Monday, 31 December 2012

A quick review of 2012

This has been a great year for us as a family and also for me in trying to stay healthy.  Not much time left now before 2013 arrives and beforehand we are visiting some good friends.  So, without further ado, here's a few reflections on the year:

  • We have been blessed more than we can ever deserve. 
  • I reached 50.  Had 50 great years and the best is still to come (being a "half full" kind of person)
  • Only one running race this year - the Milton Keynes Marathon.  My first ever marathon and achieved 4 hours 12 minutes.  Having another go in 2013 and would be nice to come in at under 4 hours.
  • In the summer we had the Birthday Bike Project as our 14 year old daughter got a vintage Argos fast touring bike for her birthday
  • Also in the summer we were gripped by the Olympic and Paralympic Games.  Should be inspiring the nation as well as a generation.  The Tour de France was won at last by a British Team and Sir Wiggo in particular.
  • The above Games led to our own Holiday Olympics, mostly in our back garden - hilarious!
  • We did a Coast to Coast bike ride with our friends the McRoys and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Would be nice to repeat it with a more challenging route next time.  Cycling with Becky and Hannah is a wonderful thing to do.
  • I moved to another office which is further away and makes cycling a little tricky at 22 miles each way but I've enjoyed doing it a few times so far
  • Stress levels remain and go up and down.   It is difficult for the Public Sector as a whole and I'm really feeling the pressure myself
  • Some of my colleagues have started to run!
  • In October we went to Spain and it's the first time I have been running abroad; thoroughly enjoyed it!
  • I have the same number of teeth, a little less hair and a few more wrinkles but just as fit (I reckon)
  • In September I started another blog to separate out cycling from running.  I still struggle with the technical aspects of blogging.  I never have really got on top of the Affiliate link source of income although the Amazon one does work (so please let me give that a plug!  Anything you buy through the Amazon link helps us keep the "wolves from the door"!!!!)
  • This blog is growing in popularity.  I have been surprised at what posts have turned out to be popular but right now it's posts about DW Sports and giving up smoking (and I'm thinking of writing an e-book!).
May I take this opportunity to send everyone my best wishes for the new year and to thank you for your support so far and into 2013.


Christmas holiday run # 11

We had our early morning cup of tea listening to the rain beating against the window and I was toying with the idea of delaying my run until later in the day.  I can tell you fitting a run into our family routines can be a tricky challenge and I sometimes need to steer things in that direction with a delicate, diplomatic approach at times.  I decided no amount of gentle nudging would pay off today and I had little choice but to brave the elements!

When I say "brave the elements" I mean the high winds with rain mixed in.  It has that effect of sand blasting your face so you feel thoroughly woken up.  Also it is on days like this I feel it "serves me right" for still wearing shorts as my legs also had their own sand blasting experience.  It sometimes felt as if I was being stabbed by lots of needles all over my legs and face - and at high speed.  After the needle stabbing experience, it then feels like your face is raw, bright red and tingling all over.  Brilliant!  Once I was up on the top of a near by hill, I can tell you it nearly took my breath away!  Talk about being windy!  What was giving an enhanced windy effect was a funnel effect of the terrain which, if the wind is blowing from a particular direction, it is just something else.  Luckily for most of the exposed, open part of my run, I was running along the edge of an escarpment and the wind was slightly behind me.  It felt that for every step I took, I would be moving forward two steps (at my office it is generally the other way around!).

I kept to the roads today, avoiding the knee-deep mud so the distance worked out to be 6.5 miles in about an hour; my normal time for that route.

Home in time for a quick shower and a leisurely breakfast.  The four of us had our breakfast, chatting as normal.  No one really knew about my sand blasting, needle stabbing experience but that's just for me to savour along with a few more miles logged for the Christmas running challenge.

Where will I run tomorrow?  New Year's Day and with it the last day of my holiday as I return to work on Wednesday 2nd January.  As a contrast the weather forecast is for clear, sunny and cold conditions with less wind.  Could be a good time for my second long run of the holiday.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Christmas holiday run # 10

My neighbours probably think I'm a bit weird.  There always seems to be a curtain that twitches as I sneak out for my morning run, just before daybreak and today was no exception.  Mind you, they ought to be used to it by now.

Wearing shorts in the middle of the winter does, on one hand, seem a little odd.  Who cares?  At least I know I'm not the only one, my blog reader H has mentioned he does it as well.  Like me he doesn't care!

I did four miles in 30 minutes.  On one hand it doesn't seem much of a run.  Not fast enough to get me out of breath and into a sweat, barely long enough to get into a nice rhythm let alone a steady fat burning run.  And yet these ordinary runs are important for all kind of reasons.  One of these and most unexpectedly, was solving a slight constipation issue but I'll spare you the details!  I can, however, add that to the long list of great reasons to run.

Couldn't help but notice with my blog stats, suddenly there has been a surge of people reading my Review of DW Sports in 2011.  Several hundred have seen it over the last few days - good luck everyone - go for it!

It's that time also for reflecting on the last year and some of the highlights and milestones were buzzing through my mind - now there's another post coming soon.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Benefits of trying out the High Ropes

Me, on the high ropes at XC Hemel Hempstead
This little outing took me by surprise.  It started with Hannah and Becky being booked in while Rachel and I would drink coffee, plot and plan.  The plan changed, it was to be Hannah and myself.  Gulp.  This sounded scary and it looked awfully high from ground level.

We booked in, I read the disclaimer form and recall it mentioning how I was agreeing it was a potentially fatal activity.  Yes of course I would have a go, with the odd bit of knee shaking.

Hannah had done this before and is a fearless climber extraordinaire. We had our instruction from Owen and we were off.  Needless to say Hannah went first and lapped me in no time at all.  It is a high level obstacle course but to prevent any fatal falls, you wear a harness and a helmetwhich is attached to an overhead rail.  So if you do slip or let go, you'll have a wedgey (as ably explained by Owen, the instructor) and then just dangle there.  Greater challenges can be arranged by having a longer rope, so you'd have to pull yourself up a bit.

Owen our instructor making sure Hannah was ready to go.
Afterwards we got talking to Owen, our instructor.  Clearly a man who is passionate about all the activities in the XC building - besides the high ropes there is caving, climbing, skateboarding and BMX stunt riding.  Quite an impressive building all in all.

When I said it sounded like a hobby he was getting paid for, he smiled and couldn't disagree.  He loved it!

I asked Owen about the benefits of the high ropes.  What do people get out of it?  Why do they do it? Already I was feeling a fraud as I could tell myself but it was going to be interesting to consider the real range of the high ropes experience:

  • Confidence.  That's about confidence in yourself and your ability to push yourself in to new ground.  Just have some trust in yourself and what you can really do
  • Over-coming phobias.  Many people experience a fear of heights; their fear of falling no matter how safe they might be.  This does carry some risk, but so does driving a car down the M1 to Hemel Hempstead.  It's a manageable, controllable risk
  • Muscle strength.  Obstacle courses like this get you using different muscles and muscles you didn't know you had!  Novices lilke me tend to use their arms more than their legs.  I think as my experiences grows, I'd be much more proficient before long
  • Fun.  Yes after my initial apprehension, it was fun being able to master the challenge and to be a little quicker on the second and third laps.  Never as fast as Hannah though.  Being beaten by a 12 year old - how uncool is that?
  • Trust.  That's about trusting the instructor, the equipment and your own judgement. 
The more I think about this the more I'm pleased Hannah twisted my arm.  It was good fun and I'm so pleased I did it.  I even enjoyed looking down, seeing other people looking up at me.  I asked Owen if anyone stood out, if there were any moments that stuck in his mind.  He said the oldest person was actually in his late 50s (hey, I thought, I'm in my 50s but I never want to think of myself as being anywhere near the oldest).  From time to time people need rescuing.  This could involve the instructor simply being with someone and helping them around, right through to someone needing a more official rescue.  They are well equipped and practised for lowering people straight to the ground in the event of emergencies.

