15 March 2011

2010 MdS on TV

He may be a bit annoying but he did do bloody well. Cracknell's experience of my race airs on UK Discovery on 24 March 2011 at 9pm. Hopefully I'm in one of the background shots but it's frankly unlikely.

11 November 2010

Kit and tips

Here's a link to a page on this site about kit and tips of what to expect for those who're thinking of entering or are about to run the MdS.

03 May 2010

26 April 2010

Epilogue? The London marathon

I entered London about 11 months ago and got on through the ballot. I had always assumed that I'd be so tired after the MdS that I'd just pull out and roll my place over to 2011 but - blisters aside - I felt pretty good after the big one. My feet had a couple of weeks to heal so I decided to give it a go yesterday and see how I went - it was a great opportunity to see if I could run sub-3:30 given I'll probably never be as fit again. In fact, my target was 3:20 and I wanted to start well enough over the first few miles to give myself the opportunity to run 3:10 if I could.

I never felt great to be honest. It p'ed it down for the half-hour before we started (I neglected to take a bin liner) and when we got going, it became fairly warm and humid. I don't think my immediate preparation was ideal - dinner in the awesome Iberica on Friday night, followed by a bbq and beer at my friend Gus' on Saturday.

However, I think the main problem was that I haven't trained much for this kind of race. My runs have mainly been pretty low intensity, with little in the way of quicker threshold runs. Basically, I wasn't really equipped to maintain a pace of a touch over 7 minute miles. The first half of the marathon went OK nevertheless - I got to 13.1m in 1:36 - but I knew that I couldn't keep it up. By the time I reached 19m, on the way back from Canary Wharf, I was really starting to feel it and the last hour or so wasn't the most fun I've ever had. I assume that at the end of an 'ideal' race you should feel as knackered as you ever have done if you're going for a good time, which I managed but which doesn't make for a lot of fun.

On the positive side, though, the crowd was as amazing as I remember and I eventually stumbled home in 3:21, which I'm very pleased with and is decent enough for me to think about calling it a day on marathon running. That latter feeling has stayed with me today given how stiff I am! I'll post a photo or two when they're released. This time I tried to smile, given how pained I looked in the ones in 2006...

By now, I am very much a "reluctant runner". 2009 is over and we're a good chunk into 2010. I've still a post or two to go - particularly some kit tips for the MdS itself, but I have a feeling that this might be it - the blog has served its original purpose of livening up my training and providing a chronicle of my training for the MdS. What should I do with it now? Suggestions in the comments box please!

15 April 2010

11 April 2010

Day 7 / loose ends

Back in Ouarzazate now. Yesterday's half-marathon was tough, given the previous day's exertions and the state of my feet, but I made it through. By the end, my motivation had solely become to make it out of the desert and back to civilisation. The run was broadly flat apart from a couple of sandy sections at the start and finish. The latter were the dunes near Merzouga, which brought back memories of my visit there with Gus, 15 years ago. It was summertime and very hot indeed. Due to our (my) slight mis-budgeting, we ran out of cash and thus water in our final few hours there and spent the time immobile, nursing our final precious litre, waiting for the bus out and watching our pee gradually change colour in a slightly alarming way.

I also want to mention day 3. That blog update seems to have failed to appear here, which is both good and bad. Day 3 was my lowest ebb. It was a flat course but frighteningly hot at times (a competitor clocked about 50C on his watch), a bit humid and the scenery was stiflingly dull. All very oppressive and, after a decent run to checkpoint 1 (and an unscheduled Radcliffe break), I found it really hard going, walking most of the rest of the way. A couple of competitors - Sophie and Cranston (I think) - were kind enough to chat to me on the way and really helped me through. I was in a bit of a state when we got in to the bivi and I remember my email from day 3 being very flat indeed. Mabe it's good that it never appeared, in case its tone worried people back home, but I certainly want my feelings recorded - if for no other reason than otherwise it looks as though I had a great time every day of the race and this was certainly not the case!

I'll post a proper write-up with some photos on my return. For now, some final thoughts. My main memories will be both good and bad.

