Thursday, 15 December 2011

The Tryanny of Competition

Next year marks a major year in British sporting history, when the nation hosts the 30th Olympic Games. A festival and celebration of human sporting achievement, and a chance for athletes to compete in the dreamquest for that illusive Olympic gold medal. With this in mind, I have made a decision- to refrain from any competitive attempt, with the exemption of those events I am already committed to, namely a half marathon in Morocco at the end of January, and the London Marathon in April.

The past year, for myself, has been a year of analyzation. The opportunity to escape the confines of a normal working day has provided plenty of time to think about all manner of things. At the start of December last year I had plans to devote myself to running and I expected to see a marked increase in performance levels. This hasn't materialized. The increase in time to think has, however, allowed me to question many things. One of them is competition.

I remember early school days with immense enjoyment. The highlight of the year were the annual sports days. Myself and my brother were always the best in our year at our tiny primary school. Between us, we won virtually every event. It was with dismay that I attended my own sons primary school sports days and witnessed the 'politically correct' games, which resulted in, neither, winners or losers.

'It's human nature to compete,' I reasoned.
'This is so wrong!'

But, of course I would think like that. I was the kid who always won. I wasn't the one who was not blessed with as much athletic ability, who finished last, was laughed at, mocked in the playground, called names. The results of the sports days were always the same. One person won, the others lost. One persons success resulted in another's failure.

At present, for myself, competition represents a pressure that I do not always enjoy. I dislike the feelings of guilt and failure associated with missing training runs. That gentle nagging which refuses to allow you to settle down for the night, to go out and enjoy yourself, or just, basically, enjoy an unscheduled day off running. In fact, I'm beginning to dislike the whole concept of training full stop, in terms of preparation for a competitive attempt. I want to run because I want to run, not because I'm frightened I won't get under three hours on my next marathon.

Ed Viesturs, the american climber, summed it up for me in his book, 'K2: Life and Death on the Worlds Most Dangerous Mountain.' Although Ed is only one of 26 people to have summited everyone of the worlds 8000m peaks, there is a recurring theme throughout his writing- safety, preparation and humanity. No peak is worth more than attempting to save a fellow climbers life, and, certainly, no peak is ever worth sacrificing your own life for. The aspect of competition- to be the first to climb a peak or establish a new route, or to do it in the fastest possible time, blurs the reasons people take to the mountains in the first place- to feel alive in the wilderness of nature. The ultimate achievement is to be able to enjoy the experiences without the constraints of time, and be able to relish them as memories.

Next year, as my friends and fellow runners obsess over miles, calories, heartrates and personal bests, I'll be out running. Running in wild places, places I've never before trod. When I see something beautiful, I'll stop. When I feel like walking, I'll walk. Without a watch, with nothing to prove. Just enjoying it.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011


Bjork, crystalline, thinking of times past, the box, nothing exists only what I see, and is this real or an illusion, fluoxetine, 5 o'clock depression, not half eh poop pickers, bright eyes, taste of honey, speed, you'll end up with no teeth, yeah but I've got nice trousers.

When I'm happy I sleep. When I'm troubled I sleep.

Remember, Chris, when Edgars grandson, Richard, used to come down? He was so good looking and was always getting off with beautiful girls on holiday, behind his girlfriends back. I thought she would be stunning, but she wasn't. I think of him every time I run on the seafront. The bit near Butlins, that was concreted that summer. You remember? Someone wrote 'Tom Face' in it before it set. Jennifers cousin who wore that two tone suit- it was that time-Quadrophinia-got to be something to do with that.

Harry Hayes, Douglas Jardin, that Scottish girl runner I used to fancy, but can't remember the name of. Gary Numan, Cliff Richards, Radio Luxembourg.

Sat on that bus on way to Kool Kat, with Dom and that divvy girl who took all his knives and forks, got any mintolas?

Red Hot Chilli Peppers


Monday, 21 November 2011

The Emperor wears no clothes.

Emperor Wu of Liang heard a great Buddhist teacher, Bodhidharma, had come to China. When they met, Emperor Wu asked the teacher how much karmic merit he had gained from his noble support of Buddhism. Bodhidharma replied, 'None at all.'
The Emperor then asked, 'Then what is the truth of the teachings?'
'Vast emptiness, nothing holy,' Bodhidharma replied.
So the Emperor asked, 'Then who are you, standing in front of me?'
'I do not know,' replied Bodhidharma, and walked out.

Today marks a special day. It is one year, exactly, that I found 'no work'. I sold my share in the family business, with the intention of taking a few months out, do a lot of running, abit of traveling, and to reassess in what direction I wanted my life to go. I had plans to run long miles- I have, but no longer than when I was working. I have traveled- but only to the mountains of Gran Canaria for a month or so. I would look for some work as the summer came round- I didn't. As the months passed, despite periods of guilt that I should be working, I discovered that not working was exactly the sort of liberation that I had sought, and I now adored it.

Not working when you have savings is easy, providing a comfort blanket against misfortune and unexpected events. However, as my savings have dwindled, my desire to work has not returned. Choosing not to work and survive on savings is acceptable. Choosing not to work and live off the state is not, or is it? My reconciliation is simple. If the powers that be can afford spending millions on bailing out failing private organizations, and provide a defense budget running into billions, then, weighed against these evils, giving someone a couple of hundred pounds a week to live and provide a roof over their head, is surely no bad thing.

Ultimately, however, I am aware that a culture in which people refuse to work, but rely on state payouts, is not fair and not workable in the long term. If an individual is serious about working less or not at all, there has to be radical changes in lifestyles and attitudes, especially regarding consumption. We currently live in a culture in which hard work, and being a hard worker, is regarded as a noble, rather than a foolhardy trait. It takes innocent eyes to see that the Emperor actually wears no clothes. We are all pressured towards work from childhood, bombarded with aspirations of wealth and ownership. The more you work, the more you earn, the more you buy, the more you own, the more you work. The perpetual circle goes round and round.

To work less we have to consume less, to be prepared to challenge the concept that just because your neighbor owns 'x', which necessitates working 'y' hours, while you, yourself, owns little, the neighbor is in no sense superior. To be able to live a comfortable lifestyle by carrying out the least amount of work possible, freeing up time for leisure and family, is surely the preferable option?

Two weeks ago I moved house. My entire worldly possessions fitted the boot of a super-mini. However, rather than regarding this as a failure, I viewed this as a great success. With every possession shed over the last few years, the burden on me was lifted. The black dog, that constantly walked by my side, was let further off its lead. Although I am certain that I will work again, I am also certain that the amount of hours given over to it will not be excessive. Life is too precious. It is my hope that when politicians or anyone beseech the valve of hard work, then others, in common to myself, will actually see they are naked.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Dale Farm and The Voice of the Bigot

After promises that there would be minimal police intervention in what is essentially a civil matter involving breaches of planning consent, it was these very people who breached a back wall at Dale Farm and started the days chain of events. The whole scenario astounds me. Many people of all creeds and class are involved in planning disputes with their local authorities, both individual home owners and larger corporations. ( Tesco are notorious in flouting the law). It is rare that these people are subjected to the type of vitriol that has been aimed at the Traveling community who call Dale Farm home.

In a more enlightened and accommodating society, in which I hoped we now live, it has. been saddening to hear and read of comments which can only be construed as rascist. In this age it is no longer acceptable for sectors of society to voice shortsighted and ill informed stereotypical opinions against various ethnic groups, but some peoples opinions towards the travelers have left me stunned. All the usual stereotypes have been trotted out- they don't pay tax, they leave rubbish everywhere, they shoplift, they steal etc, etc. One comment on twitter even described them as ' scum'. The residents of Dale Farm are not on trial. The only issue in question is that they have broken terms of planning consent,and that hardly warrants the degree of hatred aimed at them.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Simple Things

So I'm laid on my mat, still in my sleeping bag in a tent in the middle of Leicestershire countryside, peering out at the cloudy sky and rolling green fields, thinking, " Lifes not so bad!" It's the start of October, the start of the dark mornings and cold nights, but the last few days have been idyllic. There's something so pure about camping- not the fill your car with every creature comfort sort of camping, but the walk to the campsite, with everything in your rucksack sort of camping. Waking up when it gets light, snuggling when it gets dark. Listening to the radio on Radio 5 live, above the rustle of the wind and feeling comforted that you are not at home getting irate about who Louis puts through to the final 16, but feeling that maybe the experience would be more pure without this damned phone.

There's a couple on the far side of the field, who appeared walking into the campsite with full packs, looking like they had been on the road for a while. She's got a mediterrean look about her, while he's got curly hair and thick beard. They're young, but you get the impression that they've done the usual India/ Thailand thing and , now they are just carrying on. Traveling the world in their two man tent, with nothing to show for it but late night stories in the dark, experiences of different people and different places, the sun, the wind and the rain- and, of course, their love.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Take me somewhere nice.

Show me the things for which I've searched,
but never found.
The wonders,the mystery,the feelings,the key.
Pan, on mountain meadows, running naked and hooved.
Echoes of smiles, laughter and love.

Stay calm as I paddle in seas that scream in blue,
to ride on boards with wing keeled fins.
And stand on shores,
that glisten with gold.
Both holding hands, with arms open wide.

Teach me of scales,and bridges,and chords.
Of melodies that rise and somersault and soar.
The best songs play on constant repeat,
In eyes and hearts,
In minds and soul.
Take me somewhere nice.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Return of Pan

After drinking two bottles of wine I awoke this morning 10 minutes before my alarm was due to go off with a headache. The cold I'd had over the last few days seemed to have cleared up to some extent. I no longer had a sore throat, and it was doubtful that the remaining headache had anything to do with illness. It was early- 7.30am and I was going to watch The Berlin Marathon.

