Sunday, 22 January 2012

A wee bit lost on the outskirts of Oxford.

Husbando picked me up from school as the bell rang on Friday afternoon and we headed up to Oxford as he had a stand at the Oxford PBFA book fair where he was exhibiting, among many (many!) others this book. At the end of a long week (the parents' evening I mentioned here went on until 8.45pm in the end) I was too tired to do much on Friday night, so we decided on a trip to the cinema. Why do people go to the cinema and then decide to talk all the way through the movie? I got so fed up with the middle aged (i.e. about 10 years older than me) couple on my left that I had to put on my best teacher voice and ask them to be quiet!

Saturday morning, after dropping Husbando at the fair, I headed on over to Oxford parkrun. This is a newish parkrun, and I took part in the 12th running of the event. I think there were 57 runners in total. I was 4th lady to finish, which sounds great, until you look at the times! Over 26 minutes to run a measly 5km! The first to finish took nearly twenty and a half minutes, that's at least 3minutes slower than the normal course time at Basingstoke - the course was fairly flat, so no real reason for it to be slow.

Today I set off for a planned 8 mile run (I was being gentle with myself after being thoroughly demoralised by Saturday's run). A friend who used to live in Oxford recommended that I head on out to Shotover Country Park, so that's what I did. I looked at a map before I left and planned my route: up a long steep hill to the park, round a marked track in the park and then back down that long steep hill for a nice strong finish, simple really!

I have a good sense of direction, and it has never failed me in the past. Today I think I left it behind. Somewhere in the country park I must have taken a wrong turning, probably because I was too busy making sure I didn't fall over and break my neck on the very rough paths. I came to a road that looked the same as the one I'd run all the way up, I even asked a local if this was the road back to Headington, they said it was ... it wasn't! When I got to a place called Wheatley I realised I hadn't got a clue where I was! Well, obviously, I knew I was in Wheatley, but I had no idea where Wheatley was in relation to where I needed to be. I grabbed my iPhone and got it to plot a route, looked at the route, shoved the 'phone in my back pocket and ran in the opposite direction to the one I'd just come in, back down the big hill I'd just climbed, more importantly I'd also run in the opposite direction to the one shown on the iPhone (and I used to be good at map reading - my friend Penny and I came top in our map reading test when we were in ULOTC). I don't know why I checked again, but I did and realised my mistake so headed up the long hill again, until it met the A40! "This can't be right!" I thought as I looked at the fast moving traffic on the dual carriage way and checked that I had indeed asked for a pedestrian route.

There was nothing for it, as far as I could see, but to jump over the crash barrier and run on the very rough verge. I was almost glad of the headwind by now as it meant that I didn't know if the tears running down my face were from exhaustion, frustration or the wind in my eyes! Pretty soon I notice a cyclist on the opposite side of the road obviously on a cycle path. This seemed a much better option than dodging discarded disposable nappies and avoiding pot holes! But, but, but the A40 is a very busy road - even on a Sunday morning! Thankfully it had a wide central reservation at that point, and years of thinking 'Frogger' was an awesome game with amazing graphics paid off and I managed to get safely across the road.

From there on it was plain sailing really. Uphill, into the wind, plain sailing for a lot of the way, but at least I knew where I was going! And the last mile was, thankfully, a gentle down hill. I ended up running 11.7 miles rather than 8, but I'm not sure it counts as a long run as I had to stop so many times to scratch my head and try to work out where I was! I was under time pressure too - as I had to get back to the book fair to pick up the car, drive to the hotel, shower and pack all our stuff before the check out deadline of 12 noon.... I did it, but only just!

Next time I go for a run somewhere I don't know I am going to remember to take money for a bus or a taxi!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Just about sums up my week!

