Archive for November, 2012

Running under the moon.

Posted: 25/11/2012 in Uncategorized

I haven’t done more than three or four miles at a go for a while (beer-fuelled midnight running aside), so I took the opportunity for six and a half mile loop up to Seaton Sluice tonight – the rain had left some immense puddles, and at one point ’round the headland I failed to notice a particularly magnificent pool in front of me, and ended up wading calf-deep before I knew what was going on. That was cold. And wet.

However, the best thing about the run was heading along the beach at Whitley Bay – the moon was out, and a bit of cloud, diffusing the light over the sands. I turned my head torch off and enjoyed the glint on the sea, the light on the water laying on the beach and odd sight of a ton of fishermen at the water’s edge, setting up for a night of bait-dangling.

One of the things I love about running is all the things you wouldn’t otherwise see – I’d have been a bit mad to wander along the beach in the dark and the cold, but with a pair of running shoes on it seemed the most natural thing in the world. At one point, I was running over a flat, wet bit of sand that was reflecting the clouds – it felt like I was running across the sky. So much, that I got a touch of vertigo at one point and had to give myself a stern talking to…

I need to figure out the whole running + camera thing, it was properly beautiful, and while it’s nice to have it in my head, a picture would have looked darn fine right here, I suspect.


The word is out, the announcement is made – entries for the 2013 North Tyneside 10k are open!

The first proper race I ran was the North Tyneside 10k earlier this year, so the idea that it’s coming ’round again is a bit of a first and very exciting.

With that nugget of fabulousness revealed, I quickly filled in a form and took it over the road to hand in my £15 to secure a place. Expecting a queue, I’d taken a Kit-Kat* to keep me company while I waited, but to my surprise I was the first and only person in the queue**. I patiently didn’t wait until I got to the front of the line and handed over my pennies.

Turns out I was the first person to enter. Jokingly, I asked if that meant I would get number one, only to be told that they keep the first 30 for the elite athletes. Bemused, I explained that I got number 14 last year***, and then it happened.

Without a giggle, without a guffaw, without even a chuckle, the man asked me the following question:

“Are you an elite athlete?”

I could have died happy at that point, feeling that I’d made my mark on the world and achieved my best.

I went back to work, happy in the knowledge that I’ve gone from “what, you, a runner” to “are you an elite athlete” in only one year. Get me.

If you’ve read the notes below, you may well have figured out that I will likely end up with number 31 this year, but we’ll have to see. Maybe I am an elite athlete, but I just haven’t realised yet – I think it’s unlikely, but following last week’s one-minute-and-a-bit improvement on my Parkrun time it could be true.

Perhaps I should start to design my signature move, to rival the Mo-Bot and Usain’s bolt move. I think Jazz Hands would have to be involved somewhere along the line.

* Other queue-induced boredom-fighting snacks are available

** So, technically it wasn’t a queue at all – one man does not a queue make, as the bible tells us.

*** On reflection, I actually got number 36, but that’s not the point…

Beer Scooter!

Posted: 17/11/2012 in Uncategorized

Many thanks to Aaron Gourley for the title, suggested on the Hardmoors Ultra Marathons group on feckbook.

I was a little apprehensive about adding what is essentially a tale of alcohol and stupidity on my blog, given that my mum is a regular reader (hello mum!). However, as I told her about it already earlier today, I figure I’m good to go without risking a bit of a telling off…

Last week was my friend Martin’s birthday. Now, I’ve known Martin for just about ever, my longest, bestest friend, the best man at my wedding and my partner in crime for many a mildly inebriated night of chatter.

As you do, we sought out the local hostelry and commenced to drink. One pint, two pints, another pint more. So it went. All good, jolly and a increasingly relaxed.

What I didn’t realise, was that Marin had a dark secret – yes, a dark secret.

He usually goes for the bus and I know that if I stumble to the Metro at the same time, then all is good. However, his dark secret was that he’d decided to get a taxi (it was his birthday, after all). As time went by, I had no knowledge of this terrible dark secret until I glanced at my watch. It was 11:30, “aren’t you going for your bus?”, I asked. He explained the dark secret, and I realised I’d messed up. I made my (mildly slurring) goodbyes and headed to the Metro. It’s fine though, the Metro runs until forever, so I’d have no problem.

