Monday, 23 March 2015

The four stages of competence

There is always that moment in the life as a long distance runner when you have this dangerous thing called "Belief."

My Cat 2015

I was requested by my boss the other day to list out my vocational qualifications and skills as she wanted to utilise me more within the wider team and market them to the business. So as a guy still in his 40's (just) I started to write a list in a spreadsheet and then, I added a column so to break each of those skills/assets into more granular skills and then I listed my experience and then the qualification, then cost savings attached to each skill and subset. By the end I was actually amazed that I was in fact pretty skilled up but had taken it for granted, a point noted that a younger person will shout and show off that they can do this and that  whilst the older person takes it for granted and often seen in psychology as:
  1. Unconscious incompetence
  2. Conscious incompetence
  3. Conscious competence
  4. Unconscious competence
The younger, less experienced guy will be hanging on at around 2 and 3 whilst the older guy will be at 3 and 4 for skill related aspects of their work and because of it tend not to shout about it.

Bringing this back to my running world there was a time when I thought nothing of jumping out of the door for a quick 10 miles or being marathon ready at the drop of a hat and getting a PB and was definitely unconsciously competent. I have ground out 100+ miles non-stop whilst the four winds battered me but strode on confident that I would get to the end (not always). This attitude can either be your best friend or your worst enemy, a self belief that can either make you a finisher or a wounded non-finisher.

This weekend

So we come to this weekend when in a moment of madness before Christmas I saw that there was the Port of Dover Race Festival which is held over two days, thus:

Both days:
8am – marathons registration at the Clock Tower
9am – marathons start
1.30pm Half Marathon registration at the Clock Tower
2.30pm race start
1.30pm 10km registration at the Clock Tower
2.30pm race start
...and yes I entered all four of them! How I am going to manage it is another thing but looking at the times I think I have a chance if I am not stupid and just plod out the miles. I am going to give these runs a name:
Marathon (Day 1)              : Unconscious incompetence
Half Marathon (Day 1)       : Conscious incompetence
Marathon (Day 2)               :Conscious competence
10 kilometre (Day 2)          :Unconscious competence
I have no way of knowing if I will complete this set of tasks with such little training of late but I am going for it, to hell with it. This one is for me and if I have to drop at some stage, I will drop and reassess the set of runs each time.....wish me luck.

Friday, 13 March 2015

For Sh1ts and Giggles

"It’s not worth doing something unless someone, somewhere, would much rather you weren’t doing it." —from the foreword to The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Fantasy, by David Pringle

I saw this quote today which made me smile as it totally sums up the Delightful Mrs S views my long distance running, there is something quite nice about the total subversive nature of my escapades. My late father made no secret of his views but still wanted to hear some of the things that I saw and people I had met along the way.

I make no secret of it that recently I have not felt the "need" to run realising that it is easier to get in the habit of not running than actually running, this wasn't about that stupid saying you hear from people, "Mojo", which in its purest form means charm, influence or magical power.

Running to me had become a chore, for years I have been pitted against the training plan, goals, the next event or the endless cycle of up weeks and down weeks...I was emotionally worn out. I then found I was beating myself up about it and how I regretted the loss of my cherished fitness, the tales of daring do and the succession of blackened toenails.

There is a saying amongst some of my running buddies... "What is said on the trail, stays on the trail" It means that what you divulge whilst running, in confidence, remains unsaid, call it a therapy but because of this unwritten lore great trust is born.

I received an email from my buddy Duncan the other day, a beautifully crafted message, that was basically a summary of what I had talked about to him two weeks ago and it struck a chord. The result was training plans were deleted, a few things rescheduled and I went to the track with no other plan than to run with one foot always off the ground at all times and just to enjoy the moment.............just for shits and giggles I think the saying goes and absolutely loved it.

Monday, 9 March 2015

See the crowd and take your pick.

