The Pretender

Are you there? Say a prayer for the pretender
Who started out so young and strong only to surrender

Whatever we do in life we all start off with hopes and dreams and aspirations. I wanted to be a train driver or an astronaut but instead was a tie maker, worked in a record shop, a tool maker, repaired home cinema projectors and make high quality preserves and marmalade. Quite a diversity. Did any of this make me happy? Not really. It was never Manchester Piccadilly to Bristol Temple Meads or Cape Canaveral to the Moon. Apart from the record shop, none of these jobs satisfied my insatiable appetite for pushing my boundaries, giving me something at the end of the day to contemplate and take home to further myself. I guess sport was my always that outlet, that reason and purpose to push myself both physically and mentally.

Originally cricket gave me that outlet. At school I was described as a ‘poof’ for playing cricket but I enjoyed my lessons bowling at the ‘cool’ rugby and football players and watching them crap themselves as my medium-fast paced bowling slapped their thighs and, then when batting, launching their bowling onto the 400m athletics track. But, cricket is a team game. It’s based on the one to one battle between batter and bowler but as a team game you can still be let down by other team members who didn’t follow my philosophy as we win and lose as one.

So I ran. I could win or lose by my own efforts alone.

Friday I ran with Ian Booth from Cross up to Crook Peak and back. 6and a half miles. Ian was and still is a very keen cyclist, mountain biker and general outdoor enthusiast, and now runner. A valued Run Leader with Burnham-on-Sea Harriers and a good friend. We always have a great chat. It may be politics, music, just any ideas or thoughts and we are generally on the same page of life’s playbook. Like me, his choices when he left school were very limited but he worked hard and made a great life for himself with lots of great memories. I guess, looking back, I never noticed my opportunities or they were never there to begin with. Thatcherism. My generation were more obsessed with a 3rd Cold World War than any future.

On club run nights, Ian leads a group at around 10.30 min/mile pace and mostly ladies. He has the charisma and the chat and they love him. They are called the Dream Team and they are a great bunch. Recently I’ve had difficulties with my mental well being and Ian has been very supportive in helping me get back to my default setting and to function normally in society again. I can’t thank him enough as well as a couple of other people like Kelly, Tracey B and Georgie DV.

Pretender and surrender? I’ve lived my ambitions through sport rather than work. I was a good footballer, a good cricketer, a good runner but I never realised my potential. Sometimes I was held back and other times I held myself back. Jealousy of others and I was just scared of reaching the next level stopped me. So, Pretender. I’m a social runner now, Surrender.

Saturday was a pottering around day. Frustrations built up and and my only release was to run. I chose my favourite route. Through town to the golf course and follow a foot path along the side and across the golf course onto the beach where I would run back to Burnham-on-Sea town. I would dwell a while at St. Mary’s Church, or ‘Church of the Dunes’, at Berrow. I find the views and silence very relaxing. It’s easy to find my inner peace and control my feelings there. I ran across a fairway and along a trail onto the beach where my headtorch expired and all was dark. Jinkies, I have nearly 3 mile run back, along the beach, and in the absolute dark. This only added to my inner peace. The darkness, solitude, the silence as high tide was hours away. I could see the headtorches of sea fishermen in the distance and the lights of the lighthouse and Burnham growing ever closer. What could have been a freaky run turned into a wonderful, spiritual experience.

Sunday and another challenge, and a virtual race with a race number, a Santa suit and a medal. 2020 Virtual Santa Scramble over Brean Down. I met my co-runners, Kelly and Andrea, at my usual place. Fortunately, They early and I didn’t have to hang around in a Santa suit looking like I was walking home after a Saturday night carousing.

Kelly parked up opposite Brean Village Hall and although it was high tide and after checking with our favourite coastguard, JJ Jacobs, it was safe enough to get onto the beach and run that way to the Down to make the distance up to 10 kilometres. Running along the road is tedious and dangerous, as it’s not that wide. Also, road running wearing trail shoes is painful on the ‘plates of meat’ because they have little or no cushioning.

