Trimming nostrils, waxing legs and chilling out

Good festive period? I myself cannot complain – I received many fine gifts. Non-finer that the ‘Kleeneze Nose & Ear Hair trimmer’ I received from my dear wife. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. For us both. After all, I can only assume that each time I’ve leant into give the missus a peck on the cheek, I’ve been involuntarily bristling her delicate features with my overgrown nasal jungle – hence the purchase. I’ve not tried the trimmer yet. Oof, I could ‘live blog’ it right now! If I can find a AA battery. Which I can’t. Right, I’ll take one out of the remote control for the DVD player…its alive! It buzzes lightly like a, erm, timid electric hornet. Lets get it shoved up the nose…ouch. No, wait, once the initial few hairs are ripped out you get used to it. Hmm, its quite satisfying is this. Aaaaand into the other nostril. Every time it snip a hair the buzzing is interrupted with clicking. Not unlike a Geiger counter. ‘THE MAN WITH THE RADIOACTIVE NOSTRILS’. Wait, it’s stopped. Urgh, I think I’ve clogged it with some rogue mucus. The instructions do warn against ‘immersing it in liquid’. I’d argue it was something between solid and liquid, thus not invalidating the warranty. Warranty? Also, ‘Do not place trimmer in direct sunlight’? Is it a vampire? Still, on the whole I’m quite pleased with that. And I’ll simply de-clog it later. It’ll be something to look forward to.

Trimmer: quite like Dr Who's sonic screwdriver, I'd venture. I bet he gets right in there with his. In his quieter moments.

Trimmer: quite like Dr Who’s Sonic Screwdriver, I’d venture. I bet he gets right in there with his. In his quieter moments.

Also – and perhaps more running-related – my wife got me a tin of ‘Badger Muscle Rub’. Which, as far as I can fathom, is NOT:

1) Made for badgers

2) Made by badgers

3) Made of badgers’ muscles

4) Made of badgers at all

Badger-salve

Badger-salve

Badgers aside, its good stuff. I think I’d best describe it as ‘Hell’s Marmalade’ – orange and fiery. Although it’s waxier than marmalade. What’s orange and waxy? Erm, an earwax candle? Apologies for that image. Anyway, you simply rub it in to tired muscles and it heats them up a bit. And it really works – I’ve used it before on my calves after a run (the leg muscles, not infant bovine) and it seemed to aid recovery and detract from general tightness in the lower-leggy area.

Wax on!

Wax on!

If I had a stamp of approval, I’d give it one. That could be a 2016 resolution – purchase stamp of approval and stamp things with it. For the sake of clarity, I will stress that I have not been asked to promote this by the Badger people – visions of a post-apocalyptic human-badger hybrid race abound – as it would take more than the offer of a couple of free tins of Badger-salve to buy out the fiercely independent voice behind this blog. But not too much more…one day the big sponsorship deal will roll in. Ben’s Running Blog – brought to you by Nike. Or Whiskas. Or WD-40. I tell you what; the Star Wars folk have missed a trick by not tying in with that last one. He could be the most lubricated droid in the galaxy.

I must confess as I continue to type, my newly-trimmed nostrils are quite distracting. I feel like I’m getting approximately 47% more oxygen with each inward breath. I’m quite light headed as a result. But I’ll soldier on… I went running this morning you know! First time for 17 days. I felt alright as well, if a little weighty. It was nice to get the first run of the year done on the first day of the year, but I’ve decided that this year I’m going to try and be ‘less mental’ about running. I acknowledge that’s a somewhat ambiguous statement, so I’ll attempt to clarify. I’m going to try and be less bothered about times and PBs and stuff. Just getting out there, that’s what matters. It’s too late to qualify for Rio, after all. Plus I’m going to be more flexible about how often I run (which is perhaps code for ‘not run as often as the 5 times per week I was committing myself to for no reason at all towards the end of last year’). So, I’ll just chill out and enjoy this hobby a bit more. Its as simple as that. Surely. ‘Middlesbrough man in dramatic U-turn – pledges to break world 10,000 metres record by September 2016’

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the hypothetical, new-fangled ‘lets calm this shit down’ approach to running is a New Year’s resolution. But I have made one (aside from the stamp of approval). Which is unusual for me. Quite simply, I’m just going to try and be a nicer person. A plan with no drawbacks, I feel. I mean, it’ll be tough – given that I’m almost perfect already. But I’ll try… On the running front, I’ve got no big aims. No marathon plans (THANK HADES!), not even any half-marathons pencilled in. I’m an open book. We’ll just have to see what crops up. Well, I’d better do something. I’ve got this blog to write. ‘Day 237 – still no running. I’ll just recount another go with the nose hair trimmer…’

WAIT! DON’T LEAVE YET! I’VE GOT SOMETHING ELSE TO TELL YOU! Anyone who returns to these ramblings with any degree of regularity may have picked up on the fact that I do like to throw in a film reference or three. Well, I’m channelling all of that misplaced energy (well, some of that misplaced energy…) into a new blog: Ben’s Movie Blog. Every week I’ll review the latest cinematic release in my own unique style. And by that I of course mean a series of rambling asides. Still, if you like this running nonsense (and you’re still reading, so I declare you guilty) you’ll surely love the film nonsense as well. I really should’ve called both blogs that…

