How Hard Can It Be?

How Hard Can It Be?

 

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Callum in Lego heaven

Quite often our mantra whilst we’re casually googling potential new challenges.

 

Swim 10km? How hard can it be? 50km over Dartmoor? How hard can it be?

how hard can it beYou get the picture.

Also my work chum and myself……. plumbing? roofing, underfloor heating etc? Just how hard can they be?

 

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This please is, to steal from the young man’s vernacular, “WELL COOL!”

So, a couple of days with the eldest grandson, Callum, taking him away for his birthday treat. Not a problem?

 

I’m often found to be idly flicking through the well-thumbed pages of Ultra Marathon websites, ooohhh, ahhhh, mmmmm, ha ha ha, how hard can they be?

But multi-day events. Ow! Not sure that’d be up my street, not my bag, unlike my cup of tea (which is actually coffee, anyway). Nope, as regular readers will know, I DO have ambitions for long single stage events, but multi stage events, nahh.

Until now.

Legoland. Two days. Two CONSECUTIVE days! I know!! Is there a test of endurance to match it?

I’ve been blessed. I know I’ve mentioned this before, and my rather wonderful, beautiful and, quite frankly, HOT, lady wife, Nicky keeps telling me to stop being so soppy. I’ll be making the avid readership feel nauseaous, she reckons. BUT, I truly am blessed.

20171028_142338-1.jpgFrom the moment Nicky bundled her way into my soulless life and filled it with all this phenomenal love, adventure and laughter, I have felt, well, blessed!! AND I became Grandad to her two bundles of fun filled granchildren, which has now become three. And I absolutely love it.

Late on day 2 in this world of a billion coloured bricks, we found a perch and had a selfie with a lego batman soft toy. We looked drained!! In the most wonderful way. Callum has been full to the brim with excitement, with wonder, with awe and has, for two whole days been nothing but a joy to share the time with.

A 6am start (sounds like an identikit race report coming up….) followed by 4 hours in the car and we arrived at the park. It’s big! Luckily, we had booked, as the place was sold out, mostly because it was open late for fireworks.

 

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Callum looking REALLY impressed with his Lego name I lovingly made for him!

Yes, we’ve had our moneys worth, getting to the Holiday Inn Express in Slough about 8.30pm that night (we know how to live!!) where we promptly ordered a Dominoes gorge fest. The three of us propped ourselves up on the (less than) double bed and feasted our tired, hungry faces. Bliss.

 

 

 

 

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Tired? Nah?

Callum slept well on his put-me-up, whilst we enjoyed the aural delights of Heathrow, and before we knew it, day two was upon us.

 

By the time we climbed into the car at tea time, we were all suitably sated of our lego desires and the trusty Mini devoured the miles home.

An extra hours sleep?

 

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Spooky light on this morning’s run

Nah, an extra hours RUNNING!!!

 

(Did I mention I’d completed a 50 mile Ultra? – read alllll about it HERE) I reckon the three weeks since my Gower exploits haven’t yet flushed the fatigue from my legs. Combined with the previous two days adventures, I was never going to break any records on THIS run.

BUT, I loved the three hours around the bay, much of it by headtorch, and, after the ‘injury’ at Gower, I seem to have also been blessed with amazing powers of recovery too.

20171028_140857-1.jpgI know, we will, and I’m sure Callum will too, treasure these moments forever!

Keep on keeping on people, don’t let the b******s grind us down….

 

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They even had a life size Lego model of my Brother…..

 

 

 

 

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100 Metros

100 Metros

Nicky and I watched this fabulous film recently. By coincidence, I needed to carry out a film review, using strict format and word count, as part of a trial for a copywriting brokerage.

If you’re inspired by extraordinary people overcoming extraordinary barriers to attempt extraordinary endurance feats, then you’ll love this film. Or, indeed, if you simply enjoy a full-on tear jerking love story, or a rollicking adventure, I’m sure you’ll be lost in the emotion and action of 100 Metros.

Anyway, it’s over on my writing blog…. HERE

10 Idiot Lessons For Your First Marathon

10 Idiot Lessons For Your First Marathon

The magazine informing expectant hopefuls of their 2018 London Marathon fate dropped on a few hundred thousand doormats a couple of weeks ago.