Many of my Dear Readers will remember the great comic Tommy Cooper and his wonderful clownery, one of my favourite jokes by him was:

Apparently, 1 in 5 people in the world are Chinese. And there are 5 people in my family, so it must be one of them. It's either my Mum or my Dad. Or my older brother Colin. Or my younger brother Ho-Cha-Chu. But I think it's Colin.

I laugh at the sheer stupidity of the humour and visualisation but now see it in a different way when said thus:

Apparently, 1 in 4 people in the world have suffered from a mental illness in the last year. And there are 4 people in my family, so it must be one of them. It's either my Mum or my Dad. Or my older brother Colin. Or Me.But I think it's Colin. But then again it could be me.

Now look around you, you may be on a train, in an open plan office or sitting in your armchair surrounded by your family. Now say to yourself "1 in 4 people I am looking at have or are suffering from a mental illness.....But then again it could be me"

It seems hard to contemplate that this could be a person you know, or work with, or bump into every day. You can be heard to say:
  • "Fred, no way was Fred depressed he was always a joker in the office, always smiling, no way could it be Fred!"
  • "Freda was always a miserable old cow, always said she would come out with us, never did."
  • "That Fred is a little bit weird, never smiles stay away from him is my advice"
Don't be ashamed, we have all said or made an excuse once but just heed the words that in every crowd 1 in 4 people will be suffering with a mental illness and that one person may be you. It sometimes takes a brave person to approach someone they care for and ask them if they are OK and listen to them, not judge, just listen.

In conclusion, It could Ho-Cha-Chu but I still think it is Colin.

I'll let you decide

Saturday, 28 February 2015

A Dichotomy

The word Dichotomy has appeared in my conversation much more of late as it is one of those words that can help describe so many things in my personal life but today it included the run Duncan I did along the Thames Path from Greenwich to the Thames Barrier at Woolwich the spiritual end of the Thames Path.

On this run there was a plan to run between the foot tunnels of Greenwich and Woolwich, run through it to the north side to return to Greenwich and had allotted it to be 11 miles. Never have I seen such activity along this section with large swathes of beautiful historical buildings being swamped by new multi-storey behemoths squeezing in on every patch of free land. The picture on the right hit me when I saw it this morning behind me was a block, all glass and steel, and there a pile of old flotsam and jetsom built on some whim but equally behind me was the Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park that looked rotten to the hinges with a trolley poking out of the water, an irony not lost on the two of us.

The two of us ran along the path talking about what we saw, conversation drifted naturally to our respective Father's and my dichotomic emotions that I have during my bereavement (I wish he was still with us v I glad he didn't suffer long type of conflict) to the very personal one of running and depression, a dichotomy or a feedback loop creating the perfect storm.

We touched on funny stories in my classroom to Duncan's journey from the southern hemisphere to northern counterpart and that of apartheid and that of right and left wing politics.

It was really great to see what the buildings on the Thames Path from another perspective of the north shore to realise that it has become ugly with the approach of the high rises that are not always apparent when being close up and at ground level of the path.

It does sound like a very serious run but as usual we were howling with laughter at some stories and smiling when jumping over the cracks in the pavement.  

A lovely run which was not as serious as it seems but one of amusement, a dichotomy in its self.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Throwing Down the Monkey Gauntlet

To "throw down the gauntlet" is to issue a challenge. A gauntlet-wearing knight would challenge a fellow knight or enemy to a duel by throwing one of his gauntlets on the ground. The opponent would pick up the gauntlet to accept the challenge.

This evening I saw a picture posted on Duncan's Facebook page of his Vibram Spyridons with the caption "Again!" and then a subsidiary picture of his muddy finger socks. To Duncan it is a celebration and not a snub or gloat but to me he had thrown down the gauntlet for me to rise from the sofa and get out for a run.

The weather outside is best described as cool at 2°C and to make a point I posted back a picture of my gnarled feet to him and stepped out in the evening with my head torch tucked in my pocket and  my door keys jingling around my neck. I was in for a surprise when I discovered the pain in my lower back I had on Sunday was hardly there and so decided to drop off the pace and enjoy my run to the club. I stood around in the cold having arrived 10 minutes early and joined in, if only half-hearted, with the others and then started to run with a group and after about a mile realised I wasn't enjoying the company so waved good bye making some excuse.

