MUST TRY HARDER!

  • Tuesday, December 31, 2013
  • 0

It's annual review time.
My report card simply states: MUST TRY HARDER!
What a non year for me running wise. It took months to get over the knee injury and when I did my motivation seemed to have vanished as well. Later in the year my emotions paralysed me as I spiralled downwards into the black pit of depression.
We had the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombing and we said goodbye to Mr Mandela.
There have been highlights, not many but some excellent ones. I ran in Delft, Holland, around a beautiful lake. There was a great night run along the Darent valley which included the badly named Chinook lager at halfway. It was grim. Then there was the pilgrimage run at Stoke Mandeville in the searing heat. I cooked my bare feet on the hot track but catapulted myself into joy. My children and I created an indoor run along the long corridors at Lincolnshire and we made a film of it. I flailed down a steep sand dune and ran barefoot along a Cornish beach. Freedom. Come to think of it, three of my highlights feature no shoes. Freedom. 
Through my job I met some fascinating people including Steve Brown the England Murderball captain, Edward Timpson (Under Secretary of State for Children and Families) and Heather Knight, the England women's test cricketer. I carelessly lost a paediatric nurse but inspired young people with disabilities by creating a sport we call predator rugby.
I ran with some wonderful people and I missed running with others I know well. I promise I'll find you in 2014.
It's the people that count for me in the end. I love the running but the people around me give me a real buzz. So thank you, whether you have run with me, given me friendship or support or if you have read my blog. I appreciate every single one of you.
Happy trails and have a splendid 2014.
Duncan.

You learn a lot when you pick up a cat by it's tail.

You learn a lot when you pick up a cat by it's tail.
These were final wise words uttered by Jerry at the end of todays run. Actually Jerry muttered a lot of words today both while running and at my house afterwards. The bugger can talk. Today he was in wise mode and I felt like I was in the company of some sort of Forrest Gump or Gandalf guru. A beardless one to be sure but a guru nonetheless.
I've been wrestling with the big decision of whether to do a degree or not and I asked Jerry for his take. This provoked a stream of wisdom from the great man. I had the appeal to my machismo (grow some balls and do it fast) pop psychology (How do you eat an elephant? A: one bite at a time) and searing insight (you can easily do this, you just lack self belief)
All this while we churned and slithered our way along a muddy trail. One of the many great things about Jerry is his unpredictability and thus we deviated off my usual set piece route into an area I have run with him before but am not familiar with. On this occasion we spotted a muddy slash of a path passing through a gap in the tree line -and taking it spat us out into an unsuspected and hitherto unknown vista. Before us lay endless rolling green fields, a frolicking horse, the sun bursting through the cloud and a celestial choir singing!
OK, I'm making up the bit about the choir but the rest is true.
It was all a bit to much for Forrest Gandalf Jerry, he leaned in, his leathery skin glowing in the golden sun, his eyes youthful and bright with the millennia of wisdom, "You see Dunc", murmured the sage, "if we hadn't gone through the gap and beyond the tree line we would not have made this discovery, sometimes you have to leave the comfort zone and go beyond what you know"
And so, as our two heroes run East, away from the setting sun I leave this, one of my favourite quotes:
"Life is short, break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that made you smile. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover"


 

My run becomes anthropological

  • Monday, November 18, 2013
  • 0

I run at twilight. The woods have pockets of cold black in the deepest recesses and there is a fine drizzly mist. I am not on drugs and I've only had one beer but my imagination runs amok. In the half light I see formless and ancient warriors with dull swords, woad daubed faces and twisted hair. Unless of course they are dog walkers with walking sticks. Walking. My run becomes anthropological, twisted roots and fallen trees become the corrupting bones of fallen gods, the black earth reeking of divine blood and fertile death.
This is winter running distilled, alone with my demons and pursued by the dark. It is cold and the mud relentless. And yet this is only the beginning, there are many miles to run, it will get colder and the vapours thicker. The loneliness, the darkness and the half mad thinking will intensify and because of it I will get stronger.
When I get home my Five Fingers go straight into the washing machine and I the shower.

My emotional spasm's are over.

