Friday, 3 April 2015


Taken on a run along the Cornish coast at Holywell Bay

The words, “Just going for a run,” are the words I invariably say when I leave the house to indulge in my form of fitness exercise, which is running of course. I usually turn left out of my front door and along West Barnes Lane, through Crossway and then onto Grand Drive. My runs tend to vary from that point. I take different routes.  I am never sure what form the run will take. It is a little like stream of consciousness writing, a Jackson Pollock painting or Miles Davis improvising with his trumpet on a theme.  I have certain tools, feet, legs and a pair of lungs and of course I run on pavements but with those prerequisites anything can happen. The streets are my pallet.   When I was young, early twenties, I took the George Best viewpoint. Drink and fitness can go together for a few years at that age. I have never smoked, so that has never been a problem, but as far as drinking alcohol goes, I think regular running has made me moderate my drinking of beer and wine as I have got older.  Running enables me to feel that I do not want to drink alcohol or not much. I still have a great night out with a group of mates once in a while. Marilyn and I get mellow together drinking a bottle of wine on occasion too.

Approaching running from an improvisational point of view, I have found that over the years I have been to locations and seen places I would never have seen if I didn't get out and run. I have run through alleyways between houses, run along paths and bye ways via allotments, parks and on occasion, between the gravestones of cemeteries. At the pace I run I have time to take in my surroundings and enjoy them.

Running is a great way to explore your environment, whether in your local area or on holiday. Many years ago, Marilyn and I were staying in a YMCA quite near the UN building in New York. While I am on holiday I try to keep up my regular running regime. One morning I decided to tackle the paths and byeways of Central Park. My good ness the park was full of cyclists, skateboarders and rollerbladers. It was like being in the worst traffic hour ever but with everything moving fast. I survived.That was an experience. I have run along the cliffs north of Newquay in Cornwall and experienced the most amazing sea and coastal views in bright sunshine. It is awe inspiring seeing wild gorse and heathers along the cliff tops and circling gulls and diving cormorants over the sea. The fresh smell of the sea air and the clean cool breeze are wonderful.  Before kids Marilyn and I went camping in a two man tent, yes very cosy, in a quiet valley beneath the peaks of the Skafells. This was thirty years ago. I imagined I could run to the top of one of the fells that abutted our campsite. I started off early one morning. My legs began to feel heavy half way but there was no way I was going to stop. I forced myself on and upwards. I got to a point where will power didn’t come into it anymore. I had been going up this very steep incline for twenty minutes or more, and this is the only time this has ever happened to me, my legs stopped moving. I could not consciously make them move any more. I stopped. I had to sit while the sensation in my legs came back. I was determined to get to the top and I did. That was scary because my legs had actually stopped of their own accord even though I wanted them to continue. I tried the same run every day for a week. By the end of the week I could do it with a degree of comfort.

 I have a passion for local history.  I mostly run where I live. My favourite routes take me through South Wimbledon , through the John Innes conservation area. There are some famous places in South Wimbledon. Merton is connected with Admiral Lord Nelson who lived at Merton Hall. William Morris’s works, where his wallpapers were printed and his furniture was made by local craftsmen, was situated at Merton Abbey Mills. The only remaining parts of the medieval Merton Priory, the chapter house, is under Merantun Way . Merantun Way itself marks the Roman road, Staine Street which lead from the Roman London Bridge to Chichester Harbour on the south coast near Portsmouth. I especially love running on Wimbledon Common though. There are parts of the common, bits of woodland, up there that have never been developed by human touch, ever. The common is managed but in a way to continue its health, growth and continuance. There are two golf courses within its bounds, The Royal Wimbledon and London Scottish both begun in Victorian times. Parts of it have been used by the military over the centuries too. Charles II’s Tangier regiment was formed and trained on the common before going out to Tangiers in 1662. The Royal Flying Core had an airfield on the common before the RAF was formed. It was a military shooting rifle range in Victorian times and was used to train rifle regiments in the First World War. Highwaymen and duelists took advantage of the remoteness of the common during the 18th century. It is however the silver birch woods and the wild grasses and the wild birds that proliferate on the common that I love to look at and experience as I run. Running on the common puts me in touch with nature. As an aside, for you lovers of all things connected with Ancient Egypt, the Putney cemetery on the west side of the common contains a very important grave. Howard Carter, who discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 is buried there I see blue and green plaques on buildings and have time to stop and read them. Robert Graves lived as a child near the Ridgeway in Wimbledon Village. A V Roe, the aircraft pioneer, worked in a shed at the back of his brother’s house at the bottom of the hill leading to Wandsworth High Street. The Putney debates of 1647, held after the English Civil War about religion and government, took place in St Mary the Virgin church next to the Putney side of the bridge going over the Thames. Buildings, gardens, trees, people and all manner of life is observable as I run. Running from your front door around the locality where you live is a great way to interact with and  learn about and enjoy where you live.