The MdS is brutal and attritional. The heat and dryness. Grime, sand and sweat. Frequent nosebleeds. A general feeling of being ill at ease. Much of day 3 and and the final stage of day 4 were horribly tough. On the other hand, there was so much support from other competitors - I have mentioned those on day 3 above, and another thank you has to go to Aussie Paul for his conversation and gel at the end of the long stage - they picked me up just at the right time. Tent 93 were a diverse bunch of guys, all very different but all great people. In order of appearance, a huge thank you to young Andy, Kris, Pete, Jeffrey, Ben, Rob and Frank. I made it to the end, which is great, with a couple of good(ish) runs on days 4 and 6.

What now? I've completed what I assumed would be the toughest thing I've ever attempted to do and it's been over 2 years in the planning. The reality of the experience was a bit different to my expectations and in some ways I found it easier than expected. Is answer to find an even harder challenge? Possibly. I'm wondering, though, more about whether I'm asking the right question.

09 April 2010

0882--Day 6 - marathon day

My last email from the camp tent - hopefully this remote blog updating thing is working out OK; sorry they're terse but we're space-constrained. Once again, thanks to all who've sent me messages - it's been great to hear everything (apart from the Arsenal score).

Yesterday was mainly spent lying down following a visit to the scalpel-jockeys, who did bad things to my feet. Off there again after this...

Marathon day today. There are a variety of reasons that I ran quite well today. One is that I just wanted to get it out the way - my feet hurt and I wanted to get off them. We've spent a while out here now and it's easier to judge what's possible given the experience I've gained. Finally, it was that bit cooler. I thought I'd run round in a pleasing 5h45 but I forgot what time we set off and apparently it was more like 5h15 - close to a miracle.

Anyone who can still move will finish tomorrow's half-marathon through the dunes, so I'm pretty much done now, which feels great!

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08 April 2010

0882--Day 4/5 - could have been worse

The first news is sad. Ben, a lovely guy in our tent, dropped out on day 3, due to illness/heat. It's a real shame and I feel for him a lot.

I was surprised not to feel too bad at the start line given what we'd done in the previous 3 days. 51mi awaited...

Stage 1 - ran with chipper Aussie tent-mate Kris. Felt good.
Stage 2 - mainly downhill through sand. A thorn went through the sole of my shoes into my foot. I turn my ankle slightly in the sand.
Stage 3 - put on iPod for the 1st time. It helps (thanks FF&D), or maybe it's the codeine. Run through the heat of the day.
Stage 4 - the first of the fast group overtakes. Walk through to 30mi.
Stage 5 - night falls as I enter the dunes. Cracknell overtakes.
Stage 6 - become a walking robot. Uphill through relentless dunes.
Stage 7 - the final 6mi is long. My feet are killing me - lots of blisters. Finish about 12.15am, better than I'd expected. Pass out.

Food ingested: oatmeal, 4x oat bars, 1x peanut M&Ms, 3 Pepperamis. Urgh.

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05 April 2010

0882--Day 2 - reality sets in

First of all, thanks to those who emailed - your thoughts are (mostly) very much appreciated, though if you want to annoy me with stories of 9-course tasting menus, Easter eggs, roasts or steak, I'd probably wait until later in the event.

Next a kit update. Turns out that the ThermoRest NeoAir is indeed as fragile as they say. I ended up binning mine last night after it developed a very slow puncture and I was unwilling to use all my water to find it. Nights will be less comfortable. Also, my gaiters need a bit of extra superglue.

It turns out Day 1 was a gentle induction session. Today was hotter I think. I'm actually enjoying the running, but that's because running means I'm on flat rather terrain rather than stony ground, sand, steep hills etc. Today had not a lot of the former, and a lot of walking was required. The 'highlight' was the ascent of what looked like a massive sheer cliff, against which the wind had piled up a load of sand. Brutal, and still 5 days left.

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0882--Tent 93 / day 1

Firstly, I'm typing on a French keyboard so apologies for any unusual looking spelling or punctuation... Well, it's been a fun few days. Job 1 - to find 7 suitable tent partners - went pretty well. Ages range from 25 ("young Andy") to 44, we've got a hyperactive Aussie and a guy who bought his sleeping bag from Tesco (he went for the Finest rather than the Value range) etc. All-in-all, a good bunch. What followed thereafter was a lot of queuing - for food, water, check-in, food, water etc. The scale of this thing is huge - >1,000 runners plus all the support. Anyway, on to today.

