Six days ago, I came a cropper during the Hoohaah Wimpole half marathon falling heavily on rubble. My left thigh took most of the impact. I picked myself up, dusted myself off and started all over again (thanks, Nat King Cole). I fell at just over  a mile in and continued running for the next 12 miles. By the evening I was hardly weight bearing on my left leg leg and couldn’t bent it at the knee.

Now it’s six days on.There’s clearly been some improvement but it’s slow. I think I’ve had an impact injury to my quadriceps (and specifically to the rectus femoris), the type that footballers get when they get kicked in the thigh. I can walk but not jog, I haven’t been able to drive and I’ve got limited movement in my knee joint because any kind of stretching movement hurts.

Today is parkrun day and if I didn’t do it, I know I would have been subjected to a torrent of hate mail, Sinton-Hewitt would have been on my case and people would have openly wept in the streets of Cambridge. I don’t want that kind of attention so I decided to walk it .Usually Cambridge  attracts around 450 runners and more often than not a few people are walking most of it. Unfortunately, no-one walked it today although I wasn’t too far behind the people in front of me. Cambridge junior parkrun provided all the volunteers , including the 13 year old run director Chloe who gave a very confident pre-run  address to the assembled crowd. I was accompanied by tail runner 12 year old Ben who was very supportive to me and gave vocal encourage to the myriad runners who flashed past us. I hope he didn’t hear me grinding my teeth as I watched them recede into the distance. I came in at just over 48 minutes which, interestingly, is exactly twice the time I do it on this course when I go full pace. Young Benji, who has cerebral palsy, started late and came in a minute behind me. He ran with his mum and came in strongly to enormous applause.

Hopefully, I may be able to gently trot around Cambridge parkrun next weekend and then the subsequent one will be my 250th. It won’t be a PB!

Recent reports show the NHS in dire financial straits, suffering financial mismanagement, imply inefficiencies, experiencing poor staffing levels, missing targets and spending mountains of money on agency staff. If you treat the NHS as a market economy, require it to compete and make a “profit”, continuously emphasise poor financial governance, cut staff levels, employ dodgy borrowing devices with the private sector, continually reinforce the private sector has the nous, nerve and expertise to do a great (and cheaper) job and create standards which are designed to fail because of under funding, then it’s an inevitable set of outcomes.


This is a very, very sad coroner’s report of the death of a mother and her newly born baby. She had a long history of mental ill health, sectioning under the Mental Health Act and had stopped medication in order to breastfeed. Tragically, she left a Bristol maternity hospital unchallenged and killed herself and her child shortly afterwards.

Reading the coroner’s comments and conclusions, it’s hard to comprehend the apparent complete lack of joined up, considered care for a patient who is so obviously at risk.. Vulnerable mothers with a history of severe mental illness have been having pregnancies and births for decades in a health system which is a aware of the level of input required to ensure the safety and well being  of mother and baby. I don’t think this event occurred because of a lack of understanding of the health requirements. I think it’s much more likely to be due to staff shortages, cost and unavailability. These days, I can’t accept that general hospital staff are so out of touch with mental health issues that they are capable of willfully ignoring them.




Aliveandrunning June 4 2014 Juneathon Day 4


WP_20140411_007                                    WP_20140315_020

1. The sensible, go-through-immediately door (requiring the slightest degree of stooping) after it’s radical, no-nonsense haircut.

2. I am snapped assertively addressing a group of local residents and employing demonstrative body language to convey  I am in charge of the village. I am informing them that everyone is obliged to run 5k each day and eating chocolate products is forbidden.

3.This black hole spontaneously formed in the woods where I take Rupert the dalmatian for a walk. Spooky or what! What?

Juneathon Day 4. I took the risk of drawing the attention of the increasing number of zombies roaming around on the outskirts of our village and went for a lonely run down the course of an old Roman road called Akerman Street, now a wide grass track bounded by trees and bushes with cultivated fields behind them. The Roman gods were quiet today and I’ll attempt to commune with them on another occasion. It’s odd to consider this would have been a busy bye-way of transport, travel and commerce 1600 years ago. And now I run along it dressed like a banana. That’s progress for you!

