Friday, 30 August 2013

A Bit Of A Trot.

Back when I started this blog I was right in the teeth of big long training runs in preparation for the London marathon. I would, 4 times a week, pull on my trusty trainers and run. My short runs at the time were 5 milers and the long runs by that point were between 15 and 20 miles.

Through wind and rain I ran, past most of Leicestershire’s  assorted weirdos, yappy dogs and (from time to time) hookers. And I enjoyed it in a perverse kind of way (the running, not the hookers). I even used to throw up from time to time, so I knew I was doing something right.

After the big day I decided to have a few weeks off my feet to let my knees and ankles recover, which turned into months. I tried to get myself started again, but just never quite made it stick. Oh, I know there are a million and one reasons that I could point to for not getting off my arse, but at the end of the day they’re all just excuses. I could have found the time if I’d put my mind to it.

So inspiration finally struck a few months ago when I had the bright idea of entering the Robin Hood half marathon.

It’ll give me the target I need to motivate me, I thought.

So far my training schedule has consisted of creating a spreadsheet detailing run distances and dates, taking account of rest days and tailoring long runs around when The Boy Wonder is with me. It really is rather good and has coloured in bits and everything I have entirely ignored this plan and instead opted for a handful of 3 mile jogs when the weather’s sunny/I can be arsed and a huge amount of sitting on a sofa looking out of the window.

Mrs A, on the other hand, has been steadily knocking off the miles on a weekly basis.

My current plan is to do a 10 miler sometime over the next few days and if I make that in one piece, not to sweat it. What could possibly go wrong?

So at the end of September I will be standing beside a focussed and prepared Mrs A at the start line in Nottingham with my usual ill-prepared cheeriness. Wish me luck, because I suspect I’ll need it.

Oh, and if you fancy adding to the pressure I’m trying to raise a few quid for a phenomenal local hospice called LOROS. They looked after my Dad in his last few days and were quite frankly ace. The link to my Just Giving page is here:


Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Going Down.

Have you ever truly thought that you might not see the end of the day? Found yourself in a situation, however briefly, that you thought you might be about to become nothing more than a fading memory in the minds of your family and a few friends?

Here's one of mine.

It was several years ago (I think around January 2001) and I was out in the hills around Snowdonia with a good friend of mine. We'd started off in clear but cold conditions at sunrise with the intent of climbing three peaks on a circular route, with a couple of exposed ridges along the way for entertainment. We made good time and were sitting on our second summit by lunchtime. Teeth chattering from the cold, muscles burning from the strain of the climb I sat on a rock eating my customary squished cheese & tomato sandwich and Marsbar, looking out across the jagged country below us and watching the high altitude clouds cut across the clear blue of the sharp midwinter skies. All was good. We finished our lunch and dug out the map, plotted our course for the final ridge and peak. My buddy pointed out a useful emergency route off the mountain, should we need it, and I laughed at him for being such an old fart. We shouldered our packs and headed off.

We got to the tail end of the ridge (it's the one in the picture) about an hour later as the weather turned really bad. High winds and snow had come in quickly and the cloudbase had dropped below our altitude, making navigation very difficult. Once this had happened I came to realise that the distinction between 'old fart' and 'experienced' is a fine, but important, line and after a couple of minute's huddled conversation behind a rock we made the decision to use the emergency route.

Unfortunately the wind, snow, low temperatures and poor visibility, combined with our tiredness, lack of GPS and map-reading ineptitude led us to miscalculate our position. We thought that we were at the head of our emergency route down and not, as was about to become frighteningly obvious, the head of a steep gulley.

I was leading down, I remember the snow underfoot being extremely slippery and thinking that the ground was a lot steeper than I was expecting it to be. I had my doubts that we were in the right place and I turned to tell my mate that I thought we'd got it wrong and should go back up to flatter ground to recheck. As I turned my feet went from under me and faster than I could blink I was sliding down the gulley, speed increasing rapidly as gravity did its thing. Time seemed to slow to a crawl as thoughts flashed through my mind. I thought of the shiney new ice axe that was sitting in my garage at home and how useful it would would have been at that point. I thought about buying crampons. I thought about how GPS units didn't seem so expensive now.

