Shaolin Cosmo Chi-Kung

Do what?  I’m not sure exactly what I have done to my foot, but I decided not to run this weekend.  Instead, after dropping in to see Kurt at Run yesterday to buy some warmer gloves, my exercise consisted of attending a Chi-Kung (or Qigong) course with Kim.

Chi-Kung (pronounced jee-gung) is a combination of simple motion and gentle breathing, performed in a meditative state of mind.  It is hard to imagine it being prescribed as a restorative by a UK doctor, which is a great shame, but in China it has been a key part of medicine for the last 5000 years.

If you’re wondering why western doctors might tend to be dismissive of Chinese medicine, I have just formed a (clearly over-simplistic) hypothesis:

From my personal experience, western medicine seems to be based loosely on cure, whereas eastern medicine appears to focus more on prevention.  

This may be because, historically, Europe and north America have been comparatively wealthy for the size of population and thus able to afford to develop a good ‘health system’, seeking to ease the symptoms or eradicate specific diseases and creating a range of drugs to this end.  

In China by comparison, with traditionally difficult terrain, poor infrastructure and 20% of the global population to look after on a relatively shoestring budget, a system of self-help augmented by locally available herbal remedies makes much greater economic and political sense.

As a result of its focus on cure, western medicine now often involves some kind of medical distress purchase whereas eastern medicine focuses more on promoting the health of the mind and body on a daily basis.  

Since a higher price can be charged for a distress purchase, western medicine has more budget not only to spend on the research of new compounds, enabling it to make technological advances, but on PR, which enables it to undermine its less costly competition.  Furthermore, since revenues can be taxed, it is presumably likely to find strong advocates in government.

In case anyone finds this even remotely contentious, please excuse me and remember it is only a humble hypothesis… said he, quickly returning to the chi-kung lesson.

Sifu Robin Gamble, our tutor, was English and younger than I had expected, but also had far more vitality than I generally see in the people I meet.  Bearing in mind the number of highly competent business people and talented entrepreneurs I mix with from around the globe, this is genuine praise.  His earnest approach quickly drew the students together, despite their different skills and levels of experience.

He had chosen some simple, memorable aspects of Chi-Kung to teach us in this introductory session, aiming to send us away more interested in the art and with the ability to replicate the patterns and derive genuine benefit from only a short intervention.

He showed us how to achieve Standing Zen and Swaying Willows Floating Clouds and the forms of Lifting the Sky, Pushing Mountains and Holding the Moon.  He also mixed in Punching with Wide Eyes and some other elements to add some fun and interest.

Held in the calm of the studio at the Acupuncture Clinic in Hove, the session was refreshing and energising, both for body and mind.  I don’t want to gush about it, but if you’re looking for a great way to spend a grey Saturday afternoon, it doesn’t get much better.  Or more restorative.

Cold and forlorn

This morning’s run was the equivalent of not quite engaging first gear on a race car… it felt as clunky as a bag of old spanners.  And despite the dawn initially looking quite clear, by the time I went out it was indeed cold and forlorn.

Added to this, in addition to skinning my ankle on Sunday, I seem to have sprained it too.  Not badly, but enough to make me jump with the dull pain (like the shock of a weak electric fence) every now & then through the run and on through the day.

Still, at least I ran.

In fact I took the same short route that I ran with Nick last week, the only difference being that, at 48 minutes, it took me three minutes longer to cover the 5.2 miles (6.5 mph)… to be honest, the way I was feeling I would not have been surprised if it had been 23 minutes longer!

Two other things.  First, I lost my hat again today, whipped off my head by a passing bramble.  Second, Lew’s hatch has now been battened down, so to speak… looking good man!

The Winter Runners Blues

Hey Dai, Nigel, Russell, d’ya got your guitars?

I fully intended to run this morning, but there was ice on the car outside and I wimped out.  Which was a real shame, as the ice had melted by the time the dawn broke and it really wasn’t that bad when I walked to work.  The upside was that It did get me thinking of some blues lyrics!

The Winter Runners Blues

Woke up this morning, planning to run, all there was outside, was a heavy frost and no sun

I’ve got the winter runners blues. it’s all those dingy winter hues, I am no winter runner fool, I’m hibernating ’til the spring.

The alarm lit up this morning, way before the dawn, looked outside to see it, cold and forlorn

I’ve got the winter runners blues, I’m on the winter runners booze, I’ve lost my winter runners balls, I’m meditating ’til the spring.

Walked to work this morning, wishing I had run, the muddy paths and puddles, really are such great fun

I’ve got the winter runners blues, but I have the winter runners shoes, and I have those gorgeous winter views, and I’m in training for the spring.

Run around the races

I had a little difficulty getting out of bed this morning, on account of a Vanilla Sky type (weird) dream.  I gave up on trying to figure out what was going on in the end and got up, but most of the morning had escaped by then.  Hence the reason that it was just after ten to midday by the time I left the house for my run.

When Kim had come down a couple of hours before me, there had been a large sheet of ice slowly descending her windscreen outside, but I left into a warmer but murky rainstorm feeling slightly overdressed in the same gear I ran in on Thursday (yes, unwashed!) plus an additional long-sleeved top.

