Marathon Training, Week 4

The miles are piling up, but slowly, too slowly. I canned Tuesday’s run because I couldn’t fit it in during the day. That was 11 miles gone from the plan. I had a very lovely 14 miles on Christmas day, out to Coton Country Park via Grantchester and Barton and then home through the city centre. It was calm and peaceful. People were emerging from the churches in Trumpington and Grantchester and milling around Great St Mary’s in the city. Mass on Christmas Day was always one of my favourite occasions. Even if I’d been to Midnight Mass, I would get up and head out to church again in the morning. Sometimes, I’d have to because I was serving on the altar but there were times I didn’t have to be there and went anyway.

I pegged a quickish 4 miles in the C&C Boxing Day fun run. My 28:18 was just under a minute quicker than my time in the same run last year. I didn’t go off too quickly for once. In fact, my legs were heavy and I didn’t really get going until the halfway mark. I pulled in a man pushing a buggy in the first 800m back from Trumpington. I saw Margaret Phillips and Chris Hurcomb ahead and thought they would be too far ahead. I pushed a bit harder on the gentle downslope and reeled them both in. I caught Mags with a mile to go and Chris a bit after that. I pushed on again after that because Kris Semple was another few metres ahead and passed him just before we crossed the narrow bridge over the stream on Lammas Land. There was a man pushing a bike onto the bridge just as we passed. I think he held Kris up. I didn’t look back. If you look back you slow down and it gives then man behind hope. I had about 400m to go at that point. Julian Hardyman was ahead and I set off after him but couldn’t close the gap. Each time I kicked, he kicked harder and he beat me home by 4 seconds in the end, accelerating away from me all the while. It took a good 10 minutes to stop feeling ill so I must have given it some in the second half of the race.

I had 9 miles on the plan for Friday. I thought I’d do 5 instead. What with one thing and another, I didn’t really eat all day. Breakfast was late and fried and then I got distracted writing a couple of blog posts and then it was dark and I was grumpy and my blood sugar was through the floor so I didn’t run. Again.

I did my 5 mile recovery run on Saturday in spite of not really having anything from which I badly needed to recover. I had just enough in the tank to take a Strava segment in slippery conditions. I find pushing hard on my own quite difficult and I didn’t want to check my watch while I was running because it might slow me down too much. I just hit a pace which felt quick but sustainable in the conditions and kept going from one end of the segment to the other. There is more to come along there because I wasn’t running anywhere close to flat out and it was very slippery. I think on a spring evening I could take another 20 or 30 seconds off my time along there, especially if I have someone to chase. I could get some clubmates out on a Thursday night and have a good, square go at it.

Today’s run was lovely. The conditions were perfect for a nice, long, steady run. I had 18 on the plan and very good intentions. I ran 13 in the end and it was a real struggle towards the end. The climb up the hill out of Stapleford towards Gog Magog Downs was horrible. I’d wanted to run to the Gogs to meet the others, run a loop with them then run home. Snuggling up next to Anne and the cat seemed like a better thing to do than getting up in time to have breakfast and then heading out the door when it was only just light. Had I done that, I would have done the 18 miles easily because basically I was being a wuss.

I also think that I run better on my own sometimes. I finished my solo Christmas Day run on a high and today’s run in a funk. I don’t always go out unless I have company but then I don’t complete my session if nobody else is doing the same sort of distance. It’s a bit of a sod. I’m sure I’ll be able to come to some sort of compromise where I meet people to start the run but do more of it on my own. I don’t want to sound graceless because I did enjoy everyone’s company today. I need to fix my motivation to the sticking place and complete the sessions the way I need to. It was just too easy to stop when everybody else did today.

Week 5 starts tomorrow with a rest day. The weather is supposed to be foul anyway. It’s nice to have a proper excuse for once.

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Running Tech Sucks Donkey Dong. Official.