In a strange way I felt relieved  that I was by myself and so grabbing my torch from my pocket I entered my favourite woods for a about half a mile and then ducked out into the park for a quick circuit and out to my home.

I am so pleased that the Monkey [sock] Gauntlet was thrown down tonight and let me do what I love doing, night running off road.

A two story run

...or what you read in a blog is not always what it appears

The Blog Story
I was looking forward to Sunday when Duncan, Liz and I were going to meet up for our first run together for over a year. Liz had a car crash early last year and has been suffering from the resulting back injury but today we were on fire.

After sprinting up the hill to the aptly named meeting point called Hangman's Corner when I saw Duncan coming in the opposite direction doing an impersonation of an airplane and without breaking step we carried on non-stop to Liz's house, I stopped at the corner to do up my shoelace while Duncan skipped ahead to announce our arrival.

Liz and Duncan came bounding up the road towards me and I leapt into action and with the words of Liz emblazoned in my mind that we were to run 6 miles had planned a route around the local nature reserve and woods. 

The three of us were in high spirits as we chatted, laughed and hooted as we jumped and squished through the multitude of muddy puddles that lay in front of us.

Running with Liz and Duncan is a real pleasure as we potter along at the pace of the nicest view or place of interest, conversation boiling over with silly stories of the week (or year before), the lampoonery that we call work or some ridiculous thing that happened recently.

Sadly we had to part our ways when I opted to run the river bank back home whilst the other two ran up the hill to their respective houses but not before Duncan with his two big Monkey Feet jumped full on into a deep puddle of brackish water causing it to cover me from head to foot down one side, and so with a cheer in my voice and a heavy heart parted our ways to hopefully run again together soon.

The true story
I was really looking forward to Sunday when Duncan, Liz and I were going to meet up for our first run together for over a year. Liz had a car crash early last year and has been suffering from the resulting back injury but today we were on fire.

After dragging myself out of my bed, my head still full of sleeping tablet, I dressed and was soon seen walking sprinting up the hill after giving up running after 400 metres to the aptly named meeting point called Hangman's Corner when I saw Duncan coming in the opposite direction who I imagine was getting fed up waiting for me to haul my sorry arse up the hill doing an impersonation of an airplane and without breaking step we carried on non-stop to Liz's house with a few walking stops to allow me to stretch my lower back, I stopped at the corner of Liz’s road to do up my shoelace while Duncan skipped ahead to announce our arrival whilst I stretched my back again and tried not to puke on the roadside.

Liz and Duncan came bounding up the road towards me and I leapt into action did my best to look athletic  and with the words of Liz emblazoned in my mind that we were to run 6 miles had planned a route around the local nature reserve and woods. 

The three Two of us were in high spirits, I however in a more introspective mood but happy to run along as we Liz and Duncan chatted, laughed and hooted as we jumped and squished through the multitude of muddy puddles that lay in front of us.

Running with Liz and Duncan is a real an absolute pleasure as we potter along at the pace of the nicest view or place of interest slowest person (read as me and my numerous requests to walk), conversation boiling over with silly stories of the week (or year before), the lampoonery that we call work or some ridiculous thing that happened recently.

Sadly we had to part our ways when I opted to run the river bank back home because my lower back fucking hurt whilst the other two ran up the hill to their respective houses but not before Duncan with his two big Monkey Feet jumped full on into a deep puddle of brackish water causing it to cover me from head to foot down one side, and so with a grateful cheer in my voice and a heavy heart parted our ways to hopefully run again together soon but not until my aches and pains go away.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Out of Africa and it is not a cock and ball story!

Today's plan was to get out onto the North Downs and run with an easy pace with Duncan  and like a well oiled machine he open his front gate at 7.30am whilst I (unusually) was on time to travel by car to Titsey Hill. This hill is a bit of a monster and only once in my running career have I actually run up the whole length and that was the first and last time I have done it.

