After enjoying the camaraderie of running with the St Francis Running Club last weekend, it was great to receive an email from Andy last week announcing a Bank Holiday Monday run.  Not least since it also saved Karen & Cleo, down from London for the first half of the weekend, from seeing me drag myself sweatily back into the house after a long run.

It was like one of the eye-to-eye groups, with Andy, Cliff, Pete, Nikki, Kevin, Lydia and myself, whilst the start at Falmer could easily have been one of the checkpoints.  In fact it was for Pete, since he ran from Brighton to get warmed up!

There were varying agendas, but Cliff helpfully set a clear initial direction by saying that he wanted to take a closer look at the windmill at Kingston, as it looked from the road like they had at least one sail on.

And we were off… initially up the hill out of Falmer.  When I was doing more hill running I would deliberately race ahead up this to test my staying power, but today I took it more cautiously, mindful of the distance I might have to cover afterwards.  Happily I can report that it wasn’t too bad, though I could hear Cliff’s steps right behind me the whole way, which kept me going!

We then ran across to Newmarket copse, after which there is a steep hill to the top.  Although I was initially dubious, I have to agree with Cliff that either someone has flattened it off or we must be generally fitter now than we used to be.

Across he top and down into Kingston was at an easy conversational pace and we quickly reached the windmill, which did indeed now have a sail on.

Actually, I can see from the Sussex Mills Group website that it’s a reconstruction of the Ashcombe windmill… and that unusually, as far as I’m concerned, there are going to be not two pairs of sails but rather three pairs of sweeps (the correct technical term).

From there we ran down into Lewes, with the added excitement of a near-miss when I turned left across the front of Pete… luckily he was awake and has good brakes!

After passing the prison we ran up to Lewes Racecourse… in fact, Kevin nigh-on sprinted up there with Pete in hot pursuit… and then on up to the next gate.  Here I met a couple of runners who I recognised, though after a little to and fro (which involved a quizzical look when I said I was running with Martlet Kayak Club) we realised it was because he generally shops in Waitrose at the same time as me on a Friday evening!  Nice to finally put a name to a face, Mark & Rosie!

Next stop Blackcap and both Andy and I were were uncharacteristically restrained in our rivalry, arriving slowly and at the same time!

Here the group decided to split.  Pete would head for home, joined for a while by Cliff, Andy & Nicky who were going to run back via Ditchling Beacon.  Discretion being the better part of valour (we were already 1:25 into the run), I decided to join Kevin & Lydia in the more direct return to Falmer via Waterpit Hill… which just happens to be downhill all the way!

We three arrived back in 1:57 having covered 10.9 miles… about 5.6mph average.

If there is a point to keeping up my occasional running, other that staying fit enough to keep any cognitive lethargy at bay, it is to be able to join a bunch of good friends on a day like today!  Thanks guys! is five years old!

Earlier today one of the St Francis runners asked me how long I’d been writing my blog and it wasn’t until I was in the shower that I actually thought about it and realised that I had missed its birthday this week! It’s not the only birthday I’ve managed to miss this year either so my apologies all round!

Some hastily thrown-together stats show that I’ve had a somewhat lazy year… a teacher like Dai Thomas (who helped me start this blog in the first place) might mark me down as ‘could do better’!

Following the format from previous years the numbers are as follows:

Number of posts: 66 (83 in year 4, 110 in year 3, 102 in year 2, 156 in year 1 – the numbers below follow this format too). The original aim of the blog was to force me to run and to write in a virtuous, self-supporting circle, but other projects have been taking my attention this year and both body and mind have suffered as a result.

Number of runs: 41 (72, 92, 63, 67) although this doesn’t include the two more involved events, namely the informal Tour du Mont Blanc with Daren last year and the Eye-to-Eye (London Eye to Brighton Eye).

Mileage: 292 (653, 726, 538, 512)… this is the lowest yet, even if I added 108 miles for the TMB and 47 miles completed in the Eye-to-Eye

Hours spent running: 47 (113, 113, 84, 87)… excluding 53 walking hours for TMB (excluding breaks and overnights) and 13-odd for the Eye-to-Eye. Actually, these numbers make me feel a little better, although it seems odd to have spent more time on the TMB than running for the whole of the rest of the year!

Average run: 7.1 miles in 1.10 (9.4 in 1.34, 7.89 in 1.24, 8.14 in 1.20, 8.07 in 1.31).

Average speed: 6.1mph (5.8, 6.38, 6.05, 6.15) or 3.9mph including the longer events

Average minutes per mile: 10.4 (9.4, 9.9, 9.65) Slower than a slow thing!

Worst month distance: 6 in March 12 (31.6 in December 2010, 10.4 May 10, 13.6 Jan 09, 22.3 Feb 08).

