Is this a good time?

Was it me or the event timing that was running slow?  1.50.54 is nowhere near the sub-1.50 that I expected!

For a picture of the drowned rat hammering home, visit Antbliss – runner 1291 finishing 525th…


Barns Green Half Marathon

Always write when the pain is still fresh… that’s what I reckon!

The day was gray & drizzly and curling up by the fire seemed like the best idea, but instead Mister Thomas’s jalopy turned up at the appointed hour to whisk us away to play.  Cliff, the tall man with the gray hair, was already there whilst Pete turned up in the nick of time… not bad, bearing in mind that he had cycled from Brighton to warm up!

Cliff & Pete acted as the advance party, Kim brought up the rear, whilst Dai and I just cruised along in the middle, the beeps of his sat-nav watch suggesting that someone could have been more accurate with the mile markers.  Seven, eight and nine minute miles were the order of the day, depending on the gradient therein, which augured well for the sub-two-hour goal.

The weather was basically pants (that’s a technical term) and although warm enough on the lungs and cool enough on the back of the neck, it played havoc with my hair, making me look like a drowned rat.

Two tips for anyone who’s interested.  Firstly, when you’re running try to land towards the outside of your heel, rolling your foot forward as you pass over it to depart from your big toe.  This is very efficient and is great for allowing you to lengthen your stride… which means that you can reduce the number of strides you have to take if you’re a lazy oaf like me!  It’s also softer on your knees, welcome for the vets amongst us!

Secondly, judging by the gasping going on around me, the lungs are a greatly under utilised asset to many runners.  Although I do accept that you have to do what works for you, I was taught (some 25 years ago by a Police diver) to run four paces breathing in and four paces breathing out.  This slower intake means that you can breath in through your nose (helped today by a Breathe-Right strip, at least until the sweat and rain washed the sticky stuff away towards the end) and also means that you get to fully inflate your lungs.  After five minutes focusing on breathing this way, it is amazing how easy the uphills are, as the blood has that elusive oxygen stuff, that muscles lap up, in abundance.

At the 12 mile marker my watch said 1.40 and I picked up the pace slightly to chase a new target of 1.50, helped by a kind man in a green vest.  In the last 400m a tall guy came running past, kamikaze style, only to slow to a walk ahead.  As he picked up to run again at the 200m mark, he became my new target in a sprint to the finish.  I hoped the man in the green vest would come with me, but I ended up pipping the tall man and two or three others to the post alone.

The results are still not out, but my watch was a gnats whisker before 1.50 so I hope to have a one forty-nine-something time.  Slightly better than Dai at 1.59 and Kim at 2.34, but not as good as Cliff at 1.42 and Pete at 1.36.

Pete was all set to cycle back to Brighton too, mad fool, but accepted Dai’s offer of a lift in view of the inclemency of the weather!

The fire was finally lit and a fry-up devoured along with copious cups of Earl Grey tea… Twining’s of course!  And hey!, it’s only six o’clock!

For the finishers photo, you need to go to Dai’s site… enjoy the grins!

Losing sleep

Why, oh why is it so confusing?  Spring forward, fall back.  Nice & simple.

Of course, if it’s late and you’re tired (and having watched the film Babel, emotionally drained!) and you have it in your mind that you’re due to lose an hour’s sleep, it’s a simple mistake to make.  Going the wrong way. 

Compound this with presumably having nudged the alarm to 6.20am in the process and you end up waking up at… er, 4.20am instead of the intended 7.30am!

Only the fact that it is dark gives the game away.    Trying to explain that gaining an hour involves putting the clocks back is oh so difficult too!

 I’m not a popular bunny!

A message to Hotpoint designers


Two minutes. 

In the scheme of things, it’s a really little thing to mar the otherwise extremely positive experience of a washing machine.  The problem is, it’s the last part of the experience, so however good it was up until that moment, this is the feeling you take away with you.  It’s so frustrating that I often forget to empty the machine for hours.

What an earth am I going on about? 

