Aliveandrunning May 31 2014


I asked Rupert to guard my trays of plants while I went to parkrun this morning. I explained that it was of the utmost importance not to take his eyes off them and, since he’s a dog  and not given to argument or debate, he complied absolutely.

Parkrun went reasonably well, although I just missed coming in under 24 minutes. A bloke in front of me crashed to the ground, injuring his knee. It’s risky falling over at the start of the race because 400+ runners are crammed into a relatively narrow path and your line of sight is blocked. Just after this incident my swift friend Kerry dropped his phone and had to walk back into the path of the oncoming runners to retrieve it, another very risky manoeuvre. He survived, as did the phone, and cruised past, leaving me wobbling about in his slipstream, a minute later. Lorna ran with a Couch to 5k running group, giving them support, and coming in at just over 40 minutes These were people in their 40’s and 50’s who had just taken up running and had just completed a short running course to get up to 5k. They were very motivated and felt a real sense of achievement. Fantastic! Very inspiring to everyone.

Tomorrow is the start of Juneathon and I’m kicking off with a half marathon. I’m lucky to be doing it, having done my best to injure myself a week ago. Those industrial paving stones are too heavy to lift, they said. You’ll injure your back, they warned. Don’t worry, I replied, I know my limits. I won’t take any unnecessary risks, believe me. I  lifted them into the car and noted I was on the cusp of getting away with it or injuring myself. A few hours later, my hip ached , two days later my back ached and three days later my foot hurt. I decided to go running with the club during this period and didn’t feel worse but did rest until today’s parkrun when I judged all symptoms had virtually disappeared. To celebrate, in the afternoon, I filled some heavy garden pots and lifted them into position. Will I ever learn? Why do I do such stupid things? Why jeopardise  my ability to run? I vow (tabloid speak) to listen to the wise counsel of my family in future (possibly). At least the dog does what he’s told!

Aliveandrunning May 28 2014


We’ve had a lot of rain fall over the past few days. This painting was completed, under cover, as the rain continued to fall and is an accurate depiction of a scene in an adjacent village. They had a convenient arc moored nearby and most of them were able to clamber aboard. Not sure why a substantial number of them are naked. I’m not going to speculate. All I can say is that our village is more conservative. We tend to keep our clothes on and stay indoors when it rains.

An exception to this is running club night although yesterday we all ran with our kit on. It was cold, windy and very wet but still managed to be fun. We ran nearly full pelt for a minute then recovered for a minute. We did six of these, recovered for five minutes then did another six. In terms of distance it wasn’t far but it was demanding. I can’t remember why it benefited us. I just follow orders and run. Drank 500 mls in the car on the way home and another 250 mls  of tonic water (with quinine) later. This regime is successful in warding off the extremely painful cramps I’ve suffered in the past.

Tomorrow, I’ll do a training session with Lorna and friends.

Saturday, it’s Cambridge parkrun.

Sunday, Juneathon Day 1. I’m doing the Flaming June half marathon.




Aliveandrunning May 24 2014




Zeus, Greek god supreme, is Lord of the Skies. Today, he determined that there be torrential rain in the environs of Cambridge parkrun (and elsewhere, for good measure) and lo, the heavens opened, the deluge came and we got very wet. And the mud did stick to flesh and it was all very squidgy and the puddles were deep. But we survived to run another day and our spirits were not dampened. Furthermore, because the rain is good, and helpeth my plants and flowers to grow strong and true, I stepped back into the life giving downpour and undertook my voluntary duty of post event closedown (like a lemon sole, I flopped my way around the parkrun course and collected the direction signs). And my reward was a wholesome mug of coffee with Lorna and friends in Milton Country Park tavern. And they saw fit to comment that I was steaming in the damp warmth which they positively connoted and were greatly amused.

So I did Cambridge parkrun in under 24 mins despite the crap weather! Having rested most of this week I felt refreshed and would’ve  got a faster time if the conditions had been better. The puddles and mud really do slow you down. The rain resulted  in nearly half our usual parkrun attendance. How strange that some  people don’t like running in it! Flaming June half marathon in 8 days. I’ll probably go for one longish run of an hour to an hour and a quarter this coming week and go out with the club. I’ll also do parkrun the day before. Parkrun continues to get precedence over all other races in terms of my interest in doing a particular time.














Aliveandrunning May 22 2014


This is a little game we are playing at the moment. The above  door is in frequent use. How long can we enjoy fecund nature (yes, fecund is a word that’s constantly on our tongues) before sheer necessity requires us to cut back to gain access? Probably quite long, actually. I can see us crawling through on our hands and knees in about a month’s time. That’s how ridiculous we are prepared to get!

