Aliveandrunning2013 September 29

Cambridge parkrun went well. No problems with my right calf muscle and I was only 22 seconds away from a personal best. My arch rival, Mike, beat me by 17 seconds but ” vengeance is mine, sayeth the runner” and we go head to head next week in the Wimpole Hall Estate Hoo Haar half marathon. Lovely, sunny weather for the 5K parkrun. Lorna volunteered, scanning finishers’ barcodes and, after the race,  we had coffee, with friends, outside in the warm sun. Why wouldn’t you do parkrun at 9 am on Saturday morning? Staying in bed often results in feeling lethargic during the day and susceptible people are at risk from Krispey Kremes or other dangerous sugar and fat confections if they don’t take active steps to wake themselves up. If you are feeling down in mood, running and particularly social runs can help you to manage your mood or positively alter your mindset. Runners readily form communities and everyone can belong. There are so many more available races these days and it can work out fairly expensive in terms of entry fees. Soon, people will be turning to crime to fund their running habit. But parkrun is free! They only ask you to volunteer occasionally (and this is fun rather than a chore). It gives an insight into the amount of organisation required to stage a run and allows you to contribute to its success. Parkrun is very inclusive ; parents frequently run with babies in buggies, carry toddlers or run with older children. You don’t have to be a “serious runner” or particularly fit but it will motivate you to think about what you would like to do regarding levels of fitness and how you could realistically achieve those goals.

At the moment, I think I will be sufficiently fit to do the Wimpole half marathon. I have done very little training, due to injury, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that I will be able to complete the course without calf pains. If I feel uncomfortable, I will stop running. After more than 30 years, the penny has finally dropped. DON’T RUN ON AN INJURY ! It’s so tempting. How easily we can delude ourselves and become  unrealistically optimistic. We find we can run the race and the pain hasn’t been so bad. Then we discover, at our leisure, that we have compounded the injury which might have cleared up in a third  of the time  it will now take. Anyway, that’s the theory. But if I’m just ahead of Mike and my calf starts to twang, no way am I going to pull up and let my arch rival beat me so easily. In fact I will redouble my effort and push on, even if I need to be stretchered off at the finish line.

Today, we spectated at the Bourn to Run 10K where Mike and Sue were running. Both ran well over an undulating trail course and their young daughter, Emily, did the 3K race. A second excellent day of weather with unbroken sunshine and early Autumn warmth. We met loads of running friends of all abilities and it was an enjoyable way to spend a Sunday morning. Again, why wouldn’t you want to be a part of that? If you experience problems with your mood, here’s a gold standard activity (running or volunteering or spectating) to mitigate and manage those difficulties.

Chief Constable Mike Barton of Durham Police has called for the decriminalisation of Class A drugs and advocates the care and treatment of addicts rather than criminalising them. He argues that the  disappearance of the criminal element of drugs removes the income stream of criminal groups, erodes their power and influence and allows for a “controlled environment” for the dissemination of addicts’ drugs, possibly administered under the auspices of the NHS. This approach has been implemented, or part implemented, in a few other countries. I don’t know what the outcomes have been but it is a dramatic change of tack that is increasingly being discussed. Unfortunately these kinds of controversial measures are laden with political risk for the party bringing in the appropriate legislation. The government would be denounced and pilloried by the right wing media whose demographic comprise the frightened middle classes, unthinking people, bigots and the mindset that requires all transgressions to be punished. I presume the coalition, or rather the Tories, won’t genuinely address the issue or will dismiss it.

Lorna pointed out a statistic in yesterday’s Guardian. “For 36% of Britons , a tidy home is a greater pleasure than a holiday, a night out or sex But the study showed that woman still do most of the tidying).” Source : survey of householder appliance manufacturer Beko. Ye Gods! What inferior kind of holiday, night out or sex are these people having?

Random pictures of books in our home. Reading a book, of course, is a greater pleasure than keeping a tidy house.

photo (4) photo books12photo5

Aliveandrunning2013 September 26

Hooray, I’m into the Cambridge half marathon for 2014. Various off spring are also trying to get registered. I got in today because I had pre-registered and have a Cambridge postcode, tomorrow registration is open for those who previously emailed their interest and on September 30, registration is open for everyone else……if places are still available ! The first tranche of registrations (which includes ME) has taken over 2000 of the 4,600 places in under 12 hours.