Were you one of the lucky ones? And will it be your first marathon. Well, looking back to my first, in Paris in 2008, I can give you some valuable tips as to how to get it horribly wrong. From experience……

  1. 2017-04-02 15.31.42SHOE CHOICE – particularly important this. Is the specific model you’re training in repeatedly giving you blisters on any run over half an hour? Are they banging into your toes as your feet get hotter and hotter? Do you find your feet throbbing, and the material above the little toes is actually tearing? If you can answer yes to all of these, and you’d really like to have the same experience as me…. then BUY ANOTHER PAIR THE SAME. Yup, and then race the marathon in them. Worked for me. My mate, who had travelled to Paris to support me, nearly fainted when I peeled my sock off afterwards. Nice. A fist sized blister, covering the entire arch of my foot had burst and rubbed and was a (literal) bloody mess!
  2. runner in leggingsWEAR THICK LEGGINGS – This is particularly important if it’s warm, raining, or you are (like me) a prolific perspiring machine. What you must NOT do, is heed the warnings from last time you wore these leggings. When it rained. Hard. And you were quite literally holding them up by the time you finished that 10k. So in Paris – my inner thighs looked like they’d been caressed by an industrial sander!
  3. training planTRAINING GUIDE – Again, some key points here……. I decided to pick an arbitrary time to pretend I was capable of running. I then worked out how many minutes per mile this equated to and then hardly ever ran a mile that quickly in training. Oh, and only get to 20 miles once in the build up – and be a cramped up, shuffling mess by the end of that run. BUT, don’t let that stop you still believing you can hit that goal time come race day.
  4. Sweaty runnerGO TO A HOT COUNTRY – This is optional, obviously time and budgetary constraints wouldn’t normally allow this but I found 10 days averaging 34 degrees with 100% humidity particularly crucial to depleting me about a month out.
  5. map of parisFIND SUITABLE ACCOMODATION – Paris is great for this, I reckon I walked about 8 miles to and from the Expo on Marathon Eve, and then probably 4 on the morning. Combining this with the training guide above is fabulous for that crucial pre-fatigue needed for the race.
  6. gelsNUTRITION – I went for taking gels, you know, the thick and sickly sweet gunk in those foil tubes. I didn’t do what I did with my shoes though, I went for a different brand to any I’d tried before, with spectacular results……
  7. pace bandsFIND AN OFFICIAL PACER – he or she might be carrying a flag with your target time on. If you ignore them and decide, 30 minutes before the race, that you’ve become Mo Farah then push through the crowds to stand behind a pacer going 30 seconds per mile faster than your (already hopelessly optimistic) target.
  8. sprinterKEEP PUSHING AS HARD AS YOU CAN – Especially in those early miles, your mind, body and soul are going to really thank you for it later on……. I went through half way bang on my target pace, blowing really hard and having to dig deep already. Really deep.
  9. runner falling overSTAY ON YOUR FEET – Now, regular readers will be more than aware that I’m shuffling back from injury right now (Read all about why HERE) and probably not surprised to find a bit of a tumbling history…… Yup, went to ground TWICE in Paris. The first time I ran into one of those tall kerbs that separate the bus lanes from the road. The second time I glanced up at a stunning building, didn’t notice that everyone had slowed in front……. (I was REALLY popular amongst my fellow runners after the second one as took out about a dozen people!).
  10. runners huggingEMBRACE THE SUPPORT OF OTHERS – Or, as I did, grumpily ignore them, obsessed with having ‘failed’ at my pointless time goal (in the words of that great cannon-straddling, hair flicking goddess of ROCK… “If I could turn back time…..”) Actually, I was staggering so much in mile 25, a guy jogged alongside me and encouraged “At least you’re going to finish…….” He was right of course and being extremely kind and generous. I, unfortunately, was neither.

My life was very different back in April 2008. The Paris Marathon was an obsession with time. My personal life was in a dark and dangerous, lonely place. My lovely sister was still with us, but terribly and chronically ill and I was making too many poor choices.

I’m (the more I look back) extremely proud of all my running achievements and that first marathon taught me so much. Not JUST about running. But, yes, a LOT about running. A running coach, friend and supporter (Eddie) offered me two key pieces of advice as the marathon day neared – firstly that you can’t really train or prepare for a marathon until you’ve ran one, and secondly that the ridiculous long baggy football shorts I regularly sported were acting as a parachute!!

In later years, when I trained for a while in Eddies group, he also (famously) described me as running like “a drunk man herding cats”… I’m not sure it was a compliment……

Anyway, to anyone building up to their first marathon – seriously now – go and enjoy it, be as fast as you feel like being on the day and take pleasure in every step.

