Twenty Minutes To Post Something

This is not going to meaningful. It’s going to be nasty, brutish and short. Like a wee nyaff of a man on a bender. I have 20 minutes to write something and post it before tomorrow arrives and I break my post a day run after only two weeks.

So, I’m knackered after training and working and not eating properly. The Wheel of Fartlek gpx track looks a bit like a swastika for those times and occasions where you’re not allowed to have a swastika but you need to suggest it strongly. It does usually, anyway. We had to change the route tonight because the usual one for the long leg was partially closed off. So I’m tired from training.

I’m tired from not sleeping because I can’t always sleep after a hard training session. My jiggly legs won’t let me go to sleep. Two of those in a row now. I’m nodding at the keyboard and my eyes keep losing focus. Off to bed momentarily to try the sleepy thing lying down next.

Finally, not eating properly. Up early and out the door so I missed breakfast. Back at a daft time and didn’t really have any lunch. Dinner after training was a very “nutritious” doner kebab. I’m going to regret that in the morning. Fuck, I regret it now. Doners are the ultimate drunk food. They taste brilliant after a skinful but awful when you’re sober. At least I ate nearly all the salad so I’ve had some greens.

Ignore the telly bloke talking about the Plantagenets. I’m off to bed.

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Delusions Are Important

“Delusions are important,” says Mel. “If we didn’t lie to ourselves, we wouldn’t do anything.” I’m not sure that’s true. I think ambition is important. I think that striving is important. I think stretch goals are important if you want to improve. I know that chasing someone you think is quicker than you around a track is a good way to get faster yourself. That’s not deluding yourself; it’s giving yourself a target.

An honest assessment of where you are in your training is important when you go out and run your race. There is no point in going out at a pace you can’t sustain unless you just want lungfuls of pain and sore and sorry legs to go with the humiliation of limping home stylelessly. Why go out at six minute miles when you’re going to cross the line shambling at half the pace. Go out steadily, pick up the pace as you go on and then finish like a train, picking up places all the time.

Maybe it’s not really delusions, maybe it’s dreams or visualisations. Sometimes we need to see ourselves doing things we haven’t yet done to believe we can do them. Does that make sense? There are all sorts of visualisation techniques athletes use to help them perform to the very best of their ability. I still don’t think that’s lying to ourselves although it is creating something which isn’t real.

There will always be times when ambition exceeds ability, sometimes to a heroically comic extent. The one time I almost ran a 200m PB chasing Group 1 home at the very end of a cut-down and then spent the next ten minutes throwing up into a bin by the side of the track. I was still off the back of the group and I hadn’t done the six and a half kilometers running up to that last effort. Or the Kevin Henry 5k at Impington where I had to stop with 800m to go for a tactical chunder. Those efforts were certainly delusional.

There is one context in which goals should not be easily attainable. If you always exceed your expectations, then your expectations are too low. Your sandbagging yourself. That’s as bad for you as never attaining your goals because they are unrealistically high. Perhaps there is a compromise to be made in which you reach your goals a little over half the time.

So, is setting a stretch goal the same as self-delusion, as lying to yourself? It’s an interesting question.

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Running Through History

Today’s run was an out and back along the Roman Road from Wandlebury. There is quite a lot of history on display in a small area. The Roman Road itself is known as Worsted Street now. Well, to be fair it’s not widely known as Worsted Street. There are suggestions that the name is something to do with the wool trade which in turn suggests that the name is medieval but nobody really knows. The Friends of Fleam Dyke and the Roman Road website also suggests that if could be called Wolves Street. That’s cool; wolves ranging out between Abington and Linton.

Wherever possible, I like to run along the surface of the road and not in the ditch.


Diagram courtesy of The Friends of Fleam Dyke and the Roman Road

The surface is visible for a long stretch north from Worsted lodge and it’s still very well drained. Even on horribly wet days, there is little mud on the surface along that stretch and it’s easy to run or walk along there. South and east of the A11, the surface is less visible and you’re running along the ditch. In past, more violent times that ditch could have had bodies in it. I always feel queasy when I think about that.

Wandlebury Country Park contains a ring ditch. It’s about 900m in circumference and pleasantly up-and-down as you run round it. I don’t feel as odd running through that, which is strange. It’s an Iron Age thing and frankly, I think it’s full of of faeries when it’s not full of sweaty runners.

A good place for 900m reps.

