Listen to the wind blow, watch the sun rise. Running in the shadows, damn your love, damn your lies

Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain seems a good place to start. Immortalised as the theme tune to Formula One racing but the words from the first part of the suite has great meaning. Stevie Nicks, the writer of the lyrics, obviously had some real issues over her break up with her lover Lindsay Buckingham. But the lyrics speak to all who have been betrayed and lost and let’s face facts sometimes life or someone has let us down. Stars can’t shine without darkness.


Some of you may be aware that recently I have experienced a ‘crisis’ in my life. Perhaps it might have been called a mental breakdown. Things have got on top of me recently and the current instability and negetivity has brought me down. My, or rather incidents in, past hidden in a shallow grave in my psyche which, thanks to my counseling, has risen up and bitten me in the ass. The feelings that submerged are/were uncomfortable, painful, tearful, but very necessary for a recovery.

In between these excruiciating sessions I run. I run to feel the wind blow, I run to feel the sunrise, I run to damn your love and damn your lies. I can see it’s about breaking the chain. This chain links my past, the things in my past I regret, my mistakes but…

Listen to the wind blow, down comes the night
Running in the shadows, damn your love, damn your lies
Break the silence, damn the dark, damn the light

Solitude and loneliness bring those thoughts back. Thoughts of unworthiness, thoughts of despair, thoughts of weakness, lack of self esteem and confidence, and worse thoughts. So what can I do? I think in the moment and control what I can control. Fortunately I have a fabulous support network of close friends who help me immensely and without whose help I shudder to think what might happen.

Breaking the Chain but I’m no super hero

It’s not only my friends but my running. I’ve been signed off unfit to work for three weeks and running and that runner’s high has kept me sane and buoyant. Again a couple of friends who meet me and take me out for that ever so important run. Those runs, and there have been many, have taken me around the streets of Burnham-on-Sea, along local trails, along the beach, the esplanade and parks, Ian and Matt have guided me on runs further afield to the Quantocks and the Mendips to bathe in ‘shinrin yoku’. Immerse myself in the beauty of nature and it’s wonderful colours at this time of year.

Today the rain fell incessantly. The opportunity to get out for a run was diminishing minute by minute and I felt particularly at a low ebb. I sat in my son’s bedroom staring out the window. A message pinged on my phone from Sophie, a friend. She asked how I was and we got talking and joking. She said she wanted to run so I offered to join her and she accepted. We met and she said she was only going to run 5 km, which was fine by me. We ran and chatted and when we finished our run it was over 4 miles, more than we intended. Sophie was pleased we had ran further and I was pleased I’d helped. Win, win and a positive finish to my day.

Sophie and me

And if you don’t love me now (you don’t love me now)
You will never love me again
I can still hear you saying
You would never break the chain (never break the chain)

I’m trying and I will.

If I Leave Here Tomorrow

If I leave here tomorrow
Would you still remember me?
For I must be traveling on now
‘Cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see

Six years ago I was lying in a bed in Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton wondering what my future was. I had had a cancerous tumour removed from me, along with a section of bowel and part of my rectum. I had tubes coming into and out of everywhere, and I mean everywhere. The canulla in the back of hand was the very worst. Every movement pulled and irritated. My hand was sore, bruised and swollen. Over the four weeks I was in hospital, the nurses tried both hands and were considering where else to put them.

One of the Sisters was a keen runner and I would ask her daily about her runs. The nurses all worked so hard I found it impossible that they could find time for a hobby. Running is more than a hobby though. It’s me time. Time for quiet contemplation. Time for me to with likewise people and chat your woes away. Oh, and it’s also exercise!

This Sister was just what I needed, a Godsend. Her stories of her runs were an insight into the world I wanted to return to and I looked forward to her rounds to hear of her runs but I felt my future running was well away especially as any future for me was far away.

Forward six years to the present. I’m running. It’s a fabulous experience. All those wonderful feelings are coming back. The anxieties of running with other runners, of racing and feelings of being in such company. But most of all, how would my fellow club runners receive me on my return? Sadly, the NHS don’t provide guidance after care. You just seem to be thrown out and without actually saying it ‘get over it’. I was lost to the system for a year and then they asked me why? I don’t blame the nurses but the administration who have to ask questions about themselves and sadly I’m not the the exception.

