Celebrate we will Because life is short but sweet for certain

  • Tuesday, December 29, 2015
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It may have been last nights King Prawn Bhuna making itself known but todays run was a dead leg hobble with muscles as tired and unresponsive as wet sandbags. As I rasped around in the mud I was trying to distract myself by reflecting on the year past both in life terms and running as well. Normally at this time of the year I do a bit of a précis of the year highlighting what was memorable and looking ahead to the coming year but I've decided not to although it's been a superb years running apart from the injuries towards the fag end.
I have a son, eleven, who lives life filled to the brim. I've had to adjust to this because I like order and his approach brings chaos, he does everything at full throttle including the mundane like filling his cereal bowl or mug to overflowing. I'm always picking up cereal bits from the floor or the sofas. Put simply he extracts joyful living out of every situation.
I'm never going to be like this, my personality is far to straitjacketed but I'd like to learn from him.
I've decided that if I'm not moving then I'm just sitting around waiting to die. I don't mean this to be literal but more of a philosophical  idea - we need purpose and action to fill our lives with meaning. We need love too. One of my very favourite songs (one I'd like at my funeral) is by the Dave Matthews Band, it's called Two Step, a happy exhortation to live while we can and celebrate. Dave sings: "Celebrate we will
Because life is short but
sweet for certain
We''re climbing two by two
To be sure these days continue
The things we cannot"

I know a man who spends his life in his kitchen watching television and coughing up a lifetime of cigarettes and booze. He is a stoic waiting to die in the company of an old portable black and white TV.
My best run this year was in the midst of a thunderstorm with the rain sounding like an express train in the treetops and lightning forking the cracking sky, I knew I shouldn't be out there, I was running against conventional wisdom that tells us to avoid trees during lightning storms but I went anyway, away from metaphorical kitchens and metaphorical tv's, and running, always running, from the metaphorical carcinogens seeking to choke the lungs of my spirit. I felt rebellious and a little afraid but the risk and the rain made me a celebrant.
Getting back to todays uninspiring trudge I've decided that there are no unimportant runs, they all have some sort of value, even the so called duds. They should all change us in some way, teach us something and liberate us. Every run is a legacy run.
This then is my goal going forward, not to forget the hard times but to celebrate this life short and sweet that it is.

Was this shadow a visual analogy of life

  • Thursday, December 24, 2015
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I made a strange decision to run at 21H30 last night. Feeling restless and a little on edge I opened my front door and felt the clarity of the night calling to me. Allowing myself to be seduced I impulsively thrust my feet into my Merrells and my body out under the full moon and wispy clouds like drifting artillery smoke. I ran on the cracked paving slabs from lamp post to lamp post, my shadow long and wavering in front of me, disappearing into darkness and then reappearing on my shoulder, older, wiser and more anchored, repeating the pattern again and again like an Andy Warhol animation. Was this shadow a visual analogy of life, rushing ahead, youthful and unsure, disappearing into darkness and re emerging diminished but more defined? I lost my way too, becoming disorientated on a side road I've never been down and finding myself running in the wrong direction and away from home, a prodigal son. It's not the first time that's happened to me but what was a first, and ridiculous, is that I found myself standing on the roadside feeling lost and confused, an amnesiac moment in an area I know well, truth is I'm still a bit bewildered today at how jumbled my thoughts were for those few seconds and how adrift I felt. Afraid too, not because I was momentarily lost but because of the refusal of my brain to work and the sense of isolation and foolishness that gave me. It was a lonely place.

It's saying I may fail but win or lose I will be better for having tried.

  • Thursday, December 10, 2015
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And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost.

