4 mile

If you’re looking for the Grinch this Christmas you could do worse than spend an hour in my company.

I was looking forward to a see-saw Christmas of too much food and drink balanced out by too many runs but now I have to go rummaging around in the back of the cupboard of my conscience and root out my self-control and badly faded sense of Catholic guilt.  The running will be throttled back to rapid dog walking unless I have some sort of miracle cure in the next week or so.

What happened, did I miss a bit of the story I hear you ask. Have his legs finally fallen off?

Nothing so dramatic; just another case of me falling badly while out running.

A 4-mile-keep-it-ticking-over-and-get-a-dog-walk-in-at-the-same-time sort of run.

But it was at night. In the dark. I slipped on  the edge of the path and came down on my left side this time. Sore shoulder, a mere scratch. Sore hip, a mere flesh wound. Landing full on my ribs with my fist under my ribs…..

Crack. – not the house, the whore or the great time in an Irish pub,  but the rib(s)

With all of  these injuries the ability for your body to pick itself up, run a diagnostics check and then let you keep running to get home is amazing. What is less amazing is its ability to reward you with agonising pain almost the minute you stop running.

And the pain has stayed for the last 3 days with no sign of abating.

A visit to the Doctor is pointless.  Ribs are not like legs or arms – put them in a cast and there they stay. Ribs are like ribs – sore.

I’m praying that this blog post calls my bluff and that I’m a hypochondriac and not a slightly plumper version of myself this Christmas.

A nice picture of the red sky this morning – it was like the first 20 miles of an ultra marathon -amazing and you know it’ll only get worse from here on in.

Get you sheep inside!

Get you sheep inside!

Thus it proved, (red sky in the morning, a shepherd’s warning) as it has been raining crappy ice-cold rain since.

A Green Christmas

I normally mull over my blog posts for a few days or weeks (I know, I hide that well in the finished product) before I start the one fingered tapping that produces this distraction.

This evening I’m in the post  run phase of starvation that makes your stomach wonder what it did to offend you before my dinner this evening and I have a few jobs to finish off before the wheel of drudgery starts another revolution on Monday. One of these jobs is  to take a photograph of something that was:

a. Irish

b. Christmasy

This is for my sister in the US (Kindergarten project).

Apart from the obvious problem of there being no shamrocks on our tree most years and a photograph of a bottle of Jameson Whiskey being slightly age inappropriate the main problem is that I’m vaguely traditional and don’t put up the decorations until Christmas is within sight and immediately after Halloween, or even early December don’t count as within sight. If long distance running (or all day drinking) has taught me anything it’s to let the rope out slowly. All these shiny light merchants in late November are like the teenager dancing on the tables at 8:30 and asleep in the corner at 10:30 when the hot girls turn up in the pub.

So, what to do? Lucky for my sister I have an inherent lazy streak and my outdoor lights effort from last year (and the year before and the year before) is still in place so apart from plugging them in it was a straightforward job.

And the house looks better at night  – like so many of us – daylight is less flattering once you crest the hill.

Shadows are your friend, adding allure and covering mistakes.

It's beginning to feel a lot like.....

It’s beginning to feel a lot like…..


Before I get into the meat and two veg of this blog post just an update on my Movember effort:

Heavy metal thuder

Heavy Metal Thunder

Full heavy metal thunder after 3o days. I have toyed with the idea of keeping it and growing some sort of Afghan Mountain Fighter job. I reckon it would scare small children and add some gravitas to my professional ramblings but the idea of being looked at as a prop to a spectacular moustache kind of puts me off. the male version of a lady with amazing assets.

On the running front I’ve kept myself injury free and am now starting to think about a jaunt across the hills of Italy next May. I did toy with a long picnic across the hills of Scotland (the closing date was last weekend) but the Damoclean anxiety of this shadowing me until next June is just too much for me at the moment.

Now, on with the story: Is your glass half full or half empty?

It’s hard to tell these days and can depend on so much; how well your last run went (run being an interchangeable word for round of golf, wank, dog walk etc.), whether your significant other feels you’ve met and exceeded expectations (to use the toxic language of performance management), which way the wind is blowing and what time of the year it is and so on. You get the general picture.