There are some names that can be pronounced in more than one way. If you have a name like this then the chances are that people will get your name wrong. I teach a couple of young ladies with names like this and, believe me, I try really hard to remember how to say their names correctly. But I teach 270 different pupils every week. In some classes there are pupils whose names I still struggle to match to their faces. These are the quiet, well behaved pupils who get on with their work without causing any trouble, the pupils who really do deserve a lot of my attention but don't get enough of it because I have to deal with the the trouble makers. But that is beside the point, I have a couple of these pupils who get really upset if I get the pronunciation wrong. Which is somewhat amuses me as none of the pupils seem to be able to remember that I am called "Mrs Bridgewater" and not just "Miss!"

Today "Little Miss Unpronounceable Name" (LMUN) comes to me at the end of our lesson to ask for an appointment for the year eight parents' evening later this week. The pupils have had since the first day of term to make these appointments, and my sheet is now fully booked. Three hours of 5 minute appointments from 5.30 until 8.30pm.

LMUN: Well, I s'pose my mum and dad will have to see you at 8.30pm then.
Me: No, because I leave at 8.30pm (wishful thinking, the evening will over run)
LMUN (whines): But it is only five minutes...
Me: I'm sorry, but I will have been at school from 7.30am, you've had 2 weeks to make an appointment, if your parents have any specific questions they can email me or 'phone me
LMUN: That's not fair. You are paid to do this. You have to stay!
Me (sitting on my hands, smiling through gritted teeth): I think, LMUN, that you better run along to your next lesson.....

I really think that this sums up my week. Pupils have a very inflated sense of their own importance and are always ready to quote their 'rights' - their right to have a mobile 'phone and use it whenever they want, their right to eat and drink whenever they want - despite the school rules quite clearly stating that they are not allowed to eat in a science lab. Their belief that it is appropriate to argue the toss over every instruction that they are given. I teach a group of year nine pupils who are causing problems all around the school. The senior leadership team have stepped in with their solution. We are to give the main trouble makers extra responsibilities to 'increase their self worth' and to reward them for even the smallest step along the way to behaving appropriately.

The balance of power in schools seems to have shifted a very long way since I was at school. Then we were expected to open doors for anyone older than us, stand when a member of staff entered the room, do what we were told to do without argument etc. We respected our teachers, and if a teacher had ever had cause to 'phone home about our behaviour I think we would have been in big trouble when we got home. Now a lot of parents seem to be of the opinion that teachers routinely lie about the behaviour of their children in school. Believe me, the admin time involved in recording poor behaviour, setting detentions (which means the teacher giving up their own time to look after them) and the paperwork mean that if a 'phone call home is made or a detention is set then the child has 99.9 times out of a hundred done something to deserve being there. (E.g. I set homework last week for a class of 32, due in today, 7 pupils handed it in, 8 pupils turned up for the lunch time detention to complete the homework that occupied 20 minutes of my lunch break which means I now have 17 after school detention slips to write up, 17 parents to contact and half an hour of my after school time to give up for them).

It really is just as well I love my job!

Some of my Facebook friends may have been waiting on a ranty blog post, and think that the above is really rather mild mannered and rant free. That's because I took the sensible option of going for a run before posting anything yesterday. I was far too angry yesterday at pupils who were unwilling to take their GCSE coursework seriously that putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) was probably a bad idea. Thank heavens for the open road!

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Country mouse goes running in Town!

I got up extra early this morning to drive up to London with Husbando. When I say 'extra early' I mean extra early! We left home before 5am after a quick oat bar and cup of tea for breakfast. Husbando had a book fair to go to (hence the sparrow fart start to the day) and I quite fancied a bit of shopping, but wasn't prepared to give up my long Sunday run.

I spent a wee while on Saturday evening trying to plan a route, but despite having lived in London for a fair few years I ran in London, unless I was running for a bus! In the end I gave up trying to work out exactly where I was going to go and decide that I'd just go...

I set off from Russell Square and headed off down Southampton Row, and from there I took a leisurely run along The Embankment. I stopped to take photos on several occasions, I sometimes wish that I could run with a 'proper' camera as the sights I see are beautiful at times.