My Hotpoint Ultima machine beeps, loud and clear, when it has finished.  Except that one of the designers thought it would be funny to, having grabbed your attention and drawn you to the machine, keep you waiting for two minutes before they allow the door to unlock.  Barred by a little keyhole symbol!

Two frustrating minutes. 

‘Ha ha, Gotcha!’ it screams.  Or maybe, ‘this is to show you how safety conscious I am’.  I don’t know, it doesn’t speak my language!

Why not beep when the machine is ready rather than two minutes early?

A big gamble, little Lambkins!


You can tell that Nick and Daren spent many formative years running together because they both bound along, almost playfully, when they run with me.  There is more than a hint of reserve energy that can be turned on, in Nick’s case particularly, the moment there is the merest hint of competition.  Is this man competitive?  Nah, not much! 

In trying to describe his running style, we started thinking along the lines of a deer, maybe Bambi, but he’s not that uncoordinated; he certainly has the energy of a big puppy, but he doesn’t slobber so that’s not right; we decided that he’s a little like a lamb when he gambols (a good reason not to gamble in my opinion) but they’s mighty big gambols for a tiny lickle lamb.  The closest so far I think (other suggestions welcome) is a Springbok, with it’s endless energy and fast changes of direction.

All of which neatly segways into why I’m so knackered again this morning, which is that I went for a run with Nick!

The morning started darn early and even the sun wasn’t out of bed when the coffee pot went on.  How did I ever get up far earlier than this for so many years?!  Fortunately the overnight cloud cover had sent the hard frost packing, so the twelve layers of thermal clothing set out ready were not to be required. 

Now, having worked with thousands of field staff over the years, I am seldom stunned by the creativity of the excuses that people give when pitching up late or not at all so when Nick called aroundabout sunrise with some c&b story about a flat battery on his van, I knew he was just getting out of bed and that I was lucky that he was phoning, let alone going to turn up.

He duly arrived and what did stun me was that he had actually remembered to charge his watch – though why he actually did this twice I didn’t manage to get to the bottom of.  And duh!, was the van really the best place to charge it from?

We eventually set off and within minutes I was out of breath and realising that I should have started at the correct time and let him catch up.  Have you ever tried keeping up with a gambling springbok?  Normally we have a nice even-tempo chat as we enjoy the fresh air, but today my



truncated by


gasping breaths!

The going was quite firm and though my hands were pretty cold, two layers were actually sufficient, me having been persuaded to leave a third behind on threat of being called a wuss!

I tried to outrun the ‘bok on three occasions, all fruitlessly, and the van-powered watch recorded a fastest sprint time equivalent to a 4 minute 35 second mile… although whichever occasion that was, it was nowhere near a mile and was followed by an increasingly long recovery time whilst trying to stave off the nauseous feeling in my stomach!

I am quite pleased that the heart-rate element of the Swiss-army watch beeped on two occasions to warn of impending heart failure… and relieved that I wan’t wearing one because I’m sure the constant beeping would have drained the battery.

So, 6.67 miles were covered according to the on-board satellite navigation department in just under 58 minutes which I make to be an average speed of 6.97mph. 

Keep that up on Sunday and I’ll come in at 1 hour 52 minutes… on a stretcher, of course as it’s twice as far!  Definitely three of us joining Kurt  (and 1,300 other folk) at the start line and I hear tell that Cliff may be persuaded to grace us with his presence too.  Anyone else not got a good excuse?

Hi Chris!


Kim very kindly dropped me off at Jack & Jill windmills this morning.  And what a beautiful morning it was too, as you can see from the pics!  The only people I normally share running space with on a Sunday are dog walkers, which was why bumping into Richard last weekend was so cool.  Today there were a plethora of other runners, cyclists and dog walkers out and about and a real sense of bonhomie!

One of the benefits of wearing an extra layer (it was a frosty morning) was an extra pocket to put my mobile in, which enabled me to take some photos for a change.

