I want to tell you about this great little thing called parkrun.

12 Apr

parkrun – the reason I get up earlier on a Saturday, than any other day of the week.

I was first introduced to the wonderful world of parkrun by my cousin, Nic, when I arrived in Brisbane last April. I had heard about it in Scotland a few years before, and knew about one in Glasgow, but I never ran a parkrun until I arrived in Australia.

It’s a free, weekly, timed, 5k event. Brilliant.

The finish line at Southbank parkrun, Brisbane

How did it start?
It started in a park (Bushy Park) in London in 2004, and it’s since spread to 10 countries including: Ireland, Denmark, Poland, Russia, USA, South Africa, Singapore, New Zealand, and Australis – where there are now over 100 parkrun locations in Australia.

I now proudly call Southbank parkrun in Brisbane my ‘home parkrun’.

How does it work?
Simply visit parkrun.com to find your nearest one, register and print off your barcode, and take it with you on the day. It really is that simple.

Once you pass the finish line, you get handed a token (numbered according to the position you crossed the finish line and corresponds with the number on the stopwatch). You take that to a barcode scanner who scans the token then your barcode. The results are then uploaded onto the database and you get the all important email later that morning with your time and other great statistics such as: how many parkruns you’ve ran, your finish place i.e 165th, your all time parkrun personal best. You can also view the full set of results for that event and see how you stacked up against your mates.

Southbank parkrun meets at the parklands on Southbank

What makes it so great?
It’s run by volunteers – both a dedicated events team for each parkrun location, and members who volunteer on a one-off basis on race day for the likes of time keeper, barcode scanner, tokens, marshals, tail end charlie, photographer etc.

It’s open to everyone – no matter your age or fitness level. It encourages all sorts of people (dad’s with prams, grans with their dogs, children, athletes, walkers, super skinny, carrying a little bit of extra junk) to come along each week and bust out their best 5k against a clock.

What’s really great to see is when you introduce parkrun to other people and you watch them catch the parkrun bug. I’ve recently introduced some friends from work, and my cousin, Fiona, and her 2 year old son, Murray – who arguably isn’t a convert yet – the boy likes his sleep!

Parkrun tourism is also a thing. You can literally rock up to any parkrun, anywhere and run! (Yes, even when you’re on holiday!). It’s a great way to see different areas and run in different environments – beaches, footpaths, trails, parks etc. To date, I’ve visited parkruns in Mitchelton, Golden Beach, Stones Corner and Minnippi (all in SE Queensland) and I’ve even managed to persuade (read: force) my boyfriend to come with me to Pollock parkrun in Glasgow (Scotland) next month when visit home!

White girls can’t jump!

What next?
Since I started a year ago, I’ve ran 24 parkruns and got a new PB just last week: 27.51. Which I’m absolutely delighted with, as my goal this year was to run 5k under 28 mins… so now that I’ve already smashed that, I suppose I better set a new goal… I’m also hoping to reach 50 runs by the end of the year, and with comes the prized 50 t-shirt!

Watch this space, and remember – #DFYB (Don’t forget your barcode!)

30 and Proud

5 Feb

I’m 29 years and 11 months old today. I have one month left in my 20’s. Goodbye youthful skin, late nights, being ‘down with the kids’, and having bearable hangovers (just). Hello crows feet, a slowing metabolism, early nights and brain crushing hangovers.

Dramatics aside, truth be told, I have been dreading turning 30. That was until last month when I read an article which changed my mindset. It was an article in the Huffington Post titled ‘9 things you should never say to a woman who is turning 30’. The author of the article, also turning 30 (and excited about it!) noticed a trend of back-handed compliments about getting older and being ‘past it’. She highlighted the unwritten rule in our society that women should be terrified of getting older, and therefore shouldn’t embrace it. But why shouldn’t we? We are wiser, more confident, and more secure in ourselves, and these are things that should be celebrated. Not only that, but it’s a privilege denied to many.

So now, as I near my 30th birthday, I’m grateful to reach this milestone and excited for what lies ahead. I remember being 19, and approaching 20 with a dread like ‘oh oh another decade looms. I’m still a kid, I know nothing, I’ve not achieved anything!’. So in a bid to approach my 30s in a more positive mindset, I have reflected on everything I am proud of and have achieved to date, and in keeping with the 30 theme, I made a list of the top 30. Not only that, but I’ve made a list of 30 new goals to strive for.

Thumbs up for turning 30!

Thumbs up for turning 30!

