Middle Child Syndrome

Middle Child Syndrome

I heard a cracking interview with Simon Marshall and Lesley Patterson on Marathon Talk, they have published a book called The Brave Athlete: Calm The F**k Down And Rise To The Occasion which I’ve added to my letter to Santa (23 weeks to wait according to my esteemed work colleague).

One of the many witty, observational points made was how, in their case, athletes might be defeated by the glossy exterior image portrayed by peers and competitors.

 

perfect athletes
Ahhhh the perfect athletic couple with their perfect lives and perfect jobs………

I guess we can all relate to that, that certain someone that gets under your skin, with their perfect life, perfect job, perfect tan and natural athleticism.

 

Well, Marshall & Patterson suggest that maybe when you delve a little deeper, that person probably also has fears, and money stresses and screaming kids and niggly injuries and is suffering event nerves or, just like us, feeling in some way inadequate.

The suggestion is that in the modern world particularly, a persons internet presence could well portray an idyllic world which is, in fact, hiding a ‘real’ life just like ours.

 

bullied kid
I always felt in everybody’s shadow as a teenager

As a child, particularly as a teenager, I was desperate to ‘belong’, to feel part of something. I went to a grammar school and felt inadequate in nearly every aspect of my adolescent world.

 

Academically, I was below average at best, in the competitive, striving environment that grammar school nurtured and I always felt I was bring looked down upon.

I had relatively recently moved from a big city to a small sea side town so I had no network of friends which was compounded by the fact that I went to the grammar school where most children came from another town anyway. The few primary school friends I had made all went to the Comprehensive school not a mile from where we lived. I suppose my parents wanted ‘better’ for me.

The school may have been ‘better’ but I certainly wasn’t.

In those teenage years I looked at my siblings, my sister so cool, hanging around with older lads with their cars and motorbikes, what I would have given to get part of that world. My younger brother too, seemingly focussed and sure, intelligent and popular.

 

safety pins
Safety pins play a very different role in my life now!

I once crawled under the piano, in the hall at school, and pierced my ear with a safety pin, I just wanted to be somebody people noticed.

 

Anyway, enough rambling and wallowing. Suffice to say, as we got older, we siblings became aware of each others’ failings and anxieties and gradually started to understand each other.

This stumble through bits of my past was prompted by the need for some fully waterproof running trousers.

Mandatory kit you see, for the Snowdonia Trail Marathon, and for future events I have planned.

mr tallAhhhh, the world of trouser buying when you’re gangly and scrawny. They either fall down, or look like I’m flying them at half mast as a mark of respect….

running in the rainNicky could hardly hide her mirth as I fumbled between ‘medium’ and ‘large’….. my mother used to insist on ‘taking them up a bit’ whenever I had new school trousers. This was a gift to the mocking cool kids!!

She still does it to my dad!

So, battling the little voice in my head telling me that people like me simply DON’T do the cool stuff, I trawl the internet…..

All those big name brands all the cool kids are wearing. Yup, they DON’T FIT ME!

Decathlon it is then.

Anyway, Don’t Look Back In Anger, the voices soon disappear. Because I DO get to do the cool stuff….

 

2017-07-08 05.23.59
Getting to BE the cool kid!

Last weekend? You want to know about last weekend??

 

I’ll tell you about last weekend.

Up at the crack of dawn on Saturday. Trying to quietly put the kayak on the car at 4.30am, every movement echoing down the street in the still air, I headed off to Stoke Gabriel for the 4 plus mile trip up the river.

 

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Wee time!!

Logistics working well, the silhouette of a beautiful, wetsuit clad woman enticing me through the, now turning tide, for our rendezvous in Totnes.

 

She had travelled by taxi, dressed as Jacque Custeau, the driver unfazed, presumably thinking she’d been at a fancy dress party.

 

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This incredible woman never ceases to astonish me

So in she plopped and set off for Stoke Gabriel. Quickly popping up again to proclaim “I’M HAVING A WEE! OOOO THAT’S BETTER” before heading off again.

