Sedate lady running 24-30 September 2018 #amrunning #running


A bit of a funny week this week, in that I ran four shorter runs rather than one long one, and my weekend runs were split up into short blocks. But I got the miles in and a bit of effort here and there, so all good. I’m also pondering a new challenge – see below and I’d really appreciate any thoughts / advice!

Tuesday – running club run, and back on the “Feck Hill” winter route, having missed the alternative route last week. A decent run given that I was tired and a bit stressed, on a hard route and the head torch came in handy for the second half of it!

5.4 miles 12:14 mins per mile

Wednesday – did my Circuits. Still only managing one batch a week but I am getting faster or stronger or longer in all areas. I saw Paul the coach on Sunday and so typed up my progress so far to send on to him for advice – the parts marked yellow are those where I feel I can’t go any faster/do more within the minute while retaining my form, so I need a stretch goal.

(hard = that many both sides; changed to doing my single bridges 30 sec one leg raised, 30 sec the other leg raised this last week; changed to 1 min each side of clams 4th week)

Thursday – I fancied running in the day rather than the dark and put the call out among the Sedate Ladies. Sara and Sonya answered the call. I was a bit worried about this run because I’d eaten at 7am and we met at 9.30 but it looks like that’s an OK gap and no stomach issues (hooray!). We were three tired ladies who complained a bit but it was such a lovely day, with bright sunshine (hence odd photos) and we ran through three local parks in 6-odd miles (for me: they both did 8, as they’re tapering for the Birmingham Half Marathon).

I had to dash up as ran into a lady outside my neighbour’s house and had a chat before I set off. Oops! We ran through Kings Heath Park (Sara and I did a loop of the park while Sonya got there to meet us) …

Kings Heath Park – Sara and Liz

… then through pretty Highbury Park, grounds of Joseph Chamberlain’s mansion given to the people of Birmingham …

Highbury Park – Sonya, Sara and Liz

… then through Cannon Hill Park, where we do parkrun: the planting is lovely at the moment.

Cannon Hill Park – amazing municipal flowerbeds and blue, blue sky

It was a really nice run in the end and well done to the other two for pushing on to complete their miles. There was some walking, after I’d tired myself out dashing up there, so I was pleased with the overall pace.

6.3 miles, 12:35 min miles

Saturday – set of short runs part 1. I was volunteering at parkrun and thought I might be tailwalking so decided to run down. That was 2 miles, and I ran into my friend and neighbour Andy part way down: he runs exactly twice as fast as me but kindly slowed for me so we could have a catch-up chat. Still pushed my pace up a bit. I popped my marathon fail top (the top you get sent if you donate your fee for applying for London Marathon if you fail to get in the ballot) in my running belt and put it on as I was a bit cold.

Volunteering in club buff and top

I was on the funnel in the end, keeping people moving and in the right order, seeing lots of running friends, so all lovely. Then it was Run and Talk time, the mental health initiative. We just had a few of the core volunteer team, two from Kings Heath Running Club and three from Bournville Harriers – three of us had another 2 mile run, talking about all sorts.

Run and Talk folks at the bandstand. Thanks Nicola for the pic.

… then a cuppa (for me; I couldn’t eat any of the cakes on display and I was running home!) and cakes and pancakes, all part of a good, rounded runners’ diet as far as I’m concerned.

MAC tea n cakes

I ran home, another 2 miles! This included an uphill section, and I was full of Earl Grey tea, so I was pretty happy that my final mile was, at 11:11, the same as my first two (11:12 and 11:11).

In the afternoon, I went for a coffee date with my husband, Matthew – where I did have a scone (I can tolerate standard scones, not fancy ones, which is good). Just wanted to reassure people it’s not all running and volunteering and officiating!

2 + 2 + 2 miles, 11:12 + 11:52 + 11:40 min miles

Sunday – set of short runs part 2. I was up to 17.7 miles for the week and wanted to finish the week and the month hitting my weekly target. So I needed about five miles and realised it was 2.5 miles down to Bournville Harriers’ home to spectate at their Leafy 10k race. So I ran down there (wheeee) although there was sadness when I had a chat with a man who seemed in despair sitting on a wall, just out of prison and drinking again (it was daylight in a busy area and he was the other side of the wall from me), I tried to give him some ideas of places to go but felt really sad I couldn’t do more for him. Anyway, I pushed on and reached the finish line as the first runners were coming through.

I’d dressed the part – Kings Heath tshirt but over a teal (Bournville’s colours) top and leafy patterned leggings! Win!

It was lovely seeing everyone come through, shouting “Swifts Ahoy” at the brilliant LBGTQ running club and cheering our runners and Bournville’s and others’, chatting with friends as they came round after the finish. It was great to see Dave racing again after 15 months off having a horrible leg operation.

Then I ran back home, which involved running UP so I put the effort (and some walking steps) in and was pleased it only took me one more minute to run back than running there. I had the fun coincidence of saying hello to Andy (again), an ex-colleague and the vicar within a few minutes of each other!