30 things I’ve achieved so far…

  1. I saw my long-suffering football team, Kilmarnock, win the Scottish cup in ’97.

  2. I have a big sister who is also my best friend. We are like chalk and cheese most of the time, but there’s no-one else like her!
  3. I have a crazy, fun-loving mum, and comic, role-model dad, who encourage and support me in everything I do.
  4. I have true life-long friends. Like, from nursery. That’s over 25 years of friendship – thanks for putting up with me girls! (Claire, Louise, Allana, Vicky).
  5. At 18, I left home and moved to Dundee to start uni.
  6. I made another group of life-long friends when I went to University in Dundee – which made my 4 years at Uni the best ever! Thanks girls!
  7. I went to Art school and got a bachelor’s degree in Product Design.
  8. I then went to Business school and got a Master’s degree in Marketing.
  9. With over 5 years experience, I’ve carved out a career in Marketing for myself. Every day is a school day!
  10. I have a big family spread out across the country and overseas. They are all a little crazy in their own way and I love them for it.
  11. I backpacked through SE Asia at 22. Island hoped around Thailand, snorkelled to ‘The Beach’ on Koh Phi Phi, partied with lady boys on Koh Samui, and danced until sunrise at a full moon party on Koh Phangnan.
  12. I’ve seen my fair share of sunsets on the White Isle. And just happened to see some of the world’s best DJ’s at the world’s best clubs – Hed Kandi at El Divino, Tiesto at Amnesia, and Groove Armada at Space, being some of the more memorable ones.

  13. I’ve been to countless festivals and gigs and saw some of the best artists of my time: Oasis, Bruce Springsteen, The Stone Roses, The Who, James Brown.
  14. I try new things – including millinery (hat making), tap dancing, snowboarding, burlesque…
  15. I climbed (read: crawled) up Ben Nevis.

  16. I am an Auntie to two of the cutest, funniest and wildest nephews around, Lyall & Harris. Keep it real kids.

  17. I’ve been fortunate to see several of my best friends get married, and looking forward to a few more!
  18. I’m even more fortunate to be an ‘Auntie’ to an ever-increasing army of little people who belong to my friends.

  19. I moved to another country (twice!). In 2011, I took an English teaching job in Daegu, South Korea. I didn’t know any body and didn’t speak the language. It has been one of my greatest life experiences to date.
  20. I crossed the border into to North Korea (it may only be by a few metres at the DMZ, but I’ve stepped into North Korea nonetheless).

  21. I kicked cancer’s ass! Now two and a half years all clear 🙂
  22. I did a bungee jump and raised over £2,500 for Ayrshire Cancer Support.
  23. Over the last two years I have lost a shed load of weight. 35kg to date (or 5 ½ stone). And still some to go. Having been overweight my whole life, I decided at 28, that I didn’t want to lead that life anymore and gave myself until my 30th birthday to lose the junk in my trunk!
  24. My personal best for downing 2 pints of Guinness is 36 seconds. Pow pow!

  25. I am a runner. I’ve spent a lot of my twenties wanting and trying to be a runner. And I’ve finally realised that it doesn’t matter how slow you go, you are still a runner.
  26. I have run 10k races in 3 continents. Last year I got a new PB 60:50.
  27. I have met my match in John Boy. He supports me and cheers for me, and challenges me in a way I’ve never been before. He’s the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. I just need to get him in the same country as me first!
  28. I travelled solo through Cambodia and Vietnam – didn’t die.
  29. I backpacked around Australia. After 6 years of talking about it, I finally got my finger out and got my ass down under!
  30. I sky dived from 12,000 feet onto a beach on the Gold Coast.


And now for 30 Goals

Health:

  1. Run a half marathon
  2. Run a full marathon
  3. Complete a triathlon


    Career:

  4. Work for a NGO
  5. Start my own photography business
  6. Become an accomplished public speaker

  7. Write a book

    Travel:

  8. Road trip around New Zealand in a camper van
  9. Island hop around Fiji
  10. Scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef

  11. See the Milky Way from Uluru
  12. Walk on the Great Wall of China
  13. Travel to India and see the Taj Mahal
  14. See the Northern Lights from Norway
  15. Ski in the Alps
  16. Live in NYC for a year
  17. Road trip the southern US states
  18. Travel to Peru and visit Machu Picchu
  19. Climb Mt Kilimanjaro
  20. Ride in a bobsled

    Learning:

  21. Re-learn the piano
  22. Learn to surf (in a country without sharks)
  23. Learn to snowboard
  24. Learn a new language
  25. Learn to code
  26. Learn to sail and own a boat (just a wee one)
  27. Get my PADI

    Personal Life:

  28. Buy an old farmhouse and renovate it
  29. See Kilmarnock with the Scottish Premier League (this is more of a dream than a goal)
  30. Really get to know my parents, aunts and uncles – listen to their life stories

    _ _ _

    A sensible person would include ‘pay off student loan/ credit card’, ‘save for retirement’, buy a house’, ‘get married’, ‘have kids’ etc, but life should never be taken for granted, and as the saying goes ‘you can’t put a price on a good time!’.

