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Dust and Delerium – My Second 10K

 

After managing to finish my first 10k last year despite going up one of the steepest hills instead of around it and stopping to tie my shoelaces, I decided to try it this year.

I intended to carb-load the night before, that is filling yourself with carbohydrates (as the Mighty Mo Farrah recommends) to fuel you through. However as I was at a barbecue for dinner I couldn’t stomach it.

The weather forecast was great if you wanted to sunbathe, but not ideal for a race. Twenty-one degree heat was predicted, which feels double that when you’re wheezing your guts out.

I hadn’t trained more than once a week, although I have been cycling to work for a week or two. You need to exercise about five days a week to really push your stamina levels up according to my doctor dad and lately I have been getting to work faster and faster.

I was already feeling tired as I had not been able to get to sleep the night before, being hot and restless.

It seemed to take an age to register. We got some gimicky freebies in a goody bag – foot cream, sweat towel and so forth.

My boyfriend and I limbered up in the dust bowl of my local farm’s lane as an athletic, macho crowd gathered. I wondered whether I was crazy. What was I doing here? The only other females were honed toned and looked rather pleased with themselves already.

My friend couldn’t contain her excitement, paparazzi-style and I was grateful for her support.

The “ready, set go” of the race wasn’t quite the shock of the starting gun I was hoping for, but off we went, long lean bodies jostling for position, elbows flying. It was almost as risky as a mosh pit.

Pretty soon we fell into line and I felt charged with the energy and vitality of the competitors. The breaths behind spurred me into action, giving it all I got with my weak legs. They felt empty of all strength and drive, the result of a couple of hours sleep and an early start. The running devil in my head wondered whether I was going to have to walk it, but I didn’t pay any attention. The voice I wanted to give attention to was the angel saying “go on, you can do it, you’ll be fine, you’re doing well”. Later on in the race I verbalised that voice and found it gave me incredible comfort and support.

We wound round country lanes and up hills, in fact almost all the race was a hill. The sun beat down us and the air was frustratingly still and warm. I found myself sweating all over and gasping for air. I felt like I was drowning. My heartbeat wouldn’t slow down, it raced and raced faster than my feet did. I tried to regulate it and at first succeeded but as it got faster it got more difficult.

Thankfully there were stiles to give a welcome break as I waited for the queue to jump it. I felt like a ninja, Ipod blaring, vaulting them with ease. But once I was off the stile I became a car low on fuel again. Without the carbs my body was almost stalling, and on the hills my pace slowed to that of walking.

But I refused to let the running devil win. I wasn’t going to walk, otherwise I might stroll round the course and it would cease to be a race.

So on I went, gasping, wheezing, with sweat sticking my clothes to me. I was grateful when we ran in shade but a lot of the track was open to the harsh rays. It was a real test of motivation to keep going. Half way round the line of girls in front began walking and I knew then that I was too far back. I was so frustrated with my body, where was the power my legs needed? I could almost hear the thud of my heart over the music in my headphones, a dull cacophony of desperation. Surely it wasn’t going to be this body-breaking all the way around.

Two runners gave me motivation. One was embarrassingly near the start, by a strangely cheerful young man. Another was towards the halfway mark. As I began to give way to the running devil and seriously consider walking, just for a little bit, only for a bit, a lady encouraged me just at the right time. There she was, running but still smiling. I had seen her walking ahead for a while but my pace had been so slow that I hadn’t been able to overtake anyone! These words of advice were just what I needed and suddenly I found myself on the right track and not just physically. I had a new determination, a new power from within. I felt like Asterix after he had drunk the magic strength potion. Suddenly I had new belief in myself and the angel kicked the devil out for good.

I felt my legs charge up, my heart-rate slow and my body relax. Stamina had arrived.

The motivational runner, who had said I would “overtake her at the next stile” found her prediction come true and tried in vain to catch up, keeping the pressure on for some time as I wound through woodland, now almost alone. I could dimly see my competitors in front. I aimed for them, not taking my eyes off them. I would not be beaten. I would not.

We were through the woods and I had caught up to the dim figures. I began to run into the downhill slope, whereas they ran in a lop-sided careless fashion. This enabled me to overtake them on the hill, I was perfectly balanced this way, bending my knees more and taking the hill in my stride literally.

They tailed me for a while before I managed to gain some ground. Finally I saw the first man I had seen in the race for a while up ahead. I felt like I was improving – there had only been one man walking further back. I took advantage of the shade from the trees and my new slower heart beat to allow myself to go faster.

It took much longer this time, but I closed in on my prey, a long-limbed man in a black shirt and shorts. The wrong colour for hot weather. He tried to quicken his pace. I finally passed him, but he overtook me and stayed just ahead for some time. Shortly after him was my first motivational speaker. He had run too fast at the start and was running in a manner which said “let me finish NOW!”. At this point the elevation went up and down with more twists and turns than a rollercoaster. He looked exhausted. As I passed him I returned the encouragement. He instantly brightened up and a smile returned to his face. I saw power return to him in the way which I felt when I was spurred to success.

But I was not going to let him win now, that would be embarrassing. The first man I had passed, dressed in black, was just ahead as I went up the hill, telling myself to come on as I controlled my breathing.

As we went over the last hurdle (or stile) and went through a funnel of trees before the finish, I was tantalisingly close to my prey. One last push and I could beat him. He tried to accelerate but he was too exhausted. The tunnel vision kicked in and I sprinted past him to the finish line.

In the end I was a minute faster than last year! Completing it in an hour and six minutes and on the hottest day of the year, in the high 20 degree heat. It was thrilling to finally beat the guy in front. I then enjoyed a free burger and sports massage, just what I needed!