  • Thursday, October 31, 2013
  • 0
There's a feeling I get when I look to the west,
And my spirit is crying for leaving.
In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees,
And the voices of those who stand looking.
(Led Zeppelin)
So here is the news.
My emotional spasm's are over. Drooling and twitching have been replaced by brainflow. Accordingly I have cut my toenails, dug out my Vibrams and inserted myself guerilla like into the woods. Here I cannot be found by the NSA, GCHQ or my kids. I can think.
Once again I'm learning that running is fun, there is nothing like running up a stony path between confetti coloured hedgerows or being slathered in cold British mud. 
Brainflow has to be followed by footflow however, I have had enough of touchy feely skipping through the bluebells running. It is time to get focus and find the edge again. I need a challenge, I am bored.
I need to fly baby.
This is reflected in my life generally, I have real passion for my job but I'm not stimulated enough at the moment. I'm exploring what that may mean.
There is a direct correlation for me between running tough and hard and feeling on top of my thinking, confidence and life.
It's been so long since I've found the limit that I've forgotten what it feels like.

It has that funky runners smell

  • Monday, October 28, 2013
  • 0
Grubbies:
Old or distressed clothing one wears in an environment that may be dirty or wet but that does not merit use of coveralls or protective gear.
I forget how old this top is but it's my favourite. It seems as old as me, a New Balance long sleeve number in red and black. I'm not sure of it's exact vintage but it has that funky runners smell that never quite washes out and the sleeve ends are frayed. The zip sticks and it has no pocket but I love it. 
I think most of us have our favourite bits of running kit, comfortable old friends that we trust and know. By contrast, I have gear I've had for a while but hardly worn, it lacks soul, it never quite relaxes.
The best stuff we wear until it becomes threadbare and falls apart.

They leave me inhabiting wacky emotional spaces

  • Friday, October 18, 2013
  • 0
“Ho! Ho! Ho! To the bottle I go
To heal my heart and drown my woe
Rain may fall, and wind may blow
And many miles be still to go
But under a tall tree will I lie
And let the clouds go sailing by”
J.R.R Tolkien


I guess I should write something.
I'll start with a bald statement; I no longer label myself a runner.
That's as flat and two dimensional as a C list celebrity.
There has been some scratchy and sporadic running, rote like around the local woods but basically I've given up.
I have my moody ups and downs but presently I'm suffering from one of those tsunami blackouts that come along once every ten years or so, picking you up and hurling you down on a shoreline littered with your own emotional debris. A roiling devils brew of all my frailties and fears and leaving me feeling anxious, exposed and taut. I am naked and disorientated and I have stones in my heart.
Take driving for example. I hate it at the best of times, and always have but at the moment, the way I'm feeling, even a short trip up to school is a major stressor. I only drive because I have to.
There is no reason for these downers, I don't know what sparks them off but they leave me inhabiting wacky emotional spaces, zombie grunting conversations at the floor and freakazoidal staring into corners and space.
I have no interest in anything and avoid people. These are the times when you value your friends, they are patient and stoical around your rages and rudeness. Running drops off the agenda, I just can't get out the door.
The good news is that I have come down with a strange cold virus. It has left me drained but also forced me to take two days off work. I've caught up with sleep and I feel I am starting to catch up with myself. I'm finding some space. In a seven days time I have a weeks holiday, I'm hoping for some upswing. I need to stop seeing life with monochrome eyes and stop being such a shit.
I love my running. I love my friends and I love my job. I want those things back.

Some are metaphysical and exciting to doomsayers

  • Sunday, September 08, 2013
  • 0

And the sign said "Long-haired freaky people need not apply"
So I tucked my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why
He said "You look like a fine upstanding young man, I think you'll do"
So I took off my hat, I said "Imagine that. Huh! Me workin' for you!"
Whoa-oh-oh

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?
(The 5 Man Electrical Band) 

Apart from being woodland vandals, who were Tom and Abbi? How long ago did they carve their names
on this tree? What were they doing in the woods? Are they still together?
It wasn't a recent carving judging by the weathering and height on the tree so maybe they've got grandchildren now!
Signs are all around us, almost a form of language that helps us interpret life and the physical world. Some are practical and necessary, say a stop sign on a busy road. Others are almost unnoticed but still important, like a full stop at the end of a sentence. Some are metaphysical and exciting to doomsayers and wild prophets, the gathering of black crows on a dead tree or two headed toadstools. My favourite signs tell a story or hint at one such as the Tom+ Abbi one above. They all convey something and either demand a reaction or pass on information.
I started to wonder about them a few months ago whilst running when I spotted the arrow on the tree (below) Since then I've kept a lookout for further signs while running and I've included my favourites in this post.