Okay, maybe not faeries, or even fairies, but it’s certainly a fantastic place for runners. I am very aware of how long this feature has been in the landscape, of the thousands of people who have seen it, crossed it, been through it. The same is true for all sorts of places. Imagine the millions who have passed through Kings Cross Station, for example. As fond of Kings Cross as I am, I don’t find it very special. Wandlebury, the Roman Road, Fleam Dyke and Mutlow Hill are different. I don’t know why. They just are. Sometimes, you just have to accept that.

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Things I Do All Wrong

I have been cocking up all week and I thought a brief list might prove helpful in reducing cock ups in the future. It would probably help if I were to refer to the list from time to time. Feel free to remind me of it or add to it yourselves.

1 Not Taking Rest Days Seriously

Monday was a rest day after a hard race but Mary posted about her circuits starting up again and I wanted to take part because I really need to do some strength and conditioning and she is such a strong motivator. Maybe next time, take a moment to reflect that turning up to a high intensity session with a tired body is not the best move and say “Yes please, but not today.” That really tanked my week.

2 Sleep Is Beautiful

Sleep is indeed beautiful and I need not admire its beauty from a distance. I can get up close and personal, all snugly and warm under the duvet with sleep. I can spoon sleep for a few minutes and then feel everything ebb gently away in the dark. I cannot do this if I’m sat on the sofa watching YouTube films even if they are very interesting.

3 Alarm Clocks are Horrible

Related to point 2 above, if the alarm clock rings too soon after you’ve gone to sleep then you’re going to feel abysmally shite all day. Early starts need early nights and even if you really want to blog every day and do your Italian practice every day and eat properly and get to training then you’re going to have to stop farting around and some point and Go To Bed. There is a minimum time between your light going out and the your alarm going off. It’s different for everyone but it’s probably longer than you think.

4 Driving Is Bad for your Bendiness

If you spend five, six or seven hours folded into a car seat then you really need to spend some time mobilising yourself thoroughly before you set off on your next run, especially if it’s a hard session.

Not that I managed a hard session this week.

5 Recovery Runs Needn’t Be Gentle

I ran quite hard this morning and feel better this evening than I have all week. I’ve stretched and eaten properly today. I haven’t spent all day at 70mph. That probably helps too. I don’t know whether the vigorous run or the lack of driving was more important but whichever, it worked.

6 Don’t Fuck Too Much With The Plan

While plans are malleable and ought to change from time to time especially if you’re feeling tired, adding sessions because you’re not as knackered as you thought you might be is seldom a good idea. See point 1.

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Coaching is a Joy

I was too knackered to run tonight. Seven and a bit hours in the car and three early starts after three late nights will do that to a chap. I got back from Halifax in plenty of time to get changed and have a warm up to loosen off my legs and stretch before the session of K Reps and Kettlebells I had planned for the half marathon training group. However, I sat in the car fighting the weight in my eyelids and thought “Fuck it.” Luckily, my training partner and chum asked for a hill session in the morning so I thought I would give my limited energies to the athletes tonight and coach properly.

Coaching is a joy and a refuge for the tired athlete. Instead of a wasted evening jogging round a track for the sake of it, I can help other athletes achieve their goals. I set them off for a warm up and laid out a speed ladder, a couple of kettlebells, some resistance bands and a med ball while they ran and loosened up a bit. We ran through a warm up routine including some dynamic whole-body stretching and squats just to wake up the glutes and then I sent them off to the other side of the track to start their first 1k rep.

The track was busy with fizzing speedsters this evening. Another group was down doing 400m reps and they were flying, all of them. The youngsters have the Cambridgeshire Schools Cross Country Championships on Saturday so their session was shorter and slightly less intense than the multiple reps the adults were running.

My group was not moving as quickly but they were still working hard. I watched them pass the finish line on each lap, giving a cue here and there or just encouraging as best I could. “Keep working! Close that gap! Arms!” I noticed one of the athletes wasn’t moving well. I thought she might be having a problem or carrying an injury but when I asked her, she said she was fine. I asked her if she knew that she wasn’t moving equally on each side and she didn’t.

I have found that it’s difficult to think about what your legs do. It’s easy to look down and watch them instead of just running. Instead, I suggested she think about positive arm drive and getting her legs so follow the arm movement and balance out that way. When she came past on her next rep, she was moving much more freely. I asked her at the end of the rep and she said her shoulders were aching a bit but otherwise, nothing was untoward. Small intervention, big result. We’ll watch again next and keep on until her shoulders no longer ache and her stride is balanced on each side. It might take a few weeks but it should work over time.