So why not give it a go if you get the chance?  High recommended. 

Thank you so much Owen for making our High Rope experience so good, for your attention and time and your passion for bringing these experiences within easy reach for almost anyone.

Here's their website:


Christmas holiday run # 9

Home made running fuel
Only a short run today following a longer run yesterday.  Today's run was a recovery run fuelled by a healthy piece of home made Christmas cake (thank you, Hannah).  Flip.  This cake is not only delicious but it provides so much energy.   Just as well I'm not on a diet, or maybe I will need to diet after much more of this!

So, today's run was just a brief run around the block.  Just five minutes but an important five minutes.  Keeping myself supple, burning up 50 calories (a slice of Christmas cake is probably twenty times that!).  These short runs are important after the long runs, all part of the resting and recovery process.  Besides, it was lashing down with rain for most of the day and I always think if it's raining and I'm heading out for a run, I might as well make it a good long run, to justify getting wet.

Not that I have been bone idle today.  Hannah persuaded me to go to the XC place at Hemel Hempstead for a spot of high rope clambering around.  First step was terrifying, then the second was okay and by the time I got round three times it was fun.  Hannah on the other hand was like a little monkey.  Blog post to follow soon on that but here's a picture just to give you a flavour.
We were so high up!

Friday, 28 December 2012

Christmas holiday run # 8

These feet have been running for a little over ten miles in about 1 hour 20 minutes, but at home.......

"Just stop right there" demanded Rachel "and while your at it, get those socks off"

It's not often socks leave a muddy trail across the floor but today was one of those times.

"You stink" was expressed in such a loving way "So the sooner you get up those stairs and into and into the shower the better"

In our house I know when I'm beaten, especially after a run.  People just stand and stare while holding their noses and point up towards the bathroom.

I took my shower, washed off all the mud from my legs and feet.  I reflected on such a great run; I had been looking forward to it so much.  In my book this counted as a long run as it was about 10 miles and included two very noticeable climbs, plus a few undulations, mostly roads (some flooded, still), muddy tracks, slimy slippery leaves and a good blast at the end.  Everything was right.

Well, nearly everything was right.  This run was during the afternoon which wasn't bad as at least I could see where I was going.  The downside was that I was not running on an empty stomach.  This made me feel a tad uncomfortable for the first half hour.

I saw a couple of other runners which cheered me and I remember saying "hi" but I was lucky to get a grunt back today.  Both were rather red faced, over dressed I thought and toughing it out from the look of them.  Why people wear those baggy thick jogging bottoms for running in I'll never understand.  This might be December but it's very mild at 10C and shorts should be the norm.  Besides, much less for the washing machine on getting back home.

So, how was I feeling?

Quick answer - not bad.

More detail - flippin' great.  My legs are, to be honest, a little tired from this run but I have now been running for eight consecutive days.  I know I'll be fine for another (shorter) run tomorrow.  It goes without saying I am enjoying nice dose of "runner's high" which is very welcome.

The runner's high is so welcome as I had such a depressing experience earlier in the day.  You see, I drove over to Welwyn Garden City to collect a friend of Hannah as they were spending time together today.  The start of the route was the same as my drive to work.  At the junction where I would normally turn right to WGC I carried straight on, as if I was driving to work.  After a couple of miles I realised my mistake and turned off to get back down onto the right road, which was straight forward enough.  I was so cross with myself as I'd been doing so well in keeping thoughts of work well out of my mind.

So all in all, a pretty good run.  I had high expectations and was not disappointed.  I love the challenge of doing something like this as well as enjoying the benefits.  My running is a little smoother and I seem to need less time to loosen up so something is going okay.

Please let me know....

....if you're doing any kind of Christmas running challenge, or any other kind of new challenge over the Christmas period.  I'd be really interested to hear.  

Just leave a comment below.


Thursday, 27 December 2012

Christmas holiday run # 7

Back home last night and this morning I could run over my more familiar routes.  No pressure for anyone to get up very early (my parents are staying with us) so I had a brisk 4 mile run in 30 minutes, including one lung-busting hill.

A great run but naturally not long enough.  I knew this wasn't 'the' day for the long run but this will hopefully happen over the holiday period.

I took my ipod shuffle with the replacement headphones / earplugs (utterly useless but another post some other time).  Amongst the tracks I listened to was Gabriel's Oboe which was just amazing.  If you know this piece, you'll probably be saying it is not a brilliant piece of running music.  You would be right, in the normal sense.  And yet the sheer beauty of that music somehow rises above the horrible inhuman things that are going on in the world right now.  If only.  If only those war-mongers could be brought together and forced to immerse themselves in a beautiful piece of music, played with such deep emotion, and asked how they could then continue in their bloodshed.

As far as the run was concerned, I ran quite quickly, feeling loose from the start.  That was brilliant and I'm starting to feel the benefit of these short regular runs as a way of keeping me a little more supple than normal.  The last 200 yards were at top speed leading to me bursting in through the front door all sweaty and panting.  Brilliant.  Blow the cool-down, just for today.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Christmas holiday run # 6

Boxing day

Success!  Had a decent run, still out at Rachel's Mum's place.  She lives in a village so it's easy and quick to get out into the countryside and that's just what I did at daybreak.  The highlights were:

  • Just over one hours running!  Nobody upset or miffed at me sneaking out.
  • Wearing shorts in December is cool in more ways than one!
  • Hardly anyone out - just a few motorists on the main road (possibly heading off to the sales????).  Once I was on the minor roads I saw no one at all - no cars, cyclists, walkers, lost drinkers sleeping rough or even runners.
  • Perfect weather - cloudy but mild; about 4C
  • Felt good.  Legs, joints not really complaining past the first few minutes.  No risk of over-doing it with the previous short runs!
Later on in the morning we spotted quite a lot of runners, presumably local folk, out in their new yellow jackets, black tights and bobble hats.  Some were running okay others were panting while others stopped for a rest (looking somewhat flushed, I thought).  Well done everyone, I thought to myself.  Between us we have thousands of extra calories to burn off.  

Great to see some 'new' runners outside.  Some look awkward, heavy and self conscious.  That's fine, I remember being like that myself - who cares?  The important thing is to get into the regular habit and before they'll know it, they'll be real runners!

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christmas holiday run # 5

Christmas day!

Success!  Becky and Hannah et al opened their Christmas present stockings pretty early leaving me the opportunity to sneak out for a 20 minute run at day break.  Once again, this was one of those "politic" runs.  Served to keep me loosened up and on track.

Christmas holiday run # 4

Christmas Eve

I knew having a run today was going to be tricky.  Sure enough it was.  As much as I tried to spot opportunities, family duties took priority.

We had arranged to spend Christmas at my Mother in Law's place, a few miles away by car.  Loading up our car with food, presents, bags etc you'd think we were off on a World tour.  Instead just a couple of days but it was a major logistical operation.  Determined to have a run - albeit a token run - I was successful once we were there; settled, unpacked.  I put my running shoes on but didn't change any of my clothes to take the shortest "run" ever.  I was back in 5 minutes but I knew that was the politic thing to do.