Another letter on a tree. Intriguing, why just the single letter. This one was clearly old, the tree amongst many other old yet "J" free tree's.









                                                                                                       






This is a sad one. Three teenagers died on this spot when their car left the road and crashed into the woods. Their friends held a candle light vigil on the spot and erected this sign.














This one has me stumped, ha ha ha.
It's in an area of woodland that I'm not familiar with. I've only run there once. It looks like more than yahoo graffiti though? What is it indicating?














Strange scratchings in the dry ground. They just took my fancy. 
They could have been caused by the gathering of black crows or a demented prophet.
















Arrow in the sand. It looks like it's been drawn by finger. Definitely wild prophet related activity.




















Beats me. A random number 2 on a stump in a wood I know well. I've never seen any others. 



















Crude chalk arrow on a tree. Be gone the next time it rains.
A metaphor on life.
















Self explanatory! Near Seaford in Sussex, UK. 
This type of sign is only effective when placed in correct context.















I love this one. Also near Seaford. 



















This sign is near Eynsford in Kent. I actually took this some years ago on a run. 





















 

Yet another tree sign, deep in the trees, Alford, Lincolnshire. Did the author forget to cross the "T" on the final letter? Or were they eaten by wolves before they finished carving?














Finally. Not a sign but a time when one, or a metaphysical rune reader could be helpful, the fork in the road...



We made a film too.

  • Tuesday, August 20, 2013
  • 0

Wanderer, your footsteps are the road, and nothing more; wanderer, there is no road, the road is made by walking. By walking one makes the road, and upon glancing behind one sees the path that never will be trod again.

 Caminante, son tus huellas el camino, y nada más; caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar. Al andar se hace camino, y al volver la vista atrás se ve la senda que nunca se ha de volver a pisar.

 Antonio Machado

video

Words more beautiful than I can ever write, words that speak about seizing the road and not wasting our chances. Words about creating in the midst of the brevity of life.
I have just returned from a few days away with friends in rural England. Normally I would make sure I go for a long, solitary run but this time I felt that I wanted to take it easy so I ran with my kids.
On the second day we did a muddy 2.4. We leapt cowpats and dodged tractors. It was great.
The next day though I suddenly realised that on this huge property was a long 50 metre corridor featuring some 90 degree bends and a twisty flight of stairs.
I recognised the potential. It was a running opportunity not to miss. An opportunity to carpe viam.
Sometimes the things we need and search for are right with us. They usually don't look how we think they should look or take the form we are used to. However, the vision and the means for genesis are inside us, we just need to see them. Then we need to act on them.
So we ran my kids and I. We ran up and down the corridor and we did it over and over and over. We made a lot of noise and had a great laugh, and those of us who are smaller eventually tired and dropped out of the running but not the togetherness.
It was a wonderful time of bonding and fun and we built a road of memories.
We made a film too.











I didn't mourn when it was finished.

  • Monday, August 12, 2013
  • 0

Two pubs linked by the thread of a river, friendship and night running. Jerry and I ran from Shoreham along the River Darent to the village of Farningham. Our destination was the Chequers, a horseshoe shaped, corner pub with a central bar. It featured strange panels showing painted scenes, strange lamp stands, eclectic knicknacks and middle aged men in cargo shorts. These guys were flirting with the foreign sounding bar staff and didn't spare us a glance. I had a half pint of Chinook chosen because it reminded me of large, noisy helicopters. This was further reinforced by the taste and colour, somewhat syrupy, orange and reminiscent of aviation fuel.
I didn't mourn when it was finished. 
Running the six miles to reach the pub was a dream. The pace quick, the air mild and the route one of my favourites. It was truly memorable, we were Perseid's meteor showers, my Vibrams merely kissing the ground along the North Downs. I don't know if it was the avgas, sorry, Chinook or my age or a combination but the return journey under head torch was harder, my legs were wooden and my Five Fingers lead. Some great conversation and a noisy encounter with a large animal, part wolverine/ part dog kept me moving but I was happy to reach The Crown in Shoreham. I love this pub, there is a real warmth there that is evident every time I visit. This time I settled for the tried and trusted, a glass of beautifully chilled San Miguel while Jerry lost me with some very involved physics theory involving (I think) Galileo and circles. It was nod and grunt time for me!

