The end of my forties


There are now less than twelve hours to go until the fiftieth anniversary of the moment I was born, so this morning’s run was the final one of my forties.  Not that it felt particularly momentous.

I ran the same circuit that I’ve done one the last couple of Sunday runs.  The weather was fine, if a touch on the humid side and the going was dry with only occasional muddy patches.  It was a slower run, like last week and although it got easier as I progressed, I didn’t feel that I had loads of energy to bounce along.


I stopped to chat to Mrs Lew for a few minutes en route and eventually managed to persuade Dylan, her growly-barking dog, that I posed no threat.

Then it was through the woods and back to base, where I even managed a half-hearted sprint to finish.

In spite of the mid-run conversation I still managed to get round in 61 minutes, an average of about 5.7 mph.

However, I was reflecting that this time ten years ago, training for my first marathon, I used to run from my Earls Court pad to my office in London Bridge in one hour.  It was 7 miles along the river, which was admittedly flat, but I did run with a backpack!

According to a study cited in Richard Askwith’s excellent book Running Free, the cumulative probability of a given male runner still being a runner in ten years’ time is 71% (56% for women)… at least I’m still in the running category!

I took something else from Richard’s book this morning: where I normally douse my legs with cold water after a hard run, today I took an entirely cold shower… Bracing indeed!

So, farewell to my forties… tomorrow I will be older than ever before!

Garden workout

My run on Sunday followed the same route as the last couple of weeks, but I was slower… obviously I’m going to make my excuses below!

It seemed chillier, as if autumn was settling in earlier than normal, but only until I’d run the first mile or so, by which time I was nice and warm!

I didn’t feel up to a long run because I’d started on one of the summer 2014 garden projects the day before… removing a legacy step.


It looks like nothing at all, but the earth that I removed filled 40 small rubble bags, which Kim patiently ferried to the tip in her car, 8 at a time.  Yup, they were that heavy, which meant that the car did a great job and we both got a thorough workout!

Lest I forget why it was such a very tiring day, I had also earlier dug out one of the big bamboo clumps, where it had been pushing the sleeper retaining wall apart on the other side of the garden.  Though huge, I had to remove it because it was too densely packed to get a knife through.

Once out I carved it up into three parts, two of which are now in big pots, whilst the third is back in the original space looking as if nothing has happened.

Thus my run the next day wasn’t a fast one, although it was an enjoyable way to shake out some of the knots.


I managed the 5.75 miles in 58 minutes, a shade under 6 mph.

You’ll notice from the photos of the step above that I the retaining wall was now in the wrong place… frankly I had run out of of puff by the end of Saturday.

Having loosened my tired muscles with a run though, I got back to the task.  I was hoping that beneath the wood cladding there might be a railway sleeper that I could easily move, but it was an original and rather well laid brick construction.  If the house had been older then I may have suspected it to be part of an outhouse!

I set about taking the wall apart brick by brick… not such a very difficult job with a chisel and a club hammer, but my joints suffered as much as it’s joints did from the impacts!

Then Kim and I manhandled a full-sized railway sleeper out from its hideaway near the teahouse.  Unfortunately there was collateral damage as we clipped one of the hibiscus bushes and overstressed a slightly rotten stem… now removed.

We lifted the sleeper onto four saw stands and I set to work with a manual saw to cut it to size.  Meanwhile Kim started to tidy up the workbench in the garage and had all but finished in the time that it took me to work my way through it… I’m not sure whether this meant that I was slow or that the workbench was a real mess.  Both, I suspect!

Finally I cut the earth back a little further, excavated a low trench and dropped the sleeper into place.  I was pretty pleased with the result, especially as it only needed one small adjustment to be level and in the right place!

I then laid the pavers back down and filled in the gap with the remnant bricks from the wall to create a vaguely level area.


The temporary (prototype) state is not especially pretty, but it at least allows us contemplate how it should be finished.


So far this summer a new and hidden shed has been constructed, which has allowed the teahouse to be reclaimed for contemplation and now this… which leaves only bigger and more onerous jobs to do!  Maybe next year?


I met Daren upstairs (aka Jack & Jill) this morning and we went for a bimble around our normal circuit.  He assured me that I wouldn’t need a second layer and though it seemed sufficiently chilly that I took one with me just in case, in the event it was definitely surplus to requirement.

Our ‘normal’ route, for casual readers, involves dropping down the South Downs Way into Pyecombe, running up Wolstonbury Hill, sliding (at least in the winter) down and up and down to Clayton (aka downstairs), chatting along the base of the Downs, gasping up the tank tracks and finally ambling back down to Jack & Jill.

Its a really special 6.25 mile circuit and we dispatched it today in 1.15… an average of 5 mph.  This is a pretty good average bearing in mind the  significant up-hills involved!


Before the rain

There was heavy rain forecast for midday so I was cutting it fine leaving at 11am.

Over the past week I have been working my way through a stack of my existing books, searching for new angles and insights on creativity, innovation and organisations, ahead of my Creativity in Enterprise & Team Dynamics classes this autumn.  This morning I was buried in Bounce by Matthew Syed, trying in particular to figure out how to spark some intrinsic motivation in a class of second-year graduates.  I’ve not cracked it, but I sense that the assorted cognitive inputs are being connected my head and that insights are bound to pop out in due course!