2.63 + 2.61 miles, 11:15 + 11:46 min miles

Miles this week: 22.9 miles

Progress towards 1,000 miles in the year: 790 miles (40 miles ahead of target for the end of Sept and I think only 6 fewer miles than in the whole of 2017!)

The question

So my friend Bernice, who I ran the Canal Canter with and trained for her first marathon/my third with, has signed up for the Race to the Stones ultra (2nd day; 31 miles). It’s fairly flat apparently, there’s no terrifying cut-off as it’s a walkers’ and runners’ thing and it’s in July. I’ve run three marathons, I’m running around 22 miles per week at the moment and comfortably doing 12-14 mile long runs. Feel in OK shape but have a few weekends with officiating duties through the winter season. Do I dare to sign up???

Weekly wrapI take part in the Weekly Wrap run by two wonderful running women and joined by lots of other inspirational women. Wendy’s weekly wrap is here and Holly’s is here.

Book review – Debbie Macomber – “If Not For You” and a competition reminder


Two different strands here, so lovers of alternative and queer transgressive fiction pop to below the review, lovers of a gentle romance stick with the review and lovers of both, enjoy the juxtaposition!

So I will admit to hopping forward a bit through the TBR (just a bit; you can see this novel about four in from the left!) to pick off an easy book after some quite challenging ones. Debbie Macomber can be relied upon to provide a decent story with some twists and turns but no huge challenges, and that’s just what you need sometimes, isn’t it.

Debbie Macomber – “If Not For You”

(22 November 2017)

Music teacher Beth and bearded, tattooed senior mechanic Sam don’t exactly hit it off when they’re force to meet by friends. But then Beth’s in a bad accident and Sam keeps her company in hospital, and they find they have more in common than they thought.

As a full-length novel, this was a bit long for the material: it would have worked well in one of her two-stories-in-one-volume arrangements with less padding. There was quite a lot of repetition and recapping that wasn’t really necessary. However, I liked the theme of Beth spending time in hospital and rehabilitation and this was believable, and caring, good-with-kids Sam was a good hero. This is also part of the “New Beginnings” series, so you find out what happened to a few of the characters from the earlier novels. I also liked the way it was Sam who felt he had to change his appearance – nicely done when there are so many women transforming themselves stories.

Competition reminder!

Just a reminder that you have a chance to win one of these fantastic books from Lethe Press – just pop over to the original post (please, not this one, or I will Become Confused, and we don’t want that, do we!) and comment to be in with a chance. I will pick the winners on Sunday and contact you for your addresses then. Good luck!

I’m currently reading Dean Karnazes’ “Run: 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss” (he’s a very different runner to me (obviously, but also in liking pain!) but the stories are good) and Charles Thomas’ “Exploration of a Drowned Landscape: The Archaeology and History of the Isles of Scilly” which is a large and fascinating book – I’m over half way through and up to the coming of Christianity to the Isles now. Good books both and I’ll hopefully have some more time with them tomorrow.

How’s your September reading shaped up? I haven’t read as much as I’d hoped, I have to admit.

Book review – Iris Murdoch – “The Nice and the Good” #IMReadalong @IrisMurdoch


This review is late, and I’m sorry. I actually finished the book a good few days ago, at the weekend (still a bit late) and then I’ve been shillyshallying over writing up my review. I feel a bit intimidated because this feels to me like the first time Murdoch spreads her wings and fills a book with a million details and thoughts and feels and I have SO MANY post-its stuck in the book and I’m going to have missed all the stuff. And yes, I’m writing informally because I’ve reverted to my basic flippancy when under stress. At least I didn’t get THAT out of a blooming IM novel (see below).

So I hope my lovely Read-Along-ers come into play with some insightful comments and readings. Please. Right, here goes …

Iris Murdoch – “The Nice and the Good”

(August 2018)

As I mention above, this felt to me this time (and I’m not sure it’s happened in other chronological re-reads) that this is a point where IM really expands to fill the space allowed. Maybe it’s because it’s expanded into multiple locations, so many characters and scenes with more than two people in it (thank you to Peter Rivenberg for pointing out that doesn’t happen often in “The Time of the Angels“) so feels a long way from the claustrophobia of “The Time of the Angels”.

First off, so sorry to announce this, but we don’t (as far as I recall and now I’m fretting) have a woman in a white dress being pursued through the dusk. However, we do follow McGrath and the shine of his shirt through the under-office tunnels, so all is not lost. Incidentally, whenever I get to these tunnels, I can’t help thinking about the sub-sub-basement at the library I used to work at. I’m sure there were tunnels there.