Last week as I entered the school gates I became aware of a presence on my shoulder and turning to my right I saw Guy our PE teacher ghosting along on his bicycle. Guy is a man driven by passion and a hugely infectious enthusiasm for life and education, his brain never stops, endlessly delivering ideas and exploring concepts and his mouth follows, he loves to talk and share and he will talk and share with whoever crosses his path. He is pretty much a Tasmanian Devil on speed. It so happened that it was a beautiful morning, bright, clear and mild and I had relished my walk in to work. As it turned out, Guy had decided on an ad hoc route to work that had taken him through the woods for the first time - and it unleashed a torrent of words as he attempted to describe what he had felt, thought and experienced. We share an identical and maverick educational philosophy that believes that children and young people learn and grow when they are allowed to play and think for themselves rather than be confined to a rigid curriculum and tested to death. Guy was excited that he had chosen to go off piste and he had new discoveries and feelings. He was stimulated by risk and adventure and happy it had affirmed his educational beliefs. He was motivated to try it again.
This of course is the attraction and joy of trail running for me, the chance to take the unmarked and untrodden path and throw out the plan. It's the gift of choice. I can think of umpteen times Jerry and I have come across a wild bit of trail or wondered where a path leads and decided to follow it to find out. We've had some epic runs and discoveries and it's enhanced our running elevating it to something magical and full of value.
Thankfully my path has crossed Guy's a lot over the last few days and we've had other discussions, war and politics (I happened to be listening to The Black Eyed Peas Duncan, Where is the Love and I wondered, where is the love?) to how to change the world and the impact of greeting and smiling at strangers. We've discussed the idea of risk leading to gain (several times) and how F is the new A*.
Yesterday Guy encountered me by the fish tank in the foyer and started quoting Robert Frost's poem The Road Less Taken and what we could learn from it. Running in to work this morning I began to mull over the concept behind the poem, being short on fitness I was beginning to tire and I realised that I could choose to take a path that would cut short my run. It was then that I had the revelation that to continue and run the full distance was a form of taking the road less travelled and that the temptation to take the short cut was the easy way out. I realised that I would learn more by stretching myself a bit and getting into a place of discomfort, that when we pay the price we benefit more. This then is the road less taken, a road of risk, discomfort but ultimate reward. It's saying I may fail but win or lose I will be better for having tried. It's making a choice.

 Yo', whatever happened to the values of humanity
Whatever happened to the fairness and equality
Instead of spreading love we're spreading animosity
Lack of understanding, leading us away from unity

That's the reason why sometimes I'm feelin' under
That's the reason why sometimes I'm feelin' down
There's no wonder why sometimes I'm feelin' under
Gotta keep my faith alive 'til love is found
Now ask yourself

Where is the love?
Where is the love?
Where is the love?
Where is the love?

Father, Father, Father, help us
Send some guidance from above
'Cause people got me, got me questionin'
Where is the love?Yo', whatever happened to the values of humanity
Whatever happened to the fairness and equality
Instead of spreading love we're spreading animosity
Lack of understanding, leading us away from unity

That's the reason why sometimes I'm feelin' under
That's the reason why sometimes I'm feelin' down
There's no wonder why sometimes I'm feelin' under
Gotta keep my faith alive 'til love is found
Now ask yourself

Where is the love?
(Black Eyed Peas)

It should always be within a mile of the sheep.

  • Sunday, November 22, 2015
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“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!”
(Sylvester Stallone, Rocky Balboa)

Running with Jerry last week we were talking about the privilege of living where we do as we are able to access extensive off road running right on our doorstep. I mentioned how restless I am and how I wouldn't mind moving - but that if I ever did it would have to have trails nearby. Yes said Jerry, it should always be within a mile of the sheep. That's it I thought, it should always be within a mile of the sheep, what a great rule of thumb for both running and life.
Before this I last ran on September 23 and it was as close to perfect as running can be. I love England and I love running in England during the early autumn. I was out on the trails at dawn, there was a low, thin mist, I was breaking cobwebs with my face and I saw a lone deer crouching in a field, dark and still against the green like the slash of an artists brush.
Since then I've been shackled by a chain of injuries, initially hobbling with an unexplained and out of the blue injury in my hip joint which halted my running for weeks. When it healed I went running again but within half a mile I turned my ankle over on a root and fell to earth. The pain and frustration was such that I had to fight back the tears and the sight of the immediate tennis ball sized swelling didn't help, I knew that I was screwed as far as running went for a lengthy period. X rays showed no fracture but I was told that it would take six to eight weeks to heal. The doctor was wrong, I was ready to go after four but then my back flared up making movement difficult - another week out

