Autumnal running and America on the brink


Photo courtesy of John Wilderspin

Cambridge parkrun on November 5th. Chilly so I wore two running tops and tracksters. The following day I ran the  Bonfire Burn 10k at Histon. Four years ago this race took place in the worst weather I had ever run in. It was very cold, raining and windy. The race was delayed and I was underdressed. I couldn’t get comfortably warm until two thirds of the race was completed and I seriously considered abandoning it half way through. So yesterday, with rain forecast and low temperatures, I took no chances. Two running tops and a heavy duty cycling jacket, super efficient gloves, tracksters and a hat in a sidepocket just in case. Toasty warm before I started, I marvelled at the large numbers of men in shorts and singlets shiveringing the wind. Of course the sun came out immediately, the wind died down, the temperature went up and no rain materialised. It proved to be a lovely day for running in the Autumn sun in shorts and short sleeved top! No matter, I don’t mind running hot, either in winter or summer and the Bonfire Burn weather is always hard to predict. Better hot than cold!


Post run amble to Milton Country Park cafe for coffee. Nicely coordinated with our colours, aren’t we. This is no coincidence, of course. We spend an hour before parkrun frantically Skyping until we get it just right and everyone is in agreement with our kit. It’s not easy being a runner!

OMG! It’s the horror of the American election. Please let sanity prevail. The spectacle of millions of Americans voting for a not so thinly disguised fascist who openly insults, abuses, belittles or intimidates those opposed to his beliefs or approach is truly disturbing. Trump’s politics demonstrate, not so much that you can fool most of the people most of the time but rather by demonising groups or individuals and overtly pandering to the dispossessed and economically left behind, you can easily incite their capacity for cruelty, absolute self interest and collective denial. So, despite camera recorded appalling behaviour and views over a long period of time, Trump’s supporters continue to instance his ability to speak plainly, take on vested interests and make America great again. Tonight, in one of his last speeches, the billionaire Trump asserted he was the champion of the working classes. This reminded me of the Tories and their Labour speak out doing the Labour Party in their concern for the working man. Trump appeals to the credulous and those lacking empathy, who want to rise again at the expense of others. Please American voters, don’t let him become 45th President of the United States of America.


Aliveandrunning November 16 2014


I should have been running the St.Neots half marathon today but my lingering, three week old cold and no training scuppered it. I did do Cambridge parkrun yesterday, and last week, plus I ran a 10k race two weeks ago but these were more than manageable given my level of running fitness. I haven’t been out with the club for three weeks and there have been no training runs. So a bit of running but not much. Before my heart attack five years ago, I definitely would have run the half marathon today despite the cold and insufficient raining. In fact, I wouldn’t have given it much thought. Now, I give it a lot of thought. It’s great to be running at the same level as before the heart attack (despite the baleful effects the bloody cardiac medication has on my running). I describe it as baleful only in the sense that it restricts my speed and effort. I have to accept that overall it probably has a positive effect on my heart health (see how I have to qualify the (possible) benefit I am receiving?. Am I not incorrigible in this respect? Do I not have a shipping container stuffed full of caveats?) Recent research suggests that placebos have a very good health benefit (among many others, see Mind Over Medicine:Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself by Lissa Rankin). I’m rehearsing a conversation with my GP.

Me:Pretty please, Doc, take me off my heart medication and prescribe placebos instead!

GP: I fail to see the rationale behind this idiotic request.

Me: The current prescription is slowing down my running which won’t be the case with placebos.

GP: You want me to take you off meds which strengthen and regulate your heart so you can run faster?

Me: You’ve got it Doc! Current research points to a measurable benefit in a given condition even if the person is fully aware that they are taking an inert placebo. I believe a placebo would be very good for my heart health. You gotta believe as well, Doc. Together we can do it. I’ll keep you fully informed of my parkrun times.

GP: Request denied with knobs on. Next patient, please!

Note to family : only joking!

I’ll go for a leisurely, longer run this afternoon. It’s chilly but not cold, will probably be raining, will definitely be dank, dark and overcast but I’ll just take it on the chin.

I wore trail shoes for yesterday’s parkrun. Unlike last week when a number of people fell and injuries included a broken ankle, I didn’t hear of anyone coming to grief. I wasn’t far off my old times so I mustn’t complain. I was thinking about placebos as I went around. See how beneficial they can be!

I picked up the above books in the Emmaus (homeless charity) store which, conveniently, is less than a mile from me. The Rare Words book is good to dip in to, if you like words. It means you are a logophile (not a lover of wood fires). Not much, if anything, on etymology, though. Of course, If you are a Sun, Star or Mirror reader I don’t think you need a vocabulary greater than 500 words so don’t bother (gratuitous insult of the day).

Grumpiness! Very much under rated, very much maligned. Far better to call it discernment or sagaciousness. It should be recognised as an art form and as an academic subject. Should this be offered, one might be able to do a Phd in Grumpiness. It would certainly appeal to people over a certain age.

WP_20141115_001  This ailing walnut tree continues to fascinate me. Despite its appearance, it soldiers on and had a good canopy of leaves this year.

I listened to the excellent The Life Scientific  (BBC Radio 4 this week , available as a podcast on iTunes) and heard Professor Dave Goulson talk about preserving bumble bees in the UK. He set up the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and has done a lot of work on the reasons for the decline in bee populations. Very interesting and positive. I think one of the focuses of my therapeutic gardening project will be on creating a bee, butterfly and bird friendly environment. Must pull my finger out!

