We run and we run RaceBest. This blog is about running, but it's also about what we're up to at RaceBest.

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Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, on the far edge of the outer rim, beyond the Abilene paradox, I landed upon the populous world of Running.  On Running were people of many breeds and creeds.  There were the Trackers who worshipped the god Fartlek, the Fallen who had scarred and bloody knees and a faraway look in their eye when mention was made of fells, moors, crags and headtorches, the Marathoners who ran long and ran deep, there were the Whippets and there were the Wobblies.

Being a bear of ample girth and antiquated gait, I made my home amongst the Wobblies; a people of wobbly knees (cartilagely crucified), wobbly tendons (a killer Achilles), wobbly wisdom (a run in the morning is worth a Mars in the hand) and wobbly hearts (pain is inevitable, suffering is optional, so I’ll stay home tonight).  Our fellow Runlings struggle with our philosophy and our language as we do with their physiognomy and their mileage.  The Whippets comprehend not a word, mainly because of the reverse Doppler effect: they run so fast as they pass that our every utterance sounds like an inverted siren.  The Trackers encourage us and occasionally we join them for recurrent reiterative repetitions with a side order of parlauf, but more often than not end the night with repetitive strain injuries.  The Fallen are evangelical and inclusive, but leave us standing as they skedaddle cloven-hoofed down mountainsides in ever decreasing circles round the circular trinity of Bob, Paddy and Ramsay.*

The Wobbly philosophy is a perverse reinterpretation of Cartesian dualism.  Descartes posited that the mind and body are two distinct substances and the problem is that mental phenomena differ from the physical body on which they apparently depend.  Wobblies would argue that physical stamina depends entirely on mental phenomena and since you can convince yourself of anything, why convince yourself of ten miles in the pouring rain (as your correspondent did this morning, which proves both the Fitzgeraldian view that the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function and that I am an idiot).  Consequently, if the mind says it doesn’t matter, the body has not the will to argue back, and another night on the sofa goggling the goggle box ensues (or Googling the Gosling butt as I believe some young people are wont to do).  This can be restated as free your mind and the rest will follow (i.e. give up the guilt and stay put).  Or no pain, no gain, so what?

So to all those struggling to achieve more than 60 training miles a week, a sub-40 minute 10K, a faster than Nell marathon (or, in the case of most middle-aged marathon men, a five paces behind Nell marathon) or even the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs, embrace your inner Wobbly and run when you want, how you want, and where you want forsaking all others as long as you shall live. Amen!


* If you’re reading this whilst stood next to one of the Fallen, ask them what this means 


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Dom’s in da house

“My leg hurts. That’s why I’m not running.” Mr Wolf is explaining his recent absence.  “I’m not sure what it is.”

“A leg?” I offer, helpfully.

“I mean I’m not sure what I’ve done.”

“Hurt your leg?” I suggest.

“No, I mean, I’m not sure what I did to hurt my leg.”

At this point I find myself wandering off.  Not literally, wandering off.  That would be rude.  No, more wondering off, so to speak.  To Mr Wolf, I remain, sat opposite, pint in hand.  To me, I’m outside the front door of my house, visualising the moment I locked it, before ambling over here, to the Hundred Acre Tavern.  I think I can see me locking it, but I might be remembering me locking it yesterday.  No, I’m sure I locked it.  I don’t want some golden haired Sloane helping herself to my “totes marve” porridge whilst I’m out.  It wouldn’t be the first time.

I glance over at my erstwhile running companion. He’s still talking.  Mr Wolf and I have been discussing his ailment for less than a minute and I am already bored.  Other people’s injuries are boring, unlike mine.  Mine are endlessly fascinating.  But I’m between injuries right now, free of hurty leg syndrome, so his words don’t interest me as they offer no immediate route back to talking about me. 

I wonder whether my eyes have glazed over.  I’d take out a mirror to check, but suspect this could make obvious my lack of concern with his plight, so I think better of it.  That and I don’t have a mirror.

Out of the corner of my eye, I notice a tall, unshaven middle-youthed man limping towards us, leaning heavily on a cane. “May I?” he asks.  Without waiting for an answer he clicks his fingers and three white-coated twenty-somethings appear, carrying a whiteboard.  “Differential diagnosis, people!” he barks. 