So it's taken a lot of patience but I have been able to kick start training, once again becoming the Rocky Balboa of South East London with another one of my endless comebacks. Last Sunday was a muddy six miles of surprisingly good quality given our respective fitness levels and this week I've been able to run home from work, chasing the light and pursued by the dusk. It won't be long before the darkness overtakes me and I have to use my head torch. I'm just hoping that's it for injuries, 2015 has been brilliant as far as my running goes, I've never run better. Being hurt and incapacitated has marred that somewhat and I now want to finish strong and carry my great form into the new year.

All the time menaced by the throbbing pub rock.

  • Sunday, June 28, 2015
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Every so often we manage to gather a sporadic and motley bunch for a night run. These runs never fail to produce a variety of strange things and colourful characters.
We met at Downe in Kent, Jerry and myself, Karien, Richard, Andrew, Sue and Ralph, two South Africans, one Zimbabwean and the rest natives, gathered on the pavement outside the Queens Head pub. It wasn't long before the local village sage stumbled out in a dirty waxed jacket and was attracted like a moth to a flame by Jerry's Union flag shorts. This is Nigel Farage country after all. A conversation ensued and we learnt some interesting facts about the area as well as some utter bullshit, understandable when wax jacket informed us that he had lived in the area his whole life and had been in the very pub we were heading for all day. He did tell us that two aircraft had crashed into the Kings Arms over the years, once during WW2 and more recently a jet. This seems partially correct. On the 18th of August 1940 there was an air raid on the area and a bomb landed next to the pub and the pub was strafed wounding some customers. Two cars parked outside exploded and a Dornier bomber crashed a short distance away. History records that Mrs Taylor owned one of the cars and was learning to drive but after that she didn't bother.
Extracting ourselves we ran off toward Biggin Hill airfield and he weaved away to find his dinner. Off we went through Ginger Cat Gate and over the fields, briefly accosting a women, a boy and a dog to ask if they had any interesting facts about the area. They didn't but the lady did enquire if we were Orpington Road Runners to which I replied that we were a mash up of clubs. She took a moment to digest this, nodded once, turned and tugged the boy and dog away. It was about this time just over a mile into our run that loud music free distortion began in the far distance and we appeared to be running towards the vortex it created. Reaching the perimeter fence of the airfield with it's forbidding security notices we turned right and began our run along the runway, all the time menaced by the throbbing pub rock. It was a bit like being in a bad sci fi movie where aliens capture humans using some dastardly means to get them in their thrall, we ran zombie like in single file toward the mother ship, deadpan, silent and emotionless. After traversing a waist high wheatfield we arrived at the Kings Arms which bizarrely and ironically was the source of the music that had been torturing our ears for miles.
The Kings Arms is one of those myriad historic English public houses, typical in it's low beams and with walls festooned with paintings and prints of second world war aircraft. A particularly nice touch were the Christmas lights that looked as if they had been strung in the 1950's. Thankfully, as we entered the music died away and I enjoyed a bottle of Corona whilst the rest of the bunch sipped on real ale. Drinks finished we departed into the dusk, scaled a high gate, dropped into the wheat and began the return journey. No aliens tried to apprehend us but right on cue the music started up and it didn't stop as we ran the 4 miles back to Downe.
A great and sociable run with good people finished in the Queens Head filled with rustics wearing a variety of patriotic English and British garb, I think they were celebrating some historic occasion or perhaps that's how they always dress? I don't know but I had fun.

Houlgate, France

  • Monday, June 08, 2015
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Something I love and make sure I do whenever I can is go for at least one run when on holiday. Two weeks ago I ran with joie de vivre in the French coastal town of
Houlgate, a truly charming location in Normandy close to the D Day landing site code named Sword Beach where the British forces made their landfall during World War 2.

