Miles Better

I ran a mile the day after giving up smoking (14th January 2007). It took me about 20 minutes. It wasn’t pretty but it was everything I had.

I’d been lucky enough to be a teenager in a sport mad house during the 1980s. I witnessed (on a colour telly no less) the great races between Steve Cram, Steve Ovett and everybody’s favourite posh boy, Sebastian Coe. All three still feature in the all time 25 fastest times by men over the distance.

They wouldn’t get away with those shorts these days……

It inspired me. But not right away…….. 20 years of fags, booze and a shocking lifestyle later, I was setting my 20 minute mile.

When I joined forces with Lewis Keywood to help him with his wonderful run group Keywood Running (see THIS blog post to read all about us), we brain stormed some ideas to inspire the group.

I’m fascinated by the mile as distance to run. We tend to talk about our runs in miles (rather than kilometers) – miles ran and minutes per mile. The process of running a single mile, particularly if you attempt it as fast as possible, is a challenge of both speed and endurance for the body. The mile requires a steely grit to convince yourself to keep going.

“It’s a long way to sprint!” quipped one of our runners the other night.

He’s not wrong.

Post run smiles in the rain

Since 1970 it has been the only IAAF world record officially recognised over an imperial distance. Whilst it hasn’t featured in the Olympics, there many highly prestigious runs and races over the distance.

The Oslo Dream Mile, The Fifth Avenue Mile and the Westminster Mile all spring to mind.

There’s even The Christmas Day Mile – my beautiful lady wife and I head to the sea front for a flat out timed mile early on the big day before gearing up for an eating marathon.

Everybody paying captive attention to pre race instructions!

Whether you’re chasing Mo Farah, or chasing my famous 20 minutes, it is a magical distance.

Well there’s a new magical event to add to that list.

The Keywood Preston Runners Mile Challenge.

In our New Years’ brainstorming session, we came up with this:

Time our runners over a measured mile. Once they’d recovered, ask them to predict what time they’ll run in 6 months time. Simples

We set the date. We printed some numbers. We did social media (oh yes, we are SO down with the kids). We ignored the rain. We set them on their way. We, er, ‘encouraged’ a couple of cars to “WAIT!”.

Even those unable to run weren’t discouraged by the weather

We timed all the runners.

My own inspiration comes from my amazing, determined and quite beautiful lady wife, Nicky. Having ridden a 6 hour hilly ride the previous day she was quite happy to don her bobble hat and record the results. Don’t worry though, she’s a steely girl and plans to time a mile another time.

In the misty drizzle, a race briefing from this dodgy pair

With ‘the boss’, Lewis (Keywood – hence the group’s name) charging around encouraging the runners and several injured and ailing members turning up to shout support, there was a fun, excited atmosphere on the night.

It seemed that everyone who ran gave their all and were keen to predict faster times for the summer. A seemingly simple idea which has captured the imagination.

Lewis and I completed our miles straight afterwards. We love a challenge too. I hope the runners were encouraged by their coaches sinking to the floor at the finish line.

Keywood Preston Runners – an eclectic, eccentric and bloody marvellous group of humans

Coach Kevin – everything spent!

When is a blogger not a blogger?

When is blogger not a blogger? A runner not a runner? A writer not a writer?

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When we have managed to get out running……..

I’ve been soul searching about questions of my ‘identity’ for the last few weeks. With the positivity I’ve been encouraged to nurture I’ve concluded that, as long as I’m returning to any of these, that’s enough to still ‘be’.

I’m still a blogger (phew, I hear you all gasp). There’s always something in my head which will end up in the blog sooner or later.

If I’m blogger, I’m writing, no? That makes me still a writer then. BUT there is sooooo much more to me as a writer now. Since becoming a member of Writers’ HQ I feel I have started to belong.

Whilst, as yet, I haven’t bitten off huge chunks of their plethora of course material, I have been breaking crumbs off the corners and nibbling on them.

I’ve particularly enjoyed the short fiction exercises, blogs and course content. Many an idea has become the start of something tangible – a challenge, a character, a scene, a quandary – I’m in the habit of scribbling all these thoughts and ideas into either my trusty notebook or a clever app thingy whenever they materialise.

So, at some point in the future, you can look forward to tense friendships lived in a dream state through old postcards, eyes with tiny but endlessly deep black pupils, lucky Blu Tak, an unlikely apocalypse and much much more.