That night I found it hard to sleep first of all.  No it wasn't because I was uncontrollably excited like our daughters were - I just wasn't tired enough having not had a decent run.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Christmas holiday run # 3

Once again I set off for my run while it was still dark. I didn't have too much time so it was a fairly brief and unremarkable run, of just under 4 miles.

It involved a couple of shortish hills on which I deliberately quickened the pace and could feel my heart pumping away.  I would guess I was pumping away at around 170 - 180bpm which is a good healthy range for me to be in, possibly a little higher, but only for short bursts.

I could feel my calf muscles aching a little shortly after I set off, perhaps a sign of neglecting stretching these days but those muscles soon loosened up.

While an unremarkable run in some respects, I was thinking of a few things.  Firstly I was still grinning from ear to ear at the thought of a bike ride I had yesterday - it was hilarious!  Almost feeling short-changed with such a brief run in the morning, I decided to go into town for some shopping, the long way and adding an extra 8 miles.  We've had loads of rain lately with floods being reported, so why not head for the countryside and see for myself?  I ended up riding for almost a mile up a flooded road with my feet dipping into the flood water for most of the way as the stream of flood water grew stronger and faster, quite a torrent in places and all heading towards me. I wish I had taken my camera   A mile later I got a puncture - two things here - punctures always seems to occur in the back wheel and when the roads are wet.  Why is this?  It got fixed pretty quickly so no harm done.

Secondly I was thinking of church, looking forward to it as both Becky and Hannah had parts to play.

Thirdly, what lies ahead in terms of running and cycling?  Do I need some kind of challenge for 2013?  Now that's something to mull-over.......

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Review - Lore of Running, Tim Noakes MD

I acquired this book in the early days of taking running fairly seriously.  There is no doubt it is an authoritative book catering for the novice and elite runner alike.

At just over 900 pages it is not a quick read but instead an extensive book looking at the physiology of running, information on training, racing and the ins and outs of injuries.  It is of help for the moderately serious runner taking on a 10k through to the challenge of an Ultramarathon.

There is an interesting chapter on "training the mind" which is fascinating and not to be neglected by any runner.  It helps shape the strategy that can be devised for a serious race and helpful in over coming the many barriers and difficulties

If you're interested in finding out about the various processes within your body as you run and train, there is no shortage of information.  This means the entire process of nutrition, breathing, pumping blood around your body, those muscles working and finally your feet propelling you along.   Great book but not a lightweight read.

Christmas holiday run # 2

Just gone 7.00am.  Still dark, raining, windy.  Must be time for my run #2.

I had in mind a shorter run as we have quite a lot to do today (all those Christmas things :o) to be doing).  The girls have had a pep talk about not totally letting go of our family routines so we are having breakfast at 8.30am - all together.  This means I have time to have a short run, have a shower, empty the dishwasher, get breakfast ready and quickly type this post.

My #2 run.

Short, about 10-15 minutes.  Didn't care about the weather - rainy and windy but very mild.  I could feel my legs were a little achy which took me by surprise.  

Perhaps I was not giving myself enough rest between runs?  Afterall I thought, it was just 14 hours ago that I did yesterday's 6.5 miles so an easy short run is fine today.  It means I can have a longer (yay!) run tomorrow morning.

It's also a reminder for me about why rest is important.  Not just for my 50 year old legs but mentally as well.  As far as our running legs are concerned, we give them a fair pounding when we run.  I once remember doing my 6.5 mile run with a pedometer and I think there were over 10,000 steps in that hour.  Remember when we run our feet are absorbing our body weight landing (perhaps on the heel or the ball of the foot, depending on your running style or gait) a huge number of times.  This happens again and again and again and we should not under estimate the toll this takes.  Having good quality sleep and food is vital; also at times like this when I'm increasing my running the option of taking a supplement (cod liver oil) is a sensible thing to do.  


Friday, 21 December 2012

Christmas holiday run # 1

Although I have been running 3 or 4 times a week lately, I have been really looking forward to this run today.  Why?  It is the first day of my Christmas holiday and I'm planning to run each day until I return to work on 2nd January.

So the start of the Christmas holiday makes this run a little symbolic I suppose and significant for some other reasons.

Reason 1

Today is the shortest day for us here in England, I believe.  The Winter Solstice here in the northern hemisphere is when the sun, at midday, is at it's lowest point through the year.  It rises a little later and sets a little earlier than yesterday.  We're just at that point where the Earth will start to move towards those balmy longer days.  Although a part of me loathes the winter for all it's darkness, coldness and bleakness, there is a certain beauty in it and for that reason I like it.  That's not to say I don't like the summer - I do - it's much nicer but as winters go, this is okay.  So there's a novel and significant aspect of the run today.

Reason 2

I am feeling very stressed because of work.  I cannot tell you the details suffice to say I am feeling very frustrated and stressed out.  Running is a wonderful antidote and I am sure it will help over the next few days.  Those endorphins will be kicking in, my mind will be filing all those meetings away, along with those reports, papers and other things to where they belong.

Reason 3

The run started at 3.15pm and lasted about an hour.  It started with me saying it was a jog around the block (about 1km) but it ended up being my on-road hilly run of 6.5 miles.  I loved it.   I couldn't stop!  My running form was a little stiff to start with but towards the end I was much more relaxed and I was going a good deal faster.  All those after-work runs paying off.

I think running a little and often is very helpful; even a 10 minute run is better than nothing and it helps keep you supple.  Besides, a 10 minute run will be fuelled by 100 calories, maybe a few more or less depending on the usual factors.

Reason 4

I just needed to do it. My normal run is either 6.5 or 7.5 miles including a bit of huff and puff up one or two hills.  I feel in good shape for a longer run either tomorrow or Sunday.  The kids will be told they can go to bed any time they wish now they are on their school holidays  The small print is that we have breakfast together every morning at 8.30am so they must be able to wake up and be down for that.  Gives me time for a pre-breakfast run, he he he.

Reason 5

There are a few blog posts in my mind as usual and this time I'm hoping to actually sit down and write them.  Amongst these are some comment on rising obesity levels throughout the country, yet again.  Also I have been commissioned by Healthspan to review some health food supplements which I'm currently taking and will be blogging about those soon.  Running helps me work through these and other things I need to write about.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Should Christians be vegetarians?

A sketch of William Cowherd from a bust
Rev William Cowherd
This is a picture of Rev. William Cowherd who was an English priest and preached the message of vegetarian living being virtuous.

He believed eating meat was sinful as every living creature was inhabited by God.  This was about 200 years ago when society was very different with much poverty and illness caused by poor diets and ignorance.  Many people could not afford choice cuts of meat and used to eat offal instead.

Cowherd followed the teachings of Swedish theologian Emanuel Swedenborg which brought him into some conflict with the (then) English church and the remainder of his ministry was characterised by being controversial.  And yet he was followed and respected by a significant number and he somehow managed to remain a wealthy person.  He was also a philanthropist and had an effect on his successor in Manchester, Joseph Brotherton, who went on to form the Vegetarian Society in 1847. 

So, should Christians be vegetarians?
If you take on board the teachings of the Reverend William Cowherd, you certainly should but I don't think he's right about his reasoning.  If God was in every living creature, does that apply to fruit and vegetables as He also created them?  No of course not, these things were created for us to enjoy and be sustained by.

Christians should lead lives that are honouring to God.  Often I am reminded by a sermon I heard many years ago which urged people to ask "what would Jesus do?" in any situation where there was a choice to be made.  In our society today we have a huge industrial approach to farming where animals are bred, reared and slaughtered on a virtual production line.  They are often mistreated in inhumane ways.  They are pumped with all kinds of growth hormones and antibiotics in order to maximise efficiency.

