Disney Land Paris Half Marathon

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This year Disney Land Paris held their first EVER RunDisney event – a thing that I never knew existed until now! RunDisney seems to have run in America for years, with various events taking place in both parks, and the first ever Disney Land Paris event appears to have been years in the making! I was privileged enough to stumble across it before it booked up, and took myself and my parents for a weekend in Paris. And last year, when I booked it, I thought ‘well, I can run 10km now, this time next year 21km should be no problem!’. That, I think you’ll find, is optimism at its peak. A serious bout of depression and anxiety, a discovery of 2 extra ribs and pure exhaustion later, I showed up at Disney Land having only recently managed to get myself up to walk-running 5km. Yep, I was doomed!

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The day began at 4.20am when I got up for an early breakfast before dragging my parents out to the running expo because I didn’t want to be late. I had purchased an emergency belt with a water bottle, as I knew I wouldn’t have able to hold onto a bottle for the entire run, popped on my old running shoes because the insoles in my new ones still cause me cramp, and pinned my number to my top. I was ready to go! At 6am they let us into the corrals. I was in corral C – even in my optimism last year I knew that I wasn’t going to be fast, and had put myself in with the slowest runners! There was a stage right next to the start line with various people coming up and talking about the event, but it was quite hard to hear from where I was standing, at the front of corral C. And it was cold!

In very un-disney-like fashion, the event kicked off 10 minutes late, and those of us at the front of corral C watched the elites, corral A and the entirety of corral B, which stretched back for hundreds, if not thousands, of people, leave before we were moved to the start line.

Then it was time to go! The sun was slowly taking its hat off to brighten up the day and I, along with several hundred others, began the mammoth event.

Running through the village and into Disney Studios was really exciting, and I felt reasonably energetic and excited, though I made sure that I paced myself. That’s the one thing I’m probably really good at is pacing myself, because I know my limits! Round a corner and ‘oh, there’s Captain America and Spiderman!’. The next corner was far more exciting for me as ‘IT’S THE CHIPMUNKS!’ I adore Chip and Dale, they’re my all time favourite characters. We ran through the stage for the car show, and the route of the tram, and progressed into Disney Park through the main gates. Spectators had been able to collect wristbands to allow them to stand on main street and watch the runners. It was so amazing, in both lands all the staff were out, super early in the morning, cheering us on and supporting us! Up the top of Main Street I found my parents, cheering loudly and enthusiastically. I ran on, past Cinderella and her Prince, stopping for a snap with Alice outside the maze, as well as Baloo. I was determined to stick to under 10 minute kms though, so I skipped a few characters and went on my way.

Leaving the park about 5km into the run, I knew the hard part was only just starting. I stopped for a toilet break and then continued on my way. There were bands placed at various points throughout the run, and so much cheering and support you felt invincible. Until you reached km11. From which you could see km 16. And the first part of km 11 was a steep downhill. All you could see was the ones ahead of you running back up the hill. I was tempted to stop there! But I knew I could manage the downhill. So I kept going. At this point I was optimistic that I’d be able to maintain my 3 minutes running 1 minute walking rotation. On the way back up to 16km I agreed with myself I could go down to 1 minute run 1 minute walk. By 18km I was walking as long as I had to and running as short as possible. My hip hurt. I had severe blisters developing on my feet. I was hot and tired and really really really hungry! Just after 19km I could see people running on the other side of a small river, and I looked over, knowing how far away that was, and just thought ‘I can’t do this anymore. I just can’t.’ At that point, I started repeating to myself what my Camp America Director told me several years ago. I can do anything I put my mind to. Anything at all. And I kept moving. I couldn’t stop, I knew I wouldn’t start again! I just kept going. And 19km became 20km. I saw my parents, waving and cheering, and I called out to them that I was going to run over the finish line, and I kept walking.

And you know what? I did. I rounded the corner to see the straight line up to the finish line and I ran. Well, hobbled energetically. I DID IT! I, Hannah Tindall, with very little training, a bad back, depression and anxiety, blisters and a bad hip, managed to complete a half marathon. It took 3 hours 16 minutes and 22 seconds according to the official timings, with an average pace of 9 minutes 19 seconds per km. I can 7112. Out of over 8500 people! I wasn’t last. I didn’t get picked up. And I did it!

This was the hardest thing I’ve had to drive myself to do. To keep going when the only person you’re going to let down is yourself. To push yourself to the limit and then keep going for another 2.1km. To run when all you want to do is collapse.

No one can quite believe I did it. My parents were shocked, my boyfriend speechless and my best friend not surprised at all (I feel that she recognises and acknowledges how stubborn I can be!).

It hurt. I am still limping 5 days later. And I may never run that distance again. But I am so incredibly proud of what I have achieved. If I can do it, anyone can!