With our usual themes, stones and shells must be mentioned first. Poor old Pierce gets his first of many setbacks when Barbara sweeps his shell-woman off her dressing table. Then of course he gets his sour “revenge” with the ammonite fossil. The uncanny twins are obsessed with stones and fossils: they’re uncanny in a good way of course (of course?). Hair is everywhere, from Willy’s white wisps to Kate’s pre-Raphaelite fuzz. Barbara has an “elaborate filigree head-piece” for hair, which is along the lines of previous Murdochian hair. Weird siblings we have of course, and a good pair who have special games with special rules and ask the most marvellous questions.

The sea and water are of course a major theme in the Dorset portions of the book. So many beautiful descriptions that are simply heart-stopping. Contrasts are there in the two main locations, office and outdoors, London and Dorset, town and country (the Grays have homes in both and most people move between the two), and we also have an explicit contrast in the discussion of the “chequer-board” of contrasting atmospheres in weekday and weekend/holiday Dorset. Dry, cool Paula is set against muddled Mary. Two women let themselves into houses (Biranne’s then Ducane’s) in front of horrified observers and both Mary and Paula take trips to London to revisit old haunts.

I found the description of Ducane’s thoughts when walking to see Willy with Kate very interesting:

Thus he walked on with Kate at his side, conveying along with him his jumbled cloud of thoughts whose self-protective and self-adjusting chemistry is known as mental health. (p. 46)

It feels like this is a contrast with all the talking and machinating that goes on in the book and also all the thinking and machinating provided by psychoanalysts in others of her books.

The animals in this are superb: Montrose with his “bird look” and silly old Mingo, both providing plot points in their own way, and then signifying the resolution of the midsummer of madness when they finally curl up in the basket together. I’d forgotten that Montrose appears on the breakwater and on the beach, wandering further than the house and garden, and liked this touch very much: he’s an observer, contrasted with Mingo’s eager participation.

The humour is back, muted but definitely there, from Pierce and his strokable nose which as “already troubled, in half-conscious form, a number of people, including some of his masters at school” (p. 22). Barbara is gently laughed at with her new pretensions and pony-madness. Ducane and Kate have conversations where each misinterprets the other, and he says how lovely it is to be so “rational” while really being nothing of the sort (p. 49). McGrath’s unpleasant colouring, or rather Ducane’s attitude to it, is jarring in a funny way: “McGrath was in very bad taste” (p. 64). Uncle Theo wanting to end up placing a pebble on each of Pierce’s buttocks makes me giggle every time I read it – but is is meant to be read like that or am I just being silly? Of course the cat and dog bring humour: when Montrose is defending his basket, “He lounged with the immobility of careless power” (p. 102) and of course the twins’ questions (and the questions the adults dare not ask them) are hilarious at times.

Do we have a saint and an enchanter? It’s not so clear-cut as it sometimes is (though will be again in later books, I think). Lots of people have saintly attributes: Kate “herself undefined, was a definer of others” (p. 18) and has a stammer and she and Octavian have “an indubitable virtue of generosity” (p. 19), but she’s not so self-effacing as to almost disappear. Jessica’s messy and makes weird art that she destroys; she is eventually free but doesn’t seem to actually help anyone. Is she an echo of Dora from “The Bell”?  Ducane wants to be cool and collected and help people and not get messy, and he’s also told repeatedly that he’s come to save people or help them; he is changed by the end of the novel, more messy and contingent, but I don’t think he’s the saint. He has a passage on p. 75 where he is shown as having “quite explicitly set before himself the aim of becoming a good man” and of course one of the rules for being good is not trying. On the other hand, Kate thinks that being good is “just a matter of temperament in the end” (p. 122) and something to do with being a happy, breast-fed baby.

I feel Mary or Willy might be our saint. Neither passes on their pain, including Willy never discussing his life in a concentration camp except to Theo, who sort of absorbs and doesn’t listen. Or maybe Theo’s the saint. He’s described as being invisible (which might be a curse, according to Mary) and

Theo also had a considerable gift for being physically relaxed. He seemed a totally non-electric, non-magnetic person. Perhaps it was this air of blank bovine ease which made his neighbours rightly so incurious. There was nothing to know. (p. 87)

He even has eyes whose colour you can’t describe. Mary is described thus: “… the mediocrity and muddle within Mary felt to be her own natural medium” (p. 20) and she has a self-effacing need to prove her place in the world by serving:

Mary depended, more than she might have been willing to admit, on a conception of her existence as justified by her talent for serving people. (p. 88)

(I had a jolt reading this, read first when I was around 14 and something I have built myself around, too: did that come from here?). Willy is “affectionate, detached, passive, absolutely passive” (p. 107) and although Mary has been subservient to him, that’s described as being entirely her doing (however, it’s worth noting that almost everyone seems obsessed with trooping to his cottage; so is he a quiet and ‘good’ enchanter after all?). Theo describes Willy’s book as “It’s not great, it’s not even necessary. It’s mediocre, it’s a time-filler” (p. 124) but is that a comment on Willy or Theo? Theo also tells Pierce to “Keep the blackness inside yourself then … Don’t pass it on” (p. 155) and that’s only after being pretty well asked for advice by Pierce. But he has had a difficulty involving a young boy who drowned, his master is now dead and he is “sunk in the wreck of myself” (p. 347) and knows what he must do but “cannot bear” to.