    So here’s to everyone turning 30, the adventure continues!

“You Don’t Always Win Your Battles, But It’s Good To Know You Fought”

19 Oct

The title is a quote by Lauren Bacall, and from one inspiring woman to another, I’m extremely proud to have not one, but two accomplished authors in my family. My Great Aunt moved to Canada, from Scotland, in 1963, and there her life in Canada begun.

Being one of my gran’s younger sisters, she travelled back and forth to Scotland often to visit family, and although I have never spent a great amount of time with her, she always has a smile for you, she is warm, chatty and is full of life!

She met her second husband in the late 1980’s and after being married for 9 years, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. This is where her story begins. She tells her story about caring for him or 17 years, the benefits and challenges she faced in choosing to care for him at home, in the hope that it will help others who find themselves in a similar situation.

‘Martin and Me: My Life on Hold’, under her alias, Anne Louise Larpnel, is available on Amazon now, both in paperback and Kindle: Martin and Me: My Life on Hold

'Martin and Me: My Life on Hold' by Anne Louise Larpnel

‘Martin and Me: My Life on Hold’ by Anne Louise Larpnel


It’s a very touching story, easy to read, full of practical advice, and fond memories of their time together. As another reviewer noted, it’s like listening to a friend share their experience over a coffee. One particular tale that made me laugh out loud was when Martin was in the later stages of Alzheimer’s and he could no longer go to the toilet by himself. One day he was constipated, and having no luck they decided to give up for the time being and try again later. Upon pulling up his pants from behind, my Aunt felt a thump on her head, gave it a shake, and low and behold, a number 2 fell onto the floor!

The book is filled with many other funny little stories like that, which makes it all the more heart-warming. And if you happen to be in London, Ontario today, she is doing a book signing at Chapters/Indigo from 1pm – 4pm. Please go along and say hello, and tell her, her great niece in Australia sends her love.

Riding the Wild Tiger!

27 Feb

I write this post whilst on a plane to Bangkok. I’ll be there for only 12 hours. I’ll meet my friend Pop (we met at University in 2007) and tonight we’ll fly to Siem Reap in Cambodia together. Pop will spend a couple of days with me before flying back to Bangkok. Then I’ll take a bus to the capital Phnom Penh, then onto Ho Chi Min City in Vietnam, and I’ll continue to make my way up the country by bus and by train until I reach Hanoi in a couple of weeks. From there I’ll fly back to Bangkok and catch my onward flight to Perth, Australia.

Yes, AUSTRALIA!! I’m finally DOING IT!!

Anyone that knows me, has heard me bang on, and on, and on about my plans and dreams to go to Australia since I was about 18. That was 10 years ago.

And so after a few bumps in the road, I’ve finally swung my rucksack on my shoulder once more and I am riding the wild tiger, known as ‘Life’!

I have a one-year working holiday visa for Oz. My final destination is Brisbane. But first I’ll spend 2 weeks in South East Asia, then another month or so traveling from Perth, along Australia’s southern coast, to Brisbane. I’ll catch up with old friends in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney and I’ll make new ones along the way! I’m hiring a camper-van with my cousin and best friend (they’re coming down from Brisbane) to road-trip the Great Ocean Road, and I plan to fit in a skydive in my first month too, before finally arriving in Brisbane and catching up with family and friends. One cousin in particular I haven’t seen in 25 years – when he emigrated with his family when I was 3 years old. He now has a 4 year old son and a fiancé!

Words cannot explain how excited I am for what lies ahead of me! This has been my master plan for the past 10 years, everything I have done, all my choices and plans, have been geared towards Australia.

But that’s not to say it was easy leaving home. In fact it’s been bittersweet. If saying goodbye to my nephews, the loves of my life, and my parents, big sister, family and friends wasn’t hard enough, a very special fella walked into my life at the end of last year and knocked my plan out of kilter. In the best way possible of course 🙂

Nevertheless, here I am on the plane. Excited and nervous about what lies ahead for me in the coming year – and that is the absolute beauty of it!

So you can expect to hear a lot more from me, as I make new adventures over the next year.

As David Bowie once said: “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring!”

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Junk in my Trunk

17 Feb

When I started the Cambridge plan last March I said I would post updates. I haven’t. So here is a rundown of my weight loss journey over the past 11 months:

I was off to a flying start – losing one and a half stone in my first month and another stone by June (2 ½ stones in 3 months) Wow. This diet really works.  Then I reached a plateau during the summer months – I was in Ibiza, Prague, the north of Scotland, and had several hen weekends and weddings in Montrose, Exeter, St Andrews, plus several BBQs… You get the idea. I then got back into a routine in September and lost another stone and a half by November – making it a 4 stone loss in total.

