Sunday, 22 October 2017

I received a lovely email last week via England Athletics from a lady called Nayoung who is blind and asked if I would be her Guide Runner. It transpires that she lives about 2 miles from me so we exchanged a few emails and agreed to meet at Goddington Park, Orpington at the parkrun; Nayoung was very happy as was I.

It is important that as a Guide Runner for visually impaired (VI) athletes you arrange to meet at a venue where there are lots of people so that they feel safe and this worked perfectly for us today as Nayoung came with a friend who was her chaperone. After introducing ourselves to the Race Director, Peter, who I have run hundreds of miles with in the past, we dumped Nayoung's coat and stick to go off to the centre of the park. Here I explained to her that we needed to get to know each other and do some drills together. As always I had a planned session that lasted 45 minutes where we did the following:

  • Right Turns
  • Left Turns
  • About Turns 
  • Gradual turns to the left and right
  • Rough trail
  • Uneven trail
Nayoung was a natural, a brilliant VI runner who was happy to tell me to slow, walk or run. We learnt not to say "Sorry" if we bumped elbows, everything I needed as guide so she could get the best from her run with me.

As for myself, I had a lovely time, what with meeting old friends and actually running (Which I miss terribly) and meeting a new friend. Next week I am picking her up from her home so that we can do a slightly longer, in duration, run around the park and then progress to hopefully run a full parkrun in a few weeks

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Nobody said it was going to be easy.

Unbeknownst to many of my friends I have started to run again and I use that term very loosely. There are many reasons why I have started again but the main one is I secretly miss it.

My official first run was on 16th February at the track, the track is quite a good place to start as there is no pressure on you and nobody ever asks what my plan was. To be frank, it was just to be able to get around a few laps, walk when I needed and run when I wanted and I was very pleased with completing 5 km but felt dreadful.

Nobody said it was going to be easy.

Since then I have completed another 7 runs on the track and at roughly the same distance, I am slowly getting a bit more confident but I am finding my internal cadence clock doesn't understand that I am not as fit as I was. Let me explain, after years of training pace, going on long distance runs with a set time in mind, being able to run a set distance and finishing within seconds of the planned time it just doesn't understand about slowing the tempo down.

Nobody said it was going to be easy.

God doesn't build in straight line
For a few weeks now I have been trying to get a spot in Duncan's and my diary so that I can try and return to running together again like we used to a few years back and today was one of those rare days so I dragged my sorry arse up the hill to our usual meeting point of Hangman's Corner. The agreement was to run at tempo so that we could chat  but as per usual we totally forgot about that and after about 400 metres I was panting like an old dog, I say panting, it was more like a goldfish gasping for water to fill it's gills, so we reset the clock and jogged off.

Nobody said it was going to be easy.

What I like about runs with Duncan is that we can always pick up a conversation that lay unfinished from 2 weeks ago and just carry it on as though the time didn't matter. We talked of how age changes our ability to run, muscle tone, loss of speed and our changes in posture. We then blew this nonsense out of the water and reminded ourselves why we ran, the bluebells, early this year, were out and around us was a sea of blue heads popping their heads above the soil. We looked at decaying trees and quoted films "God doesn't build in straight lines" Prometheus (2012)

Our pace began to normalise to a steady pace and we did what Duncan I do best, we skipped we jumped and laughed whilst we navigated the gnarled old paths of the local woods.

With a heavy heart we returned to Hangman's Corner thinking it was time to say goodbye and the hope I could walk the rest of the way when Duncan said he would run down the hill with me, I silently swore under my breath, and joined him in the last bit, my lungs felt as though I had swallowed a litre of fluid and my throat felt it was on fire. We finally got to the path where we said our goodbyes and I looked to see if he could still see me, he didn't so I walked the rest of the way home.

Nobody said it was going to be easy.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Don't Compare

When you are content to be simply yourself and don't compare or compete, everybody will respect you.

Lao Tzu

Today was a big day for my running as it was a Sunday which is the traditional day for the "Long Run" in any training programme. You will often hear runners exclaim "Who is up for a long run?" or "I am doing a long run on Sunday, you coming?" and even "I did a long run at the weekend, boy it was hard!" The question of what exactly is a Long Run from a none runner is not often ventured as it opens up the floor for a running enthusiast to regale such stories of mud, blood, blisters and chafing normally around tea break when the non-runner is wishing they had never asked. So in fact, the long run, is an arbitrary distance that the runner sees in their training plan as the longest of the runs that week and can range from 1 to 40 miles.