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Thirty Six and a Half Motives, Denise Grover Swank

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Ah, it’s been a long and fascinating journey travelling with Rose Gardner from the downtrodden 24 year old girl to the brave, mystery solving 25 year old woman who has a tendency to find, and solve, trouble. And Denise Grover Swank certainly didn’t disappoint with this novel – I was on tenterhooks most of the way through, and despite the many surprises in the previous 8 books, there were plenty of twists and turns to keep me guessing!

Caution! Spoilers!

Rose is finally single! As much as I appreciate Grover Swank’s development of Rose as an independent young woman, she has always been too dependent on being loved and manipulated by the men in her life. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Mason. He is wonderful and kind and absolutely wrong for Rose. Joe was always a source of contention for me. And James (Skeeter) Malcolm, well, let’s just say that’d never work out. No, Rose and Neely-Kate are perfectly capable of striking out on their own, and I think this was an appropriate end to the series.

The Simmons family is all wrapped up. About time too, let’s be honest, since JR was the cause of Rose’s and Joe’s break up many, many books ago. Every mystery was solved – Rose’s father, the father of Hilary’s baby, Kate’s reason for seeking revenge… I question the pure evil that Grover Swank creates in the character of JR, who shows no remorse, or fear or restraint and who can only be defeated by being killed. I’m not sure I appreciate the one dimensional nature of his character – grasping constantly for money and control. However, Kate’s descent into madness is well represented, and the reasons for it were well hidden up until the end. Hilary’s changes seemed temperamental and entirely dependent on who she was talking to, but you were able to develop some sympathy for her. Only Joe really came out on top. He finally let Rose go, he was making an effort to be a better person to Hilary, and he saved Rose in the final showdown. That said, I wouldn’t want to be associated with any of them!

Overall I just feel a little deflated. I adored the original few Rose Gardner novels, but I think I’m done with her now. I have found with Grover Swank’s other novels that they are often very similar, following on mildly different story lines, and I loved Rose because she stood out. But now Rose is following the same pattern within her own novels, and the idea of a mystery series is very… Nancy Drew. One of the things I really loved was Rose’s visionary abilities, but these never really came up in this novel, except to save Jed’s life, and I don’t think they’re really going to shine in a mystery solving series. So, as much as I’ve enjoyed the novels, I am done for now, though I think that as a mystery series, if Grover Swank can focus on the crime solving, then Rose will do well with a teenage audience.

The one person in the novel who really deserves a shout out is Skeeter Malcolm! He is an in depth, likable antagonist, a man with many layers and loyalty. Aside from Rose, I really feel like he was the only character fully explored by Grover Swank to the greatest depth. His development from when we first met him to his final interaction with Rose was well crafted and thought through.

The series, and the author, have lost their shine for me a bit. It doesn’t help that as kindle publishing authors, she releases several ‘novellas’ which you should be able to cope without but which always hold important information before the next novel comes out. It’s all a bit too commercial for me.

Grover Swank’s writing style is clear and simple, and she builds suspense well. Her protagonists are always well developed and her stories always have an interesting and unexpected twist.

Thanks for 9 books of Rose Gardner. I’m glad that she’s finally able to stand on her own two feet.

Exercise??!!

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Funnily enough, this blog is called ‘Read Exercise Repeat’ and yet I have managed so far to avoid talking about any form of exercise! There are several reasons for this… when I first started the blog I almost immediately hit a rough patch and ended up taking a lot of time off from running. Now, a year later, I’m struggling to get back on the wagon. I’ve gained weight, exercised less and am mostly pretty unmotivated.

That said, I did do a triathlon this year. I did 2 last year, and they were both faster and better, but I decided that since I was signed up for 2 half marathons later in 2016, I should probably do something to get my head in the game! (*insert High School Musical soundtrack here*). I completed the triathlon, a 400m swim, 21.5km bike and a 5km ‘run’ (walk) and was pretty proud of myself for that. My boyfriend was amazingly supportive and was there cheering me on for the whole 2 hours it took me.

And now, in 17 days, I am supposed to be running a half marathon. Yesterday I ran 5km for the first time in months.

I’m worried. I’m nervous and frightened and scared. Most of me wants to pull out of the run and just wave the money goodbye (it’s in Disney Land Paris so it would be waving a lot of money goodbye).

The remaining part of me is constantly asking ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ I injure myself. I permanently injure myself. I have to get picked up half way round the course because I’m running too slow (gotta be doing a 16 minute mile). I can just about run 5km at a 15 minute mile. How am I going to feel after km 10? 15? 17?

The thing is, I’m stubborn, and no matter how small the stubborn part of me is right now, it won’t be overlooked. I AM going to go to Paris and I AM going to give the half marathon my best shot. For the next two weeks I hope to be able to train myself to run 15km. The remaining 6km will just happen. Or they won’t. But I need to give it a try. And when the necessary intensity of this training is over, I want to go back to really training. Cycling, running, swimming. Exercising because I want to, and I love it. But for now, I gotta run.

