Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Keep Moving, Keep Fighting: the benefits of exercise in the fight against cancer

This week I am pleased to present a guest blog from a writer with a great message. Liz Davies is a recent college graduate and aspiring writer especially interested in health and wellness. She wants to make a difference in people’s lives because she sees how cancer has devastated so many people in this world. Liz also likes running, playing lacrosse, reading and playing with her dog, April. If you would like to contact her she can be reached at

Cancer can seem like an unbearable illness to deal with emotionally, mentally, and physically. Not only does it seem to isolate those who suffer from it, but it also saps the body of its energy. Because of this it seems as if the most comfortable way to deal with cancer is to take medication and rest. While at times these methods may seem like good options, it is incredibly important to exercise regularly. Exercise can rejuvenate the body and has even been shown to help slow down the spread of certain cancers such as breast cancer, lung cancer and even more rare forms of cancer like mesothelioma.

While exercising may seem like a difficult thing to start when diagnosed with cancer the benefits of even small amounts of exercise can produce extremely positive results. For example, a woman reported that when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she began a walking regimen of only half a mile per day. At the beginning she felt worn out from the disease and treatments she was getting, but within one weeks time she noticed a difference in her overall demeanor and energy levels. She continued with the regimen and her treatment and as time went by she felt better and better. Not only was she helping her body fight the cancer at the moment, she was also shaping her health habits to possibly prevent other problems. During that year the treatments and exercise helped to reduce the cancer and eventually she was cancer free. The exercise did not stop there. She began working out at a local gym to improve her health further. This is just one example of many on how exercising has helped to treat some of the many symptoms of cancer.

One of the most important aspects of the story and of exercising in general is
the will to start. It is important to understand the benefit of exercise, large or small, in fighting cancer. Talking to a physician or friends to help get a routine started is key, especially in the initial stages of the disease. Like in the story above, exercise will have an enormous impact on the fight against cancer.

Liz Davies

Sunday, 29 January 2012

First one down!

Today was the annual Braunton 10 organised by the North Devon Road Runners. I ummed and ahhed about taking part this year, since I have done nothing resembling a consistent training plan for well over a year and am not exactly feeling prepared for distance running again yet. In fact, last year's Braunton 10 was probably the last time I ran over 8 miles! Still, it has become a tradition to take part in this race and there's nothing like traditions for making you want something you wouldn't otherwise, (without them we wouldn't have mince pies or creme eggs, for instance, and what a poorer world that'd be...). Plus I knew I'd be feeling guilty on Monday morning if I didn't at least try. I haven't missed a year of this race since moving to Devon so, in time-honoured spirit I forced myself out of my warm bed and took my place amongst the frozen faces and goose-pimpled limbs on the start line at the cold athletics track.

I'm glad I did, as it's a good route with plenty of examples of some of the things I love about running; silent, sheltered woods, sweeping views, space for meditative plodding, and lung-busting hills. OK, I don't really love hills, but I love the satisfaction of making it to the top and the feeling that you've really earned the breezy ride back down, and killer hills certainly help make it satisfyingly tough!

So the first race is down, and in not too shabby time either (91 minutes 30, if you're asking), so I feel a bit more ready for the next one. And I managed to fill plenty of the meditative plodding time I was referring to with working on a poem for my writing blog, which helped the ten miles pass more productively this year too! (Although, in the calm, warm and clean post-race environment I'm not so sure the world really wants my ode to sports bras, so I've posted an older one up today instead! Read it here)

Monday, 16 January 2012

New Year, New Marathon!?

It has been a long time since I posted on this site, and it would be fair to say that a major reason for that was being unable to work out how to top my epic coast path run! Since treading every inch along that stretch of coastline, every other run has felt rather insignificant and hardly blog-worthy. But now I have been inspired to attempt another marathon this year (my local AONB marathon in Woolacombe) and so will be starting the long old slog again.

That isn't to say I haven't been running in the meantime, or exploring. I have; in fact I've run in the Virginia mountains and the Outer Banks of NC (a popular place for runners it seems) and ventured to Morocco (where I did no running but 7-8 hours trekking a day which felt like a marathon....) and I've completed two full marathons since my Coast Path challenge (Windermere and the Eden Project, both in 2010), but I have also had the madness of publishing my first ebook (Secrets of the Spirits, read more and get a copy here!), changing my life, relationships and work completely and spending a year alternately dawdling in unrequited love and existing in a dreamworld whilst working on a confusing, possibly ill-advised and certainly over-ambitious new novel. It's been exhausting and painful, and at times cruelly beautiful, but I can't wear blinkers forever. So now I feel as if I am in need of a return to normality and structure, and a new marathon training regime may be the perfect antidote!