 

You don’t meet many people at 6.30am on the Dart but we did share the lovely atmosphere with a guy gently strumming an acoustic guitar sat on the bank.

He looked calm. And what a calming sound he made as it drifted across the water. His mellow vibes, the gently ripples of Nicky’s hands breaking the surface and the almost inaudible bubble of the kayak drifting on the calm waters.

2017-07-08 07.20.14Bliss.

I’m rather proud of my beautiful amazing inspirational  (and quite frankly HOT) lady wife. She really ate the miles up in this 4.25 mile swim, belying the fact that 18 months ago she couldn’t swim 33 meters of front crawl!

Arriving in Stoke Gabriel we had a debrief, a brief snack, and I packed up the kayak and readied myself for the next installment of adventure.

Cue Jamie (you remember, trail running guru and all round top bloke), fresh (!) From his 48 mile Snowdonia ultra marathon the previous week, trotting down the lane to meet me. We then set off on a course recce for the upcoming Stoke Gabriel Carnival 10k .

A stunning, challenging and invigorating course, best told in pictures…..

Really looking forward to helping out at this lovely event again this year.

After leaving Jamie I set off for a few more miles in the hot lunchtime sun, bringing this run to 18 miles in total. Sweaty and tired but DEFINITELY being a cool kid today.

2017-07-09 07.14.01Another early start on Sunday, getting to be the coolest boy with the HOTTEST girl – off to Slapton for an another 18 miler. Hot and tough again but what fantastic fun running with Nicky. Our last long run together before, gulp, Snowdonia…..

We ran from Slapton to Beesands then followed the CTS South Devon Half Marathon route before returning to Slapton. 2017-07-09 07.35.33Fabulous coast and country running with plenty of lumpy bits to get the legs burning…

Bring on Snowdonia……..

Ending at the ice cream van was very welcome indeed on a hot hot day.

I know I’m overly gushy about just how happy I am and how in love I am 2017-07-09 08.34.54with my truly astonishing wife, but we SHARE so much. Until we met, I thought all those love stories, romantic films, the things people said, terms like soul mate and forever, I thought those things were either fiction, or simply didn’t apply to people like me!

As we gazed out to sea, guzzling our frozen treats, reflecting on another weekend of fun and adventure, of love and of sharing our 2017-07-09 10.43.37world, of being just the most amazing TEAM, it seemed to me that maybe, after all, I AM one of the cool kids, and I get to be with coolest kid of all…….

So another week is flying by, it’s now only 10 days to the Snowdonia Trail Marathon and we’re as ready as we’re going to be. In the meantime another weekend is coming our way.

Looks like there may be swimming, there may be running, and maybe, just maybe, these cool kids WILL get to do the cool stuff, whether their trousers fit properly or not!

 

2017-07-09 12.01.55
Ain’t. Life. Grand.

 

 

 

 

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3am Eternal

3am Eternal

Ahhh, the longest days of the year. Heatwaves. Festivals. It’s summer now alright.

HOTA few tetchy people around, obviously not including yours truly, as most of us are struggling to acclimatise to sleeping in the warm nights ……. Me? I lurrve the heat…

Obviously I’d choose a chilled afternoon at Seacombe Sands with my beautiful wife over screeding floors in a sweatbox with my workmate Jamie. Nothing against Jamie of course!

It’s Giant’s Head Marathon this coming weekend, a fabulous, award

2016-06-25 15.22.00
Now THAT is a giant, er, medal!

winning, brutally hilly, trail marathon in Dorset. Upon completion participants are rewarded with monstrous ice creams and a monstrous medal featuring the Giant’s, er, spinning willy…

Nicky and I have done the Giant’s Head Marathon two years running so we’ve opted for a change of scenery (more of which later) this year as we build up to the Snowdonia Trail Marathon in July. It was warm last year, but in 2015 it was HOT! Fabulous event though, I mean FABULOUS. So good luck to everyone in Dorset this weekend, hope it cools off a tad.