I love my running toys but they have drawbacks. The chest strap for my Garmin leaves a welt across my chest if I forget to smear Vaseline across it. When I take my top off I look like the victim of an unusually precise sadist. Sexy. That’s when I can find the strap in the first place. I’ve wasted hours over the last couple of years searching for it. Then there’s all the time standing around waiting for the watch to get a signal from passing satellites. I’d be as well waiting for pigeons to evolve vocal skills and have them read a map to me.

It’s not just high-tech that causes problems. Compression gear is supposed to reduce injuries and improve recovery. You’ll find all sorts of advice about that all over the web. What nobody ever tells you is that you look like you’re dressing yourself for the very first time every time you pull it on. There are photos on the Skins and 2XU websites of toned athletes running and posing with their musculature barely contained by straining supportive and elastic technical fabrics. There are no film clips of them flailing their arms like willow branches on a windy day when they’re trying to pull on their compression tops. It takes me fully five minutes to pull on a pair of compression socks. I know I’m weak and physically unco-ordinated but that’s just silly.

Then there’s taking the bloody things off again. You’ve worked quite hard so you’re knackered. In these circumstances getting off a normal t-shirt can be a challenge. It’s stuck to your skin for a start and your arms don’t bend well enough and you’re tired and your brain doesn’t work and you’d like a drink and maybe you’ll just lie on this bench for a while and… And then you’re shaken awake by the cleaner in the gym because he wants to go home and you only have one arm out of your tee. It’s worse in compression gear because it welds itself chemically to sweaty skin and you need to be even more bendy to take it off afterwards. Ordinary socks are easy to take off as long as you can still bend over. Compression socks require special tools and the help of a blacksmith or other sturdy chap.

There’s a lot to be said for naked running. Not running around with your bits flapping in the breeze. That’s probably an arrestable offence in most places. I mean running without the distractions of GPS watches, iPods or any other bits and bobs. It means you avoid some of the issues I’ve already mentioned. See the The Naked Runners website for more information and inspiration.

You could even try barefoot running. If you’re not up to that, pull on a pair of Vibram Five Fingers to protect the soles of your feet. You should manage to get each toe into its little pocket in the shoe on the thirteenth or fourteenth try at the very outside. You might not swear violently and throw them across the room when they fail to go on easily. Even if you do hurl them away from you they should do little damage because they’re quite light.

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The God of Small Joys

There must be one surely? I’m not talking about those major events in life like the birth of children or falling in love. I’m talking about the little things. Finding a fiver you didn’t know you had in a pocket when you really need a coffee and a cake. A smile from your beloved when you wake up. That sort of thing. They deserve to have a god. If love can have a god, then so can smiles from loved ones and children.

This came to mind because I had a really rubbish run yesterday. I had no energy, no vim or vigour and I worked really hard to post a 26 minute run around Wimpole Estate parkrun. It was a bit muddy and sticky but it shouldn’t have been so bloody hard. I’d spent the week on the road in Manchester and Yorkshire meaning lots of miles, hotel nights, unfamiliar beds and crappy food on my own. I hadn’t run since Sunday’s St Neot’s Half in spite of taking all my kit and shoes with me. My lack of energy and oomph has been hanging around for a while.

So I ran flat out and slowly round parkrun on Saturday morning and crossed the line feeling a little meh. However, it wasn’t a crap run. It was a beautiful morning – really, really cold. It took the best part of twenty minutes for the feeling to return to my fingers even though I was wearing my best winter running gloves. It’s definitely winter again and that makes me happy. I was running among friends. I saw familiar, smiling faces everywhere I looked. I know lots of them now but even more of them know me. There were runners of all ages out on the course yesterday and they were by and large giving the absolute berries. Afterwards I had a very nice mocha, one of Cambridgeshire’s better sausage rolls and a slice of Bakewell so sexy I wanted to call it Joan.

