a bright tomorrow

  • Friday, December 31, 2010
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it's new years eve 2010. i  went out at dusk and kissed the trails with my feet, the trees as indistinct as the future in the gloom. it takes faith to run through the woods in the failing light relying on instinct and articulate feet. this is life as i would live it, embracing and in the embrace of tomorrow. if you read this then i wish your tomorrows to be bright and full of promise. i hope to see you on the path.
a classical 6.3 muddy miles in 55:01. bikila magic

focus

  • Tuesday, December 28, 2010
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i've come to accept that my running year is ending with frustration. the snow was fun and fine and i had some good runs with the club and on my own but the ice was something else and i made the decision not to risk serious injury. now i've come down with some debilitating bug which is keeping me indoors. so instead i'm looking back on a good year where i ran more miles than any of my previous years and had some epic runs. there was the cross country race at the start of the year in torrential, horizontal rain, the long solitary run along a deserted beach, some long barefoot runs on the road and the inaugural night run in november. i had two superb runs across the north downs with jerry, i did some park runs and had a sublime mob match outing for the club. i even learnt to enjoy my weekly treadmill session. whilst running i've shared lots of humour and great conversations with some wonderful people and run long on my own. i've loved the woods and the countryside and learnt to tolerate the tar.


that's looking back which is important. it is important to build monuments along the way, they point us forward and focus us. i'm looking forward to 2011, i feel that i'm running strong and fluid. i am no longer a novice and am battle hardened. i may be frustrated with how 2010 is ending but i'm very focused on the coming year. i'm going to make it a great year with new achievements, highlights and milestones. i look forward to strengthening my existing relationships and anticipate meeting new people as i go. i can't wait for the conversation to continue.
  • Sunday, November 21, 2010
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I am standing outside a warm country pub on a freezing and foggy November night. i should be inside, i really should. with me are nine other men. we should all be inside sharing the craic and eyeing the barmaid with the locals. instead i am with these other nutters, seven of whom I've only just met and we are wearing lots of reflective running gear, Lycra  tights and head torches. it is possible that we look like a third world police roadblock, we mill around on the roadside shouting incomprehensible words to nobody in particular, our lights stabbing the darkness in random arcs. the plan is a simple one, run five miles across muddy fields and trails by the light of head torches to another countryside pub, down a swift pint and continue in a loop for a further five miles to our starting point. down another pint and drive home. some of us have taken this seriously and prepared by googling night running and head torches, others are a bit more laissez faire, one has not tested his torch beforehand and has flat batteries, he would better off with a candle. another hasn't actually got a head torch, he has brought what resembles a small UFO, a handheld gizmo with many led lights around it's edge. yet another has the hangover from hell. he is fuelled by tequila and tequila does not make a decent running fuel. as usual Jerry is in his ghastly union jack shorts, i think that he sleeps in them. he is the organiser of this jaunt, it bears all his hallmarks, huge optimism, fun and a bit of Monty Python silliness.
we set off into the blackness and fog of Kent and within a mile the rest of the pack disappears leaving me alone at a three way split in the trail. the night closes in on me, my breath pluming and swirling in my torchlight. the undergrowth cracks and rustles while i dither and fumble for my phone. i ring Jerry, he is surprised to get my call, nobody has noticed my disappearance. it's nice to be missed. reunited we establish a system of numbering off, we try it a few times before discarding it, some idiot always forgets what number he is - and it is a different idiot every time. pressing on we slither over ruts and roots, hillocks and horse shit, all the while enveloped by the thick kentish mist, we clamber under barbed wire and over stiles, sometimes the mud is ankle deep, other times the ground is frozen rock hard. at one stile i allow the guy in front to climb over first, he is slow and cautious in the slick mud, and as I'm about to follow him he shouts fuck in a loud voice and springs back over like a teenager, looming out of the mist are three huge and silent horses, their eyes a creepy luminous green in the torchlight. we bypass them without any casualties on either side and descend to a narrow lane, the halfway point pub is at the end of it. we enter, men in tights and dayglo, with mud up to our knee's but this is rural England, nobody turns a hair, they stare into their beers with fanatical intensity while we occupy a corner of their bar.
drinking up we go back out into the night, i check my GPS and Jerry leads us up a long, steep hill, at the summit the trail turns back on itself and we freefall down the long slippery descent, it would be a challenge during the day, in the dark it requires faith and a gung ho attitude. i begin to hear the odd mutter of dissent and one or two grunts of pain as guys fall, the memory of the pub is still strong. for myself i focus on the small patch of light bobbing in front of me and try to relax, I'm having fun and there is nothing i would rather be doing tonight. 
  • Friday, October 29, 2010
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at the ponds edge, bikila’s, autumn, trail running, euphoria.
at the ponds edge, bikila’s, autumn, trail running, euphoria.