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Review of the Year – Part 3

‘I’m never, ever doing that again!’ I said cheerily as I finished the Yorkshire Marathon in 2013 (it’s worth adding that the ‘cheer’ was in fact forced/fake and was simply there to mask the pain/anguish/horror). However, early 2015 saw the overdue re-appearance of ol’ ‘U-Turn Taylorson’ and his skewed logic that decrees ‘never say never, merely give it a couple of years to forget how brutal the experience was, only recalling the very few enjoyable bits’. In short, I signed up for another marathon. Well, the same marathon. Well, not exactly the same marathon, as I don’t have a time machine. Yet. Hoho, but there’s a film plot – man invents time machine and uses it to enter the same marathon multiple times so eventually, through sheer weight of numbers, he wins. I bet the IAAF don’t have that one covered in their bylaws. Idiots. Anyway, I signed up to run the Yorkshire Marathon again like some sort of apparent masochist. And as summer gave way to autumn, it loomed on the horizon like a massive…loom. Hmm, I’ve just tried to find some information on the ‘world’s biggest loom’ and failed owing to being unable to filter out records about stupid loom bands. You’ll just have to do your own research. I can’t be expected to do everything for you. Jesus…

September

The month began with a 10k in my own backyard. Well, almost. I wonder how many times I’d literally have to run around my own back garden to knock out a total of 10 kilometres? At least 400 I reckon. It would get quite boring. Plus I’d wear the grass down and get told off by my wife. Luckily, however, the Ben’s Boring Back-Garden 10k wasn’t on the calendar, but the Middlesbrough 10k was. And it served as a warm up (literally, ‘cause it was hot as balls) for The Great North Run a week later. Fun was had dressed as Superman, running with Batman. Not the Batman, mind. That would just be stupid. ‘That’s enough running for one month’ is what other, more sensible people might declare having just belted out 13.1 miles dressed in a crotch-hugging superhero outfit. But no. There was the small matter of two more half marathons to finish. Not one. But two. Firstly, The Scottish Half Marathon and associated amusement, then the Redcar Half Marathon. By the end of the month you could hear the clank of my finishers medals from space. I would imagine.

Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 21.13.08

Super stuff!

October

Urgh, God. This was it. No escape. Well, unless I said ‘you know what, I’m not going to do this stupid effing marathon because I don’t want to and no one can make me’. But I didn’t do that. After all, I’d trained for it. Kind of. And besides, I was going to bag a sub-4-hour time. Surely. And I did. Just. And I can look back now and laugh at the point around 22 miles where I legitimately thought I might die. Because I didn’t die. And I’m never doing a marathon ever again. And I DO MEAN IT, THIS TIME. Amazingly, however, I didn’t just park ‘this running crap’ for the rest of the month/year despite the urge to do just that. I was out for 4.1 mile trot only 3 days after the end of the ol’ 26.2. And I kept on running after that, too. Not constantly, you understand. Like some sort of mental world record seeker. ‘Man runs continuously for 27 years’.

November

The last race on the calendar for 2015 was the Newcastle Mo Run 10k moustache dash thing. I wasn’t really in the mood. It was almost like I’d done a ridiculous amount of running already this year and the body was rebelling. Still, I finished it for the love of the moustache-shaped medal. The month started with unseasonably high temperatures, but it wasn’t long before lashing rain and howling winds started to affect my willingness to head out of the front door with the Lycra on.

December

Well, I made it to the 15th of December before my white flag went up and the formal and somewhat inevitable declaration of ‘that’s enough of this running tosh for one year’ was made. Now I occupy myself eating Toblerones and Chocolate Oranges (‘one of my five a day, surely’) and the like. And not running. Until the 1st of January. That’s the deal I’ve made. With myself. Because I can’t just make decisions. Oh no. It has to be a guilt-ridden bargain struck with the inner monologue. A pledge to return to the streets with the trainers on after I’ve enjoyed a mere 16 days of chocolate-based indulgence. Fine. You win, me. Stupid inner conflict ruining everything *grumbles*

Right, well, that’s enough blogging for one year as well. Thanks, as ever, for reading this nonsense. See you next year.

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Review of the Year – Part 2

When looking back across the previous 12 months, it’s important to remember that achievements come in many forms. We can’t all be Sports Personality of the Year. Or Rear of the Year. Or winner of the Bad Sex in Fiction Award. ‘Her flocculent fingers slid inquisitively up his muclulent…’ nevermind. This past year, I completed a Master’s degree. I elongated my poultry enclosure. And I ran a stupid marathon. Urghghgh…meanwhile, in November, Otto the Bulldog set a new world record for skateboarding through the longest human tunnel. 20-year-old Venezuelan Jeison Orlando Rodriguez Hernandez was officially declared the man with the world’s biggest feet (size 59, if you’re wondering). Whilst earlier this month, Coleen Nolan and Linda Robson tried and failed to break the world record for eating the most mince pies on the set of Loose Women. To be clear, the record attempt was for the pie eating, which could have taken place anywhere – the set of Loose Women does not have a collection of world records of its very own, as if it was a state somehow independent of the rest of the world. You know, I do wonder when world records became less about the extremes of legitimate human achievement and more about dogs, freaks and desperate attention-seekers. I imagine this began via a scenario where an elite athlete was ruled out of his record attempt at the last minute through injury. Devastated, furious and desperate, he made a grab for a nearby cutlery canteen and promptly balanced 57 teaspoons on his forehead. The chap from The Guinness Book of World Records was impressed, but explained there were no world records for stupid, piddling things like that. Unperturbed, Terry Teaspoon held the chap hostage with a fish knife until a frantic telephone call to head office concluded that ‘forehead teaspoon balancing’ was to be included in next year’s annual. And behold, the floodgates are opened for obscure records seeking oddballs everywhere…

