Reluctant runner

The morning was overcast and once again, I felt not at all like running.  This is the little routine that my conscious and unconscious go through from time to time… the unconscious, like a child, testing the boundaries to see how flexible they are.

It doesn’t always go down this way, but on this occasion I consciously made a black espresso, ate a banana and got out there.

There had been much rain the night before last and I half expected a mud-bath, but I was pleasantly surprised at how firm the going was.  This said, there were patches of mud to slide about on, or plough through, all over the place.

I should point out that, like the Inuit with snow and ice, I have become accustomed to many different types of mud.  The mud today was not ‘skating’, which is when there’s a really thin, super slippery layer of liquid mud on a firm base, but rather ‘graceful’, where the mud is a little thicker and gives you a better chance to stay upright.

Which I needed at one point when my left foot slid to the right, in front of my right leg coming through.  Because the slide was graceful, I had time to arch like a cat, extricate my right leg and apply traction to push me in the direction I was falling.  I felt the distinctive pang of overstretched back muscles and observed my first two fingers on my left hand sink half an inch into the mud, before the momentum kicked in and I righted myself.  Fun, especially in slow-motion like that!

It was only a quick run around the (increasingly) normal 5.2 mile circuit (Royal Oak, West Wood, Magical Path) and this morning it took me 44 minutes.  And despite the unconscious protestations, the running itself was pretty easy.

Hot and really hard work

I stayed up way late watching a movie last night which meant that it was 8am before I dragged myself out of bed and 9.30am before I got out to run.  By which time it was already quite hot & muggy.  There are mornings when I run off down the road and instantly feel at one with the world and mornings where I struggle for ten or fifteen minutes, after which I start to flow, but this was neither.  This was hard work, pretty much from start to finish.  Every step an effort.

In a funny way, I have a feeling that these are the days that you really strengthen your mind and that was pretty much all that drove me forward today.  I ran out past Oldlands Mill, down towards Ditchling but cutting across round the back of Keymer and through Hassocks to the station.  If I’d had any money I might have considered catching the train home!

Then south along the side of the track to Clayton and up the killer path to Jack & Jill… the two or three people that walked past me as they huffed down the hill must have thought I was barmy!  The windmills don’t sit at the top of the hill, by a long way, and I really had to dig deep to keep on going.  And then I had the one and only bit of respite of the day… I caught up with a girl also running up the hill.  She also must have thought I was barmy as I wittered on about nothing at all and she tried politely to drop back & disengage.  But talking was a perfect task to take my mind off the running and though I only ran with her for 500 metres or so, it gave me the mental energy to punch on up the rest of the hill.  Thank you Zoe!

Kim and I used to train along this path, slowly pushing our boundaries until we could run to Lewes and back.  It’s a really uplifting place, even if I had staggered more than six miles by this point.  I made it to Ditchling Beacon in one hour 22 minutes and then turned for home, pausing for a few moments to admire the skill of a parascender playing on the thermals.

As I ran through Ditchling, I stopped momentarily to chat to an Open House gallery owner… last day today so we’re just off back there to have a look.  The it was back over Lodge Hill, past Oldlands Mill and nearly home.  I had two ’empty’ moments, one at 2 hours when I reached Ockley Lane and had to stand, panting for a few moments and one ten minutes later as I paused to walk.  Just at that moment there was a lady digging her garden who said ‘it’s a bit warm for running… I should walk from here!’ which funnily enough gave me just enough impetus to run the rest of the way back.

Two hours fifteen minutes for 12.9 miles gives 5.74mph… which is actually nowhere near as slow as I thought it would be, bearing in mind how I felt!

Quick Wednesday post

As per increasingly normal, I was not particularly excited about going for a run this morning, but I duly drank my espresso black, just in case I managed to convince myself.  Being warmed by the spring sunlight as I sat in the tea-house at 6.30am was a delight and my reticence started to evaporate.

Running out in shorts & t-shirt at 7.15am, I eshewed the slightly chilly woods and headed for the warmth of the Common for a circuits session… not the right name, but I can’t remember what Dai calls it… farting?

