Less a-Blaze, more a-phelgm

‘Rolex – from £1,795’

So screams the big-screen advertisement for Ramsdens the pawnbrokers at The Riverside Stadium, home of my favoured provider of sporting disappointment: Middlesbrough FC. The first time I saw that, I assumed there was some sort of typo. I mean, I know Rolex (which I can’t help but pronounce as if to rhyme with ‘bollocks’, like Derek Trotter) is a ‘premium brand’ like Bvlgari or Tiffany’s or Lurpak, but surely that comma should have been a decimal point one digit to the right? Or at most, two digits to the right? Or the word ‘Rolex’ should have read ‘Cars’ or ‘Offshore wind-farm investment opportunity’ or maybe ‘Black market organs’? But no. It wasn’t a typo. People do buy watches that cost ‘from three-times the price of my first car’. For some reason. Actually, I know the reason – its because the watch ‘says something about them’. Presumably something beyond ‘I can tell the time, you know’. I wonder if the very concept of time works more in your favour with a two-grand watch on your wrist? Its physically impossible to be late. You get 18 hours in bed each night? Once every four years on the 29th February the watch comes alive, meets up with other ridiculously-priced timepieces and puts on a complimentary cabaret evening?

But what’s with all the watch-chat Taylorson? Well, I’ve done it. I’ve pulled the trigger; took the leap; blown some coin. No, I’ve not bought a two-grand watch – I’m not fucking stupid – I’ve bought a fitness tracker watch thing instead. It counts steps. And staircases. And calories. And other things. But alas, I’ve not really put it to the test. Why? Well, I’ve been and continue to be quite ill. I’ve got a chest-infection thing that I just can’t shake. For well over a month I’ve been coughing like a man with a penchant for 40 Benson and Hedges a day. And I’m a veritable phlegm fountain. Not that anyone would want such a fountain. Imagine getting one of those in by mistake for a wedding reception or a birthday party for the little ‘un? No-one would be dipping their strawberries in that. Not a euphemism.

So, in short, I’ve done no running. Well, I’ve done a bit. But then I couldn’t breathe and had to stop. Which isn’t ideal. So I’m yet to put my new watch to the test. When I recover *shakes fist at sky* I’ll be back with some sort of half-arsed review. Oh, it’s a FitBit Blaze by the way, for anyone that cares. And my limited use of it has been pleasing at least. It buzzes when I pass 10,000 steps, or when the pre-set alarm goes off, or when I get a text message. The first time it happened I thought I was having a seizure.



Look. There it is. On my wrist and everything.


So, I’m laid up – but you don’t need to be. And even from my deathbed (well, sickbed…well, bed…well, chair) I can offer you a little motivation. Occasionally I get contacted by people asking me to promote stuff for them on this here blog. Sometimes I say ‘Of course, and I’ll accept that five-figure sum you’re offering’ (I never say that…sadly) and sometimes I say ‘Take a hike, numbnuts’ (I never say that either) and sometimes I say ‘Sorry, the message went in my junk mail and I didn’t see it for 7 weeks’ before cheerily agreeing. And that as what has happened here. What has happened here? GAH, TRY AND KEEP UP FOR CHRIST’S SAKE:

In association with VirtuaRace.com, a new virtual running site, I want to offer you – yes, YOU – the chance of a FREE entry to one of their races *clutches chest*! Running? For a free medal?  WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE?!

They currently have 5K and 10K race entries available, with two different medal designs for each race!

All you have to do be in with a chance of winning a free entry is:

  1. Visit the Facebook site here and click the ‘like’ button
  2. Share the page
  3. Click here and send an e-mail with no content

Competition ends on the 30th April. So do it, DO IT NOW!

Posted in Events, Idiosyncrasies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The creamiest milk, the whitest bar…

Well hello there. It’s been a while. Almost a month in fact, now I look at it. A month?! *dies*

So where have I been? Pfft, where haven’t I been? The African Plains. The Mamanuca Islands. That new Burger King that’s opened opposite the bus station in Middlesbrough. These are all places I haven’t been, just to clarify. But, if I haven’t been visiting roaming the Serengeti, island-hopping in Fiji or partaking in flame-grilled sustenance by the heart of the Tees Valley public transport infrastructure, what have I been doing? Well, very little as it happens. In terms of running. Obviously the other areas of my life could have been hit by a veritable explosion of opportunity, adrenaline and fulfilment, both personal and professional in nature. I could have been hired as Bjork’s personal assistant. Or spent my weekends recording an R&B album with former world snooker no.3 Neal Foulds. Or I could have taken my chainsaw and gone on a rampage. As far as the extension cable would allow.

In truth, if I had forced myself to churn out a blog entry across the course of the last few weeks it would have likely read ‘I didn’t do any running this week – couldn’t really be arsed. I did, however, eat more than one Milkybar Sharing Block on my own, and if the people from Nestle are reading this, I’d like them to know they can take their recommended daily allowance and shove it’.