In spite of the progress in efficient farming practices, we still have people starving in the world.  After all it is said one billion survive on under a dollar a day. Count those who live on two dollars a day and you have three billion people - many malnourished and involved in producing food for the developed world (ironically this is true).

Nowhere in the Bible does it advise us to be vegetarian; nowhere does it command us in the 21st Century to not eat meat. Indeed the Bible gives us some clues about the diets in Biblical times (including meat, fish etc) but we mustn't get side-tracked into this kind of argument because it distracts us away from what the whole message of the Bible (i.e the good news of the gospel).

So for me, it's simply a matter of personal choice.  This is based on a troubled conscience about the way society behaves and also because I believe I have a healthier diet because I take the trouble to make sure I get everything I need from a wide variety of foods.  I try not to be gluttonous, that clearly does not honour God.  

And me?

My main argument is this.  Being vegetarian does not define me as a Christian, it is not my duty as a Christian   However, it is right for me and I believe it is right for a whole load of reasons.  Yes I think we should all think about reducing the amount of land devoted to meat production (or even the production of Soya for animal feed), lead healthier lives, cut back on the terrible effects of obesity in the UK, USA and other places.  That is the main reason but also because there is such a rich and varied supply of non-meat products to meet our nutritional needs.

What about you?

Any thoughts on this?  If you're a Christian, what do you think?  Perhaps you're a committed vegetarian or meat-eater - all views welcome, just leave a comment below.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Review - Yaktrax Walker

Yaktrax are brilliant and just like having 4WD feet.  Exactly what we need when we have this icy, snowy weather, if you can find them.  I'll tell you about that in a moment but first of all please let me tell you a little more about them.


There is a simple coiled spring which grips ice and snow.  The makers claim it is a unique spikeless design and the spring is coiled around a stretchy polyelastomer frame that easily fits onto shoes, boots or trainers. The spring seems reasonably substantial and is made from a abrasion resistant wire; this could be useful as you could be walking around on salty gritty surfaces in urban areas.  As the black frame is flexible it is easy to pull them on and off a variety of shoes sizes.

If you're concerned about aesthetics, you should not worry too much.  First of all they aren't too noticeable and besides  if you are out and about in snowy, icy conditions, are you going to worry about wearing anything except practical clothing and footwear?


They seems to work well.  Like all brilliant ideas, they are simple and straight forward.  While they have only started to appear in the Home Counties over the last couple of years, other areas may find there is a wider and more sophisticated selection available.

They are easy to pull on and off.  They do give extra grip on snow and ice but especially with compacted snow.  It is, arguably, compacted snow which is the most difficult to walk on.  Apart from providing extra grip, they provide that extra confidence, which is helpful some people.

In day to day use. it is worth remembering you have them on!  They could damage some flooring (i.e. laminate floors).  I would recommend you take them off when driving a car or riding a bike, although it does perhaps depend on the pedal design a bit.

The big problem

I've already said these are good.  The problem is that they can be easily lost.  On this point I could elaborate further but best not to!.  

We can report these are good for walking and running and worth the investment of £10 to £15.  Might even be worth looking out for a bargain price once the worst of the winter has gone?  

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Almost naked and running in Trafalgar Square!

We had to go into London today and after our appointment at LAMDA we found ourselves strolling through Trafalgar Square when there was a bit of a rumpus.

"Oooo look at those runners Doug" said Rachel

"No no don't look Rachel" but it was too late, he had gone past.

And then a few more, all in their bright red skimpy Speedos and little else.  Flippin' 'eck I thought, I'm not gonna run through here wearing only those.  It's December.  Talk about temperatures and brass monkeys.  Still, they seemed to be enjoying themselves. "Don't look Rachel but again I was too late".

Mind you, dressed like that you'd have to run around just to keep warm, although it has to be said we do seem to lose quite a bit of heat through out heads and at least they were wearing the latest in Santa's thermal running gear.

No, no way, you wouldn't catch me doing that.  I know I'm a committed runner and I'm planning to run everyday over Christmas but not like that.  Call me a prude if you will, see if I care.  Turns out it's a flash mob called Santacon and has been gaining in popularity over recent years, helped by social media.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Why a tough run is good for me

I went for yet another run after work today, third time this week.  Really needed it and I must admit I skipped off early, feeling a tad guilty but I'm sure it all balances out in the end.

I covered the same ground as I did earlier in the week with my colleague Chris, except I went about a mile further and got back to the office in under an hour.  Felt quite pleased about that as I wasn't aiming for a brisk run.  The actual run is of little consequence really but what was important was the weather conditions.

The weather was horrible.  By that I mean it was cold, getting dark, about 5C, wet with a complete mixture of drizzle and a squally shower in blustery rain.  I was in an urban environment and mostly on cycle paths but I wished I was running somewhere else for a bit.  In my mind's eye I was in the Black Mountains for a while: that was good.

I know this might sound crazy but I wanted the weather to be horrible - almost to raise the game, give myself a tough run and have my face pelted with sleet and get really exhausted.  It wasn't that bad but I wanted it to be.  I had serious things to work through in my mind; dealing with work anxieties and rising above those issues.

Then I remembered from some other runs I have done some time ago.  Running in difficult conditions can have a magical effect - the challenge, the discomfort, the aching legs, cold hands, the miles completed and the miles to come - but it really works.  Although you hate it at the time, there's just something about it afterwards that you savour, something to make you feel good about yourself.  You get that sense of achievement.  Don't care what happens because I can handle it.  Thank God for running, for helping me keep things in perspective, for helping me to eave work at work and not bring it home in my mind.

So I wanted the weather to be horrible, to give myself an unpleasant, tough run in order to maybe test myself or prove I could handle anything like that?  Makes sense to me.  Does this make any sense to you?

Thursday, 13 December 2012

You know when it's cold.....

In my last post I mentioned how much I am looking forward to Christmas and the opportunity to run every day.  Not that I have to wait until then, of course.

Last weekend I stayed with my parents on the coast and enjoyed a pre-breakfast run up and down the sea front - about 3 or 4 miles each day.  Easy enough and a delight to do. So far this week is going:

Monday - Difficult day at work, all day meeting involving about 25 of us, squeezed somewhat into a smallish room.  We all felt a bit claustrophobic towards the end of the day.  Could not wait to jump into my car and drive home.  No matter how much I did need a run, home and family had to take priority.
Tuesday - Finance Committee meeting in the afternoon.  Fairly straight forward although there was one spot where I could feel myself nodding off, but no disrespect to my colleague who was giving the low-down on next year's budget.  You know the feeling where your eyes roll up and then you jerk yourself awake?  Yes that happened to me and I was aware the CEO was looking over in my direction, gave me a sympathetic smile.  Not a brilliant move on my part.  I had two items on the agenda and these were okay (and thankfully stayed awake for myself!).  The Chair gave us (as officers) two tins of sweets and a Christmas card.  I asked if we were required to declare this gift in the hospitality register but we decided the gift was of nominal value and greatly appreciated.

I dutifully scoffed some of the jelly babies, afterall one has to be setting a good example, and then changed to go off for a run.

You know it's cold when you get back and see frozen moisture in your hair.  I imagine this is from frozen breath.

Wednesday - My colleague Chris had previously suggested an after-office run and at 5.00pm our computers were duly turned off and off we went to change.  There we were dressed almost identically in black tights, running shoes, bright yellow jackets and black hats.

