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………

Three Little Birds

Three Little Birds

2015-12-08 12.42.03We were sat on the beach in Negril, Jamaica in December 2015, having completed the Reggae Marathon, when a couple of unlikely looking buskers sauntered along the beach looking for somebody to entertain. “I’m going to get them to play my favourite Marley tune…” I announced. “Baby don’t worry, ’bout a thing…”. A dollar well spent me thinks. Well, it’s been mine and Nicky’s song ever since, the beautiful innocent optimism of the lyrics a refreshing contrast to the tensions that life can create.

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Many thanks to this chap for providing the soundtrack to a magical moment

After completing the awesome Coniston Trail Marathon on Sunday, the lakeside venue was richly entertained by an engaging chap with an acoustic guitar and an ear for a tune. Whilst we were guzzling our post race Ribena and 7UP, chomping on venison burgers, the guy played “Don’t look back in anger”, an unannounced yet beautifully poignant tribute. He then donned a harmonica and rolled into, you guessed it….”Three Little Birds”. I was in the immediate post race glow of pride, of loving the atmosphere as runners and walkers from the 5 events across the day soaked up the rays and the views in the late afternoon sun. We were chuffed with our achievements. I don’t mind admitting to feeling a little emotional and falling a little bit deeper in love with the astonishing lady in my arms!

 

We’d arrived (as those prone to regular perusal of this ramshackle chronical will know) in the lakes pretty exhausted. We thought we could add to this less-than-perfect preparation by getting up at 5 in this utopia of quiet to prepare our marathon weaponry and drive the hour to Windermere to drop Charlie off at the dog sitter. We found Lakes Pet Services via the internet, and what a great service Petra provides. Charlie will be back, he was pooped by the time we picked him up!

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We had a large helping of campervan envy to go with our coffee

Back to Coniston, and the special atmosphere at Old Coniston Hall was apparent from the moment we parked up  by the lake, a buzz of excitement, so many cheery ‘hello’s, and some rather splendid coffee.

 

We somehow ended up talking to the lovely people at the Inov8 stand. Now, it’s easy to be cynical about corporate sponsorship (and I am!) but these guys were on hand in force to offer guidance and, something I’ve never seen before, a chance to try out some part-worn shoes.

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Trail Shoe Porn!

To cut a long story short, we both ended up running the marathon in borrowed shoes. A resounding success for me and Nicky’s were incredibly comfortable, if a little less cushioned than she’s used to.

 

As we lined up for the start, some of the talk inevitably turned to the dreaded cut offs and time limit. As we can now confirm, this

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On your marks….

is a genuinely tough trail race, with some proper climbs and sections of really rugged terrain and technical sections. Therefore, just like last week’s Pure Trail event, it is made plain that participants need to be fit and strong enough for several hours of tough running. BUT, you’re not expected to be Joss Naylor.

 

Talking of which, the spirit of such running greats is almost tangible on this route, especially in the second half as the route climbs a couple of fells

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This

and circumnavigates some gorgeous tarns. What a privilege it was to be running here.

 

The first half of the race is a series of ups and downs, but on the whole climbing. Overall pace is reduced by the need to stop every 5 minutes to say ‘WOW’ at the views, but kept brisk by the runability of the terrain. Short road sections are all accompanied by more stunning views and so barely noticed. The route is one great big loop, a wide rounding of

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This

the whole of the lake. Nicky was braving some quite considerable calf pain, her powerful calves are prone to tightness and we suspect wearing some more ‘racey’ profiled shoes may have contributed to this, combined with a less than ideal preparation, but we still made great progress and the cut offs soon became far from our minds. A long, and rocky, decent in miles 17, 18 and 19 had her exclaiming “I am running like a wooden top!” (younger readers may need to click the link!).

 

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You don’t get THAT in the VLMMLVMLM!

I think the phrase is ‘technical terrain’, this decent and, in fact, the climb up into the fells that followed and the fall back towards the lake AND most of the flat section along the shore edge towards the finish could all be classed as ‘technical’. What a fabulous course, what a treat the whole event is. Visually jaw dropping and it gets right inside you, you can FEEL the beauty here. There is no better way than to spend Sunday than running in such humbling

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This

surroundings in the company of my perfect soul mate.

 

 

“Don’t you ever get bored running with me?” Nicky asked as we both tried and failed, despite our finest efforts, to fall flat on our faces as we tripped over the massed network of roots along the lake side. Bored!!?? This really is EVERYTHING I could ever want.

 

2017-06-04 14.49.45So, we reached the finish, both now 30something in terms of marathons completed and both struggling to imagine any we’ve done which top this one. I truly feel blessed.

We’re lucky enough to have another 5 days here in this beautiful place, and whatever the weather (it’s not looking good!) we’re going to indulge in not setting the alarm and plenty of the 2 ‘R’s and 2 ‘W’s (reading, running, writing, walking), oh and watch out, Nicky might just have a surprise lined up for later in the week…….

 

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Slightly bleaker in the fells today!

Anyway, briefly as I’ve taken enough of your time, having been relieved of several £10 notes yesterday, I thought I’d better take the new trail shoes out in the P!55ing rain today. Nicky, wisely, is resting her rather tight calves.

 

So I went out and did 7 or so miles, finishing going up to the tarn on the fell opposite where we’re staying and enjoying the grip these new shoes offer on the wet, rocky decent. You can check out this run here, and yesterdays marathon here.

I write this blog because I truly enjoy writing, it is relaxing, I enjoy sharing how running is so much part of mine and Nicky’s lives and how I am never quite able to fully believe that I get to live this life with Nicky. Our day to day world is great, with a particular set of challenges which is the same for everybody and I’m sure our adventures (and my writing about them) is very much part of how we contrast that whirly-gig of life with our down time.

That and 3 Little Birds.

So, thank you as ever for reading and engaging with the blog (over 5000 of you now!), I look forward to sharing the next instalment of this amazing adventure of life……