Best month distance: 50 in Jan 2012 (68 miles in Jan 2011, 157 in March 10, 62 Apr 09, 68 Nov 07), whilst the average monthly mileage was 24 (52, 61, 40 and 44)

Total mileage to date since start of blog: 2724 miles (excluding the aforementioned 155 miles)

Time spent running since start of blog: 447 hours (excluding the aforementioned 66 hours)

Visitors according to Google Analytics: 1504 (Clustermaps: 1722, 1479, 1496, 2906 for year 1, the first year being higher as a by-product of my work with

I forgot to mention (by way of a vague token excuse) that a number of my posts this year involved cross training, including 8 visits to a circuit training class and 5 high intensity training sessions. Despite the fact that this latter involved a mere 5 minutes of exercise in total, it was actually more exhausting than anything else here!

The best part of running is doing so with friends and strangers alike and here’s to yet another sociable year of it!

Finally, my thanks to all that have stopped by at during five years of blogging!  FIVE years!


Humidor what?

After a beautifully relaxing summer’s day yesterday spent reading, playing guitar and just thinking, I was not much inclined to run at all this morning.  However, since my body and mind both need me to run regularly, I decided to make the most of another summer’s day to run outside for a change.  As a last minute afterthought I grimaced my way through a gel left over from the Eye-to-Eye… I was to  be grateful of it!

It was already hot when I left so my intention was to complete the woodland run that the Bok and I used to do in the mornings sometimes… a nice relaxing 5.2 miles.

Everyone I passed seemed to be in a good mood, each one returning my cheery greeting with a smile… somewhat different to running in Brighton!  Somewhere over towards the Royal Oak (as was, now closed) I met two runners who were slightly unsure of the path, which really does look as if it goes right up to someone’s front door!

Having put them back on the right track I headed out to Wivesfield and up through West Wood.  It really was muggy (and very muddy too, by the way) and yet I decided to take an additional loop out to Hundred Acre Lane to push the distance up nearer to 6 miles.

What was lovely was to see was a field of oak trees that I remember being planted… I used to run through when they were saplings and they are already growing above 10 feet.

Once back on the main route I headed up to the magical path which, with the sun still relatively low in the sky, really was in top magical form!

I could hear other people across to my left, with the occasional sound of a sharp whistle and when I reached St Georges Retreat I discovered that it was a group of runners, out for a morning run.

They kindly let me tag along and thus rather than head back home I headed on out.  All over the place as it turned out.

They were from St Francis Sports & Social Club and they had a neat system so ensure that no-one got left behind.  Every so often the whistle would sound and the front runners would turn round and run back to beyond the back of the group before turning round again to continue.

With a series of such loops we ran down to Worlds End, across to the fishponds and back across to Rocky Lane, mid way between Burgess Hill and Haywards Heath.  Crossing the railway line under the road arch we then ran on towards the Fox & Hounds but I peeled off right before we got there to make a start for home.

It was interesting that my energy seemed to desert me the moment I was back on my own, but I pushed on forward regardless.  It was lovely to see Theobalds Lane again and then to run down Valebridge Drive past my old house… the garden now looking in need of more than a little help.

I took the direct route back up Junction Road and reached home at 1.52 and a distance that worked out approximately to (at least) 11 miles.

Thank you to Lyndsey, Dom, Siobham and the rest of the gang for your generous hospitality and for giving me a good reason to run a little further than normal.

The group meets at St Francis on Saturday and Sunday mornings at 9am and several times during the week… if you live around Haywards Heath and are looking for a nice social group to run with, contact Lyndsey and Dom through St Francis Sports & Social Club for more information.

One final cross-post.  If you are a graduate or young person starting out into the job market (or you know someone who is), then you might find my thoughts blog post about the Art Director and Photographer Karen Storey worth a quick read.

Spectator sport

I sat reading in the tea-house for the duration of only one cup of quadspresso yesterday morning, before climbing about the magic carpet for a run.  I was due to attend a quiet ceremony to inter the ashes of John Brooks and was expecting my eldest brother to collect me.

I continued the 7mph tempo theme of the last two weeks, this time counting down twelve five-minute segments… which strangely varied in perceptual length from ten minutes to only a few seconds depending on how deeply engrossed I was thinking about something else at the time!

I was about fifteen minutes from the end when there was a knock on the window and I turned my head to see my brother running on the spot outside, bobbing up and down neatly in time with me.

He graciously allowed me to continue and stood chatting while I finished the balance of my seven miles and allotted one hour.  I probably wasn’t the best conversational partner though since I was dripping with sweat and was more than a little breathy!

We continued chatting while I tried to cool down outside, but to little avail… in fact, even after showering and changing I still felt like I had just climbed off the machine.  Thank goodness for the aircon in his car!

John Aubrey Brooks, RIP

The 19th Brighton Scouts was a fundamental part of my life growing up.  Both brothers had been Scouts and Venture Scouts there, one later becoming a Scoutmaster, whilst my mother was Chair of the fundraising committee that oversaw the building of its ‘hut’ in the ‘seventies.

I was both Cub and Scout there and one of the Scoutmasters, among many who gave up a considerable amount of their spare time to inspire young Scouts, was John Brooks.

I remember John on a number of different levels.  Long-standing family friend, master of camp-fire songs, knowledgeable country-man, passionate motorcyclist.  Two of my memories are more unusual.

