I was brought up a Coventry City fan. My parents were both brought up as Coventry City fans. My Grandad used to never miss a home game, and that included the reserves too. He was the commentator for hospital radio, so he sat in his little booth at the back of the stand and described the games for those Sky Blues fans who were stuck in one of the city’s hospitals.
Rumour has it Grandad didn’t miss a football match at Highfield Road from the end of the second world war until he fell ill in 1986. His dream was to see his beloved Sky Blues play at Wembley…….. You’ve guessed it, Wilfred Brown departed this earth in late 1986. Missing Coventry City Football Club’s first trip to the iconic stadium a mere six months later.
This has been on my mind rather today, after hearing the sad news that one of the victorious 1987 FA Cup team, Cyrille Regis (‘Big Cyrille’) had died at the crazily young age of 59. There was a lump in my throat for sure.
Whilst searching around the internet for something to learn about Cyrille I discovered that Cyrille’s father, in his birth place, French Guiana, was supposed to register his child as GILBERT Cyrille Regis…. Whether he’d paused for a celebratory shandy or two on his way is lost to history, but he certainly forgot! And so Big Cyrille was born.
Whatever you views. About anything. You’ve got to enjoy a bit of Jonathon Pie.
But this will never be a political platform.
First post of the year……. TA DAAAAAAAAAA.
And whatever your views, these ones from last weekend’s running are pretty good.
Actually, it’s taken me so long to write this post, those images are from the PREVIOUS weekend’s running!
Regular readers may well remember me writing about how challenging living with and supporting someone suffering with a progressive dementia can be. It impacts upon everything and, quite frankly, breaks your heart. I wrote THIS BLOG POST where I referred to the challenges of modern life for those suffering with this cruel and debilitating condition.
Well, the remote control headf*** was back this week. After an evening of head scratching and head banging, I came up with the prototype for my dementia friendly remote control.
For a man who spent part of his career repairing aircraft in the Fleet Air Arm, the frustration of knowing that he is struggling to resolve even the simplest of challenges, is horrendous to watch.
He keeps (amazingly) a sharp gallows humour and was absolutely delighted when our new toy was wheeled in and the nice man delivering it gave a quick rendition of “We’re forever blowing bubbles”.
Yes, not content with having conquered marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons, and surviving her crazy job whilst training for MORE ultra marathons and a half iron distance triathlon, Nicky is having a go at learning the piano.
I love this woman and her utterly inspiring determination…….
Actually, if you can find the means to have a few lessons and have a wall to wheel it against, pianos are pretty much being given away. This one came tuned, serviced and delivered for less than the price of a tyre for a Range Rover Sport.
To be fair, so did my ‘beep beep’ Nissan Micra.
A stuttering start for the running year for me. I can’t lie, work has felt physically hard, sleep has felt insufficient, time has felt like as soon as it’s in our hands it’s sliding away again. And my MOJO, slice me in two and call be Bernard, it was last seen shuffling along a remote South Devon beach…..
Actually, I’ve still been out on a couple of fantastic long runs with Nicky and done a speed session or two, so I’m still getting out there.
Just not very often.
It’s creeping back though, the BUG, last week I planned 6 runs and managed 3. Nicky planned 9 sessions (running, swimming, spinning, cycling) and did…. ALL NINE.
Come on Kevin, pull up your mojo pants, big boys socks and zip that man suit right to the top. Time to get back to the thing I love doing…..
Whilst I’m enjoying watching the ‘dots’ battling through the night in the Spine Race, I am humbled and mildly embarrassed by my paltry efforts so far this year…..
This is my 77th blog post…… Collectively they have been read over 11,000 times and I’m really quite humbled by that fact.
I imagine all of us bloggers are doing our ‘…of the year’ thingy right now, but I’m not going to let that stop me. So if you’re rather full of these lists then maybe you should look away now……….
MOST POPULAR BLOG POST OF THE YEAR
Inspired by some of the naïve errors I made back in my first ever marathon, I wrote this tongue in cheek BLOG POST about ten rookie errors guaranteed to make your marathon experience miserable.
