Flying High

My main focus for my Blog from the get go was to document the training and events I take part in. However, as it is labelled “Adventures of Gemma” every now and then an adventure comes about that is sooooooo amazing I can’t help but share.

For 11 years I have worked for Red Letter Days, with the majority of these years spent working in Online Marketing. Therefore, during this time it is fair to say that I have had my share of “experiences”. The perks of the job have enabled me to attend many fancy Black Tie events, take part in Power Boating on the Thames, a Helicopter Tour of London, Sushi Making, Dinner at Mosimanns, Quad Biking, Clay Pigeon Shooting, numerous Afternoon Teas and Spa Days – this is just to name a few. Lets’ just say that although my employment at Red Letter Days has pushed me to breaking point at the worst times, there have been many, many opportunities where I have experienced things that many people my age would only dream of.

After 11 years and many experiences I never thought I would encounter an experience that would go so far and completely blow me away. But last night, I was.

A few months ago our CEO met with one of our biggest Affiliate partners, Voucher Cloud and decided that it would be great to have an evening in Bristol for a Hot Air Balloon Flight. Not only are they based in this lovely city but also the makers of our Red Letter Days Balloons and our experience Partner, Bailey Balloons are also in the area.

I never imagined that the flight would go ahead. Many, many Hot Air Balloon flights get cancelled due to our precarious English weather. In the lead up to the day I tried not to get too excited in order to prepare myself for the flight being cancelled. That did not stop me checking the weather on an hourly basis, paying more attention that usual to wind direction.

The morning of Thursday 26th May was bright, sunny and the sky was completely cloudless. We made our way to Bristol, still baring in mind that at any minute the flight could be cancelled.

At around 3pm, it was confirmed. The weather was perfect. We were going up in the Balloon. I was part terrified and buzzing with excitement.

Bailey Balloons picked us up from Bristol in their Land Rovers. When we turned the corner and saw them waiting for us I remember hearing people cheering with excitement. The Basket was attached to a trailer on one of the Land Rovers and the Balloon itself packed safely in the other.


We were driven 30 minutes away to Victoria Park in Bath. I had never been to Bath before, so the fact that the first time I will see it would be from a basket floating in the sky was so amazing.

On arrival at the park we were surrounded by Balloons – with locals hardly batting an eye lid. Apparently this is a regular occurrence in the area. Including the Red Letter Days balloon, there were three ballooons being prepared for flight.

Clive and his team immediately got us involved in preparing the Balloon. When we sell these packages at Red Letter Days, nothing is mentioned about this. But suppose it is optional to assist. Our group were more than happy to help. It was fascinating to watch the process.


After around 2o minutes the Balloon was ready. Clive had already briefed us as to how to get in the Balloon, the position we need to be in for take off and what to expect in between.

And the next thing we know we were going up. With so many people waving and cheering from below.

The fear left me completely as soon as we were able to stand. The feeling of floating through the air is something I can not describe. It is something that I recommend everyone experiencing for themselves. There is such a high from being so high up in a basket and open air. The views, the sunset, the euthoria………Within 10 minutes of being in the air I had reached the tranqulity you would get from having an hour long massage. The Spa Days and Afternoon Teas I had been on……… mainstream, anyone can massage you. Ballooning is where it is at! How many people do you know can fly a Hot Air Balloon?


Clive was amazing. He certainly knew his stuff, turning the Balloon where needed to ensure that we can get pictures; he even had a camera attached to the Balloon that extended so we could get a “Selfie” in the air.


Before we knew it, it was time to land. Except, Clive had to find a suitable place to do so. Well known in the area, he has landed in many a Farmers field. Which is what we did. Apparently landing in Hot Air Balloon it is very common for the basket itself to land on its side – which I was very apprehensive about. However, despite landing on a slight hill, in a Farmers field, the basket remained upright!


Once we had been given clearance from Clive we got out the basket and before we knew it the Land Rovers had found us. Packing away the Balloon commenced – which is not for the faint hearted. A Balloon that carried up to seventeen passengers including the Pilot takes some work to pack away. Team work required! With the promise of bubbles the team got to work packing the Balloon away under instruction.

Finally as the sun was going down the team pulled out a cooler full of Beer and Champagne. Together, still buzzing and on a high, we toasted our adventure.


The experience will stay with me for the rest of my life. How many people can get to say they have flown in a Hot Air Balloon? It is definitely a “once in a lifetime” experience. Finding something that will surpass this in my lifetime will be particularly difficult – maybe I have to up my game on the adventure stakes………




Hackney Half Marathon

Sunday 8th May. Weather forecasted as 25 degrees. The hottest day of 2016 so far. What a fantastic day to chill in the garden with some Prosecco soaking up the sun.

Except I wasn’t doing that. Instead I was taking part in my second half marathon!

Leading up to the event; I did everything right. I got the training runs up to 11 miles, I cut down on boot camp sessions to ensure my legs were fresh for my runs and I hydrated until my body couldn’t take any more water.


