthday boy**.

*Four layers of chocolate-caramel goodness.
** TC, though at 46, not sure we can call him a boy anymore.