It's holiday time ! We've had to make an early escape in order to beat the crowds over May Half term. What with Rowan's autism, his sensory processing disorder and Wayne's PTSD -crowds, loud noises and our family do not make for a relaxing break. We've been really fortunate to have been allowed a one off 'authorised absence' by the boys schools.
I'd like to say a huge thank you to Chris Partridge, the Principal of St.Pauls Junior school in Shepton Mallet. He really goes above and beyond for families of children with special needs. This time last year, I was home schooling Rowan and anxiously awaiting to hear if he'd been allocated a place at St.Pauls. Now, he is about to start preparing to become a Year 4 pupil.
He started off nervously at the start of the year, but with the help of his fantastic SENCO Mrs. Laura Parfitt, his class teacher Mrs. Kennedy and a lot of one-to-one learning support I'm pleased to say he is beginning to thrive. I was almost in tears when he was awarded 'Star of the week' and sat on the 'Well Done' bench in assembly. He even joined in with complicated team games at the recent sports day, and had the opportunity to do horse riding. If you are worried about your child's transition to their next year group, talk to the schools head teacher and SENCO if appropriate.
Most problems can be dealt with, if tackled early on. Get involved, have faith, and don't give up. School's sorted, now for our 'relaxing' break at our favourite Haven holiday caravan park – Doniford Bay, in Watchet.
Why would we need to leave Sunny Somerset, with so many attractions on our doorstep? We love this park, as the staff are very friendly and helpful. We've even managed to move caravan's as the first one was in a noisy and busier area. Despite having two dogs with us, the customer experience manager Charmain, managed to relocate us to a quieter spot.
This week the kids are booked in for small group swimming lessons, aqua gliders and even abseiling. We'll hunt for crabs and shells on the rocky beach, and visit the boats in the harbour. Nearby is Tropiquaria, a small zoo and playzone. There's Dunster Castle, the steam railway and Minehead within a short drive. I did so well on my weight loss challenge with personal trainer and Herbalife wellness coach Al Stewart, I hope I don't ruin all my good work with all the fish & chips I'll probably consume!
Mum's just texted to say our house and cats are fine, so that means I may as well crack open a bottle of wine. It is almost 2pm !
Have a look at our holiday snaps below ...
I was feeling sick with nerves on Sunday morning, trying to act cool and calm for my two little boys. It was also me and my hubby's 9 year anniversary of when we fell in love - in Glastonbury of all places. This race seemed the perfect way to celebrate everything we have achieved.
I'd organised my kit and paperwork the night before, but still changed my mind about what I was wearing about 5 times. Rain had been forecast, but happily it was actually dry and bright!
At the last minute I decided to wear a mini burlesque style clip on top hat , don't ask me why. And I ditched my windproof neon pink jacket - which I also regret.
Anyway, we drove to Glastobury via Wells, as I knew all the roads would get closed by about 10am. We found the special free runner car park without a fuss, and then made our way on foot to the town hall.
The crowds were already gathered, and with it being Beltane & May Day Celebrations too, the weird and wonderful characters of this crazy little town were out in full force- from witches, wizards, Goddesses and green men - all having cups of chai and vegan breakfasts outside the cafes. The town cryer was announcing the days festivities- and the place was just buzzing !
I entered the hall to collect my bib & chip from the 3k table. I felt really weird, like " Am I actually a 'runner' ?" I felt a bit of a fraud. I've seen things like this on telly, and even written about them as a journalist - but it still felt suureal that I'd actually be running a race myself!
A few packs of numbers & bibs had gone missing - ofcourse mine was one of them. I didn't panic, just got a cuppa, and mucked about with the kids and Wayne for a while outside. Glad we got there early !
I'll be honest, I had resorted to taking a low dosage beta blocker before leaving the house. My anxiety and claustrophobia is still a challenge for me- the crowds, and nerves could have set me off on a panic attack , and I didn't want anything to jeapordise this day. I'd also managed to raise £55 for The Royal British Legion, and there as no way I was going to let anyone down.
