Aliveandrunning2013 November 28

I’m just starting to get back to longer weekday runs. It’s still an effort though The dull weather is dulling my mind and motivation. I can’t wait for the return of sunny weather and my sunny disposition. Only four more months until the Spring. Mmm….I think I’ll curl up here under all these Guardian newspapers conveniently hoarded by me and hibernate until the climate is more conducive…..zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

By contrast, running in the dark is fun and exciting. I rarely go running at night alone but in the Autumn and Winter I’m out with the club in and around  the streets of Cambridge. Two evenings ago we did a mixed ability four person relay (curtailed because of too much standing around ) and a paarlauf (where you have teams of paired runners and one rests while the other runs). It’s like a relay. Regard me as easily pleased but it’s quite exciting  waiting for your partner to reach you before you go sprinting off into the night. I felt like a greyhound despite being one of the slowest runners I still can’t outrun several of the seventy year olds.

Aliveandrunning November 23

South Cambridgeshire-20131006-00083

Decided to go to Wimpole Estate parkrun today. Our 5K run takes us twice past the main house, the largest in Cambridgeshire and dating from 1640. The course takes us around the parkland and incorporates a medium short hill which is steep in parts. I have tried to run up it in the past but now I walk, or rather stride, a section because it’s quicker than a slow jog. It was very chilly and on the muddy side. I wore gloves, trackster bottoms and a heavy running jacket because I feel the cold acutely when the temperature  falls beyond a certain point. Of course some people wear shorts and vests in defiance of the cold and last year, when it fell to minus 10-11C there were still individuals wearing summer kit. The run went OK but the time was inevitably slow for me. Traction was poor and the ground was soft underfoot. I enjoyed it, however and I was only a minute outside my personal best on this course. I didn’t stop for coffee because none of my chums were there. Lorna is still a long way from starting running again and isn’t coming along to parkruns. I was therefore a lonely running god, my only audible human interaction confined to thanking the marshals at the gates. Oh how the mighty have fallen. Once I could be regularly seen sipping barista created coffee in the Wimpole restaurant, surrounded by friends and engage in light banter.Perhaps I would indulge in some limited badinage but I never stooped to persiflage. They were but distant memories today but one single, beautiful thought kept me going. The anticipation of the joy of browsing in the excellent second hand bookshop! But the Fates were against me this morning. What greater woe can a bibliophile experience than to face huge closed doors, possibly 6 metres high, barring the way into the Courtyard containing the aforesaid bookshop. In common parlance, I was too early and bookshop hadn’t opened yet. Greatly irritated, I attempted to split the oak doors asunder by using a particularly powerful glare but to no avail. Crushed in spirit, I called it a day and headed home.

Lorna had a scan on her ankle this week. She is considered to have  Achilles insertional tendonitis. It’s still swollen after 6 months and can be painful after walking even short distances. Running is out of the question. Next week we will get the results of the scan and a decision about treatment will be made. I do hope she will be back running  early next year. I  do miss running with her.

Good article in the Guardian concerning the destructive nature of the competition laws on the NHS.

The Sun newspaper has a daily circulation of 2.8 million. Big bold headlines yesterday SUICIDE MUM IS WATCHING OVER JOEY. This is a reference to Joey Essex, a young actor in a reality TV programme who is currently a contestant in another reality TV programme called I’m a Celebrity….Get Me Out of Here. The celebs are living in the jungle and undergo “trials” like eating insects or grubs and having various creatures crawl over them in confined spaces. The headline refers to Joey’s mother who committed suicide when he was a child. More evidence that at least 2.8 million people in the UK have switched off, or possibly permanently deleted, their critical faculties. Note to self : devise a sensor to identify Sun readers and enable me to take evasive action.

Aliveandrunning2013 November 20

Out running with Cambridge and Coleridge  last night. As usual I took the road rather than track option. We did two 1.7 mile loops followed by a mile then a warm down jog back to the club. Slightly disappointed we didn’t do 3 loops as suggested initially but it was an enjoyable run in the dark along the mean streets of outer Cambridge. It goes without saying that I felt like a young demi-god effortlessly negotiating irritating obstacles like pedestrians, street furniture, cyclists and cold weather. A chum fell by the wayside, metaphorically speaking, by” pulling” his calf muscle. Not sure what this means exactly. I think it’s one step up from tweaking your calf. I guess it’s a calf strain again partially caused by insufficient rest following a previous strain. Runners,eh ! They just don’t know when to stop running.

Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary, lives up to the mispronunciation  of his name by a Radio 4 news presenter some time ago. He calls for a “duty of candour” concerning medical care mistakes in hospital. the need to prevent cover ups and demonstrate much greater accountability and is requiring hospitals to reveal ward staffing levels. The  Tories are adept at demonizing or condemning practices and conduct which most people would agree is not acceptable but they are not willing to follow through and ask how these circumstances are created. The NHS is being not so gradually dismembered and given to for profit providers while cuts and unrealistic targets force managers to take shortcuts and massage figures. There are many sharp practices which don’t come to light but most of them will have arisen because budget holders are placed in impossible positions. Ever higher standards are sought with less money available and in the context of the NHS judged and evaluated as a for profit organisation.

Interestingly, past and present police officers currently testifying before a parliamentary committee of MPs are revealing that crime statistics have been been altered to boost favourable performance for years. In practice this means some categories of serious crime such as rape, sexual abuse of children and domestic violence are not being investigated and therefore do not swell crime figures adversely. It’s a win-win situation for the police and the government who are able to report that crimes are down on their watch. The police, as well as the Government are a law unto themselves.



Aliveandrunning2013 November 17

Cambridge  parkrun 5K yesterday morning. It wasn’t as cold as expected (around 6-7C) although for the last 4 years since I had my heart attack, I am much more sensitive to low temperatures than before. I presume this is due to the side effects of medication. This is a manageable problem if I wear appropriate running gear. This means I might have a heavier duty running jacket, long sleeved running top, heavy duty gloves, beenie and track bottoms. No wonder I’m slower at the moment. I can look like an Arctic traveller. It’s also highly likely I will be standing next to someone who has vest and shorts when it’s below zero. I think these types of runners should have their own separate race where they are free to run naked in the snow if they choose. Anyway, the going was soft to muddy and the degree of traction wasn’t great so I didn’t get under 24 minutes. In the finish tunnel there’s an occasional holdup and I can always be easily identified because I am doubled over with exertion and lack of breath. This egregious state of affairs doesn’t last long because I recover quickly but not before someone asks me if I’m OK. I gasp “Yes, yes” but deep down I know I’ve never been the same since Cream broke up in 1968 and Jimi Hendrix died in 1970. And don’t get me started on excellent magazines which are now defunct. Particularly The Listener, invariably described as the ” official organ of the BBC.” Not glossy, not full of celebrity froth but crammed of interesting, explanatory articles and the text of talks and discussions from 1929 to 1991, weekly. So, when I finish exhausted, it’s hard for people to realise there is an additional component of loss, anger, unfairness, bewilderment and wistfulness  to my presentation. Probably they should ask if I needed counselling rather than help for my temporary physical state.

Anyway, there were 372 finishers at Cambridge yesterday. The fastest ran 5K in 16 minutes 19 seconds and the last person’s time was 39 minutes 6 seconds. Peter the oldest park runner (80-84 age category) is not actually running at present but has taken to walking the course IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION and greeting everybody he knows as they pass. Long may he do so. Here’s the link :

Is there an equivalent nationally organised, weekly free race, run by volunteers (no pun intended) happening in the USA ?

Aliveandrunning2013 November 14

Out running with the club based at Cambridge and Coleridge AC on November 12. We meet up on Tuesdays around 6.35 pm, have a jog around the athletics track, do a series of warm up exercises and then split into two groups, one to use the track and the other to run on the road. I usually go out on the road. This time of year we run in the dark. The street lights give a reasonable light on most routes but there are plenty of spots where the light is obscured by trees or the street lamps are spaced too far apart to illuminate the path in its entirety. That means you can’t always see where you are placing your feet and thus each of these strides can produce EXISTENTIAL ANXIETY. Each step forward is a leap of faith (if a step can be a leap) into the unknown. You could be putting your rapidly moving foot down on wet leaves, pot holes, dog poo and very uneven surfaces. The name of the game is survival ! Survival of the fittest. The weak or unlucky fall by the wayside. Leave them there. You must succeed at all costs and pass your winning gene pool to the next generation. Running in the dark is so Darwinian. We become an elite, unstoppable force, disregarding the poor visibility and triumphantly overcoming any impediment ( including those irritating pedestrians who persistently dawdle and get in my way). Don’t they recognize a group of Greek gods and goddesses when they see them ?

I like running in the dark. I don’t worry about falling over and therefore my body is not tensing up. It can be exhilarating  running past shoppers, ancient Cambridge buildings, alongside the river and along the old, short roads and open space paths. We numbered about 25. Nobody met with an accident. We enjoyed it.

Last night we went to the Cambridge Union debating hall and listened to an interview with Donna Tartt, the author of The Secret History. My Little Friend and The Goldfinch. Despite her stylized Gothic appearance, which I presume she maintains each and every day because I have never seen a photo where she has deviated from this dress code, I found her warm,responsive and smiley in conversation. There was a long queue for book signing which I joined and was eventually rewarded with a few friendly words and her signature. Thank you Ms Tartt.