  • Wednesday, October 27, 2010
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we are all sitting in the staff room clutching mobile phones in one hand and coffee mugs in the other. usually the room is full of noise and buzz but today we are muted and dull. i think tiredness is setting in, half term is near and we have powerpoint fatigue. i leave the rest of the living dead and head for the gym with my group of lads, caffeine has failed, will endorphins work? today i have my brand new five finger bikila’s, cutting edge minimalist running tech named after abebe bikila. abebe was the first black african to win an olympic gold and he did it in the marathon running barefoot. today there is a different crowd in and the music is softer, more pop. a rap free zone. i briefly wonder where the muthafucka’s are as i get the middle treadmill and am soon joined by a lanky kid with mick jagger lips. in the far corner a sixth former works out on the weights whilst wearing a three piece suit. it’s kinda surreal. the kid running next to me puts zen ken from my club to shame in terms of looseness, this guy runs as if he is boneless and i am jealous as i pound away next to him. he is so loose he could be a puppet, if i cut his strings will he collapse in a tangle of limbs and slid off the end of the treadmill? will his eyes pop out and roll across the floor? i am quickly into the zone myself and am running strong and focused, jagger and i sync and develop a rhythm that eats two miles in a flash. i sense movement on my right and glance over, one of my guys has finished and his place is taken by another kid who can only be the twin of the bloke on my left. this one is just as loose and just as rubber lipped. from behind we must make an interesting study in symmetry, me solid and thumping, in parenthesis with fluid grace. at mile three i begin to feel the burn of a developing blister on the side of my foot. i am disconcerted, the bikila’s are supposed to be seam free preventing blisters. i decide to continue, i am flying and focused and it would be a crime to stop now. i get in another two miles before time is up. as i jump off the ‘mill jagger lips nods and says “good workout” he is right, it was wicked and i feel energised. not so good is my foot, my instep is raw and bleeding. i hope that my credibility as a hard man has been enhanced by the bloodstain soaking through the side of my shoe, i make sure that i am standing in such a way for the whole gym to observe it, it’s ok guys i imagine myself saying, i will slap some duct tape over the blister before my next run, it’s nothing to worry about.
  • Saturday, October 02, 2010
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Thursday and i return to running following my basketball injury. every week i take some students up to the high school gym where loud rap music teaches us that we are all hard muthafucka’s. because of this we assume faces of steel and stare at the peeling wall with psychotic intensity. this prevents eye contact with our fellow muthafucka’s, muthafucka’s don’t look at each other, it might spark a gang war. I get the middle of three treadmills. The boy on my left looks like he is in the wrong gym, he is not a muthafucka at all, more of a banker wannabe in new running shoes and co ordinated running gear. his hair is brushed and styled and he has grown his sideburns down to below his ears, he looks…nice. the muthafucka on my right has been dressed by oxfam. he has yellow shorts, xxl size and a much washed red cotton top with no sleeves. he runs in brown and white striped socks. his hair is a dirty yellow to match his shorts and his teenage face is a volcanic mass of angry red and yellow eruptions. i guess in his own way he is as co ordinated as the guy on my left. because i am a barefoot muthafucka i find myself relating to oxfam boy in his socks and my instincts are proven right when after just three minutes of running banker boy stops his treadmill and climbs off. the door creaks open and two girls come in. thanks