Aliveandrunning2013 September 23

Following the calf pains which developed after I recovered insufficiently from the Grunty Fen half marathon, I decided not try running again prematurely (after running prematurely on September 14 and further injuring myself). I went for a gentle 2 mile jog yesterday and felt no calf pain but later it didn’t feel 100 % right. I’ll go for another 2 mile run on Thursday and then do the Cambridge parkrun on Saturday, September 28. I’m doing the Hoo Haah half marathon at Wimpole Estate on October 6 or maybe not ! It’s trail run and hilly which might be kinder to calves. However there is a high likelihood I won’t be on the start line or not complete the race.

We volunteered at Wimpole parkrun last Saturday, enjoyed coffee with friends, had a quick look around the second hand bookshop and visited a Second World War themed boot sale selling memorabilia from the 40’s and 50’s. Many people were dressed in uniform or period fashions. It was like being on the set of Dad’s Army. Clearly, part of the attraction for the participants was the opportunity to dress up and get into a role. A uniform carries authority and is a very visible sign of particular powers, however small or mundane. It’s a cliche to state that women like a uniform but I think a substantial number do. (Stereotyping warning).

We went into Cambridge on Saturday afternoon and I made a beeline for the second hand bookstall where, mystically, a particular book spoke to me in the politest manner, arguing his case for purchase (and it was a “him”). No, I growled, I don’t want you. There is no way you are being invited into my small, precious library. My lips curled with disdain and my face was wrought grim and aged with loathing. I turned abruptly, my cloak swirling with stylish abandon and strode off into the Cambridge melee , an unstoppable force of nature. I congratulated myself on having defeated the urge to buy a book and move on. Well done me !

Postscript : I returned to the bookstall and bought the above book 30 minutes later. I had reviewed my original decision and found it lacking in intellectual rigor. It was simply too risky, too dangerous not to let it into the family home. I have related this little story to prevent others making similar mistakes. Never take chances.

I bought these marvellous knitting patterns at Wimpole Hall.

Knit 1 knit3 knit2 knit4

Aliveandrunning2013 September 14

Tail runner volunteer at Cambridge parkrun today ! I’ve not run for nearly four days following a sudden painful right calf out running with the club two days after a half marathon. I completed the 5K course with Vicky who had not done a parkrun before. She has been running since the beginning of the year following recovery from a car accident and did a time of around 46 minutes. She didn’t stop jogging despite me making it quite clear that run/walking is a good and accepted strategy and that she would still be a runner even if she walked occasionally. Everybody who either walked or ran in a Saturday morning 9am parkrun won hands down on non exercisers who were still in bed or slumped on a sofa, no matter what time they did it in. But it was important for her not to stop and she was able to maintain an even pace. The fast runners who lapped us were well behaved today and I made super sure that Vicky stayed hard left as they whizzed past us, very foccussed and oblivious to anything else except their own times. There was a lot of general support and encouragement from many of the less fast, less self regarding runners and particularly the marshals. Overall it was a very positive experience for Vicky despite the chilly, drizzly weather. I enjoyed being a tail runner, jogging and chatting  but unfortunately my painful right calf returned which suggested my injury will need a much longer period of recovery. In fact, as soon as I broke into the gentlest of jogs to the toilet before the race started, my calf began twinging immediately. The prospect of an extended non running period looms large.

A deserved well done to my 24 year old daughter Isobelle who achieved a personal best at Cambridge parkrun today, leaving Mary, in the 75-79 age category’ eating her dust and causing her to cough slightly when she finally passed the finish line a massive 13 seconds behind her. To be fair, Mary was a national athlete in her younger days and still does a lot of running. Age needn’t be a bar to running and running well. I’m regularly outrun by people approaching 70 and over 70. Peter, also at Cambridge parkrun, is in the 80-84 age category and competes every week.

Just registered for the Ely New Years Eve 10K. This is a popular race so early registration is needed. For most big, over subscribed runs you can arrange to be notified when registration is going to be opened so you can get in early and avoid missing out. The London marathon is full in a few hours and my local  Cambridge half marathon in a few days. It’s easy to lose a place.

And now a very serious issue ! I was coerced, nay forced, into culling my book collection by my wife Lorna a few days ago. The tremour of anxiety in my hand has only just subsided and now the full story can be told to the world via this blog. Well, in a few sentences. I like books and they like me. When I go into a bookshop they call out “Steve, over here…….choose me” and it’s the same online and in the book review mags I read. They are very persuasive and offer compelling arguments why they should be permitted to join my library. Since I am weak, kind hearted and a soft touch, I frequently capitulate. As a result, I admit, we have a great many books. On shelves, in bookcases, in piles on the floor, down the side of the bed, at the end of the bed, in the loft, in drawers, on top of wardrobes, on tables. Additionally, there are newspapers and magazines in bulk (in the same locations). I do test Lorna’s patience and goodwill but it’s like an addiction. The content is just so excessively interesting, exciting and enjoyable that the loss of such nuggets of gold is like a bereavement, a significant emotional loss. So, how do I manage to let anything go? Well, throw out Lorna’s books for a start. If I was really a bad person, I would secretly buy cheap discarded dross at car boot sales and then take them to a charity shop in a sacrificial fanfair of hurt feelings and defeat to protect my cherished tomes. I do identify some books that I no longer want (or didn’t need in the first place) but I find it uphill work. I fully recognise that Lorna is extremely tolerant and I will continue to work on strategies to enhance my dust removal skills and manage my book collection. Like building a temperature and light controlled library extention/annexe complete with robots armed with vacuums and feather dusters (more like the replicants in Bladerunner rather than I,Robot, out of preference). Of course this is just a crazy dream. Or is it……..?