Accident prone

Part of my job is to sit in meetings in Brussels drinking “coffee” and saying things in a hybrid English that is part-acronymese-part-technicalese. Imagine the English language bereft of metaphor and imagination.

I’m in one of those meetings right now (on a break in case you think I’m on the lang) and am nursing  the latest of my running injuries.

Is it a sore leg? A numb hip? a black toe nail? a truculent knee?

No, it’s none of these and what’s more, it looks like it could be one of the most serious injuries I’ve ever had (and from my state of near permanent injury that is a weighty claim).

My fitness and bio-mechanics are in good shape with just the slightest element of motivation drop hitting the running where I’ve let one or two runs peter out at mile 7 or 8.

To re-ignite the flame of passion in my running I shaved my legs, had my roots done, sent the kids to my mothers, lit some scented candles and bought a new thong (OK – I went on an 18 mile run just over a week ago).

The run was largely uneventful  – always a good sign – but I had an unfortunate mishap at mile 17.

I’ve tried explaining the mechanics of the injury to the triage nurse, the doctor and the radiologist but they’ve all tilted their head sideways at me and given me the look you give a child who’s eaten your lipstick (the what were you thinking look).

Basically, at mile 17 I found myself doing a shoulder first dive tackle at knee height on a metal post.

To say I was un-prepared for this would be an understatement. The sun glasses shot straight off my face, the phone ended up on the road and I ended up lying on my back on the road, unable to breath and stars spinning around my field of vision.

I lay there with passers by giving me the wide berth you give to an old person who collapses on the street – the sort of Ebola walk around.

I scrambled to my knees with a shoulder hanging like an action hero who’d been downed by the baddies but who wasn’t out of the game yet.

Like most stupid people who run I did the sensible thing and jogged slowly home.

By the time I got to the shower and the endorphins had worn off I realised I was not in a good way. The range of motion in my shoulder was limited to arse and ball scratching but anything like nose picking and head scratching (I sound like a monkey) were out of the question.

I sucked down a few neurofen and got on with the rest of the evening.

By the next morning I found myself carrying my right arm around in my left arm and by lunchtime I was handing over €250 to skip the triage queue at the local swiftcare clinic.

The only good news was that no bones seemed broken.

Now, a week later with un-kept hair and an unpicked nose the shoulder is still not right – mainly because I have left the arm sling lying in a heap on the floor and gotten on with life.

On a more fundamental level it’s mainly because it was an impact injury that has done some moderate to serious damage to the rotor cuff (God bless google) and this will take some weeks to sort itself out. I seem to have knocked some ribs out of shape as well (like being knifed if I sneeze or cough). My main mode of injury is over use and inflammation of the joints which goes away if you just stop running.

I’ll keep you informed on my progress as I try to regain the ability to pick my own nose.




New Balance 1400

For all you mayflies of the blogosphere: be warned – this post is about the tedious and boring subject of running shoes, gait, biomechanical efficiency and injury. If you stick with it ’till the end you’ll get some sort of moral (I hope).

When it comes to running and the fetishistic subject of running shoes you end up encountering a staggering array of opinions on what’s right and what’s verboten. But, after a few years of confusion you start to realise that opinions are like assholes – everyone’s got one (I was going to say dicks there but that didn’t work – unless only men read this blog).

Barefoot shoes, structured support shoes, custom-made insoles, €19.99 jobs from Lidl, €200 jobs from Hoka. Everybody you meet is some sort of evangelist for one choice or another; your general lack of enthusiasm for the subject makes you wonder whether you’re really committed to this new religion or not.

If you think about running as a new form of  religion ( and God knows it has enough nutters involved to qualify as one) then your choice of shoes is your holy book: your Torah; your Bible; your Quoran; your Avesta; your Book of Shadows (I looked all of these up; they’re all real.)  The distance you run or race is akin to your form of worship: 5k – 10 mile is Catholic – often and fast – while marathons are Protestant – long, boring and painful – and ultra marathons are Buddhism – transcendental.

Not having a firm opinion about your choice of running shoe is tantamount to heresy.

In order to circumvent this theological laxism I’ve spent most of the last 7 years running in a pair of shoes from new Balance that used to be called the 1060 series (1060 – 1064) and are now known as the 1080 series (v1 – v4).  It wasn’t just the one pair; I’ve eaten up at least 15 pairs. New Balance suite me more that other shoes because they don’t take the skin off the inner arch of my feet like Asics, Addidas and Saucony have done in the past (i.e. I’ve got wide feet – a broad church if you’re still trying to connect this to religious themes).

These shoes represent the little island in the middle of the Venn diagram where you can get on with your mediocre ambitions.



The problem with using these shoes for so long is that I’ve never stopped, taken a step back and asked myself had I changed in any way over the 7 or so years I’ve been using them.

Apart from getting older and slower I had never asked myself a critical question like has the way you run changed in any way? Put another way I’ve never considered whether at least 10,000 miles of running had changed me biomechanically in any way.

