BOOKS OF THE YEAR

OOO, we do love a good book – not all of these books were published in 2018, they’re my favourites that I’ve read during the year.

My top 3 Non-Fiction reads of the year were…..

THE SALT PATH by Raynor Winn, THE PRISON LETTERS OF NELSON MANDELA & RUNNING FOR MY LIFE BY Rachel Ann Cullen

My top 3 Fiction reads of the year were…..

WHITE TEARS by Hari Kunzru, THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ by Heather Morris and THE CHALK MAN by C. J. Tudor

In no particular order, the 32 books I’ve read this year are:-

NON-FICTION

Adults In The Room by Yanis Varoufakis

Running For My Life by Rachel Ann Cullen

Corbyn by Richard Seymore

On Writing by Stephen King

Chavs by Owen Jones

The People by Selina Todd

Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People (About Race) by Renni Eddo-Lodge

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn

The Wrong Way Home by Peter Moore

The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela

FICTION

Conclave by Robert Harris

Fool Me Once by Harlen Coben

White Tears by Hari Kunzru

Magpie Murders by Anthony Harowitz

Two Sketches Of Disjointed Happiness by Simon Kinch

Don’t Let Go by Michel Bussi

Man And Boy by Tony Parsons

A Natural by Ross Raisin

Waterline by Ross Raisin

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

Serious Sweet by A.L. Kennedy

White Crocodile by K.T. Medina

Exit West by Mosin Hamid

Tin Man by Sarah Winman

The Tattooist Of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

The Librarian by Sally Vickers

Never Coming Back by Tim Weaver

God’s Own Country by Ross Raisin

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

No Safe House by Linwood Barclay

The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley

Anatomy Of A Scandal by Sarah Vaughan

12 little things in 2018

It’s no secret it’s been a sh!te year for us, so I couldn’t face a ‘review of the year’ type blog – just a peek at each of the last 12 months……

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January – bbbbrrrr – Nicky and I ran a few early morning Dartmoor runs, getting in some hilly road work as we aimed for the 2 Oceans marathon. Nicky’s calf injury scuppered those plans but we enjoyed our breakfasts on Dartmoor nonetheless.

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February – It snowed. Quite dramatically! Whilst the trusty Micra couldn’t cope, we managed to get out for some crunchy, wet footed running action.

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March – It snowed. Quite dramatically! Again! I was back up to 6′ standing on it though. The contrast when we got to South Africa later in the month was quite a shock.

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April – We had the opportunity to go to Cape Town for 10 days and whilst the 2 Oceans marathon was amazing, the rest of the trip was just packed with jaw dropping, WOW moments – Table Mountain is a remarkable, humbling place.

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 May – I feel so blessed to have my beautiful wife, amazing step daughters and, of course, the three grandchildren. It’s been a tough, tough year for our family, but there’s always little Ollie to brighten up the day.

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June – Nicky conquered her Cotswold 113 half iron distance triathlon in June. She has put so much work into her open water swimming – I put quite a lot of work into sitting on the sea wall watching her clothes as she trained, scribbling a few musings whilst I was there.

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July – As we battled through the year it was so lovely to get these mornings out – the Otter Rail and River 10k is a cracking trail race. We took a deep breath in the sun…..

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August – Regular blog followers will already know that Nicky and I both love a good book. This was a particularly good find. Ross Raisin’s portrayal of a promising young footballer and his battle with his sexuality is a gripping piece of literature. Sometimes pacy, sometimes awkward, always intriguing, we both rattled through it.

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September – As I try and convince myself that I AM A WRITER, I found this piece of advice from Writers HQ to be the kick up the arse I needed!

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October – There’s no dressing it up, October was shit. Coming home from work and sharing a cup of tea with Ollie outside his garden house always seems to help!

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November – Coming home from work to this amazing present from my completely amazing (and gorgeous) lady wife Nicky was a delight. I’ve devoured the Mandela book – er, WOW (a review to follow so I won’t say too much) and I’m half way through the absorbing Obama book.

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December – The year was exhausting, we were so grateful to get to Jamaica and compete in the Reggae 10k – We sunned ourselves, read 14 books between us and prepared ourselves for the life ahead.

 

Keywood Running – new kids on the block

There are some tremendous running clubs around Torbay. Be sure to check out (in no particular order) Brixham Harriers, Riviera Racers, Torbay Athletic Club, Torbay Tri Club or South Devon Athletic Club. All of whom offer a variety of training, races.

We’ve many a running friend at each of these clubs and they also host some fabulous events between them.

But.

There’s a new kid in town.

The Running P.T.