Despite leaving our campsite at 8pm the sun was still high and the temperature around 18˚c as I wound my way through the sleepy streets with their shuttered windows towards the expansive beach. Arriving there I crossed the railway line running parallel and set off towards the town of Cabourg West of Houlgate. I'm not sure why I went West as I had intended going East to run up the Butte de Houlgate, the low hill on the edge of town. I think I was curious to see what lay in that direction. In any event I eventually came to a large yacht marina bordered by restaurants and apartment blocks before turning back towards town and running along the Promenade Roland Garros fronting the beachfront as far as the casino. Reaching the casino the promenade ran out and I was distracted by an enormous flight of brick stairs which I decided to climb. I guess these summited part way up the butte and from there I turned right and ran down to find the main street of Houlgate past the patisseries and creperies and all the way back to the gravitational pull of family at the campsite.
I had a great six mile run, I always love running along the beach and in the sun. I love experiencing different places and cultures through running eyes but I do have two regrets. The first is not pushing on past the marina to Cabourg when a bit of assertive exploration would have got me there (we drove there a few days later) The second is not continuing to the top of the butte once I got to the top of the stairs. I'd love to go back one day and rectify both these things

Testicles have the unfortunate habit of unexpectedly swinging free

  • Saturday, June 06, 2015
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After a week that was long and busy I needed a decompression run. Fortunately the running cogs in Jerry's head have been turning in the direction of another night run and he contacted me as his Lieutenant to do an early morning recce of the proposed route.
If you could sit down and order a run off a menu this would be close - warm and sunny, on dry trails and with an excellent friend. I can't reveal too many details of the route yet as these are always a closely guarded secret until the actual event but it involves two pubs which is a standard night running element and aviation which isn't.
I don't think I've ever had a run in rural Kent that I haven't enjoyed  whatever the weather but this morning was incredibly mellow and relaxing. It's a beautiful time of the year and we were running through fields of freshly cut grass which is probably one of the best smells known to mankind, fields of endless yellow buttercups and knee high wheat. There was not a bull to be seen. In the haze of the far distance we could see the London skyline with the distinctive shapes of Canary Wharf and the Shard prominent. We included the obligatory elements - where does this path go (dead end) and thigh high stinging nettles. While we were discussing how testicles have the unfortunate habit of unexpectedly swinging free when wearing old running shorts a stunning Roe deer ran across the trail and went bounding away through the wheat - well worth getting up early on a Saturday morning in it's own right.
This was a successful mission, I think we've nailed the route, now all we need are some runners.

I will most likely be unconscious when I bounce.

  • Sunday, May 17, 2015
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“Sometimes it takes a good fall to really know where you stand
           (Hayley Williams)
How do you fall? Or should that be how do you fall with style?
I had a rare trail running fall last week, a stump hidden in the mud caught my toe and I went down in one of those slow motion tumbles, not quite a face plant but more of a left side smear.
It got me thinking so I did some research.
I found an article about surviving a fall and it informed me that:- The odds are not on your side, but survival is possible.
Bittersweet, information.
What else?
1/ I have to grab an object on the way down.
2/ I should attempt to break my fall into segments by hitting objects such as ledges, trees or other objects, this divides my fall into several shorter falls, which gives me a much better chance of surviving.
All great advice so far.
3/ I must relax my body and not hold myself stiff. When I am relaxed my body will absorb the impact of hitting the ground better than when I am stiff.
4/I should bend my knees but not too far.
5/ No matter what height I fall from I should land feet first. I must try right myself before I hit the ground.
I got that wrong then.
6/ Once I land I should try to avoid falling on my back. Falling to the side is statistically best. If I can't manage that, I must try to fall forward instead, breaking my fall with my arms. 
So I got that bit right.
7/ I must protect my head when I land because I will probably bounce. I will most likely be unconscious when I bounce.
And finally, Good physical condition and youth seem to positively influence fall survival rates. You can’t change your age, but if you’re looking for yet another reason to get in shape, here it is. Also, it is best not to fall at all.