I get a lot of satisfaction from coaching. It’s not just writing training plans and shouting. It’s a collaboration and exploration with an athlete or group of athletes. There have been weeks and months sometimes when I have lacked all motivation to run but I have seldom not wanted to coach. It’s almost always been a source of joy for me. The athletes I coach each week work hard. I want to give them my best because that’s what they give me and I want to thank them publicly for that.

Ladies and gentlemen, you’re brilliant. Thank you.

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Whole Body DOMS

As a running coach, I think it’s really important for athletes to undertake a regular, moderate programme of strength and conditioning and to improve their agility, balance and co-ordination and their flexibility alongside their sessions for running speed and endurance. I would write sessions for all of these into plans for athletes if they were not already doing regular gym work, yoga, pilates and stretching.

As an athlete, I’m a lazy arsehole who will do the absolute bare minimum I can get away with. In spite of that, when Mary Twitchett mentioned her Monday circuits session I thought I would add it to my weekly plan. I had to do something, having not done anything since Andy Matson’s circuits last winter.

Those were brilliant, by the way. Have a look on Facebook for AM Active. The next set of sessions is due to start soon and if you are close to Huntingdon, I can thoroughly recommend them. Andy’s coaching is affirming and his group of athletes work very hard indeed and have the results to show it works.

So, if you haven’t done any S&C for almost a year and – this is the important bit – you’re a bit of an idiot, of course you’re going to throw yourself into the first session back with some gusto. Especially if it’s on your rest day the day after the County Cross Country Championships. Mary ran through the 20 stations, gave us a brief but thorough warm up and set us to work.

Fifty seconds per station. I can’t remember them all. I could barely remember what each of them was when I was doing them. Some of that is down to the emotional and physical pain I was going through at the time. The mind is after all merciful and will not let us relive memories which are too painful. However there are some highlights.

Leg press. It was one of those inclined plane jobs. I have no idea how much weight was on there. Probably not that much because I could move the plate well but I was feeling the effort. Mary had me adjust my foot position and keep my knees about a fist-width apart. That one went quite well.

Leg lifts. Straight legs until that became impossible, then bent legs.

Press ups and dips. One press up, then walk the legs forward and dip. Resting on a couple of kettlebells. Now, I am useless, truly useless at press-ups. I don’t think any instructor or coach would say I have done more than three proper press ups in the past 52 years. However, I grabbed onto the kettlebells, bent my arms a bit so my chest just about visibly dropped towards the floor then managed to straighten my arms again. One. I’m calling that one One. Then walk my legs forward until they’re out in front and dip. One. For some reason, I’m better at dips. That definitely counted. Walk back. Two almost certainly wouldn’t have counted for anyone else and if I were honest with myself, I would say it didn’t count for me either. If I were honest with myself. I’m not honest with myself. Two. Walk the legs through. Dip. Two. And so on.

Shotguns. On my back on the bench, med ball held out behind my head with straight arms then pulled over to my waist and sit up keeping my back straight. Once I’m upright, hold the ball out in front of myself and stretch out as far as my back and hips allow. That’s not very far but I’m a bloke and I’m a runner and all of that is tight.

Burpees. Oh God, burpees. Once, a few years ago, Ben did a fuck-ton of burpees for his birthday after parkrun. He asked for people to keep him company and I did a couple of sets with him. Not well and not for long but I did them. They are the worst form of self-inflicted pain I know. The combination of controlled explosive power and agility, balance and co-ordination you need to do them well and efficiently escapes me. They’re also a huge drain on your cardio reserves. I think I managed three last night before it all went a bit Pete Tong.

Side plank. This one had a couple of variations to wake up the glutes properly, neither of which I really had the strength to do properly.

An easy plank thing, hands on a box. Left knee to left elbow at walking pace, then the other side. Ten reps. Left knee to right elbow at walking pace then right knee to left elbow. Ten reps. Repeat all four but faster for 10 more reps each, then faster again. I thought that went quite well. It’s similar to a sprint drill I do to feel fast feet but with a bit of mobilisation built in. As long as you keep your core as still as possible and drive your legs you’re fine.

A couple of TRX tortures – a plank and a hip raise. The hardest part of those was getting into the stirrups, to be honest. Plank to pike would be a hideous progression and one I remember from Rachel’s TRX Yoga sessions a couple of years ago. They weren’t really yoga but they were excellent supported mobilisation exercises.