I'll give it a go anyway.

My novel available now on Amazon as an ebook for Kindle/PC/Laptop/iPhone etc:

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Pictures from last run

Finding the Coast Path at Clovelly. It was a sunny Sunday morning so the car parks were full of cars suggesting people were out using the path, but later on the remoter areas between car parks were still empty.

At first much of the path looked like this, skirting around the edge of fields for about 6 miles.

Now and then the path would dip down onto the beaches between cliffs and I'd have to cross the water. This one was particularly fun, jumping from stone to stone.

I saw lots of wild Dartmoor ponies on this section of the track. I took this photo looking back along the coast I'd already covered and liked the way you could see all the way to Saunton in the distance, strange to think that's where I was running just a few weeks ago.

Just before East Titchberry the path was blocked due to a landslide. The notice pinned to the post here had a map of the alternative route to take and the diversion was helpfully signposted all the way to Hartland.

The lighthouse at Hartland Point; a dramatic spectacle in real-life, even if this photo does make it look like a chess piece!

My attempt at showing the time I reached Hartland (which was about a third of the way). Unfortunately the sun's reflection on my phone screen meant I couldn't actually see what I was taking a photo of until I got home, and on this occasion just missed my watch!

Pretty steep round here!

A random ruin on Warren Cliffs, with the village of Hartland in the distance.

The rock formations on the coast between Hartland point and Hartland Quay were extraordinary. I've heard this part is a good place to see seals too, but if there were any they were well hidden when I passed.

More breathtaking rock formations (and steps that were literally breathtaking too).

Amazing waterfall at Welcombe Mouth.

A highlight of the trip was when I encountered this little hut halfway down a cliff. The sign on the door said 'Ronald Duncan Hut is Open' so I went in and found a table laid out with bottles of water and drinking glasses and a guest book to sign. At this point I had been running for over three hours and this simple shelter looked like heaven! So I treated myself to a moment of rest out of the sun, in front of the delightful view with the lovely cool water to drink and left my heart-felt thanks in the book. (I also left my blog address, so if by any chance the responsible person is reading this, thank you so much, you are wonderful!). I have since found out that Ronald Duncan was an author and poet who built the hut so he could write whilst looking out to sea. I can certainly vouch for it being an inspirational place.

Yes!!!! I was overjoyed to see this sign confirming I'd reached the border.

A couple of miles later I stumbled towards my waiting chauffeur and reached the end! Here I am outside the Hawker's Hut on the Coast Path just West of Morwenstow, 20 miles away from where I started in Clovelly, Devon, and over a hundred miles from where I began it all in Somerset.

Coast challenge week 9 (part b)

Well, I've done it! My challenge is over! The last long run took me from the Devonshire village of Clovelly to just over the Cornish border, a total of 20 miles and the end of my Coast Path journey. I feel proud to have got there and have got through so many tough miles, but also sad because it has been tremendous fun and I will really miss having a project to plan my weekends around. Now the experience is over I feel a little lost. During these last weeks I have seen some amazing views and ventured across remote parts of the coastline that I would never otherwise have seen; I have run through snow, hail, wind, rain and sunshine, and learnt that distances on the coast are extremely deceptive- a coastal mile is not nearly the same as a mile on the flat!

As if to remind me what I'd be missing when it was over, this last run was the most spectacular of them all scenery-wise and full of gruelling climbs rewarded by stunning views and flat fields to free-fall across at the top, typical of the highs and lows the Coast Path can throw at you. As it was a beautiful sunny day I saw far more people on the Path than usual, although they were always concentrated in a small radius around the major tourist spots like Hartland Point, with the Path all to myself in the remoter sections (or between National Trust car parks!). For the first time in this whole challenge I had to deviate from the official Coast Path as the Path had been closed following a landslide somewhere between East Titchberry and Hartland but a couple of miles running on the diversion through farms and back roads actually made an enjoyable change and allowed me to do some 'real' running for a bit.