The novel is still flickering too (one of the short stories is rapidly becoming ‘long’ too) and I’m still tinkering, reassured by professionals of this craft the first draft is ‘supposed to be shite’.

So, yup, whilst I’m not doing much in the way of ACTUAL WRITING, I am very much still a feckin’ writer.

Running? We did sneak off for The Otter River and Rail 10k on Saturday

Well, 4 weeks today we’re planning a boat trip from Mevagissey to Fowey. I’ll either be celebrating having completed The Plague the previous day, nursing battered legs and eating ALL the food…. Or I’ll be recounting heroic tales of how and why I didn’t complete the whole 100km. One. Hundred. Kilometres.

Nicky, and blog regular Martin are both doing the 50km again and another friend, Jan, doing the 11 mile version. This will be my 3rd visit, and Nicky’s 4th, to this, my favourite EVER event. Read about how much I enjoyed it last year HERE (and also about how Nicky was ‘retiring’ from ultra marathons!)

I’ve managed some running lately, hitting the trails for a few 3,4 even 5 hour runs these last few weeks, squeezing in other runs where I can.

I promise you (and myself) this: with everything I’ve got I’ll be on that start line at 5 minutes past midnight as Friday becomes Saturday (12th August), hopefully skipping through the finish line sometime later on Saturday afternoon.

Right now, as I sit in the garden writing this, the reason I might just make it (to the start AND finish lines) is lying on the rug next to me ploughing through a Charlie Resnick thriller, commenting on how novels written of their era can become dated – 2018 thrillers don’t tend to feature cassette tapes or searches for telephone boxes.

I digress.

My beautiful wife, Nicky, and I embarked on 20 mile training jaunts around the tracks, lanes and trails of South Devon this morning. This afternoon we are treating ourselves to rummaging through The Observer, racing through the afore mentioned Resnick thriller (by John Harvey), dipping in and out of The People (a Seline Todd political history) and DOING SOME ACTUAL WRITING!

Nicky (how, just HOW did I get to be this lucky, every single day I wake up to find out my heart has won the lottery!), my soul mate, my team mate, my lover, my best friend and my constant inspiration, has quietly, determinedly, carefully and lovingly nursed my tired body and soul through this last month to get us to right here. Right now.

Identity? Well, the most wonderful role I’ve ever had in my life is being one half of the magic that is ‘US’. Everything else only works BECAUSE of that.

In an attempt to be relentlessly positive, this blog post comes to you without any ‘there’s no time’ or ‘I’m too tired’

We’re Team Bonfield. We only deal in solutions.

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Team Bonfield have been busy bees…..

 

There are no ‘cheats’

Nope.

My two favourite hobbies. The one I tend to do alone and the one I sometimes do alone but MUCH prefer it if my beautiful wife is doing it with me.

“Of what do you witter now?” I hear you cry…..

Writing, of course, and running, naturally. Although keen observers have rarely described me as running ‘naturally’!

Anyway, it turns out you can’t just pitch up with your pen or your trainers and instantly be a published author or complete a marathon.

Nope.

You’ve got to write.

You’ve got to run.

Luckily for me I REALLY enjoy running and I REALLY enjoy writing.

Phew!

It all depends what I want my hobbies to give me back.

I could run like Forrest Gump (and there’s plenty who’d suggest I already do!) and still never become an ‘elite’ athlete but I will always get so much pleasure from each and every step.

Writing, on the other hand, well, there might just be a chance of writing becoming a double edged sword, slicing backwards and forwards through the fatigue of life. Yes, with some focus and commitment, writing might just open a few doors.

So what does a man who is regularly barely able to drag his aching feet high enough to stand on the bulging demands and pressures on his time trying to squeeze them into the available hours do?

Signs up for a Creative Writing course. Naturally…….

Wish me luck…….

Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright

All You Have To Do Is Dream sang Bob Dylan. Well, who’s to say he’s wrong. He sang quite a lot of words, and still does. Were you to compile every single lyric, poem or prose by the great folk poet, you’d have quite a tome.

I’ve been busy making some decisions to help me focus on those dreams which, ultimately, are the dreams which matter. Trying to avoid completely ‘outcome focussed’ goals.

I guess we all crave more leisure time, and maybe we can all be guilty of measuring the success of how we spend our time by the ‘outcomes’.

