Good night, Vienna. Good morning, Newcastle

THE Great North Run is only days away. I was hoping to report that my last few weeks of training had been a great success, but I can’t. They’ve been a disaster.

I’ve been ill, not at death’s door or anything, but I’ve not been well enough to run. I tried. For a few days I went about my normal training routine, until last Friday when a tough mile rep session set me back so much I had to take time off. I missed my final long run on Sunday, then missed the rest of the week.

I thought I’d be tearing my hair out, desperate to get out for a run, but I didn’t miss it at all. I was in Vienna though, so that made it a little easier to bear. The trip was for Chris’ fortieth birthday. It was a surprise, and I actually surprised myself by not giving anything away.


So instead of training, or in my case fretting about not training, I had the time of my life with Chris in the Austrian capital.

A fair bit of cake was consumed. Given Vienna’s cafe culture it would have been rude not to. I munched my way through Truffle Torte and Sacher Torte and indulged in a few Viennese chocolates.

Although we didn’t run, we did walk for miles and miles and miles. We walked so many miles that my feet started aching and I had to trade in my fashion flip-flops for a comfortable pair of pumps. They were horrible. ‘I’m sure my granddad had a pair like this,’ I told Chris.

He stared at the shoes. ‘I thought your Granddad was more stylish than that.’


As well as the walking, we also climbed 374 steps to the top of St Stephen’s Church. Wearing my sensible shoes, I marched my way to the top and marched my way back down again, not even stopping for breath. But then at the bottom, my right calf muscle started shaking uncontrollably. I staggered across the street. My leg was in spasm. It was trembling so much it felt like it might give way at any moment. I collapsed onto a chair.


‘I’ll get you some water,’ Chris said.

‘Wine,’ I said. ‘I’ll have wine.’

He obliged. My leg continued to shake.

The waiter passed me a menu. It was a pavement cafe so only had fast food. I’m ashamed to say that despite being in a city with so many restaurants offering amazing cuisine, I ordered chicken in a basket. I sat overlooking St Stephen’s Church in one of the most romantic and beautiful cities in the world, stuffing my face with chicken in a basket while my leg trembled.

‘You’ll have ruined my race,’ I told Chris.’Making me climb to the top of that tower.’

‘You’ll be fine.’

‘I won’t. It was a stupid thing to do. You wouldn’t get Mo Farah doing something like that.’

‘No. And he wouldn’t be having chicken in a basket either.’

‘Quorn!’ We said it together. ‘He’d be having Quorn.’

I took a bite of my chicken. It was greasy, but it tasted good. I ate the full basket. We walked for a while to steady my shaking limbs, before stopping off for dessert. I quite fancied trying the world-famous Sacher Torte.


What with the chicken in a basket, the steps of St Stephen’s and the torte, it could be said that my preparations for the Great North Run haven’t been as meticulous as perhaps they normally would be. This is fine, because the Great North is a fun event. I don’t feel under pressure to run a certain time. For me, it’s about returning to racing after a few setbacks, but more importantly it’s about raising money and awareness of the wonderful charity, Action for Children.

As soon as we arrived home from Vienna, I put my Action for Children vest on and went for a run.


At first my legs felt heavy and unresponsive, but after three miles they started to loosen up. I felt better. The strange spasm thing is still happening, but I’m sure it’ll be fine. The time away has also made me feel better, back to full health although not full fitness.

We’re heading to the North East in the morning. The race is only two days away, and I’m feeling excited. There is something special about the Great North Run. I can’t wait to be part of it.


  1. 10th September 2016 / 8:59 pm

    Sounds like an awesome trip. Yummy cake! My husband and I did that trip years ago. The walk up the St Stephens steps freaked me out bc it was so tight. People coming down while we were going up. No windows. No sense of how much farther. It was a huge relief to get to the top to see out!

    • 13th September 2016 / 7:55 pm

      The steps freaked me out too. I had to balance on the edge while people came down the stairs!

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