It's pretty hot, though not as bad as it could have been. Today was a little bit of a confidence boost before the tougher times ahead - it went fine, no blisters, knee held up, kit all OK etc. No scorpions yet, which is good I guess. What's really amazing is quite how much the sand slows you - I wondered how the average speed on this event is as low as it is and basically: running in sand is very difficult.

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29 March 2010

All done

I'm going to Morocco on Thursday. Frankly, I never expected to get this far. So many people injure themselves in the run-up to the event itself and my track record of soft tissue injuries made me reluctant to assume that I'd be travelling.

So. It started on a chair-lift in Courchevel in 2007, when I said to Rob and Hannah "Let's enter the MdS". They looked at me as though I was an idiot - it turned out I had to explain what MdS stood for (fair enough). They then continued their stares but, bless them, the three of us paid our deposits in late 2007. Neither are running with me but I'd never have entered if they hadn't. Thanks, guys.

In the intervening years, I started writing this blog, predominantly to make the running a bit more interesting and also to chronicle the last year-and-a-bit. I've run in New York, Pembrokshire, Orlando, the North Downs (twice), Farnham, Turkey, Castéra-Lectourois, Basel, Cologne, Epping Forest, Berkshire and Las Vegas - as well as (obviously) rather a lot in London. I've run dressed as a penguin in Pauillac and as a gorilla in the City. I've climbed 42 stories of tower block. I've seen riots, a woman's parts and the aftermath of one of London's larger fires - on my own street (above).  I've had swine 'flu and pneumonia. I've seen monkeys and a grasshopper that my grandfather helped to make. I've applied surgical spirit to my soles and learned to tape my toes. Since this blog started, I've run 1,000 miles and burned over 120,000kcal. It's been (mostly) fun.

I have a lot of other thank yous to get through too.
  • Firstly and most importantly, to family, friends and colleagues - not just for all the generous sponsorship (but thanks for that too), but also for putting up with my dull chat and constant training. In particular, Gluckers, Al, Lotte, Refik and Freya deserve special mention for various reasons, but everyone's been very understanding.
  • My part-time medical team - thanks to Jonny, Refik (again), Andi, Amy and Jane for helping out with various swine 'flu/pneumonia/ankle/drug/fluid-related questions. You've been hugely patient and very helpful.
  • Sophie Cox, my podiatrist, sorted me out with the orthotics I've been using for the last few years and gave my plenty of foot-taping advice (and some tape). Thanks Sophie!
  • The guys at Aegis Training, particularly Greg and Zahid, have trained me for the past two years. I'm sure my introduction to free weights has helped keep my relatively injury-free. Thanks guys!
  • Tom Crisp, a sports doctor, sorted out my patellar tendinopathy with a few painful injections back in 2007. They worked pretty well. I'm not cured but I'm more than functional. Thanks for injecting me with stuff, Tom!
  • Alex Marek has given me a few sports massages over the last few weeks. I have been known to scream. Thanks dude, and sharpen your elbows for my return!
  • Sam Murphy met me for a training session a while back and I bumped into her at the North Downs 30k a few weeks later. Anyone who has more than a passing interest in running should buy this book. It was good chatting to you Sam!
Right. I need to go and superglue my gaiters to my shoes. Finally, to those who've been asking - no, I'm not really nervous. I've done everything that I could do to prepare for this, within the constraints of illness and injury. All that remains now is to hope that it's not too hot, that I manage to avoid the use of my anti-venom pump and that my legs (structurally) hold up. None of those things are under my control so I might as well not worry about them.

So, Marathon des Sables 2010 - in the immortal words of Delia Smith - let's be having you.

28 March 2010

Animals XI / the end of the beginning

I set off a little gingerly yesterday for a quick run on my Easterly canal/river route (one with lots of good animals).