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Legally Representing Myself (Law DIY)

This is not me

This is not me

This morning I acted as my own legal representative for the first time. It was both intimidating and exciting.

Unable to afford official solicitors, I decided to try it myself. I made my own court bundle of evidence and made sure I read up onMan with Bound Book legal and case points beforehand.

I wrote on my previous post about my Employment Tribunal claim for non-payment of wages and constructive dismissal. I described how I worked for 5 weeks as an English language teacher without pay, despite being given a contract. The excuse was that I was going to be paid but there was trouble with the bank. It has been seven months and I have not seen a penny of it.

Today was the big day. I nervously deliberated about what to wear. I decided on a dark grey business dress with pin lawyer-786478stripes which stopped just before the knee and was slightly figure hugging, with opaque black tights. It did not have sleeves so I wore a simple black cardigan, as I knew from being a legal secretary that sleeveless clothing was frowned on in legal proceedings.

I attempted to print off extra documents with my expensive white elephant of a printer (it only works when it feels like it) and spent extra time preening. Thankfully two of my former colleagues, Marilyn and Karen, who had also not been paid, agreed to meet me there and were both allowed in the Hearing room.

We went into a concealed small entrance into what looked like unassuming offices. A receptionist told us to go up to the Claimant’s area and we were met by a kindly, reassuring usher, who was sympathetic and a good listener. She told us how the building used to be a children’s school and still had a playground on the roof. There was another Claimant in there, a middle aged bespectacled man, red-faced and perspiring profusely. He looked in horror at my chronological, alphabetically ordered court bundle, no doubt wondering whether my overkill was common practice. We were told we may have to wait an hour, as he had been called in first. However soon after she told us this, another Judge magically appeared and within a mere half an hour I was ushered in.

I helped myself to a glass of water with trembling hands and waited for the Judge to arrive. A few minutes later he Employment_Tribunalentered. He was a tall, middle aged, slightly balding man with glasses and an intellectual, laid-back air. He instantly dismissed all formalities with a wave of his hand and said there was no need to go to the Witness Box, as no Respondent had arrived. He explained that this was considered admission of guilt in itself, as by non-attendance the Respondent had suggested that there was nothing to defend. It was a Remedy hearing, so he had already considered my evidence and made a decision in my absence.

“this is a sad situation which I see time and time again”

He told me that I was entitled to gross compensation rather than net compensation for my Schedule of Loss. This is a document showing how much the company owed me for work, holiday and notice pay, and how much I had comparatively lost in wages since my alternative employment. Jobseekers Allowance was not added on to the claim. The Benefits Office would issue a claim to the Respondent for public money owed as a result of my resignation following non-payment. I was not entitled to statutory pay as I had not worked there for two years. I reminded him that I was claiming under the exception of asserting a statutory right. He got rather irritated, shifted about in his chair and said “I am aware of that”. I quickly apologised and accepted his explanation.

We moved swiftly on and it emerged that the Judge agreed with everything I had claimed for. He told me a Judgement ordering the pay of almost £6 000 was in order. However, he said that I could not enforce any Order he made in the Employment Tribunal. I would have to transfer it into the County Court for that, but he believed that was free. He suggested he had previously worked in the legal field before becoming a Magistrate, which was reassuring.

I pointed out that my former colleagues were victims too, at which point he remarked on our “sad situation” and said it was something he saw “time and time again” with “a steady stream” of cases coming through “all the time”.

“this new change is a rogue’s judgement and will side with employers”

He also warned that it was “highly unlikely” the Respondent would pay as a result of the Order and that I would money_972_19521169_0_0_7049696_300probably need to pay to get it enforced. However I have heard that all my former employees have been dismissed and she has just established a third business with a different name.

“there will no longer be any justice for the common man or woman”

We then had a discussion about the injustice of legal fees coming in to the system from the end of July. Again, he completely agreed with me. He stated that although he was supposed to be politically impartial, he had to say that the new change to the system was a “rogue’s judgement, as you would expect under the Conservatives”, incriminating employees when employers are just as often at fault as those they hire. He agreed that there would be far less cases being pursued like mine, resulting in more scam employers getting away with it.

He said “there will no longer be any justice for the common man or woman like you and me”. He told me that a case like mine would cost in the region of £1 300, and that even if I just pursued the most simple claim it would still be £350.

We left and as I walked down the steps of the humble old building I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. It was finally over. Or was it?

We had a coffee in some public gardens with a large fountain. We watched two men barbecuing chicken legs until they were ticked off by one park warden, then his colleague. After a while a “bobby on a bike” turned up and then they finally agreed to leave. They strolled off with baggy pants falling down as soon as the policeman began to talk into his radio.

The sun was out and I felt so content until I felt the sun burning my shoulders. We went for lunch in a cafe and talked more about our experiences. Marilyn, as the unofficial detective of our group of former (unpaid) employees had found out all sorts of information about our former Director.

Emboldened by my first legal representation, I decided we should march down to the Police station right then and police-helmetthere and update them on their ongoing investigation. The detective was absolutely excellent. She came out to meet us and attempted to take us into an interview room, but there were none free. I updated her on Proceedings and she was most surprised that I would not be able to enforce anything. After all, what is the point of an Order that the miscreant will just ignore?

After a progress update we felt reassured. Marilyn and Karen were grateful to meet her, as they had been interviewed by some of her colleagues previously.

I walked out into the sunshine with them feeling rather proud. Things were making progress, I had been awarded more than I claimed for, a Judgement would be sent in the post and the Police enquiry was picking up pace.

Maybe I should train to be a lawyer…

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