Tag: running

Running for Lessons In Life

Running three times per week is a big part of my lifestyle nowadays. When and if I can’t get do so, I am greatly challenged all day, sometimes all week. My mojo seems to fizzle. But doing so gives it back, brings me all sorts of joy and admittedly some pain, the latter when I am a bit out of my rhythm for some reason or another. But usually a bit of stretching sorts me out.

Anyhow, the joys are extraordinary from feeling the freedom of movement, of agility, to people watching, which some times leads to inspiration and other times to commiseration, like the time I empathised with a school girl who simply could not keep up with the rest of the class. If I could have carried her on my shoulder I would have. Anyhow, here lately, I have turned to exploration, if you will and even animation.

Earlier this week, when I stopped to stretch, overlooking the Thames, I saw two abandoned, rather shiny, bicycles, one green and one red, and was sure the police would descend upon the area any moment to catch some thieves, perhaps. Two much crime drama, right! Anyhow, as I continued to stretch, a lovely doggie decided to stretch alongside me, much to his owner’s irritation. Only when I became a bit more animated and suggested that the animal wanted to stretch, too, did he affirm with a friendly bark, and move away with his owner.

What great joy! But there is more. This morning as I watched a slow poke, plod by me, I, involuntarily, I might add, shot off to overtake him, and leave him in the dust. I simply could not cope with the thought of running at such a pathetic pace.

Minutes later, out of steam, I nearly collapsed on a bench to be reminded of one of life’s lessons that running teaches—Keep to you own pace. Huffing and puffing and regaining my breath, I remembered some others worth mentioning:

  • Warm up. Whatever you are doing, going to school, to work, whatever, warm up!
  • Stretch. Depending on what you are doing, stretching could be mental, but it is a daily must, even if it is only the imagination.
  • Don’t worry about crossing a bridge until you get to it. Prepare for sure, but no need going over and over in your head about crossing it ahead of time. It could be overwhelmingly far away and quite a long bridge to cross. Just prepare as I did this morning to cross the Albert Bridge, pictured above. Exhilarating! 
  • Run your own race. Don’t compare yourself to others. You have nothing to gain but lots of steam to lose.
  • Cool down. Digest the life experience, whatever it is, before heading off again.

That’s what I did when the slow poke, mentioned earlier, jogged by merrily. Right, steam on; I fell behind and settled into my own space, I mean pace. And presto, I had my mojo back.


Taking Time For Me: Time For A Run

Why Do I Run? Precisely, that is what I asked myself yet again this morning at the sound of my alarm. Couldn’t I just stay in bed this one time, snooze and finish off my dream, even if it was a disturbing one? Without the ending, I could be haunted for hours. Still I agreed for Paul to open the curtains, allowing daylight to pour in. I threw back the covers and pulled myself out of bed.

Instantly my right foot felt heavy and went into a muscle spasm. In the meantime, my mind sent jarring messages to it and to my achy abs and then turned its attention to all the many urgent things we had to do today—try to negotiate a reasonable appointment from a car dealer who puts customer service last, check on Daddy, order groceries (non-perishables; fridge/freezer dead), chase the repairman, write a blog, just to name a few. Why run?

Ignoring the chatter I grabbed the massage roller thing a ma gig. You know the one, its called posture pro and meant to work on anything thoracic. Admittedly, it works on feet, too.

That done, I dressed and stretched, still feeling lifeless and continued to wonder why I was torturing myself. But outside, as I sucked in the fresh river air, basked in the cool of the London morning, it hit me as clear as day that I run for one reason only. All the rest are fringe benefits. My reason: It’s called me time, as simple as that.

To this end, I even ditched music to avoid any distractions. Anyhow, as I got into my stride, the other runners, walkers, folks going to work, the publican rolling beer barrels across the private road, began to fade into the background. In moments I was in my zone, no longer aware of my temperamental foot, fussy abs. etc.

At first my mind continued to search for reasons to feel listless. And then the tears pushed through, hidden behind sunglasses, of course, as I remembered my mother’s recent death. But when a sensational breeze swept over me, it conjured up memories of her life and suddenly, the tears dried up and I felt myself smile.

When she and my aunt, her only sister, were avid walkers, it occurred to me that they might have been getting in their me time together. Otherwise, there was always someone else around.

Before I knew it, I was coming to the close of my three-mile journey. And though I toyed with extending the run, I had slipped out of the zone that quickly.

Now, I felt my racing heart, the energy flowing through me, the urge to get on with my day. Still, cooling down and stretching, I remembered the run fondly and the other two earlier in the week. Then all the stuff on my to do list started pouring in and jockeying for position-me, me, no me, etc. Not to mention that the world was abuzz. A cyclist nearly ran me down without even saying excuse me, and a yappy dog thought he should have exclusive use of the boardwalk.