 

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Grandson Ollie…. definitely a future blogger

A bit of self-critical analysis has me thinking I’ve been a bit guilty of this in my writing. I mean, it’s absolutely lovely when readers engage with my wittering, and I really enjoy the process of creating content which might just give someone else pleasure.

 

BUT, I’ve found I’ve been putting myself under pressure to write a couple of regular articles for online publications, to deadlines. I fully appreciate that all budding writers start out as ‘amateurs’ and have to find the time to write around the real world of their ccommitments. BUT (again, starting a sentence with ‘BUT’! Lazy writing…) when we’re all so time poor, let’s focus on the things which give us most pleasure.

As regular blog readers will know I’m in the embryonic stages of writing a book (working title Dogs That Don’t Look Like Their Owners) and I’m thoroughly enjoying the process of researching my characters’ backgrounds and letting them reveal themselves to me. The plot thickness each day, I let the story meander around my head when I’m digging a hole at work, or plodding along the coast path.

The beauty of the book writing is that I am under no pressure to produce an ‘outcome’ in a specific time frame and so if I can write a bit, I will, if not then I won’t. And nobody will be any the wiser. Except a couple of people have said ‘So when are we going to see this book?’!

 

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Our local Parkrun received a cash boost from Waitrose last week

 

By coincidence, Nicky and I both came to similar conclusions about our training on Sunday morning. I set off for a long run as Nicky set off for her bike ride and we arrived home within a few minutes of each other three and a half hours later. We’d both made our routes up as we went along, concluding that, despite us both having ‘goal’ events we should definitely be making sure we enjoy every minute of our exercising. Check out my run HERE and Nicky’s ride HERE

Some views from my run…

The previous day, after a sleep deprived and extremely tiring and challenging week, we forfeited our endurance plans in exchange for coffee and a lie-in and jogged to our local Parkrun at the Torbay Velopark. It turns out, with a bit of rest and recovery, we’re both fitter and faster than we give ourselves credit for.

 

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Nicky in PB smashing form

Nicky ran a Parkrun PB whilst I set off in pursuit of some fellow 50something chaps who are always around to share a run and a joke (and they normally whop me!). I astounded myself by running faster than for a year or more and snuck in front of all of them for a 1st Vet 50 finish. Rather chuffed I don’t mind admitting. Neil, (a very old friend) in particular, and I have shared plenty of bragging rights over the years and I have no doubt he’ll be claiming them back at the first opportunity!

 

 

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Neil, already plotting his revenge!

 

So, like my running, my writing will be more about enjoying what I can do, when I can do it. Maybe, just maybe, like with my running, there’ll be the occasional ‘success’ in writing too. Whatever that looks like. But the true measure of success will be….. well, like this blog post, something I’ve thoroughly enjoyed doing.

Bob Dylan loves his writing, amongst a thousand prophetic and poetic quotes he says….

“Take care of all of your memories, you can’t relive them”

At every junction I selected a direction on Sunday’s run and hummed “Don’t think twice, it’s alright”.

Thanks for the inspiration Bob.

No Sleep ‘Til Streatley

Welcome to the 100th episode of this little blog of mine.

To celebrate, here is your chance to win an absolutely FREE entry into the T Series 100 mile ultra marathon. Find out all about it RIGHT HERE.

It’s on Friday 24th & Saturday 25th August, starts at the Thames Barrier in London and finishes in Streatley. The lovely people at T SERIES RACING have given the blog a FREE PLACE to give away.

HOW TO WIN…

SIMPLY POST A COMMENT ON THIS BLOG AND YOU WILL BE ENTERED INTO THE DRAW TO WIN THE PLACE. YOU HAVE UNTIL MIDNIGHT ON FRIDAY 27TH APRIL TO GET YOUR ENTRY IN.

JUST TO CONFIRM…..
SIMPLY POST A COMMENT ON THIS BLOG AND YOU WILL BE ENTERED INTO THE DRAW TO WIN A PLACE IN THE T-SERIES 100 MILE ULTRA MARATHON ON 24TH/25TH AUGUST 2018. YOU HAVE UNTIL MIDNIGHT ON FRIDAY 27TH APRIL TO GET YOUR ENTRY IN.

While you’re here, you may like to see what else I ramble about…..

I compiled a ‘best of the blog’ for 2017, check it out HERE

By way of a quick introduction, I am a 50something runner, sharing an amazing life of endurance adventure with my beautiful, precious, inspirational, wife and soul mate, Nicky. We care for her father, Frank, who is sadly suffering with Dementia. We also have Charlie, the Border Terrier, who features regularly on the blog.