As I got nearer and nearer to Cornwall the sea view seemed to grow more expansive, and the rugged hills to get steeper. The fields and woodland around Buck's Mills and Clovelly seemed like another country, far far away. The last hour (the run took 4:30 in total) seemed interminable and the plunging cliffs never-ending, so I was delighted to see a sign announcing I had arrived in Cornwall, which spurred me on as I knew then my finish line was not far off. A real highlight was just before the sign, when I came across a hillside hut supplied with fresh water for drinking. The sun was high in the sky and I was feeling the effects of too much exposure, so a quick drink in the shade was heaven.

The end of the run was marked with a reviving cream tea in a nearby pub (the Bush Inn at Morwenstow). Whilst replacing vital carbs with scones and jam, my very understanding (and muddy-running-shoes-in-car tolerant!) friend and I sat in the garden whilst I wallowed over the last few months' journey. It felt strange to look at the coast sprawled out on either side and literally see the distance I had travelled. Even stranger to drive back along the Atlantic Highway to Barnstaple later on and pass signs to all the points of interest I'd run past in preceeding weeks, the miles which had taken hours in the other direction simply disappearing under my wheels like sand running through my fingers...

And now it's over, every step of the Coast Path through North Devon has been traversed by my faithful trainers (a great deal of it still clinging to the soles and uppers of the once red and white material), and my marathon training is almost complete. Thank you to everyone who has supported me and donated to my Just Giving page, and to the sundries that have kept me going and made it more enjoyable, most especially PB!


Clovelly- Mouth Mill Cove- Titchberry- Hartland Point- Hartland Quay- Screda Point/Screda Cove- Speke's Mill- Hole Rock- Mansley Cliff- CORNWALL!- Welcombe Mouth- Morwenstow. 20 miles total distance.

Distance on Coast Path:

104 miles


Sunday, 11 April 2010

Pictures from week 9 (Buck's Mills to Clovelly)

Catching up with the path again in Buck's Mills

Looking out to sea from the center of the village

The path climbing up out of the village

Mostly fields and woodland through to Clovelly

This section showed the contrasting scenery found on the Coast Path- here the sea felt miles away.

Glimpse of Clovelly from Hobby Drive

Coast challenge week 9 (part a)

Another short section of the path completed- after Sunday's problematic run I decided to get the next bit of the Coast Path over and done with in a shorter run, so that it wouldn't be such an issue if each mile took three times as long as it should because of the terrain. Thursday's planned 8 miler thus found me returning to the muddy territories around Buck's Mills and inching a bit further along the coast. I ran to the quaint fishing village/tourist trap Clovelly and back along the good old A39 to my car. It was a pleasant run, but still pretty muddy and I was glad I'd made the decision to do it in a short stretch. Like the last couple of miles before Buck's Mills the path mostly went through woodland and across fields and almost made me forget I was right by the sea, but the now-familiar Coast Path signposts kept reminding me where I was and made the zig-zaggy tracks up and down the wooded combes easy to follow. I can't help thinking wouldn't it be great if life was always directed by little yellow arrows telling you which way to go!

At Clovelly I was slightly disappointed to discover the donkey's had gone to bed for the evening and I couldn't see them trundling up and down what is probably the steepest village main street in the World. People who live there must have very strong thighs... Emerging from the Coast Path meant I snuck in under the radar of the domineering Visitor Center which requires anyone entering Clovelly from the road to pay £5.95 just for the privilege of parking and walking through the hangar-like Center to get down to the village. Unless you have come quite a way along the path there is no other way to get there as it's quite remote and there is only the one road open to the public, so I guess they do quite well out of it.

The amazing news is that I am now less than 20 miles away from Cornwall (hurrah!) so the end of my challenge is well and truly in sight. What this also means is that something went a little bit wrong with my maths when I first calculated the distance I had to run to cross Devon on the Coast Path. Those who know me will agree that maths was never my strong point, but I think on this occasion I am not to blame, that the reason the coastline now seems to have shrunk is because my original figure came from the South West Coast Path website's description of the path and perhaps they had included overlapping trails and all miles of the path through Devon even if they are dead-end tracks to viewpoints or alternative routes. You see occasionally I have been faced with the option of 'cliff route' or 'valley route' for example (always choosing the one nearest the sea), and I have not always gone the extra steps to prescribed viewpoints, so I hope this explains why I appear to be arriving at my destination sooner than expected. Anyway, I am nearly there now and won't let disappearing miles dent my excitement!


Buck's Cross- Buck's Mills- Hobby Drive- Clovelly- Higher Clovelly- Downland Cross (Milky Way adventure park!)- Buck's Cross

Distance on Coast Path:

84 miles to date