It was suggested by the PAs that we looked a couple of likely lads off to "to do a job" or a "pair of high lighter pens".

We did about 6 miles and almost got lost (but just once).  As the temperature was around freezing once again there was a frosty edge to my hat.  I thoroughly enjoyed that and I'm slowly starting to see the area of running with other people differently now.  I quite enjoy it and it certainly helps me through that 25 minute "wall".  Should explain, when I run I struggle for just a few minutes at around the 25 minute mark, all to do with fuelling my muscles.  After a sluggish few minutes it sometimes feel as if I am releasing the handbrake and going on with a burst of energy.  Running with someone else evens that out.

So there we are, a few recent chilly runs, frosty hair and highlighter pens.  Still can't wait for Christmas!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

My 2012 Christmas Challenge

Why not run every day?

This year my Christmas holiday starts on Friday 21st December, which is also the Winter Solstice (longest night, shortest daylight) and I'm setting myself a challenge.

I'm going to have a run EVERY day until I return to work on Tuesday 2nd January 2013.  I can't wait!  It's one of the reasons I'm really looking forward to Christmas.  This is why.....

  • It is a brilliant way to forget all about work.  Work is bugging me quite a lot at present and I need to get it all sorted out in my mind, plus blowing away a few worries and bits of stress
  • I am sure my calorie intake will go up a bit over Christmas - those mince pies, Christmas puddings and so on.  Can't afford to let my weight increase and running uses up about 700 or 800 calories an hour and that gives a little more room for treats
  • A chance to do some training, other than simply going for a run.  I will do some shorter runs involving some intervals (running as fast as I can for a minute or two and then jogging for a minute and repeating a few times).  
  • A chance to do my favourite kind of run - the long run.  Knowing that my weekend runs over the last few months have only been 7 or 8 miles, I will do a couple of 10 mile runs.  This will be at a slow pace, maybe around a 9 minute/mile pace.(Just corrected - see comment below)  I know we should only increase our long run mileage by a mile a week and I hope I can manage this again.
  • Christmas time is also a nice family time.  I love my family "to the moon and back and more besides" but sometimes it seems to work best to have a little solitude mixed in with all the excitement
  • It is a great way of rounding off the year, reflecting on the things that have happened, all the things I have to be grateful for.  Also a chance to get the new year off to a good start.
  • Although I like the summer best of all, I think there is a certain beauty in our quiet, sometimes dull, English countryside when everything is resting and sitting it out until Spring time
  • I have signed up once again for the MK Marathon which is on 6th May 2013 - the training starts
  • Finally, it is a great thing to do because, well because, because it is there to be done

Having said all that, I do hope there is nothing untoward that will foil my plan (trips, falls, blizzards etc).

So what about you?  Will you accept a challenge to do something like running every day?  Perhaps the challenge could be to start running in the first place - if you do, take it easy, don't over do it - build up slowly.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Quick December update

Very sorry for not blogging very much lately - usual work pressures.  Plus I think it's fair to say I've not been running or cycling as much as I would like, or need.  Here's the briefest of updates:


Yep I've had a few runs after work over the last month or two, normally once or twice a week.  I hate running in the dark but at least there's a good network of cycle paths which helps a great deal.  Last Saturday I had an icy run during the day time and did one of may favourite hilly routes that I've not done for several months.  Takes about 1 hr 15 mins so maybe around 8.5 miles.  Absolutely LOVED IT!  Felt so good afterwards and my legs were tingling with delight for the rest of the day.


Again not too much and as you may have already spotted I have switched all-things-cycling over to the cycle hub where you can read about the indignity of having our bikes locked at our church with a lock that was jammed!  I have thoroughly enjoyed a couple of early Sunday morning rides with my friend Jeremy and I'm getting to grips with an indoor turbo trainer where just 30 minutes pedalling away in the dining room is enough to work up a good sweat.  Less good for anyone trying to use the dining room at the same time, I suppose.

Christmas hols are coming....

Yesterday Rachel and I had booked time off work so we could spend some time plotting and planning a few things (really great thing to do!).   We both enjoyed it.  Amongst those things are some forthcoming blog posts and rambles about food supplements, testing out energy bars, book reviews and most importantly running EVERY day over Christmas.

It is that last point - running every day over Christmas - I am really looking forward to.  I pretty much did that last year and it was very worthwhile.  I'll be doing a mixture of short brisk runs, some 45 minute interval runs (combination of sprinting and jogging) and best of all, some longer 90 minute runs out into the counrtyside.

Christmas is, most of all a special time of year for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, we celebrate Christmas because of Jesus being born into the World.  The delight of our children, the promise of presents, some lovely food (another reason to run every day), the cosiness of the winter and time with family and friends.  

So there we are.  Much to look forward to and some serious blogging to be done.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

On line help for new runners

Here's a couple of things that might help if you're thinking of becoming a runner.  Yes you!  You know who you are and I really want you to enjoy the benefits of this wonderful life giving sport.  So, following on from my recent post Gadgets for Runners I'm thinking these might be useful for you.

Couch to 5k

This is an on-line resource to help people get fit through running.  Although it's not that old it has tremendous growth and large numbers have, quite literally, taken those first steps of getting out there in their trainers for a brisk walk.  One really good feature is a friendly pod cast coach in the form of Laura.  Laura keeps people motivated and eases people through different sessions as they gradually make it to a 5k non-stop run in 9 weeks.

Added to that there is a forum where, it seems, there is a lot of support between the C25Kers as they share there experiences, ask questions and generally entertain on-lookers.

So if you're reading this on-line and you have an ipod, smart phone or some other gizmo like that, you and Laura can get going together.  I'll make it even easier for you; just click here for the link!

Map my run

This is something for runners at all different levels; there's something for everyone there.  Having said that I think if you're going to use C25k to get you started, this is a natural follow on.  

Again it's one of those resources where I think it's fair to say "you'll get out of it depends on how much you put in" (parents - how often do we find ourselves saying that to our children?).  I digress.  Map my Run will work best if you have a GPS devise you can link up with the site, so it literally will map your runs but I think you could do it manually.  There are some other good-lookin' resources there such as keeping track on your nutrition as well as the miles you pound.  And then, there's the on-line community right there for you and with the option of being able to connect with other people in your area.


Thursday, 29 November 2012

Doughnuts for breakfast?

Recently I heard an interview with, or about, Dr Phillip Lee MP on the radio as I was driving to work and it made my ears prick.  It was a fascinating debate with strong arguments on both sides.  In essence was about Dr Phillip Lee MP suggesting that fat people, who decide to "......have doughnuts for breakfast" should be paying for their own healthcare further down the line.

Dr Phillip Lee MP

This whole story arose from the news of Dr Phillip Lee MP being involved in a debate about the sustainability of public spending.  He made reference to the fact that we currently spend approx £320bn pa on health and welfare in Britain, which has more than doubled in the last 10 years.  The direction of spending in these two areas is clearly not sustainable, particularly in view of the fact there is a large cohort of baby-boomers about to enter their 70's. 

So it is all very well agreeing we need to make cuts so the Government is able to pay it's credit card bill but it's not so easy to suggest where those cuts should fall - this is a potential minefield for any politician as they're simply bound to upset someone.  You can easily imagine letters from "Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells" arriving by the sack load.