Deadlift. I felt manly doing this. No idea how much weight was on the frame but my technique was good and I was able to hit a rhythm and keep going.

Bouncing on my toes. Small explosive movements, keeping my feet together. Again it’s a sprint drill. If you’re an endurance runner, you think that sprint drills aren’t worth bothering about but they can help some of us when we’re tired towards the end of a race focus on staying light on our feet, balanced and poised, if only for the cameras in the finishing area.

Short rest, drink of water then round again. for 2×20 seconds.

The other athletes were a mix of runners, rowers and triathletes. They were all amazing. Everyone was good at something and some were good at nearly everything so they could concentrate on really working hard.

I now hurt everywhere. I am hearing complaints from those small interior abdominal muscles which have had to do little more than compress a belch for the past year. Those complaints are loud and they are long and they contain an impressive amount of fanciful invective. My shoulders and chest hurt from the bench press and press ups. My quads are more tender than my heart was after Il Postino. I even, for no discernable reason, have a painful hairline. Yup, horripilation results in DOMS.

Okay, I exaggerate a little but not as much as you might think. I had to can tonight’s track session in favour of a couple of steadier runs. I’ve done just over five miles in total this evening and my legs are mashed. Tomorrow really is a rest day. I’m coaching a Run For Your Life session in Sawston in the evening and I hope I won’t have to do much running around. It’s a Couch to 5k session so it shouldn’t be too strenuous for me.

I really shouldn’t leave nine months between circuits sessions. It’s really not good for me.

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A Sense of Achievement

I didn’t want to do much today. I thought I’d go for a wee run after breakfast. The plan said 20 miles but the plan could fuck off. I might do 10, or 13 or maybe even 15 miles. I’d do 20 if I got really lost. I had some chores to do too, and packing for my trip to London this week.

I did none of those things.

I ate a box of chocolates. It’s an achievement of sorts, I suppose. It was a SMART goal. It was Specific: eat an entire box of chocolates today. It was Measurable: eat one box of chocolates. It was Attainable: four boxes of chocolates would have been a stretch at this point in my training cycle. It was Rewarding: I fucking love chocolate so consuming an entire box of it was really its own reward and therefore almost Zen. Finally it was within a given Time: I ate those chocolates today.  It was just not my SMART goal for today.

It wouldn’t have been a smart thing to do any day but I didn’t explode and I wasn’t sick but I didn’t go for my run. I have been to the Household Waste Site too. (This is Cambridge; we don’t have a tip, darlings.)

I’ve also made dinner. It was supposed to be lamb casserole but there was no diced lamb in Tesco nearby. I came back thinking I’d do beef stew instead but it turns out I bought minced lamb because I wasn’t paying enough attention so we’re having that with dumplings. We will if I first of all remember that I still have to make the dumplings; secondly, remember how to make dumplings; and finally, remember to put the dumplings into the mince.

(I had to check that I have actually started to cook dinner and not just imagined that I’ve put it in the oven. It’s being one of those days.)

Lack of sleep and painkiller hangovers are playing havoc with me. One day when the pain has faded and the anger has abated sufficiently for me to write about it without the result being just one huge FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK! then I’ll tell you all about my Adventures in Dentistry. It’s probably going to be a while before that happens.

I still need to pack, fill the car’s tank with diesel, sort out some papers for the morning, worry a bit, have a brief panic, unpack, sigh, repack, realise that I’ll need some of the stuff I’ve packed overnight, swear, sigh, unpack a bit, fish out the things I need, repack everything else, worry about forgetting the things I need overnight when I leave at oh fuck o’clock tomorrow morning and finally not get enough sleep tonight because I’m worried about getting up in time to get to Ealing tomorrow.

Sundays haven’t changed since I was 14 and had to do homework over the weekend for a Monday morning. I’m nearly 50 years old and I’m still fed up with doing my homework.

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Ship, ship, ship, ship…

It’s sensory overload, really.

There’s a sound which stands out in every season. Sounds are muffled by snow in winter so that all you hear is your own breath entering and leaving your body. If there’s no snow, the muffled sound comes courtesy of your hat pulled down over your ears so again you’re left with your breathing and the sound of your feet splashing through puddles and over pavements. The colours of winter are muted greys and blues with dazzling white for a handful of days if you’re very, very lucky and live away from polluting city traffic.

