Alive and Running March 29 2015


Wimpole Estate parkrun yesterday which explains the appearance of these three Penguins I rescued on the 30p table which sits outside the second hand book shop, in the open but under the over hanging court yard roof. Any further description would require a little drawing. Suffice it to say they should be kept in a warm but well ventilated room not partially exposed to the elements. I also rescued this orchid (Phalaenopsis) earlier in the week. The garden centre was selling it for £3 because part of it had rotted and the leaves were sparse and damaged. It may or may not survive but it’s a magnificent thing despite being poorly. It looks like a bookish plant so it’ll be in its element.

I wasn’t displeased with my parkrun time. The grass course was mainly dry and firm and the temperature reached 10-11c which meant I had to take my running jacket off during the race. I did this by executing a series of elegant manoeuvres and rakishly tying it around my waist. I walked up the short but vicious hill and avoided getting pranged on the horns of the long haired cattle the National Trust has imported to intimidate runners. I managed to nod my appreciation or actually articulate the words “thank you” to the encouraging marshals including the one who said “well done, you’re still looking fresh.” Clearly this was the opinion of someone whose judgement in these matters was extremely suspect. I ignored the urge to stop and remonstrate with him. I make looking as if I’m about to collapse into an art form. I can’t have people randomly commenting I look “fresh”.

Carol Morley is the director of a new film called The Falling which is out in the UK at the end of April. She has a fascination with mass psychogenic illness (mass hysteria) and her film tells the story of a fainting epidemic. The article in the Observer is well worth reading.

Cambridge junior parkrun this morning. Unfortunately the loss of an hour with the clocks going forward combined with the rain more than cut numbers in half. Nevertheless, as usual, the children and adults had great time.

There had to be a down side to today. Tesco had entirely run out of Brussels sprouts. I narrowly avoided exhibiting The manager should fall on his sword!


Alive and Running March 26 2015


The Bridge of Sighs, St. John’s College, Cambridge. I had to follow the Tourist Route through the College which doesn’t allow plebs over the bridge but at other times access is granted. Possibly St. John’s has the biggest grounds of all the Cambridge colleges. It’s undeniably impressive and the Bridge of Sighs is a beautiful structure. Must go for a punt soon!

The Naked Rambler, Stephen Gough, who for years has been fighting for the right to walk about naked in public, has been refused permission to appeal against an earlier decision by the European Court of Human Rights that his repeated arrest, prosecution, conviction and imprisonment for public nudity did not breach his human rights. He is currently serving a two and a half year sentence after he walked out of prison only wearing boots and socks following a previous prison term. I presume this extreme punishment is a result of repeated contempt of court. What a sad and ridiculous situation. I don’t think this eccentric man is regarded as a threat in any shape or form other than his willful determination to walk around unclothed. Possibly the authorities feel it could start a trend, or worse, a fashion. Surely, as a caring and compassionate society, we can accommodate a few naked people walking around and not feel so disturbed by it we are compelled to lock them up. Who wants to break a butterfly on a wheel?

I remain only an intermittent runner at present. Last weekend I ran the Swavesey 5 miler although I could have taken part in the Swavesey Half Marathon. I ran it 2 minutes faster than last year which pleased me until I read in my little running log I was getting over an injury at that time. Still, I did enjoy it and the weather was kind.

Club night two nights ago. We ran 6 x 700 metres at varying paces with a recovery jog back to the start. I was the second slowest runner in a group of around 20 but we broke into small similar speed groups and it all seems to work for everyone.

I ventured into the Cambridge University Press bookshop in the Market Square, Central Cambridge this week and cast my eyes over some beautiful books with eye watering prices (available on Amazon but at no reduction in price). No purchase made but it was a close run thing. I might return naked. I suspect they wouldn’t bat an eyelid!

Finally, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, was speaking about her career and the development of the teenage brain on The Life Scientific on Radio 4. Well worth listening to via podcast or Radio 4 Listen Again.



Alive and Running March 19 2015


These brave Cam punters are well wrapped up against the February weather (yes, it’s last month’s pic) and having to swarm together to stay warm. Unable to operate their own poles, they are reduced to employing slaves  to navigate the river. Passive or what? And expensive. But on the other hand the chauffeurs are very informative and entertaining. So the choice is yours. Bob’s yer uncle, Fanny’s yer aunt, so they say.

I’m fully recovered from the exertions of the Cambridge half marathon although I haven’t been running much this week. I did go out with the club on Tuesday evening. How did I find it? Demanding! The pendulum is definitely swinging in favour of the fitter and faster runners. The new coach is trying to be inclusive but the the unvarnished truth is that most of my fellow runners are quicker and younger than me. Nevertheless, it is possible to adapt and successfully take part in the new regime. We did 6 x 6 minutes. Each 6 minutes was split up into 2 minutes at marathon pace, 2 minutes at 10k pace, 1 minute at 5k pace and 1 minute jog recovery before going into the next 6 minutes. So, running continuously, at different speeds, for 36 minutes, with no stop recoveries. We did something similar in the last two sessions but on this occasion it felt more manageable. The changes of pace were governed by whistle and on this occasion there were two whistles blown by two coaches running at different speeds. I was able to I hear it despite being well behind the fastest runners and therefore felt part of the group.