I'd had a real easy week, having ran The High Peak 40 at the weekend, and I must admit, totally loving it. The week before I'd been talking to my brother telling him ,again, tof my intent to try to run a few fast 10ks. He replied that in 2012 he doubted that he would race at all. It wasn't that he was not going to run. Indeed he was going to have a mammoth year of running, completing a personal goal of running every country footpath in Lincolnshire. No one ,except people he had chosen to tell would ever know about it, no times would be known, no comparisons able to be made.

After the marathon ended, with my headache easing slightly, I came across a link my brother had posted by Anton Krupicka. In it Anton was discussing the idea of best known times for various runs in his home town to Boulder. The discussion spread to mention of UK fell runners and in particular The Bob Graham Round. My brother had completed this a couple of years previously and what struck me was the way that it seemed to obsess the people who would attempt it. It would literally take over a persons life from first thoughts to completion.

I struggle with concepts of ego. I therefore struggle with various aspects of racing. Of course it is nice to see your photograph on the back page of the local paper, and to have people say they seen how you'd done in race X or race Y, but ultimately its not about that. My struggles lay in the knowledge that I feel an immense personal need to achieve, and the method I've chosen to do this ,at present, is though running. Is it a failure to feel this, or is it a basic need? Whatever the philosophical questions, the main way to achieve the need I have is through racing.

I have big problems about races, both financially and ethically. I chose not to owe a car for environmental reasons mainly, but also for financial reasons and mental health reasons. In an attempt to minimize stresses, the absence of uncertainties such as MOT repair costs, insurance costs etc are liberating to me. Living in Skegness this presents problems. The public transport system is inept and on Sundays (usual race days)non existent. I normally have to cycle the 60 mile round trip to Boston to catch the club transport or rely on lifts from others, both of which are not ideal. The car, especially in rural areas can be a curse to non car users like me. If more people tried to break the cycle of reliance on motor vehicles, maybe there would be more attempt at organizing things locally, or events that could be reached by public transport. Ultimately,however, some problems I'm fully aware are caused by myself. I could join a nearer running club, run for no club or stop running altogether. I could take up a sport that had ample local competition opportunities.

Charity involvement in races also causes me concern,basically because I don't believe in the basic premise of giving to charity, as a moral concept. Racing has, at least in bigger events, become hijacked by charities. This summer the RNLI attempted to organize a beach 10k in Skegness. I'd done it the year before and the organization left alittle of be desired. In some circumstances i.e if the race is cheap, this can be a plus, but the entry was £12. This year the entry was £18. Not surprisingly the event was cancelled, due to lack of entries. If charities want to raise money it would please me personally if they would clear off and did their fund-raising somewhere else.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that , perhaps, the idea of best known times does present an extra option to a person with a competitive drive, but wants to avoid races for one reason or another. The icing on the cake of the best known time idea is , as Anton rightly points out, is that it is a best known time. What about the unknown times? Earlier this year I followed the progress of a woman who attempted ,and succeeded,in completing the pilgrimage walk in Spain, the Camino de Santiago. She was running it to obtain a World Speed record. The only way that it could be a world best would be if every completion had been timed. To my knowledge this is not the case. The same is true of The Bob Graham. Although there is a list of procedures to adhere to in order to officially become part of The Bob Graham Club, as in witnesses of peak ascents etc, the fells,and so the Bob Graham course is open to anyone. Therefore the Bob Graham Club can only give the best known times for the round. The fastest known time was set by Billy Bland in the 80's. It would be a romantic thought that somewhere there could be sitting in his front room, someone who has satisfied his need to achieve, to have run the fastest Bob Graham Round in living history.... but had not told anybody.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The Boston Banksy and The Hackgate Conundrum

Yesterday was an entertaining day. I spent the afternoon glued to the amazing spectacle of the Murdochs being questioned on live tv by the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee. Riveting viewing. Later that night I discovered a work of art worth, potentially, upwards of six figures to anyone who unwittingly owns the masterpiece.

I admire, respect and am intrigued by Banksy. I like the veil of mystery in which he has enveloped himself in. I like the healthy disregard he has towards authority and large corporations, and the way this contempt is demonstrated in his art. I like the way he sets his own agenda and functions outside of normal society rules. Most of all I like the fact that he refuses to authenticate any of his work.

Banksy has claimed that millions of pounds worth of works of art attributed to him are fakes. In 2008 a body set up by the artist himself, 'Pest Control', said that 89 street pieces and 137 screen prints had been falsely attributed to him. In recent years the number may well have escalated. To replicate a Banksy is not hard- all that's needed is a stencil and a spray can, and , as the man himself admits, many of the fakes are of a better quality than his own. The question which needs to be asked is why would someone spend £200,000 plus for a work of art potentially carried out by the young lad down the street with typical teenage interests of grime, M-CAT and street culture. The answer is simple. The buyer is taking a risk that the authenticity of a piece is either positively proved or, indeed, never proved. The ultimate motive is the accumulation of wealth and greed.

Watching Murdoch Snr struggling to answer questions about allegations, to supposedly have little idea of the corruption operating in a company over which he presided, it was hard not to feel sympathy. It was like watching your granddad and feeling the urge to protect him, put an affectionate arm round his shoulder and give him a hug. Then you remember who he is.

Could someone so successful in business really be so oblivious to what was happening under his nose? Was he telling the truth or deliberately denying knowledge in a way routinely done so in previous investigations into corruption by News Corp employees- placing the onus of proving the authenticity of the claims on other people. Disgraceful acts were carried out by Murdoch employees, under Murdoch supervision. The motive was again simple. The accumulation of wealth and greed.

It may take a while for facts to be proved, or they may never be proved, but, at this moment my mind is made. The Boston Banksy is real. Murdoch is lieing.

(Images of Boston Banksy and location withheld until purchase attempt completed. I need to accumulate wealth)

Monday, 18 July 2011

The ' True' Essence of Running.

A couple of days ago I posted a clip on a social media site showing scenes from The Self Transcendence 3100 mile race, organized by the Sri Chinmoy organization. Arriving at the clip had been a roundabout route starting with Don Ritchie, the great Scottish ultra legend,leading on to 6 day races and then James E Shapiro's seminal book 'Ultramarathon', in which the author re lives his own attempt to break the US 24hour record at Crystal Palace athletics track in 1979.

The Self Transcendence 3100 mile race is the longest certified race in the world. The competitors seek to compete 5649 laps of a 0.5488 mile course in a time span of 52 days. The route takes the competitors around one single block in Queens, New York. I commented that this race must be the ultimate test of body and mind. The difficulty of running a vast distance is compounded by the enormous mental challenge of negotiating the same stretch of road for such a long period of time. This morning I received a comment on the clip from my brother.
'Soul destroying- a freak show event that is devoid of the true essence of running.'
This got me thinking. What exactly is the true essence of running?

In modern Western society people predominantly run for three differing reasons- physical health benefits, mental health benefits and financial benefits. Humans evolved to run for one reason- to catch food. No one living in the Western world runs to catch food, so surely the 'true ' essence of running has already vanished. The nearest people may get to this is what I term 'Utility running (see previous post, 'Utility running, Rodney Mullen, success is elusive.') However the number of people using running for this purpose is also severely diminished, except in the developing world. People just don't view running as a bone fide means of transport except, perhaps, for running backwards and forwards to work now and again.

The number of athletes able to use running for financial benefit is minuscule. There are opportunities to earn vast sums in distances up to the marathon, but the talent required to take advantage of these opportunities eliminate the majority. Beyond the marathon prize money is virtually nonexistent full stop. The elite runners at these distances would find it difficult to rely on it inorder to fund day to day living.

The physical benefits of running are obvious and immediate, both to the individual and the greater society as a whole. This is where most of us begin. We take up running for the physical benefits bestowed, usually to lose weight or just 'get fit'. For most who continue to run long after the physical benefits are effected, it is usually to do with the mental health benefits afforded.

It is here that things get complicated. The mind is a complex mechanism and the predominant tool in formation of individual personality traits. People think differently, like different things. While some like rock, others like country. The same is true with running. Some people like roads, some like trails. Some like the flat, others the mountains and the fells. Some like short, others long. If one were to put it to competitors in the 3100 mile race that their performances were devoid of the true essence of running, they would certainly beg to differ. Similarly, if one were to put it to competitors in The Hardrock 100 or to someone attempting a Bob Graham Round that their attempts were devoid of the true essence of running, they would also disagree.

The thing is, in areas such as this, there are no rights and wrongs. Everyone identifies their own essence. There is no ' true' essence, only your own. That is why it is so beautiful.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The journey.....or the destination?

Yesterday was hot. Very hot. The kind of day where your life energy seems to have deserted you and all you feel good for is lounging around, gradually feeling more irritated. I usually like running in the heat, like the freedom of being able to run in just shorts and shoes, but yesterday even got me. I waited and waited for the temperatures to ease and by the time I laced up the flats it was approaching 9pm. The run was easy, about 10 miles and by the time I reached back to the carabanger , it was turning dark. As I hit the last section of road before home I started to increase the pace, as is normal at the end of most of my runs. The heat was still present, and as I reached halfway down the home straight, I started to feel it. It was then that a thought entered by head. I slowed down, and as I reached the banger , was feeling a mixture of exhilaration and calmness.