My parkrun is so much more than the run and that’s just as well. Running in general is like that. My St Neot’s Half was an hour and three quarters of socialising and partying. I ran the last mile quite hard and it took a good five minutes before I stopped wanting to throw up but apart from that I was chatting and laughing. My time wasn’t dreadful, less than three minutes slower than my 2011 PB on the same course and it was a happy, happy day.

Small joys are important. They keep us going and give us something to rely on when small sadnesses creep up on us and the god of small joys knows there are enough of those around.

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The Moaniness of the Long Distance Runner

I’m injured again. Again, I’m injured and I tell you what, it’s a complete pain in the arse. Except that it’s in my right foot, and up the outside of my right leg and ultimately in my groinal bits. A physio would probably say – has in fact said – that it’s because of weak gluteals but that’s by the by. It’s a pain in the arse foot. I should probably try to have Anne massage my intimate areas. It wouldn’t be any sort of cure but it would definitely cheer me up because there’s nothing quite as mardy as an injured runner.

I’ve had a couple of weeks off now ever since having to stop at 8 miles in the Wimpole Hoohaah Half Marathon. I shouldn’t really have run there, just as I shouldn’t really have run at the Bourn to Run 10k the previous week but having got away with it once, I thought I’d get away with it again and I really, really didn’t. Coming downhill at speed resulted in stupefying pain and I ended up gingerly walking down the hills and caning it up them. I was climbing at better than 8:00 per mile and descending more slowly than 10:00 per mile and the whole thing was a mess so I’m moaning about it now. I finished, by the way, in a PW of 1:55 something, jogging in while people frothed and foamed and sped and sprinted past me. Well done, them.

I’ve been moaning about it quite a lot to anyone who’ll listen and it’s a testament to my friends and clubmates that they will listen to me. Endurance runners all know what it’s like to be on the bench. They will lend an ear to one of their own in pain because they know, know in their super-stressed ligaments and bones that they will hurt too soon. Perhaps “moaning” is the wrong word, at least for what everyone else does. We swap stories of our aches and pains. We get help and advice and support from one another. Positivity comes but first there’s the grouchiness and ouchiness and just the faintest tangs of whine. “Oh, it’s nothing really but I’m slightly fed up…”

The thing about not being able to run is that nothing else is really the same. I wanted to take my bike out today but it rained off and on all day. Running in the rain is a joy. Cycling in the rain is misery cubed. I hummed and hawed and bumbled round the house not doing any chores until I dragged my weak glutes to the gym for a stint on a rowing machine. I lasted all of fifteen minutes. Fifteen miserable minutes or miserable misery. Chris said on Facebook that I should have taken my bike out in the rain. He was probably right. I’m going to try again tomorrow. I’ll take my headphones and listen to some music or a podcast and maybe I’ll last longer or maybe I’ll just break down.

I have another week of Not Running. I’m being good. My foot feels okay with just a hint of tighness across the top when I dorsiflex my toes. I’d like that to be gone before I try again. Patience is a virtue, quite an old fashioned name for a girl and something with which I am usually completely unacquainted. It’s so tempting to join in with tomorrow’s session running the triangles on Parker’s Piece or the mile time trial on Tuesday night at C&C. I need to be sure that I’m back properly before I start training again so the idea is to have a bimble round a parkrun on Saturday and if that goes okay to do five or six miles on Sunday. Please God, let it go well. I can’t cope with being this grumpy for much longer.

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On The Drowning Of Rats And Nakedness In Toilets

Went for a run this morning with Paul. It was pissing it down when we set off just after nine. I love running in the rain; it keeps you cool when you’re working hard. We weren’t working all that hard today. It wasn’t that sort of run. We were trotting along through the wind and the rain, ticking off six minute kilometres. The wind made things a little more difficult than they ought to have been.