I did throw an apology over my shoulder like a scrap of litter

  • Wednesday, August 07, 2013
  • 0



"It's when you don't react you get killed" yelled the lone walker.
I had stealthily run up behind him before he glimpsed me out of the corner of his eye and leapt out of his skin in shock. I'm not sure what provoked the look of cold, white horror on his face but his eyes stood out like dogs balls. It is true that my current incarnation includes being a skinhead and my teeth may have been bared in a snarl.
If they were I'm sure I was trying to smile.
Maybe he is a paranoid woodland weed smoker or horror movie fan. It could have been my Vibrams. Or perhaps the wind changed direction when he was a child fixing his face like that for eternity.
Whatever the reason I didn't like his pointy ears or his pointy teeth so I didn't pause to coax him down from the tree he had leapt up but ran on. I did throw an apology over my shoulder like a scrap of litter before lightfooting my way like an Apache back into the treeline.

A ferocious scrap of a girl

  • Sunday, July 28, 2013
  • 0
Round
Like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning
On an ever spinning reel
Like a snowball down a mountain
Or a carnival balloon
Like a carousel that's turning
Running rings around the moon

Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
Past the minutes of it's face
And the world is like an apple
Whirling silently in space
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind !
I run in a large irregular circle. Annie runs with me, a ferocious scrap of a girl, mop topped, dark eyed and Blythe spirited. She is sunny soul up. She endures my luminous yellow sunnies as we wheel through the tree's, mostly to the left but occasionally to the right. She is also a stoic with stamina as I bore her with my chatter. Normally I am the silent runner, the zen in the zone, the nod and grunt guy, movin' and groovin' to another's beat but today I talk. I talk about education and inclusion and how passion and vision have the power to transcend. I talk about how unwavering adherence to strong principles are dynamic drivers that are unstoppable and how respect for other peoples strengths allows us to overlook their weaknesses. I talk about the pursuit of excellence, about never being satisfied with the status quo but always reaching forward.
At this point I jink down a new path and the subject changes. I expound on the subject of cooling, quoting Bernd Heinrich's book Why We Run. Bernd 's research found that humans sweat through our skin, unlike animals who sweat through the tongue. As a result we can better control our body temperature and thus run further. Having exhausted this I conclude with a lecture on the Nuchal ligament which runs from the base of our skull to the top of the spine. This sucker is what stabilises our heads allowing us to run in the first place. Pigs don't have it. primates don't have it, cats don't have it but we do.
Passion and vision, the Nuchal ligaments of the soul.
Annie and I part company after eight miles of nod and grunt. Unbelievably She is willing to meet me again for another run.
She is mad, sunny souled but mad

I ran with the Paralympic ghosts

  • Monday, July 15, 2013
  • 0
Sunday.
15 July 2013.
I run at Midday.
I run in 29 degree heat.
I run on a track.
But I run at Stoke Mandeville, the famous blue oval where the Paralympics were born.
I am supporting one of our students at the Step Into Sport Camp run annually by the Youth Sports Trust. We were meant to attend at Easter up at Loughborough University but the inclement weather in the UK forced a postponement and venue change. I have a 45 minute window of inactivity so I seize my opportunity to run.
I run barefoot, turning my toes into raw hamburger meat and my soles blue. 
I feel epic.
Eighteen laps go by as I marry my love of barefoot running and my love of disability sports.
I am a sentimental bugger and I invest a lot of emotion and significance into my experiences. When I finish soaked and spent I anoint my feet and the track with water to mark how sacred this place is to me and how grateful I am to have run here.
It's worth repeating, I feel epic. I ran with the Paralympic ghosts and felt the weight of the next generation on my shoulders. 
Afterwards I return to the workshop on mentoring, testing the power of my deodorant on the people around me. 
I also have a quick conversation with Rachael MacKenzie, a world Thai Boxing champion. I notice she is wearing Vivobarefoot shoes and we discuss heel striking and minimalist running.
 


