Aliveandrunning February 26 2014

Out with Cambridge and Coleridge running club last night. Usually, I feel like the fleet footed Greek god Hermes , moving freely between mortal mankind and the divine, delivering messages and protecting travellers.This time I felt wounded, as if Zeus had unleashed a thunderbolt at me in a fit of godly pique. A spot on my right rib cage  felt painful and sore on movement and when I breathed more heavily. The reason for this was rather less exotic than being struck by Zeus’s bolt or tapped by Thor’s hammer.I think I asked too much of my muscles by lifting and throwing heavy items onto a skip we’ve hired.

I ran up and down the garden path for a few seconds earlier in the day and pronounced myself fit to run and lo, when we did an 800 metre warm up on the track it felt reasonably OK. However when I did the dynamic warm up exercises and stretching I don’t think I did myself any favours. It felt OK when we jogged over to where we start our road training and then we did 5 x 600m, with a 600 metre recovery jog back to our start position each time. We split up into 4 groups of 5-6 runners according to speed. I was in the slowest group and the slowest in the slowest group. Oh how sudden was my fall from grace! The ignominy, the trashing of my reputation, the shame! Actually, I just ran less fast because the soreness increased and it interfered with efficient breathing. Still, I won’t go running again to the weekend. Parkrun on Saturday and a 5 mile race on Sunday. I’m sure I’ll be back to full fitness by then.

Today, I did a dreadful thing. I hereby make my confession on this blog. I bought a copy of the Daily Mail! I somehow resisted the temptation to blather an excuse about “conducting research” and “not usually making this kind of immoral purchase.” Why did I do it? To compare content with other papers I am more familiar with. I want to confirm my prejudices and pet theories. A preliminary scan of the news (or lack of it) suggests confirmation won’t be difficult. Working hypothesis : the Mail is harmful to your mental health. You risk a substantial increase in levels of anxiety, depression, anger and antagonism. Forensic analysis to follow.

Another interesting snippet caught my eye as I read yesterday’s paper today. Thanos, a Christian thinktank, has found a widespread belief among those surveyed that the poor are to blame for the perceived woes of the welfare system, putting ordinary Christians at odds with bishops who have been protesting about the effects of government cuts. One of the problems with organised religion is that when you have God on your side, you often feel the freedom to express all manner of harsh opinion, unkindness, bigotry and hostility. Faith and righteousness can provide excellent camouflage for aggressive, selfish and class attitudes. All too frequently there is nothing less Christian than a self confessed practising Christian.

Aliveandrunning February 23 2014


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Two random pictures. These trees are silver birch (betula jacquemontii) which have ghostly white, smooth bark. There is a beautiful group of them in the Anglesey Abbey gardens, Cambridgeshire. On the right is the main house in the grounds.

Two weeks to go before Cambridge Half Marathon! Last Sunday I ran 13.2 miles and today I ran the same course  around 3 minutes faster. No sunshine today and I reckon that accounts for about 4 minutes extra plus it was very windy which adds on another 3 minutes. Several runners did not respond to my greeting which dismayed me and resulted in a temporary slower pace while I recovered emotionally; add on 2 minutes. Finally, the river Cam anglers, notorious for their complete disinterest in anything other than catching ridiculously small fish and hoisting them out of the murky waters, kissing them and then depositing them back into the water, were all dressed in dull, drab, dark, dismal jackets and heavy duty trousers. This also resulted in a brief lowering of spirits and accounted for a further 2 minutes. So, if better conditions prevail, I could run it 11 minutes faster on the day!

I certainly felt more tired today compared with last Sunday. This is probably because I am still recovering from last week’s run. According to Lorna, I should now “taper” my runs until race day. My response is tapery wapery or bish,bash,bosh. I may defy running convention and run 20 miles mid week and 25 miles next weekend. But I may not. One of the reasons for not doing further long runs, apart from being deliberately idiotic, is because I tend to lose too much weight. When I returned today, I weighed 9 stone 5 lbs which is on the light side for me. I have a good appetite but I can still lose weight easily and look thin and gaunt; more like a moving match stick  rather than a young Clint Eastwood.


Aliveandrunning February 22 2014


A tolerably good Cambridge parkrun today. The sun shone in a bright blue sky and it was chilly rather than cold. Nevertheless, I wore a long sleeved top and a light jacket with tracksters (plus gloves initially). I’ve no doubt the extra clothing has a mildly torpid effect on my running ability. I feel much freer and fitter in the warmer weather above 14-15C plus. I don’t mind running in the heat although with parkrun, which starts at 9am, the temperature is never a big issue.