However, Willy, our other candidate, has this to say to Ducane:

Happiness … is a matter of one’s most ordinary everyday mode of consciousness being busy and lively and unconcerned with self. To be damned is for one’s ordinary everyday mode of consciousness to be unremitting agonising preoccupation with self. (p. 179)

However, just after this Ducane comes to the conclusion that he can’t stick with his view of himSELF as a strong helper, but is “enervated by all this mess and guilt” – so if he’s not become the good man or saint that he hoped to be since childhood, maybe he’s on the way to being good now he’s accepted and been subsumed by mess and contingency. He moves further forward in the sea cave, having an Effingham-like revelation

To love and to reconcile and to forgive, only this matters. All power is sin and all law is frailty. Love is the only justice. Forgiveness, reconciliation, not law. (p. 305)

and he takes this forward in his successful dealings with Biranne.

IM has an interesting explicit description of goodness, in that a saint might “possibly … be known by the utter absence of such gaseous tentacles” (p. 144) meaning their mysterious agencies which cause pain and mutilation to others without them even knowing, and the ability to insert themselves into people’s dreams. There’s a whole study of who appears in whose dreams there, isn’t there.

Is Kate the enchanter? She’s the centre of the Dorset group and says, “You are all my dear – children”, described by Ducane as “Slaves” (p. 258)

Echoes with other books: when Carel said in “The Time of the Angels” that maybe life boiled down to some dusty feathers in a cupboard, I thought of Radeechy’s poor old pigeons and there they are. Also like in “The Time of the Angels” and I’m trying to think what other novel (I think one yet to come), Jessica, as a Young Person, is shown as ignorant of religion and only part of a cult of the young. Fivey is a mix of Eugene from “The Time of the Angels” with his brown moustaches and Jake’s Finn in “Under the Net”. Kate and Octavian’s brisk and open discussions about Kate’s fancies remind me of all the self-justification and attempts to be objective in “A Severed Head”; however, here, they do seem to be genuine and not to be skating over the surface of some awful chasm. How has this changed? Octavian certainly “reclaims” Kate while on holiday and is triumphant, so maybe that’s it. I find them more and more peculiar as I get older (this is the first time I’ve read them while married myself, which I think makes a difference). The spaceship at the end echoes another spaceship at the end of another book which is such an important plot point that I hesitate to name the book here for fear of planting spoilers, as well as the more well-discussed sea serpent in “The Sea, The Sea”. The trial by sea in the cave reminded me of the weir scene in “Nuns and Soldiers” (weirdly, that scene comes way later in the book than I’d remembered). The word “rebarbative(ly)” appears for the first time since its sight over-use in “The Bell”, I think (p. 57)

So, have I really said what I need to say about this book? I don’t know. Who is the saint, who the enchanter? I don’t know. Theo and, more, Ducane, certainly grow towards goodness. Montrose, Mingo, Mary, Willy, Casey even are essentially “good”, aren’t they? The blurb on one of my copies says no one in the book is good, but I don’t agree.

Oh, and it’s a really good read with an exciting sub-plot and surprising and exciting events. Did I miss that aspect in my review?

Please either place your review in the comments, discuss mine or others’, or post a link to your review if you’ve posted it on your own blog, Goodreads, etc. I’d love to know how you’ve got on with this book and if you read it having read others of Murdoch’s novels or this was a reread, I’d love to hear your specific thoughts on those aspects, as well as if it’s your first one!

If you’re catching up or looking at the project as a whole, do take a look at the project page, where I list all the blog posts so far.

Sedate lady running 17-23 September 2018 #amrunning #running


A funny week this week, basically pretty tiring so I ended up running tired. Ups and downs, hard work and hard days. Not very good photos, either, so a bit of a bare post!

One thing I do want to share – I was reviewing Bart Yasso’s “My Life on the Run” the other week and two of his principles were “Run till you puke” and “Run on the edge”. Well, you know what? My matching principles are “Run till you need to stop for a wee at a shopping centre” and “Run in the middle, with a friend”. And I’m OK with that. It doesn’t make me a race contender, but it does make me a reasonably mentally and physically healthy person who’s able to enjoy sharing running with others and supporting their efforts. I’ll take that.

Monday: Did my circuits ON A MONDAY. I did think I might get to do them again this week but that did not happen. I was going on a trip on Wednesday so thought it would be good to get these in early. It helped that I’d done my long run on the Saturday, not the Sunday.

I did all my usual stuff and even though I’d spent a while vacillating before making myself do it (I am still like this for these sessions, while leaping eagerly out of the house for runs), and managed to do the same or more for every thing I do, which was gratifying. This was my fourth session and it does feel like I sort of know what I’m doing now.