Today I ventured out for my "Long Run" which was in my mind was a big ask considering I am on day three of my training plan and it was to run 5 miles (8 km). A few years ago this distance for me wasn't even considered only because I was doing such enormous distances that it was tiny in comparison . However, today was different, this was my marathon, and I had planned to run through the local woods  and then a loop of the nature reserve.

The Delightful Mrs S was very kind as she knew I didn't want to be seen by people I knew as I am a little upset by weight gain that I didn't want to be seen as a tub of lard on legs . The run wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be mainly because I mentally cut out the images of yesteryear but lived with the here and now. It was a very pleasant early Spring day today, the ground underfoot was soft but a pleasure to run on, the warm air lapping around me as I jogged along, walked the hills and ran the flats with my headphones playing a mixture of AC/DC and Tchaikovsky. 

So there we have it, a lovely spring run wearing my old faithful Vibram TrekSport a.k.a. Monkey Feet 2 and a note to myself to concentrate on the "short" stuff to get my cardiovasvular up to scratch for the next 3 weeks ready to step up and be happy with my level fitness and not others.

Like a wheezing old dog

I made a decision this week that I should start getting regular exercise again which has not been happening of late. I can blame it on so many things: Long hours at work, extra contracts lecturing, laziness or a plethora of other excuses. Mentally, I have been in a good place since my start at the Natural History Museum which is an amazing place but the demonic Black Dog is always close by but have been, with the help of my medication, managed to keep ahead of it. The medication has some side effects, for me, is a massive gain in weight and excessive tiredness with me being able to fall asleep at the drop of a hat.

This week I have had a break from lecturing on a Thursday evening and so went directly from work to the running track. Putting on my shorts I noticed they felt a little tighter than they used to and ventured out on to track-side to join the throng of other runners who were all chatting excitedly about their forthcoming marathons, training plans and injuries. I no longer get involved in these conversations as they tend to bore me as runners can be very opinionated about their own training experience and so I separated myself from the group and went about the business of running by myself.

I put on my headphones, something I have started to do when I am in groups, and ran very slowly so I could get a sense of what my body was telling me. After 1200 metres my breathing became more laboured and I started to wheeze, everything I expected, as my lungs started to clear. Taking a break at 1600 metres I chose to bring the pace down and push on but walk 100 metres every 300 metres, this seemed to do the job but I did feel that I wasn't so much as gliding through the air more barging it out of the way.

Early days but I do feel that if I stick to it my fitness will return but probably a lot slower now.

Onwards and upwards as they say. 

Sunday, 4 December 2016

I'm back

Dippy the Diplodocus
I have been away from my blog for far too long and so much has happened in my life that ultra-running had to be put on the back burner whilst I dealt life's ups and downs.

Since I last wrote I have been running on and off having entered and run the Liverpool to Leeds 130 but completed just 51 miles before jumping into a pub and calling it as day. To be frank, I had no chance of completing it and was very happy to get to the point I did with absolutely no training!!!

Other news that I need to catch up on is that I am now an England Athletics qualified:
  1.  Mental Health Ambassador, 
  2. A Guide Runner for Visually Impaired and Blind Athletes
and in those roles I have run with, mentored and met some amazing people who use running and walking as one of their therapies, I am often just a "listener" to let them just talk in a non-confrontational or neutral environment to get things off their chest.

I announced on social media about a month ago that I would be retiring from ultra-running as I cannot afford to have so much time training but now I have been "prescribed" running by my doctor.

Additionally, I was made redundant in September this year but was able to get my dream job working at the Natural History Museum in London as their Senior Database Administrator Developer. I am sure to mention the museum more than once over the coming weeks but please remember that my Monkey Feet a.k.a. Vibram Five Fingers are still around and running in a race or two near you soon.