It was a beautiful chilly December morning and the beach was quite deserted. As I tried telling my accomplices, the beach was perfectly passable and we made our first ascent. Kelly ran all the way and I thought it more chivalrous to keep Andrea company. Along the run to Brean Down Fort and back we met many walkers who were very surprised to see three runners in Father/Mother Christmas regalia. Needless to say it certainly was a conversation starter. Coming back the beach was busier with children staring with wide eyes at us. I might try it again as it could be a great way to meet single, bored mums 🤨. On returning to the car, Kelly rewarded us with a scrumptious slice of lemon drizzle cake and Andrea with delicious German ginger biscuits. My contribution was the curd for the cake, a small yet vital contribution. I washed it down with a sickly Snickers™ protein shake. Time was no objective as it was a beautiful run, on a beautiful morning and with great company.

Maybe I should be more Foo Fighters and less Jackson Browne?

What if I say I’m not like the others?
What if I say I’m not just another one of your plays?
You’re the pretender
What if I say I will never surrender?

Run Snow Patrol

Light up, light up
As if you have a choice
Even if you cannot hear my voice
I’ll be right beside you dear

What inspires us to get out and run?
Monday, 27th October 1997, 07.00am I was getting ready to go the work. I went out to buy the newspaper and made my sandwiches to sustain me through a hard, arduous day. At that time I was an uninspired toolmaker. I hated the job and worked with morons whose stupidity gave me a kind of one-upmanship. I was tired and aching after racing the Stroud Half Marathon the previous day. It was that sense of pride ache that runners get after a good race and time. My sister Gill phoned me and told me the sad news that our Dad had passed away during the night. He had been ill for much of that year and although, not surprised, the shock of it hit me like a speeding juggernaut. I phoned my Boss and told him I wouldn’t be into work that day. I was allowed two days off plus another for the funeral compassionate leave. Whoopy shit. My sister Gill and me, were executors of our Dad’s will and to unravel a man of 74 years of life in two days was pretty much impossible. Luckily, my sister’s employers were kinder and she finished what we had started.

That night, instead of an easy recovery run, I ran like my life depended on it. To free the stress and, especially, the emotions.

My Dad was unfortunate enough to die on the 27th October, my Mum’s birthday and this makes it easy for me to remember, or dread. Every year since I’ve been anxious and nervy over this period. I know I should focus on the good memories that I have, and I do have many but the day always conjures up sadness.

Just to rewind a little, my parents met during World War II in Scotland. My mother was in the Army and was an enemy plane spotter. My dad lied about his age to join the Navy as he was from Portsmouth and it was a family tradition to join up. I’m proud to say they served the United Kingdom and Allies during the darkest of days well. Especially my dad, who was on the tank landing crafts that enabled Allied troops to make it to the Italian beach at Anzio for their attack at Monte Cassino, a crucial battle akin to the D-Day landings but not often mentioned or revered, and my dad only spoke of it in his last years as real heroes don’t. The fear of attacking the beach, and being so vulnerable, most have been unimaginable for us nowadays even with the horror of watching the beginning of Saving Private Ryan.

After leaving the Royal Navy my dad joined the Merchant Navy and served with them until I was 8 or 9. I saw very little of him and therefore I was very close to my mum in those formative years. My dad always sent me a birthday card containing some money which I spent in the local toy shop, Arden Gifts, on some Gerry Anderson toy from Thunderbirds or Captain Scarlet. It did irk me when playing cricket for Burnham-on-Sea Cricket Club when an old boy bragged about his Merchant Navy pension when my dad got f*ck all, but that’s life and progress and the creakyter was a dick. Bitter, of course I am. My dad was a hard worker and and a great man and life didn’t give him an even break.

My dad regularly watched the London Marathon on tv and the local Tewkesbury Half Marathon although not being sporty or active he loved to see people try and have a go. It’s my biggest regret that he wasn’t alive to see me run them. I know he would have been so proud that I had ran in London regardless of what time that I finished in. That is the touchstone for many club runners, that elusive London Marathon medal and tee shirt. The ultimate proof of being a marathoner.

Remembrance Day and Armistice Day have recently passed and I know there must be many who are fondly thinking of the the sacrifice of their father’s, grandfather’s, mother’s and grandmother’s youth to help preserve our democracy and improve our way of life even in these days of Covid-19.