Get out there people, it should help you think.

With both my wife and I working in education we often have a variety of education related books in the house at any given moment. One such book on the table right now is called The New IQ, Use your working memory to think stronger, smarter, faster by Tracy and Ross Alloway. It's my wife's current reading but picking it up and idly flicking through it I came across these thoughts...
"In our research we have found that one activity in particular that can pump up your brain power"
The authors go on to explain how the human body is a long distance running machine and that humans can run longer and better than any other mammal. They state that a study by the University of Illinois showed that running improves working memory,  the cognitive function responsible for keeping information online, manipulating it, and using it in your thinking. The study compared weightlifters and runners and found that the former showed no improvement in working memory after a workout yet running boosted mental performance. So far, so good but where it really got my attention was where the theory was extended - by looking at the effects of barefoot running. A Japanese professor, Mitsui Suzuki posits that running has an effect on working memory because it can be unpredictable requiring changes in gait or having terrain variations thus requiring what he termed controlled attention, a working memory skill. The authors of the book wondered if barefoot running which requires a higher level of controlled attention would enhance working memory even further. The realisation that barefoot runners have a lot more to process (how do things feel under their feet, rough, smooth, warm, cold, painful etc) made them wonder if the extra cognitive input from barefoot running led to cognitive benefits. They set up a study where barefoot runners and shod runners filled in a questionnaire and undertook a series of tests. The result was interesting to say the least in that barefoot runners came out with a higher working memory than their shod counterparts. This could be because of the extra sensory stimuli and the fact that barefoot runners need to be aware of everything that is underfoot, they can't ignore the things that shod runners can (sheep recycled grass was given as an example)
Whether you run barefoot/ minimalist or shod though, it seems that running, according to these studies at least, is the form of exercise that best boosts our brain function, another great reason to run!
In my experience I do find that I concentrate far more when running or walking barefoot and do some of my best and most creative thinking during a run or in the hour or so afterwards.
Get out there people, it should help you think.

Whitstable 10K

  • Saturday, May 16, 2015
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So can these shoes take me to
Who I was before
I was stabbing my sticks into
A vulnerable earth

And I can almost out run you
And those stalking memories
Did I somehow become you
Without realizing

Found a little patch of heaven now
So then I'm gonna turn oysters in the sand
Cause I'm working my way back
I'm working my way back to me again
(Tori Amos)

Whitstable is famous for it's Oysters, those slimy bivalve molluscs we love to eat and a close analysis of a British map will reveal it's the nearest seaside town to the South of London. Recently I ran the Whitstable 10K with 750 of my closest friends. Lining up in the usual restless, sweaty and farting organism that comprises a race start I looked over to my right and spotted the tall, tangle haired figure of one of the best, Michael, who took the above photo at the finish. We had time for a quick chat before the gun sounded and he ran off into the distance to record a fast time. The start was slightly soured for me as some big swinging dick violently shoved me from behind and then hurled an expletive over his shoulder at me as he went past my stumbling form. Totally unnecessary because I was running straight and minding my own business.
Shrugging him off I got into the race itself which turned into what you would expect from a seaside course in late spring, warm, windy and mostly flat, ideal running conditions. I was quickly into a relaxed and mellow stride which ensured the first three miles along Marine Drive came and went with ease. At the three mile mark we turned for the inward leg along the beach front and this became the best part of the race for me. I love running along the coast, I was warm and fluid and we were running up a long, gentle incline with the sea to my right and crowds to the left.
One of the big differences between trail running and road running is that on the trails you have to remain focused and in the moment all the time, you can't afford to make mistakes on twisty, knarly trails. On flat pavement you can relax and put your mind in neutral. I prefer the engagement of the trails, I need the stimulation and the sharpness. This was a race I really enjoyed though, running with a friend it was an easy prelude to a summer of running.

A claustrophobic of clanking construction that had apocalyptic overtones.