What prompts me to spin-off this early in a blog post on some sort of poetical and philosophical tangent?

I have one or two trips to finish out my year at work. The one this week is a workshop in Brussels on not falling asleep in meetings (not really but you know what I mean). I’ve become exhausted from driving up and down to Dublin to catch the ‘plane to Brussels so I decided to save the planet (a bit) and use trains from Paris to Brussels and Brussels to Amsterdam for the trip home. I had a few hours to kill at Charles De Gaulle Airport yesterday while waiting for an onward train to Brussels. On a dull and grey December Monday this is not what you might describe as aesthetic Xanax pill. Acres and acres of soulless and impersonal concrete and dislocated humans in transit that can make the whole experience seem like a dystopian purgatory.


What was alarming was that I found it to be so beautiful I had to stop myself from beaming at strangers. The resonance between the architecture, the weather and my mind on the day evoked that feeling you get when you feel the warm hum of an electric razor over your skull and the (female) hairdresser blows across the back of your neck.

Camera360_2014_12_1_024435 (1)

Now why was that? Would I have felt equally as disturbed by the scale and brutality of the architecture on a different day?


At this point in the thought process you don’t want to be googling this sort of thing. It turns out that that last question of mine is a whole other branch of human thought (Philosophy is the fancy name for it).


It turns out to be called Subjective Realism or Solipsism. In essence, the only thing you can trust to exist is your own mind. The rest could just be one long cinema projection.

To quote Hamlet: for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. 


Anyway, glass half full.


November 2014

My memory: Stand on a hill at dawn and look over a valley, the valley floor covered in fog. The fog is broken here and there by hills, escarpments and the outline of trees. Like the cows in Fr. Ted some are small and some are far away.

If, like Fr. Dougal, you’re lost click here.

If you’re still lost I’m just trying to say that I generally forget most things but other things are never forgotten because the fog of life never clouds them over.

One of the small cows is that around this time of year  I remember that I get all middle distance and thousand yard stare about my running. The dark November evenings with red wine and open fires  and the fresh memories of summer running tend to boost your confidence.

A combination of on-line discounting of running shoes, my shoulder healing fairly well and doing more thinking about running than actually running (which leads to the delusions of ability that cause me months of regret every year) are leading me to plan next year (from a running perspective – the rest I just make up as I go along).

I’d like to try the Italian Job again. Possibly without being injured and with an eating plan that involves being able to eat past 65km.

Apart from that maybe a marathon or two to keep the boredom at bay and so that I can make it look like I actually race rather than jog.

It’s Movember as well:

This was last week and I’m clearly not from the selfie generation. I tried to do the impish thing with the big eyes and innocent look but I think I just scueeded in making myseld look (more) like I might have chemical imbalances in my brain.

Look into my eyes.....the moustache is amazing

Look into my eyes…..the moustache is amazing

Getting better-ish

I had my first decent run in weeks yesterday afternoon. My shoulder has stopped being really sore all the time and is now just sore some of the time. Two steps forward, one step back sort of thing.

Yesterday afternoon it wasn’t sore so I found myself running like I’d stolen something and was still accelerating at mile 10 (of 10). These runs are the business and the burning legs and lungs make the post-run cup of tea taste delicious. The false optimism of this one run and the mending shoulder now makes me think that I could do a nice easy marathon  between now and the end of the year. Easily lead as my mother would say.

More important news – the wife’s birthday today so it’s all hands on deck for cake this evening.

Suprise package - dress rehersal

Suprise package – dress rehersal




In May  of this year I was at the height of my training for my 100k race. I was on the tightrope walk between fitness and injury and the subsequent account of the race shows you how much you can do with a strong mind and a damaged body. Strong is a word that can be swapped for stupid in the thesaurus of running terms.

During a flight back from Brussels this week I was brought back to a brief moment in time during May 2014 that meant nothing to me at the time but bobbed back up to the surface like a diving cormorant last night.