Incidentally that Stroud Half Marathon was my 4th half and I finished in 124th place in a time of 1.23:22

A Day at the Races. Queen or Marx Brothers?

What’s that best run ever? Jinkies, what a thing to confront. A good friend of mine suggested this and I just baulked. I’ve ran for many years on and off so I have a huge back catalogue to choose from. What’s my favourite record, comedian, film, takeaway? These things change on a daily, hourly basis depending on my feelings. Is it the race, the route, the overall experience, the company or my performance?

Maybe it’s easier to break it down into individual memories that stand out. Boy, oh, boy, there’s been some of those down the years.

Relays may a good place to begin. I’ve always been used to paying sport within a team dynamic, like football. I’ve played cricket which is different as it’s a team game based on the mono et mono battle of batsman against bowler. Running relays revive that team and bonding ethic and that is establishing with the Uphill to Wells relay at Burnham-on-Sea Harriers now. Years ago back in Tewkesbury we regularly entered the County Road Relay Championship and often had success in the over 40 and woman’s categories but familiarity breeds a certain amount of contempt and to dip our collective toes into the the Midland Regional Road Relays at Birmingham was a massive reality check. We entered the 6 stage relay in the Autumn as opposed to the 12 stage in Spring. Spring would affect marathon training. We had a good team, as we thought, but incredibly we finished one place outside qualifying for the National Road Relays. Okay, second and third teams within clubs didn’t count but it was still a huge thing for a small club like ours.

Secondly, we entered the Regional Cross Country Relays at Nottingham. We had a great time. We shared food, England beat Australia in the Rugby World Cup and we really bonded, even our Australian runner, and we turned up sweaty and in running gear at a club member’s 18th birthday party on the way home. As I remember we also put in creditable performances on our runs.

There are those personal runs where you beat adversity like my nervous first run back with the Harriers after cancer. I kind of tried to sneak back without any fuss. It must have been a year after my operation to remove my tumour. It was a light evening, so it must have been May, and Jayne Biddlescombe-Jackson came over to chat with me like we had been friends forever. Her uncle had unfortunately had died from bowel cancer and her father had mercifully recovered from it. As a nurse, she knew everything and how I was feeling and she was a huge comfort bringing me back into the club. The next spring we an a 12-13 mile run while training for the Yeovil Half Marathon. Jayne was running so well but during the second half of the run the weather really turned for the worse with a strong wind and hail. Jayne told me to run on, which I did regretfully, but I felt like a real runner again running in such adversity. I will always remember that and thank, yet, apologise to Jayne for leaving her.

The Pawlett Plod July 2019. I set off at a reasonable pace hoping for an enjoyable run and a good time only to suffer an extreme pain in my chest. Convinced I was going to die, I was prepared to be rolled, naked and shoe less, into the river when Angel Kelly caught up and dragged my ass to the finish, singing all the way and checking on my shoe size in case she knew anybody who was a size 9. I’m glad I finished as we were refreshed with a delicious bottle of Rich’s cider.

I have ran races and genuinely been competing with champions. I ran the Lliswerry 8, near Newport, I had a strong finish and one competetitor asked if I was a track athlete! I tried to talk to another runner, Steve Jones, winner of the Chicago Marathon and past marathon record holder for the distance, but he didn’t want to talk so I thought he was an ignorant c*nt and left him to his tea and biscuits and I got a beer.

After one of my Stroud Half Marathons I chatted with former Olympian Dan Robinson and he was the nicest and most encouraging elite athlete I have ever spoken to. Just goes to show about meeting your heroes. I even finished 3rd to Dan Robinson in one one race and I was truly dumbstruck. He was quite away in front of me but there was only one bloke between us. He won a shitty pot plant and I won a bottle of wine so I was the real winner. Nice guy though.

I do have races that I can put into the memorable races pile but I’ll tease you with that for another time.

Darkness on the edge of town

Here in Burnham-on -Sea we really are fortunate to have such testing climbs like Brent Knoll and Brean Down within a few miles. At this time of year, when the clocks have fallen back an hour and darkness is all around from 5.00pm, these locations are of interest to the casual head torch runner.