Monday, 2 May 2016

England Athletics - Mental Health Ambassador

In February 2016 I was made aware that England Athletics were looking for Mental Health Ambassadors from the ranks of local running clubs which I leapt at, the advertisement read:

England Athletics are looking for Mental Health Ambassadors who are committed to our cause of improving mental wellbeing through running.
We are looking for ambassadors who are/have:

  • Experience of a mental health problem, either personally or from a close relative or friend.
  • An open and non-judgmental attitude.
  • A member of an England Athletics affiliated club or Run England group.
  • A positive, patient and supportive approach towards supporting people with mental health problems.
  • A positive role model.
  • Behave in a professional, confidential and non-discriminatory manner at all times and promote equal opportunities for all.
I jumped at the chance and wrote a brief history of my experience, background and outlook, much to my surprise I was accepted along with about another 100 people in England. My role, whilst not a counsellor, is to:

  • Support
  • Engage
  • Use social media to guide athletes
  • Share social media messages
  • Talk openly to people
  • Advocate (finger point to resources)
  • Volunteer in events to support people with mental health concerns
It is early days yet but I am really looking forward to taking on my role.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

The one that nearly got away

My race kit sat by the front door ready for a quick get away for the Punchbowl Marathon which was either a 20 or 30 mile, I had opted for the 20 miler and was looking forward to my first event of 2016....that was until I woke up at 6.15 am on the day of the race.

The morning of the event

The alarm went off and I surfaced from a very deep sleep aided nicely by my anti-depressants but with the added affect that I couldn't rouse myself so sat on the edge of my bed for 5 minutes trying to kick start my body but like so many mornings I was filled with feelings of insecurity, self-doubt and worse, misery. It would have been very simple to get back into bed, pull the duvet over me and fall asleep.

I was in a personal fight of  Do It versus Don't Do It, the former just about winning but the latter was beginning to overwhelm my senses. I went into automated mode, made coffee, got my kit on, drank coffee still wanting to go back to bed and switch off.

I dragged myself to the car, got in and drove to Witley in Surrey about 75 minutes away and then found that my medication was not clearing but soldiered on with the window fully open so the cold air kept me alert.

Hi Gramps

I had forgotten that I was to drive past the Royal Horticultural Society, Wisley where my Father's ashes were scattered, I waved as I passed said "Hi Gramps" and for the remainder of the journey had tears running down my cheeks...bereavement is such a horrible thing but promised him that today's run was for him.

The event

As normal, the LDWA put on a brilliant event, the weather cold, windy but sunny. After catching up with old trail friends I excused myself and went off on my own, there is one thing I love about my mob of mates is that they respect your privacy and are happy either way, to run as a group or not.

This was my first time doing the Punchbowl and so I was looking forward to the challenge and, that, is exactly what it was. The ascents were steep, the ground sometimes no more that river beds, soft gloopy mud and exposed chalk and sandstone just waiting for you to tumble which I did a few times.

Jeez, this event was tough, more so due to my lack of training but I was in it to the end. The picture above was taken at the viewpoint of the Devil's Punch Bowl which is a large natural amphitheatre and beauty spot  and was the highest point in the run and I was very happy it was going to down hill all the way. I couldn't be so wrong when I was directed to go up a 1000 metre riverbed of a path that just went up and up and up.

I was happy though when I saw the last descent and the village hall in Witley where there was a plate of beans on toast and a cup of sweet coffee. So I did it and with a smile at the end just over the reported distance at 33km.....very pleased with that.

Friday, 12 February 2016

"Just go out and enjoy it" they said

The past few weeks have flown by and whilst I may not be posting regularly I am indeed running in the background and slowly but surely my fitness is returning.

The beginning of the year saw my Demons return for a short while when I wallowed in a shallow pity and deep doubt of my ability as a runner and the almost insurmountable challenge of the GUCR. 

On 5th January this year I ran along the Paddington Branch of the Grand Union Canal from Little Venice to Bull's Bridge and was not a happy Monkey at the end of it realising I had a long way to go into my training plan. Guided by friends who advised me to stop worrying about training plans and distances but go out and fall in love with the sport again. Looking back at this I realise that it is probably the best advice I have had in years, go out and enjoy it and that is what I have done.

My Garmin sits idle in the top draw of the night stand and my Apple Watch is set to No Goal and I just go for a run. The humorous picture above shows me looking very serious but in fact it has become a meme to show that in fact I am really enjoying it . I turned up to the track early to watch one of the coaches put someone through some running drills to improve his gait, had this been 550 years ago the coach would have been been burnt at the stake if the Inquisitors had seen the amazing results that he made to the runner. After this I joined the main group who were hovering around ready to start and warmed up with them and then went for a pleasantly paced run with a lady called Nicki who wanted to take it easy after an injury. We went off at a very sedate pace, no goals, just a run and as we chatted I noticed that I was running unlaboured and actually enjoying it such that we decided to do a pyramid run of 4,3,2,1,2,3,4 laps with 100 metre walk between sets. As we chatted we soon noticed the pace was up.

