No Problem

No Problem

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….

asleep on airplaneSo, 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.

 

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Christmas, Negril style

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.

 

de icing car
We’re home!

 

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…

“Yeah mon?”

“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.

 

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Like a mill pond…. until it wasn’t!

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?)…….

 

 

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The Reggae Marathon (paradise found)

The Reggae Marathon (paradise found)

“Brexit! Yeah Mon, Brexit. HA HA ”

We had a lot of shouts from spectators and fellow runners. Wearing Union Flag vests, it seems, attracts a lot of cheers and banter….

“God bless the Queen” “Ingerland” “Go Great Britain” “Do you guys speak English?” even “Go Canada”!

But “Brexit”!!! It appears our country’s decisions are the subject of much mirth even this far from home.

Anyway.

Here I am feeling like my heart has won the lottery, lying on the beach in paradise with the most beautiful astonishing lady in the whole wide world.

I’ve said it before, but every single day I feel truly blessed.

The Reggae Marathon. The pressure of representing Team GB lessened as we realised the number of British competitors milling around at the start was swelling.

Team GB discuss tactics

Gravitating towards each other, we exchanged greetings and soaked up the bubbling atmosphere. The sweet smell of weed drifting across the runners with the deep reggae bass.

With the 10k, Half Marathon & Marathon there were 2000 runners ready at 5am for the best running party.

All three races go off at 5.15, the torch lit road guiding the runners into Negril town where the bemused but encouraging locals lined the streets despite the early hour.

Apologies here….. We bumped into so many lovely people and even had shout outs for the blog at the pasta party. This was not just the UK runners either. The Dutch and French contingent it turned out are blog readers!

Some of Team GB

We cheered and high fived runners from Poland, Switzerland, Germany, France, Spain, Holland, The USA, Canada and, of course, the beautiful island of Jamaica.

So, “hi” to (and this is a far from exhaustive list) Darragh, Rachel, Sue, Gary, Elise, Cédric, Adele, Samira, Pieter, Don, Tracey and the boys from the resort shouting “GO BOSS” from the window of their bus to work.

HOT!!

Grandson Ollie could have commentated here – one of his first words was “HOT” as he was warned clear of mugs of tea etc.

After turning in Negril and heading back past the start & finish area, the route headed out past our hotel. Which we did four times!

Our goals were simple: have fun and try to finish. The build up to this holiday has been rather demanding and family illnesses and caring issues, for a while, looked like jeopardising the trip.

So lining up at the start line felt like an achievement and a massive relief. Not as much of a relief as the timely positioning of a (already well used!) portaloo at about 5 miles…….

After the 1300 or so 10k runners had peeled off to turn for home, that left us running with the Half Marathoners heading back towards home.

You don’t like reggae?? Probably not the marathon for you, these guys were everywhere

The Half was won in 1h15 and a lovely chap staying at our hotel, Steve, came 5th in 1h25. Of course they were too quick to enjoy what we were going to be treated to……….. It was going to get really HOT!!!

We got to the half way point, where the field was packed with partying finishers from the shorter races, in just under 2h 30m. With the temperature rapidly rising and the sun getting higher in the sky……..

HOT!!!

As the 2nd half started the frequency of seeing other runners diminished but that only made those of us still out there even more determined to high five and cajole each other, shouting determinedly our encouragement.

HOT!! the roads were lonely and exposed making the last hour quite brutal. Nicky was starting to wilt as I tried to help by running with my shadow cast over her.

We repeatedly crossed the road in search of shade and were more than ‘quite’ relieved to see the mile 26 sign and run in our traditional hand holding style!

I truly AM blessed.

“Made it!!!”

2 years ago when we were here the finish area was pretty much packed up by the time we arrived. It was no different this year, the stage and p.a. had already been dismantled as had the bar etc. Luckily we had preempted this and frozen a couple of bottles of coke and put them in our drop bag.

Nectar!

This event gets listed by many in those ‘must do’ lists. It’s easy to see why….

Like Seaton on Grizzly day, the whole town chips in. The main road is closed all morning (apart from a free shuttle bus service which crawls up and down all day). The early morning, torch lit start is quite magical. The sounds, sights and colours (especially in the first half) are quite magnificent and the atmosphere amongst the runners is special and really heart warming.