I had tried to get a group of us interested in a night run up Brean Down but the weather had been very poor recently with lots of wind and rain. Life, being as it is, prevented some from from committing to a run. The reasons being sadness and happiness. The Yin and Yang of life really. Every action has a reaction. I have found that it’s very important to have a balance and realise things happen, and for a reason, and to keep events into some kind of perspective.

For example, this week I forgot to buy some cat litter and I felt devestated. Like I was unworthy and useless but I can name at least two people who’s lives are to be potentially turned upside down in the next few weeks. Mental health issues can be sporadic, random, irrational and just bloody weird. Although I’m learning to use the tools to give me logic to a situation and be able to rationalise and quantify it. It is a new concept to me and needs challenging. Also, I’ve come to the conclusion that that you can please some of the people some of the time, but to please everybody any of the time requires a f*cking miracle which is beyond me.

Anyway the group ended up being a pair, Kelly Sherriff and myself. Kelly is terrific company as, dare I say it, because she can talk at least while she can breathe. Life has made me a listener but I do enjoy interacting and once I get going I hope I’m interesting and fun. I never used to run with others before but now I really like it and actively look for company. Whereas in my previous life I was pushing myself all the time and often nobody but myself could push me to that maximum. I love chatting now and mentoring where I can. I like people again.

Weston-Super-Mare, the Pearl of the Somerset Riviera

Picture courtesy of Kelly Sherriff

Kelly parked up at a pub car park at Brean which gave us a mile warm up jog to the Down. A steep road is the easiest access to the start of the climb where we’re greeted by a supreme panoramic view of Weston-Super-Mare and the bay. Needless to say without street lighting it’s bloody dark up there but is easily navigated along a path on the Weston side to the the fort. The fort is creepy during daylight so as darkness falls your imagination can run wild. The views are still tremendous even in the dark. The lights of Cardiff to the North West and Hinkley Point power station to the South West.

Hinkley Point lights up the sky

Picture courtesy of Kelly Sherriff

The Bristol Channel was a convenient area to practice the Dambusters raids and on a night like tonight I could see why. The solitude and the silence, apart from the waves crashing, was quite deafening and challenges your senses. The darkness adds to the eerieness of the fort. What happened here to provoke such thoughts?

Our intrepid explorers

We ran back over the top. At the bottom a couple of coastguards were waiting for back up. Apparently some concerned individual had seen lights at the bottom of Brean Down at high tide. We hoped it wasn’t us that caused the shout but we were always at the top so it couldn’t have been us. We had seen some walkers when we started our run on the lower areas. Thankfully everything was okay and the coastguards, after their reconnaissance, were stood down. We completed 5 miles back to Kelly’s car. The pub was still closed so I couldn’t buy her the comforting Bailey’s I had promised but maybe next time.

Saturday was All Hallows Eve, Halloween, and I thought it would be fun to run around our local park run in the dark and with head torches to provoke the local apparitions to reveal themselves.

Several turned up wearing fabulous themed costumes and soon after the darkness fell we set off, The run and how it was to be organised was always dependent on numbers. We had 10 turn up with 3 run leaders so as an organised club run we fell well into England Athletics post covid-19 guidelines. The Burnham and Highbridge park run takes in Apex Park with it’s lake and wildlife and the sea front. I’ve ran this many times in the dark with a headtorch but most of my co-runners hadn’t. As they were regularpark run participants, back in the day, this was quite a novelty.

Looks like Big Dave’s Pee Pee has had an idea!

Picture courtesy of Kelly Sherriff

Thanks to Kelly, during the run we had regular updates on England’s rugby 6 Nations match against Italy but Boris Johnson’s coronavirus statement to the nation waited, at least for me, until later and the news wasn’t nice.

Picture courtesy of Kelly Sherriff

The run was accepted in the way that I that I hoped it would be with the faster, keener runners stopping to allow the slower ones to catch up. The whole intention was for the run to be fun and sociable and that’s how it turned out. Hopefully everybody enjoyed it. We had Quality Street™ chocolates at the finish and Kelly arranged some wonderful medals as a memento of the event.

Winners are grinners

Incidentally, England won the 6 Nations Championship and Boris locked us down again.

To live without my music, would be impossible to do

I hope it’s not been lost on my readers but music, songs, records play a big part in my blogs, especially where the title is concerned. I thought it might be a postive idea to list, in no particular order, my favourite 💯tracks. I will try not to pick too many from my favourite bands and spread it around a little.