Running this week was a prime example to my particular problems of running after bowel cancer. To dash into the sand dunes and bushes to defaecate 4 times during a 5 mile run is not normal. It’s embarrassing, depressing and soul destroying. After 6 years it feels there is no possible improvement. I’ve got by in half marathons but can I really run a marathon again? Sometimes I wish my previous pre cancer life was my legacy but it seems I must carry on.

Running another marathon is on my wish list. Christ, I know I will not be as fast as I was but I need to prove to myself and other cancer survivors that there is a life afterwards. It represents one last great effort if only to myself. So I registered my interest in the Brighton Marathon. I’ve ran London plenty of times so I figured let others run that. After all I’m looking for a difference, a fresh marathon to start my holistic rehabilation into distant running although a trail marathon would have been ideal and could still be an option.

The London Marathon was a vision of Chris Brasher, a pacemaker for Roger Bannister’s historic first 4 minute mile, to equal the New York Marathon and improve the standard of marathon and long distance running in the UK. Sorry to say this but now it’s become a freak show for charity runners and it’s charity sponsorship over quality.

I’ve booked myself onto an England Athletics coaches course. Normally the adage is never change unless something is broken but sometimes things need bringing a fresh outlook, a different voice or face or point of view. Tracey Thomas will join me and she has so much enthusiasm for her potential role as a coach. I hope we can provide what our runners need. I’m also working on a Couch to 5k programme to commence in the New Year.

I realise I’m now very cynical probably an age thing maybe but running has to to be open to all and not just for the elite or the park runners. Many good quality club runners have no chance in running the London Marathon for instance and that race is considered the Golden Egg of races.

Park run performs a great purpose in introducing runners and walkers into regular exercise but what about the next step, that’s not really thought about and running clubs have the duty to provide the link. As club captain, I’ve looked into this and no advice is given from England Athletics. It is two seperate enerties it seems.

The onus is forced back onto the club and their coaches and run leaders to try and bridge any gap. This causes a great problem to provide the right progress route for all. Okay there’s no park runs at the moment but our club has been flooded with people wanting to step up this last 12 months and adequate help hasn’t been available.

And So This Is Christmas And What Have You Done?

Who remembers those selection packs that an auntie or some distant relative would give you for Christmas as a cop out pressie? In my my day it would consist of Spangles a fruit boiled sweet, Marathon a runner’s based chocolate bar and would soon be Snickers, Mars an intergalactic confectionery, and a finger of Fudge. The packaging might include a dice based game that was never played.

I don’t really embrace Christmas. It’s a time for families to get together and celebrate but not for me as my family, what’s left, is spread far and wide. Don’t feel sorry for me as I’m used to spending Christmas that way. I would love to spend Christmas with my family but that’s the way the dice always rolls. Boris always move the goalposts but why should we take heed of him and his ship of fools.

I always thought my family was here with the Harriers but it’s clearly not the case as I’m not sure where I am and who I can trust. There have been some improvements. Matt and Alex have made great improvements with the speed sessions and the the regular runs are extending to 5 miles but not nearly enough as I believe 10k to be the minimum. Back at Tewkesbury, 8 miles was minimum for a club run. I am a second claim member at a club in Cheltenham and they have differing sessions every night. Ok, they are a bigger club but Burnham don’t really offer enough to new runners and I’m sure more can be done to attract new runners from other clubs and park run.

But I’m not captain anymore. I don’t need to think about club runs unless run leaders can’t be bothered and something must be set up and I must be a good club member. Why I should care is beyond me as some of the run leaders can’t be asked. I think I worked hard as club captain without any support from the committee who requested me to resign over a lack of confidence. Fancy asking someone to resign about lack of confidence with someone with no self confidence.

So in short, shit year…again and please embrace me into the club again. I’m not entirely sure how I was left out.

A most satisfying 5km. Joe’s Santa Run and it gave me immense satisfaction to run a fun run and raise money for charity.

Look out for the New Year blog.


For each a road
For everyman a religion
Find everybody and rule
For everything and rumble
Forget everything and remember
For everything a reason
Forgive everybody and remember

Today was the Weston Super Half Marathon and my longest run since suffering from Covid-19. My breathing has been wheezy but I’ve been improving week on week. I’ve settled into a specific training regime of frequent runs with a chest strap transmitter and keeping the majority of my runs at a heart rate of between 120-130 with the occasional faster effort. I have been using my old Polar chest strap heart rate monitor as my Garmin Forerunner 235 uses the pulse, which is inaccurate. Today, I figured it was the right time to test my method after having missed a couple of races recently and these days racing isn’t cheap.

