Aliveandrunning February 21 2014

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Yesterday evening was particularly spooky as the terrifyingly atmospheric image attests. To distract myself from the raw fear of the unusually odd noises outside, I made myself a date and raisin cake. You can imagine the shock, and a sizable amount of horror, I experienced when I climbed the ancient stairs in our home and opened the door to the master bedroom.


Spock, on my side of the bed and indisputable evidence of having consumed three quarters of my cake before it had cooled down. I remonstrated with him and demanded he beam up without delay. The sadness caused by the loss of my cake was assuaged by the decision to nip off to a 24 hour Tesco and buy new ingredients with a view to immediately bringing a new cake into the world. The journey turned out to be quite a trek. It was late at night. There was life in the store but not as I knew it. I gingerly negotiated the aisles and weird nocturnal shoppers, paid up and returned home.

On the running front, I ran 13.2 miles plus a 5k parkrun last weekend and this went well. In two weeks it’s the Cambridge Half Marathon. Lorna will be giving good support and four of my children will be running as well as loads of friends. I’ll probably go for a further two long runs before the Half. I don’t carefully taper down before a long race. I just listen to my body, man; it’s in continual/continuous dialogue with me.

Tomorrow is Cambridge parkrun. A running acquaintance in the 65-69 age range had a heart attack during a half marathon two weeks ago and apparently he will be starting the race with Peter who is in his mid 80’s and still runs. Well done, Terry. Get back to running fitness as soon as you can.

Aliveandrunning February 14 2014

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Nice break from the wind and rain on Thursday around the Cambridge area, at least in the morning. I went for an eleven mile run, including a long stretch by the side of the Cam, stopping only to take some pics. I decided not to eat before running and therefore I didn’t have my daily porridge until around 1pm. Then I had my lunch at 1.30pm.


Before the run I took Rupert for a walk in Worts Meadow.This tree is fascinating. It’s a walnut and despite having a huge hole in the trunk, still produces leaves and nuts. The sap still rises! The pool in front of he walnut is magical. Don’t scoff at the tree’s condition or suggest it should be cut down. The water will suck you down then spit you out like a cannon ball. It will remember you as well. Don’t take any risks. Openly offer the tree compliments. It’s very susceptible to flattery.



Yesterday evening I made spaghetti bolognese, seen here in all its multi coloured glory, with mixed salad, chopped raw onion, cheese and red onion flatbread and broccoli (a reasonable substitute if you’re fed up with sprouts. Was it Dr Johnson who said “If you are tired of sprouts you are tired of life?)

I went for my annual cardio-vascular review at the surgery yesterday morning. I’m not sure if I saw a practice nurse or health care assistant. She clarified whether or not I had a problem with a high potassium reading (no), asked me a few questions to check for depression and took my weight and blood pressure, didn’t seem to know I had a heart attack 4 years ago and couldn’t tell me if my BMI of 20.4 was outside the “normal range”. She was friendly and pleasant but I couldn’t help wondering if the appointment was a waste of time. It’s more about ticking boxes to achieve a particular standard. It tells me nothing about the current state of my heart disease.

Extremely windy in the Cambridge area today although the trees in Milton Country Park (where Cambridge parkrun is held) gave a lot of protection. Still plenty of mud around to slow me down, though. I gathered up the signs and direction arrows again after the race. It felt odd retracing my steps on deserted trail paths, and curiously enjoyable.

I read today that two cyclists in Berkshire have been killed by a car being pursued by the police after a domestic incident. I suspect that giving chase to cars not willing to stop are regarded as a perk to the police and almost no consideration is given to public safety. If you accept the transactional analysis  model of our behaviour reflecting adult, child and parental elements in our personalities then the police frequently reveal they are stuck in the immature adolescent stage. This results in a motivation to drive fast cars fast with no reasonable justification and a mandate to provoke a lethal pursuit.

Aliveandrunning February 10

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     Last Sunday morning and we are on our way to a 10k race in Greenwich Park, London. These pics were taken on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) before arriving at Greenwich . From the left, daughter Isobelle, her boyfriend Joe, daughter Shanti, daughter Sophie and son Dan. I tried on Joe’s bare feet running shoes. Very interesting, very odd. It would be nice to try a pair on grass.