A selfie taken in Edinburgh running around Arthur's Seat.

On the down side, I have been sworn at from passing cars, been made fun of, had eggs thrown at me from the top of the multi storey car park in New Malden, tripped over and gashed my knees and elbows and even once, because I was distracted by a car without its headlights on in the dark, run into a lamppost and concussed myself. But the bad things are very rare and represent a negligible fraction of one percent of the running time have clocked up over the years.

There is an industry built up around running and sport in general. Who can blame the magazines, shops, gyms, clubs and TV programmes from trying to encourage people to take up sport and what seems to be highly important, buy their product? There is a benefit for the consumer if they are serious about the sport. It is running magazines that I have a particular issue with. I am sure my thoughts and concerns can be extrapolated to other magazine titles attached to other sports and events too. These magazines have nice glossy pictures of fit young men and women looking attractive. Many pages are used to advertise running shoes, clothes, computerised running devices to track speed, distance and heart rate, energy drinks and food.  The magazines are however, unnecessary. They are a shop window for various businesses and manufacturers to make money. Maybe it is controversial to say this but all the myriad of energy food products created and marketed for runners and participants of sports are not needed. The different running shoes made by different manufacturers are really unnecessary too. Most running shoes on the market are of a reasonably high standard. The only difference between them is their logo. The prices are all much the same. The articles in these magazines are of limited use too. How to get fit for a marathon. What shoes to wear? How to run. Keeping a running diary; and various other obvious themes.  The articles are worded in different ways and are given different angles to grab the interest. Different people write them or ghost write them so they always sound new and fresh. I have discovered that if you buy a monthly series of any one of these magazines over a year, they all end up saying the same sort of thing. You can actually learn the same stuff by just getting out there and running. But what you must realise about these magazines and what should stop you buying them is that year after year the same things are repeated.  You can only say so much about running. Everybody is an individual and we all have different body types. There is no information a magazine will provide that will really apply to you. There are the obvious things like staying hydrated and eating energy foods like pasta, but we all know that stuff anyway. You really do have to get out there and find what is good for you yourself.

My reasons now for running are not to get fit, or lose weight or necessarily run for charity these days, and although I think these things are worthy things my reasoning for running is about feeling good and exploring and enjoying my environment. I already have a high level of fitness so I am not aiming to achieve a particular level of fitness any more. I have discovered that being fit helps me think and provides me with the energy to do a multitude of things with enthusiasm and effort. I feel so much more active in every way being fit.  The feeling and sensation of running is one of the things that I like. There are those moments, when I have attained a comfortable rhythm in stride, arms swinging and breathing that creates almost a feeling of euphoria. That particular feeling doesn’t happen often but when it does I feel as though I could run forever. It is almost a floating sensation. I think I actually attain a level of karma. Mostly, however, running is a comfortable experience. I tend to run on the front of my foot. I have never adhered to the heal toe principle. I have consciously tried using the heel toe combination but it is an unnatural technique I think. I get a better pace, more spring in my step, a more natural flowing movement and a cushioned feeling from running on the front part of each foot. I have never suffered, ankle or tendon problems so I must have found a way of doing it right. The other feeling I get derives from the fitness I have achieved. It is good to feel fit. There is no doubt about that. I am 62 years old and I feel fit and well. My lungs work well. My weight is right for my height. I eat when I need to, generally what may be termed a balanced diet.  I probably drink too much coffee and tea, especially coffee. Coffee gives me a buzz. A drug, I know.

The way technology is going, one day we will be able to design our own running shoes based on the evidence collected on a personal application that monitors our running experiences. Imagine connecting your phone to a 3D printer and the printer making a bespoke pair of shoes for you? It will happen. Take my word for it.

I combine recycling with running too. Marilyn bought me a pair of baggy tracksuit trousers from a car boot sale for 50p. (I am NOT into tight fitting lycra you might be pleased to know.) I also wear inexpensive £2 tee shirts from my local supermarket.
Running is wonderful. It is good for you!!!!!


  1. Interesting post, Tony.

    I admire your dedication and willpower. My only exercise these days, unfortunately, is walking the dog. I could say a lot, though, about my experiences doing that. It is a time when I do some of my best thinking! I might try to take up running (jogging?) once I've retired. I also do some cycling around my neighbourhood.

    It's important to get out in the fresh air and experience firsthand the weather, the flora, and the fauna. Keep it up, my friend.

  2. You sound like my husband, Tony; he has exercised daily since age 15 when he joined the swimming team at school. He started running before anyone else, before they even had running shoes, and he got a lot of heckling then. At first he ran on his toes, then some years later switched to the heel-toe thing. He had to give it up at some point because of joint problems, but he does other things, like the elliptical trainer, walking, swimming, etc. What a beautiful route you have for your runs!

  3. Good to hear from you Jean. Your husband sounds like an athlete.