I made good progress along the top of the Downs past Ditchling Beacon as far as Blackcap.  Kim and I used to train along here in preparation for the Berlin marathon in 2004 and so it holds memories as well as being a good firm surface to run on.  After Blackcap I dropped off the top and headed north, breaking new ground and finding some beautiful houses, farms and churches surrounded by lush Sussex countryside!

Eventually I hit Plumpton and followed my nose as to the route out, running up what looked like someone’s driveway.  A man with a dog approached me in the opposite direction and I felt it may be pertinent to ask if this was a public footpath and not his drive!  I was totally amazed when, taking off his Walkman, a most cunning disguise, it turned out to be Chris Burt, an ex corporate bank manager of mine.  Both stunned, we stood to chat and it was really great to see you Chris!

One of the benefits of being comfortable with ambiguity is that it doesn’t really matter where you end up running and I ended up running into the same junction of paths as I had found when I’d exited the golf course a week or so back.  Pleased at having joined up a few more dots on the map, I then knew I was homeward bound, but right about then I had a strong urge to eat something – toast and peanut butter!  Not having said sustenance and knowing that my reserves were now low I had no alternative other than to press on, slowly and regardless.

By the time I reached home I was knackered!  Deducting the estimated ten minutes talking to Chris, I had run for two hours twenty and covered 13.5 miles, or 21.5 km.  One of the reasons for the post being a little late is that I ate my toast & peanut butter and promptly fell asleep in the sun!

Don’t forget Barns Green next weekend… hope to see you all there!

Excited feet!

Kurt at Run has just emailed me to say he’s managed to get hold of a pair of Woolen Thorlos for me – to keep my toes warm through the winter.  Man! I just love that shop!  Review to follow when the weather turns cold.

PS if your toes are jealous, speak to Kurt…

Happy Birthday!


Many of you know my kayak-mad younger brother Nigel and I’m sure you will join me in wishing him a very Happy Birthday! 

He is very lucky to be a well travelled young chap, visiting, amongst other places this year, China, Mexico, New Zealand, Sweden, Scotland, France, USA etc, not to mention starting off at my place and spending at least some time in his Seattle home town.

Those people who do know him will, I feel sure, be amused by this picture of him… for those who don’t know him, at least yet, I think this is the last recorded time he wore a tie. 

Picture courtesy of Peter Foster, 1967.

Happy Birthday Bro!

Repetitive Power Outage Syndrome

It pains me to share this, but Nick is a much faster runner that me. 

I would like to believe his assertion that he charges the batteries in his shoes rather than his watch before he comes round, but frankly, I don’t think he would remember to do this even if he could. 

In my vivid imagination, I have read research into satellite positioning technology that claims that it can adversely affect the memory of the user… apparently aliens are hiding under the cover of trees and using them as a kind of wi-fi port to access the inner workings of the runners mind.  This might help explain why the dumb things never work properly in wooded areas.  I reiterate that this is all in my mind.

Although… I note with interest that Dai is suffering from a similar memory loss, as per his comments on October 15th about his Sunday Roast.

What can I tell you about our run this morning?  Well, the weather was beautiful, the sun came out and it was wet-muddy underfoot, to such an extent that the rear of my longs and the front of my top (that I hung around my waist as it was that warm) were liberally spattered! 

Kim’s instructions to me were fairly clear, that I was to run Nick ragged.  Alas the tables were well and truly turned, with Nick sauntering ahead at high speed several times and nonchalantly slowing to wait for me, most especially during the full-out sprint challenge when we were almost back where I just couldn’t keep it going!

I’m tempted to unfairly take the wind out of his sails by telling you it was only six miles that we covered in one hour, five minutes, but I couldn’t carry it off.  In fact we ran 7.2 miles, or 11.5km in European money, making 6.65mph.

In search of freelance chickens


It’s hard to know where to start, other than to confess that I’m having difficulty settling on a name for this week’s post.  Candidates were: Debb’s pyjamas, Old MacDonald’s farm (remix version), Richard Pierce to the rescue, Sore arches, Lost AGAIN! or Wellington runners.  As you can see, I settled for something completely different, referring to something Nick said whilst pished the other evening!