Lorna volunteered as back up time keeper AND took all the hi viz bibs and jackets home to wash, at least 40 of them. Each of the Cambridge runs needs upward of 40 volunteers and at the moment they are having difficulty filling the positions. Today we had a rare, stern address at the start, informing the assembled runners that the future of Cambridge parkrun was in jeopardy unless more people volunteered and didn’t leave it until the organisers were tearing their hair out which was happening each week.

309 took part in the run today and I came in at 129 in a time of 24 mins 41 seconds. My ex-arch rival Mike finished 80th in 22 mins 57 seconds. He is now a Zeus like figure living on Mount Olympus while I am a minor deity inhabiting one of the forgotten little Greek islands dependent on sailors blown off course for company. Still, the days are getting warmer, and like a wronged and injured gun fighter (Clint Eastwood, for example) I feel myself getting stronger and preparing to take revenge. Oh yes, it’s only a matter of time before my adversaries will be scorched by my slip stream as I pass them like a dragster. Won’t everyone be surprised when I deploy my parachute on the finish line to bring me to a halt. They will beg to know the secret of my success and I won’t be slow to tell them : an increase in Brussels sprouts consumption and a new wonder breakfast: broccoli porridge.

A well known parkrunner, Terry, in the 65-69 age bracket, walked the 5K course just two weeks after having a heart attack, taking around 55 minutes. An act of defiance in the face of a life threatening illness probably but not very sensible,  I suspect.

My son and daughter, Dan and Isobelle, both got personal bests at Valentine’s parkrun. Dan is now sub 20 mins and Isobelle was less than 30 seconds slower than me. Great running, children, but remember, it’s participation and setting a good example by running alongside and supporting the slower runners, that’s ultimately important. Not getting a fast time. Remember that and slow down for the next five races, kids.

Aliveandrunning February 21 2014

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Yesterday evening was particularly spooky as the terrifyingly atmospheric image attests. To distract myself from the raw fear of the unusually odd noises outside, I made myself a date and raisin cake. You can imagine the shock, and a sizable amount of horror, I experienced when I climbed the ancient stairs in our home and opened the door to the master bedroom.


Spock, on my side of the bed and indisputable evidence of having consumed three quarters of my cake before it had cooled down. I remonstrated with him and demanded he beam up without delay. The sadness caused by the loss of my cake was assuaged by the decision to nip off to a 24 hour Tesco and buy new ingredients with a view to immediately bringing a new cake into the world. The journey turned out to be quite a trek. It was late at night. There was life in the store but not as I knew it. I gingerly negotiated the aisles and weird nocturnal shoppers, paid up and returned home.

On the running front, I ran 13.2 miles plus a 5k parkrun last weekend and this went well. In two weeks it’s the Cambridge Half Marathon. Lorna will be giving good support and four of my children will be running as well as loads of friends. I’ll probably go for a further two long runs before the Half. I don’t carefully taper down before a long race. I just listen to my body, man; it’s in continual/continuous dialogue with me.

Tomorrow is Cambridge parkrun. A running acquaintance in the 65-69 age range had a heart attack during a half marathon two weeks ago and apparently he will be starting the race with Peter who is in his mid 80’s and still runs. Well done, Terry. Get back to running fitness as soon as you can.

Aliveandrunning February 14 2014

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Nice break from the wind and rain on Thursday around the Cambridge area, at least in the morning. I went for an eleven mile run, including a long stretch by the side of the Cam, stopping only to take some pics. I decided not to eat before running and therefore I didn’t have my daily porridge until around 1pm. Then I had my lunch at 1.30pm.


Before the run I took Rupert for a walk in Worts Meadow.This tree is fascinating. It’s a walnut and despite having a huge hole in the trunk, still produces leaves and nuts. The sap still rises! The pool in front of he walnut is magical. Don’t scoff at the tree’s condition or suggest it should be cut down. The water will suck you down then spit you out like a cannon ball. It will remember you as well. Don’t take any risks. Openly offer the tree compliments. It’s very susceptible to flattery.



Yesterday evening I made spaghetti bolognese, seen here in all its multi coloured glory, with mixed salad, chopped raw onion, cheese and red onion flatbread and broccoli (a reasonable substitute if you’re fed up with sprouts. Was it Dr Johnson who said “If you are tired of sprouts you are tired of life?)