Great local story in our city newspaper, Cambridge News, which was taken up by the nationals. Trumpington Village Hall which hires out rooms or the Hall to groups like the Women’s Institute, pensioners and the Brownies, took an unremarkable booking for a “relationship support meeting.” In reality, the booking was undertaken by a bondage group who intended to provide lessons in “flogging, spanking and domination.” The paper described the individual workshops and sessions and noted that the low cost fee included tea, coffee, pastries and biscuits. One of the sessions offered Kink on a Budget, focusing on BDSM, “without breaking the bank.” On September 25, the paper’s headlines announced a bondage workshop at Trumpington Village Hall (with considerable detail) and on September 26, the headlines reported that the  village hall trustees had cancelled the booking (with more substantial detail of sessions that would now not take place and quotes from outraged local residents). The hall manager said “We provide services for little old ladies and child care groups. Some of our little old ladies who come to play bingo will be upset.” The articles marvelously illustrated the British stereotype of condemning anything sexually unconventional by implication or insinuation rather than straight forward criticism or argument. The clear message is it’s smut from which vulnerable people (little old ladies and children) need to be protected. The case for mild sexual diversity in the Cambridgeshire villages has received a body blow (with no sexual frisson in this instance).

In the near future I will be posting pictures of my books where they live, sit or are stacked, dreaming of an air conditioned, low light, purpose built library extension. I may also include pictures of piles of papers and magazines too. The world waits with bated breath.

Aliveandrunning2013 September 25

I ran 2 miles to test my injured calf. I had intended to rest it for longer but gave in because I miss running. I think I’m more tired and have less energy when I’m not running and this alone makes me highly motivated to get back into a routine. My calf felt fine and I will rest it until Cambridge parkrun on September 28 when I will do 5K as fast as possible. I then have a week before the Wimpole Estate Hoo Haah  half marathon. I may do a long run next week to push my calf further and hopefully it will hold up.

Tomorrow I hope to register for the Cambridge half marathon in March 2014. There’re about 4,600 places and around 8000 people have previously shown interest by email which will give some priority over those who register, or try to register later.

Aliveandrunning2013 September 23

Following the calf pains which developed after I recovered insufficiently from the Grunty Fen half marathon, I decided not try running again prematurely (after running prematurely on September 14 and further injuring myself). I went for a gentle 2 mile jog yesterday and felt no calf pain but later it didn’t feel 100 % right. I’ll go for another 2 mile run on Thursday and then do the Cambridge parkrun on Saturday, September 28. I’m doing the Hoo Haah half marathon at Wimpole Estate on October 6 or maybe not ! It’s trail run and hilly which might be kinder to calves. However there is a high likelihood I won’t be on the start line or not complete the race.

We volunteered at Wimpole parkrun last Saturday, enjoyed coffee with friends, had a quick look around the second hand bookshop and visited a Second World War themed boot sale selling memorabilia from the 40’s and 50’s. Many people were dressed in uniform or period fashions. It was like being on the set of Dad’s Army. Clearly, part of the attraction for the participants was the opportunity to dress up and get into a role. A uniform carries authority and is a very visible sign of particular powers, however small or mundane. It’s a cliche to state that women like a uniform but I think a substantial number do. (Stereotyping warning).

We went into Cambridge on Saturday afternoon and I made a beeline for the second hand bookstall where, mystically, a particular book spoke to me in the politest manner, arguing his case for purchase (and it was a “him”). No, I growled, I don’t want you. There is no way you are being invited into my small, precious library. My lips curled with disdain and my face was wrought grim and aged with loathing. I turned abruptly, my cloak swirling with stylish abandon and strode off into the Cambridge melee , an unstoppable force of nature. I congratulated myself on having defeated the urge to buy a book and move on. Well done me !

Postscript : I returned to the bookstall and bought the above book 30 minutes later. I had reviewed my original decision and found it lacking in intellectual rigor. It was simply too risky, too dangerous not to let it into the family home. I have related this little story to prevent others making similar mistakes. Never take chances.

I bought these marvellous knitting patterns at Wimpole Hall.