There is a particular combination of wind and rain which can make running a complete misery. We were lucky today in that the wind and rain kept just missing that particular combination. It was a damn near run thing at a couple of points. There was a moment as we were running back along the top of a ridge just the wrong side of a hedge line for about half a mile. The wind blew the rain across us and just for a few seconds straight through us in a denial of the laws of physics and common decency. it was easier for us to keep going in one another’s company. I don’t think I would have gone out on my own in those conditions.

I had an equipment failure too. The zip on my rain jacket kept sliding down without me noticing. It’s not a great piece of kit, if I’m honest. It’s barely showerproof so today’s conditions were always going to test it. I’d be running along and glance down and the zip would be almost completely undone. I have an ongoing problem with zips. I’ve turned into one of those men whose flies are continuously undone because I forget to do them up in the morning when I pull my trousers on. I don’t notice until I head for the loo. No matter how many times I say “Oh fuck” to myself when I discover that, I never remember to check before I have my coffee.

My foot began to hurt again after about four miles so we cut our run short. It’s frustrating. I can run more quickly uphills than down them just now. The braking forces through my right foot cause me to slow down. too much. I don’t trust it enough to run hard downhill and going slowly causes even more pain. We looked like drowned rats when we arrived back at the stable block. It’s a funny phrase that. I’ve never seen a drowned rat. I’ve seldom seen a dry one either. I know they’re around, like paedophiles or UKIP councillors but we have little to offer one another so we seldom encounter one another. Paul said he would take a photograph to mark the moment but he set off to do a little more running while I headed to the loo to get changed.

I found myself naked in a public toilet (not for the first time but I’m not ever going to be drunk enough to tell that story.) I had a change of clothing in my bag. I headed for the sole cubicle in the gents and began pulling layer after sopping layer off before I started to chill and shiver. I was quickly naked in the loo, rummaging through my bag looking for a pair of boxers. Happily there were two pairs in there, alongside two pairs of socks, my jeans, a t-shirt and a jersey. There wasn’t a shirt but that wasn’t a problem. There wasn’t a belt for my jeans and that was more problematic. I will happily contemplate spending ninety quid on running shoes or two hundred or more on a new Garmin but baulk at the thought of blowing £20 on a pair of jeans from Tesco. As a result, all my trousers are too large for me now I’ve lost weight. It’s been three years and I don’t think I’m going to put that weight back on now. Even so, I’m not all that keen on throwing the baggy trousers out and buying more. I have only one belt which is small enough to hold them up now too and that was on my bedroom floor and not in my bag.

Paul and I had our sausage rolls and hot drinks in the restaurant when he returned from his extended trot. My foot stopped hurting quite quickly which was a relief. It’s sore now, as I write. When I flex my toes up, there is a tightness across the top of my foot. I need to get rid of that before I run again. I’m due to race next weekend in the Fenland 10 in preparation for the St Neots Half Marathon next month. I don’t think that’s going to happen now. I’ll probably rest my foot now for two weeks and cycle instead to keep my fitness up while my foot heals itself again.

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I’m trying to make sense of things, so this is going to ramble even more than normal. When I became interested in running marathons, I heard about Boston. It has a mystique, a reputation beyond other mass-participation races. You need to qualify for it and the qualifying standards are high. You need to be a very good club-standard runner to get to the start line. What happens then is up to you. The course is net downhill and very quick on a good day. You run past Wellesley College and I’m told there is nothing quite like a Wellesley girl. You need to cope with Heartbreak Hill towards the end of the course when you’re really beginning to feel it. It’s the oldest marathon race in the world and it’s on the bucket list of lots of us who run marathons.

And now it’s changed for ever.

A cunttard or cunttards unknown have attacked the Boston Marathon. Cowardly cunttards. Cunttards with access to pressure cookers, nails and ball bearings. Cunttards who can follow a schematic  downloaded from the internet. Hateful and hate-filled. Weak, pathetic little cunttards who can’t attract attention for their cause. Ineffective cunttards, incapable of persuading people by the force of their argument so he or they build a couple of bombs and left them in black holdalls to detonate near the finish of a race. A race. In spite of it being the Boston Marathon it was just a race. And it was the spectators and supporters who took the fullest force of the blast.

