Strong booze before the race, Sir?

McEwans-Champion

Champioooonee, Champiooooonee, Ole, Ole, Ole!

This is relevant to the following post, but please allow me to set the scene…

Mid-February, 2018. It’s around this time of year that a lot of runners have their race calendars worked-out and, barring the odd variable such as injury, know where they will be running and which training plan they will be following.

I don’t really work in this way. I’m never quite sure what frame of mind I’m going to be in from week-to-week and, as a consequence of this, I’m never entirely confident that I’ll be fit enough to complete an event, even the short, 5k parkrun on a Saturday morning.

However, the one race that will always be in my calendar is the Great Eastern Run, not least because it takes place in my home city of Peterborough. Entries are now open for the event, which takes place on 14/10/2018. Seeing the ‘Entries now open’ message from GER is always great, but it does remind me of my first time running  this race…I’d had a period of very heavy drinking leading up to it.

I was is pretty good running shape at the time, as I hadn’t touched a drink for three months and I’d been looking after myself. Despite this, I decided to follow a 12-week training plan, and stick to it, so there were no complications on the day of the race. This began well, and for the first four weeks I stuck to the plan and I felt marvellous. My general mood was good, I was sober and I felt fitter than ever, boosted by the fact that I was cycling sixty miles per week to work and back.

That’s when ‘disaster’ struck. I use inverted commas, because for most people being knocked-off of your bike by a lorry driver opening his door, whilst travelling at speed, and not being able to run for a couple of weeks would be a bit of an annoyance, a minor setback to their training, but not the end of the world.

Unfortunately, my brain doesn’t work like that, and this was, to me, a ‘disaster’. My mood plummeted, I took two weeks off work and, the real catastrophe, had a drink…just one…and that, inevitably snowballed into a 3-week, every-waking-hour, booze-binge.

The morning of the race…

I’d stopped the main boozing rot, but I was still drinking, up until a couple of days prior to the Great Eastern Run. I was awake all night, and around 5am I started to think about how I was going to get through this race. I didn’t have full-on DTs**, but I was certainly shaky, and empty, as I hadn’t eaten much for a few days.

An_alcoholic_man_with_delirium_Wellcome_L0060780_(level_correction)

Above: An alcoholic man with delirium tremens on his deathbed, surrounded by his terrified family. The writing on the bottom of the image says “alcohol kills”.

I knew I needed to lose this shakiness, and I needed to eat, but I had no appetite. Tesco wasn’t open until 10am, so a ‘quick’, 7.3% Champion Ale was out of the question. The local One Stop opens at 6:30, though, I thought. I can’t get anything strong there, but if I have two ‘weak’ beers I should be okay, and they will help to give me an appetite.

Two bottles of Brown Ale, a bowl of Ready Brek and an apple oat bar later, the shakes had long gone, and I waited for my Dad, who was dropping me off at the race. I got into the passenger seat of the car:

Dad: (Sniff), Blimey, have you been drinking?

Me: (My usual response to this question), I just had a couple, last night. I’m fine.

My original goals for the race had gone out of the window. By now I just wanted to complete the course, and if I could do it in under two hours it would be a miracle!

I did it, in just over 1 hour 58 minutes, largely because of the immense support from spectators all around the course. Mentally, it felt like the support was all for me, personally, and physically, well, I’m just so grateful to all of the kids who were handing-out sweets every step of the way.

Shattered, but proud of my achievement, I sat down to rehydrate and admire my medal for a few minutes… Shit, those shakes are beginning to make a comeback.

Never again…

 

**Delirium tremens (DTs) is a rapid onset of confusion usually caused by withdrawal from alcohol. When it occurs, it is often three days into the withdrawal symptoms and lasts for two to three days. Physical effects may include shaking, shivering, irregular heart rate, and sweating. People may also see or hear things other people do not. Occasionally, a very high body temperature or seizures may result in death. Alcohol is one of the most dangerous drugs from which to withdraw.
Delirium tremens typically only occurs in people with a high intake of alcohol for more than a month. A similar syndrome may occur with benzodiazepine and barbiturate withdrawal. Withdrawal from stimulants such as cocaine does not have major medical complications. In a person with delirium tremens it is important to rule out other associated problems such as electrolyte abnormalities, pancreatitis, and alcoholic hepatitis.

D.

 

#fitFeb – Just A Short One…

Just a short post today, as I would like to post again at the end of what will, hopefully, be a successful February.