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Aliveandrunning2013 September 16

Entirely missed the Great North Run on TV yesterday. We journeyed from Cambridge to Barnes, South West London, to see my sister-in-law’s cottage located a stone’s throw from the Thames. The London  traffic was horrendous. It took us 3 hours to complete 74 miles but it was worth it. We had a lovely meal and then walked around the area. Excellent places  to run, particularly along the side of the Thames which is still wide at this point. Barnes Bridge is the finish for the Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge.

Technology was primed to record  the Great North Run but declined to cooperate when the time arrived. No matter, Lorna has registered our interest in entering the ballot for the race in 2014.

Note for pedants : the use of “tremour” instead of the modern variant “tremor” in my previous blog  was deliberate. I personally favour the archaic spelling, thanke ye verily muche!

Small article in the Guardian’s G2 concerning the commencement of the UK doughnut wars. Dunkin’ Donuts are going head to head with Krispy Kreme. The former company plans to open 150 restaurants in the UK. Apparently there are 49g of sugar in each a single donut. This is clearly good news for diabetic and obesity hospital services, the diet and weight loss industry and funeral directors. Thank you, Dunkin’ Donuts and Krispy Kremes for safeguarding and creating UK jobs.

The media is currently full of reports of sexual abuse and exploitation, sometimes historical, with national celebrities, priests, senior clerics and many individuals involved with adolescents in care homes, being charged or investigated. There seems to be a complete absence of any discussion or debate about the nature of male sexuality and power, how widespread this behaviour appears to be, whether or not these sexual proclivities are a congenital part of male sexuality, why cultural norms of acceptable sexual conduct are so frequently breached, what can be done about it and the psychological and emotional development which can lead to these outcomes. Society at large is adept at reporting and describing taboo and destructive  sexual behaviour (when it eventually finds out) but only utilises it as drama and entertainment. We gasp, condemn and move on to the next shocking breaking news. There’s precious little analysis of the wider issues. That’s a pity.

Aliveandrunning2013 September 14

Tail runner volunteer at Cambridge parkrun today ! I’ve not run for nearly four days following a sudden painful right calf out running with the club two days after a half marathon. I completed the 5K course with Vicky who had not done a parkrun before. She has been running since the beginning of the year following recovery from a car accident and did a time of around 46 minutes. She didn’t stop jogging despite me making it quite clear that run/walking is a good and accepted strategy and that she would still be a runner even if she walked occasionally. Everybody who either walked or ran in a Saturday morning 9am parkrun won hands down on non exercisers who were still in bed or slumped on a sofa, no matter what time they did it in. But it was important for her not to stop and she was able to maintain an even pace. The fast runners who lapped us were well behaved today and I made super sure that Vicky stayed hard left as they whizzed past us, very foccussed and oblivious to anything else except their own times. There was a lot of general support and encouragement from many of the less fast, less self regarding runners and particularly the marshals. Overall it was a very positive experience for Vicky despite the chilly, drizzly weather. I enjoyed being a tail runner, jogging and chatting  but unfortunately my painful right calf returned which suggested my injury will need a much longer period of recovery. In fact, as soon as I broke into the gentlest of jogs to the toilet before the race started, my calf began twinging immediately. The prospect of an extended non running period looms large.

A deserved well done to my 24 year old daughter Isobelle who achieved a personal best at Cambridge parkrun today, leaving Mary, in the 75-79 age category’ eating her dust and causing her to cough slightly when she finally passed the finish line a massive 13 seconds behind her. To be fair, Mary was a national athlete in her younger days and still does a lot of running. Age needn’t be a bar to running and running well. I’m regularly outrun by people approaching 70 and over 70. Peter, also at Cambridge parkrun, is in the 80-84 age category and competes every week.

Just registered for the Ely New Years Eve 10K. This is a popular race so early registration is needed. For most big, over subscribed runs you can arrange to be notified when registration is going to be opened so you can get in early and avoid missing out. The London marathon is full in a few hours and my local  Cambridge half marathon in a few days. It’s easy to lose a place.