Whilst plotting the route on Saturday night I couldn't help notice that it looked a bit like Africa, OK,OK, I hear descent from my readership...Africa? Since then it has been seen to be an hand drill or a hand gripping something and also a cock and balls! I care not a jot, to me it was Africa and Duncan and I were going to run around and this cool Winter's day.

Ever so often there would be an update from me:
  • "We are running along the coast of Libya now"
  • "Just turning south to visit Egypt"
  • "...South Africa"
  • "...Gabon..."
  • "Shit, I am not very good on the West Coast of Africa...eerr Gambia"
It was one of those runs that most of the conversation was held in the car on the way to and back from Titsey Hill but it was nice just to have a quiet run through some of my favourite paths with a beastly climb up the Vanguard Way to the car. 

Another Pointless Point 

I am sometimes amazed by Duncan's patience with me when I create a small diversion to see some pointless point of interest but if you look closely the picture above (click on it to enlarge it) that you can see a line coming out of the North West coast of Africa where we detoured to find the sign that tells the peregrinator that they are passing the spot where the Zero Meridian crosses both the North Downs Way and the Vanguard Way. I was also heard to tell Duncan that I have also passed it on the South Downs Way where there is a similar post....more Bragger's Right than anything else. 

The picture above is me at the same point in April 2012 at race weight and ready for the Grand Union Canal Race  

Friday, 6 February 2015

A Tale of the Missing Monkey Feet

Last night was an epiphany for me when I realised that I have been focusing on the past too much and it was time to pull myself up by the shoe laces and get going. It was then I told myself that instead of grumbling about not running to start running.

So I packed my holdall with my Monkey Feet (and socks as it is very cold here at the moment) and my Union Flag shorts for good measure, this, and all the other trappings that have been collected over the years that I call "My Running Kit."

So this morning I stumbled out of bed bleary eyed after a previous long day at work and an evening of lecturing. Grabbed a coffee whilst stuffing the last pieces of equipment into my work rucksack and left the house with the ruck sack and my bag of My Running Kit. 

In England, when there is a hint of snow and a single flake floats down the whole of the transport system slows down with cancellations or late running trains, this with the added extra problem of a London bus strike tends to cause a perfect storm. I stumbled up to the station to find that indeed there were delayed trains and I got on what was advertised as a "slow" train grabbing my seat and got ready for my standard 23 minute journey. That was until I got to the next station and an urgent voice called over the tannoy that the train had been converted to a "fast" train and everybody should get off as it was no longer a stopping train giving us about 20 seconds to get off before the doors closed. I got off and jumped on the next "slow" train and after two stops a horrid realisation swept over me that I only had my work bag and that my running kit was on the fast train ahead of me. I was miserable.

What Next?

I decided to stay on the train up to London, after all I was only 20 minutes behind it and I could grab a guard and see it had been found. Then the comedy began when asking a guard he got on his radio "Alpha 6 to all Alpha has anyone had a grey Nike bag handed in?" No response "Go ask Beta 4 at the barrier" was the instruction and on asking who was Beta 4 he pointed a lady guard. So approaching Beta 4 she pointed me to "The third door on the left" and going to said door found it to be the rear of a pastry shop situated on the concourse. So getting a bit panicky I asked another guard, I am not sure if he was an Alpha or a Beta and in his wonderful Anglo-Nigerian accent said with joy that he knew where it was and then took me to what actually was "The third door on the right" entered the door, looked around, I was getting excited and then he said "Naah, this is a blue one, go speak to the man in the booth" pointing to an assistant on the Customer Service Desk.