Two of us did 5k and four did 10k. The course was either  one or two laps of Greenwich Park, each lap including to long hills. The wind was bitter and there was no shelter before the race. On the positive side it didn’t rain and if you could get out of the wind, the temperature was relatively mild. I wore 2 shirts and a jacket plus gloves and took nothing off during the run. Dan stripped  down to a vest in the belief that the less he was wearing the faster he would run. By this logic, he’ll do best when running naked. And he’ll be a YouTube sensation as well.

It was an enjoyable race and it was great running with my children. I can even cope with being beaten by them. Only Dan is faster than me at the moment but (on this course) Isobelle and Sophie weren’t far behind.

Steve Greenwich



Here’s me running in my chosen open mouthed style. I couldn’t run any faster in these conditions and particularly with the extended hills which completely knocked me out ie I slowed down to the extent that striding might have been faster.

Parkrun on the previous day was the muddiest yet and again my trail shoes came into their own. A slow time because of the conditions but I ran better than last week when the conditions were similar. I also volunteered after the race, trotting around the course to collect the signs and direction arrows. I got back just in time to have coffee with our friends and our circle is still growing.We seem to be out growing the cafe and the weather’s not good enough to sit outside. For the first two years of parkrun I left directly after running but after Lorna started to come along I started to collect friends every week. How things can change! Lorna continues to recover from her Achilles tendonopathy and volunteers most weeks so despite her injury she’s still part of the running community.



Aliveandrunning Janathon January 31

Day 31.  The last day of Janathon. It was raining, of course, and I didn’t get out until 8.20 pm and I only ran 2 miles. I didn’t feel like running and I felt very grumpy after a DIY failure that took up most of the day. But despite the driving rain and the slashing wind, I did feel much better physically and mood wise when I came in (even though the water nymphs I met yesterday – see Jan 30 blog – absented themselves today).

I ran every day, blogged every day and covered around 95 miles. Most of the runs were between 2 and 3 miles rather than the longer ones I had anticipated doing. I did Junathon last year but didn’t total the mileage. I probably did 20-30 miles more then.

Tomorrow I’ll be doing parkrun at Cambridge and hopefully do a longer 8-9 miles in the afternoon. Sunday will be a rest day.

Goodbye Janathon. Bring on Junathon 2014.

Aliveandrunning Janathon January 27

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Day 27. It’s 7 pm and I still haven’t run today. I don’t want the Janathon private security force to rough me up because I’m breaking the terms of the Janathon agreement so I’ll be going shortly. The above image of Brussel sprouts  living their life on a stalk and then allowing me to eat them is a real inspiration when I’m running in poor weather. We treat sprouts like royalty in this house and that’s why they take pride of place on the sofa.

It’s gone 8 pm and I’ve returned from a 2 mile run. The weather was OK. No rain, not too cold and little wind. I felt tired before running but much more alert and energised after.

I have to repeat a blood test because my potassium level was “a bit high.” I think it was on the high side last year so I wouldn’t be surprised  if it’s been high for the last year. I think I will have to knock bananas and sultanas on the head and look at other potassium heavy foods (although bananas have less potassium than is commonly supposed). Too much potassium can cause kidney and heart problems. Some of my cardiac meds can interfere with potassium levels. Most horrific scenario? The doc asks me to knock sprouts on the head. No Way Man!!! I can’t actually say that because she’s a ladeeee.

Aliveandrunning Janathon January 18

Day 18. Good parkrun today. These Karrimoor Tempo trail shoes are excellent. The Cambridge run is held in Milton Country Park, north of the City, and the trail paths guarantee mud and puddles if there has been persistent rain. It’s very twisty and turny which is OK if the ground is dry and hard but slippery and risky in swamp conditions. I felt so much more confident in shoes with grip and I didn’t have that sense of imminently losing my balance and crashing to the ground. It’s the best kind of mud because you can feel the firmness underneath it but you still need to be cautious around the sharp bends.

