Fitness Ambition: BUPA Great Manchester Run 2014

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So if any of you woke up early enough this morning, you might have switched on the TV to witness the 11th BUPA Great Manchester Run. Though it is a Sunday, in the middle of a bank holiday weekend, so I wouldn’t blame you if you slept in!

Now, if you don’t already know, the Great Manchester Run (or GMR) is a 10km race, or 6.2 miles. It’s one of several events within the Great Run series, which are all sponsered by BUPA and take place all over the country throughout the year. For example, apart from this 10km event there is also the Great Yorkshire Run in Sheffeild, the Great North 10km or the Great Women’s 10km in Glasgow. If you don’t think you can hit 10km just yet, there is a shorter 5km event in Portsmouth, while there’s 10 miles also being held in that same weekend. To increase on this there’s the Great North Run which is a half marathon.

But focusing back on Manchester, this year they expanded the entries so 4,000 runners and walkers could take to the streets of Greater Manchester and enjoy the event.

I first ran the GMR in 2010 a few months before I came to university. It was to aid my training for the Great North Run the following September which I was supposed to be running for Asthma UK, though an injury prevented that. Of course, these events are expensive in my opinion and generally aren’t seen as PB (personal best) potentional for some athletes. This is because of the over crowding and really, you’re not going to pay just under £40 to achieve a personal record when there are much cheaper more appropriate races closer to home.

But that’s not to completely strike off this run. In 2010, I had taken up running the previous December. I had been targeting the Great North Run since I got through on the ballot, but I was far too impatient to wait until September and signed up for Manchester before I even heard back about the ballot. Then I decided to run a local 5km in Blackpool in Stanley Park which was being hosted by Blackpool Wyre and Fylde Athletic Club– though this was all before I could even run a mile.

You’re probably starting to realise my impatience in many situations.

Without going to far into it those were my first and last 5km and 10km races, and consisted of 30:50 and 77:45 PBs. Not the best but admittedly, I wasn’t the last in either which was achievement enough for the one who had come last in every sports day event during high school and primary school.

So I am doing it again. Yes, with little under a year until the next GMR I found myself signing up to the 2014 event while the current year’s one was being televised! Not that I can afford £39 for an event I probably won’t train for again.

Now, with that in mind of course, I do need to train for it properly this time around. I’ve put down a target for a sub 60 minute time which isn’t any small ask. I plan to run for NSPCC and I will be also keeping track of it via this blog too.

So I guess we’re moving beyond my academic and personal rants, now I’m throwing a bit of fitness malarky in!

The Countdown the 22

So currently, I’m 112 days away from my birthday: the big 2-2. Not that 22 is generally considered a big event, whereas when you hit 16 I could vote and start driving, at 18 I could start drinking, and at 21 I could start… Well, drinking in America though I never actually foresaw that I would end up going there! But no, 22 is just a mundane kind of age like your 14th, 15th, or even the annoying 17th…

Except it’s not that mundane really. By the time my mum was 22 she had lived in London for a year, had had one child (me) and got married. My cousin who is 10 days younger than me has a one year old child. Another friend who is six months younger than me has been engaged five years and is in full time employment.

Then there’s me: 21, in university, holding down two part time jobs and neither of which are a basis for the career I am aspiring for.

I think I’m getting that fear creeping in now. I watched my friend go through it last year, we labelled it her quarter mid life crisis. However, she was pretty assured career wise- she was beginning to doubt whether she was ready to settle down with her boyfriend of five odd years, given that he was her first. It was the concept of only ever being with one person that rattled her.

A few months ago those two got engaged and moved in together.

That’s why I’m rattled right now I guess. While she was doubting what she had, I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever have anything close to being that secure. Though, of course, I’m not saying I want to be settled in the next five years and earning £30k and planning my wedding (as nice as that would be) the fear of the unknown is enough to cause a few “ifs” and “buts”.

I think the worst thing for me is the fact I was certain that I knew where I was going when I was 17/18. But that me would be seriously confused about where I have ended up! Though, in all honesty, I do admit this future has probably worked out better for me. I have a job, I have (pending results of course) my degree, I have friends and what family that I can still bear to be around.

But I think it’s time to settle down and start working out what I want. I mean, we’re not 20 forever….

Schools and “alternative” uniform changes

So recently I was browsing through the online articles which my newspaper back home puts up. And one really caught my eye: 

Students win argument to allow wearing of nose studs.

When you look at yourself in the mirror, do you have anything… different? I do: I have two tattoos which some may argue are not very discreet, I have pierced ears and I recently dyed my hair with an ombré. There are several individual reasons for each of these changes that I have made, but none were to thwart authority. Though I understand that in work I should try and keep my tattoos covered by my uniform, my employer has never pushed against this. I work with a colleague who recently went out on her lunch break and returned with two piercings: a belly bar and a bright pink tongue piercing.