In addition to eating enough white chocolate to make the Milkybar Kid foul himself and fall off his horse (Did he have a horse? He did you know. Oof, someone has spliced all of the old Milkybar adverts together. I quite like the one where he vaporises a space alien using a bin lid. Not sure what that’s got to do with cowboys, mind. I can see a thrusting young marketing executive back in 1981 selling it to the board as ‘cowboys are out, spacemen are in’. Hmm, very much like the plot of Toy Story in fact. Nestle should sue. I’ll tell them. And demand a finder’s fee. Of $100,000,000,000,000) I’ve also become partial to biscuits at bedtime. Much like the Radio 4 programme Book at Bedtime. Only with biscuits.

Someone call the Academy Awards, I've got their sponsor...

Someone call the Academy Awards, I’ve got their sponsor…

Enjoying all of this delectable confectionary would be fine if I was still knocking in 25 miles per week like I was last autumn. But I’m not. How many miles per week am I doing? Well, think of a number between 1 and 25. Double it. Add 7. Double it again. Add your age. Take away 20. Add 3. Then write that number on a piece of paper. Fold it up. And throw it in the toilet. Because the answer is 4.

‘Four miles a week? But how is this possible?!’ I hear no-one aside from my inner monologue cry. Well, I made a fatal error. Well, an error. No-one died to the best of my knowledge. I decided that I was going to ‘ease down’ from the keeping of stats and such like for 2016. I’d have a more relaxed year, particularly after last year’s marathon exploits. I’d run when I wanted, and not when I didn’t. And I wouldn’t upload it to Strava so as not to obsess over statistics. I wouldn’t sign up for any races unless I really wanted to do them. And if I fancied an unhealthy snack – chuff it – I’d have one. Now, this plan might work if the words ‘in moderation’ could ever be applied to me. But alas in reality what has happened is:

1) ‘I’ll run when I want’ = ‘Bollocks to that running shite’

2) ‘I’ll not sign up for races I don’t really want to do’ = ‘I’ll not sign up for any races at all’

3) ‘If I fancy an unhealthy snack’ = ‘Feed me, Seymour!’

Of course, none of the above would be a problem if I was truly happy not running and devouring coffee table-sized Milkybars. But I’m not.

The truth is, I want to go running, stay slender and be healthy. But I some sort of impetus. I need to have to run. Not in the sense that I’m being chased by a Tyrannosaurus Rex or that the very earth is crumbling beneath my feet as predicted by some ancient Mayan prophecy, but because there is a tangible goal to aim for. So, the search is on for some healthy middle ground. To one extreme we have ‘the Minimal Movement Plan and its accompanying Milkybar diet’. To the other extreme we have ‘train for a stupid effing Marathon’. In the middle we have ‘a healthy, sustainable lifestyle that doesn’t feel like a chore’. Of course, there is a billion-pound industry tethered to the very notion of such a middle ground. And in the spirit of that, let’s talk about me buying my way out of this dilemma…

Targets. Targets get me motivated. But sometimes just the very prospect of climbing on into the running gear causes me to make an involuntary claw-shape with both hands. Which no hobby should really make you do, I feel.  But what if I had targets to reach? ‘Hang on a minute Taylorson – only a couple of paragraphs ago you talked about ‘not wanting to stress over running statistics’ cries the inner monologue. Indeed – let me explain. To myself. In an exercise of unashamed self-justification. Those ‘running’ stats bring their own pressures. Times. Pace. Distance. And so forth. What if you were just interested in getting fit? And staying fit. And keeping track of that fitness with some sort of…fitness tracker?

‘Haaaaaaaaaallelujah! Haaaaaaaaaallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Halleeeeeeluuuuuuuujah!’ sings the heavenly choir. That’s what this man needs. He needs to purchase something. Something that’ll record his every step (Oof!), elevations (Horgh!), cycling (Clang!) and running (Meh!) and well as his heart rate (OK!) and Other Stuff (Woot!).

See, some would see this as a defeat – that consumerism has told me I need this thing. But no. I have told me I need this thing. Because I know my limits. And basically it boils down to ‘I can’t be left alone to my own devices, I need to be answerable to an actual device’ But which device? Who knows? Well, I know. But I’m not saying. Until I’ve got it. Which might be by next week? Possibly.

In the mean time I’d best get back to eating white chocolate. Because once I strap that bad boy on, I’ll be going from ‘nothing’ back to ‘all’. Which I’m sure is a healthy way to live…



Posted in Idiosyncrasies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

I should be so lucky

You know, over the years I’ve learned quite a few things… *edges his rocking chair closer to the fire, straightens the woollen blanket across his lap* I’ve learned how not to install a garden pond. I’ve learned to heed the warning ‘product will be hot when heated’. I’ve learned that when someone uses a pencil to shade in certain parts of the floorboards on your landing, it’s to indicate that there are water pipes underneath and thus hammering a nail through the pencilled-in bit is not advisable, but why in the name of Lucifer’s lampshade they didn’t bother just to write ‘there’s a pipe under here mate, go easy with the effing hammer unless you’re keen on coming down to a flooded living room in the morning, having discounted the dripping noise you heard in the night as ‘ghosts’’ still remains a mystery. And something else I’ve learned is to not always say what I’m thinking…

Ghosts. Much like a nailed pipe. As the saying goes.

