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A Moment of Panic and a new PB

Everything is starting to fall into place in relation to one special date in my calendar this year. The trouble is, I had a realisation today that cast itself over my head like a horrible gray rainy mist that wouldn’t clear. Ok, so maybe I’m over exaggerating a little, but when I started wondering what I would be working towards after 23rd April and what my life will look like post London Marathon, six months after I started a ‘loose but dedicated’ training regime, I panicked slightly.

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What did I do? I took to Whatsapp to message my friend Pippa, who ran the London Marathon in her early 20s. She said something that I hadn’t even suspected, but rings so true. “It’s like getting married – all of your effort is put into that one day… and then it’s all over so quickly.” Ok, so I wouldn’t know if it was like getting married or not, but I can empathise with that feeling.

I really shouldn’t be thinking about that just yet – I still have 9 weeks to go until the big day. And I’m feeling more and more prepared every time I run. Take today for example, I popped along to the Hampton Court Half Marathon, situated in, you guessed it, Hampton Court (actually, Thames Ditton), and ran my little heart out to secure a half marathon PB – 1 hour and 44 minutes.

Those who know me will know that the three half marathons I have completed in the past were not trained for, so even though in the back of my head I expected to run faster than ever, I was still nervous. What I hadn’t expected is that I would run a whole 10 minutes faster. It just goes to show that training can pay off.

Today was pretty spectacular. I started off at quite a fast pace, which isn’t unusual for me. But when I hit 10k and realised that it was on a par with the PB that I hit during a 10k race a couple of weeks ago, I thought I might have scuppered myself. That isn’t even half way and I had pretty much given all I had up to that point. I heard Pippa’s voice in my head saying, “You can’t sprint a half marathon, Sarah.” But I didn’t really slow down and mile after mile I glanced at my watch and to my surprise, never went over the 5:05m/km pace.

I had heard that the Hampton Court Half Marathon is the perfect race to smash a PB, due to it being so flat. And it was such a lovely course… along the river and past Hampton Court Palace towards the end. Tim from City Runners was there to cheer us all along and as he shouted “Go on Sarah, you’re looking strong” at the 11 mile mark, the rest of the surrounding crowd joined in and I felt euphoric.

I sit here now at home and I feel great. I’m proud of what I have achieved, but it is far from over. As well as another 9 weeks of potentially grueling training, I also now need to fully turn my attention to raising £2,000 for Teenage Cancer Trust. Not an easy feat.

I would welcome any ideas that any of you may have – runner or not. I am already in the process of planning a pub quiz, a sweepstake and an office Olympics game. I have also had suggestions to write a song and sell it and I have asked my friend Seth if he wants to put on a gig – I can then tie it in with my lifelong dream to perform!

Thank you to all who have donated already – if you would like to donate to a great cause and help children with cancer, please head to my Virgin Money Giving page and donate now.

Training for a Marathon is Hard

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A few weeks ago, I promised that I would update you with stories of my running progress while training for the London Marathon. I seem to have failed miserably so far, despite having every intention to sit down and do it each week. Instead, I reverted back to the good old pen and paper tactic, using a David Shrigley notebook, whose bright white empty sheets had been staring out at me for a while.

It started as a log of time, distance and pace, and over the last couple of weeks increasingly become more of a diary than a page of stats, which makes me realise that I am perhaps ready to write again.

So. My progress. That’s what you want to know, right? The good news is that I had two weeks of following the plan, almost to the letter. Then I quickly realised that if I wanted to ensure I did stick to a rigid training plan, I would need to fit it in around my lifestyle.

It hasn’t been an easy process so far. My London life over the last (almost) 12 years has been lived in distinct stages. If I were to try and describe that to you, I would say I am on my fifth life in this incredibly diverse city, which would probably allow me 100 different lives.

Three years ago, I was working full time and heavily socialising in my spare time. Six years ago, I was working full time and either cooking every night, or eating out at a three to four different new restaurants each week. Weekends have been spent hungover in their entirety in one stage; another stage spent escaping London in search of more cultural pursuits.

Right now, they are spent mostly in Bermondsey, buying fresh vegetables and posh coffee from my local market on a Saturday, running, and cooking for the week ahead on a Sunday. This time last year I was travelling around Asia, on my way back to London after more than a year in Melbourne – working three jobs at once and drinking my body weight (which was more back then) in red wine.