I don't think I can remember a word Nicki and I chatted about but the distraction really helped boost my confidence such that I am ready to take on my first challenge of the year on Sunday when I run in the Punchbowl Marathon a distance of either 20 or 30 miles, I am going to set myself the 20 miles as an easier goal and leave the larger distance to next weekend.  

Make note to self --> Just go out and enjoy it on Sunday, you have bigger fish to fry 

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Secret Monkey Mission

I was back on the Grand Union Canal (Paddington Branch) on Monday this week and boy did it feel fantastic to be there again.

I had been requested by a member of my extended family of long distance runners to do a reconnaissance on the section between Bulls Bridge and Little Venice to which I was more than happy to do if only to get me out on the canal again and also have some purpose in my training.

My original plan was to run from Bulls Bridge to Little Venice but on my way there I was contacted by my work and was pulled into the office to "fix" a wayward server. With this change in plans so I chose to change the direction to save time.

The recent wet weather and winds left the canal-side wet in places with puddles formed  in certain non-residential areas but as usual there were the usual sights and sounds. Cyclist whizzed by with a customary "ting-ting" of their bell, Polish fishermen were catching their supper, the occasional prostitute stood on a corner plying their trade and the boats sat in their winter moorings whilst the smell of burning wood hit the back of my throat. A normal day on the canal. The light was magical as you would expect on a cool winter morning giving everything a yellow glow and the boats form silhouettes in the water.

I had planned out a route of 21 kilometres on the canal and 2 kilometres either end to get between there and the stations. Yes, the run was hard, I am in no way at running weight yet and my cardiovascular is not at all good such that my pace was very slow but methodical, at best described as "ultra pace"

Swans hissed at me as I passed whilst I swore back at them, I overtook boats whose hippy captains tendered to their spluttering engines and the occasional drug addict looked up at me with paranoid eyes. I puffed and wheezed along inwardly smiling knowing where I needed to get to in terms of fitness and this run was the step up I needed.

Finding that I had bled my battery dry from taking too many pictures in regards to my Secret Monkey Mission I was unable to get my triumphant selfie at Bulls Bridge but happy to tell you it was still there but I can confirm it still is.

This run was a lovely run.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Now all pray to the Monkey Gods

On Tuesday evening this weekI was to be my first go as an official group leader after my recent qualification as a Leader in Running Fitness. As I am getting back to fitness I didn't want to be seen to flake out after a mile so asked to go with Group 2, usually comprising people new to running and making their first step up into a distance past 5km or people returning from injury. This is a nice group to lead as all they need to do is get some confidence that in fact they can do it and to realise speed and distance comes to those who are patient. My brief was to run 4.5 miles at 10:30 - 11:00 min/miles, nothing more, nothing less, so I had planned the route but had no Garmin GPS to use to pace so I chose to blag it and go with the flow!

It was much surprise when I was introduced as " Welcome Jezza on his inaugural run as Group 2 Leader" a large cheer went up and a round of applause rippled through the crowd that I introduced the run, speed and distance. Then the next surprise (and much relief) when a small group of about 12 runners gathered around me with expectant faces.

The run went well with a few stops for all to group together (at their request) and it was interesting that some of them were not sure where they were which is probably a good thing as I had planned a little treat of a local hill I call "Cardiac Hill 2" as it quite steep and has to be taken at the runner's own pace. When I told them what I had planned some of them them looked absolutely miserable so I told them "At your pace I want you to get to the top of the hill, you can run it, walk it or crawl it but I don't want you to stop" and off we plodded ( I was shamefully at the back as my hills are not great at the moment but I am good of the flat) as I reached the top I was met with a sea of smiling faces.

Then it was the last mile or so back to the club house with the pack happily chatting behind me such that with 800 metres to go I set them off on a chase back with "orders" to meet in the car park for a shake and stretch.

In the car park the pack now full of endorphins were set in a circle and I asked them to relax and blow out and stretch to the heavens to see if they could touch the Monkey Gods and then bend down and to all pray to them. There was a ripple of bemused laughter from a few of them as only a few knew about my Monkey Feet and the reference.

