Tag Archives: running

The Cancer Ladies’ Running Club is just around the corner…

My new Josie Lloyd book. Out 13th May 2021.

This week, my Josie Lloyd novel, The Cancer Ladies’ Running Club hits the shops. It’s a big moment. I haven’t written a solo Josie Lloyd book since ‘It Could Be You’ way back in 1997. To say I’m nervous is an understatement, because this is by far and away the most personal thing I’ve ever written.

This book came about because in 2017 I was diagnosed with breast cancer after a routine scan and it came as a terrible shock. Overnight, it felt as my life as I knew it had come to a screeching halt. It felt to me as if a big ‘Cancer’ label had been slapped on me and I had no means of getting rid of it. I hated it.

My first instinct was to look for a book. In difficult times, I always turn to fiction for answers and clarity, but whilst there were plenty of memoirs and non-fiction books about various ways to get through cancer, they all felt a bit subjective. I wanted a comforting story. A story that would tell me that everything would be OK. I didn’t want something mawkish or sad, or more depressingly – about mothers dying with tubes up their noses. I needed to believe in a more positive outcome.

Representation in all forms of media matters. There’s a great organisation, SeeJane.org whose motto, ‘If she can see it, she can be it,’ promotes bringing positive female role models to the screen, so that young girls can imagine being astronauts, or politicians.

In the same, (but very small way), my hope with this book is to fly the flag for women who, like me, are not just surviving cancer, but positively thriving as a result of going through it. My hope is to do some debunking, because one in two of us will get cancer in our lifetimes and one in eight women get breast cancer. We need to start talking about it to stop it being so scary. Because, yes, it is terrifying and not everyone has great outcomes, but we have amazing treatments in this country and the means of early detection with scanning. Believe me, I thank my lucky stars every day that my cancer was picked up in time.

It’s important to get the message out there, too, that getting outside and exercising is massively beneficial, both physically and mentally. I know that for me, putting on a pair of trainers and being out in the sunshine was the most effective way of putting two fingers up to cancer. Running made me feel as if I was reclaiming my mojo. And it’s the same for Keira in the book. Because when she joins a group of women who have all experienced cancer, she finds her tribe and in doing so, finds her feet.

This week, I’m doing loads of publicity and was on Michael Ball’s show on Radio 2, which I’m delighted to say, resonated with some women who got in touch with me to share their stories. Hearing from people, who, like me are sensitive to bad-news cancer stories and found the message of positivity and hope inspiring has made me so happy. I’ll be delighted if the book is a best seller, of course, but if I can make a difference to just a few people, then that will be the best outcome ever.


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Marathon Madness

Well,  yesterday I did the Brighton Marathon.  Despite all my reluctance and belly aching, I got myself around it in four hours and 52 long minutes and I feel….well, brilliant.  Mentally, that is.  Euphoric.

Physically, I’m a wreck.  I feel bone-achingly tired, in the way I’ve only ever felt after child-birth.  My feet are road kill and I can’t look at the stairs without whimpering.

But what an amazing experience.  80,000 people lined the streets of Brighton on the most perfect of sunny days and they cheered themselves hoarse.  What I wasn’t expecting – and what is the most brilliant part – is that it was like having a five-hour standing ovation.

The whole thing was very humbling too, and moving.  When you get into the starting corals according to your colour-code of what time you think you’ll do (we were at the back) you realize the bigger purpose of such an event.  The large majority of people are running for a charity, or in loving memory of someone.  As well as men in Sumo suits, banana costumes, Scooby-do outfits and even one sporting chap dressed as a testicle, there are pictures of little babies in intensive care on the back of peoples’ shirts, along with beloved Mums and Dads, brothers, sisters who’ve been lost.  One old couple in their late 60’s were running together in memory of their daughter who died of cancer when she was my age.

As a fellow runner, you get to read all these messages up close and experience the determination of the people who have taken up the fight against all sorts of terrible diseases.  On the marathon day, those people who have been lost are not forgotten.  It makes you feel so grateful to be alive and fit.

I was amazed, too, by the diversity of people running.  In previous blogs, I’ve slagged off the men in Lyra – and sure enough there were plenty of those NSOH-types in Preston park at the start.  I have to say that seeing a man rub Vaseline into his balls at 7.30am on a Sunday morning was pretty gross.  As was the bloke we bumped into who showed us pictures of his septic cysts on his iPhone.

But once we got underway and out into the crowds, the whole atmosphere shifted.  Down in Hove it was street-party time all the way, as people brought sound systems out of their homes and pumped out ‘Eye of the Tiger’ and Tina’s ‘Simply the best’, to motivate the runners.  Kids handed out jelly babies and Mum’s wedges of orange.  I even got offered a can of lager, but at mile 16, I declined.  I was tempted though.

The worst bit  was the penultimate leg which went down through the docks to the power station.  First we ran through ‘The Wall’ – and actual wall – rigged up over the road, then a sign said, ‘Welcome to the Road to Hell.’  I felt a shimmer of dread as I passed it.  After all the crowds on the rest of the course, this bit was only runners. Thousands of us pounding the tarmac in pain.  You expect hell to be noisy, but it’s so much worse when its silent.

As I ran towards the pier, I honestly felt like every step was going to be my last.  But with a crowd ten deep screaming my name, I didn’t stop.  When I crossed the line, I did that  comedy wobbly leg thing you sometimes see athletes do and staggered into the arms of a helper.  Then I burst into tears.

So I’m sunburnt and sore, but I’ve got a big, fat Jim’ll Fix-it style medal of which I’m extremely proud.  I raised a whole load of money for charity and now know that I can run from here to London without stopping, if absolutely necessary.