January fizzled-out for me, really. I managed some road miles and a couple of half-decent parkruns, but I didn’t feel well around the middle of the month, missed some workouts and lost some motivation. Never mind – on to February.

I’d heard of #fitfeb after reading one of Kelly Holmes’ tweets. It consists of doing a minimum of five good workouts per week (so, five for me), which can be whatever you choose: running, cycling, swimming, weights and any fitness classes that you enjoy. You should also engage twice per week in ‘mind and body maintenance’, which could be more classes, such as Yoga or Pilates, or simply stretching, foam rolling and…rest days!

The idea is also to try something new. At some point during February I’ll add another fitness class into my routine- probably a spin session, although I am also contemplating attending a second Boxercise class.

Meanwhile, I’m quite happy with my start to February. I already cycle everywhere in my home town, and I am running at least four times a week. Shorter runs at the moment, but I am pleased with just over twenty miles from 1st to the 8th of this month and another two Boxercise classes, so far.

Some of the Thursday night Boxercise crew, below, including me, second left, looking like I’m about to receive a left hook!

Tuesday Boxercise

I’m really enjoying these classes. I had initially intended to attend for three or four sessions to try it out, then move-on to something different, but I have since decided to make it a regular session on a Thursday evening. Our instructor, Chloe, is more enthusiastic about what she does than David Attenborough is about the natural world, and that enthusiasm permeates the whole class. I also think that the fact the class is run at a boxing gym, rather than a standard gym, means that everyone, male and female, feels comfortable there. People go for a solid workout and to sweat – you won’t find anyone standing in front of a mirror, posing, or making outrageous grunting noises when they have 1kg of weight on each end of a bar and looking around to see who’s watching.

Aside from enjoying the class with a friendly group of people, I’ve found it a great compliment to my running, as I don’t really work my legs too much. The emphasis is on the core, upper body, muscle toning and cardio, so I’m still able to run the following day, albeit without the use of my arms. When you struggle to push the handle down on your front door when you get home, you know you’ve had a good workout!

(Below, a ‘before and after’ shot. We all like these, as they are a reminder of how well our training is paying-off).

Left: Me, just before Christmas.

Right: Me, post-shower, after a few weeks of Boxercise.

 

 

Pretty good progress, I think you’ll agree!

Finally, back to Dame Kell. She recently sent a general message out on Twitter, updating people on how her #fitFeb had started and asking how others were doing, so far. I told her about my running, cycling and Boxercise, and she took the time to return my message, congratulating me on a good start to the month and encouraging me to keep at it.

That’s motivational. If you can’t be inspired by a British, double-Olympic champion sending you encouragement, you may as well give-up and do something else…

Well done to Dame Kelly Holmes for engaging with ‘her public’ on social media.

Kelly Holmes

Until the end of #fitFeb…

D.

Ooh Matron! New Year, Boxercise, Coffee And Shortbread

Costa Card

I’m not wealthy, certainly not in a financial sense, so the most important piece of plastic in my wallet is my Costa gift card. My Uncle buys me one for Christmas every year, and this year I would appreciate it even more, as I sat back and relaxed with my cappuccino and caramel shortbread, reflecting on the start of 2018.

I’d laid-down 2018’s running foundations with an injury-free, two weeks of gentle running and a couple of 24’30 – 25’00 minute parkruns. This meant that after a quiet New Year’s Eve, I arrived at the New Year’s Day parkrun sober, feeling healthy in every sense and ready to put-down a marker for the coming year’s running.

24’37 – perfect, in spite of the water obstacle that mother nature had decided to set for us on this temporary, steeplechase course! Not that my time was particularly fast, but it was reasonable enough that I wasn’t disappointed, whilst leaving me plenty of room for improvement over the coming weeks and working towards my goal of running a sub- 20’30 5k. I have also set myself an achievable target of 800 miles for the year, which may increase, some 10k races and at least three half marathons. All being well, I’ll be in good enough shape to start planning a marathon in 2019.

Cross training and “the Haters”…

Ooh Matron

I’ve decided to add what training plans for running events call “cross-training”, which is, basically, anything that doesn’t involve running. I do still intend to run 4 times a week, although I may reduce this to three to accommodate some extra fitness classes, depending on how beneficial I feel they are.

“What’s Kenneth Williams got to do with this?”, I hear you cry. I’ll tell you.