Putting the thoughts in their place, the dog and the cyclist behind me, I looked ahead to the next opportunity for time for me—just me. That is why I run.


Reflecting and Projecting Because I Can

Off to a slow start this year? Me too. When my alarm sounded at seven this morning, I thought it was a mistake, surely. Only when I realised that Paul had been up for a while yet was I convinced that someone had not played a first Monday in January practical joke on me.

Even so, I kept my space, feeling comatose for another thirty minutes, okay nearly an hour, contemplating what to do next—roll over and go back to sleep, pray and meditate on life in general or get up and go for a run. In the end, I settled for a combination of the latter two and thank goodness I did. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be sitting at my desk, beavering away.

For a while now my mantra of sorts, which has kept me moving, is to just do it, whatever it is because I can. Sadly, there are people who want to run, to walk, to write, etc., who can’t.

With that said, already, I have done some serious reflecting on 2015. More went wrong and less went right. Never mind that I didn’t promote my books at all, didn’t even begin the Jana Project, working title for an effort to help girls ages 8 to 12 stay in tip-top shape in their in between years and enjoy doing so, and that I dropped more blogs on my website than I care to admit, I am going to focus on what went right. I delivered more on the Huff Post than I dropped, and also, I introduce the game: What City Is This, even if it did fizzle out after a hyped couple of days.

Not bad, not really. Okay, it wasn’t my best performance. But that’s all behind me now, doors closed. In front of me, however, are alluring doors that mostly have not been opened. Even though some are slightly ajar.

It is up to me to make some projections of sorts, starting today, and then walk or run through those attractive doors, even if I move a bit slowly like I did this morning. Then, a young woman, sauntering took a short cut apparently and came out just before me at the main road/path. So ashamed, I had no choice but to dig deep and shoot past her.

There, though several runners, some of them pros of sorts, others novices, left me behind, I felt better for making an effort because I could. That’s it: off now to make some more projections and get on with delivering them, all because I can.

Such fun anticipating a can do year and wishing you one, too. Happy New Year!


Listening Up and Running With Sense

My iPhone has been my running companion for the two years that I have taken up running rather seriously.  No wonder. It is the keeper of my running music, any kind of music, including gospel, and my trusted RunKeeper app.

The thought of running without it was inconceivable until this past Saturday. Case and point: last summer while running a 10K, I must have added at least five minutes to my time when the app suddenly stopped.  Though I tried to keep going without it, I couldn’t hack it, so I stopped long enough to recover the app and my running playlist.

Meanwhile my running mate, who couldn’t conceive of running with music and so on, had long left me in the blazing distance. Still I didn’t see her point and set out to prove her wrong or just different, perhaps. So while visiting Georgia, I’d hijack my niece’s phone, having installed the app there and a substitute playlist.  And off I went. No matter where I ran, I set off with somebody’s phone.

Still I struggled, perhaps lost in the music and the commands of Ms RunKeeper, blaming my pokiness on anything but the obvious. But those days are gone, at least I hope they are. After spending about three days in sabbatical without my phone, my iPad, a single device, I finally saw the device for what it was—a distraction, certainly while running.

But seeing is next week’s focus of running with sense. This week I want to talk about hearing.  Things went so well Saturday that Monday morning, I set out yet again without the phone. Okay so it was in my pocket, just in case. But the just in case never happened, giving me the opportunity to hear London running rather smoothly, to be honest.

From birdsong to the cawing of the lone black crow perched on the lamppost, I heard London wake up. To one side of me, though I kept my head away from sooty, low waters of the Thames, I focused on the sounds of the water crashing against the gravelly shore.  For a moment, I fancied myself miles away on a remote island.

But the idea of running with sense is to stay in the moment and so I returned and further up the riverbank heard the splashing sounds of the river bus speeding along. At Battersea Bridge, I stopped and closed my eyes, listening to the thudding sounds of buses crossing, motorcycles vrooming and car engines purring and droning.

And to the other side of me, I heard the whooshing of wind passing through the trees and the rustling of leaves blowing about on the ground. All the while I sensed a calm flowing through me, even when I heard the odd sound of a banging and buzzing. The construction work was underway. Still I knew London was running smoothly. How refreshing!

Near and far I heard the striking of feet against the pavement, some running and others walking and dogs lightly trotting along, if you will. At one time, I heard my own rhythm so acutely that I was sure it must have been the sounds of another but it was mine, so I basked in it.