Ghosts. Much like a nailed pipe. As the saying goes.

I try not to be cynical. Sometimes. Alright, I don’t try that hard. But still, if I’m heading into a big, organised run and someone bestows on me a message of kindness along the lines of ‘good luck’, I will of course receive that message in the well-intended spirit in which it was offered. Even though my inner monologue might be thinking ‘Luck? Pfft, what’s luck got to do, got to do with it? What’s luck, but a second-hand eeeemotion?’ Because the inner monologue is, after all, prone to paraphrasing responses to the hits of Tina Turner. The point I’m trying to make is that I’m not really one for believing in luck. With running, as with life, the harder you practice the ‘luckier’ you get. But I’m not going to turn the well-wisher and say ‘Actually I don’t believe in luck, as I don’t believe that success or failure is brought by ‘chance’ as you’d define it but rather than through one’s own actions or the pre-existing actions of others’ for two main reasons:

1) That would be rude, and amount to blatantly ignoring the fact that good intentions were central to the gesture. Added that would be the suggestion that it’s not the appropriate time to make some petty point regarding the notion of fortune, that likely just boils down to a semantic argument anyway. It’s like an atheist interpreting someone saying ‘bless you’ when they sneeze as an open invitation to debate the existence of a higher power, which wouldn’t be clever or timely – it would just make them look like/sound like/be a douche.

2) Chances are, the person in question wasn’t actually, strictly speaking, wishing me luck. It’s just a pleasantry. Like if you say ‘have a nice day’ or ‘take it easy’ or ‘keep on rocking in the free world’ when really you’ll not be giving a second thought as to the relative niceness, ease or abundance of rocking that person will endure across the course of the next 24-hours.

All of that said and duly acknowledged, I began to think about luck and its relationship with running. As I interpret it, a sincerely-felt offer of ‘good luck’ pre-race could mean only one of a handful of things:

1) I hope the weather stays fair

2) Don’t soil yourself

3) Don’t die

Which is something akin to a ‘sliding scale of worst-case scenarios’. I concluded that second one alone is enough to make the best of us keep the rabbit’s foot handy. Which led me to contemplating further:  just how many lucky omens it might be possible to cram into one run to make it the luckiest jaunt of all time? Hence, I’ve plotted out the Most Fortunate Running 10k (which sounds a little like a poor translation into English):

Start line – I’m limbering up, and it’s early – I haven’t even had time to get my day moving with some Shredded Wheat or a kipper or a line of cocaine or whatever. But then I sneeze three times! Before breakfast! Horray! Plus, I note there are bats nesting in the announcer’s booth. Good luck, in China. Are we in China? We could be.

1st kilometre – The race begins by the sea. Behold! Dolphins swimming near a ship! Do I have to be on the ship in order to reap the positives? Who knows.

2nd kilometre – As spectators begin to line the route, someone hurls money at me. In a good way. It’s not sharpened 50-pence pieces like it would be at a 1980s football hooligan riot. So popular culture leads me to believe.

3rd kilometre –At the 3k mark, a bird craps on my head. See, I take issue with some of these. There’s a stark difference between an ‘oof, what are the chances of that, Beryl’ and a ‘legitimate stroke of fortune’. I’ve been shat on by a seagull before. More than once. And I still haven’t won the lottery.

Birds - faeces of fortune

Birds – faeces of fortune

4th kilometre – At the 4k mark I’m running by some bushes. I note your initials in a spider’s web. Both me and British Telecom rejoice. Then, I pause to strip a pea-plant of a few of its pods, for sustenance. Behold 9 peas in a pod! Super lucky! Apparently!

5th kilometre – Suddenly I note that I’ve put my clothes on the wrong way round. Rather than fearing I look quite the tit, I rest easy in the knowledge that ‘favourable news’ is soon to come my way.

6th kilometre – Oof, cow on the course! Rather than the beginnings of a race-decimating stampede, it’s a sign of prosperity and fertility. Instantly, I’ve never felt more fertile. Plus it’s chewing a 4-leaf clover. Who’d have thought it?!

7th kilometre – With the cow a distant memory, along trots a dog. Wait! Two dogs! One comes near me with an old piece of shoe in its mouth. The other chews on a raw bone. The luck!