Will I ever do another marathon? No chance.

As my great mate afterwards said, ‘Jo, can your midlife crisis take on another direction now?  Maybe the convertible Mercedes route?’  I’m inclined to agree.

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Mother’s Day come-down

I’m suffering from Mother’s Day come-down.  In the old partying days of my youth, Tuesday was always the day you’d feel the effects of a heavy weekend.  It was the day reality returned and glumness with it.
However in these freakishly fit marathon training days of mine, today’s come-down isn’t to do with alcohol.  And it’s not that I’m missing being fed, watered and treated like a princess and banned from clearing up, emptying the dishwasher, or putting the washing on.  The come-down is to do with the realization of what a fairly rubbish mother I am most of the time.

If only it was always like it was on Sunday.  If only every day was a Mothering Sunday.

I awoke to a bunch of home-made tissue and straw flowers, crayoned cards emblazoned with tear-jerkingly gorgeous messages, as well as well as plate full of heart-shaped toast.  I had been planning on my longest marathon training run yet, an 18-miler along the coast, but as the sun shone in through the window bathing three blonde heads in halos of gold, I yawned and took a rain check. I’d run another day, I announced, to cheers of approval.

I decided there and then to give one hundred percent of my attention to my kids.  For the whole day.

It was surprisingly hard.

Quite quickly I realized how often I tell them I’ll read to them, or play with them, then go off and do something else.  How often I check my Blackberry.  How little time I make to kick a ball around, or pull them on their scooters.  How I get into their bedrooms intending to get involved in their latest arty glue-and-paper project and start putting socks away instead.  And if that wasn’t enough, I’ve now thrown my marathon training into their free-time/mummy-time mix.

But on Sunday, as I sat in the sunshine having a fry-up and letting the kids play with my camera, I realized how happy everyone was now that they were getting my full and undivided attention.  And how happy I was too.  I looked at every person running past and thought, ‘but it’s Mother’s Day.  Thank God.  I’m not running.’

Just as an aside here, I have to say, for the record, that there are absolutely no discernible benefits of training to run a marathon.  If you were thinking of doing it, don’t.

OK, so I don’t get so out of breath in the last-minute pre-school dash up the stairs for the forgotten hairband/nappywipes/school-book. But at the same time, I haven’t lost any weight.  Not so much as a pound.  You’d have thought I’d look like Kylie by now, but alas, no.

And everywhere I turn people have their own marathon advice – or warnings.  At the school gates, a lovely nutritionist Mummy mate checked that I was taking a very strong anti-oxidant?  Anti what?  I asked.  She looked genuinely concerned.  Didn’t I know that running produces superannuating free-radicals?  I was grateful for the warning, but alarmed that I’ll have aged 20 years by April.

However, one great bit of advice I heard on Sunday, as I was sharing a giant ice-cream with the little one.  ‘To run a marathon you have to be slightly under-trained and slightly over-weight.’

Marvelous.  My work here is done.

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The reluctant marathon runner

Apart from baking – at which I am shamefully hopeless – I like to think that I could probably do most things, or give them a go at least.  Sure, I’ll never be a nuclear scientist or a brain surgeon, unless vicariously through one of my characters, of course, but even then, I have no illusions. I’m not like one of those Holby actors who claim that it’s as if they’re really doing the operation.  Does anyone else find that really annoying?

However, in my time, I’ve scuba dived, become a qualified hang-glider, done up a house, I even changed a tire once.  But this time I’ve really gone one step too far.  I’ve signed up to do a marathon.

This seemed like a good idea, half a bottle – no, maybe more like – three-quarters of a bottle of wine down in the pub a few weeks ago.  When my lovely friend Sarz mentioned she was running to raise awareness and money for a brave little boy in her son’s class with a rare form of cancer, I started swaggering about, not to be outdone.  Sign me up.  I’ll do it.  Easy peasy.  After all, how hard can it be?  Worse than childbirth?  Worse than finishing a novel?  I think not.

Emlyn and the kids were horrified when I made the grand announcement.  My eldest, who is learning about Ancient Greece in school said, ‘But Mummy, the man who ran the first marathon got famous because he died.’  I reassured her that I’m not going to die.  There’s free energy drinks all the way round the route, apparently.

However, training for a marathon is not turning out to be easy peasy.  I’ve never done more than half hour mummy runs, followed by a restorative bacon sarnies, so there’s a fitness issue, obviously.  Yet worse than the sore legs and the time commitment to pounding the tarmac, it’s the inner battle that’s the hardest.  Because running is just so virtuous, so GOOD.  It’s bringing out my age-old smoking-behind-the-bikesheds mentality.  I don’t want to be a running bore.  I want to be cool.

But hang on, I’m a mother of three and now that I’m leaving my thirties behind, being healthy IS cool, right?   Running a marathon is a huge achievement.  A shining example to set to my three young daughters.

So why am I being so pathetic about it?  Seriously, I reckon I’ve drunk more since I started training than ever before.  I’m running with hang-overs, which is insane, heaving my carcass up the road, bleary-eyed in brand new kit with red wine stained lips.  It’s terrible.  And I’m avoiding the running club like the plague. I’ll marathon run away from the herd, thank you very much.  Ugh! I mean, there’s just something so sissy about men in lycra doing running stretches.  Give me the bad boy on the motorbike any day.

But I’m not backing out now.  Even though twenty-six miles, is quite frankly a big swear-word long way.  Oh my God.  Gimme a drink!


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