Aliveandrunning December 30

Yes, I ran for 46 minutes and 53 seconds yesterday. I ran to the river but not along it. At the point I turn around, I touch a railing as the river footpath rises onto a bridge. Failure to touch the railing would result in me falling into an alternative dimension where running is illegal and everyone has to consume a gallon of corn syrup each week by law to ensure good health. Naturally the BBC is regarded as a terrorist organisation. So you see, I have to touch the railing or I am imperilled. On the return journey, nobody gave me a friendly acknowledgement but a robin hitched a lift on my shoulder for 700 metres and gave me the latest ornithological news. He also recommended adding worms to my diet for “balance.”  “No,” I gasped,”that’s strictly for the birds.” He flew off with in a huff.

Pedestrian observation : I’ve eaten too much over Christmas and unhealthy food to boot. How to make reparations ? Shall I order a hair shirt on line or indulge in a bit of verbal flagellation ? No ! I’ll eat less and return to a healthily discriminating diet. And I will up the running until I reach such a peak of fitness and performance, it causes Usain Bolt and Mo Farah to look anxiously over their shoulders. Tomorrow I am doing the Ely New Years Eve 10K. Unfortunately the weather prospects are grim – no sun but plenty of rain, wind and cold. These conditions are not conducive for a comfortable run. I’ll do my best and explain to hundreds of my fans lining the course, that I am a below par running god now regaining his fitness. This will be received as shocking news given their belief I was infallible.

I read in the Murdoch owned Sunday Times yesterday that the World Health Organisation (WHO) is considering halving the recommended sugar consumption people should have in their diets. This is following increasing numbers of studies which conclude that sugar plays a major part in obesity and heart disease. The article predicts, predictably, “a robust response from the multi-billion pond food and drinks industry.” The manner in which our food and diet has been degraded for financial and commercial reasons  over past decades is truly shocking. Your degree of shock and awe is usually proportionate to how much interest you have shown in how food is sourced, grown and manufactured which for the large majority of people is zero. The mindset and conduct of the food and drinks industry is unlikely to be radically different to the tobacco, alcohol, armaments and pharmaceutical industries in successfully pulling the wool over our eyes. As I write, the TV sound is off but I looked up to see Rock Hudson and Patrick McGoohan each lighting up a cigarette in Ice Station Zebra (1968). It could have been worse. At least they weren’t munching Krispy Kreme doughnuts on screen.

Egregiously, I saw a Krispy Kreme delivery lorry outside my local Tesco store. I shot the driver a withering glance and my upper lip curled up in the manner of Clint Eastwood showing contempt for bad persons in the Dollar films. It had no noticeable effect because the delivery person carried on taking this dangerous foodstuff into the store. In hindsight the reason for this may have been I was 150 metres away when I executed these devastating facial movements. Must try harder.

I’ve had a few ideas about  the development of a new cult/religion. I really like the concept of karma and reincarnation. I think this idea has legs. What about ? For a fixed yearly subscription, my personal self serving  registered charity/cult/church would guarantee a return to this world in greatly enhanced circumstances compared to your previous life. No- quibble money back if not fully satisfied. How do subscribers attain this goal ? They embark on a policy of tolerance, generosity, kindness and acceptance towards others even if they wear strange clothes and live in other countries. I’ll produce the guidance and develop lots of esoteric waffle, they pay their subscriptions and accrue the benefits in this life and the next. It’s a win-win situation. I’ll also make them start running.