I was queuing to board the ‘plane and was coasting on two cylinders. I’ve discovered that travel is much more pleasurable when you stop caring. I’ve learnt to adopt the demeanour of an elderly fat Labrador. This is helped by being in a constant state of exhaustion from late nights, early starts and long days (and 9% Belgian beer).  As I shuffled to the boarding card and passport open on the photograph page checkpoint I noticed a woman about my own age – give or take a few years who had to walk with the aid of a stick (I’d noticed her on the flight out the previous evening as well in case you think I’m some sort of MILF stalker.) She was sitting patiently next to one of those dignity destroying airport wheelchairs and was typing away on her iPad.  I don’t know the acronym for what ailed her but it looked like one of those reverse-lottery ones that strikes you down in without warning and you don’t get better from. One of the illnesses that proves that if there is an interventionist God he doesn’t sweat the small stuff.

What struck me about her was the contemplation of her movements; she really thought about how she got around. For any runners out there it was the sort of way you might meditate on the pain of climbing a stairs two days after a marathon. You’ve never felt so alive because it all seems so painful.

Anyway, centered Buddhist I am not so I got on with my scramble to my seat and settled into worrying about whether I was going to catch Ebola from the drunk, sweating man singing African folk songs who was coughing behind me.

As I drove home after the flight on the empty motorway between Dublin and Cork I was brought back to last May. Brought back in such detail as to wonder if time travel was really possible.

In the weeks leading up to my ultra marathon in May I had had some hectic weeks of work where I was like an uglier version of George Clooney in Up in the Air and was spending most of my time either dozing or trying to doze in various departure lounges in European airports.

At the end of one of those weeks I was in Düsseldorf Airport trying to make it home for a normal Friday night of shouting at the TV and drinking too much red wine.

I arrived at my gate smelling of whatever gigolo’s scent was on promotion at the duty free and threw myself down with the care a hungry teenager shows for a gear bag. I had had a week of being constructively engaged – where you tilt your head at an angle when someone is making a trivial point so it looks like you give a fiddlers but you’re really gazing over their shoulder at the guy with the hedge trimmer outside the window of your meeting and wondering why  you’d chosen international policy making as a career.

As I sat there, and this is what came back to me last night, I watched the various comings and goings of the passengers for my flight and the other flights. It’s a nice game that passes the time and as the flights to Ireland and the UK are corralled with the non-EU countries (we’re not part of the Schengen area as our jingoistic neighbours have a problem with it) so you get to sit and watch the middle eastern guy with the 12 wives and 12 mother-in-laws wander past like a troubled shepherd and the North American with his sweatshirt tucked into his chinos. My game involves constructing their back stories so that I can see whether I’m right or not once the open their mouths. If you’ve any imagination it’s a great place to find characters for a novel.

So, there I was, playing my game and a guy in his late 20’s/early 30’s settles down just opposite me. Nothing special about him, no birth defects or comedy body shape. I have him pegged as american as his taste in clothes is slightly more GAP than H&M. His backpack choice is Jack Wolfskin which makes me change my mind immediately and re-cast him as some sort of romantic German with a taste for the Guinness and the Craic. I don’t give him too much more thought until his girlfriend comes to sit next to him.

She moves with a deliberate purpose. The connoisseur of a fine wine as opposed to my larger lout. She settles herself gently onto the seat next to him like a space craft touching down on a foreign planet testing the firmness of the seat with an ever slowing movement. once seated she places her hands on her lap with the delicacy that a cat might tuck its front paws under itself. Her elegance and awareness of movement was what struck me at the time. Almost like the slow motion sequences in the Six Million Dollar Man. Dyspraxic she is not.

The only sign that something is wrong is her thinness doesn’t appear to be from running (not that that is wrong in itself) and the headscarf covering her hair loss from chemotherapy.  In your late 20’s this seems like a shitty hand of cards.

I have no idea why I have remembered this now.

If I had to link it to running (to ensure that this remains a “running blog”) I would hazard a guess that it was because my current sore shoulder looks like it might need some months to get better or the intervention of a wet carpenter (an orthopaedic surgeon).

This has forced me to think quite a lot about how I lift and carry things, open doors, hug the kids and get on with things in general.

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.