My life now is a far cry from what it once was and it is taking some getting used to. Add training for a distance which I had never imagined I would even consider thinking about, let alone train for, is a difficult process. I recently attempted to explain to someone why I am running the London Marathon. The best way I could describe it was that I have never successfully managed to train for anything in my life. Exams weren’t revised for, piano and saxophone weren’t practiced, I didn’t train outside my weekly county netball sessions and I have run three half marathons and not trained for a single one. If I successfully manage to train for four months for the London Marathon and complete it, I will never have felt so proud of myself in my entire life, as I will hopefully be able to attribute the dedication to other aspects of my life.

Running doesn’t come without its problems though, especially when training for a marathon. A couple of weeks ago I started to feel pain on my left shin. It gradually got worse and after a session with the physio, was told that I had shin splints. That’s not all – last year I had an MRI scan on my right knee, which shows that I have an IT band issue. Both common running injuries. So I had to take the hard decision last week to have a week off. Right now, I haven’t run for a whole week, or done any exercise for that matter. This evening I’ll be going back to the amazing running club that I joined in the summer last year. I’m nervous that I’ll be slower than I was last week and that it will feel much harder than it did – moving backwards a few steps.

What’s more, my positive mental attitude to training is waning and I’m having to have a quiet word with myself every hour on the hour to make sure that the importance doesn’t slip out of my little head.

Another thing I have noticed over the last week is that my anxiety levels have increased. Last Saturday, my mum visited me in London and I took her to the market. The social anxiety I experienced was almost crippling. I thought about it more afterwards and realised that I hadn’t had an episode quite like it since I started training. I know it might not be the case, but I have a strong suspicion that this might be linked to the lack of exercise.

I’m excited to get back to it tonight, as since starting the training plan I have become much fitter, a lot stronger, healthier and happier. Long may it continue!

Lastly, and this is the part that I’m not great at, I’m still in need of donations from my wonderful friends and family. As I have said before, every £ donated will make this process a whole lot easier. Please head to my Virgin Money page – anything you can spare will be appreciated more than you can imagine.

Love and miles. xxx

When hearts and bellies meet

What

Pasta’n’Goulsh http://www.pasta-n-goulash.co.uk

What A ‘Hungarian-Italian fusion’ winter pop-up bar and kitchen, right in the heart of Holborn (for now)

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Where

Temporarily homed in The Plot Twist in Russel Square

Experience

While Hungarian and Italian might not sound like the most naturally complimentary cuisines, they are united by one crucial characteristic that we all crave at this time of year – stodge.

Pasta’n’Goulash is the brain child of partners in business and in life, Agata and Tamas, and comes to the bellies of Londoners at a time when we need it most (because nothing trumps winter quite like potatoes served in bread).

On arrival, we were greeted by the aforementioned couple who, I think it’s safe to say, were no less than the most charming hosts I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. I am a sucker for schmaltz so fell hook, line and sinker for their tale of love at first sight. Originally from Parma and Budapest respectively, the pair met in London and ‘from that moment decided to share life together’, uniting their native cuisines in the process. Beautiful stuff.

The seasonal menu – as the name suggests – focuses on goulash and pasta dishes. With total disregard for our waistlines, we of course tried one of each. The traditional goulash soup served in a bread bowl (bowl perhaps doesn’t do its size justice, it was more of a bread sink…), while not something I would usually go for, was really quite scrumptious. Rich, tender and perfectly seasoned, it was just the thing on a cold winter’s day.

The pasta Tubetti was next up. Made with potatoes (you can never have too many…) and sausage, I would strongly advise sporting your roomiest attire if going for this dish. However, for the visual spectacle of it being made before your eyes in a flaming wheel of parmigiano cheese, this sartorial trade-off is a small price to pay.

I am ashamed to say that I was not looking forward to my owner-recommended desert before it arrived. Perhaps it was naïve but, for me, the concept of cottage cheese covered in chocolate is simply not that appealing. But God loves a trier and try I did. Thank heavens and praise the lord, etc, because it was spectacular. Known as Turo Rudi, what we were presented with was a very pretty, delicate plate of chocolate fingers that were seriously moreish and resulted in a licked-clean plate. Hungary’s most popular chocolate desert for good reason.

Carb-loading wasn’t the only one of Londoners’ favourite pastimes they had on offer though, oh no. It seems that the Hungarians and Italians do booze very well indeed. With a wide range of traditional wines from both countries available, as well as more than ten award winning craft beers from Hungary, the drinks list was a pleasure to behold – as was evidenced by our stumbling and slurring on exiting the building.