I’m finding taking photographs of myself, even though I find them quite embarrassing and wonder why anyone would want to see them, to be quite useful for checking my form. I can’t help being a bit wonky from the back but I need to lean forward less with less of a curve to my back when doing wide arm raises! I added the tricep back things (what are they called??) as felt the need to do some tricep stuff.

Here’s my progress since my first week.

The front plank I forgot to time the first time, or rather pressed the timer then immediately pressed pause, so we can add some seconds on. The first press up column reads “1 real, 9 crap” and I’m managing to get about half-way down now. Plus I’ve managed to add in the weights twice now. I need to share this with Paul the Coach, as I’m not sure how to progress – some things (e.g. clams, now moved to 1 min each side) I can’t really do any faster while maintaining form.

Tuesday: An awful day generally as I discovered our lovely next door neighbour had passed away suddenly. Fortunately I found out from his family almost immediately so could let Matthew know and sort out a card. But it was so upsetting. I’d arranged to run with Jenny, who’s having a come-back after being unwell, and I still did that, as I needed to process the bad news. On my return, in a bright flouro t-shirt, I ran into one of our neighbour’s family and apologised for any disrespect caused by my bright clothing – but I shared my story of how he thought my running was absolutely HILARIOUS: he used to double up laughing when I would stop by the house to refuel – “You’ve done how many miles? And how many to go?!” – and she liked hearing that.

5 miles, 12:41 mins per mile

Wednesday: Went down to London for the day to meet up with my best friend Emma (friends for 25 years next year!). Her second twin child had just left home two days before so this was a planned trip to cheer her up and talk things over. She’s a  big one for the walking so I wore my Garmin on watch mode to record my steps: including the journeys to and from the railway station, I walked 8.8 miles!

We visited the Orla Kieley exhibition on the South Bank (yes, the day the company was closed down!) as well as popping in on the Portrait Awards at the National Portrait Gallery, getting lunch from Gaby’s on Charing Cross Road and eating it in the wind by the Thames and having a disappointingly cakeless coffee. A lovely but tiring day.

Friday: I was too tired to run on Thursday so I went on Friday instead. I had an early breakfast (I have to leave 3 ish hours between eating and running) then went out at 8.45 to the park. I was going to do 5 miles but was worrying about time (see later) so decided instead on 4 miles in the park doing some speedwork. I don’t THINK I’ve really done speedwork, apart from showing Sara the other week, since the weather got so hot: now it’s breezy and cool it was ideal. So I did one mile running briskly, a mile of pick-ups (run 10 paces fast as possible, 50 paces recovery, repeat for a mile), a mile of random fartleks (longer than 10 paces) then a mile back home. I did a little sprint at the end, too.

Because the park has a slope I was doing to get the miles in without endless loops, the speedwork wasn’t really reflected in my actual speed … but it certainly was in my cadence. I thought this looked quite cute and was a good way of remembering what I did!

I then got my shower, got my hair almost dry and popped round to Claire’s “hard yoga” aka her ashtanga class, at 10. This was the one Jenny could make – how hard could it be? Well, I might have mouthed “I can’t do this” in the middle of it. Straight into sun salutations, all quite fast, and I forgot I can actually do a very basic not high-up version of crane/crow pose sometimes so did a hindi squat then and did the basic just legs in the air version when it came to shoulder stands because I was Just Too Tired. But I got through the class, the first time I’d done that one since before my operation in May 2017, and I’d do it again, although the 11am hatha class is good for holding poses for a long time, too.

4.1 miles, 11:27 mins per mile / 1 hour yoga

Saturday: I did my first officiating wearing my Endurance Level 1 licence – very exciting. We were at the Midlands Counties Road Relays in Sutton Park, Sutton Coldfield, which involved clubs from North Somerset up to Newcastle-under-Lyne, my club had a few teams in the seniors/masters side of things, but we were busy during the morning with the under-13s, under-15s and under-17s. I was a Recording Judge which meant rotating between recording people’s race numbers in order in two different places (the finish line and the end of the finish funnel), which provides back-up for the timers’ recordings of race numbers and validates the results, and controlling the funnel, making sure people stayed in their finishing order (and explaining why) and also looking after any runners who became unwell. We actually make sure we’re in male-female teams to provide appropriate support to male and female runners.

I got to be in the team photo, waving my licence around. Photo courtesy of Mike Green.

A few nauseous (and worse! thank you, hypnotherapy tape, for sorting out my phobia!) runners but nothing too bad, and generally good-humoured. I saw lots of runners I knew and as usual it was a pleasure and a privilege to support them. It was also nice to catch up with other officials I got to know last season – some are also track and field folk and people were so pleased to see I’d got my licence (and I’m now working towards my Level 2, for which this provides one experience ticked off). I popped to see our team during my break and was able to explain how the relay handover worked, and although it was a long day with 3.4 miles walked in total, it was very enjoyable. Hooray for the road relays/ cross-country season!