I’ve cut down on running this week following tiredness due, almost certainly, to over training last week. I ran with the club 3 days ago and I’ll do Cambridge parkrun tomorrow but essentially I’m recovering. At present I’m feeling slightly listless. I had a haircut recently and I think my shorn locks weakened me further ( my stamina and strength was highest when my hair was long in the late sixties). Age shall not weary me but, as Samson found out, a haircut will! Just recently, someone commented that watching me run reminded them of the highly efficient T-1000 liquid metal shape shifting Terminator as he tries to catch nice Arnie driving away from the psychiatric facility with John Connor and his mum.

The club road running group did a Ik time trial then 4 further Iks. There were around 50 of us, split into 4 groups according to speed. I enjoy these !k distances. Yet again I made an effort to be more sociable and chat to people I don’t know. I’m still fighting an urge to run alone, to be the outsider, the maverick, the mysterious Runner With No Name like Clint in the Dollar films (minus the cigarillo for health reasons, of course).

Interesting BBC Radio 4 programme on May 20 called Personality Politics. The central idea was the contention that the brain is hardwired for political preferences. Our instinctive responses to danger, contamination etc may be exaggerated and over reactive and this might find expression in a correlation between political beliefs and our innate feelings of fear, disgust and threat. People who are socially conservative tend to emphasise punishment of transgressors, want protection from immigration, oppose abortion and gay marriage, have a stronger reaction to disgusting images and pay more attention to them. Conservative people are more focused on their personal feelings and more liberal people on the outside world. Apparently different parts of the brain are used corresponding to political preferences.

I can easily accept that particular beliefs and resultant feelings can activate different parts of the brain as an effect of those beliefs but not as a genetically hardwired cause. I think our early experiences, in the main, determine our degree of empathy, moral development and our response to difference and change. Disparities in brain functioning  would then follow the different beliefs and feelings as a result of those experiences, not the other way round. My head hurts now. I’m going to bed. Night night.

Aliveandrunning May 18 2014


I ran a good 5k Cambridge parkrun yesterday and todayI ran 7.7 miles at Willingham, Cambridgeshire. I felt tired warming up and tired during the race. End result? I finished around 6 minutes slower than last year. The temperature a year ago was 10C and today it was around 22C. I had 3 drink breaks and walked whilst drinking. I think the problem was more to do with me running too much over the past week without sufficient recovery time rather than the increase in temperature. I’ll go running with the club in two days and then rest until the next parkrun on the coming Saturday. I’m doing a half marathon on June 1st and may not do another long run before this.So now the world knows! Nothing is hidden. I’ve been completely open and frank. I have mortal weaknesses. My legs won’t carry me at the moment but my head is erupting with light and energy (see above picture). Possibly this is why children were running away screaming from me today.

Much euphoria  around the pond this afternoon. Lorna noticed two fat flower buds poking out between the lily pads. The air was electric with a frenzy of  exhilaration. It doesn’t get better than this. And that’s on top of watching two dragon flies copulating yesterday!

I cooked a delicious curry tonight. Unfortunately not accompanied by Brussels sprouts.

Signed up for Juneathon.

Aliveandrunning May 17 2014


Our new pond  is proving to be a source of  endless fascination. I created it last summer and bought  aquatic plants that needed to be brought  into the house to over winter. I put them back successfully at the end of March and now they are taking off with the warmer weather. The pond has been quickly colonised by all sorts of interesting bugs, a couple of frogs  and at least one sizeable newt. Today some  dragon flies turned up, stayed around  the pond area and appeared to be mating. All this is  entertaining, very enjoyable  and relaxing.  I think  building a pond would prove to be a good method of reducing and managing stress. It can be creative and provide a sense of achievement. It doesn’t sound  riveting, perhaps, but it can be and often is. You’ll gain respect for the smallest of pond creatures and feel excitement when you spot the larger ones. And you can claim maximum mindfulness points!

I went for a long run yesterday, training for the new Flaming June half marathon, which is local to me, in Impington.My training regime is to carry on running as I would normally do but add 3 x 13.2 mile runs in the month leading up to it. I did the first one 5 days ago and perhaps I should have left longer time for recovery. I feel tired today but not overwhelmingly. Tomorrow I’ll do parkrun and on Sunday I’m running a 7.7 race at Willingham, a village about 6 miles away.

A couple of days ago, BBC news posted an item on their website  concerning the possible effects of endurance training on the heart, particularly with reference to older runners and triathletes  Apparently intensive and prolonged training, and the consequent lowering of the heart beat down to 30 per min and lower, can result in dangerous heart arrhythmias. Previous research has indicated that intensive training can stress the heart by causing multiple small tears to the heart muscle leading to recommendations limiting exercise  to around 2 to 2.5 hours per week. I seldom see any reference to people who already have  diagnosed heart disease or have experienced a heart attack. After my heart attack 5 years ago my cardiologist saw no reason why I shouldn’t run another marathon. When I checked out current thinking with the cardiac rehab team 6 months ago, the advice hadn’t changed.