After a warm-up circuit, I did my usual sequence around the four sides: fast with knees up; slow to recover; faster; long-strides/stretch out;  and then stopped for a quick breather.  Then I repeated it twice more, before returning to the house.

Roughly 4.5 miles (I’ve been abandoned by all my friends with satellite navigation wrist thingummies, so I still don’t know for sure) took me 42 minutes (only 6.4mph, probably due to the breathers) and I arrived home drenched with sweat having had a really good workout.

Since then I have been enjoying a super-effective, gorgeous spring day!

April showers

Kim decided to go swimming, thereby getting only slightly wetter than I did running.

It had been overcast & slightly blowy when I go up and I sat in the tea house, reading and supping a huge espresso from my oldest Kri-Kri cup.  in short, a lovely morning.  I walked back to the house, started to get my running kit on and glanced outside to see it chucking it down with rain.

Despite the best efforts of my Gore jacket, I was pretty wet by the time I reached the end of the road section, not even half a mile from the house.  I had already decided I was going to have a short run in the woods, where rain doesn’t cut into you so badly and so I squared up for my default weekday run.

Out to Wivelsfield via the Royal Oak, through West Wood, back down the Magical Path and across the common.  For some reason I was drenched (the rain must have been particularly wet, or something… oh, and of course I was wearing shorts) but as I stretched my legs out across the common on the homeward section, I felt a pang of guilt.  I had not run far enough for a Sunday.

So rather than take the path home, I continued on for a second loop.  It was kind of nice really, seeing the same scene twice in one morning, as you get to pick up on different things… and compare how wet you felt last time around.

The rain had ceased by the time I stretched out across the common for a second time and I stopped to take a couple of verdant, overcast pictures.

However, after ten minutes home and ten to stretch, there was not a cloud to be seen in the sky!

It was 0.8 miles to the start of my circuit and the loops were then 3.6 miles each making just over 8.8 miles in total.  The weird thing was that the first 4.4 miles took me about 39 minutes… and so did the second 4.4 miles.  One hour, 19 minutes in total, at a pretty consistent 6.72 mph.

Wednesday run

After laying a good friend to rest yesterday, it was lovely to run out this morning into a flat, calm, drizzly day.  The last couple of days have been very windy so the wetted ground was covered in a thin mat of green leaves and sticks, the remnants of nature’s spring-clean.

I did my quick loop out to Wivelsfield via the Royal Oak, returning via West Wood, the Magical Path and the Common.  I could feel my muscles from my Sunday exertion but otherwise it was a really pleasant run.

I even picked up my feet for a fast finish over the last 700m.

5.2 miles in 45 minutes giving 6.9mph.

Eulogy to a dear friend

[Edited slightly from the original to protect the innocent]

As family and friends, colleagues and clients, I suspect that we have each seen different sides of Richard, and each carry a different version of this remarkable man around with us.  I sincerely hope that, if you knew him, you might feel inclined to compare and contrast your memories of him, in the same way that you might have swapped Top Trumps cards as children.

Having known him quite literally all of my life, I thought that you might like to hear some short tales from his more formative years.  You may like to close your eyes, in order to better imagine the Kodak coloured seventies… two young boys standing on the main road, before it was busy, naming the make and model of every car that came towards them.

Here was a man who shared his parents love for cats, showing me how to gently handle them from an early age.  He would teach the kittens to run at the back door, encouraging them to jump higher and higher up his Mum’s pristine net curtains.  As they got older, and heavier, he would then feign ignorance as to the circumstances surrounding the ripped curtains, demonstrating how mischievously irreverent he could be.

From an early age he was an amazing chess player, chosen to play for our primary school team.  In all the innumerable times he and I played chess as children, he beat me every time.  Except once.  We would sit at a child-sized table & chairs in the storeroom beneath his house.  Two inevitable moves from his one and only thrashing at my hands, he deftly upset the table with his knees, sending board and pieces flying and demonstrating both a highly competitive nature and a natural flair for thinking outside the box.