In the spring, there’s the smell of new leaves and the vivid, virid new growth. Life returns with enough punch and power to drive roots downwards through the earth and branches up and out through the sky. You can feel that power, if you’re enough of a hippy. The rest of us just feel better because we’re getting more daylight. Late in spring, the yellow of rape screams across field after field like Young Farmers pissed up on cider.

In summer, you hear skylarks but seldom see them. They’re little disembodied piping voices coming out of a blue, blue sky. That green of spring gets bleached out eventually even in the dampest of dismal British summers so that by late August greens are pallid and the cereals in the fields are burnished golden by the sun. Hot tar in cities has its smell. Damp earth after rainfall is a special smell.

Autumn is my favourite time of year. I was running through the woodland belts round Wimpole yesterday. In the place of the pad, pad, pad noise my feet make on the same trails during winter they were making a ship, ship, ship noise as I ran through drifts of fallen leaves. I remember Seonaid talking about going shoof-shoof through the piles of leaves as she walked around when she was a child. I may have misremembered exactly what she was talking about but that sound is so evocative of the life lived outside at this time of year. There is also the smell of all those leaves and their beautiful colours.

I’m not sure why I like autumn so much. There are quite a lot of anniversaries marking the deaths of family, friends and even pets at this time of year. Those beautiful leaves are filled with waste products and toxins before they drop. The new academic year has always brought some kind of hope of change and renewal even as the days shorten and the calendar year draws to a close. That hope and the shoof-shoof of an autumnal walk or a brisker ship-ship-ship are what make life seem just a little lighter in the gathering dark.

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‘Morning!

I get confused when I’m running. I can only really concentrate on one or two things at a time. Today it was all about running to a pace, keeping a nice upright posture and only if I had sufficient extra mental capacity would I worry about bits of me hurting. I saw Megan for some advice and massage on Tuesday a year to the day after my last trip to Fit Again Sports Therapy and she said I could train as long as I cut back on my mileage while I was still doing the physio on my Achilles. I did a very easy parkrun at Milton yesterday and nothing pinged or went twang so I thought that a longer run today would be a good check on whether I could restart training with a light week next week. I think I’m good to go. I have an odd wee twinge from my ankle but both Achilles are fine. There was a momentary flare from the right one just at the end of the session a couple of hundred yards from home but it was so fleeting it might not have happened at all. It might have been in my head. Runhausen’s Syndrome, perhaps.

What with all that going on, concentrating on my pace and form – don’t go so quickly that you break or so slowly that your form collapses – what with all that, I didn’t really have a lot of brain-room left for other things. We were told during our CiRF course that most athletes can only cope with one or two coaching points during a session and I’m definitely one of those athletes. So, I’m moving along, glancing at my watch every minute or so but running on feel for the most part and my pace is fine. I think about a balloon coming out the top of my head to keep everything nice and upright and I find that everything else follows from there. I’m relaxed, my arms are moving easily, my knees are coming up and it’s all good. As usual, I occasionally feel my left shoe brush my right calf as it comes through but once I concentrate on keeping everything in line then that stops too. It’s all going marvellously.

Then I spot some people on the path ahead. Now, I know some of you will find this hard to believe but I was brought up to be polite. It wasn’t all “Fuck you, you fucking humpbadger!” from the age of six. I still feel the need to greet people with a smile and a nod and to say something as I glide athletically past. I don’t want to be one of those runners, the wordless ones who avoid eye contact in case they have to deviate momentarily from their course, the ones plugged into some iPod-driven hell of introspection and sweat-sodden self-loathing. You know the ones. I saw one like that this afternoon coming the other way. I smiled. I nodded. I said “Hi!” Nothing. Not a thing. The fucker wasn’t even going so quickly that he couldn’t get a word out. Headphones will do that to a man.

So, these people coming the other way. There was a family of two adults and two children occupying the width of the path. Not a problem for the considerate runner. No traffic in the road so I run along it for a bit, do the smile and nod thing as I go past and get a smile and nod in return. The positive exchange, as the Naked Runners used to call it. Next is a little old lady walking along at little old lady pace with what is almost certain to be a badly buggered hip from the way she is limping. She smiles. I smile back, nod and say “‘Morning!” It’s almost five in the afternoon. I’m an idiot. I almost run back to her and say “Sorry, I meant to say ‘Good afternoon,’ because it’s afternoon after all, isn’t it? But I’m a runner, you see. I can only concentrate on my pace and my form and I don’t have time to think about the time of day too. Terrible, isn’t it? I’m quite bright, really. Well, it’s the first time I’ve seen you today. The first time I’ve ever seen you so for some reason my brain says that I should wish you a good morning and not a good afternoon. Brains, eh? Who’d have one? Anyway, sorry to startle you coming back like this. I’m not a mugger, ha, ha. No, not me. I’m a runner. Nice talking to you. Bye!'” What would you have done?