Society in today’s Guardian has an article titled “Psychiatric support teams can save hospitals millions.” It describes how on-site psychiatric care in acute hospitals can greatly reduce, or much better manage, resources taken up by the estimated 25% of patients who have a mental illness in addition to their physical illness. Apparently, most acute hospitals are not equipped to deal with mental health disorders that come through their doors, according to a consultant psychiatrist. It was ever the same. Everyone working in general hospitals and psychiatric teams has practical experience of such problems and such a scenario will have been recognised for decades. This article seems to focus on the elderly but the same situation pertains to all ages. These well funded pilots and projects simply underline what can be achieved with appropriately applied services. No funding, no service country-wide but every so often a pilot gets some cash allocated and reinvents the wheel.   bit.ly/1ovTDiL

Aliveandrunning Janathon January 29

                                                             WP_20140129_002 - Copy

Day 29. This is the type of meal that sustains me during Janathon. The sharp eyed among us will notice the life enhancing Brussels sprouts and broccoli which feature prominently on my plate alongside chicken cooked in tikka masala paste, brown rice and peas. Yummy not yuk! Tip : similar meals should be served on a polka dot table cloth to get the best out of them. And why shouldn’t I photograph the meal I’ve created? If I could do this on a daily basis, I would certainly assemble an e-book to give to family, friends, or any grandchildren that might come along. Just imagine the excitement and joy as they click through months or years of mouth watering nosh. I’d have to be prepared for a clamour of requests for hard copies to frame and display. Phew!

I’m still running in the dusk or in the dark. I’ve noticed that when I leave regularly just before 5 pm, it’s getting lighter. I’m seeing the same man walking his dog at that time (in dark clothing) much more easily rather than coming across him in the blackness and making us both jump. Tomorrow I should go for a long run despite the forecast of rain. It’s just over five weeks to the Cambridge Half Marathon and these daily short runs aren’t going to help me do 13 miles in one go. Last year was very cold and I felt very cold at the start and waiting for family and friends  to come in after I had finished. This year I’ll be running with a double duvet wrapped around me and a belt of hot water bottles around my waist.

Well done to Nathan Filer, psychiatric nurse and writer, who has just won the 2013 Costa book award for his debut novel The Shock of the Fall. Narrated by the central character from the age of 5 to his early 20’s, it’s an account of the development of his schizophrenic illness following the loss of his brother.

This is an interesting article concerning the record numbers detained under the Mental Health Act for treatment ie against their will. The Care Quality Commission criticised many aspects of psychiatric care and standards including unavailability of beds and inadequate staffing levels.      http://bit.ly/1aIispA

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!

Day 7

Went into Cambridge today but didn’t buy trail shoes. I’m uncertain what I need. I’ll just keep looking and thinking. Ran two miles after my evening meal and finished one second slower than yesterday.

It’s very difficult to reach conclusions from limited newspaper coverage of the Cardiff hit and run rampage by the mentally ill man, Matthew Tvrdon. But in today’s Guardian it is reported that despite a long history of severe mental illness including previous detention under the Mental Health Act, he was advised to phase out his medication over the course of a year. Given that he had a severe and enduring mental illness, paranoid schizophrenia, this makes no sense to me, particularly since there is no mention of continued community support to monitor  progress/level of wellness. This suggests that care in the community has been deemed unnecessary probably because the emphasis is on short, not long term interventions and at the point of his last outpatient appointment, he appeared well. Wishful thinking borne of cuts to the mental health services.

Day 6

Another two mile run, this time in relative heat, mid afternoon. Not very exciting but able to do it easily enough.

Two high profile mental health incidents in the news at the moment. The Cardiff van driver and diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic who killed a mother and injured 17 others, including children , by deliberately running them over, has been indefinitely detained under the Mental Health Act. Stephen Fry, the actor, comedian, writer, presenter and Tweeter who has publicly revealed his struggle with bi-polar disorder, disclosed that he attempted to end his life last month.I’m not sure how they are being reported in the media. I suppose it will depend on what media you read or hear and whether you are  motivated to consider the issues objectively and compassionately or want your prejudices confirmed and strengthened.