There's got to be more to life than running.
Actually, who am I kidding? That's been part of my problem....indulging in all the other temptations life has to offer and missing out on the running part. In fact, I've possibly indulged a little too much in online political comment just lately and might not be in my current situation if I'd decided to don my running shoes and deliver my political comment on foot and in person. And while I'm on the subject of running shoes I should tell you that according to Richard Cronin, the author of the excellent blog, The Beirut Taxi, all I have are 'shoes, a bottle of wine and a strong self-belief that anything is possible as long as you want it hard enough.'
But as well as running shoes I have other sporting footwear to accompany me in my love of wine and deluded self belief.
Whilst metaphorically clad in my boxing boots but literally glugging wine I had the recent good fortune to come across a website called My Boxing Coach. If you have any interest in the Noble Art I recommend visiting the site. It's an absolute gold mine of information and advice and is run by a Scouse geezer called Fran Sands.
Fran is a rare breed. He's from Liverpool but appears to lack the innate desire to enter Debenhams whilst wearing a big overcoat with deep, empty pockets. And, indeed, to leave Debenhams a short time later, at speed, with the pockets full.
Neither does he spend his days watching re-runs of Jeremy Kyle while awaiting the arrival of two important documents in the post. The first being his dole cheque and the second an acceptance to his application to be a guest of Jeremy Kyle.
On the site, Fran often replies to my critical comments (I prefer to think of them as cheeky rather than offensive) which are usually based on the regional stereotyping of the Liverpudlian. Fran's latest cutting riposte was to grant me free access to his newest product based on the premise that I need the money to 'enlarge my collection of Chas and Dave records.'
Here is an example of Fran's excellent coaching advice:
If you care to visit Fran's site you'll encounter pure pugilism in its most artistic form. No mention of dirty tricks like leaning on your opponent, striking him with the elbow after he deftly avoids your hook, or kicking him in the bollocks.
I am a devotee of Fran's site and thank him for the paucity of dirty tricks because I feel a little like I've been twelve rounds with Roberto Duran right now. Not as a result of trading blows, however, more due to the unfortunate outcome of being hit by life's little upper cuts.
The latest kick in the bollocks was to arrive at my place of employment (from where I am officially banned.....unless completing outstanding work) to discover that the leave I had booked for Mrs Mac's race in July has disappeared into the ether. Assuming I return to work after the Carpet Parade on 14 July, I will be mixing it with the natives of SW11 on the 16th rather than sweeping the Clyde Stride.
In another post I might have termed this 'ironic' and attached a video of an attractive Canadian woman with a mouth so large she could have made a fortune in porn (!!). But it really is just a fuckin' kick in the bollocks, so enjoy.
There's got to be more to life than running.
Posted by Subversive Runner at 23:51
According to the curly headed, wide mouthed Canadian songstress, Alanis Morissette, irony can be defined by rain on your wedding day or a free ride when you've already paid. I'd argue with her on both counts and suggest that the former is to simply ignore the long range weather forecast and the latter is just bad timing. I reckon I could have a go at outdoing her on the ironic front.
How about this:
You discover that a colleague that holds a senior position to you is taking part in the Three Peaks Race. I'm talking the Ben Nevis/Scafell Pike/Snowdon one rather than the real challenge in Yorkshire. He looks for advice on various hill walking matters and eventually arrives at the subject of dealing with blisters. Being a generous kind of fella you provide him with advice on taping one's feet and give him a large amount of the sports tape you've acquired over the years. Despite the fact that you yourself have a major physical challenge looming that in the past has caused blisters that look not unlike Marty Feldman's eyeballs.
Fast forward to last Sunday and you're walking through Fort William high street with your support crew treading gingerly on Marty Feldman's eyeballs because you had insufficient sports tape to make a significant impact on the blister prevention front in the West Highland Way Race.
Then, just to prove it really is a small world, the same senior colleague appears in front of you bounding along on feet made a size larger due to the abundance of sports tape covering his toes.
You introduce him to your support crew as the recipient of your largesse. And as the senior colleague that suspended you shortly after trousering all your sports tape.
Now, Alanis, forget having a black fly in your Chardonnay, have a read of the event above.... that's ironic.
Or how about this?
Despite being suspended you seek permission to enter your workplace in order to finish some outstanding work that failed to get completed due to being unceremoniously marched off the premises some weeks before. You're granted said permission and arrive at the place that has felt like home for the past fourteen years. After being greeted by colleagues and engaging in the normal type of banter associated with that profession ('You're back!!! I didn't realise we had a new cleaner!' and 'That's a bit off isn't it? Making you come in to collect your P45!' etc, etc) you notice a letter addressed to you in the mail tray.