Anyway, back to the running review:

May

The month began in monsoon conditions at the Sunderland Half-Marathon. It was as if I was offering a modern interpretation of that old saying ‘even the longest journey starts with the first step’ when I declared ‘the hardest part will be getting out of the car’. Freezing, gales, lashing winds – there was a lot to convince me to stay in the car. And drive home. But I didn’t. And it was almost worth it for the stadium finish and the medal. Almost. Later in the month I began looking forward to (i.e. dreading and assuming I was going to die) the 26.2 miles pencilled in for October, and hence began ACTUAL MARATHON TRAINING. An elaborate if somewhat baseless 22 week training plan was drawn up. That would keep the demons at bay. And the month came to an end with an annual favourite – the Middlesbrough Riverside 5k. Now that’s a distance. A short, sensible distance. Stupid marathon training…

June

I had a revelation. It came to me in a vision – like Moses receiving a touch of tablet-based life guidance up Mount Sinai. Or like Darth Vadar finally realising The Emperor was quite the plonker and could really do with being hurled into a big hole. Or Noel Edmonds thinking ‘I know! I’ll dye the beard! That’ll keep me young and relevant and not make me look at all like a creepy, face-fuzzed, Action Man doll that’s come alive and started presenting Deal Or No Deal’: I decided I’d start a running blog. To share my pain anguish crushing insecurities joy of running with like-minded folk. After all, just how had the collective running world made it this far without hearing about how, at the end of a run I like to sit on a step by my patio and let the perspiration form a ‘sweat puddle? Or acquiring a yoga mat from a shop in central Middlesbrough amidst an atmosphere of hysterical terror? Or encountering an elderly chap at 6:40am, wading shin-high through a beck, adorned in only a tight fitting pair of beige shorts whilst puffing away on a pipe? How indeed.

'The right deal at the right time...we do not want to see the quarter of a million...who is going to be a banker-spanker?'

‘The right deal at the right time…we do not want to see the quarter of a million…who is going to be a banker-spanker?’

July

Things heated up in July. And not in a way that implies conflict or an intimate encounter or some sort of outstanding achievement. No, I mean literally. I almost melted at The Croft Pitstop 10k where temperatures reached an estimated 168 degrees Celsius. Then only a few days later I sweated around stupid, hilly streets for a middle-class running spectacular at the Harrogate 10k. Neither race resulted in a medal. Not that I’m bitter *screams into pillow* Towards the end of the month I went for a 10 mile run in the Lake District and got lost. For a while. But I panicked, had a bit of a cry, composed myself and got there eventually. Which, coincidently, is a broad synopsis of the worst ever episode of The A-Team.

August

As the year progressed, the races came like an express, viscous milkshake – thick and fast. First it was something of a taster as to the marathon to come, when I hit York for a mere 10k. I saw a man punch a bee out of the air. It was one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever seen. Then it was on to Darlington for 10 more kilometres. And away from the glitz and glamour of the North-East amateur running circuit, I was putting in the hard miles ahead of the ol’ 26.2. In fact, I put in 153.4 miles in August. That’s ridiculous. For me, anyway.

———————————————————————————————————-

As this is likely my last post before, if you’ve been good, a large bearded chap deposits packages beneath an indoor sapling (I mean Christmas – this is not a coded warning as to some sort of garden-centre bombing), I’d like to take this opportunity to wish anyone who reads this nonsense a fantabulous yuletide period. In the spirit of this blog, I should urge you all to try and ensure you pop the trainers on at some point over Christmas for a few festive miles, but I’m not going to. Sod the running crap: feet up, telly on, mince pie. Running? That’s 2016 Ben’s problem…

A hand-drawn Santa. Look, he's not been well...its the thought that counts.

A hand-drawn Santa. Look, he’s not been well…its the thought that counts.

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Review of the Year – Part 1

Ah, 2015 – notable for so many reasons. It’s the International Year of Soils for a start. In fact earlier this month (December 5th to be precise) it was World Soil Day. I hope you celebrated appropriately by digging a hole or ploughing a furrow or soiling yourself in some other pleasingly constructive manner. But, soils aside, what else has 2015 done for us? Well, from February 19th onwards it’s been Chinese Year of The Goat. Or Ram. Or Sheep. Depending on your cultural/caprinae leanings. Oof, what Chinese animal does my birthdate decree? Monkey? Yeah! Or more precisely, Metal Monkey. Hang on: being born in 1980 makes me a Double Metal Monkey? Surely some sort of coronation is in order. Or at least I should have been the subject of a 1980s arcade game. Hmm, ‘inherently intellectual and creative, Monkeys at times have trouble exhibiting these qualities. When that happens, they appear to others to be confused’ – pfft, nonsense. Why, this opening paragraph is surely testament to the fact that I can stay on-message when introducing a review of the running events I’ve partaken in across the last 12 months…