I felt my nerves rise up from time to time, but distracted myself by taking an obscene amount of selfies, and chatting to other runners. It was nice to meet so many other first timers, and reassuring to talk to those who'd done it for many years. I was happy to bump in to Jason Bryant, photographer for the Mid Somerset series of newspapers ( and nationals!) who was running his 20th - 10k race! He seemed proud that I was doing my very first, and put my mind at ease. Finally I got my bib ( number 1844) and pinned it to my top. I felt like a proper runner then !
We moved along to find the start line - down by the Abbey Carpark - and Burns The Bread bakery. The boys and I managed to bag a table and chairs outside the bakers, and they popped in to buy a couple of muffins and a pie!
I'd started the day with the best,most protein packed brekky ever : a french vanilla flavour HERBALIFE shake, blended with half a banana and some blueberries. Ten minutes before the race, I also snacked on a delicious Herbalife peanut and chocolate protein bar ( they taste like a low sugar snickers!) I do go on about my herbalife products - but for good reason. It's how I lost enough weight to have my life saving gastic surgery in 2013 - and almost the only way I can maintain a healthy weight now, and get enough vaitamins, minarels and protein into me. Plus they are delicious - absolutely nothing like 'slimfast' or similar- and the whole support package you get when you join the programme is second to none. If I'd never joined my herbalife - sponsored 12 week weightloss challenge - and had the encouragement from my wellness coach Alun Stewart - I literaöy would never in a million years thought of entering a race! So, to me , it's all tied in together. Nutrition, wellness, exercise, positive thinking - and now I am happy to be a Herbalife distubutor and ambassador. If you want to know more about the products - just ask. Anyway , back to the story!
I bumped into Al Stewart and his wife, who were running in the 10k race. She inspired me, by explaining- that in her 50th year - she decided to run 5 x 10k marathons. What a fab idea!
I saw lots of young fit and athletic looking Millfield students, all hudled at the start line - 10 minutes before the start. I felt a bit inadequate again, but pushed the negative thoughts to the back of my head. I knew that I was doing this for myself, and for charity - and not to beat anyone elses time.
With my mental and physical health history, even completing the race at all - even if I cam dead last and took an hour....would be an achievement !
I kissed my hubby and kids, had a last minute wee - and joined the running crowd.
Soon we started to walk off slowly up to the official start - the crowd were smiling and cheering- really supportive! I caught a glimpse of Wayne and the boys, who'd shuffled up to the barrier. "Go on Mummy!" shouted Harry " You can do it!" Smiles and thumbs up all around, I saw the lady mayor lift the starter horn in the air. I wave of anxiety rushed over me... then 'Beeeeeeeeep!" we were off. It was all a bit crowded at the start, lots of 'whooping' and a girls loud music from her iphone started to freak me out. I was scared I'd be tramped by faster runners, so instead of power walking I straight away set off into a slow jog- and kept doing it up the High Street.
For a few brief minutes I thought " I can't do this" I felt on the verge of a panic attack - and considered just ducking out. But something made me keep going. The crowd thinned out as the faster runners shot off ahead. I though I was probably the last one at the back, the slowest runner, ad that everyone was laughing at me. I didn't dare look behind me to confirm my worst fears. Instead I looked at my favourite hippy shops, and thought about where I would run till- and when I would start walking again. I kept jogging almost to the top of the high street- then settled into s decent paced walk along Chilkwell Street. Once recovered, I felt like I could give jogging another go. Infront of me was a father, with a boy of about 12 who was a little over weight- the dad was really encouraging his son- I was really inspired by them both. A lady of about a similar age to me was also running /walking and we'd exchange smiles of encouragement. The stewards at all sections of the course were happy and smiling - giving words of encouragement too. As I came up to the Chalice Well, I felt elated- jogging at a decent pace- I caught sight of the Tor - something so special and spiritual to me. I had an almost overwhelming urge to cry with happiness. The positive joyful feeling increased with every step I jogged , the endorphines people talk about- were kicking in! As I turned down Cinnamon Lane - I saw it was all down hill , and just though----I'm gonna RUN !!!! And I did ! I felt like I might fall over I was going so fast, I was scared, and happy, and free... I felt AMAZING ! I passed a few people, and when I got to the bottom - where I had intended to settle back into a steady walk - I just kept going.... I turned round the corner into the housing estate. I gulped with emotion, as I remembered this was were I used to come and visit a psychotherapist every week - when I was at my lowest. I'd come here and talk about my childhood abuse, and my suicide attempts, substance and alcohol abuse, my weight and my low self esteem - dark dark times.