I was confident of my approach as my training had been a solid block with improvement on breathing and heart rate. I had ran twice over 10 miles and many times over 10 kilometers. My main disappointment was there had not been any racing opportunities since my last way back in May and August and had been running very well, I think. I admit I was jealous of others who had been racing in recent weeks and I was positive that I was running a long test run but needed that ‘buzz’. I needed to keep this a secret to my closest friends as I was sure they would not approve and talk me out of running although I knew this was an important run for me. This was literally make or break as I could feel I was running into retirement.

I was grateful for Tracey Thomas for giving myself and Sue, Madame Pompomadour, a lift to the race. Tracey had been running well recently completing Mendip Muddle the previous week and a successful Mixed Relay win a couple of weeks before. Many Harriers had rocked up for the race including Jonathan Williams on his birthday. If ever he deserved breakfast in bed it was today.

That’s the prologue done and dusted, now for the run. I was a liitle uncertain where to line up so I chose a few yards/metres behind 2.00 hour finsh pace maker. The race started at 10.15, a strange time, and we did a 2 mile loop before heading across the beach and towards Uphill and Bleadon. My heart rate spiked a little running across the sand but I was soon able to control this. I was unpertubed by the runners overtaking me as I was determined to stick to my race plan. We meanered out onto the main road and back along the Uphill cycle route back onto the beach where Alex Hamilton caught up with me. He was running cautiously as he had turned his ankle playing football. A quick chat and snap and he was gone.

8 miles and still smiling unlike Eminem

After running across the sand a second time I couldn’t get my heart rate back between my parameters so I gave it a go.I was feeling great. Breathing was good and no sign of fatigue. The race now passes the pier and out onto the Kewstoke Road to a point where you turn and come back into Weston. Here you can see faster runner on the left and where I could offer encouragement to other Harriers. Going out is up hill so coming back is downhill. My 13th mile was at 8.01 was my fastest so my tactics were good. We finished on the pier. I, maybe, could have gone faster but I ticked the boxes I wanted and was pleased with my run.

Madame Pompomadour managed to pick a fight with some anti vaccination protesters. She was called a Nazi but she asked if any of them had received a flu jab and the binary answer was reluctant. Hypocrites.

Many thanks to Hannah Tucker and Madame Pompomadour for your cheering and support. It really means so much.

Thanks, Ian Brown. For Everythig A Reason.

True Faith

Songwriters: Hook Peter, Morris Stephen Paul David, Sumner Bernard, Hague Stephen Eric, Gilbert Gillian Lesley

I feel so extraordinary
Something’s got a hold on me
I get this feeling I’m in motion
A sudden sense of liberty
I don’t care ’cause I’m not there
And I don’t care if I’m here tomorrow
Again and again I’ve taken too much
Of the things that cost you too much

I used to think that the day would never come
I’d see delight in the shade of the morning sun
My morning sun is the drug that brings me near
To the childhood I lost, replaced by fear
I used to think that the day would never come
That my life would depend on the morning sun

When I was a very small boy
Very small boys talked to me
Now that we’ve grown up together
They’re afraid of what they see
That’s the price that we all pay
Our valued destiny comes to nothing
I can’t tell you where we’re going
I guess there was just no way of knowing

I used to think that the day would never come
I’d see delight in the shade of the morning sun
My morning sun is the drug that brings me near
To the childhood I lost, replaced by fear
I used to think that the day would never come
That my life would depend on the morning sun

I feel so extraordinary
Something’s got a hold on me
I get this feeling I’m in motion
A sudden sense of liberty
The chances are we’ve gone too far
You took my time and you took my money
Now I fear you’ve left me standing
In a world that’s so demanding

I used to think that the day would never come
I’d see delight in the shade of the morning sun
My morning sun is the drug that brings me near
To the childhood I lost, replaced by fear
I used to think that the day would never come
That my life would depend on the morning sun

I used to think that the day would never come
I’d see delight in the shade of the morning sun
My morning sun is the drug that brings me near
To the childhood I lost, replaced by fear
I used to think that the day would never come
That my life would depend on the morning sun


Work it, make it, do it, makes us

How can you run faster? By running faster? It’s not necessarily so.