Five minutes later as I ran through the first wooded section, there was a rush of wind of such ferocity that it sounded exactly like surf crashing onto Brighton beach.  I thought that this heralded a wet and windy run and I prepared my mind to run only for about an hour, but twenty minutes later I was stripping off my jacket and gloves with the heat of the sunshine!

This change of weather caused me to elongate my run and a while later I found myself running down the road through Plumpton Green, passing as I did the start of the Plumpton Races.  Plumpton Lane is not such a nice lane to run down on account of it being twisty, narrow and relatively busy.  But it does head straight for the Downs and I had decided that if I was going to be out for longer than an hour (which passed as I passed six-mile mark at the entrance to the racecourse), I might as well go up top and soak up the view.

The bostal running up from The Half Moon is concrete and about a 1 in 4 gradient and it felt like it took me an age to make the top.  I duly put my jacket and gloves back on to ward of the now cold wind,  sacrificed a couple of jelly babies to regain some energy and ran on towards the Beacon.

One of the problems with a tendency towards madness is the tendency to do mad things, so it won’t surprise you that I took a small detour en route to the top.  I hung a right down the path I descended last week and a left onto the steep track that I then ascended.  And then on to the Beacon at about the one hour 47 mark… a couple of minutes behind myself last week.

Then I turned northward, dropping down the path under the road and into Ditchling, up onto Lodge Hill and back via Oldlands Mill.

I wasn’t going as quickly as last week on the return leg, as though it took me a minute less, the more direct route made it less than five miles.  Still, overall I had run 15.1 miles in 2 hours 35 minutes and at 5.8mph it was a tad faster than last week.  At this rate of improvement I’ll be ready for a marathon in May.

Two thousand and twelve.

I’ve forgotten to mention over the last couple of weeks that I keep kicking my left heel with the castellated inside sole edge of my right shoe and it has slowly been getting worse.  Today I kicked it a few more (excruciating) times and have now finally resorted to Compeed!

The return of the BEEP!

After weeks of trying to match diaries, the Bok duly turned up this morning at the allotted time for a quick run.  The weather seemed relatively mild to me, but he must have been under the weather as he was adament it was freezin’, so much so that he had his gloves on.  He was sufficiently adamant to persuade me to wear my gloves too,

We set out, with him getting his excuses in early… pain in the back, pain in the knee, pain in the ar… oh no, that was the fact that the mini-Boks had woken him up five times the night before!  Bearing in mind all the pain and tiredness he was exuding, I was surprised that he still wanted to rush off like a racehorse on oats… although I reined him in and we settled into a more leisurely pace!

We ran an old favourite route, out past the Royal Oak to Wivelsfield, through the woods to Ditchling Industrial Estate, down the magical path & back across the common.  I quickly removed my gloves as it was much warmer than I had been lead to believe… which correlates (strangely) to the fact that later, over breakfast, he confessed that he had sweated buckets, putting it down to how fast we had run! 

What nonsense!  He was still sweating when I saw him last night and it was plainly that he was overdressed for the weather, trussed up as he was in a three peice suite.  I’m kidding, of course… no-one can wear more than a chair in these troubled times.

We we half way through the wood when I heard the first Beep beep beep BEEP, the telltale sign that his heart rate was elevated… and this on a flat section.  I duly increased my speed and was rewarded with a muffled expletive and a further two renditions from his heart rate monitor.  To be fair though, despite the beeps and the fact I was running straight through all the mud and he way tiptoeing around the edges (well okay, strategic mud-hopping), he kept up pretty well!

Along the magical path, which is also more or less flat, I once again heard the telltail Beep beep beep BEEP and I once again increased the pace.  You may think I am being very unkind, but there are some unwritten laws (well, actually they are not even unwritten now, are they?) and this is one of them.  Snigger snigger!

Over breakfast, which was achieved after running 5.2 miles in 45 minutes (6.9mph), he probabaly consumed more than the 658 calories he reckons to have burned off.

A very Nietzche-esque thing to do

If there is one thing that running teaches you, it is perseverance.  I thought this as I walked home on Friday night with three heavy bags of shopping, stopping only once to answer my mobile.  And I thought it again this morning as I ran off down the road aiming for a slightly longer than normal run.

Which is why I started off at a sensible pace, one that neither Nick nor Cliff can run at: slow!

I headed out to Oldlands Mill, but then rather than take the Ditchling route I turned right and dropped down into Hassocks, running through the back-streets to the station.  In an attempt to find some new paths I ended up running down more back-streets before emerging to the south of the village and running to Clayton at the base of the Downs.

Here the path takes the scarp slope head on and I engaged low gear and kept running as far as Jack & Jill.  Recognising that I normally walk across the car-park before carrying on up the hill (effectively breaking the hill into two) I decided just to keep going for a change.  I might not have stopped, but I have to confess to having had a little help… in the form of a couple of jelly babies.  Well, two at the bottom of the hill and two more at the very top to be exact.