to the music i know that they must be bitches or ho’s but to me they just look like ordinary schoolgirls in pink sweats. they each sit motionless astride exercise bikes and giggle into mobile phones. the muthafucka’s take no notice and continue their stoic study of the walls. meanwhile i run my first mile in six minutes dead, i’ve never run a mile this fast in my life, being a muthafucka works for me and i am doubly hard, barefoot and twice the age of the kids around me. i imagine their admiration behind my back as i enter the zone, are they nudging each other and marveling? do they hope that they will be as fit and hard when they are in their forties? do they wish the soles of their feet are like old leather that can withstand the heat and friction of the treadmill. i am the daddy of all muthafucka’s and they can all learn from me. banker boy chooses some light weights and is doing bicep curls in the middle of the gym. the girls leave. banker boy leaves. oxfam gets a punch bag from the corner and proceeds to kick the crap out of it using some surprisingly delicate and balletic moves. billy elliot. i run 4.5 miles and it’s time to stop being a muthafucka and go back to normal lessons. i don’t limp until i’m out the door and out of sight.
  • Thursday, September 02, 2010
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Juan, the clubs other foreign runner slept in last Saturday. the rest of us assembled early in the local park for the weekly park run, a three mile time trial, free, and open to all runners. Juan sent his flame haired wife in his place. when he gets out of bed Juan is blindingly fast but unfortunately he doesn’t get out of bed very often - Saturday and Sunday “ are for resting” and on club nights he is tired from work and needs to go to bed early. his flame haired wife is usually deputised to represent him at club meets and is like a firecracker, full of fizz and noise and only fast for the first hundred yards. sometimes we wish that she would use her breath for running. or to provide commentary on horse racing. it was the first anniversary of the park run being held and the local press had sent a photographer to cover it. however the lensman had forgotten his camera and had to stand on a box and use his mobile phone to take the pictures. the runners stood in a large huddle as speeches were made, photo’s taken and awards handed out. then the folk who had been given awards handed out flowers to the people who had given them the awards. more speeches of thanks, love and appreciation ensued, and more mobile phone photography. i began to admire Juan's foresight and envied him for the warmth of his duvet. i wondered aloud if i could slip away to my car without anyone noticing. eventually the race director stacked his awards at the base of a tree and stood before us to let off a blast from his klaxon. i had a race plan and sprang forward to execute it, neatly ankle tapping the twelve year old kid in front of me, elbowing past Sabina the cyclist and getting my head down. this way i could justifiably cut the first corner and gain twenty places by claiming not to have seen the marker cone. all this tactical maneuvering meant that i was comfortably in the top third of the pack and i made sure that i stayed there as the route wound its way around the park, dodging dog walkers, power walkers, geriatric joggers in tracksuits and children on tricycles. every time i noticed someone watching with a mobile phone i composed my features into one of steely resolve. thus my race was lung busting, arm pumping and accompanied with a look of extreme constipation which allowed me to cement an almost top 30 finish in 22:00. this was at 7 min mile pace and i took 3923 steps to achieve it. a pretty good result all in all. afterwards we ate lots of celebratory cake and drank lots of celebratory coffee as we waited for Juan's flame haired wife to finish.
  • Wednesday, September 01, 2010
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Man I respect, a fellow African.