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In our seaside town, sometimes with a reputation for not keeping up with the times, one of them there new fangled 24 hour gyms (Anytime Fitness) appeared. Well, it didn’t suddenly land in a haze of shimmering light like a tardis, it more steadily evolved from a bit of an historic public house over quite a few months.

 

 

And long before the doors opened to Anytime Fitness, one of the personal trainers, Lewis Keywood, whilst awaiting the facilities to be ready, decided to start a running group. Initially organised under the umbrella of the gym, but establishing itself quite quickly to be a stand alone group.

 

 

Advertising came via word of mouth and social media, the numbers swelled quickly with an unlikely alliance of souls from all walks of life rapidly became a close knit unit. Our ages ranging from early twenties to those, like my wonderful lady wife, Nicky, and myself in our, ahem, fifties – there’s always plenty of witty but respectful banter.

Lewis’ strength and conditioning experience is combined with his passion for running to give every session a feeling of being worked, and worked hard, but with a nod to keeping fit and strong too.

So what is it that attracts this bunch, most of whom were strangers to each other before the group started back in April, to pitching up on a cold wet Monday evening? I went nosing into other peoples’ lives to find out.

For me personally, I’ve become so used to training on my own or with Nicky that I think I speak for us both in that we’d become ‘outsiders‘, doing all our training early mornings as it fitted better with our lifestyles. But when we heard about the group we decided to pitch up and give it a whirl.

Lewis made a quiet introduction and we lined up alongside the youngsters, feeling awkward (pretty standard for us) and heading off for some running and drills in the evening sun. One new recruit admitted that she’d done a few drive by’s before having a word with herself and taking the plunge.

To cut a long story short (and to focus on the matter in hand), as a pretty torrid summer for Nicky and I became Autumn, we were able to start joining the group more regularly for their Monday night work out.

So who are these Keywood Runners?

There’s Vicky who believes she has ‘gone beyond what I thought was possible‘ as she continues to improve her fitness and distance, casually wiping 30 minutes off her half marathon time.

Then there’s Corinna, also in her late 30s, she hadn’t run for over 6 years, she’d always felt a traditional running club would feel intimidating. Corinna works around a medical condition and feels this group is the incentive she needs to keep on winning that battle. Squeezing 2 runs and a pilates class into a hectic family life she says ‘I always feel great when I’ve completed a run….. And sometimes we get treats!

 

 

I think the picture of our permanently smiling Freddie at her last 10k – from having been a complete beginner – sums us up perfectly.

It is true about the treats, the afore mentioned Vicky often appears with home made cake and brownies after training. She has also been appointed ‘HR’ by the group as she relentlessly organises the group’s kit, social media, race entries, Parkrun volunteering duties, breakfast….etc…..etc. Oh, and she is a busy wife and Mum too.

For some this is the only chance they get to exercise each week, for others it has sparked a love of running and the group can now be found in healthy numbers at local events.

There’s a bond among the group. Jill, like us in her 50s, came along not knowing anyone ‘The group spurs me on, I’ve made so many good friends, EVERYONE supports everyone.’

And they do – The group start together and finish together, Lewis ensuring each runner is supported. there are ultra marathon runners and complete beginners, but there is never a sense of anyone being ‘better’ than anybody else.

 

 

 

Sonia, 42, hadn’t run before joining the group and didn’t think she’d be good enough, she saw the group advertised and went along, like most of the others, not knowing anyone. She’s since ran many events and completed an impromptu marathon, supporting a charity run. ‘We have a laugh and support each other. We’re achieving so much and Monday evening has become the highlight of my week.

Sonia isn’t the only one to use the word ‘misfits‘, or to suggest that without the group, our paths simply wouldn’t have crossed.

It really feels like a group of people who didn’t belong, but now do. Aside from Nicky and myself there are 3 other couples, one of which came about as a result of Zak and Becky meeting at the group.

Tracey, in her 40’s, finds the group shares a passion, shares banter, shares laughs and finds it refreshing that there isn’t room for bitchiness or back stabbing. She is on an incredible journey, accelerated by the group. Running is for her, and for so many of us, a therapy, it’s our time. She’s glad she didn’t keep on driving by that first night!

We are all grateful to Lewis for starting the group. He’s a quiet, shy soul and has a heartbreaking tale. His own running challenges are in aid of the incredible charity, Tommy’s and he is not the only member of the group to have suffered this way. Read all about his journey HERE.

Zak, at 25 one of the younger members of the group, has found love, found motivation and friendships and, like everybody I’ve spoken to is particularly taken by the lack of judgement among the group.

Like many of us, Zak has found ‘himself’ as much as finding each other.

People have shared some extremely personal information with me in order to write this blog post and I was going to flood it with gushing words and revealing quotes.