Through the barrier I went to speak to the man behind it who turned out to be Peter and with a voice that made Barry White sound like a soprano, his East London accent told me "What is wrong with you lot today you are all losing stuff" I smiled and he continued "Write down your number, description of the Lost Prop (sic) and name" He then grabbed his phone " Yo, Peter here at The Vic (sic) can you check the next 4 trains from here to you, some bloke here has lost a grey Nike bag"....[muffled chat from phone].."Nice, sweet as a nut, laters".....[more muffled chat from phone]..."Right Jerry their ain't more we can do, give the call centre a call."

The Next Few Hours

Over the next 2 hours I was miserable and felt that I had been pushed off the rails yet again and was thinking that some of this kit had been collected over a number of years and not easy to replace. I grumbled and mumbled about work when The Delightful Mrs S called "Who the hell is Peter? He says he has found your bag and it is at platform 5 of Orpington station."

I was elated and after taking the extra few stops to Orpington tonight I excitedly approached a guard (probably Charlie 2) who took me to the control room of the station with blinking lights, the buzzing of buzzers and the stale musk often found in male dominated changing rooms to point at my lovely old Nike kit bag and stapled to the handle was a hand written note:

To Be Possible Collected by Mr Jerry Smalled(sic)

I was over the moon, I look back at that moment now and it was almost like finding your missing family cat after it had run away. Silly really but it does show how important these sometimes abused pieces of kit are to me in my sporting life and reflecting on how it has become part of my running persona what with my shorts and my trusty Monkey Feet.

My run at the track tonight was wonderful with a scattering of snow on the lanes, the moon as high in the sky as I felt.

Monday, 2 February 2015

GUCR 2015 and other ramblings

So it is that time of year again when I have to make the final decision whether to run at the GUCR 2015 event and at 00:40hrs on 1st February 2015 I finally made my commitment by transferring the entry fee to Dick Kearne the Race Director.

It has not been a good time for me in general and running has not been of great importance to me preferring my other hobbies to distract my ever buzzing mind. The last 3 months of 2014 were not good ones for me having lost my Aunt in October and then my Father in late November which took the wind from my sails and make me turn inwards to my family.

All through this I battled with the change in my anti-depressant medication the original making me from an overly loud, high-spirited, sometimes annoying individual to a quiet introvert who felt his creativity return so blunted by the previous tablets. However, the ever present ogre of my depression paced behind my fore-brain and has popped out to see what was happening in the world..

There is no book written that can explain bereavement, how one minute you are fine and then a memory pops up of your loved one and the emotional agony returns like a wave trapping you for minutes to move away as though nothing had happened to cause the tears.

I want to talk more about running and depression some other time but bereavement is nothing like it, the two of them are poles apart but somehow interlinked.

GUCR 2015

Having entered the ballot and receiving a place I saw it as a break in the cloud and enjoyed the chance to do it again but in January I was filled with self-doubt, lethargy and head filled with confusion that only bereavement can show. My monthly mileage was less than when I first started running 8 years ago, the medication and lack of exercise was making me pile on the pounds.

I am in now and I really want to finish it this time, get the monkey off my back and chose to make the first day of February be the start but at 7.00 am I was awoken by my alarm, I hit it and rolled over not waking again until 11.00 am.

I need to get out and run again not for my mental health but for me.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, all the world, she walks into mine.

This was my first thought when the awesome Fiona McNelis shouted "Is that you Jerry?" in the middle of a field on the edge of Kent a stones throw from Ashurst.

As you know from my previous blog I was course checking a race last Saturday and Fiona was acting as a sweeper for the same race. If you click on the picture to the left you can see us posing for a race photographer who happened to be passing at the time. You will note that I look decidedly muddier and unkempt than Fiona who always seems to be fresh and full of life...actually she was 1 mile into the course running the reverse route to start her sweep as I was finishing off and gasping for a cup of coffee having been on the trail since 7.30 that morning.

Fiona and I have a strange relationship where we often meet in the middle of a field, checkpoint or finish line. Fiona, a frighteningly intelligent person with an amazing ability to make me howl with laughter when telling me of her escapades on the field of play that we call ultrarunning and we always leave the last conversation on hold to restart where we left off a month or so later.