8th kilometre – With the end in sight, I feel a tingling in the fingers of my left hand. ‘It’s finally happening! That stroke/heart attack I’ve been predicting all these years!’ I think. But fear not, it means I’m due yet more money! Still, I’ll maybe swing round the doctors’ at some point this week…

9th kilometre – Almost home – there’s a shooting star. Did I mention it was at night now? How can I possibly have been running all day? Pfft, well it’s…erm…a solar eclipse. Is that lucky? Let’s say it is. I pull a pinhole camera out of the base-layer (not a euphemism).

10th kilometre –The sun comes out on the home straight, but its mizzling on a bit and hence: RAINBOW! Not with Zippy and Bungle you understand, the meteorological thing with the Leprechaun. Good luck abounds!

Finish line – At the finish line I’m greeted by a snake. Good news, unless your Indiana Jones or a small rodent.  It means ‘someone important is coming into my life’. Hopefully not some sort of anti-venom specialist. And finally, I can hang a finishing flag as a sign of victory and good fortune. Which flag? Any flag: Pirate. Chequered. Nazi. Maybe not that last one…

So there you go. Lucky things to look out for when you’re out and about. I should really follow this up next week with the ‘Bad Fortune Running 10k’…

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All the colours

I confess to taking no real pride in my appearance when heading out for a run. To be clear, it’s not like I’m soiled, semi-naked and sporting an unkempt beard spotted with 3-day-old Rice Krispies or anything. Well, just that once. What I mean is that I give little or no thought to co-ordinating my running kit, not aided by the fact that I’m colour blind. I can see colour – I don’t view the world in monochrome like a dog or, erm, a Terminator. Although that would be pretty sweet…TARGET ACQUIRED! ALTERNATE POWER! HUMAN CASUALTIES 0.0!

Anyway, purely by chance last week I went out for a 4-mile dash dressed entirely in blue. Like a Smurf. Or one of Blue Man Group. Who are in fact, as Homer Simpson would say, ‘a total rip-off of The Smurfs’. Actually, now I look at them, I wasn’t at all like one of Blue Man Group, as their heads and hands are blue, but there clothing is black. My hands and face weren’t blue, I as I wasn’t being asphyxiated or suffering from hypothermia. In fact, I was more like one of Pink Man Group. Which sounds like it could be some sort of sunburn recovery programme. Or Sweaty Man Group – but I’m not sure I really want to know what goes on at one of their meetings…

Not wanting to attract the attention of The Smurfs' legal team, rather than include their picture I made my own likeness out of Blu-Tac

Not wanting to attract the attention of The Smurfs’ legal team, rather than include their picture I made my own likeness out of Blu-Tac

As fate would have it, I ended up in coordinating kit once more this past weekend, dressed entirely in black. Like a referee. Or a malicious entity. Or the Milk Tray man! Those were more innocent times, weren’t they? When a slender chap could shimmy down the side of a ladies apartment complex (not a euphemism) and slip through an open window to leave a box of chocolatey delights on her bedside table, setting her heart aflutter. As oppose to having her feeling violated and reaching for the chemical mace – or indeed the medieval flanged mace if our man really had picked the wrong apartment. But, there I was, headed out for a casual 10k dressed like a shadow. And this got me thinking: does colour matter?

A shoddy selfie of my all-black outfit. HOOTS!

A shoddy selfie of my all-black outfit. HOOTS!

I understand that lots of people – some would call them ‘normal people’ – do take pride in their appearance be they on a night out, at work, out running or simply off to spend the evening stood in a bus shelter outside of a takeaway. They coordinate their brands. They match their colours. They don’t try and get ‘at least two runs out of every long-sleeved top’ despite the second run being undertaken whilst sporting an odour that could bring down light aircraft. But putting these trivialities to one side, I am interested in why people opt for certain colours when out running. Is it practical or is it style, or perhaps (most likely) a combination of both? Well, here’s what I reckon are the meanings behind each colour:

YELLOW – ‘Please don’t run me over with your tractor or similar’ would be the most obvious statement a runner appears to be making when adorning themselves in yellow. Nice and bright, there’s no missing this runner. If the yellow runner is indeed struck be a vehicular chassis, it’s likely through malice or utter misfortune I’d say. Plus, yellow ‘speeds metabolism’ according to the Internet. And it’s rarely wrong. So those looking to lose weight can simply eat their running kit when the miles are in the bag.

ORANGE – For those who can’t quite bring themselves to don the yellow for fear of faintly resembling Big Bird from Sesame Street, there’s orange. It’s ‘the colour of adventure’. Given that most lifejackets are orange, I’d argue it’s perhaps ‘the colour of misadventure’. But still, you’ll be seen. By that air-sea rescue helicopter following a nautical disaster, and by passers-by when out for a trot. Orange can also give you an appetite, apparently. I think whoever wrote that might mean ‘an orange’ as oppose to ‘orange’. I could be wrong though. And if I am, there’s likely to be a Greggs doing a roaring trade near the end of every Orange Order marching route…

BLUE – Coldness, loyalty, and tranquillity – it’s a rich tapestry of meanings that probably don’t actually mean anything. Plus then there’s the sky. That’s blue. Occasionally *shakes fist at sky* And the ocean. In fact, what better way to subtly show your appreciation for the works of Billy Ocean than snapping on an-all blue kit and heading out for a few miles with ‘Love Really Hurts Without You’ pumping through the earbuds? What’s this – ‘Studies have shown that weightlifters can lift greater amounts in blue gyms’. Blue gyms: not to be confused with Blue Jim, the turquoise-skinned freak-show act known also as The Cobalt Kid.