You open it to discover it's a letter of congratulations from your senior colleague acknowledging the fact that through your hard work and personnel management skills you've reduced the levels of sickness absence in your workplace.
Now, Alanis, forget ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife, have a read of the event above.... that's ironic.
Anyway, the blisters are healing well and my absence from my workplace has had little impact on attendance numbers due to my hard work in ensuring we're fully staffed. So I'll use these reasonably healthy feet and abundance of time wisely and head out the door to the running club. But before I go I should make a mention of the comments section of this blog. I've always felt it appropriate to allow anyone to comment in anyway they wish.
It's called freedom of speech (!!!!!).
But I've had to take the decision to moderate all comments due to an avalanche of spam. I'm not sure freedom of speech extends to receiving unsolicited advice on how I can enlarge my penis using some king of vacuum pump; how to unlock an I-Phone 4; or where the best strip joints are in Israel (honest!).
I just hope my credit card isn't raided when they take the money for the vacuum pump.
Posted by Subversive Runner at 08:45
When I was a boy I used to look forward to Christmas so much that December 25th became the single most important event in my calendar. It was the defining day around which 364 other days were either placed in preparation for, or in remembrance of.
If I had occasion to argue with my parents and subsequently decided to run away from home I would be put off because Christmas was either looming and I'd fail to receive my presents or because Christmas was still a live memory and I couldn't run away and take all of my presents with me.
Then it all went tits up when I learned that Santa Claus didn't exist and that the celebration of Jesus' birthday had been bastardised to sell cheap, plastic crap to the parents of misguided children while giving said parents a few days off work and an excuse to get shitfaced.
I think in many ways the lost Christmas of childhood was replaced by the mid-summer weekend and the West Highland Way Race.
So today, in the hangover of Christmas, as the pine needles gather on the floor and dust collects on the baubles, I remember that day. Not the 25th December, of course, but that ninety five mile journey that begins in Milngavie and ends in Fort William....or somewhere short of.
I shouldn't have even been on the start line. Fact. But if you've lived your life as a chancer as I have you can easily delude yourself into believing that having completed a distance training programme that amounted to two twenty mile training runs coupled with a bit of muscle memory is enough to carry you ninety five miles through the Highlands of Scotland.
So on Friday 17th June I appeared in the car park in Milngavie with my support crew, as I have for the last five Christmases, and duly registered for the West Highland Way Race.
'You look fit, Dave,' I was told by Thomas Loendorf, who was to storm to a fourth place finish some hours later.
Indeed as I stepped onto the scales to have my weight recorded at 72.6 kg a suggestion might have been gleaned that my leanness was as a result of spending hours in the hills.
Alas, no; both Thomas and the scales were unaware that a loss of 4 kg in weight had more to do with the stress and concern caused by other events in my life than by a dedicated training plan.
So the race began and I took care to leave Milngavie at a very reserved pace. Every time I got the urge to close another runner down I reminded myself that the race has not yet begun and will not do so until I'm clear of Loch Lomond some forty miles north.
The first checkpoint at Balmaha came and went in four hours and seventeen minutes and I was feeling quite comfortable. Maybe there's something in this minimal training plan and muscle memory, I thought.
Then, with twenty three miles under my belt, my legs began to complain. I don't blame them as it's the farthest they've travelled since the River Ayr Way Race last September but I could have done without it with not even a quarter of the race in the bag.
As I neared Rowardennan at twenty six miles the muscle fatigue and accumulation of lactic acid made the ignominy of a very early withdrawal a real possibility. How could I possibly continue with another seventy miles to push when I was shuffling along like Albert Steptoe?
Anyway, I arrived in Rowardennan to be greeted by my fantastic support crew and was given clean socks, hot soup and fresh water. I quietly told Mrs Mac that I doubted I would see the end of the race but got up and pushed on anyhow.
To my surprise I found a second wind and was able to make good progress all along the Lochside to Beinglas Farm at around forty miles. The running seemed easy and my legs had loosened up which created mental images of my fourth finisher's goblet, full of red wine, resting in my hand. As quickly as those images appeared I banished them from my mind and gave myself a good mental slap. Deal with the here and now.
After leaving Beinglas Farm there was a bit of run/walk action over the undulating ground and when I arrived at Derrydarroch Farm the familiar feeling of tightness and muscle fatigue in my legs reappearred. I hoped that I could walk it off on the journey to Bogle Glen but things just got worse.
I was weighed at Auchtertyre Farm by Eddie Welsh to discover another absent 3 kg in body mass. If nothing else at least I'd at last achieved the fighting weight I failed to make in my last ring encounter two years ago, but the weight loss was somewhat portentous for my immediate future.