Monday, 7 December 2015

A morning marking a course

Like many races a competitor will tun up to the event, collect a number, get dressed in their kit and wait to start the race mostly unaware of the frantic activity that has been going on before the crack of dawn that day.

I turned up at a small village hall in Cuxton, Kent where there were a team of people scurrying around fixing tents, computers being connected and flags being raised. I walked in quietly and got dressed in my kit comprising my dear old Monkey Feet, a pair of Union Flag shorts and a light weight running jacket whilst the weather promised to be dry all day I put a pair of gloves and a Buff into my backpack along with a first aid kit and a litre of water.

The job of a course checker/marker and indeed Sweeper are self efficient as you are working before check points are prepared or, as a sweeper, when they are closing down so it is best to carry your own. So with a pre-run briefing from the Race and Course Directors I stepped on the start line just as the sun rose up in the east, a glorious start of a run over the Downs.

Without a blow by blow account of what happened on the course (not very much by the way) it has certainly taught me a lesson not to:

  1. Over estimate my fitness
  2. Under estimate the Downs again
Yes it was tough, the hills sharp, the mud gloopy in places and the trail hardened such that my Monkey Feet were not protecting my sole as best they can.

On the more optimistic front I certainly began to realise that I had missed my opportunities to be trotting over the various hills, alone with my thoughts, a map in hand and a beady eye on the horizon.

It is the day after the run now and I have a blackened toe nail (from a trip) and tired legs but I am so very happy that I was able to run 14 miles at my ultra pace with little problems after apart from a pang to get back out there again

Friday, 4 December 2015

Optimistic post

The plan for Wednesday was for me to run a session with a group of runners and had set a nice plan to do parlaufs, fartleks and sprints to build up some power in their runs.

This was turned on its head when, after I had navigated (read as short cut) across the local park with my head torch I reached the arranged meeting point to find that only two people had turned up. Feeling a little disappointed we decided to go for a run being aware that one of the runners was new to the sport so took a gentle pace which I was secretly glad of as I am finding it difficult to drop my speed and so blow myself out quite quickly.

So we ran together for about 5 kilometres and dropped of a runner to their car when the remaining guy Peter, who I have run together quite a few times but you may remember helped mark a course with me in 2014  and so there is a kindred spirit of going "off piste" so we decided to go back the way I came, I with a head torch, he without. So slipping and sliding about in my Monkey Feet we hung to a tree line, ducked over to one side of a clump of bushes and then a new tree line to join the main path and out to the road.

We said our goodbyes leaving him to traipse up the local mountain (read as the steepest hill in the local area) and I to the downhill slope to my house where I jumped into the house feeling a little tired but elated that something good came out of a bad thing.

No track this week as I want to rest up as I am course checking a trail race route on Saturday taking me 21 kilometres which I am very much looking forward to.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Thoughts for 2016

I was once told by a competitor of the Grand Union Canal Race that it is a race that gets under your skin and itches away until you have completed it. Never has a truer word been spoken and so with 2015 nearly at the end I can only claim one trail marathon in my Monkey Feet I look towards 2016.

You will have seen my recent post that I have entered the GUCR 2016 and now to top it all I have also entered the Liverpool to Leeds 130 mile foot race to be held on Saturday 27th August starting at the Eldonian Village Hall, Liverpool.

I am totally up for these two and are my main athletic targets for the year with anything else incidental.

Roll on 2016

Friday, 27 November 2015

Shine on You Crazy Monkey

If there is one thing I have learnt this week it is about patience and that came from the most unusual places, my cat.

Mark Twain wrote:

"A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way."

This blog's image today is my cat ,Oliver, who can sit and watch a bird or anything food related for hours on end without moving a muscle. Here he is watching our beef stew cooking and he sat there for over 20 minutes looking through the oven door waiting for the meal to cook so that he could get some of it.

This is now my approach to running after my return a few weeks ago, nice and gently and not rushing things and already it is showing its dividends. As I am overweight at present, last week at the track I did a Pyramid Run which can benefit if the following three areas:
  • Strengthening my heart
  • Improve overall fitness levels
  • Burn off fat 
and this week I decided to do repetitions, run 400 metres at tempo, walk 100 metres, run 400 metres at tempo, walk 100 metres, and so on until I reached my goal of 8000 metres for the session. I usually chat with people when I run around but that run was important to me and I did something I have never done in running, listened to music!!!