Now, if you don’t fancy reading the article I can sum it up pretty easily. Essentially, a group of girls who are currently in sixth form stood up to the management at the school about their rules about piercings. Now, these rules haven’t been changed since before I began high school a decade ago. It’s simple: no piercings are allowed except for a pair of studs in your ears. No hoops, no multiple piercings, no dangly earrings. 

Just one. Pair. Of. Studs.

In all honesty, this never bothered me. But getting a nose stud didn’t become the fashion until I was in year 8 and one of my “rebellious” friend’s came into school flaunting it. But she spent her time in the mobile, which would now be called a nurturing centre for “disadvantaged” students nowadays but we just called it the place were all the naughty kids went. Then a few of the “popular” girls started getting one, and then it drifted into my group of friends. One of the main highlights of the trend was the theory that you were a lesbian if you got a specific side pierced… Now that got people paranoid.

I think it was quite a small thing which the teachers weren’t particularly concerned about until it became a much bigger trend. Probably because I didn’t have one, I don’t remember if anyone got told off for having one. 

But it’s a similar thing with any changes you make to your uniform, and many I don’t agree with:

  1. Stillettos I wore five inch stillettoes throughout high school, and in year nine it suddenly became fashionable to wear dolly/ballerina/flat pumps. I never caught onto the trend and still remember being sent to the head of year’s office for my offence footwear. Apparently they were considered highly dangerous and could be used as a weapon- considering I was 13 and had never been sent to the headteacher’s office, using my shoes as a weapon had never crossed my mind.
  2. Chewing gum Now, I can see the two sides of this story. Chewing gum is unsightly especially if the person refuses to be subtle. However, there are educational theories which prove that everyone learns differently, and kinetic learners enhance their learning ability by being active while they learn. If they can’t walk around the classroom then chewing gum is the most movement they’ll be able to achieve being stationary.
  3. Do your top button up agh! Don’t even get me started! Doing your top button up is never considered cool, and it still drives me nuts when certain friends of mine do it now. It’s choking and restrictive and, you know what, it’s highly likely that that can be used as a weapon when you put a tie on. I understand that it is important to look presentable in the classroom, and it prepared you for employment, but why does it have to be all the way up to the very top and not the second to last? 
  4. Banning nail varnish Sorry, but why is this even relevant in the classroom? OK, chipped nail varnish can look nasty but even the snobs that I know (I love them really!) would die without a regular manicure and fake nails. If school is setting you up for the future then ban bad nail varnish and dirty nails.

Those are the few I can remember since leaving high school but I imagine a few more have come in since I left, are hair extensions banned yet?

In my opinion, if it doesn’t interfere with their work then go for it. Society’s changing at a much quicker pace than these high school policies are changing, and yet they’re more eager to cut out PE lessons in a increasingly obese society or create an even worse menu than let a few with a bit of an alternative dress sense slide?

Unemployment… Yes, it’s still happening

The one thing that has been a much smaller problem for me then many of my friends at university is finance. Though the majority of us, myself included, do get government grants and loans as well as various burseries, budgeting is never really a top skills. In my first year I’d essentially blown my £1,500 a term grant as well as my £750 overdraft by Christmas- and given that my rent took up over a grand of that I could essentially see my social life draining down the plug hole. Though, who am I kidding? Students, no matter how skint we get, can always afford a night out.

But that’s irrelevant.

As I’ve said before, I’ve been working since I was 14 apart from a few months of unemployment when I came to Preston. The majority of that take I’ve juggled more than one job- at one point I had been working three. Yes, a bit greedy I know, but it’s more strenuous than many would imagine. And definitely meant no social life.

Panorama recently highlighted the issues of unemployment in an episode called Jobs for the Boys? Now, given the title I was pretty quick to jump to the conclusion that it was targeted at unemployment among males in general. This was a bit silly, especially given my knowledge of social statistics (read: to use Google). Typically in the employment battle of the sexes, males for always won and more recent statistics show that 10.7 per cent of males were unemployed in 2012 compared to 10.8 per cent of females

So it wasn’t general, but admittedly the use of the term “boy” made me think of teenage boys. Youth unemployment is skyrocketing at the minute, as I’m sure you’ve heard moaned about to no end. Many link it to increases in crime, but it is important to note that many of the 16-25 year olds (the age range which qualifies as “youth”) who are labelled as unemployed may also be in full time education. This is where the NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training) come into play but that’s another story. Basically, we all know kids are struggling for work.

But no, the episode focused on a particular group of boys- and this particular group I understand as one of the most disadvantaged especially when it comes to education and, in this case, employment. It focuses on the black British male teenagers.

Now, over the past three years of my degree it’s this group who are repeatedly highlighted as achieving the poorest grades as a whole. The one black British guy that we had in our class only strengthen this with the fact he never turned up to class and typically only scraped a third, however, his two year old son also required caring for so it was possibly more of a case of juggling than crime. But I don’t know the guy that well…

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The first part that I was impressed with was the fact they pulled in Sol Campbell to host the show. Now, I will be the first person to admit that I know nothing about football but even I know a face like Campbell. No, it’s not his fame that impressed me though that probably impacted it, it was the fact that they used one of the more successful black British males. Research repeatedly shows that a person is more likely to respond positively to a successful role model who they can relate to, particularly in the cases such as this. So even if Campbell was using this as a publicity stunt, I doubt the guys in the show cared too much.