And that, Dear Reader, sums up long distance running when you can meet a fellow runner in the middle of field in the middle of nowhere but know you can rely on the amazing camaraderie so prevalent in the sport I so love.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Running in Pooh Country

This weekend I had the opportunity to run as a Course Checker for a new group called Trailscape whom I know little about but I had volunteered my services via Facebook request on the Trail Running Group.

I arrived in Ashurst, Kent which lies on its border with Sussex  at 7.00am and stepped into a hive of activity announcing my arrival to the Race Director and from that moment I was whipped into shape, briefed, introduced to a driver and another Course Checker, Martin, who was doing the 10km route.

Looking at the weather I decided that it was two shirts, waterproof smock, leggings, my trusty Adidas Kanadias  and Injinji socks. I was ejected from the car along with Martin and were pointed to a disused railway track to find our way. I failed at the start when it wasn't explained to me that my section (the latter 13.1 miles) actually didn't cross over the track but UNDER so ran over the top of it for about 2km but was soon pointed to the correct place by the local dog walkers.

The course was a tough one taking me over the tops of hills with the wind howling through the trees such that I could lean into it, rain pelting my face like needles and mud that squelched over your ankles in places. I was pleased to be the trailblazer as the mud was undisturbed but know if you are the fiftieth pair of feet on the trail it can be hard going.  People were few and far between but those that did cross my path were friendly.

Pooh's Bridge

I knew I was in what we Brits quaintly call "Pooh Country" in recognition of A.A. Milne's childrens' book about the adventures of a toy bear called Winnie the Pooh. To my joy I saw a finger post stating "Pooh's Bridge" and pointing me down the path I was to take and there in front of me was the famous bridge. I stopped and grabbed a few twigs and dropped them on one side to jump across to the other side to see my stick pass under, a game not really made for one but I was happy I won both of my games.

Not much more I can say other than it was great to be out on the trails by myself again and to stand at tops of hills and take stock. As I came to the end of my section I saw the runners who were racing a 10km stretch (Organised by the same people) and to join them for the run to the finish line. I hadn't realised how dehydrated I was until I got to a check point and drank like a fish.

Very pleased with my 18 miles on a very tough and in poor conditions, I have a feeling my fitness will return quite quickly as long as I keep the long runs up. 

Eeyore: Tigger, I'd be happy to tell you my secret for winning at Poohsticks.
Tigger: [eagerly] Uh, you would?
Eeyore: It's very easy. You just have to let your stick drop in a twitchy sort of way.
Tigger: Oh yeah, I forgot to twitch. That was my problem.
[twitches, then bounces]
Tigger: Hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo!
[we hear a crash]
Eeyore: Bounced again.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Special Forces Monkey

I was looking through the internet last night and came across an article from a few years ago in which it stated that the US military had ordered soldiers to not wear training shoes in which the toes had "Their own separate compartments" which plainly meant the Vibram Five Finger series on shoes as "They gave off the wrong image"

I found the image above , and I assume was taken before the ban, of a US Special Forces dog handler leaping from a plane.....wearing none less than a pair of Monkey Feet.

It appears that the upper echelons of the said military force wanted soldiers to have all their toes in one compartment but having trained along rocky and sandy beaches, jumped into the water(for the hell of it) then run off again I can safely say the best shoes for swimming/running on unknown surfaces is by no argument the Vibram Five Finger (Monkey Feet) shoe, light weight, quick drying with tough under sole  and don't clog with mud.

So much for "Bad Image" this is still a compelling picture.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Quaggy or soft and flabby

adj. quag·gi·er, quag·gi·est
1. Resembling a marsh; soggy.
2. Soft and flabby.

They often say that life mimics art and today was no exception. After a few emails backwards and forwards so that Duncan and I could shuffle our run together between the various happenings we call "Family Life" I finally turned up at his door, asking how far we were running was met with the usual non-committal answer of "7 or 8 or 9 or 10".