“Joint and muscle pain: it could be lupus” says the first of the white coats, a blond young man with an Australian accent.  “I see. Because he’s a wolf, he only gets illnesses with lupine-derived names? Genius! It’s not lupus.  It’s never lupus.  Next!”

“A hurting leg could suggest an anterior metrocorsical atropedial diatracaucus dysfunctionianoma” offers the young woman in the group.

“You’re over complicating it people. Next!”

“A broken leg?” offers the ex-ER intern, who got the part mainly due to already owning a stethoscope.

“DOMS” I hear myself saying as House and his team evaporate and I snap out of my reverie and return to the snug.

“Dom’s? Dom’s what?”

“No, DOMS. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.  You’re suffering from DOMS.  You ran.  With muscles.  Time passed.  You’re sore. DOMS!”

“Oh, okay. So it’s not life threatening then?”

“No.  But I’ll tell you what can be.  Spilled honey.  Did I ever tell you about the time I almost died slipping on spilled honey?  Now that really hurts a leg”

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January, sick and tired, you’ve been hanging on me

January is upon us once again, with its partner in crime February not far behind.  I’m not a fan of January (or February for that matter).  It’s not that I don’t like winter, in fact if they made winter like they did back in the good old days, full of snow and sugar mice, power cuts and candles, frozen pitches and the Pools Panel I’d probably not mind so much.  But it’s the way January (and February, let’s not forget) arrives with such inexorable regularity, always after Christmas when the party is over.  Just as the celebrations have died down and the decorations have been put away, January turns up on your doorstep proposing resolutions, offering detox diets, promising a new you, whilst simultaneously delivering grey cloud, dark days and whistling winds; a Calendrical paradox akin to Private Frazer speaking of doom and gloom with an upward inflection or Droopy ending every sentence with a question mark at the end of it.

I suggested to Mrs Bear the other day that if I were Prime Minister I’d make an immediate budget saving of 16.67% by getting rid of January and February and introducing a metric year that started in March.  Gone would be the grey skies and short days and we’d move straight from Christmas to Spring.  She pointed out that all those with birthdays in January and February might be upset and I offered to redeploy their birthdays to other parts of the year.  Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions, I said in my best management speak.

Truth is bears should be sleeping now.  It’s not right to be awake.  I successfully laid down fat as I do every December in preparation for hibernation, but then blow me if I’m not kept awake by hurricanes ripping the roof off my house and endless e-mithers about doing my bit for the club, taking one for the team and trundling up and down mud-infested, windswept, sleet-slashed hills in the PeepShow cross (cross? I was bleeding livid…boom boom!) country in such a way as to present an obstacle so slow and wide that no one from Birnamwood Colliders or Haresfart Hagglers could pass without either digging tunnels à la Tom, Dick and Harry or enlisting a Right Royal Rugger Bugger to toss them, dwarf-style, over the top of my behemothian bulk.

Running Bear in all his glory

Talking of behemothian bulk, I have now joined the ranks of those sportsmen and women (yes BBC, women do sport too) who have had their likeness cast in bronze and the results speak for themselves I think you’ll agree.  The artist has perfectly captured my sleek physique, my lean figure, my (let’s not beat about the bush here) ripped bod.  I fully expect to get my call for the Runner’s World cover shoot any day now.

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Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat

Never mind the geese.  I don’t care about the geese.  Geese, shmeese! Don’t come around here, fussing and squawking about morbidly obese geese, because frankly you’ll get short shrift, or more likely no shrift at all, from me.   Christmas is coming, on that we can agree, there are no matters of contention in that assertion, no grounds for disagreement, nothing of substance for our lawyers to pick over or into which they can sink their teeth.  So putting to one side the getting-fatter-all-the-time (“it can’t get no worse”) geese there is the rather larger matter of the bear.  Christmas is coming and the bear will be getting fat.

The end of the year show is upon us when the Western world eats like it’s our last supper, nails a star to a tree (didn’t that happen at Easter too?) and turns wine into water.  And Yulemastide is yet again another example of the difference between front runners and back markers.  Where the lean mean running machines eat three French hens, two turtle doves, the partridge, the pears and the tree and then turn out on Boxing Day to set an age-resistant PB at the Chuffin’ Chase, those of a more ursine nature take one look at the mulled wine and mince pies and remember that winter is God’s way of saying eat more and sleep loads.