  • Tuesday, March 31, 2015
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The lunatic is on the grass.
The lunatic is on the grass.
Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs.
Got to keep the loonies on the path.
And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear
You shout and no one seems to hear.
And if the band you're in starts playing different tunes
I'll see you on the dark side of the moon. 
(Pink Floyd, Brain Damage. Dark Side of the Moon)

Everyone should have a streak of lunacy in their human make up, that little bit of crazy and anarchic mischief to nullify the Zeitgeist in our souls. I am working on this.
I've done a fair amount of running already this year but not much blogging. Notably there has been the North Downs map of Africa run with the ultimate lunatic Jerry, The Thames foot tunnel quest with the aforementioned lunatic and a brilliant early spring inward bound commute.
Only notably because there has also been a lot of bread and butter miles in the mud and murk that I've mostly enjoyed but have the blogging potential of watching paint dry. There has been a majority of rote running, hammering at the wall separating unfit and fully fit. Every routine run dismantles the wall a bit more and I'm still hammering away.
So yeah, Africa, what was that about. February. Shit I hate February in Britain. The weather is decidedly not tropical African. It was cold and muddy and I was wearing Vibrams. If I remember correctly Jerry was unusually on time to collect me but then drove some tortured route along roads that seemed to get narrower and bumpier the longer we drove. Off piste driving. I'm sure he was talking rather than navigating. Jumping off we ran East across Libya and Egypt towards the Horn of Africa and then turned South down the East coast. We ran through a huge field with a beware of the bull sign but no bull. I was pretty glad about that because I don't like bulls. I avoid them where I can. We also made a short detour on the bulge of West Africa to visit a signpost. This proclaiming the point at which the Zero Meridian intersects the North Downs Way and the Vanguard Way. Mostly this run was about the love of running in beautiful, unspoilt places, conversation and mud.

The Thames. 

Well this river is a bit mystical to me, it always has been. The Harare suburb I grew up in had roads named after British rivers. I lived in Stour Road but it was the Thames which fascinated me. Jerry has captured the spirit of the run brilliantly on his blog here and the plan for this run was to access the two foot tunnels at Greenwich and Woolwich that run beneath the river. I don't think I was at my best socially, I was in one of those slightly disconnected places and the run quickly became all about sensory overload for me. I love running along the banks of this river and have run East from Woolwich (OK, pretty open) and West from Greenwich (fantastic) but never the bit in between. To me it was mayhem, a claustrophobic of clanking construction that had apocalyptic overtones. We were surrounded by building works and noise. I know this sounds over dramatic but that's how I felt, the sky was ominous and it had a post nuclear feel. I had been listening to Metallica's Nothing Else Matters over and over which speaks of loneliness and separation, juxtaposing the song and the atmosphere along the riverbank during the days immediately after running and being reminded of the slogan Surf now, Apocalypse later led me to the movie Apocalypse Now. In it is the famous Charlie Don't Surf scene where Kilgore orders his men to surf on the river mouth during his attack on the Vietnamese village, a surreal parody of a more innocent era given over to arrogance, domination and jingoistic imperialism. It's all about futility and obnoxious bravado. This is the other face of London, both historically and present. Was our run a case of run now, apocalypse later? It felt like it.
Charlie don't surf and we think he should
Charlie don't surf and you know that it ain't no good
Charlie don't surf for his hamburger Momma
Charlie's gonna be a napalm star (The Clash)

My sketch of the run.

I woke up to a stunning morning, clear and mild and decided on a whim to run into work rather than from work. I stuffed my work gear into my Inov8 Racepac and set off. It was a great decision, the trails were firm and yielding and all the elements of spring were presenting - birds singing, and even a Woodpecker wood pecking. I saw Daffodils and budding foliage, sheep in the field and the sunrise highlighting the riffles on the stream. It was a relaxed and happy start to my working day and I even had time for 15 minutes in the hydro pool when I got to school. These are the days that encourage me at the end of winter, the early promise that things will be OK and there is a future. Winter is always a struggle for me so I live for and try seize these moments.
I will run into work again.

