Thursday, 30 May 2013

I'm in The Club - A Lifetime Member

Hey-up! How’s tha diddlin’?

Yup, it’s been a while. That’s partly because we were on holiday last week, staying at a holiday house in Broadlay, Ferryside, Carmarthenshire, Wales, UK. Of its many positive features (view, proximity to beaches where The Boys could roam, proximity to nice running routes, etc.), the lack of any data coverage, as well as more often than not voice coverage, was arguably the highlight. I could just about tap into the landlords’ WiFi if I stood in the right place and held the phone at the right angle, but there was never any guarantee! Took a (short) while to get used to, after that it was a highly beneficial detox. I can live offline, I just struggle to stay offline if t’Internet is within reach!

Another reason for my silence is that, quite simply, that I don’t have a topic to focus upon. With no races till September, I’m still running every day, but I’m not chasing any specific objectives. I still try to sneak in a 20-miler every week, or every other week, just not with the level of interest on my time as I did, and will do again, in preparing for a race and pursuit of a given outcome on the day. So Monday, for example, I headed off for a 20-miler but with no firm idea as to how to clock up those miles. I ended up in Clevedon, the town adjacent to Portishead, running along the coastal Poets Walk. It’s a path I’ve heard a lot about (Coleridge had a cottage there, you know), but which I’d never actually explored in my 14 years out there. One of those things that are so accessible you never make that tiny effort, because there’s always tomorrow… I was glad to put that to rights on Monday! Not that I’d planned to do so, mind: it genuinely was a case of running along, taking a left where I’d normally take a right, and carrying on for… well, the best part of ten miles before heading back! “I took a wrong turn and I just kept going” aren’t amongst Springsteen’s deepest lyrics, but they’re probably amongst his better known (you know that tune, right?) and will do just fine here!

I didn’t used to do that, of course. I used to plan my routes well in advance, ensuring I’d have the time and the energy to complete them. And that’s after I served an apprenticeship of only ever running along nearby Down Road or running 1.5mi laps of three nearby roads. That was when I started off running: I didn’t want to veer too far from home. I didn’t want to leave myself with a hilly finale but also I was still relatively fresh (half a year) from my epilepsy op and, quite simply, I didn’t want to be far from home in case I had a fit. It didn’t seem to bother me that a good third of the route was up a road with no pavement and with a blind bend, but there you go – I never said I was a logical fellow. In the build-up to my first 10k, I’d run that lap six times on a Sunday for what I’d then refer to as my “long run” – 18k. That’s when I figured I might just manage a half marathon. Anyway… that’s not the topic tonight!

Detailed, planned runs. That was then. But now… something’s changed. I have proven to myself that I can handle that hilly finale after any old run, I’m happy to just go with the flow and see where I end up. Most of my running is still on road, so options are limited – but who knows, if summer ever really kicks in and I can trust the terrain I may even wander off road… I certainly want to run The Alwyn Lloyd Half Marathon again! It’s a 13.6mi route I ran on the same day that my good (in fact, excellent) friend Richard Lloyd (who’s In Search of Alpe D’Huez, incidentally) and his wife Heidi welcomed Alwyn into the world: March 14, 2013. I planned on making it a weekly, maybe fortnightly, training route. But, disappointingly, two and a half months on I’ve yet to run it again. From bad weather to marathon training (for which I sought longer but flatter runs), I’ve always had an excuse. And now? Well it’s that pesky British weather again, the rain putting me off not so much the muddy trail (not that it helps) as the slippery rocks by the coast along the world’s second greatest tidal range (13m, my friends). But I’ll be back…

I can’t give you a date as to when I started relaxing about route planning. I can, however, give you a date as to when something else changed. But first let’s get a few things straight…

I’m often asked why I run if I don’t enjoy it. In order to answer that, let’s clarify what ‘enjoyment’ is. I’m going to lean on Wales-born, America-residing philosopher Mark Rowlands and some of his thoughts from “Running With The Pack: thoughts from the road on meaning and morality”. On p. 200, he looked to define ‘joy’ – a feeling which people close to me know I deem ‘overrated’! Here’s how Rowlands tackles the subject:

“Joy can feel like many things. Feelings can accompany joy, but they do not define it or make it what it is. The joy I encounter when I run with thoughts that come from nowhere is, in t terms of the feelings that accompany it, quite different from the joy I encountered later on today’s run, when I understood that all the reasons I had, or could ever have, had no authority over me. Nevertheless, there are both forms that joy can take. In its essence, joy is not a feeling or even constellation of feelings. Joy is a form of recognition.
The more our lives are dominated by the instrumental, the more we will value pleasure. The function of joy is quite different. Joy can assume many experiential forms. There is the joy of focus, the experience of being completely immersed in what one is doing. There is the joy of dedication, the experience of being dedicated to the deed and not the outcome, the activity and not the goal. There is the joy of enduring, the experience of playing the game as hard as you can play it, of giving everything you have to the game and leaving nothing in the tank, no matter the experiential toll this exacts. There is the joy of defiance, wild and fierce: no, you will not break me, not here, not today. Joy is found in the heartbeat of the run, whatever form this takes. But, ultimately, all of these come to the same thing. Joy is the experience –the recognition– of intrinsic value in life. Joy is the recognition of the things in life that possess value in themselves – the things that are valuable for their own sake: the things in life that are worthy of love. Pleasure distracts us from what does not have intrinsic value. Joy is the recognition of what does. Pleasure is a way of feeling. But joy is a way of seeing. Joy is something that pleasure is not and can never be. It is the recognition of the places in life where all points and purpose stop”

(You read that again. Oh, and I touch-typed it all without making a single typo. That gives me joy. No, pleasure. Oh whatever)

If you agree with Rowlands (and I do), running has always given me the joy of focus, of dedication, of enduring and of defiance. I have never claimed to enjoy the run itself but I have always acknowledged the fulfilment I feel when I stop knowing I have achieved ‘something’. And, for the first 374 of my running days, “achieving something” was my primary objective. Over that year, ‘something’ morphed from losing weight to running a 10k into running a half marathon and, ultimately, into running a marathon. Every time I put one foot in front of the other, I was working towards one of those four goals…

…then, on April 28, 2013, I put one foot in front of the other around 30,000 times and completed the 2013 Greater Manchester Marathon. I achieved what had been my over-riding goal for around six months, far more than any other objective had spent as my driving focus.

Where did that leave me? Did I leave me with “post-marathon blues”? Did it leave me saying “no mas”, as I did during the final mile of last September’s Bristol Half Marathon? Did it leave me longing for something more – say an ultra?

Truth be told, it didn’t leave me with any of the above. I knew it wasn’t going to be my last: but having already signed up for several halves meant the marathon blues never had a chance to kick in. I’d already contemplated ultras but had made a conscious decision to steer clear of them, at least for 2013, due to the challenges posed by the training. That’s not to say I’m not daunted by the running bit: I’ve just not even got to that stage of the thought process yet! So where I found myself, as I crossed the finishing line near Old Trafford, was…

…in The Club.

Membership of most clubs comes with a start date and an expiry date. Beside me as I type is my Totley AC Running Club Membership Card: I’m number 1321, I’ll have you know. But that card’s only valid until 31/12/13. So next year they’ll have to find at least one more digit, as the three used on this card won’t suffice for 2014. Nevertheless, there is an expiry date and it’s clearly spelt out, blue on green.

There are, however, clubs for which membership never expires. And, once a marathon runner / a maratoneta, always a marathon runner / maratoneta. My Dad is a maratoneta: always will be. And, thanks to Manchester (of all places), Giacomo Squintani, Giancarlo’s son, is also a maratoneta. Forever.

So… are there any benefits to being in The Club? Because Lord knows, it was hard enough to get in!

There are – and many. The line between some of them (e.g. self-confidence and smugness) can be blurred. Maybe one day I’ll try and list them all (suggestions welcome!). Right here, right now, I just want to focus on one:

Members of The Marathon Runners Club are entitled to enjoy running

Again, spend some time on that thought… it’s not as deep as Rowlands’, but in the context of this blog it might just be more challenging… so let me spell that one out again, in bold even, in case you think it’s a typo – after all, I’ve spent over a year telling you that I can’t stand running. So what’s this volte face? Am I now saying that, actually, I can stand running?