I've not run at all for two weeks, to allow my knee pain to subside a bit. It took a while to disappear - over a week - and I decided to be mature about things rather than rush back. Somewhat to my surprise, it didn't recur on yesterday's outing so - touch wood - maybe I'm better. I'm going to work under the assumption that it will come back at some point on the MdS itself, just so I'm mentally prepared if/when it does. Fundraising has started and I'm already up to over £3.5k for three causes - click here to give. Thanks to all who've donated so generously.

Otherwise, last week was all about the kit. Yesterday was the first time I've run with my new Raidlight water bottle holders, which fit onto the straps of my rucksack - good to have done a bit of a road-test. Regular deliveries began occurring at work - food, gaiters, hiking poles, a lightweight sleeping mat etc. I'm pretty much good to go now, barring a lighter, three more breakfasts and - most importantly - some new socks. Nearly there now...

15 March 2010

The longest week

57 miles this week, culminating in today's 26 mile run. Train to Merstham, followed the North Downs Way, ended up in Guildford. Easy (or something). It was a lovely day and a pleasant-ish run, with lots of hills to keep me busy, particularly Colley Hill (above) and Box Hill (right) in the initial 8 or 9 miles.

The only problem was my right knee has started playing up - it's a similar pain to one I had when we went walking in the Pyrénées last year, over the outside of my patellar, exacerbated by going downhill. It's strangely reassuring to have had this problem before - I don't think it's a show-stopper and this week will be more relaxed than last as I start to taper down the training, so there'll be time to rest it. I think the ice pack will be making an appearance. Everything else held up pretty well, which was nice.

Lots of preparation going on now. I've ordered my shades and some electrolytes. My gaiters have arrived and I bought my cooking gear at the weekend. Various brands of freeze-dried food are here and being sampled. I still need lots more - my anti-venom pump for starters - and I think my knee problem means that it's sensible to get some walking poles for the hilly sections.

For those who keep asking - I'll send out details of the charities I'll be running for later in the week.

08 March 2010

London again

I'm stating to think I'm trapped in some kind of Sisyphean nightmare. All I do is run, after which I wash my kit. Repeat ad nauseam. It's getting boring to be honest.

Or maybe it's more Promethean, given the occasional work-outs I give my liver?

Anyway, this week's outing was back on very familiar ground - I can't get away from the fact that I'm a North Londoner at heart. My long run was 23 miles, a lengthened version of my loop around the central parks. The extra diversions were up to Hampstead Heath (around the route of my family's Sunday morning walk, where we'd often see Michael Foot RIP) and through Golders Hill Park, where I have early memories of the ducks, sculptures and bandstand. And maybe some llamas? Then back into Zone 1 past the Holly Bush - they do a great hot spiced apple vodka drink at Christmastime - and also my old flat on Frognal. The other extension to the usual route was to do a whole lap of Hyde Park.

Life isn't all miserable though - the run was sandwiched between two of the best meals I've had for some time. The first was at the newly-opened Bistrot Bruno Loubet in the Zetter Hotel - exceptionally well-executed posh peasant cooking (book now before the reviews start coming). The second was after I got my friend Jonny to do my pre-MdS medical sign-off and ECG in Hammersmith, at Indian Zing, which serves up an excellent biryani. Whilst I'm admittedly bored of running, it's good to see that I can still continue to derive vast pleasure from a decent meal, no matter how many I've had before...

04 March 2010



February drew to a close with a trip to Las Vegas, the first time I've been. No real reason for it, just an excuse to see three of my friends from medical school. The weekend was predictably savage, taking in the casinos and some excellent drinking and eating opportunities, along with nonsense like the white-knuckle rides 1,000 feet up the observation tower of the Stratosphere, a chopper visit to the Grand Canyon and multiple In'n'Out burgers.
From a running point of view, it was the first time that I've been glad of jet-lag. Instead of being enormously frustrated when I wake up before 7am, I was pleased, as it gave me the opportunity to get out early for a couple of runs. It wasn't that hot or hilly but I managed to rack up the mileage - 38mi in total over two big loops to the edge of the City, bringing me to 155mi for the whole of February, which seems like a lot until you realise that the MdS will match that over the course of just one week. Still, I'm kind of getting towards where I want to be, though I'm unsurprisingly experiencing a bit of wear-and tear - hopefully nothing terminal though...