The start-screen from the unfortunately never produced 1980s platform classic Double Metal Monkey

The start screen from the unfortunately-never-produced 1980s platform classic Double Metal Monkey

So, right then. As its nearly Christmas/New Year/Mongolian Independence Day (December 29th, people) I thought it apt to glance back across the last 52 weeks and reflect on all this stupid running I’ve been doing:

January

The Christmas period saw me do something that is guaranteed to re-energise any hobby – hurl some cash at it to acquire a shiny new gizmo. As my Nike+ running watch had capitulated (well, I say that…what happened was actually the latest incident in a long line of ‘watch sabotagings’ – it was a bit knackered, so I purposefully knackered it more to make it completely knackered and thus require a beautiful new one. The origins of this recurring ridiculousness lie in my childhood: As a kid I had a Tetris watch. Yes, a watch you could also play Tetris on. It was fabulous. For a long time it remained fabulous. Then it got a bit scratched and the strap went funny. So I put it on a kerb and stamped on it…) I made a sound investment in a Garmin Somethingorother. This of course meant I could run all the same routes I’d run before, but Mr Garmin would chalk them all down as new records. Pointless, meaningless records. That weren’t really records, as I’d already run much faster with the Nike+ thing. But still. You take inspiration where you can. And speaking of which, pre-Christmas Ben had ‘played a blinder’ (or ‘been a total dick’ depending on my mood) and signed post-Christmas Ben up for a January half-marathon: The Brass Monkey Half Marathon in York to be precise. It was cold. And icy. I almost fell over a few times. But I did clock a comparatively remarkable 1:42:23. Before then losing the feeling in both of my hands on the walk back to the car, only to regain it suddenly and assume I’d slipped into that point of hyperthermia where you feel really hot and take all your clothes of despite being only inches from freezing to death. Also, there was no medal. Just a lime-green, long-sleeved t-shirt. I got medium. Should have got large. Life: full of regret.

WAIT! BRASS MONKEY? DOUBLE METAL MONKEY?! IT'S MORE METALLIC MONKEY ACTION THAN ONE MAN CAN HANDLE!

WAIT! BRASS MONKEY? DOUBLE METAL MONKEY?! IT’S MORE METALLIC MONKEY ACTION THAN ONE MAN CAN HANDLE!

February

 In the depths of winter came THE SNOW. And with that came a moment all us runners fear – A FALL. Yes, I vividly remember going arse over tit in the slush by a cattle grid on a remote track. For a moment I lay there in the snow, waiting for medical professionals to arrive and cordon off my soaked and battered body and with some black screens before producing the shotgun. But then I just got up and got on with it (after checking to make sure no-one saw, obviously). Looking back at the mileage I was putting in, I was clearly in the midst of pre-marathon euphoria too. What a naïve idiot…

March

Ah, now I remember – the first three months of the year saw me enthused by Jantastic – that thing where you pledge to do some running, then you do some running, all for imaginary points in an imaginary league table. By the end of March, I was well sick of that bollocks I can tell you. But as one door closes – or indeed, is closed by my with a muttered ‘bugger this Jantastic nonsense, its cold out there’ – another one opens as the end of the month saw the second race of the calendar year – The Thirsk 10. The ‘10’ bit being ’10 miles’. Not ’10 kilometres’. Sadly. However, an event famed for its windy conditions took pity on the poor runner as the day was, I seem to recall, unseasonably splendid. Plus I didn’t get run over, which is always a bonus. There was a cavalcade of mopeds that I had a good swear at, however. Stupid noisy, stinking, pathetic little non-motorbikes all ridden by people who covert a ‘scene’ I don’t understand, but that seems to involve The Who and the need for an abundance of wing-mirrors. I mean, erm, each to their own. Of course.

1042...a fine year

1042…a fine year

April

‘I went to Disneyland and when I got back I couldn’t be bothered for a while’ just about sums up April, running wise. Mentally, I was still on the Indiana Jones rollercoaster and consuming a Nutella and chocolate milkshake that I’m convinced could have given me type-2 diabetes in just one sitting. Still, I manned up and got on with it. No, I’m lying to myself – I whined on and went reluctantly. I did, however, manage to achieve one outstanding running feat during April – getting completely lost whilst being less than two miles from my house. It’s a rare talent, being this stupid. Basically, to cut a long and shameful story short, certain ‘assumptions’ were made by me about where paths should and shouldn’t go, despite having the directional sense of a reanimated Cornish pasty. I ended up wrapped in brambles and vaulting hedges, whilst at any moment expecting to be shot by an angry farmer.

 

 

 

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A Reminiscent Wind

I made a fatal mistake the other weekend. Well, I say mistake. It very much depends on your point of view. Or my point of view. Or perhaps even Points of View with Anne Robinson. Remember that? Middle England would write to say how offended they’d been by various televisual snippets that had temporarily edged them out of their comfort zone. Les Dawson touching a nerve with a mother-in-law joke on Blankety Blank? Some rogue, pre-watershed homosexuality on Take The High Road? Harry Secombe accidentally referencing Satanism during Songs of Praise? Hmm, is Points of View still on the go? It is you know. Now presented by Jeremy Vine? Urgh, the douche. He’s no Des Lynam, who presented it for 5 months in 1999. Didn’t Des Lynam do Countdown for a bit too? He did. For 14 months. Seems he’s got some commitment issues, old Des. I wonder what he’s up to these days? ‘In 2013, Lynam endorsed the United Kingdom Independence Party’…oh Des, surely not. What would old Grandstand colleague Steve Rider think? Let’s see what he’s up to… ‘Steve Rider has upset residents of a village where he owns a second home by lodging a formal objection to plans for affordable housing to be built’. What a guy…