I’ve managed to reach 35 marathons (and longer) now, many of them in muddy countryside or hilly moors, mostly alongside my amazing running partner (who I’m also so so lucky to be able to call my wife) and I genuinely try and treasure every moment of them. The full list HERE.

 

Keep on keeping on people, let’s not let THEM grind us down…….

The latest issue of Run Deep magazine will be out on Sunday (They haven’t learned, some of my words have crept in again……) Check it out here

I do scribble about non-running related thoughts too – short stories and poems to be found here

I’m trying to start up a Facebook ‘page’ too – here

If you, or somebody or organisation you know, is in need of words, stories, blog writing, copywriting then please do spread the, ahem, word…..

 

 

Long May You Run

Long May You Run

You know the guy, gets a taxi from the front door to the taxi to the shop at the bottom of the road. I always have a ridiculous smug air about just how active I am by comparison.

ME???? oh yeah, I’m just soooooo healthy.

And then I got injured (did I mention I’d completed a 50 mile ultra, most if it on a fooked ankle??? Read the blog HERE)

Not so smug now as I limp from car to sofa! AND, quite suddenly, EVERYONE seems to be running.

Oh yes, Mr taxi (who’s dog is on the sofa in the garden) is out there now, that work colleague who says “running is bad for your knees”, the guy I used to play football with who reckoned running doesn’t get him any fitter, the streets and parks are crammed with people who HAVEN’T got a fooked ankle!!

I’m sure even Charlie was online ordering two tiny pairs of Nike Zooms.

At work today, the neighbour of the house I’m working on trots out with her drinks bottle and sparkly running kicks. “Good morning, just off for a run!”……

12 days without running and it’s starting to niggle at me….. I met a guy at the Dartmoor 3-in-1 who has been side lined since January and really didn’t know when he’d be back. So I’m just grateful that my lay off will be (hopefully) relatively short.

2017-10-07 20.03.12Progress is good with the injured ankle. When I elected to carry on (several times) during the race, I made a deal with myself that I have to accept the consequences potentially being more severe than if I’d have stayed on that rock, quietly sobbing until I was airlifted to an icepack.

But, I decided that if I possibly could I would finish, you never know if and when these opportunities might come along again.

So, days 1 to 6 I didn’t don any footwear other than flip-flops. Then, a loose trainer for short walks with the dog for a few days and after about a week I tentatively drove. Back to work on Monday (9 days in) and, I can’t pretend it hasn’t been uncomfortable and really quite throbbing by the time I’ve driven home. The swelling has pretty much gone and the tender areas are easy to locate with a gentle prod. OW!!

2017-10-18 19.29.17So, these peas have been defrosted a few times this last week!!

I put the bones of a short story together whilst I was immobilised. I spent some time with Frank (my father-in-law), wrote a couple of poems and put some more meat on the bones of the ‘map’ of my book. I read a lot and produced a couple of blog posts.

I often ask people what they would do if they could get paid to do something they loved doing. Not be a millionaire, but get paid an ordinary wage for their favourite hobby.

Truly, a writer I would be.

If you’d like to see my other writings, there’s a few short stories and poems over at my other blog HERE!

 

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Blogging From The Bench

Blogging From The Bench

2017-10-14 10.01.44I stood and watched a hundred or so runners, including my rather wonderful lady wife, Nicky, head off towards the moors.

Jealous? Moi??

 

 

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Nicky ready to follow those ORANGE flags

“Follow the ORANGE flags!!” yelled myself, the race crew and other spectators. A race of 3 halves, as it were. Pure Trail’s Dartmoor 3-in-1. Those who had elected to try and run all three race on the day were to follow the “ORANGE FLAGS” on the first loop. At 9.75miles this was the longest of the day.

 

Not only the longest (and even longer for those who drifted off course in the mist) race but also the hilliest and the foggiest as it turned out.

In another guise, I did home delivery for Sainsbury’s (You KNEW you recognised me from somewhere!) and for a while we used to cover these west moorland villages. And what a lovely village to base a race, the quirkily named Peter Tavy. Quite a magical air to the village as we optimistically parked  the mini on the wet field. (“it’ll be drier by the time we leave!”)

 

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I wonder just WHAT they keep in the shed

The village hall, acting as HQ for this cracking event, is classic fare – the modern era only nodded towards with the addition of a defibulator, not that heart failure is particularly a modern phenomenon.