I went for my annual cardio-vascular review at the surgery yesterday morning. I’m not sure if I saw a practice nurse or health care assistant. She clarified whether or not I had a problem with a high potassium reading (no), asked me a few questions to check for depression and took my weight and blood pressure, didn’t seem to know I had a heart attack 4 years ago and couldn’t tell me if my BMI of 20.4 was outside the “normal range”. She was friendly and pleasant but I couldn’t help wondering if the appointment was a waste of time. It’s more about ticking boxes to achieve a particular standard. It tells me nothing about the current state of my heart disease.

Extremely windy in the Cambridge area today although the trees in Milton Country Park (where Cambridge parkrun is held) gave a lot of protection. Still plenty of mud around to slow me down, though. I gathered up the signs and direction arrows again after the race. It felt odd retracing my steps on deserted trail paths, and curiously enjoyable.

I read today that two cyclists in Berkshire have been killed by a car being pursued by the police after a domestic incident. I suspect that giving chase to cars not willing to stop are regarded as a perk to the police and almost no consideration is given to public safety. If you accept the transactional analysis  model of our behaviour reflecting adult, child and parental elements in our personalities then the police frequently reveal they are stuck in the immature adolescent stage. This results in a motivation to drive fast cars fast with no reasonable justification and a mandate to provoke a lethal pursuit.

Aliveandrunning February 12 2014


Out running with the club last night. No rain but there was a bitter wind and after we left the track and made our way to where we ran 2 k loops (around a landscaped tech park), the wind chill only got worse. We broke up into 4 groups according to speed and whizzed around 4 loops. At one point I considered giving up. However I persevered and it got better. I wore SealSkinz gloves, a vest and two running jackets plus Ron Hill tracksters and still felt overwhelmed by the impact  of the wind. A large group of juniors were also running on the site and it was marvellous watching them suddenly apppear in a train form, running very smoothly and fast. Quite a few of them were kitted up in a top and shorts and seemed supremely comfortable.

When I returned home with wind trauma, I immediately self medicated with this banana cake, having baked it earlier just in case the wind turned nasty.

Decided not to run today and have a longer outing tomorrow. The River Cam is high at the moment and my son Nick had to negotiate a stretch of water covering the cycle path which runs into Cambridge. I’ll see if the path  is usable and, if so, do another 10 miler. I might need to offer a sacrifice to the appropriate wind god. But which one? And which culture? Greek, Egyptian, Aztec, or Japanese ? I’ll offer a libation to Zeus and ask his advice.


Here’s a gratuitous picture of me in a typical insouciant pose just before taking Rupert out for a walk. Let the elements do their worst ; my trapper’s hat will see it all off.

I listened to America’s Horse With No Name while cooking this evening. Great lyrics! I particularly liked “In the desert you can remember your name cos there aint no-one for to give you no pain.” Nice triple negative. Does it mean there are no people who would do no harm to you but, by implication, plenty of people who are a threat to well being ?


Aliveandrunning February 10

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     Last Sunday morning and we are on our way to a 10k race in Greenwich Park, London. These pics were taken on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) before arriving at Greenwich . From the left, daughter Isobelle, her boyfriend Joe, daughter Shanti, daughter Sophie and son Dan. I tried on Joe’s bare feet running shoes. Very interesting, very odd. It would be nice to try a pair on grass.


Two of us did 5k and four did 10k. The course was either  one or two laps of Greenwich Park, each lap including to long hills. The wind was bitter and there was no shelter before the race. On the positive side it didn’t rain and if you could get out of the wind, the temperature was relatively mild. I wore 2 shirts and a jacket plus gloves and took nothing off during the run. Dan stripped  down to a vest in the belief that the less he was wearing the faster he would run. By this logic, he’ll do best when running naked. And he’ll be a YouTube sensation as well.

It was an enjoyable race and it was great running with my children. I can even cope with being beaten by them. Only Dan is faster than me at the moment but (on this course) Isobelle and Sophie weren’t far behind.

Steve Greenwich



Here’s me running in my chosen open mouthed style. I couldn’t run any faster in these conditions and particularly with the extended hills which completely knocked me out ie I slowed down to the extent that striding might have been faster.

Parkrun on the previous day was the muddiest yet and again my trail shoes came into their own. A slow time because of the conditions but I ran better than last week when the conditions were similar. I also volunteered after the race, trotting around the course to collect the signs and direction arrows. I got back just in time to have coffee with our friends and our circle is still growing.We seem to be out growing the cafe and the weather’s not good enough to sit outside. For the first two years of parkrun I left directly after running but after Lorna started to come along I started to collect friends every week. How things can change! Lorna continues to recover from her Achilles tendonopathy and volunteers most weeks so despite her injury she’s still part of the running community.