Sunday: Oh dear, I woke up tired from yesterday and full of DOMS from yoga on Friday. But I’d arranged to go running with Mary Ellen and Ruth and I went for it. I am NOT obsessed with getting my 1,000 miles for the year but I am slightly obsessed with the fact that running 20 miles per week up to about 33 does seem to boost my immunity. So that’s what made me determined.

Determined and in autumn shades of kit

We did my 10 mile loop because no one could think of another route (I need some new routes!). Mary Ellen and I set out and met Ruth who ran down the route towards us then ran back with us, as she wanted a shorter distance. No one really got lost, and we did really enjoy running down the Bristol Road, which is lined with trees and is spectacular in all seasons: the leaves are juuuuust beginning to turn at the moment so it was really pretty but not ankle-deep in fallen foliage.

Autumn foliage on the Bristol Road

I left the others on the high street and added in a bit to round my week off. I actually managed my final mile at a decent for me pace, although I’ve been tired all day. The slow mile involved some walking up a steep hill (and a sit down on that chair that Cari liked when I ran with her up the hill, although I took such a spectacularly unflattering photo I am not going to share it!)

11 miles, 12:36 mins per mile

So, a week of mixed emotions and a fair bit of fatigue. I’m hoping for a bit of a quieter more stable one next week! How are all the runners doing? If you have to make yourself do your non-running fitness stuff, what’s your top tip for motivation?

Miles this week: 20.1 (plus 8.8 / 3.4 walked)

Progress towards 1,000 miles in the year: 767 miles (ahead of target with some wiggle room)

Weekly wrapI take part in the Weekly Wrap run by two wonderful running women and joined by lots of other inspirational women. Wendy’s weekly wrap is here and Holly’s is here.

James Aldred – “The Man who Climbs Trees” @EburyPublishing @NetGalley #amreading


The Man who Climbs Trees James AldredI’m a bit later than I’d hoped reviewing this book, which was published in June – I’ve had so much to read recently and haven’t prioritised my NetGalley books. I am very glad I read this, though, and recommend it with a few reservations for those who don’t love medical details!

James Aldred – “The Man who Climbs Trees”

(18 June 2018 – NetGalley)

Opening with an exciting climb by James as a 13-year-old boy who has to leap up a handy tree in a hurry, we follow Aldred through three decades of climbing progressively larger trees in progressively more exotic locations (although he’s very clear that, like most tree climbers he knows, he return to a less exotic, local tree when he needs to clear his head). We go from hearing about climbing a big tree with a rock-climber friend and some very dodgy equipment to rigging up a camera on a wire to whizz at high speed towards David Attenborough – for Aldred does manage to carve out a career climbing to support film crews and other projects, as well as teaching others how to climb. And fair play to him, because he writes quite movingly about the peace and sense of home he feels up a tree.

He bases each main chapter around a particular tree, on any of the major continents, and talks with a deep and simple joy about his experience of the tree itself, going into more technical detail about his climb and what he does in the tree, sometimes dealing with helping set up filming platforms, sometimes scoping out a tree or set of trees and the things within them, and twice constructing a treehouse. There are some lovely descriptions of both the animals and birds (there’s a great bit of foreshadowing of a surprise beast up one tree) and people he encounters that round out the chapters. These could involve anything from close-at-hand sniffing by an elephant’s trunk to being glared at by royalty!

Aldred appears to be honest and self-deprecating, sharing the mistakes he makes (and sometimes oversharing on the physical side, detailing some fairly unpleasant medical stuff basically arising from being in hot and damp locations without access to good hygiene: don’t read this over dinner unless you’re made of stronger stuff than I am. The book could have done without this, although of course it appeals to the Bear Grylls drinking your own pee school of interest. I think it could stand on its own without the boils). Read it for the eye-witness accounts of looking out across the canopy of a great forest, having hauled himself up there using only his wits, ingenuity, strength, tenacity and trust in ropes and equipment that really seems kept to a minimum that keeps him safe.

He has a bit to say about how people are more interested in the environment now than when he started out, but his real feelings about preserving great trees are found through his actions and comments throughout the book, even being sad when he inserts a treehouse into what he clearly sees as a living and important form. I really liked this care and commitment rather than being gung-ho and uncaring. We find more about his family and personal life at the end of this entertaining and immersive read, but the trees are the real stars.

Thank you to the publisher, Ebury, for providing a copy via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Book review – Thomas Williams – “Viking Britain: A History” #amreading @WmCollinsBooks @Battlescapes


Viking britain Thomas WilliamsA wonderful book on Viking Britain, both its contemporary history and its effect on the land and imagination, highly recommended. This is my personal review, as it’s a topic I’m highly interested in, and a more professional review will appear on Shiny New Books, coming soon.

