Aliveandrunning Janathon January 17

Day 17. I must have some bat DNA in me. I am consistently only getting around to running at  dusk or when it’s dark. Not too much DNA, I hope. I don’t want to find myself  scanning for insects and running with my mouth open.

Longer runs are eluding me at the moment. I’ll have to start soon because I’m in the Cambridge Half Marathon in less than 8 weeks. Running alone, along the banks of the Cam towards Cambridge, is my preferred option but I’m spoilt for  choice. Cambridge and Coleridge Running Club organise long runs on Thursdays and club members run together informally in a group on the weekend. Fen Edge Runners, a new, local club are also offering long social runs.

Tomorrow, my new trail shoes will have their second outing when I do Cambridge parkrun. Last week I was lucky I didn’t lose my right shoe in the mud. This time I’ll make sure the thin cord laces are  sufficiently tight. Next week we are going to Walthamstow parkrun, East London to meet up with old friends and run with them, as well as two of my children.

We hope to buy a super duper new camera soon and this will enable us to take a load of images at races and particularly parkrun. I will also be taking pictures of my bowl of porridge, lichen and trees, alleys and ghostly passages. I could use it at political demonstrations and shoot video of the police taking video of the demonstrators. I inadvertently came across a demonstration and march, meeting in central Cambridge a couple of years ago. It was held up for around 20 minutes because the police photographer was late arriving. Oddly they never seem to record their colleagues behaving badly.

Interesting article on the Vatican’s attitude and responsibility for global Catholic priest sexual abuse in the Guardian.

Aliveandrunning2013 November 20

Out running with Cambridge and Coleridge  last night. As usual I took the road rather than track option. We did two 1.7 mile loops followed by a mile then a warm down jog back to the club. Slightly disappointed we didn’t do 3 loops as suggested initially but it was an enjoyable run in the dark along the mean streets of outer Cambridge. It goes without saying that I felt like a young demi-god effortlessly negotiating irritating obstacles like pedestrians, street furniture, cyclists and cold weather. A chum fell by the wayside, metaphorically speaking, by” pulling” his calf muscle. Not sure what this means exactly. I think it’s one step up from tweaking your calf. I guess it’s a calf strain again partially caused by insufficient rest following a previous strain. Runners,eh ! They just don’t know when to stop running.

Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary, lives up to the mispronunciation  of his name by a Radio 4 news presenter some time ago. He calls for a “duty of candour” concerning medical care mistakes in hospital. the need to prevent cover ups and demonstrate much greater accountability and is requiring hospitals to reveal ward staffing levels. The  Tories are adept at demonizing or condemning practices and conduct which most people would agree is not acceptable but they are not willing to follow through and ask how these circumstances are created. The NHS is being not so gradually dismembered and given to for profit providers while cuts and unrealistic targets force managers to take shortcuts and massage figures. There are many sharp practices which don’t come to light but most of them will have arisen because budget holders are placed in impossible positions. Ever higher standards are sought with less money available and in the context of the NHS judged and evaluated as a for profit organisation.

Interestingly, past and present police officers currently testifying before a parliamentary committee of MPs are revealing that crime statistics have been been altered to boost favourable performance for years. In practice this means some categories of serious crime such as rape, sexual abuse of children and domestic violence are not being investigated and therefore do not swell crime figures adversely. It’s a win-win situation for the police and the government who are able to report that crimes are down on their watch. The police, as well as the Government are a law unto themselves.



Aliveandrunning2013 October 15

It’s not easy being a runner when you are injured. Not so long ago, my friends called me the Cambridge gazelle. I ran like the wind (note combination of metaphor and simile), I leapt over any obstacle, I ruthlessly cut a swathe through inferior runners who fell away in awe as I swept past at a super hero pace. In short I was acknowledged as a running god. But no more. The sun has set so far North it won’t rise again for several months. The legend is tarnished, the glitter slides off, the celebrity stumbles. I am beset with failed body parts. Well, one primarily. My bloody right calf ! It’s going to require much longer to recover and I haven’t done myself any favours by running on it before it was fully healed. I’m metaphorically chastising myself right now and it’s not pleasant. Parkrun is out for the time being and a 10K at the beginning of November is in jeopardy. Or is it ? A possible scenario. A week before, I decide my calf strain has gone and I am fully fit. I successfully run the Bonfire Burn 10K but shortly afterwards my calf starts to ache then hurt. Two days later I am hobbling around, my calf badly bruised and swollen. My injury enters a chronic phase.