21 February 2010

Sweet Thames run softly

Another weekend, another 18 mile cross-country run. Having had a fun lunch with the family, I made my way to Waterloo, missed my train (damn you, Northern line closures) and eventually got to Staines.

After the now-traditional snow flurry as I left the station, I joined the Thames Path. Thankfully, navigation is much easier than anything in Epping Forest - you just follow the big watery thing. There were no hills, but it was nevertheless a good run and a very pleasant route, passing some lovely scenery and some exceptionally large houses - the biggest of which is pictured to the right and, I think, has a fairly well-known resident - through Runnymeade, Windsor, Eton and Maidenhead. I got to Windsor just before 4pm and realised the sun was going down, so I hoofed it for the next 6 miles. Even so, it was getting pretty dark by the time I arrived at my destination of Cookham after just under 3 hours on the road, a particularly pleasing time given I was carrying a pack.

The purpose of the trip was to spend the evening with B and James, friends of Freya, my girlfriend. It turned out to be a very enjoyable weekend, with dinner in Malik's (apparently Heston B's favourite curry house) and a few pints of Rebellion, capped off with a bracing Sunday morning walk down to the quite extraordinary Bounty in Cockmarsh for some predominantly deep-fried food today. Also, pleasingly, no ill-effects from the run. It's getting to the point where I'm close to believing that I'll make it to the start line...

15 February 2010

Epping Forest

In my effort to try to find a long run that is (a) not tedious, (b) off-road and (c) has a hill or two, I found myself making my way to Theydon Bois on Sunday. The plan was to run back home through Epping Forest and it looked like it was going to be a 16-miler - perfect. The forest is only a couple of miles wide, so no real navigation problems. So, off to Zone 6 of the tube, armed with my new trail shoes (to break in for the MdS), a litre of water, a Clif bar, my Blackberry and a map of the forest on a sheet of A4.

What happened next? My iPod refused to switch on at the start - pretty annoying. Within 5 minutes of starting the run it began to hail. I got a bit excited when I finally managed to find something that looked like Epping Forest though and set off into some fields.

Turns out there are no signposts in Epping Forest. Nor are there any nice big maps with "You are here" blobs on them. Quite a lot of roads criss-cross it but, whenever I emerged onto one, on no occasion was it obvious where the hell I was. Mobile reception is a bit patchy, so my Blackberry was of limited use, although at least it tended to confirm that I was heading in roughly the right direction - i.e. South - most of the time. I did see a nice tree though.

Expecting a run of 2.5 hours, maybe 3 hours tops, I ate my snack after about 1 hour and had finished my water by about 2 hours. At that point, I think I was somewhere near Walthamstow. I got to Whipps Cross Hospital and thought I was almost home. Wrong - still 7 miles to go from there. I experienced sense-of-humour failure. I had to run along main roads. I continued to experience sense-of-humour failure. I did get to see some kind of Olympic stadium preparation, though by that point I was beyond caring - I was a bit knackered, hungry and dehydrated by then. Finally, 3h43m later, I managed to make it home.

On the plus side, my trainers were OK and I ran (in the end) about 18 miles I think - further than I have for ages - with few ill effects. On the minus side, I was a bit late for dinner...

07 February 2010

Animals VIII / back in the saddle

It feels a bit as though my training starts now. My horrible October and November lost me lots of ground, and I've spent the last couple of months trying to get back to where I was before the Marathon du Médoc. Finally it feels like I'm getting there. I've run over 35 miles this week and, for the first time in ages, felt pretty good whist doing it. The problem now is trying to fit everything in - the last 7 days have seen two gym sessions and four runs. It's starting to take a bit of a toll on my work and social life. I guess, on the plus side, it's only for the next couple of months. I've also started doing some really sad things like putting surgical spirit on my feet to toughen them up and have just started to research taping techniques for blisters...

Today's long run was 14 miles - my usual loop around London's central parks, though this time I took in the entire perimeter of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. It felt relatively easy going given I've not run this far since September last year, though I did tire a bit for the last few miles and the rain was pretty unpleasant at times.