Thomas Williams – “Viking Britain”

(14 August 2018 – from the publisher)

Williams opens this book with a marvellous appeal to take the Vikings seriously. He sets out the idea that they’re seen as one-dimensional and cartoonish, a stereotype listed alongside gladiators, pirates, knights-in-armour and even dinosaurs,” contrasted with our attitude to the Romans as civilised and worthy of study. He shares a review of the Vikings: Life and Legend exhibition at he British Muesum, which he curated, which slams it for having no “gory recreation” and not appealing to fans of “Horrible Histories”. Would this person criticise an exhibition on the Romans for not making them more exciting and appealing to children? He thinks not. He sets out his intention to rehabilitate this attitude, and to share

the story of how the people of the British Isles came to reorient themselves in a new and interconnected world, where new technologies for travel and communication brought ideas and customs into sometimes explosive contact, but which also fostered the development of towns and trade, forged new identities and gave birth to England and Scotland as unified nations for the first time. (p. xvi-xvii)

He says, “I hope this book may help to restore to the Vikings some of the dignity that they have too often been denied,” (p. +xix) and I think he succeeds in this. He also states that it’s not supposed to be an academic or a definitive book; as a non-academic book I appreciate the care he still puts into the referencing.

Williams writes fascinatingly of the way in which the Vikings slotted in to a place between the past, when they encountered their enemies at barrows and ancient sites, and the future, where the writers of the 19th century studied and spoke about them and formed our current view of these people, right through to now, when so many of the sites and words we see and use hark back to these times. He uses contemporary or near-contemporary texts, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and others, to describe the events from the first raids on the East Coast to the Norman Conquest, carefully and meticulously comparing and evaluating his sources. He discusses the way in which the breadth of the cultural and historical changes the Vikings wrought in Britain and around the world have been reduced by

half-digested Icelandic sagas, Wagnerian wardrobe cast-offs, classical ideas of barbarian virtue and a good dose of romantic nationalism (p. 43)

and in the process have lost the detail and ambiguity – why, he asks later, were both Viking-style and traditional Northumbrian boots being made in York at the same time and what can we tell from that about the mix of the cultures (not much: he’s always careful not to make assumptions).

Once he’s covered the later reincarnations of the stereotypical Viking warrior, we get down to the often convoluted history of the happenings from the first raids onwards. He examines events from different viewpoints where he can – which is fascinating. Scotland and the north get their own treatments, even though the history of Scotland in particular has got lost in the mist of time – again, it’s very clear when we just don’t know who someone was or what happened somewhere. He talks about the Danelaw and Ragnarok with equal authority and is a completely trustworthy companion through this maze of history, never putting a foot wrong.

One curious and I thought very well-done feature is short pieces of creative writing or translation, gleaned from the sources and stitched together, and – I THINK – written only in language that would have had its roots in the times he’s discussing – so no Latinate words. This is a risk, placing fiction in a non-fiction book, but it’s clearly marked and I think it comes off.

I loved the little pieces of pop culture that Williams weaves in, not in the rather odd way that some references were made in “Sacred Britannia” but wryly popped in in a way that doesn’t disrupt the narrative but enhances it – Tolkien and William Morris are mentioned, of course, with their readings of Norse culture and the like, but Douglas Adams’ Slartibartfast and his liking for fjords comes in, and he even manages to compare the somewhat morose writer of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles to Marvin the Paranoid Android, also from Hitchhiker’s.

I also liked the little bits of personal narrative – not so much as in MacFarlane’s works, for instance, but giving a really raw and present sense of being in the landscapes of the Viking age now – which is, after all, one of his points, that a lot of the places and the feelings of being in those places exist now, too. He’s not afraid to insert his own opinions on current as well as older scholarship and I like this bravery and sense of him being very much on his subjects’ side even when he’s being clear-eyed about their cruelties and flaws. I really liked it when he bewailed the fact that the Manx lawspeaker declaims the year’s laws in Manx Gaelic and English (“But not, alas, in Old Norse” (p. 221) – exactly the reaction I would have had).

I loved the little notes pointing to the breadth and depth of the author’s knowledge, which sometimes feel like little personal rejoinders to those of us who have studied the Norse world ourselves, for example an aside on p. 168 when talking about a war banner raised in a battle:

There is a great deal that might be said about ravens and banners, weird sisters and weaving, and their place on the Viking Age battlefield.

I’d like very much for him to say that one day, and will be on the lookout for more books.

Many thanks to the publisher, William Collins, for sending me this review copy in return for an honest review. A slightly different review will appear on Shiny New Books in due course: I wanted to be able to share a more personal review as well as a more professional one.


