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.

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 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!

Aliveandrunning2013 August 24

Parkrun went well today unlike my Garmin which failed to locate the satellite. Lorna has picked up an injury which will require weeks, if not several months, of rest. She volunteered and gave out finishing tokens as runners completed their 5K. This was less anxiety provoking than last week when she recorded times as they ran past the finish line into the funnel. Those naughty runners do insist on coming in as a tightly grouped bunch. Afterwards we had coffee with our friends where I fought a losing battle to get a word in edgeways. Very enjoyable way to spend Saturday morning.

It’s four years exactly since I had my heart attack. I’m feeling fitter and running better than I have ever done! I don’t seem to have any physical deficits except those I attribute to the medication. For example the beta blocker regulates my heartbeat and acts like a limiter preventing me from running faster. Anyway that’s how it feels. Do I need to take four lots of medication daily? NICE says yes, my GP says yes, the cardiologist says yes, everyone says yes! So I take it and will continue to do so religiously despite not feeling a need to continue with it.

We had a lovely break in Rye on the South coast. Rye is one of the original Cinque ports but the sea has receded and is now over two miles away. We stayed opposite a police station and overlooked their car park. The station is open only 4 hours daily to the public. They seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time washing their police vehicles (hoping to make a clean sweep?). Anyway, the vehicles appeared to remain in the pound for long periods. I suppose this is a better outcome than hurtling around, blue light flashing and siren wailing, on some flimsy pretext which they don’t have to justify, endangering the public needlessly.

The Parish Church of St. Mary in Rye was built around 900 years ago and has the oldest working clock tower in the country. You can ascend the clock tower and view the bells on the way up. There are marvellous views of the surrounding areas and a complete and healthy disregard for modern safety standards as you navigate around the limited space at the top of the tower. Forget paying the worthwhile entrance fee if you are claustrophobic, have a high BMI (very narrow corridor) or don’t like steep wooden stairs or heights.

Aliveandrunning2013 July 3

Yesterday, I had an enjoyable run with the club. We did a time trial followed by intervals of 3 minutes followed  by 3 minutes recovery. The amiable coach counselled against “sandbagging”, that is under performing deliberately to gain unfair advantage or to save energy when effort is required. We were advised not to “brick it” which is to experience such alarm that the unhappy individual defaecates in their pants! This is all lad’s stuff, of course. It was like being back at school. There is frequent banter about times, distances achieved, cross training, injuries, races and expectations. Most of this has limited interest for me. I’m not a technical runner. I usually just run as fast as I can. The running fraternity is a broad church and I tend to gravitate towards the less competitive people who have a life outside of excessive exercise. However I heeded their warnings. I neither sandbagged nor bricked it. The latter condition, had I succumbed and driven home, would have required the car to have a deep clean.

Today,I scanned the headlines of  the print papers in our local supermarket. The Sun and Mirror led with the “scandal” of Coronation Street soap stars endorsing “fake” products, the Mail told its demographic that at last a radical cleric would soon be deported, the Star explained that a  Big Brother reality show contestant had received a death threat [surely par for the course} and the Express revealed that a mother of 11 had been allocated a “mansion” worth £500,000 by a council or housing association that was being paid for by “us” i.e. tax payers.

Wow! It must have been a slow day for grown up news. But everyday is a slow day for the tabloids.

Theresa May, Home Secretary, has announced a 6 week consultation over the future of police stop-and -search powers. She told MPs that black people were still seven times more likely to be searched on the street than white people. “If it’s being used too much or with the wrong people, then it’s a dreadful waste of police time,” she said.

Putting aside the issue of “wasting police time” { which translates as black people having the audacity to walk openly on the streets thus provoking officers to stop and search them needlessly}, this racist behaviour has been controversial for decades and was previously known as the sus laws. Since the police remain institutionally racist, things will remain unchanged.

Another item mysteriously absent from the front pages of the tabloids was the National Audit Office report that tax officials have failed to collect £9.6bn of VAT returns in 2010-2011. Clearly the government priority is to persecute benefit claimants and drastically cut health and social services rather than pursue lawful revenue streams from their business allies. More about this in a future blog.