I’m also a proud Step Dad and Grandad and this also features regularly in my wittering.

I’m also an aspiring writer……. I keep another (very) occasional blog which charts my all too intermittent efforts at moving my novel along. With its working title Dogs That Don’t Look Like Their Owners, it trundles along…… slowly!

The fact that I’m a builder by day also features regularly in the blog as my daily efforts quite often impact my planned running.

The blog is a hobby and I absolutely love writing it. If each post brought a moment’s pleasure to just one reader it would make me a happy, and proud, writer.

Thank you for taking the time to check out the blog, and do check out the T Series event in August, I am so very grateful to them for donating this place, giving one reader an opportunity to test themselves along this iconic trail.

SO, THE COMPETITION AGAIN:
SIMPLY POST A COMMENT ON THIS BLOG AND YOU WILL BE ENTERED INTO THE DRAW TO WIN A PLACE IN THE T-SERIES 100 MILE ULTRA MARATHON ON 24TH/25TH AUGUST 2018. YOU HAVE UNTIL MIDNIGHT ON FRIDAY 27TH APRIL TO GET YOUR ENTRY IN.
THE DRAW FOR THE PLACE WILL TAKE PLACE LIVE ON MY FACEBOOK PAGE AT 7PM ON SATURDAY 28TH APRIL 2018.

ME ON FACEBOOK HERE

ME ON TWITTER HERE

ME ON INSTAGRAM HERE

GOOD LUCK!

Kris Akabusi and the two most important women.

Well now, brace yourselves for me waxing lyrical about my beautiful lady wife. She does get awfully embarrassed but she is my absolute world and I see no reason not to SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS!!!

Nicky gained her Social Work degree and additional postgraduate qualifications relatively late in life, whilst working and bringing up her two lovely daughters. The reward for one of her incredible achievements was a graduation celebration where the  enigmatic Mr Akabusi was the guest of honour.

So, a former international athlete, with a fabulous fun attitude to his sport, who has gone on to a lifetime of celebrity and motivational appearances, he is a very active and popular individual and his latest shenanigans can be discovered HERE.

It was a lovely moment when Nicky revealed her Akabusi experience, as he has a special place in my heart. Firstly, as we were growing up in a house of sports fanatics, his athletic prowess and raucous laugh brought many a joyous moment to our world.

Akabusi bookHis book, On Track, was being devoured by my sister as her illnesses were intensifying towards the end of her life. Unfortunately, she became too ill to finish the book herself. On the night she died, which is 9 years ago on Monday, aged a mere 44, I sat with the book at her bedside as she gently slept a heavy final sleep. I read aloud to her for an hour or two in the hope she was, somewhere inside, enjoying the words of one of her favourite athletes as her breathing slowed.

Reading a little more about Kris in preparation for this blog post he says he is often asked why he openly talks about death and loss so regularly, despite him being an upbeat motivational character. He replied, simply, that it constantly reminds him that every day of our lives is precious and to be lived to the absolute maximum. Also that we should surround ourselves with the people we love and care about, that we trust and with whom we share beliefs and goals. And that we should avoid spending time in situations that suck the life, the emotional energy, the FUN, out of us. I couldn’t agree more….

That he openly talks about oft avoided subjects is so refreshing. When Karen was so very ill (and she lived for over 6 years with her various cancers), people started to avoid those of us who were close to her, the word ‘cancer’ becoming a cancer itself, as if simply using the word would curse us. It wasn’t a secret, Karen had cancer. And it was shit. really shit.

As regular readers know, we live and care for Frank, my father-in-law. He has dementia, his diagnosis is a ‘non-specific Alzheimer’s’ I believe. It is also shit. It also has a depressing prognosis and can completely consume us on occasions. We are starting to find that there’s a little bit of a wide berth being given to us (and not just because of all the hot cross buns we’re eating!) as we try and check ourselves into not having every conversation ending up being about Frank and his bizarre diet, lack of understanding of time or that milk has now become ‘that white stuff’.

Anyway, on the 9th anniversary of Karen’s death, I just wanted to pay tribute to her and the life she had, I owe a lot to her memory and my biggest regret of losing her is that she never got to see me with Nicky. She never saw me REALLY happy and she would be chuffed to know that I truly have found my wonderful soul mate, someone with whom to share the lifetime of love I’ve been saving up.