Right, lets get back to it. It? Yes, it. The aforementioned mistake: I bought a large tub of Quality Street for me and the family to consume in the run-up to Christmas. As the sweets were opened, it caused something to occur. A noise in my head that would directly affect my ability/inclination/willingness to go running. A noise best described as ‘BEEEEWWWWW’. Remember the original Star Wars film? There’s a scene where Obi-Wan Kenobi sneaks around the Death Star and finds the levers that shut down a tractor beam. On doing so, a ‘BEEEEWWWWWW’ noise is emitted which is the exact same noise as I heard in my head. Anyway, what does this noise mean? It means ‘AAANNNND RELAX! Running? Physical exertion? Unlikely. Pass me another Noisette Triangle, I’ll see you in the New Year’.

Obi-Wan. Also a fan of the Noisette Triangle. Not a euphemism.

Obi-Wan. Possibly also a fan of the Noisette Triangle. Not a euphemism.

But, I’ve got 35-years worth of experience when it comes to living in the complex, contradictory and ever-continuous battleground that is my own brain. On one level, I knew this was coming – the ‘bollocks, none of that, its Christmas’ approach to running. Or indeed, not running. And I knew just how to counter such evil. With a thing Lazy Ben can’t resist: a medal. Hence, some time back in the autumn I planned for this very eventuality and committed to running a ‘Virtual 10k’ in the depths of winter. And by ‘committed’ I mean ‘stumped up a tenner and said I would’. And I did. Reluctantly.

It was Sunday when I convinced myself to ‘get out and get on with it’. I’d like to say it ‘I enjoyed it’ or ‘once I got going I really got into it’ or ‘I’m not really sure why I ever decided to park this running lark for a bit’, but in actuality I found myself saying ‘Urgh, bastard wind?!’ quite a lot. Storm Desmond had hit. And it was a flatulent storm. As an aside, I don’t like this new-fangled naming of storms. It should have some complex meteorological name like ‘Storm X13a22p’ if it has to have a name at all. It’s all part of the infantilisation of society *shakes cane and flat cap at sky* Plus, every time I hear this one mentioned I think of the old channel 4 sitcom Desmond’s. ‘It’s ahl windy an’ rainy, mon…yeah mon’

Anyway, I ran. Well, ‘ran’… But I got there eventually. I duly logged my time and through the post came this rather fine chunk of metal.

 

It's shiny! It excites!

It’s shiny! It excites!

However, the whole experience reminded my of The Windiest Run of All Time Ever which occurred well before the establishment of this here blog. It was back in April 2013, by the golden sands of South Shields, for an event known as The Sand Dancer 10k. And I’ll say from the off, that what it lacked in dancing it made up for in sand.

Back then, pre-cancer, I was about as fit as I’ve ever been. I rocked up to South Tyneside looking to knock out a personal best in the spring sunshine, with the sparkling waters of the North Sea providing the suitably beautiful backdrop to my inevitable achievements. However, one thing I hadn’t counted on was THE WIND. The start line was on a footpath literally right next to the beach. Or, it should have been. In fact, owing to THE WIND, the beach was encroaching somewhat, like an over-eager defender determined to charge down a Ronaldo free-kick. As the race started – amidst a whimpered cry of ‘please get on with it, I’m being exfoliated to death’ from near enough all 191 competitors – a large proportion of the beach had already worked its way neatly into each eyeball and a number of bodily crevasses. Still, I was getting that PB, I’d decided.

Around 4 minutes into the race, I wasn’t getting that PB, I’d decided. As the route edged up off the beach and on the cliffs the relative shelter of the lower ground gave way to the exposed horror of the clifftop paths and winds of approximately 4,000,000 miles per hour. Morale sank. Plus, the course was a dreaded ‘double-loop’, meaning you knew you still had it all to do again when you’d struggled around once. At one specific point one the route (experienced twice, thanks to the aforementioned double-loop), and I can honestly say I am not embellishing this for comic effect, the direction and ferocity of the wind was such that I was making a running motion – arms and legs working in unison – but I wasn’t moving. It was like Satan’s treadmill.

I did finish the stupid thing though. And (un)fortunately the moment was captured for photographic posterity:

Just a man enjoying his hobby...

Just a man enjoying his hobby…

I think this is worthy of a closer look:

ARGHGHGHGHGH I HATE RUNNING!

ARGHGHGHGHGH I HATE RUNNING!