Aliveandrunning February 6 2014

Nearly a week since the end of Janathon and I’m back to my normal running regime. Two days ago I went out with the club and we did 3 x 3mins 30secs x 2, that is running for 3 minutes 30 seconds (timed by a whistle), 90 seconds recovery and two further reps then 5 minutes recovery followed by another set. Not a great distance but good speedy interval training. And in the dark!

Today, I ran 10 miles before the weather deteriorated in the early afternoon. It was gloomy and damp and the sun refused to come out to play. I ran down a main road through a village which was closed off to traffic because of resurfacing. One of the men was operating a white line machine in the middle of the road, using both hands, and had a lit cigarette between his lips! Not even one of those absurd e-fags that the credulous and impressionable openly flaunt. I did what any reasonable, level headed young man would do. I sprang off the safety of the pavement, onto the nice new tarmac and snatched the burning white stick of compressed tobacco from his mouth. Theatrically, I threw it down and ground it underfoot Grinning to indicate friendliness, I told him I did it for his own good and paused for a response. He looked startled, dismayed, angry and murderous in that order. He then noticed his machine had deviated and laid down a long bendy line across the road where no bendy white line should be. At this point I divined that my life might be forfeit if I lingered and abandoned my intention to deliver a “working towards a healthy lifestyle” explanation. He roared and lunged at me at which point I discovered I could run backwards. This seemed to enrage him even more. I think he would have nabbed me had not Zeus, observing my predicament from one of the rain clouds, snatched me from danger and set me down 200 metres away. “Lad,” his deep baritone voice boomed, “choose your battles more wisely and don’t forget to remain hydrated on your longer runs.” “Thanks, Zeus,” I spluttered, ” Give my regards to your good wife Hera and don’t spare the ambrosia.”

Unsurprisingly, I chose a different route on my return. It was incident free.

Tomorrow, I’ll have a rest day. Saturday is Cambridge parkrun. I’m running and volunteering (post race clear up) and on Sunday I’m doing a 10k in Greenwich Park, London with four of my children (I never thought this day would come).

The Vatican response to the damning UN committee on the rights of the child report which gave recommendations to the Roman Catholic church on the steps they have failed to take but now should implement, concerning child sexual and physical abuse, was provisional but  typical of their refusal to appropriately acknowledge the problems. In fact the church is a law unto itself in the context of protecting priests who commit crimes. It dispenses its own canon law which is self serving and protects the the reputation of the institution. The new Pope Francis is nice and smiley and very good at public relations but heads a corrupt organisation. Paradoxically it has many thousands of good members but its administrative and spiritual heart is hollow and pitiless.

Aliveandrunning February 2

WP_20140131_002                          WP_20140202_022 (2) Today a running rest day after Janathon. After walking Rupert and  snapping these catkins in Bourne Wood, we went into Cambridge city centre. Roaming around Cambridge is always a treat and we don’t get tired of the beautiful buildings. This is Jerwood Library, Trinity Hall which is is the fifth oldest college in Cambridge, founded in 1350. Jerwood Library was built on the banks of the Cam in 1998, a few years on. Cambridge parkrun was a very muddy affair yesterday and I did a very slow time. With my excellent trail shoes, however, I didn’t feel I was continually at risk of falling or slipping. Instead I convinced myself that I was flying and that the people passing me were just a trick of the low winter sunshine. The reality was different. My arch rivals, Mike and Kerry, were so far ahead of me that by the time I passed the line, they had showered and dressed in formal evening attire before returning to the finish funnel to clap politely as I came in. Three of my children, Shanti, Isobelle and Dan did Valentine’s parkrun and ran very well. They are doing a 10K in Greenwich next Sunday along with a boyfriend Joe and another daughter, Sophie who is coming up from Brighton. I’ve just signed up for it. In the afternoon, I went for a 10.1 mile run along the Cam river bank. I did have the option of a similar distance run with a very friendly group, Fen Edge Runners but on this occasion I decided to run alone. I was One Man Against The Elements, a heroic figure struggling to survive whatever a mild winter might throw at me. I was a force of nature that no-one could catch and contain. I saw a few other runners, two of whom stared straight ahead and didn’t return my acknowledgement. Perhaps I was running so fast they didn’t see me. The run itself went well. That’s my half marathon training done, then. I didn’t push myself very hard and felt OK afterwards. No aches or pains today. I’m fit enough to run 13 miles now at a leisurely pace but if I want to run faster I’ll need to do the training, of course.