26 April 2009


I have just returned from a fantastic stag weekend, but one that left me with a touch of self-loathing. It involved numerous traditional stag weekend activities - silly outdoor stuff (hovercrafting and canoeing), curry, fry-ups, copious amounts of Butty Bach and small-town "clubbing". We were incredibly well looked after by Alan at the Old Pandy Inn, which is well worth a visit, if only to try the Welsh Dragon sausage - about 15" long, 1lb in weight and filled with chillies. Crawf, our stag for the weekend, put in an exceptional performance, dressed in a clown outfit and resembling nothing less than a Weeble for most of last night (Weebles wobble but they don't fall down), consuming heroic quantities of booze and yet remaining mostly upright and hugely entertaining. A truly great effort, especially considering he'd come all the way from Greenwich CT in order to be with us.

Anyway, I had only run 45 miles this month and I was aiming for 60. Also, the weekend had involved horrific calorie consumption. This resulted in me forcing myself out on my return for a 10 miler, round Chelsea Bridge. The route down took me along the final couple of miles of the London Marathon, pretty much all over bar a few stragglers and some guy in a camel costume. This week's photo is of Boadicea, who I remember being a very welcome sight in my 2006 marathon - she's just at the end of Victoria Embankment, just before the route turns off the river and up towards the Mall. At that point, you know you're going to make it...

Well done to my bro, who made it round in 4:06, despite injury-hampered training!

19 April 2009

Hung over

It's been what can only described as a "mixed" weekend - not quite a curate's egg but it's certainly had ups and downs. On the plus side, I've eaten incredibly well. With the "r"-less months rapidly approaching, I made a quick trip to Wright Brothers early on Friday night for a couple of pints of porter and 9 oysters before ending up at my new favourite tapas place Pinchito just up the road from my flat, where I tried elvers for the first time, a fairly unusual but very pleasant experience. Plus I've uncovered the barbeque for the first time this year - yesterday involved a whole sea bream and my post-run treat was a 16oz t-bone from the Ginger Pig - both with new season English asparagus. Another positive was an unexpected visit from my schoolmate Simon yesterday, with wife and cute 10-month old son in tow.

On the less positive side... I woke up today with a SPLITTING headache after a rather-too-excitable evening out. I looked at my watch and saw it was 2pm. What a waste of a Sunday (i.e. it's annoying that I haven't managed to watch any more of the Wire yet). Plus I soon realised that my left knee was about twice the size of the right one, which (I think) was due to some kind of race down a tenpin bowling lane against my mate TG. My memory of it remains hazy but I think I got about a third of the way down before going arse-over-tit. Those things are surprisingly slippery. Still, I managed to drag myself out of bed and did the same run as last week but adding in a circuit of a blossom-filled Victoria Park, which took it to nearly 11 miles. On the way back, I saw a catapault/trebuchet or something outside the Tower of London.

Oh, and Arsenal predictably lost the FA cup semi-final. Bugger.

13 April 2009

The fig

I was a little nervous leaving my flat today for two reasons. One was I was worried that my patellar tendinopathy had returned. This started in 2005 when I was training for the London marathon but had receded in the last year or so after a lay-off of a few months plus some weird injections from a nice sports doc called Tom Crisp that set BUPA back a pretty penny. It felt like the problem was back on Friday, so I didn't run back to my parents' house as I had intended on Saturday, hoping that this short rest would do the trick. Miraculously, 9 miles today didn't seem like a problem, which was a huge relief - it's very irritating and took ages to clear up.

The other reason for my apprehension was that I tried a new route today, East along the Regent's Canal to Victoria Park, down to Limehouse Basin via Mile End Park and then back along the Thames. It's not an area I know especially well and there's always the chance of getting lost etc first time around. It turned out fine - a really beautiful run and one that re-acquainted me with some places I've not seen for ages. My friends Sally and Alice used to live near Victoria Park, Ellie had a birthday do in a pub on Mile End Park a couple of years ago, I discovered a couple of restaurants (Gordon Ramsay's pub the Narrow and, bizarrely, the sister restaurant of the Kyrgyz one referred to in a previous post) and some great views of London landmarks. Why, then, is my only picture of an Italian restaurant that I have never been to? Well - it's called "La Figa" and I'd heard of it mainly because nearby residents eventually realised that this means not just "the fig" but is also Italian slang for... wait for it... a woman's parts.

I love the logo. I am hugely immature.

05 April 2009

Animals III / one year to go

I left the flat gingerly this morning, feeling a little like the UK’s greatest ever marathon runner and public defaecator Paula Radcliffe. Luckily the public conveniences at Marble Arch came to my aid...

But only after I had run past Mimetes Anon. “As if from a scene in an apocalyptic science fiction movie, its appearance in the Plaza also serves as a reminder of what might have been if the great evolutionary leap forward never happened”. What a load of balls. I, however, will choose to refer to him as ‘Frank the lucky chimp’, which will please both me and at least two of my friends.

In other news, the 24th Marathon des Sables is now over. It was an extraordinary event, with the first stage cancelled due to flooding (in the Sahara?) and it rarely getting above 30 degrees - not what you’d expect. More importantly, one Jacobus Cilliers entered. South African born and a UK resident, he entered via the Korean team. He smokes 40 a day, weighs over 21 stone, and is basically quoted as saying “I entered in order to prove that fat lads aren’t a waste of space”. Unfortunately he dropped out in stage 3 but Jacobus, we salute you. You are an inspiration to us all.

01 April 2009

Animals II: dragons and pigs

It feels like ages since I ran in London, and it turns out that it's been 3.5 weeks, what with Pembrokeshire, skiing and tower running. I'm determined to get to 60 miles in April, which doesn't really sound like that much but then I am going to the gym twice a week too. I think that's a valid excuse.

It seems like there's so much to write about. First, my second picture of animals in London.

You'll notice both of the animals that guard the City in this picture. One is the dragon, which supports the arms of the City and the origin of which is discussed in this article that I frankly couldn't be bothered to read. The other is the pig i.e. the police, who were much in evidence today. The walk to work at 6.45am was particularly amusing. Hundreds of men were sidling past wearing work-shirt, jeans, brogues and Crombie coats. There was the occasional American in chinos. None looked remotely "casual". All this because of the G20 protests taking place later in the day. These are already well-documented (the magic of live blogs and twitter) so I'm not going to say much about them myself. One pic though, looking down Cheapside towards the Bank of England and Royal Exchange on my run today. Count the police vehicles. I think there are at least 20...

I'm actually no stranger to riots in London. My first experience was the 1990 poll tax riots, when I was 14 - an early age to begin a career of civil disobedience you'd think. You'd be right, and how. I was returning from possibly the geekiest event of my life: the final of some kind of school science quiz, run by what is now the British Science Association. We came second in the country. I was on the tube, on my way back from the competition, which was held at one of the Kensington museums. I guess I must have been changing lines at Leicester Square, only to be confronted with the aftermath of the protests, which took place in Trafalgar Square (i.e. running, looting, hairy youths). I had no idea what was going on and was, I suspect, in my school uniform. Rad.