And now a very serious issue ! I was coerced, nay forced, into culling my book collection by my wife Lorna a few days ago. The tremour of anxiety in my hand has only just subsided and now the full story can be told to the world via this blog. Well, in a few sentences. I like books and they like me. When I go into a bookshop they call out “Steve, over here…….choose me” and it’s the same online and in the book review mags I read. They are very persuasive and offer compelling arguments why they should be permitted to join my library. Since I am weak, kind hearted and a soft touch, I frequently capitulate. As a result, I admit, we have a great many books. On shelves, in bookcases, in piles on the floor, down the side of the bed, at the end of the bed, in the loft, in drawers, on top of wardrobes, on tables. Additionally, there are newspapers and magazines in bulk (in the same locations). I do test Lorna’s patience and goodwill but it’s like an addiction. The content is just so excessively interesting, exciting and enjoyable that the loss of such nuggets of gold is like a bereavement, a significant emotional loss. So, how do I manage to let anything go? Well, throw out Lorna’s books for a start. If I was really a bad person, I would secretly buy cheap discarded dross at car boot sales and then take them to a charity shop in a sacrificial fanfair of hurt feelings and defeat to protect my cherished tomes. I do identify some books that I no longer want (or didn’t need in the first place) but I find it uphill work. I fully recognise that Lorna is extremely tolerant and I will continue to work on strategies to enhance my dust removal skills and manage my book collection. Like building a temperature and light controlled library extention/annexe complete with robots armed with vacuums and feather dusters (more like the replicants in Bladerunner rather than I,Robot, out of preference). Of course this is just a crazy dream. Or is it……..?

Aliveandrunning2013 September 12

It’s difficult not running. My right calf is no longer hurting and I didn’t think about it today so I seem to be back to normal. I mustn’t be tempted to run on it, however, because it was less than two days ago when I was forced to stop running because of acute pains. I’ll wait another two three days and go for a relaxed two mile jog.  I had a more severe problem with both calves last May  at the  twelfth mile of the Edinburgh half marathon. Stupidly  I continued to run and had a lot of pain when I finished. Using a foam roller alleviated the discomfort and I was lucky not to have a longer lasting injury.  I managed to run the Grunty Fen half with no injury. I suspect the Scottish roads are harder and more unforgiving than their Cambridgeshire counterparts.

Such an exciting, if not exhilarating, time to be in  London this week. The day before yesterday was the opening day of the London Docklands’ biennial arms exhibition DSEi with 40 countries participating. The defence secretary, Philip Hammond, said that selling weapons is a top priority for the government, describing the huge sales fair as “a fabulous show” displaying “fantastic kit.” I am persuaded that all of the countries and their governments (including Russia and Israel) continually strive to ensure the right people are obliterated by the appropriate weapons. Plenty of different and innovative drones to chose from! What a great wheeze to go from war game videos to sitting in front of a screen and aiming real missiles at people thousands of miles away. You can blow up loads of people and have loads of fun and hopefully a few of the bad guys will be reduced to smithereens as well. And God (our God) is on our side too.

Aliveandrunning2013 September 11

I went running with my club Cambridge and Coleridge yesterday evening and came unstuck! Summer came to an come to an abrupt end for a start. It was cold and raining and I still felt chilled despite dressing  appropriately.We jogged over to the American  Cemetery to do some hill repetitions and it became dark pretty quickly. Some of us decided to go back early, others opted to do one less repetition and return and I, with mainly young fast runners, chose to do the full set. By this time it was almost fully dark and you couldn’t see the ground you were running over. This didn’t worry me and no-one came to grief despite the bricks sunk into the dirt path and the rabbit holes. Unfortunately when we began jogging back to the home track, my right calf began to twinge and a little further started to hurt in earnest. I was obliged to stop running and walk back about 4K in the dark, wind and rain. I think the problem occurred because I didn’t recover sufficiently from my half marathon two days before. So now I have to rest it for at least 4-5 days and will have to forgo parkrun on September 14. I have volunteered to help, however, and will be the tail runner which does not require much running. I will get to chat with a determined person who has pushed him or her self  to complete the 5k course which means they are a clear winner over all those who are still in bed or eating Krispy Kremes or who don’t exercise. I’m looking forward to that.

Aliveandrunning2013 September 9

A great Grunty Fen half marathon yesterday. I ran it in 1 hour 47 minutes which is 8 minutes faster than last year and 3 minutes faster than I ran a similar flat half 14 years ago. As usual I was exhausted  when I passed the finish line but recovered quickly. I was so focussed at the end I failed to see or hear family friends screaming support. Lorna asked Isobelle to meet up and take me back to where they were cheering the other runners coming in. Lorna said that it worries her too much when she sees me bent over and totally drained and my rival Mike said he had concerns as well when he ran with me. Oh dear! Next time I’ll run straight into bushes, recover and then present myself to polite society smiling, relaxed and exuding surplus energy like a newly coiled spring.