Day 18. I was pleased with the way I ran at Cambridge parkrun today. I was only 38 seconds behind my arch rival Mike and about a minute behind arch arch rival Kerry. Lorna volunteered as a marshal ( a father hurriedly left his 10 year old boy with her and ran off to complete another circuit, explaining that the  child wasn’t feeling well). Afterwards we had delicious coffee in the cafe with our good running chums . It was a very enjoyable morning. When we returned home, news came through the wires of offspring’s parkruns. Dan and Shanti ran Valentines parkrun (East London/Essex border) and Isobelle ran Ashton Court parkrun (Bristol). Good work, kids!

In the afternoon I took up the opportunity to do a “social run”  with the Strongman Fitness group We ran 8.2 miles around the Cambridgeshire village of Over, starting and ending at the Exhibition pub. This group, in the main, are members of a new club Fen Edge Runners but anyone is welcome to join them on Saturday afternoons. They are very friendly, don’t talk exclusively  about running and are now preparing people for a half marathon distance. It’s mixed ability and it’s easy and acceptable to run lesser distances in the session. I felt comfortable with the slower pace and we stopped briefly several times. Very enjoyable!

I have now run a total of 11.5 miles today and can now declare that I have begun my longer distance training for the Cambridge Half Marathon in March. With these long runs comes a greater risk of suffering cramp at night. This is very painful and I want to avoid it. Solution, suggested by my doctor, is to drink tonic water, traditionally containing quinine, which has the ability to alleviate cramp. It does work and so tonic water is what I am now guzzling.

Aliveandrunning Janathon January 13

Day 13. A short run of 2 miles a day should be achievable for most Janathon runners, if they are sufficiently motivated. It doesn’t take long and you have the option of before or after work. I might add that a run after you reach home in the evening is an excellent way to wind down and begin to relax your body. Of course, when I was in paid employment, I seldom managed to go running in the evening but it’s a nice standard to apply to others.

An uneventful 2 mile run just before dusk. It was a cold and sunny day. I should have run sooner but I was busy fixing old clay pantiles to my garage roof. I did this successfully and also fixed some guttering so I had a small but perfect sense of achievement when I set out. Tomorrow I’ll be road running in Cambridge, in the evening, with the club.

I’m very confused concerning the reports I’ve read about the amount of running undertaken and the effect on the heart. In the Observer Tech Monthly yesterday, part of an article by Catherine de Lange entitled What Science Says About The benefits Of Running (not available for sharing) discussed running and repeated the same evidence I have heard on other occasions. A study of 20,000 people in Denmark over years found that those who ran lived on average for 6 years longer than those who did not. The biggest benefits came from running between on hour and two and a half hours a week, over two or three sessions, at a comfortable pace. There is speculation that long periods of vigorous physical activity, over an hour or two, puts too much strain on heart muscle, causing it to stretch and tear, which – over years – can lead to stiffening and scarring. One 2011 study found higher levels of fibrosis, or scarring, in the heart muscle of competitive endurance athletes aged 50 or over, compared to others of the same age. It  suggests moderate intensity running in small doses – of about 30 to 50 minutes at a time. Some argue that excessive running  can cause increased calcium plaque build up in the heart, which increases the risk of coronary heart disease.

I had my heart attack 4 months after running the London Marathon, aged 58. I don’t believe that my running regime, before marathon training, contributed to heart disease. I’m well aware of factors that almost certainly did and over many years. I think my level of fitness helped me to recover quickly and allowed me to return to my prior running ability. I could physically do a marathon again and I would enjoy the challenge but I do think it would be asking too much of my heart, given I have established heart disease. OK, no more marathons then. I can live with that (no pun intended) but what about half marathons which would still exceed recommended running levels? I currently run about 3 hours a week. If I do a half marathon, the training will increase for a period of time? Is this OK for me or risky? I don’t know. How about asking a cardiologist? Well, apart from an out patient appointment after discharge from hospital, you never see a cardiologist again. You are prescribed NICE  guideline cardiac medication and are monitored by your GP. There’s not deemed to be a problem if you don’t experience troublesome symptoms. I may give the cardiac rehab nurses  or sports scientist a ring.They provided an excellent 12 week rehab programme after my heart attack and work closely with the cardiologists. It would be good to speak to other runners who have heart problems and hear what advice they have been given concerning mileage and duration.


