Run, turbo, run, run, (jab!), run, run

As if someone flicked a switch, we went from freezing all last week to about 10℃ (50℉) on Monday. I made the most of it and ran 10.3km (6.4m). Sadly, a second switch is about to turn on the rain. 

The next tranche of vaccinations in England (including us over 65s) was announced to be getting underway this week. On Monday I got my invite letter and by midday I had booked appointments for both jabs. Considering I have no (known) health issues and take no medicines, I’m sure there are more deserving cases – but I’m in the process and grateful for that.

The rain showers arrived over night on Monday – they weren’t as bad as forecast on Tuesday but I opted for an hour on the turbo – 28.5km (17.7m) – with a horrible example of how mind games can go wrong. I was deliberately not looking at the clock to avoid ‘death by watching time crawl by slowly’ but looked when I was sure I had done about 55 minutes. It was really deflating to see that I had done only 44. I’m surprised I managed not to bail out at the 45 minute mark.

I’m very impressed by people who have mastered new skills or learnt new languages during the various lockdowns. My own (rather pathetic) achievement is learning to sharpen my chainsaw chains. Much of Tuesday was spent cutting wood and taking some dead branches out of an apple tree. I’m not exactly setting the artistic or literary worlds alight.

Wednesday’s weather was also mild, breezy and wet. We decided to run (7km, 4.3m) between the forecast showers – but still got soaked. Much the same on Thursday but with a colder breeze and we did find a gap between showers for 5.5km (3.4m).

Friday was rather grey and dank so I took a rest day. It was really just laziness but I’ve decided to say I was mentally and physically preparing myself for an early evening trip to the football stadium in Oxford to get my first Covid jab. For die hard Swindon Town followers (we follow them but I refuse to support anyone to the degree that I have to hate anyone else) Oxford United are the great enemy.

Chanting is a ritual at British football matches – both to support your own team and to deride the opposition and their supporters. The Oxford stadium, quaintly, has stands on only three sides. At one match, taunting the (very quiet) away supporters, the Oxford fans chanted “Shall we sing you a song” to which the response came “Shall we build you a stand”.

It was a very slick vaccination process – in and out in under 15 minutes. Just a coincidence, surely, that I went to Oxford and got the Oxford Astra Zenica vaccine?

Happily, no side effects so on Saturday morning, other than a sore arm where I got the jab, so we all ran – fairly gently, just in case – for the usual 7km. It was surprisingly hard and I did feel very tired – I wonder if that was anything to do with the previous night’s vaccination. What is clear is that (sadly) there were no performance-enhancing additives in the Covid jab.

There would be no 6 Nations Rugby to watch while on the turbo on Sunday, so I went for a short run with my wife and son, before he and I added another loop for a total of 11.7km (7.25miles). The weather is improving and I ran in a short sleeve compression top and a long sleeved top that (it just occurred to me) I bought in 1997 for training for my first marathon – it doesn’t owe me a lot.


The running has been totally unstructured at present – no proper training schedule, no tempo runs, long slow runs, hill work, fartlek etc. – but at least my knee and Achilles are happier with the reduced mileage after January’s 200km.

I believe that the ultra will be OK (in the absence of injury or illness) but I am not sure if my ageing body will take the mileage of the proper training programme. As I am not too worried about how long the ultra takes, I may need to prioritise the longer training runs and replace some of the others with cycling.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: No matter how beautiful and well crafted a coffin might look, it will not make anyone wish for death

2. BBC News website: Dog left $5 million (£3.6 million) by deceased owner

Bill Dorris left Lulu the border collie in the care of his friend, Martha Burton. The will states that Burton is to be reimbursed for Lulu’s reasonable monthly expenses.

I am very happy to adopt Lulu (or indeed, be adopted by her)

3. BBC News website: Mercedes-Benz car recall

The problem is with the cars’ eCall feature, which alerts emergency services of an accident and relays a vehicle’s location to them. A fault means it is possible that the wrong location could be sent.

Luckily, Mercedes have their eCall system to locate the cars. Of a recall affecting over 1 million cars, only 50 have been found (sorry, Mercedes, I made that up)

4. BBC News website: Man fined £150 for fly-tipping leaves in a wood

He swept the leaves from the pavement in front of his house and drove 3 bags of them to nearby countryside and scattered them to degrade in a wooded area.

Not exactly dumping an old fridge by the roadside – they weren’t even his leaves!

5. BBC News website: Dutch crisis as court orders end to Covid curfew

The court said the 21:00 to 04:30 curfew breaches citizens’ rights to free movement and was imposed by an emergency law when there was no “acute emergency”.

Catch 22: When the cabinet decided on the curfew they sought the backing of MPs, but by waiting for parliamentary support, in the judges eyes, they had disproved the need for emergency legislation.

Depending on your personal stance, either this the court showing proper regard for the law, free from political pressure, or an example of the judges’ pig headed detachment from the real world

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Turbo, turbo, run, turbo, run (baby it’s cold outside)

I planned to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday night but It begins late over here and I confess that I didn’t even manage to stay up to see the start. What a lightweight.