RED – Danger, danger! High Voltage! It’s an emotionally-intense colour which will surely make you run faster. Or angrier. But then it does attract attention, and no one wants passers-by pausing to gawp and blocking your route. It’s also the colour of love, and there’s no time for any of that nonsense when you’ve got a furious 5k to thrash out. ‘Red can make the wearer look heavier’ – pfft, not after I’ve eaten all my yellow running tops it won’t.

WHITE – Innocence and sterility, so my ‘research’ says. I would add, that there’s an inherent danger to a white running top when you’re as sweaty a runner as I am. At a certain ‘saturation point’ the shirt begins to become somewhat transparent and nipples become visible. No one wants that. Or indeed, wants to see that: nipples revealed in the right (well, wrong) conditions like a hidden clue in a Scooby Doo mystery or a particularly underwhelming magic eye puzzle.

PURPLE – Royalty, luxury, sophistication. Donning the purple running kit is like saying ‘I’m better than aaaaaaaall you people’. Like driving a hybrid or doing your regular grocery shopping in Marks and Spencer. NOT JUST THE LUXERY WEEKEND AND ADD ON BITS. ALL OF IT.

GREEN – My favourite colour. I’m at one with nature. Calm, refreshed, easy on the eye and fertile. That’s what I’m all about whilst running. Well, I would be. If I had a green running kit.

BROWN – Runner’s ruin, the tempter of fate – the colour to avoid. Anyone who has been running for a fair while must surely have experience of the odd ‘rumbling from below’, like a volcano venting gas before the inevitable eruption. The key is to be in the safe zone before the magma becomes lava. The brown kit can displease the Gods, interpreted as a sign of defiance. It’s like wearing white to a funeral. Or a bullseye to the shooting range.

BLACK – The colour of submission. And evil. And authority . Like a demon-priest. ‘Run like a demon priest’ as the saying goes. Black is synonymous with style, too. ‘Run like a dapper demon-priest’. Plus, isn’t black meant to look thinning? ‘Run like a slender, dapper demon-priest?’ Now it just sounds stupid…

Well there you are. A world of hidden meanings. And here’s me just climbing into the mismatched shorts and top all this time, not stopping to think as to whether I’m generating a conflicting aura of submissive fury. I think I might have overthought this, you know…

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UK Fitness Bloggers’ Virtual 5k

Targets: some people would be lost without them. Archers, for one. Not the long running, agriculturally-themed Radio 4 soap opera, you understand. No, those folk that shoot arrows at multi-coloured circles. It’d be quite difficult without the multi-coloured circles. Unless you go old-school Parthian and resolve only to fire backwards from a galloping horse at an onrushing Roman soldier – a practice both frowned upon and logistically difficult to organise in 21st century Britain. But if we stick to imagining more traditional archery, without the targets it becomes rather unsatisfying I’d imagine: ‘…*TWANG!*…Yep…that one went over there…*TWANG!*…so did that one…*TWANG!*…and that one…*TWANG!*…and another one over there…*TWANG!*…great stuff, Gavin’. No, I’d surmise that the target is something of an archering necessity. Archering isn’t a word, you know. In fact, there’s no verb that neatly describes ‘the act of partaking in archery’. I could make one up. Twanging? Negative connotations there, I feel. ‘Could you put my quiver through the drier, love; I’ve been twanging all morning in the rain?’

Running, as a hobby, for pleasure (well, “pleasure”) has no unique target, as such. Everyone brings their own target. Oof, imagine that down at the archery…pitch. Field? Course? Arrowdrome? ‘Yes Bruce, I’ve brought my own target. It’s the size of a Portakabin. The bullseye? About as big as a tractor tyre. I’m feeling confident this morning, I tell you.’ But with running, the target could be anything from a certain time or distance, to an ascent or a top speed, or even keeping a certain heartrate or split times over several laps. Actually, I’m not giving the archers their due – I bet there’s a target-less ‘who can twang their arrow the furthest, Clive, no target necessary’ world record out there. It’s going to be something ridiculous. I’ll say ‘a mile and a half’. Let’s look it up…

Goal! Strike! Touchdown! Or the equivalent!

Goal! Strike! Touchdown! Or the equivalent!