The course was flat, windy and open with fields on either side. The recent hot weather has subsided and was just right for me on the cool to warm scale. I drank at water stations on two occasions (at 7 and 10 miles), walking while drinking for around 30-40 seconds. When I started running again I felt refreshed and less tired. In the past I’ve not taken on water during a race (unless it’s been really hot or I felt thirsty) and I’ve not stopped. I now  think taking short drinking breaks works best for me. I’m running another half in a month, not on a road surface like Grunty Fen but on trail, grass and undulating woodland. This will be more demanding and depending on the steepness of the hill, I will revert to walking for short periods.

Good news regarding Lorna’s ankle injury which has stopped her running for around 5-6 weeks. She had a telephone assessment by Physio Direct, a PCT funded free service which was thorough, used internet images to identify the injury and lasted 50 minutes. This was followed up by an emailed treatment plan including videos of remedial exercises and correct running form. Lorna has previously seen a physiotherapist and her GP and is currently waiting for a rheumatology out-patient appointment. It’s thought she has insertional achilles tendonitis. Thankfully it is treatable (and preventable with changes to running form and particular exercises). I miss running with Lorna and she misses running. We have a shared interest now and lots of running events to chose from. Hopefully, Lorna will be back to health in 2-3 months and will quickly regain her fitness. She is highly motivated so this won’t be a problem.

I watched two TV programmes this evening. The first one, Panarama, looked at the problem of mentally ill persons in a state of aggressive disorder being taken to police stations and placed in a cell prior to assessment by a mental health team that might take several hours to arrive. The police stated that they didn’t have sufficient mental health training despite estimating that 20% of the persons within their remit fell into this category. Various CCTV footage showed individuals self harming in cells or needing to be restrained by police officers. The problem with the 30 minute format of this type of “revealing a scandal” programme is that they emphasise the drama and aggressive behaviour as shocking entertainment  and neglect reasonable and objective discussion concerning the reasons and solutions to the problem. Clearly the police need much more basic mental health training and to  work more closely with psychiatric liaison staff. There needs to be recognition of the consequences of the loss of so many psychiatric beds and the frequent inadequacies and under funding of community based interventions and treatments.

The second programme was Motorway Cops, unbelievably broadcast, not on Dave or ITV 4, but BBC 1. It contained the usual video record of a car taking off and being pursued at high speed by police through traffic and suburban roads thus demonstrating that both the chased and the chasers are as stupid, criminally reckless and dangerous as each other. The programme started with a serious crash with injuries to another motorist following a police pursuit. There was no discussion about the high risk of police chases which are almost always not commensurate with any known risk that the offender might pose should he not be apprehended. The police tend to revel in this kind of behaviour and take the moral high ground to suggest that they act heroically to prevent harm to the public. It’s a load of bullshit, of course. The programme did have a genuinely moving element within another storyline. Unfortunately, overall, these reality police shows are entirely self serving and obsequiously take the view of the officers they are showcasing. It’s enough to make you puke!

Aliveandrunning2013 September 1

Exactly a week to go before the Grunty Fen Half Marathon. I ran 13.2 miles along the River Cam today and it felt better than when I did the same distance on August 28. I’ll do several shorter runs during the week and volunteer at Wimpole Estate park next Saturday. There were lots of runners along the river. Only about 25%  spontaneously greeted me or made eye contact, about 25% responded to my firm greeting and the rest resolutely looked straight ahead as I passed them, ignoring my acknowledgement. A few of these did smile as I met them on return. Part of the problem is due to MP3/iPods usage which is a pity. Riverside running is so interesting and listening to music can only detract from the experience. Although I’m taking the moral high ground on this, I did occasionally use my iPod when running in the winter. I listen to Radio 4 podcasts which require some degree of attention and I didn’t find it compatible with enjoyable  running. Today I passed a young heron standing stock still on my side of the bank and saw a large swan in full flight less than 2 metres above the water and following its course. The sound produced by the powerful wings was loud and mournful.

I think that Obama’s condemnation of the Syrian chemical attack would only be welcomed by the credulous. How can you take his rhetoric seriously when he presides over the drone programme which kills hundreds of civilians indiscriminately and without controversy or revulsion by the American public.