What is interesting is Dr Lee is still a practising General Practitioner (part time) and that, I believe, gives him a certain right to make real contributions for these debates.  He's not [then] basing his comments on anecdotal information or spin but instead on real life observations.  Having had further reliable information from his office, the great majority of prescriptions he signs are for conditions directly linked to the lifestyles of his patients.  These conditions include, for example, type 2 diabetes and everything that goes along with it.  Naturally we should bear in mind, a relatively small number of patients can develop type 2 diabetes through no fault of their own and that is where an important distinction could be made.

My own take on this....

In other words, people who develop healthcare problems such as obesity, type 2 diabetes are actually a ticking time bomb for themselves and the country.  Why should the NHS pay huge sums of money to treat and care for people who have needlessly brought about illnesses for themselves?  This argument could, one supposes, be extended to include those who smoke or drink too much alcohol (and how much alcohol is "too much alcohol" is another debate).  Then there are certain spin-offs where the NHS withholds treatments until the patient has made certain lifestyle changes themselves.  Examples of this would include losing some weight before knee or hip operations or maybe gastric band operations.

Party politics and the whole question of Government spending aside, you could say Dr Phillip Lee MP is doing a good job by stirring some debate and controversy in an appropriate manner for an MP.  He's certainly got the best interests of his constituents at heart.  Good for him you might say, especially as he's speaking with some authority on these matters.  And yet there are counter arguments of this proposal is now suddenly going against the whole ethos of the NHS which is an institution we should feel proud of and which is admired throughout the world.  One of the main values is about there being free health care at the point of need.

On that last point I would say that this principle has been sliding for some time with differences in NHS dentistry and what is commonly available in private High Street dental practices, not to mention opticians and their services which easily go beyond those basic NHS packages.  For decades we have had to pay for our prescriptions; currently the £7 or £8 is only a token payment towards the whole-system cost of issuing the prescriptions.

It is fair to question why the NHS should continue to look after people who won't look after themselves; in these days of austerity all public expenditure must be questioned right from the cost of the Prime Minister's salary through to the cost of emptying our rubbish bin every week.

For NHS patients, surely there is a difference between won't and can't look after themselves?

I remember a while back visiting a hospital and seeing a couple of patients sitting in wheel chairs outside the main entrance.  Both were in their nightwear and were wearing dressing gowns to keep warm as it was a bitterly cold day.  One was connected to some kind of drip and were chatting sociably with each other.  The striking thing, however, was that they were both smoking cigarettes.  That, I thought was quite a provocative thing to see by anyone in such a public place.

And yet, should those patients then be invoiced for the cost of their treatment (if it was connected to their smoking)?.  Very tricky.

For Dr Lee, I would suggest a couple of things here.   It is not easy trying to change people's behaviour without firstly changing the way people think and about their own attitudes towards life.  Investing money in public health is an investment for the future.  It is commendable that we have programmes to assist people to make positive changes in their lifestyle such as Stoptober but they need to be more effective and far reaching.  The same applies to diets and alcohol and drug use - investing in prevention will pay dividends for generations to come.  I reflect on my own history as an ex-smoker and someone who, on reaching my 40s started to gain that extra weight and living with too much stress, saw the light and made a choice to do something about it (see my About  page).

All very well but how could this be paid for?  A fair question indeed.  My immediate thought is this is so complex but how about through even steeper taxation on cigarettes and alcohol? So what if a packet of 20 cigarettes already costs £7 or £8 - make it £27 or £28 through increased taxation!  It might not be a vote winner but it is in the best interests of the country as a whole, as well as individuals.

Well done Dr Lee for re-igniting this topic!  Thank you also for reading my own views on this matter.  Have I gone too far, perhaps too radical?

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Technology and gadgets for runners

Endomondo: the friendly stalker?
Just the other day a would-be runner asked me about gadgets and high tech things for runners.  With running being such a popular sport, it's no wonder there's such a good choice of things to buy.

I confess I'm not that good with gadgets myself but I do recognise they do add interest and as you'll see below they can really help as a training aid.

So with Christmas lists being drawn up and New Year's Resolutions being pondered, here's a few suggestions of things to entice the new runner!

To help keep things in perspective, as many of these are quite expensive, please read my "wrapping up" at the end of this post.

1.  Endomondo - GPS based app

This is a GPS app that can be downloaded onto GPS enabled phones or other devices such as Garmin GPS watches.  Endomondo will track your run, cycle ride or any other distance-based activity and then show you the results just like the photograph here.  Furthermore it'll show you a map with your route marked, just som you can see where you've been.  

There are some advantages to this.... firstly it makes sure you take a mobile phone with you, so you have an element of contact and safety with you.  Another thing is that it's completely free!  You can, however, upgrade to a more detailed and enhanced version.  Click here for their website.

2.  Nike+ for ipod nano

From the Nike+ website
iPod nano is the perfect workout partner. It gives you some much-needed musical motivation and provides real-time feedback. Since Nike+ support and a pedometer are built into iPod nano, there’s no need to connect a receiver or use a shoe sensor to track your steps, distance, pace, time, and calories burned. Just grab your iPod nano and go.
Additionally when you get back home you can review your results: distance, speed, calories and so on.  There's plenty there to keep any geeky runner out of mischief!

Click here for the relevant Nike page.

3.  Garmin forerunner 410

Garmin Forerunner 410 - Running GPS receiver - Monochrome - 124 x 95
I almost talked myself into buying one of these earlier in the year and might yet be persuaded.  This advanced sport watch is GPS-enabled and accurately records your time, pace, distance, heart rate, altitude gained/lost and more. It has an enhanced touch bezel that lets you quickly scroll and select features on the run, in all types of weather. When your are back home, had your shower, why not upload your data to Garmin Connect site when in range of your computer so you can go back and review your run on your own time. It works via ANT+ wireless technology and the USB stick that comes with your watch. No wires, no manual uploads, no sweat. 

The forerunner 410 also features HotFix satellite prediction, which means it locks onto satellites quickly so you can be out the door and on with your run in no time. It also has a high-sensitivity GPS receiver to stay locked onto satellites, even near tall buildings or under tree cover. While the 410 can be worn as a watch even when you're not working out, you can also power it down completely in order to conserve battery life.

These cost £290 but can often be found for less on the net.  I think having the heart rate monitor is very desirable.

4.  Northface eTip goves

Well I guess someone had to invent this!  With smart phones with their touch sensitive screens being everywhere, someone has solved the problem of operating them without having to take your gloves off - with some runs or other activities that is easier said than done.

They cost £30 (not bad) and it is claimed to combine warmth with dexterity.  

5.  Weighing scales with BMI calculator or fat analysis

There's quite a wide choice for these, ranging from under £40 to several hundred pounds.  This is a good investment for the whole family to benefit from.  Our own is many years old but frequently used and worth every penny.  Definitely worth the extra step up from a basic weighing scale.

6.  Klipsch headphones

Many people rate these headphones highly but they are not cheap.  It is difficult trying to get something that will sound good, be sufficiently rugged and most importantly, not keep falling out of your ears as you run.  These could be the right solution and obviously compatible with ipods and all of those gizmos so you're spolit for choice.  An interesting upgrade.

Wrapping up.... 

Please, do you mind if I reach out with a suggestion here?  Whatever you find under the Christmas tree, keep it in perspective and remember what Christmas is actually about.  On their own these will not make you run faster or further, lose weight, grow taller, become more handsome or beautiful.  Enjoy them, benefit from them but don't get totally pre-occupied with them either - if your Garmin has a flat battery, don't let that stop you going for a run!

Running at night

I recently blogged about the challenge of running and cycling in the winter (click here).  Very helpfully Ramblings Reader Mark left a comment suggesting I could wear a head torch for running in the dark.  Before I go any further, let me say I really did appreciate it, hence this post today.