As runners we rely on our family and friends for all sorts of support. We shouldn’t have to rely on them as shields against bomb blasts. It’s all just so fucking horrible and pointless. There is nothing, nothing which warrants such an attack. It’s affected me more than other attacks because it was at a race. I suppose that from the point of view of cunttards, that’s job done. Except they haven’t claimed responsibility or tried to explain their fucked up reasoning. They lack even that little confidence in their convictions.

There is a problem in all this, apart from all the obvious ones about blowing people’s legs off with bombs made from pressure cookers and nails just to make a point. If these bombs had gone off in a market in Pakistan, we wouldn’t have heard quite so much about it. And I’m not going to go into state violence because frankly, the whole thing sickens me and I can no longer bear to think about it. I run in part to escape from the dark thoughts and the anger which used to drive me. At the moment all I feel is sadness.

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How Not To Say “Fuck” On The Radio

I was on the radio again today. It was Andie Harper’s Mid-Morning Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. The producer contacted me thanks to Sue Dougan who is a runner and Radio Cambridgeshire presenter. I’ve been on her show a couple of times and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

We were talking this morning about wearing headphones when out running and in particular during races. I was on after Adam Moffat from One Step Beyond, the organisers of the Cambridge Half Marathon. They have banned headphones from the race on safety grounds and I think the Beeb wanted a runner’s perspective as well as the organisers’. Cue Rich.

I had much more notice when I went onto Sue’s show. I had a good couple of weeks in each case to worry about it, to tell people about it and then to worry some more. I was most worried about allowing a little sweary word out inadvertently. I’m a sweary man. I know little about mass press and public relations but I know that if you want to get invited back to day-times shows you can’t be sweary. What I am sure about is that I have to try really hard not to say “Fuck” on the radio, All the way there in the car, i kept saying to myself, “Don’t say fuck, Don’t say fuck.” I thought about writing “Don’t say ‘Fuck'” on a post-it note and sticking it to the desk in front of the microphone but that wouldn’t have been politic in the circumstances.

I’m not going to rehearse the arguments for and against wearing headphones when out running. There doesn’t seem much point. I don’t like wearing them because they’re just one more thing between me and the world. They’re a distraction. I understand how someone else might feel just the opposite. Still, they’re wrong…

And I managed not to say “Fuck” this morning. Aren’t I good?

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They Think It’s All Over

We had the final assessment for 8 Weeks to Natural on Saturday afternoon. Like the first session, it was at the Parliament Hill track on the edge of Hampstead Heath. Once again, Simon from Sponge Marketing was playing host, Tom was taking photographs and Helen was our coach. It was a good session for nearly everyone. Danae wasn’t back from her hols and couldn’t make it which was a shame and Tim arrived near the end of the afternoon straight off the plane to Gatwick. That was commitment!

I struggled to do two or three laps of the track. I could walk reasonably well but even a few hundred metres of drill was enough to set my achilles twanging. I couldn’t do more than shuffle round with little fluency or economy. I just wanted to show willing, really. ActionJen had a mahoosive blister following her half marathon debut and was suffering too. We both dropped out after handful of slow, uncomfortable laps and watched our friends whizz around the track elegantly and with hardly any apparent effort.

Helen said that even over the handful of laps we had managed, she had been able to assess our progress. I was pleased that I had discernable progress to show. She said that we could spend the rest of the time on the track or take to the slopes of Parliament Hill for a hill session. I watched with some jealousy as the others had the hill session to end all hill sessions. I love hills. ActionJen and I stood to one side as under Helen’s careful coaching and incessant encouragement, the group flew up and down Parliament Hill. We’ve decided that when we’re both fit again, we’ll ask Helen for a shared coaching session and do some hills too.Sadly, I don’t know when that’s going to happen. I’m making very slow progress. Even the very little that I did on Saturday has put me back beyond where I was originally.