I was started running by jogging and walking and was soon up to an hour of constant jogging. I played cricket so I wasn’t completely unfit. I entered the local half and finished just outside 92 minutes. My wife, Sue, worked with a more serious runner and she invited me to join her and her husband on their regular Sunday long run. It was 12 miles long and I loved it and quickly realised that this particular run should be the basis of my weekly training routine.

This didn’t seem enough for me so I dipped my blistered feet into running club life. I’d finished with cricket, for the first time! I loved running and this was more than filling any void. My, now, running was all at a similar pace. Pleased with my improvement, every run was at the same pace. Not necessarily fast but the same. Almost race pace every time and thinking that was the way to improve.Then one February evening my running changed forever. I felt like I had suddenly been shot in the outside of my knee. From flying I was spiralling down to Earth in flames. Ilio Tibial Band Syndrome. I had a good running posture but I was running too much and at the same pace.

I was out of action for many months but this gave me time to think logically about my running. I needed a plan and it worked with some brilliance.

The Sunday long run had to stay. It’s the cornerstone of running. A regular long run of 10 miles or so gives the stamina to complete any distance up to the half marathon and is fantastic aerobic exerise. This type of physical activity increases the heartrate and promotes increased use of oxygen in order to improve the body condition.

Introduce some speedwork or hill training for anaerobic training, or short bursts of engery. Speedwork would be very basic. Modest fartlek, Swedish for speed play. I would run street lamp posts alternating sprint with jog recovery. Near where I lived there is a road of about 300-350 metres length of steepish climb. 5 or 6 reps of that at a hard pace was enough. I would run one of those sessions once a week. It doesn’t need to be a long session. Just enough to wake up those fast twitcher muscles and get you breathing heavy.

Second to the long run was the recovery run. Around 3-4 miles of slow jogging at at least 2 minutes a mile slower than race pace. This was the run to think of posture, form, relaxation, stride length and to flush any lactic acid build up away. This is when energy levels are high and glucose is broken down and converted to concentrations of lactic acid which the body can’t process quickly enough. This is the heavy leg feeling we get after a race or intense session.

Simply put. Mix it up. Try different sessions each week until you find what works. Don’t run the same all the time. I’m no expert but I learnt quickly. I’ve not been injured since and my race times were okay. Embrace a slow recovery run.

Half marathon is wrong. Should 75.52 at Bath 2000. I was never any good at 10kms.

Baker Street or The Race of a Baker in Street

Sincerest apologies to the late great Gerry Rafferty

Flying Feet in Street Photo courtesy of Mark Benton

Observations are mine and are attributed to no one else unless referenced.

Racing for many Burnham-on-Sea Harriers begins this weekend for the Not The Glastonbury Around The Tor 10km this Bank Holiday weekend. Due to Covid-19 and social distancing the ‘race’will be a 6.2 mile time trial in the nearby and less likely to be populated town of Street.

Because spectators are persona non grata and our resident Cheerleader, Madame PomPomadour, can’t attend. She is quite noisey so this will help those suffering from the usual Sunday morning hangover. Odd as you can fill half of Wembley Stadium or the whole of the Crucible for some snooker chukka but folks are prevented from standing, social distancing, to watch a running time trial. It’s fine as she has some decorating to do. She has some help from Carrie Symonds and I can’t wait to see the final outcome!

I think most of us have found in the last 12 months that sport without spectators, fans, those people with a vested interest, is shallow. Like crackers without cheese and like a bacon butty without brown sauce that most important component is missing. People who don’t even like sport appreciate somebody ‘having a go’, trying their best to do what they can in an event or race. Everybody has their own personal agendas be it to prove something to themselves, to accomplish a feat after an addiction, raise money for charity or to honour a loved one. Some, God forbid, just want to run fast and win but that’s cool also as sport must be inclusive to all. Most are anxious. Not sure if their training has been enough, not sure if they really fit in, not sure they should be there. You are the main part of the event. Fifteen years ago I could run a marathon in under 3 hours but someone who runs a marathon in 5 or more hours still covers the same distance, has the same experience of joy and pleasure and pain.