In part, that was due to an early start on Monday for a Covid-compliant ‘outing’ as our older son and his girlfriend moved house. Government lockdown guidance says that, where a removal firm cannot be used (it couldn’t as their completion came through quickly) one other household can help in the move, provided social distancing and appropriate hygiene is observed – so we helped.

It was tough, but rules are rules, so we were masked, distanced and sanitised like it was going out of fashion. It was also tough because it snowed gently throughout and a move across London means tortuous journeys. A hard 13 hours spent driving and shifting several car loads of packed boxes and bags down from their flat and into the new house.

Tuesday was equally cold so it was the turbo in the evening. No great payback for two days without a run – a hard 45 minutes @28.6kph (17.8mph). How did I ever get sufficiently cycle-fit to do the ‘everesting’?

A significant UK anniversary happened on Tuesday – but was certainly not celebrated. It was exactly a year since the arrival, in the back of an Uber, of London’s first Covid-19 patient at Lewisham Hospital. If only we’d known then what we know now …

Wednesday was (again) cold. As I was getting ready to run I remembered that nobody pays me to do it – I run for pleasure but was struggling to see what pleasure I might have got out of a run just then. Accordingly, the kit went back in the drawer and I decided that a session on the turbo in the evening was the better way to go.

I rationalised it away as part of my aim to reduce the running and increase the cycling this month ahead of April’s sportive and the start of the ultra marathon training in March – but I know I rather wimped out (and I can live with that). I did an hour on the turbo for 28.3km (17.6m).

Thursday was very cold again but it had almost climbed to freezing (other than for the significant windchill) by the time I ran in the afternoon. It was a cold 10.3km (6.4m) at 4 hour marathon pace (5:41/km).

Hard to believe, but Friday was very cold again – not Canada or Siberia type of cold, but cold for the UK. It’s not that it was too cold to run – just that it was too cold to want to run. Warm in my virtuous glow of having run on Thursday, I decided not to repeat the feat but I retreated to the turbo in the early evening. Another hour for 28.2km (17.5m).

Sorry for the broken record but it was below freezing again on Saturday with a biting wind. Going to the shops in the morning I’d seen a runner in shorts and T shirt – my kit, just after midday, included winter running trousers, three long sleeved tops and a gilet. The same 10.3km as Thursday, but 7 secs/km faster. Surprisingly enjoyable.

The cold snap started to break on Sunday, a little less cold but still with the bitter wind and with milder and wetter weather on its way – it will be good to be able to complain about the rain rather than the cold.

It appears that Valentine’s Day is not a day of exercise so my effort is going into eating and drinking.

Signs of hope with the virus in the UK as the second (tidal) wave of infections starts to recede but the lockdown continues to have severe effects in so many ways. For us, it’s less severe than for most and we are very grateful for that.

Missing out on our usual January family ski holiday is pitifully small beer in comparison to what others are missing out on. Sadly, it doesn’t look like skiing later in the season is going to happen as cases in France appear to be heading upwards and the resorts remain closed. It will be my first skiing missed in over 25 years. Roll on the vaccinations.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: He who runs after good fortune runs away from peace

2. BBC News website: Fines for breaching lockdown after a mountain rescue volunteer seriously injured in a fall while going to their aid

One man from Liverpool and another from Leicester were camping in breach of coronavirus rules above Kirkstone Pass (in the Lake District) in the face of severe weather warnings. The volunteer suffered “significant injuries” falling 150m (500ft) responding to reports of one of the campers suffering chest pains.

I struggle to see what part of ‘Let’s break the law, increase the risk of the spread of the virus, take on dangerous weather and put voluntary rescuers at risk’ is acceptable.

3. BBC News website: Katie Boulter (British tennis player) says she can win “a lot of matches” at Grand Slam level as she prepares to launch the British bid when the Australian Open starts on Monday. The 24-year-old is the only Briton playing on day one of the delayed Grand Slam, starting at about 03:00 GMT.

My heart sank when I read this and, of course, shortly after 04:00 GMT she was out of the tournament, beaten 6-1, 6-4.

4. BBC News website: Coup in Myanmar

The leader of the coup in Myanmar, General Min Aung Hlaing, has spoken on TV, seeking to justify the action amid mass protests. He said November’s election, won in a landslide by the party of detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, had been unfair.

The general did not issue direct threats to protesters, saying only that no-one was above the law.

A very sad situation. I wonder if the bit about no-one being above the law applies to leaders of military coups?

5. BBC News website: Small digital photo gallery has pictures blocked by Facebook for containing “overtly sexual” content

The Winchester-based photographer’s banned images include:

  • a sign with the word “disco”, on the grounds that it was promoting alcohol
  • a set of tramlines in France, which went against Facebook’s ticket sales policy
  • a cow standing in a field
  • the England cricket team in a huddle
  • ripples on a pond which was said to be selling “adult products”
  • another “overtly sexual” photo, of a high-rise office building

Run (x5), turbo – (sadly, the hills aren’t alive with the sound of the midnight train to Georgia)

Back to Puddleduck Lane – no ducks but many, many puddles

My wife wanted to run on Monday (more accurately, ‘decided to run’, as she would never say she likes running – it’s just part of her fitness regime) so we all got out for the usual 7km (4.3m).