 

Anyway, off they all went. Jealous? Moi?

I’d probably have preferred to have been gallivanting across the moors chasing sheep rather than perched amongst the kit bags in the village hall, notepad in hand, trying for all the world to look like “a writer”!

Well, if I DO want to be a writer, then write I must…..

2017-10-14 11.11.28But, my self-diagnosed fooked ankle (did I mention I did The Gower 50 ultra last week?? – read all about it HERE), isn’t in a hurry to get running again, so coat holder and cake eater I was. I also had a wander in the lane and found a Cornish pasty recipe on the village notice board!

 

 

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Steve Skedgell, you know he’s in charge with that hi-viz & air horn

I’m a bit of a Pure Trail fan, trail running events, usually with a twist, created by runners, for runners. We had a great time at their Race The Tide earlier in the year (blogged about, naturally, HERE). They have a regular group runs across the moors and are genuinely good guys to be around.

 

With a 9.75 mile race, followed by a 7 miler and finally 5 miles (with different coloured flags to follow), some were charging around, then using varied techniques to keep warm before the next race’s start time, the day was definitely one for clever pacing.

2017-10-14 12.24.16Rather dangerously for me, I ended up chatting to Steve, half of the duo who are responsible for Pure Trail’s success, whilst the runners were out on race 1. Dangerous? Well, inevitably talk of ultra challenges, “ooooo 150 miles on a canal…” “oooooo MOUNTAINS!” etc etc……..

 

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Jamie after race 1, write your own caption……

So after some quaffing, and scribbling, and chatting, I limped outside to watch the runners arrive back to base. A regular fixture in this blog, Jamie Bullock (see blog about his Stoke Gabriel Carnival 10k HERE) came cruising back, well inside the top 10. In fact he finished 8th overall after all three races.

 

Nicky meanwhile came back with plenty of time to spare. Despite this, the week’s chaos, tight calves and poor night’s sleep had caught up with her. She opted to partake of the three C’s instead of lining up for race 2 – Coffee, Cake and a Cuddle.

Anyway, a great event and lovely day out on the moors, we took a scenic route home, the mist having cleared, and headed for a chilled evening.

BUT – the real action of the weekend was the pebble skimming at Elberry Cove on Sunday, as four generations of this wonderful and kooky family I’m so proud to belong to took a stroll (or limp in my case) in the warm autumnal breeze.

 

 

 

Perfume River

Perfume River

Autumn is about 3/4 of the way through the year. Whilst the brightest and longest days of the year may be behind us, we’re right in the middle of the BEST days.

 

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Autumn – good, init?

The best colours, the best shadows, sunrises, sunsets. Fast changing weather and the challenges of wintry conditions start showing their faces.

 

(Appallingly cliched analagy alert) A bit like my life. Whilst being young was great, the first couple of decades of adulthood were full of, you know, STUFF. So, my bright, silky skinned, jet black barnet days are long behind me.

Phew!

Because THIS, this is the life I’ve been waiting for……

Utopia. Pure and simple.

I guess one man’s utopia is another man’s dystopia.

Clean. Healthy. Loving. Truthful.

What on earth has this all got to do with a book review?

 

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Busy here on the injury bench, although, I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with Charlie!

Well, here I am on the injury bench, Charlie for company, feeling all, er, all wordy……

 

THE LAST DOG ON EARTH by Adrian J Walker.

Yet another holiday read. The main protagonist, Reg (and his dog Linekar) have ended up living in a post-apocolyptic dystopia. Only that’s not how it feels to them.

One man’s…… oh I’ve said that.

I see, going off subject a bit here, that White Star’s Andy Palmer wrote another piece for The Guardian. Nice. Run Deep Magazine got a plug too. I’ve got a column in Run Deep. Tenuous link to fame there…..

Interesting that people I follow in the media and sporting world tend NOT to be columnists for The Daily Mail (no link inserted there, naturally).

By way of example, Kate Carter, Adharanand Finnish, Rob Deering…… and, er, Andy Palmer!

Anyway, one man’s dystopia…..

the last dog on earthSo, THE LAST DOG ON EARTH

On a the face of it, a quirky, light hearted romp, told through the voice of a foul-mouthed mutt, around a make believe world where barely anyone has survived a civil war led apocalypse.

Linekar (the dog) and Reg (his owner) have remained in London, creating their own power and scavenging for food. Living a simple, simple existence in isolation. Dependent on each other for company and the routine they both enjoy.