I then ran across to Ditchling Beacon and whilst I had loosely planning to continue running towards Lewes, something caught my eye.  It was a group of three people contemplating a matched pair of barbed wire fences in the corner of a field.  I stopped to offer assistance, although since two of them were in their elegant seventies, I guess that they weren’t about to take me up on my offer.

Agreeing that the best way for them to go was back the way they had come, I then took the path in front of me which lead all the way down to Westmeston.  But on reaching Westmeston, a strange thought occurred to me, worthy of Cliff or Pete.  Why not run back up the hill?  

I was all out of reasons so I headed back aloft, taking the path goes pretty much directly from the bottom to the top.  At the top I chatted briefly to the group who had also made it back to the safety of the stile, before I headed off back towards the Beacon.  Nietzche would have been proud!

I took the path down before the road, but half way down my sense of curiosity took me off to the left from normal, across up-slope from a house with a tennis court to the beacon road and down to the car park at the bottom of the hill.  Here I turned left along Underhill Lane and then right onto the path that leads to Ditchling.  The village now boasts two tree-houses of which I am envious.  One is clearly for children, bearing in mind the assault course that enables them to get down.  The other, apparently, was designed with adults in mind… taking G&T’s on the deck looked like a very appealing prospect.

I ran up Lodge Hill and back via Oldlands Mill, feeling that I was finishing at pretty much the same pace that I started… still slow, but not quite fading, although that might have been something to do with another four or six jelly babies which I had callously chewed.  Overall the time was two hours, 34 minutes for 14.7 miles… a mere 5.72 mph.

However m’lud, I would like to introduce some mitigating circumstances: the time as I left the Beacon was 1 hour 45 and the speed up to that point, including two scarp climbs, was 5.35mph.  The 5.3 miles home from there was dispatched in 49 minutes… 6.5mph.  Still slow by comparison to the boys, but not that slow!

And I did have some additional weight to carry.

Bright morning

This morning was bright and slightly chilly… sufficiently so to warrant longs, although the gloves might have been overkill.  Not that I took them off, of course!

I headed out to Ote Hall, past Wivelsfield Church and then out towards what I now know is Wivelsfield Hall.  (I don’t reach it and I’ve only seen what I assume is it from afar)  Then I dropped into Wivelsfield, up Hundred Acre Lane and hung a right into the woods.

Autumn has really kicked in since the recent wind & rain, with many of the leaves on the ground like a gloriously rich & golden mat.  With mud underneath.

At the Common I opted to run to the roundabout, across and then right down the path without crossing the railway line.  This is a very old route that I’d not run for ages and I had forgotten how pretty it is, especially at this time of year.  At the end it joins my normal route and I made it back to the house in one hour, nine minutes.  Overall a pretty slack 7.2 miles at 6.25mph, but a really enjoyable one in the autumn sunshine.

Cliff is trying to persuade me to enter the Prague marathon next year, but at this speed I would probably finish with the 2010 runners.  Oh my, is that another good excuse not to do it?

Wet around the edges

Bearing in mind I was not in bed until well after 1am last night, the fact that I woke up before 7.30am seems crazy.  But despite the torrential rain last night, followed by bright, clear skies, it was neither wet nor cold and it was the uncommonly bright morning that had woken me.

I supped on a banana & some espresso and read for a while and finally emerged from the house, wearing shorts (again), just after nine.  Alas, after a bout of serious deck cleaning with a broom yesterday, I was not on top form and I decided early on that this would be a shortish run.

I headed out across the Common, where the duck pond was overflowing its banks and the slightest dip in the ground was full of water.  I stopped to take photo’s at regular intervals along the magical path so that you can see what I keep going on about (watch this space tomorrow for the results) – although I’m sure they still won’t do it justice.

The path through Blackbrook Woods was also wet and it was at this point that I switched to wet style running… that is, running straight down the path and through the middle of anything in the way.  Once your feet are wet, there seems little point in wasting time around the slippery margins.

As I headed south towards the Downs, my legs were already heavy and the thought of an extended run did not appeal.  So I turned right / west at Hayleigh Farm and headed across towards Ditchling on a soulless farm road with the wind picking up into my face.

I snuck through Ditchling, up onto Lodge Hill and around by Oldlands Mill.  Once again the path was waterlogged and the only other people I saw were struggling in wellington boots while I splished past them. 

Once onto the Keymer Road, I turned off to the water tower and across to the railway line.  The path that runs from here to the station always reminds me of Daren for some reason, probably for the visage of him disappearing kamikaze style ahead of me down a steep and extremely slippery hill… how he stayed vertical I really have no idea.

I reached the house in one hour 27 minutes after 8.8 miles… just over 6mph… and although I felt heavy legged whilst running, I feel quite sprightly now.  Stopping to take photos obviously had an impact on the split time (out at 5.66mph, return at 6.5mph) so I hope that you appreciate the photos!

As I sit writing, the Japanese Maple outside my study window is such a vivid red right now – I’ve taken a stack of photos of it and none of them capture the intensity of the colour.  This one is the closest.

Oh, and after a fine morning, the torrential rain has just started again… I’m really glad I got up when I did!