The Clash White Man In Hammersmith Palais

The Clash London’s Calling

The Ramones Blitzkrieg Bop

The Ramones Sheena is a Punk Rocker

Television Marquee Moon

The Jam That’s Entertainment

The Jam Down in the Tube Station at Midnight

The Jam Eton Rifles

The Clash Straight to Hell

Joy Division Love Will Tear Us Apart

Joy Division New Dawn Fades

Joy Division Atmosphere

Lou Reed Walk on the Wild Side

Don Covay It’s Better to Have

Maria Muldaur Midnight at the Oasis

Tubeway Army Are Friends Electric?

The Undertones Teenage Kicks

Arctic Monkeys I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor

Eddie and the Hotrods Do Anything You Wanna Do

Fleetwood Mac Dreams

Fleetwood Mac Oh Well

Fleetwood Mac Landslide

Kraftwerk The Model

Kraftwerk Autobahn

Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs Maps

Two Gallants Las Cruces Jail

Stevie Wonder Superstition

Bob Marley and The Wailers No Woman, No Cry

Joe Walsh Rocky Mountain Way

Joe Walsh Life’s Been Good

The Police Roxanne

The Police Every Breath You Take

Maria McKee Panic Beach

Robbie Robertson Somewhere Down The Crazy River

The Band The Weight

Small Faces All or Nothing

The Who Won’t Get Fooled Again

Rolling Stones Gimme Shelter

Rolling Stones Start Me Up

The Sundays Here’s Where The Story Ends

The Steve Miller Band The Joker

The Steve Miller Band Jet Airliner

Al Stewart The Year of the Cat

Boston More Than a Feeling

Mannfred Mann’s Earthband Blinded By The Light

Bruce Springsteen Born To Run

Bruce Springsteen Rosalita

Bruce Springsteen Jungleland

Talking Heads Once In A Lifetime

Rush Spirit Of Radio

Otis Redding Sittin on the Dock of the Bay

Booker T and the Mgs Time is Tight

Paul McCartney and Wings Band on the Run

Blondie Heart of Glass

Eagles Hotel California

Eagles One of These Nights

Eagles Take it to the Limit

Gram Parsons She If you only listen to one track, listen to this

The Libertines I Can’t Stand You Now

Brothers Johnson Strawberry Letter #9

Elvis Costello Angel Wants To Wear My Red Shoes

Elvis Costello and The Attractions Oliver’s Army

The Damned Smash It Up

Meatloaf Bat Out Of Hell

Love Alone Again Or

Bob Dylan Hurricane

Neil Young Rockin’ In A Free World

Neil Young Powderfinger

Neil Young Old Man

John Otway and Wild Willie Barrett Really Free

Editors Munich

Talk Talk It’s My Life

Talk Talk Life’s What You Make It

Buzzcocks Ever Fallen In Love

The Only Ones Another Girl, Another Planet

Wreckless Eric Whole Wide World

The Specials Gangsters

The Specials Ghost Town

The Specials Too Much Too Young

David Bowie Queen Bitch

David Bowie Heroes

David Bowie Sound And Vision

David Bowie Ashes To Ashes

Magazine Shot By Both Sides

Steely Dan Deacon Blues

Steely Dan Rikki, Don’t Lose That Number

Led Zeppelin Kashmir

Led Zeppelin Immigrant Song

Harry Nilsson Everybody’s Talkin’

Gordon Lightfoot The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

The Damned Smash It Up

The Knack My Sharona

Echo and The Bunnymen Back of Love

Ry Cooder Get Rhythm

Dr. Feelgood Roxette

Bob Marley and The Wailers Redemption Song

War Low Rider

Allman Brothers Midnight Rider

Ian Dury Sweet Gene Vincent

Roy Orbison It’s Over

I love the smell of vinyl

No doubt if I do do this on another day a couple may change. I tried not to have too many by one group or artist but I gather you will see where my preferences are.

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.

Dreams

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.