A strange combination of curiosity, on-line reviews, some speed creeping into my running, my old shoes approaching the banjaxed mark and heavy discounting on-line saw me click “buy” a few weeks ago on a pair of road-safety neon yellow New Balance 1400s.

A few days later and the internet pixies had delivered them to my front door.

My first impressions of the shoes were that there wasn’t that much of them there. I was starting to wonder what I had paid all that money for when they weren’t really much more than a sheet of foam with a minimal upper.

I laced them up and headed out the door for my 10 mile run.

Then it became clear.

With so little shoe surrounding my foot I had to radically change the stride pattern from midfoot/heel to a midfoot/forefoot landing pattern. This in turn made running much more efficient which meant that for the same effort I was about 30 seconds a mile faster. 7:40/mile versus 8:15/mile and for slow work 8:05/mile versus 8:45/mile.

A way of conceptualizing these shoes is to think of someone (preferably a woman)  who’d been wearing nun-knickers and a monster bra for 7 years and was now out and about in a spangly G-string and no bra. You have to suck in and hold yourself differently. But how long can you suck it in for? Do you really need the nun-knickers and is the G-string just a once-in-a-while thing or were you ready to go semi-commando all the time?

Whether I was ready to burn my bra or not comes down to something that is at the core of the whole running industry: What works for you and how do you know it works for you? Let’s assume you don’t have infinite funds when we try to answer this question.

Runners (the people, not the shoes) invariably exist in one of two physical conditions: Injured or recovering from an injury.

The reason for this is simple and has to do with not the body but the mind. Runners have generally got a deficit in one of the three areas required to continue to run and to enjoy it: The transmission, the engine and the control system (legs, heart and lungs and the mind).

Most people who become physically injured (as opposed to chest complaints or losing motivation) do so because the positive mental feedback loop that running produces encourages them to push their bodies into the area where they pick up injuries. They push themselves because they want to expand the boundaries of their own abilities (to test their limits) and this is all tied up with the spiritual and religious parallels that running attracts.

Running shoes are one of the ways that help you to stay afloat in the shark infested waters of the sea of injury. You’ll stay above water but eventually the sharks will get you.

With a poor control system your running is like a kid with his mum’s Toyota Starlet. You think it’s F1 while everyone else knows it’s more like an out of control shopping trolley.

So, controlling your mind so that your legs and core can build enough strength and having patience is the key to running injury free – and inherent talent but I’m assuming that most of us don’t have that.

But controlling your mind is oh-so difficult when you’re bombarded with messages promising you a svelte body and the ability to run to the moon on a sip of water and two brazil nuts. I’ve tried most fads except the vibram 5 fingers (mainly because I have an Emperor’s New Clothes problem with paying more and more money for less and less shoe) and in the end all I’ve felt is a creeping suspicion that I’ve been duped.

How do you resolve this? How do you know when to change? How quickly do you adopt? Why does my washing machine eat one of every pair of socks I own?

I can’t or won’t profess to know the answer to these or any other questions.For me what seems to have happened is that by focusing on ultra marathons for a few years I’ve been able to see beyond the puppy-like urge to run until I get injured. I’ve been able to see that patience really does pay off and less can be more.

This ability to control my will seem to have allowed me to deconstruct my running so that I can work on strength and then move onto speed (or distance – never both – I just don’t have the talent or the drive)

So, I’m able to run in my bright yellow G-string – My New Balance 1400’s – and not feel sore.

I don’t think I could do an ultra marathon in them but they have allowed me to have some confidence in my inherent strength to be able to test out some other simpler shoes (Hokas – I’m looking at you)

Would it work for you? I don’t know but if you recognise any of the patterns I’ve described in this post amongst the muddle of metaphors and analogies then you might be able to pinpoint where you are.

New Shoes. New me

Like an unwashed G-string, they’re filthy now





Comfortably numb

Behind the swan-like exterior of this blog there’s a special workshop-cum-shed where all the magic happens. On the work bench of that shed there sits a perfectly formed blog post about how I have ascended to the zen like state of running 10 pretty nippy miles every second day on nowt but fresh air and dreams. All injury free and with shoes made of gossamer.

The blog post still sits there on the work bench because, surprising as it may seem, I am (fairly) honest.

That and the fact that I’ve felt a strange tingling in my trousers over the past week or so.

The sort of tingling that means you’re less teenage boy and more chronic user of google as a GP.

I appear to have developed something called meralgia paraesthetica which is caused by:

  • Being morbidly obese
  • Wearing skinny jeans
  • Running too much

(Not all at the same time)

All a very glamorous way of saying that the outside of my left hip has a trapped nerve that doesn’t cause me too much pain but does feel weirdly like someone elses hip (I’ve no sensation in the skin on the hip).

The treatment for this condition is that  you lose weight, wear a smock with no pants on or stop running. There’s not much weight to lose and I am currently considering my options on the smock.

The last option will clearly never work.

I will keep you posted on the smock shopping front.

Before I forget, I have changed running shoe – to a lightweight racing flat – the New Balance 1400 – more to follow in the next post.