TOP TEN BLOG-VISITING COUNTRIES OF THE YEAR
Aside from the UK, my rather humble wittering has been perused in 70 different countries – most prolifically in The United States, Canada, Ireland, Jamaica, Germany, Finland, Australia, France, The Netherlands, Switzerland & India. There’s even been a visit from somebody in Cambodia.
My book reviews are the least ‘viewed’ posts, but as I’ve always maintained, I absolutely love writing them, therefore every single person that might get a moment’s pleasure from reading is an honour and a bonus.
On this note (and I know they’ll be reading), a big “Hi” to Pieter & Samira from The Hague. They made a point of finding us at the Reggae Marathon to let us know they loved the blog – Happy New Year to all in The Netherlands x
PROUDEST MOMENT OF THE YEAR
A close run thing here – finishing the (32 mile – black) R.A.T. in a fantastic time (blogged about HERE) was a truly magical ‘Team Bonfield’ moment. Successfully completing The Gower 50 Mile Ultra in a time I was chuffed with, despite the rabbit hole incident! Yes, I was so, SO proud to have completed my first ‘solo’ ultra and first 50 miler – read all about it HERE.
BUT – I reckon there hasn’t been a better moment than when Nicky and I pitched up in Snowdonia for the absolutely FABULOUS trail marathon nervous about the 19 mile cut -off. Well, we arrived at that check point, the gateway to the main climb of the day with about 3/4 hour to spare. I waxed lyrical about that fabulous day HERE.
PROUDEST HUSBAND MOMENT OF THE YEAR
The transition master
As ever, the year was jam packed with moments of inspiration, adventure and achievement, as my beautiful, amazing, truly inspirational lady wife, yet again amazed me over and over again. Every single day I feel more and more blessed to have this incredible lady in my life.
So, she smashed her marathon PB at the North Dorset Villages Marathon (read all about it HERE), came so, so close to breaking 2 hours at the Bideford Half Marathon (chatted about HERE), yes it’s been a year of fizzing along. As I’ve said above, she achieved some amazing results in some epic trail events and combined an increasingly absorbing work life and a challenging, at times, domestic life with training for multiple endurance disciplines.
Yes, Nicky also completed her first triathlon and you can read all about that fabulous day HERE.
Also, there were some amazing proud moments as Alisa, Nicky’s eldest daughter completed her first events, alongside her Mum, as she continued her journey to fitness and on her health drive.
BUT, amongst this year of hectic, wonderful, adventurous and fun weekend challenges, my proudest coat-holding moment was the River Dart 10k swim. WOW – having completed this event last year, she set about attempting to break 3 hours this time. You’ll have guessed by now that yes, indeed, she did!
So amongst a forest of proud moments – read about my most bursting day – HERE.
MY FAVOURITE TEN EVENTS OF THE YEAR
Well, apologies to all the other event organisers but, for the best that trail running gives to me, it has to be the Roseland August Trail (R.A.T.) from Mudcrew. There are point to point 11 mile, 20 mile and 32 mile options. We have completed the 32 miles in each of the last three years. But – I can’t resist it any longer and the ‘out and back’ 64 miler is on my calendar for 2018! Check out the blog from this year’s event HERE.
For quirkiness, brilliant concept, route design, friendliness (I could go on), the Race The Tide from Pure Trail was also a fabulous trail event. (blog, naturally, HERE). As was the already discussed Snowdonia Trail Marathon.
We did some cracking half marathons (including a couple that were supposed to be marathons!), particularly enjoying the great atmosphere at The Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service Half down in Bodmin. My first race as a Vet 50 – scribblings HERE.
The previously discussed North Dorset Villages Marathon is probably my favourite road marathon and this was our second year there. Back on the trails, we also returned to The Larmer Tree from White Star Running for a second year. Yet another race with a superb atmosphere – varied and challenging off road route through the Dorset countryside. White Star offer something a little different to the trail running scene, and provide a lovely balance of true endurance challenges and hearty laughter. Guess what – there were words…. HERE.