Aliveandrunning2013 November 11

Grey skies and rain here today in Cambridge. Just the kind of weather to bring my mood down and stop me running. It wasn’t too cold, however, and I wanted to get back into a running routine. Now that my tolerance to cold temperatures is reduced, I do tend to wear a lot of kit when it’s chilly. The temperature was around 7-8C, not particularly cold for most people, especially runners. I put on a heavy duty running jacket. long sleeve top, good quality all weather gloves and running tights. In this outfit I look like a speedy pixie. It’s not the kind of image that a cool dude of my standing would want to cultivate. Why, on one occasion I heard a small child ask her mother “Mummy, that funny man over there, is he a magical creature?” Another nail in the coffin bearing my sef image as hardly indistinguishable from Clint Eastwood circa 1965. Anyway I went for a short run (18 minutes) without ridicule or humiliation and tomorrow I’ll go running with the club.

Bonus grumpy point : why do my ears change size? I don’t listen to anything when I’m running but I do listen to BBC Radio 4 podcasts (doesn’t everyone ?) when I’m walking Rupert, our dalmation. The earphone often does not fit my right ear and falls out whereas previously it did not exhibit this irritating behaviour. Perhaps I am a magical creature whose magic has turned against him bigtime !

Aliveandrunning2013 November 9

I haven’t run for a full week. I’m not injured but the weather does interfere with my motivation. Autumn, I have accepted, is really here. More rain, less sunshine and lower temperatures. Rain’s OK but cold and grey skies certainly do have a negative impact on my mood. I’m probably a very mild case of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It doesn’t help that I’m more susceptible to cold now compared with  much greater tolerance of it prior to my heart attack four years ago. I think it’s due to the effects of the medication I take. The same medication that regulates my heart beat, keeps me well and STOPS ME RUNNING FASTER. Today, I ran Cambridge parkrun which featured plenty of mud and large puddles. I felt good running but the time was inevitably slower than usual because of the conditions under foot. Poor traction always makes for greater effort and slower times. I was around 20 seconds slower than last week’s slow time but overall I was happy with my performance. Last week I was still coming back from injury so my displeasure is on the meagre side. My arch rival Mike easily beat me again. I need to choose some less fast arch rivals and install them into my mind. Then I can relegate Mike to ordinary running dude and friend rather than evil competitor.There’s clear need to get some trail shoes to negotiate muddy and  wet conditions which are a regular autumn/winter feature of both Cambridge and Wimpole Estate parkruns. At Cambridge, in particular, there are lots of tight muddy corners and it’s easy to come a cropper.

Interesting article in New Scientist November 9 2013 concerning the benefits of exercising. Current research is suggesting a correlation between consistent exercise and maintaining cognitive health including a lesser risk of developing severe cognitive impairment through dementia. Research also points to the importance of physical activity in the development of a range of cognitive abilities from childhood. Increasingly, exercise is linked with a number of health benefits including lowering the risk of heart disease and certain cancers and preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes. I did have a heart attack but my general level of fitness, as a result of running, has greatly helped in my recovery with no real loss of running ability. It’s left me with few obvious deficits in my overall health (except the medication STOPS ME RUNNING FAST).

What a bunch of shits comprise this coalition government and principally, the Tories. They are very skilled in creating an atmosphere of public loathing and condemnation of certain groups of people whom it is in their interest to demonise, those they would describe as  benefits scroungers or work refusers, and highlighting people taking  benefits on medical grounds which are supposedly insubstantial or non existent. The non working mentally ill, NHS “tourists”, housing benefit claimants and anyone who isn’t a hard working tax payer, all come in for a drubbing. There is a cruelty and a lack of humanity about their policies which is more obvious when you understand how they are implemented. See Polly Toynbee article

More dusting yesterday including cobweb removal. Dusting is not particularly interesting but dust itself is ! There’s so much of it and each, occasionally visible individual speck makes its own individual journey before its final resting place (unless you blow it elsewhere). What tales dust could tell (or not), what lessons could be learnt from history if dust had a voice. What a noble substance ! Don’t mess with it.

Aliveandrunning2013 November 3

Bonfire Burn 10K this morning. I ran reasonably well, albeit not particularly quick but hey, it’s not about speed and fast times, is it? Running is about the joy of movement, the physical wellness you develop, the fitness and vitality that accrues, the sociability of like minded people, the sense of achievement. Unfortunately, it’s still a bummer when your friends and age related rivals beat you hands down. Did they cut a few corners or many corners? Is anyone checking blood samples for banned substances? Were my eyes deceiving me or did I see Mike, my arch rival, discreetly place a “jelly baby” in his mouth just prior to the start? All very suspicious or are they just faster than me ? Am I just yesterday’s runner? I think I’ll stick with the “jelly baby” theory at the moment.