Here are a couple of animals from Victoria Embankment - a sturgeon and a camel.

02 February 2010

Skiing again

Back from a week in St Anton, a somewhat crazy place of skiing and drinking. Unfortunately, the former was curtailed by yet another injury, this one a bit unexpected. My ski boots seemed to rub over the side of my ankle bone (lateral malleolus for those who're of a medical bent), causing untold agony when I put them on and limiting my skiing to only about 3 days. Luckily, I just about remember how to snowboard and I managed to deal with the shame of being a boarder for the rest of the time.

Then back for an 11 miler on Sunday night. Turns out they lock Victoria Park at night. Who knew?

20 January 2010

Down to business

Thankfully, the cold spell is over - it's unusual to have snow on the ground for more than a day or two in central London and it has made training a bit of a trial (along with inflicting my tights on the general population). At the moment, there are a lot of obvious "new year's resolution" runners out, who you can tell are wondering what the hell they've let themselves in for as they battle the snow, ice, cold and general misery...

Now that I have the fear, I'm getting down to the serious stuff. Saturday saw me try to find a hill. This led me to Greenwich Park, where I did laps of the observatory for a while. I was going to run the five miles home too, but I felt a twinge in my foot and so decided to be sensible for a change and just got the train back again. On the positive side, this allowed me to try a banh mi at a stall that I passed, bringing back memories of the 'nam. Sunday saw me run as far as I've managed for ages - my standard 11 mile lap of London along the river, through the parks and back on the canal. I have to step up the mid-week running too - I ran seven miles to Ladbroke Grove last night with 6kg on my back and got a bit of sand experience on Rotten Row. It doesn't quite recreate MdS conditions though - my pack was 10kg too light, the temperature was 40C too cold and the sand was nicely flat and stuck-together.

Oh - and everyone should sign this petition on libel law reform. And give to Haiti *. And go see A Prophet.

* OK - as Walm points out, give money to charity, not Haiti.

11 January 2010

The fear / picturesque East London winter scene

Last week I was concerned about my foot - the first time I had my (dull-as-ditchwater) tendon problem I could barely walk at times. I was worried that things would be the same this time around, resulting in another 5 weeks off running and hence my withdrawal from the MdS. Turns out - having run 23 miles this week - it was more of a twinge. Phew.


Suddenly, I have gone from being scared that I might not be able to run in the event to being terrified at how behind schedule I am. I'm not totally ill-prepared, it's just that I'd have thought I'd be running 30+ miles/week by now. And have worked out what trainers/socks/gaiters/sunglasses/food/drink etc etc I will be taking with me IN LESS THAN THREE MONTHS!

Sometimes it's good to get the fear...

04 January 2010


I had a slightly depressing weekend. This was unexpected - I've been having a very (too?) enjoyable time of late, with plenty of seasonal over-indulgence. Most of what I got up to in the last couple of days has been very enjoyable - I saw the fascinating Pitmen Painters at the National with my mum and brother, drinks on Saturday with Smithy, Lotte, Rick and a heavily pregnant Andi (now a mum) and went up to Bedford on Sunday to see my sister and her family, which was great apart from the attempted poisoning...

The problem was my run on Saturday. Within moments of finishingthe 8 miles, I knew that my peroneal tendon problem had come back - this was the foot pain that kept me from running for 5 weeks after the Marathon du Médoc in September. I am cutting it very fine with my training already, what with that original injury coupled with my 'flu/pneumonia, and the thought of more time out makes me wonder whether I'll make it to Morocco at all at this rate. Only three months to go.

I had a sudden epiphany whilst jogging to the gym this evening though. Incidentally, all non-geeks can stop reading now. Anyway - I have been trying to modify my running style for a while now, focusing on avoiding a heavy heel strike (which is inefficient and I suspect contributed to my patellar tendinopathy a while back) and trying to land with more of a midfoot strike. I think that this, however, puts more strain on my peroneal tendon and 5th metatarsal, hence my new foot problem. It's a relief to have a working theory as to why this is happening and what to do about it. The difficulty now is to balance avoiding more peroneal tendon problems with avoiding more patellar tendon problems. Some might say this is a sign that I shouldn't run the MdS. I say "bah" to them - for now - though I did check the cut-off dates for refunds if I do pull out of the race.