I did contact my GP surgery to discuss my calf sprain because there was a  very small chance that I had developed a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). I spoke to the practice nurse and my self diagnosis was confirmed. She rang back 10 minutes later having discussed it with a doctor and said I should have a blood test to definitely rule out a DVT. I had a blood test 2 hours later. An excellent service. Thank you.

We watched Stephen Fry : Out There in which he reflects on how much improvement there has been for gay people in his lifetime. It included positive examples like civil partnerships and individual celebrities coming out and shocking instances of proposed laws in Uganda to allow the death penalty for homosexuality. He interviewed a rabidly homophobic church minister who supported the measure and a Government minister for Ethics and Integrity who supports the death penalty. He also spoke to a lesbian who had been “correctively raped”, aged 14. I like Stephen Fry’s approach. It wasn’t that difficult to coax homophobes to spout their sexual fears and hatreds. It’s always dismaying to hear their total absence of empathy and lack of common humanity.

The police are getting some very bad press at the moment. The Independent Police Complaints Commission has questioned the honesty and integrity of police officers who met with Andrew Mitchell MP over the Plebgate row. After the meeting they misrepresented his views at a pre-arranged press conference. But Conservative Andrew secretly recorded the meeting. Eight people, including four police officers, have been arrested and bailed over the September 2012 row at the security gates to Downing Street. The row occurred when Mitchell was told by police not to take his bike through the main gate and  exit instead via a nearby side gate. In a short outburst, he swore at the officers and allegedly called them “plebs”, an interesting class slur.The pleb jibe (alleged) hurt the thin skinned police officers which Mitchell has consistently denied uttering. The police position is becoming increasingly weaker as evidence is amounting that individuals are making up evidence, much like they did following the Hillsborough Stadium  disaster when they blamed the football fans’ behaviour for the deaths of 96 people crushed to death. It seems clear that they have failed to “fit up” Andrew Mitchell and their image is further shredded.

Aliveandrunning2013 October 8

I decided to do a little research online regarding my calf problem and found that I almost certainly have “calf strain”. It described symptoms of mild ache at rest to moderate pain on using the affected muscle, swelling, discolouration, redness or bruising and difficulty rising up on your toes or pushing off with your foot. Calf strain is a common injury and often caused by overstretching or by putting excessive force through the calf muscle at the back of the lower leg. In this injury the muscle fibres are stretched and weakened, resulting in bleeding into the muscle. Well, there was mild swelling and a discoloured/bruised area and pain but two days after it feels much better. Therefore I have mild calf strain. The website prescribed rest, ice, compression and elevation. Yeah, yeah, yeah ! I’m a very mild case, mate. I’ve blogged a 140 words and my calf feels appreciatively better than it did at word 1 ! So I will rest for a few more days then do 2 miles and if that’s OK I’ll do the 5K parkrun on Saturday.

Yesterday, the Guardian carried an article, on page  4, concerning the Metropolitan Police ordering officers not to respond to calls from mental health units and emergency departments for help to control and restrain patients unless there is a “significant threat to life and limb”. There followed a sensible and reasonably balanced  discussion which mentioned that research by Victim Support indicated that people with mental health problems are five more likely than the general population to be victims of assault, with 9% of those questioned saying they were victims of crime in a psychiatric inpatient context, by other patients or staff. By contrast, the Sun’s front page headline screamed 1200 KILLED BY MENTAL PATIENTS with a smaller line below explaining “Shock 10 year toll exposes care crisis”. A classic gutter press headline for consumption by foolish people, the credulous and the pathologically prejudiced. It’s the UK’s biggest selling daily national newspaper (current daily circulation around 2.4m). God protect us from this paper and the people who read it. provides comparison of newspaper headlines in the UK and other countries. Today, the Guardian ran with Hope of Malaria Vaccine Within Two Years After Successful Trials, The Daily Express had MADDY : “WE’LL FIND HER ALIVE”, The Mail – Human Right to Make a Killing which concerned UK taxpayers footing the bill for European Court “payouts to murderers, terrorists and traitors”, the Daily Star’s (Princess) Diana’s Secret Baby. You can compare daily headlines for up to 12 past issues. Read and weep.