Then it dawned on me that scarcely a sound of the human voice was to be heard and there was something sobering about that, if only for a moment, though I heard one commuter whispering into her phone—the others going about quietly and purposefully, particularly cyclists. Speaking of cycling, did you know the turning of the wheels of a bicycle makes a lyrical sound, much like mosquitoes singing in the night? Me either.

And then they came, a class of school children running without sense if you will. They giggled, they chattered, they panted, and they shushed one another. But still it was a lovely sight to see.  They were running, really exercising! But that’s another story. Righty ho. Next week – Looking Out: Running with Sense.

Take Seven: Running to Switch Off…

Running time is meant to be time for me, myself and I to escape the stresses of family life, work etc. That means no writing, except for when I am running to jumpstart writing. For the most part, however, I run to switch off – not an easy feat for an author, particularly one on deadline.

Thank goodness nowadays I am not on a major writing deadline. Though I have a new book coming in October, the writing of it has long passed. The editorial process is upon me. Yet while running one morning recently, truly believing that I was in the escape zone, I found myself writing figuratively, at least coming up with story lines or bits that would be useful to scenes, chapters, etc. at some point.

When I realised what I was doing, I couldn’t help laugh to myself and in doing so I decided to capture the moment. Why not make the most of it, share top story ideas I happened upon while running. Take seven:

  1. A trail of fresh blood leading from the walls of the Embankment to the pavement, which disappears into the earth suddenly. While I am no sleuth, that has to be one worth investigating.
  2. Three buxom men, dressed in black, wearing earpieces as they pace up and down a certain part of the Thames Path. They don’t look fighting fit like undercover agents to be honest, so just who the heck are they?
  3. The man dressed in a crumpled suit, grasping a beer bottle as he wandered to the edge of the river. At one point I expected him to walk right in, but he stopped suddenly and stared unblinkingly at the ground. Then he found a piece of wood and dropped down on it. What is or was his story?
  4. The yappy dog that longs to have a round with the Great Dane, who ignores him rather intuitively it seems. Does he understand that he is cruising for a bruising?
  5. The boot camp female runner who wears black gear and a massive backpack, as she tears along the boardwalk. All she needs is a splash of camouflage underneath her eyes to get fully into character. Everything else about her already says Private Benjamin.
  6. The barefooted runner who jogs up and down the boardwalk on the coldest of days, despite the worry of shattered glass, nails, whatever, and on some days he runs along the road. Most recently, I saw him hotfoot it in the rain. What is that about?
  7. The middle aged Englishman who practices Tai Chi rather clumsily but happily. You have to admire the guy.


Actually, I appreciate them all, even if they do distract me, with exception of the blood. That worries me. Never mind! Who needs to switch off anyhow? Not this writer. Time to switch on and deal with these edits – The Seasons, coming October 2014.

All Stretched Out And Loving It

On my run this morning, I found myself still working out kinks in a couple of muscles. Even after a run on Monday and a full training session yesterday, I’m still paying for ignoring my stretching routine while recently visiting the US.

Even if I did have a resistance band and a small calf roller in my suitcase and plenty of know how in my head, I told myself I was just too busy.

Wrong answer!

Check out my recent Woman’s World piece on stretching and its role in healthy ageing.

As for me, I am all stretched out and truly loving it.

Running in London, more than meets the eye

I’ve been running again. And though I haven’t signed up for the next road race, I’m up to 12 miles per week, even if a little old lady is faster.

Never mind her, the younger runners or the cyclists whizzing by, I’m in my own world and rarely come out for anything less important than crossing the road. That’s one of the things that I love about running; it’s just me.

On the rare occasion when I do come out of my thoughts, I catch some interesting sights. This week I saw a barefoot runner, life on a luxury houseboat and calm commuters making their way to the river bus.

Bear with; there’s more to this than meets the eye.

First things first, when I was a kid, I thought barefoot running was great. No better place for it than the Georgia countryside, vast plains if you will, and warm red clay underneath my feet. Never mind the odd thorn, bramble or rock.

But fast-forward forty something years and I wonder ‘why on earth’ or shall I say ‘why on concrete’ would anyone do it, especially on a frigid, damp day in London. No wonder the fellow in question was sprinting.

Still, he seemed to be having a blast. Maybe there was more to it than I could see. All the same, I’m not up for it. But I’ll tell you what I am up for—the river bus, but I’ll save that for last.

For now let me tell you about the luxury houseboats, which are moored between Battersea and Putney. According to one estate agent, the boats have two reception rooms and four bedrooms. Not your average narrow houseboat with a low ceiling, is it? Quite surreal to be honest, which is why I chalked them up as permanent exhibitions or river homes for the rich and famous.