The route is repetitive and tedious, especially noticeable as it gets hotter. BUT we just focussed on the amazing place we’re in and had (and are having) an absolute BALL!

Will we be back?

To Jamaica? Undoubtedly

To Negril? Almost certainly

To do the marathon???…….

Maybe the 10k………

5h12m47s

5h12m47s

So two years ago we completed the Reggae Marathon in 5h12m47s…. Competition time…… How long will we take on Saturday when hopefully it’s not quite as warm as today!!! A lovely 5k beach run this morning whilst Nicky swam. Were an active bunch here in the Athletes’ Village! So post in the comments a guess at how quickly we’ll go on Saturday – first (and only) prize us, er, er….. A MENTION IN THE BLOG!!! Guesses on here on on my Facebook page. Three Little Birds courtesy of these cool guys Jogging in the early morning sun Art? “Ya Mon…. Boat trip today??” Nicky will be looking to gate crash international group photos this year too!

THIS JUST IN….

THIS JUST IN….

Shock news coming in from Team GB in the Athletes’ Village…..

The runners have been seen….. EXERCISING!

In Negril preparing for Saturday’s Reggae Marathon, the British contingent started the day by not bothering with their planned early morning beach jog.

What a beautiful Jamaican morning

And they weren’t quite as sharp as yesterday claiming their beach spot. Concerns and rumours were abound as one of them only had TWO courses at breakfast.

Then the pair were seen to take to the water and swim. I mean really swim, several times up and down parallel to the beach in the lush warm waters.

This happened during despite yesterday’s HORRENDOUS (well, it did hurt at the time) jellyfish sting.

Tean GB. Teak tough and taking it all very, very seriously.

In other news, Negril is still, indeed, paradise.

Number collecting tomorrow and a blog competition to look out for……

3 days and counting………

Not a bad spot for a bit of scribbling

Day 1: The Athletes’ Village

Day 1: The Athletes’ Village

This beard thing.

Oh, and the new glasses. Strutting around thinking I’m cool. Like Elvis Costello.

Secretly knowing I’m gorky. Like Mr Bean.

One of us has lost a toe nail!

Team GB arrived here in Negril after 20 hours of travel, happy to have landed in paradise but rather fatigued.

And never mind Elvis Costello and Mr Bean. The locals seem to think I’m Mr Spliffy…….

As the coach driver pulled my cases from the under belly of his vehicle, he leaned in to me and whispered “You smoke weed? It’s good!?”. Couldn’t he see I’m an elite athlete in town to represent my country?

We awoke this morning, on this lush and majestic island, to pouring rain. I mean tropically heaving down…..

Nicky using the hydrotherapy pool.

A hearty breakfast. Does EVERY international athlete give the all inclusive breakfast a 3 course kicking? Never mind carb loading, we’ve taken the science out of it…..

It’s now simply called LOADING!!

We left breakfast as the emptied heavens took a breather to reload and massaged our athletes’ feet in the warm Caribbean Sea.

“Smoke?” enquired a suitably languid beach trader. We politely declined.

We sauntered towards our chosen berth on the glorious sand, passing another trader, casually dragging his feet along the water’s edge.

“Ya man…..?” As his hands mimicked the action of partaking of the leaf on offer and his eyes demonstrated the effects …….

No thank you, old chap, but please accept our thanks for considering us in your plans.

Beach traders here – just a gentle “no thanks” and you get a Marley salute and a “respect” and left in peace.

Any way 5 days until we pull on the Team GB vests and tackle the Reggae Marathon.Reggae Marathon.

No nerves yet………

We’ve been selected……

We’ve been selected……

I say ‘selected’ to wear the Team GB vests…..

We got our places by, er, paying for them on the internet. The vests? Yup, also off the internet, but still…..

We were last in Team GB almost exactly two years ago when we did our first international race together.

We enjoyed it so much, we decided to go back…..

After squirrelling away our pocket money we took the plunge and are off to the sunny Carribbean in the hope of winning the Vet 50 married couple from Britain prize at The Reggae Marathon (I’m completely sure such a prize exists!)

On the face of it a dull course, two out and backs, each done twice, AND passing our hotel FOUR times. BUT the location is, well……….

Watch this space…..