The Gazelle looks on with envy and feels the pain of being a Buffalo.

  • Monday, March 30, 2015
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Sometimes it just works, there is physical and spiritual harmony and you run like an elite. The Gazelle looks on with envy and feels the pain of being a Buffalo. These are the runs that are far too rare and keep me yearning for more. I ran nine miles yesterday and unusually for me I ran them on the road. I climbed three hills and passed under two railway bridges, I got lost and I linked two roads with a path I've never noticed before. It was raining when I went out, I ran through a small patch of sun and then cloud covered the sky in that dull fashion that only grey cloud can achieve. All these things are irrelevant though, what counts is that my body was in a state of flow. These are the days you live and pray for as a runner, days where you feel as if you've drunk from the elixir of youth and days where the blessings of a benign God are concentrated solely upon you. I often get into what is known as the zone while running, that place your mind goes where you are focused and concentrating and discipline merges with joy leaving you relaxed and alert. I think the longer you run both experientially over a period of years and distance this state of zone becomes second nature, you slip into it without trying. Flow is different, for me it happens when my body just seems to find a place where it desires hard work and produces it without effort, everything seems easy and harmonious and I fly. It's the grooviest groove in Groovesville.
I wish it was always like this.
I saw a quote on a poster recently that said if travelling was free you would never see me. This is the truth, if running was always this free you would certainly never see me, I would be permanently in the wind.

We are still fighting the Death star in our hearts with bloodied hands and wild eyes.

  • Sunday, February 15, 2015
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"No reason to get excited," the thief, he kindly spoke,
"There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke.
But you and I, we've been through that, and this is not our fate,
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late."

                             An archive photo, one of my favourites.

Tonight I read two things on two of my favourite blogs that I think fitted with todays run.

The first was on Catra Corbetts blog, Dirt Diva and she said, 
"By the time we hit 50, we have learned our hardest lessons. We have found out that only a few things are really important. We have learned to take life seriously, but never ourselves." 
The second was Billy Barnetts blog, where he talked about..."The past several months have been filled with highs and lows all pulling toward the greater good of balance." 
(my underlining) 
Both these runners appeal to me because they are both mavericks and they both like to think deeply about life. They've both learnt a lot about themselves and neither fit the mould. 
This morning I was sliding around in the murk and the mud with Jerry and Liz. It was the first time we had run with Liz for over a year as she has been recovering from a car accident that left her whip lashed and with a bad back. And while she is many years younger than Jerry and I she is old enough to have experienced life in all it's colour and all it's grunge. As we ran, talked and reflected I realised that the three of us have all had our shit to deal with recently. It's been hard and we have had the edges knocked off us. We are not out of the woods yet either. Wolves, zombies and madmen abound. Despite this we are somehow still standing, still running, still mad and still smiling. We are still fighting the Death star in our hearts with bloodied hands and wild eyes. Part of this fight comes from maturity, part from bloody mindedness, part from laughing in the face of adversity and part from carrying each other across the divide. 
I've been listening to Bob Dylan's dark and hopeful masterpiece All Along the Watchtower over and over again recently. I'm struck by the friendship between the joker and the thief and their conversation. The Joker is looking for a way out, confused by what's going on in his life. The cogent part for me is their friendship, keep cool says the thief, don't panic. There are many idiots around but we are not amongst them. We've been there, done that, made mistakes and survived. We can and must speak honestly to each other because of the brevity of life. There is a sense of threat and doom in the song, the wildcat growling in the distance and the howling wind but my feeling is that while the emotional and physical storms are raging within and around the two friends will somehow, because of experience be ok. 
I think Jerry struck a chord with me a few weeks back. Waving his finger in enigmatic and typical Jerry style he said that it was time to stop looking back, leave the past behind and look ahead. I think it is important to acknowledge the hardship and the pain and it is vital to recognise that we will pass through the shadow of the valley of death and that by doing so we will be stronger, wiser and able to help those coming behind us. 
Does this make sense? 