Members of The Marathon Runners Club are entitled to enjoy running

Let me put it this way. I have now proven to myself that I can complete the historically-charged distance of 26.2mi / 42,195km. I have proven to myself that all the roadrunning was not in vain. And, at this particular moment in time, my daily roads are not geared towards any specific race. Yes, I’m taking part in the affirmation of running that is Longest Day Run, organised by Simon: and you should too! On June 22, dust off those running shoes and clock a mile. Personally, along with fellow nutters, I’ll be aiming for more: probably 20, potentially 23, 26.2 if I feel reeeeaaaalllly well on the day. But because it’s a case of my route / my rules, and because I’ll be running on my own, I’m not overly fussed about distance and certainly not about time. I just want to…

…well yes, enjoy it. I want to run along a nice route, probably along the Bristol Channel as it becomes the Atlantic, and enjoy its sights and sounds. I want to feel the “heartbeat of the run” to which Rowlands so often refers, free my mind for the wind to blow into it some challenging thoughts… and soak my weary muscles in a Radox bath, as I did on Monday after a run that proved harder than Manchester. It was six miles shorter but hillier; I hadn’t carbloaded or done any of the specific preparation that I did before the big 2-6; and there were no crowds cheering, no fellow runners inspiring. Much as I would love to run with someone else on Longest Day Run, I’ll be alone: just as well I’ll have some attractive scenery to accompany me.

So there you have it – I think I’ve stumbled into an admission of pleasure. Because joy has been an integral part of my runs from the start: it’s just not been a smile-inducing type of joy, but then I’m a mardy bum rarely seen smiling at the best of times. What has crept into my running is an ability to derive pleasure from sights during a run, from the act of running itself. And the door for that was left ajar on April 28, in Manchester. That day I entered the exclusive-yet-open-to-all Marathon Runners’ Club: that day all my hard work paid off and I could finally relax a little. Which is not to say I won’t take future races as seriously, or train as hard for them: but it is to say that, all the time I’ll be doing so, I’ll be doing so as a member of The Club, not an outsider still looking to earn admission. And that’s a mindset changer.

Much as I always thought I’d complete the 26.2mi course, even if it meant walking, ‘thinking’ counts for nowt – it’s all about doing it. And I did it. Whatever happens (or doesn’t) next, I’m in The Club. I’m a maratoneta. Nobody can ever take that away from me. I’ve joined my Dad, and many other people whom I admire, gained my life membership. And that, my friends, gives me great pleasure.

But don’t worry – I Can’t Stand Running will live on! And trust me, there will be plenty of times when I won’t be able to see any sights or hear any sounds and will be out there running purely for training purposes. Hey, days start getting shorter in three weeks’ time! It will be winter before you know it, those dark and gloomy mornings of 5:30 20-milers preparing for… well, for whatever marathon I’ll be doing next spring. The next one, as you know (albeit there was no fanfare), is Chester, on October 6. That’s right, 128 days away. When will I start training for that?

Well, there’s another thing about being in The Marathon Runners’ Club, if you’re also a member of the Runstreak Fraternity (as I have been now for 231 days). You don’t really stop or start training for a marathon. You change distances and intensities, you tweak the goals of each individual run, always looking to avoid just running for the sake of clocking miles (as Julian Goater would point out at this stage): but, having got to that level, you try to stay there. Personally, I like to think I am always at a stage where I could run a half marathon the following day, and a marathon given a fortnight’s warning (for tapering purposes). Which is not to say I could run a decent time on just two weeks’ notice, but that I could get round. I say that at a time when I’m still clocking a 20-miler every fortnight or so, mind… and at least a half marathon distance every week… now surely that can’t last, can it?

Who knows, folk. Who knows. Who’d have thunk I’d ever start running. Who’d have thunk (yes, I know it should be ‘thought’) I’d run a marathon. And, most shockingly of all, who’d have thought I might have enjoyed running at some point. In fact, I pretty much acknowledged enjoying running the Sheffield Half in my previous post eeh bah gum! Whatever next – a man on the moon?

Talking about different planets, Wales (sorry Fi!) was great, by the way. Focusing on the running, I didn
’t run far but I did love every minute of running along the Carmarthenshire coast and up some of its unforgiving hills. Loved the sound of the waves, the sight of the water and Llansteffan Castle (which wed visited), the treacherous rocks, the sound of silence along its roads… just not keen on its flying insects, much as they spurred me on to work on my breathing. The climbs proved good training: upon my return, I reclaimed a hilly CR on Strava!