It’s also the Glastonbury Festival this weekend. Back in the day I did a few of these too, struggling to sleep then too….. I wasn’t quite as fit back then…. Another fabulous event which, unlike the Giant’s Head Marathon,

2016-06-26 11.27.20
Faith leading Nicky in the sprint for the line!

doesn’t feature high in my list of experiences to repeat. Too old for camping, noise, crowds, late nights, debauchery…..

 

Old Hippy
I wasn’t quite so healthy back then!

So, a relay this weekend. But before that, we are off to Bantham on Saturday as Nicky is participating in The Swoosh, a 6km swim from Aveton Gifford to Bantham. It’s a dawn start and we’re aiming to arrive for sunrise before Nicky is bussed to the start. Our regular accomplice at events, Martin, is also involved. Obviously it hasn’t been suggested that his breathing whilst swimming is hindered by incessant chatting….

I’m chief supporter and intend running the trails to watch the start before returning to see the finish. More and more and more, events are just that, EVENTS. The whole experience, the adventure of getting up at silly o’clock, meeting Martin, the drive on empty roads, the sunrise, the bubbling nervous excitement and sharing all of this with the most amazing person I’ve ever known. (That’s Nicky, not Martin, although, in that wetsuit mate………)

2017-06-18 07.36.24
I get to run here with my beautiful soul mate…. AIN’T LIFE GRAND

Soul mates? The two words never went together in my life, until I met Nicky and we set out on this life of outdoor pursuit and sharing everything. Everything? Well, apart from the time Nicky ran over to another path whilst we were walking one day, to ensure she didn’t have to reciprocate and give me a bite of HER crème egg!

 

There have been scuffles on the sofa over the last liquorice allsort on occasions….

So, to recover from Saturdays exploits, on Sunday, we’re doing a relay. A relay, I kid you not. Nicky is going to bravely swim a  kilometre off South Milton Sands before handing over the, er, dibber to me as I head off for a 15km coastal and trail run. It sounds fantastic and the weather is looking good but not crazily hot luckily.

 

2017-06-17 07.39.19
Nicky, taking to the sea with Martin whilst I run the coast path (apparently she can’t him him whilst they’re swimming!)

We were just chatting about how it really is the event we’re looking forward too, it takes as long as it takes. The process, the journey, the moments and memories rather than any measured ‘outcome’. Saying that, I wonder if there’s a Vet 50 Married Couple trophy!!

 

Nicky is having a great year of open water swimming, getting in the sea wherever possible and feeling stronger and invigorated for the experience. We are shoe horning our Snowdonia training into the available time and had a VERY hot 14 mile trail run on Tuesday evening, straight from work,  which was hard but a beautiful route.

 

2017-06-18 07.37.09
The South West Coast Path near Kingswear

We also ran a very challenging few hours out of Kingswear together on Sunday. This too, was a stunning route.

It’s about the journey, and WOW what a journey it is.

 

I’m trying to mix my runs up a bit but keep mileage high, it’s ten weeks until the East Farm Frolic, where I shall endeavour to keep moving for the full 12 hours, so I need to know I’ve built an endurance base to support this. I do think that my work helps with this, some days it can be relentless. Up and down ladders or like this week mixing and carrying, it’s great work but can be very tiring, sometimes after a 10 mile run in the morning.

I firmly believe that ‘keeping going’ will be the key to ultra running and so I’m just going to keep on running. Wherever, whenever, for however long or however far, and enjoy every single step……..

The world feels like it’s under siege at the moment and so many are suffering unimaginable and unbearable sorrow and grief. We are so fortunate that we can’t even begin to imagine how life must be right now for those suffering and those who have lost. I truly hope the apparent groundswell of love, rather than hate, as a reaction to appalling events of late is the way forward for us all as a community, as a nation, as the human race and EVERYONE echoes the mantra “I refuse to neglect you”

Check out my latest running efforts on Strava if you fancy a nose.