The sparse pattern of lights that remain on view are the only suggestion that a hint of life in the city goes on. There are barely enough (of these lights) for a football team (which is sort of the point), and we learn that gruesome deaths and a hurried exodus has accounted for nearly all of the city’s population.

Gradually, we encounter those that rule the deserted streets and others who have remained. Belief doesn’t have to be suspended too much.

The rhetoric and undercurrent of hatred which we seem to have cultivated in Britain is enough for me to join the dots from today’s realities to Walker’s imagined future. Scary.

It’s a fabulous, moody yet pacey, look at relationships, at how we interact and, yes, how our dogs become part of our personality (as well as suggesting what THEY might be thinking).

Reg and Linekar have their crude but effective existence blown apart after a mission to find fuel for their generator.

Inadvertently, and unwillingly, they become guardians to a lost child.

Their journey, their bonds, their fights and fears as they venture further out into the world now run by extremists, are all grippingly delivered.

With echoes of one of my favourite ever books, Station 11, this band of misfits grows, makes allies, encounters relics from the past (everyday life items which we don’t even notice).

The battle to avoid the ultimate test to determine whether they still have a use in the world (I’m avoiding too many spoilers) is terrifying, absorbing and quite humbling.

 

charlie angry
Charlie’s best ‘DID SOMEONE SAY SQUIRRELS!?’ face

A book which tackles extremists controlling the future, mass murder, the destruction of what we call ‘civilization’ and yet can open a chapter with the line “Squirrels are c***s” is a rare trick I reckon.

 

From this book, I look closer at the things that frighten me in the world more and more, perhaps ask myself questions, and definitely look at Charlie and wonder what HE’S thinking!

Keep on keeping people……..

After the Lord Mayor’s Show

After the Lord Mayor’s Show

To be honest, I’ve used the phrase ‘suspend disbelief’ quite a lot recently, mostly in relation to books.

Anyone who knew me 10 years ago or more would have certainly needed to suspend theirs if they’d been told I was going to run a 50 mile ultra marathon. Myself included!

 

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Did I mention I’d ran 50 miles?

Well, I only went and did it!

 

Which I might have mentioned…….. HERE

For some reason I’ve been devouring books of late, there’s been some real page turners, some inspirational factual volumes – Dean Karnazes’ The Road To Sparta was a good read (see this BLOG), and so was the incredible Clem Attlee biography by John Bew (again, see this BLOG).

Also whizzed through whilst we were doing SWEET F ALL in Kefalonia the other week, was Slade House by David Mitchell. Now, I’m not normally your fantasy, nor horror, fiction type of guy, but for some reason, this relatively small paperback ended up on the credit card with I dread to think how many other books on our last Waterstones binge.

 

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A trip to the book shop is like a trip to the gym for us!

I know nothing of Mitchell, nor, indeed the genre, but what a quirky, mind altering, (VERY) darkly humorous tale it is. Elements of more simple ‘scary’ stories from childhood combine with quite disturbing blackness of hidden alleys, gates and stolen souls.

 

There is a pace and cruel wit to the exploration of the characters’ personalities and how the ‘victims’ are chosen.

The villains, if indeed that is what they are, are comedic in their evil ways, and their increasingly desperate methods of enticing are almost Laurel and Hardy, whilst being as sinister as Burke and Hare. Quite a trick.

 

The house, set secretly and classically behind a tiny gate in a dark high walled alley, holds the secrets and the spirits of the past. Its occupants need to feed on the right type of soul to fuel their otherworldly existence, inevitably based around a spooky loft.

It’s full of wonderful clichés countered by twisted contradictions.

The cyclical need for sacrifice culminates with a Halloween party where the guests get more than they bargained for. Well one of them does, for the others…….. (avoiding too much spoiler there)

It might make you think twice about that enticing alley on your next run, but it will definitely up the heart rate and turn the page.

It took me out of my comfort zone, and off the sun lounger, to a bizarre, only slightly unbelievable world. And I fairly rattled through it.

I have many influences in my reading and writing, one of my favourite writers, and motivational characters is AL KENNEDY and, she has, perhaps unwittingly, done as much as anyone to encourage my writing ambitions……..

“Have more humility. Remember you don’t know the limits of your own abilities. Successful or not, if you keep pushing beyond yourself, you will enrich your own life – and maybe even please a few strangers.”  A.L. KENNEDY

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Don’t forget – free poetry and other ramblings at my other BLOG