In my current circumstance I have felt self imposed pressure to produce some sort of race performance which would leave me feeling satisfied with myself. I have chosen not to work for a while, not particularly to run, but have a chance to experience life at a slower pace. However I have had more time to run and felt that if I did not start running better, then the whole experience would be abit of a waste of time. As I made it halfway down the last straight, the thought that entered my head was the question of the journey and the destination. Most running I do is with a destination in mind- a race, a performance, whatever. Most of the running anyone does has a destination in mind- to lose weight, get fitter, whatever. As most wise people will tell you , it is the journey, not the destination, that is to be savored. Enjoy the present, don't think too much of where it will all lead. This got me thinking, ' Is it possible to enjoy running as a journey with no destination?"

I know plenty of runners who train hard and race hard and often. It is the competitive aspect of the personality that gives them the determination to get out on those cold, dark winter nights - the thought of that target race of the year or new pb. I know plenty of runners who don't train hard, but like to race. However I don't know any runners ( well, maybe one) who train hard, but do not have the desire to race. Is it possible for someone to continue running ,say 100 miles a week, with absolutely no plans to race? To enjoy the journey so much that there does not need to be a destination. In some pursuits competition is frowned upon by the purists. The original Yosemite dirtbags looked with derision at the advent of competitive climbing, and so was the case with surfing. To love the actual act of running in so much as that it is all you need is surely a desirably thing. To love the purity, the expression of freedom, so much that the ego does not need reassurance from race performance. To know the journey is, in itself, enough. That you do not need a destination.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011


I loved running as a kid, did it for fun and for a few brief years was the best in my limited, small environment. I was the fastest person in primary school and , after moving up to secondary school, was one of the fastest there. I liked winning, liked to be known as being a good runner. I knew in the grand scheme of things that I would never be a world beater, and this was emphasized as the level of competition increased. I may have held my own to County level, but after that I was nowhere.

This was especially emphasized on going to Birmingham university. If you were a runner in the mid 80s and was interested in further education there were only two places worth their salt. The king of the pile was Loughborough University, riding on a running wave since the exploits of Seb Coe. They had Graham Williamson, Jack Buckner and a host of domestic running talent. I applied for Loughborough. It was top of my list. I got rejected.

Next on the list was Birmingham. It had great credentials and great athletes at the time. In my first year the National Junior Cross Country was won by one of our lot- Chris Sweeney. Bev Hartigan( then Nicholson),winner of a 1500m medal in the Commonwealths in the early 90s was on my course and a close friend for a while. Although being in such a positive environment did have many pluses, it also served to reinforce my own mediocrity. I knew that however much effort I put in, I would never achieve a standard I had dreamed of achieving. I spent my youth running for fun. I had whole periods at 13/14 yrs of age where I would get up before school and run a 4 mile loop round the village. On getting home I would run two laps of the circuit. I ran this with my twin brother. We,d run this on school days, then on weekends run longer. It felt like it was us against the world. We were obsessed by the US marathon stars of the day, people like Alberto Salazar and Bill Rodgers and ran because we loved it. It also gave us identity. We were the Rainbows - and we were runners.

With the increase in aspirations and effort, came the increase in structure. From running for as far and how often I liked, I now had training schedules, set sessions to be done everyday and at specific paces, and it was great. I wanted structure, wanted to feel like a proper athlete in training. This involved sacrifice and self control. When I was competing at a lower level and winning the effort seemed worthwile, however, as it became evident that I was not as good as I hoped, the effort and sacrifice became a bone of personal contention. I wanted to do things that normal people of my age did- get drunk, party, live a little. The structure imprisoned me and , in the end, I dived from the rocks of Alcatraz and swam to shore. I gave up running.

For twenty years I ran little. I would attempt to get fit at odd times, but commitment was lacking. As I made it to the midway point , I weighed over 15 stone, was overworked, under motivated, unhappy. I made tentative steps to running, and then competing and have been ever since. I vowed I would learn for my mistakes, would run to enjoy like I did when I was 14, would not do anything I didn't enjoy. My inspirations were the new breed of US runners. As, in my youth when motivated by the marathon men, I was again motivated by the long distant trail runners. Runners like Kyle Skaggs, Eric Skaggs and Anton Krupicka possessed not only immense talent, but embodied an ideal more akin to activities such as climbing and surfing- they lived to run, broke the rules, lived minimally, had long hair, looked cool. I wanted to run long miles, to free myself from some traditional aspects of aspiration, to drop out, to grow my hair- and for a while I did.

I ran long miles, grew my hair, had a sprinkling of local success, but stuck true to my ideals. I liked running big distances, but slow. I loathed speedwork and did none. I timed no runs, accurately measured no runs, took days off when I felt like it, made sessions up on the spur of the moment and , in the most part enjoyed it. Then I ran London this year. I ran a mediocre time, but I felt a sense of achievement- 2hrs 54m. It awakened a desire to run faster and I immediately
signed up for the Amsterdam Marathon in October. I found myself getting uptight about my non improving times for short distances, and listening to my peers who advised that my training needed more structure.

Its The Western States 100 this weekend, possibly the best known long distance trail run in the world. The internet has been full of pre race interviews and numerous blog updates from the main contenders. Yesterday I sat reading an update from Geoff Roes on his excellent blog, Fumbling towards endurance. Geoff is arguably the best long distance trail runner in the world today. He is undefeated in all 100 mile trail races he has competed in. In his latest entry he mentioned that his approach to this years race has been characterized by one main thing- lack of structure.

I pondered this throughout the day. I thought of my last post where I mentioned increasing mileage by 10% a week and introducing speed work into the equation. I thought of this introduction of structure. Then I made a decision. I'm not running Amsterdam, not sticking to any prearranged schedule, not doing any speedwork. I don't care if I run faster over 5k, 10k or the marathon. I want to run long miles, enjoyable miles. I've entered myself in a couple of long races for later in the year instead,trail ultras over testing courses. I want to compete, but on my own terms. To run with a sense of abandonment and lack of structure. I look to my ultra inspirations and want to emulate their lifestyles of running and simplicity, to be in tune with myself and my surroundings, to grow my hair and a long, bushy beard. It is with their inspiration that I once again have an identity.

My name is Dennis Rainbow. I am a runner.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Mas Locos are go!

This weeks training.

Saturday 11th June. 20miles easy. Shoes:Ascis Hyperspeed 4
Sunday 12th June. am 8 miles easy with the club. Hyperspeed 4
pm 7 miles easy. Hyperspeed 4

The morning run was gorgeous along the beach in warm sunshine. The evening run was a trial against adversity- rain and strong wind.

Monday 13th June. 10 miles easy. Hyperspeed 4
Tuesday 14th June. am 10 miles easy. Ascis Piranha
pm 7 miles easy. Hyperspeed 4

Wednesday 15th June. pm Wolds Dash race 7.3 miles- total with warmup/down 9 miles. Ascis piranha

This was the second race in The Wolds Dash Series over a slightly longer course of 7.3 miles. It was my first race since the bad run at Woodhall Spa. I managed to finish in 5th place and was pleased with that. Felt very strong over the second half of the race after struggling abit over the first couple of miles.

Thursday 16th June. noon Yoga for 90 mins.
I've been doing this once a week yoga class for about 4 months now and am convinced that there are a multitude of benefits to be gained from it for runners, in terms of flexibility and increased strength. While I am not sure it will increase levels of performance, I am sure that it will become integral to me in terms of injury prevention.

pm 7 miles easy with club

Friday 17th June. Day off.

Total miles for the week. 78miles.

Overall it was an ok week. It is the first time in a few years when I have actually scheduled a day off into the training week. Normally a day off occurs every few weeks as and when I feel like it. The race on Wednesday was pleasing and the plan is to continue to increase the total mileage by 10% a week over the next 5 weeks until the volume is about 120 miles a week. At present I'm going to concentrate on keeping one fast session a week in the form of either a race or fast run/ interval session and one long, continuous run of over 20 miles. Once I reach 120 miles I'll start to integrate another fast session a week into the weekly mix, before gradually easing down the mileage on the last four weeks before Amsterdam.

The big news this week is the official news of a visit from Micah True/ Caballo Blanco
, the main character in the best selling book, Born to Run, and organizer of The Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon. I was blessed a couple of years ago to make the long trip down to the bottom of the Canyons to the small town of Urique,where the race starts, and compete in the CCUM. The trip,for me and most others who have made the journey was a life changing experience. To experience a glimpse of the culture of the Tarahumara was a privilege,and it is the safeguarding of their unique culture that Micah has devoted his life to, and in the process inspiring thousands to run free.

Micah will be visiting the Uk in September on a speaking tour to raise awareness of the Tarahumara culture and fund raise for the cause. From reports of his talks in the US, the nights promise to be immensely interesting and entertaining for runners or anyone open to a good story. Dates confirmed so far can be found at

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Week 4/6/2011 - 10/6/2011

Saturday 4/6- Northern Track and Field League, Doncaster.
Again a depleted team resulted in the same old suspects doing as many events as possible just to score points. The end result is a lot of races and very few good performances. Its not just our team, but seemingly everyone and it does make you wonder what is the point of these leagues and how long it will be before they die out altogether.
Competed in 3000 steeplechase, 5000m, 400m, 4 x 400m relay and Triplejump. I don't know the exact times/ distances, but know they were all terrible!