Tuesday would have been a good day for a run but I stuck to my ‘run less, ride more’ guns. We spent time clearing away bits of tree (and a few bottles and other bit of debris donated by humans) that we had pulled out of the drainage ditch over the weekend. Most of the wood is rotten so, in burning terms, it probably has the calorific value of celery. It’s probably only fit for the bonfire and the wood burner will miss out.

Onto the turbo in the early evening, 45 minutes @28kph (17.4mph). Not quick by recent efforts – I’m wondering if I’ve not been cycling enough, or running too much, or if I’m just lacking the motivation to pedal hard. At this stage I suppose it doesn’t matter too much as long as I get on the turbo and push.

I did 10.2km (6.3m) with my son on Wednesday, after which I give an honourable retirement to another pair of Puma “Speed 500 Ignite” running shoes. I’d put over 620 miles (1000km) on them – about 25% more than the usual recommended maximum life of a pair of running shoes.

They still look in pretty reasonable condition – but the the soles show signs of wear (on the outside edges – such is the way of the under-pronator) and they are very grubby. Although it would show how stupid I’ve been to stick with them for so long, I secretly hope that changing shoes will miraculously cure my knee.

I wasn’t going to run on Thursday but my wife decided she was – so all three of us went out. It was the shortest of our usual routes and after running the wet and muddy track at least I had the resolve not to add any extra mileage on to it. We ran 5.5km (3.4m).

Friday was lovely running weather early on and my wife went out for a socially distanced (and therefore permitted) dog walk with a friend. I was congratulating myself on sticking with my decision not to run when our son came down in running kit and my resolve melted away. We ran for the usual 7km (4.3m) – dodging showers fairly successfully.

Sunday’s forecast was not good so my son and I ran again on a cold and misty Saturday with temperatures hovering about freezing. We took a route that gave us a choice of 7 or 10km – when we got to the decision point we agreed that 7 was the luckier number, so 7km (4.3m). Nothing to do with cumulative tiredness, of course.

On Sunday I was tempted to use the turbo while watching the Six Nations Rugby (it can’t be worse than England v Scotland on Saturday), but good sense has got the better of me and I am taking the day off exercising.

I managed two of the week’s three aims by reducing my running (about 37km, down from 44km last week) and taking a day off – but I didn’t increase the cycling. At least Meatloaf would be proud of me.

Still running, still missing running in London and Bournemouth, still nervous about starting the ultra training, still trying to get back to some proper cycling, still on the lookout for that nasty virus.

Stay safe.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: He that beats the drum for the mad man to dance is no better than the mad man himself

2. BBC News website: A Swedish nurse has won a competition to watch the entire 60-movie programme of the Goteborg Film Festival, alone, from a lighthouse on an isolated island off the coast of Sweden

Festival organisers were forced to curtail the festival by the pandemic. There will be no screenings in cinemas – instead, the entire programme will be streamed online.

Hate to think what the second prize might have been

3. British TV 5th February 2021: Quiz Question – ‘Who did Joe Biden pick as his running mate in the 2020 US Presidential Election?’ Contestant’s answer – ‘Donald Trump’.

Words fail me

4. Sad to see the death of Christopher Plummer who, I suppose, will always be best known for The Sound of Music but who had one heck of a career, including an Oscar in 2012. I wonder if it’s a bit galling to be known for just one of so many roles … but to be remembered at all must be some consolation!

Also sad to see the death of Jim Weatherly. It’s not naturally my type of music but ‘Midnight Train to Georgia’ is a great song by any measure (even though it was originally performed as ‘Midnight Plane to Houston’ which doesn’t have quite the same ring to it).

Run, run, turbo, run, run, run – 200km of running in the month

At least the willow likes the rain

Monday morning was lovely – as long as it was viewed from inside a warm house. Sunny but very cold so the morning run was postponed until the roads and pavements were safer.

Eventually I got out for 10.3km (6.4 miles). The day off on Sunday helped a lot by giving more than 48 hours rest to my Achilles and knee but it was still slippery underfoot and hard work.

I’ve been on the internet looking for information on knee pain to see what I should do about my cranky left knee. It seems that a lot of knee pain is not really to do with the knee but results from pulls, tightness, imbalances and strains elsewhere in the lower body. On the other hand, a lot of knee pain is to do with the knee itself.

I’m so pleased to have cleared that up that ….

Another 7km (4.3 miles) on a cold and wet Tuesday, still dodging some frozen patches on the paths. Wednesday was dreary and wet but, of course, just after I decided not to run the rain stopped. The day involved making a shed more secure so it can take the mowers and was finished on the turbo trainer – 45 minutes @ 28.5kph (17.7 mph).

After what seems like weeks of temperatures hovering around freezing, Thursday suddenly produced 12℃ (53℉). I failed to adapt my clothing properly so I did another 13km (8 miles) sweating profusely and shedding items as I went.

I ran again on Friday – 7km (4.3 miles). That took me through the 200km of running for January. That’s no big deal for many people but it’s a lot for me and my knee is telling me to calm down a bit.