Runner’s Highway to Hell (or Heaven)

Here’s the science:

Runner’s high is a colloquial term for a sudden euphoric feeling or boost of energy experienced during prolonged strenuous exercise. It is suggested that β-endorphins are responsible for this state. β-Endorphins are released during long, continuous workouts of moderate to high intensity, corresponding to prolonged physical stress. This also corresponds with the time that the muscles use up their stored glycogen. The presence of β-endorphins would presumably mitigate pain sensation by negatively regulating pain-carrying signals from nociceptive neurons in the spinal cord. Notably, such analgesic effects of β-endorphins could potentially increase the likelihood of injury, as pain sensation could be more easily ignored. Although called a “runner’s” high, the effect can occur anytime that people engage in any strenuous exercise or activity, not just running. 

What’s the runner’s definition : a feeling of euphoria and invigoration that is experienced by some runners after strenuous running and that is held to be associated with an endorphins rush to the brain. Similar to sex…but without a goofy grin.

Runner’s high. Is it actually a thing? The times I’ve heard ‘I’m never doing that again’ after a tough hill run or race but a promise seldom kept. Can it, does it exist?

Scientific formula but doesn’t tell the whole story

I always had a feeling of self satisfaction after a hard run. At my previous club, in a previous lifetime, we would run 8 or 9 miles for a club run. I would shower and sit in the club with a Guinness and think ‘fuck, I’m knackered but I’m knackered in a good way’. At Tewkesbury Athletics Club we had a group of runners who could run 8 miles in under 50 minutes, easy and we would push each other week on week. If you were injured, don’t bother coming back unless you could 6 minute mile. One year we had more sub 3 hour London marathoners than any club in Gloucestershire and that includes Gloucester AC and Cheltenham and County Harriers. No mean feat for a small club.

But that runner’s high. What is it? When suffering from depression GPs should encourage physical exercise, especially outdoors. Can it be the exercise or an enlightened awareness of your surroundings and environment, similar to shinrin yoku or forest bathing, if you’re fortunate enough to live near such a place.

As I eluded to, running to the max in a reletively friendly and competitive atmosphere can raise those endorphins that produce that ‘Runner’s High’. I believe that a combination of environment, friendly rivalry and the all important end goal are primary in the production of that ‘Runner’s High’.

This year with Covid-19 it’s been impossible to establish that end goal. Training, running, hasn’t needed to be at that high intensity. Is that the whole story? Does emotion come into it? Of course, if you feel low or down training results may not be what you expect, but conversely they may be much higher. You may somehow compensate for your feelings and misgivings with an exceptional run.

Of course not all activities are ‘ runner’s highs’

That Runner’s High can only be a temporary experience and the feeling of of being low and worthless takes over. But, for that moment, life feels great and almost anything is achieveable. This feeling of worthless can be amplified or exaggerated by the demands of social media afterwards. We are all in contact with everybody all the time through this. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp, and, now because of Covid 19, Zoom and everything else and the demand and pressure of putting up a solid front is overwhelming to the point of breaking. I know many people who feel this not just from running but the pace and the way life puts demands on us all. We all must conform and play the game. Sometimes an individual who contributes in an obscure or ‘left field’ way to the masses can be belittled and be made to feel small.

How can the runner’s high be replaced when the cheering has resinded? The average runner doesn’t normally feel this but there’s always a feeling of ‘after the thrill has gone’. Shit, I can’t come close to how I used to run years ago. I don’t really want to try but I do see people who think they can seriously match the times of people who are 20+ years younger than them. Why?

Is anybody aware of the bouts of depression that 3 time Olympian Suzy Favor Hamilton suffered from? She wrote of her struggles in her book Fast Girl. She became a Las Vegas escort to replace that ‘runner’s high’. She replaced sex with strangers for that feeling of euphoria. That excitement, that kick. It’s a sad story and I really feel for her husband and daughter as they all came to terms with her depression and anxiety and that ‘come down’ after competing at a very high level and representing her country which most of us can only dream of. Her husband must have been very strong and supportive to put up wit such erratic behaviour. For us ‘Average Joes and Janes’ we have to fight on and whereas sex with strangers sounds, and almost certainly is, appealing it’s not really achievable for most or the answer.