Today's pointless run was to follow the partly underground River Quaggy (Definition above)  for a few miles,the irony not missed on me who is definitely quaggy around my midriff after very little training due to my heel injury.

Great run today apart from stubbing my toe on a hidden stump in the woods which had me swearing like a trooper but I will see how it is over the next day or so.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Looking forward

Friedrichswall ,Hanover
I have decided that in 2015 I am going to take on a few challenges, my primary goal is to complete the Grand Union Canal Race once and for all but will enjoy myself along the way.

So far,
  1. Course Checker (Trailscape) 13.1 miles + 3.6 miles (10th January 2015)
  2. Dover Marathon (28th March 2015)
  3. Dover Half Marathon (28th March 2015
  4. Dover Marathon (29th March 2015)
  5. Dover 10km (29th March 2015)
  6. Hanover Marathon (19th April 2015)
  7. Grand Union Canal Race (May 2015)

Note 2-5 above, a complete mad idea to bash out 2 marathons, a half marathon and a 10km race all over one weekend.

As for no.6 I am really pleased to have costed out my stay and have even got a hotel within 50 metres of the start, see the picture above, hotel entrance on the left, martahon start across the road. Good times roll.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Top 50

It is this time of year when runners who are also bloggers review their year, good or bad. However, this blog entry is a little celebration for the mighty few, Andrea, Chris, Bhundu and myself who together pulled off a brilliant result this year.

I was approached by Andrea at the tail end of 2013 asking whether I knew any good trail runs up to 10km that a race could be organised. I drew a blank as the main requirement was "No Roads", which makes the list much shorter, that, along with car parking, toilets, mud (another top of the list requirement) and beautiful views, the search was on.

One day, after a training run with Andrea and Kay, we drove past a woodland area that I know well having run it on numerous occasions and I shouted "Toilets, car park, hills, lots of hills, views...this is it." The rest is history.

Andrea got to work and after a few months she told me that permission had been given to hold a race and I was given the job of working out the course which was a real conundrum as the trails were in a crisscross pattern and only covered about 4 miles. Here is the bit I am good at, planning, adapting and creating. So with my good running pal Duncan we went out on numerous runs around the woodlands overlooking Shoreham, Kent, cut corners, added switch backs, dived through a bush, threw the plans away and started again. We even set up a measuring wheel and calculated that the event was exactly 10,017 metres long!

Andrea and her husband are amazing organisers, arrows were created, maps written, posters made and much, much more. There was a team of about 20 people who gave up their time to help and marshal the runners which is amazing when you think that some club races have hundreds of helpers, we pulled it off.

I have now been informed that the Shoreham 10km Trail Race has been voted to be one of the top 50 10km races in Great Britain for 2014.(Runners World)

I am chuffed to bits.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

New Web Address

To My Dear Readers,

 Firstly, can I thank all of you that have visited and supported this blog over the years and hopefully enjoyed my ramblings, 2015 will be a great year for all of us and I have many adventures planned for you to enjoy.

For many moons my blog has had the cumbersome web address of:

which, for some of you, has been a bit of a pain to type in, so from now onwards you will be able to type in:

 The new link used to be my old website that was originally set up for fun in the early days of the internet but I found it was not easy to update on a timely basis due to my busy personal and sport life. It slowly morphed into a running site over a number of years but I have found you, the reader, came to my blog as a preference.

Nothing will change on my blog, just that it now has two links which will take you to here, so if you have save the link in your bookmarks or favourites you have nothing to do.

Monkeys and Meteors

Actual picture of a meteor
using my cam
Saturday once again saw Duncan and his son Ché, our honorary member  for the Night Run go out in search meteors in the sky. The meteors were to appear from the constellation of Gemini and are aptly called the Geminids  and were to appear in the night sky between 7.00pm and throughout the night peaking at 2.00am.

Turning up at Duncan's at 7.40 pm I was met by two very excited faces and as usual a vague plan to run "Somewhere dark"

Let's put the clock back 2 hours which saw me at my kitchen table converting my daughter's discarded iPhone 4 into a tripod mounted camera and with the addition of a 69 pence App called Slow Shutter Cam to allow long exposure shots.