Race day preparation

Well I think it’s fair to say I nervous, apprehensive, worried, scared, anxious, and yet delighted to be on a starting line again even if it was in groups of 20 and in one of 50 waves starting at 2 minutes intervals. I even took a Covid-19 test to prove I was negative and posed no threat to others.

My good buddy and vice captain of The Harriers, Tracey Thomas, kindly gave me a lift to the race and we spoke of club matters and the usual frivolous nonsense that nervous people talk about before a race. This was particularly odd as we hadn’t competed in over a year and over this period we had not pushed ourselves.

Tracey and Myself ‘papped’ whilst walking to the start. Photo courtesy of Georgie Della-Valle

Walking to the start line we met up with other club mates as we would have normally 14 months ago and it felt weird to observe all the protocols like social distancing. As none of us had raced in well over a year none of us were really sure how the event would turn out. Race packs were sent out a few days before race day. This included a snood for masking, final instuctions and our bib number on which was printed our wave number and start time. We were all informed to enter a holding area, car park, which also served as a warm-up track 30 minutes before our start time where we would be called to the start in wave order and sent off on their way. I must admit that any fears I had were completely quashed and the organisers carried out this procedure with Germanic effiency.

At 10.22 am my wave were off and away. The nervous joking was over and the serious business of racing began. The only other Harrier in my wave was Lewis Perry and we set off together and within the first few hundred metres 6 or 8 runners sped off into the distance. I immediately thought I was definitely in the wrong place and time and I was no way prepared for this. I was also hoping that the subsquent waves wouldn’t swallow me up. Lewis and I carried on as best we could encouraging each other but trying not to waste too much energy or breath on chatting and we gradually got into race mode and rhythm.

The course was a quiet country road that had been closed to traffic and was out and back. At the 5 kilometre turn I felt strong so I kicked on. Only a park run to go 🤣 is normally the mantra but of course that is complete 💩. I could now see other runners on the other side of the road heading towards the turn and waving encouragement to my friends. Not wasting valuable oxygen by shouting. I passed a poor lady runner hobbling badly, her race had clearly been ran, and soon after the supporting cavalry in the shape of an ambulance was tearing up the middle of the road to assist her.

The kilometres passed quickly and I started overtaking some of those in my wave who got off to a fast start. Approaching the 400 metres to go sign and I felt sorry I was finishing as the whole event had been a hoot but some hadn’t even started their adventure. I stopped my watch but without my glasses I couldn’t really make out my time but I was well pleased with my effort.

Heading back to the holding area, after picking up my medal and bottle of water, we gathered to excitedly speak about our emotions of the morning. Each finishing Harrier was bekoned over to our corner that was Burnham-on-Sea to tell us of their own tales of joy, or woe.

All in all a fabulous morning and many thanks and congratulations to Mendip Athletics Club for staging a very successful event. It certainly was a rare treat to wear club colours again and to see others wearing theirs. Right, when’s the next race?

The Times Are A- Changin

Come gather ’round people wherever you roam
And admit that the waters around you have grown
And accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone
And if your breath to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times, they are a-changin’.

A good old classic rock lyric is always a good place to start.

The times they are a changin’. Good Ol’ Bob Dylan. He couldn’t have realised what a Nostradamus he would become. Popular culture is often a barometer of the public feeling and Bobby Dylan is is certainly up there. It is easy to fit their words into prophecies. The words of the prophet are written on a subway wall. A line from Spirit of Radio by Rush. It is so easy to pluck a line from a song and consider it divine intervention. It’s so easy to do that but it’s probably better coming from Bob Dylan than DJ Clucky Cucks and his Mighty Ducks or whatever passes for musical culture these days.

The reason for my rant; well, it’s our return to running, and running in groups. It seems groups of teenagers can hang around in groups of many yet official club runs are criticised. I am club captain of Burnham-on-Sea Harriers and am meticulous in arranging our runs into small groups of 6 maximun but, of course, this is not always possible. It depends on pace, on distance, on friendship within the group and availability to run and it can be a bloody headache.

So far things have gone okay. We’ve only had a couple of complaints, one joking the other more serious but outdoor running can’t really be more serious than queuing for fish and chips so why are we vilified so much. Public perception, media?