Also from White Star, was the East Farm Frolic, it barely got a mention in the Blog as we were having a particularly ‘time poor’ period at home around that time. Basically, do as many laps (about 4.5 miles) of an undulating, rural, trail route, on a farm in Dorset, as you either can or want to, for 12 hours. A great, inclusive, fun event with a family atmosphere and camping
After managing to navigate my limping body around the 50 miles of The Gower Ultra – and what a gorgeous place it is – this was always going to feature in this list. With around 200 competitors and seemingly double that working on the fabulous checkpoints, it truly was a breakthrough for me, in so many ways.
So that’s 9 of my favourite events. We’ve done about 30 this year, so picking 10 (in no particular order) was hard. No ‘of the year’ list, though could possibly be complete without Mudcrew’s The Scrooge the ever popular trail running fancy dress romp through the Lost Gardens Of Heligan. See the blog HERE, Yet again, we took it VERY seriously…….
MY FAVOURITE RUNNING ‘THINGS’
My Karen ribbon. My sister was taken from us aged a mere 44 years and a week (9 years ago). On her last night, I ended up with an item of her clothing, which I cut into ribbons. My brother and I both tie them to our wrists for races and she’ll forever be at the side of the road yelling “arms, Kevin, ARMS!” as she expertly analysed my terrifying running style. Will be missed forever.
Fetcheveryone.comstill my favourite website. Brilliantly evolved under the loving gaze of founder and bloke-in-chief, Ian Williams, there still isn’t an online running community to match it. I would never have got anywhere near where I have with my own running without it.
To hear the man himself talk us through his world, check out his fabulous interview on another of my favourite running things Marathon Talk. This is a weekly podcast presented by Martin Yelling and Tom Williams, I’ve listened to every single one of the 400+ episodes and, as with Fetch, it very much has been part of my journey.
Other podcasts I heartily recommend….. Talk Ultra normally fortnightly, presented by the thoroughly engaging Ian Corless who really humanises the sport of Ultra running and manages to gather interviewees from every country, every distance and every ability.
Another podcast I’ve not missed an episode of is Running Commentary. On a weekly basis the two comedians and avid runners, Rob Deering and Paul Tonkinson don head-sets and record their quirky, irreverent, poignant, witty and downright entertaining banter as they run along. These three podcasts make my working week feel just that little bit shorter.
Another interviewee on Marathon Talk (he’s appeared on three separate occasions) is the infectious Colin McCourt. From an elite international 1500m runner to a rather portly, sedentary chap, he started this year with a challenge to return to his former speedy self. He charted this progress on his Instagram account and has become one of the best running stories of the year. He set out to lose a shed load of weight and attempt to break 16 minutes for 5km. Check out his Instagram and relive his incredible 2017. I won’t give any spoilers……
Oh, and although I’m not into plugging brands (check out my lack of sponsorship HERE) I can’t sum the year up without mentioning my Inov8 trail shoes – I bought them at the Coniston Marathon (BLOG HERE) after the shoe company lent us shoes to run the marathon in! They are, genuinely, gert lush (translation: very good indeed).
Obviously Faith’s (my energetic and LOUD grandaughter) Silver Wellies have stolen the show in any running shoe debate – she smashed her mile fun run at the Templar Ten in them – blogged about (naturally) HERE.
RUNNING BUDDY OF THE YEAR
Probably no surprises here……..
The most beautiful, amazing, inspirational, funny, charming, adventurous and DAMNED HOT person I’ve ever met – she truly is my world and as long as we’re together then “don’t worry, ’bout a thing, ’cause every little thing, gonna be alright”
Obviously, Charlie, the intrepid Border Terrier, is a close second!
Now, this being a happy place, there’s no room for negativity, bitterness, moaning, backstabbing or bitching. 2017 has been a challenging year, in many ways, for Nicky and myself, we’ve had to adapt and survive changes and developments in our world and work around the challenges. We’ve been (without bigging us up!) strong and determined, and ‘made it happen’ when ‘it’ didn’t look very likely on many occasions and we have those closest to us to thank for helping us absorb the impact of life.
