Running made simple

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At present I’m running between two and three times a week. Typically I’ll do parkrun locally,  a two miler and a 11-12k longer run. This seems to be more than enough to keep me ticking over and retaining a reasonable level of running fitness which allows me to do the occasional 10k race without extra training.

I’m missing club running but not enough to rejoin. I do have to remind myself that 67% of the reason for leaving was because I was pushing myself too hard (possibly) for someone with heart disease. Research is suggesting that running too far, too often and at an elevated pace is not heart friendly. Research also suggests drinking from the right mug boosts confidence and self esteem. I’ll give it a go.

Cambridge parkrun numbers are still growing. The last two runs have seen record numbers at 546 and 558. Since the course is over a couple of laps and a smaller loop most of which are narrow woodland paths, there’s a lot of congestion at multiple points. This must be a central reason why the parkrun core team has now decided that dogs can no longer run alongside their owners/carers. In short, dogs are now banned. Cue controversy!

We’ve taken to going to London for the day and walking 10-12miles. Recently we explored the development at the back of Kings Cross station which includes a temporary Skip Garden and a reasonably secluded open air swimming pool. It will all be gone in two years and the area will be built on. A great pity because this is the kind of project which gives a place soul and a creative, natural feel. There’s no money in it for the developers, of course.

Still, there is the Regent’s Canal nearby (hopefully no plans to fill it it in) and you can stroll (or run) along most of its  length. We walked from Kings Cross through to Camden Locks and on to Regent’s Park. From there you can leave the canal and walk up Primrose Hill and enjoy a panoramic view of London. That’s the wonderful thing about canals that run through cities and towns. Built two hundred years ago, they bring a feel of history and countryside and calm to the densely populated and over built areas they meader through. Thankfully, they are still around.

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Richard Neville, co-founder of Oz magazine, has died aged 74. Neville, Jim Anderson and Felix Dennis were charged with obscenity and conspiring to corrupt public morals in 1971 and the high profile trial was the subject of Tony Palmer’s book,  The Trials of Oz. Well worth reading on a number of levels. Very funny too, with a host of defence witnesses making fast and loose with the po faced prosecutors. John Mortimer QC defended with Geoffrey Robertson and defence witnesses included George Melly, Hans Eysenck, Edward de Bono, John Peel, Marty Feldman Ronald Dworkin and Feliks Topolski.

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You can get this for a song on Ebay. Take a chance and immerse yourself in 60s/70s counterculture colliding with prevailing conventions and conservative society. Hilarious.

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Major rethink on the running front

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I innocently bought Trail Runner magazine and found this virtually recommended “run” featuring at No.38! What will these Europeans get up to next? I’m half expecting Gove or Johnson to inform us that we’ll have to submit to an EU edict requiring each household to enter a team if we remain in Europe. I can think of worse outcomes : a rolling back of workers and human rights, an increase in the pace of attack on the NHS and unrelenting xenophobia if we vote out.

Anyway, back to normal running (cue question : what is normal?). I’ve decided to drastically cut back on maximum effort running because I increasingly think this is not doing my health any favours. Research is indicating that running long distances, too hard and over a long period of time seems to stress the heart unduly. I had a heart attack nearly seven years ago and recovered very well with no obvious deficits. In fact I’m probably running better now than before my heart attack. Nevertheless, the effort to run as fast as you can must surely have consequences for a person like me who has heart disease and takes cardiac medication to slow and strengthen the heartbeat. So, I’ll stop doing half marathons (with the possible exception of Cambridge half marathon at a slower pace), I won’t renew my subscription to my running club which expires at the end of this month and I’ll run 10Ks at a more relaxed pace. The good news is that I don’t have to run much slower to feel much more comfortable. Less is more! No future Junathons or Janathons.

The other spur to change my syle of running is that I know about five experienced runners who have either had heart attacks or have heart related problems.

I’m also taking it easier at 5k parkruns. Putting  just a little less effort into the distance only decreases my time by about 45 seconds and I feel better for it. I’m still interested in fell running as long as its down hill. I’m still working on this one.

On last thing. I borrowed a Fitbit today when I ran 7.3k and had an average heart rate of 150. Is this good, bad or indifferent? I don’t know. It took me 47 minutes and I felt good.

 

Janathon Day 28 The future? Possibly less running

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I had to go into Cambridge this morning and I decided to do a second Janthaon walking day. It may be the cold weather, it may be listening to medics speaking about the risks of running excessively (Trust Me, I’m a Doctor BBC 2 yesterday, with the excellent Michael Mosley) or it may be I’m a little tired. Unfortunately for me, there’s a current body of opinion which asserts that after a certain level of physical exercise, you may be jeopardising your health by stressing your heart and damaging your circulatory system.