Saturday was thoroughly unpleasant – cold, breezy and wet. The best thing about it was the smug satisfaction of having got out to run four times earlier in the week and not having to do any more.

With the heavy rain the village was getting a little jittery about the height of the small stream that runs through some gardens (and at the end of ours) and which has flooded houses a couple of times in the last 30 years.

We’d been good citizens in the summer and maintained the stream properly where it runs at the end of our garden (I suppose some good had to come from the various lockdowns) but I spent a few happy hours up to my knees in mud and water clearing some more of it as it runs away from the village.

Yet again, ‘Independence Day’ was on television (and yet again I watched it) but I still struggle to see how someone who calls his daughter ‘Munchkin’ could ever have become President.

Another 7km (4.3 miles) on Sunday, with my son to finish the month with 209km (130 miles) of running. I think I will cut back in February and do some more on the turbo trainer. That should help the knee and the sportive training – and get me in a position to think about starting the training for July’s ultra.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: A host’s dance is never a bad one

If they ever saw me dance such politeness would be put to the test

2. BBC News website: A spokesman for Zimbabwe’s government called doctors in the country “medical assassins” and suggested that four cabinet ministers who died in recent months of coronavirus had in fact been “eliminated”.

Following a backlash, he stated on Twitter that he “had no intention to offend”.

Makes you wonder what he’d say if he did intend to offend.

3. BBC News website: A couple in Canada have been fined for breaking Covid curfew rules after the woman was caught “walking” her husband on a leash.

The woman reportedly told police that she was just out “walking her dog” near their home in Quebec province. Walking a dog close to home is one of the only acceptable reasons to be outside between the times of the current curfew.

4. BBC News website: GameStop: Confused investors inundate Robin Hood society

A society promoting legendary outlaw Robin Hood has seen a huge surge in its social media as a result of people confusing it with the US stock trading platform Robinhood.

Look how much cash I’ve made, Marian

Run (x5) – and why running is (a bit) like smoking and drinking coffee

OK, that might need some clarification. As a non-smoker, it seems to me that when one of a group of smokers wants a cigarette, the others are offered one and rarely say no – so they all smoke more.

The same is true of coffee drinking – and last week was also true of running. A couple of times I was going to have a rest but either my wife or son decided to run and I couldn’t resist going too. Of course, it’s usually a good thing to get outside to exercise but it’s also possible to end up overdoing it.

Monday was another case in point. It was a lovely bright crisp day and my wife and I had decided not to run – but when our son came down in running kit I changed my mind and went with him. A really good 7km (4.35 miles) although my left knee and right Achilles might not thank me for it.

It was windy and drizzling on Tuesday but the knee and Achilles were not too bad so, with worse rain forecast for Wednesday, I ran for 10.2km (6.35 miles).

The heavier rain set in later on Tuesday and carried on throughout the night. Wednesday was dull and windy but not as wet as forecast – and for once my resolve held firm. It was partly bolstered by the fact that neither my wife or son wanted to run but was mainly due to being generally weary and creaking.

I watched the US inauguration and was relieved that it passed off without incident. It’s not for me to judge Trump’s 4 years but I remember that, when he was elected, I thought the Presidency would change him – I certainly got that the wrong way round. Irrespective of all that, I wish Biden, and the USA, every success.

It was snowing when I got up on Thursday but within 40 minutes it was clear and bright (but cold and breezy). We all ran one of the usual 7km routes (4.35 miles). After that I collected shopping for a couple self-isolating nearby (fingers crossed that they test negative and this proves just to have been a sensible precaution) and chainsawed a huge tree root.

After waiting for a while to let the world defrost on Friday, I then overheated on a run of nearly 10km (6 miles). The forecast for Sunday was bad so we ran again on a very cold Saturday – I added a bit to the family run to make it 10.8km (6.7 miles).

We woke to the forecast snow on Sunday morning, probably less than 3 inches but enough to cause a bit of havoc, such is our general unpreparedness for snow in England. Happily, it merely confirmed our plan not to run, and shovelling the drive clear provided a good alternative workout.

Thank goodness my spare set of wheels for the car, with their winter tyres, are safe and dry in the garage …… ah.

I had planned to do the turbo trainer on Sunday but decided to give my cranky left knee a day off.

Somehow I clocked up 120km of running in the first 17 days of January. Such is the tyranny of round numbers that I immediately set myself the target of 200km for the month (more than double last year’s monthly average). That’s this week’s 40km (and a bit) done and dusted – but next week’s weather does not look good ….

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: The lizard would like to stand erect, but his tail will not permit him

2. BBC News website: Covid-19: Man said he had travelled 100 miles ‘for a McDonald’s’

A man told police he had driven from Luton to Devizes to visit a McDonald’s, even though Devizes does not have a McDonald’s. He was fined £200 – and his car was seized for having no insurance.

Call me a terrible old cynic, but I suspect he might not have been telling the truth. However, Devises has risen in my estimation for not having a McDonald’s

3. Biden’s inauguration: None of the Trump clan was at the inauguration – possibly a good thing in the current climate but the Clintons and Obamas attended Trump’s (and you could see how much it hurt them). Irrespective of how anyone might view their performances in (or running for) office, I thought that was pretty classy on their part.