That a lovely link between these amazing women has been made through Kris Akabusi still makes me smile every time I think about it

I still miss my sister, Karen, she was the life and soul and has left us with so many wonderful, energetic memories. And so, every moment with Nicky, we try and enjoy and treasure the time we have, and intend to keep planning those adventures and challenges and celebrate this life we’ve been given.

So I’d better get my arse out of the door tomorrow morning for that long run and, in the motivational words of my amazing lady wife… “MAN THE **** UP”

 

 

 

 

 

The Gaslight Anthem

So, I’m just a bloke in fifties, having bumbled and bodged my way through life, until, in 2014 I went on a date with Nicky. Nicky, my beautiful wife, my life, my world, my everything. There had been adventure and people on the edges of my rather aimless existence up until then. BUT – nothing had prepared me for the whirlwind of life about to envelop me when I went on that nervous first date.

The cliché is ‘a whirlwind romance’ and WOW – for the first time in my life I understood what people had meant when they’d used phrases like that, and ‘soul mate’ and ‘forever’. I truly have been blessed. We try and cram as much into our lives as possible and Nicky has taught me that, despite the nagging defeatist crammed in a dark corner of my brain saying otherwise, people like us CAN……….

That’s not to say I haven’t met good people before in my life, people I’ve admired, people who’ve impressed, people who appeared genuine, and through all of the **** there have been characters who have stuck.

This is a long winded way of saying I’m writing, not an obituary as such, but a quick tribute, to one of the good guys from the past who tragically lost his life last week.

I was landlord of The Bay Horse Inn (Totnes) in an earlier incarnation. Whilst I was guardian of that 16th century coaching inn, a group of cracking youngsters, most of whom were at 6th form college, started using the pub. A quick can of coke and a game of pool, some welcome banter on those desolate winter mid week lunchtimes.

Anyway (cut to the chase Kevin!), they became firm friends, party people for sure, but with a quick wit and sharp intelligence to them. Amongst this number, for example, was a guy I went on to play in a band with, another chap who went on to be an employee, a colleague, a true friend and even a housemate.

Unbelievably sadly, last week, another of this crowd, Trev, suddenly and unexpectedly died.

Trev (short for Trevelyan) was a lively burst of energy. He was everything from the weekend fun leader to am accomplished amateur boxer, extremely flighty runner (a 1.20 half marathon!), keen fisherman and loyal friend to this great group of chaps and chappesses.

I always said that (if and) when the pub failed, most customers who claimed to be a friend when they wanted a lock-in, would soon forget my name. Trev was one of those who didn’t. For a long time we stayed regularly in touch and when I gave up the fags and took up running he was incredibly supportive and encouraging. Despite a 15 year or so difference in age, we found some great common ground and he was willing to reign in his inner gazelle and plod alongside me.

Before that, he was quite a cheerleader for the band I played in – happily throwing his wild shapes on a lonely dance floor as we churned our way through some of our self-penned tunes in some damn and empty ex-servicemen’s club

Yeah, a good guy.

I haven’t seen him for years. He too had met his forever lady and became a father, before getting engaged rather romantically on Valentines Day this year. He leaves behind a baby daughter, adoring finacee and his lovely, now elderly, parents.

I had a quiet moment for Trev, and for those who’s lives will be savaged by his tragic loss, this week. It truly is a further reminder that life is for squeezing every precious moment out of RIGHT NOW!

I watched Trev box twice. A student of the sport, he saw his ring-craft as his signature.

The first time, despite his fast movement, artful jabbing and focus, he was floored by a strong opponent, bouncing off the canvas at the very start of the final round. He took his fall like the man he was – back on his feet quickly, determined to show the referee he could complete the bout. Hugging his opponent and enthusiastically congratulating him before taking the applause of the ringside table occupied by us, his rowdy cheerleaders.

The second time I had the pleasure of watching him in action, he was even fitter, even leaner and with even more hours of sparring in the locker. A fairly even contest, but Trev continually edged away from his opponent on the judges score cards as he danced and teased and prodded his opponent. A clear victor, I felt Trev was never looking to flatten his opposite number, but to share the full ring time with him. Showing his opponent and the sport the greatest respect, it was lovely to watch. Classy.

Yeah, one of the good guys.

Forgive me the indulgence of publically sharing my memories of Trev, but, quite selfishly, the process of writing this has eased the shock.

I’ve always thought of Trev whenever I listen to The Gaslight Anthem.