And feel free to join me on Facebook (which I use) or Twitter or Instagram (both of which I use sporadically)

Keep on keeping on……

 

Yeah, I don’t know where to begin so I’ll start by saying I refuse to forget you
I refuse to be silenced
I refuse to neglect you
That’s for every last soul up in Grenfell even though I’ve never even met you
That could have been my mum’s house, or that could have been my nephew
Now that could have been me up there
Waving my white plain T up there
All my friends on the ground trying a see up there
I just hope that you rest and you’re free up there
I can’t feel your pain but it’s still what it is
Went to the block just to chill with the kids
Troubled waters come running past
I’mma be right there just to build you a bridge yo

 

 

 

 

From Marlboro Country……….

From Marlboro Country……….

There’s been a bit of banter since the last blog! Which I guess means it has provoked thought. It all got me thinking about how I started running in the first place…

I suppose we all started running for a reason. (I promise the BIG Nicky interview is coming soon)

Marlboro CountryI smoked my last cigarette on 13th January 2007, ten years and counting, I’m very proud of that. I was a champion smoker, a real Marlboro king. Bear in mind I didn’t have the happiness of my wonderful life now, so a sneaky drag in the night, first thing in the morning, on the toilet, in fact ANYWHERE, ANYTIME, gave me a bizarre pleasure.

Anyway, I knew I had to stop. My life was not great. As has been well documented, my Sister was very, very ill and I was feeling increasingly guilty about the healthy body I seemed to have despite my appalling lifestyle.

So the fags had to go.

 

tony-blair
This man played no part in my salvation

And I didn’t want Tony Bleedin’ Blair getting the credit for it when his ban came into force. I also didn’t want it to be attached to my 40th birthday which was rapidly approaching. I felt that would have been too much of a cliché.

 

I’d tried everything, patches, gum etc, but ultimately I knew I needed to WANT to stop.

And suddenly I did just that.

running-cigarette.jpgThen what to do with all the time that used to be occupied with the fags?

Go for a run.

Dear, oh dear, oh dear……. how had I become SO unfit. I’m not joking, I thought I was going to die.

I’ve recorded every single step of this running adventure on Fetch and simply wrote next to this first attempt “Nearly F****ng Died!”

And so the battle commenced. I think my weakness was my strength – once I start doing something I won’t leave it alone (stop giggling at the back). It became personal. Running vs Kevin.

It was tough to start with, I used to go out after dark to make sure nobody saw me. Yet after a while I suddenly noticed I could keep going for 3 miles. Then it became an hour. then I did a 10k.

My first 10k. Absolutely heaving down, I’d travelled to Combe St Nicholas where I thought nobody would know me. Because it was cold and wet I wore a heavy cotton sweatshirt and jogging bottoms. I was overweight then anyway, I must have doubled my weight with the amount of water these garments carried. But, oh my, what joy at having that medal put around my neck.

And so it spiralled.

I absolutely love running and the journey it has taken me on.

My trusty Fetch log informs me that I’m up to 15843 miles (including that first one, which may not have been a complete mile but felt like 10!) and I can honestly say I cant think of any I regret.

Some have been painful – the last 10 in my first marathon were appalling. Some have been bleak – Milton Keynes Marathon 2012 (shudders and shivers at the memory). Some have been less than picturesque – Reading Half, why? But so so so many have just been pure bliss.

 

2017-01-14 11.16.28
We’ve had some hair-raising runs…

The best miles though, are ALWAYS the ones ran wife my beautiful, inspirational wife. Just magical.

 

Anyway, keep on keeping on people……..

 

 

 

 

2017-03-12 13.17.13
Ocassionally we interupt our eating with a bit of running…..

 

Miniature Hero

Miniature Hero

2015-05-17-10-05-05.jpgWell, today we celebrate 2 years of marriage. I am a lucky, lucky, LUCKY man. I get discouraged from gushing about how in love I am…… but Nicky truly is my miniature hero!! (and, yes, she does approve of the pet name!)