For the bear, for whom food is a pleasure and running a chore, and Descartes’ oft-misquoted “I eat therefore I am” is not so much a philosophical truism as an indigestive neologism, it is a constant juggling act to balance calories in with calories out and at Crimblemas the wheels more often than not fall off the proverbial wagon.

Three factors converge at this time of year that not-so-much halt me in my tracks, but at best lead me to spin my wheels and at worst cause me to come off the rails (enough, already with the modes of transport analogies).  One, it gets cold and the lethargy-devil on my shoulder whispers in my ear, it’s too cold to run, stay indoors by the fire, and watch repeats of the Morecambe and Wise 1975 Christmas Special.  Two, I get injured either because it’s cold and there was wisdom in the lethargy-devil’s words or I fall over and crack a rib/twist an ankle/butter a parsnip (delete as appropriate).  Three, I consume too many mince pies (it would be rude to say no to a third, wouldn’t it?), Cadbury’s Roses (it’s only the wrappers that stop me eating them by the pawful) and bottles of Chateau Abbé d’Adel.

But there is a plus side, running fans!  Fat insulates, which is good because it counteracts the “it’s cold outside” excuse for not running, fat protects, which means when you fall over you bounce back up like a Weeble of old, and fat stops you sitting too close to the table which is good because you can’t reach that extra mince pie.  So winter is good because winter makes you fat and fat makes you slim.  Time for that extra slice of Christmas cake, methinks…

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And you run and you run to catch up with the sun

But it’s sinking
Racing around
To come up behind you again

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free and I’ll give you the Abbey Massive on the second cold Tuesday in September.  Hand rubbing, self-hugging, foot stamping, clad in nowt but triple-layered lycra long johns and luminescent yellow jerseys (has anyone else noticed how many Tour de France winners there are in Abbeyville?), they low like cattle indignant at the unannounced and unwelcome annexation of their hay manger by a newly awoken one-in-the-eye-for-Dawkins infant (I am categorically NOT going to mention how many shopping days it is until Christmas at this juncture) and shiver, shake and shudder as if their quivering, in itself, will generate the will needed to overcome the nagging feeling that an evening at the bar would be a better way to spend the next sixty minutes.

However, whilst that was true the second Tuesday of September, it was so not the case two weeks later.  The seasonal mayhem that is so random it’s predictable, and to which by now we ought to have become accustomed, particularly as it can be blamed for everything from late trains to poor high street sales figures, played its anarchical hand and delivered not so much an Indian summer as a sub-Saharan heat wave.  Just when you’d put all those skimpy summer shorts and variable velocity vests (no I don’t know what I mean by that either) at the bottom of that smelly kit drawer, the mercury soars ever upwards like an atom bomb about to oh oh oh oh oh explode, breaking all records on its way (in fact, I understand, a record previously held by my county of birth was broken by my adopted county…if the fates are trying to send me a message there it’s far too cryptic; please hang up and try again).  It’s too darn hot and I for one do not like it.  No I do not.  When Blighty-hot has been and gone (and once again failed to outstay its welcome) its return is as welcome as Nick Clegg in a student union.

As we enter October 2011, month of 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays and 5 Mondays, (apparently the first time, since 1188 trivia fans) it should be mild, it should be clement; it should be autumnal, dammit.  It’s just too confusing for a bear of little brain to experience simultaneously, concurrently, contemporaneously and undoubtedly unnecessarily tautologically the blazing sun baring down upon me as the falling fruit of the chestnut, beech and oak bruise my battered back (wow, even I think that sentence is just trying too hard!).

For those who plan to run a North West Marathon on 9th October, I can report that Michael The Fish says you won’t need the sunscreen and there is absolutely no risk of a hurricane.  For anyone who ran on 1st – 2nd October, the doctor will see you now.

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“It’s oh so quiet, it’s oh so still you’re all alone and so peaceful until…”

In space, no one can hear you scream.  By the way, while I’m on the subject of space, an aside, before we tuck in to the meat of my meandering; an amuse-bouche, if you will.  Silent Running; it’s not silent and it’s definitely not about running. No Ronhills were harmed in the making of this film.  Don’t expect men in singlets and women in lycra.  I came in search of perspiration and inspiration, but instead I got robots, green houses and Bruce Dern with a watering can.  I just thought you should know.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, right.  In space, no one can hear you scream.  Whereas in Leeds…

When we offer our oblations to the running gods on the trails, tracks and tarmac of North Leeds (and elsewhere too no doubt, but space does not permit me to list all the holy ground worshipped by the Missionary Order of the Immaculate Abbey) we don’t half make a noise.  Well some of us do.  Well, I do.