BUT, actually, I feel the whole group will forgive me for speaking on their behalf and not share such intimate details but I think it is a measure of the group’s trust as a unit that we all feel we can be honest and revealing with each other.

I am privileged to call Lewis a friend and honoured that he’s invited me to help him with the training.

I invited comments about Lewis himself and he’d be mightily embarrassed if he ever read them. Everybody agrees that he knows when to push and when to back off, he revels in everybody and every achievement, he has a way of making the sessions about us all.

He’s a legend’, ‘Always willing to help’, ‘The most genuine chap’, ‘He wants everybody to believe in themselves’, ‘An inspiring role model’.

Lewis is attempting to run 2000 miles this year as part of his Tommy’s challenge and I’ve had the pleasure of doing quite a bit of running with him. I’ve been able to show off the wonderful run routes we’re blessed with around here.

 

He also tackled a 24 hour non-stop challenge which he finished by completing our local Parkrun. The members of our running gang rallied round and he didn’t go without company for the whole 24 hours (and 101 miles!).

Those that know me are aware that I normally run in a group of either ONE or TWO with my only running partners being my wonderful lady wife Nicky, or our intrepid Border Terrier, Charlie, so it has been a leap of faith for me too, but one I’m so happy I took.

I think we’re suited to each other as Lewis is the first person I’ve met who looks just as awkward as me in a running piccie!

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#teamawkward

 

 

 

 

 

What Weather Warning?

race the light

The blog returns.

We ventured deep into the South Hams on Saturday afternoon to tackle Pure Trails’ twilight adventure event, Race The Light. The forecast wild weather earlier in the day duly arrived.

We know it rained hard in the morning. We volunteered at Parkrun. The Torbay Velopark Parkrun attendees are a hardy bunch, usually numbering around 250. Well 103 braved the apocalyptic deluge and our lovely run group at Keywood Running pitched in with 10 of the volunteers for the day. We were ready for our hearty breakfast afterwards.

 

Arriving home, my beautiful wife, Nicky, and I de-robed from our soaking gear and built a roaring fire. As we steamed and warmed, the thought of venturing out again for another soaking was becoming less and less inviting.

After our good friend and blog regular, Martin (The Silver Fox, not ‘a’ silver fox, but THE Silver Fox), arrived to collect us, we duly goaded each other until we climbed into the rather clean interior of his foxmobile and headed for mudsville.

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The Silver Fox looking unconcerned about his leather seats

Nicky and I were both thinking we’d be trashing the plush leather seats after the forthcoming mud bath.

We weren’t wrong.

As one of the marshals, Iain, later commented on social media ‘It’s a great day when runners, marshalls and everyone can pull together… magic to see you all’

He was stood in the raging River Erme as we crossed it in the light on the way out. He was still stood in it some hour and a half later as we made our way back across in the dark. It did feel like such a team effort – there were race winners but the afternoon and evening were about so much more than that.

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Race Briefing – ‘look after each other’

We’d felt the same at Parkrun that morning – as we handed the finish tokens to the drenched runners there was a real sense of having survived together. Our Monday run group had pulled together to help swell the volunteer numbers. (Expect a big blog soon all about Keywood Running, ’tis a fine thing.)

Yes Saturday was about everything that’s GOOD in running…. in life in fact. Such a warm feeling when we’re all looking out for each other.

The race directors at Pure Trail, Steve and Mark, seek out something different with all of their events and this really was different. A combination of the morning’s rainfall making its way down from the hills and moors and a wild wind holding the tide up meant the water, which should have been a trickle, was quite forceful.

People stuck together and toughed it out before enjoying a beautiful woodland out and back course alongside the estuary. The speedy boys and girls made it back before serious darkness fell whilst some of us got our money’s worth……..

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The Silver Fox – a rare picture of an elite athlete in full flow

And then we toughed out the crossing back across and trudged up the hill to the finish.

I guess the crew were there for some time after we had headed home for the final of Strictly in the dark, wind and rain dismantling the course. We are truly grateful to all of them – it was a fine day in the local running community.

Do check out Pure Trail‘s events, they never disappoint.

And if you enjoy the blog, have a delve through previous posts, particularly from the sister event Race The Tide.

 

 

And if the South West Coast Path is tempting, have a read of my review of The Salt Path by Raynor Winn, an astonishing book.

 

Thank you to anyone who has made it to the end of the blog and thank you to all you for your patience in waiting these last few months for this post.

2019 begins with fresh starts, fresh challenges and a chance to recover from the grief of 2018. I know I occasionally over step the mark with how ‘personal’ I make the blog but I do wear my heart on the page……..

Looking forward to writing about my amazing, inspiring, determined and beautiful lady wife and our adventures together throughout the coming year.

Back in the game……