Exercise, activity, getting off your arse and doing something is great for our health but also our mental health. It provides a change of view, a different focus. Something to aim for and therefore achieve, a sense of self satisfaction and a release of our problems. Maybe to chat on a run with buddy can release all those demons that have been cooped up in your psyche. It really is great to talk.

Online help has never been greater. The choice is up to you. England Athletics affiliated clubs have Mental Health Champions who you can speak to with without judgement ot prejudice. Facebook groups like Runr or Team Jelly Babies are another alternative. Help is available if you’re too sensitive to reach out to people you know.

The point of this is that there is help available. Sometimes not professional but others have suffered liked you have and you’re not alone and they have some experience. Please reach out, they’ll always be someone to listen without judging. The stigma isn’t there as much. Regrettably more and more people are feeling the strain especially now, without meeting with family and friends during this horrible time.

The face
The route

The weather was unseasonally warm with a cloudless sky and endless sunshine. Charlton Athletic had lost to The Posh so what better reason to run than lift my spirits. This was a route a Run Leader colleague of mine, Tracey Thomas, had used a couple of weeks previous and I thought would be a perfect antidote to a day at work and release from those pressures for a club run of my own. During the weeks of spring and summer, I think it’s important to get away from the dusty roads that we trample over the dark days of winter and seek the trails. Another reason is to avoid the beach and Esplanade that is so busy always for a seaside town. Public perception is everything and mentioned before we must respect this.

Hopefully I’m going to participate in my first race in over a year next weekend and I’m not sure what to expect. One day this will all be a distant memory but let’s all reduce the mental health cost we will all have to pay. We have to be optimistic, we must look forward because the past has gone.

The future’s so bright, I have to wear shades 😎.

Emotional Rescue

I come to you, so silent in the night
So stealthy, so animal quiet
I’ll be your saviour, steadfast and true
I’ll come to your emotional rescue
I’ll come to your emotional rescue

In under 10 days our hell may be over. The roll out of vaccinations and increased testing of Covid-19 may help us feel a little safer and secure but we have all been isolated from our friends and family, the people we truly love. The Harriers will again return to our club night runs. We will start with organising ourselves in small groups of 6 or 7. We could have groups of up to 12 but I think that is insensitive. Some runners will be happy and quite prepared to get out and run with friends in a group again but some may feel not so.

Some of our friends could feel an amount of anxiety. Hey, yeah, it’ll be really great to see my buddies again but am I safe? Will they be safe? Do they have signs of symptoms of Covid? Has everybody been vaccinated? Are they tested regularly?

Anxiety is a performance killer. It has destroyed many potential great athletes, business people, politicians, in fact anybody and everybody. Try not to let anxiety prevent you from coming to club runs or racing. I truly shudder when I type this as it’s such a massive obstacle with anyone who thinks too deeply or worries about things. I am a worrier. I get severely anxious and nervous. I’m not perfect or have the answers but I hope I can help. Here is a simple traffic light system to assess your feelings.

It comes down to how you feel and your thought process. If you can evaluate that, it could be a massive step in the right direction.

What is anxiety?
A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome. A nervous disorder marked by excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behaviour or panic attacks.

Whatever words you use, it can be crippling and prevent the most tuned athlete from performing at their best. After a year of not racing and competing, without being with friends and family we will all feel some sort of anxiety when we can return together. A certain amount of anxiety can be good and help to give the edge when competing or performing a certain training session. An excessive amount can be obstructive to performance.

What techniques can we use to overcome anxiety? Anxiety typically affects our breathing rate as it is a defence to fight or flight tendencies. When anxious, our breathing becomes shallow and oxygen is not transported around the body as it should be. Deep breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, can help regulate oxygenation around the body.

Try and practice this on a daily basis to build up your skills to be able to use this tool when needed. A similar technique that could be used is Ratio Breathing. This when the exhalations are longer than the inhalations. For instance breath in for 2 seconds, hold, breath out for 4 seconds , hold and repeat.

Other techniques can also be used such as Progressive Muscle Relaxation, PMR, where you tense and relax muscles in order. Podcasts are available to guide you in this process. I believe breathing is a good place to start.