…Right, I’m back. After some thorough research, which included venturing into the pages of that renowned source of chronicled sporting achievements, the Chorley Guardian (during which I confess to being distracted at length by the article ‘Sudden death of much-loved chef’), it appears that the record when shot under ‘World Archery Conditions’ (which must surely equate to ‘whilst dressed as Robin Hood’) is a paltry 283.47 metres. But it appears that people have managed nearer 2,000 metres in free n’ easy conditions. This chap wins though:

“Undoubtedly the longest flight shot of which there remains a record so authentic that it can be accepted without a quibble was that of the Persian archer named Aresh, who stood on top of the mountain Damovend and, just as the sun peeped over the horizon, loosed a shaft with such splendid vigor that it did not strike the earth until sunset, when it landed in the banks of the river Gihon about five hundred miles away.” – From “Archery” (1926) by Dr. Robert P. Elmer

YEAH! 500 miles! In your face, contemporary twangers! But if we can put aside the bow n’ arrows once and for all and finally get around to the topic at hand, that would be super…

So, running targets then. Regular readers may recall me mentioning, back in the carefree days of late 2015 – when the summers were longer, Snickers were bigger and everyone pulled together for the good of the nation – that I had a plan to outfox wily old 2016 Ben and his ‘Running? But it’s dark and cold and I want to stay in with this packet of chocolate truffles and a box set of The Twilight Zone’ attitude. And that plan was to have already signed up for a virtual 5k. And thus have to do it. In January. Which I did. And therefore now have to do. If you see what I mean. DAMN YOU, LATE 2015 BEN!

‘It’s not the legs, it’s the breathing’ gasped a then-acquaintance of mine some years ago, whilst sporting a purple face amidst a near-abandoned attempt to scale one of North Yorkshire’s highest peaks. And for me, the challenge of the January 5k can be paraphrased with ‘it’s not the distance, it’s the speed’. After all, I do more than 5k every other day, at present. But at a gentle pace. When it comes to the Virtual 5k, I need to flog it. I need to. I must earn that medal (I didn’t mention the medal did I? You get a medal horghghghghhgh*) like… Heracles earning his place among the Gods on Olympus. And that means charging round 3.11 miles of Middlesbrough and then putting my time on a shared Google document. Like Heracles did. Possibly.

So, having put it off for 19 days, this morning I decided to go for it. I’d do my usual 4-mile route, but I’d flog the first 5k. Comparatively speaking. Now, I’d not really pushed myself over the 5k distance for quite some time. Plus, I’d been broken by training for a marathon since then. I was all about endurance and economy of effort, not speed. Like a Yugo. Meaning I had no idea how it would go.

'Man thoroughly enjoys 5k blast'

‘Man thoroughly enjoys 5k blast’

And it went alright, actually. No major incidents, excepting the fellow runner that I had to bomb past, despite the fact she was going about as fast as I was comfortable going along a lengthy straight which meant once I’d huffed and puffed past I had to keep up the ridiculous charade in fear of her catching me and exposing my actual inability to run as fast as I was doing over any real distance. Apart from that. I got round in 22 mins and 18 seconds. Which is actually 3 mins 20 seconds slower than my all-time we-don’t-know-how-that-happened-but-witchcraft-was-likely-involved PB and about 90 seconds off where I’d like to be. But Hell, its winter. And to add a little sp(ice) to proceedings, there was still a bit of snow on the ground in places. In fact, if I re-adjust my time to take this into account, I’ve…*calculates*… broken the world record! Well done Ben. When it comes down to it, there’s just me and Aresh The Persian left. And his name isn’t even on the effing Google document for UK Fitness Bloggers’ Virtual 5k. So I win by default. Unless he gets in by the end of January.

* – I’ve never clarified this at any point previously, but ‘horghghghghghgh’ is the textual equivalent of the noise emitted through pleasure on the receipt of, or indeed, the anticipation of, a medal.


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Winter Wardrobe. Not that one that leads to Narnia, you understand.

Urgh, as I type there’s sleet on the window. Some might even call it bone fide snow. What is this, winter or something? Luckily, my cast-iron, etched-in-stone, cannot-be-deviated-from new running schedule (all part of the new ‘rElaXEd aPpROAch’, remember…?) means I’m not out today. I was out yesterday. When it wasn’t snowing. YEAH! I WIN! It was cold, mind. And it was early, as an all-day training thing I was doing at work meant no lunchtime run. Or indeed, no real break at all at lunchtime, as we were obliged to ‘network’ with fellow participants over the 3-bean wraps and prawn vol-au-vents. Man, I hate networking. Forcibly made to chat with the people I’ve been building up a silent resentment to all morning? Gah. See, I try to be a patient, reasonable chap. But when the bleating, middle-aged woman who, on several occasions, complained at length that ‘she couldn’t hear what was being said by the speaker because her hearing wasn’t great’ and yet had plonked herself AT THE BACK OF THE EFFING ROOM, AND MADE NO ATTEMPT TO RELOCATE TO ONE OF THE MANY FREE SEATS NEAR THE FRONT OF THE EFFING ROOM, LIKE WHAT A PERSON WHO WANTED TO SOLVE THE CONUNDRUM RATHER THAN JUST WHINE ON AND ON ABOUT IT WOULD DO, asks ‘could you pass the kettle chips’, it takes all my earthy restraint not to reply ‘get them yourself you cloth-eared hippo’.