While the ephemeral nature of the pop-up experience is inherent to its charm, it does have its draw backs. In the case of Pasta’n’Goulash, it is the location that has suffered somewhat. Aside from the fact that Tamas and Agata’s brand of open-arms service and hearty cuisine would sit better in, say, Highbury, than suited and booted Holborn, the venue itself leaves one a little cold… both literally and figuratively speaking. It is not, as my companion wryly commented, somewhere you would choose to impress a first date, but it’s nothing that a few nice lamps wouldn’t fix.

If you’re in Holborn and in the mood for a winter warmer, you could do a lot worse than Pasta’n’Goulash. This is not fine-dining, that’s for sure, but it’s tasty, wholesome cooking that makes a pleasant change from the usual London restaurant roster. And with more beige food than you could shake a stick at, I will almost certainly be going back for more.

Cost

Approximately £30 per person for a three course meal with wine

Address

51 Red Lion St, WC1R 4PF London

Sunday lunch with the Jones Family

Where

Jones Family Project

http://jonesfamilyproject.co.uk/

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What

A comfortable, chic bar in Shoreditch with a passion for wine, cocktails and delicious locally sourced food

Experience

Situated in the heart of bustling Shoreditch and within strolling distance of Old Street station is The Jones Family Project, which I discovered is a gem of two parts this Sunday. As you enter, you walk into a welcoming bar in a setting that is comparable with a chic New York loft mixed with a 1970s lounge and obviously one hell of a good bar. There are booths, high tables, coffee areas and my personal favourite were the drawers built into the bar to give the illusion of a tea tray. Downstairs is a beautiful restaurant, again with an expansive bar and dining room with fairy lit trees and dim lighting. It’s honestly beautiful.

We were greeted by Alejandro, who is the assistant general manager and a massive food and wine enthusiast. He is friendly, informed and really passionate about The Jones Family Project. He recommended we tried the squid to start, a newbie to their autumnal menu; a deliciously light, crispy

Salt and Pepper Squid with Spiced watermelon, rocket and crackling. For our main course, we both ordered the roast beef, as A; it was Sunday and B; we saw several going out and knew if we hadn’t we would have missed out. The roast is a beautiful tower of roast root vegetables, lightly buttered greens and a giant Yorkshire resting on creamed mash potato partnering perfectly cooked, locally sourced beef, oh and of course their homemade creamed horseradish. It was delightful and paired beautifully with the wines highlighted on their November wine list. They pick four a month, which on top of their already chosen thirty means you really need to ask for a recommendation. I have the +Ritme, an earthy white from the Priorat region in Spain and Lizzie, more in line with what you should have with roast beef had a red, a Chihon Cuvee Terrior from the Loire region in France. Both delightful. After politely declining a desert for two minutes, we decided to cave on any ideas of Sunday dieting and shared a brownie, which is not just any brownie, I believe it is somewhat of a labour of love of Anna’s, one of the owners. It was a perfectly gooey brownie, with salted caramel sauce and coconut ice- cream. It was absolutely delicious, every part of it, and when I go back again, I am going to have the good sense, not to share! The food is lovely here, the staff are warm and helpful, I imagine you can tell from my review, but I really like the Jones Family Project, you get a real sense of family and passion coupled with amazing food. Go at any time of day, on any day and I am positive, you will not be disappointed!

Cost

Sunday Menu 12pm -4.30pm – One course £9.95, two courses £14.50, three courses £17.50

Address

78 Great Eastern Street London EC2A 3JL

Happiness at 30

It has been so long since I last posted, I almost wondered whether I might have forgotten how to use WordPress. So far, so good. I’m here. I’m writing. And it feels good.

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I’m currently in the midst of a week of reflection. As I approach the big 30, I am looking back at my 20s in wondrous amazement of everything that has happened in the last decade.

I’m not here to dwell on the negative, I am here to celebrate the positive. I arrived back in London in March after a year and a half hiatus, following an awful break up and a very unsettling thrust into abnormality. I am extremely happy to say, however, that after three and a half years, the enthusiasm and passion for life that I once had has returned.

2016 has been an odd year. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one to say that. I just had the added bonus of unsettling myself and moving back to a big city that is hard to settle in on top of everything else. As we near the end of a year that I could only describe as bilious, I enter a new chapter of my life and (hopefully) a brand new fresh year to look forward to.

Right now I’m single. How does that make me feel? Well, society tells me that I should be stooped over and crying myself to sleep at night because I don’t have someone to love and, more importantly, no one loves me. But I couldn’t be further from that in reality. When I split from my ex, he commented on my inability to be alone. I needed people – to feel safe, to feel loved, to feel happy. But the longer you spend alone, taking the time to do things for yourself, being forced to make decisions of your own, the easier (and better) it becomes. I haven’t been this happy in years and I hope to god that this feeling doesn’t leave me just yet.