I recovered very well from my heart attack six years ago and I still feel I could run as long and as far as I want. But I don’t think medical opinion would support that approach. In future, I’ll continue to focus on parkrun and probably do fewer 10k races and perhaps just one or two half marathons at a slower pace. And more walking

The Tory government stance, and particularly Cameron’s pronouncements, on very conditional requirements for accepting lone children caught up in the migrant/refugee crisis, is sickening. Clearly, Cameron wants to keep them at arms length and despite his ever so rational explanations about the sensible Tory approach, it reeks of an intrinsic absence of empathy and compassion. Goodwill and sensitivity towards vulnerable children, who have no family to care for them and who are at terrible risk, should be a no brainer, even for the Tories. Their current policy reveals the emotional deadness within.

Janathon Day 16 Drama on the start line

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Picture by John Wilderspin

Cambridge parkrun and they’re off! Well at least two of them are. The man in the orange with folded arms is clearly sulking and thinking about it.

Chris in the blue top is showing serious intent and goes on to win it (I mean he completes it first, it’s not a race of course). Nice pose by Paul who sets them off with his horn (except the sulky guy who’s not playing ball).

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Picture by John Wilderspin

Here I am, lost in my own world, slightly open mouthed and fully attired for freezing weather. Compare and contrast with the near naked elite on the start line. The temperature is around minus 1c which is cold enough to wear  my warmest jacket. Trail shoes were essential. There was ice, broken ice, mud, frozen mud and water lurking everywhere so one had to concentrate or one could find oneself coming a cropper.

Post run we had coffee with our good friends and very enjoyable it was, too. Tea was also taken.

Despite the cold and frosty weather, the sun held most of the day and we went into Cambridge in the afternoon. How lucky are we to live close to such a beautiful city which is really no bigger than a medium sized town.

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Here is the still spooky Trinity Lane.

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And here is the last of the Saturday sun shining on the righteous.

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One last pic. Cambridge University Press is currently having a book sale. All softback/paperbacks £3 and hardbacks £7. CUP academic books are notoriously expensive. It’s a big sale and goes on for three weeks with books being added daily. It’s beyond excitement. I’ll be back!

 

 

100th parkrun celebration. Runners not dressing down!

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Lorna’s and Michelle’s joint 100th parkrun (Lorna in red and Michelle in multi colour tutu. Various wings were worn and a lot of talking undertaken during the run. Coffee, tea and cake in the cafe afterwards. All very enjoyable. I was surrounded by running ladeeees and had to watch my P and Qs (an English expression meaning “mind your manners”, “mind your language”, “be on your best behaviour”. It’s not easy, I can tell you! I have to suppress the urge to be ridiculous at the best of times. It’s an ongoing battle since most of the time I think that’s a legitimate response.

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Cambridge parkrun was attended by a rhinoceros seen here menacing two fairies who have become detached from the magical community. No clever comment offered here. See how grown up I am?

Parkrun was a bit of a no score draw for me. I’m still 90 seconds down on my usual times and yesterday I felt tired. Today I went for a nine mile run and felt much better. I borrowed Lorna’s Garmin and clocked exactly 9 minutes a mile as an average. I wasn’t pushing hard and I felt quite relaxed. The problem running with heart disease is the medication (bisoprolol and Ramipril) acts as limiter on the amount of effort the heart can undertake. In practice the difference between running comfortably and running to capacity is rather small ie I don’t run much faster when I put in maximum effort.

The attack by a knife wielding man at Leytonstone Underground station yesterday who apparently shouted “This is for Syria” as he stabbed and assaulted a random person (presumably) and threatened others before he was Tasered and subdued by police, was a disturbing and frightening incident. The police are regarding it as a terrorist act, provisionally, but I note that BBC reporters included the possibility of his behaviour resulting from mental ill health. His physical movements and manner certainly gave that impression.

Since a high percentage of people regard themselves as citizen reporters and can easily video scenarios played out before them and share via social media, we can all enjoy the unfolding drama with detachment and  the safety of distance. Over and over again as with this incident. We can also see how bystanders, or people passing, act. This ranges from running off in terror to standing gawping or even walking over closer as if the danger was occurring on a screen. If news isn’t accompanied by explicit film or images, it loses its impact compared with news that is.Video can be repeated endlessly and shamelessly, as it was with 9/11.

A large proportion of of news presentation, these days, is devoted entirely to exploiting our emotions. It’s cheap, voyeuristic and cynical. The police themselves are complicit in this approach and freely make available video of subsequently convicted suspects being questioned. They also permit the making of sycophantic TV programmes following traffic cops and docile fly on the wall documentaries about themselves. News has been receiving a substantial make over for several years. There’s less news, it’s dumbed down and it’s more likely to be presented as emotive entertainment. We can all feel sorrowful and pretend we care.

Must leave you now. Going to watch that emotionally uplifting Nordic noir TV crime prog, The Bridge.

 

 

Alive and Running May 1 2015 London Marathon 2015

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The London Marathon 2015 on Sunday April 26. I was there as a participant (a participating spectator), enduring the cold and ogling the thousands of runners lucky enough to obtain an entry.