Anxiety can start with thoughts but our thoughts can be can be controlled. Our first thought may be ‘I’m good enough’ but that comes with comparison and especially at the moment there can be no comparison to how you achieved last February/ March or to how our friends have been doing. It’s just a challenge to maintain our own fitness to level that we find acceptable and without races that’s difficult. So it’s vital, when we do return, to just concentrate on the social aspect. Enjoy the company of the friends that we all have missed. Chat and run and soon enough that edge, that pace, that competitiveness will return. And, it always helps to talk.

Old Man

Old man take a look at my life
I’m a lot like you
I need someone to love me
the whole day through
Ah, one look in my eyes
and you can tell that’s true.

Neil Young’s song is about a young man reaching maturity and maybe realising his responsibilities. It’s one of my favourite songs by one of my favourite singer/songwriters. A simple song featuring just voice and acoustic guitar, no lavish production. Getting older is just like that that, no shits and giggles, just time passages.

18 is considered the age of majority in Great Britain. You can vote and legally (!) go into a pub. In fact you become an adult and are able to make all those legal decisions without your parents consent and a great excuse for a bloody good p*ss up. It used to be 21 but now it’s merely another excuse to ‘get on it’ and away from the im/er indoors for a night out. Life begins at 40 mainly because you’re in that mid-life crisis and you still think you’re 18. 50 you want to be in by 9 o’clock because that nice David Attenborough is on the telly box. I’m 57 and dress like an 8 year old and act like a 12 year old so much of that doesn’t apply.

Why write this depressing drivel about getting old I hear you mutter? Some things do improve with age. Wine, cheese, comedy. I find Porridge and Tommy Cooper funnier even now than Mrs. Brown’s Boys or Michael McIntyre and don’t get me started on music. The Jam, The Clash, and even Duran Duran stir the blood more than most 2020s musicians whom I couldn’t even recall. What would Neil Young say?

This is all because Tom Brady has won his seventh Superbowl ring at the tender age of 43. Sports men/women just don’t play at the top level at that age. Vision and reactions aren’t as sharp. The fitness and the ability to recover quickly goes as does the hunger for success but as for runners no way, Pedro.

When I was 43 I was at my best as a runner. Runners, distance runners, runners like us, don’t reach our best until we’re in our forties and beyond. Running and the training involved is hard work and your average teenager to twenty something isn’t awfully keen on putting in the sort of shift required. Instant gratification with little effort or, especially, sweat is the way and a plethora of video games and television channels can’t help.

At Burnham-on-Sea Harriers we’re blessed to have some real age related inspiration. Super Sue Nicholls has to be top of the list. She took up running late in years and has certainly made up for lost time. She has ran all the World Marathon Majors, London, Boston, Berlin, Chicago, New York and Tokyo and is consistently winning awards in local races. Ian Booth, a high quality road and mountain cyclist, climber, hiker, rambler and leader, and now turned runner offer so much knowledge that you would be a fool to ignore. We’re so lucky to have this kind of experience to call on, especially when new runners are about to tackle their first really big challenge like a half or full marathon.

Of course there’s a pay off. Waning performance but increasing experience, and it’s that racing/running savvy that can pay dividends. Knowing where and when to push on . Take it easy up a hill climb and then fly down the descent the other side. Where it’s flat and can pick up the pace. Knowing exactly where the finish line is an advantage.

As for me, myself. I’ve had my moments and can offer some of my experience and advice. And now, it’s not a time to despair, keep ticking over, keep doing the right things like cross training, like running for fun, like stretching, like nutrition and getting out with a buddy and encouraging each other, watching YouTube videos of Joe Wicks or some crazy ultra runner. Everything helps to fire motivation and it can come from anywhere and when you least expect it.

Ultimately, its all about fun and getting what you want out of it. Some want fast times and rise through the ranks, others prefer the social aspect and running with likewise, run to hopefully make loved ones proud and some are just looking forward to the journey and where they may end up. Whatever, enjoy and embrace every run. My Old Man watched the London Marathon and the local half marathon and I hope he would have been proud of my achievements as my son and wife are.

They call Alabama the Crimson Tide

Learn to work the saxophone
I play just what I feel
Drink Scotch whiskey all night long
And die behind the wheel
They got a name for the winners in the world
I want a name when I lose
They call Alabama the Crimson Tide
Call me Deacon Blues

Steely Dan at their sarcastic best. All my ‘fans’ know I love my musical references and here I am like Tom Waits sat at a piano with a bottle of bourbon and a head full of thoughts and emotions just hoping for the bran to take effect for that artistic crap. Thanks to XTC frontman Andy Partridge saying this in a NME interview and now will never shift from my mind.

