The HR Juggler

Archive for the ‘Running’ Category


On Sunday, I’m running the London marathon! It’s been such a mix of emotions over the last few weeks and months…more than anything else right now, I feel excited, a little bit nervous and in the last few days, a bit emotional that the day is nearly here and that I really will be doing it. It’s my second marathon, having run Brighton last year with my fantastic friend, Flora.

In so many ways, the real marathon is the training itself: the early mornings, the long runs, the discipline of following a plan, committing to putting in the hours and miles consistently every week, regardless of the weather, whether you feel like doing it, the cumulative fatigue that inevitably builds up. Sunday will be when all of that hard work hopefully pays off, when I know that I have made myself a better runner over the past year through hard work, determination and relentless practice.

I’ve run over 600 miles since I started training at the end of last year and have had the pleasure of running in the Aviemore snow, along the banks of the Seine in Paris, past the Sydney Opera House and in the heat of the Perth sunshine, with wild kangaroos bounding just metres away from me in the national park trails. How lucky am I to be healthy and well enough to be able to run, let alone run long distances, to do so with friends and to participate in one of the most iconic races in the world?!

There will be times when it gets tough on Sunday, when my body hurts, when my head screams at me that it’s a ridiculously stupid activity and when all I want to do is stop. I’m going to do my best though to keep on keeping on, to keep moving and to keep running towards that amazing finish line.

This year, I’m running for a small group of charities called Action Against Heartburn, promoting early diagnosis of oesophageal cancer. It is a charity that my Dad has worked tirelessly for over the years, since his own oesophagus ruptured 14 years ago. You can read more about why I am running for them here and if you would like to sponsor me for this endeavour I would appreciate it hugely.

So, that’s it! One more tiny tapering run today and then it’s London, baby! Bring. It. On!


I had the most amazing day running the London marathon! I absolutely loved it! I ran the first 16 miles with my good running club friend, Kelly and held a steady 9.30 min mile pace until 20 miles, when I started to tire. The absolute highlight was running over Tower Bridge, closely followed by the incredible support all the way along the route. I’ve never been quite so glad to see Big Ben right near the end and I was delighted to finish in 4 hours 20 mins and 36 seconds…a 40 minute PB from my first marathon in 2014!

I am also thrilled to have raised over £1,400 for Action Against Heartburn.

Thank you so much for your support and sponsorship, I appreciate it hugely.

Until next year…..maybe?!!


It’s 5 weeks to go until the Brighton marathon…and there continues to be lots of learning and personal development in all of the marathon training. Annoyingly, many of the lessons I am having to learn several times over, but am still determined that I will put the changes into place for next time around, for the next week, next day or the next run…after all, that is what training is all about isn’t it, learning to do things differently.

I started February having completed a 14 mile run, which at the time was the longest I had ever done…by the last day of February I had clocked up over 120 running miles in the shortest of months and finished the second 20 mile run in the month. Even to me, that sounds pretty good! The month has definitely had highs and lows though: I have certainly experienced cumulative fatigue from the long training runs and generally a lower level of energy overall than I enjoyed in the early days of training. Again and again I have learnt the power and importance of good nutrition and eating properly….more often than not, by getting it wrong and struggling in the long distances!

Marathon runners talk about respecting the distance of 26.2 miles, and I am finding that equally true of the long training runs. If I haven’t prepared for a long training run properly, if I haven’t eaten the right food in the days leading up to it, if my head is not mentally in the right place and if I am not fully rested and well hydrated, sooner or later I will struggle. I managed to demonstrate this (not so) admirably when I ran 20 miles with Flora on Friday: from 15 miles onwards, my communication and conversation dipped lower and lower until all my energy was consumed with just keeping going and not giving up. It was a tough run, made tougher than it had needed to be by inadequate preparation on my part. The lovely Flora was a complete star and kept chatting away to me (we joked afterwards about ‘Flora Radio’!) and definitely gave me more than she received in support on that particular run! The main thing though, is that we did it, however imperfectly on my part…and onwards and upwards we go. We’re definitely getting to know each other very well through completing this adventure together too… 😉

Big smiles after finishing 20 miles!

Big smiles after finishing 20 miles!

There is another distance that I need to remember and respect too though and it is one that I often forget about: the journey I have travelled in the last 21 months from complete, resolutely determined non-runner into a very-nearly marathon distance runner. I honestly never thought I would be running a marathon and I feel both hugely proud that I have got this far and quietly confident that I will be able to complete the journey. That’s another positive thing to think about while clocking up the miles in the final few weeks!

I’m raising money for Mind the mental health charity and Flora is running for the MS Society…if you are able to sponsor either of us, please click here. Thank you so much for the wonderful support.