Miniature heroesA silly pet name, really, what with, you know, us being ON IT and everything…….

SO, I shan’t go on and on and on about just how wonderful my life is with Nicky…. well, only a bit…….

Anyway, we did the Imerys Trail (half) Marathon on Sunday. Unfortunately we didn’t quite make the cut-off at 8.2 miles and were diverted on to half course. Clearly we aren’t fast enough runners for this event:-

 

2017-05-14 09.53.00
Met a blog reader(!) and fellow Marathon Talk listener Millsy at the start – he came 10TH – good running!

The apparent race time limit of 5h30m (this would be 12m36s per mile) wouldn’t have been a problem, Nicky has recently ran a 4h24m marathon and whilst this is definitely a more challenging route, with her relentless and consistent pacing we would always get there. Lovely, settle in and enjoy the run……

 

Hang on, the cut off at 20 miles is 4 hours (12 mm). Oh, really, well, we’ll get to that relatively safely and even if we are tiring, that would mean we had 1.5 hours to do the last 10k (and as we now know, the last 3 miles are pretty quick). Smashing, we could average high 11’s and see how we felt at 20…..

Oh, HANG ON, the cut off at 8 miles is 1.5 hours, that’s 11m15s per mile!!! Er, why?? Anyway, I tried not to let this concern me as I set about pacing Nicky as best I could to this first cut off point. I can’t tell you too much about the course, as I was trying to get the right effort out of Nicky without burning up valuable energy for later in the race.

2017-05-14 12.26.31
Mile 26, er……..

 

 

2017-05-14 09.58.52
Started at the back. Whoops!

We ALWAYS start at the back. This serves two purposes – firstly, it avoids being dragged along by runners going faster than we should be and secondly it stops the demoralising process of quicker runners coming by as they find their place in the field. This was a mistake today!

 

It took us exactly a minute to cross the start line.

After a lap of the Cornwall College site we hit a rather bad bottle neck. Stationary. 90 seconds.

Then, an uphill very narrow grass path, at a gentle walk as there were plenty of half marathon runners enjoying the greenery as they were, of course, under no time pressure. How much quicker might we have done this section, maybe 30 seconds, maybe a minute?

2017-05-14 10.43.39
One of us struggled under the tunnel….

 

The final nail in the coffin of our marathon was when we passed the 8 mile marker with 1h29m50s showing on my watch but with no sign of the split.

A few hundred yards later we were 2 minutes too late for the poor chap charged with the task of informing us! You were bravely firm and apologetic sir and I hope we weren’t rude!

We completed the ‘half’ in 2h28m feeling bright and fresh, a bit cross(!) but could merrily have gone around again.

 

2017-05-14 12.29.47
These lovely (ultra veterans) were also not up to standard today!!

 

Such a shame that my beautiful wife, a seasoned veteran of 30 marathons, including a 50 miler, 4 50ks and numerous tough off road events is now saying that she feels that she simply isn’t good, or indeed, fast enough.

I guess we’ll just have to be more careful to ensure races we enter are aimed at runners like us.

A cracking venue and course, numerous and enthusiastic marshals and volunteers and an inclusive half marathon with no time pressure.

 

2017-05-14 12.51.41
Not quite the ‘full’ monty

Not all doom and gloom though, a pasty and an ice cream as we chilled on the beach at Charlestown was just splendid, followed by a lovely evening and night in our favourite bolt hole in Mevagissey.

2017-05-14 14.13.34
Definitely a 2 ice cream day.

 

And now we look forward to some lovely weekends of running and Nicky is getting right back into her open water swimming again.

Hopefully I haven’t come across as bitter and twisted. As I said to a nice chap in a Mudcrew vest as we stomped our way through the last few miles, I need to shut the wotsit up and stop moaning. “Oh no, he said, if you’ve developed a life skill you should definitely use it!”!!

 

2017-05-14 14.55.46
This is what we did instead of the ‘other’ 13.1 miles