Dave Matthews Band
All Along the Watchtower.

Finally, a warning and a commentary on stupidity

  • Wednesday, February 11, 2015
  • 0

 I'm not a huge fan of writing about kit...but sometimes it has to be done. For years I've run with a simple grey backpack which I paid just £5.00 for. It is nothing to write home about, just two internal compartments and about 4litre capacity. I've loved it because it has punched way above it's weight performance wise compared to more pricey models and it's comfortable enough that you forget it's there. I green commute a fair amount, running home from work and that's where the size of  the £5 grey has counted against it, there is limited space for clothes. I just turned 50 and my fantastic colleagues clubbed together to give me a generous lump sum and so I spent some time researching new bags before settling on the red Inov8 race pac pictured. It's roughly a third bigger than my old one and so I can fit in a little bit extra on my way home. It came with a 2litre water bladder but I've removed it preferring to drink from a bottle. I like Inov8, a solid British company with an ethical mindset and good quality equipment who put a lot of thought and care into the development of their products.

Also for my 50th, my wife got me this Sony SWR50 smart watch running Android Wear. I won't talk about the Android features as the big attraction for me is the fact that this model is the first smart watch to feature inbuilt GPS and I've coupled this functionality with an app called Ghostracer to track and log my runs. The app is still in beta but seems promising and the developer is enthusiastic, proactive and willing to quickly implement suggestions and add functionality. I've never run with a GPS watch and so I'm enjoying the novelty of looking down at my wrist and seeing my run stats in real time.Once the watch is within range of my phone the data uploads automatically to the web. The other draw for me is the fact that the watch is waterproof and I don't have to worry about it getting rained on!

Finally, a warning and a commentary on stupidity. I love my Inov8 Mudroc trail shoes and for really deep mud they can't be beaten. Mine take a battering especially in the muddy British winter and often need cleaning. Mostly I take them into the shower with me but occasionally I'll throw them into the washing machine for a deep clean. Sadly the last time I did this I used a high heat and then put them on top of a radiator to dry quickly. You can see the result on the right, the adhesive binding the sole to the upper has melted and the shoes are now only good for the bin. I hate making schoolboy errors when experience should make me better and I'm really kicking myself. The irony is that I was saying to my wife a few days before that the uppers were showing their age but the soles were still good for a long time. Every run from now on will be a Vibram Five Fingers run I guess!

I turned 50 in January

Life begins as a quest of the child for the man and ends as a journey by the man to rediscover the child
(Laurens Van der Post)
I don't know what to write, I have writers block. I've lost count of how many times I've opened the editor over the last few weeks, stared at the blinking cursor and then closed the window again. Fortunately I'm not suffering from runners block. I took December off completely, I had my parents over from Australia and decided to give running a break - a decision which made me curiously uneasy for a few days as it was a different form of moving out of the comfort zone. Apart from injury this is the first time in six or seven years that I had made the choice to give it a complete rest. It turned out to be a great move though, I rolled out for a woody five miles on 2 January of this year and since then I've been as regular as a Swiss clock. I'm refreshed too, my running was in a coma in 2014 but now the spring is back in my step and motivation levels are high. My mind and body even seem to be behaving. These things are good.  If I have one negative it's winter, I hate the cold and really struggle against it, I am eyeing spring and counting the days until the temperatures start to ease up again.
I turned 50 in January and decided that I want to mark my 50th year with some great running. Watch this space. 
I ran on my birthday, I felt I had to. I was determined to hit my fifties flying and with a smile on my face, embracing the moment. I've decided that I will  not allow the mundane to shackle me. Central to this will be my running, so often a vehicle for my passion and adventure that I have become blasé about. I have to cease struggling against myself.
So this will be a year of being in the moment, running epically and creating memories. It will be a year of memorial running, celebrating people I've lost or left behind and a year of hopefully being a better friend. I'm lousy with people. It will be a year of facing forward and being expectant.