Alive and Running March 15 2015

WP_20150313_005 The gilded youth of Cambridge University last week. Friday, last day of term. Several hundred students generated a lot of fun by throwing large amounts of powder paint at each other. I was prowling the mean streets of Cambridge intent on compiling an extensive and meaningful portfolio of top quality images but I fell at the first hurdle. I forgot to put the SD card back into the camera so the number of pictures taken was zero. The card on my mobile was also full and I could only delete a few pics to enable me to take a few more. These students asked me to take a few shots of them with their own mobile and I took this one with mine.


Using my over developed skill in assessing the size of parkrun attendees, I guessed there were at least 400 students having a great laugh but cruelly caning their lungs by inhaling all the colours of the rainbow.

I saw many wondrous sites in Cambridge. Parents smoking in front of their young children, three men smoking a joint walking down the street, two lads acting stupidly, showing off and being intimidating, people queuing up to get into a Jamie Oliver restaurant, a unicorn being ridden by a Norse god, a shaman reversing the flow of the river Cam. I had a little chat with an immaculately dressed  Trinity College porter in the Trinity grounds and walked around Peterhouse. I can confirm the buildings and accommodation were not of the affordable, social housing type.

Parkrun on Saturday went surprisingly well and I did my best time this year. Somehow I beat both of my ex running rivals (well, this is explicable. Neither were running so that’s a win in my book) Several people greeted me by name as they cruised past me, provoking mild existential angst or something like that. Still, it was a good run, due in part to a much firmer course. The Cambridge country park is prone to very muddy paths and giant puddles when there’s been rain but the conditions currently are

much drier. I felt like I was tip toeing over the course rather than negotiating a swamp. No time for coffee after, though. We took our chariot down to East Londinium and met up with my sister in law for her birthday celebration. And very nice,too.

Running with the club has been more demanding recently. A new coach has a new approach and the training is harder. Hitherto, the training has managed to meet the needs of both the fastest and slowest road runners but the pendulum seems to be swinging in favour of youth and speed. I had a chat with the coach afterwards and found her to be constructive and wanting feedback. I think she’s still finding her feet and, at the same time, wanting to bring in new ideas and different training regimes. All completely understandable and I hope I can still be a part of it.

Alive and Running March 9 2015 Cambridge half marathon

DSC_0285 Cambridge half marathon completed! Five halves and one relay leg of seven miles in perfect long distance running weather. Not too warm, not too cold, occasionally windy but always sunny.

Apparently the organisers increased the field from 4000 to 4,500. Unfortunately this made a difference in terms of congestion. The streets of Cambridge aren’t designed to accommodate that number of runners (oddly Cambridge University and the city planners over several centuries failed to predict mass participation running). This resulted in a lot of boxing in and unwanted change of pace. I was forced to trip up people, push them aside or deliver a karate chop to pass them. It was justified carnage. I know what pace I need to maintain and if they don’t automatically clear a space for me to glide effortlessly by,well, they pay the penalty.

Possibly foolishly, I put too much effort into parkrun the day before and felt a little tired. Nevertheless, I was only 1 min 42  seconds outside last years Cambridge half and I was happy with that. In fact we all ran well despite a general lack of consistent training among some of us (I couldn’t use this excuse).


Shanti ran a much faster time than last year, improving by around 20 minutes. Boyfriend Ben is drinking a non alcoholic beer that we all received in our goodie bags.

I drank around 400 mls during the race, sufficient after finishing and regularly for the rest of the day. As a result of my responsible behaviour, I avoided dehydration and also excruciating cramp during the night. How clever am I!

Alive and Running March 4 2015

a69a8f45-cbe9-4f28-a81c-291932b5b9a6-2060x1236                                     Photo from the Guardian website : Sipa USA/Rex

This is my kind of beard (or is it a value added moustache?). In fact I’m Day 2 into my copycat attempt. Currently, I have a white stubble beard (think Clint Eastwood in the the Dollar films) but what’s unusual about that? Nothing! I’m sure a beard/moustache like this would put me on the first rung of eccentricity and, boy, do I want to climb that ladder. The next step would be to order a bespoke black velvet cloak with red silk lining and then a sword stick (to ostentatiously open letters not puncture people). I could go on but the world is not ready for some of my ideas.

I’m not sure it would enhance my running performance although I’m prepared to take that risk. Yesterday, at the club run we did 5.30 minutes x 6 with 30 second jog recoveries. I recover quickly but I much prefer to stop moving rather than slow jog. The off track group during the dark winter nights tends to be be on the fast side and at the moment I’m the slowest. But this doesn’t really matter since we run a loop and are governed by a whistle to mark the beginning and end of the speeds. It’s only a little disconcerting when I’m overtaken by a considerably faster runner. I’ve tried to explain that it’s bad form to pass someone who’s older than themselves but so far my argument has fallen on deaf ears. The young, eh, you can’t tell them anything.

Just a few days before the Cambridge half on Sunday. I’ll do Cambridge parkrun the day before as a little warm up. I’m looking forward to the half. All the children bar one are doing it and I’m sure the non participant will see the running light eventually. The weather will be warm which will suit me so hopefully I’ll be firing on all cylinders.

Therapeutic gardening project continues to progress. I met with Cambridge MIND managers to explain the project and attended a parish council meeting where they approved the application for a couple of polytunnels and a large shed. South Cambs council planning dept. have the final say but I don’t anticipate any problems.