Now, here I was almost 'flying' past that house, the sun shining, glitter on my cheeks, a bright neon yellow top on, smiling, feeling so proud and joyful- and most of all that I am not just 'allowed' to be happy- that I am entitled to be happy and healthy. That I actually deserve this. Happiness, Good Health, Prosperity, and Joy. That was the highlight of my run.... next came a long hard slog to 'Heart break Hill' and not knowing the course, I don't know how much further I had to go or anything. As I started my ascent, I smiled at other runners and the steward who was clapping and cheering us on. The other lady joked " I do this every year, and I always forget how tough this bit is!" "It's my first ever time!" I replied " Oh It's amazing" she urged me, "wait till you get past this hill, and start running towards the finish - we're nearly there! The atmosphere and the crowd are amazing- it will just carry you through!"
Powering up the hill, I had no intention of slowing down - in my mind I wanted so bad to beat my 30 minute goal. I smiled and waved for the official photo at the top, then jogged again as I turned the corner and saw the finish line in sight!
That lady was right, although it looked quite a long way off - the crowd were going wild - even for little old me! I caught sight of Al and his wife - on the way to their 10k start " I'm running !!!!" I exclaimed to them - " Go on girl!" they cheered. Then Jason Bryant, " Keep Going!" he shouted-- then I was looking along the side lines for Wayne and the boys.... I couldn't spot them amongst the faces of smiles I was scared incase they'd gone to the loo, and would miss my grand finish!
Finally, just at the finish line I spotted them - " Yey yey go mummy !!!!" they cheered - as I gave it everything I had to cross that line still running...... I did it ! " You beat your half hour!" shouted Wayne !
I shakily grabbed my medal from the steward, slowed down, and all of a sudden felt like I was going to vomit or pass out--- everything went a bit blurry- and I couldn't see the water station. I just took some deep breaths, and the boys lead me round to the water table by the market cross. I sat down, in shock. Hugs and smiles all round. I looked at my hands and they were completely swollen...how weird! Photo time..... Still couldn't believe I'd done it.
Well, Wayne had estimated my time was about 27 minutes-- but I just got the official time. OMG - I did it in 24:10 !!!!! So so proud.
That was my first ever race, and I know it wont be my last.
I hope I have inspired even one person to try a new challenge. I still looked at my race pics and thought , at first, I look really fat, and old, and my arms look flabby, and my bum looks big - but do you know what? This time next year - I will look slimmer and fitter. And most of all - that happy positive feeling I got from doing the race was priceless. Who cares if I wobble :)
I'm a 43 year old, mum of two little boys- currently living in Shepton Mallet in Somerset. I'm the Founder and Creative Director of Radio Shepton, a Stand up and comedian and spoken word performer, and write a regular column for The Wells and Shepton Mallet Journal. Which is the basis for my blog usually. I lived in Swedish Lapland for 7 years until 2014 where my boys were born. My partner and I ran a husky dog sledding business. Before that I was a poet, radio presenter, media lecturer, writer, TV producer, actress and burlesque performer ! I never want my life to be boring :)