One of my best mates, if not my best mate, called me to wish me a happy birthday on Thursday (the 4th of January – my birthday was on the 2nd), and during the course of the conversation I announced that I would be attending the first of my fitness classes, Boxercise, that evening.

“You what? Boxercise? Have you turned into a girl? Only women do that! No, wait, I have heard of some blokes doing it: Kenneth Williams, Graham Norton, Louis Spence…”. You get the picture!

The suggestion that it’s only gay men who partake in these kind of classes is ludicrous, and to show that the views of my “hater” friend (hater – one who sits around criticising others for getting involved in exercise, saying it’s pointless, and at the same time moaning and whining that they’re overweight, unfit, can’t pull a bird, etc.) are not views that I share, here’s a photo that I’ve taken from my phone, which provides evidence of my clear understanding of what “LGBT” represents.

BLT

My first Boxercise class…

Vic’s Gym, Thursday, 7:20pm.

I was slightly apprehensive. Assuming I’m not injured, I’m quite happy running in a straight line, and my leg muscles have become conditioned to this over the past couple of years. However, I haven’t really done any sustained exercise that works any other muscle groups during this time.

That’s why I was somewhat concerned when just the day before attending Boxercise, I had been introduced to the acronym, DOMS, which, as someone who is not a regular gym-goer, is a term that I hadn’t previously heard of. For those who don’t know, this stands for “delayed onset muscle soreness”. Basically, this means that I should be aching, quite badly, for a period of 24 to 48 hours after this “foreign” workout, meaning that my parkrun of 36 hours later could become a  parkwaddle™ (copyright @photogirlruns), rather than a run!

Costa, Friday, 10:00am…(continued)

Costa

So, here I am, about to indulge in a coffee and a cake. My upper body aches, in particular my arms, and there is slight tightness in my calf muscles. Notwithstanding these minor twinges (let’s hope they remain minor), I feel good, mentally and physically, and I’m looking forward to the next session of skipping, burpees, press-ups, gloves and pads, heavy bags, crunches, and plenty of sweating!

We’re only five days into 2018 as I write this, but things have started positively. I’m looking forward to the year ahead in running, and I will soon be taking-on some other fitness classes in order to sustain this positivity and, hopefully, to encourage other people to do the same.

Oh…, the 0.90 mile run home that I’d planned after Boxercise? I walked!

D.

 

Confession, And Christmas Day Parkrun

With tongue ever-so-slightly-in-cheek, I have a yuletide confession to make.

The name Dan Hunt is a pseudonym, one that I use for my blog posts and for social media activities. My real name is Mohamed Cohen and, yes, I am half Muslim-half Jewish, a rare combination I know, and as such I don’t celebrate Christmas in the traditional, Christian way.

This has its drawbacks, of course. Every year I miss-out on new socks, crackers, paper hats, bad jokes, worse TV, Brussel sprout farts, snoring and monstrous over-eating.

I do, however, get to attend Peterborough parkrun on Christmas morning, without feeling any guilt about neglecting my family and friends…

I was awake early, as I wanted to watch the wonderfully-festive “Chinese Food In Minutes”, on Channel 5.

Uninspired, I ate my large bowl of Alpen, washed-down with the habitual three mugs of coffee, and headed-off on my bike to Ferry Meadows.

I’ve been feeling a little bit apprehensive about attending parkrun over the past few days. I haven’t run it for a while due to injury, illness, being injured again and then, once fully recovered, slipping on ice while out running and bruising my ribs. They’re still painful, especially first thing in the morning, and exacerbated by the up and down “bobbing” motion of running.

All of this said, I have learnt a lot from watching re-runs of the Rambo films recently, and if John J has taught me anything, it’s to make some weird grunting noises and just get on with it!

They’re off…485 of them on a Christmas morning!

They're off.

Bearing in mind my recent lack of running, or alternative training of any sort, I was holding-out absolutely no hope of running a time anywhere near my personal best of 21’03. If the truth be told, I was more concerned with completing the 5k course without walking any of it, and if I could register a time under 27 minutes I’d be satisfied.

24 minutes and 58 seconds later…

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*Note – The 1 photo taken of me from the 1028 taken on Christmas Day at parkrun, wearing my festive, green pullover with a scarf and bobble hat-wearing penguin on the front, wouldn’t upload, so I’ve had to use this archive picture instead. Incidentally, this photo doesn’t make me look like a portly green alien, unlike the other one!