Incidentally, on the off-chance that anyone has read this far and hasn't died of boredom yet, there's an excellent review of running technique on the blog The Science of Sport here.

28 December 2009

Merry Xmas

I hope everyone's enjoyed a good break.

I went for a run from my parents' house on Xmas day, through Hampstead Garden Suburb and up to the Heath. I was hoping to find Jonathan Ross' house for a nice Xmas photo/card for this site, but he seems to have scaled down his lighting efforts compared to previous years and it wasn't obvious which place was his. Instead, you get a well-proportioned terraced house in Islington, which I passed during another run yesterday. I must remember to revisit in the dark...

I'd heard that the Mike Skinner of the art world, Banksy, has been busy of late and the main purpose of my foray up the Regent's Canal was to discover his new pieces before they got destroyed. Unfortunately my fears were partly well-founded - the main piece (which is in the article linked to above) already seems to be non-existent, having been defaced by other 'artists', though I'm sure Banksy was aware that this would happen and I quite like the irony of the graffiti workman erecting graffiti, only to be graffitied over within days.

21 December 2009


I was a bit apprehensive as Rob and I headed off to Tignes due to my pig 'flu-related fitness problems but it turned out that I was able to deal with a bit of pre-Xmas skiing fine. There wasn't a great deal of fresh snow but it was very cold indeed (I reckon down to -20C at times up the mountain) so the pistes had a good covering.

We managed a morning with a guide late in the week via Rob's mate Giles, a very nice bloke who works for the Development Centre. The exceptionally friendly and, frankly, awesome Nicko gave us a bit of light instruction whilst somehow managing to find some pretty decent powder - the photo on the right was taken after a 10 minute walk from the top of the Tommeuses chair, before a very pleasant ski down into the Vallée Perdue.

All in all, the trip was a decent way to begin like I'm regaining my fitness. I obviously need to start running properly again but it was nice to get a bit of physical activity under my belt. Hopefully the current cold snap in London won't last too long, as the icy pavements aren't going to be very helpful...

06 December 2009

Animals VII - is you da fox?

It was never really part of the plan to run less than 40 miles in October and November but it happened.October was the foot problem. November saw what I suspect was swine 'flu plus pneumonia. Thanks to my truly appaling GPs, very little got done until relatively recently and it took until three days ago before I finally ended up with the right antibiotic for the pneumonia, a full three weeks after I originally fell ill. At this point I should thank my sister Jane and friend Refik for their recent medical advice, which was infinitely more helpful than that of what were supposedly "my" doctors. The latter will be receiving a bollocking, assuming the post still works these days.

My mate Al is a great believer that runners shouldn't get too obsessed with illness and injury. I can see his point to a certain extent - these are a natural part of running and you can't wait until everything is perfect before you tie up your trainers. Niggles etc are there to be run through rather than whinged about, although obviously serious injury or illnesses are something a bit different. Anyway, now that I've had three days of feeling normal again, I thought it was time to test my body out. Three weeks is quite a while to go with no exercise, notwithstanding the close-to-half a stone that I've lost (I'm now below 12st and am technically a "normal weight" for the first time since god knows when).

Turns out I'm OK - clearly the short run I did was tough, but I think I'll be somewhere close to normal relatively quickly. It's a measure of how far behind I am versus my expectations that I was hoping to be competing in a cross-country marathon on the Gower peninsula. Hopefully I'll be in a position to start running proper distances by the end of the month.

21 November 2009

Swine 'flu two

Bloody irritating pig disease. I am amazed that I managed to run last weekend given the horrible events of this week - a temperature that's been as high as 40.6C, my first rigors (which lasted 40 minutes), some truly disgusting night sweats, intense boredom and a variety of other disgusting features. It's been 9 days since my first symptoms and there seems to have been fairly minimal improvement. Having said that, today's been OK so maybe there is a glimmer of light at the end of this long, painful and, frankly, mind-numbingly boring tunnel.