Aliveandrunning December 28

200th parkrun at Cambridge today and I have run 148 of them plus another 10 at Wimpole Estate. The weather was fine – sunny and not too cold – but muddy in many places. My arch rival, Mike, was marshaling which left me competing with No. 2 arch rival Diane. As usual I could hardly contain myself. I felt like a rocket in a silo waiting for the FIRE button to be pressed, I was a torpedo restless in its tube. Someone said go and I took off like a particle whizzing around the CERN Large Hadron Collider. Knocking people aside without pity, I broke free from the pack and took on the mantle of front runner only to have my dream shattered. The race had not started yet. I was a highly strung thoroughbred and when a couple having a conversation near me included the word GO I responded instinctively. Boy, was there a copious amount of egg on my face ! Ashen visaged, I apologised to my fellow runners whom I had pushed into a ditch or into muddy puddles and retook my position farther back as a penance. It didn’t go very well. No. 2 arch rival Diane overtook me around half way and I had no gas left in the tank to catch her up. I was startled when a very small child went past me. I’m sure I’ve seen larger tadpoles ! As is the nature of small, young fast children, they suddenly speed up then dramatically slow up, simultaneously weaving from side to side and repeating this strategy. It’s hilarious if you are limited  to running responsibly as a grown up (unless you succeed in getting tripped up). After cutting me up several times, he took off and I was history. He probably complained to the run director that too many old people are cramping his style. Lovely run despite coming 135th out of a field of 336.

Tomorrow I hope to do a 45-60 minute run and on New Years Eve I’ve got a 10 K. Possibly on New Years Day I might be doing one or two differently convened parkruns. As I write this it does seem a tad excessive (for me). It will definitely blow out the tubes and hopefully get me running longer and more frequently again.

Cambridge parkrun is held in Milton Country Park to the north of the city. The course is mainly grass and trail with some narrow paths. I’m sure the trees are closing in at various points. Quite a lot of them look surly and resentful  as we pass by. I’m convinced they’re not happy with the  resultant pounding of over 300 pairs of feet every week. I’ll try to speak to the wood nymphs and reach an accommodation. I saw  Spielberg’s Poltergeist and I don’t want to be plucked off the run path by a malevolent maple.

Alan Turing has been given a posthumous pardon for his conviction following homosexual activity. He committed suicide after being required to undergo  “chemical castration”- experimental hormone therapy to dampen down homosexual urges. The type of work he had been allowed to undertake subsequently was limited because of the supposed risk to security linked to his sexual orientation. There’s plenty of criticism to the pardon under a Royal Prerogative of Mercy which notes he was convicted under due process of the current laws in 1952. Some people argue it’s unfair on the thousands of ordinary, consenting gay men who were convicted under the same laws whose convictions still hold. My view is that all men (and women, if any) who were sentenced under these vicious “moral” laws should be pardoned. Moral panics, and particularly those of a sexual nature, may last for decades or centuries or even become embedded into the culture. In kinder and more enlightened times, I feel it is very important to revisit those nasty, ignorant and bigoted laws and expose their cruelty rather than merely state they were a product of their times. Alan Turing , along with many others at Bletchley Park, shortened the war and saved thousands of lives. The “laws” he transgressed had no right to be laws of the land and contained no justice, only sexual fear and prejudice.

New Year resolutions :

1. Research science fiction literature over last 100 years with view to developing a cult/religion.

2.Consider options to monetise said cult/religion.

3. Complete Janathon (run and blog daily) for month of January.

4. Keep an eye on Pope Francis!

Aliveandrunning December 22

Cambridge parkrun was a very muddy event yesterday and 330 runners pounding the narrow paths for a couple of circuits didn’t improve traction. The weather, however, was much better than predicted and the rain held off. The temperature was relatively high for December, too. So, some conditions suited me but the EVIL mud brought me low. I was humiliated by being 50 whole seconds slower than last week (the equivalent of 50 separate Big Bangs) and suffered more loss of face when Lorna, who volunteered and was tasked with timing at the finish, refused to fiddle the numbers and didn’t knock a minute or two off my time. What’s the point of volunteering if you can’t give your spouse an unfair advantage? I was a minute behind arch rival Mike but just managed to beat Diane who wore fancy dress and was rather too warm for comfort. There’s not much glory in beating an overheated Father Christmas, is there ? Still, I did enjoy the run and we chatted with friends afterwards. We should have had coffees all round but unfortunately the cafe allows itself to be overwhelmed by runners every Saturday morning. Rather than spending all their time creating bespoke time consuming coffees it would make more sense to offer nice hot filter coffee and get the queue moving. We and others gave up after about 25 minutes and there were still plenty before us.