In view of the impending rain (and the fact that I’m apparently not as recovered from my earlier malaise as I’d hoped) I decided to repeat the short route from last week.  I set out with a good pace and just as quickly realised that I had forgotten how to get onto this new route.  It actually involves running down a driveway to the junction of Janes Lane and the road that goes across the common… the great thing being that there is an island in the middle of the main road so it’s possible to cross one stream of traffic at a time.  On the other side there is a short-cut through the tress to start and end the circuit.

My pace started to slow with the slight uphill gradient and I reflected that whilst it was somewhat overcast, it was also warmer that I had thought, even under the trees.  The loop takes the main path down to the entrance to Ditchling Common Industrial Estate, goes briefly onto the road (simply to avoid the stinging nettles and brambles that generally rip my legs up) and then heads down the private road towards West Wood.

At the edge of Wivelsfield I turned left and ran back towards the start of the loop, but I was so deep in thought by the time I got there that I ran past the cut-through and had to backtrack.  I then returned down the driveway and back through the woods to home, managing only a half-hearted sprint towards the end.


5.75 miles took exactly the same 55 minutes as last week, average 6.25 mph.

I checked BBC Weather to find that the rain was now scheduled for 2pm, so I showered, breakfasted, got out to cut the grass and even managed to squeeze in chatting to my neighbours before cutting the green and the verge further down the close.  I composted the grass cuttings, put the mower away and had literally just stepped inside when the heavens opened and buckets of rain started bouncing off the ground!

Weally wather windy and wuddy well wet

Sat comfortably in a deep chair, immersed in a book on creativity and with the remnants of Hurricane Bertha en route across the country, it was easy to forget the idea of running today.  Kim was of a like mind which meant that the magic carpet was available to use but, after my outside runs over the last couple of months, that didn’t really appeal.

Mark had suggested a run with him and Mach 2 up on the Downs, but Bertha had caused him to choose a more local route, which is what I ultimately decided to do.  I know where the mile markers are on my pavement run and I thought I could easily do an out & back run of 6 miles without getting my feet muddy.

I set out into the rain, turned left to follow the pavement and then turned around and ran the other way… in large part due to the prospect of running along a pavement having water blown directly into my face.  Maybe the muddy route, protected by trees, was a better bet!

Inspired by the reverse route I did the other week, I took paths that were not deep with stingers and headed around my short circuit in the other direction to normal.

The going was firm but the surface was muddy and strewn with puddles… certain that my runners were going to be wet through in any case, I didn’t even bother to try to avoid them.

How was I feeling?  Spectacular!


As the rain came down and I splashed noisily through puddles, I gurgled and laughed, really pleased with my choice of route!

Twenty-five minutes into the run, when I was about as far from home as I was going to be, there was a torrent of super-heavy rain, like a swollen waterfall from the tall trees above me, followed by a vivid flash of lightning.

I habitually count to see how far away lightning is… one thousand and one, one th-BOOM!  The earth shook, though it was probably my legs turning to jelly at the though of running through a wood with a thunderstorm sparking liberally at my heels!

Fortunately, though the torrent of rain continued to drench me to the bone through my ageing but much loved Gore jacket (probably as much sweat as anything, as it wasn’t really cold enough for a jacket!), the lightning abated and the next few booms were considerably further off.

I touched the edge of Wivelsfield and continue the circuit, the rain ebbing and flowing like waves on the beach and the ground below my feet more puddle than path.


Back onto the pavement and within easy reach of the house I picked up my (wet) skirts and sprinted for a hundred metres, before slowing to catch my breath before I reached the end.

5.75 miles in 55 minutes is an average of 6.25 mph… not bad considering that I didn’t really feel like running.


Kim meanwhile had made good use of the running machine in my absence, notching up 5 miles herself.  She had paused only to close the sliding door when the super-heavy rain had flooded the floor and instead had opened the kitchen windows a couple of inches for air… if it was too warm for a jacket, it was certainly too warm to be running inside on the machine!  I’m not saying that the rain was particularly heavy or anyfink, but by the time I arrived home the kitchen windowsill and floor was also flooded with water…!

Double digits

Sitting here catching up on the blog and listening to the AMAZING Sisemore Band from Tampa, Florida!  Great to hear your voices guys!

Sunday was a beautiful day… warm but with enough of a breeze that it didn’t feel hot.  I set off in the general direction of another short run, thinking that I might skirt Ditchling and hurry back.


The views of the Downs drew me in though and I soon found myself running up the steep track to the top of the Beacon.  Having managed no more than five or six miles each week for months I was hyper aware that I would have a second five-mile run to complete when I got to the top.  I still managed to run the whole way up though, reaching the top at the 57 minute mark!


The return route took me through the middle of the village and directly north behind all the garden centres and past a really pretty young line of trees that was rustling like a big paper bag in the wind.



I had started to tire by the 80 minute mark and I used the last of my water at 100 minutes.  Yet I staggered on and managed to complete the run, which I calculate is just over 10 miles, in 2 hours.  The average of 5 mph is not bad considering it’s my first long run for ages, I didn’t run last weekend, it was hot, I’m almost out of my forties etc etc!

I had a sharp intake of water and calories when I got back, had a cold shower and then collapsed, comatose, in the tea-house for almost as long as I had run for!