Riddles, I know, but it’s hard to flamboyantly describe the slow down in the world of someone we love.
So, I’m proud of, and have loved, every minute of our journey together. Yet another year becomes ‘the best yet’ in this world I’ve been blessed to live in. And, yes, I’m proud of my achievements both in running and in life.
BUT, it’s Nicky that fills my heart and soul to bursting point with pride and more love than I could ever have imagined existed in the world……..
Yes, this lady has, in 2017, defied her crazy and demanding job, her crazy and demanding domestic life and her crazy and demanding, er, husband, and constantly, over and over again, pushed her boundaries, gone (literally) higher and faster, conquered new skills and generally been awesome in all of her fabulous endurance challenges…..
For example, she was (wo)man enough to admit that a half was enough at the Portland Coastal Marathon back in February, came back strong to complete cracking half marathons in Bodmin and Bideford, then matched our previous years time at The Larmer Tree Marathon. Another brilliant half at the Tavy 13 (blog HERE – I fell over!), the quirky and hilly Devonshire Dumpling Marathon (blog HERE)and then a blistering time at The Yeovil Easter Bunny 10k (HERE) before absolutely smashing her marathon PB at The North Dorset Villages Marathon (already talked about up there^^).
Then she beat challenging time limitations with (relative) ease at Race The Tide, Coniston Trail Marathon, Snowdonia Trail Marathon, The RAT etc etc……
Nicky blitzed her first ever triathlon, swam four tough open water events, The Swoosh, The Dart 5k, The Great North Swim and The River Dart 10k (breaking the 3 hour barrier).
This is a far from conclusive list, but I think I’ve explained just WHY, I think this lady is extraordinary in every way.
Apologies for this, but feel I need to include the one event that DOESN’T think Nicky is good enough. Think 5h30m time limit for a hilly trail marathon (12m35s per mile) yet has a cut off of 1h30m at 8 miles (11m15s per mile). Only it’s not ACTUALLY at 8 miles… etc etc. Yup THIS BLOG POST curled a few toes!
I’ve read a couple of translated books recently. Having elected to only review books that have given me pleasure, I’m only mentioning one of them here. Quite possibly my problem with the other one is actually, well, MY problem, and not the book’s.
So that leaves us with this, Diary Of A Body. Written as a diary over the life span of French author, Daniel Pennac, and translated into an adorable, quirky, compelling English language read by Alyson Waters.
The unusual cover, the teasing title, the little English Pen Award sticker, they all contributed to me thinking “mmmm?” as my hand tentatively slid the lightweight paperback from the shelf. (We took several books on holiday, between my wonderful wife and I, only one of us took a hearty hard back……that suitcase was slightly overweight.)
I was right to take a chance. Pennac was a French author who kept an occasional, rather quirky diary. Having been humiliated, by his own mother, in front of a mirror as a child, he set about charting his body’s sensations. Tearing a muscular – skeletal diagram from an encyclopaedia, he pinned this ‘perfect’ physique next to the offending mirror. A quest to attain similar had begun.
Told with a light touch, but exhibiting cringe worthy honesty, the book delivers a friend. Through adolescence, all those moments we never discuss, are, erm, DISCUSSED – yes there’s not a lot left to the imagination as Pennac narrates his body being dumped into adulthood.
Pennac left instructions for his daughter, who only became aware of the diary’s existence upon the death of her father, to do with the documents as she saw fit.
That these posthumous communications are included here only adds to the homely feel of the overall prose. There are gaps (mostly due to active resistance servitude) but somehow, they feel to be correctly placed.
Into retirement, and beyond to old age, frailty and terminal illness, there can only ever be one outcome. Taken right up to his dying days, it would be a truly cold heart that didn’t openly weep (both with sadness and joy) as the last few, bleary eyed pages are softly consumed.
So, if you’re looking for a not-too-hefty, genre defying, heartfelt, cosy read and want to, like Idid, delve a little deeper into the literary world, this could well be for you.