’s a shot of me running in Ferryside, Wales. Not at my fastest, mind: not on those rocks! Much as Id love to sign off by citing this blog’s name, you might just not believe me this time.
Apologies for the armpits, by the way, as well as the pseudo-demonic left eye. And shame you can
t see 'Totley' on my vest.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Deo Adjuvante, Labor Proficit: The 2013 Sheffield Half Marathon

Greetings from a train somewhere in Sweden! I’m not even halfway into a 4-hr journey from Stockholm to Lund and I’ve long lost any genuine interest in trees and lakes – it’s high time I filled you in on Sunday’s events!

On Sunday I took part in the Sheffield Half Marathon. Before anyone asks me again: I ‘only’ ran the Half because there is no longer a full Sheffield Marathon! I couldn’t go round twice! (not that I tried). I approached this race knowing it could be a watershed event for me – I was in serious danger of enjoying it…

…I’d travelled up in good time on the Saturday, spending some time with relatives and friends, the latter primarily at “The Hammer and Pincers”. In all my life I’d never seen everyone in a Sheffield pub come together (in united fashion!) to celebrate a goal shown on TV, but to a man/woman we all jumped up when Wigan scored against Man City! Friends like Streetsy, Joner and Sootie were joining uncles like Tim and Rog in lowering the Hammers’ beer reserves whilst I made do with four pints of orange juice. Although I must look up John Walker’s claims about ale’s energetic properties…

Woke up nice and early on race day, the granola I’d brought up from home nicely topping up the previous night’s pasta cooked by Auntie Dawn. My bag was a darn sight smaller and lighter than Manchester’s TWHBE – indeed, far smaller than it was lighter… I guess carting around four bagels will always come at a price!

Simon picked me up at 7:00… well, 7:08, if truth be told. Philip was already in the car and Martin was duly picked up at the Shell garage at the end of Ecclesall Road. #teammazymixer was truly on its way to Don Valley Stadium!

Just typing that stirs up conflicting emotions. The car was a testament to the new and now: to new friends with whom I share all this here running lark. The destination was a testament to the old, to the soon to disappear: an expensive stadium for which nobody has been able to find a sustainable use or put up a credible plan. It hurts my heart to think about those wrecking balls heading its way: I was at the 1991 World Student Games’ Opening Ceremony, at a floodlit cricket game that took place way before anyone’d heard of Twenty20 and at a 1995 Bon Jovi gig (with Little Steven as a support act) where I nearly passed. How’s that for a mixed bag? However, painful as it is to think of it disappearing and to think of the missed opportunities throughout its life, the truth is that it is an expensive asset. Don’t take my word for it, take Unitedite’s – here.

We got to Don Valley in good time, parked and headed inside – into what is tautologically the finest pre-race area I’ve ever been in! With all due respect to Endcliffe Park, that is. We soon met up with Martin BOB, with Andy, with Chris… and, eventually, even Mike!

I was heading back from the gents when I saw Mike had joined the crew. I crept up behind him, put my hand on his shoulder and introduced myself with the most formal and impeccably pronounced “Giacomo Squintani” I could muster, the one I generally reserve for business meetings in Italy. Mike was on pacing duty today, looking to lead Sarah to her first sub-2hr half. It was a brief chat but, nevertheless, one that had all the tones of a chat between long-time friends. Long-time and lifetime, dare I say. Well, one step at a time and all that.

I’d not packed a throwaway shirt and this was Sheffield after all, so I ventured out onto the track with my Manchester Finishers’ Shirt underneath my Children’s Hospital Charity Vest. I still prefer running in short-sleeve shirts to vests, if only out of habit, but was always going to wear that vest for this one. Well, a second such vest, anyway: I messed up when ironing a G and an O in front of the spare S I’d ironed on the right-hand side weeks ago. Somehow I didn’t contemplate the fact that ironing over that existing, unprotected S may result in the iron wiping it off, therefore leaving me with a G, an O and half an S. Or a full ass. I mean, it’s not as if there wasn’t a warning against this in the instructions… I just didn’t get to that bit, stopping at the last line about what to do rather than looking at what not to do! Men and instructions, eh?
Anyway – the delectable Tonya at TCHC had sent me a new vest and a bunch of letters. By then I’d obviously worn out her biblical patience with requests for a vowel here, a consonant there… she must have thought I was auditioning for “Countdown”! On the Friday night I ironed on my running nickname, ‘GIA’, onto the front of the vest: I can safely say the terror I felt as the hot ironed hovered over those meticulously cut and placed letters by far exceeded any nerves I may have felt at the start of the Greater Manchester Marathon! I felt in control then, I felt there’d be room to correct mistakes… I’m never good with stuff for which there isn’t a Ctrl+Z option, though fortunately I pulled this one off.