Sunday 5/6 - Woodhall Spa 10k. 45th. 38.36m
A bad run -about 40secs slower than last year. Felt terrible from the start, but did seem to get into my stride at about 4k. Would have liked a pb (37.58m), but it was not to be. Yesterdays long, tiring day didn't help.
Shoes: Asics Piranha

Monday 6/6- p.m. 13 miles easy. Shoes: Asics Piranha

Tuesday 7/6 noon. 10 miles easy. Shoes: Asics Hyperspeed 4
p.m. 8 miles easy with the club. Shoes: Asics Hyperspeed 4

Wednesday8/6 noon. 10 miles easy. Shoes: Asics Hyperspeed 4
p.m 7 miles steady. Felt good on this run which was faster than marathon pace. Shoes: Asics Hyperspeed 4

Thursday 9/6 noon. Yoga for 90mins
p.m 6 miles easy with the club. Shoes: Asics Hyperspeed 4

Friday 10/6 Day off. One of those days. I had problems with backache and toothache, both increasing my levels of tiredness. Had 20 mile long run today, but decided to put tat off for a day. I have decided to have one day off from running each week now.

Miles for the week: 70

The Cost of Running: Saturday. Train return fare to Boston £9.00
Bus Cost to venue. £8

Sunday. Entry to race. £12
Monday. Work Day at Running club. Train return £9
Tuesday. Train to club session. £6
Training fee £3.50

Total for the week: £46.50

The main point to be taken from the week is that I have realized that I need rest. It may be an age thing, but I do find that I get to the stage every now and then where I feel listless and totally de motivated. From now on I am taking one days rest a week. Next week I am introducing one day of intervals into my training, in an attempt to increase my basic speed. If I want to get a pb at Amsterdam I realize that I have to work on my basic speed.

The fact that I spent nearly £50 on running last week surprised me. This is mainly in the form of race entries and in getting backwards and forwards to Boston. Taking the train is roughly twice as expensive as taking the bus, but the cut in the bus service leaves me with little choice. I was looking at racing once or twice a week, but , on reflection, this is an unnecessary cost on what I would basically regard as training. I may as well just discipline myself to train hard from my door step, which will cost me nothing. I have decided to race the Spilsby 6 in early July and then The Seabank Marathon in mid July. I may find a half marathon for mid August- we'll see!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Ch,Ch,Ch,Ch, Changes.

As we again move into the summer, then life ,as is often the case, throws up little surprises and hints of promise. It is a lucky man who is able to follow whims and chances of adventure, to be free from the normal shackles of life, all entirely inflicted on ourselves, and feel excitement at what may be just around the corner.

Until then its the mundane. My terrible run at Woodhall has energized me this week, given me an extra slice of motivation that has been lacking somewhat on the comedowm from London. Negatives forming a positive, reaffirming my belief that , with the correct attitude, all negatives can be viewed as positives if the right lessons are learnt and acted upon, which , in turn, mean negatives do not really exist! I'm back to twice daily training. Despite my attempt to get a run in early morning, they haven't materialized. I love sleeping, love waking and knowing that I can nap for another couple of hours, so I figure why deprive myself. The two runs therefore take the form of a mid day run and then a run at about 7/8 o'clock.

I've spent a few hours this week reading the excellent blog of U.S runner Nick Clark- Dirt Mountain Running. I don't know why it is but I find the blogs of these american trail runners just so much more inspiring than those of British based runners. Its interesting to read of the basic speed that Nick has. This year at New Orleans he ran a 2.36 marathon and he is expected to be at the sharp end at The Western States in a couple of weeks. A definite darkhorse to watch for. Even though he predominantly runs distances over 50k, he does at least one interval session a week on the track, running reps of distances from 300m through to a mile. Very interesting and something to definitely keep in mind.

Another interesting thing about Nick is that he has a definite interest in the cost of running. I've decided to follow Nicks example and log the actual ' Cost of Running' for an entire year. This will include money spent on anything to do with running,from shoes and kit, to race entries,transport,and costs involved through participation with my running club. It will be interesting to find out. It is in my interests to keep this as low as possible, alleviating the need to work too much and if this means cutting back on racing etc,so be it!

Another interesting read was the competitive life of U.S triathlete Scott Molina. He detailed his life in the 80's and his constant search for competitions which offered prize money. He would forgo certain higher reputation races if a less established race offered him the chance to win money,and hence ensure he could maintain his lifestyle of training and competing, which he loved. As always the time spent running, in this case ,an easy 10 this morning gave me ample time to think. Lately I have rallied against athletes selling their souls for the cooperate dollar, but, on reflection, is this a bad thing. People who devote large amounts of time to any particular activity normally do things because of a financial incentive. Why not runners? The amateur ethics of the sport which were not really broached until the mid 80,s may be a curse. Athletics in this country is suffering precisely because no money can be earn until elite standards are reached. Compare this to football where even lower league players can earn decent living. Of course to attract money one has to attract sponsors, and to attract sponsors one has to attract viewers. Maybe things need to change. Clubs are faltering because they cannot attract coaches/ officials/ whatever because these activities are carried out purely on a voluntary basis. Instead of thinking that this is the right and noble way that things should be carried out, should clubs be run as a business instead of a service?

Sunday, 5 June 2011

The Boredom of Minimalism.

There's nothing more boring than people going on and on about things ( I should know because I do it a lot , I'm told!). Although I do agree with the reasoning behind the barefoot/ natural/ whatever marketing departments want to call it debate, I tire of reading yet another article about how man was made to run in bare feet etc/etc/etc and the usually accompanying feature on minimal running shoes. Minimalist running shoes are nothing new. Most major brands have always carried them in their ranges in the form of racing shoes. It is boring to see the same features on the same brands- vibram/ vivo barefoot etc, etc- all having two similar characteristics- not a lot of cushioning and very expensive. I have some vibrams and have trained and raced in them. They may be minimal, you may run like nature intended, but you do feel like a prize plonker. They just look crap and make you feel like a circus clown. Plus they are way too expensive. Instead of buying the 'now' brands and paying a fortune , it just needs abit of thought and creativity. I bought a pair of Puma Cortland 11's(cross country spikes), cut out the metal spike bits on the bottom and had a great shoe( except, ironically, in the mud!) And they were £9.99. My latest shoes are the Ascis Piranha. I know the Piranha 3 or 4 is out now, so mine have been lurking about in the back of a shop somewhere, but for £30 they are great. Plus they make you feel cool! They conjure up images of Frank Shorter and other great runners in the mid/late 70's in their Tiger flats and Quenton Cassidy on his comeback in the US marathon Trials for the 84 olympics ( note - he is fictional. I'm refering to the sequel to the book , Once a Runner!) They don't make you run any faster though. Today I ran Woodhall Spa 10k half a minute slower than last year. Last year I was running in the Hitec vlite sirocco sandal and that's not a shoe even designed for running! But ,as I said , I did feel cool!

Training for the marathon is a potentially complex business. I've entered for Amsterdam in mid October, with the obvious intention of setting a personal best. Having ran 2.56 last year at London and 2.54 this year, I would love to achieve a sub 2.50 showing. Both previous times have been set on big miles ran ,predominantly, slowly. After London this year I thought I may improve if I start to adjust training and incorporate a few faster sessions. After racing today( 38.30ish 10k) I'm not so sure. I can compete with guys in the marathon who have much more basic speed than me. I've raced, and beaten, people I know with 10k times of around 35mins ,over the marathon, while my pb is a meagre shade under 38mins.I know that one of my heroes, Ron Hill, basically advocates that a good marathon can be run on big mileage mixed with regular racing over varying distances(at least 1 or 2 times a week). After great personal experimentation, he found that training over 140 miles a week had little extra benefit. Everyone keeps telling me that I need more structure to my training. What I think they mean is more quality, as it has structure in the form of going out once or twice a day. So I think I'll give the Ron Hill approach a go for this attempt. I'll try a get a mid week and weekend race in and mix this with big weekly mileage and a weekly single long run of 20 miles plus and see what happens.

One thing I did enjoy about todays race was running without a watch. The battery has worn out on mine so it was a decision taken out of my hands. I've been reading about Steve Jones a lot this week and how he liked to run on instinct. In the first marathon he finished at Chicago he ran without a watch and won the race in a low 2. 08. I thought it would be interesting today if wearing a watch, and being able to check for splits actually made any difference. I thought that ,for me, it wouldn't - if I was running well and had good early splits then I try to keep that pace hoping for a good un, and if my splits were bad,invariably, I was feeling bad and couldn't speed up anyway. Today I knew I was running a bad one and thought I was on pace for between 38 and 39 and I was!

Anyway- onwards and upwards!!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

In the Club

A very well respected and highly accomplished coach from my running club was commenting to me on the modern mind set, where people are likely to presume that information that is charged for, is, in some way more valuable than information that is given away for free. The subject matter was the rise in the number of personal trainers charging for their services. Some may have relevant experience, but many do not. The art of running can sometimes be a complex beast, sometimes not improved by mere text book knowledge, but by experience.

Many of the older generation of athletes rose through the ranks of the British athletic club system and realize their importance, but many of the new generation of runner, seemingly targeted by the monthly running periodicals, such as Runners World et al, seem to have lost that connection. Virtual running clubs, online coaching, and various websites provided by equipment providers offer ways to keep motivated and dish out snippets of advice, but are no match for the knowledge to be gleaned form joining a local club. Our club, as most, is all served by coaches on a purely voluntary basis. The expertise given, aside from a small session fee and yearly club subscription, is all passed on for free. This is not a reflection of the quality of advice, more a reflection of the character of the people who give up countless hours a week, not for financial reward, but for the reward of seeing improvement , both athletic and personal, that involvement in our sport results in.

A lot of beginners tend to regard joining a club as the domain of the superfit. This couldn't be further from the truth. Our club, as most others, have a mix of fast and slow, young and old- but they provide a meeting pot for people who share a passion, regardless of ability. So my advice to any of the new breed- join your local club!