I’ve just joined up for Janathon The idea is to run and blog each day through the month of January. I did this last June when it was designated a Juneathon and managed a run every day. It doesn’t have to be very far and there’s no stipulated distance. It’s good to have a tight structure for running consistently. If I was a despot I would MAKE everyone run each day, for their own benefit, of course. Any dissenters or refuseniks would be exiled to the Isle of Wight for reeducation before being reintegrated into society and monitored for future apostasy. Running is good for you. Why wouldn’t you want to do it !

Next race is the Ely 10K on New Years Eve and there are a number of informally organised races over the Christmas period that I could theoretically run.

I found this intriguing article on the Guardian website. I haven’t read it yet but it sounds interesting.  Here’s another Guardian article on obesity and cirrhosis of the liver  Their running blog is excellent.


Aliveandrunning2013 December 19

We swept through the subtle gloom of late night Cambridge, negotiating dark alley ways, racing over bridges and exploring barely imaginable aspects of the City asleep. We were 17 super heroes running, nay sprinting, our chosen course and helping to keep Cambridge safe. Great deeds, too numerous to mention, were done that night. Modesty precludes relating their nature save one. A baby fell from an upstairs College window and seemed certain to be dashed on the aged Cambridge cobblestones below. But Archibald D’arcy-Smithers, the lead super hero runner spotted the falling tot, increased his speed exponentially and caught him in his arms in the nick of time. The group dutifully ran on the spot, waiting for the child to be reunited with its negligent father who stammered his thanks and admitted he had become over absorbed in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus. Only in Cambridge ! A few words of advice later, we were soon on our way again and dispensing more good karma.

Generally speaking I have few idiosyncrasies and odd habits (except for collecting books, hoarding newspapers and magazines, sometimes cultivating,always tolerating, spiders’ webs, disliking having my daily newspaper opened up and roughly loosened by someone else (yes, you Lorna!), justifying buying a book by not buying food, regarding a visit to Tesco as mystical experience, holding contrary opinions (example – detaining Daily Mail and Express readers in a holding centre on the Isle of Wight preparatory to their re-programming and re-integration back into sensible society) and having my porridge ritual devalued by Lorna who regularly extracts the spoon out of the glutinous mass as it’s cooling down and licks it !) Apart from the above, I’m completely normal.

Parkrun again in a couple of days. Forecast is rain and plenty of it. I don’t have trail shoes yet and the poor traction will slow me down, My cunning plan to run a faster time consists of cutting my toenails and swinging a kettle bell during the week. I’m unlikely to get below 24 minutes for the 5K. I know how Superman feels when his powers are temporarily removed by kryptonite. Bring on the Spring weather NOW.

Aliveandrunning2013 December 16

They say parkrun is a social run not a race. 5K of friendly jogging and enjoying the company of like minded buddies. WRONG !! It’s a matter of life and death. Probably more important than life and death. Survival and glory are the only objectives. I see myself as Charlton Heston in the final chariot race in Ben Hur forcing my way through a course of spilled  blood and guts and bodies. I am the good guy but it’s my chariot with the protruding metal spindles that wreck the wheels of competitors causing them to crash spectacularly. 283 runners took part last Saturday. Only the fittest survived and I don’t mind admitting I had blood on my hands when it was all over. How did I do ? A massive 2 seconds faster than last week. I regard that as a huge margin when you compare it to the Big Bang which created the Universe in less than 1 second about 13.7 billion years ago. My arch rival Mike beat me by a minute. I’m fairly sure he takes a short cut when I’m distracted pushing obstructive children out of my way and into the nettles. Perhaps I should request an urgent steward’s inquiry or contact the media. Another 3 seconds faster and I would have dropped below 24 minutes. I can’t seem to do this at the moment. I note that a man in the 60 to 64 age range ran it in 21 minutes 10 seconds. What sorcery is this ? That’s obviously too fast for a social run and he should have been disqualified. My only consolation was that I beat another arch rival, Diane, by 3 seconds (Big Bang times 3) who complained of “tiredness.”

Am I taking it too seriously? Is it unrealistic to harbour a hope that I will, one day,beat the hundred or so runners in front of me and cross the line first ? Should I join the Flat Earth Society ? Am I just an “amiable loafer” as Lorna has described me ? Sounds like a good domain name!

