Let’s get this straight from the start, this blog is not about the religious or commercial aspects of Xmas day, if you want a Christian message my mate, Terry Lawton, does it well, at the same time telling humorous tales about his life on the beat, his time entertaining children of all ages and his fight against cancer www.triumphtraumaandhope.co.uk. My blog is about training.
It’s now less than a week until Xmas day, though I’m not feeling as Christmassy as I used to. Years ago, when I worked in an office environment, we used to put decorations up, making sure we followed very strict guidelines as to whereabouts they should be placed. Eventually those guidelines became so strict we bah humbugged the whole idea, but we still had the Xmas party. All that changed for me after the Xmas party of 2007, luckily I wasn’t working a shift that day or night so was able to go along to the one that RBS IT threw in Edinburgh. This was to be the last works Xmas party I would attend as RBS put a ban on people having fun, following a silly mistake made by an employee called Fred. As I’m now self employed it doesn’t seem the same organising a party for one. Oh well at least it won’t get in the way of my training as I put in the preparation for my next race.
Xmas to me is a family time, it’s about the family getting together in one place to enjoy each other’s company, play silly games, eat and drink too much and have some lively discussions. Last year Xmas day was spent at our place, I cooked for 9, it was great fun that very nearly didn’t happen as Northwich suffered a power cut in the morning, thankfully it came back on just as I needed to get started. All my family are either older than me or the children of my older siblings, so I don’t have any child ties to stop me from training on Xmas day. However I would say to people who have young families, it’s perhaps not a day to train unless you do some fun type activities that can provide a relative level of fitness but also be all inclusive of the family.
In his heyday Daley Thompson declared that he trained twice on Xmas day, in a bid to get one over on his competitors who took the day off. Was Daley really that dedicated to his training? I’m sure he was but I certainly couldn’t have trained after my Xmas dinner. But for those who aren’t looking at the Olympics perhaps making Xmas day a rest day is the answer to making Xmas day special for your family.
Generally I will train on Xmas Day, last year I went for a run along the river Weaver and came back with my face covered in frost, mind you I had to get up early so I was back in time for the cooking. Apart from the years when I’ve been injured, or the years before I ran, I’ve mostly gone for a run on Xmas day, but, with all the other activities going on, just going for a run doesn’t seem that special. I prefer something different which is why, when I could, I ran in the Lauriston parlauff.
The Lauriston parlauff is an event which takes place every year on Wimbledon Common, organised by the good crowd at Lauriston Cottage. Being a parlauff it requires teams of two runners to run around opposite ends of a lap on the Common, with a jog across the middle of the lap to meet your partner for your next half lap. The event goes on for 30 minutes, which means you’re running hard for roughly 15 of those and jogging the rest. It’s a great spectator event as the whole course is visible and, because it’s fun, runners tend to bring their families along to watch. Everyone has a good chat and afterwards there is a fire, food and mulled wine. It’s the sort of thing that you would only know about if you were a runner, so obviously I was unaware of it in the heyday of the runners I first trained with. Over the next few years, as I Xmased away, I was told various tales about how people had done in the parlauff, including a bunch of famous Kenyans who turned up one year. In 1992, my training partner, James Ryle, won the event partnering Marcello Bizio.
In 1993 I made my debut at the event, you don’t get to choose your partner, names are pulled out of a hat. I can’t remember who I got that year but he wasn’t the fastest partner in the hat. I was treating it as a hard training run so really pushing myself on my bits and I’m sure my partner was too, but we seemed to be going backwards through the field. Still it made for a good hard training run for me and it’s not really important to win anyway, it’s more important to have fun.
1996 was the next chance I got to run the parlauff, I was running hard but seemed to only be firing on 3 cylinders. It wasn’t until January that a doctor informed me I’d strained my heart at the Surrey XC Champs, back in December. I was recovered by the 1997 parlauff, but not the same athlete as I used to be, just as well that I got a good partner in Dennis Williams and we came 3rd. I couldn’t repeat this in 1998, when partnering Nicky Harvey, but in 1999 I came 2nd with Melanie Jones.