Yesterday was the first of my ' slow races.' This is a reference not to my running pace, but to the overall ethos of racing. Currently having plenty of free time on my hands affords me the priviledge of taking life at a more relaxed pace that normal. Instead of rushing from work, running, then rushing back home again, I wanted to make a simple local race into an event. The first of the Wolds Dash series, hosted by Louth Ac was held last night. This forms part of a 5 race , midweek series over distances from 4.5 to 7 miles. They are the sort of races I love- £3 to enter, low key, basically, but adequately organized, with a field of mainly local club runners. The cycle to Louth is around 22 miles. This took me a couple of hours steady biking and ,as I warmed up for the race, hadn't seemed to take anything out of my legs. My 6th place in the race was my highest placing in a Dash for many a year. After warming down, chatting and having a post race brew, I commenced the ride back in beautiful ,warm summer weather. I eventually made it back to the carabanger at 10.45pm. Altogether I'd been out and about for nearly 8 hours in order to run a £3 race, but the enjoyment of the day was immense. The Slow Life indeed!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Monday Morning Blues

Mondays were always difficult days for me. I'd set off from Skegness on Friday around 6pm and start the 2 hour drive to Barnsley to pick my workmate up. I'd already be tired from a hard week working the markets and venturing to Manchester a couple of times on buying trips. I'd pick up Johnny,then start the 2 hour plus drive down the M1 and M69 to Wellsbourne Market,just south of Coventry. We'd call at the motorway services and stock up on items needed to stay awake- cigarettes and Red Bull normally. Invariably Johnny would be asleep within half an hour of leaving the services, despite his Bonkers cds still being played at full volume. We'd reach the market just before midnight and try and sleep. The back of the van was full, leaving only the cab. Johnny stretched over the passenger seats,while I slept upright behind the steering wheel.

We'd be up at 4a.m, setting the stall up,then work a full day. By the time we'd packed away for the day it'd be between 6 and 7p.m. We,d begin the drive back up north to a patch of wasteground just outside the field where Thorsby sunday market was held,have something to eat,sometimes a beer, then try to sleep again. At the stroke of 4 a.m we'd be up again for another days work. After dropping Johnny off I'd get home for around 9 p.m , stopping at the shop to get a bottle of wine. I looked forward to Sunday nights. Friday and Saturday nights out were never on the radar, so Sunday was my night. I'd make sure I never went to bed without drinking the whole bottle, despite the normal protests from my wife and despite,invariably waking up in the early hours alone on the sofa, with just the TV for company.

Mondays became a day of melancholic moods. Those close to me knew to keep their distance. It was the day when problems seemed larger than before, and although I never worked on Mondays, I rarely enjoyed my one day off.

Things have greatly changed since then. I have an enviable life of leisure now compared to those times. Mondays normally fall into the pattern of just another day. However twice this past month there has been news which has contributed to a revisit of the ill forgotten Monday Blues.

In the age of social networking, a quick morning glance at twitter is normally enough to ascertain what has been happening in the world overnight. Three weeks today I awoke to be greeted by the news of the death of Osama Bin Laden. After spending a few minutes reading messages I was overcome with a sadness that I just couldn't shake. It's not that I was sad over in murder of Bin Laden especially, but the way his death was being glorified. Everyone has beliefs and everyone has the power within to exercise how to see their beliefs are implemented. I always hold dear the hope that change can occur through peace and non violence. Bin Laden choose,in my view, the wrong path. But he was not alone. The major governments in the world,with their involvements over the last few years in Afganistan and Iraq,were equally wrong. The fact that a persons murder could ever be celibrated is a sad indictment of human nature. For the whole day I felt sad.

I awoke this morning in a relatively good mood, but on checking twitter, again saw some sad news which,again filled me with sadness. Sammy Wanjuri, the 2008 olympic marathon champion had been found dead at his home in the Rift valley, Kenya after apparently jumping from his own balcony. I witnessed Sammy at first hand as he won The London Marathon in 2009. That year he won the race in a fraction over 2 hrs 5 mins, and I remember reading a race report in AW where he had berated his pace makers at the half way point of the race to go faster,even though they were already on world record pace. Sammy ran two of the classic marathons in history,firstly overcoming the heat of Bejing in 2008,then winning an epic man on man battle at Chicago in 2010. Running provided him with the financial riches only dreamt of sportsman, but ,as is often the case, wealth, it seems, did little to affect affairs of the heart. There had been reports of domestic conflict between Sammy and his spouse, and early reports would seem to point to this conflict having a part to play in his death.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Let's Go Fishing For a Dream.

One day, as the high sun set over the mountains of the most sacred kingdom, a ragged messenger crossed the moat and entered the wooden gates to the castle. He was ushered inside, truly and diligently by the Royal servants, until he stood in front of the King himself.

" It is true, Sire. It has been reported that a peasant in the outer reaches has indeed been fishing, and catching dreams, in the Great Lake of Tranquility."

The Kings eyes widened. His Kingdom ruled the world. He had gradually gained more wealth, more power, more possessions than anyone on Earth. He worked hard, suffered no fools, and would stop at nothing to get whatever he wanted. However one thing bothered him. When he finally allowed himself to sleep, he could no longer dream.

The next day the King sent a thousand of his finest men to the Lake of Tranquility.
" Catch me a dream" he ordered.
The men fished all day and caught only fish.

The next day the King doubled his efforts and sent two thousand men to the Lake of Tranquility.
" Catch me a dream" he ordered.
The men fished all day and caught only fish.

The peasant walked to the Lake on the first day to see one thousand men surrounding it. He loved to fish, but more so enjoyed the peace offered by the Lake of Tranquility. He would set up his rod, then relax in the midday sun. He had no money, no possessions, but a wife who loved him. And he had time. Time to enjoy. Time to fish.

After sleeping he would walk back to the village to be asked, " Have you caught anything?"
" No", he would reply. " Only a dream."

The second day the peasant walked to the Lake. He saw double the amount of people there than the day before.
" Nevermind", he thought, "I've plenty of time. I'll come back tomorrow."

He turned around and started the walk back to the village. He smelt the wild garlic growing nearby,listened to the beautiful birdsong. He smiled as his son ran towards him with a huge smile on his face.
" I may not be rich", he thought, " but I'm wealthy."

As he reached his hut he kissed his wife and sat on his front step. The sun still shone brightly. He was tired. He closed his eyes and slowly fell to sleep.

And then he started to dream.

Monday, 18 April 2011

London Marathon 2011

If I'm honest I wasn't particularly looking forward to running the London this year. The weekend jaunt to the Capital with the clubmates is always a great weekend, but in the proceeding weeks I almost wished that I was just going down to spectate, not compete. I had gradually become disillusioned over the last year or so with,what I considered the negative side of running-the high race costs,the charity involvement, the whole commercial side of things. After London I would concentrate on low cost,local,low key running or even cut back on the amount of competitive running I did full stop. That was until yesterday.

I was aiming again for a sub 3 hour performance. My best time ,well only road marathon time was set in last years race at 2hrs 56.30 something. If I bettered that it would be a bonus. I had been putting in lots of miles,the majority of which were slow. The only runs I ever did at sub 8 min mile pace were races. The last race before London was The Friskney Half Marathon which I ran about half a minute slower than last year in 1 hour 24 .14. I was disappointed with this, and thought that maybe a sub 3 performance might even be out of the question. I finished yesterday in 2 hrs 54. 27 - taking about 2 minutes off my best. I managed to run a relatively steady paced run and thought that I might have managed 1 or 2 minutes faster, had it not been for aching thighs from around 8 miles.

I awoke this morning feeling inspired. An event which I considered to sum up the worst aspects of running, has actually given me a buzz I have not felt for a while. In my quest for self I had,all but decided, that the way to go was to escape the mass participation events in favour of the tranquility of the trails. I had penciled in a couple of big trail runs this summer,but,at this moment feel the urge to do things a little faster. I find myself getting excited about the challenge of running a sub 2 hour 50 marathon.

I sometimes get this elitist view on running. Personally I get inspired by people who take things to extremes. However everyone has their own priorities in life, and for most running is just a small part of it. I tend to think of running, not only physically, but spiritually. It defines who I am and provides me with things I desire in life and have failed to find elsewhere. It has power. This morning thousands of people will be going to work, each with their own unique story to tell about their run in The London Marathon. Some will have succeeded,some will have failed, but all will be feeling that power- and that surely is a great thing.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

The Slow Race Tour 2011

The current financial situation is cutting deep into many peoples pockets. Regardless of which political party is to blame, it does provide an ideal chance for people to step back slightly,reassess their lives and, perhaps change things for the better.

It seems ironic that in times where everyone is conscious of the effects of enviromental abuse, and severely aware of the ever escalating fuel prices and the cost of motoring,that ,in the name of finance, it is public transport that is suffering. Many people I know are, for maybe the first times in their adult lives, realizing the actual cost of motoring and exploring the potential of using public transport as an alternative. It was with great dissappointment, therefore, that I found that the extent to which bus routes operated by our local provider were being cut. I travel from Skegness to Boston at least once a week. Our club training nights on Tuesday finish at 9 pm and the last bus back to Skegness was at 9.45 pm. The last bus has now changed to 6.45 pm. Sunday services,which allowed me to reach Boston in order to connect to club transport for race days have curtailed altogether.

In my present circumstance I am lucky. Taking a prolonged break from work offers me the benefit of time. I can quiet easily cycle the 26 odd miles to Boston with no real hassle, but things would certainly be different if there were constraints on my time. This situation does emphasis the position we place ourselves in in modern day society. We work/play sometimes in places that make us reliant on motorized transport. Instead of moaning about the cost of traveling or the unavailability of transport, maybe we should travel less ,for the main part, and concentrate on working/playing in areas that are either local or accessible by non motorized forms of transport.