Then, with the thought of the airy ridge we'd just crossed fresh in my mind, I thought about how it might feel to suddenly find myself being spat from the edge of a rockface and to be in freefall. It's fair to say this concentrated my mind fairly well on the problem in hand*.

I started jamming heels and elbows hard into the snow in an effort to slow down. I hit a rock and that slowed me enough that I could stop myself. Breathing and harsh ragged gasps I shuffled myself slowly and carefully towards a clump of grass sticking out of the snow, grabbed it like my life depended upon it and started to gather my thoughts, get myself together.

After a few seconds I heard my buddy calling me from further up the gulley. He'd watched me disappear down the slope at alarming speed and out of sight into the cloud. He'd been calling me for a couple of minutes without response and was turning his thoughts to how he should break it to my girlfriend of the time that I was now no more than a large stain at the bottom of a cliff when I finally responded. To my undying gratitude he climbed down after me, called me a twat, and we then set about climbing down via numerous waterfalls and scrambles to safer ground.

After we'd walked around a mile and a half back to the car, he broke the news about my leg. The rock that I'd hit had taken quite a chunk out of my waterproofs, trousers and leg. There was an impressive amount of blood and, now I was aware of it, an equally impressive amount of pain. My mate told me that if I made a mess of the upholstery in his car he'd give me some more injuries to worry about.

And then we were at the car. Once we were there I started laughing hysterically - I'd been in a few oh-my-god-this-is-it moments before, but this one was different because even after the initial drama was over we were still quite comprehensively in the shit and not really sure how the situation was going to pan out. Keeping it together for the couple of hours getting back to the car seemed to intensify the sense of relief and joy.

Since then I've become an older and wiser dog. I always take not just a map and compass, but also a GPS and spare batteries with me. The axe is no longer shiney (even though it hasn't been used in a few years now) and I have a much better pair of boots.

I still like a squished cheese sandwich and a marsbar though and my walking buddy is still equally cantankerous.

Happy days.


* - Even now, when I think of that moment, my palms get a bit clammy.....

Tuesday, 6 August 2013


As far back as I can remember, I have been searching for that elusive piece of wisdom that would be the keystone for living a full and happy life.

There have been a number of contenders over the years, but have quite often been too limited in their range of applicable real-world situations. For example, asking myself ‘what would James Bond do?’ may have been appropriate when trying to chat up the laydeez in a bar, or when clinging precariously to a rocky outcrop in North Wales. When faced with dealing with a long queue in the bank however, the resulting course of action would be at best inappropriate and probably illegal.

Others that have been tried on for size have either been a bit too vague (It is what it is), a bit too rigorous (Do or do not. There is no ‘try’) or a bit too aloof (Never look back, never explain and never apologise). I was beginning to think that the only way I would find true enlightenment would be to trek barefoot through the Nepalese wilderness and track down a mountain-top hermit with a baldy head, wispy beard and a distrust of all things material.

As it turns out, not so much.

Enlightenment is a four word sentence. But it gets better; it’s only the structure and middle section that’s fixed, giving the seeker of wisdom the opportunity to modify to suit the situation. It goes like this:

X The Fuck Y

Some examples:

“I’m having a bad day, things are going wrong and I’m upset.”
Cheer The Fuck Up.

“I seem to be making decisions that are quite poor, making my life more difficult as a result.”
Wise The Fuck Up.

“I’ve followed the ‘what would James Bond do’ philosophy in a bar and the lady who I have chatted up appears to have an angry burly husband.”
Sit The Fuck Down and Shut The Fuck Up
Run The Fuck Away

See? Works every time. Once the basics are mastered you can even move on to more complex arrangements, combining elements of ancient Latin wisdom. I currently favour ‘Carpe The Fucking Diem’.

If I could be arsed to eschew modern society, find a decent mountain and grow a wispy beard I would be legend.