Sure enough, I am having my fair share of dates. But the longer I am single, the less bothered I am about using one of the vacuous dating apps out there. Luke – you were a self centered posh git, Nicholas – I liken you to a very past its sell by date Duracell Bunny, Patrick – you have some issues you need to sort out… the list goes on. I don’t doubt they all have something to say about me, but a dating app can cause psychological instability when meeting with a potential suitor. I’m not saying I’ll never use one again, but I can pretty much guarantee that the person I end up with will not have been swiped.

Next year I am running the London marathon. I never thought I would be a runner. I hated cross country at school and was sick at the end of races. When my ex boyfriend wanted to go for a run, I would laugh in his face and say ‘maybe next time’. But here I am. I have found it to be incredibly theraputic and as soon as I started, the majority of my anxiety vanished into thin air.

I am going to make an effort to post more about my training runs, as well as the food that I have been eating in the run up to one of the craziest days of my life, no doubt.

For now, there’s a picture above of me dressed as Santa Claus from yesterday’s Santa Dash in Clapham Common. I’m going to be saying this a lot over the coming months, but if you feel like donating for a VERY good cause, please head to my Virgin Money Giving page.

Until next time.

Aquum, Clapham

What
Aquum has re-launched as a late night drinking, dining and dancing destination.

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68-70 Clapham High St,
London
SW4 7UL

Experience
It was my first visit to Aquum which has been completely refurbished into a modern, vibrant restaurant – turned late night bar. It was the type of place you could imagine ordering shots and dancing until the early hours. I was joined by an old friend Lucinda who within minutes was speaking to a handsome man at the bar. I left her to it while I pondered over the menu.

My first drink of the evening was a Greek Negroni. A thirst quenching blend of Campari, Bombay Sapphire, sweet vermouth, and made Greek by the addition of Skinos Mastic liqueur. The liqueur made the usually bitter cocktail sweet enough to be palatable for the rest of the evening, so I ordered another.

The food menu offered contemporary Greek dishes which features sharing plates, fresh salads and grilled meats. Lucinda and I sampled a few sharing dips with sourdough bread. If you are familiar with the florescent pink dip found in your local supermarket labelled ‘taramasalta’, forget that. Aquum’s dip is made from natural cod roe, olive oil, sweet onion and lemon. It’s rich, salty and smooth – we mopped it all up. Octopus is a firm favourite of mine, and Aquum’s Chargrilled Octopus with fava beans, Kalamata olives and crunchy capers did not disappoint.

We sipped one final drink before going our separate ways and leaving the handsome man at the bar behind. This time it was a deconstructed Kir Noir, mixed with Pinot Noir syrup, cherry syrup and Mercier Champagne. It was like dessert for grown-ups. We did not get to dance the evening away this visit, but it was a school night.

Cost
Taramasalata £4
Chargrilled Octopus £12
Greek Negroni £9
Kir Noir £10

Indigo –Street Food of India

What

fusion of authentic sub- continent dishes

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Experience

Indigo in Shoreditch, prides itself on bringing the authentic vibrant and colourful heritage of India’s cuisine to Shoreditch and on Thursday last week, I had the joy of confirming they really should do. As soon as I arrived, I was warmly welcomed and chose a seat in the window, so to watch all the revellers from Richmix Cinema next door coming and going and the city coming alive for the weekend.

As it is BYO and I was trying to be good, I ordered a sparkling water, proud of myself for not ordering one of the delicious looking lassis or non-alcoholic cocktails. Think subtle mango delight, rather think grenadine and orange.

Jack arrived and we started to review the menu, which along with having all of the must have favourites, had a number of dishes which quizzed us to prompt the waiter on A: what they were and B:which was best. He suggested we ordered one from each section and as they all look great and are all very reasonably priced, we saw no reason to not do as he suggested.

We started with a mixed tandoori or lamb, chicken and paneer, all of which were perfectly charcoaled and rich in spice. We then followed this with a mixed vegetable dosa, which was just as amazing as it smelt as we watched one of the chef’s cook it on the open oven. We then followed this with a Saag Talwa and a Butter chicken masala, which were both excellent and greedily mopped up by a garlic nan.

I would highly recommend visiting them in Shoreditch or later this month their new restaurant opening in Croydon

Cost

£40 for two (starter, main and soft drink)