So with Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here playing in my head at volume 11 I traipsed off plodding out my laps in my Monkey Feet and jumping into lane 2 when I was aware the other guys zoomed passed doing 800 metre reps caring not a jot as my focus was distracted from my legs but still aware of my heart rate. I hadn't realised until I was told, much to their amusement,  afterwards that I was singing very loudly on the back straight at one point so it does seem I was not feeling bad! 

I am amazed after just 3 weeks how much I have improved in my stamina (still a long way to go), I am losing some weight (My shirts are not so tight) and a general positive attitude towards running/fitness. I still have to battle my demons on a daily basis but that is the norm these days and just have to push them aside and try to live with the here and now

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Leadership in Running Fitness

So the training continues with some workouts and runs this week. On Thursday at the track I was determined to get a proper training session in and to refrain from walking. The difficulty I am facing is that I have the mindset of an Ultrarunner but not necessarily the physical conditioning and so when I run I think I can go faster than my body lets me. My strategy to prevent myself from losing breath is a pretty obvious one and is simply to come off the pace which is harder than it seems. So with me taking great effort to slow down I did a 1600, 1200,800,400, 400,800,1200,1600 metre pyramid run with a 60 second recovery in between each set, tough as it seems I cam e away from the track in a real high.

Leadership in Running Fitness

I have not mentioned this on my blog as of today as I was unsure whether I was going to be fit to do it but I undermine myself as the fitness is returning. I am normally critical of some courses but this one was brilliant. I turned up at my normal running track and was guided to the club house where I met the other 19 candidates ready to learn for 9.00 am.

The day involved learning: 
  1. The Role of a Leader, 
  2. How to Plan a Session
  3. Practicals
  4. Flexibility and Warm Up Drills
  5. Planning and Delivering a Session as a Team
It did not particularly help with the winds whipping off the park, the flurry of snow and quite cold temperatures but our boundless energy and comradery kept us going whilst jumping in and out to learn new techniques. I think the funniest part of the day was when we took over the men's changing rooms to do drills in the warmth and some lad walked in to see 20 people, 5 of them women, standing in rows smiling at him as he grabbed his dry kit and disappeared as quickly as he appeared.

Next question is to wonder whether to go for the Coaching course as I really enjoyed the day.

Hopefully I can take a group some time from now until Christmas.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Like two peas in a pod

No heel strike picture
As usual the arrangement for a muddy run with Duncan was its usual vagueness:

Me: "Sounds good, should we meet at Hangman's Corner?"

Duncan: "I will see you there...don't leave me hanging."

The last comment was a friendly nudge saying "Don't be late and don't blow out at the last moment" which I know I have been guilty of a few times in the past but these days I feel happier in myself and I am a bit more positive so made it my goal to be there on time.

Let's turn the clock back 4 hours when the following list was  dropped into my lap by the Delightful Mrs S as I took my first sip of morning coffee, it read:
  1. Mow BOTH lawns (I think the capital letters and underlining were a little rude but she knows me too well)
  2. Take rubbish down to the dump
  3. Take tiles back for a refund
Mine personal list was:
  1. Mow lawns
  2. Extend door by 7 cms and prepare it for painting
  3. Go for a run with Duncan
The final list was:
  1. Mow front lawn
  2. Go to dump
  3. Extend door by 7cms
  4. Mow back lawn
  5. Go for a run with Duncan
So this was my excuse when I saw Duncan running down the hill from Hangman's Corner pretending to be an aeroplane as to why I was walking up it feeling knackered already. Duncan and I were both dressed in red shirts and back shorts which was unusual as the steely eyed Zimbabwean is often dressed in leggings, two shirts and a hat if the temperature is below 25 C or it is November and December.

If you asked me what route we took I don't know whether I could actually tell you as we ducked and darted up this path then another path with no perception of direction chatting away or grumbling about dog walkers who could not control their yapping charges and questioned how far a dachshund would fly if we dropped kicked it (I jest).

So with Autumn mud in my Monkey Feet, the obligatory flesh wound from blackthorn and blood pumping I peeled away and took the scenic route home to discover my usual cut through was closed  for road resurfacing making me run that extra kilometre past the usual carload of dope smoking teenagers who smiled and waved as I passed (It must have been good dope!) to get me back to my house feeling pretty good. It appears the training is beginning to kick in.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

A Pilgrimage - The journey starts here.