Alison and Flora

I’m in training to run my first marathon in April and I’ve just reached what feels like a very significant milestone: on Friday, I ran 14 miles for the first time, the furthest I have ever run. One of the most surprising things is that it didn’t feel that big a deal when I was running it, it just felt like a natural progression from what I have been doing up until now. Which, to be fair, was exactly what it was. The other thing that has really surprised me about my training so far is how much I’m enjoying it. When I have trained for half marathons in the past, the longer distances have always felt tough and something of a chore and I often experienced something of a love/hate relationship with training and running in general at those times.

So what has changed? I guess that I’m probably fitter than I have ever been, I’ve been running four times a week since mid-November and I’ve been clocking up a fair few miles: 100 miles during December and I’m already over that figure for January. I’ve also taken nutrition and hydration more seriously, which has helped. But much more than this, it’s the social aspect of running which is making me enjoy the training more this time around. Firstly, because the marathon is a joint endeavour with my fantastic friend Flora and we are really sharing the experience, through meeting up for runs in different parts of the country, texting, chatting, emailing and generally supporting each other every step of the way. That’s made a huge difference to how I’m viewing the journey and the prospect of the marathon itself.

Secondly, I’ve made so many new running friends. I had tried running with the local club before, but it had never quite clicked for me. This time though, I took what felt at the time like the very brave step of joining the small Friday morning spin-off group of the running club, which was mostly made up of retired or semi-retired older men! I can honestly say it’s been the most brilliant running group I could have hoped for – supportive, encouraging, fun, generous in sharing their experience (there are a couple of serious, serial marathon runners amongst them), sociable and inspiring. We also follow up our runs most weeks with coffee and cakes at the local café…what’s not to like?! As the group has grown, it has also in turn led me to new friendships, adventures and experiences and challenged me in different ways, whether that is running faster or further than I imagined, or simply on different terrain. Sure, there are still days when I don’t really feel like going for a run…but those days are not frequent, and the fact that there is usually someone waiting for me so that we can run together, means that I don’t think too much about it and just get going.

Flora wrote a great post about our learnings so far. There are a few more that I have been musing about too.

  • It’s easy to look at other people and worry about the fact that they seem to be running further, faster, better than you. Chances are that there are just as many who have not done as much training, have run fewer miles at a slower pace…it’s just that you don’t notice them so much! At the end of the day though, it really doesn’t matter and you only ever train for and run your own race, nobody else’s.
  • Last week I was fortunate enough to hear Debra Searle MBE speak at our staff conference and there were two particular aspects of her talk that particularly resonated with me. Firstly, that whatever else is going on and however tough things seem, you can always make the effort to choose your attitude towards it and decide the reasons why you are choosing that frame of mind. This is something that I am definitely starting to consciously do, both when I run and when I am doing other things
  • Another pearl of wisdom from Debra was around comfort zones and how, when you are operating outside of your own, they do not remain rigid, rather they start to shift towards you and what seemed impossible, becomes eminently doable and no longer seems scary. For a long time I thought running a marathon would be beyond me; now I simply feel pleased and proud that I am progressing towards that goal and working to make it a reality. That really is something to celebrate :).

So, that’s my training update! Flora and I are raising funds for Mind and the MS Society with our marathon and if you would like to sponsor us, you can find the link here. Thanks so much for all your support.

PS. The picture at the top is Flora and I after having run a very muddy, wet 12.5 miles together at the beginning of January. We are due our next run together this weekend, which will be 16 miles in the New Forest 🙂



F is for fitness, surprisingly fun,

I never realised how much until I started to run.

F is for Flora, my fantastic friend,

who walked the length of the country, end-to-end

F is for fearless, for we might need to be…

she’s agreed to run the Brighton marathon in April with me!!!

F is for fundraising, for MS and Mind

We’d love you to sponsor us, if you’d be so kind

F is for flipping heck and five months to go

Can we run 26.2 miles even going slow?

F is for faith, we know that we can…

But we’d better start working on a training plan!

Friendship and fun, Flora and me,

Running a marathon doesn’t seem as scary as it used to be.

So, please show your support, give us a cheer

…and come visit our sponsorship page here 🙂

Yesterday, I ran the Royal Parks Half Marathon in aid of Mind. I wrote about the different motivations and beginnings of this decision here. Many people have asked me how it was, and in truth, it was mixed. I am hugely proud of one part of my achievement and far more ambivalent about another part of it…and it is perhaps at this point in time, of reflecting upon what I’ve learnt, that helps me to better understand the complexity of my motivation for doing the run and what, after all, matters most.

The running itself is only one part of this story, but it matters to me enough to explain the context. The first time I ran Royal Parks Half last year, I had been running for only four months and I had no expectation of a finishing time, my goal was to simply complete it with a smile on my face and joy at having done what I had set out to do. And I did – I ran it in 2 hours 17 minutes, was elated at having achieved my goal.  I followed this up by running a hilly (and freezing!) half marathon in Tunbridge Wells in February, where running with some speedier friends, I completed the course in an exhausting but wonderful 2 hours 4 minutes. This, of course, is what set my context for this weekend’s half marathon: I wanted to better my personal best, continue improving, even though I knew how hard it had been to run the distance in that time previously.