4. BBC News website: Egyptian woman arrested for baking ‘indecent’ cakes

The cakes, topped with genitalia and underwear fashioned out of fondant icing, were eaten at a birthday party at an exclusive Cairo sports club. After the photos went viral the baker was arrested. There are reports that the partygoers may face legal action too.

5. BBC News website: Tennis player Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain (in quarantine ahead of the Australian Open) said that quarantine felt like prison

“These people have no idea about tennis, about practice courts, about anything. It’s a complete disaster… The control of everything is not Tennis Australia, it’s the people from the government… I can’t imagine staying two weeks like this.”

He later apologised for his words, which he said were taken out of context.

I’m not entirely sure in what context the words would have been appropriate

“Run, turbo, run, turbo, run, run, run” (run) a homage to Flanagan and Allen

Still pounding the mean streets of rural Oxfordshire

I appreciate that this might mean nothing to anyone else but it makes me smile. For the record, Flanagan and Allen were a musical comedy act in the 1930s and 40’s. One of their most famous songs went:

Run, rabbit, run, rabbit, run, run, run
Run, rabbit, run, rabbit, run, run, run
Bang, bang, bang, bang goes the farmer’s gun
Run, rabbit, run, rabbit, run, run, run, run
Run, rabbit, run, rabbit, run, run, run
Don’t give the farmer his fun, fun, fun
He’ll get by without his rabbit pie
So run, rabbit, run, rabbit, run, run, run

More innocent days – I don’t expect Eminem or Stormzy to do cover versions.

Anyway ….

Monday was a little warmer but last week was quite tough so I should have taken a rest day. Instead I ran through the village with my wife and then on to do 10 laps of Badbury Clump (10.1km – 6.3 miles).

That made four days in a row running at least 10km. I suppose that was useful in showing I could do it but, at the same time, it felt like more than enough. I wasn’t too disappointed that it was raining on Tuesday so nobody felt like getting out for a run.

In the absence of the gym for variety, I got on the turbo trainer later in the day. With the sportive just over 3 months away I should be doing more cycling – but it’s cold and wet and the ‘stay local’ message for exercise needs to be taken into account. Just a quick blast – 30 minutes @ 29.2kph (18.1 mph).

Wednesday was wet (again) so it was out for just 7km (4.35 miles) between showers and, foolishly, a thrash on the turbo in the early evening – 30 minutes @30.9kph (19.2mph). That was tough as pretty well everything was tired – so, of course, I stupidly ran on Thursday morning as well. Soggy and slippery laps around the old Badbury hill fort for a difficult 7.4km (4.6 miles). It made me realise how important it will be to pray for dry weather for July’s ultra.

Friday dawned cold but dry and we ran for 7.5kms (4.7 miles) @sub 5:40/km. That took me through a very surprising 100km of running in the first 15 days of January.

I was feeling jaded on Saturday but my wife and son wanted to run again so I went with them to complete the ‘run rabbit’ sequence (and in the right order). The forecast sleet didn’t materialise and we did a very pleasant 7km (4.35 miles). Sunday was lovely and bright so we all ran for a bit and then our son and I added another loop for a total of 12.5km (7.8 miles).

That made 11 activities in 10 days (and 18 in 18 days). Too much really but I seem to have survived. Feet up for the rest of the day

In other news: the new raised vegetable beds look good freshly weeded; 6 litres (10.5 pints) of sloe gin has been decanted and is looking (and tasting) good; and the chickens are still very upset that the avian flu outbreak means that their run has been reduced and covered (they have not yet built a plane but I tell you, those chickens are organised).

It’s a long time since any of us left the house for anything other than necessary shopping or exercise. We remain very lucky, with no jobs or young children to accommodate, plenty of room in both the house and the garden and a village environment that feels pretty safe.

At the same time, lockdown 3 is proving to be a bit tougher than the previous two – horizons get more contracted as holidays (or even getting up to London or down to Bournemouth) still seem a long way off. I hope our national resolve to follow the rules holds firm.

A shop I was in about 10 days ago was shut the following day for a deep clean after discovery of a Covid case. I was there for just a few socially-distanced and face-masked minutes, but was still a minor worry and a good reminder to be careful.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: When the hyena falls into a deep pit, he does not shout for help

Those deep pits are no laughing matter

2. BBC News website: Covid-19 – Pokemon player fined for lockdown breach

A man has been fined £200 for breaking lockdown rules after travelling 14 miles to play Pokemon Go.

Pokemon (do not pass) Go (do not collect £200)

3. BBC News website: Man held after armed raid in search of cat

In Australia, a man called the Lost Dogs’ Home shelter to claim his lost cat but was told he would have to wait until the following morning. He then allegedly stormed the shelter in full camouflage gear and pointed an assault rifle at a female worker demanding to know where the cats were kept.

He returned to the shelter the next day to reclaim the animal and was later arrested.