Today I ran a 10 mile run up the Quantocks with Ian Booth and tried to achieve that shinrin yoku. The exact route I have no idea but I love the challenge, the views and the outdoorsness of it, and this time of year the colours are so vivid. The shades of green of the trees and ferns and the golden browns of the bracken as it dies off for the Autumn. The steam rising from the trees as the heat of the sun warms the earlier misty rain gives the impression of a forest fire. The weather was favourable but high up on the ridge the north westerly wind was chilly.

Doesn’t really do the view justice

Breezy but a stif upper lip and crazy Tommy Cooper hair

Ian and me

Somehow, I will always have that Runner’s High.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Senses Working Overtime

Well I don’t know how many pounds make up a ton, Of all the nobel prizes that I’ve never won, And I may be the Mayor of Simpleton, But I know one thing, And that’s I love you.

Andy Partridge

Senses working overtime is quite appropriate. My head is scrambled by Home Thoughts, From Abroad. Ecstasy (XTC) it’s not (clever?). A vision, a name, a song can instantly send you back to that place when you were younger and innocent. Life was a game to be enjoyed and not endured and the sun always shone. Calling on friends and building dens. No technology to hide behind.

Sometimes it will take you off guard and the tears flow washing away those hopes and dreams and aspirations that you had planned. You get older and mistakes are made. The older you get the more amplified until it’s so deafening that you can’t hear logic and good advice. The music carries on but getting quieter, always there. Then, you have that moment of reflection and the beat picks up and tears come down again. The autumn of my life.

Still I love autumn. The days are still usually sunny and there’s a chill in the air that comforts the runner. The days are truncated so there’s an urgency to fit as much in as possible during the daylight hours. The Harriers have been taking part in a 30 Day Plank Challenge and this has awakened my training strategy from way back when. Apart from planking, I’ve supplemented weights and spinning on my exercise bike to my running miles. After cancer treatment my core, and therefore my back, has been very weak so I thought I would have to grasp the nettle and work at it and feel for those benefits.

This morning I trotted out for a chatty run with club mate Kelly Sherriff. Kelly messaged me a couple of days ago suggesting running along the Bridgwater to Taunton canal. We hadn’t ran this route for some time and it seemed like a great shout. We thought this would make a great Sunday Social as everybody could run out as far as they wanted, and at their own pace. After Kelly parked up, we thought for a change to head off right back towards Bridgwater but after about a quarter of a mile that was a no no. We turned back and headed towards Taunton.

The narrow towpath and three swans were carefully negotiated and before we realised 4.8 miles had been traversed. We did have a great chat about nearly everything. We thought to run to just over 5 miles and then head back. A little loop and 10 Strava miles were logged. A brief chat with a father and son magnet fishing and our morning was nearly complete. Nearly, I stripped off my shirt to change for a dry one when a woman cycled by. She slowed down and stared and I was worried she would fall off. Well, at least I can still turn the head of ladies of a certain age. Kerching, a result.

Life in a Day

Life in a day
The price that you pay
For time that you spent
It’s such a fatal event
Take a look at your watch
There is no time to wait
Take a look deep inside
There’s no escape from this day

Saturday 19th September and Burnham-on-Sea Harriers elite squad formed A and B teams to compete in the Uphill to Wells relay. I’m not sure of the final placings but I believe our A team finished fourth. Everybody seemed happy with their runs. My experience of relay running from my previous life was County Championships, Midlands Regional Road Relays and Midlands Cross Country Championships. I believes it gives the team or group an opportunity of team bonding and comradeship above and beyond normal ‘club life’.

Anyway, as I’m now a slow old fart I was surplus to requirements. Madame Pompomadour and myself wondered up to Ian Booth’s as he kindly offered to repair Pompomadour bicycle. A nice little chat followed by a prawn sandwich and americano at Cafe Beans and a watch of some football and I was ready for my run.

I started by running down the road trying to loosen my load when I found a group of people with a cyclist who who was laying down on the ground. ‘Hi’, I said. ‘Is everything okay? I’m first aid trained’. Nothing. I quickly observed that the cyclist was in no danger, responding to stimulus, airways weren’t restricted and was breathing normally. I went on my merry way thinking the respondents were bloody rude.