2020 was a non year. I nearly had more lockdowns than races! And the near future doesn’t look a lot better. I won’t consider entering another race until March at the earliest and I won’t get a Covid-19 vaccination any time soon, maybe June. I’m an asthmatic but I’ll wait my turn. I get regular temperature checks and Covid tests so I know I’m cool.

I’m physically tired and mentally exhausted and it’s affected my health. I’ve tried really hard to make sure we’re all engaged and encouraged to run. I have had a couple of loyal lieutenants who have helped to keep me sane and I am completely in your debt. They were a tremendous rock when I had my mental health issues during the autumn. They won’t appreciate this but I will namecheck them. They are Kelly Sherriff and Ian Booth. Maybe I set my bar too high. I feel I’m along the right lines judging by the response from our members.

We had Harrier Spotting, Rainbow Colour Shirts, 5km Challenge, different cross training challenges, the Virtual Pub Quizzes, various bingo challenges and Victoria Nixon with her Stars and Segments Challenges and Ganesh and the Half Baked Half Marathon. There was the Spotify playlists. The ‘First Record Bought’ was very illuminating. We had the Zoom chats with an England Athletics Coach to try and improve our approach to running, trialling Totum supplements and I tried and failed to get nutritional advice from Calleva, a supplement company in North Petherton, but that’s still a work in progress. I’ve been accepted as an England Athletics #runandtalk Champion supported by the charity Mind to help regarding mental health issues.

It’s been an unfortunate period. We can’t run in groups with our friends, we have to have be so vigilant to keep ourselves and others safe as we have a new normal.

I feel like a dinosaur and an imposter. Things have moved so much and so quickly. Technology has taken over. Zwift virtual runs and cycle rides have taken over as people want to avoid people. I just want to get out and run. On the road, beach, trail. Feel the wind, rain and sun on my face and the back of my neck. It’s my way of feeling truly alive.

Some have been shielding and isolating and I hope you’ve not been forgotten. I’ve tried to keep in touch with most. The Annual General Meeting is looming near and in stunning Supermarionation™ of Zoom. I feel my job is unfinished. I have to be captain when we have races, I have to use my experience to make a difference, and I have to help others to reach their goals.

Do I want to carry on as Club Captain? No, not really. In normal circumstances, of course. I am truly gratified that the membership wanted me as captain. But, this year has been a shit sandwich. I want to rock up next Tuesday and see Tracey Benton and Sue Nicholls smiling, telling me to pay attention and announcing their club run. They’ve both served the club brilliantly and deserve their chance to step back a little.

This leads me to the work of others behind the scenes. Tracey and Mark Benton have both been a huge support for me. Tracey’s experience as a previous captain has been invaluable and Mark is a no nonsense common sense bloke and does a great Geddy Lee impression after a little red wine. Matt Powell is a real fun guy. The kind I can spend hours with in a pub and come up with loads of brilliant ideas. An idea for committee meetings when we can meet up again. Stevie D is the work horse that makes everything tick, unnoticed but always there. The Run Leaders, Super Sue, Tracey B, Steve Wilcox, Ian Booth, Matt, Stevie D, Tony Gore, pressed ganged Tim Byrne on special occasions, and, especially, Tracey Thomas who has always been there for club runs regardless and a great support.

Also, I would like to thank all the Harriers who have bought into my madness, have taken part in the challenges and have turned up on those rare Tuesday club night runs.

I’m sick and tired of moaning about the lack of races, lack of time running together. There are some Harriers I haven’t seen in nearly a year. I want to write about Harriers racing, great performances from our members, humorous encounters and episodes along the way. In fact I yearn for precedented times unlike these unprecedented days. Those halcyon days where, like the Nailsea RC Beer and Banger 10k, when we we can sit around with a pint and chew on a cheesy sausage.

The Annual General Meeting is on Tuesday, 2nd February at 7.30pm and it will take the form of a Zoom chat. It’s your chance for your voice to be heard.

Vote Pineapple 🍍

Incidentally, I prefer bourbon or Irish Whiskey to Scotch Whisky.

Call me Team Yellow