Friday, 22 April 2016

Breakfast with a Dame!

Breakfast with a Dame.

It's not every day you get to meet your sporting hero, let alone have breakfast with one!
This is, however, exactly what happened on a bright sunny morning in Hildenborough at Cafe 1809. I found myself with 15 or so other people, waiting excitedly for the Running Hub to begin with Dame Kelly Holmes. The small crowd,mostly from the land of Twitter & Fitness, drank tea and I did a little networking to find out who was who before the main event!
But, how did I get here you may ask.
Rewind to the previous weekend, where I had entered a competition with Fitness Rewards on Twitter. I uploaded the statistics from my latest run and 3 days later John McGlone had invited me to the exclusive event, I was thrilled and could barely contain my excitement!

DKH was very relaxed and she welcomed everyone to her Cafe 1809 with a smile and then the room fell silent in anticipation of the what was to come.
She started with a brief intro and history behind Cafe 1809, her race number from Athens 2004, where she had won double Olympic gold. The building used to be the an old newsagents called “Fags and Mags” and DKH had worked there doing several paper rounds as a child.
She had tried to buy the property for years with no luck, but eventually it was purchased and work started in 2013 to demolish most of it and construct the Cafe from ground level. Most of the original building had disappeared, but what emerged was a brand new designer hub for the local community to enjoy. A meeting place for Yummy Mummy’s, runners, and cyclists to eat, drink and chat, with the added bonus that you may catch a glimpse of DKH!
DKH talked with passion about her school days at Hugh Christie Comprehensive School and how her PE teacher Debbie Page had encouraged her to get involved with athletics.
She joined the Tonbridge Athletics club at the age of 12 and progressed in athletics with the help of coach Dave Arnold.
An insight to the early years.

At the age of 17 DKH joined the Army, starting as a HGV driver and later becoming a PTI.
For several years she combined both athletics and her employment in the Army, until funding increased allowing her to become a full time athlete in 1997.
DKH talked openly about the high and lows of competing with depression and darker days of self harm, which were mixed in with success, disappointment and injuries.
With a career that boasts Olympic bronze in 2000 Sydney Olympics, 2 silver medals and a bronze at the World Championships, a silver at the World Indoor Championships, a silver and a bronze at the European Championships and 2  gold medals and 1 silver at the Commonwealth Games, she already had an amazing career on the track. Her most significant and life changing wins came in 2004 at the Athens Olympics where she won the double Olympic gold in 800m and 1500m. DKH gave us an insight to her Athletic years and then we all watched the Athens races with her.
I instantly got goosebumps. Suddenly, I knew I was in the presence of an incredibly focused and determined human being! That moment in time had been the pinnacle of many years hard work, commitment and dedication to track running and it had meant so much to so many people!
More personal achievements followed in 2004 when she was voted as Britain's Sports Personality of the Year. She then went on to become Dame Kelly Holmes OBE in 2005, which was also the same year she retired from athletics.

Virgin London Marathon
In Jan 2016 DKH had announced she was running the London Marathon, inspired by her friends that ran VLM 2015. Social media and runners up and down the country went mad for it, Twitter nearly exploded!
She began to share her concerns and her training stories with us. We all chipped in with our marathon adventures and reassurance, but every now and then, she blurted out
 “Why am I doing this?” and then cringed at the thought of another long run!
She asked us questions like “Is it normal to go out the day before your long run and stash snacks and drinks in bushes?”. This caused much debate and laughter, almost like snack orienteering, but with running in between! Maybe not normal, but very creative and funny!
She also suggested taking Imodium before any long runs and on the actual marathon day, again this was meet with “oh no, I wouldn't do that, who gave you that advice?”
She replied, with a smile, “ Paula Radcliffe!”
Well I'm guessing that advice is coming from an expert with a few marathons under her belt, and one brown pant incident! I mean who we to disagree with Paula!
Running 26.2 miles is not easy and it doesn’t seem to get any easier. Even after 7 it still hurts like hell for me!!
For DKH, as a fast middle distance runner, her whole biomechanics had to change to adapt her running style to the longer runs, something that landed her in a whole world of pain back in Feb. After her first 18 mile run she was crippled and ended up in hospital for spinal injections to ease the neural pain. She said “ It was like ants were crawling all over my body”. After 7 days rest she was back to training and managed to keep on track with the relentless weekly long runs. She states her preference on having a hot bath now, over an ice bath and is a chocolate enthusiast, a nice reward after all the marathon training and fundraising in the recent months.

Aside from the challenge of running a marathon, DKH has set herself a huge target of  fundraising £250,000 this year and she talked us through the 5 charities she is supporting and what they mean to her.
The Dame Kelly Holmes Trust - Set up in 2008 this not only supports athletes as they transition from sport, but also uses their skills and experience to transform the lives of disadvantaged youths through mentoring programmes.
Myeloma UK - A rare, incurable cancer of the blood, DKH has a  personal attachment to this charity, her mother has now gone into remission.
MIND - Mental health charity helping to highlight and give awareness to issues that are often silenced and have effected Kelly personally, particularly depression and self-harming.
The Pickering Trust - Provides emotional support for people affected by cancer.
Hospice in the Weald - Where her coach, Dave Arnold, passed away two years to the day after she DKH won the 1500m gold medal in Athens.

A superb breakfast had been laid on for us and we moved into the function room to allow paying customers into 1809.
DKH started the Q & A session and again she made us laugh by asking “What's this taper run all about? In my athletic years this would have been a quick pace up and down the track, not an 11 mile run! 11 miles!!” I have to say I would've agreed 2 years ago but now it all seems perfectly normal to me!
Let the Q & A begin.

We talked all things marathon. What snacks do you take with you? All replies to this question seemed fairly standard, gels, jelly beans etc until someone randomly shouted out “satsuma!”
The same woman later shouted out “apricots” which conjured up an image of her in a Carmen Miranda style running outfit with a fruit bowl on her head! Aside from all the fruit talk, sharing best practice is a great way to get top tips and runners are always a great sharing community.

We talked about playlists, the boredom of the long run and her constant watch checking!
She was wearing a huge new Garmin that told you everything, splits, pace, average pace, time and could probably read you your horoscope and do your weekly food shop for you too!
We all agreed about the ongoing battle with the little voice in your head telling you to stop, or you need the loo, or you’re tired, you're thirsty, you're done, but it is the determined mindset of most marathon runners and not their legs that get them through 26.2 miles.
She has also turned into an avid Parkrunner at the weekends and turns up in her pink hat at randomly selected Parkruns a few times a month! The look on peoples faces as she whizzes past them must be priceless!
The Q & A was coming to an end and after a few raffle prizes were dished out it was a great opportunity to get a photo with DKH. She was gracious and polite to everyone and her infectious smile continued whilst signing everything that was thrust in front of her, thankfully no satsuma appeared!
I had thoroughly enjoyed the last two and a half hours and felt honoured to be in the presence of such an inspiring role model, leader and personality.
As I had my photo taken and wished DKH good luck with her 1st marathon, I asked
“ Do you think you will do another marathon, could it become a yearly event?”
She just laughed and replied, with a sparkle in her eyes “ Not a chance!!”
Good luck.

To support DKH and donate to the 5 charities visit her page or text KRun26 £10 to 70070


Please note no satsumas were harmed in the writing of this blog! ;)
Thank you for reading my blog, tune in next time for an update on how training for
100km Race to the Stones is going.

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