4. BBC News website: Tennis stars’ arrival angers stranded Australians

Organisers of the Australian Open put on chartered flights to fly in players and other members of staff – and that has frustrated roughly 37,000 Australians unable to return home due to Australia currently having a cap on the number of international arrivals.

Last month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australians overseas were his “first priority in terms of people coming back into the country”.

Obviously, 37,000 Australians do not return as well as Nadal and Djokovic

With a bit of irony, 47 of the players who have arrived on the first two planes are now in 14 days’ quarantine after positive Covid tests on those incoming flights

Run (x4), walk (x2) – staying local in lockdown 3

Having run on each of the first three days of the month, I considered creating Janurunary and going for 31 days of running. Happily, the madness passed quickly, much to the relief of my legs.

Monday was cold, with an even colder wind, so we walked. We were out for almost an hour (4.2km – 2.6 miles). Having lived in the house for nearly 28 years the footpaths and tracks we are walking are not new – but what is new is that I’m looking forward to trying them for runs once they dry out. It should help freshen up my choice of routes and might even help with training for the ultra marathon in July.

The three of us ran together on Tuesday (7km – 4.3 miles) before our son and I added another 5.5km loop to make it 7.8 miles in all. Under the new lockdown guidance we are allowed out for one exercise session a day, staying in the ‘local area’.

We can go to buy essentials from shops in our ‘local area’ – and that must include the nearest town (3.5 km away) as there are no shops nearer! The usual loops we run don’t take us even 2km from the house so they must satisfy that guidance. We are also looking to run in areas with fewest people but if we want to do any longer runs, it looks like they will have to be multiple loops.

On Wednesday my wife wanted to walk rather then run so we used our once-a-day exercise allowance on a short walk round the neighbouring fields (2.8km – 1.75 miles).

Thursday was rather horrible. Sad news from the US, continued high levels of the virus in the UK, bleak foggy weather and a temperature not moving above freezing. I failed to summon up the enthusiasm to do very much at all.

The weather wasn’t a lot better on Friday but there was running to be done and someone had to do it – so I got out for 10.2km (6.35 miles) in 56 minutes. Much the same on Saturday – still just below freezing – but I ran with our son along some footpaths and farm tracks – 10.85km (6.75 miles).

I finished with a sharp pain in the right side of my back. It appeared unannounced and for no reason in the last mile of the run – muscular I assume. It eased over the rest of the day so I ran with our son on a still freezing Sunday morning – a different route but also exactly 10.85km (6.75 miles).

Four runs in the week, all over 10km, for 44.4km (27.6 miles). That’s perfectly OK for me – but it’s sobering to think that the 16 week ultra marathon training has only one (cut-back) week with less than 30 miles, and four weeks of 40 or more.

Both our sons are fit and active. The younger son (28) and I ran the Rotterdam Marathon together in 2019, he plays in a (field) hockey league and is running with us now he is marooned here in Oxfordshire. The older son (30) has just started to run – but is already doing 5km in under 24 minutes. There is a real chance of the three of us taking part in a race later in the year, either a half or full marathon. That would be great.

More worryingly, it has planted the seed of an idea in my mind that when Parkruns come back, I might attend one (my first) to try to see what sort of 5km time I can do – but, as the UK heads back into lockdown, it’s not going to be an issue for some time yet. According to Strava my best 5km is just outside 25 minutes – but digging into that shows it was entirely due to a Garmin malfunction!

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Do not call a dog with a whip in your hand

I apologise but cannot resist saying the obvious: ‘with a whip in your hand’ is an odd name for a dog

2. BBC News website: Australian advert of man eating bat sandwich investigated

The ad from outdoor equipment firm Boating Camping Fishing store (BCF) has been viewed more than 250,000 times on YouTube. In it, a man jokes that the pandemic was caused by someone eating a bat. BCF is no stranger to Australia’s advertising watchdog, making the list of most complained about ads in both 2016 and 2018.

3. BBC News website: Sweden official defends Christmas trip to Canary Islands

The Swedish official is head of the civil contingencies agency, which earlier in December had texted all Swedes urging them to avoid travel. He insisted the trip was necessary “for family reasons” and told Swedish media that he had “given up a lot of trips during this pandemic” but thought this one was necessary because he had a daughter living in the Canaries.

He is confusing “she lives in the Canary islands so I cannot see her without travelling” (true) and ‘she lives in the Canary Islands so I had to travel to go and see her” (false)

4. I had written stuff to pursue my fictional campaign to contest the vote that led to Lewis Hamilton becoming the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year in preference to me.

As I write this on Wednesday night (UK time), current events in the USA are so awful and so far beyond satire or parody that I have entirely lost the heart to do it.

Run (x5), walk (x3): new year, old tricks

Pictures from 2020 in this year’s family calendar. Whatever happened to 2020 – it all started so well …

A thin layer of snow was forecast for Monday morning – but it was just raining as usual. Surely, the recapturing of our sovereign power under Brexit means we can choose our own weather in future?

During a break in the rain I got out for my standard 10.2km run (6.3 miles) – the first since consuming enough calories to fuel an entire army battalion for a 10 mile hike.