We still don’t know who has won the competition. That’s really not that important. Each of us has made progress towards a more efficient running style, one which in time will carry us farther and at greater speed than we had been able to maintain before. I think I’m a winner from that point of view. I have a pair of delicately trashed Bare-Xs which I would happily run back into a burning building to save once I was sure wife, step-son, cats and chicken were safe and inov-8 are giving us another pair of shoes each. I’ve chosen the Bare-Grips which I hope will carry me through the latter part of the cross country season.

My thanks go to Simon and the people at Sponge Marketing for organising everything, to inov-8 for the opportunity to do it and all the goodies – buy their stuff! – to my fellow 8 Weeks competitors for their blogs and company and most of all to Helen Hall for her coaching, mentoring, advice and encouragement. I’ve loved every second of it.

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The Past Is Another Country, They Have Morton’s Foot There

It seems so long ago, it could be another country. It’s not that long ago; it was only Tuesday. It was another country. I’m now sitting on the 24th floor of the Hyatt in Chicago and I very deliberately have my back to the window. It wouldn’t be completely fair to say that I have a fear of heights but only because you would miss an ideal opportunity to say that I am completely petrified of them. The only reason I don’t have the curtains closed is that the room is quite dark enough as it is. We’re not even close to the top of this tower and there is another one, even taller just across the road. The room faces north west and never sees direct sunlight. It’s a vampire’s wet dream. My poor, old laptop needs to be charged more frequently than a fat bloke in a marathon so I can’t take it out and use the WiFi downstairs yet. (28% battery, and climbing!) Here I sit, shivering with the combination of over-powerful air-conditioning and abject terror just to write you a blog post. I should have been a war correspondent. It would have been easier on the nerves.

So, after all that pre-amble…

I went to see Helen Hall on Tuesday so she could help me address the inadequacies of my Morton’s foot. She has a completely brilliant shop in Amersham where she stocks minimal shoes for efficient running and bike frames and where I would spend stupid, stupid amounts of money on shiny things for triathlons were I to forget that I need to pay for sensible things like food and my mortgage. My Dearly Beloved would probably complain – with some justification – were I to bring home a carbon-fibre time trial bike frame when all I went out for was some coaching, assessment and a roll of kinesio tape.

I was sensible enough to turn up dressed and equipped to run. Helen popped me on her treadmill having first checked that I was happy on them. I’m not, not really. I hate them but this was the easiest way for her to assess what was going on with my feet. She had me walk at a very steady pace and watched my feet intently. It was quite strange to have someone pay such close attention to me but that was what I was there for. I forgot the weirdness after a couple of minutes and just go on with the business of walking barefoot on a treadmill without falling off.

Helen began cutting strips of kinesio tape which she placed on the ball of each foot, one layer at a time. She would have me walk at the same steady pace after each strip went on until she was happy with what she saw. She wouldn’t immediately tell me what she was looking for because she didn’t want me to change what I was doing consciously. Instead, she wanted my feet and brain to work together without my conscious self getting in the way. She was happy when we reached six layers of tape on each foot. She said that at that point my little toe touched the ground for the first time. That was enough.

She had me step off the treadmill and walk across the floor of the shop. I did and I was struck by a sudden giddiness. It wasn’t because I’d been on the treadmill for the best part of 25 minutes at this point. Rather it was was because my body position had changed just enough for my balance organs in my ears to pick it up. The feeling only lasted a few moments but it was enough for me to remark on it. Helen then asked if I noticed any other changes. I did. My toes – especially the big toes – were touching the ground on each step now. I hadn’t noticed them do that before, even when I had been walking around in bare feet.