He seemed to gain a sense of the intrinsic value of money at a really early age, saving hard-earned cash from a part-time job to buy a really smart racing bike to replace his cherished Raleigh Chopper.  Even before this stage he showed how discerning he was in his choices and how very careful he was to retain the value in things by looking after them; keeping them spotlessly clean and well maintained, adding well considered accessories.  Here was a boy who knew exactly what he wanted, was prepared to work very hard to get it and would then work equally hard to keep it looking like new.

This process was repeated when he graduated to a moped, a treasured, unregulated Suzuki, and again when he purchased his gleaming Honda, some number of weeks ahead of his 17th birthday when he would be legally able to ride it.  His parents used regularly to go out dancing and he and I would sit in the garage, cleaning the bike and listening to its Yoshimura exhaust.  Knowing his son really well, his Dad would leave his car in the garage, blocking the exit, to ensure both son and bike stayed put while they were out.

To start with we merely pushed the car back a little to give us more space with the bike.  As time went by, we would push it back up the drive, with great effort, to allow a small gap to get the bike out so that he could ride it around the block: returning both it and the car before his parents got home.  His Dad came into the garage to chat to us one evening and commented that the bike was really hot.  Cool as a cucumber, he explained that we had just been running it in situ to listen to the pipe:  Keeping a straight face was a skill that would set him in good stead as a lawyer.

To save energy, one evening he started the car, reversing it up the drive and on to the road.  Waving for me to occupy the passenger seat and much to my consternation, he then drove off along the road towards a rise, at the top of which is a T-junction.  Unsure quite what to do at this point, he pumped the gas, swung the wheel left and, having cut across the pavement, braked to a sudden halt in the middle of the road. 

I should point out, that in these early years, there were very few cars in the street and no traffic, but my heart was beating like a steam train and we sat there, petrified, for some moments.  Then he returned, more slowly, back to the house and dropped me off, still shaking, before rolling into the garage, misjudging the brakes and slamming noisily into his treasured bike.  Fortunately no damage was done.

He famously passed his motorcycle test just 11 days after his 17th birthday and got his car licence after only a few short lessons.

He went to secondary school and whilst there, started saying some really strange things.  You may have heard him say any of the following, though they will have made very little sense: byemate, seeya, Boit denissan semiflourick galootube, dehennaway, incredible eh Adrian, bvort.  These were words and sounds that were common parlance to him and those closest to him.

I went to secondary school in Falmer and he would arrive to collect me on his bike, generally riding off with the flourish of a well-executed wheelie.  He did this on one notable occasion and caught me not holding on: I rolled back fully to kick him hard under the armpits, as I stared backwards and upside-down at the front wheel of a friend following us on his Yamaha. 

This aside, he was the smoothest of riders and later, the silky smoothest of drivers too, with cars and bikes remaining as a passion throughout his life.

These are personal memories, but I suspect that your own experiences might chime with some of mine:  His honour and sense of fair play, especially for the under-kitten; His mischievous dry humour and gentle irreverence; His highly competitive nature, sense of value, love of detail, care and nurture of those things and people most precious to him; His passionate love of his wife, cars, motorcycles.  And oh, how much he truly adored his children.

I have spent countless hours with him in various garages, and on driveways, surrounded by motorbikes & cars and I personally shall always feel closest to him there, amongst the buckets and sponges and polishing cloths.  That place that we shared so much time and ultimately, where he felt most comfortable.

I am truly honoured to have counted him amongst my very few close friends and I hope that his children will forever feel proud to have had such a truly remarkable man as their father.

Last Sunday run

It’s always difficult writing after the event, but after a break of about ten days, I did actually get out for a run last Sunday.  I couldn’t let the guys that ran the Prague marathon feel I wasn’t there, at least in spirit!

In short, I ran to the top of the Downs above Westmeston from where I called my Dad to wish him Happy Birthday.  Then turning west I ran to Ditchling Beacon, thundered down the Beacon track and then walked & chatted to a guy for five minutes to recover.  My return was through Ditchling, over Lodge Hill to Oldlands Mill and home.

12.7 miles in two hours, 13 minutes.