Don’t forget, I’ve got other writings over at the OTHER BLOG (when time has permitted). If anybody would like to keep in more regular touch, they can in the comments box here, via email@example.com, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and by waving to me enthusiastically in the street.
I’m always looking for opportunities to write, and have a regular column in the lovely online running magazine RUN DEEP.
Right, I’m publishing this at 7.15pm on Christmas Eve…… I’m not expecting a massive readership but to those who are reading it ‘live’…. MERRY CHRISTMAS
“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.” ― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Mevagissey, in the heart of R.A.T. territory. An easy drive down, captain chatty – our Martin – for company. Nicky (for the uninitiated, Nicky is my wonderful, amazing lady wife) leading the charge to the portaloos as we ordered and devoured our pre-match coffees.
The Scrooge, a firm fixture on the local running calendar, popular as ever (well over 400 finishers) – 7.5ish miles of mud, water, hills and enough fun and hilarity to last the week.
Another blog regular, Jamie, was loitering with intent at the start and was encouraged into some well fitting festive wear.
“Oh look, a Santa….” “Oh look, a snowman….” etc etc. But elves were, for sure, held a majority today. Plenty of “I’ve been on an elf and safety course….”, “did you have an elfy breakfast?” etc etc
A boisterously chanted “10, 9, 8….” “MERRY CHRISTMAS” and we were off.
On the steady climb up the back lanes to The Lost Gardens Of Heligan, Jamie ably bouncing off to trouble the scorers nearer the front, leaving the three of us warming up nicely…..
Into the ponds. Shut the back door! That first one was cold. Oh, and yes, DEEP (especially for Nicky!)
Then (oh and forgive my reassuringly non-chronological powers of recall) it was up a hill, through some mud, along a stream, up a hill, through some mud, jumping off a pontoon into some water…..
Oh, and then UP UP UP DOWN DOWN DOWN DOWN UP UP UP DOWN DOWN DOWN…..
Then some really quite sensible, undulating trails, then through the entrance area to the gardens themselves (to the delight of the bemused visitors!).
Then back to the ponds. Still deep. Still freezing.
The last mile is a charge to the finish.
And at the finish, the rather splendid boys and girls had laid on mince pies and cider.
Oh, and some fine catering, a disco/barn dance and relentless laughter.
Oh, and the results and FREE photographs were pretty much ours by the time we drove home. For the record we smashed last year’s time and over half the field were still out there having a hoot by the time we finished….
Sat not three feet from the gently rippling Caribbean sea, I turned the last of the 415 pages of Preparation For The Next Life by Atticus Lish. As a few beads of sweat from the wonderful, sweltering heat dripped onto the cover as I gazed at it in awe, I’m sure there was a tear or two amongst it. I would never quite be the same again. Heart-warming, heart-wrenching, heart-breaking, this brutal modern romance consumed me, amazed me, horrified me and illuminated me.
Desperate for more, yet exhausted from having my emotion squeezed to the end.
Set in post Iraq war New York, an unlikely couple emerge from the wreckage of their lives. Zou Lei is a Muslim illegal immigrant from the east, sucked into, spat out from, hidden from, persecuted by and constantly in fear of the authorities. Brad Skinner is a veteran of three active tours of Iraq and has been physically, emotionally and psychologically butchered in his few adult years to date.
A chance encounter in the maze of New York’s mess of an underground world, where a hidden (mostly illegal) immigrant community lives in a desperate economy all of its own, leads to comparing of muscles and rare laughter.
Zou Lei’s strength is her work ethic and single minded determination to make the most of her, apparently destitute, existence. Brad hitch-hikes into town, with the remainder of his forces pay out withering in his bank.
They, with their ragged clothes and lives, somehow find their souls alive.
His desperation, her devotion, their private battles, their joint journey and the unlikely chaotic romance which ensues are dealt with in a style who’s prose is honest, clipped and, like the characters, on the verge of breaking. It’s like having a window into this couple’s world through filthy and cracked glass.