Where was I? Oh yes, setting out with a shirt under my vest. Doing in a race setting something I’d never done in training: back in February I was running not too far from where I am now (i.e. somewhere in Sweden) in the snow at 5:30am with just a short-sleeved top… yet for Sheffield in May I thought I’d go double layer. Just bear that stupidity in mind.

We eventually set off (a few minutes late), and I knowingly set off too quick. It was a gamble. I genuinely wasn’t expecting a PB but knew that, to have any chance of a shot at it, at a PB in my hometown, I’d have to set off quickly. Worst case scenario, I’d slow down and post somewhere either side of 1h40’. In fact… I’ll tell you what, here are my splits:
Who runs around with a shirt in their hand?!

01: 6’51”
02: 6:45”
03: 6’48”
04: 7’02”
05: 7’16”
06: 7’32”
07: 7’17”
08: 7’04”
09: 7’25”
10: 6’57”
11: 7’12”
12: 7’14”
13: 7’36”

I’ve laid out my splits before getting into the race because they don’t tell anything like the full story…

…sure, you can spot a trend whereby I slowed down after the third mile, struggling somewhat for miles five and six before picking up the pace again. But they don’t tell you how much I struggled. In what, after all, was only a half.

I’d got off to a good start and felt good, sharing some of the road with Martin as I wondered what etiquette demanded. Was I to stay with him, having caught him up? Hide behind? Try and keep up the pace that had got me there and overtake him? In the end I went with the third option, although I wish we’d discussed running together. Given the way our runs unfolded, it would probably have worked. Then again, I planned on running this one by feel: and that’s what I did as I sought to make hay whilst the sun shone…

…and boy did it shine! Martin was soon catching and overtaking me, not before asking me how I felt. I lied through gritted teeth, maybe out of bravado but certainly to try and kid myself if not Martin. I might have said “I’m alreight”, but I wasn’t. Martin’s choice of words to describe how he felt was far more applicable to me than mine – and off he went…

…and that’s when I started to seriously regret the double layer on this route. Coming past The Home of Football (of course I blew it a kiss), then up Cemetery Road… this was hardly the Marathon des Sables, but I had gone and made it unnecessarily harder on myself. That feeling of helpless stupidity probably impacted my pace as much as the sun itself, and to be fair neither impacted it more than those opening three sub-7’ miles. I had taken a gamble and it wasn’t paying off. Worst still, Hunter’s Bar was approaching – and this isn’t how I wanted my relatives to see me!

Here was a key difference from Manchester: this time, I had a decent idea as to where I’d be seeing family. I knew both The Woods (Dawn, Gabs, Nats) and The Newtons (Jo, Rog, Soph) would be within half a mile or so of the Hunter’s Bar roundabout. The Woods were near the entrance to Endcliffe Park, the Newtons nearer Dover Road, on the other side of Ecclesall Road. I was struggling when I got to that stage: I’d run up a steady incline and was deeply regretting my choice of clothing. The gloves had come off: that was easy enough. I’d duly tucked them in between shorts and shirt. But that shirt… my Manchester’s finishers’ shirt… I needed to lose that but without losing it. Make sense?

So I pulled it off. Literally. Pulled it off, held onto it for a few hundred yards and handed it over to Auntie Jo-Jo when I first passed her, en route to the roundabout. I had poured water over my head and down my back at every water station, only sipping minimum amounts: the shirt therefore felt far wetter than sweat alone warranted! I understand Auntie Jo-Jo wasn’t overly enamoured with me for that… sorry, it really wasn’t as bad as it felt!

When I passed Dawn, Gabs and Nats, I felt less comfortable than I had done at mile 16 in the marathon. It was probably psychological: because of Manchester, I expected this to not feel as hard as it was and I had different expectations. But then it only felt hard because of the speed at which I’d set off: that and the fact that miles four and five comprised 110 of the route’s total 350 feet of elevation. Feelings aside, the Garmin never lies: and my splits were still pretty decent. Heading down Ecclesall Road towards the City Centre, I felt re-energised. Thanks to the Woods, to the Newtons… and to Dover Road. As I passed it, I blew a kiss towards number 13 and beat my chest. Many happy memories are linked to Dover Road, as are people who taught me an awful lot about life and work ethic. They would have expected me to grind it out and I wasn’t going to let them down.