Gilbert Tuhabonye was born on November 22, 1974, in the southern county of Songa in Burundi, a small mountainous country in east central Africa. He is the third of four children. His parents were part of the Tutsi tribe and were farmers by profession. They kept milk cows and raised potatoes, peas, corn and beans.
His love of running was forged early. Gilbert loved to run everywhere. He ran to the valley’s edge to get water for his family. He ran to school, five miles away, and he loved to race his friends. His favorite thing to do was to chase his family’s cows. He was baptized as a Catholic in the sixth grade and moved 150 miles away the next year to board at a Protestant school in Kibimba.

While attending the Kibimba school, Gilbert began running competitively. Running barefoot, he won an 8K race while only a freshman. As a sophomore, he met a man who taught him how to change his running technique by getting his knees up and holding his arms correctly. The coach encouraged him to work hard and try for the Olympics. Gilbert became national champion in the 400 and 800 meters as an 11th grader. As a senior, Gilbert was already an extraordinary runner whose goal was to get a scholarship to an American school, get an education and return home to Burundi.

Fate had another plan for Gilbert.
On October 21, 1993, the centuries-old war between the Tutsi and Hutu tribes erupted in horrific reality one afternoon as Gilbert and his classmates were in school. The Hutu classmates at the Kibimba school, their parents, some teachers and other Hutu tribesmen, forced more than a hundred Tutsi children and teachers into a room where they beat and burned them to death. After nine hours of being buried by the corpses of his beloved friends, and himself on fire, Gilbert used the charred bone of one of his classmates to break through a window. He jumped free of the burning building and ran into the night, on charred feet, surviving one of the most horrible massacres in the long Tutsi-Hutu war. He ran from that horror into a new life.
Now, 16 years later and more than 8,000 miles from Burundi, Gilbert Tuhabonye is a celebrity in the world of running. He went on to graduate college at Abilene Christian University where, despite being covered with scar tissue from his extensive burns, he was a national champion runner. He is now, by all accounts, the most popular running coach in Austin, Texas where he lives with his wife Triphine and two daughters, Emma and Grace.
Gilbert coaches runners at Run Tex in Austin where they call themselves Gilbert’s Gazelles. He speaks English, French, Swahili and his own native Kirunde.
Media Inquiries: please contact Alicia Quinn Sankar, 1-512-394-1275.
    • Wednesday, August 25, 2010
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    Tuesday nights club run. a cold and indifferent wind was blowing across the field. mirroring it we broke into groups of two’s and three’s and hunched stony faced like bad Clint Eastwood impersonators. zen ken joined me, a diminutive samurai in a dayglo jacket. i spoke of my battle during the Sunday morning run he hosts, how hard it was right from the off. i asked him why these runs from hell come along from time to time. the lamplight flashed of his gold rimmed glasses as he cocked his head toward me. there was a silence before he intoned that it is all in the mind, a cruel physiological trick and the only method of dealing with it is to speak sternly to the mind and push on through. i blinked, digesting the thought and he nodded sagely before wondering away to meditate.
    setting off for a run i found myself floating at the front with andy the squirrel and richard, the club patriarch, tall and lean and with a voice like the wind blowing through dry reeds. it was the opposite to Sundays leaden legs, light, effortless and free. my mind did not need any rebuke and even zen ken was behind me. the moon rose, full, golden and magisterial and we ran in silence, pilgrims in our moisture wicking shirts, strangely and beautifully quiet apart from the soft thud of our feet marking off the passing seconds of our lives. transcendant.
    • Tuesday, August 24, 2010
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    I guess the sky is illuminated by the dreams of dreamers dreaming, so back down the path I go!

    my favourite blog and blogger

    • Sunday, August 22, 2010
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    Sabina arrives for our Sunday run on one of those English bicycles, black steel frame, three speed gears and a wire basket on the front. Jerry ran. he is wearing union jack shorts that make anarchists reach for their cigarette lighters. he has new shoes. zen ken qualifies for free bus travel but comes in his slinky black BMW. there are less of us than usual, the elites are away in wales racing the train. we confer. how far do we run? more crucial, how fast. several runners have hang overs. for a while i run behind zen ken and Sabina, they both flow when they run, zen more so, it may be because he is a Buddhist/wiry/naturally gifted. either way it inspires. Sunday runs are normally loquacious affairs, conversation passed around like a joint at Woodstock but today hang overs and humidity mean a lot of grunting and farting instead. for most of the run i run at the back with Jerry, normal for me but unusual for him, we speak of his recent holiday in Montreal, Canada where he was bitten by canuck insects and rained on whilst exploring their trails, as well as his next 24 hour ultra next week end. his wife is not happy, he runs to much and spends too much on shoes. his running gear smells in the boot of the car when he forgets it there for two weeks. i nod, grunt and laugh. i silently wonder how much credibility he has in his shorts, he silently wonders how much credibility i have in my vibrams. because we are old friends and anti social buggers we slide off the back of the group and run for home, when i get there my gps tells me i’ve run 12 miles.
    This is not Jerry. He looks nothing like this and neither do his shorts.