While I was running there were some snow flurries. I was dressed in many layers, so although I remain towards the top of the ‘dressed like a wimp in cold weather’ league, I feel I may have moved down a notch in the ‘too much of a wimp to go out in the cold’ table.

The promised thin dusting of snow did greet us on Tuesday morning and hung around. With the likelihood of it being slippery underfoot, we went for a 5km (3 mile) walk. It snowed again, briefly, in the afternoon but that didn’t come to much.

I ran with my wife on Wednesday – still bitterly cold but clear and bright. It was just below freezing and we had to abandon two routes because they were too slippery underfoot. We ended up on a track which was hard work but reasonably safe to run on. I did two loops for 10.2km (6.3 miles). We walked again in the afternoon – this walking lark just might catch on.

New Year’s Eve on Thursday was cold again but we walked 6.7km (over 4 miles) before seeing in the New Year. Although I enjoy Christmas, I’ve never been a big fan of New Year for some unknown reason, so a good meal and some drinks with just the three of us suited me well.

We have a family tradition that my wife gets a calendar produced for us, our sons and our parents (when they were alive) as a Christmas stocking present. The calendar is made up of family pictures from the previous year – generally special occasions and holidays. This year’s starts well with photos from skiing in January 2020 and our older son’s holiday in South Africa in February 2020 – but goes rather downhill in terms of exotic locations and family get-togethers after that. How could that be?

I started the new year at 68.5kg (151lbs) which is about 2kg (4.4 lbs) more than my normal weight. I’m surprised it’s not more; I have decent willpower in terms of not bringing chocolate into the house – but no willpower at all when it comes to avoiding eating it once it’s here.

Friday was (yet again) very cold with a heavy frost. I wanted to start the year off with a run so I waited until the afternoon for safer roads and pavements (and went minus one of my usual cold weather layers). I had a really enjoyable 10.2km – 6.34 miles – at 5:28/km. That put me on course for over 3700km (2300 miles) in 2021, although admittedly at a rather early stage of the year.

Saturday was cold and bright again but safe enough underfoot, with care, and I ran with our younger son – the standard 7km (4.35 miles) at 5:36/km. Already down to being on course for 3100 km for the year. I’d better stop thinking about the year’s distance projection before the inevitable slide downhill becomes depressing. The fifth run of the week was on Sunday, this time with the three of us. The usual 7km (4.35 miles) on a cold and damp morning.

That’s on target for 2870km for the year (damn, I said I’d stop doing that).

Five runs in the week is more than my knees and Achilles would sign up for but it seems to have gone petty well. With the gym closed it’s probably going to have to be back to the turbo to keep up the number of exercise sessions without overdoing the running.

As ever, for me, the clicking over of the calendar between 31 December and 1 January makes rather less of a difference than it is always build up to. It might be another year but it turns out to be just one more day! (but I still hope 2021 is a great year for us all).

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Bits of food you pick from between your teeth with a stick cannot fill your belly

Seemed somehow appropriate immediately after Christmas

2. BBC News website: Hundreds of British skiers flee Swiss Verbier quarantine

More than 200 British skiers fled a coronavirus quarantine in Verbier on Boxing Day night after Switzerland imposed a 10-day quarantine backdated to 14 December because of the new virus strain spreading in the UK. Some Swiss hoteliers only discovered that guests had vanished when room service trays were left untouched outside doors. 

Understandable, but disgraceful, in equal measure?

3. BBC News website: Lorna Jane: Activewear brand in court for ‘anti-virus’ claims

In July the (Australian) company claimed its clothes had been sprayed with a “anti-virus” substance called LJ Shield. Adverts on its website and in stores used the tag “Cure for the Spread of COVID-19? Lorna Jane Thinks So”.

After being fined in July, Lorna Jones said it was not trying to claim the clothing was a cure for Covid-19. “We are not saying LJ Shield will stop you coming into contact with bacteria, we are saying LJ Shield is an added protection like hand sanitiser but for the clothes you wear.”

Thank goodness, now we can rest easy knowing that our clothes won’t catch Covid

4. The year began with news that over 1 million people have had their first Covid vaccine jab in the UK. It’s a good start. They began with the over 80s and care workers but there are something like 12.4m of us over 65s, so I’m not holding my breath for mine just yet.

5. In answer to my own question of a month ago: no, when running, I cannot tell the difference between two identical pairs of trainers, one with 800km on the clock and the other with under 50km.

Happy New Year

What should the picture should be – something reminiscent of 2020 (do I want to be reminded) or something looking forward? Here’s a bit of both – skiing in January 2020. If we don’t ski in 2021 it’ll be my first season missed in over 35 years

It’s ironic that ’20:20 vision’ usually means either perfect or normal eyesight. With 20:20 hindsight, 2020 will be judged as anything but perfect or normal … but, like all years, it comes to an end.

Whatever 2021 holds, I hope it is happy, healthy, safe and successful for you and yours.

To use my mother-in-law’s favourite toast ‘I wish you all you would wish yourself’.

I’m not sure 2020 deserves a big end of year review (indeed, it would consist of a lot of ‘we stayed at home’, ‘we didn’t do much’ and ‘I worked in the garden’). At least one thing we were generally allowed (and encouraged) to do was exercise.

