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……

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn

dsc_06474258139930410043374.jpgThis incredible book has been devoured. You know a book has you when you are drying yourself after a shower one handed in order to grab a quick page. At emotionally vulnerable times it could easily have felt corny to seize on a book with a torrid, heart breaking tale, put your favourite sad songs on repeat simply weep.

This book, though, about a journey on our very own South West Coast Path, told by Raynor Winn, but also about the incredible journey of a time in life with her beloved husband Moth, hits that sweet spot emotionally. Stomach twistingly heart breaking, yet so beautiful it paints rainbows across your tears. Winn crafts this deeply personal, brutally honest wander through the roughest tracks of life with such poise, it seems outrageous to think she hasn’t been previously published.

Thrown into the void of life after being evicted from their home, their life’s work gone, the follow up punch comes instantly when Moth is given a terminal diagnosis. What to do? They head for Minehead.

And from there, learning the errors of their preparation, or lack of it, as they go, they set off for Lands End (and beyond?) on foot. Camping wild and surviving on £40 a week, their wits, their humour and the spark they’ve carried together through their entire adult lives, they battle on.

Progress can be slow, painful or simply non-existent and Winn describes, sometimes agonisingly, often hilariously, the people they meet, the towns and villages they pass through, or linger in, and their encounters with the elements.

So life size is the narration, I found myself smelling their clothes, feeling the drying of their skin, hearing the sounds of the Atlantic, the call of the sea birds and shifting uncomfortably with the book as she describes some of the ground they slept on.

I can’t pretend that the books proximity to home (both in geography, emotion and ambition) doesn’t add an extra personality to its appeal to me personally, but please, please believe me, it is a wonderful thing.

Winn echos the message so delicately reinforced by my very own wondrous adventurer, soul mate and partner for life in reassuring me that hope is actually a GOOD thing. Why not hope, dream, dare or just ****ing DO IT!

If you want your spirits lifted, your emotions exposed, your adventurous bones ignited then this is surely the book for you. It has already become one of our most treasured possessions.

Check out what else I’ve read so far this year HERE.

 

 

 

Shine On You Crazy Diamond

Nicky and I shared an early morning run this week. Nothing unusual in that, I hear you whisper. Well, it’s the longest run we’ve done together for weeks, nay months. Our lives have changed dramatically recently and a terrible sadness clouds us. We’ve really tried to keep training, to keep trying to ‘enjoy’ these endurance sports that are such big parts of our life.

I feel the events of the last couple of months are too raw and too personal to be discussed here. The end of the journey for Nicky’s dad came early last week and our world is simply poorer. The struggle for him is over.

So. Nicky and I shared an early morning run this week. Soul mates. Doing what we do best.

I have a tendency to name my runs on Strava and, having paused to enjoy the amazing sunrise on the horizon, we decided to dedicate the run to Frank. Shine on Frank, shine on.

RIP Frank Dudley 1938 – 2018

This blog has become very much part of our journey. Whilst our running adventures, and those of Nicky’s swims and triathlons form the bulk of the content, if you fancy a delve in the 100+ posts you’ll find poetry, short stories, essays and life’s challenges chronicled.

And long may it continue.

The story of me cancelling my entry to Stevenage Marathon in order to join Nicky at The Eden Project Marathon is part of blog folklore now. Why Stevenage indeed! Nicky rolled her eyes that day and I soon found that chasing numbers on the watch, whilst still part of what I do, cannot compete with the adventure and beauty of 28 mile hilly trail marathon. Well Nicky is finding her special adventure finding google app is working at full capacity again…………

Watch this space………… (Spoiler: we both need to be training……..A LOT)

I feel the blog needed to move through this time in our lives but couldn’t do so without paying tribute to Nicky’s dad. Life will never be the same again for us after this journey, but we will not stop…………

 

 

Serious Sweet

SERIOUS SWEET by A.L. Kennedy – A Review
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Regular readers (should there still be any!?), will know that Alison Kennedy is one of my favourite ever authors. I was sure to delve into this rather hefty novel on the front foot, although rest assured if I hadn’t loved it, I wouldn’t be writing about it now.

Nicky (my rather splendid, completely beautiful and awe inspiring lady wife) always claims I have a leaning towards, as she says, ‘high brow’ books. I think the industry calls it ‘literary fiction’, although I couldn’t give a shit what it’s called, I either enjoy a book or I don’t. And, Nicky, i do believe you’re currently reading the vintage autobiographical novel, Heartburn, by Nora Ephron. High brow indeed!

