The difference between 5k and 15k

wings for life 2017 wings for life 2017 b

Wings for Life, Cambridge. A couple of  thousand people took part. You stop running when David Coulthard, the F1 racing driver catches you up in a car driving at a set speed. I managed 18.3k so at the point this less than flattering photo was taken, I still had another 3k to run.

Actually the camera does lie. I didn’t feel too bad although not as fresh as the woman behind me. The interesting thing is that since I joined a gym before last Chrismas I’ve felt fitter but I’m running slower. Even more interesting I feel I’m running faster despite what my stopwatch says. Mind over matter. That’s good news, really. It suggests that I might be highly suscepible to placebo medication which is gaining increasing respect and credibility. Do I need to take bisoprolol, a beta blocker, for my heart disease? A recent report in the Guardian highlighted a study that purported to show that for the vast majority of people on bisoprolol, there is no benefit (with the exception of those diagnosed with heart failure). I think I’ll have a chat with my GP. Looking forward tomtaking placebos.

God help us on General Election day! Please let fairness and consideration for others win over self interest and rapacity as practised by the evil Tories. American friends, please impeach your out of control President. Please shut down his twitter account immediately.

Focussed but looking weird

10380637_485995228277218_5378756031023769432_oPhoto by John Wilderspin

Cambridge parkrun today. I feel the pain caused by the eyes boring into the back of my head as I desperately attempt to stay in front. Should I gel my hair back, should I get it shorn ? Or shall I grow it, with a beard, so I am indistinguishable from Saruman the White (later of Many Colours). I’m talking Lord of the Rings here, of course. No contest! It might take me a couple of years but I’m sure I could find fame as the Wizard of Cambridge parkrun. A further omen was clearly given to me when I noticed that Heffers bookshop front window displayed a full range of wands, real magical broomsticks and other wizard paraphernalia. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

I’m getting over my third cold this winter and still haven’t fully recovered from the food food poisoning that stopped me doing Cambridge half marathon two weeks ago. My appetite hasn’t returned to normal, I still feel queasy several times a day and my taste for sweet foods is diminished. None of the above is having a beneficial effect on my running. Moan,moan moan! Roll on the warm, dry weather.

I occasionally buy the weekly magazine New Scientist if there’s an interesting article. Today, the reason to buy it was a piece on placebos. The first few paragraphs made me laugh out loud. A woman with irritable bowel syndrome for 15 years saw a TV ad recruiting participants for a new study. Desperate for help she signed up despite learning that the potential treatment she would be offered consisted of either nothing – or pills filled with nothing. Needless to say, her condition improved considerably. She’s hoping to sign up for a similar new trial and she’s been trying to get hold of more of the pills filled with nothing ever since the old trial ended. I laughed because it’s so counter intuitive. The placebo works even though the recipient is fully aware that it is a placebo. This is now an accepted given. There’s now loads of evidence that placebos work and many of the medications we are prescribed are little better than placebos, with much greater side effect profiles   You couldn’t make it up.

A computer programme, Alpha Go, has beaten a top Go master (human). Oh dear! I used to play Go with an old chum but no longer. I miss the game and unfortunately there’s no-one around me that plays it. Cambridge has a couple of Go clubs but they look rather intense. I don’t think I would fit in. You can’t take these things too seriously.





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!