For me, just under 1200km of running for the year in 137 outings – and comfortably over 250 sessions of running, cycling or weights in the gym in 2020.

I’m not one for New Year resolutions but, beyond the obvious ‘complete the White Horse challenge sportive in April and the ultra marathon in July’, I’ll set a few targets for 2021. In no particular order, I’m aiming for at least:

  • a birthday ride of my age in miles (sadly, 66 of them) on something other than the ‘best bike’ (this year’s was on my 1955, 3 speed Elswick)
  • 10 metric century rides
  • 1000km of running by the end of June
  • 10 runs of half marathon distance
  • twice a week at the gym (when I’m here and it’s open!)

All Covid, health and fitness dependent, of course.

Roll on the vaccinations.

Take care.

One bit of ‘interesting stuff’ by way of uplifting African wise words:

A hen that scratches too deep into the ground will meet its mother’s bones

Gym, run, gym, run, Christmas, walk – enjoying the holiday in spite of everything

A sunny, crisp day – perfect for a walk. We are in the UK’s Covid tier 4 – the highest level of restrictions – but we still braved the great outdoors, pushed past the hoards of people and into the urban sprawl beyond the end of the garden …

Monday was a rather bleak day among many others this year. Travel bans, new variant Covid, Brexit trade talks deadlock, lockdowns and the ‘loss’ of the family Christmas. Roll on 2021?

As if that wasn’t enough, my expectation was that the BBC had omitted me from the Sports Personality of the Year nominees because they were going to unveil me as the surprise winner during Sunday’s live programme. They didn’t. Lewis Hamilton won.

I took refuge in the gym where I was the only person for most of my hour. I hate to think what their finances look like at the moment but I enjoyed it.

After bemoaning how the Fantasy Football league was spoiling my enjoyment of many of the matches, I appear to have won last week with a record score and taken the top position in the league. It just makes the inevitable fall all the further and all the harder when it comes.

Running on Tuesday with our younger son – the regular 10.2km (6.3 miles) with the light relief of a painful right ankle for a bit of it. If I can invent the game of ‘body hurt bingo’, I am very close to calling ‘house’.

Back to the gym again on Wednesday and a 7km (4.34 miles) run with my wife and our younger son on a cold but bright Thursday – Christmas Eve. A slightly brighter Christmas Eve than expected as the conclusion of a trade deal was announced between the UK and the European Union. A cross between the Holy Grail and a shameful sell-out if you listen to the rival politicians – no doubt time will tell that it is neither but it will be good to move on from Brexit.

Christmas day was, of course, different from usual and from what we had planned. Our older son was in London (happily not on his own as his girlfriend was with him) and my wife’s family were in Surrey and Hampshire so we had various video calls – not quite the same but surprisingly good. The food and drink were, at least, unchanged in quality and quantity.

We went into the UK’s Covid tier 4 on Boxing Day, it’s the highest level of restrictions with a basic ‘stay at home’ message. That’s the gym closed again for a while, along with non-essential shops and leisure services. The county had 8 cases of the new variant of the virus just before Christmas, all the the City of Oxford itself.

I guess we are caught because of proximity to more worrying areas and because it’s simply not possible to give the restrictions enough ‘texture’ to carve out specific towns or villages. Our local authority area has had the lowest infection rate in the county – long may it stay that way.

The three of us went for a good walk on a cool, breezy but sunny Sunday – just under 4km (about 2.4 miles) around the sodden fields behind the house but a great bit of fresh air after Christmas. We saw three other people, but nobody within 100 metres.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Do not call a dog with a whip in your hand

2. BBC News website: Couple hold 10,000 guest drive-through wedding in Malaysia

The newly-weds were seated outside a grand government building while guests slowly drove past in their cars. The windows had to remain rolled up and guests only got a socially distant wave from the wedding party. The guests were treated to a dinner – but had to pick up their pre-packed food through their car window and drive on.

The report says the celebration came a day before the groom’s politician father was found guilty in a $500,000 (£370,000) corruption case and sentenced to a fine and 12 months in prison, stayed, pending an appeal.

3. BBC News website: First cases of coronavirus detected in Antarctica

The Chilean Army reported 36 personnel at its Bernardo Riquelme O’Higgins base have tested positive. Antarctica had been the last continent without a case of the virus

4, BBC News website: ‘Chris Whitty is more popular than Britney Spears’

Few people had heard of Professors Chris Whitty or Jonathan Van-Tam at the beginning of 2020. Now, after months of featuring on governmental briefings, England’s chief medical officer and his deputy are proving a hit with shoppers.

An online search reveals the faces of the two unlikely cult heroes on novelty mugs, T-shirts, beer labels, birthday cards and even prayer candles. “We have Britney Spears and Michael Jackson designs,” says the co-owner of a gift business. “Chris Whitty is outselling them all.”

5. I was reminded that Donald Trump had a cameo role in ‘Home Alone 2’, directing Macaulay Culkin ‘down the hall and to the left’. I’d have been more impressed if he’d insisted on the line being ‘down the hall and to the right’.