Aliveandrunning Janathon January 12

Day 12. A nice helping of sunshine this morning so why did I leave going out for a run until it had clouded over and the light was grey? It was cold as well; Cambridgeshire is very flat and possesses the least amount of trees of (?) all the English counties. So when the winds whoosh off the flat fields you certainly know it. It’s hardly Tornado Alley but the winds can be cutting to a sensitive soul like myself. So, as I prance like a prawn down the road, with open fields on one side, the cruel wind delights in buffeting me and chilling my spindly legs, clad only in manly Ron Hill tights. Any grey, dull drab weather seems to drain the life out of me. On the other hand, the sun immediately makes me feel good and motivated. I’m probably a mild SAD case. I’ve thought about getting a light lamp and never actually got around to it. Perhaps I should get around to it. I’ll wait for the next sunny day and sort it out but then I’ll feel better and won’t need one. And so I go round in circles! Probably easiest to move to California.

It’s a great shame that many people never take up running.They perhaps don’t see themselves as runners or  they may  refuse to acknowledge the benefits to their health and mental well being that running and other forms of exercise can bring. Even loss of energy and vitality may be accommodated without challenge. So many people beyond 50 want to rush into an older age and embrace poor dietary regimes and minimal physical activity. And so many of these will experience loneliness, isolation and a sense of physical decline. I know a number of people who are running into their 70’s and 80’s. They may be runners of long experience but interestingly I know many men and woman who have come late to running in their 50’s and 60’s and taken it up very successfully (and socially).Two of my running pals are approaching their mid 60’s and only took it up 1-2 years ago. Shockingly, they can both out run me (at the moment). If this state of affairs continues, they’ll be ex pals and I’ll be looking around for some slower mates.

Aliveandrunning Janathon January 8

Day 8. When I opt for a short run, two miles say, I don’t seem to get out until it’s dark and having eaten two meals. This means that initially I feel a bit heavy and bloated. I feel much brighter and alert in the morning, particularly if the sun is shining and it’s not too cold. In fact I’m a Spring and Summer kind of guy. Today’s run was uneventful and unremarkable. I didn’t pass anyone or have anyone coming towards me. No bird flew beside me, no tree gave me the thumbs up, no clouds formed themselves into a kindly, benign face as I passed below. But running always improves my mood and that, in itself, is enough to run consistently.

Current research demonstrates a causal link between running and exercise and improved mood. I’m sure that depression, anxiety and some phobias could be part treated, with the appropriate management, service and financial commitment, by instituting a running/exercise regime. You may able to get an Exercise on Prescription from your GP (possibly just a small discount from normal gym rates) but this is generally for people who are overweight or have specific physical problems. The good news is that you can learn to be a runner. It doesn’t need to be competitive. It doesn’t rule your life. It helps you feel in control. It gives you a genuine sense of achievement. You get butterflies and dragonflies accompanying you. You meet some lovely people. It should be a no brainer.

Aliveandrunning Janathon January 7

Cambridge and Coleridge  Running Club this evening. Two options – track and road. I invariably road run, despite the uneven and poorly lit pavements. I managed to get thrashed twice by the branches of two trees that I failed to see. I definitely heard the trees snigger as they slapped my face. I’m sure they will be all innocence in the daylight. We did 6 X  600 metres at varying speeds with recovery jogs back to the same point. Very enjoyable and a good workout.

I hope to get a pair of trail shoes this week and then test them out on the weekend when I run Wimpole Estate parkrun. My running chum who was there on Sunday confirmed it was, and will be, very muddy. I will obey the new rule and remove my dirty shoes at the door before enjoying  a lovely cup of coffee and one of their tasty rock cakes in the National Trust cafe/restaurant. I will then slip over to their second hand book or pre-loved wood pulp word collection artefact or whatever the National Trust now calls old fashioned books. The grubby things are so last century!