Aliveandrunning May 10 2014

Dobo Scarfell Pike 20134        Dobo

                                                                                                                Photos courtesy of Paul Dobson (

Fell running looks a lot of fun but where I live in Cambridgeshire, it’s as flat as a chapati (Indian flatbread for UKIP supporters who don’t get out much). We’ve got a few very minor hills which might be a few feet above sea level but nothing approaching a fell. I would have to travel to the Peak National Park, just over 2 hours drive away to encounter some real hills and further North to the Lake District and Cumbria to be spoilt for choice (I’m not even sure the Northern tribes allow soft Southerners to run up and down their hills without permission or a permit. Anyway, let’s suppose I’m free to run and the North-South divide is not held against me, I’d love to do it.

I’m currently reading Richard Askwith’s Feet in the Clouds 2004 book on fell running and also bought his recent book, Running Free. It’s enjoyable and I find it motivational. The problem I have with descriptive writing of this kind is the unremitting focus on superlative performance and shock and awe at the level these runners are performing. And, so far, it’s mainly about men – their courage, stamina, strength, devil may care attitude, seeming indifference to risk, unbelievable descent speed, affinity with the rugged terrain blah, blah. They are all legends which we mortals can never  join but only adore from afar. That’s the problem with most books on sports activities ( I am presuming this because I don’t generally read them). The focus is on the fastest and the the winners, the dramatic stories, the poignancy and the pathos. It’s not on the also rans, the runners in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and older who are still tackling the hills albeit much slower or running less distance or less demanding courses.

Cambridge parkrun (5k) today. I did it in under 24 minutes again but I thought I ran faster than my actual time. Perhaps I had earlier  disrespected the Gods and they took their revenge by manipulating the passage of time to ensure I took longer to complete the distance. Two days ago I ran a club members only 5k (with four other clubs competing) and did less well. Over 200 took part and I was hemmed in at the back resulting in a slow start. Additionally, it was an evening race and I am a morning runner by choice, a flock of black crows crossed my path and to top it all, the goddess Aphrodite whispered in my ear “This isn’t your race, Steve” just prior to the start.

After parkrun today, I rested for a couple of hours and then I went for a 13.2 mile run along the river Cam. I haven’t been for a long run for weeks. Instead I’ve been doing lots of short runs and races. I took a chance and ran 13 miles straight off and it went OK. As usual the water nymphs along the banks of the Cam tried to lure me into the water and I had to call on my reserves of willpower to resist their blandishments. They were very alluring and it was probably the fact that I was wearing Lorna’s Garmin that swayed my decision not to jump in (note to self : are Garmins waterproof or only showerproof ?).

Aliveandrunning May 5 2014

10156109_785985018080044_8750786763380570381_n           10302645_770454109632732_7215002570032830076_n (1)

I thought this Fen Drayton 10k was an ideal opportunity to practice my range of facial expressions.The first pic demonstrates aghast puzzlement with the physicality of prolonged exercise. Of course this still picture is unable to capture me muttering to the Greek gods, vainly pleading with them to send a favourable wind to waft me quickly to the finish line. The second image is a study in the desolate melancholy and gnawing loneliness of the long distance runner pounding the drear, mist shrouded moors, in the depths of winter, a score of miles from shelter and a warm fire. Or perhaps this is my best grumpy face. I can’t quite remember at the moment.

This was the weekend I did four races. On Saturday I ran parkrun at Cambridge (5k) and came in only 14 seconds outside of my personal best. Forsaking social intercourse, I jumped into my car and sped off immediately (I had left the engine running to save precious seconds) to an adjacent village to do another race of 4.5 miles. Yesterday I did the above 10k and today the Histon and Impington 5k. Unusually, I was pleased with all my times. I’m working on running faster but this also accompanied by a running style which seems to worry people. As soon as I passed the line yesterday, a funnel marshal asked if I needed to sit down and another one said they would get me some water. My reply? If I need to recline, it will be on the top of Mount Olympus to the first question and I’ll accept ambrosia but nothing else to the second question.

At the 5k today, I did feel more tired than usual but did OK. Unfortunately, Lorna confirmed my running gait was less than attractive and a  faster club runner pal asked if I had injured my foot during the race. He thought I was partially collapsed on the finish line. Errrr….no! I was simply making a supreme effort to outrun several chums behind me. But I do admit I’m not a pretty sight at the end of a race. I don’t seem to be able to run with my mouth shut or compose my face into an expression of serenity, even for a few seconds, when I see someone I know with a camera.

Anyway, I’m out with the club road running tomorrow evening and there’s a club run 5k on Thursday. I’ve just registered for a local new half marathon (Flaming June) on June 1st. I’ve got out of the way of longer training runs and will need to start soon. This will take me to the banks of the river Cam where I suspect those water nymphs and minor water deities will attempt to delay me, or worse, use their magical powers to ensnare me into their worlds. It’s a risky business, running!


This is my roast chicken supper last night, the fuel of super heroes. The stuff in the centre is stuffing not sausage meat. I don’t eat pork now. I kept four pigs for eighteen months. They were beautiful creatures and good communicators. They gave wise advice in the main but their running tips were rubbish.