Still Growing A Beard

Still Growing A Beard

 

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Charlie, not a natural hunter…..

Sometimes this blog writes itself. Not literally, of course, but you get my drift. Yup, the words are out of my brain, through my clacking fingers and on to some enormous data storage facility in the South Pacific before I can say ‘blimey’! And then, hopefully, they are recalled and perused by you people kind enough to share this bizarre, electronic story with me……

 

writers blockOther times, I sit.

And nothing happens.

But, mostly, I have  vague idea of where I’m going with a blog post and it sort of evolves around my mind as I type. I know, with my writing ambitions, more proof reading and re-writing is required, but the flavour of the blog is to just….. well, get it out there…..

I’ve had this idea of writing about anniversaries slopping around my head for a few days, but didn’t really know how to attach blogworthy significance.

 

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The best day EVER!

I know Facebook prompts me to remember the birth of my virtual friendships, reminds me of previous years frolics with pictures and posts and invites celebrations of fellow users’ birthdays, but some anniversaries need a more delicate touch….

 

Sometimes, there are dates which just fill the heart and soul with joy… for me, the best day ever was our wedding day and I get all goose-bumpy just thinking about it now. Our first date, and, of course our birthdays are truly special to remember. Our birthdays’ are on the same date….. aaaaahhhhh

For those new to the blog (and Nicky chastises me regularly for going on and on and on….) I am quite prone to publicly declaring how wonderful my incredible, beautiful and utterly inspiring my gorgeous lady wife, Nicky, is. I am so grateful and blessed to share this fabulous life with her…

Anyway.

 

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The masses preparing for a few muddy hills at Parke Parkrun

Other anniversaries, like the day we lost loved ones, are less celebrated, but still marked, if only in our hearts. I like to remind myself of the good times shared, particularly with my dear departed sister, who I know would have loved to see me, finally, having the happiness which makes me treasure every moment.

 

Enough of this, lets talk about running. I’m quite partial to donning the plimsolls and trotting along, as has been mentioned on this blog occasionally, and luckily for me, so is Nicky….

 

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Saturday’s flyover….

What a weekend of running we treated ourselves to.

 

With Nicky fancying a change, we headed over to Parke (a national trust property in Bovey Tracey) for the fabulously named Parke Parkrun. Nicky drove the 16 miles, with Charlie and let him loose amongst the squirrels (he’s keen but far, far from being a hunter!). Me? I decided to run over…….

 

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Sunday’s flyover…..

Luckily I enjoy a bit of road running, not as much as the trails perhaps, but, sometimes, I like to run with a steady repetitive stride and zone out. Apart from the first 5 or so miles, this is a traffic free route, much of it on the Templer Way.

 

So those lovely slick bottomed road running shoes were brilliant alllllll the way to Parke…….

Parke Parkrun (love that!) was an absolute mudfest. I basically slipped and slid my way along behind Nicky as she did her usual…….. Start at the back and just get stronger….. slicing through the field from start to finish….. (see the whole run HERE)

Bacon bap and a coffee to follow, what’s not to like…….

“I thought you said it was FLAT!?”

Nicky said this a few times on Sunday’s run. Our next marathon is coming, we’ll be running together, it’ll be on the road, and, it’ll be lovely and hot (so hot in fact, the start time is 5.30am to get some of it done before the sun comes up), we’re fortunate to be heading off for some winter sun and squeezing a marathon in whilst we’re there.

So we, as I had the previous day, headed for hard trails and quiet roads, doing an ‘out-and-back’ from Totnes following National Cycle Route 2. Heading out early meant we encountered pretty much nobody for the bulk of the run. Hillier, for sure, than it appeared on the map……. (see the route HERE)

Hence Nicky’s oft-repeated refrain during the lovely run.

Nicky is getting really fit and strong, swimming, spinning and running in equal measures as she gears up for the challenges of 2018…… Me? well, I seem to be getting back to fitness (if not pace) after ‘the injury’ (did I mention I’d done a 50 mile ultra……. read alllll about it HERE)

As ever, time is our enemy…….. please check out the other posts on this blog (there’s about 70 now!) and some of my other scribblings OVER HERE and keep in touch via FACEBOOK etc and look out for RUNDEEP MAGAZINE which features a column by yours truly.

Until next time……….