Commentators, far more informed than I, have suggested that this tale of how the hopes of the hopeless are crushed by the inequality and heartlessness of a fast and selfish world is important in its belief that these tales need to be told. Fiction it may be, shockingly real it definitely is.
You’ll get no plot spoilers from me, but if you’re looking for a twee love story I’d perhaps recommend you avert you eyes.
It is a rare thing for a book to bring tears to my eyes, yet on this wonderful holiday we have just enjoyed, two books have managed to achieve just that. (Expect a review of the other soon)
I try, in these ramblings, to avoid politics, religion, in fact controversy of any kind. Sometimes I may say something which makes the occasional reader bristle. In general though, this blog is a designated place of safety….
So, it is with some trepidation that I commence typing a little piece I scribbled on the overnight flight home. During which I repeatedly thought to myself, how DO people sleep on airplanes?!?
A (ficticious) character, who has moved into my head whilst I’m creating my ‘novel’ (yes, it IS happening…..slowly), is know to chant “god loves a trier, but does he trust the non-believers?”. My atheism forms part of my own belief system but certainly doesn’t intend to influence, nor comment on, anybody else’s. It just seemed something that this character would say.
Whilst in the land of the birth of Rastafarianism, I saw a plaque with a fabulous saying carved into it. Think of those motivational or loving slogans found on pieces of home-art in The Range or Dunelm, but found in a beach market stall in Jamaica.
It simply read “God made Marijuana, man made alcohol……”
I don’t partake of any of the three nouns in that sentence, yet I found myself nodding.
After 14 days of these beach traders and their, let’s face it, stoned, dry humour and “no problem, reeespect” attitude to seemingly everything, it was quite emotional to be wheeling our suitcases alongside the beach ready to begin our epic journey back to (freezing cold) reality.
This disappointment was exaggerated by the particularly drunk pair making public fools of themselves (and potentially jeopardising the flight) on the way home to a Gatwick seemingly populated by the stressed, angry, jostling, selfish majority.
So, there you go, maybe, just maybe, those guys and girls on the Negril beach are on to something……
Anyway, approaching the end of the year, I found myself writing a festive, reflective piece for my regular column in the excellent online magazine Run Deep. Mulling over the years pictures, it struck me what an absolutely extraordinary year it has been.
Ahhh, regular readers (if you’re still out there after our little hiatus?) will be only too aware of Nicky and I regularly proclaiming to be ‘on it’. Well, we’ve really pushed the boat out this time.
In fact, and I do digress rather, always trust the advice of a local……
Having managed to get Nicky out on a little catamaran dinghy (we literally ‘pushed the boat out’) whilst in the Caribbean, we attempted to get a boat again on the penultimate day of our amazing stay. The wind was up. Consequently, unseen by us, so was the red flag. I thought it meant Jeremy Corbyn was in town…
We went to the desk…
“We’d like to go sailing, please”
“Not today…..” (pointing at the red flag)
“Tomorrow, then, our last day?”
“Nobody sailing tomorrow…..” with a knowing smile.
We awoke the following day to find all the resort’s and beach traders’ boats absent from the beach. In hiding apparently. The waves were seriously crashing. It’s almost like the locals knew….
Anyway, back to… er… where was I? Oh yes. ON IT!! We did run the hot Hot HOT Reggae Marathon (read all about it HERE) and a couple of beach jogs and a little bit of swimming. But mostly it was all about the four ‘R’s…
READING, RECLINING, (W)RITING and RAIDING the fabulous all inclusive food and tempting restaurants on offer.
Yes indeed, I came home 8lbs heavier than I went!
Not only this, but we’ve started to push the boat out with endurance targets and ambitions for the year ahead….. there’s talk of over night running adventures, long distance triathlons. There’s also talk of my rather beautiful, inspiring lady wife coming out of her Ultra Marathon retirement, watch this space.
So, yes, we’re ON IT!!
Oh and hopefully we’ll be stuffing an envelope with some of those shiny new folding notes in the hope of saving up for a return to the streets of Negril (and why would you go all that way and NOT run a marathon?)…….