Aliveandrunning2013 September 9

A great Grunty Fen half marathon yesterday. I ran it in 1 hour 47 minutes which is 8 minutes faster than last year and 3 minutes faster than I ran a similar flat half 14 years ago. As usual I was exhausted  when I passed the finish line but recovered quickly. I was so focussed at the end I failed to see or hear family friends screaming support. Lorna asked Isobelle to meet up and take me back to where they were cheering the other runners coming in. Lorna said that it worries her too much when she sees me bent over and totally drained and my rival Mike said he had concerns as well when he ran with me. Oh dear! Next time I’ll run straight into bushes, recover and then present myself to polite society smiling, relaxed and exuding surplus energy like a newly coiled spring.

The course was flat, windy and open with fields on either side. The recent hot weather has subsided and was just right for me on the cool to warm scale. I drank at water stations on two occasions (at 7 and 10 miles), walking while drinking for around 30-40 seconds. When I started running again I felt refreshed and less tired. In the past I’ve not taken on water during a race (unless it’s been really hot or I felt thirsty) and I’ve not stopped. I now  think taking short drinking breaks works best for me. I’m running another half in a month, not on a road surface like Grunty Fen but on trail, grass and undulating woodland. This will be more demanding and depending on the steepness of the hill, I will revert to walking for short periods.

Good news regarding Lorna’s ankle injury which has stopped her running for around 5-6 weeks. She had a telephone assessment by Physio Direct, a PCT funded free service which was thorough, used internet images to identify the injury and lasted 50 minutes. This was followed up by an emailed treatment plan including videos of remedial exercises and correct running form. Lorna has previously seen a physiotherapist and her GP and is currently waiting for a rheumatology out-patient appointment. It’s thought she has insertional achilles tendonitis. Thankfully it is treatable (and preventable with changes to running form and particular exercises). I miss running with Lorna and she misses running. We have a shared interest now and lots of running events to chose from. Hopefully, Lorna will be back to health in 2-3 months and will quickly regain her fitness. She is highly motivated so this won’t be a problem.

I watched two TV programmes this evening. The first one, Panarama, looked at the problem of mentally ill persons in a state of aggressive disorder being taken to police stations and placed in a cell prior to assessment by a mental health team that might take several hours to arrive. The police stated that they didn’t have sufficient mental health training despite estimating that 20% of the persons within their remit fell into this category. Various CCTV footage showed individuals self harming in cells or needing to be restrained by police officers. The problem with the 30 minute format of this type of “revealing a scandal” programme is that they emphasise the drama and aggressive behaviour as shocking entertainment  and neglect reasonable and objective discussion concerning the reasons and solutions to the problem. Clearly the police need much more basic mental health training and to  work more closely with psychiatric liaison staff. There needs to be recognition of the consequences of the loss of so many psychiatric beds and the frequent inadequacies and under funding of community based interventions and treatments.

The second programme was Motorway Cops, unbelievably broadcast, not on Dave or ITV 4, but BBC 1. It contained the usual video record of a car taking off and being pursued at high speed by police through traffic and suburban roads thus demonstrating that both the chased and the chasers are as stupid, criminally reckless and dangerous as each other. The programme started with a serious crash with injuries to another motorist following a police pursuit. There was no discussion about the high risk of police chases which are almost always not commensurate with any known risk that the offender might pose should he not be apprehended. The police tend to revel in this kind of behaviour and take the moral high ground to suggest that they act heroically to prevent harm to the public. It’s a load of bullshit, of course. The programme did have a genuinely moving element within another storyline. Unfortunately, overall, these reality police shows are entirely self serving and obsequiously take the view of the officers they are showcasing. It’s enough to make you puke!