This week, however, I caught a glimpse of a person on one of the floating luxury apartments. And suddenly, it dawned on me that this could be a regular person who had carved out an ideal lifestyle—idyllic views, fresh air and their own river bus. Yes, the river bus.

Just then, I heard it, tooting a rather composed horn. I looked up and watched it near the port. Meanwhile, very orderly commuters gathered and then made their way down the gangway.  What a vast difference to London’s train stations and bus stops during rush hour.

Breaking my run, I watched in amazement until the last passenger was on and seated. And then observed the bus move off into the Thames and cruise towards central London uninterrupted by traffic or signalling delays.

Though river buses are not as plentiful as trains or regular buses, there are several connections from Putney to Greenwich.

In the meantime, I re-set my running App and got back to the task at hand. Soon I shot past my building and headed towards the heliport, a helicopter coming in for a landing. With serenity in the distance, I remembered another thing that I love about running.

Soon it would be over and it would be coffee time, which is croissant time for me, just me. More than meets the eye? Interesting, indeed.

Before and After Running School – See it!

What a week! The sun is shining, the river is beaming and I am glistening. And with good reason – I have hit some milestones in decorating, writing and running.

Not to worry I won’t go on about the decorating except to say it is all coming together–tables, chairs, window treatments and so on.

As for the writing, the next novel is closer than you think. At the end of May, The Blindsided Prophet is scheduled for e-book release. Last week, my editor returned the first edits and this week I am working on them fervently. Equally as exciting if not more, my designer is well on the way to delivering the book’s cover. I am so very pleased and will get the promotions on the road as soon as the tools are in hand.

In the meantime, I finished the first six weeks of running school. It stands to reason that I might go back for a further, more advanced six weeks to ensure that I maintain my brand new skills.

Yes, I have some brand new skills, more like techniques. The proof is in the pudding, rather in the running in this case.

First, let me say that I can actually see the difference and feel it. Also, I am amazed that I am sharing it here–unheard of.  Never say never! All I can say is that I am properly impressed. I hope you will be too.

No wonder I am glistening.


Open roads in London: No dead end in sight

When I hit the big birthday last autumn, I compiled a confidential list of 50 things to accomplish before my next birthday. I maintained there was no point in blabbing about the matter the way people often do about New Year’s resolutions or bucket lists, neither of which I am a fan of, precisely why I didn’t opt for either on my special occasion. Both a bit dead end-ish, if you ask me.

With that said, I really enjoyed the movie, The Bucket List.

Anyhow, I knew I had to mark the special year somehow, aside from a big soiree, which was great fun but fizzled out soon after it was over. My confidential list (aka London confidential), lives on–no dead end in sight.

Though I am still not going to spill all of the beans, I am compelled to tell you about one item on my list–to run a major race by autumn 2013.

Big deal you might say, and you are not the only one. Turns out I am not the only person running a race. When I mentioned my 10K to friends and family, I found that some had been there and done that and others were well on the way.

One friend ran her first marathon when she hit the big 5-0 and is still running several marathons later. A 10K is a doddle to her.

Not to me I tell you. I need all the help I can get, which is why I asked the said friend to run with me. And meanwhile, I’ve joined a running school, another benefit of living in my new neighbourhood. Body Logic Health in Battersea is one of the eleven UK locations of The Running School.

To this announcement, readers, friends and family alike responded with a question mark. Running comes naturally, many reminded; it need not be taught. One even went so far as to point out that she would never pay to do something that she already does very well.

Running school is just another big city ploy, she insinuated, contorting her face.

Bear with I told her and quoted from The Running School’s handbook.

“Although it (running) seems the most natural thing in the world to do, many people don’t know how to run efficiently without getting injured, and to achieve their goal or challenge.”

That’s me–blown out knees, pulled hamstrings, and low stamina resulting in an unfinished race or never started race. No more, I vowed.

After hearing me out, my acquaintance had to admit to more than her fair share of injuries.

So off to school I went last Thursday to learn how to run and to run fast!  But before then I had been videotaped and assessed by an instructor at the school. Not bad, not bad, the instructor said but there was much room for improvement.

Moving forward, I’ve spent one intense hour of the six hourly sessions not only running but also flexing and strengthening muscles to improve my overall technique.  Throughout the session, I admitted to feeling unnatural, focusing on coordinating my arms and legs, but also feeling taller and stronger as I did so.

This lofty feeling was worth hanging onto I tell you. It sustained me when I thought I couldn’t carry-on, not only during the session but also during training and practicing in between.

Admittedly, I am finding it hard going, trying to get the best out of my arms, my legs, my torso, while running and walking but I can already see the benefits and it is early days yet. My second session is tomorrow and the third one the week afterwards and so on and so on.

There is no dead end in sight, only open roads to look forward to.