Except it doesn’t.

The only Metro I could get back was stopping at Benton, a good way short of home, but you take what you can get (and while a bit drunk, don’t often think you could just get a taxi from where you are).

On I jumped, and off the Metro went. It got to Benton, and I got off. In my head, I had a plan that I would get a taxi from Benton, which would be much less than being fleeced in Newcastle city centre.

But there were no taxis.

Some mildly dodgy bloke asked if I was going by Shiremoor, I said yes, I was off to Whitley Bay but I was thinking about walking. That was precisely the moment the die was cast by the uncertain fates, taking the decision entirely out of my hands. At that exact moment, a particle of inspiration, sleeting through the universe collided with his brain, created a thought and (to cut a long story short) he said, “you can’t walk to the coast from here!”. I’m sure I heard the exclamation mark at the end, I swear I did.

Shut down taxi-seeking mode, fire up stubbornness module, and lo-and-behold, I said “I think you’ll find you’re wrong”, and strode off into the night.

One-nil to me against the forces of incredulity, but an own goal on the getting home front. A quick check on Google Maps suggested it was a cool eight miles back to the house. That’s a fair ol’ bit of a walk, especially at midnight, and especially after a pint or six.

To cut time down a little, maybe I could jog a little bit? I mean, I was wearing my Vivobarefoot Neos, so they’re running shoes. Ok, so I’m in jeans and a t-shirt, but I have also got a hoody on, that’s like Rocky’s training montage, right?

I jogged a little. It was OK. In fact, it was quite nice. The warm anaesthesia of the alcohol gave me the same lack of feeling that a good long run with some endorphins gives (well, maybe not quite the same, in fact it was pretty much totally different, but I was trying to convince myself at this point, so it was fab).

I walked a little, I was a bit knackered after all that drinking you understand. Then I ran a bit, not jogging, but running. And a bit more. This is cool, why don’t I do all my running half-cut? No, that’s alcoholism, surely?

I hit the Coast Road, the arterial path from Newcastle to the coast. In my head a little scenario had developed, it went like this:

  1. When I sold a car a few months ago, it was to a place on the Coast Road
  2. I ran back form there
  3. It took half an hour
  4. It felt OK
  5. I am heading to the Coast Road
  6. When I hit it, I will only have a half hour to go
  7. That is good

It was point 6 where everything went wrong. You see, the Coast Road is a good ten miles long, I’d guess, and the bit with the car-selling place was near the coast end. The bit where I joined up was closer to the Newcastle end. How I nearly laughed. Still, if I’d ever got around to having a motto (other than “pass the cake”, but that’s more of a former motto) it could well have been “nothing ventured, nothing gained”. Or perhaps “look, ma, I’m running”, with a chaser of “I’m still going!”. Something like that, anyway.

I gamely continued up the Coast Road, past the all night garage, past Silverlink shopping complex and past Tesco. It was slightly weird running in jeans, and I had the feeling I’d get arrested at some point for looking like I was fleeing the scene of a crime (with a vague hope they might take me home after discovering I was innocent). Not as chafey as I’d worried, which was nice. The Vivos were doing a great job too, no tweaking from the feet, despite the slightly unsteady gait.

To the end of the Coast Road, and that was when I realised there was a way to go yet – down to Morrisons, to the coast and then along to Whitley Bay. Crivens!

However, I also realised that I’ve successfully run this bit before, granted whilst sober, but I had, and that meant I could, so I should bloomin’ get on with doing it.

It’s odd, at 1am, just how few people are out on the paths, and in fact how few people are running. I passed maybe one or two fairly drunk folk who goggled. It’s possible they beer-goggled, but it was dark and hard to tell. I realised, witnessing their shambolic wandering about the path, that I was now quite sober in comparison to the state I’d started off in.

Running along the sea front, seeing the sea and the lights on the container ships out to sea, it was genuinely beautiful. Another one of those moments where I’m glad I’ve done something strange or stupid, or just plain different because of where it leads me. If I didn’t think it would sound irresponsible, I’d encourage all of you to have a go at running drunk at midnight along the sea front. Sounds like the start of a Miss Marple book, right? So that’s that’s why I’m not suggesting you should do it*. Not at all**.