Today was a special day when the Delightful Mrs S, my eldest daughter and I went to Birmingham to visit my youngest daughter who is studying mathematics in the University of Birmingham. It appears she had organised a "Grand Tour" of the city centre which involved the Christmas Market (a Germanic affair with beer, street food and local sellers), to a viewing tower above the famous library, shops and what I was waiting for, the Grand Union Canal by the Gas Street Basin.

"It main take the pain away but it won't take the killer"

The weather in Birmingham was grey cloud, wind and rain, so nothing new there then! By the time we had got to the canal my family were looking for lunch but I was not going to be swayed away from stepping on the start line of the infamous GUCR so my daughter and I were seen to shuffle off to get some photographs. I was also quite pleased to hear that she was also interested to see this hallowed ground and to see what all the fuss was about.

In the picture on the left I am looking a little wet but strangely excited to be there, as I looked down towards the bridge under Broad Street I could almost see Dick Kearne, the ex-Race Director and "God" of trail runs in my opinion, standing to one side welcoming us to the start with his lecture on the dangers of pain killers still ringing in my ears, "It main take the pain away but it won't take the killer", Dick is a wise man.

So for the first time in 6 years the Delightful Mrs S now knows with 6 months warning that it is my intention to run the race again which is going to be a tough job now that I am 50 but maybe I should put this challenge to rest in 2016.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

GUCR 2016

So after a year in the wilderness I have returned to the bosom of that lovely band of eccentrics that compete in the Grand Union Canal Race.

Yes, Dear Reader, you have heard me right, after proclaiming to the few people who listen to me that I was never going to attempt it again I entered the entry ballot at 22:37 hours on Wednesday 4th November 2015 by sending an entry form to the new Race Director, Keith Godden. 

The ballot was held at 19:00 hrs in:

The Woolpack, 
Well Street,

MK18 1EP

Which is a beautiful pub and sells Tribute brewed by the St Austell Brewery whom my Grandfather was the Master Brewer in the first part of the 20th Century....I digress.

In a moment of excitement when I discovered I was in I punched the air followed by the next hour scurrying through my old training plans.

Time to focus my training methinks

Friday, 6 November 2015

Even the worms mocked me.

As we approached the track it became obvious that we were going be very wet by the end of our run that evening as drizzle floated pass the floodlights. 

The track sparkled as through its beautiful new surface and it was good to see a good crowd of my fellow runners met at the 3,000 metre line to chat about upcoming races and the latest sporting "must have."

I bid my farewells to start a few gentle warm up laps and noticed the number of worms that had crawled off the infield and for some reason had joined me on my laps. As I went on I began to realise that this was not going to be a good session for me as I was pretty well whacked from a very busy week at work and not enough hours sleep. 

As I trudged I began to realise that the reason I was feeling out of breath was because I was just running too fast. In my head I have the mentality of an ultrarunner but my body has one of a slightly overweight middle-aged man who hasn't trained for a few months. Even the worms mocked me as they lapped me on a number of occasions but I had decided to run 300 metres and walk 100 metres to keep my breathing settled and my run consistent, during the running sections I calculated that I was running 8:30 minute/miles and was probably the reason I was breathing hard but by the end I was running evenly and unlaboured.  

These are the first two weeks of my training and I am going to keep going as I know it will become easier as time goes on.

Next time I will ignore the mocking worms and concentrate on lapping them.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

A flurry of activity

My newly found zest has seen me feeling pretty good at the moment, my legs felt pretty well after my 21 km run through Saffron Walden at the weekend but work life got in the way a little on Tuesday so I was unable to get to the club on time but that is not a bad thing. I realise I have a long way to go before I can comfortably run at pace whilst my body adapts to my running again.

This hasn't stopped me entering a few Long Distance Walking Association challenges so to have something to aim for and to toughen me up again. I always mention "toughen up" but that is the best way I can describe it when preparing for longer races, you have to feel the tiredness in your legs, you have to feel out of your comfort zone in training sometimes because that is what it will be like in the main event. I have entered two winter events and will leave it until the day of the runs to decide if I should drop down a distance, after all it is for fun and not about damaging myself.

I have entered a third event which I will talk about at a later date.....I shall leave you hanging and come back soon on it