In September 1987 I enrolled on a one-year City & Guilds evening course in Social and Documentary Photography, part of which entailed finding a social subject to document.

John had been a Traffic Warden in and around Haywards Heath for more than 20 years and he readily agreed to be the subject of my photo documentary.  Permission was gained from the Chief Inspector and I duly followed John around during a series of lunchtimes and occasional early mornings, taking photographs of him working.

I must have walked miles following him around and I even persuaded my then-boss to park his car on double-yellow lines and pose as an insouciant transgressor arguing against being ticketed.  John did offer to write out the ticket for me to photograph, but said that Ken would then need to pay it!

My efforts over the year were rewarded with a Distinction and a nice letter from the local Superintendent, and since John retired the following year, due to the increasing poor health of his overworked knees, my work really did become a piece of historical documentary.

For many years John had also been part of the annual Pantomime at Clair Hall in Haywards Heath and had encouraged my parents and I to attend.  It was always great fun, although the thing that I oddly remember most was the chilly drive home again across Ditchling Common with the impenetrable mist often hanging in the dips in the road.

Around the time of my photo assignment, John asked if I could audition for a role in the pantomime.  When I arrived one lunchtime it turned out to be only half a role: the back half… of Daisy the Magical Mrs Cow!  Since John was the front half, I was lucky enough to secure the role.

After hours of rehearsals learning to perform hilarious movements with Daisy’s hind quarters, and with the pantomime dates looming, John’s knees sadly became too precarious for him to continue and I was promoted to the front end role!

This was a real step up, not least as I then had air to breathe and different (even more hilarious) moves to make with Daisy’s front legs, eyelashes etc.  Under John’s tutelage, my rookie back legs and I had a storming week of pantomime, culminating with a performance with my parents and sister sitting in the front row… seasoned heckler that she is!

As the performance ended and the leading ladies received bouquets, the Director asked if there were any other bouquets to give.  My sister, in a loud voice, proclaimed ‘Mrs Cow’, and promptly presented the Daisy team with a bouquet of grass and gorse that she and her partner had collected from the Downs, neatly tied with an elaborate bow by a local florist!

That was a truly memorable moment to end a memorable week, but was not as hilarious as what happened next.

As I staggered home after an excellent end of show party, a Police car slowed to pass me, turned in the road behind and then pulled up alongside me.  The Constable wound down the window and asked what I was carrying… the answer left them chuckling and shaking their heads in disbelief as they drove off.

It seems like only a short time after that John and his wife Natalie moved to Wales for a more rural pace of life.   He passed away after a gruelling battle with Parkinsons, whilst she predeceased him by a couple of years.  I have happy memories of both.

Status anxiety

Most excellent blogger and friend Stuppsy has recently been asking where my running mojo had got to.  I’ve looked high, low and even in the pockets of running shorts that have been laundered, but all to no avail.  It’s temporarily absent… though I did find this nice clean ten-pound note.

Yesterday found me enjoying the peace of the tea-house and the moderate discomfort of philosopher Alain de Botton’s Status Anxiety.

For an example of the discomfort, he quotes from the mid-nineteenth century psychologist William James:

With no attempt there can be no failure and with no failure no humiliation.  So our self- esteem in this world depends entirely on what we back ourselves to be and do.  It is determined by the ratio of our actualities to our supposed potentialities.  Thus

Self Esteem = Success divided by Pretensions.’

Of course, methinks, if you try to mix in Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman’s

Success = Skill plus Luck’, (and ignoring his real point, which is that great success = a little more skill and a lot more luck)

then, aside from the ensuing headache, you get

Self Esteem = the sum of Skill + Luck divided by (what I think of as) your Aspirations.

It strikes me that self-esteem should probably be at least 1 or above for us to be feeling good about ourselves, which means that if we aspire to greater things then we should be prepared to allocate time and effort to enhancing our skills and improving our nascent luck.

Curiously (for your writer really is making this up as he goes along!), another word for self-esteem is… mojo.

Sooooo…. if my running mojo is absent, then it probably = 0.  Assuming I still have at least some running skill and that luck remains relatively positive (at least I’ve not fallen over or pulled a muscle… lately), then what is missing is actually aspiration.  And as soon as aspiration rises above zero, then my mojo should return.

What all this means, in short, is that I need a new challenge.

Confused?  Hmmm… me too!

With half a book of these kinds of thoughts tying my head in knots yesterday, I retreated to the running machine to at least maintain my current skill level.

I continued the 7mph tempo from last week, noting that it was harder work, probably for the lack of a mid-week run.  What also didn’t help was the stitch I got from gulping down a Lucozade power-bar moments before I climbed aboard the machine… forcing me to focus on breathing rather than just being.

So 7 miles in one hour and apologies for the delayed posting… my office technology lacked mojo this morning and eventually conspired to stop me working altogether (and posting this).  We could choose to see something like this as unlucky, but as Alain de Botton might say (if asked), this is a matter of perspective… not so unlucky from the perspective of my parents, who got a little help in their garden as a result!