First there’s the breathing.  It has been commented upon and I have tried to give it up, but I am unable to carry off the lips-turning-blue-whilst-the-face-turns-red look.  So breathe, I must.  Breathe, breathe in the air, don’t be afraid to care, as a former neighbour of mine once said.

Second there’s the footfall.  Here I stand at a disadvantage to so many of my fellow runners.  Being 7ft 3¼ inches in my heelless Saucony Gaga Omnipotent 7s and 27 ½ stone with my Brooks Armadillo TankStopper winter wear chainmail I make a racket.  Where some, let’s call them the lesser-bearded Khoo or the will-o’-the-wisp Willis, glide, nay float, over the surface of the earth, barely registering a footprint as they effortlessly, gracefully, sashay through the bracken en route for higher breeding grounds, others crash and galumph through the undergrowth like hell-raising, blockbusting, teenage rampaging foxes on the run in search of a non-Sweet song simile.

Third, there is the cursing.  Oh Lord, forgive me, for I do curse.  Anything from a dropped pin to a stubbed toe (but not anything really painful like a broken bone, no on that occasion I was just silent), brings forth a gigabyte BitTorrent of concatenated Anglo-Saxon invective.  And, as a certain Membership Secretary and his good lady wife know only too well, leash-free, small dogs with complementary, colour-coordinated owners on Sunday morning canal-side ambles are particularly likely to feel the full force of my disproportionate ire.

So, forget, oh so quiet and oh so still, embrace your inner-Bjork, cut loose (“zing boom”), blow a fuse (“wam bam”), ring the bell, (“bim bam”), shout and yell (“hi ho ho”); or, in yet another tired and contrived reference to 1970s panto-glam, cum on feel the noise!

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“We’re all going on a summer holiday No more working for a week or two”

“Flight LS265 is now boarding from Gate 12”

You hear that?  Yes? Do you know what that is? No? Well, I’ll tell you.  That’s the sound of dedication my friends.  That’s the sound of devotion to the cause. That is the sound of a PaperBear Writer (Writer, Writer…) working tirelessly, nay selflessly to meet the demands of his readers.  Note the confident and deliberate use of readers plural not reader singular as I have it on good authority that on receipt of this esteemed publication at least three people scroll straight to the back page and three people, I think you’ll find, constitutes a crowd both idiomatically and legally.  It has been suggested to me that these people, hereby and henceforth known as the Ursine Three, are in fact looking for the latest Abbey League, but this is clearly nonsense nonsense nonsense as evidenced by their numerical nomenclature.  Ipso facto ergo elk, case dismissed, he says, disappearing up his own logical paradox.

Anyway, you will have gathered that I and the Family Bear intend to sally forth, forthwith to climes more sunny than Yorkshire doth offer.  Like the explorers of old, Raleigh, Columbus and Blair, we intend to conquer our fears and their lands in the name of our inalienable right to plant our flag and our bucket and spade wherever we damn well like.  But these annual pilgrimages to distant shores bring with them dilemmas, do they not?  Such as how many shirts do I need or how many books will I read? Actually the latter can be expressed as the formula  where x is the number of books, a is the books you have bought from Amazon in the last 12 months and b is the books you were given on your last birthday and y is a constant at the midpoint between -1 and 1.

But the more important dilemma is do I take my running shoes.  If I don’t, I’m clearly saying that I intend to burn my skin, pickle my liver and stretch my stomach; in a word, to atrophy.  If I do, I’m clearly saying that I am so lost to the sport, so obsessed by my training regime, so addicted to the adrenaline that I cannot foreswear fourteen days without my short hills, my long hills, my mile splits or my Sunday on the canal towpath dodging mountain bikes and kicking small yapping dogs whilst swearing furiously at their owners (allegedly).  

So have I packed them?  I’m not telling. Not because I’m ashamed of my decision, but because I thought I’d leave you in suspense (not a very suspenseful suspense I grant you).  You might even call it a cliff hanger, which in the light of the opening couplet and the usual rain at Wimbledon would seem apposite, don’t you think?

Toodle pip!