This heartbreaking, yet heart warming, tale is told without any suggestion of formula. The prose combines a personal third person narration with soul searching internal dialogue. And the same method is applied to both the main characters.

Powerful it is. Floyd’s ‘Two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl’ lyric would surely be on the soundtrack to the movie this book DEMANDS to be made into.

A flawed love story of flawed love as our two main characters battle their way through 24 London hours. There’s a darkness to Jon and Meg, our hopes for them never soar too ambitiously as we fear for their fate. Jon, in late middle age, working within the inner reaches of the civil service and privy to the hideous secrets that come with that, finds a unusual outlet for his feelings and emotions. Meg, a recovering alcoholic and bankrupt accountant, lost and alone in a crowded city, takes the bait and seeks refuge in Jon’s words.

Will destiny allow this unlikely pair to find romance? Told by the two protagonists in short bursts, the day starts and finishes in darkness, but will there be light?

The attention to detail, the imagery, the complex plot and history, together with the deeply personal voices make this a compelling read. It has to be read, there’s no room for skimming or presumption. Falling asleep with this book in my hands was always a frustration, I would grab it on awaking and even read a page whilst the kettle boiled for morning coffee.

Not a small book and it demands the readers’ involvement, but boy it’s good.

SELLING NOW

Whilst I’m sure the development has caused consternation in many quarters, the new houses overlooking the river in Totnes have a feature which has added more traffic free moments to one of my favourite runs. Paradise Walk in Totnes connects the green lanes from Aish to the Long Marsh and Quayside in the town. Nice.

It comes at a price though. It so many ways.

At least the developers haven’t put a huge 40ft long sign in the hillside…….. er…….

Regular blog followers will know that life has been, and continues to be, beyond challenging and relentlessly and unthinkingly sad this year. Sometimes priorities change. The blog has slipped down the pecking order in recent months, as has writing in general. As has running. We’ve missed so many events which we’d entered this year.

I shan’t be blogging about our personal life at this torrid time. BUT, determined not to drop the blog, I felt a little running update was in order. In a vote as to whether or not to leave or remain the world of blogging, I went with REMAIN 😉

So. To the commit blog followers, thank you for standing by patiently! To new readers, errr, WELCOME, please check out previous posts, there are many tales from the world of challenges and adventures I share with my truly wonderful lady wife, Nicky….. (spoiler alert, you WILL find me gushing relentlessly about how this incredible person is my COMPLETE WORLD!)

Also spoiler alert, I ain’t no WordPress pro, guv, so please excuse any layout amateurishness….

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Determined to arrive at next year’s BIG CHALLENGE in the best possible shape, I have kept up getting out for a few hours each week for a challenging longish run.

Early last Saturday, with daylight a fair way off and the rains falling, I set out to tackle the afore mentioned route. After a wonderful summer of sunshine and running in vests and 4am daylight, I’ve actually found it comforting to start laying out some kit the night before a big run. Well, these days this IS a big run. With over 20 miles and plenty of off roady, hilly stuff I knew I’d be out a while….. beany, cap, 2 buffs, running back pack, drinks bottles, oat bars, shot blocks, headtorch, base layer, t shirt, jacket……….

Straight down to the beach, passing a guy doing the walk of shame in the pouring rain, dressed in a teddy bear onesie. Past the people who’ve been camping under the pier for weeks, around the harbour and over the headland before heading inland. I really am enjoying getting back to running into the headtorch beam.

Through the lanes towards Stoke Gabriel, trying not to be spooked by sudden rustling of wildlife almost certainly being spooked by me. The rain had intensified by then but daylight was coming. There are so many little lanes and tracks to chose and I took a minor detour as some young cattle were less than impressed that the footpath goes straight across their early morning graze!

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Such a busy route this

Through the hamlet of Aish and onto the green lanes towards Totnes. Despite the daylight I think the weather may have put off any early morning dog walkers meaning I had some lovely extended solitude until I arrived in Totnes.

The new path through the housing development is a welcome addition to this route and I added a further little loop to enjoy the river.

The route back towards Torbay takes in further green lanes, trails, paths, lots of lovely woodland and plenty of little ups and downs. After reaching Marldon, there are trails through Shorton Valley bringing me out withing a mile of home. This really is a fine route. In light of the state of the world around us, both our little world and the great big world, it is quite literally a breath (several in fact) of fresh air.

Anyone who is local or finds themselves in the area looking for some trail running – check out the route HERE.