Hampshire Runner

He Pants in Hants

Month: September 2018


Leaves slip from the trees, children slip back to school, and so one season slips into another.

There is change in all our lives, and sometimes it happens almost unannounced.  One day we wake up and find ourselves grown up, an employee, a spouse, a parent…………..

How did that happen?  We didn’t hear the countdown.  No one trained us for this new role.

We slip from the rivalries of school to the friendships of college, from the worries of adolescence to the responsibilities of student-hood, from the cramming of A Levels to the carefree fresher’s life.

We slip from the second-by-second watch of a new parent to the relief and concern of the nursery drop-off, from the joy of school to the worry of exams, from the laughter of sleepovers to the tears of broken friendships.

Even in later life, we slip into different things – and I’m not talking about elasticated trousers or comfortable shoes………….

Writing about retired racehorses in “At Grass,” Philip Larkin says

Almanacked, their names live; they

Have slipped their names, and stand at ease,                                                                        Or gallop for what must be joy,

The magnitude of the change is emphasised by the sentence’s being split between stanzas, and crystallised by the beautiful observation that what makes them gallop now is very different from their former motivation.

Leaves slip from trees, and for one particular amber leaf, it’s an exciting ride on the wind of change.

This award-winning inventor, prize-winning mathematician, dedicated crossfitter and parkrunner – oh and A* student – has the world before her.

If she will take one last leaf out of the old book, she will enjoy year one – grasp it academically, sportingly and socially as her brother (multi-award-winning hockey player and captain, brilliant mathematician and psychologist, owner of the family parkrun PB, the only BSU student with his own fan club, and all-round hunk) did – and slip the limitations of college, but not the love of learning, slip the limitations of local life, but not the love of friends, and slip the limitations of Alton, but not the love of home.

And any big slips?  Make them in the first year, not the fourth!


Slip away – we won’t even know you’re gone!

On 27th October 2014, as you know, she ran round the field at the back of our new house, and started me on a new running life.  Change slipped over me like a lightweight outer shell – more running, less eating, more weights, less weight.

And this Sunday, the day after she goes off to university, God willing I will run the Farleigh Wallop 10km, my 300th race or parkrun since that watershed four years ago – and my first without her around.

I guess she can slip away.  I guess her work here is done.

Days slip through our fingers like autumn leaves slipping from the trees, like memories, like chances lost round a different corner.  With the world before her, I am reminded of how much we all can still do.  There is work to be done; there are people to be loved; there are books to be written; and yes, there are miles to be run.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,                                                                                    But I have promises to keep,                                                                                                    And miles to go before I sleep,                                                                                                  And miles to go before I sleep.

As she slips into her exciting future, I am left with a different world in which to shape, or slip into, my own.

And whilst we may be slipping through each other’s fingers geographically, we simultaneously hold each other’s hands, we hold each other’s hopes, and we hold each other’s hearts, with a grip, with a gaze, and with a guarantee that can never weaken, waver or withdraw.

Slip away, my love………………… and smash it!


On 31st January 2017, Ron Hill did not run.  Now, in the preceding months, we’d had the Brexit vote and its aftermath, Trump’s election and Leicester City winning the Premiership title, but Hill’s inactivity was by far the biggest news in my world.

You see, Ron Hill, European marathon champion in 1969 and Commonwealth marathon champion in 1970, had run every day from 20th December 1964 to 30th January 2017 – a world record.  Actually, that’s not strictly true – he’d run twice a day (and once on Sundays) for the first 26.2 years of that streak.

Naturally, the need to keep this up saw him do some strange things – like running round an airport lounge, like running a championship marathon in the morning and then going out again in the afternoon when his race was not scheduled for a Sunday, like “running” with crutches after bunion surgery, like running more than twice a day when he crossed the international date line.

There was also the story that, after one knee operation, his doctor told him not to walk on it for two weeks.  Hill ran (“he didn’t say anything about not running on it.”)

Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

On 7th September 2013, I decided that, if I wanted to keep remotely fit, I would have to go to the gym at least twice a week.

So far I have managed to do just that.

My partner’s mother died in February.  We got the call early in the morning and dashed up to Norfolk to see her.  We spent the rest of the week making the necessary arrangements.

But I had only gone to the gym once that week.

Problem.  Big problem.

Then I had a brilliant idea!

We called in at the local leisure centre, said we were moving to the area, and asked to look round the gym.  We signed the forms and, once in the gym, I wandered around, picked up one dumbbell and put it down again.

For the next three months, I was plagued with text messages inviting me to join the gym at their specially reduced rate that would only last until midnight today!

But it was a small price to pay for getting in that second gym “session.”

Now, you’re absolutely right: what earthly value was there in picking up one dumbbell and putting it down again?  What possible benefit did Ron Hill gain from doing a mile on crutches?

Do we own the streak?  Or does the streak own us?

Are we, as some streakers have it, simply too weak to stop?

The way I look at it is this: if I had not done that second “session” that week, it would have been all the easier not to do one when things got difficult another week.  A streak is like a bargain with the devil: if I promise to keep you (the streak) going – to run every day whatever the circumstances, to go to the gym twice a week however inconvenient – then you (the streak) will provide me with the motivation to maintain it when enthusiasm rather than opportunity or time is what is lacking.

It’s artificial, yes, but it offers mere mortals like me a framework to hang onto, a way to keep things going, a means by which to never give up.

Never give up!  Derek Turnbull taught me that.  Twice we have stayed on his farm near Invercargill on New Zealand’s South Island, and I have shared runs with the man who ran a 2:41 marathon at 65, and who won gold medals at 800, 1,500, 5,000, 10,000, marathon and cross-country at many World Masters Games.  I got him to autograph my training diary once, and the only other thing he wrote apart from his name were those three words.  Never give up!

And streaks are an important, an extreme manifestation of never giving up – because they are binary – either you ran today or you didn’t, either you went to the gym twice this week or you failed.  Streaks take the decision out of your hands.

But it’s got to be the RIGHT streak.

A little while ago, I decided to start my days by performing 75 press-ups, then taking the dog for a walk or run, and then drinking apple cider vinegar.

It got to be too much.  I would lie in bed dreading the moment I would have to get up and do the press-ups, and then drink the wretched shudder-inducing ACV.  It was self-defeating.  So I gave up the press-ups and vinegar.  (The dog wouldn’t let me give up the other bit.)

So I’ve got a few streaks going at the moment – the aforementioned gym visits, running at 5am before my networking breakfast, covering more than 40 miles each week, running certain races every year.  So far, they are good streaks, not bad streaks, but if they turn bad, I hope I’ll have the strength to stop.

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