All too soon, it was time to cut up off the front and back home. I thought (briefly) about keeping going a bit, but let’s be honest, I’ve jsut run eight miles in my jeans, I’m feeling a little grungy.

So, back in the door at 1:30am, to be greeted by Mrs Angrybees who’d just woken up and wondered where the heck I’d got to. I explained that I would have called, but clearly that would have woken her up and I was hoping she’s sleep ignorantly through the whole strange escapade. It nearly worked too…

I quickly ditched my squelchy gear and off to bed I went. One day later, I came back to my t-shirt and found it was not just still damp, but wet. Properly wet. I was tempted to wring it out and see if it was neat alcohol, but the mild (and manly) sweaty odour put me off.

Just goes to show, eh?

*OK, that’s a lie, I am encouraging you, it was mint!

**Well, perhaps a little.

If you’re looking for the South Africa report, hang onto your horses. It’ll be along in a wee while.

This is more about the fact that on the 31st October, while on the other continent, I celebrated my first anniversary as “a runner”.

Yes, one year ago (and a few days) I was mulling things over in the living room, feet up on the coffee table, feeling a little portly*.

I was the proud owner of a pair of running shoes, some nice Reebok ones that, unbeknownst to me, were the subject of a court case in America over their remarkable claims. They were a lovely glossy blue, and I felt very fit while wearing them**.

Myself and Mrs Bees had decided on a course of badminton to increase our overall fitness which was a little poor***. It hadn’t gone too well. We’d played maybe twice and were having trouble finding the time to find a court, travel and still eat at night.

As I rested my laurels****, my eyes scanned the book-case, and I noticed we had a book called “The Beginner’s Guide To Running” – clearly one of Mrs Bees purchases, along with Chi Walking and Chi Running, each gathered in the hope that ownership of the book will somehow magically confer fitness. It didn’t work.

Guffawing my way to the book shelf, I pulled out the Beginner’s Guide and leafed through***** it’s pages. A few hundred pages on stuff, and a whopping eight pages of the actual training plan. That sounded a bit rubbish. What kind of ridiculous short-change deal is that?

Then, I read the plan.

First outing was thirty seconds running, four and a half minutes walking, repeat that eight times. Pfft, even I could do that.

Hang on, I could do that. I suddenly realised that I had everything I needed to have a go at this – shoes, gear and now a plan.

So I did. Starting at a lovely 16 and a half stone, it wasn’t easy******.

I finished the thirteen week course in a typically paced sixteen weeks, and finished off with a 10km run. With no stops, no walking, no mid-run buns and no ambulance required.

Since then, I’ve stuck with it, through three pairs of road shoes (the Reeboks got a puncture, no really, my Asics were ace but gave me constant knee pain, and finally I transitioned to barefoot shoes******* which I now run in 100% of the time),  the discovery of trail running (and two pairs of trail shoes – the lovely Mizuno Wave Harriers that I still love but don’t wear and my current Vivobarefoot Breatho Trails, another barefoot masterpiece) and numerous bit of technical clothing. By technical, I think it means “won’t rub the nips off you” (though in certain cases this has proven to be wrong). Some of it is black, some of it is scarily neon, and some of it frankly leaves little to the imagination if I stand still. All of it is pretty much now too big – remember I said I’d started at 16 and a half stone? Well, I weighed myself again yesterday and I’m now a slightly sprightlier 14 stone on the nose. I can’t remember the last time I weighed 14 stone – I suspect it might be about 12 years ago when I did a little bit of rock climbing.

Race-wise, I kicked off with a few Parkruns as I got underway – 5km of Saturday morning fun. In April I ran my first proper race, the North Tyneside 10k Run, a lovely gambol from North Shields along the riverbank, past Tynemouth Priory, along the coast through Whitley Bay, ending up at the iconic St Mary’s Lighthouse. To say I felt like death at the end is a bit of an understatement, but I enjoyed it into the bargain.