Sedate lady running 10-16 September 2018 #amrunning #running


I feel like this was an easier week running-wise but harder with my other exercise. I ran 22 miles for the second week in a row, which is dangerous, as I do like patterns and repetition …

Tuesday – First winter club run route and it really was dark when we finished so I’m glad I wore my flourescent bib. It was the “Feck Hill” route, so named for the mean hill all up the main road in the middle of the course. While both our summer routes go up a brutal hill in the end of the park, the winter routes alternate between this and another one. Anyway, I sort of forgot the place we meet in winter is slightly further away than our summer meeting point, so had to zip up there. I ran round with my friend Fay, and I could tell her how proud I was of her completing her first 10k (after announcing to me a couple of months ago that she would never get to that distance: there she was in her race tshirt!). We sprinted the last little bit, as is traditional, and I got my second fastest time for that Strava Segment out of 66 times! Ran back with Trudie and Dave because some kids had been lobbing water bombs from one of the tower blocks as people came in (I’d missed this by being slightly late) so safety in numbers.

5.4 miles. 12:13 mm

Wednesday – Circuits time. I was a bit apprehensive about this as I was feeling a bit nauseous from a not-well-thought-through dinner combo on Tuesday night after club run. I spent ages looking up YouTube videos of how to do press-ups properly. As shown, I can manage one, and get back up, then did the others kind of half. I may need to re-start them propped up on the stairs and work back down to flat ones! I was pleased that I manged to do my two arm weight exercises at the end, as well as equalling or exceeding last week’s totals, but I was staring into space by the end (last pic).





Here’s my record – amazingly even only doing it once a week I’m seeing an improvement. The Burpees I pushed the mat aside then realised noooo and grabbed it back, wasting a good few seconds!

I have found some extra muscles on the side of my thighs (or streamlined knees?) so something is working in some way, and at least I’m managing to do this once a week, right? I never have to make myself run; I do have to make myself do this!

Thursday – I really do love not racing, not being on a training plan, and doing what I want. Thursday, my friend Sara ran the same 10-mile route we did on Sunday (strong woman!) and I ran down the route to join her and run back with her. I did get a bit further than I’d thought, and worried a little (but she’d set off 5 minutes later than I’d thought) and spent a bit of time taking some (bad) photos myself, but here we are outside Edgbaston Cricket Ground on the way back. I got a bit longer of a run than I’d expected then added some weight training carrying 2 x 10kg bags of cat litter home from the supermarket. I had DOMS from yesterday but keeping moving did help.

Edgbaston Cricket Ground. Thanks to Sara for the photo.

6.1 miles. 12:21 min miles

Friday – Claire yoga, and while I was really happy to find out that Claire finds it hard to do press-ups (given that I’d expected my yoga training to help with that), I was chatting with her with wobbly legs, having had a very hip-opening-filled class. Goddess pose is something I find very challenging, but it was useful to go from that into Warrior Two, as I was more aware of where my bottom should be. Lots of thigh squeezing meant I was stiff the next day!

Saturday – Time for a three-stage long run. Our club was doing a parkrun takeover, taking most of the volunteering roles. The aim of this is to get people starting to volunteer and so I decided NOT to volunteer, as I do usually, but to run instead. It was also parkrun’s alternative (off-road – eeps!) route and I wanted to experience it as a runner so I understood it (ummmm). My friend Jenny’s been poorly and through a testing time and wanted a little run with safe old me, so I ran up her way, met her and we ran down to Cannon Hill park together. It was a perfect day for running, sunny but cool. We’re lucky to live in such a leafy place.

Suburban early morning Moseley

Jenny left me at the park and I ran all the way through, collecting a new parkrunner who was heading for our usual start in error along the way and chatting to him. I got to the new meeting place and ran into my friend Greg, reminding him that it would be good to get a picture of the two of us for the Project 365 photo group we’re both in (he had to do much bending of the knees to get us both in).

Liz running, Greg volunteering. Thanks to Greg for the photo

As for understanding the route – erm.

Just … what?

It started on grass and there were gravel slopes, concrete, more grass, park paths, woody paths with tree roots, little bridges – quite cross-countryish really! We had to walk in the early part in the woods so no PBs (I got a time of just over 40 minutes). But I enjoyed my 21st parkrun – I knew most of the marshals so got a lot of personal encouragement and it was good to remind  myself I can do off-road, so I can face other parkruns that do the same. I met up with my friend Meg afterwards, who had been marshalling for her first time at volunteering (hooray!) and had a chat with her and a few others before setting off again. Meg kindly photographed me going off to the main part of the park (I love my shadow in this pic):

And off I go. Thanks to Meg for the photo

3.8 / 3.4 / 3.3 miles for a total of 10.5 miles. 12:26 min miles.

So a good varied week. Next week I have a day in London and officiating at the first Road Relays of the season, so may end up with slightly fewer running miles and will have to work out where to do my strength training … Lots of races on today so thinking of everyone and  how they’re getting on, including the Berlin marathoners from the link-up and my club friends Hannah and Haybie doing the same race!

Miles this week: 22

Progress towards 1,000 miles in the year: 747 miles (only 3 to do in the whole of the rest of the month to hit my target!)

Weekly wrapI take part in the Weekly Wrap run by two wonderful running women and joined by lots of other inspirational women. Wendy’s weekly wrap is here and Holly’s is here.

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