 Back to the run with the three of us chatting and planning the best place to go and chose to go to the local nature reserve which had enough trees around to block the city lights. Finding a spot in the now frozen grass, my feet now filling the chill, Ché and I set up the iPhone using the compass for direction and looking to the sky at about 23 degrees ( I had written on a bit of paper) stood back to watch the night sky.

Ever so often one of us would point at the sky and scream "Woooah there's one" then in unison when a large one went over...magical stuff.

Soon Duncan and I were heard to grumble that our feet were actually hurting which is not unbelievable when there is about 2 mm of rubber between you and a -2 C frosted ground to run a different route via the main paths. I felt as though I wanted to stay longer but I think we had seen enough returning via a path next to the local cemetery and the bent fence of a once disputed boundary line and the gushing of an underground river yet to be explored.

Not a long run but a really fun run with geekiness, laughing and fun...good times/   

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Mojitos or Monkey Feet

"Ice is for Mojitos not Monkey Feet" the Delightful Mrs S was heard to say almost apoplectic with rage when I simply asked for her to pass 5 cubes to me so I could ice my heel.

Tonight I went to the track to test out my heel wearing my faithful Monkey Feet, possibly counter-intuitive my thinking was that if I wore them I was less likely to heel strike, but also on the other hand stretch the Achilles tendon a bit. With these two thoughts in my head I had all the intention of running very slowly in Recovery Mode and just see how it went and to drop out if necessary.

I was even seen joining in with the speed trainers for a warm up session to stretch myself and warm for my run.

Very pleased to report that it went well, no pain to report around the heel area so I have put on my trusty stretch bandage and placed a bag containing the above 5 cubes in it around the heel and Achilles to stop any swelling.

Feeling very pleased as I will now be able to join in a few Christmas related runs over the coming weeks.

Back to the track

image c/o Trailscape
Posts have been minimal in recent weeks with me suffering from a heel injury which I cannot pinpoint but it is around the side below the ankle one moment and then the Achilles so I have been resting it.

My training plans have been adapted a little to accommodate the lack of running and hope to get a run in at the track this Thursday evening to see how it is. Plans are afoot and I am pleased to announce that I will be doing some more volunteering in January 2015 for a new (to me?) race team called Trailscape who have a great tag line "Run it, Love it, live it". There RD, Hannah, put out a call for helpers on the Trail Running Association Facebook page last evening looking for them to check the 10km, half and full marathon routes 2 hours before the races started and I was quick to volunteer for the marathon check which was accepted by Hannah. I love to see so many people wanting to volunteer their services and I hope to run route with my ultrarunning buddy Fiona who is always a good laugh.

So already I have a marathon to run within the first 10 days of 2015, just what the doctor ordered. All I need now is my heel to get better.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

The Ironic Monkey

I often get the same old questions when wearing my Monkey Feet a.k.a. Vibram Fivefinger TrekSports and I have no problem explaining to people why. The main reason I love them is that they are really comfortable....apart from The Thames Meander marathon earlier this month. There is all this hype about "heel striking" and "running mid-foot" rightly or wrongly, this is not the reason for this post.

Aware that I have to put in a lot of training between now and May 2015 I have made a point of wearing my Monkey Feet for only one training run a week and so on Tuesday this week I ran 10 miles (16km) in my Merrell Glove 2 with a 9.5 mm stack as opposed with my MF's at 4mm. Instantly I noted during this run that my running style had changed to instead of my feet being directly below me saw me standing more vertically and my strides having a straighter leg on the forward swing. I complained next day and the day after that my heels hurt and then it occurred to me when putting my Merrell's on again that the exact point the heel cup touched my heel and achilles was where the bruising was.

I had been injured by the very shoes that were supposed to be protecting me from heel strike because they offered a higher stack and zero drop such that I was unaware of that heel strike. 

Time to take stock.