Then my consultant went AWOL in November (it turns out she was in hospital and I haven’t seen or heard from her since). Then the festivities happened. So in January (last month) I decided to go it alone. I have thrown myself into the gym, reduced my calorie intake and have been clean eating (mostly), and delighted to say I’m on my way to reaching the 5 stone loss mark.

I’m now 11 months into my diet/transformation/ lifestyle change (call it what you will) and feeling blooming brilliant! Don’t get me wrong – I still have ‘off’ days when I can’t resist the large tub of Ben & Jerry’s or when I really, really, really want two thick slices of bread rather than a wholemeal pitta – but I don’t let myself dwell on it. That’s life, I’m human.

My original goal was to lose 6 stone, and as a rough guide, be within the ‘overweight’ section of the BMI index (I know this isn’t the be all and end all, but it’s a good marker). I still have some way to go, and was hoping to reach my goal come a year since I started – which will be the 25th March 2014, but this doesn’t look likely. So I’ll press on and set another deadline – maybe by the end of May. Watch this space!

A crucial thing for me was to set specific goals at the beginning, to have tangible things to aim for, and to keep me going when I hit (several) bumps in the road. My goals were the following:

  • Being able to walk into Topshop, Warehouse etc and not have to worry if the biggest size will fit me. (I now bound on into said shops KNOWING that everything will fit me!)

  • Being able to run 10km in under 60 minutes – which I’m working hard to achieve (currently running in 66 minutes!)

  • Being under the weight restrictions to do a sky dive in Oz (more on that coming soon!)

Now for the bit you’ve all been waiting for…. The before and after photos!

I started as a size 18/20 and I’m currently a size 14. A size 12 would be ideal! It hasn’t been easy. I’ve had to address and change my eating habits – kicking the takeaways, reducing portion size, planning and preparing meals days in advance. I’ve been pinning motivational quotes on Pinterest like a mad woman, and I’ve had more words with myself than I care to remember – but it’s been worth it!

Before and After

Before and After

On top of striving to reach my goals, compliments have come in abundance – which is always nice! And none more so than a friend asking to feature my journey in her own healthy living website – read the interview here for a more in-depth perspective:

http://deerediary.co.uk/fitness/deere-diarys-inspirational-journeys-lauren-duffy
So that’s my weight loss journey in a nutshell! I hope you have found it useful, informative and maybe even inspiring. If you have any questions – please get in touch.
Now where did I put my running shoes?

Happy New Year!

6 Jan

I’ve been extremely quiet on the ol’ blogging front over the last 6 months. This is about to change, I promise.

As I begin to make new plans for 2014, I spent time reflecting on the many many great times, memorable experiences and personal achievements of 2013. And not one to miss a trick (read social media fad), I made a flipagram:

Flipagram: My Year in 2013

In summary, I saw in 2013 in Donegal, visited Berlin, London, Ibiza, Dublin, Orkney, Prague, Exeter. Went to 7 weddings and 3 hen weekends. Celebrated 3 engagements (and asked to be a bridesmaid at 2 of them!), 1 baby, two 18ths, three 30ths and a 60th. Went to a couple of gigs (Glasvegas, Stone Roses, Kings of Leon, Jake Bugg, Disclosure, Ocean Colour Scene, The View to name a few). First bungee jump, first snowboarding lesson, one year all clear, and lost 4 stones…

All in all, it was a very good year! No wonder I didn’t have time to blog!

What a difference a year makes.

27 Jun

Sunday past marked a year since I returned home from my stint teaching English in South Korea. Which in turn marked a year and a week since I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. It seems like a lifetime ago now. As huge a deal as it was at the time, remarkably it’s something that I rarely think about now. Of course I still have my moments when I think ‘what if?’ – but what good does that do? So I quickly shake myself out of that thought and get on with whatever I’m doing. 

Since I was diagnosed last June, underwent treatment in South Korea & Scotland and then given the all clear in September 2012, a lot has changed. I’ve split up with my then boyfriend, moved back with the parents, started working for Three in Glasgow, going out most weekends, started seeing a new guy, and planning trips here there and everywhere, basically going about my life just as I did before Korea…

I was down in London for a conference this week and as I sat on the tarmac at Heathrow last night, waiting for plane to head back to Glasgow, I spotted a Korean Air plane about to take off too. It got me thinking about what kind of people were on that plane? Was there anyone heading out to Korea to teach English for the first time – full of fear and excitement? And regardless of whether there was or there wasn’t, I was jealous. Jealous of that feeling of anticipation and anxiety in the pit of your stomach. Scared of what to expect when you step off the plane in a new country and excited about who you’ll meet and what you’ll discover. I miss that fear. It’s time to get planning my next big trip.