What came first- the chickens or the blog?

Four legs bad, two legs good *


For the past month I’ve been hobbling around with the aid of crutches.  Too much exercise, it appears, is just as bad for you as too little. For the medically minded over-running resulted in a stress fracture to my right medial condyle.  For the rest of you, I broke my knee and carried on running and walking (limping) for two weeks before seeking medical attention. (For the record I would like to point out at least I got a Personal Best in the 5 k Parkrun that day. Go me! )

Today I cast off my crutches! And headed straight for the park for a long overdue dog walk. The voice of the knee consultant ringing in my ears. Slowly, slowly. And NO running for at least another four weeks. Boo.

This is not a major injury. It has caused pain, sleeplessness, frustration, disappointment but it will heal. And quickly. I’ve missed out on running events I had planned for this Spring, including a leg of the Belfast Marathon. I spent ten days on a ski holiday confined to the Great Indoors watching DVDs, crocheting and reading until my eyes bled. My mother in law has moved house and I haven’t been able to assist in any way. I missed a great day out climbing a Northern Ireland’s highest peak with a bunch of good people. 

It has been a learning experience too. How we take our mobility for granted. Stairs, heavy doors, revolving doors, rickety disabled access lifts, not being able to push a shopping trolley, disabled toilets, getting comfortable in restaurants or on planes, having people tut loudly in Tesco if they get stuck behind you in a crowded aisle. Thank goodness for Internet Grocery shopping. Staff in restaurants and shops have been really helpful I’m pleased to say, offering chairs to sit on while queuing, suggesting alternative ways into buildings, letting us park in disabled spaces, generally making me feel less of a nuisance and more comfortable with my mobility issue. It’s the general public who still have a lot to learn.

Carrying a handbag, or indeed carrying anything is impossible unless it’s a rucksack. Heading downstairs in the morning I learnt to pack my rucksack with all the essentials – glasses, phone, iPad, lip gloss, crochet hooks etc. Also your hands get so very sore pressing down on the crutch handle after a while.  Could they not be made a little softer? And in nicer colours?

As a very active person I’ve had to rest up, sit down, take a break, just stop doing all the things I love. And that’s been really hard. And it’s only been for a very short time. With it being Easter visitors brought an unending supply of Lindt  Chocolate Bunnies (my fav) so lack of exercise and a diet of creamy Swiss chocolate has taken its toll.

On the animal front thankfully hens don’t require regular walking. They haven’t been neglected in any way, nor have they looked reproachfully at me with big puppy dog eyes as I sat day after day with my leg elevated on a footstool wearing slippers not walking shoes.  Fortunately the crutch crisis occurred when Gillyboy number two was home from Uni so he has clocked up a good few miles tethered to a small naughty dog. Thanks P.

 I’ve travelled through airports in a wheelchair. People, cases, bags, trolleys come hurtling towards you at this lower level making you feel very vulnerable. Everything is right in your face. Unless it’s a check in desk or passport control. Then you feel like a very vulnerable tiny person. And how hard it is to make conversation with your helper who is both behind and above you, so much easier face to face. Funnily enough one assistant told me he was a chicken farmer as well as an airport worker.  I told him I had two hens. He told me he had 16,000. How we laughed! All credit and a big thank you to Easyjet and the staff in Belfast International and Geneva Airports. Every assistance to get me and my busted knee checked in, through security, and on and off planes in a cheery manner. Including a fancy coach taking me right to the airport steps when as if by some miracle I rose from the wheelchair and made a cautious hobbling dash up the steps. 

Today as I parked far, far away from the Knee Clinic and struggled on my four legs up the road, carrying my large folder of MRI photos, (and my huge handbag- what was I thinking?)  a car stopped to offer me a lift. Now like all mothers I caution my children from accepting lifts from strangers. In this instance i accepted the offer from a kindly student nurse who helped me into her car and drove me to the door. 

Now that my crutches are gone I’m looking  twice at those on sticks or crutches, in wheel chairs. Looking for ways to help, to make life a little easier. Just like I try to do for everyone.

And enjoying every step!

out walking again!

*apologies to George Orwell pinching a quote from “Animal Farm”

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How Did I Get Here?

For Blogging 101 class the challenge on Day 2 Today, choose a place to which you’d like to be transported if you could — and tell us the backstory. How does this specific location affect you? Is it somewhere you’ve been, luring you with the power of nostalgia, or a place you’re aching to explore for the first time?

Today’s twist: organize your post around the description of a setting.