So with Mark's suggestion I found a head torch we already had and gave it a try.  I used the brightest setting and, to be honest, only the brightest setting stood any chance of being adequate.  Nevertheless if opened up a new possibility for running at night.  Previously I had been wary of this, at least in the countryside, for fear of tripping up.

Running at night opens up a new world and it's a totally different experience.  You get to see the countryside in a different light, quite literally.  I was lucky and had a bit of moon light which was lovely, it brought a lovely quality to the landscape and I was even able to turn the head torch off occasionally.  You hear and smell things differently, although I did try not to feel too spooked by the different unexplainable sounds.

At one point I stopped, in a wooded area.  It was actually the "call of nature" and the need for a pee that made me stop but it was nice just to stand there and listen to rain drops falling from trees and to feel the breeze a little and smell my surroundings.  I started to get cold pretty quickly so I didn't stop for too long.

The Petzl head torch

This isn't bad and as Mark correctly suggested these cost £35.  There are many different variations and it's possible this one is out-of-date already.  It runs from 3xAAA batteries and has four white LEDs.  The yellow button on the top toggles between on > full power > half power > flash mode > off. Getting the battery cover open is a little fiddly but thankfully that doesn't need to be done very often. The battery cover is hinged, helpfully so it is not lost but I think care is needed.  If someone was clumsy you could snap the hinge easily.

Ours has a self retracting cord which keeps it very compact when not in use.  You can see there is a soft pad stuck onto the torch to help it grip your forehead and not slide up, down etc.

In use it's not bad for running but worth making sure the batteries are fairly fresh.  It had proved a very useful house hold gadget to have although we originally bought it for a camping trip (from memory I had a good book to read at night - pre Kindle days).  The most valuable time for it was when I had a puncture on an all-night bike ride - it was a real gem.

Other things to consider with running at night

  • tell someone where you're going and stick to the route, just in case you need to be rescued; let them know when you expect to return home
  • take a mobile phone
  • wear something bright.  I have my Montane Featherlite jacket Montane Featherlite marathon jacket which is bright yellow.  I also have a bib made from a kind of mesh (won't cause over heating!) with some reflective strips on.  I have tied a tiny flashing LED to it at the back so other road users can see me
  • be a little cautious of other people in unusual places at unusual times but don't get paranoid either
  • enjoy the experience.  Doing slightly unusual things adds to the things we can all remember when we're 100 years old, reflecting on all those experiences and how good it was to grasp them as they can lead to meaningful, almost profound memories


Friday, 23 November 2012

More on Type A Personality

I blogged about the term Type A personality in October 2010 (click here) in which I gave a few clues to the traits of a Type A personality person and who runs.  there was nothing particularly informed about that, just mere suggestions.  More recently I noticed Blogger Stats were indicating this post became popular for a while but I think it needs expanding on a little more.  

What is a Type A personality?

To be honest, I don't think their description reads well, especially as it was suggested that applied to me!  In general Type A people are workaholics, never satisfied, control freaks, irritable, hard to work with and tend to be poor at expressing their emotions (and 'bottle' them up instead).  It has also been said Type A's are more likely to have heart disease, high blood pressure and suffer stress badly.  

I was thinking that a health professional's suggestion that I was Type A  and my new-found competitive streak it all fitted together.  But it doesn't.

I still think Type A personalities can be great runners, probably amongst the best, if not the best.  They have to be single minded and relentless in their pursuit of being the best, possibly the world's best.  However, what is the point of that if the price they pay is high, or too high?  Does it matter?  Yes, of course it does.

I look at some of my former colleagues and mentally do some Type A spotting.  Not many around in the work place but those that are have done well but don't last long.  Those that I have known have never or seldom even made it to retirement  

And Type B?

These are the opposite.  More laid-back and easy going.  More sensitive and un-hurried, perhaps lacking drive and ambition.  More likely to enjoy things in life but the important thing is type B's can still, in my view, succeed.  Perhaps achieving success does also come at a price as it does for Type As.  And yet the price, the cost, is different.

And for Runners?  Type A or Type B personalities?

It goes without saying, most people will be a mixture of Type A and B together and this may shape their personality.  Some will be a little more Type A, or perhaps a little more Type B.  Type A's could be those ruthless athletes who are so driven they will succeed.  They'll be pushing and pushing themselves to win the race and hating themselves if they're beaten.  Type B's might be more of the fun run plodders, those that run as a socialble activity with friends where the purpose is different.

Where are you?

Having a rigid Type A or B choice may not be helpful.  Indeed psychologists have questioned the original thinking behind the traits that lead to the definition.  Perhaps nowadays it is better to have a softer, more gradual approach.  Why not have a sliding scale instead from, say, 0 for Type A to 10 for Type B and where would you put yourself?

Why not leave a comment?

Please leave a comment - why not say how you rate yourself on my 0 - 10 scale.  Please outline what kind of a runner you are (fun run jogger to hard core iron man).  Thanks in advance!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Running alone?

Approaching rain, late in the afternoon
Strange things are happening to challenge my normal approach to running and cycling on my own.  This afternoon at work, some of us paused and watched the raindrops rolling down the window.  I announced that I was going for a run at 5.00pm.

And so at 5.00pm  I turned off my computer and as I stood up a colleague said he wouldn't mind going for a run after work with me sometime next week.  He's new in the office and has previously been clocked as a cyclist and now he's a runner - definitely a good colleague to have around.  Then another spoke up, saying she's more of a middle distance runner but wants to go running at lunch time.  I asked what a middle distance runner is.

"About 800 to 1500" she said

"!500 what?" I asked

"Metres, you idiot"

"That sounds pretty short to me"

"It won't seem short when you run it in under 5 minutes Doug"

"Too right" I thought, somewhat put in my place.

I changed, into my running kit, put my office clothes into the car and went for a run.  It was raining and somehow seemed a lovely thing to do.  I'm lucky as there's a network of cycle paths allowing me to make up a run as I go.  It also means I can run as far or as little as I choose.

I mentioned it was raining.  That somehow added to a good run; it was a gentle soft rain; refreshing and just right after yet another tricky day.  As I ran almost everyone else around seemed so drab, wet, cold and miserable looking; all plodding their way home after their own tricky day.  Not everyone looked like that - there were a good number of runners around and everyone had a positive look about them.  None of the runners were plodding along, dragging their feet or looking miserable.  Instead every runner was running well; some in pairs some on their own like me.  In an unspoken way we acknowledged each other with a nod that carried the message of comradeship and appreciation of the rain, the experience, the release of all that tension and stress.

I want my colleagues to also enjoy that and yet I am feeling challenged because I love to enjoy this on my own.  Should I wriggle out of running with them?  Of course not.

Besides, last Sunday I accepted the invitation of going for a bike ride with a friend from near home, we go to the same church.  It was just for about an hour, starting out at 7.00am (which in England in November is daybreak).  That was breaking a bit of a mould for me but we had a great time and I'm looking forward to doing that again and again!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Running in old age

Last night I was waiting to meet some German guests of ours who were arriving at Luton Airport.  Not a brilliant place to be at the best of times, especially when I was dark, cold, foggy and wet.  Then I started chatting to James who I vaguely know as we both have daughters at the same school.  He's a Doctor and even better he is a Doctor AND A RUNNER!  Wow that is a great combination.