 
 

It was African and hippy running at the same time.

  • Monday, July 01, 2013
  • 0

Sundays run was notable for two things. The heat and a reminder about the purity of running. It took me less than two minutes to pull on my Spyridons, grab my sun gigs, say goodbye and head out the door. No expensive sports gear. No expensive gym membership. No need for a vehicle of any type. Just shoes and old threads. I even decided to forgo starting the GPS. 
But bugger it was hot, even under the trees. It felt good though. It felt good to sweat through the roasting landscape, it was African and hippy running at the same time.
I am a Phoenix now, the mythical bird that rises from the ashes of it's fiery death. Legend has it that it could spontaneously heal itself and is a symbol of immortality, resurrection, and regeneration.
Along with the heat I could relate to all these things. I continue to return to running fitness after my death by knee injury. I am healing. I am resurrecting and regenerating.

heat

[heet] 
noun
1.
the state of a body perceived as having or generating a high degree of warmth.
2.
the condition or quality of being hot.
3.
the degree of hotness; temperature: extreme heat.
4.
the sensation of warmth or hotness: unpleasant heat.
5.
a bodily temperature higher than normal: the heat of a fever; the feeling of heat caused by physical exertion.
6. a hot condition of the atmosphere or physical environment; hot season or weather.

8. A period of hot weather.
heat
O.E. hætu, hæto, from P.Gmc. *khaitin- "heat," from *khaitaz "hot" (cf. O.S. hittia, O.N. hiti, O.Fris. hete, Ger. hitze "heat," Goth. heito "fever"). The same root is the source of O.E. hat "hot" and hæða "hot weather." The verb is from O.E. hætan, from P.Gmc. *khaitijanam.




The armoury keeper Soerens carelessly sparked it off

  • Sunday, June 30, 2013
  • 0


Ah, Delft, Holland. A lyrical little city between Rotterdam and Den Haag once flattened by 100 tones of exploding gunpowder. The armoury keeper Soerens carelessly sparked it off, killing over a hundred people. Now it's all soaring Gothic buildings and charming canals. It's history and bicycles and wonderful Dutch folk brimming with cheerful enthusiasm and a laid back lifestyle.
I was there on a Rotary International sponsored school trip, bridge building, team bonding and learning to socialise with other cultures. We ate like pigs because they kept feeding us. I can't recommend Dutch hospitality strongly enough, great people.
I did my homework before I left, typing "Delft running" into Google and finding that there is a large wooded area close to my hotel. The Delft Hout (Wood), a mix of trails, woodland and a massive lake. My kind of thing entirely!
I had to run it so I rolled out of my hotel crib early on Thursday, donned my Five Fingers and set off under a bright morning sky made for running. I love travelling and I love new places and new friends. I love expanding my horizon's and expanding myself. Running is such a wonderful way to explore new places. My run was brilliant, cool and peaceful under the trees and along the shoreline in a long, curving, counter clockwise arc. I'm not entirely sure how far I ran, based on the time it must have been around five miles before I had to make my way back to the hotel, a power shower, coffee and warm croissants. I wish it could have been longer.














I met Jerry at Hangman's Corner

  • Sunday, June 23, 2013
  • 0
 
My favourite post run drink.
The seven weeks between the half term and the start of the summer holiday in the UK is always tough. This is the time when at school we seem to condense six months into a short period.
The personal challenge for me is always two fold: somehow maintain some sort of running consistency and secondly try not to let tiredness get the better of me emotionally.
The time factor means that keeping this blog up to date is a bit harder.
All this means is that I have been running, not as much as I would like, but not writing about it. The running hasn't been especially noteworthy either.
My running is a struggle right now. I'm not sure if I'm getting older but it's taking longer to build a fitness base to work from. Last Wednesday I found myself running in an area of gnarly woodland I was unfamiliar with. It did me good, I had a time constraint and I wasn't 100% sure where I was. It forced me to push a bit harder and it felt like the beginning of a breakthrough.
Today, badly depressed, I met Jerry at Hangman's Corner and did eight miles which is probably the furthest I've run for six months. The best thing about today was that I felt my body shape was right which meant my feet were landing in the right areas and I was choosing great lines to run, it's the most nimble I've felt for ages. At times I even felt fit. It would be great if this is the case.
This week I'm off to Holland on a school trip, I'm hoping to get at least one run in.