Aliveandrunning2013 December 11

I continue to run but I have mislaid the Winged Sandals given to me on loan by the Greek god Hermes. I’m not flying along effortlessly and I can no longer kid myself that it’s still late summer. A 45 minute run a couple of days ago was a lacklustre affair and drew no comments from passersby like “Wow, you strongly remind me of Usain Bolt” and “There goes a top class runner we are proud to have living in the Cambridge area.” I missed an outing with the club yesterday and instead heard Ian Rankin. UK crime writer interviewed in a rather lovely church in central Cambridge. See my other blog for my very brief review and my view on Scientology following a Supreme Court ruling in London today. Scientology, you couldn’t make it up ? Or could you ? The Catholic Church appears motivated to set up a high profile commission of experts to fight clerical sex abuse but, as explained in this article and another the previous day, the Vatican has refused to give a United Nations panel information it requested on clerical sexual abuse. Additionally there is still no clear plan to examine the issue of bishops’ accountability in clergy abuse cases. You would assume that a religious organisation that has caused, and allowed to continue, so much harm would be highly motivated to make whatever amends it could. Unless that organisation was so thoroughly self serving and saturated with hubris that it decided to continue to minimise the impact of abuse and make an industry out of lip service and crocodile tears.

I have a cunning plan to encourage myself to be more sociable. I will invite more people to come around for coffee or (in exceptional cases where the person is very discerning) lapsang souchong. At the point of invitation I will give them a card stating the maximum length of time they may stay eg I hour, 2 hours, 3 hours etc. They know where they stand and the whole thing has a nice manageable feel for all participants. It also gives a chance for people to increase their favour with me and receive subsequent cards of longer duration. It can’t fail.


Aliveandrunning2013 December 7

I’m struggling to regain my running form after my calf strain in October/November. I haven’t been doing longish training runs and my running week seems to have lost its rhythm. The barometer of success is parkrun. Not only have I failed to beat my arch rival Mike but I am being outpaced by runners who are usually behind me. Woe is me! I am at least 30 SECONDS off my normal pace for a 5K race. That’s a very long time compared with the Big Bang and the creation of the Universe 13.7 billion years ago. On the other hand it’s no time at all if you believe God did the hard work in 6 days. Time to employ a cunning plan to return to form and mop up those superfluous seconds.

The miracle of Nelson Mandela and his associates. White South Africans escaped the retribution they might have expected after decades of cruelty, murder, destruction of human rights, extreme inequality and poor health care for the black majority.

Went to hear Raymond Tallis and Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury discuss the issues concerning Science and Religion. It took place at Heffers bookshop in central Cambridge after the shop had closed. Heffers is a large general and academic bookshop and puts on regular literary events. This was the first event we had attended. There was a strong sense of being in a wonderful environment where you only had to reach out to touch a book, even when you were sitting down listening to the speakers. All manner of naughty thoughts ran through my mind. I fancied I co-owned the entire shop (I don’t mind sharing books with others), I considered moving in and I pondered Lorna’s reaction if I bought thousands of pounds of books (helpfully the shop was still open for purchases following the talk (which we enjoyed). Being a disciplined sort of chap, I pulled myself together and left quietly without causing a scene.

Into Cambridge again this afternoon. We meant to go to the “bohemian” Mill Road Winter Fayre today but didn’t get any further than a clutch of charity shops 15 minutes walk away. The large Oxfam shop has an excellent book section but their staff have a serious attitude problem. Because I have more than enough books at home I selflessly decided to browse rather than make a purchase. As I made my way out, empty handed, a sales assistant barred my way and declared I wasn’t permitted  to leave without buying several books. I looked at him incredulously and laughed in his face. Attempting to push past him at least six of his colleagues suddenly appeared out of nowhere and I instinctively knew that my high minded decision not buy anything was doomed. I finally capitulated when someone flicked my earlobe and suggested I was “frightened of books.” I chose four items, resentfully, paid up quickly and stormed out, my dignity in tatters. I won’t be going back there, thank you very much. at least until next week. I really hope their attitude improves but I suspect not.