Four miles into my run, I remembered that I had wanted to run to St Paul's to see the Occupy St Paul's site. Too late by then as I had run in the opposite direction! As it was 6.30am (ish) on a Sunday morning I would probably only have seen a collection of tents. As I headed west along The Embankment the parks I had thought of running through were all closed - so I plodded along the pavement. It was so early that there weren't even any policemen outside the Houses of Parliament!

Traffic on my outward run was thin on the ground and I only saw two other runners on my way to Albert Bridge. I do love Albert Bridge, with its notice reminding troops to break step when marching over the bridge. It is a pretty bridge but it was fairly slippery in the early morning frost. I ran over the bridge and came back east through Battersea Park and back to the north side of the river via Chelsea Bridge. I've never been to Battersea Park before!

The last two miles were tough, I was tired and my blood sugar level was dropping through the floor. I saw far more runners on the way back, and they all looked super fit and deathly serious about their running! Only one nod and a smile from another runner - and none of them looked as though they were having fun.

Despite the tiredness and the hunger I really enjoyed my run. It was lovely to run somewhere different! The last time I was out and about on in that part of London at that hour of the morning I had been drinking all night in my student days! I ran 10 miles today in 1 hour 30 minutes.

In other news...

I've run just under 62 miles so far this year - not bad when you consider that I ran 14.7miles in total in January last year! I'm not running as fast as I'd like, but at least I am running! I continue to notch up pretty poor times at Basingstoke parkrun, but I bear in mind that there is always next week, or the week after! This Saturday's run was 'rather chilly!' Minus 3C saw runners finishing with frost in their hair! Never has a post run cup of coffee been more welcome than when it helps thaw out your frozen fingers!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

The friendliness of the long distance runner.

It seems to me that most runners are friendly people. I've just dropped someone I know via parkrun an email to ask about a race that I know he has entered. The race is a 10k in Winchester, I like Winchester, and I like 10k, although I haven't run one since July last year, but I have no desire to enter a race that is overly hilly at the moment. I am running as though I have trainers made of lead as it is. A response came back very quickly describing the route (undulating) and saying that if I wanted a trial run of the route I should drop him a line and we could run it together. This from a man who runs our regular 5k jaunt around War Memorial Park 5 minutes faster than I can manage!

But this is just one example and there are many others. At our regular, post parkrun, coffee runners of all levels of experience and ability are willing to share their knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm. Runners I know via Facebook inspire and encourage me both with their running triumphs and their incitements to enter new races. It doesn't seem to matter that I am very much closer to the 'fun run' end of the running spectrum than to the 'fast paced club runner' end (although I can dream...) I have never been made to feel that I am anything other than a member of a thriving, supportive running community. And even as I type this entry I see that a fellow runner is enticing me with yet another retail opportunity. Of course I cannot live without a barcode tag to take to parkrun for another day now I have seen one!

I love the feeling of camaraderie I share with all the other runners I encounter while pounding the streets. That nod of the head, smile and cheery (if sometimes breathless) greeting. In acknowledgement that we doing something positive and sharing that experience is some way. Over the last couple of years I have grown to recognise a few familiar faces running around my local routes, sometimes we fall into step beside each other for a few hundred metres and chat about the weather or whatever else springs to mind. Sometimes we just pass like ships in the night (me like the Royal Yacht Britannia with a leak in my hull, them like a sleek racing yacht).

There are lots of new runners on the road at the moment, something to do with a new year and Christmas excesses I should imagine, and I seem to see far more people when I am out and about than I ever used to, even when running in the wind, rain and pitch black nights! Good on them all. I hope they come to love running as much as I do.

This week has seen me return to school, a whole week before my children return to their schools. Our department lost two members of staff at the end of last term, so we feel as though we are rattling around a little. One of those members of staff was our official tea maker, a job which is now undertaken by the first person to get to the science staff room. This time last year I was just about to embark on my final teaching practice placement. Now I have been teaching full time for an entire term! I've learnt so much in a term.