Anyway, I've three pics from previous events to show, which were purchased from truly extortionate official photo guys: the BUPA 10k, the half-marathon in Pembrokeshire and the first Vertical Rush (entries are open for 2010 by the way - I'm running at 10.30am if you want to join me).

15 November 2009

Swine 'flu

I've had an odd few days. I got back from a work day in France on Thursday night and was suddenly overcome with chills, muscle aches and generally feeling like crap. I had the day off on Friday and my temperature went down from 38.4C to normal, which seemed reassuring, so I went out for a couple of pints on Friday night only to wake up at 5am-ish feeling like shit again. Same thing happened yesterday. Similarly, today has been OK apart from the profuse 5am sweats. I don't really deal well with being ill - the last time I can remember having a multi-day sickness was in my second year as an undergrad, when I had glandular fever, so this has come as something of a shock to the system. I just did the NHS online swine 'flu check for a laugh and apparently I qualify for anti-virals. As if I'm going to take those.

I managed to go out for a quick run yesterday. I'd been planning to take in the fireworks at the Lord Mayor's Show but there weren't any - checking the interweb now reveals they were cancelled due to high winds. That explains the fairly obvious lack of pyrotechnics then. I did manage to get a great shot of a 60-foot pissing man though, which was part of some kind of diabetes awareness campaign...

Hopefully I'll be up and running properly next week sometime.

10 November 2009


I occasionally feel a little overly busy and the last week has certainly been that way. I've also considered giving up my ridiculous obsession with food. In the last week, quite apart from cooking Sunday lunch for a few mates, I've managed to attend ham school (yes really) and also another Dos Hermanos dinner. I ended up getting the invitation at the last minute - someone must have dropped out on the Friday - and suddenly my relentless pursuit of eating experiences started to seem a little OTT. By Monday afternoon, I really didn't feel like going after a very fun but tiring weekend and a really shitty day at work. In the end I'm glad I did, as the food (at Bentley's, which I love) was great and the people at the dinner were as entertaining as ever, really taking my mind off things.

I ran back to my folks' on Saturday but my camera ran out of batteries so you're spared a shot from then. I ran again tonight so here's a shot of the South Bank instead, just coming up to Gabriel's Wharf from the Oxo Tower. Bit of a crappy shot - it's not easy in the dark - but I love the lights.

01 November 2009

Reluctant indeed

It's not properly cold yet but this weekend has seen some runs that really were a bit of a trial. Yesterday's reluctance stemmed from Friday night, spent out in the recently opened Pinchito WC1. The cocktails are as good as the EC1 version near my flat and proved my downfall, but I still managed a quick 7 miles in the morning before a thoroughly enjoyable North London Derby, made all the more sweet by the pre-match build-up. Eat your words Robbie Keane.

I woke up late this morning, after George and Caleb's fancy dress party afforded me the opportunity to get the gorilla suit out for a second outing. I wasn't able to run back to my parents' house for lunch owing to the fact that I was bringing the pudding and cheese, so today's sortie was delayed until this evening. The 8 miles spent burping along the South Bank left me regretting today's over-consumption. Still, at least I seem to be back in reasonable shape again and hopefully ready to embark on some longer runs soon.

25 October 2009

Still running

Last week was fairly tough, with work-related stress compounded by jet-lag. All-in-all, I was glad when Friday came around, at which point the weekend started in earnest. Friday night was Carl's birthday in the Lansdowne, I went to the Ski Show on Saturday with Rob (who now looks unlikely to be running the MdS with me - gutting) and I'd been lucky enough to sort out a reservation last night at the pop-up Restaurant on the Roof. In the midst of all of this I managed a couple of runs. Again, neither especially long given my concern for my foot - six-milers. Pleasingly, I came through both unscathed, which is probably more than I can say for anyone unlucky enough to see me today, trying out my recently-purchased compression tights - apologies to anyone in the Victoria Park area who saw me and has presumably had to wash their eyes with soap/bleach/anything they can find before entering therapy.

I got a couple of snaps along the way but this week's winner was taken close to home, in front of Hitchcock's Reel on Leonard Street. Not sure quite what was going on but an odd-looking fella seemed to be fly-fishing for Ferraris. Weird. That's Shoreditch for you.