On a brighter note, yesterday’s speaker was quite unintentionally entertaining when he wasn’t talking. He did a funny thing with his lips. He’d purse them and relax them. But, like, mega-purse them. Extreme pursing. Then relax. Purse. Relax. Purse. Relax. It was like he was sucking an invisible humbug. Or repeatedly kissing an imaginary toad. My grandmother used to do the same thing. Also, when she took her teeth out, she could touch her nose with her chin. A trick which never lost its appeal to me.

Anyway, running. And winter. Clashing like two almighty…things. So what better time to review the winter running wardrobe? Oh man, there’s a fancy dress outfit. Has anyone ever run as a wardrobe? I’m not sure they have you know. ‘Ben Taylorson: first wardrobe home’ has a nice ring to it…but let’s move on. What am I wearing this season to keep the chill out and the warmth in? Well, it’s a complex, matching and well-thought-out set of kit. Not just stuff I’ve cobbled together randomly over the months at all. Oh no.


Some would perhaps suggest moving into a ‘winter shoe’ as the snow comes down. I, however, go down the ‘use the same shoes as I always do because I’m not made of money/shoes’ route. True, they’ve been soaked through on several occasions and they smell a bit, but the grip is still there and these Nike Vomero 9s have given me no cause for complaint thus far. ‘Shoes explode ironically and maim runner mere days after he lavished praise on them’.

Nike Vomero. Pictured with a train ticket in it.

Nike Vomero. Pictured with a train ticket in it.


Shorts? Pfft, I think you mean ‘longs’. It took me a while to build up the courage to purchase and wear THE TIGHTS – fearing unsightly crotchal bulges and people shouting ‘Here, Keith, look at that tit in those tights’ – but now I tight up without so much as a care in the world. I’ve even bought a second pair, which are even tighter. And shinier. As Ned Flanders might say, it feels like I’m wearing nuthin’ at all.

Longs. By Asics.

Longs. By Asics.


I’m a strong advocate of the old ‘base layer’. Nipples object strongly to its absence, for one. Well, for two. I’m not some sort of one-nippled freak. Not that there’s anything wrong with having only one nipple. There’s no judgement here… The base layer prevents unwanted chafing and keeps the cold out. A bit. Without weighing me down as might happen with multiple outer layers. And no one wants that. Because if I fell in a canal I might sink to the bottom. I go for the long-sleeved base layer in the colder months. Regular readers might remember when I splashed out on the Captain America-themed one. Well, now I have an Iron Man one to match. Said Mo Farah to Tariku Bekele.


Underlayer? Overlayer? What are we, wandering free like the Wombles of Wimbledon? Indeed. Only faster. And with less of a penchant for gathering other people’s waste. I go for a long-sleeved outerlayer, but never a jacket or waterproof. Why? Pfft, you expect there to be logic beyond ‘because I don’t have one’? There is no logic. If it rains I get do get soaked through, but that just adds to the multi-sensory nature of the experience…


Now, like a little old man, I find that if I can just keep my hands and feet warm, the cold doesn’t bother me half as much. Hence at this time of year I wear not one, but two pairs of gloves. Neither of which are actually ‘running gloves’ as such. The first pair came free on the front of a kid’s football magazine (said Mo Farah to Geoffrey Kipsang), the second pair are fingerless weight-training gloves. Fingerless gloves for weight training, not gloves for fingerless weight training you understand. It’s a combination that works for me.

Other kids football magazines are available...

Other kids football magazines are available…


Hat? Pfft, I think not. After all, this is me – with my comically oversized head. Plus I sweat like a beast even in the winter months. And a hat merely restricts that flow of sweat and indeed soaks it up like a cranial sponge. And no-one wants a cranial sponge. Unless you’re in the electric chair, then I gather is something of a necessity. And to rebuff the commonly cited fallacy – you don’t lose 90% of the heat from your body out of your head (whilst out running or indeed being electrocuted to death for your heinous crimes). So a hat is not a necessity. Even on that day back in 2010 when I went running first thing in the morning on an exceptionally cold day and my eyelashes froze. Really. No-one wants to come back with frozen eyelashes. Said Mo Farah to Dejen Gebremeskel.

A perfect fit.

A perfect fit.