…finished! I was quite happy with my time of 24’58. My ribs were painful all the way round, which meant that I felt as though I was running with a very bad stitch and I couldn’t breathe properly; breathing being something I’ve found to be useful in the past when attempting to run a speedy 5k.

So…all in all a good morning at parkrun and I’m glad I went, especially as it was such a good turnout and I exceeded my own expectations during the run. That’s what running is all about. Not trying to be better than the next person, or being arrogant about your achievements, but just striving to better your own performance, fitness level and well-being as much as you can. Oh, and I didn’t pick-up any more niggling injuries – bonus!

Now for some leftover cold meat, pickles and choccy.

Next-up: Midnight Madness, NYD parkrun and future fitness goals…

 

Dan.

 

parkrun for the uninitiated…

parkrun logo

Most Saturday mornings at around 7am, you’ll find me at home eating a bowl of muesli, eagerly waiting for the clock to strike 8, which is when I’ll get on my bike and head to Ferry Meadows Country Park for Peterborough parkrun.

The majority of my friends and UK social media contacts are aware of parkrun, and most of them will be regular participants. However, there are some people I know, particularly in other countries, who either don’t know of its existence, or have heard of it, but aren’t sure exactly what goes on.

So, I thought I’d write an overview of what happens all over the country, in hundreds of locations, on a Saturday morning, and share my personal experiences of Peterborough parkrun.

First and foremost, parkrun is FREE, free to register as a participant and free to take part, every week. All parkrun courses are 5km, and EVERYONE, regardless of ability, is encouraged to run, jog, walk, crawl or hand bike* (*at Peterborough parkrun – I’m not sure about other courses around the country) at their own pace to complete the course. The aim of the weekly event is to get people outside, exercising at their own pace, meeting people and improving their overall general health.

Handbike

New participants will need to register their details on the UK website, http://www.parkrun.org.uk, in order to receive their personal barcode, which is scanned by a Marshall at the end of the run in order to record their time. All Marshalls and other event staff are volunteers, including a “tail walker”, who walks right at the back of the group ensuring, among other things, that no matter how long it takes you to complete the course, you will never finish in last place!

Volunteer

Anyone can volunteer to help out at parkrun, and it’s a great way to encourage and meet other participants. You can sign-up using the “volunteer” tab on the website, or speak to someone in a high-vis vest on the day of a run – they’ll be happy to help (If the person in the hi-vis vest smells particularly bad, and knows nothing about parkrun, you have probably collared a random drainage worker, so move onto the next person wearing reflective gear!)…

So, Peterborough parkrun. It takes place every Saturday morning at Ferry Meadows and starts at 9am, and is run on a mainly flat, paved and lightly gravelled surface, so it is unlikely that you will finish the run covered in mud. People usually congregate at the main café, next to the visitor centre, for a pre-run chat and catch-up. This is also where you will meet if you have volunteered, and where the race briefing takes place for newcomers and “tourists”, those who have come from other areas. The briefing usually happens at around 8:50am, and is worth attending to gain an insight into the course, conditions on the day and conduct (the park is open to the public as usual).

You may, if you wish, run with your dog, and some people even run with their children in a buggy – it’s so frustrating when these people overtake me!

PushchairDog

When you have completed your run you will be handed a token. Take this to the nearest barcode-scanning volunteer, whom you will be directed to, and have it scanned along with your own personal barcode. You MUST have this with you every time you run, or your time will not be recorded. It will also get you 10% off your coffee in the café afterwards! (As you gradually improve your pace over time, you will notice that the queue for coffee is shorter, the earlier you finish the race).

So, when this is done and you have got your breath back, take a few moments to marvel at how great you are, and revel in the great feeling of achievement, whatever your time and wherever you were placed overall. It doesn’t matter where you finished, you got out there this morning, exercised and, hopefully, met some new people, who will always be supportive and friendly. Trust me, once you have completed your first run, you’ll definitely be back for more.

I’ve really enjoyed parkrun since I started attending it a year and a half ago. Since then, my running pace has improved greatly, my overall physical and mental health has improved, I have had the opportunity to meet new people, and I am now back in touch with quite a few school friends whom I’d had no contact with for over 20 years! I look forward to it every week.

Maybe I’ll see you at the Christmas Day and New Year’s Day parkruns, if not before.

And finally, a gratuitous photo of me in action at parkrun…not exactly motoring by the look of this picture!

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Dan.