There was some confusion at Auchtertyre regarding taking an accompanying runner. I was sure that the recently amended rules stated no co-runner until Bridge of Orchy but discovered that a local decision had been taken to adhere to the established rules of an accompanying runner from half way. That was good enough for me and I set off with big David Ross who had the instruction to kick my sorry arse if I faltered.
All I can describe the next ten miles as is an unmitigated disaster. My legs were obviously shot and my already blistered feet were becoming worse. Both of these factors reduced me to a walk on a section that I can usually run the best part of. Coupled with that I felt violently nauseous and immediately vomited up a wine gum which was the only sustenance I'd attempted since the half way point.
To make matters worse a driving rain had been a constant companion for the past few hours and there appeared to be no letting up. Poor weather isn't usually a problem for me but without an intake of fuel and the ability to move fast enough to keep warm it was just another nail in my rapidly sealing coffin.
I shuffled into Bridge of Orchy having travelled sixty miles and decided that for me, the war was over. I knew I was making the right decision despite some vociferous opposition from my support crew and the suggestion that my sexuality was in question. I knew that to venture out on to the bleak and exposed Rannoch Moor in a rapidly deteriorating condition would have been irresponsible.
So what now?
Well, Santa Claus doesn't exist and Christmas is no longer. I will not run the race next year but would like to remain involved, either as support for big David Ross and/or Martin Antoninus Horatio Hooper or as a marshall.
Finally, and very poetically considering the allussion to Christmas, my pal Tomo put the whole experience into context:
'The West Highland Way Race is only a footrace.....it's not a religion.'
Posted by Subversive Runner at 09:36
My Clever Plan......it was implemented and executed perfectly. I've even managed to avoid hospitalisation due to overdosing on Brufen. I should, therefore, be prepared for the West Highland Way Race this weekend.
But as the saying goes, no plan ever survives first contact with the enemy. In this case the enemy isn't some suicidal, sandal-clad Taliban (Ok, Ok, in my day the enemy would have been a donkey jacket wearing member of PIRA.....or more usually a member of the neighbouring British regiment but you get the idea). Nope, the enemy, in this case, is my own seventeen year old daughter. Allow me to explain.
Following my employer's close scrutiny of my online witterings I'm afraid I lacked the minerals to leave three years worth of blog posts on here. Although none compromised the security of my employer nor revealed the identity of any of our 'customers,' many mentioned the lighter side of my job. If my previous non-job blog posts had survived the cull you might have read how I left my family home at the age of fifteen and by the time I was seventeen I was living in my flat in Peckham with ex-wife/partner (no.1) and my then one year old daughter. Back in those heady days in the 1980s I considered myself quite independent and capable of taking care of myself.
I applied this idea of independence and capability to my own seventeen year old daughter and planned to leave her for a few days while I travel from Old London Town to a far away land where men wear skirts and women have a hierarchical system based on the number of their remaining teeth (stop yawning and wake up at the back!).
What could possibly go wrong?
Then, as My Clever Plan is running along nicely, I get a telephone call informing me that my independent and capable daughter has been involved in a motoring accident. After discovering she's suffered no injury we have a discussion that goes something like this:
'Dad, I've crashed some boy's car and I need £800.00 to fix it.'
'I don't understand. You can't drive and have no licence. How could you possibly have crashed some boy's car?'
'He let me drive his car from the road onto his drive but I crashed it into a post.'
'Did he know you have no licence, no insurance, no experience behind a wheel and a father that will kill him slowly?'
'Then tell him to come here because I've got my cheque book ready.'
I hang up and realising the nearest tattoo studio is closed simply use a biro to write the words 'cheque' and 'book' onto my knuckles. Then my delight at avoiding hospitalisation due to Brufen abuse dissolves and is replaced by an acceptance that I am to be incarcerated for life for the vicious slaying of 'some boy.'
There's also an acceptance that I clearly can't leave my daughter alone for a few days and a rather large spanner is thrown into the works of My Clever Plan. I related this story to my pal and fellow West Highland Way athlete, Keith 'Corned Beef' Hughes (see what I did there using the words 'fellow' and 'athlete'.....stop laughing).Corned Beef's comment was:
'Your life is more unbelievable than a bloody soap opera, Cobber (he's Australian).'
So the next instalment of the soap opera that is my life, that is a 95 mile race from Milngavie to Fort William, appeared to be in jeopardy again. But a knight in shining armour appeared in the form of the mother of my daughter's friend and the gig's back on.
Daughter will stay with friend's mother for the period of my absence so I can be assured that:
1. My house will not be burned to the ground.
2. A Facebook event involving a rave at my address will not be created.
3. A phone bill that would make Bill Gates shudder is not on its way.
I do hope that friend's mother will heed my warning and keep her car keys safe.
See you in Milngavie.
Posted by Subversive Runner at 15:53
Right, this ain't funny now.