I headed up to Stoddens Road and onto Crooked Lane. I remembered a segment that Matt Powell had used for a speed session and turned off towards that. Crossing a couple of fields, one of which had a number of curious cows, and a railway crossing. I followed the path to Brent Knoll, along a road and back onto a footpath.

After a couple of fields I reached a gate with another field. Two ladies and a dog were waiting there. They were waiting because several young bullocks were by the gate. Jeez, I thought. I’ve heard so many stories about runners and cows and I had already dodged one bullet this evening. I thought this is a moment. Talking sweetly to the young bulls, I gently opened the gate. The youngs bulls despersed like I was some kind of Moses parting the Red Sea. I must be some kind of bullocks whisperer or talker of bullocks. The two ladies and dog followed safely. I continued my run along Crooked Lane and Brent Broad and onto to the beach and home. Here I invented the acronym, GRUB Grass, Road, Urban, Beach.

Sundown

After a lovely soapy bath, I ventured out to purchase some beers to relax away my evening. Here I was met by people not observing the ‘guidelines’ of wearing masks and no more than 3 allowed in the shop at any time. I pointed this out to one individual and he responded with ‘my bad’. My bad. What the fucking hell is that about? I attempted to explain about a pandemic and R rates but the asshole suffered with a a severe lack of understanding. Sorry, but it’s like pissing in the wind. Maybe every asshole should die and we start again. No predudice.

Tomorrow is a new day.

Where’s Captain Baker? Apologies to Spizz Energi

I was beamed aboard the Starship Enterprise
What I felt what I saw was a total surprise
I looked around and wondered can this be
Or is this the start of my insanity

Oh but it’s true
As we went warp factor 2
And I met all of the crew
Where’s Captain Kirk

Two Metres if you please

Well, it’s been ‘difficult’ this year so far. No, actually, it’s been a f*cking sh&t year to be my first year as captain of my running club. I was elected captain at the AGM at the end of February and since then the coronavirus, Covid 19, has decimated all road and trail racing not to mention normal life. Folks in the know said captaincy will be easy, a doddle. All you have to do is set a route on club nights. Hence my nickname of Captain Calamity.

We came back, post lockdown, running in smaller groups of between 5 and 8 but recent legislation states that by law from Monday 14th September that social groups must be a maximum of 6. Sport England and England Athletics say that organised runs are exempt and can continue with groups of 12 but my wish is to continue in groups of 6 including a coach/run leader. Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. Super duper, it’s late Summer and folks are trying to get away before the colder weather. Each Run Leader who is absent means 5 members can’t run on a club night. It’s nobody’s fault but it’s a ball ache from a club logistic point of view. Something that was never thought of before Covid 19 is now the central consideration.

From a personal aspect, I’ve been overwhelmed by the response of our members with regard to coming back to running on our Tuesday club night runs. They’ve came and bought into what we’re trying to provide as a club now as they have done during lockdown with Kelly Sherriff’s Daily Collages where members are encouraged to run in a different colour shirt of the rainbow each day, our Spot the Harrier challenge to score points and all the other stuff I think of to keep our group together in uncertain times to try and keep motivation high. Matt Powell has provided some speed sessions and our Sunday morning social runs have been well subscribed. Hopefully, some bases are getting covered after a surge in membership.

We now find ourselves a little light on Run Leaders in some areas after a couple have stepped down and we are lacking first aiders in all areas. This, unfortunately, can’t be rectified yet but must be a work in progress when life returns to normal. We’ve been lucky to be able to have had Zoom chats with an England Athletics coach to help us try and move the best way forward. These sessions were meant to be face to face with our group but as it’s via a webinar it’s only attracted Run Leaders. Things are definitely on the up and we’re moving forward when everything could have stalled.

Doing the park run dance could be a while off

Towards the end of next month, October, park run hopes to return. I say hopes to because at the moment Covid-19 positive tests are doubling every 7-8 days. It is difficult to know what to believe from the various news agencies but they all seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet. If it’s that bad, and bearing in mind we live in a coastal resort town , I really can’t see it happening here. Overall around the country with it’s various spikes, the Government and local authorities won’t allow mass gatherings like that.

Hopefully we might be back in time for these outfits

Where’s Captain Baker? I’ve been here all the time at the Bridge. Mr. Sulu, warp factor 4.