Onwards again. My route takes me through the grounds of Cherry Hinton Hall and then out along the babbling brook where the path is very narrow. I pass a couple heading in the same direction as me by running on some grass where the path goes past some houses. I give them a wide berth. I’ve caused screams before as I’ve gone by because people can’t always hear me coming. I take that as a compliment to my form but I don’t like to cause anxiety. I wave thanks to them as I go by and wish them a pleasant evening. There are a couple of cyclists coming the other way down the narrowest stretch of the path. We each slow down to allow the other to pass. Smile. Nod. Onwards. Finally, I have to come to a stop to allow a couple of families with pushchairs past. Of the four adults, only one man returns my nod and smile. The rest avoid eye contact. I know I’m a bit sweaty by now, a bit snottery and slightly breathless but I was being polite and all I get in return was one hurried and embarrassed nod.

I can’t be the only one who’d like to build a community one exchange at a time. It’s not just about the runners or the cyclists or the swimmers. I tell my athletes on a Tuesday night to be careful when they encounter pedestrians. A group of athletes moving at pace can be a very intimidating thing for someone to encounter. They’d be alright, speeding up and buggering off round a corner. It’s me that’d be in the shite. I have the club’s name and badge emblazoned on my chest and Coach Rich on my back. I’d get the letters. So I tell them to slow down or to give other pedestrians room and acknowledge them as they pass. It’s only polite after all. I don’t want us to be one of those clubs after all. I’d like to include those of a less athletic disposition in the community even if it’s just by nodding sweatily as I go past whether they want to be included or not. I might get fewer screams that way and fewer of those fuckers with headphones instead of social consciences would irritate me.

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Heavy Breath

I woke up one morning and couldn’t breathe so I decided I’d stop smoking. I mean, what sort of fucking idiot kippers his lungs so completely that he spends a good quarter of an hour every single morning choking and wheezing before he can even sit up straight? So, I woke up one morning and couldn’t breathe and that’s why I decided to stop smoking.

Except that’s not quite true. I woke up every morning with air squealing out of me as if I were a damp accordion. I don’t know why this particular morning my resolution not to buy a packet of fags held. I smoked my last cigarette that morning and haven’t lit up since. I’d tried almost every day not to smoke but the habit was so ingrained the words “And ten Superkings” would fall out of my mouth at the kiosk almost without me noticing. The ten little ciggies would disappear in several puffs of carcinogenic smoke quite quickly, sometimes one after another in a chain so I’d need to get more a couple of hours later.

This little ciggie was smoked in the car, this little ciggie was smoked alone. This little ciggie made me cough like a dog, but this little ciggie did not. And this little ciggie made me wheeze, wheeze, wheeze all the way home.

I must have smelled at times like a working man’s club on a Sunday morning: stale beer and mucky ashtrays with tangs of sweat and desperation. All the Trebor in the world couldn’t have fooled anyone into thinking I was living a minty-fresh life. I kidded myself that they would. Smoking gave me other health problems. Acid reflux ate my insides. I was downing antacids like Shane McGowan went through Martini. All the time I was telling myself that I could stop smoking any time but I was enjoying it so much.

Really.

Really?

Waking up in the night because stomach acid was wandering round my body getting into places it really shouldn’t. Getting my morning workout from a coughing fit. Spending money I couldn’t really afford on things I knew would kill me.

Really. I enjoyed it all.

The iconography of the cigarette is so strong and I bought into it all. Think about Bette Davis or Humphrey Bogart. Now, imagine Bette heaving her guts up every morning or Bogie downing a Gaviscon slammer. Doesn’t really work does it? What about the Marlboro cowboy searching his chaps for his inhaler?

I’ve been thinking about all of this today because I died on my arse last night. A pyramid session will do that do you. 1 x 6:00, 2 x 3:00, 3 x 1:00, 2 x 3:00, 1 x 6:00; it’s a bit of a killer. You need to bring your fast legs and your best lungs and I had neither. I had my usual kippered lungs and well-fucked legs. I raced twice last week, once over 5k and once over a half marathon and I am battered to bits.

So, I’m still abusing my body but nobody is telling me not to any more. That has to be progress.

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