Plus, the worst of it was – no medal! No goody bag! NUTHIN’ AT ALL! Just the removal of the top 6 layers of skin owing to 40 minutes of sand blasting. And a renewed hatred of nature. However, it would be remiss of me to leave The Sand Dancer behind without mentioning a couple of other ‘memories’ I garnered that day whilst undertaking the pre-race toileting ritual. Firstly, I’d never heard a grown man, in the company of other grown men, refer to urinals and stalls as the ‘standy-uppies’ and the ‘sitty-downies’. I forget the exact context, but I seem to recall that the absence of one or the other was causing him some distress. Secondly, the queue for the standy-uppies and sitty-downies snaked into the changing area – here I witnessed a chap adorned in a jockstrap that was, frankly, more hole than strap. It was somewhat…shredded, lacking the fundamental ability to give the required support. I can only assume it was his lucky jockstrap. Now, had Jockstrap Jeff been slipping into his antique genitalia support subtly, say, in the corner of the room, I (nor indeed any of the other unfortunate witnesses) would have had no cause for complaint. But no. He was centre stage, in the middle of the room, hands on hips, buttocks out, engaging unfamiliar, would-be lavatorians in polite pre-race chatter with only a few strands of stained, grey fabric holding back the bulge(s). Never has a queue for the standy-uppies seemed to move slower, I can tell you…

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Carving out a niche

Last Saturday morning, 6:42am: I clamber out of bed, relinquishing the warm embrace of the duvet. I lift the bedroom blinds a little and glance outside in the bitter blackness. Urgh. Stupid running. Nevertheless, I cast off the pyjamas and bundle on the running gear before heading downstairs, all under cover of darkness so as not to disturb the rest of the house. I fall over the cat on the landing. I quietly call him a dick. He sulks in the bathroom for a bit. Downstairs, I slip the trainers on and unlock the back door. The cat has re-appeared. He’s in and out of my legs like he’s weaving an invisible wicker basket. ‘I’ll feed you when I get back, you great vat of dripping’ I offer. I open the back door. Having been denied food, the cat settles for the consolation prize of ‘go outside and harass nature’. I also head out, plodging through the flooded garden into the quagmire that is the chicken pen. I unleash the poultry (not a euphemism), yet no bird seems in a hurry to dart from the coop. From the inky innards of the chicken house I hear a small cluck. A small cluck that appears to translate as ‘bollocks to that, we’re staying in for a bit’. I leave them to and head out for my 4 mile run.

I returned from that run to find I’d completed the whole thing with a train ticket stuffed in my right shoe.

Train ticket. In the trainer. There'll be a pun there somewhere, but I can't be bothered to look for it...

Train ticket. In the trainer. There’ll be a pun there somewhere, but I can’t be bothered to look for it…

And it was a return ticket. So it was effectively two tickets. ‘Two-tickets Taylorson, that’s what they’ll call me’ I thought. Quite who ‘they’ were (mental health professionals?) is open to debate. But it did get me thinking. Firstly, that perhaps I should put a light on when getting ready of a morning. Secondly, that regularly having a train ticket in my shoe could be my ‘thing’. But then I thought further. Surely a thing is only a thing if other people know it’s a thing? If they didn’t know, I’d merely be some tit impeding his own mediocre performance with a return train ticket in his shoe. If I’m going to have a ‘thing’ when I go running, it needs to be an obvious thing. But what? Let’s contemplate the options:

1) The headband

Subtle yet stupid, this is a possibility. Although the biggest drawback here is accidently straying into the world of sporting something ‘ironically’. Which I don’t really understand, but it makes my toes curl anyway. It seems to go a little something like this:

Pete: Hello Dave.

Dave: Alright Pete.

Pete: New moustache?

Dave: Yeah.

Pete: Looks pretty stupid, mate.

Dave: No, no, you’ve got it all wrong mate, its ironic.

Pete: I take it back then, you’re the king of cool.

Dave: Testify.

And because of that, I’d have to head into more sincere territory with the headband. It could be an earnest tribute to the sporting superstars of yesteryear who donned one. John McEnroe – he wasn’t being ironic. Laugh at his headband and he’d force-feed you it. Bjorn Borg too – that Swedish villain from Star Trek. And LeBron James. The big basketball chap. But he’s stopped wearing his. He said it was because he didn’t want to stand out from his teammates. I reckon it was really because it was slowly crushing his brain. Maybe I’ll pass.

2) The bandana

One notch up the nutter pole from ‘headband’ comes ‘bandana’. Lets be honest, it’s a look only a few gents can pull off. Hulk Hogan – he covers that baldy head with bandana-fuelled aplomb. Tupac Shakur sported the bandana. Although I do think it looked a bit like he didn’t know what he was doing, and none of his chums dared point it out. I imagine the following whispered conversation between his acolytes (I’ve made up suitable rapper names for them to protect the innocent/fictional):

Y-Zee Smallpantz X: What’s Tupac got on his head?

FixxyDooDoo: I think it’s a bandana.

Y-Zee Smallpantz X: Why is it tied at the front? He looks like a little old woman doing her cleaning, or a Christmas present wrapped by an impatient toddler.

FixxyDooDoo: Maybe it’s a statement?

Weevil P: Maybe he was in a hurry?

Master KranShaft III: I don’t think he knows what he’s doing.

Y-Zee Smallpantz X: Should we say something?

FixxyDooDoo: Are you insane? This is rap. People get shot for less.

To be honest, I’ve donned the bandana for a few races before, when my locks were long and flowing and had a tendency to get in my eyes mid-run, and thus I was required to sport a square of hair-retaining cloth. And I quite liked it. Although a crushing lack of self-confidence (fuelled somewhat by regular running chum Matthew Jones’s penchant for referring to me as ‘Bendana’) meant I abandoned it. One day though. One day. I’ll join a biker gang or a pirate crew and be ‘just another bandana in the crowd’.