But first, my own Doctor

Just as an aside I pause to think of my own Doctor.  From his appearance he is definitely NOT a runner: flabby, grumpy and moves around in a stiff kind of way.  Furthermore he cannot understand why I want to run so much - he approves of gentle jogging totalling 120 minutes a week, or whatever the NHS diktat is for this year but cannot appreciate why anyone wants to push themselves for any reason once saying "you're fit and in good health, why would you want to take anymore exercise?".  That "says it all" about my own Doctor and it's why I found last night's conversation with James so refreshing.

Running into older age

Although he's about 10 years younger than me, James is ahead of me with three marathons under his belt and a PB of 3.32 which I think is pretty cool.  As we got talking about running I asked him about how long people can run for in older age.

"Providing people don't over do it and by that I mean pretend to be Usain Bolt it has to be a good thing.  There's no reason why most people carry on running into their 70s."

I asked whether people can burn themselves out or can only run for two or three decades

"No not at all.  Running is a good thing to do.  It does put strain on the body, particularly the joints in older age but that strain, or wear and tear, helps the body maintain even better joints"

He went onto explain how, in his view, getting the balance right between training, rest and dealing with injuries.  James recounted the times when he's pushed himself too far and too intensively, suffering injuries and needing physiotherapy.  He said something about the such-and-such muscle being a frequent injury site for runners and how painful the physiotherapy can be in a way like he almost enjoyed it.

Wrapping up he left me with a couple of thoughts.  Firstly how we runners can continue to benefit from running well into our old age and secondly why we go running together sometime?  Now there's a thought - he lives not far from my office, we could do that sometime....

Related posts:

Monday, 12 November 2012

Running in Spain (2)

You might already have read my previous post on running in Spain.  That was about a few of the runs that I had but for now I just wanted to comment on some of the other runners in and around Javea.

  • If you happen to Google "runners in Spain" the chances are you'll be confronted with men running with bulls through the streets of Pamplona.  Not quite sure what to make of this but it certainly isn't anything like the running most people do to stay in good shape.
  • One evening I got over taken by a couple of younger men out running.  They were going a fair bit faster than me and greeted me in Spanish in a friendly tone as they went passed.  I don't speak Spanish and so I'm not sure what they said but it was undoubtedly positive
  • Most other runners ignored me, looking straight through me as if I wasn't there.  I think that's extremely rude but I do understand how some like to get in the right "zone" where they are totally focussed
  • Apart from the woman in the above photo, every runner was male
  • Most Spanish runners were very clearly fit; ex-pats often looked totally out of shape (but everyone has to start somewhere!)
  • I only saw one person running with an iPod
  • I felt pleased when I got mistaken as a local Spanish runner!
  • The climate is ideal in October
  • If you run at dusk, remember it gets dark quite quickly compared to the UK and northern Europe
  • You can have specific running holidays for training purposes and access trainers, support etc
  • I think that the overall running scene is limited but I might be wrong(?)

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Wearing shorts in cold weather

I secretly plotted this morning's run in my mind but in all truthfulness everyone knew I was looking forward to a run.  And so I did, before anyone else was up this morning.

I had my Saucony Omni Progrids in the hallway ready to go.  My shorts, Helly Hansen base layer, so-so Montane Marathon jacket, woolly hat and gloves all at the ready to just get out of bed, slide in to them - just like Batman and Robin, or maybe Wallace and Gromit.  Did I tell you I have now made the concession of taking a mobile phone with me these days?  Mine is small enough to fit into the back pocket on my shorts and to be honest, I'm unaware it's there when I'm running, so no big deal.

Yet again this was another early morning run at dawn (6.30am onwards) when it was misty outside and (by the time I'd up the first hill) extremely photogenic.  The mist was low down in the valley and looked a bit like dry ice as trees were growing out of it.  Wonderful but without a camera you'll just have to take my word for it.

Strangely my legs felt a bit stiff throughout and I was trying to figure out why this was the case.  Okay I haven't been running since last weekend apart from a short jog yesterday.  Then I realised.  The temperature was just above freezing and cold enough for some frost to be around here and there.  Some parked cars looked as if they had ice on them.  I am thinking my wearing shorts might have contributed to the stiffness - i.e. my leg muscles were still cold and weren't getting the chance to warm up properly.

Ordinarily I only wear my Ron Hill tracksters if it is really cold i.e. sub zero.  I do remember wearing them last winter a few times but I generally ran okay in shorts through much of the winter.  Makes me feel like a proper runner and, most of all, I feel more "free" in wearing shorts.  Although there are no ill effects from this morning's 6.5 mile run, I am now wondering if it is worth digging the Tracksters out.

Come to think of it, virtually every other runner I see around here is not wearing shorts (but there are only a few people in my town who run in the winter).  They all seem to wear black tight thingies, or perhaps three-quarter length tights.  I have seen some of those Skins Compression garments in use also.

So there you go.  Might need to put my shorts away for some of the winter but certainly not my running shoes!

Saturday, 10 November 2012

What a week!

Wow have I missed running this last week.  It's been one of those weeks when it just wasn't going to happen easily, what with it being my first week back after our holiday.

Evenings have been tricky this week.  Monday, we were settling back into normal family life, children back at school and I needed to be "in" during the evening.  On Tuesday I had a after dinner speaking engagement at a local Rotary Club, didn't get home until 10.30pm.  The audience were very receptive, interested, asked lots of questions in the Q&A slot at the end - but a very grey haired, white skinned and male audience nevertheless.

Wednesday evening did involve a little exercise with a 30 minute blast on my new turbo trainer in the garage - this is a gizmo for holding up the back wheel of my bicycle in the garage and allowing me to cycle on the spot.  As the back wheel runs on a roller, there is some resistance which is helpful to avoid mere spinning and no strength building effort.  I'll be blogging about this on sometime next week.  Although just 30 minutes, it was enough to get me out of breath, sweaty and stinky (much to Hannah's distain, as usual) and I'm fairly pleased with my new toy.

Thursday was going to be impossible in terms of exercise as I had a long day because of work.  As part of my work I am involved with the RSA Transitions project (a kind of prison reform) which entailed an early start, getting fined £93.50 by East Coast for mistakenly catching an earlier train.  Grrrrr.  An interesting day, getting to know the team and a chance to wander around some of the 45 acres surrounding HMP Wold and HMP Everthorpe, somewhere "up north".  Got back home at 8.30pm, hungry and for some brief family time.

Friday - my parents arrive for the weekend.  No chance of sneaking out for a quick run.  This morning, Saturday, my chance came but as I had not run for almost a week I thought it best to have a short 15 minute pre-breakfast run.  Not politic to disappear for too long.

So there I am, really missing running and cycling.  Dark, shorter days don't help.  Looking forward to things getting back to normal but it won't be next weekend either.  We're having a couple of German (exchange) girls come to stay which will be great fun but probably not ideal for me disappearing in my Sauconys.

At least I wasn't the driver who reportedly knocked Bradley Wiggins off his bike.  That "mishap" must count amongst one of the most uncool mishaps to have as a motorist.  Mind you, I don't know the whole story.  For all I know it may not have been the van driver's fault.  Perhaps Wiggo was travelling a time trial speeds and not obeying the sedate 20 or 30mph speed limit?

I was interested to read in the Telegraph's Weekend supplement about the former spin doctor Alistair Campbell talk about his addiction to alcohol, along with his support for Alcohol Concern's forthcoming campaign of having a Dry January - i.e. no alcohol for one month.  This is more wishy-washy spin.  If you're a heavy drinker, why not be really radical and give up alcohol together?  This is something I strongly advocate - being tee total has never harmed anyone.  See my previous post on this - Why I am tee total.