It was with this thought in mind that I formulated the plan for my 'Slow Racing Tour'. The Slow Movement is a movement which encompasses many things- Slow Food, Slow Travel, Slow Journalism, Slow Fashion etc and basically advocates a cultural shift towards slowing down lifes pace. It is about living life and experiencing life in a fundamentally different way. It is about connectivity with the land, family and friends -about the valve of time and the importance of its presence in a modern world where urgency, speed and deadlines are king.

I began by identifying several criteria for races to fit the bill. Firstly they all had to be accessible either by walking or biking. This meant that the distance from Skegness could not realistically be much more than 30/40 miles away. Secondly they had to be cheap. I don't want another useless medal or trophy,and have quite enough t-shirts already, thankyou. What I want is cheap entry fees. Thirdly the races had to be somewhere nice. Surrounded by beautiful countryside we are,in Skegness, blessed with plenty of scenic villages which for one day or night a year are the venue for low key road races. The locations would have to have campsites or be remote enough to allow me to get away with a spot of wild camping for either the night before or after the race. It excited me to think that a low key race, with maybe 100 runners, could potentially be turned into a 2 or even 3 day low cost adventure.

The races were easy to find. Several local clubs arrange a summer series of races. The races are all no frills. They have no prizes, consist mainly of local club runners and have an average cost of £3. The Slow Race Tour is about getting back to the basics of running. It is about experiencing very simple pleasures. It is about racing other runners, instead of the clock. It is about helping the grass routes-the local running club,the local pub, the local shop etc. However , most importantly, it is a chance to stick up two fingers to the 'everything needs to be done quickly' crowd and just doing things at my own pace. Slow.

The Slow Race Tour Dates:

The Croxby Crawl Race Series- Wed 4th May 4.4 miles
Wed 1st June 8.8 miles
Wed 6th July 8.8 miles
Wed 3rd August 4.4 miles
Wed 31st August 4.4 miles

The Wolds Dash Series, Hubbards Hills, Louth-

Wed 18th May
Wed 15th June
Wed 13th July
Wed 10th August
Wed 7th September

The Clickem 5 mile series- Wed 11th May
Wed 22nd June
Wed 20th July

Friday, 1 April 2011

The Present

' The secret to health for mind and body is not to morn for the past,worry about the future,or anticipate troubles,but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.'


I have always been a seeker,seeking to find that secret which would lead to that unobtainable nirvana that we all strive towards. Intrinsically I have always known that it was not to be found in many things that people attach importance to in the search. I have never aspired to own the traditional trappings of success,even when working hard and earning good money.I have never owned,or wanted to own a house,have never had vehicles which could be used to display monetary or social status. My fault is more complex-living too much of my life in the past and the future.

Failures,especially in terms of the heart,haunt me-taint my view of the world today.I still harbor grudges from times past and refuse to accept that people/lifes/opinions would have changed. I reminisce with songs,allow them to take me back to times past-both good and bad. The same old songs,the same old artists.

I look to the future. I am a dreamer. I dream of love to be won,races to be run,challenges to conquer-all in the future. At the end of the day I realize that I've spent all day planning and missed out on a beautiful morning full of bird song,a wild winter walk on a stormy beach,a chance encounter with an old friend-the present. I realize that life needs to be lived in the present,accept the past,forget the grudges,allow change and forget about the future. The future can only be shaped by what we do today.

I finished my last job precisely because it robbed me of the present. I enjoyed the company of workmates,but this was not enough to compensate for the tedium that I felt. I found myself wishing away the present ,looking forward to the next break/the end of the day/the end of the week. It became obvious that I could no longer accept this. Life is too brief,too full of wonder and opportunities to wish a vast proportion of it away.

Running allows me to connect with the present. The moments when you are acutely aware of your body,your breathing,the surrounding. Running in fivefingers helps-allows me to be aware of the terrain,to feel the difference even between the different road surfaces-allows me to connect with the present.

Still,with running,it is easy to lose the present. On long gentle runs it is easy to let the mind wander,thinking of events past and future,to miss out on what is happening around you. Indeed the whole competitive aspect of running lends,at least in part, to living in the future. Everyone has times and races they would like to achieve and do well in and therefore look to the future. My goal is simple-to enjoy my running everyday. If there's aspects of training I dislike-intervals or circuits for example, I will think of how I could make them enjoyable,and if I draw a blank,simply not do them. I now place no emphasis on race performances,if I run well-all well and good,if I don't -theres always another. The ironic thing is my performances continue to improve. To forget about the future allows me to forget about races,allows me to disconnect with preformance as a booster to ego.I don't follow any schedule,don't run any set distances or times.I like to run longer and like to run relatively slow-to enjoy the run,enjoy the present.I'll run as my mood on the day takes me.

Tuesday was a case in point. I awoke in the morning to a beautiful, bright spring day. It was precisely the sort of day for spending outside. I wanted to run and wanted to run long. I decided to run the 26 mile seabank marathon course from Skegness to Boston,mainly because I had training that night at Boston with the club and running there ,on such a great day would enjoyable-would make the present enjoyable. I ran 8 miles with the club that night and ,on returning to the banger ,felt shattered. I'm racing our local half marathon this weekend and thoughts went through my head that I may have harmed my chances of running fast.However as the Great God of Sleep reared his head I thought, 'You know what..I've really enjoyed today...I don't care! '

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Sounds of March

These are the tunes that become the sounds of March DennisWilson Forever Twin Shadow Forget High Llamas Glide Time Josh L.Pearson Woman ,when I've raised Hell Iron and Wine Tree by the river Hiss Golden Messenger O Nathaniel Imagination Music and Lights Corduroy Hand that rocks the cradle

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Vagabondrunning Gran Canaria Part Three: Morro de Santiago-Analysis and Realization.

The meal at the restaurant at Ayacata really hit the spot-a starter of parma ham and tomatoes on bread,drizzled in olive oil,and a main course consisting of a seafood pasta dish. The restaurant was a popular stop over point for coach trips,delivering hikers and mountain bikers to the nearby peaks,for road bikers who stopped for a drink and the hordes of,mostly old tourists in their hire cars.I had sat outside several days earlier,on the return leg of a recce down to San Bartolome. A coach had pulled up and the tourists descended and took photographs of the canyon scenery.After several minutes they got back on the bus and they were off.This,to me,emphasized the dramatic disparencies between my holiday experience and theirs. They were staying in warm hotels,traveling in luxury coaches and taking pictures of the 'oh so beautiful scenery.'They were enjoying what I considered to be 'beauty in a bottle.'For this they were paying a premium.I wasn't. I was living in the heart of the beauty. I was experiencing the elements first hand. It wasn't always comfortable,or enjoyable.Sometimes the hardships blurred the perception of beauty,but when things were right-that odd moment of stillness,of quiet,when one could truly take in the majesty and soul of the surroundings,nothing else mattered.

The next campsite was 'Morro de Santiago',only 2/3 miles down the road from Ayacata along the main highway towards San Bartolome.I had read a comment on some travel blog that the campsite had a source of running water,but during the previous week at Las Ninas realized that I had not actually verified the facts with the information available on the government website on camping provisions on the island. I had no access to the web,no phone and no electricity so one overcast day decided to run to the campsite to check things out and put my mind at rest.That particular morning the weather was passable at Las Ninas, but,as I climbed the highway to Ayacata I quickly became enveloped in cloud.I had contemplated doing the run in shorts and t-shirt, but opted for tights and a waterproof top which I had tied around my waist.I was thankful for this when ,around 3km from the top off of the climb I gradually became wrapped in a blanket of fine drizzle.I made it to the road exit to the campsite,where a sign pointed to the direction of the site and gave the distance to it as 200m.The road forked off in 2 directions,so I decided to take the bigger of the two roads and headed up ,maybe 400m.On seeing no sign of a campsite I jogged back down and took the other fork.After approximately 100m I came across a clearing.That was it-just a clearing-no facilities,toilets,burners or water,at the top of a hill.My heart sank.Why hadn't I done more research? There seemed to be evidence that camping had taken place here,but,in the cloudy wetness,I barely wanted to contemplate spending any period of time here.I walked back down the hill throughly dejected.As I reached the fork again I looked again at the sign and decided to give the larger road another go.Again I jogged up the dirt road and after about 1km,I rounded a corner and was greeted by the sight of the official campsite,complete with water and toilet provisions.The road signs on the island seemed to be so precise in their accuracy.I guess this was just a lesson in not to take anything for granted.

Morro de Santiago was situated,perhaps,5oo/600m higher than the previous site,which afforded it magnificent views,both towards the inland areas around Roque Nublo and also towards the coast in the opposite direction.The cloud and rain,however,over the next few days put pay to this.I spent the morning running exquisite,rocky singletrack from Cruz Grande down to San Bartolome,to restock supplies,and the afternoons checking out the trails surrounding the reservoir 'Presa le Chira', 5km below the camp at the base of the valley.The first few days were great.The campsite was quiet.I was the only person there.I didn't see a single person there ,day or night, for the first 3/4 days.- enjoyed this at first -finishing runs,strip washing,just wandering around as if I owned the place.However this solitude,combined with the poor weather gradually began to take its toll and my moods began to darken.I was lonely.I mixed with a few folks in town in the mornings,but for the remaining time I was alone.

I had always had a romantic ideal.I had read about people who had retreated from society,people like the Barrowdale Hermit,and felt a kind of envy,that living life essentially cut off from civilization would be a good option to take.It would mean less stress,less pressure to live up to any expectations,would be liberating.I have always been a person comfortable with being alone,never feeling the need to have a vast circle of friends and can easily wile away lazy days formulating dreams and schemes.However this was different.In my home enviroment I had the choice to be alone or mix with friends and family,where as here I didn't.I had no friends here-nobody even knew - was here.