Finally the path curves away from the sea, out of the off shore wind which buffeted my body with sea spray and sand for the past 9 km. The kindly marshall wrapped up in his high viz jacket cheers me on. Not far to go now! I start climbing the long steep hill, fired up with the thought of crossing the finish line, passing women struggling to move at faster than walking pace.
It’s damp underfoot, the grass is slippery , my legs are tired, but it’s a good tired. I’m know they will keep going to the end. The rain has stopped now, though it’s still cold and grey for a so called summer’s evening at the end of May.
My playlist shuffles to “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, one of my favourites. Unbelievably I find the breath to start singing. I am happy. I am running.
I am passing other Lycra clad women of all shapes, ages and sizes. Some like myself have red boiled faces, ratty pony tails – the running mongrels; others look like they have just come from the salon, cool, sleek pedigree greyhounds with washboard stomachs.
One thing in common, we all started, and are almost at the end.
At the crest of the hill the finish line comes into view. An unimpressive inflatable black arch.
Just a few more strides. It’s squishy, from the sweat and tears of those who finished before me I wonder?
If this was a movie there would be a swelling orchestral theme, but here there is the bass thump from a poor PA system. In the movie of my life a smiling official would place an enormous medal round my neck and present me with a bouquet and champagne.
Instead I am handed a banana. I see the proud faces of husband, son, friend, dog. To be here, on this night, at this place, in this moment is reward enough. I’m smiling. I’m sweating. I hurt. But it feels good.
I’m there. I’ve done it. I cross the line. Past my self doubt. Past my shin splints. Way beyond my self conscious child bearing body. Leaving my inner voices laughing at my efforts far, far behind.
9 weeks from zero to 10km.


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Chicken Run – how Mrs Gillybirds got off the couch and across the 10km finish line


I consider myself to be reasonably fit. Since getting a dog 9 years ago I have probably walked 15-20 miles per week, that’s almost 8000 miles a year and a whopping 71,000 over 9 years. If I were the family car I would be ready for trading in.
Anyway, I walk, I ski a week or two a year (with enthusiasm between hot chocolate stops) I love to swim, I enjoy cycling, I shake my bones at Zumba. But I certainly don’t run. Runners are lean, lanky, toned with sharp edges poking through their Lycra running gear. However, after a casual challenge from a school mum and the example of my pastor who has championed running in his 50s (and lost over 5 stone in weight) I downloaded the “couch to 5k” app, pulled on my ratty old trainers, waited for cover of darkness and began to run.
Not to lose weight, not to get fit, but to see if I could.
The first week the program was warm up walk of five minutes, then alternate 60 seconds of jogging with 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes. Three times in one week. It was cold, it was dark and it was very tough. My beginning to run was a complete secret. I told no one. And after the first week I acquired a full on sports bra to keep what my mamma gave me under control.
I also purchased a dog running leash. A rather scarey looking black belt with a long bungee lead to tether the dog, leaving me with hands free to run in my special hand flapping girly way that makes Mr Gillybirds laugh so much. If I was going to invest time into running then I had to incorporate this into my daily commitment of dog walking. And so Naughty Lucas and I began dog jogging. Or at least I was jogging and he was walking with a big grin on his daft doggy face, and I found my time per kilometre was greatly reduced should we suddenly sprint off after a cat or squirrel. He also learned to increase his pace when the audio signal on my app encourage me to “start running” in her annoying I’m fitter than you are voice.
After 4 weeks and shin splints I invested in a proper pair of running shoes. True to myself they are neon pink and hyacinth blue and have really helped.
By now I was jogging up to 16 minutes out of a 31 minute program.
By mid April I shuffled over the 4 km mark. Mr G had joined me over the Easter holidays and with the change to British Summer Time I was now running during the day light. Keeping my head down and not making eye contact with passing traffic. Thankfully no one was calling an ambulance and my appearance attached to a small black dog looking like a husky who had forgotten his sled was causing amusement to the school kids waiting for their bus most mornings.
By the end of April after successfully completing 5.69 km I downloaded a new app – for 10k running, and signed up for the Runher 10km run on 23rd May. Where I once ran through daffodils suddenly I was running amongst bluebells, and finding new strength in my legs. And, starting to enjoy myself!
Training sessions now lasted an hour and I was running for 15 minutes at a time with a one minute rest in between. Sometimes I wished that after 7 or so km as I headed for home, red faced and exhausted, a race car would follow behind me flashing up the distance I had already covered, just so passerby would acknowledge my efforts and not think I was a complete short distance loser.
On 17th May, 9 weeks from the couch, I ran 10km along the scenic Lagan towpath. I knew then that I would not disgrace myself at the official run.
This past week I have eaten more pasta and protein than usual, and before the event enjoyed a plate of fresh poached eggs from the Gillybirds to give me stamina.
And so last night in the cold, grey dampness of a typical Irish May evening I joined a couple of thousand other women of all shapes, sizes and running styles and ran from start to finish. It was a coastal route which I had thought would be flat and easy along a beach path but did in fact reveal some challenging but thankfully short steep hill sections.
To keep me going I had an excellent playlist on my phone, jelly babies for a sugar boost, lip gloss (never go anywhere without it) and Mr G, the 4th Gillyboy, my dear supportive friend CC and her teenage nephew, and of course, my running partner Naughty Lucas all waiting for me with smiles and cheers and clicking cameras at the finish line.
I made it.
As a family we have signed up to run the 5k Color Run in our city in August.
And I plan to find a ladies relay team for our city marathon next year.
I’m still not a runner though. Just ask my dog.



The meal of 10km champions!