I injured my back last Friday and despite the fact that I was in serious pain I guessed it would be better soon. After all, it's simply the recurrence of a very old condition that I acquired when I used to lift very heavy weights off the floor, off a bench, or in a squat.
Powerlifting....it lacks the technical aspects of Olympic lifting and is purely a demonstration of brute strength. But get it wrong and say hello to a lifetime of lower back problems.
So right now it's just ten days until the West Highland Way Race and I'm still hobbling around stiffly like the tin man out of The Wizard of Oz. All he needed was a bit of lubrication to get him going but sadly I can't claim the same. I've covered my arse in so much Ibuprofen gel it's greasier than an Asda car park. In fact it's so greasy that if I dared sit on a bicycle I'd have to have the seat surgically removed from my rectum.
It seems to be having little effect, however, and I'm starting to get slightly nervous about starting the race. I've phoned the doctors two days on the trot and failed to get an appointment. I call the moment the lines open to be greeted by a recorded message that tells me:
'Hello, your call can't be answered at present and is being held in a queue. Please hold for a member of staff or hang up and call back later.'
On the first day I hung up and called back later. I was told:
'There's nothing left at all today, I'm afraid. Please call back tomorrow first thing.'
So this morning I called the moment the lines opened. I got the recorded message and held. When I eventually reached the top of the queue I was told:
'There's nothing left at all today, I'm afraid. Please call back tomorrow first thing.'
That recorded message. What it should really say is:
'Hello, your call can't be answered at present because there are two hundred coffin dodgers, asylum seekers and hypochondriacs that called a microsecond after we opened the lines. They are all in front of you in a queue and you don't stand a snowball in hell's chance of getting an appointment. Please hold for a member of staff to disappoint you or hang up and spend a while in blind optimism then call back later and let us disappoint you then.'
So, I have a clever plan, and my clever plan is thus:
1. To continue to fund the NHS through my taxes to ensure that everyone bar me gets an appointment at the doctors.
2. Keep slapping the Ibuprofen gel on my arse.
3. Swallow Ibuprofen tablets like a child left alone in a ball pond full of Smarties.
4. Go for a very gentle run tomorrow.
5. Go for a much longer run on Friday.
6. Do nothing physical thereafter.
7. After my admittance to hospital for overdosing on Ibuprofen hope I'm released in time to start the West Highland Way Race.
Posted by Subversive Runner at 12:09
It's taken me a little while to report on it but I had the interview without coffee. It went something like this:
'Do you recognise this reproduction of a comment made in your name?'
'Yes, I do.'
'Did you write it?'
'Yes I did.'
'Then you're a very naughty boy, and I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy My brothers. And you will know My name is the Lord when I lay My vengeance upon thee.'
Actually, the final part of the interview wasn't like that, but it might have been if you believe the words of the person that made the third comment on my last post (thanks for that, Anonymous....keep taking the tablets....).
Anyway, I will now wait until sometime in early July when I will return to Meerkat Manor to have my fate decided upon. Until then I have a 95 mile foot race to prepare for. And true to form, as I enter the final phase of the pre race process, I have injured myself.
Hip girdle? Nope.
It went kinda like this:
A brown envelope comes through the door. I open it. No lottery win, no pools success, not even notification that I've achieved the next stage in a prize draw where I could win a new car, a holiday abroad, a flat screen telly, or one of 3,500 boxes of Vienetta that's nearing its 'Use By' date
All it is is a poxy electric bill.
But wait....what's this????
'You are now £538 in credit. You need to do nothing, we will carry your credit over to your next bill.'
A phone call later and the customer service representative is told I'd rather the credit accrue interest in my account rather than burgeoning the ever inflating coffers of Southern Electric.
But she needs a current meter reading.
'Wait right there,' I tell her.
So I'm trying to squeeze my body through a six inch gap to get past the washing machine and deep into the cupboard under the stairs that houses the electric meter. At one point I'm almost upside down with a headtorch on but, by golly, I'm getting that meter reading and recovering the five hundred quid that Southern Electric wish to kindly carry over.
It was during this operation that I trapped my sciatic nerve and now have a sharp localised pain at the base of my spine just above the crack of my arse that has me walking like Douglas Bader with a rather large marital aid shoved up his 'Arris.
I've had a good look through the Yellow Pages and have located a decent local chiropractor that should be able to cure this problem in just under two weeks.
For about five hundred quid.
My injury, painful as it is, failed to prevent me, Mrs Mac, Horatio and Mrs Horatio (Horatiette?) Hooper from being the guests of my Borough Commander at the Colonel's Review of the Trooping of the Colour yesterday.
True to form my training for a 95 mile footrace suffered the usual setback of a light lunch that turned into a furious engagement with much Guinness and whisky.
I attach the following pics.
Posted by Subversive Runner at 18:44