My thoughts became preoccupied with Chris McCandless.Chris was the subject of a best selling book and big screen movie ,a man who had ventured 'into the wild' in Alaska,eventually dieing through bad luck and bad preparation.He was a top grade student and a promising runner,who seemed to develope an unease with the modern world.Issues such as materialism,racism and the such troubled him.The whole world and its injustices seemed to start to trouble him.I acutely identified with this.I,d given up my car several years early in pursuit of a purer,greener life and now had given up my livelihood.I saw conflict in everything I did or wanted to do-the double standards that I displayed in flying to this island being one. My personal life over the last years had been problematic.I was unhappy with everything,including myself.I couldn,t work out if my being unhappy clouded my judgement on everything,resulting in me rallying against them,or if these things were making me unhappy in the first place. I often thought of a scene in the film where Chris is stranded in the bus,cut off from safety by raging spring rivers.He seems to have a revelation that the important things in life are family and friends.They provide the key to true happiness.I had ample time to think,perhaps too much. I missed my son-felt selfish for being away for six weeks,essentially for my own pleasure when I knew he was missing me.I thought of relationships,mainly within my close family that had soured over the recent years. I realized that again the cause of this was perhaps jealousy,longing and deep personal unhappiness. I thought of the meditative term ' Take in the bad,give out the good.'I had been taking in the bad,and the good,but had only been giving out the bad. It had been a drain on people to be near me-my constant rallying and restlessness driving all moods darker. Mostly I thought of love.I realized that I needed love,needed to embrace it,not push it away and realized that I wanted to give it out-wanted to be a nice person to be around.I came to the island to run,but running wasn't important-not in the grand scheme of things-just as most things like success,possessions,careers,whatever weren't.I realized the most important thing was love.

The weather continued to be unsettled.After 3/4 days of intermittent low cloud,cold temperatures and rain,combined with my increasing loneliness,I began to feel totally miserable. One morning I woke up,took out my journal and wrote down the number of days I had left until the date of my return flight. I counted the days and felt despondant and for the first time unmotivated since my arrival. I contemplated going back to sleep for a few hours and just doing one longer midday run. As I lay down and closed my eyes I was struck by the thought-this trip was not some sort of test or punishment-there was no reason why I had to stay six weeks.I decided to cut down the trip duration to a month. This trip was supposed to be enjoyable, a pleasure.I instantly felt better,rejuvinated.I would get two runs in today and tomorrow would have a day off,go to Las Palmas,change flight dates and have a little downtime. The trip to Las Palmas was an enjoyable diversion.I caught up with some emails,changed my flight and bought a book,the thickest I could find in the bus station newsagents-'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.'The brightening of my mood was accompanied by an improvement in the weather. I was still the only person on the campsite,but was visited by the Ranger every morning. The Rangers at Las Ninas had been abrupt and unfriendly. This man was different,quiet and bearded, and very helpful.Although his grasp of english was basic he managed to point out on my map the off road paths that I could run that day. His knowledge of the area was extensive. One morning I returned from another jaunt to San Bartolome and saw him stood on the egde of the plateau just gazing at the view. I walked the quarter mile upwards to my tent and when I turned back he was still stood admiring the view.The sight of him gave me some peace and made me hope that I would eventually find some sort of vocation I would love as much as he obviusly did his. The running around the site was good with a multitude of dirt paths and rocky single tracks mainly eminating from Cruz Grande. I once again had a spring in my step. I was enjoying the present more and also looking forward to Visiting an area that I had been told was a mecca for trail running-miles and miles of single track through the beautiful pine forests of Tamabada.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

On The Beach

Photo: The Beach at Chapel St Leonards.

Photos: Percy and his boys in the dunes at Portsea.

Photos: The Uks most famous running dunes- Merthyr Mawr,Wales.

I live in Skegness,probably a mile from the beach.I've always loved it.The majority of my runs take place along the promenade between Skegness and Chapel St Leonards,about 5/6 miles away.In the summer it can be busy during the day,but the evening(and no doubt the early morning,if I was ever up!) provide a wonderful backdrop to any run.It's those days that provide hope during the cold winter months-running to the top of the access path to be greeted with the wide panorama of natural beauty.Those days where the beach is quiet,the sun still emphasising it's golden yellow tones,the sea, still, calm and inviting.It makes me calm and I feel blessed to have such beauty on my doorstep.Some people don't see the wonderment of it all.Comments are make deriding it's beauty in comparisons of the mountain landscapes,but ,to me,it is natural perfection personified.

On Saturday I ran The Belvoir Challenge.Its a great LDWA type event-low key,minimally marked,no prizes,but wonderful food at the end.There is a 16 mile option and a 26 mile option,which combined attract over 1000 runners/walkers.I had not entered either,but several days previous was offered a place in the 16 mile event after one of my clubmates dropped out.The run itself was good,but testing,with the rainfall over the previous weeks making some of the going extremely squaddy.I was pleased with my 3rd place,but disappointed to find that the mud had taken a toll on my shoes-both soles had become detached.I had chosen to run in Puma Cortland ii's.They were cross country spikes,which I had doctored to make running flats by cutting off the metal spike screw in on the sole with a stanley knife.I liked the minimal feel,and was contemplating buying another couple of pairs.These had cost £9.99,and with the cross country season drawing to a close,it was a good time to buy.I'd ran perhaps 500 odd miles in them,mainly on road and a few shorter cross country races,but was let down to see the state of them after 16 miles of hard terrain.The conclusion.....Puma Cortland ii's.......they're crap!

This event prompted me to start looking for alternatives.I wanted a minimal shoe,but all options seem so expensive.Innov 8 prices are just way too dear,along with virtually every other minimal shoe on the market.I have a couple of pairs of fivefingers, purchased 2/3 years ago,before their price sky rocketed,so will wear those for some training,but now have decided to shed the shoes altogether again by taking to the beach again,as temperatures start to rise.I refuse to believe any running shoe is worth paying over £25/£30,especially minimal shoes.Surely with minimal shoes should come minimal price,or ,at least a more minimal price compared to normal running shoes.

I had seen a couple of things over the last few weeks.Firstly there was this interview with fellow Mas Loco,Patrick Sweeney : says his bread and butter is 10/15 mile soft sand runs.I regularly run on the beach,but more often than not,avoid the soft sand.
I also stumbled across this: Porters training used to regularly utilize the soft sands of the Colorado sand dunes.And of course,there are the well documented training of Percy Cerutty and his boys at Portsea ,Victoria.

Skegness is situated in Lincolnshire,one of the flatest counties in the U.K.There are hills nearby,perhaps 10/15 miles away,but these would have to result in a bus ride and a return cost of around £5.I like the idea of finding out if running in soft sand can in anyway replicate the effect of running on the hills.I also adore the thought of using nature as a training tool,and also ,by running barefoot,like the idea of the pureness of it all.I'm currently running on average 20 miles a day,everyday,so plan on the morning 10 to be on the beach.We'll see how it goes!!

Friday, 4 March 2011

A Rock and a Lightening Bolt.

' Richard brought the main course-following your prerogative.If that squared with others-fine.If not,'Tastes differ' he'd often say.Richard went on to climb more routes in more places than most of us combined,all with such a low profile he might have remained anonymous,but for his full page photo in Meyer's Yosemite Climber,cranking an early ascent of Nabisco Wall,a young John Yablinski belaying.'

John Long-'Stonemaster'

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Utility Running,Rodney Mullen,Success is Elusive

A utility bike is a bicycle designed for practical transportation,as opposed to bicycles which are primarily designed for recreation and competition,such as touring bikes,racing bikes and mountain bikes.The majority of these bikes are found in the developing world.They are the most common form of bicycle globally.

Over the last few weeks my interest has been sparked in what I term 'Utility Running.'The Human Body,in common with a utility bike,is built for practical transportation.So why don't we use it that way?One of the things I enjoyed on my recent trip to Gran Canaria was the daily morning run to the nearest shop to buy food.Sometimes this involved a round trip of up to 20 kms.I had no other form of transport.I had no bike and there were no buses,so if I wanted to eat I had the choice of either walking or running,and running was faster.As I have previously mentioned, this action felt almost primal.Since returning to the UK,I have decided to keep this up.I've been based, temporarily, about 5 miles away from my home in Skegness,but have had to make the journey there and back,for one reason or another,almost daily.This has been carried out by running.If I need to change clothes/pick up groceries etc,I take a backpack.The quality of the runs,in terms of effort and speed,may be somewhat lacking,but this is trumped by the feeling that the running is useful.It alleviates the need for a car,bike or a bus,and,of course,is free.

Whats all this to do with Rodney Mullen?I'd heard his name,having seen it on my sons Tony Hawks computer games,but that was the extent of my knowledge.Inexplicably I ended up this afternoon watching the above interview.Rodney's current views on skateboarding echo my current views on running.He was a childhood prodigy,world champion and influential innovator,but the pressures of expectation enslaved him and ruined his enjoyment of the sport.He has now found peace and enjoys skateboarding for the intrinsic pleasures he derives from it.Maybe this is a lesson for us all-to run because it gives us pleasure and is useful,and realize that,surely,these should be runnings prime objectives,rather than competition,kudos,fame and fortune.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011


Photo: Presa Le Las Ninas


Photo:Roque Nublo

Despite the unwelcome intrusion to my nights sleep by the frisky young lovers,I awoke at about 6 a.m next morning feeling refreshed and optimistic.It was still dark and I had no idea when the sun would start to rise.I packed away my sleeping equipment,had a breakfast of pasta,threw on my pack and went in search of a bus stop.As luck would have it I found one literally 100m from the beach.Within 30 minutes I was hot footing it to Las Palmas.The bus soon pulled into the bus station,and from previously consulting a road map of the city streets,I knew that the Government offices were a mere short walk away.The offices opened at 8.30 a.m and I was first in the queue to get served.I told the female advisor the campsites I wanted to stop at and how long I wanted to stay at each.She checked my passport for identification purposes and issued me with a permission letter for each site.It really was that easy.