I will in the future talk about the apps I use and the programmes I follow. But today, know this.

A 12 minute mile is just as far as a 6 minute mile.

I am a runner.

And I will run.

Runaways

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I have a degree in English Language and Literature, and I am almost embarrassed to say that this was my first real experience of a comic! I have never really considered them ‘proper literature’ – yes, I know, I have always been a bit of a book snob. But, as with Tearling, my boyfriend gave me these to read on discovering that there is a TV series in the making based on the series, and I dutifully read the first one, assuming I’d soon finish it and just avoid reading the rest.

I was wrong.

Turns out, I just love reading for what it is. Reading! And the Runaways series has given me everything I could ask for. I have only read the first 9 comics, as my boyfriend doesn’t (yet!!) own the rest, but I feel like I have a good enough grasp on them now to talk about them a bit.

Illustration

I feel obliged to start with this, because being a comic, the illustration is potentially the most important part of the presentation. But I really have no artistic knowledge or experience (unlike my boyfriend, the one with a degree in illustration…). What I will say is that these were great for a first time comic reader. The speech bubbles were clear and well placed making them easy to follow. The changes of colours, from dark grey and blacks when those of questionable character were portrayed, to the bright rainbow of Karolina’s power, meant that you were always engaged and interested in the pictures. I was surprised at the minimalist use of words such as ‘boom’ ‘twhap’ and other such noises. I had always assumed that comics would be filled with them, but turns out they are used wisely and to great effect. The consistency of the type face of the important text was helpful as I never struggled to read what was being said. Overall, it has been a pleasurable visual experience.

The Premise

Cast your minds back to being 15, a time when your parents still told you who you had to socialise with, when other people’s opinions mattered and life seemed unmanageable difficult. How would you feel if all of a sudden you stumbled upon your parents murdering a young girl in some sort of satanic ritual, and then ran away with people you barely knew, aside from meeting up with them once a year? Not a great start to adulthood, really! The responsibility of the older kids to protect the younger ones, having to deal with new powers that you didn’t even know you had and navigating the complicated relationships that come from a mix gender teenage group are all explored and thoroughly examined throughout the series.

The Story (caution! spoilers!)

What I’ve really enjoyed about these comics is the grittiness of the characters and their complications. From Alex’s betrayal early on, to Gert’s death and Xav’s sacrifice for Karolina, these are real life issues that adults would struggle to deal with. I genuinely felt like I had a relationship with this group. I was shocked by Alex’s betrayal – I probably should have expected it, but I didn’t and it really surprised me! Gert and Chase’s romantic relationship came to a brutal end with Gert’s death, and the raw grief and emotion that Chase experiences throughout the following comics clearly stems from genuine experience, as it is deep and heart felt and real.

The comics follow a different story line against different villains, as a general rule, with some crossover. So far, the stories have been quite unique and individual, although there is obviously always some reference to previous episodes. The Runaways have to decide between what is good and what is bad, sometimes appearing to be on the wrong side by doing what they think is right. This causes an interesting dynamic within the group as well as a moral dilemma for the reader. Should they steal something for a criminal? Should they bring Klara away from the past and into their present? Is it right to sacrifice a life to bring back a loved one? Can you love two people? Can we change the past and do we have a right to? Various tropes are used to explore all these questions, and because of the developing relationship with the teenagers, you feel caught up in the questions as well. I can see this comic doing a lot of good for a teenage audience, as it reaches out to them on a shared level of life experience, difficult choices and teenage angst.

There are, of course, some things that I dislike about the stories. For one, Molly is what, 12, and not in school? It shows a disregard for education which I really don’t appreciate.

For Nico to access her staff of power, blood must be shed. In the initial comics this results in what appears to be justified self harm. Whilst I appreciate that for teenagers and young adult readers this represents a real issue, I struggled with the imagery of self harm releasing some from the inside. Many people who self harm do so to release the darkness and illness inside them. Perhaps the creators are implying that Nico is depressed initially, that her discovery of her powers and the strange presence of the staff inside her, drive her to find an escape and pain is the only way. All that said, I still struggle with the message that it sends out to those who are perhaps considering self harm, or experiencing it at the time of reading, as it doesn’t send a great message.

Old Lace. Really? A dinosaur from the future with telekenetic powers? And Gert was able to pass those onto Chase? And there are times where Old Lace basically doesn’t appear. How do you hide a dinosaur? What do you feed it? Why is no one concerned that it’s a dinosaur?!!!!!!

Overall?

For a first comic experience, this series has really opened my eyes to a new world of literature that I now get to explore. I never thought I would appreciate minimalist language in a story, but I have really discovered the power of illustration and speech bubbles. The stories are well paced, of a good length, and consistent and varied enough to be of interest as individual comics as well as part of the series. If you want to give comics a try for the first time, I think these are a good place to start!