Running has kept me sane, and continues to do so. I've run just over 33 miles so far this year, it took me three weeks to clock up that mileage last year. I've probably entered too many races already this year, but the first one will be the Bramley 10/20 - I'm not going to do the 20mile race - although several of my friends are doing the full distance! I'll stand on the sidelines, clutching my medal, and cheering them all on! I haven't trained properly, but I managed just under 8 miles today, so am confident that I can run the distance - although the chances of a PB are negligible.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

So, that was the holidays...

I had been looking forward to my lovely two weeks of freedom for ages! I had so many plans, I was going to have a huge clear out at home, plan lessons for the next few weeks at school, cook loads of food and freeze it so that I don't have to cook every night after school and I was going to do lots and lots of running.

In the last few days of term my left knee got a bit achey. Then it got a bit worse. It got to the stage that I really didn't want to walk on it, let alone run. I ran a parkrun at the very start of the holiday, and staggered back to the car vowing that I really would rest for 'at least' a week. The weather that week was ideal running weather, not too cold and not too wet. I couldn't believe that I was stuck inside when I could have been running in daylight! I went to the gym and used the cross trainer and the power plates, but it was not the same as running.

I was good though. I didn't weaken. I iced my knee religiously, and my week of rest ended on Christmas Eve, so off we set to parkrun, complete with santa hats and jackets for the first of three Christmas runs. My knee felt OK, and it was good to be out again. The occasion was made more special because two good friends came to run at Basingstoke that day. Christmas day's parkun was fabulous too. 132 people ran that day and for the first time Husbando was able to join me. All three of my boys ran that day too, the girls opted to stay at home and by doing so missed out on the lovely food, drink and chat afterwards. Husbando was running for the first time in 9 months (following an Achilles injury) and ignored the physio's advice to alternate running and walking for 500m at a time and ran the entire distance. Boxing day was the final parkrun event of the weekend. Over 100 people turned out again which just shows the commitment, or madness, of parkrun devotees! After that we had our now traditional family trip to the cinema. Husbando has achieved his goal of 100 films in 2011!

The Christmas holiday has been manic, I don't really feel I've had a rest. The week before The Big Day was full of preparation, driving around the country sorting stuff out, and the week after has been busy with "stuff!" I don't appear to have achieved much, but I haven't stopped..... I did get a chance to do a few runs outside though and clocked up 27 miles in the last 7 days of the year.

New Year's Eve was marked by parkrun (naturally, it being a Saturday) and dinner with good friends. New Year's Day was marked by parkrun (naturally, it being as good an excuse as any). It was my smallest boy's 10th run, so I decided to run it with him. After parkrun we dashed home quickly to pick up our guests and the rest of the family and headed out to Lasham Airfield for the
annual race around the perimeter track. This is run in aid of Hampshire Air Ambulance and the turnout this year was swelled by many Basingstoke parkrunners coming over from Basingstoke to take part.

In contrast with last year the weather was wet and windy. Really windy. The almost 4.8k race is nearly perfectly flat, but despite being much less hungover than last year I wasn't running too well - I haven't been for ages - so didn't get a great time. I can't help but feel that With a few marshals and a full 5k (which would just involve moving the start a bit) and a bit more publicity it could be a really successful little race. The guys at the local running shop knew nothing about it until I asked them - which is a bit silly really!

Our guests, Husbando and the children walked around the perimeter track, so when I finished I doubled back and ran to meet them - adding an extra mile to my run, then walked back again to the finish line. The children fell upon sausages and chips in the cafe as though they had been starved.
I have one more day off before going back to school and so much to do! Lessons do not appear to have planned themselves and housework needs doing. I haven't made as much of a dent into the house clearing as I'd have liked - only about 10 black bags have made it to the dump so far. Roll on half term...... Hopefully I'll get a run done tomorrow, and a lie in, and a few quiet hours to do some work! I don't ask for much do I?