Out of the 14 sites listed,I had narrowed down the choice to 4.As my predominant activity would be running I knew that access to a water source was vital.I would need to keep hydrated in the heat of the day and also need water for cooking.Transporting bottled water was logistically impossible and, although some people are wary of drinking tap water in foreign climbs,after drinking untreated water in Mexico the previous year and suffering no ill effects,I knew I would be fine.The sites which fitted the bill were Presa Le Las Ninas,Morro de Santiago,Llanos De La Pez and Tamadaba.I knew,through research on the web and youtube that Presa Le Las Ninas was one of the bigger sites and very popular with the locals,so choose that as my first port of call.Morro De Santiago was chosen as next,due to its proximity to Las Ninas,and Tamadaba was chosen as the choice for my third week.Although the website stated that the maximum duration of stay at each site was 7 days,and that's what I asked for,the advisor wrote out permission to camp for 8 days at each.My original plan was to stay for six weeks,but not wanting to push my luck,told the lady three sites would do-I would make another trip to the office in a few weeks time and sort out the rest of the trip.

My map told me that the nearest village to Las Ninas was Ayacata,situated at the base of Roque Nublo(1803m / 5915 ft),the second highest point on the island.After enquires at the bus station I found that I could get a bus to the town of San Mateo,then catch a connection to Ayacata.The remaining,what looked between 10 and 15 km on the map would have to be on foot.I noticed that Las Ninas was situated at 932m/ 3057 ft,so as least the hike would be downhill.During the one hour wait at San Mateo I stocked up on supplies at the local Spar shop-more pasta,sardines,porridge and jam,adding considerable weight to my pack.I had considered waiting and buying food from a shop in Ayacata.As I got off the bus a couple of hours later,I discovered that Ayacata consisted of three restaurant/bars,and that was it.No shops.I had envisaged a pilgrimage up and down the hill to Ayacata every morning to stock up on supplies,but as I commenced the walk down the hill,knew I would have to study the map and find an alternative place to purchase food.

A large brown sign pointed the direction of the campsite,and gave the distant to travel as 10 km.I considered attempting to hitch,but noticed that the majority of cars which passed me were small cars,obviously hire cars,driven by predominantly aging ,graying couples-not a good combination for attempting to gain a ride.I decided to keep my thumb down,and slowly walked,visions of John Rambo strolling into town at the start of First Blood going through my head.

The first sight of Presa Le Las Ninas was stunning.A large reservoir surrounded by lush,green mountains.After pitching my tent and checking out the basic,but entirely adequate facilities,I cooked tea,and retired to bed at the first sign of darkness.

After two days of no running,the next morning I was eager to finally get some miles in my legs.The weather was glorious and later that morning the temperature would be well into the 20's.At around 9 a. m I set off with the intention of running around the lake,what I considered to be a nice gentle introduction to my trail running holiday.I set off in a counter clockwise direction,and after an initial start on the road,quickly found a path which took me half way round.At that point the path stopped.My map was not detailed with any off road paths and shortly I found myself on top of a mountain,peering down at what I presumed was the town of Soria,about 400m below me.From this height I could clearly see a dirt path which would have easily taken me to the village had I set off in the opposite direction.I was now faced with a decision-turn back and retrace my steps or descend the mountain,which would involve a little climbing and alot of scrambling.At that point I heard a noise,looked up into the sky and saw a helicopter approaching.The thought of my brothers words on the way to the train station several days earlier resonated in my head,that ,on trips such as these,if anything could go wrong it would.I imagined reports of an inexperienced Brit tourist falling to his death in the mountains of central Gran Canaria and the reaction of the folks back home-typical Dennis,we always told him to get prepared!

The helicopter slowed and hoovered above me.It looked like some sort of military craft and I later found out that I was on protected land,where access was forbidden.The side door of the helicopter was open and someone was sat in the entrance.I considered waving,but thought this may be taken as a distress signal and prompt a rescue.I ,therefore,decided to act nonchalantly.There I was on top of a mountain,clad only in shorts,my white torso betraying the fact I was obviously a tourist,carrying a coke bottle of water,basic map in my hand,whistling and smiling,totally ignoring the helicopter.Eventually it moved off.I started to climb down the hardest section of the descent,a drop of perhaps 20m of rock face,until some greenery started where I would be able to walk.With map stuffed in my shorts waist band and the coke bottle between my teeth ,I had got half way down the sheer descent when the helicopter reappeared and resumed its position above me.I tried to maintain my relaxed nonchalant disposition and look as if I knew what I was doing,despite the fact that my entire life's climbing experience was limited to a handful of days in the Peak District whilst at university 25 years previous.I reached the bottom of the face and obviously realizing I was not going to be another statistic,the helicopter again disappeared.30 minutes later I was jogging into the quaint village of Soria on the banks of the equally stunning Soria Reservoir,covered in scratches and blood.At least I was still alive!

Over the next few days I quickly developed a routine.The morning run would be along the dirt path into Soria,roughly 10 kms each way,the outward leg predominantly downhill,the return predominantly uphill.There I would buy my food for the day,typically two 500g bags of pasta,which I would run back to camp with,one in each hand.I liked the fact that this felt almost primal.I had to make the journey every morning.It was a necessity,or else I would be without food for the day.I would return by midday,have some pasta for dinner,brew up some coffee and have a quick snooze.At around 3 p.m I would get up again and set off to the rear of the campsite and run for up to 3 hours on beautiful pine needle covered dirt tracks.

The next few days were bliss,constantly clad in shorts,running free as I had dreamt I would be.The arrival of the weekend brought a flurry of activity with locals descending for a weekend of camping.The camp in the week was virtually deserted-a German couple mountain biking around the island,Micheal,a Dutch guy doing the same and a handful of local fisherman.The noise and exuberance of the predominantly young locals,made a welcome change.

As the weekend passed the weather began to turn.Although still hot in the day and mild at night,the cloud level began to drop and come Monday I experienced my first taste of rain.My 7 day stay was to end on the Tuesday,but due to the office girls mistake,I was not booked onto the next site until Wednesday.I decided that on the Tuesday I would therefore clear off the site all day on a long run-if the Rangers couldn't find me,they couldn't do anything.I decided to head towards the south coast to the town of Mogan,a round trip of approximately 30 kms.As I sat off that morning the rain was steady,but i noticed that the wind was picking up.Not expecting any rain on the trip I had taken my tent purchased for the Mexico trip for £15 from Home Bargains.I was not entirely sure that it was up to the job of eliminating the effects of adverse weather.

The road down to Mogan was like one of those alpine roads that you see in the movies.The actual town didn't look far away as I began the descent,but the road was constantly switching back and forth,meandering in a seemingly haphazard fashion.I presumed as I went down the hill the weather would improve.I was wrong.The lower I got,the more the cloud closed in,the harder the wind blew and the harder the rain started to fall.I began to get concerned that if the weather was getting worse on the way down,what would be happening at the campsite....and what was happening to my tent!After running for around 10 kms I made the decision to turn back.

Arriving back at camp I was initially relieved to see the tent still standing.A closer inspection left me deflated.I had pitched the tent on a slight slope descending towards the water.This slope was now a little stream,going straight under the tent.The trickle of water at the side of my pitch was obviously the main inlet for the water from higher in the mountains and had now turned into a raging torrent.I looked inside the tent.The groundsheet was soaked,but luckily,as I had placed my rucksack on top of my self inflating sleeping mat,my clothing was still relatively dry.I knew I had no choice,but to move the tent.The tent had a double covering and to move it I would have to take off the outer water proof cover,resulting in the non water proof inner shell letting in water and soaking my stuff.I was wet through,tired from running and cold,but knew I would have to wait until the rain eased.

Firstly I had to get warm.I stripped down to bare feet,and shorts,searching for dry gear in the tent when I heard a voice behind me.'Permiso,permiso.' It was the Park Ranger wanting to see my permission letter.He continued ,'Permiso,permiso.' I was shivering and my mood was rapidly deteriorating.If I heard his voice again I was torn between turning around and knocking him out,or sitting down on the soaked ground and crying.I felt a fool,unprepared and stupid.I showed him my letter,fully expecting him to pick up on the fact that I should be moving that day.He inspected it,handed it back and smiled.He pointed to the torrent at the side of the tent and muttered in broken English,'You better move tent.You get washed away!'

The rain eased temporarily,I moved the tent and hunkered down,abandoning thoughts of a second run that day.I thought of polar explorers and alpine mountaineers,who could be tent bound by bad weather for days on end and developed a new found respect for them.The next 12 hours resulted in gale force winds and driving rain.The tent just managed to keep standing and eventually,as the storm passed,I feel into a deep,tired sleep.

The next day,as I packed up my tent,the glorious weather was back.It had been a great first week or so of running.My aching legs had found new strength after three or four days,finally getting used to the the relentless incline/decline nature of the trails.I headed back up the 10km climb to Ayacata, once again feeling positive.I felt that I had earned myself a treat and resolved to spend around 20 euros on some decent food at the summit cafe.It would be more than the cost of the food which I had purchased for the entire week.