What the six little strips of tape do is very subtly change the way my foot works. Helen says that my foot now has the chance to be a foot: that is to allow the complex of muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones to act as shock absorbers and an energy recovery system. They will feed some of the energy they take in on each stride into the next one, if I allow them to work.

Having established that each foot now had the chance to work properly, Helen had me pay attention to my posture. I have to confess that I am a lazy, slouchy excuse for a man. I have read somewhere a Chinese saying that sitting is better than standing, but lying down is bes of all. I would prefer to slump, round-shouldered and hump-backed even over lying down. That is not good enough for Helen. She had me standing up more straightly and walking with my head up, my shoulders back a little and with my weight more on my heels on each step. I should imagine a plumbline down through my body and keep it as straight as possible. I said that I felt about an inch and a half taller just because of paying more attention to my posture as I walked.

She then had me run on the treadmill in the Hattori shoes I brought with me. She gave me even more to think about. She said I should allow my feet to become less rigid by imagining the shoes giving the soles of my feet a massage on every step. She had me exaggerate various parts of my gait to check if I could see any difference in how each move felt to me. I had to allow the angle between the top of my foot and my shin to decrease, or to flick up my heels. Each time she asked me to do something differently, she checked whether I felt a difference. Most of the time I did, but occasionally I could feel no difference at all.

She gave me what an actor would call “notes.” My ankles are very rigid, apparently and my right foot doesn’t pronate at all. My ankles are only hinges and my feet are stiff little levers. It means that my calves end up doing an awful lot of work getting my feet and ankles to move instead of just acting as postural control mechanisms. My bum and thighs do much less work than they should in powering my motion.

It seems that every time I speak to Helen, I have my head completely filled with new things to think about. That is brilliant in some ways but I need to break down what she says into manageable chunks. I am a runner of very little brain so I like to have just one or at most two things to do at once. My body has spent the last forty six years learning to move the way it does and I’m trying to change some of what it likes doing in eight weeks. Well, six and a bit now. I’m off to do The Drill in Grant Park followed by a speed session if the weather ever cools down enough.

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I’m Going To Be A Natural

I’m going to be a blogger for inov-8 and I’m quite excited! They asked for applications on their Facebook page a while back and I applied and then promptly did what I always do and forgot about it. What I should have remembered was this: they wanted people interested in transitioning from cushioned running shoes to less cushioned, more natural-feeling shoes to go through the process with a coach and blog about it. Well, you know me and shoes…

In days gone by, a gentleman needed no more than one pair of black shoes for smart, one pair of brown shoes for casual, sandals for the summer, a stout pair of boots for the country and Wellingtons, puddles, for the jumping in. Sandshoes or jimmies were an optional extra. I have so many pairs of running shoes now that whatever claims I may have had to gentlemanly status have been thrown out. I shall never gain admittance to The Drones. The current list includes but is not necessarily limited to three pairs of road training shoes, one pair of cross-country spikes, one pair of trail shoes, one pair of racing flats, two pairs of silly racing slippers in different colours so I don’t get them mixed up and one pair of trainers which I could use as racers in a pinch. That doesn’t include the cycling shoes I bought with the cleats in the bottom which nearly always come undone from the pedals when I ask them to. They live and perhaps breed in the bottom of my wardrobe. For all I know, they gang up on my sensible work shoes in the dark and call them names. You know how cruel shoes can be. I don’t think they’d take on my DM boots but the brown brogues are sensitive and probably wouldn’t cope well with being bullied.

I might have been on the cheese again. I’ll stop this train of thought before the spikes do anything unseemly with MrsHL’s new Vibrobarefoots.

I have to go to London on Saturday afternoon now for an assessment session. I don’t know what that involves but I’m looking forward to it. Running around, I suppose, under the watchful gaze of Helen Hall. I really hope it’s Helen Hall, the triathlete and running coach and not Helen Hall, the piano teacher who I’m sure is a lovely person in many ways but not necessarily for advice about running.

More on the Saturday session afterwards, of course.

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