New Shoes. New me

New Shoes. New me

Docks Grab Bucket

Mechanical Symmetry

Mechanical Symmetry


On the way back to the car after the trip around the LÉ Aoife I saw the this bulk cargo grab bucket asleep waiting for the next load of feed or fertilizer to arrive in Cork. The colour of the bucket, all polished rust in the sun is what drew me to it; the symmetry only became apparent back at the laptop. 

A real case of form following function.



Escaping Rope

For the second half of our heritage day here in Cork last Saturday  we took the easy option and took a tour of the Irish Naval Vessel the LÉ Aoife (LÉ stands for Long Éireannach and means Irish Ship for all the non-natives reading this).

Is it heritage?

Well, judging by the age of the vessel it soon would be. It was laid down in 1978 and has been in active service since 1979. It has the sturdy build quality that started to go out of fashion as our disposable society started in earnest in the early 1980’s. Two screws instead of one.

The nice thing about these boats is they’re all named after characters from Irish mythology. Aoife was the step-mother of the Children of Lir for those of you wondering.

Wikipedia is as good a place as any to read up on these things if you’ve the curiosity to drag you over there.

When you’re 14 the idea of 20mm cannons is enough to get you dreaming of a life of Rum, Sodomy and the Lash. when you have a 6 year old moaning and hanging off your arm it’s less enticing.

But the regimented routine that ships life brings is always interesting to us land lubbers.

I read something over the weekend about photography that said that  looking through a camera view finder  was the best way of being able to look at the world without needing a camera. I suppose it has something to do with being able to see everyday objects out of context and seeing how they might mean something else with a little sprinkle of imagination.

Off to get some shade

Off to get some shade

Look at the rope. While no one was looking it decided it had had enough of being coiled up in the hot sun and had just decided to head off to look for some shade.

Running is still fine although 10 miles yesterday in the rain has left me with very tender nipples – might try some cabbage leaves…..

Cork Heritage

It’s Heritage Week here in Cork. This is the time of the year when you start to realise that you don’t know your city very well!

Big E, Small T

Big E, Small T

This is a tiny neglected graffiti covered lane way in an old part of Cork. It was the Beverly hills of it’s day though as it was one of the first suburbs to be built outside the demolished city walls.

Samuel Pike was a 37 year old Quaker who had branched out into property development. There must have been a dispute between the stone masons and the stone cutters as the quality of the lettering on the sign is pretty appalling.

This morning I was blissfully unaware of all of this but thanks to the knowledge of Tom Spalding I am now even more informed about my city.


Running is going well.  The new shoes haven’t killed me yet.

Budgie Smugglers

You’re on a beach, preferably foreign – so you don’t have a full  handle on the societal norms – and you’re wearing your regular swimming gear.

If you’re a middle-aged man it’s a pair of trunks, with a leg length somewhere above or at the knee that are either a plain colour or some sort of exotic print – it depends on how much peacock you have in your DNA. As a woman it’s some sort of costume that covers enough without making you feel like you’re either a nun or your mother.

You look around and you start to notice that most of the people your age are wearing decidedly less swimsuit than you are. And they seem to be getting away with it. It’s not pretty, but it’s not as grotesque as you might have thought. nobody’s in their prime past 35 but most people are looking good for their age in their budgie smugglers and strappy bikinis. After a few days of this you start to feel that the old aphorism Less is more might actually mean something and not just be a reference to Apple design.

So, buoyed by this new sense of liberty, encouraged by the laissez-faire attitude of the locals, you find yourself in the local beach shop browsing the cheese wire that passes for swimwear.

You leave the shop with your tiny package (and your new swimming togs) and you head back to your accommodation to try them on.

You’re hoping for more Tom Daley on the 10m board than Ray Winstone in Sexy Beast as you arrange your equipment into the new speedos and head out to the beach.

As you settle yourself on the beach you feel slightly self-conscious as the fresh air gusts around your upper thighs and the application of sun oil to your freshly revealed milky white bits feels disconcertingly like a service you should be paying for.

After a few minutes of lying there you’re wondering how long you can hold in your midriff before it all falls apart. In the end you realise that if you lie on your front you can relax like a walrus on a beach. You survey the beach in front of you with your chin propped on the fist column and you come to the slow realisation that almost everyone else is at the same thing.

Trying, beyond hope, to make do with what they’ve got. There are only one or two decent human specimens on the beach and they’re emotionally infantile narcissists. As deep as a puddle. Genetically perfect but not the polymath we all become as we get older.

F*** it, you think, I look fine and what’s more, (Another benefit of getting older) I don’t care.

The old - trusty beach shorts

The old – trusty beach shorts

As this is a running blog and stories about running are invariably not that interesting the above allegory is a more interesting way of saying I have just bought some new running shoes.  They are smaller and lighter than my normal ones and only time will tell if they work out for me. I took them out for 10 miles yesterday and they seem to make running fast easier but I suspect that over longer distances I will suffer some sort of injury (think of your equipment falling out of your speedos).

The new - my speedos

The new – my speedos