 
 Gnarly woodland


Midge munching.

  • Friday, June 14, 2013
  • 0

Yesterdays run was all about Midge munching. Scientific name: Culicoides impunctatus. There were myriad swarms of these insects in the local woodland, especially around the boggy parts and the stream. It was impossible not to inhale them as I plunged open mouthed and gasping along the trails. Ironic really as they are well known for gathering in clouds and biting humans. Biting them is a bit like man bites dog. Or midge. I was a human cloud of one taking my protein on the fly so to speak. Midges are notorious UK summer pests, this species is responsible for 90% of the midge bites to humans. Bastards.
The following solutions no runner in midge country should leave home without:

  • Natural body smells – don’t wash, or use shampoo, scent or aftershave. This may cause concern for your fellow runners!
  • Citrus, lemon, citronella oil or candles – flying and biting insects hate the smell of citrus
  • Yeast tablets, or yeast in the blood from drinking beer
  • Bog myrtle
  • White tea tree
  • Witch hazel
  • Lavender
  • Garlic – odourless garlic tablets taken for about a week before any possible midge encounters.
  • Mosquito coils, the smoke will deter most flying bugs.
  • Zam-Buk – herbal balm and ointment
  • Face nets.
  • Mozzie zappers – these are battery-powered lights that lure the unsuspecting bugs to their doom, frying them on the hot metal mesh.

Thank you for yesterdays run

  • Saturday, June 08, 2013
  • 0


Dear Jerry.

Thank you for yesterdays run. It meant that I could drink Mexican beer in my garden afterwards.
I like Mexican beer, it brings back happy memories of friendship for me.
Thanks for taking the disjointed and insane ramblings of a 7 year old seriously and thanks for describing the riot that is my home as a haven of peace and tranquillity.
Liar.
Thanks for the run and for agreeing that the nettles were too high and thick to wade through.
Thanks for not telling me I was a plonker for choosing that route. Thanks for the trespass through the field of yellow flowers and the horse place with the expensive 4x4's.
Thanks for the discussion on boundary lines and encroaching land. I know nothing of the law.
And I enjoyed telling you about my work and the upcoming trip to Holland.
Thanks for Arthur, a legend belonging to a legend.
Thanks for telling me about the effects of ultra running on stubble and thanks for your monkey feet.
Thanks for the anecdote about British over politeness.
Thanks for bringing balance and unique perspective to my life.
Mostly though, thanks for the laughs.


Why are pirates called pirates?

  • Friday, June 07, 2013
  • 0

Why are pirates called pirates? Answer, Because they arrrr!
The puerile joke above has no relevance to running whatsoever. This week has been kaleidoscopic and frankly a blur. On Tuesday I met Edward Timpson the Under Secretary of State for Children and Families. He is also an experienced marathon runner. Edward was in school to join in a PE lesson, he came along with The Youth Sport Trust brass to look at how a Project Ability school works.The primary aim of Project Ability is to get more young disabled people involved in competitive sport. There are only 50 Project Ability schools in England and we are one of the best. Guy our PE teacher put together a frenetic humdinger of a lesson where we showcased some of our fusion sports. The minister and his entourage could only have gone away impressed. I hope so because we rely on the funding that we are able to draw down as a PA school. 
I ran too. It was hot and it was fantastic. I've been farting around with my knee, afraid that it will implode again. I decided on Tuesday that I need to put my knee behind me and develop some vision and intent. I ran as hard as I was able attacking the trails and the roots intentionally. It was a run of stink and sweat and it felt pretty good. I finished 5 miles encouraged.
Wednesday Jerry dropped by the house hopeful that I might join him for a run. Sadly I was tied up with my domestic bliss (read that anyway you like) so had to turn him down. It was great to see this most valued friend nonetheless and we have a plan to run together later this week.
Thursday. This is my school gym day. I jumped on the treadmill and really pushed it for two miles. Treadmill running is not my favourite but it is a good opportunity to go hard with minimal impact on the joints. I ran barefoot too which was elemental.
A good week.