The sun was out and the wind was cold. It was too windy during some sections for me and I was overtaken in swathes (well, small swathes) because I couldn’t maintain my speed. Still, I’m coming back from injury and I’m pleased overall. Peter, who is in the 80-84 age range for the  5K parkrun, gave vocal support to runners in several locations. I see he hasn’t done parkrun for 5 weeks. I do hope he is able to continue do it. He’s a very nice chap and an inspiration to all runners, particularly older ones (and potential older runners who might take it up).

I’m beginning to realize there is a specific downside to autumn sun. It cruelly reveals dust on surfaces when it streams through the windows. My dust control and elimination skills are seen to be wholly inadequate  and my standing as house husband is reduced to tatters. I don’t like dust and I am adept at ignoring it but sometimes one simply must address the problem. One does make an effort, particularly when the vicious dust particles begin to reside on one’s books. Hopefully there will be no more sunny weather for a while and I’ll be off the hook. Cobwebs I like. I’m in a minority here as far as my family is concerned. We live in a very old  cottage with a thatched roof. Some of the cottage dates from the 1640’s and that’s seriously old. One of its notable features is that it is home to a huge number of spiders and spiders like to weave webs. I feel the cobwebs contribute to an attractive atmosphere to our living space. They complement the organic materials that make up the structure – wood, lime mortar, thatch and brick. I wouldn’t go so far to say spiders are my friends but I can disclose that, in the past. I protected and tended an occupied spider’s web stretched over beams in the eves about a couple of feet/60 centimetres away from my sleeping head. So what if I accidentally ingested one in the night (not good for the spider, of course). It’s not likely I would subsequently develop amazing spider powers. No, the best I can hope for is that the spider kingdom will acknowledge me as a human protector and guardian of their habitat and award me an honoury arachnid status.

photoour cottage   WP_20131020_010family of mushrooms   mum's fly agaric


Our cottage, a family of mushrooms in Worts Meadow and a fly agaric.




Aliveandrunning2013 November 2

Today, I ran my 150th parkrun, the weekly 5K  inclusive social run which is really a race no matter what time you achieve. Of course, the elite runners started to my rear and immediately  preceding me a golden chariot, steered by an Egyptian chariot master and pulled by two Bengal tigers, growling and barely contained, waited for the start gun.  Bang! Off we went. I must give praise where praise is due. Those tigers did a good job of clearing the woodland path of dawdling bystanders and they were very fine pacers. I won by miles and set another course record. I gave  a score of autographs and had much cake proffered. My eyes were dazzled by the dozens of flash photos taken and I could only assuage the excitement of the crowd by giving a short speech. A subsequent appearance fee was satisfyingly agreed.

Well, that’s how it should have gone. The cold reality is that I achieved position 107 and came in one second faster than last week. The secret of my success? I run as fast as I can at any particular point in the race. With this formula, which gets me in one second faster each week, I’ll be able to calculate the date I can win in 15 minutes. For real !

Didn’t see many of my running chums today. A number of them are in tomorrow’s Bonfire Burn 10K and don’t want to jeopardize their times by running. Lorna remains long term injured and decided not to spectate or volunteer today. She has developed insertional achilles tendonitis and this is a problem which is not resolving. A scan later this month should give a clearer understanding of the severity, and treatment needed. It may require an operation to rectify. It’s so unlucky to get such a substantial injury and a real loss to us both. Running has got lonelier again.

Our local daily newspaper Cambridge news ran a headline today. See Browsing the  electronic ether, I see most of the tabloids have the story plus a number of good quality images of his considerable stock of Nazi memorabilia, Nazi tattoos and uniforms. The various  articles all give prominence to the reason he gives for this obsession : mental health issues which developed after a vasectomy operations and the onset of insomnia. On the limited information available, his behaviour does not make any kind of sense unless the primary cause is a personality disorder. His quotes and that of others are hilarious non sequiturs. Even giving him the benefit of the doubt, which I don’t, this kind of behaviour is very, very rare in a mental illness context. Unfortunately, this high profile case can only strengthen stigma against, and stereotyping of, people with mental health problems.

A few random images of a local open space which, on reflection, has its eerie aspects.

Walnut tree   China dog   spooky path   Curious and whistful cow

A walnut tree which is still producing walnuts, an abandoned full sized porcelain dog, a spooky path and a curious but wistful cow. Future images include families of fungi.