This morning started late (again) and with a slight mist shrouding a clearly beautiful day.  Mistrustful of the temperature that this suggested, I kitted up with my longs and two layers up top and got out into it.  I had decided over coffee that I would take a different route today and had poured over the map trying to memorise a potential route.  The route took me up to Ote Hall, with it’s stunning chimneys, across to where Wivelsfield church is (in a future life I think I’d like to come back as the Rev for Wivelsfield church as the Vicarage must have one of the most gorgeous southerly views in this whole area!) and around to the north of Wivelsfield.

Debbs, one of Daren’s crazy American friends (and now ours too!!), had tried to convince us that she’d seen Llamas whilst out on a walk… we knew that this was a WMD-esque story so had not believed her, but here they were, running around like short-necked giraffes, or maybe long-necked mules.

The countryside on this side of Wivelsfield is beautiful and it was a real joy to be running through on this stunning morning.  From there I dropped down through the middle of the village and on to Hundred Acre Lane for a short way, before disappearing into the woods that make up part of my more normal route.  This will definitely be a lovely run once autumn really kicks in, as there will be piles of leaves to crunch through!  The path eventually spat me out at the northern end of Spatham Lane on Ditchling Common.  I was in the process of pausing, wanting to continue on unfamiliar terrain but unsure where to go, when along the road came a runner who turned down it.

Richard Pierce agreed that I could tag along for a while and we chatted amiably as he took me steadily away from home.  In training for the New York marathon, he was doing a regular 20 mile training run and was clearly on top of the task, keeping a perfectly steady pace all the way down the lane. 

Scared that I might end up at the top of Ditchling Beacon with Richard if I didn’t look sharp, I took my leave and headed down a path going west towards Ditchling, hoping to catch one going straight back to the Hill.  Instead I found a sign saying, Danger: Archery in Progress.  They seemed slightly grumpy (at least no-one said good morning back to me!) so I decided they must be protecting the path that I wanted to take.  Prudence being the better part of valour, I continued on the one passing behind them that seemed only mildly dangerous.

Somewhere here I must have gone slightly wrong, as I quickly found myself crossing Spatham Lane in an easterly direction.  I might have gone wrong where I had to unhook and re-hook five electric fences in a field of horses, or maybe where I had to persuade some cows to move out of the way of a style, but more likely in the scary field of freelance chickens (what does Nick mean, I wonder?) where I really feared for my life. 

A few years ago I was paddling with Cliff & Dai in the Wye valley when the thousand or so sheep on the hillside above us started baaa-ing.  It was a VERY SPOOKY sound and made us all a little uncomfortable… and the chickens in this field did something similar.  Imagine the first part of a clucking sound, where it kind of winds up to the cluck itself… the whole field of chickens started making this noise, sounding a little like a not too distant racing car getting up to speed.

To the east of Spatham Lane is Mid Sussex Golf Cluband I now found myself running through this, though there were too many stray balls laying on the path to be really comfortable about it.  I was now heading almost due east, very much not the ideal direction, but eventually I found the lovely path from Westmeston which sneaks under the railway line by an idyllic cottage with its own ford and gives access to Blackbrook Wood, Ditchling Common and home!

Although I had commented to a couple of dog walkers that I was hot at around the 35 minute mark, it was only now that I twigged there was something I could do about it, taking off my hat and top layer and unzipping my longs to make flairs!

Bearing in mind I went out for an hour or so to break some new ground, I was quite pleased to come back strong at 2 hours, four minutes, whilst my dodgy distance calculations showed just over twelve miles, or 19.5km.  I’ve finally twigged that the reason for my slow pace is because I’m forever running on muddy tracks, so I feel confident of a sub two-hour time on the country roads that make up the Barns Green Half.

There’s still time to sign up, but if it’s really too much, then at least come along on the 28th and cheer the rest of us along.  So far I think it’ll be Dai, Nick, Cliff, Kim and I… and I’m hoping that Kurt will be there with my socks too!