By this point I was past the halfway mark, which in itself is a huge psychological boost. I found other runners to follow and that lifted a load off my mind, which no longer had to worry about pacing my legs. Mile 9 featured an uphill stretch, hence it bucking the trend of splits getting faster. Around this time I looked at my trusty Garmin and started running (sorry0 some calculations in my mind. I had not set off aiming for a PB and that middle section had all but wiped out those thoughts from my mind. However, my legs had once again outperformed my mind’s impression of them, as they had in those final three miles in Manchester where, whilst I’d slowed down, I’d always stayed the right side of 9’/mi. And guess what… actually, I had a shot at this!

For the final few miles I just targeted guys in front of me and had them pace me. It almost feels better to do that than to overtake fellow runners, which often engenders a slight feeling of guilt. But running in their slipstream… that feels good!
Oh, and Sheffield did a better job of calling out my name than Manchester. It helped that I only had ‘GIA’ on my vest, of course. Although I was not prepared for someone to call out “Hey, that’s the Twitter guy!” as I passed by. I have since established (through Twitter, obviously) that that person was Laura Inglis. Thanks Laura!

My pace fell as we entered the stadium, purely courtesy of the incline, the bends and the narrower nature of the segment which leads to a little traffic. We ran a lap of the stadium but on the concourse behind the stands before heading down onto the track for the final hundred metres or so…

…this may sound trite, but it was all very emotional. I saw that stadium go up, in my lifetime, and it’s about to come down, before my youngest son’s even started school. Stadia should last longer than twenty-two years: they’re not websites!

I crossed the line and soon spotted Martin and Philip, who’d finished a couple of minutes ahead of me in 1h32’16” and 1h32’15” respectively. Given how I was struggling when Philip passed me around Hunter’s Bar, I was delighted to come in just over a minute later. Delighted and… well, amazed!

Of course, another reason that final dash felt emotional was that by then I knew I was going to set a PB. 1h33’44”… my first sub-1h35’ half, over two minutes faster than Bath. Take out the fastest and slowest mile from March 3rd (for improved statistical meaningfulness) and the difference between the two extremes left (7’07” and 7’23”) is a mere 16 seconds. Do the same with the figures from Sheffield and you’re left with 6’48”, 7’32” and the 44” in between. You could argue I was far less disciplined in Sheffield and I would not disagree. But that just reflects my choice to run it by feel, to listen to my heart and its pounding beat more than to my Garmin. The Garmin was still very helpful, reassuring me, as it often does, that things weren’t actually as bad as my legs felt. Nor do I envisage such indiscipline becoming a regular strategy of mine. But this was not just any old race: this was Sheffield and this was Don Valley’s final farewell. Extraordinary circumstances called for an extraordinary approach. And, all things considered, yielded an extraordinary result.

So that’s it, folk: no more races now until September 15 and the Bristol Half! That’s over four months between races…
…but don’t worry, things change after Bristol. September 29: Weston-super-Mare Half. October 6: Chester Marathon. October 20: Portishead Half (which, presumably, someone is designing on the back of some of my Strava records!). I may not have anything lined up for the summer, but that’s going to be a busy few weeks. Handling the halves correctly, i.e. ensuring they don’t jeopardise Chester (the jewel in the crown), will be paramount. My goals?
I’d love to break 1h30’ in a half, although preparing for Chester may jeopardise that. I’m not going to get fixated on that, certainly not until I’ve seen the course map for Portishead: the website says it will be ‘flattish’ but I’ve lived here for fourteen years and I couldn’t design a 13.1mi ‘flattish’ course, not without at least half a dozen loops somewhere! But if they manage to do that, it could be where I shoot for sub-90’. Weston is the best bet in terms of being flat… and Bristol’s probably not as bad as I remember. Because I remember it from running it as my first half: I’d be far more prepared now, not least on the mental side for that final detour that takes you away from the finishing line!

Oh, and then there’s Chester…
…yes, I need to fill you in on that. In a nutshell: Running a second marathon with my usual bunch of nutters. Hoping to beat maiden marathon time by 79 seconds to go sub-3h30’. For the time being, that’s about it.

Thank you, Sheffield –
thank you for being there on the day and for teaching me so much of what I know about life. Because they’re the lessons that got me through the tough times and onto recording the best I could. Not for the first time, I would like to add.

Deo adjuvante, labor proficit. And aye, I did enjoy my homecoming gig. Hard not to.