We journeyed down early from Cambridge and were drinking coffee in a Canary Wharf coffee shop by 9 am. This enabled us to see the whole race beginning with the racing wheelchairs, then the runners with a disability, the elite women. the elite men, the fast club runners, the huge number of regular and occasional runners, the walk and jog runners and finally those men and women bravely attempting the distance, who would probably make it eventually but were really struggling.

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Brendan Foster on BBC TV commented that the London Marathon is unusual for having fancy dress runners. Marathons outside the UK don’t seem to attract them. Thank God I live here then. Fancy dress is a good corrective to the intense seriousness of the faster folk  who would probably trample you to death and run on if you stumbled in their path. The elite runners are fascinating for the few seconds they remain in view and the runners with a disability are clearly triumphing over considerable adversity. We like to see them but as they run past they appear completely detached and out of sympathy with anyone else apart from themselves. I found myself  not particularly interested in them or their speed on this occasion, with the exception of Paula Radcliffe. She wasn’t running with the elite pack (which I knew) and she was on top of me (metaphorically speaking) before I clocked her. I got a couple of shots in from the side, grinning, so I was happy.

We were opposite the elite runners drink station. The tables only hold a few well spaced bottles which the runners easily recognise as their own as they approach. It was comical to see a succession of marshals and volunteers pick up Paula’s bottle to be photographed holding it. It was disappointing not to snap them taking a swig for the camera!

We managed to see a number of people we knew but the bulk of the runners I knew from the club seemed to be running around three and a half hours, give or take 20 minutes. Unfortunately, at Canary Wharf, between miles 18 and 19, at the time they would have been passing us, we went for coffee and a bite to eat. We really needed a break from the cold and inactivity. Who are really the heroes? The marathon runners or the the brave spectators? The latter, obviously.

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 We stayed late into the afternoon and saw the official end of the marathon display car drive past which announced that roads would now be open and the course closed. Immediately behind followed a succession of lorries and tractors picking up signs and barriers, spraying painted markers on the road with a solvent and collecting rubbish. And weaving in and out of this maelstrom of vehicles, dozens of runners were still attempting to finish the course. The crowds were gone, the marshals had left their posts, the roads up ahead would be open to traffic and I presume direction sign posts would be removed. They still had between 7 and 8 miles to go! A few people gave them encouragement to which they enthusiastically responded but others appeared exhausted. It was very poignant.

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These are the strongest and bravest people. They have peak endurance and emotional strength far greater than the runners who trained up and worried about their times. My monies on them!

Aliveandrunning October 8 2014

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Hoohaah half marathon at Wimpole Estate last Sunday with young Jonathan leading for Cambridge and Coleridge (he eventually came second). I had a place in this race but my family felt running 3 half marathons in relatively quick succession was excessive given my heart disease. They threw research at me and I acquiesced! However, I went over to Wimpole with chum Kerry, watched the race and took a couple of hundred of pics.

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Unfortunately, the lure of this bookshop in the courtyard of Wimpole House resulted in me returning to the finish line late and failing to see the first three runners come in. Just out of camera shot, to the right , in the pool of sunlight, sits an old woman in period dress weaving yarn on a spinning wheel. Very evocative of a lost, bygone culture. This nostalgic cameo was only slightly undermined when, last year, faced by a large crowd of parkrunners blocking the entrance to the court yard, the spinning lady reversed her Mercedes estate more than a tad too fast, scattering said parkrunners in fear of their lives. She wasn’t a happy bunny.

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These are my running pals from Fen Edge running club. Mike and Kerry have only been running for a couple of years but they are during parkrun in 21-22 minutes. Over a longer distance like a half marathon, I can get within 2-3 minutes of them but incredibly they are still improving.

Parkrun went OK the day before but I couldn’t drop under 24 minutes. I collected the signage after the run. This volunteering task is enjoyable and relaxing. It’s very pleasant to walk around the deserted course. I sometimes see Peter who is in his mid 80s, walking the 5k  course but in the reverse direction. Not seen him recently, though. I do hope he’s well.

I went to Addenbrookes Hospital yesterday and felt mildly murderous when I smelt cigarette smoke from someone walking behind us as we approached the entrance. Stupid or what? Of course there’s more stupidity inside the hospital and this time it’s sponsored by the management. Burger King and other fast food outlets in the Food Court. So empowering to facilitate obese people to ignore dietary and health advice and conveniently enable them to gorge on high fat, high carbohydrate and high salt food to their hearts’ content.

We sought advice at the Inquiry Desk.

“How may I help you, my dears?” smiled the volunteer receptionist.

“Firstly, by desisting from addressing us as “my dears”, I replied.”Secondly, by appreciating I have a fear of split infinitives unless their utterance is Star Trek related. Thirdly, I want that person disappearing down the corridor to be arrested and charged with causing  environmental damage by smoking on hospital premises. Are you able to accommodate me?”

Of course there was no response because this little encounter happened in my imagination but it was a close run thing.