All blue lit and blushing

  • Saturday, June 01, 2013
  • 0
Now get this, London calling, yes, I was there, too And you know what they said? Well, some of it was true London calling at the top of the dial And after all this, won't you give me a smile? London Calling
I never felt so much alike.

The Clash.


What motivated her to run? Was it a snatch of conversation, something she read or a half forgotten friend? Whatever it was, she left behind her pink brolly and purple bra. She left her friends clutching bottles of wine and cold takeaway meals, and ran alongside the river, this girl of stunning luminosity, all blue lit and blushing with laughter tones like warm earth. She ran into the rain following in the steps of the Romans, The Saxons, the homeless, the bankers and the whores. She dodged tourists in ponchos and Londoners in their blacks and greys, their eyes as flat as dead fish. I'd love to know her, this incandescent girl with the ponytail. I want to know what she thinks. I want to run alongside and ask her endless questions of time and space. I want to dance over puddles with her. I don't know her. I do know she stopped. She stopped and turned her arches and her beak and ran back. She ran home, past the men who guard her door, Ja, howzit, shit weather hey? And she ran all the way up the stairs.

I have a soul full of incoherent scribbles.

  • Sunday, May 19, 2013
  • 0

Scribbled: Archaic Zimbabwean slang for injury or death.
I have a soul full of incoherent scribbles. I run in order to produce some form of road map to overlay the mess and bring direction. At the moment dominating my thinking is the magic people who come into our lives at what I believe are preordained moments. Some run alongside us for years, others blaze through with the brevity and intensity of a comet. What all these people have in common is that they enrich our lives, rounding off the angles and jagged edges life inflicts. The goodbyes hurt but I never forget them, keeping them deep in my heart. At this time of the year the woods are perfect for this introspection. I've alluded before how much they are like a cathedral, dark, silent and slightly chilled, so that is where I chose to run, looping around the whorls and loops of God's fingerprints, looking for signs and runes. Looking for interpretation.

I am a snail inching my way up the slippery Everest of fitness.

  • Sunday, May 05, 2013
  • 0

Progress is slow. I am a snail inching my way up the slippery Everest of fitness. I am far from Methuselah but 50 is in sight and I no longer have the elasticity of youth. The view of mortality once so distant is assuming a sharper clarity, less of a smudge on the horizon, it is gathering shape. Four runs, totalling 12 miles, over a two week period doesn't sound like a lot but to me its mammoth. At the moment I can't go far so I am concentrating on the familiar embrace of my old friends, the local woodland. If its Everest I'm scaling then I'm still at base camp but I am preparing to leave, I'm hitting the exercise bike and my physio exercises - and I'm working as hard as I can in PE at school. Falling off the cliff face last October has defined the rest of my running life, I either recover fully and kick on to new heights, or I resign myself to being an occasional 10K runner. At this stage I can't predict which one it will be. I do know which outcome I hope for!

I ran 3.2 miles at 10:28 pace.

  • Monday, April 22, 2013
  • 0
What a difference 24 hours makes.
I spent the weekend crisping in the long absent UK sun, imbibing beer, wine, icecream and chocolate. Truthfully, I felt slothful and fatter when I got up this morning.
But I ran today, changing into shorts and my Vibrams after work and setting off into the woods adjacent to school. It was hard work, my lungs diminished by the long lay off but it felt glorious.  I often talk about the fluidity of running and that was certainly absent, my running was more coagulant and choppy. I was scared of my knee. All the other elements were there though, the exultation, the awareness of nature, the hot sweaty spot just below my tailbone, the feelings of peace and well being.
Most importantly, my knee seemed to be OK - I ran 3.2 miles at 10:28 pace. The other benefit was that I felt like an athlete again rather than a sloth. It's been getting easier to eat and drink junk the longer I've been off running.
Hopefully today was a turning point for me.

Accepting who you are and making the most of it.