The show also highlighted another vital factor which impacts all of us students, and those others who are unemployed: hands-on experience. Though this moves away from the race aspect, it was inspiring to see that Campbell and Panorama had worked to gain these boys experience in the industry, especially using the role models that they could relate to. These employers also seemed willing to hand out advice and encouragement where needed too.

Ultimately I really enjoyed the documentary, and though it was inspiring to see something focused on such a disadvantaged group it could also be effective in encouraging other people who may be struggling to find work.

Definitely worth a watch!

Sometimes we turn out a little different(ly)

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Have you ever considered what your primary school teachers would think if you had a chat with them now?

I mean, if you live in a small community like mine you’ll probably see the person who taught you in primary school every day or so. In my case, I doubt they recongise me when I walk by. I was always a very quiet student you see, very unconfident. Though while my sister was repeatedly told off for her inability to ask questions for herself, I was simply lazy.

My report from year two stated that the teacher believed I might be dyslexic. Though, of course, I didn’t find this out until I was putting all my reports in my record of achievement for our mini graduation parade- though how much of an achievement that report was I don’t know. I guess the feeling of questioning my academic ability didn’t last long though since in the SATs I gained straight level 5s… or was it 6? The highest you could receive for primary school SATs anyway, not that they exist anymore. That was without any formal diagnosis of a learning disability or any assistance with the tests.

By the end of year 6 I had raced to the top of my class for reading,  though by the beginning of high school it was clear my ability in maths wasn’t that great. Essentially, following this, I was steadily average in my academic life though there was an obvious failing on my part when it came to exams. That was made stark clear with my absymal A Level results… though admittedly my sore lack of attendence didn’t help.

Now I’m at university. I’m in the top 25% of my course. I’m averaging 65-75% on all of my essays. I enjoy education. I (sometimes) even partake in classroom discussions. I’ve had work experience in schools, newspapers and youth clubs and none of these I was forced or encouraged to do by any of my teachers or family. I’ve juggled a job with education for the past three years. I like the library.

I’m not a social recluse… though admittedly I still am quite socially awkward at times.

So what would Ms Corrine think if she saw me now? Well, probably “and you are?”

The woes of technology: Snapchat

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I bet you know about it. If you haven’t already become obsessed with it, you’ve at least downloaded it. And if you haven’t, you’re probably an unfortunate Blackberry User.

But me on the other hand, with my wonderful Samsung Galaxy S3? Yes, I have finally downloaded the infamous app: Snapchat.

Now, for those of you who have been living under a rock here is the low down. Snapchat is an app. Following in the footsteps of Instagram and those social media sites, Snapchat takes advantage of the current geberation’s craze with weird and wonderful pictures.

You take a photo. Type a message. Select an amount of seconds you which the reciever to be able to see the photo and send.

The advantage is that given the extremely limited amount of time the picture can be viewed, there is less chance it’ll be uploaded onto Facebook and Twitter. I say less since I do have many friends who have managed this exact thing, much to their friends embarressment.

It’s addictive. It’s odd. And I have no doubt I will become obsessed with such an app. But admittedly I do fear how much my “mature and responsible older sister” reputation will die with my drunk photos …

First Year Me vs Third Year Me

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I have a running joke with myself at the minute. It’s about how disappointed “first year me” would be to witness the number of hours “third year me” spends in the library. If you’ve ever watched How I Met Your Mother you’ll understand the concept of treating yourself as seperate people depending on what time- it’s quite common in HIMYM for the characters to brush off a problem with “oh I’ll let future me deal with that”.

But I digress… to a point.

I was surrounded by second years today in the library all in the final flurry of deadlines. The same goes for me too, except while my deadlines were a few weeks away theirs are on Friday. And while I’m sat at home after three hours finishing up that final 1,089 words… they’re still there two hours later having barely written 200.

Not that I’m judging, I was exactly the same last year. First year I essentially waited until hours prior to the deadline to start a 2,000 word assignment. And let me reassure you, it shows in my grades. In first year I was lucky to hit mid 50s, I remember my first ever 2:1 (an assignment I’d written after leaving a club at 2am, with the deadline at 4pm). I was in shock.

Essentially I think it was the same reaction as my first 74% this year.

But otherwise I’ve been “comfortable”.

Admittedly I think I’m getting old. While in first year I’d go out, without fail, every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday now I’m about to come up to a fortnight of not going out. Though by going out I mean the full clubbing, £5 entry and up until 4am malarky because I do still go to the pub.

I was always told it would happen by my previous third year friends and I laughed it off. Now it’s me shaking my head at my younger friends.

Though I’m not going to lie, I’m going to enjoy watching them suffer through their dissertations next year.