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Enter The Booler

I’ve been thinking. You’ve probably been wondering what pained, grinding noise was somewhere off in the distance. It was me. Thinking. But what have I been thinking about? Have I been considering how many years it takes the average woman or man (there’s no judgement here) to use her own height in lipstick? No, not that. What about wondering how many left-handed people are killed each year using right-handed products? No, nor that. Maybe I’ve been pondering whether when Pinocchio utters the phrase “My nose will grow now” it will cause a paradox? No, not that either. I mean, these are all useful things to ponder. And the answers are out there, somewhere. In fact, the answers are ‘five’, ‘2,500’ and ‘yes, yes it will’. But I’ve been contemplating something else. I’ve been thinking about why I took up running in the first place. In short, I know why: because I was fed up with feeling like a fat knacker. It wasn’t anything to do with how I looked or what other people thought of me, it was how I felt.

I’m at a bit of a crossroads at the moment with the ol’ running as we edge into a new year. Certain things that used to motivate me don’t seem that important anymore. I have no interest in flogging myself for a new personal best over any distance. I’ve done a marathon, so I can honestly swear *points accusatory finger to the heavens at his deity of choice* I’ll not ever be running any further than that in one sitting. Well, one running. Well, hobbling and crying a bit. So, if I’m not training to go faster or further, why am I running at all? Or, to use a perhaps more downbeat phrase, WHAT’S THE EFFING POINT?

This past weekend I took my daughter to Redcar. No, she hadn’t been naughty. In fact, she had acquired a new plaything and needed ample space to utilise it. You see, over the Christmas holidays we’d had a trip to Beamish Open Air Museum. The museum houses a 1900s Pit Village, and part of that village is a schoolhouse. In the yard of the schoolhouse visitors are invited to play with THE BOOLER. The what? You heard me: THE BOOLER. Its an iron hoop with a metal rod attached. The aim is to roll the hoop along the ground (at pace) whilst keeping it going with the rod. To cut a long story short, my daughter is some sort of Grand Master at THE BOOLER? We don’t know how and we don’t want to know, but for some reason she can keep THE BOOLER going all day long. Hence when it became apparent, whilst exiting Beamish through the gift shop, that such things could be purchased for home use, my daughter had to have one. But the undulating streets of my neighbourhood proved to be a poor arena for a 10-year old to practice her boolin’. Hence off to Redcar promenade: flat, fast, long – boolin’ heaven.



“Right well, this is all well and good, but can we just interrupt you for a second, Taylorson, to ask where this is going and how it is connected to the first two (seemingly unrelated) paragraphs?” I’M GETTING THERE. STAY WITH IT.

So, we get to Redcar. Its windy, cold and a touch on the bleak side. But Little Miss Booler won’t be dissuaded.

Redcar. On a finer day.

Redcar. On a finer day.

She’s off. Boolin’, at approximately 47 mph, down the promenade. Given there were a fair number of folk about, I was duty bound to stay in close proximity, and hence dashed after her. After an hour or so of boolin’, several things were apparent:

1) The sound of THE BOOLER was quite irritating. Lets call it an incessant clanky-clinckle.

2) Those who witnessed THE BOOLER and its master in action fell into three categories according to age:

i) Kids, who wanted a go

ii) Younger adults, who assumed I was some terribly worthy middle-class parent who insistent my child have a booler rather than a PlayStation for Christmas

iii) Older adults, who feared they’d accidently travelled back in time/were having a hallucination/were seeing a ghost, and were trying to remain calm

3) I can chase a Booler Grand Master up and down the prom all day and not be out of breath. With, admittedly, Limp Bizkit’s Rollin’ on repeat in my head. With the lyrics, quite naturally, changed from ‘rollin’’ to ‘boolin’’ – KEEP BOOLIN’ BOOLIN’ BOOLIN’ and so forth.

And it was in fact this final point that reminded me why I started running in the first place. Its all the stuff I take for granted now. Like dashing for a train or running up the stairs or weaving in and out of falling masonry or chasing my daughter down Redcar seafront in pursuit of a turn-of-the-twentieth-century child’s plaything. I’m fit as the proverbial fiddle. Not ridiculously fit. Just fit for life. Pre-running Ben would have been a-wheezing and a-panting after El Boolerino. But now I don’t give such things a second thought. Which is surely what I was kind of aiming for right back at the start of all of this running tosh? Maybe? Lets say yes…

So, with that in mind and the mantra still firmly on ‘just try and enjoy the running in 2016 Ben, lets not marathon ourselves into an early grave’, its time to enjoy easing down a bit. And because even ‘easing down a bit’ requires ‘some sort of mental plan because I’m ridiculous, we can’t just be casual about these things after all’ I’ve got a loose schedule. Firstly, I’ve settled into running every other day. And the plan is to do 4 miles on those days that fall on a weekday, 10k on any weekend running days. Which should be enough to keep me ticking over. Keeping me life fit. Until the summer months, where I fully expect to have changed tack altogether and have committed to something preposterous. Maybe one of those runs that involves flames and barbed wire? Only if I can sneak it past Mrs T without her noticing or reading this. Hmm…or there’s that run which involves dipping in and out of the Tees at various points that I’ve always quite fancied too. But for now, I’ll just stick to the schedule and chasing The Booler.





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