Bendana: the man, the myth, the legend.

Bendana: the man, the myth, the legend.

3) Electrical appliance

There’s that chap who runs with a fridge on his back. I suspect there might even be more than one. I could follow his/their lead and head out with an electrical appliance of my own. I could be ‘Ben The Kettle’. Or ‘Ben The Toaster’. Or ‘Ben The Battery-Operated Coffee-Frothing Whisk’. Sadly, however, the only real option – now the baseline has been set with ‘fridge’ – is to up the ante. ‘Ben The Commercial Washing Machine’. ‘Ben The Ceramic Kiln’. ‘Ben The Twin Tank Industrial Deep-Fat Fryer’. That last one could work. I could get to the finish line of races and destroy it, like a rock star breaking his guitar during the climax of a performance, in some sort of ambiguous statement relating to the evils of fried foods. Hmm, how much does a twin-tank industrial deep-fat fryer cost? Fifteen grand? I’m out.

4) Challenging costume

Now, I’m not thinking ‘Superman’ or similar. Lets be more ambitious. There was that dude who did the London marathon in a 120lb antique diving suit. Also, popular folklore speaks of a chap in darkest Country Durham who roams the streets/countryside dressed as a Roman soldier. A degree of Internet research reveals he may in fact be a Greek soldier. Still, he exists. Here are some actual testimonies from seedy Internet forums:

“He is a Kernel [I have not purposefully misspelt this for comedic purposes…] in his Army, and he thinks he is a Roman centurion”

“Often see him walking along the A167 towards Thinford acknowledging cars with his sword”

“Apparently there used to be a fella that worked in the fish ‘n’ chip shop in Chilton that turned up for work each day dressed as Elvis”

So, he gets noticed. Not necessarily in a good way, the more reading I do, but noticed nonetheless. I could do this. Not sure what the IAAF would make of the sword, should I qualify for the final stages of an international athletics competition. We’ll perhaps worry about that when the time comes. But no, no – we’re aiming to innovate, not imitate. What’s mightier than a Roman/Greek soldier or an antique diving suit? How about the Power Loader from Aliens? Imagine crossing the line in that?

Get away from her you bitch!

Get away from her you bitch!

Or I could go the whole hog and dress as the Queen Alien. My race-day ritual could be to stop every other mile to lay an egg and then tear a biomechanical humanoid in two.

5) Chickens

Lets add a touch of symmetry to this post and end where we began. As a chicken keeper, I should use the poultry to differentiate myself (I would wager good money that no-one has ever typed that sentence before).

Birds. In drier climes. Well, the same climes. When they weren't as wet.

Birds. In drier climes. Well, the same climes. When they weren’t as wet.

But how? I foresee only three ways:

1) Fashion some sort of elaborate running-headdress using the feathers from my birds. I could then incorporate a certain amount of Native American wisdom into my outlook. I foresee a situation where I overexert myself, collapse and require medical attention and a little foil blanket. My wife will report later that the paramedic said I was shivering having hallucinations. ‘No, no’ I’ll offer ‘we call them visions’.

2) Run dressed as a chicken. Not sure I fancy that much. Negative connotations abound.

3) Run with a chicken. Or two: one under each arm. They’d not like that, though. Neither, I fear, would the RSPCA. Or the IAAF. The bastards.

Perhaps I’ll just persevere with the train ticket down the shoe, in the hope that one day the secret to my on-going mediocrity is much sought. Then I’m interviewed for the BBC or I put out an autobiography where I reveal all. And people say ‘well I never’ before moving swiftly on to wondering what’s for tea.

 

 

 

 

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It’s cold. It’s dark. Running? Do I have to?

I’ve not been well, you know. I’ll pause momentarily for sympathy… *deafening silence…tumbleweeds*… I’ve had a nasty cold. Which we won’t be referring to as ‘man-flu’ as, in these enlightened, post-modern times, it could be construed to be sexist. Thus leading to the downfall of patriarchal control in the Western World. And you don’t want that on your conscience. Well, you might. If you’re a radical feminist. Or perhaps even a moderate feminist. Hell, I’m not here to judge. You do what you want. All I know is that I’ve been full of cold.

Imagine, as a runner you’re playing poker against winter. Try and stay with me on this – it’s almost worth it. Inevitable seasonal sniffles represents just one card in winter’s hand – a veritable royal flush of crappiness. Alongside it is the ace of plummeting temperatures (Urgh!), the king of short days (Argh!), the queen of various forms of precipitation at differing stages of frozenness (Bleugh!), the jack of general malaise (Bah!) and the ten of the urge to climb into a pile of leaves and not come out until Easter (‘The Hedgehogs had the right idea’ is yet another possibility for my gravestone epitaph). Wait, that means winter has six cards. The cheating bastard. *Upturns table, starts saloon brawl*

Snap! Go fish! Twist! Stick! You sunk my battleship! And so forth.

Snap! Go fish! Twist! Stick! You sunk my battleship! And so forth.