That was the last time I can remember doing the parlauff, I spent a lot of the following years away and then in 2005 I moved up to Edinburgh. 2005 was my most depressing Xmas ever, I hardly knew anyone in Edinburgh and those that I did know were with their families. I’d only just started renting a flat near Hearts football ground, so didn’t really know any neighbours and I couldn’t go back to my family as I was working 12 hour shifts on 23, 24 and 25 December. It wasn’t much fun at work on Xmas day and, with it being my 3rd long day on the run I was having my rest day, so I didn’t even get to go out running on Xmas day – the one thing that could have kept me from having one of the worst days of my life. But don’t get too depressed reading this as I made up for it on 26th, my friend, Jim Buick, took me along to the Beescraigs 14km handicap event. Unfortunately he also told the organisers I was a 30 minute 10k man, neglecting to tell them that I’d run that 12 years earlier. So I was last man off, a long way behind the next man, Mark Johnston. I ran hard, a good way of getting out some of the frustrations in my life at the time, but I didn’t know the course and although it was obvious to people who run there all the time it wasn’t for me. Each lap consisted of a long loop, cross a road to a small loop but the small loop involved climbing a steep hill and then descending the other side. On one of these descents I wasn’t quite balanced enough and went A over T, punching myself in the face as I did so. My teeth were sore but not as sore as my pride, I carried on, finishing 2nd fastest but a fair way down on Mark, and I’m not even sure that I saw many people during the race. It was nice to get out and run my first race in Scotland and it was a friendly enough crowd – but I won’t be doing that race in a hurry.
So my idea of a great Xmas day starts with a run, preferably a race. But what if you feel the urge to do something on Xmas day, to justify that extra mince pie, and you don’t run. My suggestion to you is to think up a circuit, say 10 exercises, you don’t even need equipment to do an effective session. You can spend 5-10 minutes on each circuit and perform it as many times as you want – probably 3 is as much as the Xmas mind will allow. And the best thing about that is you can get the whole family doing it together, particularly if you’re not using equipment. Alternatively you could just unwrap the latest Wii or other such electronic gadget/toy and just play with that. Whatever you do, make sure it’s fun.
This last weekend has been a cold and harsh winter weekend, certainly in my neck of the woods. It was snowing on and off as I was with clients on Friday morning, treacherous enough for me to abandon a planned run with one of my clients, thankfully she has a treadmill so all was not lost and the added bonus was I got to rest, my knee has been niggling a bit this week so a rest was welcome. As I drove home the snow was falling by the bucket load, not the best start to the weekend. On Saturday Ray, Sharon, Carole and myself had planned to do a parkrun, but, with the weather looking decidedly dodgy on Friday afternoon, and my knee niggling, I decided it was best to skip it. It was still icy on the paths and roads around us on Saturday morning, so I decided to do a big session in the gym. Carole joined me, little realising that she would have to do my session, not one I’d designed for her. Sunday morning and I was ready to run again, I got dressed up in my winter gear and stepped out the door, the roads and pavements had looked in a reasonable state, from the window, but as I stepped onto them it was clear there was still enough ice to cause a potential issue. So, not wishing to risk the knee and having history with ice, I went straight back in and changed for another gym session. Carole was much braver and, as I walked to the gym, she set off for her run. A couple of minutes later, as I was just setting up the healthrider, she popped into the gym, perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea to run! Her running loss was her fitness gain as Carole experienced another one of my sessions, lucky girl! In the afternoon we went out for a walk in the Northwich Woodlands but the paths were covered in sheet ice and it was freezing cold so we didn’t stay out long.
Sunday night was another cold one and when I woke up on Monday it was clear it was a black ice day. I had a long drive to my clients around Cheshire but I was going to be careful. Black ice is no respecter of careful drivers, going slow I only just managed to stop at the first junction, I continued to drive slow but the next junction is slightly downhill and a tight turn and that was it, the ice took over driving and I became a passenger, we veered over towards the pavement and went up the low kerb. It was all happening in cinematic best slow motion and I was resigned to meeting up with one of the two lamp posts in my way, but before that happened my left hand tyres bumped into a raised bit of kerb and that sent me back in the right direction. Phew that was a close one. It was still a little icy when I got back, so I cancelled my plan for a quality session and just did a 5 miler instead, but today it’s all gone and I was back to doing proper training, boy it felt good.