The day before the event itself Run Hackney sent out a warning; due to the high temperatures coming our way participants should not expect a personal best. Now I knew I would not be hitting a PB. After my ailments this year I am still not up to strength – so simply managing to take part and complete the race was my goal.

Which is what I did. Hands down, the Hackney Half Marathon was the hardest race I have faced to date. From the get go I struggled with the heat; drinking all the water I had within the first 2 miles. It took some time to find my pace (or trot) too – which seems to be a common occurrence on race days for me. During training I have no problem, I just trot away. However; as soon as I am surrounded by thousands of runners the trot goes to pot!

That said, I managed to find a slow and gentle pace once the crowds had thinned out, slowing down to a fast walk when the heat was getting too much then back to a run.

I stayed with this walk/ run pace throughout the race. Pushing myself when I needed to and slowing down when it was a bit too much. And and times it was a bit too much. It was a really tough race.


However, it has to be one of the most enjoyable runs I have experienced. The community spirit was amazing. Every street was lined with Hackney residents drinking outside their houses and pubs and bars; offering Jelly Babies and shouting words of encouragement to all runners – not just those they knew. Around the Hackney Empire the streets were bustling. Steel drums were being played, choirs were belting out some tunes. They even went as far as connecting hoses to spray us as we went past. Such a simple thing to do, but such a welcome relief from the heat. Every runner was running through the water – myself included. The residents deserve medals themselves as their encouragement gives the run such an amazing atmosphere.


Around mile 9 I had my own cheering squad – something that I have never had at a race before. My two friends, Rachel and Charlotte, who live locally were on one of the quieter streets cheering other runners whilst waiting for me. Seeing them in the crowd was so uplifting – giving me the push I needed to keep going at that point. After taking some Jelly Babies they offered I was on my merry way again (choking back a little sob for seeing them).

The sights I saw after mile 10 were shocking and makes me thankful that I listened to the advice Run Hackney had given as well as listening to my own body. The number of runners who had passed out, receiving medical treatment from the 10th mile through to the finish was unbelievable. The majority seemed to be those who looked super fit, people you would not expect to fall were dropping like flies. St Johns Ambulance had their hands full and deserve a great deal of credit for their work that day.


When I finally made it back to the Olympic park the heat was something else. With no shade, runners were totally exposed. At this point (around mile 11-12) there were more people walking than running.

Me? I kept trotting. At every water station I made sure I took two bottles of water; one to sip from and the other went over my head. So soaked from heat to toe I got through those last difficult miles slowly and sensibly – finally passing over the finish line in 2 hours 46 minutes. 26 minutes over my previous half marathon; but after so many thought I would not be able to compete I was extremely happy with the effort.


There are not many races that I would run again; mainly due to the fact that I don’t like to know what’s coming, but the Hackney Half Marathon is definitely one I would repeat. I have already pre registered for next years event. Hoping to train hard, get my strength back to where it was at the end of 2015 and improve on my time.

With such amazing community spirit in Hackney, not running the Half Marathon next year would be missing out.

Warrior Adrenaline Race (WAR)

Its been one week since I took part in WAR for the second time. Hosted by Regiment Fitness this one was set in the beautiful grounds of Woodhall Estate, Hertford.

After my warm up the week before at the Gauntlet Games I was more than ready for this one. Originally I had signed up for the 20K route, but after the health issues I had this year I felt that it would be “sensible” to reduce this to the 10K – which is still challenging enough.


The event didn’t disappoint, plenty of man made and natural obstacles to conquer. More than the usual amount of rivers to get through, boggy swamps, walls, cliffs and ropes to climb – lots to keep you entertained throughout.


The spirit around the course was amazing. Lots of team work going on, with other competitors helping others they had never met before. It really shows how amazing these events can be; it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from there is always someone to give you the hand or the shove you need to get over the obstacles.


One small factor we all missed was the lack of Spectators. In previous WAR events spectators had the opportunity to see us round 70% off the course, taking plenty of embarrassing pictures en route. Due to the vast grounds at the Woodhall Estate there were not as many opportunities for loved ones this time round. And sadly the camera man didn’t picture me at my favourite obstacle – which is a shame.

That said, we still all had a great time. Its always fun when you partake in these events as a group.


If you are looking to sign up to an OCR event I would thoroughly recommend training sessions at Fit4OCR. I managed to throw myself at obstacles this time round due to the fact that I have had several training sessions with them. Thanks to Fit4OCR I am now able to complete Monkey Bars too (though as yet not at a OCR event itself).


So, that brings a little break to the OCR events for a while; with Bear Grylls scheduled for August and Commando Series in November. However I shan’t be winding down. As I write this I am constantly thinking about my training plans for the week. With Hackney Half Marathon less than a week away there is no rest for the wicked!!

Plus there is plenty to keep me occupied after Hackney too.

The show must go on after all.