If we swath through the unnecessarily abstract metaphor above and into an equally confusing simile, the point is that when winter arrives like a flaming bag of dog poo on your doorstep, it can be quite the challenge to overcome the temptation to think ‘fine, the universe clearly doesn’t want me to go running, and who am I to argue with all of time and space and its contents?’ Hmm, does the ‘flaming bag of dog poo’ prank thing actually exist outside of fictional popular culture? Not in England, I suspect. Half-arsed Internet research leads me to several underwhelming videos of Beavis and Butthead-a-likes, hiding in bushes whilst giggling and snorting as if indulging in a fumbled bout of self-pleasure, whilst a turd-filled bag was ignored on someone’s doorstep. Clearly, like jumping a ravine in your car, assuming a stranger’s passing glance is an indication of rabid sexual desire or ‘talking trash’ to a figure of authority – some things only work in the movies.

Where were we? Right, I remember: Winter = bad for running. And I was going to present my game plan (or indeed, my opposing poker hand…nah, lets abandon that nonsense while we’re ahead. Are we still ahead? Were we ever ahead?) when it comes to avoiding the winter running blues. Because there are things that can be done to avoid the worst of the seasonal drop-off when it comes to ‘getting out there’. In the cold. And snow. And driving winds. In the dark. Urgh, stupid running…

1) Buy a notebook.

What? You heard me. Well, read me. Nothing galvanises my spirit (spirits: calling out to be galvanised) better that a new notebook. It’s a sign of intention. A new beginning. It’s all clean and crisp and empty and full of potential and hope. This’ll be the one. By the end of that notebook – when its filled with perfect, mistake-free notes in my bestest handwriting and within somehow contains the key to continued happiness and health and perfect, omnipresent supergalactic oneness – I’ll be complete. Ahem. But, if we return to planet earth for the briefest of moments, it is a good way to plot out aims for the week. Not, I hasten to add, a detailed plan of ‘what I must do when’. Because that is where failure lies. Just a general idea of what I want to do across the course of a week or month. Tick ‘em off if I do. Don’t get hung up on it if I don’t. Through my experience, it’s only my own unnecessarily mental self-harshness that has me feeling bad if I miss a run or a workout. No strangers stop me in the street and say ‘No 4-mile run this morning Ben? Tosser.’ So I urge you too to utilise a notebook for good not for evil. Like The Force. Or a truncheon.

Note to self: be more awesome

Note to self: be more awesome

2) Punch the darkness in the face

Not the popular British rock band from Lowestoft, you understand. They’ve done nothing to deserve that, to the best of my knowledge. No, I am again talking bollocks metaphorically. If, like me, you find that 9 hours of daylight per 24 hours leaves you somewhat spiritually deflated, its time to fight back – not with nunchuks and broken Newcastle Brown Ale bottle, but by not letting darkness equal inactivity. Try getting up early. Earlier than you would even if it was midsummer’s day and you were off on an early flight to Benidorm. Get a run in before breakfast and the gloat over the cornflakes whilst shaking a fist at the gloom beyond the curtains and declaring ‘one nil to me, season!’ Even if you get up and don’t head out for a run, just make the most of the extra time in whatever way you like – possibly freeing up some time for a run later – and think ‘I could be in bed. Fate wants me to be in bed. But I’ve just smacked fate across the bottom and send him upstairs to think about what he’s done. I’m up! I will not go quietly into the night! I will not vanish without a fight! I’m going to live on! I’m going to survive!’ and so forth.

Darkness: by Ben Taylorson. Favourite for the Sony World Photography Awards 2016

Darkness: by Ben Taylorson. Favourite for the Sony World Photography Awards 2016

3) Get outside during the daytime

Given that I’ve already alluded to the likelihood that I’m something of a seasonal affective disorder sufferer, I try to ensure I get out for some light and fresh air of a lunchtime. If I’m not going for a run, I head out for a walk. Regardless of the weather. Well, unless it’s ridiculous. Even if I’ve been running first thing in the morning in the gloom, getting a bit of fresh-air during daylight hours is important. I reckon. And it’s my blog so I’ll reckon what I want.

4) Calm this shit down

It’s winter. We’re just ticking over. Coasting. Like a locomotive through a station. Or the peloton down the Champs Elysees. Or a former Premier League footballer seeing out his career in Qatar. Just getting out there and getting some miles/kilometres in the bank is all it’s about. PBs? Pushing it? Upping the pace? Pfft, that’s fair-weather talk. That’s for 2016 Ben to worry about. Or not. No athletes take one look at driving wind and snow and think ‘this is where I peak’. Well, maybe skiers. And biathletes. And those people who rocket down that icy tube on a tea tray thing. What’s that called? Corpse? Bones? It’s something like that…skeleton! That’s it. Anyway, I meant no runners take one look at driving wind and snow and think ‘this is where I peak’, alright? Runners. Christ, you’re so pedantic…

5) Buy! Buy! Buy!

New season? New wardrobe! The winter can bring its plummeting temperatures and its freezing rain – I’ll simply adorn myself in multiple layers of new kit. Mmm…stuff. At a low ebb the other day, I headed online and splashed the cyber cash. As I type I await the arrival of new long-sleeved/long-legged attire. However, the million-dollar question is: will the new running tights be too tight? Buying such things on the Internet is always a gamble. Lets hope for ample gusset room. No one wants a crotch-hugger, even under cover of darkness. As the saying goes.

So, as the nights draw in and the weather gets ridiculous, the patience of casual runners everywhere is tested. But if we’re determined enough without being too hard on ourselves, we can keep doing what we love. Well, like. Well, abide. Well, hate but keep doing anyway. Stupid running.

 

 

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