In June, I was lucky to get a place in the 150th Anniversary Blaydon Race, where it poured from start to finish, and I learned the lesson of owning either waterproof or very short shorts. At the time I had neither, and a couple of hours after the race when I got home I was till wet through. Again, I thoroughly enjoyed it and wouldn’t mind if it rained next time.

In October, I ran a marathon. The Kielder Marathon as it goes – the few folk i’d come across who’d run it described it as the hardest marathon I’ve ever run, so I was a little apprehensive. It was hard, the hardest thing I’ve done, and while there were times I struggled, I never really thought I wouldn’t keep ambling along at a snail’s pace to the finish. Five hours fifteen, if you’re interested, and I’m insanely proud of my medal.

So what have I learned? I mean, I must have learned something, right?

  1. I can run. This is still the most astonishing thing to me – after years of saying “I’m not a runner, I’ve got the wrong hips for running, it turns out I was wrong. Heh.
  2. I like running. Seriously. I think it keeps me sane, it certainly keeps me relaxed, which has come in useful a few times over the last year, let me tell you.
  3. Trails are cool. So much better than roads, it’s just a shame I live in such a flat borough.
  4. I’m a bit stubborn. OK, so a lot stubborn, but that’s not a bad thing.
  5. The bigger the challenge, the wider the smile when I sign up. I was pretty cheery about the North Tyneside 10k, grinning at the Blaydon Race, and positively laughing at myself when I clicked “Submit” on my entry for the marathon.
  6. Once I’ve decided to do something, I look for something harder afterwards, so the thing I’ve signed up for is a stepping stone rather than a goal.
  7. I’m all about distance, rather than speed. Therefore I’m gravitating to ultras******** rather than short, speedy races.

Is that enough? There have been insights, monologues, spurious ramblings and some good ideas on the way as well as some good ol’ musing.

So what am I doing into my second year? Well, winter approaches, and I’m hoping it will be another mild one so I can get out like last year. I’m entered in the gloriously crackers Wall Run in June to run from Carlisle to Newcastle over two days. I’ve got a mad plan to run The Comrades in South Africa in a couple of years, and I want to hit more trails, and more long distances once we hit the nirvana that is spring. I want to do a bit more proper barefoot running, that’s the type without any shoes at all.

While I love running stuff, clothes, equipment and all the associated gubbins, I’ve also realised that I don’t really need much of it, so I don’t spend much on running these days – bar some smaller tops I haven’t bought anything in a while, and that was only to avoid inadvertent para-gliding while running along the coast.

So there we go, a year in a nutshell, a jolly running year it’s been. It’s been a blast to blog as I went, and what started as a simple record of times, distances and routes to motivate myself through the 13 week programme has turned into a bit of an obsession. I hope you’ve enjoyed whatever bit of the ride you’ve been along for, and it would be nice to see you popping by a time or two in the coming year, I’m sure there’s be running and musing to share as I forge on into the future. 🙂

*OK, very portly

**OK, so my feet felt fit, they didn’t cover any further up

***OK, so very, very poor

****OK, arse

*****Yes, you’re right, I clearly was very bored

******OK, so the half minute one was pretty alright, but man, when I stepped up the a minute, flippin’ heck.

*******So barefoot shoes is a bit of an oxymoron, isn’t it? Minimalist doesn’t really do it, either, as that includes a whole range of waffle-sole travesties. In short, if it’s only got a couple of millimetres of rubber between you and the ground, and no cushioning, then it’s looking good. If you can bend the toe back over the heel into a ‘U’ shape, then all the better.

********An ultra is anything over a marathon, 26.2 miles, technically. Though, if you’re getting the gist of the points, you also realise that I wouldn’t sign up for a 30 mile ultra. Instead, I’ve opted for a 69 miles, two day ultra instead. And I was initially going to do the one day version instead.

Watch out world!

Posted: 06/11/2012 in Uncategorized

You might have noticed I’ve been a little quiet recently, well, I’ve been in Africa for the last couple of weeks visiting family.

Of course, you might not have noticed, which means you won’t have been fretting, which is a good thing.

Anyhow, one I’ve settled down I’ll post some of the news on the runs, the ups, the downs, and how fate narrowly cheated me out of running with Bruce Fordyce…

Excited? There are also some jellyfish if you’re not sufficiently frothy just yet. 🙂