In the event, I ran this weekend’s half marathon in a respectable 2 hours 10 minutes, which is OK but not amazing. Yes, it was hot, yes it was crowded with thousands of other runners, but in truth the most important element for my learning was that it was consistent with how I had trained. I did entertain an aspirational hope that I might have squeezed in under the 2 hour mark…but to do that, I would have had to have run the fastest 5k and 10k that I have ever knowingly achieved…and then maintain that pace all the way round! So, it would always have been a stretch. On reflecting upon this now, I realise that if I really want to get faster at running, I have to practise running more quickly at the shorter distances and build up from there. There are many parallels to this in life, as well as in business…that would be a whole post in its own right!

The running itself was only ever one part of the story though…my biggest privilege was running with this on my back:


It is this that, for me, puts everything else into perspective and makes me enormously proud of what I did yesterday. Roger was a better runner than I will ever be…he was one of these extraordinarily fit people who ran marathons and frequently went out running with bricks in his rucksack to challenge himself further. Whilst running yesterday, I thought of him often: how amused he would be that I had taken on the gauntlet of running for him, rather than my lovely husband, how chuffed he would be to know that I have so far raised £755 plus gift aid for Mind in his memory and how he would be genuinely amazed and touched that 11 years on, we still love and care and think about him as much as we do. For my part, I wished I had known him better and for longer, wished he was still with us today to chat things over with…but it was special to be able to honour his memory in the way that I was able to yesterday.

So, how was it? Physical and mentally tough at times, long, hot, tiring, exciting, rewarding, inspiring…and a privilege to do it in the memory of those who are no longer able to. All in all, pretty amazing!

I also had some fantastic supporters in the shape of Jon Bartlett and Charlie Elise Duff who came along to watch and cheer me on, which I appreciated hugely!

If you would like to retrospectively sponsor me and donate to Mind, you can find my sponsorship page here. Any amount, large or small will make a difference to the excellent work that Mind do. Thank you!


This blog post is far from neat or conventional in the usual rules of beginning, middle and end.  It seems to me that there are at least three different beginnings to the story that I want to share with you, the middle continues to be a work in progress and the end is far from known. Many of the pieces of this jigsaw may already be familiar to you, so forgive me for restating them.

The beginnings are these…

In January 2002, my brother-in-law committed suicide. None of us knew at the time that he was depressed or suffered any mental health issues. I wrote about his story here.

In January of this year, I published this post as part of the Advent and New Year series, written by Jon Bartlett, which caused huge waves in the HR community about the topic of mental health and what we as HR professionals could do about it. This led to the 25% Club series of posts of individuals sharing their experiences of suffering mental health conditions, an HR for Mental Health event with Mind Charity, organised by Jon and a much more open dialogue on the topic of mental health.

This time last year, I was training for my first half-marathon, having not run at all previously. It was a huge deal to me, uncertain as I was as to whether I would achieve the goal which at the start had appeared reckless and unattainable. I did it and was delighted.

Right now I am again in training for the Royal Parks Half, which takes place on the 6th October. This time I am running for Mind and I really want to raise as much money as I can for them, as it is such a brilliant cause. Because of my brother-in-law and because of the increased understanding that I have gained this year of mental health and the work that Mind do, it means a huge amount to me and I would love it if you could support me and them.

This will be my third half-marathon in a year and I am still waiting to discover the magical point of when the training becomes easier, or perhaps more accurately, when it becomes easy…but given that the three or four training runs I do each week still frequently feel tough, I don’t think that will happen anytime soon! That’s OK..I know I’m not alone on that one ;).

If you would like to support me and donate to Mind, you can find my sponsorship page here.

Please do take the time to check out some of the fantastic resources that Mind produce about mental health at work and visit the excellent Time To Change website.

Thank you!

Five months ago, I signed up to run a half marathon, even though I couldn’t run a mile

Four months ago, I power-walked a marathon in the Edinburgh Moonwalk

Three and a half months ago I started to learn to run, by using a Run 10k app and gradually increasing the ratio of running to walking

One month ago I ran my first 10k race and joined a running club

Yesterday, I ate my own body weight in pasta and drank a huge amount of water

Today I ran the Royal Parks Half Marathon with 8 fantastic colleagues, finished in 2 hours 17 minutes and raised £760 for Tommy’s. It was scenic, it was tough, my hip hurt and at times I felt like I would never reach the finish line. Yet, the sense of achievement and pride is immense and I am hugely grateful and appreciative of all the off-line and online support I have received.

Today, I want to say thank you. For those who came out and cheered us on, for those who have encouraged me and given great advice, for those who have sponsored me, to everyone I have bored with running stories, worries and concerns. You’ve all helped so much more than you know.

Thank you!

High-fiving my daughter at mile 4

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