  • Sunday, April 21, 2013
  • 0

(Photo by David Baird - www.david-baird.co.uk)

It could be that working with young people with disabilities and especially working with them in a sporting context draws me toward certain athletes and weights my perspectives in a different way.
Watching the Virgin London Marathon today it was Richard Whitehead who caught my eye and my interest.
Richard was born without lower legs, 35 years ago in Nottinghamshire, England.
To date Richard has run 25+ marathons. He plans to run the length of Great Britain, a 900 mile odyssey to raise money for charity. He is also the current Paralympic 200m champion.
It is what Richard thinks and believes though that has a rich resonance with me and my passion for my work.
He was fortunate to have parents who didn't see him as different, they always believed he could do what everyone else did. They refused to limit him. They viewed sport as a route into mainstream society for their son.They shaped their sons personal ethic.
Richard says, "What my life has been about is accepting who you are and making the most of it. Once you've done that, you can push the barriers as far as you can."
"Sport can be a powerful tool to promote inclusion. My parents always thought sport could be a way to bridge and break down barriers in society. Sport in the 21st century needs to move towards choice, opportunities and opening up doors for diverse groups of people to take part."
This is what I believe, it is my passion and what I strive for, a society where everyone can take part, have a role and have value. A society where everyone can achieve and limits are blown away. Sport can play such a massive role in bringing this about.

Freedom is what it is all about

  • Wednesday, April 17, 2013
  • 0
We are not afraid,
We are not afraid,
We are not afraid, TODAY

Oh, deep in my heart,

We shall overcome,
We shall overcome,
We shall overcome, some day. 
(Joan Baez)


By now there have been a whole raft of words written about what happened at the finish line of the Boston Marathon 2013.
People have written with great emotion, clarity and feeling. I wasn't sure whether to add to the voices but ultimately felt that I should, as a father and as a runner.
It is important and there is something cathartic about expressing how we feel especially in times of trauma and grief, be it in words or actions.
I don't feel articulate enough to write directly about my feelings. I happened to turn on the news in the immediate aftermath and it was numbing.
After giving it a few days thought, I've come down to this: I feel sick at the tragedy. Lives have been devastated forever and the scars will run deep. Society as a whole will rise above this, the human spirit is resilient and strong. Sport is a great vehicle for healing and redemption and I expect the Boston Marathon of 2014 will be incredibly emotional and have great meaning. Finally, and this is hard, We need to forgive. This doesn't mean forgoing justice or forgetting but it does free us. It frees us from bitterness and hate. It takes away any twisted victory these people may have gained or thought they gained. It means that we don't have to endure long, black nights of the soul.
And freedom is what it is all about.
Finally, my deepest condolences, prayers and good wishes to the people who lost loved ones or suffered injury. May peace be upon you all.
Duncan

It is the poetry of life

  • Tuesday, April 09, 2013
  • 1
Now I've been happy lately, 
thinking about the good things to come
And I believe it could be, 
something good has begun

Cause out on the edge of darkness, 
there rides a peace train
Oh peace train take this country, 
come take me home again
(Cat Stevens) 
  
Why?
I was standing on top of a tall dune edging a Cornish beach. Out to sea in front of me was a fiery sunset. I don't know what made me look behind but at that moment a local runner leapt over the skyline, soared past my shoulder and made like a tumbleweed down the dune in a feckless expression of freedom and joy.
I had to try it.
I know I have a bad knee and I'm supposed to be nursing it back to full strength. I knew I was putting it at risk but standing there in that moment watching him freefall/ fly to the beach in great flailing arcs and explosions of sand I decided that I could not make the long drive back to London without a Cornish beach run. I thought to hell with the knee, lets run.
So the next day I did.
Barefoot, in shorts and an old baselayer I did the falling thing down the dune face before running along the beach. I last ran on January 27, 2013 and my lungs let me know it! As a distance run it was nothing, 1.4 miles, but for me it had enormous significance. One, the knee held. Two, I was running. Three, I was barefoot, a chance for a purist run! I don't run to be fit or keep slim or any other reasons of vanity. I long ago got past any need to express my machismo. For me running is a joy, it is the poetry of life where I practise the rhythm's of solitude and friendship. It's in my gene code.
Running through the cold, clean surf reaffirmed these things and reignited my motivation to get past this crappy knee.
As Walt Whitman put it:
I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable, I sound my barbaric
YAWP over the roofs of the world.